Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tortilla Soup

Hello? Anybody there? The last time I posted was the weekend I found out I was pregnant with Leo. He's now three months old, so let's get this party started again, shall we? And more importantly, let's get that stupid sandwich off my homepage. It's good, but it sure isn't pretty, is it?

How's this instead?

The tortilla soup recipe I use comes from The Common Grill Cookbook. It is packed with flavor and tastes unbelievably fresh and healthy. I think the cheese topping is KEY to full enjoyment. The lemon zest just gives it that little extra something.

1 1/2 T olive oil
1 small red onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 lb. carrotes, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1/2 large red pepper, diced
1/2 large yellow pepper, diced
1 Poblano chili pepper, diced
1 t fresh oregano
1 t cumin
1 T kosher salt
1/4 t black pepper
1/4 t red pepper flakes
1 28 oz. can Italian plum tomatoes, chopped
5 cups Chicken Stock
1 lb. chicken, cooked and diced
6 6" corn tortillas, cut in thin strips,
fried for garnish
Cheese Topping, for garnish

Cheese Topping
1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1/2 T cilantro, chopped
1/2 T lemon zest

Heat olive oil in soup pot. Add red onion and cook until translucent, approximately 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in carrots and celery and cook until carrots are soft, approximately 6-8 minutes. Thoroughly mix in peppers, oregano, cumin, salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes.

Stir in tomates and Chicken Stock and cook for 30 minutes.

Add chicken and cook for 30 more minutes.

To serve, ladle soup into bowl and top with fried corn tortilla strips and cheese mixture.

Cheese Topping
In small bowl, combine all ingredients; mix well.

Corn Tortilla strips (I just buy them at the store. You can find them in the produce section)
Cut corn tortillas into thin strips. Heat 1 T olive oil in saute pan. Saute tortilla strips until crispy, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from pan and place on paper towel until ready to serve.

Monday, April 6, 2009

It's Stupid How Good This Sandwich Is

I promised my little brother I would use his words to title this post.  He even suggested that instead of a guest chef, I feature him as a guest eater so he could tell everyone just how good it is.  If that isn't a glowing recommendation, I don't know what is. 

I drew my inspiration from The Pioneer Woman's Second Favorite Sandwich.  Fry up four or five pieces of bacon.  Leave some of the bacon grease in the pan.  Season a couple of chicken breasts with lemon pepper and then cook them until done in the frying pan.  Let them cool and then thinly slice them. 

Get out your panini press (or a pan over the stove top and something heavy to put on top of the sandwich).  Brush one side of two slices of sourdough bread with olive oil.  Spread honeycup mustard on the first slice.  On top of that put as much chicken, bacon, avacado, tomato, and cheddar cheese as you like.  Cook it up on the panini press until the cheese is melted and voila: heaven.  

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Romaine Salad with Chicken, Cheddar, Apple, and Spiced Pecans

These were Abram's words after eating this salad: "When I walked in I thought, 'Ugh, not a salad!' but I take it back, this was great."  Poor Abram gets forced to eat more dinner salads than he would like, but I'm glad one finally crossed over that we can both enjoy.  Again, props go to The 30-Minute Recipe.

Store-bought spiced pecans taste fine in this salad, but if you have a few extra minutes you can make your own.  Recipe below. 

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and ground black pepper
1T vegetable oil
1/2 c water
1 recipe Dried Cranberry Vinaigrette, below
1 large head romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces (10 cups)
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and sliced thin
1 cup store-bought spiced pecans
1/2 red onion, sliced thin
1/2 c dried cranberries

While the chicken cooks, make the vinaigrette.
1.  Brown Chicken: Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.  Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking.  Add chicken and cook until browned on one side, about 3 minutes. 
2.  Poach Chicken and Prepare Vinaigrette:  Flip chicken over, add water, and cover.  Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook until thickest part of chicken registers 160 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 5 to 7 minutes longer.  Transfer to carving board and cool slightly.  (While chicken cooks, make vinaigrette).
3.  Dress and Assemble Salad: Toss lettuce, cheddar, apple, pecans, onion, and dried cranberries with 3/4 cup of vinaigrette.  Divide salad among individual plates.  Slice chicken on bias and arrange over greens.  Spoon remaining vinaigrette over chicken, or pass separately.  

