Friday, October 29, 2010

Moe's at Home

I love a quick-to-prepare meal, especially when it's a pretty healthy one! This dinner is a home made alternative to one of our regulars, Moe's. Lainey is a huge fan of burritos, and I love that I can throw in a few extras at home to boost the nutrition of her dinner.

I must give credit where it's due for this one: my dear friend, Keely, inspired me to fix this meal, which not only led to an incredible dinner, but lunches for the entire week. Beautiful. :)

A rice cooker is a big help for this meal--any appliance that allows me to push a button and walk away is a must for me. I cooked the rice late-afternoon, and just kept it on the "warm" setting until dinner time. You don't need to go fancy on this; I have a verrrry basic Salton Rice Cooker that I bought in college for $18 and is still going strong.

Here's the rough recipe.

2 cups brown rice
4 cups water
1 can black beans
sour cream
grated cheddar cheese

1. Put rice and water in rice cooker with a splash of olive oil, and cook.
2. Drain and rinse one can of black beans. (any type of bean can be used)
3.. When rice is cooked, stir in about 1/2 c salsa; it should be just enough to give the rice some color and flavor.
4. Stir in black beans. I very roughly mashed about 1/3 of the can before stirring in, just to help it all come together a little more; totally optional.

Now, assemble as desired. I made Lainey a burrito--spread the rice mixture down the center of a whole wheat tortilla (I found the Archer Farms brand at Target actually has almost no gross ingredients and they're still soft and delish). Sprinkle with cheddar cheese, a few big dollops of mashed avocado (full of good fats!), a drop or two of sour cream, and any other desired fillings (lettuce, tomato, extra salsa...). I sprinkled in a handful of crumbled kale chips--you can get pretty creative. Roll the end up, fold the sides in, and roll the rest. To contain the mess, I usually then wrap the whole thing in a piece of foil that can be pulled down as the burrito gets eaten.
For my dinner, I made a rice bowl. Rice and beans topped with salsa, cheese, and sour cream. If I had lettuce on hand, I would have made the whole thing a taco salad. This is what I love about Mexican themed dinners--the same handful of ingredients can make an endless possibility of meals.

Monday, October 25, 2010

My Little Helper

This is a non-food post, but it's kinda, sorta food -related. I have been meaning to share this for quite some time, so tonight's the night! I made a pretty awesome kid-in-the-kitchen discovery. It's this beauty, from Bissell:
I bought this a year or two ago in hopes of having something to easily tackle the mess that was (well, still is...) my kitchen floor after every meal. I hate the feeling of crumbs stuck to my feet, and that's a tough pet peeve to have along with a toddler.

Anyway...the vaccuum itself is really nothing terribly special. It doesn't pick up huge bits of food, but it helps with most dinner messes. It's designed to be a dust-buster type, hand-held vaccuum, but it also has a handle that can make it like a little sweeper. Oh, and it's five pounds...very light for one of these things. Here's the beauty: when assembled as a floor vaccuum, if the handle is removed, it is now a perfect child's vaccuum.
I was able to clean up dinner, get the baby changed for bed, and clean up all the toys in the family room during the time Lainey spent vaccuuming the kitchen for me. I was thrilled to have help, and Lainey was thrilled to be the one who "cleaned the whooooole kitchen!". This doesn't count as child labor, right? :)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Autumn Perfection: Triple Ginger Cookies

I feel like my brain wants to start every post lately with some comment about how much I love the Fall. I'm sounding less than creative, but it's so true. I LOVE the Fall. And one of the main reasons I love the fall is for all the amazing foods that just taste so much better when the weather is cool. The smell of soup simmering on the stove all day, warm apple cider, sweet squash, root vegetables....sigh. LOVE LOVE LOVE!

One Fall Food that graces my kitchen counters on a verrry regular basis are these incredible Triple Ginger Cookies.
In my husband's world, a cookie is not a cookie without chocolate, so I confess that I bake these quite selfishly for myself. I've never been a big gingersnaps person; they're tasty, but I could never get into that extreme crispiness in a cookie. This, however, is the perfect blend of the gingersnap flavor with a very chewy cookie. They are delicious, and healthy--whole wheat flour, honey-sweetened, loaded with ginger to help you fight off all those nasty cold germs floating around this time of year...I literally can't get enough of them.

The "triple" ginger comes from three different forms of ginger baked into these beauties, so be sure to serve these to kiddos with a big cup of water or milk. Lainey enjoys them, but I do get an earful of "my tongue is tingling, mama!" every time she eats one.


2 1/2 c whole wheat flour
3 tsp powdered ginger**
1 tsp cinnamon**
1/2 tsp ground cloves**
dash of nutmeg**
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
tiny pinch cayenne pepper (yes, trust me!)
2/3 c honey
1/2 c oil
1 egg
1/2 c molasses
1/2 c chopped crystallized ginger
2 tbsp fresh grated ginger
---display-worthy crystallized ginger---

**I buy my powdered ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves from Wild Thyme, in Ballston Spa...they sell bulk organic herbs and spices for a FRACTION of what you'd pay in the grocery store, and the quality is incredible.

