Sunday, February 26, 2012

Peanut Butter & Pretzel Truffles

This recipe from Eating Well magazine was my first attempt at a "healthy" truffle. When I say healthy, I don't mean "light" or "low-calorie" or filled with artificial "stuff." I mean it's made with ingredients that are actually good for you. In my opinion, natural  peanut butter sure fits that bill since it's packed with good-for-you fats and protein (not to mention rich, fabulous flavor). The peanut butter is definitely the predominant ingredient in these little babies. Mix in a little bit of crushed pretzels and dip in some semi-sweet or dark chocolate (which has it's own health benefits, in moderation, of course) and you have a dessert you can really feel good about. YUM.

You can find the recipe here. The original calls for milk chocolate and if that's what you like, be my guest. But believe me when I tell you a darker chocolate in this recipe is truly divine.

One TIP: I find it very difficult to roll truffles in such a small about of chocolate. So, I melted quite a bit more and then used the leftovers to make some Chocolate, Fruit, & Nut Clusters (another dessert you can feel pretty darn good about). This way, I had plenty for rolling and nothing went to waste. Enjoy!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Roasted Broccoli, Carrot, & Barley Salad

I found inspiration for this recipe in Andrea Chesman's Serving Up the Harvest. I changed it so much, it's only vaguely recognizably from her original, but she was my muse nonetheless.  I desperately wanted to finish off the end of a bag of barley and didn't want to go to the grocery store, so I came up with this recipe. My Mom thought it sounded really strange, but once she tried it, she agreed it was quite delicious. 

Just a few notes
1. This recipe uses much more veggies than barley because I only had a small amount of barley left. Feel free to increase the amount of barley if you wish, just make sure to cook it in three times the amount of water.

2. WARNING: If you use the white parts of the scallion, your salad will taste very onion-y; the green parts are much milder. I originally put in the white parts, but promptly picked them out because the flavor was too overwhelming. 

Roasted Broccoli, Carrot, & Barley Salad
Print Recipe

1/3 cup barley
1 cup water
1 large head broccoli (or 2 small), cut into florets
1-2 cups baby carrots, cut into 3-4 coins each
olive oil
sea salt & pepper
1-2 scallions (according to taste), green parts only, thinly sliced
balsamic vinegar
extra-virgin olive oil

Combine barley and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 45-60 minutes. When ready, water should be absorbed. 

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a large bowl, toss cut broccoli with enough olive oil to lightly coat. Season with sea salt & pepper to taste. Spread on one side of a large jelly-roll or roasting pan. Repeat with carrots and spread them on the other side of the pan. Roast for 15 minutes.  

Remove the broccoli from the pan and place into a large serving bowl. Return carrots to the oven and roast an additional 10-15 minutes.  When finished, add carrots to serving bowl along with the sliced scallions and cooked barley.  Drizzle with a little more olive oil and balsamic vinegar, to taste. Toss to combine. 

Makes 2 large or 3 small servings

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Cherry Linzer Bars

This past weekend, Nick was heading down to the city with his Dad, Uncle, and some family friends to meet my Dad and Brother for a St. John's basketball game at The Garden.  Since the boys were otherwise occupied, I thought it would be a good weekend to head down to Poughkeepsie to see my Mom, Grandma, & Aunts. As always, I traveled with sweets! I still had an open jar of homemade cherry jam from my previous visit a few weeks ago and although they were delicious, I didn't want to make the same cookies as last time

So, I dug out a recipe for 
Cherry Linzer Bars I tore out of a Good Housekeeping magazine a couple of months ago. My Aunt Susie saw it first and thought it sounded delicious, but was really hoping someone else would make it (imagine that?!). Baking is one area that I can always help out in, so I whipped up a batch of these delicious cookies to bring with me. And boy were they good. The cookie crust is flavored with cinnamon, lemon zest, and pecans (which I used instead of hazelnuts and highly recommend) and the filling is a simple combination of cherry jam and dried tart cherries, YUM! Other than switching the nuts, I followed the recipe to a T. They were a bit less fussy than traditional Linzer cookies which I also enjoy, but those are my Dad's specialty. Nevertheless, I do think this recipe has earned a spot in my "tried & true" folder, right next to Dad's Linzers of course.  

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Quick & Easy Fish Dinner in Parchment Packets

Just a quick post today...

The recipe
: Filet of Fish in Parchment from The Pleasures of Cooking for One, by Judith Jones

The verdict: Good recipe. The veggies and potatoes were very tasty and flavorful, but I think I would prefer it with a different fish next time. We used a walleye fish which was OK, but I think I would like a flounder or sole better. Recipe was very easy to expand to serve more people. With another fish, I would highly recommend this recipe.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

An easy, healthy risotto (slow-cooker)

The other night I made a "healthy" Butternut squash barley risotto from Good Housekeeping Magazine. I would be lying if I said it was the best thing I ever ate, but it was definitely good enough for a weeknight dinner. Considering that it was basically whole grains and vegetables, it was not half bad. In the past, I've made barley risotto on the stove-top and found that all the extra broth in the world could not soften the barley's extra-chewy texture. In comparison, this slow-cooker version is definitely softer and creamier, but I have decided that barley can never really replace the pure deliciousness of a good Arborio. However, if you're looking for a healthier version or just want to try something different, give this one a go.

On the other hand, if you want to keep the convenience of the slow-cooker, but still make a risotto with Arborio rice, I highly recommend 
Camilla Saulsbury's recipe for No-Stir Sundried Tomato Risotto from her blog, Enlightened Cooking. This is a tried-and-true favorite recipe of mine. It's not quite the same as making a stove-top risotto, but it's close enough for me, and very, very delicious. (In my slow cooker, it is always done at the lower end of the suggested cooking time, 2 hours.)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Cranberry-Orange Tea Loaf

I found inspiration for today's recipe in Carole Bloom's The Essential Baker. Her original recipe was for Cranberry Nut Tea Loaf, but I wanted to make my own version with quite a few changes. A slice of this loaf is delicious with afternoon tea, as a lighter dessert, or even as a breakfast treat. In my version, I amped up the orange, reduced the sugar a bit, skipped the nuts, and turned this into a 100% whole grain recipe, so no need to feel overly guilty about enjoying it! 

Cranberry Orange Tea Loaf

Print Recipe

Dry Ingredients:
     2 cups white whole wheat flour
     3/4 cup sugar
     1 1/4 tsp baking powder
     1/4 tsp baking soda
     1/2 tsp salt

Wet Ingredients:

     1 large egg
     2/3 cup vanilla yogurt
     1/3 cup fresh orange juice (from approx. 2 oranges)
     zest of 2 oranges
     6 Tbsp butter, melted
     2 cups frozen cranberries (I always freeze several bags each fall so I can have cranberries year-round)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a glass loaf pan with butter or cooking spray. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients. 

Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and stir just until combined. Gently fold in cranberries. Spread batter evenly into the prepared loaf pan. 

Bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees. Then, lower the oven to 325 degrees and bake an additional 50 minutes. (Since everyone's oven is different, start checking at 40 minutes to be on the safe side.)  Loaf is ready when the exterior is a deep golden brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. 

Remove loaf from the oven and let cool 15-20 minutes in the pan before turning the loaf out onto a cooling rack.