Friday, May 29, 2015

Rustic Nectarine and Blackberry Tart

Remember all those nectarines I got in my produce basket this week? Well, it seemed only natural that I should make some kind of baked dessert with them. (And quickly, as my children are happily consuming about five a day.)

This is what I came up with: a nectarine/blackberry tart. And it was sooo good. I thought, anyway.

1 9-inch pie crust (I made a whole-wheat one just for fun. I mass produce pie crusts and keep them in my freezer so I always have one ready when it's time to make another pie/tart)
2 1/2 C sliced nectarines (this was about 5 small ones)
1/2 C blackberries (I used frozen, thawed)
1 vanilla bean
1/4 C flour
1/4 C brown sugar
2 T + 1 T sugar
1 T butter
1 large egg yolk, for brushing
1 T water, for brushing

Slice your nectarines into quarter-inch sizes.

Add the nectarines and blackberries to a large bowl. Scrape out the vanilla pod with a sharp knife and add the vanilla seeds to the bowl. Mix them well.

Add the flour, brown sugar, and 2 T of sugar. Mix well. Let sit for fifteen minutes.
Meanwhile, set your pie crust on the counter to soften ten minutes before rolling out.

Roll your pie crust out to a 12-inch circle. Carefully move it to your baking pan. It's all right if the edges hang over; you're going to fold them inward in a moment. Pile your fruit mixture in the middle of the pie crust. Dot with butter. Bring the ends of the crust toward the middle. They won't close over the fruit, but that's okay. There should be about a 3 or 4-inch opening.

Whisk together the egg yolk and water. Brush it over the top of the crust. Sprinkle the last tablespoon of sugar over the crust as well. 

Bake at 425 degrees F for 30-40 minutes or until browned (for me, this only took 30 minutes).

Let the tart cool 15 minutes before slicing and serving.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Grilled Salmon with Bacon Salsa and Potatoes

About once a week I try to make a really grand meal, the kind that we'd get at a restaurant, and therefore we can skip going to a restaurant that week. (Only works half the time. Often we end up with a grand meal and a restaurant night anyway.)

So this week I made grilled salmon and potatoes. The grill used to be very daunting for me, and I still feel it takes some work to make it do what I want. So once I have it fired up, I'm going all the way, man. Main dish, side dish, even dessert.

Oh, about dessert. You won't see it pictured here, even though we loved it, because Hubby gave me an idea to make it even better, and I can't wait to try it again. I'm going to make some changes and try it again, and if it turns out amazing, I'll post it here.

On to the main event. We'll start with the potatoes:

Grilled Potatoes


3 large unpeeled baking potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 t salt

Combine oil, rosemary, garlic, and salt in a bowl.

Add potato slices and turn until well coated. Grill over medium heat or 300 degrees F for about 8 minutes. Turn and grill 10 more minutes. Remove from grill.

Meanwhile, prepare the salmon.

4 - 6 salmon fillets
fresh thyme
2 slices thick bacon
1/2 C diced onions
1 T minced garlic
10 oz. can rotel (mild)

Season the salmon with salt and pepper and the thyme. Spray with canola oil. Sear on the grill on both sides. Place the salmon fillets in an aluminum tray. Place in an unheated section of the grill. Close the lid and cook for 15-20 more minutes or until done. (turn halfway through.) The meat should be opaque when cooked.

While the salmon cooks, prepare the bacon salsa. Cut the bacon into 1/4 inch slices and cook in a pan. When the fat has rendered, add the onions. Cook until the onions sweat, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and the tomatoes. Heat gently, simmering until most of the moisture evaporates.

Serve the salsa over the fish with the potatoes on the side. 


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Double-cheese and Onion Quesadilla

I think all families have a go-to meal, and quesadillas are one of ours. But every once in awhile I get tired of just cheese quesadillas and want something a little more special. I think the combination of cheese and onion is absolutely sublime.

1 C cheddar cheese
2 C white cheddar cheese
1 onion (you may not use all of it, depending on your preference)
sage leaves (fresh or dried)
8-12 8-inch tortillas (my family likes flour and I like corn so we do both)

Thinly slice the onion.

Grate your cheeses and put them together in a bowl.

Heat your skillet or whatever you prefer to use for quesadillas. Melt some butter (bacon grease also works well) over the surface. Place a tortilla on top and layer the onions over it.

Sprinkle on about 1 tsp sage leaves (1/2 tsp if dried) and cheese to cover to the edges. How much you actually put on really depends on your personal tastes, but we like cheese. 

Top with another tortilla. The onion will cook underneath these cheeses and soften, yielding a lovely, slightly sweet flavor. When the tortilla on the bottom starts to bubble up, flip it.

Do the same to the other side, waiting for it to bubble. Remove to another plate. Add more butter to the skillet and repeat with the remaining ingredients.

And just for good measure, here's the corn tortilla one I made for myself.

Serve with a little sour cream and salsa if desired.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Lamb Salad with Reduced Balsamic Sauce

What do you do when you have a a pound of leftover lamb meat in your freezer? Make a salad, of course. (Or a curry, or a tagine, or--you get the point.) But I love salad. I didn't become a lover of salads until a few years ago, and then it was like, where have you been all my life?

So if you like lamb and salad, check this out.

1 lb. lamb meat
1 C balsamic vinegar
1/3 C nuts
4 C mixed salad greens

Start to reduce the vinegar by putting it into a small pot and bringing it to a boil. Boil for about ten minutes until you have 1/3 Cup. Trim and chop the lamb into bite-size pieces. Get off as much fat as you can so there are no unpleasant surprises during meal time.

Put the lamb on a baking sheet and broil 3-4 inches from the heat for ten minutes, turning halfway through.

Put the lettuce in a salad bowl and top with the lamb and nuts. Serve with the reduced balsamic. (I would serve it on the side in case it ends up being too much dressing for your taste. It's awfully hard to remove salad dressing once it's on.)

Simple and incredibly healthy for you!


Monday, May 25, 2015

What's on Tap May 25

I'm super excited for what's on the menu this week. Tomorrow's Memorial Day, which means I have an excuse to prepare more food than I usually do. Hopefully some of this awesome rain will back off long enough for us to have a picnic, maybe even sneak over to the pool.

The other exciting thing is my produce arrived! Look at my beautiful bounty. My job this week is to incorporate all this wonderful food into cooking before it decides to go bad!

I'll also be drawing from a lot of cookbooks, since I'm making so much food. The first one is Ovenly, a beautiful and inspiring cookbook that makes me want to open a bakery. For reals. (Hereafter referred to as O.)

Who can go wrong with a Southern Living cookbook? This is what it's all about, folks! Hereafter referred to as SLHC.

I've had this slow-cooker cookbook for years and it's almost always a winner. (PSCR.)

I don't have most of the equipment that the Pampered Chef cookbook calls for, but I've never had any problems modifying (or substituting when they expect me to have a certain pantry item). I don't reference this cookbook too often, but when I do, I'm usually pleased with the results (hereafter S/S11).

I bought this sandwich cookbook for those long summer months when the kids are home and it's too hot to cook but everyone wants to eat. While some of the sandwiches are a duh, others are fun and inventive. (4BSR.)

And finally, the French cookbook. I love ethnic foods, and am building a collection of ethnic cookbooks from around the world. Some of these are complicated! But others are not too difficult at all. (AMFT.)

Monday (Memorial Day picnic): Bacon-bread roll (SLHC), potato crisps (S/S11), carrot salad (AMFT), cucumber tzatziki (AMFT), apple salad (SLHC), and nectarine and blackberry tart (O)

Tuesday: leftovers (who doesn't need a break after all that??)

Wednesday: carrot soup (AMFT) with bread

Thursday: Apple-chicken (AMFT) with Lemon-steamed spinach (AMFT)

Friday: Asian Cobb Salad (S/S11), Butternut squash soup (PSCR)

Saturday: Breakfast: Huevos Rancheros Wrap (4BSR), lunch: Cream Cheese Sandwiches with olives and cold cuts (4BSR), dinner: Turkey Casserole (PSCR) and apple rice pudding (AMFT)

Sunday: Pork roast (PSCR) with summer squash

What's on your menu for this week?


Friday, May 22, 2015

My Credibility as a Chef

So, you might wonder, what qualifies me to consider myself a cook? A foodie? An expert? What's my professional training?

I have none.

Probably doesn't surprise you, right? I bet most of us don't have any professional training. Don't ask me the best way to cut an onion, because my way might not be the correct way. I'm self-taught. (Unless you count the awesome semester of home-ec I had in seventh grade. I hear they don't even offer that class anymore. That's where I learned the awesome caramel apple ice-cream topping I still use to this day. Too bad the sewing part didn't stick with me better.)

Sure, I dabbled around in the kitchen as a kid, but I headed off to college with no real knowledge of cooking. My mom gave me my first cookbook as a graduation present:

I looked through it, said thanks, and really didn't plan on using it. At all.

And I didn't. Not my freshman year, anyway. Who had time for cooking? I mastered the art of ramen and opening a can of soup. 

Until suddenly one day, I couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't eat another meal of Suddenly Pasta or smell the simmer of ramen noodles again. I emptied my cupboards of all those ready-made meals and cracked open that cookbook. And started cooking.

