Pecan Pie Tarts

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The thing about pecan pie…20131028-214954.jpg

Everybody likes that sweetness, but you can only take so many bites of it before you overwhelm your palette. That’s why when I saw Hungry Girl‘s recipe for mini Pecan Pies, I thought “Of course!” Bite-sized is better for this dessert.

I’ve done quite a few mini pies though, and for this one I wanted to try more of a tart/ pinafore bite. So I chose a different phyllo dough, and I’m glad that I did.

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1 package phyllo dough pies (or crust if you want to shape your own)

1/3 cup pecans, chopped

2 T brown sugar

1.5 T coconut oil

1/2 packet stevia

1/2 t vanilla extract

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dash of cinnamon

Directions

-Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prep your dough as you like, i.e. if you bought the mini pie crusts, assemble those. Place in preheated oven until slightly golden brown (about 5 minutes).

-In a pan, drop in nuts and oil, making sure the nuts are coated well. Then add the remaining ingredients. Turn over until nice, sweet and crunchy sugar layer forms.20131028-214942.jpg

-Assemble the tarts by spooning your nut mixture into the centers of the tarts, filling to the top. Return to oven and bake another 5-8 minutes or until toasted and golden brown. Serve warm if you can, with whipped cream or mint garnish, if you like.

Other Fall Food Recipes from CC:
Yam’O’Lanterns

Pumpkin Chili

Mini Pumpkin Pies for One

 

Pumpkin-Parsley Pizza Pie

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When my friend Amelia mentioned her pumpkin pizza in a Facebook post, I was perplexed. 20131029-203319.jpg

Pumpkin puree for sauce? Pumpkin pulp as a topping? Can that really taste good?

Yes. I’m always surprised when sweet-savory combinations work so well. I’m not sure why I always forget this little culinary truism, but I’m always pleasantly reminded.

Pumpkin as a topping, and a sauce that’s part pumpkin, part marina is oh so sweet, and it gets an herb-y fresh kick from our good friend parsley. I mean, really good. If you live pumpkin, you really should try this pairing.

And where’d I get the “pumpkin pulp”? The jack’o’lantern I carved all by myself (first time!) this year.20131029-203437.jpg

Ingredients

Dough

1 t honey or agave nectar

1/4 of a yeast packet

1/4 + 3 T whole wheat flour

1 T rolled oats

1 t cornmeal

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Seasonings: garlic, basil, oregano

Topping

2 T slice pumpkin pulp

1 T tomato sauce

1 T pumpkin puree

3 T fresh, shredded Mozzarella

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Crushed red pepper

Directions

Dough:

-In a bowl, dissolve sweetener and yeast in 2.5 T hot water. Let stand for about five minutes.

-Add flour and salt to the yeast mixture and stir ’til a soft dough forms. Turn out on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic.

-Place in bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat the top. Let rise ’til double in size, about 30 minutes.

-Preheat oven to 400 degrees.20131029-203335.jpg

-Punch down and work in seasonings. Roll into a circle or square shape. Place on lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake for about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and begin topping process.

Topping:

-In a small dish, mix the 1 T marinara and 1 T pumpkin puree to make the suance. Rub sauce evenly over the dough in a thin layer, and then sprinkle cheese on, too. Arrange pumpkin pulp evenly on top. Sprinkle parsley on top.

-Place back in oven for about 5 more minutes or until cheese is bubbly. Slice and serve warm.

Pizza Muffins

Thai Flatbread Pizzas

Zucchini ‘zas

Yam’O’Lanterns!

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The one time I tried to carve a pumpkin by myself, I found out it was hard. Scraping and scratching out the stringy insides took forever; carefully carving the thick pumpkin walls took longer.20131019-115459.jpg

Patience: a virtue I’ve never known well and can’t summon for the art of pumpkin carving.

