Saturday, April 30, 2011

Corned Beef Hash with Eggs

Growing up, my dad was always in the kitchen. After he took a job that allowed him to be home by 3pm, he became the primary cook in our house. Once he got his bearing, tried some new recipes, and gained some confidence, it was wonderful!

To this day, I am still amazed at my dad's ability to look in the pantry, have no real direction, and whip up a super-yummy dinner in no time. I cannot do this....I am a cookbook/ recipe cook. I like having the comfort of having the recipe with precise measurements right in front of me. Oh, I tend to do "off recipe" almost every time (adding a little this or a dash of that) but I always tend to stay true to the heart of the recipe. What kind of cook are you??

Here you'll find a recipe that will always, always remind me of my dad. I'd never made my own Corned Beef Hash (we typically got it out of a can!) but this was to-die-for. Surprisingly easy, I was able to whip this up Easter morning all while trying to entertain a 1 year old. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do and maybe it will bring some fond memories your way.

Corned Beef Hash with Eggs

Yield: 4 large servings (or up to 6 smaller servings)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
3 cups finely chopped, cooked corned beef
3 cups chopped, cooked potatoes
4 Eggs
Salt and pepper, to taste
Chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Heat the butter in a large cast iron skillet on medium heat. Add the onion and cook for a few minutes, until translucent.

Add the corned beef and potatoes, salt, and pepper and spread the mixture out evenly in the pan. Increase the heat to high or medium high and press down on the mixture with a metal spatula.

Do not stir the potatoes and corned beef mixture, but let them brown. If you hear them sizzling, this is good. Use a spatula to life up a corner to see if they are browning. Once nicely browned, use the spatula to flip sections over in the pan so that they brown on the other side. Press down again with the spatula. If there is too much sticking, you can add a little more butter to the pan.

Make 4 indentations in the corned beef hash so that there is only a thin layer of hash. Crack each egg into a well.

Continue to cook in this manner until the potatoes and the corned beef are nicely browned and the eggs are cooked to your preferred done-ness (I like over-easy so I only cook them about 2 minutes). Top with fresh parsley. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Vegetables

I received this recipe from a friend and coworker who had taken a cooking class recently. She said that it was the most delicious dish the class had made that I knew I had to see what it was all about.

This was my first time making quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) and I was interested to see if I liked what it was all about. According to Wikipedia (hey, I do my research for you guys because I care), quinoa is a grain that is known for it's high protein content. It's also a good source of dietary fiber. This means good things for you and me. As any dieter knows, you want foods that are high in fiber and protein (especially protein because it keeps you feeling full) but low in fat and calories. Well, it doesn't get much better than this grain.

In this dish, I've combined roasted vegetables with the quinoa, but you could definitely grill them. For me, it's been pretty cold and rainy, so I opted for the oven. It was delicious, very filling, and wonderful both warm and cold. I feel like this dish will be making many appearances at summer bbq's and get-togethers this year.

I hope you try it and find it to be as different and refreshing as I did!

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Vegetables
For the quinoa:
1C quinoa
2C chicken (or vegetable) stock

For the vinaigrette:
1 shallot, minced
3 T red wine vinegar
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
1/2 C parmesan cheese, finely grated

For the vegetables:
Vegetables, cut into small uniform pieces (I used 8oz. portabella mushrooms, 1 small yellow squash, 1 small zucchini, 1 medium onion, 6 oz. cherry tomatoes)
extra virgin olive oil

finishing touches:
1/4 C Italian flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1/4 C pine nuts, lightly toasted

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees (for the veggies).

Heat the quinoa and stock in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce to medium-low, and cover. Simmer until the liquid is absorbed (about 15 - 20 minutes). Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette by putting the shallot, vinegar, and mustard in a small bowl. Drizzle in oil while whisking constantly. Add cheese and stir to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper - adjust to your tastes.

On a sheet pan scatter the cut vegetables. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven at 450 degrees for 15 - 20 minutes or until the veggies are tender and starting to brown. Remove from the oven and set aside.

**Alternately, you can grill the veggies if the weather is cooperating with you!

To assemble the salad, combine the quinoa, veggies, vinaigrette, parsley, and pine nuts in a large bowl. Toss to combine all ingredients. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Enjoy!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Apple Stuffed Roast Pork

As much as I love to cook, with a toddler, sometimes that becomes nearly impossible. So for those days that we're incredibly busy or Mr. Man's being too cute to not play with, I try to find shortcuts that make my life easier.

