February 28, 2008

Cream of Asparagus Soup

Our little grocery store has asparagus on sale, so I can't resist buying it. This recipe was on my wish list and seemed like a good pairing with grilled cheese. (I'm not a huge fan of tomato soup and won't touch the canned version at all.) The taste tests were excellent, but now I need to convince my husband to eat a green soup ...

Cream of Asparagus Soup
3 cups 1-inch sliced asparagus
2 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 tsp. thyme, divided
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 Tbsp. flour
2 cups milk
Dash of nutmeg
2 tsp. butter
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. grated lemon rind

Combine asparagus, broth 1/2 tsp. thyme, bay leaf and garlic in saucepan on medium-high. Bring to boil, and then reduce heat. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Blend asparagus mixture until smooth. (Lesson learned: You really are supposed to pay attention to the liquid max line on a food processor.)

Place flour in saucepan. Add milk gradually, whisking until blended. Stir in asparagus and nutmeg. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in remaining thyme, butter, salt and lemon rind.

Serves 4 (1 1/4 cup servings).

Strawberry Bread Pudding

Since the Chocolate Bread Pudding was so rich and delicious, I wondered what variations were possible. I had some strawberry bread, plus some extra strawberry juice in the refrigerator, so I decided to try a strawberry alternative.

My husband said this version was perhaps even better than Chocolate Bread Pudding. I think you can swap types of bread and still get similar results. (I actually used one slice of Braided Sesame Graham Wheat Bread.)

Strawberry Bread Pudding
1 3/4 cups cubed strawberry bread (or other bread)
2/3 cup strawberry juice (and/or milk)
1 Tbsp. amaretto
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 egg

Bake 1/2 inch bread cubes at 350ºF for 5 to 10 minutes, until toasted. Combine remaining ingredients and gently stir in bread chunks. Cover and refrigerates at least 30 minutes but no more than 4 hours.

Preheat oven to 325ºF . Spread the bread mixture into 2 greased ramekins or 1 shallow baking dish. Place dish(es) into larger baking dish and fill with approximately 1 inch of water. Bake 35 minutes until set.

Serve warm with cool whip. Makes 2 delicious servings.

February 27, 2008

Chili Masa Cheddar Cheese Bread

This was a bread I wanted to try because I thought my husband would particularly enjoy it ... he enjoys things with a bit of heat. The red pepper flakes in this recipe add more visual appeal than heat, but the end result is a flavorful bread.

Note: I had a jalapeño cheddar cheese on hand that I used. I'm sure regular cheddar would be equally tasty, but I couldn't resist fitting the theme of the bread.

Chili Masa Cheddar Cheese Bread
1 1/3 cups water
2 tsp. rapid-rising or active dry yeast
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
3 Tbsp. corn oil (vegetable oil can be substituted)
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 cup masa harina
3 cups bread flour
3/4 cup toasted pepitas
1/2 cup diced Cheddar cheese

Heat the water until warm, between 105ºF and 115ºF. Pour into warmed mixing bowl, and add yeast. Let stand 5 minutes.

Add lemon juice, oil, salt, sugar, pepper flakes and masa harina. Beat well. Cover, and let stand 15 minutes.

Slowly add bread flour, and beat until a smooth dough forms. Knead the dough until soft and springy but soft to the touch. Gently knead in pepitas and cheese. Remove the dough hook, cover the bowl and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Lightly grease a baking sheet. Turn dough onto lightly greased or floured surface, and punch dough down. Shape into 2 to 3 round loaves. Place the loaves, seam side down, on greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375
ºF. Glaze loaves with egg white and water mixture. Bake 25 to 35 minutes, until golden. Remove from baking sheet, and cool on wire rack.

Cinnamon Pancakes

Chocolate Chip Pancakes are a weekend favorite at our house, but cinnamon chips lurking in the pantry spurred this idea. They smelled delicious and were deemed a success.

Cinnamon Chip Pancakes
1 cup bisquick
1/2 cup milk + 2 Tbsp. milk
1 egg white
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Handful cinnamon chips

Preheat griddle to 325ºF. Grease lightly.

Combine all ingredients together. Cinnamon chips may be stirred into batter or dropped into individual pancakes. Pour batter into 6 to 7 pancakes, depending upon size preference. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, until tops are bubbly and edges are set. Flip, and cook until browned.

Serve warm, with maple syrup if desired. Makes enough pancakes for 2 to enjoy.

February 24, 2008

Asparagus Beef Stir Fry

This recipe was my Aunt Barb's contribution to a family cookbook I created last summer for my grandpa's 85th birthday. My husband and I found this to be another delicious way to enjoy asparagus. We usually halve the recipe, although we often leave the garlic in the full amount.

