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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Dijon Garlic Brussel Sprouts


One of my favorite food trends of 2013 was brussel sprouts. It made it big in restaurants in 2012 and made it big in homes in 2013. Those miniature cabbages are just so versatile and delicious and you feel all good about yourself eating them because they are a traditionally hated veggie. Come on, you know it makes you feel a bit superior to be eating the long hated brussel sprout. Wait, maybe it's just me. This time I've roasted them off so you get a few crispy leaves in there, then drizzled them with a creamy dijon garlic sauce. 


Ingredients

2 lbs. fresh brussel sprouts, trimmed and halved
2 TB. olive oil 
Salt and Pepper
1/2 sweet onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. dijon mustard
1/2 cup heavy cream


Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Spread the brussel sprouts out on a 4-sided baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over them and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes until tender. 

3. Meanwhile, heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Melt the butter and saute the onion for about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and saute 1 minute more.

4. Stir in the flour and mustard until it is all pasty and no longer has white powder showing. 

5. Stir in heavy cream. Sauce should thicken within 2 minutes. Drizzle over cooked brussel sprouts. Serve hot. 



Monday, December 30, 2013

The Best Green Beans Ever


People are always raving about my green beans and asking for my recipe. For years I've just said there isn't really a recipe, you just make them. Well, today I'm breaking down and writing the instructions for making the tastiest dang green beans out there. Yes, it is super simple. Yes, it's just butter, salt, and pepper. But know what? I still never find better! The simplicity let's the green beans shine through and that is what it is all about. 

Ingredients

1 1/2 lbs. fresh green beans, ends trimmed
4 TB. butter
Salt and Pepper


Instructions

1. Steam the green beans until tender. 

2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add in butter and steamed green beans. Season with salt and pepper. Saute for 3 to 5 minutes. Serve hot.

***Why don't I give you an exact amount of salt and pepper? Because any time you get an actual measurement for salt and pepper in a non-baking dish (baking is actually pretty scientific), it's just a guess. It's really based on personal preference. Season to taste.






How to steam vegetables:

Steaming vegetables is a healthy way to cook vegetables. It requires no additional fats and the steaming process helps the vegetable itself to retain more nutrients and flavor.  There are a few different methods you can use.

1. Steamer

There is an actual specialized kitchen appliance you can buy called a steamer. It has a base, a steaming basket, and a lid. You just fill the base with a couple inches of water, put the veggies in the basket that fits over the base, put the lid on, heat the water to simmering, and steam away. 

2. Makeshift Steamer

A makeshift steamer can be made using a pot, a colander, and a lid that at least somewhat fits. You'd put an inch or two of water in the pot and then put the colander over it. The colander should be able to fit over the pot without touching the water in the base. Then cover it with a lid. It doesn't have to be a prefect fit. Just as long as it traps most of the steam inside. 

3. Pan

The pan method isn't perfect, but it does work. Pick a saucepan that is big enough to fit all your veggies in it. Put a half inch of water in the bottom and bring it to a boil. Add in your veggies, put the lid on, and reduce the heat to low so it just simmers. The water will create enough steam to cook the vegetables, but the veggies that actually touch the water might get a little soggy or overcooked. 

4. Microwave

Use a microwave safe bowl and just put a little bit of water in to cover the bottom of it. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and poke a couple holes in it to allow some steam to escape. Microwave until desired done-ness is reached. 



Friday, December 27, 2013

Smothered Pork Chops


Ya, I know you were probably expecting some spectacular New Year's finger food or party food, but I can't resist sharing these pork chops. We have had some killer pork chops in our house this year. I mean killer! They make you want to hide in a closet somewhere and stuff your belly with pork every single day. We even knaw the bones to death like a rib just to savor every last bit of meat. These are the kind of chops that throw manners out the window because you can't stand having a moment without a piece in your mouth. And then you cry a little when yours is gone and you start eyeing the rest at the table hoping someone will have filled up on bread. They are pretty easy to make and who doesn't love a meat smothered in gravy? Don't skimp on the chops. Get the nice thick ones. Ask your butcher if he doesn't have any out all pre-wrapped. Seriously, if he's a half-decent butcher he'll probably get a smile on his face when you ask because he knows you are up to something delicious. Or she. Girl butchers are awesome too.


