Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Baked Ravioli

I stopped by Whole Foods tonight, thinking I would pickup something easy for dinner, since the husband was out on a night mountain bike ride. I had heard good things about Whole Foods jarred pasta sauce, and I had some mozzarella at home, so I decided a baked ravioli would be pretty good. I picked up some sauce and Whole Foods whole wheat spinach & cheese ravioli and headed home to find some basic instructions on how long to bake this. I'm kind of in shock at how easy this recipe was to make. I just threw in the layers and baked for a 1/2 hour, the amount of work was so minimal. I think next time, I'll make sure I have enough shredded mozzarella. I was pretty lazy and when I ran out of the preshredded mozzarella, I just layed slices on top for the last 5 minutes of baking time instead of grating it. I think this meal could be a lot better with minimal work (adding onions, garlic and turkey sausage would be great), but as it was, it was pretty darn good for the work to taste ratio.

Baked Ravioli (loosely based on allrecipes)
1 package frozen raviolis
1 jar pasta sauce
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 Tbs grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp dried oregano
Layer 1/3 pasta sauce, 1/2 ravioli, 1/3 pasta sauce, spices, 1/2 mozzarella cheese, 1/2 ravioli, 1/4 mozzarella cheese & parmigiano (in that order, bottom to top) in a 13x9 baking dish. Bake, covered with foil for 30 minutes. Uncover and top with remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Bake for 5 minutes more until just starting to brown. Makes 6 servings.

Mom's Famous Cherry Pie

My mother-in-law makes fantastic pie. We fly back to Michigan for Christmas every year, and every year, my husband has been giddy over the fact that Mom's homemade cherry pie will be waiting for him. When I first started making pie for my family on behalf of my husband, I made a cherry just to make my husband happy, but we both knew that opening a couple cans of cherry pie filling and dumping into Pillsbury Pie crust just wasn't cutting it. This year was the year that I made Mom's Homemade Cherry Pie, and I think I did pretty good, considering that I had to write down the recipe on the back of an envelope as Mom quickly read me the recipe. This recipe isn't as easy as it sounds. I had a hard time measuring out the cherries (although that was more from forgetting than difficulty), the roux got a little lumpy, since there is a lot of flour to a small amount of butter, and I think we may have thrown away my almond extract (I know we didn't use it all!). All in all, however, I think I did a pretty good job with this one. I may never make my own crusts, since that little doughboy does them so well, but at least I can make homemade filling for all my pies now!

Mom's Cherry Pie
1 recipe double pie crust (I used Pillsbury)
1 Tbs butter
1/4 cup All Purpose Flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup cherry juice
1 cup sugar
3 cups canned tart cherries (in the canned fruit section, not pie section)
4 drops almond extract
10 drops red food coloring
Melt butter and add flour, stirring quickly. Add juice, sugar and salt and whisk quickly. Cook and stir until bubbly. Cook and stir for one minute more. Add food coloring and almond extract, then add cherries. Pour into pie crust in 9" pie pan. Cut top crust into 1/2 inch strips. Starting in the middle, lay out crust strips in a criss-cross pattern, folding alternating pieces in half to allow pattern to form (you can do an internet search to see how this is done). Crimp ends of top crust to bottom crust, trim any extras, and shape into a pretty pattern if desired. Bake for 45-50 minutes at 375 or until golden, loosly covering with foil or pie protectors when the edges get brown.

Pecan Pie Cookies

It is the holiday season, and I'm usually in charge of desserts for my family. My family is not really into pies, and the husband and I joke that he nearly had to break it all off with me when we were driving the (back then) 10 minute drive to my parents for Thanksgiving and he asked what kind of pies we would be having. I told him "We're not really a pie family" and he about had me turn the car around. We thankfully survived that catastrophe and I now bake pies every year for Thanksgiving. This year, I decided to also make these Pecan Pie Cookies for my daddy. When my mom was still alive, I remember her making a full size chocolate pie for the entire family, and then making a little itty bitty pecan pie for Daddy, since he is the only one who liked pecans. I thought these cookies would be in that same spirit, so I baked up a batch. Other than my oven running a little hot, these cookies turned out great. I would strongly advise, however, that everyone use a silpat or at least parchment on their baking sheet. The filling will inevitably run off the cookie a little, and this stuff turns into sticky hard candy when it is heated! My dad, my sister's boyfriend, and the bike shop boys all seemed to love these, even the darker ones from when I was still experimenting with the oven. These are a great Thanksgiving treat!
Pecan Pie Cookies (from Elizabeth's Edible Experience)
Cookie Ingredients:
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 butter, softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Filling Ingredients:
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
Heat oven to 350°F. Combine all cookie ingredients except flour and baking powder in large bowl. Beat at medium speed until creamy. Reduce speed to low; add flour and baking powder. Beat until well mixed. (I had better luck with chilled dough, you might want to chill at this point) Shape dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. Make indentation in each cookie with thumb; rotate thumb to hollow out slightly. Combine all filling ingredients in small bowl. Fill each cookie with 1 rounded teaspoon filling. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets.

Roasted Cauliflower Cheese Soup

Immediately following my Vegas girls weekend (no blog post on that, what happens in Vegas....), I returned to an empty house. The husband had to go on yet another business trip, this time up to Morgan Hill for a Specialized Bicycles training course on how to fit riders to their bicycles. As usual when my husband is out of town, I took this opportunity to make meals that I knew he wouldn't like. This is one of them, since he hates cauliflower. I loved this soup and it really gave me confidence that I can make delicious soups at home and don't need to just wait until we go out so I can order soups. Of course, when I described my dinner to the husband during our nightly phone call, husband was acting like he was going to be sick! I'm looking forward to making this again when he leaves for his next trip!
Roasted Cauliflower Cheese Soup (by me!)
2 cups cauliflower florets
2 cloves garlic
2 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs Butter
1 Tbs Flour
1 cup chicken stock (separated)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup cheddar cheese
salt & pepper to taste
Toss cauliflower with garlic and oil in a large ziploc bag. Roast in a shallow pan for about 25-30 minutes (until tender). Meanwhile, melt butter in large saucepan. Add flour and cook for about a minute. Add 3/4 cup of the chicken stock and stir to create a thick sauce. Puree cauliflower with about 1/4 cup chicken stock in blender or food processor (I used the Magic Bullet). Add to saucepan. Stir well to combine. Add cream and stir. Add cheese and stir well until melted. Season with salt & pepper and serve very warm. Makes 4 small servings, 2 large servings.

