Monthly Archives: November 2013

Orange Cranberry Bread

Orange Cranberry Bread ABalancedLifeCooks.com

Excuse me while I have a little love affair with carbs lately. I just can’t get enough. All I want to do is hang out in the kitchen and bake yummy confections all day. Good thing the season is upon us where that’s a totally normal and acceptable thing to do. And thank goodness for a husband who brings most of it to work so I don’t eat it all on my own.

This little number is pretty spectacular if I do say so myself. It’s a winterized version of my favorite lemon blueberry bread that I made all summer long. Except in place of lemon zest we’ve got orange zest and instead of summery blueberries there are tart and juicy cranberries. I’m always at a loss when it comes to updating my wardrobe for the seasons, but food? Food I can do.

Orange Cranberry Bread. ABalancedLifeCooks.com

As I bit into the first piece of this fluffy bread all I could think is how perfect it would be for Thanksgiving morning or Christmas morning when you’re still in your jammies. Although it tasted pretty darn great at 8pm on a Monday evening, too. Something this good can do no wrong.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends! I’m so thankful for you. Thank you for visiting this little ol’ blog post after post and thanks to the new readers who’ve started following along this year. Cooking and sharing my recipes with you is one of my favorite things in the whole world and I’m so grateful you’re along on this journey with me. There’s so much more goodness to come.

Cranberry Orange Bread. ABalancedLifeCooks.com

Orange Cranberry Bread

Makes 1 loaf

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour*
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 (8 oz) bag fresh cranberries
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1/2 cup plain lowfat yogurt

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside.

In a bowl, add flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to combine. Add cranberries and orange zest. Zest the orange directly over the bowl, if possible, to get the oils from the skin too.

With an electric mixer (stand mixer or handheld), cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each one. Add the yogurt. Add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined.

Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Bake 55-65 minutes until a tester comes out clean. Let loaf cool slightly in the pan before inverting onto a cooling rack.

Adapted from PBS Food

*Note: In previous trials of this recipe I substituted 1 cup whole wheat flour for one of the cups of flour and it made the bread too dense and dry. It’s much better to stick with 2 cups all-purpose flour.

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bundt CakeHoly moly, can you believe it’s Thanksgiving week? I’m not sure it’ll actually hit me until I’m sitting down to a plate filled with turkey and as many sides as I can manage to drench in gravy. This year, Robert and I are doing something a little different. We’re staying right here in our home in Chicago. As much as we’d love to be with our families in Kansas City (his) or Vermont (mine), we’re looking forward to four straight days of cozy and calm. We’re going to cook our very own feast (my first time cooking Thanksgiving and a whole turkey) and our friend Jenni will join us for Turkey Day.

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

As we head into this holiday season, there’s something I should confess. Pie is great and all, but dessert isn’t truly dessert to me unless chocolate is involved. (I am my mother’s daughter through and through). If you’re sending out a virtual amen on the dessert-must-contain-chocolate point then this is a fantastic cake even the most die-hard pie fanatics will adore. It’s rich without being too decadent. It’s a perfect way to wrap up a perfectly satisfying meal as you head dreamily into your food-induced coma. Sweet dreams, indeed. Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bundt CakeChocolate Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

Makes 1 Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 4 oz sour cream (1/2 cup)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting

Preparation

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease or butter a bundt pan and set aside

In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to combine

In a small bowl, mix together milk and sour cream.

In a mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla. With the mixer speed on low, alternate between adding the flour mixture and milk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour. Fold in chocolate chips.

Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake 50-60 minutes, until tester comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack and invert cake. Once cake has cooled, dust with powdered sugar.

Recipe slightly adapted from Martha Stewart Living

White Chicken Chili

White Chicken Chili. ABalancedLifecooks.comThis chili makes me so stinkin’ happy I can hardly stand it. It is soooooooo good. If I made it once a week every week for the rest of the winter I’d be one seriously happy camper. All of the credit goes to my sister, Leah, who’s tweaked this recipe over time to get it just right. The recipe, however, only lived in her brain…until now!

