Saturday, March 31, 2012

Lingonberry and Chocolate Stuffed French Toast

This is a continuation of my love affair with breakfast.  There are not enough mornings where I have free time to try all the great breakfasts out there - much less going out for breakfast.   Until I become a lady of leisure, I just sneak them in when I can.    Last week during my bargain IKEA adventure I picked up a jar of lingonberry jam and two of the 99 cent chocolate bars.    This was the delicious result.

What You Need
Eight slices of wheat bread (I used the bargain bin bread at King Soopers...why pay full price when you're going to dip it in egg anyway?)
1 1/4 cup skim milk
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
lingonberry jam  (you could use any jam of your choosing)
1 bar of dark chocolate
reduced fat cream cheese (I used less than 2oz)
fruit and powdered sugar for garnish

What You Do
Whisk together the milk, eggs and vanilla in a large bowl.    Preheat your skillet.  
Break off 8 squares of the dark chocolate (about 1/3 of the bar) and chop into small pieces.

Build your french toast sandwich of awesomeness.   Spread a thin coat of cream cheese on the bottom slice of bread.   Spread a generous layer of jam on top of the cream cheese.   Sprinkle the chopped chocolate on top of the jam.   Place the second slice of bread on top and push down a little.   Dip the sandwich in the egg and milk mixture until the whole sandwich is coated. 

Place the sandwich on the skillet and cook until golden brown, 2-3 minutes on each side.     Slice sandwich in half and serve with a dusting of powdered sugar and fresh fruit.   

Be the envy of all your friends eating Cheerios. 

Recipe inspired by So Easy by Ellie Krieger

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Maple Walnut Bars

When you're a kid and you try something that you don't like, your parents may tell you, "Oh, you'll like it when you're older."  They are usually right.   As a girl I did not like maple syrup.   I had my own bottle of Smucker's fruit syrup - boysenberry, raspberry or strawberry.  Anything but maple.  At some undefined moment in my life I decided that maple syrup and other maple flavored treats were good.   I'm a bit of a syrup snob.   I don't buy "pancake syrup."  It's real maple or not at all.    These bars are sweet, small and are great with coffee.

What You Need
1/2 cup cold butter/margarine
1 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups walnuts (used closer to 1 1/2 since that's what I had)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons butter/margarine
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons heavy cream (another cheat, I used skim milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla

What You Do
Preheat the oven to 350.   Line an 8x8 pan with foil and spray with cooking spray. 

To make the crust, combine all crust ingredients in a food processor and process until fine crumbs form.   Press crust into the bottom of the pan and bake 25-30 minutes until it just begins to brown.

Take advantage of your oven being on to toast the walnuts on a baking sheet for 6-8 minutes, then coarsely chop them up.   In a medium saucepan combine the sugars, butter, syrups, and cream;  bring to a boil.   Reduce heat, simmer and stir until slightly thickened, 4-5 minutes.   Stir in walnuts and vanilla.   

Spread the filling over the crust and let the bars cool.   Cooking at night, I covered the pan and put them in the fridge before I went upstairs and they chilled the night away.   Pull the bars out of the pan using the foil and cut into small squares.   These are rich, so you don't need a big piece. 

Recipe Source:  Real Simple

Sunday, March 25, 2012

How I Spent Less than $10 at IKEA

Last year I went to Santa Fe for Memorial Day.   One of the key components of the trip was a trip to Trader Joe's, since there isn't one here in Colorado.   Yet.   (They have filed to do business in CO...there will probably be one in Boulder by early 2013).   While at the checkout with a case of 2 Buck Chuck, I mentioned that there wasn't a TJ in Colorado, so I had to make the journey.   The checker laughed and said that when the IKEA opened here in Denver, lots of people in New Mexico would be making a similar journey.    IKEA opened last July.   I finally went this past week.  

The good news?  Because I, and my budget, are completely focused on my upcoming trip to Greece, it was easy not to get caught up in a home improvement whirlwind.   Don't get me wrong.  I loved the couches with ottomans, funky light fixtures, kitchen storage and inexpensive down comforters.   I just love the thought of vacation more.  When all was said and done, I spent less than $10.   All on food.   IKEA has a large cafeteria that sells their signature Swedish meatballs, among other things.   I felt compelled to try the $3.99 meatball plate with mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam.    I also bought two chocolate bars and a jar of the jam.    

Not bad for my first visit.  Not bad at all.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Ruby Red Pound Cake

Again I am reminded that I like grapefruit.  It's rare to see it featured in a country song recipe.   You can see where my mind is at....listening to Kenny Chesney's song "Coastal."  The song does not feature grapefruit.  It does feature tropical climates...close enough.   

