Thursday, September 30, 2010

Easy Apple Cake

This fall, I may or may not flood my blog with apple-inspired desserts. Just sayin'. Consider yourself warned.

I thought I would share with you some of my favorite varieties of apples, because certain kinds work and taste best with certain desserts.

My all-time favorite apple is the Gala apple. I love its crispness and juiciness, and it is the perfect amount of sweet. I like this one for eating raw as well as baking. McIntosh apples are thick-skinned and the meat is very soft, making it the perfect apple to make applesauce and apple butter. Granny Smith apples are firm and tart, and if you need an apple to hold up well and balance your other sweet ingredients then she is perfect for your dessert. Sometimes I combine Gala and Granny Smith in my apple pies. Though not as "well-known," I also really like Pink Lady apples. They are juicy like Galas, but much more tart, more like Granny Smiths.

Basically, I love the versatility, adaptability, and affordability of apples! Fall definitely brings out the apple in me!

Easy Apple Cake
Generously adapted from Bakerella
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1cup sugar
3/4 cups applesauce
2 eggs
1  teaspoons vanilla
 1 1/2 cups diced apples
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
2 tbl. milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and cinnamon with a wire whisk and set aside.

Combine sugar and oil using a mixer until blended.  Add eggs and vanilla, mixing until combined.  Add flour mixture and mix well.

Stir in nuts, dates and apples. The batter will be very thick.

Pour into a greased and floured 9-in. round or square cake pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until done.

Cool cake and using a skewer, poke holes in cake.

Cook topping ingredients on stove until mixture bubbles.

Pour topping over cake letting some seep into the cake.

**Below is some eye candy!

 My Little Manny loves to eat apples!  It is amazing how this fruit keeps him content and busy while I prepare dinner!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cheesy Creamed Corn

This recipe was such an "outside the box" one for me.  Not that it was difficult.  In fact, it was simple.  My fondest memories of creamed corn were of cans and serving spoons sloshing a very unappealing blob onto my dinnerplate.  So, when I say "fondest," read between the lines and read "not a favorite culinary memory at all."  Creamed corn is something I have avoided my entire grown-up life.  However, when my dad sent home over a dozen ears of corn grown fresh in his garden, I knew I needed to be a bit creative with this bounty.   I found this recipe in an issue of Gourmet that I had lying around my kitchen, and since I could adapt it with the ingredients that I had on hand, I decided that I would give it a shot.  Oh, if my childhood memories could have recalled this!  This was wonderful!  Sweet, creamy, and the jack cheese melted in between the kernels of corn took this dish to the next level.  

Cheesy Creamed Corn
adapted from Gourmet, September 2009
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 ears corn, kernels cut from cobs
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 large garlic clove
1 1/3 cups jack cheese

Heat butter in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until foam subsides; add corn and 1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes.

Stir together cream and cornstarch in a small bowl until thoroughly combined, then add to corn and simmer, stirring, until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Transfer 1 1/2 cups corn mixture to a blender with garlic and purée until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids). Return to skillet and cook, stirring constantly, until just heated through.

Transfer corn to a large shallow serving bowl and sprinkle cheese over top.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Waffles From-Scratch

My husband does not enjoy being in the kitchen.  However, he is a great guy and he is willing to help me with whatever I ask him to do in the kitchen.  (Those completed tasks he then compiles into a list of "Why I {Mike} do not belong in the kitchen."  He shares his list with me regularly).  :)  One thing that he is willing to do consistently is make breakfast.  And by breakfast, I am referring to pancakes or waffles.  It seems to be the one thing that he has challenged himself to make and make well, so I step back and let him go to town!  He was the first one of us to use my new flour sifter!  Now, granted, he is honestly a very messy cook--the first time he made these he had both glass batter bowls and both Kitchenaid stainless steel mixing bowls, as well as several whisks and wooden spoons dirtied.  But despite the mountain of dirty dishes that follows breakfast, I have been known to pull the "Well, I don't know how to make waffles/pancakes" card.  :)  I love how light and fluffy these waffles are and I love that El Hub makes them and serves them with a smile.  Perfect!

Waffles From-Scratch
Source:  My Husband

2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tbl. sugar
2 eggs, whites and yolks separated
1 3/4 cup milk
6 tbl. butter, melted

Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a mixing bowl.  Set aside.

Beat egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until stiff but not dry (you don't want meringue!).  Set aside.

Beat egg yolks in a mixing bowl; add milk.  Whisk to combine.  Add the sifted ingredients and mix lightly.  Add melted butter.  Fold in egg whites.

Heat waffle iron and when ready, pour correct amount of batter onto hot surface.  Cook according to manufacturer's instructions.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Roasted Shrimp & Orzo

When I asked my mom if she had ever had orzo, her reply was, "Well, if you've never made it for me, then I've never had it!"  Haha.  Orzo is a rice-shaped variety of pasta, and I really liked it as the pasta of choice for this pasta salad.  I love feta cheese and this was a fresh way to use shrimp.  It was easy to prepare ahead of time for a quick dinner before we dashed out the door for soccer practice!  *(Not being a huge dill fan, next time I will omit the dill completely, but I will type out the recipe as it was written just in case you like dill.  I'm just nice like that!  :)  )

Roasted Shrimp & Orzo
Source:  Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten

kosher salt
olive oil
3/4 pound orzo
1/2 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)
freshly ground black pepper
2 lbs. shrimp (16-18 count), peeled and deveined
1 cup minced scallions, white and green parts
1 cup chopped fresh dill*
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and diced
1/2 cup red onion, diced small
3/4 pound feta cheese, large-diced

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Fill a large pot with water, add 1 tbl. salt, and bring water to a boil.  Add the orzo and simmer for 9-11 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it's cooked al dente.  Drain and pour into a large bowl.

Whisk together the lemon juice, 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. black pepper.  Pour over hot pasta and stir well.

Meanwhile, place shrimp on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Toss to combine and spread out on sheet in a single layer.  Roast for 5-6 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked through.  Don't overcook!

Add the shrimp to the orzo and then add the scallions, dill*, parsley, cucumber, onion, 2 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. pepper.  Toss well.  Add the feta and stir carefully.  Set aside at room temperature for 1 hour to let the flavors blend, or refrigerate overnight.  If refrigerated, taste again for seasonings and bring back to room temperature before serving.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Spiced Pear Cake

 Yay!  Autumn is here!  This is my absolute favorite time of year.  I love the crisp breezes.  The rustling of the leaves (and since we live in the woods with about a million trees, there are lotsa leaves!).  The beautiful, earthy colors.  The smell of burning leaves.  Apple cider.  Pumpkins.  Deeply comforting foods that seep all the way to my bones.  Fall decorations adorning my home.  Mulled Cider candles burning.  The sense of deep contentment that washes over me during this season like no other time of year.  The chance to celebrate 3 of my 4 children's birthdays.  Jeans.  Boots.  Skinny jeans tucked inside of boots.  :) 

This is also a time of year when I like to hole up in my kitchen and cook and bake away.  (You might be thinking that I do this regardless of the season--you're probably right!!)  So, today, I took a much needed break from my other intense activities and commitments and with a hot cup of coffee in hand, set out to do some baking.  The bread machine is going and the oven is on.  Spiced pear cake is the perfect way to marry the remnants of summer's fruit with the spices and flavors of fall.  Perfect.  Despite my crazy-busy schedule this fall, I fully intend to get "down and dirty" with lots of apples and pumpkins, and you can bet I will be passing these luscious flavors on to you!  I don't know about you, but there is something deeply satisfying and homey about creating culinary jewels of seasonal flavors in the comfort of one's own kitchen.  Will you join me?!
*Disclaimer--The sprig of greenery, although it is apple-y, is part of my fall decor.  Apples are not to be confused with pears.  :)  
**My crap camera failed to capture the delicious detail of this cake.  ;/  Make this anyway. 

Spiced Pear Cake
adapted from Sophitismom
4 ripe pears, peeled and cut in chunks
3 tbl. granulated sugar
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour

Cream Cheese Glaze (recipe is below)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spray 1 regular loaf pan or 4 mini loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray and place on a baking sheet. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, combine pear chunks and 3 tbl. of sugar, and lemon juice. Cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the pears soften and break apart. You can help them along by smashing them with a potato masher, or just cook until they get soft on their own. Measure out 1 1/2 cups of pear sauce and set aside to cool.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and the brown sugar. Mix on high until light and fluffy. Add in eggs, one at a time, incorporating well after each addition. Add in vanilla, and beat on medium high speed for 4 minutes. Mix in sour cream.

