The Stay At Home Chef: February 2014

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Grilled Bread with Chimichurri Sauce

This is so simple, but it is also incredibly delicious. Toasted bread dipped into the bold flavors of chimichurri makes for a super easy and super tasty appetizer or side dish. We enjoyed this at a restaurant a while back and it was just to tantalizing I couldn't stop thinking about it. I could have been happy eating nothing but baskets full of bread with a side of chimichurri. Sometimes the best recipes are the easy ones. 

Time to Make It: Under 10 minutes
Yield: Serves 4 to 6


1 (16 oz) loaf sourdough bread, sliced
2 cups fresh flat leaf parsley leaves
5 garlic cloves
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 TB red wine vinegar
3 TB lemon juice


1. Toast the bread on a grill over high heat, or in a toaster.

2. Combine the parsley leaves, garlic, cloves, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, oregano, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and lemon juice in a food processor or blender. Pulse on high until pureed.

3. Serve bread warm and dip into sauce. 


New York Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

Welcome to my latest foodie obsession: chimichurri sauce. If you haven't had it before, you need to try it. I can see endless possibilities when it comes to chimichurri. It is amazingly delicious and simple at the same time. You can dress up almost any meat with this sauce and you'll be licking your plate clean. No joke. A few weeks ago we were at a restaurant and I ordered an item with chimichurri sauce. The waitress said it was super good and used a special herb from Argentina. I had to stiffle my laughter. There's no super secret special exotic herb. It's just parsley. But know what? I don't blame her for thinking it must be something special. This combination transforms parsley into something so scrumptious it is hard to equate it with parsley in ways you might be accustomed to eating parsley. Today I'm just sharing a basic recipe for a very traditional way of enjoying chimichurri. That's right, just throw it on a delicious steak. So simple, yet so incredibly delicious.

Time to Make It: About 20 minutes
Yield: 4 Steaks


4 New York Strip Steaks
1 TB olive oil
2 tsp salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp paprika

2 cups fresh flat leaf parsley leaves
5 garlic cloves
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 TB red wine vinegar
3 TB lemon juice


1. Remove steaks from refrigerator and any packaging. Rub each side with the olive oil to coat. Sprinkle both sides of each steak with salt, pepper, and paprika. Let steaks sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before cooking. 

2. Make the chimichurri sauce by combining parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, oregano, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and lemon juice in a food processor. Puree. 

3. Cook steaks on a hot grill until desired done-ness is achieved. About 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium-rare (see chart below)

4. Let steaks rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Serve topped with chimichurri sauce. 

Get ready because I'm about to bust out a couple secrets to a great steak!

Grades of Steak

There are three grades of steak that you will find in a US supermarket: Select, Choice, and Prime. Select is generally the grade of sale-priced, or advertised meat. If it is choice grade, it will be advertised as such. Select grade is just above what the USDA deems edible. So if you buy Select grade meat, don't be surprised when it isn't that great. It will always be worth it to pay the extra money per pound for the Choice grade. If your supermarket carries Prime grade, lucky you! 

Lesson: Only buy Choice or Prime Grade steaks. 

Levels of Doneness

Whether you like your steak bleeding on the plate, or dry as a bone, this steak doneness chart should help you out. The chef's standard level of doneness is medium-rare. At this point it won't be bleeding, but will be tender, juicy, and if you do it just right the steak will melt in your mouth. With practice you can tell how cooked a steak is just by feel alone. Every steak has a different cooking time due to varying thicknesses of the cuts. Be wary following anything that tells you a cooking time rather than a temperature. 


Perfectly Soft Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies

When it comes to sugar cookies, we are pretty picky around here. My sister makes a killer sugar cookie if you want a non-cream cheese version. I wanted to make sugar cookies with the kids and meant to email her for her recipe, but instead I decided to forage blindly ahead and try a variation on the King Arthur Flour version. I mean, they are usually pretty solid recipes. I'd also heard that cream cheese makes for a great cookie so I went for it. Oh boy! I'm so glad I did! I made a few adjustments and after a bit of experimentation I believe I have THE sugar cookie recipe that I'll use forever. They were absolutely perfect. I still can't get over how perfect they were. The great thing about this recipe is that you can either do drop cookies (no refrigeration required) or you can do rolled cookies with cookie cutters. I've done it both ways and both ways were absolutely fantastic. My kids reveled in decorating their mickey mouse ears, hearts, and stars, while I stuck to frosting perfect pink and yellow cookies complete with sprinkles. 

