OAMC Spinach & Cheese Stuffed Shells

Do you subscribe to EatingWell magazine? If not, you should. Especially if you’re trying to serve healthy food in your home and are a fan of publications like the more well-known Cooking Light. I particularly like EatingWell because their recipes focus on real, whole ingredients and seasonal eating.

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I make something from EatingWell once or twice a week and very rarely have any of their recipes failed me. (I am sorry to say that Hamburger Buddy was a horrible crash and burn, but we actually got a good laugh out of how bad it was and still chuckle about it years later. So if you come across that one, take a pass.) Aside from the [usually] great recipes, their photography is stunning and I always find their feature stories on nutrition and health interesting and informative.

I recently made the EatingWell spinach and cheese stuffed shells for my OAMC freezer club (a recipe I’ve made many times as a regular dinner around here). My favorite type of OAMC meals are of the one-pan variety that can be pulled straight from the freezer, shoved into the oven, and make the whole family happy. I mean, the whole point is to save time, right? This one definitely fits the bill.

I ordered a package of these foil pans with oven safe lids for the club, and they are perfect for meals like this one — each pan holds three-to-four servings of an average adult-sized entree. I fit 12 shells into each pan. At about $0.60 each, they are so worth buying if you’re going to start your own freezer club (or if you already belong to one). They’re especially nice because the lids are sturdy to protect the food, and you can stack meals in the freezer without them tipping over and making a mess or taking up excess space.

As for the stuffed shells, the only variations I’ve made to this recipe are the additions of garlic and mozzarella cheese. I know the mozzarella isn’t really in the spirit of EatingWell, but it’s not that much cheese, and it really does take this recipe from four stars to five. Enjoy!

OAMC Spinach & Cheese Stuffed Shells

Slightly adapted from EatingWell magazine.

Makes: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 24 jumbo pasta shells, (8 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 pounds fresh spinach, trimmed and washed, or two 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (Hillary’s note: Getting the spinach as dry as possible is very important. I once left too much moisture in the spinach and the shells were watery and yucky. Don’t make the same mistake! Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze that spinach!!)
  • 2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 2/3 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
  • 3 cups prepared marinara sauce, preferably low-sodium

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Cook shells in a large pot of boiling water, stirring often, until just tender, about 15 minutes or according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water. Set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. If using fresh spinach, add it in batches and toss with tongs until wilted. Drain in a colander, pressing out excess moisture with the back of a spoon. Let cool. If using thawed frozen, add it to the onions and toss to mix well. Set aside.
  3. Combine ricotta, breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup Parmesan and nutmeg in a bowl; mix well. Add the reserved spinach and season with salt and pepper. Stir in egg white.
  4. Stuff each of the reserved shells with a generous 2 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture. (Note: This recipe is for one large pan of shells. Before moving to step five, if you use the type of pans mentioned above for freezing, divide the recipe in half and split between two foil pans.)
  5. Spread 1 cup marinara sauce in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Arrange the stuffed shells in a single layer. Top with the remaining 2 cups of the sauce and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Bake until the top is golden and the shells are heated through, about 30 minutes. (If the top browns too quickly, tent loosely with foil.) Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
  6. If baking from frozen, place foil pan on cookie sheet and bake covered at 375°F for approximately one hour. Remove lid and continue baking until the top is golden and the shells are heated through, about 20 to 30 additional minutes.

Construction Cake

Lucas turned two back in April, but I just came across these pictures of his construction party and realized I hadn’t yet shared them with you.

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I was so completely overwhelmed by his first birthday party (I went a little overboard with handmade decorations, party favors, etc.), that I decided to take a step back this year and keep things relatively simple. Anything truck related is very popular around here, so we went with a construction theme.

I Googled “construction cake” and found inspiration looking at pictures from A. Party Style and Fredellicious. Since I went very light on the decorations and we kept the guest list quite small, I wanted to make him a really cool cake. For how simple this cake actually was to make, I thought it looked pretty darned good and was really pleased with myself when all was said and done.

