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Fig Muffins

January 25, 2012

Chodesh tov!  You know what Rosh Chodesh Shvat means, right?  Tu B’Shvat is coming! I’m super picky about my dried fruits, but I love this holiday.  When we had a ton of dried figs lying around after the Rosh Hodesh, It’s a Girl Thing! meeting this month, I figured I would be creative and do something exciting with them for my Rosh Hodesh Women’s Group!  These fig muffins were a major hit at our group and when my husband tasted one he said “really delicious, that’s what these are!” which, I take to be a good thing.  I made 24 mini muffins and 7 regular muffins, so it would probably yield 18 regular muffins.

12 dried figs
3/4 cup water
2 sticks margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Chop up the figs.  Put into a saucepan along with the water.  Heat over medium heat until the water is mostly gone.  Let cool.

Meanwhile, cream margarine, sugar, brown sugar, egg and vanilla.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt.

Mix rehydrated figs with wet ingredients.  Slowely blend in dry ingredients.

Pour into greased muffin tin.  Bake at 375 for 20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

These are a perfect Tu b’Shvat treat, or for your next tea party!


Penne al la healthier Vodka & Roasted Brussel Sprouts

January 22, 2012

Ok, you caught me.  One of my guilty pleasures is creamy pasta sauces.  I’ve done a few healthier versions of creamy sauces (like the sage and roasted garlic white sauce and sweet potato cream sauce), but tonight I just didn’t want to even have to think.  I’m pretty sure this is the easiest recipe on my whole blog!

Vodka Sauce Ingredients
4 cups roasted garlic marinara (I used Trader Joes)
1 cup vodka
1.5 cup fat free evaporated milk (from a can)
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Combine marinara, vodka and milk and let simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Stir in parmesan cheese.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts
4 whole brussel sprouts per person, cleaned and quartered
Olive Oil
Seasoning Salt (your favorite blend)

Coat brussel sprouts in olive oil and seasoning salt.  Roast at 400 degrees until they are slightly browned (about 20 minutes, sometimes more depending on the size of your sprouts.)

Cook 1.5 lb. whole wheat penne to box instructions for firm.  Add the pasta into the hot sauce and let cook on low heat for 2 more minutes.

Serve brussel sprouts either on top of the pasta, or as a side.  Don’t forget a final sprinkle of parm!

Fast, tasty and low in calories.

Pumpkin Swirl Pareve Cheesecake

November 23, 2011

Best part about Fall?  PUMPKIN!  Now, I know you can get canned pumpkin all year round, but for some reason, when the leaves start crunching, I start making everything pumpkin.  Last year, just before Thanksgiving, I posted the amazing pumpkin pecan white chocolate chunk waffles.  This year, it’s dessert!  The perfect pareve pumpkin swirl cheesecake.  It really only came about because I had tofutti cream cheese and sour cream in my fridge that needed to get used up, but the result was delectable!

2 packs graham crackers
1 stick margarine, melted
2  8 oz  packages tofutti cream cheese
1  12 oz. package tofutti sour cream
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons brown sugar
4 eggs
1 15 oz. can pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon rum extract
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 pinch nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt

What’s a cheesecake without a graham cracker crust?  It’s legit the easiest thing.  First, grind the graham crackers in the food processor.  Then mix with the melted butter, 3 tablespoons brown sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt and press into an 11″ springform pan.  Tip: Use the bottom of a glass to press in the crust.  Bake the crust at 325 degrees for 5 minutes.  Make sure it’s totally cooled before you pour the batter in.

Beat the cream cheese, sour cream, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 1 cup white sugar until smooth.  Add 2 eggs and beat smooth.  Remove 1 cup of the mixture (save it for the swirling).  Then add 2 more eggs, the can of pumpkin, extracts, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, pinch nutmeg and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Beat until smooth, but don’t over beat!

Pour the orange mixture into the crust.  Pour dollops of the white into the orange and swirl it all together.

