Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Roasted Carrot & Chinese Five Spice Soup

If you've never tried Chinese Five Spice, spring is a great time to experiment. The blend of anise, cinnamon, star anise, clover and ginger is the perfect pair for roasted carrots and other root veggies or potatoes.

These carrots make a nice side dish for chicken, ham or grilled steak.

Alas, my boys are not big fans of roasted vegetables, so we usually have leftovers – which I look forward to. This way I get to make soup. I always have some chicken stock on hand, so making soup is a quick way to get lunch or dinner on the table.

The simple formula of vegetable + stock + spices works like a charm with many different vegetables (butternut squash, acorn squash, potatoes, carrots) or veggie combos (sweet potato and carrot.) Be sure to have fun with the spices. Nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice is nice with squash; a little curry or cumin or ginger goes well with carrots. Give it a try and let us know what you come up with.

Mangia! Mangia!

Roasted Carrot & Chinese Five Spice Soup

1 pound carrots (baby or whole) peeled and cut into 1-inch or 2-inch pieces
2 celery stalks, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 of a large onion, cut into chunks
1 or 2 tablespoons olive oil
3 teaspoons Chinese Five Spice, divided
Salt and pepper
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread all vegetables on cookie sheet. Drizzle with the oil. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons Chinese Five Spice, salt and pepper. Toss to coat vegetables in oil and spices.

Roast for 40 to 50 minutes, tossing every 20 minutes or so. Cook until the carrots are soft all the way through when pierced with a fork.

Remove from oven and let cool.

If you have an immersion blender, place the vegetables in a large pot. Add 1 1/3 cups of stock. You can also use a regular blender, but you may need to blend the vegetables and stock in batches. Blend until smooth.

Taste soup mixture. Add additional Chinese Five Spice, salt and pepper as you like. If soup is too thick, blend in more stock, adding 1/3 cup at a time.

Once you obtain the consistency and seasoning that you prefer, heat the soup in a pot on the stovetop, or in a microwave-safe bowl.

Enjoy as is or with a side of toasted pita or other bread.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Easter Round-Up

Happy Easter, dear readers! Today I'm sharing a round-up of recipes that would be perfect for your holiday table. Whether you're celebrating with breakfast, lunch, or dinner, we've got you covered.

Let's get cooking!

Let's get our day started with Herbed Egg Bake. The fresh herbs hint at the Spring garden goodness that's heading our way.

Make these Carrot Coconut Muffins the night before and serve them with a schmear of butter. The Easter bunny will appreciate a few carrots, don't you think?

Use up any leftovers from your Easter egg hunt to make this Deviled Egg Sampler. Are you a traditionalist or will you add a pinch of curry to your deviled eggs?

Easter begs for ham, and this Apricot Mustard Glazed Ham is my very favorite. Bonus: It's as simple to prepare as it is delicious to eat.

Asparagus is so fresh and tender this time of year. And since it's seasonal, it'll probably be on sale this weekend. Roasted Asparagus with Lemon is my favorite way to serve this springtime veggie.

Lemon Buttermilk Cake is a refreshing and delicious dessert. I recommend piling it high with berries and freshly whipped cream.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Lime Cream Trifle

I can't really take credit for this recipe, which comes from Food Network Chef Marcela Valladolid, but it is so good I had to share it.

This trifle is pretty in green and white and makes the perfect Easter or spring time dessert. The taste combo of lime and cream is refreshing and light.

We enjoyed this treat on Sunday, upon my husband's return from a week of work travel. He and I loved it. My boys ate all of their servings and I heard them whisper to each other that it was pretty good. When I asked Sam how he liked it, he said this: "It's OK, but what I really want is a cookie."

The recipe comes from a recent issue of People magazine shared by a friend. Much thanks, Molly!

The trifle tastes better the longer you can let it set-up in the fridge. We let ours chill for about 3 hours before digging in. When I took the serving-size photo the next morning (and then proceeded to eat most of it for my breakfast) everything held together better and the flavors had blended even more wonderfully.

Mangia! Mangia!

