October 31, 2012

Pin It Creamy Carrot Soup

Taken From Shutterbean

Week 44

It soup time again!  I really liked the carrot miso soup I'd made in the past, but wanted to try something new. As with most soups I like to make, this was super easy to whip up, as long as you don't mind peeling and chopping a dozen carrots and you have an immersion blender. The immersion blender is so key in making creamy soups.  I don't recommend any other way, and since you can get a solid immersion blender for ~$30, there is really no reason not to have one.

I didn't take any pictures of the process (I was hungry) but it's all pretty standard:

  • Saute a chopped onion, then add 2 cloves of chopped garlic.
  • Add in a lot (6 cups) of vegetable stock, carrots (12 chopped) and spices (dill, marjoram, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper).
  • Bring to a boil then simmer for 35 minutes. 
  • This next part was a little different: Mix 3 tablespoons of corn starch with ~ 3 tablespoons of water until dissolved and add to soup. 
  • Add 1/2 cup of cream (I used half and half) and simmer for another 15 minuets. 
  • Blend it all until smooth using an immersion blender and tada, you have a ton of soup!

I thought it was a little bland at first, I think because I always have a hard time with salt in a recipe when it doesn't specify an amount.  I tend to heir on the side of caution as I don't want it to be too salty.  However, I've found this can easily go the other way and end up bland.  Amazing what a little salt can do.  I added a bit to my bowl of soup and it brought out all the flavors. Pretty neat little spice that salt.

This was yummy and easy and the prefect meal on a rainy day.

Pin It Halloween Mummy Cupcakes

Inspired by Life as a Lofthosue

Week 44
Happy Halloween!!
/ ^^ \
To celebrate this spooky and sweet day, I made Mummy cupcakes for a potluck.
Chocolate Cupcakes
Vanilla Frosting
M&M Eyes
Very simple and super cute. Not my most inspired holiday treat but still very festive.
Hope everyone has a happy, safe and dry Halloween, and remember, you are never too old to ask for candy from strangers.

October 26, 2012

Pin It Salted Mudslide Cookies

Taken From How Sweet It Is

Week 43
There were no cookies in my house and that needed to be remedied. As I was not an avid blog follower until this year, I missed this recipe when Jessica originally posted it in August of 2011.  Thanks to Pintrest, someone recently pinned it and I found it that way.  And it's a good thing I did because these were good!

They are mudslide cookies, so not only are they filled with chocolate, but they also have instant coffee and Kahlua.  The coffee flavor is robust in scent and mild in taste, but it gives these cookies a very rich texture and flavor.

I followed the directions as she laid them out and baked them for 10 minutes = perfection!
Gooey, sticky dough.
Delicious finished product.
With salty goodness on top.
As always, they are best fresh out of the oven.
My Tupperware have been sub-par lately at the task of preserving my cookies and keeping them fresh and chewy, so I've resorted to Ziploc bags.  So far so good, meaning I eat at least 2 a day so they probably won't be around long enough to get stale.  Definitely one of my favorite cookie recipes this year, along with my brown butter oatmeal chunk cookies.  Mmmm, cookies.

Pin It Slow Cooker BBQ Beer Chicken

Taken from How Sweet It Is

Week 43
I was so excited about the whole "coming home to dinner already made" thing, I wanted to try it again! This time BBQ chicken was on my radar.

It was so simple: some chicken, some spices, some beer and a ton of BBQ sauce.
Chicken, spices and beer.
I cut the recipe in half since it makes so much, but after seeing Tom eat three BBQ chicken sandwiches for dinner, maybe I should have made the full recipe.
 After its' done cooking you shred the chicken breasts with two forks and let it marinate on low for ~30 more minutes to let all the goodness (AKA BBQ sauce) soak in. I served it on toasted buns with melted Havarti and avocado.
Delicious. It was juicy and flavorful and super simple. I also used the chicken as a topper on a green salad with avocado and feta. Yum. 

October 24, 2012

Pin It Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

Taken from Table for Two

Week 43
I'm excited to announce I've added yet another appliance to my kitchen: a slow cooker!  I've been collecting slow cooker/crock pot recipes on my Pintrest board just waiting for the day that I finally get a slow cooker.  Thanks to my friend Allie, I now have one!  I got the 3.5 quart size, because anything bigger is just overkill when you are only cooking for 2 people.  It's the perfect size and I even found space for it in my kitchen cabinet (although Tom was skeptical). It's very pretty and matches my new food processor nicely.
For my first slow cooker meal, I decided to try this chicken tikka masala recipe. We were a little nervous that I was going to burn my building down while this cooked on low for 8 hours, but I came home to my apartment all in one piece. Tom was mainly concerned we were going to blow a fuse and that the fuse box would burst into flames. Irrational fear? Maybe, but backed by some facts.  Apparently he watched a story on the news about a type of fuse box in SF apartments that has a defect where instead of the fuse breaking or switching off when it's overloaded, it just bursts into flames.  We have that type of fuse box.  To set our minds at ease I looked up how much energy slow cookers use versus other household appliances.  It turns out that slow cookers only use about as much energy (200W) as leaving the TV on all day. That can be compared to a hair dryer that uses 1200W, so we felt better about that.

