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Friday, June 28, 2013

Salsa Mac and Cheese


I decided to play around a little more with mac and cheese. This time it was about sneaking vegetables in, but I wanted to do it in an easy way. I knew I couldn't use anything green otherwise my kids would never be able to see past the green. I figured I already love using hot sauce in a mac and cheese so why not try salsa? I know it isn't terribly original at all. But my base mac and cheese recipe is perfect. The result gave us a pleasant twist on our usual mac and cheese fare. It had a little bit of heat for mom and dad, and the kids didn't pick out any of the vegetables. Like a true sneaky mom I even found a salsa at Trader Joe's that had carrots in it and used wheat pasta. Mission complete. 


Ingredients

1 box uncooked macaroni (1 lb)
1/2 cup or 1 stick butter
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground mustard
1 1/2 tsp onion powder
3 1/2 cups milk
2 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 cup salsa


Instructions

1. Preheat an oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9x13 pan.

2. Fill a large saucepan with water, and bring to a boil. Stir in the macaroni; cook until al dente. Drain well. Pour noodles into prepared 9x13 pan.


3. Meanwhile in another large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour, salt, onion powder, mustard powder, and milk; whisk until smooth. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, for 3-5 minutes until the sauce is hot and begins to bubble.  Reduce heat to low, and whisk in cheese until melted. Stir in the salsa. Pour cheese sauce over noodles in prepared 9x13 pan.


4. Bake, uncovered, 10 minutes.



Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ham and Fig Wraps


Gorgeous right? Sometimes I forget that I live in paradise. People dream of living near the beach and I simply forget that I do! It takes so much effort to pack up the kids AND a picnic to take to the beach, but every time I do it I walk away knowing it was worth it. My husband has been working long hours, 6 days a week for a few months now. The lack of family time is killing me! I decided I'd take matters into my own hands and steal my husband away from work at 5:30 and whisk him off for an evening at the beach. He loves figs. That is how I lured him in. I'm on a wrap binge lately so I thought of a quick way to incorporate figs into a wrap. It was simple really. I had some brie I needed to use so I threw that in there with some sliced ham, spinach, and a balsamic-onion reduction. If you don't want to fork out the bucks for brie, you could always substitute cream cheese. It tasted great out there on the beach, watching the waves roll in. I even conquered my admittedly ridiculous fear of sharks and did some boogie boarding with my 4 year old. Have you ever seen a 4 year old boogie board? It's awesome. He rides those waves with no fears. Yes, the waves crash over him, and yes he takes tumbles, but he gets back up every single time with a smile on his face. Despite his fearless nature when it comes to all things ocean, he was still too afraid to try a fig. Plain ham and cheese wrap for him!


Ingredients

1 tsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
4 extra large burrito style tortillas
4 oz brie
8 slices ham
4 figs, sliced
4 cups spinach leaves


Instructions

1. In a small saucepan heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add in the onions and sautee for 4-5 minutes. Add in the balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and let simmer for about 10 minutes, until it reduces.

2. Compile the wraps by spreading brie over each tortilla. Top each with 2 slices of ham, sliced figs, 1 cup spinach leaves, and a heaping helping of the onion/balsamic reduction. Roll and serve. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Chili Lime French Fries


When I made the oh-so-tasty Queso Fundido burgers I felt like we needed some spruced up french fries to go with it. What is a burger without the fries? I usually do sweet potato fries, but somehow ended up using regular old russets. I think either way the result would be fantastic. I've decided I really like having a bit of heat to the fries. Wait, can you still call it a french fry if you didn't fry it? Hmm. I guess my french bakes...no that doesn't sound right. Baked potato matchsticks? Shoot, we'll just stick to french fries. Regardless of what you call them, it is a nice twist on the fry and goes really well with a spicy burger. Enjoy!


Ingredients

2 large russet potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 limes
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper


Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut the potatoes into wedges or french fry shaped matchsticks. 

