Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Erin's No-Bake Energy Balls


The "original" of this recipe comes from one of my favorite bloggers, The Frugal Girl, via Money Saving Mom via Smashed Peas and Carrots, and it's my new favorite treat.  I'm trying to ween myself from processed sugar and this recipe calls for honey instead of white sugar, so I'm a big fan.  The sweetness of the honey and chocolate balances off the oats, and the texture is chewy without being gooey.  Come to think of it, these are a creamier and denser version of a granola bar.  Here's my adapted recipe:

Ingredients:

1/2 cup peanut butter (I'm a huge fan of Laura Scudder's creamy pb)
1/3 cup of honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut (if you have the choice, get the finest shredded one you can)
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Directions:

In a medium bowl stir together wet ingredients: peanut butter, honey, and vanilla.  Stir in oats, coconut, and mini chocolate chips.  Make sure everything's completely mixed.

Refrigerate mixture 30 minutes to make mixture easier to handle.  Scoop out 1 tablespoon or less and press to compact and roll into a ball.  Makes about 18-24 balls.

Store in the refrigerator.

Easy-peazy lemon squeezy!

Monday, October 8, 2012

White Bread


I recently discovered this recipe and am in love!  It gives me a crunchy crust with a hearty and moist inside.  It's the best of both worlds.  The simple ingredients make it even more appealing.  There's no added sugar or butter.  So, it feels pretty healthy.  The first time I tried this recipe I ran out of white flour in the middle of making it, so I substituted about a cup of whole wheat flour and it still turned out well.  I'll admit, the all white flour version tasted better, but the appeal of whole wheat has me thinking about trying it again.

The original recipe comes from James Peterson's Baking cookbook, here's my adaptation.

White Bread

Ingredients:
4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups room temperature water
1 /1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast, room temperature
1 teaspoon salt

Directions:
Measure flour into bowl of stand mixer.  Use the back of your fist to make a deep well in the middle of the flour.  Pour in the water and sprinkle yeast over the water.  Let sit for 10 minutes.  Mix, add salt and mix more.

Add dough hook.  Mix for 2 minutes to moisten flour (or 3 minutes if by hand).  Cover bowl gently with plastic wrap (you can use this same sheet of plastic wrap 2 more times - so keep it) and let sit for 20 minutes.  Knead dough on medium speed for 7 minutes (or 15 minutes if by hand), or until smooth.  It's okay to turn on the mixer to high to get the dough to slap against the sides of the bowl.

Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap and let rest 2 hours.  Coat your bread pan with cooking spray.

Punch down dough, turn out onto very lightly floured surface and press dough into a rectangle.  Fold both ends (the shorter sides) into the center.  Start rolling the dough fairly tightly toward you until the seams are facing up.  Pinch the seams to seal.  Using the sides of your hands, push down on the edges of the cylinder.  Fold the edges in and pinch the seams to seal.  Place roll in bread pan, seam side down.  Spray one side of plastic wrap with cooking spray and gently cover pan.

After 30 minutes check to see if it's almost the size you want in the finished loaf (if not, keep checking on it until it is).

Preheat oven to 425 degrees, making sure the top rack is in the middle of the oven, with a second rack on the bottom.

Fill a small bowl with luke warm water and set aside.  Fill a sheet pan with a 2 inch rim with 1 inch of hot tap water.  Place on bottom rack of oven.  Remove plastic wrap and slide loaf onto rack over the pan of water.  Immediately dip your fingers in the small bowl of water and flick water on the oven walls, repeat.  Close oven and wait 30 seconds, then repeat.  Bake about 25 minutes, until top is golden brown.  Let bread cool on cooling rack until cool enough to turn the bread out of the pan and finish cooling on its own.

This makes 1 loaf.  To store, cover the cut end with a piece of aluminum foil and place loaf inside a paper bag.  This keeps the crust crunch.  Of course you can keep the bread in a plastic bag, but that will soften the crust.

May I suggest enjoying it topped with butter and homemade strawberry freezer jam.  I'll post a freezer jam tutorial soon!

