Monday, May 28, 2012

Marshmallow Brownies

OhmygoshIlovedthesesomuch!  A fluffy marshmallow layer sandwiched between chocolate-y frosting and fudgy brownie studded with milk chocolate chips?  You've got to be kidding me!  Worth every darn calorie and then some.  If you want to rocky road them just add nuts to the brownies.  I kept it simple since I was taking them in to a family with several young children, and we all know how most kids are about nuts.  Personally I think nuts would send these into the stratosphere.  Such a keeper.

Marshmallow Brownies
{Recipe only slightly altered from The Sister Cafe}

1 cup butter
4 squares unsweetened chocolate
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups flour
2 t vanilla
1 cup walnuts or pecans (or in my case milk chocolate chips)
1 lb mini marshmallows

Melt butter and chocolate.  Remove from heat and add sugar, then one egg at a time, beating after each addition.  (I did this in the kitchenaid.)  Add salt, flour, vanilla, nuts and/or chocolate chips.  Mix well.  Bake in a 12x15 inch well-greased pan (I used my cookie sheet with sides) at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.  Remove from oven just long enough to sprinkle liberally with mini-marshmallows (you want the top to be all but covered with marshamallows).  Return to oven for 3-minutes until marshmallow are super soft, but not browned or crusty.  Gently press down on marshmallows to fill in any possible gaps.  Let cool completely then frost.

1/2 cup butter
4 squares unsweetened chocolate
1/3 cup milk, cream, evap. milk, or half-n-half
3-4 cups powdered sugar
1 t vanilla
dash of salt

In medium sauce pan, melt butter, chocolate, and milk product of choosing.  Stir powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt until smooth.  You want it runny enough to easily spread, but thick enough to set-up quickly and not pool.  (Think texas sheet cake, if you're familiar with that).  Pour over cooled brownies and spread as necessary.  Let frosting set and come to room temp before cutting.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Grilled Chicken Salad with Poppyseed Dressing

Salads are yummy and main dish salads are even yummier.  To be honest we ate this quite awhile ago, I've just been lazy with the cooking blog, but looking at it now that we're into full-on summer, I know how desperately I need to make it again.  Grilled chicken, toasted almonds, flavorful red onions, crispy bacon and the world's best poppyseed dressing make this a most satisfying warm weather meal.

Grilled Chicken Salad with Poppyseed Dressing
{Recipe from The Sister's Cafe}

Spinach leaves
Chopped romaine
Grilled chicken, seasoned with lots of lemon pepper (or your fave marinated grilled chicken)
Red onion, thinly sliced
Crispy crumbled bacon
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Toasted (in oven) or sugared almonds-about equal amounts sugar and sliced almonds cooked in skillet over medium heat until sugar melts and almonds are well-coated and golden.

Poppyseed Dressing:
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 t salt
2 t dry mustard
2/3 cup red wine vinegar
3 T sweet onion, chopped or grated
2 cups canola oil 
3 T poppy seeds

Mix first 5 ingredients in blender, then slowly add the oil, blending until thick.  Stir in poppy seeds.  This makes quite a bit of dressing.  And I like to add a couple drops of red food coloring to get that pinkish hue.

Mix all salad components together, there are no "amounts", just add however much you would like of each item.  Can either dress salad and serve or serve dressing on the side.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

South of the Border Open-Face Sandwiches

We are big fans of toasty sandwiches so naturally we were big fans of these.  Fresh tomatoes and avocado, roasted turkey, mexican spiced sandwich spread, and melted cheese = yummy.  I was a little leery of "cooked" avocados but it totally worked.  I'm so looking forward to the leftovers for lunch today!  Also these would be an easy way to feed a crowd and quickly.

South of the Border Sandwiches
{recipe originally from the Lion House}

1 loaf french bread, 1/2-3/4 inch slices
1/2 cup olives, chopped (i omitted these)
1/2 t chili powder
1/2 t ground cumin
1/4 t salt
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup mayonaise
1/3 cup lite sour cream
1/3 cup green onions, chopped
1 lb sliced turkey
2-3 tomatoes, sliced
2 ripe avocados, sliced
3/4 cup colby jack cheese, grated
3/4 cup monterey jack cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350 and arrange bread slices on a cookie sheet or 2.

In a small bowl, mix seasonings with mayo, sour cream, green onions, and chopped olives (if using).  Liberally spread a tablespoon or so of mixture on each slice of bread.  Top with 2 or so slices of turkey, 2 slices of tomato, and some avocado.  Sprinkle each sandwich with the grated cheeses.

Bake in oven 15 minutes, until cheese is melted and sandwich is warmed through.  Serve!  (8ish servings)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Cashew Chicken Lettuce Wraps

One of our favorite dishes at PF Chang's is the lettuce wraps.  They are so flavorful and refreshing, we can never get enough of them.  This homemade and entirely different recipe is just as flavorful and refreshing.  We all (kids most definitely included) scarfed them down and then wished there were more.  What I loved most about these was how simple they were to prepare, there's really only about 4 main ingredients and chances are you probably have most of them on hand.  I'm sure there far more than that in a PF Chang's knock-off.  Which means this version is a totally doable last minute week-night meal.  Perfect, fast, and healthy for busy summer nights.  Enjoy!

Cashew Chicken Lettuce Wraps
{Adapted Recipe from She Wears Many Hats. com}

For stir fry sauce:  (which I doubled and didn't regret one bit)
2 T soy sauce
1 T rice vinegar
1 T brown sugar
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1/4 t ground ginger (fresh would work well also-maybe 2 teaspoons worth?)
1 t sesame oil (I'm not a huge fan of sesame oil, so I only do a couple drops)

For Cashew Chicken:
2 chicken breasts, diced
3 T veggie oil
1 cup onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t soy sauce
1/4 cup cashews, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1/4-1/2 cup water chestnuts, diced
optional: shredded cabbage
Several leaves of greenleaf (our pick) or iceburg lettuce

For sauce:  Mix all ingredients making sure to dissolve brown sugar.  Set aside.

