Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Best Potatoes You Will Ever Eat, Ever (A Pin a Day #4)

So I'm sitting here blogging, and Charlie asks me what I'm going to write about. It goes a little something like this...

Charlie: What are you going to blog about?
Me: Remember those delicious potatoes?
Charlie: The really delicious ones?
Me: Yes.
Charlie: Those were delicious.

We're very articulate around here with our food.

So here's the deal. You read the blog, you know how my family has a love/hate relationship with food. They hate the healthy stuff, and love to drive me crazy reminding me of that. So when I saw this pin on the feed, I knew they would love it because it's enveloped with bacon, garlic and Parmigiano Reggiano, the undisputed king of cheese. I don't think I've ever found a roasted potato recipe that's ever been this delicious. It's a keeper for sure.

Now I'm not exactly sure if you believe me when I say that these are seriously the best potatoes ever. Because they are. The best. Really. Yes THAT good! 

You will need;
  • Small to medium tender fleshed potatoes such as Yukon Gold (maybe 5 per person to be safe, cuz you don't want to run out of these!)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 thick cut bacon (the good stuff, do splurge here)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (more if you really like garlic)
  • fresh rosemary
  • fresh flat leaf parsley
  • course salt
  • pepper
  • 1/2 cup FRESH grated Parmigiano Reggiano (go ahead and buy the chunk of it and grate it fresh with a micro plane, you'll use the rest of it for a ton of other recipes you didn't even know you were missing out on)

Start by boiling the potatoes in a large pot of salty water. Cook until fork tender, about 15 minutes, drain and let cool.

Cut bacon into chunks and cook until about halfway done. If you over cook the bacon now it will really crisp in the oven, so just cook them until they render out most of their fat. Remove from pan and drain. Do not discard the drippings.

Preheat the oven to 450* and mince the garlic, rosemary and parsley. Set aside.

Prepare your baking sheet by brushing the olive oil on it and drizzling half of the bacon grease as well. Put into the oven to get hot.

Quarter cooled potatoes, pull out hot baking sheet and place potatoes, cut side down, on the hot pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes. Toss potatoes halfway through.

 Reduce temperature to 375*. Sprinkle with garlic, rosemary, bacon and cheese. Return to oven for another 20 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and parsley. Serve.

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Friday, June 29, 2012

Homemade Strawberry Lemonade Cocktails! (A Pin a Day #3)

Welcome to the third installment of my A Pin A Day project! Today's pin is actually a mash up of 3 different pins I've seen floating around, so I thought I'd test them out for you and see how well they actually work!

I bring to you...

Homemade Strawberry Lemonade (Cocktails)! Or for a kid friendly version, just omit the booze people. Family friendly recipes from me to you!

Strawberry Lemonade Caipirinha!
So here's a great thing to do with all those strawberries and lemons before they go bad. And on that note, here's the first tried and true pin of the day... How to keep Strawberries Fresh! and it really does work! It's just a simple rinse with 1 part white vinegar to 10 parts clean water, soak for a few minutes, drain and let dry! Simple and easy tip that I will actually use, and I did, and it worked like a charm. I bought these strawberries last week and here they are, still fresh and not even kinda moldy!

So! Back to the drink I know you're dying to try in this heat...

You will need;
  • 2 lemons (plus one more for garnish)
  • 10-15 strawberries (plus another handful for garnish)
  • sweetener of your choice (I used agave nectar)
  • water
That's it!

Quarter the lemons, and throw them into the blender, half the strawberries and put them in there too. Add your sweetener, and 2 cups water and blend until pretty smooth.

Next you need to strain out the pulp, trust me you're going to want to do this, unless you like drinking bitter bits of rind and zest. Every time I have to strain something I always curse myself for not having a fine mesh strainer. DAMN IT! SO I had to do it the old fashioned way and sit there with my wire skimmer and strain it slowly.

After you've removed the bulk of the pulp, you will want to add more water, taste and adjust the sweetness. We like things pretty sweet around here, so I added quite a bit more agave to it. Now comes the fancy part. If you plan on just sitting in your undies on the couch drinking this alone, I'm sure you could forgo the fancy part, unless you like feeling fancy, then by all means...

