Friday, December 31, 2010

Stand Out Sides: Homemade French Fries

If you're anything like John and I (and most Americans are from the statistics I remember), you love french fries.  We're no exception but starting tomorrow!, we're doing our best to eat healthy.  Of course, you're still going to have your Super Bowl weekend party and want to eat some bad stuff, but we've committed ourselves to more exercise and healthier dinners.  I hope that keeps me healthy and helps us both attain the weight we'd like to be.  Really, in the end, your health is the most important thing you have.  I don't want John sick early in life because he's carried around extra weight.  It's just not good.

Anyway, everything in moderation, so I'm sure we'll treat ourselves now and again.  But, french fries that I make at home, are one that we can definitely keep in our new healthier diet!  They are made from fresh potatoes, and baked, not fried.  They're a great alternative to breads or rice with meals.  And, they're pretty fun. 

Of course, John loves spicy fries.  Me, not so much, so when I make them, I try to make two batches and cook them on separate cookie sheets.  Watch them carefully so they don't burn!  I never get them the same size so I always have a few burnt ones, but, I like to use all of the potato.
Homemade French Fries
Serves:  4
3 large potatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
For spicy fries add:
1/2 tablespoon paprika
and substitute salt for garlic salt
1 teaspoon cajun seasoning

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Scrub the potatoes and cut them into strips.  Coat them in olive oil and them transfer them into a large plastic bag.  Add seasonings and shake until all potatoe strips are evenly spiced.  Do this in two batches if necessary.  Place on a greased cookie sheet evenly spread out (they can be touching).  Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, until potatoes are golden brown.

Note:  I don't peel the potatoes, one extra step that I feel isn't necessary but nothing will happen if you peel them.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Weeknight Dinner: Shells and Cheese

Hope you all had a very Merry Christmas, if you celebrate.  If you don't, I still hope you had time with your family and friends.  We had a great time in New York but were snowed in yesterday!  Didn't get home until last night and so I apologize for the lack of Monday post.  Boston has been blizzarding and New York was no better.  Ugh.  Luckily John is a pretty good snow driver, being from Maine and all, so we made it back without a hitch.

The minute we got home, I knew John would be hungry and I had saved some Shells and Cheese (as I call it, because technically, it is NOT macaroni) in the freezer from the last time I made it for such an occasion.  It's creamy and delicious and, really, I use skim milk and reduced fat cheese so it's not that bad for you, but the rue keeps it creamy and decadent!  I top it with a handful of homemade breadcrumbs and it is DELICIOUS on a cold winter night like the ones we've been having here lately.
My delicious rue!
Once the rue and the shells are made, it comes together quickly, easily, and gets popped into the oven.  It's pretty awesome for a weeknight dinner--my mom used to make 2 big trays of this and keep one handy in the freezer for those nights you just DON'T want to cook.  It's great as a reserved dinner.

Shells and Cheese
Serves:  4
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups skim milk
1/2 box of small shells, cooked and drained
8 ounces of cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  In a casserole dish, layer the small shells and six ounces of the cheddar cheese.  In a skillet, melt the butter, slowly add flour, stirring constantly.  Then, slowly add the skim milk, again stirring constantly to make a rue. Add the remaining cheddar cheese into the rue, whisking until well incorporated.  Pour the rue over the shells and cheddar stirring until all are well-combined.  Smooth the top and top with breadcrumbs.  Bake for about 45 minutes, until cheese is bubbling and top is golden brown.

This makes a great make-ahead dinner!  I personally, always used elbow macaroni but John loves the shells and it's a great alternative to shells and cheese that you can get out of a box (which is why I think John prefers the shells!).  Making it ahead of time means defrost it overnight and bake it for 45 minutes.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sassy Sweets: Grand Marnier Raspberry Truffles

These truffles are amazingly fast and easy to make.  I love truffles (as you can see), I think they are so decadent and delicious.  There's something gourmet about them and my family never really made them as rolling, dipping, etc. was always a lot.  My mom preferred baked cookies so when I found out I could make truffles, I was hooked trying tons of different kinds and this one is just perfect for the holiday season.  The Grand Marnier gives them a different taste and I love the combination of raspberry and chocolate.  My sister, M, helped make these chocolates and with the two of us rolling and dipping, it took hardly any time.  We started out making them pretty big but they should be about 1-inch in diameter, that will allow for about 4 dozen truffles.  