For cashew chicken:
Heat oil in pan over med-high heat.  Add diced chicken and brown (4-5 minutes).  Remove chicken from oil.  Add onions, garlic, 1 t soy sauce to pan (and shredded cabbage if using); brown.  When mixture is brown and tender, add stir fry sauce, browned chicken, cashews, and water chestnuts.  Saute a few minutes.  To serve:  Spoon chicken mixture onto individual lettuce leaves, may add some hot sauce (sririachi), more cashews, and maybe even some cilantro is desired.  Roll up and eat--kind of messy, definitely awkward, but oh so worth it!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Caramel Banana Pecan Muffins

Yet another muffin recipe to share today.  This one might not look like anything to write home about but it most certainly is.  It starts with a banana and cream cheese laced batter then adds crunchy pecans, banana slices, and (hoo-boy!) caramel bits.  Sprinkle it all with some cinnamon sugar, bake it up, and voila--muffin-induced coma.  Yes please!
Caramel Banana Pecan Muffins
{recipe source:}

1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 T sugar
1 t cinnamon

1 3oz package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 medium very ripe banana, peeled and mashed (approx. 1/2 cup)
1 t vanilla
1 1/4 cup flour
3/4 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t kosher salt
Kraft caramel bits (found mine at wal-mart by the choco chips. etc.)

1 medium ripe banana, peeled and thinly sliced
1 T butter melted

Line 12 cup muffin tine with liners.  Spray with cooking spray.  In small bowl combine chopped pecans, 2 T sugar, and 1 t cinnamon.  Set aside.

In mixer, beat cream cheese, butter, and 2/3 cup sugar until creamy. Add the egg and mix to combine.  Beat in mashed banana and vanilla just until combined.

In another bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add flour mixture to bowl/wet mixture one spoonful at a time while mixer is stirring on low just until combined.  Stir in 1/4 cup of the pecan mixture.

Spoon about a Tablespoon of the batter into each muffin cup.  Sprinkle on some caramel bits and a slice or 2 of banana.  Spoon another Tablespoon of batter on top.  Mix remaining pecan mixture and 1 T of melted butter together.  Sprinkle some over each muffin cup.

Bake at 375 for 15-18 minutes.  Cool in pan for a few minutes before removing.  (Can add a caramel drizzle to each baked muffin if you want.)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Rustic Rosemary Bread (a la Macaroni Grill)

Anyone who's had the pleasure of dining at Macaroni Grill has had the experience of this bread. They bring the hot fragrant loaves straight from the oven to your table endlessly. Imagine my delight when I realized how easy it was to recreate at home! Yeast breads can be a bit daunting, but for the most part I would consider this a fool-proof recipe.
Chock full of rosemary, chewy soft on the inside and buttery brown on the outside, the only way to top that is to tear off a piece and dip it in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and cracked black pepper. Serving it on the side of this dish makes my life complete.

Rustic Rosemary Bread
{Recipe from Mels Kitchen Cafe}

1 T instant yeast or 1 1/2 T active dry yeast
1 T sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 3/4-3 1/2 cups flour (I was good at 3 1/4 cups)
1 1/2 t kosher salt
1 1/2 T dried rosemary, chopped
1/2 t garlic powder
2 T butter, melted
coarse salt for sprinkling (kosher or sea salt)

Combine yeast, sugar, and warm water in the bowl of mixer. Let stand 5 minutes. With paddle attachment on low, add salt and 2 cups of flour. Mix for 2 minutes. Add dried rosemary and mix. Add remaining flour, a little at a time, until a soft dough that clears the sides of the bowl is formed. The dough should be a little tacky while still being smooth and soft. Knead dough using dough hook for another 4-5 minutes. You may add a little extra flour as needed during this time.

Allow dough to raise in a lightly greased and covered bowl until doubled in size, between 1-2 hours (mine was ready at 1). Once doubled, gently deflate the dough and divide into 2 equal parts. Shape each dough ball into a round loaf and place on a silpat lined baking sheet, side by side with plenty of room in between. Using a brush, slather the 2 T of melted butter equally over each loaf. Continue brushing until butter is gone, the loaves will be saturated. Cover the loaves with lightly greased plastic wrap and allow to rise until nearly doubled again, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Carefully remove plastic wrap from loaves and sprinkle each loaf with a little bit of coarse salt. Bake loaves for 14-20 minutes until browned and baked through. Remove from baking sheet and serve warm with a mixture of equal parts extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar and some fresh ground black pepper for dipping. We like to just tear chunks off our loaf to dip, but you could always slice it.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Chicken Scallopine

Question: Have you discovered the amazingness of capers in your life? If you have you will automatically love this meal and if you haven't this, in my humble opinion, is the best dish to expand your horizons. Capers are delightful little flavor bombs. A little salty, a little pickle-y, and downright wonderful. Add to them golden crispy chicken, tender noodles, a little cream, a little garlic, and a lot of lemon and you have easily one my top 10 meals. Food is a glorious thing is it not?

Chicken Scallopine
{Based on a Pioneer Woman recipe}

4 chicken breasts, cut in half and pounded thin
Garlic Pepper
Black Pepper
Olive oil

1 cup chicken broth (or white wine)
1/2 cup cream
1 cup sliced mushrooms (optional-you'll see I didn't have any on hand in the above picture, but they are yummy)
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 generous T capers with a little of their juice
1/2 a lemon+, juiced
salt and pepper to taste

hot cooked linguine noodles
freshly grated parmesan cheese

Note: the above amounts are rough guesses, I generally just throw things together and taste as I go until it's how we like it. good luck with that!

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Get noodles going.

In large heavy skillet over med-high heat, heat a few Tablespoons of olive oil. After chicken is halved and pounded thin generously season both sides with garlic pepper and fresh ground pepper. Lightly dredge each piece in flour and brown in pan. You want a nice golden crust, so don't move the chicken around once it's placed in the skillet. Leave it alone for 3-4 minutes and then turn over for the same amount of time. Place browned chicken cutlets in a baking dish and pop uncovered in the oven to finish cooking through while moving onto the sauce.

Splash a little chicken broth into browning skillet to start the deglazing process and stop the little bits from burning. If needed add a little more olive oil and then quickly cook garlic (approx 30 seconds) until fragrant, being careful not to burn. (If using mushrooms, now's the time to saute those for a couple minutes). Add remaining chicken broth and scrape the pan to loosen up any bits. Add cream, capers, and lemon juice. Let cook down for a few minutes. Add salt and pepper, taste and adjust adding more seasoning or lemon juice or capers until it's flavored to your liking.

