16 July 2015


It's time for this month's Improv Challenge.  The premise of the Improv Challenge is easy: each month there are two assigned ingredients.  The participants must make a recipe using both ingredients and blog about it.  

This month's ingredients were pretzels and mustard.  Fun summertime ingredients!  Makes me think of baseball games.  I decided to try something I've never done before: make a pretzel dough from scratch.  I had seen lots of recipes for Pretzel Dogs around and thought that would be fun to try.  I went with the method from The Slow Roasted Italian, because hers just looked a lot simpler than the others and there was no rising time.  Instead of regular mustard, or even honey mustard, I got creative and made a cheesy mustard sauce to dip our dogs in.

Pretzel Dogs with Cheesy Mustard Dipping Sauce

Ingredients:
12 oz. beer, warmed to 110°-120°
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp active dry yeast
1 tsp kosher salt
4+ cups flour
¼ cup baking soda
12 hot dogs, patted dry
1 egg
2 tbsp water
Coarse salt

Directions:
Preheat oven to 450°.  Put a large pot of water on to boil.

Combine the beer, honey, and yeast in a large mixing bowl and stir well.  Wait a few minutes for the yeast to “bloom”, then add the salt and the flour.  Mix well.  Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead for about 3 minutes, adding more flour if necessary.  Dough should be somewhat tacky, but not so sticky that it sticks to your fingers.  Cut dough into 12 equal-sized portions.

Roll each portion out like a snake, about 10” long.  Slightly flatten it.  Starting at one end, carefully wrap the dough around the hot dog, making sure the edges touch as it goes around.  You can leave the ends of the hot dog peeking out, though.  Pinch the ends of the dough to the rest of the dough to keep it in place.  Take the pretzel dog and roll it a few times in between your palms to smooth out the dough.  This just makes them slightly prettier.  Repeat this process with the remaining dough and hot dogs.

When water is boiling, carefully add the baking soda.  Be careful; it will bubble up!  Add two pretzel dogs at a time to the boiling water.  Boil for 30 seconds, then remove with a slotted spoon (I used a spider).  

Once all the pretzel dogs have been boiled, place them on a baking sheet.  Whisk together the egg and the water and brush this mixture over the top of each pretzel dog.  Sprinkle generously with coarse salt.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes, or until they are dark golden brown.  (Make dipping sauce while they are baking.)  Serve with dipping sauce.

Cheesy Mustard Dipping Sauce

Ingredients:
4 tbsp butter
¼ cup flour
½ tsp smoked paprika
1-2 tbsp whole grain mustard
1¼ cups 2% milk
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, freshly grated

Directions:
In a small saucepan, melt butter.  Add flour and cook a couple of minutes.  Stir in smoked paprika and mustard.  Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly.  Increase heat to a simmer.  When it starts to thicken, decrease heat to low and stir in the cheese.  Taste for seasoning, adding more mustard or cheese if desired. 

Makes 6 servings, 2 pretzel dogs each.




Yum! These were so good!  My husband and 5- and 7-year-old daughters loved them.  And the sauce was perfect!  Cheese and mustard work really well together.  I just used 1 tbsp of mustard because I didn't want it too spicy for my kids.  But if you are a mustard lover, you might want to use more.

Be sure to check out all the other great pretzel and mustard recipes below and come back next month to see what I make with tomatoes and herbs.


26 June 2015


Have you been grilling a lot now that it's finally summertime?  We sure have.  It's one of my favorite things about summer.  One of my favorite food companies, fellow Hoosiers Red Gold Tomatoes is hosting their third annual Summer Grilling Giveaway now through July 22.  During this time, Red Gold is giving away a Large Big Green Egg each week, as well as 800 insulated tote bags.  Wow!  To get in all that prize-winning action, head over to their Facebook page to enter.

