Sunday, October 5, 2014

Spinach Salad with Pears

I love making fabulous, good-for-you foods.  I also love being able to cook for family.  So, when I get to create amazing foods to share with family, I always feel so warm and happy.  This weekend Scott's family was up for Forest Festival.  They arrived Friday evening, and because I had the day off, I was blessed with time to create an awesome dinner and delicious dessert for Friday night.  Dinner was homemade pizzas using my 100% Whole Wheat Pizza Crust recipe, this Spinach Salad with Pears and chocolate bread pudding for dessert.  We had 4 different pizzas: a plain cheese pizza (for my 4 year old niece), a tofu-mushroom-ricotta pizza, a roasted broccoli and red onion pizza and a butternut squash-parsnip-leek-feta pizza.  I wanted a simple salad that could stand out next to these pizzas.  We were given pears from a friend down the road who has a beautiful little pear tree that's really producing right now.  So I thought a salad featuring these local pears would be awesome.  I found several different recipes online and pulled ideas from the all.  Here is what I came up with:

1/4 cup olive oil
4 Tablespoons gold balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon brown mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1 to 2 Tablespoons agave

Put ingredients in a mason jar.  Shake well.  If dressing tastes oily, add more water.  If you want it more tart, add more vinegar.  If you want it more sweet, add more agave.  It's a very flexible dressing recipe and can be made a day ahead of time.

12 ounce bag of baby spinach (you can also use a mix of baby spinach and baby kale)
1 thinly sliced red onion
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup pecans
3 firm, but ripe pears

Mix all ingredients in large salad bowl.  If making ahead, leave out pecans and pear until right before serving.  I prefer to serve this salad with dressing on the side so everything stays fresh and crisp.

Healthy Pumpkin Oat Muffins

Well, it's officially fall in Appalachia.  Up here that means gorgeously colored trees, Forest Festival and very unpredictable weather.  Yesterday in fact was Forest Festival Saturday and the weather was quite bizarre.  It was cold and windy and alternated between periods of beautiful blue sky with bright sun and miserable raininess.  At one point during the big parade, it sleeted!  But having family with us, enjoying the festival, made it a beautiful day, despite the crazy weather.

I love being able to cook for family.  I don't get to do it very often, so when I do, I try to go all out.  I was lucky to have a day off to prepare a wonderful dinner with fabulous dessert for when they arrived Friday night and make easy, grab-and-go breakfast items for us to munch on as we headed out early for all the festivities on Saturday.  Since most people associate fall with all things pumpkin spice, I wanted to make pumpkin muffins.  Hi, I'm Hilary and I am also a pumpkin spice addict.

I found this recipe on Taste of Home and modified it to make it healthier.  Just in general, the recipes from Taste of Home are fabulous and so was this one!  Scott declared it the best thing I've ever baked (which says a lot, because I am not a baker).  In fact, they were so good, that it was after we had eaten literally the last muffin, I thought about blogging the recipe and realized I hadn't taken a picture.  Oh well...

Muffin Mix:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup maple syrup or brown sugar
1/4 cup Splenda or Stevia
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 heaping teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 flax egg (1 tablespoon flax meal mixed with 3 tablespoons water)
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup vanilla almond milk
1/4 cup applesauce
1 cup oats (I used quick oats, but you could use old fashioned ones)

Crumb Topping:
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 Tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the first 7 ingredients.  In a smaller mixing bowl, combine the wet ingredients.  Then, mix the wet into the dry until all is combined.  Then, add in the oats (adding them in last keeps them from getting soggy and lets them keep some of their texture).  Fill greased muffin cups 2/3 full with batter.  In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour and pumpkin pie spice and then cut in the butter until crumbly.  Sprinkle 1 rounded teaspoon full of the crumb topping on each muffin.  Then, bake for 15-20 minutes.

Makes 12 muffins.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Healthy Zucchini Muffins

I recently read a memoir about life in a rural small town in Wisconsin.  In the book, the author recounted how crime is very low in his little village and the only time that people need to lock their car doors is during zucchini season, otherwise they may return to find several large squash sitting on their seats.  Zucchini is one of those plants that is such a prolific producer that every gardener grows them as an insurance policy.  Even if your tomatoes failed this year, you got plenty of squash!  We chose not to grow zucchini this year because Scott is not a big fan of them.  But as gardening tends to go, I swapped some hot peppers for a large zucchini from a friend's garden.  I hunted online for a healthy zucchini bread/muffin recipe, found this one, modified it and baked these AMAZING muffins.  It's an easy recipe and you probably have zucchini hanging around, so take it for a spin!

