Sunday, October 30, 2011

For those Lovers of Carrot Cake :)

Archived from April 18, 2011
This isn't just for any lover of cake or carrots or a combination of the two; this is a true delicacy made with the thought of healthiness without losing the true taste of carrot cake.

I found this recipe in, again, my Cooking Light magazine that I had such success with last month; this month's looks just as promising! :) Now I've made some slight changes to make it healthier and find more commonly used ingredients (which you'll see below).

Yield is 20 servings: 1 piece is 284 calories with 9.7 g fat and 3.6 g protein. That is with the original recipe. Total prep time and cooking time is approximately 1 hour and 53 minutes (that doesn't include clean up time).

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I used wheat flour with flaxseed and other grains to make it more whole grain)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups grated carrots (for convenience, you could buy the shredded carrots, but I like to buy the regular sized carrots, not the baby carrots, and use my grater to shred the orange vegetable)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
6 Tbsp. butter (softened) (here I used unsweetened applesauce)
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
Cooking spray

6 oz cream cheese, softened (because you can't find packaging with 6 oz, I bought and used 8 oz.)
1 ounce fromage blanc (it's a soft cheese in case you were wondering (I used an ounce or two of vanilla-flavored Greek yogurt- AE Dairy now makes it really reasonable!)
2 Tbsp. butter, softened (I just took this out completely)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. salt
3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 chopped pecans, toasted (I didn't find the need to toast them, but I bought the already chopped up pecans for convenience)

1. Preheat oven at 350.
2. To prepare cake, combine flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon, and salt in medium bowl with whisk. Add carrots, tossing to combine.
3. Place granulated sugar, brown sugar, and applesauce in a (different) large bowl. Beat with mixer at medium speed until combined. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Then add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
4. Spread batter into 9x13 metal baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 for 28 minutes or until wooden toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cook cake completely on wire rack.
5. To prepare frosting, place softened cream cheese, Greek yogurt, vanilla extract, and salt in a medium bowl; beat with mixer at medium speed until fluffy. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at medium speed until combined (don't overbeat it!). Spread frosting evenly over top of cake; sprinkle evenly with toasted pecans.

A side note: If you want to add a different flavor or texture, boil a cup of raisins in a cup of water; add boiled raisins to mixture of cake once combined. It will add a little pizazz to your carrot cake. :)

People, namely co-workers, raved about this wonderfully simple and semi-healthy (minus the cream cheese frosting with 3 cups of powdered sugar) dessert! They even asked when I would make another one again! :)

Happy Baking!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Homemade Granola

Archived from August 20th, 2011 from the old "Out of the Fryin' Pan and into the Fire"   

The last installment of the three recipes I promised: homemade granola. I've had some with my morning Greek yogurt and fresh fruit, and it's fantastic!

Homemade Granola

8 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups wheat germ
1 1/2 cups oat bran
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup lite maple syrup
3/4 cup agave syrup (found in the healthy food section at Hy-Vee...can also use regular honey)
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup olive oil (original recipe calls for 1 cup vegetable oil, but I substituted applesauce and olive oil)
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 cup raisins
1 cup craisins

Optional: The original recipe calls for 1 cup finely chopped pecans and 1 cup finely chopped almonds, but I decided to just use the walnuts.)

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment or aluminum foil.
2. Combine the oats, wheat germ, oat bran, sunflower seeds, and walnuts into large bowl.
3. Stir together salt, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, oil, applesauce, cinnamon, vanilla in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat; then pour over the dry ingredients and stir to coat.
4. Spread the mixture out evenly on the baking sheets.
5. Bake in the preheated oven until crispy and toasted for about 20 minutes. Stir once halfway through baking.
6. Cool, then stir in raisins and cranberries before storing in an airtight container.

