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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Corn Custard - Reimagining a Grandmother's Recipe

Please excuse the lack of blogging the past few days...
I have been feeling ill and, truth be told, have done very little besides sleep, read magazines and watch movies, and I certainly have not done any cooking.

When I finally started feeling better last night, I was so thrilled that I still had a few of these corn custard cups in the freezer from last week's cooking binge! It allowed me to get a quick something into my stomach, without resorting to canned soups or, worse, quick take-out.

Not to mention that the small portion sizes were perfect for not overdoing it with my first real meal in days...

The recipe itself is a reinvention of a dish I remember my grandmother making for Easter brunch. Her recipe is essentially one box of Jiffy corn muffin mix, butter, eggs, creamed corn, onions and green peppers and then baked (in one large casserole dish) until set. But when I set out to make these last week I wanted to spice the recipe (and cut way back on the butter), so with what I had available in the fridge (and pantry) this is what I ended up coming up with.

Overall, I really enjoyed the updated dish. It wasn't as dense, or greasy, as the original dish (which, of course, is what my husband says he like about it in the first place), but instead, was light (like a quiche) and had an airy, bread pudding-like consistency. The thyme gave them a wonderful aromatic flavor, and the small tomato chunks were like pieces of sweet treasure. Plus, I added bacon! You can hardly ever go wrong with bacon!

So, go ahead and eat these for breakfast or lunch! They reheat quickly in these serving size portioned dishes and can even be taken along to work!

Corn Custard with Bacon and Tomatoes

(Makes approximately 5 custard cups)

2 tsp. olive oil
2 - 8.75 oz. cans kernel corn, drained and pureed
(yields approx. 1 cup corn mush)
3-4 slices bacon, cooked and sliced thin
1 small onion, finely diced
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
3/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup half and half cream
1 tsp. thyme

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease 5-6 ramekin cups (lightly) with olive oil. Set aside.

Heat a small amount of olive oil in a saute pan, and cook the onions 3-4 minutes, or until they begin to soften. Then, mix together the corn, onion, tomatoes, bread crumbs, half and half, bacon and thyme. Add in the eggs and mix until all the ingredients are evenly distributed throughout the mixture. Spoon the mixture into the ramekin cups and place them in a large baking dish. Add enough hot water to come half way up the sides of the cups. Lay foil loosely over top of the dish and bake for 30 (or so) minutes, or until the centers of the custard cups set.

Serve hot and enjoy!

Per serving: approximately 328 calories, 11 g protein and 4 g protein.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Make-Ahead Meals: Baked Penne with Sausage

There is nothing I like more than being able to, after a long day, enjoy a hot and steaming plate of home-cooked goodness, without having to lift a finger!

How is this possible, you ask?

Well, the trick is to have a few make-ahead meals prepared and stocked up in the fridge (or freezer) for those days when you know that you just won't have time to pull together a well thought-out dinner. Last week, we survived off these such dishes... and this one, in particular, fed us for 3 days (and a few snackings).

It is not the most daring, or creative meal...
No, it is simply a home-cooked family favorite, that is both easy and cheap!

Baked Penne with Sausage

(Serves 6, approximately)

1 - 14.5 oz. box Penne Rigate (I use Smart Taste brand for extra fiber and calcium.)
1 large red pepper, chopped
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
1 lb. spicy Italian Sausage, cooked and coarsely chopped
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 - 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes, seasoned to taste
(I prefer fresh, but canned are convenient and cheap to have on hand...)
6 to 8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
(Again, I prefer fresh, broken up into bite size chunks, but a bag of shredded is cheaper...)

First, cook up the pasta to al dente in a big pot of boiling (salted) water.
Drain, rinse and set aside.

In the mean time, saute your onions and peppers in a bit of olive oil until the onions begin to soften and turn translucent. Remove from heat.

Next, season the crushed tomatoes to your personal tastes... I throw in a ton of oregano, basil, thyme and some cayenne for a little extra kick. Add the onions, peppers and sausage and then stir in the cooked pasta until the sauce has evenly coated the noodles.
Transfer to a large casserole dish and top with shredded mozzarella.

