Thursday, September 29, 2011

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

Where have I been lately?  I am turning into the absent minded blogger.  In my defense, September is a really super busy month.  Lots of canning and freezing in process.  I will share with you later this week what I canned.  Very delicious. For now I will tell you about this amazing soup.  I found the recipe on Allrecipes.  I changed it up a bit because you know I have to do that.  I just could not bring myself to add all the cream cheese that the recipe called for.  While I am sure it would be absolutely delicious, I don't really think it is all that necessary.  Believe me when I tell you- you won't miss it at all.

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

recipe adapted from this recipe

6 tablespoons chopped onion
4 tablespoons margarine
6 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash
3 cups water
4 cubes chicken bouillon (or 1 tablespoon chicken bouillon
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
4 ounces cream cheese

In a large saucepan, saute onions in margarine until tender. Add squash, water, bouillon, marjoram, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Bring to boil; cook 20 minutes, or until squash is tender.

Puree squash and cream cheese in a blender or food processor in batches until smooth. Return to saucepan, and heat through. Or use an immersion blender.  Do not allow to boil.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Weight Watcher Wednesday- Chili Con Carne and Beef Lasagna

I am really not a b ig fan of lasagna so it is hard to take my word for it.  I thought it was pretty good.  One of the reasons why I do avoid lasagna is because it is so calorie laden and difficult to guess calories based on portions.  This tidy package wraps it all up and delivers the calories as stated.  So if you crave lasagna this might be a good way to go.

This was good, though a little on the salty side.  This is one meal I probably would never buy - mainly because I find bean dishes so easy to make.  I love experimenting with them.  Sometimes I  come out with winners- sometimes not.

So this wraps up my review of WW prepackaged meals. You know I am not so big on prepackaged but as prepacked meals go, I think these are pretty good. 

Next Wednesday I will begin WW recipes at home.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Back to School Chocolate Cupcakes

We had some of these to celebrate the first day of school.  Yes, I celebrate the first day and I celebrate the last day.  I celebrate the first day for a few different reasons, one because I want to make school look very exciting, two because what is not to celebrate about getting an education.  Last but not least, I celebrate because I can actually get a few things done without ten million interruptions.  (Don't make me feel guilty for saying that).

Largely adapted from Health Magazine

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup light sour cream*
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350°. Place 15 muffin cup liners in muffin tin. Whisk together first 5 ingredients.  Add chocolate, butter, and cocoa to a large heatproof bowl, and pour 1/2 cup boiling water on top. Let sit 2 minutes, and whisk until smooth. Add sour cream, buttermilk, and eggs, whisking until well-combined. Add dry ingredients to wet.

Pour batter into cupcake liners.  Bake for 20 minutes.  If you put two pans in the oven at the same time, then make sure you switch your pans midway through.  Insert skewer in center to see if it comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes; transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to cool. Frost cakes.

If you make 15 they are 272 calories.  I made 22 muffins- 185/muffin.  The total recipe caloric count is 4080.  So just divide whatever your yield is. 

*My cupcakes were slightly more as I used regular sour cream.

For the frosting- I did them two ways.  One with the extra filling I had made for my nanaimo bars- I just added cream cheese and whipped it.  The other cupcakes I frosted with this recipe (not shown here).

Chocolate Icing
*** this is a real sturdy icing that you can decorate with easily. It has great flavor without being sickeningly sweet.

2 cups powdered sugar
6 tablespoons Dutch Cocoa Powder
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted (I did cheat this time and used Hershey's chocolate syrup- nobody knew the difference- although since it is loaded with high fructose syrup, I probably will not be buying it anymore.)
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons cream cheese
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Cream the butter and cream cheese at room temperature. Temper in the melted chocolate. Sift together the powdered sugar and cocoa and combine with butter mixture at low speed. Add the vanilla and mix until fully combined.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Weight Watcher Wednesday

My review continues.  This week and next Wednesday will be the last of the reviews and then the WW recipes will begin.

