Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Southwestern Quiche

I introduced my husband to quiche shortly after we got married.  It seems like a super simple meal with such a classy name (that sounds like you spent hours concocting it).  However, sometimes I'm a little uninspired when it comes to making a quiche.  I fall back on the same recipe that I have made since I was in college, which is great, but sometimes change is needed. 

When I saw this recipe, I figured it fit the bill perfectly.  It was flavors that we already knew, thrown into a dish that we already loved. 

Southwestern Quiche
slightly adapted from Plain Chicken
1 pound ground chicken
1 clove of minced garlic
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
1 can (10 oz) Rotel tomatoes, drained (adjust spice level using the "heat" from Rotel)
4 eggs
1/2 cup Ranch dressing
1/2 cup sour cream
2/3 cup milk
2-9-inch unbaked deep dish pie shell

1) Preheat oven to 350.
2) In a large skillet, cook chicken with garlic until well browned, stirring frequently. Drain off grease and set aside.
3) Whisk together eggs, Ranch dressing, sour cream and milk.
4) Add sausage, cheese and Rotel. Stir to combine. Pour egg mixture into prepared pie crust. Bake 1 hour. Allow quiche to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

When I took my first bite, I realized that I didn't get the mild Rotel when I was at the store.  The quiche packed a little bit of a punch.  It was surprisingly really good.  I kept commenting to my husband about how it far surpassed my expectations.  Even though ours was spicy (I'm a wuss when it comes to spices), the flavors all still really worked together to create a dish that was both spicy and creamy. 

We enjoyed it that meal and several times for lunch.  It was just a dish that we didn't seem to get tired of.   I think my next quiche adventure will be making my own crust.  I still haven't ventured away from the frozen pie shells from the grocery store. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Farfalle with Carbonara and Spring Peas

It is time for another Recipe Swap time and this time the theme was a recipe from your favorite Celebrity Chef.  This recipe came from Nicole at Cookies on Friday.

I received a recipe from Jamie Oliver and was really excited.  My husband and I watched his shows about trying to revolutionize school lunches.  We really like the show and learned a lot about things like pink slime and the nutrition of things that they did serve in the schools.  So, when I got the recipe for the swap, I was excited because I've never thought of looking up anything about Jamie Oliver outside the show that I saw.

Farfalle with Carbonara and Spring Peas
barely modified from Jamie Oliver
lb farfalle
1 egg, preferably free-range or organic
3½ ounces heavy cream
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 slices smoked streaky bacon, roughly sliced
2 handfuls of fresh podded or frozen peas
2 handfuls of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1) Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, add the farfalle, and cook according to the packet instructions.
2) Whisk the egg in a bowl with the cream, salt and pepper.
3)  Put the bacon into a skillet and cook until crispy and golden.
4) When the farfalle is nearly cooked, add the peas for the last minute and a half. 
5) When cooked, drain in a colander, saving a little of the cooking water.
6) Add the pasta to the bacon.
7) Now you need to add the egg and cream mix to the pasta. What's important here is that you add it while the pasta is still hot. This way, the residual heat of the pasta will cook the eggs, but not so that they resemble scrambled eggs. The pasta will actually cook the egg enough to give you a silky smooth sauce.
8) Toss together and loosen with a little of the reserved cooking water if necessary. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with the Parmesan, and serve as soon as possible.

I have to say that I thought this dish was just okay.  I used the original recipe, which called for mint, and that is all that I could taste in the dish.  I guess I think of mint as a dessert type thing lately, and so it doesn't seem like it works in savory dishes for me.  So, I edited my version not to have mint in it.  I also felt that the flavor profiles in the dish were inconsistent.  The bites with the cheese, pasta, peas and bacon were amazing.  However, if you didn't grab all of the components, the dish just tasted kind of bland.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Blueberry Banana Walnut Muffins

Every once in awhile, I feel adventurous when it comes to breakfast.  Usually, we eat cereal or oatmeal and just get ready and go to work.  However, I love banana bread, so I try to make that every once in awhile.

