Friday, January 20, 2012

It's moving day!

It's official ...
My new and improved blog is up and running!

The recipes are still the same but the blog has gotten a new name and a new look.  

I will no longer be posting to my old blog but all of my recipes have been transferred to the new blog with a new picture index!

Click over to My Story in Recipes to check it out. 

I will be posting my daily blog entries to starting today.

Make sure you sign up to follow my blog while you're there.

See you on at My Story in Recipes,
Bon Appetit!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Beautifully delicious muffins

I tend to think of muffins as healthy but the truth is they often hide lots of fat and calories inside their pretty little wrappers.  I found this recipe for pumpkin muffins in a Family Fun magazine and the list of ingredients is what caught my eye.  Whole wheat flour, pumpkin and molasses to replace some of the sugar? - could they actually taste good?  I was pretty skeptical but curious enough to give them a try.  Much to my delight - the muffins were moist and tender and delicious.  

Pumpkin Praline Muffins
3 Tablespoons cold butter
1/3 cup flour
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/3 cup chopped pecans

1 cup flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup canned pumpkin
1/3 cup molasses
1/3 cup canola oil
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine topping ingredients in a small bowl and mix with a pastry blender.

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice and salt.

In another bowl whisk together pumpkin, molasses, eggs, milk and vanilla.

Stir pumpkin mixture into the dry ingredients.

Divide the batter among 13 muffin cups.

Sprinkle with praline topping.

Bake 15 minutes at 400.


Let the muffins cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then move to a wire rack to cool completely.

The muffins came out of the oven with beautifully rounded tops and they didn't deflate when they cooled!  These muffins were a masterpiece for the eyes - and they tasted just as good as they looked.  Thank you Family Fun for the yummy (and healthy) muffin recipe.

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

January Comfort Food

What kind of food do I fix for a cold, rainy January night?  Beef stroganoff of course.   I haven't made this recipe since last winter but my brother called and asked me to send him a recipe for beef stroganoff.  I started to look through the recipe as I was scanning it into the computer and it I remembered how much I liked it.  (Sometimes I forget about seasonal recipes like this one simply because I don't make it all the time.)  This meal was a great dinner to serve on a winter night.

The recipe calls for either steak tips or a blade steak.  I visited several grocery stores in search of this beef without any luck.  I finally went to my meat market and they didn't have either cut of beef so I was forced to choose a substitute.  The butcher recommended that I use boneless short ribs instead of the steak tips.

Beef Stroganoff
1 1/4 pounds steak tips                                             1 onion, chopped
2 teaspoons soy sauce                                               2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 pound white mushrooms, quartered                  4 teaspoons flour
2 teaspoons hot water                                               1/3 cup white wine
1 tablespoon dry mustard                                         1 1/2 cups beef broth
1 teaspoon sugar                                                         1/2 cup sour cream
1 Tablespoon oil                                                         fresh parsley

Place meat in a baking dish and poke each piece of meat 10 times.  Rub both sides of meal the soy sauce.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate between 15 min. and 1 hour.

Place mushrooms in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and microwave 5 minutes.  Drain.

Combine water, mustard, sugar and pepper to form a paste.

Pat steak dry with paper towels and heat oil in skillet.  Add steak and brown on all sides until temperature reaches 125.

Transfer meat to a clean platter.  Add mushrooms, onion and 1/2 t. salt to skillet.  Cook until dark bits form on bottom of the pan.

Add tomato paste and flour and stir to coat mushrooms.

Stir in wine, broth and mustard paste.  Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened.  (4-6 min.)  I took this picture before it had reduced.

Slice meat across the grain and add to thickened sauce.

Cook until warmed through.  Stir in sour cream and serve with parsley.

We all really liked the stroganoff but I think that I should have used a different kind of beef.  My daughter described the meat as "chewy" but it certainly didn't stop her form eating a big portion.  In hindsight, I should have used a london broil or a sirloin steak instead of the boneless short ribs.  (The ribs needed to cook longer in order to break down their proteins and become more tender.)  Overall, it was a great meal to warm us up on a chilly night.

Bon Appetit!

No time to catch my breath

In years past, January has been a relatively quiet month with extra time to catch up on sewing and home improvement projects.  Typically, I spend the month after the busy holiday season to get my house organized and back to a more orderly state.  For some reason, this January has been like no other and there has been no time for cleaning or organizing or even cooking dinner. 

Last weekend we were in Macon for the state duals wrestling tournament.  My son's team ended up taking 5th in state!  They're a great group of kids who worked really hard to achieve their goals - they deserved every win that they celebrated last weekend. 

