Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Single Layer Pumpkin Cake

You didn't think I'd forget the pumpkin recipes for fall, did you? Of course not! I'm looking around for pumpkin desserts that aren't the typical ones you see. I'll let you know if I find any others.

Notes: I was planning to top this cake with some white chocolate ganache, but I messed up the chocolate to cream ratio and it came out too thin. *sigh* Further proof that frosting and I have a troubled relationship. I ended up pouring it over the cake anyway, but I won't include it here.

You could top this cake in a number of different ways. Some powdered sugar would be great, or you can make some frosting if you feel enterprising.

If you don't have cake flour, you can use all purpose. I think the crumb is nice with the cake flour.

This recipe makes one single layer round cake. I cut mine into squares to make it easier to eat.



Ingredients (modified from Martha Stewart):
1 2/3 cup cake flour
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, softened
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup milk, warmed
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs

Directions: Heat the oven to 350

In an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until it's fluffy. Add in the eggs and beat until combined. Add in the milk and the pumpkin and mix until combined.

Add in the flour, salt, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir until just combined.

Oil or butter a 9 inch round cake tin. Pour in the batter and bake for about 50 minutes until a tester comes out clean.

Cool in the pan for 20 minutes and then carefully remove to a cooling rack. Cool about 10 more minutes. Cut, serve, and enjoy!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos with Kale Honey Lime Topping


The weather is getting chilly, which is the perfect time to break out your slow cooker. But what should you put in it? How about something with just four ingredients? These slow cooker chicken tacos are perfect for a busy weeknight meal.

Notes: This an easy meal with just a few ingredients. It take no time at all to put together. When you get home from work, the chicken is ready for you whenever you're ready for it.

I loved the kale salad, but Scott was not so crazy about it. He thought it was overpowering. I thought it was different and refreshing. You be the judge!

If you didn't want to put the kale on top of the tacos, you could always eat it on the side. Toss some chopped nuts and maybe some fruit in the bowl and you'd have a delicious salad.

Ingredients:
1 1/2-2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 15 oz cans diced tomatoes
1 packet of taco seasoning
1 onion
Taco shells
Cheese of your choice (I used a Spanish cheese)

Kale Topping
1 small bunch or 1/2 large bunch kale
1 teaspoon honey
1 lime

Directions:

Slice the onion into rings. Lay them at the bottom of the slow cooker. Lay the chicken on top of the onions. Sprinkle half the taco seasoning packet on top of the chicken. Pour the tomatoes over the chicken and onions. Sprinkle the rest of the taco seasoning on top. Set on low for 8-10 hours.

About 30 minutes before you're ready to eat, add the honey to the bottom of large bowl. Slice the lime in half and squeeze out the juice. Whisk until combined.

Slice the kale thin and add it to the bowl. Using your hands, toss the kale in the dressing and massage as you toss. Keep massaging and tossing until the kale starts to get tender and shrinks down. Set aside.

Take the chicken out the slow cooker and shred it on a plate. Return it to the slow cooker and stir.

Heat up your taco shells, shred your cheese, and put everything together. Serve and enjoy!

Monday, October 26, 2015

My Favorite Buttermilk Biscuits + Pepper Fried Egg and Bacon Breakfast Sandwich

After many attempts at making buttermilk biscuits, I have perfected my recipe. Fluffy on the inside and golden brown on the outside---they're perfect for biscuits and gravy or a pepper fried egg and bacon breakfast sandwich!

Notes: I do one thing that all the biscuit recipes will tell you not to do: knead. Everyone says it will make your biscuits tough. But every Southern lady I've ever known kneads her biscuits. Once I started kneading, I finally got the consistency I was looking for. My biscuits also starting rising correctly. As long as you don't knead them like bread, it won't make them tough.

I think a pastry blender is incredibly helpful, so if you plan on making these a lot, I would invest in one. You can also use a dinner fork, but it will take you a little longer.

This is also my favorite way to make a fried egg. The whites are fully cooked, the bottom is a little brown and crispy, and the yolk is still runny. If you don't like your yolk runny, poke it before you flip it over.

Ingredients:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, cold
1 stick butter, cold

For the sandwich:
1 egg
1-2 strips of bacon
Pepper
Salt
Cheese of your choosing (optional)

Directions:

Heat the oven to 400. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut the cold butter into small cubes. Work the butter into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or a fork until the butter is the size of large peas.

Stir in the buttermilk. Once the dough comes together, knead it in the bowl for just a minute. Pat the dough out on to a floured service. Pat it into a circle that's about a 1/2 inch thick. Use a round cookie cutter (or an empty aluminum can) and cut out rounds. When you work your way through the circle, gather the scraps and reshape into a ball. Pat the dough out again and repeat until you use up all the dough (should make about 8-10 biscuits).

Bake for 18-20 minutes until golden brown.

While the biscuits are cooling, heat a skillet on medium. Cook the bacon. When the strips are done, put them on a plate lined with paper towel. Crack your egg right into the bacon grease. Sprinkle a liberal amount of pepper on the top and season with a little salt. Cook the egg on one side until the edges are a little crisp and brown and the whites are mostly set. Gently flip it over and turn the heat off. Let is sit for about 20 seconds. If you want cheese, lay it on top of the egg now.



Slice open a biscuit. Slide the egg from the skillet onto one of the halves. Top with bacon and make a sandwich. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sausage, Kale, and Potato Soup

Sausage and kale is a magical combination. If you haven't gotten on the kale bandwagon and you're looking for a nice introduction, this soup might just be your ticket!



Notes: Use the fat from the sausage to cook the shallots, garlic, and potatoes. My sausage didn't have that much fat on it, so I took the sausage out with a slotted spoon to leave more fat in the pot. If you're has more fat, then you can pour the sausage out onto a plate. That should still leave enough for the veggies.

I like the Yukon gold potatoes because they stay firmer in the soup. If you want to use other potatoes, you might want to add them at the same time you add the kale.

Ingredients:
1 pound ground sausage (I used mild, but you could use hot if you want)
32 oz (4 cups) of chicken stock or water
1 pound small Yukon gold potatoes
2 large bunches of kale
2 shallots (or one small onion)
3-4 cloves of garlic
1 small bunch of rosemary
Salt and pepper for seasoning

Directions:

Slice the potatoes, mince the garlic and rosemary, dice the shallots, and thinly slice the kale.

Heat a large stock pot on medium-high. Add the sausage and crumble it. Cook until no pink remains. Remove the sausage from the pot either with a slotted spoon or by pouring it out onto a paper towel lined plate (see notes). Set aside.

Cook the onions, garlic, and potatoes until the shallots just get tender and potatoes are semi-tender. Return the sausage to pot. Stir in the kale until all the leaves are coated. Add in the rosemary. Pour in the chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper.

Bring the soup to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for at least 30 minutes. Make sure the potatoes are tender before you serve. Enjoy!


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Slow Cooker Chicken and Buttermilk Dumplings (Freezer Friendly)

Well, thanks to the hurricane, we had several days of cold windy rain. Luckily, these are the kinds of days that slow cooker comfort food is made for!

Notes: For me, slow cooker meals work best when I've done my ingredient prep ahead of time. No one has time to dice vegetables before they go to work. I usually peel and chop everything on a weekend day or a slow week night, stick it in a container in the fridge, and then it's ready for me whatever morning I'm ready for it. In this case, I did my prep on Sunday and made the chicken and dumplings on a Thursday. Worked perfectly!

Figuring out when the dumplings are done took some work. 30 minutes was about how long it took mine, but it will depend on your slow cooker. You mainly just have to look at them and poke them. They will look darker (not golden brown) and they will look dry on top. You'll be able to move them without your fork sinking into them or tearing them. When in doubt, cut one open and look: does it look like a biscuit inside? Then it's done.

WARNING: don't make your dumplings too big. They expand in the chicken mixture. 1/2 teaspoons will look too small, but once they expand, they'll be the right size.

I used my buttermilk biscuit recipe to make the dumplings. It works great, but you will have leftover dough. No worries! Just use the dough to make some drop biscuits. Once you finish making the dumplings, just drop big tablespoons of leftover dough on to a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes at 400 and you'll have made-from-scratch buttermilk biscuits. They can bake while the dumplings are finishing.

This recipe freezer friendly. I like to freeze mine in meal-portion sizes using freezable plastic food storage containers. Wait for the chicken and dumplings to cool before you start putting it away.  Pull a container out of the freezer 24 hours before you want to eat it and put it in the fridge. You can heat it in a pot on the stove or in the microwave.

Ingredients:
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken
1 pound carrots, sliced or diced
1 celery bunch, sliced into large bite-sized pieces
1 onion, diced
1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
32 oz chicken stock
Salt
Pepper
2 cups flour
1 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick cold butter
1 cup buttermilk



Directions for the chicken:

Put the chicken in the bottom of your slow cooker and season with salt and pepper. Put the onion, carrots, celery, and parsley on top. Pour in the chicken stock. Season everything with salt and pepper. Set to low for 8-10 hours.

Before you start the dumplings, take the chicken out and shred it. Return it to the slow cooker and then start the dumplings.

For the dumplings: About 40 minutes before you want to eat, start the dumplings. In a large bowl, mix together flour, salt, baking powder and soda. Cut the cold butter into small cubes and work it into the flour with a pastry blender or your fingers until the butter is the size of large peas. Mix in the butter milk until the dough comes together.

Spoon 1/2 teaspoon balls of dough into the slow cooker on top of the chicken mixture (you'll have dough leftover: see notes). Put the lid on top of the slow cooker and cook for 30 minutes until the dough is cooked.

Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Watermelon Frozen Yogurt (No Ice Cream Maker Required!)

OK, stay with me: watermelon + ice cream. It's a winner, but you're skeptical. I get it. I've been there.

Cookout, a renowned milkshake and burger place in North Carolina, serves a watermelon milkshake every July. When I first saw it advertised, I thought there's no way that can be good. But oh was I wrong. I finally tried it and it was amazing. So refreshing!

Since I made coffee frozen yogurt awhile ago, I wanted to try another kind. Watermelon frozen yogurt for everyone!



Notes: I had watermelon juice that I used for this recipe. When I buy watermelon, I cut it out of the rind into small pieces. It makes it easier to eat, but of course that means I have juice and pulp left in the bottom of the rind. So, I saved the juice and the pulp for this recipe.

If you don't cut your watermelon this way, just reserve some pieces and chop them up really small until you have a little over a cup. You have to blend the yogurt and watermelon anyway, so it will become juice when you blend it. Just be sure you strain any seeds out before you mix it with the yogurt.

A little bit of fresh mint in here might be nice if you're feeling fancy.

I use a glass loaf pan for my freezer-safe dish. It works well. The handles help when you need something to help you hold the dish in place while you stir.

The only downside of this recipe is that it takes constant attention for 2-3 hours. But on a lazy weekend day when you're hanging out in the house anyway, you can manage. Other than that, it's super easy.

Store the yogurt uncovered in your freezer.

Ingredients:
2 cups vanilla Greek yogurt
1 cup sugar
1 cup watermelon juice

Directions:

Blend juice, sugar, and yogurt together either with a blender or with an immersion blender. Pour the mixture into a freezer-safe dish.

Freeze for 2-3 hours. Every 30 minutes, whisk or stir the mixture to break up large ice crystals. Starting out with a whisk will work well, but you'll need to switch to something sturdy as it starts to freeze.

Once the mixture has the consistency of ice cream, scoop and serve. Enjoy this refreshing (and unexpected) combo!



Spinach Stuffed Shells


I make lasagna often, but stuffed pasta less so. I had planned to make a spinach lasagna this weekend, but I was reading something online and someone mentioned stuffed shells. I thought, have I ever even made stuffed shells? I think this is actually the first time. It definitely won't be the last.

Notes: I might leave the mozzarella cheese off next time. I think it might over power the spinach/ricotta a bit.

I would use a thicker sauce for this. I used one that was a bit thin and most of it sank to the bottom of the baking dish.

You can mix the spinach and ricotta ahead of time and leave in the fridge until you're ready to assemble everything.

Be careful not to boil the shells too long. They'll finish cooking in the oven. You don't want them to fall apart on you while you're trying to fill them.

Ingredients:
1 box of jumbo shells pasta
1 15 oz. container of ricotta cheese.
1 ball fresh mozzarella
1/2 a bunch of fresh parsley
3-4 cups baby spinach
2-3 garlic cloves
1 egg
1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce
Salt
Pepper

Directions: Heat the oven to 400.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the shells to al dente according to the directions.

While the oven is heating and the water is boiling, chop the spinach and parsley. Mince the garlic. Beat the egg in a medium bowl. Add in the spinach, parsley, garlic, and ricotta. Season with salt and pepper. Stir until well combined.

When the shells are done, remove them from the water using a slotted spoon or something that helps you drain the water off. Put them on a baking oiled sheet to cool slightly.

Pour some of your marinara sauce into a 9x13 baking dish. Fill each shell with the ricotta mixture (they hold about a large teaspoon of filling). Place them opening-side up in the baking dish. Slice the fresh mozzarella and lay the slices on top of the pasta.

Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Serve and enjoy!


Monday, September 7, 2015

Lime and White Chocolate Bars

Do you love the flavor of key lime pie, but not the work it takes to make one? Well, have I got a solution for you. These bars are a great alternative.

Notes: I made these to take to a cook out earlier this summer. I think they're a great summer dessert. They're also a little different---not the same old cookie or brownie.

I modified this recipe only slightly. I have no key limes. I've only seen them in my grocery store a handful of times. Maybe they make a huge difference, but if they do, I can't taste it.

The first time I made these, I drizzled melted white chocolate over them. It was good, but frankly the white chocolate chips are much easier and just as delicious.

Here's a good tip for getting lots of juice out of your lime: roll it on the counter and press down on it with your palm while you roll. It should yield more juice that way.

When you zest the lime, you can use a microplane. Try to make sure you just take off the green part and not the white part underneath (it's bitter).

Ingredients:
1 heaping cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick of butter (8 tablespoons)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
Zest of one lime (about a full teaspoon)
Juice of one lime (about 2 tablespoons)
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Directions: Heat oven to 350.

Melt the butter in the microwave. Whisk it together with the brown sugar (or mix with the paddle attachment of your stand mixer). Stir in the egg, vanilla, and lime juice.

Stir in the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda, and zest) until the batter just comes together. The fold in the white chocolate chips.

Line an 8x8 glass baking dish with foil and grease the foil. Pour the batter in and bake for approximately 20 minutes until a test comes out clean and the center looks dry.

Cool for about 5 minutes (or to room temperature). Cut, serve, and enjoy!



Sunday, September 6, 2015

Bangers 'n Spud

In 2006, we went to London with Scott's parents. It was a great trip. Of course we had some great pub food, including bangers and mash. I was craving baked potatoes the other day, so I thought why not make a bangers and mash stuffed spud? And so bangers 'n spud was born.

Notes: This dish would be Q.E.D. if you made the potatoes in the microwave. As it stands, though, it's pretty simple. And it only has three ingredients. So, you've got the E. and the D. of Q.E.D.

If you can't find pre-cooked chorizo, you can use kielbasa or andouille. Or you could use fresh chorizo and just increase the cooking time.

This recipe severs 4 people or it will give you a night of leftovers for two people.


Ingredients:
4 baking potatoes
1 lb pre-cooked chorizo sausage
1/2 bag frozen peas
Butter
Salt

Directions:

Heat the oven to 400. Rub a small amount of butter on the outside of the potatoes and season with salt. Prick them with a fork, wrap them in foil, and bake for 1 1/2 hours.

Before the potatoes finish, heat a non-stick skillet on medium. Dice the sausage and add it to the pan. Cook until the edges start to brown. Add in the peas and sautee for just a few minutes until the peas are thawed and heated.

When the potatoes are done, slice them open and fluff with a fork. Spoon the sausage and peas into the potato. Serve and enjoy!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Slow Cooker Cheerwine BBQ Chicken

BBQ chicken is one of the best ways to make chicken if you ask me (frying is the other).

Also, if you're asking me, Cheerwine is the best cherry-flavored soda.

Why not combine them and make Cheerwine BBQ chicken? Again, if you're asking me, this sounds like a perfect plan.

Notes: Of course, not everyone has access to Cheerwine since it is the legend of North Carolina. Dr. Pepper makes a great replacement. It won't have the cherry flavor, but it will still be good.

