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.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Citrus Slush

Who doesn't love a good slush? I know I certainly do love a good slush. I know I also love a good fancy drink and this one is great for any special occasion you may be having. Brunches, wedding receptions, girls nights, baby/bridal showers, New Years, Christmas, every party for the rest of Emily's life. It reminds me of the million and one wedding receptions of my youth. When I tasted it, alongside our Christmas meal this year, I was sad I hadn't been tasting it every year, heck every day of my life, since then. Slush for everyone, every day!

Citrus Slush
{Recipe from the sisters cafe}

1/2 cup sugar
4 cups waters
12 oz frozen orange juice concentrate
6 oz. frozen lemonade concentrate
1 (48oz) can pineapple juice
4 mashed ripe bananas
1 bottle ginger ale

Bring sugar and water to a boil. Cool slightly. Combine cooled sugar water, concentrates, and bananas in blender until smooth. Mix blended concentrates with pineapple juice and freeze until solid. When ready to serve remove from freezer and let thaw a bit. Scrape or break up a bit, can use a potato masher to reach desired consistency. Place a generous amount in each glass and fill with ginger ale. Also can do the punch bowl method, mashed up slush in bowl with all the ginger ale poured over and ladle to serve. So good!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

THE Best Spinach Salad

The moment I took my first bite of this salad I knew it was meant to be in my life. It quickly reached top salad recipe status. My candy-making friend Ginger brought it to our ward christmas dinner. Thankfully I was sitting at her table and she told me it was hers. She said she served it at a family members wedding reception and so many people asked for the recipe that the bride just went ahead and sent out a copy with each of her thank you cards. Best story ever! And it really is that good.

The Best Spinach Salad
{a la Ginger D.}

1/2 cup oil (canola is good)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 t paprika
1 t dijon mustard
1/2 cup sugar

Mix together everything but oil. Then drizzle in oil while briskly whisking. Pour over salad, a little goes a long ways. You shouldn't need it all.

Bag of spinach
Carton of mixed greens
Crumbled feta cheese
Bacon crumbles (i used hormel, easier than making it yourself and tastes great)
Sliced almonds
Grapes tomatoes (halved if large)

Just eyeball amounts, use quantities to your liking.

DIE of Sheer Salad Bliss!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Perfect Potatoes Au Gratin

Everyone needs a basic potatoes au gratin recipe and it helps if it's also for the perfect potatoes au gratin and so here you go. THE perfect potatoes au gratin. Creamy, cheesy, decadent, a side dish that will hold it's own and quite possibly steal the show to boot. Go forth and make.

Perfect Potatoes Au Gratin
{Recipe from mels kitchen cafe}

1 1/4 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 1/4 grated monterey jack cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 t cornstarch
3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8-1/4 inch thick
salt and pepper
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chicken broth

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss cheeses and cornstarch together until evenly coated. In large 2-3 quart greased gratin baking dish (I used 9x13 and it was just fine), shingle 1/2 the potatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and 1 1/2 cups cheese mixture. Top with remaining potatoes, shingling them again and season with salt and pepper. Combine the cream and broth in large measuring cup and pour over the potatoes. Top with remaining cheese mixture and bake until golden brown and a fork inserted into the center slides in easily with little resistance, 75-85 minutes. Let potatoes cool 10 minutes and serve.

Serves 6-8 or more.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Maple Brown Sugar Ham {Crock Pot}

And now a recipe a day for the most pleasing meal one could hope for AKA Averett Christmas 2011 Meal run down...
Juicy, flavor-filled, super easy, delciousness that's what this is. Ham slow cooked in the perfect combination of pineapple juice, real maple syrup, and brown sugar. Nothing more.

Maple Brown Sugar Ham {Crock Pot}
Recipe by Mels Kitchen Cafe

6-8 pound ham (this can be bone-in or out spiral cut or not, any kind will work, but if using solid non spiral cut ham I suggest cutting into quarters so juices can touch as much meat as possible)
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
2 cups pineapple juice

Place ham in a large crock pot. Mix brown sugar, maple syrup, and pineapple juice and pour over ham. Cover and cook on low 4-5 hours. An hour before serving I recommend removing ham, cutting it into slices, and then back into crock pot to soak up those amazing juices. Slice and serve.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Spinach Cheese Strata

This was our yummy day after Christmas breakfast this year. My family came in that morning and so although we did have a delightful Christmas Day breakfast, we also had this and I think it won out of the 2. It's easy and straightforward to assemble and you're supposed to do it ahead of time, like the night before or early in the morning if having breakfast for dinner. I love a good make-ahead anything. But I did it about 2 hours before and it was still terrific, so whether you plan ahead or not this is going to fill you right up in the best way. I loved it all--the dense egg-baked right in bread, salty, melted cheese, healthy spinach, and my addition of sauteed grape tomatoes on top.

Spinach and Cheese Strata
{Slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen}

1 (10 oz) package frozen spinach, thawed, and squeezed of all excess liquid, then chopped
a generous couple handfuls of fresh chopped spinach cooked down in some olive oil, lightly salted

1 1/2 cups finely chopped onions (1 large)
3 T butter
1 t salt
1/2 t black pepper
1/4 t nutmeg
8 cups 1-inch cubed dense french or italian bread (1/2lb), I used a wheat french bread, it was good!
2 cups grated gruyere
1 cup finely grated parmesan
2 3/4 cups milk
9 large eggs
2 T dijon mustard
1/2 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, briefly sautéed in oil with a little salt and pepper

Saute onion in butter until soft. Add 1/2 t salt, 1/4 t pepper and nutmeg and cook for 1 minute. Stir in spinach, remove from heat and set aside.

Spread one third of bread cubes in a well-buttered 3 quart baking dish. Top with one third of bread cubes, 1/3 spinach mixture, and 1/3 of each cheese. Repeat layering twice.

Whisk eggs, milk, mustard, and remaining 1/2 t salt and 1/4 t pepper together in large bowl and pour evenly over strata. Top with sauteed tomatoes. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 8 hours or up to a day in advance.

When ready to bake, let stand at room temp for 30 minutes and then bake uncovered at 350 for 45-55 minutes. Should be golden, puffed, and cooked through. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Amply serves 6-8