Lime Cream Trifle

1 12 ounce pound cake, store bought
2 cups heavy whipping cream (you might want a little bit more whipped cream for topping, so go ahead and use 2 1/2 cups if you like)
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 12 ounce can evaporated milk
4 limes, zested and juiced
For garnish: crushed graham crackers and very thin slices of lime

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut pound cake into small cubes. Spread pound cake cubes in a single layer on a large cookie sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes or until cake is golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool.

Beat whipping cream and powered sugar at high speed until stiff peaks form. Place in refrigerator until ready to build trifle.

Place 1/2 cup lime juice, condensed milk and evaporated milk into a blender. Process until smooth. If needed, stop blender and scrape sides with a rubber spatula to incorporate everything, then process again.

Using a large glass trifle dish, spoon 1 cup of the lime mixture into the bottom. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of lime zest over the lime cream. Spread 2 cups of cake cubes on top in a single layer. Add 1 cup of whipped cream to the center of the cake cubes and spread it toward the sides of the trifle dish. (Don't worry if it doesn't spread evenly or cover everything.

Repeat the layers 2 more times.

Top the trifle with any remaining lime cream mixture and another 1 teaspoon of lime zest. Add remaining whipped cream to the center.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 2 to 12 hours.

Garnish with crushed graham cracker crumbs and lime slices before serving.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Slow Cooker Chicken Adobo

I recently made one of the best new dishes ever, a dinner that everyone in my family loved and wants me to make again. And again and again and again. 

This magical dish: my friend Aimee Nezhukumatathil's Slow Cooker Chicken Adobo. 

I'm going to let Aimee tell you all about her recipe. But first, know that everything she says is true. The chicken is so tender it indeed falls off the bone. You and your family will drool at the smells wafting through your house. Consider this conversation when I came home last Tuesday to chicken adobo simmering away in my crockpot.

Me: "Omigoodness, dinner smells amazing!"

Lucy,  9: "I know, right?!"

Lucy did not want to wait for her dad and sister to get home to start eating. 

Here are Lucy and Penny chowing down and displaying their approval.

Readers, this dish is so good. Here's Aimee to tell you more. --XOXO,  Amy

I know social media gets a lot of flack sometimes (and rightly so in many cases), but one of the good parts for me is reconnecting with sweet friends from long ago. Amy and I were friends in high school and on the Speech & Debate Team together (she was Debate Amy and I was Speech Aimee). After years of Facebooking, Amy and I finally reconnected in person a few years ago at our 20-year high school reunion. (Editor's note: Stop it! We are not that old!)

I've been drooling over the wonderful and very manageable recipes here and am so happy to follow along and cheer Amy's delightful goings-on, even if mostly virtual these days. (Editor's note: This photo is of Club Amy/Aimee at our 20-year high school reunion. I'm on the left and Aimee is in the middle. At the right is our friend Amy Farmer Broderick.)

A little bit about me and my family: I'm working at home now on sabbatical, but I'm an English professor at a small state college in Western New York. My husband is also an English professor at my same college and we have two little boys. We've tried to do as little child care as possible these past eight years, but that often means handing off the kids to each other in a parking lot or driveway. During the week, my husband and I almost always have grading to get done at night and we are both writers and we both love hanging out with the kids. 

This is my drawn-out way of saying that having time to cook can sometimes get tough if we're not prepped and ready to go the night before.

Enter: the slow cooker. 

I'm speaking  to the choir for many here, I know, but my slow cooker was a game changer for me. I can prep a meal the night before (or day of) going to work and come home to a piping hot meal after being on campus all day. 

My mother is from the Philippines  and my dad is from India, and  on those impossibly dark and dreary days here in New York (think Ice Planet Hoth), I crave my parents' home cooking: curries, noodle dishes, garlic fried rice, and my favorite: chicken adobo. Some of my Pinoy purist pals might think my slow cooker version is sacrilege, but my Filipina mama (who is verrrry picky about her adobo) could not tell this wasn't cooked on the stove/oven/outside burners. Once when she was visiting, she asked me three times just HOW I made this adobo, even though she saw the crock pot bubbling all afternoon. She just could NOT believe this wasn't made "the old-fashioned way."

