Monday, January 31, 2011

Meatless Monday: Pumpkin Pasta

Pumpkin Pasta

Rewind to last night: I ask the husband if he'll eat pasta in a creamy pumpkin sauce for Meatless Monday. He tells me he'll eat it if I make him a pumpkin pie. I agree. Fast-forward to tonight: I make pasta in a beautiful, thick and creamy pumpkin sauce. The kitchen smells spicy and amazing. But it smells like I'm making pie - not dinner. 

After about 20 minutes of cooking, dinner is on the table. The husband starts eating  and squints his eyes and gives me a smirk from across the table. It's his look that lets me know he loves me. After all, he's voluntarily eating a meatless dinner that smells like one of his favorite autumnal desserts. Oh, it's weird.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Mama's Roasted Potato Wedges

Temperatures in the upper 60s and nothing but sunshine all weekend? Talk about spring fever! The husband and I spent the weekend outside enjoying the beautiful weather with the doggies. We were able to introduce Stella to a nearby park Chance has come to know and love. (We even let them get into the river. In January. Are we bad parents?) What an amazing weekend! That's really all there is to it. Naturally, we ended the weekend pretending it's May and fired up the grill. It's true the husband grills in winter, but not in shorts. So when he said he wanted to make hamburgers for dinner, I let him go stand in the fading sunshine, PBR in hand and do his thing. I told him I'd cover the veggies.

I've been cooking a lot lately from the newer books in my collection or just searching the Web for inspiration. But after talking to my cousin M yesterday and getting off the phone this afternoon with my momma and then my cousin K, I felt it necessary to pull out the cookbook our family put together years ago. I flipped  Generations II to an old faithful recipe my grandma, my mama, is known to bring to potlucks: Garlic Roasted Potato Wedges. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

It's Finally Friday

Don't ask why my pizza looks like a gift tag. I don't have an answer.
And around this household, I've come to realize that usually means pizza. It's funny how easily we can get into a routine and stick to it. (Seriously, Husband, Meatless Mondays will come naturally. Just wait and see.) My momma grew up with parents who poured themselves Seven and Sevens and served popcorn for dinner Friday nights. You might think that sounds like bad parenting, but I think it sounds like a really fun Friday night - not to mention an inexpensive way to feed four girls in the 1970s. The truth is, that tradition was probably born - accidentally - one night when my grandma's full-time teaching job had left her too tired to make a big family dinner.

When I think about it, I guess I can trace our Friday night pizza routine back about three years, when the husband was still just a boyfriend. I was working a Sunday-through-Thursday schedule, which meant my Fridays consisted of running with the dog man, cleaning the house, watching The Dog Whisperer and waiting for the boyfriend to get home from school. I cooked back then, but I didn't look forward to it like I do now. I was much more concerned with finding a cute outfit and heading to our favorite watering hole for a couple of games of pool. After about an hour ... or so ... of the boyfriend not necessarily winning but of me more so losing, we'd walk down the street, pick up a pie and head home to the dog man.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

We're Out of Peanut Butter? We're WHAT?!

Seriously, that never happens in this house. I mean, I eat the stuff on bread, apples, sweet potatoes, bananas and spoons. I make sure we never run out of peanut butter. But I've been planning to transform this household into a natural peanut butter zone, so I was trying to think of ways to use up the remaining p.b. as soon as possible. As I mentioned earlier this week, we also have a never-ending box of crisp rice cereal in the pantry. And although I made Peanut Butter & Honey Treats earlier this week, I wasn't opposed to mixing peanut butter and crisp rice cereal together again.

Unfortunately, I should have planned a little better. I had full intentions of making granola bars. (I figured I'd put some of those pantry items to good use and make the husband a healthy treat for his lunch box.) But about halfway through the process, things began to go downhill. Oh, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me start from the beginning.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

It's Not Red Beans & Rice, But It's Good

I asked the husband last night what he wanted for our meatless dinner of the week (yeah, we completely missed Monday this week and Tuesday, for that matter), and he surprised me with "red beans and rice." He continued to tell me how he went out to lunch with co-workers last week and one of them apparently had red beans and rice. It looked good, he told me. Well, red beans and rice is typically made with ham and sausage, isn't it? Aside from the fact that I don't do sausage - ever - this meal simply wasn't going to work because I wasn't planning to serve meat. But the husband had shown some interest in helping me plan dinner, so I couldn't completely disregard his request.

