Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Poached Eggs in Spicy Tomato Sauce

This is one of my go-to meals when I have zero time for dinner, like tonight.  It's super quick, healthy, and only requires one pan (easy cleanup).  The kids got Egg Toast (that's what we call it when you cook an egg inside a piece of toast) while the tomato sauce was cooking.  We also had Parmesan Roasted Broccoli.

I learned this recipe from Martha Stewart years ago, and she said it's an old Italian dish called Eggs in Purgatory.  I think I like that name better, but anyway...

Poached Eggs in Spicy Tomato Sauce
1 large can crushed tomatoes (I like to use fire roasted tomatoes)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
pinch of red pepper flakes
4 large eggs
4 slices toasted bread (thick country style bread is best)
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

In a skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and crushed red pepper flakes.  Cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 1 minute.  Add tomatoes and bring to a boil, and then season with salt and pepper.   Cook the sauce for 10 minutes.  Gently crack the eggs into the tomato sauce, cover, and let cook for 5 minutes.  Transfer each egg to a piece of toast.  Spoon over extra sauce, garnish with cheese, and season with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix

Make this up to keep in the pantry and never buy those yellow packets again. 

Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix

4 tablespoons chili powder
3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon paprika
3 tablespoons cumin
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Store at room temperature in an airtight container

To use the seasoning:
 Brown 1 lb. of extra lean ground beef. Add 2 tablespoons of seasoning mix and ¾ cup water and 1 tsp salt to the ground beef. Simmer, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens and coats the beef, and there is not much liquid left.

We had tacos for dinner tonight, and this is the way I like to serve them. Make your own.  And also, we ate before John got home and I could easily keep the beef hot in the warming drawer and the toppings cold in the fridge.  Toppings: Monterrey Jack, tomatoes, cilantro, sour cream, avocados (drizzled with lime juice to keep them from turning brown), limes, salsa. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Homemade Caesar Salad

When I go to restaurants, I like to order things I cannot make at home.  Either dishes with ingredients unavailable to me, things I've never heard of, or dishes I don't know how to or don't like to cook.  Caesar Salad fits into the category of food I don't know how to cook.  Until now! Thanks to the good ol' interwebs, the Caesar is no longer a mystery!

Caesar Salad (adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook)

2 1/2 cups cubed crusty bread for croutons
3 garlic cloves
2 large egg yolks**
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3/4 teaspoon minced flat anchovy filet*
1 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 large heads romaine, torn into bite sized pieces
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (actually Parmigiano-Reggiano, which is sold in the bulk cheese case at my Walmart)
freshly ground black pepper

Make the croutons.  Spread bread on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake at 350 until golden, about 7 minutes.

Grate the Parmesan cheese in the food processor.  Cut the block of cheese into big cubes and just pulse the food processor until it's a fine consistency.  Remove cheese from processor.

Add the garlic cloves and anchovy* to the food processor.  Chop them very finely.  Add egg yolk, lemon juice, white wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and salt and process until frothy.  With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil.  Process for about 10 seconds.

To assemble the salad, toss dry romaine with Parmesan cheese, dressing, and croutons. 

*I left out the anchovy, only because my Walmart didn't have anchovies.  The dressing was delicious, but didn't have the distinctive "Caesar" taste; I'm certain because it was lacking anchovies.  Don't leave them out!

**I know you're not really supposed to eat raw eggs, but I like living on the edge. Seriously though, don't serve them to babies, unhealthy people, or pregnant women.  Be sure they are fresh (organic and free range if possible) and rinse the eggs before you crack them. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Parmesan Roasted Broccoli

Did you know that my kids love broccoli?  They are weird, I know.  I cannot stand it, myself, but they eat just regular frozen broccoli, steamed in the microwave, with a little salt.  Yuck.  But THIS broccoli recipe has made a broccoli lover out of me! Excellent.  This guy says it's the best broccoli of your life, and he's not exaggerating.   We also had baked chicken and roasted potatoes, but the broccoli stole the show!

