Wild Rice w/Chickpeas
I’ll admit it, sometimes I’m lazy when it comes to cooking. While I try to cook 100% from scratch as much as possible sometime I go the Sandra Lee route and use a prepared food as the base for my recipes. Normally I do this because I am craving something outside of my skill level but occasionally it’s because I don’t have the time during the week to do all that I need to do during the day and still have dinner on the table at a reasonable hour. The challenge I find with these shortcuts is making sure I’m not sacrificing quality or adding more sodium/calories then I need. This recipe is one of those where it is very important to check the label first. When looking for a wild rice kit I found ones ranging from 20mg to 80mg to 220mg to over 300mg a serving. I would up going with the Wild Grains brand which was right around 80mg per serving, after a second look showed that the 20mg variety had mini serving sizes compared to the others and would wind up being closer to 80mg once all was said and done. In the past I have also used the Whole Foods brand Wild Rice with great results, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Wegmanns will eventually have a variety as well.
– 1 box wild rice mix (look for one that will be around 3 1/2 cups when finished)
– 14oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
– 1/2 white onion, diced
– 3 Plum Tomatoes, diced
– 1/2 cup crumbled feta – divided (or crumbled soft tofu for vegan version)
– pepper to taste
1. Prepare the wild rice per instructions on box but subtract 5minutes from the cook time suggested. Add the chickpeas, stir, and cook 3minutes over medium heat. Add in the tomatoes and 1/4 cup of the feta, mix well and cook an additional 5minutes.
2. Season to taste then top with the remaining cheese. Serve warm!
There is something about having dinner ready to go in under 30minutes, especially after a long day at work. The ease of this dish also makes it a great Meatless Monday dish, no excuses that it takes too long to prepare or that it contains hard to find ingredients or too many “strange” vegetables. It is also easily adapted for vegans, just switch the feta for either a vegan mock-feta or crumble up some soft tofu for all the texture and some added protein.
Coffee. Caffeine. Sugar! These three components are pretty much staples in my diet, and I don’t really find anything wrong with that. It has been suggested that I am a nicer person once there is caffeine in my system, yet it has also been suggested that too much caffeine can produce negative results. After seeing one two many episodes of Iron Chef I decided to experiment with coffee, trying to find other ways for using it that didn’t involve a cup. While I contemplated coffee ice cream my last experience making ice cream wasn’t very successful. So I decided to start messing around with cookies, which are becoming my go-to-baked good when I feel the need to do some baking. Ice box cookies are one of those standard recipes that are extremely versatile, and a great beginner recipe for experimenting with new combinations. I got my recipe from one of the original Joy of Cooking books, but I’m sure it’s in the newer versions as well. For the tweaking I dropped down on the amount of butter and sugar, took out the zest, and switched out some of the vanilla in order to make room for more coffee. I also dropped them instead of cooking them, but there is no right or wrong way.
– 1 1/2 cups flour
– 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
– 1/4 tsp salt
– 1 stick butter, softened
– 1 egg
– 1 tsp vanilla
– 2/3 cup brown sugar
– 1 tbsp coffee or espresso or coffee liqueur
– 1 tbsp finely ground coffee beans
1. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder.
2. In a large bowl blend the butter and sugar. Add the egg, vanilla, and both types of coffee. Mix well and cover. Refrigerate for at least 30minutes, and no more than 2hrs.
3. Preheat oven to 375.
4. Drop 1 tbsp of dough onto cookie sheets, leaving space between. Cook 10 minutes. Makes 4 dozen 2in cookies.
The cookies can easily be tweaked by adjusting the type of coffee being used, for example espresso for those looking for a real kick vs. decaf coffee for those looking for all of the taste and none of the jolt. I tend to go for the full throttle version, heavy on the espresso and the ground espresso. It should be noted that I spent the better part of 8yrs working in various coffee shops so I tend to prefer STRONG.
Also as a note applesauce didn’t work very well as an egg substitute, the cookies spread out but they didn’t want to rise. I am probably going to try again using flax or maybe bananas and cream of tarter but that’s an adventure for another day!
Butternut Squash Soup
Hello all of you out there in blog-land. How is the New Year treating you so far? Right now things are a little hectic over here but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that things will settle back down again shortly. I’ve been relaxing in the kitchen, testing out all of my new kitchen toys and seeing how many I can use in one meal. I must say that I am in love with my immersion blender, it just makes everything so much easier. Part of me is wondering how I survived making soup without one, that’s how wonderful this handy little tool is. I just combine that with my new dutch oven and I am one happy cook 🙂 Tonight’s recipe features both the dutch oven and the immersion blender, but it can still be made using a standard soup pot and a blender. Just make sure the lid is secure on the blender in order to avoid painting the walls an amazing shade of orange. Not that I have any experience with doing that….
