Friday, January 29, 2010

Black Bean Dip

It's been a long week, and work will continue to keep me busy well through next week, so please forgive my few words and lame post title :)

Tortilla Soup w/Guacamole & Flax Chips

Keeping in tune with using things up at home, I used a Tequila Lime Turkey Tenderloin and quite a few cans... that may or may not have made the move from Philly with me ;) (Hey, at least they were put to good use!) These goods went into Kelly's Tortilla Soup (very yummy!) and a random White Chili I probably wouldn't make again, so I didn't photograph it.

Carrot Cake Babies

As a carrot cake lover, I knew I had to try some of Katie's Carrot Cake Macaroons... however I don't have any coconut butter, so mine were made from a finely shredded carrot, unsweetened coconut, almond meal, dates and vanilla extract. I guess they ended up more like Diana's! Love these babies :) Although now I'm realizing I forgot cinnamon, walnuts, and other spices... next time!!

Gruyere Crackers

Hmm, I also made some Gruyere Crackers (made with cave-aged Gruyere instead of Parm, all white whole wheat flour, and Smart Balance sticks for butter) and Black Bean Dip to bring along with me tomorrow... it tastes better than it looks!

Black Bean Dip

Black Bean Dip

1 can black beans, drained (reserving 1T juice) and rinsed
1T reserved canning liquid
1-2T lemon/lime juice
1 clove garlic
1T chopped onion
1t chipotle/adobo sauce
pinch salt
~1/2t cumin
3-4T freshly chopped cilantro
1T olive oil

Combine all ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth! Serve with tortilla chips, veggies, or as a sandwich/wrap spread.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sweet Potato Lovin'

You guys were spot on, Hawaii does eat alot of SPAM!! Can't say I've ever tried it...

I keep forgetting to mention that Katie is having a jaw-dropping giveaway going on here! I would give an arm and a leg for a vitamix!!! Ok, maybe not, but I would jump through the roof if I scored a Vitamix! Hmmm, let's just settle on I'd be SUPER excited :)

Has anyone else heard about the claims against agave nectar? I first read this article, and then this one from a link in the comments. ~sigh~ Anyone have any insights?? It probably does boil down to what someone said: sugar is sugar is sugar, moderation is key! Yeah, gotta work on that...

I was just telling Kerstin that I'm trying to get better about using what I have on hand, and this is the first installment: sweet potatoes! Everything was delicious, but if I had to pick a favorite, the spoonbread might've taken the cake-- the goat cheese was nice and pillow-y amidst the luscious sweet potatoes... holy yum!

Barley Sweet Potato Hash from Simply Organic (recipe here)

Creamy Wild Rice Soup w/Sweet Potato Croutons from Supernatural Cooking (recipe here)

Sweet Potato Spoonbread from Supernatural Cooking (recipe here)

Instead of more trivia, I'd like to remind you of the Bake Sale for Haiti!! Bidding takes place tomorrow (the 27th), with all the proceeds going to the American Red Cross. Please go and see all the goodies available, and bid if you can! What can be better than getting some baked goods for supporting a good cause?? I'll be making up a batch of Seven Layers if you want some :) BID HERE!!!

Seven Layers

Friday, January 22, 2010

Root Veggie Salad w/Orange Dressing

I've been meaning to tell you about this salad for some time now. It was delicious, involving some of my favorite autumn foods (apples, beets and carrots). It's even raw! Being new to the beet scene, I have come to love them roasted-- I wasn't sure how they would be raw. Turns out there was nothing to be afraid of :) I will definitely be making this again!

the main players

My changes to the recipe for this Root Vegetable Salad w/Cranberries, Pecans and Orange dressing were the following:
-I left out the celery root (didn't have it)
-My ratio of orange juice to oil was a little high (I had a big orange and i'm usually shy on the oil)
-I added in the optional POM arils and toasted pecans.

Here's another trivia question for you... What state leads the United States in SPAM consumption?? Yes, we're talking about the canned meat here, folks!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Spring It!

I've got a special announcement today... I have partnered with Springpad!

What is Springpad? A FREE personal organizer. Use it to collect and organize recipes (from my site and anywhere in the world wide web, plan meals for the week and generate grocery lists! How cool is that?? It's not just for recipes, either-- use it to plan trips and date nights, track restaurants or receipts, or even keep notes about wines you've tried.

(Spring It button under recipe, Springpad banner in middle of page)

How do you get started? Register for an account with springpad (or Logon if you're already a member). When you see a recipe you want to try, Spring it by clicking the button you can now find in my recipe posts!! (see above image) If you want to take a look at all the recipes in my account, click the banner on the right. Once you've saved a few recipes, you can organize them and generate a shopping list from recipes you want to cook that week.

saved recipe in Springpad

I think this will become a great tool to help organize all of the recipes I want to try (I won't even attempt to put a number on it!), and I hope you find it useful as well :)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Good Causes

I went cross country skiing today and am need to get to bed asap, as I scheduled a dentist appointment at 7am tomorrow (why? I'm sure it seemed like a good idea at the time). With all that's going on in the world, I thought I'd share some of the ways we can do our part to help...

