Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving Dinner Date!

Thanksgiving is full of wonderful flavors - but tons of work! I wanted to create a dinner date last night that would give Thanksgiving yumminess, but on a weekday dinner time frame.

Thanksgiving Nuggets with Cranberry Ketchup

1 cup cranberries
1/4 cup tomato paste
3 tsp sugar
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 lb ground turkey
1 egg
1-2 Tbsp fresh marjoram, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh savory, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 cup plain bread crumbs
salt & pepper

To make the ketchup: In a small saucepan, combine the cranberries with enough water to cover; bring to a boil, and simmer until berries are soft and breaking down (about 10 minutes). Drain the cranberries and put in a food processor; add tomato paste, sugar, and balsamic vinegar. Puree until smooth. Set aside to chill.

To make the nuggets: Preheat the oven to 425F. Mix the turkey, egg, and herbs (and salt and pepper to taste) with your hands until well combined. Spread the bread crumbs in a shallow bowl. Gather 1-2 Tbsp of meat mixture in your hands, shape into nugget shapes, and roll in the bread crumbs to coat.

Set the nuggets on a wire rack over a baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until no pink remains in the center of a nugget. Serve with cranberry ketchup.

Stuffing Muffins
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/4 cup chopped carrots
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup corn meal
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp canola oil
2 eggs
3/4 cup chicken stock

In a small saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, celery, and carrots; saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 400F. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, corn meal, baking powder, salt, thyme, and sugar. In a separate bowl, whisk together the canola oil, eggs, and chicken stock. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until just combined. Gently stir in the vegetables. Divide between 12 muffin cups. Bake for about 20 minutes.

Maple Sugar Cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg, separated
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
sugars for decorating

Cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolk, maple syrup, and vanilla extract, scraping the bowl as needed. Add the flour and salt and mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Turn the dough onto a clean surface and knead with your hands to form a dough ball. Divide in two and shape each half into a disk; cover with plastic wrap and set in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (or overnight).

Preheat the oven to 350F. Remove one disk from its plastic wrap and knead lightly on a floured surface to soften. Roll it out to about 1/8" thick.

Trace your child's hand on some parchment paper and cut it out to create a hand-print turkey shape. Use a sharp knife to cut out handprints from the dough:

Transfer the "turkeys" to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Brush lightly with egg white and sprinkle on sugar to decorate. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the edges are beginning to brown.

* * * * * *

I was happy with this dinner date. The girls had a great time decorating their hand print turkeys. I used both Abby's and Lizzy's hands for our shapes, and I must say - if you have a chubby little 5-month-old on hand, their hands make adorable "turkeys"! The cookies themselves had a very nice, but not overpowering, maple flavor.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pumpkin Pie Waffles

To kick off Thanksgiving week, Neko and I made these on Sunday morning. They were inspired by a recipe for pumpkin pie pancakes sent to my by my Auntie Daria. I changed the ingredients a bit because we are trying to cut down on refined sugars/flours around these parts. I am certain these would be better with sugar and white flour BUT they were also very, very delicious without them! I also added some buttermilk on a whim because I had it in the fridge from a previous recipe and, well, its hard to use up buttermilk.

Pumpkin Pie Waffles
(serves 4)

1 cup whole wheat flour (could use unbleached all-purpose)
3/4 c. pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
3 Tbsp agave nectar (could also use 2 Tbsp sugar or 3 Tbsp maple syrup)
1/2 c. buttermilk
1/2 c. milk
2 eggs, separated
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 Tbsp. canola oil

1. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, agave nectar, buttermilk, milk, egg yolk and canola oil.
3. Combine wet ingredients with dry ingredients.
4. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold gently into batter.
4. Pour 1/2 c. batter onto greased and preheated waffle iron. Cook until no longer steaming. Serve!

Auntie Dee put toasted pecans on hers (yum!!!). I topped ours with a little maple syrup, whipped cream and a sprinkle of the pumpkin pie spice. I made Neko's even more toddler appealing...

Pork with Mandarin Oranges

This was simple and fast - and Abby loved it! I used Kraft Light Asian Toasted Sesame dressing, but if you are concerned about HFCS, try any other sesame seed dressing (Newman's Own sesame ginger dressing is yummy and HFCS-free).