This turned out so well, I know I will make it again.  I imagine it would be delicious with any citrus fruit.  I didn't have a tube pan, called for in the original recipe.  I used one regular loaf pan and two small "gift-size" loaf pans. 

What You Need
Cooking spray
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
5/8 teaspoon salt, divided
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
6 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
2 large eggs
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons grated ruby red grapefruit rind (I zested the two grapefruits I had and don't think I got 2 tablespoons...I gave in and said "close enough!")
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup skim milk

1/2 cup fresh ruby red grapefruit juice (squeeze it from one of the grapefruits that you zested so vigorously)
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar

What You Do
Coat your loaf pans with baking spray. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife.  Combine flour, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, stirring well. 

Place granulated sugar, butter, and cream cheese in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time. Beat in oil, rind, and vanilla.

Add flour mixture and milk alternately to batter, beginning and ending with flour. Spoon batter into pan; bake at 325° for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs clinging.  I did not make any adjustments for Denver altitude and had no problems.  My mini cakes cooked for about an hour. 

Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes. Invert cake. Cool on rack.

Place juice in a saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Cook until reduced to 3 tablespoons (about 4 minutes). Cool slightly. Stir in powdered sugar and remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt. Drizzle over cake.

Recipe Source: Cooking Light

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Moroccan Chicken and Butternut Squash Soup

Every time I get Cooking Light magazine, I try to find the recipes I'm actually going to try, tear them out (really, scissors are too much work) and add the ingredients to my grocery list.    I don't keep butternut squash or zucchini just lying around the house.    I made a few minor modifications (since I don't keep couscous on hand either and forgot to buy some) and it's a nice hearty lunch soup with good flavor.  

What You Need:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
1 teaspoon ground cumin  (the Trader Joe's label on it makes me said that there is no TJ in Colorado...yet)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon black/red pepper mix
3 cups cubed peeled butternut squash
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 cups chicken stock
1/3 cup orzo (since I had no couscous)
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced into small pieces
dried basil
2 teaspoons grated clementine rind (no oranges in the house either...but close enough)

What You Do:
Heat your stock pot over medium heat.  Add oil, swirl to coat.  Add onion and cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add chicken; cook for 4 minutes to brown.   Add cumin, cinnamon and pepper, cook one minute stirring constantly.    Stir in stock, scraping pan.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 8 minutes.   Stir in orzo/couscous, salt and zucchini.  Cook 5 minutes or until squash is tender.   Remove pan from heat.  Stir in basil and zest.   Enjoy!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

French Toastwich

A few weeks ago I picked up the Peach Amaretto Pecan whipped honey in Georgetown, CO at Kneisel & Anderson.    Honeyville is a Colorado product and my previous purchase, Maple Hazelnut, was very tasty.   I'm not really a breakfast toast person.  I knew I wouldn't be spreading honey on bread daily.   So it's a little of an impulse buy.  My solution?  Create a honey cream cheese filling and enjoy a lazy Saturday French Toastwich.

My goal was to use up a partial loaf of french bread, so I sliced the bread, and then sliced the slices in half to make somewhat even sized pieces of french toast that could be put together sandwich style.    I don't have a particular recipe or technique for french toast.   I whisked 2 eggs, 1/3-1/2 cup skim milk, a splash of vanilla, and some orange zest. 

My filling was 2 oz of reduced fat cream cheese and 1/4 cup of the Peach Amaretto Pecan honey mixed together.

I dipped my little sandwich slices into the egg mixture and then cooked them on my non-stick griddle.    When they were almost done, I spooned some filling on top of one piece of toast and put the other piece on top, while on the griddle  I pressed down with the spatula, let it cook a little more and flipped it over one more time.  

They were small little hand-held french toastwiches filled with awesome.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sips and Bites: Keystone, Colorado

There are many ways to handle a trip to the mountains when it comes to food and drink:  
1) You can bring it all from home.   Stuff your pockets with PB&J, trailmix and fruit, fill your cambelbak with water, and have your flask ready.
2) You can make it.  If you're staying in a condo or a house, you can hit the grocery store and make eggs for breakfast, spaghetti for dinner, and sandwiches to take on-mountain for lunch. 
3) You can buy it.  This is the most expensive option.  Food on-mountain is notoriously expensive.  Some kind of entree plus a soda/gatorade and a cookie will set you back at least $16.

On our recent trip, we were staying at a hotel and didn't have a kitchen, so that eliminated option 2.   Having mom and a friend from out of state, we didn't want them to just see the inside of a hotel room and a homemade sandwich, so we had a bit of a plan.

We bought road snacks and beverages.   Crackers?  Check.  String Cheese? Check.  Gatorade? Check.  Our hotel offered breakfast (hello waffle maker!), so we weren't starting the day just with coffee and a granola bar.    The pictures above highlight how we treated ourselves the rest of the time.    For mom and our friend this was a mini-vacation, so we wanted to make sure they had fun.  For my sister and I it was also a mini-vacation....just without getting on a plane. 

