Sunday, January 24, 2010

Yummy Taco Burgers

I'm so excited about our dinner that I had to post right away. I haven't made beef burgers at home in a really long time. We eat ground turkey whenever we can because it agrees with my tummy a lot more and it is much healthier. I saw this recipe on A Taste of Home Cooking (recipe originally from Vintage Victuals) and thought it might be just the recipe to bring me back to home beef burgers. I loved that it was simple, but brought in some of the Mexican flavors we love, and it was a great opportunity for me to make my tasty homemade guacamole. I made a couple of changes. I omitted the egg (I didn't want to figure out how to divide it, since I made 1/3 of the original recipe, plus I don't like what it does to the texture) and I added about a 1/4 cup of chopped green onions to add some moisture to the mix to make up for the egg. I used a taco seasoning that was from Whole Foods and had no salt, but I added a little extra to my guacamole and that worked out great. I will probably use more taco seasoning next time (I used about a Tablespoon). These were particularly special because I grilled them up on our new cast iron grill! What a treat!

Taco Burgers
(original recipe for 4 burgers, I made 2)
1 packet of dry taco seasoning (I used a Tbs)
1.5 lbs. ground beef (I Used 1/2 lb 93% Lean)
1 egg, lightly beaten (I omitted and added 1/4 cup chopped green onion)
4 slices cheddar or cheddar jack cheese (I used 2 slices cheddar)
4 buns (I used 2 whole wheat buns)
Red onion sliced (I omitted)
Guacamole (I used about 1/4 of my original recipe shown here)
In a medium bowl, combine taco seasoning, ground beef, and green onions lightly until completely combined. Divide the meat into two equal patties.
Grill the patties to desired done-ness, topping with sliced cheese during the last 2 minutes of grilling. Grill the buns, too (We both agreed the grilling of the buns was required. Soggy buns would be a tragedy here!). Place a patty on each bun, and top with guacamole. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Hot soup on a rainy day: Burrito Soup

Most people have heard, the weather here in California has been nasty. A tornado touched down about a block from our apartment. We live in Santa Barbara, people. Seriously, a tornado? And this was the first of several that happened last week. Bad weather calls for soup, but I have a hard time making soup for dinner unless it is really hearty. Thankfully, this soup from Elly Says Opa fit the bill perfectly. It really is everything that you would find in a burrito, but in soup form. I loved that I could mix up the different types of chili powders I had, as the complexity of the spices worked out great. Both the husband and I took soup leftovers into work this week, and the guys at the bike shop were incredibly jealous. One guy swore he was going to stop by and pick up a crockpot for his fiance on the way home! The husband really liked this soup, but kept insisting that it was really chili in disguise, which I guess is a good sign that it was hearty enough to count as a meal for him! For my Midwestern family members reading this - make this, but I would use half as much chili powder for your spiciness tastes!

Crockpot Burrito Soup (from Elly Says Opa)
2 tsp. canola oil
1 large onion, diced (mine was more of a medium onion)
1 lb. extra lean ground beef
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce
5 cups beef broth
2 Tbsp chili powder (I used 1 Tbs regular, 1/2 Tbs Chipotle and 1/2 Tbs Ancho Chili powders)
1 Tbsp. cumin
2 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
2/3 cup corn
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup uncooked rice (or, cook rice separately)
Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat and add oil. Cook the onions for a couple minutes before adding the beef. Brown the beef with the onion and drain if necessary. Put back on the heat and stir in the garlic, just until fragrant. Pour the beef mixture into the crockpot and then add the tomato sauce, beef broth, spices, corn and black beans. Cook on low for 8 hours. Increase temp to high and add the rice, just until cooked. Alternatively you can put the cooked rice in bowls and ladle the soup over it. Garnish with your favorite toppings (I used shredded cheddar, light sour cream and sliced avocado, yum!). This made about 8 servings.
Nutritional Information Per Serving (with 93% lean beef): Calories: 302 / Fat: 7.5g / Carbs: 33.5g / Fiber: 6.3g / Protein: 26g