Visit Marathon Val to get information about organizing a Dress Down for Haiti, The Chic Life to participate in an Online Bakesale for Haiti, or donate directly to the Red Cross.

Matt (No Meat Athlete) is donating revenue from this months' page views to The Humane Society of the United States, so go click around in his archives.

Another cause near and dear to my... err, heart, Musselman's is donating 10cents to the National Breast Cancer Foundation for every Musselman's Natural Apple Sauce purchased in the month of January! There's still a couple weeks to help out, and you can make some Acorn Apple Soup to warm up. (Full disclosure: Musselman's sent me the package below to sample/review!)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cookie Swap!!

For the past year or two, I've said I run outside until it hits 30. When I laced up my shoes on Sunday NOAA said it was 16 degrees in Boston, 7 with the wind chill. My big mittens (and perhaps the sugar high) kept me warm until somewhere around mile 4, where my nose and knees told me to head in ;)

The stars of the afternoon!

But you didn't come here to hear how crazy I was the other night, you're here for the cookies!!! And boy did we have some amazing goodies! I was thrilled to have so many friends join me for an afternoon of fun and food. I offered up a few lighter, savory appetizers as everyone started to arrive and setup. I hope this will become an annual event ;)

The Savory Lineup
Salmon Mousse with pita crackers and cucumbers (I wouldn't recommend sub'ing fat-free greek yogurt for the sour cream in the recipe as I did, 2% might work but I haven't tried it)
Coconut Chai Almonds (followed this recipe using almonds instead of pecans, Zhea Gypsy's Coconut Chai Tea and left out the lemon zest)
Wholly Guacamole Salsa & Guacamole with chips
Mini Quiches w/Pear, Gorgonzola & Walnuts (this recipe needs work!)

Coconut Chai Almonds

The Sweet Lineup
Adrienne's Lime Meltaways (maybe this recipe?)
Bridget's Chocolate Orange Almond Macaroons
Elina's Espresso Crinkle Cookies
Kelly's Chocolate-Orange Cookie Dough Truffles
Kerstin's Peanut Butter Chubby Hubby Bars
Mary Kate's Black & White Cookies
Nicole's Lemon Almond Cranberry Crescents
Rebecca's Breakup Bars
(Shannon's) My Maple Toffee Bacon Oatmeal Cookies
Tina's Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Bars

Wholly Guacamole!

Just a few more notes...

I won the Wholly Guacamole products in a giveaway hosted by the Foodie Blogroll. They totally hooked me up (see all the goodies below), and we all loved the guac and spicy salsa!! The Squeeze of Lime Corazona chips they sent are also probably the best I've ever had of that variety! Thanks Jenn and Sylvia :)

And in case you aren't sick of cookies yet, thanks to Steph I participated in another Cookie Exchange. (what was I thinking?? I need to find my will power... I seemed to have lost it) I sent Nicole some Blueberry Lavender Butter Cookies and Crisp Salted Oatmeal White Chocolate Cookies. She graced me and my family with some amazing Chocolate Peppermint Cookies and Oatmeal Cran White Choc Cookies (recipes here). Thanks Nicole, they were thoroughly enjoyed!!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Fun with bacon!

I'm hosting a cookie swap today, so while I'm waiting for everyone to arrive I thought I'd post the recipe I made. I've been wanting to play with bacon in a dessert for some time now, and I figured this was the perfect opportunity!

Everything's ready to go, so we'll see how everyone likes them!

Maple Toffee Oatmeal Cookies w/Bacon
adapted from Baking Bites
Yield ~24

1c white whole wheat flour (or WW pastry or AP flour)
1/2t cinnamon
1/2t baking soda
1/2t baking powder
1/4t salt
1 stick butter (I use Smart Balance 50/50 Omega sticks)
1/3c brown sugar (not packed)
1/3c maple syrup
1 egg
1c old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2c toffee bits
1/2c diced brown-sugar bacon (~5 slices, depending on the variety)

Preheat oven to 375.

Line baking sheet with foil (for easy clean up) and place a cooling rack on top of the foil. Place 5-6 strips of bacon on the rack. Sprinkle with 1-2T brown sugar and bake until bacon is crispy. Cool, then dice. You'll want ~1/2c for the cookies.

In a small bowl, stir together first 5 ingredients (flour through salt).

Cream together butter and sugar. When light and fluffy, add maple syrup and egg, then continue beating until well combined. With the mixer on low, slowly add in the flour mixture. Then add in oats, toffee and bacon and mix well.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Scoop cookies onto cookie sheet a few inches apart. Bake 8-12min, depending on the size (1T size cookies will take ~10min, larger cookies will take longer. Cool on a wire rack.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Do you NuVal?

Lauren, Biz, and Juliana were right, cornstarch actually thins if it's overworked.

