Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Spinach Cheese Rolls

I tend to cook with Pepperidge Farm puff pastry dough really often.  Any time I host a dinner party or my family has guests over, I make these pastries.  Seriously, they are really easy to make, I have not met a person who didn't liked them, and I have given out the recipe for these many times!  I highly recommend making them!

However, after making the same recipe so many times, I started to think about alternatives and luckily found one right on the puff pastry box.  These spinach cheese rolls are also really good, and they are easy to modify to your taste: you can add less spinach and more cheese.  Also, depending on the cheese that I have in my fridge, I choose from a variety of parmesan, mozzerella, cheddar, or anything else!  And if you like food with more of a kick, you can add extra pepper and make them taste a little spicy.

Spinach Cheese Rolls
Adapted from Pepperidge Farm's puff pastry recipe
Makes about 18

2 sheets of puff pasty, leave at room temperature for about 30 minutes before beginning
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, cooked in boiling water and drained
1 cup feta Cheese
1/4 cup green onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 egg yellow
Additional shredded cheeses (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking tray with parchment paper. Work with one sheet of pastry at a time and carefully unfold them so that the dough is flat.  If it is still frozen, the sheet may separate into 3 pieces, so it is better to wait until the dough softens.

2.  In a bowl mix the spinach, cheese, green onion, garlic powder, red pepper flakes and any additional cheese that you want.

3.  Spread the cheese and spinach mixture evenly over both sheets of puff pasty.  Roll the sheets and press down the dough at the end to seal it.

4.  Cut the roll of dough into about 9 pieces of equal size and lay them on the baking tray. Using a pastry brush, rub the sides of the rolls with egg yolk.

5.  Cook for about 30 minutes or until the sides of the rolls begin to brown.


Friday, September 23, 2011

No Calorie Friday: Banana Bread

I have problems with eating bananas.  It all started one warm and sunny spring day when I was in high school... I was in search of a quick breakfast before running off for a school activity and was having trouble finding something to eat.  I grabbed a banana and stopped after noticing that it was starting to turn brown.  After considering other options and finding none, I proceeded to eat this over-ripe banana.  Immediately, I felt sick to my stomach and needless to say I threw up shortly after... Sorry for providing too much detail.

After that day, my experience with bananas changed.  For awhile I wouldn't eat them at all and now I only eat them if they are perfectly yellow, with not a brown spot in sight.  If a banana starts to brown, it immediately gets set aside for a different role...it gets turned into banana bread!

The point of this story, is that I often make banana bread when I can no longer eat a banana.  I have tried different recipes, with nuts and without.  This recipe turned out really well.  I ended up with a loaf of soft and sweet bread and used little sugar (I always use less than the recipe calls for) no butter and very little oil which always makes me happy!  I think that this recipe will be repeated!

Banana Bread
makes one loaf

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking power
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 egg
1 cup mashed banana
3/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest

1. Grease a loaf pan and set aside.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and salt.  Mix then create a well in the center and set aside.

3.  In a medium mixing bowl, combine the mashed bananas, egg, sugar, vegetable oil, and lemon peel.

4.  Add the wet mixture into the center of the dry mixture and fold to just combine.

5. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes, until the center is fully cooked.



Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Israeli Couscous Salad

Before I talk about my salad, let me first start off by apologizing for my little hiatus from blogging/cooking. I was away at Middlebury College for the summer, where I was back to eating in a dining hall. And even though I've already been home from Vermont for over a month, it's taken me a while to get settled and attend to a few important things. Luckily Rona was around to blog while I was away and during my brief stint with laziness.

That being said, today I prepared a salad that was inspired by something similar I tried at my supermarket's salad bar. So, I normally only eat Near East couscous that is microwavable in 5 minutes. Israeli couscous is completely different and honestly new to me, despite my familiarity with Israeli food. According to Wikipedia, Israeli couscous is actually toasted pasta. ANYWAY, it's delicious and that's really all that matters.

Using couscous as the body of a salad is very similar to using quinoa--like something I did here. So really, the choice of ingredients to incorporate are up to the chef and his or her craving that day. I added olives, cucumbers, and peas in my variation of the salad, but really...it's up to you!

