Monthly Archives: September 2011

“It’s peanut butter jelly time…”

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Going back to the topic of comfort foods which I posted about a few days ago, I failed to mention what mi mama’s answer was to the question of what her idea of the perfect comfort food would be. It’s not quite as exciting or complicated as macaroni and cheese (although, neither is she) but I think it still deserves some merit as some out there may actually agree with her. She answered very quickly and without hesitation, “Peanut Butter and Jelly!!!”  And when she says PB&J she’s referring to the Jif creamy peanut butter with Welch’s grape jelly slathered on two pieces of Wonder bread type of sandwich. Nothing gourmet or fancy, like you might see nowadays on some restaurants’ menus or websites. In fact, she stills requests this sandwich every now and then, upon which I go off on a rampage and start preaching to her about all the preservatives that are in Wonder bread and all the high-fructose corn syrup in Welch’s jelly and all the partially hydrogenated oils in Jif peanut butter. That usually changes her request pretty quickly, as I know using big words like “hydrogenated” tends to scare her. Still, I sometimes feel bad for not catering to her requests so easily as I do mi papa’s (what can I say, his lap is bigger and warmer than her’s). So the other day I decided to surprise her by coming up with a new recipe completely devoted to her. It’s not a Wonder bread peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but it’s definitely the next best thing as far as taste and, for sure, more healthy.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/4 cups milk

1/2 cup peanut butter

1 large egg or 1/4 cup egg substitute

2 tbsp applesauce

1 tbsp canola oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup fruit-sweetened jam, any flavor

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 12 cup muffin pan with Pam or line with muffin cups.

2) Combine flours, sugars, baking powder and salt in a large bowl with a wire whisk. Make a well in the center and set aside.

3) Combine milk and next 5 ingredients (through vanilla) in another bowl. Add to flour mixture and stir until just combined.

4) Fill each muffin cup half full with batter. Add 1 tsp of jam to each and then spoon remaining batter on top to cover completely.

5) Bake 20-25 minutes before removing from oven. Allow to cool 10 minutes before removing to wire rack.

6) Enjoy as an afternoon snack, easy breakfast-on-the-go or even as a healthy after dinner treat with a warm glass of milk (or Schnapps, depending on your mood and/or taste buds). Delicioso!

Mi mama went completely over the moon for these muffins and was so happy that I finally created a healthified version of her all-time favorite comfort food. According to her, it was exactly like a PB&J but in muffin form. Yes, sweet mamacita. That it is… That it is.

Now if you’ll excuse I must be going. I need to go finish packing her lunch pail for the day (complete with PB&J muffins, of course).

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If the stew is Moroccan, you better come a knockin

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I really hate wasting food. I get so sad when I look in our crisper drawer and find slimy lettuce or open up our fruit bin and find mold growing on a strawberry or a peach. The other day during a commercial break in between my telenovelas, I saw an ad stating that Americans throw away nearly 33 million tons of food each year due to spoilage. That’s just crazy! It pains me to think of how many of those pounds were once perfectly beautiful carrots just waiting for some hungry little super chef to feast on and now they’re just sitting in some landfill, rotting away.

Alas, food waste is a very rare occurrence in my house. I try to find a use for everything, whether it’s on its last leg or just beginning to reach its point of expiration. Got a brown banana? I’ll make a banana bread. Come upon a few pieces of nearly stale bread? I’ll whip up a plate of French Toast. Have half of a butternut squash leftover from the macaroni and cheese dish I posted about the other day? I’ll chop em up, throw them into a stew and call it dinner. Need a stew recipe so you can do the same thing? I’ll give ya one.

Moroccan Butternut Squash Stew with Chickpeas and Lentils

2 tsp olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 large carrots, chopped

1 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced

4 cups butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1″ cubes

1 cup lentils

4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained

2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground ginger

salt and pepper, to taste

14.5 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1/3 cup raisins

2 tbsp tomato paste

freshly grated Parmesan, optional

Directions:

1) Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high. Add onions, garlic, carrots and fresh ginger and cook 5 minutes until onions are softened.

2) Add butternut squash, lentils, vegetable broth, tomatoes and spices. Bring to a boil, cover and allow to simmer 25-30 minutes.

3) Remove lid, add chickpeas, raisins and tomato paste and allow to simmer 10 minutes.

4) Serve over a bed of cooked rice, couscous, quinoa, millet or whatever your favorite grain just so happens to be. Top with grated Parmesan, if you so desire and enjoy!

