Sunday, May 27, 2012

What's Baking: Blueberry Lemon Loaf

I still feel like a novice baker, but like the age old saying goes "Practice makes perfect.".  I decided to join another recipe challenge that has to do with baking.  Deep down inside, I felt like it would be a great challenge, but at the same time, I was scared about how my project would turn out.  This month's challenge from Ammie at Adventures in My Kitchen: baking with produce.

I have to admit that the recipe I wanted to make changed a lot.  First it was raspberry and lemon cupcakes, but my store didn't have raspberries.  Then I thought I'd do the Blueberry Lemon cupcakes from Annie's Eats, but mid-week, I changed my mind because I didn't want to bother with frosting anything.  So, I found this: Blueberry Lemon Loaf.  I love recipe challenges because they cause me to stumble over new blogs.  Hopefully other people stumble across my blog that way too.

Blueberry Lemon Loaf- makes one loaf
adapted from Vicarious Foodie
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1 lemon)
1/2 cup milk
2 1/4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Lemon Glaze:
2/3 cup granulated white sugar
6  tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons)

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (325 degrees for dark-finish pans) and place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Grease a loaf pan, so loaf doesn't stick.
2) In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
3) In the bowl of an electric mixer or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until softened. Add the sugar and continue to beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract, lemon zest, and lemon juicet.
4) With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture (in three additions) and milk (in two additions) alternately, starting and ending with the flour. Mix only until combined.
5) Gently fold in the blueberries.
6) Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and bake for about 40 to 45 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
7)  Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring the 1/3 cup of sugar and the 3 tablespoons of lemon juice to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
8) When the bread is done, remove from oven and place on a wire rack. Pierce the hot loaves all over with a wooden skewer or toothpick, and then brush the tops of the loaves with the hot lemon glaze. Cool the loaves in the pans for about 30 minutes, then remove from pan and let cool completely on a wire rack.

While I found this bread really good, I love intense lemon flavors, so I adjusted the recipe to include more lemon juice.  If you like duller lemon flavors, don't add the lemon juice to the wet mix ingredient mixture, and cut the glaze amount in half.  I also added quite a bit more blueberries so that the loaf was bursting with blueberries.  I thought it was a great loaf and would be perfect for a brunch or just a morning get together with friends.  I love the contrasting colors of the lemons and the blueberries and am glad that I ended up making this, instead of the other choices.  So next time you find yourself scared of baking, try making this lemon loaf: very easy to make and very good.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Steak Tostadas with Black Beans and Mango Salsa

Rarely do I run across a meal that is so memorable that I want to make it every week until I get tired of it.  This is one of those meals.  I was looking for a recipe that had mangoes in it, to use up the mangoes I got on sale, and this fit the bill.

This recipe has a lot of ingredients and requires a little bit of preparation, but the results are mouthwatering.  I can't wait to make this dish again.

Steak Tostadas with Black Beans and Mango Salsa
slightly adapted from Food Network 

Mango Salsa:
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 large ripe mango, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1/4 cup honey
3 limes, juiced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Steak Marinade:
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup olive oil
3 lemons, juiced
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (2-pound) piece top round

Black Beans:1 can black beans, drained
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red wine
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped

Tostadas:Vegetable oil, for frying
4 corn tortillas

Mango Salsa
Sour cream, optional
Grated cheese of your choice, optional

1) For the steak: In a large shallow bowl or baking dish whisk together the soy sauce, olive oil, lemon juice, honey, onion, jalapeno, and salt and pepper, to taste. Add the skirt steak, cover and refrigerate. Marinate for at least 1 hour, preferably several hours.
2) In a bowl, combine all ingredients for the mango salsa and set aside for 10 to 20 minutes for the flavors to marry.
3) For the beans: In a saucepan over medium-low heat, combine all ingredients and let simmer for 20 minutes.
4) For the tostadas: Heat about 3 inches of oil in a large pot to about 350 degrees F. Carefully slide 1 tortilla into the oil and fry until crisp, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.
5) Preheat a grill pan or grill to medium-high. Place the steak on the grill and grill about 4 to 6 minutes for medium-rare to medium.  Discard the remaining marinade. Remove from grill to a cutting board and let rest for about 5 minutes. Slice into thin pieces at a diagonal.
6) To serve: Place fried tortillas on a large platter or individual plates. Spoon some of the black bean mixture in the middle of the tortillas. Top with steak slices and the Mango Salsa. Garnish with sour cream and your choice of grated cheese, if desired.

The only complaint that I had about this meal was that the tostadas get soggy, and they become pretty hard to manage.  I remedied that the next day and just turned them into tacos, and they were just as amazing.  The flavors in this dish all work together to create a flavor explosion in your mouth that you won't be able to get out of your mind.   

