Monday, December 5, 2011

mexican. meatless. monday.

there are, what seems like, millions of food blogs out there. and they all have their own area of personal interest or expertise. 

just desserts.
cooking with a tight budget.
crockpot recipes.
college student. :)

you name it, there's a food blog out there about it. and each is different in the way it is set up. however, there seems to be one recurring theme.

meatless monday.

so in lieu of joining the cult and obsession that is writing a food blog, i figured i'd follow the crowd on this one.

but i'm taking this one step further and donning this "mexican meatless monday."

oh yes.

did i mention this was an all day affair?

one class on mondays means pinterest and foodgawker are my morning rituals, which corresponds well with planning my dinner adventures. i had also gone grocery shopping which pretty much always gets my imagination and creative juices flowing.

guac for lunch?

yes please.

ok for all the avocado newbies out there, this is a convenient step-by-stepper for you.

1. run your knife around the fruit (yes, i meant to say fruit...) from top the bottom. guide it around the pit in the center, don't just chop the whole sucker in half, it won't work.
2. lightly, and safely, toss the knife into the pit.
3. make sure the knife is secure and so is your grip on the avocado and the knife. then slowly turn the knife in order to loosen the pit from the flesh.
4. pit is removed! now the trick is to get that slippery pit off the knife without slicing yourself open.

5. take a spoon and insert it into the flesh right under the skin. if the avocado is ripe, the flesh should come out in one nice chunk. if it's not ripe, good luck. :)

after all the avocados had been pitted and skinned, i mashed them into a chunky mess.

mm. there's something about avocados that i love. well maybe a few things.

what other type of vegetation can you think of that is creamy all on it's own?

what other type of vegetation can you slice onto sandwiches and mash up and spread onto a sandwich?
what other type of vegetation is this good for you? (ok so a lot. whatever.)

anyways, after some skillfull mashing, i squeezed in the juice of a full lime, along with probably a tablespoon of lemon juice.

those juices are on double duty: the acid keeps the avo from browning and adds some flava flave.

next i chopped up half of a sweet onion and threw that in.

onto the romas.

oh roma tomatoes. you are my favorite. i honestly could just eat these like apples if their juicy, seedy insides would stop oozing all over my chin and shirt. it's a love-hate relationship we have.

p.s. the easiest way to cut a tomato is with a serrated knife! little restaurant trick for all you "normal" people out there who have never had the joyous opportunity to slice a 20 lb. box of tomatoes in one sitting.

ok let's run back through this easy schmeasy recipe.

lime juice.
lemon juice.
guacamole anyone?

psst. there's still some in my fridge.

ok so with the guacamole out of the way (and my not-so-meatless turkey, guac and greens pita had been consumed) i was on to dinner plans.

black and pinto beans sitting in my cabinet and tortillas sitting in my fridge got my enchilada taste buds whirling.

and with all that protein-y goodness from the beans, who needs to worry about defrosting chicken at this time of the day?

i found this recipe out there on the blogging world and must say, they are quite possibly the easiest and most delicious enchiladas ever. and very college student-friendly, i must say.

i started out by cooking some brown rice. once it was cooked, i added in some salsa.

my lovely vegetarian dinner guest drained the black and pinto beans and added those in too. i also decided to chop up half a red bell pepper so i tossed that in too.

then we added a full packet of taco seasoning. now you could stop there if you like, but my lovely vegetarian dinner guest and i decided we wanted it spicy. so i also eyeballed in about a teaspoon of cayenne. keep the spoons away, cuz this would be a great side dish all on it's own.

at this point, we grabbed a baking pan and threw in some salsa to cover the bottom in a thin layer. i filled the tortillas with some of the filling and rolled them up. 

once my pan was full, i smushed some more of my leftover filling on top of the prepared rolls. then for the cheeeeeeeese. probably about a cup of shredded cheese would work, but i had a little extra, so that got thrown on there too.

a little extra cheese never hurt anyone... at least no one i know.

into the oven it went until the cheese was totally melty and beautiful. 

these are addictingly vegetarian.

try them and you'll see the wonders of mexican meatless monday.

Basic Guacamole
3 avocados, pitted and skinned
½ sweet onion, finely chopped
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
2 tbsp. lime juice (or the juice of 1 lime)
1 tbsp. lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Mash the avocados until most of the large chunks are gone. Add in the lime and lemon juices and stir. Add in the chopped onion, Roma tomato, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with tortilla or pita chips.