Once noodles are cooked and sauce is ready, remove chicken cutlets from the oven. Plate some noodles, top with 1 or 2 chicken cutlets, spoon some sauce over, and sprinkle grated parmesan over all. Take one bite and die of bliss!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Peanut Butter Cup Brownie Bites

We all know chocolate and peanut butter were made for each other. So naturally when I saw this recipe with it's bite-size cuteness and delicious peanut butter chip and chocolate chip topping made all the better by using an easy boxed brownie mix, well I just had to make it. These would make a fun addition to any dessert buffet: enticing, mini-sized for more eating pleasure, and again--peanut butter and chocolate...need I say more?

Peanut Butter Cup Brownie Bites
{Recipe source: via pinterest}

1 box of your favorite brownie mix (and ingredients to make it)
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 heaping T powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Spray or grease 40 mini-muffin cups.

Prepare boxed brownie mix as directed. Spoon batter evenly into muffin cups (3/4 full-slightly less than 1 T I found). Bake 11-13 minutes until top is set and toothpick inserted in center comes out slightly wet. Once removed if centers don't naturally fall (and chances are even if they do) gently press the back of a teaspoon into center of each brownie to create an indentation for all that peanut butter goodness.

Place peanut butter and powdered sugar into microwave safe bowl. Melt on high for 45 seconds and stir until smooth. While brownies are still warm spoon a teaspoons worth of melted peanut butter into each brownie indentation. Stop with a few each of chocolate chips and peanut butter chips. Cool completely in pan.

Note: I had a smidge of brownie batter left over and baked it off in a super thin layer in an 8x8 pan. Cooking time was minimal 12 minutes or so. If you find yourself with leftover batter you could either do what I did or make a few more minis I suppose.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Thanksgiving Stuffing

A stuffing recipe in April? I know, it's just not right. But I've had a frozen turkey sitting in a cooler on my very frozen porch all winter and since things are finally, finally, warming up it was time to use it or lose it. I opted to use it and made a much simplified thanksgiving like meal a couple sundays ago. What was not simplified, though, was this stuffing. And by simplified I mean lacking flavor or pizzaz!

I've taken parts and pieces that I love from a few different recipes and successfully (or so I'd like to think) combined them into one amazing dish. So when your next thanksgiving meal is in the works, don't forget this stuffing. The ingredients are basic, the seasoning is spot on, and with a few make ahead steps to ease the busyness of that particular meals prep--even if your turkey burns or rolls don't rise, at least you'll know you've got the stuffing in the bag! Happy Half-Thanksgiving. Sort of.

Emily's Thanksgiving Stuffing

1 loaf of crusty french bread
1/2 loaf sourdough
1 stick butter
4 stalks of celery, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 apple, cored and chopped
1 t salt
1/2 t black pepper
1 1/2 t poultry seasoning
1/2 t rosemary
1 t thyme
1 small package sliced almonds
1 can cream of chicken soup
1-2 cups chicken broth
2 large eggs
optional: sliced cremini mushrooms

Begin by cutting and cubing the 2 different breads into 1 inch cubes. Spread the cubes out onto a cookie sheet and place in 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes. They need to be dry and lightly golden. Set aside. In heavy sauce pan melt stick of butter. Add celery, onion, apple, sliced mushrooms (if using), and all seasonings. Cook until celery and onion are sufficiently softened, approx. 7 minutes. Place bread cubes into large mixing bowl. Pour butter/vegetable mixture over cubes and stir. Add sliced almonds. In separate bowl mix cream of chicken soup, eggs, and start with 1 cup of chicken broth. Pour over bread mixture and toss. Gradually add more chicken broth until the stuffing is wetted to your liking. I use the full 2 cups and sometimes more. We like a wet, but not soggy stuffing. Pour entire mixture into a greased 9x13 baking dish and cover with foil. Bake in oven preheated to 375 for 20 minutes, then uncover and bake 10-15 minutes more until golden and puffy.

Make Ahead Tips:
Cube and oven dry bread 1-2 days in advance. Store uncovered in a large bowl on counter. You want it to stay dry so do not cover! Chop and saute veggie mixture a day in advance and store cooled in fridge. On bake day rewarm/melt buttered veggies on stove, assemble remaining ingredients per directions and bake.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Basic German Pancake

I have vivid memories of childhood sleepovers at my friend down the street Teresa's mom making this very thing for us come breakfast time. And after a night of playing chinese jumprope non-stop for hours ;0) it was a welcome sight! This was not something we ate at my house and so it was made all the more desirable because I only got to taste of it's goodness every once in a great while.

Enter my adult-life and I realize "Hey, I can make this whenever I want!" and so continues our love story with the delectable German Pancake. Crispy around the edges, soft and buttery in the middle, puffy and best straight from the oven. We all gather round to see what the creation will look like this time. The kids love it just as much as I do. It's a 15 minutes start to finish make and bake time. Easy to a dress up with sauteed apples/cinnamon and the like too. So simple, quick, delicious, and guaranteed you have all the ingredients on hand right now to make it today. Perfect for breakfast any day of the week or even a no-brainer breakfast for dinner, (which is exactly how we have it most often, including this past sunday night!)
Basic German Pancake

1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
6 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1/2 t salt

Turn oven on to 450 degrees. Place stick of butter in a 9x13 glass baking dish. Place dish in oven while it preheats so that the butter melts and the dish is hot before adding pancake batter. Be sure and keep an eye on the butter so that it doesn't burn before reaching temp. (It's OK if it browns a bit though.)

Meanwhile in blender crack 6 eggs, add milk, flour, and salt. Blend on high until well combined. Turning off to scrape down sides as needed and remix.

When batter is mixed and oven is hot with butter melted, carefully pour batter into hot baking dish and bake for 6-10 minutes until golden and puffed. Watch your oven carefully, the recipe I have says 15 minutes of bake time, but mine was definitely done by 6 minutes.

Also, be sure your oven rack is in the middle to lower part of the oven with nothing above it. The pancake puffs up pretty high and I've had the lovely experience of it touching the top element and burning or touching the rack above it and not looking very attractive.

Serve immediately sprinkled with powdered sugar and drizzled with your favorite syrup (this recipe is particularly divine), fresh fruit, whatever takes your fancy.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Simple Chicken Tortilla Salad a (a la Bajio's/Cafe Rio)

This chicken!!!! Oh MY! Wonderful, sweet, flavorful, crock pot made, addicting chicken! We love cafe rio and/or bajio's along with the rest of the world (or at least the ut, az, id world), but alas we do not live any of those places, so we have to make do at home or do without. I choose "make do". And I call my version "simple" because I didn't make the rice or beans that normally accompany a cafe rio/bajio salad, therefore creating what is in my opinion a realistic weeknight meal. Don't get me wrong though, those rice and beans are amazing--just too much work for me during the week.

