Saturday, May 31, 2014

Sweet Curried Spinach and Chickpeas

A few years ago I got this book out of the library called The 10 Things You Need to Eat by Anahad O'Connor and Dave Lieberman. I copied down a few of the most appealing recipes, but have only made a few. Here is one that I made last month that was so amazing, I almost couldn't wait to post it here! I highly, HIGHLY recommend this recipe. The ingredients are pretty simple:
  • 3 tablespoons of canola oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of curry powder
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 cup of chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 cans 15oz chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained
  • 20oz frozen spinach, thawed
  • salt to taste
I am sure you can use fresh spinach as well, I just don't know the amount for that.

First you cook the chopped onion in the canola oil "until soft and nearly translucent." Medium heat should suffice. Stir in the curry powder and honey. Let this mixture cook an additional few minutes, then add the broth, chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans), and spinach. Let this all simmer together for about 15 minutes. Salt to taste and serve.
I really couldn't get enough of this stuff. There was enough for leftovers the next day, and I happily added this to my lunch! I would absolutely make this again. Spinach is super good for you, even better when paired with chickpeas, and the curry and honey turned out to be a fantastic combination. Even if you don't like spinach, give this one a try.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Rum Daisy

I was looking through an old timey cocktail book recently and came across something simple that looked delicious. It's called a Rum Daisy and it was popular in the 1920s. Rum is my second favorite liquor (sake is my #1 <3), so I decided to give this Rum Daisy a try.

We don't own a shaker, so mine was mostly stirred. I don't know if you can call it a proper Rum Daisy or not, but here is the recipe:
  • Fill a shaker half full with ice cubes. (Or a glass.)
  • Combine 2oz of dark rum, 1oz of lemon juice, 1/2 a teaspoon of sugar, and 1/2 a teaspoon of grenadine in the shaker. (Or glass.)
  • Shake well. (Or stir.)
  • Serve in an old fashioned glass. (Or skip this since you don't own a shaker and had to stir it in the glass.)
You may choose to garnish with a cherry and/or a slice of orange. I had neither, but I still found this to be a tasty little drink! We really need to buy a shaker.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Refrigerator Oatmeal

I am not much of a morning person. If I have to work in the early part of the day, I get out of bed at the last possible second, perform the most basic required functions to be presentable, and force myself to eat something, anything in order to stave off the inevitable feeling of hunger that will hit me in a couple of hours when I will actually be awake. Usually, this is cereal, neither filling nor satisfying, and not at all transportable. 

This is where refrigerator oatmeal (sometimes called summer oatmeal) comes in, which can be made in old jelly jars and tossed in a bag. I'd seen the recipe shared a few times by friends on Facebook, but only casually considered trying it. Then I was talking with a friend at work about it, and finally decided that I would devote the next day (my day off) to figuring it out! I searched online for some tasty, easy to follow recipes, then assembled my list. There are many places to find recipes. Here is the one I have been following thus far: Overnight, No-Cook Refrigerator Oatmeal from the Yummly Life.

Here is the basic recipe:
  • 1/4 cup of uncooked old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup of milk (Yummly says skim, but I use whole; could also use soy or almond milk)
  • 1/4 cup of Greek yogurt
  • 1.5 teaspoons dried chia seeds (could also use flax seeds)
  • 1 teaspoon of honey
To this, you can add pretty much anything. For my first batch, I made one Banana and Peanut Butter and one Apple Cinnamon. In my second batch, I modified the Banana and Peanut Butter to be Banana and Nutella, which turned out to be not nearly as delicious as I thought it'd be, so when I made it again, I made Banana, Peanut Butter & Nutella. That was pretty good, if a little rich. I also made another batch of Apple Cinnamon that I added a handful of golden raisins to, and that was delicious. I have yet to try cookie butter, though I am sure that is in my near future. 

Other recipes on Yummly include Mango Almond, Blueberry Maple (which I really want to try when I can get some fresh blueberries), and Raspberry Vanilla. This Strawberry Banana Refrigerator Oatmeal recipe on SparkPeople suggests using flavored Greek yogurt, in this case strawberry flavored, then adding freshly chopped chunks of banana. Kitchen Confidante uses 2 tablespoons of cranberry, 1 tablespoon shredded coconut, and 1 tablespoon crushed walnuts as well as fresh fruit. 

Truly, the possibilities are endless. Since I can make a few jars in advance to last the next few days, I've been assembling two or three at time on my day off to get me through until the next day I have available to make more. This has proven to be a great way of adding fruit and omega-3s to my diet! (Chia seeds are full of omega-3 fatty acids.)

If you never seem to have enough time in the morning to do what you want to do, this is a great breakfast choice! Eat at home, or take it to go. I think I like it better than classic oatmeal.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Chocolate Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

1 cup softened butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange juice
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups rolled oats
½ bag of semi-sweet chocolate chunks
½ cup of golden raisins

Bake at 350F for 10 to 12 minutes.

Sounds easy, right? First, the carton of eggs fell out of the fridge and all but three broke. Two were only cracked, so I used those to make these cookies. I scooped out the broken shells of the others, then poured the egg goo into a Tupperware container and put it in the fridge, so very little went to waste. (Phew!)

