Lentil Spinach Cups

I’ve had this recipe tucked away for a few years; I can’t believe I haven’t made these sooner, they’re so good!.  These come together really quickly and are a lovely vibrant green.  They’d make a great appetizer or light meal.

I also conquered one of my cooking hang-ups (you know those things that seem really impossible to do right, even though it shouldn’t be hard),  I cooked lentils.  While not an impressive feat, lentils have been one of those things that I couldn’t seem to do properly.  When I’ve cooked them in soups they totally disintegrated, or they never got tender!  But I decided to give it a try with these cups, and 25 minutes later I had delicious, tender lentils!

Lentil Spinach Cups

Makes 10 cups

Adapted from Muffin Tin Mania

  • 1/2 cup dry black, brown or green lentils
  • 6oz bag baby spinach
  • 1 large green onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil, add lentils and a pinch of salt.  Let boil for about 10 minutes, then reduce to a simmer and cook for another 10 minutes or until tender.  Drain and let cool.

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Grease muffin tin (even if they’re non-stick) and set aside.

In a food processor, pulse spinach until finely chopped.  Add ricotta, Parmesan, eggs, nutmeg, salt and pepper and process until well combined.  Stir in cooled lentils.  Scoop into greased muffin tin (will probably fill about 10).  Bake until set, about 18-20 minutes.  Let stand for a few minutes before removing from the muffin tins.

Enjoy!

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Black Bean, Quinoa, & Citrus Salad

I was very intrigued when I first saw this salad.  It’s a really unique combination of ingredients that I would have never thought to combine, but I like them all separately, so how could it be bad?  It is DELICIOUS!  Such a wonderful fresh spring salad!  You’ll definitely want to give it a try!

Black Bean, Quinoa, & Citrus Salad

Serves 6-8

Slightly adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

Salad:

  • 1 large (29oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 large grapefruits, divided into segments and chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 bag frozen corn, thawed (or 3 ears fresh corn, kernels chopped off)
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 large avocado, diced
  • 1 small bunch cilantro, minced

Dressing:

  • 3 limes, juiced
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

Toast quinoa in a small saucepan for about 2 minutes.  Add 2 cups of water and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil.  Let simmer for about 20 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed.  Remove from the stove and let cool while you prepare the rest of the salad.

In a large bowl, combine black beans, shallot, grapefruit, bell pepper, corn, avocado, and cilantro.  In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients.  Add cooled quinoa to the salad, then pour dressing on.  Mix well and serve.

Rosemary Chicken Salad

I’m always on the quest for a good chicken salad recipe.  I have an idealized memory of the chicken salad that was served at a coffee shop near my college.  River Road Coffeehouse made a mean chicken salad sandwich.  It had almonds and pineapple in it and it was served on a croissant!  What’s not to love?!

These days I bookmark, pin, or tear out any delicious sounding chicken salad recipes that come my way.  But when I realized I had some chicken in the fridge just waiting to be put to good use, I ended up googling “chicken salad recipes” on my phone.  It turned out to be a great recipe!  (Although it’s not helping me get through my stacks of saved recipes)

Rosemary Chicken Salad

Adapted from Cooking Light

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (or however many come in the pack from the grocery store)
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • Crushed dried rosemary
  • 2-3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup smoked almonds, chopped
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins (or craisins)
  • 1/3 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 1/3 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Generously sprinkle both sides of chicken with salt, pepper, and rosemary.  Place on baking sheet and loosely cover with foil.  Bake for about 20 minutes, flip chicken and cook for about 15 more minutes (cut chicken at the thickest point to check that it’s done).  Let rest 10 minutes before cutting up into bite-size pieces.  Let cool in the fridge while you assemble the other ingredients.

Combine the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.  Add the cooled chicken and stir to combine.  Serve chilled.

