Sunday, January 31, 2010

Onion, Bacon & Roasted Garlic Dip

Put this one on your list of "must serve" for Super Bowl Sunday-- you won't regret it, I promise. I mean, who can refuse the match-made-in-heaven combo of caramelized onions, smoky bacon and roasted garlic?

There are a few steps that are necessary for this to come together, but you'll want to make this a day ahead, anyway, in order for all the flavors to come together. I recommend roasting the garlic first...

While the garlic is roasting, finely chop two medium yellow onions.

In a large skillet, over medium heat, melt a couple tablespoons of butter. Add in the onions and cook until they start to soften, about 2 or 3 minutes. Lower the heat to medium-low and allow the onions to cook until they are soft and caramelized, which will take about 40 minutes or so.

Remove the onions from the pan and set aside. In the same pan cook 2 chopped slices of thick-cut bacon over medium heat until the bacon is crispy. Remove the bacon and set it aside.

Mix the onions, bacon and garlic together in a medium bowl...

Add about 3/4 cup of Greek yogurt, 3/4 cup of sour cream and a few pinches of salt to the mixture and stir well.

Keep in the fridge for several hours before serving.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Asian-Style BBQ Sauce


Just like knowing a few good self-defense moves, it's a good idea to have a few good BBQ sauce recipes up your sleeve in case you need to bake up some wings for the random sports gathering or grill some chicken  for a back yard get together. 

Along with other BBQ sauces it's good to have a spicy-sweet Asian style BBQ sauce in the repertoire, so if you're in the market for one you should definitely give this one a try.

I developed this recipe after I came across a basic BBQ sauce on the Serious Eats website. Following the article was a series of lively comments with recommendations and suggestions, along with some strong opinions, for dressing up the basic sauce. The recipe you see here includes many of those suggestions and tips. 

Asian-Style BBQ Sauce
makes 2 cups

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 medium red onion. finely diced
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup garlic chili sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

In a large pot heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Cook the onion until soft. Add in all the other ingredients, stir well to combine. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Store in the refrigerator and enjoy!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Chicken Wrap with Cranberries, Walnuts & Poppy Seed Dressing

Another simple lunch idea that has helped me keep my New Year's resolution to tote my little lunch bag to work every day. Taking my  lunch has been surprisingly easy to do-- especially when I have something like this wrap to look forward to at noon.

Who wouldn't want to find this in their lunch bag?

Grilled chicken, chopped walnuts, dried cranberries and a sweet poppy seed dressing all wrapped up in a tortilla with some butter lettuce. It has a little bit of everything-- savory, sweet, and tart with a bit of crunch from the walnuts.

The recipe for the dressing is from my sister-in-law, Lisa, and is great for this wrap and to keep on hand for other wraps and salads. The recipe makes 2 cups total, which will go a long way-- I only used a 1 and 1/2 tablespoons for my chicken wrap.

Lisa's Poppyseed Dressing
Makes 2 cups

1/3 cup cider vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 small red onion, chopped
1 and 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon paprika

Combine all the ingredients using a blender. Store in the refrigerator. Enjoy it with salads and anything else that needs a salad dressing.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Our Winter Garden

Since posting about the kale last week I've gotten a few questions about our winter garden, so I thought I would take the opportunity to share some insider information about our garden.

Ah, the kale... so tasty in soup.

As I've mentioned before I really can't take credit for the garden. I'm really good at planning what we should plant and offering directives on the aesthetics of the layout. When it comes to actually digging in the dirt, well, I leave that to Dan and if it weren't for him I wouldn't get to grow and eat things like this... of several small butter lettuce heads.

Or these...

...little carrots pulled straight from the ground.

A big part of what makes this all work are these miniature green houses that Dan designed and built...

They're made of PVC piping and wood and covered in heavy plastic, so they're pretty lightweight and easy to move. They do a great job protecting the plants from the weather and keep it toasty warm for them to grow.

We don't have a lot of stuff growing this winter. Since it was our first year we thought we would just try a few things-- mostly carrots, butter lettuce, kale, and chard.

And that's our garden.

The End.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Creamy, Cheesy Baked Ravioli


Just when I thought I was going all healthy on myself, after making this and that earlier in the week, the weather took a turn and brought us a dusting of snow and chilly temperatures.

You know it's cold when it looks all blue outside.

When it's blue and chilly outside all I want to do is turn on the oven and make something comforting and rich. Preferably something with pasta and cheese.

Pasta and cheese really warms the soul.

Creamy, Cheesy Baked Ravioli
Serves 2

Using good quality frozen ravioli makes this very easy to do. Choose whatever filling you like-- I used a basil, Asiago cheese and pine nut ravioli that went really well with the cheese sauce. Although ravioli stuffed with meat or mushrooms would probably be delicious with this sauce, too.

