Saturday, September 29, 2012

Pecan Blondies

Chewy, nutty, rich and delicious, and lusciously not chocolate.
I've always liked caramel, butterscotch or vanilla better than chocolate.
Blondies are really nothing more than butterscotch/caramel brownies... hence, the name blondies.

I just saw this recipe in the new Better Homes and Gardens, and got a flash back to these.  We used to make them when we were kids and I have always loved them.

They are chewy and rich, and best shared with others quickly. It might be best to send them off with your hubby and all his fishing buddies to get them outta the house (all of them...).

After baking these, I would let them cool for about 2-3 hours, then cut into bars and chill overnight.  They tend to be ooey-gooey at first, and then firm up.

You can use any kind of nuts, we used walnuts growing up, or even leave out the nuts altogether.

Makes a 9x13 pan, about 36 bars.

2 cups packed brown sugar
2/3 cup butter
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350.
Butter a pan, and add some parchment to ease getting them out of the pan!

Over medium heat, melt the butter and sugar together until smooth.  Cool slightly.  Beat in the eggs, one by one, then the vanilla.  Mix in the flour, baking powder and baking soda. 
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth with a spatula.
I chose to put my nuts on the top, but you could also mix them in.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until the sides are nice and puffy and cooked.  Like this:

After baking these, I would let them cool for about 2-3 hours, then cut into bars and chill overnight.  They tend to be ooey-gooey at first, and then firm up.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Weeping Tiger Spicy Beef Salad

Oh wow... best stuff on Earth, and I'm not talking Snapple.
The picture doesn't do it justice.

I love this new salad.  It might be better than my other favorite main dish salad, Larb Gai
I had this salad first at a Thai restaurant with a friend, and I would never have ordered it if we hadn't also included that Larb Gai, which I can't seem to live without.
This salad might be better; Crunchy, spicy, tangy, meaty and EASY to make.
Low carb, low calorie, gluten free... what else could you want?

But "Weeping Tiger" salad... that's hard to say no to.
Once I saw it, and tasted it, I knew it would be a cinch to recreate at home.

This would be easy and versatile to make at home with normal ingredients that you might have, or easy to buy.  Beef (even leftover steak or flank), cucumbers, tomatoes, cilantro, green onions and lime.  You got that, right?
I hope you have some garlic hot pepper paste (or Sriracha) and a little Fish Sauce, or even soy sauce to finish it off.  Put it on top of whatever lettuce or spinach mix you have, or even serve it alone... or on rice.
Heck, you are almost there.... what else do you have in there?

Note:  Lots of recipes out there for "Weeping (or Flying) Tiger salad" call for toasted rice powder and fresh lemongrass, and try as I might, I almost never have those around.
I mean, do YOU?
I DID cheat and buy the beef already shredded up (most grocery stores have this for fajitas) and pre-shredded green onions.  I get those at my Asian market.... what a wonderful luxury, but you can do it yourself.

Serves 3-4

1 lb. beef, shredded into strips
1-2 tsp olive oil
1 lime
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1-2 tsp fish sauce
1-2 Tbsp garlic hot pepper sauce
3-4 persian or 1 english cucumbers, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1/2 bell pepper, orange, cut into thin strips
1 bunch green onion, shredded into thin strips, or chopped fine.
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup mint (optional)
1-2 chili peppers, like Serrano or Jalapeno,seeded, then thinly sliced (optional)
1 medium tomato, cut into wedges, then chunks, or 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 head iceberg lettuce, chopped or 4 cups of salad mix 

In a hot pan, add the olive oil and stir fry the beef quickly until it is just cooked, about 4 minutes.  Turn off pan, and let cool. I stirred in the garlic hot pepper sauce.

In a large bowl, add all the veggies

Squeeze on the lime, add the lemon zest and the fish sauce, or soy sauce.  Add the chilled, or room temperature cooked beef. Toss with veggies.  Add salt and pepper, and lemon juice, if desired.  Serve either at room temperature, or chilled over fresh greens or rice.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Mexican Smoked Pot Roast

Happy Fall and all that.
It's raining today for the first time in about 60 days in the Northwest.  I guess it's official, it really is the first day of Fall.
I think that calls for some comfort food.

