Thursday, December 31, 2009

Whole Wheat Pear Bread

For Christmas, Dad and Carla gave us fruit of the month club from Harry and David! I was so excited to receive our first shipment of pears! They were the biggest pears I have ever seen, and they were delicious, but I knew we wouldn't be able to eat them all before they went bad so I decided to bake with them. I wanted to make something somewhat healthy after all the rich foods that are consumed during Christmas and came up with this recipe for some whole wheat pear bread. I thought it was quite tasty, and I was actually surprised at how much Nick liked it. He even said it was better than banana bread! Now, that is a bold statement, and I am not sure I am willing to make that one myself (I love banana bread!). Nevertheless it was yummy and a good variation on the quick breads you usually see.

2 cups peeled diced pears
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups white wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup pear butter *
1/3 cup chopped pecans
* We had some pear butter made by Nick's Aunt Frankye, but if you can't find any, I think it would be fine to substitute applesauce- your bread just may be a little less sweet.

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray with flour.
3. In one bowl, mix the pears, sugar, egg, oil, and pear butter together.
4. In a second bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice.
5. Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir until combined.
6. Stir in the pecans.
7. Pour batter into prepared pan.
8. Bake until a toothpick can be inserted and comes out clean (mine took about 45 minutes).

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

For our K group (community group) Christmas party, we were all supposed to bring appetizers to share. I wanted to bring something that was healthy (so that I would eat it) but also yummy (so others would eat it)! I decided that chicken lettuce wraps would fit both of those criteria, and I found this recipe from Taste of Home. I thought they were good the first day, but I thought the leftovers were better because the chicken had more time to absorb the flavors of the sauce.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps (from Taste of Home)
* 1-1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed
* 1 tablespoon plus 1-1/2 teaspoons peanut oil, divided (I used sesame oil)
* 3/4 cup chopped fresh mushrooms
* 1 can (8 ounces) water chestnuts, drained and diced
* 1 tablespoon minced fresh gingerroot
* 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
* 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium teriyaki sauce
* 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
* 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
* 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
* 1-1/2 cups shredded carrots
* 1/2 cup julienned green onions
* 12 Bibb or Boston lettuce leaves
* 1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted


* In a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray, cook chicken in 1 tablespoon oil for 3 minutes; drain. Add the mushrooms, water chestnuts and ginger; cook 4-6 minutes longer or until chicken is no longer pink. Drain and set aside.
* In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar, teriyaki sauce, soy sauce, garlic powder, red pepper flakes and remaining oil. Stir in the carrots, onions and chicken mixture. Spoon onto lettuce leaves; sprinkle with almonds. If desired, fold sides of lettuce over filling and roll up.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Orange Cranberry Cake

Orange and cranberry is one of my favorite flavor combinations. The tartness of the cranberries just goes so well with the sweet, fresh flavor of orange. It is a perfect holiday dessert! I found this recipe on Good Things Catered and chose to make it because I had almost all the ingredients on hand. Nick and I both liked the results despite the fact that I underbaked it a little- oops. I didn't have orange liquor or an orange for the zest so I just substituted extra orange juice in place of liquor and zest.

Orange Cranberry Cake (from Good Things Catered)
3 c. flour, divided
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. oil
1 2/3 c. granulated sugar
2 Tbsp orange zest (I didn't use, but think it would be better with it!)
1 Tbsp orange liquor (I replaced with OJ)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/4 c. fresh orange juice
3/4 c. buttermilk
2 c. fresh cranberries

For icing:
2 c. powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3-6 tsp fresh orange juice