All day Tuesday while I’m sure she was doing more important lawyering things, I sent her a flood of emails to get the deets: ingredients, quantities, instructions. The good stuff.

Be sure to give yourself some time while cooking it. Maybe save it for a Sunday afternoon when there’s a holiday movie on TV. It takes a little while to brown the chicken and cook down the liquid so it slightly thickens, but it’s worth every single second–and then some. The longer your chili cooks the better it tastes.

In addition to your usual suspects like tender chunks of chicken, white beans, corn, and heaps of spices I love that she sneaks swiss chard in here, too. I mean…what? Yeah, not the first chili ingredient you’d imagine. But trust me, you’ll love it. Or at least you’ll barely notice it.

Serve your chili with some chopped avocado and cilantro and a delicious pile of buttery cornbread. Not only is it hearty and healthy, we loved eating leftovers for as long as they lasted.

White Chicken Chili. ABalancedLifeCooks.com

White Chicken Chili

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken breasts, bone-in and skin on
  • Salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 leek, white and light green parts, chopped (optional)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeds removed, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 3 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp fennel seeds (optional)
  • 1 cup white wine or beer (enough to deglaze the pan – you may need more or less)
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 (15 oz) cans white beans, drain and rinse all but one*
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed, chiffonade leaves
  • 2 cups frozen corn
  • 1/2 tsp crushed chili pepper

Preparation

Season chicken breast with salt and pepper. Heat about 1 Tbsp olive oil in a big stock pot. In two separate batches, brown chicken breast two at a time, about 5-8 minutes per side. Chicken doesn’t have to fully cook through. Remove to a plate and set aside.

To the pot, add onion and leek. Saute until onion softens, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and jalapeño, sauté about 30 seconds until fragrant. Add cumin, oregano, chili powder, and fennel seeds if using. Coat vegetables in spices and toast in pan, about 1-2 minutes, until slightly browned and fragrant.

Pour wine or beer into pot and use a wooden spoon to deglaze bottom of the pan. Add chicken broth, white beans, and all four whole chicken breasts to the pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer about 60 minutes.

Transfer chicken from the pot to a cutting board. Remove skin, pull chicken off the bone, and chop into bite-sized pieces. Discard the skin and bones, place chopped chicken meat back into the pot. Add the swiss chard, corn, and crushed chili pepper. Cook about 10 minutes more until corn is heated through.

To serve, ladle chili into bowls. Top with any toppings of your choice such as avocado, cilantro, or cheese.

*In order to avoid BPA, I limit cooking with canned foods as much as possible. I almost always use organic beans from Whole Foods that come in a cardboard box/TetraPak. Since I know they’re not as widely available I use the word “cans” in the ingredients to avoid confusion.

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup. ABalancedLifeCooks.comTortilla soup is one of those foods I’m absolutely crazy about. My love for tortilla soup was ignited on our trip to Cabo earlier this year. I ate it every single day. Although the resort had some fabulous restaurants, I was perfectly happy with a giant bowl of tortilla soup for dinner each night topped with plenty of crunchy tortilla chips and avocado chunks. I also recently remembered that I ate tortilla soup the day we got engaged so of course this love affair was meant to be.

As much as I adore tortilla soup, I’m really picky about it, too. It can’t be too creamy. It can’t be too broth-y either. It has to have just the right balance of tomato-y broth with a slow-burn heat plus delicious ingredients like black beans and hominy. Speaking of which, have you tried hominy before? It’s soooo good. Hominy are dried and soaked corn kernels (you buy them already like that, usually in a can, and drain and rinse them like you would beans). It lends a perfect chewy texture and very subtle flavor. You can find it in the Spanish/Latin foods section at your supermarket. I’m happy to say this is the closest I’ve come to a tortilla soup that tastes like the endless bowls I had in Cabo. I hope you love it, too. And, as promised, this is another meat-free recipe to help keep things balanced around here.