Dried Cranberry Vinaigrette
Raspberry vinegar gives this dressing a distinct fruity flavor; however, red wine vinegar can be substituted.  If you don't have cranberry juice on hand, water can be used instead.  If the dressing seems too thick, thin it out with additional cranberry juice or water.

1/4 cranberry juice
1/2 c dried cranberries
1/4 c raspberry vinegar 
1 shallot, peeled
1 small garlic clove, peeled
2 t fresh thyme
2 t Dijon mustard
Salt and ground black pepper 
3/4 c extra-virgin olive oil

1. Rehydrate Cranberries: Combine cranberry juice and dried cranberries in microwave-safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave on high power until hot, about 1 minute.  
2. Blend Vinaigrette: Process hot cranberry mixture, vinegar, shallot, garlic, thyme, mustard, 1/2 t salt, and 1/2 t pepper in blender until shallot and garlic are finely chopped, about 15 seconds.  With blender running, add oil and continue to process until smooth and emulsified, about 15 seconds.  

Quick Spiced Pecans
These nuts can be stored in a zip-lock bag at room temperature for up to 1 week.  If adding to a salad, be sure to shake off any extra sugar first. 

2 T unsalted butter
Salt and ground black pepper
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/8 t ground cloves
1/8 t ground allspice
2 c pecan halves
1 T sugar

Melt butter in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-low heat.  Stir in 1/2 t salt, 1/4 t pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and all-spice, then stir in pecans.  Toast nuts, stirring often, until color of nuts deepens slightly, 6 to 8 minutes.  Transfer to bowl, toss with sugar, then spread out on plate to cool.   

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Lazy Morning Breakfast

This is one of my very favorite breakfasts.  Sometimes I make meals that call for ricotta cheese just so that I can have leftovers to make Lemon Ricotta Pancakes that week.  We love to make these on weekend mornings when we don't have something to rush out for.  They taste great with fresh berries, so even if you don't want to add the Romanoff sauce, throw a few berries on your plate anyway to make it look pretty.  

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

Abram's Aunt Jeanene is the genius behind these pancakes.  Aunt Jeanene is one of those people I trust implicitly when it comes to food.  If she gives me a recipe, I have no doubt it is going to be top rate.  She has been living in China and Thailand for the past few years and I couldn't be happier that she's back.  I'm ready to start inviting myself over for breakfast.  

3/4 c flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
3 T sugar
2 eggs
1/3 c milk
1/3 c canola oil
1 c ricotta cheese
juice and zest of 1 lemon

Combine dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl combine the wet ingredients, and then mix with the dry ingredients.  Add lemon juice and zest.  Pour approximately 1/4 c batter on grill or skillet (400 degrees).  Cook until golden brown.  Flip once.  Arrange on a plate and dust with confectioner's sugar.  

Strawberries Romanoff

My sister Shauri took engagement photos for Abram and I.  She told me that the key would be getting out early enough for good lighting.  I told her that the key would be making sure we got a good breakfast.  We took some before and some after we ate at La Madeleine.  We are decidedly happier in the post-breakfast pictures.  These strawberries were part of the reason.  

I should mention these berries make a great dessert too. 

1/2 c sour cream
3 T brown sugar
1 T Cognac (I omit this ingredient and it still tastes great)
1/2 c heavy cream
3 T granulated sugar
4 c (2 pints) fresh strawberries

Mix the sour cream, brown sugar and Cognac together in a medium bowl. 
In a separate bowl, whip the cream with a whisk or an electric mixer until it starts to thicken.  Add the granulated sugar and whip until thick. 
Using a rubber spatula, fold the cream carefully into the sour cream mixture until well blended. 
Just before serving, rinse the berries and trim off the green stems with a sharp paring knife.  
Put the berries into stemmed wineglasses and top with the Romanoff sauce.


