Monday, January 27, 2014

Strawberry Ricotta Crostini

Can you guess that I'm yearning for summer already? I know it's still February, but hey, strawberries are always so cheerful,  no matter how cold it is outside. They're especially welcome on a slow weekend when my husband and I are still bombed out from being on call the weekend before. 

Strawberries are so beautifully vibrant and red, and biting into a huge sweet strawberry is so refreshing...  it's an automatic mini mental vacation to the warmer months. Speaking of which, I've never picked fresh strawberries despite all of the years we've gone apple and pumpkin picking. It's definitely on my to-do list this summer! 

 These crostini are so easy to put together. All you need is a baguette, strawberries, ricotta, and honey. Bite into these and you'll get sweet and tart from the strawberries and honey, creaminess from the ricotta, and a satisfying crunch from the crostini. They're excellent for a light breakfast or snack. Added bonus? The crostini are sturdy and can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight container. That way, you can always have them on hand and switch the toppings easily! 

Strawberry + Ricotta Crostini

1 baguette, sliced into 1/4 in thick slices

olive oil for brushing crostini

1 box strawberries, sliced

ricotta cheese


1. Preheat oven to 375F. Lightly brush crostini with olive oil

2. Spread slices evenly on a baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes. Check on these frequently to make sure they don't burn! 

3. Remove from oven and let cool

4. Spread each crostini with ricotta cheese, top with sliced strawberry, and drizzle with honey

To dress this up a little bit, it would be interesting to marinate the strawberries with balsamic vinegar, sugar, and black pepper and to top them with sliced fresh basil. But for now, I think I like simplicity best - just a quick, sweet taste of the warmth to come.

I think I'm getting on a crostini kick - I'm already thinking about mushrooms....what are your favorite toppings for crostini?


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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Pumpkin & Oatmeal Breakfast Rounds

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It's not uncommon for me to wake up in the morning and want some kind of delicious, soft breakfast pastry - a muffin, a name it. Most of the time though, I have cereal or yogurt, lest I be tempted by the bigger-than-my-head muffins at work that look good but leave me burned out from a sugar crash a few hours later. However, there are times when I just have to have something more toothsome. And these little breakfast rounds are perfect. Why breakfast rounds, not cookies? I hesitate to call these cookies because they're only a tad sweet and a little bit too good for you to be labeled as a cookie! 

I was amazed at how delightfully chewy these were - with so little fat, I was afraid they would come out too dry, like little lumps of coal. I was very, very wrong. The batter is heavy in pumpkin and spices, and low in fat (only used 2 tbsp butter), but the final product is soft, springy, and in my opinion, a great way to start off your morning. Even better, you won't head for a major sugar crash with these - a few of these cheerful orange bites will easily tide you over to lunch time! 

Pumpkin & Oatmeal Breakfast Rounds

adapted from BudgetBytes

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp butter (room temperature)

3/4 cup pumpkin puree

1/3 cup milk

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup quick cooking oats


1. Preheat oven to 350F

2. Stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl

3. In a separate bowl, cream butter and brown sugar. Add egg, milk, vanilla extract, and pumpkin puree

4. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients; mix until just combined (do not overmix!). Gently stir in oats

5. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Be sure to flatten the tops slightly, as these will not spread much during baking

6. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until gently springy to touch

7. Cool on a baking rack & enjoy! 

I hope you'll enjoy these as much as I did! 


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Friday, January 24, 2014

Roasted Poblano Chicken Enchiladas

Last week, I picked up some corn tortillas to pair with the filling from my empanadas for a quickie dinner. We had a ton of tortillas left over. What better way to use them than to make enchiladas? I've love enchiladas - especially mole enchiladas. But let's face it, mole enchiladas are a little bit risky for a rookie. Maybe I'll give them a whirl them once my brain thaws out during spring. 

So, back to the story - making enchiladas had been on my mind for the past half week or so. I had started looking for enchilada recipes, but I've been feeling a little cavalier lately, so I decided to sort of wing my own enchiladas, based very loosely on this recipe.

Of course, I picked the best time to run to the store - smack in the middle of a  winter storm - to pick up a few things, including a poblano pepper. Just one. I wasn't joking when I said I was winging it. In retrospect, I probably could have used a few more peppers, but it was the middle of a blizzard. I had to move! Unfortunately, Whole Foods is never a short trip for me, because they inevitably sell some interesting and foreign object that I stop to stare at. See below. These were right underneath the mushrooms. How could you not stop and stare at these? Why are they green? How many omelettes can they make? What's an Emu anyway? All of these thoughts run through my head as a polite but slightly impatient-looking woman stands behind me, just trying to get her mushrooms. 


