Saturday, October 31, 2009

Olive Oil Granola

I wasn't going to post this recipe or photo because I've already shown you a granola recipe before - that one was chocolate granola that ends up in big chunks. It's crunchy and super delicious.

But this granola is totally different. It doesn't clump together but ends up spoonable, like cereal. And it has such a deep, rich flavor from the olive's addicting for sure. The recipe originally appeared in the New York Times this summer and ALL the blogs were making it. Well, now I'm firmly on the bandwagon and this is my new go-to granola recipe. The only thing I would change next time is reducing the amount of brown sugar - I think it could handle a little less sweetness.

Olive Oil Granola
3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cup nuts, any kind (I used peanuts, raw almonds, and marcona almonds)
1 cup seeds (I used pumpkin and sunflower seeds)
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup brown sugar (or less to taste)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
3/4 cup dried sweetened cranberries

Mix all ingredients - except cranberries - together and spread on sheet pans. Bake at 300 degrees for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Remove from oven and add cranberries.

Serve with yogurt, berries, ice cream, milk, or on its own!

UPDATED 2/4/12:  Wow, it's been a few years since I first tried this recipe but I still make this granola once or twice a month, it's really that good.  However, now I reduce the brown sugar to 1/4 cup, and the maple syrup to 1/2 cup.  I've also swapped the olive oil for melted coconut oil with excellent results!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Winter Hippie Chow

As you've probably figured out if you read this blog, I don't really have an original thought in my head. Everything I do or make is ripped off from someone else. Hey, at least I usually try to give credit when I do this!

The reason I'm telling you this is because I love the idea of Hippie Chow, and I stole it from the blog Bread and Honey (it's a great post that I recommend reading for your entertainment). I did a mexi-version of Hippie Chow this summer and tonight I turned it into a winter version. You can make Hippie Chow however you want to! Substitute bread, pasta, or rice for the quinoa and ANY veggies that tickle your fancy. Top it with meat, eggs, beans, or other proteins and you have a SLAM DUNK dinner that's quick and yummy and healthy!

I had a bunch of farmer's market veggies in my fridge and I didn't want them to go bad since I was leaving for NYC. So the night before I left, I threw all the veggies on a couple sheet pans and roasted them with olive oil, salt and pepper until they were soft. Here's what I had: carrots, green beans, a sweet potato, beets, and portobello mushrooms.

This is such a great GREEN and LEAN TIP to avoid having to throw away your old produce: If you have veggies just starting to get old, roast them and freeze them! You can then use them later in soups, pasta, frittatas, pizzas, or on their own.

So tonight I put those pre-roasted veggies on top of some cooked quinoa (I always keep some cooked quinoa in my fridge now!), topped with a poached egg and garnished with chopped parsley and grated parmesan cheese. It was groovy, man.

Hippie Chow
grains (quinoa, rice, pasta, bread, etc)
protein (meat, eggs, beans)

Cook the ingredients, mix together, light some incense, and eat sitting on your floor barefoot listening to Jack Johnson or Bob Marley tunes.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Chicken Noodle Soup for Sick/Lazy People

The New York trip was fabulous...until I got slammed with a horrible cold the night before flying home. I knew something wasn't right when I couldn't enjoy my free drinks at the art event! I mean, c'mon - free tequila?

That night and during the entire flight home, I was pretty miserable with sore throat, itchy ears, headache, and even painful eyeballs. I blame my pain on either being trapped in an airplane with germy people or coming into contact with the 8 million people that live on the tiny island of Manhattan.

Regardless, I'm just happy it's not the flu and so I turned to a cliche - chicken noodle soup - to make me feel better. This is such a simple recipe and if you are one of those people who thinks soup comes from a can...then this is a great starter recipe for you. It's the first soup I ever made from scratch and it really does have healing powers!

The reason I call it soup for lazy people is because I did take a few shortcuts. One, I used a carton of broth (instead of making my own stock), and I used a low-sodium rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. It was kind of disgusting to remove all the skin and remove the meat - but less gross than dealing with raw chicken. Real, free-range, and organic chicken breasts would of course be better in here, but hey, I'm sick and lazy!