Parmesan Roasted Broccoli

2 large heads of broccoli, cut into florets
4 garlic cloves, sliced
olive oil
salt and pepper
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
juice of half a lemon
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Place broccoli florets on a sheet pan, and drizzle generously with olive oil.  Toss in the garlic, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast at 450 for 20 minutes, or until browned. 
Remove broccoli from oven, and add lemon zest, lemon juice, Parmesan cheese, and extra salt and pepper to taste. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tenderloin Steaks with Rosemary Butter

Tenderloin Steaks with Rosemary Butter

tenderloin steaks (actually, any steak would work, but Sams has great tenderloin steaks)
salt and pepper
1/2 stick softened salted butter
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

Heat oven to 450.  Then, heat heavy bottom skillet to high and add 2 teaspoons olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pan).  Salt (generously) and pepper steaks.  Place steaks in hot skillet and allow them to cook for 5-7 minutes, or until very brown (look at the picture above, there is about 1/2 inch of brown).  Flip the steaks, transfer entire pan to oven, and cook until they are as done as you like them.  The time depends on the thickness of the steak. 

Use the touch test:  if the steak feels like your cheek when you touch it, then it's rare.  If it feels like your chin, it's medium rare.  And if it feels like the end of your nose, it's cooked medium.  Don't cook steak any more than medium. 
Let the steaks rest for 10 minutes, then place rosemary butter on top and allow it to melt into the warm steak.   You can also pour the pan drippings on top, too, for extra flavor.

Rosemary Butter
Soften butter on the counter or in the microwave.  Stir in finely chopped rosemary.  Store in refrigerator until ready to put onto steaks.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Monkey Bread Muffins

The easy to delicious ratio for these Monkey Bread Muffins is really high.  I made these as a thank you gift for a neighbor, and I had to stop myself from eating them straight out of the oven with a spoon.  The sweetened condensed milk is the key, don't leave it out.  Soo good.

Monkey Bread Muffins
makes about 22 muffins

2 cans Grands Homestyle biscuits
1 1/2 sticks butter
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Add 1/2 teaspoon butter to each muffin cup (that's about half a pat, don't bother to measure any of this). Sprinkle 1 teaspoon sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon to each muffin cup.
Cut biscuit dough into quarters, and place three into each muffin tin containing butter, sugar, and cinnamon.
Top muffins with another 1/2 teaspoon butter. Sprinkle about 1/3 teaspoon sugar and a big pinch cinnamon on top to finish.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden and bubbly.
Remove from oven and immediately drizzle a big teaspoon of sweetened condensed milk over the top of each one. Be generous! Allow rolls to cool completely before serving (if you can).

Since I was making these for a friend, and I had a hunch they were going to be sticky and gooey, I got some disposable muffin tins.  They came with a plastic top and it was the perfect way to give them. I would suggest these disposable muffin cups if you plan to take them anywhere as well....they're kind of messy.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Parmesan Basil Orzo with Oven Roasted Shrimp

Parmesan Basil Orzo

1 tablespoon butter
1 cup orzo (rice shaped pasta)
1 14 oz can chicken broth
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (I used leftover freshly grated cheese from Thursday)
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a large saucepan and add orzo.  Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until orzo is coated with butter and lightly browned.  Stir in chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce heat to simmer and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.  Mix in Parmesan cheese and basil before serving.  Taste for salt and pepper and add it to taste.

Oven Roasted Shrimp

To roast shrimp, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast at 400 for 6-8 minutes, or until just pink.  Don't overcook them! They continue to cook after you take them out of the oven.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Quick Artichoke Pasta

This was a quick one.  And good thing, too, because the school year is underway and we've got after school activities, homework, and playing to be done in the afternoon! 

Quick Artichoke Pasta 

1 can artichoke hearts (not marinated), drained and rinsed
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
pinch red pepper flakes
salt and pepper, to taste
juice of half a lemon
6 tablespoons dry white wine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon butter
about half a box of thin spaghetti

Cook pasta in salted water.  Meanwhile, saute artichokes in about 1/2 tablespoon olive oil.  Add chopped garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, lemon juice and let it cook for about 5 minutes.  Add wine, deglazing the pan with the liquid, and allow to simmer until the pasta is ready.  Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.  Add the pasta directly to the pan containing the artichokes and add 1/2 the Parmesan cheese and the butter.  Stir together and add basil.  Add remaining cheese to individual servings.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Creamy Crock Pot Chicken Tacos

I get asked all the time if I ever make anything that isn't any good.  Well, I typically just don't blog about that stuff (clever, right?). Really, I usually know what I like and I don't try difficult or weird recipes, unless they are given to me by a friend. 

