Thursday, February 28, 2013

Mediterranean Salad with Hummus Pesto Dressing

It's a little strange that I chose to share a recipe for a hearty soup on day that held promise of the spring to come and this salad just a few days after the snow just wouldn't stop falling, but during the tumultuous transition between winter and spring, it can be a little hard to eat with the weather. But even though this is a salad, it certainly leaves you plenty satisfied and full of energy to tackle shoveling or more optimistically, take a long walk with the dog on a sunny spring day. Perhaps the Mediterranean Salad moniker is a bit too liberal or a bit too generic, but it is a collection of many ingredients often used in Mediterranean cooking that I absolutely love. It's a riff on my typical salad recipe, a plethora of raw and roasted veggies with cheese and nuts, but made particularly rich-feeling by the creamy hummus pesto dressing. The roasted red pepper adds an element of smokiness, the marinated artichokes spiciness and astringency, the olives and cheese both richness and saltiness, all finished with a sprinkling of crunchy, toasty walnuts. My initial instinct was to toss this salad with balsamic vinaigrette, but when I saw some lonely last bits of pesto and hummus in the fridge, I immediately thought of transforming them into a simple, flavorful dressing that became the pièce de résistance that finished this salad. It's perfectly filling as is, but if you're feeling particularly ravenous or want to stretch this to feed two, some chickpeas or grilled chicken certainly wouldn't be out of place. It may not be a warm Greek beach looking out upon cerulean waters, but perhaps these collection of flavors will take you away from the toils of winter for just a lunch.

Mediterranean Salad with Hummus Pesto Dressing
serves 1

2 cups chopped fresh spinach, lettuce, or salad greens (about 2 ounces)
1/2 jarred roasted red pepper, sliced (about 2 ounces)
4 or 5 jarred marinated artichoke hearts, drained and sliced (about 1.5 ounces)
2 tablespoons black olives
2-4 tablespoons crumbled goat or feta cheese (1/2 to 1 ounce)
2 tablespoons chopped toasted pine nuts or walnuts
Hummus Pesto Dressing, for serving (recipe follows)

1. Spread greens evenly on a large plate and top with peppers, artichokes, olive, cheese, and nuts. Drizzle with Hummus Pesto Dressing (or other dressing of choice) and enjoy!

Hummus Pesto Dressing
makes about 3/4 cup

1/2 cup roasted garlic, roasted red pepper or regular hummus
2 tablespoons prepared pesto
1/4 cup water

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl or jar and whisk or shake to thoroughly combine.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Creamy Mushroom and Red Potato Soup

Despite some warm and sunny days, winter is not quite behind us here in Wisconsin. And although I'm very eager for spring to arrive, I figure I might as well relish the end of the season by indulging in some of my favorite cold-weather foods, most notably hearty soups and stews. This soup couldn't fit the bill more perfectly. Nothing builds the better base for a hearty soup like potatoes, which eagerly soak up all the earthiness the mushrooms lend to the broth. A combination of shiitakes and baby bellas are the perfect compromise of superior flavor and affordability, the very embodiment of umami. Low-fat milk and sour cream make the soup exceptionally creamy and silky without being overly caloric and bathe everything in smoky paprika and bright dill. The dairy base means this soup won't freeze well, so indulge in a delicious bowl or two (or three) now and say goodbye to Old Man Winter.

Creamy Mushroom and Red Potato Soup
adapted from Eating Well
serves 6

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 pound cremini (baby bella) mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
4 cups mushroom, vegetable, or reduced-sodium beef broth
2 cups 1% or 2% milk
1 1/2 pounds red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into small dice
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream

1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, onion, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid evaporates, 10 to 15 minutes.

2. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms are very soft, about 3 minutes more. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, paprika and dill. Add to mushroom mixture and cook, stirring constantly until mushrooms are coated in the spice mixture. Add broth, milk and potatoes; cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to maintain a lively simmer and cook, uncovered, until the potatoes are tender, about 5 to 10 minutes more. Remove from the heat and stir in sour cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Overnight Whole Wheat Sour Cream Coffee Cake for Two

I love playing the role of hostess. I probably stress over the finer details of hosting far more than I need to, but I always want people to feel welcome well taken care of when they visit me. When my dad came to stay with us for a night after going to my cousin's wedding, I couldn't miss an opportunity to make him a home-cooked meal, even if he was only around for breakfast. My husband was responsible for the late night drive back from Chicago and he's not really a breakfast person (at least not as early I'm ready to eat), but this made it the ideal opportunity to try out one of the breakfast for two recipes in my recipe queue. Because this coffee cake can be prepared ahead or even frozen, it makes you into an even better host as you can spend time with your guests while breakfast is prepared and perfumes the house with irresistible aromas. As is my wont, I made this into a whole grain recipe, also swapping out light brown sugar for the more deeply flavored dark brown sugar and spicing it up a bit with some freshly ground nutmeg. I rarely question the genius of America's Test Kitchen, but I think my few simple swaps made what was already a delicious basic coffee cake into an even better one. ATK also offers up a few variations and now that I've verified the success of the basic recipe, either their variations or some of my own are sure to follow.

Overnight Whole Wheat Sour Cream Coffee Cake for Two
adapted from America's Test Kitchen Cooking for Two 2010
serves 2

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts, pecans, or almonds

2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/4 cup regular or light sour cream
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature

1. FOR THE STREUSEL: Using your fingers, combine the brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, and cinnamon until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the nuts and set aside.

2. FOR THE CAKE : Grease a 6-inch round cake pan, then line the bottom with parchment paper. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt together in a medium bowl. Whisk the sour cream, brown sugar, melted butter, granulated sugar, and egg together in another bowl until smooth. Gently fold the sour cream mixture into the flour mixture with a rubber spatula until just combined. (The batter will be lumpy with a few spots of dry flour; do not overmix.

3. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the top of the cake. Wrap the pan tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours, or freeze for up to 1 month (do not thaw the frozen cake before baking). (To bake the cake right away, do not wrap the pan with plastic wrap. Bake the cake as directed in step 4, reducing the baking time to 22 to 27 minutes).

4. When ready to bake, adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap the cake and bake until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, 27 to 32 minutes if refrigerated or 37 to 42 minutes if frozen, rotating the pan halfway through.

5. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Run a small knife around the edge of the cake, then flip it out onto a wire rack. Peel off the parchment paper, flip the cake right-side up, and let cool completely before serving.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Roasted Beet, Apple, and Blue Cheese Salad

This recipe, the last in my brief love affair with CSA beets this winter, may well be my favorite creation with that oft-forgotten root. I've certainly had my share of salads with pecans, blue cheese, and apples, but the tiny jewels of roasted beet take it to a whole new level. Where raw apples are light and crunchy with just a hint of tartness, roasted beets balance with a complex and tender sweetness, holding their own against sharp red onion, pungent blue cheese, and rich and toasty pecans. It has to be the most wintery of all the salads I've made, the roasted beet gems imbuing the salad with a depth of flavor perfectly at home in this blustery season. Whether you have to roast a fresh batch of beets for this salad, or just use up some leftovers, this salad is a perfect showcase for one of the finest vegetables the root cellar has to offer.

Roasted Beet, Apple, and Blue Cheese Salad
serves 1 (as a main dish)

2 ounces lettuce, mixed greens, or spinach (about 2 cups)
4 ounces beets, peeled and cut into small dice (a few small beets or 1/2 medium to large beet)
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced (about 0.5 ounce)
Half of a small apple, cut into bite-size pieces (about 2 ounces)
2 tablespoons/0.5 ounce crumbled blue cheese
2 tablespoons/0.5 ounce toasted chopped walnuts or pecans

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Toss beets with olive oil, salt, and pepper and arrange in an even layer on a baking sheet. Roast until beets are tender and caramelized, about 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces.

