Friday, September 30, 2011

Whole Wheat Scallion Pancakes

I grew onions in my garden this year.  Well... let me rephrase that.  I tried to grow onions in my garden this year.  They never really "grew".  And then I lost interest, or got busy... or honestly, got fed up with the squirrels terrorizing and feeding off of my garden.  I just don't think I was born with a green thumb whatsoever. 

The only thing I managed to snag from the garden this year, besides an ongoing supply of lettuce, were some early green onions. 

When I buy them from the store, I can never use up the entire bunch.  I'll use a couple for garnish and then forget about the rest of them.  And the same thing was starting to happen with the ones I picked from the garden.  So instead of letting them go to waste, I decided to use a whole bunch in some scallion pancakes.  Something I've always wanted to try to make, but always put on the back burner. 

And I don't know why, because they're so easy and they make a great little snack when paired with a spicy soy sauce!

Adapted from Kirbie's Craving's Recipe

3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
2 cups boiling water
olive oil, for brushing
sesame oil, for brushing
salt, to taste
about 8-12 scallions, chopped

In a large bowl, combine the whole wheat and all purpose flour with the boiling water.  Knead until a pliable dough is formed, adding more flour or water if necessary.

Since I used whole wheat flour, I had to knead for a little bit for my dough to become elastic enough to use - maybe 10-15 minutes?  Of course, a mixer with a dough hook would be useful here, but I keep it old school because I don't have one of those fancy schmancy mixers (until Christmas! My mom spilled the beans and said she was getting us/me one!).

Divide the dough into 8 equal sized pieces.  Roll the dough as thin as you can, without it breaking.

Spread about a tablespoon of olive oil on top of each circle, and then drizzle with a very small amount of sesame oil (a little goes a long way!).  Mix oils together and massage into the dough until covered.  Sprinkle with salt and a good amount of the scallions (remember, you have to do this 7 more times, so don't go too crazy with it!).

Roll the dough into a long rope (Kirbie's Cravings does a great photo tutorial on this, so check it out if you have questions) and then coil the rope into a circle.  Flatting with a rolling pin to about 1/4 inch thickness - this ensures that the scallions get evenly distributed throughout the pancake.

Repeat this process with remaining pieces of dough.

Heat a nonstick skillet under medium heat and add one pancake.  Cook until golden brown, about 1 & 1/2 to 2 minutes.  Flip over, and cook an additional minute or so.

Repeat with remaining pancakes.

Cut into triangles and serve with a spicy soy sauce (simple soy sauce with red pepper flakes and some grated ginger).

These make a great snack that feed a decent amount of people!  I've even used them as a wrap for Asian-inspired wraps (Bulgogi wraps?!). 

Have a great Friday guys!  I've got my first Culinary Theory class tonight and the lab tomorrow - I'll have a chef's uniform by tomorrow morning!  So exciting!!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Cilantro-Lime Peanuts

With all of the junk food available today, it's hard to say no.  Or at least it is for us.  But lately, we've been trying to cut down on the potato chips, popcorn, and cookies.  It's tough, but we've also got some figures to look out for and a budget to keep up with.

I was in the mood for a snack for Sunday's football games and was limited with what I had to work with.  Luckily, I had some raw peanuts in the pantry and a few spices that I thought would make an interesting peanut combo!  I haven't been able to stop snacking on them since!


2 cups raw peanuts
juice from 1 lime
1/2 cup olive oil
1 large shallot, sliced thinly
salt, to taste
small handful of cilantro, chopped

In a medium bowl, combine the peanuts and lime juice.  Toss well and let sit for about 30 minutes.

Drain the peanuts and pat them dry with a paper towel. 

Heat a large skillet under medium high heat.  Add olive oil and cook until shimmering.  Add the shallots and cook until crisp, about 2 minutes or so.  Remove shallots from oil and drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

Add about half of the peanuts to the oil and cook until golden brown, about 4-5 minutes.  Transfer cooked nuts to another paper towel-lined plate and season with salt.  Repeat with remaining half of peanuts.

Stir in cilantro and crisped shallots and toss well.

Keep the peanuts in an airtight container for no more than 1 week.  But then again, they won't last that long! 