I wanted a bit of pulpiness to my lemonade, so I added some macerated strawberries to it. Easy peasy... check it out.

Take those extra strawberries you set aside for garnish, and roughly chop them. Add about a tablespoon of sugar - the granules help break down the fruit because of the abrasiveness of them - and mash with a fork until syrupy. Then add to the pitcher! And if you wanna get even MORE fancy...

You can make these adorable lemon slice flowers! Our next tried and true pin! Simply take the big part of your fruit zester, the scorer I think it's called, and peel away strips of the zest to create petals. I made 8 by first doing it into quarters, then eighths. Then simply thinly slice slices and you've got pretty little flowers to garnish your beverages!

Add ice, taste, adjust, stir, serve. We added cachaca, a Brazilian rum, but feel free to experiment with other boozes. I think this is a nice refreshing drink, with or without alcohol, Charlie was expecting a more "strawberry flavor" because I think he thinks artificial flavors are what fruit really taste like... I like it.


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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Crock Pot BBQ Ribs (A Pin a Day #2)

Let me start this off by saying that I LOVE BBQ, and Charlie just thinks it's OK. I could eat ribs all day and never get enough, but my biggest complaint is how expensive they can get when you order them out. I never really attempted to make them, probably because I didn't know where to start, so every time I saw ribs on a menu, I was all over them. Then I found a pin for ribs cooked in a slow cooker, and I thought, "YES! I can do this!".

I love using my crock pot, I don't care what season it is. I love putting the food in and 8 hours later, pulling my dinner out with little to no work involved. It's great for a busy mom like myself. So ribs in a crock pot was like 2 of my favorite things ever having a delicious smutty relationship and dinner was going to be the bastard son result of the tryst. I bought a rack of ribs when they were on sale, figuring 1 rack was enough for 2 people, but these ribs were so tasty I totally regretted not getting 2 racks and will in the future (maybe even 3, nom nom nom). Heed this warning, 1 rack just barely satisfies 2 people, so do your math people.

It's so easy! Plus it's the week before 4th of July, so you KNOW your local grocery store has ribs on sale right now. Albertson's has them for 2.99/lb.

I adapted this recipe from MMM is for Mommy, and she adapted it from America's Test Kitchen, so feel free to add and subtract at will.

You will need;

  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp smoked paprika (the smoky flavor really helps here!)
  • salt  & pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 racks of Baby Back Pork Ribs
  • Favorite BBQ sauce of your choice, homemade or store bought
Combine the dry ingredients and run all along the outside of the ribs, coating them well. Place them into your slow cooker on LOW heat and cover with BBQ sauce. Cook for 6-8 hours.

Here is where my recipe differs, only because my broiler hates me and I really love utilizing cooking on the BBQ outside in the summer.

Carefully remove your ribs from the crock pot and put onto a plate to rest. Transfer the juices and BBQ sauce in the crock pot into a sauce pot and simmer until reduced and thickened.

If you want to use the broiler, follow her directions for broiling the ribs, if you want a smokier flavor, keep reading.

Preheat your BBQ on HIGH for a few minutes and clean the grates with a wire brush. Reduce heat to MEDIUM and place the ribs bone side down on the grill. Baste the ribs with reduced BBQ sauce mixture every couple minutes until sauce becomes thick and sticky, about 10 minutes. Remove from grill, pour extra sauce on top if you wish and serve.

Charlie said they were THE BEST ribs he's ever eaten, which is saying a lot because as I said before, he doesn't really care for ribs. The meat LITERALLY fell off the bone, and by that I mean, when I picked up a bone to bite into it, all that I pulled up, was a bone. The meat was tender, smoky and delicious, like I had paid $20 for the plate at a BBQ joint. I did it!! Abbey loved them too.

We served ours with some Bush's Grillin' Beans in Bourbon and Brown Sugar and some mustard potato salad from the deli. Delish!

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Boozey Rainbow Jello Cake (A Pin a Day #1)

 I went to lunch with my cousin the other day and she told me about a great idea she had using a blog, and Pinterest. She wants to try a pin a day and blog her successes and fails, and I thought that would be a great project for me too, except I'd mostly be doing food since this is a food blog (duh). So here is my first post in my week of blogging a pin a day! Enjoy!

So now that summer is here, and BBQ's are a-plenty, it's time to make some really show stopping stuff to bring to your potlucks! If you're like me, then it doesn't matter how much time you spend doing something if the end result produces a "WOW! Factor" of epic proportions. I had seen this recipe online and thought it was just too beautiful not to make, I just needed the right occasion, so for our last family BBQ, I made it. I bring to you, the Boozey Rainbow Jello Cake!

A few years ago, my sister worked at a bar at the beach and she was the Jello Shot girl. She got to be really good at making Jello Shots and would always being them over to family get togethers (we're quite the troop of lushes). Hers, although tasty, we're so plain and boring in their little monochrome single serving cups. I decided to step it up a notch after a trip to The Jelly Shot Test Kitchen and viewing some of the most beautiful creations you would swear they couldn't be made of Jello.

Rainbow Jello Cake from Jelly Shot Test Kitchen

I became such a fan of JSTK, that I started buying boxes of Jello every time I saw them on sale at my local grocery store, and eventually had a huge stash of them (check the local ads and coupon savers, you can find them as low as 33 cents a box!). These treats are cheap, pretty and a total showstopper. Warning though, this does take up a good chunk of your afternoon  (or evening) to assemble and then an additional 24 hours in the fridge to firm up, so don't think 2 hours from now you'll be feasting on this. If you opt for an alcohol free version of this "cake", just substitute your favorite juice for vodka. Every step is incredibly important so if you're not of the directions-reading-patient-and diligent variety, do not attempt or it will look something like this.

You will need;
  • 4 1/2 cups water, divided
  • 6 3oz packages gelatin dessert mix (colors and flavors of your liking - I used Cherry, Orange, Lemon, Lime, Blue Raspberry, and Grape for the rainbow effect)
  • 3 envelopes plain Knox gelatin (6 teaspoons of gelatin powder total)
  • 3 cups vodka(or your favorite alcohol, flavored or unflavored)
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk (yogurt or cool whip will also work, you'll need about 12 tbsp)
  • a bundt pan
  • cooking spray or oil to coat pan
Place your vodka in the freezer to keep it chilled. Prepare your pan by lightly spraying it with cooking spray or oil, and wiping out the excess.

Start with your first layer (I used grape first)
  1. Heat 3/4 cup of water in a small sauce pan over low heat and sprinkle with 1 tsp (half a package) of unflavored gelatin. Stir to dissolve.
  2. Wisk in package of flavored Jello, stir to dissolve, about 5 minutes.
  3. Remove of heat and add 1/2 cup of alcohol.
  4. Pour half of the mixture, about 3/4 cup into the mold and return to refrigerator to set up, about 20-30 minutes. Transfer remaining mixture to a separate cup and place in the fridge to cool about 5 minutes.
  5. Add 2 tbsp sweetened condensed milk to mixture in separate cup and stir to combine. Let cool and thicken slightly, about 5-10 minutes.
  6. Test the Jello in the mold. Place your finger on the top. If the mixture is sticky, but releases from your finger, it is ready for the next layer. Slowly pour the 2nd mixture on top of the Jello in the mold and return to the fridge to cool and set up. 
  7. Wash your sauce pan, and get ready to repeat steps 1-7 with the next flavor.
Make sure the layers are still sticky before pouring the next layer on top of the layers will not stick. Make sure when pouring the mixture into the mold that the Jello is not too hot, or it will melt the layer below and you will not get a defined line, which is the most striking element of this dessert.  If you plan on using yogurt or whipped cream instead of condensed milk, make sure the mixture is completely cooled, or you will get a lumpy curdled effect in your creamy layers. You should have 12 alternating creamy and clear layers at the end. As you work up to the top of the dessert the chilling time will shorten due to the dessert becoming more cold, so double check the stickiness frequently.

When you are finished, let the mold sit in the fridge for at least 24 hours. This allows the Jello to set and thicken so it's easier to remove from the mold, and cut into slices.

To remove the cake from the mold, dip into warm water for about 10 seconds. Make sure the water isn't too hot, or you leave it in the water too long as the Jello will melt and make an unsightly mess (Trust me haha). Place a plate on top of the mold, and flip over to release. There might be a bit of melty jello, so just clean it up with a paper towel and place back into the fridge until ready to serve so it can firm up one more time.

Your cake, if you followed all the directions above, should look like this.

Remove from fridge.

Revel in the awe.



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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Perfect Pan Fried Pork Chops

Here in our house, we love pork chops. I especially love when they are on sale and I can get them really cheap! And by really cheap I mean for like a buck each, now THAT'S cheap! I often struggle with new ways to cook an old standard, because after awhile, I just get tired of baked pork chops.

I found this recipe in the 2010 issue of The Best of America's Test Kitchen, and fell in love with it the first time I tried it out. It produces a flavorful and juicy chop, and in a lot less time than baking them. Plus! cooking it this way doesn't heat up the house in the summer. A perfect pan fried pork chop is such a staple in the south, home of comfort food, and I am always happy when I find something Charlie requests on a semi-regular basis.

You will need;
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 chops, bone in or boneless will both work, about 1/4" thick
  • 3 slices bacon (or reserved drippings, about 1 tbsp)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
 Combine all the spices together to make a rub. I sometimes use this rub recipe, or I will use Amazing Taste Brand Malibu Seasoning, which is perfect for pork chops. Place flour in a shallow bowl or plate. Pat the chops dry, make 2 slits in the fatty side of the chop (to prevent chops from curling when cooking) and season with rub. Dredge the chops through the flour to coat. Let rest 10 minutes and dredge again.

Cook the bacon in a large skillet until crisp, or heat up reserved drippings. Discard bacon for another use later and keep the drippings in the pan. Add oil and heat over medium until just smoking. Cook chops until brown, about 4 minutes on each side.

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Sliced Garlic Baked Potatoes (Hassleback Potatoes)

Here's a little Scandinavian treat I whipped up the other night! Even though I am Danish, and my mother used to cook all kinds of Scandinavian dishes when we were growing up, she never made these and now I'm super mad at her. These are pretty to look at, easy to make, and fun to eat. They are called Hassleback Potatoes and a Google search pulls up a ton of results for recipes.

I used some good sized russet baking potatoes, but I think any sized potato would work fine, you would just need to adjust the cooking times. Mine took a little over an hour, and even then the very center of each slice was still a bit too firm and we ended up nuking each potato for a couple minutes longer. I think next time I'll make smaller ones of a waxy variety.

You will need;
  • 1 medium to large potato for each person (I used 2)
  • 2-3 large cloves of garlic, sliced thin
  • butter
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 450* and scrub your potatoes. Using a VERY sharp knife, carefully slice the potato thinly ALMOST all the way through, but leaving the slices intact on the bottom. I've read in a couple recipes that you can place the potato on the divet of a wooden spoon as a slicing guide, but I have not used this technique. Place the thin slices of garlic in between the potato slices, doubling up on some if needed. Place on a lined baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place VERY thinly sliced pats of butter on the top of the potatoes, so the butter will melt into the slices when cooking, and place into the oven for 40-90 minutes depending on the size of your potatoes.

We served these with some Pan Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Perfect Pan Fried Pork Chops.

 Once again, we used standard baking russets and ours took over an hour and were still not totally done. Charlie mentioned using our convection toaster oven next time and I think that might be a better bet so we don't heat up the house so much.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Pan Roasted Brussel Sprouts

As a kid, my sister LOVED brussel sprouts. I thought she was a crazy person, but she freaking loved them. I don't remember how my mother made them for her, but I'm sure they we're steamed and over cooked to the point of me not finding them appetizing at all. My mom made a lot of really delicious things, but steamed veggies weren't one of them. It wasn't until a few years ago that I tried brussel sprouts again, and I understood what my sister had known all along.

 They are pretty amazing little veggies.

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French Dip Sandwiches (with homemade bread!)