Chicken Noodle Soup
1/2 yellow onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
3 ribs celery, diced
salt and pepper and any herbs or seasonings
2 cartons (4 cups each) chicken broth or stock
Diced chicken
1 cup egg noodles
chopped parsley and grated parmesan cheese for garnish

In a soup pot, heat olive oil and add onion, carrot, and celery, salt, pepper, and herbs (I used dried bay leaves and thyme). Cook about 5-8 minutes or until veggies are soft.

Add broth or stock and chicken, bring to a boil. Add noodles and lower heat to medium. Cover and simmer about 10 minutes or until noodles are soft (or until chicken is cooked if using raw chicken). Serve with chopped parsley and parmesan cheese.

What I Ate in NYC - Part Three

I had such a fabulous time in New York with Zack, Cassandra, and Ben!

In the past, I've shared my eating adventures of the Big Apple (you can read Part 1 HERE, and Part 2 HERE).

And of course this time was no exception to the wonderful and delicious food that can be had in NYC. I enjoyed items from the following lovely establishments (sorry, forgot my camera and have no photos)!

Really, the food in NYC cannot be beat! And while it appears that I ate huge quantities of take out food, really most of it was very veggie-filled and in small portions. Plus, I walked at least 10,000 miles so I needed the calories!

Not mentioned above is the barrels of wine that I consumed. That goes without saying, right?

I heart NY.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Turkey, Apple, Cheddar Sandwich

I often get pretty preachy about eating real foods. It's been the basis for the transformation in my health over the past year. Giving up (for the most part) processed and artificial foods has changed my outlook on food and I have never enjoyed meals more than I have in the past year.

However, there are a few pre-packaged items that I still love, and won't give up anytime soon. The first is the amazing Luna Bar. All the flavors are delicious and they are convenient for work, school, traveling, and every day life. Love Luna Bars.

The other is Quorn brand fake meats. Naked Chik'n Cutlets are awesome on a lunchtime salad. So simple to throw on top of some greens, craisins, sunflower seeds, feta, and balsamic vinaigrette. This is my standard go-to weekday work lunch, I can assemble it in about three minutes before I rush out the door each morning. I heat up the chik'n cutlet at work and it adds a great meaty and substantial texture to lunch that gets me through the afternoon without hunger pains.

What's in these Quorn thingies? I don't really know. The box says it's 58% mycoprotein, rehydrated egg white, and pea fiber. Mycoprotein is described as a type of fungus, like mushrooms. It's most likely created in a science lab and NOT grown in the earth, which I am generally against. However, I do stress moderation in everything...and these Quorn products are very high in fiber and protein while being super low in calories and it tastes delicious and it's simple. That's why this processed food is on my safe list for now.

In anticipation of Thanksgiving flavors (that 4-day weekend is still a month away, but who's counting?), I baked up the Turk'y Roast.

Been craving sandwiches something fierce lately so I paired the turk'y with a granny smith apple and cheddar cheese on wheat bread slathered with yellow mustard.

I was too hungry to take a photo of my sandwich (and, I forgot) so no food porn today, sorry! Just a "before" shot of the ingredients.

This sandwich was the perfect fuel to get me through a 4 mile walk and an hour of raking and bagging wet leaves. The only improvement would have been a dollop of my grandma's cranberry sauce instead of the mustard.

And speaking of apples, I'm gearing up for another trip to the Big Apple on Monday - so no blogging until at least late next week!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

"Oh my God, YUM." Those were my actual words after eating my first bite of this vegetarian lasagna. It was so delicious that I burnt the roof of my mouth because I couldn't stop eating it even though I knew it was scorching hot.

It took a bunch of brainstorming before I figured out a way to use up all that spaghetti squash I baked earlier this week. I recalled a recipe my mom gave me years ago for something called "spaghetti pie" which was cooked noodles in the bottom of a pie pan topped with meat, veggies, and cheese. This is pretty much the same thing, just substituting spaghetti squash for the actual noodles, so - heads up Angela - this is completely gluten-free!

It's also a nutritional powerhouse. Except for 1 egg and a little bit of cheese, every item in this beautiful entree is a vegetable (or fruit, in the case of the tomatoes)! You'd never know it by tasting it.

