Monday, October 31, 2011

Meatloaf: The Slimmer Version

Happy Halloween!
I don't know about you, but it is 5:30 as I type away, and I am ready for all of those cute little trick-or-treaters to start knocking on our door! Our block is aflutter on Halloween, and it is very fun to watch!

In honor of Halloween I decided to try something that I am rather scared of...meatloaf! When I think of meatloaf I just think of something heavy and bland and rather unhealthy. I turned my nose up at every serving as a child, but ever so often, when I would allow a tiny morsel into my mouth, I actually really did like the taste and texture. So, after running into my mom at the grocery store this afternoon, she convinced me that it was the right thing to make for dinner tonight! So on Halloween, I faced my fear of meatloaf and can now confidently say that meatloaf is indeed a yummy and easy dinner solution! Mom, I am sorry for refusing this tasty dish for so many years!

This recipe is so easy and honestly very yummy! It literally took me 5 minutes to put everything together and takes about 35 minutes to bake. Perfect on an evening where you are busy or rushed (or running to the door every few moments to hand out candy!). The recipe is inspired by a Cooking Light recipe, but I made some changes. The Ranch Dressing mix dry packet is something mom uses all the time to add extra flavor without adding extra fat. It is something you can always have on hand, such a nice short cut to big flavor!

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1 pound of lean ground sirloin
6 tablespoons of ketchup, divided into 3 tablespoon portions
1/2 cup of bread crumbs, I used Italian
1 teaspoon of Worcestershire
1 large egg white
2 tablespoons of skim milk
1 packet of ranch dressing mix (dry)

1. Gather all of your ingredients.

2. Mix all of your ingredients together in a large bowl.

3. Mold the mixture into a rectangular form in a shallow baking dish.

4. Top with the remaining 3 tablespoons of ketchup.

5. Bake for 35 minutes in a 350 degree oven.
6. Enjoy with fresh baked bread and a vegetable medley!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Ginger Soy Vegetable Stir Fry

Growing up, vegetables almost always played a secondary or tertiary role to meat, predominately beef, and starch, usually potatoes. Even with this limited exposure, I have always been a vegetable lover when fresh vegetables are served to me. However, when I'm planning out our weekly menu, I can sometimes fall back into the habit of forgetting to include a sufficient amount of veggies in a meal or week of meals.

Robert regularly asks for me to cook more veggies, and I am just now starting to discover meals that meet his request. Of course I'm benefitted by a husband who is willing to forgo meat from time to time if the vegetarian meal I place before him is flavorful and filling. This stir fry meets both requirements. The ginger soy and low-sodium soy sauces provide the veggies with a great flavor without compromising the health benefits and the veggies and rice are more than enough for a satisfying dinner.

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Ginger Soy Vegetable Stir Fry

1 small yellow squash, sliced
1 small zucchini, sliced
1 small head of broccoli, cut into florets
1/2 of a red onion cut into thick slices
3/4 cup sugar snap peas
1 package sliced mushrooms
3 green onions, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons of low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon ginger soy sauce
1 small can water chestnuts, drained
cooked brown rice

In a large skillet or wok, heat the oil over medium high heat.
 Add the squash, zucchini, broccoli, mushrooms, snap peas and onions.
 Saute for 9 minutes then add the garlic and green onions.
 Saute for 2 minutes more then add the water chestnuts and stir to warm through.
 Pour in low sodium soy sauce,
 and ginger soy sauce.
 Stir well to combine and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve over a bed of brown rice for a healthy vegetarian meal.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Couscous with Scallions and Parsley

I too have one more recipe from our celebration dinner to share, Couscous with Scallions and Parsley. Couscous is one of my favorite side dishes, but until last week I had only tried the boxed variety with season packets. While these taste delicious, I have always been a bit concerned with the level of sodium contained within the seasoning. This is particularly an issue because couscous is my go to healthy substitute for mashed potatoes and other rich sides.

I had been meaning to look up an alternative preparation and our Mediterranean themed meal was the perfect reason to figure it out. What I love about this recipe is that it doesn't mess with the simplicity and ease of couscous or the great flavors it can provide. In fact, I actually prefer the freshness of the onions and herbs in this dish as opposed to the pre-fabed boxed variety. The only change I would make next time, and I've included this into the recipe below, is that I would add some garlic powder to enhance the flavor.

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Couscous with Scallions and Parsley

1 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup couscous
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup mined Italian parsley
1 teaspoon garlic powder

In a pot combine the water, olive oil, and kosher salt and bring to a boil.
 Add the couscous, stir, and return to a boil.
 Remove from heat, cover and let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and stir in the green onions, parsley, and garlic powder.

