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What We’re Eating: 4/24 – 4/29

A few weeks ago, we cleaned all of the clutter off the front of our refrigerator. It’s amazing how big of a difference that makes in our small kitchen! The only downside is that I ditched the dry-erase board that I used to write down our weekly menu, and not having a menu board seems to be derailing my dinner plans. So, in an attempt to get organized again, I figured it was time for me to put a menu together.

Monday 4/24 – Italian Pot Pies and salad
Tuesday 4/25 – Mexican Quinoa (I was going to make this on Monday, but when I checked the pantry shelves this morning, we were all out of black beans. How does that even happen? Guess it’s time for a run to Aldi.)
Wednesday 4/26 – Pork chops and roasted beets
Thursday 4/27 – Chicken bruschetta bake (I’m making this to share with a friend who just had a baby, so I plan to make enough for us to enjoy as well.)
Friday 4/28 – Egg & Bacon Sandwiches on English Muffins
Saturday 4/29 – Carnitas! I typically don’t plan meals for the weekend, but we plan to spend Saturday evening with some friends. Kelsey and I are going to experiment with her Instant Pot, and carnitas seemed to be a good place to start. (I’m skeptical about the entire instant-pot process, so we’ll see if this changes my mind.) I still need to come up with a dessert for us to enjoy as well.

 

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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My Kind of Salad

I don’t know if this is a regional dish, or if they appear at holiday dinners everywhere, but I grew up with what my family calls “24-hour salad” at almost every holiday meal.

You mix canned fruit and mini marshmallows in a bowl, then sprinkle instant pudding mix over the entire thing. Stir in a container of Cool Whip, and then stick it in the fridge overnight. Bam! Holiday side complete. And since it’s a salad, you can eat it alongside your ham AND have seconds before dessert even appears. What’s not to love?

Oh, right. Things like instant pudding and Cool Whip. Don’t get me wrong; I still enjoy a generous serving of 24-hour salad at Thanksgiving or Christmas. But if a more “homemade” option exists, I’ll try that too. 🙂

I stumbled on this recipe last fall when Karen, Janelle and I were planning our Friendsgiving 2.0 menu. I was immediately intrigued. It looked like a cranberry version of the traditional 24-hour salad, and it used real whipped cream instead of Cool Whip. I had a stockpile of cranberries in the freezer, and I almost always have whipping cream in the refrigerator. Unfortunately, the salad got scratched from the Friendsgiving menu because we had SO MUCH FOOD.

I didn’t forget about the recipe though. As I started planning our Easter menu, I knew I wanted to try the cranberry salad. And since we were having people over for dinner, I knew we wouldn’t have to eat the entire bowl ourselves.

I used my food processor to chop the cranberries and walnuts (not together though). After that, I simply mixed everything together and put it in the fridge. Right before dinner, I whipped the cream and folded it into the cranberries. It was probably the easiest part of the meal. It was one of the tastiest parts too. I definitely went back for seconds and thirds on salad.

One of the downsides to this recipe, if there is one, is that it doesn’t keep nearly as well. The whipped cream starts to separate and get soggy after a day in the fridge, so you should plan on eating it all in one sitting. Good thing it’s always OK to have more salad.

CreamyCranberrySalad

Creamy Cranberry Salad

3 cups of fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped
1 20-ounce can of crushed pineapple, drained
1 medium apple, cored and chopped
2/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups of mini marshmallows
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
2 cups of heavy whipping cream

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cranberries, pineapple, apple, sugar, salt and marshmallows. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Just before serving, whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Fold the whipped cream and walnuts into the cranberry mixture. Serve immediately.

From Taste of Home

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2017 in Side Dishes

 

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Quick & Easy Shrimp Dinner!

Things have been pretty quiet around here (again). Whoops. Let’s not talk about that. Let’s talk about fast, easy dinners instead.

