Saturday, July 31, 2010

Mexi-Cali Zucchini Boats

This is my attempt at trying to be creative with all the zucchini that is starting to come in from the garden!  Bennett was super-excited about this meal when I put it on the menu, though he's never had zucchini boats before, so I am not sure what generated such anticipation and enthusiasm.  But, let me tell you, these were yummy!  Essentially, you can stuff your boats with whatever flavors and ingredients that you like; I opted for a Mexi-Cali flavor (this time!!), using ingredients that I had on hand and a fresh green bell pepper from the garden.  These boats are sure to come sailing in again this summer!  (Sorry, that was bad!)  :)  *And for the record, I'm not sure why I called them "Mexi-Cali."  I guess it just sounded festive!

Mexi-Cali Zucchini Boats
Source:  Karla

2 large zucchinis
1 lb. ground beef
1 tbl. olive oil
1-2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1/2 onion, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, ribbed, seeded, and diced
1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 tbl. chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, diced
1/2 cup frozen corn
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can diced tomatoes, slightly drained
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. red cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1 egg, beaten
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
sour cream for serving

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cut each zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and pulp, leaving some around the inside of the skin.  Keep the ends on in order to help the boats hold their shape and the filling.  (Discard the pulp, or you may use it for something else).

In a skillet, brown the ground beef until no longer pink, chopping it as it cooks.  Drain.  Remove to a plate.

Drizzle olive oil in same skillet and add garlic, onion, jalapeno, and bell pepper.  Saute until fragrant and tender, 3-5 minutes.  Add ground beef, chipotle pepper in adobo, corn, beans, and tomatoes.  Add cumin and cayenne pepper; season with salt and pepper and stir to combine all ingredients.  Cook until warmed through to allow flavors to mingle.  Off heat and cool slightly.  Add beaten egg to meat mixture to help it stick together.

Spoon mixture into the scooped out zucchini halves.  Place zucchini boats on a rimmed baking sheet and place in oven.  Carefully, pour some water halfway up the sides of the pan.  Bake 25-30 minutes until zucchini is fork tender when pricked.  Sprinkle with cheddar cheese and heat in oven until melted.

Garnish with sour cream.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Balsamic Blueberries & Peaches

This is a refreshing summer twist on the classic Italian pairing of strawberries with balsamic.  Very lovely.  This would also be very wonderful served in between slices of shortbread and topped with a dollop of fresh whipped cream.

Balsamic Blueberries & Peaches
Source:  Kitchen Chick, originally from Gourmet July 2006

3 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 cups blueberries (about 1 lb)
1 lb. peaches or nectarines, sliced

Boil 3 tablespoons sugar with vinegar, and 1 cup blueberries in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan, stirring, 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Combine remaining 2 cups blueberries with peach slices in a large bowl. Toss with hot blueberry syrup, then add sugar to taste. Let stand, tossing occasionally, 30 minutes.  Serve at room temperature.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cheesecake Ice Cream with Blueberry Ripple

I have severely mixed feelings about this ice cream....and I went to a lot of trouble to have them.  I was craving cheesecake ice cream (minus the crust component--ick!).  My ice cream "bible" had a recipe, yet I was lacking one of the main ingredients and I didn't want to haul the kids to the store just for a single item.  So, I went in search of another recipe on the internet.....  I probably should have waited until I went to the store.  *Sigh*  I learned a pretty important lesson with this recipe, however.  The ice cream batter must be thoroughly chilled, perhaps even chilled overnight, before churning it.  (Which I knew before, but I guess I thought that this time would be a bit different).  Ooops.  My lukewarm batter melted the liquid inside my ice cream maker faster than my ice cream maker could freeze my batter.  So, I stuck the churned-yet-not-ice cream-batter into the freezer, froze it, later removed it and thawed it a bit, then re-churned it.  The results?  Yes, ice cream.  But a bit icy.  Yet flavorful and cheesecake-y.  You know.  Deep down, I really think that a custard based ice cream is the way to go.  Every time.  Even though it is a bit of extra work.  So, I post this recipe with a bit of trepidation.  It definitely has the makings to produce a yummy ice cream.  Just follow all the instructions!  :)  I'm still going to try David Lebovitz's cheesecake ice cream recipe.  Now I guess I just have something to compare it to.  

Cheesecake Ice Cream with Blueberry Ripple

adapted from MyRecipes
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 large egg yolks
4 cups whole milk

Combine first 3 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until smooth. Combine milk and half-and-half in a medium, heavy saucepan; bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Gradually add half of hot milk mixture to cheese mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Return milk mixture to pan. Cook over medium-low heat 5 minutes or until a thermometer registers 160°, stirring constantly. Place pan in an ice-filled bowl. Cool completely, stirring occasionally.  Cool thoroughly in refrigerator before churning.