Let's talk about bacon.  There are three ways I cook it.  
  1. If I'm cooking it to crumble it up for  something, I lay a paper towel on a microwave safe flat dish, place 6 pieces on it, and cover it with another paper towel.  6 minutes (depending on your microwave) on high power and it's done. 
  2. If I'm cooking just a few slices for something I fry it up in a pan. 
  3. If I'm making a lot to feed a group for breakfast, I cook it in the oven.  This is my favorite method by far.  I think it tastes the best. My brother-in-law taught me this little trick a few years back.  You put them on top of a rack in a baking sheet so that the grease drips down off the bacon.  Set the temperature to 400 degrees and cook it for 20 minutes.  You have to keep your eye on it though because the time really depends on your oven.  

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Terra Cotta Oven

How cool would this be?  Minus the $2,000 price tag of course.  

Monday, March 9, 2009

Quick Cheesy Ravioli Bake

Here's another Best 30-Minute Recipe.  I'm telling you, I'm loving this stuff.

To complete this recipe in 30 minutes, boil the water for the ravioli and preheat the oven before gathering your ingredients.  We prefer fresh ravioli here; however, 1 lb of frozen cheese ravioli can be substituted.

1 lb sweet or hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1 T olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 T tomato paste
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
3 T minced fresh basil
1/4 heavy cream
salt and ground black pepper
2 (9 ounce) packages fresh cheese ravioli
1 c shredded mozzarella cheese

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 475 degrees.  Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. 

Cook sausage in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, breaking meat up with wooden spoon until lightly browned and no longer pink, about 5 minutes.  Drain meat and set aside. 

Add oil, garlic, and tomato paste to skillet and return to medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Stir in tomatoes and reserved sausage and cook until slightly thickened, 8 to 10 minutes.  Stir in basil and cream and continue to simmer until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.  Remove skillet from heat, cover, and set aside. 

Add 1 T salt and ravioli to boiling water and cook, stirring often, until tender.  Drain ravioli and return to pot. 

Stir sauce into ravioli and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Spread mixture into 13 by 9-inch baking dish and sprinkle evenly with mozzarella.  Bake until cheese is melted and lightly browned, about 5 minutes.  Serve. 

Thursday, March 5, 2009

St. Patty, Eat Your Heart Out

Here is this week's menu.  I thought about a Saint Patrick's Day menu, and I hate to insult my ancestors, but Irish food?  Yuck.  Sorry.  Please don't send hate mail.  Instead, enjoy this 3rd generation Irish American meal.  


Becky's Spinach Salad

I made sure my mom got this recipe from our friend Becky Mullin when I tasted it at their New Year's Eve party.  At that same party Becky's husband was the first one to guess that I was pregnant with Max.  Maybe I was a little too eager with that salad. 

I love how the mushrooms and onions marinate in the dressing.  Enjoy!  

1 bunch spinach washed, stemmed and broken into pieces
1 head lettuce broken into pieces
1 cup Swiss cheese, grated
5 strips bacon, fried crisp and crumbled
2 hard cooked eggs, chopped
1/2 cup alfalfa sprouts

1 cup oil
1/2 cup vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1 t salt
1/2 t dry mustard
1 t poppy seed
sliced 6 fresh mushrooms
1 red onion sliced

Mix dressing ingredients and let marinate.  Toss dressing with salad just before serving.  

Goat Cheese Chicken Breasts

Marinade Chicken breasts in any Honey Dijon Marinade (I use Lawrys).  Grill, bake, broil, whatever you like really.

Put goat cheese, roasted red peppers and artichoke hearts on the chicken and serve.

Whipped Sweet Potatoes

From The Common Grill Cookbook

4 sweet potatoes, peeled, cut in 1" pieces
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and diced fine
1/2 c heavy cream
1/4 c butter
2 teaspoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Put sweet potatoes in a large pot, cover with water and bring to a boil.  Cook until tender. 

In a saucepan combine apple, cream, butter, brown sugar, and maple syrup.  Bring to a simmer.

Drain potatoes and transfer to mixer and whip with wisk.  Gradually add cream mixture and whip.  Add salt and pepper.

Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower

You should really make this.  Really.  Even if you don't want to make a fancy dinner, just roast some potatoes, make some broccoli and whip this recipe up for dinner one night.  It won't kill your family to have a night of just veggies.  And I promise, you will love this cauliflower.  

I got the recipe from The Barefoot Contessa at Home, but I've already returned it to the library so you get my less impressive directions.

1 head of cauliflower
3 T olive oil
Kosher salt
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
1/2 cup gruyere cheese, shredded  

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the cauliflower into florets and then lay them on a baking sheet.  Drizzle the olive oil over the cauliflower and add plenty of salt and pepper.  Toss and then put in the oven for 30 minutes.   About halfway through toss again to keep from burning.  

Once the cauliflower is roasted, add the cheese on top and put it back in the oven for another two minutes.  

Lemon Yogurt Cake and Lemon Curd

As you may have noticed if you follow my blog, I'm not always on the lookout for the next best healthy recipe.  My sister gives me a lot of flack about that, so when I came across the Barefoot Contessa's Lemon Yogurt Cake (no butter) I decided to make her day.  

So I made the cake (minus the glaze), spread lemon curd (for which I'm sure you can find a recipe, but I just picked some up at the store) on each piece, and topped it with freshly whipped cream and boysenberries.  It was delish. 

Monday, March 2, 2009

Kung Pao-Style Chicken

I adapted this recipe from The Best 30-Minute Recipe.  It originally called for shrimp, but since I'm not a shrimp girl... you get chicken.  Also, the original recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes - which I loved, but my children did not.  The second time I made it I cut down to 1/4 teaspoon, which was perfect for them (but I really missed the kick).

3 T vegetable oil
1 lb chicken
1 red bell pepper, cored and sliced thin
1/2 c roasted unsalted peanuts
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 T grated fresh ginger
1 t red pepper flakes (1/4t if you're cooking for kids)
3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
4 (3-ounce) packages ramen noodles, seasoning packets discarded
2 T hoisin sauce
1 T rice vinegar
2 t toasted sesame oil
4 scallions, sliced thin

Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Heat 2 T of oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking.    Add chicken and cook until done.  Transfer to a clean bowl. 

Add remaining T oil to skillet and return to medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add bell pepper and peanuts and cook until pepper is softened, 2 to 3 minutes.  Transfer to bowl with chicken.

Add garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes to oil left in skillet and return to medium-high heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in broth.  Break bricks of ramen into small chunks and add to skillet.  Bring to simmer and cook, tossing ramen constantly with tongs to separate, until ramen is just tender but there is still liquid in pan, about 2 minutes.

Stir in hoisin, vinegar, and sesame oil and continue to simmer until sauce is thickened, about 1 minute.  Stir in chicken, peppers, and peanuts.  Sprinkle with scallions before serving.  

The Best 30-Minute Recipe

For the past few weeks I've been making dinners from The Best 30-Minute Recipe.  I've been shocked really at how consistently good every recipe has been.  I checked my copy out from the library and it's due today.  I like it so much though that I just ordered my own copy on Amazon.  

I've probably made about 10 recipes, each one of which turned out well, and 4 of which I'm already planning on making again.  So look forward to posts on Kung Pao Chicken, Cheesy Ravioli Bake, and Cranberry Apple Chicken Salad.   


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Q & A

My friend Debbie is hosting Bunko at her house next week and wanted an idea for a "fresh, yummy, easy spring-ish dinner."  My first thought was, does it feel "spring-ish" in other parts of the country?  Really?  I'll still be making stew well into April here in Michigan.  

I've gotten over my jealousy however, and here is my recommendation.  I would make this Zesty Spring Salad and this Sun-Dried tomato quiche recipe.  If you want a little more you could throw in an appetizer.  I would bake some brie, top it with a jar of cranberry chutney, and serve it with crusty bread.  If you want a lot more, you could get a half or a quarter of a ham and some good mustards (honey, chipotle, etc.) to eat with it. 

