Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Italian Beef

I'm in a slow cooker kind of mood.  I'm not sure if it's the time of year, the weather, or the fact that I have waaaaaaaaay less time with two little ones to take care of.  Dear Lord!  I know my mommy friends out there warned me how it would be with two but I must not have been fully comprehending.  Sorry Mommy Friends!!  I get it now.

Anyway, I'm becoming a bigger and bigger fan of tossing whatever it is into the pot, turning it on, and walking away.  Who's with me here?!

This is one of my FAVORITE things to walk away from.

Italian Beef
Recipe from my mom

1 tbsp dried minced onion
2 tsp salt
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
1 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp celery seed
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 (3-4lb) boneless chuck roast
8-10 sandwich rolls, split
8-10 slices of favorite cheese

1.  In a small bowl, combine all the seasonings.
Love making my own seasoning blends

2.  Rub seasonings all over chuck roast; place in slow cooker.  [Do NOT add any liquid. All the marbled fat in the meat will melt down and create it's own delicious liquid to keep this moist.]  Cover and cook on LOW for 7-9 hours.
Don't be shy; use ALL of the seasoning blend you just created

3.  Shred beef and serve on hamburger buns with a little of the jus created from the slowly cooked meat.
We're into these sandwich thins now.  Less bread, MORE MEAT! ;)

I didn't get this recipe with a warning, but since I like you and we're friends, I'm going to warn you about what I've learned from making this.  Your house will smell AH-MAY-ZING about halfway through the cooking process.  Not kidding.  You will be tempted to grab a fork, open up the pot and just dive into that delicious aroma.  Be strong. Resist and wait for the finish line.  Your supreme self-control will be rewarded.
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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Brown Sugar Pork Loin

I try new recipes all the time.  Normally when I find one, I have some time, whether it's a few days or a few weeks, before I actually make it.  I like to ponder the ingredients, the steps involved, how the flavors will come together, and any adjustments I might need or like to make.  Ok so I might say "ponder," others may say "obsess."  Meh, details.

I do not enjoy, though, waking up the day of and realizing I have no dinner plan.  I have ingredients but no recipe to follow.  Many times, these situations can end in frustrating, or worse yet, disastrous results.  It's the reason I keep a stash of pizzas in the freezer.

This day though, I'm determined.  I have this lovely pork loin, one I refuse to mess up by just playing around, and a great big slow cooker.  I WILL find a recipe.  It WILL be easy, and it WILL be delicious.

Victory is sweet.  Literally.

Brown Sugar Pork Loin
Recipe adapted from here

1 boneless pork loin roast, 4 to 6 pounds
1 clove garlic, halved
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1.  Pat the loin dry and rub with one of the garlic halves. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then prick the roast all over with a fork.
Holy garlic clove!!

2.  In a cup or bowl, combine the brown sugar, mustard, vinegar, and remaining garlic half, either minced or crushed using a garlic press. Rub the mixture all over the roast and place in slow cooker fat side up.
An interesting blend of flavors

3.  Cover and cook on LOW for 7 to 9 hours.  Let rest 10-15 minutes before slicing.

It would be more appropriate if I said "attempt to slice" actually.  Once I put pressure on the meat, it began to squish down and fall to pieces.  Oh man...Heaven with a capital H!  The pork was moist from sitting in the slow cooker all day, that layer of fat slowly melting down over and through it.  The tangy brown sugar mixture makes this light crust all over it, sweetening the pork but don't worry, it's not too sweet.

I seriously recommend you try this one.
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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Triple Chocolate Cake

This is BY FAR the easiest cake you will ever make. And quite possibly the most moist you will ever consume.  Seriously.

Triple Chocolate Cake
Recipe from my father-in-law

1 box Cook & Serve chocolate pudding mix [No, you can't use Instant Pudding here]
2 cups milk
1 box chocolate cake mix
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts

1.  Preheat the oven to 375.

2.  In a medium saucepan, whisk together the pudding mix and milk.  Cook over medium heat, STIRRING CONSTANTLY, until the pudding just barely starts to thicken.
See that little clump at the end of the spoon? Time to remove from heat!

3.  Remove the pudding from the heat and stir in the dry cake mix.  The cake batter may take on this partially baked look because of the hot pudding; that's ok.
The slightly cooked bits make it lumpy.  Also OK
4.  Pour batter into a greased 9x13 baking pan.  Spread in an even layer.  Top with chocolate chips and walnuts.
Or use the delectable chocolate-peanut butter swirl chip
5.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.

