Friday, September 28, 2012

Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese

I'm not really sure when or why this obsession started but I am an absolute grilled cheese fanatic! And don't even get me started on tomato soup. Campbell's tomato soup is a staple in my kitchen. But wouldn't you know, it's not really the healthiest of choices: it's packed with sodium and sugar (as most condensed soups are), so I have been avoiding buying it lately.

The other night I had an extreme craving, it was intense (like camping... get it? *nudge nudge*). And, can you believe, I had nary a can of the delicious red stuff, like I said I've been avoiding it. BUT, I did just happen to have four large tomatoes. I thought to myself, as I often do, "I could probably whip together some tomato soup from these... How hard could it be?" Later that night, as I was enjoying my wonderful warm cheesey sandwich covered in tomato-ey soupiness I answered myself: "Not hard at all... not... hard... at all."

So here's what I did. (I only made enough for two bowls because I didn't want too much leftover, so double or even triple to recipe for a larger batch).

First, I cored the tomatoes (no goopy middle in my soup!) and cubed them. Then I sliced half an onion, crushed a LARGE clove of garlic, (seriously, it probably was about 3 regular sized cloves). I put all of this into a large pot and then I added 2 bay leaves (they're kinda old so I have to use two). I also poured in a cup of water, and tossed in a chicken boullion cube, 2 teaspoons of black peppercorns, and 1 teaspoon cloves.

I brought this to a boil and left to simmer, covered for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes I poured it into the food processor and blended until it was smooth. (For a thinner soup, run it through a food mill instead of the food processor. I don't have a food mill but I've been told it's a magical experience to make soup with one.)

I then made a roux in the empty pot using 2 tablespoons of butter, melted, and 2 tablespoons of flour. I cooked that over medium heat until it was light brown and then poured the vegetable mixture back into the pot. (look at that beautiful moment captured on film, a bubble popped... electric) (<--- that was a Gwen Stefani reference)

I added 1 teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoons sugar and brought it back to a boil. Then I let it simmer again while I made my grilled cheese.

I melted some butter in a pan,

placed a slice of bread on top and spread it around to coat the bread in the butter,

sprinkled some cheese over the bread (ALWAYS use shredded cheese in grilled cheese. It may be a bit more technical to flip but it melts much more evenly),

topped it with another slice of bread,

and cooked until the cheese was mostly melted, (oops! slightly burnt)

Before flipping I added some more butter and let that melt, then I placed the sandwich over the butter and spread it around again.

Then I dished out some tomato soup into a bowl, cut the sandwich in half and settled down to watch an episode of Futurama. ;)

Oh my, that looks so good; I'm going to have to make this again!

One thing is certain, I will not be needing to buy Campbell's in a can anymore.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

It's All About the . . . Arms

"It's all about the..." is a series of workouts I have created that focus on specific areas. Todays workout is about arms. This is for no particular reason except that I needed an arm workout. The other day I raised my hand in class and noticed a jiggly-wobbly bit hanging down. I said to my arm, "This is unacceptable behavior, I didn't expect it from you of all body parts. Now get back in line!"

Yeah... we're working on that.

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: It's All About the Arms Workout

Here's my workout. I do it on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday; the key is to do it on three non-consecutive days every week. You only need to do it one time through due to the repetitive nature of the actions.

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: It's All About the Arms Workout

Download this free printable workout.

I have also created a glossary for workout terms in case they are obscure or I use different names than what other people call things. Feel free to check that out. 

These are the terms used in this workout:

Back Row
Standing with legs hip-width distance apart bend your knees slightly. Lean your upper body forward. Hold a weight in each hand, arms at side and palms facing in. Pull your elbows up behind your body until your arms are at a 90-degree angle at the elbow. Release to starting.

Bicep Curl
Hold a weight in each hand, arms down, and palms forward. Bending at the elbow lift the weight to your shoulders. Release weight back to starting position.

Half-Bicep Curl
Similra to bicep curls but instead of lifting the weights all the way to your shoulders stop when your forearms are parallel to the floor and release to starting.

Lay on your belly with hand flat on the floor on either side, forearms perpendicular to the floor. Stiffen body and literally push yourself away from the ground, hinging at the toes. When arms are straight hold and with control release your body, hover above the ground and repeat.

