30 April 2011

These are the lovely things my husband woke up to yesterday morning. They are delightful! I got this recipe from the blog For The Love of Cooking.

Strawberry Orange Banana Muffins

2¼ cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 orange, zested and juiced
2 large ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs
⅔ cup brown sugar
½ cup canola oil
1 tbsp vanilla
1½ tbsp fresh orange juice (one orange)
1½ cups of strawberries, chopped, divided
3 tbsp sugar

Preheat the oven to 375°. Coat a muffin tin with cooking spray.

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and ½ tbsp orange zest together in a small bowl. Reserve remaining orange zest.

In another bowl, beat together the bananas, eggs, brown sugar, oil, 1½ tbsp orange juice, and vanilla until well blended. Stir in the dry ingredients until just combined then carefully add 1 cup strawberries and gently mix together. Scoop the batter evenly into the muffin tray. Sprinkle the remaining strawberries evenly over the tops of each muffin, making sure to push them down a bit.

Combine the sugar and remaining1 tbsp orange zest together and sprinkle evenly on top of each muffin. Bake for 25-27 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for a few minutes. Enjoy.

Makes 12 muffins.

So good and stunningly pretty! I only changed one thing about this recipe. It originally called for melted butter instead of the oil. Butter is so expensive that I decided to try it with oil instead and they came out just fine.

I forgot to add the sugar/orange zest topping before shoving them in the oven. Oops.

The banana flavor is probably the least noticeable here, so if you're not a big bananas-in-baked-goods fan, fear not. The orange came through more than I was expecting and I love how you can see the little flecks of zest in them.

I will definitely be making these again throughout the summer.

Ready for the oven.

29 April 2011

This is one of my favorite comfort food meals. And it's also my favorite way to use leftover Easter ham. This recipe comes from my mom.

Slow Cooker Ham and Beans

1½ cups dry great northern beans
2 cups diced ham
5 cups water
2 tsp salt
¼ onion, finely minced

Place beans and ham in slow cooker. Add water, salt, and onion.

Cook on low for 8 hours. Serve over warm cornbread.

Makes 6 servings.

It doesn't get much simpler than that. I love the flavor of the salty ham and beans together with the sweet cornbread. And the beans come out so perfectly using the slow cooker; all soft and creamy. Mmm!

Using the amount of water listed above, you will end up with some liquid still covering the beans when it's done. I like it that way because I drizzle a little bit of it over my cornbread so it's not dry. If you like it drier, you can cut back on the amount of water.

I took the picture above the last time I made this and since I didn't have leftover Easter ham, I just used a chunk of ham from the store. I like the look of the rustic bits of smoked ham instead of the cubes. I may have to take another picture of the batch I made yesterday.

27 April 2011

This is an adaptation of a recipe I got from the blog For the Love of Cooking, who got it from the blog Wives with Knives, who got it from the blog Thibeault's Table. This recipe has definitely made the rounds! All of the previous bloggers included Canadian bacon in theirs, but when I saw it, I thought it would make a great meatless main if the Canadian bacon was excluded. So that's how I made mine.

Baked Egg Potato Boats

4 large baking potatoes
Olive oil
Kosher salt
4 eggs
Green onions, sliced

Preheat oven to 350°. Coat potatoes with a little bit of olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake until soft, about an hour.

Increase oven temperature to 400°.

Remove the top third of the potatoes and scoop out some of the filling. Make sure to leave some of the filling in so the potato will not collapse.

Sprinkle the inside with salt, then crack an egg and pour it inside. Season with more salt to taste.

Place the potatoes in a baking dish and place in the oven. Cook until the egg is set but the yolk is still soft, about 23 minutes, or until the egg is cooked to your liking.

Remove from the oven and top with Hollandaise sauce and green onions. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

The Hollandaise sauce wasn't part of the original recipe, but the first night I made this, the head elder of our church called during dinner. After dinner, Jim called him back and said he didn't answer because we were eating dinner. The elder, Scott, is a fellow foodie and is always interested in what I'm cooking. He asked what we had for dinner and when Jim told him, he said, "That would be really good with Hollandaise sauce on it." Great idea! So now I make Hollandaise sauce to go with it. And Scott was right, it is really good. Thanks Scott!

