Wednesday, October 22, 2014

PB&J Bars

Peanut.. peanut butter.. and jelly. Remember that song? I apologize ahead of time if you now have it stuck in your head all day.

Who doesn't love a good PB and J sandwich? Have you ever tried it with regular Lays potato chips stuffed inside? It may sound like a strange combo, but I highly recommend you try it. You've been missing out.

These peanut butter and jelly bars are delicious. Not too sweet, with a little bit of tart from the preserves, and a little crunch from the dry roasted peanuts. I would dare to say I'd eat one for breakfast..

Cooking tip:
- Use a good quality preserve/jam for this recipe. I happen to like Hero and Favorit brands- I believe both are from Switzerland, but can be found at your local market. They aren't as sweet as commercial brands (a little more tart), and do not have high fructose corn syrup in them. For these bars, I used Favorit raspberry preserves.

PB and J Bars
Makes 12 3"x4" square bars
Adapted from a recipe by Williams-Sonoma

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats (not the instant kind)
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla paste
1/4 cup chopped dry roasted peanuts
1/4 cup good quality preserves (I like Hero or Favorit that have no corn syrup)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Butter the bottom and sides of an 8x8x2 square baking pan and cover the bottom with parchment paper (see picture)
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, oats, salt, and baking soda
- Cream together butter, brown sugar, and peanut butter in a mixing bowl for 3-4 minutes until light and fluffy
- Add in the egg, vanilla, and peanuts to the creamed mixture and mix another 1-2 minutes
- Pour in the dry ingredients and mix just until combined
- Take half of the dough and press it evenly in the bottom of the prepared baking pan
- Spoon the preserves over the peanut butter mixture and spread out evenly
- Place pan in the freezer for about 10 minutes to give the preserves a chance to set a bit
- Take the other half of the dough and spread evenly over the top of the preserves layer
- Bake for 25- 30 minutes, until a toothpick pushed into the center comes out clean
- Place pan on wire rack, and cool completely before cutting into squares

Dairy free option- use Earth Balance in place of the butter

Monday, October 20, 2014

Chicken and Rice Soup

There's nothing more comforting when you don't feel well, or on a cold day, then a homemade cup of chicken soup. It's easy to pop open a can of pre-made soup, but probably even easier than you think to make a batch of soup yourself.  The best part of homemade soup is you control the amount of sodium, and leave out the preservatives and other ingredients you can't pronounce on the can. Homemade also tastes so much better!

My husband isn't feeling well today. I got my flu shot a couple of months ago, and I sure hope he didn't catch the flu from someone. While he's sleeping, I wanted to make him something to eat if he's hungry later. Homemade soup, along with some saltine crackers and Gatorade.. he should be set.

I hesitated to post such a basic recipe to the blog, until I found myself Googling how much rice to add to 6 cups of liquid, what seasonings/herbs go well in chicken soup. I realized I didn't have it down pat myself. Now I've researched it for you, and can attest the soup is delicious. Just follow the recipe below, and you'll have homemade chicken soup in no time.

Recipe Tip:
- You can boil a chicken breast for 20 minutes, then shred the meat or just use a grocery store rotisserie chicken and use the breast meat. If you do use the rotisserie chicken, keep in mind you'll be adding less salt to your soup.

Chicken and Rice Soup
Serves 6

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
1 small leek, cleaned well, and sliced
2 celery ribs, sliced
1 large garlic clove, pressed
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried chicken seasoning
4 cups of no-salt added chicken broth
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast meat
1/3 cup rice, orzo, or small pasta (I used orzo, which is also known as arborio rice)
Kosher salt
Cracked black pepper

- In a large dutch oven, heat olive oil on medium/high heat and add in the carrots, leek, celery, garlic, thyme, basil, chicken seasoning, and season with salt and pepper
- Saute the vegetables for about 5 minutes
- Pour in the chicken broth and water and bring the soup up to a boil
- Lower the temperature to a simmer, and add in the orzo/rice/pasta and cooked chicken
- Adjust seasoning with kosher salt and/or pepper
- Cover the pot and let the soup continue to simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the carrots are tender and the rice/orzo/pasta is cooked through

Dairy free recipe!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Slow Cooker Red Sauce with Turkey Meatballs

I'm a huge fan of using and re-purposing leftovers. The more creative a deviation from their original purpose, the better. I don't know that I'd call making double the meatballs for a soup, then using the remaining meatballs for a spaghetti is that creative, but it's darned delicious.

