Friday, April 23, 2010

Say Cheese

Lately, I have been thinking about casseroles. I don't know why, but that cheesy goodness has been on my mind. So last night, in an effort to clean out the fridge a bit, I made a delicious broccoli casserole, well maybe it was more of a gratin. Either way it was an absolutely delicious side dish (or even entrée if added in some chicken or something, yum). Seriously, I mean well how could anything drowning in cheese sauce be bad, but this was extra amazing. I will warn you that this recipe doesn't make a super ton, it was just enough for the boyfriend and I, so feel free to expand the recipe as you see fit.

Broccoli Gratin/Casserole:
4 cups of broccoli, chopped
1 tbsp of butter
2 tbsp of flour
1 1/2 cups of chicken broth
3/4 cup of whole-milk or part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded.
1/4 cup of bread crumbs
Salt, Pepper and Crushed red pepper flakes.

Pre-heat the oven to 375. Spread the broccoli in a greased (Pam-ed) baking dish and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and flakes. Over medium heat, melt butter in a small pot. When the butter is melted whisk in the flour (hey, your making rue), it will be very thick. Whisk in the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and continue whisking until the rue and stock are combined and the sauce/gravy is thick. In batches toss the cheese in the pot and whisk in to melt. When all the cheese is melted in, taste the sauce and add salt and pepper as necessary. Pour cheese sauce over the broccoli and toss lightly to spread the mixture evenly. Top with the bread crumbs and bake uncovered until broccoli is tender and top is golden, about 30 minutes. Serve and enjoy.

Happy Eating.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

New Things

So I have recently tried a few new food items, all of which I loved, and have incorporated into my regular eats. The first is almond butter. This delicious and natural peanut butter alternative has become a regular feature for breakfast and lunch, replacing the peanut butter in my favorite sweet sandwich (peanut butter and sliced strawberries on an English muffin). It tastes so much fresher and nuttier than your typical jar of Skippy, and I love that you can actually taste that it was made from almonds. I will warn those of you who have not tried it that processed peanut butter is sweet, you may not think of it as an especially sweet food, but after tasting a natural nut butter, with no added sweeteners, I would most definitely count it as sweet.

The second item on my list is another almond product. It is unsweetened almond milk. I used to be an avid soy milk drinker, but always felt it was too watery and too sweet to compete with plain old-fashioned milk. But almond milk is surprisingly creamy. It also has a distinct nutty flavor. I really liked it, I don't know how much of the plain variety I could drink straight, but I loved it in my morning cereal and in the very simple smoothie recipe below. I am looking forward to trying the chocolate variety (45 calories for a glass of chocolate milk, you just can't beat that!).

Strawberry Banana Crunch smoothie:

1 cup of Almond Breeze (plain, unsweetened)
1/2 to 1 cup of strawberries (depending on flavor preference, start with less you can always add more)
1/2-1 large banana (again, the choice is yours)
1 short squeeze of honey
1 small handful of your favorite granola

Blend everything except the granola and ice. Taste and make any fruit quantity adjustments. Blend in ice, about 1 glassful should do, less if you like it creamier. When the smoothie is the flavor and consistency you like add in granola and give it another blend. Pour into a glass and enjoy! The granola blended up in the smoothie gives it such a satisfying crunch.

The final new thing I tried, isn't really new, I had just never cooked it before. It was quinoa, which is a hearty grain. In taste and texture I find that it is most similar to kasha (as in kasha and bow-ties, not the cereal). I love the consistency, fluffy but with a slight crunch. It tastes delicious savory or sweet. I bought a red, pre-rinsed variety. And I made a tasty little side dish from it.

1 cup of dry Quinoa
2 cup of chicken stock or broth
1 tbsp of olive oil
2 small shallots
3 cloves of garlic
salt and pepper
1/4 cup of raisins, chopped figs, and/or chopped dates

In a small pot heat the olive oil and lightly brown the shallots and garlic, and cook down, about 5 minutes. Then add the stock and bring to a boil. Add the quinoa and reduce heat to simmer and cover pot. Allow to cook until quinoa is done 15-20 minutes (an exact time should be on the bag or box). Stir in dried fruit and fluff an serve.

Well that was my exciting week of new discoveries...