Vegetarian Black Bean Enchiladas
2 cups brown rice, cooked
1 cup salsa
½ red bell pepper, chopped
I can black beans
1 can pinto beans
1 packet taco seasoning
1 tsp. cayenne (optional)
5-6 flour or whole wheat tortillas (depending on the size)
1 cup shredded Colby jack or cheddar cheese
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and spread 1/4 cup of salsa over the bottom. Lay your tortillas out on a clean work surface.
In the pot you cooked the rice in, mix in the beans, peppers, taco seasoning, cayenne, and 3/4 cup salsa. Divide evenly among the tortillas. Roll each tortilla tightly and place seam side down in the prepared baking dish. Pour the remaining filling evenly over the tops of the rolled tortillas in the baking dish. Sprinkle the cheese over the top. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until the cheese has melted. Serves 3-4.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

pass those deliciously buttery dinner rolls, but hold the guilt, please.

i realize it has taken me a while to blog about thanksgiving.

but don't worry, because i haven't forgotten a thing about these rolls.

as you may know, 9 out of 10 times, i am looking for healthy recipes. ones that don't make me feel super guilty after eating them. ones that avoid the fat and calories that i could really do without. and ones that still taste super good.

yeah, this is not one of those kinds of recipes.
(minus the tasting super good part.)

can you tell?

yes that's melted butter glistening off the soft, golden brown tops of these crescent roll-esque dinner rolls.

and yes, there's more butter in the actual recipe.

but before you start counting the calories, pulling out your dietetic textbook, or start searching for another recipe with a more heart-healthy, figure-friendly outcome, just pause and listen to the characteristics of these dynamite rolls.


yeah. make these (or beg me to make them for you) and you will understand the extent of my made up word, and all the others.

however, when i first spotted these, i was reluctant.

i'll admit it. i don't like measuring (if you couldn't tell).
hence, i don't like baking (except the end products).
therefore, whenever i see yeast in a recipe, i start this slow backing away process.
like i try to pretend it didn't see me looking at it with that weird look in my eyes.

you see, back in my high school cooking class, my group was assigned to make a yeast bread. we followed the directions, measured correctly (probably) and did the best we could. but let's be honest, the kids in my group were more likely to head to a correctional facility than any sort of culinary competition. basically what i'm saying is that if someone measured out 4 cups of flour by scooping the 3/4 cup measure into the flour container and just used whatever they came up with as "1 cup," surprised would not be my first reaction.

my first reaction would've been more like... ughhh, please tell me you're kidding.

needless to say, our yeast bread turned out to be more like a yeast pound cake, if that's possible. normally density is not a term we use to describe bread, but that was the first thing that came to my mind when i saw our little nugget of flour, yeast, and water. blech.

anywaysssss, moral of the story is i don't didn't like to see yeast in recipes. but now i have learned to embrace it, because these cute little guys got lots of compliments, definitely worth the time spent putting into them!

so the first thing i did was pop the milk, first portion of sugar and a stick of butter into the microwave. get it all sorts of hot and melty until the butter is almost all the way melted.

since you have to put your yeast into this mixture and right now it's super hot, add 1-2 cups of the flour to cool it down. then add the egg and the salt and then let it hang out while you get your yeast ready. but don't freak out like me... it'll all work out in the end.


in this handy measuring cup, i put in 2 cups of warm water.

listen up people. this has to be warm water. not screaming hot and not lukewarm/coldish. like the temperature of water you would have little kids wash their hands with. hey, that's a good way to remember it. i just thought of that. hmm.

anyways, mix in the other 1 tbsp. of sugar and stir it until it dissolves.
 while it's dissolving, measure out your 2 tbsp. of yeast. i don't know why the original recipe uses this amount since it's almost exactly 3 of those individual packets, but if it makes it easier for you it's three packets of yeast minus about 1/2 a teaspoon.

stir those together really good until you don't have any large globs of yeast floating around. then let it sit for about 5 minutes or until you get some bubbles forming at the top of the mixture. it's kind of hard to tell, but try to take a look at what mine looks like:

then add all of the yeast mixture to your (warm!) milk mixture. if it's still too hot, let it sit for a couple more minutes. the yeast is aliveeeeee! and hot temperatures kill the yeast, which is not what we want. little alton brown tidbit for you :)

mix the yeast mixture and milk mixture together and it's time to bring on the flour! add the flour 2 cups at a time until you get to the full 9-10 cups.

slowly, slowly, my mixture took just about all 10 cups, which seems ridiculous... but true.

after about 8 cups, i decided hands were the best tool to use. and most fun, obviously.

without overworking the dough, i just added flour on top and gently worked it in by folding the dough over itself, rotating it, and repeating.

being the fairly messy cook that i am, flour was not only all over the countertops, but also on the clothes that i wore for thanksgiving and definitely found under all my fingernails. i'm so used to working in restaurants where there is at least one box of gloves open at all times that when i cook at home and i'm about to touch something messy or gross-feeling, my brain almost always thinks: gloves.
when i grow up (ha!) and have my own nice kitchen, i am seriously contemplating buying gloves for situations such as this.

and this stuff was stickkkkky, let me tell you. so more flour, here we go!

