Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Vacation :)

Hey everyone!  I'm heading up north for a couple weeks in hopes of a White Christmas.  I have a feeling the blogging will be few and far between, if at all, while I'm away.  I promise to be back with more delicious recipes in January!

In the meantime, if you're feeling crafty, you should try making one of these nifty paper snowflakes...

Have a lovely holiday!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Stuffed Pepper Soup

Stuffed Pepper Soup

As I have mentioned, the Monkey Scientist frequently brings up the stuffed peppers I made for him back in April as one of his favorite meals I've made for him.  I ought to make them again - they were really fantastic.  But since it finally dipped below freezing this week, I decide to make a soup version!

stuffed pepper soup - adding spices

Although this is a Skinny Taste recipe, which means it's lightened up and healthier, it is absolutely filling.  I did make some adaptations, so it doesn't fit the nutritional facts on the original recipe anymore, but I think I may have made it even healthier by substituting the red meat for chicken.  The Monkey Scientist had a big bowl and said that he was actually full, but he kept eating because he felt like he should.  For us ladies who aren't trying to keep up with a ridiculously fast metabolism, you'll be plenty full with one low fat, low calorie bowl.  It's exactly the kind of meal that makes you feel good about yourself during the holiday season.

stuffed pepper soup

I'm usually not a big fan of tomato-based soups, but I found this one particularly savory and delicious.  I added red pepper flakes because when I asked the Monkey Scientist to hand me the salt and pepper, he handed me salt and red pepper flakes.  (Why do I feel like that one act perfectly sums up my boyfriend's eating preferences?)  It turned out to be a great addition and I loved the kick it gave the soup.

Stuffed Pepper Soup

Overall, a true winner.  We both thought it was warm, comforting, savory and great tasting.  It had all the flavors of our favorite stuffed peppers, but was a great winter substitution that warmed us right up.  It would be a perfect soup to bring to the ski mountain in your Bubba Keg (OK, that comment was directed straight at my Mom).

Now we're on a kick - which of my other recipes can we turn into soups?

Stuffed Pepper Soup

Stuffed Pepper Soup
adapted from Gina's Skinny Taste

3 cups cooked brown rice (I used long-grain)
2 tsp olive oil
1 lb ground chicken (or any other low-fat ground meat)
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
3/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup finely diced onion (I used frozen chopped onions)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cans (14.5 oz each) cans petite diced tomatoes
1 3/4 - 2 cups tomato sauce (I used one 14.5-oz can and 8-oz can of Hunt's)
2 cups reduced sodium, fat-free chicken broth (I used Cottage Inn)
1/2 tsp dried herbes de provence
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
salt and fresh pepper to taste

1. In a large pot or dutch oven, heat oil then brown ground chicken on high heat and season with salt.
2. Reduce heat to medium-low, then add peppers, onions and garlic. Cook about 5 minutes on low heat.
3. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken broth, herbes de provence, red pepper flakes, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes.
4. Serve about 1 1/3 cups of soup in each bowl and top with 1/2 cup cooked brown rice.  You can also sprinkle parmesan cheese on top if you like.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Candy Cane Biscotti

candy cane biscotti

One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is baking cookies.  Last year, we had an office cooking baking contest.  I'm a litttttttle bit competitive, and in the end I squeaked by and won by 1 vote with these cookies.  Seriously delicious.

candy cane biscotti

This year, I was thrilled that I was invited to a cookie swap that 2 of my friends were holding.  I was very torn about what I wanted to make, but in the end I decided on these Candy Cane Biscotti.  I feel like biscotti can be a little controversial, because people expect it to be rock hard, but it's one of my absolute favorite cookies to make.

candy cane biscotticrushed candy cane

Let me start by saying homemade biscotti is completely different than the small bricks that you might find somewhere like Starbucks.  They're crunchy, but not break-your-teeth hard by any means. My go-to cookie last winter was gingerbread biscotti and it was always a hit. I also loved making cinnamon sugar biscotti, and it made me fully trust Tracey's biscotti recipes.  I also love that biscotti stores well for a bit longer than other cookies - I actually brought some home on the plane for my family last December.

