Food, Faith, and Other Fabulous Finds

Recipes, devotional thoughts, and other cool things I come across.

Sweet Treats vs. Healthy Eats April 22, 2014

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So, I realized that I hadn’t shared a recent movie experience with you.  Not too long ago, my hubby and I got to watch the uber-popular Frozen.  I won’t belabor things that I’m sure you’ve seen repeatedly on your Pinterest/Facebook/Instagram/Twitter feeds.  It’s a good movie, and we had a lot of fun watching it.  And though it’s got funny parts that we laughed at, I can’t say that it’s making my list of super-favorites.  (By the way, my favorite line is probably at the beginning when Anna says “The sky’s awake.  So I’m awake.  So we have to play!”)

And that has absolutely nothing to do with today’s recipes, so let’s get to them.  Last week, I promised to tell you more about what I made for my hubby’s birthday, and I’m here to fulfill that promise.  Let’s start with the healthier recipe.  This actually isn’t something that my hubby requested.  His forever request is to have poppy-seed chicken casserole, which isn’t exactly healthy.  I wanted to balance the cream of soup with some vegetables.  I found some broccoli for a good price and remembered this riff on a waldorf that my mom had sent me years ago.  Though the hubby was skeptical at first, he actually really enjoyed it.  It’s really easy to make and could easily be customized with what you have or like.  Though it’s delicious as is, I’d like to try adding some sunflower seeds next time for a different type of crunch.

Waldorf Salad with Broccoli (from Taste of Home)

3 tbsp. mayo

1 tbsp. honey

1 tsp. cider vinegar

1 1/2 c. coarsely chopped broccoli florets

3/4 c. chopped apple

2 tbsp. raisins

1 tbsp. chopped pecans  (Whoops!  Looks like I forgot these.  Could be why I wanted more crunch.)

1. In a small bowl, combine the mayo, honey, and vinegar.  Stir in the remaining ingredients and refrigerate til ready to eat.

Waldorf Salad with BroccoliWaldorf Salad with Broccoli 4

Now I’m sure you’ve guessed that the sweet treat is his birthday cake, but you may not be expecting this.  My hubby is not a huge cake person.  He’ll eat it; it’s just note his go-to dessert.  So for this birthday, he asked for an ice cream cake that I’d made for him before when we were dating.  Not only is this cake delicious, it’s a snap to make and not too pricey either.  We really enjoyed this, and I just wish it had lasted longer.

Oreo & Fudge Ice Cream Cake (from Kraft)

1/2 c. warmed fudge ice cream topping (Rather than buying a jar for just 1/2 c., I used some chocolate syrup that we already had.)

8 oz. thawed cool whip

1 4 serving size package chocolate instant pudding mix

8 Oreo cookies

12 vanilla ice cream sandwiches

1. Pour the fudge topping in a medium bowl and whisk in 1 c. cool whip til well blended.  Add the dry pudding mix and stir  2 minutes or til well blended.  If the mix is too thick to spread easily, stir in up to 1/4 c. milk.

2. Roughly chop the oreos and stir into the chocolate mix.

3. On a 24×12 inch piece of foil, arrange 4 ice cream sandwiches side by side. ([][][][])  Top with half of the pudding mix, then repeat the layers.

4. Top the 2nd layer of pudding mix with the last 4 ice cream sandwiches.

5. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining cool whip.

6. Bring up the foil sides and double-fold the top and ends to loosely seal into a packet.  Freeze at least 4 hours before serving.  (Using a serrated knife will make slicing this much easier.)

Oreo & Fudge Ice Cream Cake 3Oreo & Fudge Ice Cream Cake 2

So, are you cake person or do you prefer a less conventional treat?  (I’m pretty open to all treats, though I do usually end up making myself some form of cake.)

 

Who Are You Calling Chicken? April 17, 2014

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Sorry for the delay in this week’s post.  We’ve had quite the busy weekend and week.  We had a lot of fun celebrating my hubby’s birthday, plus some fun church activities.  I’ll tell you more about his birthday treat another day.  For this post, we’re focusing on chicken.  (As if you hadn’t already figured that out!)  The reason for the poultry pointed post is our most recent installment of the movie and recipe series: Chicken Run.  In this claymation movie, a group of chickens on an egg farm are attempting to liberate themselves through various escape plans (think Hogan’s Heroes).  Just when they’ve run out of ideas, a “flying” rooster falls into their enclosure and reluctantly agrees to teach them to fly.  Many shenanigans ensue with lots of jokes and slapstick.  You can see a trailer here.  Here are several of my favorite lines:  “Is she on holiday, too?”, “It’s all in me head.”, “They’re gonna kill themselves.  Wanna watch?”, “They didn’t give me this medal for…”, “All of me life flashed before me eyes!  It was really borin’.”, “I don’t want to be a pie!  I don’t like gravy.”, and my most favorite “In the quite likely event of an emergency, put your head between your knees and…” “Kiss your bum goodbye.”  Now the obvious thing would be to make a chicken pot pie, but I didn’t want to be that obvious.  Instead, I decided that I’d share a couple of my favorite chicken recipes.