Now I made the mistake of not reading things all the way through and added my dry ingredients to the wet ingredients without putting in the saucepan. It still turned out well, but I'm sure I make it the next time, it will be so much better! :)

Refrigerator Pickles

Archived from August 18th, 2011 from the old "Out of the Fryin' Pan and into the Fire"

One of my favorite foods that I always find myself buying are pickles. Dill, sweet, whatever the flavor, but my favorite is Bread & Butter! I probably could snack and chow down on an entire jar in one sitting if I had no self control. Recently, one of my colleagues from school brought in a bunch of cucumbers from his garden. I took so many home that I found myself not knowing what to do with them, so the next day, I was chatting with another colleague from work, and she suggested a refrigerator pickle recipe. So this past weekend, I made a batch, and they were delicious! Here's the recipe, courtesy of Yolanda. :)

Refrigerator Pickles

7 cups sliced cucumbers
1 sliced onion
1 1/2 cups vinegar
1 Tbsp. salt (I use sea salt)
1 tsp. celery seed
2 cups sugar (I used 1 1/2 cups)

1. Combine ingredients.
2. Store in ice cream bucket/large container or in canning jars.
3. Leave for at least 3 hours or overnight.

And there you have pickles! :)

Heirloom Tomato Salad

Archived from August 18th, 2011 from the old "Out of the Fryin' Pan and into the Fire"

So, in my efforts to keep up with the summer (and since I've been gone for the last three months), I figure it's time to add three more recipes. Here is one below that I found last summer during the busy tomato season that we have here in Iowa. Now while it probably adds a little more color to the plate to use heirloom tomatoes, regular red tomatoes work just as well; however, the ones from the roadside stands, the garden, or the farmer's markets are absolutely the best! 

Heirloom Tomato Salad

2 lbs. heirloom tomatoes
1 cup bocconcini
(This is what is deemed as baby mozzarella-it's supposed to be the freshest mozzarella, but I buy the soft kind in the deli section at Hy-Vee with the rest of the gourmet cheeses..right now, I got it for $2, which is very reasonable!)
2 generous handfuls fresh basil leaves (fresh from the garden!)
Several sprigs fresh chives (again, fresh from the garden!)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. salt (not really necessary unless you like a little salt)
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
8 Tbsp. olive oil (2 Tbsp. for each plate)

1. Wash tomatoes, slice into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices.
2. Divide tomatoes among four plates.
3. Break up cheese and divide pieces among plates.
4. Drop whole basil leaves on top of tomatoes and cheese.
5. Distribute chives by snipping with scissors and letting pieces fall over salad.
6. Drizzle 1 Tbsp vinegar over each salad followed by 2 Tbsp. olive oil (I never use the olive oil.)
7. Dust with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Voila! A great summer salad with class and color that is not your average salad!

Summer Is Here!

 Archived from May 30th, 2011 from the old "Out of the Fryin' Pan and into the Fire"

With summer here, rhubarb-strawberry pie is in! :)

Rhubarb has been an all-time favorite since I was a kid, visiting Grandma Sprung when we would go to her house for our weekly excursions (usually after church on Sundays). She would always have goodies, but I would always look in hopefulness for a rhubarb delectable, whether it was crisp, bars, or muffins. My favorite was the crisp, however, warmed up in the microwave for 30 seconds. It didn't even need vanilla ice cream or whipped topping. It was good enough all by itself. :)

So this year to start off the summer with Memorial Day, I have decided to try making my first made-from-scratch pie...strawberry-rhubarb! Grandma Sprung would be so proud of me, I'm sure. I will say that my first attempt was a complete success, AND all my friends at our Memorial Day weekend gathering thought it was excellent!

Here are the recipes for the filling and the pie crust. I'll attach the links, but I made my own adjustments, as I always do.

3 cups rhubarb stalks cut into 1/2 inch pieces (Trim outside stringy layer of large rhubarb stalks; make sure to trim away any and discard of the leaves which are poisonous; trim ends.)
1 cup strawberries, stemmed and sliced
1 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons of quick cooking tapioca
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of grated orange peel

Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix the rhubarb and the strawberries with the sugar, tapioca, salt, and orange rind. Let sit for 10 minutes.
2. Turn into a pastry lined pan. Top with the pastry, trim the edge, and crimp the top and bottom edges together. Cut slits in the top for the steam to escape. (I created the lattice pie crust, which I will discuss below.)
3. Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes, reduce heat to 350°F, and bake an additional 30-40 minutes longer. Cool on a rack.
Serve warm or cold. If you do cool to room temperature, the juices will have more time to thicken.

