Friday, February 22, 2013

Happiness is a Chocolate-Covered Peep

Look what I found today! I was actually and literally stopped in my tracks at the store when I saw these. I love chocolate-covered marshmallows. And I love peeps at Easter time. I just about died. The lady at the cash register said they were new, but even if they aren't, they're new to me, and let me tell you, I exercised extreme self control by only taking three packages instead of the whole box.

I was so excited! Though, truth be told, I'm really not that hard to please.

And there is even a decent coating of chocolate! Yum!

And they were yellow inside! Way. Too. Fun.

Go find yourself some Chocolate-Covered Peeps and have a fantastic weekend!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Oatmeal-Banana (Breakfast) Cake with Cinnamon Glaze

Does this picture look any different to you? I took a whole bunch of pictures with my teenage daughter's camera (testing it out), and when I put the memory card in my computer the pictures weren't there! What in the world?? And there wasn't time to try again before I had to leave for the afternoon (Grrr...). So, this is a picture I had taken, with my phone, to text to my bestie in California. We swapped pictures because as I was making this here in Utah, she was making coffee cake in California! A completely unplanned, and therefore, completely awesome, coincidence! Anyway, this is what I've got. For being a phone picture it's not too bad. Not fantastic, but it works.

Before all the drama with my non-pictures, my 5-year old was having a mild fit about waiting for a piece the cake (a very cute fit). She wanted to eat a piece so bad, and I kept taking more and more pictures. She cried to me, "Mom, why are you still taking pictures? One picture is enough!" I tried telling her that I needed lots of different pictures, then I would decide which ones to show people. She still didn't understand, and I gave up. Her eye was on the prize, and nothing I could say would convince her that waiting for the cake was necessary. Or that she would survive the waiting.

I came up with this in an effort to do something with over-ripe bananas that wasn't banana bread or banana muffins or banana pancakes--I wanted something different for me and for you. I got out my banana muffin recipe and started hacking it up and changing it around, and ended up with this idea. I didn't know if it would work or not, but it was definitely worth a try. I don't always get a winner the first time through, especially with baked goods, but I lucked out this time.

This cake isn't very sweet, but it's still very satisfying to eat, especially with the sweet cinnamon glaze on top; there is just enough sweetness in the glaze to balance the cake. If you want more glaze than I have here, simply double glaze recipe. Because this cake isn't too sweet it's perfect for breakfast, with coffee or tea, or even a cold glass of milk.

I wish I could say that the cake ended up being very tasty and a great deal for Weight Watcher's Points, but it's just very tasty. I figured out the points and if you cut the 9x13 pan into 24 pieces, they are still 5 points each. Too much fantastic carb-y stuff in there :)

Oatmeal-Banana (Breakfast) Cake with Cinnamon Glaze
printable recipe

for the cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup oats (I used old fashioned rolled oats)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup milk
3 eggs
4 large, very ripe bananas, mashed

for the glaze:
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Heat your oven to 350, and spray a 9x13 baking pan with non-stick spray.

for the cake:
1. In a medium bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients and mix well. In another medium bowl, the butter, milk, and eggs, and mix well. Add the mashed banana and mix well. Combine the banana mixture with the dry ingredients and mix well.

2. Transfer the batter to the prepared baking pan and spread it evenly. Bake for about 28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely before putting the glaze on top so it doesn't melt and run off the cake and pool at the edges.

for the glaze:
Combine all of the glaze ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk until combined and very smooth. Pour onto the cooled cake and spread it evenly with a spatula. Let the glaze set before cutting for best results.

Makes 20-24 servings.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Smoked Paprika Shrimp Soup

My 16-year-old daughter loves to make soup, and she makes it often. Several weeks ago I was down with a pretty bad cold and asked her to make me some lovely medicinal soup. I watched her pull ingredients out of the fridge and cupboard, and then she said, "I'm going to experiment." Now, I love my daughter, and it's not that I didn't have faith in her experimental-soup-making ability, but I was sick and wasn't sure I wanted her experimenting with my soup.

You know that look your kids give you when you've crushed their soul? Yeah. That's the look I got when I gently expressed my concerns about her experimenting with my medicine.

OK. Do it.