This first recipe is one that I’ve had for years, but I hadn’t made it in quite a while.  I had some extra poached chicken recently, so I treated myself to a little of this delicious chicken salad.  We first had this several years ago, when some friends of our had extra and sent us home with it.  They served it on some flaky croissants, and it was just amazing.  They got theirs from Costco, but I found a copycat recipe from Whole Foods that tasted just like it.  It’s got some nice textures and a slightly sweet flavor that tastes better than it might sound.  This is great for a family picnic or light spring lunch.

Sonoma Chicken Salad (from WholeFoods.com)

1 c. mayo

4 tsp. apple cider vinegar

5 tsp. honey

2 tsp. poppy seeds

2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts

3/4 c. toasted, chopped pecans

2 c. red seedless grapes (We prefer craisins to grapes.)

3 stalks thinly sliced celery

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Place the chicken breasts in a single layer in a baking dish with 1/2 c. water.  Cover the dish with foil and bake the chicken for 25 minutes or til completely cooked through.  Remove the cooked chicken from the pan, cool it 10 minutes, cover, and refrigerate.

2. When the chicken is completely chilled (at least 2 hours), dice it into bite-size pieces and transfer to a large bowl.  In a small bowl, mix together the mayo, vinegar, honey, and poppy seeds.  Add the dressing, pecans, grapes (or craisins), and celery to the bowl with the chicken and stir til well combined.

Sonoma Chicken Salad 3Sonoma Chicken Salad 4  (In lieu of croissant, a piece of toast with a schmear of mayo is pretty tasty too.)

This next recipe is a more recent find, but I’ve still been dying to try it ever since I first saw it.  There’s a little bit of prep involved, but it’s definitely worth it.  And it’s a little surprising that the small amount of rice turns into such a large amount of food.  (I halved the recipe, but we probably could have eaten a quarter of it and still been full.)  If you make the full recipe, it could easily feed 8-10 people.  The chipotle imparts some nice heat and smoky flavor, but you could use plain chili powder if that’s all you have.  (We’re big chipotle lovers at my house!)  Besides the great flavor, this dish is all-encompassing.  Sure, you could serve it with more veggies on the side or a salad, but the main parts of your meal (grain, beans, dairy, meat) are all in this one dish.  By the way, if you’re not following Yammie’s Noshery (or her alternate site, Yammie’s GlutenFreedom), you should be.  She is always delivering up mouth-watering treats with a side of laughs.

Cheesy Chipotle Chicken and Rice (from Yammie’s Noshery)

1 c. rice

2 1/4 c. chicken stock

1 tsp. paprika

1/2 tsp. chipotle powder

1 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. cumin

4 tbsp. butter

1 15 oz. can rinsed, drained black beans

1 3/4 c. corn

1 2/3 c. cooked, shredded chicken

2 cloves minced garlic

1/2 chopped onion

1/2 chopped red bell pepper

1 c. Mexican cheese blend or colby jack

1/2 c. sour cream

1. In a large pot, (Larger than you think you’ll need.  Once you add all the other ingredients, it will be a heap of food.) combine the rice, stock, paprika, chipotle powder, garlic powder, cumin, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1 tbsp. butter.  Bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to low.  Cover and cook 20 minutes.  Note: I actually started with some butter, the rice, and the garlic and onions.  I wasn’t sure that the way she has you cook it would soften it to my preferences, since I like a really cooked onion.  This way worked out fine for me.

2. Add 3 tbsp. butter, beans, corn, chicken, garlic, onion (unless you cooked them previously like me), and bell pepper and turn to medium-high heat.  Stir constantly til the onions are tender.  Either stir in or top with the sour cream and cheese.

Cheesy Chipotle Chicken and RiceCheesy Chipotle Chicken and Rice 2

Of course, these are just a couple of my favorites.  There are so many delicious chicken recipes out there, it can be hard to choose.  What kind of chicken recipe is your favorite?

Before I go, I thought I’d share a few more photos from my daily photo challenge.

3-23 I'm Loving...  The caption for this was “I’m Loving.”  These are some succulents that I recently bought from Ikea.

4-4 Good Together  This one was for “Good Together.”  The reason is obvious, I think.

And this wasn’t for any particular prompt, but just because I couldn’t resist this little beauty.  4-8 Visitor  She flew away before I could get a close-up shot.

