Archive | April, 2012

Easier, Healthier Oven-Cooked Bacon

24 Apr

Y’all still here? Sorry I haven’t been around. We headed out of town for spring break and then spent last week playing catch-up, and I haven’t cooked anything new in awhile. But today, I have a great tip for you!

Bacon has been the hot food for awhile, and while stovetop frying is still a delicious way to cook it up, it’s hugely greasy and very, very messy. And I for one do not enjoy splatter burns all over my hands, which is what I get frying bacon.

You probably already know you can “fry” bacon in the oven. The problem with that, of course, is that you generally end up with bacon that’s submerged in a pool of grease on the sheet pan. Not great for crisping, and, quite frankly, disgusting to contemplate.

Enter your cooling rack. Yes, the same one you use for cookies and breads and baked amazingness. Note: if you don’t have one of these, they are a true multi-tasker and make a huge difference in the kitchen–great for baking but also good for many other things. They’re like $5, and I highly recommend procuring one or two.

Here’s the trick: Line your baking sheet with foil and put your cooling rack on top of it, just like you would if you were cooling cookies on it. Spray it with olive oil or other nonstick stuff; bacon has a lot of fat, but it’s all going to run off and if you don’t spray your rack, you’re going to be scraping bacon bits off it for a good long time.

Lay your bacon on the sprayed rack and bake it at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes–start checking on it after 10, because your oven is going to cook differently than mine. When it reaches its desired done-ness and crispyness, pull it out. See how all the fat is on the baking sheet where it’s not touching your yummy bacon?

Neat, eh?

I hope you’ll try this soon. And I have an amazing recipe for you later this week–I promise!

 

Breakfast Quinoa

16 Apr

I have a super-healthy friend who loves quinoa (which makes total sense–the nutritional stats on this whole grain are unbelievable and it’s tasty too), and she mentioned to me this weekend that she was going to try to do something with it for breakfast. That sounded like an outstanding idea to me. I mean, if egg protein is good for you first thing in the morning, quinoa protein must just about knock breakfast out of the park from a staying-full-all-morning standpoint.

I came home and started thinking about making quinoa a little bit sweet and a little bit cereal-like, and that led to thoughts of rice pudding. If you’ve never had rice pudding, you should give it a try–it’s sweet and cinnamony and really not so bad for you as far as desserts go. Since quinoa cooks like rice and takes up flavors like rice, I decided to make a quinoa pudding out of it, using coconut milk (which is also really good for you) and similar spices to what I’d cook in a rice pudding.

To be honest, my first try was less than stellar. Quinoa needs a lot more liquid to get pudding-ish than rice does and I ended up with a good-tasting but too-dense bowl of grains. Whoops. But I made a second batch, let it chill out in the fridge overnight, and dished myself out some this morning with a little extra milk and some banana.

Yummy. A little bit goes a long way, what with the whole grain and the protein, and this has the outstanding benefits of being gluten-free and casein-free if you go with all coconut milk (which, for the record, does not taste like coconut. It’s just a sweeter milk than cow milk). Bananas were great with it, but blueberries would also be super yummy. Peaches or apples too.

My kids won’t touch this. Be prepared for that reaction. It’s fine, though. More yumminess for me without anybody asking to share. I got about four bowls from this recipe, and am looking forward to breakfast all week as a result. Which makes me happy. 🙂

Want to try quinoa for breakfast? You need:

1/2 cup quinoa, very well rinsed (it’s bitter–rinsing it really really well will get rid of that)

1 14-oz can of light coconut milk

3/4 cup regular milk (or more coconut milk if you’re going for dairy-free)

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

2 tsp brown sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup coconut flakes (optional–I really like coconut, but skip this if you don’t)

In a medium-sized saucepan, whisk together your milks and spices. Stir in your rinsed quinoa, turn your burner on medium, and let it come to a boil. Keep an eye on this–coconut milk comes to a very fast, violent boil just like milk. As soon as you start seeing bubbles, lower your heat to medium-low and stir every 10 minutes or so for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the mixture takes on a cream-of-wheat kind of texture. I made this while we ate dinner, so the time and stirring wasn’t such a big deal.

Take it off the heat and stir in the coconut if you’re using it. Cool, cover, and pop into the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, dish yourself out a bit and add fruit and extra milk as desired. Be happy.

Plastic-Free Microwave Steaming

11 Apr

ImageThere was a post on my local Freecycle list yesterday for a box of microwave steaming bags, which are essentially zip-top bags that have been vented a bit, so you can fill them with vegetables, pop them into the microwave, and have a steamed side dish. And all I could think was, “Yuck.”

Plastic and the microwave and your body are not friends. Something about nuking food in plastic seems to cause all sorts of chemicals and nasties to leach into your food. Plastic isn’t edible, you know?

Thankfully, you can nuke your veggies and get beautifully steamed lovelies without introducing all sorts of who-knows-whats into them. I thought that it would be a great time to chat about this again, what with springtime vegetables starting to make their way into markets and CSA boxes. It’s super simple, just as fast as microwaving in baggies, and without the ick factor.

All you do is place your vegetables in a microwave-safe bowl or covered dish–I use Corningware casserole dishes, which are well worth the investment for their amazing versatility. Put your food in the dish, season as you wish (I like a tiny sprinkle of olive oil and lemon pepper on almost everything), add a tablespoon or two of water in the bottom, pop the lid on (or cover with wax paper if your dish is lidless), and nuke it for anywhere from two to five minutes, depending on the vegetable and how much you have of it.

Once it’s done, take the lid off (watch yourself–steam is going to rush out and it can burn you if you don’t get your arm out of the way) and enjoy your beautifully steamed vegetables, without the chemicals. Win-win.

Happy Easter!

