Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Ultimate Chocolate Granola

I usually stick with variations of my go-to granola recipe -- it's quick, easy, and makes for a healthy breakfast with yogurt and fruit.  But sometimes it's fun to get a little fancy, as with this chocolate granola.  The granola gets serious chocolate flavor from both cocoa powder and chocolate chips.  It's also got some serious salty-sweet magic going on with sprinkles of both turbinado sugar and flaky salt to finish.  Of course this granola is good with yogurt, but I'm not going to lie -- I could not stop eating it every time I walked past the container!

Ultimate Chocolate Granola (adapted from Pinch of Yum, original recipe here)
Makes about eight 1/3-cup servings

Spray oil
1-1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup cashews
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup turbinado sugar, divided
Generous pinch of salt
1/3 cup melted coconut oil
3 T maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips
Coarse salt, to finish (i.e. flaky sea salt or kosher salt)

1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees and line a large baking sheet with foil.  Spray lightly with oil.
2. Mix together the oats, cashews, coconut flakes, and turbinado sugar in a large bowl.  Reserve about a tablespoon of the turbinado sugar in a small bowl, and add the rest to the oat mixture along with a generous pinch of salt.  
3. Pour in the coconut oil, maple syrup, and vanilla extract.  Stir well so that everything is combined.  Spread onto the baking sheet in an even layer.
4. Bake 50 minutes.  Don't shake or stir the pan unless the granola seems to be over-browning.  
5. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the granola and return to the oven for 5 minutes.  Remove from the oven, and sprinkle over the reserved turbinado sugar along with a generous sprinkle of coarse salt. 
6. Let cool for at least an hour or two before gently transferring to a storage container.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Butternut, Chickpea, and Chicken Salad with Parmesan Dressing

This has been a semi-crazy fall, which has meant a lot of delivery and frozen pot pies (I know!).  It has definitely left me craving fresh ingredients and salads.  This salad is pretty quick to pull together, although you do have to plan some time for the squash to roast (this could be done ahead, depending on your schedule).  Sweet butternut squash is combined with rotisserie chicken, nutty chickpeas, and creamy goat cheese for a great combination of flavors and textures.  Everything comes together with a quick Parmesan-red wine vinegar dressing that nicely balances richness and acid.

This recipe is inspired by one from Robin of The Balanced Life. I love love love Robin's online Pilates videos, and she also sends out recipes as part of her monthly Pilates membership community.  The original recipe had avocado in place of the goat cheese, which I think would also be delicious -- I just couldn't find one that wasn't rock hard at the grocery.  But if you've got ripe avocados on hand, that would be a fantastic sub for the cheese.

Butternut, Chickpea, and Chicken Salad with Parmesan Dressing (adapted from Robin of The Balanced Life)

For the dressing:
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (use a Microplane to get extra fine ribbons)
Juice of 1 lemon
2 T red wine vinegar
2 tsp honey
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper

For the salad
1/2 butternut squash, peeled and chopped
Olive oil
1 rotisserie chicken leg (drumstick and thigh), shredded
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Chopped romaine lettuce
Crumbled goat cheese

1. Put all the dressing ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.  Screw on the lid and shake well to combine.  Set aside.
2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Toss the squash with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Roast until tender, about 20-30 minutes, tossing once midway through roasting.
3. Combine the squash, chicken, and chickpeas in a large bowl.  Add a good drizzle of the dressing and toss to combine.
4. Separately, toss each portion of lettuce with more dressing.  Top the greens with a scoop of the squash-chicken mixture, and then top with crumbled goat cheese.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Lunch Box: Greek-Style Chicken Salad

I have become a big fan of picking up rotisserie chicken at the store to speed up the prep of dishes like soup and enchiladas.  Here, shredded rotisserie chicken is mixed into a creamy sauce to create a tasty chicken salad.  Chopped dried cherries and pickled onions jazz things up flavor wise - you could also add chopped fresh herbs for even more flavor.  What makes this chicken salad extra fun is what you serve with it.  Rather than making a sandwich that might get soggy by lunchtime, pack your container half-full with fresh veggies, and pack a pita chips on the side.  Use the chips for dipping at lunch for maximum crunch!

Greek-Style Chicken Salad (adapted from Cooking Light)
Serves 2

3 T mayonnaise
2 T plain Greek yogurt
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
1 heaping cup shredded rotisserie chicken
2 T minced maple pickled onions or minced shallots
1/4 cup minced dried cherries
To serve: sliced cucumber, cherry tomatoes, and pita chips

Stir together the mayo, Greek yogurt, lemon juice, and black pepper.  Add the chicken, onions, and cherries and gently stir to combine.  Divide between two lunch containers, and add cucumbers and cherry tomatoes on the side.  Pack pita chips in a separate container or bag so they don't get soggy.

Previous lunch box dishes: Bleu Apple Salad * Quinoa Salad with Tofu, Fresh Corn, Scallions, and Cashews * Lentil-Quinoa Yoga Bowl * Fennel-Potato Soup with Black Beans * Green and Yellow Vegetable Soups * Lemon-y Barley Salad * Asian-Style Split Pea Soup

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

New York Strip Steak with Blue Cheese Sauce and Brussels Sprouts

I am in love with this recipe because it is seriously easy to make, but definitely fancy enough to serve to guests -- we served it to my parents-in-law when they were visiting and it was a big hit.  The only time-consuming part is trimming and slicing the Brussels sprouts -- as you can see in the photo, I did more halves, and they were a little too crunchy -- I would definitely slice thinner next time.  You could also go with something like haricots verts as a quicker option, too.  The sprouts get spread out on a sheet pan, topped with a wire rack, and then steaks go on the top layer.  This means the sprouts get extra flavor from the steak drippings - yum!  Everything goes under the broiler for just a few minutes, and then the steak is topped with a super fast, 4-ingredient blue cheese sauce.  The sauce is pretty mild because the blue cheese is cut with sour cream, so even blue cheese skeptics may enjoy it.  Bonus: this meal is gluten free, if that's something you need (we served it with gluten free cornbread).