What she came up with was pretty fantastic. The flavor of the smoked paprika was so, so good. And the shrimp was perfect. Ahhh...soup bliss...made especially tasty because it was made for me by someone who loved me. 

At the time there was no soup left for pictures, so I've recreated her soup here. The avocado is optional, but highly recommended. The cool creaminess of the avocado is a really nice contrast to the smoky spiciness of the soup.

When making this, remember that shrimp cooks really fast. Simply add it to the hot soup and it will be cooked through, but still tender and luscious, in about 3 minutes.

Smoked Paprika Shrimp Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 carrots, scraped and diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
couple shakes cayenne pepper, optional
2 32-oz cartons chicken broth (8 cups)
2 cups water
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled & tails removed
diced avocado, optional

1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic, and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are softened and starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the smoked paprika, oregano, thyme, and cayenne pepper (optional), and cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes.

2. Add the chicken broth and water, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook, partially covered for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.

3. Stir in the shrimp and let it sit in the hot soup until it's no longer pink, about 3 minutes (don't simmer the soup with the shrimp in it). Serve with avocado if desired.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Creamy Herbed Chicken, Rigatoni & Spinach

I recently came across this recipe from Saving Money, Living Life on Pinterest, and even though it resembled a casserole (I have casserole issues), I thought it sounded pretty decent. My only reservation about the recipe was that you are supposed to cook it in the oven for 45 minutes, after you've cooked it in the pan. This is one of my casserole-type-food-issues. I hate taking the extra time to bake something that's already fully cooked. If you want to melt some cheese on the top, pop it in a hot oven for 5 minutes.

I followed the recipe almost exactly except I bought the wrong cream cheese. I bought the Philadelphia Cooking Cream, instead of the regular bagel-type cream cheese in a tub. It was still really good, and I'll use the Cooking Cream again the next time I make it. But if you can't find the Cooking Cream, or would rather use the other type, it is an option for you.

The other thing I changed was the extra 45 minutes in the oven. I left everything in the pan (oven-safe skillet that I removed the silicon handle cover from beforehand), sprinkled on the cheese, and put it in the oven to melt. Took 5 minutes. If I'd wanted to have a prettier presentation, I could have transferred the mixture to a casserole dish before putting it in the oven, but I still would have only put it in for a few minutes to melt the cheese (maybe a little longer than 5 minutes, since the casserole dish wouldn't be hot, and it might cool down the lovely food a bit). So you can do that if you want it in a nice-looking dish or don't have an oven-safe skillet. I was looking for quick with the least amount of dishes possible--and all my pretty casserole dishes are still packed in storage--so I left it in the skillet.

This recipe was really easy and fast to put together. I made it even faster by using a rotisserie chicken I got on sale. But you could easily bake chicken to use, cut up raw chicken and cook it in the pan before adding the onion, or even use canned chicken. I added a light sprinkle of cayenne before severing it for a little extra spicy flavor, but it's totally up to you if you use it.

As I type this up, I find myself wondering how this would be with chopped fresh spinach. And maybe another can of tomatoes. I may also try the reduced-fat version of the cooking cream. I'll have to experiment and let you know the results.

NOTE: Please remember to use extra caution if you use an oven-safe skillet. The handle will be very hot and you may automatically want to put your hand on it to move the skillet around after taking it from the oven. Yes. It hurts very much when you forget. I keep a hot pad draped over the handle to remind me. And remind anyone else in the kitchen that it's hot.

Creamy Herbed Chicken, Rigatoni & Spinach (lightly adapted from here)
printable recipe

8 oz uncooked rigatoni
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 onion, diced (about 1 cup)
8 oz frozen chopped spinach (from bag, no need to thaw)
1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano, undrained
1 10-oz tub Philadelphia Italian Cheese & Herb Cooking Cream
2 cups cubed, cooked chicken breast
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
1 to 1-1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
ground cayenne pepper, optional

1. Heat your oven to 425.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the rigatoni according the package directions until just tender. Reserve a bit of the cooking water before draining the pasta well and setting it aside. Don't rinse the pasta.

