Missing…but still busy!

I’ve been a little absent here for awhile – but that doesn’t mean I’m not keeping busy!

Since moving to a new apartment back in October, most of my free time has been focused on decorating and getting the place in order.  I’ve been posting some updates over here so check back to see the progress!

Don’t worry though, not all my time has been dedicated to home projects.  Recent cooking highlights include blue cheese stuffed dates wrapped in bacon, spicy shrimp dumplings, some decadent chocolate peanut butter mounds bars and healthy (but delicious!) berry bliss oat squares.

And in more exciting news, I’m throwing a food filled holiday party this weekend in the new digs.  On the menu?  Oh, just some bourbon cranberry duck sliders and eggnog ice cream sandwiches.  Figured that will keep you interested for a bit…

Stay tuned!

Simple Potato Salad

So many recipes these days offer a twist on a classic dish but why mess with a good thing?  In fact, sometimes the simpler the recipe, the better the results.  Case in point, this classic potato salad.  A cold version of a classic hot german potato salad, this dish is perfect for a picnic as the lack of mayonnaise means less refrigeration is needed.
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Pizza, Pizza!

Pizza get’s a bad rap.  Dough & cheese, can’t be healthy right?

While it should not be a daily indulgence, pizza can certainly be a part of your healthy weekly menu especially if it’s homemade. And if you have the dough already made, your pizza will be ready in less time than it would be if you called your local pizza shop.

With all of the possible toppings, you’ll never have the same pizza twice!

Thursday’s dinner was all about the pizza.  Instead of just sauce and cheese, I made two types, mushroom with goat cheese and ham & cheese.  Both were so good but seriously, the ham and cheese version tasted just like a grilled cheese sandwich! Served with a side of green veggies, this meal was nutritionally complete, satisfying and very tasty.

Mushroom & Goat Cheese Pizza
Ham & Cheese Pizza

The best thing about homemade pizza is that there really is no recipe, you can create whatever you want using whatever happens to be in the fridge!  That being true,  below is how these two pies came together.

16 oz whole wheat pizza dough
Flour
Olive Oil

Mushroom & Goat Cheese Pizza

3/4 cup Weeknight Marinara Sauce
4 cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp goat cheese, crumbled
Olive Oil
Salt
Pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Divide pizza dough in half and roll out to desired thickness.  Spread on sauce leaving a small border around the edges (you can drizzle the crust with some olive oil and salt too).  In a small skillet heat olive oil over medium-low heat.  Add slices mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes, turning over at least once.  Place mushrooms on the pizza and sprinkle with goat cheese.  Place in oven for 20 – 25 minutes.

Ham & Cheese Pizza

3/4 cups Weeknight Marinara Sauce
2 slices Canadian Bacon (deli ham is good too), cubed
1 1/2 oz. cheddar cheese, thinly sliced
Salt
Pepper

Pre heat oven to 375 degrees.  Roll out the second half of the pizza dough.  Spread on sauce leaving a small border around the edges (you can drizzle the crust with some olive oil and salt too).  Arrange bacon and then cheese on top of pizza.  Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes.

I ate 2 slices of the ham & cheese pizza (pictured with a bite missing!) and then went back for a small slice of mushroom and goat cheese.  All served with some greens, of course. Another good thing about pizza, it reheats well for lunch the next day (or is good cold!)

Tips & Tricks

On buying vs. making pizza dough

Homemade pizza dough is definitely fun to make and I suggest you make a few big batches and freeze to have on hand.  However, in case you don’t have any homemade on hand during the week, Trader Joe’s makes a great whole wheat dough that only costs $.99 so stock up while you are there!

** Sorry about the late post (this was from last week).

Party Food in a Flash

Parties are meant to be fun.   A time meant to laugh with friends, recounting memories of the past while creating new ones you will look back on someday.

Parties are not meant to be spent hovering over the stove stirring, whisking or making sure nothing is burning.  Even if you are not the host, no one wants to attend a party where everyone is so tired from preparing the food they can’t manage to have some fun.