New York Strip Steak with Blue Cheese Sauce and Brussels Sprouts (adapted from Fine Cooking)
Serves 4

20 ounces Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1-inch-thick New York strip steaks (about 1-1/2 pounds to 2 pounds will serve 4, depending on appetite)
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 tsp white wine vinegar
2 scallions, trimmed

1. Position a rack about 6 inches from the broiler and preheat the broiler to high.
2. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray with oil.
3. Toss the Brussels sprouts with a generous pour of oil and season with salt and pepper.  Arrange in a single layer on the baking sheet.  Cover with one or two wire racks set on top of the Brussels sprouts.
4. Brush the steaks with oil, and season both sides with salt and pepper.  Place on the rack.
5. Broil, flipping once, until the sprouts are a little charred and the steak is cooked to your liking, about 3-5 minutes per side for medium rare.
6. Meanwhile, puree the sour cream, blue cheese, vinegar, and scallion in a mini chopper or blender.  Season with salt and pepper.  Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
7. Cover the steak and sprouts with a large piece of foil, and let rest about 10 minutes.  Then serve, along with the blue cheese sauce.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Peanut Butter-Marshmallow Christmas Candy

This is one of my favorite Christmas candies, based on a recipe that my aunt makes.  It may not be pretty, but it is so yummy!  You've got sweetness from white chocolate, lots of peanut flavor from both peanut butter and peanuts, crispy Rice Krispies, and chewy mini marshmallows.  Plus, these take just a few minutes to stir together.  Perfect Christmas sweetness!

Peanut Butter-Marshmallow Christmas Candy
Makes about 2 dozen

10 ounces white chocolate
7 T chunky peanut butter
1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts
1/2 cup mini marshmallows
2/3 cup Rice Krispies

1. Chop the white chocolate. Place in a bowl with the peanut butter, and melt in the microwave in 30 second increments, stirring each time.
2. Stir in the peanuts, marshmallows, and Rice Krispies.
3. Drop by spoonfuls on wax paper.  Stick in the fridge until set, and then transfer to a container to store. The candies should be fine at cool room temperature.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Pumpkin Spice Bread Pudding

We're a little past pumpkin spice season, but you should definitely still make this bread pudding! I forget how super simple bread pudding is until I actually make it, and then I am very happy.  This dish takes the usual bread pudding formula and switches it up with added pumpkin puree, pumpkin spices, and mini chocolate chips (because why not?!).  The dish is super decadent and delicious, and absolutely perfect with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.  Take things over the top with a homemade caramel sauce -- this one is from the Baked Elements cookbook.  Although making your own caramel sauce can sound a little intimidating, it's actually pretty easy - just be careful when you add the liquid at the end since it can bubble up.

Pumpkin Spice Bread Pudding

1 T butter
White sugar
6 large eggs
3 cups half and half
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 T pumpkin pie spice
1-pound loaf brioche, stale or lightly toasted, cubed
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (or more, however you like)

For the caramel:
3/4 cups sugar
2 T corn syrup
1/2 stick butter, softened and cut into small cubes
3/4 cup heavy cream
Generous pinch of salt

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a large baking pan with the butter, and then dust with sugar.
2. Whisk together the eggs, cream, purmpkin, brown sugar, and pie spice. Add the bread, and toss to combine.  Transfer to the prepared pan and sprinkle with chocolate chunks.  Bake 40-45 minutes.
3. Make the caramel sauce.  In a medium saucepan, combine wht sugar and corny syrup with 1/4 cup water.  Stir gently, cooking over medium-high heat, until the sugar dissolves.  Increase heat to high, and, without stirring, allow the mixture to boil.  Once it is a rich caramel color, remove from heat.  Stir in the butter and cream.  Stir to make sure everything is smooth, and use immediately or store in the fridge (microwave briefly to use).

Monday, December 7, 2015

Lunch Box: Comforting Chicken Curry with Baby Spinach

I've been pretty bad about prepping lunches ahead on the weekend lately, but this recent dish is definitely a winner.  First of all, it's very quick and has a pretty short ingredient list -- I made it in a skillet while prepping other things on a weekend afternoon, and it didn't feel like a major chore.  Plus, it's got a good balance of protein and veggies, plus a whole grain if you serve it over brown rice.  I wilted fresh spinach into the sauce right at the end, but if you have leftover steamed veggies, you could mix those in instead or in addition to the spinach -- I think green beans or carrots would work especially well.  Despite what seems like a lot of curry paste, this dish isn't too spicy, and it keeps well in the fridge until you're ready to eat.  This dish is especially good to make this time of year, since the creamy coconut milk puts it firmly in comfort food territory.

Comforting Chicken Curry with Baby Spinach (adapted from Honest Cooking, original recipe here)
Serves 4 (lunch portions)

2 T oil
2 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp minced fresh ginger
2 T Thai red curry paste
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, in bite-sized pieces
1 cup coconut milk
2 generous handfuls baby spinach
Brown rice, to serve (if you're feeling fancy, prepare it using the leftover coconut milk for part of the liquid)

1. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  When it's hot, add the garlic and ginger and fry for a minute or so, until fragrant.  Add the curry paste and fry for another minute.
2. Add the chicken, stir well to combine, and cook until just browned.  Then add the coconut milk, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to a simmer.  Simmer until the chicken is cooked through.
3. Stir in the spinach until just wilted.  Let cool, then divide among 4 lunch containers, each with a scoop of brown rice.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Vegetarian Huevos Rancheros

I love huevos rancheros -- they're one of my favorite items to order at Mexican restaurants, and they're also easy to make at home.  This version departs from the usual recipe in that there's no red sauce -- instead, avocados and salsa verde are combined to make a delicious, creamy green sauce. The other special component of this dish is homemade refried beans -- start with high quality dried beans for an extra special dish, or use canned beans for a quicker dinner.  The beans are mashed and sauteed with spices and onion, and then spooned on top of warm tortillas.  Add the avocado-salsa verde sauce, an over easy egg, and then whatever toppings you like (we used cheese and sour cream).  Yum!