I started by baking two nine-inch round layers of my favorite chocolate cake from Hershey’s — recipe below — along with their “perfectly chocolate” chocolate frosting (throwing in eight ounces of cream cheese for good measure). If you don’t feel like making cake or frosting from scratch, go ahead and use a boxed cake mix and canned frosting. Your guests still will be impressed. Promise.

After your cake rounds cool, you’ll want to level them. For the “excavation,” take a long serrated knife and carve a large chunk out of the top cake layer, cutting at about a 45-degree angle. You’ll just need to eyeball it and go with your gut for the shape. Flip the cut piece/chunk over so the flat sides of the cake meet. Then frost the whole cake, treating the excavated piece like a third cake layer. For the “dirt,” run a package of Oreos through your food processor and lightly press them into the frosting to make them stick. If you don’t have a food processor, you can place the Oreos into a Ziploc bag and crush them with a rolling pin. (A big shout out to my friend Kim who talked me through the cutting — I was super nervous about wrecking the cake!)

For Lucas’ name I used Wilton fondant cut outs and Wilton neon colors fondant. Using the same fondant, I hand-shaped the construction cones. The candy rocks are sold in bulk at my local grocery store, but you also can buy them on Amazon. I found the small digger for the top of the cake at the dollar store — they came in multi-packs, and I used the others as a party-favor component.

I kept the decorations simple and printed these letters on orange construction paper using Microsoft Word (!). We affixed them to the wall using painters’ tape. So simple, and I think the banner turned out pretty cute.

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But most importantly, my boy thought everything was extra special and he had a great day! Four months later and he’s still talking about his “excavator party.”

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Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup Hershey’s cocoa
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2  eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.
  2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.
  3. Bake about 45 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cream-Cheese Frosting. 10 to 12 servings.

“Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cream-Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 2/3 cup Hershey’s cocoa
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Melt butter. Stir in cocoa.
  2. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating on medium with a hand mixer. Beat in cream cheese.
  3. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About three cups frosting.

Chicken Enchiladas (and Freezer Club!)

A few weeks ago, I mentioned my super-awesome, life-saving, couldn’t-live-without-it freezer club. If you are a time-crunched parent who all too often finds yourself scrounging around for dinner at the last minute, I highly recommend you start a freezer club.

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There are four of us in my club, including me. We each pick one freezable recipe every month and make four family-sized meals (about three to four adult-sized portions each). We keep one for ourselves, and give one to each of the other members. This works out to one freezer meal per week, and everything is so much better than any pre-packaged, frozen food from the grocery store. Thankfully all of my friends in the club are excellent cooks, so it’s fun to try what everyone comes up with. And none of us are picky eaters or have particularly finicky children or spouses, so it’s always open season for ingredients. We also have an “honesty policy” and let each other know if a meal wasn’t particularly delicious to prevent it from showing up again. Everyone’s cool with this, so no hurt feelings.

I’ll be sharing these recipes under the OAMC (once-a-month cooking) category and I hope you find them useful. Everything in this category should keep well in the freezer for three to four months. They’re great recipes to make for people with new babies, or to stock up in your own freezer before a new little one arrives.

First up is one of my family’s favorite meals — freezer club or otherwise. A couple years ago, I randomly tried the enchilada sauce recipe in my Vitamix cookbook and was hooked. We haven’t had canned sauce since then. I’ve made a few small changes to suit our tastes (the additions of cayenne, cinnamon, and onion). It’s definitely worth the time to make your own! Of course, if you’re in a time crunch, you always can use your favorite canned variety, too. I won’t judge. Happy freezing!

Freezer Chicken Enchiladas

(A combination of several recipes; mainly from Cook’s Illustrated and Vitamix)
Serves 12-16

Some tips before you get started (courtesy of Cook’s Illustrated):

  • Freeze the rolled enchiladas and sauce separately; otherwise they will turn into a mushy mess.
  • Spray the tortillas with vegetable oil cooking spray and briefly heat them in the oven to make them pliant enough to roll easily.
  • Bake the enchiladas while still frozen. Defrosting them leads to a dried-out texture once baked.
  • Partially bake the enchiladas “naked,” or without sauce. A light coat of vegetable oil spray will keep the tortillas from drying out too much.
  • For a simple fix, use leftover cooked chicken or a store-bought rotisserie chicken in this recipe. Serve with avocado, pickled jalapeños, shredded lettuce, and/or sour cream.