2. Place the cut potatoes onto a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Squeeze the lime juice over the potatoes. Dust the fries with chili powder, salt, and cayenne pepper.

3. Bake at 450 degrees for about 45 minutes. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Queso Fundido Chorizo Hamburger



I've got another great burger for you today. This one is Mexican inspired. My husband was recently in Chicago and he got the opportunity to go to one of the restaurants on my bucket list: Frontera Grill by Chef Rick Bayless. Drool. He's a master chef of all things Mexican. He competed on Bravo's Top Chef Masters and won! He actually made a queso fundido burger while on the show and won his challenge with it.  A queso fundido burger basically translates to cheese burger. But it sounds more adventurous as queso fundido, huh? This burger utilizes both ground beef and chorizo to create a really flavorful patty. Top it with not one, but two slices of monterey jack and guacamole and you've got yourself a Mexican burger delight! Such a fun burger that will spruce up your summer bbq!


Ingredients

8 oz chorizo
1 lb ground beef 15-20% fat content
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp olive oil
2 fresh whole poblano chiles, cored, seeded, and sliced
1 onion, halved and sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 slices monterey jack cheese
4 hamburger buns
Guacamole


Instructions

1. Cook the chorizo until it is done, drain. Combine the cooked chorizo in a mixing bowl with the ground beef, chili powder and salt. Mix together and form into 4 patties. 

2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add in the sliced poblanos and onion and sautee until tender, 7-10 minutes. 

3. On a grill set to medium-high heat, grill the burgers until desired doneness is acheived. About 2 minutes per side for medium rare. When you flip the burgers, top each with a slice of monterey jack, a heaping pile of the onion/poblano mixture, and then another piece of monterey jack. 

4. Toast the buns and serve hot off the grill topped with guacamole






Monday, June 24, 2013

Sante Fe Grilled Chicken Sandwich


I was 9 when my little sister was born. I remember going into the hospital room to see her for the first time. my mom was starving and sent us out to get her what she craved...a Santa Fe Chicken Sandwich from Carl's Jr. A coupke of weeks ago I was on a road trip to a cousin's wedding. My kids were crying for some chicken nuggets so we stopped at a Carl's Jr. in Barstow. I, of course, ordered the Santa Fe Chicken Sandwich. For fast food it is a great chicken sandwich. Well, at least it is a great concept. I'm never totally satisfied with fast food burgers of any sort because they are just so much better at home with higher quality ingredients. And after the whole taco licking debacle, you never do know what the workers are actually doing with your food. By the way, that totally happened in a town we recently lived for 4 years. Anyway, this sandwich is delicious. It's full of flavors and has lots of different spicing combinations in it. You've got basically a teriyaki chicken combined with a spicy curry mayo, with the southwest flavors of the green chili and pepper jack cheese. It totally works! It's a great summer grilling alternative to the plain old burger. Give it a try and your next bbq!


Ingredients

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp crushed garlic
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 wheat hamburger buns
4 slices pepper jack cheese
4 whole green chili peppers, from can, patted dry



Instructions

1. Pound out each of the chicken breasts so that they are a fairly even thickness throughout. Marinate the chicken by combining the rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, red pepper flakes, ground ginger, and crushed garlic in a ziploc bag with the chicken breasts. Marinade for 30 minutes to an hour. 

2. Preheat a gas grill to medium-high heat. 

3. Make the sauce by combining the mayo, paprika, cayenne, curry powder, and salt in a bowl and mixing it up.

4. Grill the chicken for about 5-8 minutes each side. Actual time will depend on the thickness of your meat. The chicken is done when it is firm to the touch. Place the pepper jack slices on each piece of chicken during the last minute or so of cooking so it can melt. 

5. Grill the buns face-side down for just a minute or two so that they are toasted. Spread the mayo mixture on the face of each bun. Top with cheese smothered chicken and green chili. 




