Sunday, January 26, 2014

Recipe Reviews and Links from Last Week

Last week, I tried 4 new recipes. 

My own stir fry with HHLL Pad Thai Sauce 
My favorite was the Pad Thai Sauce from Happy Herbivore Light and Lean.  I followed the sauce recipe exactly adding my own Udon Noodles (found at my local Fry's) and stir fry vegetables, some frozen and some fresh. I will use more fresh veggies when I make it  again this week, especially more broccoli, but I used what I had the first time. I also added some peanuts for crunch and texture. The sauce is delicious and contains pantry staple ingredients. DH loved it too. Fabulous!

Basic Lentil Soup
The  2nd recipe that I tried which was fabuloso was this Basic Lentil Soup recipe from It was quick and easy to make and packed with flavor. It also was not an expensive meal to make. We ate it by itself, with Alexia  Whole Grain Rolls, and with a salad.  I did tweak the recipe a little. First, I sweat sauteed my veggies to avoid using any oil, and I left out the spinach since I had used all mine the previous day. I also did not add any salt since most of what I cook is lo salt or salt free for dietary purposes, and I used fire roasted tomatoes instead of regular for a deeper flavor. I also blended 1 1/2 c- 2 c of the soup then added it back to the post for texture. And, like other reviewers, I did have to add some more broth or water as it was very thick due to the lentils. I suggest either lowering the amount of lentils you use or just add more liquid like I did. I was dubious using the vinegar but it worked. DH tasted the soup and asked if it had meat in it (it did not) because it was so hearty. A little Cholula on top is also good before eating it, but absolutely not necessary. This recipe is going into our regular meal rotation.
Perfect Chicken
The other two recipes I tried this week were chicken recipes. The first one was a hit with all and just like the name suggests, it really is Perfect Chicken.  All my kids liked it and DH too. He ate his on top of a salad while my boys ate theirs with veggies and a fruit. I didn't eat it since I've not been eating meat, but I did taste it (and spit it out) and it was flavorful and juicy. It is great too because like the two previous recipes, it only used staple ingredients that most kitchens , I would imagine, have on hand.
The other chicken recipe I tried was Betty Crocker's Parmesan-Dijon Chicken.  It also was easy and flavorful, though not as good as the Perfect Chicken. I was a little dubious that the kids would taste the Dijon and say "ick," but it was subtle and I think added moisture to the dish.

Did any of you try any new recipes this week?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Friday Favorites

The past 2 weeks I returned to to log all my food choices. With the exception of a time or two (Internet problems), I have been posting regularly. I had not been on myfitnesspal for awhile but now, I am loving it more than I ever did for two reasons:  the bar code scanner (quick and easy) and the nutrition circle graph. The bar code scanner is great when adding foods to your diary because it scans the bar code, finds the food, and automatically brings up the nutritional information for you. Your only job then is to accept or change the serving size based on how much of a food you have eaten. It's great. Easy peasy. I also like the added nutrition circle graph (see right) As you log your food it adjusts your ratios of carbs, fat, and proteins. You can see how much of each type of food you consumed and what your consumption goal should be....very helpful I think.  I also love the mobile ap which allows me to use my iphone to do everything. I have tried a lot of food tracking systems and nutrition sites where I can log my eating, but by far, is my favorite. 

My favorite banana:  I have discovered that for some reason Trader Joe's organic bananas last longer than any other type of banana I have tried and they taste great. At 29 cents each, I think they're a bargain.

My favorite sweet treat from Trader Joe's is the dark chocolate caramel wedges. They taste similar to rolos. I don't get them every trip and I don't eat them often, but they are great to have around for a quick sweet fix....

My favorite quick protein  (other than nuts) is Kroger fat free cottage cheese.  I don't drink milk, but I really enjoy my cottage cheese. At 15 g of protein per half cup, no fat, and low low sugar, I can't beat it. Plus it isn't very expensive. It's not for everybody, but it is for me.

Do you have a food favorite from this week or a new food related find that you're excited about?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Yummy Tropical Green Smoothie

I had this delicious green smoothie today. Since I didn't have any protein powder to put in it, I paired it with some peanut butter crackers. Yum.

Yummy Tropical Green Smoothie

1 c unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 c spinach
1 c frozen tropical fruit (I freeze fresh fruit salad leftovers all the time and pop them into smoothies. This homemade blend was tropical)
A drizzle of honey

Blend almond and spinach together  till no spinach chunks remain. Add frozen fruit and a drizzle of honey and blend till smooth. 

(Chia seeds are a great smoothie add in. I had planned to have some in this smoothie but a kitchen mishap prevented that.) 