 

A Few of His Favorite Things April 10, 2014

In light of my hubby’s upcoming birthday, I thought I’d share some a few of his recent favorite recipes for today’s post.  My husband is definitely a carnivore, so it shouldn’t surprise you that 2 of these recipes are meat-centric.  With the first recipe, it’s more surprising that I liked it so much.  I’m not really a meatball or kebab type of person, but these aren’t your typical kebabs.  The cashew/cherry filling gives them a little bit of crunch and sweetness that contrasts nicely with their meatiness and the creamy sauce.  Another thing I loved about these was the combination of spices that are used to flavor the meat.  Though it takes a little bit of time to form and cook these little nuggets, they really deliver in the form of delicious flavors and varied textures.  There’s also a neat little trick in the recipe where you use baking soda in the meat as a binder; it’s nice to have an alternative to using eggs or breadcrumbs.

Beef Kebabs with a Surprise Center (from Food Network)

1 tsp. coriander seeds (Since I didn’t have a way to grind mine, I substituted an equal amount of already ground spices.)

1 tsp. cumin seeds

3 cloves crushed garlic

1  1/2 in. slice peeled, chopped ginger

1 lb. ground beef

4 tbsp. minced cilantro

1/2 tsp. garam masala

1/2 tsp. baking soda

2 tbsp. chopped dried cherries

2 tbsp. chopped cashews

2 tbsp. canola oil

1/2 c. yogurt

Juice of 1 lime

1. Toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a dry skillet over medium-high heat til they’re fragrant and slightly smoking.  Grind into powder and place in a large bowl.

2. Grind the garlic and ginger into a paste; add to the spices.

3. To the spices, add the beef, 2 tbsp. cilantro, garam masala, baking soda, and 1 tsp. salt.  Mix together til the meat is sticky, a few minutes.  Let rest 30 minutes.

4. In a small bowl, mix together the cherries and cashews.

5. Once the meat has rested, divide it into 16 portions.  Roll each portion into 2 inch sausage shapes.  Make a long indentation in each kebab and stuff with 1/2 tsp. of the cherry/cashew mix.  Pinch the meat together and roll to seal.  Repeat with the remaining kebabs.

6.  In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat til shimmering.  Cook the kebabs, turning frequently, til browned all the way around and cooked through, 10-15 minutes.

7. For the sauce, combine the yogurt, 2 tbsp. cilantro, and juice of 1/2 the lime.  Season the sauce with salt and pepper.  Serve the kebabs drizzled the rest of the lime and garnished with the rest of the cilantro.

Beef Kebabs with a Surprise CenterBeef Kebabs with a Surprise Center 3

For our next meaty recipe, I’m sharing a burger recipe that I could have sworn I’d shared years ago.  We’ve certainly been enjoying this for a while, and it’s high time that you get to enjoy it too.  These are everything my husband wants in a burger: big, juicy, spicy, delicious, and topped with loads of bacon and cheese!  These are also incredibly easy to make.  You’re just adding a few spices into your meat, then cooking it like you would any other burger.

Chili Bacon Burger (from the Rachael Ray Show)

8 slices thick bacon (Peppered bacon is really incredible too.)

2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

2 lb. ground sirloin

1 onion; 1/2 grated and 1/2 diced

1-2 cloves grated garlic

1 seeded, finely chopped jalapeno

2 tbsp. chili powder

2 tsp. cumin

2 tsp. smoked paprika

8 slices pepper jack

4 split kaiser rolls

1/2 c. chili sauce

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Arrange the bacon on a broiler pan and bake til crispy and cooked through, about 8 minutes.  Let the bacon cool; turn the oven off and turn the broiler on.

2. Place a large skillet over medium-high heat and put in the oil.  Combine the sirloin with the grated onion, garlic, jalapeno, and spices.  Season with salt and pepper and mix together.

3. Score the meat into quarters and form each quarter into a large patty.  Place in the skillet and cook to your desired doneness, about 6 minutes per side for medium.  In the last 2 minutes of cooking, lay 2 pieces of cheese on top of each burger.  Cover the pan til the cheese melts.

4. Toast the rolls under the broiler.  Serve the burgers on the toasted buns and topped with the chili sauce, chopped onion, and 2 strips of bacon.

Chili Bacon BurgerChili Bacon Burger 2

Though my hubby is a big meat-eater, that’s not to say that he doesn’t enjoy other things as well.  As you can see in the above pictures, he’s willing to eat all sorts of veggies and sides.  As long as there’s some meat next to it on the plate.  ;)  He also enjoys the rewards of my baking.  He’ll try just about anything, but he’s especially fond of chocolate chip cookies.  These have some extras thrown in, but he was still mighty happy to chow down on them (I was too!).  I love the combination of chewy oats, crunchy walnuts, and the balance of salty and sweet.  The recipe said it makes 6 dozen, but with my larger cookie scoop, I only got 4 dozen.

Choco-Chip Oatmeal Cookies (unknown origin)

1 1/4 c. softened butter

3/4 c. brown sugar

1/2 c. sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

3 c. quick or old-fashioned oats (I used quick.)

