Category: butter

Eating as a New Mom

933I’m a mom! My son arrived 7 weeks early and spent a month in the NICU. We brought him home a few days before Christmas and are riding the rollercoaster of parenthood.

The little man loves to eat and isn’t a fan of sleeping – or at least, sleeping without being held. This particular trait is endearing – snuggle bug! But it also makes it challenging to accomplish anything, say, like, prepping or eating food.

My husband is awesome about making ‘real’ meals for dinner, but during the day and after late night feedings, I’m purely snack ‘n grab. This means my eats have included:

  • spoons of peanut butter and hummus
  • bananas
  • cans of green beans and baked beans
  • string cheese
  • Triscuits
  • Cheerios

My mother visited and showed her concern about my lack of balanced diet by adding slices of of butter and extra mayonnaise to everything she prepared for me. It was sweet in that mom way, and also served as a reminder that I need to do a better job of managing healthful eating – for myself, for baby and for successful breastfeeding.

Since her visit, I’ve made a more conscious effort to store leftovers in containers easy to pop in the microwave, stock lunch meats for meat-and-cheese roll-ups, and keep quick proteins like cottage cheese and yogurt on hand. Less butter and mayo necessary.

What other quick, easy and one-handed foods should a new mom consider?

“Holy moley!” Shrimp and Parmesan Grits

The only way to enjoy grits is to add butter and cheese. Then add more butter and cheese.  This was the first time I made this dish, and while it’s delish, it’s also decidedly not heart healthy. Which makes this recipe perfect for sharing!

For our first Friends-giving this week, B and I each made a memorable dish. His German Potato Salad is practically legendary now, but my shrimp and grits held their own in the taste test. I’d make this again. In fact, the hubby declared, “Holy moley! These are good!” Thanks for the recipe, Aunt Judy – and Southern Living.

PARMESAN GRITS:
1 tsp salt
2 cups uncooked quick-cooking grits
14 oz. grated Parmesan cheese (not the powdery stuff)
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
3 TBS butter
SHRIMP SAUCEshrimp n grits
At least 2 pounds unpeeled, medium-size, raw shrimp
pepper and salt
vegetable cooking spray
2 TBS olive oil
2 TBS all-purpose flour
1 tsp corn starch mixed with 1 TBS water til smooth
2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup chopped green onions
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 TBS fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp grated lemon rind
1/2 tsp hot sauce
2 cups fresh baby spinach
parsley and lemon slices for topping
DIRECTIONS:

1. Prepare Parmesan Grits: Bring 1 tsp. salt and 8 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Gradually whisk in grits. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 8 minutes or until thickened. Whisk in cheese and pepper and butter until smooth. Taste and keep warm. TIP: Use a whisk – it helps the fluffiness factor.2. Prepare Creamy Shrimp Sauce: Peel shrimp; devein and/or detail, if desired. Sprinkle shrimp with pepper and 1/8 tsp. salt – I tossed them with salt and pepper in a colander. Cook in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat 1 to 2 minutes on each side or just until shrimp turn pink. Remove shrimp from skillet with slotted spoon.
3. Keep the skillet on the stove. Reduce heat to medium. Add oil; heat 30 seconds. Whisk in flour; cook 30 seconds to 1 minute. Whisk in broth, green onions, grlic, lemon juice, half of the lemon rind and all the hot sauce. Bring to a boil and cook 2 to 3 minutes or until thickened. TIP: If the roux never thickens add the corn starch mixture and boil one minute. Stir in shrimp until heated through. Taste broth and add salt, pepper and/or more hot sauce as desired.
4. Pour grits into serving dish. Add spinach leaves. Top spinach with shrimp and sauce. Sprinkle with parsley, lemon slices and lemon rind. Serve immediately or keep warm. TIP: Nobody likes congealed grits.
This made a LOT of grits — more than one 9×13 pan could handle. Next time I’ll serve in two pans, but in the meantime, who is excited about leftovers? This girl!

Baked Pea and Spinach Risotto

Generally I’m not a fan of Real Simple recipes; they’re bland and dull. Simple taken too far = boring. However, with the addition of my trusty cooking sidekick, Lemon Pepper seasoning, this baked risotto comes together easily. Plus, there’s a fair amount of veggies you can add to risotto to keep nutrients high. And the best part? No standing at the stove sweating for an hour, hoping the broth incorporates!

