Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Super Simple Oven-Baked Ribs

This isn't so much a recipe as it is a technique. I've made ribs this way a couple of times now for my family and we love them. I bake them covered in foil initially, which keeps them moist. Then I remove the foil about halfway through so the ribs get good and caramelized. So, so good!

Super Simple Oven-Baked Ribs

What you'll need:
1 rack of pork spareribs (the rack I used here was about 5 1/2 lb.)
your favorite rub
your favorite bbq sauce

What you do:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place ribs on a large rimmed baking sheet. Liberally apply your favorite rub and massage into the ribs. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 1 1/2 hours.

2. Remove the foil from the ribs and continue to bake another 1 1/2 hours. Ribs should be tender and  deeply caramelized by this time. 

3. Remove pan from the oven and carefully transfer the ribs, meaty side down, to a clean baking sheet. Brush the top of the ribs (back of the rack) with bbq sauce. Return to the oven and bake for 10 minutes, or until the sauce begins to caramelize on top of the ribs. Remove from the oven, carefully flip ribs, and brush the top (meaty) side of the ribs with the bbq sauce. Return the ribs to the oven and bake another 10 minutes, or until the bbq sauce is caramelized. Remove from the oven and cut into desired portions.

Cabbage Soup with Bacon, Potatoes and White Beans

I came up with this recipe because I had half of a head of a large cabbage in my crisper drawer and some delicious thick-cut pepper bacon Dan had brought home awhile back. We were having one of those epic Pacific Northwwest rainstorms and I wanted to make something to warm our bellies. I love this kind of food, it's so hearty and comforting.

Cabbage Soup with Bacon, Potatoes and White Beans
~serves about 6-8~

What you'll need:
1 T. olive oil
8 oz. thick cut bacon, diced
2 onions, finely chopped
12 oz. carrots, peeled and chopped
1 t. dried thyme
2 lg. (about 1 1/2 lb.) russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-3/4 inch dice
15 oz. can of cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 of a large head (or 1small head) of cabbage, coarsely chopped
4 c. low-sodium chicken broth
4 c. water

What you do:
Heat olive oil in a large soup pot or dutch oven. Add bacon and cook until crisp. Remove bacon to a paper towel lined plate. Leaving about 1 T. drippings in the pot, add onions, carrots and thyme and cook until onions are softened, about 5 minutes or so. Add remaining ingredients, bring to a simmer, then lower the heat and simmer about an hour, until vegetables are tender.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Classic Peanut Butter Cookies

After over 12 years of marriage, you kinda assume you know everything there is to know about a person. I however just found out that peanut butter cookies are my husbands favorite. I mean, I've made them loads of times, I just never knew they were his FAVORITE kind (next to snickerdoodles, which I did know he loved). There was only one thing to do after discovering this little factoid about the love of my life....

Classic Peanut Butter Cookies
yields approximately 26 3-inch cookies

What you'll need:
1/2 c. sugar, plus extra for pressing the cookie dough
1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/4 c. shortening
1/4 c. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
1 1/4 c. flour
3/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt

What you do:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

2. Using an electric mixer, (or by hand), beat together the sugar, brown sugar, peanut butter, shortening and butter in a large bowl until thoroughly mixed. Add egg & mix well. Add in flour mixture.

3. Roll cookie dough into 1-inch balls (about 2 T. dough per cookie). Place 3 inches apart on a baking sheet. Using a fork dipped in reserved sugar, press a criss-cross shape into each cookie, flattening the cookie dough.

4. Bake until light brown, 9-10 minutes. Cool 5 minutes on the baking sheet before removing the cookies to a wire rack to finish cooling. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Fresh Corn & Black Bean Salad

This is a great summertime salad. I tend to have trouble always eating right during the summertime when the kids are out of school, mainly because we get so busy. So I like to keep salads like this on hand during the summer months because I can make it one day and then have a healthy lunch/snack option on hand over the next few days.

Fresh Corn & Black Bean Salad
~servings vary~

*I like to serve this salad over lettuce, topped with crumbled queso fresco, crushed tortilla chips and chopped avocado. 

What You'll Need:
For the Dressing:
juice of 2 limes (3-4 T.)
1 small garlic clove, minced
1-2 t. honey (to taste)
1/4 t. cumin
1/3 c. canola oil
salt and pepper to taste
For the Salad
2 ears of fresh corn, cooked & kernels removed
1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1 pint of grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1 bunch of radishes, very coarsely chopped
1/2 c. chopped green onions (or you could use 1/4 chopped red onion)
1/4 c. rough chopped cilantro leaves

What you do:
1. Make the dressing: Combine all the ingredients for the dressing and set aside.

2. Combine the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Add the dressing. Toss to combine. 

3. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving to blend the flavors.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Linguini with Roasted Cauliflower, Sausage and Tomato

The weather's been so beautiful here in the Pacific Northwest. This week we've spent a lot of time doing outdoorsy things, like bug hunting (with my youngest) and razor scooter riding (with my oldest). Plus, this week I crossed over the fence from being a long time power-walker to an official jogger. This kind of came out of nowhere, I never actually thought it would be something I'd do, but I was out on a walk the other day with my 1 year-old German Shepherd, Sansa, and she was driving me absolutely nuts pulling on her leash while we walked, so I decided to make her (and my hand) happy and I jogged for the last part of our walk. When I got home I found I felt so great, I decided to just go forward with it, so that's what I've been doing and it's working out beautifully. I gotta say I'm pretty proud of myself.

 We also filled the propane on our grill this week and TWICE we feasted on Ribeye steaks the size of our heads! I think we probably consumed our alotted amount of red meat for the next couple of months, but it was worth it because they were SO good... I think my decision to start working out more aggressively may have been a timely one...

I put this dinner together tonight after yet another bug hunting/razor scooter outing with my family. On an unrelated note, we caught a shrew today. I saw it and my husband caught it in a box. Sometimes we'll find little critters at the park and bring them home long enough to learn a little about them then return them to their homes. We read that shrews can consume up to 125% percent of their body weight each day.  He's a cute little guy, and a ruthless bug killer.

Linguini with Roasted Cauliflower, Sausage and Tomato
~serves 3-4~

Note* If you are short on time, you could skip the homemade breadcrumbs and just serve the pasta with additional parmesan cheese.

