December 31, 2011

spicy tomato and spinach soup

Before we begin, I'm sorry these photos are so...rushed.

The idea to even take photos was super last minute and pretty perfunctory, because I was just trying to throw together some soup for my sick husband with whatever I had on hand, and also I was hungry. But it turned out so surprisingly delicious that I'm glad I at least have these few average photos to share with you.

It's a good healthy soup. It's warming and spicy. It's comforting when served with toasty bread or grilled cheese or these warm winter chickpeas. It's even better when you take some of said chickpeas onto a spoon and then get some soup onto that spoon too. Comfort food man.

Definitely one of favorite dinners recently though. Especially since I just covered the entire thing in parmesan cheese.

Spicy tomato and spinach soup
2-3 servings

2 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. herbes de provence
1 14-oz can stewed or crushed tomatoes
2 cups vegetable stock
2-3 cups chopped fresh spinach
1/4 cup heavy cream, optional
1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan

Heat olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add garlic and onion and sauté until soft and fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Add salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, oregano, and herbes de provence. Stir to combine. Add the tomatoes and the vegetable stock and stir. Add the spinach, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer uncovered for about 15-20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Stir in cream, if using. Serve sprinkled with fresh parmesan.

Add pasta or rice to the soup to turn this into a heartier soup.

I hope you have a very happy and bright new year full of love and bubbles!

December 28, 2011

peppermint mocha cupcakes

What's your favorite seasonal drink at Starbucks?
Do you have a top secret 47-word one that I should know about?

I love me some peppermint mocha. I was thinking it was my favorite. I'm not much for gingerbread or brulee. Maybe they're not sinful enough, I don't know. Then the other day as I was standing in line at the 'bucks anticipating my tasty drink, I heard someone order a salted caramel mocha. Like, not-on-the-menu-anymore-since-Fall-is-over salted caramel mocha. I had forgotten all about that guy! So now I've decided that maybe those two seasonal mochas will tie for favorite.

As you can see, I have very exciting thoughts.

On to the cupcakes! Obviously, since I make these mocha coconut cupcakes on a very regular basis, and given my aforementioned weakness for the peppermint mocha, it was only the decent thing to do to combine them into one amazing little cake.

They're rich yet refreshingly minty. Not overpoweringly minty though. Crunchy candy cane bits top the delectable mint buttercream to make your day. Zing! (I don't know if that phrase applies here)

Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes
Adapted from How Sweet's mocha coconut cupcakes
makes 12 cupcakes

1 1/8 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup dark cocoa powder
3 tablespoons instant coffee powder
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon mint/peppermint extract
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips (I wanted to use mint chips but couldn't find them. I bet they'd be amazing in this)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with liners.
Melt butter and let cool slightly. Meanwhile, sift together, flour, cocoa, coffee, soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, whisk egg and sugar until smooth and no lumps remain. Add milk, butter and extracts, and mix until combined. Add dry ingredients to wet mixture. Mix until batter is smooth, then stir in sour cream. Fold in chocolate chips and mix. Using a 1/4 cup measure or an ice cream scoop, add batter to each cup to fill about 2/3 full (or a little more). Bake for 15-18 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool completely before frosting.

Minty Whipped Cream Buttercream

1 cup softened butter
3-4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp mint/peppermint extract
2-4 T. heavy whipping cream

Cream butter in large bowl until fluffy. Add sugar gradually until a thick consistency is reached. Add salt and extracts and 2 T. of cream. Continue beating. Add more cream until desired consistency is reached, and more sugar if it is too thin. Taste and add 1/4 tsp more mint extract if it isn't minty enough for you.

Frost cupcakes. Top with crushed candy canes. Refrigerate leftover cupcakes to keep frosting fresh.

December 16, 2011

return to regularly scheduled programming?

It's been a lonnng time. So sorry. I plan to make up for it with this picture-laden post.

Can I be honest with you though? (yes? thanks!) The weirdest thing has been going on with me. Lately I've felt sort of indifferent about food. There, I said it. SO weird.
I usually fall asleep thinking and planning what food to make next (sad? maybe), now I just fall asleep trying to plan Christmas presents.
I usually live to eat, but lately it's more like eat to live. Does that ever happen to you?

pumpkin streusel pancakes

 Actually, this is probably the first time it's happened to me. I still like food, and good food at that, but I haven't been making very much of it at home.  I'm also trying to eat well/not eat a lot of meat, so that narrows options when trying to select a restaurant to get takeout from, but I can't really place a finger on what I want to eat even then. I just shrug and let my husband decide and then eat what he gives me. That may be a very slight exxageration, but just a slight one.