You may think it's odd for a canned tomato company to be hosting a grilling promotion.  Canned tomatoes on the grill?  Sounds weird, huh?  It's not!  Canned tomatoes can be used in multiple ways on the grill.  Red Gold asked me if I would like to create a recipe showing people how versatile their tomatoes are.  Of course!  I love experimenting and finding a way to use canned tomatoes on the grill was a challenge I was definitely up for.  Last summer I made Ranch BLT Grilled Chicken Burgers that had the tomatoes inside the burger.  This time I went in a totally different direction.  I threw some smoked sausage, potatoes, my family's favorite veggies, and some Red Gold diced tomatoes inside a foil pack and put it on the grill.  Everything cooks together; it's like the grill version of a one-pot meal!  The other great thing about these is that since each person has their own pack, it's completely customizable.  Awesome!  Here's how I made them.

Smoked Sausage and Veggie Foil Packs

Ingredients:
4-6 red potatoes
8 oz. baby carrots
1 head broccoli
1 medium zucchini
4 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 (14 oz.) can Red Gold diced tomatoes
Your choice of seasoning
14 oz. smoked sausage
Olive oil
Fresh Parmesan cheese

Directions:
Preheat grill to medium heat.

First, prepare your ingredients.  Slice the smoked sausage and cut up all veggies.  Make sure the potato cubes and carrots are smaller than softer veggies like zucchini.  If you want to do it make-your-own style, lay out all ingredients on plates or in bowls.

Lay out a piece of heavy-duty foil about 18" square.  Spray with cooking spray.  Pile the veggies of your choice on one half of the foil.  Sprinkle generously with seasoning.  Lay some smoked sausage slices on top and drizzle all with olive oil.  Fold the other half of the foil over the food and crimp the three open edges.  If desired, use a Sharpie to write a name or initial on the top of the foil for easy identification after cooking.  Repeat this process with as many packs as you like.

Turn the grill down to medium-low and place the packs on it.  Close the lid and cook for 10-15 minutes.  Flip each pack over and also rotate them on the grill.  Cook another 10-15 minutes.  Open one of the packs and test a potato or a carrot for doneness.  If not quite done, cook another few minutes.  When done, remove the packs from the grill and cut them open.  You can eat them out of the foil, or transfer the contents to a serving bowl.  Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Makes 4 servings.


These are all the veggies I used for my family, but I didn't put each veggie in each pack.  My girls don't care for mushrooms or zucchini, so I left those out of theirs and put more broccoli and carrots in.  The baby carrots I had were somewhat skinny, so I left them whole.  If you have the fatter kind, you might want to slice them length-wise.  I used paper plates because I didn't want to dirty up that many dishes!


 Since the smoked sausage is already seasoned, I put the veggies down first and seasoned them before adding the sausage.  I know it all gets jumbled up anyway, but I think this helps the seasonings stick to the veggies better.


 Smoked sausage and tomatoes go on last.  I forgot to get a pic of the packs after I assembled them, but you've probably seen a foil pack before, right?


 Fresh off the grill.  We cooked them for about half an hour and my husband's and my kids' packs were totally perfect.  Unfortunately, mine was totally overcooked.  That's why I put in the recipe to rotate the packs because mine must have been sitting over a hot spot on the grill.


This was mine.  You can see that the zucchini was total mush, but the everything else was okay, save for a few slices of sausage that burned.  It's hard cooking food you can't see!  But I think if we had rotated the packs, they all would have been perfect.

While you can certainly use any veggies you like in these packs, I do highly recommend using the canned tomatoes as well.  Not only do they provide a nice acidity to balance out the fat, but they also add moisture and keep the packs from drying out as they cook.  

So now that you know you can use canned tomatoes on the grill, head over to Red Gold's Facebook page  for your change to win a Big Green Egg in their Summer Grilling Giveaway.



What I'm Reading Right Now


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22 June 2015


My husband loves breakfast.  The bigger the better, in his mind.  But he doesn't take the time to make a big breakfast most days.  Whenever he has the chance, he will go out to breakfast with anyone who will go with him.  Since he loves breakfast so much, I like to treat him with "special breakfasts" on special occasions.  I usually make him some kind of special breakfast on his birthday.  I wanted to do that yesterday for Father's Day.  But since we are church-going people, a big breakfast on Sundays do not work.  And he had already said he wanted to go out to lunch, so I asked if he would like breakfast-for-dinner.  He was totally on board with that. I had pinned this recipe from Allrecipes recently and thought it would be absolutely perfect for Father's Day as my husband loves all things orange.  