When I eventually got home, I realized I had no idea how to roast and skin a poblano pepper. After a little research, I learned that you can broil them or simply use your stove top flame. Roasting the peppers helps bring out the flavors and it's really very simple: just put the peppers under your broiler for 5-10 minutes per side until the skin starts to blister and blacken. Let cool for 15 minutes. The skins will be easy to peel off, and you can remove the cap and scoop out the seeds. 

The rest of the enchiladas are so easy to put together - all you'll need is some chicken breast (thighs work too), a can of cream of chicken soup, onions, and spices. So, have a go at this (with two poblano peppers)'ll have a great winter dish that's healthy, warm, spicy, and a little bit cheesy... so perfect at this time of year!

Roasted Poblano Chicken Enchiladas

3/4 lb chicken breast

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp chile powder

1/2 tsp paprika

salt and pepper to taste

2 poblano peppers

1/2 cup greek yogurt

1 small red onion (or 1/2 large)

1 tsp chopped garlic

1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack or Mexican cheese blend

8 corn tortillas

avocado & tomato (for garnish)


1. Roast poblano peppers as described above. Once finished roasting, set the peppers aside to cool, and preheat your oven to 350F

2. Prepare cream of chicken soup (I used Campbell's - simply add a can full of water). Bring to a boil. Reserve one cup of soup and set aside.

3. Heat skillet on medium heat; add garlic and onion. Cook 5 minutes until onion is translucent

4. While garlic and onion cook, season chicken with salt, pepper, child powder, and paprika. Add chicken to the pan with garlic and onion. Keep heat on medium-low to avoid overcooking the chicken

5. Chop poblano peppers. Add 1 pepper to the chicken along with creamy chicken soup. Simmer on low heat for 10-15 minutes until chicken cooked through (of course, exact cooking time depends on the thickness and cut of your chicken - just keep an eye on it!)

6. While chicken is cooking, prepare the sauce. Combine remaining poblano pepper, yogurt, and reserved 1 cup of soup in a food processor. Puree until smooth and set aside

7. Lightly grease the bottom of a baking pan. Fill corn tortillas with chicken and sauce mixture. Roll tightly and place in pan, seam side down. Repeat with the remaining tortillas until all are tucked in tightly

8. Pour sauce over the rolled tortillas. Top with 1/2 cup of cheese. Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes until cheese is melted, bubbly, and golden brown.

9. Garnish with chopped tomato and avocado slices 



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Sunday, January 19, 2014

On-Call Brownies

Ahhh yes. It's one of those weekends when my husband and I are both on call. Luckily, my call is predominantly from home. He is not so lucky. Fortunately, it hasn't been crazy (knock on wood!), but I'm still pretty much home bound (or within a 15-20 minute radius) this whole weekend. It's too bad we're both on call over MLK weekend - ideally we would be in DC visiting the MLK memorial! Maybe next year.

I can't believe it's been 2 weeks since I've really cooked anything new! Transitioning back to a different part of work and studying has really taken up more time than I thought. Crazy.
But, let's get down to business. Okay, let's face it - carrying a pager around is always better when you can lick brownie batter off a spoon. These brownies are so quick to put together and made with the good stuff (you already know by now). They're intensely chocolately (thanks to liberal use of cocoa powder). If you want something really deeply chocolately, go for cocoa powder over sweetened/unsweetened baking chocolate. Why? Baking chocolate contains both cocoa butter and cocoa solids +/- sugar. In contrast, cocoa powder is made by eliminating cocoa butter (the fat) from cocoa liquor, leaving only the cocoa solids - precisely the compounds that give us that delicious chocolate flavor.

As you can see, boards are not the only thing I've been studying for (thanks to my brother for this wonderful distraction!)

These brownies are fantastic and have a texture somewhere in-between cakey and fudgy. They're rich, dark, and complex, and made with healthy ingredients. Honestly, making these at home, I wonder why anyone (myself included) has ever gone out to buy packaged desserts with all sorts of terrible, un-pronounceable ingredients. I love knowing exactly what is going into my food. 

Yes, this takes a little more effort. Yes, you have to get a bowl out and mix a few ingredients together. The preparation will take you less than 10 minutes, and you'll have chocolate heaven - warm and melty - straight from your oven just 15 minutes later. It's absolutely worth it. 

