Friday, April 29, 2011

Whole Wheat Garlic Knots

Garlic and bread--they are a match made in heaven!  Especially when they are these soft, chewy rolls.  Because we had yet another cold and rainy day, I made soup (again).  And everyone knows that when you make soup, you have to make bread.  I've made these rolls a few times before, but this was the first time I used whole wheat flour.  To be honest, it was only because I had completely run out of bread flour.  I was a little concerned they just wouldn't be the same soft rolls that they are with all white flour, but I was so wrong.  My family, who previously thought they were "fine",  literally devoured these.  And the best part?  The leftovers (if you have any) make the best sandwich rolls.  Oh how I wish I had some leftovers today...

Whole Wheat Garlic Knots
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1 cup plus 2 Tbs lukewarm water (100-110*F)
1 Tbs sugar
2 tsp active dry yeast
2 cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbs olive oil
1/4 cup milk

For the garlic butter
3 Tbs butter, melted
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning

Combine water and sugar in bowl of stand mixer.  Sprinkle yeast over and allow to activate and become bubbly, about 5 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients into yeast mixture and, using dough hook attachment, mix on low until a soft, elastic dough has formed, about 8 minutes.

Turn out into a greased bowl, cover, and let raise until doubled, about one hour.

Divide into 12 even piece (if you have a kitchen scale, it would work great here!).  Let rest about five minutes, until able to stretch.

Roll each piece of dough into a ten-inch-long rope.


Tie into a knot.

Tuck the excess piece that is on the bottom of the roll up around the top and into the middle.  Tuck the piece on the top of the roll around to the bottom and into the middle.  Place on a baking sheet, cover with a towel, and let raise for 45 minutes.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Chicken and Black Bean Burritos

When my supply of produce starts to get low (read: I need to go to the store), I turn to recipes like these.  Well, ideas like these; this wasn't a recipe until last night.  It was bean/chicken/salsa-making day, which made these burritos an obvious choice.  When you already have these three items made, this recipe is a breeze; not to mention flavorful and pretty darn healthy compared to most other burritos! Now that I have a recipe written out, I will be making these more often.

 Chicken and Black Bean Burritos
2 cups shredded chicken
1 cup cooked black beans
3/4 cup cooked brown rice
4 oz chopped green chiles
1/3 cup salsa, plus 1/2 cup
1 cup shredded white Mexican cheese, divided
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp chile powder
salt and pepper to taste
8 whole wheat tortillas, heated through until pliable

Preheat oven to 350*F.
Combine chicken, black beans, rice, chiles, 1/3 cup salsa, 1/2 cup cheese, garlic, cumin, and chile powder.  Taste, and season with salt and pepper accordingly.  Scoop 1/3-1/2 cup filling into each tortilla.  Fold in top and bottom, then fold in sides, overlapping, and forming a rectangle.  Place, seamside down, in a 9x13 pan.  Spread 1/2 cup salsa over the top of the folded burritos.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese.  

Bake, uncovered,  for 25 minutes.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Congo Squares

I know, you were expecting something a little more exotic.  These look like "Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake".  Exactly!  Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake was a favorite from my childhood.  Somehow it was so much better than just plain chocolate chip cookies.  For me it's the thickness; the chewiness.  But who would have thought Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake could be so difficult to make??  If you simply follow a chocolate chip cookie recipe, you're taking a risk.  I don't know how many times I've made it, and had the entire thing fall to a thin, greasy mess.

So I began to search for the perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake recipe.  I tired a few that worked out better than the original cookie recipe.  Then my husband bought me the Williams-Sonoma Desserts cookbook.  And under the title "Congo Squares" was a picture of the perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake!  Now, if I am being honest, these are really more like blondies.  But that's what makes them so perfect!  The thick, chewy texture and rich sweetness from the dark brown sugar (which, actually I didn't use in the batch that I photographed, but you should, they are better that way!) is exactly what I was looking for in Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake.  I've made it many times, and it's never failed me.  Thank you, Congo Squares.  Who knew?

Congo Squares
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3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
2 1/3 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 /2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 extra-large eggs2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips ( I like mini)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Three Tips for Thursdays--Lighten Up Your Salad

 We've all done it.  We go out to eat, and in an attempt to be healthy, we "just have a salad, thanks".  It seems logical--lettuce, vegetables, fruits--it should be healthy, right???  Wrong!  In many chain restaurants, salads have over 1000 calories, and close to 100 grams of fat (think Chilis and Macaroni Grill).  Gross, huh?  So while we think we're making a good choice and eating healthy, our bodies are not thanking us.

