Sunday, August 30, 2009

Add Some Zing to a Muffin Mix

There are definitely times where I opt for convenience, and a muffin mix can be something tasty to keep on hand for those times. I noted that Martha White is now making a "Whole Grain" muffin mix. Don't get too excited! They are not that "whole," but they do provide 1 gram of fiber per muffin whereas the old mix has none. I decided to give the apple cinnamon package a try, and I added my own pieces of flair to the mix to increase the fiber, protein, and flavor.
Morning Muffin Mix
Serves 6 muffins
1 Martha White Apple Cinnamon Muffin package
1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup oats
1/2 cup milk
3 Tbsp brown sugar or raw sugar
3 Tbsp oats
3 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp butter, unsalted
Preheat oven to 425*F (400*F for convection). Mix dry ingredients in a bowl and make a well. Add 1/2 cup milk and quickly mix, but do not overmix. Pour muffin mix into muffin cups--I use silicon muffin "pans" so I don't have to add cooking spray to keep them nonstick. Next, make the topping. Using a pastry blender, your fingers, or two knives you can cut the butter into the flour/sugar mixture. Top muffins with crumble and bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Crock Pot Gumbo for Brooke!

Is it easy? Yes, Brooke, it's easy, but be sure not to cook for yourself on your birthday! ;o)
On any given busy day I often opt to pull out the CrockPot (aka Slow Cooker). Today we were over 90*F (hot for us), and the last thing I needed to do was turn on my oven--hence a perfect reason to pull out my crockpot! This gumbo recipe is perfect for any day of the year and better as leftovers! ENJOY!
Chicken & Sausage Gumbo
Serves 6-8 (depending on your portion size)
3 chicken breasts, bone & skin
3 chicken thighs, bone & skin
Salt & Pepper
Cooking spray
1 yellow onion, diced
1 red & green bell pepper, each diced
1 celery stalk, chopped
3 cloves garlic, thick slices (don't mince for slow cooking)
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup flour
3 cups chicken broth (I use Chicken Base 1 Tbsp + 3 cups water)
1 lb. chipotle or jalapeño turkey/chicken sausage (if you cannot find this use any turkey kielbasa-type sausage)
1 lb frozen, sliced okra
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or 3 dashes hot sauce to preferred heat level
Rice or mashed potatoes to serve over
  • Season your chicken with salt & pepper. Spray skillet with cooking spray and bring to a medium-high heat. Add chicken, skin side down, and cook for 7 minutes, flip and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Place chicken in crock pot, skin side down.

  • Meanwhile, prep your vegetables on a cutting board. Once you pull out your chicken, toss in your vegetables (peppers, onions, celery). Cook for 5 minutes and add garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Pour veggies over chicken in crock pot.

  • Next, in the same skillet add 1/3 cup of oil and have your flour ready. Once the oil gets warm, add in flour and whisk until blended. Continue to whisk your roux until it gets a golden or light brown color--about 7-10 minutes. Add in chicken broth and cook until thickened. Pour thickened mixture over veggies and chicken in crock pot.

  • Slice sausage in 2" thick rounds and add to mixture.

  • Cook mixture for 3 hours on high or 5-8 hours on low. The last 30 minutes of cooking add in your okra. The okra will thicken your base, too. This is also a perfect time to start rice or potatoes, which ever you prefer is fine. Stir in your cayenne or hot sauce and season as needed with S&P.

  • If you would like to add in seafood wait until the last 5 minutes of cooking to add in shrimp or scallops.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Does a Meal Have to Be Fancy to Be Good?

Simplicity really can go a long way to impress your friends, wow your taste buds, and lower your stress levels! Meals don't have to be so complicated that they take you hours to prepare, come with fancy titles, or exotic ingredients. The key to a good meal are quality ingredients. If you make it fresh you can keep it simple!
For me, summers are the essence of fresh & simple meals! When vegetables are freshly plucked from the garden their tastes sizzle with flavor and make your taste buds become food snobs! (My mother's garden has forever ruined me to store bought tomatoes for the rest of my life.)
Tonight's meal is made with fresh carrots and asparagus, with the delicate touch of fresh dill. Here's a tip--you can use any vegetable in place of this, and choose a variety of fresh herbs to dress up the plain and add a subtle touch of aroma.
A Steak Night
Serves 2
8-10 oz sirloin or tenderloin steak
1 cup rice
2 cups water
1 lemon, zested and juiced
8 asparagus spears, peeled stems
3 carrots, peeled and sliced in rounds
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp dill, cilantro, parsley, sage, oregano, or other favorite herb
S&P to taste
  • Season steaks with salt, pepper, and touch of herbs. Allow to come to room temperature in 30 minutes. While waiting, turn on your grill. Put your back burners on high, and the front burners on medium low. Once the grill gets to 400*F you are ready to go! Grill your steaks for 7-10 minutes per side depending on desired texture and taste. Once you pull your steaks off the grill allow the meat to rest so that the juices return to the muscle instead of all over your plate!
  • Meanwhile, follow rice package directions to prepare. Once prepared, add lemon zest and season with S&P.
  • Note, you don't have to cut off half of your asparagus to enjoy the tender vegetables. Instead, trim off the very tips, and use a vegetable peeler to expose asparagus's tender flesh. See photo above for visual.
  • In a pot, bring the 2 cups of water to a boil and add the vegetables for 3 minutes to blanch. Remove and place into ice water for 1 minute to halt the cooking. Remove and pat dry.
  • In a skillet add olive oil and add the blanched vegetables and sauté for 3-5 minutes or until desired texture is achieved. Finish vegetables with fresh herbs and lemon juice.
  • Last, pick your favorite wine, plate your meal, savor the freshness of flavors, and enjoy the simplicity of the night! Cheers!