Healthier Fettucine Alfredo

I love restaurant Fettucine Alfredo. I so rarely order it because it is so bad for me. One restaurant we go to serves it as a side to a chicken dish I like, and I usually get it with the pasta sauce on the side so that I can dip a small amount of sauce onto the pasta and keep it a little lighter. I haven't tried making Fettucine Alfredo at home because we used to eat it when I was younger, and I didn't like the grainy taste that came from the cheese not melting well enough into the cream. Not to mention, the home made version is often not that great for you either! I found a recipe in my Cooking Light cookbook that I thought looked promising, but I wanted to make it more like my childhood memory (we always had peas & ham added in) and I wanted it to be pretty veggie heavy, so I added pancetta, peas and broccoli. This was very tasty, and only had a little bit of grainy taste from the cheese. We will definitely make this again.

Fettucine Alfredo with Pancetta, Peas and Broccoli (adapted from Cooking Light)
1 Tbs Butter
1 1/4 cups Half & Half
3/4 cup grated fresh parmesan cheese (I used half American Parmesan, half parmigiano reggiano)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh cracked pepper
2 oz diced pancetta
1.5 cups frozen or fresh broccoli
1 cup frozen peas
3/4 lb dried fettucine pasta
Cook Pasta according to directions, adding broccoli and peas in the last 3 minutes of cooking. Meanwhile, melt Butter in medium saucepan. Add pancetta and cook until fat has rendered and meat is just starting to brown. Remove pancetta from pan with slotted spoon, reserve. Pour fat mixture out until only about 1 Tbs remains in the pan. Add half & half, cheese salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 3-5 minutes or until cheese has melted completely into the sauce. Add Pasta/veggie mixture and reserved pancetta. Toss well, serve hot. Makes 4-6 main servings.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Sea Scallops with Lemon Beurre Blanc

I know that sea scallops aren't for everyone. I myself hadn't even tried a bite of them until my boss' wedding 5 years ago, when I felt I had to at least taste all the dishes out of respect for my boss and his wife (who I love). I thought, at the time "This might be something I could like someday, but I can't picture ordering this." Since then, I have had several opportunities to sample scallops and have always thought: "I should eat these more often." Well, last night I took the plunge! I purchased 8 sea scallops from Whole Foods and researched quite a bit on how to cook them (even the guy next to me at the seafood counter had some tips, as he was picking up scallops as well!). I learned that you needed the pan screaming hot, you should be very careful not to overcook, they need to be super dry before cooking, and you should keep the seasoning simple. For the scallops themselves, I simply followed all the advice. But I knew I would want some kind of sauce, and I researched this one on allrecipes that I thought would work nicely with some alterations. This dish was truly fantastic. What a great way to start out my new year of blogging (this was the first dish I cooked after my blogiversary!)! I was so proud of myself for cooking something that I really haven't even eaten out very much, and one that could be intimidating. I loved how the sweetness of the scallops played with the tang of the sauce. We will definitely be eating this dish again! I would imagine the sauce would go well on any kind of fish. On a side note, I have always gotten scallops, shallots and scallions mixed up, so it is kind of funny that this dish uses two of the three!

Seared Sea Scallops with Lemon Beurre Blanc
8 large fresh sea scallops
Salt & Pepper to taste
3 Tbs flour for dredging
1 Tbs Olive Oil
2 shallots, diced very fine
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/8 cup lemon juice
1/8 cup dry white wine
1 Tbs unsalted butter
Heat oil over high heat in a heavy bottomed skillet. Dry scallops very well with paper towel. Season with salt and pepper. Dredge each side of all scallops very lightly in flour (this is really just to ensure they are dry, it shouldn't be a breading). Place scallops into nearly smoking hot pan. Cook just until browned, turning once, about 2 minutes per side. Remove to plate and keep warm. Lower heat. Add diced shallots to pan and cook until soft, about 30 seconds. Add chicken stock to deglaze pan, then add lemon juice and white wine. Stir well and allow to boil until reduced by almost 1/2. Add in butter in small pieces. Sauce will get rich and creamy (if you desire a thicker sauce, sprinkle in some of the leftover flour and stir well). Serve over scallops. Makes 2 servings.