This recipe deviates from my standard use of slow cookers in one way: I typically hate slow cooker recipes that call for cooking something ahead of time. What's the point?! The slow cooker is supposed to do ALL the work for you as far as I'm concerned. Given that, if you wanted to skip the heating of the sauce and the marinating, be my guest. Just melt the butter and whisk in the brown sugar. Then stir all the sauce ingredients together in the slow cooker before you turn it on, add the chicken, and set it. I'm sure it would be just fine.

That said, marinating the chicken kept it nice and moist. So, if you have time, you might as well do that step.

We used spicy ketchup and hot sauce, so ours was nice and spicy. Spicy ketchup isn't something people typically keep on hand, so I left it out.

Ingredients:
2 lbs chicken breasts
1 tablespoon butter
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup Cheerwine (see notes)
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Hot sauce to taste

Directions:

In a sauce pan, heat the butter until it melts. Cook the garlic for a couple of minutes over medium heat. Add in brown sugar and stir continuously until it looks wet and soft. Add in Cheerwine and stir. Stir in ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, salt, onion powder, and paprika. Bring the mixture to a boil and then remove from heat and allow it to cool.

Once the sauce cools, pour it over the chicken breasts and marinate in the fridge over night (see notes).

In the morning, rub a little oil in the slow cooker just to help prevent the chicken from sticking. Put the chicken and the marinade in the slow cooker. Cooker for 8 hours on low.

30 minutes before you want to eat, take the chicken out of the cooker and shred it. Return it to the sauce and finish cooking.

Serve with your favorite BBQ sides (and a Cheerwine to drink!) and enjoy!




Monday, August 31, 2015

Baked Veggie and Black Bean Tostadas

Remember when I made pork cube steak tacos? Well, I still have a bunch of corn tortillas to use up. They come in a big package. I've had tostadas in the past, but I've not tried making them myself. They're much easier than I thought--especially if you bake them!

Notes: Think of tostadas as an open-faced taco. They are hard to eat, but they're delicious.

Typically tostadas are fried, but I didn't want to mess with cooking oil. I also didn't want to make them less healthy. So I baked them. As long as you oil them lightly, baking works just fine.

I think next time I would season the tortillas. Maybe just with some salt and a little chili powder.

You can use whatever kind of mushrooms you want. I just happened to have a mix of white and shitake on hand. Frankly, you can use whatever veggies you want. The tostada is versatile!

Ingredients:
1 pint sliced white mushrooms
1 pint sliced shitake mushrooms
1 bunch asparagus cut into bite-sized pieces
1 15 oz. can black beans
2 tablespoons cumin (divided)
2 teaspoons smoked paprika (divided)
2 teaspoons chili powder (divided)
Salt
Butter
Hot sauce (to taste)
6 corn tortillas
Cooking spray or olive oil
Shredded cheese for topping (optional)
Avocado (optional)

Directions: Heat oven to 400 and line two baking sheets with foil. Lay out 6 tortillas (3 per sheet) and set aside.

Drain (but don't rinse) the black beans. Add them to a bowl and season with hot sauce, cumin, chili powder, paprika, salt and hot sauce. Mash the beans into a paste and set aside.

In a skillet over medium heat, melt a small amount of butter. When the skillet is hot, add the mushrooms and brown. Season with the rest of the cumin, chili powder paprika, salt, and hot sauce. Add in the asparagus and cook until tender-crisp (about 4 minutes).

Spray the corn tortillas with cooking spray lightly on both sides (or brush both sides lightly with olive oil). Bake for 5 minutes. When the 5 minutes is up, take them out of the oven and flip them over. Layer each tortilla with mashed beans, cheese (if you're using cheese), and then the mushroom/asparagus mixture. Return to the oven and bake for five more minutes.

When they're done, top with mashed avocado if desired. Serve and enjoy!




Sunday, August 30, 2015

Red Velvet Birthday Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting


Scott's birthday was last weekend, so that means I got to make a birthday cake! The birthday boy requested red velvet cake. I was happy to oblige.

Notes: This was the first time I've ever made red velvet cake. I've been cooking for almost 10 years now and there is still so much I have to make.

People mistakenly think that the fuss about red velvet cake is the red color. False. It's really the fine crumb and the unique combo of buttermilk and cocoa powder. You could leave the food coloring out completely if you wanted to and it would still be worth making.

I followed this recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction almost to a T, so I won't retype it here. It came out great.

If I had to make some changes, I would replace the vegetable oil with another stick of butter. I also used a combo of red food coloring and blue food coloring to make a dark red. I also used a lot less of it, so my cake had a more subtle red color.

I decorated mine with mini chocolate chips. I only needed about 1/3 of a cup.

It's a lot of work, but it's worth it to have made-from-scratch red velvet cake!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Q.E.D.: Pork Cube Steak Soft Tacos with Simple Slaw

Are you tired of my fast and delicious taco recipes? Well, that's unfortunate because I have another one!


Notes: These tacos were a grocery store inspiration. I wanted something fast and simple for dinner. As I was walking by the meat section, I saw pork cube steaks. They're pounded thin, so they cook very quickly and they are inexpensive. On their own, they might not be that exciting, but cut thin and served in a taco they're great. I thought they'd be best with a light crust sort of like a lighter version of country fried steak.

If you have the time, it would be nice to rub the seasoning on the steaks and marinade them in the fridge for an hour or so.

I used some bagged slaw mix for the simple slaw, but if you have fresh cabbage, by all means use that.

I only made enough tacos for Scott and I, so I only used two steaks. If you're feeding four people, I'd use four steaks.

Ingredients:
2-4 pork cube steaks
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
Oil for pan frying
Corn tortillas
Simple Slaw (recipe follows)

Directions:

Heat enough oil to pan fry the pork steaks on medium in a large skillet. While the oil is heating, whisk together sugar, cumin, chili powder, paprika, salt, and hot sauce in a small bowl to make a paste. Rub the paste all over the pork steaks. Let stand just a few minutes.

Put the flour on a plate or in a wide bowl. Dredge the pork steaks in the flour. Fry for about 4 minutes per side until they're a deep golden brown. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb the excess grease.

When the steaks are finished, slice them into thin strips. Warm the taco shells and assemble the tacos with the steak and the slaw. Enjoy!

Ingredients for slaw
1 heaping cup of shredded cabbage
2 rounded tablespoons mayo
2 tablespoons sweet relish
1 teaspoon celery seed

Whisk mayo, relish, and celery seed together in a bowl. Add in the cabbage and toss to coat.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Q.E.D.: Scott's Tuna Salad in Avocado Boats

Readers of this blog will recall that my husband Scott basically doesn't know how to cook save for a few dishes. Tuna salad happens to be one of them. His tuna salad is one of our typical summer lunches, but I asked him to make some for dinner so we could try the avocado boats. Delicious!


Notes: Not only is this Q.E.D., it's no-cook. You don't even need to look at your oven. Perfect for a hot summer evening.

These would be lovely on top of a bed of greens. To serve it that way, just scoop the avocado flesh out of the peel first. Run a spoon around the edge so you can scoop it out whole. Then (carefully) put it on the greens and mound the tuna on top. A little drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice and you'd be all set.

This is a light meal, so it's perfect for a night when you're not that hungry or you had a late lunch.

If you wanted to serve 4 people, the recipe can be easily doubled.

Ingredients (serves 2 people):
1 large (or 2 regular sized) cans of tuna (in water)
3 teaspoons sweet pickle relish
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
3-4 tablespoons mayonaise
2 ripe avocados
Salt and pepper

Directions:

Put the tuna in a mesh strainer and rinse. Press out as much of the liquid as you can.

Scrape the tuna from the strainer into a bowl. Add relish, mayo, celery seed and stir to combine.

Slice the avocados in half and mound the tuna salad into the holes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve and enjoy your no-cook Q.E.D. meal!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Black Bean and Corn Sliders with Bacon Sweet Potato Fries

Summer is waning, my friends! I hate to admit it, but it's true. It'll be September before you know it. That means we need to enjoy it while we can with some summer grill recipes.

Or if you're me you just make black bean sliders and sweet potato fries any time you feel like it---summer or not!

Notes: Don't have a grill pan? Never fear! Just use olive oil or vegetable oil and shallow fry the sliders in a big skillet. The sliders won't have the pretty grill marks, but they'll taste just as good.