I love that this sauce cooks in the slow cooker for 4 hours so you can go about your day. As always, there is a little prep ahead of time in a sauté pan (take the time to sear your meats, sauté your veggies, etc. before putting your dinner in the slow cooker. It really does make a world of difference in the taste of your dinner.)

This sauce has a completely different taste than my original post for spaghetti and meatballs. This one doesn't use wine, has a little sugar, and uses some left over pesto I had in the fridge. The result is an almost smoky, and a little sweet sauce that goes so well with the full of flavor (and veggies) turkey meatballs.

The 4 hour slow cooker simmer time tames the acidity of the tomatoes, and what's left is a very homemade tasting, and delicious sauce.

Slow Cooker Red Sauce with Turkey Meatballs
Serves 8

12-15 reserved cooked meatballs from when you make the meatball and minestrone soup recipe
1 large yellow onion, diced
5 garlic cloves, pressed
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp fresh chopped thyme
2 bay leaves
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes with puree
1 small 6 oz can tomato paste
1 cup water
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
kosher salt
cracked black pepper
1/4 cup prepared pesto (I used what Trader Joe's pesto I had left from making the pistachio pizza)

- Heat/turn on your slow cooker on low setting
- In a medium dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium/high heat
- Add in the onion, garlic, oregano, pepper flakes, thyme, bay leaves and salt and pepper and sauté for about 3-4 minutes until onions start to get translucent
- Add in the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, water, granulated sugar, and pesto, and stir together until combined.
- Add in the cooked meatballs, and adjust seasoning to taste
- Transfer the sauce/meatballs to the slow cooker and set the timer for 4 hours
- Serve with whole grain pasta cooked according to the package's directions, and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese

Dairy free option- Use a dairy free parmesan cheese as a topping

Triple "P" Cookies

If you like peanut butter, you're going to love these Triple "P" Cookies. A triple threat of peanut butter, dry roasted peanuts, and peanut butter chips (with a few semi-sweet chocolate chips thrown in for good measure,) these cookies are addicting and delicious. So delicious, in fact, I had to pack them up and find them a home quickly this morning before I ate them all.

This recipe is more of a chocolate chip cookie dough recipe that has peanut butter (galore) added, rather than a peanut butter cookie dough base with chocolate chips mixed in. The result is a more dense cookie that is a little less sweet than a regular peanut butter cookie dough.

Recipe Tip:
- If you have peanut allergies, substitute almond or any other nut butter for the peanut butter, then 1/2 cup of that same nut for the peanuts, and then omit the peanut butter chips. The cookies will taste just as delicious :)
- I made a small batch (recipe below), but if you need more cookies, just double the recipe.

Triple "P" Cookies
Makes 20 cookies

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup + 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

- In a mixing bowl, cream together butter, peanut butter, and brown sugar for 3-4 minutes until light and fluffy
- Add in the egg and vanilla and mix another 1-2 minutes
- In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in the mixing bowl, and mix just until combined
- Stir in the peanuts, peanut butter chips, and chocolate chips with a large spoon
- Using a 2" cookie scoop, place dough balls on parchment lined baking sheets (I put 12 on each sheet)
- Bake for 10- 11 minutes until they start to brown on the edges and are cooked through
- Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool

Dairy free option- Use Earth Balance in place of the butter, and omit the peanut butter chips

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Minestrone and Meatball Soup

Oh my, I love soup! I've been known to eat it for breakfast, and why not? LOL

It's so hearty, comforting, filling, and usually chock-full of vegetables and healthy. Is there anything better than a warm bowl of homemade soup with a warm piece of homemade bread? I think not..

With the weather finally cooling down- Hello fall- I'll be posting many more soup and stew recipes. I know I wanted to use my turkey meatballs in a soup. I've been planning it for a while, but the weather has just been to warm to eat soup. What better than a minestrone-type soup, and add the meatballs?