I had planned on making Nutella Banana Bread, mostly because my husband hasn't ever tried Nutella, but when we had leftover blueberries, I decided to try that instead.  When I googled Blueberry Banana Bread, a blog that I knew popped up, so I knew I had to try that recipe...especially since I had never made a recipe from her blog before.

Blueberry Banana Walnut Muffins
slightly adapted from Mrs Regueiro's Plate
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
4 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup buttermilk*
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh blueberries (no need to thaw)
1 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and halved into small pieces

*If you don't have buttermilk on hand, you can make it by combining one tablespoon of white vinegar, and filling a measuring cup up the rest of the way with milk.  Wait five minutes and then use in the recipe.

1) Put oven rack on lowest position.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom only of 2 loaf pans, or muffin tins.
2) Cream butter and sugar till fluffy. Stir in eggs until well blended.
3) Stir in bananas, buttermilk and vanilla. Beat until smooth.
4) Stir in flour, baking soda, and salt until just moistened.
5) Fold in the blueberries.
6) Divide batter evenly between the two loaf pans, or scoop batter in to muffin tins, making sure they aren't more than two-thirds of the way full.
7) Bake 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan.
8)  Loosen sides and remove bread from pans. Cool completely before eating, about 2 hours.

I loved these muffins.  I loved the crunch of the walnuts in between the bites of fruit packed muffin.  I thought they had great flavor and yet they will still incredibly moist.  If you turn this into a muffin recipe, it makes about 30 muffins, which is enough to freeze for later, or surprise your coworkers with a great breakfast as well.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Thin Mint Brownies

The neighborhood I lived in when I first moved to Cheyenne had no kids that would play outside.  When I moved in with my husband, I found out that all the kids in Cheyenne actually live in his subdivision. Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but there are at least 30 kids that are outside playing on a daily basis.

I think that lots of kids signify a great healthy neighborhood, but it also means that there are constantly kids coming up to our door asking us to buy from their catalogs.  And I feel like I should buy from them all, hence why I ended up with this box of Thin Mints that I didn't need to consume on my own.  Solution: take them to work in brownie form.

Thin Mint Brownies
slightly adapted from Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 teaspoon mint extract
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 sleeve of Thin Mints, crushed with a rolling pin

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare and 8×8 baking pan.
2) Mix together chocolate, butter, and mint extract.  Add in sugar and eggs, and stir until well combined.
3) Add flour, salt and baking powder.  Mix until just combined.  Fold in crushed cookies.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Allow to cool completely before serving.

These brownies were incredible.  They were so easy to make and resulted in these great fudgy brownies that were next to impossible to keep your hands off of.  My coworkers loved them and they were devoured within a day.  Great treat to use up the extra girl scout cookies in the house.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Yogurt Marinated Lamb Loin

In college, every year, my Bible Study group would get together for an Easter dinner.  Every year, we had the exact same thing: lamb.  I remember my first year, I had never had lamb and was very wary as to how it would taste.  After dinner, I remember being surprised I liked it.  Everyone except for me grew up eating lamb for Easter, so they were used to the distinct flavor.

This year, I decided to try lamb again.  I haven't had it in about three years, since I've usually had to work, but this year I had it off.  I found this yogurt marinated lamb recipe on Pinterest and decided to give it a try.

Yogurt Marinated Lamb Loin
barely adapted from Family Spice
2 lb leg of lamb (boneless), butterflied  (I used lamb loin)
2 teaspoon basil, dried, crushed
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, ground 
1/2 cup lemon juice
5 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 onion, grated, with juice
11/2 cup Greek yogurt, plain
2 tsp mint, dried, crushed         