Side note: This is so easy, it's embarrassing. But you do need to be precise with the measurements--even if you're like me and don't usually measure stuff--or you will be in vinegary, vinegary hell.

Sending peace, love and comfort food from western New York,

Slow Cooker Chicken Adobo
3 pounds bone-in chicken*
2-3 bay leaves
1 small onion, diced (optional)
8 cloves garlic, crushed
3/4 cup low sodium soy sauce (or regular, if you prefer)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar, measured precisely

*Note regarding the chicken: Either cut a whole chicken into pieces or buy it already cut up. Or, if in an extra hurry, just use breasts, tenderloins or thighs. Also, the traditional way calls for bone-in, skin-on chicken, but it's up to you if you prefer skinless and/or boneless. The traditional way will, of course, be the juiciest.

Place the chicken in the slow cooker.

In a separate bowl, combine the other ingredients and stir until just mixed. Pour the mixture over the chicken and cook on low for 6-8 hours, until chicken is super tender. That's it!

Try not to drool when you walk into your kitchen the rest of the afternoon or when you come home from work.

Serve your chicken adobo over rice and with whatever veggies you like. Yields about six servings. Enjoy!

Oh, as Amy discovered and my husband will attest, the leftovers--if you have any--are as good or better!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Even Better Irish Soda Bread

I mentioned on Facebook yesterday that I was making Irish Soda Bread as part of our St. Patrick's Day celebration. While Elaine was taking her afternoon snooze, Danny and I got baking. He is an expert at leveling the flour and is quite handy with a whisk. It makes the biggest mess you can imagine, but we both get a kick out of our kitchen projects.

The recipe I made last year was dynamite, but I just can't leave well enough alone. I wondered if we could make it just a little bit better—even more rich and tender than it already was. So I decided to add a few additional tablespoons of butter because...butter. And an egg yolk couldn't hurt, right? I'm not sure if it was the tweaks to the recipe or my fantastic sous chef (thanks, Danny boy!), but this year's Irish Soda Bread rocked my world.

I didn't want to forget the updated recipe, and I thought you all deserved to have it as well. So even though St. Patrick's Day is over, this Even Better Irish Soda Bread would make the perfect addition to your table this weekend. Eat it warm, slathered with butter. Enjoy it for breakfast, along side a cup of tea in the afternoon, or serve it with Malissa's Slow Cooker Corned Beef for the perfect Irish dinner.

We're keeping the St. Patrick's Day spirit going for one more day!

Let's get cooking!

Even Better Irish Soda Bread
Adapted from this recipe

3 c flour
1/4 c sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/3 cup buttermilk
1 egg yolk
1 cup raisins
1-2 tablespoons milk
1-2 tablespoons coarse sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Stir in melted butter until the mixture looks crumbly.

In a separate bowl, stir together buttermilk and egg yolk. Stir buttermilk mixture and raisins into the flour until the dough just comes together in a shaggy mixture.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly-floured counter. Knead just until the dough comes together in a ball, about 10 times. (My dough was pretty wet even after kneading, and it turned out great!) Pat dough into an 8" circle and place on prepared baking sheet. Brush top of dough with milk and sprinkle generously with coarse sugar. Use a knife to cut a large "X" on the top of the loaf.

Bake for about 45 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

P.S. Since we're still celebrating St. Patrick's Day, I had to share a picture of my littlest leprechaun. She makes me melt.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Slow Cooker Corned Beef

Happy St. Patrick's Day! 

We at Hot Dinner Happy Home have found a culinary pot of gold -- a Slow Cooker Corned Beef recipe by a college friend of mine and Andrea. Andrea and I haven't exactly had the luck of the Irish when it comes to corned beef. Quite frankly, ours stinks, so we were ecstatic last night when our friend Malissa Bodmann, of Cleveland, Ohio, told us how she prepares corned beef.  

If you don't have time to get the corned beef going today, there's always this weekend. Or, keep this in mind for next year! 

