Carrot Zucchini Muffins

So… I was scanning Pinterest for way to use vegetables in breakfast. Specifically zucchini. I came across this recipe and decided to try it. It was really perfect… with my tweeks of course! 😀

  • The original recipe calls for A WHOLE CUP OF SUGAR. What the what?!! … I reduced this by half (that would be 1/2c. of sugar). It was very lovely. Enough sweetness to tell you it was a muffin, but not so sweet that gave me a tummy ache.
  • I used coconut oil instead of canola oil. It did not make the muffins taste like coconut. ^_^

I have more zucchini and carrots in my fridge, so I might make another batch this weekend as they are disappearing fast. Two thumbs up from me!

Biscuits

The biscuits that I grew up with consisted of three ingredients: self rising flour, vegetable shortening, and buttermilk. Good ole southern buttermilk biscuits.  They were delicious! … Aaannndddd NOT very good for you. I’ve tried lots of different ways of making biscuits as I’ve gotten older and more health conscience. In my mission to healthify one of my favorite southern foods, I’ve made two discoveries that I believe have brought me to a place of biscuit zen: Pinterest, and whole wheat pastry flour!

This is the recipe that I have settled on as my favorite biscuit recipe. I haven’t even had to tweek it very much. The only thing I did differently is to shred the cold butter into the dry mixture with a box grater. Oh, and I did all the mixing by hand. These tweeks are really only because I don’t have a stand mixer that is suitable for mixing dough. Also, per my new usual, I used half ww pastry flour, and half all purpose flour (depending on what I’m making, I might use more of the ww pastry flour than that). I have made this recipe twice and it has been well loved by the family. 🙂

The shredding the butter into the flour trick comes from this recipe, my second favorite. When I made this, I used store bought buttermilk instead of making my own like the recipe suggests. I had trouble with the method of rolling the dough out into a rectangle and then cutting the biscuits into squares with a knife/pizza cutter/bench scraper.  I guess that was my anal retentive side. Hah! I found it MUCH easier and less frustrating to roll out the dough and use a round cutter, as in the first recipe.

Anywhoooo…. if you need biscuits in your life like I do, I think you’ll be happy with these two recipes. It really warms the cockles of my heart to know that I have found a relatively healthy way to reintroduce this nostalgic food item into my life. Yay! 😀

 

Yogurt Parfait Thingy

So, I tried this combo on a whim yesterday… it was GREAT! I’m eating it for breakfast for the second day in a row as I type this. 🙂

First… strawberries. I like them chopped small.

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Next… some nice PEACH greek yogurt.

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Then… top with one of these, finely crumbled. (There are two in one package… I just used one of them. So, half the package.)

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Mmmm-mmmm! It’s so yummy! And it makes me feel kinda healthy. 😀

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Chicken Spanikopita Burgers

Who doesn’t love a good burger?! But sometimes making the same old grilled burger at home can be BORING. I stumbled upon this recipe on Pinterest and knew it would be a great way to get out of that burger boredom. After all… we love feta over here! Of course we had to try it! However… I found that the original recipe had WWAAAAAYYY too much sodium! So I am trying a few tweeks. 🙂

  • I used an even 1 pound package of ground chicken
  • I used about 1/3 – 1/2 of a HUGE red onion, finely minced.
  • 1/4 t. of garlic powder instead of real garlic (sue me ^_^ )
  • I used organic frozen chopped spinach. Once thawed, squeezed of excess moisture, re-chopped, and put into a measuring cup… it was a heaping 1/4 c.
  • 1/4 c. finely crumbled feta cheese.
  • 1 t. Montreal Steak Seasoning
  • 1 t. oregano (original recipe says 2 t. divided, but I only see 1 used in the directions. *shrug*)

I cooked the onion and garlic powder in a medium skillet using 1 teaspoon of olive oil and a few sprays of cooking spray. I also added a few tablespoons of water about half way through. I cooked them for about 5 minutes. Then I transferred them to a bowl and let them cool. Once cooled, I added everything else (note that I didn’t add olive oil to the mix as the recipe indicates) and mixed and stuck it in the fridge. I was prepping this at about 11am, so it kind of “marinated” for a little over 5 hours. Then I formed the patties and cooked them according to the recipe directions.

So… I guess my main tweeks to reduce the sodium is only 1 teaspoon of grill seasoning, and half as much feta. It was pretty perfect. Hubby loved it… went back for seconds. Two thumbs up on this one!