1) Rinse lamb and pat dry with paper towels.
2) Open lamb up and cut into the larger chunks of meat so that it is of even thickness.
3) Remove and discard the larger deposits of fat, reserving some fat on the meat which will add flavor during the grilling process.
4) In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt, lemon juice, onion, garlic, mint, basil, and black pepper.
5) Pour marinade over the lamb, covering all parts of the lamb entirely. Massage the marinade into the meat.
6) Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 8 hours and up to 24 hours.
7) About an hour prior to grilling/cooking, remove lamb the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature.
8) Preheat grill to medium-high heat or preheat oven to 400 degrees.
9) Sear lamb on one side, about 7 minutes, then flip over to sear the other side.
10) Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking the lamb until a thermometer inserted to the center of the meat reads 145ºF for medium-rare, 160ºF for medium and 170ºF for well-done.
11) Allow meat to rest 5-10 minutes prior to carving and serve.

In the few years that it's been since I ate lamb, I forgot about it's distinct flavor.  The flavor of the lamb still stood out through all the ingredients.  I thought it was delicious and rich, so the yogurt marinade was the perfect compliment to the meat.  Lamb loins don't have a lot of meat on them, so I think doing the leg of lamb would definitely be better if you have the option to get them.  We took the only lamb that our store had.  I think we may use this recipe every Easter and keep the lamb for Easter tradition alive. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Mexican Pulled Chicken Stuffed Peppers

I have a friend that recently found out that she had a wheat allergy.  Upon doing some research, she found out that Paleo diets are the best for those with a wheat allergy, so I found some Paleo sites that had recipes that she could eat.  Some recipes sounded outside my comfort zone, and so did some of the ingredients.  I mean, we can't even find frozen cranberries in my town, where the heck am I supposed to find chia seeds, right?

Some recipes though sounded doable though, and even though I didn't have any interest in going totally Paleo with her, I promised I'd try a meal.  I found this recipe and thought I should make it: we loved stuffed peppers and the filling was something new.  If this recipe is indicative of eating Paleo, I think it wouldn't be too hard...except for finding the ingredients of course. 

Mexican Pulled Chicken Stuffed Peppers
barely adapted from Life As A Plate
4 large bell peppers, any color is fine
3 chicken breasts
1 chopped jalapeno
1 can of diced tomatoes (12 ounces)
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup finely minced onion (I used 1/2 an onion)
1/4 c. chopped green peppers (I used one whole pepper)
2 cups salsa
shredded cheese
1 tsp. salt
2. tsp. onion powder
1/2 tps. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/2-1 teaspoon ground cumin, depending on your preference
*Instead of using individual spices, you could just add a taco seasoning packet

1) Put whole chicken breasts and all ingredients (minus the four bell peppers) in crockpot and stir and set on low for 6-8 hours.
2)When it’s finished or after at least four hours in, shred chicken using two forks until it’s all complete. Mix well.
3) Using a sharp knife, cut the top of the pepper off and pull out all the inside ribs and seeds.
4) Run under cold water to wash and remove remaining seeds inside.
5) Stuff peppers with chicken mixture, cover with some salsa (so they don’t dry out) and bake at 350 for 20 minutes until pepper is soft. (Ours took about an hour, I don't know if this is from living at altitude or oven inconsistencies though).
6) Top with shredded cheese and the salsa.  Top with sour cream, if desired.

I think that these were excellent.  Since the majority of the flavors developed in the crockpot, they were deep and delicious.  The peppers were a great vessel for it too.  Just keep an eye on the peppers so that you're not eating really undone peppers like we did the first night.  You definitely don't miss the fact that there aren't carbs in this meal.  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

California Egg Bake

When we first got married, I was a really bad judge at how much produce we'd need for a week.  If I had two recipes that called for onions, I'd buy two full onions.  Then, at the end of the week, when I only used one of the onions, I'd just chuck the onion into the trash.  Over time, I've gotten better at judging, but every once in awhile it still happens.

At the end of last week, I had leftover green onions, a leftover avocado, and a leftover tomato.  I remembered that I had found the recipe for an egg bake that contained a few of these things, and when I looked at it again, lo and behold, I had everything but the cream cheese.

