8/30/10

Oatmeal Breakfast Bars with Dried Fruit

Sometimes, I'm quite happy that the only person I have to cook for is me. Why? Because it means if I want omelet for dinner, that's fine. If I want leftover dinner for breakfast, it's fine. But planning 3 meals a day, is still daunting. Over the weekend, I decided to find a recipe that would be easy to make, relatively healthy and last me the entire week for breakfast. I had some dried fruit and oatmeal leftover from freelancing I do for Robyn Webb, and thought: oatmeal breakfast bars would fit the bill.

But where to start? When it comes to cooking, I'm very comfortable making up recipes, but baking is a different beast all together. I did some searching on line, and settled down on this recipe from KathEats. Of course I made a few changes: my version, photos and thoughts are below.

Oatmeal Breakfast Bars with Dried Fruit

Ingredients

1.5 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup dried cherries
1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/3 cup dried dates, chopped
2 tablespoons chocolate chips
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 cups milk (confession: I did not have milk in my fridge, so I added dry powdered milk into H2O)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 400
2. Spray a baking dish (I used 9x6) with oil and line with parchment paper (Lesson learned: spray the parchment paper with more oil!)
3. Combine all dry ingredients.


4. Combine wet ingredients. Incorporate with the dry ingredients. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish and bake for 50 minutes (Note: pay attention to how wet the mixture looks! I wasn't sure if this was right or not, but proceeded. I also baked my bars 10 minutes longer than the 40 minutes Kath suggested because after 40 minutes, the bars felt rather wet: one of the reason could be because I used a slightly different size of the pan.)


See the parchment flaps? They were very helpful in removing the baked oatmeal bars from the pan.


The final product looked pretty and smelled sweet thanks to the chocolate chips and dried fruit.


I cut mine into 8 pieces.



Thoughts:
1) This was definitely a simple recipe to follow and customize: use whatever dried fruit you like, add nuts, add chocolate chips, etc.
2) The final product is sweet, portable, healthy, and filling: all good things...but....
3) I think this recipe could really use a few "corrections"
a) definitely spray your parchment paper with oil
b) use hot liquid and let the oatmeal soak up most of the liquid before pouring the mixture into the pan (in fact, I'd start with less than a cup of liquid and only add more as needed)
c) try using a smaller baking pan and bake the bars for a longer time (and maybe at a slightly higher temperature) so that they are not as thin as they came out
Do you have other suggestions? Anyone wants to make this recipe and report back on your results? Thanks!

8/28/10

Plum popsicles: a healthy, no sugar added snack or dessert

Sometimes life presents you with sweet dilemmas. I've read people on Twitter ask what to do with too many figs, peaches, or tomatoes. If only I had those worries! Then last week, my friend Cindy gave me a bunch of Italian plums that were super ripe.

At first, I thought of making a pie, but I really don't need the extra calories. Next idea was a plum chutney, but that required chopping, browning and stirring, and time was not plentiful last week. So at the end I decided to make popsicles!


Ingredients
6 plums, halved, pit removed
juice of 1 orange
juice of 1/2 lemon


Directions
1) In a food processor puree plums with orange and lemon juice.
2) Give the mixture a taste: add more lemon juice or orange juice or sugar if you wish. I thought mine was perfect.
3) Fill the popsicles molds and stick in the freezer (I had enough for 4 popsicles and a "shot" of juice).



This is an unbelievable healthy, naturally sweet and a fun snack or even dessert?

If you like this idea, try blueberry pomegranate and mango melon flavors! Please chime in with your favorite combos!

8/26/10

Blueberry & coconut scones with lemon zest

Remember that earlier this week I bought buttermilk to make Adobo Buttermilk Chicken with Onions? Well, the marinade used only one cup of buttermilk, and there was plenty left over to use in another recipe.

I decided to make scones! I've made scones in the past, and actually really liked this recipe for Dried Cherries & Orange Scones. But how fun would it be to make the exact same recipe? Not that much fun! Instead, I thought of using the leftover frozen blueberries I had and flavor the scones with lemon zest. But that's not all! While I was looking for baking soda, I discovered a bag sweetened shredded coconut left over from the time I made Chocolate Covered Macaroons, and thought why not add it to the scones!?

Blueberry & Coconut Scones with Lemon Zest

Ingredients
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
zest of one lemon
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup chilled buttermilk


Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.

2. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

3. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda into large bowl. Mix in lemon zest. Add butter and rub it with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Mix in frozen blueberries and shredded coconut.



4. Gradually add buttermilk, tossing with fork until moist clumps form.

5. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead briefly to bind dough, about 4 turns. Form dough into 1-inch-thick round. Using a small biscuit cutter dipped into flour, make about 20 small round scones.


6. Bake for about 25 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve immediately.


Turns out, adding shredded coconut changes the texture of these scones by quite a bit. They definitely turned out wetter and chewier than regular scones. I did not mind it that much, but next time I'll leave the shredded coconut out. Still, it was a fun experiment.


What do you like adding to your scones? Next time, I think I'll try a savory version of this treat.

8/24/10

Adobo buttermilk chicken with onions

I finally cooked!!! Can you believe it? I am so excited to have a recipe to share with you.

After flying back from a week in Seattle, I needed to replenish my refrigerator and get back to the kitchen. I went to the store without much of a plan. I picked up a pack of skinless boneless chicken breasts because they were on sale, some dry beans to make rice and beans for lunch, a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce to add to the rice, and some random produce.

Then I decided to get a container of plain yogurt to use as a base for marinade for the chicken, but couldn't find a little container. That's when the light bulb went off: buttermilk! You see, I grew up in Russia, and buttermilk was a staple in our diet. We would drink a glass of buttermilk, which came in regular and strawberry flavor, with cookies, just like US kids drink milk with cookies. I love buttermilk in pancakes, cakes and scones (aha, scones! I will post a recipe I made later this week, but for now check out this one).

So I decided to pick up a container of buttermilk to make an adobo & buttermilk bath (marinade) for the chicken.

Adobo Buttermilk Chicken with Onions

Ingredients
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons adobo sauce (feel free to add chopped chipotle peppers if you like your food very hot)
3 chicken breasts, cubed into 1" pieces
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
salt

Directions
1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl (I used a large Pyrex measuring cup) and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour (if you let the chicken marinade over night, the flavor will be even better).


2. Preheat the oven to 400F. Alternatively, you can grill the chicken on skewers if you have a grill: I did not, so I sprayed a roasting dish with some oil, added the chicken and onions in one layer and baked for 15 minutes. [You can also brown the chicken in a skillet on top of the stove, but then you'll have to babysit it.]


3. After baking the chicken for 15 minutes, put it under a broiler for a few minutes to get the gorgeous color.


Serve the chicken with sauteed green beans, rice, or on top of a salad. The buttermilk tenderizes the meat, and the adobo sauce adds a punch of heat. And don't forget the onions: they are full of flavor after sitting in the adobo buttermilk marinade and then getting charred underneath the broiler.


Take that, 5 ingredient girl :) This recipe takes minutes to put together, and less than 20 minutes to cook. Enjoy!

8/22/10

Postcard from Seattle: Pike Place Market

I flew back from Seattle last night and have quite a bit of house cleaning, laundry and grocery shopping to do, not to mention paying a visit to the gym! Sigh.

In the meantime, I am posting this postcard from Seattle's Pike Place Market, which has amazingly gorgeous flowers, fresh seafood and produce: Enjoy!

I will try to do my best to get back to posting recipes very soon.

Question: what do you think about the watermark signature I added to the photos?

8/20/10

Cork & Fork Family dinner courtesy of Foodbuzz

Earlier this month I received an email from Foodbuzz letting me and other Foodbuzz members know that they've paired up with Columbia Crest Wines and were looking for proposal projects for Cork & Fork entertaining soiree.

I decided to apply. Below is my proposal, which got accepted!!!

Here's the background story: after I joined Foodbuzz, I told my twin sister Anna to join too! And she did. She blogs here: www.snackinginthekitchen.com    She lives in Seattle, WA while I live in Arlington, VA. Despite the entire country between us, we chat all the time, travel together, and share many hobbies/interests such as FOOD, salsa dancing, crafts, etc.  One of the differences between  Anna and me is that she prefers red wine, while I prefer white wine. When I saw the Cork & Fork "challenge," I thought this would be perfect for my upcoming trip to Seattle to visit Anna and our family.    And so the name for this would be Red vs White Wine Cork & Fork Twin Cook-off. Anna will make one of the red wine pairings, and I will make one of the white wine pairings.    We'll invite some of our closest friends and depending on the weather have the meal outside or inside: sorry, with Seattle weather you can never tell! At the end of the party, the guests will choose the winning menu. 
And so, this Tuesday Anna and I set out to make a family dinner for our parents and brother. Anna chose Shiraz, and I chose Pinot Grigio. Luckily, the weather was absolutely perfect for a dinner outside.


Here's a view of the table with a few of the dishes. Scroll below to see what we cooked.


For her appetizer, Anna made a bruschetta with fresh tomatoes, onions and basil on top of a grilled ciabatta bread.


For my appetizer, I made a pear salad with blue cheese and spiced pecans. The recipe called for roasting the pears, but it was too hot for that. The pecans were toasted in butter, sugar and a bit of cayenne and gave a bit of a punch to the salty blue cheese and the sweet pears. The dressing for the salad included reducing two cups of orange juice to two tablespoons: I just did not have enough patience for that and only reduced it to about quarter of the cup. Still, a success.


I also made steamed mussels. Instead of using poblano peppers as the recipe called for, I used roasted red peppers. The broth also contained onions, garlic, clam broth, coconut milk and white wine. I absolutely love mussels, but neither my brother nor my dad tasted a single one of them. Fine, more for the girls in my family :)




Anna chose to make grilled lamb chops with balsamic honey glaze and mint pesto. The mint pesto was absolutely awesome and also went well with bruschetta. It smelled fresh like summer!


To go along with the lamb, Anna and I made grilled baby potatoes by first cooking red and white potatoes in salted water till they were tender and then drizzling them with some olive oil (thank you, Misha, for doing that) and seasoning with salt and pepper before putting them on the grill.


Anna grilled the lamb till medium rare and everyone enjoyed it with shiraz. Everyone other than our dad, who has very strong dislike for lamb (and also cilantro).

There was too much food to also make a dessert, so we ended up choosing a watermelon as a finale for our dinner.

Thank you Foodbuzz and Columbia Crest for sponsoring this dinner with my family. As far as who the winner is, my mom's favorite dish was the lamb, and my brother liked bruschetta.  My dad liked all the food, other than the lamb and mussels ;) He's diplomatic like that.

8/18/10

Fresh oysters in Seattle

Sunday, Anna and I went to the Bainbridge Island, an hour away from Seattle by ferry, and spent time with our brother and his girlfriend. After we got back to Seattle, I decided it'd be fun to get some fresh oysters. Why not? It was super hot, and I just wanted the cool, smooth oysters flavored with a bit of lemon juice and horseradish.

We decided to try out Elliott's Oyster House at Pier 56.

It was fun sitting at the bar, sipping cold water (it was too hot for anything stronger), and deciding on which oysters to order, because this restaurant had quite the variety:


We were also able to see the shucking of the oysters performed right in front of our eyes:



And the anticipation was building up when I saw that Elliott's had won a trophy :)


Elliott's offers oysters from Washington state, Canada, Europe, and even Japan! Since both Anna and I spent 8 years living in Seattle while in High School and college, and since our family is still in Seattle, as are Anna and Misha (I'm the only sibling living away from my family), we decided on the sample of a dozen Pacific Oysters.

It's crazy to think that it takes about 20 minutes to get the oysters to the table, but only a few minutes to slurp them up.

Instead of the typical lemon and horseradish, Elliott's serves their oysters with a frozen concoction that you put on top of your oysters before slurping them.


Anna and I got three oysters each of the following types: Eagle Rock, Totten Inlet, Eld Inlet and Dabob. It was incredible to actually be able to differentiate the taste in oysters that were harvested (?) in different areas.

Both Anna and I agreed that we liked Eagle Rock and Totten Inlet oysters the most. We also agreed that we could have easily had another dozen oysters each. Alas, at $23/dozen, this was not an inexpensive little snack.


Stay tuned for a few non-restaurant adventures from Seattle.

8/15/10

Dupont Farmer's Market in DC

Morning, dear readers.
I'm in the surprisingly sunny and warm Seattle. So far, so good!

Today I am sharing with you a photo essay of produce from Dupont Farmer's market from Washington DC (aka I-haven't-had-time-to-photograph-any-real-recipes-yet). Enjoy :)