Monday, April 29, 2013

Easy Goulash Hotdish

I confess. I like hotdish. Really, I do. Remember Tomato Hamburger Hotdish from school lunch? I loved it. Easy and comforting. And this is an easy hotdish sort of like that school lunch you remember. My daughter loves it. And let me give you a tip: buy fresh spinach whenever you find it on sale. Trim the stems and put it in a zipper bag in the freezer. Once it's frozen it is easy to add crushed spinach leaves to ANYTHING. It looks like parsley. My daughter knows what it is, but maybe you have kids in school whose food preferences are influenced by classmates who teach them "Ew! Spinach is gross!" This is a great way to harmlessly introduce some spinach without a big fuss. Sneak in a grated carrot and you've got some healthy goodies that just blend sweetly with the tomato sauce. (Try it in your spaghetti too!) We make some of our home-frozen sweet corn on the side, some fresh fruit and it's dinner. Just like that.

Easy Goulash Hotdish
1 lb. ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1 jar spaghetti sauce (We like Newman's Marinara a lot.)
1 tsp dry basil leaves
1 tsp dry oregano leaves
1 tsp paprika
1/2 cup crushed/chopped spinach leaves
1 large carrot, grated finely
1 box elbow macaroni

Brown the ground beef with the onion. At the same time prepare macaroni. Add the spaghetti sauce to the browned meat, stir in the herbs, paprika, spinach, and carrot. Heat everything through on medium heat. Salt and pepper to taste. When the macaroni is done, add the meat sauce to the noodles, stir and serve. Sprinkle with some grated parmesan. Enjoy with your favorite sides, like corn or a green salad, and some garlic toast. This meal is ready in about 20 minutes or less. Yummy good!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Crockpot Chicken Paprikash

Whenever I see the work paprikash, I think of the scene in "When Harry Met Sally" when Harry says: "Waiter, there is too much pepper on my paprikash." Then I actually made paprikash and to my surprise there isn't that much pepper in it. Who knew? I did not. However, I do love paprika and always buy the Hungarian kind in the red can "The Pride of Szeged." I use a lot of it in hotdish, sloppy joes, chili, spaghetti sauce, really anything with tomato in it. Paprika gives a nice warm flavor to almost anything. Paprika, the lesser known essential seasoning. Who knew? I did. Paprika, pepper, salt. In that order. Anyway, I like things I can make in the crock so when we all get home after work and school, dinner is pretty much ready. This was an easy dish to throw together for a weeknight dinner. I made it dairy-free for the husband. My 8-year-old ate it too. Win-win.

Crockpot Chicken Paprikash
2 large chicken breasts (2 to 2.5 pounds) cut into 1-2" chunks
1 large onion chopped
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
3T paprika (only 1 tsp to start dish, remaining goes in at the end)
2 t. garlic minced
1 t. chicken bouillon granules
1/2 t. black pepper
2 T. butter melted
2 T. flour
1  red bell pepper sliced, or a cup of small sweet peppers, sliced
1 cup sour cream or Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream
1 package of wide egg noodles

Put chicken, onion, tomato sauce, 1 tsp paprika, garlic, bouillon, pepper in slow cooker. Cook on high 3-4 hours. Combine melted butter and flour. Add to crock and stir. Cook another 15-30 minutes. While the paprikash is finishing, cook noodles according to package directions. Add sour cream and the remaining paprika to the paprikash. Serve over egg noodles.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Blackberry Cream Coffee Cake

