Friday, September 30, 2011

Weeknight Dinner: Turkey and Black Bean Enchiladas

There are a few foods that John really dislikes.  Beans and mushrooms being the two major ones.  Sadly, though, I love both of these foods.  So, we have come to a sort of compromise; at any rate we've managed to bridge the impasse, if not completely compromise.  If I can sufficiently hide the offending item in a dish, John will eat it without complaint.  If I leave them as a side dish or where he can easily pick them out, he won't eat them.

The last weekend we were in the old apartment I was trying to get rid of as much perishable food as possible because we had to be out of our old apartment but couldn't get into the new one until hours later (8.30 p.m.)!  We had about a half-pound of ground turkey in the freezer and I figured if I combined it with a can of beans, it would make enough for dinner.  But just one half-pound of turkey wouldn't have cut it for both of us with any leftovers for the week. 

John fussed in the beginning, but after it was over said despite the fact that he could "taste" the beans it was a really good dinner and he would eat it again.  Another success for me!  The secret here, I think, was seasoning both the meat and the beans with the taco seasoning.  John is a sucker for taco seasoning, and I think well seasoning the mix was the way to go! 
Turkey and Black Bean Enchiladas
Serves:  6 (6 enchiladas)
1-14 ounce can black beans
1/2 pound ground turkey
2 tablespoons taco seasoning
1-6 ounce can ranchero sauce
1-4 ounce can tomato paste
2 tablespoons water
6 tortillas
2 cups mexican blend shredded cheese

Drain the black beans in a colander and rinse lightly.  Then in a greased skillet over medium-high heat, cook the turkey until it is no longer pink.  Add the beans and mix in well.  Then, add the taco seasoning and mix well to combine.  Once the mixture is warmed, turn the heat to low and cover until ready to use.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  In a small bowl, combine ranchero sauce, tomato, paste, and water, until fully mixed.  Spread one tablespoon on each tortilla.  Top the tortillas with even amounts of the turkey/bean mixture.  Roll the tortillas and place into a greased ceramic or glass baking dish.  Top with the remaining ranchero sauce and then with cheese.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until cheese is melted and the enchiladas are heated through.  Serve immediately.

If you have leftovers of the turkey and black bean mixture, make the awesome dip I previewed for football a few weeks ago!  Leftovers can sometimes lead to great inventions (sometimes, they just lead to leftovers...).

As some of you may know, this weekend, John and I are in Kansas City because I am competing in the Gnarly Head Rippin' Ribs FINALS with my beloved rib recipe.  Next Friday I'll post an awesome recap of the BBQ we ate.  Maybe we will eat something else besides barbeque, but since it's our first time in Kansas City, I doubt it!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Dorm Room Dinner: Cajun Chicken Club Wraps

These wraps all started with a cute little stand at our normal farmer's market (well, new normal since Brookline is a little too far these days).  It was a nice little Indian place with free samples; free samples always compel John and I to stop.  And, they had a very, very spicy dip for John to try.  Of course, John being John, he didn't think it was that hot.  I could tell right away.  When something is very hot, John starts sweating profusely.  Ugh, sorry for that mental image. 

Anyway, we were talking to them for a few minutes and I saw massive pitas in the corner of their booth.  I had to have them; when we got home, I immediately thought of making wraps but the only things in the house were chicken, bacon, and salad.  It seemed like a winning combination to me and so our wraps were born.

Obviously if I say anything is cajun and put cajun seasoning on it, John will eat it whole-heartedly (and exclaim how much he loves it).  That just makes it an obvious choice.  We used a spiced mayo as well which (I think) really was the spicy finishing touch to the dish.  It was also pretty delicious which is something I am usually hard-pressed to say about mayonnaise.  We got the idea from a Food Network Magazine where they made cajun chicken sandwiches.  Obviously we upped the ante adding the bacon.
Cajun Chicken Club Wraps
Serves:  2 (2 wraps)
2 chicken breasts
2 tablespoons cajun seasoning, divided
1/4 cup mayonnaise
4 slices bacon
2 pitas
1/2 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend (or Cheddar Cheese)
1/4 cup red onion, sliced
4 lettuce leaves (like romaine)


Cut the chicken breasts into small strips and toss with 1 tablespoon of cajun seasoning.  Combine the reamining cajun seasoning with mayonnaise.  Set aside.  In a large skillet, cook the bacon until crispy.  Cut each slice in half and set aside.  In the same skillet, cook the chicken breasts about 10 minutes, until cooked through.  Then, build the wraps.  On each pita layer half of the mayonnaise, chicken strips, and bacon.  Layer with shredded cheese.  Top with red onion slices and lettuce leaves.  Roll up the pitas and eat immediately. 

Quick, and easy!  The perfect dorm room dinner.  Plus, these are delicious cold too; so, make extras and bring them for lunch the next day.  My whole office was jealous! 

Until the next time my oven is on...



