Thursday, August 30, 2012

Beef Wellington Hand Pies

When my husband and I met, one of the first shows we watched together was Hell's Kitchen.  He loves Gordon Ramsey now, and one of the first things he did when we moved to New Jersey was look up Ramsey's restaurant in New York.  He sounded so deflated when he saw how much plates cost at his restaurant.

One of the few dishes he always said he wanted to try was the Beef Wellington.  But when he looked up the cut of beef, he found that it was super expensive (~30/lb).  I found these Beef Wellington Hand Pies on Simple Gourmet Cooking, and asked him if he'd be willing to try these.  He said he was, but pointed out that using ground beef wasn't even going to give us the same texture.  So, I took that as a flat out yes, and put them on the menu.

Beef Wellington Hand Pies
barely adapted from Simple Gourmet Cooking
1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound of ground beef
Kosher salt
Ground pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 small white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme
1/4 cup red wine
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 egg whisked with 1 tablespoon water for an egg wash

1) Heat oven to 400 degrees.
2) Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet. Add ground beef to the pan, cook until cooked through and browned, breaking beef a part with a wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove cooked ground beef from pan and set aside. Wipe out pan.
3) Heat butter and remaining tablespoon of oil in the same pan. Add onions and cook until they start to soften.
4) Add the mushrooms, and cook until onions and mushrooms start to brown. Add garlic and thyme. Cook for 30 seconds.
5) Pour in the wine and deglaze the pan, scrapping up brown bits. Stir in the heavy cream and Worcestershire sauce and then add the beef back into the pan. Stir to combine.
6) Roll the thawed puff pastry into a 1/8 inch thick sheet and cut into 4 equal portions. Carefully spoon the beef mixture into the middle of each pastry sheet, leaving a 1/2 inch border. Try not to add too much filling, you might have a little leftover. Brush the egg wash along the 1/2 inch border of pastry. Fold the pastry over and seal. Crimp the edges with a fork.
7) Arrange the pastries on a baking sheet and lightly brush the tops with egg wash. Using a sharp knife, cut a few slits in the top of each pastry. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

Using the egg wash to seal my pastries just made the puff pastry turn into a disaster.  I just ended up folding them over and sealing them.  But left this step in the directions because maybe I just messed it up.  I thought these were very good, but was kind of missing the sauce on the top.  I guess this would negate the hand pie discription if you kept the sauce on the top, but I think it'd be good.  This recipe made my husband want to try real beef wellingtons even more, but he quickly ate the two that were on his plate.  Maybe someday we'll be rich enough to eat at Chef Ramsey's restaurant, but until then these were really good.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Peanut Butter Cookies

I love recipes where you read them, think they sound good, and find out you have all the ingredients.  I guess that could be considered one of those life surprises when things work out when you weren't expecting it to.  The day that Amy, The Nifty Foodie posted these, I realized I hadn't had Peanut Butter Cookies in a long time and they sounded fantastic, and lo and behold I had all the ingredients.

Peanut Butter Cookies
slightly adapted from The Nifty Foodie
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar for topping

1) Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
2) In a mixing bowl, combine the shortening, sugars, egg, vanilla, and peanut butter until the mixture is smooth.
3) Scrape down the bowl, and add the flour, baking soda, and salt to the wet mixture.  Beat slowly until dough is just combined.  This is a dry dough, so it could take awhile to mix.  If the dough seems too crumbly, add a little water at a time until the dough is no longer crumbly.
4) Using a scoop, drop the cookie dough onto your baking sheet, leaving 2 inches between each cookie. 
5) Take a fork and flatten the cookie to a 1/2 inch thickness, making a cross-hatch type of design.
6) Sprinkle the top of each cookie with a few granules of sugar.
7) Bake the cookies 12-16 minutes, until they just start to brown around the edges.  The tops will not brown at this point. 

My husband absolutely loved these cookies.  My first batch was definitely a little too crumbly and came out with a lot of cracks, so I added about a teaspoon of water, and the second batch came out perfectly. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mexican Steak "Pitzas" with Cilantro Sour Cream

Since I've been staying at home, lunch is often a challenge.  My husband doesn't wake up until about 2 p.m. for lunch since he works nights, so it is difficult finding something that is filling but not too much to ruin dinner.

