Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pork Chops with Cabbage and Bacon

I know cabbage is one of those ingredients that people either love or hate. Growing up with a Hungarian grandma, cabbage was definitely a common ingredient in my diet, and it’s still one of my favorite comfort foods. My love of cabbage is such that I can’t really understand why people don’t like it. Is it the smell? Because I even find that to be delicious.

This recipe comes from Everyday Food (one of my favorite resources for simple and delicious dinners), and it features cabbage prominently. It’s hard not to love cabbage when it’s fried in butter and bacon fat, like it is in this recipe.

The cabbage is paired with pork chops, bacon and onions, and it all and cooks together in a delicious, flavorful milk gravy -- which is perfect on top of a side of mashed potatoes.

Pork Chops with Cabbage and Bacon
slightly adapted from Everyday Food

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 boneless pork chops (1/2 to 1 inch thick)
Coarse salt and ground black pepper
4 strips bacon, coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, sliced
2 tablespoons butter
1 head green cabbage (about 2 1/2 pounds), cored and cut into 8 wedges
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Add oil to a large, high-sided skillet over medium high heat. Season pork with salt and pepper; brown on one side, 3 to 5 minutes. Flip and cook 1 minute more. Transfer to a plate.

2. Reduce heat to medium. Add bacon; cook until nearly crisp, about 5 minutes. Add onion; cook until softened. Remove bacon and onions from pan and transfer to the plate with the pork chops.

3. Add 2 tablespoons of butter and cabbage to pan, cut side down, and cook until light golden, about 6 minutes. Flip and cook until slightly tender, about 3 minutes.

4. Add flour and stir until coated. Add milk and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then nestle the pork chops, bacon and onions in sauce. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until pork chops are cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Foil Packet Tacos

I’ve been really excited to share this recipe with you, because it’s probably one of the best meals to come out of my kitchen lately. My husband and I and both of the boys really, really enjoyed these sweet potato and black bean foil packet tacos.

These tacos have a lot going for them, and I really can’t think of a single negative thing to say. The ingredients are cheap, the recipe is easy and comes together relatively quickly, and they’re incredibly healthy and quite filling for a vegetarian meal. The combination of black beans and sweet potatoes is just such a good one, and the flavors work so well with Mexican seasonings.

Using three sweet potatoes and one can of black beans, I got six foil packets, which was enough for all four of us to make tacos with and for me to have plenty of leftovers to freeze for a later meal. I wrapped each one individually for freezing. They didn't last long, though; Joe had them for lunch every day the following week,  he loved them so much.

Corn would be a great addition to the filling, as would cooked rice, and I wish I’d had a sprinkle of cilantro for the top -- but they were absolutely perfect and delicious as-is. We used flour tortillas for our tacos and topped them with salsa and sour cream, and all four of us were loving life the night we had these for dinner.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Foil Packet Tacos
adapted from Perrys’ Plate

1 packet of taco seasoning
1/2 cup tomato sauce (4 ounces)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 6 cups total)
3 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh baby spinach
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Sour cream, salsa, cilantro and/or guacamole for garnish
6 12-inch long pieces of aluminum foil

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Add beans, taco seasoning, and tomato sauce to a skillet. Cook until heated through and set aside.

3. To assemble packets, spray the foil with non-stick spray. Place 1 cup sweet potato cubes in the center of each piece. Top with a small piece of butter (about 1/2 tablespoon). Sprinkle some chopped spinach over the sweet potatoes, followed by about 1/3 cup of the beans and a sprinkle of cheese. Fold the sides in, then bring the top and bottom ends of the foil together in the center and fold, sealing the packet.

4. Repeat with remaining ingredients, placing the packets on a rimmed cookie sheet. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the sweet potatoes are tender.

5. Sprinkle with cilantro, if desired, and serve with sour cream, salsa, and/or guacamole.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 4.25.11

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter yesterday! Between the eggs and Easter baskets and candy and food -- not to mention the inevitable post-holiday-dinner crash -- I didn't get a chance to post our menu yesterday. I'm still so stuffed that I can't really even think about food, but hopefully that'll change by dinnertime tonight. In any case, here's what we'll be eating this week.

Monday: Smoked sausage pierogi bake -- a modification of this recipe that I think we’ll love.

