Thursday, February 28, 2013

Butternut Squash Risotto

Back when my husband was doing a lot of freelance photography work, he sometimes would take photos for a magazine called Capitol File. After he did a portrait shoot for a feature in the magazine, we started receiving the copy of the magazine in the mail for quite some time. The magazine is huge and glossy and it showcases events, restaurants, and much more from the Washington DC area.

I saw this recipe for butternut squash risotto, courtesy of chef Nicholas Stefanelli of Bibiana, in the magazine last fall. I ripped it out of the magazine, tucked it away, and made a mental note to try it out. Well, I finally got around to making it last weekend! It was really good. It was warm and a tad sweet and a tad salty, and it was a total comfort food. The original recipe used Taleggio cheese, but I used Mascarpone in its place. Mascarpone is a sweet Italian cream cheese, and it's amazing (you'll be tempted to eat it by the spoonful). I will definitely be making this delicious risotto dish again, and I hope you will try it too. Enjoy!

Recipe for Butternut Squash Risotto
3 cups of chicken broth
3 cups of vegetable broth
3 Tbsp. of extra-virgin olive oil, divided
5 Tbsp. of unsalted butter, divided
Half of a yellow onion, chopped very small
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 cup of risotto (Arborio rice)
20 ounces of cubed butternut squash, divided
1/4 cup of white cooking wine or dry white wine
4 ounces of Mascarpone Cheese
2 ounces of finely grated parmesan cheese
Pumpkin seeds (for garnish)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place 8 ounces of the butternut squash onto a baking pan and coat with 1 Tbsp. of olive oil, a dash of salt, and some black pepper. Set aside.
Bring the broths to boil in a large pot. Put the 2 Tbsp. of olive oil and 3 Tbsp. of the butter into a large stockpot or Dutch oven and set over medium heat. When the butter starts to foam, add in the chopped onion and cook for about a minute. Add in the garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in the risotto, and allow the ingredients to cook together (while stirring) for about four minutes (the risotto will brown a bit). Add in the 12 ounces of butternut squash and cook for another two minutes. Place the baking pan with the 8 ounces of butternut squash onto the top rack of the oven. Cook the butternut squash for about 20 minutes, or until the risotto is finished (whichever comes first).
Continue to stir the risotto, and then add in the white wine to deglaze the pan. Stir constantly until all of the wine has cooked out. Add enough of the hot broth to cover the risotto. Stir and allow the broth to reduce by half, and continually add in more of the hot broth and stir. You probably will not end up using all of the broth. Stir the risotto continuously for about 15 minutes. Once the rice is cooked to al dente and almost all of the broth has been absorbed, add in the Mascarpone cheese, 2 Tbsp. of butter, and Parmesan cheese. Stir together until the risotto is nice and creamy. Serve immediately. Top each dish with the roasted butternut squash and pumpkin seeds. Sprinkle with some freshly ground black pepper, if desired. Enjoy!

Recipe serves 4 - 6. 

Recipe Adapted from: Capitol File Magazine, courtesy of Chef Nicholas Stefanelli of Bibiana DC

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Congrats to the Microplane Winner & Happy National Banana Bread Day!

Good morning, everyone! Hope you are enjoying your Saturday. It is rainy and cold here in Annapolis, but I'm not letting it get me down. Daylight Savings and warmer weather are just around the corner & I'm really looking forward to it.

I have good news this morning. The first good news is that Tara won the giveaway for the microplane grater. Congrats, Tara!

The second good news is that today is National Banana Bread Day. So make yourself and your family or friends a delicious loaf or two of banana bread (or three or four). This recipe for Banana Bread with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups sounds mighty good. Also, don't forget the yummy recipe for chocolate cranberry coconut banana bread. YUM.

Mmm, banana bread!
And, even though I haven't made my loaf of banana bread yet this morning, I did try out the recipe for banana and oat cookies (ingredients are one banana and one cup of rolled oats). The cookie has less than 75 calories and they are so easy to make. See the fun video of how to make the cookies here. I made them this morning and was only able to get 7 out of the mixture, but maybe you can figure out how to get more. I also added a dash of cinnamon and some chopped walnuts to the batter. Greg liked them & suggested they might make a good sandwich cookie with peanut butter in the middle. We're going to try that out next time!

