Christmas Cookie Time!

So as I’ve previously mentioned, I really don’t have a strong liking for baking.  However, there is one particular time of year in which I cast all my baking issues aside and that time is Christmas!  Coupled with Christmas music and the sweet nostalgic scent of my childhood, Christmas cookies are one of those things that I have definitely grown to enjoy making.  As I’ve gotten older, the array and multitude of cookies has definitely decreased (due to a smaller household and a less motivated mother- sorry to call you out mom!) This has really presented itself as an opportunity though, and I have enjoyed scowering the internet looking for new recipes to try.  The staples will always remain- peanut butter balls, sugar cookies, coconut macaroons, ginger cookies etc- but now there’s some room for experimenting.  Last year it was Giada’s lemon ricotta cookies (which are phenomonenal by the way!!).  And this year it is these maple-pecan spice cookies among a couple others.  I found this recipe on cookinglight and they are really pretty tasty.  We substituted pecans for walnuts because my mom and I like them better but I’d imagine they’re just as good with walnuts.  They taste very similar to your typical ginger/spice cookie but I think the maple frosting is what makes them a bit different.  Bon appetit and happy holidays!

Maple-Walnut Spice Cookies

CookingLight: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/maple-walnut-spice-cookies-10000001134039/

Cookies:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (about 6 3/4 ounces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 large egg

Frosting:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon fat-free milk
  • 2 teaspoons butter, softened
  • Remaining ingredient:
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts (or pecans), toasted

Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • To prepare cookies, lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 6 ingredients (through cloves) in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk.
  • Place brown sugar and 1/4 cup butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until light and fluffy (about 4 minutes). Add 2 tablespoons syrup and egg; beat until well blended. Beating at low speed, gradually add flour mixture; beat just until combined.
  • Spoon batter evenly into 30 mounds (about 1 tablespoon) 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 14 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on pans 5 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely on wire racks.
  • To prepare frosting, combine powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons syrup, milk, and 2 teaspoons butter, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Spread frosting evenly over cooled cookies. Working quickly, sprinkle cookies with nuts.

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Cabbage Crunch!

Whole Foods gets all the credit for this post because I stole the idea right out of their recipe book.  As a former team member at Whole Foods this summer, I scowered the salad and platter bars basically every day admiring their many healthy creations (although not EVERYTHING there is the absolute healthiest- which I think is a common misnomer).  Anyways, for all you cabbage lovers out there- this one’s for you!  Cabbage crunch is the name of this little treat that involves some of my favorite ingredients- red cabbage, green onion, slivered almonds, and VINEGAR! It’s super simple to make and I just used my own measurements since the ingredients are the only things provided on the tag.  This recipe is a must-make though and I’m glad I was able to perfect it before coming back to school in a place where the nearest Whole Foods is 45 minutes away! That being said, there is a lot of room to play around with this recipe so throw in whatever you wish (like more vinegar if you’re me!)  Bon appetit!

Cabbage Crunch (adapated from Whole Foods)

1 head red cabbage, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons toasted almond slivers

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

1 bunch green onions, chopped

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons EVOO

2 tablespoons honey

salt, pepper

Toast sesame seeds and almonds in small skillet. Combine all ingredients through onions in a large bowl. Whisk together the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl and pour over cabbage. For best results, let sit in refrigerator for a couple hours or overnight.

Homemade Fig Newtons!

I don’t know about you, but for some reason fig newtons remind me of being a kid.  I don’t even think I ate them that much when I was younger but they still bring me back to the good old days of Xena Warrior Princess (yeah I’m not ashamed of it) and lemonade stands.  I found this recipe a long time ago and due to recent random cravings for fig newtons, I thought it’d be fun to make my own! Fun.. not so sure. Delicious and totally worth it.. yes.  As previously mentioned, me and baking don’t always see eye to eye.  Here’s yet another example of this.  The recipe necessitates the use of a food processor and of course the only one that I own is very small and not very nice.  Have you ever tried sawing a tree down with a butterknife?  That’s kinda what trying to process a bunch of gooey, thick dates/figs in a cheap food processor was like.  On top of not all fitting in my machine, I’m pretty sure they permanently damaged the blades.  So I had to resort to a blender which was honestly just as difficult.  BUT, once I got that mixture all combined everything else was super easy.  Of course if you own a real food processor you definitely won’t run into such difficulty.  I think this recipe is great and there’s definitely room to play with it and add some different ingredients- which I plan to do if I make them again. Bon appetit!