I roasted my corn in the husk before I stripped it from the ear. If you want to do the same thing, just trim the loose pieces of husk and the tassel off, run the whole thing under water for a minute, and then stick it right on the oven rack for 30 minutes at 350. The roasted-in-the-husk flavor is awesome. If you don't feel like doing this step, no worries. Just strip the kernels right off the ear straight into the bowl.

I find the easiest way to make fries is to cut the sweet potato in half and then cut each half into strips. Then cut those strips into smaller fry-sized pieces. There's no science to it---just make them look like fries.

I didn't have any crumbled bacon, but I had leftover bacon grease in the fridge from the last time I made bacon. If you don't have any, just use butter or olive oil for the fries. It will work just fine.

Slider buns are fairly easy to find nowadays. I found mine at Trader Joe's, but I've seen them in Target and other grocery stores as well. If you can't find them, any small roll will do.

Ingredients for sliders (makes about 8 sliders):
1 15 oz. can black beans
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 egg
1 teaspoon hot sauce
2 teaspoons taco seasoning
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 ear of corn

For fries:
2 large sweet potatoes
6 teaspoons bacon grease, divided
Salt
Pepper
Crumbled bacon for topping (optional)

Directions:

Heat oven to 450. Line two baking sheets with foil.

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into fries. Spread them in one layer on the baking sheets. Pour 3 teaspoons of bacon grease over each tray of fries. Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Bake for 15-20 minutes until they are tender and they start to turn dark brown. Stir the fries about halfway through the cooking time to ensure even browning.

To make the sliders, drain the beans (don't rinse). Strip the kernels off the ear of corn. In a large bowl, mash the beans and corn together with a potato masher. Be sure to leave some of the beans and kernels whole. Lightly beat the egg and add it to the bowl along with the bread crumbs, worcestershire sauce, salt, hot sauce, brown sugar, and taco seasoning. Mix everything together until it forms a thick paste. Form small patties and then let stand 5 minutes.

Heat your grill pan on medium-high. Grill each slider about 3 minutes per side until a crust forms on the outside. Remove from the grill and transfer to a plate. Tent them with foil to keep them warm while you grill the rest.

Top with your favorite hamburger toppings and serve with hot sweet potato fries. Enjoy!


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Grilled Beef and Bean Soft Tacos with Rosemary Orange Slaw


Summer time is great for tacos. Technically any season is good for tacos, but since summer time is the time for grilling, what could be better than grilled tacos?

Notes: If you wanted to make this vegetarian, a mix of kidney beans and black beans would be perfect. I would mash up half of the black beans as well. It gives you the texture of refried beans.

Make sure your grill pan is nice and oiled. That way you don't have to brush the tacos with oil.

I was totally lazy and used pre-made taco seasoning here. The blend I bought was better than something I could have whipped up (I don't have any cayenne pepper).

I used flour soft tacos, but you can use corn. Speaking of corn, you could grill some fresh corn on your grill pan before you grill the tacos and add it to the beef mixture. Awesome.

Ingredients for Tacos:
1 pound lean ground beef
1 15 oz. can kidney beans
Taco seasoning (or you can make your own mix)
Cheese for topping (I like manchego-style cheeses for tacos)
Soft taco shells
Rosemary Orange Slaw (recipe follows)

Directions:

Rinse and drain the kidney beans. Mash about half of them. Put a skillet on medium heat. Brown the ground beef. Add in the beans and season with taco seasoning blend. Turn the heat to low.

Heat the grill pan on medium. When it's hot, grill the soft taco shells on both sides just until grill marks appear (about 45 seconds each). Put the filling in the middle of each shell, top with cheese, and rosemary orange slaw.

Ingredients for Rosemary Orange Slaw (about 1 large cup of slaw):
2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary
1/2 orange
1/2 teaspoon deli mustard
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/2 bag of broccoli slaw blend

Directions:

Mince the rosemary and add it to a small bowl. Squeeze the juice out of the 1/2 orange. Whisk in honey and mustard. Pour over the broccoli slaw and toss to coat.

Enjoy some delicious summer tacos!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Double Chocolate Coffee Cookies


Do you need a reason to make cookies? Of course not.

Notes: I love coffee desserts, so these are cookies after my own heart. Everything about them is delicious.

If you like your cookies sweeter, you could use regular chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet.

Some nuts in here would be great, too, if you're so inclined. Just add a 1/2 cup of your favorite when you add the chocolate chips.

Ingredients:
2 cups flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon coffee grounds
1/2 cup prepared coffee
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 egg

Directions:

Melt butter in the microwave. In a stand mixer, add butter and both sugars and mix on medium speed until well combined. Turn the mixer to low. Pour in coffee and add egg. Add in the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, coffee grounds, and salt). Mix until just combined. Gentely fold in the chocolate chips.

Refrigerate the dough for at least an hour.

Heat oven to 350. Scoop large tablespoons of dough onto two parchment or foil lined cookie sheets. Bake for 15-18 minutes until the outsides look dry.

Enjoy--with milk or coffee!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Salami and Swiss Scrambled Eggs (for One)

I might have mentioned this a few dozen times, but my husband is not a breakfast person. He doesn't have many flaws, but his lackluster attitude toward breakfast food is one of them. So when I'm in the mood to make something for breakfast, I'm usually flying solo (unless it's biscuits and gravy).

Too bad for him, because this was delicious!

Notes: This dish was born because I had leftover deli meat and cheese in my fridge. The cooking muse speaks to you for different reasons and one of those is using things up.

I used a pizza cutter to make small pieces of salami and cheese, which worked out fabulously.

Ingredients:
2 eggs
3 thin slices of salami
2 slices Swiss cheese
Salt
Pepper


Directions:

Cut the salami and cheese slices into small pieces. Crack your eggs in a bowl, season with salt and pepper, and beat them lightly with a fork.

Heat a small non-stick skillet on medium. Add in the salami and allow some of its fat to render in the pan. Once it starts to get a little crisp, add in your eggs and stir gently.

When the eggs are almost done, put the cheese on top. Turn off the heat and cover the pan either with the plate you're planning to use or a piece of foil. Let the cheese melt, then serve and enjoy your single-serving salami and swiss scramble!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Coffee Frozen Yogurt: No Ice Cream Maker Necessary!


I have wanted to try homemade ice cream FOREVER. OK, not forever, but since I started cooking.

The trouble is I have no ice cream maker.

I could always get one, I know. But I've had a series of small kitchens and extra equipment that only does one job takes up space that I can't afford to lose. Also, what I am supposed to do with ice cream salt? Plus, people have been making ice cream way before personal ice cream makers. If they can make it, so can I.

Notes: I used this base recipe to make my coffee frozen yogurt. I think it turned out AMAZING. Be aware: if you're expecting it to taste like the kind of frozen yogurt that comes out of the machines at those yogurt shops, it won't. It will still be tangy like non-frozen yogurt. But I think it's super refreshing. The coffee flavor is rich and the chocolate chips add a great little crunch.

If you have crushed-up chocolate covered espresso beans, you could use those instead of chocolate chips.

While you're mixing this every 30 minutes, you'll need a couple of different tools. I started out with a metal whisk, which worked great. Once the mixture becomes more solid, you'll need something like a strong spatula or wooden spoon. Remember to scrape the sides down. I poured my mix into a glass loaf pan and that worked really well.

Ingredients:
2 cups plain Greek yogurt (NOT low fat)
1 1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons coffee grounds
1 cup prepared cooled coffee
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Directions: You'll need to mix all the ingredients except the chocolate chips. You can blend them in a stand mixer, a blender, or in a large bowl with an immersion blender (I did it the last way).

Pour the mixture into a deep glass baking dish or freezer-safe bowl. Freeze for 2-3 hours. While the mixture freezes, stir it every 30 minutes using a whisk or a heavy spatula to break it up. Once the mixture become thicker, add in the chocolate chips and continue stirring as before. The mixture freeze similarly to ice cream.



Once the yogurt is frozen, scoop it just like regular ice cream. Serve and enjoy!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Q.E.D.: Chorizo with Rice and Peas

Tonite was one of those nights when you don't feel like going out and you don't feel like making anything complicated. I stood at my pantry and stared at the shelves trying to figure out if there was anything I could cobble together to feed Scott and myself. As it happened, I had some pre-cooked chorizo in the fridge that I planned to use later in the week. I had rice and I had frozen peas.