Tuesday: Chicken with grapes and goat cheese, rice pilaf

Wednesday: Bacon and egg pasta

Thursday: Sweet potato and black bean enchiladas with sweet corn crema

Friday: Mexican chicken pasta

Saturday: Butter-baked chicken, garlic spinach noodles

Sunday: Vegetable lasagna and garlic bread -- a meal which I stupidly planned for yesterday on last week's menu, not realizing it was Easter. Duh.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Asian Meatball Subs with Hoisin Mayonnaise

I’ve had these subs on my list to try for quite a while. I kept putting off making them, though, because they just sounded too complicated, and the ingredient list is about a mile long. If you look at my blog, you’ll notice that I tend to favor the quick-and-easy type of cooking, and these sounded like something I just didn’t to have the time to make.

They also sounded absolutely delicious, though, so I decided to put them on the menu on a weekend day since I typically have more time to devote to cooking on the weekends. And although they did take more time to prep and cook than the meals I usually make, I assure that they were absolutely worth it. The meatballs are amazing! They have a wonderful spicy flavor and the perfect balance of textures. The bean sprout topping is crunchy and tangy and something that I would gladly munch on all by itself -- which is what both of my boys ended up doing, actually. Those two love bean sprouts, weirdly.

I did adapt the recipe a bit, just because I thought that parts of the original recipe were needlessly complicated. Why chill and then fry the meatballs when you can bake them right away with much less mess (and save some calories, too)? Also, I’m sorry, but 1/2 cup of hoisin sauce is just TOO MUCH for me -- so I used way less, probably half the amount.

These were really, really good, and a nice change of pace from the meals we typically have.

Asian Meatball Subs with Hoisin Mayonnaise
adapted from Food Network

1 slice white sandwich bread
1 1/2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 pound ground pork
3 scallions, minced
3 large cloves garlic, finely grated
1 tablespoon finely grated peeled ginger (about a 2-inch piece)
1/3 cup water chestnuts, drained, rinsed and chopped
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided
3 to 4 teaspoons Asian chili-garlic sauce
1 cup bean sprouts
4 hoagie rolls, split open and toasted, if desired

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray.

2. Tear the sandwich bread into small pieces, then toss with the milk and soy sauce in a large bowl. Let stand 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, add the pork, scallions, garlic, ginger, water chestnuts, egg, cilantro, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper to the bowl with the bread; mix until combined. Gently form into 16 golf ball-size meatballs.

4. Arrange the meatballs on prepared baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until meatballs are cooked through.

5. While meatballs are cooking, stir together the hoisin sauce, mayonnaise, 1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice, the chili-garlic sauce and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil in a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

6. When ready to serve, toss the bean sprouts with the remaining 1 tablespoon cilantro and 1 tablespoon lime juice with a pinch of salt. Spread the hoisin mayonnaise on the inside of the hoagie rolls, then fill with the meatballs and top with the sprouts.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Lemon Yogurt Sugar Muffins

Lemon. Yogurt. Sugar. Muffins. What’s not to love about those four words? When you put them all together, they make up one luscious, irresistible sweet treat that would be absolutely perfect for Easter this weekend.

As soon as I saw this recipe pop up in my blog reader, I knew I’d be making these muffins. This is in spite of the fact that my husband detests lemon desserts (he had a bad experience with something called “lemonade pie” years ago, and it really stuck with him). I’m so glad that I made them anyway, because my boys and I loved them -- and I even caught Joe sneaking a second muffin after he’d just told me that they were only “all right.” He has a lemon-hating reputation to uphold, apparently.

These muffins remind me of the pumpkin doughnut mini muffins I love so much, in that both muffins are dipped in butter and rolled in sugar. It’s such a wonderful method to use to add a different textural element. I upped the lemon flavor of these even more by using lemon yogurt in place of the Greek yogurt called for in the original recipe. I love the way the crackly, sweet sugar complimented the soft, tangy muffins. I’m going to try this with oranges, too, and I can almost guarantee that version will be just as delicious.

By the way, if you haven’t checked out Reeni’s blog, you really should. She has so many incredible original recipes. Somebody needs to get that girl a cookbook deal!