And did I mention the chicken yet?! It could be used in so very many ways: burritos, tacos, nachos, enchiladas, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. For our purposes I chose the salad route. Which meant I had to make my own cafe rio knock-off creamy tomatillo dressing. It yields about 2 cups and I'll just say 2 solid cups of dressing was gone in 2 days. Enough said.

I wouldn't call this a bone fide replica, but it is a darn good alternative! I promise you should really make it.

Simple Chicken Tortilla Salad
{Chicken recipe from Six Sisters Stuff .com}

For chicken:
4 chicken breasts
1/2 cup salsa
1 T cumin
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 4 oz can diced green chilies
6 oz can sprite
Optional: red pepper flakes (1/4 t?)

Combine all ingredients in a crock pot. Cook on low 5-6 hours. Remove chicken and shred. Replace shredded chicken back in crock pot and cook 1 more hour. (Optional: thicken juices with a little cornstarch mixed in water-I didn't do this.) Serve however you want, but for salad follow remaining directions below. (Good freezable options: ziploc & freeze)

Cafe Rio-ish Dressing (Creamy Tomatillo Cilantro Ranch):
1 packet traditional hidden valley ranch mix-not buttermilk
1 cup mayonaise
1 cup buttermilk
2-3 tomatillos, husked, rinsed, diced
1/2 bunch of cilantro, give or take
2 cloves garlic, minced
juice of 1 lime
1 jalapeno, finely minced (may or may not choose to remove seeds)

Mix all ingredients together in blender. Simple as that. I recommend doing this awhile before it's needed to allow flavors to meld together in fridge.

Remaining Salad Ingredient Options:
Shredded romaine lettuce
Grape tomatoes, halved
Black beans, drained and rinsed
Avocado, pitted and chunked
Tortillas, either homemade or purchased raw and cooked at home. I find mine in the refrigerated section of my grocery store by the cheese, fresh pastas, etc. (Note: I don't think regular tortillas are a good candidate for this salad. Maybe if you're going the soft taco, enchilada, burrito route with the chicken, but not the salad.)

To assemble complete salad, cook tortillas. Place one tortilla on plate. Top with chicken, lettuce, other toppings and pour on that amazing dressing! Stuff your face.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Orange Poppyseed Muffins

I should just start a weekly feature with new muffin recipes. Muffin Monday's anyone? I can't help myself and so I think I'll just have to stop apologizing for the lack of food diversity as of late and simply say there will most likely be plenty more where these came from. Orange. Poppyseed. with glaze. sold. Delightful, essence of spring, drippy sweet, warm muffin. Please make. Done.

Orange Poppyseed Muffins
{recipe from via pinterest}

2/3 cup granulated sugar
zest and juice of 1 orange
2 cups flour
2 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
3/4 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 t vanilla
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 T poppy seeds

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 T fresh squeezed orange juice
2 T melted butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 12 cup muffin pan or line with paper cups.

Melt butter and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, zest the orange and add granulated sugar. Using your hands, run the orange zest and sugar together until well blended and fragrant. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and poppy seeds. Mix until well blended.

In a separate bowl whisk together sour cream, eggs, vanilla, orange juice, and melted butter until well blended. Pour liquid mixture over the dry ingredients. Gently stir to combine. Do not over mix, a few lumps are fine.

Spoon into muffin tins. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-18 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center of center muffin comes out clean.

While muffins are baking, make the glaze by whisking together the powdered sugar, 3 T orange juice, and melted butter until smooth.

Remove muffins from the pan, place on a cooling rack with a cookie sheet beneath to catch extra glaze. Allow to cool a few minutes before drizzling glaze over muffins.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Fruit Rainbow

So here's the thing. I know this is not a recipe. It's an idea and it's a cute one so I'm sharing it. We're on spring break this week and it's been lovely. We've been doing one fun thing each day and boy has it helped the week be dreamy and frankly gone too soon. One of our fun things was to have lunch and play with several friends at another family's house. This was our contribution to the day and most of the fruit was gone in a jiffy and (no surprise) the rolos were gone, gone, gone in a flash. Seeing as how it's St Patty's Day on saturday a rainbow of fruit with a bowl of chocolate gold seems appropriate. Thank you pinterest for a festive, healthy, holiday treat!

Fruit Rainbow

In order from outside-in:
oranges (mandarin or fresh navel sectioned)
pineapple (fresh or canned)
kiwi (or green grapes)
blueberries (i didn't use these this time)
red grapes
optional: mini marshmallows for cloud like shape at opposite end of rainbow or white colored fruit dip for similar effect

Arrange fruit starting with strawberries and working your way in creating a rainbow shape. Simple as pie!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Simple Baked French Toast

Isn't french toast the best? I think so. And a make ahead baked french toast is, in this case, even better. This was simple and quick to throw together with typical on hand ingredients. I loved the chunks rather than slices of bread. And it was wonderful to just toss it in the oven instead of standing over a griddle and painstakingly dipping and frying each individual piece. The subtle maple cinnamon flavor in each bite and crispy on the outside soft on the inside texture make this a breakfast/brunch/breakfast-for-dinner keeper in our house.

Simple Baked French Toast
{recipe from Annie's Eats}

1 loaf of french bread
4 eggs (or 5 depending on loaf size)
1 cup half and half
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 t cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
1 T vanilla extract

Cut loaf of bread into small 1 inch cubes. Mix remaining ingredients together. Grease a 9x13 baking dish. Spread out bread cubes in pan. Pour egg mixture evenly over bread cubes. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375. Uncover french toast and place in oven. Bake 25-30 minutes, until puffed and golden, crispy on top.

Serve with syrup(s), fresh fruit, dusted with powdered sugar--whatever floats your french toast loving boat!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Grasshopper Cake Mix Cookies

Oh My Lanta were these goooood. Mint and chocolate were just made for each other. As much as I've tried to be good in the treat department, I could not say no to these addicting little bites. A chewy cake mix cookie base (oh the ease!), followed by fluffy refreshingly minty frosting, and topped off with milk chocolate ganache and I'm sold. Be sure to check your will power at the door and give yourself permission to enjoy every single bite down to the last crumb. A true winner and keeper of a recipe.

