Friday, October 29, 2010

Cowboy Burgers

During the winter months, when the snow is flying, I often get stuck in the house. We live on a mountain side and since I'm a mini-van momma, it's not easy making it back up our driveway. I rely on my husband and his four wheel drive jeep to go grocery shopping. Just one problem, it's a stick shift and while I can drive it, I'm not comfortable doing so. (Honestly, I'm short and have a hard time reaching the petals!) We normally go after he gets home from work and since its almost an hour drive to the grocery store we tend to eat out. There isn't to many options either, it's fast food or a chain restaurant. Not into fast food, we always opt for the chain. One dish they have there is a cowboy burger. This dish is so covered in bbq sauce, it's all you can taste. One night, my hubby asked if I could make him something similar. Knowing my prowess in the kitchen, I of course excepted the challenge. It was just a burger after all and not hard to make in the least! They are great big half pound patties, covered with cheddar cheese and bacon, and then piled high with these crispy onions and topped off with bbq sauce!

What You Need:

2lbs ground beef
4 thick slices tomato
8 slices, thick cut bacon
1 large onion
1 cup flour
8 slices cheddar cheese
4-8tbs bbq sauce
4 whole wheat hamburger buns
salt and pepper
oil for frying onions

What To Do:

Season the ground beef with salt and pepper and form into four 1/2lb patties. Create an indention in the middle of each patty, just on one side. This helps keep the patty flatter so you won't be tempted to press them down and squeeze out all the juicy goodness. Cook the bacon and set a side. Slice the onion very, very, very thin and toss in the flour and set aside. Heat enough oil to fry the onion in, while you preheat your grill or pan for the burgers. Shake all the excess flour off the onions and fry, in batches if necessary, until crispy and slightly golden. Cook your burgers to your desired done-ness, only flipping them once. Cover with cheese during the last minute or so of cooking so that it melts. On the bottom of each hamburger bun, spread just a touch of bbq sauce. This helps keeps the bottom from getting soggy. Top each bottom bun with a burger, slice of tomato, two pieces of bacon, some crispy onions and one to two tbs of the bbq sauce. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Plum Crumble

Plums, which are in season from May to early October, have been the best buy for fruit in my local supper market lately. They have 2lb bags of dark purple skinned plums for just under $2, making them the cheapest fruit I can buy right now. When plums are ripe, they're soft and sweet and are wonderful in this dish. They cook down and become this beautiful ruby red color. The topping is sweet and crunchy and once you learn the recipe, you can use it for just about any fruits. Stone fruits, like plums, peaches, and nectarines work really well as a crumble. Apples are another great choice and with apple season in full swing, a crumble is a great way to use up some of them. You'll noticed that I didn't put any sugar in with the fruit. When you have ripe fruit, it's generally sweet enough and no extra sugar is needed. To make sure this is true for you, taste a slice or three from your fruit and add sugar ONLY if them seem a little sour.

What You Need:

2lbs plums, sliced
juice of 1 lemon
2 cups old fashion oats
1 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter, melted
pinch of salt

What To Do:

Combine the oats, flour, brown sugar and butter in a bowl, mixing well so that everything has been coated with the butter. Place in the fridge while you slice the fruit. Mix the fruit with the lemon juice and place it in a deep dish pie plate or similar dish. Bring the topping out of the fridge and using your hands, squeeze together a handful of topping to make a clump and place it on top the fruit. Continue doing this until the fruit is covered and the topping is all used up. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until the topping is golden and the fruit is soft and juicy about 45-50 minutes. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top if you choose.

Monday, October 25, 2010


I know what you're probably thinking: "What in the world is that??" That dear friends, is not a mutant veggie from another planet, but Romanesco. This is actually a type of cauliflower and taste very similar to it. Sometimes called broccoflower, it's bright green in color and looks like it could be used as a form of torture! I promise you though, that the pointy "flowers" of Romanesco are very tasty and can be used in any way that cauliflower is used. This is more an informational post for you all, instead of a recipe. All I did, and all you have to do, is break or cut off the points and use them as you see fit. I steamed mine for about 5-8 minutes or until they were tender and sprinkled a little bit of shredded cheddar cheese on top. Romanesco would be good in a veggie stir fry, in cheese sauce or even sauteed with a little olive oil and garlic. I hope you decide to give this wonderful a veggie a try soon! I promise you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sweet Potato Hash

Pound for pound, sweet potatoes are by the far the best deal in the super market when it comes to nutritional benefits for the price you pay. Sweet potatoes are packed with lots of vitamins and mineral and can be used in so many ways. Anything you can do with a regular potato you can do with a sweet potato and more. They are great in pies, awesome as chips and yummy as fries. Sweet potato hash is not only delicious along side some eggs in the morning but as a side dish with supper too. It's colorful and has so much to offer not only your taste buds but your eyes too. After all, we do eat with our eyes first!

