Friday, August 30, 2013

Ciabatta Roll Avocado BLT

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Avocado BLT2
This meal is so easy and tasty, it’s always a favorite with my husband (and I love it because it takes hardly any time or prep). A friend brought us some tomatoes from her garden this week so I thought it’d be a perfect use for some good, ripe tomatoes.
  • Bacon
  • Ciabatta rolls (or any kind of nice rolls)
  • Tomatoes
  • Avocado
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Mayo
Start by cooking the bacon. The best way I’ve tried is in the oven. No splatters, no cooking it in grease. Just take a cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet, spread out the bacon, and bake at 415 degrees F for about 15 minutes.IMG_9752
Next slice your rolls and lay them out on a different cookie sheet. Spray with cooking spray and set aside. Then slice the toppings.
Baked bacon just tastes better than pan-fried. It isn’t as greasy, it’s crispy, and keeps its shape better.IMG_9761
My husband usually can’t stand mayo, but for whatever reason he likes it on a BLT. Don’t forget the avocado! Best part in my book ;)IMG_9759

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Cilantro Lime Avocado Shredded Pork Tacos

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Cilantro Lime Shredded Pork Tacos We’ve cooked with sweet shredded pork a lot since moving away from Cafe Rio, our favorite stop for fresh mex with shredded meats. We love making replica pork salads from the restaurant (especially with the huge amount of copy cat recipes we’ve found online), but a lot of times we find the pork is too sweet. Along with rice and beans it can make their dishes very heavy.
We had some friends over for dinner this weekend and one is allergic to poultry so cooking with any turkey or chicken was out. I don’t even cook chicken that much but when I can’t use it I feel nervous to find a meal they’ll like without any poultry or chicken stock. I decided on pork tacos because we love tacos in any variety and I was on a mission to make a spicy shredded pork with only a hint of sweet.IMG_9552 The other thing that makes these tacos is the lime juice shredded cabbage. Cabbage is always a little thick for me so I soaked it in lime juice. The lime is the perfect fresh burst of flavor against the thick sweet and spicy pork. And the creamy cilantro lime sauce just brings it all together. I love tacos!!
Shredded Pork
  • 3 lb. (any size smaller or larger will work too) pork shoulder roast
  • garlic salt
  • cumin
  • chili powder
  • brown sugar
  • 1 can red enchilada sauce
Place pork shoulder in crock pot and trim off any excess fat. Pour water over the pork so it rises 2 inches in the bottom of the crock pot. Cover pork in chili powder (just sprinkle a lot in there, can’t have too much because most of it runs down into the water), garlic salt, and cumin. Cook on low for 8 hours (or high for 4-6). Once crock pot is done, pork should fall apart and shred easily.
Once cooked, remove pork from crock pot, dump out water and rinse/clean it out. Place pork back in and shred it up. Add red enchilada sauce and approximately 1 cup of brown sugar. Mix well. Then cover the pork with more chili powder, and a bit of garlic salt to taste. Make it as spicy as you like it. We like it spicy with a kick of sweet in the back!
Once you get it seasoned to your taste, place crock pot on “Warm” or “Low” setting and pork will be ready and warm when you are ready to eat.
Creamy Cilantro Lime Sauce

  • 1 bottle ranch dressing
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 – 1 bunch cilantro leaves
  • Place all ingredients in blender or food processer and blend until creamy. I like to make this the day before and chill it, so it’s one less step that day. Also it tastes great chilled.
    Additional Ingredients
    • Corn tortillas
    • Red cabbage
    • Romaine Lettuce
    • Farmhouse Crumbled Queso or Cojita cheese
    • Limes (5-6)
    • Cilantro
    • Avocadoes
    Next up, take 1/2 head of red cabbage and dice it into thin shreds. Then dice half a head of romaine into thin shreds and mix with cabbage in a large bowl. Then squeeze the juice of 3-4 limes over shredded mixture and mix to coat with lime juice. Set aside.
    Then grab your small corn tortillas and some cooking spray and a small skillet. On a medium-high heat, cook up the desired number of tortilllas you’ll need for the meal. They taste so much better when cooked up!
    Assemble your tacos with avocados first, then pork, then lime cabbage, then cilantro lime cream sauce, then cheese, and top with cilantro and more lime juice as garnish. These really are such an easy and yummy Sunday dinner because the crock pot does most of the work. IMG_9661   IMG_9660

