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Cooking Inspiration for the Month

8 Jan

During this reset season, the competition between the abstinence commitments made in December and the lingering desire for comforting food, especially when faced with frigid temperatures across the country, can be fierce. Maybe it’s best to ride somewhere in the middle so here are a few ideas.

Please share in the comments section below what you’ve tried and how it turned out.

Happy New Year!

BREAKFAST

The Perfect Make-Ahead Waffles from Marion Cunningham

We all have our idea of what makes the perfect waffle. In our family, these are it. Lighter than pancakes, they are slightly crispy on the outside but fluffy within. As a bonus, they’re quick to prep the night before and finish up in the morning. Try them served with butter and berries, either fresh or heated from the freezer.

Marion Cunningham Waffles

NOTE:

  • If you’re wanting to up the nutrition factor, you can substitute whole wheat pastry flour for white.
  • A teaspoon of vanilla adds a nice flavor boost but is not necessary.
  • Don’t be surprised by the thin batter.
  • Any extras will freeze well for a toaster oven snack.

APPETIZER

Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Meatballs from Cheeky Kitchen

Just in time for the Golden Globes this weekend or for the Superbowl on February 1st, these are a simple, sure hit. Ground turkey also works well.

Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

MAIN DISHES

Weeknight Porchetta from Bon Appétit 

To simplify this recipe, skip nestling the heads of garlic around the tenderloin.

Weeknight Porchetta

Spaghetti and Drop Meatballs with Tomato Sauce from Mark Bittman

Mark Bittman does it again with meatballs and sauce made easy in one pot.

24TIME4-articleLarge_opt-3

VEGETABLES

Roasted Carrots with Honey, Sage and Garlic from Cannelle Et Vanille

Something healthy and light to go with that pork. Good with or without the yogurt.

Carrots

SNACK or SIDE

Corn Muffins from Food 52

Great to serve alongside the Porchetta above or Butternut Squash Soup below and perfect with chili, these are a fun alternative to corn bread. I prefer the buttery flavor to the bacon fat called for in the recipe.
Corn Muffins

LUNCH

Butternut Squash Soup from Half Baked Harvest

If you haven’t discovered the blog Half Baked Harvest, it’s worth checking out. Tieghan took over cooking for her big family of nine in her mid-teens and hasn’t missed a beat since. Her creative, delicious recipes, excellent photography and youthful flare have brought her well-deserved success.

Below is a recipe inspired by her Moroccan Butternut Squash Soup. Next time, I’ll try her version, but for today, I lacked a few ingredients. Regardless, it was full of flavor.

Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut Squash Soup with Curry and Leeks

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 cups Butternut Squash, peeled and cubed (about 2 small to medium)
  • 2 tablespoons Coconut Oil
  • 1 Leek, white portion only, or 1 small Onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon Curry Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh or dried Thyme, chopped
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • 1 Garlic clove, skin removed and crushed
  • 1 (14 ounce) can Coconut Milk
  • 2 cups Chicken or Vegetable Broth
  • 4 ounces Goat Cheese, softened

Optional Toppings: Plain Greek Yogurt or Goat Cheese and/or roughly chopped Cilantro and Pistachios

PREPARATION

  1. To make peeling easier, cut off the bottom of the squash and put on a plate in the microwave for 3 minutes. Peel, remove seeds and cut into approximately 1-inch cubes.
  2. Add the coconut oil to a large soup pot set over medium heat.
  3. Once hot, add the leek or onion and cook for 3-5 minutes or until soft.
  4. Add the cubed butternut squash, curry powder, paprika, cumin, cayenne and thyme. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Add the garlic clove and stir for 10 seconds or so to meld the flavor but avoid scorching.
  7. Pour in the coconut milk and broth.
  8. Bring to boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the butternut squash is fork tender.
  9. Once the squash is tender, add the goat cheese (optional).
  10. Remove the pot from the stove and allow to cool slightly, then puree the soup in a blender or food processor. Return the soup back to the stove and heat through.
  11. To serve, ladle the soup into bowl, topping with Greek yogurt or crumbled goat cheese and garnishing with chopped cilantro and/or pistachios.

Pecan Pie Bars and 19 More Christmas Cookie Recipes

19 Dec

Looking for some holiday cookie baking inspiration to carry you through to the new year? Here is a repost from last year with a full range of recipes. The pecan bars (recipe below) have become a seasonal regular and should not be relegated to this single time of year.

Pancakes

Next up, the winner of the great pancake debate, just in time for the holiday break.

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2013 Christmas Cookie Recipe Repost

Christmas CookiesHere we are, at the annual pinnacle of eating pleasure. Festive images of sweet and savory delights at every turn. Thoughts surface of treats-past as the traditional once-a-year favorites draw delicious memories.