candy cane biscotti dough

These particular biscotti are perfect for the holiday season.  It turns out crushing candy canes is not so easy - we crushed right through several plastic baggies.  I recommend using freezer bags.  I also over-tempered the white chocolate so I was only able to dip 4 biscotti.  Listen to Tracey, use bars instead of chips.  You also might need to bake them a little bit longer than the recipe says, although my oven might be off.  I wanted to brown the tops a little bit more. I really should purchase an oven thermometer one of these days.

candy cane biscotticandy cane biscotti

Our cookie swap ended up being so much fun! I was really impressed with some of the cookies the girls made.  Folks seemed to enjoy these biscotti, and I think they turned out pretty delicious.  They weren't hard, and the peppermint gave great Christmasy-flavor.  Plus, even without the white chocolate, they're quite pretty!  This is a great recipe to make ahead of time and put out for Santa on Christmas Eve.  They're sure to put you in the holiday spirit!

candy cane biscotticandy cane biscotti

Candy Cane Biscotti
from Tracey's Culinary Adventures

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup crush peppermint candy canes, plus extra for garnish
14 oz white chocolate (use bars, not chips)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients and beat just until incorporated. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the candy cane pieces.

3. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Shape each into a log that is roughly 9-inches by 1 1/2-inches. Transfer them to the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 3 inches apart. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the logs are light golden brown and cracked and top. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the logs cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet. Reduce the oven to 325 F.

4. Working with one log at a time, cut into 1/2-inch slices on the diagonal using a serrated knife. Transfer the biscotti to the baking sheet, cut side down. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the biscotti are light golden brown and crisp on both sides. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool completely.

5. Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water. Stir occasionally until melted. Dip half of each biscotti cookie into the melted chocolate, letting the excess drip off before transferring to a sheet of wax paper. Garnish with extra crushed candy canes while the chocolate is wet, if desired. Let the chocolate set then store in an airtight container.

Makes about 3 dozen

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Eggplant and Veal Parmesan Lasagna

Eggplant and Veal Lasagna Parm

When I went back to visit my parents for Thanksgiving, we had a special treat.  On Wednesday night, we had to pick my baby bro up from the airport right around dinner time, which meant we got to make a trip to Rino's Place, my absolute favorite Italian restaurant.  We've been going there for years, but ever since it was featured on Diner's, Drive-ins and Dives (of which it isn't any of the 3) it's been almost impossible to get a table at Rino's.  Fortunately, we're the only ones crazy enough to want an Italian meal with enormous portions the night before Thanksgiving, so it was relatively quiet.

Eggplant and Veal Lasagna ParmEggplant and Veal Lasagna ParmEggplant and Veal Lasagna Parm

My family is pretty predictable when it comes to Italian food.  My brother always orders Ziti with Chicken and Broccoli or Lobster Ravioli.  My go-to is chicken piccata, although I tend to be a little more flexible (on this particular night I had an open seafood and vegetable lasagna with huge chunks of lobster and scallops and shrimp, YUM).  Mom and Dad are fans of Veal and Eggplant Parmesan.  At Rino's, they have a dish that has both Eggplant and Veal in one dish, and it's what they both always order.

Eggplant and Veal Lasagna ParmEggplant and Veal Lasagna Parm

I was feeling a bit lazy this week, but I knew I really should cook at least 1 night.  Lasagna is always easy to assemble and leaves lots of leftovers, and I loved the idea of an Eggplant Parmesan version.  I knew the Monkey Scientist wouldn't quite be satisfied without meat, so I took a tip from Rino's and added veal!

Eggplant and Veal Lasagna ParmEggplant and Veal Lasagna Parm

The original recipe was a little bit confusing, so I tried to simplify it and be super clear for you.  I ended up making a few mistakes changes to mine, including mixing ALL the parm with all the breadcrumbs so I ended up having breadcrumbs in every layer - oops.  It didn't turn out all that different, but my topping definitely didn't bake the same way as the recipe I was following.  I also added an extra layer of lasagna noodles, which wasn't so smart since I used no-boil and there wasn't enough liquid on the last layer to really cook them.  Don't be like me.