These truffles pair great next to the bourbon caramels.  The contrasting flavors are great and I could probably eat all of both of them without a second thought (well, my stomach might have a few more thoughts but I wouldn't).  
Grand Marnier Raspberry Truffles
Serves:  48 (12 people)
2 1/3 chocolate chips
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons butter
2 tablespoons raspberry jam
1 cup milk chocolate morsels

In a heavy saucepan, melt 1 1/3 cups of chocolate chips, heavy cream, Grand Marnier, and one tablespoon of butter. Stir constantly until smooth.  Stir in raspberry jam.  Cover with plastic wrap and freeze 20 minutes stirring once or twice.  Roll teaspoonfuls of the mixture onto a foil lined cookie sheet.  Freeze until firm (about 1 hour).  To coat, over hot water, melt remaining chocolate chips and remaining butter, stirring until smooth.  Drop frozen truffles one at a time into melted coating, stir quickly to coat.  Then, remove with a fork, shaking off excess.  Store in the fridge.

These will literally take 20 minutes of your time, not including freezing, etc.  They look beautiful and everyone raves about them.  Smile and just think, ah, they were so easy!  But, it can just be our little secret.

Two more cookie days!  I can't wait for Christmas, and I hope you all are getting just as excited!  

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sassy Sweets: Chocolate Chip Cookies

There's not much to say about Chocolate Chip Cookies.  I mean, they are everyone's favorite, right?  Well, probably not everyone as my dad loves chocolate chip cookies but without the chips.  That would make them just plain cookies, in my opinion.  Either way, though, chocolate chip cookies are always better when they are moist, soft, and oozing chips.  At least, that is the belief that I subscribe to!  These cookies are exactly that.  They don't have any "secret" ingredients, per se.  But, it's all about the temperature of the butter.

Don't get me wrong, you need to have semi-sweet chocolate chips and good vanilla and all the rest of it, but the way I get perfect chocolate chip cookies, everytime is with a little help from my friend Mr. Butter.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Serves:  48 cookies  (12 people)
1 cup salted butter (2 sticks)
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Melt the butter in the microwave.  Beat in sugars, vanilla, and eggs in order.  Then, beat in flour and baking soda.  Lastly, stir in chocolate chips.  Refrigerate 5-10 minutes.  Form into one-inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake in preheated oven for 8 minutes. 

I leave them on the hot cookie sheet so the bottoms brown a little bit.  You might not think they're done after 8 minutes, but be careful because they burn fast!

Can't wait to show you tomorrow's post...I'll be posting from NY!  Woohoo!

Until the next time my oven is on...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Time-Out: Bourbon Caramel Chocolate Popcorn

Of all of my new Christmas recipes for the year, the Bourbon Caramel Truffles are by far my favorite.  But, the more of it I ate (and I ate a lot), the more I thought of other interesting ideas for the flavor.  When John and I had movie night (it's been so cold and snowy, perfect for a movie), I made popcorn and immediately thought of pouring the bourbon caramel sauce over the popcorn.  It was a huge hit, and I am so happy I get to share it with you.   
In fact, the salty popcorn makes the sauce even better than the truffle, I think.  I've always been a sucker for anything covered in chocolate, so this is just heaven in a bowl for me.  Plus, the bourbon caramel recipe was really easy to double or triple.  That means that you can pour it over anything.  In fact, I added some to our hot chocolate last night and wow was it good! 

This sauce is extremely versatile and I'm sure you could think of 100 ways to use it.  I'm just glad that today I get to show you two!
Bourbon Caramel Chocolate Popcorn
Serves:  1 bag of popcorn, popped (about 6 people, in our house)
6 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons evaporated whole milk
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
3 tablespoons bourbon
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 bag of popcorn, popped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Combine brown sugar, milk, and corn syrup in a saucepan over medium heat.  Bring mixture to a boil.  Cook one minute, until the sugar dissolves.  Remove from heat.  Stir in bourbon.  Stir well!  Add chocolate.  Let stand one minute and then stir until smooth.  Place popcorn in a shallow dish and cover with bourbon chocolate sauce.  Let cook for 30 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool on the cookie sheet.  Break into chunks and serve it cold.  Or, serve it warm by omitting the oven!  Pour the bourbon chocolate sauce over the popped popcorn and serve immediately. If you do it this way, make sure the popped popcorn is still hot!

Also, one quick note I forgot about earlier, stir the bourbon in WELL.  My first batch, I was a little lackadaisical and I got bites full of bourbon, and some with hardly any.  I didn't mind, but I wouldn't be giving that out to a hostess!!

