Saturday Cooking

Saturday Cooking, Pumpkin Free Edition

Fall is technically here, though our only clue in these parts is the temps below 70 degrees at night. So it’s time for my three favorite fall recipes.

First, I gotta say, I had no idea that the ENTIRE AMERICAN POPULATION loved all things pumpkin. I mean, I’ve noticed the Pumpkin Spice Lattes at Starbucks in the last few years. But then the recipes started popping up everywhere on Facebook and Pinterest and all the cooking shows and websites. Pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin cookies, even pumpkin brownies (!)(I’m sorry, but if you handed me a brownie without chocolate in it, I would probably not hand it back to you because my parents raised me right, but I would shed a few secret tears).

Pumpkin, you are the darling of the season. How sweet.

If only I liked you.

Recipe 1: Cranberry Bread

Cranberry ThanksgivingI had someone ask me recently after learning I don’t like pumpkin all that much, “So, what flavor do you love in the Fall?” I can’t say I’ve ever considered that question before. I didn’t know Favorite Fall Flavors were a requirement. But I have lately been encouraged to “embrace autumn” and I thought it was good advice. So I gave it some thought and here’s the answer: cranberry. I love cranberry. Cranberry bread, cranberry muffins, cranberry juice, all of it. Well, not so much the cranberry sauce from a can. Ick. But all other things cranberry, I love.

It so happens that my favorite cranberry recipe is from a book. It’s called Cranberry Thanksgiving, and the story is great, but the recipe at the back for “Grandmother’s Famous Cranberry Bread” is even better. I can’t give it to you here because that would be copyright infringement, but you should definitely make it! Just be sure to label it if you give it to someone or else that someone might thank you for “the fruitcake,” which is just a big insult to any bread, especially one this good.

Recipe 2: Apple Dumplings

076A close runner up to cranberry goods in my Fall Flavor Guide is apple. (I am having way too much fun here). My favorite apple recipe is absolutely dripping with butter and even contains a can of Mountain Dew. It’s definitely a once a year treat. The Pioneer Woman recommends serving it with ice cream, but I find it challenging to actually get the stuff on a plate. Ijustwanttoeatit! Now. Straight out of the pan. So yeah, it’s kind of good. [….goes to kitchen and starts slicing apples…]

Recipe 3: Butternut Squash Soup

Finally, if there’s one recipe I only make in Fall, it’s Butternut Squash Soup. Oh, it is divine. Unfortunately, my entire family hates it. I plan to make a batch and eat it for lunch for an entire week. Once the midday temps are below 80 degrees. For now, we’re still enjoying our afternoon popsicles on the porch.

Happy Fall!

Saturday Cooking

What To Do With Watermelon: Saturday Cooking, It Is Hot Edition

It’s June. It’s 100 degrees. You walk in from the sweltering parking lot to the coolness of your local grocery store. You were only in the car for three minutes, but your back is sweaty, your flip flops are like hot tin shingles on your feet, and you wish to plunge your entire self into a mountain river. You grab a cart, pull out your list, and suddenly stop. Because there, right in front of you, practically blocking the whole produce aisle, is a giant cardboard box brimming over with ripe, juicy watermelons. You think, “Mmmm, what could be better than watermelon today?” Nothing. Absolutely nothing. It’s $6.99 per watermelon, so you pick the biggest one you can find and heave-ho it into your cart. You take it home, get out your biggest knife, slice into it, and eat it. For three days. And then you still have half of it left. Your family will have nothing more to do with it. You even take it to a cookout; you and three other women bring watermelon to the cookout.

Let’s face it: watermelons are just too big. They are tempting and delicious and bring summer to our mouths, but they are huge. So what do you do with all that leftover watermelon? Here are my discoveries from the last two weeks.

First, put on some music. Then, chop up all that watermelon into chunks and get rid of the seeds. Next, find a good watermelon popsicle recipe. I used this recipe and it was delicious. I didn’t have the light corn syrup it called for, so I used honey instead. Also, I only used 2 Tablespoons of sugar instead of the six it called for, because good grief, people, it’s already sweet. My husband said he didn’t enjoy the slight honey flavor, but my son and I loved the taste. My daughter isn’t a big watermelon fan, so I just discounted her vote entirely. I think next time I’ll substitute lime juice for lemon juice just because I like the lime flavor better. Also, the recipe could do with more strawberries. But that’s my philosophy on life in general.

Next, you’ll probably still have some watermelon left over after you make your popsicles. Making sure it’s all de-seeded, throw it in the food processor or blender pulse it a few times. Then, pour your pureed watermelon into an ice cube tray or two. Cover them with plastic wrap, stick them in the freezer, and pull out as many as you need at a time to make fruit smoothies on those hot summer days when the thought of actual food is unbearable. (Note: make sure you add some yogurt to your smoothie, or you’ll be hungry within minutes of consuming it).