1 small or 1/2 of  a large head of cauliflower, broken apart into small bite-sized pieces
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 lb linguini (I used 51% whole wheat liguini here)
2 slices of hearty white bread, torn into pieces
3/4 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese, divided
3 links of italian sausage (hot or mild is fine, I used mild here), casings removed
3 garlic cloves, minced
14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
1 c. low-sodium chicken broth
2 T. lemon juice 
2 T. minced fresh parsley

1. Roast the cauliflower: Adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place cauliflower on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast, stirring every 10 minutes, until cauliflower is browned and tender, 25-30 minutes. Remove beaking sheet from oven and set aside.

2. Make parmesan breadcrumbs. In a food processor, pulse bread to make evenly sized breadcrumbs. Heat 2 T. olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat until the oil shimmers. Add breadcrumbs and cook, stirring almost constantly until the breadcrumbs are crisp and browned, about 3 minutes. Remove to a plate to cool, after they have cooled for 5 minutes, stir in 1/4 of the parmesan cheese. Set aside.

3. Meanwhile, make the pasta. Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot or dutch oven. When boiling, add pasta and 2 1/2 t. salt. Cook pasta according to package directions, drain, reserving 1/2 c. pasta cooking water. Return the pasta to the pot and set aside while finishing the recipe.

4. After removing the breadcrumbs from the skillet, add the sausage and cook, over medium-high heat until the sausage is browned and cooked through, about 5-7 minutes. Remove the sausage to a paper towel-lined plate. Pour the fat from the skillet and wipe out the skillet lightly with paper towels.

5. Return the skillet to the medium heat, add 1 T. olive oil. When the oil is shimmering, add garlic and saute for about 1 minute, until garlic is just beginning to brown. Add drained tomatoes, chicken broth and 1/4 t. salt. Bring to a simmer and cook until reduced slightly, about 2-3 minutes. 

6. To the pasta in the pot add cauliflower, sausage, tomato mixture, remaining 1/2 c. parmesan cheese, lemon juice and parsley. Place the pasta pot over medium heat and stir until mixed together and heated through, adding the reserved pasta cooking water if needed, to loosen the consistency. 

7. Divide pasta among individual bowl and serve, sprinkling with the parmesan breadcrumbs.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Nebraska Beef Buns

I came across this recipe in the latest issue of Cook's Country  magazine and couldn't resist giving it a try. It's a regional favorite (also known as "runsas" or "bierocks") that features a soft and tender yeast roll that's filled with a mixture of ground beef, cabbage and cheese. It seems like a fussy recipe but in actuality, other than the time it took for the yeast dough to rise, this dish came together quite quickly and easily. Plus the dough was a dream to work with. My brain is already at work thinking about what else I could fill these buns with.

Nebraska Beef Buns
~makes 12~

Note* We liked these buns served with ketchup.

the filling
4 t. canola oil, divided
2 lb. extra-lean ground beef
salt and pepper
1 onion, chopped fine
4 c. finely chopped green cabbage (about 1/2 a small head of cabbage)
1 c. low-sodium chicken broth
8 oz. Colby-Jack cheese, shredded (about 2 c.)
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. water
6 T. unsalted butter
1/4 c. sugar
3 1/2 - 3 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 T. instant or rapid-rise yeast
1/2 t. salt
1 egg lightly beaten, plus 1 egg beaten with 1 T. water

1. Make the filling: Heat 2 t. oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat until the oil just begins to smoke. Add the ground beef, 1 t. salt and 1 t. pepper and cook, breaking up the meat until the liquid evaporates and the meat starts to sizzle, 10-15 minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside.

2. Return the pot to the heat, add the remaining oil and onion. Cook until just starting to brown, 2-3 minutes. Add drained beef, cabbage and chicken broth. Bring to a simmer, cover pot and cook until the cabbage is tender, about 5 minutes. Remove the lid and cook until the liquid completely evaporates and the mixture begins to sizzle again, 5-7 minutes more.

3. Transfer this mixture to a bowl and let cool for 15 minutes, then stir in the cheese and let cool to room temperature.

4. Prepare the dough: Grease a large bowl and set aside. Combine milk, water, butter and sugar in a microwave-safe container. Microwave until it reaches 110 degrees, 1-2 minutes. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or you can do this by hand as well), add 3 1/2 c. flour, yeast and salt. Mix to combine. With the machine running on low, slowly add in the milk-butter mixture, then the lightly beaten egg. Mix until dough comes together, about 3 minutes.

5. Increase speed to medium-low and mix until dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl but sticks to the bottom, about 8 minutes. If at about the 4 minute mark the dough still looks wet and sticky, add in the remaining flour, 1 T. at a time until the dough looks as it should. Transfer dough to the greased bowl and cover with oiled plastic wrap, let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 40-60 minutes.

6. Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower middle-positions and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 12 equal portions and roll each portion into a ball. Cover the dough balls with plastic wrap and let sit for 5 minutes.

7. Working with one piece of dough at a time and keeping the remaining dough covered in plastic wrap while you work. Roll out into an approximate 5 1/2 inch circle. Using a 1/2 c. measure, lightly pack the measuring cup with the beef mixture. Scoop out onto the rolled out dough. Bring the edges of the dough up the sides of the filling and pinch the seams together to close the dough around the filling. Place seam-side down on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Place 6 buns on each baking sheet, placing 2 inches apart. Cover baking sheets with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled in size, 45-60 minutes.

8. When risen, remove plastic wrap and brush each bun with egg/water mixture. Place the baking sheets, one on the upper rack, the other on the lower rack, and bake until golden brown, 22-25 minutes, rotating the baking sheets, front to back and top to bottom, halfway through the baking time. Remove buns to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Recipe source: adapted barely from Cook's Country Magazine

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Orange-Almond Drop Cookies with Orange Icing

First let me say, a very Happy Mother's day to all you wonderful moms out there. I hope you all got properly spoiled today. I got my Mother's Day booty on Friday when my boys got home from school. My 7 year-old made me a red ceramic dish with a sweet little heart carved in the bottom, along with a homemade card. My 11 year-old made me a super cool black/orange/glittered, mod-podged flower vase out of a glass bottle. Then on Saturday, my husband surprised me with a beautiful potted azalea, a sweet card and some chocolates (which incidentally are now all gone, cause it's Mother's Day and I can do what I want). Unfortunately today my husband is on a trucking layover for work, in Idaho until tomorrow morning, but we have plans to do something special for lunch tomorrow while the kids are at school. Today it's just me and my boys and we are planning on heading out to see Grandma soon for ice cream and fun. Plus we'll be taking her some of these cookies I baked this morning.

Recently while on a thrift-store outing with my mom I picked up this little gem...