It's April and we had another snow day late last week. It snowed again here on Monday, April 22. It's supposed to snow again today, April 24. It has to be some kind of record. But with all the snowy weather I have been baking up a storm. I usually get to the store before the storms hit to stock up on supplies. And luckily signs of spring (from other parts of the country) are showing up in the produce department—Lovely blackberries in 16 ounce containers... 2 for $5. That was just awesome. A ray of sunshine on a gray, snowy April day. I had to find some way to enjoy these. Fresh blackberries can be a little tart and so I was on the hunt through my collection for something simple and baked. I found this recipe I had saved from Williams Sonoma. I cut a few of the fancy things like lime zest and slivered almonds in the crumb topping. Sorry WS, I just don't keep a lot of limes around for zesting and I knew my daughter might not go for the almonds. She is a purist when it comes to crumb topping. Anyway, since I also don't keep much sour cream in the house I substituted vanilla yogurt. You could use Tofutti® sour cream if you needed a non-dairy option. Or Greek Gods yogurt with honey would be fabulous but that yogurt is so sinful it's not something I can indulge in often. Here's what I came up with and my husband and daughter both enjoyed it much. Husband in particular. Daughter preferred the crepes with blackberry sauce and whipped cream. That is another post. (They were delicious too!) It makes a big coffee cake so it would be perfect for company. 
Blackberry Cream Coffee Cake
Crumb topping:1/2 c.  flour
1/3 c. sugar
4 T. unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
Cake:1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
3 eggs
1 cup yogurt, use a good thick kind
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups fresh blackberries, washed and patted dry.
Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Lightly grease and flour and 10-inch springform pan.  To make the crumb topping, combine the flour, sugar in a small bowl and mix to combine. Pour in the melted butter and mash with a fork until the mixture is crumbly. Set aside.
Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.  In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, yogurt and vanilla until well blended. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the liquid ingredients.  Fold together gently until evenly combined and no streaks remain, being careful not to over mix.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Dot the top of the batter with the blackberries. Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the berries. 
Bake until the topping is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 38-40 minutes.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes.  Remove the sides of the springform pan.  Serve warm or at room temperature, cut into wedges.
Adapted from Williams Sonoma

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Chocolate Treasure Trove Cookies

Treasure trove cookies. Yes. Chocolate cookies with a bunch of surprise goodies in it. We like to make these on snow days. We have had a few of them this April here in Minnesota. And sometimes, when it snows in April, the everyday chocolate chip cookie just doesn't cut it.

Chocolate Treasure Trove Cookies
1 c. butter (2 sticks) softened
1 c. white sugar
1 c. dark brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. all purpose flour
3/4 c. Hershey's cocoa
1 tsp. baking sodia
1 pkg Ghirardelli white chocolate chips
1 c. flake coconut
1/4 c. chopped pecans
1/4 c. toffee bits (available in the baking aisle)

Heat oven to 350°F. Beat butter and sugars until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy.
Stir together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Gradually blend into butter mixture. Stir in white chips, coconut, pecans, and toffee bits. Drop by rounded teaspoon on to ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 8-9 minutes. Do not overbake. They puff when baking and flatten when cooling. Cool slightly and remove from pan. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Cinnabomb Cinnamon Rolls

It's April 18 and it's supposed to snow again today in Minnesota. We're less than two weeks from May and we have a ton of snow on the ground as it is. That means it's cold and cold means comfort food weather. I'll be making soups and other warm delights. Another favorite at my house is cinnamon rolls. I quit making them for a while when my husband needed to cut dairy from his diet. But I came up with a great frosting recipe that I shared on the Banana Bars post. I'll post it again here. Surprise ingredient: tofu. Yes, I used the Tofututti brand 'Better than Cream Cheese' product. It with a little extra vanilla extract it made a really great frosting. And on this cinnamon roll which is heavy on the cinnamon, hence the name "Cinnabomb" cinnamon rolls. They make for a 'wintery' morning treat, even if it is April. I hope you enjoy it.

Cinnabomb Cinnamon Rolls with Improv Frosting
1c. warm milk (110°F)
2 eggs room temperature
1/3 c. margarine melted (dairy free)
4-1/2 c. bread flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 c. white sugar
2-1/2 tsp bread machine yeast
Place these ingredients in the pan of your bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer, usually wet first, yeast last, in the order shown here. Select the dough cycle and press start. After the dough has doubled in size, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Cover and let rise for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile.

1 c. brown sugar, packed
3 T. ground cinnamon
1/2 c. softened margarine

In a small bowl combine the brown sugar and cinnamon. Roll the dough into a 16"x21" rectangle. With a spatula, spread the dough with the margarine and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture. Roll the dough from the short edge so you have a spiraled roll that is 16" long. Cut into 12 rolls. (cut in half, Cut those in half, then cut those into three rolls.) Tuck the loose end underneath the roll and place in a lightly greased 9"x13" baking pan. Don't use a dark pan. Cover the pan and let rise until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake the rolls in the preheated oven until golden brown about 15-20 minutes. Check starting at 15 minutes. While the rolls are baking make the frosting.