When I had Joelen's blog for a recipe swap, I ran across these Mexican Pitzas that sounded like they'd make a great lunch.  I prepped the Cilantro Sour Cream that morning before I sat down to work, and when he woke up, it was super easy to put together. 

Mexican Steak "Pitzas" with Cilantro Sour Cream
barely adapted from What's Cookin' Chicago?
lb beef flank steak, finely chopped
1/2 large onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Cumin
1 teaspoon Cilantro
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 tablespoon canola oil for cooking
4 whole wheat pitas
1/2 cup shredded mexican blend cheese
1 can Refried Black Beans
1/2 finely diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup low fat sour cream
2-3 tablespoons water

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2) In a skillet over medium high heat, add the cooking oil, onions and garlic; saute until softened.
3) Add the beef and seasonings and cook until browned.
4) While the beef is cooking, place your pitas on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes to soften the pitas. Remove the pitas from the oven and set aside.
5) When the beef has cooked thoroughly, spoon the Black Bean refried beans onto the pita, and top the beans with the beef to cover completely.
6) Top the beef with the shredded cheese and bake in the oven for 5-10 minutes until cheese has melted.
7) While the pitas are baking, prepare the cilantro cream by combining the cilantro, sour cream and water. Season with salt & pepper to taste.
8) When the pitas are done baking, remove from the oven and top with the cilantro cream and chopped tomatoes; serve.


These are a little hard to maneuver, but the flavor is fantastic.  We tried them one day without the beans and one day with the beans, and they held together much better with the beans.  The Cilantro Cream was fantastic.  It was really easy to put together and added so much flavor.  I'll definitely put these back on the lunch menu in the future.

Monday, August 27, 2012

What's Baking?: S'mores Brownies

Growing up in the military means a lot of moving, a lot of new homes, and a lot of new friends.  Unfortunately, for me, it also meant that I don't have a lot of attachments to places.  People often ask me my favorite place, and I can't begin to wrap my mind about how to decide that.

The theme for this baking challenge was something that reminded us of a happy place.  The one place in my mind that I keep going back to in my head though is Oregon.  I've only been there a few times and it is always for vacation, but there is something that I love about it.  Every time I go there, we go to the beach and do s'mores while the sun is setting.  It is just such a perfect scene paired with something gooey and finger-licking good that I guess in my mind, it has become my happy place.

Nicole on Prevention, R.D. posted these brownies for a recipe swap that we had not too long ago, and I thought they were perfect for this occasion.  The amazing things about a s'more on a gooey brownie, yes please!

S'mores Brownies
from Prevention, R.D.
1 pack brownie mix (and ingredients called for on the back of the box)
2 cups miniature marshmallows
4 graham crackers, broken into chunks
2 Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars, broken into the individual segments

1) Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray 9×9-inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.
2) Prepare the brownie mix according to the directions on the box.
3) After baking, remove the pan from the oven and set the oven to broil.
4) Cool brownies for about a minute then sprinkle the marshmallows over the warm brownies. Make sure to cover most of the area.
5) Sprinkle the graham crackers on top of the marshmallows. Broil about 4-5 inches from the heat for 30 seconds to a minute until the marshmallows are golden brown. Watch carefully so that they don’t burn.
6) Sprinkle with Hershey’s milk chocolate bars.

I had one of these and sent them directly up to work with my husband.  They were absolutely fantastic.  He came home with a completely empty tray and several requests for the recipe.  We had a couple over for dinner last night and the guy said that they were one of the best brownies he had ever had.  These definitely transported me back to the memories of Oregon even though I am nowhere remotely close to Oregon.  Someday I hope that my kids and I can watch a sunset while eating S'mores...or maybe I'll whip up a batch of these S'more brownies instead. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

German Chocolate Cake Brownies

Lately, I've been in a dessert craze.  I make them, and 24 people at my husband's office devour them.  What's not to love about that, right?

So when I got Simple Gourmet Cooking for the latest Blogger's Choice Swap, I went right to her dessert tag.  I love German Chocolate Cake.  I ask for someone to make it for me every birthday, so it seemed like a no-brainer to me.  I also made the Beef Wellington Hand Pies, which were really good, and the BBQ Chicken Pasta.  Dawn's blog is filled with a lot of great recipes, so head over there if you get a chance.