San Francisco - 6 year anniversary trip

The husband and I really enjoy taking the stress out of each anniversary. Instead of getting gifts for each other, we go on a mini-vacation every year on our anniversary. No cards, no flowers, just time to ourselves in a fun location. Since our anniversary is in November, this could be tricky with weather, but in 6 years, we have had pretty good luck as far as this is concerned. For our sixth anniversary this year, we went to San Francisco. I know many Bay Area visitors like to tread off the beaten path and do different things than the traditional. We decided to REALLY live up the touristy life. We stayed in the Fisherman's Wharf area (at the Holiday Inn), and although it was a little noisy, it was a great location for us considering the activities we wanted to get in. We have spent some time in San Francisco before, but it has been very limited (once for a visit to my husband's grandparents, who no longer live in the area, and once for, of course, a bike race). Since we had seen the famous seals at Pier 39, we stuck to the back side, which was more peaceful, and checked out the boats as the sun set before eating dinner.

We ate dinner at a restaurant that we lovingly refer to as having the best clam chowder ever. Fog Harbor Restaurant at Pier 39 is where we ate 4 years ago after a bike race that left the boys starving. By the time we had fought traffic, found parking and eventually found a restaurant, we were ALL starving and ate at the first restaurant we found. The clam chowder tasted spectacular, and we've always wondered whether it was because we were so hungry or the soup was really that good. I'm happy to report that we really enjoyed the soup! My sea bass was pretty good, but husbands Ahi dish was spectacular. I think I just need to realize that I have to order Ahi wherever I go. It is so good.
The next day, we had an all day tour (through City Sightseeing) booked for Muir Woods in the morning and wine tasting in the afternoon. Unfortunately, it rained for the entire morning, so Muir Woods was a little chilly and I didn't get very many pictures in an attempt to protect the camera. The pictures I did get were awesome. I highly recommend this National Park, and it is so close to the city, I'm surprised more people don't go here. We trounced around for quite a while getting soaked, but there was something very peaceful and romantic about doing this visit in the rain. I'm sure the park would have been much more crowded if the weather was better.
After catching a bite to eat in Sausalito (we ate at a dive restaurant called "Seven Seas," and the service was comically bad!), we hopped on the afternoon bus to wine country. We stopped at a small winery called Homewood first. We're glad this one was first, because while the wines weren't all that great, the taster was hilarious and drunk (he drank with each group, and we were the fifth of the day), so it relaxed our group and helped us to get to know each other. Homewood only distributes out of the winery - they have no website, and they don't distribute to stores or restaurants.

Next up was Viansa, which I had been to before with one of the other Platinum Cycling wives while our husbands were preriding on our last visit. I really like this winery. Although they are huge, they have a lot of food to sample in addition to their wines, and I think they did a good job making their location interesting and beautiful. We bought 3 bottles of wine, 2 bottles of Pinot Noir and 1 bottle of an Italian white varietal called Arneis, which is light and crisp. Unfortunately, the taster included two bottles of Syrah instead of the Pinot. The husband was so upset and was getting very worked up about this mistake, so I made a couple of phone calls to get the bottles replaced before we left on Sunday. Viansa was so helpful and not only shipped us the two bottles of Pinot, they asked us to "Find a good home for the Syrah." We also really liked the Syrah, so that wasn't a problem for us!

The last winery was Jacuzzi, a very new winery by the owners of Kline. Mr. Kline married into the Jacuzzi family (yes, really, the hot tub people) and thought it would be cute to create a winery that paid homage to that history. We bought two bottles here - A red called Barbera and a dessert - a late harvest Aleatico. The great thing about this Sonoma wine tasting experience was that two of the three wineries we went two had Italian varietal focuses, which we don't have as much in the Santa Barbara wine country, so it made it extra special. We also appreciated not needing to drive; since we are from Santa Barbara, we know how dangerous tasting and driving can be. We ate dinner this night at Cioppino's on the wharf. Recommended by our concierge, but not recommended by us. This seemed to be a standard case of recommending a restaurant that gives the hotel coupons, even if they aren't good. Oh well.

The next day, we hopped on the first morning boat to Alcatraz. We could have stayed here for hours longer. We're really into that kind of history and architecture. The cruise over has great views. There isn't much to say about Alcatraz except - you need to go. Even those folks who don't like the traditional touristy things in San Francisco recommend this one. It is really cool.

After Alcatraz, we walked all the way down to the Ferry Building Marketplace. I could have spent a long time there, but by this time, the husband was starving and frightened by "The foodies - They're EVERYWHERE!" He was not a fan of this humungous mall of food. A normal mall has the Gap and Macy's; Ferry Building has a caviar store, a mushroom store, and our favorite: "The house of smoked pork products." I'm really glad I went there, even if we didn't stay long. We returned to our hotel via old fashioned street car. It was only a couple of bucks and was money well spent! After we rested for a bit, we headed over to Ghirardeli Square, where we enjoyed a delicious hot fudge sundae at the Ghirardeli store (there is not a factory here anymore, just a store and a mall of non-chocolate stores). I also bought a couple of Kara's Cupcakes, since I've heard good things about them. We ate those when we got home, we were pretty full by this point! After Ghirardelli, we decided to hike off some calories by walking up to the top of the famous section of Lombard St. What a workout! No need to run stadiums if you live in this city, just walking the streets is quite the burn if you are walking in the right directions! We walked down and then headed out to dinner at a place recommended by the Kara's Cupcakes clerk called Pompei's Grotto. The food here was quite good and I appreciated the "whole food" nature of the entree I had (Fish, roasted potatoes, and sauteed veggies). The service, again, was comically bad. The husband and I giggled throughout the meal at our server, who seemed to genuinely dislike people.

Sunday morning we had the pleasure of eating at Mama's on Washington Square, a recommendation from my sister-in-law. The restaurant opens at 8:00 to a large line. The staff is on their game and knows how to turn this line very quickly. We were about 30-40 people in when we arrived at 8:00 exactly. You get a good look at the kitchen operations just prior to ordering, and it was fascinating to see this diner (which I usually think of as dive operations) running as a fine kitchen would be run, with Soux Chefs and everything. As I said, the staff is really on their game. The restaurant specialty is French Toast, and they make it with fresh homemade quick breads such as Banana Nut and Cranberry Orange bread. The husband had the french toast sampler and I had the Cinnamon Swirl Chocolate French Toast with fresh berries. So amazing I almost forgot to take pictures. I promise the presentation is better than this! The best part of this restaurant was the friendliness of both the patrons and the servers. We found out that our server had not only lived in Santa Barbara previously, but she was originally from Kalamazoo, Michigan, which is where my husband went to college. We about fell over! Nearly all the customers were cheerful, sharing tips on what to order next time, and chatty. It was what a local breakfast joint should be, and it was surprisingly, the best restaurant of our trip. After this, we were well fueled for the long drive home!

