Saturday, December 11, 2010

Food thoughts: Brussels Sprouts

Long time, no cook? I'd say not. But having all day sickness with Beta has kept me from actually being creative and productive in the kitchen. Just ask Patrick. A few weeks ago I made know, actual dinner...roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls. He came home and said, "Hey! This is like the old days!" Old days being before I got pregnant, I guess.

I digress. This post is to make you love brussels sprouts. Have you tried them? Do you eat them a lot? Before we get to recipes, let's check out the health benefits! Being a cruciferous vegetable, these cute little suckers are excellent for so many things. As part of your regular diet they can help lower cholesterol, help with anti-inflammatory issues and have tons of antioxidant vitamins in them. Another thing to consider is that brussels sprouts are helpful in prevention of certain types of cancer (due to all of the benefits mentioned above)!

You don't want to over cook brussels sprouts because they start to lose a lot of their health benefits. Plus, they start to smell bad. This is a problem for most cruciferous vegetables. Steaming, sautéing, broiling, roasting...all good ways to cook these delicious vegetables, if you watch them carefully!!!

To give you a little more information, brussels sprouts are a great source of vitamins C & K; a good source of folate, fiber, B6, manganese and potassium. If you want to read more about brussels sprouts yourself, check out World's Healthiest Foods. This is my go to site on food nutrition and information!

OK, recipes. That's what you've wanted all along, I know, I know:

Sauteed sprouts with bacon -
1 lb brussels sprouts, halved
2 - 3 slices of bacon
1 small shallot (or about 2 tbsp diced onion), diced
1 clove of garlic, diced
salt and pepper

After cleaning and halving your sprouts, put them into a microwave safe bowl with a little water. Cook for about 3-4 minutes - to soften just a little.
Meanwhile, in a pan, fry bacon until crispy. Remove, leave fat drippings.
Saute shallot in bacon fat for about 2-3 minutes, until softened.
Add brussels sprouts and cook for about 5 minutes, until soft. Season with salt and pepper.
Add garlic, toss around.
Toss bacon back into mixture. Serve warm.

Broiled brussles sprouts -
1 lb brussels sprouts, halved
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
canola oil
1 tbsp butter

Steam brussels sprouts in microwave for 3-4 minutes. Turn broiler on to preheat. Line a baking sheet with foil. Toss brussels sprouts with oil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Put on baking sheet. Cut up butter into small chucks and put randomly on the brussels sprouts.
Bake for about 8 minutes, checking frequently. The leaves will burn if you have the baking sheet too close to the broiler, or if left in too long.

And lastly, I wanted to add this fantastic recipe from Cooking Light! It's "Brussels Sprouts Gratin", a perfect dish for dinner with the family, a holiday feast, or maybe even just for lunch :) I'll just post the link, so you can go over there for yourselves and check it out.

As a side note: November's issue of Cooking Light was quite wonderful this year. There was a recipe for Crab Eggs Benedict that looked incredible. Eggs Benedict is one of my favorite breakfasts, but being pregnant means no hollandaise sauce. Cooking Light to the rescue! An easy, quick, faux hollandaise with mayonnaise, lemon and buttermilk. I can't wait to try it!

As you can see, brussels sprouts don't need a lot of additions and they are pretty quick to fix. So, enjoy eating brussels sprouts and let me know how these recipes worked for you!

PS- Dearest Kate, you can omit the bacon and try turkey bacon. Let me know how that works if you do! :)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Banana Bread!

So, I made banana bread last night, and it was AMAZING. We had a bunch of brown bananas in our freezer that were begging to be used. I used a recipe off of, but tweaked it.
* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 cup butter
* 3/4 cup brown sugar
* 2 eggs, beaten
* 2 1/3 cups mashed overripe bananas
I added: a dash of cinnamon, probably another 1/3 cup of bananas, a dash of vanilla, and 1/2 a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan.
2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt [and cinnamon]. In a separate bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar [and vanilla]. Stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blended. Mix in chocolate chips. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture; stir just to moisten. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
3. Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 65 minutes [this was more like 1:15], until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean.
Perfect use for gross bananas. This is a really easy recipe for a beginning baker too, because well, I'm not a perfect measurer, nor am I a particularly experienced chef. Not to mention, banana bread is a wonderful comfort food that makes you feel like you're getting some nutritional value.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Hot potato

Let me tell ya, baked potatoes are wonderful! I (could) have evidence to back this up...but it was gone so quickly, I couldn't get a picture! Let me explain.