I have sort of a collection happening with Betty Crocker cookbooks. It was the main cookbook my mom cooked from when I was growing up, she had two editions, her main one was a 1969 edition, the other was a 1950's edition (the original, I think?) that came from my grandmother. So after I got married it was the obvious cookbook choice for me as a new cook learning the ropes. I used that cookbook a lot in my first years of married life. Now I feel kinda like I need to own all the editions for some reason even though I don't really cook much from the Betty Crocker cookbook anymore. I guess it just hold a lot of sentimental value for me.

So when I saw this little treasure I was very excited to pick it up. Plus the way they spell "cooky" just makes it unforgettable. There are quite a few great sounding "cooky" recipes in here. I started with the second recipe in the book, which is these Orange Drop cookies.

Orange-Almond Drop Cookies with Orange Icing
~makes about 3 dozen cookies~

Note* The recipe called for using all vegetable shortening for the fat component, as opposed to butter, or a mixture of butter and shortening. If you wanted to, I suppose you could substitute half or all the shortening with butter.

for the cookies
2/3 c. shortening
3/4 c. sugar
1 egg
1/2 c. orange juice
2 T. grated orange zest
2 c. flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. slivered almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
for the icing
2 1/2 T. softened butter
1 1/2 c. sifted powdered sugar
1 1/2 T. orange juice
2 t. grated orange zest

1. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or by hand) cream together the shortening and sugar. Add egg and mix thoroughly. Add in orange juice and zest, mix thoroughly. Add in the flour mixture. When the flour is almost completely mixed in, add the almonds. Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, give the cookie dough one final mix to make sure everything is mixed together.

3. Drop the dough onto an ungreased baking sheets by rounded teaspoons and bake until golden brown around the edges, 8-10 minutes. Remove from and let the cookies set up for a couple of minutes on the baking sheet before removing cookies (with a thin metal spatula) to a wire rack to cool completely.

4. Meanwhile, prepare the icing. In a medium bowl blend together butter and powdered sugar. Add in orange juice and zest. mix vigorously until smooth. Ice the cooled cookies, using about 3/4 t. icing per cookie.

Recipe adapted from the Betty Crocker Cooky Book

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Turkey Patty Melts

This blog has definitely given me the incentive to make some of those things I've always wanted to but just have never gotten around to. I've never made patty melts at home before today, but I've always been pretty sure that this would be the type of recipe that would be well suited to making at home. Diner food is so yummy, but often times I'll order something with a certain expectation just to be disappointed by what I ultimately get. Usually the complaint for me is that some of these "comfort foods" come out too greasy and/or bland. I was pretty sure that a homemade patty melt held a lot of promise compared to what I might get if I opted to order one from my local diner.

I decided to make my version using ground turkey instead of the standard ground beef. Recently I read a patty melt recipe in a cooking magazine that used torn up rye bread, soaked in milk to make a "panade" or paste to add to the patty mixture. I knew, like a meatloaf or meatballs, that this addition would add tenderness to the burger as well as flavor. Since I typically make both meatloaf and meatballs using ground turkey, I figured it would fit the bill nicely for this application. 

This recipe is pretty fast to throw together, like a "30-minute meal" caliber dinner. I was kinda surprised that it came together so quickly since patty melts are a bit of a multi-step process, caramelize onions, form and cook  burger patties, put together a sandwich and grill it. But it came together swiftly and only dirtied one skillet. 

When I offered up one of these patty melts to my 11-year old son, Caleb, he took one bite and said, "Aw dude, that tastes awesome!". I think that's good enough for me!

Turkey Patty Melts
~makes 4 sandwiches~

2 large onions, thinly sliced
5 t. canola oil, divided
10 slices of rye bread
2 T. milk
1 T. worcestershire sauce
3/4 t. onion powder
1 t. salt, divided
1/2 t. pepper
1 1/4 lb. 93% lean ground turkey 
8 oz. swiss cheese, shredded
8 t. Thousand Island Dressing (plus additional for serving with the sandwiches, if desired)
2 T. salted butter

1. Heat 2 t. of the canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until the oil is shimmering. Add onions and 1/2 t. salt and cook stirring often until the onions are nicely browned and caramelized, about 15 minutes. Transfer onions to a clean plate and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, form the patties: Tear 2 slices of the bread into 1/2-inch pieces. In a large bowl place bread pieces, milk, worcestershire, onion powder, 1/2 t. salt and pepper. Mash with a potato masher until smooth, add ground turkey and using your hands, thoroughly mix. Shape into 4, 4x6-inch patties. When the onions are out of the pan, add remaining 3 t. canola oil. When the oil is shimmering again, add the patties and cook until well browned on the first side, about 5 minutes. Flip patties and reduce the heat to medium and cook until the patties are cooked all the way through, about 7 minutes more. Remove patties from skillet. Wipe out the skillet with paper towel.

3. Assemble the sandwiches: Divide half the cheese between 4 of the bread slices. Top with the turkey burgers and spread each patty with 2 t. Thousand Island dressing. Divide onions between sandwiches and remaining cheese. Top with remaining bread. 

4. Grill the Patty Melts: Melt 1 T. butter in the skillet over medium heat. Add two sandwiches and grill until golden brown on both sides, 3-4 minutes per side. Repeat with the remaining 1 T.butter and the last two sandwiches. Serve with additional Thousand Island dressing, if desired.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Fish Tacos

On this eve of Cinco De Mayo I thought I'd share with you my family's own special recipe for fish tacos. It seems like fish tacos are becoming a standard in the dinnertime rotation for American families these days. Everyone has their own unique way of preparing them and I am glad to be able to share my own version here. This meal is definitely in the top 5 favorite dinners for my family.

This recipe is one that has evolved over the course of a few years. I have been tweaking it here and there to perfect the flavors and streamline the preparation. It's really, really good.

Fish Tacos
~serves about 4~

Note* I like to use tortillas that are a blend of corn and flour. You could just use corn tortillas if you can't find these, or even flour tortillas if you want to.

1 canned chipotle chile in adobo, minced
1/2 c. mayonnaise
about 2 T. fresh lime juice (or to taste)
pinch of salt
1.25 oz package taco seasoning
3 T. canola oil
1 1/2 lb. white fish fillets (I like to use tilapia)
15 oz. package (10 count) golden blend tortillas
15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 c. frozen corn, thawed
1 romaine heart, shredded
thinly sliced red onion
cilantro leaves
chopped avocado
lime wedges
hot sauce of your choice

1. Make the sauce: In a small bowl combine minced chipotle, mayonnaise, lime juice and salt. Mix well. Refrigerate until serving. In a large bowl whisk together taco seasoning and oil until smooth. Add fish and coat thoroughly (using your hands works well). Set aside. In another small bowl mix together black beans and corn, set aside.

