December 2009


I can’t believe I’ve been blogging for over six months now and 2009 is about to come to an end. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my food adventures. I’ve definitely enjoyed sharing recipes and learning a lot along the way. I can only hope to continue my tasty but healthy mission for this blog into the new year. I’m sure I’ll make some changes in 2010, too!

Since I launched dishin’ in May, I’ve written 96 posts! This year has included lots of new recipes and yummy new restaurants so I thought it would be fun to highlight my favorite posts of the year. Here’s to a happy and healthy 2010!

Quick and Healthy Shrimp Scampi for Two (5-19-09)

New York Adventures (6-1-09)

Lighter Crab Cakes with Red Pepper Mayo (6-11-09)

Supporting Farmers Markets (7-10-09)

Gourmet Magazine’s Panzanella Caprese (7-29-09)

Lobster Maine-ia (8-2-09)

Homemade Granola (9-10-09)

Deconstructed Meat Lasagna (10-19-09)

Blondies! (11-16-09)

Stuffed Zucchini Boats (11-18-09)

Butternut Squash and Spinach Risotto (12-17-09)

What would you like to see on dishin’ in 2010?

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Hope you had a nice Christmas! I can’t believe it’s already come and gone…

I was lucky to have a few days off from work before Christmas, which allowed me to spend lots of time in the kitchen baking. I did all of my baking at my parents’ house which was great because they 1) have way more space and 2) own a Kitchen Aid standing mixer. Oh, the simple things that excite me!

Anyway, I was busy baking coconut macaroons for my Dad (gluten-free and so easy!) as well as a lot of mini sugar cookies. I had a lot of fun decorating these babies but they was sure time consuming! I get myself into these hours-long baking projects and can’t pull myself away. The cookie cutters I used were from Michael’s and they were mini and adorable!

With all the holiday eating these past few days, I am SO ready to get back to my healthy eating pattern. All of the Christmas goodies I’ve eaten over the past few days have been delicious but my body is dying for some whole foods – like fruits and veggies. Luckily, I received FOUR cookbooks for Christmas so I’ll have plenty of new recipes to try. My cookbook obsession must stop.

What food-related gifts did you get this year? In addition to cookbooks, I received lots of cupcake-related gifts. I’ll snap some photos to post soon. It’s pretty halarious how many cupcake gifts are out there. I think I have them all! 😉

Thanks to Real Simple, I think I have found the easiest holiday treat around! You only need TWO ingredients. It’s unheard of!

Every year, I give my co-workers a little something around the holidays. I like making homemade treats so when I saw the recipe for Chocolate Nut Bark on Real Simple’s website, I had to give it a shot. It was so easy to throw together and makes a nice little gift

All you need for this recipe is semi-sweet chocolate squares, found in the baking aisle of the grocery store and mixed nuts, preferably salted. All I had to do was melt the chocolate on the stove (use a double boiler if you have one), pour the melted chocolate onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, sprinkle nuts on the chocolate and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Once the bark hardened, I broke it into pieces and packaged it. Such a simple sweet and salty treat! (Check out the link above to complete directions)

Because I gave this as gifts, I picked out some cute jars and ribbon for festive packaging. Because I had some bark leftover, I also lined a cookie tin with tissue paper and piled the rest of the bark inside. Cute and delicious!

What’s your favorite holiday food gift to give or receive?

I love risotto but was always a little nervous about making it at home. I’ve heard it can be time-consuming and a little tricky. All I could picture was me standing in my kitchen for an hour resulting in rice stuck to the bottom of the pan! Luckily, my first risotto-making experience turned out great and it’s not as complicated as I expected!

There are so many variations to risotto but since my parents gave me two butternut squashes, I thought I’d incorporate that winter vegetable into the dish. I decided to add spinach too, for some greens.

I found the process to be pretty  simple but it does take a bit longer than the average rice or pasta dish. I my opinion, the extra time is worth it! This dish was pretty darn tasty and was hearty without being too heavy. This makes a great meal or side dish…especially for a cold winter night!

 

Butternut Squash and Spinach Risotto

(loosely based on a recipe by Ina Garten – but mine’s healthier!)

Servings: 3-4

Ingredients:

1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed

1 Tsp. olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

3 c. low sodium chicken broth

1/4 stick butter, unsalted

1 shallot, minced

3/4 cup Ariboro rice

1 1/2 c. fresh baby spinach leaves

1/2 fresh grated Asiago cheese

Preparation:

1. Preheat oven to 400*. Put butternut squash on a cookie sheet. Brush lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes, turning squash at least once. Once squash is soft, mash well and set aside.