Even though we had Monday to recuperate from our busy weekend, we didn't get much rest.  I took advantage of the fact that the kids were home and we set out to run our errands.  We got haircuts, stopped by the grocery store and the meat market.  We even managed to fit in an orthodontist appointment.  We got a lot accomplished but we got home kind of late which meant that once again, I had to hurry to get dinner on the table.  I pulled out one of my favorite "go to" meals to feed my family a quick and easy dinner last night - Chicken Parmesan.  

I started with a few simple ingredients and managed to get dinner on the table in under 45 minutes.  (I probably could have done it a little quicker if I didn't stop to take pictures of everything.)

Spaghetti, marinara sauce, thin sliced chicken breasts, mozzarella cheese, eggs and panko bread crumbs = baked chicken Parmesan. 

I started my dinner by breading the chicken.  I put the eggs in one bowl, flour in another and panko in the third bowl.

I dipped each chicken breast in the flour,

 then in the beaten egg,

 and then the panko bread crumbs.

I put the breaded chicken breasts on a foil lined baking sheet and baked them for 25 minutes at 350. (My baked version is not quite as good as pan fried chicken cutlets but it's a little healthier.)

While the chicken baked, I cooked some spaghetti,

warmed my marinara sauce,

 and put together a salad.

Once the chicken baked, I sprinkled it with cheese and put it back in the oven to melt.

I spoon some sauce over the top over the melted cheese,

and over the spaghetti.

To complete the meal, I sliced some multigrain bread.

Even though dinner was super simple our appetites were super satisfied.  This meal will forever be one of our family favorites. 

Bon Appetit!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Heatlhy Weeknight Meal

I admire chefs who can create original recipes on the spot with only the ingredients that they have on hand.  (I guess that's why I love to watch shows like food network star and extreme chef.)  I'm much more comfortable following a recipe than I am creating my own dishes.  I'm better at altering or adjusting recipes than I am at starting from scratch. 

Last week was particularly busy at our house and I didn't have a whole lot of time to fix big family dinners.  Quick and easy was the name of the game last week for our dinners.  I stumbled upon easy dinner inspiration at Trader Joe's when I spotted a package of sliced mushrooms, asparagus and onions.  When I saw it, I knew it would be perfect for a simple chicken stir fry.  (Not a huge stretch of the imagination but at least I didn't use a recipe.)

I don't normally buy precut vegetables because I like to slice them myself but this batch of asparagus and mushrooms and onions looked really good.  I love asparagus but my family doesn't share my affection for the stalky green vegetable and I don't like to buy a whole bunch of it for myself.  The sliced asparagus was a good alternative.  

I started my chicken stir fry by cutting the chicken into bite size pieces. 

I browned them in a little olive oil.

Halfway through cooking time, I added the vegetables and garlic and seasoned everything with salt and pepper.


Once the meat was cooked through, I took the chicken and vegetables out of the skillet.  I left the juices in the skillet and continued to let them simmer until they were reduced to a nice thick sauce.  I didn't want to add any additional sauces, like soy sauce, to the dish.  (I was trying to limit the amount of sodium that was in the meal because my son had to weigh in for his wrestling tournament the following morning.)  I added the reduced sauce to the stir fry just before serving. 

I served the stir fry with rice and sliced fresh pineapple.  I was not surprised that everyone ate it but I was a little surprised at how much they liked it.  My kids both ate huge helpings of the stir fry - picking out the asparagus of course - and asked for more.  My husband and I both liked it a lot and decided it was a great way to eat vegetables. 

I made a new goal for myself - to try and create one new recipe a month without using a recipe.  This should be interesting.

Bon Appetit!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Healthier Eating Ahead

The holidays are over and it's time for me to get back into my healthy habits.   My walking partner and I have resumed our daily walks after what seemed like a very long hiatus.  (It had been so long since I've walked the hills in my neighborhood that I have aching shins again.)  I also rearranged my workout schedule and added some new exercises to my routines.  (I'm trying to use my foam roller and my stability ball more.)  I cleaned out the refrigerator and got rid of some of the leftover Christmas sweets that were a constant temptation.   It's time to incorporate more vegetables into my diet.  (A little less sugar in my diet wouldn't hurt either.) 

With the goal of eating healthier in mind, I made a pear and pecan salad for dinner a couple of nights ago that was easy, healthy and super satisfying.

Pear Blue Cheese Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette
Vinaigrette:                                                    Salad:
5 Tablespoons oil                                           2 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons green onions                         1 cup pecan halves
2 Tablespoons white balsamic vinegar       1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard                         1/8 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon salt                                                16 cups lettuce
¼ teaspoon pepper                                         3 pears, thinly sliced
                                                                            1 cup blue cheese (I used reduced fat)

Obviously this recipe makes one huge salad.  I scaled my version way back and made 2 salads - one for dinner and one for lunch.

