Saturday, January 22, 2011

Crock pot Mexican Pork...

We love breaking out the crock pot in the winter.  It is great to come home and have the house smell like a yummy dinner and only be minutes a way from a nice warm dinner.  Pork tacos seem to be really popular lately, so we took a stab at our own Mexican pork.  The ingredients were thrown together in the crock pot and stored in the fridge overnight before we put it on.

In crock pot, put pork loin (ours was almost 2.5lbs), can of diced tomatoes (no salt added!), can of tomato paste (again no salt added!), 2 cups low sodium chicken broth, diced onion, diced garlic cloves (used about 5), juice of one lime, cumin, and chili powder (I'm sorry we didn't measure how much we put in).   Turn crock pot on high for 8 hours.  Shred up the meat if it hasn't already fallen apart with 2 forks.  Put the meat back in the sauce and cook for at least another 20 minutes or longer at this point I had another lime so we juiced it in the meat.  Serve as tacos or on spinach (how I had mine).

2 Cupcakes... Great for Valentine's Day or Even a BABY SHOWER!

Yes.. I know more cupcakes.  Back in December it was D's birthday and he requested strawberry cupcakes, I didn't take any pictures so I had nothing to post about.  Then, came the opportunity to make cupcakes for my sister-in-law's baby shower.  She's having a girl, and the babies room is pink and brown.  Perfect opportunity to make strawberry cupcakes with chocolate frosting and since I know my sister-in-law likes chocolate cake (three layer cake was made for her!) I decided to also do chocolate cupcakes with strawberry frosting.

Since the month of December featured the same chocolate cake twice once in three layer form and once in cupcakes, I decided I needed to try another recipe.  I went back to my Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes book and found the Devil's food cake.  I then modified the recipe to either be cut in third or half (I'm going to post the full recipe directly out of the book instead of what I actually did).  Both cupcakes and one frosting came from this book.  The strawberry frosting came from Martha Stewart's website and is the recipe used by the bakery Sprinkles'.  This strawberry frosting was THE  BEST.  When I finished frosting cupcakes, I **may** have taken the baggy I was using and squirted in my mouth.. I'm just saying I may have done that.

First, lets start with the chocolate cupcakes.  Here are the ingredients.  The reason for the corn starch (its not called for in the recipe) is because this cake calls for cake flour and I don't feel the need to have another type of flour in the house.  Luckily google saved the day.. Here is how to make cake flour.  Place 2 tablespoons of corn starch in 1 cup measuring cup then spoon in all purpose flour.  This makes 1 cup cake flour.

Mix hot water with cocoa powder.

Mix flour,  brown sugar, baking soda, and salt.

Mix in butter and cocoa mixture (in additions).

Finally, pour into cupcake pan.

Somehow drop some batter on dog... OPPS.. Don't do that it is chocolate!

Remove from oven and cool.

Mile- High Devil's Food Cake (from Sky High)
Makes 3 8-inch cakes

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch Process)
1 1/4 cup Hot water
3 cups packed light brown sugar
2 2/3 cup cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temp
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup cold water

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of three 8-inch round cake pans.  Line the bottom with parchment or wax paper and butter paper.

2.  Place the cocoa powder in medium bowl.  Add the hot water and whisk until smooth.  Let cool.

3.  In large mixing bowl, combine brown sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt.  With the mixer on low blend to mix.  Add the butter and dissolved cocoa and beat briefly to blend.  Then raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

4.  In medium bowl, whisk eggs, vanilla, and cold water until blended.  Add this liquid to the batter in 3 additions, scraping down the sides well and mixing only to incorporate between additions.  Divide the batter between pans.

5.  Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out almost clean.  Let it cool in pan 15 minutes.  Invert onto wire racks and peel off paper liner.  Cool completely before frosting.

Now for the strawberry cupcakes..  mix the cake flour (or cake flour sub), sugar, baking powder, and salt.

Puree strawberries in blender.

Add  butter and strawberry puree.

After mixing its super thick.

Mix egg whites and milk, then add to batter in 2 or  3 additions.

Pour into cupcake pan and bake.

Remove from pan and allow to cool..

Strawberry Butter Cake (from Sky High)
Makes 3 8-inch cakes

4 1/2 cups cake flour
3 cups sugar
5 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
1 1/4 cups pureed frozen strawberries
8 egg whites
2/3 cup milk

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter three 8-inch square cake pans.  Line with parchment or waxed paper and butter paper.

2.  Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in large mixing bowl.  With electric mixer on low,  blend for 20 seconds.  Add the butter and strawberry puree and mix to blend the ingredients.  Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes; the batter will resemble strawberry ice cream.