Thay being said, I was at my local grocery store when I spotted apple stuffing mix. It's quick, easy, and usually a crowd pleaser. To my further excitement, there was a recipe for Apple Stuffed Roast Pork on the back of the box.

I tried that recipe and it was really delicious. While it wasn't that quick, it was easy, and made for a impressive and pretty dinner. I hope you like it as much as we did!

Apple Stuffed Roast Pork

1 pkg. Apple stuffing mix (mine happened to be Stove Top)
1 pork loin, butterflied
2 T. maple syrup
2 T. dijon mustard
1 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the stuffing as directed on the package. Let stand 5 minutes.

Place the meat, cut side up, on your work surface. Cover with stuffing, leaving 1/2 inch border. Roll up the meat, starting at the short end.

Place the meat, seam side down, on a greased pan. Bake 1 hour.

Meanwhile, mix the syrup, mustard, and rosemary. Spread over the meat. Bake an additional 20 minutes or until the meat is 160 degrees.

*This post is not sponsered by Stove Top in any way...I just happened to really like this recipe :)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Peanut Butter Blossoms

Every so often, my husband has what I call "psychic moments." I don't know if it's a product of living with me for a while now or just random coincidence, but sometimes it's pretty freaky! Case and point...last week I came across a recipe for Peanut Butter Blossoms and thought they would be the perfect surprise for him since usually the only cookies he gets are the ones I deem too "ugly" to give to someone else.

That very same night, he comes home and says, "I've been thinking...can you make some peanut butter cookies? The ones with the Hershey kiss in it? That sounds good...."

WHAT?! I've never, EVER made these cookies. How could he have picked the exact cookie that I wanted to surprise him with?! I have no idea...therefore he must be psychic. Regardless, I made them and they were worth it! These are truly amazing and perfect for gifting (or hoarding them yourself!) Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Blossoms

1/2 c. butter
3/4 c. creamy peanut butter
1/3 c. sugar (plus more for rolling)
1/3 c. light brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 & 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
Hershey's Kisses (I needed about 30)

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 375.

Using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and peanut butter until blended. Add both sugars and beat until light and fluffy. Add in the egg through vanilla and mix until thoroughly combined. Add in the flour in 3 additions. Scrape the bottom and side of bowl as needed.

Place extra granulated sugar on a plate. Shape the dough into 1-inch balls and roll in the sugar.

Place coated dough balls on the parchment-lined sheets. Bake cookies until the are a very light golden color, about 10 minutes. (Meanwhile, unwrap the kisses.)

Remove the cookies from the oven and immediately place a kiss on top of each hot cookie, pressing down slightly. Transfer cookies to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Dark and White Chocolate Layer Cake with Strawberries

I was thinking of calling this "The Perfect Party Cake" because it was just that...PERFECT! Everyone at Mr. Man's first birthday party raved about how great this cake was. I wish I could take FULL credit, but I can't. This recipe is a mash-up of a few different components. Dark Chocolate cake, White Chocolate filling, Whipped cream icing - Delish!

Now, the pic below is of Mr. Man's cake. I also did a smash cake using this recipe, but left out the strawberries for the smaller version.

The recipe will reflect the cake, filling, and frosting. However, the icing/ decoration on the cake are vanilla buttercream and it was so easy to decorate with it! You could also do the entire cake in buttercream, but for some reason, my little guy doesn't like the overly sweetness of buttercream. Well...with him living in this house, I'm sure that will eventually change!

Dark and White Chocolate Layer Cake with Strawberries

For the dark chocolate cake:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup dark cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

For the white chocolate whipped cream:
6 oz. white chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream

For the whipped cream frosting:
1 cup cold heavy cream
4 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Fresh strawberries, for filling (I used about 1 pint)

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour the sides of two 9-inch round cake pans, and line the bottom of each with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the sugar, eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; mix at medium-low speed until smooth. Add in the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just incorporated. Stir in the boiling water (batter will be thin).

Pour batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of each cake, remove the cakes from the pans, and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. When the cake has cooled, cut each in half horizontally to create four cake layers.