German Chocolate Cake Brownies
from Simple Gourmet Cooking
2/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
  box of German chocolate cake mix
cup semisweet chocolate chips
  container coconut pecan frosting
  tablespoons milk
1) Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease or spray bottom and sides of 13x9-inch pan with cooking spray. 
2) In medium bowl, combine butter and cake mix and mix with a fork until crumbly; separate out 1 cup of mixture and set aside. Press the remaining mixture in bottom of pan.
3) Bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over baked layer. Drop frosting by heaping tablespoonfuls over the chocolate chips and spread slightly. 
4) Stir milk into reserved cake mixture. Drop cake-milk mixture by teaspoonfuls onto frosting layer.
5) Bake 24 to 28 minutes or until cake portion is slightly dry to touch; cool 10 minutes in the pan. Carefully loosen edges of bars with knife. Cool completely. Refrigerate until firm.

I loved these brownies.  They were the classic German Chocolate cake flavors, in a much easier to eat form.  They were so easy to put together too, which makes them even more fantastic.  This was definitely my favorite thing out of a lot of good dishes that we tried from Dawn's blog.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf

Not too long ago, I received What's Cookin', Chicago? for a recipe swap.  We could choose whatever we wanted for the swap, which sometimes makes it super challenging for me because I find a lot of things I'd like to make.  Joelen has been blogging since 2007, so about 4 years longer than me, so she has a ton of amazing sounding things. I've had quite the list of things to make from her blog, and this is one of the ones I made first.

Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf
slightly adapted from What's Cookin', Chicago?
1 lb ground chicken or turkey
1 egg
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese
1/2 cup Italian Cheese Blend
1 dash of white wine
1/2 cup tomato sauce
Parsley for garnish

1) Combine all the ingredients, except for the tomato sauce, in a large bowl.  Mix to combine, but don't overmix or it will become tough.
2) Put mixture into a greased loaf pan and top with sauce.
3) Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes.

I love meatloaf.  It has been one of my favorite dishes since I was a kid.  I have to say that this might now be my favorite meatloaf.  It was so easy to put together, and the flavors in it are amazing.  Jacob gobbled it up and there were no leftovers after lunch the next day.  We'll definitely keep this on the list of things to make again.  

Monday, August 13, 2012

Turkey Burgers with Cheddar and Cumin Aioli

I had never used a grill before I met my husband.  The first time I used it by myself, I was petrified.  I didn't know how to use the knobs or make sure that my food turned out okay, so it just seemed like an instrument to be afraid of and not embrace.

Three years later, I loved our grill.  Problem was, when we went to move, the grill that I had used to make so many good meals on, fell apart.  The movers told us that they wouldn't allow us to take it to New Jersey.  I was a little sad, but interested to see what our new grill would be like.  Just this past weekend we bought a new infrared grill.  It isn't put together yet...but I have to say I'm very excited to see what great food it delivers. 

As it turns out, we had this Too Hot to Cook theme for our recipe swaps.  Well, we hadn't purchased a grill before we made these, so I made them on the panini maker, and while I missed our grill, I think the panini maker did a fine job too.

Turkey Burgers with Cheddar and Cumin Aioli
barely adapted from Delicious Meliscious

1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander 
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus additional for brushing
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, pressed

1 pound ground turkey
4 1/3-inch-thick red onion slices
1 large red bell pepper, quartered
4 slices white cheddar cheese
4 hamburger buns
Pickle wedges
Avocado (optional)

1) Whisk mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, garlic, cumin, and coriander in a small bowl. Season aioli to taste with salt and pepper. Aioli can be made up to a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.
2) Place turkey in medium bowl. Add 2 tablespoons aioli; mix gently. Using damp hands, divide turkey mixture into 4 equal portions, then form each into 3/4-inch-thick patty, about 3 1/2 inches in diameter. Using thumb, make small indentation in center of each burger. Can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover and chill.
3) Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat) or panini maker. Sprinkle burgers with salt and pepper. Brush onion slices and bell pepper pieces with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill onions and bell peppers until soft and charred, about 4 minutes per side.
4) Grill turkey burgers 5 minutes. Turn over; grill until almost cooked through, about 4 minutes.
5) Top each burger with 1 cheese slice and grill until meat is cooked through and cheese melts, about 1 minute longer.
To assemble: Place 1 turkey burger on each of 4 bun bottoms. Arrange grilled red pepper pieces, then grilled red onion slices over. Top each with dollop of aioli and some arugula. Cover burgers with bun tops and serve with pickle wedges, and any other desired toppings.

