Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Veggie Purees

Not much baking going on at my house this week... too much other stuff going on. That doesn't mean I'm not spending my fair share of time in the kitchen, though! I've been catching up on my veggie purees to "sneak" some extra nutrition into our meals. My kitchen has been in varying stages so far this week, and I'm finally making some progress.
Potatoes? Peeled, cooked and mashed. Sweet potatoes? Roasted, peeled and pureed. Spinach... um, still in the fridge.
I took my inspiration from Jessica Seinfeld's "Deceptively Delicious" cookbook. However, most of the recipes just haven't turned out to be something my family will eat. I do still use the cookbook a lot, though - for the first section where she describes how to cook the different types of veggies. I also have gotten really good ideas of which veggies work well in other foods. Cauliflower, for example, is very easily hidden in potato dishes, which my family gobbles up.
Zucchini... well, I'm not exactly sure how I'm going to use it. Probably in a soup of some sort - that's a great place to pack some hidden nutrition. I rarely make soup anymore without adding a veggie puree. And hey, I finally found a use for my silicone muffin pan! I really hate the way it bakes, but it's fantastic for freezing 1/4 cup of puree at a time... and then the frozen purees pop right out and I can store them all in a plastic freezer bag. (Another great way to store these is to measure out 1/2 cup in a small freezer bag. Lay flat in the freezer until firm, and then they fit about anywhere, and it takes no time to thaw.)
Carrots... a great puree for soups, especially chili. Some other combos that work well: spinach or broccoli is easily hidden in beef dishes, sweet potatoes are fantastic in oatmeal (seriously!), and butternut squash works with just about everything. It's so bland that I can even swipe some on a piece of bread before adding peanut butter & jelly, and the kiddo never bats an eye. Tricky, right? ;-)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Butterfinger Delight

Do you ever make a recipe a second time and it's not anything like you remembered it to be? The one that comes to mind for me is the first meal I ever made for my now-husband and his roommate at the time. They were cream cheese mushroom enchiladas. Both of us remembered them having a white sauce over them, but when I made them again, they actually had a tomato sauce over them. We were both baffled, but I know it's the same recipe. Still good, just different from what both of us had remembered.

This recipe is that way for me. I've made it a few times, and each time I'm surprised at how it turns out and tastes, because it's different from how I remember it. Weird, right? Still really good, just different. I don't get it.
You start by crushing up graham crackers and soda crackers - I use my Ninja to make really fast work of it. I love my Ninja! (Not getting paid to say that, but I'd be willing to say it for money, if asked!)
Mix in a little butter to make it stick together, and then 2/3 of the mixture goes into a 9x13" pan. But I never let myself keep all of this dessert in the house - I've always made it in two pans so I can give half of it away. Otherwise I would literally sit and eat the whole thing by myself.
Then you let a box of ice cream sit out on the counter... for a long time. If I think of it soon enough, I get the ice cream out well before I'm ready to make the dessert so I don't have to soften it in the microwave or work with hard ice cream. Once it's softened, add the milk and pudding and mix, mix, mix.
Doesn't that look like a gross science project? :-) After it's all mixed up, though, it's so creamy and delicious. Pour it over the cracker crust in the pan(s).
It goes into the refrigerator at this point, for 15 minutes up to overnight. You don't have to wait until you're ready to serve it to do the next steps, though. Just wait long enough for this layer to set up so you don't mess it up when you spread the whipped topping over it. Then sprinkle either crushed Butterfinger or Heath bars on top. (I usually use Heath, because the baking section of the grocery store usually has them pre-crushed in a bag - so easy.)
So try it out, eat it up, and then let me know if it comes out the same as you remember it the next time. I'm still baffled.

Butterfinger Delight

2 cups crushed graham crackers or vanilla wafers
1 cup crushed soda crackers
1/2 cup melted butter
2 cups milk
2 packages instant vanilla pudding
4 cups (1/2 gallon) vanilla ice cream, softened
3-4 crushed Butterfinger or Heath bars
8 ounces whipped topping

Mix crumbs and margarine. Spread 2/3 of the mixture in a 9x13" pan. Set aside. Mix milk, pudding and ice cream. Pour mixture over crumb layer and let set in refrigerator 10-15 minutes or overnight. Spread Cool Whip over the top. Mix remaining crumb mixture and crushed Butterfinger and sprinkle over the top. Refrigerate.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Irish Cream Chocolate Mousse

We're going super easy today... and super delicious! Check these out:
I made these mousse cups for a little neighborhood block party we had at our house on Labor Day. Everyone brought burgers, sides, and desserts... this was one of my contributions. I wish I could say I spent hours on them, but in reality they took all of 5 minutes to whip up.

Irish Cream Chocolate Mousse
adapted from

1 1/4 cups cold milk
1/4 cup Irish cream liqueur or milk
1 package (3.9 ounces) chocolate instant pudding
8 ounces whipped topping, thawed

Beat milk, liqueur and pudding mix with whisk 2 minutes. Stir in whipped topping. Spoon into 6-8 dessert cups. Refrigerate until ready to serve. If desired, garnish with additional whipped topping and chocolate sprinkles just before serving.

