Monday, January 31, 2011

Easy Lentil Soup

  Can you believe that the school year is half over? It seems to me that it just started, but our new semester began today. Last Friday was a work day for teachers, and also the day of our second annual Soup Swap/ Luncheon.  All morning you could smell  simmering goodness coming from crock-pots plugged in throughout the building. It made doing report cards just a little bit easier knowing that the aromas wafting through the halls were previews of what was to come once lunchtime rolled around! While we watched the snow coming down outside, we relaxed and enjoyed a wonderfully diverse assortment of delectable soups, breads and desserts.

 My contribution this year was a Hearty Lentil Soup. Lentils are a nutritional powerhouse, packing 18 grams of protein and 15 grams of fiber in just one cup! There's less than one gram of fat per serving and absolutely no cholesterol in this heart healthy legume. What I really love about lentils is that they don't need to soak before cooking, which makes them a great choice for dinner when you haven't planned ahead of time. (Not that I'd know anything about that.) Most of your "hands on" time is just a bit of chopping, and then you can sit back and relax while the lentils simmer. Or you could use that time to make some homemade tortillas-a perfect accompaniment to this dish that's as easy on your heart as it is on your pocketbook. :)

Lentil Soup
recipe adapted slightly from Alton Brown
2 Tablespoons olive oil (I used 1 tablespoon)
1 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
2 teaspoons kosher salt (I used less than this.)
1 pound lentils, picked and rinsed-I used the regular brown lentils for this soup
1 cup peeled and chopped tomatoes (I used 1 can of diced tomatoes.)
2 quarts broth, vegetable or chicken (I used low sodium)
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground grains of paradise- I did not have this spice, but I substituted a mixture of black pepper, cardamom and ginger.
  • Heat olive oil in a soup pot or dutch oven, over medium heat. 
  • Add onions, carrot, celery and salt and "sweat" until the onions are translucent, about 6-7 minutes.
  • Add spices and cook one more minute, stirring
  • Add lentils, tomatoes and broth and stir to combine.
  • Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer 35-40 minutes or until lentils are tender.
  • Use a stick blender and puree to desired consistency.
I'm sharing this post with:


Friday, January 28, 2011

French Fridays with Dorie- Chicken B'stilla

 This week's selection for French Fridays with Dorie is chicken b'stilla (or pastilla, as it's sometimes written). A Moroccan dish, it's savory, sweet and full of exotic flavors. Traditionally made with pigeon, Dorie's version is full of chicken, onions, garlic and spices- ginger, cinnamon, coriander and saffron. Honey and a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar give it a slightly sweet edge, and sliced almonds give it a wonderful toothsome texture.

 Dorie says that it's meant to be eaten with your hands at the start of a multi-course meal, but it's hearty and delicious enough to be served as a main course, especially if paired with a nice fruity salad. I had  a bit of trouble with the filo dough- my crust didn't turn out as flaky as I had hoped it would be- but it was still crispy with the cinnamon sugar on top. To see how others prepared this dish, visit this week's  "FFwD Leave Your Link" page and have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

English Muffins- Nooks and Crannies Included

 English muffins are one of my favorite breakfast treats. The toppings have all of those nooks and crannies to melt into, making every crunchy bite a tasty treat. They're great toasted, with butter and jam or even peanut butter and jelly.  I especially love them with an egg and cheese on top.  (Every once in a while I might even sneak a piece of crispy bacon on them.)

 I used Alton Brown's super easy recipe for these, but replaced half of the all purpose flour with freshly ground whole wheat. They were tender, tasty and full of those nooks and crannies that make English muffins delicious- I promise! Make sure to split them with a fork instead of slicing them with a knife- that makes them even better in my book.