Thanks to Zaycon, I have a stockpile of shrimp in the freezer. And since shrimp thaws and cooks quickly, it’s perfect for nights when I really don’t have much of a game plan for dinner. (Which, if I’m being honest, are happening more often than I’d like to admit lately. I need to get back on the meal-planning wagon.)  Anyway…

I found this recipe in an old issue of Everyday Food, and it met all of my criteria for the evening:

  1. Cooks in less than 30 minutes.
  2. Dirties minimal dishes.
  3. Uses everyday pantry items.

Win-win-win. Oh, and it tasted good! That should go without saying though. I’m not going to share something that doesn’t taste good. 😉

Potatoes are one of my favorite things, but I would have never thought to pair them with shrimp (or curry powder) before. The potatoes get extra crispy, which is my favorite part, and the curry adds the right amount of spice and flavor. Since I don’t own a nonstick skillet, I used my cast iron skillet with no problems, which shouldn’t surprise anyone by now.

CrispyPotato&Shrimp

Shrimp with Scallions and Crispy Potatoes

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
2 baking potatoes, approximately 1 pound, scrubbed and cut into 1/2″ cubes
2 scallions, white and green parts separated, thinly sliced
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 teaspoons curry powder
coarse salt and pepper

In a large skillet (nonstick or cast iron), heat two tablespoons of oil over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are browned and crispy, which should take about 12-15 minutes. Add the scallion whites to the pan and cook for one minute more. Scoop the scallion-potato mixture out of the pan and onto a plate. Set aside.

Add the remaining teaspoon of oil to the pan, and then add the shrimp and curry powder to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are cooked through, about two or three minutes. Slide the potato-scallion mixture back into the skillet and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper, and then top with the scallion greens. Serve immediately.

From Everyday Food, November 2008

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2017 in Main Dishes, Seafood

 

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Another Sourdough Win!

I’m now two months into this sourdough adventure, and life with Fester is going fairly smoothly. I haven’t forgotten to feed him (yet), although I do have him down to just one meal every week. Three cheers for low-maintenance “pets.” (And this why we don’t have a dog. Or houseplants.) 

So far, I haven’t had to actually “discard” any of the starter when it’s time to feed Fester. Most of it has wound up in cinnamon raisin bread and pizza dough. Last weekend, however, I didn’t have time to make anything with the discard. I couldn’t bring myself to toss out the half cup or so of starter though, so I put it in a container and stuffed it back in the refrigerator. I figured I’d find something to do with it after the weekend, even if that meant eating pizza again. (Not that anyone here complains about pizza.) 

I remembered that Karen had sent me a link for sourdough biscuits with cheese and chives in them, so I went looking for that recipe. While I didn’t find her original link, I stumbled on a recipe for caramelized onion sourdough biscuits from King Arthur Flour. I didn’t have chives on hand, but I figured a scallion would be an acceptable substitute.

The biscuits were pretty easy to put together. I started caramelizing the onions as soon as I got home from work, and while those were hanging out on the stove, I chopped the scallion and mixed up the rest of the ingredients. The recipe said to let the caramelized onions chill for three hours, but that meant we’d be eating biscuits at 9 p.m. So, I did what any short-on-time cook would do: I put them in the freezer for 15 minutes instead.

When I added the starter to the dry ingredients, it didn’t seem to have enough moisture to hold the dough together. So, I added a splash (probably less than a tablespoon) of half-and-half to the dough to bring everything together. If my sourdough starter was thinner, I probably wouldn’t have needed it, but my starter seems to be on the thicker side.

These smelled incredible while they were baking, and they were easily our favorite part of dinner. At the rate I’m going, I’ll have more uses for discarded starter than for “fed” starter!

SourdoughOnionBiscuits

Caramelized Onion Sourdough Biscuits

1 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
4 1/4 ounces (1 cup) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold
1 scallion, finely chopped
9 ounces (1 cup) unfed sourdough starter
half-and-half, optional

Heat a large skillet (I love my cast iron for this!) over medium-low heat. Place the onion, brown sugar and one tablespoon of butter in the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and caramelized, which should take about 30 minutes. Remove the onions from the skillet and place them in a small bowl. Allow the bowl to cool in the refrigerator or freezer until the onions are thoroughly chilled. (This took about 15 minutes in my freezer.) 

Preheat the oven to 425° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a baking mat.