3.  In another large bowl, whisk together the egg whites and milk to blend.  Add the whites to the batter in 2 or 3 additions, scraping down the sides of bowl well after each addition and mixing only to incorporate after each addition.  Divide the batter among the 3 pans.

I'm only going to show one frosting, since I used food processor for both.  Ingredients in... and blend.  I never thought of using a food process for this task before!  I think I'll always use one now!

After the frosting was blended.

Place in pastry bag with tip... Or Zip-lock bag.  Then cut corner off.  I used my measuring cup to help hold the bag so I could fill it more easily.  (No the frosting didn't change colors, this was the strawberry.)

Frost away...  At first I didn't cut enough of the corner off.

Instant Fudge Frosting (from Sky High)
Makes 5 cups

6 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
4 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
6 Tablespoons half and half  (I actually just used milk, wasn't going to by half and half and waste it)
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

Place all ingredients in food processor and pulse to incorporate.  Then process until frosting is smooth.

Sprinkles' Strawberry Frosting (From Martha Stewart Website)
Makes enough frosting for 12 cupcakes.. 

3 Tablespoon frozen strawberries, pureed
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place all ingredients in food processor and pulse to incorporate.  Then process until frosting is smooth.  I ended up just using food processor again, Martha's website has different mixing instructions.  I also ended up adding more strawberry puree to get more strawberry taste.

The final product on the cupcake tower at the baby shower.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Roasted Curry Cauliflower

Cauliflower has always been my favorite vegetable, even as a kid.  I always loved eating it raw or steamed.  I would always load up my plate and even take seconds.  (I know what kid does that??)  D never seemed to like it that much when I had made it in the past, so I stopped making it as often.  Until, one day I was on the search for a curry cauliflower dish.  My brother had made one for me a long time back and I loved it!  (I still need a good recipe for this!)  Instead of a real curry dish, I found a ton of recipes for roasted curry cauliflower.  Interesting to me, I loved cauliflower and never had it roasted!  We tried it, WE love it!  It is now a staple dish in our house!  YAY the cauliflower is back in my life!!!

Here is how it is done.  Turn oven to 425 deg.  Cut up cauliflower into florets and throw into foil lined pan.  Either toss with olive oil or spray with olive oil cooking spray.  Coat with whatever spices you'd like..  To make it curry roasted cauliflower we use curry powder, cumin, and turmeric.  However, I've done this with just garlic and onion powder... so use whatever spices you like!  Place in oven, turning the cauliflower every 10 minutes or so.  We usually keep the cauliflower in for 30-45 minutes.  Watch for brown edges (not burnt). 

Chicken Cordon Bleu

Plain chicken gets boring after awhile... We had taken out chicken  for dinner but didn’t have any ideas of what to actually make with it.  I wanted something easy to put together and quick.  I had recently seen quite a few recipes for stuffed chicken breasts.  So, we went for a take on chicken cordon bleu (minus the sauce and breading).  It ended up just as we had hoped, quick, easy, and tasted very good! 

Here is how we did it:
First, pound out the chicken, we did this using our rolling pin with chicken sandwiched between plastic wrap.

Then, place chicken on foil covered baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Next layer a slice of ham (We lucked out D had recently smoked a ham in his new smoker so we had some really good ham!).


Next take cheese (whatever you have) and sprinkle (or spread) it on top. We used laughing cow cheese wedges (the garlic variety, awesome and only 35 calories). Don’t worry the laughing cow doesn’t melt and ooze out.

Finally, wrap up the chicken rolls and tooth-pick them so they don’t unroll while baking. Sprinkle a little bit of seasoning on your chicken rolls (we have a low sodium spice blend for chicken that I used) and put in a 350 deg oven until cooked through. Ours took about 35 minutes. It really is going to depends on how thin you pound your chicken and how thick your roll ends up.

Remove from oven, and let rest a little bit just so the cheese has a little time to set. (We really need some better kitchen lighting and I need to get better at taking more pictures!)


Friday, January 14, 2011

Cumin Curried Hummus.

We love hummus.  We served this at Thanksgiving at our house and everyone loved hummus.  I mean come on chickpeas (or as D keeps reminding me, our package said Garbanzo beans.. SAME THING!), garlic, cumin, curry powder.  What is there to not love about Hummus and who knew it was so easy to make at home!  This hummus below in the picture is slightly too thick.  We used slighty more chick peas than we should have and forgot to adjust the water. 

We had made it through the grocery store and completely forgot chick peas.  We had known we wanted hummus, and there in the produce aisles D found Quick cooking Garbanzo Beans!  Way better than canned because lower sodium and guess what our store doesn't even carry dried Chick Peas, so this was as close as we were going to get!  OH and they were marked down!!

Before we could start making our hummus we had to finish cooking our beans.  While those were in the pot we started the seasoning oil for the hummus.  First heat the oil and add the spices.. Allow them to cook a little bit until you can smell them.  Don't go overboard here or they will burn!

