Strawberries

Quick Post: This is my favorite way to eat less than stellar strawberries! I love the creamy, sweet, caramel-y flavor that this mix creates. It’s as simple as can be and would taste great with apples, pineapples or any other fruit you like. All you need is sour cream (full fat, please) and some light brown sugar on a plate. Snuggle up some cleaned strawberries next to the dip ingredients, and enjoy!

Taco Chicken

This is so good, super simple but oh, so flavorful. While looking through Publix’s online ad, I discovered that boneless, skinless thighs were on sale this week and immediately I thought of this recipe. It’s marinated in some of my favorite flavors – lime, cumin and chili powder.

I’m serving these grilled with tortillas, this salsa (I was craving it) and my “orange” rice. I’m pretty plain when it comes to taco night because there is always rice, cheese and pico de gallo, or in this case salsa. My family is (thankfully) easy to please most times:) Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Taco Chicken – adapted from Our Best Bites

  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • A couple of juicy limes
  • A splash of red wine vinegar
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, pressed or coarsely chopped
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper

Directions –

1. Combine all ingredients minus the chicken. Place the chicken in a gallon size Ziploc bag and pour the marinade over top. Mush the bag to coat all the chicken well. Place the plastic bag in another container to protect the rest of the fridge in case the bag leaks. Marinade for 4 but no longer than 8 hours.

2. Preheat outdoor grill and cook the chicken pieces for 7 minutes a side. Take off grill, cover with foil and let rest for about 5 minutes. Enjoy!

Spring Green Risotto

I needed a side dish for my salmon in foil, so I immediately thought starch and vegetables, and this fits my needs perfectly because this risotto recipe is two sides in one. I came up with this by combining two risotto recipes that I found on FoodNetwork.com. I liked that Ellie Krieger used asparagus, peas and spinach and far less ingredients than Ina Garten’s; but I like that Ina uses butter, lemon zest, and more parmesan. I think I came up with a good mix of healthy with a little added richness by using more cheese, a little butter and brightness from the lemon.

This is definitely more fussy than the average rice recipe – but it’s not at all difficult to manage. Mine probably took more than 30 minutes, but it turned out great. Obviously, I left out the peas and spinach because once the asparagus was added, there was no room in my pan for anything extra. The lemon zest is a must to brighten up the flavor of the risotto or it would be a one note dish. I was tasting it before adding the zest and I was a disappointed because it was a little bland. The lemon woke up the flavors – even M noticed something different. He did like it though, which is always appreciated since he can be really picky and hard to please at times;) Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Spring Green Risotto – a mix of these two recipes

  • 1 TBSP butter
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 1/2 cups white wine
  • 5-6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 pound thin asparagus, steamed and cut into 3/4″ pieces
  • 10 ounces frozen peas (not enough room in the pan…maybe next time)
  • 1 TBSP lemon zest
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 TBSP fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1-3 cups baby spinach (oops!)

Directions –

Bring the broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Heat the oil and butter in a heavy saucepan over moderately low heat and cook the onion, stirring occasionally, until soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add wine
and simmer, stirring constantly, until absorbed, about 1 minute. Add 3/4 cup of the hot broth, the salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper and simmer, stirring constantly, until broth is absorbed. Continue simmering and adding hot broth, about 3/4 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing the broth to be absorbed before adding more, until rice is almost tender and creamy-looking, about 18 minutes.

Add the spinach and peas and cook until the spinach is wilted. Add the asparagus and cook just until the vegetables are hot. Stir in the Parmesan, lemon zest and more broth if the risotto seems too thick.

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

A few days ago, I decided that I would make French toast; and today I thought: “why not make that cinnamon swirl bread I bookmarked so long ago?” Sure, it takes a little more effort but my family is worth it! This recipe is actually a raisin/cinnamon swirl bread – but M doesn’t like raisins so, I left them out.

The recipe was simple enough to follow, but not as straight forward as my favorite sandwich bread recipe. The dough is super soft and kind of sticky once it’s all finished kneading – but don’t worry! After its first rise and quick chill in the freezer, it was much easier to work with. Rolling it out was simple enough because it didn’t snap back like other doughs. Next time I will roll the dough out slightly smaller so I don’t have so much to tuck underneath. That explains the wonky look of my loaf. It’s not going to win any perfect loaf contest, but I’m sure the family won’t mind.

For the custard, I used this recipe but with slightly less sugar. The sweetness in the dough should be plenty to make up for that.