Here's the lowdown from Malissa. XOXO -- Amy

Here in Cleveland, we take St. Patrick’s Day very seriously. The parade attracts 10,000 participants and tens of thousands more flood the streets downtown to watch the parade. I’m not Irish, but that doesn’t keep me from craving a good Reuben sandwich on St. Patrick’s Day. I’m the only one in my household who likes corned beef, but that doesn’t stop me from making a whole corned beef brisket all for myself. (Editor's note: Malissa, we like how you operate!)

In years past, I cooked the corned beef in a Dutch oven on the stove top. The results were mediocre -- a little dry, but it didn’t matter too much because I just slapped those leathery pieces in between some pumpernickel/rye swirled bread, slathered on some Thousand Island dressing, and topped it with Swiss cheese and sauerkraut. But this year, I vowed to do better. And I did.

The key to cooking corned beef is treating it like the brisket it is. The key to a good brisket is to braise it low and slow with some flavorful liquid to break down the connective tissue. The only skill required for this recipe is patience. You will be rewarded with juicy, fall-apart corned beef.

Cheers and Happy St. Paddy's from  Cleveland!


Slow Cooker Corned Beef
2-3 pound flat cut corned beef brisket
Pickling spice (usually included in the brisket)
12 oz. beer, such as Guinness or Sierra Nevada Coffee Stout
Potatoes, small such as baby Yukon golds or red potatoes. If all you have are larger potatoes, cut them in quarters
1 head of cabbage
Aromatic vegetables, such as carrots, onions, celery, rough cut into big chunks

Remove your corned beef brisket from the package and rinse it. Reserve the pickling spices. 

Layer the bottom of your slow cooker with your potatoes, carrots, onions and celery. Place your corned beef on top of the vegetables with the fat layer on top so it will keep the meat moist. 

Sprinkle on pickling spice packet. Add one 12 oz. bottle of stout. Add enough water to barely cover the brisket. 

Put on the lid and set your slow cooker to high. Cook for two hours and turn the slow cooker down to low. Cook for two more hours. Remove potatoes if they are becoming too soft.

Cut a head of cabbage into wedges, place on top of the meat and cook on low for another 1.5 hours. 

Remove corned beef from the slow cooker and allow to cool until you can handle it. Trim off the fat cap. Cut against the grain or shred. You will have a lot of braising liquid left over; you can serve this as a jus, or thicken it for a delicious beefy stout gravy.

Serve with the potatoes and carrots, turn into a delicious hash, or make a Reuben sandwich.

Note: You can set your slow cooker on low and let it go for 7 or 8 hours. Add the cabbage for the last hour or so. With any luck the result will be tender, juicy corned beef like mine. My husband asked me if I was going to eat all of that gorgeous corned beef this week by myself. Yes. Yes, I will.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Andrea's faves - and a couple of "fails"

One of the very best things about blogging with two fellow mom friends is trying their recipes and learning how they manage to feed their own families day in and day out.

There are many dishes from Erin and Amy that I've made multiple times since the three of us began collaborating a year ago. Today I'm sharing the ones I make most often.

I'd love to know which recipes got you into the kitchen this past year. Tell us!

Mangia! Mangia!

P.S. These round-up posts are a nice break: Even us blogging mommas like to get out of cooking once in awhile!

My favorites from Erin:

  • Lemon Buttermilk Cake. If my metabolism would allow it, I'd eat this cake every day. I love it with fresh berries.

  • Corn soufflĂ© casserole. This is comfort food on steroids. Easy and so delicious I've made this for many meals and visiting relatives.

  • Berry vinaigrette. I eat a salad for lunch almost every day. This dressing turns the dish into a treat.

My favorites from Amy:

  • Chick Pea Salad. Even my boys enjoy this salad. It's crunchy, hearty and healthy all in one bowl. Also great to take to parties and potlucks.

From the HDHH archives:
As a PTO mom, I sometimes use the blog as an auction item to raise money for my boys' school. The winning bidder chooses a menu from HDHH that I prepare and deliver to them. Since I'm cooking these meals anyway, I make a double batch for my own family. This opens my eyes to dishes that appeal to others – and to more of Erin's awesome cooking.

  • Brownie Pudding Cake. This cake is deadly – in a good, chocolately way. After I made it once, it was requested again a week later. We served it for Christmas dessert, too.

