White Bean Alfredo

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I was standing in the pantry trying to decide what to make for dinner.  Lot’s of Wegman’s Super Pasta and caned organic beans that I had stocked up on last time we were in VA.  I must have seen something like this in a food magazine recently because the idea of making an Alfredo sauce with white beans came to me.  I looked up the idea online to see how crazy of an idea this was. Not crazy apparently- there were plenty of vegan recipes out there for white bean Alfredo sauce.  I was ok with using some cream and the shredded parmesan cheese I had in the fridge so I looked around at a few idea and then made this:

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Ingredients:

pasta of choice

1 can cannellini beans

1-2 cloves garlic

a few tablespoons of olive oil or oil of choice (I love avocado oil)

1/8-1/3 cup of shredded Parmesan or strong cheese of choice (optional) The vegan version would use a tablespoon of nutritional yeast instead.

1/4-1/2 cup of milk

How to:

Mince garlic and let it rest a few minutes (this increases its awesomeness.. seriously look it up.)

  1. Get water boiling for pasta and oil warming in a skillet
  2. Rinse canned beans and drain then place in food processor or blender
  3. Sauté garlic for a minute or two to get it slightly cooked before adding it to the food processor with the beans.  You may need to add a little liquid- water, oil, or milk… any would be fine. Maybe even a splash white wine.. hmmm could be interesting?  Blend until smooth.
  4. Empty beans and garlic into a skillet and simmer adding a little milk to make it the consistency you desire. Then in the last minute or two add the cheese.  I am thinking capers or olives could be a great addition as well but maybe I am crazy. 🙂
  5. Hopefully you figured out that you need to cook the pasta according to package directions and you can serve this sauce over it.  I like it with a side of steamed broccoli as well.

There you have it! A protein and fiber filled yummy comfort food style dinner. So good and easy!

Enjoy!

Mac and Cheese with Roasted Delicata Squash

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For years I thought the reason my mac and cheese wasn’t ooey gooey delicious was because I needed to add more cheese. WRONG. I have learned this year that the secret to good mac and cheese is to start with a béchamel sauce which I just learned actually starts with making roux.  Who knew good Mac and Cheese would come with a french lesson. Don’t worry- it sounds fancy and complicated but it’s really easy and you can make this dish in about 30-40 min. Ready?

Ingredients:

1 delicata squash

Pasta of your choice

2-3 cups of cheeses of your choice.  Sharp cheddar, munster, gruyere etc… I used all sharp cheddar.

1 1/2 cup milk (approximate)

1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon butter

salt and pepper, paprika

1 tablespoon olive oil

This filled a side dish sized Corelle Ware baking dish. It served the two of us dinner and lunch. So I’d say it makes about 4 servings or maybe 2 large servings.

How to:

First get the kitchen ready- turn oven to 425* and put a pot of water on to start boiling.

Then get the food ready by peeling and chopping your beautiful delicate squash into small cubes. Or if you want you could buy butternut squash cubes from the store. However, delicate squash is in my opinion the best squash ever! (pardon the side note on delicate squash..) If you’ve never had one- just wash it, cut it in half and put a little butter or olive oil, salt and pepper on it and roast it in the oven for about 20 min. Then you can eat it whole- seriously- just pick it up and stuff it in your mouth- you won’t regret it! 🙂 The skin in so thin and delicate you can eat it with the squash! Wow!

Back to Mac and Cheese….  So for this recipe peel the skin (although that may be optional with delicate squash) and cut into small cubes then coat with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper and place in the oven to roast at 425* for about 15-20 min.

Once the water is boiling put half a box of pasta into the water and set the timer for however long it takes for al dente because it will cook a little more in the oven.

Then shred the cheese.. [or use bagged if you like strange added ingredients along with your cheese…bleh!) It’s so much yummier when you shred it fresh anyway.] For half a box of pasta I used what may have been 2 packed cups of cheese.

Then as your pasta is finishing up you should be checking to be sure the squash is roasting nicely.