Lemon Yogurt Sugar Muffins
slightly adapted from Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice

1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 cup lemon yogurt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons melted butter

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a mini muffin pan.

2. In a large mixing bowl whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a separate large bowl stir together milk, lemon juice, 1/4 cup butter, egg, yogurt, lemon zest and vanilla (don't worry if it looks clumpy or curdled).

3. Make a well in center of dry ingredients and add wet, stir just to combine. Spoon batter or use an ice cream scoop to fill muffin pan. Bake 12-14 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

4. Cool pans on wire racks 5 minutes, then turn out and brush tops with melted butter. Dip or roll in sugar while still warm. Best eaten immediately. If they cool off and become sticky roll in sugar again.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pesto Parmesan Chicken

My love of pesto is no secret by now, right? I don’t really need to reiterate it at this point, do I? That’s what I thought. :)

I knew we’d like this chicken, which is dunked in a mayonnaise/pesto mixture and coated with panko bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. It was so moist and flavorful, and I credit this meal with breaking Andrew’s week-long strike against any foods other than mac and cheese.

I’ll definitely make this chicken again. The only drawback for me was that it didn’t get as crispy as I would have liked (I think due to the wet coating underneath the bread crumbs), so next time I’ll give it a quick fry in some olive oil and then finish it in the oven.

Pesto Parmesan Chicken
seen on My Recipe Box and originally from Progresso Foods

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/4 pounds)
3 tablespoons basil pesto
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 cup plain panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheet with foil; spray with cooking spray. Between pieces of plastic wrap or waxed paper, place each chicken breast smooth side down; gently pound with flat side of meat mallet or rolling pin until about 1/2-inch thick.

2. In shallow dish, mix together pesto and mayonnaise. In another shallow dish mix together bread crumbs and cheese. Dip chicken into pesto mixture then dip in panko mixture. Place on baking sheet.

3. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, turning once, until juice of chicken is clear when center of thickest part is cut and coating is golden brown.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Cilantro Lime Rice

I’ve seen different versions of this Chipotle favorite on a lot of blogs. I know I’m not in the minority when I say that one of my favorite things about eating at Chipotle is that incredible rice they serve in their burritos. A few years ago, I decided I was going to come up with my own version so we could enjoy it at home, and this is my (time-tested, perfected) recipe.

I use plain old instant white rice, so it’s ready in 5 minutes. However, I cook the rice in chicken broth and butter to give it tons of flavor, so it doesn’t taste instant in the least. To give it a fluffy texture, I use a 3/4 cup liquid to 1 cup rice ratio. But the thing I love most about my version? I add the cilantro directly to the rice while it’s cooking, so the bright, verdant herb flavors every single bite of rice. Add in some salt, and the juice of one lime, and it’s absolutely perfect -- and maybe even better than the original.

Cilantro Lime Rice

1 cup instant white rice
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
Salt to taste

1. Bring chicken broth and butter to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in rice and cilantro; cover and remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes.

2. Fluff rice with a fork. Stir in lime juice and add salt to taste. Serve.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Steak Fajitas with Chimichurri and Drunken Peppers

This doesn’t happen very often lately, but I’m actually posting a meal today that underwhelmed me. However, I know exactly what the problems were, and if I hadn’t done these two wrong things I think this meal actually would have turned out great.

The first thing I did incorrectly was purchase a different cut of meat than the recipe called for -- I can’t even remember what cut of steak it was, but it was a much tougher cut. The second thing I did incorrectly was try to cook this on my Griddler instead of on the outdoor grill. Bless my Griddler’s heart, but it just can’t grill things very well. That smoky burnt quality that I love about grilling is completely missing.

So, yeah, I messed up the main component of this dish -- the steak. However, the chimichurri sauce was so bright and tangy and flavorful, and the drunken peppers were phenomenal. I’ll be trying this meal again this summer –- with the correct steak, and on the outdoor grill -- and I imagine it’s going to be very good then!