In a small bowl, combine spices, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and flour. With mixer on low, add dry ingredients to butter and sugar mixture. Mix until just incorporated. Stir in reserved pear sauce. Pour into prepared pans and bake for 30-35 minutes or until cake tester comes out dry.  Frost when cooled.

Cream Cheese Glaze

3 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3-4 tablespoons heavy cream

Mix all ingredients together, adding more or less cream to reach desired consistency.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Banana Muffins

Just as with desserts, my husband and I differ slightly when it comes to our preferences for muffins.  He likes chocolate chips in his; me, definitely not.  He likes his to be "normal"; I like to add some zest or dried fruit or even nuts (which he absolutely hates).  One thing that I absolutely prefer in my muffin is for it to have some substance to it, as I typically try not to eat cupcakes for breakfast.  These banana muffins are one of my absolute favorite muffins! I love that they are dense, not light and fluffy.  I love that they are more along the healthy spectrum than not.  I love that they are simple and easy to make.  I love them plain and unfrosted.  I love to make a double batch and toss the extras in the freezer for another time.  Go for it--you know you want to make these too!

Banana Muffins
Adapted slightly from:  The Cook's Encyclopedia of Baking

2 cups flour (can substitute half with whole wheat flour even)
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
3 large ripe bananas
1 egg
1/3 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed (I have used light brown sugar before and it is acceptable)
1/4 cup canola oil (or applesauce)
1/4 cup raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners or non-stick cooking spray or butter.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon,  and nutmeg.  Set aside.

With an electric mixer (or in the bowl of a stand mixer), beat the peeled bananas at moderate speed until mashed.  Beat in egg, sugar, and oil.

Add the dry ingredients and beat in gradually, on low speed.  Mix just until blended.  If desired, add in raisins and stir to incorporate.

Fill the prepared muffin cups 2/3 full.  For even baking, fill any empty cups with water.

Bake until the tops spring back when touched lightly, about 20-25 minutes.  Transfer to a rack to cool.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mexican Burgers

My dad makes the most awesome burgers in the summer.  Sunday evening dinners at their house during the hot months are characterized by his burgers.  He holds the bar high on deliciousness; I can only hope to fall somewhere under his "Burger Bar."  :)  For some reason, no matter how hard I try, my hamburgers, while good, don't really come close to his.  But, I'm ok with that.  My son thinks that I make best food.ever.  And I'm ok with that, too!  So, this isn't really a recipe, as much as it is an idea to spruce up an otherwise boring burger.  And really, how can you even go wrong with chipotle??!  Go for it!

Mexican Burgers
inspired/adapted from Casual Cooking by The Pampered Chef

For burgers
2 lb. ground beef (80-85% lean)
1/4 cup onion, finely diced
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbl. Worchestershire sauce
1/4 tsp. black pepper

8 slices Co-Jack cheese
8 hamburger buns

Chipotle Mayo
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1 chipotle in adobo sauce, chopped small

Mexican Toppers
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
1 large avocado, peeled and sliced
8 romaine lettuce pieces
1 cup jarred jalapeno slices, drained (optional)

Gently mix together ground beef, onion, salt, Worchestershire sauce, and pepper.  Form into 8 patties (I used 1/3 cup per patty).  Cover and refrigerated until ready to grill.

For Chipotle mayo, combine mayo, sour cream, and chipotle in adobo sauce until well-blended.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

For Mexican toppers, slice tomatoes and avocados.  Place in individual serving bowls or plates.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

When ready to grill, heat grill to medium heat.  Place hamburger patties on grill grid.  Grill, uncovered, 11-13 minutes, or until centers are no longer pink, turning once.  About a minute before burgers are done, place a slice of cheese on each patty.

Slice hamburger buns and place cut-side-down on grill until grill marks appear on buns.

To serve, place burgers in buns and top Mexican toppers and chipotle mayo.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Stewed Lentils & Tomatoes

Lentils.  Have you tried them?  I will admit that this is the first time that I have made them and tried them.  Maybe they seemed a bit weird to me before.  Maybe I didn't have an inspiring recipe that made me include them on my grocery list.  However, as the school year starts, and I get really busy with school-year activities, I am on the lookout for quick, simple, and sometimes meatless meals to get onto the dinner table with minimal effort.  I loved how this meal turned out!  So, lentils.  I am now a fan.  Easy, simple, inexpensive.  Bennett ate them, Delancey didn't (truly, this dish didn't contain enough sugar for her).  Reheated as leftovers (which I typically dislike, as a general rule), the flavor was even better and it held its texture nicely.  As a bonus, this was my first Ina Garten recipe I have made, and I must say that despite never having watched her on the Food Network, I am a fan of hers now as well.  Lentils + Ina Garten = happy, satisfied Karla.  This meal will be making many reappearances this fall and winter.