The Turkey Meatballs were pretty good.  I really liked the meatballs. I am a tad bit picky when it comes to sauce because I was raised on sauce.  I know what I am use to and what I like.  This one, although it was not my Mothers or my sauce, it was still pretty good.  I give this meal a 7.

I didn't like this one as much.  The sauce was a bit too sweet for my taste.  You make like it though.  I did notice it is very peppery.  I don't mind peppery, I kind of liked that.  Maybe it is because I am Italian and we have our own way of making sauce.  I give this one a six.

This was really good if you have a craving for Macaroni and Cheese and don't want all the calories.  I give this one a 9.

Turkey and Stuffing.  This one I will give a 9.  Loved the stuffing, the turkey and the gravy all in one bite.  Everything tasted nice together.
Disclaimer:  I was not paid to say what I said.  I was given some Weight Watcher Meals and I decided to review them.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Just Peachy

A really simple treat. Peaches and cream.

Today I canned some of my peach amaretto jam,  froze some peach chutney and made some pesto with my husband (which we froze).  Too tired to make dinner.  We had leftovers with this for dessert.  I thought the kids would not like it.  Wrong.  They loved it.  Score.

No recipe necessary, although I did add the jam that remained after the pints were filled along with some lemon juice to keep things looking pretty.  Other than that, whip up the cream and voila, peach beauty in a bowl.

Later this week.  Peach chutney coming your way and peach barbeque sauce.  Sounds peachy doesn't it?

Share with me your simple summer luscious recipes/ideas.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Weight Watcher Wednesday

In high school my Biology teacher always told us, if there is one thing I want you to take away from this class, it is that, "THERE IS NO FREE LUNCH!"  Oh indeed, Mr. L- you were so freakin right.  When WW contacted me and asked me to review there meals, I said yes because there was free lunches at the end of the rainbow.  But then I worried after I received them.  What if I dont like them?  I was kinda of scared to eat them. 

Today I tried Garlic Smashed Potatoes and Meatloaf.  I heated that baby up in the microwave.  When I peeled back the plastic it looked a little alarming, I have to be honest here.  But I stirred the smashed potatoes and they began to look perkier.  And then I dug in.  Yeah, wow, I had nothing to be scared of.  It was really delicious.  And it was really satisfying to boot. What more could you ask for in a frozen meal?  Add a fresh little salad or some other veggies and it is a dang good meal.  So first meal out- totally was a thumbs up. 10!

I decided to save the meals for when the kids were at school.  This way I could get things done and my meal would already be prepared for me by WW.  And let's face it (no, I am not being paid for this) I think Weight Watchers is a great company.  I have been in WW myself and feel that their way of eating and losing weight is very sound.  I think it is based in practicality, good sense and realistic expectations.  It teaches people how to eat- proper nutrition and portion control. That is another nice thing about these frozen meals- is that it is all portioned out.  It gives you a framework for other meals.

Okay; so what did I have to pay for my meal maybe Mr. L might ask?  I guess exposure on my blog for WW. Is that bad?  Heck no.  Sometimes paying for your meal can be a pleasant experience.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Yellow Lentil Daal

Indian, for me, has a distinctive season, Autumn.  I don't know what it is.  Maybe it is the spices that make me think of warm spices of molasses in cookies and cinnamon in apples, pumpkin pie with all its spices.  It's not that I do not have Indian food in the summer spring and winter.  It's just that I really crave it in the Fall. 

I made this recipe and largely adapted it from KO Rasoi.  I wanted more fresh tasting so I chopped a lot of tomatoes to mix into it at the table, besides the tomatoes that are already in the dish as it cooks.  I served it with rice and really enjoyed it.   The only thing I would do differently is add cumin seeds.  I know I am not Indian and who am I to make these decisions.  But, hey, its my palette.  And my palette loves cumin. I love to inhale the smell of cumin seeds as they toast in the frying pan.  There is something absolutely captivating about that smell.  I did not have all the lentils she suggests in her recipe so I made due with what I had.  I am sure I had the basic idea of the recipe.

