Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sweet Corn Lasagna Roll-ups with Green Chile Sour Cream Sauce




Now that the holidays are almost a memory, I've been dreaming about warm summer days and all that comes with it.  Mostly I've been dreaming of gardens full of plump, juicy tomatoes, fresh, vibrant herbs and sweet, summer corn.

One of my favorite things about Lexington is the farmers markets.  The bounty that the farmers haul into Lexington three to four times a week is indescribable.  Local meats, eggs and cheeses to homemade bread and pasta and of course, some vegetables are mixed in there too.  I'm making myself sad.  And hungry.  Summer's right around the corner, right?  No?  I didn't think I could fool myself into thinking that.

As much as I love the farmers market, I've decided to try my hand at gardening this year since I finally have a decent back yard to grow some veggies and herbs.  I'm so excited and I'll be sharing my journey with you.  I have these grandiose visions of canning and freezing my harvest to become more self-sustainable.  In reality I know my first year will be full of challenges--especially with all the rabbits that hang out here with the sole purpose to torture my poor Dolce.  I'll give it the good old college try though!

Since I've been craving sweet corn, I decided to whip up a cold weather appropriate recipe that I just couldn't get out of my mind.  Hence, Sweet Corn Lasagna Roll-ups were created.  They are creamy and sweet with a hint of spiciness.  I hope you enjoy these as much as I did!

I know the list of ingredients makes this look like a daunting task but I promise, it really isn't.

Sweet Corn Lasagna Roll-ups with Green Chili Sour Cream Sauce         Printer Friendly

Ingredients

11 lasagna noodles, cooked
1 (16 ounce) bag of frozen corn, thawed
1 jalapeño, finely diced
1 tablespoon sugar
1 (7 ounce) can of chopped green chiles
8 ounces of cream cheese, softened
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons chopped green onion plus more for garnish
Zest of 1 lime
1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Cilantro for garnish
Creen Chile Sour Cream Sauce (recipe below)

Cook the lasagna noodles according to the package directions.

Meanwhile, in a saute pan or skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the jalapeño and sauté for about 5 minutes.  Add corn and sugar and cook for 5 more minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, half of the can of green chiles, beaten egg, green onion and lime zest and a pinch of salt.  Mix well.  Add in the corn and jalapeño mixture.

Lay the cooked lasagna noodles flat and spread about 1/4 cup of the corn mixture on each one.  Slowly roll the noodles and place them seam side down in a 9x13 baking dish.  Cover every roll completely with the Green Chile Sour Cream Sauce* and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 45 minutes.

Green Chile Sour Cream Sauce

Ingredients

2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups chicken broth
1 (16 ounce) container of sour cream
3.5 ounces of green chile

In a sauce pan cook the flour for 2 minutes.  Add the butter to form a roux.  Let cook for about 5 minutes over medium heat.  Whisk in the chicken broth and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Add the green chiles, reduce heat and let the mixture cook for about 10 minutes.  It should have the consistency of a thin gravy at this point.  Remove from heat and fold in the sour cream.   Serve over enchiladas, eggs or of course, Sweet Corn Lasagna Roll-ups.




Saturday, December 28, 2013

Wendy's Yeast Rolls


I'm going to let you in on a little secret:  I never had any desire to make yeast rolls until my sister told me she made them and had created her own recipe by combining recipes from our great Aunt Elvaney and a couple of recipes she had found on the internet.  Why had I never planned to do this before?  Easy.  My mother and aunts always make the rolls.  Also, I have bad luck with anything that needs to raise or any recipes that include yeast.  Yeast hates me and rarely develops correctly.  Yes, I realize that it's user error but no matter what temperature my water was my yeast never bloomed!  Thanks Wendy for making me realize that I can do this!

As I explained in the biscuit post, our family is a yeast roll family.  We've had them at every family dinner for as long as I can remember--except our Christmas gathering this year.  We had lasagna and garlic bread.  There were a few years where we actually had store bought rolls.  I highly recommend the Sister Schubert yeast rolls that come in a pan.  Now that I feel like I've mastered this roll thing we will never purchase these again--ever.  

This recipe that my sister has come up with is so easy that even I can do it (as long as the yeast behaves properly).  She throws all of her ingredients into a bread machine and let's it do all the work.  I don't have that luxury so I mix mine in a kitchen aid mixer.  I don't have a dough hook but I've found that the paddle worked just fine.  

I'm telling you that these rolls need to be an addition to your meals as well.  At least try it so you can say that you make rolls.  To me it sounds super impressive.  Also, I'm a little competitive which was my reasoning for making them.  

While the dough is resting you'll have some time to head on over to Wendy's blog to read about her journey in decorating.

Wendy's Yeast Rolls                                                              Printer Friendly

Ingredients

2 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast or 1 package
1 cup warm water
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 1/3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

In the bowl of a mixer, add the yeast, water and sugar.  Stir to combine.  Let the yeast bloom for about 15 minutes.  

After the yeast has bloomed, add the egg and butter.  Mix on a medium speed until combined.  

Next,  add the salt and the flour.  Mix until well combined.  The dough will be sticky and may require a little more flour.

Let the dough rest in the bowl for 10-15 minutes.

Spray 3 pie pans with with non stick cooking spray.  Spray your hands also.  Pull off some dough and form into a ball.  Remember these will rise again.  I recommend using about a tablespoon of dough for each roll.  

Place the balls of dough into the pie pans, NOT touching.  You should be able to fit about 12-14 rolls into each pan.

Cover the pans with a light dish towel and sit them in a warm area to rise.  Let the dough rise for anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.  

Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 10 minutes or until the top of the rolls have started to brown.  

If you prefer to make these ahead, bake at 375 for 10 minutes and after they have cooled (they will not brown), freeze them for freshness.  Remove from freezer and allow them to thaw for a day in the refrigerator.  Bake at 400 for about 10 minutes or until the rolls are warm and starting to brown. 

This recipe yields about 36 rolls.  




Thursday, December 26, 2013

Zucchini Crescent Pie


The presents have all been unwrapped and the excitement of Christmas morning has now passed.  I can't believe it's over.  Well, technically I have one more gathering tomorrow night with my entire family--cousins, aunts, uncles and lots of children.  I can't wait!  I hope all of you have had a spectacular holiday season.  I know I have.  I'm actually sad that it's over.  Frankly it seemed quite abrupt when I started my car this morning to head out to work and my Christmas music channel was playing Ace of Base.  Like they say, all good things must come to an end.  I'm not sure who "they" is, but I don't think I like that type of negativity. 

Even though I love the hustle and the bustle of the season, I'll be glad to get back to my "normal" and I certainly will not miss the traffic!  

I spent Christmas at my parents with my sister (Wendy, of Designed to Dwell), her three beautiful children and her husband, who I am slowly assigning projects to.  I'm not really sure that he actually listens to me though.  Why do I always stray from the subject?  Anyway, Christmas is my family's favorite holiday and you can head on over to Designed to Dwell or Kentucky Living to check out my parents Christmas digs.  Their house was featured in the December issue!  

After a short time off work and very little sleep the night before, I was exhausted after work today.  I wanted something simple that didn't require much effort.  Enter: Zucchini Crescent Pie.

I love zucchini.  It's such a versatile vegetable.  Well, I call it a vegetable.  My brother-in-law says that anything with seeds is a fruit.  He may be right.  I'm too tired to argue on this subject.  

This "pie" is a savory, cheese-filled treat with pre made crescent roll dough as the crust.  Crescent roll dough isn't something I use much but in this recipe it's perfect!

I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do.  It makes a great quick main course when you serve it with a salad for supper or it works for breakfast as well.  I told you it was versatile!

