At our house, we have a saying..."Don't yuk my yum!". We are trying to raise kids that aren't picky eaters by exposing them to many different kinds of food. It wasn't that long ago that one of my kids asked "Why can't you cook food like everyone else? Like tater tot hotdish?" The reason? It's not very healthy or creative and I think it's kind of gross. I don't cook like that. I like to use fresh, healthy ingredients to make great tasting good for you dishes. I've created this blog to share my favorite recipes with you.

Follow my kitchen adventures from using up vegetables from our weekly CSA box to baking and creative cooking.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Remembering Grandma Val with Peanut Butter Blossoms

Today is the 11th anniversary of the death of my mother-in-law, Valerie Huck.  It is also my daughter, Anna's 10th birthday.  Ten years ago, on the day Anna was born, we were happy that she could share her special day with the Grandmother she never got to meet.

To remember Grandma Val today, Olivia (who turned 8 last week), asked to make cookies.  Phil took this opportunity to bake with the girls while I got the last of my weekend homework done.  At first, they followed a recipe they picked up in the grocery store last night.  That one turned out way too salty, so they tried again with a recipe I've used over and over from "Cookies for a Year of Celebrations", a cookbook I got from my own Grandmother before I got married. 

While Phil was mixing up the second batch of dough, the girls got tired of helping and went to go watch a movie.  Before she left the room, Olivia said "you got this dad?".  She wanted to make sure he could handle it without her, I guess. The second batch turned out great and I am happily munching on a huge plate of my favorite cookies right now. 
The aprons the girls are wearing were made for their grandma by her mom when she was small.  Phil's apron was also made by Grandma Rose for Val when she was an adult. 
Peanut  Butter Blossoms (This is easily doubled, but 48 cookies is plenty)
1 1/4 c. firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 c. creamy peanut butter
1/2 shortening
3 T. milk
1 T. vanilla
1 egg
1 3/4 c. flour
3/4 t. baking soda
1/4 c. sugar
48 unwrapped Hershey's Kisses

Heat oven to 375.  Mix together brown sugar, peanut butter, shortening, milk and vanilla.  Beat at medium speed until will blended.  Add egg, then beat until blended.  Combine flour and soda, then add to shortening mixture, beating a low speed until just blended.  Roll dough into 1 inch balls and then roll the balls in the sugar.  Place on baking sheet  2 inches apart.  Bake for about 10 minutes.  Immediately after removing from oven, place one Hershey's kiss in the middle of each cookie, then move the cookies to foil or wax paper to cool. 

This is one of my favorite holiday cookie recipes, but of course, it can be enjoyed all year 'round.  Happy eating!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Cranberry Nut Bread

I am a sucker for quick breads.  I love banana bread, pumpkin bread and zucchini bread.  Last night, I made a double batch of cranberry bread, inspired by the abundance of cranberries in the grocery store.  I found the recipe on the back of the bag of cranberries.  These will be a great breakfast on Thanksgiving morning, maybe with some egg muffins

Orange-Cranberry-Walnut Bread (Makes 2 big loaves or 4 small ones)
4 c. flour
2 c. sugar
3 t. baking powder
2 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1 1/2 c. orange juice (I used fresh squeezed because I had oranges, but not orange juice)
4 T. vegetable oil
2 T. grated orange peel
2 eggs, well beaten
1 bag of fresh or frozen cranberries (3 c.), roughly chopped
1 c. walnuts, coarsely chopped.

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine dry ingredients in large bowl. Add juice, oil, eggs, and orange peel, mixing until blended.  Stir in the cranberries and walnuts.  Pour into 2 greased 9 x 5 loaf pans.  Bake for about an hour or until toothpick comes out clean.

Now that I have tried the bread, I would recommend a few things:  add more orange peel, and either fewer cranberries or more sugar, as this is pretty tart.  These would also make great muffins and probably freezes well also.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Homemade Pumpkin Pie

Editor's note:  I removed the pie recipe from this post.  I don't know what's wrong with it, but it's gross.  The crust recipe will work for any recipe you find elsewhere. 

