Friday, April 29, 2011

Brilliant Brunch: Strawberry Shortcake Stuffed French Toast

It amazes me that I haven't posted any blogs with breakfast recipes?!  And, I make big breakfasts ALL the time!  It finally occurred to me that I should just start posting some to the blog, and let everyone partake!  This recipe combines strawberries and cream, which is a very traditional English dish. 

Obviously, I am one of the millions of Americans that will be awake to see, live, the Royal Wedding this morning.  My mom likes to tell the story of my 5 year-old self in preschool.  Everyone was asked what they wanted to be; the teacher would write it down and we would have to draw a picture.  Well, everyone came out on the playground saying, I want to be a teacher, I want to be a doctor, I want to be a mommy.  I came out and Mom asked what I wanted to be.  I said, I want to be a queen!  Well, let us just say I never lived that down. 

Watching a girl with her own fairly modest beginnings ascend to the throne is a fairytale come true for many; in fact it has been over 300 years since that happened.  I think it is one more reaffermation that in the end it is not what you were born with in life, but what you make with it that defines who you are.  Anyone can go from modest beginnings to the President of the USA or Queen of England.  Amazing, and something to celebrate. 

Strawberry Shortcake Stuffed French Toast
Serves:  4
1 loaf of challah bread
4 ounces cream cheese (1/2 package)
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
12 strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped
1 egg
2 tablespoons skim milk
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Cut off the ends of the challah bread.  Cut the remaining bread into 4 slices.  Split the slices through the middle without cutting all the way through.  Mix together cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar, and strawberries.  Stuff the cream cheese mixture into the slices.  In a small bowl, mix together the egg and milk.  Meanwhile, mix together cinnamon and remaining sugar. Brush the egg mixture on both sides of the slices and sprinkle cinnamon-sugar mixture on each side of the bread.  Place each french toast into a hot greased skillet.  Cook on each side about 3 minutes, until browned.   Serve hot. 

You can substitute any kind of bread but I love challah bread and John had never had it.  I also don't buy it that often from the bakery so it is a perfect way for us to start the morning.  I hope, regardless of what you do today, it's a perfect Friday.  It should be.  I also hope for the newlyweds a lifetime of happiness and love.  They look so great together, don't they?

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Stand Out Sides: Creamy Sundried Tomato Twisters

So because John and I were away last week, I didn't have time to post my Real Women of Philadelphia side dish.  These are delicious to go with pasta, salad, or even a plain grilled chicken or steak.  These literally are things I have in my house all the time.  On a sidenote, I had leftover dough from the Pillsbury bake-off recipes, so it was a perfect marriage of ingredients in my house. 

Also, why can't we twist recipe contests together and make the best of all of them right??  Anyway, these twisters are basically fancy breadsticks.  They can dress up for the most elegant of guests, but dress down for the kids.  Plus, let the kids help make them!

At this point, we know I didn't win, BUT the recipe itself is a winner!

Creamy Sundried Tomato Twisters
Serves:  4
1 can of pizza dough
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes packed in oil, chopped
1/3 cup baby spinach leaves, chopped
4 ounces of cream cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Roll out the pizza dough to 10x16 inches.  Cut 8 10-inch long, 2-inch wide strips.  Combine the sundried tomatoes, spinach, and cream cheese.  Mix well.  Spread on 4 of the breadsticks.  Top with pine nuts.  Take one remaining breadstick and wrap it around the first, making them look as though they are "twisted" together.  Repeat with remaining breadsticks.  Place the breadsticks on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 8-12 minutes, until the breadsticks are golden brown. 

Stay tuned for Friday--I've come up with a new category (one I can't believe I didn't think of before), and I can't wait to show you the first recipe!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, April 25, 2011

Dorm Room Dinner: Lazy Chicken Parm

Chicken Parmesan is a classic but obviously there are sometimes where we don't want to pound out and fry a bunch of chicken cutlets.  In particular, last week John and I came home from Miami.  The only thing we wanted to do was go to sleep but it was just before dinner time.  Of course, we could have went out to eat.  I know that. 