While the onions are cooking / chilling, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture is crumbly. Stir the chopped scallions into the mixture, and then add the chilled onions.

Stir the sourdough starter into the bowl and use a rubber spatula to gently work the starter into the flour-butter-onion mixture. (If the mixture is too dry after the starter is fully incorporated, add a tiny splash of half-and-half to help things come together.) Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface and gently pat into a 1″ thick disc.

Use a 2-1/2″ or 3″ biscuit cutter to cut the dough into rounds. Pat any leftover scraps together to cut out additional biscuits. Place the rounds about 2″ apart on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake until golden brown, about 15-18 minutes. Remove from oven and serve warm.

Yield: I got nine 3″ biscuits out of the recipe; King Arthur Flour says eight. No one’s complaining about an extra biscuit here.

Note: I haven’t tried this, but I think these would freeze well before baking. I’d make the dough and cut out the biscuits, and then put them in the freezer on baking sheet lined with waxed paper. When they’re frozen solid, transfer them to a Ziploc bag. Then you should be able to just bake them straight from the freezer whenever you need biscuits.  

From King Arthur Flour

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2017 in Breads, Muffins & Rolls

 

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What We’re Eating: 3/13 – 3/17

Happy Monday! It’s been a while since I shared a meal plan post, so I figured that would be a good way to kick off the week. (Plus, I haven’t had time to finish writing about any of the things I’ve been baking lately.)

Monday 3/13 – Roasted red pepper penne with sausage and salad
Tuesday 3/14 – Black bean and cheese quesadillas (I know it’s pi day, but we are finally going to see Hidden Figures that night, which means no time for baking.)
Wednesday 3/15 – Salmon, asparagus and couscous with cilantro and carrots
Thursday 3/16 – Chicken bruschetta bake, salad, applesauce and dessert (We’re having some new friends over for dinner, and this is my go-to “first time” meal. It’s easy, and almost everyone loves it.)
Friday 3/17 – Homemade pizza! I have been using my discarded sourdough starter to make pizza crust, and I recently discovered that I can throw the pizza dough in the freezer. Now I have a steady supply of pizza crust on hand, which is perfect for lazy Friday nights. I just have to decide if we’ll have BBQ chicken or pepperoni and sausage pizza.

In other food news, I baked a chocolate stout cake for a friend’s 30th birthday last week, and it was incredible. It was a dark, moist chocolate cake with delicious, stouty (is that even a thing?) undertones. It’s definitely a keeper. Of course, we were too busy having fun to take any pictures of the cake, so it’ll be a while before it appears here.

I’m still enjoying the sourdough adventure. Sourdough pancakes are becoming one of my new favorite things with the starter. King Arthur Flour has become my go-to source for new sourdough ideas, and I haven’t had a recipe fail me yet.

I’m working on cooking from cookbook closet more often as well. I pulled at least one new recipe this week from my Everyday Food archives, and I have a couple more bookmarked for next week.

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Balancing Out the Cookies

Raise your hand if your calendar is often crammed with activities. I don’t know about you, but our social calendar seems to revolve around food. In December, for example, I had three separate events centered around cookies. From cookie exchanges to cookie Fridays at the office, I was slightly overloaded on the sugar. Earlier this month, we hosted the dessert portion of a progressive dinner, and then, I decided to bake some cupcakes for our small group just because it had been a while since I’d made some.

I firmly believe that life (as far as food goes, anyway) is all about balance, so when our social life became all about dessert, I started looking for something to offset all the sweetness.

I wanted something that would be easy to put together. Bonus points if I can make it with whatever was in my pantry / fridge. I remembered Annie’s white bean dip, and I thought it’d be perfect for the occasion. Plus, it’s healthy, and it takes all of 5 minutes to make. Cutting the veggies for serving takes longer than making the dip!

And, even better, it’s a dip that Andy truly enjoyed, which is saying something.

garlicwhitebeandip

Garlic Rosemary White Bean Dip

2 15 oz. cans of great northern beans, rinsed and drained
4 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons water
6 tablespoons olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

Place the garlic and rosemary in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture is finely minced. Add the beans, salt and water to the bowl and process until the mixture is coarsely pureed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

With the food processor running, pour the olive oil into the bean mixture and process until it is fully combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl, and then process another 2-3 minutes, or until the mixture is smooth and fluffy. Taste the dip and season with pepper and salt if needed.

