Dec 31, 2012

Debbie's Chips and Salsa

My cousin Debbie invited my dad and me up to Salt Lake City yesterday for dinner. In addition to enjoying some wonderful family time, we had a delectable meal of chicken enchiladas, Mexican rice, refried beans, chips and salsa, and coconut cake. Though all the food was delicious, I thought the salsa was particularly good and unusual in that it had a slightly sweet taste to it. So I asked Debbie for the recipe. It doesn't require any fresh ingredients other than fresh cilantro, so it could be made any time of year.

2 cans diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons dried minced onion
1 tablespoon dried minced garlic
2 mounded tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 cup lime juice, fresh or reconstituted

Combine ingredients in blender and pulse until the salsa reaches the desired consistency. Allow to sit for at least 10 minutes. Just before serving, add 1 bunch finely chopped fresh cilantro. Serve with Tostitos Hint of Lime Tortilla Chips.

Dec 26, 2012

Shrimp and Cream Cheese Spread

This simple recipe is a long-time Clark family classic. We've never made it without our homemade chili sauce, but I assume that you could make do with a commercial version, if pressed.

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 to 1/2 cup chili sauce (this is a key source of the spread's flavor, and homemade chili sauce is by far the best; I haven't actually measured the exact amount, but there should be enough for there to be a thin layer over the cream cheese)
1 hard boiled egg, chopped
1 4-ounce can tiny shrimp, drained and crumbled
1/2 to 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (optional)
Crackers (we usually use Ritz crackers or Wheat Thins)

Spread softened cream cheese on a flat platter, approximately 9 inches in diameter. Top with chili sauce and sprinkle with chopped, hard boiled egg and broken shrimp. Add parsley, if desired. Chill. Serve spread on crackers.

Chocolate Marshmallow Brownies

I've always loved this type of brownie. The pillowy marshmallow topping makes them a comfort food for me. This classic recipe, with very slight modifications, is from Six Sixters' Stuff blog.

1 cup butter (2 sticks)
2 cups sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
4 eggs
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
1 (10 oz) package of miniature marshmallows

Soften butter and blend in sugar and cocoa. Beat together and add 4 eggs, one at a time, mixing after each one. Add flour, salt and vanilla and mix well.

Spread on large (10 x 15 x 1-inch) greased cookie sheet. Bake 22-25 minutes at 350. Remove from oven and cover entire top with 1 package of miniature marshmallows. Return to oven for 3 minutes, until marshmallows are soft and puffy. Cool and frost with chocolate frosting.

Chocolate Frosting:
1 stick butter (1/2 cup), softened
1/4 cup milk
1-2 tsp vanilla (depending on your taste)
3 tablespoons of cocoa
2-3 cups of powdered sugar

Mix all ingredients with a hand mixer until smooth. Add more powdered sugar or milk until you reach desired consistency and spread on top of bars.

Dec 9, 2012

Bacon-Wrapped Pineapple Bites

Easy, easy appetizer. The salty, chewiness of the bacon makes a good combination with the sweetness of the pineapple and the brown sugar.

1 whole pineapple, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks (the original recipe called for canned pineapple, so that is an option, but fresh pineapple is so much better; actually, I used pre-cut fresh pineapple from Costco)
1 pound thin-sliced bacon, cut in half
3 to 4 tablespoons dark brown sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wrap each chunk of pineapple in a half strip of bacon and secure with a toothpick. Place on a wire baking rack or lined cookie sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes. Remove and sprinkle with brown sugar. Preheat broiler. Place the pan under the broiler for a few minutes. Keep your eyes on the pineapple bites so they don't burn. Let cool slightly and serve. Makes 25 pineapple bites.

Nov 24, 2012

Pumpkin Bars

Pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin. It's fall again. Pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin dessert, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin soup. So many tasty variations. And now pumpkin bars. Mmmmmmm. These are moist and rich and yummy. And the cream cheese frosting doesn't hurt either. I could eat the frosting by itself. This recipe, slightly modified, comes from Paula Deen via Mel's Kitchen Cafe.

Bars:
4 eggs
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil (can substitute 1/2 cup applesauce for 1/2 cup oil; I did this and was very happy with the result)
15-ounce can pumpkin
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Icing:
8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using an electric mixer at medium speed, combine the eggs, sugar, oil, and pumpkin until light and fluffy. Stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth. Spread the batter into a greased 13 by 10-inch baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting. Cut into bars.

