Saturday, March 25, 2017

Soup's On!

I love soup! I could eat it every single day! And when I was trying to track down a Potato Leek Soup recipe I made a few years ago, I came across a hilarious e-mail that I sent to my sweet brother-in-law. He was trying to eat healthier and do more cooking at home and had asked me if I had any good soup recipes to share. I literally sent him 15 soup recipes!!! The poor guy was probably completely overwhelmed and totally convinced that his new sister-in-law was insane! That e-mail did remind me, though, why I love blogging about food. Because in an instant, I can come up with 15 recipes for soup that I have made, that I distinctly remember, and that I love! And perhaps there is an audience for that, beyond my brother-in-law. Even if that audience is only me, not wanting to dig through my e-mails to find the Potato Leek Soup I made 3 years ago. :)

Back when I was a CSA subscriber, I was always looking for new ways to use up our weekly vegetable supply. And one week when we had an abundance of kale, I found this awesome recipe!

Serves 6
2 t. olive oil
8 oz. ground sweet Italian sausage
1 c. thinly sliced celery and leafy tops from center of bunch
1 medium yellow onion, diced medium
1/2 c. dried lentils
6 c. low sodium chicken broth
1 bunch (about 1/2 lb.) kale, stems removed and torn into bite size pieces
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
2 t. red wine vinegar
1. Heat oil over medium high heat in a large pot. Add sausage and use a potato masher to break up meat. Cook about 5 min. until golden brown. Add celery and onion and cook about 5 min. until softened. Add lentils, broth, and 1/2 c. water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a rapid simmer, partially cover, and cook until lentils and vegetables are tender, about 25 min.
2. Add kale and season with salt and pepper. Return to a rapid simmer, cover, and cook about 5 min. until kale wilts. Remove soup from heat and stir in vinegar.

This is another delicious soup for a time when you want to indulge! It starts with butter and bacon and ends with creme fraiche and chives - so you know it's going to be good. :)

Potato Leek Soup (adapted from Emeril Lagasse) - GF
Serves 6
2 T. butter
2 strips bacon, chopped
2 leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced
1/2 c. dry white wine
2 bay leaves
1/2 t. dried thyme leaves
1 1/2 t. salt
3/4 t. pepper
5 c. low sodium chicken broth
4-5 russet potatoes (~ 1 lb.), peeled and diced
1/2 c. creme fraiche or sour cream
Chives for garnish (optional)
Melt butter in large soup pot over medium heat. Add bacon and cook 5 min. until bacon is soft. Add leeks and cook an additional 5 min. Add wine and bring to a boil. Add bay leaves, thyme, salt, pepper, broth, and potatoes and return to a boil. Reduce to a simmer for 20 min. or until potatoes are soft. Remove and discard bay leaves. Blend soup in batches to desired consistency. (I like mine a little chunky.) Stir in creme fraiche and garnish with chives, if using.

This is a favorite of the boys and a great meal train recipe for families with young kids. Add a salad and some homemade cookies and you are sure to brighten the day of whoever you share this meal with.

Serves 8
9 c. hot water
3/4 c. carrot (about 3 large, or 15 baby), chopped
3/4 c. celery (about 3 large stalks), chopped
1 c. onion (about 1/2 large), chopped
1 1/2 T. chicken bouillon
1/2 t .salt
1/2 t. pepper
2 rotisserie chicken breasts (about 1 lb.), chopped
Combine water, vegetables, bouillon, salt, pepper and chicken in a large pot. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 30 min. Add noodles and simmer an additional 10 min.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Maple Madness

It's March. And while most people are thinking about college basketball, I'm dreaming about maple syrup! This is the time of year when maple trees are being tapped and sap is being collected and turned into liquid gold. When I was a kid my parents took us to a maple syrup festival at Cunningham Falls State Park in Thurmont, MD (about 15 miles north of Frederick). I can still remember the aroma of maple syrup boiling in the cold air and the exquisite, melt-in-your-mouth taste of maple sugar candy...