After racking my brain for hours, I finally turned to my Whole Foods app and found something that I thought he'd like - and it called for beans and rice. (By the way, I totally recommend this app. It's filled with healthy recipes and includes the nutritional information for each. You don't even have to have wireless to use it. Bottom line: If you like to cook or just plain have to cook and you care about what you eat, you need this app. You can thank me later.)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Peanut Butter & Honey Treats

I've been thinking for a couple of days now that I needed to use up the rather large box of store-brand crisp rice cereal in the back of our pantry. Yes, the thought of making a Cereal Killer Cocktail - or three - did cross my mind, but I didn't think the husband would enjoy that as much as me. So I tried to think of something we'd both enjoy - or something I at least thought sounded good and hoped he would, too. The husband loves Rice Krispie Treats and I love peanut butter. What would be better? I figured if Cereal Killer Cocktails weren't in my future, perhaps Peanut Butter & Honey Treats should be. 

I searched the Web a bit looking for a "healthy" Rice Krispie Treat, but basically once you add peanut butter, the extra calories are instantaneous. And when it comes to my peanut butter addiction, I'm willing to deal with the added calories. So here it is, my version of a Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Treat. The husband has taught me to love peanut butter and honey, so the honey was added with him in mind. And I've recently been sprinkling cinnamon on just about everything I put in my mouth, so that was a little something for me. 

The consistency of the bars wasn't that of a traditional ooey gooey Rice Krispie Treat, and I was nervous for a while that they weren't even going to hold together, but after about an hour in the fridge they cut perfectly. So we had nice peanut buttery snack - and put some old cereal to use. Now how in the world will I use up the rest of that ginormous box of cereal?


Peanut Butter & Honey Treats
Inspired by

1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
2 1/2 cups crisp rice cereal

Lightly spray a 8 x 8 inch pan with cooking spray. Heat the honey, peanut butter, vanilla and cinnamon over low heat. Stir the mixture until it's blended.

Remove from heat and add the rice cereal. Stire well until completely combined. Pour the cereal into your prepared pan and press into all the corners.

Allow to cool before cutting. Cooking time is actually cooling time. (You may throw these in the fridge if you're impatient!)

Makes 9 Servings
Amount Per Serving: 170 calories, 7 g fat, 25 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 17 g sugar, 4 g fiber

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Football Fare

I love cowboys. Simply put, they make me happy. Actually, I love cowboys so much that I don't even care if they're dressed like Santa and it's the end of January: I will wear my cowboy apron and be happy. So, that's exactly what I did - all weekend. 

This afternoon, I tied my apron on to try out a new dip with hopes that it'd wow the husband and be good enough to take to our neighbor's Super Bowl party. We love spinach and artichoke dip (not as much as I love cowboys, but it's still good), so when I saw Ellie Krieger's recipe for a lightened up version, I had to try it. 

Seeing Double

Don't let him fool you: He likes her.
For the last three years, the dog man has lived like a king. He has gone on countless walks, spent hours playing ball in the fence that we installed for no one but him, removed the stuffing from about a hundred toys, taken daily naps and been swimming in every body of water he's ever seen. Could his life be any better? Well, the husband thought so. The husband was convinced the dog man needed a playmate. I'll admit I wasn't sold on the idea. In fact, it took me months to even consider it, and then I gave the husband a list of criteria. No, I didn't need to see doppelgangers, but the new addition to our family had to look like the dog man, had to be a she and it just had to feel right. And we'd name her Scout or Stella. 

So last week when the husband called me into the office, I figured I'd walk in there, look at the online ad, ooh and aaah over the puppy and, like many times before, tell him, "That's not Chance's sister." But as I read the post, I knew our world was about to change. He'd found an 8-month-old chocolate Labrador that needed a home with a fence. The post said she was good with other dogs; her name was Stella. 