Zucchini Crescent Pie                                                          Printer Friendly

Ingredients

1 roll crescent dough
3 small zucchini, about 2 1/2 or 3 cups, washed and sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
3 tablespoons butter
5 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 cups grated swiss cheese
1 tablespoon thyme, fresh or dried
Salt and pepper

In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat.  Add zucchini, onion and thyme, sautéing until soft, about 10-15 minutes.  Remove from heat. 

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, beat eggs.  Stir in milk and salt and pepper to taste.

Spray a deep dish pie plate with cooking spray.  Spread the crescent roll dough to form the pie crust.  Add zucchini and onion.  Sprinkle with one cup of the cheese.  Pour in the egg mixture and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese.  Bake on a sheet tray in a preheated 375 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until eggs are set.  Remove from oven and let rest for about 10-15 minutes.  Slice and serve!




Sunday, December 22, 2013

Buffalo Chicken Pizza


In Cincinnati there is a pizza joint called Trotta's Pizza, home of the Lotta Trotta.  The Lotta Trotta will feed about a million people.  Ok, maybe not a million but a lot.  All of their pizza is delicious.  The crust is so thick and full of garlic.  It's the stuff that dreams are made of.  

To get the full of effect of Trotta's, you have to understand that it is located in a drive-thru.  Most of you will probably now need to know what a drive-thru is.  Well, basically, it's the inside of a gas station that you drive right down the middle of.  In my opinion, the west side of Cincinnati should be famous for it's drive-thru's.  You can get anything there.  Milk, break, pop, candy, chips, beer, wine and at Trotta's--pizza!  You can buy it by the slice or call and have it delivered. 

I became familiar with Trotta's while I was bartending at a little joint called Miss Kitty's Cafe, may it rest in peace.  Once a week they would bring free pizza to the bar for all of the patrons to gobble up in record time.  Normally on a Friday night and it would last about 3.5 seconds.   We would have them deliver a couple "Lotta's" for Monday night football as well.  Sometimes, one of the drivers would just drop off a mess up.  That's how I discovered their Chicken Wing Pizza.  It was 2005 and to my knowledge there was no such thing as a Chicken Wing Pizza.  One bite and my life was changed forever.  Someone was saying that chicken wings and pizza could be combined?  What???

Eventually I left Cincinnati and Miss Kitty's sadly closed but as long as I live I will never forget the Chicken Wing Pizza.  This Buffalo Chicken Pizza is my ode to Trotta's.

My version is a combination of buffalo chicken dip meets pizza.  I think it's delicious and I hope you will too.  It's a great addition to any game day party.  And today it brought my Bengals another win!  I might have to continue to eat this for the next 6 weeks.  What are some of your favorite game day foods?  Please comment and let me know.  I'm always looking for new things to try!

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Ingredients

1 (12 inch pizza crust)
1 (8 ounce) package of cream cheese, softened.
1 cup of shredded chicken
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup blue cheese
Buffalo sauce (recipe below)

In a mixing bowl, combine 1/3 cup buffalo sauce with the softened cream cheese.  Mix well.  Spread over a 12 inch pizza crust (I use a pre-made thin crust purchased at my local grocer).  

Combine the shredded chicken with enough buffalo sauce to coat, about 4 tablespoons or so.  Sprinkle the chicken over the cream cheese sauce.  Sprinkle Cheddar cheese on top and follow with blue cheese.  Bake according to your crusts directions.  In my case, place the pizza in a preheated 450 degree oven and reduce the heat to 425 degrees.  Bake for 7-10 minutes or until crust has started to brown and cheese is melted.

Garlic Buffalo Wing Sauce

Ingredients

1/2 cup or 1 stick of butter
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups of hot sauce*

In a small saucepan, melt butter.  Add the chopped garlic and let cook over low for about 5 minutes.  Slowly whisk in the hot sauce and continue to cook over low for 20-25 minutes.

*I only use Frank's hot sauce.  In my humble opinion, there is no other sauce to make wing sauce with.

Busy, busy, busy



Where have I been?  It looks like I've been completely slacking but I promise, I haven't.  I've been cooking every day.  I'm testing some of my own original recipes and I don't want to publish those until I'm happy with them.  I also tried some other recipes this week that have been published and simply did not work.  That's disappointing to me.  I don't want anyone to feel that way about my recipes.  This simply could have been an error on my part but I have come to the realization that my recipe writing could use some improving and I've started working on that as well.  News years resolutions have started a little early around here.

It's been quite hectic with Christmas right around the corner.  Where has this year gone? Why do I always wait until the last minute to do my shopping?  I can't help it.  I guess I like the drama.

Anyway, just a preview of things to come in the next few days-- Buffalo Chicken Pizza which is a great game day food and much less messy than chicken wings.  Zucchini Crescent Pie--zucchini, thyme and onions sautéd and placed in a crescent "pie" crust.  This is one of my original recipes and I can't wait to share it with you!  My biggest achievement will hopefully be attained later today.  Homemade Yeast Rolls.  This is actually a recipe that my sister at Designed to Dwell came up with.  Normally she leaves the food stuff to me and calling her with questions about this recipe makes me feel like I've moved into the twilight zone.  I don't think she'll be calling me for design questions any time soon.  Needless to say I'm extremely proud of my baby sister--even though she is way more grown up than me.

I'm off to the kitchen for some more testing!!  Enjoy your Sunday and check back soon for more creations from my Kentucky kitchen!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Roast Pork Loin with Pomegranate Rosemary Jelly


In my post, Pomegranate Rosemary Jelly, I told you that I knew exactly what recipe I would use it in.  Well, here it is!  This Roast Pork Loin is so juicy and so tender with delicious hints of rosemary and thyme.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

Here's a little background on this dish and how it ended up in my families "go to" list.  A couple of years ago my mom was looking for something different to make on Christmas Eve.  We just have a small gathering of my parents, my sister, her husband their three adorable children and myself (and Dolce and my parents dog, Christmas--yes, their dog is named Christmas).  She called me a few weeks before telling me about a recipe from Williams Sonoma for a pork loin with orange marmalade.  I was instantly intrigued because of my love for sweet and savory.  So, I set out on a search and found this fabulous recipe which just happened to be the exact one she was looking for.  Oh. My. Goodness.  There are very few words that will describe this recipe justly.  I'm still looking for the right ones.

We just had to make one minor adjustment because I could not find a bone-in pork loin, so boneless it was. As far as the rest of the recipe.  Easy peasy.  Seriously.   Not only is it completely impressive, it's very cost effective!  Pork loin is often on sale for $1.99 a pound so you can feed an army for a relatively budget friendly price which is important to me.

The sides that could be served with this meal are endless.  We serve it with mashed potatoes and country style green beans with bacon and brown sugar.  Yum-o!  Seriously, I'm hungry now.

Roast Pork Loin with Pomegranate Rosemary Jelly

Ingredients

1 (3-4 pound) pound boneless pork loin
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
3 cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 (8 ounce) jar pomegranate rosemary jelly, recipe here
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Generously season the pork loin with salt and pepper.  Let the meat rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

In a large dutch oven heat oil over medium high heat.  Place the pork loin, fat side down, in pan and sear on all sides to a golden brown.   Remove the pan from the heat and add the garlic, rosemary and thyme.  Place in the oven and roast for about 45 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 140 degrees.  Remove from oven and baste the pork loin with the jelly every 5 minutes for the last 15 minutes of cooking.   Turn the broiler on and broil the pork loin for 3 or 4 minutes or until the temperature has reached 145 degrees.  Remove the pork from the oven and let rest on a cutting board covered in foil for 20 minutes.  Slice.  Serves 6-8,

Monday, December 16, 2013

Pomegranate Rosemary Jelly



Every December one of our vendors at work makes us a delicious lunch.   She does an amazing job and makes so much food that we eat for days!  In addition to that, she always gives each of us a special homemade gift.  This years gift was, you guessed it, pomegranate rosemary jelly.