What You Need:

3 slices thick cut bacon
1 large sweet potato, diced
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp thyme
½ tsp sage
½ tsp ground cumin

What To Do:

Dice the bacon and cook until it’s rendered all it’s fat and is slightly crisp. Remove the bacon but leave the fat in the pan. Add in the sweet potato and let cook for a couple minutes before adding in the rest of the ingredients. Continue cooking until the sweet potatoes are soft and cooked through. Stir the bacon back in and serve.

We really, really, really, loved the depth of flavor in this recipe.  I wasn't a sweet potato fan before, and I still wouldn't consider myself one. I think I would love this recipe even more with regular potatoes.  Either way, it was a great side dish to our meal and we even made it twice in one week!  It's simple, quick, and the smells that come from this dish are to-die-for!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Chicken Tostada's

Latin American inspired food is one of my favorite things to eat. I love finding different Mexican restaurants and seeing how much they differ from each other. I was upset to find out that there isn't one close enough to where I live to get my fix as often as I'd like. I've had to come up with my own versions of certain dishes just to satisfy my hunger for all the spicy goodness I love. To me tostada's are sort of like a layered salad on top of a crispy tortilla shell. Of course there is more to it then that. I like to layer mine with a homemade spicy red salsa, refried beans and shredded chicken. You can use beef, pork or leave out the meat all together if you'd like. 

What You Need:

1 large onion
1 lb tomatoes, quartered
3 cloves garlic, skins on
2 jalapeños or 1 Serrano
1/2 c plus 2 tbs veg oil
1 rotisserie chicken, removed from bone and shredded
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
shredded lettuce
refried beans
corn or flour tortillas
sour cream
shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper

What To Do:

Preheat your broiler. Meanwhile, cut the onion into quarters. Place three of the onion quarters along with the tomatoes, garlic and chilies on a sheet pan and drizzle with the 2 tbs veg oil, salt and pepper. Place under the broiler about 4 inches from the heat and cooked till softened and charred in places but not burnt.
Dice the remaining onion and set aside. Once the tomatoes are cooked, place everything into a blender or food processor (squeeze the garlic from the skins) and blend or pulse until everything is combined. Stir the chicken and 1/2 the chopped cilantro into the salsa and set aside.
Over medium high heat, heat the remain 1/2 c veg oil in a large enough skillet to accommodate your tortilla shells. Once the oil starts to shimmer, fry the tortillas, one at a time. Use tongs to help keep the tortillas immersed in the oil and make sure you turn them over once or twice so they cook evenly until they are golden brown. Drain on paper towels. 

To assemble the tostada's, spread a thick layer of refried beans on top of a tortilla, then top with chicken, and what ever remaining toppings you'd like: shredded lettuce, diced onion, cilantro, cheddar cheese and sour cream.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Chicken Noodle Soup goes to Mexico!

What can I say about chicken noodle soup.... BORING! To be honest, I'm not much of a soup/stew/chilli person in general but every once in a while the mood hits me and I want something warm and comforting on a cold and rainy night. Instead of making the same old boring chicken noodle soup, I decided to add in a hint of mexico with a little bit of spice, and a big punch of flavor!

What You Need:

2 chicken breast, about 1lb, cut into bite sized pieces
1 large onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
2 large carrots, diced
3 stalks of celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
a big pinch of red pepper flakes
2 tsp cumin
2 tbs olive oil
salt and pepper
1 (28oz) can coarse crushed tomatoes (regular crushed is fine too)
3-4 cups chicken stock
1/2lb fresh cheese filled tortellini or mini ravioli
2 tbs chopped cilantro
Shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream are optional

What To Do:

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil and the red pepper flakes together over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add in the veggies: onions, pepper, carrots, celery and garlic; along with a generous pinch of salt and lots of black pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes to soften the veggie and then add in the chicken and cumin. Cook for another 5 minutes or until the chicken is about 1/2 way cooked. Add in the crushed tomatoes and the chicken stock. Stir well and taste adding more salt and pepper if you'd like. Bring to a boil, then cover and let simmer at least 20 minutes but I like to let it simmer for about a hour. Bring the heat back up to medium and once you have a good bubble going on, add in the pasta. Give it a stir and put the cover back on, letting it cook for another 5-10 or until the pasta is cooked through. Stir in the cilantro and serve with shredded cheddar and sour cream if you'd like. You can also easily double the recipe to freeze for later. Just don't add in the pasta or cilantro until you're ready to serve it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

No Fail Creamed Corn

Creamed corn was one of my dad's favorite veggies. Mom would open up the tin can and out would plop this dark yellow, gelatinous mass that was supposed to be creamed corn. It was flavorless and looked awful but still we ate it. During the summer, you can find corn every where and taking it off the cob to use in this dish isn't very hard at all, but during the winter months, or when you don't have the time you can use about 2 cups of frozen whole kernel corn. You just might need to add some flour to help thicken it up.

What You Need:

8 ears of corn
1 medium onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbs butter
1 tbs olive oil
2 tbs fine ground corn meal
2 c 2% milk
1 tsp fresh thyme
Salt and pepper

What To Do:

Strip the corn from the ears using a corn stripper or a sharp knife. Using the back side of a knife, run it along the stripped ears to extract all the “milk”. This is actually corn starch and will help to thicken the final dish.
In a large sauté pan over medium heat, sauté the onion and garlic in the butter and olive oil until soft and fragrant. Stir in the corn and all the juices from it. Sauté just a minute. Sprinkle the corn meal over the top and stir in completely. Let it cook just for a minute before slowly adding in the milk while stirring to prevent lumps. Cook over medium low heat until nice and thick. It takes about 20 minutes. Stir in the thyme and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Freeze/Make Ahead Directions:

Make the corn up until the point where you add the corn meal. Let it cool and package your servings in freezer safe containers or zip top bags. Make sure to label each bag with the contents and the date. When you're ready to eat, pull it from the freezer and let thaw for an hour or so. Place the corn into a skillet over medium heat. Once it's heated through, continue with the rest of directions by adding in the corn meal and the milk. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Mustard Roast Pork

What You Need:

Pork Loin (3-4lbs boneless)or Pork Roast 
¼ c Dijon mustard
¼ c stone ground mustard
4 tbs room temp butter
Juice and zest from one lemon
2 cloves garlic, pressed
Salt and pepper
3 tbs veg oil

What To Do:

Preheat over to 400. In a small bowl combine the mustards, butter, lemon zest and juice and the pressed garlic until well mixed. Set aside Season the pork with lots of salt and pepper. Set a large skillet over high heat. Once it’s screaming hot add in the veg oil and sear all sides of the pork loin until nicely browned. Remove the pork to a roasting pan and cover with the mustard paste. Bake in the oven 15 per pound. Cook to an internal temp of 125 degrees. This leaves the pork just slightly pink and very juicy. Make sure to let the pork rest, tented with foil, for 10 minutes before serving. This allows the juices to stay in the pork and lets it finish cooking.

What I Liked:I love, love, love, love, love, LOVE me some pork loin!  I'm a picky girl when it comes to the type of meat I will eat.  Don't get me wrong, I love meat, but you'll usually find me picking around the "fatty parts".  With pork loin, you don't have to do this at all.  It's such a lean cut of meat and that makes me a happy girl!  On the down side, it often turns out very dry.  With this recipe, however, I wrapped the strips of loin in foil and then in a deep pan to make sure those juices didn't go running off anywhere.  When we served it, we all ladled a spoon into the drippings and covered up the meat.  It made it PERFECT!  Plus, I'm totally a mustard girl and I loved the tangy-ness!  Side note: Dearest does NOT favor mustard and he went back for THIRDS! 
What I Didn't Like:I really didn't have too many complaints about this dish at all...not that I like to complain.  IF I had to pick something, I would ask for just a little bit more of a punch of flavor.  Maybe stuffing the pork loin with something or injecting it could help spread out the flavor and make it a bit stronger.  Then again, I'm no chef!  Great, great dish, Erica!

