Thursday, March 19, 2015

Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut squash soup is one of my favorite soups.  Luckily, my husband is great at whipping up a large batch.  Here's his recipe.

Butternut Squash Soup

Makes about 7 cups

Ingredients
  • 1 package Costco butternut squash cubes
  • 3 cups water
  • 18g chicken bullion
  • 12 oz sweet onions, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf, fresh if possible
  • 14 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 14 teaspoon sea salt
  • 18 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tbsp thick plain Greek yogurt (per serving)
Directions
  1. In a large pan, combine the squash, water, bullion, onions and bay leaf, bringing to a boil.
  2. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low, simmer for 20 minutes or until squash is tender, then remove from heat.
  3. Take out the bayleaf and blend with immersion blender until smooth.
  4. Season with 1/4 nutmeg, sea salt and pepper.
  5. Ladle into soup bowls and swirl 2 tablespoon of yogurt into each bowl.


    I suggest serving it with biscuits and my Everyday Salad.  

    Happy eating!

Orange Sweet Rolls


After my success with Pumpkin Banana Muffins, I decided to be daring and modify another recipe.  I’ve had a recipe for Lemon Poppyseed Bread for years.  I’m not sure where I got it, but I remembered liking it well enough.  We have an orange tree in our backyard, so I thought, why not leave out the poppyseeds and make it with an orange instead of a lemon? 

These rolls would be perfect for Easter brunch, a potluck, or just for snacking.  They’re slightly sweet, and they’re delicious without slathering on any butter.  You’d never know they only have 100 calories each.  You might want to make a double batch because it’s hard to eat just one!

Orange Sweet Rolls

Makes 12 rolls

Ingredients:
2 tbsp butter (softened)
1 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
¾ c Splenda (you can substitute an equal amount of sugar)
2 servings liquid eggwhites (you can substitute 2 eggs)
1 tbsp orange juice
zest of one orange
1 c white whole wheat flour
1 c bread flour
2 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
¾ c milk

For the glaze:
2 tbsp orange juice
2 tbsp powdered sugar

Method:
Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray or insert paper liners.

In a stand mixer, combine the butter, Greek yogurt and Splenda.

Add the eggwhites and orange juice.

Add the milk.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder and salt.

Add the dry ingredients and the orange zest to the mixer bowl.  Mix to combine.

Bake about 10 minutes or until the tops of the rolls spring back when you touch them.
Combine the orange juice and powdered sugar for the glaze. 

Put the rolls on a serving plate.  Brush the glaze on top of the rolls while they’re still warm. 

They’re delicious warm, or you can store them at room temperature for a couple days, if they last that long!  I haven’t tried freezing them, but I don’t see why you couldn’t.

Happy eating!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Pumpkin Banana Muffins


I love bread and other yummy baked goods.  It’s totally my weakness.  For some people, mac and cheese is comfort food, but for me, it’s bread.  I think it’s the texture that I love so much.  I love French bread, multi-grain bread, biscuits, muffins, cake.  I also love to bake, so it’s constantly a challenge for me not to be my own worst enemy by filling my house with tempting, sinfully delicious baked goods.  They’re so not healthy.

For the past couple years, I’ve been on a mission to bake healthier.  I now have a delicious whole wheat bread recipe, a whole wheat pizza crust recipe, a multi-grain waffle recipe, and even a whole wheat pancake recipe.  But, what if you just want a really good muffin?  I didn’t have a recipe for that.

I’ve spent hours on pinterest looking at muffin recipes.  I was hoping to find something full of healthy ingredients that would also taste delicious. 

Did I mention that I have a baby?  He’s 7 months old, and he’s been eating my homemade baby food creations for about a month.  His purees have been the inspiration for some of my baking experimentation.  For example, I bought a huge bag of carrots to puree for him (he LOVES carrots) and thought, “I should eat more carrots.  Let me try to find a healthy carrot muffin or cookie bar recipe.”  I tried about 3 recipes and none of them was a “do again” (what my husband and I call a recipe that we love so much we want to make it again). 

