Friday, January 28, 2011

pumpkin thyme risotto

What do you do if you have a leftover miniature pumpkin still sitting in your kitchen?

You make risotto!  I had the most incredible pumpkin thyme risotto while in New Zealand and couldn't wait to try my own variation when I got home.  What incredible luck that I still had a baby pumpkin!  You could also use any type of winter squash (butternut, acorn, etc.) or even pumpkin puree (if you use puree, skip the first step and toss your pumpkin straight in with the rice).

Dice your pumpkin or squash and saute in olive oil for 5-10 minutes or until tender.  Meanwhile, heat an entire box of chicken broth (4 cups) in a saucepan over medium-low heat.

Toss in 1 cup of arborio rice and a teaspoon of thyme and saute for another 3 minutes.

Add 1/2 cup of white wine.  Cook and stir until all of the wine has dissolved.

Begin adding chicken broth, 1/2 cup at a time, making sure that all broth has absorbed in between each addition.  Stir constantly!

Here's a quick check to make sure you are ready to add more chicken broth.  If you run your spoon in a line through the rice, it should leave a clear trail (like picture below).

Once all the chicken broth is gone, or once the rice has reached your desired level of tenderness, toss in a cup of chopped, cooked chicken breast and half a wheel (4 ounces) of Brie.  You could really use any cheese you want, but Brie adds a creaminess that will really spin your must try it.

Stir until all of the cheese has melted and then serve!

Pumpkin Thyme Risotto
1 miniature pumpkin or small winter squash, peeled and diced
1 T. olive oil
1 cup arborio rice
1 t. thyme
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup chopped, cooked chicken breast
4 oz. Brie 

Heat chicken broth in a saucepan over medium-low heat.  In a separate skillet, saute pumpkin in olive oil for 5-10 minutes or until tender.  Add rice and thyme; saute another 3 minutes.  Add wine; cook and stir until all liquid has dissolved.  Add chicken broth, 1/2 cup at a time, letting all liquid absorb before adding additional broth.  Once all broth has been used, or rice has reached desired tenderness, add chicken breast and Brie.  Stir until Brie has melted.  Serves 4.

IBS variation: omit the cheese

Nutrition: 409 calories, 13g fat, 6g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 58mg cholesterol, 759mg sodium, 43g carbs, 2g fiber, 1g sugar, 24g protein, 46% vit. A, 6% vit. C, 9% calcium, 22% iron.

Monday, January 24, 2011

pot o' beans

Today's This Week's Cravings is all about soups!  Now, you know I love soups.  I've posted several recipes on this site already and will be linking many of them up today.  But the soup I'm sharing today is a little different...because it's kind of not a soup.

Or is it? you consider a pot of beans the same thing as a pot of soup?  Verdict is still out for me.  Either way, it's absolutely delicious.

This particular recipe was inspired by a favorite author of mine, Jan Karon.  I get the same rush out of reader her stories of Father Tim and his small town of Mitford as I do from eating a piece of pie.  I can't get enough!  One of the best parts of her novels is that the characters are always eating delicious food, and Jan Karon paints such a vivid picture that you can actually taste it.

In addition to her novels, she also came out with a companion cookbook that's full of recipes for delicious comfort food.  Someday I look forward to owning it.  Until then, I just copy recipes out of my mother-in-law's book.  One of the recipes I copied was for Jan's pot of beans...after a few tweaks and changes of my own, this is the deliciousness that emerged!

Place 1 pound of mixed beans in a stock pot and cover with water.  Bring to a rolling boil, and then turn off the heat, place a lid on it, and let it sit there for one hour.

Next step - drain the beans.

Toss a few tablespoons of butter and a few tablespoons of olive oil in the stockpot.

Then, plop in a nice heaping tablespoon of minced garlic...

...and some slices of onion.  Saute over medium heat for 5-10 minutes, or until onions get soft.

Drop the beans back into the pot and cover everything with water.  Add some spices - rosemary, thyme, bay leaf, paprika, and black pepper.  And, of course, add a bit of pork.  Jan's recipe called for a ham hock, but my grocery store didn't have one.  Instead, I threw in a package of salt pork.

Bring everything to a boil, and then put a lid on it once again.  Lower the heat to about medium low and let it simmer for 2 hours.

After it's done, be sure to remove the salt pork and the bay leaves.

You could eat these beans as a soup, but we particularly love them served over a big slice of cornbread and covered in lots...lots...of Tabasco. :-)

Pot o' Beans
inspired by Jan's Pot of Beans in Jan Karon's Mitford Cookbook

1 pound mixed dried beans, picked over
3 T. butter
2 T. olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 T. minced garlic, heaping
1 T. dried rosemary
1 T. dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1 package salt pork
1 T. paprika
1 t. freshly ground black pepper

Place beans in a large stockpot and cover with water.  Bring to a rolling boil.  Cover the pot, turn off the heat, and let the beans sit for 1 hour.  Drain the beans.  In the same stockpot, heat the butter and oil over medium heat and saute the onions and garlic for 8-10 minutes, or until softened.  Add the beans and enough fresh water to cover.  Add the rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, salt pork, paprika, and pepper.  Cover and simmer for 2 hours, checking the beans often and adding water as necessary.  Remove the salt pork and bay leaves before serving.
I can't wait to see what soup recipes you link as many as you want (just remember to link back to us, pretty please).