I kept trying to think of which veggies I wanted to pair with my spaghetti squash base, and since I LOVE mushrooms and kale and they are so abundant at the markets right now, I figured it was a match made in heaven. I was right. Adding to the fall flavors party was goat cheese, which just has the perfect flavor to offset those winter veggies. However, you can add whatever veggies (broccoli or zucchini?) or meat (ground turkey?) or cheese (mozzarella?) you want to make this yummy dish - you are only limited by your imagination on this one!

So, substitute all you want as you experiment with this recipe! But I'll give you the list of the ingredients I used.

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna
spaghetti squash, cooked
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 packages mushrooms, sliced (I used one pkg button, one pkg crimini)
1 bunch kale, stems removed and chopped
splash of red wine
roasted tomato sauce (or store bought, if you must)
1 package goat cheese
sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan cheese

Mix the squash, egg, and parmesan with your hands and pat into the bottom of a greased baking dish (mine was 9x11).

In the meantime, saute your onion in a skillet with olive oil until translucent. Add the mushrooms and keep cooking until they are browned. Add the kale, a splash of red wine, salt, and pepper and cover and cook for approximately 3 minutes. Layer the mushrooms and kale over the squash base.

Top with a layer of tomato sauce, crumbled goat cheese, and a final sprinkling of grated parmesan cheese. Bake until hot and cheese is melty and browned.

Try to let it rest a little bit before digging in!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Spaghetti Squash

This is not a recipe, and it might be incredibly boring to you if you are familiar with this particular vegetable. But I just discovered it a year or two ago and I'm still a little smitten with the miracle of spaghetti squash.

Here's what it looks like when you bring it home from the grocery store or farmer's market.

When you cut it open, it looks just like any other squash or pumpkin - orange and goopy. The miracle happens after you bake it. All you need to do to enjoy is cut it in half, remove the guts, douse with olive oil and salt/pepper, and place cut side down on a sheet pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. Here is the COOL part, take a fork and scrape the flesh and it turns into spaghetti!

Speaking of freaky vegetables, have you ever seen Brussels sprouts on the stalk? It reminds me of Jack and the Beanstalk or something. It's like a scary but delicious alien vegetable.

Here is my final simple dinner of salmon, Brussels sprouts, and spaghetti squash...and it just occurred to me that I cooked each piece exactly the same...douse each olive oil, salt, and pepper and bake until done. I did add a final splash from a half a lemon to the sprouts and fish.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Peanut Butter Energy Balls

Lots of people I have talked to lately have agreed with me that the season change has caused a big increase in appetite. I'm glad to know I'm not alone in this, because I seem to be hungry all the time lately!

These energy balls are a tasty way to give you enough oomph to get through the rest of your work day, your commute home from work, a walk around a lake, a Pilates class, grocery shopping, making dinner, or whatever else you need to get accomplished. This is one of a few great recipes I got from Pam Jones, I'm hoping she won't mind that I tweaked the recipe a bit and am sharing it here.

They're not overly sweet like candy so you won't get stuck eating a bunch of them. And while they are probably pretty high in fat, they are so packed full of protein that one or two will give you absolute protection against any further hunger attacks and you won't overeat bad snacks later.

Peanut Butter Energy Balls
2/3 cup peanut butter
4 Tbsp wheat germ
2 Tbsp honey
1 cup powdered milk

Mix first 3 ingredients together and add powdered milk a little at a time until you get a good consistency - you may not need the full cup. Form into balls and roll in more wheat germ OR shredded coconut. Keep refrigerated.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Pumpkin Muffins with Pecans and Chocolate Chips

I might as well fess up right away...the title of this post is so misleading. There is no pumpkin whatsoever in this recipe. It's a total lie and I feel like a fraud. But I just can't eat all of my roasted buttercup squash fast enough - it's been made into a huge pot of soup, and a lovely fall salad, and I still had a big tupperware full of squash in my fridge. I needed a new way to use it up.

