Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Grilled Asparagus Panini

We just got finished moving across the country.  And when I say across the country, I mean literally from ocean to ocean.  Imagine driving this.  Then imagine driving this 5 months pregnant with a 4 year old and a two year old in the back seat.

That was my life for the last month.

Moving into a new house, you know there will be things that you forget.  Like when you're checking out the new apartment and sit down on the potty, only to realize after the fact that you haven't brought in any of your stuff and there is no toilet paper on the roll.  Unfortunately, this was a true story.

Another of those instances is when you see that the showers require curtains, and alas, there are none available.  Grown men and pregnant women should never have to take baths to actually get clean.  It's very unattractive and slightly dangerous.  But it had to be done, because let me tell you, that last day of driving we stayed in a nasty hotel.  The husband said that it looked like adult parties were held there.  Needless to say, one look at the bathroom and I was going nowhere near it, let alone my children.

Getting your hair wet in a bathtub when you are older than 10 is a serious issue.  Laying down is awkward, and using a cup to soak your hair is really not good enough.  Thankfully, I survived the ordeal and made dinner that night.

This sandwich is a spring and summer favorite of ours, and it was perfect for moving in since it really only requires one plate and a panini press.  If you don't have a panini press, you can use a grill pan, saute pan, or even a George Foreman if you have one lying around.  I cannot express how much I love my panini press though.  It's a great investment.

Start by putting some olive oil, salt and pepper on your asparagus.  Then use your panini press to grill them up.  This takes about 2-3 minutes.

Then cut your bread (make sure it's pretty sturdy bread, or it will get very soggy) and mozzarella and assemble your sandwiches.  Then place them on your panini press, close it, and you have melty, wonderful sandwiches in less than 5 minutes.

One of the best parts about this sandwich is that you can make regular grilled cheese for kids like mine who won't touch asparagus and you won't be a short order cook doing it.

Grilled Asparagus Panini
*forgive me for not knowing my source.  I found this online some time ago.

1 bunch asparagus, woody ends broken off
2 teaspoons olive oil (I never measure this, or the salt and pepper)
Salt and pepper
Focaccia (I went for a nice multi-grain this time)
4 slices prosciutto (optional, but delicious)
8 oz fresh mozzarella

Heat panini press to medium-high.  Toss asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Grill 2-3 minutes; set aside.  For each sandwich, slice bread.  Place a slice of prosciutto on the bottom half of each sandwich.  Top with 1/4 of the cheese and a little bit more salt and pepper if desired.  Top with as many asparagus spears as will fit securely.  Close the sandwich and grill about 4 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Orange and Chocolate Chip Muffins

These muffins get me lots of compliments, and who would complain about that?  The subtle hint of orange and the melty chocolate chips plus the ease with which these come together make these muffins absoultely perfect.

Orange and Chocolate Chip Muffins

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon of fresh orange zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted & slightly cooled
1/2 cup of half & half cream (I always make my own by using half milk and half cream)

1/2 teaspoon of almond extract
1 1/4 cups of dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375°. Lightly grease or line 12 muffins cups.
In a large bowl, rub the orange zest into the granulated sugar until it becomes fragrant and coloured. Mix in the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs. Stir in melted butter, cream, and almond extract. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in chocolate chips. Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling each about 2/3 full.
Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean. Try not to over bake them or else they will be a bit dry. Serve warm.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Taco Pizza


Pizza is a funny thing.  It's so fun (or at least it was as a kid, now it's mostly convenient) to get a pizza delivered to your door.  It's a family event to go to the pizza place and order your own creation.  But homemade pizza is just so satisfying.  Even so, I often find myself ordering pizza as often as I make it at home.  I love taco pizzas.  It's such a weird combination that actually works.  But I'm never completely convinced.  So I decided that it was high time I made my own taco pizza, and the results were amazing.  The biggest difference is that I used guacamole as a base.  It made all the difference in the world.  I also chose to cook the lettuce with the pizza rather than put it on after, which I liked a lot, because for me, lettuce tends to take away from other flavors.  Please give this a go - I really think it will become a pizza night favorite.

For more pizza night fun, check out these posts!

