Monday, December 29, 2014

Buttermilk Waffles

Man oh man there has been a waffle craze around here lately. I don't know about where you live but here in Utah we have Waffle Love. Delicious liege waffles with the most amazing decadent toppings! It was love at first bite.

Now I realize that buttermilk waffles are completely different, but still delicious in their own light.  Many of you know my love for pancakes.  I've made probably thousands and don't even need a recipe.  I grew up in a house where my mom often made us both pancakes and waffles.  I have obviously carried pancakes with me over the years, but I don't know where the waffles fell off.  Since starting to make these, both my kids and husband prefer them over pancakes.  So I suck it up every once in a while and make a big batch.  I like to throw the leftovers in the freezer because they keep so well.  Just pop them in the toaster right from the freezer and they come out nice and warm and crispy--not soggy!

Buttermilk Waffles
3 large eggs, separated
2 cups buttermilk
1 Tbsp. vanilla
6 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt

In a mixing bowl, whisk together egg yolks with buttermilk, vanilla, butter and sugar.  Sift together dry ingredients and add them to the wet.  Whisk to incorporate.

In a mixing bowl fitted with a whisk attachment, beat egg whites on medium or high speed, until stiff peaks form. Gently fold them into the batter.  Cover batter loosely with plastic wrap about 10-15 minutes, while waffle iron heats up.

Cook waffles on preheated waffle iron according to package directions.

Serve warm with toppings of your choice: syrup, whipped cream, fruit, etc.

SOURCE: Just a Taste

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Italian Meatball Sliders

So, I don't know where it came from, but I've had this mad craving for some Italian meatballs for months!! Unfortunately lately I haven't been able to knock off many new meals from my ever-growing list.  My kids are in this picky rut and I hate it!! I also refuse to feed them mac and cheese from a box every single day so I am rotating a few boring simple meals until they start eating more variety.  I'll often make something else for me and the hubbs, that we can eat off for a few days, but that never lasts long to photograph.

So, I finally put my foot down and made these Italian meatballs the other night...and then made everyone eat them.  And to my and their surprise, they all liked them!  Whaddya know ha!  I actually had my toddler help me make these.   Her favorite part was grinding the fennel in the mortar and pestle.  The meat mixture smelled AMAZING while we were getting it together. I couldn't wait to sink my teeth in.

I decided to make these meatballs slider size, using my muffin scoop to portion them out, and serve them on whole wheat dinner rolls because we have little mouths in this house and I knew they wouldn't eat more than that.  You can definitely make them bigger or smaller and serve them on larger rolls if desired.  Anyway you make them, they'll be a new favorite. They are nice and moist with just the right amount of seasoning.

Italian Meatball Sliders
for the meatballs:
1 lb. ground beef
3/4-1 tsp. salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. fennel seed (if you have a mortar and pestle crush them a bit but don't pulverize them)
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1/3 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/3 cup milk
1 egg

for the sauce:
1 recipe Easy No-Cook Pizza Sauce 

for the sliders:
shredded mozzarella
shredded parmesan
chopped fresh basil or parsley for garnish (optional)
12 whole wheat dinner rolls

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl add all meatball ingredientsUse your hands to mix everything together until ingredients are well-incorporated.

Line a cookie sheet with a silicone baking mat.  Using a muffin scoop, scoop out meat mixture and place onto cookie sheet.  Flatten slightly, if desired, so they will will not roll off your bun. Continue until all meat mixture us used up.  Makes about 12 meatballs.

Bake meatballs for 15 minutes.  In the meantime, make sauce.  Pour sauce into large skillet and heat over medium heat.  Once meatballs are cooked, remove from cookie sheet and place them in the skillet with the sauce.  Simmer, covered about 10 minutes.

To assemble sliders, cut buns in half and place under broiler for 2-3 minutes or until they just start to get golden.  Place a meatball on one half of each of the buns, a pinch of mozzarella and parmesan then put it back under the broiler until the cheese is melted.  Remove from oven garnish with fresh basil or parsley and serve warm.  Use any extra sauce left in the pan to dip the sliders.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Egg Nog Muffins

I absolutely LOVE egg nog and usually try to get as much of it as I can while it's around during the holidays.  Thankfully I'm doing a health and fitness challenge right now, otherwise I'd probably have gone through more than my share.

So I had a lonely quart left in my fridge that needed to be used up before it expired.  I didn't want to "cheat" and just drink it so I made these lovely muffins for breakfast and they were totally devoured.  I think I may need to make them again.

Egg Nog Muffins
Makes 1 dozen

1 cup good quality egg nog
2 eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
1 /4 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/2 cup sugar (or 1/3 cup if your egg nog is pretty sweet)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together egg nog, eggs, sour cream, butter and sugar, until well combined.  Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine.

Line muffin tin with liners and divide batter evenly between muffin wells.

Bake muffins for 15-17 minutes or until lightly golden and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool on wire rack.  Store in an airtight container on the counter for 3-4 days. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Cherry Tomato Pasta with Spinach and Lemon Pesto

So, this is one of those pasta dishes that is so easy and takes just minutes more than the time it takes to boil the pasta to make.  There's almost no prep either, unless you make your own pesto (which can be done ahead of time anyway).  No chopping, slicing or dicing, just pretty much dumping.  Just the kind of thing I'm loving lately.  I got the idea for this dish from The Simpler, The Better, a pasta cookbook I have and love.  And because tomatoes and spinach were just about the only veggies I had left lying around.

I seriously made this dish on the fly.  I was running out of time to get dinner on the table in a timely manner and I needed something  FAST! The result is a fabulous, colorful, healthy and tasty meal, perfect for a busy weeknight. 

I used to think I didn't like cooked tomatoes very much but I've been putting these little cherry tomatoes on pizza and pasta lately and I have to say they're tasty.  They're very lightly cooked, so they still lend that fresh garden tomato flavor that I love. Of course if you have different veggies lying around, you could easily substitute them.  Asparagus, red peppers, even eggplant would be delicious.

Cherry Tomato Pasta with Spinach and Lemon Pesto
1 lb. pasta (I used penne)
olive oil
2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
4 cups baby spinach, loosely packed
1/4 cup basil pesto (homemade or store bought)
juice of 1 lemon
fresh shaved parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup of the pasta water.  Set pasta aside.

Return pot to the stove over medium-high heat and add about a tablespoon of olive oil.  Add tomatoes and cook just until they start to split; about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Add pesto, lemon juice, spinach and pasta.  Toss to coat well. Add enough reserved pasta water to loosen the pesto and make a light sauce.  Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper, to taste. Allow pasta to sit a few minutes until the spinach is slightly wilted. 

Serve warm with freshly shaved cheese.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Tomato, Basil and Goat Cheese Scones

When it comes to scones, I'm pretty much a hoarder.  I've tried all sorts of flavor combinations and I love them all!  When my friend posted a picture the other day of her tomato-basil-goat cheese biscuit, I knew these would be the next scones I would make.  After all this is about the time every year when I pull my tomato plants out for the fall and I have a bajillion cherry tomatoes to use up.

I love, love loved the outcome of these scones.  They were every bit as delicious as I had imagined.  Since the cook time is relatively short the tomato and basil still had that fresh picked flavor and the soft, tangy goat cheese just melts in your mouth.

