Archive | December, 2011

Peppermint Bark Biscotti

14 Dec

Has this December been especially chaotic for anyone else?  For some reason I feel like my head is about to pop off.  Finishing the semester, work Q4 craziness, and not quite done Christmas shopping yet all seemed okay.  That is until I realized that my semester is ending in a week and I have a ton of work to do and finals to study for, and this weekend is my last chance to finish shopping because Christmas is next weekend.  That can’t be right.  I just got back from my honeymoon a week or 2 (or 20!) ago.  So I guess that’s why my photographer hasn’t sent me my wedding album yet; he’s on Amy time!  Now it all makes sense.  I will call and apologize for my many inquiring emails.

Peppermint Bark is a favorite in my family around the holidays.  Specifically the $1,000 kind from Williams Sonoma.  I have no idea why, but last week I decided I wanted to try and make peppermint bark biscotti.  I’ve never made biscotti before, so I thought that making up my own version on my very first try would be disastrous.  Luckily, it came out fantastic.  I hate sounding like I’m tooting my own horn all the time, but it’s the only way I can try and sell you on making certain recipes.  This is one of them, so please excuse the gushing.  I’m actually hoping to make more this weekend and start giving it out as presents.  The night that I baked this was shaping up to be the perfect night.  We were decorating our tree while listening to Christmas music, sipping on Williams Sonoma $1,000 hot chocolate while I was baking holiday biscotti.  Then, I brought Steve over a piece when it was finished and he said something along the lines of “no thanks, I hate peppermint bark”.  Then the records screeched and time stood still before I found the right words.  There were no right words.  He would just have to spend the rest of the night in his room thinking about what he just said.  And now there I was, forced to eat the amount two people would eat because somebody doesn’t like peppermint bark.  You think you know somebody.  Good thing he’s the only person in the universe that doesn’t like it because I was handing it out to everyone I know all weekend.  The best part?  It’s made with whole wheat pastry flour so you don’t have to feel so bad eating it.  Unless you eat a lot of it.  Like, say, 4 in one night.

Peppermint Bark Biscotti

Yield: 20-22 biscotti

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup light olive oil
  • 3/4 cup turbinado sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup craisins
  • 1 1/2 peppermint bark, chopped

Preheat oven to 315F.  Mix together flour, salt, and baking powder and set aside.  In a large bowl, mix the EVOO, sugar, vanilla, and eggs until well combined.  Slowly add your flour mixture into your wet mixture.  Fold in craisins and peppermint bark.  Separate your dough into two equal piles.  It should look like this:

Place in oven and cook for about 30-35 minutes.  Remove from oven and reduce the heat to 300F.  Let the biscotti rest for about 10 minutes and then cut your dough into ¾”  thick slices.  Place back in oven for an additional 10 minutes.  Cool for at least a half hour before serving.

This is such an awesome thing to bake and wrap up for friends, co-workers, neighbors, or whoever you usually give a little something to over the holidays.  Everybody gets cookies, and although this really is a longer, crunchier, not quite as sweet cookie, it’s still technically not a cookie 😉

Happy Holidays!  I hope you are all done shopping with presents wrapped and nothing left to do!

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Chinese Food Made Healthy at Home

8 Dec

We all know that Chinese food is not the healthiest option in the world.  This recipe is a staple for me because it hits the spot and is so quick and easy, I can have it ready in 10 minutes without making a mess of the kitchen.  No pealing or chopping here.  My kind of meal.  When I opened my freezer to see what veggies we had in stock, I noticed we had a “steam in the bag” of mixed veggies that we bought a few weeks back when they were on sale.  Then I started thinking.  Then the questions started to rapidly swirl around in my head.  Then I went to Dr. Google.

I think there are two important things that people need to take into consideration if they are concerned about using “steam in the bag”, because there are pros and cons.

Main Pro – Frozen veggies are packed with nutrients because they are flash frozen at their peak, which seal in their nutrition.  Most of a vegetable’s nutrients is lost during the boiling process, so by using steam in the bag, you are losing significantly less nutrients.