Tomorrow my infamous chocolate chip recipe...and then I'm home for the holidays, and I'll show you what my family's been cooking up, too!

Until the next time my oven is on...

Sassy Sweets: Bourbon Caramel Truffles

I'm always on the lookout for recipes involving whiskey or bourbon.  If you noticed the only one cocktail I have on this blog involves whiskey, and there's good reason for it.  I am completely a whiskey girl.  Love everything about it and would prefer to drink that over other alcoholic drinks.  When I saw these in the most recent Food Network magazine, I thought I have to make these!  The more I read them though, the less thrilled I was.  For instance, they needed "cane syrup".  I, of course, asked Mom what this was and when she didn't know, I just decided to use something else (my substitutions are below as always).  Further, they aren't real "truffles", the way I think of them.  I like truffles that have chocolate coatings and a soft center.  I'd never seen truffles that just were rolled in cocoa powder.  In the end, I did them three ways.  One, I did coated in cocoa powder, the other, I dipped in chocolate and let set.  The third way I will post later today (so delicious!).  In the end, this is a delicious chocolate sauce and can be used in a variety of ways.

To make these into perfect circles, you should really use a melon baller.  I wish I had a melon baller, so I tried my best to roll them out in my hands.  The only problem, they started to melt!  So, melon baller is definitely the way to go to make these.  So below is the recipe, with my modifications.  I think they taste a lot better my way (of course) but also check out Food Network Magazine's recipe as well (I checked but it's not on-line yet).
Bourbon Caramel Truffles
(with my adaptations)
Serves:  20 truffles
3 taqblespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons evaporated whole milk
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 1/2 tablespoons bourbon
1/2 cup chocolate chips
+ additional chocolate chips for dipped truffles or 2 tablespoons cocoa for rolled truffles as shown above

Combine brown sugar, milk, and corn syrup in a saucepan over medium heat.  Bring mixture to a boil.  Cook one minute, until the sugar dissolves.  Remove from heat.  Stir in bourbon.  Stir well!  Add chocolate.  Let stand one minute and then stir until smooth.  Pour into a shallow dish, cover and chill 4 hours.  Using a warm melon baller, scoop chocolate mixture, roll  into balls and then roll into cocoa.  Cover and refrigerate until serving.  OR, scoop chocolate mixture, roll into balls, dunk in melted chocolate.  Refrigerate on a cookie sheet covered waxed paper for 30 minutes, until chocolate sets.  Dunk into melted chocolate a second time.  Refrigerate until serving.

Can't wait to show you my second adaptation for this!  Check back soon!

Until the next time my oven is on...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sassy Sweets: Chocolate Amaretto Crackles


Welcome to Christmas Cookie Week!  I'm so excited about these cookies, and I have tried to keep them interesting.  Most of them shouldn't even need a trip to the grocery store.  I want to showcase some of my family favorites, some stand-by favorites, and some new that you may never have seen or thought of.  I can't wait to share the rest with you, so check back every day this week!  It's my Merry Christmas present to you!

I love crackle cookies--the chocolate peeking through the sugar coated cookie is delightful.  It also reminds me of snow, which is why it's the perfect holiday cookie.  My family likes to mix-up the types that we make so when you bring a platter to your friends, family, or hostess, everything tastes slightly different.  As you all know, I LOVE me some Amaretto and during Christmas, well, there is just no wrong way to use it.  It gives the cookies a really nice flavor (and are a cute twist on a traditional chocolate crackle cookie).  If you wanted to use an extract instead, feel free, but there really isn't a lot of amaretto in these cookies.  When we were little, Mom would always make crackle cookies because we would be allowed to roll the cookies in the sugar.  When I remade them myself this year, I realized that not only did she do this so we could probably help, but also because it's time consuming!  Kids would love to roll them in the sugar, and I encourage any help you can get in the kitchen.  John still hasn't finished Christmas shopping so I was on my own! 

One more thing, the walnuts were a last minute addition because I had some in the cabinet.  If you have food allergies, or if you're not sure if your host/hostess does, leave them out.  I try to put any kinds of cookies with nuts on a separate platter so no one confuses them.  The worst possible Christmas present would be sending some unsuspecting person to the hospital!
Chocolate Amaretto Crackles
Serves:  4 dozen, 48 cookies
1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons amaretto
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Combine the butter and sugar.  Beat in eggs and amaretto until mixed well.  Then, slowly mix in the flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda.  By hand, stir in the walnuts.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Roll 1-inch cookies and then fully roll in powdered sugar.   Place the cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake for 9 minutes. 

