Saturday, July 31, 2010

Oatmeal Cookie Oatmeal

Clearly, no one likes being sick. For me, it’s especially hard to be sick because I often lose my desire to eat, and sometimes even my sense of taste. For someone who loves to cook and eat as much as I do, those are hard days. And let me tell you, it’s been a hard week. Yup, I’ve been sick for over a week now – with mono. That’d be why you haven’t heard a peep out of me for several days. I was not in a good way. How someone my age gets mono is beyond me, but ooh boy, I’ve got it, and I’ve been sick as a dog.

Today I woke up without a fever (hooray for small victories!) and felt up to making breakfast. This oatmeal recipe is one I’ve wanted to try for a while now, and its simplicity made it a good choice. Quick-cooking steel cut oats are cooked with applesauce, golden raisins, toasted almonds, brown sugar and cinnamon for a delicious, healthy breakfast treat. I was skeptical, at first, whether the ingredients would really come together to taste like an oatmeal cookie. However, after tweaking the original recipe a bit, I can honestly say this oatmeal taste like a warm cookie… just mushed up a bit.

If you haven’t tried quick-cooking steel cut oats before, you’re in for a treat. Unlike regular steel cut oats, which take upwards of 40 minutes to cook, quick-cooking steel cut oats are ready in under 10 minutes. Despite their reduced cooking time, the oats still have all of the chewy, nutty flavors and textures you associate with regular steel cut oats. Since discovering this type of oatmeal, it is the only kind we make for breakfast. (I still keep regular old fashioned and quick oats on hand for baking.) We buy our quick-cooking steel cut oats at Trader Joe’s, where they come in a large, inexpensive container. If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you, check your local grocery store for the oats. They’ll be a nice change from your regular oatmeal.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Watermelon Salad with Feta

Watermelon and feta? Interesting, but weird. That about sums up my thoughts when I first saw a watermelon and feta salad several years ago at Au Bon Pain. I never tried it, but I also never quite forgot about it either. More recently, I have come across many recipes that pair watermelon with surprising savory ingredients. Which of course, made me more clearly remember that watermelon and feta salad from back in the day. And it got me thinking. Watermelon and feta equals sweet and salty. I like sweet and salty combos. I also love both watermelon and feta. Duh, what am I waiting for?

And so I began to look more carefully through some of the watermelon salad recipes that had caught my eye. Today’s salad is the first one I came across. It intrigued me with its use of sweet watermelon, creamy feta, salty olives, crunchy onions, and a simple, mildly spicy dressing. All of those flavors and textures lent themselves well to a delicious and refreshing summer salad. The quick and easy preparation of the salad makes it a great weeknight option that would accompany many entrĂ©es nicely, particularly grilled meats. It is also very pretty to look at, so it would be great for entertaining, too.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Peppery Garlic Prawns

When you are always on the lookout for new recipes to try, certain foods/recipe titles grab your attention more than others. For me, pasta, seafood, cheese, desserts, and certain fruits and vegetables are major attention grabbers. When I’m looking for things I know Stan will like, garlic, black pepper, and meat are major players. Not surprisingly, when I came across this recipe for peppery garlic prawns, I knew I had to try it.

Prawns (aka shrimp) are one of my from-the-ocean favorites, and I’m pretty sure Stan has never met a garlic-laden dish he didn’t like. During the past year, we both have come to love black pepper, so making this dish was pretty much a no-brainer. The fact that this dish requires only about 5 minutes of active prep time (if your shrimp are already peeled) and 3 minutes to cook? Yeah, I’m pretty sure there’s no beating that.

All you do is toss raw shrimp (tail on or off – your choice) with a lot of minced garlic, crushed or coarsely ground black pepper, some salt, lemon juice, and brandy. That’s right, brandy. The stuff you swirl around in snifters and sip slowly. Or, if your husband happens to be Russian like mine, you might occasionally drink shots of it while toasting special occasions. Even if you don’t drink it, brandy is worth keeping on hand for culinary purposes. It adds a special flavor to certain dishes – different than wine or sherry. For this dish, it is worth seeking out, even if you only get a tiny bottle. But really, how much fun would that be?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Baked Ziti

Baked ziti is one of my long-standing go-to dishes. I’ve been making variations of it for years. Sometimes it’s the old cheesey standby. Sometimes I add chicken sausage. Sometimes vegetables. Sometimes I leave out the ricotta, which basically turns it into something else all together. However you make it, it’s pretty much a guarantee that baked ziti will be delicious.

Besides its taste, one of the things I like best about baked ziti is how quickly it comes together. Boil some noodles, stir in some cheesey goodness, and pop it in the oven. It needs a little time to cook, but the active prep work is practically non-existent. You can have dinner on the table without breaking a sweat – which I love, because making dinner causes me to break a sweat far more often than I’d like!

