Green Beans with Apple Cider

Published February 29, 2016 by jenmatteson

If you don’t have apple cider in your fridge this time of year, you are adulting incorrectly. I suppose it’s past prime apple season, but it’s still a perfect winter warmer. Not only is it delicious on it’s own (or with a smidge of brandy), but it’s great for cooking, too!

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We eat a lot of vegetables in our house, but I feel like I’m always doing the same thing with them. Sauté in olive oil, salt and pepper, serve. Repeat. If you want to add a little excitement to your hum-drum vegetables, add cider! This is a quick, simple twist on green beans, which add just a little bit of sweetness. If you don’t have cider, don’t be afraid to use white wine. I did the last time I made these, and they were fantastic!

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Green Beans with Apple Cider

Source: Adapted from Food Network
Servings: 8

Ingredients:

32 oz green beans
olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup apple cider
salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Bring a medium saucepan filled with water to a boil. Add green beans and boil for 4-6 minutes, or until tender, but with a bite. Remove from heat and drain beans. Set aside.

2. Heat a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil and the onions and cook until beginning to caramelize, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the cider, raise the heat to medium-high and cook until liquid is reduced and syrupy, about 5 minutes.

3. Add beans to the pan with onions and cider. Toss to coat, salt and pepper to taste.

Rainbow Spring Rolls

Published February 22, 2016 by jenmatteson

Last weekend I hosted a ladies wine tasting party. We do this every year when the men go ice fishing. It’s a fantastic reason for us to get together, drink wine, and let loose. Very loose.

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The theme of the tasting was Sonoma County wines under $20. For food, we decided to go with spa cuisine type appetizers. What exactly is “spa cuisine” many asked? Well, I can’t be positive as there was a lot of different explanations on the ol’ Google. But here is what I took away from it. Fresh, whole, minimal preservatives, and simple ingredients.

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I made these neat wine glasses as favors for the ladies, which then inspired my table setting and food choices. Everyone got a different color, so I paired it with matching placemats and plates, birthing a rainbow color scheme. Now enter Rainbow Spring Rolls.

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I wasn’t even looking for “rainbow” themed foods, but I did run across these, and thought they’d be perfect. I’ve never made spring rolls, and was a little hesitant, but they really couldn’t have been easier. The hardest part was trying to not get the wrapper stuck to itself after soaking in warm water. I hesitated a bit with the herb mixture of cilantro and mint, and a healthy handful of each, but they paired perfectly together, and to finish off with the peanut sauce – wow. They were delicious! The peanut sauce alone would be an awesome salad dressing, which is what I plan to do with my leftovers. The original recipe called for mango, which I do think would have been a fun sweet addition, but it also mentioned that the acidity in the mango ate through the wrapper if they were made ahead, so I opted out. Didn’t even miss the mango! There were a hit and I plan to make them again!

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Rainbow Spring Rolls

Source: Adapted from Minimalist Baker
Servings: 10-12

Ingredients:

10-12 rice spring roll wrappers
2 beets, peeled and julienned
1/2 – 1 yellow bell pepper, julienned
1/2 – 1 red bell pepper, julienned
2-3 medium carrots, julienned
1 large bunch mint
1 large bunch cilantro

Ginger Peanut Sauce
1/2 cup salted natural peanut butter (almond butter would be great, too)
1 1/2 tbsp. soy sauce
2-3 tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 lime, juiced
1/2 tsp Sriracha or other chili sauce
1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
hot water

Directions:

  1. Fill a skillet (large enough to fit the spring roll wrapper) almost to the top with water, and bring to a boil. Set aside for a few minutes until cool enough to touch.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the peanut sauce by combining all ingredients except water. Whisk until well combined. Add hot water 1 tbsp. at a time until sauce reaches desired consistency. Set aside.
  3. Once the water is no longer hot but very warm, submerge one rice paper for about 10 seconds. You’ll know when it’s ready once very pliable, but if you let it for too long or the water is too warm, the paper becomes too fragile to work with.
  4. Once soft, transfer to a damp surface (I used a wet wooden cutting board which worked great!) and smooth out into a circle.
  5. Add carrots, peppers, beets and a healthy handful of each mint and cilantro. Fold the bottom over the fillings, then turn in each side. Finally, roll completely to seal. Place on serving plate and top with a damp towel until ready to serve. Repeat process with remaining ingredients.