I used the leaves from my curry plant that I have growing in the house.  If you know how large curry plants can get then you would probably giggle at my little plant but I am proud of it.  It recently went through a transformation.  I have had it over a year.  The first year and a couple months it grew rather slowly.  I kept wondering if it was going to make it.  Then it just started turning yellow and drying up and dying.  Or so I was beginning to think.  I let it go, kept watering despite its pathetic looking exterior.  You know that little thing was regenerating itself. Little leaves began to form and it grew.  It grew at a much faster rate than before and it is pretty filled out already.  I decided to use a few leaves.  Another smell in Indian cooking that absolutely makes me swoon.

Yellow Lentil Daal
I wished I had cilantro to add to this.  If you have it, use this.

1 ½ cups urad daal
1 ½ cups mung bean daal
6 cups water
1 large onion, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 inch piece ginger, grated
1 jalapeno, minced
1 tbsp ghee
1 star anise
1 small cinnamon stick
5-6 curry leaves
1 tsp mustard seeds
¼ tsp asafoetida
1 cup tomatoes, chopped
½ tsp turmeric
Salt to taste

Rinse the daals.  Place in a saucepan with the water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer beans until tender.

In a frying pan heat the gheel in a large pan and add the mustard seeds. After the begin to pop, add the onion, garlic, ginger, chillies, asafoetida, curry leaves, star anise and cinnamon. Cook until aromatic.

Add the tomatoes, turmeric and cooked daal mixture. Simmer for 5 minutes and season with salt. Remove from the heat and add the coriander. Remove the cinnamon stick and star anise before serving.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Peppers and Weight Watcher Wednesdays

I said that to the farmer today.  He gave me a sideways look and then lightened up a little.  A little.  He may not have delivered on humor but I tell you he totally delivered on some amazingly fresh green peppers.  If you never had fresh green peppers than you may not know that they are juicy, mildly sweet and delicious.  Yes, I said juicy.  You see by the time they get to their grocery store destinations, they dry out a little... or maybe a lot.  Sprayed with some concoction to keep them looking fresh and happy or whatever.  Here is what I say to you.  If you have a local farmer and a freezer,  buy a few more than you would normally, then chop them up and freeze them.  You will thank me in February. When skies are dreary and everyone is eating really old vegetables that are gased and what not, you will be adding some nice green peppers to your chili and you will know pretty much where they came from.  Now isn't that a good feeling?

So now that the kids are in school and things have settled down a bit, I will be posting more.  Matter of fact I have a new weekly posting coming your way.  Wahoo.  Are you excited?  I know you are.  It will be Weight Watchers Wednesdays.  Now I know the last time I posted, I posted about deep fried chicken.  And I know that I always wax poetic about fresh, local and and all but I am sure you all know I am frugal as well.  A person from Weight Watchers contacted me and asked if I would like to review some of their frozen meals.  I absolutely said yes.  Number one because it was free,  number two because, I tend to like WW products and three I actually really believe in WW for a lot of reasons. Once I get done reviewing all the meals she sent, I will start making some WW recipes. Sound good?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Southern Fried Chicken

This is how I picture Southern food... watermelon, fried chicken, corn, grits.  I can not think of fried chicken without thinking of the South.  Kinda crazy.  It's probably all the Colonels fault.  Him and his crazy good chicken.  While I am not big on fast food at all, that is one that will tempt me once in a while.  By once in a while I mean, ever eight years or so- no lie.  But really it is always better to have it at home.  In this case, it most certainly is.  It has the peppery taste of some of the Colonels varieties and its really crunchy.