Tomato, Basil and Goat Cheese Scones
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
5 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (about half a pint)
2-3 Tbsp. fresh basil, chiffonade
1/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

In a food processor fitted with a blade attachment, add the flours, baking powder and salt.  Pulse a couple times to blend.  Add butter and whiz until mixture becomes a coarse meal.  Alternately you could use a pastry blender or two knives to cut butter in.

Pour mixture into a mixing bowl and toss in tomatoes, basil and goat cheese. Gently mix in buttermilk until just combined.  Do not over mix!

Turn dough out onto flour dusted counter and knead about 4 times (again, resist the urge to knead much more than that).  Pat into a rectangle and cut into 12 squares.  Place each scone onto a baking sheet.  Place baking sheet into oven and bake 12- 15 minutes, until lightly golden. Cool completely on wire rack.  

Scones are best eaten fresh, the same day.  You can also freeze uncooked scones to bake fresh as needed.  After you cut them out, place them on a large plate and place in freezer for about an hour.  Then transfer them to a freezer safe zip loc bag.  Do not thaw to bake, just add about 3-4 extra minutes onto bake time.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Etta's Black Bean and Ham Hock Soup with Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

Last summer my family and I made the long trek to Seattle to visit my brother and his family.  Near the end of our trip I was trying to think of some kind of souvenir to bring home.  Nothing came to mind.  I mean, I could have brought home a dozen Top Pot donuts, but I don't think they would have lasted, honestly.  Then I remembered my friend told me that she always bought a cookbook, featuring local fare, when visiting other places.   Since we didn't have time to go cookbook shopping, I jumped on amazon when we got home and found not one but two great cookbooks.  The first was the Macrina Bakery & Cafe Cookbook, a carb and breakfast-lovers dream (me!!), and the second was Tom Douglas' Seattle Kitchen.  Anyone familiar with Seattle knows that Tom Douglas is where it's at when it comes to food.  Owner of Etta's Seafood, Dahlia Lounge and Palace Kitchen, how could I not buy one of his books!!

So, remember I said our trip was LAST summer??  Yeah, it's taken me that long to start going through all the recipes I've bookmarked.  The other day I grabbed Seattle Kitchen off the shelf and this recipe popped out and I almost immediately made it. 

I'm pretty sure you'll find that ham and bean soup is delicious comfort food almost anywhere you go.  I grew up eating just a basic ham and bean soup, but this one will knock your socks off. It is still a super simple, healthy and delicious meal to make but the extra flavors and roasted salsa on top take it just over the top. 

Tom Douglas said this soup has been on the menu at Etta's for lunch and dinner every day since the restaurant opened!  If it's good enough for him, it's definitely good enough for me.

Black Bean and Ham Hock Soup with Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
2 cups dried black beans, picked over and rinsed
12 cups chicken stock, or more if needed
1 smoked ham hock (check local butcher or save your own when you buy a ham)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped carrots, half-inch dice
1/2 cup chopped celery, half-inch dice
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 cups drained canned tomatoes, chopped
2 tsp. tomato paste
2 tsp. coriander seeds, toasted and ground
2 tsp. cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. smoked paprika
3/4 tsp. cayenne, or to taste
juice of a lime
salt and pepper
1/4 cup cilantro

Place beans in a large pot with the chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook until beans are soft, about 2-3 hours (depending on freshness of beans).

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat and slowly cook the onions, carrots and celery until onions are golden and caramelized, 10-15 minutes.  Stir in the garlic the last minute of cooking.  Add the onion mixture to the pot of beans, along with the tomatoes, tomato paste, and ground spices. Continue simmering until beans are soft.

Pull out ham hock and remove fat and skin. Remove meat from the bone, shred or finely chop it and put it back in with the beans.  Season beans with paprika, cayenne, cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper.

To serve: Ladle soup into bowls and top with sour cream or soft cheese, such as cojita, and a few dollops of tomatillo salsa. Also great served with cornbread.

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
8 oz. (2 1/2 cups) tomatillos, husked, rinsed and dried
oliive oil
1 poblano chile or other mild green chile, such as Anaheim, roasted, peeled and seeded and finely chopped
1 Tbsp. finely chopped red onion
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tbsp.  minced garlic
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice (about half a lime)
1 tsp. seeded and minced canned chipotle in adobo
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Toss tomatillos in a drizzle of olive oil, place on a small metal pan and place in the oven, tossing a few times until lightly browned; about 10 minutes.  Allow to cool. 

Turn oven to broil.  Place poblano pepper on a small metal baking tray and place under broiler until skin is blackened slightly, about 5 minutes.  Flip pepper over and broil another 5 minutes or so.  Remove from oven and immediately place it in a container with a lid to cool.  Once cooled, skin easily peels off.

Chop cooled tomatillos and poblano pepper and place in a small mixing bowl.  Add the rest of the ingredients and taste for seasoning.  Adjust as necessary.  Best used the same day but will keep in the fridge, covered, for 2 days.

SOURCE: Tom Douglas' Seattle Kitchen

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Shredded Rainbow Salad with Orange Vinaigrette

Have you ever seen Jaime Oliver's Food Revolution?  I love him and what he does with food.  This salad just screams Jaime Oliver; totally reminds me of him.  I ripped this recipe out of a magazine and I can't remember where it's from, but I absolutely love it.  It's just what I like in a salad.  Bright, colorful and very flavorful! My girls like cabbage.  I don't know if that's weird or not.  Of all the veggies they DON'T eat, they choose to like cabbage...whatever.  The first time I made this salad, my 2 year old asked to share it with me.  At first I thought she was going to take one bite and spit it out but she kept asking for more...she really liked it!  I was so surprised, but definitely happy at least one of my children is taking after my love of salads. 

This salad is great really any time of year as most of the veg is hearty and you can get it year-round.  Cabbage salads are high up there on my favorite salads list.  I think it has to do with that crispy-crunch.  And I especially like it with cilantro. The citrus dressing is the perfect pairing for this salad.  It's light and slightly sweet from the orange and just brings out all the different flavors.

Shredded Rainbow Salad
1/2 head red cabbage
2 beets, peeled (raw)
2 large carrots, peeled
2 apples, cored and peeled (if desired)
1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped
3-4 large kale leaves, chopped

To shred veggies, you can either use a food processor, with a shredder blade, or a regular cheese grater will work too.   Shred apple first and toss in with a couple spoonfuls of the vinaigrette (below) to keep from browning. Set aside.  Shred the carrots, cabbage and beets.  Make sure you saves the beet for last or everything will turn purple!

Toss veggies in a bowl with chopped cilantro and kale.  If you want to keep the apple from being colored by the beet juice, divide out salad portions and place a bit of shredded apple on top of each portion.  Otherwise, you can toss the apple right in with the rest. Serve with orange vinaigrette.

Orange Vinaigrette
Zest and juice of 1 orange
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/4-1/3cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
Pinch if salt and pepper, to taste

Whisk together and store in the fridge, in a jar with a tight fitting lid; I like to use half pint mason jars with the plastic lids.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Tomato Vegetable Soup

'Tis the season for fresh garden tomatoes.  It's the time I look forward to every year! You can do so much with them.  I usually home can tomatoes in one way or another each fall (salsa, a variety of spaghetti sauces, etc.), but the past few years I've been doing more and more just plain or stewed tomatoes.  I do this mostly because I LOVE to turn them into soup.  My kids and I absolutely adore this fresh tomato soup, but sometimes I like to make something a little more calorie friendly.  Enter this soup.

