Sunday, August 28, 2011

Ranch Burgers

Simple and delicious. One pound of ground beef + one packet of Hidden Valley Ranch seasonings = quick and wonderful dinner approved by both members of the family. Assemble the burgers the night before and it's even quicker!
Have you heard of Little People, Big World? This is a case of Little Burger, Big Bun.

Ranch Burgers
1 lb ground beef
1 packet ranch seasonings
condiments of choice (I used ketchup, mustard, and a whole bunch of sauteed onions)

Mix meat and seasonings well. Cook how you like them. I didn't feel like getting the grill out and sweating, so I broiled them on a rack in the oven.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Banana Peanut Chocolate Chip Muffins (Whole Wheat, too!)

Okay, these clearly aren't muffins, but they are the fruit of my first vegetable "garden"! It was really a planter on my driveway that I grew a few peppers in, but I was pretty excited that something came out of it. Apparently I did get a little bit of the gardening gene from you, Grandma and Papa! Wish I was as good at it as you guys are!!

Back to the muffins..
Quite a title....these hearty muffins are a good start to the day. They taste like a whole grain breakfast, not a cupcake, which is what I prefer in the mornings and for a snack anyway. Portable and perfect for a quick weekday breakfast!

Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

makes 12 muffins

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup wheat bran
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup skim milk
1 1/3 cup mashed ripe banana
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips
1/3 cup chopped pecans (I used peanuts)

In a large bowl, combine the first seven ingredients. In another bowl, combine the eggs, milk, bananas, applesauce and vanilla. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in chocolate chips.

Coat muffin cups with cooking spray; fill three-fourths full with batter. Sprinkle with peanuts.

Bake at 375° for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. Serve warm. Yield: 1 dozen.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mushroom Lasagna

WOW, this was excellent. This would be a great company meal--you can make it ahead of time and just bake it when you're ready. It also makes a great freezer meal--bake it, then wrap it well, thaw it out and heat it up. That's if it makes it to the's so good! It's like a creamy alfredo pasta with mushrooms but layered and pretty. Norris, who as a kid declared "I don't want no basagna!" loved it. So good!!
This was one of those meals that I made on a Sunday cooking spree and tasted as I went (hey, practice what I preach at school, right??), which made me excited all day Monday about having it for dinner. The sauce, the noodles, the mushrooms, so good. I would even add some sauteed spinach next time for another flavor dimension. I just sprinkled crushed red pepper on top and it was perfect.

Mushroom Lasagna
from Ina Garten

salt and pepper
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3/4 pound dried lasagna noodles
4 cups whole milk (I used 2%)
2 cloves garlic, minced (I added this based on reviews)
12 tablespoons (11/2 sticks) unsalted butter, divided (I used 1 stick...couldn't quite go for 1 1/2 sticks of butter in one dish)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg (I used about 1/3 tsp)
1 1/2 pounds portobello mushrooms (I used a little over a pound of button mushrooms), stemmed and sliced about 1/4 inch thick
2 chicken breasts, cooked and sliced (added this in)
1 cup freshly ground Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil with 1 tablespoon salt and a splash of oil. Add the lasagna noodles and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan. Cook the mushrooms with a little salt and pepper until they release juices and are tender, about five minutes.
For the white sauce, bring the milk and garlic to a simmer in a saucepan (I heated milk and garlic in the microwave). Set aside. Melt  butter in a large saucepan. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or whisk. Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture all at once. After working in the milk, add 1 tablespoon salt, the pepper, and nutmeg, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring, for 3 to 5 minutes, until thick. Set aside off the heat.
To assemble the lasagna, spread some of the sauce in the bottom of an 8x12x2 or 9x13 baking dish. Arrange a layer of noodles on top, then more sauce, then 1/3 of the mushrooms, and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan. Repeat 2 more times, layering noodles, sauce, mushrooms, and Parmesan. Top with a final layer of noodles and sauce, and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.
Bake the lasagna for 45 minutes, or until the top is browned the sauce is bubbly and hot. Allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes and serve hot.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

Before you continue reading (if anyone is out there reading!), make a list of your favorite 15 people.

Got it?