In the past I included cheddar cheese in these because it was part of the original recipe, but now that I am putting Hollandaise sauce on them, the cheese seems a bit out of place and unnecessary. So I will leave that out in the future.

The baked potatoes, hollowed out and ready to be filled. Make sure you get really good-sized potatoes for this recipe. If the potato isn't big enough, the egg white will spill out over the sides and make the potato stick to the baking dish.

Cross section. I love how the yolk is still a little bit soft in the middle. Just how I like it. If you like your yolk completely cooked, leave it in the oven for a few more minutes.

The first time I made this I served it with roasted broccoli and that was really good, but this time I had some asparagus (yay spring!), so I roasted that up to go with it. I think any roasted green veggie would be awesome with this.

I made Hollandaise sauce for the first time the other night. I was a bit intimidated by it, but it turned out pretty well. I used this Tyler Florence recipe.

Hollandaise Sauce

4 egg yolks
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
Pinch cayenne
Pinch salt

Vigorously whisk the egg yolks and lemon juice together in a stainless steel bowl and until the mixture is thickened and doubled in volume. Place the bowl over a saucepan containing barely simmering water (the water should not touch the bottom of the bowl). Continue to whisk rapidly. Be careful not to let the eggs get too hot or they will scramble. Slowly drizzle in the melted butter and continue to whisk until the sauce is thickened and doubled in volume. Remove from heat, whisk in cayenne and salt. Cover and place in a warm spot until ready to use. If the sauce gets too thick, whisk in a few drops of warm water before serving.

Makes 1 cup.

It was easier than I thought it would be. And it tasted pretty good. I didn't have unsalted butter on hand, so I had to use salted. Even though I didn't add any extra salt, the finished sauce was a tad on the salty side, so next time I will use unsalted butter.

I served it over my Baked Egg Potato Boats and roasted asparagus. Yum!

My three-year-old absolutely loved the Hollandaise sauce. She ate it all off of her potato and then said, "More holiday mustard, please!"

26 April 2011

This is the dessert I made for my Easter dinner this year. I saw them on the blog The Family Kitchen, and had to make them. They are so springy looking!

Flower Cookies on a Stick

½ cup butter, at room temperature
½ cup canola oil
½ cup sugar
½ cup powdered sugar
1 large egg
2¼ cups flour
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
food coloring
wood or paper lollipop sticks or long wooden coffee stirrers

In a large bowl, beat the butter and oil with both sugars until light. Add the egg and beat for another minute. Add the flour, baking soda and vanilla and beat on low speed or stir by hand just until you have a smooth dough. Remove about a third of it and set aside; add several drops of food coloring to the remaining dough and knead it in until incorporated. Wrap or cover and refrigerate for 2 hours. (This will cause the dough to spread less.)

Preheat the oven to 350°. Roll the chilled dough into marble-sized balls. On a parchment-lined cookie sheet, arrange one plain dough ball, place a stick with its tip underneath it, then place 5 colored balls around it. (They will spread, so they can be close together without having to touch.) Bake for 15-20 minutes, until set.

Makes about 1½ dozen cookies.

I actually didn't change anything about this recipe. The only thing I did differently was to make more than one color. My mom helped me make these, and we did blue, pink, and yellow. I thought it would be fun to have a few different colors.

I couldn't find sticks at the store that were the right length, so I used wire cutters to cut some bamboo skewers that I keep on hand. I think between 6 and 7 inches is good; mine happened to be 6¾” long.

We made the first batch on a dark metal baking sheet and they burned. :( So after that we used an air-bake type baking sheet. I think they would bake nicely on stoneware too.

25 April 2011

This is a recipe I got from my sister-in-law Amy, who got it from Taste of Home. It was part of my Easter dinner this year.

Herbed Bubble Bread

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¾ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp dill weed
¼ tsp dried basil
¼ cup butter, melted
2 tsp minced garlic
1 loaf (1 lb.) frozen bread dough, thawed

In a small bowl, combine cheese and herbs. In another bowl, combine butter and garlic; set aside.

Divide dough into 16 pieces. Roll into balls. Coat balls in butter mixture, then dip in cheese mixture. Place in a greased 9x5” loaf pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Bake at 350° for 22-26 minutes or until golden brown. (Cover loosely with foil if top browns too quickly.) Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. Serve warm.

Makes 16 servings.