I don't tend to like soups that are really thin, they just don't fill me up.  I like my soups thick and tasty. That's what this soup delivers.  It still has that fresh tomato taste but the flavor is punched up with some extra veggies.  I love to serve it up with some fresh artisan bread or even a heaping spoonful of this Southwest Cabbage Slaw (which really needs it's own post by now).

Tomato Vegetable Soup
6-8 cups tomatoes, blanched, peeled and cored
3 carrots, chopped
1 green pepper, cut into 1-inch dice
1 small onion, cut into 1-inch dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. smoked paprika
 2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
handful of fresh basil (about 1/2 cup or so loosely packed), roughly chopped
salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

To blanch and peel tomatoes, bring a pot of water to a boil and fill a sink with ice water.  Score the tomatoes by making an "x" on them with a serrated knife. Drop about 4-5 tomatoes at a time in the boiling water for 60 seconds.  Remove from boiling water and immediately submerge in ice water.  Continue with remaining tomatoes.  Once tomatoes are cooled skins will slip off easily. remove core with knife or coring utensil.  Set tomatoes aside.

In a  large pot, heat a drizzle of olive oil.  Add chopped onion, carrot and peppers and saute over medium-high heat about 5-6 minutes.   Add garlic and paprika and saute another 60 seconds, making sure the garlic doesn't burn.  Next add tomatoes by crushing them in your fist over the pot as you put them in.  Add chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until veggies are tender; about 10-15 minutes.

Remove soup from heat, add fresh basil and puree to desired consistency.  You can either do this with an immersion blender or in a upright blender, blending by batches.  Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper, to taste. Feel free to add a splash of whole milk or heavy cream, although it's delicious without it.

SOURCE:  Adapted from Season with Spice

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Fresh Peach and Corn Caprese Pizza

So, now that I've basically taken the whole summer off from blogging, I'm going to cram all the summer-luvin' food in your faces the next couple weeks before fall starts.  EEEK!  I'm just a little excited. 

Summer was busy for us, but, hey, who wasn't it busy for?  Our most exciting time was a week up in Island Park, Idaho near Yellowstone, with my WHOLE family; all my siblings, their spouses and kids, and of course my parents.  It was just awesome to get away and be together, but we also got to see and do some fun things as well.  The rest of the summer has not been too incredibly exciting.  Lots of trips to the pool and water parks, playing with friends and such.

Anyway, I digress.  We got out of our regular Friday night pizza night over the summer and had missed several.  I was craving it big time!  I was just craving a regular caprese pizza but my mom always gives me stuff from her garden.  She gave me some corn and peaches from her tree (fresh peaches=heaven!), and I thought, hey, why not throw it onto a pizza? So, not only does this pizza have homegrown corn, peaches and basil but I also threw on some fresh mozzarella and smoked jack cheese.  MMMmmm!  I discovered my love for smoked cheese last year, thank you Trader Joes, and it's one of my most favorite things to put on pizza.

This pizza is the essence of summer!  It will not disappoint.

Fresh Peach and Corn Caprese Pizza
1 recipe Perfect Pizza Crust
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small peach, thinly sliced
handful of grape tomatoes (halved or whole)
corn cut from 1 fresh ear
4 oz. fresh mozzarella
1/2 cup smoked cheese (such as mozzarella or jack), shredded
2-3 Tbsp. fresh basil, chiffonade

Mix pizza dough according to directions.  While dough is rising, make balsamic reduction.

Pour balsamic vinegar into a small pan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium high and cook until reduced by half, about 2 tablespoons.  Set aside.

Preheat oven and pizza stone to 450 degrees F.

Once dough has risen and doubled in size,  roll out on a pizza peel generously dusted with corn meal.  You can also roll it out on parchment paper (which you can slide right into the oven with the pizza); the more toppings the harder it is to slide off onto the baking stone.  Brush the entire top of the dough with olive oil.  Spread the garlic around the dough as evenly as you can, either with your fingertips or a pastry brush. 

Slice the mozzarella and layer on top of dough, followed by the sliced peaches, tomatoes and corn.  Top with the shredded smoked cheese. If you want you can tuck in a few basil leaves too.

Slide pizza onto pizza peel and bake 8-10 minutes or until top is lightly golden and cheese is bubbly.  If you're using parchment, slide pizza on top of an inverted cookie sheet, then either place that right into the oven or use it to slide it onto the pizza stone. 

Remove pizza from oven, allow to cool slightly, then drizzle the balsamic reduction over the top.  Slice and serve warm.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Creamy Polenta with Summer Squash Saute

I love the simple and tasty.  I've said many times here on the blog that sometimes it amazes me how just a few very simple ingredients can taste so wonderful. And when those ingredients are some you grew yourself, even better!  I didn't actually grow the squash, but my mom did and she gave it to me.  The basil is ALL mine!!  Can't live without that stuff.

This is a quick and easy summer dish.  It goes great as a side dish along side some grilled chicken, or keep it meatless and serve it with some salad and a baguette

Creamy Polenta with Summer Squash Saute
for the polenta:
3/4 cup polenta (or cornmeal; not instant)
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

for the saute:
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 small zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and sliced
2 small yellow summer yellow summer squash, cut in half lengthwise and sliced
3 cloves minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup fresh basil, chiffonade

Bring chicken broth to a boil and whisk in polenta.  Reduce heat to low and stir polenta as it thickens.  Depending on how coarse the grain it, it may take 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in cream and cheese.  Check for seasoning and salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large frying pan, over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds, stirring constantly.  Add in zucchini and squash and cook about 5 minutes until it starts to brown a bit.  Reduce heat to medium-low, add a couple tablespoons of water and simmer until desired doneness; about 3-5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve polenta on a rimmed plate or wide bowl.  Spoon squash saute over the top of the polenta and top with fresh basil.

SOURCE: Adapted from Eating Well

Monday, August 25, 2014

Caprese Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Silly camera is broken so today I bring you these peppers via iPad photo. That's just how we're rolling today.  Remember these peppers from last summer?  Well I had the same problem a few weeks ago....more peppers than I knew what to do with. I still love red peppers, although a couple of my children have fallen out of fondness with them (hopefully only for the time being).  So, it was up to my hubby and me to finish them off.

I don't have a "real" garden this year, but I managed to plant a couple tomato plants and some basil in our flower beds.  Tomatoes and basil are two of my most favorite things to eat in the summer, when produce is at it's finest. I try to eat it as much of it as I can, WHILE I can.  So these peppers, and anything else I can get my hands on, are stuffed with tomato-y basil-y goodness!  You'll love 'em.

*A note on the mozzarella and pesto: I like to use fresh buffalo mozzarella, or just whole milk mozzarella.  It can be pretty soft and hard to shred, so I just break it up with my fingers.  I also love making my own pesto, especially when I have my own basil plant, but sometimes I don't have a need for all of it at once.  If you need to store it longer than a week or two, you can freeze it in smaller containers (4-5 oz), or even in ice cube trays; just pop it out of the tray once it's frozen and put the cubes into a ziploc freezer bag.

