Sunday, December 18, 2011

nana candy.

You'd think that after over two months of ignoring this blog I would be giving you much needed strategies to avoid unwanted extra holiday poundage... tips to survive the near dozen holiday parties you will or have already attended this month... a healthy recipe or two to make for yourself in an effort to stave off the the dreaded winter bloat...

Well, I am sorry to disappoint but I just have to share a favorite family holiday recipe of mine.  My nana has been making these salty sweet treats for years and it was always something I looked forward to. I don't think this is a 'nana original' as I've seen the recipe online before, but she was the one that introduced it to me-- so for that, she gets the credit and the name.
I don't want to lead you on-- this is by no means a healthy recipe, but a good one nonetheless. This year was my first attempt at the candy, and I'll be gifting them to friends, family and coworkers alike.

Nana Candy (serves 30-35)
40 saltine crackers (plus a few for garnish)
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1-1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts work well)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Then start by placing a single layer of saltines on a cookie sheet lined with foil and sprayed with cooking spray. 40 lined my cookie sheet exactly.
In a medium sauce pan, melt butter and brown sugar to a boil. Simmer and continue cooking until sugar completely dissolves and the mixture thickens (about 5 minutes). Stir frequently. 
When the toffee reaches the desired consistency, pour on top of the saltines and spread evenly. 

Place the sheet in the oven until it's good and bubbly, 5-8 minutes should suffice. 
 Sprinkle the chocolate chips onto the bubbling toffee and place back in the oven for 1-2 minutes to allow the chips to get hot and spreadable. With a butter knife or small spatula, spread the melted chocolate evenly.
 Now is your chance to make the toffee a bit more fancy. I crushed up a few saltines and sprinkled the crumbs on top. For a few of the batches I made, I also crushed some raw pecans and sprinkled them on top as well. Place the pan in the fridge or freezer until cool. Once the chocolate is completely hardened, break into smaller pieces-- I prefer them to be about the size of one saltine cracker.
This dessert has always been a huge hit in my family, I hope it is with yours as well. Remember that the holidays aren't just about engorging ourselves with goodies, rather about enjoying the company of our loved ones. 
Before I wrap things up I will give one party tip: if you are worried about overeating at your holiday parties, just find the nearest baby and hold onto that baby for as long as you can. After all, you wont be able to do much eating/drinking with your hands full :) 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

crock pot pot roast.

It's officially fall and that's the beginning of my cooking season! By now you must have realized I have a slight obsession with my crock pot. Tonight I made a pot roast, complete with all the veggies and homemade gravy. I prepped it all the night before and put it in the fridge overnight; this morning I set it to low and left it for the day.  I was a little nervous about it, but it was actually really good and basically effortless. One great thing about this meal is that it has a lot of root vegetables which are coming in to season.

Pot Roast (serves 4-5)
3-3 1/2 lb lean roast, trimmed (I used top round roast)
1/3 cup flour plus 3 tbsp flour, divided
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tsp olive oil
4 carrots
3 potatoes
3 small turnip
2 small yellow onions
2-3 celery stalks
1/2 cup mushroom gravy
1/4 cup water

You may want to prep everything the night before as this is a 10 hour cooking process.  First start by giving all of the veggies a coarse chop. Peel the carrots and cut them into thirds, peel the potatoes, onions, and turnips and quarter them, slice the celery into thirds and add them to the crock pot.
In a skillet, heat the oil. Add 1/3 cup flour, salt and pepper to a plate. Pat the meat dry and roll in the flour to cover it, shake off the excess. Add it to the skillet just to brown it. This will help seal in the flavors of the beef.
1) flour it
2) brown it
Once browned, add it to the crock pot on top of the veggies. Add the 1/4 cup water to the empty skillet to transfer the drippings and excess flour to the crock pot.
Top the beef with 1/2 cup mushroom gravy. This will prevent it from drying out over the long cooking process. If you are prepping the night before, this is the stopping point. You can place the lid on the crock pot and stick it in the fridge until you're ready. When you're ready, turn the crock pot on low heat and cook for 10 hours.  Set the crock pot to high for the last hour to ensure that all the veggies cook through.