Ingredients

4 center cut bone-in pork chops (1-inch to 1 1/2-inches thick)
Salt and Pepper
1 TB. olive oil
1 onion, halved and sliced
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
2 TB. butter
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 TB. all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth


Instructions

1. Heat an outdoor gas grill to high heat OR heat a heavy, oven safe skillet over high heat. If you go this route then put a little olive oil on your chop in the next step so it doesn't stick to your skillet. 

2. Season the pork chops on both side with salt and pepper. Don't skimp on the salt. I use about [1/2] tsp. per chop. It is what gives pork chops the ultimate wow factor. If your chops end up lack luster, sprinkle a little salt on them at the table and give it another taste.

3. Sear the chops for 2 minutes per side over high heat. If you are using a gas grill, move them to the upper rack after searing, close the lid, and cook for 15 minutes more. If you are using a skillet, put them in a 350 degree oven after searing for 15 minutes.

4. Heat a heavy skillet (or another heavy skillet) over medium-high heat. Add in the olive oil, onion, and mushrooms and saute for 5-7 minutes until mushrooms and onions are cooked.

5. Add in butter and garlic during the last minute of cooking allowing the garlic to toast and the butter to melt. 

6. Sprinkle the flour in and stir it up to let it get all clumpy and pasty with no more white powder showing . Pour in the chicken broth And stir over medium-high heat until the sauce thickens into smooth-ish gravy. This should only take a couple minutes.

7. Let pork chops rest for a few minutes before serving. Serve hot smothered with the onion/mushroom gravy. Share. Eat responsibly. Don't steal chops off people's plates when they aren't looking. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Easiest Way To Do A Juice Fast



I have successfully completed 10 juice fasts in my life, 5 to 7 days each. At the very least I totally should get a sticker for my car for doing that. I love juice fasts. Afterwards I feel incredible both inside and out. My innards feel all clean and shiny, and my outwards...well, I usually lose 7 to 10 lbs each time so that's a nice result. New Year's resolutions are right around the corner and weight loss always seems to top the list. I'm not going to dig around with the ins and outs of juicing here. There's plenty of websites out there to do that. What I will tell you is a secret method I've come up with that makes juice fasting so much easier!

Ice cubes.

So, one of the big bummers of doing a juice fast is the daily prep work that goes into it. You juice and juice and juice, and then it just never tastes like a steak dinner followed by an ice cream sundae so there's always an element of disappointment and boredom. And then you juice, and juice, and juice some more and frankly, it's quite expensive.

I'm going to say it again: Ice cubes!


See, you can prepare for your juice fast  and cut down on the cost by shopping the sales ahead of time. Juicing 30 oranges or 10 bunches of kale at once is way easier than juicing them as a recipe.

Pour the large batches into ice cube trays and immediately freeze them. Yes, some nutrition will be lost during this process, but I'm willing to sacrifice this negligible amount for the sake of my sanity!

When it comes time to "eat" just put your cubes in a cup and let them melt, or mix them in a blender for a "smoothie."

Seriously, I'll never juice any other way again!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Overnight Breakfast! Slow Cooker White Chocolate French Toast Casserole

Slow Cooker Christmas Breakfast


So let me tell you why this should be your Christmas morning breakfast. It takes 6 hours in the slow cooker. Let's face it, you'll be up until midnight playing Santa Claus anyway and your kids will be up and at it come sunrise. 6 hours sounds perfect. Not to mention this is basically a dessert that we just call breakfast. It's a holiday! Treat yourself! Did I mention this will only take 5 minutes to put together? Psh, and use yourself a crockpot liner and you won't even have to clean! I'm even going to share a slow cooker trick from my upcoming slow cooker book as a little Christmas present. The side opposite the control panel is the hot side and burns things like breads. Take a 12 inch piece of aluminum foil and fold it in half, lengthwise, 3 times so you have an 8 sheet barrier, 2 inches tall, 12 inches long. Just put that in the crockpot on the hot side, right there in that stoneware bowl. It'll keep your ingredients from touching that extra hot spot and lessen your chances of burning your food.