Another possible food waste crisis averted. TeenyLittleSuperChef saves the day again. Now if you’ll excuse me, mi mama says she’s craving a tuna salad sandwich and I need to figure out just how I’m going to open up this can.

Buenos noches, mi amigos!

Comfort food at its best– and healthiest

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Well it’s officially Fall. The time of year for the leaves to start changing, department stores to start putting up their Christmas decorations and birds/retirees to begin heading down south in preparation for the Winter. In our casa, it’s the time for the crockpot to maintain a permanent position on the kitchen counter, and stews and casseroles to be on the menu for most nights of the week. There’s just something about the cool, brisk weather of fall that makes people crave things deemed as comfort food. Be it Chicken Pot Pie, mashed potatoes, biscuits and gravy, whatever. Being the good southern boy that mi papa is, he answered quickly and with little hesitation that his idea of the perfect comfort foods are fried chicken, his mama’s green bean casserole and some ooey gooey macaroni and cheese. I’m sure most of Louisiana would probably list these same things (with a few fried alligator and a side of King Cake thrown in for good measure). And he made sure to note that when he says macaroni and cheese, he’s referring to the homemade kind with real cheese, whole milk and butter. Not the kind that mi mama grew up eating and considers delicious. Sadly, I’m sure there are others who would agree with her, but there’s just something about consuming a powdered cheese product that turns your pasta into a neon orange mess that just doesn’t seem right to me. Oh well, to each her own I guess. At least she’s getting in her calcium.

Anyway, back to the macaroni and cheese of mi papa’s youth. I could tell from the shine in his eyes after discussing his comfort foods that he was now seriously craving some of this stuff. And being the thoughtful and loving TeenyLittleSuperChef that I am, I decided to whip up a batch of this yummy goodness for him. But with a healthy twist, of course. I mean, I love the guy, but I also love having him around to give me cuddles and belly rubs, and I fear clogging up his arteries with a bunch of undesirable saturated fat might cause him to be unable to do those things anymore. Is that selfish? Possibly so, but I’m also trying to keep him around and healthy for mi mama’s sake too. Without him, who would open all those tricky jars or reach items way too high up on the pantry shelf? Who would laugh at all her lame jokes or have an impromptu dance party with her in the living room whenever an Air Supply song comes on the radio?  See, if anything, I do my acts of kindness and generosity out of love for her (and if you’re reading this now, Mama, I think I deserve an extra carrot or Greenie after dinner tonight… just putting it out there).

So as I mentioned, I wanted to healthify my macaroni and cheese casserole for mi papa and took to brainstorming different ways of doing so. I wanted to preserve all the flavor of a traditional mac n’ cheese without having to include all its heart attack inducing ingredients. Upon glancing around mi kitchen for inspiration, my eyes narrowed in on a funny and almost phallic looking item sitting on the counter. Ahh yes, the butternut squash! What  better way to replace some of the unhealthy elements of the casserole (i.e. the butter) than a delicious vegetable full of tons of wonderful vitamins and nutrients– the “butter”nut squash. Coincidence? Yeah, probably, but who cares. It got my creative juices flowing and I was able to create an incredibly mouth-watering dish that not only took mi papa back to the comforts of his childhood down South, but also provided him with nearly 200% of his daily recommended value of Vitamin A and 50% of his daily calcium requirements. Cha-ching!

Healthy Buttery-nut Squash Macaroni and Cheese Casserole

2 cups cooked butternut squash, peeled and cut into small cubes *(see note at bottom of ingredient list)

12 oz package of regular or whole wheat macaroni, cooked

1 cup milk, any kind

1 tbsp butter, Earth Balance or non-hydrogenated margarine

1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt

1/4 cup lowfat Cottage cheese

1 cup shredded low-fat sharp Cheddar cheese

1/2 cu shredded low-fat Colby Jack cheese

salt and pepper, to taste

2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese, optional but you should go for it anyway

*To cook the butternut squash, I steamed the cubes in my steamer basket for about 10 minutes. You could also use canned butternut squash puree. Whole Foods is the only place I’ve ever seen it sold, though. (aka: not cheap)

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2) Puree butternut squash in a large pan with a potato masher or hand-held mixer until smooth but not watery.

3) Heat same pan containing butternut puree over medium-high heat. Add the milk, butter, yogurt and Cottage cheese and stir until well combined.

4) When mixture begins to simmer, slowly start adding the Cheddar and Colby Jack cheeses, mixing the entire time.