One of my favorite things about these peanuts is that they're so crunchy and perfectly seasoned.  There's nothing like frying up your own peanuts - haven't done it?  Try it today!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Potato & Red Pepper Hash

Yesterday was my first day.  First day stepping foot inside of a restaurant to see about a job in the kitchen.  The first day stepping foot on campus for culinary school classes.  It was the first day that I've been completely confident doing what I'm doing.  And it was great.  It was a great feeling to be pleasantly nervous. 

I was a bundle of nerves stepping foot into Jack Fry's.  It was thanks to a good friend of ours, Terry, that I even got this opportunity.  While our meeting was a quick one, I appreciated the fact that the chef took time out of his busy day to meet with me and give me this chance.  I have to call back Friday to see when he can fit me in, but it would be at least a 12-week internship-type deal.  I'm truly grateful for the chance to gain some restaurant experience. 

Walking into the classroom for the first time, was much of the same.  A bundle of nervousness.  It was a Basic Nutrition class, so there were a mixture of upper-level students.  And turns out, I was the only first quarter culinary student in there.  The only person not wearing a uniform.  So I kind of felt a little out of place - but after Saturday (my culinary lab), I'll have my uniform, and I won't feel like such an outcast.  Besides my initial fear, the nutrition class is pretty much a science class, so I felt comfortable with most of the material, being a former Biology major.  There's some fun projects coming up - including a recipe book (which I'm most excited about), so I'm excited to learn.  Friday and Saturday are the classes I'm most looking forward to though - Basic Culinary Theory and the Lab to go with it.  So I'll be sure to do a full report next week on those two!

Anyway, you came here for the food right?  We've been eating a lot of breakfast-for-dinner type meals lately.  I don't know why, but I don't see any complaints from Andy - seeing as he'll usually have two platefuls when I decide to do this! 

I love making hashes or potato-type dishes for breakfast.  They're easy, filling, and so versatile.  I had some sweet peppers from our CSA that needed to be used up, and so I thought this was a perfect fit!

Adapted from Seasaltwithfood's Recipe 

about 5 Idaho potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 sweet red pepper, seeded and chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add potatoes and cook for about 20-25 minutes, or until almost fork tender.  You want them to disintegrate when you touch them!  Drain.

Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat until hot.  Add the onion and peppers. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until starting to soften. Add garlic and stir for another minute or so, until fragrant.  Transfer the onion mixture to small bowl and set aside.

Add butter to the skilled with the remaining oil and heat over medium-high heat until butter foams. Add potatoes and make sure they are in an even layer on the skillet.  Cook without stirring until potatoes are golden brown on bottom, about 4 to 5 minutes.  Carefully turn the potatoes and repeat until browning until all sides are golden brown and crisp.

Stir in the onion-pepper mixture and carefully toss until all is combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with some sausage and eggs for a complete breakfast!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Garlic-Infused Olive Oil

Today is the day.  Today is the day.

If you've been reading for a while, you know that I start culinary school today.  I start a new journey in my life - one of many.

I also have a big interview with a local chef today (and if all goes well, by the end of the day, I'll be sharing my good news! - so cross your fingers that it is good news).

My nerves are shot.  My stomach has been full of butterflies all day.  But I know when the hour comes, I'll need to face my nervous fears, and just do it.  I need to be myself.  Be true to what I believe is the right path for me.

So anyway, now that I've gotten that out of the way.  I want to share something so simple, that I can't believe I don't do it all the  time.


1 head of garlic
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
salt, to taste
1 & 1/2 cups olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Place garlic in a make-shift aluminum foil bowl 

Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive over garlic head and sprinkle with a good pinch of salt and pepper.

Roast for about 45 minutes, or until nice and golden brown.

Let cool until safe enough to handle.

Squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins and add to olive oil.  Throw in a bay leaf and some freshly ground pepper.  Swirl to mix liquid and let sit for about 30 minutes before using.

This was gone in no time.  We used it to dip freshly made bread which was delicious, but it can also be used to add a little oomph of flavor to every day cooking.  Keep in the fridge for no more than 1 week (if it even lasts that long!).

Happy Tuesday guys!  May all your dreams come true - we're definitely working on ours!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Baked Caramel Apples

Can we see a theme developing here?