Oh man, I do love pot roast.
That tends to make me popular with the men in my life, but frankly, most women I know get pretty excited about pot roast too. As long as it's GOOD pot roast, my hubby assures me that some people DO make bad pot roast.  Luckily his Mom doesn't read my blog...
My recipes tend to a bit on the jazzy side, like Moroccan Pot Roast and Tuscan Pot Roast but I do make the regular ole' kind too. When I was sitting around dreaming this up, I was having such bad deja vu that I had to look on my blog to make sure I hadn't already done this recipe.

Yummy, yummy, yummy- I served this on cheddar cheese polenta.  If you need some ideas on polenta, check this link out.

Note-  My recipe was a bit hot, because I got carried away and added about 4 chipotle peppers, so I added a bit of brown sugar to take the edge off.  We decided that the hot with a touch of sweet was nice, but, as usual, it's completely up to you.

Serves 4-6
1 3 lb pot roast
1 onion, slivered
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
2-3 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
2-3 canned chipotle peppers, in adobo sauce, minced
2-3 tsp smoked paprika
5-6 small carrots, chopped into chunks
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cups beef broth
1 lime,  juiced plus 1 tsp lime zest
1-2 Tbsp of brown sugar (optional)

Season the pot roast with salt and pepper on both sides.
Brown your pot roast in a hot pan, with a little oil, for about 3 minutes per side, until it is nice and brown.  I used my cast iron pan for this, and it works wonderfully.  Add the pot roast to your crock pot.

Add the onions, peppers and garlic to the pan.  Add a bit of olive oil if there isn't enough fat in the pan. Saute for 2-3 minutes, until the onions start to soften.  Add to the crockpot.

Add the remaining ingredients: minced chipotle, smoked paprika, the chunks of carrots, canned tomatoes (with juice), the lime juice/zest and beef stock to the crock pot

Simmer on High for about 6 hours, or on low for about 8 hours.

Standard Stove top or Oven recipe 
Brown your pot roast in a hot pan for about 3 minutes per side, until it is nice and brown.  I used my cast iron pan for this, and it works wonderfully.  Add the pot roast to a heavy dutch oven or small stock pot  that has a lid.
Add the onions, peppers and garlic to the pan.  Add a bit of olive oil if there isn't enough fat in the pan. Saute for 2-3 minutes, until the onions start to soften.  I add the smoked paprika to the pan to incorporate with the onions too. Add to the crockpot.

Add the remaining ingredients: minced chipotle, the chunks of carrots, canned tomatoes (with juice), the lime juice/zest and beef stock to the pan.
Oven- Bake for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours on a low oven, about 300 degrees.
Stove top- Bring the mixture to a boil and immediately turn down to your lowest setting.  Cover and simmer about  2 1/2 to 3 hours. 
The meat should be exceedingly tender, and starting to fall into shreds.

Here's links to my other pot roast recipes:
Moroccan Pot Roast
Tuscan Pot Roast

Friday, September 21, 2012

Blue Lagoon Martini

You don't have to look too far to see where I got my inspiration for this drink!

Well, maybe you do.  You see my daughter is sporting a new hair color... it's turquoise, a very nice shade, by the way, if you are 21 years old. 

This is also the color of the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, which we visited last February. We were given a yummy blue cocktail as we entered the lagoon, plus some ugly mineral mud for our faces. What a blast that was.

This also happens to be a very nice cocktail, and easy to whip up.

The recipe calls for Sweet n' Sour mix, or strong lemonade.  Frozen limeade concentrate works well too.  I make my own with equal parts of lime (or lemon) and sugar, mix and freeze.  Viola... your own ready to go drink mix.