2. Preheat a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Toast the tortillas on the first side about 30 seconds until lightly toasted. Flip and cook on the second side about 10 seconds, until tortilla puffs up and browns. Stack tortillas and wrap in foil until ready to serve. Reduce heat to medium high and add fish, (you may need to cook the fish in 2 batches to keep from overcrowding the pan, if you do, wipe out the skillet between batches) cook 1-3 minutes per side of until fish is well browned and cooked through. (Time will vary depending on what type of fish you use.)

3. To serve. Take a tortilla, spread it with some sauce, top with some fish, black beans and corn, and additional garnishes. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Pinto Beans and "Hot Sauce"

This meal right here is the reason I made homemade flour tortillas yesterday.

These beans and "hot sauce" is another recipe from my childhood. It is a recipe that came from my maternal Grandmother and my mom started making it for us when I was little. It's funny because the original recipe from my Grandma was titled "Chile Verde". I kind of wonder if somewhere along the line someone misread tomatoes for tomatillos because this recipe is basically chile verde with tomatoes instead of tomatillos.

Despite the discrepancy, we grew up just calling it hot sauce.

I changed the recipe a little from the one my mom makes. Mainly the chiles. My mom uses canned diced chiles and I opted to buy fresh Anaheim chiles and roast them under the broiler before adding them to the stew. Canned chiles are okay, but the depth of flavor and additional sweetness from using fresh is definitely worth going to the extra little bit of trouble.

Pinto Beans and "Hot Sauce"
~serves about 8~

Note* You can pretty much use any cut of pork you want for this recipe. Typical choices would be pork shoulder or butt. I have even used lean pork chops with good results. I used pork shoulder steaks here.
Note** To cut up the tomatoes, use a pair of kitchen shears and snip them up right in the can before adding them to the pan.

For the Pinto Beans
1 lb. pinto beans, rinsed, picked over and soaked overnight
2 large onions, peeled and chopped coarse
2 med. or 3 small hamhocks
6 c. water
For the Hot Sauce
1 1/2 lb. Anaheim chilies
2-6 t. vegetable oil
2 1/2 - 3 lb. pork, cut into 3/4 - 1 inch cubes
8 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 serrano chilies, seeds and ribs removed, minced fine
3 T. flour
2 (28 oz.) cans whole tomatoes, roughly cut up
1c. water 
1/2 t. salt
Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish (optional)
pickled jalepenos, chopped, for garnish (optional)

1. For the beans: Add all the ingredients for the beans in a large pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally until the beans are very tender and breaking down, about 2 1/2 hours. (You'll need to stir the pot more often the thicker the beans become, to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pan.) Remove the hamhocks and let them cool enough to handle. Remove the meat, shred and add back to the beans (there might not be very much meat at all).

2. Make the roasted Anaheim chilies: Adjust oven rack to upper middle position and heat the broiler. Line a baking sheet with foil, lay the Anaheims in a single layer. Roast until the skins blister all over and blacken in spots, turning occasionally with tongs, about 20 minutes total. Remove to a heat safe bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let sit 10-15 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Peel and remove seeds from the chilies and coarsely chop. Set aside.

3. For the hot sauce: Heat 2 t. oil in a large stockpot or dutch oven over medium-high heat until just beginning to smoke. Add 1/3 of the pork and brown well on first side, 3-5 minutes. Stir pan and cook another minute or two. Remove pork to a plate. Repeat this process twice more, using an additional 2 t. oil per batch (if necessary). (If the bottom of the pan starts to become too brown, between batches you can add a little bit of water and scrape up the fond in the pan and add to the pork on the plate, Then proceed to the next batch.)

4. Reduce heat to medium. To the drippings left in the pan add garlic and serrano chile, cook stirring constantly until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add flour and cook for 1 minute. Add roasted Anaheims and tomatoes (undrained), pork, water and salt. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 1 hour. Uncover and simmer for another hour, until the pork is fork tender and the sauce thickens and darkens slightly. Serve in bowls, with beans, garnishing with chopped cilantro and pickled jalepenos. 

Monday, April 30, 2012

Tres Leches Cake

I wish I could follow the title of this post with a bunch of little hearts because I love this cake so much. Something about a cake soaked in a mixture that contains 3 types of milks (Tres Leches), sweetened condensed milk (which I could each straight up with a spoon, YUM!), evaporated milk (love it in my tea when I have it around), and heavy cream, just does something for me.

With Cinco De Mayo just around the corner, I thought I'd share this delicious cake with you.


Tres Leches Cake
~serves 12~

For the Tres Leches Mixture:
14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
12 oz. can evaporated milk
1 c. heavy cream
1 t. vanilla extract
For the Cake
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg
8 T. (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 c. 2% milk
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 c. sugar
2 t. vanilla extract
For the whipped cream topping
1 c. heavy cream
3 T. corn syrup
1 t. vanilla extract

1. For the Tres Leches mixture: Place the sweetened condensed milk into a large microwave safe bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave on low power (I chose 30% power) stirring and replacing the plastic wrap every 3-5 minutes, until the milk thickens and darkens slightly, 9-15 minutes total. (you are kind of making dulce de leche.) Whisk in the evaporated milk, 1 c. heavy cream and 1 t. vanilla extract. Cover and set aside, cool to room temperature.

2. Make the cake: Grease and flour a 13x9 inch baking dish. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 325 degrees. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Heat butter and milk together in a small saucepan over low heat until the butter melts, set aside to cool slighlty while preparing the cake.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add eggs. Beat at medium speed for about 30 second. Slowly add in the sugar. Increase the heat to medium high and beat until very thick and glossy, 5-7 minutes. Reduce speed to low and slowly add the butter/milk mixture and vanilla. Add the flour mixture in three additions, scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl as necessary. Then mix at medium speed for 30 seconds to fully incorporate. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes. Transfer cake to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes.

4. Using a skewer, poke holes all over the cake at 1/2 inch intervals. Slowly pour the tres leches mixture all over the cake. Let sit at room temperature 15 minutes, then refrigerate for at least 3 hours prior to frosting the cake.

5. Remove the cake from the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving. Beat the remaining 1 c. heavy cream, corn syrup and 1 t. vanilla to soft peaks. Spread evenly over cake. (Cake can be assembled up to 3 days ahead of when you want to serve it.

Recipe Source: Adapted slightly from Cook's Country Magazine.

Flour Tortillas

Do you ever just have the desire to open up a package of supermarket tortillas and eat one straight outta the bag?

Of course you don't.

Because they don't taste very good.