Monday, September 26, 2011

Time-Out: Chocolate Things

It’s time for another Cook the Books Book Club selection!  I was so excited when I found out that it was going to be The Homemade Life by Molly Wizenburg.  She is the blog writer of Orangette, which is a beautiful blog that I started reading in college (and never stopped)! The recipes are always delicious and she has a great writing style.  I knew the book was going to be amazing.  Ms. Wizenburg (can I call her Molly?  I want to pretend we are friends) and her writing literally jumped off the pages and I devoured the book in one sitting.  It helped that I was on a train to NY at the time.  She has a ton of recipes in the book which made it hard to pick just one to feature here. 

She focuses much of the book on her family and her own culinary journey through moving away from home (to France and Seattle), starting her blog, and finally meeting, and marrying her husband.  The most touching ones, for me, were the remembrances about her father who passed away, and her family when she was growing up.  We had many similar memories; she starts the book with her dad’s potato salad.  My parent's macaroni salad has been featured on my blog.  She pulls a great number of other recipes from neighbors or family friends growing up; similarly, my homemade croutons mirror those stories.

Knowing that Ms. Wizenburg herself (maybe I really should just call her Molly), would be judging this round of Cook the Books made me look through the book a few times over before choosing a recipe.  I thought about Fresh Ginger Cake with Caramelized Pears (John's choice) or replicating her chocolate cake (The Winning Hearts and Minds Cake) and sending it in a care package to M at college (M loves her chocolate).  I thought I had decided on the chocolate cake.  But then I went home to see my mom and dad (where mom promptly stole the book to read herself).  I told her about the one recipe that stuck with me the most—bread and chocolate, which Ms. Wizenburg first had in France when she traveled there with her mom and dad as a young girl.  It is also the simplest, requiring just a french baguette and chocolate pieces.

You all know my family has never been to Europe but my mom said a co-worker of hers often has that as a snack (he is European).  She thought it was weird; but we all know Mom’s palate and mine differ.  Incidentally, bread and chocolate are two of my favorite things, so it was probably no surprise the combination stuck in my mind.  And then, I was hit with a ton of bricks.  I found this recipe at Dishing the Divine for “Chocolate Things”.  Call it a more complex recipe for Chocolate and Bread, but a delicious one all the same.
Chocolate Things (adapted from here)
Serves:  12 (12 buns)
1 cup heavy cream, divided
1 teaspoon white vinegar
2 1/4 teaspoon active yeast
2 1/2 cups flour
6 tablespoons salted butter
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs, divided
6 ounces dark chocolate

In a small saucepan, combine 1/2 cup of cream and vinegar.  Let sit for 5 minutes.  Add the remaining cream and heat over low heat until small bubbles form around the sides of the pot.  Remove and pour into a large bowl.  Let cool until warm to the touch and then whisk in yeast.  Let sit for 5 minutes.  Add the flour, butter, sugar, and half of the egg mixture.  Using a wooden spoon, stir until the dough forms a ball.  Add additional flour if the mixture looks soupy (I added one tablespoon), the dough should easily form a ball and keep its shape.  Turn the ball out onto a floured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Cut the chocolate into small squares (I used Hershey's Dark Chocolate and cut each Hershey's mini-bar in half).  Add the chocolate into the bread and knead it just long enough to incorporate all the pieces.  Do not overmix!  Place the dough into a large oiled bowl.  Cover and let it rise until doubled, about 90 minutes (or, let it rise slowly overnight in the fridge; let it sit at room temperature for one hour before continuing).  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and roll it out into a rectangle.  Dip a pastry brush into the remaining egg mixture and brush it on a long edge.  Working from the other long edge, roll the dough up like a jelly roll.  Cut the roll into 6 one-inch slices and place on the cookie sheet. Cover them with a floured towel and let rise an additional hour.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Brush the tops of the rolls with remaining egg mixture.  Bake for 25-35 minutes, until golden brown.  Serve warm or cool. 

If you’re anything like me and feel like life is comprised of cooking, food, and family, this is the type of book you will love.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, September 23, 2011

Sassy Sweets: Caramel Apple Hand Pies

I mentioned on Monday that my mom loves her apple pies; after apple picking, Mom probably makes 10 apple pies.  We eat a couple right away but most get frozen in my grandmother, Awa's, freezer.  She freezes them before they are baked.  For Thanksgiving and other occasions Mom just pops them in the oven and then they get baked to golden perfection  The family fights to have apple pie "a la mode" with a scoop (or two) of ice cream!  We always fight over the last piece. 

Growing up, we were always so excited when Mom would make them because she'd let us have apple pie (without the ice cream this time) for breakfast!!  Mom, K, and I were sitting around the kitchen table last weekend when Mom gave us her recipe.  K said, I never realized how your apple pie is so good for you.  Mom doesn't put any sugar into the filling, and the crust has very little also.  K said, I never realized that pie was so good for you; sneaky Mom, very sneaky!  Mom laughed and agreed. 