after one last flour addition and one last flour spout all over myself, i smoothed out the dough and covered it in plastic wrap.

the directions say to keep it in a warm place until the dough doubles in size.

however, i live in wisconsin. it is november. my house is not exactly, dough-proofingly warm. so i put it on my mom's cooktop in between two burners and put them both on low. genius, or so i thought.

as the seconds slipped by, and the packer game drew closer and closer to halftime (when we were supposed to leave for my aunt and uncle's house), my dough had only risen by maybe 25% of what it started out as.

freak out mode commenced.

but then, what's a better place to crank the heat and get this dough rising than on the floor of a car with the heat blasting? hello! yes.

and that is exactly what i did. i kept it all nice and wrapped up, threw it on the floor where the heat came out, and cranked that heat until my siblings were rolling down the windows gasping for a shot of cold air. these are just some of the sacrifices we make for good food.

and when we arrived, the dough was higher than the sides of the bowl and pushing the plastic wrap to it's limits. unfortunately, i don't have any pictures of that, or of the rolling out and cutting process. my camera was left in the car and while i was hard at work in the kitchen, apparently my family thinks that the packer game is more important than taking pictures of food.

and it is very hard for me to disagree with them.

once i got there and managed to buy myself some real estate on my aunt's countertops, i threw down some flour, and plopped out the huge amount of dough. i cut it into 4 equal sections and took it one sections at a time.

after rolling out the dough into a circle, i smushed some room temperature butter all over it.
oh yeah i did.
 then, i used a pizza slicer to cut each round into 8 slices (just like you would a pizza).
starting from the fat side, i rolled them up just like crescent rolls and placed them on a buttered (yes, more butter) baking sheet.
i did the same for the other three sections of dough and then placed the very full sheets of rolls on top of the oven. i finished them with about 30 minutes to spare so it was the perfect amount of time for them to rise again sitting on that hot oven.

yeah, you know... just a couple of rolls...

the dough is so soft and easy to work with, it's miraculous.

and even better once you pull them out of the oven, all golden brown and delicious looking. take some more of that room temperature butter and just rub it all over the tops of these babies. they're still smokin' hot from the oven, so the butter should melt just about on contact.
and *bonus* it makes them shiny. and obviously more delicious. :)

i feel like the only downside of these is that they make almost 50 rolls, so you can't exactly make them for a weeknight kind of dinner.

then again, these are not something anybody should just be eating on an average weeknight. things like this should be saved for big events and holidays where family and friends matter more than calories and waistlines.

Buttery Dinner Rolls
1½ cups milk
¾ cup + 1 tbsp. sugar
1 egg
1 tbsp. salt
2 tbsp. active dry yeast
2 cups warm water
about 9 – 10 cups flour
at least 1 cup butter

Scald milk, ¾ cup sugar and ½ cup butter in a microwave safe bowl, for about 2 minutes. Cutting the butter into pieces helps is melt faster. There will probably be some little cubes of butter still floating in the mixture, they will melt.

To cool it down stir in 1-2 cups of flour, then add 1 egg and 1 Tablespoon of salt, and leave it to cool for a couple of minutes. Meanwhile, in a measuring cup dissolve 2 Tablespoons of yeast in 2 cups of warm water and 1 Tablespoon of sugar. Let it sit for a couple of minutes until it is bubbly.

**Keep track of how much flour you are adding!

Make sure your milk mixture is just warm, not boiling and add the yeast mixture. Using a fork or wooden spoon, gradually stir in 9-10 cups of flour (counting the flour you have already added to cool it earlier). I would recommend only adding 2 cups at time and stirring in between. These rolls turn out so much better when they are mixed by hand.

At the end the dough will be dense and sticky, and may be hard to stir, you can use your hands to incorporate the rest of the flour if needed. Be sure not to add too much flour. Then smooth the dough out and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Leave it in a warm place and let it rise until it has doubled in size.

When your dough is close to rising completely, butter 2 cookie sheets and set them aside. Cover your working space with flour to prevent the dough from sticking. Dump your dough out and divide it into 4 balls. Eyeball the sizes, then lift them up and feel the weight of each ball.

Using one ball of dough at a time: roll the dough into a circle on a floured counter. Once it is rolled out spread the top with butter from edge to edge. You will use about 2 Tablespoons per circle of dough.

Cut the dough into quarters using a pizza cutter. Cut each quarter into 2 or 3 pieces. You should end up with 8-12 triangles from each circle of dough. The more even the size, the more evenly they will cook later. Then, roll the dough starting with the wide end of the triangle. Tuck the tail of the triangle under the roll and place it on the buttered cookie sheet.

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Place the pans of rolls in a warm place (on top of the oven if possible) to let them rise. Once they are touching and full in size, cook (one pan at a time) in the oven until they are golden brown and delicious. It will take about 10 – 15 minutes, maybe longer depending on how hot your oven cooks. Keep a close eye on them.

