Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Week 44: Guacamole

I don't like avocado. I'm not a big fan of cilantro. Therefore, I don't like guacamole. I do like this guacamole, though. It's really much more like pico de gallo than guacamole. And, since I'm the boss of this recipe I just leave out the cilantro. YUM!

Barb's Guacamole
Adapted from Pioneer Woman Cooks

1 yellow onion
4 Roma tomatoes
1 jalapenos
1 limes
2 avocados

Dice onion and tomatoes (equal amounts of each).

Slice jalapeno in half, scrape out seeds, and dice very finely.

Dump all ingredients together. Add juice of 1/2 lime.

Sprinkle with salt and stir together until combined.

Half the avocados lengthwise. Remove the pit and scoop out into a large pile.

Sprinkle salt and mash avocados with a fork.

Add avocado to pico de gallo and stir together. Add juice of remaining 1/2 lime and additional salt to taste.

My notes:
This gets a little bit watery - especially with ripe tomatoes. Adjust the amount of lime juice to keep it a little on the thick side. Also, this doesn't really keep at all. It is best eaten right away.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Week 44: Fajita Marinade

wFajitas are part of our regular meal rotation - especially in the summer. I usually wing the marinade or use something pre-mixed. The results are inconsistent and salty. That's what led me to this recipe.

Taken from Paula Deen for Foodnetwork

Marinade prep time: 5 minutes
Marinating time: 10 minutes for shrimp, 20 minutes for chicken, 1 hour for steak
Additional prep and cook: 30 minutes

Marinade: (for 1 1/2 lb chicken, beef, or pork)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp cumin
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
Dash of hot sauce
Salt and black pepper, to taste

1 medium onion, sliced
2 zucchinis, sliced julienne
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced julienne
1 green bell pepper, sliced julienne
1 red bell pepper, sliced julienne

For serving:
Flour tortillas (8-inch)
Sour Cream
Cheddar cheese, shredded

In a large Ziploc bag, combine vegetable oil, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, hot sauce, salt, pepper, and meat. Seal and toss the bag around to coat. Marinate in the refrigerator.

Heat the grill or a grill pan to medium-high heat. Remove the meat from the marinade and place it on the hot grill, discard the marinade. Cook chicken until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side, skirt steak about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare and about 2 minutes for shrimp. Slice the chicken and steak into strips if you are using.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet. Fry the onions. Add bell peppers and zucchini. Cook until crisp-tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve meat and vegetables immediately on warm tortillas. Garnish with salsa, guacamole, sour cream, and shredded cheese.

My Notes:
Will make again.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Week 43: Cherry Coke Cupcakes

Coke. Yum. Cherry Coke. Yum. Cupcakes. Yum. Chocolate. Yum.

Yield: 10-12 cupcakes
Adapted from Annie's Eats

For the cupcakes:
1-1/2 C all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 C sugar
8 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
1/2 C buttermilk
3/4 C Coca-Cola
1/4 tsp maraschino cherry juice
2 tsp vanilla extract
Maraschino cherries, stemless

For the glaze:
1 C confectioners’ sugar
2 Tbsp Coca-Cola

For topping:
1-1/3 C heavy cream
6 - 8 Tbsp powdered sugar
Maraschino cherries

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line  a muffin pan with foil or paper liners.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.  Stir together and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar and butter.  Mix on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.   Mix in the egg until incorporated.   In a bowl or large measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, Coke, maraschino cherry juice, and vanilla extract; stir to combine.  (This mixture may look disgusting and/or curdled – it’s okay!)

Mix the dry ingredients into the butter-sugar mixture on low speed, alternately with the liquid ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated.  Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake liners.

Drop 4 or 5 stemless maraschino cherries into each cupcake well and push them down into the batter.

 Bake for about 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pan 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the optional glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar and Coke in a small bowl and whisk until smooth.  Spoon or drizzle a small amount of the top of each cupcake.  Allow to set.

To make the whipped cream topping, add the heavy cream to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Begin whipping on medium speed, slowly adding the confectioners’ sugar and gradually increasing the speed to high as the cream holds soft peaks.  Whip until the cream holds stiff peaks, being careful not to overbeat.

Spoon or pipe the whipped cream on top of the cupcakes and top each with a maraschino cherry.

My Notes:
The proportions in the original recipe seemed a little off. I had enough batter to make more than 12 cupcakes but only had enough whipped cream frosting to top 4 cupcakes. I doubled the whipped cream ingredients in the recipe above.