Happy eating.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Lazy Sundays

So this weekend, I broke my cardinal rule of baking. I baked healthy. I love healthy food, I am all about fruits and veggies, whole grains, low fat and fat free. But not in baking, generally I feel baking is in the indulgence zone. Butter makes it better. It's not supposed to be good for you, it's supposed to be a treat. However, I trust Martha Stewart with life (and my taste buds) and if she has a butter-free muffin recipe, well all right then. Here is Martha's recipe for Banana-Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins. They are from the "Whole Living" section of her website, which I love. The muffins were fantastic. They are the best healthy muffins I have ever had. Mashed up bananas take the place of butter (and most of the sugar, with a little bonus honey). Plus they combine 2 of my current obsessions, blueberries and cornmeal. They were easy to make, and definitely a guilt free treat (so much healthier than eating pie for breakfast).

That was my Sunday morning breakfast. For dinner I was far less adventurous (but no less delicious). I stuck to my Sunday usual, roasting. I did a one pot wonder of pork tenderloin with onions and green beans. I love a one pot dinner, so much easier to clean up, plus the flavors all meld together. This was a spicy delicious way to end the weekend.

Spice-Rubbed Pork with Green Beans
1 pork tenderloin, about 1 lb
2 medium yellow onions
4 cloves of garlic
1 package of green beans (as much as you want really)
3 Tbsp of Brown sugar
1 Tbsp of Cumin
2 Tsp of chili powder
Salt, Pepper, and red pepper flakes
3 Tbsp of olive oil

Pre-Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Give onions a rough chop and put in the bottom of a glass baking dish. Salt and pepper the onions and toss with 1 tbsp of olive oil. Cut the ends of the green beans and toss in the dish. Salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste. Mix together the sugar, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. Feel free to adjust the amounts of the seasonings. You should be able to eat the rub, and go yum. It should not burn your mouth or taste bland. Dice the garlic. Rub the mixed spices all over the pork so that it is coated and a reddish color. Sprinkle garlic on pork and in the pan. Sprinkle remaining olive oil on pork and green beans. Roast for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350, continue cooking another 15-20 minutes (tenderloin roasts for about 25 minutes a pound, so you can calculate based on size). Stir occasionally while cooking so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan. Serve and enjoy.

Happy Eating.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Birthday Pie

Tuesday was my birthday, so what did I do to prepare. Well I baked a pie, of course! I actually made this same pie for an Easter party on Saturday and made both crusts then and I did slight variations on the recipe for the filling and topping. The pie I made was a mixed berry crumb pie. For both, I started with a recipe for blueberry pie, and used a mix of berries instead. For one I used the exact recipe for the crumb topping and for one, I experimented a little. I loved the changes I made, but if you have time to make two pies, you can decide for yourself. Here is the recipe for the crust. Here is the original pie recipe. And here is my recipe.

Mixed Berry Pie:
1 Pie crust - Pre-dried out and browned slightly (see the original recipe for more details)
3/4 cup + 5 Tbsp flour
1 cup dark brown sugar, divided
1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
3 tsp of cinnamon
1 stick of very cold butter, cut into pieces
3 cups of blueberries
1 cup of raspberries
1 cup of blackberries

Place the oven rack in the lower third of the oven and pre-heat oven to 375. Then, wash the berries and put them in a large bowl, then add 4 Tbsp of flour and 1/3 cup of brown sugar and 1 tsp of cinnamon. Toss to combine and coat berries. Take pie crust and sprinkle 1 tbsp of flour and 1 tbsp of sugar over the bottom. Pour berry mixture into the pie tin. For the topping you have a few options: food processor, blender, or hand. I tried the hand and blender methods, and both worked great. If using the hand method, combine ingredients in the bowl you used for the fruit, otherwise load into the blender or processor. Combine 3/4 cup of flour, 2/3 cup of brown sugar, salt, and 2 tsp of cinnamon, mix together. Add cold butter and toss so the butter is coated. Then blend (process) together in pulses until it is in delicious clumps. If using the hand method rub flour mixture and butter in your fingers until it is in the same style clumps (this obviously takes longer than the other ways, but less clean up). Spread the topping over the berry mixture. Bake for about an hour, until topping is just bubbling threw in spots and top is lovely and browned. Let cool. Serve and enjoy!

Happy Eating