Archive for September, 2008

Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies

Difficulty: Easy

Mmmmmm, peanut butter & chocolate. I love how the Hershey kiss gets soft and the cookie is nice and chewy. A classic combination.

Makes about 4 1/2 dozen

1/2 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
1 bag Hershey kisses, unwrapped
3 TBS sugar for rolling dough

Directions: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Combine butter and sugars until creamy. Add eggs, peanut butter and vanilla. In medium bowl combine flour, baking soda and powder. Gradually add to peanut butter mixture until it comes together. Roll cookie dough into 1″ balls with hands and toss in sugar in small bowl. Place on ungreased cookie sheet (I used my Silpat) and bake for 8-10 minutes until light golden brown. Do not overbake.

Remove cookies from oven, transfer to cooling rack and immediately place one Hershey Kiss in center of cookie, pressing down to flatten cookie a bit, cookie will crack a bit. Repeat with remaining dough. Store in airtight container or eat them all!


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Spaghetti & Meatballs

Difficulty: Moderate

Every family has their own version of spaghetti & meatballs. It comes from Phil’s mom and every one of us has the recipe and every one of us makes it a bit different. Here is our version. It is more of a traditional cooked sauce, it is simple and relatively pain free. Moderate difficulty due to prep time, making your own meatballs, etc. But in my opinion easy. (Forgive the picture, we made the sauce and found we had no spaghetti noodles. Hey, pasta is pasta right?)

1 pound hamburger meat
1 packet saltine crackers, crushed
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated
3 TBS Worcestershire sauce
3 cloves garlic
1 egg
S & P
2 TBS olive oil

2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 cup olive oil
5 cans tomato sauce
1 can Italian stewed tomatoes
S & P
Parmesan for serving
1 pound pasta, cooked al dente

Directions: Combine meatball ingredients (minus the olive oil) in large bowl with hands. Roll into 1″ balls, set aside. In large stockpot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes more or until onions are translucent. Remove from heat and pour onion mixture into fine mesh strainer set over medium bowl. Strain onions and garlic from olive oil, pressing on them to get the most oil out. Return oil back to pan and return to medium heat. Discard onion/garlic mixture. Add tomato sauce and stewed tomatoes to pan, stir to combine and let simmer.

Heat large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 TBS olive oil and cook meatballs in batches until golden brown on all sides. Transfer meatballs into sauce to finish cooking. When meatballs are all browned and in tomato sauce, place lid on pot and let simmer an additional hour or so. Cook pasta according to directions until al dente. Taste sauce and adjust seasonings as needed. The sauce will pick up flavor from the meatballs and I didn’t even have to salt my last batch. Serve over pasta with Parmesan.

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Spanish Rice

Difficulty: Moderate
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

Good Spanish rice is hard to find, even some restaurants disappoint. I like my rice grains separate and chewy with fresh flavors. This recipe delivers and is wonderful, it is worth the extra effort.
Because the spiciness of jalapeños varies from chile to chile, try to control the heat by removing the ribs and seeds (the source of most of the heat) from those chiles that are cooked in the rice. Use an oven safe pot about 12 inches in diameter so that the rice cooks evenly and in the time indicated. The pot’s depth is less important than its diameter; we’ve successfully used both a straight-sided sauté pan and a Dutch oven. Whichever type of pot you use, it should have a tight-fitting, oven safe lid. Vegetable broth can be substituted for chicken broth.

Serves 6-8 as a side dish

2 ripe tomatoes (about 12 ounces), cored and quartered
1 medium onion, preferably white, peeled, trimmed of root end, and quartered
3 medium jalapeño chile’s
2 cups long grain white rice
1/3 cup canola oil
4 cloves garlic , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 4 teaspoons)
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
1 lime , cut into wedges for serving

Directions: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Process tomatoes and onion in food processor until smooth and thoroughly pureed, about 15 seconds, scraping down bowl if necessary. Transfer mixture to liquid measuring cup; you should have 2 cups (if necessary, spoon off excess so that volume equals 2 cups). Remove ribs and seeds from 2 jalapeños and discard; mince flesh and set aside. Mince remaining jalapeño, including ribs and seeds; set aside.

Place rice in large fine-mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water until water runs clear, about 1 1/2 minutes. Shake rice vigorously in strainer to remove all excess water.

Heat oil in heavy-bottomed oven safe 12-inch straight-sided sauté pan or Dutch oven with tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat, 1 to 2 minutes. Drop 3 or 4 grains rice in oil; if grains sizzle, oil is ready. Add rice and fry, stirring frequently, until rice is light golden and translucent, 6 to 8 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, add garlic and seeded minced jalapeños; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 1/2 minutes. Stir in pureed tomatoes and onions, chicken broth, tomato paste, and salt; increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil. Cover pan and transfer to oven; bake until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, 30 to 35 minutes, stirring well after 15 minutes.

Stir in cilantro and reserved minced jalapeño with seeds to taste. Serve immediately, passing lime wedges separately.

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Chicken Fajitas

Difficulty: Moderate

Serves 4

I love fajitas! The combination of flavors and textures is wonderful. And you can pull them off pretty healthy too, once you take away your cheese, sour cream, cut back on the tortilla…never mind that! Just eat and enjoy!

