Monday, November 26, 2012

Not Your Usual Microwave Corn

I'm not sure about you, but I have my moments when I just have to have some snacky/salty/crunchy type thing when I'm getting a little hungry.  My recent favorite is popcorn.  Fancy (but easy) popcorn.  I'm not a fan of microwave popcorn and all of it's fake buttery weirdness that makes the roof of my mouth feel glossy.  I like to make my own, which is nothing new (I had my 1983 air popper for years after microwaving was the way to go).  Last summer I found a recipe for Corn (on the cob) with Paprika Butter.  It really wasn't a standout on the corn but I rolled the leftovers into a little log and saved it for another day.  It is now my favorite popcorn topper and a little goes a long way.
So, I actually do pop my corn in the microwave but I use kernels and a paper bag.
Just toss a 1/4 cup of kernels in there and close it up.  Simple.
Then push the popcorn button on the microwave.  If you don't have one you may need to play around with it a bit.
I use 1 tablespoon of butter for this whole bowl of popcorn.  You can use any herb butter you have.
This was a cilantro butter with a little bit of chili powder.  Not my fave, but works in a pinch.
This here is my beloved paprika butter...I strongly recommend making a batch and just keeping it in the fridge (I'm all out, need to make more) for when that popcorn craving hits.

Paprika Butter

Mix 1/2 stick softened butter, 1 small clove grated garlic, 1/2 tsp paprika and 1/4 tsp finely chopped rosemary.  Season with little salt and pepper.  Put leftovers in a container or roll into a log in wax or parchment paper for future use.

This is a satisfying snack and since it's a whole grain it adds to your fiber tally for the day (don't get me started on the fiber thing).  Enjoy!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Tis the Season!

Well, I'm happy to report that my grand plan to get a group of friends to get out together for a fitness event was a success!  It took a couple of years (literally) to get everyone on board but we did it!  We all had fun and felt pretty darn good about it too.  The 5k we chose was the Jingle Bell Run/Walk.  It was pretty chilly but nice and sunny.  More importantly, it was flat.  Some of my girls still have a major aversion to hills, but we're (and by that I mean I'm) working on that (them). 
Here's Phoebe and I before the race.  She did the kids fun run with Ella.  She has a very shiny nose.  You could even say it glows.
Here we are toasting with our pre-race Gu.  We thought it might be fun, and make us faster.
This is what my face does when I try to swallow the Gu.  It doesn't taste that bad but the consistency is rather disgusting.
I believe that Ouije shares that sentiment.
So then we headed to the start.  I'm not sure what direction we were going in but I'm pretty certain that these guys were heading south.  Nelsy was going to attempt to get each of us at the finish but things were a little disorganized and he and our friend Josh thought they lost our kids so photos were minimal.
He did however get this young buck coming towards the finish.  I'm not sure if this is Brendan or Ryan but whoever it is looks pretty cool!
Here's a group photo after the race, minus our walkers.  I had to ditch out of there with my poor sick son who was freezing his buns off.
This is Heather after her first 5k! She rocked it.  Like I knew she would.
After the race we met up at our house for a nice brunch.  These two lovely ladies also kicked some 5k butt.
We got our sweet potato waffles made.  These are so good. 
I whipped up a celebratory round of pomegranate and Proseco drinks.  It's important that we get our anti-oxidants in, ya know?
It's all fun and reindeer games around here.
Check out the spread!  I missed a picture of the fritatta muffins that Ouije made (same ones you all went nuts over when I previously posted that recipe).
Kristin (who somehow did not make it into one single photo....I need to work on these things...) made these pumpkin muffins and Heather also made a variety of Weight Watchers muffins. 
This is Jen and her cute baby.  She's so adorable we could've eaten her for brunch (seriously, check out those cheeks!).
Jen made this fabulous roasted vegetable tort.  This was quite a hit.  I will be making one of these sometime!
I will also be making Melanie's Huevos Rancheros some time.  I'm pretty much a sucker for anything that involves black beans and avocados.

So there you have it.  A group of people who normally gather around excessive amounts of food of various degrees of bad for you, CAN gather around a fitness activity and food that is good for you!  We are already talking about next time!