Nutrition Facts: 1 serving equals 110 calories, 4 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 8 mg cholesterol, 212 mg sodium, 14 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 4 g protein.

I haven't made too many bread recipes, especially the kind with yeast. It intimidates me. So when I first tried this at Amy's house, I didn't think I could make it. But then she told me that it used frozen bread dough, so I thought I would give it a shot. I had never used frozen bread dough before. It was pretty easy to work with.

I changed the herbs a little bit. That's the nice thing about this recipe. It's really easy to change it to your tastes. The Taste of Home recipe called for rosemary and parsley, but I don't like those herbs, so I used more thyme, dill, and basil. Also, I misread the recipe and used garlic powder instead of minced garlic and that worked just fine. (Another reviewer on the Taste of Home website said she had problems with the minced garlic burning near the edges of the pan, so maybe powder is better anyway.)

Mine got a little too brown on the bottom, but that's because I had the rack on the lowest position because the ham was still in there. So make sure your rack is somewhere in the middle of the oven.

The dough balls before rising. I was going to take an "after" pic of them doubled, but I forgot. It was a busy day!

Thanks for the recipe, Amy!
My 2009 ham with cranberry spice glaze.

I have made a ham on Easter three years in a row now, but every year I forget how I made the ham the year before. So I am recording it here, more for my benefit than yours really, but you might enjoy knowing how I make ham also. It's basically this method I saw in Food Network Magazine.

Glazed Ham

9 – 10 lb. bone-in fully cooked smoked ham (butt or shank half)
1½ cups glaze

Remove the ham from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 325°.

Trim off any skin from the ham. Use a sharp paring knife to score through the fat in a diagonal crosshatch pattern without cutting through to the meat.

Put the ham, flat-side down, on a rack in a roasting pan. Pour ¼” water into the bottom of the pan. Transfer to the oven and roast until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the ham registers 130°, about 2½ hours (about 15 minutes per pound).

Increase the oven temperature to 425°. Pour half of the glaze over the ham and brush to coat. If the water in the bottom of the pan has evaporated, add more. Return the ham to the oven and roast, basting every 10 minutes with the remaining glaze, until glossy and well browned and 140°, about 45 more minutes.

Makes 12 servings.

Pretty easy. Hams are already fully cooked, so you're basically just warming it up and browning the outside. I always forget what temperature ham is supposed to reach when done, so now I have it in writing so I won't forget next year!

The first two years I used Cranberry Spice Glaze and this year I used Mustard Orange Glaze. They are both super tasty and I highly recommend them both.

My 2011 ham with mustard orange glaze. (Forgot to take a pic before carving. Oops!)

Happy Easter everyone! I hope you all had a nice holiday. It's always the busiest time of year for us, but we had a great day yesterday. The weather was actually very nice and we had family in town to help us celebrate the holiday. It was my third year making an Easter dinner; a nice tradition I have started. I go pretty traditional with my Easter menu: ham, some sort of cheesy potato dish, green bean casserole, bread, and sometimes a carrot side dish too. The first two years I used the same ham glaze, Cranberry Spice Glaze for Ham, but Food Network Magazine had four different ham glaze recipes in this month's issue so I was inspired to try a new one this year. They all look great and I want to try them all eventually, but I started with the mustard orange one.

Mustard Orange Glaze for Ham

1 orange
1 cup brown sugar
¾ cup brown mustard
9 – 10 lb. bone-in ham
Zest and juice orange. Combine orange juice and zest with brown sugar and mustard. Pour half of glaze over ham when ham registers 130°. Brush with remaining glaze every 10 minutes until ham registers 140°.

Makes 1½ cups glaze.

It was really good. I had to take a picture of the ham after we carved it because I forgot to while it was still whole. But if you click on the picture, you can see the glaze on the edges of the ham.

It's the perfect combination of sweet and spicy. It's a nice twist on the usual honey mustard flavor profile. The original recipe called for dijon, but we like brown mustard better. I didn't have quite enough of that, however, so this one ended up being half brown mustard and half dijon.

It was a hit with my family, so it is definitely going to my ham glaze rotation!

Melissa from I Was Born To Cook chose to make this recipe when she was assigned my blog for the Secret Recipe Club in November 2012.  Click on the button below to check out her post!