This cake is MOIST and oh-so-sinfully delicious.  And so easy!!  The hardest part is keeping an eye on the pudding to make sure it doesn't go too far.  But if it does, oh well!  The worst that could happen is you have chocolate pudding and no cake.  There's still chocolate involved so I fail to see the downside here.

I made this cake for Gavin's birthday too, omitting the nuts and chips entirely, using chocolate frosting to complete the trifecta of chocolate goodness.  
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Monday, August 22, 2011

Slow-Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

OK so I totally admit it's still a little too hot outside to be making soup.  But some days, I just don't care about The Weather Rules.  This soup has all the ease I typically look for in a recipe.  Dump everything in a slow cooker. Turn on. Walk away.

And it's flavorlicious too??  Perfection!

There's a reason I was drawn to this particular recipe.  I am on a quest to find the Perfect Chicken Tortilla Soup.  There's a restaurant downtown that makes the BEST tortilla soup I've ever had.  And I haven't been able to duplicate it .....yet.

I'll be honest, this isn't a duplication of That Soup.  It's dang tasty though, so I share. :)

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup
Recipe adapted from AllRecipes

2 (6oz) pkgs pre-cooked Southwestern seasoned chicken, chopped
1 (15oz) can petite diced tomatoes
1 (10oz) can enchilada sauce
1 medium onion, chopped
2 jalapenos, seeded and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups water
1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
1 tbsp chopped cilantro, optional
7 corn tortillas
vegetable oil

1.  Place chicken, tomatoes, enchilada sauce, onion, jalapenos, and garlic into a slow cooker. Pour in water and chicken stock , and season with cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Stir in corn and cilantro. Cover, and cook on Low setting for 6 to 8 hours or on High setting for 3 to 4 hours.
The start of something tasty

2.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). 

3.  Lightly brush both sides of tortillas with oil. Cut tortillas into strips, then spread on a baking sheet.
No need to deep-fry to get these crispy

4.  Bake in preheated oven until crisp, about 10 to 15 minutes. To serve, sprinkle tortilla strips over soup. 
This even LOOKS comforting
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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Maple-Nut Chicken

I have really gotten into maple syrup in the last couple years, and I'm not talking about putting it on pancakes or waffles.  I've been using it a lot in baking (it's the binder/sweetener in my Nutty Granola) but I haven't really used it much when I cook.  And it certainly never occurred to me to use it in a savory dish.

Maple syrup as savory?  Maple syrup for dinner??

Oh yes, you can.

Maple-Nut Chicken
Recipe adapted from Rachael Ray

5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts [if you have gigantor ones, cut them in half; I used 5oz breasts]
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp EVOO
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, toasted

1.  Preheat EVOO a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Pat chicken dry and liberally (I'm serious.  Don't be shy now) season with salt and pepper.  Brown chicken on both sides until golden.  Remove to a plate and keep warm.
Love that golden color

2.  Drain all but 1 tbsp of fat from the pan.  Return to heat and add the vinegar, using a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add the chicken stock and syrup and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and let simmer a minute to thicken slightly.
Not ingredients I'd normally pair together

3.  Return chicken to the pan and add the nuts.  Spoon a little sauce over each piece, slightly cover the pan, and simmer for about 5 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

A little sweet, a little nutty, a LOT good!

I have to admit I was a little skeptical about the combination of maple syrup and vinegar, but I like both so I was willing to give it a try.  You actually cannot even taste the vinegar in this sauce!  As the sauce reduces and thickens, the syrup gets sweeter, richer, and coats the chicken in it's lovely golden brown stickiness.  The nuts, whether you use walnuts or pecans, add another depth of flavor to the dish, as well as give this fabulous crunch. 
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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Basil Pesto

Would you believe that I didn't really know what pesto was until my post-college years?  Yeah, pretty crazy.
The recipe that changed everything

Rob and I hadn't been married that long, and I was just beginning to get into my crazed I-need-to-try-a-new-recipe-practically-everyday kick.  So there was this baked pasta dish that just looked amazing and oh-so-simple.  Yet the key ingredient was this foreign concoction called Pesto.  I scoured the grocery store looking for it, and when I eventually found it, was horrified to see a half inch worth of oil at the top of the jar.  Did this mean that Pesto was an oily ingredient??  Ack!  You may recall that excessive amounts of oil and I do not get along.
Beautiful leafy basil

I went ahead and bought the oily jar as it was the only one I could find and I really wanted to make that recipe.  The dish was meh...ok, but I was too scared to eat very much of it because of all that oil in the pesto.  I decided that maybe Pesto wasn't all it was cracked up to be because with that much oil in it, I certainly wouldn't be eating very much of it.

