Let’s talk about Chex, baby

But first, let’s talk about baseball. What a World Series, huh?! Unlike football, which I only watch for the Herbstreit sightings, I actually like baseball for its own sake. I think the World Series is very exciting, and even when I don’t care which team wins (as was the case this year), I like to pick one anyway so I can be either jubilant or heartbroken at the end. Sadly, I pledged my allegiance to the Rangers this year. My heart bleeds for you, Ron Washington! Don’t let this setback dampen your endearing dugout enthusiasm!

The World Series requires snack mix, of course. And while you can certainly pick up some standard snack mix at your nearest Git N’ Go (or comparable establishment), I think it’s fun to customize your own with your fave flavors.

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The original recipe for Chex mix, as you may know, involves Chex, pretzels, nuts, bagel chips, Worcestershire sauce, butter, and a couple other dry seasonings. But you can color outside the lines and go without a recipe, as long as you retain four basic elements:

  • 1) 10-12 cups crunchy stuff, the bulk of which should be Chex or its cheap-o generic equivalent
  • 2) about 8 tablespoons flavorful liquid ingredients, at least half of which should be fat (melted butter is highly recommended)
  • 3) about 3 teaspoons dry seasonings
  • 4) baking at a low temperature (I go with 250) on a large sheet pan, stirring every 15 minutes until it’s as brown as you’d like

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For example, here’s what went into my “Game Six Chex Mix” (actually consumed during Game 7, but I like rhyming recipe titles):

  • 8 c. Chex
  • 2 c. rye bagel chips
  • 1 c. dry-roasted peanuts
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 2 tbsp melted peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp tamari
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp ground ginger

I melted the butter and peanut butter together in the microwave first, and then whisked in the tamari, vinegar, and dry seasonings. Then I poured that whole concoction over the crunchy ingredients in a big mixing bowl, tossed it all together, and baked it on a sheet pan at 250 for 30 minutes, stirring once. Easy-peasy, huh? Try perfecting your own combo some time soon, so you’ll be ready for Opening Day next spring.

This week I’ll be subbing as an elementary school secretary, interviewing for another job, and trying really, really hard to stick to a training plan for a 10K I’m doing with a couple of friends in 3 weeks. I hope you all have good stuff going on as well–see you again next week!

Pepp-o-lanterns

Are you busily preparing for a festive Halloween dinner party? No? Well, schedule one, fool! I’ve got your main course right here!

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I’m honestly not sure where I first came across this brilliant idea for stuffed peppers. It might have been Pinterest, or it might have been this post. In any event, I filed it away in my mental recipe box for the appropriate time, and that time is now! Put on your aprons and set yourself up with some seasonal background music.

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I used four orange bell peppers. Carefully slice off the tops, and then remove the seeds and ribs/white stuff from both the cap and the body of the pepper. Then, get out a thin, sharp knife and start carving. Facial expressions are up to you. This pepper is content:

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This pepper just received some startling news! Goodness!

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And this pepper is all bummed out because it is unemployed. It just wants a modest paycheck so it can buy some cocktail dresses AND KITCHEN APPLIANCES DAMMIT.

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Just some examples off the top of my head.

The stuffing I came up with is easy, adaptable, and full of tasty, nutritious things.

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One of these, some veggies on the side, perhaps a healthy dose of Halloween candy, and you’re all set! Enjoy the recipe and I’ll see you fine folks again soon.

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Quinoa Stuffed Peppers (makes 4)

  • 4 bell peppers (color is up to you)
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 c. chopped onion
  • 1/2 c. grated carrot
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried coriander
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 14 oz. can tomato sauce (divided)
  • 1 c. cooked quinoa
  • 1 c. canned black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1-2 large handfuls spinach leaves
  • 1/2 c. grated cheese, plus extra for sprinkling on top if desired

Prepare the bell peppers by slicing off the tops and removing the seeds and ribs. If one doesn’t stand up on its own, you may also want to take a very small slice off the bottom to level it off. Carve their little faces! Sautee the onion, carrot, and garlic in 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil for about five minutes. Add the tomato paste, one cup of the tomato sauce, spices, beans, and quinoa, and simmer for another 3 minutes or so. Finally, mix in the cheese and the spinach, and stir just long enough for the cheese to melt and the spinach to wilt. Remove the pan from the heat.