Grasshopper Cake Mix Cookies
{Recipe from Six Sisters Stuff . com}

Cookie Base:
1 devil's food cake mix
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs

Mix all ingredients in mixer. Drop spoonfuls of dough onto baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 6-9 minutes (I found mine to be right around the 7 1/2 min. range). Do not overcook, you want them to be chewy once cooled, so take them out when you still think they're underdone. They will continue to cook on the cookie sheet and firm up as they cool.

Peppermint Frosting:
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 T milk
2+ cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 t peppermint extract
Green food coloring

Whip together butter, sugar, milk, and peppermint extract. Add more sugar or milk depending on desired consistency. Mix in about 8 drops of green food coloring and generously frost tops of each cooled cookie.

Chocolate Ganache: (My version)
Milk chocolate chips (about a cup?)
Couple tablespoons of heavy cream

Melt chips and cream together in microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring each time until chocolate is fully melted and blended with cream. Spread a spoonful of ganache on top of each mint frosted cookie and ideally (read: if you can actually make yourself wait that long) let chocolate set-up before eating.

OR Chocolate Topping: (from Original Recipe)
2 1/4 cups semi sweet chips
3/4 cups butter

Melt together chips and butter in microwave, stir until smooth. Top each frosted cookie with some of the melted chocolate.

Yields: 2 dozen more or less

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins

I am on a serious muffin jag lately. Almost every single muffin recipe I come across makes my mouth water with anticipation. I think I like to trick myself into believing they're somehow a healthy alternative to other baked treats. And perhaps they are (or aren't), but nonetheless I can't stop craving them and making them! I suppose there are worse things?
Now these have got to be of the healthy variety...they're chock full of whole wheat flour and studded with juicy sweet apples. Whatever else they may or may not be, they are most certainly delicious. "MMmmMMMmmmmmmm"uffins!

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins
{Recipe source: king arthur flour via adapted by muah-I opted to use all whole wheat flour instead of half wheat/half white}

2 cups whole wheat flour (or half white/half wheat)
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1 T cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed and divided
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk or yogurt
2 large apples, peeled, cored, and rough chopped

Preheat oven to 450. Line 18 muffin cups with liners, sprayed with cooking spray.

Mix together flour(s), baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, set aside. Cream together butter, granulated sugar, and 1/4 cup of packed brown sugar until fluffy. Add the egg and mix well, stopping once to scrape down sides of bowl. Mix in buttermilk, gently. Stir in dry ingredients and fold in the apple chunks.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin tins, sprinkling with remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar. Bake for 10 minutes at 450, then turn heat down to 400 and bake an additional 5-10 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool muffins for 5 minutes in tin, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Zuppa Toscana

Did you know that every day in Alaska is soup day? It's true! Our cold, extra long winters mean endless soup days ;0) Yummy. This zuppa toscana has made it's way to the top of our list. It. Is. Good. And for the most part healthy-ish (?). I mean it has kale in it and that's like super DUPER healthy. Dark green leafy healthy. And of course the potatoes, ham, and cream don't hurt things either.

Zuppa Toscana
{Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod}

1 large white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T olive oil
Red pepper flakes to taste
(Optional bacon here too, about 4 slices will do ya)
8 cups chicken broth
1 cup cream (or half & half)
3 large russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
3 cups kale, washed and roughly chopped
1+ cup diced ham
Salt and Pepper to taste

In large soup pot heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and red pepper flakes (to taste) and saute until onions soften a bit. Then add garlic and continue to cook until fragrant. (If opting to use bacon, skip the olive oil and instead cook the diced bacon until crispy, set aside and add onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes to the bacon grease to saute.) Add chicken broth and potatoes to onion mixture. Simmer until potatoes are softened, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile get some color on your ham by browning in a separate skillet for a few minutes over med-high heat. Then add kale, ham, and cream to soup; simmer for 5- 10 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (If using, add bacon just before serving or on individual servings, no one likes soggy bacon right?!)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Double Chocolate Muffins

Why stop at single chocolate when you can go double chocolate? We reeealllly liked these. They're obviously closer to a dessert than a breakfast item and that's what we used them for: snacks and after dinner dessert. I opted to sub in some whole wheat flour in a half-hearted effort to wholesome them up, and although it was probably a lost cause health-wise, I really liked the extra texture it added. And by leaving some of the white flour, they still retained an overall light and tender consistency. I think all whole wheat, for a more dense muffin, would work wonderfully as well. Perhaps working in some applesauce in place of the some of the oil would also be a decent alternative.
Totally worth the splurge and my brain would like to think they're still better than a cupcake, so there.

Double Chocolate Muffins
{Slightly adapted from Mels Kitchen Cafe. Makes 24 regular size muffins}

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cup white flour
3/4 cup baking cocoa
1 1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
3 eggs
1 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk (Come to think of it I may have accidentally left this out-and shockingly they were fine! How funny!)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 t vanilla
1 cup milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 and line 2 12-spot muffin tins with cupcake liners, each sprayed lightly with cooking spray.

Combine dry ingredients in mixing bowl and then add chocolate chips and toss. In bowl of stand mixer combine all wet ingredients. When mixed well pour all dry ingredients in at once and mix briefly on low. You don't want to over-mix muffins, so it's OK if the wet and dry ingredients don't look as combined as you think they should. Stop just short of your mixed comfort level!

Scoop batter into prepared muffin tins-1/2 to 2/3rds full. Bake at 325 for 16-22 minutes. (The original recipe says 16-18, I checked at both 16 and 18 and still kept them in 2-4 minutes longer). They're done when a toothpick test comes out with a few moist crumbs. Remove tins from oven and cool on wire rack. I think they're best at almost room temp, when the chocolate chips are just starting to harden again.

Keep leftovers in an airtight container on counter for up to 2 days.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Tropical Green Smoothie

I've come late in the game to the whole green smoothie fad. (I seem to come late to a lot of things: pinterest, avocados, mushrooms, running, school pick-up the list goes on) But at least I have come and I dare say no one would challenge that I've embraced it whole-heartedly, think kale, spinach, flax seed, wheat germ, groats and the like. Better late than never then? And after a dozen misses in the kitchen lately (yummy keepers of meatless meals are hard to come by, man or things that were scrumptious but we ate them instead of photographing them so we'll have to catch them next time around), sprinkled with a couple cookie failures (really?) smoothies and snacks are about the only things we're getting right around here. But as the baby and I gulped this one down, I realized "hey this is actually worth sharing"!