When I was growing up I was lucky enough to have a mom that made tortillas from scratch whenever we had soft tacos. They were soft and flavorful with a distinct floury texture that supermarket tortillas just can't even begin to match. These were something of a kid-comfort food for me. I still remember when I was in kindergarten and we were asked to draw pictures of our favorite foods, I drew a yellowish circle, representing my beloved tortillas and I can still remember getting my paper back with a question mark next to my drawing because my teacher couldn't make out what I drew. (Ha!) I loved to eat them fresh with butter and I even recall a time or two requesting she make them when I was sick and didn't have much of an appetite. I wonder if tortillas were even widely available in supermarkets when I was growing up (in the 80's), because it almost seems strange to me in retrospect that my mom always made them from scratch.

But I am really glad that my childhood experience enlightened me on the simple pleasure of eating homemade flour tortillas. After I was married I was eager to share this experience with my new family and begin making my own homemade tortillas.

If you are the least bit intimidated by the thought of making these, don't be. This is literally the easiest dough you can work with. It is so forgiving, when it comes to the process of rolling out the tortillas into rounds. The only thing your may have trouble with might be making perfect circles. But no worries, the rustic appearance just means everyone will see how amazing you are for making your own homemade flour tortillas.

Flour Tortillas
~makes about 14-16~

Note* When stacking the rolled tortillas on a plate prior to cooking, be sure to sprinkle flour between the layers,(then using your hand gently rub the flour to spread it into a thin even layer) to prevent the tortillas from sticking to each other when you go to cook them.

4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
6 T. vegetable shortening
luke warm water
vegetable oil

1. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add shortening and using your fingers, rub the shortening into the flour mixture until it resembles a coarse meal. Add in water, a little at a time stirring after each addition until the dough comes together. (I used a little more than a cup of water.)

2. Briefly knead the dough until it comes together in a firm ball. Pinch off pieces of dough in the palm of your hand and roll into balls about 2 inches in diameter. Place dough balls on a plate and cover with a clean kitchen towel.

3. Roll out tortillas: On a floured surface, place a dough ball and flatten into a disk using the palm of your hand. Roll into a round, 8-10 inches in diameter. (Sprinkling with flour and flouring the rolling pin as needed to prevent sticking.) Place rolled tortilla on a plate and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Repeat with remaining balls of dough. Stack the rolled tortillas on top of each other sprinkling a little flour between the layers of tortillas (then using your hand gently rub the flour to spread it into a thin even layer) to prevent them from sticking to each other. 

4. Heat 1/2 t. vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat until the oil just begins to smoke. Using paper towel, carefully wipe the oil out of the skillet (a very thin layer should be left behind). Add a tortilla and cook on the first side, until bubbles appear evenly over the surface of the tortilla and it is just browning on the underside, about a minute. Flip the tortilla and cook on the second side, about another minute. Tortilla should puff when you flip it. Remove to a plate and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Repeat with remaining tortillas. (You won't need to add any more oil.) 

5. Enjoy. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Ham Pancakes

This is not really an appetizing title for this yummy breakfast treat. Of all the things about blogging, titling some of these recipes is the one thing I am willing to throw up my hands with and admit, "I just can't". I just don't know what else to call it. It tastes good, that's what matters, right?


It's time for a confession. A bacon confession to be more precise, and it's not all that nice. You know how you see all these recipes nowadays for stuff like bacon cupcakes, bacon cookies, candies, ice cream, doughnuts, etc., etc... Any and all manner of  bacony confections you can think up, it seems to be out there. Here's my confession, none of these things sound good to me at all. Maybe somebody needs to convince me because I'll also admit I have not tried a single one of these things. I need to challenge my self to make a bacon cake or something, maybe then I won't be such a hater.

There is one place however where sugar and salt intersect that is as old as time and is, in this girl's opinion, the most delicious way it's done and that is on the breakfast plate.

~Syrup and bacon~

~Syrup and sausage~

~Syrup and ham~

(I will digress so far as to say that I am  intrigued by recipes I've seen for candied bacon.)

My mom used to make these pancakes every now and again when I was a little girl and I've been singing the praises of her "pancakes with cubed ham in the batter" to my husband for the majority of our 12 year marriage. But once again, the lazy breakfast line cook in me has never gotten around to making it for him.

Until today.

It was fun to put this together for the family this morning. And everyone raved about it.

Everyone, that is, except my youngest, who is still in the "none of my foods can ever be touching" phase. He got the deconstructed ham pancakes version of the recipe (pancakes with ham on the side).

Ham Pancakes
~servings vary~

Note* This is kinda more an idea, than a literal recipe.You can use your favorite pancake mix (my family's favorite is Snoqualamie Falls Lodge Old Fashioned Pancake and Waffle Mix. Not sure if it is widely available, it's made here in Seattle) or pancake recipe.

1. Your favorite pancake mix (or recipe), prepared according to package instructions
2. Ham, cut into 1/4 inch cubes (for my recipe this morning I used 3c. pancake mix (15-18 pancakes according to package) and a little over 1 c. diced ham)
3. Syrup and butter, whatever you like to put on your pancakes

Make pancakes as you usually would. After pouring batter onto your hot griddle, sprinkle the diced ham on top of the uncooked pancake side (as little or as much as you like). Continue with the recipe as you would with regular pancakes.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas

This recipe is an oldie. I started making it about 10 years ago when I was a new mom and still kinda a newly-wed. It was fun as a new cook to throw together these kind of simple recipes. I went through a long  phase where I was always on the lookout for a good casserole. Eventually as my cooking skills improved I made recipes like this less and less. Now I rarely make these kind of canned soup concoctions.  And I didn't make this recipe in particular for at least 4 or 5 years. But it's turned out to be a perennial favorite, for my oldest son in particular, who loves it!

Let's face it, this is grub food. It's not fancy, it's not complex (and it didn't photograph very well). But it's a great recipe that can be quickly put together that will fill up the hungry bellies in your family.

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas
~serves 6-8~

Note* This recipe calls for 4 cups of cooked chicken. I usually use 3 large chicken breasts (about 1 3/4 lb.), which I season with salt and pepper and then poach in about 2 cups of water in a large skillet (covered) for about 20 minutes over medium heat, turning once halfway through the cooking (first I bring the water and seasoned chicken to a simmer over medium high heat). You could also use leftover chicken from another recipe or even leftover turkey.

10 flour tortillas
4 c. coarsely chopped chicken 
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 (7 oz.) can chopped green chiles
4 oz. softened cream cheese
1/2 c. plus 1 c. sour cream
8 oz. (2 c.) package shredded mexican cheese blend 
Salsa, for serving (optional)

1. Move oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13x9 inch baking dish with cooking spray, set aside.

2. In a large bowl mix together soup, chiles (I don't bother draining the chiles), cream cheese and 1/2 c. sour cream. Mix in the chopped chicken. Using a half cup measure, portion out the filling between the tortillas. Roll up and place seam-side down in the baking dish.

