Friday, August 28, 2009

Secret Ingredient Chocolate Cake (Very sneaky!)

Lately, I've been in the habit of "lacing" my desserts with a secret, nutritious, ingredient. This way, I know that my husband will actually eat certain foods that he would have previously scoffed at! I've done spinach laced brownies, black bean flourless brownies, and now chocolate cake with (drum roll, please) BEETS! I don't even like beets, so I knew this would be good for me too. When I asked my husband if he could guess the secret ingredient this time, he said, "did you put black beans in this one too?!" When I told him it was beets, he was, once again, totally surprised.

This is a great way to infuse a minimally nutritious dessert with a healthy ingredient. Maybe now we won't feel so guilty about eating an extra slice! The beets aren't noticeable flavor wise, but they are noticeable in terms of texture, because they bring an incredible amount of moisture, without it being too heavy or too rich. I loved it. If I made it again, I would double the recipe, because this cake did look a little on the small side. Now you can have your cake, and eat your beets too.


Ingredients (makes two, one inch layers):
-1 cup pureed beets
-1 cup all purpose flour
-1/2 cup cocoa
-1/2 tsp salt
-2/3 cup canola oil
-3/4 cup sugar
-1 egg
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1/2 cup buttermilk
-1 tsp baking soda mixed with 1 tsp white vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease 2 8-inch cake pans

2. Mix together the flour, cocoa, and salt; set in a separate bowl.

3. In a larger bowl with an electric mixer, combine oil and sugar until smooth. Add in egg, vanilla, and beet puree. Mix until creamy. (see picture below...lovely color!)

4. Alternately add in buttermilk and dry ingredients, and mix just until incorporated. Mix in soda/vinegar mix.

5. Pour batter into cake pans, and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.

*I topped the cake with a cream cheese icing (1/2 cup butter, 8 oz cream cheese, 1 tsp vanilla, and 3 cups confectioners sugar), and ooooh baby what a good combination!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cinnamon Granola Muffins

Once again, this recipe came out of a need to use up an excess ingredient: granola! My husband eats granola most days, but I had bought a big box of cinnamon raisin granola that was apparently, "like chewing on sandpaper". So, I wanted to find an alternative way to eat it, since he obviously wasn't going to like per usual.

You can find the basic recipe that I used for these muffins at: I also added 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, and used the cinammon granola that my husband refused to eat.

These turned out great, and looked nice with the oat topping. I liked them because it's not your typical overly-sugared cupcake-like muffin which leaves you feeling more hungry than when you started. (*sigh*...the evils of simple sugars). These are great for breakfast or a mid-morning snack that go great with a shmear of peanut butter or almond butter.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Couscous and Spinach Stuffed Chicken

Usually when I think of a "stuffed" meat, I don't find it very appetizing. I think that's because it's usually a fatty, greasy type of stuffing or food overall. This, on the other hand, is light and fresh. My husband and I (who are usually able to eat a lot...) couldn't even finish a portion, because it is a very large meal. I would recommend cutting the portions in half, which would make it just enough.
However, in regards to nutrition, this is a fairly well rounded and light meal, depending on how much oil you use in cooking your chicken (I used only 1 tbsp) and how much extra couscous you eat. If you eat only the amount of couscous stuffed in the chicken, with a veggie on the side, it would have very low fat, lots of lean protein, and a good serving of vegetables.


Ingredients (Serves 4):
4 boneless chicken breasts (mine were about 6 oz each)
10 ounces couscous
1 tomato, diced
2 cups water
2 tbsp olive oil
2 teaspoons garlic salt
1 tsp pepper
2 lemons
1 cup fresh spinach
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp sea salt
1 ounce all purpose flour

1. Boil 2 cups of water with 1 tbsp olive oil. Pour in couscous, remove from heat, and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Whisk with fork, add in diced tomato, garlic salt, and pepper. Cut 1 lemon in half, and squeeze 1/2 of lemon into couscous. Set aside.

2. For the chicken, with a paring knife, cut a two inch slit in the thick side of the breast and pivot the knife throughout the middle of the chicken, creating a pocket. Stuff 1/4 cup of couscous and 1/4 cup of spinach in each chicken breast. Sprinkle 1 tbsp of flour on each breast, and sprinkle with sea salt.