Friday, May 18, 2012

Mexican Layer Dip

I absolutely love dips.  I have an addiction to salty things, and dips are amazing with chips, so I love dips.  I was super excited when I got Mexican Layer Dip from the Jaida at Sweet Beginnings.  I had to make some changes because I am allergic to taco seasonings, but this turned out fantasticI definitely can't wait to make this again at a party.

Mexican Layer Dip 
slightly adapted from Sweet Beginnings
1 15 ounce can Refried Beans
1 teaspoon Vegetable Oil
2 Tablespoons Cumin
1 Tablespoon Cilantro
1/2 container Sour Cream
3 Tablespoons Salsa
1 package of Guacamole
Juice of 1 lemon
1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder, divided
1 cup shredded Cheddar
1 cup diced tomatoes

1) In a medium saucepan, combine beans, oil, cumin, cilantro, and 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder. Heat over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes, stirring to combine until warm. Taste and add more cumin and/or garlic powder as desired. Remove from heat and set aside.
2) In two separate bowls place or guacamole and sour cream. To the guacamole, add lemon juice, garlic powder, salt & pepper, a little at a time until you reach your desired taste. To the sour cream, add the salsa and stir until fully combined.
3) In your desired container (casserole dish, or individual serving containers) layer the beans, then the sour cream mixture, avocado, topped with cheese and then the diced tomatoes. (Try not to make the bean mixture too thick, so it's not overwhelming!)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

BBQ Tilapia with Mango

Confession: I don't recall ever having mango.  It is one of those fruits that I've always been fascinated by at the grocery store, but I've never been adventurous enough to pick up and try it.

A few weeks ago, I was walking through the produce section at the grocery store and a couple stopped me and asked me the difference between leeks and kale.  It turns out the store had leeks labeled correctly in one bin and right next to it there were leeks in a bin labeled "Kale".  They had never tried it but were trying to be adventurous and try something new.

This experience for some reason pushed me to try mangos.  Last week, I saw them on sale, and decided to find a dish that had mango in it.

BBQ Tilapia with Mango
slightly adapted from Food Network
1/4 cup canned tomato sauce
2 tablespoons mango juice
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 teaspoons brown sugar (loosely packed)
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup diced tomatoes , (I used canned because I had extra)
1/4 cup diced mango
Two 4.5-ounce fillets raw tilapia
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro, for garnish

1) In a medium bowl, combine tomato sauce, mango juice , ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, and garlic powder. Whisk thoroughly, and then stir in diced tomatoes and mango. 
2) Place fish and sauce in a container and toss to coat. Cover and let it marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. 
3) Bring a skillet sprayed with nonstick spray to medium heat on the stove. Add fish and marinade.  
4) Once marinade begins to simmer, cover and cook until the fish is tender and cooked through, about 10 minutes. 
5) Plate the tilapia and top with any excess marinade from the skillet; garnish with cilantro.

When I tasted the sauce after whisking all the ingredients, it resembled BBQ sauce, but between the marinating and the cooking, it just became a flavorful tomato sauce with mangoes in it.  So I guess BBQ Tilapia isn't the best name, but maybe I messed it up too. My husband really liked it and said that he liked the fruit and tomato combination with the fish.

I really like mangoes.  I think they taste great, and I love the smell of them.  I didn't realize the core was so big.  I didn't have any mango leftover between the juice and the 1/4 cup of diced mango.  Definitely going to look into more recipes involving mangoes though.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Baked Ziti with Ground Turkey

Sometimes I fear my husband was severely deprived from some really good food growing up.  When I announced that I had found a ziti recipe during my Blogger's Choice swap, he said, "What's ziti?".   I was surprised that he didn't know what the delicious cheesy dish was, so I threw it on our menu plan for the next week to prove to him that it was super delicious. 

Baked Ziti with Ground Turkey
adapted from DeLish
1/2 lb ground turkey
2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
2 teaspoons Garlic Powder
1 lb. (16 oz.) ziti or ziti rigati
3 cups tomato sauce
15 oz. Ricotta Cheese
2 cups shredded Mozzarella Cheese
1/4 cup fresh Basil, chiffonade
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan Cheese

1) Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 13x9" baking pan.
2) Brown turkey in skillet, seasoning with garlic powder and Italian seasoning.
3) While the meat is browning, cook the pasta very al dente. Drain.
4) In a large bowl, mix in a tiny bit of the sauce with the noodles & set aside.
5) In a separate bowl, stir together remaining sauce, ricotta cheese, 1 cup of the shredded mozzarella, basil salt and pepper.
6) Fold the sauce mixture completely into the pasta.
7) Poor into the greased baking pan. Top with remaining cup of shredded mozzarella, parmesan cheese.  Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly & browned.


While I loved this dish, a 9 by 13 pan makes a TON of ziti.  It fed us 2 dinners each and multiple lunches, so if you have a small family, I'd cut it in half and make an 8 by 8 or 9 by 9 pan instead.