This is a long post, but I figure since I was so busy in November (only home for one weekend!), I would make these posts a little longer than usual!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pizza Pasta

I have been in the mood for casseroles lately, probably because the weather is slowly cooling off a bit (although we have still had days in the 80s in the last week!). This pasta casserole that I found from Lemons & Love looked really great, so I bought all our favorite pizza toppings and whipped this up. The husband was rather skeptical beforehand, but really, really liked this dish. He was rather impressed with how much pizza flavor the dish had. I brought my leftovers into work and picked out all the mushrooms (I tried to make half with, half without the shrooms, but some got into my side), and my boss ate all the mushrooms. He too, commented on how pizza-like the flavor was. This was a fun one to make that I'm sure I will be repeating, but not in the middle of the bike season: it isn't very good for you, as it has a lot of cheese! I'm excited to try this with some of our other favorite toppings.

Pizza Pasta
1/2 lb short pasta (I used whole wheat macaroni)
1 jar pasta sauce (I used about 3/4 jar of Ragu, since I needed to use an opened jar)
1 cup mozzerella cheese, grated
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Your favorite pizza toppings:
I used - 1/2 lb mild Italian turkey sausage
1 green bell pepper, roughly chopped
1/2 pack mushrooms, sliced thin
about 20 or so sliced pepperoni, cut in half
1 Tbs fresh chopped oregano (or 1 tsp dried)
Preheat oven to 350. Cook pasta according to package directions, undercooking by about 2 minutes. Meanwhile, remove turkey sausage from casings and saute in skillet, breaking up into small pieces and cooking until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Drain if needed. Add remaining veggies (bell pepper and mushrooms) and cook until just softened (I did these separately to keep the mushrooms from contaminating the good stuff, ha!). Add pepperoni and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add pasta sauce, oregano and cooked "toppings" to pasta and mix to combine well. Pour 1/2 the pasta mixture into a 13x9 casserole dish. If you are attempting a "1/2 & 1/2" style pizza, place toppings separately at this stage on 1/2 of the mixture, reserving one or two as markers for the top so that you know which side is which. Top with about 3/4 cup of mozzerella cheese, then top with the rest of the pasta mixture, then the rest of the mozzerella and parmesan. Bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted & bubbly. Allow to cool before serving. Makes about 6 servings.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Delicious Chicken Parmesan

Chicken Parmesan is a pretty trusty dish. You can go into a suspicious "italian" restaurant and usually be okay ordering Chicken Parmesan. I often forget how easy and how much tastier this recipe can be when it is made at home. I don't make it very often, since it is not all that healthy and tends to spatter up my stove pretty bad, but wow, this is delicious! I know you can make this in the oven, but we eat a lot of breaded & baked chicken, so if we're going to do chicken parm, we usually do this the old fashioned pan fried way. I think this might be our Valentine's Day dinner in 2010, it was that good!

Chicken Parmesan (my recipe, inspired by a million Italian-American Restaurants)
Two boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 6 oz each) pounded to about 1/2 inch thick
1/4 cup flour
1 egg
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
3 Tbs Canola Oil (I used Olive Oil this time, but Canola is better in this application)
1 cup spaghetti sauce (jarred or homemade, I used Ragu)
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp each dry basil, oregano and italian seasoning
1/2 cup grated mozzerella cheese
Mix bread crumbs and parmigiano cheese in a shallow dish. Place flour and scrambled egg in their own shallow dishes. Dredge both sides of chicken in flour, shaking very well to remove excess. Dip both sides in egg, then dredge in bread crumb mixture. Heat oil in frying pan until shimmery hot, then add chicken. Pan fry about 3-5 minutes per side until chicken is cooked through and crust is deep golden brown. Remove to paper towels and pat until most oil is removed. Pour oil out of pan and blot with a paper towel to remove most oil while leaving the browned bits in the pan. Add spaghetti sauce and scrape with a wooden spoon to pull up the browned bits into the sauce. Add pepper flakes and herbs and stir well to incorporate. Cook until just bubbly, then add the chicken back in, turning once to coat in sauce. Top each breast with about a 1/4 cup mozzerella cheese, reduce heat to low and cover, simmering until the cheese has just melted. Serve with hot pasta, if desired.

My 100th Post! Mac & Cheese with Chicken & Broccoli

This is my 100th post on this blog. I'm really excited to get to 100 in less than a year, especially since nearly all of my posts are cooking related (I've dropped the "tales" portion of the blog because I keep track of my books on goodreads.com now). This has been a great year for me, cooking wise, and I owe it all to the blogging world.
My 100th post is a blend of a couple recipes. I had seen Mac & Cheese with Chicken & Broccoli added in on a "kid friendly" episode of 30 minute meals with Rachael Ray. Her version seemed a little bland, from the recipe, so I added some seasonings that I had seen on The Pioneer Woman website (If you can't trust that site for rich & creamy mac & cheese, I don't know where else to go!). I picked up some tasty cheeses from our new Whole Foods Market (yay!) and it just made this meal fantastic. This was delicious, and we found it very filling.

Thanks for sticking by me and reading this blog. Its been really fun and I'm looking forward to another 100 posts. Sorry about the yellow picture. You'd think I'd have this food photography down in 100 posts, wouldn't you?

Macaroni & Cheese with Chicken & Broccoli
1/2 lb whole wheat dry macaroni
12 ounces boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into one inch pieces
1 tsp grill seasoning
2 Tbs butter
1.5 Tbs AP Flour
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup nonfat milk (or a total of 1 cup dairy of your preference)
About 6-8 oz grated cheeses, good melting (I used 1/2 aged white cheddar, 1/2 young gouda)
1 tsp dry ground mustard
1.5 to 2 cups of broccoli florets
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs (I used a mix of panko and italian seasoned)
1/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta according to package directions, undercooking by a couple minutes (it will finish cooking in the oven). Meanwhile, season chicken breast with grill seasoning or seasoning salt (trust me, it tastes great with this seasoning!). Cook in 1 Tbs of butter until no longer pink. Remove from heat and add the other Tbs of butter. Add flour to melted butter and stir until a smooth roux is formed. Cook for about a minute before adding dairy all at once. Whisk very well and cook over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Then add mustard and slowly fold in cheese until very smooth & creamy. Return chicken to the sauce and add broccoli florets. Stir well until all is incorporated, then add cooked macaroni (or add sauce mixture to drained macaroni pot, if preferred). Pour all into an 8" x 8" baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. Mix bread crumbs and parmesan in a small bowl, then sprinkle mixture over top of the macaroni & cheese until coated with the crispy mixture. Bake uncovered until crumbs start to brown, about 20-25 minutes.