I've had this Rosemary, Thyme, and Lemon Focaccia Bread recipe saved for a bit, and knew it would be perfect with the soup. I'm just going to link the recipe here as I followed it to the T. It is fantastic- so good!

Recipe Tips:
- This recipe (as with most soups) is so forgiving. Use what vegetables you have in your fridge, and it's going to taste great.
- Use half of the meatballs in the soup, and save the rest for spaghetti and meatballs for later in the week. The meatballs also freeze well, and will keep for a couple of months. Just put them in the fridge the morning you plan on using them, and they should be good to use by dinnertime.

Ok, the real reason I wanted to make soup today- to eat this bread!

Minestrone and Meatball Soup
Serves 6-8

1 1/2 lbs ground turkey
1/4 cup yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1/4 cup shredded zucchini (1/2 zucchini)
1/4 cup shredded carrot (about 1 carrot)
1 cup unseasoned bread crumbs (I use panko bread crumbs)
1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
1 large egg
kosher salt
cracked black pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup chicken stock (no salt added)

Minestrone Soup:
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, pressed
1/2 zucchini, diced
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
2 ribs celery, sliced
1 leek, rinsed well and sliced
1 15 oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 carton (minus the 1/2 cup you used in the meatballs) no salt added chicken stock
1 cup water
1 Tbsp Herbs de Provence
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
2 cups uncooked pasta (I used whole grain farfalle)
Kosher salt
Cracked black pepper

- In a large bowl, combine all ingredients for meatballs. Mix well with hands, and form mixture into 2" round meatballs. Set them on parchment paper while you finish making them all
- In a large dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium/high heat and place meatballs in pan where each of them is touching the bottom of the pan- don't overcrowd them
- Let the meatballs sear on at least 2 sides for 3 minutes each side
- Pour 1/2 cup chicken stock around the meatballs, cover, and reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 7 minutes, then remove lid and continue to simmer another 4-5 minutes
- Remove meatballs/ what liquid is left in pan to a bowl and keep warm
- Add a little more olive oil to the pan and heat over medium/high heat
- Add the garlic, zucchini, carrots, celery, and leek, Herbs de provence, crushed red pepper, smoked paprika, season with salt and pepper and sauté 5 minutes until the vegetables start to soften
- Add in the tomatoes, chicken stock, worcestershire sauce, and water and heat to boiling
- Add the pasta and beans, meatballs and liquid, and cover the pot
- Continue to simmer until the vegetables and pasta is cooked through, another 8-10 minutes
- Adjust seasoning if needed

Dairy free recipe!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Slow Cooker Italian Pot Roast

Most of my favorite meals involve meat that either falls of the bone, or melts in your mouth. Baby back ribs, a good pot roast, fork-tender chicken.. all delicious. A great and easy way to create these type of recipes is in your slow cooker. I love using mine as it frees up my oven, doesn't heat up my house, and I can leave while whatever's cooking without feeling like I may have a fire hazard.

The trick to a good slow cooker dinner is to sear your meat in a sauté pan before placing it in the  cooker. I know it's an extra step, but believe me, your recipe will turn out more flavorful and your meat much more tender. The extra few minutes is well worth the effort. Would taste great served with some garlic bread or some biscuits (I love making the little Bisquick ones for roasts).

I usually follow the same formula for a slow cooker meal.. sear the meat in a sauté pan on all sides, remove meat and place it in the slow cooker. Go back to the sauté pan and add any vegetables and cook for a minute to have them sop up the meat flavor, add wine and scrape up the bits off the bottom of the pan, let the wine reduce by half, add broth, herbs, etc. then pour everything in the sauté pan over the meat in the slow cooker and cook on low for about 8 hours. This same formula works for roast, chicken, pork shoulder, most anything.

Impress your family with this dinner, and let me know how you like it :)

Recipe Tip:
-I used dried rosemary and Herbs de Provence because it's what I had in my spice drawer. Fresh or dried thyme, oregano, most other herbs would taste great too in this recipe. Use what you have :)
- I have a splatter guard (looks like a huge fly swatter) I use when searing meat. Placing it over the top of the pan really cuts back on my cooking time from the splatter that doesn't get on my stove or wall.

