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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Quinoa

I'm so glad it's Thursday, finally.  This week had been busy, but long at the same time.  My kids have all started with their practices for their spring sports, so we are busy every night except for Fridays.  On an unrelated side note, I really need a manicure.  Today was a good day, though.  There was lots of good news and things to be happy about.  It really feels like spring.  A time for rebirth and awakening; a fresh start.  The weather is warmer, and salads and lighter food is on the menu.

Raise you hand if you've ever tried quinoa.  What?  You've never heard of it?  Well, let me tell you a little about it.  Pronounced keen-wah, it is a grain, usually used as a side dish.  Quinoa looks similar to couscous, but is cooked like rice.  (2-1, water to grain ratio)  It's good for you, too.  It's actually a complete protein source.

uncooked quinoa

You can make quinoa many different ways. It's very versatile. I've added feta, cucumbers and tomatoes with dressing to make a Greek Quinoa, or  lots of fresh herbs and olive oil.  I've also cooked it with chicken broth instead of water and added sauteed onions and a little butter.  It can be eaten hot or cold, so it's a good thing to take to a party.  Really, the sky's the limit with this stuff.  I'm curious how other people eat it.  If you have a favorite way to prepare quinoa, please let me know.  If you haven't tried it, give it a whirl.  It's spring-time for growth and change!



xoxo
~*~Melissa~*~

Monday, April 11, 2011

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

While we were on vacation, we went to an Amish market.  They had the best homemade pretzels.  They had a deal - buy a milkshake or an ice cream float and get a free pretzel.  It was great.  They also had a bakery with pies and cookies and all sorts of homemade breads.  The market was full of  fresh fruits and veggies.  The weather here is still too unpredictable for us to be able to put our plants in the ground, but they had huge zucchini already.  We spent a long time in there.  I found huge Brussels sprouts.  They were so gorgeous.  I had to buy them.  I love Brussels sprouts.  Do you know that they are called Brussels sprouts and not brussel sprouts?  I think many people are confused about that.  Here is some info about Brussels sprouts, if anyone is interested.

I made these Brussels sprouts to bring to a barbecue over the weekend.  I was a little nervous bringing them because I know they are not the most popular vegetable, but I figured what the heck?  They were a hit!  I was told by a couple people that these were the best Brussels sprouts they had ever tasted.  I even convinced a Brussels sprouts hater to try them and he said he liked them.  The secret to tasty veggies is roasting them.  It's true.  Try roasting just about any vegetable and you will find the flavors to be much more intense and sweeter.  Try this Brussels Sprouts recipe.  You will enjoy it.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with a Balsamic Onion Glaze and Bacon

  • Brussels sprouts
  • half an onion
  • about 4 slices of bacon chopped
  • about 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter as needed


  1. half or quarter the Brussels sprouts, depending on their size
  2. spread on a sheet tray and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper
  3. roast Brussels sprouts in a 400 degree oven for about 40 minutes (they are delicious just like this!)

  4. while Brussels sprouts are roasting, saute chopped bacon pieces until crispy
  5. remove bacon from the pan and add half of a chopped onion
  6. saute onions until soft - add butter if more fat needs to be added (I used turkey bacon, so I added butter because there wasn't enough fat)
  7. add balsamic vinegar to the pan and cook until reduced by half, 5-10 minutes
  8. remove from heat
  9. when Brussels sprouts are done roasting, add them to the pan with the balsamic glaze
  10. transfer to a serving bowl and add bacon pieces
  11.      
      ~*~Melissa~*~

Smoothie For Judy

My family and I just got back from our spring break vacation.  It was a nice relaxing trip, but it's good to get back into the old routine.  It's really nice to get back into my kitchen!  Vacations and eating out are nice, but I know I miss a home cooked meal after a while.  Cooking for yourself healthier and is souls satisfying.  This recipe isn't something you cook, but it's a good one to have in your repertoire.  In my post for banana bread muffins, I mentioned using frozen bananas in a smoothie.  I then had a request for a smoothie recipe, so here ya go!  This is a good one for the upcoming warm summer months.

Smoothie

  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 cup frozen fruit - anything will work, I used raspberries and pineapple
  • 1 individual cup of Greek yogurt - again any flavor will work, I used plain
  • 2 cups milk or one cup of milk and one cup of orange juice
  • handful of ice
  • agave nectar to taste, depending on sweetness of your fruit

Add ingredients to blender and blend away!!
You can do any combination of fruits or yogurt.  You can even add protein powder for some extra nutrients.  You may need more or less liquid, depending on the fruit, also.  Don't be afraid to experiment.  I make my smoothies different every time.  : )


~*~ Melissa ~*~

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Keftedes

This is my great grandmother's recipe for Greek meatballs.  I debated whether or not to put the recipe on my blog, because it is very special to me.  I have had several people ask me for it and I don't mind sharing with my friends.  It makes me happy to know that others are enjoying Giagia's meatballs as much as I do.  So, I figured I'd put it up here so I can have it for myself and also so I can share it with you. (all 10 of you!!)


