Saturday, November 13, 2010


One of my favorite snacks is granola, and has been for a long time. Stir it into yogurt, eat it in a bowl with milk like cereal, sprinkle it on ice cream or frozen yogurt, eat it plain as a snack...  But I've never made my own, until today. I wanted to make a real simple, healthy recipe. This does have some sugar content (3/4 cups of brown sugar for a recipe that yields 6 cups of granola) but there is no butter or oil involved. It is delicious, has just a hint of sweetness -- and is incredibly addicting! The pan of granola was sitting out cooling while I was making dinner, and Paul and I kept sneaking handfuls even though we were about to eat.

I look forward to making this cheap, easy recipe again and again so that I can always have some granola on hand. Tomorrow morning for breakfast, I'm making yogurt/fruit/granola parfaits. Plain Greek yogurt (snagged the big container on sale!), blueberries I have stashed in the freezer (thawed, of course), granola, and a drizzle of honey. Yummmm. I can't wait for tomorrow morning, just for this breakfast.

This is a pretty basic recipe so feel free to add extras if you wish... dried fruit, chocolate chips, coconut, etc.



adapted from Kathleen Daelemans' Food Network Recipe

Makes about 6 cups of granola.

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • 2 cups chopped nuts (I used 1 cup pecans, 1 cup walnuts)
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
  2. In a 2-cup microwave-safe bowl or measuring cup, combine brown sugar, honey, and water. Microwave on high for 2 1/2 minutes, or until sugar is melted. (If you double the recipe, use a bigger vessel in the microwave! The mixture bubbles while heating.) Stir the vanilla and salt into the brown sugar syrup.
  3. In a bowl, combine the oats, nuts, wheat germ, and cinnamon. Add the brown sugar syrup and mix well.
  4. Spread onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (or greased), and bake for 45 minutes. Stir the granola every 15 minutes during baking. Let cool and store in an air-tight container.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pumpkin Soup, Pumpkin Pancakes

So, this post concludes what I've officially named Pumpkin Week. Last night, thanks to Paul's suggestion, I made pumpkin soup to accompany our dinner of pierogies and roasted veggies. This morning, I made pumpkin chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast. Amazing fact: all four pumpkin recipes I've written about in the last few days (pasta, bread, soup, and pancakes) were made from only one 29 oz. can of pure pumpkin puree. How's that for economical? Ah, the joys of cooking for only two!

This soup was absolutely delicious. Reminded me of a butternut squash soup I had at one of our favorite Philly restaurants, La Viola.

Pumpkin Soup
adapted from Cream of Pumpkin Soup,

  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tbsp butter, melted
  • 14 oz chicken broth
  • about a cup of pure pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 tsp hot sauce (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1/4 cup 2% milk
  1. Saute the onion in butter in a saucepan until tender. Add 7 oz. chicken broth, stir well. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  2. By either transferring broth back & forth between a blender or food processor, or using an immersion blender in your saucepan, process until smooth.
  3. (If using regular blender, return mixture to saucepan). Add remaining broth, pumpkin, hot sauce, salt, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and pepper. Stir well, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Stir in the half-and-half and milk and heat through - do not boil. Ladle into soup bowls and serve with a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg on top.
Now for the pancakes...

Morning sunlight makes for the best pictures. :)

GOOD morning!
Pumpkin Pancakes
adapted from Easy Pancakes,
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tbsp wheat germ (optional)
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup pure pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips or chopped nuts of your choice (optional)
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, wheat germ, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center, and pour in the egg, milk, oil, and pumpkin. Whisk together just until smooth. Fold in the chocolate chips or nuts.
  2. Heat a non-stick griddle over medium-high heat. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve with any of the following: butter, maple syrup, honey, cinnamon, chopped nuts. 

Sick of pumpkin yet?


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Pumpkin Loaf

Consider this a continuation of last night's pumpkin post. As mentioned previously, I've been craving a good pumpkin quick bread. After conducting extensive scientific research in order to locate the perfect recipe, I decided on smittenkitchen's pumpkin muffin recipe. With my own tweaks, of course. I obviously changed it to a loaf recipe, omitted the cinnamon sugar topping, and because I refuse to spend money on "pumpkin pie spice" when I already have all the individual ingredients on my spice rack, I changed -- and increased -- the spices. I like my autumn cakes/muffins with lots of spices, but not to the point of overkill.