Blueberry Sauce
adapted from "The Perfect Scoop" by David Lebovitz

2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
1 tbl. cold water
1 tbl. freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a medium saucepan, heat the blueberries and sugar until the berries begin to release their juices.  Mash the blueberries a bit with a wooden spoon or a potato masher.  Mix the cornstarch with the cold water and lemon juice until lump-free, then stir the slurry into the blueberries.

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 1 minute.  Remove from heat.  Chill (or serve at room temperature as a sauce/topping).

To Make the Ice Cream:
Pour cheesecake ice cream batter into your ice-cream maker; freeze according to manufacturer's instructions.

Layer ice cream and blueberry sauce into a freezer-safe container; cover and freeze for 1 hour or until firm.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Chicken Teriyaki

I admit; I seem to have a compulsion to fix semi-complicated meals that take more time to prepare than what I probably really have time for (after reading my blog, my own mother wonders how I ever walk out of my kitchen!).  My excuse is that I do it because I enjoy it.  But, I know that not everyone enjoys hours spent in the kitchen, and that is ok.  I don't often prepare meals with prepared foods, but, low and behold, there are a couple recipes in my stash that I pull out when I know that I am going to be very pressed for time around the 5 o'clock hour.  This is one of them.  I really do love the blend of flavors in this dish, I love that it is simple, easy, and quick to prepare, I love that my family loves it (even the baby and the sugar princess!).  It is the sole reason why I keep a box of instant rice in my pantry.  :)

Chicken Teriyaki
Source:  Kraft Food & Family magazine

1/4 cup Italian salad dressing
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
1 1/3 cup water
1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
2 cups broccoli florets (I always use fresh, and I steam for about 4 minutes in the microwave first to soften them)
*2 fresh carrots, or a handful of baby carrots, coarsely sliced/chopped (steam these also to soften them) *optional
1 1/2 cups instant rice, uncooked

Heat dressing in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add chicken; cook and stir 5-7 minutes until chicken is cooked through and no longer pink.

Add water, teriyaki sauce, and garlic powder.  Stir.  Bring to a boil.

Stir in steamed broccoli, carrots* and rice; cover.  Cook on low heat for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes.  Fluff with a fork.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

There are times (a lot, actually!) that I chafe at how expensive things are at the grocery storeI hate how high my grocery budget is and that it doesn't leave me a lot of room to "play."  Short of annoyingly clipping coupons from here, there, and everywhere, I do all the right things to keep my costs down (buy store brands, menu plan, shop only from my list, make a single trip to the store, never buy processed, prepared (and expensive!) foods, etc.).  And yet.  I still sweat like a maniac when I get to the checkout--makes me so nervous.

Anyway, I say all that to say that any time I get the chance to make something from scratch using whole ingredients, it usually costs me less in the long run.  Ricotta cheese is one such food that I was stoked to make on my own!  Aside from the package of cheesecloth (which I needed to have in my kitchen anyhow!), making ricotta costs the same as a gallon of milk!  Granted, you use salt and vinegar, but those are staples in my kitchen and not an extra cost to make cheese.  Plus, making your own cheese is tons of fun!!  This is will take about 5 hours, but it does all the work, and you get to go do something else while it is making itself.  I would encourage you to have a plan of what you will do with your luscious homemade ricotta cheese once it's done; it will last only about a week in your fridge.  :)

Homemade Ricotta Cheese
Source: Leslie Sarna
(Yields about 2 1/2 to 3 cups of cheese)

1 gallon of whole milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup distilled white wine vinegar (or regular white vinegar will work!)
*I easily halved this when I made it the first time.

  • Pour the milk into a large stock pot and heat at medium low slowly so it doesn't burn.
  • Stir frequently.  Heat the milk till it reaches 180 degrees.
  • Off heat and pour in the salt and vinegar.   It will begin to curdle immediately. 
  • Give it a gentle stir and cover.  Let sit covered for 2 hours.
  • When the time is up, place a strainer over a large bowl and line it with cheesecloth. 
  • Using a slotted spoon, remove the solid pieces from the milk.  Let drain for another two hours.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge. *The leftover liquid is called whey, and can be used for a variety of purposes!  I'm still investigating on those, but a good use of it is as a substitute for any liquid in baking.  Store in the fridge for up to 6 months.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Mock Tacos

This is a meal that was introduced to me by my husband's family.  At first, when I started making it after we got married, I though that it needed to be spicy.  Like Mexican, right?  However, I have since come to appreciate that this meal simply has its own unique flavor, and to mess with it is to mess with a classic.  The perks of this dish??  Besides being yummy?  Simple.  Easy.  Satisfying.  Kid-friendly.  Leftovers need not apply.  (But if you get stuck with leftovers, it is just as yummy the next day!)

Mock Tacos
Serves 4

1 to 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1 can Hormel chili with beans
1/4 cup water
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/4 cup vinegar
2 tbl. sugar
shredded lettuce, shredded cheese, taco chips

Brown hamburger in large skillet or stockpot and drain.  Add all other ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes.

To serve, crush taco chips in individual bowls and cover with sauce.  Top with lettuce and cheese.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lemon Cheesecake Cheese Ball

 Well, for some reason, my "cheese ball" turned into a dip....which was fine, because the flavor of this is superb!  Creamy, light, and refreshing!  It was perfect for a summer girls-get-together.

Lemon Cheesecake Cheese Ball
from Annie's Eats

10 oz. cream cheese
2½ tbsp. sugar
Zest of 1 large lemon
4 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 graham crackers

Combine the cream cheese and sugar in a medium bowl.  Stir together with a spoon or spatula until well combined and smooth.  Mix in the lemon zest and lemon juice until smooth.  Transfer the mixture to a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a ball, wrapped tightly.  Refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours.  Reshape if necessary once firm.

Coarsely crush the graham crackers and transfer the crumbs to a plate or bowl.  Roll the cheese ball in the crumbs until evenly coated.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serve with fresh apple slices, berries, pineapple, vanilla wafers.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Zucchini, Tomato, & Sausage Pizza

So often when the zucchini starts coming in from the garden (though not my garden; my dad shares with me!), I can find myself at a loss of what to do with it all.  I don't really prefer it in breads, and I can only fry it and saute it so often before, well...before I start to go a bit crazy.  I wish that it was one of those vegetables that canned well, but alas, it doesn't.  I guess I could freeze it.  Or, I could use it as a pizza topping.  Who would've thought?!  And yet, it was delicious as a pizza topping!  Now, to be fair, I usually do not consider dough without sauce and pepperoni a pizza, but this one passed the pizza test!  The sweetness of the zucchini, mixed with the spiciness of the Italian sausage, with the pungent garlic atop a crispy crust...let's just say that the garden fresh zucchini can keep on rollin'!  The best part:  Bennett was delightful company and assistant chef on this summer evening in the kitchen, and he gave this pizza 2 Thumbs Up!  

Zucchini, Tomato, & Sausage Pizza
adapted from Eats Well With Others

Serves 4

1 part pizza dough made according to recipe (you can freeze the other two parts for another time!!)

1 medium zucchini, sliced thinly
kosher salt
2 spicy Italian turkey sausage links, casing removed
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1-2 tbl. olive oil, for drizzling
2 cloves of garlic, pressed or finely minced
2 Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Mix the zucchini with the salt in a large bowl and let sit for 20 minutes to draw out their liquid.  In the meantime, heat a small nonstick skillet and saute the sausage, breaking it into crumbles with spatula as you go, until it is cooked through.

Rinse the zucchini in a large colander, shake out excess water, and lay in a single layer on paper towels.  With another paper towel, pat dry. Keep on paper towels until ready to use.

Roll pizza dough to measure a 12-inch circle.  Place on pizza stone (or pan) and cover with a dry towel and let rise about 30 minutes in a warm area (or if you prefer a crispy, thinner crust, skip this second rise).  When dough is slightly puffy, lightly drizzle with olive oil  a half-inch from edge and press garlic over dough.

Sprinkle mozzarella cheese then Parmesan cheese over garlic.  Layer the zucchini slices on your pizza dough.  Sprinkle the sausage on top, then lay tomato slices on top of sausage.  

Bake for 15-17 minutes or until crust is nicely browned.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Coffee Ice Cream

Being the coffee lover that I am, it comes as no surprise that I also love coffee ice cream.  However, making coffee ice cream is tons of fun!  Letting the coffee beans steep in the milk really fortifies the coffee flavor; I think that next time I make this, I will omit the finely ground coffee.  This was our first attempt at a custard base ice cream, and the texture of this ice cream is smooth and silky and just perfect without the added ground coffee.  This is the 5th flavor that we have made (the "No. 5" on the coffee cup was purely coincidental!!!), and El Hub and I both agree that already, we have gotten our money's worth out of the ice cream maker attachment!  (Indeed, how have we ever survived without it??!)

Coffee Ice Cream
adapted from The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz

2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups whole coffee beans (any variety or flavor)
pinch of salt
1 cup heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. finely ground coffee (optional, if you prefer an added layer of texture in your ice cream)

Warm the milk, sugar, whole coffee beans, salt and 1/3 cup of the cream in a medium saucepan.  Once the mixture is warm, cover, remove, from the heat, and let steep at room temperature for 1 hour.

Rewarm the coffee-infused milk mixture.  Pour the remaining 2/3 cup cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top.  In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks.  Slowly pour the warm coffee mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrap the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula.  Pour the custard through the strainer and stir into the cream.  Press on the coffee beans in the strainer to extract as much of the coffee flavor as possible, then discard the beans.  Mix in the vanilla and the finely ground coffee and stir until cool over an ice bath.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, even overnight, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Lemon White Chocolate Mousse and Berry Parfaits

Each month, a group of girls meet at my house for a Stampin' Up party/workshop/club. We have a ton of fun, laughing while making cards or other creative projects. Each girl gets a turn at being the "hostess"--bringing a yummy treat and earning the freebies. July was my turn to share treats. about some pressure. Granted, it was self-induced, but I couldn't help but think that my food blogging eliminated a simple boxed brownie mix for my treat. (Not that there's anything wrong with boxed brownies, but I was feeling the pressure to come up with something delectable and creative).  Another friend recommended this recipe, in a roundabout way. Parfaits are fun and simple, and this one was especially delish!  It was very lemon-y tasting and the white chocolate flavor was very subtle.