Preheat the oven to 350. Choose a baking dish that will fit all four peppers. Cover the bottom of the dish with the remaining tomato sauce, and set the peppers upright in the sauce. Fill each with one-fourth of the stuffing, and put their tops back on. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, remove the pepper tops and sprinkle the stuffing with a bit more cheese if desired, and continue baking uncovered for 10 more minutes.

Victory smoothie

I did the half marathon and I’m still alive! (Well, obviously.)

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My mom did the race as well. Note that this post-race photo looks eerily similar to last year’s post-race photo. I swear we both laundered our running clothes in between the two events.

It took me quite awhile to cover those 13.1 miles, but, you know, it’s a beautiful world we live in, and sometimes I just like to slow down a bit and really take it all in. No need to go blazing through the route, that’s my racing philosophy :) I had a great time, I ran into some old friends along the route and at the finish line, and my dad picked us up at the end with a cooler full of post-race refreshments.

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(No actual pork in there, just bananas and Gatorade.)

I was pretty cashed for the rest of the day, so I didn’t do much in the kitchen. I will, however, tell you what I put in my after-race smoothie, because it was simply scrumptious. Into the blender:

  • 1/2 c. canned pumpkin
  • 1/4 c. oats
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • a pinch of all the other “Thanksgiving spices” (cloves, nutmeg, ground ginger)
  • 1 c. almond milk

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Better than pumpkin pie! The only downside was that I ran out of my preferred cinnamon, the Penzey’s “Extra Fancy” variety….

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…so this smoothie was merely semi-formal. I’ll have to restock soon.

Finally, did you notice the blog looks a little different? I switched from WordPress hosting to a self-hosted site over the weekend. Now I am truly the master of this tiny little domain! I’ve never done something so tech-y before, and I’m quite proud that it seems to have worked. If you happen to be interested in self-hosting, I thought this link was really helpful, and I pretty much followed it step-by-step. I’m sure there’ll still be a few kinks to work out, though, so be patient with me, if you please! For one thing, I think I’ve lost all email subscribers, and if you use Google Reader you’ll probably need to re-subscribe.

Have a great week!

Meatloaf! (But not really)

I have received some requests for a meatloaf recipe. Here’s the thing about that: I just can’t do it anymore, guys. In my transitioning-to-vegetarian stage, I sometimes made things with meat in them for omnivorous family members and friends. But after all this time, the thought of filling a loaf pan with ground meat just kind of grosses me out. In other words, as Meatloaf himself once said, “I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that.”

Here’s what I will do:

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That is a magically delicious meatless meatloaf, made of lentils, millet, and just a few other wonderful things. Yes, lentils. Don’t look at me like that, Baconator. I daresay this is my favorite blog recipe to date. That is a bold statement, especially after last week’s pumpkin cookies, but I am quite in love with this stuff. Great with a baked sweet potato for dinner, great crumbled over a salad for lunch the next day, cheap, simple, and it won’t give you the meat-sweats. (<——–I just googled that. Totally a real thing.)

The only part of this recipe that might seem like a drag is cooking the lentils and the millet. But fear not–both of these things don’t require much attention once you get them going. You can easily cook them ahead of time if you want. Here’s an excellent post that will tell you everything you need to know about millet, including how to cook it. For the lentils, first make sure to pick them over a bit before cooking them. Because of the way they’re harvested, very rarely there will be a teensy pebble or other non-lentil object in the bag, and nobody wants to eat pebbles.

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For this recipe, I used 1/2 c. lentils, cooked in 1 1/2 c. veggie stock. Cooking them in water is fine, but using stock adds a little extra flavor. Just use a 3-1 liquid-to-lentils ratio, bring to a boil, and then lower to a simmer until tender but not mushy–mine took about 25 minutes.

Once you have your cooked millet and lentils, everything comes together in a snap.

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You’ll add a sweet glaze about halfway through the baking time…

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…and once it’s done, you can enjoy a slice while sitting in the fall leaves like a J.Crew model.

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Lentil Millet Loaf (serves about 6)

  • 1/2 c. lentils (uncooked)
  • 3 c. vegetable stock (may also use water)
  • 1/2 c. millet (uncooked)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 c. diced onion
  • 1/2 c. chopped walnuts
  • 3 tbsp flax meal (ground flaxseeds)
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 c. ketchup

For the glaze:

  • 1/4 c. ketchup
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar

Pick over the lentils and remove any small bits of debris. Bring the lentils to a boil in the 3 cups of veggie stock (or water). Lower the heat, and simmer until the lentils are tender but not mushy (start checking after about 20 minutes). To cook the millet, toast it for a couple of minutes in a bit of olive oil in the bottom of a saucepan. Then add two cups of water, bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer with the lid on for 20 minutes. (See the post linked above for more detailed millet-cooking info.)