Pie Crust:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
6 to 8 Tbsp ice water (I substituted 1-2 Tbsp. almond flavoring to add
a little different flavor to the pie crust.)
1. Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor; pulse to mix. Add butter and pulse 6 to 8 times, until mixture resembles coarse meal, with pea size pieces of butter. Add ice water 1 Tbsp at a time, pulsing until mixture just begins to clump together. If you pinch some of the crumbly dough and it holds together, it's ready. If the dough doesn't hold together, add a little more water and pulse again.
2. Remove dough from machine and place in a mound on a clean surface. Gently shape into 2 discs. Knead the dough just enough to form the discs, do not over-knead. You
should be able to see little bits of butter in the dough. These small chunks of butter are what will allow the resulting crust to be flaky. Sprinkle a little flour around the discs. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour, and up to 2 days.
3. Remove one crust disk from the refrigerator. Let sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes in order to soften just enough to make rolling out a bit easier. Roll out with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to a 12-inch circle; about 1/8 of an inch thick. As you roll out the dough, check if the dough is sticking to the surface below. If necessary, add a few sprinkles of flour under the dough to keep the dough from sticking. Carefully place onto a 9-inch pie plate. Gently press the pie dough down so that it lines the bottom and sides of the pie plate. Use a pair of kitchen scissors to trim the dough to within 1/2 inch of the edge of the pie dish.
I used a pie disc plastic shaper! It works superbly well! I would highly recommend that if you make pies, this saves so much time and heartache trying to get the right round shape for your 9-inch pie tin. 
4. Add filling to the pie.
To Create the Latticework Pie:
1. Before starting the lattice top, roll out half of your pie dough and line your pie dish with it. The dough should extend beyond the rim of the pie dish by about half an inch. Put it in the refrigerator to chill while you work on the lattice. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the other half of your pie dough to the same extent as the first half (about 3 inches beyond the diameter of your pie dish). It's easier to work
with the dough if it is chilled, so if it the dough has softened too much, put the rolled-out piece on a flat cookie sheet and chill it in the refrigerator or freezer for a few minutes.
2. Cut the dough into even strips, 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch wide, depending on how thick you want your lattice strips. You can use a blunt knife with or without a ruler or straight edge to guide you, or you can use a pizza wheel or a pastry wheel if you have one.
3.  Fill your pie shell with the pie filling. Lay out 4 to 7 parallel strips of the pie dough, depending on how thick your strips are, on top of the filling, with about 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch space between them. Fold back every other strip.
4. Place one long strip of dough perpendicular to the parallel strips as shown. Unfold the folded strips over the perpendicular strip. 
5. Now take the parallel strips that are running underneath the perpendicular strip and fold them back over the perpendicular strip, as shown. Lay down a second perpendicular strip of dough next to the first strip, with some space between the strips. Unfold the folded parallel strips over the second strip.
6. Continue this process until the weave is complete over the top of the pie.
7. Trim the edges of the strips flush with the dough of the underlying pie dish, which should be about half an inch over the sides. Fold back the rim of the shell over the edge of the lattice strips, and crimp to secure.
I added a little oatmeal and brown sugar mixture to the top of the pie before putting it in the oven. Delicious! :)

Parmesan Polenta and Spicy Sausage Sauce

Archived from May 15th, 2011 from the old "Out of the Fryin' Pan and into the Fire" 

So, in an effort to keep up with my food blogging (which that's what seems to be consuming my time at the moment-making food, since I have no life at all, socially or otherwise), I've discovered another great find from my
 Cooking Light magazine from last month. My newest addition just arrived, and they sent me a renewal subscription for $10 for the year. I'm still contemplating whether or not I will renew, but I've had much success with many of their recipes in recent months.

Here's the latest from my kitchen. It was so good, I made two batches within two weeks (I had leftover sausage and polenta to use). :) I had never heard of or used polenta, and I've been quite pleased with it thus far. It is a particular type of corn grits; you can find it in the health food aisle of your local grocery store.

1 Tbsp. olive oil
3 ounces (2 links) turkey sausage, sliced in small pieces (recipe called for chicken, but the store only had turkey)
1 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes (I bought the stewed tomatoes with oregano and basil flavor, then cut the tomatoes with a scissors)

Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan, swirling to coat. Add sausage; saute for 3 minutes or until browned. Add onion; saute for 5 minutes or until tender. Add garlic and saute 30 seconds. Add oregano, pepper, and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1/4 c. basil to pan and cook 5 minutes or until sauce thickens.