But, after going on vacation, who wants to spend more money when they get home just to have a meal?  So, we pulled two chicken breasts out of the freezer.  I defrosted them in the microwave, and dinner was on the table within 20 minutes.  This chicken parm is so lazy that there are no egg washes.

So, 20 minutes, and 5 ingredients, and you have a delicious dinner.  I served a nice green salad on the side from lettuce we had bought right before we left.  It was going to go bad if we didn't eat it RIGHT then.  And, this is the perfect dorm room dinner.  It's fast, easy, and you don't need a lot.
Lazy Chicken Parm
Serves:  2
2 chicken breasts
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
2/3 cup mozzerella cheese
1/2 box of thin spaghetti

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Pound the chicken breasts until they are about an inch thick.  Cut the chicken into smaller cutlets (about 2-3 per breast).  Wash the chicken and then dredge in breadcrumbs.  In a cast iron pan, heat 1/4 inch of oil.  Cook about 3 minutes on each side until breadcrumbs are a golden brown.  Drizzle 1/2 cup of tomato sauce on the bottom of a glass pan.  Add cutlets.  Top with 1/2 cup of tomato sauce and mozzerella cheese.  Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, make spaghetti according to package directions.  Toss spaghetti with remaining tomato sauce.  To plate, place spaghetti on the plate and top with two cutlets. 

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, April 22, 2011

Field Trip: Miami

We're back!  Miami is a complete 180 degrees from our lives in Boston, and I loved every minute of it.  First off, it was 85 degrees every day.  Every day!  Personally, my favorite part was at night where it cooled off to about 75 but had a nice little breeze.  It was perfect to walk around town in a dress and open-toed shoes. 

We spent a lot of time with John's two friends who live a bit north of Miami, and who I was meeting for the first time.  Always a bit nervewracking but they were very sweet and took us to the Everglades on one of the jam-packed days.  Also, you will have to excuse this recap because breakfast was free in the hotel, and I often forgot to take pictures of all the restaurants.  I promise to get better, practice makes perfect, after all. The first night was spent eating at a small Mexican restaurant at the end of Ocean Drive.  What I do remember there was the $4 margarita mondays.  That's about all I remember.
Yuca Frita
Tuesday, we spent the day down in the Everglades and had dinner at a cuban restaurant with John's friends, M and P.  I had never had cuban food before, but it was delicious.  I had a skirt steak with moros (a mix of rice and beans) and sweet plantains.  John had Viejo Ropa (a ground beef dish) and fried plantains that were amazing.  We had an appetizer of fried yuca dipped into a cilantro-sour cream-garlic dip.  The appetizer and fried plantains were to die for, and I will definitely be attempting their recreation as soon as I can find all these ingredients!
Cubano served with Plantain Chips
Wednesday John and I got to check out the beach by ourselves, and I had planned for us to spend our last night at Emeril's South Beach Restaurant.  John was excited by the cuban restaurant from Tuesday but really wanted a Cubano.  This one was really good and at 700 Collins Avenue, a short walk from the hotel.  It was called Puerto Sagria.  The vanilla milkshakes were honestly the best milk shakes I have ever had in my entire life.  Definitely try one, even if you just stop and get one to go.  They are worth twice what we paid. 
Finally, it was time for the piece de resistance, Emeril's Restaurant.  Honestly, when you go, don't you sort of expect to be let down?  I mean it's always that you save up this money to spend at a restaurant and you come away feeling like, eh?  
Salumi Plate
Well, Emeril's was the exact opposite.  I was nervous at first but everything John and I tried, we couldn't stop eating.  I didn't try any of Emeril's "traditional" dishes, sticking instead to homemade and locally sourced ingredients.  The one exception was the Salumi Plate (above).  It was packed with Italian cheeses, homemade baguette, and 4 different types of salami.  I loved the chicory they put with it and they also topped it with some rock salt (which I found to be a little too much).  John and I literally fought over the last piece of copa!  For this Italian-American girl, it was all I could ask for.

