Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Summer Peach Cake

When we first started this blog, I said I wasn't into making complicated desserts. I was just a mix and bake kind of a girl. This dessert is making a big fat liar out of me.

Perhaps having a cooking blog has pushed me to try a little harder in the dessert department. Or maybe I just wanted to use my new springform pan. Or maybe I just wanted to make something awesome with summer peaches while they're still here. The thing is, this dessert required way more effort than I'd normally want to expend for one little cake. It's a Cook's Illustrated recipe, so naturally, it has a thousand steps, yet it is also super-delicious. Trade-off.

It's probably not as complicated as making a peach pie, though. If you see me making double-crust pies on here, then you'll know I've officially lost my mind. You have to draw the line somewhere.

We had a little BBQ at our house over Labor Day weekend with John's family (hi Fred!), and this cake followed a pretty serious pulled pork dinner. A slice of this cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream was the perfect way to end the meal, and bid a fond farewell to summer.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sherried Pineapple Pork Tenderloin

My main motivation for making this recipe was that it would use up one of the 5 little cans of pineapple juice that have been taking up space in my pantry since we lived in our old apartment. I can't even remember what I originally bought it for. I had no idea that this would become a favorite in our house... I made it two weeks in a row, which is something I almost never do.  And I might even make it next week, since I still have three cans of pineapple juice left. The sauce is so good that John convinced me that we needed to save the remaining two tablespoons of it, because surely we'd find something to dip in it. Oh, and did I mention that it's quick and easy to make?

The original recipe says that it serves four, but that's just silly. My portion was what you see above, so I'm going to say it serves two. If you've got more people to feed, this could easily be doubled. We ate ours with some delicious pear, walnut, and feta salad.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Blueberry Scones

I'm sure I will forever think of these as "hurricane scones." John and I were enjoying a few days at the Jersey Shore this week, and had to end our stay early due to the evacuations. The night before we left, we discussed what we wanted to eat while we were holed up during Irene, and scones seemed like good comfort food. We passed through Hammonton, NJ on our way home, which happens to be the blueberry capital of the world (or so it claims). So, we picked up some fresh blueberries at a farm stand and were ready for some stormy-weather baking.

If you've ever had a true British scone, these are not the same. They are also not the crumbly, dry American version you might pick up at Starbuck's. They are a bit crispy and sweet on the outside, and moist and tender on the inside. I thought they might be nice served with some lemon curd, but I didn't think it was worth going to the grocery store and fighting my way through the pre-storm crowds just to pick up a jar. You should have these with a cup of tea (preferably with milk, if you're going to be all British about it).

One somewhat unusual step in this recipe is to grate the butter. Make sure yours is good and frozen or this won't work so well. The rest of the process is kind of similar to making biscuits: you have to roll and shape the dough without over-working it. You'll definitely need a bench scraper if you're going to attempt this recipe. These are best eaten warm out of the oven, but you can freeze the dough once you've prepared it and heat them up when you're ready to eat them (further directions are below).   

If you subscribe to Cook's Illustrated, you can check out a helpful video of how to make these scones on their website.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Fresh Corn Salad with Black Beans and Tomatoes

Here's another recipe made during our stay at the Cook's Country house in Vermont. If you're looking for a great side dish to bring to a BBQ or picnic, look no further: this salad is healthy, full of ingredients that you can buy right now at your local farm stand, and it's easy to make. I made it extra-summery by grilling the corn rather than boiling it as the original recipe called for. I also added avocado, because it just seemed to make sense with the other ingredients. Fresh corn and tomatoes are the stars here, so please don't use the canned kind. The leftovers make a great filling for quesadillas and omlettes!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Summer Tomato Pie

I can't take credit for making this delicious creation: my friend Kate made it while we were on our Vermont vacation (I can only take credit for eating it). I never get tired of fresh tomatoes (especially when they're layered with cheese), so I plan to make this myself before the summer is over. Served at room temperature, a slice of this pie with a fresh green salad makes an excellent dinner on a steamy August evening.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Vacation Photos

John and I are back from our food-themed trip to the Cook's Country farmhouse in Rupert, VT. We cooked some pretty amazing meals in the set kitchen (not the best photo, but you can see the studio lights on the ceiling). Can't you just picture Bridget and Chris cooking right here?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Barbecued Chicken Kebabs

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you know that John and I are huge fans of Cook's Illustrated. This recipe is a perfect example of why we adore them: in order to keep the chicken pieces moist while grilling, the recipe tells you to coat them with pureed bacon. Weird, yet brilliant.

