Friday, May 29, 2009

Vanilla Chip Cranberry Blondies

These blondies, because they're low fat, are quite cake like, and VERY delicious. I love the flavor combination of cranberries and white chocolate (or vanilla) chips. At Christmas time, I make a cookie that has very similar ingredients so I wanted to try this recipe and I wasn't disappointed.

This recipe calls for dried cranberries but I used fresh and just chopped them up. You can buy cranberries when they're in season in the fall, and keep them in the freezer for quite a long time. I usually buy a few extra bags and store them in the freezer for making crisps, cookies, quick breads, and now these bars!

I chopped up the cranberries using my zylis chopper, although next time I'll probably use my cuisinart to save time!

Once the cranberries are chopped, you can make the batter. (Of course, if you're using dried cranberries, you don't need to chop anything.)

Beat the eggs, oil, applesauce and vanilla. Then add the dry ingredients and mix until well blended. Stir in the chips and cranberries, and pecans. (I didn't use pecans because I prefer nut-less bars!)

Spread the batter into a 9x13 pan coated with cooking spray. The batter in the pan will be quite thin - I took this picture to show you that you'll have a lot of pan left!

Bake the bars for 20-25 minutes or until they test done. They will also pull away from the side of the pan a bit, like this:

Cool on a wire rack, cut into bars, and enjoy!

More ideas can be found at Foodie Friday and Friday Feasts.

Vanilla Chip Cranberry Blondies

2 eggs
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup applesauce
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/3 cups flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup dried cranberries OR 1 cup chopped fresh cranberries
1/2 cup vanilla or white chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans

In large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, oil, applesauce and vanilla. Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda and salt; add to egg mixture and mix until blended. Stir in the cranberries, chips and nuts.

Spread into a 13x9 pan coated with non stick cooking spray. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until bars test done with a toothpick. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into bars. Makes 20.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Toasted Almond Granola

After I made granola the first time, I got really accustomed to eating it in my yogurt every day. Then, as it happens, I ran out. I had eaten it all. So I decided to make some more! But this time, I wanted to try a different recipe, just for fun.

And, I like this one EVEN BETTER! It got crunchier, partly because I baked it longer, but also because of the ingredients. I really like the saltiness that the sunflower seeds add, and the combination of dried fruits is really delicious.

Now that I've made granola twice, I might experiment in the future. The basic method is the same, but the ingredients can be altered.

The first step is to combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. I like the Rice Krispies in this recipe - they add a nice crackle! Then combine the orange juice, honey and oil in a small saucepan and heat until the honey is dissolved. Remove from the heat and then stir in the extracts.

Pour the orange juice mixture over the oat mixture and stir well to coat.

Pour the granola onto a 15x10 inch baking pan coated with non stick spray. (If you have a Pampered Chef stoneware "bar" pan, I would recommend using that.)

Bake for 25-30 minutes until it is crisp. Stir every 10 minutes. Remove the pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Once it is cool, stir in the dried fruits. This recipe uses golden raisins, apricots and cranberries or cherries.

Store the granola in an airtight container. Enjoy it with yogurt, sprinkled over ice cream, or just with milk. (or plain!)

For more great recipes, visit Overwhelmed with Joy and Food on Fridays.

Toasted Almond Granola

3 cups old fashioned oats
2 cups crisp rice cereal (Rice Krispies)
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp. sunflower seeds
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup honey
2 tsp. canola oil
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup dried cranberries or cherries

In a large bowl, combine the first eight ingredients. In a saucepan, combine the orange juice, honey and oil. Heat for 3-4 minutes over medium heat until honey is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in extracts. Pour over the oat mixture and stir well to coat.

Pour granola into a 15x10 baking pan coated with non stick spray. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until crisp, stirring every 10 minutes. Remove and cool completely on a wire rack. Stir in fruit. Store in an airtight container. Makes 8 cups.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Garlic Mashed New Potatoes

I love these small, red potatoes sometimes called new potatoes. They are so creamy and flavorful, and the peel is so thin that you don't need to peel them. The peel is a healthy part anyway!

My favorite way to make these is to roast them, but I got home too late to do that in this case. So I decided to make garlic mashed. I am not going to post specific amounts - this is a recipe that you can kind of just "go with" depending on how many potatoes you have.

