Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Parmesan Coated Croutons...Quick on the Stovetop


I hate to throw away food, and this week my loaf of Italian bread was not being eaten for some reason. It was getting kind of stale, so instead of tossing it in the freezer for a later date, it went into a semi hot pan with garlic infused butter and olive oil and got a shake up in a brown paper bag with grated parmesan cheese. Voila! Croutons for tomorrow's salad. A simple technique and a great snack even if you're not a salad fan.

Parmesan Coated Croutons

3 or 4 slices of semi stale Italian bread cut into 1 inch cubes
1-1/2 T unsalted butter
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
4-6 cloves of garlic smashed
Kosher salt
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a large skillet heat butter and oil and add smashed garlic.


Cook until garlic becomes aromatic and slightly brown. Remove garlic from skillet with slotted spoon. This is about the color you're looking for because if you let it go any further it could easily burn and you'll have to start over. That's not something you want to do.


To garlic infused oil/butter mixture add your bread cubes and a tsp (or a little more) of kosher salt. Toss cubes in pan and cook for 5 or so minutes on all sides until mostly brown.


Now the fun begins. Remove croutons from pan and toss into a small brown paper bag with the cheese. Shake, shake, shake until your toasty bread cubes are covered with cheese. Immediate happy snacking and a fabulous salad garnish for another day. Wasn't that quick?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Crash Hot Potatoes Slightly Re-Mixed


I've been changing up The Pioneer Woman's Crash Hot Potato recipe and decided it needed some bacon. Here's my version of her side dish (I made it for two) that would be great with a steak and a welcome change from your standard baked potato. It's so simple and has wonderful textural things going on- like soft and creamy, and lots of crunchy. And the flavor is buttery and rich. Make either version of these Crash Potatoes, you won't be disappointed.

Crash Hot Potatoes Slightly Re-Mixed
serves 2

2 medium size Yukon Gold potatoes
1 T butter
1 T olive oil
2-3 T canola oil
kosher salt
black pepper
sour cream
2-3 strips of cooked bacon crumbled

In medium size pot add your potatoes and cover with water. Cook about 30 minutes until they are fork tender.


Drain in colander and to warm pot that you cooked the potatoes in, add 1T of butter and 1T olive oil. Put pot back on stovetop and heat about 1 minute or less until butter is melted.


When potatoes are cool enough to handle, place them on a well oiled baking pan. I used a few tablespoons of canola oil. With a potato masher, smash these taters. I gave each a good smash, then rotated them 90 degrees. This gives them the ability to get crunchy in the oven. Which reminds me, pre heat your oven to 450 degrees sometime before the simmering potatoes are done on the stovetop. Once smashed, drizzle or brush with the melted butter/olive oil mixture (I use my barbecue brush) . Now sprinkle liberally with kosher salt and black pepper.


Bake for 25 minutes. Or until you just can't wait anymore. But I do recommend that you give them time to become crusty and crisp in places.


I am a loaded potato lover, so I garnished with crumbled bacon and sour cream. Well how could I not add sour cream? And if I had some chives, they would have gone on too.


I'm thinking these taters would be great with some salsa, black beans and jalapeno peppers for a Tex-Mex twist. Or a topping of chili if you really want to take it to the Tex-Mex max. I'm also thinking about a nice melty cheese sauce. The possibilities are endless.  

Monday, March 31, 2014

Pina Colada Cream Filled Cookies

 
Every year I celebrate my friend Jonathan's birthday with a new cookie. This year I did a take off on my Raspberry Cloud Cakes that I made at the 2013 World Food Championships in Las Vegas. Since Jon will be spending some time soon in the Caribbean I thought a coconut and pineapple combo would be appropriate. I didn't take any pictures to guide us through the baking process, but it's simple and I think when you make these you'll be as pleased as I was.
 
Pina Colada Cream Filled Cookies
 
Filling
8 oz neufchatel cheese at room temp
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temp
1/4 cup sweetened coconut ground in spice grinder or food processor
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
1 tsp coconut extract
 
Dough
3/4 cup butter softened
3/4 cup Splenda Brown Sugar Blend- if you choose to use regular brown sugar double the amount
2 large eggs at room temp
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups AP flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup candied/dried pineapple rings chopped
Confectioners sugar for dusting
 
Garnish
Chopped candied/dried pineapple rings
Cream cheese coconut mixture
 
I always make the filling first: In medium size bowl combine your neufchatel cheese and butter. Now add your ground coconut, confectioners sugar and coconut extract. I cover this with plastic wrap and let it sit in the fridge while I'm making the cookie dough.
 
