Friday, December 23, 2011

Raspberry Mocha Muffins

Every year I make these mocha muffins for my birthday breakfast.  Then we have them for Christmas Eve breakfast, too.  This year I used chocolate raspberry coffee for raspberry mocha muffins.  They came out beautifully.  These are not your usual bakery style greasy, fluffy muffins.  These are definitely whole grain and they will stick with you. 

MOCHA MUFFINS
Place 2 cups of rolled oats (either regular or thick--do not use instant oatmeal and don't use quick-cooking oats) in a container with a lid.  Cover with 2 cups of brewed coffee.  Cover and place in refrigerator overnight or for several hours.

Place oat mixture in a bowl.  Add:
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4- 1/3 cup baking cocoa
Mix together.

Stir in:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Stir in 1 cup of chocolate chips and some nuts if you want them.
Batter will be quite thick.

Spoon the batter into greased muffin tins and bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes.  Cool on wire rack.

These are great heated up just a little so the chocolate chips get a little gooey.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Grazing Season and Cheese Spread Recipes

Grazing season is here.  Beginning tomorrow, we have my birthday, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day, back-to-back-to-back.  We long ago did away with the big meal on Christmas Day, preferring instead to make things ahead of time as much as possible so we could just enjoy the day together without a huge meal and a kitchen full of dirty dishes.  Once we made the change, we wondered why we ever did things any other way.  As each year goes by I find myself less and less attracted to fuss and rushing around.  I have always really just tried to create a calm and peaceful home for myself, wherever I am, and at this time of year I especially crave peace, quiet, and time.  That is what winter in general and the Christmas season specifically are all about for me.  Long gone are the days I looked forward to parties and being around lots of noise and people.  So I create this little holiday space for myself every year--or at least I try.

There are basically two things that are "traditional."  We have lasagna for Christmas Eve dinner and I make jalapeno cheese puffs sometime on Christmas Day.  I would make them ahead, but they are really best right out of the oven.  In fact they are quite addicting, so I make them on the day itself.  The lasagna takes only a few minutes to put together and then it just bakes in the oven.  Otherwise, I just make a bunch of stuff ahead of time and we graze for days.  Yesterday I cooked a turkey.  We bought two when they were on sale at Thanksgiving and Bill kept one in the freezer at work, since we had no room here.  I made just enough stuffing to stuff the turkey and I cooked the last 4 winter squash from our CSA farm.  There was supper last night and tonight.  I made turkey salad for lunch with extra for tomorrow.  We will have turkey for sandwiches, nachos on Christmas Day, and whatever else we want.  I made healthy whole grain (and yummy!) mocha muffins for my birthday breakfast and there will be more for Christmas Eve.  I made chocolate chocolate chip brownies to have with ice cream instead of cake.  And I made two different kinds of cheese spread.  I love this stuff on pretzels, in sandwiches or on carrot sticks.  It is also good on crackers or with tortilla chips.  Here's how I made it, but bear in mind that you can vary the amounts and what you put in as this is not exact.

VEGETABLE CHEESE SPREAD
Put in food processor with steel blade:
several slices of reduced fat deli swiss cheese, torn into pieces (or cube some stick swiss cheese)
one carrot, cut into largish chunks
one pepper of your choice, seeded and cut into chunks
Process on high until everything is small bits.  Then add:
garlic powder
dried oregano
chives
black pepper
or herbs of your choice
Process again until everything is blended.
Put about 12 ounces of cream cheese (I used the lowfat version) in food processor and process on low until everything is blended well.  Spoon into container.

JALAPENO CHEESE SPREAD
Into food processor fitted with steel blade place
about half a pound of extra sharp cheddar cheese, cut into largish chunks and process until it is small pieces--or use shredded cheese and just place in bowl of food processor.  Add enough pickled jalapeno peppers to suit your taste, chili powder, garlic powder, and any other herb or spice you like, then process until everything is blended.
Add about 20 ounces of cream cheese (I used lowfat) and process until well blended.  Spoon into container.

These are better if they sit for a little while so the flavors can blend.  Easy to vary by using cheeses, herbs, spices, and veggies of your choice.  Use to stuff celery or fresh jalapenos or use as a spread or dip.  Much cheaper than the cheese spreads you buy in the store and much tastier, too!

Happy Christmas! or Nollaig Shona duit!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Black Bean Soup in the Crock Pot

Seemed like today might be a soup day because the weather forecast said it would be cool (high 30s) and blustery with some snow/rain showers in the morning.  There has been little sign of winter here so far (we have not even turned on our heat yet) and today was no exception.  It rained last night and into this early morning, then the sun came out. We opened the blinds and had quite enough heat with the sun pouring through the windows.  As I type this, I have my sleeves pulled up because I am warm.  I went ahead with the soup in spite of the warmish day.  I had started the beans soaking last night, so I was committed.  It came out quite well with plenty of leftovers for tomorrow's supper and maybe Saturday's lunch.  I may even have some for the freezer!  Tonight I served it with hot corn muffins to which I add some oatmeal, which makes them slightly less dense.  The recipe I use--from Laurel's Kitchen--always comes out too wet, even though I add a cup of whole wheat flour instead of the half-cup the recipe calls for.  So rather than add still more flour, I add the oatmeal.  I love these muffins and they went perfectly with the soup.  Bill has a couple with a bit of extra sharp cheddar cheese for his lunch tomorrow (along with an apple and an orange).  I made them at the last minute because I thought I had no milk.  Then I remembered the last bit of milk I froze so it wouldn't spoil, so I took it out of the freezer and thawed it out.  Anyway, tomorrow I will likely make brown rice to go with the soup and maybe add a bit of salsa, but I will decide then.

Black Bean Soup in the Crock Pot
This makes a lot of soup that is quite filling, so you can feed a bunch of people, plan for leftovers, or plan to freeze some.

I soaked a 1-pound bag of dried black beans overnight, changing the water once.  In the morning I drained the beans and placed them in my Crock-Pot.  To the beans I added potatoes (scrubbed and unpeeled), carrots, a large onion--all coarsely chopped--and some frozen corn.  I then put water in the crock to within a couple of inches from the top.  I put the lid on and turned the pot on high for a couple of hours and then down to low for 5 hours.  Then I added some chopped sun dried tomatoes, chili powder, garlic powder, and oregano.  I stirred the stuff in and let it cook for an hour more. I added some cheddar cheese on top of the individual bowls of soup.

Yum!