Monday, July 30, 2012

Peanut Butter Graham Cracker Balls.

I love making desserts, but in the summer, when I don't feel like turning on the oven, I always have trouble coming up with ideas. Well, after finding this dessert, I will no longer have a problem! These peanut butter balls were quite simple to throw together, and only took a few minutes of active time, though it does require a bit of cooling time. I took these to a picnic this past weekend, and they were devoured almost instantly. As a group, we decided they taste a lot like Tagalongs (the Girl Scout cookie), except better, since of late, Tagalongs have been too much cookie and not enough peanut butter. If you have never made any sort of chocolate covered balls (buckeye balls, truffles, etc) it may take a bit of practice to get them coated smoothly, but overall the process is quite simple.

Peanut Butter Graham Cracker Balls
aka Tagalong Truffles

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs(about 12 full sized graham crackers), plus extra for decoration
1 cup peanut butter
1 to 1 1/2 cups chocolate wafers(candy melts)*

1: Using a food processor, grind graham crackers into crumbs. Leave 1 1/2 cups of crumbs in the food processor, and set any remaining crumbs aside.
2: Add peanut butter to food processor, and mix until well combined. If the mixture seems too moist and sticky, add more crumbs.
3: Chill peanut butter mixture for about 30 minutes.
4: Cover a baking sheet with wax paper. Roll peanut butter mixture into 24-30 equal sized balls and place on the baking sheet. Place in freezer for at least an hour.
5: Using a double boiler, melt chocolate wafers(This can also be done in a glass bowl in the microwave, but make sure to only microwave 30 seconds at a time, so as not to burn the chocolate). Coat each peanut butter ball in chocolate, place back on wax paper, and sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs. Repeat with remaining balls, and place the baking sheet in fridge or freezer until firm.

*I would recommend using Merckens milk chocolate, because it stays smooth and shiny and has given me the best results. I did not use Merckens because I had run out, but know the overall appearance of the dessert would have been better if I had.

Source: Baby Gizmo Blog

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Eggplant Enchiladas with Homemade Enchilada Sauce

Sometimes I make substitutions in recipes and assume they will be delicious. Other times, I dread that the final product will turn out horribly, and that I will be wasting a huge amount of food that no one will eat. That was my worry while making this recipe. As someone who doesn't like zucchini, I am constantly looking at zucchini recipes, trying to decide if I can sub in something else without ruining the dish. When I saw a recipe for veggie enchiladas, I decided I had to try it, but with one of the main ingredients being zucchini, I had to sub it out. I decided to try eggplant instead, changing the cooking method a bit, since eggplant needs to cook a bit longer, and I have to say, it worked out wonderfully. My husband, who loves his typical chicken and beef enchiladas from the Mexican restaurant up the street, said that these were some of the best enchiladas he has ever had. Thumbs up all around.

enchilada pan
Eggplant Enchiladas

For the sauce:
1 tsp vegetable oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp sugar
2 cups tomato sauce
1/2 to 3/4 cup water

For the filling:
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 large eggplant, cut into bite sized cubes
1/2 onion, sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
1 can(15 oz) black beans
1/2 cup prepared enchilada sauce
1/2 cup shredded cheese

For assembly: 6-8 8 inch tortillas
1/2 cup shredded cheese
1/2 cup enchilada sauce
2-3 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped fine

For the sauce:
1: Heat oil in sauce pan over medium heat until shimmering.
2: Add onion and cook about 5 minutes, until softened.
3: Add garlic, sugar, and spices, and cook about 30 seconds.
4: Add tomato sauce and water, bring to a simmer, and allow to cook about 5 minutes.

For the enchiladas
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Heat 2 Tbsp oil in large skillet over medium heat until very hot. Add eggplant and cook until slightly brown, about 3 minutes. Set aside.
2. After removing eggplant from the skillet, heat remaining tablespoon of oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and red pepper and cook until slightly softened, about 5-7 minutes.
3. Add garlic and jalapeño and cook about 30 seconds.
4. Add eggplant, black beans, and 1/2 cup enchilada sauce. Cook about 3-5 minutes until warmed through. Mix in 1/2 cup shredded cheese
5. To assemble, add about 1/3-1/2 cup filling to center of tortilla. Roll tightly and place in 9" x 13" baking dish, seam side down. Repeat with remaining filling and tortillas.
6. Pour 1/2 cup enchilada sauce over rolled enchiladas. Sprinkle cheese and cilantro over the top. Cover with foil and bake 5-10 minutes, until cheese is melted. Uncover and bake an additional 3-5 minutes.

