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After we bought a Vitamix blender, we started making daily smoothies. The recipe book included contains a recipe for a tropical fruit smoothie and that’s the one I like. It uses oranges, bananas, pineapples, and spinach.

An issue I struggled with was the fruit and spinach going bad if I didn’t use it in time or especially when I had leftover spinach which was every time. I like spinach, but we don’t eat many salads around here and I was always throwing away yucky spinach. I don’t like wasting food or money.

So I decided to freeze it and that solved my problem. Except that it introduced a new one: I use zip top freezer bags and they’d get so much fruit juice on the outside from me wrangling the bags open with juicy fingers to get the fruit inside. The bags won’t stand up by themselves when they’re empty.

So we were at Sur la Table the other week and I saw these on the clearance table. They had enough (I need 3 or 4 for a batch of fruit) and they were cheap so I bought them. They work great!

 

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The arms are adjustable and they hold the bags open.

Here’s a link to them on Amazon:

Baggy Rack

Here’s the recipe as I make it:

One batch yields about two 16-oz glasses (give or take depending on the size of the fruit), so I drink one and save the rest in a container for the next day. Since the pineapple yields about 4 generous slices, this gives me 4 batches and I use two per week. And if you are using fruit that you’ve frozen, it needs to be at least partially thawed or the blender will have a tough time.

4 navel oranges

1 fresh pineapple

4 ripe bananas

1 bag baby spinach

Agave syrup, light or dark (use your sweetener of choice)

1 cup water if the fruit has been frozen or 1 cup ice cubes if fresh

Peel the oranges and bananas. You can cut them up but I generally leave the orange whole and break the banana in half to fit inside the bag. Cut the top and bottom off the pineapple, cut into 4 generous (about 1 inch) slices and cut off the outside rind or whatever it’s called (or cut off the rind first and then into slices) and then cut each slice into quarters so that they’re easier to handle. Throw one orange, one banana, four pineapple quarters and a hearty handful of spinach into a bag to freeze for later or into the blender to drink now. If straight-to-blender, add one cup ice cubes. If you’re blending thawed fruit, add one cup cold water.  Once the fruit is in the blender, add the sweetener. I use 4 swirls of the agave syrup. Blend on high for a good 45 seconds. One nice thing about the Vitamix is the pusher can be used to push the fruit down toward the blades while it’s blending, especially helpful when the fruit is frozen.  (That whole orange can be pesky.)

I hope you’ll try this recipe whether you buy the Baggy Racks or not. A couple of my coworkers were making a smoothie that they called the green monster. I think it had kale in it rather than spinach. It looked awful to me but if you can get past the color, this one tastes great!

 

robin_siggy-rainbow

 

 

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#pioneerwoman #pumpkinsmoothie

I found this recipe through a Pinterest pin and had to make it.

We always follow new recipes to the tee around here. We’re too insecure to customize a recipe until we know what it’s supposed to taste like. And after that, we’re too ignorant to know what changes to make, should the recipe not live up to our expectations. We just never make it again. LOL

Since I couldn’t see how to add any comments to the recipe’s page, I’ll post them here. If you’re a pumpkin lover, I hope you’ll try this recipe, it was really good.

Our observations:

We don’t have one of those fancy blenders like Ree has. We have a standard Hamilton Beach, wedding-gift type and this recipe  nearly overpowered it.

We couldn’t find a 15oz can of pumpkin pie filling and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that size around here. So we bought the larger can and have enough for leftovers. Anyway, we froze the puree in two of those 8oz Ziploc disposable containers, anything larger than that wouldn’t have fit into the blender bowl. We also didn’t find any larger containers of vanilla yogurt, so we bought two 6oz Yoplait containers and used all of it.