Our dinners came next.  Mine was the grouper with fingerling potatoes, asparagus, and fava beans (left).  John's was an andouille crusted red snapper (right).  YUM!  His was a little spicy on a bed of peppers and potatoes.  Both were delicious. 

For dessert, we settled on the trio of house ice creams because by that point, well, we were just full.  The ice creams were all delicious too.  It was the perfect end to a perfect trip.
Until the next time my oven is on... 
Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Date Night Dinner: Cajun Chicken and Pasta

Anyone reading this blog for more than a few months knows John's love for all things spicy.  That includes cajun food and he frequently eats it when he goes out.  This Sunday, I asked John what he wanted for dinner.  This is a constant refrain in our house.  I ask him, he answers, I usually don't have any of the ingredients.  It's a no win.  Sometimes, I say out of these 3 which do you want.  That works well.  This week he told me to pick.  Because he was so sweet, I chose one of his favorite things (spicy and cajun!). 

And while cajun is NOT Miami, it did get us in the mood to be south and in the sun!  I know you all are reading this on Wednesday while I soak up the rays.  If you're jealous, try not to be.  Remember I am the girl who hibernated through the last SIX months of winter in the Northeast! 

Anyway, this dinner had lots of moving parts--the pasta, the sauce, the chicken; it all had to come together at the same (perfect) time.  Well, I've never been a good one for that, so this is something that I think will take some focus.  Hence the reason why I would never choose to make this on a weeknight.  I adapted the recipe from here
Cajun Chicken and Pasta
Serves:  4
1/2 box of thin spaghetti
2 chicken breasts
2 1/2 tablespoons cajun seasoning
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup skim milk
1/2 cup whipping cream
3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese + more for top
1 cup of grape tomatoes, roughly chopped

Make pasta according to package directions.  Set aside.  Season the chicken breasts with 1 tablespoon cajun seasoning.  Grill for about 8 minutes (I did mine on a George Foreman).  In a small saucepan, combine butter and flour over low heat.  Whisk in skim milk, cream, and the remaining cajun seasoning.  Whisk in parmesan cheese.  Add pasta and chopped tomatoes to the sauce, mixing with tongs.  Plate pasta and top with cut chicken and additional grated parmesan cheese.

I hope you are all having a wonderful week.  I'll be back on Friday to post some of John and my favorite dishes in Miami.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, April 18, 2011

Time-Out: Mandel Bread

Growing up, I always thought I was lucky to be a "halfsie", half Jewish (courtesy of Mom) and half Catholic (courtesy of Dad).  Neither grew up, themselves, completely religious so we learned about both religions, celebrated all of the religious holidays, and got presents for Christmas and Hanukkah.  As kids, the double present part was by far the best. 

Now, I love the fact that we get to celebrate both of our parents heritages.  While, as grown-ups, it might seem like a contradiction to incorporate both religions into our lives, I liken it to family traditions, rather than a uniquely religious tie.  Plus, for both sides of the family, holidays are mostly celebrated by foods.  It is no surprise then, that Passover, which starts tomorrow, has us eating lots of Matzoh.  While I don't eschew flour or breads during Passover, I do make a conscious effort to eat Matzoh and other "approved" products.

In fact, Mom and I, miles apart, both stocked up for the holiday.  We also both made her infamous Mandel Bread.  When we went out to dinner with K and her boyfriend last weekend, he had never heard of Mandel Bread before.  I tried to explain that Mandel was pronounced like the word fondle.  Well, I'm pretty sure in their house it is now being referred to as fondle bread.  Oops.  Anyway, the bread is delicious, and its easy to make during passover when potato starch and cake meal are in abundance (and I found both on sale). It's incredibly easy and delicious; it's a great dessert bread, even for Easter!  I encourage you to reach across religious and cultural boundaries and try this baby out!  You'll be glad you did!
Mandel Bread
Serves:  2 loaves, 16 people
2 cups + 2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 pound butter/margarine

