Monthly Archives: January 2012

Getting our Hands Dirty

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These Honey, Parmesan, & Rosemary Scones were a lot of fun to make with the kids.  Picking herbs from the garden for dinner is fun as-is, but they were extra excited about getting to knead the dough and cut out the circles.  This was actually our second attempt at the recipe; the first batch was a little burnt, which I should have expected with my oven.  We only cooked the scones for 10 minutes the second time.  I added extra parmesan in the dough (3/4 cup instead of 1/2 cup) and sprinkled more parmesan on top of each scone before baking.  Also, I subbed in 1/2 cup of whole wheat pastry flour for some of the regular flour.  We had them with a big bowl of Bucatini Vongole — perfect for soaking up all that garlicky sauce.

A Delicious Pantry Upgrade

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A Few Selections from Oil & Vinegar

I was recently out with my daughter Samantha at Watters Creek, our favorite outdoor shopping center.  I had heard about a new store that had dozens of oils and vinegars “on tap”, which sounded so intriguing.  Samantha was having a good time outside and resisted at first, but once I got her into the store, I couldn’t get her out.  We had so much fun sampling Oil & Vinegar‘s fares with the tiniest bits of bread on toothpicks; I could see I had a little seven-year old foodie in the making.

The concept is a lot of fun — you can pick from different sizes and shapes of glass bottles, which can be brought back to the store to be refilled (nice for the environment too).  You can try everything before you buy it.  In the end (literally, an hour later), Samantha chose the Rosemary Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which is great on its own, and also delicious mixed with the Parmesan Dipper mix she just had to have.  We also bought the Lime Riesling Grapeseed Oil (great for cooking fish at high temperatures), the Fig Balsam Creme Vinegar (so far we’ve just mixed it with Rosemary EVOO for dipping, but it will be perfect in salads and for vegetable dishes), and finally, the White Truffle Oil, which, as my friend Tara says, makes pretty much everything taste 1000 times better.

I want to go back to try a few more things, but I’ve told myself we have to finish at least one of these existing bottles first.  A fine excuse to keep on cooking.

More Muffins (No Vegetables this Time)

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Better Blueberry Muffins

My daughter Lauren made a request for blueberry muffins.  She doesn’t like raw blueberries, but she is a muffin monster — it seems she will eat anything if it arrives baked with a little flour and sugar.  I may have to try the spinach muffin recipe I saw recently…

This Better Blueberry Muffin recipe is another hit from the Ellie Krieger cookbook I’ve been enjoying so much, “Comfort Food Fix”.  These muffins are kept light and airy with applesauce, low-fat yogurt, and lots of lemon zest.  Whole-wheat pastry flour bumps up the fiber count.  And for 200 calories, they are a really good size.

A New Kind of Spaghetti Night

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Creamy Avocado Spaghetti

The first thing I ever learned to cook was spaghetti with meat sauce — in home ec class, no less.  I can remember asking my Mom if I could use my newfound skills to cook dinner for her and my Dad, and I put a little shake of everything I could find in the spice cabinet into that sauce.  The bad news:  my Mom has always had a very well-stocked spice cabinet.  She looked up from her plate and asked, “is this dill I taste?”.  That was my first lesson on how not to make spaghetti sauce.  But as a teenager there were a lot of spaghetti nights with friends, and in those settings we tended to revert back to just throwing in whatever we could find, and it was always a ton of fun.

My girls love spaghetti too, but they are not big on tomato sauce.  I need to keep working on that one.  In the meantime, I thought I would try Angela Liddon’s quick creamy avocado pasta with basil, lemon, garlic, and olive oil.  I stayed true to the recipe at the beginning, although I opted for just one clove of garlic (I wanted the kids to like this).  Once everything was blended in the mini-chopper, it seemed thick and very lemony, so I added some extra olive oil, a few tablespoons of water, and a good handful of shredded parmesan.  And suddenly, it tasted just like summer with all that fresh basil and olive oil.  After mixing the sauce with the spaghetti I added about 1/3 cup of the starchy pasta water and topped it off with more parmesan.  There was a lot of sauce — the recipe says it is for 2 servings of pasta; I made 3 servings of pasta and there was still sauce leftover.

The verdict?  Amazing!  And so easy to make.  Lauren was clearly thrown off by the green color, but she was fine after a few bites.  Samantha loved this dish.  But she also commented, “I wish it was bucatini instead of spaghetti!”.  That’s my girl.