2 c. chocolate chips

3/4 c. chopped nuts (You could use any nuts, I just happened to have walnuts on hand.)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugars til light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg and vanilla.  In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt til thoroughly blended.  Gradually add the flour mix to the butter mixture.   Stir in the oats, chocolate chips, and nuts.

2. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets.  Bake 9-11 minutes.  Cool 1 minute on the pan, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Choco-Chip Oatmeal CookiesChoco-Chip Oatmeal Cookies 2

Those are some of my hubby’s favorites; what kind of things does your significant other like?

 

The Spices of Life April 1, 2014

In case you haven’t noticed by now, I have a serious obsession with spices.  I have 2 spice racks full (read 60+ spices) of all sorts, and I have many more on my list to try.  This week I thought I’d highlight a few of my favorite spices and some delicious recipes that use them.

The first spice I want to share with you is curry powder.  Curry powder is actually a mix of spices, so not all of curry powders will taste the same.  Most of them contain a high amount of turmeric which gives them their customary yellow color.  In previous posts, I’ve shared several curry recipes, but this time the curry is being used to flavor a dressing for a delicious salad.  I really enjoyed the diverse textures and flavors in this salad, and it’s very good for you.  As another bonus, it’s easy to make and feeds a crowd.

Quinoa and Apple Salad with Curry Dressing (from Martha Stewart)

1/4 c. whole almonds

1 c. quinoa

1 tsp. honey

1 tbsp. finely chopped shallot

1 tsp. curry powder

1/4 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. lemon juice

2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

2 tbsp. dried currants (I used some chopped dried cherries.)

1 sliced 1/8 inch thick McIntosh apple

1/4 c. chopped mint

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Spread the almonds on a rimmed baking sheet; cook til lightly toasted and fragrant, about 7 minutes.  (This makes such a huge difference in flavor!)  Let the almonds cool, then coarsely chop them.

2.  Rinse and drain the quinoa.  In a medium saucepan, bring 2 c. water to a boil.  Add the quinoa to the water and return to a boil.  Stir, cover, and reduce the heat to a simmer; cook til tender, but chewy, about 15 minutes.  Fluff and let cool.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the honey, shallot, curry powder, salt, and lemon juice.  Season the dressing with pepper.  Whisking constantly, pour the oil in with a slow, steady stream.  Whisk til the dressing is emulsified.  Add in the quinoa, currants, apple, mint, and nuts; toss well.

Quinoa and Apple Salad with Curry DressingQuinoa and Apple Salad with Curry Dressing 2

While curry powder is a spice that I discovered on my own, this next one was introduced to me by my mom.  The spice I’m talking about is Chinese 5-spice.  As its name implies, this is another mixture of spices (usually at least 5, though sometimes more).  Though the included spices vary, there is often a sweeter spice like star anise included, so Chinese 5-spice works equally well in savory or sweet recipes.  Today I’m sharing something savory.  This chicken recipe was a HUGE hit when I made it.  The chicken turned out moist and flavorful, and I served this with some veggies and rice for a quick and tasty dinner.

Five-Spice Coconut Chicken (from the August 2007 issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray)

1/3 c. + 1 tbsp. unsweetened coconut milk

2 tbsp. + 1 tsp. honey

1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. lime juice

2 tbsp. soy sauce

1 clove finely chopped garlic

2 1/2 tsp. Chinese 5-spice powder

1 tsp. salt

2 lb. pounded flat chicken thighs (I chopped boneless, skinless chicken breasts into chunks for a quicker cook.)

1/2 lb. sugar snap peas  (I went with roasted broccoli and zucchini instead.)

1. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 tbsp. coconut milk, 1 tsp. honey, and 1 tsp. lime juice.  Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, combine the 1/3 c. coconut milk, 2 tbsp. honey, 1 tbsp. lime juice, soy sauce, garlic, Chinese 5-spice, and salt.  Add the chicken, making sure it gets well coated.  Let marinate for 15 minutes.

3. Bring a medium pot of salted water to boil.  Add the peas and cook 1 minutes, then drain.  Transfer the peas to a medium bowl and toss with the reserved dressing.

4. Preheat the grill to medium.  Grill the chicken 4 minutes per side, or til cooked through.  Serve with the peas and rice.  (I don’t have a grill, and I wanted to cook this quickly, so I sauteed the chicken in a pan.)

