Monday, December 29, 2014

Ham & Egg Cups


These simple Ham & Egg Cups are easy to make and taste great!  And you could add other things to it, like chopped tomatoes, some spinach, peppers, etc.  The possibilities are endless!

HAM & EGG CUPS
12 thin slices deli ham
12 eggs
About 1 C shredded Cheddar cheese
Salt & pepper, to taste
Dried parsley

OPTIONAL ADDITIONAL FILLINGS:
Small diced tomatoes
Thawed frozen spinach
Chopped green onions
Chopped bell pepper
Chopped jalapeno pepper
Diced cooked mushrooms

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick spray.  Line each muffin tin with 1 slice of ham. Sprinkle a little cheese into each cup (along with any additional fillings you may want to use).  Crack an egg into each cup.  Season the tops of each egg with salt and pepper. Sprinkle a little dried parsley on top of each egg.  Bake the eggs for 10-12 minutes or until the eggs whites are done and the yolks are done to your liking.

Celebrations


My husband is my biggest fan.  It was my husband that encouraged me to start this blog.  It was also my husband that set the blog up, spent countless hours learning basic HTML code to add features to the blog, and countless hours helping me through this process.  He loves my cooking and he always jumps in the kitchen to help me cook.  He holds lights up for me when I take pictures.  He helps me research recipes and come up with food ideas.  He's truly a great man. He helps with the dishes, the laundry, errands, pretty much everything.  We do it all as a team.

Recently my husband got a great promotion at work.  He has worked hard at his job and he deserves it.  One of his favorite recipes of mine (of the 500 other favorites) is my Blackened Chicken with Cajun Fettuccine Alfredo (one of our son's favorites too).  We both love pork chops, so I thought I'd surprise him with a little twist and give him Blackened Pork Chops with Cajun Fettuccine Alfredo.  The recipe doesn't differ very much except for cooking it.  The chicken gets finished off in the oven while the pork chops only cook in the pan.  It worked great and we all loved it.  I hope you all love it too!

BLACKENED PORK CHOPS & CAJUN FETTUCCINE ALFREDO
4 center cut, bone-in pork chops
1 T garlic powder
1 T onion powder
1 T dried thyme
1 T paprika
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 stick butter

FOR THE ALFREDO:
1 lb fettuccine
2 C heavy cream
1 stick butter
5 ounces shredded Parmesan cheese
Cajun seasoning, to taste

Boil the fettuccine according to package directions.

Meanwhile, for the pork chops, melt the 1/2 stick of butter in a large skillet to high heat.  Mix the seasonings/spices together.  Press both sides of each pork chop into the seasonings/spices.  Place the pork chops in the pan and sear well on both sides.  Depending on the thickness of your chops, this could take anywhere between 3-7 minutes per side.  Make sure the pork chops are done through.

While the pork chops are searing, melt the whole stick of butter in a small pot.  Add in the heavy cream and the Cajun seasoning, to taste.  Bring to a boil and reduce the heat. Whisk in the Parmesan cheese in small handfuls until it's completely melted and smooth.  Drain the pasta and toss with the alfredo sauce.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Chili Cheesecake


Yes, you absolutely read that right.  This is a dip with a tortilla chip crust that's baked in a springform pan.  It's so highly addictive, though, so have on your stretchy pants.  You're welcome.

CHILI CHEESECAKE
16 ounce cream cheese, softened
4 T butter, melted
1 1/2 C crushed tortilla chips
2 eggs
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons garlic powder
Salt & pepper, to taste
One 4-ounce can diced jalapenos (or mild green chilies)
1 C shredded Pepper Jack cheese (or Monterrey Jack)

FOR THE GARNISH:
Sour cream
Pico de Gallo (click for the recipe)
Sliced black olives
Chopped cilantro
Tortilla chips, for serving

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Mix together the melted butter and crushed tortilla chips.  Press this mixture down into a 9-inch springform pan.  Bake the crust for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix together the cream cheese, eggs, chili powder, garlic powder, cumin and salt & pepper with a mixer or in the food processor.  Stir in the cheese and the jalapenos.  

Carefully put small dollops of the cream cheese mixture over the crust.  Very carefully spread the cream cheese mixture over the crust, being careful not to disturb the crust.  Bake this mixture for about 30-40 minutes or until it's set in the middle.  Cool to room temperature.  Spread some sour cream over the top and garnish with pico de gallo, black olives, and cilantro.  Serve with tortilla chips.

As adapted from Tasty Kitchen

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Quick & Easy


December is a very busy time of the year for us.  Because of my job at a restaurant, I work a lot of long hours.  On the two days before Christmas, we work 14 to 16 hour days since we do catering for the holidays.  During the last three years, my wonderful husband has had to do 95 percent of all of the Christmas shopping.  And he does a great job!  He makes lists and gets everything right.  And he's even happy about it. It's his favorite time of the year.