smoky spinach and mushroom breakfast hash

I think it's a combination of previous overeating (think Thanksgiving, etc.), being very busy, and being uninspired. Sure, I've made things here and there, mostly sweets, but that's no surprise. We've had black bean burgers and butternut squash fries, lemon/parsley/olive quinoa cakes, and husb's favorite breakfast hash. I've made these amazing pumpkin streusel pancakes, some yeast-free cinnamon rolls, and rather failed at an eggnog breakfast cakes attempt. They weren't bad, just not eggnog-y enough. And a little dry. They looked good though! (see picture)

eggnog breakfast cakes

However, yesterday when I was making cookies for someone (these, one of my favorites), I got a twinge of that old excitement/sense of peace that I usually get when I bake. I actually started thinking about what I wanted to bake next. So maybe it's back.

In the meantime, Pinterest has been doing it's part in providing exciting/dangerous food pictures.
Let me try to entice us with a couple of them:
cookies and cream oreo fudge brownies...

And just so you don't go into sugar shock from all these sweets pictures, here's a picture of a savory (but still unhealthy) thing.
fontina mac and cheese with spinach and bacon!!!

Happy carbing!

November 17, 2011

chewy carrot cake cookies

Can I tell you about my life?

Well, it's just a small bit about my life, but I think it gives some insight into the kind of person I am. Get ready.

A few days ago my mom asked if I would be able to take her and my dad and grandma to the airport today, early in the morning. Okay, early for me, but normal time for everyone who's normal: 7:30. (Insight #1: I don't do mornings.) I said I thought I could do that. (Insight #2: I am super noncommittal.) She double-checked again on Tuesday (2 days ago) if I could do it and I said yup, I'm on board.

Flash forward to last night, or rather this morning at 2am. I had just pointlessly stayed up finishing a mini Gossip Girl marathon and was finally crawling into bed. (Insight #3: I do this thing where I stay up really late for no reason at all, and this causes Insight #1.) No sooner had my eyes closed than they popped open again. I HAVE TO TAKE THEM TO THE AIRPORT.

I had totally forgotten. I had turned off my phone. I had not set an alarm. Laughing at myself because of how close I came to completely failing them, and incredibly grateful for the reminder which could have only come from God himself, I turned my phone back on and set my alarm.

7:31 am: I'm awoken from sleep by my phone (good thing it was on). It's dad. I look at the clock and half yelp/half start muttering things to myself and answer it while jumping out of bed. He's just wondering if my car is big enough for all them and their bags or if he should get one of their cars out. I'm so muddled that it takes me a really long time to answer his simple question. Also I'm trying to put my pants on. I take so long to give a straight answer that he just asks, "are you close?" I say I'm eight minutes away.

As I run around my house grabbing things like scarves and jackets to throw on, I still kind of have to laugh at myself. (Insight #4: I'm a nutcase?) I don't know what happened to that alarm I set.

But somehow all went well, and they got there at a decent time, and since I haven't heard from them, I'm assuming they are happily on a plane to California.

By the time I get home from the airport it's 9:00. I think to myself I should get started on the day. I have a lot to do. I can get my workout in right now, and maybe I'll even go to the grocery store while it's still early and get that out of the way.

 Instead, I decide to just get in bed for a little bit because I'm so very tired. I won't sleep, I'll just lay here for a bit. (Insight #5: I have neither good judgement nor self-control.)

You can guess what happened there.

So when I finally got up, instead of working out or going to the grocery store, I baked up these cookies and had them for breakfast. (Insight #6: Sometimes I just make excellent decisions.)

(Insight #7: They're super delicious.)

Chewy Carrot Cake Cookies
Makes 18-20 cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 cups finely grated carrots (about 2 large)
1 1/2-2 cups white chocolate chips
1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, optional

1. Place the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Let it melt, swirling occasionally.  When it has melted, continue swirling or whisking constantly until it has browned lightly and has a nice nutty aroma. This should take about 3 minutes or so. Be careful not to burn it. Transfer it to a large heat-safe bowl.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Set aside.

3. Add the sugars to the bowl with the browned butter. Beat until combined. Beat in the vanilla, egg, egg yolk and lemon juice until light and creamy. Let it sit for a couple minutes and beat it again. Add in the carrots and mix to combine. Add the dry ingredients gradually and blend until just combined. Stir in the white chocolate chips, the coconut and the nuts (if using) with a wooden spoon.

4. Refrigerate the dough for at least an hour. (Overnight works too.)

5. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time onto the sheet. (I like to use an ice-cream scoop.) Cookies should be about 2 inches apart.