3. While the pasta cooks, heat a 12-in, non-stick, oven-safe skillet (handle cover removed if necessary) over medium heat until very hot. Add the olive oil, and then the onion. Cook the onion, stirring often, until softened and starting to brown. Add the frozen spinach and diced tomatoes, and cook, stirring often, until the spinach is heated through and the mixture is bubbly.

4. Add the Piladelphia cooking cream, chicken, salt, and pepper, and stir well to combine. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is bubbly and heated through, 3-4 minutes. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and gently mix it in until it's fully incorporated. If the mixture seems really thick, you can add a bit (no more than 3 tablespoons) of the pasta cooking water to loosen it up. I used about 1 tablespoon this time.

5. Sprinkle the mixture with the mozzarella cheese and put the skillet in the oven for about 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper if you want some extra spiciness, and serve.

Makes 6-8 servings.

With 1 cup mozzarella:
Per 1/6th recipe: 444 cal; 19g fat; 37g carb; 2.5g fib; 36g pro; 12 Weight Watcher's Plus Points
Per 1/8th recipe: 333 cal; 14g fat; 27g carb; 2g fib; 27g pro; 9 Weight Watcher's Plus Points

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Sucked in by Scooby-Doo

I was doing my grocery shopping last night at 8 pm because that's just the kind of day I had yesterday. As I was walking down the cereal aisle I came across this box of NEW! Scooby-Doo, lightly-sweetened, vanilla-flavored cereal. "Oh! That looks fun!" was my reaction. That should have been my red flag. I love Scooby-Doo. He was my favorite cartoon character when I was a kid, and I still like to watch it with my kids. I put the box of cereal in my cart and kept walking. Score 1 for the cereal's marketing department.

Did I mention I was shopping by myself? And that there were no kids with me begging for the box of Scooby-Doo cereal. 

Yeah. I have no one to blame but myself.

When I got home I opened the box and looked at the cereal. Hum, the cereal in the picture on the box resembles Cheerios. This is what the cereal really looks like:

Lots of weird-looking holes and pits. And it's pretty orange compared to the more wholesome-looking color on the box. Score 2 for the cereal's marking department. Here's a side-by-side comparison: 

OK, but how did it taste? I was promised a crispy, lightly-sweetened, vanilla-flavored cereal. I popped some pieces in my mouth and chewed. It was like I was eating styrofoam, and then it disintegrated in my mouth leaving not a whole lot of anything to swallow. It was

As for the flavor, it was lightly sweet, but the only vanilla flavor was an after-taste, which was decidedly artificial and not actually very vanilla-y. I hate to waste food, but this cereal is only good for the garbage can.

Bah! But what can I say? I was my own worst enemy--totally sucked in by the cereal's marketing department's appeal to my childhood love of Scooby-Doo. I'll do better next time.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Fudgy Cocoa Brownies (and mix)

I've been wanting to work on a fudgy brownie recipe that uses dry, unsweetened cocoa for a while. I have a recipe for Fudgy Brownies that is really good, but it uses melted chocolate, and I know that lots of people like to use cocoa because it is cheaper to buy and that they usually have it as a staple in their kitchen (and because their kids won't eat it like they would baking chocolate). But, my experience with cocoa brownies has been that they aren't very fudgy--they're more like cake. Add to that my high altitude, which makes baking challenging, and it was a project I hadn't spent much (any) time on.

Then a few weeks ago a friend sent me a link to a recipe that was for a brownie mix you made up ahead of time. Having the mix on-hand would make baking brownies as easy as ripping open a box mix. She said, "OK, Tiffiny, would you try this?" I'm all about homemade mixes, such as my Pancake Mix and the Taco Seasoning I use, and I would love a brownie mix that made chocolately, fudgy, delicious brownies.

It was on.

After several pans of brownies I have a recipe that has everything: deep chocolate flavor, super-fudginess, works perfectly at my high altitude, makes a family-size 9x13 pan, and is easy to put together. It is a great basic brownie recipe that you can change up with all kinds of mix-ins and frostings. If you can think it up, this recipe can probably pull it off.

You can use this recipe as a make-as-you-need recipe, or if you want to use this recipe as a mix, simply put the dry ingredients in a quart size zip-top bag and you're ready to go for the next time a brownie craving hits. You can mix up several bags at a time to make it really easy. Use a permanent marker to list the wet ingredients on the bag, as well as cooking temperature and time. I also want to figure out a bulk mix, but I wanted to share this with you now because I'm so excited, so the bulk mix will come later...soon...sometime. Soon.