Asparagus Beef Stir Fry
1 lb. beef tenderloin, cubed
1 bundle green onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil (may substitute olive oil)
1 lb. fresh asparagus, trimmed into 2-inch pieces
1/2 lb. sliced fresh mushrooms
1/2 cup butter, cubed (can use only 2 Tbsp. )
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
Hot cooked rice

Stir fry the beef, onion, garlic, salt and pepper in oil for 3 to 5 minutes, until beef is browned. Remove from pan and keep warm.

In same pan, stir fry asparagus and mushrooms in butter until asparagus is tender. Return beef mixture to pan. Stir in soy sauce and lemon juice and heat through.

Serve on top of rice. Serves 4.

Chocolate Chunk Bread Pudding

Since I had the delicious Chocolate, Walnut and Wheat Bread, I couldn't resist trying this recipe. This was my first attempt making bread pudding, and I liked it so much I made this recipe twice this weekend! The chocolate chips are excellent because they create melted pools of chocolaty goodness!

Chocolate Chunk Bread Pudding
1 3/4 cups cubed sweet bread (I strongly recommend Chocolate, Walnut and Wheat Bread)
1/2 cup milk
2 Tbsp. sugar (or sugar substitute)
1 1/2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
1 Tbsp. chocolate liquor
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 oz. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350ºF . Arrange bread cubes in single layer on cookie sheet. Bake 5 to 10 minutes, until toasted.

Combine remaining ingredients, except chocolate chips. Cover, and chill 30 minutes to 4 hours.

Preheat oven to 325
ºF . Spread half the bread mixture into 2 greased ramekins or 1 shallow baking dish. Sprinkle with chocolate chips, and cover with remaining bread mixture. Place dish(es) into larger baking dish and fill with approximately 1 inch of water. Bake 35 minutes until set.

Serve warm, with cool whip if desired. Makes 2 servings.

Chocolate, Walnut and Wheat Bread

This bread is fantastic, almost like a dessert. It works wonderfully in bread puddings, which I just began experimenting with this weekend with positive results.

One note on this recipe, be sure to toast the nuts ahead of time, so they are cooled completely when you knead them into the dough. Otherwise, you melt your chocolate and end up with a delicious mess.

Chocolate, Walnut and Wheat Bread
1 1/3 cups water
2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups bread flour
4 tsp. gluten
1 1/2 cups chopped toasted walnuts
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Heat the water until between 105ºF and 115ºF. Pour into warmed mixing bowl, and add yeast. Let stand 5 minutes.

Add salt, whole wheat flour, half the bread flour and gluten. Beat until a smooth dough forms. Cover and let stand 15 minutes.

Slowly add remaining bread flour until a smooth dough forms. Knead until dough pulls away from sides of bowl, adding flour as needed. Knead until smooth and springy but soft to the touch. Gently knead in walnuts and chocolate chips. Cover and let rise 1 hour.

Turn dough onto lightly floured or oiled surface. Punch down and shape into 2 to 3 round loaves. Place the loaves, smooth sides up, onto lightly greased cookie sheets. Cover and let rise 45 to 60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350
ºF. Brush the loaves with water. Using a serrated knife, make three shallow cuts on the top of each loaf. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from sheets and cool on wire racks.

February 21, 2008

Coffee Cake

This is the traditional Bisquick recipe with a few alterations to make it a bit sweeter. This was one of my favorite recipes as a child to make for my family.

Coffee Cake
2 cups Bisquick
2/3 cup water
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 egg
2-4 Tbsp. cinnamon/sugar mixture
1/3 cup Bisquick
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. firm butter/margarine

Combine first four ingredients together in mixing bowl. Spoon half the mixture into a greased 9-inch round pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar mixture. Spoon in remaining batter.

Combine remaining four ingredients together, cutting in butter/margarine with a fork. Sprinkle evenly over top of batter.

Bake at 375°F for 18 to 22 minutes. Serve warm. Makes 8 servings (only if you can stop eating after one piece).

February 10, 2008

Italian Baked Ziti

This is another good freezer meal. It's simple to prepare and can be made healthier using whole wheat pasta and ground turkey. You may want to top it with shredded mozzarella.

Italian Baked Ziti
3 cups dry ziti pasta
1/2 lb. ground beef or turkey
3 cups spaghetti sauce
2 cups cottage cheese
2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 tsp. parsley
1/4 tsp. garlic powder

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Cook ziti according to package directions, omitting salt and oil. Drain and set aside. Brown meat, and then stir in spaghetti sauce.