Because I planned ahead this year, I was able to make a pumpkin pie totally from scratch.  As I discussed in a previous post, I got a bunch of pie pumpkins and kobocha squashes from Red Goose Gardens.  I baked them all and froze the pulp in 1 c. portions for future use.  When I thaw the pumpkin, I dump it over a strainer and let the extra liquid drain out in the fridge overnight. 

Until last summer, I had always been afraid of pie crust. It was one of those things I could buy at the store so why make it?  I looked online for an easy recipe and found this one, from for Hot Water Pie Crust.  I have made it four or five times and it always comes out flaky and delicious.  Don't be afraid, just give it a try! 

Hot Water Pie Crust
14 T. shortening (I use Butter Crisco Stick)
1/4 c. hot water
1 T. milk
1/2 t. salt
2 1/4. c. flour

Put shortening in large bowl and whip it a little with a fork.  Pour the milk and hot water over the shortening. With a fork, whip the shortening and liquids  until it comes together, a minute or two.  This will make a mess with water spraying everywhere, so keep a towel handy.  Add flour and salt, stirring with a fork until the dough forms.  Divide dough into two balls and roll out each ball between 2 sheets of wax paper until it fits in your pie pan.  I usually freeze one for later and use one now.  Remove wax paper from one side of wax paper and lay in pie plate, wax paper up.  Carefully peel off the wax paper, patching as necessary. 

This pumpkin pie recipe is a result of a lot of research.  I must have read at least a dozen different recipes, looking for one that used fresh pumpkin and that used only ingredients I had.  This makes a huge pie, so use a deep dish pan or two smaller ones. 

Thanksgiving is still three days away and I have to look at this beautiful pie in my fridge until then.  It may not make it to my parent's house intact...

Monday, November 14, 2011

Roasted Squash with Pasta

I shared my love of Lynne Rossetto Kasper in a previous post.....she is a cooking goddess.  I try to listen to her radio show every Saturday at 2:00 and if I miss it, I listen to the podcast later.  I have learned a lot about cooking from her.  She always has great ideas about how to use up ingredients in the fridge and comes up with creative, delicious recipes.  I have her cookbook "How to Eat Supper" on my counter at all times, and refer to it frequently.  Along with delicious recipes, she also includes great stories about the history of using a certain food product or advice on alternate ways to cook things. 

I have an abundance of squash this fall and while they are mostly spaghetti squash, which I will post about another day, once I have perfected my recipe, butternut squash is my favorite.  Butternuts are the ones that are light brown in color and kind of long with one end skinny and the other fat.  Like most squash, they are hard to cut into, but with a little effort, they can be peeled, seeds scooped out and cut into small chunks for roasting.  Sometimes, you can even buy them in the store already cut into chunks, although they are probably more expensive that way and who knows what preservatives are on them.   

I have been making this recipe for a couple of years, probably since about 2009, when we first started getting our weekly CSA deliveries.  Squash is one of those items that I didn't have much experience with at first, but I have come to love it and have dragged my children kicking and screaming with me.  Along with using butternut squash, the recipe has a few added bonuses:  one, it is a great way to use up greens, which we always seem to have a lot of and two, it has fresh herbs in it, and you know how I love those