Although pureeing bacon might have been the nastiest thing I've ever done with my food processor, the resulting kebabs were phenomenal. We used chicken thighs, as the recipe recommends, but you can use breasts if that's your thing (just don't use breasts and thighs on the same skewer since they cook at different rates). I totally dig the homemade barbecue sauce from this recipe, but you could easily sub your favorite bottled brand if you want to save some time. Just don't skip the bacon paste!

We cooked ours on our charcoal grill, but I'm including instructions for a gas grill as well. Tomorrow we're heading to Vermont to stay at the Cook's Country house (see the previous post for more info), so stay tuned for lots of fabulous photos and recipes from our stay.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Cheesy Chili Mac

Lately I've developed a keen interest in all things Cook's Country. If you're not familiar with this show, it's the sister show to America's Test Kitchen on PBS (they also publish a magazine with recipes). It's filmed at a farmhouse in Vermont, and the show focuses on down-home American food. John discovered that you can rent out the farmhouse where the show is filmed, so guess who is taking a Vermont vacation next month? John and I and a few of our friends are headed up to the lovely Green Mountains to enjoy a week of relaxing, cooking, eating, hiking, and more eating! The house is stocked with pantry items, cookbooks, and all kinds of kitchen equipment (as you might expect), and we plan to take full advantage of it! It's a food blogger's wet dream, really.

In the meantime, I've been recording the show and keeping an eye out for tasty-looking Cook's Country recipes, like this one for cheesy chili mac. This one caught my eye because it looked easy enough to make on a weeknight (it was), it only required one skillet, and it's full of cheese. John and I liked this so much that there was only a tiny bit leftover for lunch the next day (and it was delicious reheated).

Friday, May 6, 2011

Marbled-Chocolate Banana Bread

So I was going to make chocolate chip banana bread with the bunch of brown bananas sitting on my counter, but then Cooking Light posted a link to their best banana bread recipes on Facebook. And they had me at "marbled chocolate."

It's the same basic recipe as the chocolate chip bread, but instead of just throwing the chocolate chips in the batter, you melt them down, mix them with some batter, and then swirl the resulting chocolatey goodness into your bread. I made a few substitutions to the original recipe: I used white whole wheat flour in place of all purpose (so it's, um, healthy?), 2 eggs in place of the egg substitute, and vanilla yogurt in place of the regular.

The note on the Cooking Light recipe says to toast the bread, and smear it with peanut butter. Yes. Do this.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Chicken Involtini with Prosciutto and Basil

Grilled chicken breasts don't hold a lot of appeal for me... if I'm going to bust out the grill (ok, if John is going to bust out the grill), I want something a little more interesting than a bland old chicken breast. These chicken breasts, however, are totally not boring. They are stuffed with prosciutto, cheese, and basil, making them something special. Special enough for company, in fact... it was such a gorgeous day yesterday that we invited our friends over to enjoy some grilling and leisurely wine-sipping on the deck. Maybe it was the wine, but we all really loved these.

The only thing I would do differently the next time I make these is add more cheese! Only one slice is used per chicken breast, which seems a little skimpy. You need at least two in there. Also the grilling time called for in the recipe was 12 minutes... ours took over 20. I'm not sure if it was something with our grill or if I didn't pound the chicken flat enough, but be sure to test yours so as not to give your friends and family salmonella. We did the cut-it-open-and-see-if-it's-pink test, but an instant read thermometer would work too.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Chicken Fried Steak!