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup. ABalancedLifeCooks.com

Have a great week!

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 8 (6-inch) corn tortillas
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • 1 poblano pepper
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 32 oz low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 14 oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • 14 oz can hominy, drained and rinsed
  • 14 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 avocado
  • Cilantro

Preparation

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Stack tortillas and slice into thin strips. Pour a thin layer of olive oil on a baking sheet. Add tortilla strips, toss with olive oil, and arrange in a single layer. Bake 8-10 minutes until crispy like tortilla chips. Season with salt while still hot.

At the same time, place whole poblano pepper on top rack of oven. Cook about 5 minutes until warmed through. Once cool enough to handle, remove seeds and ribs and chop.

In a soup pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, jalapeno, and poblano. Saute until onion softens, about 10 minutes. Add cumin and cook about 30 seconds. Pour in vegetable stock, tomatoes, hominy, and beans. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes until slightly thickened.

To serve: Spread a layer of cooked tortilla strips on bottom of bowl. Add soup. Let sit 1-2 minutes until chips soften. Top with more tortilla strips, avocado chunks, and chopped cilantro.

Dark Chocolate Toffee Almonds

DSCN2891It’s Friday! We made it! I live for Fridays. Somehow, the time seems to stretch on a Friday afternoon and it feels like you can pack two days into one. Whenever possible, I try to wrap up my workday slightly earlier and run errands or take care of things around the house. Today I have a dentist appointment and I don’t even care because it’s Friday. Then we still have the whole evening ahead of us to do whatever we like. The. Best.

You know what else is the best? These dark chocolate toffee almonds. I recently received a lovely package filled with Blue Diamond Growers goodies. A.K.A. almonds galore. Among the raw, roasted, salted, wasabi & soy sauce, and even blueberry flavored almonds (SO GOOD) was a package of butter toffee almonds. So of course I had to sass them up even more ASAP.

All you have to do is melt some dark chocolate, immerse the almonds in a warm chocolatey bath, and then roll them around in some powdered sugar. Wait for them to cool and enjoy every moment of the sweet salty buttery crunch.

Of course since we’re combining almonds (hello, fiber and vitamin E) and dark chocolate (flavonoids!) this is practically a health food. Obviously. As a matter of fact, I think I’ll bring some to my dentist this afternoon. I’m sure he’ll totally get on board with that.

Dark chocolate toffee almonds. ABalancedLifeCooks.com

Dark Chocolate Toffee Almonds

Ingredients

Preparation

Dump the chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl. Microwave in 1 minute increments, stirring after each one, until melted. (About 2 to 2.5 minutes). In a separate bowl, add half the almonds. Pour enough chocolate on top to coat and use a spoon or spatula to coat all of the almonds completely. Pour in enough powdered sugar to coat, and mix until they’re covered. Using you hands, place each almond on a parchment-lined baking sheet. (It gets pretty messy.) Repeat with the remaining chocolate, almonds, and sugar. Place baking sheet in refrigerator or freezer for about 30 minutes until chocolate hardens.

 

Slow Cooker 11 Bean Soup

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Brrrrrrrr! It’s downright wintery around these parts and I, for one, couldn’t be happier. Monday it SNOWED big fat fluffy flakes. I love the cold! I love the snow, skiing, sweaters, cozy blankets, comforting foods, fires, hot mugs of tea, baking cookies…I could go on. I’m sure I’ll be singing a different tune when this weather lingers well into March and April– sometimes even May, ugh–but for now, I’m one happy camper.

Whether you’re as psyched about the frigid temps as I am or wish you were tanning on a caribbean beach, I have a meal that will warm you right to the core: Slow cooker 11 bean soup. It’s vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free. I’ve noticed there aren’t enough meatless meals around these parts. I’m going to change that for you!