Enchilada Ingredients

  • 8 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
  • 8 cups shredded pepper jack cheese
  • 2 (15 oz.) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 lb. frozen corn kernels (one bag)
  • 20 (6-inch) flour tortillas
  • Cooking spray

Sauce Ingredients (makes about six cups)

  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • ½ white onion, chopped
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • ½ tsp. cumin
  • ½ tsp. ground cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup chili powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour

Directions

  1. To make the sauce: Place all sauce ingredients into large blender or food processor in order listed and secure lid. Turn machine on high and blend thoroughly. Pour into saucepan and bring to boil on the stove over high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, continuing to stir frequently. Transfer to heat-safe bowl and refrigerate until cool, about 1 hour.
  2. To begin making the enchiladas, toss the shredded chicken with two cups sauce, four cups cheese, beans, and corn.
  3. Place five tortillas on baking sheet and lightly coat both sides with cooking spray. Bake tortillas until just pliable, about 2 minutes. Working quickly, transfer one tortilla at a time to work surface, fill with 1/3 cup chicken mixture, and roll tightly. Transfer, seam side down, to large plate or cookie sheet. Repeat warming and rolling process with remaining tortillas. Place plate in freezer until enchiladas are frozen, at least one hour.
  4. Divide remaining sauce and cheese into four portions each and package separately in quart-size Ziploc bags (eight bags total — about one cup of cheese and one cup of sauce per bag). Tightly wrap enchiladas in bundles of five, first in plastic and then in foil. Place one portion each of five enchiladas, one bag of cheese, and one bag of sauce into a gallon-size Ziploc. You will have four meals total. Freeze for up to three months.
  5. When ready to serve: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. To remove sauce from bag, run warm over the bag for about a minute, then break up sauce and place into a saucepan. Warm on stove over medium, stirring frequently.
  6. Coat 13 by 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Arrange frozen enchiladas in single layer in baking dish and coat tops with cooking spray. Bake until tops of tortillas are just beginning to flake, about 20 minutes. Remove dish from oven, top enchiladas with sauce, and bake 10 minutes longer. Sprinkle enchiladas with remaining cheese and bake until cheese melts and center of casserole is hot and bubbling, 3 to 5 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

Dungeness Crab Quiche

How is it Friday already?! I meant to have this recipe to you earlier in the week, but then life happened. You know how it goes … Anyway, as you’ve probably gathered, I’m married to quite the fisherman/crabber/shrimper. He is constantly filling our freezer with a bounty of delicious seafood, and it’s up to me to figure out what we’re going to do with it. Not that I’m complaining.

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Of everything Morgan typically catches, dungeness crab is my absolute favorite. Most of our crab-loving friends think any freshly caught crab should be eaten purely by itself, fresh out of the pot, on the beach. I will confess, however, that I actually prefer my crab in things. To channel my inner Bubba Blue, well, there’s crab quiche, crabaroni and cheese, crab and artichoke dip, crab toasts, crab louie, crab cocktail, crab cakes, crab croquettes … I could go on for days. The favorite (and easiest) dish at our house is crab quiche. This recipe is super simple and always a crowd pleaser. It also works well as mini quiche (just use a mini muffin tin) for a delicious appetizer.

Sure, you can make your own crust, but I really don’t mind store-bought crust. I am picky about brand, though. I only buy Marie Callender’s frozen 16 oz. deep-dish pie shells. There’s a big difference when you stray — and not in a good way. If you make mini quiche with this recipe, here’s a little tip: use an oversized wine glass to cut circles for each individual crust. They are the perfect size!

Dungeness Crab Quiche

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups lump crab meat (I don’t really measure. We just use the meat of two average-sized crab.)
  • 1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
  • 1 bunch chopped green onions
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. seasoning salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 Marie Callender’s frozen 16 oz. deep-dish pie shell

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a medium bowl, beat together eggs, mayonnaise, flour, garlic powder, seasoning salt, cayenne, and milk until thoroughly blended. Fold in crab, cheese, and onion. Spread into pie shell.
    Bake for about one hour, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean and the top is well browned. Enjoy!

