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Eating Sensibly for New Year’s – Is there an App for that?

December 28, 2009 Leave a comment

With all this food ingestion over the past week, I think I have officially bottomed out.  Literally, my bottom is sticking waaaaay out.  I think I have located a clot of cheese in my upper arm, and egg nog is running through my veins.  In addition of my vow to go to the gym more (last time I went the fitness lady asked if I had hurt myself,  since it had been a while since my last visit) I have also added to my list – eating healthier for 2010.  I thought the best way to kick it off would be New Year’s Eve. I figured if I could get through the worst evening of indulgences of the year, I know I could do it for the rest of the year. 

For as long as I have been changing diapers, Dave and I and the kids have always gotten together with friends in one of our homes for New Year’s Eve.  It’s a nice, simple affair with kids running willy nilly and everyone indulging in an appetizer buffet so enormous it could more than feed the number of disappointed Bears fans this year.  Apps rule the night, with finger sized morsels of cheesy goodness and dips a plenty. 

This year I wanted to bring a tasty, satisfying veggie appetizer recipe that will be a refreshing break from the heavy, greasy fare that typically we encounter.  I searched my archives of recipes and was amazed to NOT find one single seasonal recipe that did not have a ton of cheese.  So this post will be a little different, I am going to post a recipe that I have NOT made yet.  I got Tal Ronnen’s The Conscious Cook cookbook for Christmas and found a fun, yummy looking recipe for Sweet Onion Beggar’s Purses.  I have blogged about one of his recipe’s before and really enjoyed it.  So throwing all caution to the wind, I thought it would be fun to post this recipe here.  If you make it for New Year’s Eve, please comment of how it went.  I promise to report back of how I fared with the new app.  

I wish you a Happy New Year and look forward to the hope and happiness 2010 has to offer.

Sweet Onion Beggar’s Purses (by Tal Ronnen)
makes 24 purses

Onion Jam:
Sea Salt
1/4 cup canola oil
2 1/2 lbs red onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup red wine
3 TBS whole grain dijon mustard

For the purses:
16 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed for 2 hours at room temperature
1/2 cup Earth Balance, melted (or butter if you prefer)
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup chopped fresh thyme
24 chives

Make  the onion jam:  Place a large flat-bottomed pan over medium heat.  Sprinkle the bottom with a pinch of salt and heat for 1 minute.  Add the oil and heat for 1 minute, not letting it smoke.  Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally.  Add the brown sugar and cook for 5 minutes.

Stir in the vinegar, wine and 2 teaspoons salt and continue to  cook for 20-25 minutes or until the onions are reduced by about three quarters and are the consistency of jam.  Remove from heat and stir in the mustard, thyme and pepper to taste.

Make the purses:  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Unroll the phyllo dough and lay 1 sheet flat on a work surface, rewrap the dough you’re not working with to keep it from drying out.  Using a pastry brush, brush the entire surface of the sheet with melted Earth Balance.

Lay another sheet on top, brush with Earth Balance and repeat until you have 4 layers of phyllo dough.  Season with black pepper and chopped thyme between every other layer.  Using a pastry cutter or pizza wheel, cut the phyllo dough in 6 (4 1/2 inch) squares.  Repeat with the remaining phyllo sheets to make 24 squares.  Place about 1 TBS of the onion jam in the center of each square.  Draw up the edges of the phyllo to make a rough purse.  Gently twist the packet just above the pocket containing the jam to create frills at the top.

Tie each purse with kitchen string and brush the entire purse lightly with melted Earth Balance.  Place then on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes or until well browned.  Meanwhile, blanch the chives for 1 minute in boiling water, then cool.  When the purses are cooled, carefully remove the string from the purses and tie a chive around each.

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Fast, Easy and Tasty Christmas Morning Breakfasts

December 18, 2009 Leave a comment

Okay, it’s not for dinner, but with the holidays here, I am jonesin’ for a breakfast dish that we have been serving in our house for over five years.  Blueberry Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast is rich and divine and best of all, can be made the night before.  I thought that alone deserved its own post.  I only make this for Christmas day morning, so it’s a real special treat in our household. 

However, since this is the time for giving, so I will be posting not one, but  two, great breakfast recipes for relaxing holiday mornings.   Thank you for reading and I wish everyone a wonderful holiday season and a happy, healthy new year!

Blueberry Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast    (by White Lace Inn)
serves 8

1 loaf white bread (no crusts)
1/2 loaf french bread
6 oz. fresh or frozen blueberries
8 oz  cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
7 eggs
1 1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cup half & half
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Cut bread into cubes and place into the bottom of a greased 9 x 13 pan.  Sprinkle blueberries evenly over bread.  Microwave cream cheese in bowl for 2 minutes.  Stir carefully and add 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup sour cream and 1 tsp. vanilla.  Spread over blueberries.  Cut french bread into ten-1″ thick slices, and place over cream cheese.  Beat eggs, milk, half & half, cinnamon and nutmeg and pour over bread.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  Bake a 350 degrees for 45 minutes covered, then uncovered for around 15 minutes.  Let set before slicing then sift powdered sugar over before serving.