This is so good that it totally deserves the exclamation point! I make a lot of Italian themed dishes and all of them are arguably my favorite meal depending on my mood.  This is probably my favorite thing I've ever made that didn't involve tomatoes.  I've had chicken fried steak only a few times, and living in NJ and not Texas, it's hard to find restaurants that actually make it homemade.  Apparently Texas restaurants serve over 800,000 chicken fried steak orders every day!  Needless to say, our next trip to Austin is going to include a chicken fried steak dinner.  So knowing what this dish should taste like, and not what I've eaten in local diners, I set out to find a few recipes.

There were several that looked good, but I settled on a tried and true recipe from our friends at Cooks Illustrated.  Instead of using 6 small steaks, we used 2 good sized steaks, maybe 8 or 10 oz each, but kept the measurements of everything else the same.  This allowed me to use a bit more batter on the steaks, a very good thing.  Being bigger steaks, we cooked them one at a time, much easier this way I think. Another change we made to the recipe was we used a vegetable/corn oil blend instead of peanut oil.  They didn't have peanut oil at the grocery store, and we didn't see the need to track it down just for this recipe.  

As you can see, we served this with some delicious mashed potatoes and Bec's fluffy biscuits.

Tip: definitely use a dutch oven to cook these in. I used our trusty 12 inch cast iron skillet, and it got a little messy. If we had a gas cooktop, we'd probably be posting about a kitchen fire and not chicken friend steak.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Creamy Goat Cheese Pasta with Roasted Asparagus

I had a subscription to Everyday Food several years ago, and this is the one recipe that I've saved and made over and over again. Whenever spring rolls around and I start seeing asparagus on sale at the grocery store, I immediately think of this recipe. It's a snap to make... you combine the goat cheese and a little butter with hot pasta cooking water to make a creamy, no-cook sauce. Then toss it with your pasta and roasted asparagus. Easy peasy.

I usually leave out the chive garnish, just to make this that much easier. John, however, prefers to add crumbled bacon. Do what you will, but please don't make the same mistake I did the first time I cooked this: the recipe says to reserve 1 1/2 cups of the pasta cooking water, but then instructs you to only put 1/2 cup in the sauce (and add the rest incrementally, if needed). Since I often fail at reading directions, I dumped in the entire cup and half of water. The sauce was a little thin, to say the least. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Wilted Spinach Salad with Bacon and Balsamic Vinaigrette

This might sound weird if you've never had a warm salad before, but I promise the spinach really holds up well to the warm dressing (dressing made with bacon fat, by the way). I'm just going to let the bacon convince you. Bacon bacon bacon. Just try it. It's really a very simple recipe without a lot of ingredients (no hard boiled eggs here... why does it seem like every spinach salad has to have those??). The recipe says it serves four as a first course, but John and I took down the whole salad as a side dish to our steak dinner.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce

My slow cooker is an appliance that I really, really want to like, but it constantly disappoints me. Almost everything I've made in it has been completely underwhelming. So, when the America's Test Kitchen people came out with their new cookbook, Slow Cooker Revolution, I knew they'd be able to improve my relationship with the slow cooker. This recipe for bolognese sauce was definitely a good start. I've never made a traditional bolognese, but this was just as flavorful as anything I've had at a restaurant (and John couldn't get enough of it, so it's Italian-approved).

The folks at America's Test Kitchen always come up with creative ways to solve common cooking dilemmas, and this recipe is no exception. To prevent the meat from drying out during the long cooking time, they mix it with a panade of bread and cream before putting it in the slow cooker. The recipe (which I am posting as written) calls for meatloaf mix, but I ended up using a mix of ground beef and pork. I also ended up adding quite a bit of salt once this was done cooking, so next time I will probably add more than the recommended 1/2 teaspoon to the meat mixture before it goes in the crock pot.

I think the appeal of the slow cooker for many people is the time-saving element. On that end, this recipe does take some prep work (chopping and sauteing vegetables), so it might not be an ideal weeknight recipe. However, this recipe saves you time in that it makes a huge batch of sauce: enough to sauce three pounds of pasta! So, you can make it on the weekend and freeze the rest for a busy night. I know John and I are looking forward to eating these leftovers!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch Bars

If Anthony Bourdain were judging these bars on Top Chef, I'm pretty sure he'd call them "perfect stoner food." Because these are basically Rice Krispie treats on crack. The bottom layer is Rice Krispies, pretzels, and marshmallow, topped with a peanut butter layer, then topped with a chocolate layer. And see all that crushed goodness on top? Crushed peanuts and pretzels. Awesome.