I would start by cutting the recipe in half. It’s just too much for two people. The recipe says it serves 8, but doesn’t specify what the serving size is. She used stemless wine glasses, we used 16oz beverage glasses filled full and we still had at least 16oz or more left over. Use 1.5 cups milk, 1 cup of the frozen puree and 1 of the Yoplait yogurts. One problem we had was that the frozen puree wanted to “float” in the milk mixture. The liquid was all the way up to just under the lid and I was afraid of a huge blender blowout, but John took out the plastic thingy in the lid and used a wooden spoon handle to poke the puree down into the blades. It took some doing, but it finally all blended up.

John said next time he’ll try freezing the puree in an ice cube tray, but I don’t know that they would sink down to the blades any better than how we did it this time. We’ll experiment and get back to you on that. Better yet, you try it and get back to me hehehe. He’ll also put the yogurt and puree in first, blend it up some and then add the milk. That should solve the floating problem.

This was really wonderful. It’s not a pumpkin shake like they have at Sonic (and when will Sonic start selling them again?) and these ingredients are not Weight Watcher friendly, but I was afraid to try skim milk (refer to paragraph 2 above). If you read the comments on Ree’s blog, you’ll see that a lot of people are more daring than we are and one person even added Kahlua to hers. I love Kahlua, but I’m not sure I could pair it with pumpkin.

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Don't Try This at Home

I found this idea on Pinterest and it looked super easy and good enough to test on Thanksgiving morning to see if it should become our new Christmas morning tradition, the old one being eating Cinnabon cinnamon rolls (the ones from the Cinnabon store, not the ones pictured here). Not that there was anything wrong with the old tradition, but change is good, right?’

I will not do this again! Why? The waffles were almost like shoe leather. The lady who dreamed this up said to cook them about 2.5-3 minutes, and since she didn’t divulge which canned cinnamon rolls she used, I figured since mine were “Grand” which usually means bigger than the average roll, I chose 3 minutes, which just coincided with the timer on my waffle maker.

And the biggest reason why I won’t do this again is the “damage” it inflicted on my waffle maker. It took me an hour, I’m sure, to scrub it clean even though I sprayed it liberally with non-stick cooking spray. The cinnamon mixture stuck to the non-stick surface like quick-dry cement. I had to soak each square in hot water and scrub all those bumpy things. I should have used a clean toothbrush for this but all I had handy was a toothpick. Somebody needs to invent a truly effective tool to clean these machines. And if they have, I obviously don’t know about it, so somebody please fill me in.

So, it’s Black Friday. Are you out shopping already?

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Oktoberfest Soup

What do all of these things have in common? Clare’s Oktoberfest Soup!

This is another recipe from our local newspaper, credit goes to Clare Schapiro.

Clare’s Oktoberfest Soup

A rich and hearty celebration of the season.

Makes 6 main-course servings

2 tablespoons butter

4 small apples, peeled cored and sliced (I used Gala)

3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped

3 leeks, white and pale green parts only, carefully washed and chopped

4 cups chicken stock

2 12-ounce bottles of Oktoberfest ale (I used local Legend brand)

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 pound extra-sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated

4 ounces Gruyere cheese, coarsely grated

3 tablespoons cornstarch

2 14- or 16-ounce packages of fully cooked “Beer Brats” or bratwurst sausages, sliced in ½-inch rounds

Melt butter in large soup pot. Add apples, celery and leeks and sauté over medium heat until they are soft but not browned. Add chicken stock and beer. Cover and simmer until the vegetables and apples are fully cooked, about 15 minutes.

Using an immersion blender (or regular blender if that’s all you have, but be careful when blending hot liquids as they expand in the blender and can burn you!), blend until soup is relatively smooth or the texture is to your liking. Return soup to gentle heat and whisk in Dijon mustard. Combine cheddar and Gruyere cheeses in a mixing bowl and toss with the cornstarch. Add cheeses to the soup about a handful at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition to melt before adding the next one. When the soup is smooth, add the chopped sausages and continue to stir, keeping the soup on low heat until the sausage is just heated through. Do not boil. Serve immediately.

(The only change I made to the recipe is to add some salt and fresh ground pepper.)

