Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sweet Potato Pancakes

I think that many of you may already be aware of my obsession with sweet potatoes... I probably eat roasted sweet potatoes three or four days a week! The other day when I was roasting some, I decided to save some I had roasted so that I could try this Cooking Light recipe for sweet potato pancakes. What a great decision on my part. ;-) I am so happy I tried this recipe! I can definitely see this recipe being made quite often in the Barbershop...
The link to the recipe I followed is provided above so that you can take a look at the ingredients. I actually did not follow it exactly (no shocker there!). The recipe calls for pecans, but I did not use them. Also, it actually calls for canned yams or sweet potatoes. I decided to use the "real deal" though. And actually, it was this recipe for sweet potato pancakes on www.nurturebaby.com that inspired me to go ahead and use real sweet potatoes instead of canned. I did not follow that nurturebaby recipe, but it was what inspired me to find a sweet potato pancake recipe from Cooking Light. I knew there must be one out there! If you'd like advice for roasting sweet potatoes, feel free to check out my blog post about that here. For the potatoes used for these pancakes, I roasted them with only extra virgin olive oil and cinnamon.
Below are some pictures of the process along the way. :)
Here are the sweet potatoes that I had roasted and then mashed in a bowl (I did not puree them)...notice that I kept the skins on. I liked the texture that the skins added to the pancakes, but if you don't think you would, I'd recommend taking the skins off before roasting or just using canned sweet potatoes.
Once your griddle pan is hot, I'd recommend cooking the pancakes on a low-medium heat (maybe even closer to low). I cooked the first batch too quickly and although the outside of the pancakes made them look as if they were done (they were a lovely golden brown), they actually weren't quite done on the inside. So, for the remaining ones, cooking on a lower heat for a longer length of time seemed to work better. You'll still get the nice golden brown color on the outside AND they'll be thoroughly cooked on the inside.
I love how you can see the specks of real potato in this picture above...both the orange part of the potato and the skins. The skins are very healthy, you know! You can read more info about the health benefits of sweet potatoes here. I also love that this recipe called for whole wheat flour. I think that added to the nice light brown color of these pancakes too, as opposed to a traditional pancake that is closer to white than brown.
We ate them warm (of course) with a touch of margarine and maple syrup, and we had some fruit salad on the side. How delicious!!!!! I think you might need to make them for breakfast tomorrow, don't you?! ;-)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Healthy Carrot Muffins

Carrot muffins! No, it's not carrot cake....sorry! I was thinking about making carrot cake or cupcakes, but I decided against dessert, and instead, I made a breakfast (or snack!) item. Without the typical cream cheese frosting that accompanies a carrot cake, these carrot muffins are not really dessert-ish, but I suppose you could have them for dessert if you wanted to...they do have a bit of a sweetness to them! :)
I had a LOT of carrots on hand, which was essentially my main inspiration behind trying this recipe...I wanted to use some of them! I followed this Cooking Light recipe for Carrot Bread, so rest assured that it is a yummy, healthy, low-calorie option. I love those types of recipes!!
Overall, this was an incredibly easy recipe. It did not require an electric mixer, which made it very simple. The most time consuming part (which really wasn't all that bad!) was preparing the carrots. The recipe calls for boiling the carrots for about 15 minutes on the stove to make them tender, then processing them in a food processor or blender to puree them. Other than that, this was pretty much a no-fuss recipe! I like that it uses only whole wheat flour too...makes it even better. After making these, I thought that it would have been a good idea to make them even healthier by adding flaxseed...but alas, I did not think of that ahead of time! Maybe I'll do that the next time I make this recipe.
Here are a couple pictures of the carrot preparation... And then you have the carrots mashed up and mixed with sugar before adding the remaining liquids. And finally, a picture of the batter all ready to go!
As you can see here, I actually used some Valentine's paper baking cups that I had... It's about a week after Valentine's Day, but I thought it'd be fun to use them still!
I ended up baking the muffins for roughly 16 or 17 minutes at 350 degrees. The actual recipe that is provided in the link above is for bread, so I obviously had to shorten the baking time for muffins! It made exactly 12 muffins too. So, judging by the nutrition information listed for the bread online, since the bread makes 12 servings, one muffin is approximately 151 calories. Not bad at all! I might suggest adding just a few calories though by putting a teeny bit of margarine on your muffin. Delicious! And they are best served warm, I think. I am already looking forward to having a delicious, healthful muffin tomorrow morning with a cup of coffee. Great way to start the day, I'd say. :)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Valentine's Day Treats!