So that we could sample it, she made a quick appetizer and poured the jelly over cream cheese.  Oh my goodness.  My tastebuds were not ready for what it was about to experience.  Right now you're thinking one of two things.  Either, hmm... pomegranate and rosemary--interesting.  Or you're thinking gross.  Trust me, this is interesting.  And delicious.  It will blow your socks off.  Believe it.

This jelly is delicious on top of cream cheese with crackers but everyone in the department was conspiring what else they could do with it.  I knew exactly what I was going to do with it!  You'll have to wait until tomorrow for that.

I've never made jelly before and I didn't have the recipe but luckily, Betty Crocker did.  I would have never imagined finding the recipe there.  It's an easy recipe and comes together quite quickly.  It uses pomegranate juice which is a relief considering actual pomegranates and I don't get along very well.  I love them but they're the crab legs of the fruit world.  Delicious but such a hassle!

Don't tell me that you can't make jelly because you can.  You should make this one and give it for gifts during the holidays.  That's what I'll be doing!

Pomegranate Rosemary Jelly                                                 Printer Friendly

Ingredients

4 cups pomegranate juice
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 package (1 3/4 ounces) fruit pectin
5 cups sugar

In a large saucepan or dutch oven, cook pomegranate juice, rosemary, lemon juice and pectin until the pectin has dissolved.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Add sugar and bring to a rolling boil while stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and remove rosemary sprigs.

Pour into 8 ounce jelly jars leaving a 1/2 inch headspace.  This will make 8 jars. Wipe the rims of the jar and seal.  Place into a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Baked Sweet Potato Chips


Oh my goodness you guys!  Remember a few weeks ago when I mentioned that I was hunting for the perfect homemade (baked) sweet potato chip?  Well, I found it!  I can't believe it.  It feels like the holy grail.  First it was the perfect biscuit and now this!  I honestly wasn't sure that this moment would ever come!

Every time my friend Lor comes to visit we go to Atomic.  Atomic is a local, caribbean restaurant.  The food will blow your mind but the best thing about it?  The Patio!  Lexington is a town full of patios but Atomic is my favorite.  It's a tradition that we order sweet potato chips immediately after walking in the door.  They are so crispy and sweet and salty and served with a side of salsa.  Don't knock it till you try it.  Atomic's sweet potato chips are the reason I've been searching so long for a recipe that would hold up to salsa and these do!  I never knew I could get so excited about sweet potatoes.  I may have hit a new all-time low.  Or maybe high.  I guess it's all in how you look at it.

After all of the experimenting I finally learned I was doing it totally wrong.  I (and apparently a lot of others on the internet) thought the oven temperature would need to be cranked up in order to create a crispy, sturdy chip.  After many crispy and black attempts I had almost given up.  Enter Daphne Oz.  I don't normally watch "The Chew" as I have a full time day job but let me tell you...  I am now a fan.

I saw these posted on everyone's best friend/website, Pinterest.  The description didn't say anything about these being the most perfect baked chip ever and frankly I think that is a travesty.  I almost didn't even click on the pin but luckily I did.  Who would have thought that setting your oven on 250 degrees would do the trick, but you know what?  It does.  It feels like they take forever to bake, mostly because they do but it's so worth it!  Here's Daphne's recipe.  I have changed a couple of things so I like to include the original recipe as well.

Baked Sweet Potato Chips

Ingredients

1 sweet potato, washed and sliced thin
Olive oil spray
Salt

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Wash the sweet potato and slice thin.  A mandolin works best.  Spay a cookie sheet with olive oil spray.  Places the slices of sweet potato on the cookie sheet, making sure they don't touch.  Spray the top of the slices with olive oil spray and sprinkle with salt.

Bake at 250 for an hour to an hour and a half or until crispy.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Brussel Sprouts with Bacon and Honey Orange Dressing


If you would have asked me two years ago what my most disliked foods were, brussel sprouts would have been at the top of the list.  In all honesty I don't know that I had ever tasted them.  Then, at one of our legendary Reserve cookouts, Kim made brussel sprouts.  I was feeling brave that day so I decided to taste one.  It was very much an "ah ha" moment in my life.  I had to admit that I was blown away.  She had simply roasted them in the oven with butter and they were delicious.  They had become caramelized and a little bit crispy.  That day changed my life and I unapologetically began a love affair with those delicious little veggie nuggets.

If you know me, you know that you must love everything that I love.  It's one of my many flaws.  I will just not take "I don't like it" for an answer.  You should try everything at least once.  I don't care if your mother forced you to eat it when you were a child or tried to disguise it in order to trick you into eating your vegetables.  For the record, my mother never forced my sister and I to eat brussel sprouts.  She would however, grate sweet potatoes and tell us they were carrots.  They were NOT carrots and neither one of us were dumb enough to think that.  I've already explained my dislike of mushy sweet potatoes. Ick.

So, with my love of these little mini cabbages, I figured my family should love them too.  I made them for a family meal and the only person who liked them was my 9 year old nephew.  A little background on this kid: He loves broccoli.  Plain.  Please don't put cheese anywhere near his broccoli.  He might not eat it.  After that brussel bust I set out to find a delicious way to get my family to eat brussel sprouts.  I figured Thanksgiving was the perfect time to test out a new recipe.  If no one ate them I would gladly finish them off in the days following.  Much to my surprise, they were a hit.  Of course they were.  They have bacon and orange juice and honey.  It's a fantastic combination.

This recipe could not be much simpler.  It's literally four ingredients.  The hardest part of this recipe is slicing the brussel sprouts.  I do it by hand with my favorite kitchen tool, my knife.  If you have a shredder attachment on your food processor it would work perfectly and save time!  I think this dish is a perfect addition to any meal!  Especially if you need a last minute side.  It comes together in under 30 minutes.

Brussel Sprouts with Bacon and Honey Orange Dressing                        Printer Friendly

Ingredients

1 pound brussel sprouts, thinly sliced or shredded
5 slices bacon
1 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons honey
Salt

Directions

In a dutch oven or large sauce pan brown the bacon until it's crisp.  Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, slowly bring orange juice to a simmer.  Once the juice is warm, about 4 or 5 minutes, add the honey.  Gently whisk together and bring to a boil.  Add a pinch of salt, stir, remove from heat and set aside.

Once the bacon is done, remove from pan and place on paper towel lined plate.  Add brussel sprouts to the dutch oven and stir into the leftover bacon grease.  Cook on medium heat for about 2 minutes.  Pour in the honey orange dressing and mix well.   Add a pinch of salt.  Let cook for about 5 minutes or until most of the dressing has been soaked up by the sprouts.  Remove from heat and serve.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Barbecue Chicken Potato Skins


Right now I'm listening to the sound of sleet hitting my windows.  Looks like I won't be going anywhere today.  I'm ok with that.  I have plenty of things to do around here.  In reality I'll watch the Food Network and football.  Either way, I'm not going outside, except to let Dolce out.

I've been trying to make most of my Sunday posts about game day food because, well, it's game day! It seems like there was an explosion of new appetizers for a while and then it just stopped.  I try to come up with new ideas but the old ideas consume me for some reason.  Or maybe my creativity has taken a vacation.  I don't blame it.  I'd do the same thing if I could.

Potato skins.  I've never met a person who didn't like them.  I always thought they would be a hassle so I never attempted to make them at home.  Plus, I did a very long stint at a restaurant and a bar where I could always have them whenever I wanted.  Now I have to fend for myself when I want potato skins. Sure, I'm surrounded by restaurants that carry them but that would involve leaving the house and I really don't like to do that when it's cold out.  So I make them and now you will too when you see how not complicated this is.  Although it takes some prep work, it's really very simple.  If you can turn on an oven, you can make these potato skins.