Hope everyone has a fabulous weekend. Next week I'll probably be sharing a recipe for butternut squash risotto - an ultimate comfort food. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Sweet Potato Soup

Are you craving healthy? I know I am, after all of the Valentine's Day treats that were passed out last week. So much for eliminating sugar in 2013! This soup has many ingredients that help to purify and detox the body, such as garlic, ginger, turmeric, olive oil, and water. Not only is this sweet potato soup super healthy, it is also super yummy!  I enjoy eating this soup for lunch or dinner. For extra health benefits, add celery sticks to the side of the soup for dipping. For extra taste benefits, add a toasty bread to the side for dunking!

Recipe for Sweet Potato Soup 

3 Tbsp. of extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped small
1/8 tsp. orange zest
1 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. turmeric
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp. of grated fresh ginger
A pinch of ground cloves
A dash of cayenne pepper
3 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3 cups water
4 - 5 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into even-sized pieces
1 cup of baby carrots
2 Tbsp. honey

Cashew Milk (to stir in)
1/2 cup cashews
1 cup of water, at room temperature

Heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion and cook until soft, about 3 - 5 minutes. Add in spices, orange zest, and ginger and cook for 45 seconds. Add water, broth, potatoes, carrots and bring to boil. Lower heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Remove from heat and puree soup with an immersion blender.
Make the cashew milk. Put the cashews in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until it becomes close to the consistency of a paste. Pour the water through the feed tube with the processor running. Add the cashew milk into a liquid measuring cup. Return the soup to very low heat, stir in the cashew milk and the honey. Mix well.
Serve soup immediately. Top with extra cashews, if desired. For dipping, consider serving with celery sticks or bread. Enjoy!

*Recipe inspired from several different sweet potato soup recipes that were found online.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Chocolate Pretzel Treats (A Pretzel, A Kiss, and M & M)

Happy Valentine's Day! I made one of my favorite treats for coworkers and friends this week - chocolate pretzel treats. They are way cute & totally easy to make. I used pink, white, and red M & Ms for Valentine's Day. I've made these for baby showers several times before. I use blue M & Ms for friends expecting boys, pink for those expecting girls, and both for those who want to be surprised. I give them the same number of treats as weeks they are along, and put the M face up for Mom! Use different colors for other fun occasions and holidays. Hope everyone has a fabulous day!

Recipe for Chocolate Pretzel Treats

72 Square Pretzels
72 (one bag) of Hershey Kisses
72 M & M candies

Place pretzels on a baking sheet. Unwrap kisses and place each one flat side down on pretzels. Place in an oven heated to 195 degrees and let heat for 4 1/2 - 5 minutes. Take out of oven, and press M & M down onto the melted chocolate until the chocolate forms a ring around it. You should be able to press the M & M all the way down if the chocolate is warm enough (if not, place back in oven for several seconds). Place baking sheet in fridge to allow chocolate to harden. Enjoy! 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Vegan or Vegetarian Wraps with Quinoa & Chickpeas (and my Guest Post)

Earlier this year, I was inspired to start eating healthier foods. It is so great to be able to have access to so many amazing recipes and healthy blogs on the Internet. One blog that helps to encourage me to eat healthier is The Fig Tree. I came across the blog several months ago, and I always love the amazing vegetarian and vegan recipe ideas that Courtney posts. Recently I saw that Courtney was looking for guest posts for Vegan Tuesdays. I did a guest post on The Fig Tree  today for Vegan Tuesdays, and it is a recipe for sweet potato tacos with homemade tomatillo salsa! I've posted the tacos on my blog before, but it has been awhile, so make sure you check out the guest post today for the recipe.

Thanks to Courtney, I have decided to eat vegan at least one day a week too. It might not always be on a Tuesday, but it will happen. Today I am posting a recipe for wraps that can be either vegan or vegetarian, depending on whether or not you choose to use feta cheese in them. No matter what you decide, the wraps are totally delicious & super healthy. Enjoy!