Stewed Lentils and Tomatoes
Source:  Barefoot Contessa at Home

2 tsp. olive oil
2 cups large-diced onions (2 onions)
2 cups large-diced carrots (3-4 carrots)
3 cloves garlic, pressed, minced, or finely chopped
1 can (28-oz.) whole tomatoes or diced tomatoes
1 cup dried lentils
2 cups chicken stock or water for gluten-free
2 tsp. curry powder
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tbl. red wine vinegar

Heat oil in large stock pot.  Add the onions and carrots and cook over medium heat until onions start to brown, about 8-10 minutes.  Stir occasionally.  Add garlic and cook for 1 minute more.

Meanwhile, place the canned tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times until tomatoes are coarsely chopped.  Rinse and pick over lentils to make sure that there are no stones in the package.

Add the tomatoes, lentils, chicken broth, curry powder, thyme, salt, and pepper to the pot.  Raise the heat to bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, for about 40 minutes, until the lentils are tender.  Check occasionally to be sure the liquid is still simmering.  Remove from the heat and allow the lentils to sit covered for another 10 minutes.  Add the vinegar, season to taste, and serve hot.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Sweet Potato Chips

Did you know that of all the vegetables, sweet potatoes contain the most fiber?  They are loaded with good nutrients.  I am working on incorporating them into my menu on a more regular basis.  Now, I have to admit--I don't really like them with all the sugar and marshmallow cream and spices.  That is not to say that I don't enjoy a good sweet potato casserole during the Thanksgiving festivities; I do.  I usually make "steak fries" out of sweet potatoes, roasted in the oven.  However, this time around, I was wanting something a bit more crunchy and not as soft.  So, I pulled out my Fry Daddy, which I don't use very often, and I fried them.  They were excellent.  Not too soft, and not too crunchy.  This was a tasty twist, and you can season them however you want!

Sweet Potato Chips
Source:  Get-Togethers with Gooseberry Patch

1-2 sweet potatoes
shortening or oil for deep frying
Seasoning:  salt, garlic salt, or cinnamon-sugar--You choose!

Scrub potatoes and slice thinly.  Set aside.  Heat shortening/oil in a fry machine or heavy stock pot to 365 degrees.  Fry potatoes in batches 3 to 5 minutes, or until golden and they rise to the top of the oil.  Use a slotted spoon to remove to a paper-towel lined serving plate.  Sprinkle with desired seasonings.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Crusty Grilled Sandwiches

I usually find that the sandwiches that I make at home can often be ho-hum.  Nothing special, no big deal.  However, this "recipe" takes a lunch meat sandwich to a whole new level--fresh basil leaves, Parmesan-garlic-buttered crusty bread, fresh tomato slightly warmed.  Yum!  This sandwich is the perfect accompaniment to a steamy mug of soup.

Crusty Grilled Sandwiches
Source:  Main Dishes by The Pampered Chef

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
3 tbl. butter, softened
1 garlic clove, pressed
8 slices sourdough bread
8 ounces sliced Monterey Jack cheese
8 ounces sliced deli ham or turkey
4 tsp. dijon mustard
1 medium tomato, sliced
4 tsp. fresh basil leaves, snipped

In a small bowl, combine Parmesan cheese, softened butter, and garlic.  Spread on one side of each of the 8 slices of bread.

In a large grill pan (I have even used a griddle before), place 4 of the buttered slices down on the pan.  Layer the  half of the cheese and all of the meat.  For each sandwich, spread the ham with the dijon mustard; top with 2 tomato slices and some basil.  Top with remaining cheese and bread slices.  Cook over medium heat until golden brown, flipping halfway.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Homemade Tomato Soup

Growing up, tomato soup was the one kind of soup that I hated the most.  I abhored the smell that came from the can, and couldn't figure out how anyone could smell that smell and still proceed to eat what made the smell.  A couple of years ago, I made it my personal mission to develop a recipe repertoire of soups that I loved.  I was so surprised that I even attempted tomato soup, much less loved it!!  I think that it had a lot to with the fresh basil that was added to it.  :)  So, now, this soup makes it to my dinner table on a fairly regular basis, and my kids love it.  It is my plan to spare their childhoods of horrific smells that come from cans--they will only know fresh and delicious!