6. Bake for 16-18 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

November 14, 2011

harvest grain salad (?)

I'm sorry that I'm presenting you with another salad. On a Monday.

I'm sorry that this salad looks eerily similar to this one. Or perhaps this one. I promise you it's different.

I'm sorry that I haven't had coffee yet. I'm sorry I keep putting off my workout today. I'm sorry my house is dirty. Let's move on to happier things.

...Salad? A happier thing? I think so. I say it's a salad but you really can't call it a salad any more than you can call a Hollywood marriage permanent.

Eat this. It has everything in it. Deep, earthy flavors from the grains and nuts combine with the richness of the goat cheese and squash, only to be balanced out by the bright pop of pomegranate seeds and sweet chewy Craisins. How's that for a description? May be my best yet.

Note: The farro has to soak overnight or for about 8 hours, so you kind of have to plan this in advance.

Harvest Grain Salad
About 3 servings

2/3 cup Isreali Couscous (uncooked)
1/2 cup Farro (uncooked)
1/2 of a butternut squash
1/4 cup of pistachios, shelled
1/4 cup of Craisins
1/4 cup of pomegranate seeds
2 oz. of crumbled goat cheese
1-2 cups of spinach
olive oil and red wine vinegar
kosher salt and lemon pepper (or regular pepper)

Preheat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with foil. Prepare squash by cutting off the rind and cutting the squash into small cubes. Put it into a bowl and toss it with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Pour onto prepare baking sheet and roast, for about 15 minutes or until soft and starting to brown. (Stir or turn once or twice as needed during roasting.)

While squash is cooking, cook your (presoaked) farro and couscous according to package instructions.

When grains are done cooking, put them in a large bowl. Add the cooked squash, the pistachios, the craisins, and the pomegranate seeds. Add in about a tablespoon of olive oil (I used lemon-infused) and about a tablespoon of red wine vinegar, and a couple pinches of salt and pepper (to taste). Toss. Add goat cheese and spinach and toss gently until spinach wilts slightly from the warmth of the other ingredients. Taste and adjust seasonings/ingredients as desired. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

November 10, 2011

smoky spinach and mushroom breakfast hash

I am the worst planner.

My husband's birthday was on Tuesday and I spent the last couple weeks planning on planning something really awesome for him. As it got closer to the date and I realized that I hadn't actually planned something but had only kept turning it over in my head, I vowed to get my act together. Then suddenly it was Sunday and I.had.nothing. I did have a really busy and stressful work week, so I could use that as an excuse, but not really, because there are people (my husband is one of them) who can plan amazing events and parties in the middle of their incredibly busy schedules. 

I doubled my research efforts and finally planned a mini getaway (mini like one night). I made the calls. I committed. One of my biggest problems with planning is my fear of committing to something because I think there might be something better out there that I'm missing. It's really weird.

Anyway, it all worked out. Fun was had by all. I'm glad I finally committed.

So why am I telling you all this?  It started because I was thinking about how out of it I must be to sit my butt down on exactly the wet part of the couch that I had just cleaned (oh, because I spilled my grapefruit cup on it) and then take a good 10 minutes to wonder why my pants are wet. It got me wondering how I got to be so mentally absent today. And I'm going to chalk it up to a combination of the work stress of last week and the planning stress that put me out of my comfort zone.

And while I say it put me out of my comfort zone, I'm really not complaining. I'd do it again in a second because it's totally worth it. It helps me grow and learn and be better. It makes loved ones happy. Nothing beats that.

Now. Speaking of loved ones being happy, I need to tell you about this breakfast hash. Few breakfasts make my husband happier. He says this should go on the menu if I were ever to open a café, and that makes me happy because it's possibly the highest compliment he gives.

This stuff has it all. Sweet crunch from the corn, deep earthy flavor from the mushrooms (and I don't even really like mushrooms, usually), saltiness and smokiness from the bacon and seasoning, spiciness from the doesn't get much better.

Smoky Spinach and Mushroom Breakfast Hash
Serves 2

2-3 pieces of bacon, depending on its size
1 medium-large yukon gold potato, diced into small squares
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1 T. jalapeno, chopped
3 mushrooms, sliced
1/3 cup corn
2 cups spinach
South African Smoke seasoning blend or other spicy/smoky seasoning of your choice (I got the South African smoke from Trader Joes, it's just paprika flakes, sea salt, garlic and basil)
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
2 eggs, cooked to preference

Cook bacon in skillet. Remove and drain on paper towels.
Add potatoes to skillet with some seasoning and some pepper. Cook for about 3-5 minutes on medium heat until starting to brown. Add onions and some salt. Cook for about a minute. Add jalapenos. Cook all for about 5 minutes.
(Meanwhile, start heating a separate pan for your eggs.)
Add mushrooms and more seasoning and cook and stir another minute or two.
(At this time, you may want to start cooking your eggs in that preheated pan.)
Add corn and a pat of butter or swirl of olive oil if your mixture is looking dry. Cook and stir for another 2-3 minutes if you're using frozen corn, or just a minute for fresh or canned corn. Add spinach and bacon. Toss a few times and remove from heat.