Mix the flax meal with the 1/2 cup of water and set aside to thicken for a few minutes. (This will create a flax “egg” that will bind the mixture.) Sautee the onion and garlic with a drizzle of olive oil until softened (about five minutes). Add the walnuts to the onion and garlic and continue to sautee for about 2 more minutes before removing the pan from the heat. Pulse the cooked lentils in a food processor until very few whole lentils remain. (This will keep the loaf from being too crumbly.) In a large bowl, mix the lentils, millet, sauteed onion/garlic/walnut mixture, flax “egg”, salt, pepper, and ketchup. Press firmly into a loaf pan (mine is 5″x9″, which I think is pretty standard) and bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes. About halfway through the baking time, spread the glaze on top of the loaf and return to the oven until finished.

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Have a great week, folks! I’m doing a half marathon next Sunday, so if I don’t make it back here next Monday, just assume I’m too sore to walk to my computer.

 

Homeroom Mothering

While searching for a lawyer job, I’ve been making some money by subbing as an associate teacher. It’s a pretty fantastic way to pass the time, let me tell you. Kids are hilarious, and we get to do awesome stuff, like take field trips to the grocery store and learn about explorers, tectonic plates, and good character.

Last week I was working in a first grade classroom where one of the students was having a birthday, so we got treats in the afternoon. The treats were those round, frosted sugar cookies you can buy in the front of pretty much every grocery store, Target, Walmart, etc. There is no love in those cookies, my friends–just sugar, flour, food coloring, and probably some partially hydrogenated lard. You can’t blame the birthday girl or her parents, though, because home-baked treats are a no-no in most schools today. I assume this is because of food allergies, which makes sense, but the rule still bums me out because it pretty much crushes one of my childhood dreams.

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You see, when I was but a young lass at Jefferson Elementary School (pictured above with my bro, wearing my MC Hammer pants), we had something called a “Homeroom Mother”. This was a parent of one of the children in your class who was responsible for bringing treats, juice boxes, and favors for the various class parties. (There were no Homeroom Fathers, but seven-year-old Darcy wasn’t concerned because she hadn’t yet been told about the evils of patriarchy.) For context, please see this photo of one of my mom’s class Halloween parties (she was a first grade teacher):

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Doesn’t that look like a can’t-miss party? I knew, deep in my heart, that I would one day be a Homeroom Mother. It was clearly the part I was born to play, and I would have thrown some rad class parties, let me tell you. I would have dazzled the classmates of my hypothetical future children with meticulously decorated baked goods. But ALAS! It can never be. Score one for the store-bought sugar cookies.

But let’s pretend, just for today, that I was in charge of treats for a Halloween/fall party. I would make these…..

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…and you should too, because they’re light, pillowy, pumpkin-y, and deeeee-licious. They look like cookies, but the texture is much more like cake. The frosting has a nice little hint of cinnamon. And of course there are sprinkles, because I conducted a focus group of sorts with my group of kiddos while we ate our birthday treats last week, and we all agreed that sprinkles are AWESOME.

Happy baking, and happy Monday!
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Pumpkin Cookies (makes 18-20)

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 c. canned pumpkin (Make sure it’s just plain pumpkin, NOT the pumpkin pie filling. I make that mistake at the grocery store about once every year.)
  • 1/2 c. canola (or vegetable) oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Frosting:

  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 c. confectioners sugar

Preheat the oven to 325 and grease your cookie sheets (I used parchment paper in the picture below, but later found that just greasing the cookie sheet worked better). Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. In another bowl, beat the eggs and sugar for about 30 seconds, add the vanilla, oil, and pumpkin puree, and mix until completely combined. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, mix until just combined, and then drop a bit less than 1/4 cup of the dough onto the cookie sheet for each cookie. Flatten each one out a bit with the back of a spoon, so they look like this:

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Bake for 12 to 14 minutes. While the cookies cool, mix the frosting ingredients until there are no lumps. (If you’re using an electric mixer, start on low speed to avoid a giant cloud of confectioners sugar.) When the cookies are completely cool, frost them and add sprinkles or chopped pecans.