Sunday, February 26, 2012

Butternut inspiration

I love squash, and tend to buy them if I happen to see them on sale.

That's how I ended up with a butternut squash in my cupboard waiting to be used. I decided to just bake it and eat it plain. But the baked butternut squash just wasn't doing much for me, so I decided to do something different with it.

I found this recipe for Risotto with Butternut Squash and Leeks from Epicurious. I pretty much didn't follow the directions at all (partially because I had already baked my squash, partially because I'm lazy, and partially because I'm not very good at following directions).

My version looked something like this:


1 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large butternut squash
3 large leeks, sliced (white and pale green parts only)
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon Italian spices 
2 cups brown rice rice
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese plus additional (for serving)

Slice squash in half. Place in casserole dish or on baking sheet, flesh side down. Bake in 425-degree oven for 45 minutes or until soft.

Cook rice. (I cooked it in my rice cooker. This was a lazy shortcut, rather than following the recipe and adding broth a little at a time, like you should with risotto).

Heat a large pan over medium heat. Add oil. Add garlic, leeks and Italian spices. Saute until leeks are soft. Scoop the squash flesh into the pan and add the rice. Mix well.

Serve with Parmesan cheese.

This ended up a little bland. The recipe calls for fresh basil, which I somehow failed to notice until I sat down to write this blog post. (I told you I wasn't good at following directions). I think that would be a nice addition. Some ground pepper, might also spice it up. I just put some hot sauce on it when I ate, which also worked.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Amaranth, a delicious gluten-free grain

Before going gluten free three years ago, I had never heard of amaranth and I had no idea what I was missing out on.

Amaranth is one of the delicious grains I discovered when I cut some of the more common grains out of my diet.

When I first tried it, I cooked it like oatmeal, boiling it with water, until it turned into a porridge. This isn't a bad way to eat it, and I still fix amaranth that way from time to time, but it takes more time than I usually have in the morning.

I came across my preferred way to cook amaranth in the book "Gluten-Free Girl."


1/3 cup amaranth
1 banana

Place amaranth in a small frying pan and cook over high heat.

When amaranth starts to pop (much like popcorn), beginning stirring it. Keep cooking over high heat until most of the grains have popped. (This only takes a couple minutes).

The white specks are the popped amaranth

Transfer amaranth to a bowl. Slice banana over the top. Sprinkle with cinnamon and add as much milk as desired. (Sometimes I zap it in the microwave for 30 or 45 seconds if the milk cools it down too much).


Although this breakfast recipe does require turning on the stove, it is extremely quick and easy. When I made this batch I put the tea kettle on at the same time as the amaranth. They were both done about the same time.

Instead of banana, you could serve it with apple, pear, raisins or anything else that sounds good.

I buy amaranth in Great Falls at 2J's in the bulk section, which is where I would immagine you'd find it at any health food store. (Although I once looked at Whole Foods in Colorado, and they didn't have any).

The first time I made it this way, I burned the amaranth and was quite bummed because I was afraid it would taste like burnt popcorn, which I hate. It didn't. It didn't really taste burnt at all. It just had a nice toasted flavor. I still try to stir it enough that it doesn't burn, but if it does, don't sweat it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

My favorite lentil soup

I stumbled across the recipe while looking for a different soup recipe.

This is one of my mom's recipes. It was a favorite of mine growing up. I requested it so often, that it was pretty much a weekly staple at our house.

I hadn't had this soup in years, but as soon as I saw the recipe I started craving it again, and it's still as good as ever.

I'm not sure where the recipe is from. I have a photo copied version and it clearly came out of some cookbook, and it is actually called "My favorite lentil soup."


2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large or 3 medium onions, chopped
3 carrots, grated
2 teaspoons Italian spices
1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes with their juice
7 cups broth
1 1/2 cups dried lentils
1/2 teaspoon salt
ground pepper to taste
6 ounces dry white wine (this time I used red because that's what I had)
grated cheddar cheese to taste

Heat oil in large soup pan, add the onions, carrots and spices. Saute for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the tomatoes, broth and lentils. Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 1 hour or until the lentils are tender.

Add salt, pepper and wine. Simmer soup for a few minutes.

Blend with a stick blender. (The recipe says to leave it chunky, but I like it blended).

Serve with cheese sprinkled on each portion.

What to bring for brunch?

My hockey team does this fun thing where we all bring brunch items for games and tournaments so that we can hangout after the game (and sometimes before) with the other team, munch on some good food and enjoy each other's company.

For our last brunch, I brought rhubarb coffee cake (a favorite recipe that I'll be sure to share soon). Last weekend I racked by brain trying to think of something to bring that was a., tasty, b., easy to eat while standing around chit-chatting, and c., easy to transport and serve.

I was leaning toward some kind of egg dish in a crock pot, when I found this recipe from Pillsbury.

Pillsbury photo
Here's how I made it:


1 loaf gluten-free bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I used a mixture of Udi's whole grain and Food for Life's rice almond bread)
8 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup maple syrup (I used the fake stuff)
4 bananas, sliced
Spray a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
Arrange bread cubes in baking dish.
In large bowl, beat eggs, milk and 1/2 cup of the maple syrup with wire whisk. Pour over bread in baking dish. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
Heat oven to 350°F. Uncover; bake 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown along edges. Let stand 7 to 10 minutes before serving.
Slice bananas over the baked dish. Generously drizzle the remaining maple syrup over the bananas. Serve immediately.