Homemade Tomato Soup
Adapted from Rachael Ray

1/2 medium onion, diced
1/2 stalk celery, diced

1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 rounded tablespoon of tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste1/2 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 tbl. flour
1 1/2 tbl. butter
1 cup milk
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn or shredded

In a microwave-safe bowl, steam diced onions and celery until tender and soft.  Drain water and set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor (or you can use a blender), add diced tomatoes and juice, softened onions and celery, tomato paste, salt and pepper, and sugar.  Pulse to blend until smooth.

In a medium soup pan, melt the butter and add the flour; cook until thickened and bubbly, a couple of minutes.  Slowly whisk in the milk and continue whisking until milk is thickened.  Pour tomato mixture into pan and raise heat to bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  Just before serving, add the fresh basil to the soup and stir to incorporate.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Apple Crisp

You all know my obsession with apple pie.  Well, when fall comes rolling around and I find my spirit in sync with my home decor and I breathe in crisp air with a sense of well-being, it is only natural that my tongue also craves something warm and apple-y.  Truly, I endure summer just for the first, wonderful day of fall.  We had our first crisp fall day here in the Midwest a couple of days ago, and that was enough to inspire me to make apple crisp.  Oh, the aroma that wafted through my home as it was baking!!  I seriously think that Heaven will smell like baking apples infused with cinnamon.  I love how apple crisp is just a simpler version of apple pie.  This time, I made my crisp topping in my food processor, adding all the ingredients to the bowl except the oats, which I stirred into the flour mixture.  So easy!  Of course, you can use a pastry blender, two forks, or even your fingers. 

Apple Crisp
Source:  Betty Crocker's New Cookbook

4 medium, tart cooking apples (I used a combination), peeled and sliced (about 4 cups)
2/3 to 3/4 cup packed brown sugar (depending on how tart your apples are!)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats or old fashioned oats
1/3 cup stick butter, softened
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease bottom and sides of pan with butter or cooking spray. You can use an 8x8 square baking dish or a round cake pan.  Double recipe if using a 9x13 baking dish.

Arrange sliced apples in pan (you could use the slicing disc attachment of a food processor).  Mix remaining ingredients.  Sprinkle over apples.

Bake about 30 minutes, or until topping is golden brown and apples are tender.  Serve warm.  (Also great served with cinnamon or vanilla ice cream).

Monday, September 13, 2010

Salmon BLT's

What an extraordinary take an a classic BLT!  I loved incorporating my newfound love of salmon into one of our favorite weeknight meals!  If I hadn't been so full after eating mine, I totally would've gone for a second helping.  Delish!  (Now, I usually will cook the whole package of bacon.  Just refrigerate whatever leftovers you have--they make great bacon bits when chopped up, just waiting to be added to your salad!)

Salmon BLT's
Inspired by Get-Togethers with Gooseberry Patch

1 package of bacon
4 pieces of salmon
pieces of romaine lettuce
8 slices of tomato
8 slices of red onion
hamburger buns

Chipotle Mayonnaise
1/2 cup mayo
1/2 tsp. canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced
1 tsp. adobo sauce from canned chipotle
Combine all ingredients and mix well.

Cook bacon until slightly crispy; transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to drain.

Drizzle some olive oil in a grill pan; cook salmon over medium heat until opaque, turning once to cook the other side.  Season with salt and pepper.

To assemble:  spread chipotle mayonnaise over the inside of the top bun.  Place salmon on the bottom half of the bun, and layer bacon, lettuce, tomato, and red onion.

Friday, September 10, 2010


While I am not known for my homemade pizza (second shift police work wreaks havoc on any sort of normal, traditional "family pizza night" every Friday!), I am always up for a yummy creative twist on pizza.  Pizzadillas are such a fun twist!!!  I love how these are infused with garlic, and loaded with fresh veggies!  I have lost count on the number of times that I have made these--so easy, and so delicious!

adapted from Casual Cooking by The Pampered Chef

1 pkg. shredded Italian cheese blend, or mozzarella cheese
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 cup tomato, seeded and diced
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh vegetables--green bell pepper, black olives, mushrooms, green onions, diced red onions  (Be creative--use your favorite toppings!!)
1 tbl. fresh parsley, chopped
4 (9-inch) flour tortillas
30 slices of pepperoni
1/2 cup marinara sauce, warmed

In a small mixing bowl, combine cheese, oregano, and garlic.

