Monday, May 31, 2010

Gussied-Up Ice-Cream Sandwiches

This is the easiest dessert in the world! Our nieces AC and LB gave it their seal of approval. Here's the recipe: 1 ice-cream sandwich + sliced strawberries + Reddi-Whip + chocolate syrup. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Scalloped Tomatoes

I love tomatoes! Nothing makes me happier than going to the farmers market on summer Saturday morning and bringing home a big basket. This morning we went to the grand opening of the East Lake Farmers Market in the parking lot of the Methodist church and bought beautiful, fresh, ripe tomatoes and strawberries. A few weeks ago I saw Ina Garten prepare her recipe for scalloped tomatoes and it inspired me to create this version, which combines tomatoes with another personal favorite—homemade croutons. (The original calls for sugar, which I omitted. I also omitted the garlic, but that was an oversight; it tastes good without it. Dried basil will work if you don't have fresh.) To round out our meal, we had Pork Chops With Apple Gravy and Mashed Potatoes. Andy wasn't a big fan of the tomato dish because he doesn't like crusty bread. But if you do, you'll love this. I will definitely make it again for me! It reminded me of a hot version of Panzanella. Enjoy!

Scalloped Tomatoes
2 French baguettes, cut into chunks
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
8 tomatoes, cut into chunks
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into strips
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Toss bread chunks with olive oil until coated; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook bread chunks in a large Dutch oven until browned and warm.
2. Toss together croutons and tomatoes. Stir in salt and pepper to taste; stir in basil. Spread mixture into a 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
3. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Steak Fajitas

Costco has become my go-to place to buy beef. They sell a variety of cuts for very reasonable prices. The downside—big quantities when you're serving two. But this gives me the ability to freeze meat to use in meals later. Tonight we had fajitas that used New York Strip that I had frozen. For the steak, Andy sprinkled it with Montreal steak seasoning and grilled it to medium. I sautéed a green bell pepper and an onion, cut into slices, in olive oil. When the steak was done, Andy cut it into strips and we combined it with the bell pepper mixture. The only other things we needed were warm flour tortillas, shredded cheese, sour cream, and Guacamole. The perfect one-dish supper—enjoy!

2 avocados, peeled
1 small tomato, chopped
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 garlic clove, minced
Juice from 1 lime
Juice from 1 orange or tangerine
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Place avocado in a bowl and mash with a fork or potato masher. Stir in remaining ingredients.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Stuffed French Toast

Tonight the 3Cs and their parents came over for our weekly dinner. They had just returned this morning from a trip to D.C. Eating here seemed like a better idea than going to a restaurant since everyone was tired, so I decided to make breakfast for dinner. The only TV show I watch regularly is Diners, Drive-ins & Dives on the Food Network. Several months ago they featured a restaurant in Baltimore that serves Captain Crunch-coated French toast, which look yummy! So I decided to try my own variation of that tonight. I'm not a big fan of eggy French toast, so this doesn't have as many as as you might expect. We had Granola Cluster Cheerios in the pantry, not the Captain, but it worked well. I also decided to "stuff" the French toast by spreading a raspberry-cream cheese mixture between two slices of bread. Two of the 3Cs didn't eat much tonight, but their big sister and the rest of us thought this recipe was a keeper. Enjoy!

Stuffed French Toast
1 loaf ciabatta or brioche, sliced
Raspberry-and-Cream Filling
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. almond extract
4 cup cereal, crushed
Warm maple syrup

1. Spread filling on one side of half of bread slices. Top with remaining half of bread slices. Combine eggs and next 3 ingredients in a bowl. Dip sandwiches into milk mixture, and coat with crushed cereal.
2. Cook on a hot grill pan until toasted on both sides. Serve with warm syrup.

Raspberry-and-Cream Filling:
1 (8-oz.) block cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup frozen raspberries

1. Beat cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixture until creamy; gradually beat in raspberries until smooth.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Chocolate-Cherry Blondies

I needed a quick and easy dessert for tonight for a gathering of girlfriends. Naturally my mind went to cookies. However, I decided that was too predictable. Bar cookies are yummy and I don't make them very often because I haven't found a good recipe. Well, the search is over. I decided to start with my basic cookie recipe. Then I used all brown sugar (instead of a combo with granulated), added an extra egg, and increased the baking powder a bit. Once baked in a 13- x 9-inch pan, the results were delicious and even easier than the super-easy cookie recipe. (Like all those superlatives?) Blondies take longer to bake than the cookies, but the prep time is reduced because you don't have to scoop the batter. Any chocolate/fruit/toffee combination would work well. At the last minute, I threw in some chocolate-covered cranberries that have been taunting me from the pantry and was pleased with the results. Enjoy!

