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Now that cooler temperatures have begun to set in, it’s time to bust out my mini crockpot and serve up heaping bowls of oatmeal each morning. Oatmeal is such a great food to eat in the morning because it fills you up AND keeps you full. Now, I’ll admit it, I used to be an instant oatmeal kind of girl (mmm maple brown sugary goodness). It’s so easy to just throw a packet in the microwave and BOOM…oatmeal; but trust me, it ain’t got nothin’ on these oats. Besides, 1 packet of instant oatmeal never kept me full! I had to eat 3 packets; otherwise I’d be starving around 10am. Not cool.

This recipe yields 4 HEFTY servings (at around 250 calories…depending on your “add-ins). Trust me, you won’t be hungry in 2 hours after eating this hot cereal!

I love to utilize the slow cooker method for oatmeal because it makes breakfast a breeze. I throw everything into the 3 1/2 quart crockpot, give it a stir, set the temperature to low snd say “nighty night.” When we wake up, we have a wholesome, no brainer, breakfast; piping hot and ready to eat! It’s pretty much the greatest thing ever! Not to mention, any leftovers become lunch for JBird (since she can’t seem to scarf down enough of it!).

Here’s what I use when making my super awesome oatmeal:

-1C Scottish Oatmeal (aka porridge) **I use Bob’s Red Mill brand because it’s the absolute best (taste wise and nutritionally). You could also use Steel Cut Oats, but steer clear of quick oats. You’ll end up with a gummy mess (and no breakfast…wah wah)**

-3C water

-1C unsweetened vanilla almond milk

-1/2 tsp salt

-a few dashes of cinnamon

-a few dashes of nutmeg

-2 tbs ground flax

-some “spray oil” (like Pam) to coat the inside of the crock to prevent sticking.

Set on low for 8-10 hours (however long you sleep for)

wake up and enjoy!

I add 2 tsp of pure maple syrup and a sliced up banana to mine after it’s done cooking. It’s totally boss.

Things to add while it’s cooking:

-raisins

-dried cherries

-chopped apples (yumm! I bet this would taste like apple crisp!)

-pears

-figs

-dates

-dried blueberries

-shredded zucchini (it would totally taste like zucchini bread batter! Oh Em Gee!)

Optional Post-Cooking Toppings:

-fresh blueberries

-honey (but don’t feed this to your babies! thanks.)

-pure maple syrup (none of that maple flavored junk that comes in fun shaped bottles)

-walnuts, pecans, almonds…whatever you like, go nuts! (haha!)

-banana!

The possibilities are endless!

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I like to call this dish: “Free Ta-Ta”. Mainly, I just like an excuse to say “Ta-Ta (s)”.

However, I think this is more of a combination of a frittata and a quiche. A “Fruiche” or maybe a “Quittata”…we’ll just stick with “Free Ta-Ta”

This recipe is great for Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch or Dinner! Seriously, it’s THAT versatile!

It’s incredibly savory and mouth watering…I’m drooling just thinking about it.

Plus, the leftovers (heated up in the oven) are crazy good.

This recipe is adapted from a Williams Sonoma Recipe

What You’ll Need:

-1 tbs olive oil

-1 bag of frozen organic spinach (I always try to buy organic spinach; fresh or frozen)

-1 medium bell pepper; chopped

-1 package of sausage (I used a local all-pork breakfast sausage)

-2 eggs and 1 egg white

-3/4 cup of milk (check and make sure your milk is RBGH-free! If not, switch to organic)

-3/4 cup white whole wheat flour (unbleached all purpose would work just fine too)

-1 tbs dry mustard (or 1 tbs grain mustard)

-1/2 cup of shredded cheese (I like to use provolone or monterey jack)

-1 tsp garlic powder

-1 tsp onion powder

-1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

-salt and pepper 

Combine eggs, milk, flour and mustard in a small bowl. I find that it’s best to use a bowl that has a fitted lid (ie: Pyrex). Whisk until the eggs are fully beaten and there are no lumps. Refrigerate for at least one hour before you start cooking.

Preheat the oven to 425°.