Now let these people know that you'll be making peanut butter and jelly bars for them. That way you won't have to worry about eating WAY too many of these because they are THAT good! (assuming you love PBJ anyway) And hey, if you've already told all fifteen that you're bringing them one, then you can only eat one:)

When Kelsey posted these and said she made them for the first day of school, I thought that was the cutest idea. I still love peanut butter and jelly anyway and will eat it in a lot of forms---try a grilled/pressed one if you haven't yet. So good! I plan to bring these to the nice office ladies and custodial staff. I like them and they're nice to butter up every once in a while:)
I only got cell phone pictures and the other one got lost in cyberspace somewhere. I put them on a tray and they were gobbled up within the hour!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars
from Bon Appetit, March 2011
as seen on Apple a Day

nonstick spray
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 c smooth peanut butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup jelly or jam of your choice
2/3 cup salted dry-roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 8x8 baking pan with heavy duty foil, leaving a two inch overhang around the edges (this will help you lift them out later, so be sure to do this!). Coat foil with nonstick spray.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
Cream peanut butter, sugar, and butter until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth.
Add flour mixture and beat just until blended. Pour half the dough into the prepared baking dish and press down with your fingers or a cooking spray coated spatula. Put the other half of the dough in the freezer for ten minutes.
Spread jelly over the peanut butter layer in an even layer (I had to stir up my jelly first to break up the clumps).
Remove dough from freezer and break into grape sized pieces and scatter over the jelly layer. Sprinkle chopped nuts over the top.
Bake bars until top is golden brown, about 30 minutes (took mine about 36). Cool completely in pan on rack. Use foil overhang to lift bars out of the pan. Cut into squares and store in an airtight container for up to three days.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Smashed Red Potatoes

All summer long, we grill and roast chopped red potatoes to get a nice crispy skin and they taste so great. I was about to do the same for this meal when I realized I had just made the Smoky Grilled Red Potato Salad (one of my favorite dishes to bring to get togethers still!) and should probably change it up. I served this with the mushroom chicken, which was the worst picture I've seen in a while and should not be shared again. These were great to soak up the mushroom sauce on the plate!

Smashed Red Potatoes

10 medium sized red potatoes, diced (be sure to get uniform sizes so they cook evenly)
everything else is approximate; do it to taste, like every recipe!!
1/3 cup sour cream
3 tbsp skim milk
1/4 cup margarine or butter
2 tsp dried rosemary

Boil red potatoes. Drain and smash. Keep some chunks in there for texture. Stir in all of the other ingredients, taste, and adjust. Serve with something saucy to soak up the sauce!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Mushroom Chicken

If you love mushrooms, you've come to the right place. I've said it before, but I wasn't much (haha I just typed mush!) of a mushroom eater before Norris, but since he likes them so much, I started adding them to a lot of things and found myself clipping and marking more mushroom recipes than ever before. Just take a look at some of the mushroom dishes that have graced our table: (all of the links are clickable to take you to that recipe)
Balsamic Dijon Chicken with Mushrooms
Pasta with Creamy Wild Mushroom Sauce
Baked Lemon Chicken with Mushroom Sauce
Pan Roasted Mushroom and Wild Rice Soup
Low Fat Creamy Mushroom Pasta
Mushroom Swiss Sliders with Spicy Fry Sauce
Easy Crockpot Mushroom Chicken
Chicken Mushroom Quesadillas
Chipped Beef on Toast
White Whisper Pasta
Mushroom Risotto (one of Norris' all-time favorites)

Wow....that's not even all of them--that's just the recipes that have quite a few shrooms in them. I didn't even realize I had made this many dishes with mushrooms. I did laugh when I realized how many times I have said that Norris loves mushrooms and that I didn't use to like them. Oops! It's like at school when you teach the same class more than once in a day--"have I already said that?" "well, I better say it just in case I haven't already said that!". Sorry kids!!:)

Anyway, back to the mushroom dish at hand, which was EXCELLENT!! We both loved this. My dear friend Steven (I won't use his other nicknames here:) gave this to me quite a while ago and I dug it out of the book today. Norris' first day of teaching is tomorrow and I thought I'd send him off with a meal he would love! Love it, he did! I know he's going to be an outstanding teacher and make a big difference in the lives of some lucky middle school kids!

oh wow, this picture is worse than I thought. My camera died at the exact moment I took a picture. This food is SO good, I promise!