Steak Fajitas with Chimichurri and Drunken Peppers
slightly adapted from Food Network Magazine

1 bunch fresh parsley
1 bunch fresh cilantro
1 to 2 cloves garlic
1 large red onion, halved and sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons lime juice, divided
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound chuck or top round steak (London broil)
3 poblano peppers, seeded and cut into strips
1/4 cup beer
8 8-inch flour tortillas

1. Combine the parsley and cilantro (leaves and stems), garlic, half of the sliced onion, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, vinegar, 2 tablespoons lime juice and 1/2 cup olive oil in a food processor; blend into a thick and smooth chimichurri sauce. Pierce both sides of the steak with a fork several times; place in a resealable plastic bag and add half of the sauce. Seal the bag and turn to coat the steak; refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Cover and reserve the remaining sauce.

2. Preheat a grill to medium-high. Remove the steak from the bag (discard the bag of sauce); season with salt and pepper and grill until medium-rare, about 6 minutes per side. Let rest, loosely covered with foil, for 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the peppers and the remaining sliced onion half; season with salt and pepper. Saute until the vegetables are softened and caramelized around the edges, about 8 minutes. Add the beer, cover and cook until the peppers are tender, about 5 minutes.

4. Warm the tortillas on the grill. Thinly slice the steak on the bias; divide among the tortillas along with the peppers and onions. Thin the reserved chimichurri sauce with the remaining 1 tablespoon lime juice; drizzle over the fajitas. Serve with lime wedges, if desired.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Cheesy Stuffed Shells with Spicy Sausage Tomato Sauce

Who doesn’t love stuffed shells? I’d been craving them all winter, and figured I’d better get around to finally making them before the weather warmed up for good. When I think of stuffed shells, I think of tons of cheese, so that’s exactly how I made this version -- stuffed with three different cheeses and topped with spicy sausage tomato sauce.

The first time I ever had tomato sauce made with spicy sausage was back when Joe and I were living with my mom in 2005. My mom was a great cook, and she always made her tomato sauce with spicy sausage rather than ground beef. The first time Joe and I tried it, we fell in love with the flavor -- so since then, I’ve always used spicy sausage in my meat sauce (which, really, is just a jar of spaghetti sauce jazzed up with tons of other ingredients and spices. I keep it real.).

I winged this recipe, and it turned out absolutely delicious -- so creamy and cheesy, and just a little bit spicy from the sauce. I made a full box of stuffed shells, which I divided in half, and I froze one pan for a later meal. The only thing this was missing was a sprinkling of fresh basil on top!

Cheesy Stuffed Shells with Spicy Sausage Tomato Sauce

1 box jumbo pasta shells
1 30-ounce carton of ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese, plus additional for sprinkling
1/4 cup milk
1 pound spicy sausage
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
Italian seasoning

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook jumbo shells according to directions on package in boiling salted water; drain, rinse with cold water and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, combine ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan and milk in a large bowl; set aside. When shells are cool enough to handle, stuff a couple of spoonfuls of the cheese mixture into each shell.

3. To make the sauce, cook spicy sausage in olive oil in a high-sided skillet over medium-high heat. When sausage is nearly cooked through, add bell pepper, onion, and garlic and continue cooking until vegetables are softened. Add spaghetti sauce, diced tomatoes, and Italian seasoning; season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Spread about a cup of sauce in the bottom of a greased casserole dish. Add shells and cover with additional sauce. Cover and cook for 25 minutes. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese before serving, if desired.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pesto Chicken Alfredo Casserole

During my first pregnancy, one of my major cravings was anything containing pesto. I’ve always enjoyed the flavor, but when I was pregnant with Andrew, my love of the stuff really intensified. I put it in and on everything. Even though that pregnancy ended nearly three years ago, I still find myself using pesto a lot more in my kitchen than I did before I got pregnant. This is partly due to the fact that Andrew loves it too -- which I guess isn’t all that surprising since he got so much of it while he was gestating -- and I will use the heck out of an ingredient if I know Andrew will eat it.

This casserole was a hit with both of my boys. We had this on a day when my husband was working late, so I prepared the casserole during nap time and just heated it up when it was time for dinner. Make-ahead meals are a busy mom’s best friend, for sure. You could even make two meals out of this, freezing half of the casserole for a later date.

Andrew described this casserole as “yummy,” and I think that maybe there’s no better description for it than that. I loved the creaminess and the slightly smoky flavor from the roasted red peppers, and the way that smokiness worked with the bright-tasting pesto. The only thing I thought this was missing was a little bit of texture, so next time I’ll top it with breadcrumbs or a scattering of toasted pine nuts.


Pesto Chicken Alfredo Casserole
adapted from Betty Crocker

1 pound uncooked rotini pasta
1 1/2 cups cooked shredded chicken (use a rotisserie chicken, or 2 small chicken breasts)
1 7-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained, patted dry, and chopped
1/3 cup prepared basil pesto
1/2 cup milk
1 jar prepared Alfredo sauce
1 cup shredded Italian cheese blend

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13 x 9-inch casserole dish with cooking spray.

2. Cook pasta to al dente in boiling salted water, following directions on the package. Return to saucepan and stir in remaining ingredients. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon into baking dish.

3. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 35 minutes. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese before serving if desired.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Triple Layer Fudge Brownie Cake

Every year for his birthday, I let my husband pick his own cake. I fill his arms with cookbooks and send him off to the couch to make his selection. In the years since I’ve been doing this, one thing remains constant: The cake he chooses is always chocolate. Joe is a bit of a chocoholic.

This year was no exception, but this year’s cake may be the chocolatiest cake he’s ever requested. It’s basically three layers of brownies, stacked on top of one another and layered with chocolate whipped cream frosting. It’s almost too rich to eat, so it definitely requires a cup of coffee or a big glass of milk to wash it down. A small piece of this goes a loooong way (unless you’re one of my children, both of whom made a huge fuss when they saw the tiny sliver I served to each of them).

This cake is dense, decadent, and delicious. And dazzling. And divine. And pretty much every other yummy D word you can think of. Joe made a great pick this year.

Triple Layer Fudge Brownie Cake
from The Taste of Home Baking Book, also found here

For the cake:

1 1/2 cups butter
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3 cups sugar
5 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt

For the frosting:

16 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
3 cups heavy whipping cream

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt butter and chocolate; stir until smooth. Stir in sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla, flour and salt. Pour into three greased and floured 9-inch round baking pans.

3. Bake for 23 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes; remove from pans to a wire rack to cool completely.

4. For frosting, melt chocolate in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Gradually stir in cream until well blended. Heat to a gentle boil; boil and stir for 1 minute. Remove from the heat; transfer to a large bowl. Refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours or until mixture reaches a pudding-like consistency, stirring a few times. Beat until soft peaks form. Immediately spread between layers and over top and sides of cake. Store in the refrigerator.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 4.11.11

I haven't done a great job with sticking to my meal plans so far this year. Every week it seems like something happens to prevent me from making the meal I'd planned on a particular night. Add that to me feeling uninspired in the kitchen lately, and that means there hasn't been a lot of cooking going on.

I'm determined to change this, though, so I'm hoping to stick with the meal plan all week this week. It's mostly made up of meals from previous weeks that I hadn't made and for which I already have all the ingredients. So it's not the most exciting or adventurous plan, but hopefully it'll get me back on track with cooking. 

Monday: Salsa rice burritos

Tuesday: Monte Cristos. We had pizza for Joe's birthday last week instead of these sandwiches, but he's still clamoring for them.

Wednesday: Creamy garlic pork chops, mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli

Thursday: Mashed potato enchiladas. Using leftover mashed potatoes from the night before, this meal should come together quickly for us.

Friday: Taco rice

Saturday: Hawaiian chicken, rice pilaf, steamed broccoli

Sunday: Creamy vegetable enchiladas. I know, I know, enchiladas twice in one week -- what can I say? I'm unashamed.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Burger and Fries Friday: Chipotle Bacon Cheeseburgers

Well, it certainly did take its sweet time getting here, but I think it’s safe to say that spring has finally arrived in my part of the country. The trees are starting to bud, the grass has turned from brown to green, and the birds are singing on a regular basis again. In our house, spring also means the return of grilling season -- something that my husband looks forward to all through the long, cold winter. Earlier this week, he came to me with a pile of cookbooks dog-eared with grilling recipes he wants to try this year. His excitement is so adorable -- and it’s contagious, too.

