Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Vanilla Maple Cardamom Sauce

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Time for a little snack!

This is a great make ahead vegetable side dish that I also enjoy as a healthy snack when craving something sweet. Using just a little of the cardamom makes the sauce very subtle, but gives it a truly special flavor. This is not a recipe where exact amounts of the potatoes matter. The amount is a guideline for using the sauce below. I usually just buy the amount of potatoes that I need, make the sauce below, and add a little at a time, to taste.

This recipe is a time saver for those who HATE to peel potatoes. The potatoes are roasted WHOLE, with the skin on, and the skin is removed using my favorite method: cooling racks! The complete procedure is shown in photos for help the first time the recipe is made. They are peeled and cubed in one step.

The two tips for this recipe that matter the most:

  1. The proportions of the ingredients in the Vanilla Maple Cardamom Sauce is important for getting consistent taste results.
  2. Making sure that the potatoes are well cooked makes them creamier when whipping or mashing them. If they are not all the way done, the mashed potatoes will be lumpy. If your potatoes are not the same size, take the smaller ones out when done, and give the larger ones more time.

Ingredients:

Sweet Potatoes or Yams: About 5 or 6 cups of roasted sweet potatoes, cubed, cooked using the procedure below.   It is always hard to say how many potatoes to buy, as the size varies so much. Try to visualize what 5 or 6 cups of cooked, cubed sweet potatoes looks like, or buy the amount that is needed for dinner.

Ingredients for the Vanilla Maple Cardamom Sauce:

1/2 stick of butter (1/4 cup)

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 cup whole milk, Half and Half, or heavy cream– set aside at room temperature7-gather the ingredients

Procedure:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375º
  2. Cover a large cookie sheet with foil to save on clean up time.
  3. Soak the potatoes in a bowl of warm water for about 15 minutes to soften the skin and make them easier to scrub. After soaking, scrub the potatoes well, but do not peel them.
  4. Prick the potatoes with a fork in several places to keep from bursting in the oven
  5. Space the potatoes out on the cookie sheet and place the pan on the middle shelf in the oven.
  6. Bake in the oven, and check after 45 minutes by inserting a fork into the largest potato. They are done when a fork can be inserted easily all the way through the potato. The potatoes need to be fully cooked, so check several spots to be sure.
  7. Remove from oven, and cut each potato in half, the long way. Let them sit for 5 minutes to make them easier to handle.When you are cutting them, if some spots seem under done, just put those back in to let them finish cooking.

    2-potatoesonfoil

    This is how well done they should look once they are cut in half. Roast them whole, then cut them in half once they are cooked.

  8. While the potatoes are cooling slightly, make the Vanilla Maple Cardamom Sauce. Start by melting the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
  9. When the butter is melted, remove the pan from the heat. Add the maple syrup, cardamom, and vanilla to the melted butter, and whisk until well blended and smooth. Set aside.
  10. Next, prepare the potatoes. Place a large bowl in the kitchen sink. Place a grid-style cooling rack over the sink. Take a half of potato, and press it through the grid of a cooling rack to both remove the skin, and drop the cubes of potato into the bowl below.3-fingerpresspotatoes
  11. 4-skinturnedover4-skinturnedover6-cubes in bowlOnce all of the potatoes are cubed, place them in the bowl of a stand. (NOTE: mashing them by hand is fine too, just add a little of the sauce and cream at a time, as in step 11 below.)8-in mixer
    11. Pour ½ of the sauce and the cream or milk onto the potatoes, and beat at speed 2 to mix slightly. Taste and see how much more sauce is needed, and add to the bowl. Scrape down the sides and then beat for a minute at speed 4 to blend ingredients. Stop the beater, and taste to see if the consistency is smooth. The butter usually has enough salt to taste for me, but add salt if it is too bland for your taste.
  12. When done blending, pour into an oven safe bowl or casserole. These are ready to eat, as is, or they can be made several days in advance, and then baked in an oven to warm them.9-bowl of potatoes
  13. Here is the recipe below, with no photos.  Enjoy!RoatedSweetRecipePhotoText
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Italian Sesame Seed Cookies

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This is an Italian cookie recipe. Translation: the recipe is very large!

These cookies make ANY day feel like a special occasion. Growing up Italian meant that we enjoyed these cookies as part of a large cookie tray for Christmas, other holidays, or family weddings.

I would say that a little bit of cookie dunking is allowed here once these cookies are ready, as these are great “dunkers” no matter what occasion is being celebrated!

I use our Grandmother Greco’s family recipe for these cookies, but I have made some changes to suit our family’s taste. We like the taste of real butter instead of vegetable oil, making it a bit more time consuming, as the dough is chilled to keep the shape perfect, but the extra time is worth it.

I also add orange zest, which really gives the cookie a little something extra. Additionally, I like to form the cookies into different shapes, rolling them into extra sesame seeds rather than using additional flour for rolling out the somewhat sticky dough. This yields a tender, buttery cookie that has a nice crisp texture. I usually make S-Shaped cookies, love knots, ( braided wreaths), and various twisted sticks. This makes for a nice variety on a plate.