In a cast iron skillet (an absolutely essential tool in any kitchen), heat the oil until hot. Add the sausage. Cook until just browned (it doesn’t have to be 100% cooked because it’ll finish in the oven). Remove sausage from the skillet and set aside in a small bowl. Add the chopped pepper to the remaining hot oil and tasty brown bits; cook until tender. Add the bag of frozen spinach; along with the spices. Cook the pepper and spinach together until the spinach is no longer frozen. Turn your burner off but don’t remove the skillet from the stovetop.

Remove your egg mixture from the fridge and stir in the shredded cheese. Add the mixture and the sausage (including any juices from the bowl) to the skillet of veggies. Using a wooden spoon, stir to combine everything, smoothing the surface as you go. Before you put the frittata in the oven, you want to make sure the surface is nice and even.

*If you feel so inclined: sprinkle the top with freshly grated parmesan to give it a little kick*

Place you skillet directly into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes (or until the top begins to brown).

Let cool for 5 minutes before serving. Serve it up with a fresh salad of mixed greens and a light balsamic dressing. De-lish!

Makes 4-6 (big) servings

Optional Substituions:

-ham

-bacon

-meatless sausage

-asparagus

-mushrooms

-sweet onion

-swiss or cheddar cheese

Make it your own!



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Camp Cooking

Wow! It has been WEEKS since I last posted anything! I apologize for dropping the ball. Luckily, summer is almost over which means our lives will be slowing down a bit (Actually, that’s a total lie. I’m pretty sure things will never slow down. Life in the fast lane baby!)

We will be leaving EARLY Thursday morning to make a 10 hour journey to Delaware, Ohio. We will be meeting friends from NY at a state park and spending labor day weekend (through Tuesday) together…because we all know that no one should be alone on labor day (Haha, I hope Kim is laughing right now).

To prepare for this 5 day long rustic retreat I decided to assemble and freeze our camp meals before leaving, then I will cook them in our awesome new Lodge dutch oven. This way we won’t have to buy a bunch of food once we get there and we won’t have to lug a bunch of food with us in our already overpacked car.

I was totally inspired to make and freeze our meals after reading an absolutely GENIUS blog post about make-ahead slow cooker meals. You can read it for yourself here:

Freezer Cooking With Slow Cooker Recipes (it seriously blew my mind…this woman should win an award…seriously)

So, I put together 3 meals: plus, I’m marinading a pound of chicken spiedies that I will freeze tomorrow. We will be consuming: Turkey Chili, Vegetarian Southwest Stew, and Tacos (the theme of these meals: cumin…and lots of it).

Here are the (incredibly simple) recipes for these homemade frozen meals:

Turkey Chili: (makes 4-6 servings)

-1/2 a pound of lean turkey meat

-1 green bell pepper: chopped

-1/2 of a large yellow onion: finely chopped

-3 cloves of garlic: minced

-1 15oz can of kidney beans: rinsed and drained

-1 28oz can of crushed tomatoes

-1 packet of chili seasoning OR 1tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp cumin and 1 tbs chili powder

big bag full of uncooked chili. how exotic.


Chili Bag!

Add ingredients to a gallon-sized zip top freezer bag. Freeze. When you’re ready to cook it, empty frozen contents into a slow cooker or dutch oven and add about a cup of water (I’ll be using a cast iron dutch oven over a bed of coals). In the slow cooker: cook for 4 hours on high OR 8 hours on low. In a dutch oven: cook for an hour, give everything a stir, then cook for an additional hour if needed. I like my chili to simmer for several hours so I’m going to do my best to keep my coals at an even, low temperature (and plan on cooking my chili for about 3 hours).

Southwest Stew: (makes 4-6 servings)

-1 cup of frozen (or fresh) corn kernels

-1 jar of salsa

-1/2 of a yellow onion: finely chopped

-1 large sweet potato: peeled and chopped into 1 inch chunks

-1 15oz can of chickpeas: rinsed and drained

-1 tbs of cumin (I LOVE cumin…so I add a lot…but if you have a more reserved palate try adding only 1 tsp of cumin at first. You can always add more later if you’d like)

mmm...bag o' stew

by laying the bags flat in the freezer they won't take up as much room

Add your ingredients to a gallon-sized zip top bag. Freeze. Once you’re ready to cook, add the frozen contents to you slow cooker/dutch oven. Add 1 cup of water and 1 tbs of olive oil. If using a slow cooker: cook on low for 8 hours, of high for 4 hours (until the sweet potatoes are tender). If you’re using a dutch oven: cook over medium-high heat for an hour (or until sweet potatoes are tender). Serve with fresh corn bread muffins! Yum!