First, scrub the potatoes to remove any dirt. Then chop. Here I chopped pretty small because I wanted them to cook fast! I halved them, then cut each half in quarters.

Put them in a saucepan and cover with water. Add a few cloves of minced garlic. I added about 4 cloves worth. I really like garlic. Don't worry though - the cooking adds subtle flavor and won't be overwhelming. Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer until tender, usually about 10 minutes.

Drain the water off the potatoes - careful, it's hot! - and then mash. I use an old fashioned hand masher; I like that it leaves a few chunks.

Now add a little milk, a "glug" at a time, just until it's a bit creamy. You don't want them too runny.

I don't generally add any butter to these, as they are already quite creamy. But I do add just a dollop of sour cream for flavor, and then I stir it well to incorporate it.

These goes well with any kind of meat. Enjoy!

Get more recipe ideas using potatoes and other root vegetables at the Ultimate Recipe Swap.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Fruited Pork and Veggie Kebabs

I love making kebabs for the grill. This is a new recipe, and I thought it was a great change of pace from my usual chicken, pepper, squash combination. You'll need to plan ahead with this recipe - the meat and vegetables need to marinate for at least 8 hours or overnight. So you can assemble the parts the night before you'll cook it, or the morning of.

The key with kebabs is to try to cut all the pieces as similarly as possible so that they cook evenly. First, peel the sweet potatoes and cut into cubes.

Put them in a saucepan and cover with water. Cover and bring to a boil, and cook for about 5 minutes until tender but not too soft.

While the potatoes are cooking, cut up the pork. Reminder: meat is easier to cut if it's still partially frozen. Try to cut it in even cubes.

Finally, chop the zucchini. I like to slice it in thick slices, and then cut in half for half-moon shapes. The closer to the end of the vegetable, the thicker I slice it, since there's less "area." I cut thinner slices near the middle where the squash is fatter, and thicker slices toward the ends.

Combine the marinade ingredients in a glass measuring cup. I had never bought apricot nectar before! Here's what it looks like!

I will have to google more recipes for apricot nectar, and I will also use it in fruit smoothies!

Whisk the marinade well to dissolve the honey. Put pork cubes in a resealable plastic bag, and pour 1/2 cup of the marinade over. Seal the bag, and then squish it around with your hands to distribute the marinade.

Drain the potatoes, and put them with the squash in a separate bag and add the rest of the marinade. Seal the bag, and squish it around! Put the bags in the fridge for at least 8 hours or overnight.

If you're using wood skewers, soak them in water for about 1/2 hour before you want to assemble the kebabs. Prepare the grill. On 8 skewers, alternately thread the pork, potatoes, zucchini, and dried apricots.

Throw out the marinade from the pork bag. If you like, you can save the marinade that was in the vegetable bag and use it to baste the skewers.

Grill the skewers over medium heat for 11-15 minutes, turning frequently, until the meat juices run clear.

Mmm, summertime!

For more great grill recipes, visit the Ultimate Recipe Swap! You can also find more great ideas at the Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap, and What's Cooking Wednesday.

Fruited Pork and Veggie Kebabs

3/4 cup apricot nectar
6 Tbsp. white wine OR lemon juice
3 Tbsp. honey
3 Tbsp. lime juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 pork tenderloin (1 pound), cubed
2 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled and cubed
2 medium zucchini, sliced into half-moon shapes
16 dried apricots

Place potatoes in a saucepan and cover wtih water. Cover; bring to a boil. Cook for about 5 minutes, until tender.

Meanwhile, combine the first 6 ingredients in a glass measuring cup and whisk well. Place pork in a resealable plastic bag; add 1/2 cup of the marinade. Seal bag and turn to coat. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.

Drain potatoes. Place potatoes and zucchini in another resealable plastic bag. Add the rest of the marinade. Seal, turn to coat, and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

On 8 metal or soaked wood skewers, alternately thread pork, potatoes, apricots and zucchini. Grill over medium heat, basting occasionally with the marinade from the potatoes. Grill, turning frequently, for 11-15 minutes or until meat juices run clear.

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays

How to Cut a Canteloupe

I really like canteloupe and we eat a lot of it each summer. I was always frustrated at the time it took to cut it up, until I found this method on

First, like cutting a pineapple, cut off the top and bottom so it will stand straight up on the cutting board.