Chocolate-Cherry Blondies
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
4 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 (11.5-oz.) bag semisweet chocolate chips
1 (6-oz.) bag dried cherries

1. Beat butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add in eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. Add in vanilla.
2. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients in a bowl. Gradually add to butter mixture, beating until blended. Add in chocolate chips and cherries.
3. Line a 13- x 9-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, and coat with cooking spray. Spread batter into pan.
4. Bake at 350° for 50 minutes or until done.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sir's Homemade Tortilla Shells

My father-in-law, called "Sir" by his grandchildren, loves to experiment in the kitchen. He shared his latest innovation with me last weekend during our visit. One night for supper he decided to spray large flour tortillas with cooking spray and shape them into a metal colander. Then he baked them until they were crispy and used them to serve taco salad. My mother-in-law said the shells were a hit!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Grilled Potato Salad

Andy and I have been grilling different cuts of steaks to decide which one we prefer. Two weeks ago we tried rib-eye and really liked it. Tonight we had New York strip, which is my favorite. For sides we had grilled corn on the cob, Grilled Potato Salad, and Stuffed Plum Tomatoes. Can you say, "It's summer!"? We used Montreal steak seasoning on the steak, and then Andy grilled them and the corn. The potato salad recipe is my version of one that ran in SL last June. I used the grill pan to cook the potato slices (this way you don't have to worry about them falling through the grill grate). Enjoy!

Grilled Potato Salad
4 red potatoes, thinly sliced
Olive oil
Ground red pepper
4 bacon slices, chopped and cooked
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1. Drizzle olive oil on grill pan, and heat. Place potato slices on hot pan, and grill until done and browned on both sides. Remove from pan, and sprinkle with red pepper and next 2 ingredients to taste. Toss potato slices with bacon. Combine mayonnaise and next 2 ingredients. Toss with potato mixture.

Blueberry-White Chocolate Cookies

This is another variation of my basic cookie recipe. I made them for the first time at Christmas and thought I had posted the recipe, but I realized today that I hadn't. The recipe makes 36 if you scoop it using a 2-Tbsp. scoop. The best thing is that you can bake a batch and have everything cleaned up in 30 minutes. There's no need to eat break-and-bake cookies again! These are just as easy and taste much better. Enjoy!

Blueberry-White Chocolate Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups oatmeal
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 bag white chocolate morsels
1 (6-oz.) bag dried blueberries

1. Beat butter and sugar with a mixer until creamy. Add in eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Add in vanilla.
2. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients. Gradually add to butter mixture, beating until blended. Add in white chocolate morsels and blueberries. Drop by 2-Tbsp. scoops onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets.
3. Bake at 350° for 10 to 11 minutes or until done. (I prefer softer cookies.) Cool on pans 10 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Pink Lemonade Sandwich Cookies

Our nieces AC and LB spent the afternoon with us on Saturday and when I saw this recipe in the May issue of Everyday Food, I knew we had to try them. (Despite the name I gave it, the lemon flavor is subtle.) LB loves pink and cookies, so this was right up her alley. After reading the recipe, I decided the girls would like the filling better if it was icing (me too, actually); the original was whipped cream. The cookies are made exactly from the recipe, but the filling isn't. In fact I used raspberry jam instead of fresh or frozen raspberries to make it more kid friendly. These cookies were a hit! The texture is soft and pillowy. The brown sugar in the cookie batter lends a caramelized flavor, and the pink icing adds just enough richness. Enjoy!

Pink Lemonade Sandwich Cookies
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup plus 3 Tbsp. brown sugar
Zest from 2 lemons
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
2 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup raspberry preserves
1 to 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. almond extract

1. Beat butter and sugar with a mixer. Beat in zest and next 2 ingredients. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Drop batter onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets (I used a 2 Tbsp.-size scoop.)
2. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until done. Cool on pans 10 minutes; remove to racks to cool completely.
3. Beat cream cheese and next 2 ingredients with a mixer until creamy. Gradually beat in powdered sugar to create desired spreading consistency. Stir in almond extract.
4. Spread icing mixture on one side of half of cookies; top with remaining cookie halves.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Guacamole Salad

Tonight we had quesadillas and this yummy salad. The recipe is from Barefoot Contessa at Home. I made a minor change to the dressing by reducing the amount of lime juice and olive oil. Also, I forgot to add the chopped bell pepper the original calls for, but you don't miss it with the jalapeño. This would be perfect with grilled chicken or fish on a summer night when you don't want to heat up the kitchen. Enjoy!