The husband and I both have a dog bed next to our side of the bed now, and we each have a dog to walk in the morning. Everyone seems to be adjusting well to Stella's move - some of us better than others. Chance took to her a lot better than we ever could have imagined, but he's still getting used to sharing his parents. So I thought I'd make him - and his little sister - a treat yesterday. 

Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits
From Dog Treat
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup oats
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 1/4 cups hot water

Get all of your ingredients out, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

Put the peanut butter in another, smaller bowl. Heat the water, and add it to the peanut butter.

The peanut butter mixture may look a little gross, but that's fine; stir until smooth.

Add the wet and dry ingredients in the large bowl, adding more water if the dough doesn't come together nicely. (I added an extra 1/2 cup of water, and that ended up being too much. I then had to add another 1/4 cup of flour.)

Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic. Roll out the dough and cut into shapes.

Bake the dog cookies for 25-40 minutes, or until they reach a firmness preferred by you and your doggie. (I put the first batch in for 25 minutes and the husband thought the dogs would like them well enough. Cooking them the full 40 minutes resulted in a much firmer cookie, so it's up to you.) 

Cool on wire racks. (We got 42 cookies!)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Little Me Time

Because the rest of my day will be going to the dogs (more on that later), I took a few minutes this morning to enjoy a breakfast that'd probably make the husband gag a little. You see, I usually sit down to breakfast with a few bowls of food, fully intending to keep them separate. But then I start to think they all taste so good, why not mix 'em together? And that's when the husband will walk in the kitchen and roll his eyes.

The first meal of the day:
3/4 cup nonfat plain yogurt
1/2 cup toasted multi-grain flakes and oats
1/2 tablespoon local dark honey
1 tablespoon walnuts
1 medium apple, sprinkled with cinnamon and heated for about 45 seconds in the microwave

Mmmm, mmmm. Oh, yes, one big bowl of early morning goodness that only set me back about 335 calories.
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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Improvisation Is Welcome

I know Ellie's mango barbecue chicken left a little to be desired for the husband last weekend, but I still feel like she hasn't let me down yet. So, with a few successes under my belt thanks to Ellie, I thought I'd stick with her for the remainder of the week. I took chicken out to thaw before we went to bed last night, but I had no idea what I was going to make for tonight's dinner. As I ate breakfast this morning, I thumbed through "The Food You Crave" and found her Crispy Chicken Fingers. They sounded so good. Yes, we've had "oven-fried" chicken before - because I simply do not fry chicken - but I've never breaded chicken with cereal before. It's a popular idea, I know, it's just not something I'd tried before.

I was excited I had a recipe all picked out. (I absolutely hate going to work
not knowing what I'm going to make for dinner. It makes me feel uneasy - like I have unfinished business just looming over my head all day.) But as I thought about the recipe a bit more, I realized I lacked some of the most-necessary ingredients.

Crispy Oven-Baked Chicken

Crispy Oven-Baked Chicken

10 ounces boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/3 cup nonfat plain yogurt
2 tablespoons 1% low-fat milk
cooking spray
1 1/4 cups All-Bran cereal
1/2 tablespoon Caribbean jerk seasoning
1/4 teaspoon salt (approximately)
mixed up black pepper, about a dash
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the chicken into finger-like strips. Mix the milk and yogurt together until smooth. Add the chicken to the "buttermilk" mixture and refrigerate for about 10-15 minutes, or until your oven is heated and the rest of your ingredients are ready.
Yes, it looked a little gross at this point.
Pulse the cereal and seasonings until crumbly. (I left a few chunks of cereal, as I didn't want really fine breadcrumbs.) Put the crumbs onto a plate.
Coat the chicken in the crumbs and move to a cooking sheet that has been sprayed lightly with cooking spray.

Bake for 10 minutes, flip and bake for about another 10 minutes or until the chicken reaches 165 degrees F.

Servings Per Recipe: 2
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 391, Total fat 5.7 g,  Total Carbs 32 g, Fiber 11 g, Protein 32 g

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

BHG French Bread

After packing the husband a sandwich made on last night's French bread and receiving a text at about noon that read "This sandwich is awesome," I knew I should post last night's bread recipe. It wasn't anything that special, but it was easy and it was good. The hardest part was being patient and actually let it rise as much as the recipe stated. (I'm known for relying on rapid-rise yeast and only letting bread dough rise for about half the time I'm supposed to. What can I say? I'm an Aries.)