Loni (working mom and wife):

Erica sent me a recipe for a mustard pork.  Let me tell you right now.  I am not a mustard girl.  I used pork tenderloin and this was so good.  Even my picky husband who does not also love mustard thought it was good!  We both ate it more than once.  That says something because my husband, Aaron, is not a leftover guy. (I swear we are not that picky of a family!)  The flavors were rich and they went so well with the pork, I was pleasantly surprised.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Greek Style Marinated Pork

Pork in general has been something I've struggled with. I'm always looking for ways to keep it juicy and to pack it full of flavor. This recipe does both of those things. The lemon gives it a fresh taste and breaks down the meat a bit so that it's tender. The you have the flavors from garlic and herbs that really give this dish a wonderful flavor. Served with yogurt cucumber sauce top gives a great combination of hot and cold all in one bite.

What You Need:

salt and pepper
zest and juice of 2 lemons
1/3 c olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbs minced fresh parsley
1 tbs minced fresh oregano
2 tsp minced fresh thyme
4 thin, center cut pork chops
1 c panko break crumbs
veg oil
For the sauce:
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into a small dice
2 tsp coarse salt
2 c plain or greek yogurt
6 cloves garlic, minced

What To Do:

Combine the lemon zest and juice, olive oil, 3 cloves of minced garlic and the herbs together in a bowl along with a pinch of salt and pepper. Pour it into a zip top bag with the pork and let marinate for 2-3 hours. Meanwhile, place the diced cucumber in a colander and sprinkle with the coarse salt. Let sit for 20 minutes before pressing out as much water as possible. Combine the cucumber with the yogurt and 6 minced cloves of garlic.

Remove the pork 30 minutes before cooking to allow it to come to room temp. Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat with 3-4 tbs of oil, or enough to just coat the bottom of the pan. Place the panko bread crumbs on a plate. Remove each piece of pork from the marinade and press into the panko crumbs to coat each side before pan frying for a couple minutes per side. Serve with the cucumber yogurt sauce on top.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Shepherds Pie

This time of year is all about comfort food. Flavorful, warming food that makes you feel food from the inside out. These foods are usually made from simple every day ingredients, slow cooked, packed with flavor and fun to eat. Shepherds Pie meat all of those requirements. Traditionally, Shepherds Pie is made with ground lamb or mutton. This is a pie that doesn't have a bottom crust, and is topped with mashed potato which were affordable to the lower class when the dish was first being made. It has lots of veggies and makes a perfect meal on a cold winters night. Don't be daunted by the large ingredient list, it does come together rather quickly and easily. Oh and I almost forgot. I make my mashed potatoes with a few garlic cloves and some cheddar cheese to give this dish an even more incredible flavor!

What You Need:

2 lbs of yukon gold or butter potatoes, peeled and quartered
3 large garlic cloves
1/2 stick butter
1/4 c milk
1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese
2 tbs veg oil
3 carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 lbs ground beef or lamb
1 1/4 c beef stock
1/2 c red wine
2 tbs tomato paste
2 tbs flour
1 tsp thyme
1 bay leaf
1 c frozen peas
Salt and Pepper

What To Do:

Preheat oven to 400

Place the potatoes and 3 cloves of garlic into a large pot, cover with cold water and a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until very soft, about 15-20 minutes. Once the potatoes are cooked through, drain and return to the hot pot. While the potatoes are cooking, heat the milk and butter together until the butter is melted and the milk is hot, making sure that it doesn't boil. Once the potatoes are cooked, mash them using the hot milk/butter. The garlic cloves will get mashed along with the potatoes, allowing the garlic flavor to run through them. Stir in the cheddar cheese and set aside until the rest of the dish is done.

While the potatoes are cooking, heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and cook the carrots, celery and onion in the 2 tbs of veg oil until they start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add in the minced garlic and ground meat. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally until the meat is almost cooked through and very little pink is left. Stir in the tomato paste and flour, then the wine, stock, thyme and bay leaf.

 Continue to cook until the meat is done and the sauce is thickened. Remove the bay leaf and stir in the peas. Place in 13x9 baking pan and cover with the mashed potatoes. I like to take a fork and drag it through the potatoes making ridges and area's that are raised a bit because they will brown up when placed in the oven and make the dish look pretty. Sprinkle a little more cheese on top and then place the dish in the oven and bake until bubbly and the potatoes start to brown, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, let about 5 minutes before serving.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Roasted Cauliflower

I know I've said it before, but I'm going to say it again. I LOVE veggies! All kinds of veggies! My favorite way to make them is roasting them in the oven. The flavor concentrates when you roast veggies. Carrots and tomatoes get sweeter  while cauliflower and broccoli get more intense. The great thing about roasting veggies is that all the nutrients, the good stuff, the reason why we eat our veggies, stays put in the veggie where it belongs. If you look closer in the picture you'll notice that I used a mixture of regular cauliflower and purple cauliflower. The purple taste just the same but the florets tend to be thiner and will roast quicker.