Eggplant and Veal Lasagna Parm

Despite my lack of being able to follow instructions, this came out delicious!  I loved the mix of veal and eggplant; it added good depth of flavor.  Per usual, I kicked up the spice a lot, and it made it superbly tasty. I probably used twice the spice that I put in the recipe below, so don't be too afraid, but you can leave it out if you aren't into spicy foods.  The Monkey Scientist said this just might be one of his favorite meals I've ever made (although he still keeps talking about  those stuffed peppers I made last spring).  I've been eating this lasagna for lunch and dinner for a couple days now and I'm not tired of it yet :)

Eggplant and Veal Lasagna Parm

Eggplant and Veal Parmesan Lasagna
adapted from Heather's Dish

1 large eggplant, peeled and chopped into small pieces
2 Tbsp olive oil (divided) + more for drizzling
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (more if you like it spicy)
1 lb ground veal
1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce (or use homemade if you’d like!)
2 cups low fat shredded mozzarella cheese
15 oz fat free ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 tsp garlic powder
1 1/4 cups parmesan (divided)
3/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs (I used plain Panko with a tbsp of Italian seasoning)
1 tsp red pepper flakes (more if you like it spicy)
~1/2 box pre-boil lasagna noodles (I use Barilla)

1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and eggplant, salt, pepper, and cayenne and cook until soft and golden brown. Move the eggplant to a large bowl.
3. In the same skillet, add remaining olive oil and veal. Break up and cook until brown.
4. With a slotted spoon, move veal to the same bowl as the eggplant. Add tomato sauce and toss.
5. In another bowl whisk together the ricotta, egg, and garlic powder.
6. In another bowl (sorry for the dishes…big thanks to the Monkey Scientist for helping clean!) mix together 3/4 of a cup of the parmesan, red pepper flakes, and the breadcrumbs.
7. Spray a 9×13 dish with nonstick spray and layer the lasagna:
  • a small amount of tomato sauce, a layer of lasagna noodles
  • 1/3 of the ricotta mixture
  • 1/3 of the mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese (not the mixture)
  • 1/2 of the tomato sauce/eggplant/veal mixture
  • a layer of lasagna noodles
  • 1/3 of the ricotta mixture
  • 1/3 of the mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 of the tomato sauce/eggplant/veal mixture
  • the last of the ricotta mixture
  • the last of the mozzarella
  • the breadcrumbs/parmesan mixture
8. Drizzle with a little olive oil, cover with foil and bake at 375 for 1 hour.
9. Remove the foil and let bake another 10 minutes or until the top is golden brown and bubbly. 
10. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes to let the juices set before serving.

    Thursday, December 8, 2011

    Graham Cracker Torte

    graham cracker torte

    One of my absolute favorite blogs is Eat, Live, Run.  I feel like I know Jenna from reading it all the time.  Jenna's photos are wonderful, her comments are witty, but more importantly her recipes are awesome.  I've reviewed many an ELR recipe here on yelleBELLYboo - kicked up meatloafratatouilleturkey burgers with spinach and feta/goat cheese, blackberry and orange zest muffins, and whole wheat fig newtons to name a few - and for the most part I've enjoyed them all.  But since Jenna is a baker by trade, I needed to try more of her baked goods.

    graham cracker torte
    whipped egg whites

    Recently, Jenna challenged herself to bake through her great-grandmother's recipe box.  I've enjoyed seeing all the interesting 1920s recipes she's trying, and was especially intrigued by this graham cracker torte, which her grandmother apparently had written up on multiple recipe cards.  I've never made a cake that actually doesn't have any flour - I had to give this one a shot.

    graham cracker tortegraham cracker torte

    Last year, I tried to make birthday cakes for everyone on my team at work.  It got to be a little too much work and I haven't done quite as well this year.  However, one of my coworkers has always been so nice - bringing me treats from the potato chip factory, getting an ice cream cake for another coworker's birthday, bringing me the coupons every week - so for her birthday another coworker and I decided to bake her this cake.  She's not a huge chocolate person (much like myself) so this cake seemed like something she would enjoy.