To make the icing: Combine the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and mix at low speed until combined. Stir in the vanilla and mix again. Spread on cooled pumpkin bars.

Nov 21, 2012

Libby's Famous Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin pie has always been one of my favorites. A true classic. A piece of slightly warm pie with a dollop of whip cream is comfort food at its best. And for me, one of the best recipes for pumpkin pie is the one on the can (Libby's). I don't know why more people don't use it. It always comes out just right.

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
4 large eggs
1 can (29 ounces) Libby's 100% Pure Pumpkin
2 cans (12 ounces each) evaporated milk
2 unbaked 9-inch deep dish pie shells

Mix sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves in a small bowl. Beat eggs in a large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk. Pour into pie shells. Bake in preheated 425 degree oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 40 to 50 minutes, or until knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. serve immediately or refrigerate.

Nov 18, 2012

Baked French Toast

I tried this Baked French Toast recipe this morning and found myself in breakfast heaven! So delicious! And this would be great to serve to a larger group because you could make it ahead. Instead of cooking over a skillet, you could just pull this out of the oven and serve it, thereby giving you more time to chat with your guests. This breakfast dish is wonderful as is, but I intend to experiment with different breads and maybe trying to incorporate fruit into the French toast prior to baking. This recipe, slightly modified, comes from The Pioneer Woman Cooks.

FRENCH TOAST
1 loaf crusty sourdough or French bread (I actually used a loaf of "cinnamon burst" bread from Great Harvest Bakery, which was great, but I'm sure a variety of breads would work)
8 whole eggs
2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla extract

TOPPING
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick cold butter, cut into pieces
Fresh fruit, such as peaches or blueberries, to serve with the French toast after it has baked

Grease the baking pan with butter. Tear the bread into chunks, or cut into cubes, and evenly distribute in the pan. Whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla. Pour evenly over the bread. Cover the pan tightly and keep in the fridge for several hours (overnight preferably). Or you can make it and bake it right away---delicious no matter what!

For the topping, mix the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and a pinch of nutmeg in a separate bowl. Stir together using a fork. Add the butter and, with a pastry cutter, mix it all together until the mixture resembles fine pebbles. Store in a plastic bag in the fridge.

When you're ready to bake the casserole, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the casserole from the fridge and sprinkle the topping over the top. Bake for 45 minutes for a softer, more bread pudding texture, or for 1 hour-plus or more for a firmer, crisper texture. Scoop out individual portions. Drizzle with warm pancake syrup and sprinkle with fresh fruit such as peaches or blueberries.

Oct 18, 2012

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

Rumor has it that this is the recipe for the pumpkin chocolate chip bread that they make at Kneaders Bakery. I don't know if that is true or not. All I know is that I tried making this bread tonight and it is heavenly. Also on the plus side, there is no oil in the recipe, and it makes three loaves.

3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose Flour
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 2/3 cups sugar
2/3 cup butter. softened
4 eggs
1 large (29 oz) can pumpkin puree
2/3 cup water
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Sift together dry ingredients and set aside. Cream sugar and butter until well incorporated. Add eggs one at a time and then add the pumpkin. Alternate adding dry ingredients with water. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour into three large greased bread pans and bake at 325 degrees for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Makes 3 loaves.

Oct 9, 2012

Kitchen Tip: Keeping Brown Sugar Soft

And here's another kitchen tip I ran across the other day on Pinterest. Instead of putting a piece of bread or a slice of apple in the bag to keep your brown sugar soft, try using a couple of marshmallows. That sounds a lot more appetizing to me!

Oct 7, 2012

Kitchen Tip: Peeling Hard Boiled Eggs

Just tried something I found on Pinterest the other day. When you are making hard boiled eggs, add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda to the water. Apparently, doing so changes the PH level, so the shells won't stick to the eggs when you peel them. I tried five eggs this morning, and the shells were all very easy to peel except one of them (not sure why). I had no idea! Give this a try.

Oct 3, 2012

Beer Basted Ham

This isn't a recipe I've tried making myself yet, but it is a signature dish of my Uncle Brent. And he just brought one of these tasty hams by to give to my family. What a guy! I'd forgotten how good this is. Great to eat warm and later on for sandwiches.