Our whole buffet spread at dinner
Source: Adapted from Food & Wine

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Green Goddess Dressing with Basil

Here is another recipe from the 100th Blog Post Dinner! Green Goddess Dressing is a cool and refreshing compliment to grilled veggies. I used basil rather than parsley because I have a ton of basil growing in my backyard, and wanted to use it before the cold snap hits (we keep hearing warnings...but it is still going to be 85 today).

Nap time

I simply grilled zucchini, squash, portobello mushrooms, bell peppers and onions, all drizzled with a nice olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper. We used these grilled veggies and dressing as our salad. Enjoy!

Why yes! We did just get caught tearing up something :)

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1 cup of chopped basil
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons of minced tarragon
1 cup of sour cream (I used reduced fat)
1 cup of mayonnaise (I used reduced fat)
4 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

1. Gather all of your ingredients and prepare your food processor.

2. Combine the basil, garlic and tarragon in the processor and blend until it forms a fine paste. I have to be honest...well...the pictures are honest...I did not pre-chop any of my ingredients. I let the blender do all of the hard work.

3. Add the sour cream, mayonnaise, and lemon juice to the paste.

4. Taste and decide how much salt and pepper to add.
5. Refrigerate until ready to serve with your grilled veggies!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Celebration Cake: Yellow Layer Cake with Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting

This cake is a classic, with a little twist in the icing. I don't know about you, but I grew up eating good old fashioned yellow cake with chocolate icing for almost every birthday celebration. Often times, it was from a cake mix and canned frosting, and every time, every last crumb was licked from the plate. I just love the combination of flavors and the warm memories that the taste, smell and texture immediately bring back, memories that seem but a breath away. My birthday is in about 2 weeks...I think I might make this cake again for myself! I might even share a slice or two!

Snuggle buddies!

I got this recipe from Smitten Kitchen (one of my favorite food blogs...actually the first food blog I ever saw!) and I will say that I loved the cake, and the icing was a nice change, but next time I make this I might opt for a good old fashioned chocolate buttercream or fudge icing. When I tasted the sour cream icing by itself, I almost cried and threw it out, I thought it was just too sour. But after the initial surprise, I really ended up liking the tang. Especially once it was on the cake, the icing gave the sweet cake a nice balance. Everyone that ate the cake basically licked their plates clean (even non-cake eaters such as my husband), so I would say that is a positive endorsement!

Shafer usually falls asleep with this toy in her paws!

So, make this cake for a celebration, make this cake when you need a lift in spirits, or make this cake just because you want to! Enjoy!

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Ingredients for Yellow Layer Cake:

4 cups plus 2 tablespoons of cake flour
2 teaspoon of baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda
1 teaspoon of table salt
2 sticks of butter, softened
2 cups of sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups of buttermilk

Steps for Yellow Layer Cake:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and gather your ingredients.

2. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and line with parchment paper, then butter the parchment paper. You want to do everything that you can to keep your cake from sticking to the pans. There is nothing more disheartening in the kitchen then having your cake fall apart because it sticks to the pan.

3. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

4. In your electric mixer beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy.

5. Add the vanilla to the butter and sugar mixture.

6. Add the four eggs one at a time.

7. Slowly add in the buttermilk until just combined. Do not panic, indeed, the mixture will look curdled!

8. Slowly add the flour mixture, mixing until just combined.

9. Spread the batter into the cake pans.

10. Bake in the 350 degree oven until golden and a toothpick can be inserted and cleanly removed (no cake batter).

11. Cool for at least ten minutes and then carefully remove from the pans and let cool fully before assembling with the icing. Also, take off the parchment.

Ingredients for Chocolate Sour Cream Icing:
16 ounces of semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 1/4 cups of sour cream, at room temperature (I used lower fat)
1/2 cup of light corn syrup
3/4 teaspoon vanilla

Steps for Chocolate Sour Cream Icing:

1. Melt your chocolate either in a double broiler or in the microwave. I used the microwave and it really does not take much time at all to melt the chocolate. Cook for 30 seconds and remove to stir. Place back in the microwave 2 to 3 more times for 15 seconds, stirring between each heating. You will be surprised at how quickly the chocolate melts.

2. Let the chocolate cool until lukewarm.
3. Whisk together the sour cream, the corn syrup, and vanilla extract until combined.

4. Add the lukewarm chocolate slowly and stir until the mixture is fully combined.

5. Let the icing cool in the fridge for about 30 minutes. If the icing gets too stiff, leave it on the counter until it softens, this will take just a few minutes.

1. Cut one of the layers a bit to level it so that it is not so round.

2. Add the icing to the bottom layer and then place the top layer on top. Then continue to ice the entire cake.

3. Add fun sprinkles or candles and enjoy!

 Shafer's favorite spot!

Cort's favorite spot!