Recipes


oh hey there!  just popping by with my seemingly bi-yearly blog post… as broken record as I (always) sound, please forgive my blog-ish inattentiveness and accept this delicious lasagna as a token of my apology.

Life has been on fast-forward lately, full of lots of excitement and hectic-ness, just the way I prefer it… Over these past few months of dental school, my life has seemingly been on autopilot, leaving little time for cooking/baking/shenanigans, so over Christmas break it was nice to slow down for a minute and concoct some stuff to share in this little forgotten corner of cyberspace! As of last week, I am back in full school mode again, but am crossing my fingers to be more diligent in my writing… please forgive me in advance for the impending 10-minute dinners in lieu of anything remotely resembling gourmet.

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Among the many changes I experienced over my first semester of dental school, one random development is my newfound propensity to cook the night before tests: so far this semester I’ve paired homemade lemon bars with histology, salted caramel cheesecake with biochem, and carrot soufflé with renal physiology.

This particular gem was prodded into fruition by a skull osteology test, prompting Laura and I to declare it “Pterion Tuesday”, finding it oh so ironic I had made this vege-”tarian” dish while studying the p-”terion” suture.  While the humor in this was obviously conjured by our late night academic stupor, the delicious factor remained staunch the following day (and maybeee even the day after that, too… #leftovers)

This dish is fast, ridiculously easy, and a perfect supper even when you aren’t surging with procrastination – I hope you like this la-zag-nuh (I know that’s how you say it in your head, too…) as much as we did. Happy dinner-ing!

Vegetarian Mexican Lasagna

- 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 (10-ounce) bag frozen corn kernels
- 5 green onions, chopped
- 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 box no-boil lasagna noodles
- 16-ounces shredded Mexican cheese
- Hot sauce

Preheat oven to 400. Grease a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray and set aside. In a large bowl, combine black beans, corn, green onions, cilantro, oregano, garlic powder, salt, and cumin. In the bottom of your baking dish, spread 2/3 cup of the crushed tomatoes (about 1/5 of the can) and top with 5-6 lasagna noodles, breaking them to fit the pan if needed. Next layer about 1/3 of the bean mixture, another 2/3 cup of tomatoes, and a heavy drizzling of hot sauce. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of cheese.

Repeat the layering process two more times (noodles + beans + tomatoes + cheese) and finish with a layer of noodles + tomatoes + cheese. Cover the pan tightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes, or until the noodles are fully cooked. Remove the foil and bake an addition 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Remove from the oven and let stand for a minimum of 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with sour cream and more cilantro!

{serves 8 to 10}

Source: Annie’s Eats

Summer. Vegetable. Tart.

Or, in more accurate words: summer-blahblahblah.  The whole “vegetable tart” component of this equation is an irrelevant, albeit insanely delicious, player.

I live for summer: the slower pace, the longer days, the bounds of fresh vegetables I pretend to enjoy.  After spending a much-needed afternoon in the kitchen with my sister and serving this on our patio at an impromptu get-together, I found this tart to be the perfect introduction to all three this season.

Despite the simplicity of the ingredients, everything comes together to make a really unique flavor.  The faint sweetness of the crescent dough combined with the savory spread and crisp veggies is unexpectedly divine.

Oh, and why have I yet to incorporate this product into my kitchen?!

Everything that is good about crescent rolls but in a seriously convenient no-seams dough…

Roll the dough on a large baking sheet lined with parchment or a silpat.  The dough sheets didn’t fit exactly perfectly, so it took a bit of cutting/finagling to make a neat rectangle… don’t worry if it looks “messy” at this point: once you spread on the delicious topping, all unevenness will be hidden.  I rolled the edges to create a crust, then baked for about 9 minutes until it was golden brown.

While the crust is baking, wash and prep your veg.  This picture almost makes me want to start eating tomatoes like grapes… almost.  I used my mandoline {I have this one} to slice the veggies at 1/8″ in (attempted) uniformity.

Once the crust has cooled, spread evenly with the herby mixture.  We didn’t use all of the spread, but found it to be delish as a dip for leftover vegetables or even spread on a turkey wrap for lunch the next day.

Now the fun part…

…decorating this little masterpiece.

Perfectly diagonal.

Perfectly symmetrical.

Perfectly perfect.

Clearly you can see that I had no part whatsoever in this illustrious arrangement.