Guacamole Salad
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup minced red onion
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
1 or 2 avocados, chopped
Zest from 1 lime
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice (2 limes)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 garlic clove, minced

1. Place tomatoes and next 5 ingredients in a bowl. Combine lime juice and next 4 ingredients. Pour lime juice mixture over tomato mixture.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Chicken-Spinach-Bacon Calzones

Publix pizza dough is a staple in my freezer. You can thaw it in the microwave at 50% power for 2 minutes if you need dinner fast and forgot to move it to the fridge (this happens to me all the time!). Instead of our usual Bacon Pizza, I decided to put roasted chicken, fresh baby spinach, and some bacon in calzones. I cut the dough ball in half and then rolled out each portion. The calzones were the perfect size. Andy gave them his seal of approval. Enjoy!

Chicken-Spinach-Bacon Calzones
1 round pizza dough, cut in half and rolled out
Sun-dried tomato or basil pesto
Fresh baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup roasted, shredded chicken
4 slices bacon, chopped and cooked
1/2 to 3/4 cup shredded cheese

1. Cut pizza dough in half, and roll out each portion. Spread pesto on dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Layer spinach leaves over pesto on one half of dough; top with shredded chicken and bacon. Sprinkle with shredded cheese. Fold over dough, and crimp edges to seal. Place on a pizza stone or baking sheet, and coat tops of calzones with cooking spray.
2. Bake at 425° for 12 minutes or until done.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Stuffed Plum Tomatoes

Here's a new take on stuffed tomatoes—it's my new favorite side dish! I cooked Homemade Breadcrumbs in butter with the tomato pulp and fresh herbs—very easy. Enjoy!

Stuffed Plum Tomatoes
8 plum tomatoes, cut in half and pulp removed
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
3 Tbsp. butter
1 cup Homemade Breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
1 garlic clove, minced
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Place tomato shells in a baking dish; drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2. Bake at 375° for 15 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, melt butter in skillet, and add tomato pulp and next 4 ingredients. Cook until breadcrumbs are softened and mixture is combined.
4. Spoon breadcrumb mixture evenly into tomato shells; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, and drizzle with olive oil.
5. Bake for an additional 15 minutes or until tomatoes are softened.

Roasted Chicken With Goat Cheese and Herbs

Happy Mothers' Day! Andy and I are in Huntsville tonight, visiting his parents. To celebrate, I made dinner for his family. Andy's sister, Laurie (her husband is out of town) and her children—Savannah, Grace, and Aubrey—came over to eat with us. Our entrée was based on a Barefoot Contessa recipe. It calls for bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts that are stuffed with goat cheese and fresh herbs. It's very easy and yummy! We also had Stuffed Plum Tomatoes, Risotto, and Slow-Cooker Green Beans. What a great way to celebrate the moms. Enjoy!

Roasted Chicken With Goat Cheese and Herbs
6 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
1 (4-oz.) log goat cheese, cut into pieces (I prefer Belle Chevre, which is made in Elkmont, Alabama.)
6 fresh basil leaves
6 fresh oregano sprigs
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Greek seasoning

1. Separate skin from breast, and place goat cheese between skin and meat. Place herbs between skin and meat. Drizzle chicken with olive oil; sprinkle with salt, pepper, and Greek seasoning.
2. Bake at 375° for 40 to 50 minutes or until done.

Cherry-Almond Brownies

This recipe was inspired by one in the April issue of Everyday Food. I made a few adjustments based on ingredients on hand. The texture isn't really like brownies at all; it's more like a chewy cookie. I baked these in a 9-inch round cake pan because my 9-inch square pan is in storage. These are very rich, so a small piece and a big glass of milk are musts. Enjoy!

Cherry-Almond Brownies
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup toasted almonds, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup chopped dried cherries

1. Place chocolates and butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on HIGH for 1 minute and 30 seconds. Stir to combine. Stir in sugar and eggs. Stir in flour and salt; gently stir in almonds and cherries.
2. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until done. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Place in refrigerator to chill for 2 hours. Cut into bite-size pieces.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Roasted Tomato Sauce and Meatballs, take 2

Our niece LB helped me make dinner tonight. We had a quick version of Roasted Tomato Sauce. LB's job was to help roll the meatballs. When I asked her to help, she jumped at the chance by saying "I can do that—I'm really good at rolling Play-Doh balls!" These meatballs are a combination of ground round and Italian sausage. LB and AC wouldn't actually eat the sauce and meatballs—they had buttered noodles. However, Andy, Mel, and I liked the sauce. Enjoy!

