Weekend Fare: Granola

I’m pretty excited to bring you this post! It isn’t the first time I’ve made granola but it had definitely been a few years since it had made my make-from-scratch list. I combined ideas from a couple of recipes and made a great big batch. Cereal is a staple at our house and we go through it entirely too quickly, so I am looking forward to adding granola to our breakfast menu! This is seriously good and makes a lot (you can halve the recipe). Go and make it!

GRANOLA
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9 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
2 1/2 c. coconut
1 1/2 c. raw sunflower seeds
3 1/2 c. dried fruit (I used 2 c. cranberries, 1 1/2 c. golden raisins)
1  1/2 c. raw nuts (I used a combo of almonds, pecans, and a few walnuts)
1 Tb. cinnamon
2 tsp. salt
1 Tb. vanilla extract
1/2 c. pure maple syrup
3/4 c. honey
3/4 c. canola oil

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Combine oats, coconut, sunflower seeds, dried fruit, and nuts in a big bowl. Add cinnamon and mix. In a measuring cup or another bowl, mix together the salt vanilla, maple syrup, honey, and oil. Pour the liquid mixture over the dry ingredients. Thoroughly combine. Divide between two large bake sheets. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Rotate trays about half way through baking.  

Cool completely and store in an air tight container. Enjoy as cereal, as a topping for yogurt or ice cream, with fruit, or as a snack.

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Weekend Fare: Carrabba’s Chicken Bryan

For my birthday this past year, Jeremy took me to Carrabba’s Italian Grill for supper. I mmmed over my chicken dish and have thought about it several times since that meal. Imagine my delight when I spied a recipe for that very dish while flipping through a cookbook I wouldn’t normally peruse (Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3). I finally got around to making it myself. Still delicious! With chicken, goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes topped with a basil lemon butter sauce, what’s not to love?!

While the recipe includes lots of ingredients and quite a few steps, I was able to pull this all together in around 30 minutes, not bad for a fancyish dish. As I didn’t have any heavy cream or fresh basil, I successfully used whole milk and dried basil instead.

If you’re staying in to cook a special Valentine’s dinner for you and your honey, this recipe would make a perfect addition to the menu served alongside a green salad, some steamed vegetables, and dessert.

CARRABBA’S CHICKEN BRYAN
(from Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3)
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Basil Lemon Butter Sauce
1/2 c. butter (confession: I only used 1/4 c.)
1 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp white wine
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp white pepper
1/4 c. heavy cream
6-7 basil leaves, sliced

Chicken
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast fillets
olive oil
salt
pepper
1/2 oz sun-dried tomatoes (1/3 c. when reconstituted and sliced)
4 sliced of goat cheese

If grilling chicken, preheat grill on high. Broiling works fine, as well.

Make the basil lemon butter sauce by melting butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and slowly saute it for 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice, wine, salt, pepper, and cream. Reduce the heat to low. Cook the sauce for 15-20 minutes over low heat until thickened, stirring often.

Use a kitchen mallet to flatten the thick part of the chicken (or you can just cut the breast in half to make to thinner pieces). Rub each chicken breast with oil, then sprinkle each with salt and pepper. Grill or broil chicken for 3-5 minutes per side, until done.

While chicken is cooking, simmer sun-dried tomatoes in small pan of boiling water for 3-4 minutes. Strain, then slice in strips.

Place chicken on the plate, top with a slice of goat cheese and tomatoes. Stir the sliced basil leaves into the sauce and spoon over the chicken. Serves 4.

Weekend Fare: Thai Salad Rolls

My friend, Elora, introduced me to this delicious Thai-style dish.  Layers of veggies, noodles, and meat with a delicious sauce to dip the rolls in. It’s a meal worth sharing with friends and family and perfect for enjoying for a leisurely weekend meal.

Preparing the meal takes quite a lot of cutting, but it’s really worth it! Do be warned that while this is a  fun and festive meal, it does take work for those participating in the eating as well (Little Red Hen gets help from all her friends!), as everyone assembles there own rolls.

The spring roll wrappers can be find at an Asian grocery. Also, a note for any of you gluten-free folks, hoisin sauce is often not gluten-free, so do be careful and read the label. As I haven’t sought out a gluten-free brand, I actually just found a recipe online to make my own.