Caprese Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups chicken (or veggie) stock
4 sweet peppers (red, yellow or orange)
3/4-1 pint cherry (or grape) tomatoes, halved
2 Tbsp. basil pesto (use this recipe or use store bought)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, plus more for topping
fresh basil leaves, shredded, for garnish (optional)

Add quinoa and chicken stock to a medium-sized sauce pan.  I you have a fine sieve, rinse the quinoa first.  Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to a simmer.  Cook 15-20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. 

Slice peppers in half, lengthwise, and remove seeds. Place, cut side up, in a baking dish and cover with foil.  Bake, unfilled, for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and remove foil.

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, stir together the cooked quinoa and the pesto.  Add in tomatoes and 1/2 cup of the mozzarella and toss.  Divide mixture evenly between each of the pepper halves and top with about a tablespoon more of the mozzarella.  Cover again with the foil and stick it back in the oven to bake for another 10-15 minutes. I like my peppers more crisp-tender so I tend to bake for less time, but if you like your peppers soft bake longer and check for doneness.  Remove the foil the last 5 minutes or so for the cheese to brown a little bit.  Serve warm.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Crock Pot Ham Beans

I thought this recipe deserved a re-post.  It has been on my blog since I began, in 2008, but didn't even have a photo or description of it!

This is one of my favorite childhood recipes I remember my mom making often. I'm not sure how often we had it with cornbread, at least until later in life, but either way if was one of our favorites.  Beans are incredibly easy to prepare and knock the socks off any commercially prepared beans if you ask me.  Whenever I buy a ham, I like to stick the bone in the freezer, making sure to leave some meat on it, so I can have it for these beans.  If you don't happen to have a ham or ham bone, you can usually get a ham bone, or ham hock, from your local butcher or in the deli section of your grocery store.

I love that these beans are made in the crockpot, for two reasons especially this summer.  First of all it so, so HOT!!  I don't know if I'm just not as tough or what but I am having a hard time dealing with the heat this year.  The other is that we now get out of church at 6pm on Sundays, and the crockpot seems to be the way to go.  These beans start long before church and are waiting for us as we walk in the door.

These beans go great with either rice or cornbread.  My hubby loves the rice, I love the cornbread so I usually make a little of each.  Try this Maple Cornbread or even this Skillet Cornbread if you don't have a favorite yet.

Crockpot Ham Beans
1 lb. red beans (pinto work too)
1 meaty ham bone
1 onion, large diced
salt and pepper
water or chicken stock

Soak beans in crock pot over night. (NOTE: I buy my beans in the bulk section of my grocery store.  They tend to be more fresh, so I don't soak them overnight.  They also cook up faster than those prepackaged.)  The next moring, drain beans and rinse.

Put beans back into crockpot; add ham bone, onion and enough water or broth to come about 2 inches above beans (Don't worry if ham bone sticks above water a bit.)

Cook on high about 2-3 hours, then on low for another 3-4, or until beans are tender.  Turn off crock pot and remove ham bone.  Pull off  any ham from bone and stick it back in with the beans.  Salt beans to taste and serve warm.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Cherry Chocolate Pancakes

I know, call me crazy, I have managed to get not one, but two posts up this crazy busy lovely summer! It is, however cherry season, and I just couldn't let it pass without paying homage to some of the summer's best.  We love fresh cherries so we try to get our fill when they are in season.  Otherwise, they're like $5 a pound!  Who pays that? (Ok, I'm sure some people do, and maybe I would under duress but, usually NOT!)

Not only do we love summer fruit when it comes on, we also LOVE pancakes!!  Hence the 29 different recipes on the blog.  Funny thing was I hadn't even planned on making these, let alone blog blog about them, until I had actually made them. It's been more than a year since my last pancake concoction, so I knew it was time for another one.

Cherries and chocolate are one of my favorite flavor combinations. I used to make this cake all the time, especially on my birthday and it's still a favorite to this day. These pancakes highlighted the fresh cherries perfectly and were wonderfully complimented by the dark chocolate (chocolate-duh!). The effort level for this recipe is still minimal; the only extra step is chopping the cherries and chocolate. So, you can still flip these out in a short amount of time and still enjoy your morning.

Cherry Chocolate Pancakes
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
2  Tbsp. oil or melted butter
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/2 cup fresh cherries, pitted and roughly chopped, plus extra for garnish
1/4 cup dark chocolate bar, roughly chopped, plus extra for garnish

In a mixing bowl, whisk together sugar, buttermilk, egg, oil and almond extract.  Add flours, baking powder, soda and salt.  Whisk until just combined.  Gently fold in cherries and chocolate.  Let batter sit while griddle heats up.

Pour batter by 1/4 cup onto griddle.  Cook on one side until bubbles start to form and sides begin to look dry; about 2-3 minutes.  Flip pancakes and cook another minute or two on the other side.  Repeat with remaining batter.

Serve warm with butter, syrup and additional fresh cherries and chocolate, if desired.

more cherry chocolate love...
Double Cherry Chocolate Cookies 
Cherry Chocolate Scones
Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce

I can't believe it's been over a month since my last blog post! I kind of feel like a slacker but not really.  I'm not even kidding, this summer is flying by. We have been so busy but having a blast.

Lately I've been finding the quickest and easiest recipes I can find for dinner because I'm either too tired or too busy to do anything more. Enter this cauliflower alfredo.

Confession: I don't make a TON of things with cauliflower, or even very many things, and I rarely buy it and just eat it fresh. But, a huge  head of it showed up in my CSA basket a couple weeks ago and after eating on it for a few days, I refused to let the rest go bad.  Luckily this recipe was not only quick and easy to prepare but it tasted fabulous!  No one had any inkling that the base of the sauce was cauliflower because it was so CREAMY!

Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce
1 lb. fettuccine noodles
5-6 cups cauliflower florets (about 1 medium head)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. butter or olive oil
6 cups chicken (or veggie) stock
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
pinch of nutmeg

In a small skillet, melt butter and saute garlic about 60 seconds, making sure it doesn't burn. Set aside.

Add cauliflower and chicken stock to a large pot and bring to a boil.  Boil about 7-10 minutes or until very tender.  In the mean time start your pasta water and cook according to directions. Drain cauliflower, reserving a cup of the broth.  Put cauliflower in a blender with reserved broth, milk, cheese and the sauteed garlic and butter. Puree until smooth.  Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as desired.  Finish it off with a pinch of nutmeg and serve over warm noodles.

SOURCE: Adapted from Pinch of Yum

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Easy Chicken Pad Thai

A few months ago for date night my husband and I went out to a local Thai restaurant.  We totally loved it!! Well I knew my husband already did, but I was smitten.  It was fresh and delicious and so flavorful. I ordered one of their most popular dishes, Thai Basil Chicken, and my husband ordered his standby at any Thai restaurant, Pad Thai.   All so yummy!

Since discovering that I love Thai food, my husband has been begging me to make it at home.  I've made this dish a few times and have improved upon it along the way.  I love adding the fresh herbs and veggies and all those brilliant colors! It definitely makes it taste better!

Make this Pad Thai at home and you won't be missing your usual take out.