Sweet Roasted Butternut Squash and Greens Over (Bow-Tie) Pasta
(From How to Eat Supper by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift)
3 lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into bite-sized chunks
1 large onion, cut into 1 inch chunks
2 big handfuls of washed, dried and chopped greens (Lynne recommends escarole or endive, but I use kale, spinach or chard)
1/3 tight packed cup fresh basil leaves, torn (I used my frozen stash)
16 large fresh sage leaves, torn
5 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped (I used the jar of minced garlic)
1/3 c. olive oil
1/4 t. red pepper flakes (careful, it could get spicy quickly!)
1 T. brown sugar
sat and pepper
1 pound pasta (Lynne recommends bow tie, we like radiadore or penne, you pick...something bite sized)
1/2 c. half and half (I have been using low fat evaporated milk with great results!)
1 1/2 c. shredded parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 450, putting a large sheet pan in the oven to heat up as well.  Mix together squash, onions, greens, herbs, olive oil, red pepper flakes and brown sugar in a big bowl, salt and pepper generously.  When oven and pan are hot, carefully dump the veggies on the pan and spread out.  Bake for about 25 minutes, turning the veggies a few times.  Once the squash is tender, turn on the broiler for a few minutes to caramelize the vegetables, watching closely so they don't burn.   Meanwhile, boil the water for the pasta and cook until tender.  I like the pasta for this recipe to be pretty firm, otherwise it turns mushy with the squash.  Drain pasta.  Scrape vegetables and pasta into large bowl and add half and half and cheese, tossing to blend.  Serve with more cheese on top, if desired. 
The squash I used this time was huge, so I used two pans.  I plan to use the leftover squash as a pizza topping one of these days. You could also just make the roasted vegetables and serve them as a side dish for a holiday meal! 
One thing I do with this recipe to make it more weeknight-friendly is roast the vegetables on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and keep them in the fridge until later in the week.  I just heat them in the oven while the pasta is cooking and follow the recipe from there.  This recipe also reheats well and actually tastes better as leftovers.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Hosting Thanksgiving this year?

I love Lynne Rossetto Kasper.  She has a great show called "The Splendid Table" on MPR (Minnesota Public Radio) and she writes great cookbooks.  I have her old cookbook, "How to Eat Supper", but am excited to get my hands on a copy of her new book, "How to Eat Weekends".  As I posted previously, I have an issue with cookbooks.  I love to read them, but hate to follow them.  Lynne Rossetto Kasper has proven to be the exception to this rule and I plan on posting another day about her Butternut Squash Pasta and her Corn Chowder, both of which see pretty heavy rotation at our house. 

I rant about Lynne Rossetto Kasper today because I found this great guide to planning your Thanksgiving Dinner on her website.  If you are hosting Thanksgiving this year or just want to read about hosting Thanksgiving, check out her handy little chart by clicking on the icon below.  I hope you enjoy her as much as I do. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A little dessert

Phil and I are both on the Friends of the Library Board.  Last week, we held an event honoring those who donated money to the library.  We have done this for four years in a row now and every year we do a different theme.  This year's them was "Reading and Recipes", and most of our recipes were taken from books found in the library.  I volunteered to bring three recipes to go on the "Cookbooks" table.  One would think this would be easy.  Grab a cookbook and pick a recipe, right?  But I have a problem.  I love to read cookbooks and cooking magazines, but actually following a recipe is really hard for me. If I'm looking for a certain recipe, I look online.   I view cookbooks as more of a resource or a starting point.  I get ideas for what to make from the cookbooks and then usually go make up my own recipe.

After a lot of thought, I decided on three items.  I made deviled eggs (we have an abundance of eggs), vegetable pizza and mini cheesecakes.  I had a whole cookbook on deviled eggs and actually managed to follow a recipe for those.  Well, some of them.  I decided to freestyle a little and made up my own recipe for about half of them.  The veggie pizza was a result of a little research and experimentation and the cheesecake recipe was a combination of a few different recipes.  I wasn't going to write about any of these but the cheesecakes looked so pretty on the platter, I just had to share them.  With the holidays coming up, these might be a great treat to bring with you to dinner parties. 

Easy Mini Cheesecakes (Makes 48 mini muffin cups or 12 big muffin cups)
Crust:  oreos or mini oreos, depending on what size you are making (could also use vanilla wafers, or whatever your favorite cookie is)
2 bricks cream cheese, room temperature
2 eggs
1/2 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.  Put liners in muffin cups.  Put one oreo or mini oreo in each cup and crush with a spoon. (You could also crush them in a food processor first then put them in the cups.)  Blend together cream cheese, vanilla and sugar.  Make sure you use a mixer and blend well, otherwise the cheesecakes will have chunks.  Mix in eggs until just combined.  You could also stir in some mini chocolate chips at this point.  Pour over the oreo crumbs.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on the size, until just set. 