Friday, June 21, 2013

Cucumber, Avocado, and Fennel Salsa


I love to look for ways to use fennel in my cooking. It is so good for you! If you haven't jumped on the fennel band wagon you should. Fennel has a licorice flavor to it which makes it unlike a lot of other vegetables out there, especially green ones. Its unusual flavor makes it a fun ingredient to work with. This salsa is so light and refreshing and makes the perfect summer snack. With cucumber, fennel, and avocado it is also packed full of vitamins and nutrients too. I'm telling you, you need this salsa! It's flavorful, bright, and delicious!


Ingredients

1 fennel bulb, fine dice
1 cucumber, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
2 avocados, diced
2 limes, juiced
2 tablespoons sugar (or sugar substitute like stevia or honey)
1/2 tsp salt


Instructions

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Stir until evenly mixed up. The flavors will develop as they sit so making it a couple hours ahead is great. 



Thursday, June 20, 2013

Artichoke and Roasted Red Pepper Bruschetta


This recipe started out with a trip to the grocery store where both artichokes and red peppers were a ridiculously good price. I knew I could work the two together. I roasted my own peppers and cooked my own artichokes, but you could use jarred ones. It is a delightfully creamy bite. I love how the sweetness of the red pepper pops, while the subtle earthy flavors of the artichoke still shine through. And of course it is nice and cheesy which is always a hit. It makes for a great appetizer, but I also made it as a side for dinner and then made it again the next day for lunch. It might have been that good!


Ingredients

1 crusty baguette, sliced
1 cup roasted red peppers, diced
1 cup artichoke hearts, diced
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp basil
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese


Instructions

1. Line the bread slices on a nonstick baking pan. 

2. In a mixing bowl, mix together the diced red peppers, artichoke hearts, cream cheese, mayo, parmesan, basil, and salt. 

3. Scoop the mixture onto the bread slices. Top with shredded mozzarella.

4. Place under the broiler until the cheese starts to brown and bubble. Depending on your broiler, this may take 5-7 minutes or less. Watch closely. Serve hot. 




How to roast your own red bell peppers:

It's actually really easy! You just have to think ahead a bit. First, rinse off your bell pepper and remove any stickers. Next, place it on a piece of foil or a baking tray. Put it in the oven underneath the broiler. Set your oven to broil on high. When the skin starts to break or brown, turn the red pepper over so that the next side can do the same. Once all sides are done, remove it from the oven and put it in a plastic bag. This will steam it and make it easier to remove the skins. After about 30 minutes or so, remove it from the bag and you should be able to easily peel the skins. Then just slice the flesh off and use it as desired. 


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Spicy Lemon-Ginger Beef and Broccoli


This Asian inspired dish is a winner. The meat is tender and flavorful, and the broccoli is bursting with flavor in its own right. The key is to roast the broccoli. It makes all the difference. I've kept the spice mid to mild. If you want to increase the heat double the red pepper flakes. And don't forget when cutting your flank steak, always cut against the grain. 


Ingredients

1 lb flank steak
1/3 c brown sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp crushed garlic

2 large heads broccoli, cut into florets
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper


Instructions

1. Slice the flank steak against the grain into thin slices. Put the slices into a mixing bowl with the brown sugar, rice vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, and crushed garlic. Marinate at least 1 hour. 

2. Spread the broccoli florets and sliced garlic cloves out onto a baking sheet that has been sprayed with nonstick spray. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Roast the broccoli in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes. 

3. When the broccoli is done, heat a large skillet to high heat. Put the flank steak in with all of its marinade juices. Cook until the meat reaches desired level of doneness. Flank steak cooks quickly so this should only take a few minutes.

4. Combine steak with roasted broccoli and serve over steamed rice. Garnish with lemon zest.



Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Chicken Tikka Masala Pizza


I can't stop my cravings for Indian food lately! Luckily you can turn anything into a pizza, so why not turn a traditional Indian dish into one? This pizza is amazing! It looks like your average pizza, but the taste is different and delicious. My sister took this pizza to work with her and all the ladies in the break room were asking what in the world she was eating. They could smell that it was tasty and it was driving them crazy not knowing what it was. She had to tell them all about how she lives with her sister who has this food blog. They were jealous and volunteered to my tasters anytime. Surprise your family with the flavors of India on a pizza and they'll catch their own craving!