This is not your average French toast!  The custard has orange juice and orange zest.  It is baked in the oven instead of on the stove, which I love because I am not so great at cooking French toast or pancakes evenly.  But the best part?  It self-glazes with a yummy layer of caramel and pecans.  Oh my goodness.  And it was super easy to put together too.  

Baked Orange Pecan French Toast

Ingredients:
⅓ cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp light corn syrup
½ cup pecans, chopped
12 ¾” thick slices French bread
4 eggs
1 cup orange juice
1 tsp orange zest
½ cup milk
3 tbsp sugar
½ tsp cinnamon

Directions:
Coat a 9x13” baking dish with baking spray.  Set aside.

Place butter in a microwave-safe bowl and melt in microwave.  Add brown sugar and corn syrup. Stir well.  Pour mixture into the prepared baking dish, spreading it evenly.  Sprinkle with chopped pecans.  Lay the bread slices on top of the pecans, fitting them in there as best you can.

In the bowl that the brown sugar mixture was in, lightly beat the eggs.  Add the orange juice, orange zest, milk, sugar, and cinnamon.  Stir well.  Pour this egg mixture over the French bread slices, ensuring that all pieces are moistened.  Cover dish and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°.  Remove dish from fridge and let it sit out for 20 minutes before baking.  Place in oven and bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes.  To serve, use a small server or spatula to remove a slice and flip it over on the plate, so the caramel and pecans are on top.

Makes 4 servings, 3 slices each.


Super simple.  You just put down a mixture of brown sugar, butter, and pecans in the bottom of a casserole dish, lay on the bread slices, then pour the custard over it all.  If you are making this for breakfast in the morning, you can do this the night before and refrigerate overnight.  I was making it for dinner, and, confession time: picked out the recipe not realizing it was baked.  I figured it out at about 2:00 that day.  Oops!  So I had it all put together by 2:30.  I let it sit for 2.5 hours and baked it at 5:00 and it was awesome.  So if you don't have all night, or even several hours, to make this ahead of time, don't sweat it.  It will probably still turn out well.


This is what it looks like coming out of the oven.  The bread should be a light golden brown on top and the caramel should be all bubbly in the bottom.  Flip the pieces over when you serve them to have the caramel and pecans on top.  

This stuff is just as good as it sounds!  Definitely a dessert-for-breakfast kind of thing, but that is my husband's favorite!  I would certainly only make this for special occasions; not your everyday Tuesday morning meal.  But you have to have a special treat every now and then.

My husband loved this French toast.  And bonus, my kids loved it too.  Eva wasn't crazy about the pecans, but she dealt with them.  We only ended up with one piece leftover for this morning.  

I had never made French toast in the oven before, but this was so awesome that I would love to find other (less decadent) recipes like this because it was so incredibly easy.  

Since I made this for Father's Day, I have to share a few pics of  my girls with their daddy.






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18 June 2015



It's time for this month's Improv Challenge.  The premise of the Improv Challenge is easy: each month there are two assigned ingredients.  The participants must make a recipe using both ingredients and blog about it. 

This month's assigned ingredients were fish and avocado.  I said that "fish" could be anything that came from the sea.  I had planned to make some kind of tuna and avocado rice bowl that I had pinned on Pinterest a while ago, but then I saw something new a couple of weeks ago that I just could not resist trying.  Salmon sliders with an avocado sauce on Rachel Schultz.  I had never thought to do salmon sliders and that avocado sauce sounded amazing.  I changed a few things; here's my adaptation.

 Grilled Salmon Sliders with Dill Avocado Sauce

Ingredients:
8 small salmon filets
Seasoning of choice (Lemon pepper is good)
1 avocado, cubed
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp honey
2 tbsp olive oil
¼ cup fresh dill
Salt, to taste
8 slider rolls
Tomato slices
Green leaf lettuce

Directions:
Preheat grill to medium heat.  