Sauce: Melt 1-2 tablespoons of butter over a medium heat. Then add 2- 3 tablespoons of flour and stir well with a whisk. (You just made a roux!) Turn the heat up a bit and slowly add about 1 1/2 cups of milk- whisking as you add. (You just made béchamel sauce!)  Once there are no flour lumps left, whisk in the cheese.  You can get fancy with the cheese. The magazine I got this idea from used gruyere, sharp cheddar and parmesan.  I used sharp cheddar. We buy a massive block from Costco for about $5 once a month.  Use what suits your palate and budget. Whisk until smooth and continue stirring frequently for about 2 minutes so that it thickens up a bit. Remove from heat.

Breadcrumb topping:  Melt a tablespoon or two of butter in a small skillet.  Add 1/2 cup or so of Italian breadcrumbs or plain and add some spices.  Even when using Italian I add a little salt, pepper and paprika.  Brown lightly then remove from heat.

Put it all together: Layer the pasta, squash and cheese sauce in an oven safe baking dish.  Then top with breadcrumbs and bake in the oven at 350 for about 15 minutes.  The cheese sauce will thicken up and it will all meld together.  I thought we hadn’t had enough cheese sauce but once it baked in the oven, it came out gooey and all mixed together perfectly.

Mac and Cheese with Squash

I hope you like it as much as we did! 🙂

Pumpkin Ravioli with garlic & thyme

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Flavor party over here! New top 10 favorite dinner item!

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                                               Pumpkin Ravioli with garlic and thyme butter sauce.

The inspiration for this recipe was Kim Barnouin’s Skinny Bitch Ultimate Everyday Cookbook.  It’s a vegan, healthy you, healthy Earth, “crunchy” kinda cookbook with some fabulous recipes and a sassy undertone. 😉  I used her recipe exactly for the ravioli pasta but changed every ingredient in the ravioli filling… just due to what I had on hand and thought would be good.  So thanks for the diving board, Kim. The original recipe can be found in her cookbook under “Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage Sauce.” 

Start out by making the ravioli. Kim says you can make them a day ahead and refrigerate or freeze for 2 weeks.  I plan to be a risk taker and make several batches and keep in freezer for a few months…. I’ll update this later if that is a horrible idea.  I would love to experiment with other types of homemade ravioli. 🙂

roll out the ravioli

Ravioli or wonton wrapper recipe from Skinny Bitch Ultimate Everyday Cookbook:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup warm water

Mix flour and salt then slowly stir in warm water until stiff. Next, knead dough on a floured surface for about 5-7 minutes until smooth. Place ball of dough in a bowl and cover with a towel for 20 minutes.

Divide the dough into 2 pieces and roll out on a floured surface until about 2 mm thick. Then cut into 3×3 inch squares (ish).

Pumpkin Ravioli Filling:

  • 1 1/2 cups pumpkin (or any other kind of squash)
  • 1/4-1/2 stick of butter (decide how rich you want it to be or how many extra miles you want to walk tomorrow;)
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (The recipe called for panko which I discovered I am out of so I thought I’d use Italian… which I was also sad to discover I was out of so I put a piece of Oregon Herb bread from Great Harvest in the food processor… perfection.  Use whatever you choose… or have in the pantry.)
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese crumbled
  • salt and pepper

Blend butter and pumpkin in food processor or with electric beaters until smooth. Transfer into a bowl and stir in breadcrumbs, cheese, salt and pepper.

Put a tablespoon or so of the mixture onto a ravioli then fold over, dampen edges (just dip fingers in a cup of water and run over edges) and press firmly together to seal off in a triangular form.  Trust me; it’s easy.  My hubby made most of them! You can do it! 🙂

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Get a pot of water boiling and once it is rapidly boiling plop the ravioli in for 5-6 minutes. Strain. Serve with garlic butter &thyme sauce or sauce of your choice.

Garlic butter & thyme sauce

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 stick of butter

1 tablespoon of fresh thyme (or any other fresh herb you think would be good)

Mince the garlic and prepare the herbs while the butter melts on medium-low

Add garlic and fresh herbs until garlic softens and get close to browning.

