Monday, November 21, 2011

Nutella and Fruit Filled Crepes

Whenever I hear "crepes" I always think of this scene between Sacha Baron Cohen and Will Ferrell from Talladega Nights:

My sweet friend Erin and I had the opportunity to get together on Sunday afternoon. We decided to forgo the typical Sunday brunch out and have our own homemade brunch on my porch instead. When discussing food, Erin says "well, I've always wanted to learn how to make crepes" - something I have not done but responded "I have a crepe pan I have yet to use!" So there we were, two girls in the kitchen, with an internet recipe compilation and a crepe pan. The crepe pan was an impulse purchase nearly a year ago at World Market. There was a sale, I thought to myself: "self, you should make crepes sometime," and I bought the thing for $6. At this moment in time, I'm so glad I did. Though a flat skillet surface would also suffice.

I searched the lovely world wide web for a while, trying to grasp the concept of crepe making, comparing different variations. Luckily, they were all very similar - so that made this easy. For the filling part, we decided to go the fruit route with strawberries, bananas and Nutella.

As Erin made mimosas, any semblance of organization for methodical food-making went out the window between the heaven in a glass and 4 months of conversation that we were catching up on. Can't say that is the best way to go about making such a delicate food but it all worked out well in the end! The pictures below don't necessarily depict the perfect process, there were several attempts but they all tasted wonderful and that is what was important. The first crepe was a learning experience - it was thicker than it was supposed to be and it cooked all the way before we remembered to add the filling and then the folding, making it difficult to acheive a beautiful folded end result. The second one was better, but still didn't have the fold part down.

After eating, hours of conversation and mimosas, Erin left and I realized there was more batter for a third attempt. This time, I used less and spread it around the pan, so it was thinner - the way it is intended. I was more concentrated (despite the mimosas, or maybe because of them, hmm) and got the flip, fill and fold part in time for it to turn out prettier than the first two attempts. In this case, third time's the charm is rather accurate.

Grocery List:
For the Crepes
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 3/4 cups milk 
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tbsp. butter, melted
For the Filling
  • 1 cup sliced bananas
  • 1 cup slice strawberries
  • 1 tbsp. Nutella per crepe
  • Powdered sugar 

Combine the eggs and flour in a bowl, mix well to help prevent lumps. Stir in vanilla, sugar, milk and butter until well combined.

Grease a skillet or crepe pan and set the stove on low-medium heat (3-4 on the dial). I've decided that 1/4 cup is the proper amount - after 3 tries - to add to the 9" circumference skillet surface. It is not going to spread very far on its own so taking off the heat, use your wrist to guide the batter around the pan surface until it is pretty evenly spread.

Let sit for about 1 minute. Like making a pancake, use a spatula to gently nudge under the sides to see how solidified it has become. If it tears a little - which it may, it's pretty thin - use the extra batter as adhesive to mend the tear. My solution at least! When you can get under the crepe with a spatula, work to flip it gently yet swiftly. The first time we tried this, Erin helped me guide it and quickly flip it over with an additional spatula, a paper plate was involved.... by the third attempt, I had it down. Once flipped, let it sit on the heat for about 30 seconds, then add the Nutella so it becomes nice and creamy across the crepe surface. Gently spread it then add the fruit topping.

Finally, using the spatula, generously fold one side over the other to close and create the look of a crepe.

Move to a plate and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Take a bite, relish the rich flavors of the choco-hazelnut, fruit blend and a hint of vanilla from the thin crust surrounding it all. Not too shabby for a first attempt! I hope to become more adventurous and try my favorite restaurant crepe, stuffed with avocado, cheese, tomato, spinach, and topped in a poblano cream sauce. One can dream... but for now, indulge in this!

 Attempt 1: Little thick, didn't quite get the fold right...but really delicious

Attempt 2: Better but there's a giant lob of Nutella to "hold" the fold, topped with powdered sugar.
Attempt 3: Thin, stuffed, folded, delicious!