6 eggs
2 3/4 cups cake meal
3/4 cup potato starch
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (or bittersweet chocolate chips)
1 cup nuts
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Cream 2 cups of sugar and butter/margarine.  Beat in eggs, one at a time.  In another bowl, sift together potato starch and cake meal.  Slowly fold the potato starch into the creamed mixture.  Stir in chocolate and nuts.  Grease cookie sheets and form loaves on it.  In a small bowl, combine remaining 2 teaspoons of sugar and cinnamon.  Sprinkle loaves with cinnamon and sugar mixture. Bake for approximately 45 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

You can also substitute potato starch for corn starch.  I have with no noticeable differences.  I wouldn't suggest substituting out the cake meal though.  That's what gives the bread its distinct texture.  Also, I frequently leave the nuts out if they are too expensive!

Easy and delicious, and just in time for Passover.  But, I'm telling you, it would be great for your Easter table too!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, April 15, 2011

Weeknight Dinner: Meaty Pizza Casserole

My mom has made this dish a number of times and i just love it.  In fact, I thought it would be a great Pillsbury Bake-off entry with a little substitution.  But, the more digging I did, the more I saw that many people had already thought of it!  Ah, so often that happens to me!

Anyway, rather than not make it (since John already expected it and I had bought all the ingredients) I decided to share it with you.  Personally, I like making the top crust better than using Pillsbury biscuits, but that's just me.  The crust you get is much lighter and fluffy!  If you're in a rush, refrigerated dough will give you similar results.

Also, I feel like this might be one of my last "cozy" meals.  Spring has sprung in Boston and it is beautiful out today!  On Monday, John and I head on vacation for 4 days, which will bring us more sun (and hopefully a suntan!).  I have recipes ready to go next week, except Friday, which just may include my favorite meal of the vacation (hey that could be fun, right?!).  But, I'm thrilled that the sun is out of hibernation--everything seems much better when it's sunny. 
Meaty Pizza Casserole
Serves:  5
1 pound ground turkey
2 white onions, chopped
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
1/2 cup pepperoni, chopped
2 tablespoons of italian seasoning
1 tablespoon of garlic powder
6 ounces Mozzarella Cheese, grated (or grated Italian blend)
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large skillet, brown the turkey and then add the onions.  Let cook until the onions are translucent.  Then, transfer into a casserole dish.  Stir in sauce, chopped pepperoni, italian seasoning, garlic powder and grated mozzarella.  In a small bowl, combine milk, vegetable oil, and eggs.  Then, slowly mix in the flour and salt.  Pour over the meat mixture.  Top with parmesan cheese and let bake for 25-35 minutes, until the top is golden brown. 

Just so you know, this picture does not do this baby justice.  But, how hard is it to serve neatly out of a round casserole dish?!  In my opinion, it's pretty difficult.  Anyway, enjoy the beautiful weekend; I hope spring is coming to every section of the globe and you all get outside and enjoy it!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dorm Room Dinner: Chicken Fajitas

Chicken fajitas have always been a staple of mine.  Most of the time, I throw whatever vegetables I have into it; and, I use rice as well as chicken so that the dinner stretches further.  The best part, in my opinion, though, is the toppings.  I top these babies with whatever I have on hand whether it be salsa, sour cream, avocado, or pickled red onions.  Of course you must always top them with cheese.

These are the perfect leftovers meal, in my opinion.  If I have baked chicken leftover, I will frequently throw in some taco seasoning, veggies, and rice.  Roll it up in a tortilla and I have a fast yummy meal.  This is also a great dinner when you want everything to be done quick, and easy.  I stirfry the vegetables and chicken and make the rice in a separate pot.  I leave everything on the stove so people can serve themselves.

