Monday, September 26, 2011

Broccoli Casserole

If you're a casserole lover like me, like broccoli and don't turn your nose up at Campbell's condensed soup recipes, this is a dish you should put in your repertoire. I began making this recipe about 40 years ago when my ex mother-in-law Marion, who is a fabulous cook shared it with me. She originally called the dish broccoli souffle. And if you leave out the penne pasta that I've added, I would still call it a souffle even though you don't have to separate any eggs. It puffs up like the real thing. How impressive is that?

I wanted to add some depth to the dish because I live alone and don't always want to make something that accompanies a main course. Sometimes I don't want a main course and the sides are all I need. Anyway, the pasta seems to do the trick.

Broccoli Casserole with Penne Pasta
Inspired by Marion MacGregor

3 cups cooked broccoli florets

1 can Campbell's Cream of Celery Soup (98% fat free)

2/3 cup of shredded cheddar cheese (I've been using Fontina-best melting cheese ever, but very rich and not so figure friendly)

1/2 cup lite mayonnaise- I think you could even use no-fat mayo here

2 T chopped onion or scallion

2 beaten eggs

1/2 cup uncooked penne pasta (I use Dreamfields low carb)

1 T hot sauce (my addition)

black pepper to taste

1 cup homemade garlic croutons or toasted bread crumbs

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and cool. In large bowl combine all ingredients except croutons or bread crumbs. Pour pasta/broccoli mixture in prepared dish (glass 9" x 12" would work fine or a soufflet dish misted with cooking spray) and add toasted croutons or bread crumbs to the top. Sometimes I mix a few of the croutons or crumbs into the casserole and it adds an extra crunch. Your choice. Bake 45 minutes uncovered. Let cool a bit and serve. Yummy dish and microwaves like a dream the next day.

Re-Mix: I've made this with the addition of chopped turkey bacon slices and even cooked chicken, and then it really becomes a meal. I haven't added any other veggies because the broccoli is really the star. If you don't have cream of celery soup, use cream of mushroom. I've done that and it's perfectly acceptable. I have not yet tried it with cream of chicken, but I bet that would be pretty good too.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sometimes you feel like a nut

I normally wouldn't post a re-mix of my simple chocolate chip cookie recipe but I'm absolutely nuts about this revision. It's loaded with macademia nuts, has lots of oatmeal and is simply delicious. The cookies are rich. And chewy. And crunchy. And decadent. I suggest you try them if you're a nut like me.

Macademia Nut Cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter softened
1 cup brown sugar (I used 1/2 cup Splenda Brown Sugar Blend)
1 cup granulated sugar (I used Splenda no calorie)
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup AP flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup macademia nuts chopped
1 cup white chocolate and/or semi sweet chocolate chips-optional
Sea salt

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In large bowl combine the butter and sugars with hand mixer. Mix about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs and vanilla extract and set aside.

In medium size bowl add flour, salt, baking powder and soda. Mix with a whisk to incorporate. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until combined. Stir in the oats, nuts and chips (if using). Spoon tablespoons of the dough onto the baking sheets, sprinkle with sea salt and bake until lightly browned on the edges. My oven takes about 10 minutes, but check the cookies after 8 minutes to be sure you don't over cook them. Let cookies cool a minute or two before transferring to wire rack or paper towels. Repeat with any remaing dough. This recipe makes about 45 cookies.

I've made this recipe with and without the chocolate chips. Either way they are delightful. If you decide to omit the chips, you can add an additional 1/2 cup of macademia nuts.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Apple Crisp

I hate saying goodbye to summer, but what makes the goodbye somewhat bearable is the abundance of fall fruits and vegetables available in the market. That's why I went to my local farm stand yesterday and picked up three pounds of Cortland apples to make an apple crisp. This recipe is simple and not over-the-top in calories. Plus it's hearty and satisfying and a great way to welcome the season.

Apple Crisp

3 pounds tart apples (I used Cortland)
1/4 cup sugar (I used Splenda no calorie)
Juice of one lemon
2 T AP flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 cup AP flour
1-1/4 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar (I used 1/4 cup Splenda Brown Sugar Blend)
1 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt
8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter cut into small pieces

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.

To make the filling, peel, core and slice apples into 1/4 inch slices. Toss with sugar, lemon, flour and cinnamon. Place in prepared baking dish misted with cooking spray. I used a souffle pan but a 9 x 12 glass baking dish would be great too.

To prepare topping, mix all ingredients and sprinkle over apples. Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool slightly and serve with ice cream. I didn't have any ice cream in the house so I poured some fat free half and half around the perimeter of the dish and it was delicious. And by the way, it was fabulous for breakfast the next morning.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Avocado Salad Dressing and Dip

Avocados are on sale this week so I took advantage and came up with a creamy, ever-so-light (in texture) avocado dressing that works beautifully in a tossed salad or maybe even better as a dip for chips or raw vegetables. If you're an avocado lover, this is a must try. Tonight I topped a spinach, romaine, chopped egg and turkey bacon salad with it and it was simply delish.

Avocado Dressing

1 scallion chopped

1 garlic clove chopped

6 oz plain fat free Greek yogurt (I think sour cream would work well too)

1/2 cup light mayonnaise

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 tsp tabasco sauce

1/2 tsp kosher salt

black pepper

2 avocados peeled and chopped

Combine all ingredients in blender except the avocadoes. When mixture is smooth, add the first avocado and blend. Your dressing is basically done. Remove from blender and carefully stir in the second avocado. You now have a chunky, decadent dressing with good size chunks of this heavenly fruit that will make every bite of your salad or dip more exciting.

