21 May 2015

It's time for this month's Improv Challenge.  The premise of the Improv Challenge is easy: each month there are two assigned ingredients.  The participants must make a recipe using both ingredients and blog about it. 

This month's ingredients were cilantro and lime.  A little late for Cinco de Mayo, but a great combo anytime of year.  I love cilantro, and lime is a perfect partner for it.  Cilantro and lime are both common ingredients in both Mexican and Thai food.  I love both of those cuisines, but this time I decided to do a little "fusion" cooking.  

Do you ever make your own hummus?  It is really convenient to buy it premade at the grocery store, and I do that sometimes when I am feeling lazy, but I also think it's really fun to make my own hummus.  It's super easy using canned beans, and while it is really difficult (if not impossible) to get it as smooth as store-bought, the pay-off is that you can play around with ingredients and come up with some really fun variations.  Last fall I made a Roasted Butternut Squash Hummus that was amazing.  I also make Pizza Hummus, which is my kids' favorite.  So when I happened to stumble across the idea for adding cilantro and lime to hummus, I couldn't wait to try it.  My version is adapted from Vegan Family Recipes.

Cilantro Lime Hummus

1 (15 oz.) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
¼ cup tahini
3 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp ground cumin
3 tbsp lime juice
⅓ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1-3 tbsp water (optional)

Place chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, cumin, lime juice, and cilantro in a food processor.  Process until smooth, scraping down the sides if necessary.  If desired, add water until desired consistency has been reached.

Pour into a bowl and serve with tortilla chips.

Makes about 2½ cups.

I made this as an afternoon snack for my daughters (ages 7 and almost 5), and they loved it.  I really think this would be a good alternative to guacamole for people who can't eat avocados.  I served it with tortilla chips, but you can dip anything you want in there, of course.

I'm happy to include this into my homemade hummus rotation!

Be sure to check out all the other great cilantro and lime recipes below and come back next month to see what I make with fish and avocado.  Oh wow!

06 May 2015

I made cookies last week!  I don't make cookies very often because I am lazy and it's so much easier to make bars.  But I love these cookies and they are so perfect for this time of year.  They have the perfect consistency, in my opinion.  They don't spread out and get all thin and crispy.  They keep their shape pretty well and come out chewy.  Just the way I like my cookies!  And they are studded with even chewier bits of real dried strawberries and creamy vanilla chips.  Awesome.  They are very slightly adapted from Cookies and Cups.

Strawberries and Cream Cookies

½ cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg + 1 yolk
2 tsp vanilla
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 ¼ cups flour
1 cup dried strawberries, chopped
¾ cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar.  Add the egg and yolk and vanilla and mix well.  In a separate bowl, combine the baking soda, baking powder, salt, and flour.  Add the flour mixture to the brown sugar mixture and stir until just combined.  Add the strawberries and white chocolate chips and stir.

Roll dough into 2 tbsp sized balls and place on a baking sheet.  (I got 12 to a sheet.)  Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until edges are just barely golden.  Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet for 4 minutes.  Remove to parchment paper and let cool completely.

Makes 2 dozen 2” cookies.

 I buy the dried strawberries at Target.  They have a nice selection of dried fruit.  Don't get the "freeze-dried" strawberries. Those are like thin and brittle.  You want the chewy ones.

 I chop them up.  You don't want too much chew in one bite.

The original recipe called for dropping them with a teaspoon, and I tried it that way the first time, but I found that rolling them into balls makes them come out a little prettier and more uniform.  Two tablespoons of dough will get you a 2-inch cookie.  They don't spread out much, so you can easily fit 12 on a cookie sheet.

The original recipe also called for more white chocolate chips, but I thought it was too much because it made the dough so dry and crumbly I could barely keep it together.  And as you can see in the top picture, some cookies were a bit overloaded with the chips.  So next time I will cut it back to 3/4 cup.

These cookies are perfect for all of those springtime get-togethers.  I made them for my daughters' school lunch and they were a big hit.

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02 May 2015

What would you say if I told you there exists a salad with three different veggies, two different fruits, and some nuts that kids will not only eat, but like?  You would think I was crazy, right?  I would have thought so too until I made this awesomeness this week.  I cooked lunch for my daughters' school on Friday and had planned to make those little ham and cheese sliders on the Kings Hawaiian rolls. But I couldn't decide what to serve with them.  I could have been boring and just done carrot sticks or something, but I wanted to be a little more creative than that.  I did some Pinterest research and found this gem from the blog on Super Healthy Kids.  Are you familiar with that site? They have all kinds of neat ideas on there.  If you cook for kids, I encourage you to check it out.

This salad was so perfect for the school lunch.  Shredded broccoli (stems), carrots, and red cabbage with chopped apples, dried cranberries, and sliced almonds for crunch.  Poppyseed dressing is a convenient and delicious way to tie it all together.  While this salad is tasty, its beauty is a real asset to it.  I love how colorful it is: pale green from the broccoli, bright orange from the carrots, bright pops of red from the cranberries and apple skins (I highly recommend using red apples for this reason), and even the tiny little dots of the black poppyseeds are nice.  

Broccoli Apple Salad

6 cups broccoli slaw
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup poppyseed dressing
6 cups apples, cored and chopped (not peeled)
½ cup sliced almonds

Put broccoli slaw in a large bowl.  Add the cranberries and poppyseed dressing and toss to combine.  Chop the apples; add each cup to the broccoli mixture as you chop it.  Tossing them with the dressing will keep the apples from browning.  After all apples have been added, toss well, then cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

When ready to serve, add the sliced almonds, and toss a final time.

Makes about 14 cups.

Can you believe how easy this is?  I had never bought the broccoli slaw before, but I had seen it and knew where to find it (in the produce section with the bagged salads).  It made this so easy and fast.  

I love how it can be prepped ahead of time.  I debated on whether or not to add the apples in the morning because I was afraid they would brown.  But I saw that the poppyseed dressing contained vinegar, so I gave it a shot.  They didn't brown one bit in the 2 or so hours until lunch, and I just checked my leftovers in the fridge and still no browning.  The salad is just as beautiful today as it was yesterday.  The reason I held off on adding the almonds is because I thought the dressing might soften them a little bit.  To make it even healthier, you can use "light" poppyseed dressing.

I will admit one thing, however: I just called this "Apple Salad" to the kids at lunch.  Since the shredded broccoli stems are so pale green, I figured the kids (at least the younger ones) wouldn't realize it was broccoli.  And if they don't know (or think) there is broccoli in it, they will be more willing to try it.  It was definitely well received. I can't say that every kid loved it, but I know lots of them ate all of what I gave them.  That's success in my book!  And the teachers and my husband loved it too.  Bonus!  

Here's a close-up.  Isn't it just gorgeous?

(The camera on my phone really rocks!)

I'm so glad I found this recipe.  This will make an awesome potluck dish.  It is gluten-free, and dairy-free, and vegan as long as the poppyseed dressing you choose is vegan.  I used Marzetti, which is not vegan because it contains egg yolk, but I saw the Ken's does not.  So perfect for all those summer get-togethers and potlucks!

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