Giagia and Pappous


I don't have any pictures of the keftedes.  I have made them so many times, I just never thought to pull out my camera and take a picture.  They look like meatballs.  Ha!  I will be sure to add pictures to this post the next time I make them.  I need to get the recipe posted quickly for a friend, though.  I actually have a copy of the original recipe written in my great grandmother's handwriting.  That is something that is priceless to me.  She didn't include exact measurements, and I don't use them either, so the amounts here are my best guess.  Please let me know if you make these and how they turned out or if you have any questions. 

Keftedes (Greek Meatballs)

  • 2 lbs ground chuck
  • 4 slices of bread
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 c of milk
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 whole onion finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons dried mint or 2 tablespoons fresh mint
  • 1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil
  • butter
  • 3-4 fresh lemons or more if you like lemon!
  • flour for dusting
  • LOVE

  1. pour milk over slices of bread and then squeeze out excess milk
  2. combine beef, bread, eggs, garlic, onions, mint, parsley and salt and pepper and mix well
  3. If you aren't sure about the seasoning, form a small ball of the mixture and cook it in a bit of olive oil and taste.  Add more salt and pepper if needed.
  4. cover meat mixture with a wet paper towel and refrigerate overnight
  5. with oiled hands, roll meat mixture into equal sized balls
  6. roll the meatballs in flour
  7. saute the meatballs in a mixture of butter and olive oil, cooking in batches so as not to over crowd the pan
  8. when browned, move meatballs to a warm oven or a slow cooker
  9. squeeze half a lemon over each batch of browned meatballs
  10. when done sauteeing all the meatballs, deglaze the pan with another half lemon, scraping up all of the brown bits and pour over meatballs
  11. keep in oven or slow cooker until cooked through (no longer pink)
I like my meatballs very lemony, so I serve them with extra lemons on the side.  Also, I eat my keftedes without any sauce.  Some like them with a tomato based sauce and others serve them with cucumber-yogurt sauce for dipping.  These are great for a party because the longer they sit, the more flavorful they are.  Also, they can be made ahead, which is always nice.  They are different from regular meatballs in their flavor, but not so different people are afraid to try them.  I've never made them for anyone who didn't like them, but I can never seem to make them as well as my Mamaw and Giagia did.  They must be made with love.   

~*~Melissa~*~

Monday, March 28, 2011

Kaylacakes

Tomorrow is my daughter's best friend's birthday.  My daughter had a plan to make cupcakes and surprise Kayla at school with them.  She asked me to buy yellow cake mix so that she could make them herself.  Well, the plan fell through, because the girls don't have lunch together and my daughter couldn't figure out a time to get them to her.  They do a study group at my house on Mondays after school, so I decided to make the cupcakes myself and surprise her them.  Yellow cupcakes out of a box didn't really sound all that exciting for me to make, though.  I don't have anything against box cake mixes, really.  They have their place, but not on a cooking blog.  The Pioneer Woman was talking about some cappuccino muffins  by Erica Berge on Facebook.  They are made with Starbucks Via instant coffee, which I absolutely love.  Kayla loves Starbucks, so I thought I would make some cupcakes using the Starbucks Via that I have.  Oh my gosh these are good.  They really have a strong coffee flavor and the texture is perfect.  The frosting is not too sweet because of the cream cheese and the coffee.  They are definitely an adult cupcake, but my kids like them too.  If you have a coffee lover in your life, make these.  They are delicious and easy!



Kaylacakes

(Mocha cupcakes with cappuccino frosting)

Mocha Cupcakes
  • 1 box of yellow cake mix
  • 1/4 c cocoa powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 2 packages of Starbucks Via, French roast
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/3 c vegetable oil
Mix together eggs, water, Starbucks Via, melted butter and oil.  Add cake mix and cocoa and stir until combined.  Pour batter into muffin tins lined with cupcake wrappers.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Cappuccino Frosting

  • 1 package of cream cheese at room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons of butter at room temperature
  • 1 package of Starbucks Via
  • 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons of milk
  • 4 c powdered sugar
In a mixer, mix together butter and cream cheese until smooth with no lumps.  Mix together Starbucks Via, cocoa powder and milk.  Add this mixture to the butter cream cheese mixture and stir until blended.  Slowly add powdered sugar, one cup at a time until is is incorporated.  You may need more or less powdered sugar to get the right consistency. 