Five-Spice Coconut ChickenFive-Spice Coconut Chicken 3

The last spice I want to share is one I’ve mentioned several times before.  I really, REALLY love ginger.  I love it dried, fresh, and candied; I use it in teas, cookies, cakes, and savory dishes.  This recipe uses a pairing that I really like: ginger and orange.  Somehow, that combination is magical.  For my best friend’s recent birthday, I made her this ginger carrot cake.  It was a delicious cake, that only needs a couple of tweaks.  Somehow I didn’t have the amount of fresh ginger to use written down (I don’t know if they added the measurement for fresh later, or if I just missed it when I wrote it down.), so I thought it needed more of a ginger flavor.  I’m sure that if you use fresh ginger, that won’t be a problem.  Also, I couldn’t really taste the orange, so next time I’d add in the zest of 1 orange when the spices are added.  Other than that, it was delicious and beautiful.  Sorry, that I don’t have a picture of the inside of the cooked cake, but it was for someone else.  ;)

Ginger Carrot Cake (from Better Homes & Gardens)

For the cake:

4 lightly beaten eggs

2 c. all-purpose flour

1 3/4 c. sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

4 c. finely shredded carrots  (This was about a pound of carrots.  If you have a food processor with a shredding blade, you will save yourself a lot of work by letting it tackle the carrots for you.)

2/3 c. veggie oil

1/4 c. orange juice

3/4 tsp. ground ginger or 2 tsp. grated ginger

1 c. toasted, finely chopped walnuts

For the icing:

1 8 oz. pkg. softened cream cheese

2 tbsp. whipping cream

1/4 tsp. salt

5-5 1/2 c. confectioner’s sugar

1. Let the eggs stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 2 9 inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In another bowl, combine the eggs, carrots, oil, orange juice (and zest!), and ginger.  Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, then stir in the nuts.  Spread the batter in the pans.  Bake 30-35 minutes or til a toothpick inserted near the center removes cleanly.  Cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Remove the cakes from the pans, and cool the cakes completely on the wire racks.

3. In a large bowl, beat on low the cream cheese, cream, and salt til fluffy.  Gradually beat in the confectioner’s sugar til the desired consistency is reached.  Layer and frost the cake once it’s completely cooled.

Ginger Carrot Cake  Look at all those carrots and walnuts!!

Ginger Carrot Cake 3Ginger Carrot Cake 5

Now that y’all know some of my favorite spices, I’d love to hear what your favorites are.  Stop by and let me know!

 

Bedknobs, Broomsticks, & … Breakfast? March 27, 2014

I think you may see where the movie portion of this week is headed, but first let’s talk about breakfast.  I LOOOOOVE breakfast!!!  I like breakfast for lunch, breakfast for dinner, and -of course- breakfast for breakfast.  As far as eating breakfast goes, I’m more of a continental eater.  My stomach just isn’t awake that early in the morning (or the rest of me for that matter), but I know I need to eat before I do much else.  Since my stomach’s not awake til 10-ish and I don’t feel like cooking either, most mornings I usually have a small bowl of cereal or some fruit.  My ideal breakfast would take after the French: a pastry and some fruit.  (Does anyone want to bring me a croissant from Paris every morning?)  Now don’t get me wrong, I love pancakes, bacon, sausage, eggs, French toast, etc.  I just eat them for a later meal like brunch, lunch, or dinner.  Today, I’m going to give you some recipes that can be made ahead of time and eaten during the week for an easy (and delicious!) breakfast.  As a bonus, these recipes can double as an afternoon snack or treat.

The first recipe I want to share is for some easy granola bars.  These aren’t the solid, crunchy bars you get at the grocery store; these are moist and flavored with your favorite jam or jelly (though raspberry is what’s called for).  These came together very quickly and had a really great texture.  I also love how adaptable these are; not only can you switch up the jelly filling, but you can change out the type of nuts in the crust for a slightly different texture and flavor.

Raspberry Granola Bars (from The Craft of Baking by Karen DeMasco & Mindy Fox)

12 tbsp. butter

1 c. roughly chopped pecans

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

1 1/4 c. rolled, old-fashioned oats

1/3 c. sugar

1/3 c. brown sugar

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 c. raspberry preserves

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter an 8 inch square pan and line the bottom with parchment.  Melt the butter in a small pan; remove it from the heat and let it cool.

2. Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and bake til lightly golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes.  Cool completely.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, sugars, salt, baking soda, and pecans.  Pour in the melted butter and mix til well combined.  Transfer 2/3 of the dough to the prepared pan and press firmly to create a packed layer.

4. Spread the preserves over the dough.  (They spread easier if they’re room temperature.)  Sprinkle the remaining dough over the preserves.  Bake, rotating halfway through, til the top is golden brown and fragrant, about 40 minutes.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let it cool completely.

Raspberry Granola BarRaspberry Granola Bar 6

Now this next recipe is more like the type of granola bar you’d buy at the grocery store.  In fact, they’re a homemade version of the popular Clif bars.  I’d never really had the Clif bars, but my best friend’s husband liked to eat one after jogging.  I showed her the homemade version that one of my favorite bloggers had made, and she decided to try it for herself.  Obviously, she let me try them, and I found out just how delicious they were.  (The peanut butter has a lot to do with that for me.)  You can mix these up with add-ins, but they’re delicious just like they are.  Another benefit to these is that they’re already gluten-free and vegan (depending on the type of chocolate you use).