I wanted to make hand pies because for two people to eat a whole apple pie is ambitious.  Over the summer, I saw many different hand pies on MANY blogs.  But, I kept hesitating because I didn't want to turn on the oven.  Now that the air is definitely crisp here in Boston it was the perfect thing to make.  They are also really easy to transport so perfect for bringing to a party or as a host/hostess gift!  These can also be made with as much or as little effort as you feel like.  Use my crust recipe below, or store-bought crust; same for the caramel sauce!  Either way, they will taste (and look) amazing.
Caramel Apple Handpies
Serves:  24 (24 handpies)
4 apples
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1/2 cup ice water
1 egg

Peel and core the apples.  Cut into small bite-sized chunks and place into a bowl.  Toss with cinnamon and set aside.  Make the caramel sauce by heating the sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan.  Whisk (or you can use a wooden spoon and stir) the mixture often.  When the sugar is caramel in color, immediately remove from the heat and whisk in the heavy cream.  Whisk until completely combined.  Set aside.

Now make the dough for the hand pies.  Pour the flour into a large bowl and whisk lightly.  Cut the butter into small chunks (I like to cut it into tablespoons as shown on the wrapper and then each tablespoon in half).  Using two forks, a pastry blender, or your hands, cut the butter into the flour.  Stop when the butter is slightly smaller than pea-sized.  Add the ice water one tablespoon at a time mixing with a fork (or your hands lightly).  Continue adding ice water until the dough comes together; it may still be a little crumbly but should be a cohesive dough.  Roll out the dough into a large rectangle 1/4 inch thickness.  (If the dough is hard to work with, refrigerate at least 30 minutes, up to overnight before continuing). 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Using a glass, cut out small circles of the dough.  Toss the apples with caramel sauce and place one tablespoon of apple-caramel mixture into each.  Fold up and use a fork to press the ends together, imitating a pie.  Place the hand pies on a greased cookie sheet. Beat the egg with one tablespoon of water.  Brush over the tops of the hand pies.  Carefully cut the tops of each with a tiny slit for the air to escape.  Bake for 25-35 minutes, until the pies are golden brown.  Let cool until they are just warm to the touch (the inside will stay hotter) and serve.

If you have leftover caramel sauce, I like to drizzle it on top.  Or, if you're serving it with store bought caramel sauce, warm it up slightly and serve it in a little dish on the side so people can dip if they so choose.

I hope you all enjoyed Apple Week as much as I have!  Over the next few weeks, there will be two more delicious apple recipes coming your way; just think of them as encores! 

Until the next time my oven is on...
Thursday, September 22, 2011

Weeknight Dinner: Pulled Chicken Sandwiches with Apple Slaw

Oh WOW these sandwiches are heavenly.  Honestly.  If you don't try these, well, I would be sad.  You would really be missing out.  And, they are really easy!  Since John is still having trouble standing for long periods of time, I sat him at the kitchen table with all the slaw ingredients and told him to work really hard at making the slaw perfect matchsticks.  With one tedious task out of the way, I worked on the chicken.

This recipe was a combination of two delicious recipes I've seen on other blogs recently.  The first was at Savour Fare which had a great post about Apple Cider Pulled Chicken.  The combination of ingredients sounded amazing, until I got to the slaw.  Mayo isn't really my thing so I started looking for other slaws, one that included actual apples (this is key since, you know, I still have about 1/2 of a full bushel to use up).  When I found this one at Steamy Kitchen, I immediately pulled out my food shopping list and added celery! Also, I love how their recipe called to peel the celery a little to remove the strings.  It worked great!  Plus, this was a great way to showcase my freshly made apple cider from yesterday.

The combination was a great one (if I do say so myself).  John ate a HUGE sandwich and then said, wow these are really good, can we have them again soon?  I made a full pound of chicken so he got to take 2 sandwiches with him for the week and had one for lunch the next day!  I couldn't have had a happier (albeit in pain) boyfriend! 
Pulled Chicken Sandwiches with Apple Slaw (adapted from here and here)
Serves:  5 (5 sandwiches)
1 medium onion
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 cups apple cider, divided
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, divided
1/2 cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
1 tablespoon cajun spice blend
1 pound of chicken breasts
1 cup of baby carrots
2 stalks of celery
1 large apple
1/2 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
5 poppy seed rolls, split in half

Slice the onion.  In a large saucepan, or dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until translucent stirring often.  Add 1/2 cup apple cider, 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, tomato paste, brown sugar, mustard, and cajun seasoning.  Let the mixture come to a boil over high heat.  Turn the heat to medium-high.  Add the chicken breasts and the remaining cup of apple cider, so the mixture is covering the chicken.  Cook for 30-40 minutes, until chicken breasts are cooked through.  Meanwhile, make the slaw.  Julienne the carrots, celery, and apple.  In a separate bowl, combine remaining apple cider vinegar, sour cream, dijon mustard, honey, salt, and poppy seeds.  Add this to the veggies and toss well.  When the chicken is cooked through, shred it with two forks returning it to the sauce.  Stir it so the sauce gets soaked up by the chicken shreds.  Top each poppy seed roll with pulled chicken and then apple slaw, top with remaining roll half.  Serve immediately.

There's only one thing left to say...YUM. 

The ingredient list is a long one but most of them you should have in the cabinet.  For us, we always have tomato paste, and both mustards.  And with this being apple week and all, we had the apples, too :) I made this for my family last weekend when I was home in New York; everyone loved it but mom said it was a little too vinegar-y for her.  If your family does not love that tangy vinegar, cut the 1/2 cup in the chicken to 1/3.  It's still savory and got a tang but doesn't overload.