-Preheat oven to 325 degrees spray bundt pan with cooking spray with flour.
-In bowl of stand mixer, add sugar, butter and oil and beat until light and fluffy in texture as well as color, about 5 minutes.
-Meanwhile, in medium bowl, combine 2 1/2 c flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
-Whisk to combine well and set aside.
-To sugar mixture, add orange zest.
-One at a time, add egg and beat to combine well.
-Add liquor and vanilla, beating to combine well.
-Add orange juice and buttermilk, mixing to combine well.
-Stop mixer and scrape down sides of bowl.
-With mixer on lowest speed, add flour mixture and mix until almost combined.
-Stop mixer and remove bowl.
-In bowl flour was in, add remaining 1/2 c. flour and cranberries.
-Toss to coat and add to batter.
-Using large spatula, fold cranberries and extra flour into batter just until combined.
-Pour batter into bundt pan.
-Tap on counter to remove air bubbles, smooth top of batter away from center of pan.
-Place into preheated oven on rack in center of oven and bake until toothpick inserted into center of pan comes out clean, about 1 hour.
-Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 20 minutes.
-Turn cake out onto wire rack and cool completely.
-Once cake is cool, in medium bowl, combine powdered sugar, vanilla extract and orange juice, 1 tsp at a time until medium consistency is achieved.
-Drizzle icing over top of cake, decorate with orange rind and fresh cranberries and serve.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Pasta with Roasted Vegetables and Sausage

We had this for our "Thanksgiving" with Dad, Carla, Josh, and Annie. It's obviously not your traditional Thanksgiving dinner, but we didn't want to have like 5 Thanksgiving dinners and Josh had to run in a 5 mile race the next morning. There is nothing better than pasta for a pre-race meal! Everyone seemed to like it, and it is great for cooking for a group because it doesn't require much extra work for the extra portions :) It is also really healthy because of the whole wheat pasta, vegetables, and using chicken or turkey sausage instead of regular. I will definitely make this again- In fact, I think I am going to make it next week for our K group (church community group)!

* 1 bunch of asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 in pieces
* 1 red or yellow pepper, sliced
* 1 cup sliced mushrooms
* 1 small yellow onion, diced
* 2 zucchini, halved lengthwise and slices
* 1.5 jars spaghetti sauce (We used Trader Joes Arrabiata)
* about 16 oz whole wheat bowtie pasta
* 1 lb spicy chicken or turkey sausage
* olive oil
* salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Line a baking sheet (or 2) with tin foil and place veggies on baking sheet.
3. Mist veggies with olive oil (or drizzle if you don't have an olive oil spray thing) and then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
4. Put baking sheets in oven and cook until vegetables are tender, about 30 min.
5. While they are cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to directions on the box.
6. While the pasta is cooking, remove casing from sausage and cook over medium heat, stirring to crumble until sausage is not longer pink.
7. When pasta is done, drain and return to pot.
8. Add spaghetti sauce, roasted vegetables, and turkey sausage to pot and stir to combine.
9. Season with salt and pepper.
10. Serve in individual bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Serves 6-8 people.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Tonight we had stuffed acorn squash for dinner- I loved it! Nick really liked it too, but I don't think he could like it more than me! It was a very fall/wintery dinner, which was perfect for this cold day.

1 acorn squash
1/2 cup brown rice (or about 1 cup cooked)
1/4 cup craisins (or raisins)
1 link of spicy turkey or chicken sausage
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp chopped walnuts, toasted

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Cut squash in half, crosswise (or on the "equator" according to nick) and remove seeds.
3. Put about half an inch of water in a baking dish and place squash cut-side-down.
4. Cook in oven until tender, about 40 minutes.
5. While squash is roasting, cook rice according to package directions.
6. Remove casing from sausage and cook in a nonstick skillet over medium heat, stirring to crumble.
7. In a medium bowl, combine cooked rice, cooked turkey sausage, craisins, walnuts, and goat cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
8. Spoon rice mixture into squash.
(Serves 2, one squash half for each)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Banana Espresso Chocolate Chip Muffins

My freezer is stocked full with frozen bananas that were "past their prime" for eating, but they are perfect for baking! I saw these muffins on Culinary Concoctions by Peabody, which is a blog I love to read because she makes so many delicious desserts. Her recipes have never let me down and this time was no exception! They were really good and had just a hint of the espresso taste. I will definitely make these again!

Banana Espresso Chocolate Chip Muffins

1 ½ cups mashed, very ripe bananas
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup 2% milk
1 large egg
1/3 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp instant espresso powder
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 12 cup muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, stir together the bananas, sugars, butter, cream cheese, milk and egg.
In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, instant espresso powder, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the well and stir until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.
Fill each sup about three-quarters full. Bake in the center of the oven for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
Move the muffin pan to a cooling rack, and let cool for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove the muffins from the pan and let them finish cooling on the cooling rack.