Friday, December 24, 2010

Turkey Soup

The first year my husband and I were dating, I went to visit his family a few days after Christmas.  I made it to the house in time to have my first bowl of turkey soup.  I'm sure that I made a pig out of myself and ate way too much soup, but this stuff is really good!  Shortly after my husband and I got married, I decided to try and make this.  It just didn't turn out right, so I tried a few more times and it still wasn't the same as his mom's soup! When my daughter was born, we asked my mother-in-law to make us a pot of the soup (we used chicken that time) and I watched her carefully.  When you have a two week old in the house, that is not a good time to try and remember a recipe.  This year, I sent my mother in law an email and asked her how she made her soup.  It turns out I'd been waiting too long to add the kielbasa to the soup.  It made a big difference!  My four year old ate a ton of the soup this year.  We aren't having turkey for Christmas this year, but I have some turkey in the freezer so that we can have some turkey soup very soon!

Turkey Soup
1 bag of Lysander's Bean Bag Soup
6 1/2 cups of water
1/2 pound kielbasa, chopped
2 cups turkey, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 large onion, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup chunky vegetable tomato sauce

1) Rinse the beans. Combine water and beans in a large dutch oven.
2) Bring the beans to a boil and let them boil for one minute. Turn the heat off and let the beans sit, covered, for one hour. 
3) If you are using broth, drain the beans after one hour.  Return to a pot with 6 cups of broth. If you don't use broth, leave the water in the pot with the beans.
4) Add the turkey and kielbasa, bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours.  When beans are done, add onion, carrots, celery, lemon juice, tomato sauce, and seasoning packet that came with beans.  Simmer for another 30 minutes.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Chocolate Truffles

I've always wanted to make truffles, but they always seemed like something with way too many "rules" about time, temperature, consistency, type of chocolate, etc.  This past year, I've learned that it really is OK to break the "rules" when I cook at home.  If something doesn't turn out the way a celebrity chef makes it, that is OK! 
I found a recipe on the Food Network site that looked relatively easy.  I used one of Alton Brown's recipes and made a few small modifications. The truffles  were still more work than I thought they would be, but I can honestly say they were worth the work.  They taste great and I can't wait to serve them to my family this year. 

Chocolate Truffles
adapted from Alton Brown
10 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/4 cup amaretto
1/2 cup processed cocoa, finely chopped almonds, and toasted coconut for coating truffles
8 ounces Ghiradelli melting chocolate, chopped

1) Place the 10 ounces of chopped chocolate and the butter in a medium sized glass mixing bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds. Remove and stir, and repeat this process one more time. Set aside.
2) Heat the heavy cream and corn syrup in  a small saucepan over medium heat until simmering.  Remove from the heat and pour into the chocolate mixture. Stir gently using a rubber spatula until the mixture is smooth and creamy.  Gently stir in the amaretto.
3) Pour the mixture into an 8 x 8 glass baking dish and place in the refrigerator for one hour.
4) Using a melon baller or small scoop, scoop the chocolate onto a sheet pan lined with wax paper and return to the fridge for 30 minutes.
5) Remove the truffles from the refrigerator and shape into balls (they don't need to be perfect).
6) Melt the chocolate in the microwave, according to package directions.
7) Place the cocoa powder, nuts, and/or toasted coconut each in its own pie pan and set aside.
8) Dip an ice cream scoop into the chocolate and turn upside down to remove excess chocolate. Place truffles 1 at time into the scoop and roll around until coated. Then place the truffle into the dish with either the cocoa powder, nuts or coconut. Move the truffle around to coat; leave truffle in the coating for 10 to 15 seconds before removing. In the meantime, continue placing the chocolate-coated truffles in the cocoa or other secondary coating. After 10 to 15 seconds, remove the truffle to a parchment lined sheet pan. Repeat until all truffles are coated. Allow to set in a cool dry place for at least 1 hour; or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Truffles are best when served at room temperature.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Kale-Stuffed Potatoes

Thanks to the unusually cool weather, I have quite a bit of kale in the garden right now.  I decided to add it to some twice-baked potatoes the other day.  They tasted great and were very filling.  Right now I have an obsession with Kerrygold cheese and butter, so I had to use them in the potatoes.  If you don't have access to Kerrygold, you can use butter with herbs and garlic and sharp cheddar cheese.

Kale-Stuffed Potatoes
2 large baking potatoes
1 bunch kale, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 to 4 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons Kerrygold butter with herbs and garlic
1/4 cup shredded Kerrygold Dubliner cheese

1) Scrub potatoes and prick with a fork.  Bake at 400 for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove from oven when done and allow to cool. 
2) When the potatoes are cool enough to touch, cut them in half and scoop the inside of the potato into a large bowl. Leave about 1/4 inch of potatoes inside the shell.
3) Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
4) Add garlic and onion and saute for 5 minutes.
5) Add kale and saute until wilted (3 - 5 minutes).
6) Add kale mixture to potatoes then add milk, Kerrygold butter and sour cream.  You may want to add a little bit of salt at this point. Mix well with an electric mixer or potato masher.
7) Spoon the potato mixture back into the shells.  Top with cheese.
8) Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

The Last Eggplant?

Last weekend I harvested this beautiful eggplant...