Season the salmon however you like.  Grill salmon for a couple of minutes on each side.  (I recommend using a grill pan.)  Remove from grill and set aside.

Meanwhile, combine the avocado, vinegar, honey, and dill. Blend using a small food processor or a stick blender.  Taste for seasoning, adding salt if desired.

To assemble sliders: Cut slider rolls and place a salmon filet on each one.  Top with lettuce and tomato.  Slather the top bun with the avocado sauce and place on top.

Makes 4 servings, 2 sliders each.

I decided to grill the salmon because 'tis the season!  My husband has been rocking the grilled salmon lately, so that was a no-brainer for me.  If grilling is not an option for you for whatever reason, you can still certainly make these by either baking or pan-searing the salmon.  But the grilled flavor goes so well with the summery tomato and avocado that grilling would always be my preference here.  

About the seasoning: You can definitely season the salmon any way you like.  Lemon pepper would have been my first choice, but my kids don't like it (too peppery for them), so I used Penzeys Mural of Flavor and some salt.  Mural of Flavor is so great on salmon because it has lemon in it.  So yummy on all kinds of seafood.  So it worked really well here.




It's hard to measure fresh dill, so here's a pic of how much I used.  The original recipe called for lemon juice, and even though I only used half of what was called for, the lemon was way overpowering to me.  I added more honey to balance it out.  So that's why I left the lemon out of my recipe.  I think the white wine vinegar gives it all the acidity it needs.  It also called for red pepper flakes, but I left that out.

These little sandwiches were so good!  The salmon was flaky and the sauce was cool and creamy.  I can never cut even slices of tomato, so mine was a little messy because it was lopsided, but I didn't care!  Sometimes messy things taste the best.  My five-year-old was leery of the sauce because she saw me putting the dill in it and she thought it was cilantro, which she claims she doesn't like.  But my seven-year-old absolutely loved it.

I can see this avocado sauce being good and in infinite number of sandwiches.  Grilled chicken sandwiches, BLTs, hamburgers, etc.  Any sandwich that is good with fresh avocado would be even better with this sauce.  And it's really easy to whip up.  

Be sure to check out all the other great fish and avocado recipes below and come back next month to see what I make with pretzels and mustard!



12 June 2015


It's been about a month since I made these and I have been super excited to share them.  I don't even like blueberries (not at all), but I loved these bars!  They have a yummy shortbread crust that doubles as a crumbly topping.  Then in the middle is a sour cream custard filling and tons of fresh ripe blueberries.  So so good.  And being in bar form makes it so easy to cut up and serve.  I got the recipe from Hot Eats and Cool Reads.

Blueberry Crumble Bars

Ingredients:
1½ cups + ⅓ cup flour, divided
1¾ cups sugar, divided
Pinch of salt
1½ sticks cold butter, cubed
2 eggs
½ cup sour cream
3 cups fresh blueberries (1½ pints)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°.  Coat an 11x7” baking dish with baking spray.

In a medium bowl, combine the 1½ cups flour, ¾ cup sugar, and pinch of salt.  Cut in cold butter using a pastry blender until butter is evenly distributed.  Remove 1 cup of this mixture and set it aside.  Press the rest into the bottom of the prepared baking dish and bake for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool.

In another bowl, combine the eggs, remaining ⅓ cup flour, remaining 1 cup sugar, and sour cream.  Fold in blueberries.  Pour this mixture over the cooled crust.  Sprinkle the remaining crust mixture over the top.  Bake for an additional 50-55 minutes, or until top is lightly browned.  Remove from oven and let cool completely before cutting into bars and serving.  Refrigerate any leftovers.

Makes 12 bars.

This is a real crowd-pleaser.  It would be perfect for any of those summertime gatherings you are invited to: backyard cookouts, church picnics, etc.  And because it's packed with fresh fruit, I think you could get by serving this in slightly breakfast-y situations like brunch or anytime you would serve coffeecake.  It's a really great recipe to have in your collection.