Spoon into bowls and top with eggs.

And now my skin is kind of burning from the chemicals in that couch cleaner. Just trying to keep you updated.

November 1, 2011

vegan week recap

Well, vegan week is over. I promise I meant to update sooner than this, but vegan week also turned out to be sick week and crazy work week. C'est la vie.

breakfast veggie hash

Let's get straight to it, shall we? I liked vegan week. Really liked it. I didn't miss meat at all, and I barely missed cheese and milk, thanks to the presence of the So Delicious coconut milk in my fridge, as well as the Earth Balance vanilla soymilk that made morning lattes a pleasure to drink. But wait, it's not like I normally hate drinking them. But nevermind.

vegan carrot cherry breakfast cookies
I actually didn't get around to making all the recipes I picked out, due to the aforementioned sick/work thing, so that was a little disappointing. I still want to try them. The one thing about eating this way is that it takes a bit of effort. It's not as easy to just heat something up or order something when you're trying to eat a fresh, plant-based diet.

carrot cake oatmeal

It feels really great though. It feels like you're doing yourself a favor. It's something I want to keep in mind from here on out. I'm not going to be a vegan or even a vegetarian, but I think I'll cut a lot of meat and some dairy from my diet, simply because I don't feel like I need them as much as I thought I would. Especially meat. (Bacon isn't meat, right?) Cheese may be another story.

vegetarian burrito bowl

Recap of the week's eats:
Some breakfasts:  Carrot Cake oatmeal, veggie hash, vegan carrot cherry cookies
Some dinners: Quinoa and black bean burgers and butternut squash fries with chipotle BBQ sauce, homemade vegetarian chipotle-style burrito bowls, spicy sweet potato and coconut soup with detox salad, colorful quinoa salad

detox salad
-The carrot cake oatmeal, which I made twice.
-The butternut squash fries with the chipotle BBQ sauce, which I didn't get a picture of because they were devoured in about 3 minutes flat.
-The sweet potato soup
-The quinoa salad, cause it was so easy and delicious.

-Husband's fave was the burrito bowl, which I put too many onions in for my taste, so my perception of it was skewed. I would make them again, with less onions.

 colorful quinoa salad

spicy sweet potato and coconut soup

October 24, 2011

colorful quinoa salad

You know those weeks days when you just don't feel like doing anything?

Saturday was that day.

I'll spare you the not-so-exciting details and just tell you that the highlights of the day included a lengthy Starbucks visit and this salad. That should give you an idea. It's a shame that Saturday was such an absolutely perfect day and the most I made of the weather was an hour spent in Starbucks' courtyard. It was a nice hour though.

I was so hungry for dinner but felt so lazy but still wanted something so delicious and so good for me. I think I may have used the word 'so' enough in that sentence but I'm not sure. Maybe one more would have been good.

But this salad was just the thing. It was super easy, especially since I found a container of already-cooked plain quinoa leftover from earlier in the week. I wouldn't have wanted to like actually get out a pan and boil something, so that was fortunate.

This is goood stuff, and also, conveniently, good-for-you stuff. Everyone knows that quinoa is the ultimate health food right? And then you have things like mangoes for sweetness, black beans for delicious protein, pomegranates for a nice crunch and some antioxidants, avocado for healthy fat and because they are basically the best food/fruit/vegetable ever.

Your stomach will thank you.

Colorful Quinoa and Black Bean salad 
Serves 1-2

1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup black beans
1/2 cup mango, diced
2 T. cilantro, chopped
2 T. pomegranate seeds
1/2 an avocado, diced

1 T. red wine vinegar
1 T. olive oil (I used lemon-infused)
1 tsp. agave nectar (or sugar)
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. pepper or lemon pepper

Add salad ingredients to a bowl except for the avocado. Add dressing ingredients and toss. Adjust seasonings and ingredients to taste. Add avocado and toss gently. If you will be storing some of the salad for later, I'd suggest leaving the avocado out until just before serving.

(You'll notice that I accidently left the avocado out for most of the photos it in this last one though.)