Next, my package of brown sugar was as solid as a brick. I even had one of those clay discs in there, but I must have had to do something else with it because it only kept the sugar soft for a little while. I found a great technique online, though, if you need to get your sugar soft again to be used right away. Put the brick of brown sugar in a bowl in the microwave. Next to it, place a small bowl of water. Microwave at the default temperature for 60 seconds. Use a spoon to break up the sugar. If it isn't completely soft yet, put it in for another 30 seconds. You want to be careful because the sugar may start to melt if you zap it too long.

Once that was all taken care of, I creamed together the butter and brown and white sugars. Then I added the two eggs, mixing them in one at a time. Next the vanilla and orange juice went in followed by the baking soda, cinnamon, flour, then oats. I had to beat this with my electric hand mixer for a while before I was satisfied that it was all combined. Then, using a wooden spoon, I stirred in the chocolate pieces followed by the raisins.

Quick note on the chocolate and raisins. I only had half a bag of chocolate chunks leftover from when I made the Bird Nest Cookies for Easter. There was also only about half a cup left of golden raisins in the box. If I had had more of either, I probably would have used it. The cookies were really fine with only that much, though, and nothing seemed sparse at all.

I always at least lightly grease my cookie sheets even when the recipe tells me not to. I have just had too many cookies fall apart, especially when the chocolate melts and adheres to the metal sheet. It's just so sad to see a mauled cookie, even if it does provide me an excuse to eat it. Since my oven runs hot, I tentatively put the first dozen in the oven for 12 minutes. As that seemed a tad long, the second dozen went in for 11 minutes. The third batch of 7 cookies went in for 10 minutes. I can't believe I got 31 cookies out of this batter! There was plenty for us at home and for friends at Game Night.

This is an easy recipe to make substitutions with. I used the orange juice to attempt to infuse a little orange flavoring. Of course, orange extract would be much stronger, but I find extracts to be a little too pricey to be used only once. You can also switch out the raisins for dried pomegranates, cherries, cranberries or, naturally, use regular raisins and not golden. Golden is just the only one I can get in any decent size at Meijer for some reason, so that is the one that I buy. White chocolate chips would also be pretty tasty, I bet, and maybe some walnut baking pieces. The possibilities are endless. 

Mmm... endless cookies...

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Wonderful World of Smoothies

I've had a smoothie maker for a number of years now, and only tried to use it once to make corn pudding. It didn't work. I had thought it was my technique, but now, years later, I realize it was probably actually the smoothie maker. I discovered this when I gave into peer pressure and decided to try my hand at making some smoothies. Luckily, Greg's mother gave us her old blender from decades ago, and it works like a charm! I am a huge fan of older technology. Back when we first started making handy gadgets, we built them to last. I have a hand-mixer that is older than my mother, and it still runs. We don't do that anymore because
consumerism has taken over every facet of this American life. Tragic, really.

Back to smoothies. I went to Meijer and bought a bag of frozen peaches, a bag of frozen strawberries, a half gallon of orange juice, one avocado, a bunch of bananas, and a tub of plain Greek yogurt to get me started. My first smoothie consisted of one banana, roughly one cup of OJ, half of the bag of frozen peaches, and most of the avocado (I love avocado, so I also ate some of it with soy sauce like I saw in a Japanese film once - it was delicious!). I had intended to also add some greens and celery, since both were going bad in my fridge, but I forgot when the smoothie maker wasn't working out and I had to switch to the blender. 

Oh well! It was very tasty! I liked the sweet, slightly tropical taste of the peaches, OJ, and banana. The avocado was a terrific addition, too, making the texture smoother, not to mention adding a lot of great nutrients and good fats. The addition of the avocado, did change the color, however. Since I could only drink half of my concoction (it was quite filling!), I put the rest in the fridge to take with me to work the next day. When I went to take it out that morning, the smoothie had taken on a decidedly brown tinge. It hadn't gone bad, and it tasted no less wonderful. Avocados just do that. You have been warned.

Today, I decided to make another smoothie since I had all the ingredients, this one a little greener. One of my reasons for turning to smoothies was to get more vegetables in my diet. (I am also trying to cut down on my intake of sweet, sweet, beautiful ice cream. Sigh.) I went all out this one. Here is a list of everything I threw into the blender:
  • half a bag of frozen peaches
  • roughly a cup of orange juice
  • a heaping scoop of plain Greek yogurt
  • half a cup of leftover carrots and peas that I found in the fridge
  • a handful of mixed greens
  • a tablespoon or so of clover honey
I was going to add some celery that is slowly going bad, but I ran out of room in the blender. I definitely taste the greens and peas, but I don't really see that as a bad thing since their presence was part of the point of the experiment. Peas and carrots are naturally sweet, so they really do go well with fruit. It occurs to me that a few sprigs of fresh mint would go well with this combo - it would taste even more refreshing! 

I have decided I like smoothies. They're quick, easy, and a great way of getting not only more fruit and vegetables in my diet (the eternal struggle for many of us), but also added liquid. I often have to force myself to drink water. At my jobs, I can't always go to the restroom whenever I need to, so over the years I have developed the habit of not drinking anything so as to avoid needing to use the restroom to begin with. It's not the healthiest approach, but that's just how some industries are. This has carried over to my home life, so even if I do sit down at the computer with a full glass of water next to me, it's rare that the cup empties more than a few sips. 

Even if Michigan is currently experiencing a colder than usual spring, I refuse to give in to the cold and will enjoy my springy, fresh and fruity smoothies!