Recipe for Wraps with Quinoa & Chickpeas
2/3 cup of tricolored quinoa
Vegan Wrap - sprouted grain tortilla, tricolored quinoa, chickpeas,
cherry tomatoes, capers, and baby spinach. Yum! 
1 15.5-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. of extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2/3 cup of baby spinach leaves
12 cherry tomatoes, sliced thin
1 - 2 ounces of crumbled feta cheese (vegetarian option)
1 garlic clove, pressed
1/8 tsp. of crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. of kosher salt
2 tsp. of freshly squeezed lemon juice
Several grinds of freshly ground black pepper
12 capers, cut in half OR
8 sun dried tomatoes, chopped (vegan option)
6 Sprouted Grain Tortillas

Cook the quinoa according to package directions. While the quinoa is cooking, place the chickpeas, spinach leaves, cherry tomatoes, and feta cheese (if using the feta) into a bowl and mix together. In a smallish bowl, mix together the 3 Tbsp. of olive oil, lemon juice, pressed garlic clove, salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. Mix well. Pour the olive oil mixture over the chickpea mixture and toss well to combine.
Once the quinoa has finished cooking, add in a dash of salt and 2 tsp. of the olive oil and stir. Set aside and allow the quinoa to cool slightly.
After the quinoa has cooled for at least 10 minutes, gently warm the tortillas. Put them into the microwave for about 25 seconds. Make your wraps. Divide the quinoa down the middle of each tortilla, then top the tortillas with the chickpea mixture. Add the capers or sun dried tomatoes to each. Sprinkle each with a little extra black pepper, if desired. Fold and eat!

*Recipe serves 2 - 3 or 4 - 6, depending on how hungry the eaters are! Each wrap is approximately 250 calories.

Food Blogs that Inspire Me to Eat Healthy:
The Fig Tree
A Couple Cooks
Cookie + Kate
Food Loves Writing
What are your favorite healthy food blogs? Please leave a comment and let me know. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Winter Making you Blue? Dreams of Tropical Paradise & A Giveaway will Cheer you Up!

I don't know about you, but I have had a pretty rough week. I'm feeling blue from the chilly weather and Spring seems so far away. The schools are gearing up for standardized testing next month, things are getting crazy, and everyone around me is stressed and overwhelmed. My husband and I went out to the Eastern Shore of Maryland last month to look at a couple sailboats on the market, and we both fell in love with an Ericson 32. Greg said it would be the perfect sailboat for us. We thought maybe we would be able to afford it if I got a new job that I had recently applied for. I thought I was highly qualified for the position, and I found out a couple days ago that I was not even selected for the interview process. A total bummer. We also found out that the perfect boat for us was also the perfect boat for someone else - because it is now off the market. Another bummer.

Enough of the bummers though, because as a friend pointed out to me, life is good. Life is definitely good, but it would be better if I were on a boat somewhere in the British Virgin Islands, and if money grew on palm trees. This morning my mom sent me this picture that my sister took of a tropical fruit paradise she made for my nephews. My nephews are 3 and 6, and my sister said they ate every piece off the plate. It totally cheered me up when I saw it!
Wishing you were here!
Now doesn't that make you smile? Don't you wish you were there? Okay, now for the giveaway.

I wish I could say it was for a trip to a tropical paradise, but it is not! I am giving away a microplane. If you don't have a microplane in your kitchen, you need to have one. It is an awesome kitchen gadget that can finely grate cheese, zest citrus, and grate ginger. I use it on a daily basis in my kitchen. Entering the giveaway is EASY. To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post telling me what your dream tropical paradise getaway would be (for example, mine is the British Virgin Islands). You can comment under Anonymous, but make sure to include your name at the end of your comment (first name, last initial is fine). The winner will be selected randomly and will be announced on the blog on Saturday February 23rd. Can't wait to hear about your dream vacation spot!

Opportunities for Extra Entries:
*Receive an extra entry if you are or if you become a fan on Facebook.
*Receive an extra entry if you follow me or begin to follow me on Pinterest
*Receive an extra entry if you share this giveaway on your Facebook page.
*Receive an extra entry if you pin this giveaway on your Pinterest page. 

Giveaway starts NOW and ends on Saturday February 23rd at 10 AM EST. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Monday, February 4, 2013

Just Juice It (Then drink it, then eat it)!

Do any of you out there have a juicer that you never use? If so, I used to be like you. When Greg and I got married, he already owned a juicer.  I always knew we had it, but I never had any interest in using it. About a year ago I got inspired to try it out, and I discovered how much I love to juice. You can juice almost anything with a juicer (of the fruits and veggies variety)! I have juiced carrots, apples, spinach, kale, ginger, grapes, oranges, and more! It is so much fun.