Now, remove the rind by cutting in long strips along the outside of the canteloupe, from top to bottom.

After you've gone around the entire melon, you will want to turn it over and get the pieces off near the bottom that you couldn't get when you were slicing downward.

Finally, carefully remove any "green" or pieces of rind that you missed.

Next, cut the canteloupe in half crosswise, and scoop out all the seeds. If you're making melon balls, you would now use these two halves to do that. If you want slices or chunks, continue to the next step!

Cut each half in half; now you have four quarters.

Slice each quarter.

If you're serving slices, now you're done! If you want to, you can cut each slice into bite sized chunks.

I've found this way to be easy, and best of all, quick, with little waste! It works for me!

For more kitchen tips, visit Tammy's Recipes.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Cashew Chicken

I got this recipe from my mom, and it's become one of my "old stand-bys." I often have the ingredients on hand, and it's easy to whip up for a weeknight dinner.

The bulk of the work in this recipe is in the chopping. As with any stir fry, things cook quickly, so you want to have all your ingredients chopped and stirred and ready to go.

First, I put a pot of rice on to cook. Then I chop all the veggies. The original recipe doesn't call for mushrooms, but I love Chinese food with fresh mushrooms, so I've added them. This recipe makes 5-6 servings and is very meat-intensive. If you wanted to stretch it further, you could add more vegetables. I think zucchini, broccoli, and asparagus would all be good. (I tend to use those vegetables, but I serve them on the side.)

Here's the vegetables I use: green onion, red pepper and mushrooms.

Next I get the sauce together, combining all ingredients in a measuring cup and then whisking well before setting aside.

Then, I saute the cashews. You want to heat oil over medium high heat, then add the cashews to roast them. Stir them constantly and watch very carefully! They burn easily.

When they're golden and fragrant, remove them to a plate lined with a paper towel to soak up any oil. (In the interest of full disclosure, I normally skip this step. I just throw regular salted cashews over the dish at the end, and forego the roasting. The roasting does add a nice intensified flavor, and I would do it for company!)

Finally, I cut up the chicken. I cut it in small pieces. Today's tip: chicken is so much easier to cut when it's partially frozen. If you're taking it out of the freezer to use in this recipe, try to catch it before it's fully thawed. You can always cut it up and return it to the fridge if you're not using it right away.

Now that you've got all the "parts" ready, you can saute the chicken. First, heat a bit of oil in the skillet, then add the chicken. You want the skillet to be plenty hot. If it is, you'll only need to cook the chicken about 3 minutes, stirring often.

Remove the chicken to a bowl and add a bit more oil to the pan. When it's hot, add the veggies and stir fry for 3 minutes until they're crisp tender and brightly colored.

Give the sauce another whisking and then add to the vegetables. Because of the cornstarch, it will start to thicken right away. Stir constantly until it is nicely thickened and coating the vegetables. It will boil slightly and get darker in color.

Then add the chicken to the pan, and stir well to coat everything. Let it simmer for a minute or so to thoroughly warm the chicken.

Serve this over rice, and sprinkle the cashews over the top.

For more great recipes, visit Favorite Ingredient Friday , Family Recipe Friday and the Ultimate Recipe Swap.

Cashew Chicken

3/4 cup cashews
4 green onions, sliced
1 red or green pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
5 T. peanut oil
3 chicken breasts, diced
3/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. cornstarch

Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in skillet and roast cashews til golden brown, stirring constantly. Set aside. Combine chicken broth, soy sauce, sugar and cornstarch in measuring cup; whisk well to dissolve cornstarch. Set aside.

Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in skillet and stir fry chicken until opaque, about 3 minutes. Set chicken in a bowl. Add 2 Tbsp. oil to skillet and stir fry vegetables for 3-4 minutes til brightly colored and crisp tender. Whisk the sauce again and add to the pan, stirring frequently until sauce boils gently and thickens. Add the chicken and stir well to coat.

Serve over rice and sprinkle cashews over the top.

Sesame Asparagus

This is one of my favorite ways to fix asparagus, and it goes especially well with Asian dishes.

First, toast the sesame seeds by sauteeing them in a skillet for just a few minutes, stirring constantly. This heightens the flavor of the seeds, just like when you toast almonds or other nuts. You can spray the pan with pam if you like. I don't like to use oil, because it makes the seeds all stick together!