In separate bowl, combine cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, egg, parsley and garlic powder. Add ziti, and mix well.

Spread 1 cup spaghetti sauce in bottom of greased 9 x 13 pan. Layer with cheesy ziti mixture. Top with remaining sauce. Cover with aluminum foil, and bake 30 minutes. Serves 8.

Strawberry Parfaits

This recipe is a healthy, tasty, simple dessert. You can make it look a bit fancier depending on how you serve and garnish it. This would be excellent with fresh strawberries, although frozen ones work.

Strawberry Parfaits
2 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 Tbsp. strawberry jam
1/4 cup cool whip
1/2 cup sliced strawberries

Mix cream cheese and jam together. Fold in cool whip. Divide strawberries into two dishes. Top with cool whip mixture. Garnish with sliced strawberries if desired. Serves 2.

Tortilla Torte

This recipe is a recent discovery that is the perfect dessert to accompany any Mexican dish. It's a simple recipe to prepare and keeps well for a couple days in the refrigerator.

Tortilla Torte
6 ounces chocolate (mixture of semi-sweet and milk chocolate is best)
1 1/2 cups sour cream
2 1/2 Tbsp. powdered sugar
4 (8-inch) flour tortillas
Milk chocolate to garnish

Melt chocolate with 1 cup sour cream and 1 Tbsp. powdered sugar in double boiler, stirring constantly. Once completely melted, remove from heat and place pan in cold water to cool chocolate mixture, stirring occasionally.

Place one tortilla on serving plate and spread evenly with 1/3 of chocolate filling, then repeat with other tortillas, ending with the last tortilla on top.

Blend remaining sour cream and powdered sugar together. Spread evenly over the fourth tortilla. Chill, covered with a large inverted bowl, at least 8 hours before serving. Garnish with milk chocolate shavings. Serves 8.

Mexican Lasagna

This is one of the treasures I got at my wedding shower. It has become a favorite in our household and goes well with Mexican or Spanish rice. It is quick to throw together, freezes well and tastes awesome.

Mexican Lasagna
1 lb. ground beef (or ground turkey or shredded chicken)
1 onion
1 cup salsa
15 oz. tomato sauce
1 package taco seasoning
12-16 oz. cottage cheese
2 eggs
1 tsp. oregano
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
12 corn tortillas

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Brown meat and onion. Stir in salsa, tomato sauce and taco seasoning. Simmer 5 minutes.

In separate bowl, combine cottage cheese, eggs and oregano.

Spray 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray, and line with six tortillas. Top with half the meat mixture. Cover with cottage cheese mixture. Layer six more tortillas, and top with remaining meat mixture. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top.

Bake 25 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes.

February 3, 2008

Cheesy Beef Casserole

I always appreciate meals that can be prepared, frozen and used at my convenience. This recipe for Cheesy Beef Casserole is one of those recipes that has a nice Italian flavor with plenty of cheese, although not the traditional gooey mozzarella.

Cheesy Beef Casserole
4 cups uncooked egg noodles
1 pound ground beef or turkey (or a combination)
3/4 cup chopped onion
15 oz. tomato sauce
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1/4 tsp. garlic pepper
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 oz. yogurt cheese
1 cup cottage cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped green pepper
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain, and set aside.

Meanwhile, in skillet brown meat and 3/4 cup onion. Drain, and place back in skillet. Add tomato sauce, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

In separate bowl, combine cheeses, onion and green pepper. Mix well.

In 9 by 13 baking dish (or two smaller ones), layer noodles, meat and cheese mixture. Repeat layers. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese.

Bake covered at 350ºF for 30 minutes. Uncover, and broil on low for 3 to 5 minutes, until cheese is golden. Serves 8.

Not a Failure ... Just a Different Success

So my goal was to create round loaves of crusty bread, perfect for bread bowls. I used a Crusty French Bread recipe and simply divided the dough into six mini-loaves. However, the loaves didn't hold their shape as they rose, meaning they expanded into flatter loaves. I reshaped them just prior to baking and ended up with these loaves.

If I can't quite make them work as bread bowls, then we'll just have little loaves of crusty bread, perfect for a sharing with a meal. So here's my latest creation ...

Not Quite Bread Bowls
2 tsp. dry active yeast
1 1/4 cups water
1/2 Tbsp. salt
1/2 Tbsp. butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups bread flour
1 beaten egg (optional)

Dissolve yeast in warm water in warmed mixer bowl. Add salt, butter and flour using dough hook and mix until well blended. Knead approximately 2 minutes. Dough will be sticky, but do not add extra flour. (Although this is why my shapes didn't hold.) Place in greased bowl. Cover and let rise 1 hour.