This recipe makes between 9 -12 dozens of cookies, depending on what size and what shapes are made, but they keep for a few weeks at room temperature, and they also freeze very well. Make the whole recipe and they will last the whole holiday season – usually!

I have a few tips for saving time and insuring success when making big batches of our Italian cookies:

Tip #1: I bought 4 very large cooling racks, which take up my whole counter, allowing the batches to cool without having to worry about enough space.

Tip #2: I bought three very large cookie sheets that do not have edges so that the cookies can easily be pushed off the sheet without breakage. These are large enough to hold 2 or 3 dozen cookies, so less batches are baked in the long run. Using the 3rd cookie sheet makes it so I always have the extra cookie sheet ready with cookies from the fridge once I take one sheet out of the oven and move the bottom sheet to the top oven shelf.21-fullsheetcirclecookiesTip #3: I use two or three other large cookie sheets WITH sides to hold the cookies as I roll and form them. Once a sheet is full, I cover it with waxed paper and store them in the fridge until all of the cookies have been formed. Since the cookies are all ready to bake, if I run out of time, I can always continue to bake later that day or within a few days.19-emptysheetwaxedpaperTip #4: Put on some favorite music, and sit down to roll out the cookies. Think of it as relaxing therapy! They take a while to roll out and form into shapes, but sitting down makes the experience much less tiring. Sing along and enjoy the ambiance!

Tip #5: Make a test batch of cookies. Once the cookies are done, pour a cup of coffee and a make a plate of cookies for yourself, for the sake of quality control, of course.  Really, you want to make sure that the timing for the various shapes of cookies is just right! It is a welcome reward that guarantees perfection! Everyone’s oven bakes differently, so my times may not work for your oven. Make a test batch, enjoy it, and modify according to your oven’s temperature.

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The procedure and step by step photos come first, but the full recipe without photos is listed below all of the photos to make it easier to print. Hopefully, the detail that I provide gives even first timers a good visual for making picture perfect cookies without making it too complicated! Enjoy!

Ingredients:

cups butter (3 sticks) – room temperature

3 cups sugar

Zest of 2 or 3 oranges – room temperature

4 large eggs – room temperature

2/3 cup whole milk – room temperature

4 tablespoons pure vanilla extract (yes, that really is TABLEspoons)

¼ -1/2  teaspoon salt ( I like the lesser amount of salt)

2 tablespoons baking powder

7 cups of unbleached all purpose flour (measure carefully – level measure

1 pound bag of white sesame seeds * sesame note below – I use Bob’s Red Mill brand

Procedure:

Get up early, and put the butter, oranges, milk, and eggs on the counter so that they all come to room temperature before starting the recipe.  Have a few cups of coffee and enjoy the morning sun!  The butter is soft enough when a finger pressed into the butter leaves an indentation.1-roomtemperature