I used to love it when my mom made tacos or fajitas.  It was so fun to pick my toppings and make my own dinner.  I think that people always enjoy it when they can spice or add the flavors that they like best.  As you all know, John loves his spicy dishes, so this is probably a favorite meal of his, too. 
Chicken Fajitas
Serves:  4, 2 fajitas per person
1 1/2 cups rice
3 tablespoons of fajita seasoning mix or taco seasoning mix (I use Penzey's Arizona Dream)
3 chicken breasts
2 green peppers
2 onions
8 tortillas

Make the rice according to package directions but in the water, add one tablespoon of seasoning mix.  Then, slice the chicken breasts into thin strips; slice the green peppers and onions also into thin strips.  Heat two tablespoons of oil in a large skillet.  Add  the chicken and cook until it is white on all sides.  Add the peppers, onions, and remaining seasoning mix.  Allow the mixture to cook an additional 15 minutes, until the chicken is fully cooked and the onions are translucent.  Warm the tortillas in the oven at 250 degrees F for 5 minutes.  Serve warm tortillas and top with seasoned rice, chicken, and veggies.  Top with additional toppings such as salsa, sour cream, avocado, and cheddar cheese.

If you're using pre-cooked chicken, then just add the chicken and veggies all together.  Cook about 5 minutes, until heated through.    You can substitute any veggies in your fridge and the dish still tates amazing.  Easy, quick, delicious, and fun!  It's everything a dinner should be.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, April 11, 2011

Fancy Pants App: Southwestern Purses with Honey-Lime Dip

For the next few weeks, you're going to be seeing a decent amount of cream cheese on this blog!  I'm participating in the Real Women of Philadelphia cooking contest.  This week, I made delicious southwestern purses.  You can see my video below (if you'd like) but otherwise my recipe is below, as always.

The contest gives 16 finalists the chance to compete in Savannah, GA for 4 spots, each worth $25,000.  Since a lot of my baking lately has been for Pillsbury and I obviously can't share yet, I'm excited I get to share these recipes with you as I go.

Even better, it's been a WHILE since I've gotten an appetizer up here.  Now that football is over, my appetizers get used much less frequently.  These purses are perfect for literally any occasion and are a great little snack as well!  Obviously, John and I have been having fun eating the leftovers and testers!  You can also make these into spring rolls or wontons, just wrap them up differently!
Southwestern Purses with Honey-Lime Dip
Serves:  4 (16 purses)
8 ounces cream cheese
2 tablespoons taco seasonings
1/2 cup salsa
6 ounces roasted chicken (substitute ground beef, turkey, etc as long as its cooked)
1 jalapeno, grated
1/2 cup corn kernels (frozen, canned, or fresh)
16 spring roll wrappers
1/4 cup lime juice
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  In a bowl, combine cream cheese, taco seasonings, and salsa.  Then, add chicken and combine.  Add jalapeno and corn kernels.  Mix well.  Moisten the edges of the spring roll wrapper.  Heap 1-2 tablespoons of the cream cheese mixture into each.  Fold up all of the sides, pinching them together, and letting the top hang loosely.  Bake them on a greased cookie sheet for 8 minutes.  For extra browning on top, spray the purses with cooking spray as well.  To make the dip, whisk together the lime juice, honey, dijon mustard, and cilantro.  Serve the purses hot with the cool dip. 

Also, as many of you who know me in real life know, I love to rhyme.  In fact, this is sad, but John and I frequently see who can last longer rhyming when we talk to each other.  I usually win.  One night while I was falling asleep, I found myself dreaming about how Dani and RWOP was one of those nights.  Anyway, I woke myself up and wrote this out...and here it is!  I love it, and think it is SO "me".

Until the next time my oven is on...

Friday, April 8, 2011

Date Night Dinner: Spinach Stuffed Shells

In my family, stuffed shells were synonymous with family parties and special dinners.  Since they are a lot of work to fill, my family never did them for a normal Sunday night dinner.  But, when family was coming or for Easter or Christmas, stuffed shells were always on the menu. 

Mom and Dad always made half cheese and half ground beef.  But, as I got older I saw that stuffed shells could be made in a variety of ways!  Ricotta was on sale last week so I made a lasagna but had some ricotta left over.  John loves spinach so when chopped frozen spinach was on sale this week, it seemed like the perfect time to make these.

