Friday, May 29, 2015

Fettuccine with Prosciutto and Peas

Sometimes you need to stuff your face with something delicious and creamy and carby and salty and perfect that you can have on the table in 15 minutes.

This is just the ticket.

It is a simple meal. But so, so good.

Let's get cooking!

Fettuccine with Prosciutto and Peas
Adapted from Everyday Food
Serves: 3-4

8 ounces fettuccine
1/4 cup half & half
2 cups frozen peas, thawed
8 slices (about 4 ounces) thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into thin strips
Pinch nutmeg
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
Salt and pepper

Cook fettuccine in salted boiling water until al dente according to package instructions. Reserve a cup of pasta cooking water then drain the pasta. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat half & half, peas, prosciutto, and nutmeg in a large skillet over medium heat until warmed through, about 3 minutes. Stir in cooked fettuccine and 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Add a little bit of reserved pasta cooking water to thin the sauce and help the cheese coat the pasta. (You probably won't need the entire amount; I used about 1/4 cup.) Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve topped with extra Parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Almond Granola Bars

These granola bars are a spin-off of a recipe that's been circulating among the moms in my Peoria neighborhood for years.  I was recently gifted the ingredient list — and of course started making my own variations.

We're lucky to have lots of kids in our 'hood, and one mom and I often trade baked goods (and favorite cook books) when our kindergarten boys get together. Julie B. introduced me to these light and crisp bars.

By way of pure coincidence, these granola snacks originated with Charity J., a mom in an adjacent subdivision — who was my neighbor when we first moved to town.

In my never-ending quest to provide filling nibbles to my boys, I decided to try making these snacks with almond flour. As I'm learning, almond flour is a gluten-free alternative with more flavor, protein and healthy fats compared to regular flour. I even used it to make triple almond chocolate pudding.

With Max and Sam in the house, a tray of these sweet and chewy morsels disappears pretty fast.

Mangia! Mangia!

Almond Granola Bars
Inspired by the moms of Hawley Hills

2 eggs
4 tablespoons vegetable oil (coconut oil would be delicious)
2/3 cups honey
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup almond flour
4 cups rice krispie cereal
4 cups old fashioned oats
3/4 cups mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, oil and honey. Add brown sugar and mix until smooth. Add baking powder, almond flour, rice cereal and oats. Stir until everything is coated in the honey mixture.

Mix in chocolate chips and cherries.

Line a 13 x 9 inch pan with enough parchment paper so that some hangs over the edges. Pour mixture into pan. Using a spatula, firmly press granola into pan. Don't be gentle. You want to really press hard.

Bake for 15 to 25 minutes, depending on how hot your oven is. (Mine runs a little on the cool side, so these took almost 25 minutes.) When the top is golden brown, remove pan from oven.

Let cool completely. Holding the ends of the parchment paper, lift granola from pan and set on cutting board. Slice into bars. Good luck trying to eat just one!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Amy's Guacamole

When Andrea wrote of her family's love for tacos and her DIY Taco Seasoning, I got a craving for my guacamole. I make this guacamole a lot, especially in the summer. It is one thing that everyone in my family loves. I'd make it more, but none of us has any self control. We all basically stuff our faces. You have been warned.


PS: The garlic is what makes my guac different from others. Feel free to make this your own. Maybe add cilantro or raw onions. Maybe use homemade salsa if that's in your wheelhouse and you have the time.

Amy's Guacamole

Salsa (your favorite jarred variety)
Kosher salt
Lime (Lemon will do if you are out of limes)

NOTE: All quantities are approximate. How much you use of anything depends on your own taste and how many you are feeding.

Peel 3-4 avocados and place in bowl. Add 1-2 cloves of minced garlic. Add kosher salt and salsa to our liking. Add juice of one half or whole lime. Mash and  combine using a potato masher. Taste and adjust the seasonings -- namely salt and lime juice -- as needed.

When I made this guac last week, my older daughter Lucy was my helper. She insisted on taking what she called the "transition pictures," which show the various steps in the prep. Here they are.

Friday, May 22, 2015

London Broil

When the weather starts getting nice, I typically send the husband out to the grill when I want beef for dinner. (Thanks for being the grill master, honey!) But some days it's rainy. Or neither of us is in the mood to grill. Or I'm just looking for a change of pace.

And that's when I turn to the broiler.

A quick hit of high heat from the broiler caramelizes the exterior of your London broil while leaving the interior rosy pink. And doesn't it seem appropriate to cook London BROIL in the BROIL-er? Yeah, I thought so, too.

One last tip. London broil can be a tougher cut of beef. Cooking the meat to medium-rare or medium, letting it rest for 10 minutes before serving, and slicing it thinly across the grain helps to make sure each serving is perfectly tender.

Let's get cooking!

London Broil
Serves: 3-4

1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
Pepper to taste
1 pound London broil*

Whisk together oil, vinegar, lemon juice, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, and pepper. Set aside.

Use a sharp knife to score both sides of the London broil in a diamond pattern. (Scoring just means making shallow cuts in the meat. I think this helps the marinade absorb better. But mostly I just do it because that's what my mom did. Seems a good enough reason to me.) Place meat in a shallow baking dish or a Ziploc baggie. Pour the marinade over the meat and turn to coat. Cover the dish or seal the baggie and place in the refrigerator for a couple hours or up to overnight. Remove from the fridge about 30 minutes before you're ready to cook so it comes to room temperature.

Adjust an oven rack so it's about 4" from the broiler element. Heat the broiler to high. Place the meat on a broiler-safe baking sheet (not glass!) and place under the broiler for 5-6 minutes per side, until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 120 degrees for medium rare. Tent with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. (This will allow the juices to redistribute and the meat to come up to temperature another 5-10 degrees.) Thinly slice the London broil against the grain and serve.

