Monday, October 20, 2014

Spinach & Parmesan Orzo

::tap, tap, tap:: Is this thing on?

Sorry for disappearing there. I'm hoping some of you have stuck around despite the brief hiatus. I've been saying for months now that I've lost my blogging mojo and, well, it still hasn't returned. But I do have a few posts in my draft folder that I figured I should get published. I hope you guys will stick with me as I weather this (hopefully temporary) storm.

So...spinach and Parmesan orzo. I saw this one on my friend Kylee's blog and it looked like a great, simple side dish. Right up my alley these days.

Spinach parm orzo

As suspected, it was easy to make and we all loved it. Baby Girl kept calling it risotto, one of her all-time favorite cold weather meals. I'll definitely be making this one often.

Spinach & Parmesan Orzo
As seen on Kylee Cooks

8oz orzo pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste

Cook the orzo according to the package directions.

While the orzo is cooking, heat the olive oil in a saucepan. Add the garlic and cook just until it's fragrant.
Sprinkle the flour into the pot and stir to combine. Whisk in the milk, and continue to cook over low heat until thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Once the orzo is cooked, drain it and add it to the sauce. Add the spinach and Parmesan. Stir gently to combine. Taste it and adjust the seasoning, as needed.
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Friday, September 26, 2014

Grilled Ham and Cheese Sandwiches with Caramelized Onions

I like to put at least one sandwich on the menu each week. They're usually easy to make and we all enjoy them (although Baby Girl likes to deconstruct her sandwiches/burgers so she can eat each ingredient separately. Don't ask.) I saw these Hot Ham and Cheese Sandwiches with Bacon and Caramelized Onions on Pinch of Yum and thought they'd make a great grilled cheese sandwich.

Ham and Swiss sandwiches

I asked SP to get a loaf of rye bread at the store and it was the perfect bread for these sandwiches. Even though everything is better with bacon, I ended up skipping the bacon on these since they already had ham. The caramelized onions added just the right amount of sweetness to cut through the savory sauce. Delicious.

Grilled Ham and Cheese Sandwiches with Caramelized Onions
Modified from Pinch of Yum

1 yellow onion
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup mayo
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
spreadable butter
8 slices of bread (I used rye)
1 pound sliced deli ham
1/2 pound sliced Swiss cheese

Slice the onion into thin strips. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a small skillet; add onions and cook over very low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The onions will turn a deep golden color.

Whisk the mayo, mustard and Worcestershire sauce together.

Spread some of the spreadable butter on each slice of bread. Flip each slice over and spread 1/4 of the sauce on each of four slices, then top those slices with 1/4 of the ham, onions, and cheese. Complete the sandwiches with the other four slices of bread to make four sandwiches, butter side out.

Heat a griddle over medium-low heat. Add the sandwiches and cook until the bread is golden brown on both sides and the cheese melts. You want to go low and slow so the cheese and filling have a chance to warm through before the bread burns.

Cut in half and serve immediately.
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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Recipe Remake: Farmstand Corn Fritters

I can't believe I've been making these corn fritters for 7 years already. They're so easy and the flavor is incredible. The last few times I've made them Baby Girl helped by stirring all the ingredients together in the bowl.

Corn fritters

My original post didn't even include a photo (what was I thinking?) and since that post was back in 2007 I figured it was time to bring it back from the archives while corn was still in season (although I'm cutting it a bit close). We usually eat them plain, but you could serve them with a dipping sauce or top them with mozzarella, tomato and basil. We rarely have leftovers but if you did, you could serve them with a fried egg the next morning.

Corn fritters

If you can still get farm-fresh corn you need to make these ASAP. I'm kicking myself for not putting corn on the shopping list this week.

Farmstand Corn Fritters
As seen in Cook's Country magazine Aug/Sept 2005

3-4 ears of corn, husks and silk removed
1 large egg, beaten lightly
3 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons cornmeal
2 tablespoons half-and-half (can also use heavy cream)
1/2 small shallot, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup corn or vegetable oil, as needed

Using a chef's knife, cut the kernels from 1 to 2 ears of corn (depending on size) and place in a large bowl. You should have about 1 cup of whole kernels. Grate the kernels from the remaining ears of corn on the large holes of a box grater. You should have a generous 1/2 cup of grated kernels. Add to the bowl with the whole kernels. Using the back of a butter knife, scrape any remaining pulp from all the cobs and put in the bowl. Stir in the egg, flour, cornmeal, cream, shallot, and salt.