Raspberry Cream Cheese Scuffins

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What is a scuffin???  I’m glad you asked! The scuffin is the love child of a muffin and a scone with the eyes of a cheese danish. 🙂   Now, I must start with a disclaimer. I used to work at a bakery that made scuffins but this is NOT their recipe.  I was never in charge of making any recipes at this bakery and the recipe below is what I developed based on several recipes I found online, specifically working off this one from the NY Times .  So hopefully that is enough detail to cover myself to prove that this is not a recipe from the bakery I once worked at.  However the craving to make my own did 100% result from the amazingness of this bakery’s treats.

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Recipe:

1 cup whole wheat flour

3/4 cup all purpose flour (I’ll be honest, sometimes I use 1 cup white four and 3/4 cup ground oatmeal if I don’t have whole wheat flour in the house… it works just fine. Of course you can use all white flour too- just hold back a tiny bit on the half and half)

2 tablespoons ground flax seed

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg

2/3 cup half and half (or other form of milk or even non dairy milk will work)

1/2 cup fresh or frozen berries of your choice (my favorite is raspberries)

4 tablespoons butter

1/3-1/2 block of plain cream cheese.

Preheat oven to 350*

Mix all dry ingredients then add melted butter .

Mix wet ingredients in a separate bowl then add to the dry and mix well.

Last, add most of the cream cheese and all the fruit and mix gently.  I love large blobs of cream cheese in my final product so that is why I told you to only mix in most of the cream cheese. The remaining part should be added as small chunks to each scuffin as it goes onto the baking sheet.

Spoon large chunks of the batter (adding small chunks of cream cheese to each) onto a baking sheet and bake 10-15 minutes until scuffins are firm.

Be sure to eat one right out of the oven… that’s when they are the best! 😀

This recipe only makes about 5 scuffins depending on how big you make them.  They are perfect for breakfast or a heathy snack on the go!

Scrumptious Sweet Potato Fries

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These babies have become a regular at our house.  We used to buy frozen bags of sweet potato fries and devour them all too quickly for their cost. Then one magical day we learned how easy and delicious they were to make ourselves. Add them to dinner, lunch or make them as a filling munchy-time snack.

Look at those beautiful little sweet potatoes up there.   They are calling out to be covered in seasoned salt and popped in a 375* oven!   After you’ve cut them into thick or thin wedges (we do a little of each because I like thick hubby likes thin) pour 1-2 tablespoons of any oil over top then sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder or seasoning salt of your choice.  Do this straight on the cutting board so you don’t dirty any extra dishes and just swirl it all around with your hands. Today I am using a steak seasoning salt from a local spice shop.

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Then scrape this all onto a baking sheet and bake for 10-18 minutes at 375-400*.  These will not get crispy unless you cut them really small and burn them .  That is OK! Embrace their tender sweetness! You will know they are done when they are soft all the way through.  I usually give them a little flip/stir halfway through to even out the cooking because the side touching the baking sheet will get more brown than the side that is up. When you have decided that they are done, enjoy them plain or with mayonnaise and ketchup!  I do not have a picture of the finished product because the moment they came out of the oven…. I devoured them. 😀  oops.  Enjoy!

Oh look what I just came across on my newsfeed: 5 benefits of eating sweet potatoes 🙂 

Perfect beans = 2014 can now end.

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I don’t really do the whole ‘New Years resolution’ thing but somewhere during 2014 I decided that before 2014 was over, I would perfect the art of making beans from dry beans. I had made beans from dry beans plenty of times in the past but they were always just… eh. Nothing fabulous and definitely not as tasty as canned. Healthier and cheaper, yes, but if you don’t love it you won’t make it very often. I read a lot of different methods out there and finally put 2 together to make my new way to make beans. “The Kitchn” blog was actually the source for both of these.

Soak for 24 hours and Brine them

I soak my beans for at least 12 hours but if I can I will soak them longer.  No matter the length, I am sure to add a few tablespoons of salt to the soaking.  The salt helps to break the tough skin of the bean and helps them to cook evenly. When I finally get around to making them, I rinse the beans and cook them in the crock pot on low for 6-7 hours. Depending on what I am doing with the beans and what type they are I will also add seasoning to the crock pot.  Recently I made pinto beans for a southern meal and cooked them with onion, garlic, bacon and a little Vogue Cuisine Instant VegeBase (a type of vegetable bullion). They were AMAZING!! So creamy and rich. I even caught my husband putting them on toast for a snack! Now I know the timing can be difficult here as to when to actually cook them.  I find that I can cook them in the crock pot overnight and then reheat them on the stove when I am ready to use them. I think sitting in the fridge for a day might even make them taste better. It certainly doesn’t hurt and cooking the night before eliminates worrying if the beans will be done in time for dinner.  My crock pot has a timer that you can set and it goes to warm after cooking. I put the crock pot on low when I go to bed for 6 or 7 hours then it automatically goes to warm for the additional 2-3 hours that I will still be snoozing and it has worked out wonderfully. Things to keep in mind:

– All crock pots are different. One of mine allows a little steam out through a small hole (meant for probing meat to check temp.) I always make sure I add a little more water when using this crock pot. Waking up to burnt beans would be a horrible way to start the day.

– Be sure there is nothing crowding or near the crock pot while it is on.  I am just always extra cautious about this!

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Why should you be making beans from dry instead of using cans?

Canned beans are fine if you are willing to pay for organic with PBA free cans. Canned beans will usually have higher sodium and sometimes added ingredients you don’t want. Plus cans (unless specified) have BPA which is linked to raised blood pressure, cancer and other ailments. Also, dry beans are MUCH cheaper and look so pretty in mason jars in the pantry. 🙂

Why are beans good for me?

Beans are excellent sources of soluble fiber which lowers cholesterol. They are also excellent sources of potassium, magnesium and folate all of which keep your heart super healthy. In addition to this, beans provide a great source of vitamin B1 and iron along with other excellent nutrients.

If you are worried about gas problems from beans, do some research on how to reduce this. I think brining helps to break down the oligosaccharides which are the culprit of the “beans=gas” problem as our bodies have a little trouble breaking this down on their own (some people more than others). However, I’ve heard that vinegar in the soaking water can help and if you boil them for a few minutes on the stove first and scoop off the foam- that helps too! So don’t let gas be an excuse. You’re body can get better at digesting them over time and you can do a  lot to help.

 

Now that I have accomplished this goal I have decided that in 2015 I will master either  homemade yogurt or mayonnaise… or both! A girl’s gotta have ambitions in life… 😀

Yoghurt House Style Pancake

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Yoghurt House Style Pancake

I found a draft that I never published from the Philippines…. What a nice find as I had actually forgotten about these pancakes!

When we went to Sagada, a small town way up in the Mountain Province, we ate quite frequently at an amazing restaurant called The Yoghurt House. It is famous for its homemade yogurt. One of the delicious meals we had there was called the “Hikers Delight” breakfast. It consisted of a pancake wrapped around a banana and yogurt with strawberry topping and a side of fried eggs and toast. Recently I have been making this at home and I really think it is a more nutritious way of eating pancakes. I’ve also added granola to the top or inside of the pancake wrap, or oatmeal to the pancake batter to add fiber and nutrients.

I’ve used plain and strawberry yogurt, both are delicious. I’m considering trying different fruit fillings as well. Give it a try next time you make pancakes- I don’t even put syrup on top – which is why it makes this a healthier alternative for me- a syrup lover who usually goes overboard. You are getting some sugar from the banana (and possibly yogurt if you use a sweetened type) but at least these are not empty calories instead they offer nutrients, probiotics and added protein!

Here is what it looked like at The Yogurt House:

Yogurt pancake

 

And just for fun here are a few fun peeks of the town of Sagada:

This is Sagada. Nestled way way up in the beautiful Cordillera mountains, Sagada is a beautiful little town with lots of tourist and historical charm bounding with  natural beauty.

 

Sagada View

 

Sagada is only about 140 miles from Baguio but the roads are so narrow and mountainous that it takes 5-6 hours by public (non-airconditioned) bus.  Lots of dramamine, nausea, beautiful scenery, cows and a few very horrific “rest areas” later…. our massive bus got to cross this part of the road made up of wooden planks with this warning:

 

road sign

 

In the Mountain Province people ride on the tops of jeepneys, busses.. really any type of moving transportation.  I caught this picture from the porch of our hotel room one morning. Apparently the drivers don’t mind people riding on the roof but keep your feet off their cab!

 

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And just a friendly reminder from the tourist office of Sagada:

 

Say No to drugs