Pork with Mandarin Oranges
Prep time: 5 minutes
Bake time: 35-45 minutes

1 pork tenderloin (1 - 1.5 lbs)
2-3 Tbsp sesame salad dressing
1/2 tsp Thai red curry paste
1 can mandarin oranges, drained

Preheat oven to 425F. Place pork tenderloin on a foil-covered rimmed baking sheet. In a small bowl, whisk together the salad dressing and curry paste. Brush all over the top and sides of the tenderloin. Bake for 30 minutes; scatter mandarin oranges around the pork and return to the oven for 10-15 minutes, until pork is cooked through.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Chili Cause its Chilly Dinner Date

Its COLD out there! To warm us up I made a crock pot of Chili. I almost did an "Immunity" dinner date highlighting foods that boost immunity but my friend Jen helped me realize how boring I was being so I scrapped that idea however I did think about immunity boosting foods when making my chili.

Chili Cause its Chilly
(makes 8 servings)

1 lb. 90% lean ground beef (beef is naturally high in zinc which is good for immunity)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 med/lg yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 orange pepper, diced (orange vegetables are immunity boosters)
1 large sweet potato, diced (again, orange)
1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 cans of diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
shredded cheddar cheese (for garnish)

1. In a large saute pan brown ground beef. Drain and set aside.

2. In the same pan heat up the olive oil. Saute the onions until translucent. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute.

3. Add the ground beef back to the pan and combine with the onions and garlic. Stir in the cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper.

4. Put this mixture into a crock pot. Add the tomatoes, beans and orange pepper.

5. Cook in crock pot on low for 4 hours. Add the sweet potato and cook until the sweet potatoes are tender (about an hour and a half longer).

6. Garnish individual servings with cheese. Serve!

For some reason this ended up being too spicy for the girls. I guess I underestimated the kick to chili powder. If you are making this for your kids you might want to cut it back by half. The Mommies liked it. I actually ate the leftovers during the week and it just got better each time. Definitely a great one to have around for this cold weather! ;o)

Whole Wheat Corn Bread
(makes 8 servings)

1 cup of whole wheat flour
3/4 c. cornmeal
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 Tbsp. agave nectar (or honey)
1-1/2 c. buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten
4 Tbsp. melted butter (salted)

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Grease a 9" square baking pan.
3. Combine the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet in another. Add the wet to the dry and stir until just moistened.
4. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Serve!

This was a nice alternative to cornbread that has refined sugar and flour. It was not as sweet as I am used to cornbread being but it was still really good, especially with the chili. The girls had theirs with a little honey drizzled on top.

Hot (Warm) Cocoa
(serves 2)

1-1/2 c. milk
2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa
2 tsp. agave nectar (or sugar)
whipped cream

1. Combine all ingredients except whipped cream in a small sauce pan. Heat over med/high heat stirring constantly until desired temperature. I made it warm and not hot to suit the girls.
2. Divide between two mugs.
3. Top each with a dollop of whipped cream. Serve (with a straw if for toddlers)!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Mulligatawny Sauce

Abby and I just spent a nice long vacation at my in-laws' house, being spoiled with excellent cooking. We got home last night, and I actually had to make dinner! I took some inspiration from mulligatawny soup for this one - it was yummy over noodles, and I'll serve the leftovers over rice and raisins for Abby's dinner tonight.

Mulligatawny Sauce
Prep time: 20-25 minutes
Makes about 1 1/2 cups sauce

1 cup chicken (or vegetable) stock
1/2 cup water
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 lb carrots, chopped
1 cup chopped apple
1/8 - 1/4 tsp curry powder (depending on how much spice your child likes)
cumin, coriander, salt
1/2 cup marinara sauce
lemon juice

In a small pot, combine stock, water, garlic, onion, carrots, and apple. Bring to a boil. Add curry powder and generous pinches of cumin, coriander, and salt. Lower heat and let simmer until carrots are very tender (add more water if necessary). Stir in marinara sauce and a splash of lemon juice; remove from heat.

Carefully pour pot contents into a blender (in batches, if necessary) and puree until smooth. Add water to reach desired consistency.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Nuts About Noodles!