I wish I was going to be there!  (For the food... not so much the Bunko :)

Zesty Spring Salad

From the Favorites Cookbook

1/3 c pecan pieces
2 T sugar
1/2 head green leaf lettuce, torn into pieces
1/2 head iceberg lettuce, torn into pieces
2 kiwis, peeled and sliced 
1 orange, peeled and sliced
1 cup strawberries, halved
1 avocado, chopped

1/3 c vegetable oil
2 T sugar
zest and juice of 1 orange
zest and juice of 2 limes

Caramelize pecans by mixing with sugar in small skillet over low heat until sugar melts.  Spread on foil and cool, then break into pieces.  

Combine dressing ingredients in a jar and shake well.

Toss salad ingredients together with pecan pieces, add dressing to coat and serve.  

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Presidents Day Brunch

Here's why I love Presidents day: you forget about it.  There's no anticipation and then suddenly you realize, "Hey!  I have Monday off!"  Unless you are my 3 year old ex-neighbor, Aida.  Last year she invited us over for breakfast to celebrate and we each got to wear a different president's hat.  We all looked dashing in our three corner GW hats and Honest Abe top hats.  I believe her mom got to wear a Martha Washington bonnet.  So this post is for you Aida.  If you were here I would make you this breakfast on President's Day.

And just down the street from Aida is today's guest chef, Marianne Viray.  That's right, of panini fame.  She is my cooking kindred spirit.  Marianne and her husband James have traveled all over the world and today she is going to share one of her favorite  international food finds.

Rösti by Guest Chef Marianne

Rösti is a Swiss potato dish that my husband and I couldn’t get enough of on a trip to Switzerland two years ago.  It’s a common breakfast eaten by farmers and mountain-folk (lots of those there). I however, ate it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Loved the simplicity. Some consider rösti the Swiss national dish.  This is one of my traditional New Year Day dishes, along with some Swiss Fondue.  No time like the winter for the heavy cheese dishes!

5-6 boiled potatoes, chilled and grated (or get a bag of frozen hash browns and thaw before use)
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ c. chopped ham or bacon
½ c. chopped mushrooms
½ c. diced sweet onion
1 tsp. thyme leaves
1 tsp salt
pepper to taste
1 c. grated cheese, Gueyere is authentic

 1. Lightly toss hash browns with salt, pepper, thyme and garlic.

2.  In non-stick frying pan, saute onion, bacon or ham, and mushrooms for a few minutes in 1 TBS. oil and pour grated potatoes on top. 

3.  Mix and fry on low for a minute, mix ½ of cheese into potato mixture and form into cake by patting it down with spatula. Let cook for about five minutes.

4.  When crust forms, turn carefully (using a plate to flip it over) and brown other side. Top with remaining grated cheese.  Put frying pan in broiler for a minute till cheese bubbles – looks so pretty like that!  Garnish with sliced cheery tomatoes if you like.

5.  If you want to be REALLY authentic, top with fried egg.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

This recipe comes from Barefoot Contessa Parties.  I've gotten tons of recipes from this cookbook that I love.  If you don't want to buy it, check it out from the library.  

12 T butter at room-temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 t vanilla
1 1/4 cups sour cream
2 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising) (you can sub 2 1/4 c flour + 1/4 c cornstarch)
2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t kosher salt

For the Streusel
3/4 c light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t kosher salt
3 T cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 c chopped walnuts (optional)

For the Glaze
1/2 c confectioners' sugar
 2 T real maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 4 or 5 minutes, until light.  Add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla and sour cream.  In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined.  Finish stirring with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed. 

For the streusel, place the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and butter in a bowl and pinch together with your fingers until it forms a crumble.   Mix in the walnuts, if desired. 

Spoon half the batter into the pan and spread it out with a knife.  Sprinkle with 3/4  cup streusel.  Spoon the rest of the batter in the pan, spread it out, and scatter the remaining streusel on top.  Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Let cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes.  Carefully transfer the cake, streusel-side up, onto a serving plate.  Whisk the confectioners' sugar and maple syrup together, adding a few drops of water if necessary, to make the glaze runny.  Drizzle as much as you like over the cake with a fork or spoon.   