2. While squash is roasting, heat chicken broth in small sauce pan on medium heat.

3. In a saute pan, melt butter. Add shallots to butter and saute until shallots are clear.

4. Add rice to butter mixture and cook for 2-3 minutes.

5. Add 2/3 c. of the chicken broth to the rice mixture and cook, stirring often until no liquid remains.

6. Continue adding chicken broth 2/3 c. at a time following step 4, until rice is al dente. This should take about 25 minutes.

7. Take rice of heat and mix in butternut squash, spinach and cheese.

8. Enjoy!

I’ve totally been MIA for the past week, sorry about that! I was traveling for work last week and was away over the weekend too. The busy life I lead. 😉

Last week I showed you the drool-worthy photos from my friend’s cookie swap. I actually still have cookies left due to all of my traveling. Normally, this would never happen.

But, I never told you which cookies I baked. I saw a recipe for Fudge-Filled Pecan Sandies a few months ago in a magazine special from Taste of Home and knew I had to try them. Snowball cookies are the Christmas version of Pecan Sandies, in my opinion. They tend to be buttery, moist and crumbly. Top it with chocolate fudge and you just can’t beat this cookie!

While it’s not a light treat, it’s a great cookie for the holiday season and they were pretty easy to whip up too. While the cookies baked, I prepared the chocolate fudge and put it into a pastry bag. I actually had a lot of chocolate left over because my cookies turned out larger than expected. I would suggest rolling the cookies into 1 inch balls to create a more bite-size treat.

What’s your favorite holiday cookie?

Not surprisingly, I love this time of year for the food!

For the past few years, my friends and I have gathered for a cookie swap around the holidays. This past weekend was our swap party. A lot of people have different “rules” for their swap, but we pretty much each make a few dozen cookies then everyone gets together to taste them and take a big plate home. I love the variety we all end up with! It’s a great time and my friends and I always enjoy ourselves. Girl talk and cookies, you can’t go wrong.

My friends are quite the bakers…I’m always impressed by everyone’s creativity. They go all out! And my friend who hosted the party decorated her house adorably for the holidays, so it made the party even more festive.

Here’s an overview in photos.  Check out the variety!

In addition to a cookie swap, we added a Yankee Swap to the party this year. This is another game that can have a lot of rules but I like the way we play.

Everyone brings a wrapped gift and then picks a number out of a hat. We had 14 people so everyone got a number, 1-14. The person who is #1 picks a gift first and unwraps it. The person with #2 picks another gift, unwraps it and decides if she wants to keep it or take #1’s gift. This goes on through everyone and then, at the end of the game, #1 decides if she wants the gift she has at the time or switch with anyone. #1 is in the best position because she sees all the unwrapped gifts before she decides what to keep. 

Confused? It’s a pretty funny game, between the creativity of the gifts and seeing who ends up with what!

Do you participate in any holiday “swaps”? What’s your favorite one?

Happy weekend! This week flew by for me because I was preparing for a work event taking place next week. My busy week resulted in a lack of blog posts but I just made some yummy pancakes that I thought I would share with you.

I love the weekends because I have time to make a better breakfast than I do during the week. What’s your favorite weekend breakfast? This morning I threw together some Whole Wheat Banana and Dark Chocolate  Pancakes – that’s a mouthful!

I wasn’t sure how they’d come out because the batter was fluffier than I expected but they turned out nice and tasty! I didn’t notice a difference in flavor by using whole wheat flour vs. all-purpose which was a bonus, because whole wheat is much healthier. And, the addition of dark chocolate chips adds some yummy antioxidants. 

Whole Wheat Banana and Dark Chocolate Pancakes

Makes 3-4 pancakes

Ingredients:

1/2 c. whole wheat flour

1/2 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 tsp. baking powder

1/8 tsp. salt

1/2 egg, beaten

1/2 c. skim milk

1 Tbsp. canola oil

Preparation:

1. Mix the dry ingredients until well blender. 

2. Add the wet ingredients in a separate bowl and mix well.

3. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix well. The batter will be fluffy.

4. Grease a skillet and add about 1/4 c. of batter for each pancake.

5. Once the batter is on the skillet, add sliced bananas and dark chocolate chips.

6. Cook pancakes for about 3 minutes on each side.

7. Enjoy!

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