Monday, March 26, 2012

Apple-Spinach Salad

I really wish I liked vegetables  more than I do. The idea of a lovely salad with all kinds of veggies is really visually appealing to me, but ... I don't like veggies. So I just eat what I like and if I'm not as thin as I could be at least I get to eat bacon any time I want. It's a comforting thought.

I think of salad in the category of "non-recipes". You pretty much just throw together what looks good and then eat it! That's what I did with this salad. Here's the ingredient list:

Chopped apple (Honeycrisp)
Toasted pecans
Crumbled bacon
Goat cheese crumbles
Poppy seed dressing

I made my own dressing by combining olive oil, red wine vinegar, honey, Dijon mustard, poppy seeds, salt and pepper in a tiny plastic container and shaking it up. Once when I made this I forgot the honey and man, was the dressing tart! I won't forget again, that's for sure.

One thing I like about this salad is that I could eat it for lunch and it was hearty enough to keep me satisfied. I don't like salads that make me feel like I didn't even eat anything!

I'll leave you with this profound thought for the day:

Those who say that nothing tastes as good as thin feels have never had bacon.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Raisin-Vanilla Oatmeal

Our Little One is a big eater. She wakes up in the morning pointing to the kitchen! Not being a morning person, I tend to want to hand her a cereal bar or a banana and call it quits. Sometimes that's enough for her, but I do like to cook something to provide her with a heartier meal. (Side note: "Don't you have two older kids? What about them?", you may well ask. Well, it's no use. They don't like breakfast and even on special occasions when I'm cooking for Daddy they'd almost always rather have cereal than pancakes, waffles, eggs, oatmeal or grits. So they have Wheat Chex or Multigrain Cheerios and I cook for everyone else.) Anyway, back to the Little One. This morning I asked if she'd like oatmeal and her face lit up! "'Meal!" she cried, and ran to the pantry to pull on the doorknob. Here's how I make a serving for her, which would be a decent serving for an adult, too. You could bump the oats up to 1/3 cup (use 2/3 cup of water) without changing the rest of the recipe, if you wanted a bit more. Also, I use flax seeds because they're supposed to be good for lowering cholesterol - and Little One's is high due to genetics. You could leave that out or use wheat germ or whatever you like.

Raisin-Vanilla Oatmeal

1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons ground flax seeds
1 teaspoon butter
pinch of salt
a few drops of vanilla
2 tablespoons raisins
a dash of cinnamon
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Combine all ingredients except cinnamon and sugar in a microwavable bowl. Cook on high for about 2 minutes - depending on your microwave. Keep an eye on it and stop to stir if needed to keep it from boiling over. Stir in the brown sugar and cinnamon. Yield: 1 serving

Don't like raisins? I have an Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal recipe that may appeal more to you.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Cinnamon Toast

So all three of our little darlings were up by 5 this morning. Handsome and I were so glad to see them we didn't mind at all! Not. We love those little boogers, but we love them more later in the morning. Anyway, since I was up, I brewed a pot of coffee, fixed Handsome's turkey sandwich for his lunch, and made a batch of cinnamon toast.

When I was grocery shopping Friday, I picked up a loaf of Italian bread that was on sale for $0.79. Considering that will make two batches of toast I thought it was a pretty great deal! Here's the recipe for how we like it:

Cinnamon Toast

4 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon white sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
8 slices Italian bread

In a small bowl, stir together the first four ingredients until well combined. Spread this evenly, all the way to the edges, onto the bread slices. Place the slices on a foil-lined baking sheet. Set your broiler to 475° and make sure your oven rack is near the top. Broil the bread for just a few minutes - you want the butter/sugar to caramelize, but not burn. Watch it carefully!

I like that the edges are crispy and the topping has a little crunch to it, but the rest of the bread is soft and perfectly warmed through. Even if we owned a toaster I would still make it this way!

Before ...

... and after!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Italian Bread

I mostly like to make focaccia to go with our Italian meals, but since finding this bread recipe for French Baguettes I like to trade off between the two. I think it's more like a larger Italian loaf than skinny, crusty baguettes, so that's what I call it. When I'm baking for more than the family, the Italian Bread is nice because it makes two loaves. I modified the recipe enough that I got tired of looking at the original and having to remember what I'd changed so I'm posting my version of it here.

Italian Bread

1-1/2 cups very warm water
1 packet yeast (2-1/4 teaspoons)
1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3-4 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 425°.  In a large bowl, stir together the warm water, yeast, and sugar. Allow the mixture to proof for several minutes. Stir in the salt and add the flour a half-cup at a time, until the dough becomes soft but not sticky. Turn the dough out onto a floured service and knead the dough until elastic.

Cut the dough into four even pieces. Roll each of them into four long, thin ropes. Twist together two of the ropes to form one loaf.  Twist the other two ropes together to form a second loaf. Transfer both onto a greased baking sheet. Allow the loaves the rise for 15-30 minutes in a warm place.

Fill a metal baking pan (I use a 9x13) with 3-4 cups of ice. Place the loaves in the oven on the middle rack and the pan with ice cubes on the lower rack. Bake until golden brown, about 15-18 minutes.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Creamy Potato Soup

Original source
I made potato soup for dinner last night and figured since I hadn't posted the recipe in a while I'd update the blog with it today. As I did a search for it, nothing came up and I realized I'd never posted it to begin with! It's a great go-to recipe because it contains ingredients that I almost always have in my pantry/freezer/fridge. In fact, I made it last night because I didn't have anything planned for dinner! This comes together really quickly and the most labor-intensive part is peeling and chopping the potatoes. I don't always use meat in my potato soup, but I bought a ham on sale several weeks ago - a terrific value at about $4. I diced it all up, portioned it into bags and popped them in the freezer. I've been using it for soups, calzones, quesadillas, and casseroles. Now THAT was a great buy! You could omit the meat or use bacon or sausage instead.
Creamy Potato Soup

4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour (1/2 cup)
1/4 cup diced onion
1 garlic clove, chopped
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (1 32 ounce carton)
1 cup milk
2 large baking potatoes (or 3-4 smaller ones), peeled and diced
1 cup diced ham (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper 
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

In a medium saucepan, bring the potatoes and broth to a boil; cook for 10-15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. (Do NOT drain.)

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, sauté the ham, onion, garlic, salt and pepper in the butter until the onion is tender. Whisk in the flour and allow it to cook until fragrant and it begins to take on color (about 3-4 minutes). Whisk in milk, stirring constantly, along with the broth and potatoes from your other pot. Whisk continually until the soup is smooth (other than the potato chunks!). Stir in cheese. Adjust the seasonings to your taste, and serve.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Homemade Yogurt

My kids all love yogurt, but I limit the amount they eat simply because it gets expensive. Several weeks ago I found a blog post on how to make yogurt at home in the slow cooker and I have finally accomplished it! It turned out really well. Though it takes time to go through the process, it's not a lot of "hands-on" time and I found it to be pretty simple. I used a half-gallon of organic 1% milk this time, but since it turned out so well, I'll do a full gallon next time. The higher the fat content in your milk, the creamier your yogurt will be, but since I have a toddler with (genetically) high cholesterol we went with the lower fat and it worked just fine.

If you'd like to try it, too, just check out this link!