Spinach and Romaine Salad

2 cups chopped Romaine lettuce
1 cup chopped baby spinach
4 strips turkey bacon cooked and chopped
2 eggs hard boiled and chopped
3/4 cup croutons (I love home made-Ann Burrell's recipe)

Combine all salad ingredients, toss with dressing and dig in. You won't be disappointed. This salad should serve two. You will have some left over dressing so get creative and slather it on sandwiches, bring out the pita chips, or mix it with some rotisserie chicken, celery and carrots for a very tasty chicken salad. Use it up though, since I don't think it will last more than a day or two.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

After the Storm

The day after I got my electricity back I went to the market to replace some of the food I had thrown away. I didn't buy too much since the threat of another storm seems imminent. You might think I picked up a steak or something decadent, but I bought some turkey bacon and fresh vegetables. I was in the mood for comfort food and decided on Turkey Bacon and Cannelini Bean and Vegetable Soup, my adaptation of a recipe I discovered in Southern Cooking. This is a quick fix, no fuss recipe for whatever has gotten you down. The beans are creamy, the broth is flavorful, the bacon is smokey and the vegetables and simple spices make this a go-to recipe when you've had a tough week.

Turkey Bacon and Cannelini Bean and Vegetable Soup

8 strips turkey bacon cooked and chopped, one inch pieces
1-1/2 cups chopped onion -I used frozen
1 large carrot diced
2 small celery stalks diced
5 cloves garlic minced- this sounds like a lot, but it's really very mellow
2 T canola oil and any leftover bacon fat
lemon pepper
3 dried bay leaves
2 cans (14.5 oz each) low sodium, fat free chicken broth
2 cans (15.5 oz each) cannelini beans rinsed and drained
2 T hot sauce
3 oz baby spinach chiffonade
Shredded Parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)
Croutons for garnish (optional)

Cook bacon and set aside. In large pot, add oil and bacon fat and warm over medium/low heat. Add carrots, celery and onion and stir. Cook about five minutes, add garlic and 1/2 tsp salt and lemon pepper. Cover pot and sweat vegetables another 5 or 7 minutes. Add turkey bacon.

Cook another minute or two and add bay leaves, broth and beans. Cook 20 minutes covered. Add spinach and hot sauce and cook until spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes. Taste and re-season if necessary.

I wanted to jazz this dish up a bit so while the soup was simmering I made Anne Burrell's croutons, shredded some Parmesan cheese and made this a very special meal. This recipe will serve four people, but it's so good that I ate two portions in one sitting. I'll double it next time.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Cookies Before the Storm

Last Saturday night I had a craving for cookies. I perused my freezer for whatever little bits of chocolate chips or nuts I had stored away, and decided on white chocolate and semi sweet chocolate chip cookies with a hint of sea salt. Little did I know that I'd lose power the next day and have no electricity for the next 4 days (due to Irene) and these would be my go-to snack when the going got tough. These are simple cookies, and rather sweet, but the sea salt gives them an identity that goes beyond your regular chocolate chip cookie. This is a very simple recipe, takes about 10-15 minutes to put together and 8 to 10 minutes to bake. And you'll get about 36 cookies, plenty to get through a 4 day power outage. Quite delicious with a steaming cup of coffee or a big glass of milk, non of which I could access in my home, but luckily Starbucks was open a a few blocks away.

White and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt

Makes 36 cookies

2 sticks butter softened

1 cup granulated sugar (I used Splenda no calorie sugar substitute)

1 cup light brown sugar (I used 1/2 cup Splenda Brown Sugar Blend)

2 large eggs (room temp if possible)

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1-1/2 cups AP flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 cup rolled oats

2-1/2 cups assortment of chocolate chips (I used white, semi-sweet and mini semi sweet)

Sea Salt for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Place butter and sugars in a large bowl. With hand mixer combine sugar and butter until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla extract and incorporate. Set aside.

With a whisk or fork, combine flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a medium bowl. Add the flour mixture (in two batches) and incorporate the wet ingredients with the dry. Now stir in the rolled oats and the chips.

Spoon tablespoons of the dough (about 2 inches apart) onto the parchment lined cookie sheets. Gingerly sprinkle sea salt on top of the cookies (don't go crazy with the salt- you'll be disappointed) and bake 9 minutes or until cookies become lightly browned. Undercook these a bit and don't look for too many crispy edges. The cookies will continue cooking while cooling on a wire rack. I sometimes just let them cool on the rack for a minute or two and transfer them to a clean roll of paper towels and let them sit until they're cooled enough for me to start tasting.

Re-mix: I also had dry roasted peanuts, crushed walnuts, coconut, butterscotch and peanut butter chips in the freezer last Saturday. If you're not a lover of chocolate like I am, try shredded sweetened coconut and butterscotch chips (I warn you- it's a sweet combo). Or try peanuts, raisins and a small amount of white chocolate chips. You'll get the crunch of the nuts, and the tang of the raisins and sweetness of the chocolate. But I must advise, in all of these cookie combinations, don't leave off the small amout of sea salt. It's a breath of fresh air that enhances everything sweet.