My baby’s latest pureed concoction consists of pumpkin, banana (he LOVES bananas even more than carrots), breastmilk, baby oatmeal cereal and a dash of cinnamon.  He loves it and wolfs it down.  It made me think, I bet a muffin recipe that included both pumpkin and bananas would be delicious!  I have a pumpkin bread recipe that I frequently make into muffins, so I figured I’d start there and change, well, just about everything. 

before baking
I was inspired this morning, so during my baby’s morning nap, I daringly whipped up a batch of Pumpkin Banana Muffins.  I figured it was no big deal if they didn’t taste great on the first try so I just guessed at what I thought would be good in them, and let me just say, I was more than pleasantly surprised.  My husband and I couldn’t stay out of them!  It makes a dozen, and there are only 5 left!  They’re that good, at least, they are in my humble opinion. 

after baking
The best part?  Besides the delicious taste, they’re only 95 calories each!  That means it’s not such a bad thing if you can’t eat just one.  They’re so good you don’t need to put butter or anything on them, so that saves calories and fat grams too.  When I was first making them, I thought they tasted a little too sweet, but the Greek yogurt tones it down to the perfect sweetness.  The texture is perfect too.  The bread flour keeps them from being too dense.  They’re fluffy but not too airy. 

perfect texture inside
All I can say is that if you like pumpkin pie and banana bread, I really think you should try making these muffins!  They’re a definite “do again” in my book.

Here’s the recipe.  I hope you enjoy it as much as my husband and I did this morning.

Pumpkin Banana Muffins

Yields 12 muffins

Ingredients:
1 c Splenda (you can substitute 1 c sugar, but it’ll add more calories)
½ c packed dark brown sugar
2 servings liquid egg whites (you can substitute 2 eggs, but it’ll add more calories)
¼ c nonfat plain Greek yogurt
½ c mashed bananas (about 1 large banana or 1 ½ smaller bananas)
½ c whole wheat flour
½ c bread flour
1 c old fashioned oatmeal
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
1/3 c water
1 c (8oz) pumpkin

Method:
Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Spray a muffin pan with cooking spray or line with paper liners.

In an electric mixer, mix the Splenda, brown sugar and egg whites. Add the Greek yogurt and bananas. 

In a separate bowl, mix the flours, oatmeal, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Add about half of the dry ingredients to the sugar mixture and mix well.  Then add the water and mix well.  Add the rest of the dry ingredients.  Then add the pumpkin.

Evenly fill the muffin cups with the batter and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Serve warm, at room temperature or cool.  You can keep them in the refrigerator for up to a week or freeze and defrost in the microwave for a quick snack anytime you want.

Now, try to eat just one.  I dare you!

Happy eating!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Potato Soup

What's a better way to use up leftover potatoes than making a big pot of potato soup?  It's pure comfort food.  It works as a stand alone meal, or you could serve it as a first course or as part of a soup and sandwich or soup and salad combo.  Top with your favorite mix ins, such as chives, shredded cheese and crumbled bacon.

See my note below the recipe for a simple tip about how to easily add festive color to your soup.  Enjoy!
 
Potato Soup
Makes 8-10 servings.

Ingredients:
64oz potatoes, chopped into cubes
18g no-sodium chicken bouillon
12oz sour cream
1 tbsp tex-joy
8oz chopped onions
3c (24oz) water
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 caps of liquid smoke
1 tbsp of shredded cheddar cheese (per serving)

Method:
In a large pot, boil cubed potatoes until tender. 
Saute chopped onions in a separate pan.
Drain potatoes.
Add all other ingredients to the potatoes. 
Mix with an immersion blender.





mixed with carrots

mixed with peas
Note: For a little extra fun, you can add some color to your soup by mixing in a little of one of your favorite veggies.  For example, I mixed in some peas to make the soup green, which would be perfect for Saint Patrick's Day, and to make the soup a pretty peachy color, I mixed in some pureed carrots.  Just add however much you want to make the soup the color you want.   My grandmother shared this easy trick with me, and it works for mashed potatoes too!

Happy eating!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Feast

Last week, my husband and I had a much needed date night.  As new parents, we definitely appreciate our time together and try to maximize it, but we also try not to splurge too much (diapers add up!).  Well, this date night was one of the best.  We got a good deal on tickets to see Wicked at the Pantages theater in Hollywood.  Wicked was the first musical my husband ever saw and the first musical we saw together; it's definitely one of our favorites.  We thought about eating dinner at Cleo, but we knew we'd easily spend over $100 just on dinner, and that was more of a splurge than we were willing to make.  So, I did a little research (thank you, Yelp) and saw Feast.  Apparently, it used to be called Chicken Dijon.  I remember seeing Chicken Dijon before when seeing a play at the Pantages, but it never occurred to me to eat there.  It looked like fast food, like El Polo Loco or something, and I wanted to eat somewhere nicer (like Wood and Vine, which is right next door).  However, after I looked at the menu and the reviews on Yelp, Feast had zero strikes against it.  What I gathered was that it was a Greek restaurant, the style was what I think is called "fast casual" (where you order at the counter, get a number, choose a table, and they bring the food to your table for you), and the prices were around $10 per meal.  My husband in particular loves Greek food, so I definitely thought Feast was worth trying.

