9.28.2012

A Little News...


Just in case you hadn't heard....
 
.... my Pink Ombre Mini Cakes made The Huffington Post today

Friday rocks.

Lemon Poppyseed Pancakes with Fresh Blueberries

What's for breakfast at your home today?

Before you believe the facade, we didn't have these for breakfast either. (we had them for dinner :)

Breakfast around here usually includes my favorite cereal (Multi-Grain Cheerios) after my run. The Manchild has recently learned how to eat cereal with a spoon and milk without spilling it all over the place. Ryan is usually suited up and halfway out the door before I can ask him if he managed to eat anything.

Let's just say we've gone the "Milk Chocolate Instant Breakfast + Banana = Shake'' route for that man who sleeps in busy guy.

Now that you know how breakfast is here, you can see why I can't pull off the whole I-make-a-hot-meal-for-my-family-each-morning-for-breakfast shpill. We just don't do a big breakfast around here unless it's a holiday or a special occasion. There's no time in the mornings! Nonetheless, we do have a breakfast-for-dinner meal a few times a month. So we still get our breakfast-food-fix.

I know lemon-poppy seed is probably a cliche flavor combo at this point, but it 'aint broke, right? I couldn't resist throwing this in our dinner menu this past week. I'm a sucker for blueberries - throw them on a stack of thick, fluffy pancakes?

I'm sold.

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Lemon Poppy Seed Pancakes with Fresh Blueberries

Ingredients:
2 C flour
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/3 C sugar
pinch of salt
1/3 C poppy seeds
zest of 4 lemons
2 C buttermilk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 T butter, melted
butter, to serve (and for griddle)
fresh blueberries 

Directions:  
1. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.
2. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, eggs, butter, lemon zest and poppy seeds.
3. Add the wet to the dry until it's the right consistency (you might not use all wet) Stir all ingredients together until they're just combined.
4. Heat up griddle to medium-hot and brush with melted butter. Pour about 1/3 C of batter in skillet. Wait until pancake bottom is golden and flip with a spatula. Cook other side until golden. Repeat with the rest of the batter.
5. Serve with warm syrup, butter, and fresh blueberries.

Recipe Adapted from: Picky Cook

9.27.2012

Salted Caramel Brownies

 
I don't think anything can cheer the soul for me quite like a warm, gooey brownie.

Either a cold glass of milk, or nearby vanilla bean ice-cream is essential.

I have a huge list of favorite cookies, cakes, brownies, bars, and cold treats. But by far, straight up, a warm brownie with vanilla bean ice-cream is my very very very favorite overall dessert. I'm tempted by other desserts, and they're fantastic, but I always come back to my beloved brownie & ice-cream obsession.

This time we didn't have any ice-cream on the premises. But we did have ice-cold milk (in these beautiful glasses given to me by a dear friend) to pair with these ridiculous brownies. It served as a wonderful balance to the latest seasonal craze: salt & caramel with chocolate.

I'm telling you right now - if you haven't experienced the beauty of these flavors together, you're missing out. Salt, caramel, and chocolate were MFEO (for my hopeless romantics).

After the hot & thick brownies came out of the oven, I slowly drizzled the surface with warm and creamy caramel and sprinkled the caramel pool with beautiful sea salt crystals. The caramel seeped right into the brownie - adding to the already moist center.

Plus, this recipe is from Ina Garten. Her show isn't my favorite, but her recipes are always Boss.

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Salted Caramel Brownies 

Ingredients:
1/2 lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter
8 oz + 6 oz Hershey's semisweet chocolate chips
3 oz unsweetened chocolate
3 large eggs
1 T instant coffee granules, such as Nescafe (optional)
1 T pure vanilla extract
1 C + 2 T sugar
1/2 C + 2 T all-purpose flour, divided
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
5-6 ounces of caramel sauce
2-3 t sea salt

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9x13 pan.
2. Melt butter, 8 oz chocolate chips, and unsweetened chocolate together in a medium bowl set over simmering water. Allow to cool for 15 minutes.
3. In a large bowl, stir (don't beat) together the eggs, coffee granules (optional), vanilla, and sugar. Stir the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature (it will ruin the batter if it's warm... needs to cool off.)
4. In a medium bowl, sift together 1/2 C flour, baking powder, and salt - add this to the chocolate mixture. toss the remaining 6 ounces of chocolate chips and the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour in a medium bowl and add them to the chocolate mixture. Spread evenly in the prepared pan.
5. Bake for 35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
6. As soon as the brownies come out of the oven, heat up caramel (via microwave or however) until pourable. Stir. Drizzle the caramel evenly over the hot brownies. Sprinkle with sea salt.
7. Cool completely (the caramel will sink into the brownies).

Recipe Source: The Food Network Magazine, October Issue 2012, Ina Garten

9.26.2012

White Bean and Vegetable Chowder

The soup recipes will be very frequent as the season progresses.

I love how versatile soup can be - you can give or take a few ingredients, and the flavor will transform altogether. However, all ingredients aren't up for change - some things need to remain constant for the soup to remain... well... a soup in the first place. 

Such is life and family, eh?

Family is such a key ingredient in the soup of life. And what a complex, yet simplistic ingredient it is.

Without family, the soup will never be the same - and I can almost guarantee it will taste less savory. Any ingredients used to substitute such a key ingredient will prove to be superficial and illusive; never leaving you with the very comfort the dish is known to provide. The soup won't give you the proper nourishment. It might not even turn out to be soup after all. 