Thursday, November 15, 2012

Something Tasty This Way Comes

Holy cow.  I can't believe its the middle of November.  How on earth did that happen?  Just when you thought you were getting in a groove with back to school and sports....In come the holidays and all of the madness that comes with them.  If ever there was a time for an easy weeknight meal it's now! I like this Pasta with Sausage and Escarole because you can be flexible with it by using different greens or adding chick peas or some other bean to it if you choose.  You can switch up the pasta by using regular, whole wheat or super-pasta and if you have the calories to spare you can use heavy cream instead of half and half (it will add about 80 calories per serving).  So let's get started so you can feed the family, drop them off at sports and start your shopping!
Gather up your ingredients (so that when you're in the middle of cooking you won't realize something key is missing and drag the kids to the store while everything is in the works...not that I've ever done that or anything....this week.)
Chop up some garlic, rosemary and parsley and now the hard part is done.  Get a pot of salted water on the stove and another pot with some olive oil.
You start with the garlic and after a minute add the sausage until cooked through.  Next you'll pour in the wine to deglaze (scrape off anything that stuck to the bottom of) the pan.
Next you add in the cream, herbs, some red pepper flakes and salt and pepper.
At some point that pasta will be cooked and ready to drain, just set it aside until you're ready.
Meanwhile, bring everything to a simmer.
Now you can add in the escarole, I used spinach in the batch.  Either way, still good.
Once the greens are wilted, add in the pasta and cook for a few minutes until the cream thickens a touch.
Serve with fresh Parmesan shavings and enjoy!  Wasn't that easy?

Pasta with Sausage and Escarole (adapted from Martha Stewart Living)

Coarse salt
1 lb tubular pasta
2 Tbs olive oil
1 lb hot or mild Italian turkey sausage removed from casing,crumbled
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup half and half
1/4 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
fresh ground black pepper
1 large head escarole, cut into thirds and stemmed (or substitute fresh spinach)
Parmesan cheese for shaving

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add salt and pasta; cook 2-3 min less than package instructions.  Drain pasta, set aside.

Meanwhile in a dutch oven heat oil over medium heat.  Add garlic; cook stirring until fragrant, about 1 min.  Add sausage; cook stirring until cooked through, about 6 min.  Pour in wine, stir to deglaze pan.  Add cream, parsley, rosemary, and red pepper flakes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a simmer.  Add greens; cook stirring occasionally until just wilted (8-10 min for escarole, about 2 min for spinach).

Stir pasta into the pot, cook until cream has started to thicken and pasta is al dente, about 3 min.  Garnish with cheese and serve.

This recipe serves 6 (easily) and and is about 510 calories per serving made with the above ingredients.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Thankful for Turnips

I have so many things to be thankful for this holiday season.  My health, my healthy family, a warm safe place to call home, good friends, a job and good food to eat. Of course there are many more things to be thankful for, but this being a blog about cooking homemade meals, I'll stop at good food.  Recently our CSA box contained a nice supply of turnips, which happen to be a perfect addition to a Thanksgiving feast.  Admittedly, they have never had a place on my family's table but perhaps they will now.  If you're bringing a dish to someone's house, this is a great option.  Make it ahead and warm it in the oven before serving.  Here is how to make Turnip Gratin with Almonds~
These are hakurei turnips, which have a very thin skin and do not need to be peeled.  If you are using "regular" turnips you will need to peel them first.  This is about 2lbs.

They should be sliced thin (1/8 inch thick).  You can use a food processor, a mandolin or a good old fashioned knife.  I love this mandolin, just set it to the thickness you want and you can bang those puppies out in no time.
See how nice they come out?   Love that thing.  OK, moving on....
Next you need to whisk together in a large skillet, some cream (this is not of course something we're going to make everyday but a little cream never hurt anyone as long as you're not going nuts), a little flour, some garlic, lemon zest, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, pepper
 and some fresh thyme. 
Add the turnips and simmer until softened.  Next you pop them into a 2 qt baking dish, cover and bake for 35-40 min.
While the turnips are baking in the oven, you make a topping which calls for fresh breadcrumbs, sliced almonds and a little more thyme and fresh parsley.  Bread lasts about 4 days in this house so I used panko breadcrumbs and thought they worked just fine.  You toast them up in a skillet and sprinkle of the top of the gratin when it comes out of the oven.
Now don't you have the perfect spot on your Thanksgiving table for these?  If not, make one!

Turnip Gratin with Almonds (Food Network Magazine)

2 lbs turnips (about 5 medium)
1 cup plus 2 Tbs heavy cream
1 Tbs all-purpose flour
2 tsp fresh thyme
1 clove garlic, finely grated
1/4 tsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
Large pinch of ground cinnamon
salt and pepper
2 Tbs unsalted butter
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (or panko)
3 Tbs sliced almonds, roughly chopped
2 Tbs chopped fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 350.  Peel and slice turnips 1/8 inch thick.  Whisk cream, flour, 1 tsp thyme, garlic, lemon zest, nutmeg, cinnamon, 1 tsp salt and pepper to taste in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the turnips and bring to a simmer over medium heat; cover and cook until softened, about 3 min.

Stir the turnip-cream mixture and spread evenly in a 2 quart baking dish.  Cover with foil until turnips are very tender, 35-40 min.  Uncover and continue baking until cream mixture is slightly thickened and top is golden, about 10 more min.

Meanwhile, make the topping: Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the breadcrumbs, almonds and remaining 1 tsp thyme and cook, stirring, until the breadcrumbs are toasted about 4 min.  Stir in the parsley and a pinch of salt.  Remove gratin from the oven and sprinkle with breadcrumb topping.