Pop it in the oven (forget about water baths…too much work) at 325 for about an hour until it’s set but the middle jiggles a little bit.  Let it cool for at least an hour, then refrigerate overnight.

A new twist on an old Thanksgiving desert…and it freezes really well!

Smokey Roasted Bell Rice & Kielbasa with Black Beans

October 28, 2011

I really love the soy chorizo.  It’s SO spicy and delicious!  After having the soy version so many times, my husband asked if, at some point, I would make some real meat, so I picked up some kielbasa (next best thing?).  When I saw Rachael Ray’s version of this recipe, I figured I’d give it a try, and the payoff was great.  I served it at a meal with little kids and they loved the meat and even had some of the veggies & rice.

1 cup brown rice
2 cups water
2 tablespoons consumme
2 roasted & peeled bell peppers
(I used orange because that’s what I had on hand.  To learn how to roast a bell pepper, click here.)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle powder
1 lb. kielbasa, sliced on an angle (or sliced soy chorizo)
2 jalapenos, seeded & finely chopped
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
15 oz. can diced fire roasted tomatoes, drained
15 oz. can black beans, drained & rinsed

1/3 cup chopped parsley for garnish
salt, pepper & olive oil

Cook the rice according to the instructions, combining the consumme into the water before adding the rice.  While the rice is cooking, puree the roasted bell peppers with the paprika, 1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder and a pinch of salt and pepper.  When the rice is done cooking, stir in the roasted bell sauce.

Heat a skillet and add a drizzle of olive oil.  Add the kielbasa slices and cook for a couple minutes on each side until it crisps up.  When it’s crispy on both sides, put it on a paper towel lined plate to get the extra oil out.

Add the garlic, onions, and jalapenos and sautee until transleucent.  Then add the tomatoes, beans and 1/4 teaspoon chipotle.  Stir to combine.

To serve, make a bed of rice, pile on the veggies and beans, and top with the chorizo.  Use the parsley for garnish.

This is a fantastic reheat meal because the bell pepper sauce keeps the rice moist and the spices keep it tasting delish for days!


Chicken Vindaloo

October 23, 2011

No, I haven’t forgotten how to cook, but I have become even shorter on time!  When it came to prepping for the Simchat Torah holiday and three more days of crazy meals, I was brainstorming one pot meals, to save room in the fridge.  Indian is one cuisine I have never really experimented with, so I figured, if not now, when?  I saw a recipe in Eating Light magazine and, with a few twists to fit our picky eating habits, we fell in love with Chicken Vindaloo.  It’s low maintenance, filled with flavor, and super fun to say (over and over!)  If you’re a vegetarian, you could totally do this without the chicken, or us a soy protein!

Chicken & Marinade
2 1/2 lbs. chicken drumsticks, skin removed
3 tbsp. cider vinegar
2 tbsp. olive oil
5 cloves garlic
1 jalapeno, seeded
1 tbsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. turmeric

Pulse marinade ingredients in the food processor until smooth.  Pour marinade in a bag with the chicken.  Leave in the fridge for at least 2 hours.  (Women’s Day says up to six hours, but I only did the two hours.)

The rest of the goodies
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 small onions, sliced
1 lb yukon gold potatoes, cut in 1 in. pieces
1 3/4 cups marinara sauce
2 cups baby spinach

Sautee the onions and potatoes in the olive oil until the onions soften.  Pour over the marinara sauce and bring to a bubble.

Top with the marinaded drumsticks and pour the leftover marinade over the top.  Cover the pan for thirty minutes.

Remove the chicken briefly.  Wilt in the spinach with the onion, potato, tomato mixture.  Replace the chicken and serve.

This is the kind of meal that warms your inside with its heartiness and spices.  The smells will make your mouth water and the full meal in one pan will keep you coming back to this recipe in the future!

Peaches & Cream Stuffed French Toast

July 24, 2011

The only good thing about this summer heat is that the summer fruits soak up the sun and get filled with juicy deliciousness.  I had quite a few juicy peaches waiting to be eaten, so, when I had a half of a challah leftover from Shabbat, I decided it was time to get creative.  I’ve mentioned other uses for leftover challah, like cinnamon bread pudding, peanut butter banana french toast, and savory bread pudding.  This one is perfect for summer brunch or even a lovely dessert treat!