Ingredients (serves 8-10)
1 cup Israeli couscous
1 1/4 cups water (or chicken broth for more flavor)
1/2 large cucumber, cut and sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 can black olives, cut into quarters
Canned green peas
Bunch fresh parsley, minced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar, or to taste
Olive oil to taste
Salt & Pepper to taste

1) Add 1 1/4 cups of boiling water to 1 cup of Israel couscous. Cover pot and simmer for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, salt to taste.

2) Once water has evaporated, rinse couscous under cold water so it does not stick together. Then transfer to bowl and fluff it up.

3) Add chopped parsley and mix. Next add cut up cucumber, peas, and olives and mix with hands to evenly distribute.

4) Finally, add vinegar, oil, salt and paper to taste, mixing evenly.

5) Refrigerate and serve once salad is cool.

Nice and easy, and only takes a few minutes to prepare!


Saturday, September 17, 2011

No Calorie Friday: Mochaccino Muffins

In a past visit to Barnes & Nobles, I picked up a small cookbook of muffins and cupcakes and have been working my way through the recipes recently.  The recipes are all simple, and the pictures make you tempted to start baking!  It is my type of cookbook!

I made this muffin over the week and they are delicious.  They are sweet and chocolatey without being overpowering.  Especially, right out of the oven!  I wish that I could eat all of them warm with the chocolate still melted!  My boyfriend has a favorite list of the dishes I cook (it is a list that we can never seem to keep track of) and these muffins made it to his list.  I already see myself making these again soon.

Makes 12 muffins

1 1/4 sticks butter, softened
1 cup superfine sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
1 tablespoon instant coffee mixed with 1 tablespoon boiling water
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/1 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Cocoa Swirl

4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons brown sugar

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Fill a muffin tray with muffin lines.

2. Make the cocoa swirl by combining the melted butter with the cocoa powder and brown sugar.  Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter and sugar until fluffy,  Beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Then add the yogurt and coffee mixture.

4.  In a small bowl sift the flour and baking powder and stir together.  Add it to the wet mixture and stir until just combined.  Fold in the chocolate chips.

5. Spoon mixture into the muffin tins.  Spoon the coca swirl on top of each muffin and mix it into the muffin with a skewer.

6.  Bake for 25-30 minutes until the center is fully cooked.



Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Red Lentil Soup

There are so many types of lentil soups in existence and from many different countries, that it is hard to pick a favorite.  I have tried red lentil, yellow lentil, and brown lentil soups all made with different spices and of different consistencies.  While I enjoy them all, my favorite version of the soup has to be my dad's recipe.  I have been eating it for years and can remember my dad making this from a young age.  This lentil soup recipe is one of the first recipes that I was able to make well.  I love the color of the soup and the slight acidity that comes from adding lemon juice.  It is such a great dish to make as fall approaches!


1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium sized yellow onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
6 cups chicken broth
2 cups red lentils, rinsed
1 16-oz can of tomato sauce
1 tablespoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large pot, heat the oil.  Cook the onion and the garlic until soft.

2. Add the broth, lentils, tomato sauce, cumin, coriander, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

3.  Bring to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer for about 45 minutes or until the lentils are tender and the soup is thick.  More water can be added if the soup becomes too thick.



Friday, September 9, 2011

No Calorie Friday: Blueberry Cream Cheese Muffins

We are still here and we are still cooking!  Sorry to disappear for so long!

Since the last post, I have returned from traveling for the summer and then almost immediately decided that it was time to move from my tiny studio to a bigger apartment.  The past 2 weeks were spent packing and unpacking so because of the chaos most meals were simple and not blog worthy.

Now that I am settled, I am in a proper kitchen with plenty of storage space and a dishwasher.  There is also a lot of natural ligh in the apartment, so I am looking forward to more interesting meals and better pictures!

One of the things that I made this week were blueberry cream cheese muffins, perfect for breakfast and for a quick snack during the day.  These muffins are not too sweet and easy to eat way too many of in one sitting!

makes 12 medium sized muffins

1 stick of butter, softened
1/2 cup of sugar
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
cream cheese, about 12 teaspoons
fresh blueberries

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a muffin pan with liners.

2. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy.  Beat in the eggs.  Then stir in the milk and lemon juice.

3. In a small bowl, mix together the flour and baking powder.  Pour it over the wet mixture and fold it in to the mixture.

4.  Spoon enough of the batter to fill half of the muffin liner.  Add several bueberries and a teaspoon of cream cheese.  Top with enough batter to fill the liner.

5.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.