After racking my brain, a lightbulb finally went off. I thought I was so clever in mashing it up and substituting it for pumpkin in a muffin recipe. Because everyone has heard of zucchini bread or muffins, right? And what is zucchini...but simply a summer squash! Pumpkin is also in the squash family - so I felt pretty safe in my substitution. However, Squash Muffins just don't sound very appealing to me, hence the lie in the title. You can call them whatever you want to, because once you pop these little babies in your oven and your house starts to smell all spicy and sweet, all you will care about is eating them!

The batter is pretty thick and the finished muffins are super moist due to the olive oil. This is the first baking recipe I've ever improvised on - I usually follow instructions to the T but things just weren't looking right so I added a few things here and there to a recipe I found online for pumpkin bread.

The final product is sweet, but not overly sweet like dessert. It's the perfect muffin to go with coffee in the morning or to bring somewhere for a brunch with mimosas. And, despite the sugar, it's still got loads of nutrition from all that beautiful squash so you won't feel guilty for starting your day with a few chocolate chips.

Pumpkin (or Squash) Muffins with Pecans and Chocolate Chips
1 1/2 cups flour (I use whole wheat flour)
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
Whisk these dry ingredients together and set aside.

3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cups cooked and pureed squash or pumpkin (or 1 can pumpkin puree, NOT pumpkin pie filling!)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Mix wet ingredients together. Fold in dry ingredients. Add nuts and chocolate chips last.
Pour into greased muffin or loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees (30 minutes for muffins, 45-50 minutes for loaf - or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean).

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Fall Salad with Baked Goat Cheese

Last night I was chatting with my fave Manhattan girl Cassandra and we both mentioned how we haven't eaten salads in a long time, due to the chilly weather and switch to soup-based meal planning. Reverse psychology works, I guess, because after that discussion, a salad was all I could think to eat tonight. I crammed just about every autumn flavor I could find into this gorgeous supper salad and I topped it with some show-stopping baked goat cheese medallions.

I have made a similar version of this baked cheese before with fresh mozzarella, trying to make a lighter version of restaurant mozzarella sticks. It would also be a great way to use up more of that roasted tomato sauce I have so much of for dipping! It's a pretty classy appetizer if you're entertaining.

The first thing you need to do is prepare your cheese. If using fresh mozzarella, use those balls that are the size of cherry tomatoes, or slice some off one of those big logs. For goat cheese, which is quite a bit more delicate, I used dental floss to slice off a couple pieces.

Then you put some breadcrumbs into the bottom of a muffin pan and drizzle with a little olive oil. Place your cheese on the breadcrumbs and press lightly so the crumbs stick. Top with more breadcrumbs and oil. Bake until cheese is hot and melty and breadcrumbs are golden brown.

I put these yummy medallions of hot gooey goat cheese on top of some leaf lettuce, dried cranberries, roasted buttercup squash, and toasted pumpkin seeds. This was a fabulous way to re-introduce myself to salads. I've missed them!

Fall Salad with Baked Goat Cheese
leaf lettuce
dried cranberries (mine were from the co-op and sweetened with apple cider instead of sugar)
roasted buttercup squash (leftover from my soup)
pumpkin seeds (pepitas), toasted
goat cheese, sliced

Place breadcrumbs in bottom of muffin pan and drizzle with olive oil, add sliced cheese, top with more breadcrumbs and oil. Layer all ingredients on a plate, top with baked goat cheese, salt and pepper. Serve with a freshly made balsamic vinaigrette and, of course, wine.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Squash Soup with Mushroom/Kale Ravioli

This is about as fancy as I get. It's the kind of thing I can make on a Sunday when I've got time to kill but I understand that most people won't make this recipe because it does have a lot of steps. I'm going to share it anyways!

My mom gave me some buttercup squash - the really sweet kind - from bluebird gardens in Fergus Falls. I knew it was destined to be soup but I just wasn't sure what kind. I don't often like to eat pureed soups since I still have all my teeth and I'm able to chew, so I knew something had to go in the soup. I made "ravioli" or more accurately, potstickers, out of wonton wrappers filled with crimini mushrooms and kale and boiled them in the soup. The result was a very earthy, hearty, colorful, and INCREDIBLY healthy sunday supper.

First, I cut open the squash and removed the seeds. Put the squash on a sheet pan with onions and carrots - cover with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast at 325 degrees for 1 hour. I went for a great walk around Lake Hiawatha in the crisp fall air and looked at the changing leaves while my veggies roasted.