As a habitual over-mixer of muffin/quick bread batters, I really liked Deb's advice in her post:
A large wire whisk, when mixing by hand, really allows you to incorporate all of the drying ingredients quickly without mashing them up too much. It’s made it much harder to overdo it, despite my better efforts.
I found this to be totally true. Despite my efforts to gently fold in the flour, I've always unintentionally over-mixed my muffins and quick breads, leaving them to fall flat (literally) or become a giant sinkhole. This whisk thing sure does the trick!

Pumpkin Loaf
adapted from
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup pure pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9"x5" loaf pan or baking dish.
  2. Whisk together the pumpkin, oil, eggs, spices, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl until smooth and thoroughly combined.
  3. Whisk in the flour and baking powder just until combined. Pour the batter into your loaf pan/baking dish, and bake until golden brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour.

That last picture is the most flattering photo I could take of the finished product. I had a minor disaster while turning the loaf out of the pan -- things were not pretty (including the string of swear words that came out of my mouth in the process). But, although it doesn't look pretty, it is darn tasty, and that's all that matters. :)


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pumpkin! Pumpkin!! Pumpkin!!!

Welcome to autumn. It is officially that season where you see pumpkin (or the ever popular "pumpkin spice") everywhere -- muffins, quick breads, pies...all sorts of foods for that matter, lattes, coffee beans, coffee creamers, beer, candles, bath products, etc. For a few months, everyone deems pumpkin their favorite food and believes it is the best thing ever invented. Then the holidays are over and it seems everyone forgets about poor pumpkin until next year. I admit I am one of those people. I wish pumpkin was in season all year. Since October rolled around I've been dying to use it in the kitchen. I've had pumpkin spice coffee creamer on hand for the past month -- currently on my second bottle. When one store was out of said creamer, I went to another store to find it (success!). I am that desperate to grasp tightly onto the pumpkin craze before it disappears for another 10 months. Anyway, I haven't cooked with pumpkin yet this autumn. I have plans for pumpkin bread tomorrow, but tonight it was pasta.

My coworker recommended a Rachael Ray recipe and I'm glad I tried it. I altered the portions to serve two, and used half-and-half instead of heavy cream to cut the fat content, among other tweaks. The original recipe calls for sage, but I had none. So, if you have it, use it. But, word to the wise... follow Rachael's directions and USE WHOLE WHEAT PASTA! I only had regular semolina pasta on hand, and upon my first bite, my face lit up at the taste of the sauce but then I frowned a little. This pumpkin cream sauce needs the nutty richness of whole wheat pasta to bring out that autumn-y essence. Without it, the dish just lacks...something. I taste the pumpkin, the spices, but my palate is craving something else. One of the many reasons I love a really good quality (read: non-cardboard/sandpaper variety) whole wheat pasta is the depth of flavor it adds, and this is one of those cases.

I also want to mention that this would be a great main dish if you added chicken or sausage. Tonight, this was the "second course" of our dinner. Paul cooked the first course, and I cooked the second. I love when Paul cooks because his dishes always have his personality in them... from the seasonings he uses, to the tricks he's learned from his mom, to the very diligent, delicate, and patient way he chops up carrots into perfectly shaped little pieces. :) His first course was a salad consisting of romaine lettuce, carrots, apples, walnuts, and dried cranberries; topped with a pan-fried salmon fillet. Simple, yummy, and refreshing. This was a nice warm follow-up.

Pumpkin Lovers' Pasta for Two
adapted from Rachael Ray's Penne-Wise Pumpkin Pasta

  • 1/2 pound whole wheat penne
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth (I used chicken)
  • 7 to 8 ounces pure pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1/2 tsp hot sauce (I used Sriracha)
  • a dash of ground cinnamon
  • a dash of ground nutmeg
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  2. While pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a sautee pan over medium heat.  Add the shallots and garlic and cook until soft.  Don't burn the garlic, like I did, and always will do.
  3. Stir in the broth, pumpkin, and half-and-half. Add the hot sauce, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Let simmer on low heat until thickened, about 5 minutes.
  4. Toss pasta and sauce together, and serve with grated cheese and a dash of cinnamon on top.
Shallots & garlic cooking in olive oil. One of my favorite smells ever.