Barbecue Chicken Potato Skins                                               Printer Friendly

Ingredients

4 baking potatoes, washed and baked
1 1/2 cups chicken, cooked and shredded
3/4 cups barbecue sauce
1 (16 ounce) bag of shredded cheddar cheese
3 green onions, sliced
Salt
Oil
Sour cream

Start by scrubbing the outside of the potato.  After the potato is dry, rub olive oil on the potato, making sure to coat the whole thing.  Sprinkle salt over the entire potato.  Bake in a preheated oven for 45 minutes to an hour or until fork tender.  Remove from oven and let cool slightly, about 20 to 30 minutes.

Slice the baked potatoes in half lengthwise.  Using a spoon, scoop out the flesh of the potato and set aside (I normally find another use like potato soup or breakfast potatoes for these left overs).

In a medium sized bowl combine the chicken and the barbecue sauce.  This recipe is written for a drier chicken.  Just add more sauce if you like.

Place the potato halves on a baking sheet.  Scoop some of the barbecue chicken into each potato.  Next, sprinkle each potato with cheese.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Sprinkle potato skins with green onions.  Serve with sour cream.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Sweet Mexican Corn Cakes


It is cold.  And icy.  Never a good combination.  It does make for the absolutely perfect day to stay indoors and do nothing.  By nothing I mean cooking, eating and drinking hot tea and coffee and of course, cleaning up all the messes I've made.  I started my day of nothing my making those delicious Sweet Buttermilk Biscuits and sausage gravy.  It was the perfect southern breakfast!

Have I ever mentioned how much I love Mexican food?  Real Mexican food is fresh with so many bright flavors.  I grew up eating the Americanized version of it though and it is delicious too.  Does anyone remember how all the Mexican restaurants used to serve their entrees with a side of spoon bread?  Honestly, that was my favorite part of the meal.  Sweet, moist, melt-in-your-mouth spoon bread.  Chi-chi's used to sell a mix at the grocery store which I made a lot.  Then one day it just disappeared off the shelf.  Such a sad day in my life! At that moment I knew I would need to find a way to recreate it.  After much searching, I finally found it!!  I would love to give you the website but I wrote it down on a piece of paper that is now slightly covered with masa and butter.

This recipe is super easy.  My process of creating a bite sized way to serve this was not so easy.  The original recipe is baked in an 8x8 pan in a water bath.  Normally it's scooped out with an ice cream scoop but I've been searching for a way to make them into individual servings so they make for a prettier presentation.  One day it finally hit me.  My mini muffin tin.  It worked like a charm!  I have no idea why it took so long to come up with this solution!

This is a great appetizer for any gathering!  I made these for Jen's graduation party and I'm not sure if her husband actually shared them or not.  I think he ate 99% of them.  They're just that good and topping them with fresh pico de gallo or salsa and sour cream makes them out of this world!  It really seems like an odd combination at first.  Sweet, spicy and creamy.  Trust me.  I sometimes dream about this taste combination.

Sweet Mexican Corn Cakes                                       Printable Recipe

Ingredients

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup masa harina
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup corn meal
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons heavy cream (milk will work too)
1 1/2 cups frozen corn, thawed and roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium size mixing bowl, cream butter, masa and water until well combined.  Add corn meal, sugar, salt, baking powder and heavy cream.  Mix well.  Stir in the corn.  The mixture will not be runny.  It should be crumbly and somewhat stiff.

Liberally spray a 24 count mini muffin tin with canola or olive oil spray.   Press the mixture into the mini muffin wells, filling them to the top.  This will make exactly 24 individual corn cakes.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until the edges start to brown slightly.  Turn out onto a tray and top with salsa and sour cream.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Southwest Chili



Ahhh.... Tuesday.  Not normally one of my favorite days of the week.  My friend Lauren says it's not Monday but the weekend feels so far away.  She's totally right.  Of course she also says that each day is "over" as soon as we walk out of the door at work.  That makes it not so depressing!

So, I got one of the most exciting emails that I have ever received today!  BlogHer is featuring my Pimento Cheese post on their website!  Here is the link.  I love BlogHer.  It's so empowering seeing all these women writing because they love it!  In my case I'm writing and cooking because I love it.

This blog has actually been a saving grace for my sanity.  It has given me a creative outlet that I wouldn't ordinarily get from my job that pays the bills.  I realize that I'm new and that certain things need to be improved (like my specifics in my recipes as I recently learned from Tasty Kitchen).  I welcome constructive criticism.  The keyword there being "constructive".  I'm not asking for my blog to be overrun with those little internet trolls who have nothing better to do than criticize others.  That must be a terrible existence to be so unhappy with yourself that you bash others to make you feel better.  Ooops.  Look at that.  A small rant.  Sorry about that.

The weather has been unseasonably warm for the past couple of days so of course, I would have chili on my menu this week.  Seriously, I haven't even had to wear a coat and that is saying a lot!  As I understand, this mild weather will be coming to an end in the next couple of days.  Luckily I'll have a bowl of chili to warm me up!

I love chili.  I can eat it year round.  My weirdness is becoming a theme here, isn't it?  I love it with saltines, tortilla chips but mostly peanut butter sandwiches because I'm a 12 year old.  My school always served chili with peanut butter sandwiches and apparently I'm reminded of my childhood when I dip my sandwich in the chili.  Have you ever tried it?  Just try it.  Don't tell me it sounds gross!

Southwest Chili

Ingredients

1 pound Lean Ground Beef
1 large Onion, chopped
4 cups Tomato Juice
1 (28 ounce) can diced Tomatoes
1 (15.25 ounce) can of Black Beans
1 (15.5 ounce) can of Red Kidney Beans
1 (7 ounce) can of chopped Green Chilis
2 teaspoons Garlic Powder
2 teaspoons Chili Powder
1 teaspoon Cumin
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

Directions

In a large pot or dutch oven, brown ground beef over medium heat.  Cook for 10 minutes and add the chopped onion.  Cook for about 5 more minutes or until onions are starting to turn translucent.  Reduce heat.

Stir in the tomato juice and diced tomatoes, juice and all.  And the undrained can of black beans, red kidney beans, and green chills.  Finally, add garlic powder, chili powder, cumin and cayenne powder.  Mix well.

Bring to a slow boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat and let simmer for 30-45 minutes.

Serve with grated cheese, sour cream, green onions or tortilla chips.  Or just dip your peanut butter sandwich in it like me!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Deluxe Thanksgiving Sandwich


As I told you in my earlier post, Thanksgiving leftovers are one of my favorite things in the world.  My favorite of all of the leftovers is the dressing (stuffing for most people).  I have no idea why.  I think it is  a very overlooked and underrated side dish.  This sandwich takes all of the great things about Thanksgiving and puts them in between to slices of buttery, toasty bread.  What could be better than that?

So I mentioned that I was disappointed in my turkey.  This was my first whole turkey ever so I should probably be a little easier on myself.  I spent weeks looking at every roasting temperature for the bird and comparing all the different cooking times.  I decided to go with the most common one which was 325 degrees.  I had a 19 pound turkey that I was planning on brining.  My brining bag had other plans when it decided to spring a leak.  That was a nice mess to clean up!  I woke up at 6 am to put this beautiful winged creature in the oven.  Everything I read on the internet said 5 1/2 to 6 hours.  A little after 5 hours I took it out of the oven to check the temperature.  Not good.  It came in at 185 degrees.  How frustrating!  I think next year I'll do a smaller whole turkey and a turkey breast.  If anyone can tell me why this happened I would love to know!

Deluxe Thanksgiving Sandwich

3 slices of bread
stuffing
cranberry sauce
turkey
gravy
mayo
butter

This sandwich is built in the saute pan.  Add 1 tablespoon butter to a saute pan and let it melt over medium low heat.  Meanwhile spread mayo over 1 slice of the bread and cranberry sauce on the other.  Heat up the stuffing, turkey and gravy in the microwave.  Place the slice of bread with mayo into the butter in the pan (mayo side up).  Lightly press the stuffing onto the slice of bread.  Add a few pieces of the turkey.  Next, place the plain slice of bread into the gravy (In an episode of Friends, Ross calls this the moist maker) and add to the sandwich.  Place more turkey and the final piece of bread with the cranberry sauce.  Add a little more butter to the pan and flip the sandwich.  Cook a couple more  minutes until the bread has turned a light golden brown.  Slice in half and enjoy!!

What types of sandwiches do you make with your leftovers?  Do you prefer mayo or miracle whip? I normally prefer mayo but sometimes I crave the tang of miracle whip.

Thanks for reading.  Come back soon!!

Aimee

Kentucky Hot Brown


Well, Thanksgiving is over and I have to admit that I'm a little sad about it.  It was such a wonderful day having a portion of my family into my home for the first time!  I have to admit I was a nervous wreck about my hosting duties.  I hear so many people complain about what a hassle it is.  I figured that with appropriate planning and spreading the preparation over a few days it would be easy as pie.  I was right.  I stayed completely relaxed and only had one minor freakout after slightly over cooking the turkey.  That's the last time I trust the internet.

Our spread was quite large--ridiculous, actually.  It always is though.  It's just part of being a member of the Pepper clan.  We had corn pudding, green beans, broccoli casserole, mashed potatoes, gravy, dressing (or stuffing depending where you're from), sweet potato stacks, cranberry salad, jellied cranberries, a warm brussel sprout salad (recipe coming soon), brownies, pumpkin bars, pecan pie and last but definitely not least, homemade yeast rolls made by my mother.  They were delicious!

I know I've been slacking with the blog over the last week but I promise to make it up to you.  I had originally planned on blogging about my schedule for my preparations but had no idea if anyone cared, so I didn't.  I'll save that for next November unless someone begs me to post it now in order to prepare for Christmas.  Anywho...

I think my favorite part of Thanksgiving are the leftovers.  I'm weird, I know.  I started thinking about everything I could make with them weeks ago.  Be prepared internet.  I'll be making at least two more posts today of how to use up those leftovers.  Some are traditional and some aren't so traditional--like this Kentucky Hot Brown.

I don't know how many of you have tasted this Kentucky delicacy or even heard of it for that matter, but if this recipe doesn't make you want to pack up the car and visit the Bluegrass state, I don't know what will!  We have lots of Bourbon and horses, too, if that helps!

Ok.  Enough rambling.  Here's the recipe!

Kentucky Hot Brown

Ingredients

2 slices of your favorite bread
Left over turkey, shredded (about 1 to 1 1/2 cups)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups of milk
1 1/2 cups shredded swiss cheese
4 slices of crispy bacon
1 roma tomato, sliced
salt and pepper

Directions

1.  Lay the slices of bacon on a sheet tray covered with foil.  Place in a cold oven and turn the temperature to 400 degrees.  Bake for 20 minutes or until bacon is crispy.  Remove bacon from oven and place on a paper towel lined plate.

2. In a 2 quart sauce pan melt butter and sprinkle in the flour.  Mix together and let it cook for about 4 to 5 minutes until it has formed a roux.  Whisk in the milk.  Slowly bring to a boil then reduce heat.  Let cook until thickened.  In total it will take 10 to 15 minutes.  Once the mornay sauce has thickened, remove from heat and stir in the cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste.  This step can actually be done in the microwave as well.  That's how my mother always did it.

3.  Place the slices of bread in a baking dish.  Cover the bread with the shredded turkey.  I probably used about 1/2 cup on each slice.  Pour the mornay sauce over the open faced sandwiches.  Place under a low broiler, keeping a close eye on it.  If you trust yourself go ahead and jack that baby to high.  I don't trust myself, hence the low setting.  Let the mornay sauce become brown and bubbly.  Remove from oven.

4.  Top this delicious sandwich with slices of tomato and 2 slices of bacon.

Get at it anyway you see fit.  I like to crumble my bacon to ensure that every bite has a little bit of bacon in it.  The creamy cheese sauce with the slices of cold tomato and salty bacon is seriously a taste explosion.

I hope you enjoy this traditional Kentucky recipe!!

Aimee

Monday, November 25, 2013

Rosemary Sweet Potato Stacks


I am not a fan of most types of sweet potato casseroles.  I think it has something to do with the texture.  They're so mushy. Not only that, is it dessert?  Is it a side?  It's so confusing!  There will not be a place for a marshmallow topped anything on my Thanksgiving buffet this year unless some member of my family shows up with one unannounced.

Don't get me wrong, I love sweet potatoes--as long as they have a texture other than soft and mushy. I love sweet potato fries and chips.  I love them cubed and browned on the stove top or roasted in the oven with some chili powder and cinnamon.  I've been trying to come up with some sort of sweet potato dish that was savory and sweet.  I kept picturing a sweet potato gratin but after a couple of attempts I still couldn't get away from that mushy texture.  That's when I remembered a recipe I had come across a couple of years ago for potato stacks.  It was the perfect combination of crispy and chewy and of course my favorite, cheesy.  Surely this would be a success!

In the spirit of Thanksgiving and not quite waiting until the last minute to develop a recipe for this, my favorite of all holidays, I got to work on what I was hoping would be my last "test" of a sweet potato dish.  I used a mandolin to thinly slice the sweet potatoes and then dug out my muffin tin.  You heard that right.  A muffin tin.  It works perfectly for slices of potato and forms them into individual, stacks of goodness.

With the Thanksgiving preparations already in swing (I'm roasting chicken bones for broth and clarifying butter for my turkey), I'll keep this post short and get right to the recipe.

Rosemary Sweet Potato Stacks                                      Printable Recipe

Ingredients

1 sweet potato, thinly sliced
1 small onion, diced
3 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup Milk
Rosemary, dried
Salt
Pepper
1 bag of shredded swiss cheese

Directions

1.  Start by slicing the sweet potato.  I used a mandolin to ensure thin slices.  A knife will work too.

2.  Melt butter in a small skillet.  Chop onion and add to butter.  Cook over low heat for about 5-10 minutes or until soft and translucent.

3.  Spray a 12 count standard Muffin tin with cooking spray.  This is important since this dish gets a little gooey.

4.  Start layering in your ingredients.  Place a couple of slices of potato into all 12 muffin wells, making sure the bottom of the muffin tin is completely covered.  Next sprinkle salt and rosemary on top.  I only used 3 or 4 pieces of the rosemary as I think it can easily over power other foods.  Place about 1/2 teaspoon of onion mixture on top followed by a teaspoon of cheese.  Place another layer of potatoes and follow again with the rosemary, salt, onion/butter mixture and cheese.  Finally lay a couple more pieces of potato on top and use the remaining cheese.  Sprinkle with rosemary and add 1 tablespoon of milk to each stack.

5. Place in a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes or until edges are starting to brown.   Take a knife around the edges to loosen the stacks.  They should come out easily after that.

I've decided that these would make a great hot appetizer for any occasion!  I'll be serving mine on Thanksgiving.  Hope you enjoy!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Loaded Potato Pizza


Ahh...  Saturday.  The day I can wake up, drink coffee, browse Pinterest and binge on the Food Network.  That's my idea of a perfect morning and it's exactly what you will find me doing most Saturday mornings from the comfort of my bed.  I normally use this time to plan my menu for the week and make my grocery list.  There is something that I find oddly therapeutic about this.  I know.  I'm weird.  You don't need to tell me.