My first meals involved burnt pork chops and dried out chicken. My roommates were my guinea pigs and it was often a big fat FAIL. But I discovered something: I loved this. I didn't want to make the same dish over and over again. I loved the adventure of creating something new, the surprise of an untried recipe and the expectation of a novelty meal.

I've been addicted ever since then.

So I'm nothing special. I have no special training. I might watch a YouTube video here and again on how to cook spaghetti squash or how to peel a mango, but mostly I just try. Sometimes I get it wrong, but these days, I usually get it right. 

What's my point? I like to compare myself to the rat on Ratatouille. Anyone can cook. I can do it. So can you. Cooking does not have to be a drudgery, but it can be something fun to look forward to. (Cleaning's the drudgery. Don't agree with me? I'll cook for you and you can clean for me. Done deal.) It's my big stress reliever at the end of every day.

What does cooking do for you? Do you enjoy it? How did you get started?


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Three-Cheese Chicken Alfredo

I already had chicken Alfredo on our menu, since we had leftover pasta to use up. I make an Alfredo sauce fairly often, since Parmesan cheese, butter, and heavy cream our staples in my house.

But I saw someone post a slightly different version of creamy noodles, and it gave me the idea to try this. It was amazing! And really easy to do.

2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 C heavy cream
8 oz. cream cheese, softened and cut into squares
1/2 C meltable cheese, shredded (I used Monterrey Jack, but Swiss would also be lovely)
1 tbsp corn starch
1/2 C parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp pepper

Heat a tablespoon of oil or butter in a large saute pan. Add the chicken and cook until golden, about ten minutes. Remove from the pan.

Pour the cream into the pan, then add the cream cheese and shredded cheese. When the cheeses start to melt, add the cornstarch (the cornstarch is not acting a thickener here but as a separator. Just as it's used in fondue to keep the cheese from clumping, we're using it here to accomplish the same thing).

Add the parmesan cheese. Return the chicken to the sauce, add the pepper, and heat through.

Serve the sauce over your desired noodles, though it would look amazing with rainbow rotini. The kids had it with broccoli over angel hair, while I poured it over spaghetti squash! It was still fantastic!


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Caramelized Mango Tapioca Pudding

I may have mentioned that I love dessert. I also love pudding. And fruit. Oh, and sugar. 

So this dessert was literally right up my alley. And not only was it delicious, but it was easy to do. I also love the individual serving sizes.


3 3/4 C whole milk
3/4 C sugar
1/3 C quick-cooking tapioca
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp lime zest
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large mango, peeled and diced
1/3 C packed brown sugar

Put all ingredients except the mango and the brown sugar into a large stockpot. Whisk together and let them sit in the pot for five minutes until all are fully incorporated.

Bring to a gentle boil over medium-low heat. Stir constantly for ten minutes or until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and pour into another bowl. Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface. 

Let the pudding mixture cool while you assemble the dessert plates. Grease 8 ramekins or one large souffle dish. Divide the cut mango between the ramekins (or lay it in a single layer in the big one). 

Pour the pudding evenly over the top of the mango.

Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of brown sugar over each ramekin (or all of the brown sugar over the large dish). Let sit for ten minutes while the sugar dissolves. Put all the ramekins on a rimmed baking pan and broil for four minutes, let the sugar bubble up but not burn.

Best enjoyed warm! We did toss the uneaten ones into the fridge and eat them cold the next day. Still yummy, but definitely best fresh out of the oven!


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Fajita Salad

This was a great salad to serve for dinner. Mostly because I'm the only one in my family who really likes salad (well, my nine-year-old is coming around, but it's still mostly me). So my children ate this meal with tortillas while I ate mine as is.

I didn't modify this recipe and can't claim it as my own, though you can find the cookbook here

Peppers and onions! Required for any fajitas.

Sauteing with chicken.

Lots of veggies and cheese!

And the final product with a dollop of sour cream. So good, it's hard to believe it's healthy!


Egg Omelet Muffin

This turned out to be one of those perfect Saturday morning breakfasts. It was really quite easy and so yummy. These will be a frequent meal for us.

12 slices bacon
12 eggs
salt and pepper
green onions
bell peppers

Grease your muffin tins. Fry up your bacon and layer a slice in each muffin tin.

Beat the dozen eggs and distribute uniformly in each muffin tin (I skipped this step and regretted it. Each omelet would definitely taste better not being a chunk of yolk or egg white). Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
Put the veggies on top, as many or as few as you'd like.

Sprinkle with your desired cheese. I used cheddar and cotija.

Bake at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes. These beauties pop out of the tin easily and even the kids loved them.

(This recipe was inspired by a recipe in Going Against the Grain.)


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In my pursuit to getting a cookbook published, I'm trying to develop my credibility as a food writer, and not just an author.