Green Goddess Saves the Day

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Shrimp with Green Goddess Dipping Sauce

I was flipping through Ellie Krieger‘s latest cookbook when Samantha caught sight of the Oven-Fried Shrimp recipe and requested that I make it.  I usually only get requests for muffins and dessert, so I was happy to oblige.  The picture in the cookbook showed the shrimp dipped into a gorgeous green dressing, which Samantha made a face at.  I decided to make the avocado dipping sauce anyway, and it was fantastic — the best part of the meal.  I will use the leftover sauce as a salad dressing and on sandwiches.

The shrimp were crispy and tasted great, but breading food is a lot of work in my opinion.  This opinion probably stems from the fact that I love shrimp that are cooked simply in a little olive oil, wine, and garlic — no breading needed.  In hindsight I would make the bread crumbs and dipping sauce ahead of time.  But I knew the kids would like these as a change, so it was worth trying something new.

When we sat down to dinner, I really talked up the green dipping sauce — told Samantha all about the parsley and the lemon, two things she likes.  Didn’t mention the avocado.  It wasn’t until I said it was called “Green Goddess Sauce” that she got excited and said it was “sooo good”.  She ate most of it, and even convinced her little sister to give it a try.  Perhaps I should start renaming the rest of the green foods that appear at our dinner table.

These recipes are adapted from Ellie Krieger’s Comfort Food Fix cookbook — I did make a few changes along the way.

Oven-Fried Shrimp (Serves 4):

Cooking spray

1/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour

3 large egg whites

1 1/3 cup whole-wheat bread crumbs

1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme

2 tsp grated lemon zest

1/4 tsp salt

Pinch cayenne pepper

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined (tails on or off)

Lemon wedges, for serving

To make bread crumbs:  Pulse 3-4 slices of whole-wheat sandwich bread in a food processor.  Toast in the oven at 350 F for 10 minutes (until lighted browned).  Allow to cool.

Preheat the oven to 425 F.  Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.  Place the flour on a plate.  Beat the egg whites in a shallow bowl.  On another plate, combine bread crumbs, thyme, lemon zest, salt, and cayenne.

Rinse shrimp and pat dry with paper towels.  Dip the shrimp into the flour, shaking off any excess.  Then dip the shrimp into the egg whites, and coat with the bread crumbs.  Set the breaded shrimp onto a large plate.

When all the shrimp are breaded, place the prepared baking sheet into the oven to preheat for 3 minutes.  Remove the tray from the oven and place the breaded shrimp on it.  Spray the tops of the shrimp with cooking spray.  Bake 10 minutes, flipping once halfway through, until crispy outside and cooked through (cooking time may be longer for extra-large shrimp).

Avocado Green Goddess Dipping Sauce (Serves 8):

1 ripe medium avocado

2 scallions, coarsely chopped

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

2/3 cup low-fat buttermilk

1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves

2 tsp anchovy paste

1/4 tsp salt

Place all ingredients in the small bowl of a food processor and process until smooth.

Pumpkin and Spice and Everything Nice

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Pumpkin Spice Muffins

I’ve been baking with vegetables again.  This Pumpkin and Spice and Everything Nice muffin recipe is from “The Looneyspoons Collection” cookbook my husband gave me for Christmas.  The authors, Janet & Greta Podleski, are Canadian sisters with a bunch of fun cookbooks, and it’s safe to say that most of the cooking I attempted in my early 20s came from the original “Looneyspoons” cookbook (the only cookbook I owned).  The book has improved from 15 years ago and I’m happy to report that my cooking has too.

These muffins turned out beautifully — filled with pumpkin, carrot, chocolate chips, and LOTS of pumpkin pie spice.  The house smells fantastic.  This recipe uses maple syrup instead of sugar for sweetness, which goes so well with the pumpkin.  I substituted 1/4 cup of wheat germ for 1/4 cup of the flour to bump up the health factor even more.  I also put walnuts on top of half the muffins instead of mixing them in, to ensure harmony in the household come breakfast-time.

Some Like it Hot

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Wasabi Broiled Halibut

I saw Rachael Ray use this method of cooking fish with her Wasabi Broiled Black Cod and had to try it.  You just mix wasabi paste (I used more than the recipe called for — it had a kick!) with mayonnaise, spread it on a thick white fish, and broil for 12 minutes.  I love when just 3 ingredients can result in an amazing recipe.  I used wild halibut and a reduced-fat olive oil mayo.  For the kids, I mixed mayo with lemon juice instead of wasabi, and they gobbled it up.  Using a broiling pan for fish is not something I have tried before, but it was cooked perfectly.  Will definitely be making this again.  Any suggestions on other flavors to go with the mayo topping?  Maybe chipotle chili peppers?