3. Cut the other lemon into horizontal slices. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil on high and brown garlic. Place the lemon slices in the pan. With the second half of the first lemon, squeeze juice into the oil and garlic mixture. Place chicken in the pan, turn to medium and cook each side, covered, for 7 minutes. Uncover, turn stove on high, and cook for an additional minute on each side, to add a crisp texture to the outside.

4. Place one slice of lemon on each breast of chicken and serve with leftover couscous and a vegetable or your choice of side.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Fruit Gallete

Ok, let's be honest. This (somehow) ended up looking very pretty, and tasted great, but making it was a disaster! Exploding flour, pastry shell engineering problems, and more dough sticking to my rolling pin than sticking to itself. Oi! I think I need to go through the process a dozen more times before I feel confident in my Gallete skills, but you know what, they turned out great. Maybe I was having an off day?

All that to say, if mine turned out well, you can do it too. This would make a really great dessert for a small party, because each person could get one, and it would make a really personal, sweet presentation. Although I didn't have any in the freezer, ice cream is always a good side item for things like this. : )

I used nectarines and blackberries, but you can use basically any fruit that you would like. Just make sure that if it needs to be sliced, slice it thin thin thin. My suggestion? Buy whichever fruit is on sale at the grocery store, because that will be (most likely) the fruit that is in season. Therefore, you know it's fresh and you'll be able to celebrate the time of year.


Ingredients (makes 8 5-inch diameter galletes):
2 cups all purpose flour
2 sticks (1 cup) butter
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
Your choice of fruit

1. Cut butter into tablespoon sized portions. Set in freezer for 10 minutes.

2. Dissolve salt into water, and set in freezer as well.

3. On a clean, open area, pour out the flour and spread out into an even layer, about 1/4 inch thick.

4. Take the butter out of the freezer and place on top of the flour, spread out evenly. Sprinkle each pat of butter with flour, to avoid sticking to the rolling pin.

5. Roll over the butter to flatten and press into the flour.

6. As the flour and butter begin to widen, scrape the sides into the center. Continue rolling and scraping, outside to inside, several times until the flour begins to hold together.

7. Making a well in the center, pour the salt water into the middle. Take the outside portions of the dough and fold it into the water. Continue in this manner, until the dough can hold together.

8. Roll the dough out, bring back together into a ball, and roll out once more. Place on a cookie sheet and cover with plastic. Chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes.

9. While the dough is chilling, cut your fruit. Sprinkle with 1-2 tablespoons of sugar, depending on the sweetness of the fruit. (For example, a ripened peach will need less sugar than blueberries).

10. Take the dough from the refrigerator, and divide into 8 parts. Roll each into a ball, pat with flour, and roll out into a circle.

11. Place your fruit in the middle, leaving 1/2 to 1 inch of dough on the perimeter. Fold outside edges over the fruit and pinch together.

12. Sprinkle crust with sugar, and bake for 45 minutes or until the crust browns and the juice from the fruit bubbles.

Tomato and Mushroom Stuffed Pastry

Only 5 ingredients. Only a few steps. Lovely result. (i.e. good "weeknight meal" idea when you're pressed for time). This recipe came out of a need to use up some mushrooms and tomatoes, so I decided to get crafty! I've never used puffed pastry before, and I don't honesty think it "puffed" as much as I would have liked, but it was still yummmmy! It's a very versatile ingredient, and I'm looking forward to experimenting with more of this puffy stuff.

Anyway, let's get to it. I would use this food as an appetizer at a dinner party, or just a nice finger food. Today, I paired it with a chicken and broccoli soup made from some leftover shredded chicken from an earlier meal. Basically this whole meal was made out of a need to get rid of some excess ingredients in my fridge!

Be sure to dry out your tomatoes and your mushrooms, otherwise it won't hold together very well.


1 sheet of puffed pastry, thaw for 30-45 minutes
1 large tomato, cut very thin
1/2 pound mushrooms (I used button)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 oz cream cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and make sure your pastry has had time to thaw.

2. Slice your mushrooms very thin, and saute slightly (just until it softens) with the 1 tbsp of olive oil. Remove from pan, and pat dry.