  1. Cream together room temperature butter, sugar, and orange zest until the color is light yellow and the mixture is smooth and fluffy. If using a stand mixer, use speed 4 for about 2 minutes, then scrape down bowl and do another 2 minutes. Increase to speed 6, and repeat this process for 1 minute at a time to get the mix smooth and fluffy. The mixture should not be gritty, just creamy – then it’s been beaten long enough.2-lightandfluffybatter
    1. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix briefly until each egg is incorporated.
    1. Pour the vanilla extract into the milk.
    1. Sift dry ingredients together, then alternate adding some dry mix and then milk into the mixing bowl, blending until flour mix is just incorporated. Do not over-beat. Use a low speed for at least the first several additions. Finish by hand for the last addition of flour so as not to over-beat.
    1. Dough will be sticky but don’t add more flour. Spread the dough into a flat layer in a cake pan so that it chills faster. Put the uncovered pan into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. If keeping it in there overnight, cover loosely with waxed paper, otherwise, leave it uncovered.batterspreadinpan
    2. Cut the chilled dough into strips about an inch wide. Take one strip out of the fridge at a time BUT if it is hot and humid, just take out about 1/3 of a stick at a time. Dough gets sticky in humid weather.3-batteringlasspancutinstrips
    3. Sprinkle the counter with sesame seeds. Roll each (1/3 sized) section of the strip into a light layer of sesame seeds, making a thin rope shape. Add additional seeds to help with the stickiness as you roll. Don’t use extra flour or cookies won’t be as tender.6-howtorollouttheyield
    4. Cut the rope into pieces. See the various size suggestions listed below for each shape. It is easier to judge the size by looking at the photos. NOTE: Exact sizes don’t matter – it is all what you like. I list my sizes to provide as much detail as I can to have mine replicated. 5-howtorolloutcookie27-howtorolloutthecookie
  1.  Help with Forming the Cookies:S-ShapeCut the rolled rope into sections about 4 to 5 inches long. Form the shape into an S, and then push together, or roll each end in a curlicue shape if the piece is thin and longer. Dip into seeds again before putting on the cookie sheet. Notice in the 4th S Shaped photo below, the S shapes can be different sizes and intricacy.8-SCookielenght 9-firstSShapedforming 10-Scookieonepartcurled 11-Scurvefinished13-curlshapedSFor the twisted sticks, the love knots, or the wreaths, cut the section 6 or 7 inches long.Twisted stick: Make a U-shape, then either fold one “leg” over the other, or pick up and twirl one around the other. Dip into seeds again before putting on the cookie sheet.14-twistedstartofloop15-twistedstartedoneover16-twistcompletedLove knot or wreath: First make the twisted stick, and then bend it around to attach the two ends together. Dip into seeds again before putting on the cookie sheet.17-roundtwistedcookiealmostclosed18-roundtwistedcookieraw22-circlebraidsamplecookieThese are some of the baked cookies to show what they look like with various twists and turns.24-plateofallshapes
    1. Form ALL of the cookies before starting to bake them. Line them up on a cookie sheet, and then put the sheet in the fridge again for at least 30 minutes to keep cookies from spreading in the oven. I almost always let cookies chill a few hours, or overnight, in the fridge, lightly covered with waxed paper. ***See dough note below.
    1. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375º, and transfer only enough cookies to fill the one cookie sheet. Keep the rest in the fridge until the next batch. If using the really large cookie sheets like mine, I can bake between 30 and 36 cookies at one time. The cookies do not spread very much if they are well chilled, so they can be placed a few inches apart.20--roundcookiesreadytobake
    1. Preheat oven to 375º and bake for a total of 7 or 8 minutes total. I usually bake each tray 4 minutes on middle oven shelf and then transfer the pan to a higher shelf for 3 or 4 minutes, rotating the pan from front to back.  I then add another tray to the middle shelf while the top shelf bakes. The color should be very light – like sugar cookies. ***See Time note below for more suggestions.

Transfer to wire rack immediately to cool if they are already pretty firm. The love knots, wreaths, and sticks may need a minute or two on the sheet to firm up a bit before transferring them, but if using the same cookie sheets that I use, just push the cookies onto the cooling rack. Cookies burn easily if they are left on the hot pan.23-pushoffcookiesheet

Use only COLD, UNGREASED cookie sheets. Rinse them off with cold water between batches to insure that they are cold and to clean for the next batch.

In this photo, notice that the color of the cookies is very light. Keeping the cookies cold and the cookie sheets cold is essential to consistent timing.plateofScookiesreallyprettylotsofplate

Baking Notes:

*How Many Sesame Seeds To Buy: This is not an exact measurement, but it is less expensive to buy the big bag of Bob’s Red Mill than to buy the little bottles in the baking aisle. The greater the humidity, the greater the amount of seeds needed to make the dough easier to shape and handle. I usually buy two big bags, just in case, but one bag usually does the trick. It saves a second trip to the store, and I use them in other recipes.

**The dough can stay in the fridge for 3 or 4 days without a problem.  I often keep the formed cookies in the fridge overnight and bake in the morning to take a break. Sometimes it takes me a few days to bake them all, and they always turn out just fine. Be sure to keep them covered with waxed paper in the fridge if they are to be in there overnight.

***Cooking time varies, depending on the size and shape of the cookie and different ovens. Keep the color very light – almost white – like sugar cookies, not golden brown. Make a test batch and write down the time that works for your setup. Always keep the cookies in the fridge until each cold cookie sheet is filled to achieve consistent results.

Storage: Store in an airtight container to keep them softer, or layer them up in a glass cookie jar. Use waxed paper in between the layers of cookies. I like to use a pinking scissors to cut the waxed paper into pretty shapes.cookiejarThese cookies stay in a glass cookie jar for about 2 weeks at room temperature. They become a bit more firm after the first week, but are enjoyable with the change in texture as well! These jars are not air tight, so moisture doesn’t build up in the jar as long as cookies are thoroughly cooled before putting them in the jars. Keep the cookies away from direct sunlight or heat vents.

Freeze cookies in any airtight container, with waxed paper in between each layer. When thawing them, take the lid off the container to let the moisture evaporate and keep the cookies crisper.

Here is the recipe without the photos and extra tips

Italian Sesame Cookies by HappyHoursTech

Ingredients:

cups butter (3 sticks) – room temperature

3 cups sugar

Zest of 2 or 3 oranges – room temperature

4 large eggs – room temperature

2/3 cup whole milk – room temperature

4 tablespoons pure vanilla extract (yes, that really is TABLEspoons)

¼ -1/2  teaspoon salt ( I like the lesser amount of salt)

2 tablespoons baking powder

7 cups of unbleached all purpose flour (measure carefully – level measure

1 pound bag of white sesame seeds * sesame note below – I use Bob’s Red Mill brand

Procedure:

1.  Cream together room temperature butter, sugar, and orange zest until the color is light yellow and the mixture is smooth and fluffy. If using a stand mixer, use speed 4 for about 2 minutes, then scrape down bowl and do another 2 minutes. Increase to speed 6, and repeat this process for 1 minute at a time to get the mix smooth and fluffy. The mixture should not be gritty, just creamy – then it’s been beaten long enough.