Blueberry Smoothie

I never really got into making smoothies because it seemed like you always had to throw a banana in to get the right consistency and I really don't love bananas (unless they are served with Dulce de Leche).  Then I came across The Pioneer Woman's blueberry smoothie post and I fell in love.  I don't even like blueberries.  But I love these smoothies.  The only change I make is that I use vanilla yogurt instead of plain.  I think it adds a little extra punch.  

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Valentine's Day

Abram and I made a deal when I found out how much flowers cost on Valentines Day.  No gifts, no nothin'.  We just spend all the money on really good food.  We stay in so that we don't have to worry about crowds or babysitters and we eat the night away.   

I couldn't decide on a dessert, so I just figured I'd give you the choice of two.  Both are chocolate because I don't think you should be allowed to celebrate Valentine's day without it. 


Spinach Almond Salad

This is a good one, and really easy to throw together.  Spinach, apples, bacon and almonds.  You can find the recipe (including the dressing) at Our Family Cooks.  

Grilled Ribeye with Gorgonzola Sauce

I don't have a picture of this succulent dish because I sent someone who shall remain nameless to the store to pick up some ribeye steaks and he came back with round eye steaks.  We made do, but I'm going to let you use your imagination to picture how delicious this recipe is. 

This recipe is from the Common Grill Cookbook.

4 10 oz. ribeye steaks
Ribeye marinade
Gorgonzola Sauce
4 T Gorgonzola cheese, grated
4 fresh herb sprigs, such as rosemary or thyme

Marinate steaks in ribeye marinade for 4 hours in refrigerator. 

Grill steak to personal taste.  Ladle Gorgonzola Sauce over steaks and sprinkle with grated Gorgonzola cheese.  Garnish with fresh herb sprigs.

Ribeye Marinade
1 cup olive oil
2 T dry mustard
1 T Worchestershire sauce
1 t garlice, minced
1 t soy sauce
1 t lemon juice
1/8 t hot sauce
1/4 t kosher salt
1/8 t cracked black pepper

Combine all ingredients; mix well.

Gorgonzola Sauce
1/4 c butter for sauteing onion
1/4 c butter cut into pieces and chilled
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 c Madeira sherry 
3 c beef stock
1 c gorgonzola cheese, crumbled 

Melt 1/4 cup butter in saute pan.  Add onion and saute until brown.  Add Madeira, bring to a boil and continue cooking until liquid is reduced by half, approximately 15 to 20 minutes.  

Add beef stock; return to a boil and continue cooking until liquid is reduced by half again. 

Slowly add chilled butter pieces, whisking to dissolve. 

Add cheese and mix well.  Remove from heat.

White Cheddar Mashers

For most of my life I saw mashed potatoes strictly as an accompaniment to gravy.  They were only there so that I didn't have to drink the gravy straight from the gravy train.  Then I tried these and I find myself eating the leftovers straight out of the dish.  No adornments needed.  I also find myself hiding them in the back of the fridge so that no one else will see them and I'll get them all to myself, but that's another issue all together.  

Adapted from the Common Grill Cookbook

2 lbs. Idaho potatoes, peeled
1/4 lb. white cheddar cheese, grated
2 T melted butter
2 t seasoning salt
1/2 t white pepper
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/4 cup sour cream

Cook potatoes in boiling water until soft, approximately 30 minutes.  Drain and transfer to large mixing bowl and slowly mash potatoes (use a masher, NOT electric beaters), add remaining ingredients and beat until well blended. 

Tropical Green Beans

I could eat these all day. 

4 T olive oil
1 lb fresh green beans, cleaned, cut, and dried
1 small yellow onion
6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 t salt
2 T balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, diced
2 t toasted pine nuts
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Brush a large baking dish with 2 T of olive oil.  Put green beans, onion, and garlic in the dish, drizle with remaining oil and sprinkle with salt.  Bake for 25 minutes, stirring beans at least 3 times.  When tender, remove beans from oven and transfer to bowl.  Immediately drizzle with vinegar.  Add tomatoes, pine nuts and pepper, to taste, and toss. 