But tonight, I made this chicken, because I saw it on Pinterest and it peaked my interest.  It seemed too good to be true in how easy it is.  Throw frozen chicken and some other stuff in the crock pot and that's it??  It was, in fact, really easy.  But I'll have to say it wasn't that good.  I mean, it was ok, and the kids really liked it.  But, I wouldn't make it again, though, at least this way.  It wasn't very flavorful, even after I added a bunch of spices, and it was kind of soup-y.  I still like the idea of adding frozen chicken breasts to a crockpot....I'm going to give it some more thought.  Maybe replace the rotel with salsa and omit the corn...

Creamy Crock Pot Chicken

5 frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts
8 oz package of lowfat cream cheese
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can Rotel (tomatoes and green chilies)
1 small bag of frozen corn
1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon chili powder

Just dump it all in the crock pot and set it to low.  Cook for 8 hours.  At the end, turn the crock pot up to high and leave the lid off for a bit to let some of the liquid evaporate.  I served the chicken with tortillas, shredded cheese, fresh cilantro, and fresh lime. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Truffle Oil Roasted Potatoes with Fleur de Sel

Our family of 5 just got back from a wonderful extra long weekend trip to Chicago.  In taking the kids, we got to have a whole new experience in one of our favorite cities. 

We usually refrain from taking the children to any restaurant we would consider "nice", but I CANNOT go to Chicago without eating good food.  We did eat our share of Chicago style pizza and hot dogs (sans pickles; sorry, Chicago), but one night we went to a restaurant that didn't have a kids' menu.  It was wonderful, and tonight for dinner, I tried to recreate the food we had that night.

We ate Pan Roasted Tenderloin Steaks with Rosemary Butter and Truffle Oil Roasted Potatoes with Fleur de Sel.  I'll tell you about the steaks later in the week, but these potatoes were fabulous! 

Truffle Oil Roasted Potatoes with Fleur de Sel
1-2 lbs. baby Yukon Gold potatoes
salt and pepper
olive oil
truffle oil*
fleur de sel*

Boil potatoes until tender, about 15 minutes or so.  Remove from water and let them cool until you're ready for dinner.  Heat broiler to high.  When you're ready to eat, drizzle about 1 tablespoon of olive oil on a sheet pan and toss potatoes in the oil and sprinkle a little salt and a lot of black pepper.  Broil until they brown a bit, about 3-5 minutes.  Remove from oven and drizzle with about 2 teaspoons of truffle oil and sprinkle with fleur de sel.

*I found truffle oil at TJ Maxx. Yep, that's right, TJ Maxx.  Truffle oil isn't a cooking oil, it's kind of like a condiment, in that you use it for finishing a dish.  If you've ever had it, then you know it's distinctive in it's taste, and amazing.

*I got my fleur de sel at Williams Sonoma.  It's a french sea salt that has huge grains; they almost crunch they are so big.  I don't use it that much, but it's perfect on potatoes and salads.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Autumn Chopped Salad

I feel like a broken record saying this, but are you using Pinterest yet?  It's such a great place to get ideas.  Anyway, I found this recipe for Autumn Chopped Salad there, but I changed the recipe quite a bit.   I know it's not Autumn yet, but school started today around here, so it feels like it!

Autumn Chopped Salad

1 large head of romaine lettuce, washed and chopped
2 medium pears, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (I did this in the microwave)
4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
Rotisserie chicken, chopped white meat
Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette

Toss salad with vinaigrette right before serving.

Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4-1/2 cup olive oil
Combine ingredients in a small jar with a lid and shake it up.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Quick Bread Recipe

I made purple hull peas for dinner again tonight, since I surprisingly found some fresh ones at my Walmart Market today.  I realized I was out of cornmeal at the last minute, so I couldn't make cornbread.  And what's a good southern dish like purple hull peas without cornbread?  Then I remembered an old recipe I have for Beer Bread.  This bread is so quick to put together, and so delicious, that it doesn't even bother me that it takes an hour to bake. I completely do not understand the science behind why pouring beer into flour makes bread, but it does!

Beer Bread

3 cups self rising flour
3 tablespoons sugar
12 oz beer

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix ingredients and pour into greased loaf pan. Bake for 30 minutes.  Butter top of bread and bake 30 additional minutes. Butter top again. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Caprese Salad

The Caprese Salad is my favorite summer salad.  I just love it. And because of our crazy hot weather, perfect tomatoes have been in short supply!

If I told you ever crazy thing that happened today, you would think I'm exaggerating...But I had dinner alone (it was quite nice, I might add), after the air conditioner repairman left at 9pm...

Here's what you need to make a glorious Caprese Salad:

Perfect tomatoes
fresh mozarella
fresh basil
balsamic vinegar
olive oil
salt and pepper

Just throw it all together and you'll be happy!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Lemon Buddies

I won't bore you with what we had for dinner, because we're working on cleaning out the fridge and pantry before our family vacay.  So here's a recipe for the Lemon Buddies I made this afternoon.

These are like Muddy Buddies/Puppy Chow snacks that have been around forever, except with lemon.  In my opinion, they need a lot more lemon, but I like lemon more than most people... I made them for a friend who did an awesome favor for me, but my family loved the leftovers, even without extra lemon. 

Lemon Buddies

9 cups Rice Chex cereal
1 1/4 cup white chocolate chips
1/4 cup butter
4 tsp grated lemon zest
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 cups powdered sugar

Measure cereal into a large mixing bowl and set aside.  In a microwaveable bowl, microwave chips, butter, lemon peel and juice uncovered on high for 1 minute; stir.  Microwave about 30 more seconds or until mixture can be stirred smooth.  Pour mixture over cereal, stirring until evenly coated.  Pour into a 2-gallon resealable food storage plastic bag.  Add powdered sugar, seal bag and shake until all the cereal is well-coated.  Cool on wax paper or foil.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Homemade Laundry Soap

Yep, I got the idea of making homemade laundry soap from the Duggars, but I’ve since learned that a lot of regular people make it, too.  Because we do 1-2 loads of laundry every DAY around here, we go through a lot of Tide, so I thought we'd give it a try.  I also thought it would be a good super hot day activity for the kids…
Here's the recipe I used, with step by step instructions. I found all the ingredients at my Walmart.

1 bar of soap (any kind you want, but pick something that has a nice scent)
1 cup of Borax
1 cup of washing soda
a big pot
a cheese box grater
2 empty gallon containers

And here's how the process went down.  You won't make a huge mess like I did.

First, we grated a bar of soap with a box grater. If I were doing this process alone, I'd probably use my food processor to grate the soap, but what fun would that have been for the girls? :)

Then we added one gallon of water to the pot with the grated soap, and cooked it until the soap dissolved.  To that, we added the borax and the washing powder and brought it to a boil.  I had to rescue my son from immediate danger, but I turned around quickly when Beta yelled, "Mommy, it's a volcano!"  It boils quickly!

So after it boiled, I removed it from the heat and added one gallon of cold water.  I had to transfer the mixture into a larger plastic container (and at that point I spilled a bunch on the floor, you won't do that, I'm sure), and then into a pitcher so I could pour the soap into the empty milk jugs.  The pitcher actually worked perfectly.  

After the soap cools it gets thicker, and after washing a few loads with it, I think it works great.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Vine Ripe Tomato Pie

This recipe encompasses two of my favorite things: tomatoes and pie. I've always wanted to try the Paula Deen tomato pie, but my disdain for mayo has always stopped me.  So I decided to edit the recipe a little, and I really like how it turned out. 