Heat oil in a large heavy-bottomed non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Drop 6 heaping tablespoons of batter into the pan. Fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. Leave them alone until you see them starting to brown around the edges, then carefully flip them over to cook on the second side.

Transfer fritters to a plate lined with paper towels. Sprinkle with some salt. Fry the remaining batter. Serve immediately.
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Monday, September 22, 2014

Grilled Hawaiian Chicken with Coconut Rice

As soon as Ashley posted this recipe for Grilled Hawaiian Chicken with Coconut Rice I knew I had to make it as soon as possible. I could practically taste the coconut rice. The only problem is, Baby Girl is allergic to nuts and that includes coconut. Luckily, she was heading to my parent's house for a sleepover so I put it on the menu for that Saturday night.

Hawaiian chicken and coconut rice

Do you remember when I mentioned my grill pan suffered a small catastrophe recently? This was the recipe that did it. The brown sugar in the marinade caramelized on the pan and has been next to impossible to remove. Next time we'll be cooking this one on the outdoor grill. And there will definitely be a next time. We couldn't stop oohing and ahhing over this meal. It was absolutely delicious. The rice was our favorite part - the coconut milk adds such a wonderful, rich, creamy, mellow flavor. The rice, combined with the chicken and pineapple, made for a five-star restaurant-quality meal. So, so good. I really wish Baby Girl could join us in eating this one. I know she would love it.

Grilled Hawaiian Chicken with Coconut Rice
As seen on Cheesecurd in Paradise

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup pineapple juice (from the pineapple rings)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 scallions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 can pineapple rings, drained, juice reserved

For the coconut rice:
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cup long grain white rice
1 can coconut milk

2 scallions, finely chopped

Place the chicken in a plastic food storage bag. Add the soy sauce, pineapple juice, water, brown sugar, scallions, garlic, and oil, seal the bag and gently toss to coat the chicken in the marinade. Marinate for at least 8 hours, preferably overnight.

Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium heat. Grill the chicken for about 5-6 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the grill. While it rests, grill the pineapple to give it a slight char. You can serve the chicken whole or slice it into strips before serving.

For the rice: melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the rice, and cook for about 3 minutes stirring occasionally. Pour the can of coconut milk into a measuring cup, then add enough water to equal 3 cups of liquid. Add the coconut milk and water to the rice and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, stir once more and cover the pot. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork.

Serve the chicken on a bed of the coconut rice topped with some of the grilled pineapple. Scatter some of the finely chopped scallion over the dish before serving.
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Friday, September 19, 2014

Fish Tacos with Grilled Pineapple Salsa

While I was making the menu for the week I asked SP if he wanted anything specific for dinner. The first thing he said was "know what we haven't had in awhile, fish tacos." I'll admit, I was a bit surprised. We eat fish regularly but not usually in tacos. I was up for the challenge, especially since Josie had just posted a recipe for Grilled Fish Tacos with Grilled Pineapple Salsa. Those tacos were my inspiration for these beauties.

Fish tacos with pineapple salsa

I've mentioned before that we don't own a gas grill, and grilling something as delicate as fish on a charcoal grill would be tricky for a weeknight. My grill pan recently experienced a small catastrophe, so that was out as well. I felt like making a battered fish taco, so I turned to my recipe for tilapia francese. I added a bunch of seasoning to the flour, which resulted in very flavorful fish. When it came to the salsa I knew the peppers had to go since they don't agree with me. I just swapped those out for grape tomatoes. I mashed up some avocado with a little cilantro and lime juice, shredded some lettuce and dinner was served.

We all LOVED these. I had to fight SP for the leftovers. Baby Girl took her taco apart and ate everything separately (such a strange child) but she cleaned her plate. These will definitely be on our permanent rotation. And since I used canned pineapple, we can make these year-round. They'll be such a great burst of summer flavors in the cold depths of winter.

Fish Tacos with Grilled Pineapple Salsa

1 cup flour
1 teaspoon chile powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
kosher salt and pepper
1 egg
2 tablespoons water
4 pieces tilapia filets, cut into strips
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 can pineapple rings, drained, juice reserved
grape tomatoes, finely diced
3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro, plus more for serving
1 tablespoon minced red onion

1 avocado, pitted
lime juice, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 head romaine lettuce, thinly sliced
Flour tortillas

Place flour in a pie plate and add the chile powder, oregano, onion powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Beat the egg and water in a second pie plate. Coat each piece of tilapia with flour, then coat with egg, then pit it back in the flour for a second coat.

