Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mushroom Bacon Breakfast Strata and Foodie Pen Pals

Bacon.  How's that for a desktop background?

The Novice Chef has a recipe category titled "A** Friendly."  This strata does not belong there.

Check it out... pita chips topped with cream cheese topped with mushrooms topped with bacon topped with egg topped with cheddar cheese.  That's pretty much all you need to know, right?

Anyway, just as Pioneer Woman promised, the strata went over really well with our youth group,  although this will definitely be more of a once-in-while thing.  I only had a few bites, and I still felt kinda guilty.

Also, I participated in Lindsay The Lean Green Bean's foodie pen pal program this month.  She matches you up with 2 bloggers - one blogger sends you a package and you send another blogger a package.  

Check out what I got from Kelly at Brownies and Zucchini!  She got me delicious pretzels and pomegranate snacks and Wisconsin spreads - can't wait to try the mustard!  Thanks, Kelly!  The snacks went great with law school studying!

Head over to Meg's blog to see what goodies I sent her!

And, if you're interested in participating, check out the info below! 

On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal! 
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month. 

*Breaking news! This month we're going to do a trial run for our Canadian friends. I'm still not exactly sure how it will work with shipping costs and stuff for you guys up North, but if you're willing to give it a try for a month and provide me with some feedback, that would be awesome! Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. We've determined things might get too slow and backed up if we're trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa. So, I'm going to keep two separate lists and match US w/ US and Canada w/ Canada!
If you’re interested in participating for February, please send  an email to Lindsay at and include the following information:
-Your full name
-Your email address
-Your blog name/address
-Your twitter handle (if applicable)
-WHETHER YOU ARE A US RESIDENT OR CANADIAN RESIDENT. - this is SUPER important so I can get you on the right list!
I will need to hear from you by February 4th as pairings will be emailed on February 5th!

Mushroom Bacon Breakfast Strata
Pioneer Woman, Serves 12

10 slices Bacon, Cut Into 1/2" Pieces
12 whole White Mushrooms, Sliced
8 whole Eggs Beaten
1/2 cup Half-and-half
Salt And Pepper, to taste
4 ounces, weight Cream Cheese
1/2 cup Grated Cheddar Cheese
10 ounces, weight pita chips

Fry bacon pieces in a large skillet until done but not overly crispy. Drain on a paper towel, pour grease from skillet. Add mushrooms to skillet (don’t clean skillet first) and cook until done.

Mix eggs, half-and-half, salt, and pepper.

Arrange pita chips in an 8 x 11-inch baking dish. Slightly press to flatten. Tear pieces of cream cheese and evenly distribute over the top of chips. Distribute mushrooms and bacon over the top of this, followed by the cheddar cheese. Pour egg mixture evenly over all ingredients.

Place into the fridge for several hours of overnight (makes a handy breakfast casserole!), then bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes or until eggs are set. Cut into squares and serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Raw Brownies (will make your heart melt)

Praise, pictures, and more praise - nothing will do these brownies right. You need to make these yourself. I guarantee you will be impressed by how amazing they taste, despite the fact that the closest these brownies get to melted butter and chocolate is one half cup of unsweetened cocoa powder - I am not joking.

The Medjool dates do wonders to bring everything together, but having made these brownies twice, here are my tips:

1. Measure precisely. If you're too generous in measuring the nuts, the brownies won't stick together (I made this mistake last time, but Todd and I still managed to consume the entire pan nearly instantaneously. They'll still come out tasty, just less presentable).

2. Ground the walnuts into a paste - let that food processor work!

3. Double the recipe (ok, I haven't actually done this, but I'm going to do it next time since my brownies came out thinner than I like).

P.S. Have you ever heard that your pasta water won't boil over if you lay a wooden spoon across the top of it?  Well, it doesn't work. Please use that information as you see fit.

Raw Brownies
A Couple Cooks

1 cup walnuts (unsalted)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt
1 1/4 cups Medjool dates (about 12)
1/4 cup almonds (unsalted)

Remove the pits from the dates. If the 1/4 cup almonds are not already chopped, place them in a bag and hit them with the back of a spoon to break them into pieces (we’ve found this is easier than chopping).

