July 29, 2013

Mexican Quinoa

I am new to the world of quinoa.  Ever had it?  It really is such an amazing food.  Texture is like rice, size is like couscous (just a little smaller), and it resembles rice in the way it tastes.  It's a very versatile food, and like rice, it's a blank canvas for adding any flavors your heart desires.  Plus it's has protein, so it's a great substitute for meat.

At the moment I am all about experimenting with this stuff.  This my latest concoction.  I loved this!  I had it for lunch three times this week.  I love that it keeps me full for a long time too (much easier to resist snacking when you are full).  I'm excited to try out the many other ideas that have been racing through my mind in the future!

Mexican Quinoa

Cook 1 cup quinoa according to package directions (should make about 2 cups cooked)
1 cup black beans, rinsed
1 cup corn
4 scallions, chopped
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup red or orange pepper, diced


Zest & juice from one lime
1 tbsp agave nectar
1/4 tsp salt & pepper to taste
3 tbsp olive oil

Whisk together the dressing ingredients.  Once the quinoa is cooked, place it in a medium sized bowl.  Add the black beans, corn, pepper, cilantro, scallions to the quinoa and stir to combine.  Add the dressing and toss to coat evenly.  This is a great dish served warm or cold!

July 24, 2013

Blackberry Vinaigrette

I can't believe July is already almost over.  I wish I could freeze time.  I do not want this warm weather to end.  The thought of another long, cold and dreary winter makes me sad.  Last week we had several days with temps in the 90's.....this morning I had to turn the heat on in the car to warm my toes from the 55 degree morning chill.  Amazing how the temps can change so quickly up here!  Another reason to freeze time - my son just turned 15 and is about to get his learner's permit, which I just cannot wrap my head around.  The thought of him driving someday, without me in the car, is terrifying!  Trying hard to not think about that yet though.....live in the moment right?  Ok.....big sigh.

As I've mentioned in the past, I make my own salad dressing 99% of the time.  I have a few favorites that I stick to, but since it's summer I decided to search for something different.  Somehow I ended up on a site where she used a blackberry vinaigrette for the salad she was making, and I thought "Perfect!"  I already had blackberries on hand so I set out to make it.  I have to say, I really enjoyed this dressing.  Such a wonderful way to eat/utilize fruit that's in season.  Loved it - thank you to whomever!  I forgot to write down the site I got the recipe from, but I did end up altering the original recipe anyway.  Here's how I made it:

Blackberry Vinaigrette

1 1/2 cups fresh blackberries
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp stone ground mustard
1/2 tsp garlic, chopped
1 tbsp agave nectar 
1/2 cup olive oil 
Salt & Pepper

In a blender or food processor add the blackberries, vinegar, mustard, garlic and agave.  Blend until smooth, then slowly add the olive oil, blending until smooth again.  Strain mixture through a strainer to remove all the seeds.  Add a little salt and pepper to taste.  If you want it sweeter, add a little more agave. 

July 20, 2013

Little B's Blondies

I'm still here.  Just haven't been able to get my computer to cooperate lately!  Have you missed me?  Haha, bet you didn't even notice that it's been a while since I've posted!  That's OK....it's summer and you all should be enjoying the sun, hot temps, long days, family & friends. 

My husband and son headed up to deer camp to do some work in preparation for the coming hunting season.  There is no electricity or wood stove there, so it's hard to pack them yummy meals to take with them.  Usually they pack up some coolers and cook over the camp fire (can't say I'm sad to be missing all that fun).  However, I usually try to send them off with something to munch on.  Here's what I came up with this time.....they need to keep their blood sugar up while working hard in the summer heat after all!  Yum yum!

Little B's Blondies

2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
3 cups brown sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup white chocolate chips
1/4 cup milk chocolate chips (or semi-sweet)
1/4 cup toffee bits
1 1/2 cups potato chips crumbled

Preheat oven to 350 and spray a 9 x 13" dish with cooking spray.  Melt the butter on low heat in a medium saucepan, then remove from heat.  Stir in the brown sugar and vanilla, then the eggs - one at a time, making sure it's well combined.  Add in the flour and salt and stir until just combined.  Stir in the kinds of chocolate chips, toffee and potato chips.  Pour mixture into baking dish and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until browned and set.  Cool completely before cutting.