It became my weekend's mission/obsession to make maple sugar candy. As it turns out, this is no easy task. Maple candy exists in a small window between maple caramel (which is delicious) and maple sugar (which is also delicious, but decidedly not candy). It took me all weekend to find this miraculous window. Luckily, maple syrup is very forgiving and you can just pop your failed attempt back into the pot, add a little water, and start the process all over again. And it is so freaking good, it was totally worth the effort! Maple sugar candy is sort of like fudge, so a little bit goes a long way. I highly recommend making several small batches rather than one large batch. Small batches heat more quickly, bubble up less, and are easier to pour into the candy molds. I also recommend checking out the link below to a video of the candy making process which I found very helpful!

Makes 12 candies
1/2 c. pure maple syrup
heavy medium saucepan
candy thermometer
wooden spoon
silicone candy mold
Pour maple syrup into heavy medium saucepan and attach candy thermometer. Heat over high heat to 242 degrees. Remove from heat and stir with a wooden spoon until bubbles subside and mixture just starts to lose its glossiness. Quickly pour into silicone candy molds and let cool.
*After pouring off your candy, be sure to scrape the hardened maple sugar off of your saucepan and save it to sprinkle on ice cream or yogurt! So.... good...

This. Is. Amazing. I saved my maple sugar scrapings from candy-making to sprinkle on the top and added a vanilla waffle cookie*. Perfection.

Maple Ice Cream (adapted from Serious Eats) - GF*, V

Makes 1 quart
6 egg yolks
3/4 c. maple syrup
1 c. cream
1 1/2 c. half and half
1/2 t. salt
1. In a heavy, medium saucepan, whisk egg yolks and maple syrup until well-combined. Whisk in cream and half and half. Cook over medium heat about 25 min. until a custard forms on the back of a spoon but a swiped finger leaves a clean line (about 170 degrees). Stir in salt and strain into an airtight container. Chill overnight or at least 6 hours.
2. Churn in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Return to airtight container and freeze at least 3 hours before serving.

Quick & Easy

The boys and I recently watched an episode of The Pioneer Woman on Food Network (while I was folding laundry) and I was totally inspired by Ree Drummond's "Scrumptious 16-Minute Meals." Everything looked amazing and who doesn't love fast, easy meals? So, here is my take on the recipes we saw. :)

There is nothing earth shattering about chicken taco salad. But, this is a simple, yummy recipe that you can customize to your family's tastes. Both boys loved it and they even chose to eat the leftovers for lunch (twice!) instead of their usual PB&Js! I simplified Ree Drummond's recipe by using rotisserie chicken and frozen corn. However, I totally think it's worth the effort to make your own taco seasoning. It's so easy and so much healthier and cheaper than a store-bought mix.   

Chicken Taco Salad (adapted from Ree Drummond)
Serves 4
10 oz. package frozen corn
2 1/4 t. chili powder
1 t. garlic powder
3/4 t. ground cumin
1/4 t. dried oregano
1/4 t. salt
2 skinless rotisserie chicken breasts
3/4 cup ranch dressing
1/4 cup salsa
3 T. cilantro, chopped
7 oz package Hearts of Romaine, shredded
diced veggies of choice (avocado, tomato, green onion)
1/2 cup reduced-fat shredded Mexican cheese blend
handful of crushed tortilla chips
Microwave corn according to package instructions. In a large bowl, combine chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, oregano, and salt. Remove 1 t. of spice mixture and stir it into cooked corn. Dice chicken and add to bowl with remaining spice mixture, stirring to coat. In a small bowl, combine ranch dressing, salsa and cilantro. Drizzle over shredded romaine and top with corn, chicken, veggies, cheese, and crushed tortilla chips.

I have long been a fan of Ellie Krieger's Red Pepper-Feta Sauce, but the flavor is a little strong for picky-eater husband and the boys. Ree Drummond's Red Pepper Sauce uses Parmesan instead of feta and I was intrigued. So, we did a little taste test! As it turns out both sauces are equally delicious in their own way, but when you mix them together you get something special! The Parmesan totally mellows out the sauce while the feta gives a welcome brightness. And as for the pasta, when you are feeding kids - rigatoni beats fettuccine. Every. Single. Time. :)

Serves 6
1 lb. rigatoni
2 T. olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic
16 oz. jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
1/2 c. low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
Salt & Pepper
Parsley for garnish (optional)
1. Cook pasta according to package.
2. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Saute onions and garlic until soft, about 5 min. Add red peppers and cook until hot, 2-3 min.
3. Add red pepper mixture, broth, cheeses, 1/2 t. salt and 1/8 t. pepper into a blender and blend until smooth. Serve over cooked pasta with parsley, if using.