Secret Recipe Club

20 April 2011

Today is my birthday. I don't have a birthday cake, so I am going to live vicariously through my blog and post a really yummy dessert recipe. This is a dessert I made for a family gathering at Christmastime. It's a Betty Crocker recipe.

Fudgy Brownie Trifle

1 box fudge brownie mix
Water, vegetable oil and eggs called for on brownie mix box
1 tbsp instant coffee granules
1 box (4 serving size) chocolate fudge instant pudding mix
2 cups cold milk
1 bag (8 oz.) toffee bits
1 container (8 oz.) frozen whipped topping, thawed

Heat oven to 350ยบ. Grease bottom only of 13x9” pan with cooking spray.

Make brownie mix as directed on box, using water, oil and eggs and adding coffee granules. Spread batter in pan. Bake as directed on box. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

Cut brownies into 1” squares. Place half of the squares in bottom of 3 quart trifle bowl. Make pudding mix as directed on box for pudding, using milk. Pour half of the pudding over brownies in bowl. Top with half each of the toffee bits and whipped topping. Repeat with remaining brownies, pudding, toffee bits and whipped topping.

Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving. Store covered in refrigerator.

Makes 20 servings.

Oh man, this thing is so good! How can you go wrong with fudgy brownies, chocolate pudding, and toffee bits? Yum! I know that in the picture it looks like it has chopped nuts, but those are the toffee bits.

It's a good thing I don't have the ingredients for this on hand right now, as I would be tempted to go make it and have it for breakfast!

Multiple layers of yumminess!

18 April 2011

This is one of my new favorite chicken dishes. Chicken breasts are marinated in what seems like a really odd jumble of flavors, but they all combine to make some really tasty chicken. Ginger is definitely the predominant flavor, though. We absolutely love ginger, so this one's a keeper. I got this recipe from BHG.com.

Ginger Baked Chicken

4 chicken breast cutlets
1 large shallot, finely chopped
½ cup orange juice
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp paprika
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
Nonstick cooking spray
2 cups cooked white rice, optional

Place chicken in a plastic bag set in a shallow dish. In a small bowl combine shallots, orange juice, brown sugar, ginger, oil, garlic, coriander, paprika, salt, and cinnamon. Pour over chicken; seal bag. Marinate in the refrigerator for 2 to 6 hours, turning bag occasionally.

Preheat oven to 375°. Lightly coat a 2 quart baking dish with cooking spray. Arrange chicken in the prepared baking dish; pour marinade over chicken.

Bake, uncovered, about 30 minutes or until chicken is tender and no longer pink. Stir the juices remaining in baking dish into cooked rice, if desired. Serve the chicken with rice.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition Facts
Per Serving:
Calories: 290
Fat: 5g (1g sat.)
Cholesterol: 66mg
Sodium: 209mg
Carbs: 30g
Fiber: 1g
Protein: 29g
Vitamin C: 33%
Iron: 12%

BHG.com calls this recipe Ginger Spiced Chicken, but it's not spicy, so I feel that's a little bit misleading. I really like how this dish is baked; it's so easy to dump the bag it marinated in right into a baking dish, throw it into the oven, and forget about it for half an hour.

I only changed one thing about this recipe. It originally called for green onions instead of shallots. I tried it that way the first time I made it and I didn't really like how the green onions got all wilty looking. They really looked unappetizing in the finished dish. I think that ginger and shallots go together really well, so I tried that this time and I liked it much better. To compensate for the missing little bits of green, I garnished it with chopped cilantro.

Instead of the rice, I have also served this chicken with my Asian Noodles. The flavors in each dish really compliment each other.

It doesn't photograph well, but this is a tasty salmon dish. It's an Ellie Krieger recipe I tried a week or so ago.

Saucy Tomato Salmon with Swiss Chard

1 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes, juice included
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
½ tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
1 large bunch Swiss chard, washed dried, center stems removed, coarsely chopped
4 (6 oz.) skinless salmon fillets
1½ cups broth or water
1½ cups dry couscous

Preheat oven to 350°. Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook until soft and golden, about 1 minute. Add diced tomatoes with juice, tomato sauce, pepper flakes, cumin, and coriander. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes until sauce thickens slightly. Remove from heat.