It's not just the restaurants that get us, though.  It happens at home, too.  What salad dressings are in your refrigerator right now?  Go look.  Read the labels.  Read the serving size.  In Hidden Valley Original Ranch dressing, there are 140 calories and 14g of fat in 2 Tbs.  If Kraft is your go-to ranch, up the calories by 30 and the fat by 3g.  Then think about the rest of your toppings. Do you add many vegetables/fruits?  How much cheese goes over the top?  Croutons?  Bacon bits?  When you think about it, a salad can really just be an excuse for fatty toppings.

OK, so we've made our salad mistakes.  Where do we go from here?  Here are three tips to lighten up your salad and make it truly a great, healthy choice.

Go for Color
This seems pretty obvious.  But to start with, what I am referring to are the nice dark greens that are full of Vitamins A, C, and K, folate, iron, and calcium.  If you are using iceburg lettuce for your salad, you are getting zero nutrition out of it.  It's basically water.  Instead, choose a nice green romaine, and throw in some spinach or other greens.  They are heart-healthy and a great base for your salad.  Next, start adding as many colors as possible--red from tomatoes and peppers, orange from carrots,  yellow from peppers, "purple" from red onions, green from cucumbers.  Or go for fruits--purple from blueberries, red from strawberries, green from kiwi, orange from orange slices, and white from pear slices.  It will look beautiful, taste delicious, and be great fuel for your body.

Add some Protein
Protein is going to be key in filling you up.  Add some nice, lean grilled chicken, hard-boiled eggs, or shrimp.  Instead of croutons, add toasted pecans, almonds, or walnuts.  You get the same crunch with the added benefit of protein and fiber.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Yeasted Coffee Cake

Do you love trying new brunch recipes?  I know I do.  Whether for my MOPS group or Bible Study, I get the opportunity to try many new recipes.  We had a baby shower for my cousin recently, and I was given another opportunity to try something new.  Now don't get me wrong, I have many good recipes that I have tried in the past, and many favorites as well.  There's just something about trying something new!  So I looked and looked for the perfect recipe (something I do a lot!), and one night was reading a Martha Stewart Living magazine that my mother-in-law sent on to me (we magazine-share), and there it was!  What I really love about this recipe is that you can really put whatever you want into the filling.

I made one chocolate loaf and one with cream cheese and raspberry jam.  If I did the chocolate again, I would chop it very finely, and possibly even melt it with the butter and sugar.   I just didn't really love the texture of the chunks of chocolate in the nice soft bread.  I loved the cream cheese/raspberry jam mixture, and I think next time I make it, I will add some whole raspberries as well.  You could even make this like cinnamon roll bread, and coat the rolled-out dough with softened butter, then sprinkle with 1 cup brown sugar, and sprinkle all over with cinnamon.  The possibilities really are endless, and I have a feeling you may be seeing some more variations of this recipes in the (near) future!  Bear with me through the different fillings/directions, it's not as confusing as it may initially appear :)

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For the Cake
2 1/4 tsp (one 1/4 oz pkg) active dry yeast
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs plus a pinch of granulated sugar
3/4 cup warm milk (110F)
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick butter, at room temperature
1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 Tbs heavy cream (or milk) for egg wash

For the Chocolate Filling
8 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (1 1/4 cups)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 Tbs butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces

For the Cheese and Fruit Filling
12 oz softened cream cheese
1 large egg yolk
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs powdered sugar
1 1/2 fresh or thawed frozen sour cherries, raspberries, or blueberries OR
1/2 cup jam

For Chocolate Crumb Topping
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs powdered sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 Tbs butter, at room temperature

Glaze Topping for Cheese/Fruit-Filled Bread
1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 Tbs whole milk

Make the Cake
Sprinkle yeast and a pinch of granulated sugar over warm milk in a medium bowl.   Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.  In bowl of electric mixer, using paddle attachment, mix 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs granulated sugar, the egg, and the yolk.  Add the yeast mixture.

Combine flour and 1/2 tsp salt in small bowl.  Add to egg mixture, and beat on low speed until almost fully combined.  Switch to dough hook and add butter.  Beat until smooth, soft, and slightly sticky, about ten minutes.  This is not like normal bread, so it will not fully form around the dough hook while mixing.  I did add some additional flour, but go by touch and not look for this dough.  As long as it is not sticking to your fingers when you touch it, it is good.