In the bowl of a food processor, place 1 cup walnuts. Process on high until the nuts are finely ground.

Add 1/2 cup cocoa powder and 1/8 teaspoon kosher or sea salt. Pulse to combine.

Turn on the food processor. As the processor is running, add the dates one at a time. Once all the dates have been added, the mixture should be crumbly but easily formable (it may form into a ball depending on how long you process it). Throw in the almonds and pulse a couple times to combine (if a ball has formed, you can also mix in the almonds in a bowl).

Form the brownies: Line a small square dish with wax paper and press into the desired thickness (don’t worry if it does not fill the entire pan; the brownies are easy to shape). Alternatively, press the brownies into a mini-muffin tin or other mold. Place in the refrigerator or freezer for 5 to 10 minutes to firm up; they can easily be cut when cold.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Creamy French Onion Soup

Tasting this soup reminded me of the scene in a movie where a hapless cook accidentally uses sugar instead of salt in her recipe.  Except here, I followed the recipe exactly.  I think the original recipe accidentally instructs you to add 3 tbsp instead of 3 tsp of sugar - and even still, I think that'd be pushing it.  So, I adjusted the recipe below to just 1 tsp.  

Love that my husband still ate the soup anyway, though :)

Also, make sure your soup isn't too close to the broiler - it will burn if you try and leave it in there for 7 minutes!

Creamy French Onion Soup
Give Me Flour, serves 4

4lb varied onions, sliced
3 thick slices bacon, chopped
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 tsp sugar
2oz all-purpose flour
½ cup white wine
5 cups beef stock
Bouquet garni (bay leaf, 1 sprig rosemary, 3 springs thyme)
8-12 slices French baguette (preferably from the day before)
1-3 garlic cloves
5 ox grated Parmesano reggiano

In a large saucepan, sauté bacon in medium high heat until crisp. Add butter and let it melt completely. Add onions, sugar, salt and sauté in medium heat until brown in color and well caramelized. This step may take 30 minutes to an hour and requires some attention.

Add flour and sauté for extra 2 minutes, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Add white wine and keep cooking for 3 more minutes. In this stage, the onions may be looking like a thick batter. So, add beef stock slowly, until the “batter” is completely solved and the soup looks homogeneous.

Add bouquet garni, freshly grounded bleck pepper and ajust salt. Continue cooking for about 15 miutes or until soup looks thick and creamy.

Meanwhile, prepare the bread. Cut garlic glove in halves and rub the cut face in each slice of baguette. Set them aside.

To serve you can either use individual oven-proof soup bowls, bread bowls* or one large casserole dish. Heat the oven (broiler) to 350˚ F. Pour the soup into the dish of your choice, cover with the toast and sprinkle with cheese. Put into the broiler for 5 minutes or until the cheese bubbles and is slightly browned. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Grilled/Sauteed Romaine with Parmesan Cheese and Red Wine Vinegar

Looks odd, tastes great.  

Grilled/sauted lettuce has been popular on my google reader recently, and now I see why - it's a great way to get a ton of vegetables - plus, there's cheese :)

I sauteed this beastly salad, but I'd also like to try grilling it.  Here are two grill options from two of my favorite bloggers:
*see my note at the very end of the recipe*

In case you're wondering, I served the lettuce with this chicken recipe -  mushrooms and onion sauteed in evoo is a combo that can't go wrong!

Grilled Romaine with Parmesan Cheese and Red Wine Vinegar

Alton Brown
Serves 4, if you follow the original recipe or 2 if you just buy romaine lettuce and chop it in half

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 hearts of romaine, rinsed and patted dry
1 tablespoon olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup finely grated Parmesan

Place vinegar in shallow pan and place in the freezer. Allow the vinegar to freeze, approximately 2 hours. Once frozen, scrape with a fork to create a shaved ice texture. Return the vinegar to the freezer until ready to use.