Check out my other Apple Week Recipes:
Homemade Apple Cider, Apple Chocolate Chip Loaf, and Spiced Caramel Apple Pork Chops

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Time-Out: Homemade Apple Cider

Apple cider is a staple of fall in our house.  We often buy John's favorite brand and he drinks it while I pretend to like it.  I don't even know why apple cider doesn't really appeal to me.  I love hard apple cider, but apple cider from the food store, I could leave it there.  But, when I was looking up how to use up a lot of apples in creative ways, apple cider was a suggestion that kept cropping up.

Then I found tomorrow's recipe.  I'm not even going to stop myself from teasing you because it is just amazing.  But it calls for 1 1/2 cups of apple cider.  It was the perfect excuse to make my own, rather than use that mediocre store brand.  When I started looking around the Internet, I was shocked at how few recipes there actually were for homemade apple cider.  Not apple cider recipes using store bought apple cider and adding spices to it (is that even a real recipe?).  But, I wanted a real apple cider recipe using actual apples. 

Call me crazy but I think that's what a recipe is all about.  Luckily, I did find a recipe at food.com.  It was a great one to base my own off of.  You can see the actual recipe in that link above but you can find my adapted recipe (as always) below.  I canned a few cups of it because I think it will be a festive gift for someone special that I know!
Homemade Apple Cider (adapted from here)
Serves:  6 (6 cups)
10 apples (I used a mix of apples that we picked)
12 cups of water
3 cinnamon sticks
1 cardamom pod

Core the apples (I didn't even bother peeling them).  In a large pot add the apple slices (not cores), Top with 12 cups of water.  Add in cinnamon sticks and cardamom pod.  Push the apples down into the water (they will float).  Boil the mixture for 45 minutes on high heat, until the apples get mushy; you will have to continue pushing the apples down every few minutes so all the apples start to disintegrate at relatively the same time.  Then cover the pot and boil the mixture for about an hour.  Let the mixture cool for about an hour (or more in the fridge, if desired).  Remove the cinnamon sticks and cardamom pod.  Then, strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer, into a large bowl.  Do not force it.  Once all the liquid has been passed through the strainer, put the remaining solid mixture into a large cheesecloth.  Squeeze the remaining liquid out over the bowl.  Discard the solids.  The apple cider which is in the bowl should be put in an airtight container and stored up to 2 weeks in the fridge.  From what I've read, you can freeze it and it should defrost just fine up to 2 months later!

Obviously I made a few adaptations to the original recipe.  I didn't want to bother with a spice packet; and I didn't have allspice so cardamom was an easy substitution.  By coring the apples (the easiest way for us to cut them all), they floated, but they also disintegrated faster.  That led to a very strong apple taste without waiting 3 hours of cooking.  It has a great apple and cinnamon flavor.  I can't stop sipping it.

It also was a key centerpiece of the dish tomorrow, I can't wait to share it with you!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Brilliant Brunch: Apple Chocolate Chip Loaf

My mom has been making these apple loaves for years; many times in muffin form.  In fact, in the late 80s when computers weren't all that they are today, my dad built my mom a simple program for her to store and type up her recipes.  You know the recipes are family favorites when she has to get out the old program and find the ingredients!  All of our favorites are on there including Mom's Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins.

Whenever I'm in need of a little comforting, this is the recipe I pull out (especially in autumn).  It warms the kitchen, wafting delicious apple and cinnamon smells through the house.  And, you bite into it and it tastes like home to me.  So, when Mom gave me these little loaf pans, I couldn't wait to make some mini loaves in them.  They are perfect for transporting so it is perfect for John to bring with him on the go!

I like to make these in muffins (it usually makes 24 large muffins), but we also often make it into loaves.  Mom makes probably two dozen after we go apple picking.  They are perfect for freezing and get defrosted for special guests, given to friends and family, and eaten throughout the fall and winter (of course!).  This makes two loaves.  Mom often doubles it; but beware, it is difficult to stir.  It is a very thick dough.  Also, we hardly ever really measure the apples.  Mom and I both just dump in whatever we have on hand that we've already chopped.  Usually more than suggested.  Never less!

Apple Chocolate Chip Loaf
Serves:  2 large loaves (12 hungry people)
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups chopped apples (peeled)
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Mix together the flour, sugar, oil, eggs, cinnamon, baking soda, and vanilla.  Mix well.  Mix very well.  Stir in the chopped apples and chocolate chips.  Pour into two greased loaf pans.  Bake for about 35-45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

The apple part is the hardest.  Peeling, coring, and chopping the apples is never a fun chore in our kitchen.  But when this loaf is the resulting prize, the chore never seems so bad!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, September 19, 2011

Weeknight Dinner: Spiced Caramel Apple Pork Chops

Welcome to Apple Week here at The Growing Foodie!  Since we go apple picking every Labor Day, September in our house has always been marked with the apple pies, apple crisps, apple sauce, etc. that graced our table.  Mom loves to make her apple pies, and Dad loves his apple sauce.