French Bread
From Better Homes and Gardens

5-1/2 to 6 cups all-purpose flour
2 packages active dry yeast
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups warm water (120 degrees F to 130 degrees F)

cooking spray
cornmeal, about a tablespoon
1 tablespoon liquid egg whites
1 tablespoon water

In a KitchenAid mixer, stir together 2 cups of the flour, the yeast and salt. Heat the water, and add it to tthe flour mixture. Mix on low to medium speed for 30 seconds, then beat on high for 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can. (I think I was only able to add in about 2 more cups.)

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough remaining flour to make a stiff dough that is smooth and elastic. Shape dough into a ball. Place in a lightly greased bowl, turning once to grease surface. Cover; let rise in a warm place until double in size. (I covered mine with a kitchen towel and let it rise for about an hour on top of the fridge.)

Punch dough down. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough in half. Cover; let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, lightly grease a baking sheet with cooking spray. Sprinkle with cornmeal.

Roll each portion of the dough into a 15x10-inch rectangle. Roll up, starting from a long side; seal well. Pinch ends and pull slightly to taper. Place seam side down on the prepared baking sheet. In a small bowl stir together the liquid egg white and water. Brush some of the egg white mixture over the loaves. Cover the loaves - again! - and let them rise until nearly double in size. (The recipe said to let them rise for 35 to 45 minutes, but I know I didn't let mine rise this long. Let 'em sit for a while, and if they look like they're getting a bit larger, you're good.)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Using a sharp knife, make 3 or 4 diagonal cuts about 1/4 inch deep across the top of each loaf. 

Bake for 20 minutes. Brush again with some of the egg white mixture. Continue baking for 15 to 20 minutes more - or until bread sounds hollow when lightly tapped. Cool the loaves on wire racks. 

Servings Per Recipe 2 loaves (28 slices)
Calories 85, Sodium 128 mg, Carbohydrate 18g, Fiber 1g, Protein 3g

Monday, January 17, 2011

Shroom and Spinach Lasagna Rollups

So, I proposed the idea of vegetarian gumbo to the husband last night, hoping he'd be able to look forward to Meatless Monday. Unfortunately, the conversation didn't go quite as I had planned.

Husband: Doesn't gumbo usually have sausage in it?
Wife: Yes
Husband: So, you're going to just make vegetables? 
Wife: I'll make rice, too.
Husband: Ya know, I agreed to this whole Meatless Monday thing when I didn't think it'd really happen. I mean, we haven't had an actual meatless meal yet, have we?

Well, we have, but it was almost a month ago. I realized I not only had to come up with a meatless meal but it needed to be a really good meatless meal. I was determined to show the husband that we could go meatless - and that he wouldn't mind.

Portobello Lasagna Rollups
Not that I'm trying to pat myself on the back too much, but I must say tonight's dinner was a total success. I put my new Ellie Krieger cookbook to work again tonight; it's safe to say Ellie's Portobello Lasagna Rollups will be seen regularly at our dinner table!

Had I steered away from her recipe, I'd post my own version. But Ellie's version sounded so good that I followed it as close as possible. Whole wheat lasagna noodles, part-skim ricotta and mozzarella, spinach, mushrooms, tomato sauce. What else would it need? It all sounded perfect. The rolls weren't that hard to assemble, either, but I must confess that the more I rolled, the better they looked. 

With the rollups ready for the oven, I was feeling pretty proud of myself. I made 14 rolls, even though Ellie said to make 12. (Actually, I cooked two extra noodles in case I tore a couple.) 

Just in case this meatless meal didn't impress the husband, though, I thought I'd make him a little something special: bread. I knew even if he did like dinner, he'd really like fresh-baked bread.

At about 5:10, the husband pulled in the driveway. I had sent him a text earlier in the day asking if he wanted to know what I was planning for dinner, but he said he wanted to be surprised.

"It smells like spaghetti and meatballs in here," I heard him say as he walked through the front door. I told him about the lasagna rollups, but I left the bread a surprise until it was time to sit down.