Mushroom Chicken
adapted from Steven's recipe

4 boneless chicken breasts
1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
3 cups sliced mushrooms
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/3 cup sliced green onions

Season flour with salt and pepper and put on plate.
Heat pan to medium high heat with olive oil. Preheat oven to 375 F and grease small baking dish.
Pound chicken to 1/2 inch thick. Dredge in seasoned flour.
Brown chicken in hot oil, then transfer to prepared baking dish.
In same pan, melt butter, then saute mushrooms with salt and pepper until tender. Deglaze pan with chicken broth. Reduce liquid by 1/2 to 3/4.
Spoon mushroom sauce over chicken and bake for 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle cheese on top and bake another five or pop under the broiler to melt the cheese. Garnish with green onions.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Low Fat Chewy Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

First, I have to say that I love bananas but hate banana flavored things. As long as it's real banana and not imitation banana flavoring, I'm in. In the case of these cookies, I'm ALL in. These are awesome.
Norris didn't even know there was banana in them before I told him, and then he could taste it. So, if someone in your family is not a banana lover, don't worry--it's not too strong.
I still have about ten black bananas in my freezer plus a few more on my countertop that will probably meet their fate in the freezer also, so I have my eye on a few more banana recipes to try. I'll let you know what I discover!

Low Fat Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp butter, room temperature
1/4 cup Splenda (could use sugar instead)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, unpacked
1 large egg
1/4 cup mashed banana (about two medium bananas; use your overripe bananas)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups quick oats
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
Cream together butter and sugars. Mix in egg, banana, and vanilla.
Stir in flour and oats just until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
Scoop by heaping tablespoons onto a lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until just lightly brown on the sides. Store in an airtight container after cooling completely.

adapted from Skinny Taste

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Spicy Garlic Sauce

This sauce is so good and so easy! The whole dinner I put together with it took right around 20 minutes from start to finish, which is obviously awesome.
The first time I made this sauce, we dipped blanced green beans in it and I loved it as a dipping sauce for green beans. The next time, we dipped shrimp in it and I think it is a nice spin on cocktail sauce that you could provide as an option or as an appetizer for an Asian inspried meal. This time, I served it over shrimp, broccoli, and whole wheat couscous and it was great as a meal! It is a little spicy, so tone it down if you don't care too much for spice. You can always add spice later but it's pretty difficult to tone down the spice after the fact!

Spicy Garlic Sauce
3 tbsp soy sauce (low sodium preferred)
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tsp sugar
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh grated ginger (I forgot this one time and it was still great)
1 tbsp oil (sesame, vegetable, olive)
2 tsp chili sauce (Rooster sauce!)
2 tsp cornstarch, dissolved in 4 tsp cold water (I dissolved it in about 3 Tbsp instead)

Combine everything but the cornstarch slurry in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer for two minutes. Stir in the slurry, then return to simmer until it's thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

from Stephanie Cooks and Can You Stay for Dinner

Saturday, August 6, 2011

White Barbecue Sauce

Norris makes some awesome pulled pork on the smoker. We have it at the lake frequently because it's a great meal that can be made ahead of time or during the day while we're out on the boat with no maintenance. He comes up with some great dry rubs and does a great job with the smoker! He smoked a boston butt again for us this weekend for our guests and I wanted to try a different sauce to go alongside the regular barbecue sauce. I really liked the sauce--tangy and a little spicy from the horseradish. It was also great mixed with regular barbecue sauce to kick the normal stuff up a notch!
This recipe does make quite a bit, so I would recommend starting with a half batch unless you're having a huge party!