Verdict: this was worth the effort. Everyone enjoyed the French toast this morning! It did take longer to cook than I anticipated, because I dried out the bread in the oven at 350 for about 8 minutes so the bread would absorb the custard well and not fall apart. Once one batch was finished, I placed the slices on a rack which I place on top of a half sheet pan into a 200 degree oven to keep warm. Serve with lots of warm maple syrup! Thanks for reading, enjoy:)

Cinnamon Swirl Bread – adapted from Dorie Greenspan via food.baby

For the bread:

  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup sugar, plus a pinch
  • 1 1/4 cups just-warm-to-the-touch whole milk
  • 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)
  • Grated zest of 1/2 orange (optional)
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
  • 3 3/4 to 4 cups all-purpose (plain) flour

For the swirl:

  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder (optional)
  • 1 cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to a spreadable consistency

To make the bread:

Put the yeast in a small bowl, toss in the pinch of sugar and stir in 1/4 cup of the warm milk. Let rest for 3 minutes, then stir – the yeast may not have dissolved completely and it may not have bubbled, but it should be soft.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the remaining 1 cup of milk, the butter and the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and mix for a minute or two. Add the salt, egg and vanilla, if you are using it, as well as the zest and nutmeg, if you’re using them, and mix for a minute. In all likelihood, the mixture will look unpleasantly curdly (it will look even worse when you add the yeast). Add the yeast mixture and beat on low-medium speed for 1 minute more.

Turn the mixer off and add 2 3/4 cups of the flour. Mix on low speed just until you work the flour into the liquids – you’ll have a sticky mix. If you’ve got a dough hook, switch to it now. Add another 1 cup of flour, increase the mixer speed to medium and beat the dough for a couple of minutes. If the dough does not come together and almost clean the sides of the bowl, add up to 1/4 cup more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Keep the mixer speed at medium and knead the dough for about 3 minutes, or until it is smooth and has a lovely buttery sheen. The dough will be very soft, much too soft to knead by hand.

Butter a large bowl, turn the dough into a bowl and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Put the bowl in a warm place and let the dough rise until it is doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

Scrape the dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap, wrap it and put it in the freezer for 30 minutes to firm enough to be rolled easily. (At this point, you can instead refrigerate the dough overnight if that is more convenient).

To make the swirl and shape the loaf:

Butter a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.

Whisk together the sugar, cinnamon and cocoa, if you’re using it. Check that the raisins are nice and moist; if they’re not, steam them for a minute, then dry them well.

Put the dough on a large work surface lightly dusted with flour, lightly dust the top of the dough and roll the dough into a rectangle about 12 x 18 inches.

Gently smear 2 tablespoons of the butter over the surface of the dough – this is most easily done with your fingers. Sprinkle over the sugar mixture and scatter over the raisins. Starting from a short side of the dough, roll the dough up jelly-roll fashion, making sure to roll the dough snugly. Fit the dough into the buttered pan, seam side down, and tuck the ends under the loaf.

Cover the pan loosely with wax paper and set in a warm place; let the dough rise until it comes just a little above the edges of the pan, about 45 minutes.

Getting ready to bake:

When the dough has almost fully risen, centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees Celsius). Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.

Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter, and brush the top of the loaf with the butter. Put the pan on the baking sheet and bake the bread for about 20 minutes. Cover loosely with a foil tent and bake for another 25 minutes or so, until the bread is golden and sounds hollow when the bottom of the pan is tapped. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes, then unmold. Invert the bread and cool to room temperature right side up on the rack.

Chewy Triple Chocolate Cookies

M requested something “triple chocolate” the other day, so off to Tastespotting.com I went. I meant to bake these up for Valentine’s Day, but I didn’t get around to it…oh, well! Today was a good day for cookies and these are rich, moist and fudgy. I don’t choose chewy cookies for myself (store-bought chewy cookies ruined them for me), but these have a pleasing soft and chewy texture. They do take more time, but not too much more effort than the average cookie recipe. Be sure to read ahead in these directions before making them – I didn’t know the dough needed to sit 30 minutes before I could dish them out. The cookies need to cool on the baking sheets for a full ten minutes before being transferred to a cooling rack, too. Make sure you have lots of chocolate on hand before deciding to make these. M wanted some cookies so bad, he was willing to make a quick trip to the store to pick up more chocolate. I needed almost a full two pounds! Thankfully this recipe makes nearly four dozen cookies, so you can spread the love around by passing these out to friends and family…better to do that than be tempted to eat them all!;) Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Chewy Triple Chocolate Cookies – adapted from Annie’s Eats

  • 2 cups (10 oz.) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (1 1/2 oz.) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 16 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (I used two bars of semi-sweet and two of bitter sweet)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. instant coffee or espresso powder
  • 10 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened but still cool
  • 1 1/2 cups packed (10 1/2 oz.) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz.) granulated sugar
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions –

Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.  Whisk together; set aside.