Old Fashioned Pot Roast

I realized last weekend that I had never made an old fashioned pot roast. I've only ever cooked pot roast in a crockpot (and it is fantastic). I decided to try an old fashioned oven pot roast and used this recipe on allrecipes as my base. I added carrots and potatoes and cooked it all up in my Le Crueset dutch oven, which I don't use nearly as often as I should. This turned out okay, but I think that crockpot cooking has really revolutionized the pot roast. When cooked in the crockpot, roasts come out so juicy they just fall apart. This roast, while still tender, needed to be sliced up, and I've never had to do that with a crockpot roast. I'm glad I tried this method of cooking, and it felt really old fashioned and homey to have a roast in the oven all day on Sunday, but I'll stick to my crockpot recipe in the future.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Easy Fall Dinner - Ravioli with a Pumpkin Cream Sauce

This is a great easy meal that comes together really quick, but still tastes decadent and homemade. I'm not one to shy away from prepared freezer meals (particularly from Trader Joe's, my favorite for freezer meals), but this comes together just as quickly and just feels like it was made with more love than a meal that is poured into a pan and heated up. I based this on a recipe from a restaurant here in town that is no longer around (Zaffiro, which was originally Pascucci's, which still exists in their downtown location). Our absolute favorite dish at this restaurant, which both the husband and I would order nearly every time, was the Spicy Sausage Ravioli with Butternut Squash sauce. The way the spicy and sweet would play off each other was just fabulous. I wanted to recreate this at home, so I picked up some Italian Sausage stuffed prepared ravioli (not spicy, but I think there are some spicy brands on the market these days). For the sauce, I had heard that Trader Joe's carries a seasonal pumpkin butter that can be made into savory soups & sauces. I combined about a 1/4 cup of the pumpkin butter with about a 1/2 cup of heavy cream (I said it was decadent! You can use lighter dairy products) and spiced it up with about a 1/4 tsp ground sage (I'm afraid of ground sage, so I didn't use much. The store was out of fresh) and 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg. I served this sauce over the cooked raviolis and topped with finely chopped candied walnuts, also from Trader Joe's. I finally topped everything with grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. The entire meal takes about 15 minutes, is really filling and just plain makes us happy!

Pumpkin White Chocolate and Butterscotch Chip Cookies

Since I came out a winner in the great pumpkin shortage of 2009, I've been looking for recipes to satisfy the fall pumpkin cravings many of us have at this time of year. When I made the pumpkin chocolate chip muffins last week, the boys at my husband's work were clamoring for more, so I made them a second batch. I was a little sad at how few of these pumpkin treats were being consumed by my household (namely, me). Thankfully, we were invited to a barbeque last weekend. We were told "No need to bring anything, since everyone else is already bringing something." Yeah, that works well in the world of reciprocity! Husband and I debated a little bit before deciding to bring a "snacky dessert" that we could bring and people could munch on, without stealing the thunder of whoever had already brought dessert. I knew I wanted to make a pumpkin treat, had some white chocolate chips at home, and the butterscotch chips at the store have been calling my name, hence these cookies became the choice. They came together quickly using this recipe from Skinny Food by Amy (I obviously mixed the chips, but that was the only change). These were so good. I brought 2 dozen to the party with 7 total adult guests and brought home an empty plate! We kept referring to them as "Cakies" instead of cookies because they were like a mix between a cake and cookie texture. The recipe made 3 1/2 dozen cookies for me with my 1 Tbs cookie scoop, so thankfully, I had leftovers!
Pumkin White Chocolate Butterscotch Chip Cookies
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used canola oil)
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (I accidentally omitted. This seems like a lot, though!)
2 cups chocolate chips (I used 1 cup white chocolate, 1 cup butterscotch chips)
Combine pumpkin, sugar, vegetable oil, and egg. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon, and salt. Dissolve the baking soda with the milk and stir in. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and mix well. Add vanilla & chips. Drop by spoonful on greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for approximately 10 minutes or until lightly brown and firm.

Pork Medallions in a Creamy Dijon Herb Sauce

This was a recipe inspired by Mary Ellen on Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations. She pulled the recipe from Epicurious, and it seems some of my other co-bloggers have also enjoyed the recipe. My version was closer to Mary Ellen's (using onions instead of leeks and cooking the sauce and pork in the same pan for more flavor), but I also made some adjustments. I coated the tenderloins in flour to help the thickening of the sauce, and used a splash of cream instead of sour cream to make the sauce extra rich in addition to the chicken stock. I enjoyed the flavors of this dish, but I think next time, I'll be more prepared with measured ingredients, as I was so flustered while making this that I forgot to add the parsley (and I love using parsley right now because I have so much of it in my porch herb garden!). Husband was not so impressed with this dish, however, as it was too tender for him. He thinks pork is supposed to be tough because he rarely has it cooked properly. This was cooked until just no longer pink inside, and he kept complaining that it tasted too rare. Oh well, more for me next time!

Pork Medallions in a Creamy Dijon Herb Sauce
1 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 Tbs AP Flour
1/2 c chopped onion
1 cup low-salt chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp sour cream (I used heavy cream)
2 tablespoons whole grain Dijon mustard
2 boneless pork loin chops, each cut into 4-5 medallions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 Tbs Chopped Fresh Parsley (I omitted)
Salt and pepper
Heat butter and 1 tbsp olive oil in a saute pan. Season pork with salt and pepper and coat in flour, shaking off any excess. Add pork to the pan and cook for a few minutes on each side If the pork is still not cooked in the center, cover and let cook for a few more minutes. Transfer pork to a plate and keep warm. Add 1 tbsp olive oil to the pan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add the wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up all the brown bits. Add the broth and bring to a steady simmer for 5 minutes. Lower heat and whisk in cream and Dijon mustard until creamy. Stir in chives. Serve sauce over the pork, top with parsley.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

Fall has finally arrived in Santa Barbara! Today was the first day that we had a bit of a chill to the air, and the wind blew fiercely all day out by where we live. What better way to celebrate the cooler weather than by baking some fall flavored treats? I had heard that there has been a nationwide pumpkin shortage from the cooking board I frequent, so I was excited to see that my regular store had plenty in stock. Sure enough, the checker commented: "Some other shoppers were telling me we are the only store in town carrying the small cans of pumpkin." I guess I'm just lucky that my store is the one with the stock! I'm hoping my husband's coworkers enjoy these muffins. They smelled divine as they were baking, and really got me in the "good little housewife" mood and they inspired me to get a ton of cleaning and chores done the rest of the day. My husband will be happy to know that baking triggers this mood, as he will be able to enjoy baked goods AND a clean house whenever I bake anything! I can't wait to bake more with my pumpkin stock (and the rest of the cinnamon chips, those were fantastic!)!

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins (from My Baking Heart by way of Jenn and Food, Perfect Together)
1 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c whole-wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 c canned pure pumpkin
2 large eggs
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1/2 c skim milk
1/3 c canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c cinnamon chips
1 c mini chocolate chips
1/2 c chopped pecans (I used 1/4 cup and made 1/2 with nuts, 1/2 without)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with liners and set aside.
Whisk together the flours, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. Whisk the pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, milk, oil and vanilla in a medium bowl. Add dry ingredients and stir until just moistened. Then add in chips and pecans. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20-23 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes. Remove the muffins and cool an additional 5 minutes before serving.

Duggar Casserole!

