Thursday, May 27, 2010

Butternut Bacon Pasta

This is a good, filling pasta dish that uses bacon in a way that I like: as a garnish instead of as the main ingredient. It comes from Cooking Light. I made this first for me and Justin, and then again for my in-laws. The first time around, I followed the directions exactly and cooked the squash in some of the bacon grease and butter. The dish turned out well, but it was a little heavy for my taste. The second time around I separated out the bacon completely at my sister-in-law's request, and I noticed that the final result was a lighter dish. I liked it better, but if you're all about bacon, feel free to follow the original recipe.

Bacon and Butternut Pasta
Serves about 4

1 tablespoon salt
8 oz. uncooked whole grain fettuccine (about half a box)
-Bring 3 quarts of water and 1 tablespoon salt to a boil in a large saucepan. Add pasta; cook for 8 minutes. Drain in colander, reserving 1/3 cup cooking liquid.

2 bacon slices
-Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp, turning halfway through. Remove bacon and let cool.

1-2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
3 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
2 garlic cloves, minced
-In the same skillet, without cleaning it out, add butter and cook until it melts. (Or, for a lighter version, cook the squash in a clean pan with just butter or olive oil.) Increase heat to medium-high and add squash. Saute for 7 minutes until almost tender. Add garlic, cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese or feta
1/2 cup sliced green onions
-Add salt, cheese, pasta, and reserved cooking liquid to skillet and stir together. Divide into 4 servings and garnish with bacon and green onions.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Good Wholesome Muffins

Warning! This is not your average muffin! It is a good, wholesome, every-day-for-breakfast kind of muffin. That means it's not greasy, it's not cake-like, and you can add a spread of butter and not feel like you're eating 100% fat. These muffins kind of remind me of the Raisin Bran muffins my Mom used to make when I was a kid. There's something about molasses and raisins that makes me nostalgic.

I gave these to my mother-in-law for Mother's Day, and they were just the kind of muffin she prefers. They're nice and bread-y, and really great for a healthy snack. The recipe is from an old 1980 cookbook I came across while staying at a cabin in the Shenandoah Mountains called something along the lines of "SNAK". It's an acronym that stands for something I can't remember anymore, but it was focused on healthy eating, whole grains, and wholesome recipes. Feel free to use any kind of dried fruit and nuts to experiment, or try using honey instead of molasses. Enjoy!

Good Wholesome Muffins

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons wheat germ
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 teaspoons baking powder
-Sift together in large bowl

2 eggs
1 cup milk or yogurt
1/4 cup molasses (you can substitute honey if you don't have molasses on hand)
2 tablespoons canola oil
-Whisk together in separate bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, stir just until combined.

1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped dates
1 cup roughly chopped walnuts
-Fold into batter. Spoon by about 1/3 cup-fulls into muffin pan. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until an inserted toothpick/knife comes out clean.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

This is some of the best pizza dough I've ever made (thanks to John for giving me the recipe from Cooking Light 2004) and it's really easy too. I had been getting the pre-made dough from Trader Joe's, but it didn't seem to cook all the way through. I got fed up and decided to look for a good homemade recipe, and this one was sent in an email to me. I tried it out, and it's great. It bakes evenly, it has a nice flavor, and it rises really well. This dough makes the kind of crust that you want to dip in sauce after you're done with the pizza. When I made the pizza pictured, I added onions, mushrooms, garlic, mozzarella, and goat cheese. It was delicious. Even better, you can make as much dough as you want and just separate it out into individual balls of dough before you let it rise, and then freeze it to use later. See below for complete freezing instructions. And I suggest you load up your pizza with fresh Spring produce from your local farmer's market! Just take a stroll and see what's in season to get inspiration. You may even be able to find local cheese to put on top.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

1 pkg dry yeast (about 2 1/4 tsp)
1/4 tsp sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water (100-110degrees)
-Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water in a large bowl; let stand
5 minutes.

2 1/2 to 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 cup whole wheat flour (you can substitute more wheat flour for less
white flour--up to maybe a cup or two)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
-Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a
knife. Add 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, wheat flour, oil, and salt
to yeast mixture; stir until well blended. Turn dough out onto a
floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes);
add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent
dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel tacky).

Note: If you want to freeze any, do so now (see below for instructions).

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to
coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees), free from
drafts, 45 minutes or until doubled in size. (Gently press two
fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.)
Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes. Divide in half; roll
each dough half into a 12-inch circle on a floured surface.

Top as desired and bake at 500 degrees for 15 minutes or until
browned. You can use a normal baking sheet, but Charlie got me a pizza
stone and it's great--I can load up on toppings and not worry about
whether the dough will cook all the way through in the center.

To freeze, follow directions for kneading dough. Before rising,
shape into 2 balls. Coat with cooking spray, and place in freezer in
a zip-top plastic bag. To use dough, thaw overnight in refrigerator.
Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees), free from drafts, 1
1/2 hours or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into
dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.) Shape as
instructed.

Yield: 2 (12 to 16-inch) pizza crusts.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mediterranean Barley Salad

I would like to share with you all a lovely salad that is perfect for warmer days. It's got everything: veggies, herbs, whole grains, flavor. As the weather gets hotter, your body needs less calories. Sometimes I forget this important fact and attempt to eat the same amount I'm used eating in the winter, and then I feel disgusting. This salad is a good balance of carbs and protein, and any leftovers will taste even better the next day after the flavors get more acquainted with each other. I got the recipe from the March 2010 issue of Cooking Light Magazine. Note: I'm using a new ingredients/directions format that I've noticed in some cookbooks, so don't be confused if the recipe looks a little different.

Mediterranean Barley Salad
Serves 4

For Barley:
2 1/4 cups water
3/4 cup uncooked pearl barley
-Bring water and barley to a boil in a saucepan. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 25 minutes or until tender and liquid is almost absorbed. Cool to room temperature.

For Dressing:
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
-Whisk together in medium bowl.

For Salad:
1 cup thinly sliced fennel bulb (about 1 small bulb)
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup diced red onion
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
8 pitted kalamata olives, quartered
15 oz. (1 can) cannellini beans (I used a handful of dry beans, soaked them overnight, rinsed, brought them to a boil in a few cups of water, then simmered them for 45 minutes)
1/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
-Add all but walnuts to dressing in bowl, add barley, and mix together. Garnish with walnuts. Serve chilled or at room temperature.