Punch dough down and divide into six mini-loaves. Shape each into a round loaf and place on greased cookie sheet. Cover and let rise 1 hour.

Bake at 450ºF 20 minutes, with pan of hot water underneath the rack with the bread loaves to create steam. Remove from oven, and brush with beaten egg. Return to oven 5 more minutes. Cool on wire racks.

(If shaped into 6 to 8 loaves, they are the perfect size for two people to share with a meal. These loaves are absolutely fantastic to eat with most any meal with their great flavor and thick chewy crust.)

February 2, 2008

Sesame, Oat and Cinnamon Swirl Loaf

I'm a morning person by nature, partially because I rarely fall back asleep once I wake up in the morning. That means when my husband's alarm went off at 5:30 this morning, I ended up crawling out of bed before 6 a.m. Not my ideal Saturday morning, so I decided to at least bake some bread to make it worthwhile to be awake.

My brother-in-law had requested a cinnamon bread, so this wish list recipe was the obvious choice. Normally I shape my loaves and bake them on my trusty cookie sheets. I decided to follow the instructions to shape and bake these in loaf pans, and I'm pleased with the results.

Sesame, Oat and Cinnamon Swirl Loaf
1 1/3 cups boiling water
1/2 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
2 tsp. rapid-rising or active dry yeast
2 Tbsp. butter
2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups bread flour
2 tsp. cinnamon

Combine boiling water and oats. Let stand until mixture cools to 105ºF to 115ºF. Add yeast, and let stand 5 minutes. Add butter, salt, sesame seeds, sugar and wheat flour. Mix well. Let stand covered 15 minutes.

Add bread flour, and knead dough until it pulls away from the sides of the bowl and is smooth and springy. Cover and let rise about 1 hour, until dough is doubled.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Punch down and roll into a rectangle (approximately 8 x 12 inches). Sprinkle dough evenly with cinnamon. Roll up tightly, sealing the seam and ends. Place the loaf in a lightly greased loaf pan with the smooth side facing up. Cover, and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled, about 45 to 60 minutes.

Bake at 375ºF until golden. Remove from the pan, and cool on a wire rack. Try this bread with cream cheese and a thin slice of apple or pear.

Soup Swap

I deem my first-ever soup swap a success, even though it wasn't held on National Soup Swap Day. We had five soups physically present to exchange, with one more yet to be delivered. Our guests of honor included Stuffed Green Pepper Soup, Tortilla Soup, Minestrone Without the Minestrone, Cheesy Broccoli and Meatball Soup (see prior posting).

Although I don't have the soup recipes to share, I can share our menu of snacklets for the evening. We had a Parmesan Cheese Ball, Warm Crab and Artichoke Dip, Strawberry Fluff and Chocolate Tartlets. Aside from the tartlets (see prior posting), all were relatively simple and speedy to prepare.

Parmesan Cheese Ball
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1/3 cup chopped nuts
½ small onion, chopped
½ Tbsp. milk
¼ tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
¼ tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 package cream cheese, softened slightly (or yogurt cheese)
Coarsely chopped nuts

Stir all ingredients together, except coarsely chopped nuts. Chill at least one hour. Shape into a ball, and roll in nuts. Serve with crackers or toasted garlic bread. (Create authentic garlic bread by toasting old bread and then rubbing the slices with a whole clove of garlic.)

Warm Crab and Artichoke Dip
1 package imitation crab meat, thawed
1 can artichoke hearts
1 package cream cheese, softened (or yogurt cheese)
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
¼ tsp. black pepper
Several drops red pepper sauce
¼ cup parmesan cheese
¼ cup garlic bread crumbs

Chop the crab meat and artichoke hearts. Combine with remaining ingredients, except parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. Place mixture into shallow baking dish. Top with parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. Bake uncovered at 375ºF 40 minutes. Serve warm with bread, crackers or fresh vegetables.

Strawberry Fluff
1 package sugar-free cook & serve vanilla pudding
1 package fat-free cook & serve tapioca pudding
1 package sugar-free strawberry jello
3 cups boiling water
4 oz. cool whip
1 cup sliced strawberries (can use fresh or thawed frozen)

Mix dry ingredients together. Add to boiling water, and cook two minutes while stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and cool completely. Stir in cool whip and berries. Serve chilled.

You can easily adapt this recipe using other flavors, such as raspberry or orange (think mandarin oranges).