Heat butter and oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Place tilapia in pan and cook for about 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown.

Meanwhile (or you can do this ahead of time), grill the pineapple in a grill pan over medium-high heat until brown on both sides. Transfer the pineapple to a large cutting board and finely chop. In a medium bowl, combine the pineapple, grape tomatoes, cilantro, and red onion. Add a splash of the pineapple juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Grill the tortillas for 30 to 45 seconds per side. Transfer to a plate and cover loosely with a dishtowel or foil.

Mash the avocado in a medium bowl. Add the lime juice, and continue mashing to form a smooth sauce. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve, top tortillas with fish, pineapple salsa, lettuce, avocado, and cilantro.
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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars

When I posted a picture of these Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars on social media I simply said "I did a bad, bad thing." That pretty much sums up these squares of ridiculousness. Easy to make, sinfully rich, decadent beyond words.

Peanut butter chocolate bars

Now, you all know I rarely bake. So you may be asking yourself why I made these. I made them because I couldn't stop thinking about them. I was innocently scrolling through my Facebook news feed one evening when I came across a photo of these bars. After clicking through to the recipe I couldn't stop thinking about them. I knew I had to make them when Baby Girl wasn't home. My plan was to freeze them and clean the kitchen thoroughly since they contain peanut butter, which she's allergic to.

Peanut butter chocolate bars

You know what's bad about these bars? They're too easy to make. Melt better, mix in the rest of the ingredients, bake, let cool, done. Like I said, too easy.

Just posting a picture of these got two of my friends to make them that same night. I wonder how many more people will try them after seeing this post? Sorry. You're welcome.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars
As seen on Averie Cooks
YIELD: one 8x8 pan, cut into 9 or 12 squares

1 stick unsalted butter
1/3 heaping cup peanut butter
1 large egg
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips + 2 tablespoons, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350. Line an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil. Spray the foil with cooking spray; set aside.

In a large, microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter. This should take about 1 minute on high power. You may need more or less time depending on your microwave. Let cool for 2 minutes.

Add the peanut butter, egg, brown sugar, vanilla to the butter and whisk until smooth. Add the flour and stir until just combined. Don't over mix. Stir in 1 cup of the chocolate chips.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula. Sprinkle evenly with the remaining 2 tablespoons of chocolate chips.

Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until done. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean, or with a few moist crumbs, but no batter. Mine took 30 minutes.

Allow the bars to cool in the pan for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

Bars will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
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Friday, September 05, 2014

Lemon Tilapia Parmesan

My friend Jaida recently posted this recipe for Lemon Chicken Parmesan that looked so good I could almost taste it. We eat a lot of chicken, though, so I've been trying to replace some of our favorite chicken dishes with fish for some variety. I'm really into tilapia - it's so versatile and Baby Girl loves it, too. I figured it would be easy to swap out the chicken for tilapia in this recipe.

Lemon chicken parm

Since tilapia is so thin and quick-cooking, I didn't need to bake it. I just cooked the pasta, tossed it with the sauce and served the fish on top. Super simple and so delicious. I know you may think melted mozzarella and fish is a strange combo, but it was so good. The lemon sauce was so bright and flavorful, too. I may try this with chicken next time, just to see which protein we prefer.

Lemon Tilapia Parmesan
Modified from Sweet Beginnings

8 oz angel hair pasta
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
4 tilapia filets
1 large egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 cup flour
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain. Return the pasta to the pot and stir in the butter, lemon zest, and Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.

Whisk the egg and water in a shallow dish. In another shallow dish combine the Panko, Parmesan, dried basil, salt and pepper.

Place the flour in a plastic food storage bag. Add the fish filets, seal the bag, and toss to coat the filets in the flour. Working with one piece at a time, dip a filet into the egg, then into the bread crumb mixture, pressing to adhere the crumbs. Repeat with all the filets.

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the lemon juice and garlic. Add the fish filets and cook for 3-4 minutes per side, until golden brown. Distribute the mozzarella between the 4 filets and cover the pan briefly so the cheese melts. Remove to filets to a plate.

Add the pasta to the pan and toss to coat, thinning the sauce with some of the pasta cooking water. Serve some pasta in a shallow bowl topped with a piece of fish per person.

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