I cut this recipe in half so we wouldn't be eating tikka masala for weeks and it seemed to work out well.  The recipe didn't specify whether you were supposed to cut the chicken  into chunks before putting it in the slow cooker so I investigated.  I found a comment on the blog from a person asking the same question and the blogger replied that she did cut the chicken into chucks first.  However, if I made this again I would not cut the chicken first. I thought the chicken ended up a little dry and I'm pretty sure that by cooking the breasts whole, more moisture would be locked in.  It's something to give a try.

The only thing that takes some thought before making slow cooker recipes is figuring out when you are going to do the recipe prep.  You can either get up early and do it in the morning (cutting onions is not my idea of a great way to wake up) or you can do it the night before.  I prepped everything the night before and just threw it in the fridge.  I put everything in the slow cooker removable bowl thing, but I think next time I'd store it in the fridge in a different container.  When I took the cold bowl out of the fridge I was worried about heating it up with the fear that I would crack the bowl.  They say that  you are not supposed to move the bowl from extreme temps (and the fridge probably is not considered extreme) but I ran the outside of the bowl under warm water so that it wasn't as cold by the time I turned on the slow cooker.
Raw chicken and stuffs.
With everything prepped the night before, all I had to do was put the bowl in, turn on the cooker and set the timer. Mine (and most if not all programmable slow cookers) switch to warm after the cooking cycle is complete. So cool!

The recipe has you add in the cream (I  used half and half) and corn starch at the end of the 8 hour cycle and cook for another 30 minutes. Then you are ready to eat!
Adding in cream and corn starch.
I ended up making this a little too spicy for me, but Tom really liked it.  I topped mine with plain yogurt to cut the spice a bit, cooked up some brown rice and served it with whole wheat naan from Trader Joe's. 
I'm super excited to try more recipes! It's awesome to come home and have dinner already cooked and the prep dishes from the night before done...if you're good like me :)

October 17, 2012

Pin It Tomato, Basil and Cheddar Soup

Taken From More Fruit Please

Week 42
Well week 42 started off with a bang!  On Sunday I ran my first full marathon, at the Nike Women's Marathon in SF. It was awesome!  I never felt like I wanted to die during the race and I felt great afterwards. It was amazing and now I never have to run that far again :)
Instead of a medal, finishers got a specially designed Tiffany's necklace to commemorate the race, which is obviously one of the best parts.
I had a big cheering section at the finish line so a huge thank you to my friends and family who made it out to Ocean Beach in the misty, cold weather. Great running weather but not the most enjoyable for spectators.
After carbo loading for a few days before the race then having tons of noodle left over to eat after the race, I was looking for something for dinner that was vegetable based.  I found this tomato soup recipe and was super surprised to find it didn't call for cream or milk.  Instead it used plain Greek yogurt (I used fat free Fage). Another surprising fact was that this recipe didn't need to cook for more than 20 minutes, which is awesome news when you leave work for the day and you are already hungry. 

Here are the ingredients and directions from the More Fruit Please blog:

28-oz. cans of diced tomatoes
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
2 cups of vegetable broth
1 cup of plain Greek yogurt
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 cup basil, chopped, loosely packed
2 tsp of oregano
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Over medium heat, add the olive oil to a large pot. Add the chopped onion and allow to cook until tender, about three to four minutes. Add in chopped garlic and cook for an additional two minutes. Pour in the two cans of tomatoes (juice and all) and the vegetable stock. Stir in the basil, oregano, sugar, and salt and pepper. Place the lid back onto the pot and allow to simmer ten minutes. At the end, stir in the Greek yogurt and cheddar cheese until well blended. Use either an immersion blender or food processor to puree the soup if you prefer a smooth texture. Garnish with chopped basil and grated cheddar cheese if desired.
Adding in tomatoes, broth and herbs.
Stirring in yogurt and cheese.
Pre-immersion blender
After blending.
The immersion blender is very handy for this recipe and soups in general.  It's so much easier than batch blending with a blender or food processor. This soup turned out pretty well and was an easy healthier version of a classic cream based soup. I would definitely make it again based on how quickly it came together and it was a great pair to my avocado grilled cheese.

Although it's 84 degrees here today, I know fall is on its way, and soups are always great cool weather meals. Last winter I was definitely on a soup and cookie kick, so I'll try and ease back into in this year. Maybe mix some solid food in there for good measure. We'll see how well I do.