When it's ready, you can remove the meat and veggies from the pot. You can make gravy with the drippings and juice from the vegetables.  Transfer the liquid into a small pot and set on medium heat. There was barely any visible fat in the juice because the cut of meat was very lean. If you do see a lot of fat in the juices, you can ladle it out before you start your gravy to keep it healthy. While stirring constantly with a whisk, add flour 1 tbsp at a time.  It will thicken up into a brown gravy-- I thought this was a necessary addition as the meat was a little on the dry side by itself. I was pleasantly surprised by how this one turned out. I hope you enjoy it too!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

mussels with white wine and garlic

This was my first go-around at making mussels at home and it was super easy. Unfortunately I didn't remember to document the cooking progress until the tail end so there are only a couple shots of the finished product:
This is one of those dinners that looks fancy and labor intensive but is actually really simple.  Mussels are a very inexpensive protein source-- they're affectionately referred to as the 'poor man's oyster'.  These cheap mollusks are an excellent source of iron and protein. Although they are not high in dietary fat, they do have natural cholesterol (48mg/3oz serving) so be careful as not to over indulge if you have a history of high cholesterol.

Mussels with white wine and garlic (serves 3-4)
2-3 lb fresh mussels, rinsed (1 bag at my local seafood grocer)
approximately 1 cup water
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic
1/2-1 cup dry white wine (I used Chardonnay)
1 tsp dry parsley or 1 tbsp fresh parsley
1 1/2 Roma tomatoes, diced
lemon juice squeezed from half of one lemon
salt and pepper to taste
optional-- shallots, basil, crushed red pepper (be creative!)

Prepping this dish is really simple. I served them atop of whole grain angel hair spaghetti but they would also make a great appetizer with crusty bread.  I started by boiling water for the pasta.  When the pasta was dropped in the water, I began cooking the mussels.
To start, heat the butter and olive oil in a large pan--I used a wok. Next add the lemon juice, garlic, and parsley.  I ran the garlic cloves through my garlic press but finely mincing with a knife would work too. Maybe it's my Italian blood, but I am desensitized to garlic so I use it in large quantities. If this isn't your preference, cut back to 1-2 cloves.
Once that's heating, add the water and wine on high heat, let it heat up for a minute or two then add the mussels. When cooking with wine, this is my rule of thumb: If it's good enough to drink, it's good enough to cook with. If you wouldn't want to sip it, leave it out of your cooking too.
When their shells start to open, add the diced tomatoes. The mussels are fully cooked when they open up-- if left on the heat for too long, they will get tough and chewy.  If the mussel does not open in the cooking process, do not open them yourself and eat them-- it means they aren't good.
That's all there is to it, from start to finish it's only about a 10 minute process and a million times better than any instant meal or drive through option!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

shrimp shrimp!

I wasn't exactly sure what qualifies a dish as shrimp scampi, so I decided to look it up... It turns out scampi literally means shrimp, so shrimp scampi= shrimp shrimp! Further investigation revealed that scampi does refer to a style of preparation in which shrimp is cooked in butter and garlic. Well there you have it, I made shrimp scampi. 
This dinner was totally thrown together on a whim, had I prepared better I would have stocked up on white wine, but balsamic vinegar was a viable substitute in the clutch.  Most importantly, this was very quick to make which is exactly the kind of meal I needed after a long day at work. I bought deveined easy-peel shrimp so most of the work was done for me.  

Balsamic Shrimp Scampi (serves 2 hungry roommates)
approx. 2 cup cooked thin spaghetti ( or angel-hair) --I like Ronzoni Smart taste
18-20 medium shrimp 
1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (loose or in water)
1/3 lg. vidalia onion, chopped
3-5 lg. garlic cloves (I obviously went with 5)
crushed red pepper

Start by boiling a large pot of water for the spaghetti. While the water boils, prep your ingredients: chop the onion, mince the garlic, prep the shrimp.  If you didn't buy de-veined shrimp, be sure to clean all of that yucky stuff out of the shrimp before you cook it! I bought de-veined easy-peel shrimp so most of the work was done for me.  I just removed the outer shell, leaving just the tail at the end. Leaving the tail prevents the shrimp from coiling up tightly in the cooking process.  I bought loose sun-dried tomatoes which were a little dry so I heated a small pan of water to soak them and plump them up a bit. 
When the pasta is ready to go into the pot, heat 1 tbsp of butter in a saute pan.  I later added another 1/2 tbsp at the end mainly just to prevent the spaghetti from sticking. Use your discretion just don't overdue it with the butter. Add the chopped onions and garlic to the pan. I like to use a garlic press to get a nice fine mince.
 Add the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and crushed red pepper to the pan. I used just a little shake so the heat doesn't completely over-power the dish, but gives it a little kick.
 Next add the shrimp.  Stir it occasionally so the good stuff doesn't get stuck to the bottom.
 As the shrimp starts to cook, it will become a whitish-pink color.  Add the sun-dried tomatoes at this stage. If the pan is looking a little dry, add some water from the pasta pot rather than more oil or butter.
Cook the pasta al dente then strain it and add it to the shrimp pan.  Cook it just a few minutes, enough to blend the flavors and give the spaghetti a little bite.  By bite I mean crunch (not burnt!), which totally brings me back to my childhood... If you grew up in an Italian household you probably know what I mean.  I LOVED fried spaghetti night with Sunday's left-overs!  
 Top the pasta with a little grated cheese and fresh parsley or basil if you have some. Enjoy!