Woodinville Toddler Group (World’s Best) Playdough Recipe

Lucas and I belong to a fabulous co-op toddler group/school in Woodinville. This past year was our first in the program, and he and I both made a lot of great friends. Going to school each Tuesday morning was a definite highlight of our week. We already are looking forward to school starting again in September! I particularly benefited from the parent education class every other week and learned a lot of valuable parenting ideas, tips, and techniques. As the mom of an energetic and opinionated two-year-old (I know, what two-year-old isn’t …), those things are invaluable!

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The program fosters an strong sense of community and support among parents and little ones, and has given Lucas a terrific place to learn and explore though a variety of curriculum. Each week, parents take turns making a new batch of playdough for the class. Playdough is a great way to strengthen the muscles of the hands to improve fine motor and bilateral coordination skills. And, obviously, it’s just a lot of fun. Who doesn’t love playdough?!

Our school’s homemade playdough recipe is seriously the best I’ve ever come across — and that’s saying a lot, since my mom made a mean batch of playdough back in the day. I made the current batch Lucas is playing with back in April and it’s still soft and pliable, but stands up well to modeling and shaping. Hasbro has nothing on WTG!

If you live in the area and are interested in checking out Woodinville Toddler Group, please visit our website. Several of our classes still have openings for the 2013-14 school year. We’d love to have you join us!

Woodinville Toddler Group’s Traditional Playdough Recipe

Mix together in a large pan:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups water (with food coloring or liquid water color added)
  • 1 cup regular table salt
  • 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 Tablespoons cream of tartar

Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture is the texture of soft mashed potatoes and pulls away from the side of the pan. Remove from pan and knead lightly. It may be lumpy, but will become smooth when kneaded. Cool and store in an airtight container. A favorite time to play with dough is while it is still warm!

Fun add-ins:

  • Food extracts such as peppermint, anise, orange, or lemon
  • Spices such as pumpkin pie, cinnamon, or cloves
  • Packages of Kool-Aid also are a great, easy way to add scent and color
  • Texture added with coffee grounds, rice, or colored aquarium gravel
  • Add visual interest with glitter

Enrichment:

  • Experiment with blending colors by starting with white playdough and knead in additional color
  • Try supplying popsicle sticks, pasta, or small plastic animals for poking and playing
  • Make impressions with potato mashers, forks, cookie presses, or hands and feet
  • Discover how to use a garlic press or child-safe scissors
  • Run toy cars through playdough to make tracks
  • Add items from nature; small branches, sticks, or stones

Playdough offers endless possibilities for creativity. It’s more than cookie cutters and rolling pins; experimenting with dough can ease tensions, develop small muscles, and allow opportunities for creative problem-solving.

Did you know? Rainbow Crafts of Cincinnati, Ohio, originally introduced Play-Doh brand modeling compound to the public in 1956 (and it only was available in a sickly, off-white color)!

Grilled Corn, Avocado and Tomato-Sweet Onion Salad with Fresh Basil Dressing and Blue Cheese

My name is Hillary and I am a cooking show addict. I could watch Bobby Flay work his magic all day long if you let me. We recently cancelled our cable, though, so now I’m stuck with actually making his recipes, versus watching him from the couch while thinking, “I should really try that someday …” But hey, we’re saving about $100 a month and television rots your brain anyway, right? Right? (If you can’t tell, I’m still trying to convince myself. I really miss my summer indulgences of Food Network Star and Royal Pains.) “This is good for me, this is good for my children …” Deep breath. Repeat.

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This grilled-corn salad is one of my favorite Bobby Flay recipes. My friend, Jen, introduced me to it at a barbecue a few years ago, and I’ve made it several times each summer. We’re growing corn and tomatoes in our garden right now, but neither are quite ready, so I had to hit up the store for the ingredients. I’m really looking forward to making it with what we’ve grown ourselves … just a few more weeks! It’s such a great salad for what a lot of people are growing in their own backyards.

