Archive | March, 2014

Stuffed (with good tidings) Potatoes

19 Mar

I’m feeling full of love and good tidings. Something about putting my body to work, being amongst the green and growing, cooking good food. Because that’s what I did this afternoon. I ran out of work early today and made the afternoon about things I wanted to do. There never seems to be enough time to do that and so often I start conversations with friends and colleagues about how tired we are, how busy, how stressed. So today was all spring and good tidings.

After work I went to the pool to swim laps (and by swim laps I mean flail around a bit and stop to catch my breath every four lengths…) and then headed to the grocery store. I’ve reached my limit of cheese and cracker lunches so I had to get something. Walking by the deli case I was inspired by the twice baked potatoes and decided to make my own for dinner (and lunch tomorrow!)

I’ve made these any number of times before and tend to go long stretches forgetting about them. The recipe is originally from a Weight Watchers cookbook but I don’t really measure much now – just throw things in until they taste good. Mix in whatever you want!

Start, of course, by baking up some potatoes. I pulled weeds while they cooked. You can almost see my backyard again. Seriously, there were (still are) a lot of weeds.

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While the potatoes are finishing up chop and saute onion, broccoli, and carrots.

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Next, scoop out the insides of the potatoes and mash with a little butter, milk, and salt and pepper.

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Be careful not to burn your fingers while scooping. I’ve made that mistake before. More than once.

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Mix some cottage cheese and a little shredded cheese into the mashed potatoes and add the veggies.

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Scoop the potato-veggie mix back into the potato skins, sprinkle with a bit of cheese, then bake.

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And that’s it! The cooking time is long but the recipe is simple.

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I’m playing with the idea of serving these at the next beer dinner. My thought was to make April’s beer dinner iPAlooza (get it!? IPA-palooza! All IPAs!) so I paired tonight’s dinner with the KBC IPA. The beer was good. The pairing just OK. Suggestions?

Happy Spring and good tidings! I hope you take a moment in your day that’s just for you!

Stuffed Potatoes

Everything You’ll Need

  • 2 large russet potatoes
  • Onion
  • Carrot
  • Head of broccoli
  • Other veggies if you want!
  • About 4 ounces of cottage cheese
  • About 1/2 cup shredded cheese, divided
  • Little bit of milk
  • Little bit of butter

Instructions

  1. Cook potatoes at 375 degrees for about an hour and fifteen minutes or until tender.
  2. Chop the onion, carrot, and broccoli and saute in olive oil until tender. Add spices if you want! Like garlic powder!
  3. When the potatoes are done, carefully cut them in half and scoop out the flesh, leaving the skin in tact.
  4. Mash the potatoes with a little bit of milk and butter. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Add the cottage cheese and half the shredded cheese to the potatoes and fold in. Then, add the veggies.
  6. Scoop the potato-veggie mix into the potato skins and sprinkle the rest of the shredded cheese on top.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees about 15 minutes until heated through.
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Irish Coffee Cupcakes

16 Mar

This past Thursday was “the night” – a major presentation and the culmination of a project my 9th graders have been working on for the last six weeks. The school I work at uses projects and presentation as an evaluative tool instead of tests and this particular project was presented not just to me, but the whole school and larger community. We ran around like yahoos getting set up for at least the past week. And damn did they pull it off. I got to walk around all night just eavesdropping and there’s nothing sweeter than hearing that kid who never appears to be paying attention in class rocking his presentation.

Projects like this seem to take on a life of their own and overwhelm everything else the kids are supposed to be working on, so as a thank you for my colleagues who put up with it all I brought in Coffee Cupcakes. They were delicious and just the right kind of pick me up!

It being March though, and St. Patrick’s Day, I decided to Irish them up this weekend. You can’t exactly bring whiskey spiked cupcakes to school but I can certainly enjoy them from my kitchen! The first time I made them I followed “I Heart Kitchen’s” Triple Chocolate Coffee Cupcakes recipe with a buttercream frosting. The second time I modified a bit. And by modified, I mean added booze.

I started by adding the dry ingredients together. (I reduced the cocoa powder from four to three tablespoons because while chocolate is amazing, I’m not a huge fan of richly chocolate cake.)

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Next, whip up the butter and the sugar. Always butter and sugar. Then add the eggs until you have a beautifully yellow mixture.

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While the butter is a blending, combine the coffee, whiskey, and vanilla. (The original recipe was all coffee – I reduced the amount of coffee by the amount of alcohol I added.)

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Next, alternate adding the dry ingredients and liquid. Then, add some chocolate chips! I used the little ones because they’re cute and proportional to cupcakes but also doubled the amount called for.

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Distribute evenly into muffin tins – the recipe made 18 cupcakes.

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With the whiskey added the cupcakes didn’t rise quite as much as when I followed the original recipe but they were a lot moister. The whiskey flavor was very subtle, I could only taste it in a bite or two, and I was happier with the more minimal chocolate flavor.

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Of course, I can’t call this an Irish cupcake without a little Bailey’s. That’s what frosting is for!

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Topped with Bailey’s buttercream frosting and some green sprinkles, these cupcakes are perfect for St. Patrick’s Day or anytime you need a little coffee and booze break!

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The original cupcake recipe was from I Heart Kitchen and the frosting recipe was from Recipe Girl (I made it before to top my Irish Cream Cupcakes last year!)

