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Roasted spaghetti squash with Parmigiano-Reggiano and thyme

June 12, 2013

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Parmigiano-Reggiano and thyme

Who would have guessed that spaghetti squash would become such a rock star on Pinterest?  It certainly has, though I never made it until last night.  And this wasn’t even a recipe I pinned!

I was making mac and cheese for the kids and wanted something lighter for Jim and me.  The squash was eyeing me up from the corner of the counter so I took the plunge.  I can’t believe I’ve never eaten this before.  So simple and completely satisfying and delicious!

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  (A good meal can do that to a person.)  Anyway, since the squash and the mac and cheese had the same cooking times, it was low fuss.  Just a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper and it was in the oven while I was boiling the kids’ pasta.  I got the mac and cheese ready and the two happily cooked together at the same oven temp.

The squash did need an extra couple of minutes stovetop to finish it off, but we still all sat down at the same time for dinner.  The only difference was that our’s was super healthy and the kiddos weren’t complaining that I was making them try new food.  Although Claudia was very impressed that it came out of the shell looking like spaghetti and said I could probably have tricked her into eating it.  (These kids know me so well!  Next time!)

Recipe:  Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Parmigiano-Reggiano and Thyme

(slightly adapted from chow)

1 spaghetti squash
4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
handful of freshly chopped thyme
3/4 c. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, extra for serving

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Cut squash in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds.  Place squash halves, cut side up, on a baking sheet and rub them with 2 Tbsp. of olive oil.  Season generously with salt and pepper.  Cook until fork-tender, about 50 minutes.

Remove squash from oven and let sit a few minutes until cool enough to handle.  In the meantime, heat remaining 2 Tbsp. of olive oil in a large skillet.  Add onion and cook for about 2 minutes, until softened.  Add garlic and thyme and cook an additional minute.  Season with salt and pepper.  Scrape the flesh from the squash into the skillet and toss to coat.  Add cheese and toss as cheese melts.  Serve with a sprinkling of extra cheese.

(My kiddos were eating peas with dinner, so I stirred some cooked peas into the skillet too.  I think small pieces of cooked veggies would be a great addition!)


Cinnamon cream cheese breakfast cookies

May 12, 2013

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Breakfast Cookies

Back in February, I made some “breakfast cookies” with chocolate chips in them, thinking they’d be a great treat to start the day.  They were good, but it got me thinking that a cinnamon version would be pretty darn good too, and I have to say they turned out even better than I’d hoped.

Think about cinnamon rolls and monkey bread in a kind of cookie form.  Plus, who doesn’t love waking up to the smell of cinnamon and coffee wafting through the house?  Most definitely better than an alarm clock!

Recipe:  Cinnamon Cream Cheese Breakfast Cookies

1 can crescent rolls
4 oz. block of cream cheese, room temperature
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
ground cinnamon

Beat cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla until smooth.  Unroll the crescent rolls and gently press seams together so you have a rectangle.  Spread the cream cheese mixture onto the sheet of crescent rolls, leaving about 1/2″ all along the edges.  Sprinkle a generous amount of ground cinnamon over the cream cheese.  Roll the crescent sheet up, starting from one of the shorter ends.  Sprinkle a little more cinnamon around the outside of the roll.  Wrap with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.

When chilled, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or lightly spray with cooking spray to prevent sticking.  Slice the roll into 1/4″ slices using unflavored dental floss or a sharp knife.  Bake on prepared cookie sheet for 12-14 minutes until rolls are golden.  Serve warm.

Cinnamon quinoa bars

April 28, 2013

Cinnamon Quinoa Bars

I’ve had a bag of quinoa sitting in my pantry for months and months.  I finally cooked up a big batch and will hopefully put it to good use this week, starting with these cinnamon quinoa bars.

Quinoa is a grain that I’m trying to work into our meals more often.  It’s loaded with all 9 essential amino acids, plus it’s got a much higher protein content than other whole grains.  It’s easy to find in grocery stores here too, because it’s popularity has really taken off.

Quinoa can be used in savory or sweet dishes, but I’m not sold on these particular bars.  I don’t really know what I was expecting, but the texture is mildly unappealing for me.  I tried them warm and at room temperature to see if I preferred one way over the other, but it really didn’t make a difference.  The texture is rather like eating a bar of rice pudding, if that makes any sense at all.  All those eggs and the milk give it a custardy consistency, and as much as I love rice pudding, I just wasn’t a fan of these.  Plus, as far as appearance goes, I think they kind of look like ground meat, which is just weird.  So after all that, if you try them and love them, that’s great.  I’ve got some other sweet quinoa recipes to try another time, but I won’t be making these again.

(I do have to give an update about these bars.  After spending all night in the refrigerator, I found that they improved greatly.  I’m still not saying that I loved them or anything, but they weren’t so bad nice and cold.)

Recipe:  Cinnamon Quinoa Bars

(adapted slightly from Gabby’s Gluten-Free)

2 ½ cups cooked quinoa, cooled
4 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup vanilla almond milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1/3 cup pure maple syrup

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and place cooked quinoa in a large mixing bowl.  Lightly spray an 8×8″ baking pan with cooking spray or cover with lightly greased parchment paper.

In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, almond milk, vanilla extract, and cinnamon until thoroughly combined.  Add maple syrup and mix well.  Add egg mixture to cooked quinoa and stir to combine.  Pour into baking pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until set and golden.*
*(Though the original recipe called for a 20-25 minute baking time, I found that I had to bake mine for 30-35 minutes.)

