Monday, January 31, 2011

Potato Puffs

Think of these as fried potato biscuits or dumplings. You mix leftover mashed potatoes with a couple of other ingredients, fry them up and you have a tasty side dish for your next meal. Serve it up with a juicy steak or along side some grilled chicken. I like them with some salt on top, or a bit of ketchup. My daughter loves them too, but then again she is a huge fan of mashed potatoes!!

What You Need:

3/4 c flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
dash of pepper
1/4 c sugar
1 egg
1/2 c mashed potatoes
oil for frying

What To Do:

Whisk all the ingredients together and drop them by tablespoon full into hot oil. Fry until golden brown and done inside. It only takes a few minutes.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Sesame Chicken

Asian American foods have always inspired me. I love all the flavors they use, especially all the ginger and garlic in their dishes. I like to see how well I can recreate dishes I find in restaurants. Sesame Chicken is such a dish. Bites of chicken are marinated in Asian ingredients, lightly fried and then tossed into a delicious sauce topped with some toasted sesame seeds.You can make this as spicy as you'd like but adding in more Sriracha. Don't let the list of ingredients overwhelm you. For the most part, the ingredients from the marinade are repeated in the sauce. To save yourself some time, minced all your garlic and ginger at the same time and then split it up for the two applications.

What You Need:

6 tbs soy sauce
4 tbs flour
4 tbs corn starch
1 tbs veg oil
1 tsp baking powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 inch piece of ginger, minced
 3 chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces

3 tbs veg oil
1 inch piece of ginger, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp Sriracha, you can also use red pepper flakes
2 c chicken broth
1/4 c flour
2 tbs rice wine vinegar
2 tbs sugar
2 tbs soy

Also Needed:
1/2 tbs sesame seeds, toasted
oil for frying the chicken

What To Do:
Combine all the ingredients for the marinade together and let it coat the chicken. Let marinade for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the sauce by heat the oil in a pot over medium heat. Once hot, add in the garlic and minced ginger and cook till fragrant, about 1 minute. Combine the chicken broth with the flour and whisk until well combined and no lumps are present. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients to your pot along with the chicken stock and flour mixture. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil, stirring often. Once it boils, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until thickened. Keep warm while you cook the chicken by heating up an inch or two of oil in a wide skillet. Fry the chicken for about 5 minutes total or until golden brown and done all the way through. Toss the chicken with the sauce and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. You can garnish with some chopped cilantro and scallions if you'd like.

Note: To toast sesame seeds add them into a dry skillet over medium high heat. Make sure you stir or shake the pan often once it's hot so that the seeds don't burn. Once they start to pick up some color, remove from the pan to cool.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mediterranean Salad

I love the flavors of the Mediterranean, Greece especially. They are bright, crisp and fresh. Lemons, feta cheese, kalamata olives, olive oil, all great ingredients and when they are paired together in this salad, it's like an explosion in your mouth. I found a blend in my local grocery store that contained Israeli couscous which is bigger then those tiny seeds that you mostly see marketed as couscous as well as tri-colored orzo pasta, which looks like rice, and red quinoa which is a great source of protein. It was about 1 1/2 cups total. If you can't find a blend like this in your grocery store, you can substitute 1 cup of Israeli couscouse, 1/4 c orzo, and 1/4 c of quinoa. Mix this together in a pot with 2 cups of water, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover, leaving the lid vented and let simmer for 12 minutes. After that time, turn the heat off and let rest for 5 minutes before continuing.