When the veggies have cooled, scoop out the squash "meat" and put in your food processor with the onions and carrots. Pulse to start the puree, then add water (about 2 cups) to get it nice and smooth. Then you put this yummy squash puree in a soup pot over low heat and add 1 carton of vegetable stock, salt and pepper, nutmeg, and cinnamon. The nutmeg and cinnamon don't make the soup sweet, but they do add a depth of flavor that is needed. The soup is essentially done at this point - and you could add store bought tortellini or ravioli and it would be great. But I went for the homemade potstickers.

You can use this method to make any kind of faux ravioli or asian potstickers. First, clean out your food processor and add some kale, 1 package of crimini mushrooms, a clove of garlic, and some yellow onion. Pulse to combine and add mixture to a skillet to saute with some salt and pepper.

Take your wonton wrappers and lay a few out. Add a teaspoon of filling to the middle. Use your finger with some warm water to wet each side of the wrapper. Fold in half (in a triangle). Then fold each corner in to make a little envelope.

You can freeze leftover potstickers on a plate, and once frozen put in a ziploc storage bag and they'll be easy to use later! Turn up the heat on your soup so it is nearly boiling, add a handful of your ravioli and let cook for 3-5 minutes or until cooked through.

Ladle into a bowl and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

Squash Soup with Mushroom/Kale Ravioli
1 buttercup squash, cut, seeds removed
2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 yellow onion, cut into chunks
2 cups water
4 cups vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of cinnamon

Roast the veggies with olive oil, salt, and pepper until done. Puree in food processor. Add to soup pot with water and stock and seasonings and cook over low heat until hot.

1 package crimini mushrooms, cleaned
1 big handful kale, removed from stems and chopped
1/4 yellow onion
1 clove garlic

Mix all together in food processor. Cook in skillet for 5-8 minutes with salt and pepper.

Assemble raviolis with wonton wrappers and warm water to seal. Boil raviolis in soup until done. Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Fifteen Bean Soup

This is what I woke up to today...ICK!

And so, I decided it was finally time to use this bag of dried beans I've had for months. I saw the bag in the grocery store for less than $1 and I couldn't believe the bargain. Fifteen beans for less than a buck? It's true.

I thought these dried beans were so beautiful. According to the bag, you are promised 15 of the following varieties:
  • Northern beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Large lima beans
  • Blackeyed peas
  • Garbanzo beans
  • Baby lima beans
  • Green split peas
  • Kidney beans
  • Cranberry beans
  • Small white beans
  • Pink beans
  • Small red beans
  • Yellow split peas
  • Lentils
  • Navy beans
  • White kidney beans
  • Black beans
Even though the bag also promises a "seasoning packet," I never got one - which was OK with me since I would prefer to add my own seasonings anyways. Plus the instructions tell you to add a ham bone, but who has a ham bone on hand? I certainly don't (and even if I did, I wouldn't eat it!).

When I bought this bag it was summertime so I was tempted to boil them and make some type of summer bean salad with Italian vinaigrette. But that never happened. And then this snow thing happened today and I felt the need for some comforting bean soup.

By the way...this is NOT chili. This is Fifteen Bean Soup. Although you could turn it into chili if you added the proper spices but that's not what I was going for today.

Now, I've never cooked dried beans before (other than split peas for this amazing soup), so I was a little apprehensive to mix fifteen different beans together in dried form. Especially since I HATE pre-soaking things or thinking ahead in any way. So I hatched an evil plan to use my crock pot to make this soup. Thus, this soup was invented. And it was simple and delicious - two things that are required for this blog!

Fifteen Bean Soup
1 bag 15-bean soup mix
1 onion, diced fine
1 can diced tomatoes (or 1 jar roasted tomatoes and shallots pureed!)
3 cubes vegetarian vegetable bouillon cubes
salt and pepper to taste
parmesan cheese, to garnish

Rinse the beans, and add to crock pot with water to cover beans plus at least 2 inches. Cook on high for 1 hour. Add onion and turn heat to low and cook all day (I did 10 hours!). Then add your tomatoes (I was lucky to have a pint of pureed roasted tomatoes and shallots!) and bouillon and cook for another 15 minutes on low, or enough to heat through. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with parmesan cheese. Enjoy with bread and wine and pretend you are a rustic French housewife.