What You Need:

A small head of cauliflower, broken down into florets
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

What To Do:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread the florets out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook for 20 minutes, give them a stir and cook for 20 minutes more or until they’re nice and golden. You can toss in some crushed red pepper before baking or some minced garlic and/or parmesean cheese during the last 10 minutes for even more flavor but it’s really not needed.

Here's what our tasters had to say:

I used broccoli instead of cauliflower because (your probably guessed it!) we're not big cauliflower fans!  And, we loved the recipe!  I chose to add both the Parmesan cheese and the red pepper flakes, which gave it a lot of yummy flavor.  We had this with as a side with an Italian dish and the flavor of the roasted vegetables and cheese worked together so well with the meal.  I asked my boyfriend to rate this recipe on a 1 to 10 scale (10 being the best) and he said, "Oh!  It's a 10.  Hands down!"  He loved it!

Christi (wife and mom of 3):

This recipe is easy and tasty.  This gives you a cooked cauliflower yet crunchy instead of smooshy like a lot of other methods of cooking.  I added some garlic while roasting and some freshly grated parmesan cheese after it came out of the oven.  This makes an excellent side dish for any meal!  

Friday, October 1, 2010

Pumpkin/Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce

Fall is in full bloom (or lack thereof) here in Pennsylvania. The markets are being flooded with all the fall harvest has to offer. Apples, Pears, and all sorts of winter squash are every where you turn. Fall is my favorite time of year. I love the all the colors of the leaves and especially all the food. It's the time of year for comfort foods. Hearty soups, stews and pot pies are what this season is all about, they warm you from the inside out. This dish is no different. Tasty, sweet pumpkin and butternut squash turn savory with very little effort. Even better is that I can get my daughter to eat her veggies with this without even realizing it!

What You Need:

Approx 1 1/2lb butternut squash or pumpkin (or both)
2 carrots
Veg oil or melted butter
Salt and pepper
1 tsp dried sage
1 onion sautéed in a little butter or oil
1 c cream or milk
½ c parmesan cheese
1 tbs lemon juice
Fresh minced parsley for garnish (optional)

What To Do:

Preheat oven to 400. Quarter and seed squash. Brush cut sides with oil or melted butter and season with salt and pepper, placing them onto a sheet pan. Use two sheet pans if needed so that the squash have plenty of space for heat to get to all sides. Peel the carrots, brush with oil or melted butter, season with salt and pepper and place on the baking sheet with the squash. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the squash and carrots and soft. Let cool for a bit, the scoop flesh into a blender along with the carrots and sage and blend the milk or cream. Add the mixture to the sautéed onions and stir in the parm cheese and lemon juice. Serve over pasta. It goes really really well with cheese filled pastas.

Here's what Loni (working mom and wife) had to say:

We are not pumpkin people.  When Erica sent us a recipe for a pumpkin pasta sauce I was worried.  But then when I saw I could make the same recipe out of butternut squash I knew I could do this.  To be honest I had never cooked a butternet squash before.  Parker had had plenty of it for baby food but I bought Gerber.  At least I knew he liked the flavor so I thought I'd be safe giving it to him.  I wasn't sure if I liked butternet squash or not.  Now I know, I do, at least as a pasta sauce!  And it really feels like fall when you're eating it!
I loved that the recipe had carrots in it.  First of all I have had a love affair with them lately and I don't know why, but also they added color to the recipe.  I think with the orangey-ness of the sauce Parker thought it was macaroni and cheese, and he ate it as if it was too, good sign!! He loved it, ate two servings of it over plain pasta.  Erica said it would be good with a filled pasta which I would have loved to have tried, but we didn't have any.  I served the sauce over plain penne and sprinkled some more parmesan cheese on top.  It was delightful, perfect for a quick meal yet hearty enough to be full!  I like that the hint of lemon juice gave it such a nice fresh flavor.  And even better is that I have extra sauce, (it makes plenty!) so hopefully I can get to the store and buy some filled pastas. 

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