2.  Add eggs, one at a time, and mix briefly until each egg is incorporated.

3.  Pour the vanilla extract into the milk.

4.  Sift dry ingredients together, then alternate adding some dry mix and milk into the mixing bowl, blending until flour mix is just incorporated. Do not over-beat. Use a low speed for at least the first several additions. Finish by hand for the last addition of flour so as not to over-beat.

5.  Dough will be sticky but don’t add more flour. Spread the dough into a flat layer in a cake pan so that it chills faster. Put the uncovered pan into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. If keeping it in there overnight, cover loosely with waxed paper.

6.  Cut the chilled dough into strips about an inch wide. Take one strip out of the fridge at a time BUT if it is hot and humid, just take out about 1/3 of a stick at a time. Dough gets sticky in humid weather.

7.  Sprinkle the counter with sesame seeds. Roll each (1/3 sized) section of the strip into a light layer of sesame seeds, making a thin rope shape. Add additional seeds to help with the stickiness as you roll. Don’t use extra flour or cookies won’t be as tender.

8.  Cut the rope into pieces. See the various size suggestions listed below for each shape.

Help with Forming the Cookies:

S-ShapeCut the rolled rope into sections about 4 to 5 inches long. Form the shape into an S, and then push together, or roll each end in a curlicue shape if the piece is thin and longer. Dip into seeds again before putting on the cookie sheet

For the twisted sticks, the love knots, or the wreaths, cut the section 6 or 7 inches long.

Twisted stick: Make a U-shape, then either fold one “leg” over the other, or pick up and twirl one around the other. Dip into seeds again before putting on the cookie sheet.

Love knot or wreath: First make the twisted stick, and then bend it around to attach the two ends together. Dip into seeds again before putting on the cookie sheet.

Baking Procedure:

  1. Form ALL of the cookies before starting to bake them. Line them up on a cookie sheet, and then put the sheet in the fridge again for at least 30 minutes to keep them from spreading in the oven. I almost always let them sit a few hours, or overnight, in the fridge, lightly covered with waxed paper. ***See dough note below
  1. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375º, and transfer only enough cookies to fill the one cookie sheet. Keep the rest in the fridge until the next batch. If using the really large cookie sheets like mine, I can bake between 30 and 36 cookies at one time. The cookies do not spread very much if they are well chilled, so they can be placed a few inches apart.
  2. Preheat oven to 375º and bake for a total of 7 or 8 minutes total. I usually bake each tray 4 minutes on middle oven shelf and then transfer the pan to a higher shelf for 3 or 4 minutes, rotating the pan from front to back.  Then I add another tray to the middle shelf while the top shelf bakes.
  3. Transfer to wire rack immediately to cool if they are already pretty firm. The love knots, wreaths, and sticks may need a minute or two on the sheet to firm up a bit before transferring them, but if using the same cookie sheets that I use, just push the cookies onto the cooling rack.

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Healthy Corn Muffins

These healthy muffins have an airy, tender texture, and they are very moist. I use more whole grain corn meal than white flour, and the yogurt increases the protein and calcium. Each muffin only has 185 calories and almost 5 grams of protein, making them a guilt-free snack or easy breakfast on the run.

Save time by getting all of the ingredients lined up on the counter so that they are ready to add.  This recipe is prepared and baked quickly, and it is so much healthier than the usual muffin mixes. I’ll bet that once you have made these, you’ll never by the box again!

The citrus zest is subtle, but adds a really nice flavor to the muffins. I like using lime when the muffins will be served with chili, the orange zest for breakfast muffins, and the lemon zest with soups or other foods that might also have some lemon zest added to them.

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups stone ground corn meal

3/4 cup unbleached white flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

——–

2 large eggs

1/3 cup olive oil

1 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 tablespoon citrus zest – orange, lemon, or lime

1/3 cup pure maple syrup

1 cup PLAIN 2% Greek yogurt. I prefer to use the Fage brand.

Procedure:

  1. Preheat the oven to 395º.  Grease and flour a 12 cup muffin pan.
  2. Pour flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a sifter, and sift into a large bowl. Pour the corn meal on top, and use a whisk to distribute all of the dry ingredients evenly. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients, and then set the bowl aside.2-drywithwell
  3. Add the eggs and olive oil to a large bowl and whisk them. Add the applesauce, maple syrup, and citrus zest, then whisk together until smooth. Add the Greek yogurt and whisk until all ingredients are well blended.3-liquidandwhisk4-liquidwhish4.  Pour the wet ingredients into the middle of the dry ingredients. Use a whisk to stir and fold ingredients until just mixed. Use a gentle, circular movement, and knock the batter from the whisk into the bowl from time to time. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the bottoms and the sides for a few times to make sure there are no dry ingredients left on the bottom. This should take less than a minute – do not over mix or muffins will be tough.