Banana Bread with Cinnamon Crumble Topping    (by BakeSale Betty)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (2 to 3 medium)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup water
2 1/2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour 9x5x3-inch metal baking pan. Whisk 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. Whisk next 5 ingredients in large bowl until smooth. Add dry ingredients; stir to blend. Transfer batter to pan. Mix 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and brown sugar; sprinkle over batter.

Bake bread until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool bread in pan 30 minutes. Turn pan on its side; slide out bread, being careful not to dislodge topping. Turn bread right side up and cool completely.

 

Straight from the Farm…Pork Chops w/Pear Maple Sauce

December 14, 2009 Leave a comment

This time of year makes people reflect on many things.  I think everyone can agree that relations with family and friends tops the list of things of which we are thankful.  This past year, I have met some wonderful people that have,  in a different kind of way, become part of our family.  They have a spot at our dinner table at a few meals every week.  These folks are the local farmers who have provided us with our beef, pork, chicken and eggs.  Desiring not to purchase factory farmed meat, I have developed relationships with them that go beyond the topic of food.  I have enjoyed our conversations about each of our families, toured their farms, and experienced their dedication to their work. 

pork chops w/pear maple sauce, plated

We recently got in touch with a local farm, R Family Farm, that was able to provide us with 1/2 side of pork.  Like the name says, it is a family run farm, with the whole family involved in the farming and selling of livestock.   One of my favorite and easy recipes is Pork Chops with Pear Maple Sauce  and it’s always a hit in our house.   The kids enjoy the sweet sauce and it is very comforting food on a colder day. 

In a related topic, I just finished Jonathan Safran Foer’s latest book, Eating Animals.  I welcome any discussions and your thoughts about the book.  It is a very eye opening look at factory farmed meat.  Food, much like the topic of religion, is deeply personal to most people.  That said, I respect everyone’s opinion and am interested in hearing what your views are on the matter.

Ladle up Some Lovin’… Potato Kale Soup

December 10, 2009 4 comments

I’ve been starting to challenge myself lately in the kitchen.  No, it’s not like Iron Chef or anything (although I do dig the guy that bites into the red pepper!).   I found myself with a bag of kale in the fridge that was supposed to be used for my Butternut Squash and Cheddar Bread Pudding recipe, but I got sick and it never got made.  I have never used kale in any other recipes before, so to not waste it, I thought I should find a good use for the green earthy veggie.  Soup sounded good, so I found a Mark Bittman recipe for Potato Kale Soup.  

I know, it looks a little murky, but tastes great.

For not using many ingredients, it surprisingly had superb flavor and was enjoyed by all.  It was also nice to have soup that was a little different.  With the cold weather here, we eat soup around once a week, so variety is really appreciated in our household.   

Potato Kale Soup (Serves five)

5 large baking potatoes, cut in eights
3 cloves garlic, smashed
6 cups vegetable stock (can use other types of stock,  I use veggie)
3-4 cups of roughly chopped kale (stripped from stalks)
1 teaspoon dried marjoram or oregano (can use fresh too, just use 2 teaspoons)
2 bay leaves

Combine the potato, garlic and 3 cups of the stock in a pot and heat on med-high heat.  Cook until the potato is soft, about 15 minutes or so.  At the same time, cook the kale in the remaining stock with the marjoram and bay leaf until tender, about 10 minutes.  Remove the bay leaves.  Puree the potato mixture and then add the kale to the soup.  Season with salt and pepper.

Busy as a Bean…Black Bean Tacos

December 1, 2009 Leave a comment

Busy.  This time of the year everyone seems to be in a rush.  Whether you are busy getting the house decorated for the holidays, out hitting the stores for some bargain shopping, or at school watching your kid wear a reindeer hat and belting out the lyrics to Frosty the Snowman, it seems the most wonderful time of the year is also the busiest.

Lately I have been making some quick meals (quick for me) and this recipe for Black Bean Tacos is one of my favorites.  It uses few ingredients and the beans and slaw can be made ahead of time.  I usually triple the amount of canned beans and add one cup more of the slaw mixture to serve a family of five.   The crispy tacos  make the shell ones you get in the taco kits taste like corn cardboard.   With these tacos, the taste is fresh, healthy and one of my favorite veggie meals.  Typically I serve this with Zatarain’s spanish rice (MSG free), seeing that refried beans as a side is just too many beans.  Because if you did, then your family will be become busy doing one more thing…vacating the room.