Shoulder Press
Hold a weight in each hand above your shoulders, next to your ears. With palms facing in life the weights straight up until your arms are straight directly over your shoulders. release to starting position.

Tricep Dip
Find an elevated surface such as a step, a coffee table over a chair. Place your palms on the surface directly behind your body. Hold yourself up and gently lower yourself down using your arms. When your arms make a 90-degree angle behind you lift yourself back up to the starting position.

Hold a weight in each hand, arms at your side with palms facing in. Lift with straight arms and open them into a v-shape until arms are parallel with the floor.  Hold then carefully release to starting position.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Stop looking because these are the best brownies you will ever find...

As many of you know I am a firm believer in eating healthy. I am also a firm believer that denying yourself something is not healthy, especially when that something is chocolate. So to clarify my firm beliefs... Moderation is key. That is why everyone needs to have a good brownie recipe. I honestly think it should be included in life's handbook. 

Here's some information on chocolate (*I am not a doctor, please consult your doctor for more information on the following*):

  • Cocoa contains flavenol, a type of flavenoid and natural occurring antioxidant, which researchers suggest may protect neurons (Huffington Post, 2012)
  • The antioxidants in cocoa can also prevent aging caused by free radicals, which may lead to heart disease (Cleveland Clinic, 2012)
  • Dark chocolate may lower blood pressure and cholesterol (Longevity, 2009)
  • Dark chocolate contains theobromine, caffeine and other stimulating substances (Longevity, 2009)
  • It also contains serotonin, which acts as an anti-depressant (Longevity, 2009)
  • Dark chocolate also increases endorphin production, which increase pleasure (Longevity, 2009)
  • Surprisingly dark chocolate can prevent diabetes (Women's Health, 2012)
  • It can reduce stress (Women's Health, 2012)
  • And help protect against sun damage (Women's Health, 2012)
  • On top of all this it tastes goooooood!
Like I said, moderation is key and be sure that your grabbing a quality bar of dark chocolate, and you can receive some of these benefits and more.

So brownies... My idea of the perfect brownie is crispy crust, gooey inside, chocolate chips, not frosting, no nuts, and not too cakey or fudgey. This is it. This covers all bases for my ideal brownie. This recipe has a short ingredients list so be sure to use quality chocolate.

Add 1 1/2 cup sugar to a mixing bowl,

Pour in 3/4 cup flour,

Then add 3/4 cup cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli dark chocolate cocoa powder).

Crack three eggs into the bowl...

Add 3/4 cup melted butter (I have no idea why the butter looks neon in this picture)

And 1/2 teaspoon salt (I skipped this because I used salted butter). Then mix it together; don't mix too thoroughly just enough to combine the wet and dry ingredients.

Mix in chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips).

Pour the batter into a greased baking dish. That is the best looking chocolate batter I have ever seen. I'm totally drooling.

Bake at 325 for 30 minutes (sorry it's a bit blurry, I was shaking with happiness). Test with a toothpick for doneness (remember there are chocolate chips in there so your first poke might not come out clean.

Let cool on a wire rack for about 5 minutes (or as long as you can wait... I made it 2 minutes). Cut into cubes and serve with a nice cold glass of milk.

I had almond milk which was quite delicious...

Brownies: seriously the best things on the planet. These are the perfect balance between fudgey and cakey, with the signature brownie crispy crust.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Parmesan Chicken

I have been making this recipe for parmesan chicken longer than any other. In fact it was the first dinner I ever cooked on my own. I was in a Food Fun class in middle school and one of our assignments was to cook dinner for our family. We had to present pictures and the recipe in a presentation to the class. (I wish I still had the pictures from then; they're probably in a box at my parents house somewhere). It is really simple and easy to modify for variety.

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Parmesan Chicken

I like to make an assembly line of my ingredients: 

  • Chicken (free-range, hormone free, on sale yay!), 
  • Two eggs, slightly beaten (I usually used a stick of butter, melted but I didn't have any...), 
  • Some breading mixture (The original recipe 1/4 cup parmesan and 1/2 cup italian seasoned bread crumbs. I used 1/4 cup parmesan, 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs and some paprika, black pepper, salt, italian seasoning, oregano, garlic powder and onion powder... I didn't really measure just added what I thought looked good... it was for science), and
  • A greased baking dish,
  • All lined up to next to the oven, pre-heated to 450.
Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Parmesan Chicken

I took a total of zero pictures during the following steps; if you try this recipe you will see why. My hands were quite literally caked in bread-y goodness and it would have just been a big old mess. So you will just have to use your imagination skills.