But I can make meals FAST! Thats what I’m good at. I’ve been eating a lot of fast meals recently, to my regret, because this first semester in my PhD program at TCU has been full of studying, events, making new friends, studying, writing everyday, all the time, and studying some more. I’ve gotten good at having some standby ingredients on hand all the time so when I am home I get a wholesome, nutritional meal with “real” ingredients, but I’ll admit that my creative cookery has fallen way by the wayside.20131019-115446.jpg

One of the ingredients I always have on hand are sweet potatoes–been eating them like a fiend! I’ve found that if you microwave the sweet potato fries for a bit, then crisp them up in the oven, things go much, much faster.

Imagine my delight when I saw Apronstring’s Yam’O’Lanterns recipe. A few more minutes added to my sweet potato prep gave me a fun food-craft to try on the fly. Here’s my make-it-fast variation of this festive fall food.

Ingredients

1-8 oz. sweet potato

cooking spray

optional: sea salt

Directions20131019-115512.jpg

-Preheat oven to 375. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Set aside.

-Using a sharp knife, slice your sweet potato into rounds as you usually might (mine were about 1/5″ thick). Then, use a sharp paring knife to carve in the faces you like. When ready, transfer to a microwave-safe plate and microwave on high for 5 minutes.

-After that, transfer to prepared sheet. Spritz on some cooking spray and sprinkle with sea salt or other seasonings you like (rosemary would be a delicious one to use for these). Toss them up a bit for good coverage and pop in the oven for about 12-15 minutes, longer if you made thicker slices. Remove when cooked all the way through and crispy around all the edges.

Chili-Lime Jicama Fries

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I will never be able to say jicama correctly on a first attempt.

English: Jicama at a market in Taxco, Mexico

English: Jicama at a market in Taxco, Mexico (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The J always gets me.

But I will always be grateful for this oddly sweet fruit and how well it pairs with spicy seasonings.

And for a foodie blogger I’ve never met, Annalisa from Annalisa’s Organic Kitchen, for sharing this recipe idea. I’ve tweaked things a bit, per usual, but it’s very similar and very easy to make.

So my Southwestern recipe kick continues, and I find another delicious recipe I probably wouldn’t have tried in the Midwest. The times are changing, but I’m not complaining…

Ingredients

1/2 medium jicama
1/4 small lime
1 t coconut oil
a few dashes of chili powder
dash of dried cilantro, cayenne pepper, and onion salt

Directions

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Set aside.

-Peel jicama and cut into sticks that are similar in shape to a French fry.
-Mix the jicama sticks up on the greased cookie sheet. Squeeze the lime over the top, and toss, and squeeze again.
-Sprinkle the  coconut oil over the fries, and then the remaining seasonings until fries are well coated.

-Bake for about 30 minutes, flipping every 10 minutes or so. For an extra crisp fry at the end, turn on the broilers for about a minute–but don’t do this if your cookie sheet is not “broiler safe” or won’t be able to stand the heat.

-Remove from the oven and ready yourself to enjoy one heaping serving of jicama, crispy, spicy, and sweet.

Southern Style Pinto Beans

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I’m a little closer to the equator now and although I would’ve never expected it, I’ve been eating beans of every Tex-Mex variety like they’re going out of style.IMG_1224

So while peeking in my pantry for ideas the other day, I spied a bag of dried pinto beans I bought last fall in Iowa in an effort to reduce my sodium intake (sans canning preservatives). I tried the “slow-soak” method of softening the beans and it took too long and didn’t turn out that great. But I’m somewhere new now, so I figured why not give it another shot.

Slow soak did not work, again. I even soaked three times the recommended time. No softening to be had. I strained them, popped them in the fridge for a few days, and returned feeling challenged but determined.

Not another slow soak for me. This time I boiled them for just 8 minutes and the results were much better, allowing me to try my hand at Southern Style Pinto Beans, which are a lot like refried beans, but of course I’m not going to add any hydrogenated oils.IMG_1198

And really, all the recipes I drew preparation ideas from were pretty easy and healthy already. So here’s my version, done in a slow cooker. It’s not single-serving style, but cut anything by 1/4 and you’ll have it anyway or email me and I’ll help.

Ingredients

1 pound pinto beans, softened

1/5 cup diced onion

1/2 T cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, and a dash of cayenneIMG_1196

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth (or more water)

Directions

-Place onions and beans in a slow cooker on low. Stir in spices and liquids.