Then, we allowed the beans to cool slightly.  Added them to food processor with the spiced oil and blend!  That is it!

Cumin Curried Hummus (from Cooking Light)

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 garlic cloves, chopped (This time we used the jar kind and we love garlic so we use more!)

1 tablespoon curry powder  (Again we end up adding more once its in the food processor)

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds (We use cumin powder and end up adding more)

1/2 cup water

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (You may want to play around with this amount as well.  The first time we made it we thought it was very noticable, but it did mellow after being in the fridge.)

3/4 teaspoon salt (We leave this one out…)

2 (15 1/2-ounce) cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained (or dried ones.. or the kind that are slightly pre-cooked, found in the produce dept)


Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add garlic; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add curry and cumin; cook 30 seconds or until fragrant, stirring constantly. Place garlic mixture, water, and remaining ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth.

This also freezes really well.  We put half the batch in the fridge and froze the rest.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sweet Potato Fries..

A really quick post about how wonderful sweet potatoes are.. they are delish.. and good for you! I also never though of making my own sweet potato fries until my veggie friend pointed it out to me…

Here is how I make mine:

Peel or don’t peel which ever you prefer. Cut into fry shape. Spray with Pam or olive oil. Sprinkle paprika and cinnamon over top and mix. Spread them out on a foil covered baking sheet. Bake in a 425 deg oven for about 15 to 20 minutes. Really depends on how crispy you like them. Also don’t forget to shake them around and flip them.

2 Weekend Soups

I’m not very good at remembering to take pictures while cooking yet (we have awful kitchen lighting as well)… So please excuse the lack of pictures for both of these weekend soups. It was the perfect weekend for soup at our house, D was sick on Friday, it has gotten really cold again, and it was an extremely lazy lay around the house weekend (MUCH needed after the craziness of the holidays.) Also to my veggie friend you can make both of these vegetarian by using Vegetable broth. A note about store bought broth, watch the sodium in them, some of them our outrageous. We are only supposed to have about 2500 mg of sodium a day. When the organic low sodium broth is on sale we stock up.

The first soup has become a fave! It all started with a bag of lentils and no clue what to do with them. Every time we make this soup it ends up a little different, mostly because neither D nor I are a fan of exact measurements (unless I’m baking). We are also huge Cumin fans, so we use a ton of cumin and usually end up adding more. Best thing about this soup is it gets made in the crock pot so throw it together and set it and leave! The recipe we loosely follow is below from Taste of Home:

Sweet Potato and Lentil Soup

  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 3 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed (about 1-1/4 pounds)
  • 1-1/2 cups dried lentils, rinsed
  • 3 medium carrots, cut into chunks  (We usually leave these out.. I don't really think they add much)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin  (We use tons more!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro (We don't typically have this on hand)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt  (We definitely don't add this.. broth has enough sodium even using the low sodium version)

  • In a slow cooker, combine the first nine ingredients.  Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours or until vegetables are tender.  Stir in cilantro and salt.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • The second soup I got the idea from Smitten Kitchen, but then didn’t really follow the recipe at all. D and I also have stopped using canned beans again because of the sodium. Our store only has 1 brand with 3 types (Black, Red and Chili) that are No Salt. So we bought a huge bag of Northern White Beans, used the quick soak method, and then cooked them during the morning. Then when I package the beans to freeze them for later use I keep in mind that a can of beans has 3.5 servings and a 2 lb bag of dried beans has 25 servings; therefore, I make 7 packages and figure out the calorie count for each container. I use a scale and weigh everything to make sure they are all equal (Yes, I know I’m rather particular that they are all the same). I also weighed everything for this soup because I was trying to figure out the calories, this is why there are no cup measurements. Here is how our soup was made:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    White Bean and Spinach Soup
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    3 oz carrots chopped
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    6 oz onion chopped
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1 large scoop of minced garlic (we buy the huge container) or fresh garlic
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    4 cups of Chicken Broth
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1 can diced tomatoes, No Salt added
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    8 oz Fresh Spinach
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2 Bay leaves
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1 Tbs Dried Thyme
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Salt and Pepper to taste

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Throw carrots and onion in soup pot and cook until soft (not brown), close to the end of this process put in the garlic (so it doesn’t burn). Mix in broth, canned tomatoes, and spices (adjust amounts and types) and let simmer for 20 minutes. Mix in spinach and cook for another 5 minutes or until spinach is cooked down into soup. Add salt and pepper to taste. BE CAREFUL with the salt!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    When you first put the spinach in it will look like a ton of spinach.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Then it cooks down and is perfect!!  If you'd like to see some other recipes featuring spinach visit  Eat at Home Cooks!