Homemade Clif Bars (from Brown Eyed Baker)

1 c. pitted dates

1 1/4 c. rice krispies  (You could cut down the sugar even more by using puffed brown rice.)

1 c. quick cook oats

1/4 c. coarsely chopped peanuts (I forgot about needing peanuts, so I just used almonds.)

2 tbsp. ground flaxseed (I didn’t have this, but it would add more nutritional benefits.)

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 pinch salt

1/2 c. peanut butter

1/3 c. brown rice syrup (You can also use honey, though it won’t be vegan then.)

1 tsp. vanilla

1/4 c. mini semisweet chocolate chips

1. Grease an 8 inch square pan.  In the food processor, pulse the dates til they’re finely chopped.  In a large bowl, combine the dates, rice cereal, oats, peanuts, flaxseed, cinnamon, and salt.

2. In a small saucepan, combine the peanut butter and brown rice syrup over medium heat.  Stir til they’re melted and completely blended.  Remove the syrup mixture from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

3. Pour the syrup mix over the oat mix and stir til well combined.  Gently stir in the chocolate chips.  Pour the mix into the pan and press to firmly pack it.  (I still need to work on that.)  Let sit til cool and set, at least 1 hour.  Cut into bars, wrap them in plastic, and keep them refrigerated.

Homemade CLIF barsHomemade CLIF bars 3

Before we get to the last recipe, I have another kid’s movie to share.  This time I watched Bedknobs & Broomsticks.  The story follows Miss Price, a middle-aged spinster, who’s trying to become a witch to help the war effort (WWII).  Because she lives in the country, she has to take in 3 orphans from London which doesn’t fit in with her plans.  Still, they manage to get along and go on some adventures while she tracks down the spell for substitutiary locomotion and tries to thwart a German invasion.  Overall, the movie is just fun and silly.  As a big fan of Murder, She Wrote, I enjoy watching Angela Lansbury and all her excitement over things like “my first broom.”  Though the big finale is my favorite part, I also really enjoy the scenes with “Portobello Road” and “Bobbing Along.”  Though they discuss several types of food, I didn’t think you’d want to eat elm bark, glyssop seed, or wortle yeast.  Instead, I decided to make something that could be served for afternoon tea and that had a slightly healthier aspect to it.  With whole wheat flour and rolled oats, these scones contain a tender crumb that belies its heartier flavor.  Don’t worry, it’s not too hearty, and it has a great sweetness from the maple syrup.

Maple Syrup and Oat Scones (from Smitten Kitchen)

1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour

1/2 c. whole wheat flour

1/2 c. rolled oats

1 heaping tbsp. baking powder

1 heaping tbsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 c. cubed butter

1/4 c. maple syrup  (I used Grade B for a more pronounced flavor.)

1/4 c. milk

1 beaten egg

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Grease a baking sheet.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, oats, baking powder, sugar, and salt.  Work in the butter til the mix resembles fine bread crumbs.  In a small dish, combine the milk and maple syrup; add to the flour mix.  Bring everything together to form a soft dough.  If necessary, add a little more milk, but not enough to be sticky.

2. On a lightly floured surface, pat or roll the dough to 1 1/4 inch thick.  (That’s really thick.  I didn’t do mine near that thick, and they came out just fine.)  Cut into rounds (I nearly always do triangles so that I don’t have to waste dough or re-roll it.) and place on the pan so they almost touch.  Glaze the tops with the beaten egg and bake 20-25 minutes or til lightly golden.  (I prefer my scones to have a glaze on them, so I made a simple confectioner’s sugar glaze with milk and maple syrup.)

Maple Syrup and Oat SconesMaple Syrup and Oat Scones 3

These are definitely some of my favorite breakfast treats.  What are some of your favorites?

 

Patience Pays Off March 20, 2014

And by that, I mean not only that you get the recipe which I teased you with last week, but that some recipes require you to wait for a splendid result.  Before we start the waiting, I need to quickly tell you about another treat receipt offer from Starbucks.  From now through the 23rd at participating stores, you can bring in your morning receipt and receive a free grande refresher or shaken iced tea.

Okay, back to the food.  :D  Let’s start with the teaser recipe from last week.  This recipe is the shortest of the ones I’ll share tonight, though it actually requires the most hands on work.  Most of the “work” is just stirring, so it’s not really a hard recipe.  For me, the hardest part was finding the arborio rice that’s most common for risotto.  Supposedly you can do this with any medium-grain white rice, but I was lucky enough to find arborio at Trader Joe’s.  (I’ve only been there once, but I can see why some people are obsessed with it.)  The original recipe tells you to roast some asparagus and serve the risotto on top of it.  I did serve this with asparagus, but that was mostly just coincidental, and I served the asparagus on the side.  For me this was a main course, but for the hubby I served it alongside a sauteed pork chop.  Both of us thought that it was very creamy (even though there’s no cream in it) and delicious.

