Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Oscar Party Menu

I am not hugely into award shows, but it is so nice to just have an excuse to hang out. Don't get me wrong I love going to the movies and enjoy many of the movies that are Oscar buzz worthy. Unfortunately our friend P lives in Memphis and so this year we ended up hosting the Oscar Party. My husband took a leaf from her book and found the following Oscar Bingo and Ballot sheets from How About Orange. For the menu, I decided to go a healthy route, except for dessert.

Green Goddess Veggie Dip with Crudites
Taken from America's Test Kitchen

Ingredients: 1 C 1 percent low-fat small curd cottage cheese, 1/4 C boiling water (measure after boiling), 1 C low fat sour cream, 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, 1/4 C fresh parsley (I used Italian), 1 Tbsp fresh tarragon leaves, 1 garlic clove minced, salt and pepper, 1/4 C minced fresh chives
Process the cottage cheese and boiling water together (I used my blender for this project, though they suggest a food processor) until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add the sour cream, oil, lemon juice, parsley, tarragon, garlic, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper and continue to process until combined 30 seconds. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the chives. Cover and refrigerate until the flavors have blended, about 1 hour. Season with remaining salt and pepper to taste before serving.
*This was so light, fresh and delicious! I served it with carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, blanched sugar snap peas, and blanched broccoli. It was amazing to me what a difference blanching the aforementioned veggies did for their improved texture, color, and taste. Who knew veggies could be so exciting!
Per 3 Tbsp Serving: Cal 50, Fat 3g, Sat Fat 0g, Chol 5 mg, Carb 1g, Protein 3g, Fiber 0g, Sodium 125 mg

Hummus and Homemade Pita Chips
Taken from America's Test Kitchen 

I bought premade hummus from the grocery store, but was trying to make my own chips to decrease the calories... not sure if I was really that successful, but the chips were good and very crunchy. You simply buy pita pockets/bread use kitchen scissors to cut in half all the way around the circumference so that you have two separate circles, then cut into 6 wedges. I covered my baking sheets with parchment paper to decrease mess. Place pita wedges smooth side down on baking surface, then spray with olive oil spray and sprinkle with 1 tsp salt (I used sea salt). Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes on each side.
Per Serving (6 Chips): Cal 110, Fat 1g, Sat Fat 0g, Chol 0mg, Carb 22g, Protein 4g, Fiber 3g, Sodium 500mg

Popcorn with Olive Oil and Popcorn with Warm Spices
Taken from America's Test Kitchen 

Ingredients: 1 Tbsp water, 1/2 C popcorn kernels, 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tsp salt (I would suggest using table salt, on the batch where I used sea salt there was not enough oil/moisture for it to stick), 1/2 tsp pepper

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add the water and popcorn, cover and cook, shaking frequently, until the first few kernels begin to pop. Continue to cook, shaking vigorously, until the popping has mostly stopped. Pour the popcorn immediately into a large bowl, toss with oil, salt, and pepper.
Same directions as above for Popcorn with Warm Spices, except warm oil, 2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp ground coriander, and 1/2 tsp cumin in a small skillet over medium-low heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. When popcorn is done popping toss together in a large bowl.
Per 2 C Serving: Cal 90, Fat 4.5g, Sat Fat 0.5g, Chol 0 mg, Carb 10g, Protein 1g, Fiber 2g, Sodium 330mg

Nutella Sandwich Cookies
Taken from A Beautiful Mess

Nutella Sandwich Cookies, makes 10-12.
Ingredients: 1/2 C softened butter, 1 C granulated sugar, 1/4 C brown sugar, 1 egg, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 2 C flour (I used half whole wheat and half all purpose), 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt and plenty of Nutella.
Cream together the butter and sugars, stir in egg and vanilla. Now mix in flour, baking powder and salt until just combined. The batter should be crumbly and you will probably need to use your (clean) hands to combine it a bit more to form a dough ball. Cover in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 20 minutes. (I just refrigerated after making dough ahead of time that morning)
Now form into small round disks, about 2-3 inches in diameter and uniformly thick. You want your cookies to all sort of match each other in size because you will be placing one of top of another to form sandwich cookies. Bake at 350 F for 15-18 minutes, allow to cool completely on a cooling rack before adding filling. Once cool, spoon a couple of tablespoons of Nutella on one cookie and place another on top. Devour, and don't apologize.
*So I have to admit that while these cookies were good they would have been significantly better if I had remembered to set the timer... end result was way too crunchy. I was sorely disappointed since I am in complete love with Nutella and was really looking forward to a sinfully delicious treat. Oh well guess I will just have to make them again til I get it right ;)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Chewy Peanut Butter Granola Bars Recipe