I turned the smokey aioli into a cumin aioli because I cannot have paprika.  I have to say that I liked the burgers in this recipe because I think that adding the aioli kept them super moist.  I do think that the overall recipe just turned out to be a pretty ordinary burger though.  While there isn't anything horrible to say about them, there isn't much that made them amazing either.  I do think that this recipe taught me that adding wet sauces to the meat mixture will improve how hamburgers come out though, which I'll definitely try on other burgers.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Golden Oreo Cheesecake

The theme for the Crazy Cooking Challenge this month was cheesecake.  The themes are getting harder for me because they seem to be things that I've tried to make before and have failed majorly at making.  Last month's fried chicken challenge ended in me getting very frustrated and swearing off fried chicken ever again...which is pretty easy because I hate fried chicken in the first place.


This is now my third cheesecake "masterpiece".  The first one was for a recipe swap, and it turned out good, just nothing too exciting.  The second one was going good, and then I pulled it out of the oven and found a giant crack down the center of it.  This crack made some Grand Canyon crevasses seem small.  So, I guess this third one I didn't have too high of hopes for.  I figured I'd try to make something that sounded interesting, but if it didn't turn out, I'd just chalk it up to being something I'd always buy from the store, and never attempt at home again.

I loved the idea of an Oreo cheesecake, but a few months ago, my husband introduced me to Golden Oreos, which I love just as much as the chocolate ones. So, I decided to switch things up and use them in the cheesecake instead.  I found this recipe on blog that listed the blogger's favorite cheesecake recipe.  Bites of Sweetness has amazing pictures that make your mouth salivate even though you're a thousand miles away from her kitchen. 

Golden Oreo Cheesecake
barely adapted from Bites of Sweetness
1 package Oreo cookies, divided (any flavor)
1/3 cup of butter, melted
3 packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup of sugar
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1) Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Finely crush about 20 cookies and coarsely chop about 10 cookies; set aside.
2) Mix finely crushed cooke crumbs and melted butter in a bowl.  Press into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.
3) In a mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar until creamy.
4) Add eggs one at a time and beat only until just incorporated.
5) Add sour cream and vanilla and mix until incorporated.
6) Fold in chopped cookies.
7) Spread mixture onto crust and bake for 55 to 60 minutes.
8) Place in the fridge and chill at least four hours, or overnight.

Chocolate glaze
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/8 cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1/8 cup corn syrup
4 1/2 squares of white baking chocolate, coarsely chopped

1) Place chocolate in a heat proof bowl.
2) Heat the cream, sugar, butter, and corn syrup in a small sauce pan over medium heat until just simmering.
3) Pour over chocoalte and mix until smooth. (The more you stir, the more it will thicken).
4) Pour over cheesecake and decorate the top as desired.

I liked the flavors of this cheesecake a lot.  I wish the oreos retained some of their crunch, but the flavor is still fantastic.  The blogger said that over-incorporating the eggs into the mixture causes cracks, and I just beat them in until incorporated and I still had cracks in the top of the cheesecake.  I guess that is what the chocolate glaze is for though.  This is a great change from the normal oreo cheesecake.

Black Bean Patties with Corn Relish and Avocado Cream Sauce- Guest Post for a 6th Blogiversary!

Today I'm guest posting over at A Taste of Home Cooking. Sarah's blog recently reached the six year milestone, and she's celebrating by doing a series of guest posts this week. I could choose any recipe from her blog to make, and I chose these delicious Black Bean Patties with Corn Relish and Avocado Cream Sauce. Go check out my post on her blog, and be sure to congratulate Sarah on her 6 year milestone!