At this point, you can cover the casserole dish with foil and store it in the fridge, or freezer, for later use...


Bake at 375 degrees until the cheese melts and begins to bubble and brown around the edges (approximately 30 minutes).

Serve with a side of garlic sauteed green beans and garlic bread. Enjoy!

Per serving: approximately 500 calories, 12 g fiber and 35 g protein. Also high in calcium and Vitamin C.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Weekly Smoothie - Strawberry Guava and Cantaloupe

Cleaning out the pantry this weekend I stumbled across a few rogue cans of GOYA Guava nectar and a bottle of HERO Guava nectar -- so I figured it was about time to make some smoothies!

After a little experimenting (I haven't used the guava nectar nearly as often as the mango and pear varieties), I developed this successful recipe. It is our favorite, so far, of the concoctions.

The guava nectar had a creamy richness that added a delectable punch of flavor, and the combination with cantaloupe and strawberry gave a little extra sweetness that was a refreshing change to our recent smoothie routine.

And don't you just adore that rosy color....?

Strawberry Guava and Cantaloupe Smoothies

(Serves 2)

1/2 cup plain yogurt
12 oz. (1 can) Guava nectar
1 to 1-1/2 cups frozen strawberries
1 to 1-1/2 cups frozen cantaloupe

Combine all of the ingredients into a blender (starting with the yogurt, then the frozen fruit, and then the juice), and blend until smooth.

Serve immediately, and enjoy.

Each smoothie contains approximately 206 calories, 12 g fiber and 8 g protein. Also high in Vitamin C!
(Find out more of the health benefits of Guava fruits here.)


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Banana Pancakes - A Splendidly Sweet Morning

Yesterday I spent more than half of the day meddling in the kitchen. I put together dinners for the next four days (just into the oven and 40 minutes later, voila, a home-cooked meal), breakfast items (because I can't live off of smoothies and hard boiled eggs forever) and even a few snacks (to fight off my mid-day munchies, without spoiling dinner).

Yes, it was a busy day in my kitchen... But I enjoyed every minute of it, and now, even if I don't feel like cooking, there will be something in the kitchen ready to eat...

This morning, it took just 10 minutes to throw these pancakes together (since the batter was already made), and my husband and I got to enjoy a splendidly sweet little breakfast together before he had to go to work (working for the third full day this week, which is a small - but definite - improvement).

Banana Pancakes
(Makes 8-10 Pancakes)

2 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup white whole wheat flour (I like King Arthur brand flour)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
pinch of ground nutmeg
1 cup soy milk
1 tbsp. maple syrup
(and you add walnuts, pecans or even chocolate chips... extra yummy...)

First, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add the flour mixture to the mashed banana and stir until the flour is moistened. Then add the milk and syrup and stir until the batter is smooth. Cover and set aside for 1 hour (or overnight in the refrigerator).

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat and melt a small amount of butter into the bottom (this will give you those nice crispy edges on the pancakes). Cook the pancakes in small batches, using 1/4 cup of batter per pancake. Cook for 3-4 minutes (or until bubbles begin forming on the surface), and then flip and continue cooking for another 3 minutes.

Serve drizzled with maple syrup (unless you used chocolate chips, and then that should be sweet enough even for kids).


Per serving (2 pancakes): Approximately 200 calories, 5 g fiber and 7 g protein.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Lonely Kitchen...

Image Courtesy of HeyStella

Truth be told.... I didn't spend any time in the kitchen yesterday....

For breakfast, I grabbed a smoothie and two hard-boiled eggs from the fridge and went about running errands and getting some cleaning done around the house (laundry, vacuuming etc.).

Then, I had lunch plans (seriously overdue lunch plans...) with a dear friend, and out of sheer laziness, I ate the leftovers for dinner... It was, after all, the end of our "grocery week," and we were running low on supplies, and I was running low on inspiration...

Today was a bit better though.
Well, not in the breakfast department, but I did spend a good deal of time in the kitchen today, preparing meals for the rest of the week (and the week-end).

Wednesday is my favorite day of the week for just that reason...
It is the day that I get to go to the grocery store and start cooking for the week with a bunch of new ingredients! Since I've started going alone (in the morning after my husband has - hopefully - gone to work) I've actually managed to stay under (our meager $50/week) budget AND save over $20 in coupons and club card deals.