I'm not naming names, but I know all these mud covered people. OXOX

(That's my homemade limeade in the glass; Not pictured, sparkling water)

Serves 1

1 jigger blue curacao
1 jigger vodka
1 jigger pineapple juice
1/2-1 jigger sweet & sour mix, or strong lemonade, or limeade
Sparkling water (optional)

Mix together in an ice filled shaker, shake, shake, shake.  
Pour into a martini glass. 
I like to float a bit of sparkling water on top, it adds bubbles and it is not quite so sweet that way!

Now go relax at your own personal blue lagoon!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Beef & Kale Fajitas Tacos

Okay, I am sure that some of you saw 'yuck' when you saw the title of this dish. 
But ya know, I like kale, and I notice that people don't have many ideas for making it taste good.
Even the latest Oprah magazine (Oct 2012) has an article on this on making 'good for you' stuff taste better- - -too bad they didn't see this one.

We loved this dinner, it didn't need any other starch, like rice, or beans, just the filling in the corn tortilla with a sprinkle of cheese, some salsa and a little sour cream.  Yum.

Note to self...
If you are verbally running through what to call an invented dish, don't involve your husband... 
He promptly dubbed these "Facos"... you know, Fajjita's + Tacos.  
We expired into a fit of giggles. I think Facos has officially stuck at our house.

Serves 3-4
1 lb of beef, cut into small shreds. 
1 bell pepper, cut into strips (I used 1/2 red, and 1/2 yellow)
1 bunch of green onions, cut into lengthwise strips
1 bunch kale, cut crosswise into small strips
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1-2 Tbsp taco mix
1/4 cup water
1/2 lime, juiced

For serving:
Corn Tortillas
Sour cream and salsa
More lime for squeezing on top
Avocados or guacamole

Cut up your veggies and get them ready to go.  Better remove any stickers... LOL, check out my bell pepper!  Luckily I spotted that before throwing them in the pan.

Fry up the beef over medium hot heat with some of the oil.  Try to brown it, but if you over crowd your pan, you might have a hard time (see my issue below). It takes about 3-4 minutes.

Add the veggies, starting with the kale, as it takes the longest to cook. Cook for 1-2 minutes until it starts to wilt and get a brighter green color.  Then add the rest of the cut up veggies stirring them into the meat and cooking enough to soften.  Add the taco seasoning and the water stirring to combine equally over the meat and veggies.  Squeeze the lime on the top and serve at once in hot corn, or flour, tortillas.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Chilled Cucumber Feta Soup

Wow, it's been a nice Summer around here. 
And while Fall is just around the corner, these sunny days are so beautiful and enjoyable. I am hanging onto every last sunny day. I thought about waiting until next Summer to share this recipe, but I just couldn't wait.

I've had a bit of buttermilk around here that I was trying to use up.  
I love a challenge.
Having too much buttermilk comes from asking someone to stop at the store for you, and since he wasn't sure how much I needed, bought 2 quarts.  Well, two quarts is quite a bit for two people who don't really drink too much milk to begin with.  I've made Rosemary Buttermilk Chicken, Homemade Blue Cheese Salad Dressing and finally, since I still had more to use, this soup.

This is pretty easy and delicious, with another benefit that is also low calorie and good for you.  I  have made it twice in the past couple weeks, usually in the evening when I am making dinner, but I put the soup away in the fridge to chill and eat the following night, or for lunches.

One note, if you do let it sit overnight, which I highly recommend, you should add minimal salt until the day you serve it.  Here's why... the feta is quite salty to begin with and tends to add to the soup's saltiness over night.

This would be a great starter soup for a Greek dinner of Chicken Souvlaki, or any other Mediterranean dinner  It has great tzatziki like flavors that are mild and yummy with any dinner.

Serves 2-4

2-3 medium Persian Cucumbers (or 1/2  English cucumber)
1/2 bunch green onions, chopped
2-3 sprigs fresh parsley, (about 1-2 Tbsp chopped)
1-2 garlic cloves
2 cups lowfat buttermilk
3 oz feta, crumbled
Salt & Pepper, as needed

Chop all the veggies and put into your blender. 