3. Slice tomatoes horizontally, very thin, and pat dry as well. Season with salt and pepper.

4. On a floured surface, lay out the pastry and roll slightly. Smooth out any creases, and pull together any breaks.

5. Spread a thin layer of cream cheese over the entire surface of the pastry. Layer the tomatoes, and then the mushrooms. (See picture).

6. Fold one half of pastry over the other, and pinch edges together. Cut into 1 inch strips.

7. Bake for 10 minutes, or until pastry puffs and browns.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Citrus Skirt Steak

I don't really have too much to say about this dish other than a long, drawn out alliteration: sweet, salty, savory, summery skirt steak. There it is. When you take a bite of the steak with the peppers, dipped in the sauce, it's a fireworks display of flavors all at once. I love being able to taste the individual ingredients that go into a dish, instead of it turning into one big sloppy flavor mess!

Now, take note that this is no Rachel Ray 30 minute meal (thank goodness.) Be sure to allow yourself enough time to let everything sit and marinate in order to obtain the highest degree of flavor. I've decided to make a time-line to help you out with how you can plan this meal:
-8 hours before serving (or the night before): begin marinating steak. Be sure to turn it at least once so that both sides are well coated.
-1 hour before serving: make dipping sauce.
-40 minutes before serving: take the steak and marinade out of the refrigerator, and cook the rice.
-30 minutes before serving: chop peppers and pour the marinade into a pan. Heat until boiling and let simmer to use as a baster.
-20 minutes before serving: begin cooking the steak!

It always helps me to plan everything out in regards to timing before the meal is served, especially if there are several different components. You can use the above timeline, or create one for yourself! I feel that I have been a bit wordy in my instructions for cooking below, so please pardon any excessive explanations. Just want to make sure that I am thorough!


Ingredients (serves 4):
-2 pounds skirt steak
-3 oranges
-1 tbsp cracked pepper
-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
-1/2 cup soy sauce
-1 red bell pepper, sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices
-1 tbsp olive oil

1. Squeeze three oranges and put juice into an 11x7 inch pan, or of comparable size. Add pepper, chopped garlic and soy sauce. Lay the steak into the marinade and turn once, so that both sides are coated. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight. Turn at least once during the day, to ensure even flavor.

2. (Following the time-line above) remove the steak from the refrigerator and set out. Preheat oven to 400. (Following time-line) drain the marinade from the marinating pan, and bring to a boil in a sauce pan. This will be used to baste.

3. Heat the olive oil on high. Place peppers into the pan to the side, and then the steak in the middle of the pan for the highest heat. Pan sear the steak for a minute and a half on each side, basting as needed, until the outside has browned. Transfer both the peppers and the steak into a shallow baking dish, and bake at 400 for 6-8 minutes, depending on the thickness of the steak.

4. Let rest for 5-10 minutes. Cut lengthwise, against the grain and serve with rice and dipping sauce (see below).

Ingredients for dipping sauce:
-1 orange
-1 tbsp soy sauce
-1 tbsp olive oil
-1 green onion, chopped

*be sure to make this at least an hour before serving, so that it can reach room temperature.

1. Zest the orange and place the zest in the bottom of a bowl.

2. Supreme the orange and add in chunks from half of the supremed orange on top of the zest. Squeeze the second half of the orange over the chunks.

3. Add in soy sauce, olive oil and green onion. Stir together well and let sit. Serve alongside the steak and rice.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Roasted Rosemary Chicken

Personally, this is one of those recipes that seems to be intimidating (with cooking a whole bird instead of just parts), but it turns out to be very simple, with no hidden tricks along the way. There are about ten thousand different variations (give or take 2 thousand) on how to roast a chicken, with what herbs, glazes, vegetables, etc, etc, and I chose to make this version because I knew both my husband and I would like it. Keep in mind, however, that main concept for a roast chicken is to keep it simple! I used just rosemary for seasoning with red potatoes and onions for the side, and it was wonderful, savory, and rustic. I'm not really a big fan of potatoes in the first place, but these were cooked and seasoned just right, and I made them disappear! The only thing I was disappointed in was that I couldn't find fresh rosemary at the grocery store I bought the rest of the ingredients from. If you have the option, always use fresh herbs, but dried, crushed seasonings work well as alternatives.