  • Make Ahead Chicken Pot Pie. The option to prep this meal in advance brings some much-needed flexibility into a crazy day. The taste of this dish is heavenly and perfect for a cool day, or when you need some down-home cooking. 

Cooking fails:
Lest you think us bringers of hot dinner are the perfect home cooks, I'm going to come clean and share two "fails." Oh yes, we do mess things up sometimes. Just like everyone else.

  • The first time I made Erin's Brown Sugar Oatmeal Coffee Cake, I started a fire in my oven when I attempted to caramelize the topping under the broiler. So I tried again and just skipped that step. The cake turned out perfectly and I didn't need to dismantle the smoke alarm! 

  • Ever since writing the blog, I've been trying to be more adventurous with my cooking, especially on the vegetarian front. A few weeks before Thanksgiving I whipped up this vegan Thanksgiving Loaf shared by sister-in-law, thinking it could be a potential HDHH candidate. Well, it smelled delicious, but the taste and texture were a bit off. I'll have to give it another go-round soon.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Amy's Yummy Year

This time last year, my friend Erin invited my friend Andrea and I join her on this delicious blog she created. Andrea and I bellied right up. Thank you, Erin for the creative culinary outlet. It's been a sweet year blogging with two awesome foodie friends who share the goal of putting food on the table and keeping the tradition of family dinner alive.

Here are some of my happiest Hot Dinner Happy Home moments from the past year as well as some of my favorite dishes by Andrea and Erin.



Happiest Moments

  • Creating Spring on Toast with Erin while my Lucy and Penny "babysat" her Danny-boy. (Love that Erin shared this memory in her Friday post.)

Favorite dishes by Andrea

Favorite dishes by Erin

  • Erin's Slow Cooker Thai Peanut Pork is the first HDHH dish I ever made and I chatted it up A LOT on my Facebook page. I couldn't even tell you how many friends have made that dish. Suffice to say it's a hit from coast to coast and all points in between.
  • Parmesan and Yogurt Crusted Chicken is a George family go-to dinner. My younger daughter Penny requested it for her birthday dinner last month.
  • I see Spiced Pecans becoming my go-to holiday party nosh. I didn't make them last year like I intended. But in 2014 my friends walked off with the few remaining nuts after the Thanksgiving feast Chez George. I don't blame them, because, after all, we call these crack nuts.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Happy Hot Dinner Anniversary, Amy and Andrea!

It has been one year since Amy and Andrea joined our virtual dinner party here at Hot Dinner Happy Home. I know I speak on behalf of all the HDHH readers when I say we've been thrilled to have these ladies at the table!

In celebration of their blog-iversary, I'm sharing my favorite recipes from both of these gals. Without further ado...

My favorite recipe from Amy has to be Spring on Toast. Crisp bread topped with tender asparagus, runny eggs, and creamy, tangy goat cheese. I might be a bit biased about this dish because I was lucky enough to share it with Amy when I lived in Charlotte last year. Spring in Charlotte is lovely, and I'm missing the southern sunshine as I sit here in the Seattle drizzle. I think it's time to add Spring on Toast to my menu!

My favorite recipe from Andrea is Homemade Tomato Sauce, a.k.a. Sunday Gravy. Here's a true confession: I'm a little bit jealous of Andrea's Italian heritage. Most of my ancestors hail from Sweden and Ireland. You don't often hear people hankering after lutefisk or boiled potatoes. I love that Andrea's grandmother made Sunday Gravy every week for family dinner and that her various family members each add a twist to the traditional recipe. It makes me want to create food memories with my kids. And this rich, hearty Sunday Gravy is the perfect place to start.

Thanks for cooking with me, ladies!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Eggplant & Green Pea Curry

My husband and I enjoy Indian food way more than our boys, so it's nice to be able to make it at home when we get a craving.

This curry is healthy, gluten-free and full of flavor – and it uses one of my favorite vegetables: eggplant. (See my recipes for Baba Ghannouj and Grilled Eggplant Salad.)