Until I found this recipe.  Oh my dear graciousness.  THIS is what Pesto is all about!

Basil Pesto
Recipe adapted from Ellie Krieger

1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 garlic clove
3 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup EVOO
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

1.  In a small dry skillet, toast the walnuts until fragrant.  Add to a food processor along with the garlic.  Pulse until finely chopped.
Make sure these are finely chopped BEFORE adding the rest. Trust me.

2.  Add the basil, Parmesan, and lemon juice.  Process until very finely minced.  With the machine running, slowly pour the oil in a steady stream through the feed tube and process until well blended.  Season with salt and pepper.
I could drink this with a straw.  Is that weird?  Oh well!

You can use it immediately, store it in a container to work with later, or do what I do.  I fill an ice cube tray with it and freeze it.  Each cube is roughly 1 tablespoon and I use it all winter long in a variety of dishes.
One recipe fills about half a tray

This pesto is AH-MAY-ZING!!  Not too oily, it has a super bright flavor with the basil and lemon juice, but mellows out as you eat it with this rich, nutty background from the walnuts.  Finally, I can have all the benefits, all the wonderful flavor, of Pesto without making my stomach obscenely angry with me. 
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Monday, August 15, 2011

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Just in case you may have missed this about me, I need to make something abundantly clear: I loathe zucchini.  Despise.  Hate.  Oh yeah, I'm using the strong ugly words today.

I remember when I was around 10 (maybe 9??), my mom cooked some zucchini and yellow squash for dinner.  My parents had this rule that we always had to eat a little bit of the foods we said we didn't like.  Since I have now learned first-hand that children's taste buds are so finicky, I completely understand why they had that rule.  I, however, already knew at my young age that I didn't like zucchini and never would like zucchini.  I sat at the dinner table for HOURS that night, refusing to eat it.  My mom didn't make zucchini and yellow squash again.

Now, despite this clearly intense abhorrence, I am trying to cook more with it.  Zucchini is full of great vitamins and minerals, and it's super cheap during it's peak season.  So I play around with it and see if I can develop a taste for it.  And if I can't, then I just sneak it into things so that it's there giving me all the healthy and cheap benefits but without actually tasting it.

This is one of the Sneaky Recipes that has me begging friends for their surplus garden zucchinis.  I. Love. This. Bread!

Chocolate Zucchini Bread
Recipe adapted from

3 cups shredded raw zucchini
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted (not Dutch-processed)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup safflower or canola oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup granulated white sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips 

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place rack in the center of the oven. Grease (or spray with a nonstick vegetable spray) two 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pans. Set aside. 

2.  Grate the zucchini, using a medium sized grater or food processor (I highly recommend the FP; saves SO MUCH TIME, especially if you have a large zucchini). Set aside. 
Hello Zucchini.  Prepare to be shredded.
3.  In a large bowl whisk together the flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, ground cinnamon, and ground allspice. Set aside. 
This looks like hot cocoa mix.

4.  In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the oil, applesauce, sugars, eggs, and vanilla extract until well blended (about 2 minutes). Fold in the grated zucchini. Add the flour mixture, beating just until combined. Then fold in the chocolate chips. 
What once was yucky is about to become major YUMMY

5.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and bake until the bread has risen and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55 to 65 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes, then remove the breads from the pans and cool completely. 
Moist, rich, glorious

Some days I'm not sure if this is really a bread, because it feels like I'm eating a decadent cake!  And it certainly doesn't taste like anything healthy, yet I manage to use a TON of shredded zucchini, whole wheat flour, applesauce, and only a little heart-healthy canola oil.  Excellent!

Oh, and feel free to have fun when it comes to the add-ins.  This bread would be great with some chopped nuts in it.  And I have been known to use my current favorite chip, milk chocolate and peanut butter swirl, in place of the semi-sweet.  What would you put into this bread?
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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Lemon Pork Tenderloin

In my never-ending quest to get Gavin to eat and enjoy a nutritious dinner without dissolving into a tantrum because I'm not making mac & cheese or pancakes, I came across this recipe.