Baked ziti is also a perfect dish for those times when you’d like to bring dinner to someone. I made this particular version for my dear friends on the night they brought their beautiful baby girl home from the hospital. I split the recipe into two pans, giving half to them, and reserving the other half for when I go out of town in a few days. Yep, that’s one more thing that’s great about baked ziti – it freezes like a dream. It’s the perfect dish to make ahead and store in the freezer. You know, just in case you happen to have a significant other who begs you not to leave… at least not without leaving a fully stocked fridge behind.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Raspberry-Topped Lemon Muffins

Summertime, to me, is fresh fruit heaven. Are you with me on this one? Peaches, cherries, and oh, the berries. (Please note: I am purposely not mentioning the crown jewel of summer produce – tomatoes – until they come into season here. Once that happens, look out. I’ve been stockpiling tomato recipes all year long, just waiting for farm-fresh tomatoes that taste like the sun rather than those mealy wintertime imposters.) But I digress. Back to the berries. So juicy and sweet it’s merely an added bonus that they are incredibly good for you.

Now you already know I’ve been indulging in blueberries for awhile, but really, I am an equal-opportunity berry eater. You’ll understand, then, why I got so excited when I went grocery shopping this week and raspberries were on sale. Large containers of plump, ripe, jumbo-sized raspberries. I might have swooned. Hopefully not. These raspberries were just begging to be eaten straight from the container.

And while I did eat many just like that (after washing, of course), I could not resist sacrificing some of the berries for a baking project. After tasting the muffins, I can hardly call it a sacrifice anymore. Imagine, if you will, tender, just-sweet-enough, cake-like lemon muffins. Take those muffins and add fresh raspberries baked right into the muffin tops. If your imagination is working well you should end up with muffins that are juicy, sweet, and just a little tangy. They are summertime condensed in muffin form.

They are also utterly delicious – and forgiving. I accidentally forgot to set my timer while baking these muffins. While they were in the oven, I went to take a shower, figuring I’d hear the timer when the muffins were ready. Oops. Fortunately I only over-baked them by a minute or two, and they were still quite moist. The tops were just a tad darker than I would have liked (as you can see in the pictures). The fact that the muffins survived my mental slip made me like them even more. Try them out, and I promise you’ll like them too.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Newlyweds No More? No Way!

One year ago today, on a rainy evening in Dayton, Ohio, I walked down the aisle in a big, poufy white dress and became a wife. For the past three hundred and sixty five days, I have been a blissful newlywed – and a well-fed one at that! And perhaps because our first year of marriage seemed to have passed by in the blink of an eye, I still feel like a newlywed. (At least most of the time. Sometimes I feel like we’re an old married couple, feeling every minute of our six and a half years together.) So fear not, my friends. Even though we may not technically be newlyweds anymore, I still feel like we are, and will continue to blog as such.

I wanted to bake something special today to post in honor of our anniversary, but to be honest with you, no recipe could top my excitement over eating cake saved from our wedding. Our wedding cake was so delicious that I have high hopes it will have survived a year in the freezer. If six layers of plastic wrap and aluminum foil didn’t do the job, well then, I have a backup recipe at the ready. In any event, there are some exciting recipes coming your way this week. Check them out and share them with the ones you love – no matter how long you have (or haven’t) been married!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Moroccan Spiced Chickpea Soup

I know what you are thinking. Katie – are you insane? It’s 98 degrees outside, and you are telling us about soup?! Well, yes, I am. But before you close your browser, hear me out. This soup is so good. It’s been one of my favorites for years, and I’ve been meaning to tell you about it for ages. And really, while it may be scorching outside, how many of you spend your days in over-air conditioned homes and offices? I know I was wearing long sleeves at two different times yesterday. A bowl of this soup would have been a welcome treat.

Now about the soup. The broth is warm and spicy without being spicy hot. Stan always comments about how good the kitchen smells when the broth is bubbling away. In addition to being fragrant and flavorful, the soup is incredibly filling from its hearty helping of chickpeas. It is also colorful and nutritious thanks to fresh spinach stirred in just before serving. Whatever the season, this is the perfect soup to take the chill off.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Oatmeal Blueberry Applesauce Muffins

I know, I know. I posted about blueberry muffins not too long ago, and I told you they were perhaps the ultimate blueberry muffin incarnation. I stand by that assertion. Today’s muffins don’t aspire to be the absolute tastiest blueberry muffins you’ve ever had – they try to be the healthiest (while still remaining tasty). And healthy food is a good thing, right? Especially during a holiday weekend when almost everything we eat veers into the less than healthy camp.

Upon reflection, it seems I’ve been on a bit of a healthy baked goods kick lately. Or really, and oatmeal-in-my-baked-goods-kick, if we’re going to get right down to it. First there was the low-fat oatmeal banana bread. That was good. Then more recently there were the peanut butter banana oatmeal muffins. Those were really good. Both of those are recipes I will make again.

I’m a little more on the fence with today’s muffins. In theory, oatmeal blueberry applesauce muffins sound both healthy and delicious. And they were. But there was something about them I just didn’t love. While the fresh blueberries popped with juicy flavor and the muffin tops got nicely crunchy, I found the muffins to be overly sweet and too oat-y. I debated even posting this recipe, but Stan really liked the muffins. He even declared them “perfect”. While I’m sure he was exaggerating just a bit, he doesn’t hesitate to (nicely) tell me when he doesn’t like something. So I have to believe he really liked these muffins.

If you’re looking for a healthier alternative to the standard blueberry muffin, these are certainly worth trying. And if you do try them, let me know what you think. Are you with me on the sweetness or, like Stan, did you love them? Also, if you have a favorite healthy muffin recipe you’d like to share, please do. I love getting new ideas. In the meantime, I wish you all a safe and happy Fourth of July!


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