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Banana "Ice Cream"

Did you know you can make ice cream with just one ingredient? Click here to read the step-by-step instructions. Well, if it sounds too good to be true, you're right. It doesn't taste at all like ice cream. But it's a nice sweet frozen treat that's all natural and it's a great way to use up bananas that are getting too ripe.

Banana "Ice Cream" (recipe from The Kitchn website)
1-2 ripe bananas

Cut banana into coins and freeze for 1-2 hours. Puree in a food processor until creamy. It will take awhile. You can add a tablespoon or two of milk or soymilk if you want it extra creamy. I also added a spoonful of natural peanut butter and a handful of extra dark chocolate chips.

Dijon Brussels Sprouts

Obviously there are very few vegetables I don't like. Brussels sprouts are notorious for being something children are threatened with for misbehavior. They sure look scary! But once I actually tried freshly prepared sprouts I declared them my favorite vegetable (side note: I say that about every vegetable depending on which day it is).

If you're a non-believer in Brussels sprouts, know this: they taste like little tiny baby cabbages only sweeter. And, just like almost every other veggie, you can roast them in a hot oven with olive oil, salt, and pepper and they are simply delicious.

But here is another great way to eat Brussels sprouts that combines steaming and pan-frying, plus it adds a glossy dijon sauce for another layer of flavor.

Dijon Brussels Sprouts
1 big bunch Brussels Sprouts (pick bright green, small, tight heads)
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp butter
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp dijon mustard

Trim the bottom root off the sprouts and cut into halves or fourths, depending on size. Add to a skillet with water, butter, salt and pepper. Cook over medium high heat for approximately 5-8 minutes, water will cook off and evaporate and butter will stay in the pan to brown the sprouts. Turn off heat, add mustard to pan, and stir to coat sprouts.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Baked Chicken Parmesan

If you are like me, you have about eight jars of homemade roasted tomato sauce in your fridge or freezer waiting for you to enjoy all winter long. And perhaps you are looking for another great recipe in which to use this sauce? Look no further!

I actually learned this method of chicken parmesan from Alicia, back in the days when we lived together after college. I'm pretty sure she got the recipe from the back of a Ragu pasta sauce label. I love the idea of taking a very decadent and fatty restaurant dish like chicken parmesan (which is always fried in a bunch of nasty oil) and making it leaner - and often tastier! - at home. So, I've been using the Ragu baked method for years and have pretty much perfected it.

It goes without saying that using homemade roasted tomato sauce is the key to making the dish taste great. It also goes without saying that to have a successful dinner party, you start with a beautiful plate of snacks to go with your red wine...this one is apple slices, english cheddar, marcona almonds, wheat crackers, and fig spread.

After your wine and snacks, you can start making your chicken parmesan and it will take you less than 30 minutes total. Most people do a double coat method on chicken (flour, egg, breadcrumbs) but I find that too messy and putzy so I just go straight for the breadcrumbs - and I always use panko (or Japanese-style) breadcrumbs because they are crispier and much tastier. Panko-coated chicken can be baked and it still tastes as if it were fried because of the great crunch.

Baked Chicken Parmesan
boneless, skinless chicken breasts
breadcrumbs (preferably panko)
olive oil, salt, and pepper
roasted tomato sauce
whole wheat spaghetti or linguine noodles, cooked

Drizzle the chicken with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then coat each chicken breast with breadcrumbs.

Heat an oven-proof skillet on your stovetop, add some olive oil and the chicken. Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until the breadcrumbs get crispy. Then throw the skillet in the oven to finish cooking. (HINT: you can skip the stovetop frying part and just bake the chicken, it will take about 20 minutes to cook through. It won't be as crisp, but it will still taste great).

When the chicken is almost ready, top each piece with some mozzarella and parmesan cheese and put back in the oven for a couple minutes to melt.

