Saturday, November 27, 2010

Quality Time in the Kitchen

My younger sister and I are 7 years apart.  Now that we're adults it doesn't seem like such a large gap, but when we were kids it wasn't always so easy to find something we liked to do together.  Being in the kitchen , however, we were able to find some common ground.  We found ourselves stretching taffy with our mom, making caramel popcorn for our father's Christmas gift and inevitably making some kind of candy to send off to our relatives. Spending hours upon hours in the kitchen creating cookies and making candy during the holiday season was something we loved doing together.

Until recently my sister and I haven't lived near each other in many years.  To say we live close by now is even a bit of a stretch.  If you've ever tried to get to Virginia Beach from D.C. during the summer you'd understand what I'm getting at.  So it stands to reason that it's been an incredibly long time since we've been able to join forces in the kitchen together and have some fun.  This Thanksgiving we were able to do just that and I'm quite thankful we had such an opportunity.

After putting together a pumpkin pie pudding and apple pie with oat streusel we decided on an easy, crunchy, rather addicting little treat for ourselves.  Of all the things to make, we chose something we used to make together when we were younger, Chex Muddy Buddies.  We claimed we were making it for everyone, but managed to sit and eat the whole batch ourselves.  Oops. There is nothing glamorous or complicated about this snack. But it's the classic combo of chocolate and peanut butter that makes it so easy to eat. With crunchy Chex cereal, all dusted in powdered sugar, it's a quick treat to throw together and saves more time for the good stuff... like some quality time with family.

Chex Muddy Buddies

9cups Corn Chex®, Rice Chex®, Wheat Chex® or Chocolate Chex® cereal (or combination)
1cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2cup peanut butter
1/4cup butter 
1teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2cups powdered sugar
Into large bowl, measure cereal; set aside.

In 1-quart microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter uncovered on High 1 minute; stir. Microwave about 30 seconds longer or until mixture can be stirred smooth. Stir in vanilla. Pour mixture over cereal, stirring until evenly coated. Pour into 2-gallon resealable food-storage plastic bag.

Add powdered sugar. Seal bag; shake until well coated. Spread on waxed paper to cool. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Stuff his stocking with this book!

Black Friday is quickly approaching and crowds of people will rise at the crack of dawn to stand in line with dozens of others to get the best deal on the latest hot items.  Why?  I don't know, I'm still trying to figure that out.  Something about good deals...

If you're a stocking stuffer kind of person with a man in your life that needs a little... shall we say, guidance in the kitchen, then Susan Russo and Brett Cohen's Recipes Every Man Should Know is a must have this season (or any season for that matter).  This handy pocket-sized guide is full of info and great recipes that every man actually should know. It also gives new meaning to "little black book." It is completely approachable, both in size and content, and features everything that a man loves from beer, bacon and bar food to hearty breakfasts and dinners to woo the girls.  The best part? It's already priced at Black Friday savings and only costs $9.95.  You needn't rise at 3 a.m. to beat the crowds or be the first in line to get this book.  Just pad over to your computer in your slippers and pj's and visit or to pick one up.  Or two.  I can assure you, you won't be disappointed.

To get a glimpse of a recipe featured in the book, Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf, click over to Susan's blog, FoodBlogga, and check it out!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Autumn Soup

My soup pot has been busy this autumn season.  Chicken noodle, squash and Italian Wedding soup have already been served and November is only half over.  Classics soups like those never seem to disappoint, but today I was anxious to try something new.  A combination of sweet potato and apple simmered in chicken stock turned into a beautiful velvety soup with a color that rivals the leaves falling from the trees.  It would be a great starter for any dinner (Thanksgiving, perhaps?) but can easily act as a main meal served alongside a salad of fresh greens, cranberries, blue cheese and toasted walnuts.  While I chose to keep it vegetarian (aside from using chicken stock), the addition of smoky bacon would certainly partner well with the sweet flavors of this soup.

Autumn Soup
serves 6 as a starter, or 4 main meals
2 tablespoon butter
1 small onion, diced
1 cup celery, chopped
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
3 apples, peeled and chopped
1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon Sriracha  hot sauce
salt & pepper to taste

Greek yogurt and chopped chive for garnish

In a large soup pot, over medium heat, add butter and onion.  Cook about 4 minutes or until onion becomes translucent.  Add celery and ginger and cook 5 minutes more.  Add apples and sweet potato and cover with chicken stock.  Bring to boil.  Lower the heat and simmer about 25 minutes.  Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth and velvety.  Add hot sauce, salt and pepper to taste.  To serve, ladle soup into bowl and top with chives and a spoonful of Greek yogurt.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Breakfast on the go

In an effort to reduce our carbon footprint, my husband and I have opted to scale back and have only one car.  We're conveniently located on a bus route and not all that far from the Metro.  It isn't a perfect system but  nobody said saving the Earth is easy.  Incidentally, my bus drops me off right in front of Starbucks and try as I might, I can not seem to resist popping in for a coffee or some of their self-proclaimed "perfect oatmeal."  Sure I love sipping my Thanksgiving Blend on my short walk to school, but I've noticed my wallet is getting thinner and thinner as a result.  

The other down side to catching the bus is the the obscenely early schedule I have to keep.  It's still dark, my husband and dog are both snoozing away the morning hours, and despite my best efforts I haven't been able to muster the energy to get up earlier and make myself breakfast.  Frankly, I'm doing well if I can match my clothing at that hour and have been known to walk to my bus stop with different colored socks, a green hat, pink plaid scarf and a bright red sweater   Clearly it's no wonder that making breakfast in the morning isn't such a realistic goal.  As a result, I've relied on Starbucks oatmeal as my morning meal crutch.  But like a gazelle living in a leopard's cage, this relationship simply can't go on.  I needed to come up with something that I can easily make ahead of time at home and quickly grab and go.

As a sidenote, I've recently stopped eating gluten which disqualifies most of your typical grab and go breakfast items.  Without gluten, the "no-can-do" list includes granola bars, muffins, toast, and most cereals. What about eggs, you ask?  Let me tell you, one can only eat hard boiled eggs so many days in a row before getting to the point where if you see another one you're going to chuck it at the back of someone's head.  We don't want that to happen.  As I browsed the market the other day I was quite happy when I found a gluten free hot cereal.  Woot woot!  It reminds me of a combination of grits and malt-o-meal.  I remember eating malt-o-meal a lot as a kid; my granny would always add lots of butter, milk and brown sugar.  Of course, if I ate that every day, my wallet might thicken a bit, but so certainly would my backside!  
My answer to this is a grown-up version of the original, but healthier and equally satisfying.  With a combination of spiced apples and a drizzle of honey, there's no need to load it up with brown sugar or butter.  I made a huge pot and divvied it up among some tupperware to easily grab on my way out the door.   So in all my frenzied and mis-matched glory, I can now just wave to the Starbucks as I walk on by.

Spiced apple hot cereal
  • Make gluten free hot cereal according to package directions.  I use Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Mighty Tasty Hot Cereal   
  • In a small pan, add one apple diced with a tablespoon of butter and cook until the apple begins to soften, about 8-10 minutes
  • Just before pulling the apple off the stove, add: a teaspoon of cinnamon, half teaspoon cardamom, dash of nutmeg and dash of clove
  • When the cereal has finished cooking, add the apples and stir to incorporate.
  • To serve, add a splash of milk and drizzle honey over the top