October 10, 2012

Pin It Baked Chipotle Sweet Potato and Zucchini Fritters

Taken From Avery Cooks 

Week 41
Tada!  I now have my very own Cuisinart food processor and I love it!  I got the 11 cup version and I'm super stoked! Isn't it pretty?!  There are so many things I can now make and I got started right away.
I had a sneaking suspicion my parents were getting me this for my birthday (because I've been talking about it for months and my Mom and I discussed the specifics) but it was still a great surprise when I opened it on Tuesday.

Knowing this gadget was in my future, I had already picked out a recipe I wanted to try when I was grocery shopping for the week. The baked sweet potato and zucchini fritters sounded interesting and healthy, and like the perfect test for my new kitchen toy.

Didn't it do such a good job?! This was so much easier than the time I made latkes in college by grating the potatoes and onion by hand with a triangle grater. Lost a little bit of thumb skin to that task.
I just can't get over it how easy it makes kitchen tasks. Next to my KitchenAid stand mixer, this will definitely be the most utilized appliance in my kitchen.

Now back to my maiden voyage recipe with my food processor.  Below are the ingredients I used (slightly adapted from the original as far as the spices go):

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted 
1 large egg  
1 teaspoon Mexican chili pepper seasoning  
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper 
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
~ 3 cups coarsely grated sweet potato (1 medium to large sweet potato, peeled and grated)
~ 2 cups coarsely grated zucchini (1 large or 2 small zucchini)

The detailed directions are fairly simple, but here is the gist:
Mix the melted butter with the egg and beat a little. Add in all your spices then mix in the flour.
 Add in your grated sweet potato and zucchini and mix until well coated.
Using a measuring cup, scoop 1/2 cup of mixture onto a silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheet.  I gave each fritter a little squeeze after placing it on the sheet to keep it together a little better. My mix made 6 normal sized fritters, and one mini.
I baked them for 10 minutes at 375, then pushed the liquid that oozed out back into the fritter (using a spatula) and turned the oven down to 350.  I baked them at 350 for 15 minutes then flipped them over and baked for another 15 minutes.

They turned out great and were really good!  The recipe suggests serving them with spicy honey mustard (or a myriad of other things).  I ate them with sweet chili sauce and Tom mixed sriracha with Dijon to make his own spicy mustard.
Finished product.
Crispy fritter close-up.
As we sat down to eat, I thought, "What a healthy meal!" Then I remembered the half stick of melted butter, oops ;)  Regardless, the recipe ended up being delicious and something a little different.  Plus it just confirmed what I already knew would be true, that I love my new food processor!

Expect many more recipes utilizing this amazing appliance (that I don't know how I lived without for so long) in the near future.

October 3, 2012

Pin It Lemon Quinoa Cilantro Chickpea Salad

Taken From The Diva Dish

Week 40
The name of this recipe tells you exactly what it tastes like: lemon and cilantro. Not to mention the raw garlic and onions in this recipe.  I'm not saying I didn't like it, but this dish leaves you wanting a palate cleanser.  Definitely don't eat this before a date or any situation where you'll be up in someone's grill or they'll be up in yours.

It's fairly simple and healthy which is nice, but the onion and garlic could have stood to be sautéed to take away some of their bite. I also added some feta to throw in a little salty flavor (and cheese, duh).

Here is what the recipe called for:

1/2 C. dry quinoa
2 C. vegetable broth
1 can garbanzo beans (drained and rinsed)
1 c. cherry tomatoes cut in half
2 avocados diced
2 C. spinach
1 bunch cilantro
1/4 C. onion
2 small cloves garlic

For the dressing:
Juice of 2 lemons
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. agave nectar
1/2 tsp. cumin
dash of salt and pepper

If you don't have a food processor you can just chop everything by hand. I also left the cumin out of the dressing.

1. Make your quinoa by soaking it in a pot with vegetable broth for about 15 minutes. After that, turn on the heat to medium/high and let the quinoa come to a boil. Once it boils, reduce heat to medium/low and let quinoa simmer. Cook quinoa, stirring occasionally, for about 20-25 minutes, just until the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and set aside.
2. In a food processor (or by hand) process spinach and cilantro until they are finely diced. Finely dice onion and garlic and add to the greens mixture. 
3. Add your chickpeas and stir until everything is combined and coated. Once cooled, add the quinoa to the mixture.
4. Make your dressing by whisking all the ingredients together. Pour over salad, and mix until combined. Add in tomatoes and avocado and mix. Set in fridge for about 10-15 minutes before serving to let the flavors set.

Like I said, I didn't hate it but I will probably not be making this again.  I like to make quinoa when Tom isn't around because he isn't such a huge fan, but maybe I'll stick to some of my old favorites like this or this next time.