I have to admit that I will not be baking any special treats for Valentine's Day this year... And it saddens me! I love this holiday, most especially for the endless recipes out there for delicious, Valentine's Day themed goodies! I could spend hours exploring recipes in cookbooks and online. Sometimes I do. :) This year I'll be on vacation out of the country during Valentine's Day, so there will be no baking in the Barbershop.... :-( I thought I'd still share some super fun (and mostly very easy!) ideas with you though in case you're still wondering what you'd like to make for that special someone.
KraftFoods is always a favorite of mine for perusing recipe ideas. They have many simple recipes, as well as many healthy ones! And I always love websites that share recipe ratings. I make a habit of reading what others think of the recipe before I try it! Check out the following two ideas. One is a chocolatey recipe for Chocolate & Mocha Sweetheart Brownies....mmmmm. And one is a lighter, fruity recipe (low in calories!) for cute Strawberry and Chocolate Gelatin "Cupid's" Cups (pictured above). They both look super easy!
If you want to get a little fancier and spend more time in the kitchen, I might suggest these two recipes. They look so pretty!!! One is for Truffle Tarts with Raspberries. How delightful do these look? And another idea is this recipe for a classic Valentine's dessert due to its color, Red Velvet Cake. Delicious and appealing to the eye! Red Velvet Cupcakes or Red Velvet Cake Balls would be fun too! Boy, the options are endless...
Or how about the festive treat of chocolate covered strawberries? How can you not love these?!
I would suggest going "all out" too and making ones with white chocolate, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, etc... :)
Yet another fun idea (I know, I'm going wild here, forgive me) is to make your own Valentine's fortune cookies! That would be so fun. You could really get creative with making your own fortunes!! :) Kids and adults alike would like those. My mom always makes traditional sugar cookies, shaped as hearts, topped with a delicious frosting that she tints pink...then she places a fun conversation heart on each of the cookies...
I would always look forward to these cookies each year. My mom's sugar cookies are definitely the best!
And for adults, a delicious Valentine's cocktail is a must, right?! This drink, Dos Amores, looks amazingly delicious. As do all of these on this site... Or maybe this unique liqueur, Hum? It looks quite yummy!! Be creative too...make your own! ;-)
However you celebrate Valentine's Day this year, I hope it is a LOVEly one for you! I hope you might be inspired to bake something delicious after reading this post too. ;-) Happy Valentine's Day, family and friends!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

No Bake Peanut Butter & Chocolate Rice Krispie Bars

So I've come to the conclusion that I've recently been cheating on my oven... A friend of mine suggested this on facebook, and as I thought more about it, I realized she is right! A few of my recent recipes have not involved baking. What is this Baking Barbershop coming to?! I may need to change the title of my blog or start only posting recipes that I bake... OR, I could just continue as I'm doing and post all types of recipes. I think I'll go with the last choice. :)
I was craving some time in the kitchen to make a dessert. But, as is typical for me these days, I didn't have a ton of time. So I thought what better solution than to make no bake bars! They generally do not take nearly as long as baked desserts do. A few years ago a former coworker, Kristi, made these peanut butter rice krispie bars, and I had a fond recollection of their deliciousness...and I also had a vague memory of her sending me the recipe at the time. Luckily, I was right, and I was able to find the recipe in my inbox! I am a little ashamed to say though that the recipe was sent to me almost FOUR years ago! I got the recipe from my coworker on February 27th in 2006...and I have yet to make them! Shame on me. These are delicious and should have been made long before now!
I know I've said this before about other flavor combinations too...but can you ever go wrong with peanut butter and chocolate? Definitely not. It's always a winner in my book. These no bake bars only require five ingredients. Another plus! And from start to finish (minus the cooling time and clean up time), they only took about 15 minutes. I see no reason why you should not make these yourself! ;-)
Here are the ingredients:
-1 cup white sugar
-1 cup light corn syrup
-1 and 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
-5 cups Rice Krispies
-12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
Grease a 13 x 9 dish. In a saucepan on the stove, combine the sugar and corn syrup over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Boil for about 45 seconds and then remove from heat. Add in the peanut butter and stir until smooth. Mix the peanut butter "sauce" with the Rice Krispies until they are well coated. Be careful here; the mixture gets sticky! Spread the mixture evenly, with the back of a greased spoon, in your prepared 13 x 9 pan. In the microwave, melt the chocolate chips and spread over the top of the peanut butter mixture in the pan. Cool at room temperature; do not refrigerate. Cut into bars and enjoy! These can be stored at room temperature, covered tightly. The chocolate topping will harden as the bars sit. I actually recommend melting an individual bar for like 8 or 10 seconds in the microwave before you eat it so that the chocolate melts a bit.... Delicious!
Okay, now I have an odd confession to make. I love melting chocolate. That is my confession. For some reason, in recipes where I need to melt chocolate, I find it to be incredibly relaxing and enjoyable. Below are three pictures of the process this time around. I generally melt chocolate chips in a glass bowl in the microwave in 20-30 second intervals, stirring each time before microwaving again. When the consistency gets to be like the picture on the right, I am always tempted to take a taste... Doesn't it look so yummy? I know it's kind of weird, but it's true. I love melting chocolate.
Alrightie, that's my only baking confession for this post. Stay tuned for more next time. ;-)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Original Chex Party Mix