Be careful about the timing of the cookies (it's hard because they are already brown), but I keep it at 9 minutes, and keep them on the hot cookie sheet out of the oven.  That makes sure they bake fully but don't burn them.  It works for me!  Also, you definitely have to refrigerate these so the amaretto doesn't soak up the powdered sugar (I made that mistake on the first batch). 

I'm pretty excited because tomorrow's cookie is a two-for-one kind of post.  In the morning, my cookie, in the afternoon, using the cookie in an inventive way!  Woohoo!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, December 17, 2010

Fancy Pants App: Fabulous Fig and Gorgonzola Stuffed Mushrooms

Have any of you seen Pestos with Panache by Lauren?  If not, be sure to check out her website.  As you know, I love unique and interesting ingredients like these pestos.  When Lauren decided to host a holiday recipe contest, I couldn't wait to get my hands on some pesto!  There were so many great ones that I thought about it for days and consulted with everyone from my Mom to John to figure out which I should choose.  In the end, I chose the Fabulous Fig and Gorgonzola Pesto.  Lauren ships them really nicely and right away I wanted to try some. 

That's right, it's about noon, no one is home; I took it out of the package and smeared some on a piece of toast.  Delicious!  For the rest of the week, I envisioned making chicken-bacon pesto meatballs.  I mean, they sound awesome right?  But, the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do something different.  Pesto almost always gets served with meatballs and pasta, right?

C'mon, I knew I could make something a little different!  The experimentation began...and continued...and there was so much pesto eating that John became afraid I would use the whole jar before I found the perfect recipe.  Actually, there's quite a lot of pesto in each, so it goes a long way!  And finally...Fabulous Fig and Gorgonzola Stuffed Mushrooms, were born.  And, they were well worth the wait! 

Lauren has a lot of recipes on her site but most of them are for entrees.  I really wanted to showcase the pesto in something different, like a fancy appetizer that will WOW guests but takes such a little amount of time.  The pesto packs an enormous punch of flavor!
Fabulous Fig and Gorgonzola Bacon Stuffed Mushrooms
Serves:  4-6
24 button mushrooms
6 slices of bacon, chopped small
1/4 cup of gorgonzola cheese
1/4 cup Fabulous Fig and Gorgonzola Pesto (Pestos with Panache by Lauren)
1/4 cup red wine (I used a good merlot)
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon salted butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Remove the stems from the mushrooms and clean out the inside carefully.  In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until it is crispy, about 5 minutes.  Remove the bacon and transfer to a plate; keep the drippings.  Then, combine the gorgonzola and Fabulous Fig and Gorgonzola Pesto until it is well-mixed.  Stir in the bacon by hand.  Fill each mushroom cap with the pesto mixture.  Place the mushrooms on a greased cookie sheet and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, stir the red wine and chicken stock in with the bacon drippings.  Let boil for about 10 minutes until the mixture has reduced by half.  Remove from heat and quickly whisk in the butter.  After mushrooms are removed from the oven, drizzle with red wine reduction and serve immediately.

Quick note--I saved the mushroom stems and threw them on our Friday night pizza and in a few other dishes I made this week.  Why not, right?  Also, the red wine reduction sauce is completely optional, but it tastes so good.  I really think it brings out all the rich qualities of the gorgonzola and fig pesto. 

A special thanks to Lauren for sending me her pesto and allowing me to create a lot of fun things with it!  And, although I received the pesto for free, to be used in the contest, all of the creations and ideas expressed here are, as always, solely my own. 

Next week I'm gearing up for Christmas with a week full of Christmas cookies!  They include some of our family favorites and my infamous chocolate chip cookie recipe.  See you there!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Thursday, December 16, 2010

My New Blogroll!

Hi all,

Tomorrow I will have another recipe for you (it's a good one, too)!  But today, I wanted to talk about blogrolls.  My friend Lisa, of Snappy Gourmet, started her own "Blogroll" which is basically a bunch of blogs she is following, that she likes, of her friends, etc.  I was highly flattered she put me as one of them and I decided it was high time for me to do the same thing.  I'm shamelessly copying her but I gave her credit, that has to count somewhere!  There are tons of women (I'd be welcome men, too, they just haven't found me as irresistable yet) who have been behind the scenes, promoting my blog, my cooking, and best of all, myself!  I won't name them all, since there would be no doubt I would miss one and feel terrible.  However, these are the women that keep the cooking contest side of me nourished, even when I haven't won in a while.  They are my soul food!