With the starring ingredient of family, the soup will be filling; and with the loving simmer of time, the flavors will become more enriched, more desirable, and the only place the heart can heal and feel at home again. Always.

for Ash - love you. 

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Vegetable and White Bean Chowder

Ingredients: 
6 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into very small pieces
1 C finely diced red onion
1/2 C finely diced celery
3/4 C finely diced carrot
1/2 C finely diced red bell pepper
5 C low sodium chicken or vegetable stock
x2 15oz cans white cannelli beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 t dried thyme
1/2 C milk
1 T flour
1/2 C dry sherry
salt and pepper to taste

Directions: 
1. In a large soup pot, cook bacon over medium high heat until brown and crisp. Remove from pot and lay bacon on a paper towel to drain.
2. Pour out all but 1 t bacon fat. Return pot to medium high heat and add in onion, celery, carrots, and red bell paper. Saute until vegetables are softened, about 3 minutes.
3. Increase heat to high and add sherry - scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Cook until almost all sherry has evaporated, about 4 minutes.
4. Reduce the heat to medium and sprinkle four and thyme over the vegetables. Stir and cook for 1-2 minutes.
5. Add the chicken/vegetable stock, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan. Increase heat to high and bring soup to a boil.
6. Add the beans and milk. Reduce heat and simmer for as long as needed to boil out alcohol in sherry - we simmered ours for about 4-5 hours. If you want to keep it all in there, simmer the sucker for an hour.
7. Taste and adjust seasonings. Garnish with additional minced vegetables or fresh thyme if desired.

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Recipe source: A Communal Table


9.25.2012

Wild Mushroom and Spinach Pizza with Toasted Pine Nuts

 

Some of my favorite ingredients grace this pizza. Unfortunately, they're also some of my husband's least favorite.

Obviously I'm not going to eat steak or hamburger for dinner every night, and he's not going to be full with just a salad or any other 'chick food' I put in front of him. I usually compromise really well, and we have a happy balance throughout the week. However, when I saw this recipe in my latest Food Network Magazine, I wasn't going to budge. I felt kind of selfish, really, but I adore pine nuts, mushrooms, and thin-crust pizzas. How could I fit this little lover into my menu and still have a happy & full-bellied husband? (when I say full-bellied... he actually weighs around 140 and is 6'2... so maybe I need to come up with a better way to describe him being full).

That, my friends, is when the stars aligned. Ryan randomly came home for lunch, polishing off our leftovers, and said he'd have to head back to the law school until late. I knew I'd miss him, but when he left I thought about making my beloved chick pizza. Cue evil laugh. 

It was a most excellent pizza. 

I use the term pizza loosely. It was more of a flatbread. I enjoy a thick sauce, too, on my pizzas. But it was nice to keep things light this time and stick with just olive oil (if you don't want it so light, you could easily use a garlic cream sauce instead). What I loved most about this pizza was the amount of flavor it produced from so few ingredients. Ever have toasted pine nuts? It will change your life.

Let's just say half of it was gone before Ryan came home. And the Manchild wasn't to blame.


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Mushroom and Spinach Flatbread 

Ingredients: 
Thin Crust Pizza Dough - refrigerated or homemade 
4 T EVOO
1 1/2 T fresh chopped garlic
2 C packed fresh spinach leaves
1 1/2 C wild mushrooms (I used regular)
1 sweet onion, sliced thin
1/2 C pine nuts, toasted
1 C grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 420 degrees.
2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough into a rectangle big enough to fit cookie sheet or 12 inch circle pizza pan. Prick the dough all over with a fork. With a pastry brush, brush 1 tablespoon olive oil on crust edges.
4. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat in a large pan. Add 1 tablespoon of garlic and cook the mushrooms (not crowding them, so they'll brown) until tender (about 2-3 minutes) set aside.
5. Add remaining olive oil and garlic and saute the spinach until just wilted, about 1-2 minutes.
6. Lay the spinach in a single layer on dough. Spread cooked mushrooms over spinach, and top with onion slices.
7. Bake the dough for 12 minutes (or until edges begin to brown). Remove pizza from the oven, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese an pine nuts. Bake for 2-3 minutes until cheese is melted.

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Recipe Source: Food Network Magazine, October 2012 Issue

9.24.2012

Martha's Chicken and Dumplings

Yesterday the clouds settled into our valley and some much-needed rain graced the afternoon sky. We cranked the vent and let the fragrant scent of the weather fill our little home. Ryan continued editing articles for Law Review, the Manchild continued dragging his giant bear around the house/playing with his wooden puzzles, and I continued to slowly savor each moment in the kitchen making these Chicken & Dumplings on the stove-top. 

I love my kitchen. When we were looking for places to move into for Law School, this place was last on our list to visit, but quickly became one of our favorites when we walked through the door. I fell in love with the kitchen. It was much bigger than our last apartment's kitchen, and had beautiful marble counter tops. It isn't perfect - the dishwasher is one of those old-school hook-up-to-the-sink types and electrocutes me on almost a weekly basis (I'm grateful - because the alternative would be no dishwasher. I would die.) But it quickly became my kitchen, and we've been friends ever since.

When I think about our life after law school (less than a year left!), I can't help but feel like the days with my dear kitchen are numbered. I'll miss the fleet of white cabinets, the fridge that doesn't close all the way unless you push it hard, the giant-tiled floors, the scuff marks on the door frame from the Manchild's gate, the view of the tiny backyard through the over-the-sink window, and the random outlet inches from the ceiling.

I'll miss all these things, yes, but I think I'll remember the things I made in this kitchen the most: delicious food for my family, huge messes, drama queen moments, and treasured memories.  