Note: Measuring flour and dry cocoa can be problematic because they settle as they sit in your cupboard. I've listed these two ingredients by weight so you can have the best results. If you don't have a kitchen scale, or want to measure with cups anyway, use a whisk to loosen the flour and, especially, the cocoa. Then scoop, tap with the flat edge of a knife to settle the ingredient, and level with the flat edge.

Fudgy Cocoa Brownies (and mix)
printable recipe

2 cups sugar
6 1/4 oz all-purpose flour (1 1/4 cups)
2 oz unsweetened cocoa, (2/3 cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled to warm (or 1/2 cup canola oil)
1/4 cup milk
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Heat your oven to 350 deg. Lightly spray a 9x13 glass pan with non-stick spray.

2. Combine the sugar, flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl, and whisk to mix well. Combine the melted butter, milk, eggs, and vanilla in a medium bowl, and whisk to mix well. Add the butter mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well to make a smooth batter.

3. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the brownies have puffed and then flattened out a bit, are set (not jiggly), and just barely give to the pressure of your finger. They will seem very undone, but will cool to perfect fudginess. Cool completely before cutting, and use a plastic knife, to get the best looking pieces.

Makes 20 brownies.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Oatmeal-Date Energy Bites

This type of energy tidbit isn't new, but the first time I had one was about 9 months ago. I'd just run a 5k with my husband, and we were with all the other runners milling around in the lobby of the recreation center waiting for the winners to be announced (I never have a chance of winning an award, but my hubs is pretty fast). Tables were set up in the lobby with contests to enter, advertising for running stores, and samples of new types of portable energy--gel, liquid, and solid.

One of the tables had samples of little energy balls that came in cute plastic tubes that you could stow in your pocket or water belt. We waited in the long time, but when I got to the table and saw them, I wasn't sure I wanted to try one. So I made my husband eat one. He didn't make a nasty face or spit it out, so I tried one. I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't gross (I've had many terrible protein/energy bars). It was even tasty, and I happily tried one of the other two flavors. As I left the table I grabbed one of their glossy cards that proclaimed the goodness of their energy balls and listed the raw, vegan ingredients.

Of course, my thoughts immediately went to: I bet I can make something similar. It took me a few tries, but I finally had something that was tasty and full of really good stuff--a combination of some of the ingredients on that glossy card, and inspiration I got from some things I've seen on Pinterest. Oatmeal, dates, almonds, pecans, coconut, plus some other goodies make for a very nice flavor.

This recipe makes about 42 energy bites, made with a tiny cookie scoop or slightly rounded teaspoon-fulls. Simply scoop them, roll them into balls, and you're done! I don't know if they need to be refrigerated, but I do it just in case. I keep some there, ready to grab, and I keep some in the freezer. And these need not be just for those of you who exercise. These are a fantastic thing to grab and take with you when you're going to be driving around or running errands, or anything that will take a while. Taking a few of these with you will help you avoid the drive-thru lines. Or being grouchy from hunger. And that's such a good thing.

Another good thing is these are 1 Weight Watcher's Plus Point each, up to 4, and then 5 are 6 Plus Points. Here's the rest of the nutritional info: per energy bite: 42 cal; 2.2g fat; 5.3g crb; .7g fbr; .8g pro.

Note: Don't use already-chopped dates. They are really dry and won't mix in with the other ingredients well. Use whole dates and cut them into pieces.

Oatmeal-Date Energy Bites

1 cup old fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
1/2 cup shredded, sweetened coconut
1/2 cup raw, whole almonds
1/2 cup raw, whole pecans
1/2 cup whole dates, cut into 3 pieces each (I use kitchen shears)
1/4 cup agave
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine everything in the bowl of a food processor. Process until everything is mixed together and is a uniform consistency, it will be thick and stiff. Use a tiny cookie scoop (or make rounded teaspoon-fulls) to scoop the mixture (level it using the edge of the bowl), and roll it into balls with your hands. Store in the refrigerator or freezer.

Makes about 42 energy bites.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...