Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Table Settings

Martha does it so well!

This color palette drives me a good way.

Perfect for a kids table.
That feather is so sexy!

Mini Turkey Day

The other night I had the itch to prepare a mini Thanksgiving dinner. We always travel over Thanksgiving, so I never get to cook. I decided to cook up some frozen chicken tenderloins instead of turkey because it was what I had on-hand. I found a healthy stuffing recipe in my cookbook, 200 under 200: 200 recipes under 200 calories. I already had a bag of fresh cranberries and then prepared a gravy to bring it all together. See recipes below.


· 6 slices of light bread (preferably 40 to 45 calories per slice)
· 4 cups Fuji apples (I used Jonagolds),
· 2 cups sweet onion, chopped
· 1 cup celery, chopped
· 1/3 cup fat free chicken broth at room temperature, more if needed
· 1/4 cup golden raisins
· 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
· 1/4 cup fat-free liquid egg substitute
· 1 tbsp. light whipped butter
· 1 tbsp. shallots,
· 1 tsp. garlic, minced
· 1/4 tsp. salt
· salt and black pepper to taste

· preheat oven to 350 degrees.
· lightly toast bread slices and cut into cubes. Set aside.
· melt butter in a pan over medium heat. Once butter has melted, add celery, onion, shallots, garlic, and salt. Saute veggies for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently.
· remove pot from heat and add apples, raisins, and parsley. Mix well. Add broth and egg substitute, and stir thoroughly.
· spray baking dish with nonstick spray. Transfer veggie mixture to baking dish. Add bread cubes and fold in gently. The bread cubes should be moist, but not saturated. Add a few extra tablespoons of chicken broth to coat, if needed.
· let stuffing mixture sit at room temperature for several minutes, allowing bread cubes to absorb the moisture.
· cover with foil and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and, using a fork, gently fluff and rearrange stuffing. Return to oven, uncovered. Bake for another 10-15 minutes, until top is golden brown.
· while stuffing is still warm, mix gently. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

makes 8 servings

I thought it would be quick and easy, but it did take a couple of hours including cleanup. Once the stuffing came out of the oven, I have to give it a quick sample. I loved the crunchy top layer and the sweetness of the apple and raisins. The onion and celery gave the stuffing that classic Thanksgiving "stuffing taste".

To go with my stuffing, I also made grilled chicken tenderloin to go on top of the stuffing with gravy. What's turkey day without gravy?

· 1/4 cup all purpose flour
· 2 tsp. butter (or dripping from turkey)- which I didn't have because I used chicken tenders instead.
· salt and pepper to taste
· 3 tbsp. white wine
· 2 cups of chicken broth
· 1/4 cup skim milk
· bay leaf

· melt butter just below medium heat in a pan
· sprinkle flour and whisk in with butter making a rue
· cook flour until golden brown
· add chicken broth and bay leaf; whisk with flour to break down and dissolve
· let simmer for a few minutes
· add white wine, simmer
· once gravy has thickened a bit, add skim milk
· add salt and pepper to taste
· keep cooking for desired thickness

This was my first attempt to make gravy. I make sauces pretty often, so I was pretty comfortable. I found a few low-fat recipes on the internet and then decided what ingredients to use based on what I had around the house.


· one bag fresh cranberries
· one cup water
· one cup of granulated sugar
· one tsp. orange zest

· rinse cranberries thoroughly
· bring water and sugar to a boil over the stove top
· add in cranberries once the sugar is dissolved
· let simmer for about 10-15 minutes on low heat
· cool down
· mix in orange zest
· place in the fridge to cool down before serving

This tangy and sweet cranberry sauce is better than anything out of the can. The orange zest added a nice complexity. It's bright color is absolutely gorgeous. Served alongside my warm apple onion stuffing, this cranberry sauce held its own.

When a dish has many components, I find myself getting really stressed out about getting them all completed at the same time. For some reason, I kept it all together this night and everything was completed at the exact same time. I was pretty proud of myself. My mini Turkey Day was a success!

Hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving with their family and friends. Take time to think about what you are most thankful for this holiday season. I know what I'm thankful and I am going to make sure they all know it!