This smoothie is full of sweet tropically goodness and spinach. I used to be afraid of the green and masked it with blueberries and pomegranate juice and still do because that's a tasty combo, but now I also say embrace the green! Let all that healthy, leafy green goodness stare you in the face. So here you go, a kitchen success. Now if I could just gets my hands on a vitamix...

Tropical Green Smoothie
{Lightly adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod-as an aside: I think some coconut in this would be tasty and while I used canned pineapple as it was what I had on hand, fresh pineapple would be even better}

1 cup vanilla almond milk
1 cup pineapple (canned or fresh-if canned may want to add some of the pineapple juice)
1 cup frozen mango
1 banana
2 cups fresh spinach
1/2 cup crushed ice

Not exactly rocket science here-blend up all the non-frozen items till smooth, then add the frozen (mangos and ice) till smooth again. Drink immediately.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Chicken Salad-My Way

Now we all know there are a million and one recipes for chicken salad out there. And each of us would probably like to think we have the tried and true. So I'm not going to claim mine is the best, but I will say that's it's pretty darn tasty. And it's reasonably quick with just a few ingredients so it's doable for weeknights and lunches not just fancy showers and the like. If you're looking to mix things up a bit or if you really don't have a favorite family heirloom recipe of your own, I can definitely recommend mine in good faith. Plus as you'll see it's open to interpretation. A great basic down home blend.

Chicken Salad
{Makes enough for 8+ regular size sandwiches or several smaller, and it's easily doubled and beyond}

2 chicken breasts
2 stalks of celery, rough chopped
1/2 onion, rough chopped
3/4 to 1 cup miracle whip
1-2 t pure maple syrup
1/4 t + curry powder
Seasoning salt and black pepper to taste
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 hard boiled eggs, finely chopped
1/2 cup or more red grapes, halved
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
Optional (if you want to get super fancy): crushed pineapple, minced red pepper, finely grated carrots-(the last 2 would do well to be mixed up in the processor with the onion and celery)

Hard rolls or croissants for serving

Cook chicken however you'd like. I simmer mine in chicken broth and water till shred-dable. (30 minutes to 1 hour). Place cooked chicken in food processor and pulse a few times to remove any large pieces, you can make it as fine or chunky as your palette prefers. We like ours on the fine side. Place into separate large bowl. Add rough chopped onion and celery and pulse till fine. Add to chicken. Mix in miracle whip, maple syrup, curry powder (to taste), seasoned salt and black pepper. Add juice of 1/2 lemon, grapes, walnuts, and hard boiled egg. Once everything is well combined, taste and adjust seasonings. I usually end up adding more syrup, curry powder, and lemon juice. Serve on cut rolls or croissants. May be made up to a day in advance. Keeps well covered in fridge for 2-3 days.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Restaurant Style Blender Salsa {in 5 Minutes!}

A new found love, this salsa has been made and rapidly consumed by us no less than 5 times in the past 2 months. It literally takes all of 5 minutes and is remarkably fresh tasting despite the use of canned tomatoes. The fresh onion, jalapeno, cilantro, and lime juice all help with that. I have zero desire to use store bought salsa from a jar now that we've tried this. And although it doesn't keep nearly as long as jarred salsa (through infinity and beyond?!), it does stay fresh in a screw top container in the fridge for a good week or more. Perfect for healthier snacking and semi-homemade condiment using. Enjoy!

Restaurant Style Blender Salsa
{Recipe only slightly adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks!}

1 can (28oz) whole tomatoes with juices
2 cans (10 oz each) Rotel tomatoes (diced tomatoes and green chilies)
1/2 onion, chopped (we prefer white, but seem to only ever have yellow on hand)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 to 1 whole jalapeno quartered & thinly sliced (may scrape out seeds for heat control)
1/4 t sugar
1/4 t + kosher salt
1/4 t ground cumin
1/2 cup + cilantro, coarse chopped
1/2 to 1 whole lime, juiced (to taste-we tend to like more)

This makes a very large batch as in barely fits in my blender. We usually do it in 2 batches and then mix it all together. A large food processor is recommended, that way everything doesn't get completely pulverized, but alas we don't have that option so the blender it is-and it tastes great regardless.

Combine first 8 ingredients (through cumin) in large processor or blender and blend until well combined. If using blender try to be minimal here, perhaps having everything basically finely diced to begin with (not tomatoes or course though) would help? Add lime juice and cilantro just till combined. Taste and adjust. Serve with tortilla chips or whatever your mexican food loving heart desires. If you can, make it ahead at least an hour so that flavors can meld together. But straight outta the blender ain't bad either!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Snack Time: 2 Ingredient Fruit Dip

This is really more of an idea than an actual recipe. I've had be sure to have 4 servings of fruit each day this week and while that's never a problem for me--it is yummy sweet fruit after all--it's nice to mix it up a bit. Most fruit dips I've come across are tasty and wonderful because of a sugary something and you betcha I'm a fan of that. But in consciously watching my sugar consumption I've had to think outside the box a bit. I found this idea on pinterest and we're already a houseful of fans. 2 ingredients: vanilla yogurt, peanut butter, and voila you're done. I've yet to try almond butter in any form, but might need to add it to the grocery list and see how well it takes the place of peanut butter sometime. Snack time has reached new and healthier heights, yay!

Peanut Butter Fruit Dip

Fruit of choice-apples seem to the obvious what with the peanut butter and all
2 parts vanilla yogurt (we go greek) to 1 part smooth peanut butter (or almond butter?)

Basically I just plop 2 heaping spoonfuls of yogurt and 1 heaping spoonful of peanut butter in a small bowl and stir to combine. Serve with fruit of choice. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Healthy Chocolate Banana Smoothie {The drink that's saving my bacon right now}

So remember how I mentioned that we're on a mission to be healthier? {AKA Operation: Lose the Donut around my midsection by not eating Donuts?) Ya so that's meant a rigorous (and yes it has felt rigorous to me) crackdown on sugar consumption-and a bunch of other things but those don't really pertain to this post. What does pertain though is the 6 days a week of no sugar (including honey), 1 day a week of blessed sugar. You should see my pinterest account, FULL of amazing baked treats that I'm somehow able to avoid actually baking. Go me! Anyhow, a life without chocolate and treats would be a depressing life indeed. So naturally I had to find a healthy alternative and I really think I have with this one.