    Tuesday, August 27, 2013

    Raspberry Frozen Custard

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    Raspberry Frozen Custard
    Last night we had a family night and decided to make something cold for our treat. Minnesota has been insanely hot the past couple of weeks (mid 90s with 100% humidity). We needed something cold! When we lived in Salt Lake we frequented a yummy frozen custard shop called Nielsen’s but haven’t found one out here yet. This was almost as good as Nielsen’s ;)
    I used a Martha Stewart recipe for strawberry ice cream but cooked the eggs longer and whipped them into a custard before chilling. I also added vanilla after cooking the custard, before I put the raspberries in.
    • 8 large egg yolks
    • 1 cup plus 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
    • 2 cups skim milk
    • 4 cups sliced strawberries (I used raspberries)
    • 2 cups heavy cream
    • (& I added 1 tsp. vanilla)
    • In a medium saucepan, off heat, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, and salt until blended. Gradually whisk in milk.
    • Cook over medium, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until custard thickens slightly and evenly coats back of spoon (it should hold a line drawn by your finger), 10 to 12 minutes.
    • Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl set over ice. Stir in cream. Let stand, stirring occasionally, (Add vanilla) until chilled.
    • Churn in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Mash 4 cups sliced strawberries with 1/4 cup sugar and let stand 10 minutes. Add to ice cream as it churns in ice cream maker. Transfer ice cream to a re-sealable plastic container and freeze until firm, about 2 hours (or up to 3 months).IMG_9669 
    You really have to push to strain the custard through the sieve. It was thick!IMG_9679 IMG_9681
    Mmm.IMG_9689    Another trick we’d read somewhere (can’t remember now!) was after churning, put the frozen custard into a tupperware, and then put that tupperware into a cooler, and then into your freezer. This helps it from freezing too fast forming ice crystals.IMG_9701
    It was so creamy! The raspberries were the perfect addition.

    Monday, August 26, 2013

    Chili Garlic Butter Pan-Seared Steak

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    Chili Garlic Pan Seared Steak I’ve been married for 8 years and just cooked restaurant style steaks for us for the 1st time last week. Can you believe it? I’ve made sliced steaks for fajitas and for beef with broccoli, but never have I had to make one that is done well on the outside, juicy in the center, not tough, melts in your mouth, and is essentially the entire focus of the meal. I was a little nervous but I found a great Alton Brown recipe that helped me master the steak cooking. I then added some of the homemade chili garlic butter I made for the asparagus (below) to it, for a restaurant feel (it was our anniversary). I love a good flavor infused butter on a steak.
    Here is Alton’s recipe I used:
    - 1 rib eye steak or 2 New York strip steaks, 1 1/2-inch thick (I used strip steaks and got the smallest ones I could find – with so much else in the meal I didn’t want to be too full from steak)
    - vegetable oil, to coat (I used olive oil)
    - kosher salt & fresh ground pepper
    1 Remove steak(s) from fridge and start bringing them to room temperature.
    2 After 30 to 45 minutes, place a 10 to 12-inch cast iron skillet in oven and heat oven to 500 degrees F.
    3 When oven reaches temperature, remove the pan and place it on a burner over high heat.
    4 Coat steak(s) lightly with oil and season both sides with a generous pinch of salt. Grind on black pepper to taste.
    5 Immediately place steak(s) in the middle of the hot, dry pan. Cook 30 to 60 seconds without moving. Turn the steak(s) with tongs and cook another 30 to 60 seconds, then put the pan straight into the oven for 3 to 5 minutes. Flip steak(s) and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes. (The time in the oven depends on how rare you like your steaks. The time given is for medium, but depends on number of steaks, etc. as well.)
    6 Remove the steak(s) from the pan, cover loosely with foil, and rest for 2 minutes.
    7 Serve whole or slice thin and fan onto plate.
    I oiled and seasoned one side of the steaks while still in their package, then used tongs to turn them onto a plate and season the other side.IMG_9274IMG_9275IMG_9276  
    I slightly altered how I cooked them. Alton said to only sear the front and back side, but I looked at an Ina Garten recipe and it said to sear all sides, even the thin sides, to lock in the juices. Ina never fails me so I did it that way!
    {If you make these be sure to remember the pan is searing hot from preheating in a 500 degree oven. I forgot the handle was hot and burned myself! Just another mom brain moment.}
    Sear all sides then put back in the oven for 4 minutes on front side and 4 minutes on back side for medium (3 minutes for rare and 5 minutes a side for medium well). Top with some of the chili garlic butter, and serve hot. I think I need to start making steak more. This was delicious. steak