Cool completely and cut into squares.

m&m cookie bars

April 18, 2013

m&m cookie bars

My kids are cra-zee about m&ms, so coming home from school to these was a huge treat for them.  These cookie bars are thick and chewy and chock full of m&ms.  Definitely a hit in my house, and a few even made their way to school inside Claudia’s lunchbox.  You can add these bars to the “everything but the kitchen sink” category and just toss in the leftover bits from your pantry – chocolate chips, walnuts, toffee bits…  The possibilities really are endless.

(Here’s a question for you grammar aficionados out there…  m&ms?  Or m&m’s? )

Recipe:  m&m cookie bars
(from What’s Megan Baking?)

2 1/8 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
12 Tbsp butter (1 1/2 sticks), melted and cooled slightly
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 tsps vanilla extract
1 12oz bag m&m’s, divided

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9×13 pan and set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the melted butter and sugars until combined. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture until just combined; do not overmix. Fold in 1 cup of m&ms and turn the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with the spatula. Sprinkle remaining m&ms on top and press in slightly.

Bake 25-30 minutes, until the top of the bars is light golden brown, slightly firm to the touch, and edges start pulling away from sides of pan. Cool completely before cutting.

Cream cheese mints

April 14, 2013

Cream Cheese Mints

And finally, the last tasty entry from my family’s annual Iron Chef Throwdown competition… cream cheese mints.  My sister made these and I’m pretty sure my peppermint-loving kids voted for her.  Little traitors.

I like that you can make them any shape you want and the colors can match any occasion.  Dani said they were a breeze to make, and they were definitely a hit if how quickly they disappeared was any indication.

I’m posting this on Dani’s birthday to give her an extra shout-out.  Happy Birthday, Dan!  Love you!!

Recipe:  Cream Cheese Mints

3 ounces cream cheese – at room temperature
2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
4-6 drops flavoring (Dani used peppermint.)
4-6 drops food coloring
granulated sugar, for rolling

Mix cream cheese and confectioners sugar together.  Start with 4 drops of flavoring, then carefully add more until you reach the desired taste.  Add food coloring drop by drop until you reach the color you like.  Knead until pie dough consistency is achieved.   Add sugar to make softer or decrease sugar for firmer consistency.  Take small pinch and roll into a ball in granulated sugar.  Press into candy mold, remove excess and unmold onto waxed paper.  Chill until ready to serve.

Easter Bunny oreo truffles

April 7, 2013

Oreo Truffles

As I mentioned in the last post, I didn’t win our family’s Iron Chef Throwdown, even though these little truffles were darn tasty and pretty adorable.  I figured I’d get the kids to vote for me for sure, just on the cuteness alone.  They even have little marshmallow tails!  But, alas, it wasn’t meant to be.  Again.

That’s okay though, because the truffles tasted great and were easy to make.  And with all the Oreo flavors out there, you can make these in so many different combinations.  I’ve tried several, but so far, my favorite has been DoubleStuf Mint Oreo truffles with dark chocolate candy melts.  I think Birthday Cake Oreo truffles are in my near future though.

Recipe:  Oreo Truffles

1 package Oreo cookies, any flavor
1 8-oz. block of cream cheese
1 package of candy melts

Crush all the Oreos in the food processor until they are small crumbs.  Transfer to a bowl and stir in cream cheese until no white remains.   (I find this is really a squishing sort of activity.  The back of a big wooden spoon works great.)  Roll mixture into small balls and place on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper.  Chill in refrigerator to allow them to firm up slightly.

When you are ready to dip the truffles, melt the candy melts according to package directions.  Using a fork, dip each ball into the chocolate, tap off excess, and return to waxed paper.  After all truffles have been dipped, return to refrigerator to allow chocolate to set up and harden.

To turn these truffles into Easter Bunnies, I inserted colored candy corn into the top right after I dipped the truffles.  Then, I immediately added a sprinkle for the nose.  After the truffles were set, I used a little tube of black store-bought frosting to make the eyes.  Some had whiskers too!  Finally, cut a mini marshmallow in half and place the sticky side on the back of the bunnies for a fluffy little tail.

Caramel apple cheesecake bars with streusel topping

April 4, 2013

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars with Streusel Topping

Does it seem to you that Winter has just dragged on and on and on?  We woke up again today to 20 degree weather, everybody keeps getting sick,  and I just about can’t take much more.  Where is Spring??  It’s April, for crying out loud, and we’re still wearing winter coats!  If that’s typical where you live, I don’t know how you do it.

Okay, enough whining.

Well, actually, there might be just a little more but on a totally different topic.  Once again, I have conceded defeat in our family’s Iron Chef Throwdown to my mom.  The secret ingredient for our annual kitchen competition was cream cheese and my mom and Paula Deen teamed up with these caramel apple cheesecake bars with streusel topping.  I have to admit, they were delicious!  I can’t even begrudge her the win (and the coveted trophy) like I did last year, because this dessert definitely deserved the top spot.

Congratulations, Mom!  (and I really do mean it this year!)

Recipe:  Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars with Streusel Topping

(from Paula Deen)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Streusel topping, recipe follows
1/2 cup caramel topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly. Press evenly into a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking pan lined with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bake 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with 1/2 cup sugar in an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth. Then add eggs, 1 at a time, and vanilla. Stir to combine. Pour over warm crust.

In a small bowl, stir together chopped apples, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Spoon evenly over cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle evenly with Streusel topping. Bake 30 minutes, or until filling is set. Drizzle with caramel topping.

Streusel Topping:
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients.