Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pot Roast Perfection

I have tried unsuccessfully to make Pot Roast many, many times.  I've tried slow cooker recipes, oven recipes, and stovetop recipes.  I've used onion soup mix and cream of mushroom soup recipes.  I've tried it with and without carrots/potatoes.  And I've experimented with every cut of roast at the grocery store. I think I've made every recipe out there, and they all turn out the same way: stringy, wet, flavorless, and chewy.  Not exactly perfect.  So when Pioneer Woman posted her recipe for Perfect Pot Roast earlier this week, I thought, what the heck, I'll give it a shot.  And it was perfection. Finally!

Pot Roast Perfection straight from the oven.

Pot Roast Perfection

2 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
One 3 pound chuck roast (this cut is important for flavor)
1 large onion
4 large carrots carrots
2 to 2 1/2 cups beef stock
3 fresh rosemary sprigs (or if you let all your herbs die like I did you can use 1 tablespoon dried)
3 fresh thyme sprigs (use dried and then promise yourself you'll water your herbs more often)

Generously salt and pepper the chuck roast. 

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add olive oil.  
Cut onion in quarters and cut carrots into 2-inch slices. 
When the oil in the pot is very hot, add in the onions, browning them on one side and then the other. Remove the onions to a plate.
Throw the carrots into the same hot pan and toss them around a bit until slightly browned, about a minute or so.
If needed, add a bit more olive oil to the very hot pan. Place the meat in the pan and sear it for about a minute on all sides until it is nice and brown all over. Remove the roast to a plate.
With the burner still on high, use beef broth (about 1 cup) to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon.
When the bottom of the pan is sufficiently deglazed, place the roast back into the pan and add enough beef stock to cover the meat halfway. Add in the onion and the carrots, as well as the rosemary and thyme.
Put the lid on, then roast in a 275F oven for 3 hours (for a 3-pound roast). For a 4 to 5-pound roast, plan on 4 hours.

Mashed potatoes on the side, not cooked with the roast. Pot Roast Perfection!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Spinach Artichoke Tortellini

Spinach Artichoke Tortellini

1 large package refrigerated cheese tortellini
1 can artichoke hearts (not marinated), drained and rinsed
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (to taste)
salt and pepper, to taste
juice of half a lemon
6 tablespoons dry white wine (or chicken stock)
1 bag fresh baby spinach
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup heavy cream

Cook tortellini according to package directions.  Meanwhile, saute artichokes in about 1/2 tablespoon olive oil.  Add chopped garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, and lemon juice and let it cook for about 5 minutes.  Add wine, deglazing the pan with the liquid, and then add spinach and toss until spinach wilts. Add the cream and then add the cooked tortellini and 1/2 the Parmesan cheese.  Add remaining cheese to individual servings.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Not Your Everyday Pumpkin Bread

Now THIS is some pumpkin bread.  I had intended on taking a neighbor the muffins, but they were gone before they were cool! Delicious.

The recipe makes 2 loaves, but I only have one loaf pan, so I made half the recipe into muffins (with chocolate chips).

Pumpkin Bread

3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup oil
1 can cooked pumpkin
2/3 cup water
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients together.  Add the wet ingredients and mix well.
Divide into two, greased and floured loaf pans. Or one loaf pan and 8 muffins. 
Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes.  Cool 10-15 minutes in pans then invert and cool completely.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Chicken Tortilla Soup

I've been making Barefoot Contessa's Mexican Chicken Soup for years, and it's one of our favorites.  Recently, I've been shredding a Rotisserie chicken from Sams to cut down on the prep time, and I think it's even better this way.

Tortilla Soup

1 large chopped onion
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2- 32 oz. boxes chicken stock
1- 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
6 white corn tortillas
salt and pepper
Rotisserie chicken, shredded (I only use the white meat)

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot in a large pot and add the onions, celery, and carrots.  Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until the onions start to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes, cumin, coriander, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper.  Cut the tortillas in 1/2, then cut them crosswise into 1/2-inch strips and add to the soup. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes. The tortillas will thicken the soup.  Add the shredded chicken, cilantro, and season to taste. Serve the soup hot topped with avocado, sour cream, broken tortilla chips, and grated cheese.  

Pumpkin Spice Latte (almost)

Everyone loves a Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks, right?  Everyone except my wallet and my waistline, that is.  Here's a fantastic substitute for you.  And you don't have to wait in line, pay $4.50, or do any extra crunches at the gym! 

1 cup skim milk
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (recipe follows)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
2-3 tablespoons Splenda (or sweetener of choice, brown sugar or maple sy)

Warm the pumpkin milk mixture in the microwave for a few seconds before adding it to your coffee. 

Pour 1 cup of brewed coffee into a mug and pour about half a cup of the pumpkin over the top and stir.  You can add a little whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon if you want.

makes about 2 tablespoons
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg*

Blend all spices together, working out any lumps that might occur.  Store in an airtight container.

*To grate nutmeg, just run the whole nutmeg over the microplane to grate.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pear, Apple, and Blue Cheese Salad with Maple Syrup Vinaigrette

This salad is a great combination of all 5 tastes: sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and umami (I've been waiting to use that one; it means savory, you know).   The maple syrup and pears are sweet, the blue cheese salty, the arugula bitter, the vinegar and green apples are sour, and the walnuts are savory.  I've had a version of this salad many times at restaurants, but never with the maple syrup.   Delicious! 

Pear, Apple, and Blue Cheese Salad with Maple Syrup Vinaigrette
For 2 large salads; adjust the amounts to your taste 

4 cups arugula
1 Granny Smith apple, cut into slices
1 Bartlett pear, cut into slices
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons maple syrup*
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
big pinch of salt
freshly ground black pepper

In a glass jar with a lid, combine the maple syrup, vinegar, salt and pepper.  Put on the lid and shake well to combine.  Add the olive oil and shake well again.  Drizzle over arugula tossed with apples, pears, walnuts, and blue cheese.

* In the south, many people consider pancake syrup (like Mrs. Butterworth's) to be maple syrup, but it isn't.  Maple syrup is a natural product that comes from maple trees.  Mrs. Butterworth's is corn syrup flavored with, well, whatever Mrs. Butterworth puts in it...
If you haven't ever tried real maple syrup with your pancakes, waffles, and french toast, you must.  You will never go back to the Mrs.

Monday, September 19, 2011

BBQ Chicken Pizza

I'm not sure why I thought my kids would eat this fabulous pizza....I guess I was just hoping.  I had to pick off the onions and cilantro,  but they did eat it after a little fussing about the "green stuff" and a promise of dessert.  I should have made a special one for them.  Anyway, it was awesome.  And fast. Perfect for an evening of perfect weather and playing outside! 

BBQ Chicken Pizza (inspired by PW)

Homemade or store bought pizza crust (I used a thin one from my Walmart bakery)
Rotisserie chicken, white meat diced
1/2 cup barbeque sauce (I like the sauce from Rendevous in Memphis)
Fresh mozzarella cheese, very thinly sliced
1/2 whole red onion, cut in half and sliced thinly
chopped cilantro, to taste

Heat oven to 450 degrees.  Spoon a couple of tablespoons of BBQ sauce on the crust and spread it evenly. Top sauce with half the sliced mozzarella. Sprinkle on half the diced chicken and thinly sliced red onion.
Sprinkle with a little salt, about a tablespoon more of BBQ sauce, and then bake for 10-12 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and toppings are bubbly.
Remove from the oven and sprinkle on plenty of chopped cilantro. Cut into squares and serve immediately. Repeat with another other crust and other ingredients, or save for another time.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lasagna Soup

This Lasagna Soup was great!  Poor thing doesn't photograph well, though.  You'll see what I mean if you look at the picture in the original recipe (she clearly staged the soup for the picture, something I don't do, only because I have ZERO time for that kind of stuff) and compare it to my picture....

Lasagna Soup

For the soup:
2 tsp. olive oil
1 lb. extra lean ground beef
3 c. chopped onions
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 T. tomato paste
1 28-oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
6 c. chicken stock
8 oz. fusilli pasta (I couldn't find fusilli, so I used penne, and if I could have found fusilli, I'd totally make a Fusilli Jerry)
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

for the cheesy yum:
8 oz. ricotta
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. salt
pinch of freshly ground pepper
2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add beef, breaking up into bite sized pieces, and brown for about 5 minutes. Add onions and cook until softened, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Cook for 1 minute. Add tomato paste and stir well to incorporate. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the tomato paste turns a rusty brown color.
Add diced tomatoes, bay leaves, and chicken stock. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add uncooked pasta and cook until al dente. Do not over cook or let soup simmer for a long period of time at this point, as the pasta will get mushy.
While the pasta is cooking, prepare the cheesy yum. In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, Parmesan, salt, and pepper.
To serve, place a dollop of the cheesy yum in each soup bowl, sprinkle some of the mozzarella on top and ladle the hot soup over the cheese.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Healthier-for-You Homemade Blue Cheese Dressing

Tonight we had Wedge Salads with Homemade Blue Cheese Dressing along with Tomato Basil soup from Sam's (it's in the refrigerated section) to celebrate that it's finally cooler than 95 degrees at dinner time.  Summer is OVER!

Homemade Blue Cheese Dressing
1 cup fat free Greek yogurt
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 cloves garlic
juice of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese

Grate garlic with a microplane or chop very finely. Add the yogurt, mayo, lemon juice, salt, and pepper and whisk to combine.  Gently stir in the blue cheese. If the dressing is too thick, add a little skim milk to thin it.

Wedge Salad

To assemble the salad, cut a cold head of iceburg lettuce into quarters.  Drizzle with the Homemade Blue Cheese Dressing over the top.  Top with crispy bacon and extra blue cheese. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Chili Lime Broiled Salmon with Avocado Corn Salad

I found my broiler pan the other day when I was cleaning out my cabinets and realized I didn't even know how to use it.  And wow, why did I wait so long to figure it out?  Talk about an easy way to cook fish.  And FAST!

Chili Lime Broiled Salmon
Drizzle both sides of thawed salmon fillets with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, and juice from half of a fresh lime.  Broil on the broiler pan for 5 minutes.  Flip the salmon and broil for 5 more minutes.  When it comes out of the oven, squeeze the other half of the lime over the fillets.

Avocado Corn Salad
 4 ears fresh corn
2 ripe avocados
1/2 orange bell pepper
1/4 chopped cilantro
juice of 1 lime
salt and pepper

Cut the corn off the ears using a serrated knife.  Steam the corn in a glass bowl covered with plastic wrap in the microwave for 5 minutes.  You want the corn to remain slightly crunchy,  Combine the avocado, corn, orange bell pepper, cilantro and stir.  Add the lime juice (add more if the lime isn't very juicy) and salt and pepper. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Kids' Favorite Chicken Tenders

We had the Kids' Favorite Chicken Tenders for dinner, and  I should mention that adults like them, too (we even dip them in barbeque sauce or ranch, like the kids do!).

You must excuse my poor phone pictures.  My 3 year old son stole the sim card to my camera, AGAIN!.
Kids' Favorite Chicken Tenders

4 thin skinless chicken breasts (I buy the thin ones)
2 cups Panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 flour
2 eggs

Mix Panko with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder.  Cut chicken breasts in half to form chicken tenders.  Lightly salt and pepper each one.  Dredge each tender first in flour, then in egg, and then in the Panko/spice mixture.  Place tenders on oiled cookie sheet and bake at 450 for 7-10 minutes or until beginning to brown on top.  Flip each tender and bake 5 minutes more.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

While you can't beat a good Nezle Tulhouze (you've seen that Friends episode, right?), this is my go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe.  I've adapted several recipes over the years to make MY perfect chocolate chip cookie.  The oatmeal gives it a great texture and the extra salt is just perfect.  Everyone needs a good chocolate chip cookie recipe; if you don't have one, this should be it.  

I made these for us to eat while we watched the Razorback game on TV, and boy, did we ever eat!! I'm glad I put half the dough in the fridge for later....

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 heaping teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup butter, room temperature (2 sticks)
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 (12-ounce) package semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. 
Whisk flour, salt, and baking soda together in a bowl.
Beat together butter, sugars, and vanilla in large bowl with an electric mixer until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in flour mixture and rolled oats. Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop batter by well-rounded teaspoonfuls (I use a tiny ice cream scoop) onto a baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until golden.

Cool cookies on sheets for 2 minutes. Remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Make Your Own Pizza

I wasn't sure if I wanted to share this with you or not, because it's kind of embarrassing for someone who has a food blog.  But my blog is about what we had for dinner, and we did, in fact eat this pizza for dinner.  Now y'all know I always you what we really eat!

Here goes: we ate a Chef Boyardee Cheese Pizza Kit for dinner (we added leftover hamburger).  My second family, the Kerns, introduced me to Chef Boyardee Pizza many years ago.   It's nostalgic, but seriously, it's good.  The kids LOVE making their own pizzas and we usually make 5 little pizzas so we all get our own.