-Cook for about 4 hours, stirring every half hour or so. And pay attention to liquid levels, so if the bean mix appears to be drying out add another 1/4 cup of water or more if necessary.

-Place in food processor. Blend until smoother but still lumpy. Return to slow cooker if your meal isn’t prepared yet and keep on warm or serve. (But serve warm because this is the one time when cool beans aren’t so cool…)IMG_1223

A Healthier Mac-And-Cheese in Your Microwave

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Disclaimer: This recipe is not perfect. The cheesy cauliflower packages bought in stores were a quick fix and per the suggestion of Hungry Girl, but gosh are they good, and they make for a reasonably healthy splurge.image

I give that disclaimer because the cauliflower-and-cheese steamers do have more preservatives in them than I typically like, but this recipe is such a good comfort food option, especially for those wanting something comparable to regular macaroni and cheese.

My slightly altered version uses whole-grain noodles, a dash of mustard, and some Parmesan. You can omit, but I promise you if you try it, you won’t want to.

So if you’re jonesing for mac-and-cheese or if you’re interested in increasing the veggies in your diet, you’ll like this. I promise.

AND you can make it in your microwave, and fast! check it out.image

Ingredients

1 single-serving package of Green Giant‘s cheesy cauliflower steamers

1/4 cup whole-wheat elbow macaroni

2/3 cup water

1/4 t Dijon mustard

1 t Parmesan

sprinkle of pepper

Directionsimage

-Just like in my Mug’O’Mac recipe, use a large mug or other microwave-safe bowl, and add in pasta and water. Microwave the pasta on high for about 2 minutes; then stir and microwave for 2 more minutes. Note: The water may overflow in the microwave, so to prevent this, add a little less. Or if you lose too much, add a T or so more. At the same time, you can microwave the cheesy cauliflower serving as directed.

-If the shells still aren’t soft, repeat microwaving and stirring until they are. Mine were ready after only 4 minutes. Drain any excess water very well.

-Mix the dry noodles and the cheesy cauliflower together along with the mustard. You can omit mustard if you like, but I think it gives a really nice flavor. Blend well. Sprinkle Parmesan and pepper on top.image

-Place back in microwave and cook for 1 more minute. Alternatively, I gave mine a nice crispy coating on top by broiling for about 2 minutes. Either way will be delicious if served warm and when in need of carby comfort.

Appetizer Idea: Healthier Mozzarella Sticks

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Guess who was still trying to eat her way through 20+ egg roll wrappers after a month or more of coming up with egg roll wrapper ideas?CC Pics 016

This girl.

When my own creative mind fails, Pinterest does not. I took to the pin boards and happened across lots of recipes using cheese sticks to make baked mozzarella bites with an egg roll wrapper coating. I’ve already tried the breaded bites, so I thought why not the wrapped ones. Let’s see which is better.

Well to no surprise, they were both equally good. I think my baked mozz bites made with whole-wheat breading looked a lot prettier, but these had a nice crunch.

And these egg-rolled-wrapper ones are super quick, easy, and mess free. If you’ve got some wrappers to use or company coming over and not a lot of time on your hands, I’d go for these. CC Pics 032

1 serving (Double or triple for more company)

Ingredients

2 organic or soy mozzarella cheese sticks

2 egg roll wrappers

optional: Marinara sauce for dipping

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Set aside.

Cut the cheese sticks into three equal parts. Lay on one edge of the egg roll wrapper, and then slice the wrapper into three’s, too, to fit with each of the mini sticks.CC Pics 030

Roll up! I rolled mine sort of at an angle and then tucked in the sides at the end. Use a drop of water or less to seal the egg roll wrappers in place.

Bake for 6-8 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. The cheese may begin to bubble out of the sides, and if so, that’s just a sign that you did something right. They’re ready to go!