1 tsp vanilla extract
4 oz. (half a tub) of Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese (or 4oz cream cheese if you eat dairy)
1/4 c. margarine, softened
dash salt
1-1/2 c. powdered sugar
Cream together the cream cheese, margarine, vanilla, and salt. Add the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time. Mix slowly until combined. Then beat until fluffy. Spread the frosting on warm rolls before serving.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Dairy-Free Zuppa Toscana with Kale

I decided to finally get on the kale bandwagon. Super food, right? So I thought instead of starting out with a green smoothie I'd try something a little more subtle. I found a Zuppa Toscana recipe that sounded great. It called for spinach so kale is a great substitute. I actually used both so I had a hearty green and a soft green in the same dish. Perfect. The recipe also called for heavy cream so that would take some adjusting. I had the usual suspects on hand: Tofutti sour cream, unsweetened almond milk to take the place of 1 cup of heavy cream (Wow, right!). I thought I'll give this a try! It turned out better than I expected. All the flavors blended so well. I had the afternoon off because of a snow day in APRIL, so I had time to let it simmer slowly instead of boiling the potatoes like the recipe suggested. So here's my modification to the Zuppa Toscana. I call it my Dairy-Free Zuppa Toscana with Kale.

1 lb. bulk milk Italian pork sausage (I used a Jimmy Dean all natural Sage sausage)
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
4 slices of bacon, chopped and cooked (or half a package of Oscar Mayer Real Bacon Bits)
1 small onion diced
1 T minced garlic
1 can cannellini beans (white kidney)
8 cups chicken broth
6 potatoes, peeled and sliced thin (I cut 2 of them into bigger chunks)
2 cups kale, chopped, stems removed
1/2 cup almond milk, unsweetened
1/2 cup Tofutti sour cream
1 cup spinach, chopped, stems removed

Cook the Italian sausage and onion until brown. Add bacon bits, garlic, saute a minute then add broth. Add potatoes and kale. Simmer on low for an hour or more until the potatoes are tender. Stir in the milk, sour cream, and spinach just before serving. Serve with fresh Italian bread or garlic toast.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Banana Bars with Improv Frosting

I bought some banana bars with cream cheese frosting at the grocery store last week. They were tasty but I thought to myself, "I can make these!" Well, with the dairy limitations in my house it meant improvising on the frosting! I had just made some cinnamon rolls with improv "cream cheese-substitute" frosting so I had some left to use. Perfect timing. I will call it Improv Frosting instead of the "main ingredient" frosting so you're not entirely put off by it. It was actually really good. Better than the real thing because you didn't get all full eating just one. Maybe that's not a good thing. Oh well. My husband was really excited about being able to eat things with cream cheese like frosting! We decided we like the banana bars even better than banana bread. Faster too!

Banana Bars with Improv Frosting
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup margarine
1 egg
4 ripe mashed bananas (medium sized, about  1-1/2 to 2 cups)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda dissolved in 1 T hot water
1-1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder

Mix all ingredients. Pour into greased 9x13 pan. Back for 25 minutes at 350°F. Cool.

Improv Frosting
1 tsp vanilla extract
3-4 oz Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese (yes tofu. use about half the tub)
1/4 c. margarine
1-1/2 cup powdered sugar
Beat ingredients together until smooth. Spread on bars and serve.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Broccoli Salad

This is a really quick and easy salad that works great to make a day ahead. Broccoli pairs with sweet raisins, tangy red onion, crunchy sunflower seeds, and salty bacon. Yes, I said bacon. You can use a head of broccoli. I used the quick bags of pre-cut florets. Sometimes the bags are on sale cheaper than the sad looking heads of broccoli. I use about half the onion called for as I'm a little sensitive to red onion. You can adjust to your own liking. I also use the real bacon bits in the salad aisle if I don't have any fresh Schmidt's bacon on hand. It makes this recipe super easy. The photo shows the salad ingredients before the dressing goes on it. You'll be surprised at how great it tastes. But anything with bacon has to be good, right?

Broccoli Salad
1 bag Dole® broccoli florets, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 small red onion, chopped
1 small bag Oscar Mayer® real bacon bits
1 cup raisins
1 cup honey roasted sunflower seeds
1 cup Smart Balance mayonnaise
1/3 c. sugar
2 T. vinegar
Mix dressing ingredients together. Combine other ingredients and pour dressing over. Refrigerate a few hours before eating or overnight.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Cauliflower Curry

Cauliflower is one of my favorite vegetables. Top five, I'd say. Curried is probably my all-time favorite way to eat it. I made this for dinner this week and remembered again why I love it so much. Light on the stomach, but lively on the palate. I made it for the Marshall stop of Jeremy Messersmith's Supper Club Tour. Now whenever I make it I have to listen to "The Reluctant Graveyard" album.