THAI-SALAD ROLLS
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assorted sliced/shredded vegetables (ie: carrots, green onions, lettuce, cabbage, bell peppers, avocado)
spring roll rice paper wrappers
vermicelli rice noodles
cooked meat of choice (steak, chicken, shrimp, or even tofu)
homemade Thai dipping sauce

HOMEMADE THAI DIPPING SAUCE

3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp hot pepper flakes
oil of choice (I used coconut oil)
1 Tbsp tomato paste
3 Tbsp hoisin sauce
3 Tbsp peanut butter
1/2 Tbsp sugar
3/4 c. water

Saute garlic and pepper flakes in oil for one minute. Add rest of the ingredients whisking constantly. Simmer and thicken.

TO ASSEMBLE

Soak spring roll wrapper in very hot water to soften (fill a pie dish, wok, or some other dish) and lay it on a plate (we find it best to soak two together as it holds up better with all the fillings!). Layer noodles (prepared according to package), meat, veggies, and some of the sauce (if desired). Roll it up. Serve with a side of more dipping sauce.

Weekend Fare: Stuffed Shells

It had been far too long since I had made stuffed shells and so I decided to make them again. They are great for freezing and they are great for taking a meal to someone. They take a little bit of time but really, they are not hard at all and they look so pretty. You can easily make these vegetarian by omitting the sausage – they are delicious either way. My kids loved them and I like that the spinach adds some excellent nutrients!

SPINACH, SAUSAGE & CHEESE STUFFED SHELLS
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1 (12 oz.) package jumbo pasta shells
1 lb. Italian sausage
1 (10 oz.) package frozen chopped spinach – thawed, drained and squeezed dry
1 (15 oz.) container ricotta cheese
2 c. mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 eggs
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
pinch of nutmeg
4 c. spaghetti sauce (you can make your own or use jarred sauce)
1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 c. parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add shells and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain and rinse in cold water.

Place sausage in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until evenly brown. Drain and crumble. In a large bowl, combine cooked sausage, spinach, ricotta cheese, mozzarella, egg, garlic, lemon juice and parmesan cheese. Season with salt, pepper, oregano, nutmeg.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a 9×13 pan and spread 1/4 c. spaghetti sauce in the bottom. Generously stuff pasta shells with the sausage and cheese mixture and place in baking dish. Top with remaining spaghetti sauce. Cover with foil and bake for 20 – 30 minutes until hot. Remove foil and sprinkle on the remaining 1 c. mozzarella and 1/4 c. parmesan. Bake for another 10 minutes uncovered until cheese is melted and dish is bubbly.

Simple Suppers: Turkey-Veggie Skillet

I don’t know about you, but I definitely have evenings where I wonder what in the world I’m going to pull out for supper. Monday night we were just back from a weekend of holiday-ing. I’d worked and then grocery shopped my way home and still, to my tired eyes and brain, my fridge looked bare. However, I remembered some leftover Thanksgiving turkey in the freezer. With minimal chopping, some seasonings and a bit of heavy cream, we had a filling and delicious supper. I served this over steamed broccoli, but it would be just as delicious over rice or pasta.

So, for the next time you have a what’s-for-supper moment, perhaps this recipe will be a source of inspiration. Any veggies you have on hand would easily work.

TURKEY-VEGGIE SKILLET
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olive oil and/or butter
8 oz mushrooms, chopped
2 carrots, shredded
1 large onion, chopped
8 oz fresh spinach (I chopped mine because I preferred it small)
2 cloves garlic, minced
Cooked, chopped turkey (or chicken)
salt and pepper to taste
heavy cream or bechamel sauce

Heat olive oil and butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Add mushrooms, onions, carrots, and garlic. Saute until onions start to soften and become translucent.

Add spinach and saute about 1 minute before adding chopped turkey. Season with salt and pepper. Cook another couple of minutes to heat turkey.

Add moderate amount of heavy cream (this honestly depends on the quantity in the skillet, you just want enough to cover everything, but not be drowning in cream) and simmer until cream thickens slightly. Serve over steamed veggies, rice, or pasta.

Weekend Fare: Waffles & Syrup

These delicious waffles and warm, buttery, rich, homemade syrup make for a wonderful Christmas breakfast or brunch or even just a lazy winter morning treat. We picked up our Belgian waffle maker on a black Friday sale for $10 and it’s awesome! This recipe made not quite enough for my hungry crew. 🙂 I would probably make half again more.

BELGIAN WAFFLES – adapted from allrecipes.com
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4 egg yolks
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. buttermilk
1/2 c. butter, melted
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 Tb. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 Tb. white sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 egg whites

Preheat your waffle iron.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, buttermilk and butter until well blended. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt and cinnamon; stir into the buttermilk mixture. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff. Fold into the batter.

Spoon batter onto the hot waffle iron, close, and cook until golden brown. Waffles are usually done when the steam subsides.