The meal as a whole turned out to be very economical as well. I bought a 4.5 pound chicken that went for $5, paired with the always cheap potatoes and onions. The best part was that after eating dinner, there was still about three fourths of the meat left that I was able to shred and refrigerate for sandwiches or salads that will last for the rest of the week. You can also save the drippings for soups, dressing, etc. All in all, it's a family-friendly and budget-friendly classic.

I chose to do my own version of a bruschetta on the side, sinc
e the crusty bread compliments the juicy and tender chicken. I just browned 2 cloves of garlic with olive oil on the stove, diced 2 tomatoes, and let it all simmer with some basil and salt for about 2o minutes. I buttered one side of slices of french bread, broiled it until it browned, and topped it with the tomato mixture. Maybe not the traditional way to make a bruschetta, but it was good nonetheless!

I think this is a great dish for newer cooks like myself, since it is relatively fail-proof and turns out visually appealing and very tasty. : )


4-6 pound chicken (I used Tyson brand all natural)
2 tbsp canola oil
2 yellow onions, sliced horizontally
4 small red potatoes, cut into quarters
1 tbsp crushed rosemary, or fresh sprigs if available
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 450, and set the rack in the bottom 1/3 of the oven

2. Rinse chicken with water, making sure to remove any giblets or innards. Pat dry with a paper towel, inside and out. With your hands, coat chicken with one tbsp of canola oil on the outside. Salt and pepper the inside and outside evenly. Sprinkle outside liberally with rosemary. Truss the chicken.

3. In a roasting pan (I chose not to use a rack), line the bottom of the pan with the sliced onions. Use a brush to coat them lightly with canola oil. (see picture below)

4. Place chicken, breast side up, on top of the onions. (The onions serve as a sort of platform for the chicken and add a good flavor to the drippings as you are basting.) Place potatoes around the chicken, sprinkle with rosemary, salt, and pepper.

5. Put the pan in the oven and cook at 450 for 20 minutes.

6. Remove from oven, lower temperature to 375. Stir potatoes and baste the chicken. Bake at 375 for an additional 40-60 minutes, basting every 20 minutes. You will know that your chicken is cooked when the juice runs clear, not pink. You can either pierce the chicken in the center, or slant it so that the juice runs out of the center to determine the color.

7. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes. Leave excess drippings in the pan. Serve and eat up!

...aaand the final result (please excuse my mismatched tableware!) : )

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Shrimp and Chorizo Fajitas

I came up with this recipe basically by throwing a few veggies and meats together, but it turned out to be a flavorful, filling meal that will appeal to a wide variety of eaters. You can eat the mixture on its own, add some rice on the side, or pick it up with a tortilla (my favorite choice). The chorizo, being so full of spice and flavor, eliminates the need to add any extra seasonings other than a little garlic (because I'll add garlic to anything...) and a dash of salt!

In regards to nutrition, the only cooking fat added into the mix is a heart-friendly olive oil. However, if you are watching your fat and cholesterol intake, I would suggest cutting the shrimp and chorizo portions in half. The chorizo does contain quite a bit of saturated fat, and shrimp has a surprisingly high cholesterol content. If you focus on the veggies with fewer bites of the meats, you'll still feel full with the high volume of vegetables and can avoid a lot of saturated fat. Grocery stores always carry alternatives to the beef and pork sausages, and you might be able to find a spicy turkey or spicy chicken sausage that would substitute well for the chorizo. If you're looking for a lower carb version, just take out the potato from the ingredients. It works to thicken the mixture and add some starchiness, but the recipe would work well without it as well. You can also look for a whole wheat or a spinach-based tortilla, and use brown rice for a well rounded side item.


3 bell peppers: one red, one yellow, one green
2 medium yellow onions
1 medium potato, peeled
1 tomato (I used a medium sized plum tomato)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 lb. chorizo
1 cup shrimp, de-veined and tail removed

1. Chop peppers and thinly slice the onions. Set to the side. Cube potato and tomato, set aside in a separate pile. Cut chorizo into 1/2 inch slices and set aside in another pile.

2. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in pan on medium/high heat and brown garlic.