July 13, 2013

Old-Fashioned Peanut Butter Cookies

Still having computer issues....yup.  It really is one of those impossible situations because I feel like technology has me hostage.  I wish I could be like my aunt - no cable, no computer, no internet access.  Life is so much more simple that way.  Most of us believe there's just no way we'd survive, however, I believe I could adjust.  For the times I'd get bored, hey here's a novel idea - read a book......and not on the kindle, an actual hard cover book!  Some days I feel as if I'm a 92 year old stuck in a "30 something" body.  Then I remember all the fun things on the internet like Pinterest, Foodgawker, Facebook, etc. and I fall into the technology trap all over again.  Oh well....I guess it's best to embrace and accept it.

For a long time I have been determined to make delicious peanut butter cookies with as little ingredients as possible.  These cookies are super simple to make and require zero flour - that's right, NO FLOUR!  Yahoo!  Wish all cookies could be flour-free.....hey, maybe I should make that a goal.  Anyway, you'll love them as much as I do (husband loved these too).  How can you not - they have no flour!  Haha

Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp baking soda
Turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 350 and spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray.  Add the peanut butter and sugar to a large bowl and stir to combine.  Add the vanilla, egg  and baking soda and stir to combine.  Take a tablespoon and scoop the dough out and into your hand.  Roll into a ball then place on cookie sheet.  Repeat until the dough is gone.  With a fork, press gently onto each ball of dough to make the criss-cross marks, but don't press too hard.  Sprinkle the turbinado sugar on top of each ball of dough, then place cookie tray in oven.  Bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes (if you make 12 cookies, it may need 14 minutes to cook).  

Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes before removing the cookies to cool on a wire rack.  Makes 12-14 cookies.

July 10, 2013

Roasted Beet Sandwich

I spent this past weekend in Montreal with my wonderful husband.  Totally successful trip, but we got home late Sunday and boy was I tired from all the walking and shopping we did!  When I turned on my computer to catch up on emails and to write a post for my blog, I was horrified to find it not working!  I couldn't get online and things just kept freezing up.  It's been acting up for a while, but I ignored it and just put up with it.  But that isn't going to cut it this time and I'm going to have to take it somewhere to have it looked at.  Luckily I can use my husbands laptop when he's not traveling, however he does need to travel this week so I'm not sure when I'll be able to get another post out.  Just as an FYI.....it might not be for a few days.  I know....you'll be lost without me, haha!

In the mean time....I give you beets.  Are you a fan of beets?  It's been only in the last year that I've been in to them.  I never ate them before and never really had an interest in them.  Now all of a sudden I can't get enough of them!  My husband and I ate at my favorite restaurant last week, Hen of the Wood in Waterbury, and they served golden beets with my husband's meal.  They were delicious, and it made me want to run home and roast up some beets!  So, that is exactly what I did.  Here's how I roasted them and how I ate them.  Mmmm, so delicious!  

Roasted Beet Sandwich

2 beets, scrubbed clean and both ends cut off
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

Thick slice (or two if you don't want an open faced sandwich) of really good bread, artisan bread is perfect for this or maybe ciabatta bread
Goat Cheese
Maple Syrup (real is best!)

To roast the beets:  Preheat oven to 400 and place beets on lined baking sheet.  Drizzle each beet with olive oil and turn to coat the beets.  Season with salt and pepper and cover with aluminum foil.  Cook for about an hour, or until tender when pierced with a knife or fork.  Remove from oven and cool completely.  Peel skin off before slicing.

For the sandwich:  Toast your bread, then top with about 2 tablespoons of goat cheese.  Place you lettuce on top of the goat cheese then top that with your sliced beets.  Drizzle a small amount of syrup over the beets (I really just used a tiny amount) and season with salt and pepper.  YUM!

July 5, 2013

Gluten Free Mexican Wedding Cookies

When my doctor told me that I needed to stay away from gluten, my first thought was "OK, but what about my blog??"  I have been determined from that day to not make this blog about gluten free recipes, mostly because there are already wonderful blogs out there devoted to gluten free cooking.  I also still need to cook for my family and I don't want to deprive them of gluten just because I can't have it.  However, I have recently decided that as I experiment, find and/or create gluten free recipes that I feel are worth sharing I am going to do so.  This past weekend was one of my first social gatherings where food was involved since being gluten free, and I realized that even though there are so many people these days who can't eat gluten, most party hosts don't want to deal with making alternative dishes for their food allergy guests.  I don't blame them, and I don't expect them to.  I either eat beforehand or wait until later.  However, I was feeling a little deprived after the party, so it made me want to go home and experiment more with gluten free baking.