His favorite apple meal, in fact, is apple sauce, pork, and sauerkraut. I wanted to do a slight riff on that idea, and I came across a bunch of recipes for Caramel Apple Pork Chops.  It seemed a little too sweet to me just from reading the ingredients, so, I decided to come up with something on my own.

These delicious pork chops do have a slightly sweet caramel sauce with black pepper.  That really helps the dish become savory along with some lightly sauteed onions.   The pork chops are lightly seasoned with a spicy rub, which is scented with cinnamon.  I used boneless chops because, not only were they on sale, but I like them better.  Either one would work--just make sure to cook the bone-in chops a little bit more.  Lastly, I put the chops over smashed potatoes (not shown in the picture) which soaked up so much awesome sauce.  Oh, it was so good. 
Spiced Caramel Apple Pork Chops
Serves: 4
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 boneless pork chops (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 onion sliced
2 apples, peeled and sliced*
2 tablespoons brown sugar*
1 chicken bouillon cube
1 cup water

Combine the paprika, cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, 2 teaspoons pepper pepper, and cinnamon.  Rub onto pork chops.  In one skillet, add two tablespoons of vegetable oil.  In another, large, skillet add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.  In the first pan, sear the pork chops on both sides, until browned nicely and easy to remove from the pan (about 8 minutes).  In the second, add the onion, apple, sugar, bouillon cube, and water.  Let this cook for about 5 minutes, onion will soften, stirring often.  Add the pork chops to this skillet and cook an additional 15 minutes, uncovered.  The liquid should reduce and the chops should be cooked through; the apple slices should also be softened.  Serve immediately.

*The apples and onions should be about the same amount, so if it is a large apple, you might need one.  A small onion, one apple again.  Eyeball it!

This is only the first of five apple recipes this week; and, I even have another great weeknight dinner for you to try later on in the week.  Keep tuning in!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Sunday, September 18, 2011

And The Winner Is...

Big huge thank you to ALL who entered my giveaway!  According to random.org, the winner is...


# 20  - Marissa!
Congrats Marissa!  I love those S'mores Brownies, too!

Many of you mentioned your favorite dish involved apples.  Anyone who loves apples is going to want to tune in this upcoming week, you're not going to want to miss out because it is APPLE WEEK!  And I have some delicious (really honestly delicious) apple recipes for you!  Keep checking back, I'll have a new recipe posted EVERY DAY!

Now, off to watch some football!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, September 16, 2011

Brilliant Brunch: Pita Breakfast Pizza

*Don't forget to enter my first blogiversary giveaway through 9/18 at Noon EST.  Become a GFC Follower and leave a comment here!*

This is the perfect Sunday brunch now that football is underway.  It's a mix between a delicious pizza and breakfast so it really is perfect for game days and even tailgating, if you want to make the pizza on the grill.  It can also really feed a crowd; if you use personal pitas, it's fun to have everyone select their toppings and make them individually.  Plus, that is a huge strain off hostessing.  People enjoy getting to personalize their food and you get to enjoy less work!  Just man the oven (and whose pizza is whose), and you will be all set.

John and I like to make these on big pitas (about 8-inch diameter) which is perfect for 3 people.  We usually save the leftovers and one of us has them for Monday's breakfast.  It is a great way to clean out the fridge from those little bits of odds and ends.  The first time I made this was right before we moved.  As you can imagine, there weren't a whole lot of things that needed to be used up.  At least, if I had done my job in planning menus accordingly, there shouldn't have been! 

So, we used pretty basic ingredients.  The fun thing is to mix it up with different veggies and meats.  If you are going to serve these for a large brunch, slice up the vegetables the night before.  Put them in separate tupperwares and then they are ready to go!  Another way to catch some beauty sleep before the party begins (and the big game)!
Pita Breakfast Pizzas
Serves: 4
6 slices bacon
4 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup shredded mozzerella
1/4 cup aged provolone
1 large (9-inch diameter) pita (or 4 personal-sized pitas)

In a large skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until brown and crispy (about 8 minutes).  Place the bacon onto a paper towel-lined plate.  Drain the bacon grease from the skillet.  In the same skillet, combine the eggs and milk and whisk until well-combined.  Place the skillet back onto medium heat and continuously stir with a wooden spoon until eggs are cooked and fluffy (about 10 minutes).  Remove from the heat.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Place half of both cheeses along the bottom of the pita.  Then, top with scrambled eggs.  Crumble the bacon and spread over the pizza along with the remaining cheese.  Bake the pita for about 15 minutes until cheese is melted and pita is crunchy.  Cut into slices and serve.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sassy Sweets: Cherry Cobbler

*Don't forget to enter my first blogiversary giveaway through 9/18 at Noon EST.  Become a GFC Follower and leave a comment here!*

When cherries are $1.99 a pound, John and I go crazy for them!  I will admit that more than half of what we get usually ends up getting eaten over the sink or garbage as we put the rest of our groceries away.  Then, they get folded into the rest of the market's purchases and slowly get eaten day by day.  After about 4 days of that, John has picked out the best ones and only a handful remain.  That is basically how I made this cherry cobbler. 

In the beginning of the summer, I compiled a list of all the dishes I wanted to make using various food websites and personal blogs.  Blogs I actively follow, and blogs that hit my radar because of something strange yet inticing!  It's almost the end of summer which is perfect because it is still hot but also cold enough to turn on the oven!  And, my autumn recipe list is filling up fast (and crying out to be made!).  But, of course, it wouldn't be me if it wasn't a somewhat fluid list.  So, when I saw that Jo Cooks had made this recipe--a perfect dessert for two, and I had a handful of cherries leftover in the house, it was too perfect to pass up.

I asked John to leave me the handful of cherries for a day or two.  Well, after the first day I saw some had started disappearing so I decided to make the cobbler right then!  The beauty about the cobbler like this and the crumble from August are that they really do come together fast!  It was all about pitting those cherries (where is a cherry pitter kitchen gadget when you need one?) and quickly tossing the dough together.  With a scoop of vanilla ice cream, it was summer in a bowl.  Do I even need to tell you that John and I fought over the last bite??
Cherry Cobbler (adapted from here)
Serves: 2
1 cup pitted cherries
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tablespoon baking powder
4 tablespoons (ounces) melted butter
3 tablespoons milk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (or the grill to high heat).  Roughly chop the cherries and mix with 2 tablespoons of sugar and lemon juice.  Press into the bottom of a 6-inch in diameter ramekin.  In a small bowl, combine flour, remaining 1 teaspoon of sugar, and baking powder.  Add butter and milk and mix until just combined.  Drop the flour mixture over the top of the ramekin until it fully covers the cherries.  Then, bake for 30 minutes, until the crust turns golden brown and the cherries bubble up under the crust.  If you are doing this on the grill, add an additional 10 minutes to the baking time, checking to make sure the dough does not overly brown (if it starts to, just place tin foil over the top--carefully--which will keep the color).

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, September 12, 2011

One Year Blogiversary + A Giveaway

This past weekend, I had a sudden realization that we must be coming up on my 1st blogiversary! And then I checked and it was today!  The timing that I have sometimes is incredible (modest much). 

And now for the GIVEAWAY!!!  I really wanted to make it something fun and fall-themed!  So, I have a great little basket of stuff including: a half-dozen of HAND-PICKED Hudson County, NY Apples, a pumpkin carving kit, an apple pie candle (so cute), my favorite Saucy Mama product along with various free coupons for other baking products, AND all of the ingredients to make my delicious Halloween Bark!  It will be perfect to give to family, friends, or schoolteachers.  Who doesn't love a little chocolate?!

All you have to do...is be a GFC follower on the blog AND leave me a comment of your favorite fall dish; the one you love to make, or one that intrigues you!  Comment by Sunday September 18th by Noon EST.  I will choose a winner (as usual) from random.org!


I want to feature my favorite recipe from each category.  One recipe for my one year blogiversary!  It was hard to choose sot I included John in the voting process.  Sorry in advance, this is a very long post.

Fancy Pants App - Buffalo Chicken Dip
  I love this dip!  Honestly, this picture doesn't do it justice, sadly.  But Thursday night, the first night of football, John asked me, are you going to make buffalo chicken dip this weekend?  I didn't...mainly because we have other new appetizers and football-type dishes to try.  It is just delicious and yummy, easy, but great for a crowd!  I also love to bring it to other people's houses as it is really easy to transport (make it ahead of time, and bring the dish ready to be thrown in the oven)! 


Brilliant Brunch - Breakfast Burgers
These breakfast burgers were such a hit!  In fact, I know many other people who have started eating them after I featured them here.  Now that I've made them a few times, I like to make the patties ahead of time and freeze them until I want to use them.  Then, heat them through in the oven while you cook the eggs and your delicious (and hearty) breakfast is finished!  I seriously cannot get enough of these.  I don't usually love egg sandwiches but for whatever reason this one got under my skin!  Plus, it doesn't have any meat in it which is great for us because John is addicted to breakfast meat! 




Date Night Dinner - Grilled Mahi-Mahi with Mango-Pineapple Salsa
This is one of our favorite "date-night" dinners!  Especially now with John's cast, we are definitely going to scale back our restaurant adventures for a few weeks.  This is hardly a new recipe but it is so fresh and delicious and the last few weeks I've seen some mango and pineapple specials (last weeks of summer perhaps?) and I would definitely encourage you to try it out!  Substitute another white fish if Mahi-Mahi is too expensive.  Oh, and save the pineapple top.  I still love it as a garnish!

Weeknight Dinner - Mom's Easy Pizza Dough
I know this is hardly a dinner (pizza dough, I mean).  But, it is so easy, and delicious!  There is no way possible that once you try this, you will be ordering pizza out ever again.  We love to flavor our crusts with a variety of spices.  If you're making taco pizza, why not add some paprika and cumin?  YUM!

Dorm Room Dinner - Lemon Chicken
This lemon chicken has long been a family favorite.  I never knew exactly who or what but I recently discovered this has long been served on my mom's side.  My great-aunt connected with me on Facebook to tell me she, too, often makes lemon chicken (with a few additions).  It was so fun to hear a family connection and my aunt sent her family cookbook over e-mail!  I am planning to make a lot of those recipes this winter and share them here.  Family traditions are so important to me.