Easy Chicken Pad Thai
serves 4-6
for the sauce:
1/4 cup tamarind paste
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. hot chili sauce 

for the noodles:
6 oz. rice noodles
*2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 1/2 cups fresh bean sprouts
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 eggs
1 cup purple cabbage, shredded
1 cup carrots, julienned
1 cup red pepper, julienned

for the garnishes:
peanuts, roughly chopped
fresh basil, chopped
fresh mint, chopped
fresh cilantro, chopped
fresh lime wedges

To make the sauce, whisk all sauce ingredients in a bowl and set aside.  Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook rice noodles 2 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

Made sure everything is chopped and ready to go.  Once the cooking gets going, it goes pretty fast.

The key to making this work well is to only cook 1-2 servings at a time.  Heat 1-2 tablespoons light olive oil (or vegetable oil) in a wok or frying pan over high heat. Add about 1/3 of the chicken and stir-fry until half cooked. Add 1-2 tablespoons of sauce and one garlic clove, minced. Stri-fry about 30 seconds.  Add about 2 ounces of noodles  (a large handful), and 1/4 cup sauce to the pan and stir until the noodles soften and are well-coated.  Add a little water if it starts drying up. Push noodles to the side and crack an egg in the pan.  Let it cook about 10 seconds then toss it around in the noodles to finish cooking.  Add 1/2 cup of bean sprouts to the pan along with a couple tablespoons of chopped peanuts. Stir-fry another minute then remove from heat and slide out onto a serving plate.  Top with veggies and garnishes.  Serve warm.

Repeat two more times with the rest of the ingredients.  For the pan I used, I found it helpful to deglaze the pan in between batches.  Simply add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan and bring it to a boil.  Scrape anything off the inside of the pan then pour it out and wipe it off. 

*Feel free to add one more chicken breast if you're feeding more people or like more meat.  I tend to load up on the veggies and use less meat.

SOURCE: Adapted from Use Real Butter

Sunday, May 25, 2014

S'mores Trifle

When life gives you lemons you make lemonade right?  Well I say, when life gives you ugly chocolate cupcake you make trifle.  I have conquered a lot (relatively speaking) as a home cook/baker, but for some reason chocolate cupcakes, not chocolate cake, but specifically CUPCAKES just seem to evade me.  

This is not even the first time this is happened to me.  In fact, I think all the chocolate trifles I have made are a result of a failed chocolate cupcake attempt, except maybe this trifle (be still my heart). I should learn better.  

This year for my birthday I was really trying to be good, dessert-wise.  I have been limiting my sugar and only eating sweets once a week so I thought cupcakes would the perfect little heavenly bite, just enough but not overdoing it.  Then if I had too many leftover I could just give some away. 

Oh but no, those sunken chocolate cupcakes stuck all over the pan had to rear their ugly faces.  Really, I should learn.  However, it actually turned out good; making the cupcakes into a trifle.  I kept with the s'mores theme that I wanted (hello is it summer yet!!!)  and I ended up taking them to a church barbecue, and brought home NO leftovers.  Score!

You can thank me now for this, 'cause you'll have something to take to every gathering you attend throughout the summer.

S'mores Trifle
1 13x9 pan of your favorite chocolate cake (from scratch or a box), baked and cooled
3 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 12-oz bag milk chocolate chips (good quality)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 bag mini marshmallows

For the milk chocolate ganache, pour chocolate chips out into a small mixing bowl.  In a small saucepan, heat heavy cream to just a boil then pour it over the chocolate chips.  Cover and let sit for 5 minutes.  Remove cover and whisk until smooth.

To assemble trifle, layer about half of the cake in the bottom of a trifle bowl.  Top with 1-1 1/2 cups of the graham cracker crumbs and drizzle 1/2-3/4 cup of the ganache.  Add about 1/3 of the bag of mini marshmallows. (You can toast the marshmallows if you want, I happened to use my kitchen torch but it isn't necessary.)  Repeat layers with remaining cake,  graham cracker crumbs, ganache and marshmallows.  (Note: you may not want all of the graham cracker crumbs or ganache, you can use personal judgement there. I also reserved a tiny bit of crumbs and ganache to for garnish.)

To toast the top layer of marshmallows there are a few ways it can be done.  The easiest way would be to use a kitchen torch.  You could also put the whole bowl under the broiler (after you add the marshmallows) in the oven for about 3-4 minutes watching very closely; and you may have to take out the top rack as trifle bowls tend to be on the tall side.  The last way you could toast the marshmallows would be to lay them out on a large baking sheet, put them under the broiler for 3-4 minutes then remove them from the oven, allow them to cool then transfer them to the trifle and garnish as desired. 


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Cake Batter Scones

Celebrating birthdays is just about one of my favorite things to celebrate.  Although my husband isn't much for celebrations, I still try to make a big deal for the rest of us.  My go-to birthday breakfast is usually these Cake Batter Pancakes, but this year I wanted to try something different.  It's no secret that I love scones (thirteen recipes on the blog to be exact) so I thought cake batter flavored scones would be perfect for a birthday breakfast.  While there is no actual cake batter in the dough, you better believe they taste EXACTLY like birthday cake and practically melt in your mouth!  They had me swooning.  I may have eaten one...or three.

Cake Batter Scones
for the scones:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/2 cup rainbow sprinkles (or less if you want)
for the icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 Tbsp. milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

extra sprinkles for garnish, if desired

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

In a food processor fitted with a blade attachment, add the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.  Pulse a couple times to blend.  Add butter and whiz until mixture becomes a coarse meal.  Alternately you could use a pastry blender or two knives to cut butter in.

In a separate bowl, add heavy cream, vanilla and almond extracts and stir briefly to combine.  Add flour mixture to bowl, along with sprinkles, and stir until a dough forms (it will be crumbly).  Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently, only about 3 or 4 times. Do not over-work or dough will be chewy.

Divide dough in half and gently pat out into about a 6-inch circle.  Cut into 6-8 wedges and place on an ungreased cookie sheet or cookie sheet lined with a silicone baking mat. Repeat with other half of dough.  Bake in preheated oven about 12-15 minutes or until lightly golden.  Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

Make icing by whisking together powdered sugar, milk and vanilla.  Once scones are cooled, drizzle icing over the top, add more sprinkles if desired, and allow to set. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Brown Butter Banana Muffins

 Who doesn't love a good muffin for breakfast once in a while? Unfortunately most muffins are so LOADED with sugar they could really be considered a dessert.  Not these!  I love using super ripe mashed bananas in my pancakes and muffins because they lend a natural sweetness so you don't have to use much added sugar.   

These muffins are  delightfully delicious and incredibly moist.  My girls sometimes get finicky about the kind of muffins I make but these were gone in no time.  With less than half the sugar than your typical muffin recipe and by using whole wheat flour you can feel good about eating a few of these.

 Brown Butter Banana Muffins
7 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/3 cup whole milk
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 tsp. vanilla
2 bananas, mashed
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.   Line muffin tin with liners.

In a small pan melt butter over medium high heat.  Continue cooking until butter begins to smell nutty and starts turning a golden and brown bits appear.  Set aside to cool slightly.