Potatoes are pretty cheap. Veggies can be cheap. Meat, well, I'm sure you have some leftover from something. If you don't have leftover chicken from your meal the other night, you may need to plan a little more in advance.

A (somewhat) quick and easy meal - Baked potatoes with yummy toppings:
You'll need the following:
2 (or however many you're feeding) large potatoes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash, scrub and pat dry potatoes. Poke a lot of holes in them with a fork. Set gently on the middle rack. That's right, no sheet, no foil. Bake for an hour to an hour and 20 minutes.

Also, you'll need these:
Grab whatever veggies you have on hand (last time I used: zucchini, green and red peppers, onions, garlic and tomatoes), grab some leftover shredded chicken from when you made tortilla soup the other night (oh wait, you didn't do this? right. I did. I'll share this delicious recipe next time), grab a pan and some oil.

Once your just about 10 minutes from grabbing your potatoes (with an oven mitt) from the oven do this: Warm pan, add oil. Saute onions & peppers, until slightly tender. Always start with dense things and work your way down. Toss in the zucchini. Wait and stir about 3 minutes. I hope you've already added some S&P to this mix. Toss in the chicken. Warm that up. Now, add your tomatoes and garlic. Let them warm up a little and toss them around. The tomatoes will add a little juice to the oil/water from the onions and peppers and make a great little sauce. Throw in some fresh basil after you've removed the pan from the heat. Let it settle down while you get the potatoes.

Cut the potatoes in half(ish) length wise. Scoop a bunch of the veggies/chicken mix onto the potato. Add a bit of cheese or sour cream or chives or whatever you like on top. Enjoy.

The topping possibilties are endless. I've done "taco" topping with ground beef. But you won't eat that. You could do a Mexican topping, or sorts, with black beans and corn. Let your mind go wild!

Also, as a side note of being hot, running outside when it's 95 degrees (and it feels like 112) is dumb. And exhausting. And sweaty. A good lesson, although it just makes me want to run when it's a little cooler (say, 8:30pm) to show myself up.

If 95 was bad, imagine how ridiculous the potato must feel in 400. Sheesh.

Monday, July 12, 2010


Well, I'm new. I'm Ashley's "little" sister-in-law, though in my mind, there's no in-law attached to that. My interest in cooking began in little place called Paris, not because of the food I was eating (though one day I'll need to learn how to make baguettes), but because of necessity. Life was expensive, and cooking for myself became a necessity. And I figured out I enjoyed it.
It was fun picking out exactly what I wanted to eat, how I wanted to cook it, etc. This summer, I moved into my first house and have been cooking (and baking) up a storm. Cooking for myself means I know exactly what I'm putting into my body. Not to say that I'm a health crazy, but it's nice knowing exactly how much of everything I'm eating.
Ash has become a constant part of my cooking adventures - she gets pictures (thanks bbm!) of all my feats, and her birthday presents have become staples in my kitchen. Her words of wisdom (and encouragement) don't hurt either. All in all, I'm thankful for her in my cooking adventures!
Much more to come (including pictures of our 4th of July flag cake).

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Homemade stock...

First, let me say, homemade stock is the way to go. It makes such a difference in the taste of whatever you're making. Plus, it's easy to make and worth any effort!

I refuse to buy store bought stock. Really. Homemade stock is that good.

Here's how you do it:

Chop up some veggies. You'll need mirpoix. Which is 50% onions, 25% carrots and 25% celery. Wash your vegetables really good and throw everything in. No need to peel anything. I always add a clove or two of garlic (smashed and roughly chopped). You add any vegetable scraps, too. Zucchini, yellow squash, cabbage, whatever.