Time-Out - Bourbon Caramel Chocolate Popcorn
This popcorn is incredible!  I, at first, almost didn't include it because it was really simple.  But honestly, whenever I get a craving for popcorn (which is often), I have to make this.  I would say, on average, I've eaten this at least once every other month since first making it for Christmas.  Sad but true.  It's sweet, it's salty, it's the perfect snack.  Which means you shouldn't eat the whole bag, but I'm not sure you could stop yourself (I can't!).

Sassy Sweets - Chocolate Chip Cookies
These chocolate chip cookies are my signature recipe.  I don't think they are actually my signature, but I made them so often growing up that I had memorized the recipe by the time I was 14 (and this is why becoming a food blogger surprises no one).  Anyway, they are soft and sweet and everything you want a chocolate chip cookie to be.  Whenever I need to impress, or give a food hug, these are the cookies I give.  Do other people give food hugs I wonder?  I find them comforting.

I hope you enjoyed the year recap!
Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, September 9, 2011

Fancy Pants App: Upside Down Nachos

Football season is finally upon us!  John and I (and the rest of my family) have been anxiously anticipating this since we knew the NFL had reached a deal with the players.  I couldn't wait to get into football again!  This is the first year my entire family (boyfriends included) will be playing fantasy football against each other.  I can't wait to see how I do!  Since this weekend will be the first game of the regular season (GO GIANTS!), we thought it would be fun to celebrate with a great new appetizer, sure to satisfy even the hungriest football player.

We love nachos in our family, but doesn't every nacho dish have the same problem?  Everyone grabs the best loaded nachos, and then by the end you are just left with plain old tortilla chips.  BORING.  Even when we try our best to load up each layer of nachos, you are still inevitably left with some chips.  So I came up with the next best thing; half dip, half nachos, every chip gets the opportunity to be loaded up! 

I know that, lately, appetizers have really taken a backseat in the kitchen for me.  But every year football changes all that!  It's always been a family tradition to watch the games on Sunday and it's no exception in my house when we literally keep the games on all day.   I just wish I had the time to sit and watch them all!  Football just screams for awesome finger foods!  In the meantime, check out some of my favorite football recipes on the lefthand side of the blog!
Upside Down Nachos
Serves:  4
2 cups ground turkey
1 cup black beans (from a can)
2 tablespoons taco seasoning
1 cup salsa
1 cup guacamole
1 cup mexican-style shredded cheese
3 cups tortilla chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large greased skillet, cook ground turkey until browned throughout.  Transfer to a glass loaf pan, and combine ground turkey, black beans, and taco seasoning.  On top, layer one layer of salsa, one layer of guacamole, and one layer of cheese.  Bake 15 minutes in the pre-heated oven.  Stick chips into the dip before serving, and have extra chips on the side, for extra dippers!

Hope you all enjoy this weekend!  I am looking forward to finally unpacking the apartment; John will be attempting to continue normal life with crutches this week, so I will also have the apartment to myself!  Now there is NO excuse to still be in boxes by Monday!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Stand Out Sides: Dani's Famous Guacamole

I have a whole host of things to talk about involving guacamole.  But, first, I want to touch on something I couldn't talk about on Monday (mainly because I didn't know what was going on, so couldn't really explain it).  This weekend, John fractured his ankle in 3 places.  The group of us (M&M, K&E, Mom & Dad, and John and I) were playing frisbee.  John ran to catch it, slid, was in flip-flops and landed wrong.  We spent Sunday night at the hospital (where I wrote my blog post).  Monday, he had surgery and Tuesday, I drove us two back to Boston in a stick-shift car that I had learned to drive on Monday.  It was treacherous to say the least but he is now stationed in my apartment peeling the many apples I took home (my least favorite job in the world!).  Just wanted to let you all know that he is feeling better but still tired and in lots of pain; in eight weeks the cast will come off and hopefully he will be as good as new.  However, the first thing he did ask for when we got home was this guacamole.  Guess he's feeling better already...

Really, everyone who ever tries my guacamole wants to know the secret.  When I first started making this, I didn't really know what to tell them!  With only 5 ingredients, what could be so secret about it?  As you all know, John and I love to make Mexican food (well, American-Mexican food).  From tacos to fajitas, I'd say we eat Mexican on average 3-5 times a month.  And with that always comes John's request for Guacamole.

Usually, the guacamole gets served on top of a million other condiments (salsas, cheese, etc.) but John has been known to take chips and scoop the guacamole off the top!  I mentioned WAY back in May that I really had to post this recipe because even though it is so unbelievably simple, it really is delicious.  Plus, with football season fast approaching, this is a quick and easy dip that you can make for whatever game day fans come your way!  I love to bring this to other people's houses because I bring my own dish (with the five ingredients) and my masher and make it right there.  It takes no time, and no kitchen space.  I always try to bring a big bag so I can throw the masher and serving dish back into it and clean it at home.
Dani's Famous Guacamole
Serves:  2
1 avocado
1/4 cup red onion, diced small
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lime juice

Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit.  Peel back the avocado skin and place the avocado meat into a bowl.  Add onion, pepper, and salt.  Mash a couple of times, until avocado breaks down into smaller chunks.  Add lime juice.  Continue to mash avocado until guacamole is creamy with only a few small chunks left.  Serve immediately.