Ingredientsbaked_spinach_risotto_300

4 TBS butter
2 shallots, chopped
salt and black pepper
1 tsp lemon pepper seasoning
1/2 cup dry white wine
6 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 cups Arborio rice
1 package frozen peas
8 ounces baby spinach, roughly chopped (about 4 cups)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Asiago, plus more for serving

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 425° F. Heat the butter in a medium Dutch oven or ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Add the shallot, 1 tsp salt, and 1 tsp pepper and cook, stirring often, until soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until almost evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Add the broth and rice and bring to a rolling boil. Add 1/2 tsp lemon pepper. Stir briefly.
  3. Cover the pot and transfer to oven. Cook until the rice is tender and creamy, about 25 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven. Add the peas, spinach, Parmesan, 1/2 tsp lemon pepper, and ¼ teaspoon pepper to the pot and stir to combine.
  5. Return to oven for 5 more minutes. Remove and stir. If the risotto is too thick, add up to ¼ cup hot water. Sprinkle with additional Parmesan before serving.

You can half ingredients, and adding protein is always an option. As is, it made 6-8 servings. Now we have leftovers for days!

5 Things I Learned About Food This Week

In no particular order…

1. Switching to a low-carb diet results in brain fog (stupidity), flu-like symptoms of blarg, fatigue like mono, irritability and spending lots of time thinking about food. Apparently this allll goes away, and with it, pounds! It’s magic, they say! But here in the land of low-carb day 8, I just want to sleep and get my throat to stop hurting.

2. The term ‘alcohol sugar‘ is just a fancy name for ‘artificial sweeteners.’ There’s not even alcohol involved. Examples of sugar alcohol to look for are:

  • Erythritol
  • Glycerol (also known as glycerin or glycerine)
  • hydrogenated starch hydrolysates
  • isomalt
  • lactitol
  • maltitol
  • mannitol
  • sorbitol
  • xylitol

3. There’s a guy who wants to make food – and eating – obsolete. Given the vast energy I spend making, planning and feeling bad about food decisions, this appeals to the utilitarian in me. But not to the gastro-bliss fairy who sighs over hot bread and fresh butter. (I’m HUNGRY). For more thoughts on the irony of creating soy-based fake ‘food,’ check out this piece on the ethics of food in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx & Crake.

4. The infamous ‘Dirty Dozen’ may not be so bad. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the following have the highest pesticide load, making them the most important to buy organic versions:

  • Apples
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Celery
  • Peaches
  • Spinach
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Nectarines
  • Cucumbers
  • Potatoes
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Hot peppers

However,  the Journal of Toxicology folks disagree over the significance of the pesticides, “We concur with EWG President Kenneth Cook who maintains that “We recommend that people eat healthy by eating more fruits and vegetables, whether conventional or organic,” but our findings do not indicate that substituting organic forms of the “Dirty Dozen” commodities for conventional forms will lead to any measurable consumer health benefit.”

5. Which pulls me full circle back to Michael Pollan’s thoughts: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Better-for-you Butter Chicken

According to my fiance, this should be called “Righteous butter chicken.”

I love butter chicken and order it every chance I have. Officially known as ‘murgh makhani’ and described as ‘Indian chicken in tomato cream sauce,’ I’m rarely disappointed. This is baby Indian food — almost zero heat, sweet and hard to resist seconds, or thirds.

However, generally I place it in the category of ‘foods best made by others’ since the amount of cream sends my stomach racing into hiding. To avoid lactose overload, I gave this version from Natural Noshing a try. It’s light on dairy but still full on flavor, and can easily be made lactose free. Overall assessment: it’s good. It’s not EPIC or a copycat recipe but it’s solid.

Next time I’ll use vegetable or peanut oil, though. I apparently don’t like the scent of heated coconut oil; it reminds me of being stuck in a car on a hot day with a box of melting crayons and a coloring book. Also, lemon juice is an absolute must for finishing the dish. I’ve made the changes that I will make next time to the recipe below.

TIP: This will take you about 2 hours, start to finish.

Ingredients for the Chicken:
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 cups yogurt (can use dairy-free options)
2 TBS ginger-garlic paste
1 tsp salt or to taste
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp cayenne pepper
3 tsp tandoori masala powder
2 tsp kasuri methi or 1 tsp ground dried fenugreek seeds
4 TBS canola oil, coconut oil or other neutral oil

Directions For the Chicken:
1. In a small bowl mix together cumin, garam masala, salt, cayenne pepper, tandoori masala and fenugreek/kasuri methi. Rub on both sides of the chicken and refrigerate for at least 30-60 minutes.
2. Line a pan with parchment or foil. In a large bowl, whisk together yogurt, oil and ginger garlic paste. Dip each chicken breast into the yogurt mixture. Coat well. Lay on prepared pan.
3. Heat oven to broil and cook 10-18 minutes or until cooked through (depending on thickness of chicken), flipping them over halfway through. For 4 meaty breasts, I cooked 15-20 minutes on each side. When cooked through, let chicken rest for 5 minutes. Optional: slice chicken into 1 inch cubes.