~*~Melissa~*~

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Pretzel Bread

It's Wednesday.  Wednesday is kids' night at Buffalo Wild Wings.  Since my husband is gone from Monday morning until Friday night,  I enjoy kids' night with my friends.  A couple of my friends' husbands work nights and I have another friend who is a single dad.   Since we are all on our own, it's nice to have a break in the middle of the week.  Kids' night allows us to relax, talk and drink a beer while the kids are entertaining each other.  Plus, there is a cute server who is usually working.  Bonus!  Tonight, two of the kids have strep throat, one of them has an ear infection and a sinus infection, and two of the moms aren't feeling well.  We decided to skip Buffalo Wild Wings tonight and we'll try to go next week.

All of that just to say, I had to cook dinner tonight.  I served this pretzel bread with my beer cheese soup.  I thank my friend Lisa for the idea.  It is so good.  It's just like eating a soft pretzel.  It takes a while to make, as bread does, but it's so worth it.  Baking your own bread is like baking your own cinnamon rolls.  It's just so much better than buying it from the store.  Plus, kneading the dough is therapeutic.  Also, you can control the salt and the butter.  Just make this bread, okay?  Trust me.



Pretzel Bread

Ingredients:
  • 1 package yeast
  • 1 cup water (110-120 degrees) 
  • 2 tbsp milk 
  • 1 tbsp dark brown sugar 
  • 3 tbsp butter 
  • 1 tsp kosher salt 
  • 2 ½ – 3 cups flour

  • 4 quarts water 
  • ½ cup baking soda
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter

 Directions:


 Add yeast, water, milk, brown sugar and butter into a large bowl.  Whisk until ingredients are combined.
 Let mixture rest for 10 minutes. Mix in kosher salt and two cups of the flour and combine with other ingredients. Add more flour as needed.


The dough should form a slightly sticky ball. Place the dough ball into an oiled bowl, and cover with a damp towel for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, knead the dough by hand or machine for at least 5-10 minutes until the dough is elastic and satiny. Place dough back in the bowl and cover for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and bring the 4 quarts of water to a boil. When the water is boiling,  add the baking soda.

Remove the dough from the bowl and gently knead it, removing air bubbles. Form two separate balls of dough. Drop one of the balls into the baking soda bath for 30 seconds or less, turning it once to guarantee both sides covered. Drain the excess water from the dough and place it on an oiled baking sheet. Repeat with second ball of dough.

Sprinkle the kosher salt over the bread to your taste, and use a knife to cut a small incision on the top of the bread so the dough has somewhere to expand.
Cook the bread for 25 minutes.
Once removed from the oven, immediately brush the melted butter over the loaves.

enjoy!

~*~Melissa~*~

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Kelsey Nixon's Caramelitas


Happy Tuesday!  I don't mind Tuesday.  It's one day closer to Friday. Plus, I have nothing I have to do on Tuesdays.  At least until soccer practice starts up again.  Mondays I don't enjoy, except for yesterday wasn't so bad. Yesterday I worked out with a trainer at the gym.  It was great.  I only wish he would make me work out every day.  That would be the best, wouldn't it?  I honestly don't mind working out, but I like having company.  Who wants to be my workout partner? I really need one.  Working out is essential if you want to eat things like caramelitas. I made the caramelitas as promised in my salted caramel sauce post.  If you already have the caramel sauce prepared, it's a really fast and easy recipe to put together.  These are very rich and I found them very sweet.  I'm wondering if maybe I should have put a little more sea salt into my caramel sauce...?
My kids, of course loved these.  I also gave some to my neighbor.  He texted me as soon as he got home saying they were sooo good.  I think I am going to bring some to my trainer as well.  That would be nice.  Do healthy people eat things like this?  Maybe not all the time, but who would turn down a homemade gift, right?  Oh, I almost forgot to mention, I left out the nuts in these bars.  My daughter's best friend, a.k.a my other daughter, was recently diagnosed with a nut allergy.  She's almost 14 years old.  Just goes to show you really can develop an allergy at any age.  It's a good thing she never liked nuts, I guess.



Caramelitas
by Kelsey Nixon


Ingredients

2 cups flour

1 3/4 cups quick-cooking oats

1 1/4 cups brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup chocolate chips

3/4 cup chopped pecans

1 1/2 cups Salted Caramel Sauce, recipe follows

2 1/2 tablespoons flour

Salted Caramel Sauce



Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 by 13-inch pan.



Combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, and softened butter in the bowl of a mixer. Mix on low until crumbly. Divide the mixture into 2 equal portions.



Press half the crumb mixture in the prepared pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove and cool slightly.



Sprinkle the chocolate chips, and chopped pecans over the cooled crust. Mix the salted caramel sauce, and flour together, and drizzle over the chocolate chips, and nuts. Top with the remaining crumb mixture.



Return to the oven and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes or until the crust starts to brown. Allow the pan to cool, and refrigerate it until the caramel filling is set.



Cut into bars and serve.