Simmerin' sauce.

Bon appetit!


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Photo Blog: Pesto-Making

This is just a simple little photo blog. I decided to make some pesto this afternoon and photograph the process, just for fun. Enjoy :)


Monday, October 18, 2010

Adventures in Hummus: Pasta Edition

I've been on a hummus kick lately, but that "kick" has almost exclusively consisted of dipping a variety of snacks -- Wheat Thins, pretzels, veggies -- in the delicious and healthy dip/spread. I have had it on a pita and with falafel before, but I started to think, "There's gotta be more I can do with this stuff." Last week I made some scrambled egg whites for breakfast and on a whim, put a few dollops of Tribe roasted red pepper hummus on top, and it was delicious.

Yesterday at Pathmark, I bought some artichoke-garlic Athenos hummus, which I've never had before. I was dipping pretzels in it today at work, and I have to admit, I wasn't too crazy about the flavor. I think I'm just not an artichoke fan. Anyway, while fantasizing about dinner, I did some brainstorming. I remember reading in one of my Rachael Ray mags something about tossing hummus with pasta. I didn't want this hummus to go to waste, and I thought if it was combined with a variety of other ingredients, the flavor wouldn't bother me as much. Long story short, this was my final plan: toss whole-wheat spaghetti with sautéed mushrooms and tomatoes I already had in the fridge, and make a sauce out of this hummus!

Pasta with Hummus and Sautéed Veggies

  1. Cook pasta (I recommend whole-wheat spaghetti) and set aside.
  2. In a saucepan, combine 2 parts hummus, 1 part water (use your judgment with the amount of hummus to use, depending on how much pasta you're making).  Stir and place on low heat.
  3. In a skillet, heat extra-virgin olive oil over medium-high heat.  Sauté chopped mushrooms until tender and browned, and add some chopped tomatoes at the very end.  Season with salt and pepper.
  4. To the skillet, add the pasta and hummus sauce.  Mix well.

The verdict? Using hummus as a pasta sauce is, in a word... interesting. It adds a creaminess much different from that of Alfredo sauce, for example. And I was right: the nuttiness of the pasta, meatiness of the mushrooms, and sweetness of the tomatoes all counterbalanced the "funny" taste I didn't like about the hummus, but you could definitely tell the hummus was there. And this was so, so easy to make.

Next adventure in hummus? MAKE MY OWN! Hmmm, perhaps that will be a blog in the very near future.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lord, I was born a ramblin' (wo)man...

Sadly, there has not been much to blog about lately.  Life events, busy schedules, getting home late... keeps me from doing what I enjoy in the kitchen!  The only things I have really "cooked" lately were some box-mix and frosting-from-the-can (cringe) cupcakes to bring to work last week, and some mac & cheese last night that I spruced up with ground pork and red bell peppers. Otherwise, Paul and I have made close friends with the Wendy's drive-thru. I gotta say though, their Pick-2 deal is pretty sweet. I get a half-size chicken pecan salad - their healthiest salad with mixed greens, grilled chicken, apples, pecans, dried cranberries, and low-fat pomegranate vinaigrette - and a baked potato. Proof that fast food doesn't have to kill your diet! And even though I haven't been able to dedicate much time to my kitchen, I have been dedicated to fitting in some exercise when I can. Working out for 15-30 min., 3-4 times a week makes a world of difference for my energy level and overall mental/physical/emotional well-being.  I can now jog non-stop (no walking breaks) for 20 minutes! Haven't been able to do that in about 5 years! I am becoming familiar again, though, with the shin splints that plagued me during my high school track team years. Need better running shoes. ...This is the most rambling post ever.