3. In a medium bowl, mix together remaining 1 c. sour cream and the cheese. Evenly spread this over the enchiladas. Bake, uncovered 30-35 minutes, or until bubbly and slightly browned. Sometimes I will put the casserole under the broiler for a couple minutes to brown the top a little more. (Careful if using a pyrex pan under the broiler.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Cuban Panini

Ok so.... I am posting another sandwich. I think ever since it hit me that April is National Grilled Cheese Month I have had hot and cheesy sandwiches on the brain. This time it's a cuban panini. I often say that my panini press is my favorite of all my non-essential cookware. I love how you can cram so much stuff into a roll, grill it in the panini press and it comes out all neat and compact, and the bread is nice and crispy. You can really put almost anything in a panini and it comes out alright. My hubby and I were just discussing what the weirdest thing we ever put in our panini, I think his putting leftover chicken teriyaki (leftover steamed broccoli included) might be the strangest one ever done in our house.

Anyway, I purposely picked up an extra-large roast the other day when I made pork roast so I could make these sandwiches. If you've never had a cuban sandwich before you should really give one a try.

Cuban Panini
~serves 4~

Note* You'll have to forgive me, I forgot to weigh the sliced pork so I could tell you how much you need for this recipe, but if I had to make a guess, I'd probably estimate 1/2 - 3/4 lb. leftover cooked pork should be enough.
Note** If you don't own a panini press, you can get a similar effect by grilling the sandwiches in a skillet with a tiny bit of oil or butter and placing a second skillet or a dutch oven on top of the sandwich to weigh it down as it cooks. 

1/2 c. mayonnaise
2 T. yellow mustard
4 sub rolls, split in half
3 large pickles sliced, excess moisture blotted away with paper towel
leftover cooked pork, thinly sliced
4 slices of deli ham (I prefer black forest)
6 deli slices of swiss cheese

1. Mix together mayonnaise and mustard in a small bowl, set aside. Preheat your panini grill while assembling the sandwiches.

2. Spread about 1 T. mayo-mustard mixture on each half of the split rolls. Layer the pickles, roasted pork, ham and swiss cheese evenly between each roll. 

3. Grill each panini 5-7 miuntes until hot all the way through. Let sit for 2 or 3 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Monte Cristo Sandwiches

When I was a kid there were two breakfast dishes that I almost always ordered whenever I went out to breakfast with my family. And those two dishes were 1. Eggs Benedict and 2. the Monte Cristo sandwich. Now I don't mean to toot my own horn or anything but I think those are pretty adventurous dishes for a child.

Needless to say, my love of food started early.

A Monte Cristo sandwich combines so many yummy flavors. It's a little bit french toast and a little bit grilled cheese and it is great for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Usually, these sammies are either served with maple syrup or strawberry jam. I like to make mine just a little bit more on the savory side by mixing together strawberry jam with a little dijon mustard.

Monte Cristo Sandwiches
~makes 4 sandwiches~

Note*I toasted the bread before I made these sandwiches, in the hopes that it would prevent the bread from becoming soggy when dipped in the egg mixture. Because whole wheat bread is heartier than white bread I found this step unnecessary. If I were using white bread I probably would toast the bread beforehand.
1/2 c. strawberry jam
2 T. dijon mustard
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 T. milk
2 T. flour
8 slices of bread (I used whole wheat here but white is more traditional, see note above)
8 thin deli slices of swiss cheese
4 thin slices of ham
4 thin slices of turkey
2 T. butter
powdered sugar (for serving)

1. For the sauce: Mix together the strawberry jam and dijon mustard in a small bowl and set aside.

2. Place the eggs in a wide, shallow dish. Whisk together the milk and flour, then add to the eggs along with a pinch of salt. Mix together thoroughly.

3. Spread each slice of bread with about a teaspoon of the strawberry-mustard sauce. Divide the cheese and meat evenly between each sandwich beginning and ending with a slice of cheese.

4. Melt 1 T. butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Working with one sandwich at a time, dip both sides in the egg mixture. When the butter is foaming, add the sandwich and immediately dip another sandwich in the egg mixture and place in the pan with the first sandwich. Cook each sandwich until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes per side.

5. Wipe out the skillet using paper towel. Repeat step 4 with the remaining sandwiches and 1 T. butter.

6. Serve with powdered sugar and remaining sauce.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Old Fashioned Pork Roast and Gravy ~ My Mama's Recipe

I am so excited about this post because not only am I posting another one of my Mom's great recipes, she was actually in the kitchen to share in the experience of cooking it with me.

My mom was such a great cook that when I was growing up, all our friends from the neighborhood would clamor at the opportunity to eat dinner at our house. It was great and let me tell you, my mom earned a certain level of respect from the neighborhood kids, especially from all my brother's friends, that lent credulity to the old saying that "the way to a man's heart is through his stomach". I learned from a young age, that statement is most definitely true.

I have cooked all sorts of ways through the years and I even had times of rebellion against my mom's cooking. Believing that my mom's cooking was overly-simplistic and therefor a more fussy and complicated recipe, with a longer ingredient list must be the superior one. And as I've grown older (and hopefully wiser), I know that this just isn't always the truth.  Plus I think that anybody who was lucky enough to have mother who could cook knows, there are just certain dishes that no other recipe can hold a candle to the way that Mom made it.

I love this particular recipe because not only is it delicious, it's extremely affordable (I paid only $1.49 a pound for this roast), and it's the kind of "Sunday dinner" style comforting fare that is worthy of even a holiday meal (I have served this as Easter dinner). Also it makes great leftovers (especially sandwiches).

I was glad, in particular to have my mom in the kitchen with me on this one because she was there to coach me on the gravy. When I was growing up my Mom always made gravy using water. For some reason, I cannot help myself wanting to use canned chicken broth when I am making gravy. I don't always love it, but I just can't help it for some reason, I am afraid there won't be enough flavor even though I know my Mom's method works.... So glad I did it her way, it is the best.

As I get older, I cherish the opportunity to learn all I can about the food I grew up with.