Don't be discouraged if you are new to bread baking and it doesn't turn out.  I've had plenty of loaves not turn out right when I've tried a new recipe.  Just keep trying.  Practice makes perfect!

Cajun Pasta Fresca

This recipe originally came from allrecipes.com.  It's one of our go-to recipes and makes enough for lunch leftovers.  The fresh tomatoes give the dish a bright flavor and the cajun seasoning brings complexity and spiciness.

Tonight, we were faced with the all too common dreaded question, "What are we going to do for dinner?"  We both don't make it home from work until 6:30 pm and we've been so busy lately, we haven't meal planned and grocery shopped properly for months now(!)  Eating out is just too easy a solution for our tired brains.  But, we're getting better about finding creative solutions, because let's face it, agreeing on a casual dining restaurant (no fast food, thank you very much) and driving wherever it is ends up being a hassle in and of itself.

Okay, back to tonight.  The husband suggested (somewhat jokingly?) Panda Express because it's his #1 favorite option.  The problem is (and he knows it very well) I now loath Panda Express.  I got tired of it a year or so ago as I started trying to eat more vegetarian options when we went out.  So, that means what I end up ordering is a Panda Bowl with mixed veggies with eggplant.  Not very exciting (even if he will let me steal a bite or two of his orange chicken - my achilles heel!)

I digress, so, I told my husband he could take himself to Panda Express and I'd scrounge the kitchen for something suitable for myself.  Apparently, he didn't want Panda Express badly enough to venture solo.  So, he made a cup-of-noodle-soup-like-thing, which does not appeal to me at all.  I started thinking about what meager ingredients we had, what I could make with the least amount of effort, but still was somewhat healthy.  I then remembered the pint and a half of three different varieties/sizes of tomatoes my friend brought me last week from her backyard garden (I'm so envious!).  I had no idea what to do with all of those garden-grown tomatoes until tonight when I also remembered my Cajun Pasta Fresca recipe that calls for 7 Roma tomatoes, and I mentally calculated that the tomatoes I had were equivalent in volume.  I felt adventurous and inspired to make it work, it sounded like a fun challenge.

Apparently I've never posted this recipe!  Bizzare.  I must have taken pictures of it several times but never actually sat down and wrote the recipe.  It's okay, because I linked to the original recipe above, so you can follow it there.  Just know that I omit the parsley and always half that recipe for the two of us (also my husband is a complete omnivore, so I'll cook up some chicken breast on the side to mix in with his portion).  It gives us plenty, plus left overs for each of us for lunch the next day. Below I'm giving you the recipe as I made it tonight, and it turned out just as good (dare I say better?).

Ingredients:

1/2 box dried spaghetti (we like Barilla Plus in the yellow box because it's multigrain)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped (my mincer was dirty, otherwise I would have opted to use that)
1 1/2 pints of fresh from the garden tomatoes in any variety and combination, rinsed and chopped to no bigger than 1 inch pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons salt (or less, depending on your salt preference)
1 1/2 teaspoons cajun seasoning (we use McCormick's)
1/4 cup shredded colby jack cheese ('cause that's what I had in my fridge, and I'll probably opt to use it next time as well)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (the kind in a can, 'cause that's the only kind I had - the legit kind is always preferable)

Directions:

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil.  Break spaghetti in half and dump in boiling water.  Cook 8 minutes, or al dente.  Drain and set aside.

While waiting for the water to boil, start heating up oil in large skillet over medium heat.

Briefly saute garlic in heated oil until fragrant, 30-60 seconds. You do not want it to brown.

Stir in tomatoes with their juice and sprinkle with salt, and mix up.  Let the mixture bubble for several minutes, then mash slightly with a fork.  It should be really easy.  If it's not, let the mixture continue to bubble a few more minutes and try again.  Once the whole mixture is nice and mashed, stir in cajun seasoning and cheeses and mix.  Add spaghetti and toss until coated.  Serve it up and enjoy!