I had extra apples and caramels from these so I thought I'd make good use of the extra in some more caramel apple-themed treats!

These are super easy, somewhat messy, but oh so delicious!  The Cheesecake Factory used to have this apple dumpling-type dessert that I loved.  It was a warm apple wrapped in pastry and filled with caramel.  I haven't seen it there in forever (maybe they've discontinued it?  I don't know), so this is my take on it... sans pastry of course.

Adapted from a Taste of Home recipe

4 Granny Smith Apples, cored
1/2 cup apple juice
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter
8 caramels
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
whipped cream

Preheat oven to 300 F.

Place apples in a square baking dish.  Pour apple juice over top of apples.  Divide brown sugar, butter, and caramels between each apple.  Sprinkle cinnamon on top of apples.

Bake for about 1 & 1/2 to 2 hours, or until apples are softened and caramel is melted.  (As you can see, my caramels could have gone for a little bit longer, but I was getting antsy!)

Top with fresh whipped cream (and snap your pictures fast, because it obviously melts quickly!).

While this isn't the pretties dessert ever, it's quite messy really.  It sure does have all of the flavors of fall that I really enjoy - and it's so simple to put together!  The waiting is the hardest part!

What's your favorite fall treat?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

Hello Fall!  And hello Friday!

I just have to make it until the end of my shift tonight and I've got one sweet week of vacation.  It's another stay-cation, but there's loads of things planned next week!

First off, it'll be my first week of Culinary School, which I've already told you has me in an emotional rollercoaster - but it's for the best!  And then there's my big meeting with the executive chef at a local restaurant - another thing to make me a nervous nelly!  And then there's a haircut - a much needed haircut. 

Maybe in the midst of all of that I can get myself to do some wedding planning!  We'll see...

I made these last week for a co-worker's birthday.  She loved them and I hope you guys will too!

Adapted from Zoom Yummy's Recipe


1 cup flour
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, slightly chilled and cubed


16 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar, plus 2 teaspoons
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon cinnamon


1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, slightly chilled and cubed
1 cup flour
about 10-15 caramels
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350F.

To make the crust, combine flour and brown sugar in a medium bowl.  Cut the butter into the mixture with your fingers or a fork until the mixture is crumbly.

Press the dough into a 9x13 inch pan in an even and flat layer.  Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned.  Set aside.

Make the filling by beating cream cheese and 1/2 cup of sugar in a large bowl.  Add eggs, one at a time, until just incorporated.  Stir in vanilla until just combined.

In a small bowl, combine the apples with the cinnamon and 2 teaspoons of sugar.  Let sit for about 1-2 minutes, then gently fold into cream cheese mixture.

Pour the batter over top of the warm crust.

Make the topping by combining the oats, flour, and brown sugar.  Cut the butter into the mixture until it is chunky and crumbly.

Top the cream cheese mixture with an even layer of the topping.  There's a lot of it (which I love!) so don't be afraid to go crazy.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until cream cheese mixture is set and topping is a nice golden brown.

Make your caramel topping by combing the caramels with heavy cream in a thick microwave-safe bowl.  Heat in 20-30 second increments, stirring really well after each time.  Be careful because it can go from nice and creamy to burnt in a matter of seconds.  I don't think I heated mine up for any more than 45-60 seconds.  Just keep stirring and the residual heat will melt the unmelted caramels!

Drizzle caramel topping over cheesecake.

I found that the bars were easier to cut after being refrigerated for a little bit, about an hour or so.  Cut into desired sized bars and be prepared to watch these disappear quickly!

All the flavor of a caramel apple in a nice convenient fall-inspired bar!

Happy weekend guys!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Spicy Garlic Green Beans

I'm literally on Cloud 9 right now. 

I got a text from Andy during my lunch break today that said something along the lines that one of his good friends got me an "in" at a local fine dining restaurant and that he would explain more when he got home.

So on his way home, he called me and said that the executive chef at said restaurant said I could swing by sometime next week to talk with him.  They didn't have any openings for help in the kitchen, but I could help part-time and work directly with him - kind of like having a mentor.  I mean, it doesn't get any better than that - a young chef's dream!