The husband went to the bedroom to install the new blinds and hang the new curtains I picked up this afternoon; and I finished setting the table. 

"And bread?!" The husband couldn't hide his excitement about the bread. I knew at that moment even if he thought dinner was mediocre I'd scored big points with the French bread.  But lucky for me, the husband was happier with more than just the bread. He thought dinner was good, really good, he told me. And he didn't even miss the meat! 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Come Monday, It'll Be Alright

Ellie's Chicken With Mango Barbecue Sauce
At least, I hope to fully redeem myself come Monday. Tonight's dinner was the first meal I've made from one of my latest new-to-me cookbooks. I've been reading Ellie Krieger's "The Food You Crave" for a couple of days now, but I didn't have all of the ingredients to make any of her tasty - and healthy! - meals until today. I asked the husband this morning what he thought about chicken marinated in a mango barbecue sauce, and he agreed it sounded interesting. I was pretty excited he was willing to try this because I love mangos, so, naturally, I'd like him to love them, too. Also, we've never had anything quite like this before; I didn't think it'd hurt him to step out of him comfort zone a little bit. It wasn't like I asked him to eat tofu or anything.

I heated the olive oil and added the pepper, onion, spices, molasses, red wine vinegar, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, lime juice and tomato sauce. Then, I transferred the sauce to my blender and was supposed to add the chopped mangos and jalapenos. Well, I added in the mangos, but where were my jalapenos? Husband! Where are the jalapenos we bought today? I looked all over the kitchen, but I didn't have all night. I had to get the chicken marinating. I opened a small can of mild chilies and threw them in instead. (Of course, as soon as I had the sauce blending, the husband found the jalapenos in the back seat of the car.)

I knew as soon as the chicken was marinating that it wasn't pretty. The sauce was a bit thicker than I imagined, but that was nothing to complain about. And it was a little on the sweet side, so I threw a few dashes of red pepper in to keep the husband happy. Overall, it tasted fine, but it wasn't that pleasant to look at. Oh, well. I just shrugged my shoulders and threw it in the fridge. 

An hour later, the husband grilled it up, and we sat down to eat. I thought the chicken was a success, albeit an ugly success. And the husband didn't necessarily disagree. I had put the remaining barbecue sauce in the fridge (covered, in a separate bowl) while the chicken was marinating, and we both agreed that was a little weird. I think room-temp sauce would have been better. 

Slowly but surely, I'm convinced, I'm on the road to dinner redemption. Now if I could only decide what to make for tomorrow's Meatless Monday, we'll be set. Hey, husband, what do you think about root vegetable creole?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

You Can't Win 'Em All

My first brisket attempt
There's a local restaurant around these parts that we love to frequent. When friends come to visit, we go there for happy hour. When our parents come to visit, we go there for dinner. When my contracting position became a full-time job, we went there to celebrate. The husband and I love this restaurant. We've tried just about everything on the menu by now, and we've never had a bad meal there. But we both have our favorites: He likes the ribs; I like the brisket. So, last weekend when the husband suggested we buy a brisket, I couldn't help but think my prayers would be answered if I could make my very own melt-in-your-mouth brisket.

Well, tonight's dinner didn't look so bad, did it? Unfortunately, it didn't taste anything like the brisket I've come to know and love at our favorite eatery. I thought I'd cook our brisket similarly to a pot roast - with carrots, onions and celery, low and slow in the oven. All of the recipes I found, though, called for a cut of meat weighing five or six times as much as our piece did. (We thought we were doing such a great thing buying a one-pound brisket: It'd feed us perfectly, and we wouldn't have to worry about wasting leftovers.)

Nom, Nom ... Nachos

The husband and I painted our bedroom this afternoon. Before I got to work, though, I had to make myself a quick - and protein-packed - meal. (I tried to upload this post via the mobile earlier today, but apparently I still have a few glitches to work through.) Anyway, a few tortilla chips topped with salsa, black beans, a little cheddar and some reduced-fat sour cream did the trick. We got that bedroom painted in record time!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Good Reads

How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book. 
- Henry David Thoreau

Wrapped in my cable-knit wool blanket (that I dragged home from the Aran Islands), I ordered myself a few new cookbooks from the comfort of my love seat early last week. Oh, how I love buying used books online. The only downside? I could really do without the wait. Thanks to Mother Nature, my books sat in Atlanta for daaaaaays. They were so close, yet so far away! Finally, my prayers were answered. When I got home from work today, I was greeted not only by the husband and dog man but also a brand-new-to-me cookbook. Ah, my week is now complete!