Check out this post from 100 Days of Real Food all about making the perfect green smoothie. The graphic, in particular, is great. I suggest pinning or printing it. This site has a wealth of information for healthy eating. I do suggest you hop on over and check it out.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Baked Power Oatmeal Squares

Fresh out of the oven

I tried something new this morning.  After searching the web and looking at many many baked oatmeal recipes, I decided to try to make my Power Oatmeal into baked bars. Through myfitnesspal each serving has 203 calories in it.  I have decided it is best served warm (10 seconds in the microwave should do it).  

When I first tasted it, I thought it tasted a lot like banana bread, which is good because I like banana bread. I might still play around with the recipe a bit to try different flavor profiles, but these baked squares were pretty good just the way I made them.  I used applesauce for an oil substitute and a mashed banana for  consistency and sweetness. I might try applesauce and grated apple next time. My goal was to use no oil and I did accomplish that. If you want to make it completely vegan, you could probably use an egg replacer or add more baking powder and simply skip the eggs. I don't do a lot of vegan baking, but I read a lot of vegan blogs, and I know there are ways to "veganize" just about everything it that's how you roll.  Just play around with the basic recipe to get it the way you want it. 

These squares were good plain, or the way the twins ate them as an after school snack today:  warmed in the wave and sprinkled with powdered sugar.. DH said it was okay, yet he still ate two. Only my oldest child didn't care for them.  I think the kids would like them even better sans the dried fruit and walnuts, but with chocolate chips. So, I may need to try that soon too. I also think grated carrots and raisins would be good for a Faux Carrot Cake Baked Oatmeal Square. And I think a little maple syrup might be a good addition as well.  Variety is the great thing about these squares.  You can vary the add-ins based on your personal tastes and those of your family. 

I loved that the twins ate these squares because it was a good way for me to sneak in "weird" foods (aka healthy ones that they might normally turn there nose up at) like chia seeds, almond milk, and ground flax...CHA CHING!  Mom for the win!

Somebody liked these squares because here's what's left... and the nights not over yet.
Almost gone...

Baked Power Oatmeal Squares

1 applesauce cup (I used Kroger unsweetened cups, 4 oz)
1 small mashed banana
2 eggs
1/4 c brown sugar
1 c unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
3 c rolled oats
 1/4 c Trader Joe's Golden Berry Blend (dried fruit blend)
2 tsp chia seeds
2 Tbsp ground flax
1/4 c walnut pieces

Mix together applesauce through brown sugar and blend till mixed well.
Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Pour all into a greased 9 X 13 baking dish, and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25 minutes.  Let cool about 5-10 minutes then cut into squares. I cut mine into 12 squares.  Yum!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Cooking Now...Angela Liddon's Roasted Spiced Chickpeas.

Today as I wait for the workers to come and put in my new heating and air-conditioning system I'm feeling like I want to try something new in the kitchen. So today, I am reviewing Angela Liddon's Roasted Spiced Chickpeas. I am starting off by draining my chickpeas and rinsing them in a colander. I did this to get rid of any excess sodium that was on them because these were low-sodium chickpeas not "no salt added " chickpeas.

While they are draining I put the half teaspoon of olive oil in the bottom of my mixing bowl. Now I am draining the chickpeas with paper towels just as, Angela has suggested.  Per instructions, I just put my chickpeas in my bowl and tossed them so that they are covered with the olive oil. Now I am supposed to put the spices on. I use this handy dandy little sauce cup for many things in my kitchen, but one thing I like to do with it is to put all my spices for a recipe in it and mix them up together in the sauce cup first before I put them on whatever the dishes that I make it. I do this rather than just sprinkling on the him spices separately because I think it blends the flavors more and make sure that all the flavors are more evenly spread out. I don't know if this is scientifically the best thing to do but it's what I do and I feel it works well with almost every recipe.
Awesome Sauce Cup
Mixed chickpeas with spices
Ready to go into the oven
Now the chickpeas are in the oven cooking. I am dubious about these chickpeas because I have never try tried a chickpea recipe that I like as far as a "snacking chickpeas." I love hummus. And I love chickpeas in salads. And I even love chick peas mashed in a wrap. But roasted chickpeas have never been my thing. I have never had a recipe that turned out. One of the problems, I think, is always cooking them the appropriate amount of time. I never know how long is long enough or too long. Right now, my chickpeas are roasting and they should be 20 minutes into it very soon.  Angela suggests in her recipe at least 20 minutes. She said because she likes them crispy so she cooks hers a full 40 minutes. I think I'm going to go in between both those times and maybe do 30 minutes.

