Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Last days of summer... Watermelon Salad

Last summer when I was pregnant with Caroline, I would crave watermelon something fierce! I'd wake up in the middle of the night thinking about it, and as soon as I got up in the morning, we'd head off to the grocery store for one. Usually it was gone by the end of that day :) Needless to say, I kind of got my fill of watermelon last summer... But this weekend I went to a back-to-school bash at a friend's house, and found watermelon "done" a new way that was surprisingly yummy! Give it a chance, and let me know what you think...

You can find the original recipe (and photo) HERE. While you're there, check out her other recipes--they're great!

Watermelon Salad with Mint and Feta
Seedless watermelon, cut into chunks
Feta cheese, add amount to your liking
Chopped fresh mint
A couple splashes of good olive oil
A couple squeezes of fresh lime juice
A pinch of kosher salt

Toss all ingredients together carefully; serve in a glass bowl (the colors are so pretty), or better yet, in martini glasses if you have them :)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Asian Pork & Pasta Salad

This is one of the best recipes I've picked up from my local Penzeys Spices. It has such a delicious marinade and is so fresh, I always end up making it often during the summer!

Here's the quote from the card: "Light and bright, fresh from the garden and the grill. Leftover grilled pork works great if you have it, just chop and toss with the marinade and proceed from there." We've also just marinated pork chops before, grilled them up and served them alongside the pasta salad as well... Enjoy!

Asian Pork and Pasta Salad
1 1/2 lbs. pork tenderloin
1 lb. pasta, your choice (we use farfalle)
1 lb. snap pea pods (we use edamame pods)
1 large leek
1 C sliced cherry tomatoes
3 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tsp sesame oil (for stir-frying)

1/2 C soy sauce
1/4 C brown sugar
1/4 C rice vinegar
2 Tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp. aleppo (or white) pepper
1/4 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp powdered ginger
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 C reserved marinade
2-3 Tbsp mayonnaise--enough to lightly thicken
2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Whisk together marinade ingredients. Remove 1/2 cup, cover and refrigerate for dressing later. Cut pork into bite-sized pieces. Clean and chop the leek and the peas. Place pork in one bowl and the peas in another. Divide the leeks, half in each bowl. Pour all but 2 Tbsp of the marinade over the pork, toss well, cover and refrigerate. Toss the peas with the remaining marinade, cover and refrigerate both bowls for at least 15 minutes to develop flavor. Whisk mayo and sesame seeds with reserved marinade for dressing, and set aside. Clean and slice cherry tomatoes, set aside.

Bring water to a rolling boil in a large pot. Add pasta, cook according to directions on box, drain briefly, toss with fresh cilantro, cover and set aside. While pasta is cooking, heat sesame oil in a large skillet. When hot, add half of the pork. Cook until rich brown in color and cooked through. (The sugar in the marinade may cause the pork to blacken, so keep an eye on the pan and turn the heat down if necessary). Add the second half of the pork and cook. Discard the marinade that the pork was in. Once the pork is done, quickly stir-fry the peas, tossing in a bit of the marinade in the bowl. 2 minutes should do it...

Toss the peas and the pork with the pasta, add dressing and toss until coated. (You may not need all of the dressing). Top with sliced cherry tomatoes, a little more cilantro (if you love it like I do), and a sprinkle of extra toasted sesame seeds as desired.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Give me s'more(s bars)!

Happy Fourth of July! 

My friend Beth gave me an awesome recipe for s'mores bars last week so I could make it for Jeremy's family over the weekend, and they were a real hit. This is the perfect solution to your summer hankering for s'mores without having to go camping :) Or without having the mess in your microwave--have you ever blown up a marshmallow in your microwave trying to make homemade s'mores??? Not a pretty sight. Not that I would personally know...

So here are the goods, adapted from a recipe (and photo) you can find HERE. That recipe makes an 8x8, but I tweaked it for a 9x13 and the results are below. I just thought a 9x13 would be more handy for taking to a picnic or summer get-together... Let us know what you think!

Give Me S'mores Bars
1 cup butter, room temp
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (abt 2 pkgs of crackers)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 king-size Hershey bars
2 1/2 cups marshmallow fluff (NOT melted marshmallows)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9x13 pan. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in egg and vanilla. In a small bowl, combine flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture and mix at low speed until combined; it will have a similar consistency to that of cookie dough.

Divide the dough in half and press half into an even layer on the bottom of the 9x13 pan (I didn't even use half of the dough--I didn't want it to be too thick, so I only used enough to be about 1/4-inch thick.) Layer chocolate bars on top of pressed dough to cover completely; you might have to break it up to fit in just right, but don't double up on the layer--just trust me on this, it will be too much. Spread marshmallow fluff (my first time using the stuff) on top of the chocolate bars, spreading it evenly--again, don't be tempted by the idea that more is better, just use 2 1/2 cups :) And just FYI, you don't want to use regular marshmallows because they will harden up as they cool, and that defeats the purpose of this ooey-gooey deliciousness...