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This chicken dumpling recipe is sure-fire. It was perfect for such a drizzly afternoon, yesterday. Martha Stewart sure knows what she's doing when it comes to food. Her recipes have never let me down, and I always find myself cheerfully coming back to them. This soup was amazing. The texture of the broth was so creamy and the vegetables & chicken are cooked to perfection (versus being mushy and chewy). I don't use dill very often, but after cooking with it I feel like it's underrated - when I think dill I think pickles... not a pickle fan. But it's flavor was a beautiful compliment to the dumplings - which were delightfully fluffy and warm on the inside.

Oh how I love soup season. 'Warm fuzzies with extra fuzz,' right? 
 

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Martha's Chicken and Dumplings 

Ingredients:
3 T butter
1 medium onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
5 medium carrots, cut crosswise into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 t dried thyme
1 C flour
16 oz reduced-sodium chicken broth
salt and pepper
1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 T chopped fresh dill, or 3/4 t dried dill weed
1 3/4 t baking powder
1/2 C plus 2 T milk
1 package (10oz) frozen peas, or you can use fresh

Directions:
1. In a large soup pot with a tight-fitting lid, heat butter over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, and thyme. Cover and cook, stirring often, until onion is soft, about 5 minutes.
2. Add 1/4 C flour and stir around in vegetables. Cook about a minute. Then add your broth and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Nestle chicken in pot, reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, 20 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, prepare your dumplings. In a medium bowl, whisk together remaining 3/4 C flour, dill, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
5. With a fork, gradually stir in 1/2 C milk to form a moist and soft batter - it should be a little thicker than pancake batter and should drop easily from a spoon. Add additional milk to gain desired consistency. Set aside.
6. Stir peas into pot. Drop batter in simmering liquid in large heaping tablespoonsfuls. Space them apart - they will swell as they cook.
7. Cover and simmer until chicken is tender and dumplings are firm, about 20 minutes.

Recipe source: Martha Stewart

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9.21.2012

Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies

Once a year our neighborhood community comes together and hosts something called a 'Service Auction' at our church. It's always great fun, and it's incredible to witness women coming together and and donating their service for other people to bid on.

At the beginning of the evening, we're handed a list of good deeds/habits. If we've done those things (like exercising regularly for the past 30 days, or planted a garden this summer) we earn fake dollars for each one. The women can then use those 'dollars' to bid on service provided by the other women. Up for bidding were wonderful things such as homemade pottery, delicious breads and spreads, delectable desserts, free babysitting and housework, free family portraits, and even the promise of a full home-cooked meal for the entire family. It was a beautiful evening for these women to share their talents, and come closer together in all the excitement!

So, naturally, yesterday I spent baking. I made two of my favorite desserts to take: Cherry Almond Vanilla Cupcakes, and my Fresh Strawberry Yogurt Bundt Cake. I then received a text that I had signed up to bring a dozen cookies to share, too! Ahh! I completely forgot! I needed to throw some cookies together within the hour and had nothing planned! Panic.

That, my friends, is when the cake mix cookies save lives.

All the joy and splendor of Red Velvet cake... in an easy-to-make cookie form. I know these look more like something for later in the holiday season... but I think these could easily pass these off with some blood-and-gore type spin for Halloween.

Maybe if you squint your eyes a little bit?


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Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies

Ingredients:
6 T butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
18.25 box Red Velvet Cake Mix
1/2 C powdered sugar

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line to cookie sheets with parchment paper. Place powdered sugar in a shallow bowl and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine butter, eggs and red velvet cake mix. Mix well until it's uniform throughout.
3. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and coat in powdered sugar. Place on cookie sheets, leaving 2 inches between.
4. Bake for 7-9 minutes - the centers will still be gooey. Let sit for 5 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack.
5. Serve warm (over ice cream!) or store in airtight container for up to 5 days.

Recipe source: The Novice Chef

9.20.2012

Roasted Maple Almond Butter with Cinnamon

Anyone still in denial over the arrival of Fall needs to come running with me in the early morning. Summer didn't make my eyes water from the bitter cold. Summer didn't make my throat and lungs burn with the tease of much more frigid mornings to come. Summer didn't make things more complicated than throwing on some shorts and a light tank top.

I blame Fall for these things. Straight up.

Speaking of Fall, cinnamon and maple are stepping into the spotlight with our other favorite Autumn flavors. I've had this recipe pinned for ages, and after finally having a pile of almonds and apples to use, it was time.

Creamy with the slight singe of time under the flame - there really isn't anything I love more in the Fall and Wintertime than the roasted flavor of nuts, massaged with the attention of maple. This recipe combined all these things, plus the experience of making my own almond butter. It was supposed to be a win-win.... and it certainly was (the Manchild and I ate it all before Ryan came home). But with great sacrifice....

You see, I wrote a while ago about one of my favorite kitchen appliances: my mini food processor.  I used it on almost a daily basis, and it even rivaled my beloved Kitchen Aid mixer for attention. It seemed like it was always out, and I was always using it. It made my life so much easier. We 'was like peas and carrots'.

Then I decided to make almond butter.... and not give the poor lady a rest between almond grinding....

.... long story short: it started smoking (literally), and shut off on it's own. Never to turn on again.

I was devastated - I LOVED that thing. I feel like I should be writing it's obituary or something at this point. Is anyone else this attached to their kitchen appliances? It lasted through my almost daily torture for 5 years! I guess the best way for it to go was by delivering the most beautifully decadent and flavorful almond butter known to man.