A few of our stops throughout the weekend:

Beau Jo's - Home of Colorado Style pizza.   The distinguishing feature is the thick crust and the honey that is on each table to dip into.    The honey cheese bread was delicious.   We stopped at their location in Idaho Springs.  It's in a big old building that goes on forever and they were crankin' on a Friday night.   

Inxpot - Independent coffee shop in River Run Village at Keystone.    They offer $3 Irish coffees all day.   They also sell "big ass brownies."  What more can I say?

Red Mountain Grill - Late dinner on Saturday night.    The interior decor is very cool - amazing light fixtures.    The food and service were fine, but nothing super special.

Georgetown Valley Candy Company - My favorite place to stop on my way home from the mountains.    Primarily for their homemade ice cream.  Sometimes for chocolate.  Sometimes for caramel corn.   

And since we were in Georgetown....we stopped at Kneisel & Anderson which is the small Scandinavian grocery on the main street that also specializes in Colorado local foods as well.   I came home with some ginger Stilton cheese that is amazing.   Just as a reminder, this grocery store does not take credit cards, so be prepared with cash.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Denver Restaurant Week #2: La Fondue

Hard to believe that I actually went out to eat and did not take pictures of my food.  I must have been too busy laughing.  Or drinking wine.  Or taking fierce action with my blue tipped fondue forks.   Restaurant week in Denver is so popular that it lasts two weeks, one just isn't enough.  Sadly for unsuspecting visitors during this time, it's really hard for them to get restaurant reservations.   But enough about them....

I gave two friends who moved recently to Denver the challenge to pick a restaurant (out of the 300 or so restaurant week options) to try out.    I've been to La Fondue before and was happy to go again.   During restaurant week all the restaurants offer menus for $52.80 for two.  It was a great value here - with a table of 5 we had two burners and were able to enjoy both cheese fondue options, a choice of salad, both entree fondue cooking sauce options, and milk and dark chocolate fondue.    Did I mention the two bottles of wine?   And house-made cheesecake to dip in chocolate?   I love to go to eat with friends who thoroughly enjoy the company and the food. 

It was weekend fun on a work night.   Cheers!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Chicken Panini with Sundried Tomatoes and Spinach

There is something about a recipe with sun-dried tomatoes that sucks me in.   I don't care for fresh tomatoes in most things, but you throw in sun-dried (with the inherent oily and garlicy goodness) and I'm on board.    I think that my focus on planning and cooking more of my dinners instead of leaving things to chance has been helping with the 95 Days of Glory fitness and healthy eating campaign in preparation for vacation for Greece.   My pants are looser and I've lost over 10 pounds since the beginning of the year.  

This recipe is adapted from Cooking Light:  Rosemary Chicken Panini with Spinach and Sun-dried Tomatoes

What You Need
2 large skinless boneless chicken breasts
1/4 cup chopped oil packed sun dried tomato (keep the oil for sauteing the spinach)
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 generous spoonful of jarred chopped garlic
6 oz fresh baby spinach
sea salt and black pepper
rosemary (I used dried, though original recipe called for fresh)
whole wheat hoagie buns (or the bread of your choice)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella

What You Do
Marinate the chicken breasts with 1 tablespoon olive oil and rosemary (in a ziploc for 30 minutes if you plan ahead or just on a plate for a few minutes if you don't).  

Heat non-stick skillet and add sun-dried tomato (with oil), crushed red pepper and garlic and saute for a quick minute or two until it smells awesome.   Add the spinach and saute 1-2 minutes more until the spinach wilts.   Remove from heat.

I grilled the chicken on my little George Foreman grill.   The chicken breasts really were huge, so I was able to cut each one in half to make 4 sandwiches.   Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper before grilling. 

Once your chicken is grilled you can assemble your sandwich.   Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of cheese on the bottom of the roll, then add 1/4 of the spinach mixture, a piece of chicken and another 1 tablespoon of cheese and then put on the top of the roll.    Place sandwich back on your counter top grill, press cover down and cook for 2-3 minutes until cheese melts and sandwich is heated all the way through.   Slice in half.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Cookie Sandwiches

My Bake MS Campaign rolls on and I still have months to go before I ride.  The good news?  Progress on raising money.  The bad news?  I'm going to have to pick up my bike from the shop and actually start riding again.   A family member made a donation to my Bike MS ride and I asked what she'd like.   She said something simple, like sugar cookies, for the kids.   The box arrived today and the cutout sugar cookies, made with butter and filled with buttercream frosting, got 8 thumbs up (two thumbs per person).    She sent me a picture of the kids eating the cake pops.    That made my day.

Sometimes simple really is the best.   
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