And you're looking at the delicious result.

Notes: This dish has SO many things going for it. It's comforting, so it would be perfect for a night when you're not feeling so good. It's a one-pot dish, so there's not much clean-up to do. It's made of things that you can keep on hand (even the chorizo keeps for awhile). And it will be ready for you before a pizza could show up at your house.

If you had the wherewithal, a little bit of onion would be great with this. I had no onion and no wherewithal.

You could replace the peas with any small veggie you like. If you had some frozen broccoli florets, that would be good too. Fresh veggies would work fine, just make sure it's chopped up fairly small so it cooks quickly. And add it at the same time you add the sausage.

If the 10 minutes is up and there's still water in the pan, turn off the heat and let it sit for 5 minutes. That should take care of any leftover moisture.

Ingredients:
2 cups minute rice
2 cups water
1/2 bag frozen peas
1/2 pound pre-cooked chorizo sausage
Salt
Pepper

Directions:

Slice the chorizo. Heat a large skillet with a lid on medium-high. When the skillet is hot, add the chorizo. When the slices start to brown a little, add in the rice and toast it together with the sausage. Pour in the water and add the peas.

Cover and turn the heat down to low. Simmer for 10 minutes or until the rice is tender and fluffy. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve and enjoy!



Saturday, July 4, 2015

Eat Food, Save Money: Making the Most of Summer Produce


We know that summer is the time of year when you can get the most fresh produce. A bunch of fruits and vegetables are at their peak. But fresh produce isn't cheap and there's no point in buying good stuff if it's just going to go bad on the counter or in the fridge. So, I thought I'd share some of the professor's tips for getting the most bang for your buck during the summer.

1. Watch for specials (plan, but be flexible): Before you buy produce, have a sense of what you're going to use it for. Is it for snacking, cooking, or baking? It's easy to impulse buy when everything in the produce section looks good, but try to avoid that. If you don't have a plan for what you buy, there's a greater chance that you won't use it.

During the summer, your supermarket is likely to have specials on produce. Keep an eye out for 2-for-1 deals and sales. If you go to the store for raspberries, but strawberries are on sale, you're better off changing your plans. If you're willing to be flexible with what you buy, you'll save more.

Also, check our your local farmer's markets. Often you can get a larger quantity of produce for your money. While your supermarket might have a pint of blueberries for $3.99, your farmer's market might have two pints for $4.50. If you're willing to get up a little earlier on a Saturday, you can save cash and get some really high-quality produce.

2. Store it right (for you!): I think one of the biggest obstacles people have to produce is that they don't know how to keep it once they have it. You'll see a billion different websites with a billion different kinds of advice. My storage tips are the methods that have worked best for me. Storing your fruits and veggies is really about what works best for how you want to eat and cook; there's no one-size-fits-all policy. So, I'll give you my tips and why they work for me.

FIRST, I wash ALL my produce when I get home from the store. I line the counter with clean kitchen towels and let everything air dry fully before I put it away. For me, having all my produce ready to cook or eat makes it much more likely that I'll use it before it goes bad.

SECOND, I have a collection of plastic food storage options at my disposal. I have small and large tupperware containers and small and large plastic bags. I use them all! You don't need anything fancy; the 4 pack of Ziploc will do just fine. They make my life so much easier.

Now, here are some examples of specific foods:

Berries: Berries are delicate and go bad quickly. I rinse them under cold water when I get them home and then let them air dry completely. I've had the best luck storing them in tupperware containers in one layer and with a paper towel lining the bottom of the container. I can keep blueberries for at least a week this way. I've kept blackberries about 5-6 days and raspberries 4-5 days. The exceptions are grapes and strawberries. Grapes I keep in a colander or bowl in the fridge. Strawberries I wash, dry, and then slice or quarter them (pictured above). I store those in one layer in tupperware with no paper towel.

I put fresh berries on my yogurt & oats in the morning or I eat them with lunch just straight up. When they start to get less fresh, I bake them into muffins or scones.

Stone fruits and tomatoes: I put my stone fruits (plums, peaches, apricots) away whole. I put them in the veggie drawer in my fridge. Tomatoes I leave on the counter in a bowl. I think tomatoes keep their flavor longer on the counter. If I'm using them for sandwiches, however, I slice them and put them in tupperware in the fridge. It's way easier for me to pull the already sliced ones out than to have to slice them every time I want to eat one!

I eat my stone fruits whole just like an apple. I don't even bother to peel them--there's lots of good nutrients in the skins!

Snack veggies: I'm making a distinction here between snack veggies and cooking veggies. I usually take cut veggies in my lunch. My favorites are baby carrots, raw green beans, snap peas, snow peas, and cucumbers. If I'm planning to eat veggies with lunch or as a snack, I wash them with everything else, let them dry completely and then prep them so they are ready to eat straight from the fridge. I slice my cucumbers and put the slices in tupperware. I snap the ends off my green beans and put them in a tupperware container. Unlike berries, I don't line them with paper towel and I don't bother keeping them in one layer.

This way, I can literally reach in the fridge and eat them straight out of the container or put them in snack bags to go. Doing things this way helps me not only to use up my produce, but also eat much healthier. If the good stuff is in the fridge ready to go, I've got no excuses not to eat it!

Cooking veggies: If I'm planning to cook veggies later in the week, I wash them and dry them, but I don't prep them. Here's where things get a little complicated because it depends a great deal on which veggies I have. I keep asparagus and carrots in the fridge wrapped in a paper towel in a food storage bag, but I keep zucchini and fresh corn in a bowl on my counter. The key here is to do what works for you. Barring a few exceptions, most veggies are fine in the fridge, so if it's easier for you, throw them all in your veggie drawer.

If you have busy weeknights, it might work better for you to prep your veggies once they're dry. Planning on stir fry, for example? Why not go ahead and chop everything, put it all in one big container, and stick it in the fridge? Then it's ready for you when you need it.

3. Make friends with your freezer: Freezers help us slow down the aging process of our foods, so why not let them help you? If you have too many berries, toss them in a freezer bag. You can still put them on your yogurt in the morning if they're frozen. Chop up your stone fruits and do the same. I've thrown bagged spinach right smack in the freezer and used it pastas later (I wouldn't use it in a salad though--it's a bit too wilted). You may end up using your fruits and veggies in a different way than you intended, but they won't go to waste and you won't lose your hard-earned money in the process.

Enjoy the bounty of summer without breaking the bank!


Friday, July 3, 2015

Peach Vanilla Scones

Summer is a bounty of produce, especially fruit. And when you have lots of fruit you make fruit scones!

Notes: I used a muffin tin to make uniform-sized scones. They look a little like muffins for that reason. If you want the traditional triangles, you can pat the dough into a cake pan and then cut it. Or you could just make drop scones. They're all delicious. 

When you're putting the dough into the muffin tin, pat it down so that it's flat. The dough is sticky, so you might need to run your hand under the faucet first. Wet fingers won't stick to the dough as much. 

If you're using Greek yogurt, you can replace the 1/4 cup of extra yogurt with 1/4 cup of milk. Greek yogurt doesn't have as much liquid as regular yogurt and you need that liquid to get the dough to mix well. 

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
6 tablespoons cold butter
1 1/4 cup vanilla yogurt
1 small peach (will end up to be 1/2 cup small dice)
1 tablespoon vanilla 

Directions:

Heat oven to 350. Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray. Peel and finely dice the peach. It should give you about a 1/2 cup of diced peaches.  

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. 

Cube the cold butter and blend into the flour mixture using a pastry blender or your fingers. The butter should be the size of small peas. 

Add in the peaches and toss them to coat. Add in the yogurt and vanilla. Stir with your hands until the dough just comes together. Pinch off small handful and pat them down into the cups of the muffin tin. 

Bake for 18-20 minutes until they start to turn golden brown. Enjoy!



Thursday, June 25, 2015

Cajun Baked Cauliflower

Welcome to summer, friends! It's time for me to once again brush the dust off the blog. Now that school is over I have time to cook.

Big news here at the Professor's Kitchen: we moved! So, I'm cooking in a new kitchen. It's bigger than my old one, which is great. I'm still sans dishwasher, but that's OK. We just had our first dinner guests over last night, so I finally have it all in order. I'll post some pictures soon.

Now, onto the new recipe.