In a mixing bowl, combine milk, egg and yolk, vanilla and mashed banana.  Very slowly whisk in warm butter, brown bits and all (do it too fast and you'll scramble the eggs).  Add in the sugars and whisk well to incorporate.  Sift in the rest of the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
Divide batter evenly into the muffin tin.  Bake 12-14 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

SOURCE: Adapted from Breanna's Recipe Box

Friday, April 25, 2014

Chicken Cordon Bleu Pizza

Hooray, it's pizza night at our house! This is one of my most beloved nights of the week.  Today I'm especially excited because I'm using a specialty flour I ordered, that comes from Italy; 00 caputo flour, just for pizza-making!  I'm still deciding tonight's toppings but I'm pretty sure it's gonna be good.

I digress though.  Let's talk about THIS pizza. Chicken Cordon Bleu was a dish I used to make frequently when I first got married. Over the years I stopped making it but I still love the flavors.  This pizza is just as mouth watering as the actual dish.  The creamy sauce is the perfect base for the ham and chicken and, of course, the flavors are all fabulous together. 

Chicken Cordon Bleu Pizza
makes 2 12-inch pizzas

Perfect Pizza Crust (doubled)
2 chicken breasts, grilled and chopped
1 cup cubed ham
4 green onions
2 cups swiss cheese, shredded
1/2 cup parmesan cheese

for the sauce:
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 Tbsp. dijon mustard
1 cup swiss cheese, shredded
salt and pepper, to taste

Make pizza dough according directions.  While dough is rising make sauce and grill chicken.

To make the sauce, melt butter in a small saucepan.  Add the flour and let bubble about a minute.  Whisk in milk and chicken broth.  Bring to a boil and whisk constantly until thickened; about a minute or so.  Remove from heat and whisk in mustard.  Add cheese and stir until melted and incorporated.  Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper, to taste.  Set aside.

Preheat oven and pizza stone to 450 degrees F.

Once dough has risen and doubled in size, split it in half.  Roll one half out on a pizza peel generously dusted with corn meal.  You can also roll it out on parchment paper.  Brush the edges of the dough with olive oil. Spread half of the cheese sauce on the rolled out dough.  Evenly layer half of the chicken, ham, shredded swiss and shredded parmesan cheeses.  Top with green onions.

Slide pizza onto preheated pizza stone in oven (or inverted cookie sheet).  Bake 7-9 minutes or until golden on top.  Repeat with other half of dough and toppings.  Serve warm.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Fresh Lemon Cake

There are a few things that I remember eating growing up that will I will always remember my mom making for our family.  One is homemade pizza on a cookie sheet, another is a plain old pot of ham beans.  So simple but some of my all time favorites.  My mom's lemonade cake probably made an appearance as dessert more times than I can remember.  My dad and I LOVE all things lemon so that's probably a huge factor in why we had her cake so much.  Another is that it's so quick and easy.

Fast forward many years.  I still like to make some old favorites; sometimes a little more healthy, sometimes with my own twist or sometimes just more home-made. That's where this cake comes in. I don't use mixes much anymore so I wanted to update my old recipe to use fresh ingredients, ones that I had on hand.  I loved the result.  The cake was so moist and tender and the lemon flavor was perfect. 

If you're looking for a spring dessert this is it! Perfect for any Easter gathering.  

Fresh Lemonade Cake
for the cake:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cake flour (or 3/4 cup all-purpose flour + 2 Tbsp. cornstarch, sifted) 
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. butter, softened
3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. sugar
zest of one lemon
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
juice of half a lemon (about 2 Tbsp.)
1/2 cup  + 2 Tbsp. milk at room temperature

for the glaze:
juice of 1 1/2 lemons (about 1/3 cup)
3/4 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour an 8 or 9-inch round baking pan and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together flours, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a whisk attachment, cream together butter, sugar and lemon zest.  Cream until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition.  Add vanilla lemon juice and milk and mix until combined.

Add in sifted ingredients and gently mix until just incorporated.  Pour batter into prepared baking pan and bake for 25-27 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean and top is slightly browned.  Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack.

In the meantime, combine the juice of the 1 1/2 lemons with the powdered sugar and whisk until mixed well (some lumps are ok).

While cake is still warm, but not hot, take a fork and poke holes all over the cake.  Slowly spoon on glaze, one spoonful at a time, letting it soak in before the next spoonful, until all the glaze is gone.  Cool cake completely and serve.

SOURCE: Cake from Annie's Eats

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Lemon Poppyseed and Blueberry Crepes

Although we have a lot of pancakes for breakfast and I pretty much make breakfast every morning,  crepes are still a delicious treat we very rarely enjoy around here.  I don't know what got me in the mood the other day, but I was craving some crepes in a bad way. I was going to do our most frequent flavor, sweet crepes with nutella, strawberries & bananas and whipped cream, but we didn't have any nutella, or strawberries for that matter.  So I went with the next best thing; fruity and citrus-y (if that's even a real word).  I figured they would be good and everyone would eat them but I couldn't believe just HOW good they were.  Blueberries and lemons were just meant to be.  My mouth was Mmmmmm-ing and Ahhhhh-ing and wanted MORE!

If you've never made crepes before they can be a little daunting at first.  While the batter takes just a few minutes to prepare, getting the hang of swirling it around the pan quick enough and thin enough takes a little practice.  Don't let that stop you, I still mess up the first couple of each batch I make anyway.

Lemon Poppyseed and Blueberry Crepes
makes about 12-14 crepes

for the crepe batter:
2 eggs
2 Tbsp. oil
3 Tbsp. sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup flour
1 1/3 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
zest and juice of a lemon
2 tsp. poppy seeds


for the filling:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
zest and juice of a lemon
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup blueberries, frozen or fresh

For the crepe batter, put all the ingredients except the poppy seeds into a blender and blend until there are no lumps.  Add in poppy seeds and just barely blend to incorporate.

Heat crepe pan or frying pan over medium heat.  Have a stick of butter handy, leaving the wrapper on half of it.  This will make it easy to butter your pan between each crepe.

Whip the cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add in lemon juice and zest and vanilla and mix well.  Gently fold in blueberries.  Set aside.

When pan is sufficiently hot, quickly butter it with the stick of butter (just run it across the pan a few times real quick).  Hold the pan with one hand while you pour the batter with the other hand.  I use about 1/3 cup batter for each crepe.  Quickly rotate the pan in a circular motion until the batter has covered the bottom of the pan.  Set on the stove and cook about 30 seconds or until edges are set and you can run a spatula under them.  Flip and cook another 20-30 seconds or so.

Remove crepe from pan and place on a large plate.  Cover to keep warm, if desired, and continue cooking until all the batter is used up, buttering pan in between each.

To serve, spread filling over half of the crepe, then fold in half and fold in half again.  Alternately you can place the filling just off the center and roll it up burrito style.  Garnish with extra powdered sugar and blueberries, if desired.

SOURCE: Crepes from Our Best Bites, Filling from Say Yes

Monday, April 7, 2014

Zucchini Spinach and Basil Soup

I remember reading about this soup sometime last year, maybe end of summer or fall.  It's from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.  She called it "life-changing soup" because it's luscious and creamy without the cream! I bookmarked it for later but didn't think of it again until I got a recommendation from my sister who had made it and who's whole family loved it. That's all the push I needed to finally make it myself.  I mean, anything that's "life-changing" good has got to be worth it right?