Pinterest is my life. I use it whenever I have a free moment to meal plan for the week, and look for new and interesting recipes that my very picky family will eat. It's very hard to eat healthy when the people you cook for favorite food groups are bacon, butter, cheese, and meat. No veggies, no fruits, no whole grains, so I gotta sneak them in when I can. Luckily the baby will eat anything without much objection. Usually after a meal or two of me making them eat more healthy, I reward them with something extra delicious. I saw this pin a few months ago and added it to my board, Recipes to Try.

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Lemon Grilled Chicken in Creamy Piccata Sauce

This recipe came right off the pages of Pinterest, and after reading the recipe, realized it's just a healthier, pasta version of Charlie's favorite chicken dish I make him, so I knew it would be a hit! I thought I blogged about his favorite Lemon Chicken, but now I can't seem to find it on the blog, so I guess I'll add it to the list of things to share.

This is a lemony, creamy pasta paired with marinated grilled chicken. It's light, flavorful, delicious and hard to mess up. The original recipe can be found here at Plain Chicken, and mine is below. Make sure you make this for dinner this summer! It's such a great dish that tastes much richer than it is!

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

So if you live in Southern California, perhaps you've heard of Oggi's Pizza. If not, you're missing out on a great little pizza and brewery with a delicious menu. Since Abbey's been born we don't get out as much as we used to, but our cravings for our favorite goods hasn't really subsided, so I've gotten pretty decent at copycatting recipes that we can enjoy at home for less money and less calories! Enter Oggi's Slam Dunk Buffalo Chicken Pizza! My version is less like Oggi's and more Charlie friendly, but it's still a pretty amazing substitute. Feel free to add or subtract toppings as you wish, but please, give this a try sometime this summer. It goes great with blue cheese or ranch.

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Healthy Pancakes? Nooo... YES!

Healthy Pancakes? Can it be!? Yes! And no, they don't taste like cardboard, they are actually delicious! The secret? Oatmeal, greek yogurt and bananas. Abbey and I had these for breakfast yesterday and they were too good not to share. I got my inspiration for these delicious pancakes from Pinterest but made a few tweaks with what I currently had in my Fridge. Follow this link for the original Biggest Loser recipe, or read on below for mine.

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Homemade Cheez-its!

My family is OBSESSED with cheese crackers. Nary a box makes it out of our house alive or survives for more than a day or two. My step daughter Audrey always asks if she can "have a snack", and her choice du jour is always a cheese cracker. Not only are store bought cheese crackers expensive, but they are LOADED with extra salt and preservatives. I don't know about you, but I've been trying to eliminate those from our lives for a long time. I found a recipe that not only is easy to make, but so closely resembles the look and taste of the ubiquitous cheese cracker that even Charlie was convinced. Special thanks to The Frugal Girls for this tasty recipe!

Homemade, customizable cheese crackers!

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever

Crunchy on the outside, gooey in the center.
I love cookies, it's a well known fact that chocolate chip cookies are the end all to be all of cookies. Don't try to contest this, you will not win. I have, over the years, made countless batches of cookies, with almost as many different recipes. It's also a well known fact, just like pizza and sex, that even a bad cookie is still pretty good. But the art of making a perfect cookie is often lost in translation, but we'll get to that in a bit.

I found this recipe online whilst looking for the holy grail of chocolate chip cookies to make for Charlie and his work buddies. I wanted to be the one that all those hungry construction workers begged to make "those amazing cookies" so I really needed a good recipe, cuz let's face it, hungry men aren't that picky. I can't tell you how I found this recipe, because simply put, I don't remember, but I bet it went along the lines of me googling "the best chocolate chip cookie recipe ever". What I found was this...

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Zuppa Toscana

Yesterday I made a pot of this tasty soup for a few reasons; 1. I LOVE this soup!, 2. I had all the ingredients on hand from an earlier meal, and 3. I was cleaning out the fridge and needed to make something before it went bad. I understand for some people that soup isn't really a summer staple (I'm in California remember? It's hotter earlier here!) but I just love soup all the time, and it's just a great and quick lunch to have on hand.

I posted this on my Facebook page and got a few comments regarding wanting the recipe, so I figured, why not? Here you go!

 Zuppa Toscana
(An Olive Garden inspired Copycat Recipe, after the cut)

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