Place Swiss chard on the bottom of a 9x13” glass baking dish. Season fish fillets with salt and place in on top of chard. Cover with sauce and bake, covered, until fish is just cooked and chard is wilted, about 15 minutes. Remove cover and bake an additional 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring broth or water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add couscous, stir well, cover and remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

Serve salmon and chard over couscous.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition Info:
Per Serving:
1 serving equals 1 fillet, ¾ cup chard and sauce
Calories 370
Fat 15 g
Sat Fat 2 g
Protein 38 g
Carb 20 g
Fiber 4 g
Cholesterol 94 mg
Sodium 700 mg

You have to really like tomatoes to enjoy this dish, but if you do you will love it. It's really easy to throw together and is great for a busy weeknight meal.

The original recipe called for no-salt-added tomatoes and tomato sauce, but I all I had was regular. I tasted the sauce when it was done and it was so tart I made a face. I added 2 tsp of sugar, and that seemed to mellow it out a bit. I don't know if the canned tomatoes I was using were really tart, or if it was because they weren't no-salt-added. Afterwards I thought about stirring in a little sour cream to mellow it out. I might try it that way next time.

I used rainbow chard, but you can use any kind. This kind is so pretty!

Chard chopped and into the baking dish.

Salmon goes on top.

And cover with sauce.

16 April 2011

I love Thanksgiving food. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce. Mmmm. But I only make a turkey with all the trimings once a year. So the rest of the year, I like to make meals that mimic Thanksgiving flavors. I call them "Mock Thanksgiving" meals. They combine the foods and/or flavors of Thanksgiving in easy, weeknight-friendly preparations. I have already posted one of these recipes, Spicy Cranberry Chicken. Here is another one of our favorites.

I saw Rachael Ray make mini turkey meatloaves that had her homemade stuffing in them (in place of the breadcrumbs that are usually in meatloaf). I thought that putting stuffing in ground turkey for a meatloaf was a brilliant idea. So I tried her recipe and I had several problems with it. First of all, while I liked the stuffing recipe she provided, there was way too much of it. Not only did the mini meatloaves turn out more stuffing than meat, there were too many of them for one meal (I think we ate them for like 2 days after that!). And it was kind of time-consuming to make the stuffing and then bake the meatloaf. (This wasn't a 30 minute meal; it was on her Cooking Channel show Week in a Day.) And instead of turning out like mini meatloaves, they turned out more like burger patties. In fact, we ate the leftovers on hamburger buns with cranberry sauce as a condiment. That was okay, but I was stuck on the meatloaf idea.

So I took her idea and came up with my own version of turkey meatloaf with stuffing in it. I use a boxed stuffing mix. I love that stuff, and while the regular versions are loaded with salt, I really like Stovetop's reduced sodium chicken variety. Here is the recipe I came up with.

Turkey Stuffing Meatloaf

2 lbs. ground turkey (93/7)
2 eggs, beaten
½ tsp salt
½ tsp poultry seasoning
1½ cups prepared stuffing
⅓ can jellied cranberry sauce
2 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine turkey, eggs, salt, poultry seasoning, and stuffing. Put into a loaf pan and bake 1 to 1½ hours or until internal temperature reaches 165°.

Meanwhile, heat cranberry sauce, ketchup, and mustard in a small saucepan over low heat until cranberry sauce has melted and no lumps remain.

When meatloaf is done, spread glaze on top and bake an additional 5 minutes.

Makes 8 servings.

Rachael's mini meatloaves didn't include a glaze. I got the idea for this one somewhere online but I can't remember where. It's a Thanksgiving-y spin on the traditional ketchup and brown sugar one.

We love this meatloaf. I serve it with mashed potatoes with gravy and green beans.

Here is a pic of Rachael's mini meatloaves. You can see what I mean about them looking like burgers.

I love oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Regular chocolate chip cookies are good too, but I love the chewiness the oatmeal provides. I'm definitely of the "chewy cookie" camp instead of the "flat and crispy cookie" camp.

This is my variation of the infamous Neiman Marcus cookies. If you are not familiar with Neiman Marcus cookies, you can read about them here. We received this recipe in our email back in the mid to late 90s and my mom made these cookies every once in a while. They are really good. I made them myself for the first time the other night. I ended up changing the recipe a little bit. Here's my version.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

2½ cups old fashioned oats, divided
2 cups flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
12 oz. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375°.