If you have a garden and grow zucchini, this soup recipe will be your best friend.  I mean, there's only so much you can do with zucchini before you get tired of eating it.  ZUCCHINI is the secret ingredient in this soup that makes it silky creamy without the cream.

Now, I realize I'm posting this before most of you have even planted your gardens this year, but it's really a soup for any season.  It's delicious warm, but it is also yummy room temperature or even chilled, like a gazpacho. So make it now and eat it throughout the summer and fall.

Zucchini Spinach and Basil Soup
serves 4-5

Olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 onion, diced
2 medium zucchini, trimmed and chopped (about 4 cups)
2 cups chicken broth
3 cups fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

In a large pot, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the chopped onion and saute about 5 minutes, until nice and tender.  Add the garlic and zucchini and saute another minute or two.  Add the broth and bring to a simmer.  Cover, reduce heat and cook until zucchini is very tender and falling apart; about 8-10 minutes.

Remove soup from heat and add spinach.  Use an immersion blender to puree the soup.  Alternately you can work in batches pureeing the soup in a blender.  Check for seasoning and salt and pepper, to taste.  Stir in fresh basil.

Serve warm with baguette or homemade bread.

SOURCE: Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Friday, April 4, 2014

Raspberry Lemon Baked Oatmeal

Oats, in some form or another, make their way onto our breakfast table at least 2-3 times a week.  While everyone is perfectly happy with a simple version of a little brown sugar and cinnamon, it is nice to change it up a bit. 

My girls LOVE pretty much any berry they can get their hand on. Raspberries are probably my most favorite, but I enjoy them all as well. Fresh berries in season are such a treat.  Whenever we get a clamshell of blueberries or blackberries in our CSA basket, it doesn't even make it to the fridge before my girls have ripped it open and started shoving the berries in their face.  I don't mind though.  Any fresh produce my girls willingly eat is ok by me.

That said, it's no surprise that this Raspberry Lemon Baked Oatmeal is my favorite version so far.  I usually try to use a small amount of sugar when I make breakfast foods, but I did add a tiny bit more to balance out the tartness of the raspberries a bit.  If you're into mix-ins, my favorite with this flavor combination would be toasted coconut, chopped white chocolate and a splash of milk.  Enjoy!

Raspberry Lemon Baked Oatmeal
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
zest and juice of a lemon
1/4 cup  coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup raspberries (frozen or fresh)

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 8 or 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together milk, egg, vanilla, lemon zest and juice, coconut oil and sugar.  Add baking powder, salt and rolled oats.  Stir to combine.  Gently fold in the raspberries.  Pour into prepared baking dish and bake 28-30 minutes, until slightly golden on top. 

Serve warm, with mix-ins as desired.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Oven Baked Ravioli

So, sometimes I will make a meal just for my husband and I to enjoy, usually something that we don't have often, that the kids probably wouldn't eat or want. Take this ravioli for instance or this lobster risotto I made a few years ago for Valentine's Day.   Mmmm, I still think about that one.  Makes my mouth water. Anyway, so that's kind of where I was going with this dish. I totally thought they wouldn't go for it but it turns out our dinner for two turned into a dinner for 5!  I'm glad they enjoyed it though, 'cause sometimes it's hard to get them to try new things.  Maybe it was the fact that I made it just for my husband and I that got them curious...hmm, good tactic.

These were fun to make and changed it up from just a typical pasta and sauce dish.  Although pasta and sauce is a pretty quick meal to make, this doesn't take too much more effort (as long as you're willing to get your hands a little dirty) and it's FUN to eat!  I served it with my new favorite pizza sauce and we all loved it.

Oven Baked Ravioli
1 lb cheese ravioli, about 40 (or whatever you like)
2 eggs
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1 tsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. granulated garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
pinch of black pepper
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Pizza sauce or Marinara for dipping

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a cookie sheet with foil and place a wire rack on top.  Spray rack with non-stick cooking spray.  Whisk eggs in a small bowl and set aside.  In a shallow dish, combine breadcrumbs, parsley, basil, garlic, salt, pepper and cheese; mix well.

Dip ravioli in egg wash, allowing excess to drip off, then coat with breadcrumb mixture, pressing to adhere.  Place on wire rack and continue with remaining ravioli.

Bake 12-15 minutes, or until browned and crispy.  Serve warm with marinara for dipping.

SOURCE: Adapted from How Sweet It Is and Edible Life in YYC

Monday, March 31, 2014

How to Make Coconut Milk

So, years ago on the blog I did a few "how to" posts.  There weren't very many and it didn't last long.  Teaching people how to do something, especially when it comes to cooking and food, is a real passion of mine.

We got a coconut in our CSA basket a few weeks ago and my girls would not stop asking me when we could open it and make coconut milk.  I was thrilled at their enthusiasm and couldn't wait either to have some fun with them.  

Making coconut milk is a relatively easy process, although some steps are more labor intensive than others.  However, you not only come away with fresh delicious coconut milk, you also have the coconut water and the coconut flesh that you can use in other things.  So you get a lot of bang for your buck here as far as I'm concerned.  

How To Make Coconut Milk
what you need:
1 or 2 coconuts (If you use young coconuts you can drink the water, it won't be bitter like from more mature coconuts)
corkscrew bottle opener
Light tea towel
vegetable peeler
warm water (below 115 degrees if you want it raw)
cheesecloth or nut milk bag

1.  First, grab your coconut and find the dark indentations on the top.  Use the corkscrew bottle opener in one of the indentations and drill a hole.  (Alternately you can pound a clean screwdriver with a hammer to make a hole.  Just make sure it's wide enough that the liquid doesn't stay trapped in.) Drain all the coconut water out of the hole into a bowl.  Feel free to save it for smoothies or even drink as electrolyte replacement after a workout. Fresh coconut water will last about a week in the fridge.

2.  Next, whack it a few times with the back of a knife or a hammer and get it to split enough to pry it open. Once it is open, you can either use a knife to get the flesh out or flip it over and tap it out with the hammer.


3. Next, you'll want to get your vegetable peeler out and peel the skin off the coconut flesh. Hopefully you won't have too many small pieces so it doesn't take too long. 

4. Give the coconut a rough chop and throw it into a blender with 2 cups warm water per coconut. Blend it up and let it run a few minutes until it makes a slurry.

5. Strain the slurry through a nut milk bag or over a few layers of cheesecloth. Squeeze out any extra liquid.  Fresh coconut milk will last 2-3 days in the fridge.  The fat will separate and rise to the top as it sits.  Just give it a shake before using it.

*The remaining pulp can be made into coconut flour. Place in a dehydrator at 115 degrees until dry, then put it in a blender to grind until fine. Keep in an airtight container in the pantry or store in a freezer for longer term storage.  Use in any recipe calling for coconut flour.

*If you don't want to dehydrate the pulp, place it in the fridge and use within 2-3 days or in the freezer for up to a few months.  You can use the pulp in homemade granola, cookies, muffins or other baked goods.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Ina Garten's Winter Minestrone

Now I realize that we have just entered into what is now officially spring and here I am posting about soup.  But spring in Utah is CRAZY!  You never know what you're going to get any given day.  And seriously the weather can change so quickly.  When I was living in Logan, many years ago, I remember it SNOWING on June 6th!!  That's practically summer.  We had a garden that year and I remember frantically going down to cover all the plants as quickly as we could so they wouldn't freeze and die.  We get it all this season, wind (and lots of it), rain, sun, snow and just about anything else. So, I'm not counting anything out just yet.