Pat's Pie (chocolate silk pie)

As much as my brother wanted to think this pie was named for him, Pat's Pie is a creation of a friend of my grandfather's, long ago. This is the pie that meant "Holidays" to my brother and sister and me. I haven't made this in a very long time (and probably have the recipe a little messed up), but I decided to make this for our Christmas Eve dinner that some sweet friends invited us to. We were leaving for Michigan the next day and Roger was sick, but these guys had us over for a delicious Christmas spread. Unfortunately, the pie sat out of the fridge while we ate dinner, so, while it was still cold, it lost a little of its firmness. Thankfully, the flavors were still delicious! I think it even tasted good enough that Roger might "let" me make it for my family next year instead of his traditional pie requests.

Pat's Pie (old family recipe)
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 square unsweetened chocolate
2 eggs
1 pie crust
Melt Chocolate square in the microwave. Cream butter and sugar, then add eggs one at a time, beating each egg for 5 minutes. Blend in chocolate and vanilla. Pour Mixture into a blind baked, cooled pie shell and chill in fridge for at least 2 hours. Serve with whipped cream, if desired.

Peanut Butter Cookies

This was the last of my cookie recipes for the year. I wasn't extremely happy with how these turned out (they were a little thin for my liking), but I got a compliment on them that made me think a little more highly of them. I have a co-worker with 4 kids who were the consumers of his entire cookie bag this year. They actually called me after work to tell me how much they enjoyed them. His oldest son (about 6 or so) has loved watching the Food Network since he was really young, Paula Dean is his hero, and he's always game for trying something new. This little guy grabbed the phone and said "Thank you, the Peanut Butters are my favorite!" How cute! If the little kiddie foodie likes them, they must be good! So thanks to the BH kids (all their names start with "B") for giving me a little confidence with this recipe!

Peanut Butter Cookies (from Crisco)
3/4 cup Creamy Peanut Butter
1/2 stick Shortening
1 1/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 3/4 cups All Purpose Flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
HEAT oven to 375°F. Combine peanut butter, shortening, brown sugar, milk and vanilla in large bowl. Beat at medium speed of electric mixer until well blended. Add egg. Beat just until blended. COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt (I sifted these). Add to creamed mixture at low speed. Mix just until blended. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls (You might want to use more) 2-inches apart onto greased baking sheet. Flatten slightly in a crisscross pattern with tines of fork.
BAKE one baking sheet at a time 7 to 8 minutes, or until set and just beginning to brown. Cool 2 minutes on baking sheet. Remove cookies to cooling racks to cool completely.
And here is what my goodie basket looked like for the bike shop! I look forward to doing this every year. I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday season!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

More Cookies - Cake Cookies

Here is the secret of my Cookie Extravaganza success: Cake Cookies. I get the most compliments on these cookies every year, and they are so easy to do, and they are actually pretty cost effective as well, since boxed cake mixes are usually on sale during the holidays. For this year, I purchased 4 boxes of cake mix (2 yellow, 2 chocolate) for $4 total, and my add-ins were chocolate chips for the yellow cake cookies and butterscotch chips for the chocolate cake cookies. These cake mixes made about 15 dozen cookies, and I cranked out these batches in about one afternoon of solid work. This is the only way I can really accomplish the amount of baking I have to do during the holidays to have enough cookies for everyone, and it doesn't really feel like I'm cheating because people really love these cookies!

Cake Cookies (from
1 package cake mix (any basic flavor will do)
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips or other mix-in goodies
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
In a medium bowl, stir together the cake mix and baking powder. Add eggs and oil, then mix until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips, or your choice of additions. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto cookie sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Bake less for chewy cookies and more for crispy cookies. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 3 dozen.