Vegetarian Huevos Rancheros (adapted from Cookie and Kate, original recipe here)

For the beans:
1 cup Red Nightfall beans [or substitute 2 cans black or pinto beans]
1 T olive oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
Salt and pepper
1/2 lime

For the avocado salsa verde:
7-9 ounces salsa verde
1 ripe avocado
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
juice of 1/2 lime

To serve:
Corn tortillas
Eggs, cooked however you like them
Shredded cheddar cheese
Sour cream

1. Soak the beans overnight.  Drain, then place in a pot and cover with water by a few inches.  Simmer for 60-90 minutes, until tender. Drain, reserving the liquid from the pot.
2. In a non-stick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, and cook, stirring often, until softened.  
3. Add the cooked beans, along with the chili powder and cumin, to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper.  Cook over low heat, stirring often and smashing some of the beans with the back of a spatula as you go.  Add some of the bean cooking liquid as you go if things are looking too dry.  Just before serving, stir in the juice of 1/2 lime, taste, and adjust for seasoning.
4. Meanwhile, combine the salsa verde, avocado, garlic, and lime juice in a food processor or blender.  Puree until smooth.
5. Warm the tortillas and cook the eggs to your liking (we did over easy).  
6. Assemble the huevos rancheros -- layer tortillas with beans, eggs, and avocado salsa verde.  Top with sour cream and shredded cheese, along with any other toppings that you like.

Monday, November 23, 2015

White Pizza with Spinach and Avocado

This pizza sounds kind of weird, but is super delicious and a fun change of pace from our usual recipes.  Whole wheat pizza dough gets spread with garlic-spiked ricotta, and then piled high with raw spinach and fresh mozzarella.  The spinach cooks down in the oven, and the cheese melts and gets extra gooey.  I like including the spinach raw rather than pre-cooking it both because it's easier and because I think the texture turns out a little better.  Finally, arrange slices of fresh avocado on top of the hot pie right after it comes out of the oven for the perfect rich, green finishing touch.  Because of the avocado, this pizza doesn't keep as well as other recipes for leftovers, so I recommend making just as much as you plan to eat for dinner.

White Pizza with Spinach and Avocado (adapted from the Kitchn, original recipe here)

12-18 ounces whole wheat pizza dough
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A few handfuls of baby spinach
6 ounces whole milk fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
1 Hazz avocado, pitted and thinly sliced

1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees and line a large baking sheet with foil.  Spray with oil.
2. Spread the dough out on the baking sheet to your desired thickness.  Bake until dry on top and just starting to brown -- as this pizza has wet toppings, you want to make sure the crust won't get soggy.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the ricotta, cream, and garlic, and season with salt and pepper.
4. Spread the ricotta mixture over the pizza.  Top with baby spinach -- it will cook down in the oven, so don't be afraid of a fairly thick layer.  Top the spinach with mozzarella.
5. Bake until the crust is crispy and the mozzarella is melted. If the cheese needs a little help to get browned, pass it under the broiler for a minute or two.
6. Top with thinly sliced avocado, slice, and serve hot.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

SRC: White Bean-Leek Soup

My partner for this month's Secret Recipe Club was Susan of The Wimpy Vegetarian. As the weather has been getting chillier here in Boston, I knew I wanted to pick something warm and comforting from her blog.  I really liked the look of Susan's curried cauliflower and greens mac and cheese and her breakfast polenta cake, but ultimately I decided that I couldn't skip her flageolet bean soup.  This is a great dish to pack in lunches because you can make it ahead on the weekend, and it keeps very well in the fridge.  Plus, it's delicious and just screams "fall!" to me, especially with the inclusion of fresh sage.  This would also make a good supper with some crusty bread on the side.

White Bean-Leek Soup (adapted from The Wimpy Vegetarian, original recipe here)
Serves 4 as large servings, or more as an appetizer or side dish

1 cup dried tarbais, flageolet, or other white beans
Olive oil
2 leeks, thinly sliced
15-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1 or 2 sprigs of fresh sage
3/4 tsp dried thyme
Vegetable broth, as needed
Salt and pepper
2 tsp balsamic vinegar

1. Soak the beans overnight, and then drain and add to a soup pot.  Cover with water by a few inches, and simmer until tender (depends on the bean, but count on 45-90 minutes).  Set a colander over a bowl, and drain the beans, reserving the bean broth.
2. Rinse out the soup pot, and heat a generous drizzle of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the leeks, and cook until well softened and a little browned.  Add back the beans, tomatoes, sage, and thyme, along with a couple of cups of the reserved bean broth.  Add more bean broth and/or vegetable oil to thin the soup o the consistency you like.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a simmer, and cook for about 20 minutes to allow the flavors to combine.  Remove the sage sprigs before serving.
3. Just before serving, stir in the balsamic vinegar, taste, and adjust seasoning.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Easy Steamed Mussels

Despite living near the ocean for the past decade or so, until recently I had never tried to cook mussels at home.  They're one of my favorite restaurant dishes, but I was always too intimidated about the cleaning process!  I recently finally had a friend show me how to do it, and it was way easier than I realized -- I've linked to a description below, but if you have a friend willing to show you the ropes, that works too!  This is my friend's super simple "recipe," which you can of course vary by adding different herbs or flavors.  It makes for perfectly cooked mussels in a delicious broth -- plenty for dipping with crusty bread, which is a must.  The bonus is that mussels are so affordable that this dish can definitely be a regular in the dinner rotation.

Easy Steamed Mussels
Serves 2-3

2 pounds mussels
2 T butter
1 T olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 to 1 cup white wine or sherry (depending how much sauce you want at the end)
Fresh herbs, such as basil or parsley, minced
Crusty bread, for dipping

1. Clean and debeard the mussels - this part is easier than it sounds and this is a great guide.
2. Melt the butter and oil together in a large pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium heat.  Add the shallot and garlic, and season with a bit of salt.  Cook for 5-7 minutes or so, until the shallots are softened and just starting to brown.  
3. Pour in the wine or sherry, and bring to a boil.  Add the mussels, give everything a very quick stir, and then cover the pot.
4. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook 6 minutes.  Remove from the heat, gently stir, and sprinkle with fresh herbs.  Serve with crusty bread for dipping.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

SRC: Salad Pizza with Red Pepper-Basil Sauce

My partner for this month's Secret Recipe Club is Josefine of The Smoothie Lover.  I was immediately impressed with the gorgeous photography on her website, and it kind of made me want to make everything!  I was seriously tempted by her many varieties of granola, honey-fig scones, ricotta-asparagus quiche, and pumpkin-ginger soup.  Um, is anyone else hungry?