This is an excellent soup. This is the first time I’ve cooked with leeks. And probably Gruyere. Not every store carries the Johnsonville Beer Brats, but luckily I found them at my third attempt (in Richmond that would be Martin’s. Neither Kroger nor Short Pump Walmart carried them). The beer is local and I’m sorry, I’m not a beer person so I can’t tell you what to substitute. Is there such a thing as a medium ale?

Here’s a video showing how this is made:
Clare’s Kitchen. Notice how she pronounces “brats.” She’s obviously not from Wisconsin 🙂

I hope you’ll try this.

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This morning I made a fall soup that was published in our local newspaper this week. It’s not a new recipe, just Google the name and you’ll see all kinds of sites with this recipe.

Chunky Butternut Squash, White Bean and Tomato Soup

Makes 4 main-course servings

1 large garlic clove, minced
1-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into ½-inch pieces (2 cups)
2 cups water
2 cups chicken stock or store-bought reduced-sodium broth
1 16- to 19-ounce can white beans, preferably cannellini, rinsed and drained
4 canned San Marzano tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage
½ cup green (hulled) pumpkin seeds (pepitas), optional
Salt
½ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus additional for serving
Freshly ground black pepper

Cook garlic in 1 tablespoon oil in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until golden, about 1 minute. Add squash, water, stock, beans, tomatoes and sage. Bring to a simmer [is this a typo? shouldn’t it say boil? that’s what I did], cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until squash is tender, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pumpkin seeds, if using, in remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a small skillet over moderately low heat, stirring, until seeds are puffed and lightly toasted, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and lightly season with salt.

Mash some of the squash against sides of saucepan to thicken soup. Remove from heat and stir in cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Serve sprinkled with pumpkin seeds, if using, and additional cheese.

Note: The soup can be made up to 3 days ahead. Cool, uncovered, then refrigerate, covered.

— Adapted from “Gourmet Today” edited by Ruth Reichl (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

On the advice of a friend, I substituted these for the San Marzano tomatoes. I wasn’t familiar with the San Marzanos but found them on Amazon with a boatload of negative comments about that particular brand, as it is not imported from Italy as the can would lead you to believe. Apparently the appeal of these tomatoes is their low acidity. My friend recommended the Tuttorosso brand as they also have low-acidity and are cheaper and easier to find.

I don’t have any pumpkin seeds so I’m not using them this time.

Here’s a blog that has better pictures than mine:

Garlic Shoots

Try it!

[Edited to add]: This soup is excellent. The only thing I’d change is to add more beans. Back when this recipe was written you could probably buy a can of beans in that size, but I could only find 15.5 oz cans. So that’s what I used. Another tip regarding the stock/broth: I bought two 14.5 oz cans of Swanson reduced-sodium broth but only used one. It was so close to 2 cups that instead of opening/wasting most of the 2nd can, I just added enough water to reach that mark. No harm/no foul.

[Edited again to add]: Yesterday we stumbled upon pumpkin seeds in the salad bar at Whole Foods. I had no idea.

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Just a reminder about my giveaway. I’ll draw the winner next week. Details here.

I’ve had an annoying chest cold this past week and the incessant coughing is driving me crazy. I haven’t been sleeping all through the night because the cough doesn’t want me to be horizontal. This morning I woke up at 2:45 am, coughed for 45 minutes and finally got up and went downstairs. I know I was bothering John, but I kept hoping I’d fall back asleep. No such luck.

So last weekend, I made a pot of that wonderful white chicken chili. I did it in the crock pot this time, it’s easily adaptable. We ate on it for a couple of nights and the rest has gone in the freezer.

Here’s the recipe I’m going to make next. This was published in our newspaper last fall and I had to run all over town to find a store that still had some frozen tortellinis left. Obviously, it looked as good to everyone else as it did to me. The recipe states that you can freeze this, and I did, but I’ll warn you that the tortellinis don’t hold up. It’ll still taste good but they turn to mush.