Combine dressing ingredients. 
If you don't have white balsamic vinegar, you can substitute white wine vinegar.


In skillet, melt butter over medium heat.  Add pecans and cook 4-5 minutes.

Sprinkle sugar and salt over nuts.  Cook and stir 1 minutes longer.

 Transfer to a bowl or cutting board to cool.

Combine salad, pears, blue cheese and pecans.  I cut my pear on a mandolin so that I could get nice thin, uniform slices. 

When I sat down to eat my dinner, the pecans in my salad were still warm.  Oh my goodness - warm, salty, crunchy, sweet pecans = salad perfection.  This salad is super simple to put together and it's really is a nice combination of ingredients.  You can take this recipe and adapt it to whatever suits your tastes.  Try adding sweetened dried cranberries, mandarin oranges or swapping feta for blue cheese.  You can also sweeten the dressing with a little honey if that is more your style.  I looking for more great salad recipes so if you have a recipe that you are willing to share - send it to me in a comment.

Bon Appetit!

Friday, January 13, 2012

My Love-Hate Relationship

It's wrestling tournament season and I continue to struggle with my love-hate relationship for the sport of wrestling.  I LOVE wrestling because my son loves it and he excels at it.  I LOVE the fact that he and my husband share the love of the sport and it bonds them closer together.  I LOVE watching my son's confidence and self esteem soar because of his achievements.  I LOVE the fact that his academics improve because of his accountability to the team.  I LOVE that he is surrounded by a supportive coaching staff who instructs, encourages and sets high expectations for him.  I LOVE that my son wakes up at 5:00 in the morning and goes for a run before school just to stay is shape for the season.  I LOVE that he makes healthy eating choices during the season.  I also LOVE the fact that his true character and sportsmanship comes out after he loses a match.

With all of those positive things that I love about wrestling, what could I possible hate about the sport of wrestling?  First of all, I HATE the way that wrestling smells - the mats, the room, the clothes, the gym bag, the wrestlers.  My son and my husband will tell you that it smells like victory but I think of it more as a bleached sweat smell.  I also HATE watching my son participate in a sport where he could get injured.   (Yes, I've heard the speech that all sports are dangerous and that wrestling is not as dangerous as some but it's been my job to protect him for so long.  I'm a mom - what can I say?) 

Along with wrestling season comes really loooong weekend tournaments.  I've learned that wrestling tournaments are very unpredictable.  I rarely know in advance how many hours they will last and in some cases I don't even know how many days they will wrestle.  (Frustrating for a type A person like myself.)   Obviously, I like to plan my meals out in advance and these tournaments definitely present a challenge for my menu planning.   On tournament weekends, I find that crock pot meals are the most practical.  My family loves ribs that are cooked in the crock pot and I usually cook pork ribs.  I decided to change it up and make beef short ribs this week for a change.  I put the ribs in the crock pot in the morning and they cooked all day.  By dinnertime, they were moist and tender and delicious. 

Slow Cooker Braised Short Ribs
5 pounds bone in beef short ribs                     1 teaspoon thyme
2 Tablespoons oil                                                2 cups red wine
2 onions, chopped                                              2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 carrots, chopped                                              2 cups chicken broth
1 celery rib, chopped                                          2 Tablespoons minute tapioca
2 Tablespoons tomato paste                            2 bay leaves
fresh parsley

Cut meat from the bones and arrange bones in a 9x13 dish.

Microwave bones 10 min.  Transfer to slow cooker.

Season meat with salt and pepper.  Heat oil in skillet and cook meat 5 min. on each side.

Transfer to slow cooker. 

Cook onions, carrot and celery in skillet 8 min.  (I committed a culinary sin and I omitted the celery because I didn't have any.) 

Stir in tomato paste (I used Sun-Dried Tomato paste) and thyme.  Cook 1 min.

Stir in wine and vinegar and simmer until reduce to 1 c.  (Mine is about halfway reduced in this picture.  I cooked it until almost all of the liquid was absorbed.)

Stir in broth, tapioca and bay and bring to a boil.

Transfer the sauce to slow cooker and cook on low 8 hours.  (4-5 hrs. on high)

Transfer meat to platter.

Strain sauce.   Once the sauce cools, the fat will rise to the top and it can be spooned off. 

Sprinkle meat with fresh parsley and season with salt and pepper.  Serve with juice.

I served the short ribs with some corn muffins that I had in the freezer.  The meat was so tender that it just fell apart when I served it.  It was really flavorful and their wasn't even a bite left over after dinner.  (Success!) 

Bon Appetit!