BUTTERMILK SYRUP – allrecipes.com

1/2 c. butter
1 c. sugar
1 c. buttermilk
1 Tb. vanilla extract
1 Tb. corn syrup
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Bring butter, sugar, buttermilk, vanilla extract, corn syrup, and cinnamon to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Once simmering, whisk in baking soda, and cook for 10 seconds before removing from heat. Serve warm.

Weekend Fare: Curried Lentil Soup

This delicious soup was featured in this month’s issue of Bon Appetit. I wished I had doubled the recipe – it was creamy, perfectly spiced, and great for a winter supper. I did not have green onions so we just enjoyed it without. This vegetarian soup would be a wonderful starter for meal or served as the main dish. You could omit the butter for a vegan dish but the addition of the butter took the flavor to a whole new place – so good!

CURRIED LENTIL SOUP – Bon Appetit, December 2010
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3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped, divided
2 tablespoons (or more) curry powder
1 cup French green lentils* (I used regular green) 
4 1/4 cups (or more) water, divided
1 15- to 16-ounce can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained, rinsed
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 lemon, cut into 6 wedges

*French green lentils are small, dark green, and speckled with black; they can be found at some supermarkets and at specialty foods stores.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion and carrot; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until onion is translucent, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Add half of chopped garlic; stir until vegetables are soft but not brown, about 4 minutes longer. Add 2 tablespoons curry powder; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add lentils and 4 cups water. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Increase heat and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, puree chickpeas, lemon juice, 1/4 cup water, remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and remaining garlic in processor.

Add chickpea puree and butter to lentil soup. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and additional curry powder, if desired. Add water by 1/4 cupfuls to thin to desired consistency. DO AHEAD Soup can be made up to 1 day ahead. Cool, cover, and refrigerate. Rewarm before continuing.Divide soup among bowls. Sprinkle with thinly sliced green onions and serve with lemon wedges.

Weekend Fare: Pumpkin Dip & Pumpkin Pie Spice

Our magazine review will be tomorrow with our picks for the best Thanksgiving magazines!

Today, I’m sharing a recipe that wouldn’t generally be in my repetoire but is delicious and very easy for holiday entertaining, so I’m making an exception. 🙂 This is a quick, easy, and wonderful dessert dip. It’s great for this time of year – perfect for showers, open houses, and snacks. I requested the recipe after enjoying it at an event and modified a little for our taste. You can serve this with gingersnaps, cinnamon grahams, cinnamon pita chips or whatever else sounds good to you!

PUMPKIN FLUFF DIP
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1 container (8 ounce size) frozen whipped topping, thawed (or equivalent stabilized, sweetened whipped cream)
1 box (5 ounce size) instant vanilla pudding mix
1 can (15 ounce size) solid pack pumpkin
1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (I make my own – recipe below)

In a large bowl, mix together instant vanilla pudding mix, pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice. Fold in the thawed frozen whipped topping. Chill in the refrigerator until serving.

PUMPKIN PIE SPICE
4 tsp. Cinnamon
2 tsp. Ginger
2 tsp. Nutmeg
1 tsp. Allspice
1 tsp. Cloves

Combine and store in an airtight container.

Weekend Fare: Curried Lentils

I love eating and cooking vegetarian! We probably average 2-3 nights a week of meatless meals. This easy and quick meal (takes under an hour) was popular with the whole family. Lentils are probably my favorite legume and they are quite versatile.

CURRIED LENTILS (adapted from More-with-Less)
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1 c. lentils
2 1/2 c. beef or vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. salt

Bring to a boil and simmer 20-30 minutes until tender.

1/4 c. butter
1 lg. onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt
2 Tb. curry powder
2 Tb. lemon juice
chopped parsley

Saute together the butter, onion, and garlic until onions are translucent. Stir in salt and curry powder.  Add cooked lentils with lemon juice and parsley. Makes 4-6 servings.

Serve over rice.

Weekend Fare: Baked Apples

This is a wonderful, healthy dessert. You can put these baked apples together quickly for unexpected company or enjoy them as an addition to fall brunch. They make your house smell wonderful!

BAKED APPLES
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4 apples, washed and cored
1/2 c. dried fruit (I used cranberries & golden raisins)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tb. honey or brown sugar
1 Tb. butter, cut into quarters

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Score the side of the apple by gently running a knife all the way around the middle of it – through the skin.Place cored apples in a baking dish. In a separate bowl, combine the fruit, cinnamon, and honey. Stuff the fruit filling in the core of each apple. Top with 1/4 of the butter. Place 4 Tb. of water in the bottom of the pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes, basting halfway through. Enjoy as is or top with caramel drizzle, yogurt, or whipped cream.