I don't want to divulge any real details yet... mainly because I'm nervous as hell and don't even have anything set in stone.  So once I actually meet with the chef next week, I'm sure I'll have more to tell you guys!  But seriously, I'm stoked!

Anyway, by now, you can probably tell I like green beans.  I mean, with recipes likes this one, and this one... I'm a green bean gal.  So playing around with some green beans we recently got in our CSA, I kind of melded the above two recipes into one tasty little side perfect all by itself, or alongside a main dish!

Adapted from Sunny Side Up in San Diego's Recipe

1 lb. green beans, trimmed
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 375F.

In a large bowl, combine green beans, garlic, and cayenne pepper.  Drizzle about 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil over and toss to coat well.  Season mixture with salt and pepper.

Grease a baking sheet and spread green beans onto sheet in an even layer.

Bake for about 10 minutes, or until green beans are crisp, yet tender. 

This was seriously one tasty green bean!  It was garlicky, and had a punch of heat added in to wake up the senses! 

I'm in an exclamation type of mood, so you'll have to bear with me!  I'm one excited girl right now - and I can't wait to update you guys!  Have a great Thursday and I'll see you tomorrow for a sweet treat to end the week!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

When life gives you lemons...

... you take pictures of them.

Yeah, taking the night off from a recipe post.  Just thought I'd share with you some citrus!

Be back tomorrow for regularly scheduled programming...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Scallops with Honeydew-Avocado Salsa

Lately I've been overwhelmed with emotions.  I mean, in exactly one week, I'll be an official student in Sullivan University's Culinary Arts program.  I'm scared.  Scared that I won't be good enough.  Excited. Excited that I'm taking a leap of faith.  And ready.  Ready for anything that's thrown at me. 

It will be a big change.  One of the biggest decisions I've made in my life to just jump into something new.  Something that I'm passionate about.  Something that won't make me a lot of money.  But you know what.  I don't care about money, never did.  As long as I have a roof over my head, food in my belly, and my bills are paid - I'm content.  I want to do something that will truly make me happy at the end of the day.  And I feel that taking this leap of faith and starting into a career that I truly feel that I can succeed in - will keep me happy at the end of every day.

So I wanted to let you know that starting next week, I may not be as present in the blogosphere.  I'm going to see how my new schedule affects my day-to-day and then revamp my blogging schedule accordingly.  Maybe I'll even do a new post series of "what-I've-learned-in-culinary-school-this-week".  Who knows.  But bear with me.  Stay with me.  I promise I won't disappear.  And hell, who knows - maybe I'll still be able to post daily like I try to do now.

Adapted from Food & Wine's recipe

Zest of 1 lime
juice from 1 lime
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small honeydew melon, rind removed and diced
1 avocado, diced
salt and pepper, to taste
16 sea scallops
Black beans, optional

In a medium bowl, combine the lime zest, lime juice, and olive oil.  Toss in the melon and avocado and coat well with lime-olive oil mixture.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Brush the scallops with olive and season with salt and pepper.  Heat a large skillet under medium high heat.  Sear scallops for about 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until golden brown. 

Serve the scallops with the honeydew salsa and black beans.

This dish was simple and made us feel real good after eating it.  And not to mention it's just darn pretty to look at!

Speaking of pretty to look at, we recently had one of Andy's friends over for dinner.  His girlfriend happens to be the pastry chef for the restaurant Proof On Main, here in Louisville.  She brought dessert - a corn gelato (Oh. my. god. was it good!) and chocolate cake.  Just look at how awesome this looks!

And talking with her really excited me for the upcoming weeks.  They both loved the dinner I cooked them, which I was nervous about because I've never had a true culinary professional eat something I've made.  And she told me about her journey to becoming the pastry chef she is today which was definitely inspiring, as well.  She's even trying to start her own business - Sugar Monster Sweets
I mean, just checking out those cakes makes me jealous of her mad skills!  Anybody in Louisville or the surrounding areas in need of a cake or sweet treat of any kind should definitely look into her!

Hope you guys have a great Tuesday!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cream Cheese-Stuffed Poached Pears & Chocolate

Oh we're getting fancy up in here!  Well, as fancy as I know how to be right now.