What You Need:

1 1/2 c couscous blend, cooked to package directions
juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic
1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
a small handful of fresh parsley
salt and pepper
1/2 English cucumber
1/2 c kalamata olives, halved
1/2 c feta cheese
5 or 6 sun dried tomatoes

What To Do:

While the pasta blend is cooking, make the dressing by grating the garlic into the lemon juice and zest. Add in the oregano but giving it a smush between your fingers to waken the oil and then slowly whisk in the extra virgin olive oil. Season with some salt and pepper. Stir in the parsley and once the pasta is finished cooking, stir that in as well. You want to stir the pasta with the vinaigrette while it's warm so that it sucks up all the flavors. Set it aside to cool while you get the rest of the salad together. Cut the cucumber down the middle and scrape out the few seeds with a spoon. Cut it into half moons and set aside. Slice the sun dried tomatoes into strips and then in half. Stir the cucumbers, olives, feta and tomatoes into the salad and serve at room temp, or chill and serve cold.

Monday, January 24, 2011

How To Make: Tater Tots

Every once in a while, we get on a fried food kick. Normally when I want to make something that needs to be fried, instead of just dumping the oil, I'll use it a few times that week for different things. This week I wanted to make homemade tater tots. I can't tell you how easy it was! Just a handful of ingredients, a little shredding of potatoes and a quick fry and you have some great tasting, homemade tater tots!

What You Need:

4 large baking potatoes
1 small onion
1/2 c flour
1/4 c granted Parmesan cheese
2 egg yolks
salt and pepper
oil for frying

What To Do:

Peel the potatoes and using the fine side of a box grater, grate them into a bowl lined with a clean dish towel. Once they're grated, squeeze as much water out of the potatoes as possible, by gathering them in the dish towel and giving it a good squeeze over the sink. Place the potatoes in a bowl and grate the small onion into the potato mixture. Combine the flour, egg yolk, Parmesan cheese and some salt and pepper into the potatoes, using your hands to do the mixing so that everything is well incorporated. Drop by tablespoon fulls into hot oil and fry until golden brown and crispy. Remove to a paper towel lined tray and sprinkle with salt. Serve hot!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Maple Roasted Root Veggies

I made these just the other night and when I took my first bite I couldn't believe just how delicious it was. I mean, I knew it was going to be good but I didn't know it was going to be that good. The maple syrup added a nice sweetness to these veggies that really compliments the caramelization that they get from being roasted. What's nice is that these veggies are pretty inexpensive and can be found almost every where. I lined my baking sheets with parchment paper for super quick and easy clean up. Also this was made with real maple syrup, and not pancake syrup which is nothing more then flavored high fructose corn syrup. You can always try it with pancake syrup but I don't know how well it would come out.

What You Need:

4-5 large carrots
4-5 parsnips
2 heads fennel
3-4 small onions
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 c olive oil
salt and pepper

What To Do:

Peel the carrots and parsnips and cut them into pieces about 1/2 inch wide and 3 or so inches long. Cut the fennel bulbs in half and remove the core. Cut each half into 6 wedges. Remove the peel and ends from the onions and cut in half or in quarters depending on how big they are. Place all the veggies into a big bowl and pour the syrup and oil over the top. Season well with salt and pepper and toss everything to coat. Divide among two baking sheets, 3 if needed, so that they have plenty of room to roast and become yummy. Cook for 45 minutes to one hour in a preheat 400 degree oven. Goes great with Pork chops!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Croque Madame and Monsieur

Croque Madame
Leave it to the French to take an ordinary ham and cheese sandwich and turn it into something a gazillion times better. A rich creamy bechamel sauce, tons and tons of good swiss cheese and in the Madame's case an egg, produce some the richest, best tasting ham and cheese sammies you'll ever have. I don't want you to even think of the calories in this dish, it would take away from the enjoyment of it. However for a special treat, it's something you have got to try! This is two recipes in one, the croque monsieur is just the ham and cheese sammy, the croque madame has a fried egg on top. Try one of each and let me know your favorite!