English Muffins
recipe from Alton Brown
1/2 cup non-fat powdered milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt, divided (I used 3/4 teaspoon)
1 tablespoon shortening (I used Smart Balance)
1 cup hot water
1 envelope dry yeast
1/8 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup warm water
2 cups all-purpose flour (I used half whole wheat) sifted after measuring
Non-stick vegetable spray
Equipment needed: electric griddle, 3 inch metal rings -If you don't have the rings especially made for English muffins, tuna cans with both top and bottom cut out work perfectly. (If you buy the tuna specifically for this, make sure that the brand you choose has a top and bottom that you can remove. Some cans have rounded bottoms.) Or you could use metal cookie cutters- how about hearts?)

  • In a large bowl, combine the powdered milk, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, shortening and hot water. Stir until shortening is melted and all other ingredients are dissolved. Cool until just warm.
  • In another small bowl, combine the yeast and 1/8 teaspoon sugar with the warm water. Let this rest until the yeast has dissolved. Add this to the dry milk mixture and stir. 
  • Add the sifted flour and beat thoroughly with a wooden spoon.
  • Cover the bowl and let it rest in a warm spot for about 30 minutes.
To cook:
  • Preheat the griddle to 300°F.
  • Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the flour mixture and beat thoroughly. (I added only 1/4 tsp.) 
  • Place metal rings onto the griddle and coat lightly with the vegetable oil spray. 
  • Using an ice cream or cookie scoop that holds about 1/4 cup  (I used my largest Pampered Chef cookie scoop) put a scoop of batter into each ring. 
  • Cover the batter filled rings with a cookie sheet that you've sprayed with non-stick spray. Cook for 5-6 minutes. 
  • Carefully remove the lid and flip the rings using tongs. (I also had to use a spatula, as some of my muffins didn't entirely fill the rings.) 
  • Cover again with the cookie sheet lid and cook for another 5-6 minutes or until golden brown. 
  • Place on a cooling rack, remove rings and cool. Split with fork, toast and serve.
  • Yields 8 muffins
I'm sending these English muffins to Full Plate Thursday at Miz Helen's Country Cottage.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Ode to a Pink Sno Ball

Oh lovely Sno-Ball, your glowing pink coconut beckons. Your silken vanilla creme- a treasure hidden deep within your chocolate deliciousness- concealed under your marshmallow dome. You stole my heart years ago, and I am still hopelessly smitten.

 How about you? Do you hold the same affinity for that time honored Hostess treat? Do you watch for the changing colors of Sno Balls like you watch for the changing of the seasons?

 One of my students gave me the January Cook's Country magazine for Christmas (Thanks again, M.!) and this Chocolate Snowball Cake was pictured inside the back cover. Being a long time lover of those tasty Hostess treats, I knew I had to pay homage to the Sno Ball I've known and loved, by baking this tasty tribute.

 It was absolutely wonderful even though it hasn't replaced the original Sno Ball in my heart of hearts. (It must be something about the preservatives and the crinkly plastic wrapper that keeps bringing me back.) It has, though carved out its own special place in my world, the perfect treat for a birthday or as a special sweet for my Valentine.

No special pan is needed to make your own little bit of nostalgia. You could even use a cake mix if you want. If you're not a chocolate fan, make your cake any flavor you like. It won't be a Sno Ball, but I'm sure it will still be yummy!

For the Sno Ball Cake, you'll need:
  • Two nine-inch layers of cake- I used Hershey's Black Magic cake (recipe follows) but you could use your favorite.
  • A two-quart bowl- I used a Pyrex bowl. It is helpful if the bowl is glass so you can see through it when you arrange your cake in it. Mine was opaque though, and it worked fine. (original recipe called for a 1 1/2 quart bowl)
  • Plastic wrap to line your bowl
  • One recipe of Marshmallow Frosting (recipe follows)
  • Two cups of shredded sweetened coconut plus 2 drops of red or pink food color
Marshmallow Frosting
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened (as in not liquid but really, really soft)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 cups marshmallow cream (about 9-10 oz)
Combine water and gelatin in large bowl and let sit until gelatin softens, about 5 minutes. Microwave until mixture is bubbling around edges and gelatin dissolves, about 30 seconds. (Mine took at least a minute, but my microwave is small. Your mixture does need to heat and be bubbling around the edges.) Stir in butter, vanilla and salt until combined. Let mixture cool until just warm to touch, about 5 minutes. (Mine did not take this long to cool.) Whisk in marshmallow creme until smooth. I whisked about one third of the marshmallow creme at a time. When you finish, the mixture will be thin. Refrigerate the mixture until it is thick and spreadable, about 30 minutes.