2. Arrange greens on a large plate, and top with onion, beets, apples, cheese, and nuts. Drizzle with dressing of choice and enjoy!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Creamy Winter Squash and Greens Soup

Bacon and kale? Awesome. Bacon and winter squash? Delicious. Bacon, kale, and squash? Absolutely scrumptious, and an easy way to get a healthy dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes. The cliche that bacon makes everything better exists for a reason, with just a small amount of that glorious ingredient turning what would just be a merely tasty bowl of soup into a really memorable one. It's hard to believe that just four ingredients (if you don't count water, salt, and pepper) are this flavorful when brought together, each bite the perfect balance of savory, salty bacon, sweet squash, and hearty kale. (If you are a vegetarian or vegan, and have chosen to deny yourself the glory that is bacon, you can simply saute the onion in olive oil instead of rendered bacon fat.) All this creamy veggie-packed deliciousness demands a roll or piece of crusty bread to sop up every last bit of flavor, making this soup the perfect excuse to stop at your favorite bakery. Extra soup freezes well, so whip up an extra batch for a quick meal anytime, but hold off on garnishing with the bacon bits until you're ready to serve.

Creamy Winter Squash and Greens Soup
adapted from Martha Stewart
serves 4

4 strips bacon, 4 ounces, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 pound kale, or other hearty green, thick stems removed, leaves finely chopped (about 8 cups)
4 cups homemade winter squash (butternut, acorn, etc.) puree, or 2 packages (12 ounces each) frozen winter squash puree, thawed
Coarse salt and ground pepper

1. Cook bacon in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 4 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate; set aside.

2. Add onion to fat in pan, and cook until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add kale; cook until soft, 3 to 4 minutes.
3. Add squash puree and 3 cups water (or more if necessary to achieve desired consistency); bring just to a boil. Season generously with salt and pepper. Serve, garnished with reserved bacon.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Italian Sausage and Spinach Melt with Pumpkin Pesto Mayo

It's no secret I love pumpkin. By far my favorite member of the squash family, pumpkin is a delicious addition to sweet and savory dishes of all kinds, but this may be my most unique pumpkin creation yet. I'm probably playing up the role pumpkin plays in this dish a little much, but just a scant 1/2 tablespoon of pumpkin butter is an important element of the flavor profile of this dish. Just that little hint of sweetness accentuates the savory Italian sausage and herbaceous pesto, with the hearty rye bread providing an ideal backdrop for the melding of all the brilliant flavors. Recipes like this is one of the reasons I do so love a fancy sandwich for experimenting with flavor combinations and creating unexpected culinary experiences in ordinary dishes. My schizophrenic pantry provides me with ample opportunity to introduce ingredients that are ordinarily strangers, but this combination is delicious enough to pick up a couple extra things at the grocery store to try it yourself.

Italian Sausage and Spinach Melt with Pumpkin Pesto Mayo
serves 1

1 link sweet or hot Italian sausage, casing removed
1 ounce fresh spinach, washed, dried, and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon mayo
1/2 tablespoon prepared pesto
1/2 tablespoon pumpkin butter
2 slices dark rye bread
1 ounce shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat a pan over medium heat. Add Italian sausage to pan, breaking into small pieces. Cook until fat is rendered and sausage is no longer pink. Add spinach and cook until wilted. Remove pan from heat.

2. Meanwhile, combine mayo, pesto, and pumpkin butter in a small bowl and spread evenly over one slice of bread. Preheat a panini press. (Alternatively heat a pan over medium heat).

3. Spread cooked sausage and spinach evenly over the second slice of bread and top with the shredded cheese. Place first slice of bread on top, mayo side down.