Nuts About Noodles
(serves 4)

2/3 package of Udon noodles
1 lb. chicken breast (I used tenders)
1/2c to 1c. chicken stock
3 Tbsp. nut butter (I did 2 Tbsp. almond butter and 1 Tbsp. peanut butter)
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
2 Tbsp. honey
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. sesame oil

1. In a large skillet, cook the chicken over med-high heat until no longer pink in the middle. Transfer to a plate.
2. Bring water to a boil in a large sauce pan.
3. To the large skillet used to cook the chicken add the chicken stock, nut butter, soy sauce, ginger, honey, garlic and sesame oil. Cook over medium-low heat.
4. Add noodles to water and cook according to package directions. (Mine took 4 minutes). Drain.
5. When the nut butter is melted and the sauce is smooth (may need to add more stock to keep the sauce from getting too thick), add the noodles. Using tongs, coat the noodles with the sauce. Add the chicken. Serve!

This one is super quick and super delicious. My toddler slurped every last peanut buttery noodle!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Russian Dinner Date!

Disclaimer: I am not Russian, and I know nothing about Russian cooking. Abby picked a Russian cookbook out at the library, and I was fascinated - I expected it to be "101 ways to use beets" (and... it kind of was), but it was full of flavors that looked good. So I adapted a few things here and there to come up with this kid- (and adult-) friendly dinner for Abby and Neko. My husband and I happily polished off the leftovers.

Beef and Mushroom Pirozhki with Sweet and Sour Beet Puree

Beef and Mushroom Pirozhki

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 T sugar
1/2 c butter, cut in pieces
6 Tbsp sour cream - I used low fat sour cream

In a food processor, combine the flour, salt, and sugar. Pulse once or twice to combine. Sprinkle the butter on top, and pulse a few times, until mixture begins to resemble cornmeal. Add the sour cream, and pulse until moist crumbs form. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until it comes together. Form into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for a few hours (or overnight)

1/2 lb ground beef
2 oz mushrooms, chopped
1 hard-boiled egg, chopped
1 Tbsp sour cream
salt & pepper

In a skillet, brown the ground beef and mushrooms together over medium heat, until beef is cooked. Transfer to a bowl and add egg and sour cream; stir to combine and add salt and pepper to taste. Let cool.

Preheat oven to 375F; line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll dough out to about 1/4 inch thick. Use a large biscuit cutter to cut out circles of dough; place a heaping tablespoon of beef filling in the center of each circle. Pinch and seal the edges of the circle together to form a half moon shape. Place pirozhki on baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, until pirozhki are puffed and golden.

Sweet and Sour Beet Puree

2 medium size beets (unpeeled)
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
¾ cup marinara sauce
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp sugar
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 425F. Combine carrots and beets in a casserole dish with 1/4 inch water across the bottom. Roast for 40-45 minutes, until vegetables are quite tender. Allow them to cool, and then rub beets with two paper towels to remove peel. Put the beets and carrots along with the cooking water into a food processor; add the marinara, vinegar, and sugar. Blend until smooth, adding additional water if needed to achieve desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste; chill before serving.

Sour Cream and Jam Mini Pies
1 cup flour (I used half whole wheat, half all-purpose)
pinch salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp cold lemon juice

In a food processor, pulse flour, salt, and butter together until mixture resembles cornmeal. Add egg yolk and lemon juice; pulse once or twice, and then transfer mixture to a bowl and knead until a smooth dough forms. Shape dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap; chill for a few hours.

1/4 cup walnut halves, finely ground
1/4 cup sour cream
1 egg yolk
1/4 tsp cinnamon
splash almond extract
1 tsp sugar
apricot jelly

In a bowl, whisk together the ground walnuts, sour cream, egg yolk, cinnamon, almond extract, and sugar.

Preheat oven to 375F. Roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thick. Use a small biscuit cutter to cut out rounds. Top half of the rounds with a small amount of apricot jelly and a bit of the filling. Top with another round and pinch and seal edges together, rolling the edges a bit to create the look of a pie crust. Bake "pies" on a parchment-lined baking sheet for about 15 minutes, until golden.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day Muffins

It's time to vote, America! If, like me, you have to bring your kids along to your polling place, make up a batch of these red-white(ish)-and-blue muffins for kiddo to munch on while you choose the next President!