This is the first time I have ever fried chicken at home.  I had this at a friends house about five years ago and asked her for the recipe.  I finally made it. And of course I did change things up a bit. The thing is I hate deep frying.  Matter of fact I bought a deep fryer specifically so I could do this outside (and at the right temperature). Hate the mess and the smell.  Not to mention the BIG calories.  But every once in a while, I guess it is okay.

Southern Fried Chicken
I added buttermilk so I changed the name.  You can find the recipe here. Recipe adapted from Taste of Home

1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons granulated garlic
3 teaspoons pepper
2 1/2 teaspoons poultry seasoning, I used Lowry's seasoned salt
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups flour, divided
1 tablespoon paprika
2 eggs
2 fryer chickens cut up or chicken parts

In a plastic bag combine 2 2/3 cup flour, garlic powder, salt, paprika, 2 1/2 teaspoon pepper and poultry seasoning. 

In a shallow bowl beat eggs, buttermilk and water.  Add salt and remaining flour and pepper.  Dip chicken in egg mixture then shake in bag.  The chicken will look kinda scraggly and that is okay.  Those scraggles will be your wonderful crunchy tidbits.  I think I could have just eaten those and skipped the chicken.

Heat oil to 375F.  Cook chicken 5 to 8 minutes depending on the size of your pieces.  You want the chicken to be brown- not dark but not light either.  If you are frying in a pan be sure to turn the chiken over when browned.
This quilt pattern was in an email I recently received.  For the life of me I can not find where I got it from.  I have searched the internet to find it so I could give credit where credit is due and unfortunately have come up with nothing.  If you happen to know, let me know.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Classic Nanaimo

My husband requested a dessert for a company picnic.  I haven't baked in a long time.  Just haven't really been in the mood.  I did bake some of my pudding chocolate chip cookies a while back.  They lasted a really long time.  With my husband not eating dessert, stuff hangs around.  I probably should have put some in the freezer.

Nanaimo bars are great for summer because they do not require baking.  You cook the crust ingredients on the stove briefly and make a crust with it in the pan.  Chill and then the next layer.  If you want you can even do the glaze in the microwave as well.  Low heat- perfect for summer.

I made two kinds.  The other one, quite frankly, sucked. I made the same bar but for the filling I combined 1/3 cup pomegranate molasses, 3.4 ounces instant vanilla pudding and 2 cups confectioners sugar.  In and of itself it was good- maybe with something else- but for this application I did not like it.  The classic one, however, listed here.  Dah-licious!

Classic Nanaimo

Bottom Layer:
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup cocoa, a little heaping is okay
1 egg beaten lightly
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (this is about 1 1/2 packages)
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and finely chopped

Middle Layer
1/2 cup buttered, softened
3 tablespoons half and half
2 tablespoons Bird's Custard (instant mix), but you can substitute instant vanilla pudding
2 cups powdered sugar

Ganache Top:

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1 tablepoon vegetable or canola oil

Line a 9 x 9 pan with foil, hanging it over the sides a bit so you can get ahold of it and pull it out of the pan when things are all set up.

In a saucepan, melt butter and whisk in cocoa.  Remove from heat.  In a bowl combine egg and sugar.  Pour chocolate butter mixture into the egg mixture, whisking briskly as you go.  Add the coconut and graham cracker crumbs.  Press evenly into baking dish.  Use a rubber spatula to get a clean edge all around the sides. Place in refrigerator to chill and set while you make the next layer.

In a bowl, combine butter, half and half, powdered custard or pudding and sugar.  Beat until light.  This is going to be a stiff mixture.  If you find it is too dry, add a drop or two more of the half and half.  Spread evenly over the bottom layer.

In a double boiler melt the chocolate chops and oil.  As soon as it is melted, remove from heat.  when it is still spreadable but a bit cooler, spread evenly over the pudding layer of the bar. Cut into small squares, this is an extremely rich dessert.

Previous Nanaimo Bars:

Mint Nanaimo and Orange Nanaimo (these have a crust that is baked)