4. Spray panini press (or pan) with nonstick cooking spray. Cook until cheese is melted and fillings are warmed through, flipping once if using a pan on the stove. Remove from heat, let sit for a  minute or two, then slice into two halves and serve promptly.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Parsnip, Apple, and Cheddar Salad

This recipe is quite literally a peek into my lunch box. I bring salad to work for lunch a couple days a week (and usually have salad for lunch during the weekend), so I have to come up with a lot of new recipes to keep it interesting. All too often I fall into the dried fruit + cheese + nuts rut, which can get a little dull despite the many variations on that recipe I cycle through. I'm also trying to cut back on cheese (though I love it so) and incorporate more veggies into my salad, both of which this accomplishes beautifully. Parsnips are seldom a vegetable I purchase, but their roasted zesty sweetness is the perfect contrast to the crisp, tart apples, reminding me what a shame it is that I too often neglect this unassuming vegetable. Smoky cheddar cheese gives just the right amount of richness and pumpkin seeds add a lovely crunchy pop to each bite, bringing the dish to a perfect balance. If you're craving seasonal flavors, but not in the mood for a heavy meal, look no further than this salad. Roasted roots, crispy apples, pumpkin seeds, and savory cheese all possess the very soul of colder seasons, but the delicate greens they rest upon remind us that warm and sunny days will too be here again.

Parsnip, Apple, and Cheddar Salad
serves 1 (as a main dish)

2 ounces lettuce, mixed greens, or spinach (about 2 cups)
4 ounces parsnips, peeled and cut into small dice
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Half of a small tart apple, cut into bite-size pieces (about 2 ounces)
2 tablespoons/0.5 ounce shredded or cubed smoked or sharp cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons/0.5 ounce roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Toss parsnips with olive oil, salt, and pepper and arrange in an even layer on a baking sheet. Roast until parsnips are tender and caramelized, about 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces.

2. Arrange greens on a large plate, and top with parsnips, apple, cheese, and pepitas. Drizzle with dressing of choice and enjoy!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Asian Salmon-and-Rice Soup

For better or worse, I don't really think about soup when it comes to getting in my weekly serving of seafood. I've never really liked clam chowder, although I did enjoy a delicious touristy helping in a sourdough bread bowl at Boudin on Fisherman's Wharf, and the similarly creamy oyster stew never struck my fancy. However, one of the finest meals I've had in my life has to be the legendary cioppino at Tadich Grill in San Francisco, so I'm not against the concept entirely. Although this soup comes nowhere close to recreating the culinary glory of that meal, it too has a wonderfully flavorful broth and is satisfying without being heavy, but it won't take hours to prepare or an ocean's worth of seafood. The flavors here are all classically Asian and equally as wonderful in a soup as they would be in a stir-fry, a balanced combination of freshness, saltiness, and savoriness. An quick Asian-inspired slaw perfectly rounds out this easy meal for a delicious twist on the classic soup-and-salad lunch.

Asian Salmon-and-Rice Soup
adapted from Food and Wine
serves 4

1 cup brown rice
1 pounds salmon fillet, skin removed, fish cut into 8 pieces
2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted Asian sesame oil
10 cilantro stems, chopped, plus 1 cup cilantro leaves for garnish
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
4 cups water
3 scallions including green tops, chopped
Rice vinegar, to taste (optional)

1. Cook rice according to package directions and set aside.

2. Coat the salmon with the soy sauce and sesame oil.

3. In a large pot, combine the cooked rice, the cilantro stems, the ginger, salt, broth, and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.

4. Add the salmon to the pot. Simmer, covered, until the salmon is just done, about 5 minutes. Remove the cilantro stems. Add rice vinegar to taste, one splash as a time, if desired, and serve the soup garnished with the cilantro leaves and scallions.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Half of the time I'm cooking with squash puree I'm trying to sneak it in and half the time I'm trying to feature it. When it comes to blending in, sauces are the way to go, with squash mac and cheese the cream of the crop. Not only does butternut squash blend perfectly with color-wise with (yellow) cheddar cheese, but it's silky texture gives the sauce body and richness without the need for cream. Using a combination of three distinctive cheeses gives the sauce real character and depth of flavor, blending seamlessly with the squash. No baked mac and cheese would be complete without a layer of crunchy breadcrumbs on top, and I opted for whole wheat panko blended with Parmesan, the perfect crunchy, savory complement to the rich and cheesy glory it rests upon. A classic comfort food healthified without loss of flavor or texture, this meal is a great to way to the feed the family and stave off the winter blues.