This would be the perfect burger to grill, because it’s already so smoky with the chipotle and bacon that the grill would enhance the smokiness in magical ways. I made them in a regular skillet this time, but I can’t wait to try them on the grill. This is one of the most flavorful burgers I think I’ve ever made, and both Joe and I absolutely loved them. They have the perfect amount of spice, which is balanced nicely by the creamy avocado. You could top these with guacamole, too, which would probably make them taste even better.

Rachael Ray had this nifty little tip on one of her shows about storing and using chipotle in adobo: Freeze the leftovers in a plastic bag, and then use a grater to add the frozen peppers directly to your recipe. Although I’ve been freezing leftover chipotle in adobo in ice cube trays for a while, I like that this method doesn’t require any thawing or any real work on my part. Anything that helps me be lazy is a winner in my book, so I’ve been using chipotle in adobo a lot more often lately. :)

Try these burgers -- I think you’ll love them!

Chipotle Bacon Cheeseburgers

1 pound ground beef or turkey
Half of a red onion, grated
1 tablespoon chipotle in adobo puree
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves garlic, finely minced or grated
Salt and pepper to taste
1 egg
8 strips of bacon
4 slices colby-jack cheese
1 avocado, pitted and mashed
1 tablespoon sour cream
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and pepper to taste
Hamburger buns

1. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until cooked to desired crispness; set aside on paper towels to drain.

2. Meanwhile, combine beef, onion, chipotle in adobo, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, salt and pepper and egg in a large bowl. Mix gently until fully combined, then separate into four equal patties.

3. Cook patties in bacon grease until cooked through. Top with cheese and let the cheese melt.

4. Meanwhile, combine mashed avocado, sour cream, lime juice, and salt and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.

5. Top burgers with bacon and avocado mixture.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Crock Pot Ham and Beans

Whether or not today’s recipe appeals to you is, I think, going to depend a lot on where and how you grew up. For me, ham and beans is pure comfort food. The mention of it brings back thoughts of home, and thoughts of my mom, who tried for years to make ham and beans that tasted as good as her mother’s. In her mind, she never succeeded -- but she imprinted the taste of her recipe on my memory, so I think she would consider that a success if she were here.

My mom grew up eating food like this, because it’s what her mom grew up eating. My grandma was a child in the ‘30s, and her family was poor. Ham and beans is pretty cheap eats, and so, that’s what they ate.

Last year after Easter, my husband’s grandparents gifted us with tons of leftover ham -- including a ham bone that was just begging to be used for ham and beans. I promptly forgot about it, though, until I cleaned my freezer over the winter and unearthed it way down in the bottom. I found a recipe to use as a jumping off point, and decided to give it a shot.

My mom always used a powdered substance called “ham base” in her recipe, which really concentrated the hammy flavor, if you will, of her beans, but I couldn’t find it in my local grocery store. Despite not having that available, I’m still happy with the result. I love that this recipe utilizes the Crock pot. I think using a ham bone is essential for flavor, which makes this the perfect thing to make after Easter. Using dried beans is essential, too, because they’re so much creamier and sturdier than canned beans. Add some cloves, garlic and onion, and pile it on top of (heavily) buttered corn muffins, and it’s pretty much one of the most comforting, delicious meals I can think of.

It’s funny how something so cheap can be so rich and rewarding, isn’t it?

Crock Pot Ham and Beans
adapted from

1 pound dried great northern beans
2 tablespoons butter
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 large sweet onion, chopped coarsely
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch of ground cloves
1 pound ham hocks
1 package finely diced ham
6 cups chicken stock

1. Sort beans and soak in enough water to cover overnight.

2. Bring soaked beans to a boil, boil for 3 minutes, then cover and remove from heat. Allow to sit for one hour after boiling without lifting the lid. Rinse and drain the beans.

3. Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened; add garlic and cook and stir 30 seconds.

4. Put the rinsed beans, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, cloves, ham hocks, and diced ham in the Crock pot. Cover with the chicken stock.

5. Cover and cook on low for about 8 hours, or until beans are tender and creamy. Skim any excess fat, if necessary, before serving. Serve over corn muffins.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Banana Whoopie Pies with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Filling

Before I made these, I’d never made whoopie pies before. For some silly reason, I was always too intimidated to try to make them. Getting all those cookies the exact same size and shape -- what pressure! It seemed way too stressful.