The original recipe calls for grilled corn, but for ease and speed this time, I pan roasted mine in a cast-iron skillet and it worked beautifully. (This also will free up the grill for your main course.) The only other changes I typically make are adding two diced avocados, and roughly chopping, versus thinly slicing the onion. I like small pieces of onion in each bite.

The original recipe also says the salad can be made one day in advance, but I DO NOT agree. In fact, don’t even make it hours in advance. You can do the prep work and blend the dressing, but I really think the main ingredients should be combined only up to 30 minutes before serving — it can get pretty mushy otherwise. And plan on eating everything you make the day of. I thought the mushiness might be due to the avocado, but I’ve had leftovers with and without avocado, and find them to be less than delicious. That said, this salad will rock your face off when it’s freshly prepared.

My favorite kitchen trick for this recipe is to microwave your corn for a few minutes before shucking to loosen the silk. You can watch the full process by viewing this America’s Test Kitchen video. Seriously, do yourself a favor and watch it. You’ll never again shuck corn the old-fashioned way. It is such a great time-saver!!

Grilled Corn, Avocado and Tomato-Sweet Onion Salad with Fresh Basil Dressing and Blue Cheese

(Serves 8 as a side dish)

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 ears corn, grilled in the husk, kernels removed, or pan roasted
  • 1 sweet onion (such as Vidalia or Walla Walla), roughly chopped
  • 2 Hass avocados, diced
  • 1 pint Sweet 100 tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 8 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
  • Fresh basil sprigs, for garnish

Directions

Combine the vinegar, basil, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper and oil in a blender and blend until smooth. Dressing can be made two hours in advance and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before using.

Combine the corn kernels, onion and tomato in a large bowl. Add the dressing and toss to coat, season with salt and pepper. Let sit at room temperature 30 minutes before serving. Fold in diced avocado and crumbled blue cheese, and garnish with basil sprigs just before serving.

Nectarine Caprese Summer Salad

My friends over at Beauties and the Feast have been posting some super delicious recipes for summer salads this month. Emily’s peach caprese, in particular, had my mouth watering within a few seconds of looking at the picture. I decided to make it this past weekend with a very slight twist — nectarines in place of peaches — for a lovely housewarming celebration we attended at our friends’ gorgeous new home in Tacoma.

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The boys golfed during the day, and the ladies stayed back with the kiddos, enjoyed cocktails (or mocktails, in my pregnant case), and played in the kitchen. We turned out an awesome spread for dinner — flank steak with a garlicky chimichurri sauce; amazing sweet corn and mushroom tamales with tomatillo-avocado-pumpkin seed salsa (from the Mustards Grill Napa Valley Cookbook); parmesan pea pods; nectarine caprese salad; and tres leches cake for dessert. Two days later and I am still stuffed! My friend Jenny certainly knows how to throw a proper dinner party!

This salad is so easy and fresh, I think it will be gracing our table as frequently as possible while nectarines are in season. Enjoy!

Nectarine Caprese Summer Salad

(Serves 4)

Ingredients

  • 3 ripe nectarines
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1-inch chunks (I like Trader Joe’s ciliegine whole milk fresh mozzarella)
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

    1. Cut each nectarine into 6 to 8 wedges, then cut each wedge in quarters crosswise.
    2. In a large bowl, combine the nectarines, basil, and mozzarella. Drizzle with the oil, sprinkle with the salt and pepper, and toss. (You can cover and refrigerate the salad for up to several hours.) Serve cold or at room temperature.

Milk Makin’ Oatmeal-Flaxseed Lactation Cookies

When I went back to work after having Lucas, I pumped my boobs off to meet my daily breastmilk quota. It was difficult and stressful, but I discovered a few things along the way that really helped my supply, namely these lactation cookies. They’re also just dang tasty, whether or not you’re breastfeeding. Tell your husband not to worry if he can’t help himself and eats a few, he will not spontaneously lactate. Promise.

