Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy 1st Birthday!

I can hardly believe today is the one-year anniversary/first birthday of The Well-Fed Newlyweds. Thank you to all of you who have been with me since the beginning, joined us along the way, and told your friends to check us out, too. It’s been a great ride so far, and I can’t wait to see what we cook up in the coming year.

(Clearly this is an out-of-season, not exactly recent picture, but it's all I had!!)

In case you haven’t been with us since the beginning – and let’s be honest, at the beginning most of my readers were related to me – I wanted to share with you some of our favorite recipes from the past year. These are recipes that we’ve loved enough to make more than once (something that doesn’t happen too often), recipes that changed our thinking about certain foods, and recipes that got rave reviews from our family and friends. I hope you enjoy them as much I we have.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pumpkin Ginger Nut Muffins

If you follow (“Like”) The Well-Fed Newlyweds on Facebook, then you know we’ve ushered in pumpkin season in a major way. I’ve already made a few things, and I’ve got a long list of pumpkin recipes waiting to be tried, running the gamut from sweet to savory, soups to snacks. When it comes to pumpkins, I just can’t resist. The little ones are cute. The big ones are just begging to be carved into jack-o-lanterns (like my accidentally one-fanged bat). And the stuff in the can? It’s too convenient, and too seasonal, to resist.

It’s the canned stuff (or homemade purée) that you’re going to need to make these pumpkin ginger nut muffins. If you don’t already have some hanging out in your pantry, head to the store asap, because these muffins are the perfect fall treat. Pumpkin flavored with just the right amount of spice, these muffins are great for breakfast, make excellent, portable snacks, and are perfect for dessert with a cup of tea. We found these little babies to be pretty irresistible, and I had to keep reminding Stan not to eat them all before I had a chance to take some pictures. I’m pretty certain we’ll be eating these muffins until the end of pumpkin season... and if we freeze them, maybe longer.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Three Bean and Beef Chili

The days are still nice and warm here in Nashville. We’re talking 70 to 80 degrees most days. But the nights? Oh, the nights are wonderfully, finally, cool. You know the kind of nights I’m talking about. The kind that make you want to be outside sitting around a campfire roasting marshmallows. Or cozy in bed under a pile of blankets with the windows open. Or sitting at the dinner table (or in front of the television) eating a bowl of something warm and hearty. Ah fall… how I’ve missed you.

And folks, let me tell you, I’ve missed this chili too. However, before I tell you about it, let me start off by saying that I know this is not a true, Texas-style, meat-and-nothing-else chili. But I’m okay with that. So chili-purists, please keep your objections to yourself – and forward me your recipes, because I’d love to try them.

Now about this chili... It’s got beans – pinto, black, and kidney. It’s also got lean ground beef and some carrots and red bell pepper to make it a little healthier. To top it off, it’s a little smoky because it gets its heat from chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. (Chipotle peppers are actually just smoked jalapenos.) Basically, this chili is ridiculously delicious. It’s also versatile. We eat it as is, tuck it inside tortillas to make chili burritos, serve it over brown rice, and always top it with sour cream and cheese. It’s one of the few recipes I make repeatedly throughout the fall and winter. Give it a try for your next family dinner or football watching party. It might just become your new go-to chili. Beans and all.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Broccoli Rice Gratin

Sometimes I plan what I’m going make for dinner days in advance. Sometimes I throw together whatever odds and ends I can find in the fridge and call it a meal. Today’s recipe was one of those spur of the moment creations. Not too long ago, I needed a side dish to go with our dinner, and I wanted to try something new. A quick search through the fridge and freezer gave me some cooked brown rice, one head of broccoli, a carton of eggs, and lots of cheese. There was some other stuff too, but I decided to leave out the apple juice, tofu, limes, and other assorted odds and ends. I think that was a smart choice, don’t you?

After a little thinking, I came up with this broccoli rice gratin. The dish is warm and cozy, full of healthy veggies and brown rice. Eggs bind the ingredients together, so you end up with a something kind of like a casserole that can be scooped out with a spoon. The best part, however, is the sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese over the top, which gives it an irresistible, crackly, cheesey crust.

All in all, this gratin is a winner. As I was eating it, I couldn’t help thinking that it tasted like a healthier version of the cheesey broccoli and rice casseroles I’ve had in the past. Good, healthy food that tastes like it’s bad for you? I’m all about it. Add that to the fact that the leftovers are wonderful, too, and I can pretty much guarantee you that I’ll be making this again and again.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Coconut Curry Noodle Soup

Most times, when I try a new recipe for the first time, I follow it pretty close to the letter. I might add a little more garlic, a little less hot pepper, or salt it at different times, but overall, I try to stay true to the original recipe. Sometimes, however, I’ll find an interesting (or not so interesting) looking recipe and use it as a jumping off point for a somewhat different creation. That’s what I did with today’s recipe - a warm, richly flavored soup with great color and texture.