I will admit it: I watch too much TLC, although I have started to cut back after child exploitation got out of hand ("Toddlers & Tiaras," anyone? Yikes!). I have dropped Jon & Kate + 8 altogether and I used to watch it faithfully. My remaining vice is the Duggar family show. I find them fascinating and while yes, they are still earning money off the filming of their family, they really seem to have a strong hold on their own values while filming and portray a simple strength in family that I think is important for viewers to see. While I (obviously, no kids here!) don't follow their beliefs in family planning (or lack thereof), I've always felt that variety is the spice of life, and they are able to care for their family without government assistance, so who am I to judge? Anyway, this tater tot casserole is a recipe the Duggars have become famous for. Since I watch a lot more TV and am online a lot more than the entire Duggar family, I don't play actively as much as they do, so I chose to lighten up this recipe by using way less cheese, low fat soup, and added zucchini to add some green to the mix. This was pretty good, and a very traditional casserole, but I don't know if I'll make it again. I'm steering clear of recipes made with cream of xxx soups lately, and this casserole featured the flavor pretty prominently. I did love how festive the army of tater tots looked, though!
Tater Tot Casserole (from the Duggar Family by way of Lemons & Love)
half a bag of frozen tater tots
1 can cream of chicken soup (I used low fat cream of mushroom, I hate cream of chicken!)
1 pound ground turkey
2 cups cheddar cheese (I used about 3/4 cup)
garlic powder (I used a clove of garlic)
I added:
1 small onion, diced
1 zucchini, sliced in half and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 tsp olive oil
Preheat oven according to tater tot directions (mine was 400 degrees).
Cook veggies in oil until soft. Remove. Cook ground turkey, season with salt & pepper. Drain if necessary. Add in cream of chicken soup and cheese. Mix well. Transfer turkey mixture into an 8x8 baking dish. Neatly top mixture with tater tots. Bake for approximately 25 minutes until tater tots are crispy to your preference. Serves: A LOT! We had leftovers for lunches and still threw some away.

Mini Turkey Meat Loaves

I have been wanting to try meatloaf myself for a long time now. I'm not a huge fan of the recipe we had all the time when I was younger. It was okay, but it didn't knock my socks off. I also knew that if I made meatloaf, it would need to be made with turkey, since we eat very little ground beef. Unfortunately, most of the turkey meatloaf recipes I've seen haven't really accounted for how much dryer the turkey is than ground beef. I finally found this recipe in a new cookbook I picked up called "Cook Yourself Thin." I loved the added spinach in this recipe, and the glaze sounded right up our alley with a little spice to it. Not to mention, the idea of using a measuring cup as a mold to create these cute little mini loaves was very appealing to me. These were very good and had enough of the old fashioned meatloaf flavor to satisfy that fall comfort food craving.

Turkey Mini-Meatloaves (from "Cook Yourself Thin")
1 slice whole wheat bread
1/2 cup skim milk
1 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
5 oz bag baby spinach
1.25 lbs lean ground turkey
2 Tbs finely grated parmesan
1 large egg
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/8 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
3 Tbs Ketchup
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp hot sauce
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grind the bread in a food processor (I used Magic Bullet) until fine crumbs form. Transfer to large bowl and pour milk over top. Heat oil in large skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, about 5 minutes. Add spinach, stir until just wilted, about 30 seconds. Transfer to bowl with soaked crumbs. Add turkey, cheese, egg, salt, pepper & nutmeg. Combine with hands until well mixed; it will be very wet. Pack 1 cup of mixture into a 1 cup dry measuring cup. Invert cup onto a rimmed baking sheet, gently shaking to release. Pat mound to shape. Repeat with remaining mixture to create 4 mini loaves. Bake until cooked through and golden, about 40 minutes. While baking, create glaze: Mix ketchup, hot sauce and worcestershire sauce. Brush over the tops of the meatloaves with about 5 minutes remaining to cooking.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Bourbon Glazed Pork Chops

I have had some fun coming up with recipes for pork chops that my husband, the pork hater, will enjoy. I like my pork to have some sweetness without being too sweet, and my husband needs the pork to be cooked all the way through without being too dry. I had some bourbon left over from another recipe, and I knew from Mary Ellen's blog that hard liquor can make for some great pork marinades (she has some great ones in her pork tag). I wasn't looking for a marinade this time, though, but more of a glaze reminiscent of Quizno's Honey Bourbon sauce. I found this Rachael Ray recipe online and it was the closest to what I was thinking of, so I used it as a base for my own concept. I didn't really want to use mustard and I went with brown sugar instead of honey. These came out pretty good. The bourbon flavor was definitely strong enough, the sweetness was just right, and my cooking technique ensured that they were done just as my husband likes them. Covering and cooking did thin out the sauce a little, however, so if you want a thicker sauce, you can simmer uncovered to finish off the chops.
Bourbon Glazed Pork Chops (by me, inspired by above links)
4 boneless pork chops (about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch thick)
4 Tbs butter, divided (I used 1/2 "I Can't Believe Its Not Butter", 1/2 regular)
salt & pepper to taste
2 oz bourbon
2 Tbs brown sugar
Melt 2 Tbs butter in medium saute pan (with a cover). Season pork with salt & pepper and cook in butter until both sides are brown (4-5 minutes per side). Set aside. Remove pan from heat to carefully add bourbon, then return to the pan for 30 seconds to 1 minute boiling rapidly so the alcohol burns off. Add remaining 2 Tbs butter and melt into sauce, then add brown sugar and stir until well combined. Return pork to the pan and flip a couple times to coat well in sauce. Cover and simmer on medium for 10 minutes. Serve with rice, spooning sauce over the chops.

Crockpot Pepper Steak

One thing I have tried to do with this blog is to write about all the fabulous dishes that I've been trying, but also to be honest and blog about the not so great dishes, too. This dish would fall into the "not so great" pool. I think the main problem is that the meat used in this dish (sirloin) was so lean that it just got tough in the crock pot instead of the usual crockpot beef fare, which is tender and juicy. It was also lacking in a bold flavor and was awfully bland (if I hadn't added the A-1 Sauce, it would have been inedible). I look forward to making this dish again, but using the standard stir fry method. So here is a recipe that I wouldn't recommend!
Slow Cooker Pepper Steak (from allrecipes)
2 pounds beef sirloin, cut into 2 inch strips
garlic powder to taste
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cube beef bouillon
1/4 cup hot water (I used a 1/4 cup of beef stock instead of bouillon/water)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 large green bell peppers, roughly chopped
1 (14.5 ounce) can stewed tomatoes, with liquid
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
I added: About 2 Tbs A-1 Steak Sauce
Sprinkle strips of sirloin with garlic powder to taste. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the vegetable oil and brown the seasoned beef strips. Transfer to a slow cooker. Stir in onion, stewed tomatoes, soy sauce, sugar, and salt.
Cover, and cook on High for 3 to 4 hours, or on Low for 6 to 8 hours.
After 8 hours, turn crockpot to high (or simmer, if your crockpot has that function). Add bell peppers, A-1 sauce and mixture of beef stock (or bouillon mixture) & cornstarch to crockpot and stir well to combine. Cook for another hour. Serve over rice or noodles.