Some of my readers will recall that I am not the biggest fan of cauliflower. I've been trying to find ways to cook it to highlight its good qualities. I found this recipe not long ago and it looked promising. I did some tweaking.

Notes: These have an excellent crunch. It's almost like you're eating fried cauliflower. If you wanted to make them as an appetizer, they would be delicious dipped in some warm marinara sauce. I made them as a side dish.

You can cut the seasoning to 1 teaspoon if you like it less spicy. I wish it had been more spicy! I might add hot sauce next time.

Here's a helpful tip which came from my own mistake. DON'T try to bread all the pieces at once. I got lazy and didn't feel like doing one at a time. Well, my breading got wet and then wouldn't stick to the cauliflower. So, be patient and just do a few at a time.

Ingredients:
1 head of cauliflower
2 eggs
Splash of milk
3/4 cup of rice cereal (Rice Krispies, Rice Chex, etc.)
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning

Directions:

Heat the oven to 400. Cut the cauliflower into florets.

In one bowl, beat the eggs and milk together. In another bowl, crush the rice cereal. Whisk it together with bread crumbs, cheese, and seasoning.

Dip the florets a couple at a time into the egg/milk mixture. Shake off the excess egg and then roll the florets into the bread crumb mixture. Put the finished florets on a foiled-lined baking sheet. Repeat until all the florets are coated.

Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown and the cauliflower can be pierced with a fork. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Slow Cooker Vegetable Beef Soup



We had another snow day this week. People keep claiming it's the last gasp of winter, but I'll believe when I see it. Until then, you'll find me at home in my fleece pants waiting for a delicious dinner in my slow cooker.

Notes: This is just about the most comforting soup I could ask for on a cold snow day. It also gave us plenty of leftovers.

The peas and corn will be better if you don't add them in the slow cooker at the beginning. I have the recipe written so that you add in them in the last two hours, but that's flexible. You could put them in when you get home from work or an hour before the soup is finished. You just put them in when it works for you. If you don't want to bother, substitute some fresh chopped green beans and you can just add those when you add everything else.

Ingredients:
1 pound stew beef
1 26 oz. can of diced tomatoes
1 onion
5-6 carrots
5-6 stalks of celery
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen corn
1 small bunch fresh oregano
1 small bunch fresh parsley
A few drops liquid smoke
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup of water
Salt
Pepper

Directions:

Peel and slice the carrots. Slice the celery and dice the onion. Chop the herbs.

Put the onion in the bottom of the slow cooker. Put the stew beef on top and season it with salt and better. Add in the celery, carrots, and tomatoes. Season with more salt, pepper, liquid smoke, and Worcestershire sauce. Add in herbs and water. Set the slow cooker to 10 hours on low.

With about two hours left on the time, add in the frozen peas and corn (see note). Stir everything together and break up the stew beef with the spoon. Serve piping hot and enjoy on a cold winter's day!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Chocolate Scones

Last winter was terrible. This winter has been better, but February has been pretty bad. The only good thing is that being stuck in the house with ice and snow has led to baking.

Notes: No picture for these (I forgot). They weren't as sweet as I was expecting, so I rewrote the recipe including a little powdered sugar to make them sweeter.

You can either make these as drop scones by rolling them into little balls and dropping them on the baking sheet. You can also make them triangle scones using a cake pan. Or you could use around cookie cutter. I included the directions for triangle scones and the round ones.

These would be great with some raspberry jam or some Nutella!

Ingredients:
2 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons of powdered sugar
1/2 cup raw sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
Pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
6 tablespoons butter
1 cup plain yogurt
1/3 cup whole milk

Directions: Heat oven to 350

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. In another bowl, whisk together yogurt and milk.

Cut butter into small squares and add to the dry mixture. Using a pastry blender or your fingers, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it's the size of small peas. 

Add in the yogurt and milk and stir until a soft, sticky dough forms.

To make triangle scones, pat the dough into a (buttered) 9-inch cake pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes. 

For round scones, pat the dough out onto a floured surface. Using a floured biscuit cutter (or old aluminum can or small glass) cut rounds out of the dough and place on a baking sheet. Gather the scraps into a ball and pat it down again. Cut out more rounds. Repeat until you don't have any dough left. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Allow them to cool for about 5 minutes and then transfer them to a cooling rack. Serve and enjoy!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Slow Cooker St. Louis Spareribs

It was another wintry icy day here. Luckily we went to the grocery store yesterday and took care of all our errands. I had planned to make these ribs anyway and it just worked out that the gross icy day turned out to be slow cooker ribs day!


Notes: These were delicious! If you like saucy ribs, warm up a cup of your favorite bottled sauce before the ribs are done and paint it on when you take them out of the slow cooker. I liked the dry rub all by itself, though we did add a little hot sauce.

Stay tuned: I'm planning to use the leftover rib meat for another recipe.

Ingredients:
2 pounds pork spareribs (sometimes labeled St. Louis style or country style)
1 onion

Dry rub:
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 heaping tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1 tablespoon cumin
5-6 drops liquid smoke

Directions:

The night before you want to make ribs, mix together the dry rub ingredients in a small bowl. Break up as many of the clumps as you can to form a smooth mixture. 

Put the ribs in a glass baking dish and rub each one with dry rub. Massage the dry rub in thoroughly. Cover with foil or plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight. 

In the morning, slice the onion into rings and lay them at the bottom of your slow cooker. Put the ribs in meat side up (fit them in as best you can). Set the slow cooker for 10 hours on low.

Pull the ribs out carefully (the meat will fall off the bone). Serve and enjoy!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Cobbled-together Chocolate Chip Cookies

Friday night I decided I wanted chocolate chip cookies. I had not planned to make them, but I did indeed have chocolate chips in the house, so at that point it was just a matter of forming the cookie base. I was running low on several things, so none of my standard cookie recipes were going to work. So, I did what any good impulse baker would do: I improvised.

Notes: Much to my surprise, I didn't ruin these. Lately, I've some how been screwing up my normal cookie recipes. Too much butter, I think. I am also notorious for screwing up oatmeal cookies of any sort, so the fact that I put oats in these was inviting disaster. But the combination of flour, oats, and refrigeration worked.

These cookies have a nice nutty flavor thanks to the oats and the peanut butter. They are also chewy thanks to the oats and brown sugar. They have a mild sweetness as well, so if you're trying to cut down on sugar, these are for you.

Ingredients:
1 cup flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
2 heaping tablespoons peanut butter
1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Melt the butter in the microwave and pour it into the mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Add in the brown sugar and beat on medium for a few minutes until well-combined. Put the mixer on low and add in the egg, applesauce, and peanut butter. The mixture will look curdled, but that's normal.

Stir in the flour, oats, and baking soda until just combined. Then fold in the chocolate chips.

Refrigerate the dough for at least one hour.

Heat the oven to 350. Spoon tablespoon-sized balls of dough onto two cookie sheets. Bake for 15-18 minutes until golden brown.



Enjoy your cobbled-together cookies!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Bacon and Spinach Baked Ziti



This is a thing of beauty, my friends. Baked ziti is good all by itself, but add in some bacon and spinach? You get baked pasta magic!

Notes: This is just plain delicious. You should make it ASAP.

I added a little less cheese than baked ziti usually has. I just used one ball of mozzarella instead of it plus ricotta cheese. I thought it was just the right amount of cheese and it made the dish not so heavy.

If you wanted to do a lot of this ahead, you could. Assemble the whole thing (minus the bacon on top) and put it in the fridge. Store the crumbled bacon in the fridge separately. All you have to do is take the ziti out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you want to bake it. Take the crumbled bacon out at the same time.

Ingredients:
1 box penne or ziti pasta
1 26 oz jar of your favorite sauce (I used arrabbiata)
6 slices of bacon
10-12 oz. of spinach (I used 2 bags of the pre-washed kind)
2 shallots or 1 small onion
6-7 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon of dried Italian herb mix
1 ball fresh mozzarella
Salt
Pepper

Directions: Heat the oven to 375.

Heat a large skillet on medium-high and add the bacon. While the bacon is cooking, mince the garlic and dice the shallots. Fill a stock pot with water and heat on high. When the bacon is crisp, remove and drain on a paper towel.