3. Add in the peppers and the onions. Heat for about 5 minutes, or until onions begin to caramelize (start to become translucent) and peppers are softened.

4. In a separate pan, heat the other tbsp of olive oil on medium heat and cook shrimp until it turns pink. Set aside.

5. Add the potatoes and tomato to the pepper and onion mixture. Cook for another 5 minutes, until the potato begins to soften.

6. Add in chorizo, shrimp, and a dash of salt to veggie mixture, cover and let simmer for 20 minutes on low/medium temperature. Remove cover, stir, and let simmer for another 5 minutes.

7. Remove cover and serve with your choice of sides.

Vegan Sweet Potato Muffins

I had a few sweet potatoes in my pantry needing to be used, and what better way to use them than turn them into a muffin! I had looked through a few sweet potato baking recipes and decided to create a vegan interpretation. Many people associate "vegan" with "healthy". Although vegan recipes can be just as full of sugar and starch as a non-vegan recipe, they are generally the ones with a smaller fat content, considering that many of the fattier ingredients (eggs, butter, whole milk) are replaced. Here, I replaced eggs with applesauce, milk with soy milk, and butter with either a vegan butter or a vegan margarine. This way, you can eliminate the animal created fats in substitute for a more heart healthy fat. If you want to cut down even more on the fat, you can replace half of the oil with another 1/2 cup of applesauce. In terms of watching one's sugar intake, I used a "no sugar added" applesauce. With the brown sugar, Splenda actually makes a sucralose-based brown sugar that you can use to replace the regular brown sugar. Just make sure you use half of the volume when baking.

Although the mixture may seem a little thicker than your usual muffin mixture (at least it seemed so to me), they turn out perfectly moist, with a nice crispy outside. The sweet potato flavor comes out subtly and mixes wonderfully with the brown sugar.


1 3/4 cup bread flour (all purpose flour or whole wheat flour are also good choices)
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup applesauce
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup soy milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 cup brown sugar
2 medium sweet potatoes

1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease 12 muffin tins or line with paper holders

2. Peel and cube sweet potatoes. Boil for 20 minutes, or until soft. Puree in food processor until creamy. Set aside.

3. While the potatoes are boiling, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl.

4. In a separate bowl, mix together apple sauce, oil, milk, vanilla, brown sugar, and sweet potatoes. Mix until all ingredients are well incorporated and smooth.

5. Mix together dry and wet ingredients. Whisk until smooth.

6. Fill muffin tins 2/3 full, and sprinkle with strudel topping (see below).

7. Bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool and enjoy with a big glass of soy milk!

Strudel Topping (optional)

1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 tbsp vegan butter or vegan margarine

1. Mix together sugar and flour.

2. Cut butter or margarine into the mixture in small pieces. Mix until clumpy. Use to sprinkle on top of muffin mix right before baking.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Beer Bread Crust Pizza

Writing this first post, I'm hoping that this isn't just one of my passing whims, but that I'll continue being a blogeteer! This recipe was developed from my grandmother-in-laws famous, delicious, but very simple beer bread recipe. My husband and I decided to turn the muffin-like food into a pizza crust. Since we've started making it, all of our friends know about the famous beer bread pizza. It's a big hit at parties--very filling and customizable!


For the crust:

3 cups self-rising flour

1/3 cup sugar

1 can of room-temperature beer (the darker the better)

2 Tbsp Corn meal to coat the bottom

For the topping:

1 cup marinara or pizza sauce

2 cups shredded mozzarella

Any pizza toppings (peperoni, mushrooms, olives, etc, etc)

1. Preheat oven to 350

2. Mix together flour and sugar in a large bowl. Slowly add in the beer, about 2 ounces at a time. Stir in the beer just until mixed. It should have a slightly sticky consistency, and able to form a ball.

3. Coat either a pizza stone or a cookie sheet with corn meal. Place dough on center of stone or cookie sheet, and pull the dough out on the sides with a fork, until the dough is about 1 inch thick all around (see below)

4. Place dough on a center rack and bake at 350 for 20 minutes, or until slightly browned.

5. Smear on pizza sauce or marinara. Sprinkle on cheese and toppings.

6. Bake for another 20 minutes, or until cheese has melted and begun to brown.