Two days later, we had an early freeze.  I was able to cover the eggplants and tomatoes, but some of the tomatoes died anyway.  So far the eggplants are doing OK.  The black beauty lost some leaves, but the rossa bianca (pictured) didn't seem to suffer at all.  Tonight we are under a hard freeze warning.  Everything that is still alive has been covered.  I'm praying that my eggplants survive!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Breakfast Casserole

I enjoy searching for recipes online and reading cooking blogs. One of the blogs I've discovered in the last year is the Pioneer Woman.  She posted a recipe for SuperSonic Breakfast Burritos a few months ago and I had to try them.  I made these less than a week after she posted the recipe and they were a hit.  I am part of group for mothers of young children at my church and we take turns bringing breakfast.  I really wanted to take the burritos, but there just wasn't a good way to do it...then I realized that the recipe could easily be turned into a breakfast casserole.  I make this in an 8 x 8 pan for my family.  If you wanted to make it in a
9 x 13, increase the eggs to 12, use one pound of sausage, and double the cheese, hot sauce, and milk.
You can also mix this up the day before and bake it the next morning.  Make sure you let the pan sit for about 30 minutes at room temperature before you put it in the oven.

Breakfast Casserole
Mini Tater Tots, thawed (you will need enough to cover the bottom of the dish
1/2 pound Jimmy Dean sage sausage, browned and drained
1/2 cup monterey jack cheese, shredded
8 eggs
2 tablespoons milk or heavy cream
2 dashes hot sauce
salt and pepper, to taste
sour cream
jalapeno peppers

1) Grease the bottom of an 8 x 8 glass pan.  Place the tater tots on the bottom and add salt and pepper, if desired.
2) Add the sausage and cheese on top of the tater tots.
3) In a blender, combine the eggs, hot sauce, and milk, puree until well blended.  Pour over the tater tots, sausage, and cheese.
4) Bake at 375 for 30 - 40 minutes, or until the center is set.
5) Top with salsa, sour cream, and jalapenos before serving.

Apple Cinnamon Bread

Raisin cinnamon bread is one of our favorite breakfasts.  I realized that it was something that I could easily make, so I started searching for a recipe.  While I was searching, I came across a recipe for apple cinnamon bread.  It was pretty easy to make and tasted great. The leftovers made great french toasts.  The recipe came from the King Arthur Flour website.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Kale Chips

If you know me personally, then you know about kale chips.  I bought my first kale plant about a year ago.  Since I had no idea what to do with kale, I asked my friends on Facebook what I should do with it.  A friend of mine from college suggested I try kale chips and gave me the recipe.  These have turned into one of my favorite snacks.  If you are trying to get more kale in your diet, these are a great way to start!  I've used two different varieties of kale in this and they both turned out great.

They aren't very pretty, but they are yummy!

Kale Chips
1 bunch of kale, stems removed, cut into large chip-sized pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
garlic powder (optional)
parmesan cheese (optional)

Wash the kale, remove the stems, and cut into large pieces.  The kale will shrink, so don't make the pieces too small.  Mix the kale with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Bake at 250 for 30 minutes.  If you are using parmesan cheese, add during the last 5 minutes of cooking.  Serve warm.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Eggplant Creole

I harvested another eggplant from the garden, so it was time to make eggplant creole.  This is my favorite eggplant dish.  My husband and I both grew up not really eating eggplant.  When we were dating, we went out for a Valentine's Day dinner where eggplant parmigiana was served and we both realized that we liked eggplant.  A few years after we got married and bought a house, I started growing eggplant and we started eating quite a bit of it.  I can honestly say that home-grown eggplant is much better than store bought.  When you eat the eggplant 2 hours after you pick it, there isn't any time for the eggplant to get soft or bitter.  I only had one recipe for eggplant and wanted to expand my meatless menu, so I asked my Grandma for this recipe, since I'd heard her talk about it for years.  I know that it is one of her favorite recipes!  I hope to have some nice eggplants in the garden the next time she visits so that I can make this for her. 
I used green and yellow pepper in the eggplant creole pictured.  I had a yellow pepper that I needed to use.   I like to serve this with fresh fruit and warm bread.

Eggplant Creole
1 medium  eggplant, cut into 1 inch pieces.
4 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons flour
1 can diced tomatoes, do not drain
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 medium onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
4 - 6 slices cheddar cheese

Cook the eggplant in boiling water for 8 minutes, drain and set aside. In a skillet, melt the butter over medium heat and add the four. Mix well and add the tomatoes, brown sugar, and salt. Add the diced onion and pepper and cook 5 minutes over medium-low heat. Cut the eggplant into smaller pieces and combine with tomato mixture in a glass baking dish (2qt casserole or 8 x 8). Top with croutons. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes, then add cheddar cheese slices to the top and bake 5 minutes more.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Harvest Bread

I went to a wonderful farmers market last weekend and ended up with quite a few sweet potatoes.   The King Arthur Flour website is my favorite place to look online for bread recipes.  I typed sweet potato into the search box and ended up finding a recipe for this...
The original recipe was written for a bread machine.  If you have a bread machine, follow the King Arthur Flour instructions.  The KAF recipe calls for nuts, I only used raisins.
Harvest Bread
Adapted from King Arthur Flour Website
One sweet potato or yam baked, peeled and mashed (1/2 cup mashed)
2 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 cup King Arthur Traditional Whole Wheat Flour
1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup water
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
2/3 cup raisins

1) Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir well to work the yeast into the dough.
2) Let rise, covered, in a warm place for 1 hour.
3) Place dough in a greased 9-inch loaf pan and let it rise, covered, for another hour
4) Bake at 375 for 25 - 35 minutes.  If the bread starts to get too brown, tent it with foil.
5) Allow bread to cool for 5 minutes before taking it out of the pan.
Makes one large 1 1/2 pound loaf.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Black Bean Burgers