1 15-pound precooked ham with bone
1 pound dark brown sugar
8 12-ounce cans beer (the recipe calls for Coors)
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup bourbon

Place ham in a deep roasting pan. Firmly pat 1 pound brown sugar on all sides of the ham. Pour beer around the ham. Cover and bake at 325 degrees for 3 3/4 hours (15 minutes per pound). One hour before end of baking time, pour off all but 1 1/2 cups of the beer. In a small saucepan, combine honey, mustard, 2 cups brown sugar, and bourbon; heat until the sugar melts. Baste ham every 10 minutes with beer mixture from the bottom of the pan and then brush on bourbon glaze. Use all of the bourbon glaze before removing the ham from the oven. Slice thinly and serve with the sauce remaining in the pan.

Jul 15, 2012

Brownie Cookies

A brownie in the form of a cookie. What's not to like? This recipe comes from Southern Living, I believe. But I found it on Pinterest and from a blog titled Wise Family Living. I intend to play around with this cookie a bit--maybe add a Hershey's Chocolate Kiss or Hug midway through baking, try frosting the cookies, or maybe even try some mint flavoring. But these are also good as is.

1/2 cup butter
4 (1-ounce) squares unsweetened baking chocolate
3 cups semisweet chocolate morsels, divided
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups chopped pecans toasted (I used walnuts)

Combine butter, chocolate, and 1 1/2 cups of chocolate morsels in a saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until melted. Then let chocolate cool a bit. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Beat eggs, sugar, and vanilla at medium speed with an electric mixer. Gradually add dry ingredients to the egg mixture. Add melted chocolate to the mixture and beat well. Stir in the remaining 1 1/2 cups of chocolate morsels and pecans. Drop the dough by 2 tablespoonfuls 1 inch apart on greased baking sheets. Bake at 350 degree for 10 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool slightly. Transfer the cookies to wire racks and let them cool completely. Store cookies in an airtight container.

Jul 9, 2012

Strawberry Freezer Jam

Confession. I haven't made this recipe myself, but I have eaten the end result. My neighbors, Joe and Lisa Nielsen, gave me a jar of this delicious concoction, and I HAD to have the recipe! This is so delicious on homemade bread or toast! I'm going to have to make a batch of this sometime soon. It doesn't look hard at all. The original recipe comes from MCP, a manufacturer of pectin.

3 1/4 cups prepared fruit (buy about 2 quarts fully ripe strawberries)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 box pectin
1 cup corn syrup
4 1/2 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl

Rinse clean plastic containers and lids with boiling water. Dry thoroughly. Crush strawberries thoroughly, one layer at a time. Measure exactly 3 1/4 cups crushed strawberries into large bowl. Stir in lemon juice. Stir in pectin; let stand 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Stir in corn syrup. Gradually add sugar, stirring until well blended. Stir an additional 3 minutes, or until sugar is completely dissolved and no longer grainy (a few sugar crystals may remain). Fill all containers immediately to within 1/2 inch of the top. Wipe off top edges of containers; immediately cover with lids. Let stand at room temperature 24 hours. Jam is now ready to use. Store in refrigerator up to 3 weeks or freeze extra containers up to 1 year. Thaw in refrigerator before using. Makes about 7 one-cup containers.

Jun 26, 2012

Melody's Mock Lasagna Casserole

Here is a main dish that both adults and kids will like. It is easy to prepare and uses ingredients that many people have on hand already. Thanks to my friend Melody for this.

1 16-oz. package twisty noodles, cooked and drained
1 cup cottage cheese
2 cups sour cream
2 pounds hamburger, browned
1 30-oz. jar spaghetti sauce
2 oz. cans tomato sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon garlic salt
(Mozzarella cheese to sprinkle on top)

Stir together first three ingredients and spread in 9 x 13" pan. Combine remaining ingredients and spread on top of the noodle mixture. Sprinkle grated cheese on top. Bake 25 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Jun 11, 2012

Bean and Cheese Dip

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
2 cans (16 ounces, each) refried beans
1 packet taco seasoning
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together cream cheese and sour cream in a large bowl. Mix in refried beans until combined. Stir in taco seasoning. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Spread mixture evenly into the bottom of the baking dish. Sprinkle both cheeses over the top. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until cheese in melted and slightly browned. Serve with tortilla chips.