Now thank your sister for her obviously non-genetic disposition to precision and put the tart in the fridge to chill until your guests arrive {6 hour-ish if you can, even overnight is fine}

If you’re in a hurry, you can also just chop the vegetables and sprinkle confetti style over the crust… haphazard veg sprinkleage = still ridiculously delicious tart.

Here’s to the start of a deliciously wonderful summer… enjoy!

Summer Vegetable Tart

- 2 packages crescent rolls
- 1 8-ounce brick cream cheese
- 1 package dry ranch dressing mix (3 Tablespoons)
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- assorted chopped vegetables (cucumber, grape tomatoes, yellow and
green bell pepper, shredded carrots, and broccoli)
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

Place crescent rolls on a large baking sheet lined with parchment or a silpat, pressing together any seams. Bake at 375° for 9 minutes or until light golden brown. Set aside to cool completely.

Mix softened cream cheese, mayonnaise, and ranch dressing mix using an electric mixer and spread on cooled crust. Sprinkle with chopped vegetables or arrange in a decorative pattern. Top with shredded cheese, if using. Chill for at least 6 hours or overnight before serving.

{makes 16 appetizer-sized servings}

Spring {break} has sprung.

Time for beach-ing and sea spray and hardback books. Time for sorbet denim and straw hats.  Time to laugh and catch up.  Time to relax.

Oh, and time to make a chocolate cake.

This decadence, though, is not just any chocolate cake.

It is simultaneously super-fudgy and airily light.  Its covered in thick fudge icing, scattered with toasty pecans.  It is made in one bowl, with one spoon, in just thirty little minutes.

It is the epitome of a comfort-food dessert.

#makethisNOW

Start by stirring together some flour and sugar.

In a separate saucepan, melt together some butter, cocoa powder, and water.  Heat until the mixture boils.

Remove from heat.  Note that extreme spring break sunburn combined with the steam facial exuded by a boiling cocoa-ish mixture is unabashedly unpleasant.  Baker beware.

Mix in, um, everything else.  See… easiest cake ever!

Pour everything into a greased 9×13″ pan.  Bake at 350 for 30-ish minutes.  Wait patiently.

With about 5 minutes of baking time left for the cake, start making the proverbial – and literal- icing on the cake.

Combine some butter, cocoa, and milk in a medium saucepan (just rinse out the one you used earlier!) and bring to a boil… Remove from the heat and stir in a box of powdered sugar until the mixture is combined and smooth.  Stir in a little vanilla and some chopped pecans, then pour the whole thing over the hot cake — pronto!

(Since this is kind of a cooked icing of sorts, it will harden quickly, hence the need to pour it on the cake muy rápidamente… instead of using a spatula to spread, swirl the pan around a bit to make sure all the corners are covered!)

The next crucial step is to place the cooling cake strategically in your kitchen… positioned perhaps on the stove or the obscure back of your counter.  This slyness exudes the effortless charm this cake is all about….

i.e. company visits –> your house smells like Willy Wonka has taken over –> “What is that? It smells sooo good!” –> “Oh, you mean this crazy delicious chocolate thing sitting back here unassumingly?  Just something I whipped up!”

#marthamoment

Seriously, though, whoever you serve this to will feel totally special.  And loved.  And full.

Chocolate fudge cake…. I think I love you.

30-Minute Chocolate Fudge Cake

for the cake
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 sticks butter
- 1 cup water
- 5 Tablespoons cocoa powder
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix flour and sugar in a large bowl. In a medium saucepan, combine butter, water, and cocoa over medium heat. Bring mixture to a boil and pour over the flour/sugar mixture. Mix well. Add eggs, buttermilk, baking soda, and vanilla. Pour into a well-greased 9×13 pan, and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

for the fudge icing
- 1 stick butter
- 4 Tablespoons milk
- 4 Tablespoons cocoa powder
- 1 (16-ounce) box powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup chopped pecans

In a medium saucepan, combine butter, milk, and cocoa and bring mixture to a boil. Remove from heat and add powdered sugar, stirring well with a whisk or wooden spoon until the sugar melts and the mixture is smooth. Stir in vanilla and pecans, then pour over hot cake.

{serves 12 to 16}

Happy New Year….. a month late.

I started off 2012 with a technology hiatus and although the break was borderline euphoric in an overwhelmingly hectic world, I must admit it feels good to be virtually relevant again.

So without a computer and cell phone, what exactly have I been, uh, doing?!  Hmm, let’s see…. how about, um, not cooking?