White Barbecue Sauce

1 1/4 cups light mayonnaise
1/4 cup horseradish (I upped this to about 1/3 cup)
3 tbsp cider vinegar
juice of 2 lemons (I only used the juice of one and would use less next time)
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.

from Macaroni and Cheesecake, originally from Southern Living

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Flat and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookes

I have not strayed from my standby Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies in a long time, but for some reason Norris was requesting flat and chewy chocolate chip cookies. My cookies used to often turn out flat and I was always disappointed, but apparently I should have kept those recipes around because that's what my husband was craving!
The problem I had with the original recipe was that it wasn't that flat and it was really funny looking. After baking half of the dough, I seriously considered ditching the rest. Instead I mixed in about 1/4 cup extra sugar and they turned out just fine. I still prefer my other recipe, but Norris declares these are awesome. One site I saw the recipe on shows them as an ice cream sandwich and I do have to say that these would be the perfect cookies for that! The cookies are a little salty and I would love the contrast of the slightly salty cookie with the sweet ice cream. Yum!
Now if we could only figure out where the rest of the cookies went...we had a bag of them last Thursday night on the counter and now they're gone and neither of us know what happened to them!! Hopefully whoever had them enjoyed the rest of them:)

Flat and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 c all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
8 oz butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar (would change this to 2/3 to 3/4 cup)
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 c chocolate chips
2 cups chopped toasted walnuts (optional)

Cream together butter and sugars. Add in eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add in vanilla.
In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, soda, and salt. Add this mixture all at once to the butter mixture and mix just until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
Chill dough for at least thirty minutes. In the meantime, wash your dishes:)
Preheat oven to 325 F. Scoop dough by 2 tbsp balls onto lined baking sheet. Smash with a glass (put parchment or waxed paper between the glass and cookie so it doesn't stick). Bake for approximately 15 minutes.

as seen on Laura Rebecca's Kitchen from NY Times' Amanda Hesser

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mushroom Risotto

While I admit that a 112 degree day was not the ideal day to make risotto, it was worth every minute of standing by the stove. I don't typically go for hot filling meals in the summertime, but this creamy and hearty risotto was so good that I snuck a couple of extra bites while packaging up the leftovers (looking at a couple of uses for those right now!).
I made this from just knowing the basic risotto method, which is something I learned in culinary classes and books. You could substitue any kind of broth (mushroom broth, anyone??), add/subtract butter, change up/add/subtract the cheese, play with the spices, swap in different vegetables, add can do a lot of things with the basic recipe! I don't like wine in risotto, but many classical recipes call for it. If you are going to use wine, use about 1/2 cup of dry white and add it at the very beginning before any broth.

Mushroom Risotto

~5 cups hot chicken broth
~1 1/2 cups arborio rice (the bag at my store has a tiny bit over this, so I go with that)
1 small onion, finely minced
1 tsp garlic powder (optional)
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
~2 tbsp butter
~1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
parsley for garnish
parmesan cheese for garnish

Saute mushrooms and set aside.
Heat 1 tbsp butter and olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in garlic powder. Saute onion for about two minutes.
Add rice and stir to coat.
This is the point where you start adding the broth--1 ladle or so at a time. As soon as the rice looks almost dry, add another ladle. Someone told me a great tip of setting your timer for 18 minutes when you start your rice because it does always take about that long to cook completely. The rice should be al dente (not mushy but not crunchy) and really creamy. It shouldn't be glue-y but it shouldn't be runny either.
When you have about two ladles of liquid left, stir in your mushrooms. Finish cooking the rice, then stir in the remaining butter and cheese. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Gorgonzola Bruschetta with Honey

We had some fun guests in town this weekend--my parents and our cousins Kim and Paul! We decided to meet here since it's right in between their houses and had a great weekend. I was looking for a few new recipes to make and found this twist on bruschetta. I knew we'd be out and about all day Saturday and would be ready for something to eat right when we got back, and these delivered--they were quick and easy to put together (thanks, sis!) and they tasted great. I knew not everyone likes gorgonzola, so we put mozzarella and a pepperoni on half so those people could enjoy a different flavor. I loved the balance of the gorgonzola and the honey--these are a must try if you like gorgonzola!

Gorgonzola Bruschetta with Honey

1 baguette, cut in small slices
crumbled gorgonzola

Preheat broiler on low. Crisp bread in oven for a few minutes. Top with gorgonzola and put back under the broiler for about three more minutes. Drizzle with honey and serve.