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There are a lot of recipes for similar cookies floating around. I combined a few and after many, many batches, think I have the recipe perfected. I’m due with our second baby this October and plan to have a large stash of this dough in the freezer before our little one arrives. I also like to make them for new moms as a baby-welcoming gift. (And if you just don’t feel like baking, you can buy the Milkmakers brand of pre-made cookies. I hear they’re yummy, but haven’t tried them myself.)

Lactation cookies help boost milk supply with three key ingredients; oats, ground flaxseed, and brewer’s yeast. My lactation consultant originally recommended this recipe, which also details why all of these ingredients are so important for nursing moms. I like to use coconut oil instead of butter, since the lauric acid it contains has beneficial antiviral, antibacterial, and parasiticidal properties that support the immune system of both baby and mama. If you just want a terrific, fiber-rich cookie recipe, feel free to leave out the brewer’s yeast.

Milk Makin’ Oatmeal-Flaxseed Lactation Cookies

Makes about 2 1/2-3 dozen.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup ground flaxseed
  • 3 T. brewer’s yeast
  • 2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups whole oats
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 cups chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone mat.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In KitchenAid or other stand mixer, slowly mix together coconut oil, sugars, eggs, peanut butter, applesauce, vanilla extract, ground flaxseed, and brewer’s yeast until mixture is smooth.
  4. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet, mixing on level 1-2 until almost combined. Then, one at a time, add in oats, cranberries, walnuts, and chocolate chips, and mix until the dough comes together with no streaks of flour remaining.
  5. Drop 1-inch balls of cookie dough onto prepared baking sheets, leaving a little room for the cookies to spread.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until cookies are set.
  7. Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
  8. To freeze dough, flash freeze dough balls on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper. Once frozen, place individual dough balls in Ziploc bag to store. Bake from frozen, adding 1 to 2 minutes to final baking time.

Grilled Ginger-Soy-Lime Albacore Tuna Medallions

Holy cow. I’m hot. Are you hot? This weather is crazy. And the last thing I want to do is cook in a hot kitchen — literally or figuratively.

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Most of us in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) don’t have air conditioning, so we do everything possible to keep our houses “cool” when the heat strikes. (I’ve got a balmy 84 going on upstairs today. Yuck.) This means very little activity in the kitchen and as much outdoor cooking as possible. I’m all about throwing a nice, simply marinated piece of protein on the grill and getting, i.e., running, away from the stove. Pair it with some quinoa or rice and a green salad, and you’ve got a quick, healthy meal that doesn’t raise the temperature in your house or use up your summer evening. I will admit that I did use my rice cooker for this meal, but I plugged it in by an open window near a fan, so it didn’t do too much heat damage.

This particular recipe is for tuna because I have a ton of it available, but any firm, white fish or shrimp works marvelously with the marinade and on the grill. Morgan went on a tuna-fishing charter with some buddies and caught so. much. fish. They canned a lot of it in a pressure cooker and vacuum packed some beautiful medallions for the freezer. The medallions are great for grilling and searing because they hold together so well. I have to watch my intake because I’m preggo (and the same rules apply for our two-year-old whose brain still is developing), so we only eat it about twice a month. Thankfully our supply contains a lower amount of mercury than commercially caught tuna because the fish were line caught in relatively shallow water (younger, smaller fish = lower mercury levels).

If you buy tuna steaks at your local market for this recipe, the fishmonger or butcher should be able to slice the fish into medallions for you. I love the petite, compact size. They’re just a little more elegant on the plate.

The marinade is slightly adapted from Bobby Flay’s Ginger-Soy-Lime Marinated Shrimp recipe. For shrimp, follow the same directions for marinating, then throw the shrimp on a skewer and grill for the same amount of time as the tuna over high heat. You can double the marinade and freeze half in a Ziploc for use on another day. I have several bags in my freezer right now and also have used this recipe for my once-a-month-cooking (OAMC) freezer club — the best club ever. I’ll tell you more about that next week. Until then, enjoy your Fourth of July and get grilling!

Grilled Ginger-Soy-Lime Albacore Tuna

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

½ large red onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic
¾ cup soy sauce
Freshly squeezed juice of four medium limes
2 tablespoons brown sugar
¼ cup canola oil
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 pounds Albacore tuna medallions or tuna steaks

Directions

Place all ingredients except tuna in a blender and blend until smooth. Place tuna in a large bowl, pour the marinade over, and let marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes. Preheat grill to high. Remove tuna from the marinade and grill for 1 1/2 minutes per side. Be careful not to overcook!