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over simmering water until completely melted and smooth; remove from the heat.  (Alternatively, microwave the chocolate in 30 second intervals, mixing thoroughly in between, until melted and smooth.)  In a small mixing bowl, combine the eggs, vanilla and instant coffee granules; stir well with a fork to dissolve; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 5 seconds.  Mix in the sugars until well combined, about 45 seconds – the mixture will look granular.  Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually beat in the egg mixture until incorporated, about 45 seconds.  Add the chocolate to the bowl in a steady stream and continue beating until combined, about 40 seconds.  Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  With the mixer at low speed, add the dry ingredients and mix just until incorporated, being careful not to overbeat.  Fold in the chocolate chips with a rubber spatula.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature until the consistency is scoopable and fudge-like, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Scoop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets with a 1 ¾-inch cookie dough scoop, spacing the dough balls about 1 ½ inches apart.

Bake until the edges of the cookies have just began to set but the centers are still very soft, about 10 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through baking.  Cool the cookies on the sheets about 10 minutes, transfer to cooling racks and allow to cool completely.  Cool the baking sheets before baking more batches with the remaining dough.


Sausage Bread

Quick Post: This is a family favorite! It’s so simple and tasty and definitely worth the effort. I use this recipe for pizza dough, about a pound and a half of browned sausage and a combination of mozz, smoked gouda and parmesan – those are really the only modifications I use. We eat this with a side of marinara (my favorite), but my husband prefers Alfredo sauce. Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Sausage Bread – adapted from Soup Belly

  • 1 pound Italian sausage *1.5 pounds for us…doubling this recipe is a must!
  • 8 oz. cubed mozzarella cheese *I grated my mozz, smoked gouda and a little parmesan
  • 2 egg whites and 1 egg yolk, beaten
  • 1 pound pizza dough *I used two 14.5 ounce balls for ours
  • 1 egg yolk (for brushing on top of dough), beaten
  • 1/4 tsp. oregano
  • salt & pepper

Directions –

1) Removing sausage out of casing if necessary. Cook sausage until browned, crumbling into small bits. Drain grease, set aside to cool. In a bowl, combine sausage, cubed mozzarella, 2 egg whites and 1 egg yolk. Add oregano, salt & pepper.

2) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

3) On a greased baking sheet, roll the dough out into a rectangle, as large as you can make it without creating holes or ripping it. Spread the sausage mixture on the surface but keeping a 1 inch border clear. Carefully roll the dough like a jelly roll and pinch the edges shut, and place seam side down on the baking sheet. Don’t panic if there are holes or you ripped multiple tears (see my disastrous looking picture below). Brush top of loaf with egg yolk mixture. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown.  Cut slices with a bread knife, and serve warm or at room temperature.


Sourdough Pancakes

I bought this sourdough starter from KAF months ago, but never took the time to feed it. I had no idea the work that goes into keeping a starter alive…I hope it is worth all the effort! It seems that the yeasty-buggers survived the long wait for me to feed it, because it bubbled like crazy. I even made the mistake of letting it sit out for twice the amount of time and then feeding it double the amount of flour and water, but it seems alive and well. It’s been sitting in the fridge growing and shrinking – its weird stuff.

This whole process is a first for me, and I don’t even know if I will like the flavor of a sourdough pancake…cause I’ve never had one!

Verdict: According to M, these were “okay, but I wouldn’t request them again.” I have to agree, I was not impressed with these – which stinks, because now I have to find other uses for this sourdough starter that I have. I could make sourdough bread occasionally, but I would still have to feed the starter every two weeks. We love this recipe for pancakes, and the sourdough is just a completely different “animal” – literally! We’re so used to the sweeter batter and we both found out we’re not sourdough pancake people. Even though it didn’t work out, I’m glad that I tried something new. Thanks for reading!

Sourdough Pancakes – adapted from King Arthur Flour

Overnight sponge

  • 2 cups all-purpose
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 cup sourdough starter, straight from the refrigerator (not fed)

Waffle or pancake batter

  • all of the overnight sponge
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil or melted butter
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

Directions –

1. To make the overnight sponge, stir down your refrigerated starter, and remove 1 cup.

2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the 1 cup starter, flour, sugar, and buttermilk.

3. Cover and let rest at room temperature overnight.

4. In a small bowl, beat together the eggs, and oil or butter. Add the overnight sponge.

5. Add the salt and baking soda, stir to combine. The batter will bubble.

6. Pour batter by 1/3 cupfuls onto griddle, spacing 2 inches apart. Cook until bubbles break on surface, about 3 minutes. Turn pancakes over. Cook until bottoms are golden, 3 minutes. Transfer to plates. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve pancakes immediately with butter and syrup. Enjoy!