Taco Pizza
1 recipe pizza dough
Cheese (we used a mix of cheddar and pepper jack)
Black olives, sliced
Shredded lettuce
Tomatoes, diced
Ground turkey meat, cooked and seasoned with taco seasoning

Heat a pizza stone in an oven heated to 400.  Spread the pizza dough into a round and place on a pizza peel generously covered in cornmeal.  Top with guacamole.  Sprinkle half of the cheese on top.  Top with the rest of the ingredients, and then top with the remaining cheese.  Quickly slide it onto the pizza stone and cook for 9 to 11 minutes.  Remove from the oven, let cool, and cut into slices.  Enjoy!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Chicken Stew with Biscuits

Ina Garten is one of my very favorite chefs.  Her food never fails me, and my go to recipe for company (and one of my favorite meals) is her recipe for Lemon Fusilli with Arugula.  It's fantastic.  My husband made dinner a couple of weeks ago and made this recipe that I have been eyeing for literally a few years.  For whatever reason I never had the cajones to make it - but he did.  And it was amazing!  Another winner from Ina.  This is homey and so comforting.  Perfect for the dead of winter, but I wouldn't discount it in summer either.

Chicken Stew with Biscuits
from Barefoot Contessa Family Style by Ina Garten

For the stew:
6 chicken breasts, bone in, skin on (we used boneless, skinless)
3 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 cups chicken stock
2 chicken bouillon cubes (we used Better than Bouillon)
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 yellow onions, chopped
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup heavy cream
4 carrots, medium diced, blanched for 2 minutes (that means boiled for 2 minutes)
1 10-oz package frozen peas
1 1/2 cups frozen small whole onions (we left these out)
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley

For the biscuits:
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced
3/4 cup half-and-half (You can make your own by using half heavy cream, half milk.)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

Preheat oven to 375.
Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan and rub them with olive oil.  Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.  Roast for 35-40 minutes, or until cooked through.  (We just boiled the chicken until done.)  Set aside until cool enough to handle, then remove the meat from the bones and discard the skin.  Cut the chicken into large dice.  You will have 4-6 cups of cubed chicken.
In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock and dissolve the bouillon cubes in the stock.  In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the onions over medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes, until translucent.  Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.  Add the hot chicken stock to the sauce.  Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring, until thick.  Add 2 teapsoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and the heavy cream.  Add the cubed chicken, carrots, peas, onions, and parsley.  Mix well.  Place the stew in a 9x13 baking dish.  Place the baking dish on a sheet pan lined with parchment or wax paper.  Bake for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the biscuits.  Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is the size of peas.  Add the half-and-half and combine on low speed.  Mix in the parsley.
Dump the dough out onto a well-floured board and, with a rolling pin, roll out to 3/8-inch thick.  Cut out 12 circles with a 2 1/2-inch round cutter.
Remove the stew from the oven and arrange the biscuits on top of the filling.  Brush them with egg wash, and return the dish to the oven.  Bake for another 20-30 minutes, until the biscuits are brown and the stew is bubbly.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Creamy Potato Salad with Avocado

All I hear about anymore is how much snow is covering the nation.  But not here.  Here it feels like summer.  Granted, summers here in Oregon are cool, but it's still summer.  Sun, beach, 65 degrees,  You can bet I've been wearing flip flops and wishing that the summer produce was in so I could make a pie.  But I'll go for the next best thing and make a potato salad.  Doesn't it just sound like a picnic on the grass?

Creamy Potato Salad with Avocado
from Vegan Visitor

1 1/2 lbs new potatoes, scrubbed
1 large ripe avocado
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons mixed chopped herbs (I used sage, garlic powder, coriander, and dill.)
Steam the potatoes until they are just fork tender but al dente.  Cool until the potatoes can be handled, then quarter.  Peel and dice the avocado and combine with the potatoes and lemon juice in a large bowl.  Stir in the herbs, then season with salt and pepper to taste.  Toss well to coat everything and to break down some of the softened avocado.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Caramel Sticky Rolls

Holy goodness. Eat these.  Now.  NOW!  I love cinnamon rolls as much as the next person, but this is a welcome variation.  Also, it is one of those miracles of chemistry that is baking because a little bit of butter and brown sugar turn into an amazing caramel that douses these buns in very sticky and amazing goodness.