My love affair with peanut butter thus far has lasted a life time. It deeply saddens me that (bit melodramatic right) my husband doesn't like it and now my workplace is nut free. Therefore, since I had a morning of nothing but chores to do, I decided to try for the second time to make these delicious slightly healthier granola bars. There are several variations in the America's Test Kitchen Healthy Cookbook, but I will let you look at the cookbook yourself for those expansions. The first time that I attempted this I tried to add chocolate chips (for my nephews), but this completely messed up the composition and it became granola instead of granola bars. Still delicious, but not cohesive. I still attempted to use chocolate chips the second time, but this time waited until everything was mixed and sprinkled them on top. mmmm!
Chewy Peanut Butter Granola Bars
2/3 C unsalted, dry roasted peanuts, chopped coarsely
1/4 C unsalted pumpkin seeds
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 C old-fashioned rolled oats (very important to not replace with quick cooking according to ATK)
1 1/2 C Multigrain Cheerios (I tried the new peanut butter flavored)
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 C water
1 C sugar
1/4 C half and half
1 tsp vanilla extract
*I left out the salt because I had leftover roasted salted pepitas in place of unsalted raw pumpkin seeds

1. Line a 13x9 inch baking pan with an aluminum foil sling and coat lightly with vegetable oil spray. Toast the nuts and seeds in a skillet over medium heat, stirring often, until fragrant and golden brown, 5-7 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
2. Add the butter to the skillet and melt over medium heat. Stir in oats and cook, stirring often, until golden and fragrant, 4-6 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the nuts/seeds, Cheerios, and salt.
3. Pour the water into a clean medium saucepan. Pour sugar into the center of the pan, not allowing the sugar to hit the sides of the pan and gently stir with a spatula to wet it through.
4. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, without stirring (even if you happen to answer the phone in the middle and completely forget that you are not supposed to be stirring!), until the sugar has dissolved completely and the caramel has a faint golden color (300 degrees on a candy thermometer), 4-8 minutes.
5. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring only as needed, until the caramel has a dark amber color (about 350 degrees), 1-3 minutes. Off the heat, whisk in the half and half (the caramel will steam and bubble vigorously) until smooth and just barely bubbling, 30-60 seconds. Whisk in the vanilla and peanut butter.
6. Working quickly, stir the hot caramel into the nut-oat mixture until thoroughly combined. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking pan and pack very firmly into an even layer (I used parchment paper to apply pressure, which you can technically use again for storing). Let cool completely for 30 minutes. remove the granola from the pan using the foil, cut into 16 bars, and serve.
Bars can be stored in an airtight container, between layers of parchment paper to prevent sticking, up to 5 days.
Per Bar: Cal 180, Fat 9g, Sat Fat 2.5g, Chol 5mg, Carb 24g, Protein 4g, Fiber 2g, Sodium 70mg


Monday, February 6, 2012

Superbowl Fun Food Recipes

I love to play sports myself but am not really one to enjoy watching them on TV too much. Live is a different story of course. We had season tickets for my husband's alma mater despite them having a terrible 3 years while he was in law school and it was a blast. However, helping cook food for this superbowl party gives me a good reason to be more excited about it than normal. I contributed the following:

Miniature Soft Pretzels
adapted from Smitten Kitchen who adapted from Martha Stewart
**I followed nearly all of her suggestions and my pretzels came out great. I kind of have a soft spot for pretzels and cheese so I was really excited to make this recipe.