 

Cheeseburger Soup

 

I seem to have run out of inspiration lately because for the past two days I haven’t been able to choose a recipe that appeals to me. Every once in a while I run into this problem; but it doesn’t last too long, thankfully. What usually helps is trying to think of recipes I haven’t used in a long time – like this one. This is a surprisingly light, flavorful soup and perfect for chilly nights. Whenever I make it I use at least a pound of very lean ground beef and double the rest of the ingredients. If you have Frank’s Red Hot, I suggest you splash some in the soup. Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Cheeseburger Soup ingredients – adapted from Dine & Dish

  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 3/4 c chopped onion
  • 3/4 c shredded carrots
  • 3/4 c diced celery
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
  • 5 Tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 cans chicken broth
  • 4 cups peeled, diced potatoes (I used unpeeled red potatoes)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups (8oz) Velveeta, cubed
  • 1 1/2 cup milk
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup sour cream

Directions –

In a 6-quart saucepan, brown beef; drain and set aside beef. In the same saucepan, sate onion, carrots, celery, basil and parsley in 2 Tablespoons butter until vegetables are tender (about 10 minutes). Add broth, potatoes and beef; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Meanwhile, in a small pan, melt remaining 3 Tablespoons of butter. Add flour; cook and stir for 3 minutes or until bubbly. Whisk into soup; bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Add Velveeta, milk, salt and pepper. Cook and stir until cheese melts. Remove from heat; stir in sour cream. Makes 8 servings.

Super Bowl Appetizers

Quick Post: I don’t care much for football, but I do like making appetizers! Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Guacamole Ingredients – adapted from Alton Brown

  • 3 Haas avocados, halved, seeded and peeled
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Directions –

In a large bowl place the scooped avocado pulp and lime juice, toss to coat. Drain, and reserve the lime juice, after all of the avocados have been coated. Using a potato masher add the salt, cumin, and cayenne and mash. Then, fold in the onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and garlic. Add 1 tablespoon of the reserved lime juice. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour and then serve.

Restaurant Style Salsa ingredients – adapted from The Pioneer Woman

  • 1 can (28 Ounce) Whole Tomatoes With Juice
  • 2 cans (10 Ounce) Rotel (diced Tomatoes And Green Chilies) *I drain these*
  • ¼ cups Chopped Onion
  • 1 clove Garlic, Minced
  • 1 whole Jalapeno, Quartered And Sliced Thin
  • ¼ teaspoons Sugar
  • ¼ teaspoons Salt
  • ¼ teaspoons Ground Cumin
  • ½ cups Cilantro (more To Taste!)
  • ½ whole Lime Juice

Directions –

Combine whole tomatoes, Rotel, onion, jalapeno, garlic, sugar, salt, cumin, lime juice, and cilantro in a blender or food processor. Pulse until you get the salsa to the consistency you’d like—I do about 10 to 15 pulses. Test seasonings with a tortilla chip and adjust as needed.

Refrigerate salsa for at least an hour. Serve with tortilla chips or cheese nachos.

I know this looks gross, but I assure you – if you love blue cheese you’ll love the taste of this!
Buffalo Chicken Dip ingredients –

  • 1 skin-on, bone-in chicken breast, roasted and shredded
  • 1 – 8 oz package of cream cheese at room temp
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
  • 1/2 cup Monterey jack cheese
  • 1/2 blue cheese dressing
  • 1/2 cup Frank’s Red Hot

Directions –

Preheat oven to 350. Combine all ingredients in a 8×8 inch baking dish, cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Serve with celery sticks.

Fudge Brownies

Oooh…are these ever good…and super rich! If you’re watching your calories, stay away from these. There are two sticks of butter and nearly a pound of sugar in them. And, because they’re so rich I recommend eating these with a scoop of vanilla ice cream – it’s a must! You can always go for a really long run the morning after;o) Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Fudge Brownie ingredients – adapted from King Arthur Flour

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups Dutch-process cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups AP flour
  • 2 cups chocolate chips

Directions –

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 inch pan.

2. In a medium saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter, then add the sugar and stir to combine. Return the mixture to the heat briefly, just until it’s hot, but not bubbling; it’ll become shiny looking as you stir it. Heating this mixture a second time will dissolve more of the sugar, which will yield a shiny top crust on your brownies.

3. While the sugar heats a second time, crack the 4 eggs into a bowl, and beat them with cocoa, salt, baking powder, espresso powder, and vanilla till smooth.

4. Add the hot butter/sugar mixture, stirring until smooth.

5. Add the flour and chips, again stirring until smooth. Note: If you want the chips to remain intact in the baked brownies, rather than melting in, let the batter cool in the bowl for about 20 minutes before stirring in the chips.

6. Spoon the batter into a lightly greased 9 x 13 inch pan.

7. Bake the brownies for about 30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, or with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it. The brownies should feel set on the edges, and the center should look very moist, but not uncooked. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack before cutting and serving.