What You Need:

8 slices of thick bread
2 tbs butter, plus more for buttering bread
2 tbs flour
1 c milk
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic
salt and pepper
1/4 c Parmesan cheese
8 to 12 slices of good quality deli ham
12 oz gruyere cheese, shredded
dijon mustard
4 eggs (for the croque madame only)

What To Do:

Croque Monsieur
In a small sauce pan, melt the butter and whisk it together with the flour. Let the flour cook for a minute or two before slowly whisking in the milk. Once comined, add in the bay leave and the cloves of garlic that you've light smashed to open them up. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until thickened. Stir in the parmesan cheese and turn the heat off. Transfer to a bowl and place in the fridge to cool.
When ready to make the sammies, spread a small amount of dijon mustard onto each slice of bread. Top 4 of the slices of bread with 2-3 pieces of ham. Mix half of the gruyere cheese into the cooled bechamel mixture. Spread half the bechamel on top of the ham. Take the other four pieces of bread and top the sammies. Spread the tops with butter and place, buttered side down onto a griddle or frying pan. Butter the other side and cook like you would a grilled cheese. Once the sammies are cooked, transfer to a baking sheet and spread the rest of the bachamel on top of the sammies, then top them with the rest of the shredded gruyere cheese. Place under the broiler until they're browned and bubbly. If making the Croque Madames, top each sammie with a fried egg when it comes out of the broiler.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Classic Meatloaf

While meatloaf doesn't exactly take a pretty picture, you can't judge a recipe by it's photo. If you've never have meatloaf before, where have you been living? If you have had the opportunity to indulged but found it dry and tasteless, I urge you to take a chance and try this recipe. It's flavorful and moist and perhaps the best meatloaf I have ever tasted. Sauteed onions and garlic combined with just a few simple ingredients really makes a huge difference. This is also a recipe that is easily doubled for when you have a few more mouths to feed.

What You Need:

1lb ground beef

1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbs oil
1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
2 tbs ketchup or tomato paste
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 egg
1/2 c cracker or bread crumbs
salt and pepper

What To Do:

In a small skillet, sautee the onions and garlic in the oil over medium heat. You want to soften them but not get to much color on them. Once they're cooked, turn off the heat and add in the Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, thyme and lots of salt and pepper. Give it all a stir and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the ground beef with the egg, onion mixture and bread crumbs. You want to do this without compacting the meat or mixing it to much. The meat could become tough and dry if you over mix it. Once it's combined, form it into a loaf and place in an 11x8 baking dish. Bake for about 1 hour at 350 degree. To make it even better, drape a few pieces of bacon over the top before baking the loaf.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Blueberry Muffins

A good blueberry muffin doesn't take a lot of effort, but it does take some skill. The skill lies and being able to not over mix the batter. As with most quick breads (muffins are a quick bread), you don't want the flour to develop to much gluten. So you mix it until it's just barely combined and get it in the oven. If you over mix your batter, the muffins can come out dense and dry. These blueberry muffins have a hint of lemon in them from some lemon zest and a unique flavor from the sour cream. The sour cream also helps to keep them moist. Right now where I live it's the middle of winter and blueberries are out of season. However, I stocked up on them during the summer and had a pretty good supply in my freezer, the last of which I used to make these muffins. If you do use frozen berries, instead of fresh, you will most likely have to add about 5 minutes onto your cooking time.

What You Need:

1 3/4 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 stick butter, room temp
3/4 c sugar
2 eggs, room temp
1/2 c sour cream
1/4 c milk
zest from 1 lemon
1 pint blueberries

What To Do:

Cream together the room temperature butter and the sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, making sure each egg is incorporated well before adding the next. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Remove two tablespoons of the dry ingredients and toss it with the blueberries. This will keep the blueberries from sinking to the bottom of your muffins. Combine the dry ingredients, along with the sour cream, milk and lemon zest into the butter and egg mixture. Gently fold everything together until just combined before folding in the blueberries. Divide among 12 lined cupcakes and bake in a preheat 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden on top and a toothpick inserted int he middle comes out clean.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Pepper Steak

Pepper steak is a very simple dish with only a handful of ingredients. Of course the name implies that the dish contains peppers and steak but it also has onions and this flavorful sauce made with garlic, ginger, soy, and a few other wonderful ingredients. Pepper steak is a Chinese-american dish made normally made in a wok but as long as you have a heavy bottom skillet that can take the heat, you can use that too.