I am not usually a big fan of meat substitutes.  I don't like tofu, I'm not big on Boca Burgers, and I think that most veggie patties taste like salted cardboard.  If I want something with the texture and taste of meat, I eat meat.  When I have a meatless meal, I usually focus on beans, grains, and veggies, not meat substitutes.  I do have a few exceptions to this.  One exception is the veggie burgers at Disney.  They are usually grilled and you can see and taste all of the veggies in them.  The other exception is Morningstar Farms products.  I love their veggie sausage patties (but NOT the "bacon"), meal starters, Asian burgers, and their black bean burgers.  I think that my favorite thing about the black bean burgers is that they aren't trying to be a hamburger.  You can taste the black beans and corn.  My favorite way to eat them is with a little bit of ranch dressing, a pickle slice, lettuce, and tomato.  I've also found that pepper jack cheese and avocado slices are wonderful additions to this burger.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Quick Thanksgiving Dinner Rolls

The Bread Bag is Full of Assorted Rolls
This year Thanksgiving is at my house!  I have a small family, but we seem to have quite a bit of food on the table every year.  I thought about posting some of our traditional Thanksgiving recipes, but everyone has their own traditions.  I've also noticed that most people aren't looking to change their Thanksgiving menu...even if the Food Network claims that traditional food are boring.  So, I decided to write about an easy way to do bread for Thanksgiving.  I am in love with "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day."  I have the book and I follow the blog.  I also read posts that others have done with variations on the recipes.  Most of the recipes make three or four pounds of dough, which is quite a bit.  I decided to start making rolls with the leftover dough and then I freeze the rolls.  I have a nice bag of the master recipe, peasant bread, and pumpernickel rolls.  I hope to add some buttermilk rolls before Thanksgiving since I am making buttermilk bread for our turkey sandwiches.   On Thanksgiving day, I will pull an assortment of rolls out of the freezer and place them in a 425 degree oven for 5 - 7 minutes.  If my family didn't read the blog, they would think I spent all week making bread!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Chicken Vegetable Lasagna

This is probably the classiest thing I make.  It is definitely more work than just about every other recipe I have, so I only make it once or twice a year...but it's always worth it.  The picture is of an 8 x 8 pan, but the recipe is for a 9 x 13.  I made a large one for a recipe contest and made a smaller one for us to have at home.  If you don't have the patience for layering, make it with ziti, it still tastes great. 

Chicken Vegetable Lasagna
2 chicken breasts with bone and skin
Olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bag fresh spinach
½ cup sun dried tomatoes
1 red pepper, julienned
1 yellow pepper, julienned
1 cup shredded carrots
1 pint ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 egg
8 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded
¼ cup parmesan cheese
2 jars alfredo sauce
1 package no boil lasagna noodles

1) Brush chicken breasts with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roast at 350 for 45 minutes.  When chicken has cooled, cut into cubes, set aside. Note: Save the drippings, bones, and skin and use them to make broth.
2) Add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a large skillet. Heat over medium heat and add garlic.  Saute garlic for about 2 minutes and then add peppers and carrots.  Add spinach and sun dried tomatoes and cook until spinach is wilted.
3) In a large bowl, mix ricotta, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and egg.
4) Grease a 9 x 13 pan with butter or oil.  Pour about ¼ cup alfredo sauce into the bottom and spread evenly.
5) Line the bottom of the pan with lasagna noodles. Top with half of the ricotta, vegetables, and chicken. Add one-third of the remaining alfredo sauce and one-third of the mozzarella and parmesan.  Repeat for second layer. For third layer, top lasagna noodles with remaining alfredo sauce and cheese
6) Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Panini Fresh from the Garden

I had a really nice harvest of eggplant, bell pepper, basil, and kale from the garden last week!

I turned it into a roasted vegetable sandwich with sun dried tomato pesto.
After cutting and salting the eggplant, I  roasted it in olive oil and cooked it over medium heat for about 3 minutes on each side.  I split a sub roll in half and put a ton of pesto (made from the basil above) on each side.  I added the eggplant to the bottom and put large pieces of peppers on top.  I placed sliced tomatoes on the other slice of bread.  I set everything under the broiler for 2 minutes and then I added a few slices of cheese to the tomatoes and broiled for 2 minutes more. 
I used the kale to make a side of kale chips. I'll post those soon!


I am not really a fan of traditional pesto because I find that it is a little bit overpowering and usually has too much olive oil in it.  A few years ago, we were at a party where sun dried tomato pesto was served.  Both my husband and I really enjoyed it, so I decided to learn how to make it. My recipe doesn't use pine nuts.  In my opinion, pine nuts do nothing, but make this recipe expensive.

Sun Dried Tomato Pesto
1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

1) Combine basil, sun dried tomatoes, garlic, salt, and pepper in a food processor,  Pulse until well blended.
2) Add olive oil and run the food processor until it is well blended.
3) Stir in parmesan cheese.

Friday, November 12, 2010

From Iowa with Love

Fried Pork Tenderloin Sandwith with Oven Fries
One side of my family is from Iowa, so there were many trips to the midwest to see relatives when I was growing up.  One of the things I really looked forward to on trips to Iowa was a fried pork tenderloin sandwich.  From the research I did, these sandwiches are really hard to find outside of Iowa, Indiana, parts of Illinois, and Missouri.  There used to be a place in Orlando that sold them, but it is now a Cuban cafe.  Last summer, I took the kids to Iowa to meet some relatives and relax on a farm for a few days.  I had my first tenderloin in close to a decade at the Machine Shed.  It was everything I hoped it would be.  I decided that it was something I could easily make at home and that someday I would try it.  Well, life got really busy and the baby weight from my daughter wasn't coming off very fast (or at all), so I decided to put the tenderloin on hold.  A few weeks ago, there were two episodes of Man vs. Food that showed pork tenderolin sandwiches.  It was time to do some research.  By research, I mean calling my mom since she knows how to make them.  The Indiana version of the recipe uses crushed saltines, but since my mom grew up in Iowa, she just used seasoned flour on them.  She suggested using some panko if I wanted the extra crunch.  Here is the recipe I came up with.  Everyone in my family loved them.  My husband even suggested that I use the leftover tenderloin in the fridge to make more sandwiches.  I decided that we didn't need that kind of meal twice in one week, so I made stir-fry with it instead.  But now that I know just how easy these things are to make, I will defenitely be making them again.