The finished product was really moist. It didn't taste overwhelmingly like coke or like cherries, but it was fun tasting.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Week 43: Gorgonzola and Bacon Dressing

I found this looking for a quick and easy side dish.

Adapted from Giada di Laurentiis
Makes 6 servings

4 oz bacon, cut into 1/4" pieces
2/3 C buttermilk
1/2 C sour cream
1 large garlic cloves or 2 small, minced
6 oz crumbled Gorgonzola
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 head iceberg lettuce, cut into 6 wedges

Cook bacon in heavy medium skillet over medium heat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain the excess oil.

Stir the buttermilk, sour cream, and garlic in a medium bowl to blend; mix 2/3 of the cheese. Season the dressing with salt and pepper, to taste.

(The dressing can be made up to 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Stir to blend before using, adding more milk to thin the sauce, if necessary.)

Arrange each of 6 lettuce wedges on 6 plates. Spoon the dressing over the lettuce. Sprinkle with the pancetta and remaining cheese and serve.

My Notes:
I will make this dressing again, although I will be sure to only make half a batch. Brad and I didn't need all of it and because of it's distinct taste, the dressing didn't make a real great left-over.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Week 43: Beef Burgers with Mushrooms and Aioli

We decided to buy a quarter of an organic, grass-fed cow recently; we got tons of ground beef. Burgers on the grill seem like as good a way as any to use it up.
Adapted from Giada di Laurentiis 
Makes 3 burgers (1/3 lb each)

1 lb lean ground chuck
1 1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 lb mushrooms, sliced
3 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 C mayonnaise
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp minced garlic
Sliced swiss cheese
4 (4-inch) square or round ciabatta or foccacia squares, halved horizontally
2 C fresh spinach
Combine the ground chuck, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Shape the mixture into 3 (1/2-inch-thick) patties.

Cook the sliced mushrooms in a frying pan on the stove until desired doneness (about 5 minutes).

Mix the mayonnaise, lemon juice, and garlic in a small bowl to blend.

Prepare the barbecue (medium-high heat). Grill the burgers until cooked to desired doneness, about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Add one slice of cheese on top of each burger. Leave on grill until cheese is melted. Grill the focaccia squares cut side down, until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes.

Spread the garlic mayonnaise over the roll bottoms. Place the burgers on the bun and spread mushrooms on top of it. Spread garlic mayonnaise on the cut side of the tops and arrange a handful of arugula on each. Cover the burger with the roll tops and serve.

My Notes:
I enjoyed these. I can't believe I never thought about using something other than a traditional hamburger bun as a home for a juicy burger.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Week 42: Peanut butter Banana Cake with Chocolate Frosting

A fun little treat.

Taken from Buns in My Oven

Peanut butter Banana Cake
1 C (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 C sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 C buttermilk
3 medium bananas, mashed
1/3 C peanut butter
2 C flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 C walnuts, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, vanilla, peanut butter.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

Add flour and buttermilk alternately to the batter. Stir in bananas.

Pour batter into two greased 8" cake pans (each about 1 1/2" deep) and bake for 40 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

Cool completely before frosting.

Chocolate Frosting

1 C white sugar
6 Tbsp butter
6 Tbsp milk
11.5 oz milk chocolate chips

Add sugar, butter, and milk to a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Boil for exactly 60 seconds and remove from heat. Stir in chocolate chips and continue stirring until the chocolate has melted. Use frosting immediately as it will harden quickly. Makes about 2 cups and will easily frost between and on top of the 2 layers.

My notes:
I had a difficult time getting the cakes to actually bake all the way. The bananas make for such a moist cake that it seems to stay raw in the center forever, and my center fell as soon as they came out of the oven.

The final product was okay. The peanut butter taste was very subtle and the frosting was delish!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Week 42: Caesar Salad with Garlic Croutons

We don't eat much salad; it is just a side dish that I never think to make. This seemed like a quick and easy addition to summer grilled dinners.

Adapted from Pioneer Woman Cooks
Serves 4 to 6

Garlic Croutons
4 cloves garlic
A generous 1/4 C pure olive oil
2 C (packed) 3/4″ bread cubes, cut from a good-quality baguette or Italian loaf
Large pinch of salt

3 romaine hearts, chopped
2 ripe tomatoes, cut in wedges
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire
5 tablespoon pure olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
Ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for sprinkling

Heat a 10-inch skillet over low heat. Add olive oil to food processor. Add garlic and chop. Scrape sides and continue processing so garlic infuses the oil, about 30 seconds. Strain garlic from oil through a fine mesh strainer; reserve half of garlic for dressing.

Increase skillet heat to medium. Place bread cubes in medium bowl. Drizzle garlic oil evenly over bread, along with big pinch of salt; toss to coat.