Look at what a beautiful job my girls did.   Who doesn't like a heart shaped pizza? Even if it is drowning in corn syrup laced pizza sauce....

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Bleu Moon Burger

There is a restaurant in town (Hugo's) that serves my favorite hamburger of all time: the Bleu Moon burger.  I guess it's just a hamburger with blue cheese on it, but it's really spectacular.  Tonight was our attempt at a recreation. 

Bleu Moon Burger

ground chuck (don't try to be healthy if you want a tasty burger, use ground chuck)
blue cheese
quality hamburger bun (that means not Wonder bread)
lettuce and tomato (if you want)

Liberally salt and pepper hamburger patties.  Grill on high until done, flipping once.  Don't press them down with the spatula or mess around with them too much.  Top with blue cheese while still hot.  Grill the bun, too, and you'll have a perfect hamburger.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Baked Potatoes

This is a tricky one, pay attention. 

Baked Potatoes 

Drizzle potatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Bake at 400 for one hour on a cookie sheet.  We like our potatoes with butter, sour cream, cheese, bacon, and chives. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Chicken and Green Chili Enchiladas

A wonderful neighbor friend from our old neighborhood brought these enchiladas to me one evening after Alpha was born (8 years ago!), and I've been making them ever since.  I like to use a rotisserie chicken to save time, but she poaches boneless, skinless chicken breasts instead.  You can do either.  And you can adjust the amount of chicken based on what you like.  I like mine less chicken-y and more creamy, so I use less chicken than the recipe calls for (just 2 chicken breasts from the rotisserie). 

Amy's (not me) Chicken Enchiladas 

3 cups cooked and chopped chicken
1 8oz package of cream cheese (don't bother to use low fat, read the rest of the recipe)
1 small onion, chopped
1 small can of chopped green chilies
salt and pepper to taste
large flour tortillas
8oz whipping cream
8 oz Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded (more or less to taste)

Cook the onions and green chilies in a skillet over medium heat with 1 tablespoon olive oil until very soft, about 10 minutes.  Add the cream cheese and stir until it melts.  You can add a little cream if the mixture is not creamy enough.  Add the chopped chicken, salt and pepper, and stir.  Put some of the chicken mixture in each tortilla and place seam side down in a lightly greased baking dish.  Pour whipping cream over the enchiladas and then top with shredded cheese.  Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 15 minutes, remove foil and broil until browned on top, about 5 minutes.

Our Favorite Cookie

Martha Stewart's Chocolate Thumbprint cookies are my family's favorite cookie, by far.   John likes them so much that he hides a bunch of them in the back of the freezer (shhh, don't tell the kids).  The not too sweet shortbread with the buttery, chocolate center is fabulous!  I may or may not eat the leftover chocolate with a spoon out of the bowl...I'm sure Martha does that, too.

And by the way, the recipe says you should pull the cookies out of the 350 degree oven after 10 minutes and use your THUMB to make the "thumbprints".  Well, unless you're like Martha and developed thumbs of steel in a minimum security women's prison, you might want to use the end of a wooden spoon.  

Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies (from Martha Stewart's Cookie Cookbook)

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons light corn syrup
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together 1 stick butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla on medium-high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Beat in flour, beginning on low speed and increasing to medium high.
  2. Roll dough by teaspoonfuls into balls, and place 1 inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven, and press thumb into tops of cookies to make indentations. Return to oven, and bake until light brown on the edges, 7 to 9 minutes more. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
  3. Combine chocolate, 4 tablespoons butter, and corn syrup in a small heat-proof bowl. Set over a pot of simmering water; stir occasionally until melted and smooth. Allow to cool slightly. When cookies are cool, fill the thumbprints with the chocolate mixture.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Cheese Tortellini with Spinach and Tomatoes

Cheese Tortellini with Spinach and Tomatoes

1 large (20oz) package refrigerated tortellini (or frozen)
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
pinch red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups fresh baby spinach
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes (more or less to taste)
1 tablespoon butter
Parmesan cheese to taste

Boil the water and cook the tortellini for about 5 minutes (for refrigerated tortellini, longer for the frozen).  Meanwhile, heat skillet to medium high and add about 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, cook for 2 minutes, and then add spinach and salt and pepper.  Cook the spinach until it's wilted (about 2-3 minutes), and add tomatoes and stir.  Turn off the heat.  Drain tortellini and toss it together with one tablespoon of butter and spinach/tomato mixture.  Season with Parmesan cheese.