I recently got the chance to sample some Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolates through the Foodbuzz Tastemaker's program.  So I decided to whip up something simple and elegant - and honestly, I just wanted to play around in the kitchen!



4 pears, peeled, cored, and quartered
1 liter water
1/4 cup honey

1 teaspoon cinnamon


1 cup cream cheese
1/8 cup brown sugar

Chocolate Sauce:
12 oz. can evaporated milk
12 oz. Ghirardelli 72% Cacao Twilight Delight, chopped
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Place pears in a medium saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to a low boil under medium heat.  Stir in honey and cinnamon.  Poach the pears for about 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Make sure that the pears don't float up above the water or they will cook unevenly and brown from being exposed to the air.  Remove pears from liquid and place on a paper towel-lined plate to dry.

To make the filling, combine cream cheese and brown sugar in small bowl until smooth. Match pear halves by size. Spread about 1 rounded tablespoon cream cheese mixture on cut side of one pear half; press cut side of second pear half into cream cheese. Repeat with remaining pears.

For the chocolate sauce,  heat evaporated milk to boiling in a medium saucepan.  Stir in chocolate. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is slightly thickened and smooth.  Remove from heat and stir in the brown sugar, vanilla, and salt.

Playfully arrange the stuffed pears, as well as some without any stuffing, on a plate.

The chocolate was absolutely delicious.  I'm not really that big of a fan of dark chocolate, but combined with the refreshing pears and rich cream cheese filling, it really hit the spot.  It was a simple after-dinner dessert that really impressed both Andy and I!

Hope you guys have a great Monday!

*I was provided free samples of Ghirardelli's new line of Intense Dark Chocolates through the Foodbuzz Tastemaker's Program, but all opinions expressed in this post are my own.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Grilled Grilled Ham & Cheese

For some reason I wanted some grilled corn too...
Happy Friday!  It's been an extremely long day and I'm ready to kick my feet up and put in a Netflix movie.  And I might just be in a cruel enough mood to make Andy watch a chick flick with me.  Yes, the perks of domestic bliss.

I grew up eating grilled cheese, but never understood why it was called "grilled" cheese.  I mean, I only knew of it being cooked in a frying pan - never a grill.  Then I saw Nick from Macheesmo do this.  And I was instantly inspired to do the same! 


Cheddar cheese
Ham slices
Softened butter

There's not really much to this.  And you don't necessarily have to use the ingredients I did - it's just the sandwich I was feeling at the time.

Light a charcoal grill. 

Butter one side of two slices of bread.  Place one slice on the grill, butter-side down, over moderate heat and top with cheese, spinach, ham, and another slice of cheese.  Then top with remaining piece of bread, butter-side up. 

Grill for about 2-3 minutes, or until grill marks appear and side is golden brown.  Flip over and grill for an additional 2-3 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

Slice in half and enjoy!

Seriously, this was awesome.  Even better than actual grilled cheese.  Don't believe me?  Try it out and let me know!

Have a great weekend guys!  I'm super pumped because we're getting a new couch!  Yeah, you know you're getting old when you can be excited about furniture! 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Strawberry-Cucumber Salsa

It's almost Friday! Woohoo!

I have to work on Saturday, so I still have 2 more days to go, as opposed to most of you who just have 1, but that's fine with me!  A weekend is a weekend. 

I've discovered a new route to work, which involves taking the scenic route downtown, but it avoids the congested highway and gets me to work on time - without me having to leave any earlier than normal.  So score one for me!

I know this is late in the season, fresh strawberries are hard to come by - but that doesn't necessarily stop me from making this.  It's a great condiment for tacos or fish, and even better as a replacement for tomato-based salsa as a dip for tortilla chips!  I've been in a real dippy mood the past couple of days, haven't I?  Sorry, can't help it!

Adapted from Perry's Plate's recipe

10 strawberries, diced
1/2 English cucumber, diced
1 scallion, thinly sliced
small handful of cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

In a medium bowl, combine strawberries, cucumber, scallion, cilantro, and jalapeno.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Serve with tortilla chips or as a topping for fish or tacos!

Well, I'm off to enjoy a nice bowl of some carrot-ginger soup and some of Andy's famous grilled cheese!  Have a great night guys!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Chunky Eggplant Dip

Happy Wednesday guys!