1 2/3 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup stevia (you can use Splenda or sugar)
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups shredded zucchini
3/4 cups vanilla almond milk (you can use any kind of milk)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons maple syrup (can use honey or agave)
1 egg 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix in rest of ingredients and pour batter into muffin tins.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Makes 12 muffins. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Quinoa Butternut Squash Salad

1 butternut squash, peeled and diced
1 red onion, peeled and diced
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 cup quinoa
2 cups vegetable broth (or water)
2 cups chopped spinach
2/3 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup pecans

1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tablespoon honey
salt and pepper to taste

Put squash and onion in a large mixing bowl.  Toss with oil and season with salt and pepper.  Place on a large baking sheet and roast for 20 to 30 minutes at 400 degrees.

Meanwhile, combine quinoa and vegetable broth in sauce pan.  Bring to a boil and then lower heat to simmer.  Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Combine cooled squash, onion and quinoa.  Combine in large bowl with spinach, cranberries and pecans.

In a mason jar, combine dressing ingredients and shake.  Pour on salad and mix well a few hours before serving.  (This is a salad best served at room temperature in my humble opinion.)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Tomato Basil Soup

If you've had the Tomato Basil Soup that Bob Evans offers, this is a very-close vegetarian version (I'm pretty sure they put chicken broth in theirs).  It's so yummy and easy to fix for a quick weeknight meal.  I "stole" and modified a copycat recipe of the Bob Evans Tomato Basil Soup from here.  Here's my Tomato Basil Soup recipe:

1 onion, diced
1/2 stick butter or margarine
1/3 cup flour
2 Tablespoons Italian seasoning
1 can (or 2 cups) vegetable broth
1 small can tomato paste
2 large cans crushed tomatoes
1 teaspooon sugar (optional-cuts down the acidity a bit)
croutons (garnish)
shredded Italian cheese (garnish)

In Dutch-oven, cook onion in butter over medium heat until onion is tender.  Then, add flour and stir for about a minute.  Add in rest ingredients, stir well and let lower heat.  Allow to simmer for 30 minutes.  Serve with garnish of croutons and shredded cheese.  Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Cooking with Dried Beans

About a year ago, I made the switch to using dried beans instead of canned.  I made this change because dried beans are a bit cheaper and because BPA is used to line cans.  I always thought that using dried beans would mean more work and longer cooking times.  However, I found out (thanks to the wonders of the Internet) that you can use your crockpot to make beans and then freeze them!  Talk about easy!  So here's what I do:

1.  Grab a bag of dried beans
2.  Pour the beans into the crockpot.
3.  Pour water into the crockpot until there is about 2 to 3 inches of water over the beans.
4.  Cook on high for 6 hours.
5.  Drain and rinse beans.
6.  Put beans in freezer container and freeze.

Now whenever you need beans for a recipe, just take the beans out of the freezer and thaw in the microwave.  You an take out however much you need that day and then re-freeze the rest.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Chickpea Quinoa Soup

This soup is reminiscent of that good old chicken noodle (or Rice) soup we all grew up on.  We all had it for lunch on a snow day or our moms fixed it for us when we were feeling sick.  Before I became a vegetarian, I made chicken noodle soup all the time.  Since then, I have used and modified this recipe.  Currently it is sitting in my crockpot cooking up for Soup Sunday!  But the cool thing about this recipe is its versatility.  You can make it on the stovetop.  You can replace the quinoa for some sort of noodles.  You can use whatever veggies you have on hand.  It still turns out delicious.  Here's my Chickpea Quinoa Recipe:

1 onion, diced
1 Tablespoon powdered vegetable broth
4 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
2 carrots, sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 cup quinoa
2 cups chickpeas

If you have time, saute up the onion in a skillet.  If not, oh well!  No biggie :)  Just throw everything in the crockpot and stir.  Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 6 hours.  Makes 4 to 6 servings.