Don't let the stuffing of the shells intimidate you.  It does take a little while, but I make about 30 shells at a time and freeze half for another day.  They stay great and its a perfect quick and easy meal on a night you don't feel like cooking!  Once you get into a stuffing rhythm, they do get filled pretty quickly.
Spinach Stuffed Shells
Serves:  4
1 box of shells
1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 tablespoon italian seasonings
2 cups pasta sauce
1 cup grated italian blend cheeses

First, make the shells according to the package directions. Drain, let cool while you make the filling.  First, squeeze the spinach to remove as much moisture as possible.  Then, to make the filling, combine the ricotta cheese, egg, parmesan cheese, spinach, garlic powder, and italian seasonings.  Mix well.  Make sure the shells are cool enough to handle.  Stuff the shells with the ricotta mixture.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large glass baking dish, spread one cup of pasta sauce to cover the baking dish.  Place the stuffed shells on top of the sauce.  Cover with the rest of the sauce and top with cheese blend.  Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the shells are warmed through. 

This is a great spring dinner that your family is sure to eat up quick!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Weeknight Dinner: Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

As you can see, we have a theme going this week:  sickness!  When John came home on Thursday I knew he'd be exhausted so I wanted to make Chicken Tortilla Soup.  However, chicken hasn't been on sale in the last three weeks (it is this week though), so there was no more chicken in the house.  I made a veggie version of this recipe I found in Food Network Magazine a few episodes back.

It came from Eva Longoria and Todd English's restaurant Beso and it was delicious.  I definitely threw a few things in that weren't there to begin with and vice versa but working off recipes is usually just working with what you've got, right?  So, if you don't have coriander seeds (which I have from our many pickle making escapades), just add a little bit more cumin.  It won't be the exact same flavor but it will still taste great!

This recipe isn't exactly the same but since it also comes from Beso, I'll put it up here for a comparison.  As always, don't be intimidated by a long ingredient list.  Oh, and I put my immersion blender to its first use since receiving it!  If you don't have one, don't worry.  Puree in a food processor, blender, or leave it chunky!  I also only got about 3 pictures of it in before John devoured some, so this is my best shot!  The soup tastes amazing, although I might have went overboard with the tortilla chips.
Vegetarian Tortilla Soup
Serves:  4
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 14.5-ounce can chicken stock or vegetable stock (for true vegetarian-ness)
1/4 cup lime juice
1 jalapeno
1 white onion
3 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons cilantro, divided
2 bay leaves
1 tortilla
1/3 cup vegetable oil, divided
4 tablespoons sour cream

Add tomatoes, chicken stock and lime juice to your crockpot, heat on high.  Meanwhile, deseed the jalapeno and chop it into small pieces.  Also slice the onion and dice garlic cloves.  In a large skillet,  over high heat, add one tablespoon of vegetable oil.  Once the oil is heated, add the jalapeno, onion, and garlic.  Stir constantly until the onion is translucent.  Then, add all of this into the crockpot.  Use an immersion blender to puree the soup.  Then add coriander seeds, cumin, cayenne pepper, 1 tablespoon cilantro, and bay leaves.  Let boil for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, cut a tortilla strip into small strips.  Heat the remaining vegetable oil in a small skillet and add tortilla strips, being careful not to overcrowd the pan.  Once the tortilla strips brown, remove them from the oil.  Place them on a paper towel to dry.  Serve the soup with a tablespoon of sour cream, cilantro, and fried tortillas. 

This dinner comes together quickly.  Or, you can choose to turn the crockpot to low and let it cook slowly over 2-3 hours.  It will taste just as good.  And, if you're going to use a blender to puree everything, I would skip the first step.  Sautee the vegetables and then add them with the tomatoes, chicken stock, and lime juice to the blender.  That way, you're not dealing with a lot of hot liquids.  I am known for burning myself wherever there is a possibility!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, April 4, 2011

Weeknight Dinner: Kielbasa with Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans

Apparently, I am the world's best sharer.  John now has my debilitating cold.  So, most of our weekend was spent putting him on the road to recovery before he has to go back to Maine.  Last weekend while we were at the food store, a magic meat fairy put smoked kielbasa in my cart.  I didn't notice until we got home...hmmm.  Regardless, I know how much John likes it and figured it would be an easy and comforting meal. 