Monday, August 17, 2009

That's the Way the Cherry Crumbles

It's cherry season! Which is your favorite? Rainier, Bing, or Lambert? Do you enjoy cherries raw, dried, candied, simmered, or baked? Their flavor can really go a long way! In the summertime I often add them to my zucchini bread for a splash of color and some zing.
One cup of cherries packs in 3 grams of fiber, a mere 80 Kilocalories (aka calories), Vitamin C, and Potassium. Cherries also are high in anthocyanins which is a powerful antioxidant! For more nutrition information about cherries check out the USDA's website:
I decided to make a delicious cherry crumble with my fresh batch!
Cherry-Blueberry Crisp
Serves 6
3 Tbsp Cornstarch
3 Tbsp Lemon Juice
2 lbs Cherries, pitted
1 lb Blueberries
1 cup Flour
1/2 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1 1/2 cups Brown Sugar, packed
1 ts Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Salt
8 Tbsp Butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup Pecans, chopped
Directions: #1--be patient as you pit your cherries! Or, just buy them frozen!

  • Preheat oven to 400*F (375*F for Convection ovens)
  • Spray a baking pan (or pie pan) with cooking spray.
  • Combine cornstarch, lemon juice, and berries in a bowl and toss until mixed. Pour into baking sheet.
  • Mix flours, sugars, cinnamon, and salt together. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or two knives. Sprinkle over berries.
  • Top flour mixture with chopped pecans.
  • Bake for 35 minutes or until bubbly and browned.
  • Serve warm over a scoop of vanilla yogurt or light ice cream.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ahh It's Summer--Make a Quick Meal for Two!

Ahhh, the sound of silence. All of my company for the summer is gone, and although I love guests it's also nice to just sit back and let life get back to normal. That being said, the last thing I want to do is be a slave to my kitchen. Why must we spend an hour in the kitchen to pull a meal together? Do we really have to stick to a recipe? Do we really have to turn on our oven? No, No, No! Stop the madness and give yourself a break--keep tonights meal simple!
Always looking for inspiration of something simple to whip up, last night I went to my garden. I must admit, I have very little patience and prefer to pull off my zucchini and squash when they are still small. The tender, baby vegetables are my absolute favorite. I gathered zucchini, crook-neck squash (the yellow one), cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, and a jalapeño. A little spice goes a long way! Next, I pulled out a bag of Boil-in-a-Bag Brown Rice. Brown rice has more fiber than white, and I really like the nutty taste it can have. I also loved the ease of a boil-in-a-bag approach for last night's meal. For meat, I was originally going to do chicken breasts, but my meeting ran a little long; thus, I decided to use chicken breast sausage. And in 15 minutes I had a meal on the table! Hope you enjoy this, too!
15-Minute Garden Meal
Serves 2 (and 1 leftover for tomorrow!)
1 boil-in-a-bag brown rice
2 cloves of garlic
1 Tb olive oil
2 baby zucchini squash
2 baby crook-neck squash
1 baby bell peppers
1 jalapeño
6 cherry tomatoes
Salt & Pepper to taste
Fill a soup pot with water, add your rice bag, and bring it to a boil. My bag needed to cook for 10 minutes, but you should read your directions on your box. Leftover rice would work great here, too!
Slice your sausage into half and then into half-moons.
Next, slice your vegetables. Slice your squashes in half and then in half-moons about 1" thick. Slice your bell peppers in long strips. Cut around your jalapeño to remove seeds and slice in long strands. Halve your cherry tomatoes. Now you are ready to go!
Heat up a skillet with olive oil and add 2 smashed garlic cloves--no need to mince. Add in your sausage and bell peppers. Sauté for 3 minutes. Add your squash and jalapeño and cover with a lid. Cook until your rice is ready. At the last minute add in your tomatoes and serve the mixture over your rice. Quick, easy, and HEALTHY! Enjoy!