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5.  Use a small measuring cup to scoop and fill 12 greased and floured muffin cups. This recipe will fill the muffin cups very full.7-rawbatterinmuffinpan

6.  Bake at 395º for about 12 minutes, or until edges are golden and there is a little color on top of the muffins. 9-sidemuffinpanonrackview8-bakedpan

7.  Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then use a butter knife to help ease the muffins out of the pan. They do stick to the pan quite a bit, so take your time easing them out!  NOTE:  If muffin cup papers are used, the muffins do stick to them quite a bit, especially the first day, so I prefer not to use them at all.10-muffinsinbasket

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Here is the recipe with no photos – more print friendly!

 

Healthy Corn Muffins by HappyHoursTech

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups stone ground corn meal

3/4 cup unbleached white flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

——–

2 large eggs

1 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 tablespoon citrus zest – orange, lemon, or lime

1/3 cup pure maple syrup

1/3 cup olive oil

1 cup PLAIN 2% Greek yogurt. I prefer to use Fage brand.

Procedure:

  1. Preheat the oven to 395º
  2. Pour flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a sifter, and sift into a large bowl. Pour the corn meal on top, and use a whisk to distribute all of the dry ingredients evenly. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients, and then set the bowl aside.
  3. Add the eggs and olive oil to a large bowl and whisk them. Add the applesauce, maple syrup, lemon or orange zest, and whisk together until smooth. Add the Greek yogurt and whisk until all ingredients are well blended.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the middle of the dry ingredients. Use a whisk to stir and fold ingredients until just mixed. Use a gentle, circular movement, and knock the batter from the whisk into the bowl from time to time. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the bottoms and the sides for a few times to make sure there are no dry ingredients left on the bottom. This should take less than a minute – do not over mix or muffins will be tough.
  5. Use a small measuring cup to scoop and fill 12 greased muffin cups.
  6. Bake at 395º for about 12 minutes, or until edges are golden and there is a little color on top of the muffins.
  7.  Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then use a butter knife to help ease the muffins out of the pan. They do stick to the pan quite a bit, so take your time easing them out!  NOTE:  If muffin cup papers are used, the muffins do stick to them quite a bit, especially the first day, so I prefer not to use them at all.healthycornmuffinsrecipepic

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Fast and Easy Party Time Guacamole

1-featurefullbowlguacThis big recipe for guacamole is a party staple in our house. Divide it up between two bowls and keep one in the fridge to put out for half-time!

Of course, you can make a half recipe, but, for extended happy hours or parties, the full recipe will disappear- as long as you don’t run out of chips! Trust me.

It goes together relatively quickly by using two shortcuts: (1) chunky garden style salsa instead of chopping onions, garlic, jalapeno, and tomatoes, and (2) using a cookie cooling rack (grid style) to dice the avocados!

This technique for cutting the avocado was featured on various cooking shows.  Works best when the avocados are soft, which makes them better for guacamole anyway!

Ingredients

1 cup of fresh cilantro leaves

1 lime

6 avocados

6 tablespoons of chunky garden style salsa

2 teaspoons of coriander

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon Frank’s Hot Sauce

½ teaspoon salt

lime/additional salsa/cilantro for garnish

Procedure:

  1. Wash and dry the cilantro. Remove the stems, and add the leaves to a 1-cup measuring cup. Chop the leaves finely, or use a scissor to cut them in the cup. Set aside.
  2. Squeeze the lime into a large bowl, and place the bowl into the kitchen sink.
  3. Place a cooling rack over the bowl in the sink.
  4. Cut all avocados in half.
  5. Press each half of avocado ONTO the rack, and press around the outside skin and rub in into the grid to make the avocado fall through the grid and into the bowl. Use your fingers to press any pieces that stick on the grid into the bowl.
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There is a bowl under the grid, but it is hard to see because it is clear! Keep pressing and rub the skin around to help the avocado fall through.

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Once the skin is removed, use a finger to push the avocado that sticks to the grid into the bowl below.

6.  Stir the avocados in the bowl to distribute the lime juice into the avocado to keep them from turning brown after chopping each avocado.

7.  Once all of the avocados are diced, use the wooden spoon or spatula to distribute the lime juice again. Add all the rest of the spices and seasonings into the avocado and stir well. Taste it to see if more spices are needed.

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8.  Divide into two serving bowls, and cover tightly. Keep in refrigerator until ready to serve. Serve with your favorite sturdy tortilla chips or Scoop chips!