Chop vegetables.

To assemble pizzadillas, place 1 tortilla in a grill pan, sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the cheese mixture.  Lay pepperoni slices on top of cheese.  Top with your desired toppings, and sprinkle a bit more cheese over the vegetables.  Place second tortilla.  Heat grill pan and cook 3-5 minutes on each side, until grill marks on bottom are dark golden brown and tortilla is crispy.  Carefully flip (I often will use a lunch plate, place it on top, flip, and then slide the pizzadilla back into the grill pan).  Repeat with second pizzadilla.  Once done, remove pizzadillas to a cutting board.  Using a pizza cutter, cut each pizzadilla into 4-8 wedges.  Serve with warm marinara sauce.

*I submitted this fun & easy meal to Mom's Crazy Cooking link party--hop on over to join the fun!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Asian Noodle Salad

What a delightful dish!  This was the perfect, simple meal to serve after a day spent in my studio scrapbooking.  I loved the fresh flavors, and I loved that this meal came together in hardly no time at all. To make it even simpler, you could prep and assemble during the day (or the night before!) and dinner could be ready the moment you walk in the door. Serve with some crisp breadsticks or garlic bread, and voila!  Dinner is served.

Asian Noodle Salad
adapted from Casual Cooking from The Pampered Chef

8 oz. vermicelli pasta, cooked according to package directions
3/4 cup julienne-cut carrots, 2 inches long
3/4 cup julienne-cut zucchini, 2 inces long
3/4 cup chopped red bell pepper (I just used a whole red pepper)
1/3 cup sliced green onions, with tops
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thawed and trimmed of excess fat; sliced into strips
olive oil for cooking, salt and pepper, freshly grated fresh gingerroot, and a splash of lime juice

1/4 cup canola oil
3 tbl. rice vinegar
3 tbl. soy sauce
2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1 tsp. fresh gingerroot, peeled, finely chopped or grated (I used a microplane grater--love this tool!!!)
1 garlic clove, pressed
*optional--coarsely chopped cilantro or parsley, and peanuts

Break vermicelli noodles into thirds and add to a pot of boiling salted water.  Cook according to package directions (vermicelli cooks in 5-6 minutes since it is so thin).  Drain and rinse in a colander with cold water.  Place vermicelli in serving bowl and set aside.

Cut carrots and zucchini into julienned strips.  Chop bell pepper and slice green onions.  Add vegetables to the pasta.

In a large skillet, drizzle with olive oil and heat over medium heat.  Add sliced chicken and cook until no longer pink.  Season with salt and pepper and grate a generous amount of fresh ginger over chicken.  Saute a couple minutes more; add a splash of lime juice over the chicken and stir chicken around in pan, scraping the bottom of it to pick up any pieces of ginger.  Add to the pasta and vegetables.

In a small mixing bowl, combine oil, vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, salt, and ground cayenne pepper.  Peel gingerroot and grate or finely chop.  Add to bowl, along with the pressed garlic.  Whisk together until emulsified.  Pour dressing over pasta and toss to coat well.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, until flavors are blended together.  Garnish with cilantro or peanuts, if desired.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Caramel Corn

I found this recipe last October, when the craving for caramel corn hit me big-time.  I had just given birth to my last baby, and figured that I could "use" the extra calories since I was recovering from surgery and nursing my newborn.  Yeah.  I have a twisted mind like that.  I'm pretty sure I made 3 batches of this in the month of October alone.  Oops.  You seriously will have to exert a major amount of self-control to put the container back in pantry and walk away.   Caramel corn is the sole reason why I keep corn syrup in my kitchen.  Caramel corn is literally the best fall munchie there is.....

Caramel Corn
Source: (formerly RecipeZaar)

3 bags popped microwave popcorn (8 quarts popped)
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Pop popcorn in microwave; pour each bag into a large colander and shake gently to separate the seeds from the popped kernels.  Divide popped popcorn into two 9x13 ungreased baking pans.