5) When all the cheese is melted and the sauce begins to thicken, season with salt and pepper to taste.

6) Begin adding in the cooked macaroni a little at a time, until all the pasta is coated with the cheese sauce.

7) Transfer mixture to an oven-safe casserole dish and sprinkle with the Parmesan, if using. Bake 20 minutes.

8) Remove from oven and allow to cool 5-10 minutes (if you can) before serving. Dig in and prepare to keep coming back for seconds.. and thirds.

I think I scored mucho belly rubbing points from mi papa over this dish which I’ll be cashing in on very soon. But first, it’s time for my daily walk to the park with mi padres. Looks like rain. I better dress appropriately.

Utilizing the Peanut Butter Supply

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As you’ve probably noticed by now, we have quite a lot of peanut butter hanging out in the pantry of our kitchen. And by “a lot” I really mean more than any normal human being could ever hope to consume in her lifetime. Not that I would put it past mi mama to try to lick those jars clean before their expiration dates (and boy, if given the opportunity I would definitely like to be there to help her out), but we probably have enough to supply a small village in Chihuahua. So yet again I was inspired by the huge surplus of peanut butter and got to work creating a new recipe that could utilize some of it. And by “some” I mean the amount I actually ended up using barely made a dent in the overall amount we have left. Oh well, at least it’s one less bowl-full she’ll need to eat as a midnight snack (and 11am snack, and 2pm snack and pre-dinner appetizer…).

So after scanning the rest of the contents of our fridge and pantry, I came across three freckled bananas that were just screaming to be used in some sort of bread or baked good as well as a package of unopened gluten-free all-purpose flour mi mama had purchased a few weeks ago on a whim. Apparently she thinks she may have an intolerance to gluten… I think it’s just that her stomach lining has now turned into peanut butter and can no longer function properly in order to digest anything else. Still, the idea of creating a gluten-free baked good really intrigued me so I set forth to concoct a recipe featuring all three of these items. Therefore, I present to you my “Use up some peanut butter and over-ripe bananas” gluten-free peanut butter banana bread.

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Banana Bread

3 ripe bananas, mashed

1/3 cup plain nonfat yogurt (I used Oikos Greek yogurt)

1/3 cup peanut butter (I used crunchy)

3 tbsp butter, melted

2 tbsp unsweetened applesauce

2 large eggs

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1 1/2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour (I used the Bob’s Red Mill brand)

1/4 cup ground flaxseed 

1 tsp xanthan gum (this is used to add volume and viscosity to gluten-free breads)

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/3 cup dry-roasted peanuts, chopped (optional but really adds some awesome crunch)

Glaze:

1/3 cup powdered sugar

1 tbsp milk (any kind will work)

1 tbsp peanut butter (I used creamy)

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×5″ bread pan with Pam

2) Mix first 5 ingredients in a large bowl until well combined. Add the sugars and blend well.

3) In a medium size bowl, combine all other ingredients except peanuts.

4) Add dry ingredients to wet and stir until just moistened. Add the peanuts to combine.

5) Pour mixture into loaf pan and bake for 1 hour. A toothpick should come out clean when it’s done.

6) Allow to cool 10-15 minutes before removing from pan onto a cooling rack.

7) Combine the glaze ingredients in a small bowl with a whisk until smooth. Drizzle over the bread.

8) Cut a slice, smear with more peanut butter, wipe the drool from your mouth and devour.

I’m pretty sure this is a bread that will satisfy not only those looking to go gluten-free but also those just looking for a yummy banana bread bursting with peanut butter-y deliciousness.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go figure out what I’m going to make for dinner this evening. I’m thinking soup….

I’m baaaaaaack!!!

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Hola mi muchachos! The TeenyLittleSuperChef is back and boy does it feel good to be in the kitchen again. Mi best amiga, Bella, and I had a wonderful time together, seeing all the sights, going for long walks in the park, licking the insides of each other’s ears… so nice to have another culinary canine genius around again. She promised me that once she finds a decent picture of herself (oh women) she will write a guest post for the blog!

Enough about my absence though, time to get back to business. So last night, after mi amiga had left for the airport, I was feeling rather sad. So sad that I began drowning my sorrows in a large bag of Greenies and baby carrots. What can I say? I’m sometimes an emotional eater. Unfortunately, not only did I fail to feel any happier after eating my 13th carrot, but I also had a big stomach ache and knew I’d probably be paying later for all that fiber I had just consumed. So I put the bags away and decided instead of bingeing, I should create a new recipe that would remind me of my lovely friend and a trip to the Greek Isles we had taken a few years ago. Ahhh Greece. What a marvelous place for two little foodies to visit and explore. From the olives to the cheeses to the Spanakopitas, we were in total Mediterranean cuisine heaven. Not to mention all the nude beaches we came across. Finally we didn’t have to feel weird about being the only ones not wearing pants.