Honestly, if you were to give me a month, I wouldn't be able to name all of the books I've read. I was an English major, so I've read my fair share of books - voluntarily and involuntarily. And most of those books changed my life in one way or another. (That was a disgusting cliche, I know, but it's true.) But it wasn't until recently that I realized how much health and wellness articles - and cookbooks in general - could change my life.

Last summer, I was dieting and working out like a maniac in preparation of our wedding. I was - and still am - completely in love with my wedding dress and was determined to look as amazing in it as possible. But I had one major problem: I was starving all the time. I was eating, but I was eating a lot of fat-free, low-cal meals, and I never felt satisfied. 

Thank you, A, for introducing me to Christine Avanti. During a long phone conversation with one of my bridesmaids, Skinny Chicks Don't Eat Salads came up and my life hasn't been the same since. A explained to me how this book showed her how to plan meals and balance protein and carbs. I bought the book and read it cover to cover immediately. It taught me how to eat smaller, more-satisfying meals and never feel deprived - or hungry. This book seriously helped keep me from going crazy and chewing my arm off right before walking down the aisle. Oh, and it helped me fit into that amazing dress.

The husband and I registered for this cookbook and I was, I mean, we were so excited when we received it after the wedding. I love how the book is divided by season, making it easy for me to plan meals that use fresh produce. I also love that it includes the nutritional info for reach recipe. Sometimes I get so tired figuring that out by myself! Overall, cookbook makes my life easier. And it's filled with ideas on how to use leftovers and cook as environmentally friendly as possible. How could I not love a cookbook that tells me to use half a 12-ounce beer in a batch of chili and drink the rest while I cook?

And with all of the vegetarian-friendly recipes in this book, I'm definitely looking forward to putting this book to more use as we commit to Meatless Mondays in 2011. I'm so glad I put, I mean, we put this on our wedding registry.

If I got up off the couch and flipped to the front of this cookbook, I could tell you what year I received this for Christmas. But since I worked all day, I'm just going to sit right here and say that it was probably 2004 that I received this book from my momma. And to be honest with you, it took me a couple of years to really understand this book's value. It's huge. So, as a young undergrad, this book was a bit overwhelming. 

Once I got into this book, though, and really started reading, I learned so much. Yes, the recipes are great; they aren't necessarily basic. This book is filled with staple recipes I've used time and time again - and I know I'll continue to use for years. But aside from the recipes, this book is filled with tips and the explanations are extremely valuable. I never knew so much about meat until I read through this book. My parents served all sorts of cuts of meat while I was growing up, but once on my own, I realized I had no idea what to buy or how to cook it. Enter "The New Basics Cookbook," and my confusion dissolved. 

I'm not really sure what the husband would be eating - or what I'd be eating to keep myself full every day - if I didn't have those books. It's amazing how much joy and knowledge those books have brought to my kitchen. I can't wait to see what the newest additions to my collection hold. 

* Disclaimer: Yes, I have an Amazon Associates account. But honestly, even if you click on those books and order them, it's only going to earn me about a penny. I've really only posted those pics and links because they added nice visuals. It's cold; I didn't feel like getting out from under my blanket on the couch and photographing my books.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Streusel-Topped Pumpkin Muffins

Pawing through the fridge this morning, home on my second snow day of the week, I was hit with one of those awful moments when you find an open container stuffed way in the back. When did I open that can of pumpkin? This never would have happened a couple of years ago. You'd never have seen pumpkin within 100 yards of my house. At least, that's how things were until the husband introduced me to pumpkin pie. See, he loves pumpkin pie, so he wanted to show me that I, too, could love pumpkin pie. Unfortunately for the husband, my love of pumpkin goes beyond pie. 

