Monday, January 30, 2012

Purple Cabbage Salad with Edamame, Golden Raisins, and Smoked Almonds

It has seemed more like spring around here with quick winter moments peaking through maybe once a week.  We had a terrible thunderstorm earlier last week and I found myself with eyes peeled open in the middle of the night listening for softball size hail or a tornado.  I was terrified.  I am not used to thunderstorms anymore, which I find strange since I grew up in the Coastal Texas Region where storms are aplenty.

Even though this has been a springlike winter I have been searching for a colorful salad that would brighten things up a bit.  I think this salad is beautiful and so very colorful.  I simply adore smoked almonds and snack on them quite often, so I thought they were a perfect fit for this crunchy, sweet salad.

Purple Cabbage Salad with Edamame, Golden Raisins, and Smoked Almonds
Vegetarian Times January 2011
serves 6

1 1/2 cups frozen shelled edamame
2 cups thinly sliced red cabbage
1 orange bell pepper, cored, seeded, and thinly sliced
1 cup finely diced pineapple
1/4 cup golden raisins
16 smoked almonds, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 Tablespoons honey
1/4 tsp. chile-garlic sauce
  1. Bring a small pot of water to a boil.  Add frozen edamame, and cook for 8-10 minutes.  Drain, rinse under cold water.
  2. Transfer to a large bowl; add cabbage, bell pepper, pineapple, raisins, almonds, mint, lime juice, honey, and chile-garlic sauce.  Toss well, and season with salt and pepper.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Birds Outside My Window (Recipe: Brown Sugar Oatmeal Pancakes)

Winter's Solitude
"La-Di-Da-Da-Dah, birds outside my window," is the little melody I hear my son sing every morning the birds feed from the birdhouse hanging from the backyard tree.  I can't keep up with their appetites and I'm afraid they are beginning to peck a hole in my pocket book.
Abandoned Homes
The winter birds are more pleasant that the grackles that monopolize the trees during the summer.  I can see three abandoned grackle nests from a second story window and really don't feel myself missing their absence.  The past weeks have brought us loads of house sparrows, a few finches, an occasional turtle dove, a few blue jays and cardinals.  I wish more blue jays would visit, they are my favorite.
Camouflaged:  Can you find the two birds in the left frame and the three in the right frame?

Baking Tot had put in a request for pancakes one morning and being that I hadn't made pancakes in a while thought it was a brilliant idea.  I wanted to try something other than our usual buttermilk or whole wheat pancakes and came across a recipe for Brown Sugar Oatmeal Pancakes.  They are perfect for the colder months. The oatmeal lends a hardiness that isn't found in our usual pancakes and the brown sugar adds a hint of caramel flavoring.  It would be a great additional to your breakfast repertoire, as it is a quick recipe to whip up and the batter can be made in advance.
Brown Sugar Oatmeal Pancakes

Brown Sugar Oatmeal Pancakes
***need some batter advice:  go here for the key to a light and fluffy pancake.
Yield:  about 10 pancakes

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup buttermilk
  1. In a small bowl, combine the oats, flours, baking soda, salt and sugar.  In another bowl, beat the egg, oil and buttermilk.  Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.
  2. Pour batter by 1/3 cupful onto a greased hot griddle.  Turn when bubbles form on top; cook until the second side is golden brown.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Bowl Game Recipe: Jalapeno Ranch Dip

Unfortunately our beloved Houston Texans will not be moving on to the conference championship or the Superbowl for that matter.  We (and when I say we, I mean my husband) are Dallas Cowboy fans by heart, but we will always support any team representing Texas!

I really love bowl game food.  Pizza, lil' smokies drenched in BBQ sauce, buffalo wings and tons of chips and dips.  This Jalapeno Ranch Dip is cool, fresh and lends some heat from the jalapeno.  You can make it as spicy as you'd like by adding more peppers.  My MIL likes about 3-4 peppers added to the dip and my FIL drizzles it over his salad.  It is an easy, versatile and scrumptious recipe and would be a great addition to that Superbowl party you'll be attending.

Jalapeno Ranch Dip
1 1/3c. mayonnaise
1/3 c. buttermilk
2 jalapenos, finely diced
1/3 c. canned diced green chiles, drained
1/3 c. cilantro, chopped
1 package dry ranch dressing mix
  1. Combine all ingredients into a bowl and stir until incorporated.  Chill.
  2. Serve with tortilla chips
***You can also use this dip for a wonderful salad dressing.  Just thin it out a bit with water.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The color of winter (Recipe: WW Beer Bread)

Nature's Ornaments

Its hard to believe that Christmas has passed, we rang in the New Year and have said goodbye to the second week of January, all the while wearing shorts and tee-shirts down here in The Lone Star State.
Today has finally given us something that resembles winter-overcast skies, wind and a cool drizzling of rain.  The few handfuls of leaves still grasping to the pear tree won't last long now.  They have a story of fight and survival on their hands and thus must be strong.