Merry Christmas!


Ingredients

1 loaf French bread, cut or torn into 1-inch cubes OR use 6 large croissants
8 oz. cream cheese, cut into small pieces
2 cups white chocolate chips
6 large eggs
2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. ground cinnamon


Instructions

1. Put bread pieces into the slow cooker. Toss together with cream cheese and white chocolate chips.

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, and heavy cream until all of the eggs are incorporated.

3. Add brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg to the egg mixture. Whisk until combined.

4. Pour the egg mixture over bread in the slow cooker.

5. Cook on low for 6 hours.

6. Serve plain or topped with your favorite syrup or whipped cream.




Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Salted Caramel Rice Pudding


In my family growing up rice pudding was some weird thing that only my mom ate. I don't recall ever trying it as I imagined it was like rice in instant pudding which I still think would be weird. Fast forward to today and I've rediscovered rice pudding in this salted caramel variety. Traditionally rice pudding is made with raisins, but let's face it...raisins ruin everything. But salted caramel? It makes everything better! A homemade salted caramel sauce graces this creamy arborio rice pudding for a decadent dessert.



Ingredients

For the rice pudding:
3/4 cup arborio rice

3 cups milk

1/2 cup sugar
1 egg

1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract


For the salted caramel sauce:
1 cup sugar
6 TB. butter, diced

[1/2] cup heavy cream
1 tsp. salt


Instructions

1. In a large saucepan make the rice pudding. First put the rice in the pan. Whisk together milk, sugar, egg, salt, and vanilla. Pour over rice.

2. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer 20 to 30 minutes until rice is cooked and absorbed most of the liquid, leaving a creamy sauce.

3. Meanwhile, make the salted caramel sauce. In a medium-size saucepan over medium heat, melt the sugar. Stir constantly with a rubber spatula, scrapping the sides as you go. Once the sugar melts and turns a golden brown, add in butter until melted. Pour in heavy cream and bring to a simmer, without increasing the heat. Simmer 90 seconds. Remove from heat and stir in salt.

4. Stir 2/3rd of the salted caramel mixture into the rice pudding, reserving the remaining 1/3rd for drizzling over the top.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Slow Cooker Luau with Kalua Pork



Mele Kalikimaka!

My dad was telling me about how their driveway is covered in snow and they had freezing fog so their windows were sheets of ice and one of their cars won't start because the temperature is too low outside...and just hearing about it made me want to crawl in a hole and wake up when winter is over. If you are suffering from winter blues then you need a little Christmas cheer, Hawaiian style. Whip out the crockpot for this super easy luau pork and wish yourself  a Mele Kalikimaka! I served mine up with pineapple and coconut rice (recipe below). The pork is salty and smoky and it both smells and feels like you are having a huge barbecue....in the middle of winter! Merry Christmas!


Ingredients

1 pork butt or shoulder roast (approximately 4 lbs)
3 tablespoons liquid smoke
1 tablespoon sea salt (or Hawaiian pink salt if you can find it!)


Instructions

1. Put the roast down in a larger size slow cooker (you know, one that it actually fits into). 

2. Pour the liquid smoke over the roast.

3. Sprinkle the salt over the roast.

4. Cover and cook on low 8 hours.

5. Shred with a fork and enjoy those crispy edges, and tender melty interior. Oh baby!



Bonus Recipe! 


Coconut Rice


1 1/2 cups long grain white rice
1 can coconut milk (2 cups)
1 cup water


Instructions

1. Put rice in a large saucepan. Pour coconut milk and water over the rice. Bring to a boil over high heat.

2. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer about 15 minutes, until rice is cooked and most of the liquids are absorbed. 

3. Stir to fluff and serve.

Chef's Note: With coconut rice, some of the fat in the coconut milk floats on top of the rice. It may trick you into thinking that your rice isn't done yet because there is still liquid on top. Don't be fooled by that tricky coconut milk and burn your rice. Use a spoon and check at the bottom. If there is no liquid at the bottom, then give it a quick stir and serve it on up!





