Friday, January 29, 2010

Granola Bars

I'm so behind! I have 10 pictures waiting to be paired with a recipe. One at a time...

Reasons not to buy granola bars from the store:
1. They are full of corn syrup, preservatives, and artificial who-knows
2. They are expensive
3. You can make your own better tasting, way cheaper, and healthier granola bars in 5 minutes!

Really, if you can heat up honey, and turn on the oven. You can make these.

This recipe is so general - there are so many things that you can do to fit your own taste. You could add in peanut butter to the honey and stir in chocolate chips with your oatmeal for a sweeter bar, you could even hide in some wheat germ or wheat bran, and never notice a difference in taste.

I like to just buy some trail mix in bulk to mix in, but you could also come up with your own combination as well!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

S'more Brownies

This recipe came from an accident gone completely right.

My Grammi, a proud owner of a Snuggie, fell victim to the late night infomercial for The Perfect Brownie Pan. She got herself one, and one for me as well. So, I thought I better put this over-priced cookware to good use. I whipped up a batch of my brownie batter from my favorite brownie recipe, put them in the pan, and set the oven timer. 40 minutes later, my brownies had rose so much, that they were stuck to the little grid you cook them in. So, I ended up with brownie chunks and bits, that I had to break away from the pan.

I tried to piece at least one together, so I could take a decent picture of it to use for a recipe page. But, it just wasn't going to work. Then, I had an epiphany: stick them back together Rice Krispies style. And, why not make the chocolate/marshmallow combo complete with a graham cracker crust? And while I'm at it, I mine as well top it with some toasted marshmallows!

So, put together a little crust, melted the marshmallows, and mixed in my brownie chunks. Topped it with some more marshmallows, and threw them under the broiler for a few minutes.

Nutritious: Not one single bit.
Delicious: In every single way.

Here's the world's best brownie recipe. You'll never even think about using a box again, guaranteed. (I'll get a page up later for them!)

1 cup butter, melted
3 cups white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup walnut pieces

Cream butter, sugar and vanilla together. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.
Add in flour, cocoa and salt. Mix well. Then, add in chocolate chips and walnuts.

Spread in a lightly greased 9x13 pan, bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes.

California Rolls

You spend 5 dollars every time you splurge on these at the grocery store, but with a trip to your local oriental market - you can make so many more of these with that 5 dollars!! Plus, they will be fresh - and made exactly how you like them. The main ingredients (nori, sticky rice, crab, and rice vinegar) also will keep well for months and months. Just stick the crab in the freezer, the rest in the pantry and all you need to pick up are a few vegetables to make them again!

These aren't as tricky to make as you may think - but I included a few more pictures in this post for those of you who have never made them before. If my instructions aren't clear enough for you, there are lots of movies you can find via google or you tube that will help you out too!!

First, you will want to cook your sticky rice. I just did mine in the rice maker. When it is done, stir in the rice vinegar and sugar. Stir it well. Then, spread it out on a large plate or baking sheet so that it can cool quickly.

While the rice is cooling, prepare your vegetables. You will need to cut these into long thin strips. Your avocados can be a little bit bigger, but you still want them to make sure and slice them length-wise. Like this:


Now, you have two options for rolling your California Rolls, innie (with the rice inside) or outie (with the rice outside.

If you are going to roll them innie, take a full sheet of nori (dried seaweed) and pat the rice down almost all of it, except for the last inch/1 1/2-inch or so. The rice should be about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch thick. I like to keep a little dish of water close by to dip my fingers in. The sticky rice is actually really sticky, but you can keep the rice on the nori, instead of your hands by keeping your fingertips wet. After spreading the rice, you can then sprinkle the it with sesame seeds, if you'd like.

You will then place a few strips of each of your vegetables, one half strip of crab and a thin line of cream cheese in the center of the rice, in a long stacked line. It will look like this:


Then, use your bamboo mat to tightly roll your California roll. Be careful not to roll the plastic wrap inside!


When you get to the end of the roll, wet down the part of the nori without rice with water. This will help to seal the roll. When you are done, it should look like this:

Then, cut your roll into 8 slices. You're done!

Now, if you'd like to try the outie - it's a little bit different. Instead of using a whole sheet of nori, this time, you will only use half. Cover the entire half of the nori with rice, still about 1/4 to 1/2-inch deep. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, if you like them. It should look like this:




Now, flip the entire thing over. The rice should be pretty stuck to the nori, so it should be pretty easy to turn. Then, center your veggies, crab and cream cheese again on the nori, like this:


Roll it up again using the bamboo roller, and it should turn out looking like this:


Cut it again in eight pieces. And now you've made your own California Rolls!! Yum!!


Ok, now's here's the recipe page!