Tacos: (makes 4 servings)

-1/2 a pound of lean turkey meat

-1 15oz can of black beans: rinsed and drained

-1 packet of taco seasoning OR a combination of garlic powder, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper (because I totally forgot to buy taco seasoning).

Toss ingredients together in a half-gallon sized freezer bag. Freeze. When you’re ready to cook, add frozen contents to a skillet/slow cooker/dutch oven, add about 2 tbs of water and cook (covered) until the meat is done. Serve with warmed tortillas and all your favorite fixins’.

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(are you drooling yet?)

I have been craving peaches like nobody’s business lately. It seems like every time I walk past the produce section of a market, all I can smell are peaches. It’s heavenly.

Since we’re housing out of town guests for the week, I decided that a tasty “peachy” dessert was an absolute necessity for this week’s menu. At first, I was toying with the idea of baking a peach pie..but then I realized that I don’t like peach pie (and what fun is baking something that you, yourself, don’t like? Answer: No fun at all). Then it hit me, PEACH UPSIDE DOWN CAKE (and yes, I did in fact YELL that in the middle of the grocery store while looking at peaches…like a crazy person).

There was only one (minor) detail: Not only had I never baked an upside down cake from scratch before; but I had never baked a single cake (of any kind) from scratch before (aside from flourless chocolate cake). Isn’t that just the wildest thing ever! Sure, I’ve baked pies, cookies, breads, and brownies..but never a cake. I’m just not a big cake person. I like it when it’s REALLY good…but I’ve had way too many REALLY bad cakes to call myself a cake fan. Such is life.

After a wave of shame washed over me, I decided that this very serious character flaw needed to be amended…ASAP. So I bought 5 pounds of peaches and went on my merry way.

I adapted this recipe from a Plum Raspberry Upside Down Cake recipe by Martha Stewart (Oh Martha, You’re just so fabulous). The cake, itself, is moist yet crumbly; almost like a scone. It’s very lightly sweetened, yet has a hint of spiciness to it. The peaches and raspberries are absolutely perfect together. In a word: Ah-Mazing!

Needless to say, I was thrilled with the way it turned out. Go me!

Did I mention how ridiculously easy this was to bake? Seriously, I think the most difficult part was slicing the peaches. I’m not even joking.

What You’ll Need:

6 ripe peaches; uniformly slice 4 of the peaches and chop the remaining 2 peaches.

1 and 1/4 sticks of unsalted butter; 8 tablespoons at room temperature and 2 tablespoons melted

1/3 C light brown sugar

half a pint of fresh raspberries

1 1/2 C unbleached all purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp baking powder

3/4 C raw cane sugar

3 egg yolks

1/2 c organic sour cream

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4  tsp nutmeg

1 tsp vanilla

Pre heat your oven to 375°. In a greased springform pan, coat the bottom of the pan with 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Sprinkle the brown sugar on top of the melted butter. Place the sliced peaches on top of the brown sugar, in whatever pattern you see fit. I chose a nice spiral pattern. Fit individual raspberries between the cracks of the peaches (spreading them out somewhat evenly). The bottom of your pan should be completely covered with fruit. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine your flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and baking powder. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream together remaining butter and sugar. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, until thoroughly blended. Now, add half of your dry ingredients to the bowl and mix until combined. Add the sour cream and vanilla to the bowl and mix (slowly) until combined. Add the other half of your  dry ingredients. Once the batter is combined, fold the chopped peaches into the batter.

Using a wooden spoon, drop spoonfuls of the batter on top of the peaches and raspberries in your springform pan. Smooth out the surface of the cake before putting it into the oven (unless you want a lumpy bottomed cake…then by all means skip this step). Bake for 60 minutes.

Serve warm or cool. It’s especially tasty with a big ol’ dollop of natural vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

Makes 12 servings.

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Eggplant Lasagna

Am I crazy for turning my oven on in this 100° weather? Maybe.