California Egg Bake
slightly adapted from Skip to My Lou
8 eggs
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
3 cups shredded Jack cheese
1 large ripe tomato, diced
1 large avocado, cubed
3/4 cup green onions, diced
4 oz cream cheese cut into small chunks
1/2 cup milk

1) Prepare 8×8 dish with nonstick spray. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
2) Mix eggs with milk and seasonings, beat well.
3) Layer 2 cups Jack cheese. Layer remaining ingredients: avocados, tomatoes, green onions, cream cheese. Cover with remaining cheese and cover all with egg/milk mixture. 
4) Bake for 45 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes. Enjoy

This egg bake was very flavorful.  We very rarely put much in our eggs besides cheese and meat, so it was nice to try a different flavor profile with all of the produce in the recipe.  My husband thought it was really cheesy, and I agree, so if you don't want the extra cheese, you could easily cut it down to 2 cups of cheese total.  This would also be great with any type of colored peppers, jalapenos, or even shredded potatoes in it, if you have any of those leftover as well. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Ham and Pineapple Grilled Cheese

It seems like I should make more complicated meals on the weekend because I have much more free time to tackle recipes.  But usually, the reverse is true.  Friday night hits, and it is like my brain shuts off until Monday morning.  I get into the mode of being free from hard work for a few days, and I run with it, leaving complicated meals in the dust.

So, I make many sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, and other easy items, but those are sometimes great too...right?  I think they're great and sometimes allow you to find even more creative ways to do twists on things you didn't expect: enter the Ham and Pineapple Grilled Cheese.

Ham and Pineapple Grilled Cheese
slightly adapted from Grilled Cheese Social
2 slices sourdough bread
1/2 cup of shredded white cheddar cheese, divided
3 slices of quality ham
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
2 tablespoons chopped fresh pineapple
2 pats of un-salted butter
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1) Put the two pieces of bread down.  Place half of the cheese on one slice of bread.
2) Top with the three slices of ham, and the pineapple.
3) Sprinkle the rosemary on top of the pineapple, and then top with the remaining cheese.
4) Butter each piece of bread, and sprinkle some salt on each side.  Then place in a skillet (or panini maker) and cook until cheese is melted and bread is toasted.

This sandwich was great, but a little messy.  The melted cheese didn't hold all of my pineapple in, so pieces escaped while eating.  I liked this sandwich a lot.  I couldn't find Rosemary Ham like the ingredient list called for or Comte cheese, so I just sprinkled rosemary onto the sandwich.  I researched Comte and tried to use something similar, but I think the cheese overwhelmed the sandwich flavors a little bit...but I think it was from the sharpness in the cheese.  It was a great spin on an old classic.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Blueberry Sour Cream Muffins

Confession:  I have never made muffins from scratch.  I think it is because until recently, I was petrified of baking.  It seems so calculated and precise that I figured so many things could go wrong...especially at high altitude.  I usually just buy the packets that you add water and an egg to and whip them up that way.

When I saw the Crazy Cooking Challenge for this month, I was excited because it was something outside my comfort zone that I had never made before.  Since we live at high altitude, I was worried about the muffin moisture turning out right.  Most of our baked goods are much dryer up here, so I decided to try this recipe for Blueberry Sour Cream Muffins from The Idea Room.

The Idea Room is written by Amy Huntley, who seems to be a very organized mother of five kids.  She has everything from food crafts (Powdered Donut Snowmen), to crafts (How to Make Your Own Menu Board, to awesome food recipes (like these Blueberry Muffins).

Blueberry Sour Cream Muffins
barely adapted from The Idea Room
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
1 1/4 cups sour cream (about 10 ounces)
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries (1 pint)

1) Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin tin.
2) Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl until combined. Whisk egg in second medium bowl until well-combined and light-colored, about 20 seconds. Add sugar and whisk vigorously until thick and homogenous, about 30 seconds; add melted butter in 2 or 3 additions, whisking to combine after each addition. Add sour cream in 2 additions, whisking just to combine.
3) Add blueberries to dry ingredients and gently toss just to combine. Add sour cream mixture and fold with rubber spatula until batter comes together and berries are evenly distributed. (Small spots of flour may remain and batter will be thick. Do not overmix.)
4) Use ice cream scoop or large spoon to drop batter into greased muffin tin. Bake until light golden brown and insert toothpick into the center of muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating pan from front to back halfway through baking time. Let muffins cool down for 5 minutes.