What inspired me to make chex mix? A craving! It popped into my mind today and I decided that I had to have it. So I stopped at the store on my way home to pick up the ingredients and I was on my way! I remember that my mom used to make chex mix quite often...well, that is my memory anyway. I'm not actually sure how often she made it. But I most definitely remember how yummy it was! Tonight I was debating whether to jazz it up and make a variation of the original recipe by changing the flavor/seasoning. There are many variations out there! There are various salty mixes like hot and spicy, cheesy ranch, and chili and garlic... And then there are sweet mixes such as ginger honey, chocolate peanut butter, and snickerdoodle... I opted for something that is pretty darn close to the original recipe with a few slight variations. When I tasted my final product tonight, the taste definitely reminded me of the classic flavor. YUM!!
The original recipe can be found here. What did I do differently? Well, to start, I did change up the ingredients ever so slightly. Here's what I added:
-3 cups corn chex
-2 cups rice chex
-2 cups bite-size pretzels
-2 cups whole grain cheez-its
-1 and 1/2 cups oyster crackers
-1 and 1/2 cups dry roasted peanuts
-6 Tbsp. butter margarine
-2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
-1 and 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
-3/4 tsp. chili powder
-1/2 tsp. onion salt
I kept the total amount of the dry ingredients the same as the original recipe (13 cups in all) so that I didn't have to adjust the liquid ingredients (melted margarine and Worcestershire sauce). The only seasoning I kept the same is the garlic powder (although I added more!). I chose to do chili powder and onion salt mainly because I didn't have the other two ingredients in the recipe, which were seasoned salt and onion powder.
I also decided to bake the chex mix instead of trying the microwave method. That definitely would have been faster (probably like 15 minutes total instead of over an hour!), but I wanted to smell the delightful aroma of chex mix throughout the house :) and I figured that would happen more easily if I baked the mix.
Mmmmm...love this recipe! You can never go wrong with a classic treat!!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Quick and Delicious Chicken Noodle Soup

Looking for a traditional soup recipe that's both easy and healthy? Craving a tasty comfort food when you're not feeling well? Wanting a hot meal to warm you up on a cold winter's night? Well, here's your recipe. This quick, low-calorie, delicious chicken noodle soup will satisfy each of the aforementioned needs. :)
This recipe was very easy and if I do say so myself, quite delicious. I actually made it for one of the typical purposes people make chicken soup...to help someone feel better! My brother had been sick with a bug of some sort for a few days, so I decided to make chicken soup to bring to him. I obviously didn't give him the whole batch though since I also tried it! Mike tried some too, and he liked it as well. An ironic note about this soup, by the way... I was already thinking of making soup to bring to Patrick and then my "Dinner Tonight" recipe from the MyRecipes.com e-newsletter that same day was this very recipe for Quick Chicken Noodle Soup!! How's that for irony? I took that as a sign and tried it out, and I am glad I did.
The nice thing about this particular recipe is that it calls for a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken that you can buy in the grocery store. So you save a lot of time not having to cook the chicken yourself! I followed the recipe almost as it is written. To the onion, carrot, and celery mixture (the "holy trinity"!), I also added some chopped fresh zucchini since I had some on hand. I added some minced garlic as the trinity cooked too. Oh, and I used a different pasta; I added rotini whereas the recipe calls for fusilli. Any pasta will do, I'm sure!
Oh, and I actually omitted the salt from the recipe... I think that soups are often inherently salty, and people's preferences for saltiness can vary quite a bit. I figured that if people wanted a saltier soup, they could just add their own at the end. Personally, I thought it was adequately salted just as I made it without adding more, but that's just me!
The next time you or someone you love is feeling under the weather, or the next time you're just in a mood for a comfort food, try this easy, healthy recipe! I would have loved to make some homemade rolls like my grandmother makes to go with this soup, but I didn't have the luxury of time at the time! Maybe next time around! By the way, do the oyster crackers in this picture below look familiar?! ;-)