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

Now, my friends, begins the cookie assault of 2009. I am not a huge baker, but for the last 3 years, I have set myself a goal of baking cookies for all my co-workers and my husband's co-workers for the holidays. It would be one thing if I was making 2 cookies per person, but we're talking 8 cookies per person for 25 people. Lots of cookies every year, and although it does increase my chore workload in a potentially stressful time, I get a lot of joy from sharing these baked goods with our co-workers, who are truly like family to us. These cookies were the first I made for the holidays, and since my husband and I didn't see each other for a couple of weeks during the season due to crazy schedules, I left him 2 cookies with a note that said "For my taste-tester" before going to bed. I woke up to a return note saying, "I say, these are awesome! Great job!" These cookies were our only source of communication for about a 24 hour period. And my husband does say these were quite possibly his favorite cookies of all time.

Double Chocolate Dream Cookies (from the Tollhouse bag)
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup baking cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate morsels (I used Ghirardelli)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in medium bowl (I sifted these). Beat butter, sugars and vanilla until creamy. Add eggs and beat for about 2 minutes until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels. Drop by rounded Tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheets (I used parchment & silpat). Bake for 9-10 minutes until cookies are puffed up. Cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes before removing to racks to cool completely. Makes 4-5 dozen cookies.

My Lighter Textured Pumpkin Pie

This year, my family didn't request my pumpkin pie, but my husband was really itching for some pumpkin pie, so I decided to bake one for our Holiday visit to our friends who live about an hour and a half away. I used a frozen pie crust, which fit perfectly in my pie carrier and allowed me to leave a good section of pie with our friends. Someday, I will master a homemade crust, but this wasn't the day. I didn't like pumpkin pie for most of my life, but a few years ago, I decided to make one for my husband and didn't feel like using the one on the back of the Libby's can. I found this recipe on, but the recipe is no longer active on the site. The original recipe included a homemade whipped cream topping with candied ginger, but I haven't ever made that. I just love the basic recipe for this pie. It is a cross between a standard pumpkin pie and a chiffon pie - a little airier than normal, but still substantial enough. This was a big hit for our holiday visit!

"My" Pumpkin Pie
1 Prepared, uncooked pie crust
2 eggs
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 15 oz can pumpkin
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or a little more, if you like it spicy)
1/2 tsp salt
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Beat eggs at medium speed in a large mixing bowl until thick and lemony (about 2-3 minutes). Add cream. Beat for 1 minute more. Add remaining ingredients and beat until well incorporated (1-2 minutes). Pour into prepared crust. Bake for 10 minutes. Cover edges and reduce oven temp to 350 degrees. Continue baking for 40-50 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely. Serve with whipped cream.

Slow Cooker Pot Roast

Happy New Year! Wow, it was a very busy holiday season for me, so as you can tell, I've gotten behind on blog posts. Thankfully, I have a bunch of recipes that I've been saving up with all my holiday baking as well as a few savory dishes, like this one. Unfortunately, this Pot Roast didn't turn out the way I remember it usually coming out. My cut of meat seemed fine in the package, but after I removed it from the package, it was revealed that my 3 lbs of roast actually had about 1.5 lbs of fat on the back side that was well marbled and I couldn't cut it off. Cooking beef in the crock pot can do wonders for a bad cut of meat, so I thought it would still be okay, but this was just ridiculously fatty. I think in the future, I'm going to go with a rump roast or another slightly leaner cut of beef instead of the chuck roast I used. This is such a great recipe (I've made it plenty of times), I'm not letting one bad experience turn me off!

Awesome Slow Cooker Roast (From Allrecipes)
2 10.75oz cans of cream of mushroom soup (I used 1 can Cream of Celery)
1 package dry onion soup mix (You can use half the package, I used it all)
1 1/4 cups water (I used beef stock)
5 1/2 lbs pot roast (Mine was about 3)
I added about a cup of baby carrots and 2 large white potatoes
In a slow cooker, mix cream of mushroom soup, dry onion soup mix and water. Place pot roast in slow cooker and coat with soup mixture.
Cook on High setting for 3 to 4 hours, or on Low setting for 8 to 9 hours.