Caramel corn

Epicurious photo

Last week I was having a multi-day hankering for a caramel corn.

I finally caved and used book club as an excuse to make some.

I did a quick search on Epicurious and found this recipe.

Here is my tweaked version (which I also cut in half from the original recipe):


Nonstick vegetable-oil spray
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 tablespoon baking soda
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup almonds

Pop popcorn with oil and salt. (I have a handy microwave popper that I love). Spray a large bowl and spatula with Pam. Pour popcorn into prepared bowl.
In a large deep pot over moderately high heat, combine the corn syrup, sugar, and a splash of water. Stir to combine.

Cook, undisturbed, until the mixture develops a light amber color, about 10 minutes. (Don't stir the mixture because this can cause it to harden, but it is OK to swirl it in order to evenly distribute the color - a new tip I learned thanks to Epicurious).

Remove the pot from the heat, add the baking soda and butter, and stir continuously to melt the butter and combine the ingredients, about 20 seconds.

Working very quickly (I did not do this quickly enough), pour the caramel over the popcorn and add the almonds, then use the prepared spoon or rubber spatula to stir everything together, trying to evenly coat the popcorn and nuts in caramel.

Transfer to the prepared baking sheet, spreading out the caramel corn as much as possible. Let cool and harden for about 20 minutes. Break the caramel corn into smaller, bite-size pieces and serve.


I realized after it was too late that my mixing bowl was not big enough. When I poured the caramel on the popcorn and tried to stir it, popcorn ended up all over my table and the caramel stayed in a big lump in the middle.

I liked the recipe, but I need to refine my technique. The caramel kind of reminded me of brittle (as in peanut brittle). I didn't exactly quell my caramel corn craving.

After book club, I brought the leftovers to work. My friend Jackie (who happens to be the Food page editor) suggested this recipe for the next time I'm craving caramel corn:


2 bags microwave popcorn, popped
10 large marshmallows
10 tbsp. brown sugar
10 tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. baking soda

In microwave-safe bowl, combine marshmallows, sugar and butter. Nuke on high 60 to 90 seconds until marshmallows melt. Stir. Add baking soda and nuke 45 seconds more.

Pour over popcorn and stir to combine.

Be careful. It is molten and will burn. Spread on waxed paper to cool.

Valentine's Day cupcakes

Some time ago I ran across a recipe, or maybe just a mention of Nutella-filled banana cupcakes. I thouthg it sounded like pretty much the best kind of cupcake anyone could ever create, and I've been wanting to make them ever since.

I decided our Valentine's Day celebration at work would be the perfect opportunity.

I could find the original recipe that inspired the idea, but I found this one instead.

I tweaked it a bit, and my recipe looked something like this:


Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Line muffin pan with paper liners

2 ½ cups all purpose flour (I used a gluten-free flour blend from Williams Sonoma)
2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon xantham gum
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup apple sauce
4 eggs
4 overly ripe mashed bananas
2 teaspoons vanilla

In a mixer, mix together sugar, oil and eggs until smooth. Add banana and vanilla, beating well.
Add flour, baking soda, xantham gum and salt. Mix well

Scoop batter into prepared pan, filling muffin cups about half full. Spoon a small dollop of Nutella into each cupcake. Press the dollop into the batter, bringing some batter over the top to cover the Nutella glob.

Bake in preheated oven for 24-28 minutes or until tops of cupcakes spring back when lightly touched. Let cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely on rack.


The remainder of your jar of Nutealla (I think there was about half left after filling the cupcakes)
1 stick butter (next time, I think I'd use a half stick)
About 2/3 of a bag of powdered sugar
milk (enough to create the right consistency of frosting)

In a mixer, beat together Nutella and butter until smooth and combined.

Add powdered sugar and a few tablespoons of milk. Beat until combined.

Continue to add milk in small amounts until the frosting reaches the desired consistency. (I like my frosting soft, so it's easy to work with, but not runny).

Place frosting in a cake decorating bag (I use a Ziploc bag, with one corner snipped off and a cake decorating tip instered in open corner). Pipe frosting onto cupcakes. (I used a large tip with wavy edges). Decorate with chocolate sprinkles. (I thought about sticking a banana slice on each cupcake, but was affraid the bananas would turn brown by the time I served them).

The cupcakes turned out a little dry - not sure if I over baked them or if it was the gluten free conversion. The frosting was delicious, maybe the best frosting I've ever made. Next time I might try marbeling the Nutella in the batter, rather than dropping one blob of it in each cupcake. I think this would help add Nutella flavor to the whole cupcake, instead of just one bite. Overall, it was good recipe, and I'd definitely make them again (but only for a special occassion. As you can see, this recipe doesn't win any points for being healthy).

The Kitchen Adventures

The other day I was looking through some photos and found this one of Halloween cupcakes.

I vaguely remember making these, and I remember thinking they were delicious, but I have no idea what recipe I used. I assume it was some kind of pumpkin cupcake. I do remember that the frosting is cream cheese frosting with cinnamon in it, a very nice added touch.

This mystery recipe was the inspiration for my new blog.

I love baking, and cooking too, and I love trying new recipes. But apparently I'm not doing a very good job of keeping track of those recipes. So this is my attempt to keep all my recipes in one place. Mostly my goal is to document my adventures in my kitchen for my own use, but as long as I'm at it, I hope you might be able to enjoy them too.

Thanks for visiting and happy baking (and cooking)!