I feel so worn out, I have no idea what's up with me!  But don't fret - I'm still busy in the kitchen!

Andy's work had a dip contest today and he asked me to make something for him.  So I made some more pretzel bites with beer cheese.  And you know what?!  It got 2nd place! 

Even better... Andy's chocolate concoction of a dip won 1st place.  So really - we both won - and I don't even work there!

So because I'm in a "dippy" sort of mood, I figured I'd post another good one.  This is practically one of the only dishes I can solidly eat eggplant in.  It's goes good with tortilla chips, toasted bread, and even all by itself!

What's your favorite dip?

Adapted from Pennies on a Platter's Recipe

1 large eggplant
juice from 1 lemon
1/4 cup shaved Parmesan
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tahini
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
small handful parsley, chopped
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
tortilla chips
toasted baguette slices

Preheat oven to 375 F. 

Pierce the eggplant all over with a fork.  Drizzle with some olive oil and wrap in aluminum foil.  Place on a baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes. 

Unwrap eggplant and allow to cool until safe enough to handle.

Set a colander over a bowl.  Cut the eggplant in half and scoop out the pulp from both halves.  Place in colander and allow to drain for about 5 minutes.

Transfer pulp to a food processor and pulse a few times.  Add lemon juice, garlic, tahini, Parmesan, and cayenne pepper (if desired).  Pulse until you reach your desired texture (I like mine on the chunky side!).  Season with salt and pepper.

Place filling into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Place in fridge for at least 30 minutes, to allow flavors to meld.

Stir in fresh parsley and drizzle olive oil over top (if desired) before serving.  Serve alongside toasted baguette slices and homemade tortilla chips.

This is quite tasty - and if you're looking for something on the healthy side for game day - this might be it!  Have a great rest of your day guys!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tomato & Roasted Red Bell Pepper Soup

"Carmageddon" has officially hit Louisville.  While probably not as drastic as the major traffic that was caused in Los Angeles - but definitely something that perturbs me.  I love Louisville for the fact that it doesn't have 'major city traffic'.  Sure, we have crazy rush hour, but nothing compared to cities like LA, New York, or even Nashville.

Until last Friday.  The Sherman-Minton bridge was closed "indefinitely" due to some cracks found in some foundation beams.  While yes, safety is priority - it has put Louisville (and most parts of Southern Indiana - as the bridge connects New Albany, IN to Louisville) in a traffic tizzy, because now everything has to filter through to the other bridge (The Kennedy) - adding about 76,000 more cars that way.  And don't even get me started on the stupid detours.  My normal 20-25 minutes commute to work took a little over an hour today.  Yeah, I wasn't in a good mood.  But surprisingly enough, my commute home was more of normal pace, about 30 minutes.  I'll just have to think smarter for tomorrow's drive in.

Now that I've got my rant out of the way (I'm sure you all just wanted to hear about my traffic annoyances, right?) - let me tell you about something that calms me down... soup.  Yes, soup.  Now that fall has set in, soup will be a regular occurrence in our house - at least weekly.  And this week's soup?  This wonderful tomato and roasted red pepper soup.  Perfect for dipping grilled cheese!

Adapted from Sea Salt With Food's recipe

2 Red Bell Peppers
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Onion, peeled and diced

3 Cloves Garlic, peeled and chopped

2 Heirloom Tomatoes, seeded and diced
3 tablespoons Tomato Paste
small handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
4 cups chicken stock
1 & 1/2 teaspoons Cumin
1 teaspoon Smoked Paprika
salt and pepper, to taste

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Sour Cream


Broil red peppers under a broiler or open flame on gas stove until charred on all sides.  Place red peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Set aside until cool enough to handle.  Peel, remove seeds, and roughly chop.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven.  Add onion and garlic.  Cook until soft and translucent but not brown in color, about 3 to 5 minutes. Then turn the heat on high and mix in the tomatoes, tomato paste, peppers, cilantro, cumin, and paprika. Sauté the mixture for a minute or 2, and add the chicken stock.  Bring mixture to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 30 to 40 minutes.