To make the white chocolate whipped cream, place the chopped white chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Melt, stirring occasionally. When the chocolate is almost melted, bring 1/2 cup of the cream to a boil. Once the chocolate is fully melted, transfer the bowl to a counter, pour in the hot cream and let it sit for one minute. Then stir gently with a spatula until the chocolate is smooth. Let the chocolate sit until it reaches room temperature – the chocolate can’t be the least bit warm when it is added to the whipped cream.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the remaining 1 cup cream only until it holds the softest peaks. With the mixer on high speed, add the white chocolate all at once and continue to beat just until the mixture holds firm peaks. Transfer the cream to a bowl, press a piece of plastic wrap gently against the surface and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

To make the whipped cream frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment beat the cream, sugar and vanilla together just until the cream starts to thicken. Start on a slower speed and increase the speed as the cream gains texture. Continue to beat until the cream holds stiff peaks. Be very careful not to overbeat.

To assemble the cake, transfer one of the cake layers to a 10-inch cardboard circle, cut surface up. Spread a thick layer of white chocolate whipped cream on top of the cake. Layer with fresh strawberry slices. Lay another cake layer on top of the cream and berries, and press down gently. Top as before with white chocolate whipped cream and berries. Repeat once more with another cake layer and topping. Place the final cake layer on top, cut side down, and press down gently. Frost the cake with whipped cream frosting and garnish with fresh berries or decorate as desired. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Creamy Fruit Dip

Any time there's a party and there's a fresh fruit tray, I think this dip should be right next to it. Besides, we don't want things to be TOO healthy - that would ruin all of the fun of a party!

One key note/ funny story to add, however. If you do make this, please (for the sake of your guests), garnish it with some fresh fruit so everyone knows what it is. There's nothing worse than dipping a gleaming strawberry full-on into dip and shoveling it into your mouth, just to realize it's not fruit dip but onion dip...and meant for the pretzels next to it. Yup....happened to me this year, yuck. It was not pleasing to the palate.

But, had that dip been this dip, it would have been a completely different story. It's so easy but really makes fruit go down faster and it will disappear in a matter of minutes!

Creamy Fruit Dip

1 (8 oz.) pacakge cream cheese, softened
1 pint marshmallow fluff
2 Tbs. orange juice

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Transfer to a serving dish and cool until ready to use. Garnish with fresh fruit (so guests know exactly what it is!)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Cherry Berry Ice Cream

I am definitely on a homemade ice cream kick. After realizing how amazing the Strawberry Vanilla Bean ice cream was, I just couldn't wait to try another berry flavor. Since last summer, I've had an array of fruit in my freezer...cherries and blackberries from our aunt's farm in southern IL plus blueberries and peaches from Michigan. I decided that in order to jump-start the summer weather, I'd make a variation of the delicious dessert and go with a Cherry Berry Ice Cream.

For this recipe, I mixed strawberries, cherries, blueberries, and blackberries. It made the ice cream bright, fresh, and wonderfully fruity. Plus it's a really pretty pinky-purple color. I just love it!

Cherry Berry Ice Cream

1 1/2 lbs. fresh or frozen berries (I used cherries, strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries)
1 cup sugar (plus more depending on tartness)
2 tbsps. vodka (optional)
1 1/2 C. sour cream
1 1/2 C. heavy cream
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Combine the berries in a medium bowl with the sugar and vodka. Stir until the sugar begins to dissolve. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a blender or food processor and add the sour cream, heavy cream and lemon juice. Pulse briefly until almost smooth but still slightly chunky. Taste the mixture (this is essentially what your ice cream will taste like - yum! Check the sugar level. If it still seems tart, add a little more until it has the perfect amount of sweetness.)

Chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Honey Balsamic Grilled Chicken

As the weather has been getting warmer, I've been trying to find every excuse to grill outdoors. Last night, I didn't have much time to pull dinner together, so I went for my no-fail, mouth-watering, go-to dish of the summer.

This recipe comes together in under 20 minutes. Of course, the chicken can marinate much longer (up to overnight), but if you don't have that luxury, it still tastes great on the fly.