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Speedy Turkey Chili with Salsa, Black Beans and Corn

1-closeupbowlchililimetagThis recipe originated when we had company coming and we needed something quick for dinner without making a trip to the store. I was short on time (and ambition), and decided to use garden style salsa to replace chopping the usual peppers and onions frequently added to chili. The chili was ready in about 30 minutes, and soon we were out on the deck enjoying the beautiful weather instead of preparing dinner. Tastes even better when made a day ahead and reheated.

The leftover chili was used as a dip the next day for happy hour. Shredded cheddar cheese was stirred in before warming it up. Scoop-style chips and a cold beverage was all that we needed to accompany this.

This healthy, easy, and versatile recipe has now become a new favorite to use for 5 different dishes – chili, tacos, burritos, dip, and loaded nachos. (Ok, so the nachos might not be the only thing loaded at one of our happy hours, but don’t judge. Come and join us instead!)

This recipe makes dinner for 4 people, with leftovers for lunch or happy hour!

Tip: Organize, measure, and prepare all of the ingredients listed below before starting to cook, and then follow the steps listed under Procedure. Ingredients should be ready to just pour into the pan once the cooking of the turkey is started, as it cooks quickly.

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Getting the ingredients ready before beginning to cook speeds things up and guarantees success. Use a Microplane to zest the lime, and a garlic press for the fresh garlic to save time.

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon coriander

1 teaspoon dried oregano (or use a handful of fresh chopped Greek oregano leaves)

1 cup of fresh cilantro leaves, measured first into the cup, then chop with scissors (or 3 tablespoons of dried cilantro if fresh is not available)

3 tablespoons chili powder

1/3 cup olive oil

3 cloves of garlic, pressed or chopped finely

1 pound ground turkey (I use 99% Fat Free All white meat)

2 cups frozen corn, thawed

1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

Zest from 2 limes – I use a Microplane to do this easily, and have it ready to add

4 cups mild chunky garden style salsa (I like Ortega the best)

Procedure:

  1. Measure all of the spices into one bowl and set aside.
  2. Press or chop the garlic and set aside.
  3. Pour the olive oil in a heavy pan or Dutch oven, add the garlic, and cook over medium heat for a minute or so to get the pan hot, and soften the garlic.
  4. Add the turkey to the pan, and pour the bowl of spices onto the turkey. Use a wooden spoon to break up the chunks and distribute the spices as it cooks. Stir every minute or so to keep from sticking. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring and scraping with a wooden spoon to insure that it cooks evenly. The time will vary according to your pan and the temperature. The turkey should be fairly well cooked before adding the next ingredients to save simmering time and insure safety of the meat temperature.

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    This is what the mixture should look like before adding the beans, corn, and salsa.

  1. Pour the drained black beans, lime zest, corn, and salsa onto the turkey mix and stir well to evenly distribute the ingredients. Cook for about 10 minutes, or longer, if desired, stirring every few minutes. This can also be put in a crock pot at this point if using later in the day. Keeping it on low heat in a crock pot for a few hours is fine. Add additional salsa, to taste, before serving.

Optional: Set up ingredients to make a Toppings Bar and let people customize their own meal. Some ideas for toppings: diced avocado, black olives, guacamole, shredded cheddar cheese, hot sauce, salsa, jalapeños or other peppers, sour cream, fresh cilantro, wedges of lime, and corn chips.

Note: In the summer, I grow fresh herbs, so the fresh oregano and cilantro are in good supply. The preparation takes longer, but the taste is worth it if time is not an issue for getting this on the table.

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Dig In!

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Pumpkin Pie Maple Oatmeal Muffins

1featured-muffin on platesm

Pumpkin Pie baking in the oven is one of the great aromas of Fall. These muffins include all of the pumpkin pie spices for a healthy treat that could also be a breakfast on the run.

This recipe makes 24 muffins – 228 calories each, with 5 grams of protein, including raisins and walnuts. Make them all and freeze the extras to have them ready when cravings surface. There is no processed or artificial sugar in these – just maple syrup and raisins for the sweetness. I often make them without the nuts, as some family members are allergic to them, but, either way, they are really yummy. If the nuts are omitted, add some extra raisins (or chocolate chips!)

The texture of these muffins is very dense, so don’t expect a fluffy muffin!18-plate of muffinssm

Step by Step Directions with Photos are listed first in this post for new bakers, then the full recipe is listed below to make it more printable.

I find it easiest to get all of the ingredients out first, and organize them in the order listed below before beginning, as these muffins go together quickly that way. Prep the topping before starting the muffins, then start the directions.2-prep firstsm

3/4 cup old fashioned oats –measure first, then grind in blender

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 cups unbleached white flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoons nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

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1 cup raisins

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

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29 ounce can of plain canned pumpkin

7 or 8 ounces of plain 2% Greek yogurt (I like Fage)

2 large eggs

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Measure these liquid ingredients into a 2 cup measure and set aside:

1/2 cup olive or canola oil (or other healthy oil)

½ cup cold water

1 cup real maple syrup (I don’t like the fake kind)

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Topping : Pour about a cup of oats in a bowl, drizzle maple syrup on them, then sprinkle with cinnamon. Top each muffin with a heaping spoonful of these maple cinnamon oats.