Seared Ahi with Sauteed Tomatoes

I was on my own for dinner for this meal, and I was thinking about going to a restaurant that my husband doesn't like much to get my favorite seared ahi over mixed greens salad. Instead, I decided to sear some ahi on my own. I went to our local seafood market and picked up some sashimi grade ahi (I would NEVER eat this dish so rare unless eating the highest quality sashimi ahi). I was tempted to just slice this up and eat with some rice, sashimi style, but I continued with this recipe I found on allrecipes. Before I seared the tuna, I threw some grape tomatoes into the hot oil and stirred until they just started to blister and split. I think next time, I will get my pan a little hotter before cooking, as the tuna would have been even better with a little more color on the outside, but other than that, this was an excellent, healthy meal.
Sesame Seared Ahi
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon mirin (Japanese sweet wine)
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
4 (6 ounce) tuna steaks
1/2 cup sesame seeds
wasabi paste (I omitted)
1 tablespoon olive oil
In a small bowl, stir together the soy sauce, mirin, honey and sesame oil. Divide into two equal parts. Stir the rice vinegar into one part and set aside as a dipping sauce. Spread the sesame seeds out on a plate. Coat the tuna steaks with the remaining soy sauce mixture, then press into the sesame seeds to coat. Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet over high heat until very hot. Place steaks in the pan, and sear for about 30 seconds on each side. Serve with the dipping sauce and wasabi paste.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Delicious & Easy Mongolian Beef

This recipe might be one of my favorites so far in the food blogging world. It is not only tasty, it is super easy to make. It is restaurant quality, but with simple ingredients, and even uses flank steak, which is about as lean a beef cut as you are going to find. You might be able to tell from this blog that I really enjoy Asian dishes, so this is definitely going to be added to our list of regulars. The source for this (and I swear, I didn't plan this) is once again, Elly Says Opa. I think it is funny that the last three recipes I've blogged about have all been Elly's, but her recipes are just calling my name lately! I'm such a blog stalker!
Mongolian Beef (from Elly Says Opa)
2/3 lb. flank steak, sliced across the grain
3 Tbsp. corn starch
3 tsp. canola oil, divided
1/2 tsp. grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp. (heaping) red pepper flakes (I might add more next time)
2-3 large scallions, sliced
Pat the steak pieces and make sure they’re dry; then, toss the steak and cornstarch together. Be sure all pieces are fully coated, but shake off excess corn starch. Mix together the soy sauce, water, brown sugar and red pepper flakes. Heat half the oil in a wok at medium-high heat and add the ginger and garlic. Once fragrant (30 seconds or so), add the soy sauce mixture. Cook for about 2 minutes and transfer to a bowl. Turn the heat up on the wok and add the remaining oil. Add the beef and cook, stirring until just browned. Pour the sauce back in and let it cook with the meat. Let the sauce thicken to your liking, and then add the green onions in just before plating.

Oops! Really Spicy Chicken with Rice & Beans

I enjoy spicy foods, especially those that use unique spices to create a rich flavor to the dish. This recipe had the potential to be fantastic, but my lack of knowledge of the degree of heat of the spices I had available really ruined this dish for me. For some reason, I have had a really tough time finding ancho chile pepper at most of my local grocery stores (and I live in California, for Pete's sake!). I thought that Chipotle Chile Powder would be an okay substitute and didn't look into the relative Scoville scale heat index for each. Little did I know, my chosen substitute was 5X hotter than the original ingredient! Thank goodness my husband was hungry after his ride and ate a bunch of this dish. I could only eat about a third of my plate, it was so hot! However, both of us kept saying, "When my mouth cools off enough to taste something, I enjoy the flavors of this dish!" I finally found Ancho Chile Pepper at a seldom visited grocery store, and I really look forward to making this again!

Red Chile Chicken & Rice with Black Beans (from Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless via Elly Says Opa)

2 Tbsp. canola oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (1.25-1.5 lbs. total)
2.5 Tbsp. ancho chili powder, divided (or Chipotle Chili Powder, if you are crazy)
1 medium onion, large dice
1 cup rice
4 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 cups chicken broth
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup chopped green onions, roots and wilted outer leaves removed before chopping
1/2 to 1 cup salsa for serving
Heat the oil in a medium-large heavy pot (with a lid) over medium-high heat. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken breast with salt and 1 Tbsp. of the ancho chili powder. Place the chicken in the hot oil and brown on each side, 2-3 minutes. Remove to a plate, leaving behind as much oil as possible.
Add the onion and rice to the pot. Stir for several minutes, until the rice turns from translucent to opaque. Add the garlic and the remaining 1.5 Tbsp. ancho chili powder. Cook one minute, and then add the broth and salt to taste. Stir well. When the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover, and cook for 10 minutes.
Cut the chicken breast into 1″ pieces. Add them to the pot along with the beans. Re-cover and cook 12 minutes longer.
Sprinkle the green onions and test a kernel of rice. It should have no more than a hint of chalkiness at in the center, in which case you place the cover back on, remove it from the heat and let it stand 5-10 minutes. If it’s not cooked, cook for another 5 minutes or so.
Fluff the mixture with a fork and serve with salsa for each person to spoon on.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Chicken Parmesan Burgers

This recipe has shown up on so many blogs lately, and the original recipe belongs to a great blogger, Elly, over at Elly says Opa. We love chicken parmesan, but I haven't made mine in a while because it isn't all that healthy. I liked that this recipe included all the flavors with none of the deep frying (lets face it, baked chicken parm. just isn't as good as the fried stuff!). Elly uses her broiler for this recipe, and I think I will in the future as well. I couldn't turn on our ancient oven and heat up the house any more than it already is here in CA with no A/C! By grilling these, the burgers were just a little more moist than they should have been. They smelled amazing as they cooked, though, and I was so excited to use some of my home grown parsley, which is the most successful herb from my patio herb garden so far! I won't rewrite the recipe, my changes were that I used the grill instead of broiling and I omitted the mushrooms cuz I don't like em! Thanks, Elly!

Tequila Lime Grilled Chicken with Black Bean Corn Salsa

When we returned from DC, I was inspired to cook with more vegetables and beans because H + L eat so many great vegetarian dishes (they aren't vegetarian, just eat that way a lot of the time). I decided that on the first night back, I would make a grilled chicken dish that I've been wanting to try for a while and I would add a warm black bean & corn salsa similar to one we made in DC. I loved the entire dish, but my husband was more of a fan of the chicken by itself. We will definitely make the chicken again. It tasted similar to the margarita grilled chicken at Chili's. I used really good tequila (Patron Silver) but that is obviously overkill for this dish. It was very yummy, though.
I followed the recipe pretty closely, but I've listed my changes below.

