Monday, March 26, 2012

Cowboy Caviar

Spring is here!

Botanica did me right with their tulips last fall, these have been amazing! Olympic Flame tulips came just in time!

But you're here for food, right? 

Spring means more time outside, the beginning of BBQs, campfires, and late evenings on the patio. Cowboy Caviar is my favorite dish to bring to any get-together. The texture has a little something for everyone -- sweet, crunchy corn and onion offset the creamy avocado and red and black beans. Salty, spicy, sweet, its all here.

Cowboy Caviar:

2 10 ounce cans Rotel (diced tomatoes with chiles, mild or medium)
2 cups (or 2 cans) black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups (or 2 cans) red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
16 ounces frozen white and gold corn, defrosted
2-3 avocados
1 medium yellow onion
1 bunch cilantro
2 limes
1 lemon
cayenne pepper

Pour Rotel into a fine mesh sieve over a bowl, salt generously and set aside to drain. 

Add beans and corn to a large bowl. Dice avocados and onion and add to bowl. Chop cilantro and juice the limes and lemon and add to bowl. When the Rotel is well-drained, add to bowl. 

Sprinkle with cayenne pepper and toss to combine. 
Get your hands in there, this is Cowbow caviar, after all. 

Season to taste. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Serve cold with fresh baked tortilla chips. 

This recipe is really just a guide, the ratio of ingredients is not vital. Use ingredients you love. 

Want to bake your own tortilla chips? 
Grab a package of small corn tortillas. 
Use a pizza cutter to slice these bad boys into chips. 
Spread out in an even layer on a baking sheet. Give them a quick mist of canola oil and a sprinkle of salt. 

Bake at 425 degrees 8-11 minutes until they begin to brown. Serve them warm with Cowboy Caviar. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Three-Grain Waffles

A smirk, because he ate almost all of the raspberries.
For Christmas this year, my in-laws got me a waffle maker.

I jumped up and down on the couch.

And squealed.

I can't begin to tell you how excited I was.

We've had waffles for breakfast every Sunday morning since.

I've used a handful of different recipes and finally smushed them all together to come up with a healthy and crispy waffle. For you!

And for my nephews, because they love food waffles. 

These waffles are still a little calorie-dense, so don't go bananas. Instead of refined flours and mounts of butter, these are packed with three different grains and milk. The corn meal adds to the crispy texture so we don't have to rely on butter for the same result.

They'll definitely keep you full all morning so you won't bother your pew neighbors with a growling tummy.

The hubby & I like to split our waffles when they come out so we can both enjoy them hot.

Shake, shake shake!
I like to quadruple the dry ingredients and store the mix in an air-tight container. It makes the process even easier and leaves you with more time to enjoy your coffee. Just scoop out two scant cups of the mix and add the wet ingredients.

You might even be able to get your super cute nephew to help with the mixing! 

He would have done backflips for a waffle. 

A few tips before you get going:

  • Plug in your waffle maker early while you make coffee and whip up the batter. A hot-hot-hot waffle maker will give you a crispier waffle.
  • Allow the batter to rest for a few minutes to activate the baking powder and soda. This gives the waffle a light, fluffy texture.
  • Swap out the cinnamon for any other flavor -- use vanilla, nutmeg, lemon or orange juice, or add frozen blueberries or chocolate chips.
  • Even if your waffle maker says it is non-stick, it helps to use a little non-stick spray. That will keep you from scratching your waffle maker with a fork while prying out your waffles.
  • Ease up on the whopping syrup calories by swapping it for a quick berry syrup you can make while your waffles are cooking.
  • Your waffle maker is probably different from mine, so have a peek at the manual to see what works best.

Three-Grain Waffles
Makes about 4 8-inch round waffles

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup corn meal
1/2 cup oatmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs
1 cup milk, I use skim milk
1 cup buttermilk (or additional milk)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted and cooled

Grind the oatmeal in a coffee grinder or food processor for a few seconds. In a medium bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients and set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients, breaking up the eggs. Add the wet ingredients into the dry, mixing until just combined. 
Let the batter rest for about 5 minutes, then add 1/4 of the batter into your waffle maker, about 3/4 - 1 cup. Allow the waffle to cook according to the directions from your waffle maker.
Enjoy your waffles hot with warm maple syrup. Want to add some fruit to your breakfast? 
Toss a handful of berries and a drizzle of honey or maple syrup into a microwave-safe container. Microwave the berries 30 seconds at a time until the berries have burst and turned into a delicious syrup, 3-4 times. Pour over your waffles and enjoy!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Happy Pi Day!

Happy Pi Day!
March 14th

The most wonderful day of the high school calculus student's year. Oh, Mr. Schmidt, I miss basketball analogies and bears who leave tracks in the snow. Lots of great memories in high school calculus -- I certainly don't miss the homework, but...

I can still celebrate Pi Day!

Here are some things you can to do enhance your Pi Day experience:

1. Eat a Pi pie. Like these here.

2. Make Pi Cookies. I made some for our youth group tonight (sharing the nerdiness!) My cookies are far from perfection, but I had so much fun working on them.
Please excuse the iPhone picture. I finished the rest of the cookies late last night.

Bridget at Bake at 350 makes tons of amazing cookies, but I especially loved her Pi Day cookies.