Honey Balsamic Grilled Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (slightly pounded)
1 Tb. olive oil
4 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, divided
4 Tbsp honey
1 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

Heat grill to medium -high heat. In a ziplock bag, combine the chicken, oil, 1 Tb. vinegar, salt, and pepper. Marinate for about 15 minutes, but up to overnight. Grill until chicken is golden, and cooked through.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the remaining vinegar and the honey. Cook, stirring often, until very thick. Coat the cooked chicken with the glaze. Serve the glaze atop the chicken.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mac and Cheese Cups

I first saw these at a 1st birthday party for one of Mr. Man's friends. They were so adorable and I loved the concept of a mess-free (well, sort of) mac and cheese. I decided to steal the idea and make them for Mr. Man's 1st birthday party.

The only change I made to the original recipe was to add a little garlic salt and pepper. I thought the mac and cheese plain needed a little more pizazz. The recipe states "to taste" which for me, came to about 1/2 tsp. or so of each.

They were great for the kids but the adults also loved them. I am not admitting to how many I consumed during the party...that would be too embarrassing.

Mac and Cheese Cups
yield: about 12 cups

2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
1 tablespoon butter
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
garlic salt and pepper, to taste.
1/2 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. In a small bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, olive oil and salt; set aside.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook for about 8 minutes, it should still be a little bit firm. Remove from the heat, drain and return to the pan; stir in the butter and egg until pasta is evenly coated. Reserve 1/2 cup of sharp Cheddar cheese and stir the remaining Cheddar cheese, milk, garlic salt, pepper, and mozzarella cheese into the pasta. Spoon into the prepared muffin tin. Sprinkle the reserved cheese and the bread crumb mixture over the tops.

Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the topping is nicely browned. Allow the muffins to cool for a few minutes before removing from the pan. This will allow the cheese to set and they will hold their muffin shape.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

For my son's first birthday, I made him his very own smash cake and it was so much fun to see him dig into it (hmm...I think he gets that from his Mama...) When I made the little 5" cake, I found that I had some leftover batter. I can't bring myself to throw away cake, so I made cupcakes with the leftovers. I frosted them with a simple, but delicious buttercream frosting.

This buttercream is so easy, but really tastey. I also use this recipe for cake decorating and it's never failed me. Give it a try, it's truly amazing! This recipe will yeild enough frosting to pipe about 15 cupcakes (although I'm pretty heavy-handed). If you just smeared it on with a knife, I'm sure you could get 24 cupcakes covered.

Easy Vanilla Buttercream
20 tbsp. (2 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/8 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. heavy cream

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds. Add confectioners’ sugar and salt; beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 45 seconds. Scrape down the bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully combined, about 15 seconds. Scrape bowl, add vanilla and heavy cream, and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 10 seconds. Then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice.

Source: Cooks' Illustrated

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Homemade Waffles with Fresh Blueberry Sauce

On the weekends, I always try to make at least one of the mornings a little more special by making a tasty, homemade breakfast. This weekend, I thought I'd try my hand at homemade waffles. There are many, many, MANY recipes out there, but I chose this one because they'd been getting a lot of buzz around the internet, but most importantly, they can be made the same day they are started. Some other recipes called for prepping yeast the night before and I didn't have the pre-planning this weekend to pull that off!

These waffles are truly amazing. I always had the "just add water" kind and I can't believe I didn't try homemade sooner. They are really easy, require very little prep, and taste equally delicious with butter and syrup or the fresh blueberry sauce below. Dig in!

Homemade Waffles with Fresh Blueberry Sauce

For the waffles:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Fresh Blueberry Sauce:
2 Cups Fresh Blueberries (frozen could work too, in a pinch)
1 T. sugar
1 tsp. corn starch dissolved in 1 T. of water
1 squeeze of fresh lemon juice, optional (if you have a lemon on hand, use it! It adds a nice, bright flavor to the sauce)

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. Whisk together to blend. In another mixing bowl, beat together the whole milk, buttermilk, oil, egg and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl with the wet ingredients and whisk just until incorporated and few lumps remain. Set aside to rest for 30 minutes.

For the blueberry sauce:
In a small saucepan, combine the blueberries and sugar. Add the cornstarch/ water mixture and the lemon juice. Slowly bring to a boil, stir until thickened.

Preheat a waffle iron. Fill waffle wells and cook according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Cook until crisp and golden. Serve immediately topped with fresh blueberry sauce.

Yield: depends on the size/shape of your waffle iron