Monday, February 28, 2011

Coffee Break Time!

There is a proliferation of oranges right now.  Look at our backyard tree - and we have another one just like it!  We have been sharing oranges with everyone we know and even people we don't know.

What better way to use a big juicy orange than an easy quick bread recipe.  Almost every day, I have a mid-morning "coffee break" for a little pick-me-up.  Does anyone else do that?  This bread is perfect for a little something to go with a warm beverage, to slowly savor and enjoy.  It holds me over till it's time for lunch.

Let me tell you a little secret: if all you have is lemons, or even limes, they will substitute just fine for the orange in this recipe.

Sweet Orange Bread

1/3 cup canola oil
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup nonfat egg substitute
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup nonfat milk

3 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Coat an 8 by 4-inch loaf pan with nonstick spray.

In medium bowl, beat oil, sugar, and orange zest until well combined.  In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.  Measure egg substitute, orange juice, and milk in a measuring cup and whisk together.

Add flour mixture alternately with liquid mixture to the first bowl, half at a time, beating well after each addition.  Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and spread evenly.

Bake 40 to 45 minutes, until golden and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  While bread is baking, combine glaze ingredients in small saucepan over low heat.  Cook and stir until sugar is dissolved; set aside.

As soon as bread is out of oven, poke holes all over with toothpick.  Immediately pour glaze over top.  Let cool 10 minutes in pan on wire rack, then remove bread from pan and place on rack to cool completely.

Makes 14 slices, approximately 1/2 inch each.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Crockpot Vegetable Soup

Man, it's been cold lately!  We Southern Californians just aren't used to it.  We can sure use the rain, so if the cold leads to rain, it is ok with me.  Rainy days are great for big hot pots of soup.  The crockpot is the perfect vehicle for cooking it and being free to do other things at the same time.

You can really put any vegetables you have on hand in this soup.  The variety I chose worked well but feel free to change it up.  The slow cooking allows the flavors to meld and develop character.

Crockpot Vegetable Soup

3 cups chopped Chinese cabbage
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 15-ounce can white kidney or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 14 1/2-ounce diced fire-roasted tomatoes with green chilies (or regular diced tomatoes for milder soup)
1 cup frozen peas (or 1/2 cup frozen peas and 1/2 cup frozen corn)
3 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon Better that Bouillon base, any flavor
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme plus more for garnish, optional
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf

Place all ingredients in crockpot.  Cover and cook for 3 to 4 hours on high or 7 to 8 hours on low.  Remove bay leaf.  Makes about 8 cups, or 4 2-cup servings.  Serve each bowl with sprig of thyme for garnish, if desired.

Friday, February 18, 2011

It's Cloudy in Southern California!

Today it rained.  It felt like a "chili" kind of night.  But as the sun appeared in the afternoon, it felt like a lemony kind of afternoon.  This lemon cookie recipe has been in my recipe box for years.  I hesitate to make it often, though, because of it's richness.  With a few modifications, I brought the fat and calories to a more reasonable level for those of us watching our weight.  Have one or two with a cup of tea for a refreshing afternoon pick me up.  It will brighten your day!

Lemon Clouds

2/3 cup butter
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 cup flour
2/3 cup cornstarch

2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons light tub butter
2/3 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  In medium mixing bowl, cream butter and powdered sugar.  Beat in flour and cornstarch and continue beating until batter holds together.

Roll batter into 1-inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet.  Flatten balls into discs.  Cookies do not spread so they can be close on cookie sheet.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until edges just begin to turn golden.  Cool cookies on wire rack.  In a small bowl, combine frosting ingredients.  Spread on tops of cookies.  Makes 30 cookies.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cheesy Lasagna Rolls

The way I like to cook dinner is to do the major preparation in the morning and the final touches just before dinnertime.  This method has kept me from ordering pizza or Chinese take-out many a time.  One recent morning, I simply boiled some lasagna noodles, mixed up a little filling, and pulled out a jar of store-bought pasta sauce from the cupboard.  In no time, my main dish was ready.

Cheesy Lasagna Rolls

8 dry lasagna noodles
3 ounces shredded part-skim Mozzarella cheese (about 1 cup) plus 1 additional ounce
1 cup fat free cottage cheese
1 tablespoon dry Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 25-ounce jar low fat pasta sauce

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Coat a 9x13-inch baking pan with olive oil spray.

Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions.  Drain and lay flat on a cotton kitchen towel.

In a medium bowl, combine 3 ounces Mozzarella, cottage cheese, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Spread about 3 tablespoons on one half of each lasagna noodle.  Roll up lasagna noodles, cheesy end first.

Spread about 1/4 cup pasta sauce evenly over bottom of prepared baking pan.  Place lasagna rolls in pan.  Pour remaining sauce over rolls and sprinkle with remaining 1 ounce Mozzarella.

If making ahead, cover and refrigerate pan.  Remove from refrigerator and bring to room temperature before baking.  Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until hot and bubbly.  Makes 4 large servings, 2 rolls each.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Lemon recipes, pleeease!

I've had a request from a friend.  Inundated with lemons because 'tis the season, she would love some lemon recipes.  A few lemon-inspired thoughts have been running through my mind.  Main dishes, desserts, side dishes - oh, where to start?  In the next little while, you will see lemon scattered throughout some of the recipes I make.

To begin, I give you Lemon Potatoes.  Easy to put together and place in the oven, in a short time you have a delicious side dish and a wonderful aroma in your home.  It will only utilize one of your lemons, but it is a start.  Enjoy!  (And forgive the shadow in the picture - I'm learning.)

 Lemon Potatoes

2 pounds red potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup water
1 large lemon, zested and juiced
4 teaspoons olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, or any other herb you like
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper, or freshly ground black if you don't have white

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with olive oil spray.

In a large bowl, combine potatoes, water, lemon zest and juice, olive oil, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper.  Spread evenly in prepared pan.

Bake potatoes for about 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes, until edges begin to turn golden and potatoes are soft.  Makes 4 hearty servings.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Down Home Baked Beans

Maybe like me you have a bag of dry beans that's been in your pantry for ages.  It could be pintos or white kidney beans or even black-eye peas.  I had cannellini beans just begging to be used so I knew the time had come.

Having my inlaws for lunch makes me think of down home cooking.  They were both raised on farms and enjoy their meat and potatoes.  So last Sunday, along with some tri tip and baked mashed potatoes, I served up some baked beans.  The recipe starts with soaking and boiling the beans, then sauteeing some onion and tossing everything into the crockpot.  The final slow cooking allows the flavors to soak into the beans for a flavorful result.

Down Home Baked Beans

1 1-pound package dry beans, preferably white but any bean will do
6 cups water
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup ketchup, sugar free if possible
3 tablespoons light maple syrup
1 tablespoon molasses
2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke

Soak beans 8 hours or overnight in 6 cups water.  Place beans and water in large sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Lower heat to a simmer and cook until beans are soft, one to one and a half hours.  Drain beans.

Heat olive oil in nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until softened.  Place onion in crockpot along with cooked beans, 3/4 cup water, ketchup, maple syrup, molasses, mustard, chili powder, and liquid smoke.  Stir to combine.  Cover and cook 6 hours on low setting.  Makes 8 cups, 12 2/3-cup  or 16 1/2-cup servings.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Come on, just try it

Just like coffee, mushrooms, and wine, I believe coleslaw is an acquired taste.  The crunchy with the creamy, the sweet with the bitter, it takes a little getting used to.  Some people never do find a liking for it.  Here is a unique combination of ingredients to change up the usual coleslaw and perhaps attract some hesitant eaters.

Fusion meals are continually popular.  Putting a little Asian touch on a standard American side dish takes the coleslaw to a whole new level.  Some garlic and ginger,  an optional bit of heat, and a few peanuts might be just the thing to get naysayers to try it again.

Chinese Coleslaw

1/2 cup light sour cream
1/4 cup fat free mayonnaise
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned rice vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons chili paste, optional (I used Sambal Oelek)
3 cups chopped napa cabbage (also called Chinese cabbage)
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped green onion
1/2 cup grated carrot
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped peanuts

In a small bowl, combine sour cream, mayonnaise, sugar, vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper, ginger, and chili paste, if using.  In a large bowl, combine cabbage, celery, green onion,  carrot, and cilantro.  Add dressing ingredients and stir to combine.  Toss in peanuts just before serving.  Serve immediately.  Makes 6 1/2-cup servings.