But then I saw this recipe on one of my favorite food blogs, Fake Ginger, and I decided it was time to suck it up. And it turns out that making whoopie pies is no more difficult than making a regular batch of cookies -- certainly something all of you have known for a long time. I’m just glad I know that now too. :)

In this version, the “whoopie” part is peanut butter cream cheese filling, and the “pie” part is banana. So, yeah. It’s a pretty awesome combination. I may or may not have eaten the leftover filling with a spoon. And then I quite possibly put it on pretzels and ate even more of it. So, even though you’ll have filling left over -- make the full batch. Trust me.

Banana Whoopie Pies with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Filling
seen on Fake Ginger, who got it from Taste of Home

1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. In a small bowl, combine banana and buttermilk. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda; gradually add to creamed mixture alternately with banana mixture.

3. Drop by tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until set. Cool for 2 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

4. For filling, in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, peanut butter, and butter until fluffy. Beat in confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until smooth. Spread filling on the bottoms of half of the cookies, about 1 tablespoon on each; top with remaining cookies. Store in the refrigerator.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Bacon Pierogi Bake

If there was an award for The Dish I’ve Made The Most Times Without Blogging About It, this bacon pierogi bake would definitely win. I made this for the first time in early January, and I’ve made it at least 5 times since then. For someone who likes to try new recipes as much as I do, that really says something about how much we all love this.

I don’t know why I haven’t shared it until now, other than that I was never able to get a good picture of it. And although I normally don’t care very much about things like that, this is one of those dishes that deserves to look as delicious as it tastes.

Pierogies were never something I ate very much growing up. And even as an adult, I’ve never really eaten them with anything other than smoked sausage and sauerkraut. So when I saw this recipe (on tons of blogs; it’s been quite popular lately), I knew I was going to try it. The pierogies bake in a cream cheese sauce, then they’re topped with cheese, scallions, and fresh tomatoes. Oh, and did I mention that the sauce starts with a few slices of bacon?

Yeah. Uh-huh. You’re going to love this one.

Bacon Pierogi Bake
adapted from My Recipes

1 16-ounce package frozen potato and cheddar pierogies
4 center-cut bacon slices, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
1/2 cup chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup thinly diagonally sliced green onions
1/4 cup chopped seeded plum tomato

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Arrange the pierogies in a baking dish coated with cooking spray. Cook bacon in a saucepan over medium heat until crisp; remove from pan. Set aside.

3. Add garlic to drippings in pan, and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add cream cheese to pan, and cook for 1 minute or until cream cheese begins to melt, stirring frequently. Gradually add chicken broth to pan, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Season sauce with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Pour the cream cheese mixture evenly over pierogies. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until bubbly and thoroughly heated. Remove from oven, top with cheese, and bake for an additional 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

5. Top with reserved bacon, green onions, tomato, and a sprinkling of black pepper if desired.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 4.4.11, and My New Facebook Page

Happy Sunday morning to you all! I'm recovering from a 24-hour stomach bug, so the last thing I really feel like doing is eating (or even thinking about eating), but the meal plan waits for no one! 

Before I get to the meals we'll be enjoying this week, though, I have a little announcement. I've had a few recent requests to set up a Facebook page, and since it was something I've been thinking about doing for awhile anyway, I've decided to bite the bullet and set one up. There's not much there yet, but I look forward to using this platform to connect with all of you and sharing in real time all of the fun things that are going on in my kitchen. I would be so honored if you would like me!. :)

Without further ado, here's what we'll be eating this week! 

Monday: Cheesy Southwestern pasta (I’m going to add corn and black beans to this recipe to make it even heartier) 

Tuesday: Texas BBQ sloppy joes and steak fries 

Wednesday: Salsa rice burritos 

Thursday: Monte Cristos and fruit (I keep putting these on the menu then not making them for whatever reason, and Joe’s getting pretty testy about it. April 7 is his birthday and he’s adamant that we have these then, so far be it from me to screw with a birthday wish!) 

Friday: We’re going to see Jerry Seinfeld, so we’ll probably have a late dinner somewhere after the show. 

Saturday: Hawaiian chicken, rice pilaf, steamed broccoli 

Sunday: Taco rice