Grease a large bowl.  Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead a few times until smooth. Place in the bowl, turning once to coat, then cover with plastic and let raise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1-1 1/2 hours.

Make the filling of your choice.

Chocolate-Cinnamon Filling
Combine chocolate, sugar, and cinnamon.  Rub in butter with your fingers until combined.  Reserve 1/2 cup for topping.

Cheese and Fruit Filling
Combine cream cheese, sugar, and yolk until smooth in a small bowl.

When dough is ready, punch down, and transfer to a lightly floured surface.  Roll out to an 18x18 inch square.  Brush the edges with egg wash.  For chocolate filling, sprinkle evenly across dough, keeping off of egg wash border, reserving 1/2 cup filling.  For cheese and fruit filling, spread cream cheese mixture evenly across dough, keeping off of egg wash border.  Sprinkle fruit evenly over cream cheese, or if using jam, spread evenly over cream cheese.

Roll up tightly, jelly-roll style.  Pinch seam to seal.  Fold in half to form a U, with the dough touching.  Holding each end, twist a few times to form a "braid".  Place in a greased 9x5 inch pan.  Cover and let raise in a warm place for 30 minutes, or until increased by half.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Combine crumb topping ingredients with reserved filling mixture if making the chocolate loaf.  Sprinkle evenly over top of loaf.   Bake for 55 minutes.  Lower temperature to 325F and continue baking until deeply golden, 10-20 more minutes, covering with foil if getting too dark.

Let cool 10 minutes, then invert from pans and cool completely, right side up,  on cooling rack.  For cheese and fruit loaf, mix sugar and milk, starting with 1 Tbs to form a thick glaze.  If more milk is needed, add a small amount at a time.  Drizzle over cooled loaf.  

Friday, April 15, 2011

Mini Lime Curd Tarts

This dessert has it all--crunch from the graham cracker crust, zest and tang from the lime curd, and creamy, sweet lightness from the cream.  I had found a recipe for lime curd that I wanted to try, but what I really wanted was key lime pie.  Not having the necessary ingredients on hand (namely key limes), I decided to give lime pie a try with the aforementioned lime curd.  While the initial effort was a bit tart (don't worry, the recipe was edited to reflect that!), it was still super yummy and hit the spot.  This was a fun spring dessert, and I will be making it again soon!

Mini Lime Curd Tarts
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3 graham crackers, crushed to crumbs
2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 Tbs butter, melted

Lime Curd: 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
3/4 tsp lime zest, finely minced
3 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1/4 cup  honey
2 1/2 Tbs butter, cubed

Fresh whipped cream or cool whip and additional lime zest to serve.

To prepare crust, combine 3 Tbs cracker crumbs and 1 tsp sugar in each of two (6 oz) ramekins.  Pour butter over each, dividing evenly.  Stir together until all crumbs are moistened, then press firmly into bottom of ramekin.

Friday, April 8, 2011


Every time we get to the produce department at the grocery store, my three-year-old daughter immediately  begins asking and looking for avocados.  We get funny looks and laughs from people around us.  The thing is, she has loved guacamole ever since she was a baby.  She even saw an avocado at my mom's house when she was probably just two, and started asking for "chocomole".  It's definitely a favorite in our house, and I think when you see how easy it is, it will be a favorite for you too!

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2 avocados
1/2 cup salsa
1/2 tsp cumin
1 Tbs lime juice
salt and pepper to taste

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Three Tips for Thursday--Flavor without Fat

I'm really excited about Three Tips for Thursday.  Each week I will pick a different topic and share three tips with you.  If you have a specific topic you would like covered, please let me know!

We all know how good dishes full of butter and cream and cheese can taste.  But how about how we feel after eating them?  I don't know about you, but I feel over-full and guilty.  Here are three ingredients you can use to freshen up your dishes and add great, natural flavor.  Not to mention they look beautiful too!

Caleb and I joke that if we aren't sure what to do for dinner, we put onions and garlic in a pan and go from there.  It's true, I put garlic in just about everything.  And I'm telling you, if you're not using fresh garlic, you are missing out.  The flavor is so much more pungent and fresh than what you get from garlic powder or even minced garlic in a jar.  The best part?  Whole heads of garlic are 5 for $2.00 at Meijer, and each head has about 20 cloves in it! That's a great deal for great flavor!