Banana-Pecan Biscotti

I love banana bread.  It’s delicious and moist and reminds me of my grandma.  The problem with banana bread is that you need 3 bananas, sometimes you don’t have 3 extra ripe bananas.  So when I have 2 almost-too-disgusting-to-look-at bananas I make Banana Cookies.  But when you just have one, I recommend these Banana-Pecan Biscotti.

These biscotti get pretty crunchy, so I’d definitely dunk them in your favorite coffee or hot chocolate (I think that’d be DELICIOUS).  They also have a little chewiness to them from the banana.  They really are delicious, and perfect for an afternoon snack, or impressing overnight guests.  Homemade biscotti totally sounds impressive and yet it’s really not that hard to prepare.

Banana-Pecan Biscotti

Makes about 16

Adapted from here

  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • sprinkle of cinnamon
  • 1 mashed very ripe banana
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Spread pecans on baking sheet and stick in the oven while it’s preheating.  Stir once halfway through, when the oven has finished preheating the pecans should be toasted.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  In another bowl, mash the banana and mix in oil, vanilla, and the egg; pour into the dry ingredients.  Add chopped pecans and mix well.  (It seems like there’s too much flour, but keep mixing and it will all come together)

Grease a baking sheet, separate dough in half and form each half into an 8″ log about 1/2″ thick on the baking sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Cut each log diagonally into at least 8 slices.  Place slices cut side down on the baking sheet and bake for another 8 minutes.  Flip pieces over and bake for 8 more minutes.

Remove from baking sheet and allow to cool on a wire rack.  Serve with coffee or hot chocolate.  Would also be delicious with a drizzle of melted chocolate on top.

The best cupcakes ever!

In case you were under any delusions that cooking is always easy for me, these cupcakes were definitely a struggle!  This was the first time I’ve filled a cupcake, and despite having the proper tool (a piping bag and piping tip), it was incredibly frustrating.  My tip would get clogged, or I pressed too hard and the filling came out the bottom, or I couldn’t tell if there was any going in or not!  Despite the frustration, these were SO worth it!!!!  I think these are by far the best cupcakes I’ve ever made.  The chocolate cake is SO moist and tender, the raspberry is a delicious contrast to the rich chocolate, and the frosting is chocolate-y goodness.  I can’t rave about these cupcakes enough!

Double Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

Makes 32 cupcakes

Slightly adapted from Annie’s Eats

Cupcakes:

  • 3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups hot brewed (decaf) coffee
  • 2 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups lowfat buttermilk
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract

Raspberry filling:

  • 1 (12oz) bag frozen raspberries, thawed
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch, sifted

Ganache frosting:

  • 12 oz semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp corn syrup
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
To make the raspberry filling, puree the raspberries in a blender, or food processor (or magic bullet).  Strain raspberries into a small saucepan to remove the seeds.  Whisk in the sugar and cornstarch, heat until mixture comes to a boil, stirring frequently.  Once thickened, remove the pan from the heat.  Chill before using.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Grease cupcake pans (even if they’re nonstick).  Place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl and pour the hot coffee over it, allow to sit for a few minutes.  Whisk until smooth and allow to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; whisk until well mixed.

In another large bowl, beat the eggs with an electric mixer until slightly thickened and pale yellow.  Slowly add the oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and chocolate-coffee mixture, mixing until well blended.  Add the dry ingredients and stir until just combined (batter will still be slightly lumpy).

Divide batter into cupcake tins, about 3/4 full.  Bake for 17-19 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Allow the cupcakes to cool for about 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile, make the ganache frosting.  Add the chocolate chips to a medium, heatproof bowl.  In a saucepan, combine the cream, sugar, and corn syrup.  Heat until just boiling.  Immediately pour the hot mixture over the chocolate chips, allow to sit for a few minutes.  Slowly whisk the mixture until smooth, then whisk in butter one tablespoon at a time.  Let mixture stand at room temperature to thicken before attempting to pipe or spread it.