Add in the onions and garlic to the bacon fat. Season with salt, pepper, and herb mix, and cook until tender. Add in the spinach and toss until wilted. Crumble two of the strips of bacon and add them to the pan. Pour in the sauce, stir to combine, and turn the heat back to medium-low.

When the water boils, add a small handful of salt. Add the pasta and cook to al dente (follow the directions on the box).

While the pasta is cooking, cut the mozzarella ball in half. Dice half of it and thinly slice the other half.

When the pasta is cooked, drain it. Pour the sauce over the pasta and stir. Add in the diced mozzarella and stir again.

Pour the pasta into a 9x13 baking dish. Top with the sliced mozzarella and baked uncovered for 25 minutes.

Crumble the rest of the bacon and sprinkle it on top of pasta. Put back in the oven for just a minute to warm up the bacon. Serve and enjoy!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Baked Potatoes in the Slow Cooker + Veggie Pot Pie Spud

When you're busy during the week, the slow cooker is your friend. As it turns out, the slow cooker is more of a friend than I realized. 

Did you know you can make baked potatoes in the slow cooker?! 

This is a game-changer. 



Notes: These potatoes couldn't be easier. They came out great. They were a little brown (probably a bit over done?), but they were fluffy and soft. The skins where nice and tender, so eat the whole thing! The skins have lots of good minerals in them. 

If you're like us, you love a stuffed baked potato! Having them in the slow cooker means that all you have to do when you get home is make the topping. An easy and healthy weeknight meal awaits!

Ingredients:
4 Russet potatoes
Butter
Salt
Aluminum foil

Directions: Rub each potato with a very small amount of butter and sprinkle with salt. Wrap each one in foil. Put them in the slow cooker and cook for 8 hours on low. 

Need a serving idea? How about veggie pot pie spuds!

Ingredients:
1 can chicken stock
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
1/2 bag of frozen mixed veggies
1/2 bag of frozen lima beans
Salt
Pepper

Directions: In a 2-quart sauce pan, melt butter. Whisk in flour and cook for just a minute. Whisk in chicken stock and milk. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in all the frozen veggies. Cook until the mixture thickens and the veggies are tender. 

When the potatoes are done, spilt them open and top with pot pie mixture. Serve and enjoy!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Flourless Banana Pancakes

This weekend I had a craving for pancakes. I don't crave them often, which is why I recently tossed out an old container of pancake mix. Oops.

Luckily, I had just seen a recipe for 2-ingredient banana pancakes. I was skeptical. Could these really be good? As it turns out, they were.

Notes: This batter is thin, so you'll have thin pancakes. This recipe made 6 small pancakes, so if you need to feed more people, definitely double the recipe.

I think I would have liked the batter and the pancakes a little thicker. Next time I'll either add another banana or add in some oats.

The texture on these is a bit spongy---not in a bad way. They're closer to crepes than regular pancakes, so just be aware of that.

Ingredients:
1 ripe banana
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon
Butter (for cooking)
Syrup or honey (for serving)

Directions:

Beat the eggs in a bowl. Add in pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon. Mash up the banana with the beaten eggs and stir until combined. The batter will be lumpy, but fully incorporated.

Heat a large skillet or griddle just below high heat. Put a small pat of butter in the pan and coat the bottom. Wipe out excess with a paper towel (watch your fingers). Using a 1/4 cup measure, spoon batter into the pan. When the edges of the pancake start to look dry, flip and cook for another 30 seconds-1 minute. Repeat until the batter is used up.

Serve with syrup or honey and enjoy!


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Flourless Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Bites

I've wanted to make my own granola bars for a long time, but I haven't found a recipe I really like. I don't like crunchy granola bars. A lot of the recipes for chewy granola bars contain more sugar than I'd like. Granola bars aren't supposed to be cookies.

Well, I stumbled upon a recipe for a healthier oatmeal cookie that actually looked better than some of the granola bar recipes I've seen. Flourless oatmeal chocolate chop bites were born.

Notes: I don't know that these are gluten free, only because I don't know if my oats are gluten free. And is peanut butter gluten free? I have no clue. But I know these are flourless, if that helps!

These taste like a combination of banana bread and an oatmeal cookie. A plus in my book!

These will be easier to mix if the ingredients are at room temperature. If your peanut butter is a little stiff, zap it in the microwave for a few second so it loosens up. I used natural peanut butter here; the oil makes it easier to stir.

If you'd like to keep these egg-free, you could either use another tablespoon of peanut butter or a couple more bananas.

You could use raisins or any other dried fruit instead of chocolate chips.

These cookies don't expand or spread very much when you bake them, so if you want them flatter, be sure to smoosh them a little with your spoon when you put them on the baking sheet.

Ingredients:
2 cups rolled or old fashioned oats
1 ripe banana
1 egg
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup of unsweetened apple sauce
2 heaping tablespoons peanut butter
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg and mash the banana. Add in the vanilla, the peanut butter, and the applesauce. Stir to combine (it won't be perfectly smooth).

Add in oats, pumpkin pie spice, and chocolate chips. Stir until well mixed and the dough starts to feel like cookie dough.

Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 350. Put tablespoonfuls of dough on a parchment or foiled lined baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown.


Store in an airtight container and separate the layers with wax paper. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Q.E.D.: Roasted Sausages and Potatoes

For you, I have a wonderfully simple Q.E.D. entree. Not only does it take only 30 minutes, it only has 6 ingredients (2 of which are salt and olive oil and you probably already have those in your kitchen). This is a perfect weeknight meal that you can pop in the oven and tend to only minimally. And the end result is delicious and satisfying!

Notes: This is just barely Q.E.D. because it takes 30 minutes of cooking time minus the prep, but the prep is so easy, I think it counts. 

I used Yukon gold potatoes, but you could use the red skinned or fingerling potatoes if you like those better. If you have really small ones, you wouldn't even have to quarter them.  

Serve these with your favorite green vegetable or even a salad. I made brussel sprouts with mine. You could use a steam-in-the-microwave bag of frozen veggies for a really easy side. 

Ingredients:
1 pound (1 package) of brats, sweet, or hot Italian sausages
2 pounds small potatoes
1 onion
1 tablespoon dried Italian herb blend
Salt
Olive oil (about 2 tablespoons)

Directions: Heat oven to 450. 

Remove sausages from fridge. Quarter the potatoes (or half the small ones). Slice the onion. 

Arrange the potatoes and onions in one layer on a baking sheet or in a baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and Italian herb blend. Toss the potatoes and onions to coat with oil and seasoning. 

Pierce sausages all over with a fork. Place them on the baking sheet.

Roast for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender and the sausages brown. Flip the sausages halfway through cooking.


Enjoy!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Baked Taquitos and Mexican Restaurant Rice

We have yet to find a Mexican restaurant we like here. There's no Mexican place in the town we live in. There are two in the next town over, but apparently they aren't that super (or so we've heard). I'm sure there are lots of places in the city we could go to, but when it's cold, the idea of walking through the city doesn't sound particularly appealing.

As you have probably noticed, I make a lot of Mexican-style recipes at home to make up for our lack of restaurants. Luckily, I found this recipe the other day. Chicken taquitos are not my bag, but a vegetarian version sounded great.

Notes: If you have an onion, feel free to use that for the rice instead of the onion powder. I just used the powder because I didn't have an onion.

I'd use a colby jack or a cheddar in the taquitos. I used fontina and it was too mild. You could barely taste it.

This makes about 8 taquitos, so you'll have egg roll wrappers left over. If you want to use up all your wrappers, just double the filling recipe.

Ingredients for Taquitos
1 can black beans
1 cup frozen corn
Egg roll wrappers
1 small bunch cilantro
1 cup shredded cheese
2-3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Hot sauce, to taste
Small bowl of water
Melted butter (optional)

Ingredients for Rice
2 cups instant rice
1 can diced fire roasted tomatoes
1 1/2 cups water
4-5 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon onion powder
Salt
Butter or oil

Directions: Heat oven to 375.

Drain the beans (don't rinse). Mince the garlic for the taquitos and chop the cilantro. When the beans are drained, put them in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Mash them a little with a potato masher. Add in the corn, cilantro, garlic, hot sauce, cumin, chili powder, cheese, and salt. Mix to combine.