What I'm Reading Right Now


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21 May 2015


It's time for this month's Improv Challenge.  The premise of the Improv Challenge is easy: each month there are two assigned ingredients.  The participants must make a recipe using both ingredients and blog about it. 

This month's ingredients were cilantro and lime.  A little late for Cinco de Mayo, but a great combo anytime of year.  I love cilantro, and lime is a perfect partner for it.  Cilantro and lime are both common ingredients in both Mexican and Thai food.  I love both of those cuisines, but this time I decided to do a little "fusion" cooking.  

Do you ever make your own hummus?  It is really convenient to buy it premade at the grocery store, and I do that sometimes when I am feeling lazy, but I also think it's really fun to make my own hummus.  It's super easy using canned beans, and while it is really difficult (if not impossible) to get it as smooth as store-bought, the pay-off is that you can play around with ingredients and come up with some really fun variations.  Last fall I made a Roasted Butternut Squash Hummus that was amazing.  I also make Pizza Hummus, which is my kids' favorite.  So when I happened to stumble across the idea for adding cilantro and lime to hummus, I couldn't wait to try it.  My version is adapted from Vegan Family Recipes.


Cilantro Lime Hummus

Ingredients:
1 (15 oz.) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
¼ cup tahini
3 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp ground cumin
3 tbsp lime juice
⅓ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1-3 tbsp water (optional)

Directions:
Place chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, cumin, lime juice, and cilantro in a food processor.  Process until smooth, scraping down the sides if necessary.  If desired, add water until desired consistency has been reached.

Pour into a bowl and serve with tortilla chips.

Makes about 2½ cups.

I made this as an afternoon snack for my daughters (ages 7 and almost 5), and they loved it.  I really think this would be a good alternative to guacamole for people who can't eat avocados.  I served it with tortilla chips, but you can dip anything you want in there, of course.

I'm happy to include this into my homemade hummus rotation!

Be sure to check out all the other great cilantro and lime recipes below and come back next month to see what I make with fish and avocado.  Oh wow!



06 May 2015


I made cookies last week!  I don't make cookies very often because I am lazy and it's so much easier to make bars.  But I love these cookies and they are so perfect for this time of year.  They have the perfect consistency, in my opinion.  They don't spread out and get all thin and crispy.  They keep their shape pretty well and come out chewy.  Just the way I like my cookies!  And they are studded with even chewier bits of real dried strawberries and creamy vanilla chips.  Awesome.  They are very slightly adapted from Cookies and Cups.

Strawberries and Cream Cookies

Ingredients:
½ cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg + 1 yolk
2 tsp vanilla
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 ¼ cups flour
1 cup dried strawberries, chopped
¾ cup white chocolate chips

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°.

In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar.  Add the egg and yolk and vanilla and mix well.  In a separate bowl, combine the baking soda, baking powder, salt, and flour.  Add the flour mixture to the brown sugar mixture and stir until just combined.  Add the strawberries and white chocolate chips and stir.

Roll dough into 2 tbsp sized balls and place on a baking sheet.  (I got 12 to a sheet.)  Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until edges are just barely golden.  Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet for 4 minutes.  Remove to parchment paper and let cool completely.

Makes 2 dozen 2” cookies.


 I buy the dried strawberries at Target.  They have a nice selection of dried fruit.  Don't get the "freeze-dried" strawberries. Those are like thin and brittle.  You want the chewy ones.


 I chop them up.  You don't want too much chew in one bite.


The original recipe called for dropping them with a teaspoon, and I tried it that way the first time, but I found that rolling them into balls makes them come out a little prettier and more uniform.  Two tablespoons of dough will get you a 2-inch cookie.  They don't spread out much, so you can easily fit 12 on a cookie sheet.

The original recipe also called for more white chocolate chips, but I thought it was too much because it made the dough so dry and crumbly I could barely keep it together.  And as you can see in the top picture, some cookies were a bit overloaded with the chips.  So next time I will cut it back to 3/4 cup.