Election Day Muffins
Prep time: 10 minutes
Bake time: 20 minutes

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
2 Tbsp applesauce
2 Tbsp canola oil
2 Tbsp molasses
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup cranberries

Preheat the oven to 400F. Line 10 muffin cups with liners. In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, applesauce, canola oil, molasses, and maple syrup. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, stirring until just combined. Gently fold in the blueberries and cranberries.

Divide the mixture evenly between 10 muffin cups; bake for 20 minutes, until the edges are golden.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Pumpkin Pie Pretzels

These are a bit of a project, but if you have a kid who loves to help bake, you'll have fun making these. I sacrificed a bit of dough for Abby to "shape" as her own pretzel and it kept her entertained while I did the rest! These are lovely and yummy and soft - a great snack.

Pumpkin Pie Pretzels

1 tsp rapid rise (or instant) yeast
3 cups bread flour
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
3/4 cup warm (about 110 degrees) milk
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
pinch cloves
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp salt

Using a dough hook, mix all of the ingredients together in a stand mixer for about 5 minutes, until a smooth dough forms. Add extra flour, a tablespoonful at a time, if the dough is too sticky. Turn the dough into a bowl coated with oil (I sprayed mine with Pam) and cover with plastic wrap. Set it to rise in a warm room for 1 1/2 hours, until nearly doubled in size. Punch the dough down to deflate, recover it, and let it rise for another 30 minutes, until nearly doubled again.

Make up a baking soda bath: in a large pot, combine water and baking soda (1 tsp baking soda to 2 quarts water) and bring to a boil. Preheat the oven to 450F.

Divide the dough into eight equal chunks. Roll each portion into a long rope, about 15 inches long, 3/4 inch in diameter. Twist it into pretzel shape; repeat with the other portions. Carefully slip each pretzel into the boiling baking soda bath; boil for 30 seconds, flip, and boil another 30 seconds. Remove pretzels with a slotted spoon to drain on paper towels.

Transfer the boiled pretzels to a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and sprayed with non-stick spray. They won't get much bigger in the oven, so they can be fairly close together. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

I wondered how much it would matter if I skipped the baking soda bath, so I did some pretzels in the bath and some I just baked after shaping. The bathed ones (like the pretzel on the right, below) had a crispy, shiny exterior, like you expect from a pretzel. The baked ones (pretzel on the left) were just kind of like dinner rolls. So, I say, give your pretzels a bath!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween Dinner Date!

Dinner date this week was the day before Halloween so naturally we had to have a little Halloween meal. It was as fun to make as it was for the girls to eat! :o)

Orange and Black Snacks

Carrot sticks
Black beans
Mandarin orange slices
(could also use orange pepper slices, black olives, etc.)

This one would probably be a little too weird for anyone over toddler age but the girls were into it. I served it as an appetizer to....

Candy Corn Pizza
(Serves 4)

1 Whole Wheat Boboli pizza crust
Pizza sauce (You could use jar sauce. I made up a quick sauce with tomato sauce, Italian herbs, 1/2 cup broccoli minced very finely and salt and pepper to taste.)
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
1 cup shredded cheddar (must be orange)
2 medium yellow peppers, diced

1. Top crust with sauce.
2. Place mozzarella in a small, round circle in the center of the pizza.
3. Place the cheddar in a ring around the mozzarella.
4. Place the peppers in a ring around the cheddar.

5. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.
6. Cut into triangles. Serve!

Monster Milkshakes
(serves 2 toddlers and leaves enough for 2 Mommies to have a taste) ;o)

1 pint of vanilla Tofutti
3/4 c. milk or soymilk
1 tsp. mint extract
green food coloring
1/2 c. crushed chocolate cookies (I used an organic version of Oreos)
Clear plastic cups
Black permanent marker
1 drinking straw

1. Draw monster faces on the outside of the cups with Sharpie.
2. Blend the first 3 ingredients in a blender until smooth.
3. Add a little green food coloring (a couple drops). Blend. Continue to add color and blend until desired color is reached.
4. Pour milkshakes into cups and top with equal amounts of the crushed cookie.
5. Cut straw in half and put one half in each cup. Serve!

These were completely and totally delicious. If you haven't tried Tofutti 'ice cream' and are assuming its gross, I challenge you to make this milk shake. I am confident you will love it. The girls definitely did and the Mommies both wished there was more!