Before I bought this house I lived in a wonderful (for the most part) apartment complex.  The neighbors would grill together on the weekends during the summer after long days spent by the pool.  Let me tell you, we ate very well.  There were some amazing cooks around that joint.  We had rib cook off's, 4th of July parties, going away parties, birthday parties-- You get it.  We had no issues finding reasons to eat.  I made a dear friend at that apartment complex named Kim and frankly I've done a lousy job of maintaining that friendship so I invited her and her daughter over for lunch.  I love cooking for Kim and Sarah because they've never disliked anything I've made.  Plus it's always nice to catch up on the old 'hood.

I was racking my brain for lunch ideas for the visit and all I could think about was ranch dressing.  Obviously whatever I ended up making would somehow involve this creamy deliciousness.  After staring off into space for a while it finally hit me!  Loaded Potato Pizza!

There are a couple of pizza joints around Lexington that have this specialty pie.  I don't know who originally invented it but it is genius!  I know this particular recipe seems to be quite involved but trust me.  It's totally worth it. Soooo here's my take on the Loaded Potato Pizza!

Loaded Potato Pizza

Ingredients

1 pre-made pizza crust (I prefer thin for this one)
1 Russet or Idaho potato, baked and sliced
3 tablespoons butter
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups of cheddar cheese (Feel free to use more and pile it on)
2 green onions, chopped
Ranch dressing (my recipe below or use your favorite store bought)
Olive oil
Salt

On a baking sheet, bake the potato in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes to one hour or until fork tender.  Before baking I rub the potato with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Remove from oven and allow to cool before slicing.
Melt the butter with the garlic in a small sauce pan. Once butter is melted, remove from heat.  Liberally brush the garlic butter onto the pizza crust of your choice. Layer the sliced potato on the crust and brush again with the butter and garlic.  Top with cheese and half of the green onion.  Bake according to crust directions.  In this case 425 degrees for 7-10 minutes.
Remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining green onions.  You could even add bacon if your heart desires.  Drizzle with ranch dressing (recipe below).

There is just something about a piping hot baked potato fresh from the oven covered in salt that appeals to my senses.  Plus I just really liked this picture for some reason.



Ranch Dressing

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups sour cream
2 heaping tablespoons mayonnaise
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon worchestershire
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons dried dill
1 green onion, finely chopped
Cracked black pepper

Mix sour cream, mayo and buttermilk in a bowl.  If you prefer your dressing thinner add more buttermilk.  Once you have reached your desired consistency add the remaining ingredients and mix well.  Let sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour for all the flavors to combine.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Andouille Cheese Grits



This week has me feeling burnt out.  I can't get used to the early sunsets, work has been somewhat draining and everyone around me is getting sick.  I'm just sitting around eating multiple oranges, taking my vitamins and drinking lots of hot tea with local honey.

Obviously, I gave up on eating my all veggie diet. Times like this call for comfort food.  I was in desperate need of one of my favorite food groups--cheese.  And meat.  Specifically a spicy, cajun sausage.  Mixed with creamy, cheesy grits.

This past spring I celebrated my best friend Jen's (told you there would be more stories) graduation from college.  I don't know how she did it. Working full time, being a full time wife and parent to two of my favorite boys ever--sorry, young men, and going to school!  Just typing that exhausted me.  After her graduation ceremony she wanted to take us to lunch as a thank you for the support.  She chose Papadeaux.  Oh. My. Goodness.  I had no idea what kind of cajun deliciousness awaited us at this goldmine!  I'm not sure what everyone else ordered because I was completely blinded by my meal of blackened mahi mahi served with andouille grits.  After my first bite of these grits, the heavens opened and angels were singing.  They were THAT good.  At that moment I made it my mission to replicate this dish.  So, here you have it!

Andouille Cheese Grits

Ingredients

1/2 pound andouille sausage, casing removed
5 cups water
1 1/4 cups quick cooking grits
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups grated cheese (I used cheddar)
1/2 cup whole milk or cream
1 tablespoon butter


In a large saucepan or dutch oven, crumble and brown the sausage.  Cook until done, about 10 minutes.  Remove the sausage to a paper towel lined plate.  In the same pan, bring the water and salt to a boil, scraping up the bits of goodness left behind from the sausage.  Once it boils, slowly whisk in the grits.  It's very important to whisk them to prevent clumping.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes or until grits have thickened.   Stir in milk or cream and butter and return the sausage to the pan.  Stir in the cheese until melted and serve immediately.   Enjoy!!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Mexican Quinoa Salad



So apparently my new thing is to wake up an hour earlier than my alarm one day a week now.  Let me tell you how much I love that.  There are silver linings to that though.  I get extra snuggle time with Dolce, plenty of time to enjoy some solitude of the early morning, I can take my time sipping my coffee as opposed to guzzling it and of course, an early morning blogging sesh.  Maybe it's not so bad!

Maybe I hopped out of bed so early today because of all the vegetables I've been eating.  My body must actually be getting nutrients or something.  Sooo, I'm continuing with my pre-thanksgiving "detox".  Let's be real here.  It's not a detox.  I had left over chili dip for dinner last night.  However,  I did enjoy the leftover spring rolls yesterday for lunch and they held up beautifully!  I individually wrapped them in plastic wrap and stored them in a container in the fridge.  The avocado did get a little soggy but they were delicious, nonetheless.

I'm super excited about lunch today!.  I've gotten in the habit of keeping quinoa in my pantry (by pantry I mean cabinets or cupboards since my "pantry" actually houses my washer and dryer).  I buy it in the bulk aisle at the Good Foods Co-op and it's ready to go when I need it.  I know the internet appears to be overrun by excessive amounts of quinoa recipes so I figured one more wouldn't hurt.  This particular recipe is my take on a mexican inspired salad.  I LOVE mexican food.  Who am I kidding.  I just love food.  All of it.  I actually cooked the quinoa a couple of days ago and stored it in the fridge.  That makes it so much easier to throw this recipe together!  I just had to make the dressing and chop some veggies.  Can't get much easier than that!  I wanted to make this as healthy as possible so I used kale, peppers, tomatoes and to add a little flare, roasted corn.  In the spirit of versatility you can add whatever you want.  It's completely vegetarian and possibly vegan.  I honestly have no idea what qualifies something as vegan.  I've never looked into it because I heard a rumor that cheese is not vegan.  No dice.  No offense to anyone who is vegan though.  Good for you!

Enough chit chat.  Let's get moving with this recipe!  Oh, and I'll post the link for the easy bow tutorial that I was telling you about last week at the end of today's post!

Mexican Quinoa Salad

Ingredients

2 cups prepared quinoa
1 bag frozen corn
2 roma tomatoes
2 teaspoons chopped, pickled jalapeño
1/2 of a yellow bell pepper, roughly chopped
1 cup kale, roughly chopped
2 green onions, chopped

For the dressing:

2 avocados
2 limes, juice of both and zest of 1
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil
plain greek yogurt, optional

As I said, I prepared the quinoa in advance.  I just combined 1 cup of rinsed quinoa and 2 cups of vegetable broth in a sauce pan.  Bring it to a boil, cover and reduce heat.  Let simmer for about 20 minutes or until the liquid has cooked down.  Meanwhile,  in a 375 degree oven roast the frozen corn for 10-15 minutes.  I placed the frozen corn on a baking sheet covered in aluminum foil.  Next, in a large bowl add quinoa and all the vegetables, including the corn.