These cookies are perfect for all of those springtime get-togethers.  I made them for my daughters' school lunch and they were a big hit.


What I'm Reading Right Now


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02 May 2015


What would you say if I told you there exists a salad with three different veggies, two different fruits, and some nuts that kids will not only eat, but like?  You would think I was crazy, right?  I would have thought so too until I made this awesomeness this week.  I cooked lunch for my daughters' school on Friday and had planned to make those little ham and cheese sliders on the Kings Hawaiian rolls. But I couldn't decide what to serve with them.  I could have been boring and just done carrot sticks or something, but I wanted to be a little more creative than that.  I did some Pinterest research and found this gem from the blog on Super Healthy Kids.  Are you familiar with that site? They have all kinds of neat ideas on there.  If you cook for kids, I encourage you to check it out.

This salad was so perfect for the school lunch.  Shredded broccoli (stems), carrots, and red cabbage with chopped apples, dried cranberries, and sliced almonds for crunch.  Poppyseed dressing is a convenient and delicious way to tie it all together.  While this salad is tasty, its beauty is a real asset to it.  I love how colorful it is: pale green from the broccoli, bright orange from the carrots, bright pops of red from the cranberries and apple skins (I highly recommend using red apples for this reason), and even the tiny little dots of the black poppyseeds are nice.  

Broccoli Apple Salad

Ingredients:
6 cups broccoli slaw
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup poppyseed dressing
6 cups apples, cored and chopped (not peeled)
½ cup sliced almonds

Directions:
Put broccoli slaw in a large bowl.  Add the cranberries and poppyseed dressing and toss to combine.  Chop the apples; add each cup to the broccoli mixture as you chop it.  Tossing them with the dressing will keep the apples from browning.  After all apples have been added, toss well, then cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

When ready to serve, add the sliced almonds, and toss a final time.

Makes about 14 cups.

Can you believe how easy this is?  I had never bought the broccoli slaw before, but I had seen it and knew where to find it (in the produce section with the bagged salads).  It made this so easy and fast.  



I love how it can be prepped ahead of time.  I debated on whether or not to add the apples in the morning because I was afraid they would brown.  But I saw that the poppyseed dressing contained vinegar, so I gave it a shot.  They didn't brown one bit in the 2 or so hours until lunch, and I just checked my leftovers in the fridge and still no browning.  The salad is just as beautiful today as it was yesterday.  The reason I held off on adding the almonds is because I thought the dressing might soften them a little bit.  To make it even healthier, you can use "light" poppyseed dressing.

I will admit one thing, however: I just called this "Apple Salad" to the kids at lunch.  Since the shredded broccoli stems are so pale green, I figured the kids (at least the younger ones) wouldn't realize it was broccoli.  And if they don't know (or think) there is broccoli in it, they will be more willing to try it.  It was definitely well received. I can't say that every kid loved it, but I know lots of them ate all of what I gave them.  That's success in my book!  And the teachers and my husband loved it too.  Bonus!  

Here's a close-up.  Isn't it just gorgeous?

(The camera on my phone really rocks!)

I'm so glad I found this recipe.  This will make an awesome potluck dish.  It is gluten-free, and dairy-free, and vegan as long as the poppyseed dressing you choose is vegan.  I used Marzetti, which is not vegan because it contains egg yolk, but I saw the Ken's does not.  So perfect for all those summer get-togethers and potlucks!

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16 April 2015


There are two things I didn't realize until I went to type up this post. 1. I haven't posted since last month's Improv Challenge.  Oops! It's been a long time since I went a whole month without posting. But Lent/Holy Week/Easter is a super busy time of year for pastors' families and time just got away from me. 2. I missed my blogiversary. :(  Whoops.  March 29th was the 8th anniversary of my blog.  No fanfare this year!  Maybe I will remember next year.

So onto this month's Improv Challenge.  The premise of the Improv Challenge is easy: each month there are two assigned ingredients.  The participants must make a recipe using both ingredients and blog about it.   