For real, I’m back. With Chunky Tomato Basil Soup.

Published February 15, 2016 by jenmatteson

Can you believe it – it’s me! I’m back(ish). I’ve had far too many requests for me to return to my blog, so that is precisely what I’m going to do (trying…). It’s easy to become distracted and/or complacent, which is exactly what I’ve been up to the last year. I have had a wonderful year of memories with my family, closest friends and new friends! In case you’re curious, here’s a quick hit list of the year’s events in hindsight:

  • Ladies winter wine party 2015
  • A trip to Sonoma County, CA with some of our best friends
  • Lake time at cabins which are not ours:)
  • Ladies summer wine party
  • My first trip to Moondance Jam with a mini-flood and tons of rockin’ music
  • State softball tournament with our first place team
  • Annual canoe trip down the Namekogen River in WI
  • Annual end of the summer party
  • Las Vegas for bachelor/bachelorette party
  • Wedding in beautiful Saint Paul for aforementioned bachelor and bachelorette
  • Apres Ski themed Friendsgiving
  • Hunger Games marathon party
  • New Years Eve bash
  • Snow tube soiree
  • Scuba diving trip to Bonaire
  • and finally, a yet another ladies winter wine tasting party

Wow, quite a year! And these are only highlights. Oddly many ending in “party”.

It’s now the deepest part of winter, and the current temperature as I write this is 5 degrees. I don’t even want to mention the wind chill over the last few days. My tan from Bonaire is fading fast, and I have been craving something to warm me to the core. Soup seemed to be the answer here…

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Tomato soup. Chunky tomato soup. Chunky tomato basil soup. What could be better. I choose a recipe with canned tomatoes for two reasons. 1. Its the middle of winter, so I don’t have an overwhelming amount of tomatoes flourishing in my garden (try none). 2. I find that fresh tomatoes tend to be a bit more watery than their canned counterpart. I used whole peeled tomatoes so I could control chunkiness, but you could use diced if you prefer. It would be far less messy!

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I loved this soup because it tastes creamy and rich, but there is no cream. There is a touch of butter, which surprisingly adds a luxurious texture. The basil gives a nice fresh balance to the acidity of the tomatoes. Overall a perfect soup to cure your winter blues!

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Chunky Tomato Basil Soup

Source: Adapted from The Roasted Root
Servings: 10-12

Ingredients:

olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
3 oz fresh basil leaves, chopped
3 28 oz  cans whole peeled tomatoes with juices
2 cups vegetable stock (I used chicken broth as that’s what I had on hand)
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tsp baking soda
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. In a large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until soft and slightly browned, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add garlic and cook another 3 minutes.
  3. Open canned tomatoes and dice, reserving juices. Add tomatoes and juices, stock, basil and butter to the onions. Stir until butter is melted and incorporated.
  4. Add baking soda (*Note: this will cause the soup to bubble up, but bubbles subside after stirring for a minute).
  5. Bring soup to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

Peanut Butter Banana Muffins

Published March 14, 2015 by jenmatteson

Bananas and peanut butter. What a classic combination!

Peanut Butter Banana Muffins Yet again, I was stuck with two lonely, overripe bananas that my husband wanted nothing to do with. I forewent the regular banana bread, and thought I’d try some muffins. Not just banana muffins, but banana and peanut butter muffins. Yum! These muffins have less sugar and fat than your typical waistline-enemy, using honey and non-fat Greek yogurt. You also get a great serving of whole grains if you substitute whole grain flour for all-purpose. Sadly, the whole grain flour makes them look a little blah, but trust me, they don’t taste like it.
Peanut Butter Banana Muffins

These are pretty simple to make, and for me, I had everything required in my kitchen already. I LOVE when that happens. If you want an extra treat, melt some peanut butter to go on top of these suckers. I didn’t try it, but I’m guessing you won’t regret it!

Peanut Butter Banana Muffins

Source: Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction
Servings: Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients:

2 large bananas, ripe to over ripe, mashed with no chunks
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup non-fat plain Green yogurt
1 large egg
1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2  cup creamy peanut butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour (all-purpose would work)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray 12-count muffin pan with non-stick spray. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk mashed bananas, honey, brown sugar, yogurt, egg and milk together until combined. Whisk in peanut butter and vanilla until smooth. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, whisk flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients, and whisk until just combined.