Oh, Pizza! How I love you! But how much do I hate making pizza dough? A. LOT. I have tried so many recipes and what it comes down to is this. The more time you spend on the dough, the better it is. And mama ain't got the time no more. So, I have tried all different types of store-bought dough and all different types of pre-made crusts. In my opinion, you can't do better than Stonefire Naan. It's like having a wood-fired pizza oven in your kitchen. I usually buy the whole wheat naan, but I also love the original variety. And Kroger regularly has packages (of two naans) on sale, 2 for $5, which makes me very, very happy. :)

So now let's talk toppings. My three all time favorite pizzas are Dewey's Porky Fig, Peace A Pizza Catonsville's Buffalo Bleu Cheese, and California Pizza Kitchen's Pear+Gorgonzola. Below is my recreation of the first two pizzas. And don't worry, Pear+Gorgonzola. I love you too much to not make you again soon...

"Gourmet" Naan Pizzas
Serves 1-2
Basic recipe:
1 whole wheat Naan flatbread
2 T. sauce of choice
1/2 c. shredded cheese of choice
Toppings of choice
For Ham & Fig:
2 T. fig preserves (in Kroger's cheese shop)
1/4 c. julienned Canadian bacon
1/2 c. shredded pizza blend cheese
1 T. sliced red onion
1 T. bleu cheese crumbles
For Buffalo Chicken:
1 T. creme fraiche
1/4 c. shredded rotisserie chicken
1 T. Frank's Red Hot Sauce
1/2 c. shredded pizza blend cheese
1 T. sliced red bell pepper
1 T. Bleu cheese crumbles
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Assemble pizza(s) on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until cheese starts to brown.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Sweet & Sour

I've seen this recipe a few times on Cooking Light's website and resisted making it because I've always been a total fan of the original Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. But... these cookies are awesome! They have a chewiness and depth of flavor that you don't get from the Nestle Toll House recipe and they are just as easy. I am officially converted! Picky-eater husband? Not so much...

Cooking Light Chocolate Chip Cookies (adapted from Cooking Light) - V
Makes 36 cookies
1 c. brown sugar
6 T. canola oil
6 T. butter, softened
2 T. honey
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1 egg
2 c. whole wheat flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. chocolate chips
3/8 t. coarse sea salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Beat first 3 ingredients together in a large bowl. Add honey, vanilla, and egg and beat until well combined. Add flour, baking soda and 1/2 t. salt and beat until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Use a small cookie scoop to portion out 12 cookies onto prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with 1/8 t. salt. Bake 8 minutes, turning baking sheet halfway through. Repeat with remaining dough.

And I may be converted on this recipe as well. These are so light and fluffy compared to my go-to Whole-Wheat Pancake recipe and I love the almond butter sauce with the raspberries. Thank you, Cooking Light!

Oatmeal Pancakes (adapted from Cooking Light) - V
Makes 9 pancakes
1 T. white vinegar
1 1/3 c. milk (any type)
2/3 c. quick cooking oats
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
2 1/2 T. maple syrup, divided
1 large egg
Cooking spray
1/4 c. almond butter
Fresh raspberries for serving
1. Combine vinegar, milk, and oats in a small bowl and let sit 5 minutes.
2. Heat a large non-stick griddle to 350 degrees.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and whisk together the vanilla, egg, and 3 t. maple syrup. Add the oat mixture and stir all ingredients together until just combined.
4. Spray pre-heated griddle with cooking spray and use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to spoon batter onto griddle. Cook about 2 min. per side.
5. Combine 1/4 c. warm water, almond butter, and remaining 1 1/2 T. syrup in another small bowl. Serve with pancakes and raspberries.

This may be my five-year-old's favorite breakfast ever! I love it in the winter when we've had a lot of gray days or a lot of sick days and we need an extra boost of vitamin C. And if you've never segmented a grapefruit, be sure to click the link in the ingredients list below! You may never eat a grapefruit the same way again!

Citrus Salad (adapted from Whole Living) - GF, DF, V
Serves 2
1 ruby red grapefruit
2 clementine oranges
2 kiwi fruits
2 T. lightly salted cashews
Cut grapefruit into segments. Peel and slice clementine and kiwi horizontally. Arrange fruit on 2 plates and sprinkle with cashews.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Kid Approved

If you've checked out My Food Philosophy, you already know I dislike "kid food." I refuse to make separate meals for the boys at dinnertime. I expect them to eat what my husband and I are eating - and for the most part, they do. However, I also want them to enjoy eating as much as I do and I'm constantly looking for recipes I think they will like. So here are 3 recipes made especially for and approved by the Giesler boys. :)

I made these for the boys, but I totally can't stop eating them! They have the perfect chewy texture and sweetness from the honey. They are nut free and gluten free (if you're into that). And don't even get me started on the smell of them baking in the oven...

Fruit & Honey Granola Bars (adapted from Cooking Light) - GF*, V
Serves 16
Cooking spray
2 c. quick-cooking oats*
1 c. flaked unsweetened coconut
1/2 c. sunflower seed kernels
1/2 c. flaxseed meal
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1/2 c. dried apricots, chopped
5 dates, pitted and chopped
1/2 c. honey
1/4 c. maple syrup
3 T. brown sugar
3 T. butter
1 t. vanilla
1/4 t. salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13x9 in. glass baking dish with foil, allowing foil to extend over the edges of the dish. Spray foil with cooking spray.
2. Spread oats, coconut, sunflower seeds, and flaxseed into the prepared dish in a single layer. Bake 10 minutes, stirring halfway through. Remove from oven.
3. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, combine oat mixture and dried fruits.
4. Bring remaining ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Boil 1 minute, stirring constantly with a whisk. Pour over oat and fruit mixture, stirring with a rubber spatula to coat.
5. Firmly press oat mixture into prepared glass baking dish, creating an even layer. Bake 30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely. Use foil "handles" to lift bars from baking dish. Cut into 16 bars.

I'm not typically a fan of recipes from Parents Magazine. I generally find them to be bland, or as my picky-eater husband would say, "non-offensive." That being said, a Parents Magazine recipe is pretty much guaranteed to be easy, fast, and something your kids will eat. Which counts for A LOT!!! (Check out more Easy Weeknight Meals from Parents Magazine.) I made these fajitas at my in-law's house last weekend and I really liked them! The grown-ups spiced them up and my kids ate vegetables. Win-win. :)

Shrimp Fajitas (adapted from Parents,com)
Serves 4
1 T. olive oil
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 yellow sweet pepper, sliced
1 small zucchini, chopped
10 oz. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 1/4 t. ground cumin, divided
10 oz. steam-in-bag frozen corn kernels
2 T. cilantro, chopped
Fajita-size flour tortillas (I like Mission)
Optional toppings: shredded cheese, salsa, sour cream
1. Heat oil in a very large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and pepper and cook, stirring, for 2 min. Add zucchini and cook 2 more min. Add shrimp, 1 t. cumin, and a dash of salt and cook 2-3 min. more until shrimp is cooked through.
2. Cook corn according to package instructions. Pour into medium bowl and stir in 1/4 c. cumin, a dash of salt, and cilantro. Serve alongside fajitas.
3. Assemble fajitas with tortillas, shrimp mixture and optional toppings.

If you ever had Cocoa Cream of Wheat as a kid, this will bring back memories! I definitely prefer the maple syrup Breakfast Quinoa I posted last week. But the boys don't gobble that one down nearly as fast as this more decadent version.

Cocoa Quinoa - GF, V
Serves 1
3/4 cup cooked quinoa*
1 T. milk
2 t. sugar
1 t. cocoa powder
1/4 cup diced strawberries
1 T. coconut
2 t. chocolate chips
Heat quinoa and stir in milk, sugar, and cocoa powder. Top with strawberries, coconut, and chocolate chips.
*See last week's post for cooking instructions.