Ingredients

Chicken
1 boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ginger

Sauce
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp gharam masala
4 oz canned tomato sauce
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

2 medium-sized pizza crusts, uncooked
About 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1/2 onion, diced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped


Instructions

1. In a small bowl combine the chicken, yogurt, lemon juice, cumin, cayenne, cinnamon, salt, and ginger. Stir to coat. Heat a heavy skillet to medium-high heat. Add in the chicken breast and cook just until chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes (actual cooking time will depend on the size and thickness of your chicken). Set aside.

2. Make the sauce by melting the butter in a small saucepan. Add in the cumin, paprika, and gharam masala. Let it toast for 1-2 minutes. Add in the tomato sauce and salt and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and add in the heavy whipping cream.

3. Spread the sauce over the prepared pizza crusts. Top with mozzarella cheese. Top with cooked chicken and diced onion. Cook in a 500 degree oven on a pizza stone until cheese is bubbly and browning. Garnish with cilantro before serving.






Monday, June 17, 2013

15 Minute Summer Garden Pasta


Sometimes you just need a simple, fresh dinner. Summertime is in full swing and those tomatoes are ripening on the vine. It's the perfect time of year to enjoy this simple garden pasta. With just 6 ingredients, and only 15 minutes to prep and make, you can have a tasty, seasonal dinner in no time! I enjoy it both hot and cold which means the leftovers are ultra simple. 


Ingredients

1 lb spaghetti pasta
2 tomatoes, diced
1 bunch basil, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt, to taste


Instructions

1. In a large saucepan, cook pasta according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the ingredients. Combine the chopped tomatoes, basil, minced garlic, and olive oil in a large bowl.

3. Drain the pasta and add it into the large bowl. Stir to combine and add salt to taste. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Tikka Masala Lamb Shanks


I feel like I'm on an Indian kick lately. My husband is loving it. I just can't get enough! I was watching a reality cooking show where they had to make something with lamb. I immediately thought of making a lamb shank tikka masala. Next thing I knew I was rushing off to the grocery store to buy the ingredients. I just couldn't get it out of my mind! And then we ate it....and I still couldn't get it out of my mind! Holy delicious batman! It takes some time to cook, but don't let that scare you because it is actually really simple for the actually hands on stuff. Can you sear meat? Can you stir stuff together? Then you can totally make this dish. 



Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 lamb shanks
Salt
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 lemon, juiced
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp gharam masala
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
cilantro for garnish

1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp gharam masala
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup heavy whipping cream



Instructions

1. For the lamb: Season the lamb shanks with a little salt. Heat a large skillet until it is sizzling hot. Put the olive oil in the pan, followed by the lamb shanks. Sear on all sides (about 1 minute each side). Remove from pan and transfer to a 9x13 baking dish. In the same skillet, combine the diced tomatoes, lemon juice, cumin, cayenne, paprika, gharam masala, salt, and ginger. Bring to a simmer. Pour over the lamb shanks in the baking dish. Cover with foil and put them in a 400 degree oven for 2 1/2 - 3 hours. Turn the shanks over a few times during cooking. Uncover during the last 30 minutes of cooking to get a little browning. 

2. For sauce: Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan. Add in the garlic, cumin, paprika, and gharam masala and toast for 1-2 minutes Add in the tomato sauce, season with salt and bring to a simmer. Add in the whipping cream and stir until evenly combined. 

3. Serve with rice and garnish with cilantro. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Homemade Salt and Vinegar Chips



I made my own salt and vinegar chips. My sister saw me doing this and asked why in the world I would do such a thing. Well, go ahead and peak at my list of ingredients. Now, if you take a look at  the list of ingredients on a bag of chips from the store you'll find some other ingredients that you can't buy at a grocery store. I figured I'd give it a try, and know what? It was both fun and delicious. My kids (and sister) crowded around to watch. My husband even joined in on the fun. These chips don't keep well, so eat them while they are fresh. It's a fun activity that shows you exactly what goes into a potato chip (with no added chemicals). The coolest part was that I measured the oil before and after frying, and those chips hardly soaked up any of the oil. Interesting!


