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Monday, October 31, 2011

Kale Salad with Dried Cranberry, Walnut and Boursin

This is a super easy and incredibly flavorful salad. I made this as a Thanksgiving side dish, to complement my mom's massive turkey, stuffing, mashed sweet potato, and apple pie. It was a nice and fresh addition to the traditional but heavy, dishes included in Thanksgiving dinner. And as a bonus, it is chalk full of lots of healthy ingredients.

This would also make a great lunch, summer picnic dish, or dinner side.

Kale Salad with Dried Cranberry, Walnut and Boursin
Serves 2 (4 as a side dish)

1/3 cup Dried Cranberries
1/2 Sweet White Onion or Red Onion, sliced
1/2 pkg Cranberry and Black Pepper Boursin Cheese
1/2 cup Walnuts, toasted
Bunch of Kale, chopped (or Spinach)

For Dressing:
2 tbsp Dijon Mustard
1 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

In a large bowl, toss all the salad ingredients together.
For the dressing, place all ingredients into a jar and shake. Drizzle over salad.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pumpkin Oatmeal Bars

Nothing says fall like pumpkin. I picked up a bunch of canned pure pumpkin the other day, and was trying to figure out what to do with it. Here is the result....

Pumpkin Oatmeal Bars
Makes 1 pan of bars (9" by 13" pan), about 20 bars

2 tbsp Unsalted Butter, room temperature
1/4 cup Sugar
1 Large Egg
1 cup Pumpkin Puree
1 cup Unsweetened Applesauce
1 1/2 cups Quick Cooking Rolled Oats
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/4 cup Ground Flax Seeds
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 cup Raisins
1/4 cup Raw Sunflower Seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9" by 13" pan.

In large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Beat in egg, pumpkin and apple sauce.

In a separate bowl, mix together oats, flour, flax, salt, baking powder and soda.

Add the oat mixture into the egg mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in the raisins and sunflower seeds.

Press the mixture firmly and evenly into the pan (tip: use a sheet of wax paper to press the mixture in)

Press into pan. Use wax paper to press evenly. Bake for about 20 minutes. Cool and cut into bars.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pumpkin Mac & Cheese

When I was a kid, I loved Mac & Cheese. That beautiful orange, creamy sauce over soft white pasta... mmm....

And of course, there was the jazzed up version of this classic with cut up hot dog and perhaps a little bit of ketchup. Yes, those were the days before I really understood what was in that package. Before I dared to ask why the sauce was made out of an orange powder instead of real cheese.

I haven't had a package of mac & cheese in years. Perhaps over a decade. However, the idea of mac & cheese conjures up feelings of childhood, home and comfort.

So, I decided to make some. I found a great recipe online for Rachel Ray's pumpkin mac & cheese. I tweeked it a little, and here it is. Oooey, gooey, delicious (and healthy)!

Pumpkin Mac & Cheese

Serves 4

500 grams Whole Wheat Pasta
2 cups Frozen Peas
4 tbsp Butter
3 tbsp Flour
3 cups Skim Milk
2 tbsp Maple Syrup
2 tbsp Dijon Mustard
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Nutmeg
2 cups Pumpkin Puree
1 cup Sharp Aged Cheddar Cheese, grated
1 cup Gruyere Cheese, grated
Salt and Pepper

Cook the pasta as per the package instructions. When pasta is almost done, add the frozen peas. Drain the pasta and the peas and set aside.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour and stir, cooking until the flour soaks up all the butter and starts to lightly brown (1-2 minutes). Slowly whisk in the milk. Add the maple syrup, mustard, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir in the pumpkin puree and the cheeses. Season the sauce to taste with salt and fresh cracked black pepper.

Add the pasta and peas to the sauce and stir until coated. Serve immediately.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sunday Breakfast: Eggs en Cocotte with Bacon and Spinach

After a long week, there is nothing better than breakfast at home with the hubby. Of course, it's got to be easy. No point stressing out trying to make a weekend breakfast.

Eggs en Cocotte is a great way to make a tasty, special breakfast that is headache-free. And it's a great way to use whatever ingredients you have around.

The basics are the eggs and the cream. After that, you can put whatever you want in them. Then, just put them in the oven for about 10 minutes and voila! Breakfast!

Eggs en Cocotte with Bacon and Spinach
Serves 2

3 cups Spinach
1 clove Garlic, minced
Olive Oil
1/4 cup Chopped Pork Belly or Bacon
4 Eggs
2 tbsp 18% Cream
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a pan over medium heat, heat the olive oil and the garlic. Add the spinach and cook until wilted. Remove from pan.

In the same pan, add the chopped pork belly or bacon and cook until browned. Place on a paper towel to drain.