Oh, wait, there was that random Monday where I poured a can of diet coke over some pork and called it a “recipe”.  Does that count…?

No and no.

#embarassing

Ok, enough of this nonsense. Let’s right this wrong and make some ‘psghetti!

College Chicken Spaghetti [noun] [spuh-get-ee]:
1. Crowd-pleasing.  Voluminous.  Simple.  Delish.
2. Speedy version of a favorite classic, created by sister and me in, uh, college.
3. Freezes like a dream.

freezes like a dream??

What?? How old am I? 90?… instead of a month I think my little hiatus threw me back 60 years.

But seriously.  This stuff freezes.  Like a dream.

Nothing fancy schmancy required: just a 5-minute grocery list scrawled on the back of a page torn from your organic chemistry lab book… because cooking dinner for your cute lab partner is much more important than dehydrating methylcyclohexanols…

Start by melting a stick of butter over medium heat.

Add your chopped deliciousness, stirring well to make sure all your veggies are sufficiently doused in butter.

Increase the heat to medium-high and saute until the peppers are tender and onion is translucent, about 20-ish minutes.

Cube some Velveeta.  Open a can of Rotel tomatoes.

Please do not be alarmed by these extremely advanced cooking techniques.

Prepare your nooooodles by boiling the pasta in a mixture of chicken broth and water.  The ratio isn’t super important, although the more chicken broth the better.  {If I cook my chicken the same day I assemble the dish, I just save the broth from that to cook the spaghetti}… also: when draining your pasta, don’t forget to save a cup or so of the cooking broth for adjusting the consistency of the finished product!

Assembly: Return the hot pasta to the pot and add the Velveeta and Rotel tomatoes.  Stir to combine, then add the veggie mixture and shredded chicken.  Stir more.

Again, please forgive me for providing a recipe with this level of  immense difficulty.  I know the concepts of pour, add, stir are hard to master.  Please be patient with yourself when attempting such dubious culinary tasks.

If serving pronto, pour everything into a 9×13″ dish, top with cheese, and bake away.

If you want to freeze this in that oh-so dreamy way I told you about, divide into 3 loaf pans, top with cheese, wrap in plastic wrap, then finish with a wrapping in foil.

Serve with crusty french bread, English peas, and if you mastered the whole cube/pour/stir thing, a big ole’ side of satisfaction.

Chicken Spaghetti

- 3 cups shredded chicken breast
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 large bell pepper, chopped
- 1 stick butter
- 1 pound thin spaghetti
- 1 (10-ounce) can Rotel tomatoes
- 1 pound Velveeta cheese, cut into cubes
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- additional chicken broth (optional)

In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat; add chopped bell pepper and onion, stirring well with a wooden spoon to coat with the butter. Turn heat up to medium-high and saute until pepper is tender and onion is translucent, about 20 minutes.

While your veg is cooking, prepare the pasta. In a large pot, bring a mixture of half chicken broth/half water to a boil. Add 1 pound thin spaghetti and continue to boil for 6 minutes until pasta is tender. Drain pasta and return to the warm pot, reserving about a cup of the cooking broth.

Stir the Velveeta and Rotel tomatoes into the hot pasta. Add the vegetable mixture, stir, and finally add the shredded chicken. If you’re having trouble combining everything, try making a few snips to the mixture using kitchen shears; this seems to help “untangle” the spaghetti.

Evaluate the mixture at this point: if it seems a bit dry, add up to a cup of the reserved broth a splash at a time. The pasta should be moist, but not soupy. (It usually takes me about 1/2 cup of broth to reach this point!) Pour the pasta into a greased 9×13″ casserole dish. If serving right away, continue to cooking instructions; if not, place in the fridge, covered in plastic wrap, for up to 2 days before baking.

Preheat oven to 350. Sprinkle pasta with 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve with English peas and crusty French bread.

{serves 8 to 12}

Sometimes the Christmas season makes people do unusual things.

Today I saw a lady take a taxi…… to a Michael’s.

This struck me as humorously odd because (a) Jackson isn’t the most, uh, metropolitan of areas, and (b) its a craft store.

As I was walking from my car, I saw the cab wheel up right.infront of the door and let out a hastily demeanored woman with a slick long ponytail and all-black garb.

Approaching closer, she appeared to be giving the cab driver strict instructions, and the repetitive pointing of fingers made me assume she was telling him to stay put while she went inside.

Done and done: my interest was piqued.  I had to see what this intensity was all about.