Tequila & Lime Grilled Chicken (from Good Things Catered)

2 lbs chicken tenders (I used about a pound of boneless chicken breast, cut into strips)
1/4 cup tequila (I used Patron, yummy!)
1/3 cup lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup cilantro (I used flat leaf parsley, we hate cilantro)
3 cloves garlic
1/2 jalapeno
1/4 cup onion
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. each salt, coriander (I omitted) and cumin
Combine all but chicken in food processor (I used the magic bullet). Blend for 2 minutes. In Gallon bag, add chicken & marinade. Refridgerate for 30 minutes (no longer or the chicken will cook from the citrus). Grill on medium/medium low for 15 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before eating.

Warm Black Bean & Corn Salsa (my recipe)
1 cup black beans, rinsed well
1 cup corn kernels (thawed if using frozen)
1 hot house tomato, chopped
1/2 jalapeno, diced
1 Tbs lime juice
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Heat & stir until hot and well incorporated.

Monday, August 31, 2009

A Few Pictures from our DC Trip

While our trip to Washington DC was mostly about visiting our best friends, who had the nerve to move away from Santa Barbara, we also spent some time seeing some of the amazing sights the city has to offer. This past political season was very interesting to me, and historical architecture has also inspired me since I was pretty young. The buildings and history in Washington were fantastic. I really encourage everyone to try and visit at some point if you are at all interested in history or politics or if you have children. We took the fantastic metro system nearly the entire time, including to and from Reagan airport to our friends' house in Silver Sring. In addition to the National Mall, we also visited Dupont Circle, Adam's Morgan and Georgetown (really cool neighborhoods), the National Spy Museum (very crowded, but fascinating), walked through some of Rock Creek Park, and visited the National Cathedral (so glad we didn't miss this!). We didn't have the camera with us for everything, but here are some pictures from when we did have it:

I was amazed at how beautiful the Capitol Building is!
This sounds trite, but this is a TALL building!
Lots of people around Mr. Lincoln...

Crazy to think how much gets done in this building (or not done, depending on your beliefs)

We visited Baltimore's Inner Harbor one evening
Dinner in Baltimore at Luna Del Sea - Great crab cakes (broiled, not fried!), but my fish left something to be desired. I loved everything that everyone else got, though!
Really cool fountain at the back of the National Cathedral

Front of the cathedral
Archway at the National Cathedral
Thanks to H & L for being the best tourguides ever! We miss you!

Stuffed Peppers

Today, my friends, I make a triumphant return to blogging after a bit of a hiatus. I have been busy this summer and not cooking as many new recipes, but I have a few saved up that I'd like to post about, and hopefully this will inspire me to find and create more recipes this fall.
The first recipe is one that didn't photograph well, but I think will be a good recipe with a few small adjustments. I didn't realize that my husband not only enjoys stuffed peppers, but his mom has a trusty recipe! I wish I'd known, I would have used hers! Instead, I used this recipe from allrecipes.com. I added low fat cheese, spicy V-8, and used very lean beef. In the future, I think I will use 85/15% beef instead, and I will definitely use regular instead of low fat cheese (which is the entire reason the picture looks so unappetizing). This is one of those recipes that needs a little fat to taste right. My husband made me laugh when he said "These are good, but my mom's recipe uses ground beef." He's so used to the turkey I use in everything, and the beef was so low fat, he didn't notice the difference when I finally used beef for once! I look forward to trying this again (or my mother-in-law's!) when the weather gets a little cooler.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Oven Roasted Tritip

OK, I'm definitely a Central California girl and LOVE me some tritip. It is a cut of meat that is rarely available anywhere else but in Central California and it tastes great on the grill with a salty dry rub seasoning on it. Those of us who live here know that is the only way to truly enjoy tritip. You don't mess it up with marinades or sauces, and you MUST cook it on the grill. Well, unfortunately, we live in an apartment that doesn't have any room for outdoor grilling, and grilling this on an indoor grill would probably give our smoke detector some issues. So I must oven roast my homemade tritip for now. Lucky for me, I have come up with a method that does the meat justice, and it comes out flavorful and juicy, just like a good tritip should. I know most people can't enjoy this delicacy themselves. Why am I sharing it on my blog, some may ask? Because I had a great dinner last night and I just wanted to share!

Oven Roasted Tritip (my recipe)
1 2 lb Tritip Roast
Very liberal amounts of barbeque seasoning salt (we use McCormick Broiled Steak Seasoning)
Garlic Powder
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Allow roast to sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes to get the chill off. There will be a large fat piece on one side of the roast, even if it is pretrimmed from the butcher. With a very sharp knife, remove the fat all in one piece, if possible, while removing as little of the meat as possible. When fat has been removed and set aside, season liberally (really liberally) with seasoning salt on all sides. Rub in well until meat has a good crust on it. Replace fat piece on top of one side of seasoned meat. Season top of fat with a light coating of garlic powder. Place on a baking rack (I use an old cooling rack and a cookie sheet) with the fat side on top. The fat will baste the meat while it is cooking. Bake uncovered for 40 minutes. The tritip will be medium well on the smaller sides and medium to medium rare in the thick middle. Remove the fat piece and discard. Allow to rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing into 1/4 inch slices. Enjoy alone or in a sandwich. Makes about 4 servings.

Polynesian Pork Chops

This is another adapted childhood recipe that I'm so happy I've been able to reinvent. We frequently enjoyed pork chops baked in tomato sauce or tomato soup over rice. It was actually the only way I ever ate pork chops for years! One time, my stepmom took this dish and turned it into over the top fantastic. I only ate it once, but it still lives in my mind as the best pork chops ever from my childhood. We were on a cross country RV trip, and my Daddy had barbequed every night, but one night, it was raining, so we had to use the RV kitchen. The Hawaiian style pork chops that we had were similar to what we were used to, but had rings of pineapple and a hint of sweetness added to the sauce. We never had them that way again, and I've tried to recreate it once before to no avail, but the recipe you see here is about as close as I will ever get to that once in a lifetime RV kitchen pork chop recipe, and I devoured this dish. I think this would be a great dish for kids, too.

Polynesian Pork Chops (family recipe)
1 lb of center cut boneless pork chops (these were thin cut, but thicker than usual)
1 tsp ginger
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 can tomato soup
1 tsp olive oil
1 8 oz can of Pineapple rings (the small can), 1/2 juice reserved
2 Tbs brown sugar
Marinate pork chops in soy sauce, garlic and ginger for at least 30 minutes. Heat olive oil in large saute pan. Shake excess marinade off pork before adding to the heated oil for a quick sear on each side (about 2 minutes per side). Remove pork and add soup, brown sugar, and about half the can of pineapple juices or until soup reaches desired sauce consistency. Heat to boiling. Dip both sides of each pork chop into the sauce and then lay into pan, covering with sauce. Lay the pineapple slices evenly over the pork. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes or until pork is cooked through. Serve over hot cooked rice.