Easy. DELICIOUS. Awesome.

Make this.

Lemon Pork Tenderloin
Recipe adapted from Ina Garten

Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup EVOO
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 1/2 tbsp minced fresh rosemary
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
2 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
3 pork tenderloins (about 1lb each) 

1.  Combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, oil, garlic, rosemary, thyme, mustard, & 1 tsp salt in a resealable plastic bag. Add the pork tenderloins and turn to coat. Marinate pork in the fridge for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight. 
Such delicious, simple ingredients

2.  Preheat oven to 425.  Spray a shallow baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Remove the tenderloins from the marinade and season with salt and pepper.  Place them the baking pan and discard the excess marinade.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.
Do you own a microplane?  If not, GET ONE!

3.  Transfer the tenderloins to a platter and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 10 minutes. Carve into 1/2" thick diagonal slices. 
Flay. Vor. TOWN.

 So, once again, the end result smelled so amazing, was so durn TASTY that I neglected to take a picture of the finished product.  TRUST ME though, this is a recipe to add to your collection.

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Honey Oat Trail Mix

When I was little, my parents loved to drag, I mean, take us to various attractions around wherever we happened to be living at the time.  I won't get into the agony of the winery trips in this post...I'll save that for another day.

One of my favorites were trips into the mountains.  There was a particular trail that went right by a stream that had tons of these REALLY BIG rocks.  My brother and I could hardly wait for lunch to be consumed so we could scramble over the rocks, back and forth across the water.  And then we'd go hiking in the woods, looking at the gorgeous colors around us, inhaling that crisp fall air, and reveling in the quiet of nature.

On some of these hikes, not all, we'd bring trail mix.  On really, really, really rare occasions, that trail mix would be GORP.  The kind with the M&M's.  Oh yeah, yumminess.

This like a tricked out GORP.

Honey Oat Trail Mix
Recipe adapted from Food Network Magazine

1 cup rolled oats
2 tbsp canola oil
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 tbsp honey
3 cups mixed dried fruit [I used apricots and apple slices because pre-mixed packages were WAY expensive]
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 cups mixed nuts [I used roasted cashews and almonds, and a little honey-roasted peanuts that I found in the pantry]
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 cup peanut butter M&M's

1.  Preheat the oven to 325. Mist a baking sheet with cooking spray. Toss the oats with 2 tablespoons water, the canola oil, wheat germ and honey. Form small clusters of the mixture on the baking sheet and bake until crisp, about 15 minutes. 
I made my clusters a bit on the large side

2.  Add the dried fruit to the baking sheet, sprinkle with the cinnamon and bake 3 to 5 more minutes. Let cool, then toss with the nuts, sunflower seeds, cranberries, and M&M's. Store in an airtight container.
Ready to scoop and eat!

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Between Gavin's birthday party over the weekend and a plethora of other activities going on, it's been difficult to steal time away into my kitchen.  Rest assured though that I am working on about 6-7 recipes that I can't wait to share with you!!

In the meantime, I'm fulfilling my New Year's Resolution by making family favorites more frequently.  Like Curried Chicken Tenders.  Last night Gavin told me that he loves my chicken tenders, and I am THRILLED that this has turned into a great compromise dish for us.  It's simple enough that he'll eat it, but still has just enough kick to it that Rob and I enjoy eating them just as much.
The ketchup totally makes this

I had a dream the other night about Cinnamon Roll Pancakes.  Think I should make them again soon?  Yeah, I thought so too.

I have a jalapeno plant in our backyard that has EXPLODED.  I need to make Chicken Biryani again so that I can use some of the ingredients I left out the first time, like jalapeno.
Take this from a sweeter dish to a spicy one with a kick of jalapeno

Never need a reason to make Cobb Salad.  Just make it.  Enjoy it.
What's not to love??

Tonkatsu has also been on my mind.  Crispy, tangy, porky goodness.
Kinda feel like licking this picture.  Like that wallpaper in Wonka's factory.

It's Picnic Season!!  Have you made Broccoli Salad for one yet?  You should.  Really.
Quite possibly the Perfect Salad

I'll leave you to ponder making, or remaking, some of these delightful goodies.  Refresh your memory on how good these dishes are before I bombard you with a new set of fabulous recipes to try!
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