4. Fill muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake for 5 minutes at 425 degrees, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and continue to bake for 12 minutes more, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

White Bean and Roasted Mushroom Soup

Published January 31, 2015 by jenmatteson

I remember Campbell’s Bean with Bacon soup making several appearances at my childhood table. I didn’t like it for the longest time. In fact, I didn’t like beans period. Especially baked beans. Clearly, I was a troubled child. I finally overcame my distain for these particular legumes, and embarrassingly enjoyed this sodium packed soup with my family often.

Before roasting mushrooms and onions

Flash forward a particular number of years, and here we are. I saw this recipe in my latest wine shipment insert from Viansa, and thought it was the perfect time of year to make soup. It didn’t once cross my mind that this soup would bring me back to my childhood frienemy, Campbell’s. But oddly enough, it did. Much better, and far more classy, however!😉

White Bean and Roasted Mushroom Soup

The soup didn’t turn out quite a thick as the photo in the insert appeared, but that could easily be fixed by pureeing more beans. I didn’t, and I still loved it. While the soup reminded me of bean with bacon soup, the smell made me think of a mushroom pizza. Probably because of the roasted mushrooms, thyme and sage (great observation, Captain Obvious!). The roasted mushrooms alone were amazing, I could have probably just eaten the entire pan full, but because I didn’t have any more, I restrained myself and put them in the soup.

White Bean and Roasted Mushroom Soup

Adding the crispy pancetta is an absolute necessity. If you don’t have it, or don’t want to spend the dough for it, bacon would be a fine substitute. The crunchiness of the pancetta give the soup a balanced texture, while the salt really deepens the flavors. Serve with a  salad or a nice hunk of bread (rosemary focaccia pictured above) and you have a wonderful, light but filling winter meal.

White Bean and Roasted Mushroom Soup

Source: Adapted from Viansa
Servings: About 8

Ingredients:

1-2 tbsp. olive oil
6 oz. pancetta
16 oz. mushrooms, halved or quartered (so they are similar in size)
2 large sweet onions, quartered
3 garlic cloves, slightly crushed
1 1/2 tsp salt, divided
1 1/2 tsp pepper, divided
8-10 fresh sage leaves
8-10 stems + 1 tbsp. fresh thyme, divided
48 oz. chicken broth
3-15 oz cans white beans, drained

Directions:

1. Drizzle olive oil in small saucepan over medium heat. Add pancetta and cook until crispy and golden, about 8-10 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and place on a paper towel-lined plate.

2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss mushrooms, onions and garlic with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread on prepared baking sheet. Add sage leaves and stems of thyme. Roast for 10 minutes, toss, and roast for additional 15 minutes.

3. While vegetables are roasting, add broth, beans, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper and 1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves to a large stock pot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. When vegetables are done roasting, separate mushrooms from onions and garlic. Retrieve 2 cups of the white beans and 1 cup of the broth from the stock pot. Add to food processor or blender along with roasted onions and garlic. Blend until smooth.

4. Add pureed bean mixture back to stock pot, bring to a boil and whisk until smooth. Reduce heat to simmer. Add roasted mushrooms to soup. Salt and pepper to taste and top with pancetta.

Chocolate Brownies with Salted Caramel Buttercream

Published January 24, 2015 by jenmatteson

Chocolate. Caramel. Need I say more.

Chocolate Brownies with Salted Caramel Buttercream

There are so many wonderful dessert combinations, but personally, I believe that chocolate and caramel take the cake (get it, cake!?). Salted caramel can be very difficult to master. Which is why I bought salted caramel topping instead of making my own. Yes, you read that correctly – I used store bought and did not make it from scratch. Oops.

Chocolate Brownies with Salted Caramel Buttercream

I cut these out in squares and used a piping bag to frost because they look pretty, but you can certainly keep them in the pan and spread the frosting on with a spatula. Or a dump truck. That’s what you’ll want to use anyway, because this frosting is GOO-OOD! Seriously, I would have piped this directly into my mouth had I not been making these for Thanksgiving (which means other people besides the hubs and myself).