I made these to surprise my husband when he came home from work one morning.  His response was, "Great.  I'm going to get fat."  In my opinion, a few extra pounds so that you can eat these rolls is totally something you can live with.  And he did.  And he was grateful.

Sticky Pecan Caramel Rolls

1 1/2 pounds of bread dough (It would be too laborious for me to go over the whole method of bread making in this book, but it is wonderful.  You should definitely check the book out from your library.  I used the Challah dough from this same book to make these rolls.)

Caramel Topping
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
30 pecan halves (I omitted these)

The Filling
4 tablespoons salted butter, softened (I used unsalted.  You can just add a little salt.)
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped and toasted pecans (I omitted these)
Pinch of ground black pepper (I omitted this too.  I don't remember this being on the ingredient list.  I think I might try it next time.)

Cream together the butter, salt, and brown sugar.  Spread evenly over the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan.  Scatter the pecans over the butter-sugar mixture and set aside.
Roll out the dough to a 1/8-inch thick rectangle on a lightly foured surface.
Cream together the butter, sugar, and spices.  Spread evenly over the rolled-out dough and sprinkle with the chopped nuts.  Starting with the long side, roll the dough into a log.  With a very sharp serrated knife, cut the log into 8 equal pieces and arrange over the pecans in the pan, with the swirled edge facing upward.  Cover loosely and allow to rest and rise 1 hour (or just 40 minutes if you're using fresh, unrefrigerated dough).
5 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350.  Bake about 40 minutes, or until golden brown and well set in the center.  While still hot, run a knife around the inside of the pan to release the rolls, and invert immediately onto a serving dish.  If you let them set too long they will stick to the pan and be difficult to turn out.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Swedish Meatballs

Wow.  It has been 3 weeks since I've posted a recipe.  Don't worry, this one will make up for it.  These meatballs were so tender and delicious.  It was so hard to not lick the plate clean.  They are better than the IKEA version if you've ever had them.  Serve these babies over egg noodles for a sensational meal.

Swedish Meatballs

1 large egg
1/4 cup half & half or heavy cream
2 medium sized dinner rolls, torn into small pieces
1 pound ground turkey
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
Vegetable oil for frying (optional) - see tip below

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups low sodium beef broth
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup half & half or heavy cream
2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon

For the Meatballs:
Whisk egg and cream together in medium bowl. Stir in bread and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a bowl mix together the turkey, nutmeg, allspice, pepper, brown sugar, salt, and baking powder with clean hands.  Using fork, mash bread mixture until no large dry bread chunks remain; add mixture to the meat mixture and blend with hands until just incorporated.  (When mixing meat, try to handle it as little as possible.)
Using a small or medium ice cream scoop, form meatballs with wet hands and set aside; repeat with remaining mixture to form 25 to 30 meatballs.
Heat oil in 10-inch straight-sided sauté pan over medium-high heat until edge of meatball dipped in oil sizzles (oil should register 350 degrees on instant-read thermometer), 3 to 5 minutes. Add meatballs in single layer and fry, flipping once halfway through cooking, until lightly browned all over and cooked through, 7 to 10 minutes. (Adjust heat as needed to keep oil sizzling but not smoking.) Using slotted spoon, transfer browned meatballs to paper towel-lined plate.
Tip: rather than frying your meatballs, use a mini muffin pan and bake them instead! Spray the mini muffin pan with cooking spray to prevent sticking and place your meatballs in each well. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Remove and use in the recipe as directed. (This is the method I chose.)

For the Sauce:
Heat a pan over medium-high heat and add butter. When foaming subsides, add flour and cook, whisking constantly, until flour is light brown, about 30 seconds. Slowly whisk in broth. Add brown sugar and mushrooms and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium and cook until sauce is reduced to about 1 cup, about 5 minutes. Stir in cream and return to simmer.
Add meatballs to sauce and simmer, turning occasionally, until heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice, season with salt and pepper, and serve.
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