Pulse half of the oats in a food processor until powdery. Combine it with the remaining oats, flour, salt, baking powder, and soda. Set aside. In another bowl, cream the butter and both sugars. Add eggs and vanilla. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, mixing thoroughly. Add chocolate chips.

Roll into balls and place two inches apart on a cookie sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes.

Makes about 3½ dozen cookies.

I changed a few things about the original recipe. All of the oats were supposed to be processed, but I like having whole oats in my cookies, so I left half intact. It was also supposed to have a 4 oz. Hershey's bar grated in it. I always liked that about these cookies, but when I went to make them myself, I couldn't figure out how to grate the candy bar. I tried using my box grater, and that seemed to work ok, until I realized that the chocolate was melting all over my fingers while I did it. I was already kind of frustrated with the whole cookie-making process at this point, so I said "forget it!", ate the rest of the Hershey's bar, and continued on with the recipe. It was also supposed to have 1½ cups of chopped nuts, but I don't really like a lot of nuts in my cookies so I left that out too.

I decided to rename these cookies from Neiman Marcus Cookies to Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies 1. because I changed the original Neiman Marcus recipe 2. because probably not everyone knows what a Neiman Marcus cookie is and 3. because I can't ever remember how to spell Neiman Marcus and have copied and pasted it every time I mentioned it in this post!

I really don't enjoy making cookies. I don't have a stand mixer, so I have to mix everything by hand, which is a big pain (literally!). I could have used my hand mixer, but this dough is so thick and clumpy that I don't think it would have worked very well. Then when the dough is finally ready, it takes forever to roll it all into little balls and bake them all in batches. The other reason I don't like making cookies is because the intention is to only have dessert once a week (on Thursday nights), but since a cookie recipe makes so many cookies, we end up eating cookies all weekend. I know that we should have packaged some up and given them away, but that didn't happen!

Katrina at Baking and Boys chose to make this recipe (along with Key Lime Cheesecake Bars) when she was assigned my blog for the Secret Recipe Club in December 2011.  Click on the button below to check out her post!
Secret Recipe Club

Moussaka is a layered Greek dish traditionally consisting of eggplant and ground lamb. I saw this potato version in Cooking Light magazine a few years ago and had to try it. I'm not a big fan of eggplant, so making it with potato caught my attention. I made it with ground beef instead of the lamb because that's what I usually have on hand. I made a few other changes to it and this is my amended recipe.

Potato and Beef Moussaka

Olive oil
2 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into ¼” slices
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 lb. ground beef
1 cup tomato sauce
½ tsp salt
1½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 zucchini, sliced ⅛” thick
⅓ cup feta cheese
1 cup milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350°.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Coat pan with olive oil. Add one-third of potato slices to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Transfer potato to bowl. Repeat procedure with olive oil and remaining potato slices.

Recoat pan with cooking spray. Add onion, garlic, and beef to pan; cook until beef begins to brown. Add tomato sauce, salt, cumin, and cinnamon; cook 5 minutes.

Arrange half of potato slices in a 9x13” baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange half of zucchini slices over potatoes. Arrange beef mixture over zucchini; sprinkle with feta. Top with remaining zucchini and then potato slices. Combine milk and eggs in a small bowl; pour over potato mixture. Bake for 30 minutes or until top is golden and set. Remove from oven; let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 6 servings.

In addition to changing the lamb to beef, I also increased the cumin and cinnamon and added the zucchini and feta. The zucchini is so thinly sliced that you don't need to cook it before layering it in the dish; it will be perfect after being in the oven for half an hour. I definitely recommend using a mandoline for this recipe.

This dish is super tasty and we love it but I don't make it very often. It is quite time consuming because you have to brown all the potato slices on the stovetop. The recipe says to do it in three batches, but I can never fit all of mine in three, so I end up doing four. To save on time, I brown the ground beef in a separate pan so that it can be ready to go by the time the potatoes are done. It is kind of pain, but the finished dish is worth it.

Definitely not the prettiest version of this dish I have ever made. I usually arrange the potato slices in a nicer pattern, but I was in a hurry when I made this last night and didn't feel like messing with it.