Tina recently started working with NuVal, and I was excited to check it out in Price Chopper when I went home. NuVal evaluations the nutritional value of foods based on a range of criteria, including protein, fiber, fats, sodium, sugar, cholesterol, glycemic load, energy density, vitamins and minerals. Based on these factors, it assigns a score on a scale of 1-100, the higher the score, the better nutritional value of the product.

I really like their score, how it takes into account so many valuable bits of information, rather than a label of "reduced fat" or "low carb" to give the illusion of being automatically better for you. It does not take into account toxins (as could be found in certain seafood), nor does it take into account organic ingredients. Overall I agree with this omission, just because something is organic does not necessarily mean that it is better for you. It leaves the decision of organic up to the consumer, whose responsibility it is to educate themselves on the choices they make. The one thing I found surprising that artificial ingredients did not affect the NuVal score, and in many cases, actually increases it.

To see it up close and personal, I went to the store with my camera and started snapping! I know fresh fruits and veggies score high on the NuVal scale, so I focused on things that might be more revealing: cereal, crackers, chips, yogurt and granola bars. Here are a few things I learned...

Not all brands are created equal.
Arrowhead Mills Amaranth Flakes 91
Health Valley Amaranth Flakes 31

Peanut Butter Puffins (24) aren't any better than my childhood favorite, Lucky Charms (23).

You shouldn't always choose pretzels over chips.
Terra Chips 34
Garden of Eatin Blue Corn Chips 40
Soy Crisps ~30
Snyders Mini Pretzels 10 (!! Snaps score a 20, why? I didn't look closely at the ingredients)
Snyders Honey Wheat Pretzels 25

Chocolate can be better than dried fruit.
Fig Newmans 9
Newmans Chocolate O's 14

Different varieties of the same product can vary widely.
Shredded Wheat 91
Lightly Frosted or Honey Nut Shredded Wheat ~30
Stoneyfield Fat Free Plain Yogurt 89
Stoneyfield Fat Free French Vanilla 42
Tropicana Ruby Red 39
Tropicana Ruby Red + Calcium + Vit D 82
Light N Fit Raspberry White Chocolate Yogurt 81
Light N Fit Blackberry Yogurt 47

Salsa isn't always good for you.
Frontera Habanero Salsa 8 (!! I'm guessing salt, maybe sugar too)
Amy's Black Bean & Corn Salsa 35

When it comes to cereals, some of the highest scores came from Arrowhead Mills Amaranth Flakes (91), Alpen No Sugar Added Muesli Cereal (87) and Shredded Wheat (91). Keep in mind that not every product had a NuVal score. I was interested to see how Kashi stacked up, but they weren't labelled in my store. Fiber One Original, All Bran, and Special K Protein Plus scored between 50-60, as do rolled oats. I was surprised to see how much higher other grains scored - Oat bran (66), 5 Grain cereal (93), Muesli (87) and 10 Grain cereal (91).

Crackers as a whole score lower on the NuVal scale, but the ones I found at the top were All Bran crackers (35) and Wasa Fiber crackers (39). Kashi TLC, Triscuits, Wheat Thins, Whole Grain Goldfish and Special K crackers all fell in the high 20s. Wheatables serves as a cautionary tale to not trust a name, scoring a 4!

Phew, monster post! Sorry if it's a little overwhelming, but I had fun looking at the scores (although I generally do like to take my time in grocery stores!). I think that NuVal scores are an easy way to start thinking about what you're buying. Of course there's always making your own crackers, chips and cookies, but sometimes you need convenience :) Now it's up to the stores to highlight the scores for consumers, and to keep adding scores to all of their products!

To find out other stores that feature NuVal scores, click here. Has anyone else seen these in their supermarket?? Check out Tina's blog for some ideas on how to "trade up" (increase the nutritional value) some of your meals!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Happy New Year!

I don't know about you, but I spent my night welcoming 2010 with a cutie ;)

Meet Shula!

Unfortunately, she is not my puppy, but I'll still get lots of play time with her :)

I need to thank Hilary and Domino Sugar for providing me with a gift card to create some holiday goodies!! I checked out their site and found lots of great ideas (even diy sugar scrubs!), but ended up making the Butterscotch Pecan Cookie Mix in a Jar. A very easy gift that I'm sure grandma will enjoy :) Thanks Domino! You'll see more cookies, too, later this week...

Happy Holidays from Domino!

While we're on the subject of gift ideas, I can share a neat centerpiece that's good for your own home or would make a great hostess gift!

Made in any size vase, you simply put Christmas tree clippings (real or fake) in the bottom (don't be afraid to pack them in), then top with fresh cranberries and then fill with water. Set a candle on top and you have a festive centerpiece during the holiday season! You can thank my mom for this one ;)

And, courtesy of my aunt, who got me a neat game, I've got some trivia that I'll try and include at the bottom of some posts. You won't win anything but knowledge :)

What thickener will actually thin under conditions of too much heat, vigorous stirring, or a too-long cooking time?
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