Somebody is hungry
My husband and I took very good care of our trees during this past summer's painful drought.  We followed the restrictions but never missed a watering day-our trees can show for that.  Their colors are great, from the deepest purple, to the crimson reds that fade to oranges and yellows.  We must exercise patience here in Texas, as our changing of the leaves come during the winter months.  They are resilient.
They have a story to tell
I've been tinkering with my new toy, a camera the hubs surprised me with for Christmas.  I love it and am very pleased with it.  I have a lot to learn in order to get the quality I hope for.  The nature shots are with the new camera.  The picture of the rather healthy hawk stalking my parent's backyard was taken from the inside of the house and the zoom impressed me greatly.  Not a bad shot through a window pane on a rather foggy morning.  The bread pic is taken with my oldie but goodie (which is still held together by tape).

They last few just holding on
When the weather turns cold you can usually find our kitchen bubbling with a spicy gumbo.  We love beer bread paired with Cajun food.  It accompanies gumbo and seafood stews really well.  I think a thick slice slathered with butter is a perfect snack for a winter's day that is trying so hard to get here.

WW Beer Bread
Whole Wheat Beer Bread
1 loaf
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
4 1/2 t. baking powder
1 1/2 t. salt
1/3 c. packed brown sugar
1 (12-fl. oz) bottle beer (we use Shiner-'cause its the law)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degree F.  Lightly grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, stir the flours, baking powder, and salt together.  Add brown sugar and mix the dry ingredients together.  Add the beer and stir until a stiff batter forms.  Scrape dough into prepared pan.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

My love for sundogs (Recipe: Butternut Squash Risotto)

I love sun dogs, the atmospheric phenomenon that happens when the sun is low and ice crystals reside in whispy cirrus clouds.  At that perfect moment when the ice crystals refract the sun's rays and glint their light toward our eyes we can see a burst of color in a luminous, iridescent cloud.  It is a rarity to see in Texas-I've only seen two, one on Christmas Day in 2006 and the second, yesterday.  I had spotted them many times living in Idaho and felt yesterdays sun dog was a small Texas treasure.

When I laid my eyes upon the small cloud bursting with red, which faded to blue as it neared the sun, I was overjoyed and excited.  I grabbed my phone to try to capture its beauty, but my poor camera was too weak.  Soon after I found myself longing for a winter's drive in Idaho.

Its funny how one moment can take you back to someplace unexpected.  I was quickly reminded of a drive my husband and I took on a cold January afternoon.  We encountered a ground blizzard as we traveled into Cache Valley and had watched a rare, wet, slushy snow fall heavily to the earth during our lunch in Utah.  I was hesitant to drive home with such inclement weather but was pleasantly surprise by the beauty that rode the coattails of the snow storm.

The weather became clear and crisp.  Through the cliffs and  hillsides we spotted herds of white tailed deer.  We traveled over frozen creeks and rivers.  But best of all there were sun dogs to west and a full moon rising in the east.  A beautiful ending to the day.

I know you have probably seen a couple thousand recipes of Butternut Squash Risotto out in blogland.  I am always pleased with the warmth and creaminess of this dish.  I find it to be the perfect meal for a chilly sun dog kind of day.

Butternut Squash Risotto
6 servings
  • 1 butternut squash (2 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup minced shallots (2 large)
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio Rice (10 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1.    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2.    Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cut it into 1-inch cubes. Place the squash on a sheet pan and season it with salt, pepper and toss it with olive oil.  Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once, until very tender. Set aside.
3.    Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a small covered sauce pan. Leave it on low heat to simmer. 
4.    In a heavy-bottomed pot melt the butter and saute shallots on medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until the shallots are translucent but not browned. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes.
5.    Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add the stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 30 minutes total.
6.    Off the heat, add the roasted squash cubes and Parmesan Cheese. Mix well and serve.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Hello 2012 (Recipe: Black Forest Cookies)

Its the beginning of the New Year and I haven't one goal set for the year.  I'm glad.  I want it that way.  New and exciting things are upon us this year and I can't wait to share.  First, we are finally back in the groove of home improvement.  We took a year hiatus, but are now back in business.

Baking Tots room will be transformed from Nautical Nursery to Big Boy Superhero room.  He is moving rooms as well, one that is not in the sun for the majority of daylight hours during summer.  We are also getting rid of the nasty carpet that barely survived the family of six that lived here before us and was definitely laid to rest by a certain toddler.  I am very excited about that!

I have a new and wonderful camera that I have been getting acquainted with, thanks to my hubby.  It will be a great addition to the blog.  A new baby will be arriving in July.  Not mine!  My sister's!  And hopefully I'll have some foodie news to share in a few months.  I have a good feeling about 2012.  How about you?

As I said before, I did not lay any goals out for the New Year.  And where there are no goals, there are no food restrictions and thus I must share a cookie recipe that is filled with dried cherries,  subtle in chocolaty favor and sweetened with confectioners sugar.
Black Forest Cookies
yield:  about 4 dozen cookies
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 3/4 cups flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons water
1 cup dried tart cherries
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Cream butter an sugar.  Beat in egg.
  2. Whisk together flour, cocoa, salt, and baking soda.  Stir flour mixture into creamed butter mixture along with almond extract & water.  Mix well until blended.
  3. Stir in dried cherries.
  4. Shape dough into 1 inch ball.  Roll balls in confectioners sugar, twice, and place 2 inches apart on lightly greased cookie sheets.  
  5. Bake 15 minutes or until tops feel firm when touched.  Transfer cookies to wire racks; let cool.  Store in airtight container.