For the dressing:  Place both of the avocados, zest of one lime, juice of 2 limes, oregano, cumin, cilantro, salt and pepper (and greek yogurt if you choose) in a blender.  Put the lid on and start to blend.  Slowly stream in olive oil until your desired consistency is reached. Taste to adjust seasoning.  I normally need to add a little more salt.  I like my dressing for this particular salad on the thicker side so I only used about 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil.

Once the dressing is prepared, mix in with the salad.  It's my humble opinion that this dish is better on the second day so I leave it in the fridge overnight and serve the next day.  The choice is yours though!!




As promised, here's a picture of the burlap bows.  I love how it turned out.  It's burlap so I think simple is best.  I couldn't have done it without finding Tidbit's and Twine's tutorial on bow making!  Has anyone else started their decorating or am I the only Christmas crazy person?  Other than my parents, of course!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Veggie Spring Rolls



I don't know about you but I have been terrible about eating my veggies lately.   With the holidays quickly approaching and the knowledge that I will continue to eat garbage until it's over, I loaded up on veggies at the grocery yesterday.  All kinds and an array of colors.  It's so much fun looking at the rainbow of colors in my vegetable crisper.  It's the simple things that make me really happy.  Like kale, carrots, peppers and cucumbers!

With it being Monday, I knew I would want a quick meatless meal so I rushed home and started slicing my vegetables for Spring Rolls.  I know what you're thinking:  Aimee,  there is no way I could make spring rolls.  You're wrong.  I actually thought the same thing but thanks to this photo tutorial from White on Rice Couple, I was spring rolling in no time and you will be too!

Spring Rolls are such a versatile light meal.  You can fill them with anything you like.  The produce section is your friend with this recipe.  I like to dip mine in an almond butter sauce.  I just grate garlic and ginger, add it to the almond butter (peanut butter works too!) with some fresh squeezed lime juice and soy sauce.  I never measure when I make this so I don't know exact measurements.  Sorry.

You're sure to enjoy any spring rolls you make!  Best of all think about how impressive it will look to your friends!!  Whatever you do, keep this between us.  Don't want this secret getting out, do we?





Veggie Spring Rolls


Kale
Green Onions
Carrots
Cucumbers
Avocado
Yellow Pepper
Cilantro
Rice Paper

Julienne all of the vegetables slicing to the length you prefer.  Place on the rice paper that you've dipped in water to soften.  Place the veggies at one end.  Roll once and tuck in the ends.  Continue rolling until you reach the end of the rice paper.  Slice in half and enjoy!  I made extra tonight to take to work.  I've wrapped the whole roll in some plastic wrap.  I'm not sure how it will turn out but I'll let you know!!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Cincinnati Chili Dip




Anyone that knows me is aware of my slightly unhealthy obsession with Cincinnati chili.  I think I was raised on the stuff.  My dad went to college in Cincinnati, as did I, and he is the responsible party for introducing me to the delicious greek delicacy.  Everyone has their favorite: Skyline, Gold Star, Price Hill Chili, Camp Washington, the list could go on for days.  I've been eating this stuff for so long that I can't even remember my first bite.  All I know is that I love it.  On top of spaghetti loaded with cheese, on top of a hot dog, loaded with cheese or in this delicious dip scooped with tortilla chips and of course, loaded with cheese.

*Sidenote:  I just watched someone on food network put hard boiled eggs in their stuffing and gravy.  I'm not sure how I feel about this.

Sorry for that blog interruption.  Just felt as though I had to share.  Back to the dip...  I had experienced cheese coneys and 3-ways (get your mind out of the gutter) but until I met my best friend Jen, I had never heard of this dip. Her introduction to this heavenly creation is only one of the reasons I love her.  You'll definitely hear more Jen or Lange family stories as I continue this journey.   Most every weekend I would go to her house and hang out with her neighbors. For every gathering the "Greenacres" crew had, someone would make this.  It never lasts very long so make sure you're close to the front of the line.

Not only is this a crowd pleaser, it is super easy.  Three ingredients.  That's it. Football is about to start which means my work is done here!

Cincinnati Chili Dip

Ingredients

1 8 ounce block of cream cheese, softened
1 can of your favorite Cincinnati style chili (frozen works, too)
1 bag of grated cheddar cheese

Spread cream cheese in the bottom of a 9x13 pan.  If your cream cheese isn't completely softened you can place it in the pan and stick it in the oven for a few minutes until it's spreadable.  Cover with the can of chili and then sprinkle with the cheese.  Bake in a 375 degree oven until cheese is melted and bubbly, about 20-30 minutes.  Use as a dip with tortilla chips.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Pimento Cheese



This week has been brutal.  I'm so glad it's over!  I knew things were going a little too good when I woke up Tuesday at 5 am and felt as though I had slept for days.  By 10 am I felt awful, no thanks to the 40 degree drop in the temperature overnight.  I ended up in bed for nearly two days with a cold.  I am a terrible patient.  Luckily,  no one has to hear me whine except for my dog and I think she even got tired of it.   The worst part was that I had no energy to prepare any food which left my poor little blog all alone with no attention from me.  I'm sorry.  Alas, I'm back and completely ready for the weekend!

I felt well enough to go to work yesterday and came home (after picking up Chick-fil-a for dinner) and decided to start doing a little Christmas decorating.  I know it seems early but Thanksgiving isn't until the 28th.  That's not even a month before Christmas.  I want to make sure I have plenty of time to enjoy it since the is the first time in a long time that I actually have a house to decorate.  I just hung some garland and lights on the banister in the loft.  Then I decided I wanted to make burlap bows.  Thanks Pinterest!  Sadly, I ran out of burlap so I was only able to make two.  Never fear, Hobby Lobby is just down the street and I will head there first thing in the morning!  I'll include a picture as soon as I get them made along with a link to the site where I found this little DIY project.  I didn't really get the crafting/decorating genes in my family.  Those were given to my mom and my sister Wendy of Designed To Dwell.  They can make anything.  I make epic Pinterest fails.  Story of my life!  Lucky for me, I got the food gene.

I got home tonight after sitting in traffic and decided I just wanted a simple dinner.  I certainly did not feel like slaving away in the kitchen all night which is odd because normally I love it.  I'll be good by tomorrow, promise.  Soooo,  I opened my fridge to see that I had all the ingredients for Pimento Cheese.  I already explained in my Olive Nut post about how much we love our spreads here in the Bluegrass State.  Here's another one.  It's pretty traditional around these parts and I don't remember ever opening my mom's fridge and not finding Pimento Cheese.  This spread travels well and makes great sandwiches or a fantastic dip for crackers!

Pimento Cheese

Ingredients

8 ounce block of mild cheddar cheese, grated
1 small can of pimentos or 1/4 diced roasted red peppers
2 tablespoons sweet pickle juice (I know it sounds weird but trust me on this one.)
2 heaping spoonfuls of mayo
Pepper

This can't get much easier:  Put all the ingredients into a bowl and mix.  Tadaa!  Taste to adjust ingredients.

If you prefer it sweeter, just add more pickle juice.  I used sweet gherkins but bread and butter would be delicious as well.  You can also turn this into a fabulous grilled cheese sandwich.  I'm working on some variations of Pimento Cheese, also.  You'll just have to stay tuned for those!!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Hashbrown Casserole



We got our first taste of winter weather overnight.  It snowed.  As someone who loathes snow (unless I can stay in bed all day perusing Pinterest with a hot cup of coffee and my dog), I find it way to early for this.  Not cool, Mother Nature, not cool.  In the spirit of Thanksgiving though, I will express my gratitude for a garage that I can actually park my car in.  It only took 37 years!  Dolce is not sure how she feels about this strange white stuff on the ground.  It kind of paralyzed her once she got into the grass.  Anywhooo....