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Baking Time: 10 minutes
Yield: about 2 dozen


1 cup unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup cream cheese
2 TB. corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1 large egg
3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda


1. For drop cookies, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet(s), or line the baking sheet(s) with parchment paper. For rolled cookies, wait to preheat the oven until you remove the dough from the fridge in step 5.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter, sugar, and cream cheese until light and fluffy using the whisk attachment.

3. Mix in the corn syrup, vanilla, almond extract, and egg, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl so that everything gets mixed in.

4. Switch your mixer attachment to a paddle or dough hook. Mix in flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda until everything is mixed in.

5. If you want to do a rolled cookie, remove the dough from the mixing bowl and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour before rolling out  1/4-inch thick on a lightly floured surface, and cutting into shapes.

6. If you want dropped cookies, simply pinch off the desired amount of dough (smaller than a golf ball, but larger than a grape. I used a kitchen scale to measure out 1.5 oz. pieces). Roll into a ball and gently press between hands or fingers to flatten.

7. Place cookies on the prepared baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for 2 to 3 minutes on the pan before carefully removing to cool completely on a cooling rack.

8. Cool completely before frosting. I used a delicious buttercream recipe that can be found HERE.


Blackberry, Basil, and Ricotta Pizza

So I had this crazy idea for a pizza. I keep seeing blackberries for ridiculously cheap prices and can't help myself. I buy them and then come up with tasty ways to enjoy them besides eating them by the handful.  Since you can make just about anything into a pizza I decided to give it a go. This ended up being one of my favorite pizzas. The sweet and tart of the blackberries, the punch of basil, the creaminess of the all came together so fantastically that this pizza ended up being not just eaten, but devoured. 

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Baking Time: 10 to 15 minutes
Yield: 8 slices


1 (14 to 16-inch) unbaked pizza crust
1 TB. olive oil
blackberries, halved
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 cup ricotta cheese
10 large basil leaves, sliced into strips


1. Preheat a 14 to 16-inch pizza stone in an oven at 500 degrees. 

2. Rub the olive oil over the pizza crust. Smash half of the blackberries and spread out over the crust.

3. Top oiled crust with mozzarella and parmesan cheese. 

4. Scatter remaining blackberries over the pizza. Place spoonfuls of ricotta randomly over the pizza.

5. Bake on the pizza stone for 10 to 15 minutes, until cheese starts to brown. Scatter basil leaves over the pizza during the last few minutes of baking.

6. Remove from oven and slice into 8 large slices. 


Cauliflower Pizza Crust

I have seen those recipes for Cauliflower Pizza Crust everywhere. I've been meaning to give it a try for a while. I finally did it. There are lots of different versions of the recipe out there so I did a little experimenting and came up with one that I'd like. 

The Pros:

Ricing the cauliflower and squeezing the water out takes some time and effort, but it really isn't any more effort than making a traditional dough. And no rising time so it is much faster.

There are tons less calories than a traditional pizza and it is gluten free.

It tastes good. The cauliflower flavor doesn't come through at all.

The Cons:
A slice of cauliflower pizza just isn't as filling.

It is difficult to get a crispy crust. I love a crispy-bottomed pizza, and this ended up being very bread-like instead I even tried heating it in a skillet after cooking to crisp up the bottom and I just ended up with a slightly burnt bottom.

Overall, it is still really good. It satisfies the pizza cravings I almost always have, without all the extra calories AND a vegetable. 

