Friday, April 29, 2011

how to cook spaghetti squash (the easy way)

Spaghetti squash is one awesome vegetable.  Have you ever had it?  We eat it just like spaghetti, with meat sauce on top!  It's a great way to incorporate a vegetable into what otherwise would be a carb-filled meal. 

But how do you cook it?

Most people I know do the traditional method of cutting the squash in half and baking it.  It's an excellent method, but a bit more time consuming than I traditionally prefer.  Let me show you the cheater's method...

First, pierce the squash with a fork several times.

Put it in the microwave for 20 minutes.  After every 5 minutes, give it a quarter turn (so it's not resting on the same side during the entire cooking time).  You'll know it's done when it's squishy to the touch.

Remove it from the microwave and cut it in half.  Let it cool for a few minutes.

Take a spoon and gently scrape out the seeds in the middle.

Then, scrape out the "noodles"!

Here are a few of our favorite dishes to incorporate spaghetti squash with:

Monday, April 25, 2011

oatmeal bread

Today, I'm sharing with you a family recipe.  My mom taught me, her father taught her, and I guarantee you that I'll be teaching the next generation.  It's simply the best bread I have ever had in my life. 

What makes this bread so amazing?  It's the flavor!  It's slightly sweet, incredibly moist, and just perfect.  We eat it as toast, on sandwiches, with soup, or just by itself.  It doesn't last long. :-)

You start with oats...plain, old-fashioned oats.

Then, you make the biggest bowl of oatmeal in the world, complete with butter and brown sugar!  Mix it all together and let it cool.

Meanwhile, you get your yeast going in a separate bowl.

Then, you mix your yeast with your oatmeal and start adding flour.

After about 5 cups of flour, you should have a soft dough - let it rise!

When I say rise, I mean rise. :-)

Form it into loaves in loaf pans and let those rise.  This recipe makes 2 loaves.

Bake it until it's done!  I generally check on the bread after 20 minutes, or when I start to smell it.  In my oven, it usually takes about 30 minutes for the loaves to be a beautiful brown.

This bread is easier to slice when it has cooled, but we rarely make it that far.  It's just too good!

Oatmeal Bread
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 3 T. butter
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 2 pkg. active yeast
  • 1 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 5 cups flour

In a large bowl, combine the oats, boiling water, butter, and brown sugar; mix well and let cool until lukewarm.  In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, yeast, salt, and warm water.  Let sit for about 5 minutes.  Add yeast mixture to oatmeal mixture and then stir in flour.  Mix in mixer (with dough hook) for 6 minutes, or knead until dough no longer sticks to your fingers (adding flour if necessary).  Let rise for 1 hours.  Shape into loaves and let rise for another hour.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

I have a friend who loved this bread so much that she set out to turn it into a bread machine recipe.  Here's what she wrote... 
It worked! Really well, in fact! The main thing I did was to halve the ingredients. I made the oatmeal/water/sugar/butter combo like you do in the beginning and poured it into the machine, followed by the flour, then, in an indentation, the yeast (bread machine yeast- 2 1/4 T), sugar, and salt. I set it for a "medium" crust on the basic and quick cycle, and a little over 2 hours later had a beautiful loaf of delicious oatmeal bread!

Easter Dinner

Thursday, April 21, 2011

slow cooker fajitas

Oh. my. goodness.  These fajitas are so good!  And, they are made in the slow cooker.  Don't you just love foods that are both easy to make and delicious to eat?

Start with three bell peppers, and pick out different colors (makes it pretty)!  I made things easy this time around and cooked the peppers in the slow cooker with the meat.  Another option would be to leave them out and then saute them right before serving (we actually prefer this option - we like them a bit crisp-tender).

The peppers and some sliced onion go on the bottom of the slow cooker (or just sliced onion if you are cooking the peppers separately)...

followed by strips of sirloin steak (or chicken breast!) and a can of Rotel...

...and then all of the seasonings!

Cover and cook the whole bit on low for 8-9 hours, or until the meat is tender.  It will smell so good.

Serve in tortillas with a dollop of sour cream.  You'll love them!

Slow Cooker Fajitas
3 bell peppers, each a different color
1 onion, sliced
2 lbs. boneless beef sirloin steaks OR 2 lbs. chicken breast, cut into strips
1 can Rotel
few shakes of liquid smoke (optional)
2 T. red wine vinegar
1 T. lime juice
1 t. cumin
1 t. chili powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. pepper
1/2 t. cayenne pepper

Place peppers and onion in a slow cooker.  Top with the beef and the remaining ingredients.  Cook on low for 8-9 hours.  Serves 8.