I love pumpkin. I love pumpkin and cottage cheese, pumpkin and yogurt, pumpkin smoothies, pumpkin bars, pumpkin on a spoon. Must I continue? So, I knew that open can of pumpkin wasn't leftover from Thanksgiving or anything horrible like that, but I also knew that it wasn't opened yesterday - or even the day before. But I couldn't let it just go to waste! I had to figure out how to use up all of that pumpkin. 

Streusel-Topped Pumpkin Muffins
Inspired by a Cooking Light recipe found on

Dry ingredients:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients:
1 cup pumpkin
3/4 cup low-fat sour cream
1/3 cup low-fat milk
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg white

Streusel topping:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour

1/2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl; mix the wet ingredients in a medium bowl. Combine the wet and dry mixtures until just mixed together.

Spray a muffin pan with cooking spray and spoon the muffin mixture into the cups. Put the muffins in the preheated oven for about 8 minutes.

While the muffins begin to bake, mix the streusel topping in a small bowl: Measure the sugars and then cut in the butter until crumbs form.

Remove the muffins from the oven and spoon the streusel onto the muffins. Put the muffins back into the oven and continue baking until the muffins spring back up when touched, about 10-12 more minutes.

Remove and cool on wire racks.

I snuck a few pomegranates into the second batch!

Calories: 120, Total fat 2 g,  Total Carbs 23 g, Fiber 1 g, Protein 2.5 g

Monday, January 10, 2011

Who Doesn't Love a Snow Day?

"There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort." - Jane Austen

I'm sorry to say it, Monday, but you're usually my least-favorite day of the week. Today, though, was a bit different. I'm not sure if it had anything to do with the fact that I wore my snowflake socks yesterday or not, but we woke up to about four inches of snow this morning. And that meant one thing: snow day. 

Who doesn't love a snow day? I'm a "Northerner," so I've had my fair share of driving on snow-covered roads, and I went to grad school in a city that didn't blink an eye when inches of snow would turn into feet. But I don't care how used to snow I am, and I don't care if it makes me sound like a big kid: I love staying home when it snows. 

The husband and I spent the day relaxing; we watched kids walk up and down our road with sleds and snow tubes - one of them even had an air mattress! - all afternoon, and the snow just kept falling. I even took the dog man out and threw some snowballs for him. Could we have asked for a more perfect start to the week? 

On a cold, lazy day like today, all I want is a big bowl of comfort food. Lucky for us, we had leftover corn chowder to heat up for dinner, and even luckier for us, I remembered to buy sour cream at the grocery store Sunday, so we had everything we needed for sour cream biscuits.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Pretzels, Pretzels Everywhere

I've been looking at my most-recent copy of Food Network Magazine for about a week now, thinking Guy Fieri's stuffed pretzels would make my husband's life complete. It's no secret: I married a carbaholic. So as he flipped between Sunday afternoon football and NCAA basketball games, I put on my apron and got to work.

The husband is always picking on me because I can never seem to make a recipe without leaving an ingredient out - or adding one of my own genius ideas to it. I was determined to follow this recipe exactly, from start to finish. And I almost succeeded. Really, I tried. But we didn't have any agave, so I decided to swap that out for some local honey. Besides that, though, I did everything Guy told me.

I got the kitchen prepped and ready to go.

 Everything seemed to be going along smoothly. The water reached a nice 110 degrees straight from the faucet, and after five minutes, my yeast was ready.

Unfortunately, I began to worry when it came time to mix the dough in the food processor. (Go me, though, for using my dough attachment for the first time today!) Was I supposed to use a ginormous processor? The flours didn't mix together as easily as I'd hoped.

I cut the dough into four sections, just as Guy instructed.

No matter what I did, though, I couldn't get my dough to reach an 11x14 rectangle.

I made a batch without stuffing first. But I thought I'd be a bit adventurous with the second batch of dough and added some grated cheese, mixed up pepper and mixed up salt.

My pretzels ended up being babies. They were so small!

The process got a bit easier as I went, although none of my pretzels looked anything like the ones in the magazine, and I realized baking them for 16-18 minutes was WAY too long. A good 10 minutes in my oven, and they were perfect. I think the husband will be set for at least the next couple of weeks of basketball season.


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