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Roasted Maple Almond Butter with Cinnamon

Ingredients:
2 C almonds 
1/3 C maple syrup
2 T cinnamon
a pinch of salt

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
2. Line a medium-sized cookie sheet with parchment paper and spread the almonds in a single layer, very close to each other. Drizzle maple syrup over all the almonds. 
3. Roast the almonds for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Roast as long as possible without burning them - when they begin to change color, they burn very fast after that, so watch them closely. 
4. Remove pan fro the oven. Carefully move parchment paper with almonds over to a cooing rack. Let almonds cool for about 5 minutes. You don't want them too hot, but you don't want them cold/warm. If they're too hot, they'll melt your food processor. If they're too cold, they won't be easy to process them into almond butter.
5. Put all the almonds in the food processor and blend until creamy. Stop every few minutes and let your food processor rest. Scrape the sides of the bowl down. Mine took about 15 minutes.  Patience.
6. Add a pinch of salt and cinnamon. Blend a minute or two more. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve!

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Recipe Source: Texanerin

 

9.19.2012

Ham and Swiss Sliders in Poppy Seed Sauce

 
Have you ever seen a recipe pop up almost every day on Pinterest? Ever tried that recipe? I've seen these rolls all over the place. I was just going to take the Pinning Masses' word for it, and call it good. But recently (and in the past), I've even had readers recommend me trying it. What is up with this recipe?

Let me tell you: it's been pinned thousands of times. 507,000 times to be exact. People are going nuts over this stuff. And after finally trying this recipe last week, I can excitedly confirm the hype is for good reason.

I wouldn't have given this recipe a fighting chance, unless I had some good ham on hand... we can thank my dear Mother for providing our key ingredient.

Let me explain: When I was growing up, we'd visit my grandma's house pretty often (and when I say often, maybe once a month?) She lived a few hours away, but the trip was always worth it. At the close of each visit, my Grandma would send bottles of beautifully canned produce, and sometimes a cooler-full of delicious things to eat. She was, and is to this day, an amazingly generous woman.

Well, genetics gracefully made it's way to my Mother. You'll never see our little car driving away from her home without a grocery bag or two of food. We're not starving students (well... technically...), and we didn't ask for any of it. She's just amazingly generous (and very insistent) just like my Grandma. I'm very grateful for both of them.

A rehearsal a couple weeks ago brought me up again to my Mom's neck-of-the-woods, and I stopped by after for a visit (and to pick up my little man - my husband was chillin' with Paul Ryan at the Convention Center). Once again, she sent me home with a box-full of random food - including a delicious ham! It was medium-sized, but still pretty big for our little home of three, so we've been using it in all kinds of meals (mostly sandwiches and omelets).

I knew the second I saw the ham that we were finally going to try the coveted Ham and Cheese Sliders recipe once and for all.

After trying it, let me relate once more: it's not your ordinary slider. The seemingly-harmless poppy seed sauce transcends ham and cheese to a whole new ball game. In the oven, it crusts over the outside, and leaves the inside soft and melty with warm ham and Swiss.

The original recipe makes 24 servings. I've modified it below for a decent 6 - even though we all know I had enough ham to feed a crowd!  

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Ham and Swiss Sliders in Poppy Seed Sauce 

Ingredients: 

Sandwiches:
6 fresh dinner rolls, sliced in half
6 slices of Swiss cheese
6 pieces of good ham (honey ham would be best)
1/4 C mayonnaise
1/4 C miracle whip

Poppy Seed Sauce:
2 t poppyseeds
1 T dijon mustard
1/4 C butter, melted
2 t minced onion
1/4 t Worcestershire sauce

Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a small bowl, mix together mayo and miracle whip. Spread mixture onto both sides of the insides of the dinner rolls.
3. Inside each sandwich, place a slice of ham and Swiss.
4. Place loaded rolls inside an 8x5 baking dish close together.
5. In a medium bowl, whisk together all poppy seed sauce ingredients. Using as much or little sauce as you please, pour sauce over sandwiches. Let sit 5 minutes until butter sets.
6. Cover with foil, and bake for 12 minutes, or until cheese is melted.
7. Uncover and cook for 5 minutes, or until tops are slightly brown and crispy. Serve warm.

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Recipe source: The Girl Who Ate Everything who was inspired by The Recipe Club

9.17.2012

Chicken Parmigiana

One of the standards, and one of our favorite cravings to satisfy: Chicken Parmigiana.

I feel like I've been breading chicken since the week Ryan and I got married. It's one of his favorites, and is often on the top of his request list for dinner. We have breaded/fried/baked chicken with Fettuccine Alfredo, in sandwiches, aside fresh steamed veggies, and with just about any other side dish I can think of right now.

I think we can both say that I've come a long way when it comes to breaded chicken. I used to omit key steps, and usually ended up with breading falling off the chicken by the time it 'graced' our plates. It was frustrating, and I didn't know what I was doing wrong! After a year or two of trial-and-error, I then realized not only how to get the breading to coat the chicken, and stay on the chicken, but to also achieve the perfect crunchy texture on the outside (without too much grease along the way) and the deliciously moist and juicy meat on the inside. It's fool-proof, has worked 100% of the time for me, and I'm stickin' to it.

You see... here are some things I've learned:
 - coat the raw chicken in flour before dipping it in the egg bath.
 - the breading layer (last layer) works best with both Panko bread crumbs and Italian bread crumbs. It provides such wonderful texture, and the balance of big and little crumbs for coating covers more ground... er... chicken.
 - Adding Parmesan is a good move as well - shredded or the powder stuff (I usually stick with shredded.)
 - and adding milk to the egg-mixture is no good.
 - keep one hand for dry ingredients, and one hand for wet ingredients - makes for less of a mess while coating the chicken.