I made quite a few changes to the original recipe, some dictated by necessity (an empty fridge), some by personal taste. For instance, the original recipe called for using already cooked, shredded chicken, snow peas, and spinach. I didn’t have any of those things on hand (and I wasn’t about to go out to get them at 8 pm – we were hungry!) so I decided to substitute cubed firm tofu for the chicken, matchstick carrots for the snow peas, and arugula for the spinach. All worked very well. In fact, I don’t know that I would have liked the chicken as much as I liked the tofu. Same goes for the snow peas and carrots. I think spinach and arugula would work equally well though. I also swapped out chow mein noodles for linguine, cause that’s what I had!

Those were the changes of necessity. The changes of personal choice included the addition of soy sauce for a little salt and lime juice for acidity and a little tang. The soy sauce was a nice, subtle touch, but I found that I still needed to add a little (sea) salt at the end. I added the lime juice after tasting the soup and finding it a bit bland. The juice punched up the flavor, but I kept thinking I would have liked it better with a little more. (Unfortunately I couldn’t add more because I was out of limes.)

All this goes to show that it’s possible to take a recipe and twist it into something that fits your taste – and the contents of your pantry. I am certain my mom is rolling her eyes right now and preparing to call me out for calling curry paste and fish sauce pantry staples. (I’m right aren’t I, Mom?) I understand that these ingredients are not staples for everyone. I don’t have a clue how they became staples for me considering I didn’t even try Thai food until I was seventeen. Regardless, you get what I’m trying to say, right? Don’t be afraid to try a recipe just because you don’t have every ingredient. Tweak it a little and you might just end up with something you’ll like even more. Unless you are baking, in which case specificity is important. Nobody likes a flat cake or burnt cookies.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Chunky Cinnamon Raisin Applesauce

The other day Stan asked me how many recipes on this site are original, i.e. not adapted from other sources. It got me to thinking… and checking the “original recipe” category on the right sidebar. I realized that less than 25 percent of the recipes I’ve told you about are completely my own creation. And while there is nothing wrong with that – adapting recipes from others has certainly helped me become a better cook – it is not at all reflective of how I really cook. I would estimate that at least 75 percent of the food coming out of our kitchen comes straight from my food-obsessed brain.

Why then, have I posted so few completely original recipes? After thinking about it, I’d have to say that it’s because I tend to cook on the fly. When I’m making it up as I go, I don’t often bother to write down what I’m doing or what and how much I’m using. Also, I certainly don’t always take pictures. On the other hand, consulting a cookbook or online recipe forces me to slow down a bit and use specific measurements. When I’m going more slowly, it’s easier to snap a few pictures too.

From here on out, I’m going to try to post a little more like I cook. My goal is to post at least one completely original recipe per week. I may not succeed with this every week, but I think it’ll be a good challenge, forcing me to keep track of some of the random recipes I come up with. And that’s a good thing, because some of the recipes I never wrote down were delicious!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Banana Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bread

As I mentioned in my last post, fall has finally arrived in Nashville. (Ok, let’s just pretend I didn’t see the weather forecast predicting 80-degree temperatures this coming weekend). Fall’s cooler temperatures mean that, in addition to pulling out my favorite turtlenecks, I get the green light to fire up the oven and heat up the house again. Which is great because I love baking. Yeast breads, quick breads – I’m looking forward to cranking out big batches all fall and winter long.

I’m starting out the season with another banana bread. I know I’ve already given you two banana bread recipes in the past year, but this one is different, I swear. Like the low-fat oatmeal banana bread I made a while back, this version includes old-fashion oats in the batter. The oats give the bread great texture and chewiness. This bread is also a little healthier than your typical banana breads thanks to those oats and the use of some whole-wheat flour. There are, however, chocolate chips sweetening up this bread, so you probably don’t want to eat half the loaf in one sitting. But don’t worry, I won’t judge you if you do.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Shrimp and Corn Chowder

Last weekend Stan and I went to Florida for a friend’s wedding. When we left, Nashville was a balmy 95 degrees. When we got back four days later, the temperature had dropped by at least 20 degrees, and fall had officially arrived. And really, it’s about time. I was starting to have (more) serious concerns about global warming.

The cooler weather excites me for so many reasons. Sweaters, apple picking, pumpkin carving, changing leaves, sleeping with the windows open… I could go on and on. I seriously looove fall. And I really love fall food. You’re going to see a lot of apples and squash and fresh baked breads and hearty stews coming up in the next few months. I’ve got stacks of recipes waiting to be tried and shared with you.

Today’s recipe is sort of my transition from summer to fall. It’s a warm and comforting soup, perfect for crisp fall days and nights. At the same time it is light and fresh, a final culinary ode to summer. Plump shrimp and sweet corn are the stars of this healthy chowder. Chunks of fresh veggies add color and texture, while a little turkey bacon infuses the soup with subtle smoky flavor. This was good the night I made it, but I swear it made even better leftovers. The corn seemed sweeter and the broth seemed smokier. The second day of leftovers was best of all. Who knows if it would have gotten better after that. The chowder was just too good to last any longer.


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