Both of the appetizers below can be made in advance and put in the oven once you arrive at your final party destination or your guests start appearing.  Either way, they’ll be on the table in a flash & compliments will soon be coming your way.

Blue Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

These stuffed mushrooms are made for crowd roaming & socializing.  Practically bite size, there are no knives & forks needed here.  Using a crusty bread & not over cooking the green pepper gives these mushrooms a good balance of texture combined with the creamy blue cheese.

Blue Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

(makes 25 mushrooms)

Printable version

25 cremini, de-stemmed & cleaned*
1 cup white button mushrooms, diced
1/2 cup minced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup diced green onion
1 cup small bread pieces (I used a french baguette torn into about quarter inch pieces)
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup low sodium chicken stock (or broth)
Salt
Pepper
Olive Oil

* If serving these as appetizers and not first course or part of a meal, cremini mushrooms work better since they  are smaller and more flavorful than the larger stuffing mushrooms. If you prefer, feel free to use the larger stuffing mushrooms.

Directions:

In a large skillet, melt 2 tbs. of the butter over medium-high heat. Once the butter is melted, add the onions and cook about 3 minutes until soft. Add the mushrooms and garlic to the onions and cook for another 3 minutes before adding another tbs. of butter and the green pepper. Cook the mixture for 1 minute.

In a large bowl, combine the bread pieces with the mushroom, onion and pepper mixture. Fold in blue cheese crumbles. Once combined, add chicken stock and mix thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Drizzle cremini mushrooms lightly with olive oil. Stuff mushrooms with mixture, about a teaspoon each (varies depending on size of mushroom. Place on baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake in oven for 20 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender and the stuffing is hot.

Turkey, Pear & Brie Sandwiches with Bacon and Caramelized Onions

When done correctly, sandwiches can be wonderful (and even gourmet) food for a get together.  Most ingredients found in this sandwich can be made ahead of time, assembled and then placed in the oven to warm up at the last minute.  Although they are fine on their own, try serving these sandwiches with a side of honey mustard.

Turkey, Pear & Brie Sandwiches with Bacon and Caramelized Onions

(makes approximately 15 small sandwiches)

1 French baguette, sliced in half lengthwise
1/2 lb. thin sliced turkey breast
4 oz. brie cut in thin slices, about 3 inches in length
5 slices bacon
1 cup Vidalia onion, sliced thinly into rings
8 pear slices, half inch thick
3 tbs. butter
Salt

Melt 1 tbs. butter in skillet over medium heat.  Once butter is melted, add onions & season with salt.  Cook until the onions are brown and soft, about 20  minutes.  While the onions caramelize, cook the bacon in skillet over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes.  Remove and let cool on a plate lined with paper towels.

To assemble the sandwiches, spread both sides of the baguette with 1/2 tbs butter.  Place the turkey in a single layer on the bottom half of the baguette.  Continue by adding the pear in another single layer (you may need to turn slightly on a diagonal depending on width of the baguette).  Place bacon on top and then the brie.  On the top half of the baguette spread out the onions.

Bake, open faced, in a preheated 375 degree oven for 10 minutes, or until the cheese begins to melt.  Slice into two inch pieces and serve.

P.S.  Sorry there is no photo of the finished sandwich (it had just come out of the oven).  I was too excited to party!

Jalapeno-Cheddar Scones = Best Breakfast Sandwich Ever

The holidays are here again and just as they bring added joy to our everyday routines, they seem to bring a similar sweetness to the things we eat.  Pies,  yule logs, ginger snaps & cheesecakes are lurking around every corner.  And then there are holiday cookies, which are not just everywhere but seem to be the perfect homemade holiday gift. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  I’ll take a luscious cheesecake or chewy snickerdoodle cookie any day, but what about everything else?

Not surprisingly when our office decided to hold a holiday pot luck last week, the sign up list was filled up with all things sugar.  As I perused the list, contemplating what to make I noticed the discrimination and concluded that I would be playing on behalf of Team Savory.   My holiday cookie recipes & gingerbread house would just have to wait their turn.