Walnut Risotto (from Epicurious.com)

5-5 1/2 c. veggie broth (I used chicken broth, and it tasted fine.)

2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1/3 c. chopped onion

1 1/4 c. arborio rice

1/4 c. finely chopped toasted walnuts (Since the walnut is the star, do not skimp on toasting them.  It really amps up the flavor.)

1/4 c. grated Parmesan

1. In a medium saucepan, bring the broth to a simmer.  Once it does, cover it and remove from the heat.  In another medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and saute til light golden, about 4 minutes.  Add the rice and stir for a minute.  Add 1/2 cup of the broth and stir til it evaporates, about 2 minutes.  Continue adding the broth, 1/2 cup at a time, til the rice is tender and creamy, stirring frequently and allowing most of the broth to be absorbed before adding more, about 25 minutes.

2. Once the rice is tender, mix in the walnuts and Parmesan.  Season to taste and serve immediately.

Walnut Risotto with Roasted AsparausWalnut Risotto with Roasted Asparaus 3

The next recipe that I have requires you to wait over an hour for it to cook, but it is incredibly worth it.  I think I may have mentioned a few times before that I am a huge fan of pound cake.  This one is a great example of a classic pound cake, and I enjoyed every crumb of it.  The cream cheese gives it a little bit of tang that went really nicely with the strawberry sauce I made.  I also finally tried frying a slice of pound cake in butter (like French toast), and it was fantastic.  Basically, this pound cake is good no matter what you do to it or serve with it.  I strongly suggest that you make it soon.  (By the way, if you think it looks a little short, you’d be right.  I only made a half batch; a regular loaf would have twice as much goodness to love.)

Cream Cheese Pound Cake (from Martha Stewart)

1 1/2 c. softened butter

8 oz. softened cream cheese

3 c. sugar

6 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla

3 c. all-purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Lightly butter a 10 inch tube pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, combine the butter and cream cheese on medium speed til the mix is smooth.  Add the sugar and increase the speed to high; beat til the mixture is light and airy, 5 minutes.  Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Add the vanilla, then the flour and salt.  Beat just til incorporated.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and shake lightly to even out the top.  Bake til golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 75 minutes.

4. Place the pan on a cooling rack and let cool for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, remove the cake from the pan and cool completely on the wire rack.

Cream Cheese Pound Cake 2Cream Cheese Pound Cake 3

Cream Cheese Pound Cake 4Cream Cheese Pound Cake 5

Now this recipe takes a while because it’s a slow-cooker recipe.  The put-together is super quick and easy, and the flavor is great (though I wouldn’t mind even more ranch flavor).  What are you waiting for?  Start making it!

Slow-Cooker Bacon-Ranch Chicken and Pasta (from Betty Crocker)

1 lb. chicken breasts

6 slices cooked, diced bacon

2-3 cloves finely chopped garlic

1 1 oz. pkg. ranch dressing mix

1 10 3/4 o. can condensed cream of chicken soup

1 c. sour cream  (I’ve seen some people talk about replacing part of all of the sour cream with ranch dressing.  I’ll try it next time.)

1/2 tsp. pepper

1/2 c. water

8 oz. spaghetti

1. Grease the slow-cooker and place the chicken in the bottom.  In a medium bowl, mix together all the other ingredients except for the spaghetti noodles.  Pour the mix over the chicken.

2. Cover the slow-cooker and cook on low for 6 hours (or high for 3-4 hours).  When only 15 minutes are left, cook and drain the spaghetti according to the package instructions.

3. Shred the chicken with 2 forks and toss together the sauce, chicken, and pasta.

Slow-Cooker Bacon-Ranch Chicken and PastaSlow-Cooker Bacon-Ranch Chicken and Pasta  2

And now I’ve saved the best for last.  This next recipe takes just 3 ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry.  It takes just minutes to put together.  But then you have to let it set up overnight!  Let me tell you, this one will test your self-control.  I have it on good authority that they taste amazing cold, but our room-temp ones also disappeared super fast.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bars (from this pin)

1 c. peanut butter

1 c. honey

3 c. old-fashioned oats (These were somewhat al dente.  I’m interested to see what would happen if I used quick-cook oats.)

1. In a medium saucepan, melt together the peanut butter and honey.  Stir in the oats.

2. Press the mixture into a 9 in. square pan, cover, and let harden overnight.  (Ours didn’t set up as much as I expected, but I think that was due to the stormy weather we had at the time.)

Peanut Butter Oatmeal BarsPeanut Butter Oatmeal Bars 2

Well, your patience has been rewarded with some amazing recipes, and as a bonus I decided to throw in some pictures that I captured a few days ago from my balcony.  Another little birdie decided to pay me a visit, and I managed to snap several shots before he flew off.

3-17 Today's Weather 23-17 Today's Weather 4

3-17 Today's Weather 63-17 Today's Weather 7

What little moment surprised you this week?