To make the cookies: Pre heat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. In medium size bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Stir with a whisk or fork to combine and set aside.
 
In large bowl, with hand or stand mixer combine butter and brown sugar and mix until smooth and airy (about 3 minutes). Add eggs and vanilla and continue to mix. Add half the dry ingredients into the wet and mix on low. Add the rest of the flour mixture and mix until smooth. Fold in the candied/dried pineapple pieces. Cover with plastic wrap, and let cool in your refrigerator 20-30 minutes.
 
When dough is chilled, form into small balls about 1 inch in diameter. Place on baking sheets and cook 11 minutes. Cool slightly on cooling rack, then remove to kitchen or paper towels to cool completely.
 
Remove coconut filling from fridge and take a tablespoon (or maybe a little more) and place this creamy mixture on the flat side of the cooled cookie. Cover with a second cookie to make a sandwich. Keep going until you've matched up all the mates.
 
Sprinkle the top of all cookies with confectioners sugar, add a dab of coconut cream cheese on top and plunk in a piece or two of chopped pineapple. Nice presentation and a very sweet cookie.
 
I refrigerate these cookies and take them out about 30 minutes to one hour before serving. Happy Birthday Jonathan! Oh my, what am I going to make you next year?    

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Tater Salad Fake Out


Is anybody besides me ready for a barbecue and some time outdoors? I'm just about losing my mind with the snow, rain and cold this year. When I get my first invitation this spring to an outdoor event, I know what I'm bringing... my newest potato salad recipe.  It's low carb and delish. And nobody, and I mean nobody will realize the fake-out unless you tell them. But I'm happy to tell you- it's 1/3 potatoes and 2/3 cauliflower. And the dressing is out-of-this-world good. The Brown Eyed Baker gets the credit for this dressing for sure. There's something magical that happens when you add a bit of bacon fat to your mayo mixture. Double, triple or quadruple this recipe when you're sharing with others. Otherwise this will serve 4.

Cauliflower Potato Salad

2 cups  cauliflower florets chopped
1 cup potatoes diced into 1/2 inch pieces
2 hard boiled eggs chopped
1 stalk celery finely chopped
1 T onion finely chopped
5 slices bacon cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup mayo (I use the low fat)
1 to 1-1/2 T (or a little more) bacon fat
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp capers

Cook potatoes on stovetop for 15 to 20 minutes. Drain, let cool and set aside. While the potatoes are cooking, microwave the cauliflower florets for 3 minutes. When they are done, set them aside and let them cool as well. On medium heat, fry your bacon. Doesn't this look good?


When bacon is browned, remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Pour bacon fat from pan and reserve about 1-2 tablespoons. You'll be using this in your dressing. I actually made my dressing in the pan that I cooked the bacon in. To bacon drippings add your mayo, mustard, sugar, salt, chopped celery, and onions. Whisk to combine.


I think we're ready to put this dish together. In large mixing bowl combine your eggs, potatoes, cauliflower and bacon.


Now add the heavenly dressing and as many capers as you like. I opted for about 2 teaspoons. I give you permission to add more (note- Brown Eyed Baker didn't use capers but used a pickle relish I think).

I ate this immediately, but if you're making it ahead, refrigerate and if the dressing seems a little tight- just add a teaspoon or two of vinegar to loosen it up. I know that will work for sure.

Hurry up Spring- Can't wait to make this dish for my friends!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Mom's Stewed Chicken with a Tex-Mex Flair


My mother Elaine was a good cook. She was never considered a warrior in the kitchen, but even 40 plus years ago she was cooking healthy. And one of my favorite meals of hers was her stewed chicken. I  could smell it walking in the door and couldn't wait for the tender chicken, tomato broth and veggies to be done so I could indulge in one of my favorite meals ever. And thankfully before she passed away she actually gave me the recipe in writing.

I've toyed with her recipe over the years and nothing I did to tweak or impove it seemed to be any better than hers. Until tonight. A little Tex Mex seasoning, some diced jalapeno and of course some corn. This is a pretty quick fix, under an hour- and I promise you if you don't eat it all in the first sitting, you will enjoy the flavors even more the next day. As with most stews, it just gets better and better if you have the patience to let it sit.