Add bread cubes to hot skillet and toast, turning the cubes and shaking the pan often, until crisp and golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Return croutons to bowl and set aside to cool while preparing salad.

Place chopped lettuce and tomatoes in a large bowl.

Whisk olive oil, lemon juice, mayonnaise, half the reserved garlic, Worcestershire, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.

Drizzle mixture over lettuce; toss lightly. Sprinkle Parmesan over greens; toss again. Sprinkle croutons over the salad; toss and serve, sprinkling each portion with a little more Parmesan cheese.

My notes:
I didn't use all three hearts of romaine, but I did use all the dressing and croutons. There ended up being WAY TOO much dressing for the romaine.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Week 42: Nicky's Lasagna

This is not a new recipe; it's something we make all the time. But, it seemed important to share it with you. It's "winter" food, so it seems perfect to make today. It's raining and only about 65 here today.

1 lb ground beef or turkey
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 C water
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
6 oz tomato paste
2 dried bay leaves
1 tsp dried parsley
26 oz tomato soup (condensed)
12 - 16 oz cottage cheese
12 - 16 oz mozzarella, divided
Lasagna noodles, cooked

Brown beef with onions and garlic. Cook until onions are translucent and beef is cooked.

Meanwhile, combine water, salt, pepper, oregano, tomato paste, bay leaves, parsley, and tomato soup. Add mixture to beef, onions, and garlic. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Combine cottage cheese and mozzarella, reserving 1 C of mozzarella

Ladle some of the sauce mixture into the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan. Layer noodles, half of the cheese mixture, and half of sauce mixture. Repeat. End with 1 C of mozzarella topping noodles.

Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes or until bubbling. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

My notes:
Don't use fat free cottage cheese; it ends with a really watery final product.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Week 41: Cookie Bars

I stalk Bakerella. I've never made anything from there though. I enjoy looking at the beautiful treats but don't seem to have the patience to actually try any of the recipes. Until I saw this one. . . simple enough for even me.

Taken from Bakerella
Makes one 9 x 13 pan

2 3/4 C all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 C butter, softened (10 2/3 Tbsp)
1 lb light brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
11.5 oz package milk chocolate chips
1 C chopped pecans
1 C caramel chips

Sift flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.

Combine butter and sugar using a mixer until blended.

Add eggs, one at a time to sugar mixture, mixing on low in between each addition. Add vanilla and mix.

Add flour and mix until combined.

Stir in chips and then pecans.

Coat a 13 X 9 pan with non-stick spray and spread batter evenly into dish.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until top is golden brown.

My notes:
I had a tough time getting these to bake. The original recipe was 30 minutes of baking; I ended up leaving them in the oven for a little more than 45 minutes. They needed additional time to set before slicing. The final product was really good, though. They stayed moist and fresh tasting for several days.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Week 41: Taco Mac

I already confessed my unabashed love for Hamburger Helper - Stroganoff style.  I do not, admittedly, feel the same about the taco-style Hamburger Helper, but I decided to try this recipe anyway. Tacos are part of our weekly rotation, and I'm always looking for something similar to switch out.

Adapted from Annie's Eats
Prep and Cook Time: less than 30 minutes

Apologies for the hideous picture. We ate dinner late, and the meal was really, really orange even before the flash.

1 lb ground turkey
8 oz dry pasta shapes
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
2 packages (1 oz each) low-sodium taco seasoning
3 oz cream cheese, low-fat
1/2 C sour cream, low fat
Salt and pepper

Garnish Options:
Cheddar cheese, shredded
Fritos, crumbled
Green olives, sliced

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Cook pasta according to the package directions.  Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet or sauté pan, cook the ground turkey and onions over medium-high heat until the turkey is no longer pink.  Once the turkey is cooked through, mix in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Mix in the diced tomatoes and taco seasoning and let simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes.

Stir in the cooked pasta, cream cheese, and sour cream, and continue stirring until the cream cheese is melted and the sauce is well blended.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer over medium-low heat 3-5 minutes to reduce the sauce a bit.  Add part or all of the pasta water to achieve desired consistency in the cheese sauce.

Remove from the heat and top with desired garnishes.

My Notes:
This was great. It took less than 30 minutes to make and was tasty. It's officially part of my week-night rotation.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Week 41: Shrimp, Feta, and Herb Macaroni and Cheese

Stephanie is the only person at her house that eats shrimp. Brad has a crazy exercise-induced shrimp allergy. Stephanie and I are shrimp friends.

So, of course I made this for a girls' night dinner.