Keeping these little tips in mind while breading my chicken has worked wonders! 

I pulled up Martha's recipe on my laptop in the kitchen, and ended up only peeking at it once while preparing the chicken yesterday for Sunday dinner. I used my own sure-fire recipe for the breading. It was very simple, and yielded the perfect dish of crunchy, gooey, bubbly chicken parmigiana. This goes really well with a fresh bed of pasta, or even a crisp side salad. Ryan said it was 'husband approved' halfway through the first bite.

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Chicken Parmigiana

Ingredients:
2 large thawed chicken breasts, trimmed and sliced horizontally
2 eggs, whisked
25 oz jar of your favorite marinara/pasta sauce, or homemade
thick mozzarella, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1/2 C Parmesan, shredded
1/2 C italian bread crumbs
1/2 C Panko bread crumbs
1 C flour
1/2 C EVOO
salt and pepper

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Prepare 3 separate bowls for the breading:
  - The first bowl should have the flour.
  - The second bowl should have the whisked eggs.
  - In the third bowl, combine the Parmesan, bread crumbs, and Panko.
3. Heat EVOO in large pan over medium-high heat.
4. When oil is warmed, with your clean hands (easiest) coat your chicken:
  - Coat chicken first in flour bowl until completely covered.
  - Then throw floured chicken in egg bowl until completely covered, and none of the dry flour is showing through.
  - Then coat your chicken in bread crumb mixture until completely covered.
  - Gently lay chicken in warm oil, and quickly repeat with the other chicken breast slices.
5. Cook until chicken is browned, about 3-5 minutes on each side.
6. While chicken is browning, pour marinara/pasta sauce into a large casserole dish (to be the bed for the chicken). Salt and pepper each side.
7. Remove the chicken from the pan, and lay in the baking dish right in the pasta sauce.
8. Top each chicken slice with a mozzarella slice. 
9. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until chicken reaches 165-170 degrees with a meat thermometer.
10. Turn broiler on high, and broil until cheese begins to show some color. Remove from oven.

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Recipe slightly based on MarthaStewart.com

9.12.2012

Roasted Corn Soup with Red Pepper and Tomato

Good heavens. With the temperature dipping below 50 this morning, I was very tempted to reheat a bowl of this beautiful soup for breakfast.

But seriously.

Soup is my nirvana in the Fall and Winter time. There's nothing more comforting in the kitchen (during this season) than a welcoming bowl of warm & fresh ingredients; accompanied by a little crusty bread for dunking, of course. Not convinced I'm obsessed with soup? Here's some new soups I've tried (and fallen head-over-heels for) since February:


This soup took a little more time than your usual toss-it-all-in-a-crock/soup-pot-and-call-it-good. The fresh vegetables require a little extra love, and believe me, every second was more than worth it. Before the soup simmers away, the flavors transcend to an all new beautiful high as you roast the crisp-fresh corn, richly delicious red peppers, and juicy tomatoes. I will be doing much more roasting with my vegetables before using them in a dish from now on. I can't even being to express what rustic depth it adds to the overall feel of the dish, and the extra-care you can taste in the meal as a whole.

Ryan loved this soup, but (surprise, surprise) said it needed some meat (you'd think he'd still have a meat hangover from this). He suggested lobster. Oh yes, dear husband, I'll just whip that right up and throw it in. :) I think this would go really well with some grilled cheese or any kind of crispy-warm panini.

I also added cilantro - a decision worth some serious high-fives all around.


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Roasted Corn Soup with Red Pepper and Tomato

Ingredients:
4 ripe, but firm, medium tomatoes
Raw kernels sliced from 6 ears fresh corn (about 3 cups)
2 red bell peppers
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 medium red onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 C low-sodium chicken broth
1 t chili powder
2 T salt
1 C heavy cream
1/4 C chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
sliced avocado for garnish

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Put the tomatoes in a lightly greased baking dish, and roast until skins darken/tomatoes are caramelized - about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. Keep oven on.
2. Spread corn in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast until edges begin to turn golden brown - about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, when tomatoes have cooled, peel off the skins and discard. Set the flesh, with juices, back inside baking dish. Remove corn from the oven.
3. Use your gas burners to blacken skins on your red bell peppers (about 10 minutes), -or- (if you don't have burners) place the peppers under the broiler and broil, turning as needed, until charred and blistered on all sides - about 15 minutes. Transfer peppers carefully to a paper bag and close tightly. Let stand for 15 minutes, then remove peppers from bag. Remove and discard skins, core, and seeds.
4. In a big soup pot, combine tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, yellow and red onions, garlic, and roasted corn (reserving a handful of the roasted corn for garnish). Add chicken broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-high and cool until vegetables are very tender - about 10 minutes.
5. Stir in chili powder and salt.
6. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth. If you don't have one, carefully blend the soup in a food processor or blender. Slowly drizzle in cream. Simmer for a couple minutes.
7. Serve into individual bowls and garnish with avocado slices, reserved roasted corn, and cilantro. Serve hot!

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Recipe adapted from: Williams-Sonoma, who were inspired by This is a Cookbook, by Max Sussman and Eli Sussman.

9.11.2012

Honey Butter Pork Tenderloin


I know it's good to stuff our fridges with health food, and eat our precious lady salads, but gosh dang it, sometimes I've just gotta have some meat.  And a lot of it. 