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
adapted from Cooking Light
serves 4 

1 cup butternut (or other winter) squash puree
3/4 cup skim milk
2 garlic cloves, pressed through a garlic press
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2.5 ounces) shredded smoked or sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated Pecorino Romano cheese
2 tablespoons (0.5 ounce) finely grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
8 ounces uncooked whole wheat rotini, macaroni or other small pasta
Cooking spray
1/4 cup whole wheat panko or regular breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon olive oil 
Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375°. Spray a 9 x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

2. Cook pasta two minutes less than directed on the package, drain and set aside, reserving 1 to 2 cups pasta cooking water.

3. Meanwhile, combine squash puree, milk, garlic, and salt in pepper in a blend until smooth. Add squash mixture to a medium saucepan; bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add cheddar, Pecorino, and 1 tablespoon of the Parmesan cheese and 1/2 cup pasta cooking water and whisk to thoroughly combine. Add the noodles and stir thoroughly. Add additional pasta water, a couple tablespoons at a time and stirring well with each addition, until sauce is thin and coats pasta thoroughly. (You want the sauce to be thin as the sauce will cook down and be absorbed by the pasta during baking - I used 1 cup total water.) Transfer the pasta mixture to the baking dish.

4. Combine bread crumbs and remaining 1 tablespoon Parmesan in a small bowl. Add olive oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle in an even layer over the pasta.

5. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with parsley, if desired, and serve immediately.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Asian Noodle and Cabbage Salad with Caramelized Pork

It's really amazing to me how many different food traditions use cabbage. It's fermented from Korea (kimchi) to Germany (sauerkraut) and stir-fried, slow-cooked, sauteed, baked, and eaten raw everywhere in between. With all the cabbage my CSA provided, I had ample opportunity to try all the cuisines and cooking methods my heart desired. So I stir-fried, braised, ate it raw, and filled my tacos with it, mixing it up as much as possible so my palate wouldn't get burnt out one preparation. Pork and cabbage is a classic German combination, rich and hearty pork chops or sausage nestled in a generous portion of slow-cooked, tender cabbage and a comforting favorite. This recipe, though using the same two key ingredients, is it's polar opposite, fresh and crunchy cabbage with lean stir-fried pork that satisfies in a totally different way. Both the dressing for the cabbage and the pork marinade have the perfect balance of sweet and savory that is so addictive and makes this taste like bad-for-you takeout when it's really a quick and healthy meal. (And the leftovers aren't a bad cold midnight snack, either.) Whether you're in a rush to put dinner on the table, in the mood for takeout but short on time, or just have some cabbage to use up, this recipe is a brilliant solution.

Asian Noodle and Cabbage Salad with Caramelized Pork
adapted from Martha Stewart
serves 2

4 ounces soba or whole wheat spaghetti noodles
2 tablespoons soy or tamari sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 teaspoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
1 recipe Caramelized Asian Pork (recipe follows)
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
2 cups thinly sliced red cabbage
Sriracha, or other hot sauce, for serving (optional)

1. In a large pot of boiling water, cook noodles according to package instructions. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine soy sauce, vinegar, oil, sugar, garlic, and ginger.

2. Drain noodles, transfer to bowl with soy mixture and toss. Add pork, scallions, and cabbage and toss to combine. Add hot sauce, if using, and serve.

Caramelized Asian Pork
adapted from Food and Wine
serves 2

2 garlic cloves, finely minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
8 ounces pork chops or cutlets, cut into bite-size pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Combine garlic, soy sauce, sugar and oil in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Add pork to the marinade and turn to coat the pork. Let stand at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes.

