Saturday, March 23, 2013

Whole Wheat Banana Waffles

Weekend mornings just beg for a special breakfast.  Something tasty to serve with a good cup of coffee while listening to NPR radio shows (or is this just us?)  I had a few bananas past their prime, and although I love making the always amazing Banana-Blueberry Muffins, I wanted to try something new. 

Also, we'd only used our snazzy, wedding-gift waffle-maker once.  I wasn't overly impressed with the first recipe we had tried, so I wanted to give it another go with a new recipe.  This one came together very quickly.  And I had some berries in the fridge, so I had a ready-made topping for them.

A tip to avoid the waffles losing their crispiness by sitting piled up on a plate: put a cooling rack on a cookie sheet and preheat your oven to 250 degrees.  After a pair of waffles is done, place them on the cooling rack-cookie sheet in the oven to keep them warm and crispy while you finish up with the rest of the batter.

While I was plating up the waffles with fresh fruit I noticed the husband was making French press coffee (a departure from his typical Keurig cup) and I commented that he was going fancy.  "A fancy breakfast requires a fancy drink!"  I'm not sure this is ready for the Queen, but it sure is tasty and will make your breakfast companions happy!

The verdict: A yummy indulgent breakfast! The whole wheat lends a subtle nutty flavor that goes well with the sweetness of the bananas and fresh fruit.
The husband's thoughts: They were exceptional.
Changes for next time: I'd like to try applesauce in place of the oil, to lighten them a bit. Maybe even some blueberries in the batter?
Difficulty: Easy

Whole Wheat Banana Waffles
(adapted from Lauren's Latest)
Makes 6-8 waffles

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 Tbsp flax seeds, ground
1 cup skim milk
1 egg, separated
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons canola oil or melted butter
1 very ripe banana, mashed

Strawberries, blueberries, and maple syrup (optional)

In large bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients. Make a well in the center and pour in milk, egg yolk, vanilla, oil and mashed banana. Stir together until just combined. Whip egg white until stiff peaks form. Gently fold whites into batter.

Pour a heaping 1/3 cup into hot, greased waffle maker and cook by your wafflemaker's instructions.  Keep warm and crispy on a cooling rack-cookie sheet in a 250 degree oven until ready to eat.  Serve with fresh strawberries, blueberries, and maple syrup (or your topping of choice).


Friday, March 22, 2013

Quiche with a Brown Rice Crust

I knew I would have an overabundance of cooked brown rice this week due to making Glory Bowls for lunch, and I wanted to try a new recipe.  I searched "brown rice" in all of my favorite recipe spots and nothing piqued my interest, so I asked my awesome cook friend at work.  She said she loved anything with a brown rice crust - casserole, quiche, etc.  Hmmm... this had promise.

Quiche is so flexible with choices of filling that I had to try it.  It's also a good way to empty your fridge of old veggies sneak extra veggies into a meal.  I didn't go to wild with this filling.  I just used tried and true combos.  But there's so much potential!

Of course, I wasn't sure how it was going to turn out, so I didn't take any pictures while I was making it.  I thought it was blog-worthy when I got a text from the husband at lunch with the comment, "Good quiche, hun!"

The verdict: Good!  A flexible recipe that can suit anyone's tastes, and it's healthy to boot.
The husband's thoughts: Very good, and great with a little hot sauce.
Changes for next time: None, just trying a different filling combo for fun, and maybe an herb or two.
Difficulty: Easy

Quiche with a Brown Rice Crust
Makes 6 servings

2 cups cooked brown rice
1 egg white (keep yolk for filling)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

4 whole eggs + 1 yolk, beaten
1 cup milk (I used skim)
2 cups of your veggies/meat of choice (I used caramelized onions, mushrooms, garlic, ham, and sauteed kale)
1/4-1/2 cup cheese, shredded (optional)
Salt & pepper to taste
Additional seasonings to taste (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Beat egg white a bit and mix in rice and cheese.  Press into greased pie plate (mine happens to be deep-dish).  Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden.  Remove from oven and let cool while you mix together the filling.

If your filling needs to be sauteed or cooked, now's the time!  I caramelized my onions first, then added in garlic, mushrooms, and kale to soften a bit.  Then the ham, just to meld the flavors.

Beat the eggs, yolk, and milk in large bowl.  Add seasoning of preference (I like seasoning salt).  Mix in your veggies, meat, and cheese.  Pour into crust.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until the top is golden-brown and filling is set.  Let cool a few minutes before cutting and serving.  It's great with a green salad on the side!