Main Con – What made me do research on steam in the bag veggies was a concern that the plastic may contain BPA which would be released in the microwave.  After reading a lot of articles (I guess I wasn’t the only one with this question), I learned that the plastic they use for the steam in the bag does not contain BPA or any other harmful chemicals.  While that in itself is a good thing, the amount of plastic (and petroleum used to make the plastic) we all use is literally killing the planet.  I have been trying very hard to limit my plastic usage, so steam in the bag veggies are not something I am comfortable using very often.

Sources:

http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA400527/Plastic-Steaming-Bag-Danger.html

http://www.happyhealthylonglife.com/happy_healthy_long_life/2009/11/bpa.html

http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/product-reviews/consumer-protection/plastic-safety-heat-food-6

Now that you know the facts, you can make the decision that is right for you and fits your lifestyle best. Got it?! Good!

Peanut Butter Stir-Fried Vegetables over Brown Rice

Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients: 

1 cup of brown rice (uncooked)

1 bag frozen veggies

2 tbsp peanut butter

1/3 cup orange juice

1/4 cup stir fry sauce

Prepare your veggies (whatever kind you want to use) and set aside  – drain if necessary.  Bring water for rice to a boil in a small sauce pan.  Place veggies, stir-fry sauce, peanut butter, and orange juice in a medium skillet, and cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally.  While the vegetables are doing their thing, cook your rice.  When the rice is ready, place on your plate and scoop the veggies on top.  Serve immediately.

 

I’ve probably made this three times in the past week and a half.  Overkill?  Nah.

A New Month, A New Pizza

4 Dec

Yes, I know I post a lot of different pizza recipes, but I can never get enough.  It is such a versatile food that you can make to your liking every time.  You want a fruity dessert?  Make a fruit pizza.  In the mood for a salad, but want something a little more filling?  Make a salad pizza.  Even Italian foods like penne vodka and chicken parm pizza’s are staples at pizza places over in my neck of the woods.  You can’t go wrong because bread goes with everything (Just make sure you use whole wheat dough 😉 ).

A few months ago, we had the first of what would quickly become a monthly pizza cooking night with our two friends.  The next day, I posted my recipe and promised that I would post the recipe for their pizza soon because it was so good.  Well, this morning I woke up thinking about dinner (happens often) and thought their pizza sounded perfect.  However, when I went to my recipe tab to look up the recipe, I realized that I never posted the recipe.  I looked at the pictures and tried to remember exactly what they did.  I have a bad memory.  Bad.  So, I ran to the food store and got everything that I thought I needed.  Then later that night, I got cooking.  I’m pretty sure I nailed it, but I’m going to ask my friend Jackie to comment if I am missing anything so I can update it here.

Spinach-Prosciutto Pizza

Yield: 1 pie

Ingredients:

whole wheat pizza dough

2 – 3 cups baby spinach

1 small ball of fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

1 avocado, sliced and chopped into bite sized pieces

balsamic glaze

Preheat oven to 425F with pizza stone inside.  Roll out dough into desired shape and thickness. Remove pizza stone and place dough on the stone.  Cook for about 10 minutes.  Place sliced mozzarella on the dough first, followed my the baby spinach, and then the prosciutto.  Bake for another 5-8 minutes.  Remove from the oven and distribute avocados evenly on top of pizza.  Lightly drizzle the balsamic glaze on top, slice, and serve immediately.

Sorry for the iPhone pics in the poor lighting, my camera’s battery died on me.  The nerve!  Anyway, shout out to Jackie!  This was her creation, and it is unbelievably good!  I know prosciutto and avocados seems like an odd combination, but the mild creaminess of the avocado blends perfectly with the saltiness of the prosciutto – I’m actually surprised that I haven’t seen this combo a lot more.

In other news, I’m working on student loans (school is EXPENSIVE!) which is making me anxious.  For all of you who attended grad school, did the cost stress you out enough that you considered not going?  I was on the edge for a while, but a few individuals convinced me to follow my passion and go for it.  Thank you “individuals”!  Without you, I probably wouldn’t be going :).  I’m also a few weeks away from being done for the semester!  Yes!  And finally, I got a new MacBook.  Let’s just say that my boss rocks, and gave me an amazing price on a model we had left in stock from last year that is no longer running in any of our programs.  And right when my dinky little netbook (that I got for free for signing up for Verizon Fios, haha) decided to die on me, and just in time for grad school.  Lucky gal!

I’m off to buy our Christmas tree! Yay!  And then come home and write 3 papers.  Boo.