Source: Adapted from Annie's Eats.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Barley Salad

As much as I love macaroni salads and other salads smothered in a mayonnaise based sauce, sometimes, you need something less creamy and more refreshing. Enter this salad. It's light, with a hint of lime and a great zing from the cilantro. We eat this as a side dish generally, but sometimes we even eat it as a whole meal. It tastes even better as it sits, so try to plan ahead and make this at least a few hours in advance.

Barley Salad

1 1/3 cup uncooked barley
~2 cups(1 15 oz can) black beans
~3 1/3 cups (1 16 oz bag) frozen corn*
1/4 cup lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
hot sauce

1: Cook barley by covering with 2 2/3 cup water and simmer 30-40 minutes.
2: In large bowl, mix beans, corn, and barley.
3: Add lime juice and oil to barley mixture. Stir to mix well. Add cilantro and stir.
4: Refrigerate at least 1 hour, until ready to serve. Top with hot sauce to taste.

Recipe adapted from *I like to leave the corn frozen so it helps to cool down the barley, but if you are eating it right away, you will want to thaw your corn.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Homemade Flour Tortillas

Last week, I tried to make homemade tortillas. They turned out ok, and tasted pretty good, so I posted the recipe, and just assumed my problem was in rolling the dough, but when I tried the recipe again, I still had the same issues. I could not get the tortillas to stay thin and soft so, although they tasted good, they weren't really usable as tortillas.
This new recipe has completely changed that. Though it is not a low fat recipe like the other one, they are not horrible for you, and no worse nutrition wise than store bought tortillas. These tortillas turned out soft and pliable, and were delicious to use for everything from chocolate quesadillas to bean burritos, and so easy to make. These are so easy, in fact, that I actually made them while I was home sick, because I was hungry and low on food. Everyone should try making these; you will not be disappointed.

Flour Tortillas

Makes 12 8 inch tortillas

3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened
3/4 to 1 cup warm water

1: Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in mixer bowl. Cut in butter using a pastry cutter or 2 forks, until mixture is crumbly.
2: Using mixer with dough hook*, slowly add water while mixing until dough becomes a cohesive ball.
3: Kneed for about 30 more seconds until dough is tacky, but not sticky. If dough is too sticky, add flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.
4: Transfer dough to lightly floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces. Cover with a clean damp kitchen towel and let rest for about 10 minutes.
5: Heat a large, heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat. Working with one dough piece at a time, roll the dough into an 8 inch circle.
6: Carefully transfer the rolled dough to the heated skillet and heat for about 20 seconds on each side, until bubbles form and tortilla is lightly browned. Do not overcook.
7: Repeat with remaining dough pieces. Store finished tortillas in airtight container in fridge for about a week, or freeze for longer.

*This recipe can easily be done without a mixer and dough hook. Start slowly adding water while mixing by hand, then kneed until it becomes a smooth, cohesive ball.

Recipe adapted from Annie's Eats

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Parmesan Fried Eggplant

Until recently, I was convinced I did not like eggplant. I had only ever seen it coated in tomato sauce, and since I'm not really a fan of tomato sauce, I wouldn't even taste a bite. However, last week I decided to be adventurous, and bought an eggplant I saw at the grocery store. I'm glad I did, because it was delicious, and now I am hooked. This past weekend, after a few healthy meals, I decided I was craving something fried, and thought that fried eggplant might be the best of both worlds, something fried and delicious, yet still more healthy than fast food.

Fried Parmesan Eggplant

1 medium sized eggplant, cut into 1/4 thick rounds
2 eggs, lightly beaten*
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
Oil for frying

1: Place eggs in small bowl. Mix bread crumbs and cheese in another small bowl.
2: Dip eggplant into egg mixture, then into bread crumbs and coat.
3: In deep, heavy skillet, heat about 1/2 inch vegetable oil to about 375 degrees F. Fry eggplant pieces, about 1 minute on each side, until golden brown. Transfer to paper towel to drain and cool before serving.

I ate mine with tomato slices on the side, but I'm sure they would also be great topped with tomato sauce.

*I used egg whites, rather than whole eggs, because I had some left over from a previous recipe, but either egg whites or whole eggs will work.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Homemade liquid laundry detergent

Lately I've been really in to making things from scratch, so when I found out you could make your own laundry soap, I figured I would have to give it a go. I didn't want to have to buy any special equipment to make it, so I decided I would make a small enough batch that I could fit it in my empty detergent bottle from the store. This recipe makes about a gallon of detergent, so make sure you bottle has a capacity of more than 1 gallon(mine was 1.3 gallons). Overall, the process took me about 15 minutes, and should save a significant amount of money. I read many different recipes to come up with my ratios, and they were all about the same, though I did use this one as a starting point.