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Directions: Preheat oven to 350º

  1. Prep the topping as listed above, and set aside. 4-prep oatssm
  2. Grind the oats and add them to a large bowl. Stir in the whole wheat flour. Sift the white flour with the baking soda/powder and spices together, then add to this dry mix.
  3. Pour the raisins and walnuts (if using) into a bowl, and sprinkle them with a little bit of the flour mix. That will keep them better distributed in the muffin.3-flours and prep raisinssm
  4. Pour the pumpkin, yogurt, and eggs into a large bowl. Whisk until smooth.5-pumpkin yogurtsm
  5. Pour in the olive oil, water, and maple syrup and whisk again until smooth.6-liquidsm
  6. Whisk the dry ingredients into the bowl using 3 additions, whisking well for the first two. 7-smooth and floursm7.  On the third addition, dump in the raisins/nuts, and stir gently with a wooden spoon to make the mixture smooth, but don’t over beat. Mix just until the flour is incorporated into the batter.8-raisinssm 9-smoothwooden spoonsm8.  Dip a ½ cup measuring cup into the batter, and level the cup with a butter knife. Use the knife and cup to pour the batter into the muffin pan. 10-measuring cupsmIt will make 24 muffins if the batter is leveled in the measuring cup every time. (An ice cream scoop works well for this too.) Eyeball the muffins for amount of batter in each cup once both pans are filled, and redistribute if needed.11-allfullsm

9.  Place a heaping teaspoon of the topping on top of each muffin and then use a finger to press the oats into the muffin.12-oats ontopsm 13-pat them insm

10.  Put the two muffin pans side by side on the middle shelf of the oven, and rotate the pans after about 15 minutes to bake the muffins evenly. 14-oven side by sidesm

Bake at 350º for about 28 minutes total. They should look golden around the edges. They will not rise very much, but the the tops will be slightly rounded and firm when they are done. They firm up more when the cooling process is done. The first time you make them, test one before taking them all out, as ovens vary.

11. Take the pans out and place the pan onto a cooling rack. Let them cool in the pan 15 or 20 minutes to finish the baking and firm them up. Use a butter knife to trace around the edge of each muffin to ease them out of the pan. Finish cooling on the rack thoroughly before storing.15-knife for helpsm

I like to store the cooled muffins in my glass cookie jar, with layers of waxed paper circles in between the layers.

16-storagesmMuffins are really dense, and they freeze very well.

When they come out of the freezer, leave them uncovered on a plate to let some moisture evaporate while they thaw.

1a-featured imagemuffinsm

 Recipe with No Photos

Pumpkin Pie Maple Oatmeal Muffins

3/4 cup old fashioned oats –measure first, then grind in blender

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 cups unbleached white flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoons nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

——-

1 cup raisins

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

——-

29 ounce can of plain canned pumpkin

7 or 8 ounces of plain 2% Greek yogurt (I like Fage)

2 eggs

——-

1/2 cup olive or canola oil (or other healthy oil)

½ cup cold water

1 cup real maple syrup (I don’t like the fake kind)

Topping:  Pour about a cup of oats in a bowl, drizzle maple syrup on them, then sprinkle with cinnamon. Top each muffin with a heaping spoonful of these maple cinnamon oats.

Directions: Preheat oven to 350º

  1. Grind the oats and add them to a large bowl. Stir in the whole wheat flour. Sift the white flour with the baking soda/powder and spices together, then add to this dry mix.
  1. Pour the raisins and walnuts (if using) into a bowl, and sprinkle them with a little bit of the flour mix. That will keep them better distributed in the muffin.
  1. Pour the pumpkin, yogurt, and eggs into a large bowl. Whisk until smooth.
  1. Pour in the olive oil, water, and maple syrup and whisk again until smooth.
  1. Whisk the dry ingredients into the bowl using 3 additions, whisking well for the first two. On the third addition, dump in the raisins/nuts, and stir gently with a wooden spoon to make the mixture smooth. Don’t over-beat.
  1. Dip a ½ cup measuring cup into the batter, and level the cup with a butter knife. Use the knife and cup to pour the batter into the muffin pan. It will make 24 muffins if the batter is leveled in the measuring cup every time. (An ice cream scoop works well for this too.) Eyeball the muffins for amount of batter in each cup once both pans are filled, and redistribute if needed.
  1. Place a heaping teaspoon of the topping on top of each muffin and then use a finger to press the oats into the muffin.
  1. Put the two muffin pans side by side on the middle shelf of the oven, and rotate the pans after about 15 minutes to bake the muffins evenly. Bake at 350º for about 28 minutes total. They should look golden around the edges and pretty well set.
  2. Take the pans out and place the pan onto a cooling rack. Let them cool in the pan 15 or 20 minutes to finish the baking and firm them up. Use a butter knife to trace around the edge of each muffin to ease them out of the pan. Finish cooling on the rack thoroughly before storing.