May 29, 2012

Chocolate Eclair Dessert

I love eclairs but haven't ever wanted to devote the time and effort required to make them. I'd rather pay someone else for that. But this dessert has the flavor of eclairs without all the fuss. This recipe comes from my friend Angie.

1 (1 lb.) box graham crackers
2 small packages French Vanilla Instant pudding
3 1/2 cups milk
1 (9 oz.) container Cool Whip

Frosting:
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons Karo syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons milk

Butter the bottom of a 9x13 pan, line with graham crackers. Mix pudding with the milk and beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Blend in Cool Whip. Spread half the mixture over the graham crackers and then place a second layer of graham crackers over pudding. Pour remaining pudding over and cover with more crackers. Refrigerate for 2 hours then frost. Refrigerate for 24 hours after frosting.

May 27, 2012

Nutella Banana Bread

I found this recipe on Pinterest and couldn't wait to try it. Banana bread and Nutella combined in a single recipe. Yum! And it turned out to be as good as advertised. I will absolutely be making this again. This recipe comes from Chef in Training, by the way. However, I found a recipe called Marbled Nutella Banana Bread on another site that is slightly different but looks more visually appealing. I intend to try that one in the very near future.

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups mashed ripe banana
1/3 cup skim milk (I used 1% because that's all I had)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 heaping cup Nutella

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8×4-inch loaf pan with nonstick spray. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate large bowl, beat sugar and butter with an electric mixer at medium speed until blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add banana, milk, and vanilla. Beat until blended. Add flour mixture, beat at low speed just until flour is incorporated (don’t over mix). Spoon Nutella into a small dish and soften in the microwave for about 15 seconds. Add 1 cup of the banana bread batter to the Nutella and stir until blended well. Spoon Nutella batter alternately with plain banana bread batter into the prepared pan. Swirl batters together with a knife. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, it will seem a tiny bit undercooked but that’s what makes it good. Cool for at least 15 minutes in the pan, and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

May 26, 2012

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts often get a bad rap, and I think I've generally avoided them as a result. Yes, I may have tried them once a decade or so when I went out to eat, but I've never cooked them myself. So I decided to be brave and give them a whirl. I found this delicious recipe from a site called Once Upon a Chef. If you don't think you like brussels sprouts, or if you already do, give this a try.

1 1/2 pounds brussels sprouts, halved (stem and ragged outer leaves removed)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon honey

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. In a bowl, toss brussels sprouts with 2 tablespoons olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper. Transfer the brussels sprouts to baking sheet and roast, stirring occasionally to ensure even browning, until tender and caramelized, about 20 minutes. Place brussels sprouts back in bowl. Add remaining tablespoon olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and honey, and toss to coat evenly. Adjust seasoning as needed, then serve. Note: Brussels sprouts should all be cut to about the same size to ensure even cooking.

Apr 8, 2012

Ultimate Cheesecake

Okay, I don't know if this is the "ultimate" cheesecake. I'm only using that title because it's what this cheesecake is called on Mel's Kitchen Cafe, where I originally found this recipe. But if it's not the ultimate cheesecake, this is certainly a cut above many of the cheesecakes I've tried. And as an added bonus, it's pretty easy to make--no water baths, etc. If you like a creamy cheesecake, this recipe is for you. I made this (slightly adapted) to rave reviews for a family Easter celebration today. I topped each piece of cheesecake with sliced fresh strawberries.

Crust:
2 3/4 cups finely ground graham crackers (about 18 whole graham crackers)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted

Filling:
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest from one lemon, finely grated (I also added the zest from an orange)
1 pint sour cream