Anywho, I am determined to make time this weekend to whip up some good quality home cookin'.  We attempted to go apple-picking last weekend, but all the good ones had been picked over and the only ones remaining were hail-damaged.  We are going again this weekend, so hopefully I will come home with a bushel of apples and can whip up all sorts of apple-related dishes.  *Fingers crossed!*

We did, however, enjoy Milburn Orchards' market shop and pumpkin "patch".  It wasn't pick-your-own, but we picked up a cute lil' pumpkin which is now on our front stoop.  We got some of their fresh apple cider, homemade apple butter, and fresh apple cider donuts.  Holy crap, those donuts were good. We also got some romaine lettuce, snow peas, and of course some gummy bears for Paul.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday Dinner: Pesto Pasta

Tonight's vegetarian dinner was low-key and healthy.  We had a very busy day full of errands and other activities so an easy-to-prepare meal was needed.  I made a fresh batch of pesto, tossed it with whole-wheat spaghetti and some fresh tomatoes, and grated fresh parmesan on each bowl of pasta.  We lit up our new tiki torches for the first time (!) and ate this meal out on the patio with the sounds of crickets surrounding us.  A nice relaxing end to a busy day!

To make this pesto, I used fresh basil and thyme from our little "garden", pecans, walnuts, parmesan, garlic, lemon juice, and extra-virgin olive oil.

Finished product. Delicious!
What did you eat this Sunday?


Friday, September 17, 2010

Dining Out: Sushi Sumo

Tonight Paul and I went out for my early birthday dinner.  I chose my number one favorite food ... sushi.  I've only had sushi once since we moved out of Philadelphia and I've been going crazy.  If I had to name one thing I miss about Philly, it'd be the food.  Specifically some of our favorite sushi bars...Mizu, Shinju, Misso (now out of business...such a shame), Wasabi House, Vic...  I was worried we'd be lacking good sushi here in Delaware but I was wrong!  I discovered that Mizu actually opened a location right here in Newark.  We originally planned to go there, but I decided I wanted to try something new and did a little research and found Sushi Sumo to have pretty good reviews on Yelp.  We were not the least bit disappointed.

We had:
  • Manhattan Roll: red and white tuna, cucumber, avocado, and spicy sauce inside; fresh mango, tobigo, and golden leaf on top.   
  • Paradise Roll: spicy crunchy white tuna inside; tuna, salmon, yellowtail, and avocado on top. (My favorite)
  • Salmon Sashimi: OUT OF THIS WORLD!
  • Yellowtail Roll
  • Philly Roll: cream cheese, scallion, and smoked salmon (Paul's favorite)
  • Tempura Green Tea Ice Cream
Prepare to drool!

Happy Birthday to me!


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday Dinner: "LGH" Tilapia, Green Bean Salad, & Roasted Potatoes

Here's a rundown of tonight's tasty (and pretty healthy!) dinner... pictures included, of course!

Paul's mom's green beans.
Paul's mom gave us a batch of green beans straight from her garden and I wanted to do something a little different.  A little different meaning, not in a stir-fry or steamed and eaten plain, which is the only thing I have ever done with green beans.  This is based on a fantastically simple recipe by Biana at TastyGalaxy.

Green Bean Salad thanks to TastyGalaxy (with a couple of my own little tweaks, of course)
  • about 1 pound green beans
  • a big handful of chopped pecans (her recipe calls for almonds, which I don't have on hand, so I substituted)
  • about 1/2 of a small red onion, cut into slivers
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper, which I forgot... oops!
  1. Clean and wash the beans.  Blanch for 3 minutes.  Drain and immediately rinse in cold water or dunk in ice bath.
  2. Combine lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  3. In a bowl, combine the beans, onions, and nuts.  Toss with the lemon mixture.
Nutty goodness.
The finished product.
I made the salad a few hours before dinnertime and let it marinate in the fridge until then.  The lemon infused the green beans and really enhanced their flavor, which is fantastic already.  I really love this salad.  It is crisp, refreshing, and so healthy.  Definitely a great way to showcase some quality green beans.

I can't wait 'til I can have my own real garden someday.  The quality of fruits and veggies from a well-tended garden is unlike anything you can get in the store.  Moving on to the main dish...