When cooled, top with chocolate chips or fruit.  I looked for fresh berries for the garnish, but they are out of season so had to settle for kiwi.  They turned out delicious anyway.  Make sure you store them in the refrigerator.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Our Daily Breakfast...

I could spend a long time ranting about the goodness of steel-cut oats, but I'll try to keep it short.  I have never been a huge fan of oatmeal, but steel cut oats have changed my mind.  When you think of oatmeal, you probably think of the flattened out flakes that take a few minutes in the microwave to cook.  Steel cut oats are different than that.  They look like rabbit food...pellets, really. 

Every Sunday afternoon or evening (if I remember), I make a big pot of steel cut oats.  I divide them into 5 individual containers for Phil to take to work and put the rest in a big container for me and the girls.  This provides breakfast for the whole week.  This small amount of planning ahead makes a quick weekday breakfast.  It's as easy as pouring a bowl of ceral...scoop some in a bowl and heat it in the microwave.  Add milk and it's a nice hot breakfast. 

Steel Cut Oats (I quadruple this recipe for our family)
1 c. steel cut oats
3 c. water
brown sugar

Put the oats and water in a big pot.  Bring to a simmer and turn down so it doesn't boil too rapidly.  Cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until it comes together like oatmeal should.  Remove from heat.  Stir in cinnamon, brown sugar and raisins to your taste.  Eat immediately or divide into containers and refrigerate.  To reheat, microwave for about 2 minutes. 

I like to cool this down a little with some soy milk before I eat it.  When I eat this for breakfast, I am not hungry for hours.  I even sometimes have a hard time eating my lunch because I'm still full. 

I have tried adding pureed pumpkin to this and have also cooked diced apples with the oats.  Both turned out well, but we prefer the brown sugar, cinnamon and raisins. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Homemade Tomato Basil Soup

The colder weather is here.  One of my favorite things about fall and winter is being able to enjoy all the delicious soup and stew recipes I have collected. One of my new favorites is a homemade tomato soup that actually has a lot more vegetables in in than just tomatoes.  I am not usually a fan of tomato soup, but a while back, I tried someones tomato basil soup and fell in love.  I immediately went home and started searching for a version I could make myself.  
Once again, the food network website pulled through for me, providing a relatively simple and very delicious recipe that my family loves.  This recipe calls for canned diced tomatoes, but I have also made it with fresh and frozen tomatoes, all with great results.  If I use canned tomatoes, I use the fire roasted for a little extra flavor.  The original recipe called for a lot more olive oil and some butter, but why add extra fat to a healthy soup? 

Not as red as traditional tomato soup, but don't let the color fool you, this is delicious!

Tomato Basil Soup (This makes enough to feed the four of us with no leftovers)
2 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes (or the fresh/frozen equivalent)
3 T. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and  pepper
2 stalks celery, diced (with leaves)
2 small carrots, diced
2  onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced (I use the jarred stuff)
2 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup chopped basil leaves (I used my frozen stash from this post
1/2 cup heavy cream, optional (I used low fat evaporated milk)

Preheat oven to 450. Strain the chopped canned tomatoes, reserving the juices, and spread onto a baking sheet, season with salt and pepper, to taste, drizzle with 2 T. of the olive oil and roast until caramelized, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, heat remaining olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the celery, carrot, onion and garlic, cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the roasted chopped canned tomatoes, reserved tomato juices, chicken broth and bay leaf. Simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove bay leaf.  Add basil and cream, if using. Puree with a hand held immersion blender until smooth.

I think this recipe would also be great if you added some peppers (red, green, yellow, or orange), a potato or a little cauliflower as well.  As I do with all my recipes, I will continue to experiment with this one. 

I usually serve it with a plain old grilled cheese sandwich or garlic toast.   Enjoy!