In a mixing bowl, combine the crust ingredients together with a fork until evenly moistened. Lightly coat the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan (I use an 8 1/2-inch springform pan because it is all I have, and it works fine) with non-stick cooking spray. Firmly press the mixture over the bottom and about an inch or so up the sides on the pan, use your fingers or the smooth bottom of a glass. Refrigerate the crust while preparing the filling.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese on LOW speed for 1 minute, just until smooth and free of any lumps. Gradually add the sugar and beat until creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Periodically scrape down the sides of the bowl and the beaters. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and continue to slowly beat until combined. Stir in the vanilla and lemon zest. Blend in the sour cream. The batter should be well mixed but not overbeaten. Overbeating incorporates too much air and will cause the cake to puff when baking, then fall and crack when cooling. Pour filling into the crust-lined pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 50-55 minutes (because I used a smaller pan than the one called for, the cheesecake required more time to cook; I'd say that I added about 15 to 20 minutes of extra cooking time). The cheesecake should still jiggle slightly; it will firm up after chilling. Be careful not to overcook! Do not do a toothpick test in the cake’s center; this will make a crack. Loosen the cheesecake from the sides of the pan by running a thin metal spatula around the inside rim. Let cool in the pan for 30 minutes. Chill in the refrigerator, loosely covered, for at least 4 hours to set up. Demold and transfer to a cake plate. Slice the cheesecake with a thin, nonserrated knife that has been dipped in hot water and wiped dry after each cut.

Apr 1, 2012

Elephant Deli Tomato-Orange Soup

Elephants Delicatessen is an eating establishment in the Portland area, I guess. I've never been there myself or even heard of anyone who has, but this recipe apparently either comes from there or is an approximation of one of their offerings. A friend of mine (Carolyn Warner Taylor) urged me to try it. The idea of putting orange juice in tomato soup isn't something I would have ever thought of myself, but it works! Served with some crusty bread, this soup makes a quick and delicious, albeit a bit unusual, meal. Try it; you'll like it!

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 (14 1/2 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup heavy cream

In a saucepan melt butter; add onion and saute until translucent. Add tomatoes, salt, pepper, baking soda and thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered about 15 minutes or until slightly thickened. Puree in a food processor or blender (or a hand held immersion blender for more texture). Return to saucepan and stir in orange juice. At this point, the soup can be refrigerated until ready to serve. At serving time, add the heavy cream and heat gently, stirring constantly, bringing to a simmer and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Mar 31, 2012

Baked Oatmeal

A lot of people don't like oatmeal because of the texture. It looks like something disgusting that is plopped on metal trays and given to people in prison. I don't necessarily feel that way but some people do. ;-) For those of you who may have unresolved issues with oatmeal, I encourage you to try baked oatmeal. The texture is slightly crunchy/chewy on the top and soft in the middle. Today was my first time making baked oatmeal, so I have much more to learn, I'm sure. I'm going to play with the recipe some more--maybe try adding nuts or fruit, try steel-cut oats, experiment with a few different sweeteners, etc. But I liked the initial result.

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the butter in a 9 × 13-inch baking dish and place in the oven to melt. Be sure not to let the butter burn. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, maple sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together the milk, eggs, and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix well, making sure all of the oats are moistened. Remove the pan with the butter from the oven. Pour the oats mixture into the pan and stir, mixing until most of the butter in incorporated, but leaving some unmixed at the edges & bottom of the pan. Bake in the preheated oven until the edges are golden, about 30 minutes. Serve hot with cream and perhaps a drizzle of maple syrup.

Mar 11, 2012

Roasted Salmon with Potatoes and Mushrooms

I know that health concerns should be a more important part of my dietary choices, and I'm moving slowly in that direction. It's just that many dishes/foods that are healthy don't always taste very good. And I have a difficult time forcing myself to eat foods that don't taste very good on any kind of regular basis. Anyway, here is a dish that is both healthy and delicious. Plus it's made largely in a single dish. The recipe comes from Real Simple. I particularly like the accompanying sauce.

1 pound small new potatoes (about 10), halved
8 ounces button mushrooms
3 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt and black pepper
1 1 1/4-pound piece skinless salmon fillet
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Heat oven to 400 degrees. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the potatoes, mushrooms, 1 tablespoon of the oil, and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Roast, tossing once, until the potatoes begin to soften, about 20 minutes. Push the vegetables to the edges of the pan and place the salmon in the center. Season with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Roast until the salmon is opaque throughout, the mushrooms are tender, and the potatoes are golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, honey, and parsley, the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Drizzle over the salmon and vegetables before serving. Serves 4.

Mar 10, 2012

Balsamic and Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower

This is a delicious take on cauliflower, and the recipe couldn't be easier. Roasting makes the cauliflower slightly nutty, the vinegar gives it a tang, and the Parmesan cheese makes it taste even better. I'm not usually a huge cauliflower fan, but this makes it worth eating. Give this recipe a try. The original recipe came from Eating Well.

