Friday, April 23, 2010

Successful winter foods! - Part 3 (last part)

This last category is the hardest for me, anytime really but winter especially.

I struggle to find snacks that aren't pre-packaged and remain easy to eat on-to-go. Anything I make for a snack is not great in the car (crumbs!), but I don't want my kids living on pre-packaged fruit bars either. This year we rediscovered a classic New England berry - the cranberry.

Cranberry Bars
This is courtesy of All Recipes. I made only a few changes to make it more of a whole/real food.

12 oz. whole cranberries
1 c. white sugar
3/4 c. water
18.25 oz. cake mix -- I use a homemade cake mix (see later post on this)
3/4 c. butter, melted
2 eggs
1 c. rolled oats
3/4 c. packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. ginger (I omit this now because the kids don't like it)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the cranberries, white sugar and water. Cook, stirring occasionally until all of the cranberries have popped and the mixture is thick, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

In a large bowl, mix together the cake mix, melted butter and eggs. Stir in the oats, brown sugar, ginger and cinnamon. Set aside about 1 1/2 c. of the mixture, and spread the rest into the bottom of a 13x9 pan. Pack down to form a solid crust, getting it as even as possible. Spread the cooled cranberry mixture over the crust. Pinch off pieces of the remaining dry mixture and place evenly over the cranberry layer.

Bake in a 350 oven for 35-40 minutes until the top is lightly brown. Cool COMPLETELY (close to an hour - the anticipation is murder!) before slicing into bars.

Cranberry Almond Muffins
This is from a recipe pamphlet Ocean Spray makes.

2 c. flour
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. white sugar (you really can reduce sugar in this)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 1/4 c. milk
1/2 c. oil
1 egg
2 tsp. almond extract
1 c. cranberries, chopped
1/3 c. slivered almonds (or chopped)
OPTIONAL: sugar and slivered almonds for top

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin (or use baking cups).

Combine flour, sugars, baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, combine milk, oil, egg, and almond extract. Add liquid ingredients to dry ones, stirring just until dry ingredients are moist. Stir in cranberries and almonds.

Fill muffin cups 3/4 of the way full with batter. OPTIONAL: Sprinkle tops with sugar and almonds (I don't bother). Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 5 minutes in pan, remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Successful winter foods! - Part 2

As promised, here is the second set of recipes. Casserole heaven!

Winter is a season of comfort foods. Casseroles are the quintessential comfort food. However, so many casseroles are variations on the pasta them that they lack something in the protein and vegetable categories. Here are two casseroles my family (yes, even the kids!) enjoys which try to offer some protein and veggies.

Cheesy Lentil Rice Casserole
A new favorite here and oh-so-easy!

3 c. broth (I did vegetable bouillon cubes)
3/4 c. uncooked lentils (feel free to mix up the colors)
1/2 c. uncooked brown rice
3/4 c. chopped onion
1/2 tsp. basil (I used fresh to 3xs that for fresh)
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. thyme
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
3/4 c. grated cheese (I don't measure, just put enough to cover the top at the end.)

Mix all ingredients except cheese in casserole dish. Bake covered for 90 minutes at 300 degrees. Remove cover and top with cheese, then bake for up to 20 minutes more.

YUM! What's great is that you can add in veggies or anything. I've added chopped carrots and broccoli before, and yes the kids eat it!

Squash Kugel (kugel = pudding)
Another fairly easy one, though you may have to play with the bake time.

20 oz. butternut squash, peeled and cubed (defrost if frozen!)
1/2 c. creamer (I use heavy whipping cream)
1 stick butter (8 Tbsp.), softened
7/8 c. natural applesauce
2 c. flour
1 c. sugar (original recipe calls for 2 c, I reduced it)
5 eggs

Mix everything EXCEPT the cinnamon in a large bowl. Pour in a 8x8 or 9x9 pan, lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle cinnamon on top. Bake at 350 for 1 hour or until firm and springy.

Depending on your pan and oven, it may take longer to bake. The first time I made it, it took something like 90 minutes. Oh, and I learned to put a cookie sheet under it to catch any drips.

Serve warm. Cut in squares for serving.

Why I shop in SO many places

Maybe it's a New England thing, but I doubt it.

People ask me where we do our grocery shopping and often are surprised at the answer I give them. We shop in at least 3 stores each week, not including farmers' markets/CSA. Yes, three stores - Trader Joe's, Roche Brothers, BJ's Warehouse Club.

This morning I wondered why I do this as I decided to get most of our groceries from Roche Bros. because the list for Trader Joe's was so short that it didn't seem worth the drive and my kids' limited patience for shopping. I know part of the reason is that we save money this way. Some things are less expensive at Trader Joe's or BJ's than at Roche. Ignoring money for a moment though, I realized I shop at so many places because I simply cannot get the foods I want, the quality of food I want specifically, at only one outlet.

This week, ground turkey is on the shopping list so that I can make a modified shepherds' pie. When I buy meat, I look for humanely raised, appropriately fed, unmedicated meat. I also look for meat that is JUST meat - no added flavors and such. Trader Joe's carries exactly this product for ground turkey and chicken cuts (e.g., chicken breasts, legs, etc.). Roche Bros. is a slightly upscale grocery store. It's not a Whole Foods, but it isn't the average Stop N Shop/Kroger's/A&P either. I figured they certainly would have an appropriate ground turkey already packaged.


Even the ground turkey which was labeled with all the right words - no antibiotics, etc. etc. etc. - yeah, it had rosemary extract added. Why? I'm perfectly capable of adding rosemary if I desire it in a dish. And what is in rosemary extract besides rosemary? I actually found myself growling softly as I read the ingredients of the 2 or 3 ground turkey options available to me. The ingredients should read "ground turkey" or maybe something like "turkey, white and dark meat, ground" but rosemary is not a naturally occurring substance in turkey. Yes, I know it is a supremely good seasoning for poultry (in fact it is my top choice for poultry!), but I don't need someone else deciding how much or how little I should have in my ground turkey, nor do I want them deciding what kind of rosemary goes in my food. After all, this food goes in my body (and in my children's bodies!), so I want to have control over how it tastes and what it contains.