Lemon White Chocolate Mousse and Berry Parfaits
from Annie's Eats
8-10 servings

5 large egg yolks
½ cup sugar
½ cup fresh lemon juice
4 tsp. lemon zest
Pinch of salt
¼ cup plus 2 2/3 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
3.5 oz. good quality white chocolate, finely chopped
4-5 cups assorted berries (I used sliced strawberries and raspberries, with a couple blueberries on top)

To make the lemon curd, combine the egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and salt in a medium saucepan set over medium heat.  Heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and registers about 170˚ F on an instant-read thermometer.  Transfer the mixture to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap so that it is touching the surface of the curd (this prevents it from forming a skin.)  Cool until the mixture is at least at room temperature.

Meanwhile, combine ¼ cup of the heavy cream in a heatproof bowl with the white chocolate.  Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is melted.  Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

Once both the lemon curd and white chocolate mixtures have cooled, beat the remaining heavy cream in the chilled bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form.  Once the cream is fully whipped, divide the mixture between the two bowls with the lemon curd and the melted white chocolate.  Gently fold the whipped cream into each until well incorporated, smooth and no streaks remain.

Layer the lemon mousse and white chocolate mousse as desired in serving dishes with berries between the layers.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

....and the WINNER is....

Congrats go to Shelby_Lea!!!!  You are the winner of the Cookie Cookbook!  Shelby_Lea's favorite cookies are iced sugar cookies and she is a Facebook fan! 

Shelby_Lea, please email me your address so I can send this to you!  (I need to hear from you by Friday, July 23, or I will have to pick another winner.)  Email me at

Thanks to all of you who left comments!  I enjoyed reading them and seeing some good varieties of cookies!

(I did this drawing real scientific-like:  10 pieces of paper, each with the name of each person who left a comment.  Tossed the 10 pieces of paper in a basket, shook them up, and let El Hub draw one out.  No looking.  Honest. :) ) 

Friday, July 16, 2010

Pillow Cookies...and a Giveaway!

Now, if you have been reading this blog for long, you will know that chocolate is not really my thing.  But my husband LOVES it!  So, when I saw this recipe, I immediately thought of him, and how much he would love the marriage of two almost-perfect foods (for him, at least!).  Chocolate chip cookies.  Brownies.  Brownies wrapped inside chocolate chip cookies.  Yep.  He loves me.  :)  *Now, these cookies are HUGE, and I do mean really large.  :)  After eating one, my brother sarcastically asked me if they could be bigger. 

Pillow Cookies
Source:  Bakerella

1 package brownie mix, made and baked according to package directions

1 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
12 oz. bag miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips

Make brownies according to package directions and let cool. Cut about ten 1 inch squares. Enjoy the remaining brownies.

For the chocolate chip cookie dough, beat butter with a mixer until creamy.  Add brown sugar and beat until smooth.  Add eggs, yolk and vanilla. Beat until smooth.  Combine flour, baking powder, soda and salt in a medium bowl and stir together with a wire whisk.  Add flour to butter mixture and beat until combined. Stir in mini chips.  Let dough chill covered in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Use a measuring cup to scoop batter by the 1/2 cup. Since it’s chilled, you may need to pack it with a spoon. Then use the spoon to remove the dough from the cup and place it on parchment paper. Work quickly so the dough remains chilled or either prepare one cookie at a time so the rest of the dough remains cold.

After the dough is on the parchment paper, make an indention and place a 1 inch square brownie in the center. Press the brownie down gently and work the remaining dough around the brownie. You can use your hands to shape the dough into a ball.  Make your ball pretty tight and compact, in order for them to stay a bit puffy when they bake.

(During this step, I  used a piece of parchment paper as a work surface since the dough can get sticky and then I used another piece of parchment paper for the baking sheet. If your dough gets too soft, you can chill the rolled dough balls for a few minutes right before baking).

Prepare six cookies at a time using a large baking sheet (15 X 20) and bake at 350 degrees for about 18 minutes. Return the remaining dough to the refrigerator until time to bake the second batch.

Cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes and then cool completely on a wire rack.  Makes about ten cookies using a little less than a 1/2 cup of dough for each cookie.

Now for the Giveaway....!!!