Monday, March 18, 2013

Salted Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cookies with Pretzels

Last weekend was a rough one - I had two full days (and then some) of meetings at work.  It was very stressful, so to keep the morale up of my team I did what I do best - I baked!  A batch of muffins and two batches of cookies, and they were enjoyed by all.  One of the batches of cookies was a chocolate-red wine cookie (I'll post it soon, promise), and my boss was eating them with pretzels.  She commented that they were fantastic together.  Who doesn't like a salty-sweet combo?  And that gave me an idea to try that flavor profile in one cookie...

I was surprised to find that such a recipe doesn't exist (that I could find, anyway).  A bar or brownie, perhaps, but not exactly what I was looking for.  So I did some modifying and came up with this little gem.

I thought chunks of pretzel would be good for flavor and crunch.  I bought small, sturdy pretzel twists and used an oh-so-high-tech-smashing-device to crush them up a bit, just into bite-sized pieces.  (Who doesn't like to smash things with a rolling pin?)  To avoid the pretzels absorbing moisture and getting sort of stale, I put them only on the top and not mixed into the dough. 

I also knew I wanted to top them off with coarse sea salt.  You have to sprinkle it on after baking (otherwise it just gets absorbed), but of course it doesn't stick too well to a baked cookie.  When I made the Nutella-Stuffed, Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt, I noticed the salt stuck to the melted chocolate chips quite well.  So, why not drizzle some melted chocolate on top of these cookies?  No one says no to more chocolate!  (If they do, I'm sure something is wrong with them.)

These cookies are husband, friend, and coworker approved.  Won't you welcome them into your home?

Salted Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cookies with Pretzels
(heavily adapted from Brown Eyed Baker)
Makes ~ 3 dozen cookies

1¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup creamy peanut butter
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
~ 1 cup pretzels, slightly crushed
~ 1 cup dark/semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
Coarse sea salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.

Beat together the butter, peanut butter and both sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract. Scrape the bowl. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low until just combined. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the chocolate chips.  If dough feels too soft to work with, feel free to pop it in the fridge for a bit.

Take heaping tablespoonful of dough, roll into a ball and place on cookie sheet, spacing the cookies about 2 inches apart.  Press pieces of pretzel on top of unbaked cookie.  Bake for about 12 minutes, or until the outside of the cookies are set but the middles are still a little soft. Cool cookies on the baking sheets for a few minutes and then place them on a cooling rack.

Melt chocolate chips, and drizzle on top of cooled cookies (I used a Ziploc bag with the corner cut, of course).  Sprinkle a small pinch of coarse salt on top of each cookie.  Place cookies in fridge to set the chocolate (for roughly 15-30 minutes), and store in an airtight container at room temperature.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Black Beans & Rice with Chicken & Apple Salsa

This recipe was shared with me by a coworker of mine, who happens to be an amazing cook.  Seriously, she astounds me each week with the quantity, creativity, and quality of dishes she whips up in a 4 hour chunk of time on Sundays.  It's like she's in her own personal Iron Chef competition.  Anyway, I'd been putting off making this dish for no apparent reason, but after she reiterated that it was fairly quick and easy, I decided to make a go of it.

Plus, if I made a large batch of brown rice, I could use the rest of it for a Glory Bowl.  Sold.

The husband made quick work of shredding the rotisserie chicken (with some very insistent furry critters demanding some of the bounty).  I had a fair amount of chopping to do, but I don't mind that prep work.

The original recipe called for the apple to be peeled before it was chopped, but I thought that was needless, extra work.  Plus, the green of the skin with the red onion and cilantro was very visually appealing.

The verdict: VERY good!  Another healthy, quick, and easy recipe to add to the rotation.
The husband's thoughts: They were excellent flavors that all worked together.
Changes for next time: None!  Well, maybe the addition of some queso fresco, because cheese makes everything better...
Difficulty: Easy!  Just requires a bit of prep.

Black Beans & Rice with Chicken & Apple Salsa
(from Epicurious)
Makes 4-6 servings

1 cup chopped Granny Smith apple
1/2 cup chopped cilantro, divided
1/3 cup finely chopped red onion, divided
1 teaspoon (or more) fresh lime juice
1/3 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
3 cups low-salt chicken broth
2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cups cooked brown or white rice
1 2–3-pound rotisserie chicken, skin discarded and meat shredded
4–6 lime wedges

Combine apple, 1/4 cup cilantro, 2 tablespoons onion, and 1 teaspoon lime juice in a small bowl; toss to coat. Set apple salsa aside. 

Combine remaining onion, bell pepper, and oil in a large skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until completely softened, 6–7 minutes. Add garlic and next 3 ingredients; stir constantly for 2 minutes. Stir in broth and beans; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer briskly, mashing some of the beans with the back of a spoon and stirring often, until sauce is thickened, 8–10 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and more lime juice, if desired. 

Divide rice and beans among plates. Top with some chicken and apple salsa. Garnish with remaining 1/4 cup cilantro and lime wedges.