To assemble the cupcakes, place the raspberry filling in a pastry bag.  Pipe a few teaspoons of filling into each cupcake, being careful not to poke all the way through.  Spread the ganache over the tops of the cupcakes.  Allow the cupcakes to set completely before serving.

Tofu!

So last night’s SCL dinner was my 12th week.  It was also the last class of the second term (don’t worry, a 3rd term starts next week!).  After all this time I figured it was about time I made the ultimate scary vegetarian food:  tofu!

I’m a big fan of tofu, but don’t make it very often because it takes a bit of planning.  I think I changed some opinions on tofu, this was a VERY popular salad!  I served this with the Mango and Mint Salad with Cashews, and the best cupcakes I’ve ever made!

Tofu, Mushroom, Green Bean and Grain Salad

Serves 20

Adapted from Cooking Light (September 2010)

Tofu:

  • 4 (12oz) packages extra-firm tofu, drained and rinsed
  • 3 1/2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 6 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, grated

Salad:

  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 4 cups uncooked bulgur wheat
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 lbs green beans, trimmed and cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 package dried shiitake mushrooms,
  • 2 cups very hot water
  • 8 oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup green onions, thinly sliced

Dressing:

  • 1 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 8 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 8 Tbsp honey
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced

The day before serving, press your tofu.  Drain and rinse the tofu in cold water, then wrap tofu in a clean dish towel (or paper towels) and put something heavy on top (like a pan with your olive oil bottle on top).  Let sit for several hours or overnight.  Add the brown sugar, soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil, and garlic into a large ziploc bag.  Once the tofu has been pressed, cut into bite sized pieces and add to the marinade bag.  Allow the tofu to marinate for several hours.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Bake for 35 minutes, turning halfway through.  Allow tofu to cool.

Toast the bulgur wheat in the 2 tsp sesame oil for a few minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the water and salt and bring to a boil.  Let simmer for about 20 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed.  (Alternatively, you can use the leftover water after soaking the dried mushrooms for extra flavor.)

Cook the green beans in boiling water for about 4 minutes, or until crisp-tender.  Drain and plunge into an ice bath.  Drain well and pat dry.  Add the beans to the cooked bulgur.

Soak the dried shiitake in very hot water for about 2 minutes.  Drain, and place mushrooms in a skillet, saute with the baby bella and about 1 Tbsp of the dressing.

Combine all the dressing ingredients in a large measuring cup, and whisk until well mixed.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, and pour dressing on just before serving.  Serve room temperature or cold.

Beef Stroganoff

This has been a long time family favorite.  It’s one of my dad’s favorite meals.  I’ve made it twice now, and since I couldn’t find the family recipe, I’ve been making it up as I go along.  But since it’s a delicious meal, and rather unique since I use ground beef instead of the traditional chunks I figured I should share it.

We had this for dinner last night with a simple avocado and tomato salad and roasted brussels sprouts to go with it.  We served it on rice this time, but it’s equally delicious on egg noodles.


Beef Stroganoff

Serves 6-8

  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 12 oz white mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 lbs ground beef
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1 tsp tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (or Greek yogurt)

Heat  half the olive oil and butter in a pan over medium high heat.  When the butter has melted add onions and saute until softened.  Add more olive oil and butter as needed and then add the mushrooms, saute until softened.  Remove vegetables to a plate and add ground beef to the pan.  Break the beef up while it’s cooking.  When there’s just a little bit of pink left in the beef, add the white wine, broth, tomato paste, Worcestershire, and flour.  Whisk it together in the pan until the flour dissolves.  Add the mushrooms and onions back in the pan.  Mix in the mustard and paprika and season with salt and pepper.  Allow to simmer until it has reached your desired consistency.  Just before serving mix in the sour cream or Greek yogurt, allow to heat through, but don’t let it boil.  Serve over rice or egg noodles.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas

I made these enchiladas for Tuesday’s SCL dinner.  They’re a great vegetarian option, with a delicious creamy, slightly sweet flavor to the filling.  I used mild salsa and enchilada sauce, but I think they’d be great with a spicier sauce since the sweet potato would help soothe the heat.  It’s definitely a flexible recipe, so feel free to add your favorite mix-ins to the filling.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas

Serves 20

Adapted from 5 Dollar Dinners

  • 5 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 1 poblano pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 large cans (29oz) black beans, drained
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 30 corn tortillas
  • 3 cans red enchilada sauce
  • 4 cups shredded cheese

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Stab sweet potatoes with a fork and wrap each one in foil, place all five in a pan and bake for about 45 minutes, until fork tender.

When the potatoes are done, lower oven temperature to 350°F.

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high and add the diced onion.  Saute until just beginning to soften and add the diced poblano pepper.  Cook until softened.  Add beans to the pot and heat through.

Once the potatoes are finished cooking and cool enough to handle, peel the skin off and give the potatoes a quick chop.  Mix the sweet potatoes and cup of salsa into the bean mixture.

Warm the tortillas in batches by covering them with a wet paper towel and microwaving them for 20 seconds.  This will make them easier to roll.  Scoop about 1/3 cup of the bean mixture into the center of the enchilada and place seam side down in a greased baking dish.  Repeat until your baking dishes are filled.  Pour enchilada sauce on top (I used one can per pan), then cover with shredded cheese.

Bake for about 25 minutes, until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbly.

Four year wait

My sister made these cookies for me when I was in undergrad.  Four years later, I found the recipe and finally got around to making them on Tuesday.  These are delicious, light, fluffy cookies.  They’re also incredibly easy to make.  Don’t wait four years to try them.

Mexican Wedding Cookies

Makes about 30 cookies

Adapted from here

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar (more for rolling)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup toasted pecans, finely chopped
  • 2 cups flour
  • For rolling:  about 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Spread pecans out on a cookie sheet and place in the oven, allow to toast for about 10 minutes, stirring halfway.  Cream butter and 1/2 cup sugar together.  Mix in vanilla.  Add nuts and flour and stir until just combined.  Roll small balls of dough and set on a greased cookie sheet about an inch apart.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, until just beginning to golden.  Allow cookies to cool on a wire rack for 15-20 minutes before rolling in powdered sugar.

Birthday Cake

I hadn’t originally planned on posting this recipe because I wasn’t totally thrilled with the results.  However, after refrigerating the leftovers, I realized the secret is in serving it slightly chilled.  The cake has buttermilk in it, and with the tangy flavor from the cream cheese and sour cream in the frosting, I thought it tasted a little too sour.  But once the frosting is chilled, it’s sweet and creamy with a subtle tangy flavor.

Yellow Birthday Cake

Makes 2 9″ cakes

Adapted from here

  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup fat-free sour cream
  • 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease two cake pans.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sour cream together until creamy.  Add the sugar and vanilla and beat with an electric mixer for about 4 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, and mix well.

In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, powder, and salt.  Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet mixture, alternating with the buttermilk.  Stir until just combined, don’t overmix.

Pour the batter into the cake pans and tap once to release air bubbles.  Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Allow cakes to cool for about 10 minutes on a cooling rack before removing from the pans.  Let cakes cool completely before applying frosting.

Chocolate (Sour Cream) Frosting

Makes enough to frost 2 dozen cupcakes, or a 2-layer cake

Adapted from Annie’s Eats

  • 12 oz (1 bag chips) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 8 oz. (1 package) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 4 Tbsp unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup sour cream

Melt the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl, by microwaving in 30 second increments on half power stirring after every 30 seconds until smooth.

Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.  Gradually mix in the sifted sugar, cocoa powder, and salt.  Beat in the cooled, melted chocolate, and then the sour cream.  Frost cake immediately before the chocolate hardens and the frosting sets.

 

Refrigerate the frosted cake for an hour before serving.