So, while I'm busy at work, I still have to make dinner for my family.  I especially like it when I can put something homemade on the table and it doesn't take hours.  These Monte Cristo Sandwiches really don't take much time at all, and my family loved them.  I served them with my Pepper Jelly (minus the cream cheese), but you could use any jelly you like.  And you can change the fillings out to whatever you want, like add turkey, change up the cheese, etc.  I hope you enjoy them.

MONTE CRISTO SANDWICHES
8 slices Texas toast
1 lb thin sliced deli ham
16 Swiss cheese slices
1/2 lb bacon
1 avocado, thinly sliced
3 eggs
1/4 C half & half
Salt & pepper, to taste
4 T butter
Pepper Jelly (or your favorite jelly)

Cut the bacon strips in half and cook them until crisp.  Drain the bacon on paper towels.

To assemble the four sandwiches, lay one slice of cheese on one piece of bread.  Pile on some ham, some of the cooked bacon, some of the avocado slices, another slice of cheese, and the top piece of bread.  Repeat for the other three sandwiches and put a plate or something slightly heavy on top of the sandwiches to press them down.

Whisk the eggs, half & half, and salt & pepper together.  Melt 2 T of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Dip two of the sandwiches in the egg mixture and carefully place them in the skillet.  Cover the skillet and cook 3-4 minutes on each side or until they are well browned and the filling is hot. Add the remaining 2 T butter to the skillet and cook the remaining two sandwiches.  Serve with the Pepper Jelly.

Chorizo & Poblano Frittata


I was browsing through the deli the other day, and I came across something I just had to try...Chipotle Gouda.  I love buttery gouda and smokey chipotle peppers, so I just knew it would be good.  But what should I make with it, I thought.  So I browsed around the produce section and saw some poblanos.  Then I saw potatoes and it hit me.  I wanted a Chorizo & Poblano Frittata with that Chipotle Gouda.  I used the basics of another frittata I made not too long ago but just added different ingredients to it.  And it was fantastic!  

A frittata is sort of like a quiche but with no crust.  And it's best if it's cooked in a cast-iron skilet.  Don't have one?  Don't worry.  You can use a nonstick skillet or a regular skillet, but it needs to be ovenproof and you need to be careful about controlling the heat and greasing the pan well.  And the Chipotle Gouda is the star of the show!  It wasn't too spicy, but it had just the right amount of kick to wake you up in the morning.  Enjoy!

CHORIZO & POBLANO FRITTATA
8 eggs
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T cilantro, chopped
Salt & pepper, to taste
1/2 lb Mexican chorizo
2 C diced potatoes
1/2 onion, chopped
2 poblanos
One 8-ounce block Chipotle Gouda
Peanut oil

To roast poblanos, put them on a sheet pan and into a 400 degree oven.  Roast them, turning occasionally, until the skin is black and charred all over.  Remove them from the oven and let them cool.  When they are cool enough to handle, peel as much of the skin off as you can.  Then cut off the stem, remove the seeds, and chop the peppers.

Cook the chorizo in a small skillet over medium heat until it turns from a reddish color to a brownish color, about 5-6 minutes.  Set aside.

In a large cast-iron skillet (or other ovenproof skillet), drizzle in about 3 T peanut oil.  Cook the potatoes and onion on high heat for about 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly.  Cover and reduce the heat to medium.  Cook the potatoes and onions, stirring occasionally, for an additional 3-6 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. 

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the salt & pepper and garlic in a bowl.  Stir in the poblanos, cilantro, chorizo, and Chipotle Gouda (reserve about 1/4 C cheese for the top).

Preheat the broiler.  Once the potatoes are fork tender, pour the egg mixture over the potatoes and stir to combine.  Cook the frittata on medium heat for 5-7 minutes or until the frittata is mostly set.  Put the skillet in the oven and broil for 3-4 minutes or until the top is set.  Remove the frittata from the oven and immediately sprinkle on the reserved Chipotle Gouda.  Let it sit to cool slightly and melt the cheese on top.

Croque Madames


My family has a lot of love for ham and cheese sandwiches. And fried eggs.  And cheese.  Lots and lots of cheese.  What better way to combine all of those things than with this Croque Madame sandwich.  It's typically a fried sandwich, but I baked mine.  And the cheese?  It's typically made with Emmental or Gruyere which are both types of Swiss cheese named after the region they are made in.  I went with Emmental since I find it less salty than Gruyere and the ham in the sandwich is salty enough.  This sandwich is easy to put together and is a great Sunday morning breakfast!