Irish Coffee Cupcakes (makes 18 cupcakes)

Everything you’ll need

For the cupcakes

  • 1-3/4 cups flour, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • About 1 cup brewed coffee, chilled
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • About 50 mL whiskey
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

For the frosting

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup Bailey’s Irish Cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients – flour (1-3/4 c. + 1 T), baking powder (2 t.), salt (1/4 t.), and cocoa (3 T).
  3. Combine the coffee and whiskey (should be 1 cup TOTAL) with vanilla (1/2 t.) and set aside.
  4. Beat together the butter (1/2 c.) and sugar (1 c.).
  5. Add the eggs (2) one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  6. Alternating, add the dry ingredients and the liquid to the butter-sugar-egg mixture, mixing well.
  7. Fold in the chocolate chips (1/2 c.)
  8. Line muffin tins and fill with 1/4 cup of mixture.
  9. Bake for 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
  10. For the frosting: Beat the butter (1 c.) and sugar (3 c.) together, then add the Bailey’s and vanilla. Add more powdered sugar if needed or thin (if needed) with a little milk.

Belgian Beers – February Beer Dinner

14 Mar

Even though February was just a month ago it feels like it was so much longer – the last several weeks have been non-stop busy. Generally once a week I have to stop and ask, “What day of the week is it?” Usually it’s only Tuesday. Planning for a beer dinner is always a good mental break and I was excited for February and the Belgian beer theme. I’m actually not all that much of a fan of Belgian beers but I’m branching out a bit. Usually Belgians are too “Belgian-y” for me…maybe a little stanky…I never claimed to be good at beer descriptions!

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My favorite beer of the night was probably the Spring Blonde, a Belgian style pale ale. It was very light and crisp. I also really liked the Affligem Tripel – fizzy and with just a little bit of stank. The Chimay Grande Reserve was good but very belgian-y and the La Fin Du Monde was similar. My least favorite was the Pranqster; it was very carbonated and sweeter than the others.

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Now the beer tasting was good but the food was awesome, even if it did cause a few problems. I decided to start the night with some zucchini cakes made with my absolute favorite cheese:  Nicasio Valley Foggy Morning cheese. I visit the nicest woman at the Davis Farmer’s Market just about every other week to get myself a new round. All of Nicasio Valley Cheese Company’s cheeses are amazing but the Foggy Morning is my favorite and I love the Basil and Garlic for special occasions.

Nicasio Valley Foggy Morning

The zucchini cakes just didn’t work out…but I improvised zucchini cake-parmesan cheese-tomato tarts. A lot of them.

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But pretty delicious. Especially paired with 21st Amendment Sneak Attack – a saison style beer.

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For the main course we had Pizza Style Stuffed Peppers, paired with Mission Amber Ale.

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And finally for dessert we had Beer Brownies, paired with Boulder Beer Company Shake Chocolate Porter. Another great and delicious beer dinner!

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Stuffed Peppers – Pizza Style

2 Mar

I teach junior high. When I tell people that, I’m always entertained by their response. Most of the time they recoil in horror (and if I’m totally honest, some days I do, too). But my kids are amazing and in general we don’t give kids enough credit.

The longer I teach the more I think childhood doesn’t change that much. Granted, my perspective isn’t that long-lived, but I still see my kids struggle with the same crises I did at 13, 14, 15. Negotiating relationships, playing with different personalities, trying to balance school and sports, parents’ expectations. I love teaching because I literally get to watch the struggle play out and the kids handle it with such incredible grace. Awkward, stumbling , pimply grace, but grace.

Cooking is a little like that – at least it has been for me. I try new recipes, stumble a bit, try again. In life, too, honestly. There’s definitely a little adolescence in all of us. So, a grown up take on pizza for that teen in all of us – Pizza Style Stuffed Peppers!

Start by cutting and seeding the peppers. This is the first stuffed peppers recipe I’ve seen where you lay the stuffing on top of the peppers instead of inside. I think it makes it a bit easier to eat. Parboil the peppers for a few minutes.

Peppers

Cook the quinoa, have a beer, cut some more peppers (especially if you’re serving 12!).

Quinoa and Peppers

Mix the quinoa together with mozzarella, pasta sauce, mushrooms, basil, and spinach or zucchini.

Stuffing Mix

Carefully spoon the stuffing mixture onto the pepper halves and top with parmesan cheese. Bake for about 45 minutes and then enjoy!

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I decided to pair the stuffed peppers with an Amber. The Mission Brewery Amber was on sale and went pretty well!

Mission Amber Ale

Pizza Quinoa Stuffed Peppers – Original recipe at rachelcooks.com (Her version included pepperoni but I went veggie so left it out.)

Everything You’ll Need

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 8 ounces pearl mozzarella, drained
  • 3/4 cup pizza sauce
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, chopped (I’ve also substituted zucchini)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 5 peppers, sliced in half and seeded

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bring a large pot of water to boil.
  2. Place the pepper halves into the boiling water and cook for 3 minutes; allow to cool so they can be handled.
  3. In a large bowl mix together all of the other ingredients except for the parmesan cheese.
  4. Fill the pepper halves with the quinoa mixture and place in a large baking dish. Sprinkle peppers with parmesan cheese.
  5. Bake 40-45 minutes until the cheese is melty and peppers are heated through.