We parked, picked up our tickets at will call, and walked across the street to Feast.  It was a beautiful night, perfect California winter weather (meaning, you might need a sweater).  Most of the tables at Feast were occupied, but there were a few empty ones.  There wasn't a line to order, so we looked over the menu and let the people who came in behind us order first.  We wanted to try a variety of things, and we always like to share, so in the end, we ordered the Gyro Fries, which are described on the menu as a "large order of fries tossed in olive oil, parsley, garlic and topped with feta cheese, pepperoncini, red onions, with chopped gyro meat on top. Substitute chicken upon request."  We also ordered the 1/4 Chicken and Gyro Combo, which is described on the menu as "White or Dark meat Rotisserie bone-in chicken & slices of gyro meat. Includes 2 sides."  We went with white meat, and for the sides, my husband chose Stuffed Grape Leaves and Falafel.  The grand total inlcuding tax and tip was less than $30.  Score!


We chose to sit at a bar height table right in the window, which probably meant that everyone walking by was watching us, but it also meant that we got to watch everyone who was walking by, and we could see the Pantages from our table.

I held the table while my husband got us water from the self-serve soda area.  Napkins and silverware were already on the table.


It didn't take very long for our food to arrive.  Maybe 10 minutes or so.  I wasn't really paying attention, but I think we arrived around 6:45pm, and I think we already had our food at 7pm.  The two huge plates of food barely fit on our table.  The waitress listed off the sauces they have available, and we said we wanted to try them all, so she brought a bottle of each over to our table.  Well, except for the BBQ sauce which wasn't available at the time, so we tried that later.

So, what did we think?

Yum!

The fries were amazing, but, I mean, it's hard to mess up fries, right?  They were evil.  (Guess that goes well when you're about to see Wicket, haha.)  But, seriously, the fries were amazing.  The combination of everything on them was just incredible.  If I'm going to splurge on the fat and calories I'm sure are in all fries, these are definitely worth the splurge!


The combo plate was perfect for trying everything.  I really don't know which meat I liked better.  The chicken was tender, juicy, flavorful, and just perfect.  No complaints.  We picked the bones clean.  The gyro meat was very flavorful, the perfect texture, and addictive.  If I had to choose only one meat, I'd choose the gyro just because you can't get that everywhere and chicken is pretty common at restaurants, but since the combo plate is available, who needs to choose?

I wasn't a huge fan of the sides, but they were my husband's choice.  He used to be in the Air Force, and when he was stationed in Turkey, he ate stuffed grape leaves that tasted just like these.  It was kind of like a mouth full of lemony rice, and I'm not a huge rice person.  I let my husband eat them because he loved them.  The falafel was good for falafel.  I'm not a huge fan of falafel in general, but if you are, you'll love it at Feast.  It wasn't greasy, which was nice.

As far as sauces, our favorites were the Dijon Mustard and the BBQ.  We ate them with the chicken and the fries.

The meal also comes with your choice of pita bread or another kind of bread, but I can't remember what the other bread was called.  We asked to have half and half so we could try both.  I liked the pita bread better, and next time I'd just get that.

We were stuffed, but it was impossible not to finish all of the food.  It was just so good!  Next time we should order less food.  Actually next time (probably when we see Newsies at the Pantages this Spring), I'll probably get the combo plate and my husband might get the gyro and rice plate because after seeing that order at another table, he really wants to try the rice.

That's another thing that's great about Feast; it's good for a group.  They have meals that are meant to be shared, like the Family Combo which is described on the menu as "1 whole chicken and 1 plate of sliced gyro meat. Includes a choice of 4 sides. Perfect for 4-6 people."  You could totally order that, but the normal meals are plenty big for 2 people to share if you're not super hungry or if you want to save room for dessert after the show.

Thanks, Feast, for a great pre-show meal!  It certainly was a delicious Feast!