A cookie cookbook!!  There are 2 ways you can increase your chances for winning this cookie cookbook...
  • Become a Facebook fan, and come back here and leave a comment saying you did so.
  • Leave a comment sharing what your favorite cookie is.
Only comments left on this post will be considered.  One winner will be chosen at random.  Comments need to be posted by midnight Saturday, July 17, 2010.  I will announce the winner early next week.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Chili Cheese Fries

So, I feel like I need to defend this recipe (which I don't really, but....).  This one has brought cynical laughter from some (as if I serve junk food to my family for dinner), but it has also brought about some anticipation from others ("You can invite me over for dinner anytime when you serve this!").  Personally, I love this meal.  My family loves this meal.  When done the right way, it is no less healthy or any more unhealthy than any other comparable meal.  So, if you choose to partake, just sit back and enjoy it.  You will have made it all from scratch, no frying or processed foods involved.  Refuse the guilt.   :)  (A nice, simple side salad completes this meal).

Chili Cheese Fries (dinner-sized!)
Adapted from Rachael Ray

4 large potatoes (I personally like Yukon gold potatoes)
2 tbl. olive oil

For the chili:
1 tbl. olive oil
1 pound ground beef or ground turkey
1 large onion, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, minced or chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, ribbed, seeded, and chopped fine
2 tbl. chili powder
2 tsp. cumin
salt and pepper, to taste
3 tbl. tomato paste
a couple dashes of hot sauce, to taste
2 tbl. worchestershire sauce
1 1/2 cups beef broth

For cheese sauce:
3 tbl. butter
3 tbl. flour (or cornstarch if going gluten-free)
1 tbl. yellow mustard
1 cup milk
1 cup chicken broth
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  To make fries:  cut potato in half lengthwise.  Each half, cut in half lengthwise again.  Lay flat, and cut long slices (they will look like french fries!).  Repeat with remaining potatoes.  Lay in a single layer on parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Drizzle generously with olive oil, toss to coat, and season with salt.  Transfer baking sheet to oven and roast, until crispy and golden brown, about 40 minutes.  Check halfway through, and turn once.  Often, I will set my oven on Low Broil at the very end of the baking time to finish crisping them up. 

While potatoes are roasting, prepare the chili.  Place a large skillet over medium-high heat and drizzle with olive oil.  Add the meat and brown, about 6-7 minutes, breaking it up with a wooden spoon or spatula.  Once cooked, push meat to one side of the pan.  Add the onion, garlic, jalapeno, chili powder, and cumin to the pan.  Cook until the veggies soften, 5-6 minutes, and season with salt and pepper.  Add the tomato paste to the pot and cook for about 1 minute, until it smells sweet and has caramelized slightly.  Add the hot sauce, worchestershire, and beef broth.  Bring everything up to a bubble, then reduce the heat and simmer until chili is thickened, about 10 minutes.

While chili is simmering, prepare the cheese sauce.  In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat.  Sprinkle the flour into the butter, combine, and cook until bubbly, about 1 minute.  Stir in the mustard, then whisk in the milk and chicken broth.  Continue whisking until the sauce has thickened, then off the heat.  Stir in the cheese until melted.  Season with salt and pepper if desired (I usually don't).

To Serve:
Divide the fries between the number of servings you have, and top them with the chili, then the cheese sauce.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Blueberry Sweet Rolls

When I saw this recipe over at Josie's site, I knew that I had to try them.  I am so glad that I did!  In fact, I am posting this recipe several weeks after the fact; I am fairly certain I am feeling a "re-do" coming on!!!  We are officially in the summer blueberry season!  Enjoy!

Blueberry Sweet Rolls
adapted from Pink Parsley

4 tsp. instant yeast (I use bread machine yeast in the jar, room temperature)
1/2 cup warm water (110-115 degrees F)
3/4 cup warm milk (110-115 degrees F)
1 cup melted butter
2 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 cups all-purpose flour, or more, as needed
1 tbl. melted butter, for brushing

Blueberry Filling
2 cups blueberries, rinsed and picked over (if using frozen, rinse with cold water to thaw and spread on paper towel to dry thoroughly)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tbl. flour
2 tsp. cinnamon 

Vanilla Icing
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbl. milk

Combine the yeast, milk, water, butter, and eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add the sugar, salt, vanilla, and flour, and mix to combine.  Switch to the dough hook, and knead for 8-10 minutes, or until the dough starts to come together, but is still very sticky, adding flour as necessary.  Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size.

Roll out on a well-floured surface into a 12-10 inch rectangle.  Brush with melted butter.  Combine the sugar, cinnamon, and flour in a small bowl, and sprinkle over the dough.  Scatter the blueberries on top, and press into the dough.  Roll up long-ways, tucking in any blueberries that escape.  Use a dough scraper or a sharp knife to cut into 8-10 rolls.  Line them in a well-greased 9x13 baking dish.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cover the dish with a clean kitchen towel, and allow the rolls to rise until doubled in size (the length of time will depend upon the temperature of the room, anywhere from 45 minutes to a couple of hours.  Just keep checking on them periodically).  Bake 30-35 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center roll comes out clean.  Place the dish on a wire rack to cool.