My husband loved how this smelled in the oven.  He kept asking if it was done and ready to eat because he said it smelled so good.  At my grocery store, I could only find a tube of basil, and used a quarter of a cup of that, and the basil definitely was a prominent flavor.  If you're using the tube, I'd reduce it to 1/8 of a cup instead.  This dish turned out exactly like I was hoping though, and brought back many memories of my childhood.  It is such a great comfort dish.  You could definitely omit the meat (like DeLish did) to make it vegetarian as well, it would still be very flavorful.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Breakfast Grilled Cheese

When I heard this month's theme for Crazy Cooking Challenge was Grilled Cheese, I got super excited.  I also learned a lot about the sandwiches in the process.  Did you know that there is a Grilled Cheese Invitational?  It is a chance for people in search of the perfect grilled cheese to all rendezvous at the same location and hope to become a Grilled Cheese Champion in their cooking contests.  I think that's awesome.  Look it up if you haven't heard about it yet at the Grilled Cheese Invitational website.


In my quest for the perfect grilled cheese, I ran into Grilled Cheese Social. Grilled Cheese Social is written by MacKenzie Smith.  MacKenzie comes up with some amazing grilled cheeses and has everything from breakfast to dessert sandwiches. The writing on her blog makes you feel like your her best friend the second you step onto her site. I spent a lot of time clicking and reading through all her posts and finally decided on the Breakfast Grilled Cheese.

Breakfast Grilled Cheese
slightly adapted from Grilled Cheese Social
Grilled Cheese
1 egg, scrambled
salt and pepper
2 slices of sourdough bread

1/3 cup of crumbled goat cheese
1 tablespoon of basil pesto (I couldn't find arugula to make the arugula pesto)
2 pats of salted butter

from Savory Sweet Life

2 cups of fresh basil, packed
3 cloves of garlic (more of less depending on how spicy you like it)
1/4 cup of pine nuts
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
A pinch of salt and pepper to taste
1) In a food processor, pulsate basil, pine nuts, garlic, and Parmesan cheese until everything is mixed in with each other. Slowly add extra virgin olive oil and pulsate again until everything is fully combined and incorporated. Season with salt and pepper.
2) Scramble one egg, seasoning with salt and pepper.
3) Lay out two pieces of bread.  Crumble goat cheese on one side, and spread pesto on the other.  Place the scrambled egg on top of one of the pieces of bread, and then close the sandwich.
4) Place butter either in a skillet on the stove or on your panini maker.
5) Cook until sandwich is at the desired toasted level.

We loved these sandwiches.  We just recently found goat cheese at our store, and so we hadn't really thought to use it in grilled cheese.  The pesto and the cheese worked great together, and the sandwich was truly delicious.  My husband was disappointed that he only asked for one sandwich.  I think we'll see these on the menu for many weekends to come.

To check out more cheesy deliciousness, please click on any of the pictures below!

Friday, May 4, 2012

French Onion Roast Beef with Au Jus

 The theme of this recipe swap was "Bloggers Choice".  Bloggers Choice is where you are assigned someone else's blog and you get to make whatever you want to from that blog.  It allows for a lot more freedom, and it is actually a lot of fun sifting through someone's blog to find recipes that you want.

For this swap, I actually received Eva Bakes (which is the blog I got for the first "Bloggers Choice" swap).  She has an awesome baking blog, so you should head and check out her site.  I guess there were a couple of people that got the same blog as the first time, so in the end, I had DeLish's blog.  The only thing I learned about her is that she lives in New Jersey (which is where I'm moving to in a few months) and that she has a ton of amazing sounding food on her blog.

I have recently been craving a few things, but didn't have recipes for them, and when perusing her blog, I found what I was looking for and even more. We recently packed up our pressure cooker to move, but I was craving French Dips, so I was ecstatic when I ran across a crockpot version...because I kept our crockpot from being banished to the storage shed.
French Onion Roast Beef with Aus Jus
slightly adapted from DeLish
2.5 lb. bottom round beef roast
salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons oregano
1 medium onion, sliced
1 tablespoons fresh parsley
Powder only from a package of Onion Soup Mix
2 cups water
32 ounces beef broth
6 large buns OR French crusty bread
Your favorite cheese (provolone, mozzarella or cheddar)

1) Place the meat in the slow-cooker and cover it with salt and pepper, and garlic and oregano. Add the onion slices, parsley, soup powder, water & broth.
2) Set on LOW for 8-10 hours. Shred the meat into it's own juices.  Layer your choice of cheese onto the bread, then top with meat.  Serve with a little bowl of the jus on the side.

The French Dip recipe that we have doesn't have any onions in it, and my husband loved that aspect of these sandwiches.  I only used one medium onion, instead of two just because it seemed like the right amount when I was putting everything together. I thought these were very flavorful and made for a great low-maintenance meal.