I shopped around, waiting for some sort of unusuality to unfold.  Instead the only excitement I came across was an adorable school-uniformed child unraveling 1000-feet of gold lamé ribbon behind the turned back of her mother.

I gathered my miscellanies and got in line to checkout, when who else but cab lady came furiously sashaying up behind me.  I couldn’t help myself… I had to nonchalantly turn around to see what she was buying that merited being chauffeured to the most un-cabbyish place on earth.

There it was, in her “Cajun Shrimp” manicured fingers: a minuscule 0.75 ounce vial of silver glitter.  SERIOUSLY?! GLITTER?? And in the smallest container known to man? #disappointed

Her impatient huffs and high-heeled taps prompted me to turn around and, with a sweet smile, offer her a place ahead of me in line.  With a responsive nod, she scooted ahead, threw down a few dolla dolla bills and whisked her unbagged vial out the door.

I saw her taxi dart away just as I exited the store.  So glad that glitter was in stock.  The next step would have been a helicopter.  Crafting is serious business.

If you aren’t busy chartering cabs tonight, why not make some truffles?  I made these for one of the first Christmas parties of the season and plan to make another batch for Christmas Eve festivities… After a big meal, sometimes all you want is just.a.taste of something rich and sweet and these seriously tasted just like the holidays in a bite.

You only need a few ingredients, and if your pantry is empty and your car is out of gas…….. well, now you know what to do.

Gingerbread Truffles

- 1 box Gingersnap cookies (about 50 cookies)
- 1 8-ounce brick cream cheese, softened
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 16 ounces white melting chocolate

Grind the Gingersnap cookies into crumbs using a food processor. Reserve 1/4 cup cookie crumbs for decoration.  Stir the ginger and cinnamon into the remaining cookie crumbs. Using an electric mixer, combine the cookie crumb mixture with the cream cheese, beating until a thick dough forms. Refrigerate for an hour, then shape into 24 uniform-sized truffles.  Return truffles to the refrigerator until ready to coat in chocolate.

Melt white chocolate according to package instructions.  Dip each truffle individually, using a fork or skewer, letting the excess chocolate drip off.  Place on a wire rack or parchment paper to dry completely.

To decorate, place remaining melted chocolate into a piping bag or ziploc bag with the corner cut.  Drizzle chocolate over the truffle and sprinkle with reserved cookie crumbs.  Once completely dry, place truffles in the fridge until ready to serve.

{makes 24 truffles}

Welcome to my breakfast routine.  Fast, predictable, and the same thing every.single.day.

I started the granola bar thing in junior high prompted by my perpetual lateness to school and 12 (seriously twelve?!) years later it is still going strong.

Oh…and coffee.  There must be coffee.

I needed a change, an upgrade, if you will.  Enter these beauties.  Breakfast just got a whole lot more interesting.

To better your own breakfast, start by browning some butter.  Begin this process by melting butter as you normally would, on the stove over medium heat.  Once the butter is melted, take it to the next deliciously “browned” phase by allowing it to continue cooking while not stirring, but rather swirling the pan without a utensil.  {the butter will foam and hiss a bit during this stage!}  Stay with the butter at the stove because browned butter can go to burnt butter very quickly.

This process will take just a few minutes; you’ll know the butter is “done” when you start to smell a nutty aroma and see brown deposits in the bottom of your pan.  The browned bits are actually the solids in the butter, and cooking them this way enhances the flavor so much.

{here is a great tutorial for more tips on browning butter}

Let the butter cool while you prepare the fruit.  Using a sharp knife, carefully cut the fruit from the outer rind then cut between the individual segments.

Combine the butter with some cinnamon and brown sugar, making a thick “paste” of sweetness.

Place the fruit in a foil-lined baking dish, cutting a slice off the bottom of the grapefruit if it you’re having trouble getting it to stay upright.

Divide the sugary cinnamony loveliness between the fruit and place under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes until the sugar has caramelized and resembles the topping on crème brûlée… DO NOT walk away from the oven during this part, I beg of you… charred grapefruit really doesn’t carry the same allure.

Try this out and see how you like it!  I actually preferred the grapefruit without the crisp sugary coating {which I totally ate on its own after eating the fruit}… I found that the warm juicy sweetness that drenches the fruit under the melting sugar was a perfect match for my taste buds.  Anyway you, eh, slice it- this is addicting.

Good morning to YOU!