Okay. Add about 2 tablespoons of canola oil (because it can tolerate high heat. Don't use olive oil, it will burn easily) to a heated stock pot. Toss in the veggies and let them saute. Stir fairly frequently.A wooden spoon is a must. I mean, anyone who's anyone who's a cook uses a wooden spoon ;) Mainly joking.
Add salt and pepper. Don't over do it. You can always add more later.
Obviously, brownies and blackberry buckle are a necessity while cooking. You need to snack because stock can be time consuming...
This is what you want your vegetables to look like. Caramelizing goodness. That caramelizing will make a huge difference in flavor and will make your stock dark and rich (unlike store bought clear stock. I'm just saying...) Be sure not to burn your veggies. There's a fine line. Find it. If you burn them, you'll have to start over.
Oh, now is the time to add your freshly chopped herbs. I threw in a little basil. This isn't necessary, but adds flavor. Do not add it until the very end of sauteing. It will wilt and taste awful. Add water. Stand back, hot pots don't like cool water!
Fill her up! I usually add around 20-22 cups of water.
Let the water come to a simmer. And then let it simmer away for about 20 minutes.
Remove the veggies. Like so...
Put in freezable containers. Don't fill them all the way up. Leave about 3/4 of an inch. The stock will (obviously) expand when it freezes.
And you're done. You'll be so thankful you did this. Plus, you only have to do it when you run out of stock. Your dinners and diners will thank you :)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Almond Cranberry Chicken

A friend of mine suggested I make this dish from Taste of Home. I figured, tis the season for cranberries, so why not?! My husband and I both enjoy almonds and cranberries, so it seemed a good fit. Per usual, I tweaked the recipe to what I had on hand. I would certainly make this again.

I'll tell you what I tweaked and what I did again after you read the recipe:
  • 6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (4 ounces each)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted


  • Flatten chicken to 1/4-in. thickness. In a large resealable bag, combine the flour, salt and cayenne; add chicken, a few pieces at a time, and shake to coat. In a large skillet, brown chicken in butter over medium heat for 10-12 minutes or until juices run clear. Remove and keep warm.
  • In the same skillet, combine the cranberries, water, brown sugar, vinegar and orange peel. Bring to a boil; cook for 10 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Spoon over chicken; sprinkle with almonds. Yield: 6 servings.
I used chicken tenders, therefore I did not need to flatten them. I added a dash more of cayenne because we like it hot. Oh and while I was cooking the chicken, I added just a little white cooking wine to the pan for some added flavor. I used canola oil (about 2 tbsp), instead of butter, to make it a little more healthy.

I only had dried cranberries and they worked fine. They were a great texture, a little mushy, in contract with the chicken and almonds. I only had white wine vinegar on hand, so I used that. I didn't have an orange, but a clementine to zest. Finally, I used about 1/3 cup brown sugar, and not the 1/2 that the recipe calls for. I think the dried cranberries offered enough sweetness on their own to hold back on the sugar.

All in all, this was a great dish. My husband commented that it tasted somewhat like a Chinese dish. I completely disagreed. It was very easy to make and pretty healthy, which is always an added bonus! Let me know if you give it a try!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Flour Snob

I wasn't always picky about the flour I used. I'm not even sure why I picked up a sack of King Arthur Flour, but I did. And I haven't turned back since.

I don't even know if I can explain the greatness of this flour! It has never, ever failed me in baking - and I bake a lot. My cookies just aren't the same without King Arthur. I'm sure you're thinking "flour is flour is flour", but it's not. When it's milled the right way, when it's pure and perfect - you can tell a difference!

I regularly use the all-purpose and white wheat varieties. I also have the bread flour on hand for bread days. There is nothing but pure goodness in each bag and these guys are confident of their work. They will offer you a full refund if you are unsatisfied with their product. I love companies who are serious about what they sell. They believe in it, otherwise we wouldn't see it in the market.

Not only is the flour unbleached, it's milled from one hundred percent US grown wheat. Awesome! Plus, King Arthur Flour has been around since 1790, that's saying something for a flour company, my friends!

Plus, the company is in Vermont and I've always wanted to go to Vermont. That's just a personal plus, though :) So give this flour a try. Compare brands and see how great King Arthur really is! Also, be sure to check out their website. They have so many great resources to help you in the kitchen!