Blueberry Croissant Puff

My hubby loves bread pudding. So I’m always on the lookout for a yummy, unique bread pudding recipe. I found this one on Pinterest and tried it last week. Holy mackerel! It was AMAZING! I made this pretty much exactly as the recipe states… except that I sprinkled on 2 tablespoons of flax meal with the blueberries. Because… fiber. Also, I think next time I make this, I’ll let the croissants sit out for a while to dry out. I also made a lemon glaze to drizzle on top. That was just your basic glaze that I didn’t really measure… oops. I think it was probably about 1/2 – 2/3 cup of powdered sugar and the juice of half a lemon. Hubby said he would like it without the glaze. I also thought this recipe might be good with a little maple syrup drizzled on top. Anyway… here’s the recipe link . I will definitely be making this again!

 

A simple smoothie

There are about a million and one smoothie recipes out there. Everybody loves them… am I right?! Well I made one for me and my wee lad this morning for breakfast, so I thought I’d share my method. I like to use greek yougurt for the added protein, and a little flax meal for the omega-3’s. I also prefer to use frozen fruit instead of ice cubes.

Your Basic Smoothie

  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 c. frozen strawberries (organic if you can find it)
  • 1/4 c. frozen blueberries (organic if you can find it)
  • 1 T. flax meal
  • 1 5.3oz container of vanilla greek yogurt
  • 1/2 c. OJ
  • 1/4 c. milk
  • honey to taste

Put it all in the blender and blend it up! Yum! This whole recipe is about 7.5 grams of fiber… something most Americans need more of. It was two servings for us… so that’s about 3.75gm per serving. You could always add another tablespoon of flax meal if you want more fiber. Hehe… sorry guys. I’m a little obsessed with this stuff. To me, natural fiber content is a good way to judge a food’s healthiness.

Zucchini Pancakes

This week I was in the mood to cook a different vegetable than my usual broccoli or green beans. So I just picked up a few zucchini, having no idea what I what make with them. I again pulled out “How To Cook Everything Vegetarian” by Mark Bittman. I found a nice little vegetable pancake recipe. It suggested that you could use lots of different vegetables… turnips, zucchini, winter squash, sweet potato, carrots, etc. I picked the zucchini or course. One cool thing about this cook book is that there are always a few (or several) variations listed. For this recipe, there was a Cheesy Vegetable Pancake variation which I chose. There’s also a long list of ways you could serve vegetable pancakes and fritters. It’s a really useful cook book that I would recommend to everyone!

ANYWAY… These things were soooooooo fabulous! I believe my husband described them as “amazing.” There’s not a whole lot of flour in the recipe, so they ended feeling and tasting kind of like quiche on the inside. Which I subsequently discovered is because I accidentally used 2 eggs instead of 1. Oops… might just make that mistake again next time. I will most definitely make them again!

Cheesy Vegetable Pancakes

  • About 1 pound of turnips, zucchini, winter squash, or sweet potatoes, peeled if necessary (alone or in combo. should be 2 cups packed)
  • 1/2 onion grated (I used about 1/4 c of finely minced green onion)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 c flour, more or less (I used half ww, half ap)
  • 1 c shredded cheese (I used 3/4 cheddar, and 1/4 grated parm)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • milk, half-and-half, or cream as needed
  • 2 T melted butter or EVOO, plus more for the pan

Grate vegetables by hand or with your food processor. Mix the vegetables, cheese, onion, egg, and flour together. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Then add just enough milk so that the mixture drops easily from a large spoon. Stir in the 2 tablespoons of melted butter or EVOO. Put a little butter or oil in a large pan and heat over medium heat. When the butter melts or oil is hot, drop in spoonfuls of batter; use a fork to spread into an even layer. Cook turning once until nicely browned on both sides, about 15 minutes. Work in batches, and keep them warm in the oven (warm setting or 275) until they are all cooked. Serve hot or room temperature.

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As you can see, I served them with a nice, generic, horseradish shmeared salmon, and some broccoli (yes, the broccoli found it’s way into the meal anyway). We heated leftover veggie cakes the next day in the toaster oven. They were still yummy, but not nearly as good as when they were fresh (duh, right?).