The dish is a spin-off of a recipe from one of my go-to cookbooks: Indian-Inspired Gluten-Free Cooking. It works well as a side or a main course.

You can make this meal spicier if you prefer, but I like it mild. I often cook the eggplant in advance so that when I prep the entire meal the main ingredient is ready to go.

Mangia! Mangia!

Eggplant & Green Pea Curry

2 medium eggplants
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped tomato
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons minced or grated fresh ginger
3/4 teaspoon coriander
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garam masala (Indian spice blend)
3/4 teaspoons turmeric
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 cup frozen peas
4 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cut eggplants in half lengthwise. Spray with cooking spray or rub on all sides with some oil. Place eggplants cut side down on prepared baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes to 1 hour, or until eggplants look shriveled and are very soft all the way through. Remove from oven and let cool.

When cooled, remove pulp from skin and mash in a bowl. (You can either peel the skin away from the pulp or scoop the flesh out.) Set aside. If preparing in advance, place mashed eggplant in a covered container and store in refrigerator.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add cumin seeds and cook, stirring, until seeds become almost dark brown.

Add onion, tomato, garlic and ginger and cook while stirring for 2 minutes.

Add turmeric, coriander, ground cumin, garam masala, salt and cayenne pepper if using. Cook and stir for 3 minutes.

Add eggplant and peas. Stir to combine. Cover pan and cook for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh parsley. Serve with rice.

P.S. The last time I made this eggplant curry I paired it with chicken in yellow curry sauce. I tried Kroger's Indian Inspirations Yellow Curry Sauce and it was surprisingly delicious! I recommend giving it a try.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Salmon Penne in Vodka Sauce

Dinner doesn't have to be hard. There are days when I like to go all out and whip up a new dish or two and then there are days when I want to have wine for dinner, but to quote my 9- and 7-year-old daughters, "that's not appropriate." What I am saying is that sometimes I just want to get dinner on the table fast. In the end, it really is about eating together as a family.

God bless short cuts and leftovers. Several of my favorite short cuts -- or cheats, as I call them -- come from Trader Joe's. You already know some of my TJ's creations -- from my posts about Cheater Crockpot Chicken Curry and Easy Yellow Curry Shrimp Pasta. I serve those dishes over another TJ's cheat -- the microwaveable organic jasmine rice.

Salmon Penne in Vodka Sauce is another Trader Joe's dish of mine. I often make this dish for meatless Lenten Fridays, as I did last week.

I use the Trader Giotto's Organic Vodka Sauce. I've tried other brands, but this is my favorite, because it has chunks of tomatoes in it and it's not as fatty as its peers. I also get the salmon for this dish from TJ's -- the silver brite salmon found in  the freezer case.

You know what's funny? Whenever I make my Trader Joe's short-cut meals, I always envision myself scooping little tastes into white paper cups and handing them out at the sample counter.


Salmon Penne in Vodka Sauce

1 1/2 pounds salmon, cooked and then chipped away from skin in medium-sized hunks
2 jars (25 ounces each) of vodka sauce
1/2 to 2 pounds penne, cooked just slightly al dente and drained
Sea salt

Put salmon flesh side down in a glass dish sprayed with Pam. Cook salmon in 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes. It will look opaque and there will be liquid at the bottom of the pan. Cook for too long and the fish will look dried out and there will be no juice in the pan.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions.

When the salmon is done, use two forks to chip it away from the skin. Don't shred it. You want some nice-sized hunks of fish.

Mix together the salmon and sauce and allow to warm through for several minutes. Add penne pasta to the sauce and stir all together.

Serve salmon penne in vodka sauce, topped with sea salt to taste, alongside a green vegetable or salad.

This recipe yields a lot of salmon penne. I'm talking two dinners and several lunches for four. I like leftovers, which can be kept in the fridge for a week or frozen. My kids like to eat these leftovers in their school lunch.

If you are not into leftovers, what's wrong with you? Kidding. If you are not into leftovers, simply cut the above recipe in half.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Gluten-Free, Low FODMAP Southwest Breakfast Bake

I feel like a lucky duck because I don't have any food allergies. Many of my friends and family have food allergies and sensitivities and need to follow special diets so they feel their best. And here I am taking it for granted that I can scarf down a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with impunity.