Taken from: Annie's Eats

1 lb pasta shapes
1 lb raw shrimp (31-40 ct.), peeled and deveined, cut in half (if desired)
10 oz feta cheese, crumbled and divided
Zest of 1 lemon, divided
½ C Panko breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped, divided
5 Tbsp butter, divided
4 Tbsp all-purpose flour
3 C milk
2 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped
8 oz Gruyere cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
½ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Cook the pasta until al dente according to the package directions.  Drain well; set aside.  Add the raw shrimp to the warm pasta and toss together.  The heat from the pasta will partially cook the shrimp.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400˚ F.  In a small bowl, combine a handful of the feta, a pinch of the lemon zest, the panko, 2 teaspoons of the parsley and 1 tablespoon of the butter, melted.  Toss with a fork to combine; set aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat.  Once the butter is melted, whisk in the flour  to form a paste.  Cook 1-2 minutes, whisking constantly, until light golden brown.  Whisk in the milk.  Continue to heat the mixture, stirring frequently, until it bubbles and thickens, about 5 minutes.  As soon as the sauce has thickened, remove from the heat and stir in the remaining feta, Gruyere, remaining parsley, remaining lemon zest, dill, salt and pepper.  Pour the mixture over the pasta and shrimp; toss well to coat.

Transfer the mixture to a lightly greased 2½ or 3-quart baking dish.  Sprinkle the breadcrumb-feta mixture evenly over the top.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned and bubbling.  Remove from the oven and let cool 5-10 minutes before serving.

My Notes:
This was okay. It didn't taste nearly as feta-licious as I wanted it to. I'm not sure I like the texture of shrimp in mac and cheese, either. It was too similar in texture to the noodles. The crispy topping was nice, though.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Week 41: Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Cheese

I never would have thought to add hot sauce to macaroni and cheese. The combination of cheeses in here also appealed to me.
Taken from Noble Pig


7 Tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for the dish
1 lb elbow macaroni
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
3 C shredded chicken
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 C Frank's Buffalo Wing Sauce, divided
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tsp dry mustard
2-1/2 C half-and-half
1 lb extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
8 oz pepper jack cheese, shredded
2/3 C sour cream
1 C panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/2 C crumbled blue cheese
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9 x 13 baking dish.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 7 minutes.  Drain.

Meanwhile, melt 3 Tbsp butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and celery and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the chicken and garlic and cook 2 minutes, then add 1/2 cup hot sauce and simmer until slightly thickened, about 1 more minute.


Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Stir in the flour and mustard with a wooden spoon until smooth.  Whisk in the half-and-half, then add the remaining 1/4 cup hot sauce and stir until thick, about 2 minutes.  Whisk in the cheddar and pepper jack cheeses, then whisk in the sour cream until smooth.

Spread half of the macaroni in the prepared baking dish, then top with the chicken mixture and the remaining macaroni.  Pour the cheese sauce evenly on top.  Put the remaining 2 Tablespoons butter in a microwave safe bowl and microwave until melted.  Stir in the panko, blue cheese and parsley.  Sprinkle over the macaroni.  Bake until bubbly, 30 to 40 minutes.  Let rest 10 minutes before serving.  Drizzle with some wing sauce for color.

Garnish with even more wing sauce, blue cheese and sour cream if you like!

My Notes:
Like every macaroni and cheese recipe I try. . . this made way too much food. And, it didn't reheat well. Next time, I either need to invite a crowd or make a half batch.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Week 40: Garlic-Butter Burgers

I'm always looking for a way to make a burger a little more exciting.

Taken from Deen Brothers
Servings: 4
Prep Time: Less than 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 large clove garlic, minced
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 pounds ground beef
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 hamburger buns, split and toasted
Tomato slices, Onion slices, Lettuce leaves (optional)
Cheese and Bacon (optional)

 Prepare the grill for medium direct heat or preheat the broiler.

In a small bowl, mash together the butter, parsley, garlic, and lemon zest. Form the mixture into a log, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill in the freezer for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix together the beef, salt, and pepper. Form into 4 patties about 1 inch thick; place on a rimmed baking sheet. Cut a slit 1/2 inch deep into the side of each burger. Cut the butter log into 8 slices; tuck 1 slice into the slit in each burger, pressing it deep into the burger. Pinch the slits closed so the meat totally covers the butter.

Grill or broil the burgers for 7 to 9 minutes for medium rare, turning once. Top the burgers with the remaining butter slices and place in the toasted buns. If desired, top with tomato, onion, and lettuce.

My Notes:
These were great. We will definitely make them again.