Note: Another excellent option is to leave the peppers out and saute them separately right before serving.

Nutrition (beef): 264 calories, 11g fat, 4g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 82mg cholesterol, 363mg sodium, 6g carbs, 2g fiber, 3g sugars, 34g protein, 5% vit. A, 85% vit. C, 4% calcium, 13% iron.

Nutrition (chicken): 150 calories, 2g fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 65mg cholesterol, 367mg sodium, 6g carbs, 2g fiber, 3g sugars, 27g protein, 5% vit. A, 87% vit. C, 2% calcium, 6% iron.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

sausage lentil soup

Since the day I first tried lentils, I've been smitten.  Lentil soup is so easy and quick, provides a good dose of fiber, and is just plain delicious.

I've been off in search of more soups since then, and my Taste of Home Light and Tasty cookbooks came to the rescue once again.  (Seriously, if you ever find one, snatch it up!  They are awesome.)  I found a great recipe for another lentil soup.  This one has sausages (yum) and spinach (yum yum) to make it one of the tastiest and prettiest things ever to grace my soup bowl. 

Sausage Lentil Soup
Adapted from Taste of Home's Light and Tasty 2008
1 onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1/2 lb. smoked sausage, halved and thinly sliced
2 carrots, halved and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans (14 1/2 oz. each) reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup water
1 cup dried lentils, rinsed
1/2 t. oregano
1/4 t. cumin
1/4 t. pepper
1 can (14 1/2 oz) stewed tomatoes, cut up
1 T. Worchestershire sauce
1 cup chopped fresh spinach

In a large saucepan coated with cooking spray, saute onion and celery for 2 minutes.  Add the sausage, carrot, and garlic; cook 2-3 minutes longer or until onion is tender. Stir in the broth, water, lentils, and spices.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until lentils and vegetables are tender.  Stir in the remaining ingredients; cook until heated through and spinach is wilted.  Serves 6.

Nutrition (using Polish sausage): 278 calories, 10g fat, 4g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 27mg cholesterol, 909mg sodium, 30g carbs, 12g fiber, 6g sugars, 16g protein, 95% vit. A, 23% vit. C, 8% calcium, 24% iron.

Monday, April 18, 2011

mini liqueur cheesecakes

These are definitely "adult" cheesecakes. :-)  Delicately laced with liqueur, these have a fabulous yet subtle flavor that is especially enhanced when drizzled with dark chocolate sauce.  They are the perfect individual desserts for your next gathering!

I can't take credit for the idea...I found a recipe for Baby Grand Marnier Cheesecakes over at Tasty Kitchen and just had to try them.  I modified the recipe a bit by halving it and using currant liqueur instead of grand marnier.  Here are my reflections on the process.

The recipe seems complicated, but it's not.  I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was.  You start out by preheating the oven with a plain old empty cake pan on the bottom rack.

While the oven is preheating, you whip up the cheesecake filling.  I dumped all ingredients in my blender and just let 'er rip.  I was especially excited about the prospect of using my currant liqueur.  I've been thinking about what other flavors would taste good...maybe cherry cordial?  thick wine like Madeira?  Yum!

You also need to mix up the crust.  This is a great job for a child...or a husband. :-)

Press the crumb crust into the bottom of your muffin pan.  Silicone pans really work well here because the finished product just pops right out.

Then you fill up the muffin tins with your filling.  I admit that I actually filled too many!  I thought perhaps the filling would expand, but it didn't.  I'm wishing I had made fewer cheesecakes with more filling...just an afterthought.

When they are ready to go in the oven, pour a kettle of boiling water into that preheated pan.  Then, put the cheesecakes on the middle rack in the oven.  They only need to bake for about 15-20 minutes, and then they'll need to set in the refrigerator for about 6 hours.

I was a bit skeptical of the finished product, but after one taste I was hooked!  These are such a cute dessert, and they keep my portion size small (a major plus).  The addition of chocolate sauce and berries just put them over the top.  And did I mention that you can just freeze leftovers and bust them out when you have a special occasion? 

You should go check out the original recipe.  You can get a printable here on Tasty Kitchen, but go check out the original blog post as well.  This blogger makes cheesecakes professionally and provides lots of tricks of the trade.  She's also just got a beautiful blog!  Go there...get the recipe...make

Easter Cookies and Goodies

Link up your Easter dessert recipes here!  And don't forget to check out my co-hosts, Kristen at From My Tiny Kitchen and Tina at Mom's Crazy Cooking!

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