I was having a conversation with my coworker the other day and she told me that she thought drinking juiced carrots would not taste good. I had to prove to her how DELICIOUS juiced carrots taste. My coworkers and I all got together for a scrapbooking party (or eating party) last weekend, and I decided to juice for everyone while they were being crafty. I have absolutely no artistic ability, and I really have nothing to scrap book about. So I juiced. The coworker who doubted the yumminess of juiced carrots - well, she thoroughly enjoyed the carrot juice (with apple). I thought I would share some of my favorite juicing combinations here. If you have a juicer, get it out and juice! It makes you feel so healthy & it IS really healthy! The taste of freshly juiced carrots, spinach, or kale mixed with fruit is sweet and earthy. Drinking homemade juice compared to store bought juice tastes better and it gives your body much more of the nutrients that it needs and deserves. Now, let's get juicy! 

A few of my favorite homemade juice combinations are:
Wondering what to do with the leftover pulp? Make some muffins! Recipe below.
3 cups of baby carrots
1 sweet apple (I use Gala, Braeburn, Fiji, or Rome)
1 orange, peeled
1 inch piece of ginger

6 - 8 cups of kale (I use packaged kale greens)
2 - 3 sweet apples
1 inch piece of ginger
2 Tbsp. of almond milk or regular milk
2 Tbsp. of honey

4 cups of baby spinach leaves
2 1/4 cups of seedless red grapes
1 sweet apple

Put the thoroughly washed fruits and veggies into the feed tube of the juicer & juice. Stir in honey and almond milk into the kale drink. Drink the juice right away for optimum health benefits. Each recipe makes a 10-ounce glass of juice.

*I use a Juiceman Junior to make my juices. It is not fancy or fast, but it does the trick. You can spend between $50 - $500 on a juicer. However, you probably would only want to spend a lot of money on one if you are planning to open your own juice bar!*

Okay, so you just juiced. What do you do with all of the extra pulp from the fruit and veggies? I have let it go to waste for too long. But I decided to make muffins with the pulp - and they are amazing! I think the pulp from the carrot, apple, orange, and ginger juice would be best for the muffins - but you can do whatever you want!

Recipe for Carrot-Apple-Orange-Ginger Muffins  (makes 10 - 12 muffins)

1 cup of pulp from carrots, apple, orange & ginger
3 Tbsp. of expeller-pressed canola oil
1/3 cup of pure cane sugar (or real sugar)
2 Tbsp. of light brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. of vanilla extract
1 cup flour (3/4 cup all-purpose, 1/4 cup whole wheat)
1 tsp. of cinnamon
1/2 tsp. of baking soda
1 tsp. of baking powder
2/3 cup of raisins
1/3 cup of raw pumpkin seeds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
In a large bowl, mix together the pulp, oil, eggs, sugars, and vanilla. Combine well. In a smaller bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and baking powder. Add the flour mixture into the wet mixture and beat together to form a batter. Stir in the raisins and pumpkin seeds.
Spoon the batter into the lightly greased muffin tins. Bake muffins for 18 - 20 minutes, or until tops are lightly browned. Let the muffins cool slightly in the tin, then carefully transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Each muffin has approximately 150 calories. Not too shabby, but I wouldn't recommend eating three in a row like my husband did!

Muffin Recipe Adapted from: $5 Dinners

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Super Salsa for the Super Bowl!

Happy Super Bowl weekend to everyone! Today I'm sharing a recipe for a salsa that will be great to make for a Super Bowl party (or any other kind of party). I first posted this recipe back in June, but I think it is worth a repost. A friend of mine mentioned yesterday on my Facebook page that she made the salsa, and it made me think about sharing the recipe again. This salsa is not for those of you who can't handle a little heat - it has a lot of KICK to it. For those of you can handle the heat,  tomorrow you can sit back and kick it with chips, super salsa, and the Super Bowl. But don't stay up too late tomorrow night because I checked the calendar, and Super Bowl Monday is NOT a day off from work. Darn!

Recipe for Super Salsa

2 jalapenos, deveined & seeded and coarsely chopped (take out more seeds for less heat, less for more heat)
3 cloves of garlic, cut in half
1 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 of a smallish yellow onion
2 Tbsp. of red wine vinegar
3 large tomatoes
1 Tbsp. of cumin powder
1/4 tsp. of cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. of kosher salt
1 - 2 Tbsp. of cilantro leaves
Juice of one lime

Add the jalapeno and garlic to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Add all of the other ingredients to the food processor and pulse until the salsa is at your desired chunkiness. Put salsa in a bowl and cover. Put it in the fridge for a couple hours before serving so the flavors can marinate together. Enjoy!

Recipe Adapted from: Annie's Eats

This salsa is a great as the filling in baked Vegetarian Taquitos.  (shown above)