Creamy Carrot Soup

This soup has become one of my ultimate favorites! It’s creamy and complex. You can keep it savory, or add the optional sugar to play up the sweetness of the carrots. Add the optional sour cream for some tang and extra creaminess, and if you’re feeling WILD… go ahead and throw in some parsley! I mean literally “wild”… that stuff tastes like grass to me! I never use it. ^_^  Anyway, the recipe is from “How To Cook Everything Vegetarian” by Mark Bittman.

Creamy Carrot Soup

  • 3 T butter or EVOO
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 lb carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 lg starchy potato, peeled and roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 5 cups vegetable stock or water (I use chicken stock)
  • 2 t sugar, or to taste (optional)
  • 1/2 c cream or sour cream (optional)
  • 1/4 c chopped parsley leaves for garnish

Heat butter or EVOO in a large soup pot over medium heat. When the butter melts or the oil is hot, add the veggies. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, until the carrots soften a bit. Add stock and cook until the veggies are very tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Use an immersion blender, a blender, a food mill, or a food processor to puree the soup. Do it in batches if you need to … blending hot liquids is dangerous! Return to the pot and keep it hot but not bubbling. Add the sugar and sour cream if you’re using them. Stir to completely combine. Garnish and serve!

I served this with Eggs In A Frame. It was a good thought. But the bread I used was too thick (Tomato Basil Bread from Panera), which caused the eggs to be under cooked. Live and learn I guess. This soup goes GREAT with any kind of bread… croutons, toast, whole grain, flavored, whatever you’d like. It would make a good side to a meat course as well.

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It doesn’t look like much, but trust me… it’s delicious. It’ll warm the cockles of your heart!

Green Chicken Chili and my Mama’s Cornbread

This past fall, I made a trip to Colorado to visit a friend. We had a great time… because most of what we did revolved around food! One morning we found our way to a local diner for breakfast. I ordered a dish called a Sombrero. It was a substantial pile of hash browns drenched in a green chile pork sauce and topped with shredded cheese. It was sooooooo amazing! I have tried twice to make this dish at home, but the green pork chili just wasn’t right. I did some further research on it and found that it is apparently a Colorado specialty. Unfortunately, most of the recipes out there for this, called for like 20 fresh chiles of varying types roasted, peeled, and chopped. Arrggghhh! I live in Iowa… and it’s winter time! It’s like the culinary black hole! There’s no way I could find 20 good quality chiles in any store around here. So, with a slight sense of melancholy, I switched gears and began looking for a recipe for a green chicken chili instead. This was a good change anyway, because I try not to use pork if I can avoid it (is there such a thing as organic pasture fed free range pork? LOL). Most of the recipes used canned green enchilada sauce, canned chiles, and jarred salsa verde various combinations and amounts. Here’s what I tried:

Green Chicken Chili

  • 1 T. canola or olive oil
  • 1/2 lg onion, diced
  • 4 oz can of diced green chiles (I gave mine an extra chop before using)
  • 1 1/2 t. cumin
  • 1/2 t. coriander
  • 1 clove of garlic minced (or the equivalent in garlic powder or the pre-minced jarred stuff)
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 1/2 c. cooked, shredded chicken
  • 15 oz can of white beans
  • 15 oz jar of salsa verde
  • 2 c. chicken stock (set aside 1/4 c. to mix with the masa)
  • 1/4 c. of masa
  • shredded cheese for topping

Heat the oil in a large soup pot. Add the onion and canned chiles and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, coriander, and salt. Cook for 3 or 4 more minutes. Add everything else except for the reserved chicken stock and the masa. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Mix the reserved chicken stock and masa together in a small bowl. It should be thin like a slurry, not like dough. If it’s too thick add some water. If you add it to the soup and it’s too thick you’ll end up with something like dumplings that are a pain to break up and mix in. Can you guess that this happened to me ^_^ ? ANYWAY… stir in the masa slurry and give it another minute or two of simmering. Then ladle into bowls and top with shredded cheese.

I was NOT completely satisfied with my results. I think using a whole jar of salsa verde made it too tangy and a bit too salty. Next time I will try LESS salsa verde… maybe 2 cans of chiles and 1/2 a jar of the salsa instead? Also… a pinch of salt would have been enough. Maybe this summer I’ll be fortunate enough to find a bunch of fresh chiles to roast, peel, and freeze!