– 3lb squash
– 2tsp pepper
– 2tsp salt
– 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
– 1 tbsp olive oil
– 1 tbsp butter
– 3 cloves garlic
– 1/2 onion, diced
– 2 cups vegetable stock
– 1/2 cup water
– 1/2 cup half and half
– 2 tsp vanilla
– salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 425. Lightly grease a roasting pan or a large cookie sheet.
2. Cut the squash in half and remove seeds. Dab with butter and top with the salt, pepper, and cinnamon. Roast in oven for 45minutes. Allow squash to cool slightly, then peel and cube.
3. Once the squash has been removed from the oven begin to heat the butter and olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the squash once the butter has fully melted. Cook the squash for 5minutes, stirring to prevent sticking. Add the garlic and onion and cook an additional 5-7minutes, or until the onion has softened.
4. Turn heat down to medium high and add the vegetable stock and water. Slowly bring the mixture to a boil, then turn heat to low and allow to simmer for 10minutes stirring occasionally.
5. Meanwhile in a small bowl mix the half and half with the vanilla. Place in fridge and chill until ready to add to soup.
6. Once the soup has simmered for 10minutes, either use immersion blender to puree the soup or remove the soup in parts to a blender. After the soup has been pureed add the half&half vanilla mixture to the soup. Season the soup to taste and allow to simmer for an additional 10-15minutes. Serve!
I am a true sucker for winter soups but for the longest time I avoided butternut squash soup, something about it just turned me off. Then I watched an episode of Top Chef that featured a Vanilla Love Butternut Squash Soup, or something like that, and after realizing there was no way I could do a vanilla foam I decided to start experimenting some more with the soup. While this soup is not as creamier as some versions out there, I feel like it really allows the butternut squash to come out. If I knew more about the science of cooking maybe I could tell you if that was because of the vanilla, or if it’s just the simple lack of heavy creams. What I can tell you is that this soup is perfect for a chilly winter night, just add a nice piece of crusty bread to go with it.
Happy New Year! 2011 is now officially here and time for new adventures, new recipes, and some new resolutions. Last year I resolved to go to the gym…and idea that worked well until I was transferred a good distance down the road. I also resolved to try putting myself first a little bit more often, which has proven to be much harder than I ever thought possible. So that resolution has come back, in a slightly different form. This year I am going to relax more and spend more time with my family and friends….and also attempt to leave work at work. I am also making a resolution to blog more, as part of my plan to relax more. Cooking for me is a safety zone, a place where I can get away from everything and focus on creating new dishes and reworking old dishes. Today’s dish is one from the old dish category, in fact this is a very old dish. I don’t remember the first time I had challah, but I do remember making a very similar bread when I was younger around the holidays. I remember my mom had to mess around with it every few hours, and I remember standing in kitchen while she braided it. When it came time to braid my bread I tried to remember how she did, but for some reason the only thing that kept popping up in my mind were the multi colored cherries she use to put on top of it. While her breads might have been works of art suitable for passing out to the neighbors, mine is…well…edible. I guess in the end that is all that really mater. It should also be noted that I cheated on the first part of this bread and used my bread maker in order to form the dough.
– 1 cup water
– 2 eggs
– 2tbsp olive oil
– 2 tbsp sugar
– 1 tsp salt
– 3 cups flour
– 1 1/2 tsp yeast
1. Add ingredients to bread machine based on instructions. Set to dough mode. For best results do not use the quick rise setting.
2. Divide dough into three sections. Flour hands and then roll each section into a strand, then braid the strands together. In order to make a circular braid bring the ends together and gently press to create a seal. Place dough is a dry location and allow to rise for 45minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 375
4. Bake bread for 40minutes, or until a light golden brown color.
The amount of time needed to make this bread is well worth it because in the end you have a bread that is perfect for soaking up a nice warm soup or for making a sandwich. If you wind up with some threatening to turn on you, Challah French Toast is the perfect quick fix breakfast/lunch/dinner. There are also TONS of websites out there that will show you other techniques for braiding, and I have to so there are some very talented bakers out there. I think I will stick to three strands for now, but maybe I should add making a 4 braid Challah to my list of things to do in 2011.