Friday, January 21, 2011

chocolate pecan breakfast rolls

Over the holidays, I gained at least five pounds.

These are part of the reason why. :-)

There's nothing special about these breakfast rolls, really.  I had intended on making cinnamon rolls when I noticed that I had leftover chocolate pecan pie filling sitting in my freezer.  Right next to that pie filling, I saw a loaf of frozen bread dough.  And that's when the light switch turned on...

I thawed out the bread dough overnight.  In the morning, I rolled out the dough on a lightly floured surface.

I spread about one cup of the chocolate pecan pie filling evenly over the top of the dough.

Then, I rolled it up!  It was an absolute mess...but aren't most great recipes?

I cut the rolled dough into slices about 1-inch thick and placed them into a sprayed baking pan.

Then, I baked at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until they looked like this:


After baking, they just needed one thing...cream cheese frosting!  I whipped eight ounces of cream cheese until it became nice and smooth, and then I slowly started adding powdered sugar.  I snuck little tastes here and there until the ratio of sugar to cream cheese was just right.  Then, I slathered it all over the hot rolls.

It really was a delightful breakfast and such a nice change of pace from the traditional cinnamon roll.  Have you been inspired to try variations on the cinnamon roll?  I'd love to hear the flavor combos that you all have come up with!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

meat 'n' potatoes skillet meal

If you love meat and potatoes meals, this is for you.

If you love one-pot skillet meals, this is for you.

If you love dinners chock full of fresh veggies, this is for you.

Chances are, this is for you.

We just love this meal.  It's easy and simple to make, requires very little clean-up, and it gets my hubby to eat his veggies!  And, because it uses only fresh ingredients, it's a meal that I don't have to feel guilty about.

First, line the bottom of a skillet with slices of bacon (it's easier if you cut them in half).  Cast iron skillets work great with this recipe.

Place four meat patties on top of the bacon and sprinkle them with salt and pepper or, even better, Cajun seasoning.  You could use hamburger meat, ground turkey, etc...the sky is the limit!

Slice up a bit of onion and place on top of the meat patties.

Place some sliced potato on top of the meat and onions.

Then, fill in around the edges with baby carrots and mushrooms.  At this point, you should also liberally season with your favorite seasonings.  I used basil, parsley, and my favorite steak seasoning.  Once again, though, the sky is the limit!

Cook this mixture on medium to medium-high heat until the bacon starts to sizzle.  At that point, pour in about 1/2 cup of red wine (or chicken broth, if you aren't into wine).  Cover and cook on medium-low heat for about 20 minutes.  Make sure that stays warm enough to continue simmering.

Remove the lid and flip the meat patties (this will take some fancy spatula aerobics!).  Cover the lid once again and cook for another 20 minutes, or until the meat is cooked through, the bacon is crispy, and the veggies are tender.  Add more wine or chicken broth if you need to.

Serve this hearty meal by just dumping it in a pile on each plate. :-)  We love to drizzle BBQ sauce over the meat patties for an extra kick.

Meat 'n' Potatoes Skillet Meal
3-4 slices bacon, cut in half
1 lb. ground meat (beef or turkey), shaped into 4 patties
1/2 onion, sliced
4 potatoes, sliced
1 1/2 cups baby carrots
1 cup mushrooms
1/4-1/2 cup red wine (or water)
salt, pepper, and other seasonings to taste

Line the bottom of a large skillet with bacon.  Place meat patties over the bacon and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place onion slices over patties.  Cover onion with potatoes, and surround meat patties with carrots and mushrooms.  Sprinkle all with your favorite seasonings.  Cover and cook on medium-high heat until bacon begins to sizzle.  Add wine; cover and cook on medium-low heat for 20-25 minutes.  Flip meat patties and cook an additional 20-25 minutes, or until bacon is crispy and vegetables are tender.  Serve with barbecue sauce.  Serves 4.

IBS Variation - leave out the bacon (or use turkey bacon).

Nutrition (calculated with ground turkey and without seasonings): 419 calories, 12g fat, 3g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 96mg cholesterol, 297mg sodium, 47g carbs, 7g fiber, 5g sugar, 28g protein, 161% vit. A, 77% vit. C, 6% calcium, 20% iron.

Monday, January 17, 2011

coconut cream pie with crumb crust

It's This Week's Cravings time, and this week we are all about pies!

But first...want to hear a story?

It happened about 7 years ago.  I was in college and getting ready for an event I was coordinating for my Intervarsity chapter...pie night. :-)  It was going to be a great night.  We had a pie eating contest, pie baking contest, and, as an officer, I was getting pied in the face!

Knowing that I was just going to end up covered in whip cream and chocolate pudding, I didn't bother fixing my hair or putting on makeup.  I got dressed in the absolute worst clothes that I owned.  My friends curiously tried to stop me...for some strange reason, they kept encouraging me to curl my hair or apply a bit of mascara.  Ha!  I knew better.  I was having none of that.