Slow Cooker Italian Pot Roast
Serves 6

3 lb Chuck round roast
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
Kosher salt
Cracked black pepper
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
3 garlic cloves, pressed
1 large yellow onion, peeled and cut into cubes
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 2" chunks
2 ribs celery, diced
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2" cubes
1 Tbsp Herbs de Provence
1 tsp crushed rosemary
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 cups beef broth
1/2 cup red wine (I use Pinot Noir)
3 Tbsp Wondra gravy flour
1 Tbsp water

Turn slow cooker on to it's low setting
- In a large saute pan, heat up 1 Tbsp olive oil and 1 Tbsp butter on medium/high heat
- Season the roast on all sides with the salt, pepper, and smoked paprika
- Once the pan is hot, add the roast and sear it on each side for 3 minutes or so
- Transfer the roast to the slow cooker
- Back at the sauté pan, add the garlic, onion, carrots, celery, potatoes, Herbs de Provence, and rosemary and sauté for a couple of minutes
- Transfer the vegetables to the slow cooker with the roast
- Back at the sauté pan again, add the wine and let it reduce by half (about 4-5 minutes). Scrape the bottom of the pan to release the bits
- Add in the broth and tomato paste and stir to combine
- Adjust seasoning with salt and/or pepper
- Pour the whole sauté pan mixture over the roast in the slow cooker and add the bay leaves. The liquid will not completely cover the meat and veggies in the slow cooker
- Cook (keep it covered- no peeking) for about 8-9 hours on low (I have cooked mine for 6 hours on the high setting and it was fine too)
- In a small bowl, mix together 3 Tbsp Wondra fine gravy flour with 1 Tbsp or so of water to make a smooth paste
- Add the flour paste to the slow cooker when there is 1 hour left to cook, stir to mix it in the liquid, recover the slow cooker, and seal the lid. This is going to create a thicker gravy while the roast finishes cooking

Dairy free option- omit the butter in the beginning of the recipe

Friday, October 10, 2014

Skinny Potatoes

If you're like me, you could eat potatoes at every meal. Heck, I'd be happy to have potatoes as my meal. Being sensitive to the fact that we have a few in our family (myself included) who are lactose intollerant, I've worked over the years to come up with dairy-free holiday meal side dishes. These potatoes are one of my favorite, and are regular requested at family meals.

Scalloped potatoes are amazing. So good with a Honeybaked ham, and some fresh green beans.. but, as we all know, scalloped potatoes are also loaded with fat and dairy- cheese and cream. My skinny scalloped potatoes have neither, but are so delicious you might not miss them! I use herbs and aromatics, mushrooms, and chicken broth to elevate the potatoes to something special.

You can add a cup or so of shredded cheese to the top of the potatoes if you'd like (Gruyere is great, and I used a cheddar blend here), but I promise you these potatoes are delicious completely dairy-free as well. If you have some left over (I'm jealous), heat them up with some scrambled eggs. Delicious!

Recipe Tip:
- I've made these potatoes many times with and without cheese and I love them either way.

Skinny Potatoes
Serves 6-8

1 Tbsp olive oil
2-3 large russet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch slices
1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 small carton Crimini or White mushrooms, sliced
1 Tbsp dried rosemary
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chicken no salt added stock or broth
1 Tbsp chicken seasoning (or one bullion cube)
1 cup shredded cheese (optional, Gruyere tastes great)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
- In a large saute pan, heat up 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium/high heat
- Add the onion, mushroom, garlic, and rosemary and sauté for about 4-5 minutes until the mushrooms start to brown and the onion is translucent
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Add the sliced potatoes to the sauté pan, stir, and sauté another 2-3 minutes
- Adjust seasoning if needed with salt and/or pepper
- Transfer everything from the pan to a 9x13x2 baking dish
- In a small bowl, stir together the stock/broth and the chicken seasoning
- Pour the liquid over the potatoes/vegetables in the baking dish
- The liquid should come up part way, but not completely cover the vegetables
- Top with shredded cheese if you'd like
- Bake for 25-35 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender, and the cheese is melted and golden in color

Dairy free recipe if you don't use the cheese, or use a dairy-free cheese substitute