Liquid Laundry Detergent

1/6 bar Fels Naptha
1/4 cup Washing Soda(not baking soda)
1/4 cup Borax

1. Grate Fels Naptha into a sauce pan with 3 cups hot water. Heat and stir until grated soap is completely melted.
2. Add Washing Soda and Borax and stir until completely dissolved.
3. Using a funnel, pour soap mixture into empty detergent bottle. Add 13 cups hot water to the bottle.
4. Shake well, then let cool and thicken for about 24 hours.

Use 1/3 to 1/2 cup detergent per load. Shake bottle often(if possible, before each use).

Cost Breakdown
Fels Naptha: $0.99 per bar, or $0.17 per batch.
Washing Soda: $2.50 per box, or about $0.10 per batch
Borax:$3.00 per box, or about $0.07 per batch
Overall, a batch cost about $0.34, and should yield 32 to 48 loads, which makes it about a penny a load(a huge savings to store bought detergent, even if you buy it on sale with coupons)!

*Note: I used my regular sauce pan to make this, and just rinsed it VERY well afterwards, but I did buy a separate grater for grating the soap, since I find it so difficult to get the grater completely clean.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Mexican Pizza

This week, my husband told me I wasn't allowed to go grocery shopping until we cleared out some food from the pantry and freezer. To some, this would be an annoyance, but to me, it was a challenge. After finding a can of refried beans and a bag of pizza dough, I knew exactly what I wanted, Mexican Pizza! I found a similar recipe here, but decided to change it up a bit to fit the ingredients I had.

Overall, I think the pizza turned out great. It had just enough spice, and was plenty filling without the addition of meat. The whole meal was pretty easy to put together, and was ready in under an hour, with even less active time(most of the time was for the oven and stone to preheat).


Pizza dough*
1 cup refried beans
1 small can diced tomatoes with green chilis(Rotel)
2 green onions (chopped)
1/4 large yellow onion(sliced)
1 cup shredded cheese

1: Preheat oven and pizza stone to 500 degrees.
2: Drain tomatoes and reserve the liquid.
3: In a small bowl, mix refried beans and about 1/4 cup of liquid from tomatoes. Heat in microwave about 25 seconds.
4: Roll out pizza dough to about a 12 inch circle(this may be different depending on your dough). Brush the perimeter with olive oil.
5: Spread bean mixture onto shaped crust.
6: Sprinkle tomatoes and yellow onion slices.
7: Sprinkle cheese evenly across the pizza. Top with green onions.
8: Move to preheated stone and bake 10-15 minutes, until cheese is melted and crust is golden brown. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

*I use Annie's Eats' pizza dough recipe, which can be found here.

Recipe adapted from Annie's Eats.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Homemade low fat tortillas

I love quesadillas. They are delicious and so easy, especially with my handy quesadilla maker. After yet another delicious quesadilla, I decided that I had to try my hand at making homemade tortillas. I had heard they were not too hard, but were much tastier than the kinds you can buy at the store.

After finding a recipe here , I decided to give it a go. Overall, I found the recipe delicious, but I had alot of trouble rolling the tortillas out thin enough, so they ended up being more like a gordita shell from Taco Bell(thicker and breadier than a normal tortilla, but still delicious). I tweeked the recipe a bit for my second attempt, and had a bit better luck(recipe below). I think I will try making these again, but let the dough rest even longer before rolling it out, and really work to roll them thin.

Homeade Low Fat Tortillas

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp olive oil
3/4 cup warm water

1: In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Stir until combined.

2: Mix warm water and oil together. Slowly add water/oil mixture to the flour mixture until the dough comes together into one piece. Add extra water, 1 tsp at a time, as needed.

3: Knead the dough for about a minute. Shape dough into a ball and let rest, covered with a damp towel for about 10 minutes.

4: Divide the dough into 12 pieces and shape each into a ball. Let rest for another 30-60 minutes, covered.

5: On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece of dough into a 6 inch circle about the thickness of a piece of poster board. Stack the tortillas, dusted with flour, until they are all rolled out.

6: Heat a heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat. Cook tortillas, one at a time, in the hot skillet until blistered and slightly golden on each side. Stack and cover finished tortillas with a dry towel to keep warm until all are cooked.

Enjoy warm, or store tortillas, covered with plastic wrap or in a bag, in the refrigerator.

Recipe adapted from Budget Bytes