Several folks in my life follow a low FODMAP diet to help maintain good gut health. A low FODMAP diet avoids gluten, dairy, certain sweeteners, and a pretty long (and seemingly random to those of us uneducated about Fermentable Oligo-Di-Monosaccharides and Polyols) list of foods like onions, garlic, legumes, avocado, apples, and artichokes.

Since I'm an admitted food nerd, I get pretty psyched about a dietary challenge. It's fun to come up with a delicious recipe that all of my loved ones can enjoy! When we had a gang over for brunch recently, I served this Southwest Breakfast Bake that was flavorful and friendly for a low FODMAP diet. Chipotle chili powder gives smokey depth to the dish and green chiles add just the right amount of heat. I think you'll enjoy it...low FODMAP diet or not.

Let's get cooking!

Gluten-Free, Low FODMAP Southwest Breakfast Bake
Adapted from all over the internet (Sorry I can't remember specifics!)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground beef
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
3/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder*
1 medium white sweet potato**, peeled and grated
2 cups spinach, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons canned chopped green chiles
12 eggs, whisked
Salsa, hot sauce, and extra chopped cilantro for serving (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9" x 13" baking dish and set aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add beef and cook, stirring occasionally, until beef is cooked through, about 8 minutes. Stir in cumin and chipotle chili powder and cook for an additional minute, until the spices are fragrant.

Stir in sweet potato and salt to taste. (I used about a teaspoon of salt.) Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add spinach and cook until it's wilted, about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in cilantro and green chiles. Taste for seasoning and add a little more salt or spice if necessary.

Spread beef mixture into prepared pan. Pour eggs over top and shake the pan a little so the eggs settle and mix in with the beef. Bake 25-30 minutes, until eggs are set in the middle. Serve warm with salsa, hot sauce, and extra cilantro.  

* If you're following a low FODMAP diet, make sure you're using chipotle chili powder and not regular chili powder. Regular chili powder is a blend that typically includes onion and garlic powder, which are not FODMAP friendly.

**White sweet potatoes are a little bit less sweet than typical orange sweet potatoes. If you can't find a white sweet potato, feel free to substitute a regular orange sweet potato.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Slow Cooker Chocolate Cake

When it comes to cake, my kids will take the icing any day over the actual cake. Until now.

This dessert is the most moist chocolate cake I have ever eaten. The taste is so rich, there's no need for any icing on this baby.

I was a little wary about making a cake in a slow cooker, but I've been wanting to make a treat like this ever since I saw this recipe in Allrecipes magazine last summer.

I must say it was easier than I thought and definitely worth the 3 1/2 hour wait.

Here are a few other reasons my boys and I love this cake:
  • It stays moist, wrapped in plastic wrap, up to 4 days (by then it was all gone.)
  • The cake is firm enough to pack in school lunches.
  • It is delicious with ice cream and/or with fresh fruit (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries.)
I hope you like this chocolate dessert as much as we do!

Mangia! Mangia!

Crock Pot Chocolate Cake

Cooking spray
1 to 2 cups sugar (I used 1 cup)
1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (Do not use Dutch-process cocoa)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup apple sauce
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips (optional)
1/2 cup butterscotch chips (optional)

Generously spray insert of a 5-to-6 quart slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients: sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

In another bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, apple sauce and vanilla. Add boiling water and mix well.

Add wet ingredients into dry and mix well. Add chocolate and butterscotch chips if using and mix well.

Pour batter into prepared slow cooker insert.

Cover and cook on low until a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 2.5 or 3 hours. Cake will be starting to pull away from sides of insert at this time. It should look like this:

Turn off slow cooker and allow cake to rest for about 30 minutes. Let cake cool with the cover on if you want a more pudding-like consistency. Take the cover off for resting (which is what I did) for a cakey-er texture.

Run a wooden or rubber spatula around the edges of cake to loosen it. Cut pieces and serve directly from the slow cooker.

Lift leftovers out of insert and wrap in plastic wrap. Store at room temperature up to 4 days.