8 cups 1-inch-thick slices cauliflower florets
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried marjoram (the original recipe called for this, but I omitted it since I didn't have any and don't think I've ever had any ;-). Maybe I don't know what I'm missing, but the cauliflower tasted great without the marjoram.)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste (Confession: I'm not a big pepper fan, so I omitted this as well)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss cauliflower, oil, marjoram, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Spread on a large rimmed baking sheet and roast until starting to soften and brown on the bottom, 15 to 20 minutes. Toss the cauliflower with vinegar (I actually just brushed the vinegar lightly on the florets) and sprinkle with cheese. Return to the oven and roast until the cheese is melted and any moisture has evaporated, 5 to 10 minutes more. Serves 4 or 5.

Feb 25, 2012

Lemon Crinkle Cookies

This recipe, with some very minor variations, has been making the rounds on the internet recently, especially on Pinterest. And after having made them myself this afternoon, I can see why. They are tasty--thin, delicate, lemony, and buttery. I'll be making these again for sure. Some variations I've seen suggest topping the cookies with a lemon glace and/or crushed Lemonheads candy. Another person substituted lime juice and zest for the lemon. These variations sound delicious, and I'll give those a try in the near future.

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 to 2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, from about 1/2 lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheets with parchment or spray lightly with cooking spray.

Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add vanilla, egg, lemon zest, and juice and mix well. Add the dry ingredients (except the powdered sugar) and blend until just combined. Roll tablespoon-sized balls of dough in the powdered sugar to coat. Place on the prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.

Bake the cookies for 9-11 minutes. I like a slightly crisper cookie, so I bake them until they are just slightly browned on the edges, but you may prefer baking them just until they will have lost a bit of their shininess on top. Whatever suits your fancy, but don't overbake them. Cool the cookies on a cooling rack and store in an airtight container.

Feb 19, 2012

White Chicken Enchiladas

Pinterest is turning out to be a great source for new recipes, and that's where I found this one. Yummy White Chicken Enchiladas! And I used a store-bought rotisserie chicken to make this even easier. The recipe comes from Joyful Mama's Kitchen.

10 soft taco shells
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
2 cups shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup sour cream
1 (4 oz) can diced green chillies

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 pan.
2. Mix chicken and 1 cup cheese. Roll up in tortillas and place in pan.
3. In a saucepan, melt butter, stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Add broth and whisk until smooth. Cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly.
4. Stir in sour cream and green chilies. Do not bring to boil, you don't want curdled sour cream.
5. Pour over enchiladas and top with remaining cheese.
6. Bake 22 min and then under high broil for 3 min to brown the cheese.

Feb 11, 2012

Red Onion Salad Dressing

I've said many times before that homemade salad dressings are well worth the extra (often minimal) effort it takes to make them. And here is yet another dressing to prove my point. This delectable recipe comes from Mark Magleby, both a friend and cook extraordinaire. It's a poppy seedless poppy seed dressing ;-). Whether in a tossed salad, a shrimp salad, or drizzled over avocado and orange slices, this dressing is a huge winner.

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 red onion, roughly chopped
2/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons salt (add more after tasting)
Fresh ground pepper to taste
2 cups canola or other light oil

Puree onion and sugar together in a food processor. Add remaining ingredients and puree until emulsified. Makes approximately 1 quart.

(adapted from Melba Susannah Robison Allen’s Poppyseed Dressing)

Feb 10, 2012

Cinnamon Honey Butter

This sweet spread is fabulous on toast, scones, or cornbread.

1 pound butter, softened
1/3 cup honey
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine ingredients in an electric mixer and blend at medium speed for about 5 minutes. Chill.

Feb 5, 2012

Carmelitas

My sister Emily made these richly delicious bar cookies for a family home movie night recently. She found the recipe on Pinterest and then posted it on her blog. The oatmeal/chocolate/caramel combo is killer.Yum, yum, yum! The original recipe comes from here.