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Drinks to get you through the Holiday

· 3 oz. apple cider
· 1 oz. bourbon
· sprinkle of cinnamon
· drizzle of grade A maple syrup (optional)

· preheat apple cider just below boiling.
· pour bourbon into mug followed by the warm apple cider.
· sprinkle cinnamon and stir well.
· garnish with a cinnamon stick
· add syrup

· 1 1/2 oz. heavy cream
· 1 1/2 oz. bourbon
· 3/4 oz. Grand Marnier
· 2 tsp. sugar
· sprinkle of nutmeg
· garnish of marshmallows and fresh rosemary

· stir all ingredients together in a small pan and heat.
· pull off heat before it boils and pour into a mug.
· garnish with a marshmallow and a rosemary sprig. (very important)

· 2 oz. white rum
· 1 oz. heavy cream
· 3/4 pumpkin puree
· 1/2 oz. ginger simple syrup
· dash cinnamon & allspice

· combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and add ice.
· shake for a while to blend and chill.
· strain and pour into a cocktail glass
· top with additional dash of cinnamon

(recipes found in Kansas City's local Tastebud mag)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Mayan Harvest "Fake"

I love Kashi meals! When I am running late in the morning and do not have time to prepare and pack my lunch to take to work, I grab a Kashi meal out of the freezer. It's easy, delicious, and healthy. I have sworn off Lean Cuisines and Smart Ones forever. I love the fact that everything in the Kashi frozen meals is hearty, whole-grain, and yummy. A few months ago, I discovered their Mayan Harvest Bake frozen meal. I read the box at the grocery store and after reading the ingredients and seeing that there was 9 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber, I figured I would give it a whirl. On the box read plantains, black beans, sweet potato & kale over Kashi 7 whole grain pilaf, amaranth and polenta- with and ancho chili sauce. Let me tell you, it tasted as good as it sounded! I felt like I was in a high end vegan restaurant. The flavors are so unique but go together so well. Knowing that a meal this good was good for me too, made me a Kashi beleiver. This meal kept me full all day.

After picking up some fresh plantains at the River Market one weekend and not having any clue what to do with them, I looked online for recipes. On a whim, I searched for Mayan Harvest Bake to see if a recipe existed. To my surprise, it did!

Recipe for Mayan Harvest Fake Spark People user ERIN2214
serves 6

· 1 cup prepared quinoa

· 1 15 oz. can of organic black beans, drained and rinsed
· 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
· 1 plantain, sliced into long planks (I used two)
· 4 cups kale, chopped
· 1/2 cup pepitas

ancho chili sauce:
· 1 tbsp. evoo
· 1 onion, chopped
· 2 garlic cloves
· 1 cup tomato puree
· 2 tbsp. tomato paste
· 1 tbsp. ancho chili powder
· 1 tbsp. sugar in the raw
· 1 tsp. paprika
· 1/2 tsp. salt
· 1 tsp. cumin
· 1/2 cup vegetable stock (I used chicken stock)

· preheat the oven to 400 degrees
· puree onions and garlic in blender with stock
· add tomato puree, tomato paste, onion puree, sugar and spices to a small soup pot. Heat over medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
· scatter sweet potatoes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, drizzle with evoo, roast for 15 minutes.
· heat a large skillet over medium heat, add chopped kale, a few tablespoons of water and a spinkle of salt. Wilt down and toss for 5-10 minutes.
· spread prepared quinoa in a baking dish, top evenly with black beans. Top with cooked kale and sliced plantains.
· take sweet potatoes out of the oven, scatter around the baking dish.
· top entire casserole with ancho chili sauce.
· bake for 20-25minutes at 400 degrees until bubbly.
· sprinkle with pepitas.