“Skinny Fig Bars”

http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/2009/12/skinny-figgy-bars.html

Filling:

8 ounces dried figs (one round package)
4 ounces pitted dates
2 tbsp. silvered or chopped almonds (optional)
2 drops anise extract (optional)
1 tbsp. agave nectar (or other liquid sweetener)
2 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ginger

Snip off the figs’ stems, and put the figs, dates, and almonds into the food processor. Grind to a coarse paste. Stir in the remaining filling ingredients and process until mixed. Set aside.

Crust:

1 cup regular or quick oats, ground in blender until fine
1 cup regular or quick oats, uncooked (not instant oatmeal)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces unsweetened apple sauce
3 tbsp. agave nectar (or other liquid sweetener)
1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 375 F. Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Stir in the wet ingredients, mixing well to a thick consistency. Press half the crust mixture into the bottom of an oiled, eight-inch square cake pan (use a wooden spoon or your hands). Spread the fig mixture evenly over the crust. Smooth the remaining crust mixture over the filling. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until lightly browned. Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars.

Icing (optional):

Mix powdered sugar (about 3 tbsp.) with a little water (Start with 1/2 tsp.) until the right consistency. Add vanilla or almond extract to taste (just drops). Drizzle over top of bars before cutting.

 

Stuffed Poblano Pepper!

VEGGIES.  That really is all I have to say about this dish.  Being the veggie fiend that I am, some would say I went a little overboard tonight.  Of course I totally disagree. After my trip to the produce stand, I simply had to use my recent purchases.  Their poblano peppers looked fantastic so I picked one up as well as zucchini and a tomato.  There really is nothing better than fresh, local produce.  Anyways, I decided I pretty much wanted to stuff as much deliciousness into my pepper as physically possible so my ingredient list includes zucchini, tomato, mushroom, onion, corn, and spinach.  Lastly, I used the always awesome lentils.  I really don’t think anything negative can be said about these little legumes and they were the perfect substitute for beans since I didn’t have any. The recipe is a multi-step process but if you chop up everything beforehand, it really doesn’t take too long.  Bon appetit!

Mi poblanito!

Stuffed Poblano Pepper:

1 poblano pepper, sliced in half

1/4 cup lentils

Veggie mixture- I really encourage you to just throw in whatever veggies you like (I, personally, don’t discriminate):

I chopped up a combination of tomato, red onion, zucchini, and threw in some corn, mushrooms, and spinach

1/4 cup tomatillo salsa (or whatever you prefer)

EVOO

2 garlic cloves, crushed

salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste

Directions: Bring 3/4 cup water to boil for lentils and preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Rinse lentils first and then place in boiling water.  Reduce to simmer and cook for approximately 15 minutes or until soft.  Drizzle pepper, zucchini, and tomato with EVOO. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic, and bake for around 10-12 minutes. Meanwhile, sautee garlic with onions and mushrooms.  Add spinach and corn last, after about 3 minutes.  Assemble the pepper by stuffing everything inside and then top with salsa!

Horseradish and Dill crusted Tilapia

Something that you should know about me aside from my extreme love of vegetables, is my obsession with all things vinegary.  Anything that is pickled, mixed with vinegar, or just nice and tangy is basically a go in my book.  In fact, I have a jar of pickled onions in my refrigerator right now that I could pretty much snack on like potato chips.  That being said, horseradish is one of those ingredients that I could smother on anything and eat.  Horseradish and mustard (and the heavenly combination of the two) are permanent condiments for me.  So since I have 2 bags of frozen tilapia fillets in my freezer (thanks to the great buy 1 get 1 free deals at bi lo) and a jar of horseradish in my fridge, I figured it was about time to marry the two. Throw in a little dill and some freshly squeezed lemon juice and dinner is ready. I served this with my previously mentioned lentil dish, corn, and my vegetable of the month- brussel sprouts.  On that note, I apologize if you’ve been looking for more of a veggie variety in my posts but I am utterly obsessed with brussel sprouts ever since my roommate just recently introduced them to me.  I actually just made a slaw using them per the suggestion of a Whole Foods worker- great idea!  Anyways, this dish is super simple as always and takes practically no time to prepare.  Bon appetit!

Tilapia recipe (1 Serving):

1 Tilapia fillet

1 teaspoon dill

2 tablespoons horseradish

juice of half a lemon

salt, pepper

Directions:  Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Season tilapia on both sides with salt, pepper, and dill.  Spread horseradish on top and then squeeze lemon juice over fillet.  Bake for 5-7 minutes until it flakes with a fork (tilapia does not take long to cook).