Makes 16 full-sized or 32 miniature

2 C warm water (100°F to 110°F)
1 Tbsp + 2 Tbsp sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
4 C wheat flour + 1 C all purpose flour
1 Tbsp salt
2 tsp canola or other neutral oil
1/4 C baking soda
1 large egg
Coarse or pretzel salt

1. Pour warm water and 1 tablespoon sugar into bowl and stir to combine. Sprinkle with yeast, and let sit 10 minutes; yeast should be foamy.
2. Add 1 cup flour to yeast, and stir until combined. Add salt and 4 cups more flour, and mix until combined, about 30 seconds. Mix until dough pulls away from sides of bowl, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add another 1/2 cup flour, and knead on low 1 minute more. If dough is still wet and sticky, add 1/2 cup more flour (this will depend on weather conditions); knead until combined, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a lightly floured board, and knead about ten times, or until smooth.

3. Pour oil into same large bowl; swirl to coat sides. Transfer dough to bowl, turning dough to completely cover all sides. Cover with a kitchen towel, and leave in a warm spot for 1 hour, or until dough has doubled in size.
4. Heat oven to 450°F. Lightly spray two baking sheets with cooking spray (parchment paper, ungreased, also works). Set aside. Punch down dough to remove bubbles. Transfer to a lightly floured board. Knead once or twice, divide into 16 pieces (about 2 1/2 ounces each) or 32 if making miniature pretzels, and wrap in plastic.
5. Roll one piece of dough at a time into an 18-inch-long strip. [I find the pretzels much easier to roll on an unfloured board, oddly enough, but see what works for you.] Twist into pretzel shape (see Martha Stewart diagram for an easy 1,2,3 method); transfer to prepared baking sheet. Cover with a kitchen towel. Continue to form pretzels; eight will fit on each sheet (you may need a third sheet if making miniatures). Let pretzels rest until they rise slightly, about 15 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, fill large, shallow pot with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil. Add baking soda (and step back, it foams up quickly) and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Reduce to a simmer; transfer three to four pretzels to water. Poach 1 minute on each side. Use slotted spoon to transfer pretzels to baking sheet. Continue until all pretzels are poached.
7. Beat egg with 1 tablespoon water. Brush pretzels with egg glaze. Sprinkle with salt. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on wire rack, or eat warm. Pretzels are best when eaten the same day, but will keep at room temperature, uncovered, for two days. Do not store in covered container or they will become soggy.

Meatball Sliders
adapted from The Neely's

1 lb. ground pork
1 lb Italian pork sausage
1 tsp paprika
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 C panko bread crumbs
1/2 C grated Parmesan
2 large eggs
1/4 C chopped fresh parsley leaves (* I used Italian parsley)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 (20-ounce) can tomato puree
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
Soft rolls, split horizontally (* I used Hawaiin Sweet Rolls)
Fresh basil leaves
Shaved pecorino

1. Combine the ground pork and pork sausage, red pepper flakes, 2 cloves of the chopped garlic, panko, grated cheese, eggs, parsley, kosher salt and black pepper, to taste, in large bowl. Form into 2-inch-meatballs and set aside on a platter.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and cook until brown on all sides. Transfer to plate.
3. Meanwhile, start the sauce. Add the 2 tablespoons of the remaining olive oil to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, and the remaining garlic. Saute until the onion begins to brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Season the onions with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the tomato puree and the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, stir in the meatballs and simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes.
To serve, put a meat ball on the bottom of each roll and drizzle lightly with some sauce. Top with a basil leaf and some shaved pecorino. Cover with the roll tops and transfer to a platter. Serve warm.  

Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chips Cookies
adapted from Picky Palate

So I will admit that I completely cheated on these cookies! I bought store bought cookie dough and mini oreos to make mine. Wrapped the cookie dough around the oreos and baked them at 350 for 10-12 minutes. But, I was pressed on time and consider how viral these have gone thought that I would give them a try. 


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Valentine's cookies recipes

This is a reoccurring theme, but I love to make things for my family. In the birthday care package that I sent them recently I also included valentine cookies. I made two different kinds adpated from Taste of Home.

 Valentine Butter Cookies (yield 18-19 dozen)
2 C butter, softened
2 C sugar
3 eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
3 C whole wheat flour
3 C all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
Red decorator's sugar, optional

1. In a very large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla; mix well. Combine flour and baking powder; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well.
2. Using a cookie press* fitted with the heart disk, press dough 2 in. apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Decorate with sugar if desired. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until set (do not brown). Remove to wire racks to cool completely.