Spinach Chicken Crepes

This is a very simple recipe, that you probably already have everything for at home. You can always substitute frozen spinach for fresh, although I think fresh spinach tastes so much better. This recipe is just a simple savory crepe, filled with a white sauce with chicken and spinach mixed in. Yum!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Tzatziki

Tzatziki (Tsa-Zee-Kee) is another one of Vahe's favorites. I've heard others call it cucumber sauce, but tzatziki is just so much more fun to say. This is a Greek sauce with a yogurt base. We make this a lot, and so the other night I measured out everything I was putting into the bowl so that we could have a standard recipe - and thus, this recipe! This is a great dip, sauce, dressing for basically anything. It tastes very fresh and healthy. Vahe loves it with bread, on salads, with meat, anything. We also have been using it as a sauce when we make shawarma - and so far, it's everyone favorite! Make sure to use fresh dill, and a real lemon for the best taste!

Ok, I'll admit it - I'm scared of dill. I've never eaten a pickle. And, never tried tzatziki. But, everyone else that we have made this for loves it, and prefers it to the tzatziki that they have bought in the store! I'll take their word for it, and maybe yours too. :)




Banana Bread

This is one of my favorite quick breads - it sits right there next to double chocolate zucchini bread (which there are zucchinis in my fridge waiting to me made into!).

I used to like a really dense banana bread, but now I like a lighter texture - so I changed my old recipe up a bit, switched all my sugar to white and added in some sour cream... and now I think it is just right! Sour cream is a great "secret ingredient" to add a lot of moisture into your quick breads! (If you do prefer a heavier bread - switch out one cup of white sugar for brown, and omit the sour cream.)

You can also make great banana bars with this same recipe by making it in a jellyroll pan and topping it with cream cheese frosting. Yum!

Also - maybe it's just me, but my banana bread always seems to get really dark on the outside before it is done on the inside. If this happens with you too... after about 40 minutes or so in the oven, go ahead and turn down the oven to 300 degrees until it is finished cooking. If it is still getting to dark, just place a piece of foil loosely over the top of your bread. But remember, try not to open the oven too many times or for too long when baking breads, especially at the beginning. The quick rise and fall in temperature will make your bread rise funny!


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Leek & Spinach (and Bean) Soup

I get a "recipe-of-the-day" email from allrecipes.com and this soup recipe was one from last week. I had never cooked with leeks before, so I thought I would give it a try. Vahe would eat soup everyday if I made it, but my soup-making variety is definitely lacking. So, I really am trying to find new (and unique) soup recipes to add to my little collection.

Anyways... I made my own variation of the recipe that was sent to me and LOVED it. I think that leeks are going to be a new staple for me! I am not a huge onion fan because their taste is so strong and I just don't love their texture (unless they have been cooked very well, or chopped very small), but leeks are a perfect substitute! They taste like an onion, only very mild and fresh (fresh like: cilantro or cucumber fresh - what's the word I'm looking for?). Anyways - I am going to try to start substituting leeks for onions in some of the dishes that I make to see if I like the change!

Back to the point... this soup is EXCELLENT. I just can't get over how much I love the flavor of the leeks. The white kidney beans and spinach (another one of my favorites) compliment the taste really well too. It's a simple soup, with not too many ingredients, and it is wonderful. This could also easily be made vegetarian by substituting the chicken stock for vegetable. Try it out!

Spaghetti Sauce

This recipe is my version of my mom's version of her mom's recipe. It is great over pasta, used in lasagna, or for a healthier (& gluten-free, Michelle!) version - I love it over spaghetti squash.

Here's an easy way to prepare spaghetti squash: cut your squash in half, then place it flat-side down on a baking sheet lined with greased aluminum foil. Bake it at 350 for about 45 minutes, or until it is tender. Cool, then shred the squash from rind with a fork. Season with salt and pepper (and maybe a little butter :).

Really, if you have never tried spaghetti squash - you have to! It is a great alternative to pasta because when topped with this spaghetti sauce (or any other sauce, really), has such a similar taste, appearance and texture as spaghetti noodles! I bet you could even trick the kids into eating it...


P.S. This sauce will freeze great! This recipe makes way too much for Vahe and I to eat before it goes bad, so I divided it into three - two bags in the freezer, the rest for dinner and leftovers!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Vegetable Soup

Ok, finally got this on here. Soups like this are hard to write recipes for, because they really are based on personal preference and what you have in the fridge! This is how I like to make my vegetable soup - like I said, totally based on preference and what veggies you like! I love the flavor of onions, peppers, and celery, but am not a fan of their texture or crunch. So, I chop them up super small, saute them, and then make sure to cook them the longest so that they almost dissolve into the stock. I LOVE zucchini and yellow squash, so they are really the base of this soup. I also really, really hate soft vegetables in soup. So I make sure to undercook mine just a bit so that they still have a little crunch, and so that the leftovers won't turn into a puree when reheated. Vegetable soup is a wonderful, filling, cheap, and very nutritional meal. Only 80 calories a serving for all those vitamins!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Flour Tortillas

This is another one of Vahe's favorites. I can't say that they are authentic in any way, but they taste so much better then the tortillas you buy pre-made at the grocery store! I make them often enough that I invested in a little tortilla press from a local Mexican grocery store which makes them even easier to make, not to mention - I am the worst circle-roller-outer you've probably ever met. That being said, you definitely don't need a tortilla press to make these, a rolling pin will do just fine. I have tried using from all wheat to all white on this recipe, but my favorite combo is probably 2 cups wheat, 3 cups white flour. Give these a try, you won't regret it!


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