    caramel for graham cracker torte

    I have to admit, this cake isn't the easiest thing to make.  At one point, I had to use both my standing mixer and my hand mixer (maybe I should buy a 2nd bowl for my standing mixer?) and the steps seemed endless.  When I went to get the cakes out of the tins, it was an utter failure.  I wish I had lined the bottom with parchment.  In the end, once I added the whipped cream, you couldn't really tell what a mess I had made, but it wasn't exactly the gorgeous torte that Jenna assembled.  Plus I definitely cooked and curdled the eggs in the caramel and had to strain it, but I don't think it mattered too much in the end.

    graham cracker torte

    So even though this was absolutely not the prettiest cake I've ever made, the taste was outstanding.  The cake is somewhere between a sponge and a meringue, but nutty with a nice crunch.  The whipped cream made a perfect frosting to counteract the sweet caramel.  The birthday girl loved it and said she'd be making it again.  Our office finished it in record time - less than half an hour until the serving plate was licked clean.  Absolutely a hit!  I think I'm getting quite the reputation for making the best-tasting ugly cakes of all time - a reputation I'm just fine with!

    graham cracker torte

    Graham Cracker Torte
    from Eat, Live, Run

    for torte:
    6 eggs, separated
    1 1/2 cups sugar
    1 tsp baking powder
    2 tsp vanilla
    1 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans)
    2 cups graham cracker crumbs (a little less than two sleeves of graham crackers)

    for caramel sauce:
    1/4 cup butter, melted
    1/4 cup water
    1/4 cup orange juice
    1 well beaten egg
    1 tbsp cornstarch
    1 tbsp vanilla
    1 cup brown sugar

    for assembly:
    1 pint heavy cream

    1. Preheat oven to 325.
    2. Beat egg yolks until light and frothy (I used the whisk attachment of my standing mixer). Add sugar, baking powder and vanilla and continue to beat until very thick and pale in color. Set aside.
    3. Beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Gently fold egg whites into egg yolks and then fold in the nuts and graham cracker crumbs.
    4. Divide batter into two WELL GREASED 9-inch cake pans (I recommend putting a piece of parchment on the bottom of the pans as well) and bake for 35 minutes. Let cool before turning cakes out of pans onto plates or a counter top.
    5. To make the caramel sauce, combine all ingredients in a saucepot and bring to a boil whisking the whole time. Don’t stop whisking or the egg will cook and curdle, which isn’t the end of the world (just strain the caramel through a mesh strainer after it cools) but it can be prevented by whisking constantly until the sauce is very thick and boiling. Remove sauce from heat and let cool completely.
    6. To assemble the torte, whip the cream until it holds soft peaks. Spread whipped cream between graham cracker layers and over the top of the torte. Pour on the cooled caramel sauce and it let drip down the sides.
    Keep the torte in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

    Monday, December 5, 2011

    Mom's Stuffed Mushrooms

    stuffed mushrooms

    This Thanksgiving, Mom asked me to put together a recipe list before I came home for the holiday so she could start getting organized.  My first request for appetizers was her famous stuffed mushroom recipe. She has been making this hor d'oeurve for as long as I can remember and it is one of my absolute favorites.

    un-stuffed mushrooms

    I always thought this recipe had been my Mimi's and she had passed it on to my mom.  I learned that, actually, my mom got the recipe from her old tennis partner.  I think pre-2006 my mom mush have used a different stuffed mushroom recipe, but this one was such a hit that it must have replaced her old classic.  Either way, I'm definitely not complaining.

    stuffing for mushrooms

    This is the first time I remember actually making these mushrooms, and it is way easier than I realized.  I love that you add the stems of the mushrooms back into the stuffing - that way nothing goes to waste.  We were actually able to assemble everything the day before and just throw them in the oven before we were ready to serve them.  Making things ahead is always the key to holding a successful holiday party. (However, I do apologize that since we made them ahead and baked them at night, the final photos are a bit dim.  Someday I'll by a DSLR so I can make manual adjustments to the ISO and make these photos come out better!)

    stuffed mushroomsstuffed mushrooms

    If I didn't make this clear yet, these mushrooms are awesome.  This time they actually came out a little greasy, but that usually isn't the case.  They are the perfect size to pop in your mouth (I love a one-bite treat!) so there is no need for a fork and knife or even a plate.  They're warm and cheesy with depth from the oregano and breadcrumbs.  If you have a holiday party coming up, these are a simple and delicious appetizer that is sure to delight!