CROQUE MADAMES
FOR THE SANDWICHES:
8 slices Texas toast
1/2 lb thin sliced deli ham
Dijon mustard

4 slices Emmental cheese (or Swiss) plus reserved shredded cheese
4 eggs
Butter, for frying the eggs
Salt & pepper, to taste

FOR THE SAUCE:
2 T butter
2 T flour
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 c shredded Parmesan cheese
1 C shredded Emmental cheese (or Swiss) (reserve 1/4 C for the tops of the sandwiches)
1 1/2 C half and half
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt & pepper, to taste

NOTE:  You will need some reserved shredded cheese and the sauce to put on the tops of the sandwiches, so keep that in mind when you are assembling them.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place the bread on a sheet pan and toast them 5 minutes on each side.  Remove them from the oven.  Leave them on the sheet pan when you remove them from the oven.  Preheat the broiler.

Meanwhile, for the sauce, melt the butter in a small pot. Whisk in the flour.  Whisk in the half and half, Dijon, garlic powder, and salt & pepper, to taste.  When it gets thick and starts bubbling, turn the heat off and whisk in the Parmesan and Emmental in small handfuls until it's completely melted and smooth.  (Don't forget to reserve some Emmental for the tops.)

Spread some Dijon on 4 of the bread slices.  Top with one slice of cheese.  Pile on some ham.  Spread a little sauce on top of each.  (Don't forget to reserve some sauce for the tops.)  Top with the other 4 slices of bread.  Spread more sauce on the top piece of bread and top with the reserved shredded Emmental cheese.  Put the sheet pan under the broiler and broil until the cheese on top melts and starts to brown.

Meanwhile (and don't take your eyes off the broiling sandwiches for too long), melt some butter in a pan and fry the eggs to desired doneness.  Serve each sandwich hot with a fried egg on top. 

Hashbrown Crust Quiche



Our family Christmas event is a little crazy.  We go to my mother's house in Colorado.  My parents spoil us all.  The presents under the tree spread out a little too far in the living room.  My mother insists that we all take turns opening presents so that each present is admired by all and the gift-giver gets a proper thank you.  While it's a wonderful tradition, it takes quite a long time.  We actually start opening presents on Christmas Eve and then do round two Christmas morning.  We eat only "party food" on Christmas Eve so everyone can snack at their own leisure.  After the half day of opening presents on Christmas Day, we are rewarded with a beautiful prime rib dinner.

So I wanted to do a make-ahead quiche for Christmas morning, and I wanted it to be special.  This Hashbrown Quiche is loaded with good stuff and looks so pretty.  I baked it the night before and reheated it in the morning so we didn't have to wait for someone to cook.  And it was wonderful. Don't the tomatoes look pretty?  This quiche has spinach, bacon, grape tomatoes, mushrooms, and a beautiful Smoked Gruyere cheese in it.  And the hashbrown crust...fabulous!  I know you and your family will love this one!

HASHBROWN QUICHE
FOR THE CRUST:
4 c frozen hashbrowns, thawed
3 T butter, melted
1 egg
Salt & pepper, to taste

FOR THE QUICHE:
8 eggs
1/2 lb bacon
1 C fresh spinach
10-12 grape tomatoes, halved
1 C Smoked Gruyere, shredded
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
2 green onions, sliced
1 C half & half
1/2 C sour cream
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 T butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Put the hashbrowns in a clean towel and squeeze out as much liquid as you can.  Mix the hashbrowns together with the egg, melted butter, and salt & pepper, to taste.  Generously grease a springform pan. Cut strips of parchment paper to line the insides of the springform pan and place them around the inside of the ring.  Grease the parchment paper.  Put the hashbrown mixture into the springform pan and press the hashbrowns up the sides and press down the bottom.  Bake the crust for about 15-20 minutes or until it's starting to brown.

Meanwhile, cook the bacon until crisp and drain.  Drain all of the grease except 2 tablespoons.  Melt in the butter.  Cook the mushrooms in the bacon grease and butter until tender. Add in the spinach and cook and stir until the spinach wilts. Lift the mushrooms and spinach out of the grease and set aside.

Whisk together the eggs, half and half, sour cream, nutmeg and salt & pepper.  Stir in the bacon, mushroom & spinach mixture, green onions, and the Smoked Gruyere.  Carefully pour this mixture into the crust.  Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the quiche from the oven and place the grape tomato halves in rows on top of the quiche.  Return the quiche to the oven and bake an additional 40 to 50 minutes or until the quiche is cooked through and set.  