Cauliflower Mac & Cheese

My fabulous stepmom taught me a lot of my cooking skills, and also helped me to develop many of my standard "loves" when it comes to food. One of my favorite vegetables is cauliflower and I never would have learned to love it if it wasn't for her teaching me how to make a basic cheese sauce to go over the top of it. When I was a kid, I would eat a good cheese sauce by the spoonful, with a little cauliflower to accent the flavor of the sauce! Unfortunately, cauliflower nears the top of my husband's list of most disliked foods, so I don't get to enjoy it unless he's not around. I thought I would just roast some while he was on his work trip and eat it with something simple, but then I got the idea for a baked macaroni & cheese with roasted cauliflower added in. What a concept! It was like my favorite cheese sauce & cauliflower mixture from my childhood, but with pasta added in! I think if I get the chance to make this again, I'll add some spices in to make it a little more suitable for my adult palate, but I encourage those with kids to do creative things like this to introduce kids to vegetables that are a little plain normally.

Cauliflower Macaroni & Cheese (by me!)
1 Tbs butter or margarine
1 Tbs Flour
1 cup nonfat milk
1 cup (or more) shredded cheddar cheese
Fresh cracked pepper
1.5 cups cauliflower florets
1 cup elbow macaroni
1/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
cooking spray
Spray cauliflower lightly with cooking spray or olive oil and roast in 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden. Remove and set aside. Cook elbow macaroni according to package directions, but leave a little bit undercooked. Meanwhile, make cheese sauce by melting butter in a saucepan, adding flour and cooking for about 1 minute. Slowly add milk, stirring constantly. Allow to come to a slow boil. After the sauce is lightly boiling & thick, add shredded cheddar cheese to taste. Add fresh cracked pepper to taste. Add roasted cauliflower to sauce, mix well to combine. Add to cooked macaroni and stir, then pour into an 8" x 8" casserole dish. Top with bread crumbs and panko. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes. Remove and spray with cooking spray, then return to oven for another 5-10 minutes or until top is golden brown. Makes 4 side dish servings or 2 large main dish servings.

"Just the Way I Like It" Pasta

The husband and I spend very few nights apart. We are really blessed that neither of us has to travel for work much, and we spend most of our overnights out together, since we enjoy the same sorts of things. Once a year, however, he has to go to the Specialized Dealer Event, or as I like to call it, "Camp Kool-Aid," where they ride all the latest and greatest Specialized bikes and come back begging for new bikes for themselves (nice job, Specialized!). I miss the husband terribly during the week he is gone, especially since it means we can't watch the Tour de France together for a whole week! One good thing, however, is that I get to make all the foods that I like that he doesn't. For this pasta, I went all out. Just about everything in it is something that he wouldn't normally eat, from the dark meat chicken to the sun dried tomatoes (and he calls ME a picky eater!). I really loved this dish and look forward to making it again when we have to be apart next time.

My Favorite Things Pasta
1/2 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs (most fat removed), cut into bite size pieces
1 small onion, diced
1/2 small red bell pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 can artichoke heart quarters (not marinated)
3 heaping Tbs sun-dried tomatoes with oil
1/2 container light refrigerated alfredo sauce
1/4 cup milk
1 package fresh refrigerated pasta
Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese
Saute garlic, pepper & onion in oil until golden. Add tomatoes & oil and add chicken pieces and cook until well done, about 7 minutes. Add artichoke hearts and stir to heat through. Add alfredo sauce and milk until sauce is consistency of your preference (I wanted a lighter sauce, so I used about 1/4 cup of milk). Meanwhile, cook fresh pasta according to package directions. Toss heated pasta with sauce and top with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese to taste.
Makes 4 servings

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Santa Barbara Dining: Jill's Place

Living in Santa Barbara, we are truly blessed to have many unique restaurants with limited chains to compete with them. Since I have been cooking so much more at home, when we dine out, we've been able to really splurge. For my birthday this year, I really wanted to try out a local steak place called "Jill's Place." For those of you who read this blog that like to visit Santa Barbara, this is not your typical touristy restaurant. If you go to this restaurant, you are either a local or have been told about it by a local (me!). The restaurant is an unassuming building that is right downtown. It used to be a butcher shop (Shalhoobs, also a famous local establishment), but the daughter of the family (Jill) decided to open up a restaurant in the location when the butcher shop moved. The amount of food we got here was incredible. The two of us got cocktails (blood orange margarita shown here), I got a glass of wine, soup, salad, bread, steaks and veggies for under $100 with tip. And the steaks were big enough that we each had leftover steak for the next day. The quality, being from a butcher shop, was superb. This was the kind of steak that you knew was meant to be eaten medium rare. The pictures don't do this justice, since it isn't my awesome camera (we bring the little one to meals out), but this was a great meal for a great birthday.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Fiesta Chicken Enchiladas

Chicken Enchilada success! I have had some issues with homemade enchiladas since I was little because the textures have always turned out a little weird. Either the whole entree comes out dry and overcooked or everything just turns into mush. I love enchiladas though, and I've seen some recipes online lately that use all sorts of interesting things as fillings (ranch dressing, cream of xxx soup, cream cheese, etc.). While none of these sounded all that appetizing to me, I decided to use them as inspiration for my Fiesta Chicken Enchiladas. These were great! The nacho cheese soup kept the chicken from drying out, and the spices in the soup plus the peppers I added really gave these a flavorful kick. My only fear is that Campbells will stop making the Nacho Cheese soup flavor as they have for other flavors I've used in the past for cooking. In the meantime, though, I've stocked up on these ingredients and will definitely be making these again! I almost forgot to take a picture, I was so wrapped up in eating these!

Fiesta Chicken Enchiladas (inspired by a collection of recipes from allrecipes & the back of the enchilada sauce can)
1 cup cooked shredded chicken breast
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp olive oil
1 4 oz can diced chile peppers (I used hot, but mild would be okay)
1 can Campbell's Nacho Cheese soup
6 flour tortillas
1 small can mild red enchilada sauce
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 350. In saute pan, cook garlic & onion in oil until soft. Add drained diced chiles and cook until most of the moisture has cooked out. Add chicken and soup and stir well to combine. Spray 13" x 9" baking dish with cooking spray. Dip one tortilla at a time into a bowl of lukewarm water. Lay in baking dish and fill with a few Tablespoons of chicken filling. Roll tightly and place in baking dish seam side down. Repeat with all six tortillas until filling is gone and baking dish is full. Top with enchilada sauce and spread with spoon to evenly cover the enchiladas. Sprinkle with cheese and bake uncovered for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted & bubbly.