(well... in some form of moderation...)

Normally we don't buy expensive cuts (only one more year of law school/non-salary income...), so when I told Ryan I spent around $8-9 on this delicious morsel of pork tenderloin, he just about died. That's more than we'd spend on a special-occasion-Sunday dinner roast (maybe once a month at most). Then I pointed out that we only ate meat with one meal last week. Totally justified the meat-splurge this week, right?

I think I further convinced him it was a good choice when he saw me hovering over the oven, slowly spooning the honey butter juices from the pan over the beautifully delicious pork tenderloin as it deliciously roasted away. He gave me one of those looks, and I knew I had him in the palm of my hand. Meat/food is a one-way highway to this man's heart. 

The glaze of honey mixed with butter was pure bliss, and the pepper and cajun seasonings were just the tip of the iceberg to the ever-splendid gift of flavor pork tenderloin provides. It's perfectly moist, with deliciously rich bacon undertones. If we're going to go big with pork, tenderloin is our favorite way to go. The taste and texture are equally desirable.

... plus, the leftovers in sandwiches the next day really hit the spot.

 
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Honey Butter Pork Tenderloin

Ingredients: 
4 T butter
2 T honey
1 1/2 lbs pork tenderloin, trimmed
1 t Cajun seasoning
3/4 t black pepper
3/4 C water

Directions: 
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
2. In an ovenproof pot/pan, heat butter and honey over medium heat until melted.
3. Rub raw pork tenderloin with Cajun seasoning and black pepper. Brown each side in honey butter. Lower heat if honey begins to burn. 
4. Place pot/pan in oven and roast for 15-20 minutes (will depend on the size and thickness of pork tenderloin). Remove pot from oven (very very hot). 
5. Transfer pork tenderloin to a plate or cutting board and cover with aluminum foil. Let sit - always let your meat sit for a minute after cooking. 
6. Add water to pan/pot and stir over medium heat. Simmer for about 5 minutes until sauce is slightly reduced. 
6. Slice pork on a diagonal and drizzle with sauce before serving. 

Recipe adapted from: Momma Hen's Kitchen
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9.10.2012

Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Toasted Marshmallow Frosting

 
And the Fall-soaked recipes continue...   

 I was almost defeated by egg whites yesterday. I don't think I've ever been so annoyed by my own failure to read a recipe carefully, and ended up completely wasting 8 egg whites. EIGHT. I know they aren't the most pricey items to deal with - but it still felt like throwing quarters in the garbage when I wasted a batch.

You see, I read the recipe wrong, and added egg whites, sugar, AND vanilla together on the stove to heat before whipping them into marshmallow. I learned this was a huge mistake. The vanilla was supposed to be added after the said whipping. Rule: when you want to make fluffy egg whites into marshmallow (and fluffy egg whites in general) never ever ever add the vanilla before you whip the egg whites into stiff peaks. - 'Never ever ever' to be said T-Swift style. (And yes, I just said 'T-Swift'... must be hanging out with the youth lately.) No matter how much you pray and whine and curse about the mixture not fluffing up into beautiful peaks, it won't happen. Not in a million years. And adding powdered sugar doesn't help. Plus, we're pairing the marshmallow frosting with sweet potatoes. I don't think powdered sugar would go well with sweet potatoes. The first batched bombed. My sister-in-law suggested I make a 'Blondie Moments' section in my blog for when stuff like this happens (which is more often than I share, trust me) - this one would be a perfect addition. 

I ended up making the recipe over again - halving the ingredients (luckily I bought extra eggs this week at the grocery store, so I had about 4 left to use). I added the vanilla post-whipping, and it came out beautifully. And there was much rejoicing.

Speaking of sweet potatoes - they are amazing in cupcakes. My husband and I prepared the sweet potato puree for the cupcakes (from baked sweet potatoes), and were a wee-bit skeptical. But after sampling the batter (raw eggs and all...) it was absolutely delicious. It tasted like some kind of carrot cake + pumpkin cake fusion. I think next time we'll dare to add even more sweet potato (we only added about 17 oz).

These would be such a fun way to add sweet potatoes into your Fall meal (even Thanksgiving if you're already thinking that far ahead). The combination is so divine and I instantly became addicted to the toasted marshmallow frosting after tasting it.

Oh, that's right: toasted. Any chance I can get to use my kitchen torch - I'm takin' it.
Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Toasted Marshmallow Frosting

Ingredients:

cupcakes: 
2 C all-purpose flour
2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1 t ground cinnamon
16 T unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 C sugar
3 large eggs
17oz sweet potato puree
1/2 t vanilla extract

frosting:
8 large egg whites
2 C sugar
1/2 t cream of tartar
2 t vanilla extract

Directions:
1. To make cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with liners - this recipe makes about 24 cupcakes. 
2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Stir together with a fork and set aside. 
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. 
4. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. 
5. Mix in sweet potato puree and vanilla, just until incorporated. 
6. Reduce mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. 
7. Divide batter evenly between the prepared cupcake liners. Bake for about 18-20 minutes. Let cool in the pan for about 7 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 
8. To make frosting: combine egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the top of a double boiler. (Annie just set her clean, dry mixer bowl over simmering water, to avoid dirtying two bowls - just what I did. Good idea, Annie!)
9. Heat the mixture, whisking frequently, until it reaches 160 F on your thermometer. 
10. Transfer mixture to your electric mixer (new bowl, if you didn't heat it in your mixer bowl). Whisk starting at low and gradually increase speed to medium-high until stiff, glossy peaks form.
11. Mix in the vanilla until combined. Frost cooled cupcakes and brown with a kitchen torch. 