Time to Make It: 20 to 25 minutes
Yield: Serves 2 to 4

Crust Ingredients

1 medium head cauliflower
2 eggs
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup shredded parmesan
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella

+Desired Toppings and Cheese


1. Preheat a pizza stone (if you have it) in an oven at 500 degrees.

2. Cut the cauliflower into florets. Rice the cauliflower in a food processor by putting it in with an S blade and pulsing until the cauliflower resembles rice. If you have a smaller food processor you may need to do this in batches.

3. Transfer the riced cauliflower to a microwave safe bowl. Cover with a paper towel and microwave for 2 to 3 minutes.

4. Carefully overturn the bowl onto the center of a clean tea-towel or thin dish towel. Fold the sides over to cover the cauliflower and twist the ends to drain the cauliflower of excess water. Remove as much of the water as you can.

5. Transfer the drained cauliflower to a mixing bowl. Stir in eggs, basil, oregano, garlic, parmesan, and mozzarella.  Smash it into a dough ball.

6. Carefully roll out the dough on parchment paper. Roll out into a thin dough, using your hands to shape as necessary.

7. Transfer the pizza (with parchment paper) onto the preheated pizza stone, or bake on a baking sheet if you do not have a stone. Bake for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and add desired toppings.

8. Bake an additional 7 to 10 minutes until lightly browned. 


Slow Cooker Pork Ragu

A friend recently asked me for an easy crockpot recipe that she could freeze, dump and go, or just dump and go that would be somewhat healthy. Got it! This ragu has several different vegetables. It comes together in 5 to 10 minutes (depending on your chopping skills and how often you get distracted by kids). Served over pasta it makes for a comforting meal that is super easy to prepare. I recently finished writing my very first cookbook, which happens to be The Idiot's Guide to Slow Cooker Cooking. Cooking up 120+ different slow cooker recipes over the course of only a couple of months was quite the adventure. My friends all asked if I was done with the slow cooker for the next few years. Honestly? No! My love for the slow cooker has only grown. It is capable of some pretty cool things and can come in really handy. Pep and forget, and come home at the end of the day to a slow cooked meal.

Prep Time: 5 to 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 8 to 10 hours
Yield: 6 to 8 servings


1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes, drained
2 TB. tomato paste
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 1.2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2-3 lb. boneless pork butt
1 lb. fettuccine noodles
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese


1. Combine the carrot, onion, red bell pepper, celery, garlic, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper in a slow cooker. 

2. Put the pork into the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low 8 to 10 hours, until pork shreds easily with a fork.

3. Cook the fettuccine noodles according to package directions.

4. Shred the pork and serve over cooked pasta, topped with a little parmesan cheese. 


Cream Cheese and Avocado Wontons with Cilantro Lime Dipping Sauce

I loves parties because there are usually appetizers there. Miniature in size, but big in flavor, I love getting one or two bites of goodness. The cream cheese avocado wonton is a classic. The wonton itself is a pleasant bite, but the cilantro lime dipping sauce is where you get the big punch. Full of flavor and sure to please! Dipping that warm, crisp wonton into the dipping sauce and then shoving it into my mouth to get that acidic flavor of the sauce, the still crispy wonton, and the slightly melted creaminess of the cream cheese and avocado is just heavenly. This may seem like it makes a lot of wontons, but once you start eating them  you'll see it goes pretty quickly. They are that good!

Time to Make It: 30 minutes
Yield: About 52 Wontons


Cilantro Lime Dipping Sauce
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 limes, juiced

2 cups vegetable oil (for frying)
1 package cream cheese (12 oz)
2 ripe avocados, peeled, seed removed, and diced
1 package won ton wrappers
1 egg + 1 tablespoon water, lightly beatened


1. In a medium bowl, whisk together cilantro lime dipping sauce ingredients. Set aside.

2. Heat vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat (should reach 350 degrees).

3. While oil heats up, whip the cream cheese with a hand mixer until fluffy and smooth. Add in the diced avocado and gently fold in with a spoon.

4. Lightly brush both sides of the wonton wrapper with the egg wash (1 egg + 1 tablespoon water). Put about a teaspoon of the avocado cream cheese filling in the center of each wonton. Fold the wonton wrappers in half, forming a triangle, and seal the edges. Fold the very ends of each point of the triangle over.