Finally, if you still have watermelon, dice it up even smaller than you did before and sprinkle it with a tiny bit of sugar. Put it in an airtight container and the next time you hear that guilty voice in your mind saying “You should really be buying plain Greek yogurt instead of that sweetened stuff,” you can say, “Yes, you’re right!” Then you can go home and mix your sweet watermelon and watermelon juice (thank you, tiny bit of sugar) into your yogurt and you actually enjoy that yogurt. Can you tell I’m not a big fan of Greek yogurt? But I know it’s extra good for me, so I put in smoothies and other stuff whenever I can bring myself to buy it at the store. Seriously, the watermelon helps.

There are also lots of recipes for Watermelon Gazpacho/Cold Soup out there. I am not very fond of foods that have no crunch or chew to them (exception: ice cream), so that watermelon food idea doesn’t appeal to me. But if you find a good recipe for it, let me know; I might be brave enough to try it!

So, now you can go to the grocery store and wrangle that watermelon into your shopping cart with the peace of mind that you will actually use the entire thing. Pick one up for me while you’re at it.

Saturday Cooking

Saturday Cooking, Edition 5

I like cookbooks. I know that the convenience of online recipes is staggeringly in favor of never opening a real cook book again, but photo (14)I still have a shelf full of them. The fact that I am not a foodie is something my husband discovered PWD (post wedding day) and he is still getting over his disappointment. No, not really. But it is a distinct difference between us. I have come a long way in the cooking realm, but I don’t view dinner time as this wonderful opportunity to make something new and breathtakingly delicious. On his part, he’s come a long way in appreciating the fine qualities of granola. Because I don’t have ideas for dinner just fly into my head at random, I like to have a physical book to flip through and follow. I have to admit, though, I use allrecipes.com as much as anyone. So here are two cookbooks and two online recipes to whet your appetite and maybe give you a few menu ideas for the summer months:

The Cookbooks:

Grilling, Williams-Sonoma Collection: the recipes for grilled potatoes, grilled pizza, and hamburgers are stellar. Especially the grilled pizza one–that herb crust is delicious!

Monday to Friday Cookbook: My MOPS group had the privilege of having a guest speaker who both loves food and understands the crazy busyness of life. She shared some recipes and also told us about this cookbook. It has so many great ideas for quick meals! I have this on my “to buy” list, but for now, the library copy is great.

Williams-Sonoma Collection: Grilling Monday-To-Friday Cookbook

 

The online recipes:

Baked Pesto ChickenBaked Pesto Chicken: The other day I planned on leftovers for dinner but found out my husband was coming home instead of working late at the last minute. He had already had leftovers for lunch, so it was time to think of a plan B fast. I opened the fridge and for once in my life, saw a potential meal instead of a bunch of food items. If you have chicken, a jar of pesto, parmesan or mozarella cheese, you can make this main dish in minutes. It’s supposed to be low carb recipe, but I served it over pasta. I really love carbs. My kids still ate leftovers because “that chicken is green!” but my husband and I have added it to our top 20 recipe list.

Strawberry BreadStrawberry Bread Recipe: This is what you do when you go strawberry picking and your eyes are bigger than a strawberry’s expiration date. I made it with frozen sliced berries as well as fresh berries, and it was great both times. (Thanks, Janice, for introducing me to this now staple of spring baking in our house!)

Cooked anything good recently? Share it with me in the comments!

More bookish cooking here!

Saturday Cooking

Saturday Cooking, Anti-Winter Edition

You guys. Savory, warm, cheesy, comforting winter food is great. It’s lovely. But it has its limit. I can eat potato soup one night, then some kind of macaroni and cheese or pasta bake the next, and then I’m like, “Thanks, I’ll just have a lettuce leaf.” Chili at this point in winter is my least favorite meal. Please, no more chili!

Or maybe I’m just eating the wrong kind of winter food? And maybe winter food aversions have something to do with being 15 weeks pregnant? But honestly, I feel like this every January. I start buying completely out of season strawberries and blueberries, I put avocados on everything, I think I’ll maybe make a few smoothies and then realize, no, I’m too cold.

So bear this weirdness in mind while I share a few recipes I’ve been making this week.

First, I made up a huge batch of homemade granola today to go with the strawberries and blueberries I splurged on at the store. Yum! I could eat granola and berries every day for weeks.

Here’s my granola recipe, which I got from one of my awesome sisters-in-law. I have no idea where she found it, but I like it because it’s extremely easy and I always have the ingredients on hand.

