Main Dishes

Main Dish Recipes

Coca Cola Hoisin Pork Chops with Baby Bok Choy

When I read a tip that came out of America’s Test Kitchen I immediately believe it and put it to use.  When I read a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen I believe it must be amazing and have the best methods of cooking whatever it is.  I’d like to get a job there.  Or at least spend a day or two there, just observing the amount of thought, effort, time and testing that goes into everything.  It makes me kind of excited to think about it all!

They do what I only wish I had the time, money, energy and intelligence to.  Want to know the best kind of cookie sheet to buy?  Ask the test kitchen.  They’ve already put all the brands out there through a battery of tests and know which gives the best browning and texture while not warping in the oven and doesn’t cost a fortune.  Want to know the best kind of cocoa powder?  Ask the test kitchen.  They’ve already tasted and baked with them all.  You won’t have to make a bad batch of chocolate cookies that burned on your poor quality cookie sheets!  Now some people don’t like the specificity and scientific bent in their articles and think that maybe they’re too engrossed in the food or the recipe to consider the home cook.  Like who has time to check the temperature of their butter before they use it in the perfect pound cake?  I’ve made that pound cake, and I took its temperature and it was spectacular.  But does it make that much of a difference?  If the test kitchen says so, then it must.

The only reason I bring it up is that this recipe came from a cookbook from The Test Kitchen called The Six-Ingredient Solution.  What a genius idea!  I love when a recipe is uncomplicated in its ingredients.  It makes grocery shopping and life just a little bit easier.  But I guess this actually has 8 including pepper and water called for in the directions…still 8 ingredients ain’t bad.  And they turn out a stellar dinner.

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I don’t cook pork chops.  I’ll often cook a pork tenderloin in the oven or Ben will grill one.  I worry about under-cooking pork, and so in an effort to not under-cook it I end up worrying about over-cooking it and making it dry and tough.  I am happy to say that this meal yielded really delicious pork chops that were cooked pretty well.  I got the thumbs-up from Ben on it!  But I did have trouble getting it to temperature during the searing.  I did 3 minutes per side and it was only at 120°F.  Once it got to 130 I took it off and let it cook the rest of the way in the sauce, which worked well.  It’s not the way they instruct in the original recipe, but it worked for me.

I’ve never cooked bok choy before, and I think I’ve only had it once or twice.  So this was a step out of my comfort zone in more than one way.  It cooks quickly and has good amounts of vitamins A and C.  I really enjoyed it and found it to be a perfect side for this meal.  Some people may not be a fan of the texture.  Sub broccoli for the bok choy if you’d like.  Steam it and serve it on the side.

I HAVE cooked rice before.  Lots of rice.  So it was the only part of the meal I was able to put on the stove and know was going to be edible.  And, to be honest, I kind of liked the thought of a big bowl of buttered rice for dinner.  But what we had was much better and more well balanced.

The sauce is amazing, and how could it not be?  It’s delicious on the pork, bok choy and rice.  I think it would be a great sauce for chicken as well.  The sauce ingredients here are what they call for for 4 chops and 4 bok choy, so if you do decide to make this recipe for 4, I’d suggest doubling the sauce.  You might end up with extra, but it would be a shame to run out!  Enjoy!

Coca Cola Hoisin Pork Chops with Baby Bok Choy

From America’s Test Kitchen

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups sushi (short grain) rice
  • 2 thick cut bone-in pork chops (8 ounces, 3/4 inch thick)
  • 2 heads baby bok choy
  • 1 cup coca cola
  • 1/3 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • black pepper

Directions

  1. Halve bok choy lengthwise and set aside.
  2. Pat pork chops dry with paper towels, then cut 2 small slits through the fat on the side of each pork chop.  Season both sides with ground black pepper and set aside.
  3. Whisk cola, hoisin and 2 tablespoons of water in a bowl and set aside.
  4. Combine rice with 2 1/4 cups of water and a pinch of salt in a medium sized saucepan.  Bring to a boil then cover and reduce heat to low.  Simmer for 10 minutes then remove from the heat and let sit, covered, for 15 minutes.
  5. While rice is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over high heat.  Add bok choy, cut side down.  Watch out for oil spatters!  Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, then add 2 tablespoons of water, cover and cook for another minute until stems are just tender.  Transfer to a plate and cover.
  6. Wipe out the skillet with paper towels and adjust heat to medium high.  Heat 1 tablespoon oil in the skillet, then add pork chops and cook 3-5 minutes per side, until the temperature is 130-135, then move to a plate.
  7. Wipe out skillet again, keep heat at medium high and add the cola mixture.  Whisk until slightly thickened then add chops and any juice on the plate back to the pan.  Turn the chops to coat them with the sauce, then cover and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Check temperature of the chops, they should register 145°F.
  8. Plate chops, bok choy (pretty browned sides up) and rice.  Drizzle bok choy with sauce from the pan.  Serve with extra sauce.

Bacon, Potato & Blue Cheese Tart

A good friend of mine made this when we met up for a playdate at her house a while back.  I say “a while back” because it feels like just a few months ago but I think it might have been over a year ago, which reminds me just how quickly a year goes by.  I can’t believe it’s almost 2014.

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Candace paired this rich and savory tart with a spinach salad loaded with berries, which made for a well balanced lunch.  I’m still amazed that she fixed this lunch for us since she’d recently had a baby.  My meal of choice when having people over for a playdate is Chick-fil-A…or goldfish and raisins.