To make the glaze, whisk the confectioners' sugar, vanilla extract, and milk together until smooth, but not too thin.  It should coat the back of a spoon.  Drizzle over rolls, and allow the glaze to harden before serving.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Italian Sausage, Red Pepper, and Mushroom Risotto

This is my second attempt at risotto, and I guess I felt confident enough about it, as I gave a "risotto" lesson to my son, Bennett.  Truly, risotto is simple if you have the right kind of rice, and if you add small amounts of liquid, allowing it to be fully absorbed before adding more.  This is one recipe where ingredients and technique make all the difference!  Bennett was excited and willing to help me with dinner, and I was excited to have him by my side.  I love the flavors of this version, and I loved standing over the simmering stockpot for 30 minutes, inhaling this delicious aroma!  Hard work, for sure!!  Haha! My family loved this and declared this meal "a make-again" meal!  Serve with crusty bread.

(Picture Dislaimer:  I may have added a bit too much liquid at the end, making the risotto look more mushed than it should look.  It still tasted wonderful, but that is likely why it is hard to see distinct grains of rice.)

Italian Sausage, Red Pepper and Mushroom Risotto
Source: Brown-Eyed Baker
Yield: 4-6 servings

5 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter
8 ounces Italian sausage, casing removed (or you could use ground sausage)
¾ cup finely chopped onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
4 ounces white button mushrooms, coarsely chopped
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1½ cups Arborio rice
¾ cup dry white wine
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tablespoon chopped Italian parsley

In a medium saucepan bring the broth to a simmer. Cover the broth and keep warm over low heat.

In a large heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the sausage and saute, crumbling, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, bell pepper, and mushrooms and saute until tender, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the rice and stir to coat. Add the wine and simmer until the wine has almost completely evaporated, about 1 minute.

Add ½ cup of the simmering broth and stir until almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking the rice, adding the broth ½ cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition of broth to absorb before adding the next, until rice is tender but still firm to the bite and the mixture is creamy, about 25 to 30 minutes total. Remove from the heat.

Stir in ¾ of the Parmesan. Transfer the risotto to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with the parsley and the remaining Parmesan. Serve immediately.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Stawberry-Sour Cream Ice Cream

The ice cream making adventures continue in our house!  We are just having too much fun with this!  This is our fourth recipe (the third one was chocolate and needs some tweaking before it shows up on the blog!), and it was really yummy!  The tanginess (is that even a word?!) of the sour cream, combined with the sweetness of the macerated strawberries made for a simply refreshing treat.  This ice cream froze up the hardest of the ones we've tried, so let it sit out at room temperature for several minutes before scooping.

To Macerate the Strawberries ahead:
Place clean, sliced strawberries in a bowl.  Sprinkle about 3/4 cup of sugar over berries, and just let it set for about an hour.  The sugar will pull the sweet juice out of the berries and sweeten the berries themselves.  (You've likely been macerating strawberries each time you make a fruit salad or strawberry shortcake--now you have a fancy name for the technique!!) 

Strawberry-Sour Cream Ice Cream
adapted from The Perfect Scoop, by D. Lebovitz

1 pound fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled (and macerated according to above instructions)
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Pulse the macerated strawberries with their juice, sour cream, heavy cream, and lemon juice in a blender or food processor until almost smooth but still slightly chunky.

Refrigerate for about an hour, then freeze in your ice cream maker, according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Burrito Bowls

Mexican food is probably the single-most food craving that I have....and I seem to have that craving often!  After four pregnancies, I seem to have adopted the "spicier is better" philosophy when it comes to Mexican food.   This meal incorporates cilantro-lime rice, spicy citrus beans, and tequila marinated chicken, topped with sharp cheddar cheese, cool sour cream, and spicy salsa.  These burrito bowls have several steps and lots of ingredients, but your tastebuds will not be disappointed in the explosion of flavors when you take your first bite!  Yum.....I mean, double-yum!

Burrito Bowls
Source: Annie's Eats

Tequila Lime Chicken
  • 1/4 cup tequila
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, ribbed, seeded, and minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Combine all ingredients in a bowl or plastic bag; mix well.  Add chicken.  Cover and refrigerate overnight, or at least 8 hours.

When you are ready to cook the chicken, heat a grill to medium-high heat.  Cook until nicely browned and cooked through, 15-20 minutes.  (I cooked mine in a grill pan on the stovetop.)  Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.  Cut into strips.

Spicy Citrus Black Beans
  • 1 (28-oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tbl. olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 pepper, chopped or minced (bell or jalapeno, depending on your preference and desired heat level)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup of chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 tsp. pureed chipotles in adobo sauce (found in the Mexican aisle--this is a key ingredient!)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1 tbl. white wine vinegar
  • fresh cilantro, chopped, plus more for garnish
Rinse the beans thoroughly in a colander.  Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Saute the onion and pepper until tender, about 5-7 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in the beans.  Mix in broth (more or less depending on how much liquid you would like.  I tend to like mine a bit drier).  Bring to a simmer.  Mix in the oregano, bay leaves, salt, chipotle puree, cumin, orange juice, lime juice and vinegar.  Once simmering, reduce to medium-low or low and let it simmer, covered, 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat, stir in fresh cilantro to taste.