Basically you take your chicken and coat it in the eggs. Then roll it around in the bread crumb mixture and place it in the pan. Repeat for all your chickens.

Usually if there is leftover butter I will pour it over the chicken but since I used eggs I didn't do this. Butter really works much better from my experience. I also sprinkle leftover breadcrumbs over the chicken. Bake for 40 minutes.

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Parmesan Chicken
Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Parmesan Chicken

Serve with salad, bread and your favorite beer. Yummy!

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Parmesan Chicken

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Parmesan Chicken

  1. After baking 20 minutes remove from oven and pour marinara sauce over chicken and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Serve over spaghetti with more marinara sauce.
  2. Like I've said, use butter instead of eggs.
I've taken the leftover chicken for lunch in a quesadilla...

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Lunch Ideas
chees and chicken quesadilla, carrot sticks with ranch and some seaweed ;)

And to add to this salad...

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Lunch Ideas
Hard-boiled egg, pile o' veggies and some chicken goodness.

How do you use your leftovers? 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Slow-cooker Apple Butter

In my plum cake post I talked about the plums my grandmother gave me. Well, the same day she gave me a dozen apples. I knew I needed to make something with the apples to use them up before they went bad. Enter: Apple Butter

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

I started by gathering my supplies: washed apples, bowl for peels, peeler. And found a comfortable place with a nice view: my porch at my outdoor table.

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

It took about an hour to peel all the apples... (Julia Child never had this kind of problem peeling apples... then again Julia Child probably had an apple peeler)

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

I turned it into a bit of a game; here's my longest peel (the whole apple without breaking) I am an apple peeling champ!

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

Then I cored and cubed the apples and added them to the crock-pot and gathered the remaining ingredients.

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter
Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

Next, I added 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon allspice (next time I will probably use less sugar because it turned out very sweet since the apples add their own sweetness).

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter
Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

Then I left it for 10 hours and checked it.

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

It was still pretty liquid-y so I gave it a couple (2) more hours until it was mostly all evaporated. I put it all in the blender to blend it smooth.

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

And poured it into jars... I froze the little one and left the big one in the fridge.

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter
Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

It tastes wonderful by the spoonful but a few suggestions: added to plain yogurt and mixed with granola, mixed with boiling water for apple cider or spread on toast.

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple ButterMaggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

You can make most fruit butters this way. I'd like to try pumpkin butter this fall.

How have you used apple butter? What other fruit butters have you tried?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Farmers' Market Vegetable Stew

It's the time of the year when vegetables are plentiful and sometimes it's hard to know what to do with them all. When I visited my mom two weeks ago we made this soup with many of the vegetables from her garden. 

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Farmer's Market Vegetable Stew

Chop up 1/2 cup onions, 1 cup carrots, 1 pound potatoes, 1 bell peppers of your preferred color, and 2 zucchinis. Mince 3 cloves of garlic.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot. Add the onions, carrots and garlic. Cook about 5 minutes until softened.

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Farmer's Market Vegetable Stew

Add the potatoes, zucchini and a 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes (drained).

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Farmer's Market Vegetable Stew

Stir together 2 tespoons dijon mustard, 1 teaspoons minced ginger, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, and 1/2 teaspoon italian seasoning. Add 4 tablespoons vegetable broth then add to the pot. Pour in 1 3/4 cup vegetable broth.

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Farmer's Market Vegetable Stew
Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Farmer's Market Vegetable Stew

Add bell peppers and some fresh basil.

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Farmer's Market Vegetable Stew

Then add the swiss chard.

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Farmer's Market Vegetable Stew

Then pour in some leftover red wine ;) we used about half a cup of cabarnet. Allow to boil then turn down heat to low. Cover and let simmer for at least 20 minutes. Add one can of chickpeas.

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Farmer's Market Vegetable Stew

Serve with bread and wine. Have some plum cake for dessert.

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Farmer's Market Vegetable Stew

*Side note: Leftover wine can be frozen in an ice cube tray for use in soups and sauces.

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Freeze wine in and ice cube tray

How have you used your fresh produce this season?