4 flour tortillas
4 chicken breasts, pounded even
2 onions
2 red bell peppers
S & P
1 TBS cumin
1 tsp onion powder
Juice of 2 limes
1/2 cup olive oil, plus 3 TBS
3 garlic cloves, minced

Cheese, grated
Sour cream

Directions: Place chicken breasts in Ziploc bag or Tupperware container. In small bowl combine 1/2 cup olive oil, lime juice, cumin, garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Pour over chicken and place in fridge to marinate (about 20 minutes) while you prep the other ingredients.

Core & seed bell pepper and cut into thin strips. Cut onion in half, remove peel and slice with the grain into 1/4-inch slices. Set aside. Chop your lettuce, tomatoes, grate your cheese, etc. Heat 2 TBS oil in large skillet over medium heat. Remove chicken breasts from marinade and cook until done, 5-8 minutes per side. Let rest on a plate and tent with foil. Increase heat to medium-high (I was on “8” on my stove), add remaining 1 TBS oil. Add onions and bell pepper, season with salt and pepper. Do not stir for the first 3 minutes. Then, using a wooden spoon stir around and scrape up the yummy chicken bits from the pan. Continue cooking until bell pepper is crisp tender and have good caramelization.

Slice chicken into 1/4-inch strips and throw back into pan to warm through with accumulated juices. Warm tortillas and serve with all the fixings!

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Foil Dinners & Dutch Oven Cobbler

Difficulty: Easy

We went camping last weekend and had a blast. One of my favorite parts of camping is the food of course! Foil dinners are a must and we also busted out a mean dutch oven cobbler. So easy, so delish.

1 pound hamburger
1 onion, halved
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into coins
1 or 2 large baking potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
1 egg
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup panko (or breadcrumbs)
All purpose seasoning (Lawry’s, etc)
Cabbage Leaves
Lots of foil!

Directions: Take one onion half and cut into slices. Take your other half and half it again, slice one half and finely dice the other. (you should have 3/4 onion sliced) In a medium bowl combine hamburger, onion, garlic, egg, panko, Worcestershire sauce and season to taste. Form into patties, you can have two monster patties or a respectable 4.

Lay down two large pieces of foil, semi-overlapping. Take a few cabbage leaves and place them on the bottom of your foil. Layer some onion slices, then your potato slices and carrots. Place a dollop of butter on top of carrots and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place hamburger patty on top of veggies. Top with a few more cabbage leaves to act as a protective pouch. Fold up foil around meal. Wrap more foil around pouch so you have at least 3 layers of foil. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Place in hot coals and cook for 20 minutes, rotating at least once. Remove from fire, let cool a bit, unwrap, remove cabbage (or eat, it is good). Top with ketchup and dig in! 

Dutch Oven Cobbler (or in your home oven Cobbler)

You may use any 2 cans of fruit/pie filling that you like. I think a mixed berry would be fabulous as well as straight up peaches or cherry, apple, etc. Skies the limit!

Difficulty: So Easy!

1 yellow cake mix
1 can cherry pie filling
1 can crushed pineapple
1 1/2 sticks butter
Whipped cream

Directions: Line dutch oven with several layers of foil, spray with cooking spray. Empty pie filling and fruit into dutch oven, stir with spoon to combine. Sprinkle cake mix evenly over top of fruit. Slice butter into tablespoon increments and place evenly over cake mix. Top with lid, place some coals on top of lid and set in hot coals. Bake for 15 minutes then check progress. If cooking too fast, remove from fire but keep coals on top as really just the top needs to bake. When golden brown and bubbly remove completely from heat and dish up with whipped cream! Enjoy.

You can also do this at home in your oven. Place ingredients in 9×13 pan, skipping the foil part. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour until golden and bubbly.

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Pork Chops & Red Cabbage

Difficulty: Easy

Several years ago I took my first trip to Germany with Phil. An eating adventure! One traditional dish is rotkohl, or red cabbage. I don’t care for sauerkraut but loved the rotkohl. Tangy and yet sweet, not sour or overwhelming as I found the homemade and very authentic sauerkraut to be (American kinds are wimpy!). This meal was done almost entirely in the crock pot! Came home from church, just boiled some potatoes and we were set.

Serves 4

1 small head red cabbage, core removed and shredded (about 8 cups)
1 onion, chopped
2 apples, cored and chopped
1 TBS olive oil
3 TBS brown sugar
4 TBS red wine vinegar
4 TBS water
S & P
2 TBS cornstarch
Juice of 1 lemon
4 bone-in pork loin chops (about 2 pounds)
8 small-medium yellow potatoes, diced
1/4 cup Parsley, chopped

Directions: Place olive oil in bottom of crock pot insert, add onion, cabbage and apple. In small bowl, combine brown sugar, vinegar, water and season with salt and pepper. Pour over cabbage mixture. Season chops with salt and pepper, place on top of cabbage and put lid on. Cook on high for 3 1/2 hours. When done, remove chops to plate and toss cabbage mixture with cornstarch to thicken juices. Add lemon juice and a splash of red wine vinegar to brighten the flavors. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

Bring large pot of water to boil, add 1 TBS table salt to water. Add potatoes and cook until fork tender, drain, transfer to bowl. Season with salt and pepper, add butter and sprinkle with parsley. Plate potatoes, cabbage and pork chop.

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