 

An Interesting Couple of Weeks March 11, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — foodfaithandfinds @ 10:29 PM
Tags: , , , ,

Obviously, it’s been a little longer than usual since my last post.  I had several get-togethers with friends and family last week, which kind of made blogging fall by the wayside for a minute.  I was thinking of y’all and trying to post, but I just never got quite enough time.  Therefore, today’s post might be a bit on the long side. ;)  I’ve got some things to share from February as well as a kick-off for my new series.  Let’s start with some of my February highlights.

One of the biggest highlights for me was y’all.  This February, the blog got the most view I’ve ever had in a single month: 291 views from 205 visitors!!!!  Especially for the shortest month in the year, I think that’s amazing!!!!

The weather around here has been a little crazy, but it’s given me the chance to enjoy another new “find”.  I’ve recently fallen in love with tights.  When it’s incredibly cold out, I feel better just having a little something extra covering my legs.  I’ve seen tights in magazines, but wasn’t sure if I’d like them.  (I have some vague memories of wearing itchy, ill-fitting tights when I was a little girl.)  Still, I found some at Kohl’s that weren’t too thick (so not itchy) and came in a variety of colors.  All I currently have is gray, but I’m looking forward to expanding my collection in preparation for next winter.  What do you think?

Tights 2

Another new find was a type of sandwich that I’d seen floating around on Pinterest.  Pins like this one show people making peanut butter sandwiches with apple slices as the bread.  It seemed like a neat idea, so I finally gave it a try.  I think the flavor is really good, but the sandwiches are messy to eat.  It would be less messy if you made them open-face, and that’s still a cool idea for midday snack.  I had some with just peanut butter and others that also had some pumpkin seeds.  You could use just about any spread and top them with all sorts of goodies.  What would you put on yours?

Apple-Peanut Butter Sandwich

And though it’s not about February, I have something else that might make you smile.  For the month of March, Orange Leaf (my favorite frozen yogurt joint) is offering double points on all purchases that you make with your Orange card (their free reward card).  Their latest flavor is pistachio, and I can’t wait to try it while earning double points.

In my last post, I mentioned that I was planning another series.  Newer readers may not know that in 2012 from February through September, I did a weekly series where I would share one of my favorite romantic comedy movies and a recipe that went along with it.  I’ve been updating those posts lately, and it reminded me of all the fun I had working on them.  I thought it was time to do another series, and I’m kicking it off with this post.  This time around, I want to share some of my favorite children’s movies and find recipes to complement them.  I probably won’t share one every week, but hopefully 1-2 a month.

The first kid’s movie that I picked to share is a classic: Beauty and the Beast from Disney.  Growing up, this was one of my favorite movies, and I really enjoyed watching it again.  The movie is based on the classic fairy tale where a fairy or witch curses a proud prince to live as a hideous beast until he can earn a woman’s love.  (See the trailer here.)  In true Disney form, the movie contains a lot of funny supporting characters (like Lumiere and Cogsworth), witty lines to keep adults entertained (“If it’s not Baroque, don’t fix it.”) and incredible music that will get stuck in your head for a while.  (I’m also partial to the incredible library in the castle.  One of my favorite fictional rooms ever!)

Since the movie is based in France, I knew that I wanted to go with some type of classic French food.  It’s been awhile since I tried my hand at pate a choux (the dough for gougeres, cream puffs, and eclairs), and I wanted to give it another try.  (See my first foray with it here.)  Well, pate a choux seem to be my culinary nemesis.  Last time, I mentioned that my gougeres didn’t puff as much as they should.  This time things were even worse!  My husband thinks it’s the rain and yucky weather we’ve been having, but I had no end of trouble with these.  Not only did my cream puffs not puff up quite enough, but my pastry cream didn’t thicken up like it was supposed to.  Everything tasted great, but they weren’t very pretty.  Here’s one of the most photogenic ones.  (By the way, since they didn’t turn out, I’m not sharing the recipe.)

Cream PuffsCream Puffs 2

Lastly, I wanted to share some of my recent pictures.  At the beginning of the year, I told you that I was trying to take a photo every day, but it’s been at least a month since I shared any.  I do have a picture for every day, but not all them are worthy of being shared.  But there have been some more inspired shots lately that I’ve been really excited to share with you.  Check these out!

2-26 Light  This one’s caption was “Light”.

2-27 My View Today     2-27 My View Today 2  For “My View Today”  I caught some glistening frost on a parked car as well as a cute bird under the eaves.

3-3 Just Because 2  This one wasn’t for the photo of the day, but I couldn’t resist the beautiful sunrise I saw.

Lastly, I wanted to share today’s picture.  The caption was “Something Good”.  I decided to take a picture of tonight’s dinner, and use it as a teaser for an upcoming post.  Does this look good to you?

3-11 Something Good

Come back soon for the recipe!  Hope you have a great rest of the week.

 

 
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