Fried Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches
1 cup flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cup panko 1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 2-inch slice of pork tenderloin for each person
oil for frying
sandwich buns
toppings: lettuce, tomato, pickle, ketchup, etc.

1) Place the pieces of pork between two sheets of plastic wrap, and pound until very thin.  This won't take long at all and they get can be as large as an 8-inch skillet if you use too much meat.
2) Use 3 plates for dipping the pork.  One for the flour, one for the egg, and one for the panko, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and white pepper.
3) Preheat oil in a large, cast-iron skillet.  Use about 1/2 inch of oil.
4) Dip the pork in the flour, egg, and then coat well with the panko mixture.
5) Fry for about 4 minutes on each side, or until brown.
6) Top bun and toppings of your choice.  My mom and I only use ketchup and pickles.

Mushroom Fries

I keep seeing recipes for portabello mushroom fries in magazines.  I love fried mushrooms, so I decided to give "mushroom fries" a try.  I found a great recipe on the Food Network website. I served them as an appetizer/late afternoon snack.  My son and my husband both loved them.  We served them with ranch dressing to help cut some of the heat from the crushed red pepper.  I don't know if these will replace french fries, but they are a really easy way to make fried mushrooms from scratch.  I didn't use my deep fryer for this.  I was already planning on pan frying something for our dinner, so I used my cast iron skillet and turned the mushrooms over after 4 minutes. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pad Thai

I didn't know I liked Thai food until I was 23 years old.  We are blessed to live in an area with an abundance of really good Thai restaurants.  My husband also loves Thai food and he encouraged me to try something other than volcano chicken, which isn't Thai at all.  It is sort of like orange chicken with some Thai chili sauce on top of it.  I've tried a few different curries, several soups, and some noodle dishes.  My favorite so far has been Pad Thai.  Yes, I know it isn't really authentic, but I still love it.  At some point, I realized that my 4 year old also like it, as long as you called it "spicy peanut butter pasta."  I looked online for a while to try and find a recipe that looked good and didn't require too many strange ingredients.  I finally gave up and just asked my friend Teresa, who is an excellent cook.  She gave me a great recipe.  Her recipe didn't call for peanut butter, but I went ahead and added it because I like it.  If you don't use peanut butter, add two extra tablespoons of brown sugar.  I am posting a double recipe of the sauce because I like my Pad Thai with a lot of sauce.  I made the sauce earlier in the day to save time while I was cooking.  I made mine meatless.  You can add chicken, shrimp, pork, or tofu to this if you want.  I didn't use tofu because I don't like it!

Pad Thai
8 oz. Thai rice noodles (or enough for 2 people), linguine-width, available at Asian/Chinese stores
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups fresh bean sprouts
3 spring (green) onions, sliced
1 cup fresh cilantro
1/3 cup crushed or roughly chopped peanuts (or other nuts, such as cashews)
1 1/2 tablespoons tamarind paste dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water (look for tamarind at Asian/Chinese or Indian food stores)
4 or 5 tablespoons fish sauce
2 - 4 tablespoons chili sauce, or substitute 1/2 teaspoons. or more dried crushed chili or cayenne, to taste
4 tablespoons. brown sugar
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
 oil for stir-frying
wedges of lime for serving
  1. Bring a large pot of pot to a boil and remove from heat. Dunk in your rice noodles. Allow noodles to soak while you prepare the other ingredients. Note that you will be frying the noodles later, so you don't want to over-soften them now. Noodles are ready to be drained when they are soft enough to be eaten, but are still firm and a little "crunchy". Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
  2. Make the Pad Thai Sauce by combining the sauce ingredients together in a cup. Stir well to dissolve the tamarind paste and brown sugar. Set aside. Note: this may seem like a lot of sugar, but you need it to balance out the sourness of the tamarind - this balance is what makes Pad Thai taste so amazing!
  3. Warm up a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add 1-2 Tbsp. oil plus garlic. Stir-fry until fragrant (30 seconds).
  4. Add the noodles, and pour the Pad Thai sauce over. Using two spatulas, wooden spoons, or other utensils, immediately stir-fry the noodles. Use a gentle "lift and turn" method (like tossing a salad) to prevent noodles from breaking.
  5. Stir-fry in this way 1-2 minutes. If you find your wok/frying pan too dry, push noodles aside and add a little more oil to the bottom.Add the bean sprouts. Continue "tossing" 1 more minute, or until noodles are cooked. Noodles are done to perfection when they are no longer "hard" or crunchy, but chewy-sticky wonderful!
  6. Taste-test for seasoning, adding more fish sauce until desired flavor is reached. Toss well to incorporate.
  7. Lift noodles onto a serving plate. Top with generous amounts of fresh cilantro, spring onion, and crushed/chopped nuts. Add fresh lime wedges.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Football Food

My husband and I love watching college football on Saturdays.  When the Gators have a late game, we usually wait until the kids are in bed to start watching (I love my DVR) and eat junk food.  We try to eat dinner as a family, but I noticed that I was eating a big dinner at 6:00 and then eating a ton of junk food with the hubby at 8:30.  Not very good when you are trying to lose a few pounds! We decided to make dinner for the kids and sit with them at 6:00 and then wait and have our dinner after they went to bed on Saturdays.  Burgers are one of our favorite football foods, so they end up on the menu during football games quite a bit.  I bought some frozen turkey burgers and added a few fun toppings to them and we had a wonderful meal.  I usually don't like turkey burgers, but the Jennie-O frozen patties are pretty good if you add some Big Kevin's Bayou Blend seasoning on them.  I could do an entire post on Big Kevin's seasoning.  It makes everything better.  I added some bacon, pepper jack cheese, avocado, lettuce, tomato pickle, and ranch dressing on top of the burgers.  If you don't like turkey burgers, these toppings would be great on a regular burger, chicken burger, or meatless patty...just make sure you leave off the bacon if you are going meatless.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Trip To The Garden With The Kids