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Royal Pizza



My mother jokingly refers to herself as Queen Donna.  Okay, maybe not so jokingly.  I called her to ask if I could blog about her being the Queen, she said, "sure, because I am the Queen."  It all started out when she was a kid.  She made her younger sister call her Queen Donna or Her Majesty. She would tell her sister to go get her a Coke and she needed two ice cubes, not one, not three.  If it was wrong, she'd make her sister go back and do it over.  While it's typical that kids do those kinds of things, you'd think she would have grown out of it.  But she didn't.  She's still Queen Donna, ha ha.

So what brings me to tell you this story is Margherita Pizza. It doesn't have anything to do with Queen Donna, but it has everything to do with Queen Margherita of Italy.  The Margherita Pizza was supposedly made in her name and the colors, red, green, and white, represent the flag of Italy.  It's really a simple pizza with quality ingredients.  The red is the sauce, the white is good, fresh Mozzarella, and the green is fresh basil.  I have to tell you, this was my first time eating Margherita Pizza, only because I am a total meat lover's fan. But I invested a little more money in better ingredients for this pizza, and it was well worth the investment.  It didn't break the bank, but it was a little more than I'd spend on a typical meal.  If you haven't tried it, you should.  You'll be glad you did.  And you can call yourself a queen if you'd like.

MARGHERITA PIZZA
FOR THE DOUGH:
1 packet highly active yeast
1 1/4 C warm water, about 110 degrees
2 T olive oil
3 to 3 1/2 C flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt

FOR THE SAUCE:
One 28-ounce can San Marzano whole tomatoes, undrained
4 cloves garlic, rough chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
Salt & pepper, to taste

FOR THE PIZZA:
Fresh Mozzarella (usually packed in a little water and shaped like a ball)
Fresh basil leaves
Olive oil

For the dough, put the yeast, water, and sugar in a stand mixer and let sit it until a little frothy.  (If you don't have a stand mixer, it's okay.  Put it in a bowl and whisk.)  Add in the olive oil, salt, and 3 cups of flour.  Knead the dough until it becomes a ball.  If it seems sticky or too wet, add in the rest of the flour.  Place the ball in a large bowl sprayed with pan spray and cover tightly.  Let it rise 1 hour.  

Meanwhile, put the sauce ingredients into a food processor and pulse until smooth.  Put the sauce mixture into a pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat slightly and continue to cook about 15-20 minutes or until the sauce has reduced and gotten thick.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Divide your dough into 4 equal pieces.  Roll them out into oval shapes about 6 to 8 inches long.  Drizzle a little olive oil onto each dough. Spread 1/4 of the sauce onto each dough. Slice the Mozzarella into thin slices and place a few slices on each pizza.  Place a few basil leaves onto each pizza.  Let the pizzas rise for about another 20 minutes.  Bake the pizzas for 15-28 minutes or until the cheese starts to brown and the dough is done.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Research & Development


I have been trying to post this recipe for Steaks au Poivre for a while now.  This is the third time in a month that we've had these steaks.  It's just that my husband and I weren't satisfied with the pictures.  Or so he says.  He also said that we will keep trying until we get it right.  But I know he just wanted me to keep making this steak for him since he loves it so much.

Steak au Poivre means steak with pepper.  It's traditionally a filet migon that has a peppercorn crust, and it's served in a simple cognac and cream sauce.  It's seared in butter and oil in a really hot pan and then it's left to rest so it stays rare or medium rare.  This works best in a cast iron skillet, so if you can invest in one, you'll be glad you did.  It should work well in a stainless steel skillet, but your pan needs to be screaming hot and the butter and oil may spatter.  

I did this particular steak in the picture with ribeyes, but I've also done it with New York strip steaks and filet mignons. They all tasted fabulous.  I would suggest serving this steak with my Spinach Gratin and Cheesy Twice-Baked Potatoes or Potato Stacks.  Once you try this steak method, you may never grill steaks again.

STEAKS AU POIVRE
2 steaks (filet mignon, strip steaks, or ribeye)
2 T whole peppercorns (I used a mix of black, pink, white and green peppercorns)
Salt, to taste
2 T butter
2 T olive oil
1/3 C red wine
1 C heavy cream
1 large shallot, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 recipe Steak Butter

Season the steaks on both sides generously with salt.  Put the peppercorns in a towel and crush them with a heavy pan. (Grinding them makes them too fine.  The idea here is to have larger pieces of peppercorn.)  Press one side of the steaks into the peppercorns (both sides if using filet mignon).  
Put the butter and olive oil into a pan, preferrably cast iron, and heat it screaming hot.  Be careful since this mixture may spatter.  Put the steaks peppercorn side down in the pan first. Sear 4-6 minutes per side depending on how done you want them.  Remove them from the skillet to a plate and tent them with foil. 