Cover with butttermilk and feta and blend on high for a couple minutes. It take it longer to get smooth than you think.  Pulse the blender a bit to ensure that you are getting it smooth. Adjust the seasonings and serve at once, OR chill overnight and adjust the seasonings before serving.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Rosemary Buttermilk Grilled Chicken

Moist, flavorful, easy to make and figure friendly- This recipe is a keeper.

I was inspired by a friend's facebook post, who wrote about making another friend's Buttermilk Rosemary Chicken.  I didn't think much about it at the time, but kept thinking back on it during the day since I had both chicken breasts and buttermilk in the fridge, and a nice pot of rosemary on my deck.  So I Googled those ingredients and up popped this classic Martha Stewart recipe.

I decided that maybe Martha missed a couple things in the original, so I took the liberties that I always do and changed it a bit, adding chives and garlic.  I would recommend the buttermilk marinade and making it your own by adding herbs that you have on hand, and even a little Tabasco to give it a kick.  

The finished chicken was moist, tangy and delicious.  I do have to say, since I am well aware there are lots of buttermilk-haters out there.... no one will be able to tell that the marinade is buttermilk.  I'm going to do this again with chicken thighs and even a pork tenderloin to see what happens. 

Do plan ahead and marinate the chicken the day before you want to grill it!  It makes a difference.  This was so easy, I might even recommend that you do this on a Sunday night and have a nice easy dinner for later during the work week.

Serves 4

4 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
1 cup buttermilk
2 Tbsp rosemary, stripped from the stems, and lightly chopped
1 Tbsp fresh chives, chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
Salt & Pepper 

In a Ziploc bag, add the chicken and all the rest of the ingredients. Mix it up by massaging the bag and place back in the fridge, marinating over night.

When you are ready to eat, fire up the grill to a nice hot temperature.  You can oil the grates so that your chicken doesn't stick, or spray the chicken directly with a little cooking spray, like Pam, before placing on the grill.  I know that sounds a bit crazy, but it worked like a champ!  Whatever you do, DO NOT spray the Pam on the hot grates- - fire hazard!

Once the chicken is on the grill, turn down the heat to a medium and grill on each side for 4-5 minutes, making sure not to over cook.  Serve at once! 

The leftovers of this dish, we sliced up and took for lunches with some salad.  So good and flavorful even a couple days later.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Tomato Jalapeno Jelly

Don't worry about the amount of sugar in this, it's jam silly; it's what makes JAM, well JAM!
I recently made Strawberry Habanero Jam which is pretty terrific, if you are interested.
But, this jam recipe came out necessity of too many leftover tomatoes on hand, so since the season is almost upon us, I thought you'd better have this recipe too.

It's such a weird jam, I made this over 6 months ago, and just now I have decided to blog about it.  It's all because I have been giving jam to my daughter and her boyfriend and they have been loving the Tomato Jalapeno Jelly. Most people look at me with a freaked out look in their eye when you add tomato+jalapeno+jam in the same sentence.
I dunno,  I can't be the only one that likes savory/spicy/sweet together!?!

Try it on cornbread...
...or as a glaze on chicken or ribs
...or with BBQ sauce as a glaze for meatballs
...or even toast!

These is something compelling about spicy tomato jalapeno jelly!
I'm down to my last jar, but no worries, it's an easy one to make whatever the season!

I've pictured it above with good ole basic cornbread, but please, use it in so many ways to spice up your life.

Makes about 6 half pints

6 cups sugar
4 cups tomatoes, skin, seeds and all
2 lemons, quartered, skin, seeds and all
4-8 jalapenos, skin, seeds and all
2-3 garlic cloves, whole
3 oz. container of liquid pectin

I sure wish I could find the pictures I took while making it the first time.. it really showed how easy this was.  I added the tomatoes, whole chopped jalapenos, lemon and sugar to one pot and cooked it for about 30 minutes.  Then I strained it and brought it back up to temperature and added the liquid pectin.