Today my son had a ton of extra energy after lunch and asked me if he could go outside.  I grabbed my daughter and shoes for everyone and we headed outside to play with my son's frisbee.  Somehow, we all ended up in the garden instead.  My son counted plants and walked around to see which plants were producing goodies for us.  He was excited about all of the different colors and sizes of peppers.  We found quite a few tomatoes of different sizes and shapes.  We also found a nice, big black beauty eggplant.  My son was thrilled and he told me that he "loved eggplant."  He will eat eggplant parm, but he's never been too excited about eggplant creole or roasted vegetable paninis.  The eggplant will be ready to harvest in a few days, so I guess I'll soon know if he loves eggplant or not. 
As I was walking through the garden, I started to get really excited.  I have a ton of kale right now, quite a few tomatoes, and peppers coming out of my ears.  I've been eating the peppers as snacks lately, but other than that, I've been in a transitional phase of gardening, where there just isn't a lot to harvest.  Soon, I'll be able to go out to the garden, pick something, bring it inside, and cook it.  I can't wait to do it!  It is one of my favorite things about gardening.  This year I'll get to blog about it.  Bring on the kale chips!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I Did It!

I finally made a bread bowl that didn't look like a triangular hockey puck.  I've been making rolls using the master recipe for 5 minute bread quite a bit lately.  I noticed that the rolls rise quite a bit in the oven. I decided to try bread bowls the last time I made pot roast.  I made a half recipe and divided it into fourths.  I know that 8 ounces seems like a huge amount of bread, but you do hollow them out before you put the soup in.  The insides make croutons.  I just followed the shaping and baking instructions that I do for large loaves and rolls.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Steak and French Fries

My husband is a very adventurous eater.  He loves sweet potatoes, mushrooms, eggplant, beans, and is always willing to try new things.  One of his best eating traits is that he is not a food separatist.   In fact, he encourages throwing everything together in one pot or piling it as high as it can go on one plate.  We had a variation of this steak dish at a wedding a little over 2 years ago.  My husband loved it! I wasn't sure how I would feel about my fries being on top of the steak, but then I realized that whenever I get prime rib or a cut of beef that has a sauce on top, I end up dipping my fries in the au jus or sauce anyway.  The only unusual ingredient in this is demi-glace.  I looked into making it once, and it is a 2 day process.  It seems a little bit excessive when you only need one cup of it.  You can also buy demi-glace at Williams-Sonoma and good meat markets, but it may cost up to $30.  I found envelopes of powdered beef demi-glace at a local market.  They cost about $1.75 and make one cup.  I buy the Wagner's brand and have used it in quite a few recipes.  I am not usually a fan of powdered mixes, but this one gets the job done. 

Steak and French Fries
2 1-inch thick sirloin steaks 6 -8 ounces each
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons McCormick Grill Mates Montreal Steak seasoning
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 oz package sliced baby portabella mushrooms
1 envelope Wagner's beef demi-glace
1 cup water
1/2 bag shoestring french fries

1) One hour before you begin cooking, set out the steaks and pour the Worcestershire sauce over them. 
2) Preheat the oven to 450.  Bake the fries according to package directions.  Add salt right after they come out of the oven.
3) While the oven is preheating for the fries, heat oil in a stainless steel skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle steak seasoning generously on both sides of the steaks.
4) Cook the steaks for 5 -7 minutes on each side, or until a thermometer registers just below where you want your steaks.  I like my steaks just above medium, so I cook them just above medium rare.
5) Set the steaks on a clean cutting board and cover loosely with foil for 10 minutes.
6) Cook the mushrooms over medium heat for about 5 - 7 minutes in the drippings from the steak.  Add more oil or butter if necessary.
7) Combine the demi-glace and water and bring to a boil.
8) Place the steak on a plate, top with mushrooms, demi glace, and fries.

Monday, October 25, 2010


Usually Meatless Monday at our house means a lot of veggies and beans.   It is usually a night where I know I'll get the most fights and strange looks from the kids because they are trying new things or trying old favorites paired with new things.  Every once in a while, I like to make something I know my kids will love. The mashed potato stuffed shells were an attempt at this, but my daughter was in a picky mood that night, so it flopped with her.  This time, I made something that was guaranteed not to flop: cheese pizza.  What made this meal great was that I used 2 cloves of minced garlic and olive oil instead of tomato sauce.  I cut the pizza into long strips, instead of slices, so they looked like bread sticks. Our side dish was fresh fruit.  The kids did great with the meal. I took pictures, but deleted them from the camera before I uploaded them.  The pizza dough recipe I use makes 3 balls of dough, so I froze the other 2 balls to use later.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Rye Bread