Linking up with...

Monday, September 5, 2011

Zucchini Cornbread

I'll admit that I was sceptical about this recipe. Zucchini in cornbread? Really? But the picture looked so good. And when the hubby brought zucchini home from work one day, I decided it was time to try it.

Oh wow. It is soooooo good. I don't think I'll be able to make regular zucchini bread again. (And just look how beautiful it is!)
You start with browned butter again. This time I think I got it just right - wait until it's all melted, then let it cook another 3 minutes. Perfect.
While that's cooling, you grate up the zucchini. I think the grater is my favorite KitchenAid attachment. So fast, so easy, minimal clean-up. *love*
When the butter has cooled off, add the eggs and buttermilk. If the butter isn't completely cooled, pour the egg/buttermilk mixture into the butter in a very slow stream with one hand, while whisking with the other hand. That way the eggs won't cook when they hit the warm butter. Then mix in the zucchini.
Mmm, look at all those green veggies in there! Next comes the dry ingredients - I love that this has both regular flour and whole-wheat flour. And cornmeal. It adds such a great texture!
Into a greased loaf pan... and then topped with a few reserved thin slices of zucchini for decoration.
Absolutely perfect the first time. And I have another zucchini left, so guess what I'll be making again today!

Zucchini Cornbread
adapted from bon appetit

1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 large zucchini
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup cornmeal

Position a rack in the middle of oven and preheat to 350°. Grease a 9x5x3" loaf pan.

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Continue cooking until butter at bottom of pan turns golden brown, about 3 minutes. Pour butter into a medium bowl. Set aside and let cool.

Trim zucchini ends. Thinly slice 3-5 1/8" rounds from 1 end of zucchini and reserve for garnish. Coarsely grate remaining zucchini. Whisk eggs and buttermilk into butter. Add zucchini and stir until well-blended.

Sift both flours, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda into large bow. Whisk in cornmeal. Add zucchini mixture; fold just to blend (mixture will be very thick). Transfer batter to prepared pan and smooth top. Place reserved zucchini slices on top of batter down center in a single layer.

Bake bread 55-65 minutes until golden and a tester comes out clean. Let cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pan; let cool completely on a wire rack.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sugar-Free Banana Bread

I'm always looking for ways to make my breads more healthy. I can't say the same thing for my desserts, but with as much bread as we eat, I try to sneak in fruits and vegetables and substitute out oil and sugar. So when I found a sugar-free banana bread recipe here, I knew I would have to try it.
I haven't actually tried the finished product yet... but judging by the fact that there are only TWO pieces left and we only started on it this morning, I'm guessing it was pretty good?
I was able to use up some of the bananas that I'd been saving in the freezer. In case you don't know, don't EVER throw out brown bananas! Just throw those suckers in the freezer, peel and all, no wrap necessary. Then when you're ready to make banana bread, take them out and let them thaw. Make sure you thaw them in a bowl, because they get REALLY gooey and runny.
This recipe only makes a very thin loaf of bread - next time I'll probably double it so it doesn't go quite so quickly.

Sugar-Free Banana Bread
adapted from Toddler Treats and More

1/4 cup applesauce or vegetable oil
3 over-ripe bananas
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup milk
1 egg
3/4 cup white flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/3 cup old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a loaf pan. Combine applesauce, bananas, honey, vanilla, cinnamon and milk in a large bowl. Mix well. Add egg, mix well again. Add flours, oats and baking soda. Stir until combined. Pour mixture into pan and bake about 35 minutes. (If recipe is doubled, the bake time will need to be much longer!)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Pigs in a Blanket

I rarely cook on a Friday evening. It's our night to eat out, to get out of the house for awhile. But we've been gone so much this week that eating out just didn't even sound good. So I made something quick, easy, and very kid-friendly.
The kids loved them. Yes, both of them: my daughter and my husband. :-) I can't say I'm much of a hot dog fan, but sometimes it's best to make something that I know they'll love, even when I know I won't.

You start with a package of hot dogs (mine were all-beef - I really won't touch any other kind, even though everyone else in my house doesn't seem to mind). Cut a slit down the middle of each one, almost all the way through and almost all the way to the end.
Then you stuff cheese into the slit. The original recipe said to use sliced cheese and cut it into strips, but all I had in the refrigerator was grated cheese. It worked, but probably would have been easier with the slices.
Pop open a can of refrigerated crescent rolls, and roll the crescents around the hot dogs.
Into the oven for 15 minutes, and dinner is served!

Pigs in a Blanket
adapted from Pillsbury

8 hot dogs
Grated cheddar cheese (or sliced American cheese)
1 can refrigerated crescent rolls

Heat oven to 375°. Slit hot dogs to within 1/2" of ends; stuff cheese into each slit. Separate dough into triangles. Wrap dough triangle around each hot dog. Place on ungreased cookie sheet, cheese side up. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.