Ingredients

2 russet potatoes
1 1/2 cups vinegar
2 cups vegetable oil
Salt


Instructions

1. Peel the potatoes. Slice them as thinly as possible. You can use the slicer on your food processor, a mandolin, or just show off your mad knife skills. I actually tried a few different slicer options and settled on using the long slit side on my cheese grater. 

2. Place the potato slices in a mixing bowl and pour the vinegar in. Let sit for 2 hours.

3. When ready, heat the oil in a pot to 350 degrees. 

4. Fry the slices in batches. It only takes 2-3 minutes for very thin slices. Remove when they start to brown. Drain on paper towels and salt to taste. 



Wednesday, June 12, 2013

French Toast and Bacon Soft Pretzels



Are you ready for a seriously delicious breakfast? French toast and bacon are fairly normal, but why not combine that into the tastiness of a pretzel? Oh my goodness people, these things rocked my world! They are totally delicious with that magical combination of sweet and savory. They are even freezable for an on the go breakfast. Just freeze and microwave for 20-30 seconds when ready to eat. Breakfast doesn't have to be boring!


Ingredients

4 slices bacon
2 tablespoons bacon drippings
1 1/4 cups water, lukewarm
1 tablespoon yeast
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 1/2 to 4 cups flour
1 cup milk
3 eggs
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 butter, melted
Additional brown sugar for sprinkling


Instructions

1. Cook the bacon in a large skillet. Lay the bacon strips in the cold pan and then put it over the burner over medium heat. Cook until crispy, flipping once. Drain on paper towels and crumble.

2. Make your dough by dissolving the yeast and 1/4 cup brown sugar in the water. 

3. Add in the bacon drippings, crumbled bacon, and flour and mix until combined. No need to knead. Let the dough rise in a warm place until almost doubled (about 20 minutes). 

4. Divide the dough into 8 golf ball sized lumps. Roll each ball into a snake or rope. Twist them into pretzel shapes (or whatever shape you'd like!). 

5. In a shallow pan, beat together the milk and eggs. Ad din the cinnamon, vanilla, and 1 tablespoon brown sugar. Whisk until combined. Lay each pretzel in the egg mixture and let sit for 5 minutes. Flip and let sit another 5 minutes. While they are soaking up the egg mixture, preheat the oven to 500 degrees. 

6. Spray a baking sheet with non stick spray. Lay the soaked pretzels out on the pan and bake at 500 degrees for 7-10 minutes, until golden brown. 

7. Remove from oven and brush with melted butter. Sprinkle brown sugar on top. 


These are divine dipped in maple syrup!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Bangian Bhurtha - Indian Eggplant and Tomato Dish


It's that time of the year again when I often get asked what to do with eggplant. Perhaps you've gotten one in a CSA box or from a gardening neighbor and are wondering the same thing. One of my favorite things to make with eggplant is an Indian dish called Bangian Bhurtha. Let's face it, it's also an awesome name. It's a tasty, vegan dish that is full of flavor. And it's healthy! Next time you find yourself with an eggplant not knowing what to do, give it a try!


Ingredients

1 eggplant
Salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, sliced
2 tsp ground ginger
2 roma tomatoes, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander (ground)
1/4 tsp cayenne 
1/2 tsp salt
cilantro for garnish


Instructions

1. Peel then slice the eggplant into 1/2 inch slices. Place the slices on a tray and sprinkle heavily with salt. We're talking the use of a disgusting amount of salt. Drown it out. This will draw out any bitterness and produce a creamy, delicious eggplant. Let it sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Moisture will come to the top. Rinse the eggplant slices under cold water to remove all the salt. Pat dry. 