My husband and I both love rye bread.  When we go to a deli with good rye bread, we usually order our sandwiches on rye.  Whenever I brought a loaf home, it would disappear pretty fast.  Rye bread was my son's first table food.  I think you understand, we love rye bread.  I noticed that deli breads were really starting to get expensive.  The only way I was buying rye was by the half loaf, and we usually ended up eating it within a day or two of me bringing it home.  Once I learned how to make edible and somewhat pretty loaves of white and wheat bread, I decided that it was time to learn about rye bread. It is definitely not the hands-off, throw everything into the bowl at once bread that I'm used to making.  I spent an evening looking at recipes on the King Arthur Flour website.  Some of the recipes looked good, others looked a little bit scary.  One had sauerkraut in it.  The recipe claimed that you couldn't taste the kraut.  The reviews begged to differ.  I crossed that recipe off the list without trying it!  I came across the recipe for sandwich rye bread.  Most of the ingredients looked relatively normal.  I knew that the mashed potato flakes would be fine because I used them in my whole wheat bread. The pickle juice seemed a little bit odd, but I went ahead with the recipe. The pickle juice helped enhance the flavor of the rye.  My husband didn't know it was in there until I told him.  Now we save our pickle jars so that we can make rye bread.  I wouldn't recommend trying this recipe without a mixer.  It takes quite a bit of work to develop the gluten with rye flour.  The Publix I go to only had light rye, so that is what I used.  Even though this recipe required more hands on time than other recipes, it was still a very easy recipe for me.  Just follow the directions and you will be fine.  It makes a great BLT, tuna sandwich, and grilled cheese!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Something Different

Meatless Monday at our house usually means something involving black beans or eggplant.  This time I decided to do something different and focused on mashed potatoes.  I used some jumbo shell pasta and stuffed them with mashed potatoes and spinach.  They turned out great.  I ended up leaving spinach out of some of the shells because not everyone in my house likes it. I made way too many potatoes, so the recipe is just an estimate of how much you will need.  Our side dishes were fresh fruit and vegetarian baked beans. 

Mashed Potato Shells

2/3 box jumbo shells, cooked and cooled
2 lbs potatoes, boiled and mashed
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and sqeezed
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded colby jack cheese

1) Mix the sour cream, butter, garlic powder, seasoned salt, and parmesan cheese with the mashed potatoes, mixing until well blended.  Add the spinach.
2) Fill each shell with the potato mixture and place into a greased, glass 9 x 13 inch dish.
3) Top with cheese.
4) Bake at 300 for 20 minutes.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Fall in Florida

Garden Sunshine Peppers
I moved to Florida in 1988, so I've spent the majority of my life without a real "fall."  I've seen the leaves change in other areas, even in northern parts of Florida.  I always thought I was missing out on something. It wasn't until last year that I felt blessed to live somewhere that stays so mild in the fall and winter.  Last year I discovered fall gardening.  I prefer it to spring and summer gardening because it is cool enough to grow cabbages, broccoli, kale, lettuce, and carrots, but warm enough to grow eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes. In east central Florida, we have about 9 months of gardening.  June, July, and August are pretty horrible months to try and grow anything other than flowers, eggplant and warm weather spinach.  This summer was so hot, even my eggplant stopped producing. We've been blessed with some very cool mornings in the last month, which means my broccoli and cabbages are growing like crazy.  The days have still been in the low to mid 80s, allowing my eggplant and tomatoes to start blooming. My garden sunshine peppers are producing like crazy right now. My onion sets are almost ready for transplanting.  The only thing that doesn't like the weather is the Malabar spinach.  The cooler nights are starting take their toll. It looks like I am going to run out of room in my garden this year.  I guess that means it's time to buy some good containers and dirt.  I still need to plant lettuce, radishes, carrots, and another round of beans.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Eggplant Parmesan

I didn't grow up eating eggplant, but for some reason I really love it.  One of my favorite ways to prepare it is by making eggplant parmesan.  I really like to use eggplant from the garden for this, but my plants are just now starting to bloom, so I had to buy one from the store.  I highly recommend salting your eggplant for an hour before cooking.  It makes a big difference!  This recipe serves 2 people, but is easily doubled.

Eggplant Parmesan
1 large eggplant, sliced into 1/2 - 3/4 inch circles
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup all purpose flour
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 cups seasoned bread crumbs
2 cups of pasta sauce
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup or more shredded mozzarella cheese

1) Salt the eggplant to get rid of the bitter juices for one hour.  Rinse eggplant in cool water to get rid of salt and bitter juice.
2) Take 3 shallow bowls and place flour in one, the beaten egg in the second, and the bread crumbs in the third.
3) Add olive oil to a heavy skillet and heat over medium heat
4) Dip eggplant into flour, shake off any excess, then into egg, and finally into bread crumbs. 
5) Add to skillet and fry for 3 - 5 minutes per side.
6) Place fried eggplant in a large baking pan and top with Parmesan cheese, pasta sauce, and mozzarella cheese.
7) Preheat broiler to high.
8) Broil 2 - 4 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly.
9) Serve with bread :)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Family Favorite

This recipe came from my Uncle Jim.  He was talking about it the last time he was in Florida and it sounded wonderful, so I decided to try it. I wrote the recipe down on a post-it over a year ago and managed to lose the post-it shortly after I made it the first time.  The recipe ends up being a little bit different every time I make it. The original recipe did not call for the mushrooms or tomatoes, but my husband loves mushrooms and I love roasted campari tomatoes, so I added them.  I usually use red potatoes and cut them into quarters, but Publix had a bag of small multi-colored potatoes on sale.  They were pretty small, so I didn't cut them.  The purple potatoes are great in this recipe.  The leftovers are great with eggs, as a breakfast casserole, or thrown into chicken broth and turned into a quick soup. If you don't like spicy food, make this with mild sausage and leave out the red pepper flakes. This recipe will easily serve 4 people.

Roasted Sausage and Potatoes
1 package hot italian sausage, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 pounds red potatoes, quartered
2 bell peppers, cut into one inch pieces
1 small onion, cut into large chunks
1 small package of mushrooms, cut in half
6 campari tomatoes, cut in half
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon italian seasoning
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper

1) Preheat oven to 425
2) In a large bowl, combine the sausage, potatoes, peppers, and onions.  Add the olive oil, italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes and stir to coat the sausage mixture.
3) Pour the mixture onto a large baking pan and spread it out to make a single layer. Bake for 20 minutes.
4) Stir and add the mushrooms.  Bake an additional 15 - 25 minutes, or until sausage is completely cooked and the potatoes are starting to get crispy.
5) Add the tomatoes and cook 5 minutes longer.

