Roasted Peppers

A few days ago my Mom came to visit me…well, alright maybe she also came to visit my little girl, her granddaughter.  She came bearing fruits and veggies.  She had several bell peppers and a bunch of mini sweet peppers.  They were gorgeous however after a few days they started to get really angry and were ready for me to cook them.  Really, they were starting to yell at me every time I opened the fridge, as if they were saying “I’m tired of lookin’ at your face!”  So it was time to cook!

Have you ever noticed how expensive a jar of roasted peppers is?  Have you noticed how cheap the fresh bell peppers are, by comparison, in the produce aisle?  Roasting your own peppers is really very easy and it’s cost efficient.  Sure, it takes a little more time and a little more elbow grease than opening that jar but, come on, you can do it.  Plus it’s a great way to use up peppers that are on the verge of getting ugly!

Wash and dry the peppers.

There are a couple of options for roasting.  The best option is a screaming hot grill but as it’s winter and snowing outside that option is not my favorite right now.  The second best option is an open flame on a gas cooktop.

Rotate the pepper often so that the skin will blacken and char on all sides.

The third option for roasting peppers is to use your oven.  Turn the oven to broil and allow it to get nice and hot.  Lightly drizzle the peppers with olive oil or spray with cooking spray.  Line a baking sheet with foil (for easy clean up).

Roast in the oven for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the peppers.  Make sure to turn the peppers so all sides are charred.

Don’t be scared, the peppers are supposed to look like they are burnt and now they really are angry peppers.  Immediately transfer the hot peppers to a bowl and cover with saran wrap.  Allow the peppers to sit for at least 10 minutes.  We are creating a little sauna for the peppers that will allow the skin to loosen and peel of easily.

Here comes the elbow grease part….Once the peppers have cooled peel the skin off.  Get dirty and simply use your fingers to pull the skin off.

Now you are left with a beautiful and naked pepper.  At this point you can remove the stem and seeds and use the roasted peppers as you wish.

Stay tuned to see what scrumptious recipes I used these roasted peppers in.

 

 

 

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Leek and Potato Soup

Well, it’s still winter and it’s still cold outside…..hohum.  BUT that doesn’t mean that your butt has to get bigger or that you have to eat boring food from your freezer!  Here is a delicious and nutritious soup that will heat up your kitchen and warm your spirit!  It’s simple, it’s fast and it’s really stinkin’ good!  Serve this along side a mixed salad with dried cranberries, toasted pecans, feta cheese and a balsamic vinaigrette.  Yummy yummerton!

  • 2 Slices of Bacon, chopped (*optional)
  • 3 Leeks, sliced
  • 1 tsp Thyme
  • 1/4 tsp Chili Powder
  • 1/2 cup White Wine
  • 1 pound Potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 32 ounces (4 cups) Chicken Stock
  • 1 cup Water
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • Salt and Pepper

Cook the chopped bacon in a large soup pot over medium heat until tender.

Add the sliced leeks and cook about 5-7 minutes.

Stir in the chili powder and thyme and cook for about 30 seconds.  Add the wine and cook until reduced by about half.

Stir in the chicken stock, potatoes, bay leaves and salt and pepper.  Cover and simmer for approximately 20 minutes, until the tators are tender.  Remove the bay leaves and blend the soup in a food processor or blender.

*Omit the bacon if you are going to serve this to your baby.

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Casserole

Casseroles….what do you think about casseroles these days?  I’m really undecided.  I love that I can have a casserole in the oven and have time to clean up the kitchen before dinner is ready.  Though some casserole recipes take all the fun out of cooking and random food is just slopped into a dish and baked with some sort of a crust on top.  And healthy…well, healthy and tasty casseroles can be hard to find.  Then try to make it friendly for the whole family and you’ve got your work cut out for you!

The following recipe is my new casserole friend.  I still get to play in the kitchen and actually cook something!  Every ingredient is a “does your body good” type ingredient and it is YUMMY!  This is my baby girl’s fist casserole and it’s a winner, winner, casserole dinner!

Veggie Cheddar Casserole

  • 1 cup Chicken or Veggie Broth
  • 1 1/4 cup Water, 1/4 cup reserved
  • 1 cup Brown Rice
  • 1 cup Broccoli
  • 1 cup Cauliflower
  • 3/4 cup Mushrooms (finely diced)
  • 1 Shallot (minced)
  • 4 tbsp Cheddar Cheese, grated and divided
  • 1 tbsp Wheat Germ

Bring the broth, 1 cup water and rice to a boil in a medium sauce pan.  Lower the temperature to a slow simmer and cook covered for 45 – 50 minutes.  Until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed.

Meanwhile steam the broccoli and cauliflower.  Allow it to cool and chop into small pieces (you don’t have to chop the veggies small if you are not feeding this to a wee tot).  Saute the mushrooms and shallot in a drizzle of olive oil until tender, about 5-8 minutes.

Stir together the rice, all the veggies, 1/4 cup water and 2 tablespoons of cheddar cheese.  Lightly butter a baking dish and pour the rice mixture into the dish.  Sprinkle the top with wheat germ and remaining 2 tbsp cheddar cheese.  Bake in a 350 degree preheated oven for 15 minutes.

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Banana Pancakes

It’s a snow day!  This is what I woke up to this morning….several inches of snow! And the snow is still falling as I type.

I have been wanting to introduce something new to my little girl and as I watched the snow fall I couldn’t help but think about warmer weather.  A couple of years ago my hubby and I went on a wonderful trip to Belize.  We stayed on Ambergris Caye, an island just off the coast.  The main transportation on the island is golf cart and there are no paved roads!  How wonderful is that!?  Belize has the second largest coral reef in the world…thus we spent a lot of time snorkeling and scuba diving!

This morning as I woke up to this snowy mess I couldn’t help but think about this island paradise and the wonderful breakfast I enjoyed there every day.  Banana Pancakes with fresh watermelon juice!  Yummmmmmmmm!  I can still taste the flavors and feel the wind in my hair and the sand in my toes….okay, maybe not but I can pretend!

Here is my attempt to recreate the banana pancakes from Belize that I fell in love with.  They are kind of healthy, taste great and you don’t have to be in a tropical paradise to enjoy them.  So cue the Jack Johnson song and get ready for some deliciousness!

Banana Pancakes

  • 1 Egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup Milk
  • 2 tbsp. Canola Oil (substitute applesauce for a wee bit less fat)
  • 2 Bananas, peeled and mashed
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
  • 1 tbsp Sugar
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • dash of Salt

Lightly grease a griddle (or griddle pan) and have it preheated and ready once the batter is ready.  Combine egg, milk, oil, bananas and vanilla in a small bowl.  Sift together all the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients.  Do not over mix!  Just give it a few stirs and let everyone get to know each other.

It’s going to be lumpy…there are bananas in it!  Pour approximately 1/4 cup amount onto griddle, flip once bubbles appear.  The pancakes will be nice and golden brown on both sides.

Enjoy these just the way they are…..or add a dab of butter, some high quality maple syrup, more banana slices, slivered almonds, warm cinnamon spiced applesauce or just along side a big tall glass of watermelon juice!  Oh, what I would give for some watermelon juice to complete my breakfast!

This also turned out to be a great finger food for my little girl!

If you have left over pancakes, set them on a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely.

Then place inside a zip top bag with parchment or wax paper in between each pancake, label and freeze.

And now it’s time for my little girls first experience with snow!

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Red Lentil Soup with Apriocts

Apricots are such a yummy and sweet summer-time delight.  If you are craving some sweetness from this tasty fruit, pick up a bag of dried apricots.  They have a beautiful color and are a great addition to all kinds of meals.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner!  Toss them in your oatmeal, top off your salad and spruce up your soup.  Here is a simple and wholesome meal for the whole family.  Literally, the whole family.  My 10-month-old loves this, my hubby asked for seconds, and our dog licked up the spilled goodness that fell to the floor!

Red Lentil Soup with Apricots

  • 1 Onion, diced
  • 1 Clove Garlic, diced
  • 1 Shallot, diced
  • 1 Carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 cup Dried Apricots, chopped
  • 1 cup Red Lentils, rinsed
  • 1 tsp. Cumin
  • 4 cups Water

Saute onions and carrots in a drizzle of olive oil for 5 minutes over medium heat.  Add garlic, shallots and apricots and continue cooking 5 more minutes.

Add the cumin, cover and cook 3-5 minutes.  Add the lentils and water.  Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook for about 25 minutes.

Use an immersion blender or transfer to a blender and process until smooth.

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Quinoa

On a recent trip to Peru, I was introduced to quinoa and immediately fell in love!  Quinoa looks and cooks like a pasta but it’s actually a seriously healthy grain.  This little super food packs a serious protein punch and a good dose of fiber.  While in Peru, we had the opportunity to visit Machu Pichu, the “Lost City of the Incas”.

It was absolutely fascinating and I highly recommend this trip for any of you adventure-seekers!!  This Incan city dates back to 1400AD and they had running water, shelter, irrigated crops (on the side of a mountain) and so much more.  The fact that these Incas were able to live 7,000 feet above sea level is absolutely fascinating.  The reason I’m telling you all of this is because the Incas considered Quinoa to be the “mother of all grains”!  If this fascinating culture thought so highly of quinoa, that’s enough proof for me.  I’ve been eating it regularly ever since this trip.  Black beans and quinoa is one of my favorite recipes and it’s so easy!  I just recently introduced quinoa to my little girl and she loves it!  Here is the recipe for both!  Enjoy!

Black Bean Banana Quinoa

  • 1/4 cup Quinoa, rinsed*
  • 1/2 cup Water
  • 1/2 cup Black Beans
  • 1 Ripe Banana

Combine the quinoa and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.  In a separate saucepan over low heat, mash the black beans with a fork and then mash in the banana.  Serve the black bean and banana mixture over the quinoa or stir it all together.  This combo would also be excellent with avocado!

Black Beans and Quinoa

  • 1 tablespoon Canola Oil
  • 1 Onion, diced
  • 2-3 Cloves Garlic, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups Vegetable or Chicken Stock
  • 3/4 cup Quinoa, rinsed*
  • 1 teaspoon Cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 cup Frozen Corn
  • 1 1/2 cups Black Beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup Fresh Cilantro, chopped

Saute onion and garlic in the canola oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until tender.  Stir in quinoa and stock.  Season with cumin and cayenne pepper.  Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and cover for 20 minutes.  Stir in frozen corn and cook for about 5 more minutes.  Add the black beans and cilantro and serve.

*It is important to rinse quinoa before cooking it.  I use a sieve (mesh strainer) for this so I don’t lose any of the precious little grains.

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New Year Giveaway!

Even though Christmas has passed, it’s still a time of giving.

I want to pass along a special gift to one of my readers.  How about a year’s subscription to “Martha Stewart Living Magazine”!!!  This is a great magazine that will keep you inspired all year long!

Here is how to enter, either:

1. Leave a comment on this post

OR

2. LIKE Squash Blossom Babies on Facebook and leave a comment.

Last day to enter is January 2, 2011.  I will let my baby girl, randomly select the winner.  So spread the word and leave a comment if you want a free subscription to “Martha Stewart Living Magazine”!

Good Luck

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year

It’s time for a new year.  Does that mean there will be a new you?  Lots of people make New Year’s Resolutions every year…like working out regularly, eating right, getting organized, cleaning out their spice cabinet, etc.  Last year at this time I was about 7 months pregnant and my only New Year’s Resolution was to have that baby!  Ohhh and what a baby we have!  Success!  Well, this year I want to keep this baby and my family healthy.  Let’s bring on the veggies, pack on the whole grains, giddy up fruit bowls and join the fit protein team.

Here is a healthy and lucky recipe that is perfect for New Years Day.  Why?  Well, because it’s black eyed peas and did you know that there are a lot of people who think eating black eyed peas on New Years Day will bring prosperity in the year ahead.  Sure, why not!?!   Black eyed peas are a great food for wee tots and adults.  They are packed with protein, magnesium and iron.  Plus they’re really cheap!  This is a wholesome, hearty meal that is perfect on a cold winters day and also pretty tasty if you had too much fun ringing in the New Year!

New Year’s Day Black Eyed Peas

  • 1 Onion, diced
  • 1 Clove Garlic, minced
  • 16 ounce bag of dried Black Eyed Peas
  • 4 Tomatoes, diced
  • 4 cups Chicken or Veggie Stock
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • Salt, Pepper and Chili Powder to taste

Rinse and soak the black eyed peas overnight or for 6-8 hours.  Saute the onion and garlic until tender and translucent.

Add the peas, tomatoes, chicken stock and bay leaf.

Bring to a boil, reduce to medium heat and simmer, covered for about 1 hour.  The peas should be tender and the tomatoes will break down creating a beautiful sauce.

Remove a portion for your baby and then add in salt, pepper and chili powder to taste.  Remove the bay leaf and serve over brown rice.  For the little ones you can serve this as a finger food or mash or puree to desired consistency.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas!

Best wishes for a wonderful Holiday and a Happy New Year.

What a wonderful time of year.  This is the time for giving and sharing!  Here are a few pictures to inspire you to get in the kitchen and share something special with your loved ones this holiday season.

“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.”

– Julia Child

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Healthy Hot Chocolate

Don’t you LOVE it when those two words end up in the same sentence!?!  Healthy and Chocolate!  Okay, first of all maybe I should disclose that I am not a doctor or a nutritionist and maybe I’m not qualified to declare whether or not this is “health food”.  BUT considering how much food I have consumed in my lifetime….I’m going to say that I’m a bit of a food expert.  And there is a vegetable in my hot chocolate, people!  Therefore I’m putting it on the healthy list!  Oh yeah, this is really happening!  Honestly, I don’t know why it tastes so good but it just does!  Test it out for me; sneak it into your child’s or your partner’s or your boss’s mug and see what happens.

  • 1/3 cup Butternut Squash Puree*
  • 1 cup low fat milk (I always have 1% milk)
  • 1/4 cup Semisweet Chocolate, chopped (you can even use chocolate chips)
  • Fresh Grated Nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon

If you are lucky enough to have a double boiler in your home, it will be perfect for this recipe.  I’m using my Grandmother’s double boiler and I think everything just tastes better when it’s made in something that has some history.

If you don’t have a double boiler, use a pan with a bowl placed on top.  Boil water in the bottom pan and combine the milk and chocolate in the top pan (or bowl).  Once the chocolate starts to melt stir in the cinnamon and nutmeg.

Alright, if you don’t have whole nutmeg you can use the ground nutmeg.  But I highly recommend whole nutmeg and grating it yourself.  It really does make a difference and it only takes about 12 seconds to grate.  Once the chocolate is completely melted slowly stir in the butternut squash.

Pour through a sieve placed over a bowl.  This is to ensure that there are no clumps of squash floating in your hot chocolate.

Pour the chocolatey goodness into mugs and enjoy!

Why, yes, those are chocolate-dipped marshmallows I’ve served along side.   I don’t know what came over me…..the double boiler was out and already dirty and it just seemed appropriate to melt some chocolate and take a giant marshmallow for a swim!

For a festive touch dip into a bowl of Christmas colored sprinkles.

*Alright, so I must admit that I am in the baby-food-making stage of life and I literally have a freezer stocked of butternut squash puree.  If you don’t happen to have this awesome veggie living in your freezer, simply roast it and puree in a blender or food processor.  Follow the steps from the blog post Butternut Squash Baby.   OR if you don’t feeling like breaking out the roasting pan, you can buy butternut squash puree in the freezer section at the grocery store.  Thaw it and use some of the puree for this hot chocolate recipe and use the rest for a soup.  Yummm, now that sounds like a nice wintertime meal!

Enjoy!

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