I've made these twice since John's sister-in-law, Brooke, posted these on her blog a few weeks ago.  These are so good that John, myself, and two of our friends managed to take down a whole pan in one sitting. Just try to resist the salty, sweet, chewy, crunchy, peanutty goodness and eat only one. It cannot be done.  

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Chicken Piccata with Lemony Orzo

So, John's aunt has been nagging gently reminding us to update our blog, and she's right... we're slackers. So, this one's for you, Linda. This recipe is from the November 2010 issue of Cooking Light, and I've made it a few times since getting the issue in the mail. Chicken piccata (or, "chicken picante" as John's dad calls it) is a pan-seared chicken breast served with a lemon-caper sauce. And this particular version is quick, easy, and healthy. It's a good weeknight dinner for these reasons, and also because you can take out your workday frustrations by pounding your chicken into cutlets (and drinking the rest of the wine that you don't put in the sauce).

Plus, it's Penny-approved:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Spicy Honey-Brushed Chicken Thighs

So... how are those New Year's resolutions coming along? Uh, yeah... me too. If you want a quick, healthy, and tasty dinner to get you back on track, give this recipe a try. True, chicken thighs are not quite as lean as the breasts, but they're still quite healthy and they have a lot more flavor. And if saving money was one of your resolutions: chicken thighs are cheaper than the breasts, too.

John and I have made these a bunch of times, but somehow they've never made it to the blog. It's a quick and easy recipe... all you have to do is brush the spice rub on the chicken, broil for a few minutes, and then brush on the glaze (and you know I love a good glaze). These have that great sweet and spicy combo, but they're not too hot. We had ours with some green beans and Trader Joe's Harvest Grains.

P.S. We're on Twitter now, so follow us here, or click the button on the right. We'll be tweeting all sorts of delicious things. And by "we", I mean John, since I have virtually no understanding of how it works.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Cast Iron Skillet Deep Dish Pizza

Last week I got a craving for some deep dish pizza, which is understandable because all I ever make is Trenton style thin crust pizza. I didn't have a recipe but I knew I wanted Chicago style deep dish and I wanted to cook it in our trusty cast iron skillet.  I looked around a little bit to see if I could find a secret recipe from Lou Malnati's somewhere, but of course there was none to be found.  So I found my way over to the greatest cooking site on the planet, cooksillustrated.com.  They had just updated their Chicago style deep dish pizza recipe last year, so I knew I could count on them, as per usual. Their recipe makes two 9 inch pizzas, but I wanted to use my 12 inch skillet, no big deal, I'll just make one large dough ball and one small dough ball.  They also list their own tomato sauce recipe, but that's silly since I make my own tomato sauce and always have it on hand.  Although, their recipe looks good and I wouldn't mind if you used it.  Now let's talk about the crust on this pizza.  Chicago style deep dish pizza has a buttery, biscuit-like crust, and that was the most important thing i wanted to get right with this pie.  The key to this is laminating the dough.  What is laminated dough you say? Well you get it when you press together alternating layers of butter and dough.  Mmmm...butter.  As you can see, it makes for a flaky, pastry like crust that holds up well to all the cheese and sauce.  Go ahead and try this recipe tonight, you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Skillet Carbonara Casserole

We decided to take a snow day today, even though we really didn't get more than 6 inches. I mean, who wants to wake up and shovel snow at 7am? So after Bec made me some delicious pancakes (another future blog post), I decided to stop being lazy with this blog and put up some delicious recipes we've made recently.  My parents came over for a weeknight meal a few weeks ago, and this Skillet Carbonara Casserole from Cooks Country was a hit!  It has all the delicious flavors of a spaghetti carbonara but it's a heck of a lot easier to make all in one skillet.  We served it with my tasty Balls of Meat and a salad, and it made for a hearty meal. This recipe will definitely be in regular rotation.