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

crock pot buffalo chicken.

I know, I know... "Really? Another unseasonable crock pot recipe?!" 

Yes, really.  Slow cookers are typically reserved for the winter and usually yield hearty comfort foods perfect for cold snowy nights. But lets think about it differently, shall we? In the heat of the summer, the last thing you want to do is heat up your kitchen with an oven, am I wrong? Of course I'm not. 
Now enter the crock pot. A crock pot is a small counter top appliance that is a contained source of heat, leaving your kitchen cool and comfortable, perfect for those hot dog days of summer.
I got this DELICIOUS recipe from one of the dietitians at work (thank you Emmie!). One day I was bragging about my own buffalo chicken recipe, and she shared her special buffalo chicken recipe with our office. Well I hate to admit it, but I think she one-up'd me with this. It took me a couple months to actually listen to her advice and make it but I am so glad I did, and now I get to share it with you! Think of this as pulled pork, but with buffalo chicken instead of barbeque pork, yum! There are only three ingredients and it is so simple to make. I'd recommend starting it in the morning, and it will be done by supper time.

Crock Pot Buffalo Chicken (serves 8)
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast
1 bottle Frank's Red Hot Buffalo Wing Sauce
1 envelope of ranch dip mix

Add raw chicken to the crock pot, don't worry about cutting it up because it'll break down in the cooking process.
Next pour in the buffalo sauce and the ranch dip mix.  You may not need the whole bottle, just enough to submerge the chicken in the sauce.
1) add the sauce and dip mix
2) mix it up
Cover it and cook on low for 8-10 hours. I cooked mine 10 hours for about 1 1/3 lbs chicken and 1/2 bottle of sauce. 
 When it's done, pick at the chicken with a fork to break it up.  Like I said before, it should be the consistency of pulled pork.  It is delicious by itself, but I made it into a sandwich with a whole wheat bun and a little bit of reduced fat blue cheese dressing. 

I hope you like it! And thanks again, Emmie!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

crock pot porridge.

I know what you're thinking, the weather has finally changed and it's time to clear up some real estate on your counter where your crock pot once sat. But before it gets too hot and humid, you really need to try this recipe. At the very least save it and dust it off in the Fall.  
I should preface this post with a little back story on why I am making porridge of all things.
I got a call from my sister in February asking if I could bring porridge to my niece's first birthday brunch in May (she's a planner!). Well sure, in February porridge sounds like a great addition to any brunch menu, but alas here we are in May and porridge she shall get! I don't know what "real porridge" is actually made of-- I just think of the bowl of mush from Goodnight Moon. But I did understand exactly what my sister was asking for.  There is a deliciously adorable restaurant in my hometown of Gloucester, MA called Sugar Magnolia's that makes there own porridge (read: fancy oatmeal).  It's loaded with all sorts of goodies like nuts, dried fruit, apples, coconut etc... She wanted me to recreate it and I was up for the challenge. Rather than old fashioned oats, I used steel cut oats which have a more hearty texture so I assumed they'd hold up better for hours in a slow cooker.  This is a super simple recipe, just add everything into the crock pot at once, set on low and cook for several hours (6-8 at least)-- it'd be a good idea to do it right before bed and breakfast will be ready for you when you wake up. 

Crock Pot Porridge (serves a LOT)
3 cups dry steel cut oats
12 cups water
2 granny smith apples
1 cup pecans
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup raisins
2 cinnamon sticks 
1/2 cup brown sugar
ground cinnamon, a generous sprinkle

Start by adding the water and oats to the crock pot. Then chop the apples-- you want them to be spoon size, but not so small that they'll breakdown into nothing in the crock pot. I peeled them but did leave some skin here and there, to each their own.  Add it to the slow cooker. 
Next measure out a cup of whole or halved pecans and then give them a coarse chop. I just put them in a plastic bag and stepped on them.  Walnuts would also be a good choice. Add those to the crock pot too.
Then add the remaining ingredients. Get creative with what you put into it, dates, figs, coconut would all be good! Cover and cook on low heat for about 8 hours. Make sure you remove the cinnamon sticks before serving, and if you don't want to make enough to feed the Duggers, cut the recipe into 3rds for a more manageable batch. I hope you like it! 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Irish Cupcakes!

This blog post requires a preliminary warning:
***This is not a typical I Make Good Food post in that it is NOT a healthy recipe.  We are talking two sticks of butter, people!