Further, the blogs on my blogroll are just a taste of what I am reading.  Right now, they are all cooking websites except for my best friend R's gorgeous blog.  Her blog just has the best pictures!  I wish I could employ her as a photographer in my kitchen.  They are friends, or people of who I'm a huge fan.

Anyway, I encourage you all to check them out in the new page I created!  So excited!  I hope through this little network of my "cooking confidantes", we'll be able to grow every blog, one reader at a time. 

PS--If I missed your blog, let me know!  I love reading new blogs, and adding them to the blogroll is fun for everyone, right?
Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Brilliant Brunch: Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

My mom's famous (in our house at least) banana chocolate chip muffins are still one of my favorite breakfast foods.  In fact, almost every week that John is at school, I pack him with a bunch of muffins so he doesn't have to worry about breakfast before his early morning classes.  Grab and go. 

In fact, it's good for me, too.  I never want to get up and make myself breakfast, so I, too, can just grab and go.  My mom completely started the tradition of always having muffins in the house.  Her screenname moniker is "muffinmom", and we have many friends who constantly ask what Mom is baking before they come over (don't feel bad for us, it's always something!).  In fact, one of my best friends, R, lives for my mom's muffins.  After late nights at the bar, I'd often wake up to R and Mom drinking some coffee and chatting over muffins.  Yeah, without me!  It's okay though, freshly baked muffins are nice to have.

Forget about nice, they are also way cheaper than say buying a box of cereal.  I bought 5 bananas the other day at the supermarket for 77 cents.  This recipe made 12 muffins and 1 bread (I only have one muffin tin, otherwise it would have been 24 muffins).  That would feed John and I easily for 2 weeks.  And, besides bananas, the rest of the ingredients are staples in this house!
Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
Serves:  24 muffins
1/4 cup butter
1 2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
6 tbsp. sour cream (or plain yogurt)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 cups flour
3 bananas (about 1 1/2 cups crushed banana)
2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Beat together the butter, sugar, eggs, sour cream, and vanilla.  Then, slowly beat in the baking powder, baking soda, and flour.  Crush the bananas (I like using an egg masher and it works well; CLEAN fingers work just as good).  Stir in the bananas and once well-mixed, stir in the chocolate chips.  Fill a greased muffin tin with banana batter, about 2/3 of the way full.  Place in the oven for about 15 minutes.  Should make 24 muffins or 1 large loaf.  A large loaf will take about 35 minutes.

On Friday I'll have a delicious recipe using a delicious pesto from Pestos with Panache by Lauren for her holiday recipe contest!  Woohoo!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, December 13, 2010

Slow Cooking Supper: Chicken and Shrimp Jambalaya

This weekend John and I really took a weekend off; we went to my sister's on Friday, we were in Maine Saturday.  So, when Sunday finally rolled around, it was raining and there was no way I was going to the store.  I told John I'd give him 5 choices for dinner and he could pick one.  I should never have suggested Jambalaya; his love of cajun food won over all else.

Since I had never made Jambalaya before, I turned to my mom's crockpot recipe book.  I'm going to consider this a weeknight dinner like I do with most of the crockpot meals I make.  This one, too, could be done well, I think, in a big wok or skillet if you don't have a crockpot!  The combination of flavors is tremendous but I don't think that you need it to sit for hours in order to get that kind of taste.
Chicken and Shrimp Jambalaya
Serves: 6
1 pound chicken breasts, diced
1 white onion, diced
1 can of diced tomatoes, drained
1 green pepper, finely chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning (McCormick)
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons basil
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 pound cooked shrimp
2 cups cooked rice

In the crockpot, combine chicken, onion, tomatoes, green pepper, carrots, and all the seasonings.  Cook on low for about 4 hours.  Stir occasionally.  Chicken will be white and fully cooked.  Stir in the shrimp and rice and cook an additional 20 minutes, stirring frequently.  Serve warm.

The original recipe in Mom's book calls for raw shrimp and cooked rice.  I didn't have any, and to be honest, the shrimp came out fine, and cut down the cooking time about 20 minutes.  I also used instant rice and stirred it right into the mixture. There was lots of liquid in there, so I figured, why not!  And it worked just fine.