But it’s also when the schedule gets so packed on every level that the thought of digging in and creating wonders of the season can set you over the edge. Yet, it must be done. How can a year go by without the Frosted Sugar Cookies, Dede’s Coffee Cake or Christmas Eve Lasagna?

Although you’ve likely got your own collection of December regulars you must satisfy yourself and others with, I will share as many of mine as I can before the big day closes in. Maybe you’re ready to let one of yours go, at least for this year, and are willing to make room for some novelty in the repertoire.

These Pecan Bars are my new one. Date Bars, you’re not forgotten, but these are irresistible with a crunchy, shortbread crust and buttery pecan topping. Not too time consuming either.

Pecan Bars

And for a whole variety of Christmas Cookie recipes, from Russian Tea Cakes and Chocolate Mint Sandwich Cookies to Orange Shortbread Cutouts and Black and Whites, check out the link below. I’ve had the pleasure of attending an annual cookie extravaganza where the reliable favorites and stylish newbies are baked and shared. There’s much to inspire bringing in the new.

Christmas Cookie Exchange

CLICK for RECIPES

 

Pecan Bars Dipped in Chocolate

Yield: 12-16 Bars

INGREDIENTS

For the Shortbread Crust

  • 1 1/2 sticks cold, unsalted butter, cut in 1/2 -inch dice
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed, light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the Pie Filling

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup packed, light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla
  • 2 heaping cups of whole pecans, roughly chopped

For the Chocolate Dip (optional)

  • 8 ounces good quality dark chocolate, chopped (try Trader Joes “Pound Plus” Dark Chocolate)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vegetable or canola oil

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line a 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan with parchment paper (or foil) leaving some excess hanging over the ends. (This is important, otherwise the bars won’t come out of the pan)
  3. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, process all the ingredients for the crust together until the mixture begins to form tiny lumps, about 30-45 seconds.
  4. Pour this mixture into the prepared pan and using your hands or a big spatula, evenly press the shortbread crust into the bottom of the pan.
  5. Bake in the middle of the oven until golden, about 18-20 minutes.
  6. While the shortbread crust is baking, prepare the filling.
  7. In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, brown sugar, honey, cream and salt. Bring to a simmer and allow to bubble, stirring occasionally, for about 1 minute.
  8. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and pecans.
  9. Pour the pecan filling into the hot shortbread crust and spread as evenly as possible.
  10. Bake in the middle of the oven until bubbling evenly all over, about 12-15 minutes. Cool completely.
  11. Lift out of the pan using the overhanging parchment or foil and cut into bars.
  12. To dip in chocolate, prepare a large baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper. Melt 6 ounces of the chocolate and the oil together in a glass container that is wider than it is deep and heat in the microwave in 15-20 second increments stirring after each round. When the chocolate is just melted, add the remaining 2 ounces and stir until completely smooth and glossy. Dip the bars into the chocolate allowing the excess to drip off. Place on the prepared baking sheet to cool and firm up.

View or Print Recipe Only

 

Recipe adapted from Just a Taste

Italian Sausage, Spinach and Pasta Soup

1 Jan

For some ease and enjoyment this post-holiday or any time, here is a go-to hearty soup that can well serve as a meal.

Continue reading

Pecan Pie Bars and 19 More Christmas Cookies Recipes

20 Dec

Christmas CookiesHere we are, at the annual pinnacle of eating pleasure. Festive images of sweet and savory delights at every turn. Thoughts surface of treats-past as the traditional once-a-year favorites draw memories of comfort.

Continue reading

Shepherd’s Pie in a Skillet

8 Oct

Shepherds Pie is crave worthy food. Homey, flavorful and satisfying. This recipe has been adapted from Cooks Illustrated and I admit, for someone who disses this publications’ sometimes overly step-intensive preparations, there are a few like the Best Roast Chicken and Blueberry Muffins that prove that Cooks Illustrated is not always such serious business. This one has no unusual ingredients and although there are two separate elements, it comes together fairly quickly. And the leftovers are just as delicious as round one. Continue reading

Sausage, Spinach and Tomato Pasta

29 Apr

Sausage Spinach and Tomato Sauce

This is a favorite weeknight meal with a number of variations. One of the main flavor determinants is the sausage. I like  the Chicken Tuscan Sausage from Woodlands Market in Kentfield, but any handmade chicken, pork or beef sausage works. Continue reading

Best Roast Chicken with Thyme Lemon Sauce

27 Mar

Roast Chicken with Thyme Lemon SauceAlthough I have written about keeping meal preparations simple, and one of the most basic, quick and delicious recipes is whole roasted chicken, I always seem to struggle with it.  So until I discovered this roast-in-the-frying-pan method, I would not have been one to post confidently about roast chicken.   Continue reading