2 c. low sodium chicken broth
1 c. water
3/4 c. quick-cooking polenta

Combine broth and water in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Add polenta; reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes or until thick, stirring frequently with a whisk so it doesn't stick to bottom of the pan. Stir in 1/4 c. Parmesan cheese to polenta. Both the chicken broth and the cheese give the polenta a nice flavor and texture/consistency.

1/2 c. chopped fresh basil
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese

When serving, place 2/3 c. polenta in each of four bowls; top with about 3/4 c. of the sauce. Top each bowl with 1 Tbsp. basil and 1 Tbsp. cheese. Makes 4 servings.

Calories: 279
Fat: 8.3 g
Protein: 12.6 g
Fiber: 5.3 g
Sodium: 524 mg

This is a fantastic dish, which only took me about 30-40 minutes tops to make! It's very easy, healthy, and simply delicious!

You Want It? You Got It!

Archived from March 29th, 2011 from the old "Out of the Fryin' Pan and into the Fire"

After my recently successful dinner was created by the combined efforts of my awesome culinary skills and recipe resources, it was requested that I post the recipe.

Now, I'm no Maggie Moore or Tonia Pals with their Midwest to Southwest: Good Eatsblog that they have put together for the last year or so, but I do try to keep up with my own efforts.

Both recipes were found in April 2011's Cooking Light edition. I am usually not a fan of this magazine as I have not found really "light" recipes; however, I happened upon several good recipes I might take a whack at. I would recommend this month's edition for your own use.

So without further delay, I now present to you the dinner masterpieces of Sunday night, an odd combination, but still tasty, healthy, and worthwhile with time and effort. (Written in parentheses are my additional notes.)

Side Dish of the Month: Asparagus with Balsamic Tomatoes

1 pound asparagus, trimmed
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups halved grape tomatoes (I just bought a container of worked)
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt (I use the sea salt)
3 tablespoons crumbled goat cheese (if you have to lay off the dairy, you could skip it, but goat cheese really adds that salty punch to the asparagus if you have never had this concoction before)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1. Cook asparagus in boiling water 2 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain. (I used the Pampered Chef steamer and steamed the asparagus in the microwave...just as efficient and gives you the same end product; nuke for 3-4 minutes.)
2. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes and garlic; cook 5 minutes. Stir in vinegar; cook for another 3 minutes. Add salt and stir. Arrange asparagus on a platter; top with tomato mixture. Sprinkle with goat cheese and pepper.

Yields 4 servings Each serving is approximately 69 calories with 3.9 grams of fat; fiber is 21 grams.

Chipotle Pork Tacos
1 pound pork tenderloin, trimmed
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lime rind
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (use one lime for both the juice and rind)
2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano (or dried from a bottle from the store shelf)
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons chopped chipotle chile in adobe sauce (found in a can-and if you want it hotter, add more chiles)
1/4 teaspoon salt (again, sea salt)
1 cup thinly sliced shallots (don't know what they are...very flavorful onion! Yum!)
2 teaspoons olive oil
8 (6 in.) corn tortillas (I bought the whole wheat, low-carb variety.)
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream (instead I bought the unflavored Greek yogurt, which AE now sells for dirt cheap!)
Chopped cilantro (it says optional, but it adds a nice little flavor to the taco itself)

1. Place pork tenderloin between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/4-inch thickness using a meat mallet or small heavy skillet (I used my rolling pin.) Remove plastic wrap. Cut pork into think strips (I cut into small, thin chunks.) Combine pork, lime rind and juice, oregano, brown sugar, chiles, garlic, and salt into bowl and set aside to marinate while cooking shallots.
2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and shallots to pan to saute for 4 minutes or until tender. Place shallots in a bowl and set aside. Now place pork in the empty pan that you just used for the shallots; saute for 3 minutes or until no longer pink. Add pork to shallots in large bowl.
3. Warm tortillas according to package directions. (I wrapped mine up in foil and set the wraps in the oven at 350 for 10 minutes. You could also grill them if you so desired.) Spoon 1/3 cup pork mixture onto each tortilla, and top each one with 1 1/2 teaspoons Greek yogurt and chopped cilantro. Fold in half.