Just rough chop everything, nothing fancy here. Throw it in a large pot with the sugar and bring it up to a boil on high heat.  When it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 30 minutes.  With a spoon, get a look at the color of the liquid in the pot.  If it's not quite as red as you like, you could add a drop, or two, of red food color to make it an especially pretty jelly. It up to you.  My top photo doesn't have any food color, but I did add some to my next batch because it wasn't getting as red as I liked.

Remove from the heat, and let cool for a couple minutes.  This mixture is super hot and because it is sticky too, it would really, really burn you. PLEASE, be careful. 

Strain the mixture into another big stock pot (I know, I know, more pots to wash...). Be patient and let it drip through for about 15-20 minutes.  Don't press on the solids, or it will make your jelly cloudy and murky.

Here's my strained mixture.
Bring it back up to boil, then add the liquid pectin and boil for exactly one minute.

Fill into hot jars, top with lids and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.
Let cool.  The jelly will set overnight.
If you have a little leftover, but not enough to fill a while jar, just pour it into a small bowl and let it set up.  Use that stuff first!

Here's the box of Certo I used.  It costs about $3 and includes two packets of pectin for two different recipes. I love to make jam.

Like to make Jam and Jelly? Here' some other favorites!
Chipotle Nectarine Jam
Pepper, Peach & Rosemary Jam
Strawberry Jam (No Pectin)

Strawberry Habanero Jam
Hot and Tangy Pepper Relish

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Hot Pink Beet & Cauliflower Soup

Hot pink soup?
I bet you could get kids to eat this.  Especially little girls.
Bright and cheerful happiness in a bowl.
 I can't remember the last time a bowl of soup made me so happy to look at.
Tastes delicious and is good for you too.
What more could you want?

I used to detest beets, and I mean really, really hate them.  It's taken almost half a century, but I might just be easing into beets as something I like.  I never liked the texture of canned beets, or the awful sweetness. Now, the nature fresh sweetness is tasty to me, but I do taste the hint of earthiness that used to make me think of 'dirt'.  I know that there are other beet haters out there, so maybe easing them into a soup like this is the answer.

Serves 4-6

Makes about 8-10 cups
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
1 head cauliflower
4-5 beets
1 large onion
2-3 garlic cloves
4 cups chicken, or Veggie, broth

Heat your oven to 425 degrees, and lay out the peeled and sliced beets, and sliced onions on baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and a little salt and pepper.  Do the same for the cauliflower.  I cut the while head of cauliflower into slices to get the pieces to a somewhat thickness, instead of pulling into large chunks.  Keep the garlic cloves whole, so it is less likely to burn.  Roast for about 30 minutes. Until the veggies are tender and starting to brown on the edges.

- - - We ate a couple servings of our roast veggies with our Buttermilk Rosemary Chicken, but used the rest for the soup.  They taste so good roasted, it's hard to resist.

Let the veggies cool a bit and working in batches, blend the veggies with the chicken or veggie stock.  I say work in batches because I attempted to cram pack my blender and do it all at once.  Wow, that was some thick stuff and a bit of a mess.  Just work in batches....

Add the pureed soup to a large saucepan, or small stock pot, and add the rest of the broth, or even water to get the soup to the consistency that you like.  Add salt to taste. You could even add milk, cream, sour cream or buttermilk to add more creaminess and tang.  Your soup would be lighter pink though.

I served mine with a little sour cream dots and some chopped chives.

Here's some other easy veggie soups:
Broccoli, Cheddar & Potato Soup
Carrot Ginger Soup
Chilled Zucchini Buttermilk Soup
Curried Cauliflower Soup

Egyptian Red Lentil Soup
Mediterranean Tomato Soup

Mexican Cauliflower Soup (for the soul)
Split Pea Soup

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Frango Mint Milkshake

 (I tried to be arty with a messy, drippy shot of the milkshake- - this might be a fail.)
I've been meaning to do a recipe for a Frango milkshake for a very long time. It's weird there are very few recipes out there for them, in fact, I didn't find anything except articles of people talking about the famous milkshakes served at Fredrick & Nelson's department store "back in the day".  I'd like to point out that I might be too young to remember, but I have a vague nagging sense that I have had one way back then.  I am sure this is the part where my Mom will call me up and tell me "of course you've had one.  I used to take you there all dressed up in your blue coat for lunch".  Awww Moms... where we would be without them?