Fall Break=Salmon Time!

One of the reasons I love coming home for breaks (aside from seeing my family of course), is the excuse to buy higher quality ingredients like good seafood!  Being that I actually have time to cook something nice, it’s great to be able to treat both my parents and myself. That being said, I haven’t had salmon since I’ve been at school so I thought this would be a great opportunity to cook some up.  Fall season pretty much equates to roasting for me so that’s the direction I wanted to go in.  Accompanying my roasted salmon were roasted brussel sprouts, portabella fries, and a little lentil dish I whipped up.  I have Ina to thank for this incredibly delicious and simple salmon dish and I encourage everyone to try this recipe which follows.  It serves 6 people so I just halved everything. Bon appetit!

Dinner is served!

Roasted Salmon with Green Herbs

Barefoot Contessa

Ingredients

  • 1 (2- to 2 1/2-pound) skinless salmon fillet
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup minced scallions, white and green parts (4 scallions)
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh dill
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Place the salmon fillet in a glass, ceramic, or stainless-steel roasting dish and season it generously with salt and pepper. Whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice and drizzle the mixture evenly over the salmon. Let it stand at room temperature for 15 minutes.

In a small bowl, stir together the scallions, dill, and parsley. Scatter the herb mixture over the salmon fillet, turning it so that both sides are generously coated with the green herbs. Pour the wine around the fish fillet.

Roast the salmon for 10 to 12 minutes, until almost cooked in the center at the thickest part. The center will be firm with just a line of uncooked salmon in
the very center.

Fillet'o salmon

Roasted brussel heaven!

*Toss brussels with some EVOO, salt, and pepper and bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes

My little lentil concoction.

*Just throw some sauteed mushrooms and onions in with the cooked lentils and add a little red wine vinegar (for some tang) and chicken broth (for moisture). Season to taste.

Krispy Kale Chips!

For those of you out there who haven’t tried Kale..TRY IT!  And if you’re going to go try it for the first time, this is honestly one of the better ways to do it.  Kale is a member of the cabbage family and therefore has  a pretty strong taste when eaten raw so sauteeing or baking it is the way that I like to make it.  This leafy green is considered to be one of the healthiest vegetables out there as it contains ridiculous amounts of anti-oxident vitamins, has a high fiber content, and is low-cal.  Intrigued yet??  Really though, it is quite delicious and it’s a nice change from spinach.  This recipe is one that I have seen various people make on foodnetwork and it’s incredibly simple and loaded with my most favorite ingredient-GARLIC!  So next time you’re at the grocery store, pick up some kale (you can buy it already chopped up like lettuce) and give this recipe a go!  Bon appetit!

crispy goodness!

1 bag chopped Kale

4 cloves of garlic, smashed

1 tablespoon of olive oil

sea salt to tase

Mix all ingredients and place spread out on cookie sheet. Bake at 450 for approximately 5-7 minutes (depending on how crispy you want them).

 

Bag it up like some Lay’s and you’re good to go!

 

Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Icing..YES PLEASE

I’d like to begin this post by saying that I HATE baking..it is just horrible in my opinion. I don’t like having to meticulously follow recipes and I especially don’t like making a trillion exact measurements.  Part of what I love about cooking is the improvision- making something out of nothing; adding a little flare and flavor to common ingredients. Baking for some reason is also just a challenge for me and I feel like everything I bake always has something wrong with it. Take this recipe for example- I somehow managed to not completely bake the middle of the cake (rookie mistake I know)!  Even after numerous phone calls to my mom (which she of course happily answered), I still couldn’t get it totally right. I blame the pan though because who on earth owns a jelly roll pan?  Clearly not me, and not Bi-Lo either for that matter.  Luckily, pumpkin cake batter is UNBELIEVABLY delicious..seriously, if you haven’t had it, just pull this baby out of the oven a couple minutes early 🙂  No but in all honesty, there’s really no way to mess this cake up- it’s super easy and outrageously delicious.  Which is why it lasted all of about 20 minutes and I failed to get a good picture..sorry bout it! So without further adieu, here is the recipe that will change your life.. Bon appetit!

Pumpkin Cake

1 cup veg oil

2 cups sugar

1 16-oz can pumpkin

2 cups flour

4 eggs

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp salt

Mix all ingredients together and pour onto greased jelly
roll pan (11 X 14).  Bake at 350 for
20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.