In saucepan heat all ingredients except baking soda; cook five minutes over medium heat.  Remove from heat and using a long handled wooden spoon, carefully stir in baking soda until foamy.  Pour over popcorn and mix well to coat.

Bake at 225° for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool slightly; then pour onto wax paper and cool completely; break pieces apart and store in airtight container.

Try not to eat the whole batch in one sitting.  :)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Salmon with Strawberry Salsa

So, if you've been reading my blog this summer, you will know that I've been on a salmon kick.  I can say with 100% confidence that I have successfully taught myself to love salmon!!!  Yay!!  I find myself wishing that I had bought 2 packages of salmon after each shopping trip!  This meal was filled to the brim with the wonderful flavors of summer--fresh, ripe tomatoes, juicy strawberries, tangy lemon juice.  The balsamic is the "cherry on the top" in this combination of flavors!!!   Another bonus of this meal, besides its knock-out flavor, is that is comes together quickly--perfect for a weeknight dinner, yet "fancy" enough for company.  Sa-weet!

Salmon with Strawberry Salsa
adapted from Annie's Eats

For the salsa:
2 cups fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled and diced
1 cup tomatoes, diced
4 scallions, white and green portions, sliced thin
1 tsp. fresh parsley, minced
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
Drizzle of olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

4 salmon fillets (about 6 oz. each)
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste

To make the salsa, combine the strawberries, tomatoes, scallions, parsley, vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, honey, and salt and pepper to taste in a medium bowl.  Mix well to blend, then cover and refrigerate while you prepare the salmon.

If using an outdoor grill, spray with non-stick cooking spray before heating.  Grill for 3-4 minutes on each side.  Watch for salmon to look opaque and pink.  Or, if cooking indoors, preheat the broiler.  Line a baking sheet with foil.  Place the salmon fillets on the foil.  Squeeze a bit of fresh lemon juice over each fillet, and season with salt and pepper.  Broil about 6-8 inches away from heat source   Cook about 10-12 minutes, depending on your oven and the size of the fillets, checking for doneness.  Transfer the salmon to serving plates and top with strawberry salsa.  Serve warm.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Grilled Corn

Talk about easy!  My friend shared this with me on Facebook and I asked her if I could blog her "recipe" when I made it myself.  Truly, it isn't really even a recipe, but it was delicious way to incorporate the grill into summer corn-on-the-cob.  Thanks, Lisa!

Grilled Corn

how every many corns you want!

Soak unshucked corn in water for 15 minutes.  Grill for 45 minutes over medium heat.  The husks will char, but the steam trapped inside will cook the corn.  *You might want to shuck the corn outside before bringing it in--the charred husks make an awful mess over the dinner table!  :)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Lemon Raspberry Muffins

When I was in college, I worked at a locally-owned bread shop/coffee shop.  All breads, muffins, and cookies were made fresh daily and were served on a rotating baking schedule.  Though all the muffins were wonderful, the lemon raspberry variety was by far the most popular and would sell out first.  And no wonder!  There is something beautiful about the combination of lemons and raspberries; they are light and fresh, yet sweet and satisfying at the same time.  Plus, I personally like the color combination of yellow and pink!  These muffins add a healthful component by incorporating whole wheat flour.  Beautiful!

Lemon Raspberry Muffins
Source: Eating Well

1 lemon
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup nonfat buttermilk
1/3 cup canola oil
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen (not thawed) raspberries

Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat 12 large (1/2-cup) muffin cups with cooking spray or line with paper liners.

Use a vegetable peeler to remove the zest from the lemon in long strips. Combine the zest and sugar in a food processor; pulse until the zest is very finely chopped into the sugar. Add buttermilk, oil, egg and vanilla and pulse until blended.

Combine whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Add the buttermilk mixture and fold until almost blended. Gently fold in raspberries. Divide the batter among the muffin cups.

Bake the muffins until the edges and tops are golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Serve warm.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Layered Eggplant, Zucchini, and Tomato Casserole

So, I've mentioned that my dad planted a couple of eggplant plants for me in his garden?  Yeah, I thought so.  This recipe was shared with me by my friend Lisa, who is such an inspiration to me in all things natural and organic.  I have a feeling if we lived in the same city we would likely spend all of our time together!  This dish was a huge hit at the dinner table, especially since El Hub is yet to be convinced that he likes eggplant.  Roasting the eggplant dissipated its bitterness and the zucchini turned out even sweeter than usual.  And who can even resist feta cheese?  Yummmmm.  I loved serving up a "farmer's market" dish--except I didn't pay farmer's market prices!!  :) I think that I am going to be sad when the summer garden is done for this year. 