Ingredients for the Butter Sauce:
4 TBS coconut oil, canola oil or other neutral oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
3 TBS ginger-garlic paste
4 cups diced tomatoes (use canned or marinara to save time)
2 TBS flour
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp garam masala
3 TBS kasuri methi or 1 tsp dried ground fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 TBS sugar or sweetener of choice
1/2 cup coconut milk OR greek yogurt OR  sour cream
4 TBS butter, ghee, or margarine
Juice of 1 lemon

Directions For the Butter Sauce:
1. Heat the oil in a medium sauté pan. Cook onions until soft and translucent. Add ginger-garlic paste and stir for about 1 minute.
2. Add tomatoes, flour, cayenne, cumin, garam masala, kasuri methi, salt and sugar. Cook on medium heat until thick. Optional: Puree sauce in a blender and return to the pan. Personally I find blending hot liquids in batches a messy business.
3. Add dairy (yogurt/coconut milk/sour cream) and butter. Stir and cook for another 5 minutes. Add lemon juice. Taste and adjust. If you prefer a thinner sauce, add a bit more coconut milk.
4. If you opted to cut up the chicken, add it to the pan and simmer for a few more minutes. I sliced up the chicken and poured sauce over it instead.

Serve hot with lentils, rice and buttery garlic naan. Sigh contentedly and enter righteous butter chicken food coma.

 

Homemade Oatmeal Creme Pies (Take 1)

I’ve decided – for no particular reason – that 2014 is the year of making oatmeal creme pies. I started with this recipe from Cooking Classy, and made a few minor tweaks as a newbie to this realm of cookie sandwiches. I don’t know how they managed to make these in 25 minutes, as it took me 2 hours, but the end result is pretty impressive. And by that I mean that the creme filling made unicorns cry tears of joy. I will never make another frosting again.

In the words of the Birthday Boy & Official Taste-tester, “Seriously, it is so damn good. You nailed it, hun.”

Ingredients

1 3/4 cups + 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup quick oats
3 tsp cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening (unflavored)
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 TBS molasses
2 large eggs (or egg product)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp almond extract

Marshmallow Buttercream Filling
1/2 cup butter, nearly at room temperature
1/4 cup shortening (unflavored)
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
7 oz. marshmallow creme

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, oats, cocoa powder, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, set aside. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, whip together butter, shortening, sugar and molasses on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Stir in eggs, mixing until combine after each addition. Mix in vanilla and almond extract. Slowly add in dry ingredients and mix until well combined.

2. Scoop dough out about 2 Tbsp at a time and drop on cookie sheet lined with a Silpat or parchment paper. Depending on size, you can fit 6-9 per sheet. Bake in preheated oven 10 – 12 minutes. Cookies should still be soft, not fully set – don’t over bake. My oven runs hot so I pulled them out at 9 minutes, since 11 minutes made a batch of crunchy granola bars.

3. Allow to cool several minutes on baking sheet before transferring to wire rack to cool. Cool completely then spread marshmallow buttercream filling along bottom side of one cookie and sandwich to the bottom side of another cookie. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.

4. To make the marshmallow buttercream filling:
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer  or hand mixer (not an immersion blender, folks), whip butter and shortening on medium-high speed, until pale and fluffy, about 3 – 4 minutes. Add powdered sugar and blend on low-speed until combined, then increase speed to medium-high and whip for 1 minutes. Mix in marshmallow creme and taste. Try not to keel over in drooling bliss. 

The cookies are good, but not enough of an improvement over the classic Quaker Oats recipe that I’d say you have to use this recipe.  For Take 2, I’m looking at these Oatmeal Buttercream Pies. Any other recipe suggestions?

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls

Kudos to the bakers over at Food52 for crafting this delicious recipe. I made these on Christmas morning, and though they take a fair amount of time to create and more than enough calories, the flavors make for a celebration. Plus, did you notice they use pumpkin? My pursuit to teach the world that pumpkin is more than a fall food continues.

I learned a couple things that will make my next batch even better:

  • Adjust the oven down 25 degrees for a glass pan.
  • Measure the icing ingredients.
  • Clementine zest and juice are not culinary equivalents to orange zest and juice.
  • Despite my insistence that it didn’t matter, sifting powdered sugar is actually important.
  • This recipe makes two pans of rolls.