    Wednesday, August 21, 2013

    Parsley & Cream Smashed Potatoes

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    Parsley and Cream Potatoes One thing I love about eating at nice restaurants is their mashed potatoes. Nearly all nicer seafood and steak restaurants I’ve eaten at don’t mash their potatoes 100%, which allows you to taste the actual potatoes (and not just the cream ;). I think whipped creamy potatoes can be nice with turkey dinners or for other occasions, but smashed potatoes taste richer to me.
    Most mashed potato recipes I’ve used or made include lots of garlic—don’t get me wrong I love garlic, but I can’t stand the terrible breath and taste in my mouth all day after eating them. These smashed potatoes are made with parsley and cream so they are rich and delicious but without the after taste.
    Here’s what you’ll need: potatoes (I love Yukon Gold but any kind is fine!), cream, parsley, salt, pepper, and some form of butter (I like to use Smart Balance). IMG_9229First get a pot of water heating up on the stove, so it can warm while you cut the potatoes. Then clean the potatoes and chop them into approximately similar sized chunks. If you’re in a rush to make them you could always chop them super small so they cook more quickly. IMG_9233IMG_9236
    I like to put the diced chunks into the bowl I will serve them in. This helps me to see how much I need and also keeps me from using another dish.
    Once the water is simmering, lower the chunks in with a slotted spoon (this keeps the water from splashing or burning you).IMG_9237
    Once the potatoes are fork soft (about 8 minutes), strain them and place back in their bowl. Add 1 tbsp of butter for every 2 potatoes you used. Then eyeball the cream… if you like thinner potatoes add more, thicker add less, but enough to coat them while mashing.IMG_9281
    Here’s how I keep them from being over-mashed—smash them with a fork. When I’m making potatoes for Thanksgiving and everyone wants them super whipped and creamy to eat with the gravy I’ll use an electric mixer, but for this I use a fork.
    Smash away! Leave as many chunks as you’d like. Don’t worry they’ll still be soft. And it’s a great way to relieve aggression! IMG_9282
    Next add salt and pepper to taste and mix together. Then add the parsley. I love the clean and fresh taste of parsley, and I also love that it isn’t overpowering. I add a generous amount to the potatoes, mix them in, and then add more as a garnish on top.IMG_9283
    One of the best things about these potatoes is they are fresh, but you always have dried parsley on hand. Fresh parsley is even better if you have it! I don’t have a garden but when I buy it fresh I always try to make these potatoes because it’s so yummy fresh.IMG_9289
    Here’s a little trick I use every time I make mashed potatoes. Make them first and then stick them in the microwave (turned off) just to store them and keep them warm while you’re making your other food. It’s tough to have everything ready and warm at the same time while keeping your kitchen clean, so this helps me keep them out of the way. Then when it’s time to eat I just turn on the microwave for a minute and get them nice and hot before serving. The microwaving doesn’t affect the consistency which is nice.IMG_9293IMG_9297

    Tuesday, August 20, 2013

    Seared Asparagus with Homemade Chili Garlic Butter

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    Chili Garlic Asparagus
    I love making flavored butter for dishes, especially veggies. Asparagus doesn’t seem to need too much additional flavor but the chili was a nice kick.
    Here’s what you need: Chili powder, cayenne pepper, garlic salt, and any kind of butter (3-4 Tbsp). I used Smart Balance. I love it because it’s dairy free and also because it is easy to work with and spreads nicely out of the fridge. (Also you need asparagus ;)IMG_9240
    Instead of cutting off the ends, I like to snap them where they naturally break. After washing just quickly grab some of each bunch and snap away.IMG_9247  Once cleaned and snapped, set aside.
    For the butter, I like to scoop with with my tablespoon to know how much I’m using.IMG_9252 
    Place the butter in a small bowl or dish. (Kind of looks like ice cream ;)IMG_9257
    Then add 1 tsp of chili powder, 1/2 tsp of garlic salt and 1/4 tsp – 1/2 tsp of cayenne powder (depending on how hot you’d like it).IMG_9262
    Next mash the butter with a fork and then whip until creamy. IMG_9264  
      Then turn it out onto saran wrap and roll into a log. Place in the freezer until you’re ready to cook the asparagus (I usually make it last thing before a meal is ready to serve so it’s fresh!).IMG_9270
    Once it’s chilled, slice it in pats.IMG_9301
    Place several pats in a pan over high heat. Once melted and when the pan is hot, place asparagus into pan. Cover and sear for 5-7 minutes until asparagus is bright green.   IMG_9294IMG_9299
    Plate and serve with more butter on top.
    Perfect with some chili-garlic steak and parsley cream mashed potatoes. Tutorials on those coming later this week.Asparagus