While they are still hot and fresh out of the oven run a stick of butter over the tops of the rolls for a delicious buttery glaze. Makes 32-48 rolls, depending on how large (or small) you make the triangles.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

an ode to banana harvesters and my kitchenaid mixer

i would like to dedicate this post to all the hard-working banana harvesters around the world. because while they have been working long hours in horrible work conditions and recieving little pay, i have been letting my once-gorgeous bunch of bananas sit on my counter, wilting away just so i can mash them into a shiny, yet sticky pulp of banana goo.

because although i like bananas in their raw, peel n' eat convenient form, mashing them, adding flour and some other nasty-on-their-own-but-somehow-magical-when-mixed-together ingredients and baking them into a loaf or a muffin always seems like the more delicious option.

but the guilt always arises as i proceed to dump in cups upon cups of sugar and flour into the mix. the hope i once had of convincing myself it was healthy because there was fresh bananas in there slowly fades with the 2nd stick of butter.

but friends, let me tell you. this recipe is good for you... but it tastes like it's not.

you know what i mean, don't you?

anyone who loves sweets but doesn't like the love handles that come along with them has tried making a "healthy" version of their favorites.

but aren't you always disappointed when the end product has a weird texture, doesn't taste the same, or (like most "healthy" versions) has no taste at all?
psst. the answer is yes.

well, this recipe is different. it's got greek yogurt and olive oil and whole wheat flour. and instead of pouring in 3 cups of sugar, the cinnamon and bananas add enough sweetness that you won't even miss the sugar!

just mash up those nanners, the yogurt and the baking soda until it's all combined. leave some chunks of banana that way the flavor is more prominent after it bakes.

next the dry stuff. twice as much whole wheat flour as regular flour is probably the ticket here, kids.
it keeps the bread moist without weighing it down too much. however, there are some perks to the all-purpose flour (which i won't go all nerd-town on you right now), but that's why there has to be a little bit of that still in the mix.

cream the sugars and the olive oil until it looks like caramel...

too bad it's not.

but don't get sad yet! here comes the good part!

first start with the dry. then the wet stuff, then the dry, then the wet, then the dry. 

got it?

words do not describe my love for my kitchenaid mixer. when i got it for christmas from my mom last year, i was literally squealing.

"jeez mol, it's a mixer, calm down," my brother slides in between my "oh-my-gosh-oh-my-gosh-oh-my-gosh-what-can-i-make-with-it-right-now-oh-my-gosh-get-it-out-of-the-box-let-me-look-at-it-it's-so-shiny...gaspforair...oh-my-gosh-oh-my-gosh-oh-my-gosh."

biggest geek-out fest over a stand mixer this side of wisconsin has ever seen, i'm sure.

if you have one, you understand it's wonder.
if you don't, you probably think i'm a freak.
but this is the mixer of all mixers.
it's like the ziplock of sandwich bags, the q-tips of cotton swabs, and the kleenex of tissues.
someday, we will be referring to all stand mixers as kitchenaid mixers. either that, or everyone will have one because they have all realized how great they are.

oh yeah, banana bread... heh, minor sidetrack... whoops.

anyways, once it's all mixed, pour the mixture into your pans. the amount of batter that i had made 5 mini loaves and 1 shorter regular sized loaf.

and i am telling you, these taste like the ones out of the box with all the calories and preservatives and crap. only better, because you know what's in there. not a pat of butter to be found and not a lot of sugar either. your taste buds and your missing love handles will thank me later.

also, in lieu of the upcoming holiday season, i decided to give some of those cute little loaves away (and altough they're not crazy fattening, i still don't need them sitting around here begging me to eat them everytime i walk into the kitchen). one to my crazy cat-lady neighbor across the hall, one to my boss, and the rest to some friends.

showing the love of God one mini loaf of healthy banana bread at a time. :)

The I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Bad-For-Me Banana Bread
4 bananas, overly ripe and mashed
1 cup Greek yogurt, strained
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup AP flour
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray or grease 6 mini loaf pans or one large loaf pan. Set aside. 

In a small bowl, mix the mashed bananas, yogurt, and baking soda, then set aside. In a larger bowl, beat oil and sugars, slowly adding the eggs, then vanilla. In another medium mixing bowl, add all the dry ingredients (flours, baking powder, salt and cinnamon), and whisk to combine (or sift). Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the creamed sugars. Next, fold in ½ of the banana mixture, alternating with the flour mixture until everything is just moistened. Pour into prepared pan(s) and bake for about 35-45 minutes, watching carefully not to burn the top. Cool for 10 minutes before attempting to remove the delicious bread. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store leftovers on a covered plate or in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic or aluminum foil.