Elaine's Stewed Chicken with a Tex-Mex Flair

6 chicken thighs bone in, skin removed
2 tsp canola oil
2 cups onions chopped
4 cloves garlic fined chopped
2 jalapeno peppers diced
1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
2 tsp Old El Paso Hot and Spicy Taco Seasoning Mix
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp dried coriander
1/4 tsp dried cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes no salt added
1 8oz can tomato sauce no salt added
1 14.5 low sodium fat free chicken broth
3 green peppers sliced
8 oz sliced mushrooms
1 cup frozen corn

In large soup pot on medium low heat add your canola oil. Now add your onions and jalapeno. Let veggies soften about 5 minutes and add your garlic, Old Bay, Taco Seasoning, salt, coriander, cumin and chili powder. Stir to combine and let cook a few more minutes to let the flavors combine. Now add your diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil and add your chicken thighs. Take a look at the size of these chicken thighs. They are huge!


Reduce broth to a slow simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes. Now add your fresh veggies and frozen corn.


Continue to simmer covered for 10-15 minutes and dinner is done. I made some brown rice and Colby Jack flatbread as a side. Delicious dinner tonight.


Thanks mom, you've always inspired me.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Corned Beef and Grilled Cheese


Wow, yesterday I had a huge, beautiful plate of corned beef and today I am left with enough for a sandwich. Did we really gobble up all the beef? I guess we did. No matter, next time we'll make more. Tonight we have a grilled cheese corned beef sandwich to make.

Cooking Light (in their March issue) had an article on one of their ultimate grilled cheese sandwiches and I decided to take a tip from them to create tonight's dinner on the stovetop. I loved two things I read about their recipe- the cheese was creamy and lower fat than we regularly use and the amount of oil (not butter) that the sammie was fried in was a lot less calories. Well, the first statement is true- the cheese mixture is without a doubt creamy, flavorful and simply delish. The 1/2 tsp of olive oil for both sides of the sandwich just didn't seem to cut it, so I improvised and had to add a tad, just a tad of butter. Let's remember, grilled anything is never going to be figure friendly, so bring on the butter- not a whole lot, but let's at least be able to brown up the bread and taste something good and give this new grilled cheese and corned beef a try. I have to say, with my little changes, I loved it.

Grilled Cheese and Corned Beef Sandwiches
Inspired by Cooking Light
Revised by me

2 slices fresh rye bread
Leftover corned beef sliced thin
1 T softened goat cheese (Cooking Light used cream cheese)
1 tsp Dijon mustard (my addition)
1 tsp mayo (I used the light)
1/2 cup or a little more shredded light cheddar cheese
butter and 1/2 tsp canola oil for frying

In small bowl combine your mustard and goat cheese.


Mix it up and add the mayo and shredded cheddar. I tasted this and decided it didn't need any salt or pepper, but if you're a pepper person, add a few grinds, you'll be happy I'm sure.


 Take out two slices of rye bread and slather one side with the cheese mixture.


Now add your sliced cornbeef.


 
Well I was almost ready to close this little darling up when I realized I had a bit more cheese left, so what's a gal to do? Slather the remaining cheese on the other piece of bread I guess. Seemed like a plan.
 
 
Top that sammie with the other slice of cheesy bread and heat your skillet/pan to medium/medium low. Add in your 1/2 tsp of oil, but make sure to add alittle butter to your pan or you won't be happy. Saute a few minutes on side one. Flip and repeat. See what a beautiful litte grilled cheese sandwich you just made!
 
 
And think of the possibilities you could add to the cheese mixture instead of the mustard, A few that come to mind are horseradish, sriracha or pico de gallo. I do think any grilled cheese is worth an experiment or two, just don't forget to add a little butter. I'm so glad  did!


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Guinness Stout Bread


Yesterday I came across a recipe for beer bread on the blog Half Baked Harvest. It looked so good and SIMPLE, I had to give it a try. I used Guinness Extra Stout and added some raisins to the already yummy mix. Ready for a super delish bread? I sure was- six ingredients, no kneading, and less than an hour baking time. Let's do it!

Guinness Stout Raisin Bread
Inspired by Half Baked Harvest
Makes one 9 x 5 loaf

3 cups flour
4-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup brown sugar loosely packed
1/2 tsp salt
12 oz Guinness Extra Stout
1/2 to 3/4 cups raisins plumped in boiling water and drained

Lightly spritz a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray and pre heat oven to 375 degrees. Combine first 4 ingredients together in a large bowl (flour through salt) and whisk to combine.  Add your Guinness.
 

Then the raisins. Stir with a wooden spoon until just combined and there is no extra flour mixture or clumps. Pour into prepared loaf pan.

 
I tried to smooth the batter on top but had no success. It's just the nature of this bread to be lumpy. Bake 50 minutes and remove from oven. Let cool about a half hour, cut and enjoy.