Turn the pan down to medium high.  Add in the shallots and cook a couple of minutes.  Add the red wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up any browned bits.  Add in the cream and garlic and cook until it starts to bubble.  Remove from the heat and serve the sauce with the steaks and a pat of Steak Butter.

Potato Stacks


This is an impressive side dish that looks so pretty on the plate.  These are Potato Stacks.  Other than some slicing and layering, they're pretty easy too.  And darn tasty!

POTATO STACKS
4-6 potatoes (I used 6 small to medium potatoes)
3 T butter, melted
3 T olive oil
1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs (I used Parisien blend)
One packet Ranch dip mix
Black pepper, to taste
One 5-ounce container shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Whisk together the butter, olive oil, dried herbs, Ranch mix, and black pepper.  Slice the potatoes on a mandolin slicer on the thinnest blade (or with a very sharp knife).  Put the slices in a bowl and pour the Ranch mixture over the potatoes.  Stir with your hands to coat, making sure to separate the slices so you can get good coverage of the mix.  Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick spray.  Layer the potatoes with a pinch of Parmesan on each layer in the tins, ending with Parmesan on top.  You may want to secure the potatoes with toothpicks.  Bake them for 40 to 50 minutes or until they are fork tender. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Breakfast Eggrolls


Yes, you absolutely read that right...Breakfast Eggrolls!  I love doing unexpected things, and this is surely unexpected. We almost always eat breakfast tacos on Sundays, but not last Sunday.  I went all crazy up in here and made eggrolls for breakfast.  I found some really creamy, buttery Asadero cheese that was perfect.  The package even said that the cheese has a "spectacular melt."  And they were right!  It's a smooth, nutty, soft cheese, and I can't wait to try more recipes with it.  I can envision steak fajita quesadillas with Asadero cheese...drool...

Anywho, the eggrolls...I made three different versions using Mexican chorizo, breakfast sausage, and bacon.  The kids gobbled them up like they hadn't eaten in a week.  And I've included a quick and easy, yet spicy salsa to dip them in.  We also made some of my husband's favorite Cadillac Queso to dip them in.  It was fabulous!

BREAKFAST EGGROLLS
1/2 lb breakfast sausage (like Jimmy Dean's)
1/2 lb bacon
1/2 lb Mexican chorizo
One package of eggroll wrappers (about 21 wrappers)
One 10-ounce package Asadero cheese (also known as Oaxaca cheese), shredded
8 eggs
2 T butter
Peanut oil, for frying
Cadillac Queso, if desired

FOR THE SALSA:
3-4 rough chopped Roma tomatoes
1/4 C rough chopped red onion
2 T cilantro leaves
1 serrano, rough chopped
Juice of 1 lime
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder

NOTE:  If you don't want your salsa as spicy, you can substitute a jalapeno with the seeds removed.

Cook the chorizo in a small skillet over medium heat until it turns from a reddish color to a brownish color, about 5-6 minutes.  Cook and crumble the breakfast sausage in another skillet until cooked it's through.  Cook the bacon until it's done and crumble it.

In a large skillet, melt the 2 T butter.  Whisk the eggs with a little salt and pepper.  Cook the eggs over medium heat, stirring to scramble, until they are slightly underdone.  Set aside.  (They will continue cooking in the frying step and you don't want them tough.)

Put about 1/2 T of the Asadero cheese onto a wonton.  Put about 1 T of the scrambled eggs and 1/2 T of either chorizo, bacon, or sausage into the wonton.  Brush the edges of the wonton with water and roll it up.  Repeat the rolling step with the remaining eggrolls and with alternating meat.  Freeze them for about an hour.  Be very careful to roll them up tight so that the cheese stays inside the eggroll.  Here's a picture of how to roll them.



While the eggrolls are freezing, put all of the salsa ingredients into a blender and pulse until it's smooth.  Keep the salsa refrigerated until you're ready to use it.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.  Heat about 1 inch of peanut oil in a large skillet.  Fry the eggrolls in batches, seam side down first, on medium high until they are browned all over.  Put the cooked eggrolls on a sheet pan in the oven to keep them warm until they are all fried.  Serve with the salsa and Cadillac Queso.

Blue Cheese, Proscuitto & Pear Crostini


Aren't these Blue Cheese, Proscuitto & Pear Crostini pretty! You will be surprised at how good those flavors go together!