Ironically enough, my final contribution was a variation on a typically sweet item – the scone.  Except this one was speckled throughout with pockets of melted cheddar cheese and bits of spicy jalapeno.  It was creamy & moist and the consistency was so perfect you felt like a scone scientist looking at all of the different layers after you broke it in half.

I found the recipe from Smitten Kitchen who states the recipe is adapted from Peter Oleyer at Calexico Carne Asada in Brooklyn, via NY Mag.  With little to no recipe tweaks on my end except a little extra cheddar and jalapeno for good measure, this recipe is incredible.  If my description above isn’t enough to convince you, please I beg, just make the darn scones for yourself.

Jalapeno-Cheddar Scones from Smitten Kitchen, adapted from Peter Oleyer at Calexico Carne Asada in Brooklyn, via NY Mag

makes 8 large scones

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick or 4 ounces) cold butter, diced
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 eggs, divided
1/4 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, diced
2 small jalapeños pepper, minced (I wimped out and used only one only to find my scones entirely heat-free)

Preheat oven to 400°F. In a small skillet, melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter and sauté the jalapeños in it until soft, about two minutes. Let them cool, then place them in a small bowl with the cheddar cheese and coat them with one tablespoon of the flour. Combine the remaining flour with the baking powder and salt. Cut in the remaining butter with a pastry blender, fork or two knives, until the butter bits are pea sized.

Lightly whip two of the eggs and cream and add to the flour-butter mixture. Using a wooden spoon, fold mixture until it begins to come together. Add the cheddar-jalapeño mixture to the dough and mix until everything is incorporated.

Turn out the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead gently for less than one minute. Pat dough out to a 3/4- to 1-inch thickness and either cut into 8 triangles or the shape of your choice with a biscuit cutter. Make an egg wash by beating the remaining egg with a teaspoon of water. Brush the scones with egg wash and place on a parchment-lined (or well-oiled) baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Jalapeno-Cheddar Scones, Part II:  How to make an AWESOME breakfast sandwich

The holiday potluck turned out fantastic and to my surprise, the dessert table was not the largest spread there!  Take that sugar (I’ll see you again soon I’m sure, however).  The scones were also a big hit and at the end there were only a few leftover.  Now, usually scones are best to be eaten on the day they are made.  These bad boys however were quite moist and given the proper attention, I was positive they could be re-purposed over the weekend.

Sunday was the perfect day to find out.  A gloomy and lazy day from the start, brunch on the couch with a large pot of coffee seemed quite fitting.  I checked out the scones waiting patiently in my fridge and once I deemed them fit for service, came up with these Bacon, Egg and Cheese sandwiches on Jalapeno-Cheddar Scones.  And the surprise,  I paid homage to the season as well as the scone’s sweet roots by adding a bit of honey.  Sweet & savory, now that is truly the best of both worlds!

Bacon, Egg & Cheese Sandwich on Jalapeno-Cheddar Scones

2 eggs
4 slices bacon
Cheddar Cheese (or whatever you have on hand)
2 Jalapeno-Cheddar Scones (I made mine smaller than it says in the recipe above)
Honey
Butter

Slice scones, place in low oven until just toasted.  Cook bacon in a skillet until done to your liking.  Remove grease and melt butter over low-medium heat.  Fry eggs in skillet 2 minutes until just set.  Flip over and place cheddar cheese on top, cover with lid.  Cook another 2 minutes until cheese is soft and melted.

Spread bottom of scone with honey, place egg & cheese down and top with bacon and the scone top.

Enjoy!

And yes, this was deemed as the best breakfast sandwich ever as one happy guest stated.

The second sandwich was already eaten so pardon the crumbs!

Stuffed Potato Skins Frittata

Brunch is one of those meals that many people go out for because let’s face it, weekends are for relaxing.  Who would want to spend precious time preparing breakfast?

But in all honestly I love breakfast and when done correctly, I love do it at home brunch.  Especially with the holidays coming and houseguests likely to be invading your home, it is great to have some simple yet satisfying brunch tricks up your sleeve.