Prepare the 2 ramekins by placing half of the spinach and bacon in each one. Crack 2 eggs into each cocotte. Add 1 tbsp of cream to each. Season with salt and pepper.

Bake the cocottes for about 10 minutes until the egg white is just cooked. Serve hot with toast.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Mom Miranda’s Crispy Pork Chops

My sister and brother in law went to my parents' place last weekend. And they came back raving about my mom's pork chops. So much so that I had to get the recipe!

And they were just as good as they sounded. Crispy and juicy, but also healthy since they are baked in the oven.  I served mine with dijon mustard, wild rice, and petit pois.

My mom never seizes to amaze me with her cooking. She always wants to try new flavors and techniques, and shares them with us, her three kids, in the hopes that we will fill our houses with the smells and tastes of home cooking.

Thanks Mom!

Mom Miranda’s Crispy Pork Chops
Serves 4

Marinade for pork chop:
2 cloves Garlic, minced or paste
Salt and black pepper

Other Ingredients
4 Pork Chops (with or without bone)
1/2 cup Dry Coarse Breadcrumbs, preferably whole-wheat (see Tip)
3/4 tsp Sugar
1/2 tsp Paprika
1/2 tsp Onion Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
4 tsp Canola Oil
1 Large Egg White, lightly beaten
4 tbsp Cornstarch

Marinate pork chops for an hour if possible. Then preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking pan with foil for easy cleaning, greased rack and put inside pan.

Mix breadcrumbs, sugar, paprika, onion powder and salt in a shallow dish. Drizzle with oil and mash with a fork until the oil is thoroughly incorporated. Lightly beat egg white with a fork in another shallow dish. Sprinkle cornstarch over the pork chops and pat to coat evenly on both sides. Dip the pork chops into the egg, then press into the breading mixture until evenly coated on both sides. (Discard leftover mixture.)

Place the pork chops on the rack. Bake until cooked (3/4" thick boneless loin chops only takes 30-40 min). Don’t overcook or it will be dry. 

Tip: To make fresh breadcrumbs, tear bread into pieces and process in a food processor until coarse crumbs form. One slice of bread makes about 1/2 cup fresh crumbs. For dry breadcrumbs, spread the fresh crumbs on a baking sheet and bake at 250°F until crispy, about 15 minutes. One slice of fresh bread makes about 1/3 cup dry crumbs. Or use prepared coarse dry breadcrumbs, or “Panko breadcrumbs.”

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Rocky Road Cookies

I saw this recipe on the other day, and I just had to try it! Rocky Road cookies?? I mean, COME ON! All of the best stuff (chocolate, marshmallows and nuts) mixed together in a cookie? It just had to be good!

I did face a few challenges with the recipe and made a few changes. The biggest thing was that the "dough" was extremely sticky and liquidy. I actually doubled the amount of flour to combat this.

The other thing... don't overbake them! Even if you feel the cookies aren't quite done yet, pull them out anyway after a maximum of 14 minutes. They are supposed to be a little bit oozy.

I made this recipe a little healthier by using whole wheat flour, and cutting both the sugar and chocolate chips. Even with those changes, these cookies were still super sweet and rich, yet surprisingly light! I know it sounds strange that a cookie could be both rich and light, but it really was! It was the most amazing cookie.

They make a fantastic dessert... I would suggest turning them into a rocky road ice cream sandwich with a scoop of vanilla ice cream between 2 cookies! Yum!

Rocky Road Cookies
Adapted from Recipe for Rocky Road Whoppers at

Makes 12 large cookies

2/3 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/8 tsp Salt

1 1/2 cups Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
2 tbsp Unsalted Butter

1/3 cup Sugar
1 Large Egg
1 1/2 tbsp Brewed Espresso, cooled
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2 cup Walnuts, chopped

60 (about 2/3 cup) Mini Marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Stir flour, baking powder and salt in small bowl to blend. Set aside.

Stir 1 cup chocolate chips and butter in medium bowl set over saucepan of barely simmering water until melted and smooth. Set aside.

Whisk sugar, egg, coffee mixture and vanilla in medium bowl until blended. Stir egg mixture into melted chocolate mixture. Mix in flour mixture just until blended. Add nuts and remaining 1/2 cup chocolate chips.

For each cookie, drop 1 rounded tablespoon dough onto prepared baking sheet, spacing 3 inch apart. Gently press 5 marshmallows into center of each. Gently press 1 rounded tablespoon of dough atop each to cover marshmallows and form 2-inch-high mounds. Bake cookies until top is dull and feels crusty when touched gently, rotating baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking to ensure even browning, about 12-14 minutes.

Cool cookies on baking sheet 15 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool completely.