1 two-serving package of frozen ravioli
1/4 cup butter
4 ounces cream cheese
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon roasted garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup plain bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cook the ravioli according to package directions. Drain and toss with a bit of olive oil in a bowl and set aside.

Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add in the cream cheese and whisk until smooth. Add in the milk, a small amount at a time, whisking continuously. Stir in garlic, nutmeg, Parmesan and a few turns of the pepper mill.

Continuing cooking until this sauce starts to thicken slightly. Remove from the heat and pour the sauce over the ravioli. The sauce will be pretty soupy, but, don't worry, it will thicken up a lot in the oven.

Divide the ravioli between two oven-safe bowls.

Top with the bread crumbs and a couple sprinkles of the Parmesan cheese. Top the bread crumbs with a few small chunks of butter.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until the tops have browned. Allow to stand for a few minutes before serving.

Waiting to serve these is really hard...

You'll want to dig right into the cheesy goodness...

And take a big bite.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Chicken Sausage & Veggie Pasta Toss


A common thread among a lot of easy weeknight dinners is that they usually have four main components: pasta, meat, veggies and sauce.  Using those four main components and switching up the ingredients leads to an endless list of dinner possibilities. So many, in fact, that you might not ever have to eat the same combo twice. 

I love those kind of dinners and this is one of my favorite versions...

Chicken Sausage & Veggie Pasta Toss
Serves 2  (with some leftovers)

1/2 package of spaghetti
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb Italian chicken sausage, casings removed
2 large handfuls of fresh spinach
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
juice from half of a lemon
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
pepper, to taste

Cook the spaghetti according to package directions.

While the spaghetti is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the sausage, breaking it up into small pieces, until it is almost cooked through. Add in the spinach and cook until it starts to wilt. Add in the peppers and cook another 4-5 minutes. Add in the herbs and stir to combine.

Drain the pasta and add it to the skillet with the sausage and veggies. Toss it all together. Drop in the butter and continue to toss until it has melted and coated the spaghetti. Add the lemon juice and toss again. Finally, add in the Parmesan cheese and give it one more final toss just until the cheese melt. Season with pepper, to taste.

Serve with the mozzarella cheese sprinkled over the top.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hearty Veggie Soup with White Beans and Kale


One of my New Year's resolutions is to take my lunch to work most days of the week. This commitment requires a bit of planning so I decided this past weekend to make a hearty soup and freeze it in individual servings so it would be easy to pack it and go in the morning. 

It was pretty easy to decide what kind of soup to make after Dan came into the kitchen with a small bunch of kale from our garden. I always swell with pride when we retrieve some home-grown treat from our humble back-yard veggie plot. It's such a great feeling to wander outside and decide what to make based only on what's ready to be pulled from the ground. 

Plus,  my work friends are highly impressed when they comment that my lunch looks good and I respond, "Yes, it is good-- especially the kale that my husband grew in our garden and harvested just for me make this healthy and delicious soup." 

Ok, so maybe they're more annoyed by that comment than impressed. 

I need to work on that.

Hearty Veggie Soup with White Beans and Kale
adapted from Fine Cooking
Serves 8

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 cup ditalini (small tubular pasta)
2 quarts chicken or vegetables broth
1 small bunch of kale, stems removed and chopped
1 15 ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme, stems removed
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

In a large stock pot heat the oil over medium heat. Cook the onion and carrots, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Add in the celery and continue cooking another 5 minutes, or until the onion has softened. 

Add the broth and the kale. Increase the heat, bring it all to a boil and then add in the pasta. Reduce the heat and allow the soup to simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked and the veggies are cooked (cooking the soup for 10 minutes will leave the veggies with a bit of a bite, so if you want them more tender cook for additional 5 minutes, or so). Add in the herbs and season the soup with salt and pepper, to taste.

Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Fried Egg Sandwich


Simple ideas are sometimes the best, which is the case for fried egg sandwiches. 

It all starts with the thought "I would like a fried egg, but that alone is not enough."

Some toasted bread might go well...

And maybe some mayo that has some fresh thyme mixed in...

Yes, I think that sounds nice.

But since I'm making the mayo maybe I should add some bacon and spinach...

Do you see the spinach peeking out from under the egg?

Oh, and about the egg, I like mine over medium for a fried egg sandwich.

Who knew such a simple idea could be so delicious?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies


Impressive stack of cookies, no?

Oh, and they are super tasty, too.

Moist and chewy with big chunks of chocolate and walnuts in every bite.

I made these this past weekend and have been taking one in my lunch bag to work each day this week. I save it for the afternoon-- just before the four o'clock slump kicks in.

These have made my afternoons a little bit brighter and  a little less slumpier.

Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies
adapted from
Makes 3 dozen smallish cookies or
12-16 giant cookies. I like my cookies giant.

1 and 1/2 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
1 and 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
 1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 stick butter (1/4 pound), softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk ( I used 2%)
1 cup chocolate chunks or chips
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray two cookie sheets with cooking spray.