Can't wait for you to see what I'm cooking up this week!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, December 10, 2010

Date Night Dinner: Mushroom Confit over Boston Beer Steak

Last week in the mail, I received a free 60-day BJ's pass.  Um, I love BJs, purely for the free samples (I mean, c'mon, that is pretty awesome).  In fact, I remember getting 60-day passes as a kid and standing at the sample stands (okay, I loved food even then).  There are also staples that you need to buy.  Example, cooking spray.  I probably go through one big cooking spray every other week.  I don't like using butter or oil.  I almost always use cooking spray.  ALSO, did you know BJs took coupons?  That's right--2 huge PAMs for $8 + my $1 off two coupon.  WHOA.  That was a good deal.  Anyway, while there, we also got a gigantic tub of mushrooms.  I didn't know what to make that would be considered "different" and/or "fun". 

Well, Thursday came around, I had a lot of time on my hands, and John gets here late due to class.  So, I found this recipe.  Granted, it's not my own, however, since there were only 2 people who have reviewed it in three years, I still felt adventurous giving it a try. 

You can see the recipe in the link above, my recipe is going to be below.  I am going to suggest a few different things (first, you should definitely make this in a crockpot with a big roast, rather than steak)!  To be honest, it was a rather involved dinner--put in the mushrooms, take out the mushrooms, up the heat, put in steaks, lower heat, let steaks "simmer".  They came out good, too, not overdone at all.  However, for all this work, my favorite part about these steaks were the ale-butter sauce.  Next time, I will grill my steaks with my favorite steak seasoning and make the ale-butter sauce with 1 bottle of beer and 2 tablespoons of butter. 
Mushroom Confit over Boston Beer Steak
Serves:  4

5 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large red onion, diced
2 cups (about 6 to 8 ounces) small button mushrooms, cleaned trimmed and sliced
2 pounds top round steak, seasoned with salt and pepper or favorite steak seasoning (I used McCormick's Montreal Steak)
4 (12-ounce) bottles of Samuel Adams Boston Lager

To make the mushroom confit, melt one tablespoon of butter in one tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat in a large saute pan. Add the red onion and saute until it's translucent. Add mushrooms and cook until they give up their juices. Lower heat and cook about another 3-5 minutes, then remove to a bowl. Cover and set aside.

In the same pan, heat the other tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat and sear the steaks about 2 minutes each side. Transfer the steaks to a crockpot and add the ale.  Cook on low uncovered until fork tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove the steak to a carving board to rest. Increase the heat  to allow the ale to reduce by two-thirds. Season with salt and pepper, remove from heat and whisk in butter.  Transfer mushroom mixture into the ale-butter sauce and spoon over steaks before serving.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sassy Sweets: Apple-Plum Crumble

Hi all!  So, Marx Foods has put up the link to vote for the IRON FOODIE contest.  Please remember to vote (one per IP address) Voting Link.

This recipe is so quick, easy, and relatively healthy, too!  Mom sent me the recipe (as usual), and I LOVE it.  Personally, I could eat this for breakfast (okay, maybe I have).  It makes two and is really great to freeze one for later (I've frozen this for over a month, defrosted, and it tasted just as great!). 
Apple-Plum Crumble
Serves:  12 (per pan)
2 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup chilled butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
6 apples, peeled, cored, cut into small bite-sized pieces
2 plums, cut into small bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons cinnamon

Preheat the oven in 375 degrees F.  In a large bowl combine the oats, flour, sugar, and butter.  With your fingers, work the butter into the dry ingredients.  Set aside.  Mix the apples, plums, and cinnamon well.  Place the apple-plum mixture in the bottom of two greased 9x9 pans.  Place the oat mixture over the tops of the two.  Bake in the oven for 45 minutes (crust gets golden brown).  Serve warm or cold.

PLEASE don't forget to vote for us through Marx Foods!  I'd so appreciate it!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, December 6, 2010

Weeknight Dinner: Chicken Tandoori

This week has been a very productive one, recipe-wise.  Do you have a large stack of magazines that you just love, and have read, but don't want to throw out?  Or is that just a "me" thing?  I finally got fed up this week (hey, when you're in a tiny apartment 30 magazines takes up a LOT of space).  So, I started going through a few magazines a night, pulling out my favorite recipes and throwing out the rest.  Then, I put each recipe in a binder sheet and all in a big white binder.  I'm so anal I even split the recipes up by Breakfast, Appetizers, Entrees by Meat Type (or Vegetarian), Dessert, Beverages, Snacks, and Sauces.  So far, I've been through about 1/2 the magazines and have about 40 recipes in my little binder.  I'm thinking now that I've started, every month that Food Network Magazine, or Cooking Light comes in, I'm going to go through them as I read it.  Much easier.