What You Need:

1lb flank steak (I use sirloin or chuck, get whatever is cheapest)
1 large onion
2 large green bell peppers
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbs veg oil or other high temp cooking oil.
1 tsp ginger root, minced
1 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs rice wine vinegar
1/2 c beef broth
1 tbs cornstarch
cooked rice for serving

What To Do:

Place your steak in the freezer for about 15 minutes to help firm it up. It's easier to slice very thinly when it's partially frozen. Preheat your wok or skillet over high heat while you cut the peppers and onions into either slices or bit sized pieces. Once the pan is super hot, add the oil and then the meat in as much of a single layer as you can. Let cook for a minute before flipping over to cook the other side for just another minute. Remove the meat from the pan and add in the onions and peppers. Add in a touch more oil, only if needed. Cook the onions and peppers until they start to soften. Meanwhile, whisk together the soy, rice wine vinegar, beef broth and cornstarch, until the cornstarch is dissolved. Once the peppers and onions are softened just a bit, add in the minced garlic and ginger and cook them briefly until they're fragrant. This only takes about 30 seconds. You want to make sure to keep everything in the pan moving so you don't burn the garlic or ginger. Then add in the cornstarch mixture and add the beef back in along with any juice that collected on the plate. Let it come to a boil and thicken. Serve over rice.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Split Pea Soup

Maybe it's the very cold weather, or the fact that it's been snowing almost every day, but for whatever reason, I've been on a soup kick. I've said before that I'm not a soup person, but this winter I find myself enjoying it more and more. Home made split pea soup has also been close to my heart. It's inexpensive to make, gets flavor from a ham bone or ham hocks which are things that are generally thrown away, and the big pot that I make can be frozen and then enjoyed at a later date. I enjoy very thick split pea soup, so thick you could eat it with a fork. If you prefer your soup to be well, soupy, just add some more water or veggie stock towards the end.

What You Need:

1/4 lb bacon, diced
2 cups (1lb) split peas
1 left over bone from a ham or 2 smoked ham hocks
2 carrots, small diced
4 stalks of celery, small diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lrg onion, small diced
1 potato, peeled and small diced
6 cups of water or veggie stock (chicken works well too)
salt and pepper

What To Do:

Making split pea soup is a process, but not to much work. In a large pot, place the ham bone, ham hocks or both and cover it with the veggie stock or water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let simmer for about 30 minutes. This gets the flavor out of the bones and loosens the ham from the bones as well. Remove the bone/hocks and set aside to cool. In a large soup pot, over medium heat, render all the fat out of the bacon. Once the bacon is nice and crispy, remove it from the pan and add in all the diced veggies. Cook until softened and make sure to season them well with salt and pepper. After the veggies are softened, stir in the split peas and let them cook for just a minute or two. This allows them to soak up the flavors from the bacon and the veggies.

Pour the bone/hock cooking liquid over the peas to cover them. Give it a stir and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cover. Allow to cook for about 45-60 minutes or until the peas have lost their shape, making sure to stir on occasion. While the soup is cooking, remove as much of the meat as you can from the ham bone or hocks, diced it up and put into the soup pot. Once the peas are completely cooked. Turn the heat off and let it sit, covered for about 20-30 minutes. This keeps the soup hot, but because it cools a bit, it will be thickened. If it's too thick for you, just add in some more stock or water.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Cheddar Beer Soup

I'm a beer kind of girl. Not the light, horrible tasting kind of beer, but the amber colored ales that are full of flavor. They are the perfect type of beer to use in this recipe. You could use a stout, the real dark beers, but I find them too biter. I used "Honey Brown" which is one of my favorites to drink and it worked great for this recipe. You also want a good sharp cheddar cheese. White or yellow, it doesn't matter, but get it from the cheese case in your local grocery store. Not only is it a better quality cheese when compared to the shredded stuff in the dairy isle, but you can get varying degree's of sharpness to suit your taste.