Monday, October 4, 2010

My Favorite Salad Dressing

I started making my own salad dressing about a year ago.  I was tired of the long ingredient lists, high fructose corn syrup, and salad dressing companies that liked to remove fat and add sugar.  I remembered my mom making quite a bit of our salad dressing when I was growing up, so I asked her for some recipes.  One of the recipes she passed along to me was for honey mustard dressing.  This dressing was a hit from the first time I made it. We put this dressing on everything now.  It is really good with broccoli.  I like it more than broccoli with ranch dressing.  One of my favorite ways to enjoy this dressing is on a salad with apples and cheddar cheese.  If you aren't doing a meatless meal, add some bacon or chicken to the salad.

This dressing also makes a wonderful honey dijon vinaigrette if you leave out the mayonnaise.  Just make sure that you have a really large jar to put this in.  I like to use an old spaghetti sauce jar.  A pint jar isn't quite big enough.  I have made one change to this recipe.  It originally called for one teaspoon of onion, but I was out of onion one day and added one clove of fresh, minced garlic.  I really liked it with the garlic, so I decided to start using it in the recipe.

Honey Mustard Salad Dressing
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup mayonnaise  (If you want to make a vinaigrette, leave out the mayonnaise)
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 cup honey
pinch of salt and pepper
1/2 cup neutral tasting oil

Mix all ingredients, except for oil until smooth.  Slowly whisk in oil until it is combined with the other ingredients.  Shake well before serving.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Changing Recipe

Changing a baking recipe can be really scary.  I always worry that I am going to do something that causes the bread, cookies, or cake to go flat or taste funny.  I've been wanting to experiment with the master recipe from "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day" for a few weeks.  I found some asiago cheese that was a great price and decided to add that to the bread.  I added about 1/3 cup of diced asiago to the dough while I was mixing and then added 1/4 cup shredded asiago to the top of the bread right before I baked it. I also made some "everything" bagel seasoning a few weeks ago and thought that might go well with the master recipe.  I sprinkled 1 tablespoon of my homemade seasoning, which consisted of equal parts minced dried garlic, minced dried onions, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, and caraway seeds into the dough.  I also added an extra teaspoon of the garlic into the dough.  Right before I put the bread in the oven, I generously sprinkled the top of the bread with more seasoning.  The bread turned out great. If you have a basic white bread recipe that you love, go ahead and experiment.  Add a new twist to an old favorite!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Eggs and Beans

I was recently introduced to the wonderful world of putting a fried egg on top of beans or leftovers and calling it dinner.  Sometimes it is pretty basic- canned black beans, salsa, and one egg over easy.  Other times I will take taco leftovers or yellow rice and chicken leftovers and serve them with a fried egg on top.  I recently found myself with extra avocados.  We order an organic produce box from time to time and a few weeks ago, it looked so good that we ended up with an extra large box. Eating up the extra plums, grapes, and corn wasn't a problem at all.  Finding things to do with the avocado took a little bit more creativity. I discovered that I really like avocado with ranch dressing, so I mixed up some ranch dressing.  I accidentally bought mayonnaise with lime juice, but it made great ranch dressing. I threw a few ingredients into a skillet, fried an egg, and topped it with some goodies.  It made a wonderful dinner.

Black Beans and "Ranch" Eggs
1 can black beans
2 ears of corn, cooked
1/2 cup jack cheese
2 eggs, cooked to your preference (I like runny yolks)
1 avocado, chopped into cubes
1/4 cup salsa
1/4 cup ranch dressing
Black olives
Tortilla crackers

Heat beans in a pot over medium-low heat.  After cooking the corn, cut off the kernels.  Place the black beans on a large plate, top with corn, cheese, and egg.  Top the egg with salsa and sprinkle the avocado and black olives around the plate.  Drizzle with ranch dressing.  Serve with tortilla crackers.

2 servings

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

One of my biggest motivations for learning to bake bread was the amount of bread my family eats in a week.  We are a family of 4 and my kids are pretty young, but we still manage to eat close to 2 loaves of whole wheat sandwich bread each week and usually we ended up buying specialty rolls and breads for making paninis, subs, or as a side dish with dinner.  I wanted to learn how to make a good whole wheat sandwich bread that my kids would eat. I've tried a few recipes and some were way too dense, others too crumbly.  A friend of mine, sent me a recipe from the King Arthur flour website.  It was really easy to make.  The first time I made it, I did not have the white whole wheat flour, so I used traditional and it turned out fine.  This bread makes wonderful sandwiches and toast.  I haven't tried grilled cheese for the kids on it yet.  That will be the true test of this bread. The kids are used to the store bought whole wheat bread, which is nice and light. It has taken a little bit of time for the kids to get used to the more dense homemade breads.  My son is even learning that bread crust isn't such a bad thing.  If you are looking for an easy whole wheat sandwich bread, I highly recommend this one.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lucky Number 13

I planted the only 3 tomato seedlings that survived all the the rain we had a few weeks ago.  They were pretty sad when I planted them, but I am happy to report that they have grown close to 6 inches since they went into the ground!  The survivors were one each of the striped cavern, green sausage, and yellow pear.  I went to a local nursery and picked up a 4 pack of roma and a 4 pack of sweet 100s.  I saw a big rainbow that I couldn't pass up, so I bought that one too.  It turns out that the big rainbow had 2 plants in it.  I ended up planting a total of 13 tomato plants in one day.  I told my husband I would be happy if 6 of them survived.  Well, almost 2 weeks later, I still have 13 healthy tomato plants.  I am going to have to invest in some more tomato cages.
My cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and kale seedlings are doing great.  They are in a sheltered area in the back yard.  They are getting enough sun to grow, but escaping some of the heat. I picked up some kale at the nursery the other day because I really like homegrown kale.  It is so much better than store bought, in my opinion.  I am looking forward to having 2 different varieties.
Both of my eggplants are looking so much better than they were a few weeks ago.  I think they just needed a nice pruning, some fertilizer, and low 90s instead of high 90s during the day.
I hope to have some good pictures of my peppers soon!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos

My family started doing "Meatless Mondays" a few years ago.  We had quite a few reasons for doing this: economic, health, environmental, and because we like beans.  We also love sweet potatoes. I came across a recipe for sweet potato and black bean burritos in a cookbook.  There were a few things I didn't like about the recipe, so I searched online.  I combined the recipes and added a few of my own twists to it.  It took a few tries, but I finally came up with one that we really like. 
A few notes on this recipe:
1)  If you don't have ground coriander, don't go out and buy it.  The recipe will be just fine without it. 
2) The cheese is optional.  I've had it with and without cheese and love it both ways.
3) Feel free to experiment with the chili powder.  I like to use a combination of traditional and ancho chili powder.
4) These make great soft tacos on corn tortillas.
5) The salsa on top is really important.

Here is the recipe. Enjoy!

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos
4 sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 1/2 teaspoons prepared yellow mustard
Pinch cayenne pepper
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 cup shredded Monterrey jack cheese
6 large, burrito sized flour tortillas

Preheat oven to 350
1) Heat oil large skillet over medium heat.  Saute onion and garlic until soft. 
2) Stir in beans, chili powder, cumin, coriander, and cayenne.  Gradually stir in water and heat until warm.
3) Remove from heat and stir in mustard and soy sauce. Gently mash some of the beans until the mixture thickens.
4) Divide bean mixture, mashed sweet potatoes, and cheese evenly among the tortillas.  Fold the tortillas and place, seam side down on a baking sheet.
5) Bake at 350 for 12 - 15 minutes
6) Top with salsa and sour cream

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Garden Update

For the first time ever, I started seeds on time.  I started my tomato seeds a few weeks ago so that they would be ready to go into the ground this weekend.  I ended up with 5 different varieties of tomatoes. Originally, I planned on only 4 plants- 2 striped cavern and 2 green sausage tomatoes.  When I was getting my seeds out, I found a few yellow pear seeds, a package of valenciano that I got free at the EPCOT Flower and Garden Festival, and a package of Oregon spring tomato seeds that I got through a seed of the month club.
I started everything indoors and even repotted a few after I moved them outdoors.  Things were looking great!  Then the rain started.  Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday brought a ton of rain to our area.  I even went out and moved the plants so they would have some shelter from the rain.  Yesterday I moved them out into the sun.  While I was out today, we had about 2 hours of heavy rain.  My tomatoes look really sad right now.  Some of them may do OK once I get them in the ground.  At least my golden zucchini look great. My guess is that tomorrow will bring a trip to my favorite place- the South Brevard Nursery!

Yesterday I started my first round cabbage, broccoli, and kale seeds indoors.  I know it is a good time, but it is hard to think about planting cool weather veggies when it is so hot outside.
The only things in the garden right now are some ancho peppers, garden sunshine peppers, 2 types of eggplant, rosemary, basil, Malabar spinach, and a ton of wild vincas.
I hope the weather is nice this weekend so that I can get the rest of my peppers, zucchini, and tomatoes planted.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Dinner Rolls

Tonight I made some wonderful garlic soup and used up the last of my dough to make dinner rolls.  I originally thought they were going to be hockey pucks again, but they turned out great.  The looked like mini artisan breads!  Unfortunately, we ate them before I had a chance to take a picture.  Oops!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Vegetable Broth

I went to a great produce market in Gainesville and picked up organic leeks, garlic, and onions. I added my leftover celery (including the leaves) and carrots from last week's produce box. I used a recipe from Caroline Wright as a guide for the broth. I ended up with about 5 pounds of vegetables. I added a few seasonings and cooked it for 3 hours. After straining it, I ended up wtih 14 cups of vegetable broth in my freezer! Not too bad for less than $7 worth of vegetables.

Getting Closer

I decided to see what would happen if I used 2 pounds of dough instead of one. It turned out great. It worked well for sandwiches, too! I still need to practice pulling the dough across a little bit more...but it is a big improvement over last week! I still have one pound of dough left. I am not sure what I want to do with it yet. The one pound loaves are a little too small for toast or sandwiches. Maybe I just need to make the ball a little bit tighter so it rises a little bit higher. I may try making rolls with it. Whatever I do, I will try and remember to take a picture.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Bread that isn't flat!

Switching to unbleached flour really made a difference. The dough was much easier to handle and easier to shape. It still isn't quite the shape I want, but it's much better than last week!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

This Is NOT a Bread Bowl

A few of my friends inspired me to try baking my own bread. I remember my mom baking bread when I was growing up and teaching me how to make pizza dough. I love to make quick breads and am pretty good at it (as long as my baking powder isn't expired). In the past, I haven't had much luck with yeast breads. This is usually because of my lack of patience and making the water too hot. I found a few recipes that tasted great, but weren't very pretty. Instead of trying to master shaping a free-form loaf, I decided to jump right into making a bread bowl.

This is what happened...

As you can tell, this is not a bread bowl. After quite a bit of searching online, I discovered that all-purposed flour and unbleached all-purpose flour are not interchangeable. I also did not knead the dough long enough, so it was way too sticky to work with and shape into a ball.

I decided that before I try making bread bowls and other "fancy" things, I need to learn how to shape a loaf of bread. I made a batch of dough that will sit in the fridge this week and will make 4 loaves of bread. Hopefully there will be something pretty to post by the end of the week.