Cauliflower Curry
in honor of the Supper Club Tour

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp curry powder
1 inch piece of ginger peeled and grated
1 small onion chopped
2 garlic cloves crushed
1 head cauliflower cut into florets
2 potatoes, cut into chunks
2 large carrots, cut into chunks
1 bell pepper (any color) cored, seeded, cut into chunks
3 cups chopped tomato with juice (or 28 oz canned chopped tomato)
1 can coconut milk
salt and pepper to taste
juice of 1/2 lemon
cilantro for garnish

Heat oil in a large saucepan, add the dry spices and cook, stirring constantly for one minute.
Add ginger, onion, garlic to the pan, stirring, cook 3-5 minutes until onion is soft not brown.
Add cauliflower, potato, carrots to pan, stir to coat with spices and cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add bell pepper, tomato and coconut milk to the pan, S&P to taste, stir well.
Bring to a boil then cover and simmer gently for 25-30 minutes until veggies are just tender. Stir in lemon juice. Garnish with cilantro. Serve with rice.*

Options for heat:
-add 1 green chili seeded and chopped at the same time as the bell pepper or
-add 1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne powder or
-serve with Red Devil hot sauce or
-all of the above depending on how spicy you like your curry

* I use Moon Rabbit Brand Jasmine Rice cooked with 1 T. parsley and 1 tsp chicken bouillon granules. Easy to make: just 2 parts water to 1 part rice. Cover and cook on medium high heat 15-20 minutes and you have perfect rice. My husband picked up a 50 lb bag of this rice at our local ethnic food market and my family absolutely loves it.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Marlys' Pecan Pie

I have to thank Marlys, my sister-in-law's mother, for sharing this recipe with me. For years at extended family gatherings on my husband's side, Marlys has brought her locally famous Pecan Pie. Last Christmas that she shared that she just discovered she has a NUT allergy. All nuts. She shouldn't even handle them. Yet she carefully made a pecan pie because she knows we all love it. Talk about dedication and love. I felt it was necessary for her to pass the torch so I asked for the recipe. I made it for Easter for the first time. It turned out great. I am sure my late Grandma Lally was helping me with this; she made great pecan pie too. I am thrilled to share it with you here. It's a classic for sure.

Marlys' Pecan Pie
1 c. light corn syrup
1 c. brown sugar
2/3 c. melted butter
3 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 cups of pecans, (I did: 1 cup chopped, 1 cup whole pecans)
1 prepared pie crust

Preheat oven to 350°F. Put crust into 9" pie plate. Mix syrup, sugar, butter, eggs, salt and extract. Stir in 1 cup of chopped pecans. Pour into prepared pie crust. Arrange 1 cup of whole pecans on top.* Bake 50-60 minutes. Cool completely.
*You could also use 2 cups whole pecans and arrange all of them on top of the filling instead of mixing any into the pie.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Blueberry Pie

I did a lot of baking for Easter weekend. We spent two days sharing meals with both sides of our family. Pies and salads were involved. My daughter loves blueberry pie. So does my father-in-law. If I need to get on anyone's good side, blueberry pie is likely the way. I have used the recipe on Duncan Hines® Wilderness® Blueberry Pie filling a few times. The problem I had was the ooze. You know what I mean. The filling oozes when you take a slice and kind of ruins the rest of the pie. I was making two pies for the weekend so I had an opportunity to experiment with a thickening agent. Tapioca has always worked well for me in apple pie, so in making two pies I was able to try two different measurements and compare. I used 1-1/2 tsp in one and 1 T in the other. They both tasted the same, but I think the 1 T of tapioca made a better pie. The photo shows the pie with pieces eaten (a lot!) and the blueberry filling hasn't slopped all over the pan. So the last piece of pie has just as much yummy blueberry as the first. This recipe is so easy. Someday I'll try a fresh blueberry pie, but until then, I'll keep making this.

Blueberry Pie
1 box of Pillsbury® refrigerated pie crust (2 crusts) room temp
2 cans of Wilderness® Blueberry Pie filling
1T tapioca
1 egg white, beaten

Preheat oven to 425°F. Unroll crust into 9" pie pan. Brush with egg white. Combine pie filling with tapioca. Pour into crust. Top with 2nd crust. Trim extra crust and crimp edges. Use a knife to poke some vent holes in the crust.  Brush with egg white.  Make a decorative top crust using the excess crust and cooking cutters to make shapes or a knife to make leaves, place on crust, and brush those with egg white. Bake 40-45 minutes. Cool completely.