Eventually I settled on one of Josefine's pizza recipes.  This one swaps the usual tomato sauce for a puree of roasted red peppers and fresh basil -- it's so simple yet full of flavor, and it makes for a great twist on your typical sauce.  Thin slices of fresh mozzarella top the sauce, and they bubble up so beautifully in the oven.  Then everything gets topped off with more fresh basil and very lightly dressed greens.  You can use whatever greens you like here -- Josefine suggests arugula, which would be really tasty; I had a mix of mesclun and baby spinach in the fridge, which was also delicious.  The greens wilt ever so slightly on the hot pizza so that you get your main dish and salad all in one!  The flavors here are killer -- I will definitely be making this one again for a future pizza night!

Salad Pizza with Red Pepper-Basil Sauce (adapted from the Smoothie Lover, original recipe here)
Serves 2-4, depending on your appetite!

1 pound whole wheat pizza dough
8-10 ounce jar roasted red peppers
8 leaves fresh basil, plus more to top the pizza
Salt and pepper
1 ball fresh mozzarella cheese, preferably buffalo if you can get your hands on it
Salad greens (i.e. bably spinach, arugula, etc.)
A drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil.  Spray or grease with oil.
2. Press the pizza dough out as thin as you like it. Pre-bake for about 5 minutes or so, until the top surface of the dough is dry.
3. Puree the peppers and basil along with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. I used an immersion blender, but a regular blender or food processor will work as well.
4. Spread the sauce over the pizza dough in a thin layer.
5. Thinly slice the mozzarella and spread over the red pepper sauce.
6. Bake until the crust is nicely browned and the cheese is melted.  Timing will depend on how thick you made your crust.
7. Meanwhile, thinly slice more fresh basil and set aside.  Toss the salad greens with a little balsamic vinaigrette.
8. When the pizza comes out of the oven, sprinkle with the fresh basil and salad greens.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Strawberry Gin Sour

This cocktail is so pink and so delicious, and the color is all natural. I was surprised at how vibrant the color was just from fresh strawberries -- the drink almost looks like Kool Aid!  And, it's the perfect combination of sweet from the berries, sour from the lemon juice, and slightly floral from the gin.  The amount fits pretty perfectly in a champagne coupe, and looks super classy, but of course you can use any glass you have around.

Strawberry Gin Sour (adapted from A House in the Hills, original recipe here)
Serves 1

Juice of 1 lemon
3-4 strawberries
1 ounce simple syrup
1-1/2 ounces gin

1. Muddle the lemon juice, berries, and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker.
2. Add the gin and a few ice cubes, and shake well.
3. Strain into a coupe.  Taste and add more lemon juice or simple syrup (and keep track so you know how you like it for next time!)

Friday, September 25, 2015

Pulled Pork with Maple-Pickled Onions

I am a total blogger slacker! I've been sent a couple of cookbooks to review over the past few months that I just haven't gotten to because life has been extra crazy.  But, these pickled onions are way too good not to share!  The recipe comes from an excellent cookbook on preserving, Preservation Society Home Preserves.  I'm tempted by pretty much every recipe in here, although I'll admit that our summer of 90 degree days and 90 percent humidity put a damper on my desire to can this summer.

So, I adapted one of the recipes to make a smaller amount of quick pickles.  These onion pickles are sweetened with maple syrup and then spiced up with Aleppo chile flakes, smoked paprika, and mustard seeds.  They are pretty much the perfect sandwich pickle, in my opinion -- a little tart, a little sweet, and crunchy.  By pickling the onions, they lose the harshness of raw onion and end up being the perfect complement to richer meat or cheese.  These onions will keep in the fridge for a few weeks, but honestly they probably won't last you that long!

Here the pickled onions are paired with a super simple pulled pork.  The pork is rubbed with spices and salt, and then slow cooked in a low oven over several hours.  The only downside of this recipe is you have to be home to babysit -- but, it will make your house smell so yummy that you probably won't mind! We piled the pulled pork high on Portuguese buns from a nearby bakery, and then added lots of BBQ sauce and pickled onions on top.  Heaven!

Pulled Pork with Maple-Pickled Onions

For the pork:
4-6 pounds pork butt or pork shoulder
1 tsp kosher salt per pound of pork
1 tsp BBQ spice rub per pound of pork (I used this Memphis dry rub from Raw Spice Bar; one of the many rubs from Penzey's would also be an excellent choice)

For the maple-pickled onions (adapted from Preservation Society Home Preserves)
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 T kosher salt
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp Aleppo chili flakes
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
Several grinds black pepper
1 large onion, thinly sliced

To serve:
Portuguese sweet rolls or other buns
Homemade or storebought BBQ sauce

1. Combine the salt and spices in a small bowl.  Rub all over the pork.  Place in a large pot with a tight-fitting lid.
2. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
3. Roast the pork for about 6 hours, until it is falling-apart tender, flipping the meat a few times during roasting.
4. About half an hour before the pork is done, make the maple-pickled onions.  Heat the apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, and salt in a pot until simmering.  Remove from the heat, and stir in the bay leaf, mustard seeds, chili flakes, paprika, and pepper.  Stir in the onions.  Let sit, off the heat, for about half an hour, stirring occasionally.
5. Transfer the pork to a large bowl and let rest about 10 minutes.  Gently pull it apart using two forks, until the pieces are the size you like.
6. Serve the pulled pork on toasted rolls with BBQ sauce and pickled onions.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Pumpkin Polenta

The weather here in New England is finally starting to feel like fall -- cool, crisp mornings and evenings, and trees that are just starting to change color.  So, I was in the mood to cook up some food that really felt like autumn.  This pumpkin polenta is the perfect dish to warm you up on a chilly evening.  It's got that total comfort-food feel that polenta has, with an extra dose of veggies in the form of pureed pumpkin.  Be sure to purchase the type labelled "100% pure pumpkin" or you might end up with sweetened pie filling!  I kept the seasoning pretty basic here with scallions and Parmesan cheese, but you could definitely add any spices or herbs you like, or switch up the cheese (I think goat cheese is amazing in polenta!).  

You can top the polenta with whatever you like. I went vegetarian here: butternut squash and Brussels sprouts tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, warm spices, and sesame seeds, roasted for half an hour at 400 degrees.  But, sausages would be excellent, as would a little kale salad and a fried egg.