Recipe from: Annie's Eats - she adapted her recipe from Better Homes and Gardens and Lovin' from the Oven.

9.06.2012

Sesame Noodles with Peanut Sauce

Let's just be honest. I wasn't too thrilled to try out another peanut sauce recipe again. You see, a few months ago, I completely bombed a Thai dish in the kitchen. I didn't post about it on here because it was a complete and utter failure.

As in throw-it-straight-in-the-garbage failure.

Long story short, I ended up calling Ryan in tears and he brought home Cafe Rio for dinner. Ever since then, I've been avoiding peanut sauce recipes altogether.

Until now.

I love Mel's Kitchen Cafe. I can proudly say that whenever I've tried a recipe from her website, it has been 100% delicious 100% of the time. Her website is a goldmine. Serious kudos. I knew when I found her noodle recipe here, I could brave the peanut sauce once and for all.

It worked out perfectly! We couldn't get enough of this dish, and the manchild dove right in (minus the raw carrots). These noodles were so light, yet very filling. I got a little nervous while adding together the potpourri of ingredients for the sauce, but the blend of flavors was absolutely delightful and smelled incredible. It wasn't heavy at all, and the fresh carrots, scallions, and cilantro on top balanced out the texture very well. This recipe feeds about 6 people, so we were giddy fools having it the next day for lunch.

The original recipe calls for chicken - meat can get pricey at the grocery store for us, so we left it out altogether. In my opinion, it doesn't really need it - these noodles stood perfectly well on their own. We most certainly will be adding this dish into our regular meal rotation.

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Sesame Noodles with Peanut Sauce 

Ingredients:
1/4 C sesame seeds
1/2 C chunky peanut butter
2 medium cloves garlic
1 T minced fresh ginger
5 T soy sauce
2 T rice vinegar
1 t hot pepper sauce (we don't like things too spicy, so I only added a couple drops)
2 T packed light brown sugar
5 T hot water
12 oz dried spaghetti noodles
2 T toasted sesame oil
4 scallions, sliced thin on a diagonal
a handful of baby carrots, sliced
cilantro (optional)

Directions:
1. Toast sesame seeds in medium skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until golden - about 10 minutes.
2. Remove from heat and reserve 1 tablespoon sesame seeds in a small bowl.
3. In blender or food processor, puree remaining sesame seeds, peanut butter, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, hot sauce, and sugar until smooth, about 30 seconds.
4. With machine running, add hot water 1 tablespoon at a time until sauce has a thicker consistency. Set blender or food processor aside to sit.
5. Prepare spaghetti noodles - boil in a big pot of water (with a bit of salt) until al dente. Drain noodles.
6. Toss noodles with sesame oil until evenly coated.
7. Slowly add prepared sauce to noodles - if you like your noodles dry, use less. If you want them coated, add it all.
8. Add scallions, carrots, and a sprinkle of cilantro. Serve warm.

*if noodles become dry the next day, add in a T of hot water and they'll freshen right up.

Recipe from: Mel's Kitchen Cafe

9.05.2012

Pumpkin Spice Hot Chocolate

The season is changing right before our eyes.

Colorful overtones of Fall continue to tease as Summer fades gracefully into the background. I think it finally hit me that Autumn was here this morning. It was early, and I had grudgingly laced up my running shoes. I strapped on my Garmin and iPod (just started listening to These Is My Words). Usually I try to get out before the sun peeks over the mountain, but today I took my time. With a yawn, I opened the front door. Nothing could have prepared me for that cold rush of Autumn air - completely chilling my lungs in one breath. It wasn't the usual morning crispness. 

It was cold. 

As I headed down the road, I wished for that sun to rise faster to warm the air. Today was the first time since mid-March I thought about gloves and running tights; about corn mazes and tall boots; about the familiar smell of pumpkin carving, and the beautiful comfort of hot chocolate.

Fall, for me, has officially arrived.

Blog land has apparently caught the Autumn bug as well, and jumped right into our favorite recipes and flavors of the season. This recipe has been on my list for a while, and with my nose and ears red from the cold chill of the morning air, I decided it was time to pull out the pumpkin spice and whip up something warm in the kitchen. 

I can't even begin to describe such a heavenly mug filled with velvety hot chocolate, seasoned with the familiar spices of pumpkin pie, and dolloped with freshly whipped cream. Goodness, people.


Pumpkin Spice Hot Chocolate

Ingredients:
2 1/2 C milk (I used skim)
1/3 C hot cocoa mix
1/4 C canned pumpkin (not canned pumpkin pie)
1 1/2 t pumpkin pie spice (next time I'll use just 1 teaspoon)
1/2 t vanilla
pinch of salt
homemade whipped cream* (It's very easy and completely worth it. I promise.)

Directions:
1. In a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat, whisk together milk, hot cocoa mix, vanilla, and pinch of salt.
2. Add pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice.
3. Heat thoroughly, whisking as the temperature rises. When desired temperature is reached, pour into 3 small mugs (or two large ones), top with whipped cream and marshmallows. Sprinkle a bit of pumpkin pie spice for a little extra love.

Recipe from: Cookies and Cups 

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*Homemade Whipped Cream

 Ingredients:
1 C heavy cream
1 t vanilla extract
1/4 C confectioner's sugar

 Directions:
1. Chill whisk attachment and bowl in freezer for about 5 minutes.
2. In chilled bowl, whip cream until stiff peaks are just about to form.
3. Beat in vanilla and sugar until stiff peaks form. Don't over-mix.