*They sell a cut of beef called "London broil" at my grocery store. If you don't see it at the butcher counter, try using flank steak instead.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Triple Almond Chocolate Banana Pudding

As you all know, I'm on the hunt for healthy snacks to feed my boys. We need tidbits packed with protein, energy that lasts — and just enough sweetness to make them appealing.

After I shared my popcorn marshmallow bars, the fine folks at invited me to try using almond flour. I love an excuse to get to work in the kitchen and boy, was I pleasantly surprised. I'm a newbie at using gluten-free flours. Almond flour works just like all-purpose white and whole wheat flours and is high in protein and vitamin E.

I'm trying to clean up our diets in general, so I'm thrilled that my kids liked this no-sugar chocolate dessert.  The sweetness comes from extremely ripe bananas. For even more fun, you can make the consistency closer to ice cream by using frozen bananas.

And I definitely suggest eating this power pudding for breakfast! Such a nutty way to start the day. (Sorry, I couldn't resist!)

Mangia! Mangia!

Triple Almond Chocolate Banana Pudding
Inspired by Williams Sonoma and The Sprouted Kitchen

2 overripe bananas (fresh or frozen or some of each)
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cups almond butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of sea salt
1/3 cup almond milk, divided
1/4 cup almond flour
Optional: for extra sweetness, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of maple syrup or honey

Place bananas, cocoa powder, almond butter, cinnamon and salt in a blender or food processor. Add about 1/8 cup almond milk. Blend until everything is mixed together but not yet smooth. Use a rubber spatula to scrap down the sides of blender or food processor.

Add almond flour and another 1/8 cup almond milk. Blend until smooth, adding more splashes of almond milk as needed to smooth out texture. (Adding the almond flour at the end prevents clumping in the bottom of the blender.)

Transfer to four small bowls. Enjoy immediately, especially if you used frozen bananas.

If you used fresh bananas, this pudding tastes great chilled. Cover bowls with plastic wrap and pop in the fridge for an hour or more. You can make this pudding ahead. It holds up well in the refrigerator for about three days.

Sprinkle with banana slices and nuts, like sliced toasted almonds or chopped pecans. My Sam says it's even better with whipped cream on top.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Easy Yellow Curry Shrimp Pasta

Busy moms need secret sauces. Plain and simple. And I am here to share one of mine with you. Trader Joe's Thai Yellow Curry Sauce. I always have a bottle or two of that -- and Trader Joe's Thai Red Curry Sauce, for that matter -- in my pantry. I also always have a bag of frozen shrimp on hand, too. I snatch up a bag or two whenever they go on special at the grocery.

One day when short on time and without a fully stocked fridge and pantry, I made up this easy, yummy dish. Easy Yellow Curry Shrimp Pasta yields a ton of leftovers, which is also nice. It's now a regular go-to and a hit with my family (excluding one of the daughters, because there's always one) and my neighbors, the beneficiaries of leftovers.


Easy Yellow Curry Shrimp Pasta

1 medium to large onion, chopped
2 yellow squashes, diced
Olive oil
1 to 2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
Red pepper flakes
16 ounce box of angel hair pasta
1 bottle of Trader Joe's Thai Yellow Curry Sauce

Heat a splash or two of olive oil over medium to medium high heat and add in the onions and yellow squash. Meanwhile, start a pot of water to boil for the pasta.

Saute veggies for two to three minutes. Add in the shrimp and a pinch or two of the red pepper flakes. Cook until shrimp is pink and opaque. This will take just three to four minutes.

Cook entire box of angel hair pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta and in a large bowl or pot combine pasta with shrimp, veggies and curry sauce.

Eat. Enjoy. And don't forget to share with your neighbors.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Coconut Carrot Muffins

Everyone's talking about coconut oil these days. It's the new thing. (Actually, I'm pretty sure it's been a thing for a while now, and I'm just behind the times.) I've heard the virtues of using coconut oil for cooking, cleaning, baking, moisturizing...pretty much everything under the sun. It was high time I gave this newfangled oil a whirl, and Coconut Carrot Muffins seemed like the perfect opportunity.

These healthy muffins are vibrant with carrots and pineapple, studded with sweet raisins, and rich with coconut flakes and coconut oil. And with a pinch of orange zest stirred in, each bite is fragrant with citrus. Geez, are these babies good.

Let's get cooking!

Carrot Coconut Muffins
Makes 36 mini muffins
Adapted from these Morning Glory Muffins

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour*
2 tablespoons oat bran
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 whole eggs
2 egg whites
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled
8 ounces crushed pineapple
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon orange zest (optional)
1 1/2 cups grated carrots
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a muffin tin or line with paper liners and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together all-purpose flour, whole wheat pastry flour, oat bran, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, stir together whole eggs, egg whites, brown sugar, applesauce, coconut oil, pineapple, vanilla, and orange zest. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir in carrots, raisins, pineapple, and coconut.

Fill prepared muffin tins with batter. I filled my mini muffin cups to the top and ended up with 36 muffins. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes, until muffins spring back when you touch them and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Allow to cool in the muffin tins for 5 minutes, then remove the muffins to a wire rack to finish cooling.

I made mini muffins, but you could certainly make regular-sized muffins. I would guess they'd need about 25 minutes to bake. If you try it, let me know!

*I happened to have 1/2 cup of whole wheat pastry flour that I was looking to use up. If you don't have whole wheat pastry flour, feel free to use entirely all-purpose flour or substitute whole wheat flour. Also, if you have more whole wheat flour on hand than I did, by all means use more!