3. Get yourself to a Villiage Inn! They're having a "pie rush" today, get some free pie!

4. If you can't get to a VI for a slice of pie, make your own in a pi-plate.

5. Get out your pi t-shirt, pi mug, pi ice-cube tray, and read about pi here, here, and here.

6. Watch the movie Pi.

7. Sing a Pi Day Rap with your friends. Or this song.

8. Laugh at the number e. Pi may be irrational, but it still way more fun than e.

9. Calculate the circumference of everything.

10. Share your nerdiness with everyone around you.

How do you like to celebrate Pi Day?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Roasted Broccoli-Cheese Soup

Kansas weather has been normal this March, which is to say unpredictable. This time of year I practically ignore the forecast and plan for everything with flip flops and ice-scrapers. Its easier to expect the weather to be crazy than it is to get your hopes up for one last snow or a jump straight into spring.

The weather can really affect my food mood and its always great to have a few staples in your arsenal when things outside make you run for the cat's favorite blanket for a furry heater snuggle. Or the porch to watch the lightening. Thundersnow, you know, normal Kansas Spring weather.

This is a new addition to our arsenal. After one bite, the hubby said it was a keeper.

For a better melt, get the cheese out when you begin cooking to allow it to come to room temperature. The red pepper flakes are optional, but give an extra layer of flavor when roasted with the broccoli and onion. I made the soup on Saturday and we had it for lunch on Sunday.

This is what the soup looked like on Sunday via iPhone. Whole garlic cloves toasted with the bread. Oh my.
Roasted Broccoli-Cheese Soup
Serves 2-3

1 1/2 - 2 large florets fresh broccoli
1 yellow onion
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
4-5 garlic cloves
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 ounces fat-free cream cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Heat your oven to 425 degrees. Rinse and chop the broccoli into bite-sized pieces and dice the onion. Toss the broccoli and onion with the olive oil and spread out on a large baking sheet. Sprinkle with red pepper and roast in the oven until the tips of the florets begin to brown.

Just before the veggies are done, begin to heat a stock pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add veggies directly to the hot pot. Cook for a few minutes, using the wooden spoon to break up the florets. Use a microplane to grate the garlic into the pot and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Add about 1/2 cup of the stock and scrape up any brown bits that have accumulated at the bottom of your pot.

Add the cream cheese, breaking it up with your wooden spoon. Add another 1/2 cup of the stock and the remaining cheeses, stirring to melt and combine. Pour in as much of the remaining stock as needed to reach your desired soup consistency. Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary. Serve immediately.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Chewy Oatmeal Cookies

Have you ever fought a serious cookie craving?

Shyea. I know. What a ridiculous question.

We can't indulge all the time or else we'd break the calorie bank.

Here's a cookie you don't have to feel bad about. They are packed with whole wheat, oats, flax seed and wheat germ.

Yes, cookies can have whole wheat flour. 

And other good-for-you ingredients.

And yes, they still taste good.

Chewy Oatmeal Cookies
Makes 18 cookies

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup quick oats, divided
1 tablespoon flax seed
1 tablespoon wheat germ
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 egg

Process 1/2 cup quick oats and flax seed in a coffee grinder or spice mill until finely ground.  Whisk all dry ingredients together and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the egg and honey and blend until well combined. Add dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Use a one-ounce scoop to form the cookies, placing 3-4 inches apart so the cookies have room to spread. Bake at 350 degrees 9-11 minutes until browned.

Allow the cookies to set up on the cookie sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a rack to cool.
Grab one or two for a sweet post-workout snack! Finally, a cookie you don't have to hide from yourself.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Shrimp Etouffee

I have secretly loved all things New Orleans since a high school band trip to the Sugar Bowl. Daydream with me -- Jackson Square, Cafe du Monde with cafe au laits and fresh, hot beignets, a ride down the river on the Natchez. Historical tours and street performers, our own performance and college bands, I loved every minute of it. I ate worked my way through college in a Cajun restaurant, living on crawfish, dirty rice, and blackened everything.

It seems ridiculous that until this week, I'd never really made any Cajun food at home. Apparently my brain has been shut off for the last 10 years. I don't have to wait any longer and neither do you! My dad doesn't have to wait, either. I sent him leftovers and he thanked my hubby for sharing. A second batch was quickly on its way.

Shrimp Etouffee
Serves 4

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
1 medium onion
1 green bell pepper
4-5 celery stalks
1+ tablespoon Creole seasoning
2 cups beef or shrimp stock (Check this out for more information on making a stock from the shrimp peels. I usually use beef stock for both color and because this shrimp I regularly buy are already peeled.)
1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

Heat a dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pan over medium-low. Add oil and flour, stirring to make a roux. Continue to cook, stirring to prevent burning, until the roux is a dark brown, about 20-25 minutes.

Your roux will slowly go from this
To this, in all of its delicious & nutty flavor glory. I love watching the color change. I also love watching KU (or anyone!) beat Mizzou, which is what I did here.
While your roux is doing its thing, dice the onion, green pepper and celery. When the roux is dark and smells like nutty heaven, add in the vegetables and Creole seasoning, stirring to combine.
Don't panic, this doesn't look like etouffee at all. Bear with me, we're almost there.

Cook the veggies 4-5 minutes, until they are fragrant. Slowly add in the stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring to develop the sauce.
Bring sauce back up to a boil and add the shrimp, cooking until they are just pink and tightly curled.
Remove from heat and serve over rice.
Spicy deliciousness!

If you want to make your own Creole seasoning, its really simple and you probably have all of the ingredients on hand. Ease up on the Cayenne if this is too spicy for your taste.

Creole Seasoning:
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon ground Cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

Mix all ingredients until you have a uniform color. If you would like a finer mix, run the spices through a spice mill or coffee grinder. Double or triple the batch to keep some on hand.