5. Fry wontons in the hot oil 4 at a time until golden brown. This will only take about a minute.or two. Using a slotted spoon, remove the golden brown wontons from the oil and put on paper towels to drain.

6. Divide the dipping sauce into individual bowls and serve with hot wontons.

Frying can be intimidating. For several years I carried a few oil burn marks on my wrist from a pumpkin scone mishap where I got splashed with overly hot oil. So I know all about how frying can be intimidating. Here are four tricks I've found useful over the years:

1. Watch your oil temperature. Use a candy thermometer if you have one. If not then be sure to keep adjusting the temperature. Once you can smell the oil and a drop of water goes bizerk when dropped in the oil then turn the heat down a couple notches and just try and maintain the temperature. Letting the oil overheat is dangerous!

2. Put the oil in the bottom of a saucepan with tall sides. This will let the oil pop and splash onto the sides of the pan, not on you or near any flames.

3. Carefully lower your items to be fried into the oil. Never drop them because they will splash and you could end up with burn scars to match mine.

4. With wontons, be sure to seal each one completely so that the filling cannot escape. Make sure there are no air pockets. If the filling escapes through a poor seal or when an air pocket bursts you'll get an annoying splattery mess when the filling hits the oil.

Happy frying!

***This post first appeared on The Stay At Home Chef in December of 2012***


Chip and Cheddar Chicken Strips

At some point I sent myself an email that just said, "Recipe idea: chip and cheddar chicken strips." Who knows where the inspiration came from, but it came and it was pretty dang tasty. It's quite simple. Crush up some potato chips, throw in a little cheddar, dip some chicken in some butter and roll it around in the mixture. Bake. The best part is you can totally you any kind of potato chip. I went with Sour Cream and Onion, but you could really do it with any flavor. BBQ, Salt and Vinegar, one of those fancy new ones like Sriracha, or just plain old potato chips. It's goin'  be tastee! And yes, I'm dipping it in butter. You didn't think this was a health food, right?

Hands On Time: 10 minutes
Ready In: 35 to 45 minutes
Yield: 12 strips


2 cups crushed potato chips
1 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese
2 large chicken breasts, trimmed of fat
1/2 cup butter, melted


1. Preheat an oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 4-sided baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Combine the crushed potato chips and cheddar cheese in a mixing bowl.

3. Cut the chicken breasts into strips. You should get about 6 strips out of each breast.

4. Dip each chicken slice in the melted butter and then roll it around in the potato chip mixture to coat. Place on the baking sheet.

5. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 35 minutes, until chicken crust is browned and chicken is cooked through. 


Lemon Filled Doughnuts

Ever since I made the homemade lemon curd, I've been dying to make some doughnuts and use it as the filling. Boy was that a spectacular idea! The donuts were amazing. I made them on a Sunday afternoon. The kids were so excited to get some donuts and they anxiously helped through the entire process. We could hardly wait for them to cool! I ate 3 the following morning for breakfast. 3! The last 3 might I add. I just couldn't help myself! Now, what's up with the spelling? I keep altering between doughnut and donut. Well, they are the same thing. The dictionary approves of doughnut, but donut is used about 1/3 of the time. I can't decide what I like better so I keep alternating between the two for fun. Which spelling do you like better?

Lemon Filled Glazed Doughnuts

Time to Make It: 3 hours
Hands on Time: 45 minutes
Yield: 1 Dozen Donuts

2 1/2 tsp instant dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (approximately 100 degrees)
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
2 TB butter, melted 
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
1 pinch salt
2 tsp evaporated milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 to 4 tsp. water
1 half-pint lemon curd (recipe below)


1. Combine the yeast, water, sugar, evaporated milk, salt, shortening, eggs, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer. Pour in 2 cups of the flour and knead on a medium-low speed with a dough hook until well combined. Slowly add in the remaining flour until a nice dough ball forms. Dough should be wet, but should not stick to your fingers or the sides of the bowl. 