Allow the soup mixture to cool slightly, then puree it with an immersion blender. Bring the soup back to the boil and season with some salt and pepper. Serve with a dollop of sour cream, some croutons, and a grilled cheese sandwich (if you're the dipping kind of gal like me!)

This was super tasty, made great use of our CSA tomatoes, and will be a soup that paired perfectly with a simple grilled cheese!

Hope you guys have a great Tuesday!  See you tomorrow night!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Secret Recipe Club: Beef & Pork Keema

It's Secret Recipe Club time again!  What is Secret Recipe Club?  Well, it's the coolest thing to hit the internet since Google originated, that's what!  It's basically a monthly "secret santa" among food bloggers.  You get assigned a food blogger, and you get to tackle one (or more!) of their recipes to post on reveal day (which is, of course, TODAY!)

I was really excited to be assigned Dana from Dana's Food For Thought.  Why?!  Well, Dana was assigned my blog for the first Secret Recipe Club that I participated in!  So it was so great to return the favor!

Dana's blog is full of amazing recipes, it was definitely hard to choose.  Recently engaged herself, Dana and I are very similar (as she said in her post when she was assigned my blog!).  She's got everything from Morel Mushroom and Brie Tart to Lime Chicken Empanadas with Ranchero Ranch Dressing!  Do I have your mouth watering yet?!

As I was perusing through Dana's blog, something really caught my eye - the Turkey Keema.  It had all of the Indian flavors that Andy and I both love, but still remained somewhat "normal" when in comes to "Americanized-Ethnic" food.  Andy was definitely surprised at how much he liked it - because looking at the ingredients, he was definitely weary... but I told him to trust me.  And I'm glad he did!  Because this was awesome - and I definitely will be taking Dana's suggestion of putting the filling into sandwiches, because I'm sure it'll be incredible!

Adapted from Dana's Food For Thought's recipe

1 & 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

1/2 pound ground beef

1/2 lb. ground pork
2 & 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 & 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1 & 1/2 teaspoons salt

about 5 red potatoes, diced

6 oz plain Greek yogurt

3/4 cup 2% milk

3/4 cup frozen vegetables medley (peas, corn, carrots, green beans)

juice from 1 lemon
small handful cilantro, chopped

In a cast iron skillet, heat the oil over moderate heat. Add the onion and cook until starting to soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and ginger and cook 1 minute longer. Add the ground beef and pork and cook until no longer pink, about 3 minutes.  Remove any extra fat.

Stir in the coriander, cumin, pepper, turmeric, cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon of the salt to the pan. Cook for about 1 minute. Stir in the potatoes, yogurt, and milk. Bring just to a boil. Cover the pan. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Uncover the pan and simmer for 5 minutes longer.

Stir in the frozen vegetable medley and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Simmer until the vegetables are just done, about 2 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and cilantro.  Serve with warm naan bread.

This was absolutely amazing.  It definitely exceeded every expectation and I can totally understand why Dana included it in her 7 Links Challenge as the 'Post That Didn't Get The Attention It Deserved'.

So I'm glad I got a chance to see why Dana thought this!  

I'm glad I got a chance at one of Dana's recipes, and I can't wait to experiment with others!  

If you want to join in on the fun of the Secret Recipe Club - feel free to check it out here!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Pretzel Bites with Beer Cheese

It's late.  As usual.  I might as well just start posting late at night instead of trying to get a post done during the day. 

Anyway, excuses aside - I think I've finally done it.  I've successfully made a beer cheese that resembles a local favorite.

Andy and I grew up in southern Indiana (of course in different eras - we do have a 7 year gap between us!), but we both loved Sportstime Pizza - now under the name The New Albanian Brewery.  They, of course, have beer - great microbrews (one should definitely check them out during 'Gravity Head' where they feature high-alcohol content and special season beers).  But the main reason we frequented the place was for their beer cheese.  It's one of a kind - spicy, cheesy, and absolutely perfect with some breadsticks.

So when I told Andy last week that I was making some pretzel bites to snack on while watching a pre-season football game, he eagerly suggested I make a beer cheese to go with them.  Always up for a challenge, I accepted, and boy am I glad I did.  I think I came pretty close (dare I say, maybe even better??) to our old time favorite from The New Albanian.