I couldn't believe how moist these cupcakes were, and the flavor was fantastic.  The pint of blueberries created the perfect amount of blueberry to actual muffin.  I usually drown the packet muffins in a lot of butter, but these required nothing and still tasted amazing.  On the Idea Room, it was suggested that you can melt butter and dip these in cinnamon sugar.  I tried that, but it seemed like the cinnamon overwhelmed the flavor of the blueberries, so I left mine plain.  Now that I know how easy muffins are, I'll never use a store-bought mix again.

Click on the links below to see other great Crazy Cooking Challenge Blueberry Muffin recipes!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Mixed Fruit

Since I started blogging, I am becoming more and more aware of how many ingredients aren't available in my grocery stores.  I find some amazing recipes, but end up passing on them because I cannot find the ingredients to make the dish.

I love Nicole's blog.  I read it religiously, but there are many ingredients that she uses that I haven't been able to find.  When I got her Oatmeal recipe for the Fruit Recipe Swap, I was excited to tackle something of hers, but I knew that I'd have to make some types of substitutions.  

I looked everywhere in our grocery store for both agave nectar and any type of cranberries (fresh or frozen) to use in the dish when I first got the recipe.  I couldn't find either of them.  The funny thing is, I made this recipe on Saturday morning and we went grocery shopping on Saturday afternoon and right in the middle of the only aisle I hadn't looked in was Agave Nectar.  So, at least I found that Wyoming does indeed have Agave Nectar...however the cranberries still never turned up.

Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Mixed Fruit
slightly adapted from PreventionRD 
3 cups old-fashioned oats
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
4 cups milk
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup honey
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 apples, peeled, cored and rough chopped
1 cup frozen mixed fruit (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)

1) Preheat oven to 350° F.
2) Mix oats, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a bowl. Set aside. 
3) In a large bowl, mix together applesauce, milk, egg, vanilla, and honey. 
4) Combine wet and dry and fold in apples, mixed fruit, and nuts.
5) Pour oatmeal mixture into a greased 9×13 baking dish and bake for 45 minutes. 

As this baked in the oven, the smell of cinnamon flooded our house.  The smell was amazing.  I haven't ever baked oatmeal, but it was pretty close to the consistency that I was expecting.  All of the fruit and nuts in this oatmeal made it fantastic.  Every bite exploded with a different berry and a crunch that made everything perfect.  This is a great breakfast!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Asiago Baked Salmon

When I got to high school, I hadn't even had pepper jack cheese.  I think working at McDonald's in high school around the super nasty plastic yellow cheese kind of scared me away from cheese for awhile.  However, I'm starting to come around to trying different kinds of cheeses.  When I found out that my husband had never heard of Asiago cheese, I went searching for a good recipe, and found this Asiago Baked Salmon.  It seemed like a great way to introduce him to something new.

Asiago Baked Salmon
barely adapted from How Sweet It Is
2 salmon filets
salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
1 tablespoon dried parsley
3 tablespoons grated Asiago cheese
1/2 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chopped red onion

1) Preheat oven to 400.
2) Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper. In a bowl, mix yogurt, cheese, red onion, parsley and garlic together. Spread on top of salmon. Bake until fish flakes – about 15 minutes.

My husband and I  thought this was an excellent dish.  I think the Asiago cheese becomes prominent over the greek yogurt, which I was perfectly okay with.  However, the greek yogurt still brings a creamy element to it.  None of the ingredients overrode the flavor of the salmon either, so you could still taste everything.

This meal came together really fast, about 20 minutes with the prep work, so you won't be working too hard for something delicious.