Layered Eggplant, Zucchini, and Tomato Casserole
Adapted from Food & Wine

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing and brushing
3 medium zucchini (1 1/2 pounds), sliced lengthwise 1/4 inch thick
2 long, narrow eggplants (1 1/2 pounds), peeled and sliced lengthwise 1/3 inch thick
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 onion, minced
1 pound plum tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (3/4 cup)
1/4 cup chopped oregano
1/3 cup panko or coarse dry bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 425°. Oil 2 large rimmed baking sheets. Put the zucchini slices on one sheet and the eggplant on the other. Brush the slices all over with oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the slices on each sheet in a slightly overlapping layer. Bake for 15 minutes, until tender.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the shallot and cook over moderate heat until softened, 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook over high heat until slightly softened and bubbling, 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper.

Oil a large, shallow baking dish.  Lay half of the eggplant in the dish and spread one-fourth of the tomatoes on top. Scatter with half of the feta and oregano. Layer half of the zucchini on top, followed by another one-fourth of the tomato and the remaining oregano, eggplant and zucchini. Top with the remaining tomato and feta. Mix the panko with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and sprinkle over the casserole. Bake in the upper third of the oven for 20 minutes, until bubbling and crisp. Let stand for 5 minutes, then serve hot or warm.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Citrus Shrimp Skewers

Since I'm on a roll with my new grill, why not try shrimp?!  I don't often buy shrimp since it tends to be a bit more pricey than other meats, but in the name of summer lovin', I decided to toss a couple bags in my shopping cart.  I would love to say that this recipe was restaurant quantity and quality, but I find it truly difficult to beat restaurant shrimp at home.  However, that's not to say I won't keep trying or that my family didn't devour all of these.  I will, and they did!  :)  You can even omit the skewers and grill them in a grill basket (which I actually like a bit better!).  Yum!

Citrus Shrimp Skewers
Source:  Casual Cooking from The Pampered Chef

12 oz. shrimp, uncooked, shell on, medium shrimp (about 30-40)
2 lemons (1/4 cup juice)
2 limes (1/4 cup juice)
1/2 cup orange marmalade
1 tbl. canola oil
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 tbl. fresh parsley, snipped
1/4 tsp. ground red cayenne pepper

Peel and devein shrimp, leaving tails on.  Place in large zip bag.

In small mixing bowl, juice lemons and limes to measure 1/4 cup juice each.  Add orange marmalade, oil, garlic, parsley, and cayenne pepper.  Whisk together until blended.  Reserve 1/4 cup of marinade for basting.  Pour over shrimp in zip bag.  Marinate in refrigerator 45 minutes to 1 hour, turning occasionally.

Heat grill to medium heat.  Thread shrimp onto skewers; discard used marinade.  Place skewers on grill, and baste with reserve marinade.  Grill, uncovered, 5-6 minutes, or until shrimp appear opaque, turning once, and basting again.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Cinnamon Quick Bread

Even though quick breads lack the delightful aroma of yeast (a favorite scent of mine!), they are indeed quick.  (Go figure!).  I whipped this bread up in about 30 seconds (it seriously took more time to gather all the ingredients than it did to make this!) and it baked while I moved on to the next phase of my dinner prep.  This is a perfect bread for a carry-in brunch--no special ingredients necessary!  Enjoy!

Cinnamon Quick Bread
Source:  Sugar Plum

2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/3 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Crumb Topping
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter cut into small pieces

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a (9-inch) loaf pan with cooking spray.

In a medium mixing bowl sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon; whisk in sugar. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together melted butter, eggs, milk and vanilla until well combined; whisk dry ingredients into wet until combined. Place batter into prepared pan.

To make the crumb topping, in a small bowl, stir together brown sugar, flour and cinnamon until combined. Knead in butter using fingertips until well incorporated and clumps form; sprinkle over bread batter.

Bake 35-40 minutes or until golden brown, well risen, and a toothpick inserted into loaf comes out with moist crumbs attached. Cool on a wire rack.

Makes 1 loaf