Saturday, November 29, 2008

Crazy delicious

I'm planning to make some baked cod for dinner tonight, which will NOT go over big with the troops, so I decided to make the meal more appealing by whipping up some macaroni and cheese as a side dish. Plus I thought whatever's left will go well with tomorrow night's Oven Fried Chicken. After tasting this, I'm not sure if we'll have any left for tomorrow. It's that good!

Crazy Delicious Mac and Cheese
Serves 6 as a side dish (I think)

2 2/3 cups small pasta (elbows or shells)
2 slices whole wheat bread, crusts removed, pulsed to crumbs in food processor
garlic powder
parmesan cheese
4 T. butter
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups low-fat milk
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 T. dry sherry (optional)
3 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

Cook the pasta until still firm to the bite. Drain and place in large bowl.

While pasta is cooking, melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add 1 T. butter to bread crumbs and toss to mix. Sprinkle in a wee bit of garlic powder and parmesan and toss again. Set aside.

Add flour to remaining butter in saucepan and whisk over medium heat for 2 minutes. Slowly add milk and broth and whisk until smooth. Add sherry if desired. Increase heat and bring mixture to a boil, whisking constantly. Let boil for 2 minutes. Then take off heat and gradually stir in grated cheddar cheese.

Pour cheese sauce over pasta in large bowl and toss to coat. Pour mixture into a greased deep dish pie pan or 9x9 dish. Top with bread crumbs. Broil for 2 minutes, or until crumbs are golden. Watch carefully! (as you can see, I did NOT watch carefully; I was called away to admire the colored lights my husband and daughter had just installed outside of our front door. Oops!)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I'm thankful

Just a short post to say, I am so thankful for all of the riches in my life, which include my family, friends, fellow PCN chefs and clients; our community; my childrens' friends and their families; my childrens' teachers; and the great country in which we live.

I wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving. May God bless you.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Food 4 Thought

I attended a great presentation at my childrens' school last night. It was part of the school's "Food 4 Thought" series which aims to educate middle- and high-school aged children and their parents about nutrition and body image.

Did you know the average family meal lasts barely 20 minutes, but few other settings in family life have such potential to influence children’s behavior and development? Sharing a meal regularly, research suggests, can boost children’s health and well-being, reducing the likelihood that they’ll become obese or use drugs, and increase the chances that they’ll do well in school.

Last night's presenter, licensed dietitian Jody Fleshman, spoke about the importance of the family meal time as well as the importance of nourishing foods. She demonstrated how quick and easy putting together a family meal can be... you don't even need to cook! I walked away with some great new ideas for helping my family eat more healthfully.

Some of Fleshman's ideas for quick, healthy dinners include:

- a big salad: get out greens, a variety of vegetables, nuts, shredded cheese and a cooked protein (hard-boiled eggs, chicken strips, etc.) and let everyone make their own
- uncooked quesadillas: same as above; place all the fixin's (whole wheat tortillas, black beans, shredded cheese, salsa, low-fat sour cream) on the table and let each family member make his or her own
- turkey roll up with turkey, cheese, light mayo and a side of grapes
- baked potato topped with vegetables, cheese or chili
- tuna fish with light mayo on crackers or wheat bread
- English muffin pizza
- scrambled eggs in a wheat tortilla with cheese and salsa, served with melon

I was so motivated that I made an "oatmeal bar" for the kids for breakfast this morning: I cooked oatmeal and let them help themselves to a variety of toppings, including berries, brown sugar, granola, ground flaxseed, soy milk and milk. TS ate breakfast for the first time in days! DD's eyes went wide when she found out she could have as many of the toppings as she wanted. Then she surprised us all by sprinkling flaxseed on her oatmeal!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Pumpkin Pie Muffins

My usual breakfast is a slice of wheat toast or a wheat English muffin with peanut butter and honey. I've been eating this for about 10 years, and I'm sick of it. So I cracked open Ellie Krieger's The Food You Crave and decided to try the Pumpkin Muffins. I made a few modifications; I subbed Penzey's Pumpkin Pie Spice for the long list of spices she required, and I added the pecan crumb topping she had in her Apple Pecan Muffin recipe. Below is my recipe; I tasted the results this afternoon, and I think I'll be a happy girl tomorrow morning.

Pumpkin Pie Muffins
Makes 12
Recipe adapted from Ellie Krieger

2 T. light brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons Penzey's Pumpkin Pie Spice
(or 1 t. cinnamon, 1/2 t. ground ginger, 1/4 t. ground cloves, 1/8 t. ground nutmeg)
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3 T. unsulfured molasses
1/4 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 t. vanilla extract
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and place paper liners in 12 muffin cups.

Make the topping by combining the first 3 ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, salt and spices. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, molasses, oil and eggs, one at a time. Whisk in the pumpkin and vanilla. Stir the flour mixture into the wet ingredients in two batches, alternating with the buttermilk, until combined. Divide the batter equally between the 12 muffin cups. Top with the pecan topping. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

Remove muffins from tin and let cool completely on a wire rack. When cool, store in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Grilled Steak and Potatoes with Garlic Butter

The critics are raving, and I'm lapping it up, especially since I had to stand out in the rain to get dinner made tonight. Now, don't let the fact that the steak looks like a sarcophagus turn you off; that's just my mediocre food photography.

I actually made two dinners; one was Apple and Fennel Roasted Pork Tenderloin, and I've posted a recipe and picture at my website. That was made in the interest of recipe testing, and because I'm not a steak lover. I made it this afternoon and heated it up at dinnertime. Delish!

But I decided to make the steaks because TS (teenage son) has a couple of friends here, and I knew they'd like it, and I also knew I wouldn't hear any complaints from the hubby or DD (dear daughter). I was right on all accounts.

Grilled Steak and Potatoes with Garlic Butter
Serves 4

1 1/2 lbs. small red potatoes, scrubbed and halved
1 T. olive oil
salt and pepper
4 T. unsalted butter, softened
2 T. minced fresh parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 strip steaks (8 to 10 oz. each), about 1 inch thick
Montreal Steak Seasoning or similar blend

Toss potatoes and oil in a medium microwave-safe bowl and season with salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and nuke at high power for about 4 min., or until slightly softened, tossing potatoes halfway through cooking.

Beat softened butter with a fork and add parsley, garlic and 1/4 t. salt.

Let steaks sit out for about 1/2 hour before grilling. Sprinkle steaks with grill seasoning. Preheat gas grill to high. Grill steaks over direct high heat for 8 minutes, turning once. Then adjust heat for indirect grilling, and grill steaks over indirect high for 4-6 more minutes or until 125 degrees (medium rare) or 135 degrees (medium). Meanwhile grill potatoes for 7-8 minutes, turning several times, until soft and grill-marked.

Place steaks on serving platter and top each steak with 1 T. butter. Loosely cover with foil and let rest for at least 5 minutes. Toss potatoes with remaining tablespoon of parsley butter in a serving bowl. Serve.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Ta Da!

My new logo is officially done! I have to thank Margaret at Crafty Chef Graphics for the cute, cute, cute design and for bearing with me as I tweaked this and that.

Friday is always my paperwork day, and today I'm busy getting that logo onto all my business correspondence (invoices, menus, labels, press releases, etc.) as well as figuring out how to add it to my website and other places I hang out in cyberspace.

Lest you think I've been chained to my desk all morning, I've also managed to reseal the granite countertops in the kitchen; move my daughter's bed to another spot in her room (she claimed her room felt "claustrophobic"); wash and change the sheets on the other beds; and bake some chocolate chip cookies for the kids. Hey, I'm not named "Martha" for nothing!