To make a taquito, put approximately three teaspoons of filling in the middle of the egg roll wrapper (the wrapper should be diagonal). Moisten the edges of the wrapper by dipping your finger in the bowl of water and running it along the edge. Bring the bottom corner of the wrapper over the filling and tuck it under. Pull in the sides and then roll it up. Place each taquito seam-side down on a foil-lined or oiled baking sheet. Repeat until all the filling is gone.

Brush the taquitos with melted butter. Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown.

While the taquitos are baking, make the rice. Mince the garlic. Melt butter or heat oil on medium-high in a skillet with a lid. Add in the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add in rice and toast for just a minute. Season with salt and onion powder. Pour in tomatoes and water. Turn the heat to medium and cover. Cook for about 10 minutes until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed.

When the taquitos are done, serve them with a side of rice and enjoy!



Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Little Lighter: Banana Pudding Parfaits


See these? These are amazing.

Eating healthy doesn't mean you have to give up dessert. It does mean that you shouldn't eat dessert all the time. It also means you should be creative with what kinds of dessert you eat.

One of my favorite things to do is come up with lighter versions of foods I love. I looove banana pudding, but I'd be fooling myself if I thought it was good for me. I saw this recipe for a slightly lighter banana pudding and I decided to make it even lighter.

Notes: I was perfectly happy with the flavor of the vanilla yogurt, but Scott wanted it a little sweeter. I made them again with some powdered sugar. I added that step, but if you want to keep it light, just leave out the sugar.

Baking the bananas brings out their flavor and their sweetness. You can do this step a little ahead of time.

This recipe makes two parfaits and it can be easily doubled.

Ingredients:
2 bananas
8 oz (1 cup) of Greek vanilla yogurt
2 teaspoons confectioners sugar
Nilla wafers (I used the mini ones)

Directions: Heat the oven to 350. Wrap one of the bananas in foil and bake for 35-40 minutes. Allow it to cool completely.

When the banana is cool, peel it and mash it a bowl. Add the yogurt and the sugar and mix well. Slice the other banana. You want pretty thin slices so you can layer them.

In the bottom of a glass, make a layer of Nilla wafers (how many you use will depend on the size of your glass). Top the wafers with a couple of spoonfuls of yogurt mixture. Top that with a layer of banana slices. Do another wafer layer, another yogurt layer, and another banana layer.

Wrap some Nilla wafers in a paper towel and crush them with your hands. Sprinkle the crushed wafers on top of the banana slices.

You can serve immediately or refrigerate. Refrigeration will soften the wafers.

Enjoy a lighter banana pudding!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Eggplant and Chickpea Tikka Masala + New Food on a Budget

This is the debut of Indian food here at the professor's kitchen. I'm not a huge fan of Indian food, but last semester I tried a place in town with some colleagues and loved it. The dish I had was so good I decided to make my own version at home.

It's a new year and it's a great time to try new things. But if you're like most people you've probably made a new year's resolution about saving money. Luckily, you can do both. Here are some tips for trying new dishes without breaking your piggy bank or your resolution:

1. Look before you shop: The Internet is a wonderful thing. You are just a search away from thousands of recipes. Before you go to the store, do some homework. Decide what kind of dish you want to try: Indian or French? Noodles or rice? Meat or no meat? Knowing what you want to make ahead of time helps you plan and helps you budget.

2. Look long-term: Deciding to try new things doesn't mean you have to do it all at once. Pick one or two dishes to start with. There's no reason to make something new every night. Try a new dish on the weekends when you have more time. Make it once a month. Make a list of things you want to try and keep it posted on the fridge. Get the kids involved by letting them pick a dish. If you think long-term, you won't have to break the bank buying specialty ingredients with every trip to the store.

3. Look for dishes with few ingredients: When I decided I wanted to try Indian food, I started searching recipes to see what was involved. Some recipes for tikka masala had an ingredient list a mile long. I picked the ones that didn't. When you're trying something new, don't feel like you have to use the most authentic recipe or the fanciest one. The less you have to buy the more new things you can try.

4. Look for bargains: Did you know places like Marshall's, TJ Maxx, Ross, and Home Goods have food sections? You can get otherwise really expensive specialty ingredients for cheap. For the dish I made, I needed garam masala (an Indian spice mix). At the grocery store, it was pricey, but at Home Goods, it was much more reasonable. Did you know that in the grocery store, often the spices in the international foods aisle are much cheaper than the ones in the baking aisle? The cumin that's in the Latino food section is the same cumin in the spice section, but it costs less. Also, feel free to swap out things on the ingredient list with things you already have. If the recipe calls for tomato paste and you have ketchup, use it. If the recipe calls for smoked paprika and you have regular paprika, use it.

With a little ingenuity and planning, you can try new dishes without having sacrifice your best laid budget plans! On to the recipe!

Notes: This tikka masala was not particularly hot, so we added some hot sauce to ours. The powder I got was no hotter than regular curry powder. If you want a stronger flavor, you could use 3 teaspoons instead of 2. I would start with 2 if you're not sure.

I used plain white rice, but feel free to use brown or Basmati if you're feeling fancy.



Ingredients:
1 large eggplant
1 can chickpeas
1 onion
6-7 cloves of garlic
1 bunch parsley
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 cup water or chicken stock
1 can tomato paste
1/2 cup whole milk or plain yogurt
Extra hot sauce (optional)
Salt
Olive oil
Rice for serving

Directions:

Start by prepping all the veggies. Dice the onion, mince the garlic, and dice the eggplant. Drain and rinse the chickpeas.

Heat the oil (I used about 3 tablespoons) in a large skillet on medium high. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and fragrant. Add the garam masala and cook until fragrant. Be careful not to burn the spices. If the pan starts to look too dry add a little water to the pan.

When the spices are fragrant, add the eggplant. Season with salt. Cook until the eggplant is just tender. Pour in the water or stock. Stir in tomato paste. Turn the heat down to medium/medium low (it needs to bubble, but not vigorously) and cover. Simmer for 20-30 minutes.

While the tikka masala is simmering, cook the rice and chop the parsley. After 20-30 minutes is up, turn off the heat and stir in the milk or yogurt. Serve by putting a bed of rice on a plate and then topping it with tikka masala. Sprinkle with parsley and enjoy!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Individual Veggie Pot Pies

Happy New Year, food lovers! I hope everyone had a great holiday. It's time to start 2015 off with some new recipes.

Holidays are great, but they usually mean LOTS of heavy food. After all the meat, carbs, and sweets, your body needs some serious nutrition. Small portions + veggies fits that bill.

Notes: This recipe can act as a pantry staple if you either (a) make your own pie crust from scratch or (b) keep pre-made crusts on hand. I should have just made the dough from scratch, but I bought some refrigerated pie crusts before we left town for Christmas.

I love Fordhook lima beans and I can always find them in my freezer section, so I added those to my pies. Feel free to swap these out for something else if you're not a fan of limas.

If you don't have ramekins, you can just make a regular-sized pie in a 9-inch pie dish. My ramekins are medium-sized, so this recipe made 4 pies. If you have smaller ramekins, it will make 6.

You'll note that the crust on these pot pies are rather small. That's because I made the mistake of trimming the crust rather than folding it. The crust will shrink when it bakes, so be sure to keep it slightly larger than the ramekins. Lesson learned!



Ingredients:
1/3 cup (about 5 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
1 can low sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon dried Italian herb blend (or just parsley)
1/2 bag of mixed frozen vegetables
1/2 bag of frozen lima beans
1 box of refrigerated pie crusts (I used Pillsbury)
Salt
Pepper

Directions: Heat oven to 375.

Melt butter in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour until a smooth paste forms. Whisk in chicken broth and then whisk in milk. Season with salt, pepper, and herb blend. Allow the mixture to thicken.

Once the mixture thickens, add in frozen veggies. Make sure everything heats through. Turn off heat and set aside while you prep the ramekins.

Put ramekins on a baking sheet. Unroll the pie crusts on a floured surface and roll them out just a little with a rolling pin. Flip over one of the ramekins onto the pie crust. Using a pairing knife, cut out a circle of pie crust that's about an inch wider than the lip of the ramekin. Repeat with the other crust until you have one circle of dough for each ramekin. You can smoosh (technical term) together and roll out the scraps if you need more circles.

Divide the vegetable mixture equally among the ramekins. Put the dough circles on top of each ramekin and pinch the dough around the edge to "seal" the pie. Bake for 30 minutes until the crusts are golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes, serve, and enjoy!