Double Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake

Janie's back folks!  Check out this beautiful cheesecake.  If there was ever any question, your Valentine will be yours after getting a taste of this.  

Cake can be completed up to one week ahead.  Cover and refrigerate.
Serves 12

1 1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs
1/2 stick butter, melted

3 bricks (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
2 T cornstarch
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
2 t vanilla extract
1 cup (6 oz) milk-chocolate chips, melted and cooled
1 cup canned 100% pure pumpkin
1 t pumpkin pie spice
1 cup (6 oz) semisweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled

Chocolate glaze
3 oz bittersweet baking chocolate
2 T butter
1 T light corn syrup

  1. Heat oven to 350.  Coat an 8-inch spring-form pan with nonstick spray.  Have ready a roasting pan larger than the spring-form pan.
  2. Crust: Put crumbs in a small bowl; stir in butter until evenly moistened.  Press firmly over bottom of pan.  Bake 8-10 minutes until set.  Cool on rack.  Wrap outside of pan with heavy duty foil.  reduce oven temperature to 300.  
  3. Filling: Beat cream cheese, sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl with a mixer on medium speed until smooth, scraping sides of bowl several times with a rubber spatula.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, just until blended.  Beat in sour cream and vanilla to combine.  Divide batter evenly between 3 medium bowls.  Stir melted milk chocolate into one bowl; pour into crust in an even layer.  Whisk pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice into another bowl.  Carefully spoon over chocolate layer to cover, then gently smooth into an even layer with an offset spatula (take care that batters don't run together).  Stir semisweet chocolate into remaining batter.  Carefully spoon over pumpkin layer; spread carefully as above.  
  4. Set spring-form pan in center of roasting pan.  Place roasting pan in oven rack and add boiling water to come halfway up sides of spring-form pan.
  5. Bake 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours until set, but center still jiggles slightly when shaken. 
  6. Turn off oven (leave door closed); let cake cool in oven 1 hour (if cake hasn't pulled away from sides of pan, carefully run a thin knife around edge of pan to release cake).  Remove foil.  Cool cake in pan on a wire rack.  Cover; refrigerate at least four hours, overnight, or up to one week. 
  7. Chocolate Glaze: Stir ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth.  Remove from heat; cool slightly. 
  8. Remove pan sides; place cake on serving plate.  Spread glaze over top to edge (some may drip down side of cake).  Refrigerate until glaze sets.

Chocolate Mint Bundt Cake

I've had this recipe bookmarked for a long time from The Sisters' Cafe and I finally got to try it when Abram made it for me for my birthday.  It is fantastic.  And dare I say even better the next day for breakfast?  

Monday, February 2, 2009

Meal Rotation Recomendations

All right, all right.  I promise I haven't been eating fast food for the past 3 months.  I've been trying out everyone else's food blog recipes.  So here are four of my favorites.  And by favorites I mean I've made these each at least twice since I discovered them and they're officially on the meal rotation.

And coming soon, a Valentine's menu for you and yo' lu-vah...  

Chili Verde

Love this stuff.  It comes from The Sister's Cafe.  I recommend frying corn tortillas in canola oil and filling them with the shredded pork, sour cream, monterey jack cheese, cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice.  

Greek Chicken

I just realized I don't have a photo for this one, but rather than make you wait until the next time I make it, I'll just give it to you and hope you trust my recommendation.

I love any recipe that uses chicken thighs because they're so tender and juicy (not to mention cheap).  I also happen to love any recipe that uses sun dried tomatoes, so it's no wonder I love this baby.  Tomatoes aren't exactly in season right now, so I've just been throwing in a can of fire roasted diced tomatoes in place of the roma tomatoes and I think it tastes great.  I serve it over couscous which is a great combo.  

If you never cook couscous you don't know what you're missing out on.  Probably the easiest side dish known to man.  Pick some up the next time you're at the store. 

Sweet and Sour Chicken

If you haven't noticed, I'm a fan of My Kitchen Cafe.  And this is Melanie's most popular recipe. 

Ham and Pasta Skillet Dinner

This is delicious and kid friendly.  Of course, because I got it from Melanie.