Authentic Pannkakor (Swedish Pancakes) With My Personal Swedish Chef

When Morgan and I first were dating, he won me over with his Swedish Chef impersonation (my all-time favorite Muppet) and rock-star ability to make perfect pannkakor (Swedish pancakes). I soon learned that Swedish pancakes were the absolute only thing he knew how to make, however; but I married him anyway. He’s very good at washing dishes and cleaning up after I destroy the kitchen, so it all works out.

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He learned to make pannkakor from his mom, who moved to the U.S. from Sweden when she was 18, so I think they’re pretty authentic. We spent a week in Sweden in 2009, but I didn’t eat any pancakes, so I can’t tell you if they taste the same in Seattle as they do in Stockholm. What I can tell you is that Morgan’s version are super delicious and I don’t get them nearly as often as I would like. They are similar to crepes, but a bit thicker and more “eggy.”

We like them a few different ways — traditionally, with lingonberry jam or fresh berries and whipped cream; German-style (my personal favorite), with powdered sugar and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice; and Lucas’s all-American favorite, with butter and maple syrup. So when Morgan wakes up on a weekend morning and busts out his skillet, we know we’re in for a treat. I hope you enjoy these as much we do!

Here are a few tips from my personal Swedish Chef. “Orn desh, dee born desh, de umn bork! bork! bork!”:

  • The #1 rule: Your skillet must not be too hot!! Medium heat works best, and you need to give your pancakes time to cook. They will take about two minutes per side.
  • Ignore your first pancake. It inevitably will turn out crappy and only is your litmus test for a good skillet temperature. Be prepared to trash it and move on.
  • Your pancake is ready to flip when it appears slightly dry on top and the edges lift easily from the side of the skillet.
  • Use the thinnest spatula you own for flipping, preferably thinner than the pancake itself (which you probably won’t find in the plastic variety). According to Morgan, metal spatulas always trump plastic for pannkakor. I think I bought him 27 spatulas as gifts before this one from OXO became his favorite.
  • Don’t use too much batter. You’ll want just enough to cover the bottom of your skillet; around 1/2 cup per pancake. (You may need a little more or less batter, depending on the size of your skillet.) You can use a regular or non-stick frying pan, but a flat cast-iron griddle is definitely the way to go for the perfect pancake.

Smaklig måltid (the Swedish equivalent of bon appétit — enjoy your meal)!

Pannkakor (Swedish Pancakes)

(Makes 8-10 pancakes)

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 3 1/3 cups milk
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla or almond extract, if desired (We like to mix it up and sometimes use this, sometimes don’t.)
  • Butter for your skillet (We usually have a softened stick available for this.)

Directions

  1. Set aside a cookie sheet and preheat your oven to its lowest setting to keep your pancakes warm as you cook.
  2. Whisk the eggs and milk together until well incorporated.  Slowly whisk in the flour, sugar, salt and vanilla or almond extract. Your batter will be very runny — this is normal, don’t worry.
  3. Warm your skillet (we use a 10.5-inch pan) over medium heat. Add a small pat of butter to grease the pan, and swirl around to coat your cooking surface.
  4. Pour in the batter, around a 1/2 cup per pancake, tilting the pan in a circular motion to cover the surface with batter. You may need a little more or less batter, depending on the size of your skillet.
  5. Now, leave your pancake alone for about two minutes. No, really, don’t touch it (but watch it carefully)!
  6. Your pancake is ready to flip when it appears slightly dry on top and the edges lift easily from the side of the pan.
  7. Flip your pancake and cook on the second side for an additional two minutes (approximately). The second side also will be done when the edges are browned and lift easily from the side of the pan.
  8. Remove your pancake from the skillet and keep warm on a cookie sheet in the oven until serving time.
  9. Stir batter in between each pancake to make sure it remains well incorporated, and re-grease the pan with another pat of butter for every pancake.