Roasted Tomato Sauce and Meatballs
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
3 fresh oregano sprigs
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
2 (28-oz.) cans whole tomatoes
1 (14.5-oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 (8-oz.) can tomato sauce

1. Line a 13- x 9-inch pan with aluminum foil. Place onion and garlic in pan; drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, and stir in vinegar and brown sugar. Add in fresh herbs. Bake for 15 more minutes. Stir in tomatoes and tomato sauce. Return to oven and bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven, and stir to break up whole tomatoes. Return to oven, and bake for 15 more minutes. Add meatballs to sauce, and serve over hot cooked pasta.

1/2 lb. ground round
1 lb. Italian sausage
1 shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
1 egg
1/4 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs

1. Combine all ingredients. Shape mixture into balls. Place meatballs on lightly greased broiler pan.
2. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until done.

Chocolate Cupcakes With Peanut Butter Frosting

Cupcakes were on my mind today, so time spent baking was in order. Originally I thought I would make maple cupcakes, but I didn't make it to the store to buy syrup. (Don't worry, I'll make them soon!) After evaluating my pantry, I decided to make a variation of these cupcakes. When I had them the first time, I thought they would be even better if the peanut butter flavor was added to the chocolate and not just sitting on top. So I made a peanut butter-cream cheese filling to put in the middle of the cupcakes. The cake is very tender, so icing them wasn't easy. They aren't pretty, but they're tasty! Enjoy!

Chocolate Cupcakes With Peanut Butter Frosting
3/4 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
6 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 Tbsp. powdered sugar
Peanut Butter Frosting

1. Beat butter and sugars with an electric mixer until creamy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, just until yellow disappears.
2. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients. Gradually add to butter mixture, alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat in sour cream and vanilla. Divide batter among lightly greased muffin cups.
3. Combine peanut butter and next 2 ingredients. Dollop on top of batter.
3. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until done. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool completely. Spread tops of cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting.

Peanut Butter Frosting:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 to 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
4 Tbsp. milk

1. Beat butter and peanut butter until blended. Beat in 2 cups powdered sugar. Beat in milk, 1 Tbsp. at a time, until spreading consistency; beat in additional 1/2 cup powdered sugar, if needed.

Raspberry Crumb Muffins

For breakfast today, I turned a blueberry crumb cake recipe from Barefoot Contessa into this muffin recipe. Fresh raspberries are really expensive right now, so I used frozen ones. Also I added oatmeal to the streusel topping. Enjoy!

Raspberry Crumb Muffins
6 Tbsp. butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. lemon zest
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup sour cream
1 cup frozen raspberries

1. Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until creamy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, just until yellow disappears. Beat in vanilla and lemon zest.
2. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients. Gradually add to butter mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in raspberries. Spoon batter into lightly greased muffin cups. Top with streusel.
3. Bake at 350° for 20 to 25 minutes or until done.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup oatmeal
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 cup butter, melted

1. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients. Stir in melted butter until thoroughly combined.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Recipe Rewind: Tomato Pie

Tonight some friends came for dinner. Andy grilled rib-eyes; they were terrific! We served the steak with Blue Cheese Butter, Roasted Asparagus, and my very favorite Tomato Pie. Yummy! The change I made to the pie today to use puff pastry instead of piecrust. You can't miss either way. Enjoy!

French Doughnut Muffins

My favorite bakery in town makes delectable pastries called French doughnuts, which are baked instead of fried like regular doughnuts. They look like very tiny Bundt cakes. Andy and I enjoy going to the bakery on Saturday morning for croissants, French doughnuts, and coffee—the perfect meal! Several months ago The Pioneer Woman posted a recipe for French Breakfast Puffs, which looked very similar to the doughnuts I love so much. Today I finally got around to making them and I'm happy to report they taste exactly the same! The Pioneer Woman's recipe calls for shortening, but I substituted butter instead. I made them in a regular-size muffin pan; next time I plan to use a mini-muffin pan instead so they'll be bite size. They are very simple to make; you could refrigerate the batter and just scoop out what you need. After baking, roll the muffins in melted butter and cinnamon sugar. What could be better? Enjoy!

French Doughnut Muffins
11 Tbsp. butter, softened
2 1/2 cups sugar, divided
2 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup milk
3 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 cup butter, melted

1. Beat butter and 1 cup sugar with an electric mixer until creamy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, just until yellow disappears.
2. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients. Gradually add to butter mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Scoop batter into lightly greased muffin cups.
3. Bake at 350° for 22 minutes or until done. Let cool in pan 10 minutes.
4. Combine remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Dip warm muffins in melted butter and then roll in cinnamon-sugar mixture. Serve immediately.