Easiest Ever Granola:

Ingredients:

  1. 8 cups of rolled oats, quick oats, or a mix
  2. 1.5 cup brown sugar or honey or a mix of both (I highly recommend honey!)
  3. 4 teaspoons of vanilla
  4. 4 Tablespoons of oil of your choice (I’d stick with one that doesn’t have a distinct taste)
  5. 1 teaspoon of sea salt
  6. 1 teaspoon of cinnamon (optional)
  7. 1/2 cup of water

Pour all the oats in a large bowl. Mix together the rest of the ingredients in a microwaveable glass container and melt together. Stir well and pour over oats. Mix all of that ooey-oatmealy goodness together. Spray some kind of baking pan with edges (I use a roasting pan) with nonstick spray and pour the granola mixture into the pan, spreading it out evenly. Bake at 250 for 2 hours, stirring every 30-45 minutes. You can add all kinds of stuff to make this granola healthier, like flax seed, nuts, sunflower seeds, dried fruit, etc., but don’t add any dried fruit until the last 30 minutes, or maybe just mix it in with the cooked granola at the end. I’ve done raisins before but they were hard as rocks when I got the granola out of the oven.

Avocado Chicken Enchiladas

Next up on my anti-winter eating kick is this Avocado Enchilada Recipe. I found it on Pinterest and can’t wait to try it. I’m not sure my 4-year-old daughter will enjoy it, but my 2-year-old son will eat piles of avocado.

We’re also going to be having a Greek salad that involves Kalamata olives, feta cheese, romaine hearts, and this awesome Newman’s Own Olive Oil and Vinegar recipe. Really, I shouldn’t be buying a salad dressing that would be a cinch to make at home, but this bottled stuff is so good. I put it on sandwiches, too (mostly because I hate mayo).

I am really going to make smoothies, even though the highs are in the 30s. I keep smoothies simple with strawberries or blueberries, frozen bananas, yogurt, and milk or OJ. I hardly ever toss in the spinach that I tell myself I’m going to put in there. I know you can’t taste it, I know it would be an easy way to get my veggies in…sigh. Maybe I’ll make it happen this week.

My go-to no-meat meal for the last year has been this Lime and Cilantro Rice with Spicy Citrus Black Beans from Annie’s Eats. I combine these in a Chipotle style rice bowl and top it with cheese, sour cream, salsa, guacamole, and lettuce. My only suggestion is to double the sauce for the rice, and add a bit more salt than the recipe calls for.

And I’m considering sending my wonderful husband out to the grill tomorrow night to cook up some steak. He’ll probably brave the cold for steak, right?

So what about you? Are you still cooking comfort food, are you on a healthy eating kick, or are you sticking to your normal meals plans year round? Share your inspiration!

 

 

 

31 Days, Children's Books, Saturday Cooking

Saturday Cooking: Picture Book Edition

2013iPhonephotos 008My children love to help me in the kitchen. I am usually willing to have one of them help me, but now that the two-year-old boy wants to be involved in everything, it gets messier and more time consuming and just generally harder to be excited about cooking with kids. But in the spirit of doing the hard things so the hard things get easier, I’m resolved to bake a lot with them this fall season. They love to bake, they love to do what I’m doing, and it’s a valuable skill to have. Plus, it’s like built in obedience school for toddlers–bonus!

Since we love to read even more than we love food itself (okay, maybe that’s just me), some of the recipes I plan to make this Fall are found in books.

Cranberry ThanksgivingThe first is one I baked with my mom and sisters as part of our homeschool curriculum. It’s called Grandmother’s Cranberry Bread from the book Cranberry Thanksgiving. The book is pretty good, but the recipe is mostly what I remember. For someone who isn’t crazy about all things pumpkin (you can keep your pumpkin spice latte, thankyouverymuch), cranberry is the flavor of Fall. I recommend the book, but if you’re not in a picture book stage of life (whatever that means!) you can view the whole recipe on the Amazon website.

We’re also going to try Fairy Tale FeastsI doubt we’ll be finding any stellar recipes, as they all look pretty basic, but I think the kids will really have fun with it. They are especially fascinated by Jack and the Beanstalk, so I foresee some beans in our menu future.

And though The Little House books aren’t technically picture books, we’ve already read two of them and we’re definitely try out the The Little House CookbookI’ve always wanted to make the molasses snow candy they make in Little House and the Big Woods, but the snow is a little sparse in the deep south. Another recipe book I want to try is The Louisa May Alcott Cookbook. The Honey Pumpkin Pie with Gingerbread Crust looks especially fall-ish and delicious.

So that’s what is on our fall baking list, along with this non-bookish recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins. What’s on your list?

 

 

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