This month's assigned ingredients were asparagus and egg.  Lovely spring ingredients.  I love asparagus, but I rarely experiment with it.  I have seen lots of yummy-looking asparagus recipes, but I love it so much just simply roasted with olive oil and kosher salt, that I have never strayed too much from that.  I did make a new asparagus dish for Easter, though.  The asparagus was wrapped in herbed goat cheese and prosciutto.  It was really good and kind of fancier for a special occasion.  But since it didn't involve eggs, I couldn't use it for Improv.  I did a Google image search for "asparagus and egg" and wanted to try every single dish I saw!  Oh man, there are so many yummy things you can do with asparagus and eggs.  I almost went with a dish that involved polenta, bacon, asparagus, and a poached egg on top.  I still want to make that, but decided to go with something a little simpler.  I have had this recipe from Food Network Magazine pinned for like 2 years.  I had two firsts in making it: I had never made a savory tart before (maybe not even a sweet one at that), and I had never used puff pastry before.  Even so, it seemed like an easy recipe with big "wow" factor; right up my alley!

Asparagus Cheese Tart

Ingredients:
½ - 1 lb. asparagus, trimmed
Olive oil
Kosher salt
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
Flour, for dusting
2 egg yolks
3 tbsp milk
1 cup grated smoked gouda (3 oz.)
1 cup grated comte (3 oz.)
½ tsp Fox Point Seasoning or shallot salt

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400°.

Put asparagus on a baking sheet and lightly coat with olive oil.  Sprinkle with a little kosher salt.  Roast in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes.  Remove and set aside.

Meanwhile, sprinkle a small amount of flour on a cutting board.  Roll puff pastry into a 10x15” rectangle.  Sprinkle a little more flour on a baking sheet and carefully transfer the puff pastry to the baking sheet.  Prick several times with a fork.  When the asparagus is done, put puff pastry in the oven and bake for 12 minutes.  Remove and let cool slightly.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the egg yolks, milk, cheeses, and seasoning.  When puff pastry has cooled slightly, spread the cheese mixture out on to it, leaving a 1” border.  Arrange the asparagus spears on top of the cheese mixture, as many as you can fit on there.  Return to oven and bake for another 15 minutes or until puff pastry is puffed and golden.  

Cut into pieces using a sharp pizza cutter.

Makes 8 servings.


 The puff pastry after rolling out.  I didn't do a perfect job of rolling it out, so one edge was a little "rustic".  Rolling things out is not my forte.  I used my stoneware for baking.  You can put parchment underneath the dough if you are worried about it sticking, but mine was fine with a little flour.


 After pre-baking for 12 minutes.


 These are the cheeses I used.  I had never even heard of Comte, let alone cooked with it before.  I was going to use something else instead, but then I just happened to see it at Trader Joe's when we were there over Spring Break.  It's a harder cheese like Parmesan.  I used my Microplane to grate it, while I used my box grater on the smoked gouda.  If you don't have Fox Point, you can use shallot salt, or fresh minced shallots and some salt.  I was going to use fresh shallots, but I forgot I was out.  So the Fox Point was the next best thing.  I love the little bits of green flecks it created in the finished product. 


 I looks like scrambled eggs, I know.  But it's the cheese mixture.

I forgot to get one after I laid the asparagus on there.  The original recipe called for a whole pound of it, but I only used about half.  My asparagus stalks were super skinny, so there were lots of them in that pound.  I could have squeezed some more in, but I was happy with it the way it was.  Use as much as you like.


 I thought it was very pretty coming out of the oven.  One of those "looks harder than it really is" kind of dishes.


I cut it into 8 squares.  

This is so yummy!  The cheeses blend together really well and are just perfect.  You can use different cheeses of course.  The original recipe also suggested fontina and gruyere.  

I know that the egg wasn't really prominent in this dish, but it played a very important role and I'm glad I picked this recipe for Improv this month.  I would have loved to have shared this in time for Easter, but I guess you'll have to hold on it until next Easter.  :)

Be sure to check out all the other great asparagus and egg recipes below and come back next month to see what I make with cilantro and lime.