3 thick slices of day-old Challah
2 eggs
3 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 medium peach, finely chopped
3 tablespoons Peach Schnapps
2 teaspoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons fat free cream cheese
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Extra peach & powdered sugar for garnish

Combine chopped peach, schnapps and brown sugar.  Let sit for 10 minutes.

Mash in cream cheese.  It’s easier to do this if you move the peaches out of the way and use the liquid that has accumulated in the bottom of the bowl. Mix until there aren’t any more clumps.  Now you’ve got the peaches and cream filling!

In each slice of Challah, cut a slice that goes to the bottom, but not all the way through.  Essentially, you’re slicing a little pocket.  If your slices are too thin to do this, or you’re having trouble, you can just make sandwiches with the filling.  I like doing the pocket because it holds together well in the pan and you get minimal filling oozage when you’re French toasting them.  Fill each pocket with 1/3 of the peaches and cream filling.

In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, milk and sugar.  Dunk each stuffed slice into the mixture until each side is softened.  Heat up a frying pan with a little cooking spray.  Add each slice.  Flip when lightly browned and brown the other side.

Serve with extra slices of peach and a sprinkle of powdered sugar.  No syrup necessary!

This is a sweet, rich and delectable use for this summery fruit. An amazing breakfast for a day when it’s too hot to go out!

Rustic Greek Style Pizza

June 17, 2011

It’s been a while since I’ve made pizza.  Well, if I’m being honest with myself, it’s been a while since I cooked at all, what with Shavuot leftovers and starting my new job.  But, in any case, I’m back with another marinara-less pizza.  If you remember, I’m not such a fan of tomatoes, so I’m always interested in alternatives.  Thus far, I’ve shared with you a pesto pizza and a white pizza…today, folks, it’s roasted red-pepper sauced pizza!  The sauce is loaded with flavor, quick and fresh, and would be awesome as a dip for chips, over pasta, or on this pizza.

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce Ingredients
1 roasted red pepper

2 cloves garlic
4 tablespoons chopped red onion
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Salt and Pepper to taste

You can totally use jarred roasted red peppers, but if you want to go the fresh route, here’s how to roast a red pepper.  Either place the pepper on your gas stove top (over the flame) and char it on all sides, or put in in the oven on broil, rotating until all sides are charred.  Place in a heat proof bowl with plastic wrap tightly wrapped around the bowl.  Let the pepper cool to touch.  The peel should come off really easily, as should the seeded middle.  That’s it!

Load the food processor with the garlic, onion, roasted red pepper, olive oil, paprika, salt and pepper.  Grind until the sauce is smooth (watch out for garlic chunks!

Pizza Ingredients
Dough (fresh or pre-made)

1 cup roasted red pepper sauce
1 1/2 cup fresh baby spinach
1 cup muenster cheese (you could also use mozzarella, but I like this version)
A few slices of red onion
1/4 cup feta crumbles
Optional: Sun dried tomatoes & black olives

Coat pizza stone in corn meal.  Stretch dough over pizza stone.  (Whatever shape you get…just go with it.  This is rustic pizza!)  Spread roasted red pepper sauce over the dough.  Leave an edge for the crust.  Coat the sauced area in baby spinach.  This is a little known fact that I learned from a friend who used to work in a pizza shop.  If you put the spinach under the cheese, it won’t get brown and yucky!  Sprinkle cheese over the spinach and add the red onion slices (and sun dried tomatoes and black olives if you’re interested).

Bake the pizza at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes until the cheese is bubbly.  When you remove the pizza from the oven, sprinkle the top with feta crumbles.  (The trick is to do this wall the pizza is hot, but not while it’s in the oven so the feta doesn’t completely melt.)  Also give it a sprinkle of dried oregano.

Serve the pizza with a Greek salad and enjoy an easy, unique meal!