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Zucchini, Pepper, and Onion Squares

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This recipe is based on an old standby – Zucchini Appetizer. The proportion of zucchini and the concept from the original recipe are similar, but this recipe uses some different herbs, extra veggies and more cheese.  The Bisquick from the original recipe is replaced by using flour, baking powder, and a little more olive oil instead, as I prefer not to use processed mixes.

The extra veggies make the Squares colorful and moist, and the minute my husband hears the words “Peppers and Onions” he thinks of the word he most associates with peppers and onions – sausage!  This makes the Squares seem more like a treat, rather than a way to use up the zucchini in the fridge.  Sorry, Mike, but there is no sausage in this dish! You can make some of your famous Italian sausage “coins” and eat them on the side, as the peppers and onions in this dish are a natural compliment to the sausage.

The Squares are great as an appetizer – eaten hot, or at room temperature. Perfect for Happy Hour! I recommend an ice cold Sam Adams Summer Seasonal Beer (or two) to accompany this snack.

I also love them as a meatless main dish, although your carnivores may prefer to follow my husband’s lead and enjoy it with Italian sausage.

Anyway you eat them, enjoy this simple and easy to make seasonal dish. Always tastes the best in the summer, using local produce. Thanks Mom and Jer, for giving us the fruits of your labor from your fantastic garden!

The key to getting consistent results in this dish is in the chopping. This close up shows the sizes of the various ingredients. The cooking time for my recipe is based on veggies cut this size.  Many times when I have shared this recipe, people have said that their veggies were not cooked very well.  I am sharing this picture to help with that problem.

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Ingredients

3 cups chopped, unpeeled zucchini. (NOTE: I usually use small zucchinis, and cut them into quarters the long way. Then stack the 4 long strips, and slice them into thin, little chunks. (Please see the above photo for size and shape of zucchini.)

1 cup red bell pepper, diced finely (or use your favorite pepper assortment to make a mixed cup)

1 cup of sweet onion, diced finely

1 tablespoon of fresh garlic, pressed or very finely chopped

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (It is fluffier so it measures differently than the grated cheese that you get already grated in the store. If you get the one already grated in the store, you might want to reduce it a little. Or not. Cheese is good.)

2 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil leaves (chop the leaves first and then measure the chopped leaves into the tablespoon)

1 teaspoon dried oregano or 2 tablespoons of fresh Greek oregano leaves, chopped

2/3 cup olive oil

4 large eggs

1 cup unbleached all purpose white flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

Optional: extra basil leaves or red pepper strips for garnish

 

Procedure

Preheat the oven to 350º.

  1. Chop the zucchini, red peppers, onion, garlic, and basil leaves, pouring them into a large bowl after each is chopped. Dice the peppers, onions and garlic into a small dice so that they cook in the specified time.1 -smallerbowlofvegs
  2. Add the oregano and Parmesan cheese to the veggies, and mix with a fork to distribute it well.
  3. Break the eggs into a bowl, add the olive oil, and whisk together Pour this into the veggie mix and stir well with a wooden spoon.
  4. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Stir these dry ingredients into the other mix and blend well. Mixture will be thick.
  5. Pour into a GREASED 9×13 cake pan. Make SURE that the pan is greased or this will really be hard to remove from the pan. The size of the pan is important to the cooking time. If you use a different size and shape pan, cooking time may have to be adjusted.3 -smallerinpan

 

6.  Use a butter knife to spread the mixture evenly in the pan.4 -smallerspreadknife

7.  Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the edges start to turn light golden brown and the top is set.

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In the photo below, notice the golden brown color of the edges of the cut square. The corners and outside should be this color when the pan comes out of the oven.

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  1. Let this rest for at least 20 minutes, then cut into small squares, usually about 2 inches. Sometimes I cut them a bit bigger and then cut them again to make triangles. This one is garnished with fresh basil leaves and red peppers as this tray is ready to party.

Going to Happy Hour!

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Baking and Serving Tips:

Ideas for Variations: The first time this dish is made, taste it to see how to customize it to suit YOU.  Do you like other peppers, black olives, more salt, other herbs, less onions? It is easy to modify the spices, herbs and veggies and still get great result.

When stacking them up on a plate, place waxed paper in between the layers.  Trim the waxed paper squares with a pinking scissors to make the edges look nice. I usually turn the squares that have the golden edges to the inside to hide them on the plate, but I wanted to show the color of the edges, which helps first timers to see the color it should be when it is done.

smallersideviewwithgarnish

These can be eaten hot, right out of the oven, or at room temperature. If making them a day ahead, take them out of the fridge 30 minutes before they will be eaten so that they are not ice cold.

Reheat them as you need them – either in the microwave, or in a non-stick pan that has a little olive oil or butter in it.

 

 

 

 

 

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