32 caramel squares, unwrapped
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

Combine caramels and cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until completely smooth; set aside. In a separate bowl, combine melted butter, brown sugar, flour, oats, and baking soda. Pat half of the oatmeal mixture into the bottom of an 8x8" pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove pan from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over crust. Pour caramel mixture over chocolate chips. Crumble remaining oatmeal mixture over caramel. Return to oven and bake an additional 15-20 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool completely before cutting.
*A stint in the fridge will help them cool off if you're pinched for time. They shouldn't be served cold, but all of that molten caramel takes a long time to cool down. They should be stored and served at room temperature.

Feb 4, 2012

No-Knead Bread Variations

A little over two years ago, I discovered Jim Lahey's no-knead bread recipe (which I blogged about here), and I loved it so much that I've made it again and again since that time. I make it for family dinners, for friends and neighbors, and just for myself. It is so good, whether served with butter and jam, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, cheese, or whatever. It's also delicious toasted or made into French toast.

As much as I love this recipe, I've also also wanted to tinker with it, to create something new. I've seen all kinds of interesting variations online, with add-ins including herbs, nuts, dried fruit, and even chocolate chips. But because I love the original recipe so much, I've only tried a few variations so far that I'm happy with. Actually, I also tried a whole wheat version that was a miserable failure. That loaf was virtually inedible. I don't know what I did wrong.

Anyway, the first variation is simply a minor adjustment in the measurements of the original recipe so that I get a larger and slightly more flavorful loaf; it is now my standard recipe. I even adjusted the measurements on the original post to correspond with this. This version was suggested by Mark Bittman.

Revised No-Knead Bread Recipe
4 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
A scant 1/2 teaspoon instant or rapid rising yeast
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups water at about 70 degrees
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed (I usually just use flour and sometimes a little cornmeal)

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast, and salt. Add the water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Put dough seam side down on floured work surface and dust with more flour, bran, or cornmeal. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and a cotton dish towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot in the oven while it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove heated pot from the oven. Gently move the ball of dough with your hands from your work surface and drop it into the pan. It may look like a mess, but that is okay. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 minutes (Note: I often like a less dark and crunchy crust, so I'll usually reduce the final baking time by about 5 minutes), until loaf is beautifully browned. Remove the bread from the pan and cool on a wire rack.

No-Knead Bread Variations
Garlic Parmesan
This is probably one of my favorite variations. After I combine the dry ingredients, I add 1 1/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes, and 1 tablespoon dried sliced garlic (I found this at Costco) and mix all of that in. Then I add the water and follow the instructions above. The cheese and garlic are a wonderful combination.

White Chocolate Chip/Cinnamon Chip
I tasted this variation for the first time at a free bread-making class at a local kitchen store. It was terrific! And the clear favorite of the 20 students, though I still love the original recipe. The instructor added 1/2 cup white chocolate chips and 1/2 cup mini cinnamon chips (they sold these at the cooking store) to the dry ingredients at the beginning, as well as an additional 1/4 teaspoon of rapid-rising yeast. I made this recipe at home and it turned out very delicious, but I found that the white chocolate chips tended to burn a little at the high temperature you bake this bread at.

No-Knead Bread with Sunflower Seeds
I love seeded breads, so I tried using sunflower seeds. I used the recipe above, but I substituted one cup of oat flour for the all-purpose flour. I also added 1/2 cup honey. Then I stirred/folded in 1/2 to 3/4 cup sunflower seeds and baked the loaf as normal. Very delicious result.

Oatmeal No-Knead Bread
Another version I am pleased with includes steel-cut oats. Again, I used the revised no-knead recipe above, but made a few alterations. I substituted 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1 cup steel-cut oats for 2 cups of the all-purpose flour, and I added maybe an extra 1/4 cup water.

With these variations, the mixing/raising/baking instructions are basically the same.

Jan 7, 2012

Glazed Carrots

1 pound carrots, peeled
1/2 low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Pepper

Cut carrots on the bias into pieces that are 1/4 inch thick and 2 inches long. Combine the carrots, chicken broth, and one tablespoon sugar in a 12-inch nonstick skillet. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and continue to cook covered, stirring occasionally, until carrots are almost tender, about five minutes. Uncover, return to a boil, and continue to cook until the liquid has reduced to about 2 tablespoons, about 2 minutes. Stir in the butter, brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the carrots are completely tender, about three minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice. Season with pepper to taste. Serves 4.