Pumpkin Polenta
Serves 4

3 cups chicken broth
3 cups water
1 cup polenta/coarse corn meal
2 scallions, trimmed and minced
15-ounce can pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
2 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper

1.  Bring the chicken broth and water to a boil.  Slowly stream in the polenta while constantly whisking.  Return to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook, vigorously whisking every few minutes, until the polenta is thickened and cooked through.  This should take about half an hour.
2.  Add the scallions and pumpkin, whisk well to combine, and return to a boil.  Simmer for about 5 minutes, and then remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Watermelon-Feta-Mint Salad with Whole Wheat Couscous and Honey-Lime Dressing

This dish is basically summer in a bowl.  Watermelon is one of my favorite summer fruits, and while it is delicious on its own, this salad makes it feel extra fancy.  The combo of sweet watermelon and salty feta is a a classic, and here they're combined with floral mint and a sweet honey-lime dressing that's not too heavy.  Whole wheat couscous bulks out the salad to make it a bit more filling -- we enjoyed this as a light dinner, although it would also be great as a side.  The mint does tend to wilt a bit if it sits, so I'd mix everything together just before you plan to serve.

Watermelon-Feta-Mint Salad with Whole Wheat Couscous and Honey-Lime Dressing (adapted from Maria Speck, via The Kitchn)
Serves 4-6 as a side, or 2-3 as a light main

1-1/4 cups water
1 cup whole wheat couscous
1/2 tsp salt
2-1/2 cups diced seedless watermelon
1/2 cup torn mint leaves
1/2 cup crumbled feta

For the dressing:
Zest and juice of 2 large limes
2 T olive oil
1 tsp honey
Salt and pepper

1. Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Remove from the heat, and stir in the couscous and salt.  Cover, and set aside for 10 minutes (off the heat).  Fluff with a fork, and transfer to a serving bowl or platter.  Fluff again, and set aside to cool for 15 minutes.
2. Layer the watermelon, mint, and feta on the couscous.
3. Make the dressing.  Combine all the dressing ingredients in a small jar with a tightly fitting lid, and shake well until combined.  Taste and adjust seasonings.
4. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss to combine.
5. To make ahead, leave out the feta and mint.  Stash in the fridge for up to 4 hours, and then toss in the feta and mint when ready to serve.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Caribbean Bowl with Jerk-Seasoned White Fish and Mango Salsa

This Caribbean bowl is full of flavor. I've recently fallen in love with Raw Spice Bar's subscription service, and this bowl is all about their Jamaican spice blends -- but, of course, you can always make your own spice blends or purchase blends from another source.  Jerk-spiced white fish is spicy but also super fresh-tasting with lots of green onions, lime juice, and fresh ginger in the marinade.  It's piled on top of black beans, and then topped with a sweet mango-corn salsa.  Fried plantains add fantastic crunch to the dish.  When everything is combined, you'll definitely be transported...just don't forget a tropical drink on the side!


Caribbean Bowl with Jerk-Seasoned White Fish and Mango Salsa (inspired by Bowl + Spoon and Raw Spice Bar)
Serves 4

For the fish:
1 pound white fish fillets
2 T canola oil
2 tsp Jamaican Jerk spices (make your own!)
4 green onions, chopped
1/2 T grated fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp dried thyme
Zest and juice of two limes
2 T white wine vinegar
1 T kosher salt
1 T dark rum

For the black beans:
1/2 pound dried black peans, soaked overnight
2 bay leaves
1 cup vegetable broth

For the mango salsa:
2 ears corn on the cob
1 ripe mango, diced
2 T minced cilantro
1 tsp Paprika-Ginger spices (or 1/2 tsp each smoked paprika and dried ginger)
Zest and juice of one lime
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt

For the plantains:
2 T coconut oil
1 ripe plantain
Salt and pepper

Garnish: Minced cilantro and/or chopped green onions

1. Marinate the fish: Lay the fish in a shallow dish and make a few slashes in it with a sharp knife.  Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium high heat.  Add the spice mix, and stir until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Transfer to a small food processor or mini chopper.  Add the green onions, ginger, garlic, thyme, lime juice and zest, vinegar, salt, and rum.  Process to a puree, and then pour over the fish and rub into the flesh.  Cover and marinate in the fridge for 2 hours.

2. Cook the beans: Drain the soaked beans, and place in a pot with the bay leaves.  Cover with water by about 2 inches.  Bring to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, for about an hour, until tender.  When teh water has mostly cooked off, add the broth.  When the beans are cooked, discard the bay leaves, add a generous pinch of salt, cover, and set aside. Add more broth if you need to -- the beans should be a bit brothy.

3. Make the mango salsa: Husk the corn and steam for just a minute or two, until just tender.  Cut the corn off the cob.  Combine in a bowl with the mango, cilantro, spices, lime zest and juice, olive oil, and salt.  Stir to combine.

4. Cook the fish: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Transfer the fish and marinade to a baking dish, and bake 15-20 minutes, until slightly charred.

5. Fry the plantains: Heat the coconut oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat.  Peel and slice the plantain into 1/2-inch slices on a diagonal.  Give the slices a gentle smash with the side of a knife, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and fry for 3 minutes per side until golden.

6. To serve, scoop beans into a shallow bowl.  Top with fish, salsa, and plantains.  Sprinkle with cilantro and/or green onions.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

BBQ Chicken and Pineapple Lettuce Wraps

The ingredients for this dish sound a little random -- BBQ chicken plus pineapple plus yogurt sauce?  But something magical happens when they all come together!  The BBQ chicken-pineapple mixture is sweet and rich, while the tangy lime-yogurt sauce on top cuts through the sweetness.  Sliced avocados make the whole dish feel a little luxurious, and fragrant mint leaves add a perfect finishing touch.  The best part is that this meal is quick -- very easy to pull together on a week night. I'll definitely be making this one again!

