Welcome to my blog!

I have always loved to bake - mostly because I can follow instructions and recipes, and I have had good luck with my turnout. But, more recently, I have learned the joy of cooking. I love trying out new recipes, and I like to play with recipes to accommodate my finicky tastes.

I find inspiration in the healthy blogging community. I wanted to start a blog to share the recipes I have tried with you, but I also want to share with you my healthy living goals, plans, and actions in hopes to inspire some of you as well.

I love feedback, so please leave me comments, suggestions, and questions.

I hope you enjoy my blog!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

You are what you eat...

I have been absolutely OBSESSED with nuts lately: almonds, pecans, pistachios, walnuts...  I have always been madly in love with almond butter.  I love almond butter from Whole Foods, the local co-op, or Trader Joe's, but it gets to be expensive (especially when you go through a jar in two days like I do!).  So I have been making my own using my food processor.  It is so simple, just dump raw almonds in the processor, put the top on, and turn the machine on.  It does take about 15 minutes.  At first you will get almond dust.  Just scrape down the sides occassionally, and keep at it.  It will eventually turn to a paste, and then a delicious bowl of yummy, creamy almond butter.  Store it in the refrigerator or freezer.  If you prefer your almonds roasted, you can roast them in the oven at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes.  I have heard controversy on whether roasting nuts removes vital nutrients so I tend to stay away from roasting, or I will roast them at a low temperature (150 degrees for about 20 minutes). 

I haven't yet tried to make my own pecan butter or walnut butter, but that is my next feat.

Question: what is your favorite nut?  Mine is definitely almonds, but runners up are pecans and walnuts.

Slow Cooker Oatmeal

I went to my local coop the other day (obsessed with that store) and bought some organic steel-cut oats from the bulk bins for a recipe I have been dying to try with my slow cooker.  So, into my 1.5 quart slow cooker went 1/2 cup steel-cut oats and two cups of water.  I switched the cooker onto low and let it work its magic overnight.  I woke up Wednesday morning to lovely warm oatmeal in my slow cooker!  I dumped my oats into a bowl and stirred into chopped apple and cinnamon dusted walnut pieces.  OH YUM!  Tasted like a delicious warm bowl of apple pie!  I loved the crunch that the walnuts added.  I am totally running down to the co-op tonight and loading up on steel-cut oats.  This was the first time I tried steel-cut oats.  I am usually an oat bran girl.  I was always afraid of the cooking time needed for the oats, but with the slow cooker, it was so easy!  I didn't have to hover over the stove for 45 minutes waiting for my breakfast in the morning.  Don't get me wrong, I still LOVE my oat bran though.  I will have to switch it up a few times a week so I can get my fix of both.

My New Obsession: the slow cooker

My slow cookers have gotten a lot of use over the past week.  On Monday, I made a rotisserie chicken and baked potatoes in my 6-quart slow cooker.  I simply scrubbed and forked two baking potatoes, wrapped them in tinfoil and put them in the bottom of the slow cooker.  Then, after rinsing and drying a 3-pound bird (I also removed the skin to make it healthier), I seasoned it up with some olive oil, garlic powder, and paprika, and placed it in the cooker breast side down on top of the potatoes.  I switched the cooker on low, put the lid on, and headed off to work.  When I got home, the house smelled amazing and there was a perfectly cooked dinner waiting for me. 

After pulling the chicken from the bones, I put the bones back into the juices that had accumulated, put the lid back on the cooker, and let it work its magic making a homemade chicken broth.  The next morning, I dumped the crock pot out over a bowl covered with a splatter screen to separate the bones from the broth, discarded the bones, and refrigerated the broth. 

Last night I used the homemade broth to make chicken soup for two:

3 cups broth
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
2 celery stalks, cut into pieces
1 dried bay leaf
1 cup leftover rotisserie chicken
4 ounces dried egg noodles
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Bring the broth and bay leaf to a boil over medium-high heat.  Add the carrot and celery and simmer until veggies are tender (about 5 - 8 minutes).  Add noodles and cook until al dente.  Stir in chicken until heated through.  Add parsley, pour into bowls, and salt and pepper to taste.  Easy, comforting, and delicious!  I served with toasted baguettes from Trader Joe's.

For dessert, I made homemade Thin Mint Cookies (it's Girl Scout Cookie Time, and I don't eat anything with hydrogenated oils, so I prefer to make my own):

For cookies:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon mint extract

For coating:
8 (1 ounce) semi-sweet baking squares, chopped
1 teaspoon mint extract

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt.  Set aside. 
Cream the butter in a large mixing bowl until fluffy.  Beat in sugar until mixed well. 
Beat in egg and mint extract.
Add flour mixture by halves into the creamed mixture, beating well after each addition. 
Divide dough in half.  On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into two 1 1/2 inch diameter cylinders.  Wrap each cylinder in waxed paper and freeze for an hour and a half to two hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Remove one cylinder at a time from the freezer, and slize 1/4 inch thick pieces with a sharp knive (or cheese slicer).  Place on cookie sheets about 1 1/2 inches apart.  Bake 10 to 12 minutes.
Melt chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave.  Stir in mint extract.  Dip cooled cookies into the chocolate and place on wire racks.  Let cool and harden completely.  These should be stored in the refrigerator. 

I accidentally had six of them when I planned on only one (I had to eat all the ones that weren't perfect circles!)