This meal made me proud that I could cook something so healthy, satisfying and delicious. A vegan meal that satisfies JJ- now that's a feat! The sweetness of the plantains and potatoes mixed so well with the spicy ancho sauce. The pepitas added such a nice crunch to finish off the dish. We had leftovers for days. I don't think I will need to stalk the frozen food aisle anymore.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Coupon Craze

Due to the shift in the economy, everyone has become coupon crazed- me included. There is not any extra "fun money" like there used to be. Prices on everything have gone up, but no one is making any more money. A co-worker turned me on to this website where you can get coupons for local restaurants and bars. You just enter in your zip code and the list of participating restaurants pops up. You can buy $10 gift certificates for $4 and $25 for $10. Be aware that the vendors can pick and choose how they would like the coupons to be used. For instance, the $25 gift certificate can only be used on a minimum of $50 on a food only purchase. Some restaurants restrict the coupon usage on Friday and Saturday evenings. If you read the fine print, you will be fine and it is still a great deal. The best deals are when they send you an email for 80% off deals. I just recently bough a $25 gift certificate to Thomas, a quaint little bistro on 39th Street, for $3! You heard me $3! We had to use it on a $50 dollar food purchase, but my mom was in town and we knew we would hit the minimum. We saved $22.00! You should check it out. Click the logo above.

Remember to tip your server on the original bill.
I used to wait tables so I am sensitive to dining out etiquette.

Happy Savings!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Butternut Squash Risotto

recipe: Ina Garten (better known as the Barefoot Contessa)

I found the most gorgeous butternut squash at the market recently. I just knew I had to do it justice and what better way to showcase an ingredient then in a creamy, cheesy risotto.

· 1 butternut squash (2 lbs.)
· 2 tbsp. olive oil
· kosher salt and ground black pepper
· 6 cups of chicken stock
· 6 tbsp. unsalted butter (3/4 stick)
· 2 ounces pancetta, diced
· 1/2 cup minced shallots (2 large)
· 1 1/2 cup arborio rice (10 oz.)
· 1/2 cup dry white wine
· 1 cup parmesan cheese

· preheat the oven to 400 degrees
· peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds and cut into 3/4 inch cubes. you should have about 6 cups.
· place the squash on a sheet pan and coat with olive oil, 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. roast for 25-30 minutes, tossing once until very tender.
· meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a small covered saucepan. leave it on low to simmer.
· in a heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the pancetta and shallots over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes or until the shallots are translucent. (we did not have pancetta or shallots, so I improvised with turkey bacon and yellow onions instead- still tasted great!)
· add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice, 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. stir and simmer the stock unitl absorbed (5-10 minutes).
· continue to add the stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock.
· continue until the rice is cooked through but still al dente, about 30 minutes total.
· remove the risotto from the heat, add the roasted butternut squash and parmesan cheese. mix well and serve.

This was my first attempt at cooking risotto. I have always enjoyed it when other people make it. I just assumed it was too labor intensive and was a little scared I would mess it up. Risotto is so easy and it tastes good with everything- it just takes an ounce of patience- which I am pretty sure I have. We had this left over for days! This recipe triples its size while cooking. I know it's a winner when JJ wants to eat all of the left-overs. He is not normally a left-over kind of guy.
Hope you enjoy.


Pumpkin Pancakes

My mom recently visited us in Kansas City. We had made plans to dine out for bascially every meal that she was here for. But, I would not let her leave without cooking at all for her. Breakfast is the best meal to cook for guests in my opinion. You can get up before anyone in the house is awake and once they start to smell the delicious aromas coming from the kitchen- they all somehow make their way to the kitchen. Since it is fall, and I am really into making everything reflect the season. I opted for Pumpkin Pancakes. It's a simple twist on my normal pancake recipe.

· 1 cup whole wheat flour
· 1 tbsp. brown sugar
· 1 tsp. baking powder
· 1/4 tsp. baking soda
· 1/4 tsp. salt
· 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
· 1 beaten egg
· 1 cup skim milk
· 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
· 2 tbsp. cooking oil
· 1/4 cup of chopped pecans
· butter and syrup for serving

· combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. make a well in the center of the dry ingredients; set aside.
· combine the egg, milk, vanilla extract, and oil. add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. stir until moistened (should be a little lumpy). add additional milk to the batter if necessary. fold in chopped pecans.
· for a standard pancake, pour 1/4 cup of batter into a 3 inch circle on a hot lightly greased griddle or heavy skillet. cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes on each side or until pancakes are golden brown. serve warm with butter and syrup.

These pancakes were simple and perfect for a chilly fall morning with some coffee. The whole wheat flour really keeps you full past lunch time.
Try them!