Lemon-Garlic-Herb (LGH) Tilapia
  • 3 or 4 tilapia fillets, depending on size... should be about 1 pound altogether
  • 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley (or 1 tsp fresh)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Rinse the fillets in cool water, pat dry, and place in greased baking dish.
  3. Pour the lemon juice over the fish.
  4. Sauté the garlic in the butter until very fragrant.  Remove from heat and mix in the herbs.
  5. Pour the butter mixture over the fish.  Bake for 12 minutes.  Fish should flake easily when pierced with a fork.
Before baking.

This turned out pretty fantastic as well.  The fish was soft, tender, with a delicate lemon flavor and little hints of garlic and herbs here and there.  This was my first time baking, as opposed to pan-frying, tilapia and I think it's a great way to prepare this fish (not to mention healthier).  Be careful not to over-bake because the fillets are so thin.  I'm also glad I sautéed the garlic and butter beforehand; I think it added a nice toasty flavor to the whole dish.  Side note: I actually used 3 tbsp butter, but I changed it in the recipe to 2 tbsp. I left some in the sauté pan, otherwise the fish would have been swimming in it (ha! see what I did there?)...and I was trying to go healthier.  Now for the second side dish...

No recipe here, but I had a couple extra potatoes to use up, and I already had the oven at 400, so why not roast them?  And dip them in spicy mayo, of course.  ;)

These always come out perfectly tossed in extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkled liberally with kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, and baked at 400 for about 10 minutes.  Just make sure they are spread on a single layer on your baking sheet.

What did you eat this Sunday?


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Dijon-Basil Potato Salad

I went the whole summer without making potato salad.  Of course I jump on the bandwagon the day after Labor Day.  I have to admit, I'm not going to attempt writing a recipe for this because:
  1. I lost track of how much of each ingredient was put into the dressing... I added & tasted as I went along.
  2. I'm lazy.
But, I can say this:  I used 3 russet potatoes (boil, peel, then cube), chopped 2 stalks of celery, and used about 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil.  The dressing is a mixture of roughly-equal parts Dijon mustard, cider vinegar, and honey. I added kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to my liking, and just a bit of mayonnaise for creaminess.  Mix everything together until it tastes right to you, then drizzle extra-virgin olive oil into that mixture while whisking VERY fast.  I just add the oil until it looks like I have enough dressing. How scientific, right?

I don't usually gloat or brag about my food... but this is soooooo delicious.  The basil and dijon flavors work really well together.

Taters, celery, dressing, basil.
Can't wait to bring this with my lunch to work tomorrow...


Saturday, September 4, 2010

First Baking Post!: Lemon Sunshine Cookies

The view from my back patio today.
 The weather could not be more perfect today.  Low humidity, mid-70s, plenty of sunshine, and just enough wind.  I have nearly all the windows open and there is a wonderful [sneeze-inducing] breeze drifting through the house.  On a day like this, I can't NOT bake something.  Plus, I can't believe I haven't done a baking post, since I am such an avid baker.  So, it just fits!

This recipe was described on Allrecipes as "THE cookie for the lemon lover."  I love all things lemony.  I think I take after my mom in that regard.  Lemons just remind me of sunshine, and on such a sunshiney day, a lemon cookie sounded perfect.

Lemon Sunshine Cookies (I renamed -- and tweaked just a little -- Juanita's Lucious Lemon Snaps. Thank you for the great recipe!)
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease cookie sheets.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together first 5 ingredients.  Form a well in the center.  Pour the last 3 ingredients into the well.
  3. Stir together to form a dough.  Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto a cookie sheet, 2 inches apart.
  4. Bake for 7 minutes.  Edges will be slightly golden brown.  Makes 24 cookies.

I love the little bits of lemon zest in the dough.

Fresh out of the oven.
Just amusing myself.  Thanks Angela for the cute plate set ;)
These are seriously really good.  I would describe them as a lemony sugar cookie.  They have just enough lemon flavor, a delicate crunch, and a slightly soft middle.  They would be SO perfect with a cup of tea.