I don't really care if you remember Frango's from your childhood in Seattle, or Chicago.
I refuse to get into the age old argument of who really 'owns' the recipe.
I worked for a certain department store, so I do know.
I have also eaten Midwest Frango's and Northwest Frango's side by side and I know which is best, because they ARE slightly different.
Insert smug smile here...

You can make this with any type of Frango's that you like... I happened to have Rum, which is my favorite and one of the originals, now only available in the Fall season.  Of course, Mint Frangos are by far the most popular, so that's why I used it the title of my recipe.  

Serves 2
6 Frango's, any flavor, unwrapped
1/4 cup milk, heated (Plus more cold milk, if needed to thin the milkshake)
2 cups good quality vanilla ice cream, about 4 x-large scoops

Here's the important part, heat the milk and pour on top of the Frango.  Let sit for a couple minutes, stirring to incorporate the chocolate into the milk.  It doesn't have to be perfectly smooth, just mostly melted.  Now let it cool... this is the hard part.
Walk away... for about 15-20 minutes.
You want the milk to cool down, because if you try to do it while it's too warm it will make your milkshake runny.
A really, really good runny milkshake, so really, suit yourself.

Add the melty milk and chocolate mixture to a blender, blend up a bit, then add the scoops of ice cream and blend some more.  It will be thick, so keep blending until it's fully incorporated.

Serve at once in a tall glass with a long spoon and maybe some whip cream and sprinkles too.

Note:  I have also used hot coffee instead of milk with good results.  It really depends on what you like

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Caprese Skillet Eggs

Tomato season is almost upon us.  That means after waiting and waiting for some homegrown tomatoes, all of a sudden, you have waaay too many! Actually, my home grown tomatoes look like crap; I guess they actually want regular watering?  Needy 'ole tomatoes...I got better things to do, like COOK!

I do love to buy tomatoes though, and my local H-Mart Asian market has tomatoes on the vine for .79 cents a pound, week after week!  Wow, forget buying them for $2.99 a lb, this price is amazing to me.  Which is why, I guess,  I buy more tomatoes than we actually need every time I go there.  I like being ready for any tomato inspiration, but I had so many tomatoes, I started  thinking "what next?".  This was the perfect recipe when I saw it in my September 2012 Sunset Magazine.

Ask my husband, ... if I'm asked what my Top 5 foods are, tomatoes are always in the Top 5.  He thinks having a Top 5 personal list of anything is laughable, but this is serious stuff when it comes to tomatoes for me.

This breakfast is my ideal; flavorful, high protein, cheesy, easy and one dirty pan.  We had this before we took a big 'ole hike the other weekend and we felt great for hours.

Serves 2-4

2 slices bacon, chopped (optional, if vegetarian version)
1/2 medium onion, chipped
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup fresh chopped herbs; basil, oregano, thyme, chives- - whatever you like!
1/2 tsp garlic salt and fresh ground pepper
4 eggs
1/2 cup cheese, grated (I used smoked cheddar)

Chop up the bacon, and cook over medium high heat for 3-4 minutes.  Drain off all but about 2-3 tsp of bacon grease.

Add the onion and cook until the onion is softened, about another 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 1-2 minutes.  Add the chopped tomatoes and cook another 5-7 minutes until the juices are released and the mixture starts to look more like a sauce.  Sprinkle in all but about a tablespoon of fresh herbs. With a large spoon, make 4 shallow indentations in the sauce, crack an egg in each one.

Cover the pan with a lid, and let the eggs steam set.  It took about 4 minutes, because I wanted to ensure that the egg whites were cooked. (see top picture).  Sprinkle with more cheese and cover again until it's melted.  Sprinkle with more fresh herbs and serve immediately with some yummy toast to help sop up the sauce and egg yolks.

It was a bit of a messy dish to serve, but that just added to the appeal of an easy going weekend breakfast.