Fresh Citrus:
Fresh citrus adds a freshness like no other ingredient.  Especially now as we head into Spring, citrus is a wonderful addition to your dishes.  Try zesting the peel--just lightly so you don't get any of the white pith.  The natural oils in the peel give a strong flavor.  For a little less flavor, try squeezing a lemon or lime, cut in half, over your chicken as it cooks, on top of your pasta as a finishing touch, or make your own vinaigrette by mixing 1/2 minced shallot, 2 Tbs champagne vinegar (apple cider or rice wine vinegar would also work), 1/2 cup citrus juice and salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl.  Whisk in 1-2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil, and you have delicious homemade salad dressing.  Fresh citrus also looks beautiful in a large bowl as a centerpiece on your table!

Fresh Herbs:
I've just gotten on the fresh herb train within the last year.  Can I tell you something?  I have no idea why I haven't done this sooner!  Fresh herbs are cheap (.89 for a large bunch of cilantro or parsley!), and they make a huge difference in the look and taste of any dish.  Like citrus, they add a wonderful freshness, and of course, beautiful color.  Simply rinse and tear or chop any leafy herb and sprinkle into ANYthing!  For "branchy" herbs like rosemary or thyme, remove the leaves from the stalk and give it a quick chop to release the flavor.  Other great choices include mint, basil, and chives.

Next time you are at the grocery store or farmer's market, be sure to pick up these three simple ingredients to add wonderful freshness, color, and flavor to your meals, without adding extra calories and fat!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Dulce de Leche Sandwich Cookies

See?  I promised you good cookies today!  Have you ever had Dulce de Leche?  It's a thick, milk caramel.  Before this weekend, I had not.  Did you also know that you can make your own?  Probably right now with what you have in your pantry.  Sweetened Condensed Milk.  That's all you need!  Granted, you can also buy it at the grocery store (either with the Mexican items, or possibly by the sweetened condensed milk), but that means you can't make them right now.  And trust me.  You want to make them now!

Dulce de Leche:
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1 can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 425*
Pour milk into a glass pie plate or other shallow glass dish that can fit into a roaster pan.  Cover the pie plate tightly with foil and place inside roaster pan.  Pour hot water into roaster pan until it reaches halfway up the pie place.  Place in over and cook for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, or until dark caramel-colored.  Check a few times to be sure it's not darkening too quickly, and to refill water as necessary.

Remove from oven and let cool slightly.  Stir with whisk until smooth.  Let cool completely.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Shredded Beef Tacos

I realize my posts have been a little dinner-heavy lately.  Don't worry--we'll be back to sweets soon (get excited for cookies tomorrow)!  The reason for another recipe with chuck roast is that I bought one of those big family-sized packages of stew meat a couple of weeks ago.  I've never been one for "convenience" foods because it means paying more for something I can do myself.  Well, not this time.  At my grocery store, the family packages are automatically .20 less per pound than the regular packages.

Another trick I like to use for buying meat is looking for the orange stickers that mark packages that need to be sold that day.  There's nothing wrong with the meat; it's still good.  It simply needs to be cooked or frozen right away.  These are anywhere from 20-40% off!  And it's easy to either switch around the menu to use the certain meat that night, or divide it into the serving sizes I need and freeze it.

That means I got almost 6 lbs of chuck roast (already cubed which means most of the fat was cut away--more meat per pound!) for $12 and some change!  Now what to do with 6 lbs of cubed chuck roast???

Because I always have ingredients for tacos on hand, I decided to give it a try.  I usually use ground beef, but thought this would be a nice change, not to mention it cooks in the crockpot.  I made the meat the day before we ate it (because it needed to be cooked, and I was making stroganoff with part of it), then just reheated it on the stove before serving.  We all really enjoyed these tacos, and I will be making them again soon!

Shredded Beef:
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2 1/2-3 lbs chuck roast, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 cup chopped tomatoes or canned diced tomatoes
1 (12 oz) can chopped green chiles
1/2 cup beef broth
1/3 cup chopped red onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs lime juice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup fresh salsa
1 large bunch fresh torn cilantro (1/3-1/2 cup)

For Serving:
20-25 corn tortillas
Shredded cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese
Finely shredded lettuce
Chopped tomatoes
Low fat or fat free sour cream
Additional salsa

Combine all ingredients except salsa and cilantro in crockpot.  Set on low and cook for 6-8 hours.  Using a slotted spoon, scoop meat out into a 9x13 pan and shred with 2 forks.  Stir in salsa, cilantro, and some of the juice from the crockpot. Drain remaining juice. Place back in crockpot and heat through until ready to serve.