 Cool and frost with:

3 oz cream cheese

1 tsp vanilla

¾ stick soft butter

1 box confectioners sugar

2-3 TB milk (to desired consistency)

heaven in a pan

P.S. If you’re wondering about the nutritional benefits of this recipe, here they are:  HAPPY BELLY… you needn’t know anything else

Gameday in Tigertown!

Gameday in Clemson is a pretty big deal to say the least- especially when it’s parents weekend against Florida State.  That being said, it also seemed like a great opportunity to have a little tailgate at our apartment and provide some delicious treats for our families to snack on! After some careful consideration, I decided sliders would be the best bet to go along with the mountains of other food.  One problem that I always face when figuring out what to cook is an OVERLOAD of ideas..I literally just want to make everything and anything so that everyone finds something they enjoy. Translation=hours in the store walking back and forth between aisles because I can’t make up my mind. Haha you may think I’m kidding, but it’s true.  What’s funny is that I always just end up choosing the most simple idea and going with that.  So what I came up with was ground chuck and ground chicken miniburgers.  I just added a little fresh garlic, steak seasoning, and green onion to the ground chuck to spice it up because it’s pretty flavorful on its own.  To the ground chicken I took a mediterranean approach, adding all sorts of delicious indgredients.  I also whipped up a couple greek yogurt-based sauces because let’s be honest, who doesn’t like greek yogurt? Recipes follow.  Bon appetit!

scrumptious spread

Ground chicken miniburgers:

1 lb ground chicken

3 cloves garlic, crushed

3 shallots, finely chopped

1/4 cup jarred roasted red peppers. roughly chopped

1/2 cup feta cheese (I used tomato/basil flavor)

1 tablespoon basil, oregano, thyme

salt and pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients and form into small patties.  Refrigerate overnight for most optimal flavor.

Nommm

Yogurt sauce:

1/2 cup nonfat plain greek yogurt (0%)

Juice from 1/2 of a lemon

1 tablespoon lemon rind

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons freshly chopped mint

salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients.

AND my little sweet treat at the end: pretzels topped with melted rolos and pecans.  You literally just place rolos on top of square pretzels, pop them in the oven (on 350) for 2-3 minutes until soft, and then smush whole pecans on top.  Easy and delish!

little nuggets of yumminess

Sweet Potato-Turkey Tacos..whatt?!

This week’s featured meal is my all time favorite type of food- Mexican!  There is no other comfort food that I would rather eat every day of my life.  Eating Mexican just reminds me of my friends back home in Virginia because we would eat at our favorite Mexican restaurant-Casa Grande-at least twice a week in high school (or maybe that was just me…) Anyways, I think it’s pretty common knowledge that this type of food isn’t always the healthiest as it is notoriously high in sodium among other delicious things.   That being said, it is ridiculously easy to whip up some more nutritious Mexican food at home where you can control the ingredients and amount of salt that go into the dish.  Take this turkey taco recipe for example- which utilizes lean turkey meat, a healthy handful of vegetables (including a sweet potato!), and is wrapped in crisp lettuce. The sweet potato serves as the perfect contrast to the spicy jalapenos and salsa. Garnished with some freshly-chopped cilantro, this dish is sure to please any Mexican-food lover!  Bon appétit!

what's cookin good lookin

oh yeahhh

Recipe adapted from allrecipes.com

(http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Turkey-and-Yam-Spicy-Tacos/Detail.aspx)

  •                     1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
  •                     1 tablespoon olive oil
  •                     3/4 pound ground turkey
  •                     1/2 chopped sweet onion
  •                     2 cloves garlic, minced
  •                     2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
  •                     1 tablespoon chili powder
  •                     1 teaspoon ground cumin
  •                     1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
  •                     1/2 teaspoon salt
  •                     1/2 cup tomatillo salsa
  •                     1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  •                     1/2 cup tomato, chopped
  •                     1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped
  •                     1 head iceburg lettuce

Directions:

Put diced sweet potato in the microwave until cooked through and fork-tender, 5 to 7 minutes.

Coat the bottom of a large skillet with olive oil and place over medium heat; cook and stir the turkey until crumbled and evenly brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir the onion, garlic, and jalapeno pepper into the turkey and continue cooking until the onions begin to caramelize, 7 to 10 minutes. Season with the chili powder, cumin, Cajun seasoning, and salt. Pour the salsa over everything; fold the sweet potatoe into the mixture. Add tomatoes and mushrooms and cook 3 more minutes. Allow the mixture to cook until the excess moisture evaporates. Garnish with the cilantro. Serve wrapped in the iceburg lettuce.

dinner is served!