I have a secret behind this meal that takes very little work: Use a dried bean soup mix. I’m sure you’ve seen them before–the packages usually contain dried beans and a spice packet. Except in the recipe below, we’ll toss all of the instructions aside and use mine instead. Deal? Deal. I used this mix by Frontier Soups that I found on our honeymoon. You can buy it online. Another good option is Hearty Eleven Bean Soup from World Market. Any kind will do (and it doesn’t need to have exactly 11 kinds of beans) as long as it already includes a spice packet. Then you just chop up some veggies, dump it all into the slow cooker, and stir in some tomatoes and spinach at the end. Wrap your chilled hands around a warm bowl of this soup, cozy up to someone you love, and I promise we’ll all make it through the winter just fine.

Slow Cooker 11 Bean Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 package dried bean soup mix with a bouquet garni (packet) of herbs such as Frontier Soups Hearty Meals Minnesota Heartland Eleven Bean Soup 
  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 (32 oz) cartons of low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 3-4 heaping handfuls baby spinach
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

In a slow cooker, add dried bean soup mix, bouquet garni of herbs, carrots, celery, onion, tomato paste, and vegetable broth. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours. Add tomatoes and spinach. Cook about 10-15 minutes longer until spinach is wilted. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Mushroom Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

Mushroom stuffed pork tenderloin ABalancedLifeCooks.comAs you’ve probably guessed by now, I’m a complete and total homebody. Always have been always will be. So even after spending an entire workweek at home there’s nothing I love more than spending an entire weekend at home, too.

This past Sunday, which I spent mostly in our kitchen, was pretty close to my ideal day at home. I woke up early (thanks DST!) and got started on our meal plan for the week (thanks to my Pinterest boards). I put together a grocery list (I’m loving the GroceryiQ App — thanks for the recommendation Facebook friends) and headed off to Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Once home, I got to work unpacking and prepping. I whipped up some two-ingredient applesauce–just apples and cinnamon. I made a pumpkin chocolate chip bread; it was good, but still needs some work.

And for dinner there was this mushroom stuffed pork tenderloin. If stuffing any kind of meat sounds as intimidating to you as it did to me, this is the perfect launching pad. The ingredients are straightforward–pork tenderloin, mushrooms, chopped parsley, and breadcrumbs. It comes together really easily and the result is restaurant-quality. I served it alongside this mashed butternut squash that contains sautéed onions, apples, and a blast of spices as well as a simple salad with baby greens and roasted beet. For me, the entire day was bliss, right down to the very last bite.

Mushroom stuffed pork tenderloin. ABalancedLifeCooks.com

Mushroom Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

Serves 4

Ingredients 

  • Olive oil
  • 2 slices bacon, chopped
  • 8 oz cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp dried breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped plus extra for garnish
  • 2 pork tenderloins (about .75 lb – 1 lb each, trimmed of fat)

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add the bacon. Cook until crisp. Add the mushrooms to the pan, season with salt and pepper. Cook until mushrooms are soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, cook 1 minute. Remove skillet from heat and stir in breadcrumbs and parsley. Set aside.

Slice each tenderloin almost in half lengthwise and open like a book. Cover the pork in plastic wrap and using a meat mallet or heavy pan, pound until it’s about 1/2 inch thick. Remove plastic wrap. Divide the mushroom mixture evenly between the tenderloins and spread through the middle. Fold one half of the tenderloin over to meet the other. (Alternatively, you can roll up each tenderloin and secure with kitchen twine or toothpicks, but it worked for me just to fold it without rolling.) Rub the pork all over with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Heat an oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork tenderloins and brown on one side, about 5 minutes, then flip and brown on the other side, about 5 minutes more. Place the pan in the oven and cook about 15-20 minutes until pork is cooked through. Garnish with chopped parsley. Let pork rest for a few minutes before slicing.

Slightly adapted from Elly Says Opa, adapted from Food Network