We're having a going away breakfast for a co-worker in my department today and I signed up to bring my hashbrown casserole.  I'm not sure who actually came up with the idea of this cheesy, delicious creation but I thank them.  I'm thinking the credit goes to Cracker Barrel.  At least that's the first place I ever had it.  My parents are big Cracker Barrel fans and it was a must on any vacation or road trip we took.

I've tried several different recipes, all of which contained some sort of "cream of" soup.  Have you ever read the ingredient list on one of these soups?  Ick!  I don't understand using these when you can make your own for pennies on the dollar!  It really just takes a little flour (and yes, I buy Kentucky proud flour in the bulk aisle at Good Foods.), butter and broth.  Anytime I roast or slow cook a chicken I make broth so I always have some in my freezer.  If you want an actual creamy soup you just add some milk.  I find this recipe doesn't need that since I use sour cream.  I prefer Daisy.  Read the ingredient list on this and you'll see why.  Cultured cream.  That's it.

Shew!  I'm long winded in the morning.  The moonlight reflecting on the snow woke me up at 5am.  I attempted to go back to sleep.  It just didn't happen so I got out of bed and brewed some coffee and took a picture of the snow to send to my friend Cara.  She claims to love snow.  She lives in Florida now.  I didn't mind it either when I lived in Florida!  Ok, back to the hash brown casserole.

Hashbrown Casserole

Ingredients

3 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups broth
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1 bag of shredded potatoes
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 small onion, grated
1 bag of Colby Jack cheese
salt and pepper to taste

In a saucepan, cook flour over medium to medium low heat for about 2 minutes.  Add the butter and cook for 5-10 minutes until the roux thickens.  Slowly whisk in your broth of choice.  I use chicken.  In a large bowl add your shredded potatoes.  Salt and pepper the crap out of this.  I never measure my salt.  I just taste it as I go.  Also mix in the garlic powder, onion and sour cream.  Once the chicken broth mixture has thickened, pour into the hashbrown mixture.  Add cheese and pour into a 9x13 baking dish.  Bake for 30 to 45 minutes in a 375 degree oven.

I make mine the night before and then bake it for about 45 minutes in a 375 degree oven.  Just a little time saving hint from me to you.  You're welcome. This is a great addition to any brunch or family breakfast.  Heck, this goes with any meal!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Hawaiian Sliders



I honestly don't know how Mondays get here so fast!  I'm hosting my first Thanksgiving ever this year and I'm so excited that I started cleaning over the weekend.  I wiped down doors and baseboards and scrubbed all of the floors on my hands and knees.  Don't ask me why I did that last part so far in advance.  That was not very smart!  So I guess that's where my weekend went.  Time flies when you're having, er, fun?

I managed to get everything done just in time for football Sunday.  I even had a little time to spare so I whipped up some Hawaiian sliders.  It really doesn't get much easier than this recipe.  I had picked up some local grass fed beef from one of my favorite Lexington staples, Good Foods Co-op.  If you're ever in Lexington you must stop there.   They carry so many local goods and their bulk aisle is to die for.  I wish they would open another store a little closer to me.  They have a delicious cafe, too! Oops!  Got a little sidetracked.  Back to these sliders.  They are a great addition to any game day buffet or I served mine with sweet potato fries.  If anyone has perfected the homemade sweet potato fry, I beg you to share it with me.  I won't blog about it or try to steal it.  Ok.  I will blog about it but it will link directly to whomever shares it.  Mine never have that "fry" consistency.  It's really frustrating.  Obviously I'm having a hard time staying on track today so I'm just going to go ahead and post this recipe.

Hawaiian Sliders

Ingredients

1 pound ground beef (I used 80/20)
2 tablespoons pineapple juice (mine came straight from a can of pineapple)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon worchestershire sauce
2 tablespoons of your favorite barbecue sauce (I recommend Sweet Baby Ray's Sweet and Spicy)
2 teaspoons garlic powder

Mix all ingredients in a bowl until combined.  Form into appropriate sized patties.  For sliders, I normally use about 2 tablespoons of the meat and flatten it out.  Remember they'll shrink while cooking.  These can be grilled or fried on the stove top.  I also grill pineapple rings for a burger topping and I used pepper jack cheese for an added kick.  Top with more barbecue sauce or your favorite burger toppings!  Enjoy and I hope your team wins!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Spaghetti and Meatballs



I always thought making my own marinara sauce would be super difficult.  Turns out, it's not.  It takes some time to simmer but the prep is super easy and well worth it.

I love pasta so much that at one point in my life I suspected that I was born in the wrong country.  When I was 17 I was fortunate enough to travel to Europe over summer break.  That included 5 glorious days in Italy.  Rome, Florence and Montacatini.  It was so surreal.  I sat in the Piazza Navona every night drinking cappuccino while people watching.  The Italian people are so warm and friendly and their food???  Out of this world!  One day I will go back just to eat my way through that country.

I love rustic foods.  It's so freeing to just use a few ingredients to make a superb meal that feeds so many people and tastes so rich and delicious.  It took me a long time to perfect this marinara sauce.  It's my "go to" and pairs perfectly with my meatballs and a pound of spaghetti.  I'll be eating this for a week unless someone wants to come over for left overs.

Marinara Sauce

ingredients

2  16 ounce cans of whole tomatoes
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons oregano
salt and pepper to taste.
Olive oil
Flat leaf italian parsley to garnish

In a large pot or dutch oven,  pour in enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan.  Cook onions and garlic over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent.  I season my onions and garlic with a teaspoon of salt and fresh ground black pepper.   Pour the can of tomatoes in a bowl and using your hands, break the tomatoes into smaller pieces.  Add to the onions and garlic.  Mix in the oregano and let simmer over low heat for about an hour.  Taste the sauce before serving to check the seasoning.

Meatballs

Ingredients

1 pound ground beef
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Mix the oregano, garlic powder, egg, milk, bread crumbs and parsley in a bowl.  Add ground beef and mix well.  Just use your hands.  It's the best way to ensure every thing is well mixed without over mixing.  Form into balls and bake in a 375 degree oven for 40 minutes.  After removing from the oven add the meatballs to the marinara sauce and cook for 15 more minutes.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Garlic Basil Cheese Bread



I love bread.  All bread.  I don't discriminate because there bread goes with everything.  In my humble opinion every meal should be served with it.  This has a lot to do with why I'm not two sizes smaller than I want to be and I don't even care.  Breakfast should have biscuits or toast.  Dinner should be served with yeast rolls or french bread or this ooey gooey cheese bread.

This recipe originated as a grilled side item to bring to bar-b-que's when I lived in Cincinnati.  After burning it one too many times I now stick with throwing it in the oven.  Kroger, a grocery store for those of you who don't know, carries a sweet italian loaf that they sell in their bakery.  It's like King's Hawaiian bread but a little denser.  It's delicious on it's own but when you add butter, garlic, basil and mozzarella cheese to it, it becomes out of this world!  My mouth waters just thinking about it.

My friends ask for this recipe regularly.  Normally by text messages that go something like this.  "How do you make your bread?"  My bread.  That's right.  I feel like an amazing culinary genius when I receive these messages and phone calls.  I'm FAR from culinary genius.  Far.

Garlic Basil Cheese Bread

Ingredients

1 loaf sweet italian bread (or any loaf bread you prefer)
1 stick of butter
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
4 basil leaves finely chopped
1 16 ounce bag of mozzarella cheese

Accordion slice the bread making sure not to cut all the way through.  In saucepan or microwave melt the butter with the garlic.  Once it's melted add the basil and the cheese.  Mix well and place in between the slices of bread.  Bake on a sheet tray in a 375 degree oven for 10-15 minutes until the cheese is melted.