    stuffed mushrooms

    Mom's Stuffed Mushrooms
    Recipe courtesy of Lisa Dunn circa 2006 via my mom

    ½ lb medium to large mushrooms
    1/3 c dry, seasoned breadcrumbs
    2 green onions, chopped (optional)
    ¼ c butter or margarine, melted
    ½ c cheddar or romano cheese, grated + extra for sprinkling
    Dash white wine
    ½ tsp Italian seasoning
    ½ tsp salt
    ¼ tsp garlic powder
    ½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
    Dash freshly ground black pepper

    1. Carefully remove stems from mushrooms and chop.
    2. Combine stems and remaining ingredients (except mushroom caps) to make the stuffing.
    3. Fill caps with stuffing mixture. Sprinkle top with extra cheese.
    4. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.

    Friday, December 2, 2011

    Kicked-up Meatloaf

    kicked up meatloaf

    I am so sorry! I wrote up this post a long time ago and realized I never posted it for you!! And now I've made you wait allll this time without a new post.  Shame on me.

    To be honest, I wasn't so excited about this recipe, so I guess that's what led to my hesitation in posting it.  When I have a recipe I totally love - like buttery cloverleaf rolls - I post it right that night. But this one was just, eh.  I still figured it might appeal to some of you.

    kicked up meatloaf

    My favorite part of this meatloaf was the addition of mushrooms.  I'd never put mushrooms in my meatloaf before, but I absolutely loved them.  I used baby portabellas, which were absolutely perfect. I'm usually not that into veggies in my meatloaf (which is why I left out the carrots - I'm not into cooked carrots at all) but mushrooms are meaty enough that they work well.

    kicked up meatloaf

    I was also intrigued by the step where you soak the bread crumbs in milk.  I'd never done that before.  I'm not sure what exactly it did, but maybe it made a juicier meatloaf.  I wished it had a bit more egg - I know it's weird but I actually love an eggy meatloaf like my college roommate used to make.

    kicked up meatloaf

    My biggest issue with this recipe happened once it was cooked.  As soon as I sliced it, it was almost impossible to get a nice piece out of the dish.  It kept falling apart.  It tasted fine, but it wasn't exactly a gorgeous presentation.  I think it's all the lentils that made it not turn into a loaf quite as much as meat typically does.

    kicked up meatloaf

    Overall, not a bad recipe. It's nowhere near my favorite meatloaf recipe, but it is definitely a different and fairly delicious dinner.  It's especially good with a little sriracha on top (you know that's how the Monkey Scientist ate it!), smothered in ketchup, or even with soy sauce.  If you've cut out red meat and didn't want to go all turkey, it's certainly a good alternative to traditional meat loaf.

    kicked up meatloaf

    Kicked up Meatloaf
    from ELR on Perry's Plate

    1 lb lean ground turkey
    1 cup cooked black or green lentils
    1 large carrot, diced (I actually left this out)
    1 large onion, diced
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    2 cups mushrooms, chopped
    1 1/2 tsp worcestershire sauce
    1/4 cup ketchup
    1 tsp salt
    1/2 T olive oil
    1/4th tsp black pepper
    3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
    1/3 cup milk
    1 egg, slightly beaten
    2 T ketchup
    1 T pure maple syrup (I was out so I used honey)
    1 T balsamic vinegar

    1. Preheat oven to 400.
    2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the diced onions and saute for about six minutes, until soft and translucent. Add the carrot and garlic and cook for three minutes. Add the chopped mushroom and cook for another five minutes or so, until the mushroom has turned soft and all the veggies are nice and juicy.
    3. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl. Add the cooked lentils, salt, pepper, worcestershire sauce and ketchup and mix well.
    4. In a small bowl, combine the milk and panko bread crumbs. Let sit for three minutes so the breadcrumbs can absorb a little of the milk. Add to veggie mixture.
    5. Add ground turkey and beaten egg and mix well. It’s easiest here to use your hands. Transfer to a greased loaf pan and press down to smooth top.
    6. Combine the ingredients for the glaze and pour over top of meatloaf. Spread with a spoon to cover the top.
    7. Bake for 55 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees (mine too much longer).