It has only been two weeks, but I feel great about this new trend and am optimistic that it will continue! As long as I continue to keep my husband (as much as I love him) out of the scenario, so that I don't get to the checkout and wonder, where did these Pop Tarts (...cookies....chips....sodas....) come from?

It was a good grocery week last week, but even better this week -- especially when, as I was at the check out, the sweet lady that always rings us out made note of my suddenly coming to the store alone... and also made note of how much less I was spending...

Seeing the ring on my finger, she touched my arm, leaned over and whispered, "you just can't trust men in the store. It is like keeping track of a little kid. They want everything they see!"

I had to laugh.... and certainly agree....

Yes, I think this trend will continue....

Monday, October 12, 2009

Smoothie of the Week - Creamy Cantaloupe Cooler

The change of seasons, while beautiful and refreshing, has left me feeling a bit under the weather... For the past few days I have been fighting a nagging head cold, stuffy sinuses, sore throat, headaches, and while it is not so bad that I cannot get on with my day, it certainly was not motivating. In fact, it put quite a damper on my weekend endeavors, and I barely even stepped foot in the kitchen except to warm up some broth and make egg drop soup.

I'm still not feeling one hundred percent, though the pressure in my head has finally began to subside, so this morning I really wanted to boost my Vitamin C intake to kick this cold once and for all. So, since I had a cantaloupe (on sale for $1.50 ea. this week), grapes (also on sale, $1.99), and strawberries (left-over and already frozen) I decided to whip up this cool and creamy smoothie, which has 121% of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin C!

Its mildly sweet flavor, and cold creamy consistency was even soothing on a sore throat, so how could you go wrong?

Creamy Cantaloupe Cooler
(Serves 2)
1/2 cup fat free plain yogurt
1 cup (each) cantaloupe, strawberries and green grapes, sliced and frozen
1 cup plain soy milk

Combine all of the ingredients into a blender (starting with the yogurt, then the frozen fruit, and then the milk), and blend until smooth.

If the smoothie is too thin, add ice and blend to thicken.
If the smoothie is too thick, add more soy milk and blend.

If the smoothie is not sweet enough, add just a teaspoon (or two) of sugar and re-blend.

Serve immediately, and enjoy.

Each smoothie contains approximately 174 calories, 4 g fiber and 8 g protein. Also high in Vitamins A and C.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Grilled Cheese with Tomato Soup: Upgraded

I was never a big fan of grilled cheese and tomato soup. Don't get me wrong, in theory it could be an incredible meal, but too often it is an experience in soggy greasy bread, flavorless "American" cheeses, and bland watery soup.

But yesterday I was inspired by the latest posting over at Good Things Catered, to create a "dressing up" of this childhood classic...

To re-create the dish in an appropriate and satisfying manner, while staying true to the essence of the original tradition...


Tomato and Sweet Pepper Soup
with Grilled Cheese and Veggie Panini
(Serves 4)
The Soup

2 tbsp. olive oil
2 large red bell peppers
1 sweet onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1-1/2 lbs. ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped (
(You can use almost any kind of tomato, even canned tomatoes if you prefer...)

1/4 cup dry sherry
2 cups chicken (or vegetable) stock
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. rosemary
1 tsp. dried basil
salt and pepper, to taste
a dash sugar

Start by removing the core and seeds from each pepper. Then, slice them into quarters and place them (skin sides up) on a broiler pan. Broil until the skins begin to bubble and char, and then remove and cool (either in a brown paper bag, or a covered bowl).

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a frying pan with the onion and garlic. Cook over a gentle heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and translucent (approx. 10 minutes). Remove the skins from the pepper slices and roughly chop the remaining flesh.

Transfer the onions, peppers, tomatoes, sherry, stock, sugar and spices into the ceramic base of your slow cooker and cook on high for 3-4 hours. Then, after the soup has cooled for 10-15 minutes, blend in batches until smooth in consistency.