So if you're looking for a great Sunday snack - football lovers and non-football lovers alike - this is it!

Adapted from Sunny Side Up in San Diego's Recipe

4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 & 1/4 cups warm water
5 cups flour
1/4 cup white sugar, plus 1 teaspoon
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 & 1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, melted and divided

1/2 cup baking soda
2 egg whites
Kosher salt, for topping

cooking spray

Beer Cheese:

1/2 cup cream cheese
1/2 cup Indian Pale Ale (or whatever favorite beer you might have)
1 tablespoon horseradish sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup Velveeta, cut into small cubes (I swear I wanted to use some Chipotle Cheddar Cheese, but I'd run out, and this was all I had - but it worked out so well!)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper

In a measuring cup dissolve the yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in warm water. Set aside for 10 minutes. If the mixture is foamy, you're good to go - if not, start over with new yeast.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, white and brown sugars, and salt.  Pour the water/yeast mixture and 2 tablespoons melted butter into the bowl. Knead for 6-8 minutes until the dough is smooth. Add extra water if dough is too dry, until you get your desired texture.

Lightly oil a large bowl. Shape dough into a ball. Place the dough ball in the bowl, cover with a clean towel, and allow to rise for one hour.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine 4 cups of hot water and baking soda. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg whites and remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter.

After the dough has risen, punch down the dough and then knead with hands for one minute. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and break off small chunks of dough - Roll the chunks into 1 inch diameter balls (I got about 20-25).

Dip the pieces in the baking soda water and place on the baking sheet.  Gently drying with a paper towel if they become too wet. Brush each pretzel ball with egg whites/melted butter then sprinkle with kosher salt.

Bake for 7-8 minutes, until browned.

To make beer cheese, place cream cheese in a microwave safe bowl and heat for about 30 seconds.  Stir until smooth.  Stir in beer, horseradish sauce, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and black pepper.  Heat for another 30 seconds in the microwave.  Stir until smooth.  Add in Velveeta.  Heat another 30 seconds, and stir until cheese is melted and smooth. 

Pretzels and beer cheese.  Success at last!  And this beer cheese was so easy to whip up, that I will definitely be finding myself making it many many times over!  Even with Velveeta - I'm not ashamed!

Have a great weekend guys!  I just have to get through one more late shift at work and I've got 2 days of relaxation ahead of me!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Peanut Butter Quick Bread

Happy Thursday guys!  I'm absolutely exhausted from this week already!  And I've got to work through Saturday before I get to have my "weekend"!  Hopefully I'll make it.

I'm pretty stoked that tonight - in about 30 minutes, the official NFL regular season starts!  Football season is probably my favorite time of year.  Go Eagles!  And as an avid Peyton Manning-hater... I'm glad the sad little puppy dog is sitting out for a couple of months, but I digress.

Let's talk peanut butter.  I've found a new love.  Move over JIF (I keep it old school), I've got a new favorite.  And I'm pretty sure I'm late on this bandwagon, too.  But better late than never!  Peanut Butter & Co. Bee's Knees is the SHIZ!  I find myself just eating spoonfuls throughout the day because it's so good.  So I knew that using up the last bit of it in this bread was bittersweet because I'd be using up the last of it (I can always restock right?!), but also genius, because when you use good ingredients, good things happen right?  Right!

Adapted from the 1945 Edition of The Boston Cooking School Cook Book

2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup peanut butter (I highly recommend using PB&Co!)
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk


1 tablespoon heavy cream
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon peanut butter

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Using a fork, incorporate peanut butter and beaten egg.  Stir in milk until a smooth batter is formed.

Grease a loaf pan and pour in batter.  Bake for about 50 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. 

Let rest on a cooling rack for about 10 minutes, or until cool enough to handle.

To make glaze, combine cream, powdered sugar, and peanut butter until smooth.

Remove bread from pan and pour glaze over top. 

This was pretty tasty.  If you're a peanut butter lover, you'd definitely love this!  It's something I don't see a lot of - especially when zucchini breads are so popular right now!  Hey... zucchini peanut butter bread - I think I may be on to something.  I'll experiment and get back to you guys!

See you guys tomorrow!  It's TGIF!


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