After dinner, a friend and I were walking back to my room holding the coconut cream pies that I had baked for that night's competition.  When I opened my door, I was greeted with such a surprise that I almost dropped my pie!  My boyfriend (now husband) was standing in the middle of the room dressed to the nines.  He had driven the 8 hours from his university just to come see me.

And I was wearing no makeup, unflattering clothes, and...well...we won't even talk about my hair.

As excited as I was to see him, I couldn't just ditch pie night.  So, we grabbed my pies and headed out.  I participated in the pie eating contest, covering my face with chocolate pudding.  I got pied in the face, getting whip cream all up my nose.  And then, it was time for the pie contest.  I presented my coconut cream pies to the judges...and won first place!

My boyfriend enjoyed watching the love of his life get covered in sugary treats, but he really loved the pie tasting.  I think that coconut cream pie was the first pie of mine that he had ever tasted.

We got back to my dorm room later that night, my hair all matted with whip cream and my face still smudged with chocolate pudding.  Oh, I looked like a real catch, let me tell you.  And then...would you believe it...

He dropped down on one knee and proposed!

I said no (seriously!), we dated for three more years, and then we got married in 2007.  But here's my point: would anyone ever consider proposing marriage to someone atrociously dressed and covered in chocolate pudding and whip cream?  Nope, I'm convinced it was the coconut cream pie that won his affections.  I think it will win yours, too.

I didn't want to run to the store to buy a pie crust, and I was too lazy to make a real pie crust, so I devised a different strategy for this pie.  It's a delicious and easy alternative that goes amazingly with the flavors of this pie.

Combine 2 cups flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 cup cold butter (2 sticks) in a bowl.

Using a pastry cutter, cut into the mixture until it resembles small coarse crumbs.

Spray a pie dish with cooking spray, and then pat the crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of the dish.  You may not use all of the crumbs depending on how thick you want your pie crust to be.  Bake it at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes, or until it's lightly browned.  Let it cool while you make the rest of the pie.

For the pie filling, combine 3/4 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons cornstarch, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small saucepan.  Gradually stir in 2 cups of milk.  Cook and stir it over medium high heat until it gets bubbly, and then continue cooking for 2 more minutes.  Take it from me - do not stop stirring for one minute!  You don't want the milk to burn.  After the 2 minutes is up, remove it from the heat.

Break 3 eggs, separating the yolks from the whites.  You'll use the yolks in the filling and the whites for the meringue, so don't throw anything away!  Slightly beat the yolks.

Stir a good sized amount (about 1/2 cup) of the hot mixture into your yolks, and then immediately pour the yolks into the saucepan.  Cook for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  After the 2 minutes is up, remove it from the heat.

Add a teaspoon of vanilla, 2 tablespoons of butter, 1/4 teaspoon of coconut extract, and 1/2 cup of flaked coconut.  Stir until mixed.

Pour your filling into your baked pie shell.  Now it's time for the meringue!

For the meringue, beat together your 3 egg whites with 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar just until soft peaks form (like pictured below).

Gradually add 6 tablespoons of sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating as you do it.  Continue beating until stiff and glossy peaks form (like below).  Don't just rely on looks, though.  The key to a good meringue is making sure all of the sugar dissolves.  To do that, rub a little bit of the meringue in between two fingers - if you can still feel sugar granules, keep on beating!

Spread the meringue over the pie filling, sealing it at the edges of the pastry.  Sprinkle 1/4 cup of flaked coconut over the top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the meringue is absolutely beautiful.

Once the pie has cooled, cut into slices and enjoy.  Who knows...maybe it will even land you a proposal! :-)

Coconut Cream Pie with Crumb Crust
2 cups flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup cold butter
1 t. vanilla
1/4 t. salt

Mix together flour, salt, and powdered sugar.  Add vanilla and butter; using a pastry cutter, cut butter into flour mixture until mixture resembles crumbs.  Spray pie plate with cooking spray and then press crumbs into bottom and up the sides.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Pie Filling: 
3/4 cup sugar
3 T. cornstarch
1/4 t. salt
2 cups milk
3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
2 T. butter
1 t. vanilla
1/4 t. coconut extract
3/4 cup flaked coconut, divided

In a saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt.  Gradually stir in milk.  Cook and stir over medium high heat until it begins to bubble (stir continually so it doesn't burn!).  Cook and stir for 2 minutes and then remove from heat.  Stir a moderate amount of hot mixture into yolks.  Immediately whisk the yolks into the hot mixture; cook for 2 more minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Add butter, vanilla, coconut extract, and 1/2 cup of flaked coconut.  Pour into baked and cooled pie crust.  Spread meringue on top of pie, sealing to the edge of the pastry, and sprinkle with remaining flaked coconut.  Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes.  Cool.

3 egg whites
1/2 t. vanilla
1/4 t. cream of tartar
6 T. sugar

Beat egg whites with vanilla and cream of tartar till soft peaks form.  Gradually add sugar, beating until stiff and glossy peaks form and all sugar has dissolved.

Linked up with Tuesdays at the Table!

This Week's Cravings is all about pies! Link up your favorites and come check back to see the full collection.

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