BBQ Chicken and Pineapple Lettuce Wrap (adapted from How Sweet It Is, original recipe here)
Serves 4

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 T olive oil
1-1/2 cups cubed pineapple (cut about the size of the chicken pieces)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 T coarsely chopped cashews
3 T BBQ sauce
Lettuce leaves
Several leaves of fresh mint, thinly sliced
1 avocado, sliced

For the yogurt sauce:
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
1/3 cup mint leaves
3 T milk
1 T fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

1. Season the chicken with the salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and add the olive oil.  When it gets hot, add the chicken.  Cook until browned and cooked through, 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove the chicken and place it in a bowl.
2. Add more oil if the skillet looks dry.  Add the pineapple and garlic, and cook 5-6 minutes, stirring often.  Add the cashews and stir to combine.  Add the chicken back to the skillet, and pour in the BBQ sauce.  Stir together, and cook another 5 minutes.
3. Make the yogurt sauce. Combine all the ingredients in a mini food processor or food chopper, and blend until pureed.
4. Assemble the lettuce wraps.  Lay out a lettuce leaf, and add a scoop of the chicken-pineapple mixture.  Top with sliced avocados, fresh mint leaves, and a generous drizzle of the yogurt sauce.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins

I am guilty of many breakfast sins...I eat way too many Pop Tarts and sugary breakfast cereals in the morning because my brain isn't quite awake enough to come up with anything more complicated.  That's why when I get my act together, I like to make a reasonably healthy breakfast food on the weekend for quick breakfasts before work.  These muffins are a great example of that -- they've got oats for fiber, and chocolate chips to make them feel special.  Bonus: they are super quick and easy.  If you're more together than me in the mornings, you could probably even make them on a weekday!  These muffins also keep well, so they're a good make-ahead...just reheat in the microwave for about 15 seconds to perk them up.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Muffins
(makes 1 dozen)

2 cups self-rising flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
4-5 ounces dark chocolate, chopped into chunks

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a muffin tin with papers.
2. Whisk together the flour, oats, and sugar in a medium bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the sour cream, milk, oil, egg, and vanilla.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and gently fold together until just combined. Add the chocolate, and fold into the batter, being careful not to overmix.
3. Divide the batter among the muffin cups.  Bake about 20 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Secret Recipe Club: One-Pot Peanut Butter Brownies

My partner for this month's Secret Recipe Club was Cindy of Hun...What's for Dinner?  For whatever reason, I was really feeling the peanut butter this month. I almost made Cindy's peanut butter granola (and it's definitely on my list for a future recipe!), but ultimately I decided on her peanut butter brownies.  These brownies are super easy and so delicious.  They're super rich and cocoa-y, and the peanut butter frosting totally takes them over the top.  I'm not going to lie -- these brownies are really addictive! Thanks, Cindy!

One-Pot Peanut Butter Brownies (adapted from Hun...What's for Dinner, original recipe here)
Makes one 8x8 pan of brownies

For the brownies:
1/2 stick of butter (1/4 cup)
3/4 cup sugar
6 T unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup flour
Chocolate chips or chunks

For the frosting:
3 T butter, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1-2 T milk

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and spray an 8x8 baking pan with oil.
2. Melt the butter in a pot over medium heat.  Remove from the heat, and add the sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, and salt.  Stir to combine.  Add the eggs and stir to combine.  Stir in the flour.  Scrape into the prepared pan and sprinkle with chocolate chips or chunks
3. Bake 30 minutes, until set.
4. Let the brownies cool completely, and then make the frosting.  Beat together the butter, peanut butter, and sugar.  Add milk as needed to thin the mixture.  Beat until fluffy and frost the brownies.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Chocolate-Brown Sugar Banana Bread

I love banana bread, and it's even better with chocolate chips! Although this recipe is supposed to have fancy muscovado sugar -- which I'm sure is amazing! -- it is also really delicious with regular dark brown sugar. This bread is sweet, moist, and has great banana flavor. As with many recipes I love, it's sweet enough for dessert but doesn't feel too decadent for breakfast.

Chocolate-Brown Sugar Banana Bread (adapted from Genius Recipes)
Makes 1 loaf

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup plus 1 T dark brown sugar (or muscovado sugar)
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
14 ounces mashed ripe banana (3-4 bananas)
1 cup chocolate chunks

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a loaf pan.
2. Whisk together the flour and baking powder, and set aside.
3. Cream together the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy.  Beat in the vanilla, followed by the eggs, one at a time.
4. Beat in the mashed bananas.  The gently fold in the flour mixture, followed by the chocolate.
5. Scrape into the prepared loaf pan.  Bake 50 minutes, or until a tester comes out moist but clean. Let cool for 15-30 minutes, then turn out on a wire rack to finish cooling.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Grandma Hanna's Menus: Ground steak patties, ranch fries, cabbage salad, rhubarb pie

I'm cooking through my great-grandmother's menus -- get all the details here.  Today's menu: Ground steak patties, ranch fries, cabbage salad, rhubarb pie.  My interpretation of this menu was spicy onion burgers, seasoned oven fries, coleslaw, and a rhubarb custard pie.  The burgers are super simple, but made extra special with spicy pickled onions (see below for a link to the recipe).  I'm sort of obsessed with these pickled onions...they are good on everything and last a long time in the fridge.

On the side, my favorite oven fries.  My husband taught me the best way to make any sort of potatoes at home, and that's to partially cook the potatoes first, either in boiling water or by steaming.  This ensures that the potatoes won't be crunchy on the inside, which is my number one pet peeve of many potato dishes.  Here, Yukon Golds are steamed and then roasted at high heat until they're nice and crispy.  You can use whatever spice blend you like to season your fries; I used an aji amarillo blend from Raw Spice Bar.  To brighten up the plate, there's a scoop of a quick and easy vinegar-based slaw.

This meal was yummy, but the real star was dessert.  Ashley of Big Flavors from a Tiny Kitchen posted an amazing recipe for rhubarb custard pie.  We chatted a bit on Instagram, and it was really cool to find out that her family has been making this recipe since before she was born.  So, lots of history coming together with Ashley's recipe and my great-grandma's menu!  And this pie is seriously delicious.  The custard is sweet and the perfect contrast to tart cubes of rhubarb.  And, while it's fantastic warm out of the oven, it might be even better cold out of the fridge for breakfast the next morning!

Spicy Onion Burgers: Season a pound of ground beef with salt and pepper.  Shape into patties, and cook in a large skillet until the outside is nicely browned and the inside is cooked to your liking.  Serve the burgers on sesame buns with arugula, spicy pickled red onions, and ketchup.