This is the way I like to serve it: mix your cooked pasta with a little bit of tomato sauce and put a scoop of it on the plate. Top with your cheesy breaded chicken, and add another spoonful of sauce on top. A little extra parmesan cheese never hurts either.

This entree needs something fresh and green to balance it out, so I put it with a simple salad with sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, and balsamic vinaigrette.

The meal was satisfying enough that we didn't even eat apple crisp for dessert!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Apple Crisp

I've been making this recipe for years and it always gets raves. What people don't know is that the recipe has only a handful of ingredients, and all of them I usually have on hand. It comes out of the oven all carmelized, oaty, crunchy, and amazing so you'd think it was more complicated.

I discovered the recipe in the Smyth Companies 125th Anniversary Cookbook that was published the year I worked there (2002). The recipe was submitted by a lady named Pam Wood, who was the IT/computer tech. She doesn't work there anymore, either, but I thought I needed to give credit where credit is due. She named the recipe "Apple Crisp From Many Generations," and truly I can imagine my grandmas and great-grandmas making this simple but delicious recipe for their church potlucks or barn-raising parties, or whatever special occasions required sweet fall desserts back in the days of yore.

I spent some quality time with my 92-year old Grandpa Art yesterday watching the Twins kick some KC Royals butt and picking many apples from the trees in his backyard. I promised him and my other grandparents (Grandma Verna and Grandpa Bob) each an apple crisp. Not to mention my dad and brother. After an assembly-line setup, I ended up with seven apple crisps!

Even after all this, I still have a half bag of apples leftover! I have a few more aluminum pans so I'm planning on doing a few more this week for the freezer. I also bought some oat flour so that I can make a gluten-free version for Ang. Finally, I know I repeat this a lot on the blog - but it's still good to know that sweets can be lean if you use real ingredients (butter and sugar won't kill you in moderation!) and enjoy responsibly.

Apple Crisp
4 cups apples, peeled and sliced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2 T. flour

Mix ingredients together and arrange in an 8 x 8 square pan.

3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup oats
1/2 cup flour
1 stick butter, melted

Mix together and spread on top of apple base. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Your kitchen will smell like heaven so you will know when it's ready. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Note #1: double recipe for 9x13 pan (cake pan).
Note #2: wouldn't some sliced almonds be great in the topping? I might try that later this week, too. It would make it extra crunchy.
Note #3: thank goodness my mom loaned me her Pampered Chef apple peeler/slicer. Seven crisps would have been impossible without it.
Note #4: I did not eat all of that crisp from the one that's half was a combo of me, Marney, and sending some home to Colin.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sweet Potato and Kale Soup

This is my absolute favorite way to cook. No recipe to follow - complete improvisation.

I came home from work on a cold Thursday through a complete downpour with the biggest urge for soup. Here's the fun part - I actually had all the ingredients on hand to make an incredibly colorful, healthy, and delicious soup.

For some strange reason, I bought 1 big sweet potato a few days ago because it looked so inviting. Not something I usually pick up, but it was calling to me. Also, I had some free kale that Ang had brought me from her garden.

Excuse my tangent here, but I talk about kale all the time on this blog but I wonder how many of you actually eat it? I probably would never have tried it if Cass hadn't shown me how yummy it can be. I always thought of kale as the gross plasticky stuff you see in the buffet line in between containers of salad fixins. Holy cow, I was so wrong. If you cook kale, it is so delicious and has a fabulous texture that makes you feel like you're eating something substantial. Plus, you can eat it alone as a side dish, or add it to soup and frittatas for an extra boost of nutrition. Kale pairs so perfectly with eggs and fish. Next time you're at the store, I challenge you to take a chance on some kale.

Sweet Potato and Kale Soup
1 yellow onion, diced finely
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced finely
2 carrots, peeled and diced finely
1 large clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper
4-6 cups stock (or water and bouillon cubes)
1 can white beans, drained
1 big bunch kale, chopped into small pieces

Heat some olive oil in a big soup pot and add the onion, sweet potato, carrots, garlic, and salt and pepper. Cook until veggies are soft. Add your stock and bring to a boil. Add kale and beans, cover and cook until kale has wilted.

To serve, ladle into a bowl and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese and another drizzle of olive oil. Enjoy with grilled bread and red wine.