15 April 2011

I have started a new tradition in our household. During the week, my husband gets up with our oldest daughter at 7:00. Friday and Saturday are his days off, so on those days I let him sleep in and I get up with her. While searching for a muffin recipe the last time I made muffins for church, I found an abundance of ones I wanted to try. Muffins are really pretty easy to make, so I decided to make muffins every Friday morning when I'm up early with Lena. So not only does Jim get to sleep in, he has warm, fresh from the oven muffins and hot coffee waiting for him when he gets up!

This morning I tried a recipe that I saw on the blog Cookistry a couple of weeks ago. Plain muffins with raspberry jam swirled throughout. Yum!

Jam Muffins

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup milk
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp vanilla
1 egg
⅓ cup sugar
⅓ cup jam

Preheat the oven to 375°. Spray 12 standard-sized muffin tins with baking spray, or line them with paper liners.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk to combine. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, vegetable oil, vanilla, egg, and sugar. Whisk to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir just enough to combine. It will be lumpy.

Add the jam, and fold the mixture a few times to distribute it, but leave the mixture streaky so the muffins will have distinct ribbons of jam. Portion the mixture evenly into the muffin tins.

Bake until the muffins are browned on top and a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffins comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

Remove the muffins from the pan and cool completely on a rack.

Makes 12 muffins.

These are really tasty. They're good on their own, but I like them spread with a little bit of butter so you get that salty/sweet thing going on.

I only changed two things about the original recipe. It called for ¼ cup honey, but I didn't have that much in my pantry. I added what I did have, then added another 1/4 cup of sugar. Next time I will use just sugar (mostly because it's a lot cheaper than honey and I'm not sure it will taste that different). I also changed the amount of jam from ½ cup to ⅓ cup. I had a lot of jam oozing out of the muffins and onto the muffin tin, so I will use a little less next time.

These are really easy to customize to your tastes. You can use any variety of jam you like, strawberry, grape, blackberry, etc. Just make sure it's jam and not jelly.

These are going into my regular Friday morning muffin rotation!

I created a new recipe yesterday. I certainly didn't intend to, but the recipe I was trying out just wasn't working and didn't look anything like what I had in mind. So I gave it some thought (it was a slow cooker recipe so I had some time to ponder!) and started making changes here and there throughout the day. In the end, I either changed or omitted 10 out of the 12 ingredients, and changed the nature of it as something to serve over rice into a stew, so I think it qualifies as a new creation!

Slow Cooker Chipotle Chicken & Sweet Potato Stew

4 chicken breast cutlets, cubed
2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
½ onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, grated
2 chipotle peppers, minced, plus 3 tbsp adobo sauce
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp salt
2 tsp cornstarch
1½ cups chicken broth

Place chicken, sweet potatoes, beans, onion, garlic, chipotles, tomato paste, paprika, and salt into the slow cooker. Stir cornstarch into chicken broth and add to slow cooker. Stir well to evenly distribute seasonings.

Cook on low for 6 hours.

Makes 4 servings.

I made so many changes from the recipe I started with that I am not going to detail them all. You can read that recipe here. If you read the comments, you will see that I was not the only one who had problems with it. I got the recipe from this blogger's cookbook, and it did not occur to me to look it up online to read comments until I realized it wasn't working out too well, otherwise I probably wouldn't have made it in the first place.

But, I am glad that I did because this stew turned out really well. Combining chicken, sweet potatoes, and chipotle in a stew had been in the back of my mind all winter, but I never got around to experimenting with it. Then when the original recipe from yesterday wasn't working out, I thought it would be really easy to turn it into something like what I had been thinking about during the winter. I think it would be really good with beef too.

As a little peek inside my recipe process, I have taken a picture of the recipe print-out I was making notes on throughout the day yesterday.

The only ingredients I kept without change are the chopped onion and paprika.

Although it seems kind of out-of-season now, this will be a great meal for next winter!

14 April 2011

Lemon bars are the perfect springtime or summertime dessert. They are a nice combination of tart and sweet, and their lightness is a welcome change from rich chocolate desserts this time of year.

This is the recipe my mom always made. She got it from a cookbook she had called Eet Smakelijk. It's a cookbook that was published by the Junior Welfare League of Holland, Michigan. My mom worked for GE in Des Moines back in the day and she had some customers in Holland. One year during the Tulip Festival, the customers bought a bunch of these cookbooks and sent them to the ladies in my mom's office as gifts. The title, Eet Smakelijk, means bon appetit in Dutch. We never had a clue how to pronounce it, and because the fancy script on the book made the capital E look like a G, we always called it "Get Smacking!"