Here they are all golden brown (sharing a plate with the cashews!)

For the asparagus, make sure you wash the it well, taking special care to rinse out the tips which can contain some dirt. Then, break off the woody stems of the asparagus. The woody part will naturally break off when you bend it. (Of course you'll want to use two hands since you won't be taking a picture!)

Then cut the asparagus into 2-inch sections, basically bite sized.

Now, heat the oil in a skillet until it starts to pop. Then add the asparagus. I wish I had a video of this - sometimes the asparagus actually "dances" around the pan. Stir this often and cook for 3 minutes until asparagus is bright green and fork tender.

Remove the asparagus to a serving dish or individual plates, and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Visit cultural connections for more great recipes inspired by all the countries of the world.

Sesame Asparagus

1 Tbsp. sesame seeds
1 tsp. canola oil
2 tsp. sesame oil
1 pound fresh asparagus

Toast sesame seeds in a skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly until golden brown. Remove to a plate.

Wash asparagus thoroughly and then break off woody stems. Cut into bite sized pieces.

In same skillet, heat oils over medium high heat til they "pop." Add asparagus and stir fry 2-3 minutes until asparagus are bright green and fork tender.

Remove asparagus to a serving dish or individual plates and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Asparagus on Foodista

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Apple Slaw

This is a great summer salad and a nice change of pace from regular coleslaw. There are so many dynamic flavors at work: the sweetness of the apple, the tartness of the dried cherries, the saltiness of the sunflower seeds, the sourness of the dressing, and of course, the crunch of the vegetables! (I know, crunch is not a flavor.)

This salad goes really well with grilled meats, and because the dressing is vinegar and oil based, it can sit out at a picnic with no salmonella worries!

First, to make the dressing, combine the oil, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Shake it up!

Then combine the slaw, apple, cherries and sunflower seeds in a salad bowl.

Drizzle the dressing over and toss to combine. Chill for a few hours to give the flavors time to blend.

There are more great ways to use apples at the In Season Recipe Swap.

Find other great recipes at Tasty Thursday, Tempt my Tummy Tuesday , Tasty Tuesday, the Ultimate Recipe Swap, Dieter's Delight.

Apple Slaw

1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1 1/2 Tbsp. vegetable or olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper

2 1/2 cups chopped Pink Lady or other sweet apple
1 - 12 oz pkg. broccoli slaw
1 - 3 oz. pkg. dried tart cherries
2 Tbsp. sunflower seed kernels

Combine the dressing ingredients in a jar and toss well to combine, until sugar is dissolved. Combine the slaw ingredients in a large bowl; drizzle with dressing and toss to coat. Chill for a few hours to blend flavors. Makes 6-8 servings.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Raisin Bran Muffins

I was motivated to make these when raisin bran went on sale at my grocer for $1/box! These are great to have on hand for quick breakfasts and snacks. The recipe makes about 4 dozen muffins. If you don't need that many at once, keep the batter in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 4 weeks so you can make a fresh batch whenever you need them. You can also bake them and then store in the freezer.

Wow, what versatility!

First, pour the cereal into a very large mixing bowl, and cover with the buttermilk. (It's ok if this bowl is not compatible with your mixer - you'll never need to put it there.) Let this get nice and soaked while you put the rest of the batter together.

This looks like a bowl of cereal for Paul Bunyan!

While the cereal soaks, combine the sugar, eggs, vanilla and applesauce (or yogurt) in a mixing bowl and beat well.

Next, add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Then add this batter to the cereal, and mix well by hand.

That's a big bowl of batter! Line your muffin pans with paper cups, or spray with nonstick spray, and fill with batter. Bake until golden brown then cool on wire racks. Remember this tip to ensure muffins won't stick!

Head on over to Ingredient Spotlight and What's Cooking Wednesdays for more ideas!

Raisin Bran Muffins

1 - 15 oz box Raisin Bran cereal
1 quart buttermilk
3 cups sugar
1 cup applesauce OR plain yogurt
2 Tbsp. vanilla
4 eggs
5 cups flour
5 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice

Pour the cereal in a large mixing bowl and cover with buttermilk. In another large bowl, combine the sugar, applesauce, vanilla and eggs and beat well. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Add this batter to the soaking cereal and stir by hand until well incorporated.

Fill muffin cups and bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
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