Seasoned Oven Fries: For each person, use one large Yukon Gold potato.  Cut into large wedges, and then steam in a steamer basket until just tender (about 10 minutes).  Let cool for a few minutes, and then toss with olive oil and arrange in a single layer on a large baking sheet.  Sprinkle with kosher salt and your favorite spice blend.  Cook in a 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes, until browned and crispy.

Simple Slaw: For each person, use about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of coleslaw mix (yep, from the grocery -- or you can thinly slice cabbage yourself, if you prefer).  Drizzle with olive oil and rice vinegar, and sprinkle with kosher salt, all to taste.  Mix well and let sit at least 5-10 minutes for the flavors to mingle before serving.

Rhubarb Custard Pie (adapted from Big Flavors from a Tiny Kitchen, original recipe here)
Makes 1 pie

2 cups chopped rhubarb
1 cup sugar, divided
2 T flour
Generous pinch of salt
1 T unsalted butter, softened
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 pie crust (store bought or homemade - either is fine!), pressed into a pie plate

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Stir together the rhubarb with 6 T sugar and set aside until the rhubarb has released its juices
3. Whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup plus 2 T sugar, the flour, and the salt.  Work in the butter with a spoon until the mixture is uniform and sandy.  Stir in the eggs and vanilla.  Stir in the rhubarb.
4. Pour everything into the prepared pie crust.  Bake 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to 325 degrees and cook another 30 minutes, until the filling is set.


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Grandma Hanna's Menus: Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green vegetable or artichokes with Hollandaise sauce

You may remember that I'm cooking through menus that my great-grandmother gave to my grandma when she first got married. Here are the details. Up first is: Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green vegetable or artichokes with Hollandaise sauce. My interpretation of this menu was fried chicken thighs, mashed Yukon Golds with lots of butter, and steamed green beans. I have to admit I skipped the Hollandaise because there was already deep frying and potatoes -- and in any case, it might be modifying just the artichokes (or that's my excuse).

 The beans and potatoes are both pretty straightforward, but I've posted a crazy-good recipe for fried chicken below. I'm not a huge fan of bone-in fried chicken in general, and I'm really not a fan of cooking it at home because it's so hard to get the middle cooked through before the outside burns. This recipe instead uses boneless chicken thighs, cut in half so you get maximum suface area: aka more crunch! Plus, the pieces are small enough that there's no worry about the inside being cooked.  I know some people swear by white meat chicken, but trust me -- using the dark meat here ensures your chicken doesn't dry out and stays juicy and flavorful.  I think the best part of this recipe is the squirt of Sriracha (or any other favorite hot sauce) added to the egg mixture.  It doesn't make the chicken super spicy (well, unless you add a ton), but just adds an extra kick of flavor.  This recipe would easily scale upward: count on one or two thighs per person (that's 2 or 4 small pieces of fried chicken).

Fried Chicken Thighs (adapted from Tori Avey, original recipe here)
Serves 2-4, depending on how hungry you are and how many sides you make

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 cup self rising flour
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 eggs
2 T water
Sriracha, to taste
Oil for frying
Flaky salt

1. Trim the thighs of excess fat and cut each thigh in half.
2. On a large plate, stir together the flour, garlic powder, and black pepper.
3. On another large plate, stir together the eggs and water.  Add a generous squirt of Sriracha -- more or less depending on how spicy you like your chicken.  Gently whisk with a fork until everything is well combined.
4. Heat a few inches of oil in a heavy pot to 350 degrees.
5. Coat the chicken in the flour mixture, then dip in the egg mixture, and finally dredge in the flour again.
6. When the oil is hot, fry the chicken 4-5 minutes, until well browned and crispy, and cooked through.  Depending on the size of your pot, you will likely need to do this in two batches.
7. When the chicken is cooked, transfer to a plate lined with paper towels so that it can drain.  Sprinkle with flaky salt.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

SRC: Peanut Butter Cookies

My partner for this month's Secret Recipe Club was Sid of Sid's Sea Palm Cooking.  I was originally planning to make her Greek yogurt biscuits, but then my sweet tooth hit and I ended up deciding I needed a dessert fix.  Sid's peanut butter cookies were the perfect afternoon snack -- easy to whip together, and so delicious!  These peanut butter cookies are tender, sweet, and pretty much the perfect cookie.  Chocolate is optional...sort of.  I mean, everything's better with chocolate, right?  Either way, you're talking about three or four ingredients for one amazing peanut butter cookie.

Peanut Butter Cookies (adapted from Sid's Sea Palm Cooking, original recipe here)
Makes about 1-2 dozen cookies (depending on size)

1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
Chocolate chunks or chocolate chips (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil.  Spray with oil.
2. Stir together the sugar and egg.  Add the peanut butter and stir to combine.
3. Scoop cookies onto a baking sheet using a cookie scoop or spoon.
4. Press a few chocolate chunks or chips into the tops of the cookies if you like.
5. Bake about 10 minutes, or until the cookies are just set and nicely browned on the bottom.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Sweet and Spicy Cherry Pepper Mac + Cheese

This bowl of cheesy deliciousness is inspired by a jalapeno popper mac and cheese recipe from one of my all-time favorite restaurants, Homeroom.  Since I already had a jar of spicy peppers in my fridge, I subbed them in for the jalapenos -- if you don't have any, you can roast a couple of jalapenos (or any other pepper you like) under the broiler, peel, and chop.  Along with the spicy peppers, a healthy dose of cream cheese and a crunchy panko topping complete the jalapeno popper theme.  Next time I might add crumbled bacon, too, because the only thing better than a jalapeno popper is a bacon-wrapped jalapeno popper...

Note: If you prefer a non-spicy version of this mac and cheese, you could sub in regular roasted red peppers (jarred or homemade).  In that case, I would probably at least double the amount of peppers.