BLUE CHEESE, PROSCUITTO & PEAR CROSTINI
Half of a long, skinny baguette
Olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 C chopped pecans
2 T brown sugar
1 T butter
Cayenne pepper, to taste
1 T water
1 pear (I used a red D'Anjou)
1 T butter
1 T vegetable oil
6 ounces crumbled Gorgonzola
1 C baby spinach leaves
8 thin slices proscuitto

Preheat the broiler.  For the pecans, put the pecans, brown sugar, 1 T butter,  water, and cayenne pepper to taste into a small skillet.  Cook and stir over medium heat until the pecans become slightly sticky and there is no liquid remaining.  Remove from the heat and spread the pecans out on a piece of wax paper.

Slice the pear into 16 slices and remove the seeds.  Melt the other 1 T butter in a skillet and add in the vegetable oil.  Cook the pear slices in the skillet over high heat until tender and browned, a few minutes per side.  Drain on a paper towel.

Slice the baguette into 8 slices diagonally.  Brush one side of each piece with the olive oil.  Smash the clove of garlic slightly and then rub it over the olive oil.  Discard what's left of the garlic.  Put the bread on a cookie sheet and put it under the broiler to toast.  Remove them when they are lightly browned. 

Spread the gorgonzola over each piece of toast and lay 1 slice of proscuitto on the gorgonzola.  You can put this back under the broiler for a minute or two if you'd like to warm the cheese and the meat, or you can eat them cold.  After warming them, remove them from the oven.  Place about 3 slices of baby spinach on each toast.  Place two slices of pear on each toast and top with the pecans.

Apple Pie Biscuit Bombs


We ate these Apple Pie Biscuit Bombs for breakfast, but, really, apple pie anything is good any time of the day!  And you can really use any flavor pie filling you want.

APPLE PIE BISCUIT BOMBS
2 cans large biscuits (like Grands, 8 count)
1 can apple pie filling (or any flavor)
2 T butter
2 T sugar
1 T cinnamon

NOTE:  You can make really large biscuit bombs, or you can cut each biscuit in half and make smaller ones.  I made smaller ones, and they were a little bigger than golf balls.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Separate the biscuits to make 16.  Cut each biscuit in half.  Stretch the biscuits around and pull them back into circles.  Open the pie filling and put the filling on a cutting board so you can chop the slices of apples down to smaller pieces.  Place about 2 teaspoons of filling onto the center of each biscuit (1 T if you're not cutting the biscuits in half).  Seal up the biscuits and put them seam-side down on a greased cookie sheet. Don't worry if some of the filling makes it hard to seal completely.  Mine didn't leak at all.  

Melt the butter and brush the tops of the biscuits.  Mix the sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle some on the tops of each biscuit.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until they are browned and the biscuits are cooked through.

Cream Cheese with Pepper Jelly


I love the flavor of this Cream Cheese with Pepper Jelly.  You can make it hot or mild.  I used 3 jalapenos and 1 serrano, and mine turned out mild.  It's also good on sandwiches or toast.  Enjoy!

CREAM CHEESE WITH PEPPER JELLY
1 red bell pepper, seeds and stem removed, coarse chopped
3 jalapenos, seeds and stems removed, coarse chopped
1 serrano, seeds and stem removed, coarse chopped
1/2 C apple cider vinegar
3 C sugar
One 3-ounce pouch liquid pectin
One 8-ounce block cream cheese
Crackers, for serving

NOTE:  I removed the seeds from the jalapenos and serrano, and my jelly was mild.  You can leave some or all of the seeds in for a hotter jelly.

Put the bell pepper, jalapenos, and serrano into a food processor.  Pulse until the peppers are all small pieces but not completely chopped.

Put the pepper mixture, sugar, and vinegar into a pot large enough to prevent boiling over.  Whisk the mixture together. Bring the mixture to a boil and boil 3 minutes.  Whisk in the pectin and boil and additional 1 minute.  Remove the jelly from the pot and refrigerate until cold.  Serve some of the jelly over a block of cream cheese with crackers.  (You will have some left.  Go ahead and try some on a sandwich...or toast...or with chips!)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Weeknight Magic


While I try to make easy weeknight meals, I don't always accomplish "easy."  There is a chili recipe I've wanted to try out and a pizza recipe, but last night I just wasn't feeling either recipe since they both seemed too time consuming.  I found some pasta in the pantry and some Italian sausage in the freezer, so I thought I'd whip up a one-pot wonder.  

My husband and I got in the kitchen and whipped it up.  I usually make everyone wait to eat until I get pictures.  I got a phone call that I had to take, so my husband said he'd take the pictures.  Now, I'm usually really REALLY picky about the pictures of my food, but I reluctantly agreed.  And look at how pretty his picture turned out!  It's fabulous!  And so is this Spicy Sausage Pasta.  The pasta cooks right in the same pot as everything else, so it's really pretty easy.  Enjoy!