On-Call Brownies

makes one small 8x8 pan (if you want more, just double the recipe)

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/3 cup olive oil

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp salt

1/4 cup milk

1/4- 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (your preference, depending on just how chocolately you are feeling)


1. Preheat oven to 350F

2. Combine olive oil, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a mixing bowl

3. Stir in cocoa powder, whole wheat flour, salt, and milk. Mix until just combined

4. Gently stir in chocolate chips

5. Lightly grease the bottom of your pan. Add batter to pan and spread evenly

6. Bake at 350F for approximately 15 minutes (or whenever an inserted fork comes out clean)

7. Sprinkle some coarse sea salt or kosher salt over the tops of these (optional) and enjoy! 

I hope you'll give these a try - let me know how they turn out for you. Thanks for reading!


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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Pomegranate Muffins

Finally - a moment to post these delicious little muffins! Work has been picking up lately and I'm struggling to do anything meaningful once I get home. I made these last week when I saw a pomegranate still sitting in my fridge - definitely too good to waste!

It's been awhile since I've made muffins, and these muffins are fantastic, adapted from this recipe with a few healthier twists. A welcome change from the standard blueberry muffin, the pomegranate seeds (arils) make a beautiful jewel-studded treat filled with bright, juicy bursts from the arils. These muffins have the perfect amount of heartiness from the whole grains and oatmeal too, so you'll feel satisfied after enjoying them. Temperatures have been so very cold lately due to the "polar vortex" and sitting down with one of these muffins and a cup of coffee is a great way to take the bite out of the chill! As much as the winter snow and stillness can be beautiful, I'm ready to start counting down the days to spring. Hope you are staying warm! 

Pomegranate Muffins 

1 1/8 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 cup brown sugar 

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup olive oil

1/3 cup orange juice

1 cup pomegranate seeds 

1/2 cup rolled oats

1. Preheat oven to 350F

2.  Mix flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl

3. Mix in olive oil, egg, and orange juice until just combined; do not over mix

4. Gently stir in rolled oats and pomegranate seeds

5. Lightly grease a muffin tin. Bake for approximately 20-22 minutes until a tester inserted into the muffin centers comes out clean

6. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes and enjoy!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Whole Wheat Beef Empanadas

I've had empanadas on my mind all day. Why? I have no idea! But honestly, when isn't it a good time to crave these beautiful little pillows with their tempting fillings?

Once I started looking for empanada recipes, my challenge quickly became clear - find a quick, easy dough recipe that did not call for copious amounts of butter/lard. Or masa harina (traditional flour made from dried corn), authentic as it is. The filling? I was more confident about the filling - after all, the options are endless, so it's hard to go wrong. I have a little ball of dough left and am dreaming of apple empanadas already...

I finally found a handful of healthy dough recipes and decided to add a few of my own modifications (original dough recipe here). These empanadas are pretty easy, all in all. Of course, the dough is the most time and labor-intensive part. Normally I refuse to roll out dough, but I was ambitious today - hey, it's a new year!

 I'm glad I decided to go the extra mile. It was worth it - these empanadas are delicious! When baked, the dough is lightly crunchy and chewy. Inside?  Toothsome, meaty, and warm, with a little hint of sweetness from cranberries. Perfect for starting of a very chilly 2014!

Whole Wheat Beef Empanadas

For the dough

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

3/4 cup all purpose flour

1/4 cup + 2 tbsp olive oil

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 large egg

1/4 cup cold water

For the filling

1/2 lb ground sirloin

2 tsp minced garlic

1/2 large white or yellow onion, minced

2 springs green onion, chopped

1/4 cup cranberries or raisins, chopped

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp chile powder

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

milk (for brushing empanadas before baking)

1. Preheat oven to 400F and prepare the dough. Combine flours and salt in a large mixing bowl. Combine egg and water in a separate bowl

2. Add olive oil, egg, and water to salt and flour. Mix until just incorporated. Knead lightly. 

3. Cover and place in refrigerator while you prepare the filling

4. Heat a saucepan over medium heat. Mince garlic and onion. Add to pan until garlic is fragrant and onion is translucent. 

5. Add ground beef, chopped green onion, cumin, chile powder, salt and pepper

6. When beef is cooked through, stir in chopped cranberries. Remove pan from heat and set aside

7. Remove dough from refrigerator. Roll out on a well-floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness

8. Depending on how big you want your empanadas to be, cut them to your liking using a cookie cutter (or whatever you have on hand!)

9. Spoon filling onto dough circles. Fold dough over and seal edges using fork tines

10. Lightly oil a cookie sheet. Place empanadas on sheet and brush with milk

11. Bake for 20-22 minutes until dough is golden brown

I hope you enjoy these empanadas as much as we did! They're well worth the effort, and once you make them, you'll start to wonder just what else you can fill them with. Go ahead and have fun - I know I'll be making variations of these to come! 

Happy New Year and thanks for reading! 


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