Old Fashioned Pork Roast and Gravy ~ My Mama's Recipe

Note* You can use any pork roast you want for this recipe. I prefer to use a more inexpensive cut of pork (I used pork shoulder here). It is good if the roast has at least a thin layer of fat on top so you will be sure to get enough drippings to make the gravy. I used a pretty large roast here (6 1/2 lbs.) because I wanted to have leftovers to use in other dishes but you could go as small as 3 lb. and use the same method, the cooking time will just vary.
**I like to serve this with boiled potatoes and either steamed green beans or roasted brussel sprouts, like I did here. I made the brussel sprouts by taking halved, trimmed brussel sprouts, tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread them out on a baking sheet and roast at 375 degrees until browned and tender, about 30 minutes.

Pork Roast (see note above)
garlic powder
salt and pepper
4 T. flour
2 c. water

1. With the oven rack in the middle position, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Pat pork roast dry with paper towel and sprinkle liberally with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Place in a 13x9 inch baking dish (or you could us a roasting pan).

2. Roast pork until the internal temperature registers 145 degrees, when checked with a thermometer in several places (for my 6 1/2 lb. roast, this took around 3 hours). Transfer the roast to a serving platter and cover loosely with foil, set aside while making the gravy.

3. To make the gravy: Add the water to the baking dish, being sure to scrape the browned bits form the bottom of the pan. Remove the liquid to a fat separator. Separate the fat from the liquid. Alternately, if you don't have a fat separator you can poor the fat out of the pan first then poor the water into the pan and scrape up the bits.

4. In a medium saucepan add 4 T. fat and whisk in the flour. Cook over medium heat for a couple minutes to cook out the raw flour flavor. Slowly whisk in the liquid and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minute to thicken. Season with salt and pepper if needed.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Skillet Spaghetti and Turkey Meatballs

What if I told you that you could have spaghetti and meatballs on your table in under an hour and you'd only have to dirty one pan to make them?


This recipe will change your life.

That is, if you love spaghetti and meatballs but always thought they were too much of a hassle to put in the weeknight dinner rotation.

I love spaghetti!

A lot.

Skillet Spaghetti and Turkey Meatballs
~serves 4~

2 slices of bread, crusts removes and bread torn into chunks
1/4 c. buttermilk
1/3 c. grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
1 egg yolk
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 T. minced fresh parsley
1/4 t. dried oregano
salt and pepper
1 lb. (93% lean ground turkey
2 T. olive oil
26 oz. spaghetti sauce of choice (about 3 c.)
2 c. water
8 oz. thin spaghetti, broken in half
2 T. minced fresh basil

1. In a large bowl, mash together the bread and buttermilk with a fork until a paste forms. Add in 1/3c. parmesan, egg yolk, garlic, parsley oregano,1/2 t. salt and 1/8 t. pepper. Mix well. Add in the ground turkey. Using your hands mix until well combined.

2. Form into approximate 1 inch meatballs (about 2 T. meat mixture per meatball). Heat olive oil in a 12 inch nonstick skillet over high heat until the oil shimmers. Add meatballs and cook until well-browned on one side, 1-2 minutes. Gently turn meatballs and brown briefly on the second side. Remove meatballs to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside. Pour off the oil in the skillet (but leave behind any browned bits).

3. Lower the heat to medium-high. To the empty skillet add the tomato sauce, water, spaghetti and 1/2 t. salt.  Cover and cook, stirring often (watching and adjusting the heat to maintain a lively simmer),until the spaghetti begins to soften and bend, about 8 minutes.

4. Nestle the meatballs down into the simmering pasta and sauce, reduce heat to medium-low and cook, gently stirring (and scraping the bottom of the skillet to keep it from sticking), until the spaghetti is al dente and the meatballs are cooked through, about another 8 minutes. Remove from heat and sprinkle with the basil. Serve with extra parmesan cheese.

Recipe source: adapted slightly from The Best 30-Minute Recipe.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Classic Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Tomato

I can't believe I got over halfway through the month before it sunk in that April is National Grilled Cheese month!

Thank goodness I still have time to redeem myself. So let's go...

Grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches will forever have a memory association for me of being at a Grateful Dead  show right after I finished high school.  Like literally everyone came directly there right after graduation.  We spent the entire weekend there in that big ol' community campout area and it was one wild weekend (if you ever went to one then you know...).

I remember during the day, walking around the campsites and cool people would be selling grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches made on camp stoves and sell for like $1. You could get cheap banana pancakes in the mornings and grilled cheese and tomato in the afternoon. They tasted so good after a night of extreme festivities.

Such fun memories from that weekend!

Anyway, I have some fool-proof methods for you, if you want to make the perfect grilled cheese and tomato sandwich and they are this:

1. The most important one is dealing with the tomatoes: you need to get rid of some of the moisture in the tomatoes, nobody likes a soggy grilled cheese sandwich. This is what I do. I slice the tomato about 1/4 inch thick and season both sides with kosher salt. Then I lay the tomato on a triple layer of paper towel, and cover them with another triple layer of paper towel. I then put a lightweight baking sheet on top of the tomatoes to further press them. I let them sit at least 10 min. Then the tomatoes are well seasoned and ready to use!

2. The cheese: I am a firm believer that shredded cheese makes for the best grilled cheese. More specifically, medium cheddar shredded on the large holes of a box grater. (No pre-grated cheese from a sack please.) Shredded as opposed to sliced makes for a more evenly melted and creamy grilled cheese sandwich every time.

3. Softened, salted butter. I use unsalted butter for everything but toast, rolls and grilled cheese. Important in  this gal's opinion.

4. Lastly, don't rush it. Slow and steady wins the race. The longer you let it cook, the crispier it will be on the outside and creamier it will be on the inside.

If you follow these methods I promise you will be enjoying a seriously delicious grilled cheese sandwich.

Classic Grilled Cheese and Tomato Sandwich
~makes 1 sandwich~

2 slices of whole wheat bread (or whatever bread you like)
2-4 (1/4 inch thick) slices of tomato
kosher salt
1/2 c. (approximate) shredded medium cheddar cheese
1 T. salted butter, softened

1. Sprinkle both sides of the tomato with salt (just as much as you would like them seasoned). Place tomato slices on a triple-thick layer of paper towel. Cover with another triple-thick layer of paper towel. Place a lightweight baking sheet on the tomatoes and let the tomatoes drain for at least 10 minutes.

2. Heat a nonstick skillet (10 inch or 12 inch) over medium low heat while preparing the sandwich

3. On one slice of bread layer half the cheese, the salted tomato slices, then the other half of the cheese. Place the second slice of bread on top. Spread the top bread slice with half the butter. 

4. Place the sandwich in the hot skillet, buttered side down and spread the remaining butter over the other side of the sandwich. Cook over medium to medium-low heat about 10 minutes per side, until the sandwich is toasty brown and the cheese is ooey gooey.