Tastefully yours,

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Bacon-Wrapped Green Beans

Thanksgiving is just right around the corner! Holidays always provide us with a wonderful time to sit back and reflect on the past year since and the many years of memories that holiday brings. It also provides us with the most influential opportunity to eat some incredibly tasty food. It's magical. Last year over the holidays, I played with some new recipes including:

This year, we've already contributed a few of our usual suspects to Friendsgiving dinners, including mashed potatoes and creamed spinach, but also wanted to bring something new to the table (pun not intended). This dish is rather popular, made several different ways, but it is my first attempt so here we go! Researching the dish, there were the three main ingredients found in each: green beans, bacon and brown sugar. I contemplated using prosciutto but after discussing that with a clerk at the grocery store, I was swayed back to bacon. It just cooks better and prosciutto is not meant to be crisped like bacon.

I added a clove of minced garlic, but I also had shallots so I decided to use the garlic in the sauce, then saute the chopped shallot and top each bundle with them as they roast in the oven. After combining the butter, brown sugar and garlic, I felt like I needed another liquid and soy has worked well with similar mixes so it earned a spot in this recipe. Finally, I added a little squeeze of lemon juice and it was perfect. After consuming it, very happy with the dish but I am still curious about the prosciutto. I didn't feel like the bacon crisped that much in the oven so it may work out well! I have two more Thanksgiving dinners coming up this week - eek - so I may just have to try it again.

Nutritional facts per bundle, calculated by 187 calories, 12g fat, 28mg cholesterol, 19g carbs, 3g fiber and 3g protein.

Grocery List:
  • 8 strips bacon (I used uncured, maple smoked bacon)
  • 3/4 - 1 lb. fresh haricot verts 
  • 3 tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup unpacked brown sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tsp. soy sauce
  • Juice from 1 lemon wedge
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
Start by setting your oven to 400 degrees. Place the haricot verts in a pot and boil in water, cook uncovered for about 8 minutes or until crisp-tender.

While the beans cook, combine the butter, brown sugar in a bowl, mixing until sugar has dissolved. Add the garlic, soy and lemon juice. It will have a thick glaze consistency.

While your beans continue to cook, saute the diced shallot in a little olive oil on low heat until they are transparent and golden.

Remove the shallots from the skillet and turn up the heat slightly. Cook the bacon in a skillet until cooked, but not crisp. I'm glad I had Mr. Max for this one because I like my bacon crispy which works well when you tend to overcook it (ahem, that would be me). He made sure it was medium-rare, rather than well-done. For those like me, it took about 3 minutes. Remove from the skillet and set it aside. When the beans are ready, drain and let cool a bit before the next part. When they are cool enough to handle, grab about 15-20 beans and wrap the bacon around, securing with a toothpick. Place in a baking dish.

The sauce had thickened as it sat, so I zapped it in the microwave for about 15 seconds. Brush or spoon the bundles with sauce.

Finally, top with the diced sauteed shallot. Pop in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until bacon is crisp. Remove from the oven, let cool for about 2-5 minutes and place with the rest of your spread!

These would make a great appetizer to munch on before the big feast or a potentially healthier replacement for the traditional green bean casserole at your dinner!

Tastefully Yours,

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Healthy Sweet Potato Casserole

"Eww, gross. They are all orange and mushy with brown stuff on top."

Direct quote from Yours Truly. This was my sweet potato mentality from as early as I can remember until the ripe age of 23. TWENTY-THREE. That was during my days of: if it looked questionable, it was not edible. The Thanksgiving of 2006, as I was helping set the spread, I decided to stick my finger in there and try that sweet potato casserole. I then had a revelation - this is so %$@! good.

Ever since, I've been trying to make up for lost time. We finally found each other, like star crossed lovers. Yes, I'm still talking about sweet potatoes, it's not weird. I've made the typical sweet potato casserole for the family at the last four Thanksgivings and in the last two years, I've accepted that it's not just a Thanksgiving food - I can do all sorts of fun things with them! Sweet potatoes, while better for you than regular potatoes, can easily be a wash when it comes to trying to eat well around the holidays. They are usually loaded up with butter, sugars, and marshmallow galore - how is this not on the dessert table? But are we forgetting that they are called sweet potatoes? They are already naturally tasty, just need a few of the right ingredients to easily enhance them, not smother them.