I don’t care. This lasagna is worth it. It’s ridiculously delicious.

This recipe came to me in a dream. True story. I take that as a sign that this lasagna MUST be shared with the world. You’re welcome. (I’m also pretty sure Neil Patrick Harris was in the same dream…possibly as Barney Stinson…eating whole eggplants. Random? Yes, but pretty typical for my weird-o brain. I should probably stop watching HIMYM before bedtime).

**Wow, I just reread that last part and could hear NPH speaking it. Get out of my brain!**

I wanted to have a lasagna that was heavy on the veggies, but have a texture and consistency similar to “typical” lasagnas.

After I cooked the sauce in a dutch oven, I let it cool a bit; then add the whole thing to my food processor (you could use a blender too).

By pureeing the sauce, it becomes a veggie-marinara. Tastes like “typical” marinara but is more rich in vitamins. Plus, it gets a fun orange color.

It’s JBird approved.

What you’ll need :

– 12 whole wheat lasagna noodles

-16oz part skim ricotta

– 1 cup shredded mozzarella 

-1 cup grated parmesan

– 1 eggplant; thinly sliced

-1 zucchini; shredded

-5 carrots; peeled and shredded

– 5 ripe tomatoes; whole with the tops cut off

-6 cloves of garlic; chopped

-1 onion; chopped

-2 tbsp olive oil

-1 handful fresh basil; whole leaves

-1 tsp dried oregano

-1 tsp garlic powder

-1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

-1 tsp seasoned salt

-salt and pepper

Let’s get saucy! In a dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over high heat. Once the oil is nice and hot, add your chopped onions and garlic. Add a few grinds of salt and pepper, and cook until the onions are tender.

Now, add the whole tomatoes, basil, shredded carrots and zucchini to the dutch oven. Cover, turn your heat down to low and let simmer for 2-3 hours; stirring occasionally.

In a small bowl, combine ricotta, parmesan, oregano, garlic powder, crushed red pepper flakes and seasoned salt. Ricotta is virtually flavorless, so by adding some spices it really “peps” it up a bit. Plus, I love the combination of cheeses in the layers of this dish. Super tasty. Set your cheese mixture aside (preferably in your refrigerator) until you’re ready to assemble your lasagna.

Once the veggies in your sauce have had a chance to break down and “mingle” together, remove your dutch oven from the heat and let cool uncovered for about 10 minutes. **It doesn’t need to be completely cool, just not HOT enough to cause damage to your food processor (or blender)** Puree on low until everything is a uniform consistency (i.e.: no more chunks of tomatoes or zucchini). Pour the blended sauce back into your dutch oven, put back on your burner and let cook, covered, for an additional 30-45 minutes. You could also use an immersion blender to puree everything IN your dutch oven! They are super handy and I will forever regret giving mine away. One of my few regrets in life. C’est la vie. 

Tip: I usually add about 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese to the sauce at this point. Just for kicks. You can leave it out but I think it takes the sauce to a whole new level…so, do it!

Preheat your oven to 375°. Place uncooked noodles in a large pot of boiling walter. You don’t need to cook them completely; you just want to soak them long enough so they cooperate with you (i.e. flexible, not rigid). About 5 minutes.

In a greased 9×13 pan, cover the bottom of the dish with a thin layer of veggie sauce. Layer your lasagna as follows:

Noodles-Sauce-Sliced Eggplant-Sauce-Ricotta/Parmesan

Noodles-Sauce-Sliced Eggplant-Sauce-Ricotta/Parmesan

Noodles-Sauce-Mozzerella!

Phew, that was a workout! Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes; or until the top is nice and bubbly.

Tip: I usually spray the foil with a non-stick spray so the cheese doesn’t stick it

Let sit for 10 minutes before serving. Trust me, this dish is legend…wait for it…dary.

Serves 12

Tip: You could easily make this sauce in a slow cooker if you’d like. Just pop all your ingredients into the slow cooker, put on the lid, and cook on LOW for 8 hours. Heck, you could make the sauce ahead of time (like on a Sunday), then assemble you’re lasagna in the slow cooker the next day! By the time you get home from work, it’ll be ready to devour! I just love slow cookers. 

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