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UPDATE: So, the next day I used some of the left over Green Chicken Chili to recreate (sort of) the original inspirational dish that I had in Colorado. I used tater tots (I’ve got a 3 year old boy, give me a break), smothered them in the reheated chili, topped with shredded cheese, a fried egg on the side, along with some toast and jelly. Oh my God… OH MY GOD. It might just have been the best thing I have eaten to date. The flavors of the chili that I wasn’t crazy about the day before seemed to have vanished. So maybe my tweek should be to make it a day ahead! *still dreaming about the green chili drenched tots*

On to the Cornbread

When it comes to cornbread, I am of the belief that it MUST be cooked in cast iron. I am also of the belief that it must NOT be “sweet”. These things are simply because that is how my Mama always made it. She has been making her cornbread this same way my whole life (until recently when she became vegan). I’m now 34 years old. ^_^ Anyway, there’s not much to say about it other than it’s perfect:

Cornbread

  • 1 c. all purpose flour
  • 1 c. cornmeal
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 2 T. sugar
  • 1/4 c. oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/3 – 1 1/2 c. buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Mix the first six ingredients together in a bowl until well mixed. Add the oil, egg, and buttermilk and mix thoroughly with a whisk.  Pour into a large (about 10″) greased cast iron skillet. I grease mine with shortening… so sue me. Bake for 30 minutes. The top should be nicely browned, like this…

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You can cut this bad boy and serve it pretty much immediately. Also… you can add cheese, or herbs, or chile peppers if you like. I’ve made cheesey cornbread before; it’s very nice. 🙂

DISCLAIMER: I deeply apologize for my lack luster food photography skills.

Velveeta-FREE Cheeseburger Chowder

I used to work at the local hospital wherein one could find, on occasion, a surprisingly delicious version of Cheeseburger Chowder. I ate it fervently whenever I could, and stayed happily ignorant as to it’s contents. In the few years since I quit my job and became a stay at home mom, I have desired to recreate this masterpiece in my own kitchen… only to be constantly thwarted by the habitual inclusion of Velveeta in every recipe I found. I avoid this product as if it where a leper.

Well, this week I came up with a way to make delicious Cheeseburger Chowder without the use of Velveeta. My thought process started with my usual Potato Soup recipe. I learned watching Food Network years ago, that one could make a superb Potato Soup by using leftover mashed potatoes. Trust me, it’s amazing. Two cups of left over mashed potatoes, four cups of chicken or vegetable broth, add in whatever other veggies you like (I use onion and celery), top with your favorite Tater Soup toppings (cheese, bacon, sour cream, etc). It always makes a really smooth, creamy soup. Yum! Next… I recently joined Pinterest (yes, I resisted for a long time), and it has nearly consumed all the active parts of my brain. I swear… that place is like CRACK for the foodie in me! In one of my many browsing sessions, I found a soup recipe that included a WHOLE brick of cream cheese. Yes, you read that right… an entire 8 oz. brick of cream cheese went into this soup. As I read that recipe, I had my Eureka moment. Take my regular potato soup, add ground beef and cream cheese, and top with plenty of shredded cheddar. It worked! It was the good ole comforting cheeseburgery flavor that I remembered! Here’s the run down

  • 1/2 lb. ground beef
  • 4 strips bacon, diced
  • 1 – 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1/2 lg onion, diced
  • 1 lg carrot, shredded
  • 2 c. shredded cabbage
  • 2 T flour
  • 2 c. mashed potatoes
  • 1 c. milk
  • 3 c. chicken stock
  • 3 T. cream cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • shredded cheddar for topping

Brown the bacon in a large soup pot (I prefer stainless steel). Remove bacon from the pain and let it drain on some paper towels. Remove all but about 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat. Cook the ground beef, onion, and celery in the bacon fat that you left in the pan until the meat is all brown. I would add my salt and pepper here while the meat, onion, and celery are cooking. Add the flour, and cook for a minute or two until all the flour is moistened and coats the meat and veggies. Add the carrots, milk, chicken stock, and mashed potatoes. Bring to a simmer and let it cook for 10 minutes. Add cabbage and cook for 5 more minutes. Add cream cheese and and simmer while stiring until it’s all melted (I used a whisk for this). Adjust the seasoning if you need to. Ladle into bowls and top as much shredded cheddar as you like. Stir it up until the cheese becomes one with the soup. Sprinkle on a few bacon crumbles and then slap yo mama, cause it was that good!

I intended to take some nice pics of this finished product, but we scarfed it down before I could do that. Yum yum!