That's how these cookies were born.  I am so new to experimenting with gluten free flours, and combining them to find the perfect all purpose blend.  My personal goal is to find a combination that is less starchy and higher in protein (like almond & coconut flour), but where the outcome is close to the gluten filled originals.  I thought these cookies turned out really good!  Delicious flavor, and texture was pretty darn close to the original.  My husband liked them and said he couldn't tell they were gluten free.  He also said they reminded him of pecan sandies.  I'd say two thumbs up for these babies!  I don't typically eat a lot of sweets, especially lately, but every now and then I crave a cookie.  It will be nice to expand my gluten free options in the future and share them with you all.  You never know, you may find yourself cooking for someone you know who is gluten free, so maybe some of my recipes will come in handy for you as well!

Gluten Free Mexican Wedding Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose gluten free flour
2 tbsp coconut flour
½ tsp xanthan gum
1/4 cup almonds, finely chopped
½ cup pecans, finely chopped (I ground both nuts together in my food processor)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar

Mix butter, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and the vanilla in large bowl. Stir in flour, nuts and salt until dough holds together. Chill dough in refrigerator for at least one hour.  

Heat oven to 400ºF and spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray. Shape dough into large 1 & 1/2" balls and place about 1" apart on the cookie sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes or just until set, but not brown. Remove from oven and cool for 2 minutes.  Roll warm cookies in powdered sugar then place on wire rack to cool.  Then roll in powdered sugar again.  Makes 12-14 cookies.

July 3, 2013

Healthy Cream of Broccoli Soup

One of my goals when cooking for my family is to make as much as possible from scratch.  I try to avoid all those chemical filled store bought foods when possible, but of course there are occasions when I just don't have time to make the alternative "from scratch" option.  Add my own gluten sensitivity to the mix....and well, let's just say that life in the kitchen has gotten even more complicated. 

For myself, I have had to alter the way I eat severely over the last few months.  One thing I turn to often for lunch these days is soup.  Soup of all kinds, and no, I don't care that it's summer!  I came across this recipe for cream of broccoli soup and immediately thought "Come on....there's just no way that's going to be good."  However, curiosity got the better of me and I whipped up a batch of it to try.  Even though I was doubtful this would be any good, I was also hopeful because one of my favorite meals is broccoli chicken divan (click here for recipe).  The recipe I've used for years, and love dearly I might add, uses store bought cream of broccoli soup which I can no longer consume.  The thought of never having that meal again is actually quite depressing, but I am determined to figure out a substitute. 

Amazingly, I found this soup to be quite good!  I ate it for lunch three days in a row, then froze the rest.  It's tasty, thick and filling.  I was very satisfied with how this soup turned out......actually, truth be told - I was shocked at how good this soup was.  I plan to use it in my broccoli chicken divan recipe soon.  Fingers crossed it will be just the substitute I've been looking for!

Healthy Cream of Broccoli Soup  (adapted from Lyn Genet) 

3 tbsp butter
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
2 cups low sodium chicken stock
1 cup water
1 can coco milk, full fat
4 cups broccoli, chopped
3 cups zucchini, chopped
Salt & Pepper to taste
Optional: cumin, tumeric, cayenne
I added a pinch of red pepper fakes

In a large pot, saute the onion, celery and spices in the butter until softened - about 10 minutes.  Add the coconut milk, water and chicken broth along with the broccoli and zucchini and cook until vegetables are tender.  Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth or until you reach your desired consistency.  Serves 6-8.

July 1, 2013

Brussels Sprouts with Pecans & Cranberries

I don't know what the weather is like in other parts of the USA, but Vermont has gotten so much rain over the last month!  Besides the horrible flooding we've been enduring, and will continue to endure unless the rain stops, everyone's gardens are suffering.  Our vegetable garden is just barely hanging on, and our flower garden is pretty much destroyed.  This was the first year that we decided to really put some money into the flower garden.....definitely picked the wrong year for that!  I have a sneaky suspicion that this rainy pattern is going to continue for the rest of the summer.  Good thing we didn't plan a camping trip this year!

Brussels sprouts are a favorite of both my husband and myself.  This is a quick and simple side dish to put together - perfect to go with any meal.  All the flavors work so well together and balance each other perfectly.  Another delicious vegetable dish to enjoy this summer....assuming the gardens hold up through all this rain!

Brussels Sprouts with Pecans & Cranberries (serves 2-3)

1 lb Brussels sprouts, stems removed and halved
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup pecans
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

Heat about a tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat.  Add the Brussels sprouts to the pan, and season with salt & pepper.  Cook for 8-10 minutes, or until sprouts become tender.  Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl.  Add the pecans and cranberries and stir to combine.  Top with goat cheese before serving.