Guacamole will turn brown if it's left for a while.  If you put some lemon juice in it, it will keep a little longer, but it is still best to make as much as you need. 

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, September 5, 2011

Dorm Room Dinner: Sausage, Pepper, and Onion Pizza

Being with my parents, and sisters, and boyfriends, even for a weekend, lends itself to a number of "blog-worthy" moments.  But this weekend, talking about wedding meals (for K and E), I was reminded how much my dad loves peppers, onions, and sausage.  Sausage is certainly not a staple of our household.  Mom enjoys as little meat as possible (with the exception of maybe chicken).  I don't know how we managed it but all three of us girls love meat!  I suspect Dad's heavy handed influence!

In fact, whenever we went to a wedding or party, Dad would load up on this dish.  When I was talking to Dad last weekend about unique dinner ideas, his love of sausage, peppers, and onions was one of the first ones he tossed out.  I have already made one sausage pizza, but what was to stop me from making another?  Luckily, hot italian sausage was also on sale this week.  It seemed like a winning idea to me, and a perfect ending to a busy week.

In fact, now that it has officially turned fall (although it is still warm thank goodness, here in Boston), I'm much more likely to turn on the oven!  And, with Haymarket closer than ever, it was easy to pick up an onion and a few peppers.  The red peppers weren't looking too good this week but there were some beautiful green ones.  You can use whichever you have on hand.
Sausage, Pepper, and Onion Pizza
Serves:  4
4 sausage links
2 peppers, diced (we used green)
1 white onion, diced
1 pizza dough, storebought or homemade
1 cup tomato sauce
1 cup mozzerella cheese, grated (we used buffalo)

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat.  Grill the sausage links about 15 minutes, until fully cooked (or bake in the oven at 400 degrees F for the same amount of time) and let the sausage links cool.  Meanwhile, grease a small skillet with cooking spray and cook the peppers and onions about 5 minutes, until wilted.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Roll out the dough (I like to roll it out in a 10x15 cookie sheet for easy clean-up) and top with tomato sauce and cheese.  Top with peppers and onions.  Slice sausages and place evenly over the pizza.  Place the pizza in the oven and let it bake for approximately 15 minutes, until the cheese is fully melted and the crust is golden brown.  Cut into slices and serve immediately.

John and I agreed these would also make great calzones, but, we are still trying to unpack and get our bearings!  Not having the whole kitchen at my disposal is becoming difficult.  That's why this weekend I resolve to fully unpack the kitchen.  We were trying so hard to unpack necessary items (i.e. work clothes, bathroom stuff, and my bed), that we seem to be lacking in other areas.  No matter; eventually everything will be unpacked.

Whether you're in the midst of moving, or are looking for a quick and delicious dinner--this has your name written all over it!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, September 2, 2011

Sassy Sweets: S'mores Brownie Bars

Well it is official: John and I have moved into the new place!  I wish I could say we were going to stick around and enjoy it (and relax--moving is exhausting!) but it's Labor Day Weekend!  And in our family, that means heading to the cabins!  Every year Dad's extended family rents cabins on a lake for the weekend; we all travel there (me from Boston, everyone else from New York) and spend a few luxurious days apple picking and enjoying each other's company.  We've been doing this as long as I can remember and it always celebrated the end of summer for me. 

In our younger years, it meant that we had to go back to school the next week, but now, it just celebrates family and summer, and is one last great hurrah!  Well, John is anticipating his school year beginning, but for me, it's just a celebration!  Of course, being with family also means taking home lots of apples and leftovers (like I did last year).  Since so much has happened this summer (graduations, first birthdays, and engagements), I've been fortunate enough to see the family a few times. 

Although I made these at the height of the summer, I remade them for this weekend to bring to the family!  I knew we'd be making real s'mores over the campfire, which is great for my many young cousins, but it's fun to have something in the s'mores spirit for the adults, too!  Plus, it's a great fall recipe to use up any leftover s'mores ingredients (as if you still have any!) but also to celebrate the summer and get everyone in the back to school mood.  Plus, on cooler days, it's almost compelling to turn the oven on!
S'mores Brownie Bars
1 brownie mix (or a double batch of my brownies)
12 graham cracker squares
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbles
1 cup mini marshmallows
1 chocolate bar and additional graham crackers for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare the brownie mix according to directions.  Grease a 13x9 baking dish and line the bottom with graham cracker squares (it's okay if it doesn't fit perfectly, just don't leave any very large cracks).  Pour the brownie mix on top of the graham crackers and carefully spread until even.  Top with graham cracker crumbles and bake 22-25 minutes until brownie is set.  Then, preheat the oven to low broil and top the brownie layer with mini marshmallows.  Place under the broiler for 2-3 minutes (they brown quickly!).  Remove.  Immediately shove chocolate and graham cracker pieces into the brownie.  Let cool.  Once at room temperature, cut into bars.  Place into an airtight container to store or serve immediately. 

The perfect way to celebrate the last few days of summer (can you believe it's almost over?!). 

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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