Anyway, the Food Netowkr had a delicious-looking Chicken Tandoori recipe and since John and I really enjoy Indian food, I thought I should really give it a try!  It came out delicious, although I used cut up chicken breasts instead of thighs, I'm not a huge fan of dark meat.  The yogurt sauce was by far my favorite part.  In fact, we dipped carrots in it as a dip the next day (YUM!).  I served yellow rice and peas with it, which not only made a colorful plate, but also tasted delicious! 
Chicken Tandoori
Serves: 2
2 boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 small red onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 teaspoon ground ginger
4 teaspoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 3/4 teaspoons paprika
2 tablespoons cilantro (I used dried, it suggests fresh)

In a blender, pulse 2 tablespoons yogurt, the vegetable oil, onion, garlic, ginger, tomato paste, coriander, cumin, and 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika until well-mixed (should be almost a paste).  Toss the chicken in the mixture and let marinate for at least 15 minutes (I let it marinate for 30).  Preheat the broiler on low.  Put the chicken on a foil-lined cookie sheet; Since the marinade is pasty it stuck really well to the chicken and I tried to make sure each of the chicken pieces was well-covered for maximum flavor.  Broil, turning once until slightly charred.  I broiled the first side on low for about 10 minutes, and then upped the broiler to high.  After about 5 minutes, it was charred on the first side.  I flipped it and charred the other side for another 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, combine the remaining yogurt, paprika, and cilantro in a bowl.  Top the chicken with the yogurt sauce.

I'm working on a few dorm-room dinners for my sisters, so stay tuned for those.  Also, I'm having a great time working on "international" entrees since John and I are on a tight budget and not going out to eat Chinese, Thai, Indian, etc. I'm trying to bring the flavors home.  Chicken Tandoori was a success, hopefully the rest will be, too!

Starting today you can vote for my Marx Iron Foodie post...I'm still not 100% sure of the link so I will update this when I know. 

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, December 3, 2010

Marx Foods' Iron Foodie 2010 is FINALLY here! - Fennel Pollen Waffles with Vanilla-Chile Syrup and Maple Whipped Cream

Iron Foodie 2010 | Here's Why that will be me: -- Fine Bulk Foods The Foodie BlogRoll

Hi everyone!  Forgive me for not posting this earlier...I just know that people were itching to see what everyone made, and wanted to leave it for the last second.  It's going to be a long post so bear with me.  That being said, the mystery items were something to behold, for sure!  Maple Sugar, Smoked Sea Salt, Fennel Pollen, Bourbon Vanilla Beans, Dulse Seaweed, Aji Panca Chilies, Tellicherry Peppercorns, and Porcini Mushrooms!  WOW!
With so many ingredients, and many I had never seen before, I'm not going to lie, I was more than a little nervous.  Researching on Marx Foods' website helped...but I still really wanted to do something amazing.  So, with that, I went to work.  I first made a (pretty delicious, if I say so myself) sandwich: porcini and chili encrusted chicken breast which I browned and topped with a chili mayo and fried dulse seaweed.  It was good.  It was really good.  But would it be enough to win me an Iron Foodie battle?  I watch Iron Chef America a lot, and they incorporate lots of sandwiches, but I still felt something was missing.

In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I saw that Marx Foods' was practially gearing us to go for an entree.  I would say that definitely 6 of the 8 ingredients did in fact scream ENTREE to me.  But, two didn't.  The Bourbon Vanilla Beans (quite honestly the prettiest I've ever seen), and the Maple Sugar.  And these two got stuck in my craw.

Sure there were delicious Porcini Mushrooms, Aji Panca Chilies, and gorgeous Tellicherry Peppercorns but what could I do with the Bourbon Vanilla Beans and Maple Sugar?  I did what I always do when I am stuck; I went to sleep.  By the time I woke up the next morning, I began to believe I had my answer.  Whereas many competitors would go for a savory dish, I was going to make mine sweet...and hopefully, that would prove that I was a worthy Iron Foodie!

Using the Aji Panca Chilies, Maple Sugar, Fennel Pollen, and Bourbon Vanilla Beans, I was going to make:
Fennel Pollen Waffles with Vanilla-Chile Syrup and Maple Whipped Cream
The Fennel Pollen tasted to me so much like licorice that it seemed to be a great base as my waffle.  Originally, I wanted to make a vanilla syrup but with the whipped cream and licorice-y waffle, it was way too sweet.  One Aji Panca Chile later, and I had my solution.