Brown Butter Broiled Grapefruit

- 1 large Ruby Red grapefruit, chilled
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon

In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Once melted, allow the butter to continue cooking for a few minutes, swirling the pan periodically.  The butter will foam and hiss, indicating that the browning process is occurring.  Once you see the solids beginning to brown, pay close attention to avoid overcooking.  Continue swirling the pan until the butter has a fragrant and nutty aroma and the browned bits cover the bottom of the pan.  Set aside to cool.

To prepare the fruit, slice the grapefruit in half and use a sharp paring knife to separate the fruit from the outer rind and also separate the individual segments.  Place the grapefruit halves in a foil lined baking dish.

In a small bowl, combine the browned butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  Mound this mixture on each grapefruit half and place under a pre-heated broiler for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the sugar is bubbly.  Remove from heat and allow to cool a few minutes before enjoying!

{serves 2}

This weekend I went to the ballet with the sweetest almost-5-year-old in the world.

In paler news, I also washed {i.e. let a machine wash} my car and made brownies.

Eh, brownies?  I know what your thinking: the car wash sounds more exciting.

Well, what if I told you these brownies had a gooey and impossibly delicious from-scratch peanut butter caramel swirled through every bite?

What about two types of chocolate and some coffee-ish love thrown in?

How about adding more chocolate, you know, just for good measure?  And don’t forget about a double layer swirl of that half-eaten-straight-from-the-pot-by-now caramel!

Have you been convinced??

You don’t have to admit it, your drivel is confirmatory.  It’s ok to be excited: BROWNIES!!

Make these at least 12 hours before you plan to serve them.  Being a tad underbaked is the secret to their addictive dense and fudgy texture: without time to come to room temp then spend a few hours in the fridge, you will likely end up arriving to a dessert party empty handed because your brownies are the consistency of jelly.

…not that I know from experience or anything.

Really.  Try these.

Peanut Butter Caramel Swirl Brownies

for the peanut butter caramel
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- ½ cup creamy peanut butter
- 1 Tablespoon corn syrup
- 1 pinch salt
- 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

for the brownies
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into chunks
- 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped, + 4 ounces
- 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
- 4 large eggs
- 1½ cups sugar
- ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour

In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer over low heat. In another medium saucepan, combine sugar and water and heat over high heat without stirring until amber brown (about 7 minutes). Once the sugar mixture has reached the amber color, slowly whisk in the heavy cream and cook for 1 additional minute. (This mixture will bubble and boil, so make sure to add the cream slowly). Remove from the heat and whisk in the peanut butter, corn syrup, salt, and vanilla extract.  Transfer caramel to a small bowl and let cool until thickened and room temperature, 30 minutes or so.

While the caramel is cooling, prepare the brownie batter.  Preheat oven to 325°.  Line a 9×13 baking pan with aluminum foil, allowing the foil to overhang on the short sides.  Spray well with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl set over a pot of simmering water, combine the unsweetened chocolate, 2 ounces of the bittersweet chocolate, butter, and coffee granules.  Stir the mixture over low heat until the chocolate is melted and smooth.  Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, stir together the eggs, brown sugar, white sugar, vanilla, and salt.  Whisk in the chocolate mixture, scraping down the sides to incorporate evenly.  In 2 additions beat in the flour using a wooden spoon (the batter will be very thick at this point).  Stir in the remaining 4 ounces of chopped bittersweet chocolate.

Pour half the batter into the prepared pan.  Using a spoon, drop half the caramel over the batter spacing scoops approximately 2 inches apart.  Gently spread the remaining batter over the top.  Again using a spoon, drop the remaining caramel over the brownie batter (for the photos above, the caramel was placed in a ziploc bag and drizzled over the batter) and use a knife to gently swirl the batter.

Bake the brownies for 45 to 50 minutes, or the top is just set and the edges are pulling away from the sides of the sides of the pan.  The middle will still be “wobbly” and an inserted toothpick will not come out clean.  Slight underbaking is a secret of these brownies- be brave!

Transfer brownies to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.  Before serving, place brownies in the fridge for at least an hour.  When ready to cut, lift the tin foil from the pan and carefully peel away the sides.  With a large knife, slice the brownies into 48 squares. (I like the remove a small margin from the edges to make all the brownies uniform).  Store the brownies at room temp or in the fridge for up to 3 days, or in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.

{makes 48 bite-sized or 24 regular-sized brownies}

Source: adapted from Bobby Flay via Food Network

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