2. Heat your oven to 425 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray. Lay out the prepared eggplant slices onto the baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tsp olive oil. Bake for about 15 minutes until eggplant just starts to brown. Remove from oven and dice into bite sized pieces. 

3. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add in the onion and cook about 5-7 minutes. Add in the ginger and garlic and toast for 1-2 minutes. 

4. Stir in the diced eggplant, diced tomato, turmeric, cumin, corinder, cayenne, and salt. Cook another 10 minutes. Serve over rice with chopped cilantro sprinkled on top. 


Goes great with Naan! 


Monday, June 10, 2013

Disneyland Hand Dipped Corn Dogs


There's nothing like chowing down on a corn dog at Disneyland while you wait for the parade. I don't like hot dogs. Shoot, I don't even really like corn dogs. But the ones at Disneyland? Why, they are amazing! There's just nothing like a hand dipped corn dog. I found the sticks in the craft section at Walmart. They were just called "craft sticks." I also made more than we could eat (1 is pretty filling!) so I froze the rest. Reheat in the oven on a baking sheet at 400 degrees for about 10-12 minutes. Enjoy your dog!


Ingredients

1 cup corn meal
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons sguar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 hot dogs
Popsicle or craft sticks
Vegetable oil for frying


Instructions

1. Heat your vegetable oil in a large pot to 350 degrees.

2. In a mixing bowl, stir together the corn meal flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. 

3. Use a whisk to beat in the egg, milk, and vegetable oil.

4. Insert the popsicle or craft sticks into each hot dog leaving enough of the stick showing to create a handle. 

5. Dip each hot dog into the batter. I found it best to use my fingers to spread out a nice thick coat of the batter (because the corn part of the dog is my favorite!). After dipping put immediately into the hot oil to fry.

6. Fry as you go. Each one only takes 3-4 minutes. Put on paper towels to drain.



Friday, June 7, 2013

Grilled Vegetable Salad


I'm a grill girl. I don't know where people think it is a man's place to do the grilling. Sure, my husband cooks on the grill on occasion, but mostly it is me (since I'm the one who loves to cook and usually do cook dinner). The grill is an awesome tool. I've got a lovely and convenient gas grill on my back porch. It's summer time and dangit I use it! Grilled vegetables are a must. The grill ads a great smoky flavor that you just can't get any other way. Kebabs are great, but then you've got sticks to worry about and they do sometimes catch fire. It's better to just get a grill pan and cook your veggies in that right on the grill. The tomatoes in this little veggie salad are the key. They add a nice acidity that make it really pop!


Ingredients

2 zucchinis, sliced
2 bell peppers, cut into chunks
8 oz mushrooms (quartered if they are large, half if they are medium-sized)
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 onion, cut into chunks
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper


Instructions

1. Combine all the vegetables in a mixing bowl and toss to coat with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

2. Cook on a grill over medium-high heat until vegetables are tender and the tomatoes pop (about 15-20 minutes). Adjust seasonings to taste. 



Thursday, June 6, 2013

Thick Grilled Pork Chops


It is grilling season friends. I love grilling. It's easy and it doesn't heat up your house which equates to summer dinner awesomeness. You have got to try a grilled pork chop. They are magical. Here's the key: buy a thick pork chop. If you don't see one sitting out, go ask your butcher about it. You need a bone-in double thick pork chop for the grill and, oh my, it creates something amazing. Hunt down that chop and get to grilling! You'll be in love!


Ingredients

4 bone-in thick center cut pork chops
Olive Oil
Paprika
Salt
Pepper


Instructions

1. Heat an outdoor grill to high heat.

2. Prepare your chops by rubbing both sides with olive oil. Sprinkle some paprika on there (about 1/4 tsp per pork chop per side) and rub it in so it has a nice red tint to it. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Pork needs extra salt so don't skimp. If you take that first bite and it doesn't blow your mind try adding a little more salt and see what happens.