**Now, I prefer to run the soup through a sieve once and then re-blend the remaining pulp and stir it back into the thin broth. I do it this way because only one blending leaves the soup too grainy.... and I without the pulp it is too thin.....

Of course, you can certainly adjust this process to your personal cooking style.

You are almost done!
And here comes the best part....
This soup is fabulous hot OR chilled!

You can ladle the soup, at this stage, into warmed soup bowls, or refrigerate for 3 hours and then serve in chilled bowls.

**I served a version of this soup at my wedding this summer, and at is was a big hit!
It was made with Heirloom tomatoes and then chilled.... fabulous!

The Panini

8 slices of bread (I used sourdough, but you can use whatever you prefer)
Thinly sliced sharp white cheddar (or your favorite cheese)
*The amount of cheese will also vary greatly depending on personal tastes, but we used about 4 oz. for 4 sandwiches.*
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
2 tbsp. butter
**Portobello mushrooms are also a great addition to these sandwiches.

Melt butter in a fry pan and add the onions. Cook over a medium (medium low) heat for 10 minutes. Add in the red peppers (and/or mushrooms) and cook for another 10 (to 15) minutes, or until onions are well caramelized and the peppers (and/or mushrooms) are soft.

Layer the onions and peppers between two layers of cheese and two slices of bread. Grill on a non-stick panini press, electric grill/griddle, or fry pan until both slices of bread are toasted and brown, and the cheese is fully melted. Serve with warm (or chilled) tomato/pepper soup. Enjoy!

Per bowl of soup and 1 sandwich: approximately 502 calories, 7 g fiber and 18 g protein. Also high in iron, calcium and Vitamins A and C.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Baked Eggs (Over a Bed of Creamy Leeks and Peppers)

Yesterday I had spent the morning baking out my frustrations (into a beautiful loaf of Banana-Walnut Bread), which I then followed up with a much needed Yin Yoga routine and a hot shower.

Through a series of poses held for 5 minutes apiece, Yin Yoga conditions you to become more comfortable with discomfort thereby forcing you to develop techniques to calm the mind, shift your focus away from the discomfort and release your muscular - and emotional – tension.

The combination seemed to be just the ticket....

While it is still too soon to say whether or not this will be a maintainable change, it is clear that just that little bit of exercise (and meditation) was enough to finally allow me a decent night's sleep and a rejuvenated outlook on my present, and future, goals.

In fact...I woke up energized for the first time in ages...which in itself, was enough to bring forth a little bit of sunshine....

So, to celebrate the new morning, and my new outlook, I whipped up these deliciously creamy eggs for a breakfast that would reflect my hopes for the day. Simple, but splendid, nothing is more satisfying than a perfectly cooked egg. These slow-cooked bundles are delightfully mild - each bite a succulent morsel of sweet cream and savory yolk.

Baked Eggs with Creamy Leeks and Peppers
(Makes 4 Eggs)
4 eggs
1 tbsp. butter
2 small leeks, finely sliced
1 small red pepper, thinly sliced
4 tbsp. Half and Half
a dash of nutmeg
salt and pepper, to taste

First, lightly grease the ramekin cups with olive oil and then set them aside.

Add about 1 inch of hot water into the bottom of your slow cooker and set to high.

Meanwhile, combine the butter, leeks and red peppers in a saute pan and cook them over a medium heat until they begin to soften. Add about 3 tbsp of the half and half cream and cook the mixture another 4-5 minutes.

Spoon the leek and pepper cream mixture evenly among the four ramekin cups and then add 1 tsp of extra cream into each cup with just a dash of salt and pepper.

Crack one egg into each cup, sprinkle with a dash of nutmeg, and then cover with clear plastic wrap. Place the ramekins into the slow cooker (the water should be about half way up the sides of the cups) and cook them for approximately 30 minutes, or until the whites are set and the yolks still runny.....

Serve immediately.... and enjoy!

Per egg bundle: approximately 127 calories and 7 g protein. Also high in Vitamins A and C.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Baking Away the Blues with Banana Coffee-Cake Loaf

It has not escaped anyone's attention that I have been snappier than usual over the past few weeks. I find it hard to mask my emotions, (my husband says I would be awful at poker) and lately my frustrations have taken dominance over all else, making me edgier than usual, and more prone to confrontation, and verbal combat.