Sweet and Spicy Cherry Pepper Mac + Cheese (adapted from (adapted from The Mac + Cheese Cookbook: 50 Simple Recipes from Homeroom, America's Favorite Mac and Cheese Restaurant
Serves 3-4

12 ounces whole wheat macaroni
2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/3 teaspoons kosher salt
2 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup minced Hot and Sweet Cherry Peppers (or minced peppers of your choice)
1/2 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
Olive oil

1. Put on a big pot of water to boil.  When the water boils, add some salt along with the dried pasta, and cook until the pasta is almost tender -- a minute or so less than the package recommends.  Drain, rinse in cold water, and keep ready until the cheese sauce is done.  (You can cook the pasta while you prepare the sauce to save time!)
2. In a medium pot (or the microwave), heat the milk over medium heat until it just starts to bubble - not a full boil. Remove from the heat.
3. Meanwhile, heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Melt the butter in the skillet, and then add the flour and whisk constantly until the mixture turns light brown, about 3 minutes.  Remove from the heat.
4. Slowly whisk in the hot milk - it's okay if the mixture seems thick and lumpy at will all smooth out as you go.  Make sure to use a silicone-coated whisk to protect your pan!
5. Put the skillet back over medium high heat, continuing to whisk constantly.  The sauce is ready when it's silky, thick, and coats a spoon -- mine was ready almost immediately, but it might take up to 2-3 minutes.  Whisk in the salt.
6. Add the Cheddar and cream cheese to the sauce, whisking to combine.  Cook until the cheese is barely melted, about 3 minutes, whisking often.  Stir in the cherry peppers.
7. Remove the skillet from the heat and gently fold in the cooked macaroni.
8. Pre-heat the broiler for a few minutes.  Spray a 9x13 baking dish with oil, and then scoop the macaroni and cheese into the dish.  Sprinkle with panko, and then drizzle with olive oil.
9. Pass under the broiler for a minute or two -- keep a close eye to avoid burning.  You want the panko to get nicely golden brown.  Let sit for a minute or two before serving.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

One Bowl Brownies

These brownies are almost as easy as a box mix, and so delicious!  They fall somewhere between a fudgey brownie and a cakey brownie, they're super thick and chocolate-y, and overall they're sort the platonic ideal of "brownie." We ate our pan way too fast, but these are hard to resist! Pictured here with a scoop of mango lassi frozen yogurt from the Jeni's Splendid  Ice Cream Desserts cookbook...mmmmmm.  The perfect pairing!

One Bowl Brownies (adapted from Show Me the Yummy, original recipe here)
Makes one 9x13 pan of brownies

2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
5 large eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9x13 pan with oil.
2. Whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, and salt in a large bowl.  Add the eggs, oil, and vanilla and stir to combine.  Scrape into the prepared pan.
3. If using chocolate chips, sprinkle on top.
4. Bake about 30 minutes, until the brownies are just set.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Beef Tostadas with Pickled Red Onions

The majority of this dish is pretty standard Mexican-American fare - seasoned ground beef, a dollop of sour cream, and lots of minced cilantro.  But, two elements make it really special -- pickled red onions, and home-fried tostadas.  First, the onions -- super simple, yet crazy flavorful.  I love how red onions turn hot pink when they're pickled, and the bright color signals lots of spice and vinegar.  Yum!  You also end up with pickled jalapenos as a by-product of this recipe...they add a little spiciness to the onions, but if you're a spice-lover you can also top your tostadas with the jalapeno slices (just be prepared -- they are spicy!).  You'll likely have leftover pickled onions, which are a fun topping for sandwiches or other Mexican dishes.

Frying your own tostadas is a totally optional step here -- I know I'm not always in the mood to pull out a cast iron pan and heat up a bunch of oil, especially on a weeknight.  That said, the texture is amazing, and nothing like what you'll find in pre-prepared tostadas from the grocery.  The tortillas get shatteringly crisp and deeply browned...basically the perfect thing to pile high with your favorite toppings.

Beef Tostadas with Pickled Red Onions (adapted from Cooking Light)

For the onions:
1 medium red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 jalapeno, thinly sliced
2/3 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt

For the beef:
1 pound ground beef
1-1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp kosher salt
Oil, as needed

To finish:
Corn tortillas + oil to fry (or store-bought tostadas)
Sour cream
Fresh cilantro
Salsa or pico de gallo (optional)

1. Make the pickled onions.  Combine the onions, jalapeno, vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil over high heat, and simmer for one minute.  Remove from the heat and let stand until ready to serve.
2. Make the beef.  In a non-stick skillet over medium heat, combine the beef, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and salt.  Cook until nicely browned and cooked through, adding oil as needed if the skillet becomes too dry.
3. If making your own tostadas, heat an inch or so of a neutral oil in a cast iron skillet until it sizzles when you drip in a drop of water. Fry the tortillas until nicely browned on each side.  Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt.
4. Assemble the tostadas. Start with a tostada, and add the seasoned beef.  Top with sour cream, cilantro, and salsa or pico de gallo.  Scoop the pickled onions out of the pickling liquid and scatter on top of the tostadas.  The pickled jalapeno slices will be spicy, so use them only if you prefer a spicier dish.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Blueberry Griddle Cakes

Some good friends of ours got us a griddle for our wedding, and let me tell you -- it is amazing!  Giant cooking surface, even heating, and honestly, it's just a way more fun way to cook breakfast than heating up a bunch of skillets on the stove.  For the griddle's inaugural breakfast, I went with, of course, griddle cakes (how could I not).  Smitten Kitchen recently posted a griddle cakes recipe, and it was fantastic!  I love the blend of corn flour and regular AP flour, because you get the corn flavor without losing the fluffy texture of a regular pancake.  Yogurt makes the pancakes extra moist, and blueberries add bursts of fruit flavor throughout.  Although I'm usually a creative pancake-topper, these screamed out for butter and maple syrup.  Breakfast perfection!

Blueberry Griddle Cakes (adapted from Smitten Kitchen, original recipe here)
Serves 3-4

3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup whole grain corn flour (such as Bob's Red Mill)
2 T granulated sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 T butter (plus more for the griddle)
2/3 cup regular (not Greek) yogurt
1/3 cup milk
2 large eggs
1 cup blueberries

1. Whisk together the flour, corn flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
2. In a separate bowl, melt the butter.  Whisk in the yogurt, followed by the milk and the eggs.  Gently stir in the berries.
3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until just combined.
4. Heat a large griddle to about 350 degrees (or a skillet over medium heat).  Melt a bit of butter on the griddle, and then add the pancake batter -- about 1/4 cup per pancake.  Cook until the bottoms are golden, and then flip and cook on the second side until cooked through.  Repeat until all the pancakes are cooked. Stash in a 200-degree oven if you need to keep the pancakes warm.