Cut each heart of romaine in half lengthwise so that the root keeps each piece together. Lightly brush the cut side of the romaine pieces with olive oil. Season with the pepper. Place the cheese in a shallow pan large enough to lay the romaine in and press the cheese firmly onto the cut side of the romaine until it adheres.

Spray a nonstick griddle or saute pan with vegetable spray and preheat over medium-high heat. Place the romaine in the pan and cook until the cheese turns golden, approximately 1 to 2 minutes Place the romaine, cheese side up onto plates and sprinkle with the vinegar ice. Serve immediately. (I think you could also grill this and just add the cheese at the end before serving.  You could also use balsamic instead of red wine vinegar)

Saag Paneer Sans Paneer (updated)

This recipe is still delicious as ever, but I've updated the ingredient list, directions, and pictures.  I served it with basmati rice yesterday, but it also tastes great alongside 5-minute naan. Here is the original saag post. 

Saag Paneer sans Paneer

Serves 2 for dinner
Slightly adapted from Gluten Free Girl


1 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach
1 medium white onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch thumb ginger, peeled and minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1 large green Serrano chilli, minced with seeds if you like it and without if you like your food mild
½ teaspoon curry powder
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ cup water
1 container of fat-free plain yogurt

Thaw spinach in microwave (5 minutes on high), then puree in your food processor until smooth. Alternatively, you can chop it up very finely with your knife.

Place a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and add oil to the pan.  Add turmeric, cayenne, and salt. 

 Add the onions, ginger, garlic and green chili. Now here’s the important part: sauté the mixture until it’s evenly toffee-colored, which should take about 15 minutes.

Add the garam masala/curry power, coriander and cumin. If you haven’t already, sprinkle a little water to keep the spices from burning. Cook, stirring often, for 3 to 5 minutes, until the raw scent of the spices cooks out, and it all smells a bit more melodious.

Add the spinach, and stir well, incorporating the spiced onion mixture into the spinach. Add the a little salt and ½ cup water, stir, and cook about 5 minutes with the lid on.

Now, turn the heat off. Add the yogurt, a little at a time to keep it from curdling. Once the yogurt is well mixed into the spinach, turn the heat back on, cover and cook 5 minutes so everything is warmed through and serve.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Turkey Lettuce Wraps

Wow, we loved this meal - definitely one of the most flavorful meals we've made in a while.  Todd couldn't get enough, and I think these taste better than the lettuce wraps I used to get with my friends at P.F. Chengs in high school.  That was so a thing in high school, right?

Now, when you're cooking the turkey, don't play with it too much.  Once you integrate it with the shallot and garlic, just let it sit until one side has browned then flip the pieces  - you can mash it up later.

Hope everyone had a great new year's!  It's been pretty lazy around here, but we managed to get in a chest, tricep and shoulder workout and cardio.  The hardest part of my workout is always mustering up the energy to do cardio at the end, but once I do, I'm always glad I did!

Have a great night and amazing start to the new year!  Bring it, 2012!!

Lettuce Wraps

Slightly adjusted from The Novice Chef

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 lb extra lean ground turkey (or any other ground meat)
1 medium shallot
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch scallions (whites and greens), chopped

2 large stalks lemongrass-tender pale inner core only, minced

1/2 cup chopped cashews

1 teaspoonful seasoned rice vinegar

1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoonful sriracha (or if you're like me, 1 1/2 tablespoons...)
Your favorite lettuce, for serving

In a large wok (or non stick skillet) sprayed with Pam, heat to medium heat. Add the garlic and shallot and cook for 15 seconds, then add ground turkey. Break up the meat with a spoon, tossing/stirring often, until meat is cooked through.

Once the turkey is cooked through, check and see if there is a lot of grease left over in the bottom of the pan. If there is, drain the meat, and then re-add to the wok. If not, skip to the next step.

Add the scallions, lemongrass, rice vinegar, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, cashews, and sriracha. Toss well to ensure everything is coated. Allow to cook for another 2-3 minutes and remove from heat and sprinkle with cilantro.

To serve, separate leaves of lettuce and wash with warm water; pat dry. Spoon the turkey mixture into the center of a lettuce leaf and eat like a taco!