Cilantro Lime Rice
  • 1 cup long grain rice
  • 2 cups + 2 tbl. water, divided
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • 2 tbl. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tbl. olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
Place dry rice in a colander and rinse under cold water until the water runs clear.  Gently shake out excess water.   Add a bit of olive oil to a medium saucepan and add rice.  Saute rice over medium-high head until no longer transparent, 3-4 minutes.  Add the water and salt and bring heat to medium-high.  Bring to a boil, stir briefly, then cover and reduce the heat to low.  Let cook, covered, until the water is absorbed and the rice is fluffy and tender, about 16-18 minutes.

While rice is cooking, combine the cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, garlic, and 2 tbl. water in a blender or food processor.  Blend until smooth.  Stir the mixture into the rice and fluff with a fork.

To assemble burrito bowls:

Spoon a spoonful of rice into a bowl.  Top rice with spicy citrus black beans.  Lay strips of tequila lime chicken over beans.  Top with cheddar cheese (serving at room temperature brings out the full flavor of cheddar cheese!), salsa, sour cream, guacamole, or any other desired toppings.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Salmon with Asparagus and Chive Butter Sauce

Here's another take on salmon, which I have been incorporating into my bi-weekly menu plans.  This was very good, light and healthy.  Next time, I would cook the asparagus and the salmon in separate pans; I found that the salmon cooked through slower than the asparagus, which left the asparagus too soft and a bit soggy.  With those changes, I would definitely make this again, since it was so easy and tasty.

Salmon with Asparagus and Chive Butter Sauce
adapted from "The Best Simple Recipes," from America's Test Kitchen

1 pound thick asparagus, trimmed
1 cup water
4 skinless salmon fillets, about 1-inch thick
olive oil for drizzling
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tbl. unsalted butter
2 tbl. chopped fresh chives (I used scallions)

Lay asparagus in a single layer on bottom of large skillet.  Add water and 1/4 tsp of salt to the skillet.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, and cover to cook asparagus.In a separate grill pan, drizzle some olive oil to lightly coat the bottom.  Season salmon with salt and pepper and add to the grill pan. Cook over medium heat until cooked through, flipping halfway through cooking.  When asparagus and salmon are done cooking, transfer them both to a serving platter.

In the skillet that cooked the asparagus, add the wine and simmer over medium-high heat until reduced, about 5 minutes.  Off heat, whisk in butter and chives/scallions and season with salt and pepper.  Pour sauce over salmon and asparagus and serve.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Blueberry-Apple Slushies

So fun!  A sweet, yet good-for-you, summer treat!  I made mine a bit too thick, which required a spoon to "drink" it--next time, I think that I will add just a bit of water to the blender to make this slushie a bit more drinkable.

Blueberry-Apple Slushie
from "Healthy Family Meals"

2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (no need to thaw the berries!)
2 cups ice cubes
1 large apple, any variety, unpeeled and chunked
2 tbl. honey

In a blender, process until smooth.  Top with a dollop of whipped cream, if you want.  :)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Southwestern Layered Salad (and a Mason jar picnic!)

Each year it seems like I enjoy summertime more than the year before.  I am not a big "outdoorsy" person, unless I am poolside or reading a book in the hammock in the shade.  However, I know that my kiddos love to be outside, which of course, forces me to be out there as well to keep an eye on them.  This summer, I have really been loving my deck.  When the humidity is low, the mosquitoes tend to stay farther away (though they are always nearby, since we live in the woods!).  I have been taking advantage of the low-humidity evenings and eating dinner out on the deck.  The kids love it and it keeps my eat-in kitchen a bit cleaner!  Win-win!  With this salad, I decided at the last minute to go all-out with the Mason jar picnic theme; very fun and very summery!

Southwestern Layered Salad
adapted from "Get-Togethers with Gooseberry Patch"

8-oz. container of sour cream
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
10-oz. can tomatoes with green chiles, drained
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
4 cups romaine lettuce, shredded (about 1 1/2 heads)
2-3 tomatoes, chopped
15-oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
15-oz. can corn, drained (or 2 cups frozen corned, rinsed in a colander to thaw)
1 sweet red onion, chopped
15-oz. can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
2 red peppers, chopped
Garnish: cheddar cheese, green onions (shredded and thinly sliced, respectively!)

Combine sour cream, cream cheese, tomatoes with chiles, cumin, and garlic powder in a blender or food processor; process until smooth.  Chill.

Layer vegetables in order given among 8 one-pint Mason canning jars.  Spoon dressing over top; sprinkle with cheese and green onion.  Cover and chill for an hour.  Serve in the jars.

My little girl, Delancey.  She rarely eats enough to keep a baby bird alive--unless there is a ton of sugar involved.  :)

Bennett was all about the Mason jar picnic--he ate all of his food, and thought that this style was pretty cool.