Hatch Chiles & Cheese Over Easy

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Since arriving in Fort Worth at the start of this month, I’ve been less consumed with being the new girl in town and more into all the new things this town can offer. My foodie favorite is Hatch Chiles from an awesome new grocer called Central MarketScreen Shot 2013-08-15 at 2.20.42 PM

The Hatch Chile Festival was not the traditional festival I thought it to be–more of an in-store roasting and celebration than an off-site extravaganza. Nevertheless, my spicy side had to try, so I picked up some of those big green chiles, the “Hot” ones, one night before a Rangers game.

Were they as “Hot” as advertised? I didn’t really think so. But these once-a-year peppers from New Mexico are fresh and tasty. I thought they’d be the perfect compliment to eggs. Some simple cheese and red pepper spice later, I had an excellent Southwestern breakfast. It’s not novel, but it is good. Lots of egg-white protein and some capsaicin make for a delightfully healthy mix.Screen Shot 2013-08-15 at 2.20.16 PM

Ingredients

1/2 small Hatch chile, sliced into rings

4 egg whites or 1 egg + 3 egg whites

1 oz. fresh cheese, crumbled or sliced

1 T fresh salsa

optional: Red pepper flakes

Directions

-Lightly grease a skillet. Add in eggs one at a time after the skillet has reached medium-medium heat. Cook until almost all of the egg white has hardened, and then using a wide spatula, flip carefully.Screen Shot 2013-08-15 at 2.21.04 PM

-While eggs are cooking, prepare other ingredients as necessary. When egg is cooked through, plate it. Top with cheese first, then chiles, then salsa and spice. The egg should be hot enough for the cheese to melt down a bit on it’s own, but if not you can microwave on high for about 30 seconds.

Cilantro Sweet Corn Side Dish

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One of my favorite nutritionist bloggers, Snack Girl, was bragging one July morning on her Easiest Corn Salad. It did look easy and tasty. Of course I had to try it.CC Pics 029

But with my own twist of course. Snack Girl’s was more of a salad, whereas mine is more correctly identified as a corn side with a little cilantro sass.

I’ve changed some of the ingredients to make a side that has a hint of sweet alongside herby cilantro and zesty lime. I quite like the outcome.

Per usual, this recipe makes on serving, but you can make more. See Snack Girl’s post for resizing or comment below if you need help adjusting.

Ingredients

1/2 cup fresh sweet corn kernels

twist of lime

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1 T diced tomato-onion mix

dash of freshly chopped cilantro

dash of paprika

Directions

Simply combine the corn and veggies. Squeeze lime over the top. Sprinkle on the stevia and add in the cilantro.

Toss. Toss. Toss.

Top with paprika and more cilantro, if desired. Enjoy!

Satisfying Salads: Zesty Southwestern Black Bean

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Salads are not for rabbits or desperate dieters. If done right, they are a healthy, filling, nutritionally-generous meal (or side) you won’t regret.

To date, I’ve features these protein- and fiber-packed recipes:

The Sesame Steak Salad

The Garden of Eden Salad

If Asian-inspired beef and veggies isn’t for you and neither is fruit-cheese-and-nut combos–or perhaps you prefer a meat-free option (?)–then try a little Zesty Southwestern Black Bean Salad.image

This is the salad I make when I’m at home and can’t pull myself away from work for long. It’s sort of the kitchen-sink recipe I go to when time is limited. Why?

Because I always have these ingredients in my fridge and pantry, can dump them on top of a bed of lettuce at the drop of the hat, and the protein and fiber in the beans and veggies assures me I won’t be aching for a more filling meal as I work through the rest of my afternoon. The zesty dressing gives it a little bite that keeps my tastebuds happy, too.

Try it!

Ingredients

2 cups Romaine lettuce

1/4 cup black beansimage

dash of cumin

dash of chili powder

dash of red pepper flakes

1 small Roma tomato and a few slices of onion sauteed

-or-

1/4 cup canned tomatoes and green chiles

1 oz. Newman’s Own Southwestern Ranch (or something comparable)

Directions

Toss all ingredients until dressing coats the salad leaves. Or if you’re like me and prefer layers in your salad instead of a mix, start with salad base, and then top with beans, sprinkle seasonings on top, veggies, and finally drizzle dressing on top.