Vine Ripe Tomato Pie

1 refrigerated pie crust (or make your own if you can, I cannot)
ripe tomatoes, enough to fill crust
3 green onions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1/3 cup mayo
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
2/3 cup sharp cheddar, grated
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/3 cup fresh mozzarella, grated
salt and pepper, to taste

Roll out the pie crust and bake unfilled at 450 for 5-7 minutes, or until lightly brown.  Lower oven temperature to 350 and assemble pie. 

Mix cheese, mayo, and yogurt.  Layer tomatoes, onions, herbs, and cheese mixture, finishing with cheese.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes.  Uncover and bake another 15-20 minutes, or until brown and bubbly.  Let the pie cool just warm before cutting. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

French Breakfast Puffs

You know it's happened to you.  You tell somebody you are going to do something, and then completely forget.  Well, I told my friend I was bringing snacks over for our visit today (I was planning to make mini blueberry muffins) but I completely forgot until late last night.  I didn't have any blueberries; I actually had very few ingredients at all.  Enter: French Breakfast Puffs.  These muffins are made completely with pantry ingredients AND they are delicious.

Warning: don't google French Breakfast Puffs or you might stumble across a calorie count.  You don't want to know.

Like my Real Housewives of Arkansas pose with the muffin?
French Breakfast Puffs
Yield: about 18 muffins

3 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 tbs. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 eggs
2/3 cup shortening
1 cup milk

For the coating:
2 sticks butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tbs. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease muffin pans.
Combine flour, salt, baking power, and nutmeg in a large bowl.
In a mixer cream together sugar and shortening.  Add eggs and beat again.
Alternating between dry ingredients and milk, add 1/3 of each until everything is well combined.
Fill muffin cups 2/3 of the way full. 
Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. While baking melt butter in a dish and combine sugar and cinnamon in another.
Remove from the oven and coat each muffin in the melted butter then in the cinnamon/sugar mixture.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Simple Salmon

I did a whole post about where to buy salmon locally in Arkansas and how to cook it back in January when I wasn't too hot to type.  But today, I'm just too darn hot to blog. 

I made Simple Salmon for dinner, along with a spinach and arugula side salad tossed with leftover marinated tomatoes.  I'm in love with those tomatoes, have I mentioned it? Now I'm sitting inside for the evening in my comfy air conditioning.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Bruschetta, again

I made these marinated tomatoes the other day, then I made them again, and tonight I made them again.  They are just so darn good, especially on top of garlic toast and topped with goat cheese.  I got some tomatoes at a farm stand yesterday, but they started going bad really quickly.  I knew I had to eat a bunch of them today, and this was the best way I could think of.  Yum.  The kids ate macaroni and cheese, though.  I wouldn't say this Bruschetta is exactly kid friendly...

Monday, August 1, 2011

Purple Hull Peas

If you are from the south, you've no doubt eaten purple hull peas (a cousin to black eyed peas) at some point in your life. I've never particularly cared for them; I've always thought they were mushy and tasted like dirt.

Purple hull peas come in a pea pod that is purple, hence the name, and you have to shell them before cooking which also make them unappealing to me.   My blog friend, Lyndi (@nwafoodie) blogged about them today too, coincidentally, and she has some good pictures of what they look like before they are shelled.

This morning I stopped by a farmstand (local friends, you know that one in Johnson?) on a tip from a neighbor, and the gentleman there said his wife had shelled these peas this morning. I knew I had to give them a try.

While researching how to cook them, I learned that a city in Arkansas actually has a purple hull pea festival in June every year complete with a pea cook off, and this recipe was the grand prize winner a few years back. I see why. The peas aren't mushy, and they don't taste a bit like dirt. I did a couple of things differently, based on other recipes I had seen, but I didn't want to mess with a blue ribbon winner too much.... My kids ate every bit, too!

Purple Hull Peas

5-6 cups shelled purple hull peas

6 oz. centercut smokey bacon

half a yellow onion, root left intact so you can remove it

1 quart of chicken stock

Salt and pepper to taste

Cut bacon into inch size pieces and lightly brown in a dutch oven. Do not drain bacon grease. Add washed peas and stock plus water to cover plus one inch. Add 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Boil over medium heat until tender (about 45 minutes). Remove onion before serving.