I'm a huge Ina Garten fan.  She is so classic and classy and she's got impeccable taste.  I trust any recipe of hers.  When I stumbled upon this recipe I immediately wanted to make it and knew I wouldn't have to tweak a thing to get the right taste.  And I was right.  Spot on.  If you think soup is boring or flavorless, you're going to be WOWed by this soup.  It has a very rich hearty taste and the fresh spinach and pesto at the end really finish it nicely.

Don't give up on soup just yet. We've still got plenty of chilly spring days that nothing but a warm bowl of soup can remedy.

Ina Garten's Winter Minestrone
serves 8-10 generously

good olive oil
4 oz pancetta (I had some diced ham in the freezer so I just used that)
1 1/2 cups yellow onion, finely diced
2 cups  (1/2-inch) diced carrots (about 3)
2 cups (1/2-inch) diced celery (about 3 stalks)
2 1/2 cups (1/2-inch) peeled diced butternut squash
1 1/2 Tbsp. minced garlic, about 4 cloves
1 tsp. dried thyme
28-oz. diced tomatoes
8 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup white cooking wine
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
1 15-oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup small pasta shapes, such as tubetti or ditalini
8-10 oz. fresh baby spinach leaves, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp. basil pesto

In a large heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium high heat.  Add pancetta (or ham) and cook until slightly browned.  Remove to a plate.  Add another drizzle or two of olive oil (1-2 Tbsp.) then add onions, carrots, celery, squash, garlic  and thyme  and cook about 8-10 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften.  (I like to cook my onions about 8-10 minutes before the rest of the veggies so they are good and caramelized.)

Add tomatoes, wine, bay leaf, chicken stock 1 tablespoon kosher salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and let cook, uncovered for 25-30 minutes, until vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, in a separate pot, cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain, rinse and set aside.

When soup is ready, remove from heat, remove bay leaf and add the pasta, beans and spinach leaves.  Toss like a salad to mix in spinach leaves and let it sit until they begin to wilt. Stir in pesto and taste for seasoning.  Add more salt and broth as necessary.

Ladle soup into large bowls and serve warm.

SOURCE: Ina Garten

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Menu Plan Monday

It's officially spring!!  I can't even convey how incredibly excited I am that winter is FINALLY over!  After being sick and cooped up for like three months straight, I'm so excited to see the sun and just be outside. My girls are pretty stoked about the nicer weather too.  They were outside at the park for like 4 hours straight yesterday! Can't say I didn't enjoy the nice quiet afternoon, it was great.

This week's menu is full of quick and easy favorites.  I'm continuing to gather crock pot recipes for my Sunday dinners and this week's looks great.

Weekly Menu March 24-30
Easy Pad Thai with Chicken

Pasta with Red Pepper Sauce
Italian Salad

The Perfect Hamburger, Homemade Buns
leftover salad
steak fries

Chili-Lime Taquitos
Shredded Slaw
fresh fruit

Pizza with Blue Cheese, Balsamic and Cherry Tomatoes


Crockpot Pesto Ranch Chick Thighs
Mashed Potatoes
Strawberry Spinach Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Kalua Pork

Out of all the kitchen tools and gadgets I have, my crockpot is one of the most severely underused that I have.  I don't know why I use it so little, most of the time it just doesn't even cross my mind.  But I know many people use it tons and and  love it.

In a few months time my crock pot is going to me by best friend on the weekends and I need to get reacquainted with it.  You see our church meetings on Sundays are soon going to be letting out at 6pm!!  So LATE! My kids go to bed early (most of the time) so having dinner just about ready when we get home is going to be key.  So between now and then I'm going to have to start gathering recipes that we can use for those late nights.  It's either that or eat pancakes....which isn't entirely all that bad either.

I've had this recipe in my notebook for probably 6 years and made it a time or two.  (As far as giving credit for the recipe, I'm not sure there is anyone in particular because the recipe is everywhere on the internet.)  We just love it.  Not only is it the easiest thing to throw together, with a whopping 3 ingredients, but the flavor is delicious!  My husband and kids like to call it kalua pig just to say they're eating pig.  Pork, pig, whatever. It's still yum.  We just throw the pork on slider buns, with or without the cabbage,  and serve it with some fresh fruit and veggies.  Quick and easy and super tasty.

Kalua Pork and Cabbage
3 lb.  pork shoulder roast
1 1/2 Tbsp. liquid smoke
2 Tbsp. coarse sea salt

1/2 head green cabbage, shredded

Place roast in crockpot and rub it down with the liquid smoke and sea salt.  Turn it on low and let it cook a good 8-12 hours. For larger roasts, err on the longer cook time, even up to 14-16 hours. Overnight is great.  Don't add additional liquid, the fat from the pork will be enough.  When finished cooking, cool and shred with two forks.  Serve warm, on buns or over cooked rice.

To make the cabbage, take a few tablespoons of the liquid from the crockpot and add it to a frying pan.  Heat over medium high heat.  Add cabbage and saute until crisp-tender.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Marsala Chicken Mushroom and Barley Stew

Mmmmm....MAR.....SA.......LA......! Love that word.  Love the flavor even more.  I swoon at dishes that are infused with marsala.  Every time I see a recipe for Chicken Marsala, I think to myself, I'm going to make that "FOR REAL" this time. And then, of course, it gets put off until I completely forget about it...again.

I had Chicken Marsala once at the Olive Garden a very looooong time ago and I completely fell in love with it. Tried to make it at home a time or two and it didn't  really seem to fit the bill. But that was also a very long time ago.  My skills have much improved since then.  I haven't come back to it since but I still love to reminisce about how much I loved that dish back then. Granted if I went back today and ate there again, I doubt I would be as enamored with the dish as I once was (we've kind of sworn off OG).

Anyway, this stew is kind of a mix between one of my favorite dishes, Chicken Marsala, and one of my husband's favorite dishes, Mushroom Barley Soup.  It all came about on a cold and rainy day, perfect day for soup if you ask me.  I wasn't  exactly sure how the two dishes would come together but it turned out to be a winner. My girls even gobbled it up and that doesn't happen much.

Marsala Chicken Mushroom and Barley Stew
6 boneless skinless chicken thighs
olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
8 oz cremini mushrooms, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 cup marsala cooking wine
4 cups chicken broth
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1 cup quick cooking barley
fresh herbs for garnish, such as basil, or parsley

In a large pot, heat a couple drizzles of olive oil over medium high heat.  Add chicken thighs and brown on each side; about 2 minutes per side.  Work in batches if your pot is not big enough to hold all of the thighs at once.  Remove chicken to a platter.  Reduce heat to medium.  Add another drizzle of oil, if necessary, and add onions and mushrooms to the pot.  Cook until onions are translucent and tender.  Add garlic and cook another minute.  Add chicken back in, then add wine, broth, dried basil, salt and pepper.  Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook 10 minutes.  Add barley and cook another 15 minutes.

Ladle warm soup into bowls, garnish with fresh herbs and serve.

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