SPICY SAUSAGE PASTA
1 lb Italian sausage, sliced diagonally
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 C chicken stock
1 1/2 C of canned crushed tomatoes
1/2 C heavy cream
1 lb pasta, any shape
2 T Italian parsley, chopped
2 C shredded Pepper Jack cheese
1/2 C red wine
Olive oil
Red chili flakes, to taste
1 C water (may or may not be necessary)

NOTE:  I used a thick pasta for this, mezzi rigatoni.  I needed the additional stock and the cup of water to get the pasta to finish cooking.  If you are using a thinner pasta, like bowtie, shells, macaroni, etc., start with the 3 C chicken stock and wait to see if you need the water.

Drizzle some olive oil into a dutch oven or large pot.  Cook the sausage on high (watch out for spattering oil) until browned well on both sides.  Remove the sausage from the pot and turn the heat down to medium high.  Add in the onions and cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes.  Add in the wine and deglaze the pan, stirring up any browned bits.  Add in the chicken stock, sausage, tomatoes, heavy cream, garlic, pasta, and chili flakes, to taste.  Cook over medium high heat, stirring frequently, until the pasta is tender, adding in the extra stock and possibly the water to keep your sauce around until the pasta is done.  Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese and parsley.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Mini Cheeseballs


Everyone loves a cheeseball, right?  (Don't answer if you don't love them.  Rhetorical question.)  How about making individual bite-sized cheeseballs!  These are tasty and fun. Enjoy!

MINI CHEESEBALLS
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt (like Lawry's)
One 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, well drained
1/4 C chopped pecans
1/2 C shredded Colby Jack cheese
4 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 T chopped jarred jalapeno slices
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3-5 T paprika
3-5 T dried parsley
Pretzel sticks (around 30)

Place the paprika in a bowl and place the parsley in another bowl.  Mix the cream cheese, Lawry's, pineapple, Colby Jack, chopped jalapenos, and garlic powder together in a stand mixer (you can do it by hand as long as your cream cheese is really soft).  Stir in the bacon and pecans.  Taste for seasoning to see if you need more seasoned salt.  Using a melon baller, scoop out about 1-inch balls.  Shape them with your hands (it will be messy).  You will get around 30.  Roll half of them in the parsley and the other half in the paprika, using additional parsley and paprika, if necessary.  Carefully stick a pretzel stick in each one.  Refrigerate about 30 minutes to set.  

Baked Feta


Sounds strange, I know, but it works!  Isn't this Baked Feta pretty?  The feta doesn't really melt, but it gets soft.  If you're planning on leaving this out for a while, I would suggest you put it on a small warming plate or even a coffee cup warmer or candle warmer.  Enjoy!

BAKED FETA
One block feta cheese (around 8 ounces)
6 pepperoncini peppers, sliced
8 grape tomatoes, halved
1 T Italian parsley, chopped
One 2.25 ounce can sliced black olives
1 green onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 T olive oil
Salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place the block of feta on a small ovenproof dish.  Mix the remaining ingredients together and spoon over the top of the feta.  Bake the feta for 20 minutes or until it's soft.  Serve with crackers.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Magic Cookie Bars


While I was a court reporter, I used to make tons of cookies to give to my attorney clients for Christmas.  These Magic Cookie Bars were always a part of that.  The magic is either the way the sweetened condensed milk bakes into its own layer, or the magic is in how they immediately disappear! And can you imagine if you used red and green M&Ms on top! Wouldn't that look like Christmas!

MAGIC COOKIE BARS
1 1/2 C graham cracker crumbs
1/4 C sugar
1/2 C butter, melted
One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (like Eagle Brand)
1 C milk chocolate chips
1 C peanut butter chips
1 C white chocolate chips
1 C chopped pecans
1 C shredded coconut (optional)

Line a 9 x 13 pan with foil.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the butter, graham cracker crumbs, and sugar together. Press it down in the bottom of the pan, making sure to cover the bottom completely.  Pour the sweetened condensed milk over the graham crust and spread it to completely cover the crust.  Mix together the chocolate, peanut butter and white chocolate chips along with the pecans and the coconut if you are using it.  Sprinkle this mixture over the sweetened condensed milk, trying to cover the milk as much as you can. Bake it for 25-30 minutes or until the bits of sweetened condensed milk showing through is lightly browned.  Cool completely before cutting.  I actually put mine in the freezer until it's cold before slicing. 

As adapted from Eagle Brand

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Good Woman Chicken


A few years ago, my mother gave me Julia Child's cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  I haven't really delved much into it since it's a little daunting.  There are no pictures, and the way the recipes are written in blocks makes it difficult to follow.  But I was looking for a roasted chicken dinner for the holidays, so I jumped in with both feet.