2. Spray a large mixing bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer the dough to the bowl, cover with a clean dish towel, and let rise 1 1/2 hours.

3. Roll the dough out onto a lightly floured surface 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick. Use a drinking glass or round cookie cutter to punch out 12 donuts, re-rolling the dough as necessary to get a dozen donuts and use almost all of the dough. Let rise another 30 minutes. 

4. Meanwhile, heat the shortening in a large pot to about 350 degrees. While the shortening is coming to temperature, make the glaze in a medium-size mixing bowl by whisking together melted butter, powdered sugar, pinch salt, 2 tsp evaporated milk, and 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract. Add in water 1 tsp at a time until it is just thin enough to dip something in easily. It shouldn't be runny, but it shouldn't be thick either. 

5. Fry the donuts a few at a time until golden brown, flipping half-way through. It is helpful to do a test donut to ensure that the donut gets cooked through. Transfer the donuts to a wire rack covered with a layer of papertowels. Let cool for 1 to 2 minutes then dip the top of the donut into the glaze and place it back on the wire rack. 

6. Once all of the donuts have been fried, fill a piping bag with the lemon curd, like you would with frosting. Using a wide-mouth tip, insert the tip into the side of the doughnuts one at a time, squeezing to fill with 1 to 2 tablespoons of lemon curd per donut. 

Dough Recipe Adapted from Cooking Classy

Easy Homemade Lemon Curd

Time to Make It: About 15 minutes
Yield:  3 half-pint jars


1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 TB. lemon zest
12 egg yolks
1 cup butter


1. Combine sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until the mixture is hot,  but not yet simmering.

2. In a medium size mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth. 

3. Slowly pour some (about 1/3) of the hot sugar mixture into the bowl, whisking constantly. 

4. Transfer all of the egg mixture into the saucepan, whisking to combine, over medium heat. 

5. Slice the butter into tablespoon-size slices and add into the hot mixture. Stir until butter is melted and mixture thickens.

6. Pour through a mesh sieve into canning jars or a large bowl. Mixture will fill 3 half-pint jars. 

7. Cool to room temperature and store in the fridge. 


Grilled Fish Tacos with Avocado Salsa

We probably eat a ridiculous amount of fish tacos. Ever since we moved to San Diego, land of the fish taco, we eat them several times a month. It's generally a pretty quick dinner and always pretty healthy. And my 5 year old loves fish tacos. It kind of weirds me out a bit because he runs on the picky side, but the kid loves to scarf down a fish taco or two. He might be destined to be a surfer. He did start boogie boarding at the age of 3, but I digress. I'm always trying out variations on fish tacos since we eat them so frequently. This time there was a killer sale on avocados and heirloom tomatoes so I decided to do a simple fish taco topped with an avocado salsa. The result was pretty delicious. I realize it is still the dead of winter in most places in the US (my main hub of readership), and with the ground hog seeing his shadow there's still 6 more weeks. Give yourself a mental vacation and enjoy some fish tacos and pretend you are on the beaches of San Diego. You deserve it, right?

Grilled Fish Tacos with Avocado Salsa

Time to Make It: About 15 minutes
Yield: 8 tacos


2 TB olive oil
1 lb. white fish fillets (red snapper, tilapia, etc.)
2 limes, juiced
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 large heirloom tomatoes, diced
1 large avocado, pitted, and diced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1/4 white onion, diced
1/2 jalapeno, minced
1 lime, juiced
1/4 tsp salt
8 corn tortillas


1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat OR heat an outdoor grill to medium-high heat and lay down a piece of lightly greased aluminum foil.

2. Season fish fillets with the juice of 2 limes and dust both sides with chili powder and ground cumin.

3. Cook fish for 3 to 5 minutes per side. Actual cooking time will depend on thickness of individual fillets. Fish is done with it is easily flaked with a fork.

4. Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl, combine tomato, avocado, cilantro, onion, jalapeno, juice of 1 lime, and salt. 

5. Warm tortillas in a frying pan or heavy skillet. Serve tacos with a little fish and top with a heaping pile of salsa on the tortillas. 


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