INGREDIENTS

Post cutting and ready to rise for a second time!

Dough
2 TBS tablespoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup milk, warmed but not boiling
4 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 TBS salt
4 TBS butter softened
3 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup cream cheese

Filling
1 cup  brown sugar
1/2 cup  butter
2 TBS ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp orange zest

Icing
1/2 cup cream cheese
1 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
3 TBS orange juice — measure this, trust me

DIRECTIONS
1. Combine the yeast and the warm milk and let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook combine the flour, sugar, spices and salt. Add in the eggs, pumpkin puree, and yeast mixture. Mix until just combined, then add the butter. Mix the dough until well combined, then knead the dough for 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. The dough will stick to the bottom of the bowl, but resist the temptation to add more flour.

3. Transfer the dough to a clean, oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until doubled in volume, 1-½ hours at a warm room temperature.

4. When the dough is almost finished rising, prepare the filling by browning the butter in a skillet until it is golden and toasty. Let the butter cool slightly then combine it with the brown sugar, cinnamon and orange zest. Prepare two, 8 or 9-inch baking pans by buttering or oiling them generously.

5. After the dough has risen, transfer it to a well floured surface and pat the dough into a 12-inch square. Break up the cream cheese and gently spread it on top of the dough, being careful not to tear the dough. Fold the dough into thirds, starting from the bottom so the cream cheese is completely sealed inside of the dough. Then roll the dough into a roughly 16-inch by 20-inch rectangle with the long side facing you, dust off any excess flour with a pastry brush.

6. Sprinkle the filling evenly over the top. Starting from the bottom, gently roll the dough into a log. Use a serrated knife and use very, very gentle and even pressure to cut the log into generous 1-inch slices. Gently place the cut rolls into the prepared pans, cover and let rise until almost doubled in size, 1-1 ½ hours. TIP: If you’d like to freeze some rolls to bake off at a later date, now is a good time to do it. Wrap the pan in 2 layers of plastic wrap and a layer of foil and freeze. To bake, let the frozen rolls come to room temperature and complete their final rise before baking.

7. Twenty minutes before you are ready to bake the rolls preheat your oven to 350º. Bake the rolls until they are cooked through and lightly golden, 20-25 minutes. NOTE: If you’re using a glass pan, adjust the oven to 325º and watch carefully, as glass transfers more heat and will take longer to cool down once out of the oven.

8. While they are baking, prepare the glaze by whisking the cream cheese, powdered sugar, orange juice, and a tiny pinch of salt together until smooth. It won’t be smooth if you don’t sift the sugar. I know, it’s an extra step but worth it! Let the rolls cool for about 5 minutes before glazing and digging in. Be judicious with the glaze, a little goes a long way.

These were good, and can be even better. I’ll try out the wisdom gained on batch #2, which is chilling in the freezer until a special occasion arises.

Salmon with Honey-Mustard Pan Sauce

Trader Joe’s, you make my heart sing with your easy dinners and bright flavors. Your convenience is worth a few extra dollars and your frozen Indian food is heralded across the skies.
 
Ahem, right. This is a straight-up copy of the recipe on the package of TJ’s Silver Brite Salmon. We’ve eaten in twice in two weeks. Do it and be happy.
 
Ingredients
1.5 pounds thawed salmon, cut into equal pieces
4 TBS+  butter, divided (I prefer salted butter)
2 TBS  whole grain dijon mustard
4+ TBS honey, divided
1/4 cup water
1 TBS olive oil
black pepper and salt to taste
 
 
Directions
1. Add olive oil and 2 TBS butter to a nonstick skillet and cook over medium heat to melt butter.  Add mustard and stir to combine.  Cook for 1 – 2 minutes to toast mustard seeds. Add 2 TBS honey to pan until just melted.
2. Drop in salmon pieces skin side down, then salt and pepper the flesh liberally. Cover with a lid to complete the cooking, about 6 minutes.  Fish should be opaque, but do not overcook.  Remove fish and set aside, keeping it warm.
3. Add water to deglaze pan, then add the remaining 2 TBS of butter and 2 TBS of honey. Heat over high heat until the sauce thickens and reduces by about half.
4. Return fish to pan for a minute, spooning sauce over the pieces. Serve!
 
 
We’ve enjoyed the salmon over field greens, with quinoa, alongside roasted broccoli and brussel sprouts. Something green makes the dish prettier. TIP: you’ll want to pour any remaining sauce over pretty much anything on your plate.