Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Lentil Veggie Mac and Cheese

Do you want to know another thing that I learned about myself when I was traveling so much?

I cannot iron.

Well, I guess I can iron, but cannot iron well.

In many ways I could excel at a homemaker-- I love to make home cooked meals (obviously). I have being doing my own laundry since high school (thanks, Mom, for instilling this in me). I like to knit (yes, sometimes I'm an old lady). But I fail at the ironing. Probably because since high school my outfit of choice has been jeans and a tshirt. Every now and then I'll dress it up with a sweater. Maybe a dress here or there if I'm attending a wedding. But my day-to-day wardrobe has never required an iron. During my job interviews I was wearing some new professional clothes which certainly do require an iron. You should have seen me trying to iron out the creases I had just ironed into the blouses. And those pesky dress pants and jackets. Don't even get me started. I suppose this is a skill I should learn before I start my career this fall.... but I've got a few months yet.

Until then (or while I'm practicing), I'll stick with home cooked meals. How about some garden fresh mac and cheese with lentils. Aren't the colors beautiful? This is perfect for a meatless Monday especially when it is cold outside. Comfort food.

Now who's up for an ironing lesson? I'll pay with yummy food. :)

Lentil Veggie Mac and Cheese (adapted from The Lean Green Bean)
1 cup chopped bell peppers (I used a combination of red and yellow)
1 cup chopped broccoli
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups torn kale
1 cup dry mini ziti noodles
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 oz goat cheese
1 cup skim milk
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
2 cups cooked lentils

Preheat oven to 400F. Coat an 8-in round baking dish with cooking spray.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain.

Heat the peppers, broccoli and garlic in a saucepan over medium high heat for about 3 minutes until starting to turn tender. Add the kale and continue to cook until everything is tender, about 6-7 minutes. Remove from the pan.

Melt the butter in the pan. Whisk in the flour. Slowly add in the milk whisking constantly. Add the cheeses and spices and continue to whisk until melted completely. Stir in the veggies, lentils, and pasta and toss to coat completely. Transfer to the baking dish.

Cover with foil and bake for about 15 minutes.

Serves 3-4.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Mini Buffalo Chicken Muffins

I told you that I was traveling a lot this fall for job interviews. And I started 2014 with another trip. This one for a scientific conference. Traveling can completely exhaust you because you are not on your normal schedule and you are living out of suitcases and you are not sleeping in your own bed.

I have concluded the thing that will make or break my travel is not the delayed flights, nor the eating out so often, nor the lack of a DVR for my normal TV shows. No, it is the heater or air conditioner in the hotel room. I LOVE a new hotel that has renovated and installed real thermostats. The ones that you can set at a temperature and they will only kick the heat on if necessary. I HATE the old heaters that are either on or off with no real control of the temperature, hot or hotter or cold or colder. When I was on this last trip, this was completely cemented in my mind. It was cold in the mountains of New Mexico so I turned on the heater in my room (low and towards the hot). I fell asleep for a few hours to awake in a completely dry heat where I couldn't breathe. So I flipped the heat off, chugged some water, and climbed back into bed. I awake after another hour or so completely freezing! I tried and tried to adjust the temperature to get a happy medium but to no avail; I was stuck every night jumping up to either turn on or off (multiple times) the stupid heater.

Ah well. It just makes you appreciate your own home so much more. I am thankful that I do not travel all of the time. I love my comfy pillow top bed and thermostat that keeps it a perfect 66F so I can cuddle under my blankets and sleep.

Enough of the story time, Julie; get on to the food! Today we are making and eating delicious mini buffalo chicken muffins. Technically I made them for a party a few months ago, but give me a break okay? I just told you had been traveling a lot. But really, you need to make these. Like today. Or maybe on February 2nd for the Super Bowl. They are perfect buffalo chicken bites--- loaded with buffalo sauce, blue cheese, and green onions. Make sure you follow the instructions and wait until they have rested for at least 15 minutes before you try to remove them from the pan. They need to set otherwise you will make a disaster in your kitchen. And I'm not volunteering for clean-up duty!

Mini Buffalo Chicken Muffins (adapted from The Noble Pig)
3 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, finely diced
3/4 cup buffalo sauce
1/4 cup ranch dressing
8 oz cream cheese, softened
4 oz blue cheese crumbles
1 celery stick, minced
3 cups panko breadcrumbs
1 1/2 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese
4 tbsp chopped green onion (just green part)
1 cup unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray mini muffin pan(s) with cooking spray.