I spent this past weekend up in Rhode Island and relaxation was definitely my priority.  After a fabulous night complete with delicious dinner and lots of great wine by the fireplace, I rolled myself out of bed Sunday morning and realized it would be a perfect time to create this Stuffed Potato Skins Frittata which I was planning to enter into a Delish.com recipe contest.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t submit my recipe because there were problems with the site and of course I was very annoyed because this dish is definitely a winner!

This spin on a frittata takes a tailgating & football classic and turns it into something a little more breakfast appropriate.  And the added bonus – it’s so simple it leaves you plenty of time to continue relaxing.

Stuffed Potato Skins Frittata

Printable Version
5 medium thick slices bacon, cubed (half inch)
5 baby red potatoes, diced (half inch)
6 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon sour cream
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons scallions, sliced (green stems only)
1 teaspoon chives, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
Chives, chopped for garnish (optional)
Sour cream, to serve (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F).  In a 10 inch ovenproof non-stick skillet over medium-high heat begin to cook the bacon.  Brown the bacon for 3-4 minutes until crispy.  Remove bacon from pan and place on a plate lined with a paper towel.

Reduce heat to medium-low and add the diced potatoes.  Cook the potatoes 7 minutes until lightly browned.

Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl and whisk gently for 15 seconds so that the yolks break.  Continue to whisk and pour in milk.  Once the milk and egg is combined thoroughly, add the sour cream.  Whisk together until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the cheese, scallions and chives to the egg mixture and fold in to combine.

Remove potatoes from pan and place on the plate with the bacon.  Drain bacon fat from the pan and wipe clean if there are any burnt pieces.  Place the pan over medium-low heat and melt the butter.

Once the butter is melted, add the bacon and potatoes.  Cook 1 minute and make sure they are evenly distributed on the bottom of the pan.  Pour in egg mixture.  Let cook for 2 minutes.  Once the bottom begins to set, pull the edge of the side in front of you up and tilt the pan towards you allowing the egg mixture to fill in the gap.  Let cook another 5 minutes until sides are firm and middle is slightly set. Place pan in oven and let cook for 10 minutes

Remove the pan from the oven and run a knife around the edges, releasing the frittata from the pan.  Place on a serving plate either by removing with two spatulas or placing plate over the skillet and turning over.

Garnish with extra chives and serve with sour cream.

BLT

My brother wanted me to post this photo of the BLT he made using the latest loaf of Whole Wheat Bread.  You would think an 18 year old male would cringe at the thought of using anything whole wheat when it comes to bacon – but he loves this bread!  Check it out….

BLT

Sunday Morning Brioche French Toast & Berries

Sunday Morning Brioche French Toast & Berries

After a long day of drinking mint juleps and watching the races, I decided there wasn’t a better breakfast to enjoy on a rainy Sunday than French toast (and of course some bacon)

I didn’t change the standard recipe for French toast but what puts this one above the rest are the thick buttery slices of brioche bread. I picked this loaf up from Amy’s Bread in the West Village but next time may attempt to bake my own.

My instructions and measurements below are not 100% accurate (that morning was still a bit blurry) so I encourage you to add cinnamon & sugar based on your preferences.

4 thick slices Brioche bread (I cut these about an inch thick)
2 1/2 cups whole milk
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar (light or dark brown)
pinch Kosher salt
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup raspberries
1/2 cup blackberries
Maple syrup (optional)
Vanilla Greek yogurt (optional)

In a deep baking dish whisk together eggs & milk until combined. Whisk in 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and all of the sugars plus salt.

Heat griddle (or large skillet) over medium-low heat and melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter. Take one slice of bread and dip in milk mixture until covered. Remove and let drain for a minute (on a plate) before placing on the griddle.

Add more cinnamon to the milk mixture and whisk. Repeat with remaining bread slices, adding cinnamon after each piece and adding butter to the griddle for each slice.

Cook French toast approximately 4-5 minutes each side or until golden brown and crispy.

Serve with fresh berries on top & maple syrup if desired. I enjoyed mine with a dollop of vanilla Greek yogurt on top but was too hungry to wait for a photo!