The bad part about making this is now John wants these every morning!  I've created a monster!
Fennel Pollen Waffles with Vanilla-Chile Syrup and Maple Whipped Cream
Serves:  4
3 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon Fennel Pollen
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
Vanilla-Chile Syrup
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
Maple Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons Maple Sugar

Make the syrup first. 
Reconstitute the dried chile.  Then, in a large skillet, combine the water, sugar, and chile.  Leave the chile whole so it can easily be removed (believe me, it lends a good amount of flavor).  I cut off the top and bottom though and removed most of the seeds so none crept into the syrup.  Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil.  Cook until the mixture thickens, about 4 minutes.  At this point, split the vanilla bean in half and scrape.  When the mixture thickens, remove the chile, stir in the vanilla and let it cool to room temperature. 

Next, make the waffles. 
Melt the butter in a large saucepan and then add the remaining ingredients.  Mix well, until the mixture is smooth (few lumps).  At this point, I start the waffle maker.  I spray the waffle maker with cooking spray when the green light is lit.  This is again a hand-me-down appliance (I have a lot of those, don't I?), but it's useful.  Then I pour in about 1/4 cup of batter and wait until the green light comes back on.  I don't spray cooking spray in between batches.  This waffle maker just doesn't need it!

Last, make the Maple Whipped Cream:
Have you ever eaten waffles with whipped cream?  Well, if not, you're missing something big.  That's my favorite way to eat them, so I knew I had to have some whipped cream over the top of this crazy waffle.  The maple sugar was perfect.  I knew I didn't want to make a maple syrup (too easy), but this reminded you of a real waffle while being different all at the same time.  And, if there's anything an Iron Foodie does, it's re-invents ingredients!  I used a hand-mixer to beat the cream and sugar together.  Within 2 minutes, there were light peaks forming, and that was perfect for me. 
Then, I put it all together!

Two waffles, syrup, and whipped cream on top!  I don't know what my competition will come up with, but I can with 90% certainty, guarantee that Marx Foods never inteded their secret ingredients to be used as a breakfast!  I think that makes my entry not only unique, but fun too!  The links above are all links to the Marx Foods website whether showing you how to reconsitute dried chilies or scraping vanilla beans, they are things I've learned along the way, that I think everyone should know!  And, their products are linked in, too!

I know I've said thank you a million times, but because Marx Foods isn't judging this, and YOU are, I'm going to say it again.  There were over 100 entries to be in this competition, and they easily could have chosen higher-profile, larger, more follower-type blogs.  I would have understood--in fact, it would have gotten their products out to a larger number of people. I've only been doing this for a few months and have yet to reach the profile power of bloggers like Jersey Girl Cooks (she is honestly one of my faves).  I don't intend to be small forever, and Justin and Marx Foods is helping me get there.  So a sincere thanks to them (even if they did have me freaking out over these secret ingredients). 

Don't forget to vote! 

Until the next time my oven is on...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Stand Out Sides: Tomato Pie

How much did you love John's blog post?

He had so much fun taking over the kitchen for the day, and it was definitely weird for me to give up!  Another weird thing is today's recipe. Tomato Pie just sounds weird, but it's so good I had to write down the recipe.  I'm sure Mom took this out of a magazine or something, but no one has any clue.  So, we're just going to go with that it's Mom's recipe.  And, while I was home over Thanksgiving, she made it for me.  She knows I love it.

This time though, I was smart enough to write down the recipe and actually remember it!  Shocking, I know.  It's only been about 5-6 years of Mom making this pie.  It is immensely better in the summer with our homegrown tomatoes, but, I will still take this any season.  Best of all, Mom makes her own pie crust, but you can easily buy the refrigerated pie crust in the stores.

Tomato Pie
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons milk
3 large tomatoes, sliced
1 cup shredded cheese (we used Monterey Jack)
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Combine the flour, sugar, salt, vegetable oil, and milk to make a dough.  Put in a 9-inch pie pan.  Layer tomato slices with cheese, garlic, and onions.  Continue to layer until pie is full.  Top with breadcrumbs.  Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes until top is brown and cheese is melted.

And, I do know that the Iron Foodie Challenge is coming up quickly (deadline to post is soon) so I imagine that's why so many people are trying to find my post!  It's not going up until Friday (sorry) but check back then.  I promise it's a great one!

Until the next time my oven is on...
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Welcome! I'm Dani (aka the Growing Foodie), just a girl balancing her career and passion for all things edible in NYC. I hope you'll join me in my adventures in life, through food. (Click for More)
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