Tortellini Soup

1 lb…………sweet Italian bulk sausage
1 cup………chopped onion
2 cloves…..garlic, chopped
5 cups……..beef broth
1/2 cup……water
1/2 cup……dry red wine
2 cups…….whole tomatoes, chopped, with liquid
1 cup………sliced carrots
1/2 tsp…….basil
1/2 tsp…….oregano
1……………8-ounce can tomato sauce
1-1/2 cups..sliced zucchini
3 tbsp……..chopped fresh parsley
1……………medium green pepper, chopped
1……………19-ounce bag frozen tortellini

Cook the sausage; drain off fat. Cook the onion until soft. Use the same pan.

In a slow cooker or large heavy pot, combine sausage, onion, garlic, broth, water, wine, tomatoes, carrots, basil, oregano, tomato sauce, zucchini, parsley and green pepper, and slow cook 6-8 hours on low, until carrots are soft.

Add the bag of frozen tortellini. When they are cooked–about 50 minutes, or when they’re plump but still hold their curl–the soup is ready. Sprinkle pecorino Romano cheese on top, and serve with a hard-crusted bread.

This can be made ahead and frozen with the tortellini or separately and the tortellini added later.

Serves 8. Credit Marilyn Stroh for this recipe.

Enjoy!

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And to celebrate, I’m having my first-ever giveaway. For the next two weeks, if you leave a comment on this page and also link to it in your blog, you’ll be entered for a random drawing to win 3 patterns by Karie Patch Designs. I’ve come to know Karen DuMont through our Electric Quilt classes at Quilting Adventures and she comes up with the cutest designs. Even if you don’t win this time, I hope you’ll check out Karen’s patterns and buy some.

So you’d think I’d have a really great post prepared for this auspicious occasion, but to be honest, it snuck up on me. I was thinking I started this in November of last year and was shocked, shocked, when I took the time to look it up to find that I only had a few days.

So I have no new quilt projects to share, no new photography, but I do have some favorite fall recipes that I dug out. I love to make soups and stews this time of year (why is it that every recipe makes so much? Since it’s only John and I, we either eat it all week until we’re sick of it, or I freeze it and we forget about it. That just happened this week, when I pulled a container of soup out of the freezer that I made in September of last year. Yikes! Well, either it was going to be freezer burnt and inedible or halfway decent. Amazingly, it was good!).

White Chicken Chili

1……..2-pound cooked rotisserie chicken
1…….. tablespoon olive oil
2…….. medium yellow onions, peeled and chopped
4…….. cloves garlic, minced
8…….. ounces canned green chillies, chopped
1-1/2…. teaspoons EACH: cumin, oregano
1/4…… teaspoon EACH: ground cloves, crushed red pepper flakes
2…….. 15-ounce cans white northern beans, drained
6…….. cups chicken broth
3…….. cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided
salt and pepper to taste
salsa, halved grape tomatoes, chopped fresh cilantro, sour cream (optional serving suggestions)

Remove meat from chicken and shred.
Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute until translucent, about 10 minutes. Stir in garlic, chilies, cumin, oregano, cloves and crushed red pepper, and saute 2 minutes. Add beans and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer a few minutes. Add chicken and 2 cups cheese and stir until cheese melts. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve with salsa, remaining cheese, tomatoes, cilantro, and sour cream if desired.  Makes 6-8 servings.

This is extra yummy and the freezing tip that I believe saved the more-than-a-year-old soup is to fill your container (don’t forget to leave a little head room) and top it with plastic wrap. Push down on the wrap so that it is in complete contact with the surface of the soup. This prevents ice crystals from forming. I’ve tried different kinds of containers for freezing and I’m really liking the Ziploc Twist-n-Loc. They come in different sizes and I freeze a combination of 1 cup (for single servings) and 2-or-more cups if we’re both going to eat it.

I hope you enjoy this recipe, I’ll be posting more throughout the two-week birthday celebration period.

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