Pictured below is our picnic place setting, complete with sweet sun tea, apple-blueberry slushie (tomorrow's post--stay tuned!), fresh watermelon slices, and bananaberry muffins.  Sweet summer lovin'. 

Monday, July 5, 2010

Perfect Salsa

I know that I have mentioned it before, but one of my favorite food blogs is Annie's Eats.  While I haven't tried all her recipes (she has like 300 or something like that!), all the recipes that I have tried, have been fab-u-lous.  To illustrate this point, if there is a particular food item that I would like to make but do not have a great recipe for, her blog is the first place I go.  And she usually has a recipe for whatever I am craving.  And it is always good!!  This salsa is no exception.  I'm getting ready to make a recipe of hers that I am very excited to try (stay tuned and I will share it with you!), and I am going to need this salsa! (If you hop over to her blog, leave her a comment telling her that Karla at The Culinary Enthusiast sent you!)

Perfect Salsa
Annie's Eats

2 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded and very coarsely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and halved
2 large vine-ripened tomatoes (I used 3 Roma tomatoes)
1 (28-oz.) can diced tomatoes (I prefer mine drained completely, but if you don't want a thick salsa, don't drain)
2 tbl. red wine vinegar
1 tbl. cumin
1/2 sweet yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
juice of one lime

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the jalapenos and garlic.  Process until finely chopped.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add all other ingredients to the food processor.  Pulse in very brief pulses until the vegetables have reached the size you desire. (Be careful not to puree your salsa!!)  Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate at least two hours before serving to all the flavors to blend.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Peach Ice Cream

There are few things as quintessentially summer as peach ice cream, and homemade at that!  I am loving (loving!) my new ice cream maker attachment for my KitchenAid mixer (if you missed that story, you can read it here).  This ice cream froze up beautifully and was sweet and creamy.  Definitely a make-again, and soon!

Peach Ice Cream
The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz
Makes about 1 quart

1 1/3 pounds ripe peaches (about 4 large peaches)
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice

Peel the peaches, slice them in half, and remove the pits.  Cut the peaches into chunks and cook with with the water in a medium, nonreactive saucepan over medium heat, covered, stirring once or twice, until soft and cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Remove from heat, stir in the sugar, then cool to room temperature.

Puree the cooked peaches and any liquid in a blender or food processor with the sour cream, heavy cream, vanilla, and lemon juice until almost smooth but slightly chunky.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Friday, July 2, 2010

French Potato Salad & Macaroni Salad

Today, you get a 2-for-1 deal!!!  Two recipes in one post!  My husband loves macaroni salad, so being the loving wife that I am, I set out to find a good one that I could make for him.  Well, in true Karla-style, I had forgotten to buy actual macaroni, so I had to settle for medium shells (however, macaroni salad tastes much more like macaroni salad with macaroni!  Go figure.)  I also had about half a dozen baked potatoes left over from a weekend party that were screaming to be made into potato salad.  I figured that there was no time like the present to try my hand at both of these classic summer salads!  My attempts yielded some amazing results!

French Potato Salad
America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

3 pounds red potatoes (about 10 medium), scrubbed and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
6 tbl. white wine vinegar
salt and pepper
6 tbl. olive oil
1 tbl. dijon mustard
1 small red onion, minced
3 tbl. fresh tarragon or parsley, minced

Bring the potatoes and 4 quarts of water to a simmer in a large pot and cook until tneder, about 5 minutes.  Drain.  Gently toss the warm potatoes with 3 tbl. of vinegar, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, whisk the remaining 3 tbl. vinegar, the oil, mustard, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper together.  Toss the chilled potatoes with the vinaigrete, onion, and fresh herbs.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  *If making a day ahead of when you will be serving, re-fresh the salad with a spoonful of oil and a dash of vinegar.  Serve.

Macaroni Salad
America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Smoked Sausage Kebabs

Kebabs are not my favorite summer food.  I am not a grill-girl (I leave that job to El Hub!), and since I cook for myself and the kids 4 out of 7 nights, I typically choose menu options that do not include the grill.  However, I have an electric indoor grill (does that even count??!) and I make this meal often, year-round.  The kids love the smoked sausage and I like that it is easy, well-balanced, and flavorful.  Served over rice pilaf.

Smoked Sausage Kebabs

1 package smoked sausage (or 2, it is the best part after all!!)
3-4 red or yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed and quartered ****(cook until just tender for a fork to pass through before cutting them!)
2 small zucchini, sliced somewhat thickly

1/4 cup honey mustard or honey dijon mustard
2 tbl. olive oil
1/4 cup brown sugar

Cook potatoes (in microwave) until fork-tender.  Allow to cool enough to handle.  Quarter them or slice thick.  Slice zucchini and sausage thick.  Mix glaze.  Place alternately on skewers and grill.  Brush kebabs with glaze and serve hot over rice.