Heat oven to 350°. Mix all dry ingredients in one bowl, set aside. Mix all wet ingredients in another bowl. Mix wet and dry together.
Gently stir in crystallized ginger and fresh grated ginger.
Drop by the tablespoon onto cookiesheet (I have nonstick, so I don't grease mine) and bake 8-10 minutes. They WILL be soft, DO NOT OVERBAKE! Let sit on cookie sheet for 1-2 minutes, then move to cooling rack to cool completely.

---oops...still working on cracking eggs...---

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Creamy Veggie Pasta

I've been slowly working my way out of my cooking rut...sleep deprivation (cumulatively over the past three years) combined with a busy schedule leaves me in no mood to spend much time on dinner. The good news is that moods like this force me to find more relatively easy, sorta fast-to-prepare recipes (no matter what, when cooking with fresh veggies, there's always peeling/chopping to deal with...maybe I can hire a sous chef? :) ). I found this recipe and modified it as usual, to create this delish dinner.
It was supposed to be a one-pot, boil everything all together deal, but I decided that taking one extra step to saute the veggies would make it less mushy and more tasty. I was right. Yum! We all loved it, the girls devoured it, there were barely any leftovers. Here's Lainey making her "mmmm!" face.

Creamy Veggie Pasta (vegetable measurements are approximates because I adjusted as I went; you may need to adjust slightly to your taste!)

2 small zucchini, sliced thin
1 small summer squash, sliced
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
2 large handfuls spinach
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c milk
1/2 c parmesan cheese
2 tbsp butter
salt and pepper to taste
6-12 oz. macaroni (I like to use less pasta than recipes usually call for, or more veggies--my goal is to make the meal equal parts pasta and vegetables)

1. Cook the pasta.

2. While pasta is cooking, saute veggies in olive oil. I started with onions, then added garlic, mushrooms, zucchini, and squash. Once they were all tender, I tossed in the spinach to wilt.

3. In a large bowl, mix milk, parmesan cheese, butter, salt and pepper.

4. Drain the pasta and immediately pour into serving bowl. Toss to coat all with cream mixture.

This is another recipe that would work with just about any veggies you have on hand. Even frozen vegetables would work, just do as the original recipe suggested and toss it right in your pasta pot.

I hesitate to ask due to an historical lack of responses, but...I know that mostly anyone who reads this blog is a friend. So please, if you have a fast(ish), easy(ish) recipe that you love, please share it!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Rhubarb Cookies

In my house, with the cool weather come lots of warm soups, and lots of baking. I've really gotten in gear this week with both, and today's baking experiment REALLY paid off. I cut and brought in the little bit of rhubarb that I managed to grow in my garden this year--what an amazing plant. The leaves on these stalks were incredible...I'm not a very good photographer, so it isn't the best photo (the apple is for a size reference!), but look at the size of this leaf!! (They actually grow much bigger than this, but my plants were transplanted this Spring and took a while to recover.)
I've realized recently that baking a healthy sweet treat makes a huge difference in my snacking and sweet-cravings all week. When I don't have something baked at home, I still get a sweets craving, and end up getting cookies at the McDonald's drive-thru...mmm, but ick. :) If you're trying to cut back on sweets, try some healthier baked goods at home and see if it helps you, too! (try baking one big batch of something Saturday or Sunday, then you're set for the week...or at least a few days :) )

Back to today's treat: I didn't want to deal with a rhubarb pie, so I hunted for a rhubarb cookie recipe and found this, from I made a few modifications, as always, and these cookies came out waaaay better than I expected. I got nervous once they were in the oven that substituting honey would not give enough sweet to counter my rhubarb's tart, but the sweet level is perfect (unless you ask my husband, who believes a cookie isn't complete without chocolate chips...if you are a fellow chocolate lover, it would definitely work in these cookies).

Rhubarb Cookies

2 cups flour (I used half whole wheat, half all purpose)
1 1/4 cups brown sugar (I used honey)
8 tbsp butter (I used half butter, half chia gel)
1 egg
2 tsp milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup dried cranberries (had none, used raisins)
1 cup rhubarb, finely chopped
1 cup chopped walnuts (only had 1/2 cup)

Preheat oven to 350°. Beat wet ingredients in bowl until smooth. Mix in dry ingredients, then stir in rhubarb, raisins, and nuts. Spoon out about 2 tbsp. cookies onto a greased cookie sheet, and bake for 12-14 minutes. Cool one minute on cookie sheet, then move to cooling rack.
Delicious, healthy, and even pretty with those flecks of red rhubarb!