Chocolate Brownies with Salted Caramel Buttercream

The brownies themselves are no joke either. The dark chocolate is rich, fudgy and velvety, and also keeps them from being too sweet. Paired with the caramel buttercream, it’s the perfect salty and sweet treat!

Chocolate Brownies with Salted Buttercream

Source: Adapted from Lund’s/Byerly’s
Servings: Makes 24

Ingredients:

Brownies:
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cubed
6 1/2 ounces dark chocolate, broken into pieces
3 large eggs
1 1/3 cups sugar
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Frosting:
1 1/2 sticks salted butter, softened
1 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
3 tbps salted caramel topping (usually found with ice cream toppings)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a shallow 8-inch baking pan with parchment paper (Note: only do this if you plan to take them out of the pan to serve as I did. If you want to frost and cut right in the pan, just spray with a little cooking spray.) Set aside.

2. Melt butter and chocolate pieces in a double boiler (or over a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water) until both have melted, stirring occasionally until mixed and smooth. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat eggs and sugar together on high speed for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is thick and creamy and has doubled in volume. Pour the cooled chocolate mixture over the egg and sugar mixture, and gently fold together with a spatula. Sift in flour and cocoa powder and gently combine until the mixture has a sticky fudgelike consistency. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and spread into the corners with a spatula. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the top is shiny and the sides are just beginning to come away from the pan. Let the brownies cool completely.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar together in a bowl for at least 5 minutes, then gradually add the salted caramel topping and vanilla extract while continuing to mix. Cut and frost brownies as desired once completely cooled.

A twist on an old favorite: Swirl Banana Bread

Published November 12, 2014 by jenmatteson

My hubs loves bananas, and he’ll buy them any time he goes shopping on his own (so almost never). The problem is, he won’t eat them all before they start becoming a bit…questionable. Of course, my initial go-to is banana bread, but I thought this time I’d change it up slightly. After taking a look at the ingredients in this bread, I’m not sure you could call it bread, it is basically a cake. Oh well – it’s delicious!

Banana Swirl Bread

I ended up using a combination of unsweetened, bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolate. I thought I had more bittersweet in the cupboard, but I guess it’s now on my shopping list. But the unsweetened and semi-sweet chocolate seemed to balance each other out nicely. The bread wasn’t too sweet, which I liked. I also subbed skim milk for whole. I’m not a huge fan of spending $4 on a half-gallon of milk that I’ll only use 1 cup of, so I thought I’d give it a whirl. If you choose to use whole milk, I’m guessing the texture may be slightly more rich, but I’m not sure it’s really needed. While measuring the milk, I was slightly distracted and poured an entire cup. I ended up adding about 3/4 cup, instead of just a 1/2 cup, so the batter was runnier than it probably should have been. This is what I blame my poor “swirl” on:)

Banana Swirl Bread

This is an excellent way to use up some old bananas, and also spice up your same old boring banana bread!

Banana Swirl Bread

Banana Swirl Bread

Source: Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker
Servings: 1 loaf

Ingredients:

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1½ ripe bananas, peeled
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
zest of ½ a lemon
1 tablespoon dark rum
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup skim milk

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter or non-stick spray loaf pan, dust the inside with flour and tap out the excess. Place the pan on an insulated baking sheet or on two regular baking sheets stacked on top of the other.

2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.

3. In a small bowl, mash the bananas with the lemon juice, zest, and rum.

4. Melt the chocolate and 2 tablespoons of the butter together in a microwave oven or in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering water.

5. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the remaining stick of butter at medium speed until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugars and beat for another 2 to 3 minutes, until light and smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in the vanilla. The batter will look curdled, and it will continue to look curdled as you add ingredients. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add half the flour mixture, mixing only until it is just incorporated. With the mixer running, pour in the milk; once blended, add the remaining dry ingredients. Scrape down the bowl and mix in the mashed bananas.

6. Pour a little less than half the batter into the bowl with the melted chocolate and stir to blend. Drop alternating spoonfuls of both batters into the prepared pan. Using a table knife, swirl the batters together, taking care not to overdo it.

7. Bake for 1 hour and 20 to 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted deep into the center of the cake comes out clean. Check after 30 minutes and if the cake starts to brown too much, cover it loosely with a foil tent. Transfer the cake to a cooling rack and let it rest for about 15 minutes before unmolding, then cool the cake to room temperature right side up on the rack.

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