I came across her recipe for Poulet en Cocotte Bonne Femme.  The translation for that is "chicken in casserole good woman," ha ha.  She used a whole chicken trussed up and roasted the chicken and vegetables all together.  I used a whole cut up chicken since I thought it would be a lot easier to work with.  I added butternut squash, mushrooms, carrots, celery, and apples.  It was amazing and impressive.  Doesn't it look beautiful?  This is a great meal for a dinner party.  All you need with it is some buttery rolls and dessert!

GOOD WOMAN CHICKEN
1 whole cut up chicken (bone in, skin on)
4 slices bacon, diced
1 onion, chopped
2 large potatoes, cut into cubes (about 2 1/2 cups)
8 ounces brown mushrooms, halved
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into cubes (about 2 1/2 to 3 cups)
2 apples, cut into cubes
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced (remove the stem first)
7-8 fresh sage leaves, minced
1 sprig rosemary, minced (remove the stem first)
2 T butter
1/2 C white wine

NOTE:  Searing the chicken over high heat can cause the butter and bacon grease to spatter, so be careful.  The grease spattered when I was cooking it and it shot out and burned me on the inside of my ear, ha ha.  It even left a blister.  Also, you may find that the chicken breasts still have some rib bones attached.  You can leave them on.  I cut the extra bones off so the breasts would look nicer.  

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Generously season the chicken on all sides with salt and pepper.  In a large dutch oven or roasting pan (something that has a lid), cook the bacon on the stovetop.  When the bacon is done, remove the bacon but leave the grease in the pan.  Add in the 2 T butter and turn the heat up high.  Place the chicken skin side down in the pan and cook and sear the skin until it's browned. Remove the chicken from the pan and set it aside.  

Turn the heat down to medium high.  Add in the mushrooms and onions and cook until they start to get tender, about 3-4 minutes. Add in the wine and deglaze the pan.  Add in all the veggies and the bacon, herbs, and garlic, season them with salt and pepper, and stir.  Place the chicken skin side up over the veggies.  Cover the pot and roast in the oven for about 1 hour and up to 1 1/2 hours or until a meat thermometer registers the chicken at 165 degrees and the veggies are tender.  Remove the lid and turn on the broiler.  Broil the chicken a few minutes to brown up the skin again.

Loosely adapted from Three Beans on a String

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

An Argument With a Lemon


Sometimes, well, a lot of times, I make a chicken dish with a sauce.  But every now and then there is no sauce necessary. Take, for instance, this Romano Chicken.  I felt down in my soul that it didn't need a sauce.  The baked chicken would be tender.  The panko breadcrumbs would be crunchy.  The Romano cheese would be slightly salty, slightly nutty.  No sauce needed.  Then I saw it...a lemon.  An innocent little citrus fruit staring me in the eyes from the veggie drawer.
Begging to be included.  Please use me, it said.  I'm tasty, it said.  I give a fresh little twist to a seemingly perfect dish, it said.  Fine, I said.  If only you will shut your little lemon mouth, I said.  


But...the lemon was right.  If only to make the little lemon put its hand down, begging to give the answer, I gave in and squeezed the lemon over this chicken.  The lemon was right. Sure, it's still not a sauce, but it's something extra added on top.  This Romano Chicken IS truly perfect by itself.  But who defines perfection?  Who says perfect is truly perfect and can't be improved upon?  The lemon.  

ROMANO CHICKEN
FOR THE CHICKEN MARINADE:
1 packet Good Seasons Zesty Italian dressing mix
1/2 C vegetable oil
1/4 C white wine vinegar
2 T Italian parsley, chopped
2 T green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Red chili flakes, to taste

FOR THE CHICKEN:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 C panko breadcrumbs
1 C Romano cheese, shredded
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon seasoned salt (like Lawry's)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 lemon, cut into 4 wedges
1/2 C shredded Mozzarella
Fresh basil chiffonades, if desired
Pan spray

For the chicken, whisk together the marinade ingredients. Place the chicken and the marinade in a large zipper bag and squish around to coat.  Put the chicken in the fridge and marinate at least an hour.

Mix together the panko, Romano cheese, garlic powder, seasoned salt, and black pepper.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Remove the chicken breasts from the marinade and press into the panko mixture, making sure to coat both sides.  Place the chicken on a baking sheet.  Bake for about 28-35 minutes or until a thermometer registers 165 degrees. (Cooking time may vary depending on how thick the chicken is.  A thermometer is the best way to determine if chicken is done).  

Once chicken is done, sprinkle the Mozzarella over each chicken breast and return to the oven to melt.  Remove the chicken from the oven and squeeze a little fresh lemon juice over each breast.  Garnish with basil, if desired.