5. Remove the sandwich from the pan and let sit for 3-5 minutes to let the cheese set a little (so it doesn't ooze out everywhere when you cut it). Cut however you like, or don't.

Scrambled Eggs with Cream Cheese and Chives

This morning I was craving some more of that Frittata with Ham, Cream Cheese and Chives I made over the weekend. But alas, it was all gone. I did however have all the fixins to reproduce the flavors so I decided to make a scramble.

 Can you keep a secret? I liked this ridiculously simple scrambled egg dish better than it's fussier cousin that made it's appearance over the weekend.

If you have never had eggs scrambled with cream cheese, you need to ASAP! I have never had such lovely, creamy and delicious scrambled eggs. The chives were a dream and I made up a quick cherry tomato salad to freshen things up a bit.

I'm telling you..... Breakfast heaven!

Scrambled Eggs with Cream Cheese and Chives
~makes 1 serving~

1 whole eggs plus 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons lowfat cream cheese separated into smallish chunks (1/2 - 3/4 inch)
2 t. fresh minced chives
1 1/2 t.unsalted butter

Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Season eggs lightly with salt and pepper. Add in the cream cheese and gently stir. Add the eggs to the skillet and using a heat-proof spatula stir the eggs, adding the chives just as the eggs begin to set up. Scramble to desired doneness.

*To make the tomato salad: Cut about 1/2 c. cherry tomatoes in half. In a small bowl add cherry tomatoes, a pinch of sugar, a couple drops of red wine vinegar, a tiny drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a light sprinkle  of salt and pepper. Set this aside to blend the flavors while preparing the eggs. (I also added a sprinkle of  fresh chives.)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Chocolate Chunk, Oatmeal, Pecan Cookie Bars

I don't do a whole lot of baking. But I am intrigued by the idea of baking things in a healthy way. It can be a challenge to reduce fats and replace ingredients like white flour with whole wheat, so when it can be successfully done, I love it. One of the things I have recently learned is the virtues of browned butter. Browning butter intensifies its buttery flavor enabling you to use less of it. Such a lovely thing!

One of my families baked goods weaknesses is definitely cookies. Gosh I love cookies. The chewy-salty-sweet yumminess of a home baked cookie makes me weak in the knees. I made chocolate chip cookies a few weeks ago and was craving them again but I was having a battle of wills inside myself over indulging in all those butter calories again. That is how this recipe was born.

Now I am not claiming that this is a healthy recipe, but based on a standard cookie recipe, I did manage to cut the butter in half. I figured I needed to compensate for some of the moisture this was removing so I added a little bit of lowfat sour cream and an extra egg white. I also replaced over half of the white flour with whole wheat pastry flour. 

Loaded with dark chocolate chunks, toasted pecans and oatmeal. These are still a decadent cookie for sure, but maybe one you can feel just a little bit better about eating.

Chocolate Chunk, Oatmeal, Pecan Cookie Bars

Note* When browning butter, be sure to use a stainless steel pan. A dark nonstick surface will make it impossible to tell when the butter browns.

1 stick unsalted butter
1 c. dark brown sugar
1/2 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 egg 
1 egg white
1/4 c. lowfat sour cream
1 1/4 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
10 oz. package dark chocolate chunks
1 c. pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 c. old-fashioned oatmeal
nonstick cooking spray

1. Adjust oven rack to the middle position, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 13x9 inch baking pan with foil and spray with nonstick spray.

2. Whisk together flours, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl, set aside.

3. Melt the butter in a stainless steel, medium skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat until the butter turns golden-brown and has a nutty aroma, about 3-5 minutes. (Be sure to watch the butter carefully, it goes from browned to burnt in seconds.)

4. Add the butter to a large bowl along with sugars and vanilla. Whisk to combine. Add the egg, egg white and sour cream. Vigorously whisk this mixture for 30 seconds  then let rest for 3 minutes, whisk again for 30 seconds and rest again for 3 minutes, repeat this step once more. (This is done to ensure that the sugar melts, and helps make the bars chewy.) 

5.Stir in the flour mixture, mixing until most of the way combined. Add in chocolate chunks, pecans and oatmeal. Mix to thoroughly combined. 

6. Pat into prepared pan. (The cookie dough will be sticky, it helps to use wax paper or even a plastic bag over your hand to keep it from sticking to your hands.) Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Remove from baking dish and cut into squares.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Frittata with Ham, Cream Cheese and Chives

I feel like patting myself on the back today for getting up and making my family a hot breakfast. Ok, I'll admit it was more like brunch than breakfast, but who cares? My people got more than a banquet of toast and cereal today.

I was thinking this morning that we just may be one of the world's most lazy weekend families around. It's an accomplishment for us if we even get dressed before evening hits. I'm not exactly proud if this fact but oh well, that's just how we roll.

Actually, we do have a little bit of an excuse. A few years ago my husband started working nights and as a family we all started to gravitate towards being late night people. In the summertime it gets kinda insane and we basically become nocturnal. It's not typical, but we get to spend more time with Dad and that's what counts.

Frittata with Ham, Cream Cheese and Chives
~serves 6~

Note* This recipe uses a total of 12 eggs, 6 whole eggs and 6 egg whites. You could also use 6 eggs and 3/4 c. store-bought egg whites.
Note** If your skillet doesn't have a oven-proof handle you can get around this by wrapping the handle with a double layer of heavy duty aluminum foil.

12 egg whites
6 egg yolks
2 T. minced fresh chives
3 oz. reduced-fat cream cheese 
4 oz. chopped ham
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1 1/2 T. unsalted butter

1. Adjust the oven rack so it is about 6 inches from the broiler element. Heat the broiler. In a medium bowl beat the eggs with chives salt and pepper. 

2. Separate the cream cheese into about 1/2 inch-3/4 inch chunks. I did this by using 2 spoons, one spoon to scoop of small portions of cream cheese, and a second spoon to scrape it off the first spoon into the bowl with the eggs. Stir gently to combine.

3. Melt the butter in a 10-inch skillet with a oven-proof handle over medium-high heat, add the ham and brown lightly. Reduce the heat to medium and add the eggs. Using a heat proof spatula stir the eggs around until large wet curds form, about 1-2 minutes. Shake the pan to evenly distribute the eggs. Leave the pan on the heat, with out stirring for 1-2 minutes until beginning to brown on the bottom.

4. Transfer the pan to the oven and broil until the frittata is puffy and spotty brown, 3-4 minutes. Remove pan for broiler and let stand about 3 minutes to finish setting up. Carefully slide frittata onto a cutting board or serving platter and cut into wedges.