I was surprised to hear the history behind this book the other day, as I now live within an hour's drive of Holland, Michigan, and have been to the tulip festival myself. (In fact, my husband reminded me that we saw this book in a bookstore window display when we were there two years ago.)

I never really liked lemon flavored foods as I was growing up, except for these lemon bars. They have a shortbread crust with a tasty lemon filling.

Lemon Bars

2¼ cups flour, divided
½ cup powdered sugar, plus more for topping
1 cup butter, softened
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups sugar
dash salt
6 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9x13” baking dish and set aside.

Combine 2 cups flour and powdered sugar together, then cut in butter until well blended. Press firmly into bottom of baking dish. Bake 20 minutes. Let cool.

Combine eggs, sugar, salt, lemon juice, baking powder, and remaining ¼ cup flour. Pour over crust and return to oven for 25 minutes. It’s done when the edges begin to turn brown.

Cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar, and cut into squares.

Makes about 20 bars.

I only changed two things about this recipe. The original that Mom sent to me called for margarine instead of butter. I never buy margarine, so I tried it using butter and it worked just fine. The only other thing I changed was that the lemon filling was supposed to be poured into the crust right after you pull it out of the oven. I made them this way yesterday and had
problems with it. The pan was so hot that the filling started cooking the second it hit the edges of the pan. That meant that by the time the center was set, the edges were overdone. They weren't burnt, but they were much darker brown than I would have preferred. If you're one of those people who likes the chewy edges of the brownies, you might like it that way, but I am a no-crust brownie person and always go for the inside piece. So in the future, I am going to let the pan cool after baking the crust before adding the filling.

The crumbly shortbread crust.

Pressed into the pan.

The finished product. See what I mean about the edges? They are a little too brown. When Jim came home and saw this on the counter, he thought I had made cornbread!

This is how I cut them to get 20 bars. You may get more or less depending on how you cut them.

13 April 2011

This is one of our favorite meatless main dishes. I got it from Taste of Home.

Black Bean Tortilla Pie

½ medium onion, chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans (15 oz. each) black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups frozen corn, thawed
¼ cup cilantro, finely chopped
4 flour tortillas (8”)
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded cheese, divided
Sour cream

Preheat oven to 400°.

In a large skillet, saute the onion and cumin in oil until onions are tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Add beans and broth. Bring to a boil; cook until liquid is reduced to about ⅓ cup. Mash beans if desired. Stir in corn and cilantro; remove from the heat. Check for seasoning, adding salt if necessary (this will depend on the broth you use).

Place one tortilla in a 9” deep dish pie plate coated with cooking spray. Layer with 1½ cups bean mixture and ¼ cup cheese. Repeat layers twice. Top with remaining tortilla.

Bake, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake another 3 minutes or until cheese is melted. Cut into wedges. Serve with sour cream and salsa.

Makes 6 servings.

This is really good and really pretty easy to make. I changed it up just a little from the original. The original called for half the amount of cumin, green peppers, green onions, and no cilantro. I left out the green peppers because we don't like them and the green onions because they just seemed redundant with the white onions. The cilantro was my addition; I love the stuff and it really makes the dish for me. And it looks really pretty with flecks of green in it. It was also supposed to be baked in a springform pan, but I don't have one. If you use a pie plate like I do, make sure it is the deep dish kind as it probably won't fit in a regular one.

A note on the tortillas: Apparently the brand of tortilla you use makes a difference. The first time I made this I used the Meijer brand. They were slightly larger than my pie plate, so I had to trim them to fit. But the finished pie sliced up very nicely. The second time I made it, I used Mission brand tortillas since they started selling them at my Sam's Club. I was pleasantly surprised to find that they were the perfect size with no need to trim. But then they gave me great difficulty when I went to slice up the pie. They didn't cut well at all. I think I will use the Meijer ones in the future. So you might have to play around with the brand of tortillas you use here.

My husband loves this dish and said that he didn't even realize it was meatless until he was halfway through it. And even then he didn't mind a bit.

The filling. It's so colorful and pretty!

The finished pie before slicing.