To Assemble Sno Ball Cake:
  •  Prepare Marshmallow Frosting and put in refrigerator to set. 
  • Combine coconut and food coloring (I whirled it together in my food processor)
  • Line your bowl with plastic wrap, leaving the ends overhanging the edges of the bowl.
  • Cut one of the cooled cake layers into 8 even wedges. Line the bowl with the cake wedges, packing gently so there are no spaces between wedges. This was where I ran into trouble the first time I made it. I couldn't get them to fit together in the bowl.The second time though, I trimmed the top edge (diagonally) off of each of the three sides of each wedge. After trimming the wedges they fit together nicely. There shouldn't be any gaps on the inside or in the parts touching the bowl. If you have any gaps on the inside, fill them with with parts you trimmed off.

  • Fill cake lined bowl "cavity" with one cup of the marshmallow frosting.
  • Top with the remaining nine inch layer cake, trimming it to fit the inside of the bowl.
  • Pull the edges of the plastic wrap over the cake, and put it in the refrigerator about one hour.
  • Unwrap the cake and carefully invert it onto serving dish. Remove plastic.

  • Spread remaining marshmallow mixture evenly over the cake and sprinkle with coconut. (I found the frosting to be  difficult to spread evenly, but the coconut covered it nicely.)
  • Slice, serve and enjoy your little bit of nostalgia! :)

Hershey's Black Magic Cake
Recipe from Hershey's
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 cup strong coffee
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla

  • Preheat oven to 350°F 
  • Grease and flour 2 nine-inch round cake pans.
  • In your mixer bowl, combine dry ingredients.
  • Stir in eggs, coffee, oil and vanilla.
  • Beat on medium speed for two minutes.
  • Divide batter evenly between the two pans. (Batter will be thin.)
  • Bake 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Remove from oven and cool on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and finish cooling on racks.
This post is linked to Ingredient Spotlight: Cocoa @ Eat at HomeFull Plate Thursday at Miz Helen's Country Cottage, and  Sweets for a Saturday at Sweet as Sugar Cookies.

    Monday, January 10, 2011

    Sweet Barbecue Meat Loaf

     Hubs came home the other night with a pound of extra lean ground beef. Do you think maybe it was his way of hinting that he needed a break from the mainly vegetarian fare I've been dishing up lately? While red meat isn't exactly the first thing I think of as being on a heart healthy diet, hubby's cardiologist actually gave it his blessing. Who knew? I found this recipe for meatloaf  (in the American Heart Association Cookbook) that I spiced up just a bit to incorporate ingredients I had on hand.

     The original recipe makes a meatloaf glazed with barbecue sauce, raspberry spread and crushed red pepper flakes. I substituted my Habañero Gold Jelly for the raspberry spread and pepper flakes, and ended up with a sweet spicy glaze that gave the red pepper and onion studded ground beef just enough zip to make it a treat. It was great hot for dinner, but what I'm looking forward to are the meatloaf sandwiches I can make with the leftovers!

    Sweet Barbecue Meat Loaf
    adapted from The New American Heart Association Cookbook, 8th edition
    1/2 cup barbecue sauce (lowest sodium available)
    1/4 cup habanero gold jelly* slightly melted
    1 pound extra lean ground beef
    1/2 medium red bell pepper, finely chopped
    1/2 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
    1/3 cup uncooked quick-cooking oatmeal
    2 egg whites
    *the original recipe calls for 1/4 cup all-fruit raspberry spread plus 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
    • Preheat oven to 375°F. 
    • Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Lightly spray with cooking spray.
    • In a small bowl, stir together the barbecue sauce and jelly.
    • In a medium bowl, combine 1/4 cup barbecue sauce mixture and the remaining ingredients. Shape the mixture into an oval and place on baking sheet.
    • Spoon the remaining barbecue sauce mixture on the top and sides of the meat loaf.
    • Bake for 50 minutes, or until the meat loaf registers 160°F on an instant-read thermometer. Let the meat loaf stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.