*This was my first time using a cookie press and I have to admit that for me it was not worth the while. Both of the cookies were delicious, but anytime the cookie dough became too sticky the cookie press would act up and create huge cookies that did not at all look like hearts. I would take simple rolling cookies out any day over that mess. Plus for some reason they think that you want 18-19 dozen. I had to keep thinking of more people to send them too!

 Frosted Valentine Cookies (yield 3 1/2 dozen)
2 C butter, softened
1 C confectioner's sugar
2 C whole wheat flour
2 C all purpose flour
2 C quick cooking oats
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 lb semisweet or milk chocolate confectionery coating, melted
Pink confectioner's sugar icing, optional

1. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add flour, oats, extracts, and salt; mix well.
2. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to 1/4-in. thickness. Cut with a floured 3-in. heart shaped cookie cutter
3. Place 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes. While cookies are warm spread melted chocolate on tops. Cool on wire racks. Using a pastry bag, decorate with pink confectioner's sugar icing if desired. (*I skipped this part due to lack of time unfortunately)


Friday, February 3, 2012

diy Adorable Kimono Shoes for babies and toddlers

I am so excited for my friends who are pregnant that I just couldn't wait until things like baby showers or knowing the sex to make a gift, even if small. Code, small=adorable. Personally I am addicted to the TV show How I Met Your Mother and I can't stop thinking about this episode (Season 4, Episode 7) where two of the characters are considering getting pregnant. A neighbor ends up accidentally leaving one of her baby's socks in their apartment and everyone falls to pieces over how cute it is. That is what I have been doing with these tiny shoes. Thanks to the blog Homespun Threads. I had a bit of difficulty following her instructions, of which by the way there are two sets on the internet, but the product is so cute and I am sure I could improve after a few tries! This is my interpretation of her directions, but please follow her directions over mine!

-Print off pattern from attached link to Homespun Threads pdf, which is available in 3 different sizes -1/4 yard of two different kinds of fabric (*I used a creamy wool felting and patterned flannel)
-coordinating thread
-embellishments for the outside if desired
-and of course all of your sewing knick knacks

1. First I cut pattern out of the printed paper and traced it with a disappearing ink marking pen on the interior of the top and the exterior of the bottom.

2. Pin with right sides together interior top to exterior fabric. Sew indicated dotted line at the top of the pattern. Cut exterior fabric to match interior. Press seams apart and trim to decrease bulk. Fold over with right sides out.

3. Place exterior bottom onto interior bottom with bondaweb in between with wrong sides together. Cut out to match pattern completely and press to seal bondaweb according to directions on packaging.

4. Center top on the back of the bottom with exterior sides together pin half of shoe, making sure that you go in opposite directions (pin one shoe to the right and other to the left). Stitch down with approximately a 3/8ths inch seam.

5. Pin down opposite side and stitch according to previous directions. Trim and turn right side out.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

DIY Leather Desk Pad

I was looking for office decor to help my husband set up his new office (entire blog to follow regarding the dramatic change we made there!), when I saw some really neat tutorials on making a DIY desk pad. I mashed two different sites (Doda's Creative Wanderings and Prudent Baby) information and came up with the follow product:

Materials: 2-16x20 artist boards, 19x23 leather fabric, 15x19 green felt, scraps of burlap (cut into 4-2x4 pieces), Bondaweb self-adhesive (package of 5), hot glue gun

1. First I measured and cut all of my fabrics to the aforementioned sizes. Then I used my hot glue gun to glue the two artists boards together.

2. Then I began positioning the bondaweb on both the leather and felt. First I centered the leather over the artist board and began to fold the edges over the back. I ironed the back edges first and followed up with ironing the front. I used hot glue to go over any edge spots that appeared to be loose.

3. Next I attached burlap corners with the hot glue gun, followed up by adhering the felt to the back with the iron.

These are really abbreviated instructions, due to the great instructions you can find on the other two sites I used. Not to mention with the use of coupons, this cost me about $15 dollars to make. Hopefully my husband will think it is a nice gift!