I paired the kielbasa (which was just boiled in a mix of beer and water), with homemade mashed potatoes and sauteed onions and green beans.  It was a really comforting spring-like meal.  I have 2 pounds of green beans because they were on sale for 99 cents, and really, we all know I can't pass up a deal like that. 

We needed something fast even though it was the weekend because we were going to see K and E off to their grad gala.  They looked so good, and since they are graduating in just a few short weeks, they had many exciting updates!  It was well worth the trip to see them; for the last 5 years I have definitely taken for granted how close K is to me.  Now that she's leaving quite soon, I'm really relishing everything we can do together.  Family is so important.
Kielbasa with Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans
Serves:  4
8 potatoes
1 kielbasa (16 ounces)
1 12-ounce dark beer
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound green beans
1 white onion, sliced
4 tablespoons salted butter

First, scrub the potatoes.  Remove the skins and chop into 1-inch squares.  Place in a large saucepan and cover with water.  Boil on high for about 20 minutes, until potatoes are soft.  Meanwhile, cut kielbasa in pieces so they easily fit into a saucepan.  In a large saucepan, add the beer.  Add kielbasa and then add water until kielbasa is covered.  Boil for 20 minutes, until kielbasa is cooked through.  Finally, add two tablespoons of olive oil into a skillet.  Sautee onions and green beans for about 10 minutes, until onions are translucent and green beans are bright green and crunchy.  Turn heat to low, stirring occasionally to keep warm until serving.  Cut the butter into small pieces.  Drain the potatoes and place in a large bowl.  Add butter pieces and mash using a potato masher, until the potatoes are smooth, about 3 minutes.  Plate the mashed potatoes, place kielbasa over the mashed potatoes, and add onions and green beans.  Serve immediately.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, April 1, 2011

Sassy Sweets: Lemon Bars

Lately, life has been handing me a heck of a lot of lemons, beyond just this spring cold that won't dissipate.  I'm not going to get into it all here, but the funny thing is it is not just one aspect of my life but seemingly all of them, except family and John, which is something I am hugely grateful for.  It would be hard to get through the rest if they weren't behind me, but they are and so loving and supportive.  From graduate school decisions to finding a new job to watching programs near to my heart get cut in our hometown, I feel like I'm constantly fighting lately.

I've always been a fighter, so when life handed me lemons, I got baking!  I'd never made lemon bars before, and it wasn't something I'd grown up with.  But, they look so delicious when you see them on other blogs, I just had to try them.  There's another reason I have a lot of lemons lately...but it's going to be another week or so before I can share that one with you!  Just stay tuned because over the next few weeks lemons are going in EVERYTHING!  Also check out my new sidebar which is featuring springtime recipes! 

A few notes about the recipe.  It's originally adapted from Ina Garten's.  What I hate about it is the vague things; the recipe says "chill".  But never how long!  "Let cool" but never says to room temperature, etc.  So, I guessed a little along the way.  My guesses came out pretty good so I'm hoping you can benefit from them.
Lemon Bars adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Serves:  24 bars (12 people)
1/2 pound salted butter, at room temperature (2 sticks)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
4 eggs at room temperature
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2/3 cup flour
2 tablespoons confectioners sugar

Make the crust first.  Beat together the butter and sugar.  Then, add the flour and beat until just combined.  Using your hands, roll into a ball in the bowl and place into a well-greased 9x13 baking pan.  Using (clean) fingers, spread the crust evenly in the pan.  Chill while the oven preheats.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  When the oven reaches desired temperature, place the crust into the oven and cook for 25 minutes, until lightly golden brown.  Meanwhile, combine the eggs, sugar, lemon juice, and flour together.  When the crust is slightly cool to the touch, pour the lemon mixture over the top and bake in the 350 degree oven for an additional 20 minutes, until the center is set.  Let cool to room temperature before cutting into bars.  Serve with confectioners sugar over the top of the bars.

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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