9.04.2012

Lemon-Garlic Chicken with Creamed Corn

Have you ever seen a recipe and knew right away you were in love? I couldn't believe how simple, yet craving-inducing this little chicken recipe was. Plus, it was served over one of my favorites: creamed corn. As Summer winds down, corn is still at the forefront. I grew up on this stuff (my Grandparents had/have a huge garden in Mendon), and still remember my Grandma and Grandpa eating corn vigorously from left to right like speedy typewriters at the dinner table.

When I was a little girl, my Mom would serve corn all the time. She knew how much I loved cream corn, so sometimes she'd make a little saucepan of creamed corn just for me (even though she had 1 adult + 3 other kid's taste buds to satisfy at dinner time). It always made me feel extra special, and to this day I love creamed corn. However... I had never tried making it from scratch until last week. It's BEYOND easy! And tastes like heaven on a spoon.

I adjusted the recipe to use less chicken, and only drumsticks. Also, I used fresh corn on the cob instead of frozen corn. 

The milky-creamy texture of the prepared corn along with the zesty-almost-garlicy-spicy taste of the chicken drumsticks was enough to send me over the edge of reason. It was just too good. The smell of the chicken and whole garlic roasting in the oven made for such a perfect afternoon, and a surprisingly easy dinner to throw together.

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Lemon-Garlic Chicken with Creamed Corn (from the cob)

Ingredients:
2 T EVOO
5-6 skin-on chicken drumsticks
salt and pepper
3 T all-purpose flour
12 cloves garlic (about 1 head)
2 lemons (finely grated zest of one, juice of both)
2 T unsalted butter
4 ears of corn, shucked, hard ends removed
3/4 C whole milk
2 T chopped fresh chives

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. In a large pot, fill water about halfway, and place cobs of corn in water. Heat to a boil, put lid on pot, and remove from heat right away. Let sit with lid on until chicken is in the oven.
3. Heat EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) in a large nonstick ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.
4. Sprinkle chicken with 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper, and 2 tablespoons of flour.
5. Add to skillet and cook, turning, until slightly golden on all sides, about 5 minutes.
6. Add whole garlic, lemon zest and lemon juice, and turn the chicken to coat.
7. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast until chicken is golden brown and cooked through. Check it at around 15 minutes, but it should take about 20 minutes.
8. While your chicken is roasting in the oven, drain the corn on the cob and remove kernels.
9. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the corn and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and cook until corn softens (stirring occasionally), about 5 minutes.
10. Add in the remaining 1 tablespoon flour, then add milk and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring, until thickened, about 5 minutes.
11. Stir in chives and season with salt and pepper.
12. Divide chicken among the plates and drizzle with the pan juices - serve over creamed corn.

Recipe Adapted from: The Food Network Magazine, 2012 August Issue

9.03.2012

Thick French Toast with Homemade Fresh Strawberry Butter


 
I'm holding on to strawberries as long as I can! I adore strawberries, and we've tried to use them as much as possible this season. When I saw this recipe, I knew we had to save it for this Sunday.

When we got home from church, we were starving - and I couldn't wait to whip up a batch of breakfast-for-dinner to fill our bellies. Each week at some point, we have some kind of breakfast for dinner (usually in omelet form to clean out whatever meat and veggies we have leftover in the fridge, as well as use up our eggs). It's fast, easy, and always delicious.

I couldn't wait to try this recipe when I saw it on Pinterest a couple weeks ago. Fresh Strawberry Butter? What could be more dreamy on a thick warm slice of french toast? It was absolutely delicious. Although, I did change the recipe to use fresh strawberries instead of strawberry preserves. It was worth it! When I made the strawberry butter, I couldn't stop spreading it on the un-battered slices of french bread and eating it. It was so addicting. I ended up having to slice more bread to use for the actual french toast!

This strawberry butter could easily be used to dress up your typical pancakes, waffles, and any kind of breakfast pastry. I bet it would also go well using any other berries instead of strawberries (even though the fresh strawberries were so dreamy!) I've never made my own flavored butter before - after trying this recipe, the doors of possibility just flew right open.


Thick French Toast with Homemade Fresh Strawberry Butter

Ingredients:
1/2 loaf of french bread, sliced at an angle into 1-inch slices
3 eggs
a slash of whole milk
a drop of vanilla
a drop of almond extract
1 T cinnamon
6 large juicy strawberries (the riper the better), stems removed, sliced
1/2 C of unsalted butter, softened. Plus about a teaspoon for the griddle.
1/3 C powdered sugar
a few strawberries, sliced, for serving

Directions:
1. Prepare butter: in a mini-food processor, blend together butter, powdered sugar, and fresh strawberries. Remove strawberry butter from food processor into a separate small bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and keep cold in fridge until french toast is done.
2. Preheat griddle to about 350 degrees.
3. Prepare french toast batter: in a large, flat bowl (I usually use some kind of square tupperware), whisk together milk, eggs, extracts, and cinnamon.
4. Melt extra butter on griddle.
5. Dunk slices, one by one, in french toast batter (both sides), and lay on hot griddle, until all slices are on griddle (mine fit about 7ish slices).
6. When the side-down shows a bit of golden color, flip each slice to the other side (about a minute or two). Remove from grill when the other side is golden as well.
7. Serve with fresh strawberry slices and your homemade strawberry butter.

Strawberry Butter Recipe Adapted From: Landolakes

Want to try another one of my French Toast Recipes? Try my Peanut Butter Banana Stuffed French Toast