Mix together the chicken, buffalo sauce, ranch dressing, cream cheese, blue cheese, and celery until completely combined. Note: this will be easiest if the cream cheese is at room temperature.

Mix together the panko, parmesan cheese, and green onion. Drizzle in the melted butter and mix with a fork until all of the breadcrumbs are moistened.

Scoop rounded tbsp of the panko mixture into the bottom of each muffin cup. Press down with your fingers, making a crust. Spoon a rounded tbsp of the chicken mixture into each cup. Sprinkle with additional panko mixture.

Bake about 25-30 minutes until golden. Remove from oven and cool in pan for at least 15 minutes to let set. Gentle lift each muffin out of the pan.

Make 48 mini-muffins.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili

Boy it is getting hot out there.

Today we had a high of 22 F!! That is practically Caribbean weather, right? Well, at least relative to the high of -11 F with a windchill of -45 F on Monday. Yeah, it was really cold.

And when you are really cold, you need a chili to warm you up. Here is one of my favorites. It is a white chicken chili packed full of flavor after cooking all day in your slow cooker. The leftovers are perfect reheated or repurposed into nachos or a salad, so make the whole batch, ok?

Now I'm off to resume my comfy place on my couch with my slippers, blanket, and a mug of steaming hot cocoa. I'm not leaving until the weather warms to at least freezing.

Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili (adapted from Fix-it and Forget-it)
1 lb dried great northern beans
2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 1/2 cups diced bell peppers (I used a combination of red, yellow, and green)
2 jalapeno peppers, diced (I seeded one and left the other with seeds, but adjust for your desired spice)
1 medium onion, diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
4 cups chicken broth (homemade or low sodium store-bought. If using store-bought, omit salt)
2 cups water

The night before, rinse and pick over the northern beans. Place in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Let soak overnight.

The morning of, drain the beans. Place them back in the saucepan and cover again with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Drain the water.

Mix together the beans, chicken, peppers, onion, garlic, cumin, salt, broth and water in the crock of your slow cooker. Cook on low for 8-10 hours (or high 4-5 hours). Stir and season with additional salt and pepper as desired.

Ladle into bowls and top with shredded cheese, Greek yogurt or sour cream, or additional garnishes as desired.

Makes 8 servings.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Mahi Mahi with Jalapeno Ponzu

Vocab lesson of the day--

Ponzu: a citrus and soy based sauce used in Japanese cooking.

My interpretation--

Ponzu: an orange salty thin sauce that makes fish (in this case, mahi mahi) extra delicious regardless of your ethnicity. I picked up some mahi mahi from Trader Joe's during a trip to Indianapolis this fall and have been looking for good recipes to use up my freezer stock. This flavor profile worked perfectly. I spiced it up with some jalapenos. Definitely a quick and easy main course dish. Try it with another hearty fish like salmon or even chicken.

Mahi Mahi with Jalapeno Ponzu (adapted from Cooking Light's The Complete Quick Cook)
1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
1/2 tbsp orange juice
1/2 tbsp mirin
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp sesame oil
1 4-6 oz mahi mahi fillet
slices of fresh jalapeno pepper

Whisk together the soy sauce, orange juice, mirin and lemon juice.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mahi mahi and cook about 4 minutes on each side until cooked through.

Place your fish on a plate and top with jalapeno slices. Spoon the ponzu over the fillet. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Serves 1.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Spicy IPA Hummus

Grab yourself a mug of beer and let's cheers to the start of 2014! We'll probably need some snacks to wash down that beer. How about this spicy IPA hummus and some chips or carrots? Sounds perfect.

Spicy IPA Hummus (adapted from The Beeroness)
2 jalapenos, stemmed and roughly chopped (remove seeds if you want it to be less spicy)
3 tbsp tahini pasta
15 oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed (peeled, if you have time)
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lime
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/3 cup IPA beer (I used New Holland Brewery White Hatter), plus additional if necessary

Place the jalapenos, tahini, chickpeas, parsley, oil, lime juice, garlic powder, and salt in a food processor. Pulse until everything is pureed. Stream in the beer while the processor is going. Add additional beer until you get to your desired consistency.

Serve with tortilla chips, crackers, or veggies.