In a large bowl combine the oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another large bowl cream the two sugars and butter together until smooth and creamy. Add in the vanilla and eggs and continue to mix until the ingredients are well combined. With the mixer on low, add in the dry ingredients along with the milk. Mix until a stiff dough forms and then fold in the chocolate and nuts.

If you want small cookies, drop about a tablespoon of the cookie dough onto the cookie sheet and bake for 10-14 minutes. For larger cookies drop two heaping tablespoons, leaving about an inch or so in between each cookie. Bake the larger cookies for 15-20 minutes, or until the edges are brown and the middle is slightly puffy. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tex-Mex Breakfast


This is the kind of breakfast you want for those days when your to-do list is jammed packed and you need a lot of energy to get you through. Or, as it was in my case, your agenda consists of watching four episodes of Mad Men back-to-back and you need a substantial breakfast so you don't have to tear yourself away from the drama for snack breaks. 

Yes, the show is that good and, yes, I have no problem watching four episodes in a row. It's the best part about being a grown-up-- I can watch as much TV as I like.

This breakfast is just a riff on some old familiar favorites like breakfast burritos and huevos rancheros. Beans, potatoes, salsa and eggs are all you need, but you can certainly substitute or add in other ingredients as you like. If you're short on time you can use hashbrowns found in the frozen case, which would take considerable time off of the preparation. I had the time, so I used some potatoes we had on hand, diced them up, boiled them for about ten minutes and then tossed them in our cast iron skillet with some veggie oil to finish cooking them. 

Once you get the potatoes going in the skillet add in a can of drained black beans and a third of a cup of salsa. Let it all cook until the potatoes are cooked through.

I had big dreams for the eggs in this dish. The original plan was to bake them in individual ramekins and them scoop them out and serve them over the potatoes and beans.

Didn't really work out. 

I don't think I had the right temperature on the oven, so they didn't cook through. I had to toss those ones out and regroup. Using new eggs, I cooked them in the skillet with the potatoes and beans by making a space for them in the pan. I covered the pan with a lid and cooked them until the whites were done and the yolks were still a bit runny. A few pinches of salt and pepper was all that was needed before gently scooping out the egg with some of the potatoes and beans. 

Hearty, flavorful and filling. Kept me full and satisfied through my Mad Men marathon.

But, I do have a couple of questions, so please leave your answers in the comments...

First, any advice you can share about baking eggs?

Second, do you watch Mad Men? If so, who is your favorite character? 

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Classic Meatballs


I feel like I'm breaking the law by posting this recipe for meatballs. Everywhere I look there are healthy recipes designed to help one detox after the holiday season. I feel like a rebel bucking the system and thumbing my nose to those who think we all should be indulging in lighter fare.

I just don't feel the need to detox, yet.

I'm still craving comfort food and warm cozy meals-- is that so wrong?

Salad just doesn't sound good.

Unless it's served alongside these...

This is the kind of stuff I am craving in January.

I like to make these meatballs and freeze them. That way I have them on hand whenever a craving strikes. They are great served with a tasty tomato sauce and spaghetti, but I also like them tucked into a hoagie bun and topped with melted mozzarella cheese.

They are easy to make and very versatile...

In a large bowl combine 1 pound of ground beef, 1 pound of Italian sausage, 3 eggs, 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs, 1/2 medium onion (finely chopped), 3 or 4 garlic cloves (minced), 1/4 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup milk, 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, and a couple pinches of salt and pepper. Mix it all together until just combined.

Form the mixture into meatballs the size of golf balls on steroids. Line them up on a cookie that is lightly coated with cooking spray.

Bake at 375 degrees for 25-35 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through. 

Serve and be comforted.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Bananas Two Ways


I'm not very creative when it comes to bananas. I would make "banana scallops" like Richard Blais did on 'Top Chef' a few seasons ago or use them in some other exotic way except, like I mentioned, I am not very creative. When it comes to bananas I use them in one of two ways-- either I freeze them for smoothies or I make banana bread. On this particular day I did both.

Freezing fruit is something I like to do especially when it's a matter of saving it before it eventually gets thrown out because it went bad. It's very easy to do and it's a very nice feeling when it slips your mind that you froze some fruit and then find it later-- it's like a little gift from your freezer.

All you do is slice the fruit, spread the slices in a single layer on a sheet pan, chill it all for about 30 minutes in the fridge and then freeze it for an hour or so in the freezer. Then just bag it, label it and store it in the freezer until you are ready to use it.

Oh, and by the way, everything I know about freezing fruits and veggies I learned while watching 'Top Chef'.

As for the banana bread, well, I decided I needed a little chocolate fix so I used a recipe that calls for some of these...

Here is the link to the recipe I used, but if you already have a favorite banana bread recipe just add some chocolate chips to it for a little twist-- just fold them in after all the ingredients have been combined.


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