For the top layer of graham cracker crust, take the remaining dough and flatten it into pancakes; lay on top of the marshmallow fluff until covered. Again, keep these relatively thin or it will disrupt the delicate ratio of graham/chocolate/marshmallowey goodness :) I ended up with quite a bit of leftover dough, so don't be surprised if you do, too. I also left a few areas of marshmallow fluff uncovered by the dough, and as it cooked the marshmallow kind of rose through the dough and got toasted. OH SO GOOD!!! So my suggestion? Leave a few spots open... I think it looks prettier too when all is said and done.

Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until dough is lightly browned. Cool completely before cutting or it will be a gooey nightmare :)


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Penzey's Spices

Forgive me for not mentioning previously on this blog the funnest (yes, I said funnest) spice store you will ever go to in your life. We had a Penzeys Spices within walking distance of our house when we lived in Columbus, but I had not yet discovered the wonder of this place and therefore never went! Only when I moved to the DC area and had to venture 30 minutes closer to the city did I find out how cool it is... and it is cool.

Penzeys has every imaginable spice you could want and in different varieties, mind you. Did you know there are at least 4 different kinds of cinnamon? And if you like curry, you are in for a treat. Just walking around and smelling the different nuances between the curry powders is almost as good as cooking with them... In various spots around the store you will find recipe cards to help you use their products to their greatest potential., and the staff that work there are always friendly and have awesome ideas! Personally, my latest favorite thing at Penzeys is Vanilla Sugar (so so so good when you're caramelizing nuts for a salad), and I know Jeremy really appreciates that they carry many hard-to-find baking supplies like Dutch-processed cocoa and real quality vanilla.

I know it probably sounds like they paid me to do a commercial for them, but I promise they didn't... I just like supporting good quality, small business places that cater to crazy foodies like me, and I don't think many people know about this terrific place. A while ago they were handing out a free bumper sticker that totally sums up my feelings about food: "Love People. Cook them tasty food." Couldn't have said it better myself! Now if Jeremy would just let me put bumper stickers on my car...

HERE is the link to a list of Penzeys stores by state, and HERE is the link to get their free catalog. It lists all of their products, but also contains tons of great recipes and always has a coupon for a free spice on the front! Over the next few days, I will post some of my favorite recipes that I've gotten from Penzeys and you can try them for yourself... For now, here's one of my favorites below: Peanut Butter Bars :)


Penzeys Peanut Butter Bars

So fast and easy, yet always a crowd-pleaser... and literally straight out of the catalog!

Penzeys Peanut Butter Bars
1/3 box of graham crackers, crushed (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon (preferably CHINA Cinnamon from Penzeys :o)
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups peanut butter, creamy or chunky
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 12-oz. bag chocolate chips

Crush the graham crackers into fine crumbs (1/3 of a box is usually one cellophane-wrapped package). Mix in the cinnamon and set aside. Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Remove from heat and add the vanilla and peanut butter; mix well. Add the powdered sugar and graham crackers. Stir until well-combined; it will be a stiff dough. Pat the mixture into an ungreased 9x13 pan (I do a thin layer on a large cookie sheet with high sides). Melt the chocolate chips on very low heat in a heavy saucepan, or spread evenly in a glass pie plate and microwave 30 seconds at a time, stirring after each 30 seconds, until melted. Spread the melted chocolate over the peanut butter layer. Refrigerate for 1 hour before cutting.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

BYU Creamery Salsa

When I was pregnant with Bennett, I craved fresh salsa. So Jeremy started picking some up from the BYU Creamery on 9th East (down the street from where we were living at the time), and it was so good! One day the cashier told him she'd noticed he was buying a lot, and he explained why. She said, “Stop buying it—I’ll email you the recipe!” And she did… and we've been enjoying it ever since!

BYU Creamery Salsa

5 lbs. tomatoes
1 onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 anaheim pepper, finely chopped
1/3 red pepper, finely chopped
small bunch cilantro, chopped
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp pepper
2 tsp season salt (i.e. Lawry’s)
4 tsp salt
4 tsp lemon juice
1-2 jalapeƱos

Chop everything, combine, and enjoy! (Not as good the next day, FYI)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Swedish Meatballs

This is a great standby... Quick and easy to make, and it's also easy to love--I don't get complaints from anyone when this one's on the table!

Swedish Meatballs
4 cans cream of mushroom soup
2-3 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
Milk to thin sauce, if desired
Meatballs (storebought or homemade, see recipe below)

Combine all ingredients (except meatballs), stir to desired consistency, and heat either over stove or in crock pot. Add cooked meatballs and heat through; serve over rice, noodles, or with baby potatoes (our family's personal favorite). And if you can find Lingonberry Sauce (we get ours at IKEA of all places), it adds a really nice authentic touch :o)

Homemade Meatballs (makes about 30)
2 lbs. ground meat (I usually do half beef, half turkey)
1 egg
1/2 C dry bread crumbs
1/4 C chopped onion
1/4 Tbsp. salt
1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
dash of pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Combine all ingredients thoroughly and form into 1-inch balls. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 10-15 minutes until cooked through; don't overcook as they will become tough.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Valentines Day

When I was growing up, my mom always made a huge deal of Valentines Day. I know she loved us and all, but I really think she just needed a reason to have a party! Christmas is over, it's the dead of the ugly part of winter, it's dang cold, and Spring seems so far away. Who doesn't need something to brighten the mood??? So Mom would go all-out. There would be decorations, she would make a red dinner, and we would find treats under our turned-over plates. It was always a fun day in our family...