    This post has been submitted to the Hearth-n-Soul blog hop at Girlichef.

      Friday, January 7, 2011

      French Fridays with Dorie- Paris Mushroom Soup

       It seems that soup is what's for dinner! Paris Mushroom Soup is this week's selection for French Fridays with Dorie, and all I have to say is that it's a pot full of mushroom goodness.  White mushrooms (I used Crimini), onions, garlic and herbs are simmered and then pureed with a bit of butter, herbs, white wine and chicken stock. A "salad" of thinly sliced mushrooms, scallions, parsley, chives and seasonings in each bowl adds little surprises of flavor and texture to each earthy spoonful. Dorie says to pour the hot soup over the mushroom salad to serve, but it was so much prettier atop the soup that I couldn't resist floating it there. A dab of crème fraîche is optional, but we thoroughly enjoyed the soup even without it.

      The recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspan's book Around My French Table. To see more of this delightful winter warmer, check out these links!

      Monday, January 3, 2011

      Rustic Cabbage Soup and New Year's Intentions

        I've made many New Year's resolutions in my lifetime, all with good intentions. A few I've kept, but most I've unfortunately abandoned before the paint was dry on the brand new year.  So this year I've decided to make intentions rather than resolutions. I don't know if they'll stick any better but it certainly won't hurt to try.

        A New Year's Intention to use up food that I have in my freezer/ refrigerator/ pantry before I buy more led to this rustic soup. Another New Year's Intention- to eat more vegetables- fueled my search at 101 Cookbooks, a favorite website of one of my sons. I had cabbage that my brother had given me, curiously pink potatoes from the grocery store, and way too many cans of beans in the pantry.

       All of these made up into a hearty "peasant" soup loaded with veggies. I topped it with a drizzle of good olive oil and freshly grated Parmesan cheese (which you could leave off if you'd rather go the vegetarian route.) Some good crusty bread and a green salad rounded out a delectable (if not photogenic) supper for the two of us.

        Contrary to what it may look like here recently, I have not totally given up meat. I've just put it on the "back burner" for a while, so to speak. I definitely haven't given up on treats either- just trying to eat my veggies first like my mama always told me. :)

      Rustic Cabbage Soup
      slightly adapted from this recipe from 101 Cookbooks
      1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
      pinch of salt (I used only a small pinch- feel free to use more if you aren't on a salt restricted diet.)
      1/2 to 3/4 lb. potatoes, skins on, cut into 1/4 inch dice
      4 cloves garlic, chopped
      1/2 large sweet onion, sliced or chopped
      4-5 cups stock (your favorite)
      1 1/2 cups cooked white beans (or a can of white beans, drained and rinsed)
      1/2 medium cabbage, cored and sliced into 1/4 inch ribbons
      2-3 dried red chili peppers
      good quality olive oil for drizzling over top
      grated Parmesan cheese
      freshly grated black pepper to taste

      • Heat 1 Tblsp. olive oil in a soup pot. Stir in pinch of salt and potatoes. Cook with the lid on until potatoes are beginning to get tender, about 5 minutes, stirring every once in a while to keep them from sticking.
      •  Add onions and garlic. Cook another few minutes until onions are translucent.
      • Add the stock and beans and bring to a simmer. (Add chili peppers if desired.)
      • Add the cabbage and cook another few minutes until the cabbage is tender.
      • Adjust the seasonings. Add salt and pepper if needed.
      • Remove hot peppers and serve with a drizzle of olive oil and grated parmesan (if desired.)

      This post has been added to the  Hearth 'n Soul Blog Hop at girlichef.
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