This year, I'm trusting a Cooking Light recipe that was also recently featured on SkinnyTaste, for my sweet potato contribution. It's lighter, healthier and you don't have to feel as guilty for consuming or going back for more. Comparing the two recipes, I liked what Gina did in her adaptation but I wanted to shave a little more off the butter and sugar. I brought this to our monthly "family" dinner and it was very well received. Those that said they don't usually care for sweet potatoes, Mr. Max included, went back for more and asked for the recipe. If they could be flipped, it's worth a shot so this Thanksgiving, this is your sweet potato dish!

Nutritional facts were adjusted based on my measurements from, serving size is 1/2 cup: Contains 102 calories, 1g fat, 1.8g protein, 15.2 carbs, 2.9g fiber, and 11.3g sugars per serving.

Grocery List:
  • 5 sweet potatoes, peeled, cubed and boiled until soft
  • 1/2 cup fat free, skim or 1% milk
  • 2 tbsp. light butter, softened
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. gound nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup unpacked light brown sugar
Boiling 5 cubed up potatoes takes about 20 minutes, at most. Keep an eye on them and drain when they are soft enough to mash. You can use a mixer or a potato masher, I used an immersion hand blender to get the potatoes in perfect form. In a large bowl, mix in the milk 1/4 at a time - the original recipe called for 3/4 cup milk but I only used 1/2 cup after mixing it in a little at a time.

When the milk is mixed in, add the butter, salt, 1/4 cup brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix together with a spoon until well combined.

Grease a casserole dish and spoon the sweet potatoes in to a 9x9 or 11x7 baking dish.

Set the oven to broil and allow it to heat as you complete the last step. Take the final 1/4 cup brown sugar and either sift it or carefully spread it evenly over the top. The first layer you sprinkle over top will be absorbed but it's there, don't you worry.

Broil for just two minutes, careful not to let it burn, to allow the sugar to melt over top. Remove from the oven and let sit for about 3-5 minutes, as the melted sugar hardens to form a crisp layer - like a brulee!

Set out with your spread and dig in. Enjoy your lightened and healthier sweet potato casserole!

 Tastefully Yours,

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fall Penne Pasta

I found this recipe on through Pinterest and couldn't wait to try it out. Studying it more closely, I saw that I had some adapting to do. I already knew I wanted to add roasted butternut squash but then came the shock: it called for a whole stick of butter to make the balsamic sauce! Wide eyed and jaw dropped I knew that would not be the case in this kitchen tonight.

I decided to use only 1 tbsp. of butter to savor some of the rich flavor from the original recipe and add a few tablespoons of olive oil to compensate for the missing 7 tbsp. I had wanted to add toasted almond slivers to complete the taste of fall, but discovered I didn't have any in the pantry. I roasted the butternut squash in thyme and rosemary to add more dimension. This was a perfect weeknight meal, taking under 30 minutes to prepare. I hope you enjoy the rich, smooth tastes of this pasta dish as we did!

Grocery List:
  • 2 cups whole wheat penne pasta
  • Salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 3 tbsp. + 1 tsp., divided
  • Pinch rosemary and thyme
  • 1 cup butternut squash, small cubes
  • 8 spears asparagus, chopped
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar, unpacked
  • 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp. shredded Parmesan (Parmeggiano Reggiano provides best flavor!)

Start by heating the oven to 450 degrees. Toss your butternut squash cubes in 1 tbsp. olive oil and sprinkle a pinch of rosemary and pinch of thyme. Set the timer for 20 minutes and place in the oven to begin roasting.

Boil your pasta in well-salted water until al dente, drain in a colander and set aside. Chop your asparagus, creating three pieces from the full stock and spear. Toss in 1 tsp. olive oil and after 10 minutes in the oven for the squash, add the asparagus to roast for the final 10 minutes.

In a small sauce pan, add the balsamic vinegar until reduced to about 3 tbsp. worth in the pan. Whisk in the brown sugar until dissolved, followed by the pepper. You can see below the line from the reduction...

In a microwavable bowl, melt the butter and add additional 2 tbsp. of olive oil. In a mixing bowl, combine the penne, roasted veggies, olive oil/butter mix and vinegar. Add 2 tbsp. Parmesan cheese and gently toss altogether.

Spoon into bowls and you are ready to serve! Add a big salad for an additional helping of nutritious greens.
 I used shredded Parmesan on hand to garnish

Tastefully yours,

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