When Jeremy and I got married, I tried to do the same thing. Our first Valentines Day, I was finally over morning sickness with Bennett, and I wanted to do something fun. So I decorated the house, bought a cute Valentines maternity shirt, and made Chicken Parmesan--I dyed the noodles red and everything. But Jeremy ended up having to work late that night, and by the time he came home dinner was cold and I was in tears. We had a long chat about expectations and what we wanted to do for our family traditions... Needless to say, we've gotten better with time :o)

For the first couple years, we tried a few different things. One year we went to The Melting Pot for our Valentines date--and we LOVED it... except for the super-expensive part. Jeremy said, "We could do this at home for sooooo much cheaper!" So I took that as a challenge, and we've been doing fondue at home for Valentines Day ever since. Now that the kids are old enough to do it with us without burning themselves or making too much of a mess (be prepared for one), we've turned it into a family tradition!

My favorite part about fondue is just the fact that it takes so long! You eat your food one piece at a time, sometimes you even have to wait for that one piece to cook before you eat it--it's a great opportunity to sit around and talk to each other. You could even make up a list of love/family-related questions or topics to discuss while you're waiting... Doesn't that sound fun???

Now for the actual food part. We make our dinner in 3 courses:

1. Cheese
2. Oil or Broth
3. Chocolate

There are lots of variations to this approach, so do some research and find out how to make it yours... And FYI, we have tried a few different kinds of fondue pots, and have found that the electric ones with the ability to control temperature are the best. Click HERE for the link to the one we have.

Enjoy the recipes below. Have fun, good luck, and... 
Happy Valentines Day!!!

Cheese Fondue

The first course--this is personally my favorite part. I am more a salty than sweet kind of person... Take that however you want to :o)

Cheese Fondue
2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese (or more Swiss if too difficult to find)
2 Tbsp flour
1 clove garlic, cut in half
1 1/2 cups dry white wine (or chicken broth)
1 Tbsp lemon juice

Coat cheeses with flour by tossing together in a large bowl. Rub garlic on the bottom and sides of the fondue pot; discard garlic. Pour wine (or broth) into fondue pot and heat just until bubbles rise to the surface. Stir in lemon juice. Gradually add floured cheese, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly over low heat, until cheeses are melted. You may add more cheese or wine, as needed, to reach the desired consistency.

Dippers (any or all of these):
Broccoli, blanched
Cauliflower, blanched
Asparagus, blanched
Cherry Tomatoes
Mushrooms, blanched
Granny Smith apples, sliced
French bread, cubed
Pumpernickel bread, cubed
Rye bread, cubed

Fondue Bourguignonne

The second course... Definitely worth the time it takes to cook it! There are a couple approaches we've taken in the past, and we like both. Decide what kind of taste you're going for and get cooking! (This is a borrowed picture, but I will switch it out tomorrow night after I take pictures of our dinner :)

Fondue Bourguignonne: Simply fill the fondue pot halfway with vegetable oil and heat till shimmery. Add meat and cook according to directions below.

Bouillabaisse Broth: While usually reserved for seafood stew, this broth is a delicious, savory alternative to oil. Click HERE for specific directions.

Raw steak, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
Raw chicken breast, cubed
Raw shrimp, 31-40 count size
Fingerling potatoes, partially cooked

Cook the steak to desired doneness; cook the chicken till inside is no longer pink (2 minutes?); cook the shrimp till pink (1 minute?); cook the potatoes till soft. The more pieces you have cooking at the same time, the longer they will take to cook... just FYI :o)

We always have sauces waiting for our cooked meats--usually I'll have little bowls of BBQ sauce, cocktail sauce, sour cream/dill or ranch dip, and green goddess dressing. Add your own!

***Remember to be careful when dealing with raw meats, especially poultry. Don't use the same utensils to handle raw meat and to eat it. Make sure your food is cooked thoroughly before slicing it on your "eating" plate.

Chocolate Fondue

The third and final course: everyone else's favorite part. Don't get me wrong--I love chocolate too, but usually by this point I'm busting at the seams...

Chocolate Fondue
1/2 pint heavy whipping cream
1 lb. desired chocolate (milk, semi-sweet, or dark)
1/2 cup caramel topping
Chopped pecans, optional

Add all ingredients to fondue pot; stir constantly on low heat until melted and smooth. Do NOT allow to bubble. Dip in!

Dippers (any or all): 
Bananas, sliced
Fresh pineapple, cubed
Pound cake, cubed
Brownie bites
Cheesecake bites