8 Apr

Couldn’t resist sharing this with you all–I followed the directions on the Betty Crocker website for this adorable bunny butt cake. Cute!

Enjoy your holiday!

 

Leftover Magic: Honey Roasted Sweet Potatoes as Breakfast

5 Apr

See that up there? It doesn’t look like much, I know. But break the eggs and stir it all together and you have one of the most decadent-tasting, satisfying breakfasts I know of, and it’s a healthy way to start off your day. Swear.

I don’t have a cute family story to tell you about this one–my kids won’t touch this. Which is totally fine with me, because it’s one of my favorites and their disinterest means more for me, quite frankly, without anybody asking me to share. We moms share very well, but once in awhile, it’s nice to have something delicious that’s only touched by your own fork.

That said, we’re going to move straight onto the recipe, which is the best part of this–it’s so stinkin’ easy and such a great way to empty out some leftovers that I can’t wait to share. You need:

Leftover honey roasted sweet potatoes. Click on that if you need the recipe for those. I’d say about a half-cup, but any amount will work.

Eggs

Olive oil

That’s it.

Heat a small pan over medium heat and drizzle it with a little olive oil to keep things from sticking. Stir around your leftover potatoes until they warm through–keep them moving for a few minutes so the honey doesn’t burn.

Once they’re warm, spread them out (or bunch them up, depending how many you have) into a solid layer. Very carefully break your egg or eggs on top. Lower the burner to low, and pop a lid on that puppy.

Wait about three minutes and then start checking your eggs for doneness–you want them cooked through but with runny yolks. Once you get there, slide the whole beautiful shebang onto a plate, cut the yolks open, and smile because this, my friends, is good stuff.

Don’t-Tell-‘Em-They’re-Whole-Wheat Pancakes

2 Apr

Before you shake your head and mutter about whole wheat flour and head off to Paula Deen’s site for some real pancakes for the love of Bisquick, give me a second to tell you about Friday night.

Friday night starts in the mountains of western Maryland where, about 10 minutes outside of a lakeside area that makes its money almost purely on tourism, stands Annie’s Kitchen, which is a third-generation (I think) working-class, meat and mashed potatoes, over-easy eggs and scrapple kind of restaurant. Linoleum floors, mismatched tables and chairs, diner coffee cups from before Crate & Barrel started making them, and waitresses who know everybody in town, and every thing about every body. You know the kind of place–the hole-in-the-wall you only tried because you wanted something off the beaten path, and any shake-shack of a dive with that many pickup trucks in the parking lot had to have something going for it.

Once you try it, of course, you understand that this may well be the best breakfast joint you’ve ever had the supreme pleasure of visiting, and that unless you want a heart attack before your 50th birthday, you’d best not visit all that often.

We were not in western Maryland on Friday night, but our story starts there because when we are, my kids beg to go to Annie’s for breakfast. Pancakes, they say. At Annie’s.

So. Friday night was a meat-free night for our family. DH and I had enjoyed a large, late lunch and weren’t particularly hungry at 6 p.m., but the kids were starving. Wanting something simple in both the cooking and the clean-up department, I promised them pancakes; we’ve talked before about how I always make a mess of them and stow the extras in the freezer for very fast hot breakfasts later on. Pancakes for dinner become a two-fer in my house, and two-fers are gold this time of year.

I pulled out my handy-dandy copy of How to Cook Everything and flipped to the basic pancake recipe, and decided right then and there that it would be an outstanding night to muck around with it and see if there was any magic to be had in the healthy-but-good department. And so I swapped out this for that, upped this other thing over here, figured out how to add in a simple chemical reaction to give me lots of air bubbles in the batter and lighten things up (thank you, years of Alton Brown), messed with the mixing part a little bit, and produced a whole-wheat pancake. Which I spread with a little butter and a touch of syrup and served, without a word, to my little guys.

The 8-year-old took a bite and nodded and told me hers were really good. And the 10-year-old…guess what he said about these healthier pancakes with their grainy goodness?

“Mom…you made Annie’s pancakes! These are Annie’s!”

We had not, for the record, talked about Annie’s in weeks. Just so you know. And I am 99.99 percent confident that Annie’s pancakes are most definitely not whole wheat.

My kitchen smelled divine and I’ll have you know that my kids stuffed themselves with whole-wheat pancakes. The ingredient swaps and changes made them just as light and fluffy as regular flapjacks, and they froze and reheated beautifully so I still got my twofer. This recipe is absolutely our family’s new pancake standard, and I feel pretty darned good about that. I hope your family likes them just as much, because they are no more difficult than normal pancakes (which are really very easy). To make them, you need:

1 cup whole-wheat flour (I prefer King Arthur brand, which is soft and very easy to work with)

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tbsp plus 1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 egg plus two egg whites (the extra whites mean fluffy goodness with wheat flour)

2 tbsp vinegar mixed with enough milk to equal 1 1/2 cups (this’ll react with the baking soda for more fluffy stuff)

2 tbsp melted butter

Get your griddle heating up first–you want that bad boy to be screaming hot when the first pancake hits.

In a large bowl (I use my batter bowl), whisk together all the dry goods. Then, stir in the wet stuff with a whisk. Voila–your pancakes are ready to cook. Told you it was easy! Cook them on a hot griddle or fry pan until you see dry bubbles around the outer edges, and then flip them until they’re done.

Hint: The batter is going to fizz up a bit between batches as the baking soda and the vinegar get to know each other (and no you do not taste vinegar in these at all–trust me, my kids would revolt). Give the batter a quick stir before you pour each round of pancakes to get it to settle down and pour nicely for you. These are also going to want to stick to your griddle a bit, so give it a swipe of your nonstick goodness of choice between batches.

And don’t tell anybody our little wheat secret!

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