With that being said, I don't believe it is realistic to say one will never eat candy, real ice cream, or fried chicken.  Even us dietitians, whose purpose in our professional life is to advocate healthy living.  We are all mere mortals and deserve to indulge every now and again.  I try my hardest to make good food choices more often at meals which allows me to enjoy treats like these Irish cupcakes without feeling ridden with guilt. 'Indulge in moderation' is my mantra.  And the great thing about this recipe is that it's a cupcake-- that means they're pre-portioned for you in an adorable little cup of cakey goodness!  Just stick to one cupcake and you'll be golden. With cupcakes, you'd have to make a conscious decision to over-indulge (eat more than one) whereas slicing a hefty piece o' cake is a little too easy to do! 

Now stop EVERYTHING you are doing and pay attention very closely! This is by far the best tasting thing I have ever and possibly will ever blog about.  Let me say that one more time to reiterate, this is my BEST post yet!!  I was handed this recipe about a year ago from my boss who found it on a blog (Baked By Rachel) and I put it aside and life went on.  With St. Patrick's day right around the corner, I thought it'd be a perfect time to dust it off and try it out.  They are "Irish" cupcakes because they are made with Guinness Stout and Bailey's Irish Cream.  I did make a few minor changes to make it my own, but feel free to check out the blog post on Baked By Rachel to see the original recipe (and many others)!  ***Also, the beer is cooked so the alcohol cooks off a bit but the Bailey's frosting is not, with that I wouldn't recommend these treats for small children or pregnant women.  A dessert with a Surgeon's General Warning-- now that's a REAL dessert!!

Guiness Chocolate Cupcakes filled w/ Chocolate Ganache and Bailey's Butter Cream Frosting
(serves 12)
Cupcakes ingredients:
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
5 tbsp plus 1 tsp greek yogurt (I used 0% Chobani vanilla)
1/2 cup Guinness
1 stick butter (8 tbsp)
1/4 cup and 2 tbsp cocoa powder

Chocolate Ganache Filling ingredients:
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, chopped
5 tbsp plus 1 tsp heavy cream
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp Bailey's Irish Cream

Bailey's Butter Cream Frosting
1 stick butter (8 tbsp) --room temp is best
3 cup powdered sugar
7 tbsp Bailey's Irish Cream 

Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees. In a small sauce pan over medium heat, combine the Guinness and stick of butter. Whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth. Remove from heat and pour mixture into a bowl to cool.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Add the yogurt and egg. Mix until combined (it'll be lumpy and dry).
Next pour in the chocolate bear mixture, mix well until smooth. Fill a lined cupcake pan evenly.  The batter will yield 12 standard size cupcakes.  
I don't have an electric mixer so my batter looks a little lumpier than desired
Bake the cupcakes for 17-21 minutes, or until a tooth pick comes out clean when poked in the center.  The time will vary with your oven.  I set my timer for 17 minutes, but they looked a little wet, I cooked them for 21 minutes and they were perfect! Remove from the pan to cool.

While the cupcakes are baking, you can make the chocolate ganache filling. Chop the chocolate chips using a sharp knife into small pieces.  
Place the chopped chocolate into a heat-safe bowl. In a small sauce pan, bring the heavy cream to a simmer, stirring frequently.  Once it's heated, pour it over the chocolate, mixing constantly. Add the butter and Bailey's, mix until smooth.  Set aside for 5-10 minutes to cool.
Once the cupcakes are cool, cut a small cone out of the middle of each-- they'll fall apart if they are still warm so be patient  (...learned that the hard way).  Save the cupcake cone cutouts, they'll be placed back on the cupcakes to seal the ganache inside.  After all of the cupcakes cones have been cut, add the ganache to a large plastic bag for piping. Cut the tip off the bag and pipe the ganache into each evenly (a couple tbsp per cup cake).  Place the cake cutouts back on the cupcakes and they are ready for frosting. 
step 1: cut out a small cone in the center of the cupcake
step 2: pour the ganache into a bag, cut the tip off for piping
step 3: add the ganache to each cupcake evenly
step 4: place the cone cutouts back into the cupcake for frosting
Now for the homestretch! Using a hand mixer (manual, electric or kitchen aide will do) cream 1 stick of butter until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time.  If you like the frosting a little less sweet (like myself), use just 2 and 1/2 cups rather than 3 cups-- taste test and add more sugar as desired. Once the sugar and butter is blended, add the Bailey's 1 tbsp at a time.  I thought this yielded more than enough frosting for 12 cupcakes and I thought I used the frosting pretty liberally.  Top the cupcakes as fancy as you'd like.  If you really want to jazz them up, add a little green food coloring to the frosting!  Have fun with it and Happy St. Patrick's Day!!!