It's cocoa powder, bananas, almond milk, and ice with an optional shot of cream and dash of vanilla. It's been a wondrous revelation. Sweetened by the bananas, no sugar needed. (Could even be vegan if you forgo the cream) Now I'm not gonna lie and tell you that it's just as good as a scoop of chocolate ice cream whizzed up in the blender, but you know it's almost as good and some might argue better since it's actually healthy. And you don't feel disgusting after eating it. It's truly saved my bacon these past weeks. Let it save yours too. (or just eat an extra cookie for me ;0)

Chocolate Banana Smoothie

2 ripe bananas
1/2 cup almond milk
1 T cocoa powder
Crushed ice (1/2 a cup or so)
Optional: 1 t vanilla & 1 T whipping cream-not as healthy but really good all the same!

Place everything but ice in blender and process till smooth. Add crushed ice and blend till smooth. Serve immediately.

Note: The above amounts are definite guesstimations. Really I just throw it all in there and taste/observe as I go. And it's easily doubled/tripled. Our family is hooked so we need lots to go around.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Multigrain Bread

This my friends is our new favorite homemade bread recipe. It's wholesome and healthy, chock full of the goodness of 7 grain hot cereal, wheat flour, and a touch of sweetness. It's hardy and makes superb toast and sandwiches. And although it's a double raise special with an hour of letting the cereal soften before you really get started, it's not fussy and so far has turned out consistently great results for me. And I'm no yeast bread pro! Definitely worth the effort and perfect for a cold winter's day indoor project.

Multigrain Bread
{Recipe from Our Best Bites. Makes 2 loaves}

1 1/4 cups seven-grain HOT cereal mix (make sure it's marked "hot", I found my in the bulk organic section)
2 1/2 cups boiling water
3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
NOTE: I opted to use all wheat flour, a combo of white wheat and regular whole
1/4 cup honey
4 T butter, melted and cooled a bit
2 1/2 t instant or rapid-rise yeast (I think active dry would work fine, if you find yourself without instant)
Slightly less than a full Tablespoon kosher salt
Optional: 3/4 cup unsalted pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats

Place cereal in the bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle and pour boiling water over it. Let stand, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour. Should resemble thick porridge. Mix flours together in a separate bowl.

Once grain mixture is ready, add honey, butter, and yeast. Mix on low until combined. Add 2 cups of mixed flour and mix for 2 minutes. Remove paddle and attach dough hook. Add remaining flour a 1/2 cup at a time until dough is tacky but not sticky. I found that I used all the flour every time. Cover bowl rightly with plastic wrap and let dough rest for 20 minutes. Add salt and knead on med-low for another 5-7 minutes. Add seeds (if using) and knead another 20 seconds. Knead by hand (5 or so turns) into a smooth round ball. Place in lightly greased bowl (i reuse the mixer bowl), cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

Grease 2 loaf pans. Transfer dough to lightly sprayed surface. Divide in half (I cut mine). Shape each chunk of dough into a loaf shape. Place in greased bread pan and spray lightly with cooking spray. Gently press a generous amount of rolled oats on top of each loaf. Cover lightly and let raise 40 minutes.

30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375. Bake until loaves register 200 degrees on a thermometer placed in the middle of one loaf, about 35-40 minutes. Transfer pans to wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Removed loaves from pans and continue to cool on wire rack. Slice and serve. Store in bread bags. Baked loaves may be wrapped well and frozen.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Grilled Cheese & Guacamole Sandwich

I know I'm pretty much out of commission with any sort of regular posting, I hope to improve. But it's still dark come dinner time and my pictures that time of day are in a word: unappetizing. Plus I'm focusing on more healthy eating with far less meat at the moment and trying to find my way in that recipe world is proving somewhat challenging as far as things I'm excited to share. It's all pretty good, just not amazing-you know?!
Oh my lands was this tasty. Such a revelation. I spent a good portion of my life thinking I didn't like avocados and then bam! one day that changed and now I'm pretty much out of control avocado all the time. Naturally not liking avocados meant I also didn't like guacamole. I'm so happy to live in the world with the stuff now. And then you take that wonderful and divine guacamole (personally the recipe for that alone is the best I've tried to date) and you pair it with with melted sharp (has to be sharp!) cheddar and toasty sourdough and you see skies of blue and all that jazz. This was simple, it was healthy (yes I think cheese and bread are healthy-wholesome may be a better word?), it was quick, and aside from my husband and I inhaling it both my children ate it and asked for more. I think that's saying something. I mean how many children ask for avocados? Make them this sandwich and they definitely will. We paired it with this soup. Oh yum-perfection!

Grilled Cheese & Guacamole Sandwich

2 ripe avocados
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small jalapeno, seeded and finely minced
2 T cilantro leaves, finely chopped
1 T fresh lime juice
1/2 t kosher salt
Fresh grated black pepper
1 roma tomato, chopped

Sliced sharp cheddar cheese
Sliced sourdough bread
Softened butter, for buttering bread

To make the guacamole: Cut avocados in half. Remove pit. Scoop out avocado and place in bowl. Use a fork to mash. Add onion, garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper. Stir until well combined. Taste and adjust. Add in diced tomatoes and stir. (Tip: I did all of the above in my food processor.)

Heat pan or griddle to medium heat. Spread one side of one slice of bread evenly with butter. Place butter side down in heated pan. Place a single layer of cheese on top and then spread a generous spoonful of guacamole over that. Add another layer of cheese and top with another slice of bread. Butter that side that's facing up. Toast until golden, flip over and do the same. When cheese is melter and bread is toasty, remove and continue process until desired number of sandwiches has been made. Serve warm.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Stromboli & 5 Minute Marinara Sauce

This meal is right up my family's alley. We like to dip, we like bread, we like cheese, and we like easy. The stromboli is made with rhodes bread dough, but you could easily use your own bread dough and it would be divine. For ease of prep though, you can't beat rhodes. The filling can be tailored to your likes, we chose ham and pastrami. Next time I think some spinach would be terrific. And for a vegetarian version a combination of onions, mushrooms, spinach, and peppers would be yummy. So versatile.

The marinara literally comes together in 5 minutes and it is gooood. Perfect for dipping and I'd imagine great over noodles. Can't beat that! A delicious meal that will be gracing our table often.

I also happen to think this would be a yummy and easy to transport take-in meal. Just add a veggie or salad and plenty of the dipping sauce and they'll definitely thank you!