Serve with sliced vegetables and crackers. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

From Annie’s Eats, originally from A Couple Cooks

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Posted by on February 28, 2017 in Appetizer

 

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Perfect Bread

Like I mentioned earlier, one of my goals for this year is to bake more bread. And thanks to Karen’s generosity, I’m all set to scratch sourdough off my baking bucket list. I started feeding Fester last week, and he’s been a happy part of our family ever since. I even felt some guilt when I moved him from his warm spot next to my KitchenAid mixer to the fridge. (Side note: All credit for the name “Fester” goes to Karen’s husband, Arron.) 

My one hang-up with the sourdough process is the “discard” step. After four days of gradual feeding, the instructions said to reduce the starter down to just 1/2 a cup, feed that portion and then discard the rest. And I have to discard starter whenever I feed Fester from here on out! This goes against my thrifty nature! Not to mention the fact that I’m lovingly feeding him on a regular basis (which is more than I can say about the plant in my office…). Why would I want to throw some of it out?

So I’ve been searching the internet for things to do with “discarded” starter. Thankfully, King Arthur Flour has some great ideas and recipes. After reading several recipes, I decided to start with this cinnamon raisin swirl bread. I had everything on hand for them (unlike these delicious-sounding English muffins).

It took a few hours to make the bread, but most of that was hands-off time while the dough rose. And making the dough couldn’t have been any easier. I literally dumped it into the mixer and let the dough hook do the work. I was a little concerned when that the dough was going to be too soft and sticky to work with, but I rolled it out on a greased pastry mat and didn’t really have a problem.

I’m just a week into this sourdough / bread baking adventure, but if my first experience is any indication, this is going to be a tasty ride.

cinnamonraisinsourdough

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Sourdough Bread

Note: I’ve been loving measuring by weight instead of volume (fewer dishes! improved accuracy!) lately, so I’m giving this recipe in weights. The good people at King Arthur Flour also provide standard volume measurements, so feel free to click over there if you need things in cups. 🙂

For the dough:
4 ounces of sourdough starter, fed or unfed
12 3/4 ounces all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast (KA calls for instant; I used the active dry that I always have on hand.) 
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 large egg
2 1/2 ounces softened butter
5 3/8 ounces lukewarm water

For the filling: 
1 3/4 ounces sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 large egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
2 5/8 ounces raisins

extra butter for finishing, optional

To make the dough, combine all of the dough ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Turn the mixer on to medium-low speed and mix until the dough comes together, then increase the speed to medium and knead until a soft, smooth dough forms.

Place the dough in a lightly greased large bowl (I used my 8-cup Pyrex bowl.) and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough sit until it has doubled in size, about 1-1/2  to 2 hours.

While the dough rises, stir the sugar, cinnamon and flour together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Lightly grease your counter (or a pastry mat), and then turn the dough out onto the prepared work surface. Gently deflate the dough, and then roll / pat it into a rectangle that’s about 6″ x 20″.

Brush the surface of the dough with the egg wash, then spread the cinnamon-sugar mixture over the dough. Sprinkle the raisins evenly over the surface of the dough.

Working from one of the short ends of the dough, roll the dough into a log. Pinch the ends closed to seal the log, and make sure the long seam is pinched closed.

Transfer the dough log into a greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until it is about 1″ above the edge of the loaf pan.

While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 350°. When the dough is done rising, bake the bread for 40-45 minutes, or until the interior of the loaf measures 190° on a digital thermometer and the top is golden brown. Tent the bread with aluminum foil after the first 20 minutes to prevent the top from becoming too brown.

Remove the bread from the oven and run a knife along the edges of the pan to loosen the bread. Turn the bread out of the pan and brush the top with extra butter, if desired. (This gives the bread a soft, satiny crust.) Allow bread to cool before slicing.

From King Arthur Flour

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2017 in Breads, Muffins & Rolls

 

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