I am..
Frustrated trying to build a business from home...alone...
Frustrated that now married, my husband and I are still living in a crappy little apartment with my brother in-law as a roommate....
Frustrated that my husband is recently, and unexpectedly, out of work....
Frustrated that all of that leaves us without the necessary resources to THRIVE...

--With all these looming worries it is any surprise that I'm on edge?--

But, I am trying my hardest to muster up some much needed optimism, as I am much more productive (and creative) when I am happy... and both productivity (and creativity) are certainly at the core of building a successful home business.

I started by trying to calm my mind and sooth my nerves...SO...I baked...

The expected order of things and the consistency of the steps provide a good outlet for my tension. The process allows for a calming clarity and focus in its repetition.

Banana Coffee-Cake Loaf

(Makes 1 Loaf)

2 cups mashed banana
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup (or 1 1/4 stick) butter, softened
2 eggs
2 cups flour (I use 1 cup unbleached all-purpose and 1 cup self-rising)
1 tsp baking soda
Dash of salt
¾ cup walnuts, chopped

Begin by preheating the oven to match your temper (350 degrees).

Then prepare your overripe bananas, by steadily, but forcibly mashing them into a moist paste, as if they were your enemy. Set aside.

Now, cream together butter and sugar by hand, envisioning your fury being pulled from you (like a thread being wound around the mixing spoon as you continue to stir).

Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring until all traces of the yellow yolk (your yellow balls of threaded fury) disappear into the creamed butter mixture. Set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt, shaking loose all of your lingering worries and regrets.

Add the sifted dry ingredients to the creamed butter mixture until your worry and fury become a tough and sticky muddle. Then add the mashed banana and watch as the tangles smooth themselves out.

As you continue stirring allow your muscles to work out their knots. Giving into the ache and exhaustion, gently fold in the chopped walnuts as if they were the seeds of hope.

Pour the finished batter into a large buttered loaf pan. Finally, sprinkle a mixture of brown sugar, cinnamon and butter (worked into a sugary crumble – approx. 3 tbsp. sugar, 1-2 tsp. cinnamon and 1 tbsp. Butter), like a refreshing rain, onto the top of the banana loaf.

Bake for approximately 1 hour, or until set. (When done, a knife inserted into the center should come out clean, and the top should be sticky and caramelized.) Remove from the heat and let cool completely before slicing. Observe how a steady burn can leave behind fertile ground for a fresh start. Enjoy!

Per serving: (assuming approximately 14 slices) 277 calories, 2 g fiber and 5 g protein.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Rich Chocolatey Goodness

For the past few weeks I have been hunched over in front of the computer, lost in code, as I built the new site.

When I finally uploaded the final pages last night (or was it this morning?) it was a truly exulting experience. I took a shower, stretched my aching back, and after a few hours even regained feeling in my fingers...

It was clearly time for a reward! So, late last night I whipped up these delectable little treats, and my husband and I curled up in front of a good movie for a long awaited evening together.

Chocolate Banana Smoothie

Makes Approximately 2 Servings

1/2 cup fat free plain yogurt
1 to 1 1/2 cups chocolate rice (or soy) milk
2 bananas, sliced and frozen
1 tbsp. ground almonds

Combine all of the ingredients into a blender (starting with the yogurt, then the frozen fruit, ground almond and then the liquid ingredients), and blend until smooth.
If the smoothie is too thin, add ice and blend to thicken.
Serve immediately, and enjoy.

Each smoothie contains approximately 215 to 240 calories, 5 g fiber and 11 g protein.


Yes.... I know my postings have been a little sparse as of late, and there really is no excuse.... EXCEPT to say that I have been working hard building a new site for ALL THINGS FOOD!

And.... IT'S FINALLY FINISHED! Just click on the image above to start browsing the new site. Find recipe archives, cooking tips and so much more.

We'll be updating the site weekly, so make sure to Join the Mailing List, or check back often to keep up with all the additions!


Check back this afternoon for our WEEKLY SMOOTHIE RECIPE.
Delicious Intentions - Blogged