2. Heat a non-stick pan over medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray. Add the pork and cook, stirring frequently, until pork is cooked through.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Cranberry-Pumpkin Seed Energy Bars

Sometimes when it rains, it pours. Shortly after my re-dedication to making homemade snacks led me to this awesome granola bar recipe, this latest recipe of Food and Wine brought me my new favorite snack. I think this one sticks out in my mind over all my past granola bar endeavors because of the addition of puffed rice cereal. Most of the energy bars I've made in the past only use oats, and while they can lend crunchy or chewy texture, they can't create a bar as light as this one with as many nooks and crannies for the binding caramel to hide. I've been eating these as my morning snack for the past couple of weeks (extras freeze well), and despite being packed with whole grains, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit, they almost feel too delicious to be a snack. They're the perfect balance of toasty grains, rich nuts and seeds, and sweet dried fruit all bound with a subtly salty light caramel that almost takes these into dessert territory. I used my individual brownie pan here to create perfectly square bars (especially great if you're giving them as a gift), but even if they don't look quite as perfect hand-cut, they won't be any less tasty. Whether you'll be devouring them yourself or generously bestowing them to others, these granola bars will please any palate they happen to encounter.

Cranberry-Pumpkin Seed Energy Bars
adapted from Food and Wine
makes 12 bars

1 cup pecans or walnuts, crushed
1 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup pumpkin or sunflower seeds
1/4 cup flaxseeds or flaxseed meal
2/3 cup muscovado or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups puffed rice cereal
1/2 cup dried cranberries, raisins, or cherries

1. Preheat the oven to 350° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the pecans, oats, pumpkin seeds and flaxseeds on the sheet and bake until fragrant, 8 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

2. In a saucepan, bring the sugar, honey, butter and salt to a boil over moderate heat. Simmer until the sugar is dissolved and a light brown caramel forms, 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
Drizzle the caramel all over the nut-and-oat mixture. Stir in the puffed rice and cranberries until evenly coated.
3. Line an 8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper, extending the paper over the side. Scrape the cereal mixture into the dish in an even layer. Cover the mixture with a second sheet of parchment and press down to compress it. Let stand until firm, about 2 hours.
4. Discard the top piece of parchment. Using the overhanging paper, lift out the cereal square and transfer it to a work surface. Cut into 12 bars and serve.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Multi-Grain Waffles

Although it may seem contradictory, I love trying as many new things as possible and I love routine, my Sunday night ritual being a prime example of this behavior. When the weather's nice, I grill out on Sunday nights. Once it's football season, it's Packer snack day. In that stretch in between, Sunday nights are breakfast for dinner night. Being one of those people who's constantly planning, I don't enjoy Sundays as much as I should because I'm always thinking ahead to Monday morning, but planning a little treat at the end of day helps me to enjoy the whole day more. Today is the last day of the football season, so instead of lamenting the end of football Sundays (though they really ended for me when the Packers lost), let me offer you a wonderful recipe to try if you want to follow in my Sunday night footsteps - Multi-Grain Waffles. I'm always a fan of whole grain recipes over their white flour equivalents, even at the expense of a bit of texture, but these are so light and crispy, you'd never know they were whole grain. The delicate texture and delicious whole grain flavor led me to devour a whole waffle myself, each butter and syrup-kissed bite the perfect union of comfort and nutrition. Extra waffles freeze splendidly, reheating to near-perfection in the toaster or toaster oven for a quick weekday breakfast (I recommend topping them with peanut butter and honey). Although I'll never stop trying new things, this recipe has as earned a spot as my new waffle standard and a launching pad for my own creations.

Multi-Grain Waffles
from Eating Well
serves 8

2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2/3 cup whole-wheat flour
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup toasted wheat germ, or cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Mix buttermilk and oats in a medium bowl; let stand for 15 minutes.
2. Whisk whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, wheat germ (or cornmeal), baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl.
3. Stir eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla into the oat mixture. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients; mix with a rubber spatula just until moistened.
4. Coat a waffle iron with cooking spray and preheat. Spoon in enough batter to cover three-fourths of the surface (about 2/3 cup for an 8-by-8-inch waffle iron). Cook until waffles are crisp and golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Repeat with remaining batter.