So after looking through the contents of our refrigerator and discovering we had an unopened container of Feta cheese, I came up with a delectable Greek recipe in honor of my petite Poodle friend.

Bella’s Greek Chicken Penne

16 oz Penne pasta

1 tbsp olive oil

1 cup yellow onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces

14 oz. can artichoke hearts, marinated or just in water

14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained

1 cup crumbled Feta cheese

3 tbsp fresh Parsley, chopped

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp dried oregano

6 oz can tomato paste

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1) Cook the pasta in a large pot until al dente. Drain and set aside.

2) Heat the oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic and chicken and cook until chicken is no longer pink.

3) Reduce heat to medium-low and add all other ingredients (including pasta) except Feta cheese. Allow to simmer 10 minutes.

4) Add cheese and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to individual bowls. Top with additional cheese if you wish. I did 🙂

Holy delicious-ness! Or as mi mama kept saying, “This meal is awesome-sauce!” (her vocabulary is very limited, as you can tell. Don’t worry, she will not be guest posting any time soon).

So the next time you’re feeling blue and the urge for Greek food suddenly hits, give this dish a try. I promise it’ll put a smile on your face. Or at least make you put down that bag of Greenies and baby carrots.

Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a whole lot of housework needing to be done and the maid is off for the day. If only I could find something to keep the dirt and grime off my lovely fur.

 

Ahhh, much better. Adios my friends.

Just a little heads-up

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Hello mi amigos! Just giving you a little heads-up that I might not be able to post for the next couple days. Mi best amiga from Tejas is coming to visit for a couple days and we’re going to be living it up. I promise I’ll be back with a vengeance and have some awesome recipes to share. I may have her guest post too since she is a fellow culinary genius and master chef (I taught her everything she knows).

Stay tuned and I’ll see you soon!

Hippie-chic Granola

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As you know, I’m quite the social butterfly. I get invited to a lot of functions and parties and I also frequently entertain at my own casa. More often than not, these get-togethers focus around food, whether it be breakfast, lunch or dinner and are usually that of the potluck variety. There is a monthly breakfast potluck I attend at a friend’s home on the lake and while I first started off by bringing a variety of different baked items, I realized the one thing I made that always got the most attention and praise was my granola. Ahh yes, leave it to the Oregonians for loving them some granola. The same folks who drive Subaru Outbacks and wear socks with their Birkenstocks. Anyone who says that’s just a stereotype of people in Oregon and not true, is just plain wrong. Not there’s anything inherently bad about wearing socks with their sandals (ahem, mi abuelo), but it doesn’t necessarily look good with tight biking shorts. But anyway, back to my much-loved granola. So I figured if it was granola that they requested at the monthly breakfast potluck, it was granola that they would get from that point on.

The beauty of the granola, other than the taste of course, is the vast number of combinations you can come up with. My granolas pretty much turn out different each time I make them, usually based upon what’s occupying my pantry at that point in time. For my most recent concoction, I was once again drawn to mi mama’s large peanut butter surplus and was inspired to create a granola with that as the main focus. It took awhile convincing her to unlock one of her jars from the mighty nut butter vault, but in the end, I managed to get my paws on one of her containers of crack peanut butter.

Peanutty Peanut Butter Granola

2/3 cup creamy peanut butter

2 tbsp unsweetened applesauce

2/3 cup agave nectar or honey

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla

3 cups quick-cooking oats

1/4 cup flaxseeds

2 tbsp wheat germ

1 cup peanuts

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

2) Heat all wet ingredients, peanut butter through vanilla, in a small saucepan until smooth and creamy ~5 minutes.

3) In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients.

4) Pour wet ingredients over dry and mix until thoroughly incorporated.

5) Spread granola into a thin layer on a baking sheet. Bake 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid burning.

6) Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before transferring to a container (or straight into your mouth).

So simple and easy, and yet so delicious. You can use the granola as a topping for a yogurt parfait, add it to your morning bowl of cereal or just eat it plain with a handful of raisins. Mmmmmmm!!! 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go “fertilize” mi mama’s potted plant. I hear it’s perfect for gardening.