 I am hearing a slight popping. Could the chickpeas be exploding? I better check.... No exploding chickpeas, bu they are getting a nice color of brown though. Angela suggests using these spiced chickpeas on her Thai Cucumber Salad (which I didn't think of making ahead of time so I'm not going to because I don't have all the ingredients). However, she also said you can use these chickpeas as a snack, so that is what I'm doing.  If I like them and they turn out, I may save them for dinner since we're having a big salad for dinner.  More popping... turns out they are exploding. My timer says three minutes left, so I'm going to let them go for three more minutes. Or maybe I should take them out now...hmmm,  don't know.

Finished product
Okay, so I let the timer expire and did cook them a full 30 minutes. Let me just say that these little balls taste like seasoned french fries,  somewhere between the frozen  lightly seasoned fries from O-reida and the more seasoned fries you would get at a restaurant of fast food place. I put 1/8 tsp of ketchup in one of my handy dandy little sauce cups and mixed in 2 Tbsp of chickpeas and they were good that way too. Now, I don't need the extra sugar or calorie,s but it might be a way for me to get the kids to like them. We'll see.  

I am pleasantly surprised.. I will make them again for sure. I wish they were saltier, but I never cook with salt for health reasons (I just love the stuff) so I will never add anymore. Love them! Angela is right though, that they do lose their crispiness as they sit. I wonder why. It doesn't matter, they're still delicious.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Soft Pretzels

Before winter break from school, my oldest son's German class had an assignment to make and share food from Germany ( or German related food).  My son made these hot pretzels below. He found a recipe from the web and we cut it in half to make 8 soft pretzels . Cut in half, the recipe was very similar to a recipe I got from a friend years ago. I don't have a stand mixer so the dough was mixed in my food processor using the dough blade and the dough setting. The hardest part of the recipe was just twisting the pretzels into a pleasing pretzel shape... And even that was pretty easy.  So the recipe is below. I do not know where my friend got the original recipe, but it is not mine. Still, it's so good, I wanted to share it with you. 

Easy Peasy Fool Proof Homemade Soft Pretzels

3/4 c warm water (110-115 degrees)
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp active dry yeast ( I think it is equivalent to half a packet)
2 1/2 c all purpose flour plus a little more for kneading
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp melted butter
10 c water
2/3 c baking soda
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 Tbsp water
Pretzel salt
Nonstick oil spray or olive oil

Combine water and sugar in a stand mixer or food processor bowl. Sprinkle the yeast on top and let sit for 5 minutes till foamy and frothy.

Next add flour, salt, and melted butter and using dough hook or dough blade mix ingredients and knead for 5 minutes till smooth and not sticky. You might need to add a little more flour as necessary. At the end of 5 minutes the dough should be smooth and  it should pull away from the side of your bowl.  

Remove dough from food processor or mixing bowl and roll into a ball shape. Put it in a clean, lightly oiled bowl, and cover with oiled plastic wrap. Set in a warm place and let rise for 1 hour. (Hint: if you live in a place where it is not warm or if your house is cold, set the bowl on top of the stove and turn the oven on warm or low @ 200. The heat below the bowl will help the dough to rise. I use this method successfully all the time with breads and rolls.) The dough should be doubled in size by the hour's end.

Bring 10 c of water and baking soda to a rolling boil in a soup pot and preheat the oven to 450.

Separate the dough into eight pieces and using your hands roll each piece into  a 12-24 inch rope. Mine were somewhere in between.  Make a U shape with each rope and then criss-cross each end over the other making a "close to classic" pretzel twist, and press each crossed end into the bottom of the U  to form each pretzel. Put pretzels onto an oiled parchment paper covered cookie sheet. 

Gently drop pretzels into boiling water, one at a time for 30 seconds, then remove with a slotted spoon or  spatula. Drain for a second or two and put back onto parchment covered cookie sheet. When all pretzels are out of the boiling water, mix egg yolk and 1 Tbsp of water and beat together.

Brush each pretzel with egg yolk- water mixture and  sprinkle with pretzel salt.  Bake in 450 degree oven till dark golden brown in color,  about 12-14 minutes. Once out of the oven, remove pretzels and transfer them to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

I would suggest eating the pretzels right away as they are best that way. My son took them to school the next day in a Tupperware container, and while they still tasted good, the tops had softened and wrinkled up somewhat. Before I make them again, I need to investigate the best way to store them, though they are so good they won't last overnight in my house with 3 teenage boys. I think I will try a batch with white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour or a mix of whole wheat and all purpose just to see how that works.

They are perfection , however, just the way they are. Enjoy!