{Note: I made 2 of for our family of 4 and we had enough for some nice leftovers, 1 wouldn't have seemed like quite enough for us.}

1 loaf of rhodes bread dough (not rolls)
4+ slices pastrami (or hard salami)
1/2 cup diced ham
4+ slices provolone cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella (as always I recommend grating your own)
1/4 t oregano
1/4 t basil
Olive oil for brushing
Water for sealing dough if needed
Cornmeal for dusting

Let bread dough thaw on counter, not raise just thaw completely. Once thawed, stretch and roll into a good size rectangle. It's pretty finicky, but just keep at it. Lay pastrami slices down the middle, longways, of dough leaving a little bit of uncovered dough on either end. Sprinkle diced ham on top. Sprinkle with oregano and basil. Layer on provolone slices and sprinkle with mozzarella. Fold one half of dough over and then the other half (it's like folding a piece of paper into thirds with the middle third holding the filling-if that makes sense?!) and seal with water if needed. I used a fork to seal the seam and both ends. Flip over and place on cookie sheet lined with silpat. Brush with olive oil and dust lightly with cornmeal. Place in preheating 375 degree oven for 20-22 minutes, until golden. Let stand 5 minutes before slicing into 1-2 inch thick slices. Serve with marinara sauce.

5 Minute Marinara Sauce

2 T olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t red pepper flakes
1 T tomato paste
1 28-32oz can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp italian seasoning
salt and pepper

Add olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes to pot. Cook briefly over medium-high heat, don't let garlic burn. Add 1 T tomato paste and stir. Add crushed tomatoes and italian seasoning. Season with salt and pepper to taste and let simmer for 5 minutes. Done!

Both recipes from The Sister's

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Easy Vegetarian Chili

Excuse the "going back for seconds" mess around the bowl. But I suppose it says something that this chili was worthy of seconds. I'm trying to cut some of the meat out of our diet and have been looking around for some decent meatless meal options and lo and behold turns out chili is a great no meat candidate, what with the loads of hearty beans and veggies that can take its place. I really loved this meal and all the many leftovers too, you could easily get a few meals out of it and I'm sure it would freeze just fine. Also, it came together pretty quickly, so nice not to have to stir a pot all day. Serve it with plenty of cheese, sour cream, even some chopped tomatoes and green onions would be a great addition. Hearty and filling and we didn't even miss the meat.

Easy Vegetarian Chili
{Recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod}

1 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 yellow pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno, diced and seed removed
3 15 oz cans diced tomatoes
2 15 oz cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 15 oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups beef broth (or water with 4-5 beef bouillon cubes)
1 1/2 T cumin
2 T chili powder
salt and pepper, to taste

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until light brown, about 2-3 minutes. Add carrot, celery, peppers, and jalpeno. Cook for five minutes, or until veggies are soft.

Stir in diced tomatoes with their juice, rinsed beans, and water or broth. Season with cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. Stir and let chili simmer for 30 minutes. Stir frequently so it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. Serve hot with cheese, sour cream, diced tomatoes, and green onions if desired.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Thin Crust Cheese Pizza

Wowsers, this was such a great recipe! I'm a huge thin-crust pizza fan, but have yet to find a good at-home thin crust pizza dough recipe, until now.

I loved that you can make this dough up to 3 days ahead of time and that it freezes beautifully. The one potentially tricky thing is that you do need to make it at least 24 hours ahead of time. So it's not a same day recipe, but if you plan your menus for the week or know a day or 2 in advance of when you're making it, it's really quick to throw together and stick in the fridge and then get on with your planned dinner for that day. The idea behind the long and refrigerated rise time (plus the use of ice water as opposed to warm water), is that the less quickly it raises and the more minimal the volume of rising that occurs the thinner the crust will be. It works!

Now normally I like a lot of stuff on my pizza, plenty to entertain my palette. But when I saw the picture of this plain cheese pizza on Annie's Eats, I knew I just wanted pure, unadulterated cheese pizza. No frills. And it delivered! So satisfying despite the lack of toppings (although it would be a great candidate for any toppings one might hope for). And the pizza sauce was fantastic too. We ate it twice in a week's time!
Thin Crust Cheese Pizza
{Recipe from Annie's Eats. Do plan ahead as the dough needs to raise at least 24 hours and as much as 3 days. Dough Yield's 2-13 inch pizzas, Sauce-plenty for up to 4 pizzas and it's freezer friendly just like the dough, yay!}

3 cups bread flour
2 t sugar
1/2 t instant yeast
1 1/3 cups ICE water
1 T veggie oil
1 1/2 salt

1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes, drained
1 T olive oil
1 t red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 t salt
1 t oregano
1/4 t ground black pepper

Topping: (Note: In this instance it's better to grate your own cheese fresh, no pre-grated. It will melt way better)
Olive oil, for brushing
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded whole-milk mozzarella (the softer the better, I usually go for the ball of mozz. as opposed to the brick)

To make the dough, combine flour, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of a food processor*. Pulse just to combine. With machine running, add the ice water through the feed tube and process just until dough is combined and all dry ingredients incorporated, about 10 seconds. Let dough rest for 10 minutes.

Add oil and salt to the dough. Process until the dough forms a smooth, tacky ball that clears the sides of the bowl, 30-60 seconds. Remove from the bowl and knead for about 1 minute on a lightly oiled work surface. Transfer to lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge for at 24 hours and up to 3 days. (If planning to freeze, after the initial 24 hours at least of refrigeration time is the time to do this--note to follow)

To make the sauce, combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Blend briefly till smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use. (Leftover sauce may be frozen for later use)

One hour before baking the pizza, remove dough from fridge and divide in half. (This is the time to wrap and freeze dough for another time. Just wrap in plastic wrap and place in freezer bag for later) Form each half into a ball and place on lightly oiled baking sheet, spray dough balls with cooking spray, cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit at room temp for 1 hour.

To assemble pizza, place pizza stone or sheet on second highest rack position in oven. Preheat oven to 500. Transfer dough ball to a well floured work surface. Flatten into an 8 inch disk. Using hands or rolling pin gently stretch and roll into a 12-inch circle. Transfer to a well-floured and large cutting board (something that will be easy to slide the made pizza off of and onto the hot pizza stone waiting in the oven). Lightly brush all around the outer edge with olive oil. Spread 1/2 cup + pizza sauce over dough. Sprinkle evenly with grated parmesan and shredded mozzarella cheeses. Carefully transfer to the preheated baking stone or sheet. Bake until the cheese is bubbling and slightly browned, 10-12 minutes. Let cool 3-5 minutes before slicing and serving.

*A stand mixer may be used, just keep in mind the idea is to avoid warming the dough so it will be thin after baking.