Monday, December 9, 2013

Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower


Confession: I was having people over for dinner the night I made this. I didn't serve it because I ate it all before they got here.

Winter cauliflower gets roasted, seasoned, and decked out with Parm for an awesome side dish for a cold day. It hardly ever gets any easier than this, and let me tell you, it's good enough to eat it all! But please, do at least make an attempt to share!


Ingredients

2 lb. cauliflower florets
1 sweet onion, peeled, halved, and sliced
1 TB olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Spread cauliflower and onion out in a single layer on a 4-sided baking sheet.

3. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

4. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven.

5. Remove from oven and sprinkle with Parmesan. Serve hot.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Not Your Momma's Meatloaf


Meatloaf is a Christmas meal to me. I can't eat it without thinking of that classic moment in A Christmas Story where Ralphie's little brother, Randy, sits at the table refusing to eat. "Meat loaf, peet loaf, double bubble beet loaf. I hate meat loaf!" 

Okay, so I don't hate meat loaf at all. When it is good, it can be REALLY good! I've added some heat to my meatloaf for a full flavor spicy loaf that I'm positive Randy would hate even more. Did the typical American family eat anything spicy back then? Anyway, you've got to try your hands at this meat loaf. It is super easy and tastes delicious. And for the record, my 5 year old absolutely loves this! 

Ingredients

1 lb. ground beef
1/2 onion, diced
1 cup bread crumbs (or any combination of ground flaxseed, wheat bran, or wheat germ)
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Frank's Red Hot Sauce
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp.  pepper
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

For the glaze:
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. Frank's hot sauce


Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

2.  In a large mixing bowl, knead together the ground beef, onion, bread crumbs, milk, worcestershire sauce, frank's, salt, basil, oregano, pepper, and red pepper flakes. 

3. Shape the meat into a loaf and put it on a 4-sided baking sheet or 9x13 pan. 

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

5. Mix up the glaze in a small bowl by whisking together the ketchup, brown sugar, worcestershire sauce, and frank's hot sauce. Brush it over the hot meatloaf.

6. Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees and bake an additional 15 minutes.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Moroccan Gyros


Beautiful,right? Now you are probably stumbling over how to pronounce it so I'm just going to go ahead and get that out of the way. Gyro = YEE-row. You've probably heard it has "hee-row" or "jai-row" but the apparently the correct way to say it is yee-row. 

Phew, now that we've taken care of that bit of awkwardness, let's move on to where this came from. I might have uncontrollable cravings for Moroccan chicken. It might be the zippy lemon, or the bold spicing, but my tummy begs me for it. I decided to throw together a gyro version and came up with this delish little sandwich. Instead of the traditional gyro tzatziki sauce (don't worry about pronunciation, just stumble through all the consonants like everyone does) I went with a tahini sauce, which comes from sesame seed. So you've got the zingy, flavorful chicken combined with a sesame sauce with fresh veggies...you see how tasty this sandwich is? Yum! My church is having a Night in Bethlehem dinner and nativity and wanted to serve something authentic. Ya, Jewish food from 2,000+ years ago? Not gonna be a crowd pleaser. But I offered up this idea and they loved it. We're at least closer to the region so we'll call it good and stuff our faces. 



Ingredients

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
2 lemons, sliced thin
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
*Serve with shredded cabbage, bell pepper, cucumber, tomato, red onion, and tahini sauce (recipe below) on pita or arabic flat breads. 


Instructions

1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 pan with nonstick cooking spray. Lay half the lemon slices out to create a bed for the chicken. Place the chicken breasts on top of the lemon slices.

2. In a small bowl, mix together the butter, paprika, cumin, turmeric, cayenne pepper, salt, cinnamon, and ginger. Spread the mixture over the tops of the chicken breasts.

3. Lay the remaining lemon slices over the chicken.

4. Bake for 30-35 minutes.

5. Slice and serve hot or cold. 




For the Moroccan Tahini Sauce

Ingredients

1 cup plain greek yogurt
1 lemon, juiced
2 Tablespoons tahini
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp salt
1 pinch pepper

Instructions

1. Mix it all together in a little bowl and serve. 

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