What You Need:

4tbs butter
4tbs flour
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks of celery, diced
1 carrots, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 c chicken broth
12oz beer
1 c milk
1/2 to 3/4lb cheddar cheese
salt and pepper
1 ring of smoked polish sausage

What To Do:

In a large soup pot, melt the butter and sautee the onions, celery, carrots and garlic until tender. About 5-10 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring often. Slowly add in the chicken broth, while stirring to help prevent lumps, then add in the beer. Bring to a gentle boil and slowly add in the cheese, stirring until smooth. Add in the milk and season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and simmer until thickened.
While the soup is simmering, slice the smoked polish sausage on a biased into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices. Place in a sautee pan and cook over medium heat until they have a bit of color and is heated through. Serve by pour the soup over a few pieces of the smoked polish sausage.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Spaghetti with Sausage and Fennel

I have been on a fennel kick lately. I love the flavor of this wonder veggie when it's cooked. The flavor becomes mild and sweet and when mixed with the sausage and tomatoes of this dish, it becomes even greater.  This is a recipe I've had around for awhile and honestly forgot about it. When I was looking for something different one night this immediately came to mind. It's simple to prepare and while it does take a little work to slices the fennel up, the whole dish is ready in no time!

What You Need:

1lb spaghetti (use a thicker one, not angle hair)
2 tbs olive oil
1 lb sweet italian sausage (bulk if you can find, otherwise just remove it from casings)
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 bulb of fennel, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 c white wine
1 (28oz) can crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper

What To Do:

Place a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil for the pasta. Once it boils, salt it well and add the pasta, cooking until done.
In the meantime make the sauce by heating a large skillet over medium heat. Brown the sausage in the olive oil, breaking it up into small pieces while it's cooking. Once it's cooked through remove the sausage to a plate. If you need more oil, add another tablespoon or two to the pan and then add in the thinly sliced fennel and onion. After they start to cook and soften a  bit, add in the minced garlic. Try not to let the fennel and onions brown. If the pan gets to hot, just turn it down a bit. Once the veggies are soft, add in the wine and crushed tomatoes. Stir it together well and season it with lots of salt and pepper. Reduce the heat and let simmer until the pasta is done.
Once the pasta is cooked, drain it well and add it into the sauce, tossing well to coat.

Monday, January 3, 2011


Chili is one of those meals that warms not only the belly but the soul. It's great for a cold winters night because the spices actually help to warm the body. You can make this chili in the slow cooker or on the stove top. I prefer the using my slow cooker because it's something that will be ready with very little effort in the morning. It also can be frozen and saved for a later date which is good because this recipe makes a lot of yummy chili!

What You Need:

2 cans (28oz each) crushed tomatoes
1 can (14oz) diced tomatoes
1 can (6oz) tomato paste
1-2 lbs ground beef
2 onions, large chop
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans (1lb each) kidney beans
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbs ground cumin
1 tsp onion powder
Cheddar cheese and sour cream for garnish (optional)

What To Do:

In a large skillet brown the ground beef over medium high heat. You want to let it brown before giving it a stir. Once it's about half way cooked through, stir in the onions and garlic and cook until the meat is done.
Meanwhile, turn your crock pot on to low and whisk together crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes and tomato paste. When the beef mixture is all cooked, sprinkle it with the cayenne, cumin and the onion powder and then stir it into the crockpot along with the kidney beans. Cook on low for all day for the best flavor or on high for a couple hours or until it's heated through. Serve with cheddar cheese and/or sour cream on top.

If you decide to make this on the stove top, after cooking the beef, mix everything together in a large pot and simmer for at least an hour or until it's thick.
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