3. Grill the chop by searing each side for 2 minutes over the high heat. Remove the chops to an upper rack or to a spot with indirect heat. Reduce the burners to medium, close the lid, and cook for about another 15 minutes more. Actual cooking time will depend on the heat of your grill and the thickness of your pork chop. You can tell the chop is done by pressing on it. It is done when it feels firm, but not hard. Overcooked chops dry out so be careful. If you are nervous about telling when it is done, try pressing the raw meat to get a feel for how soft it is raw and you'll know as you go along what I'm talking about by saying it is done when it is firm. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Gourmet Bacon Mac and Cheese



A while ago we ate at a local gastropub called The Flying Pig. I haven't been that impressed with a meal in a long time. We started off our meal with an incredible bacon mac and cheese. I inquired as to the types of cheeses that went into this magical creation and was given an answer. It was easy enough to experiment a little at home and come up with a great replica of the dish. They used a really great diced pork belly for their bacon which I only wish I had. I subbed pancetta which was still absolutely delicious. The cheese sauce combines goat cheese with white and yellow cheddar and brie. It's then topped with provolone and baked, creating a scrumptious crust. I found a tasty sharp provolone that I shredded on top, but you can use slices from the deli just fine. This stuff is seriously good. We may have fought over the leftovers...


Ingredients

4 oz diced pancetta
1 lb elbow noodles
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 tsp ground mustard
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt
3 1/2 cups milk

4 oz plain goat cheese
4 oz charp white cheddar
4 oz sharp yellow cheddar
4 oz brie
4 oz provolone


Instructions

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. 

2. Cook the pancetta in a small skillet over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Drain excess fat and set aside. 

3. Make your cheese sauce by melting 1 stick of butter (1/2 cup) in a saucepan. Once the butter has melted, whisk in the flour, ground mustard, onion powder and salt to create a thick paste. Whisk in your milk and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Once it begins to bubble, immediately remove from heat and add in the goat cheese, cheddars, and brie stirring until all the cheese is melted and smooth.

4. Spray a 9x13 pan with nonstick spray. Put your cooked noodles in the pan and pour the cheese sauce over the pasta. Add the pancetta in and stir until everything is evenly mixed. Top with provolone cheese.

5. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and starting to brown.




Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Coconut Oil Bran Muffins




Fiber! Fiber! Get your fiber! These muffins are full of fiber, but even better they are full of flavor. My doctor handed me a recipe for bran muffins when I was pregnant with my first child.  I like bran cereal so I thought the muffins tasted okay, but it wasn't the best and my husband definitely wouldn't eat them. Fast forward to my all new and improved coconut bran muffins and even my plain bran hating husband thinks they are tasty. The key is the coconut oil. It provides a subtle coconut flavor to the muffins that gives it a new and improved taste. Who knew bran muffins could be so delicious?


Ingredients

1 1/2 cups 100% all bran cereal
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1 egg
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt


Instructions

1. In a medium sized mixing bowl soak wheat bran and buttermilk for about 10 minutes until it gets all soggy.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly spray a muffin pan with nonstick spray.

3. Add all other ingredients to the soggy wheat bran. Stir thoroughly. This mixture will be very thick.

4. Divide the batter equally among the 12 muffin holes, pressing the dough in lightly.

5. Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack.



Coconut oil is gaining in both popularity and availability. Once only available at health food stores, you can now find it all over the place, sometimes even in your big chain grocery store. Coconut oil is the oil that comes from the meat or flesh of coconuts. It can be used in place of other oils, but be careful because it does have a coconut flavor that could alter your finished product. In the above recipe the coconut flavor is definitely there. 

There are many claimed health benefits to coconut oil consumption. It can help our bodies fight viruses and bacteria. It is good for thyroid health. It can help regulate blood sugar. It helps with digestion. Apparently it can also help reduce abdominal fat! Ya. Seriously, now I'm thinking I may need to eat a jar of coconut oil with a spoon, but I'm pretty sure that isn't how it works. 

Give coconut oil a try. You might be surprised!

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