The recipe is from Smitten Kitchen and is something I can definitely see myself making again, especially for a lunch or brunch.  It’s impressive but not too time or skill intensive.  It’s also fine served room temp, so you can make it hours ahead or even the day before and re-warm it.  I added bacon to the original recipe because I don’t see anything wrong with adding bacon to pretty much everything.  Maybe my new motto for 2014 will be, “Put some bacon on it!” inspired by Portlandia… But of course it’s amazing without the bacon and fits into a vegetarian diet that way.

Other than the bacon, the rest of the recipe is unchanged.  You can use a tart pan or pie plate for this.  I had planned to use a tart pan because it’s just prettier than a pie plate.  Something about that fancy fluted edge.  But the dough recipe provided wouldn’t fit in my 10 inch tart pan, so I used a 9-inch pie plate.  Thankfully the lovely filling makes up for the unimpressive pie plate.  The dough wasn’t impossible to work with, but it was a little crumbly so I had to do some patching up in places.  It was delicious and not hard to whip up in the food processor, so I’d definitely recommend it over a store bought crust.

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Ingredients

If you don’t like blue cheese you probably haven’t read to this point in the blog post, and if for some reason you have I can pretty much guarantee that you won’t be a fan of this tart.  Which makes me sad, because it’s delicious…if you like blue cheese.  I think you could use goat cheese, but haven’t tried it so I’m not sure how that will effect the final product.  Let me know how it turns out if you try it!

A few tips:

  • Refrigerate your crust before filling to minimize shrinking during baking.
  • For making ahead, you can prep everything, store it in the fridge and assemble right before baking.
  • If using bacon, this cold oven method of cooking it has become my new favorite.  No greasy pan to clean and your house won’t smell like bacon for days.
  • Make sure to let the tart cool or otherwise the filling won’t have time to thicken and could be runny.

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Pre-baked Tart

Bacon, Potato & Blue Cheese Tart

From Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

Tart

  • 1 Savory Tart Shell, recipe below, in a 9-inch tart or pie pan and ready to use
  • 1 pound small red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 4-8 slices of good bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/4 pound blue cheese, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 tablespoons finely chopped thyme and rosemary
  • Fine sea salt for sprinkling

Tart Shell

  • 1 and 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter, diced
  • 1 large egg

Directions

For Tart Shell

  1. Combine flour, cornstarch and salt in the bowl of your food processor.  Pulse a few times to combine.
  2. Add in butter chunks and pulse until butter is in pea sized pieces.
  3. Add egg and pulse until dough comes together.  It will still be slightly crumbly.
  4. Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it a few times so that it comes together.  Flatten into a disk.
  5. Roll out into a 12 inch circle then transfer to your 9-inch tart pan or pie plate.  Press out any air bubbles and trim or crimp edges as desired.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before filling.

For Filling

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Cook potatoes in a medium sized saucepan, just covered in water, over medium heat.  Simmer until tender, 8-10 minutes.  Remove from the water and drain.  Lay the slices out on a clean dishtowel and gently pat dry with another clean towel or paper towels.
  3. Arrange potatoes in concentric circles on the bottom of the crust, overlapping slightly, covering the crust entirely.
  4. Sprinkle cheese over potatoes, followed by bacon and herbs.
  5. Whisk egg and cream in small bowl and pour over everything.
  6. Sprinkle with sea salt.
  7. Bake tart for 45 to 50 minutes until bubbly and browned.  Cool on wire rack.  Serve the tart warm, room temp or cold.

Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs

Balls of meat stuffed with cheese and covered in a chunky marinara sauce?!  I am all in.  And I’m not sure if it’s being pregnant or the change in the seasons, or maybe both, but this kind of meal is right up my alley right now.

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These meatballs are total comfort food and will leave you full and happy.  Just like food should when it’s cold out.  Who in their right mind is eating salad right now, anyway?  I guess maybe I should be…but instead I’m eating meatballs, pasta and rosemary rolls.  And I’m ok with that.

Like most meatballs you will end up with a mess in your kitchen.  BUT you can form the meatballs ahead of time, refrigerate them, clean up that round of dishes, then fry and bake them for dinner that night, or even the next day.  You can probably get away with not frying them at all and just putting them straight into the oven.  Maybe just add 10-15 extra minutes, especially if you’ve refrigerated them.  Regardless of the mess you make though, they are definitely worth it!

You have a few options with these meatballs.  Pair with some spaghetti or other pasta (I made this spaghetti with simple garlic sauce and thought it was a nice combination) or load them onto some substantial crusty bread for meatball subs or sandwiches.  One of the greatest things about these meatballs is that both of my kids LOVED them!  So not only did Ben and I eat 2 dinners with them, but the kids had at least 4 meals of meatballs and ate them up.  Carson asked for more!  Rarely do they eat the food we do and enjoy it.  This is definitely going into my kid friendly meal file.

One tool I use for cookies and meatballs and to get them to be uniform in size is a scoop like this.  I have a small one (about 1 inch in diameter) and a larger one that is closer to 2 inches.  It’s something I’d recommend you have in your kitchen if you do much cooking and baking.  Get a sturdy one.   It will be worth the money, work better and last longer than the cheaper ones will.

The original recipe simmers the meatballs in the sauce in the same pan they are cooked in.  I finished them off in the oven and the only thing that wasn’t great about that was that some of the cheese escaped, which in the end was not a big deal.  There was still plenty of cheese inside the meatballs!  No need to worry.  Enjoy!

Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs

Adapted slightly from Just a Pinch

Makes 24-30 meatballs depending on size

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground sirloin (90/10)
  • 1 pound ground sweet Italian turkey sausage (or mild or hot)
  • 1 1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 small white onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into 27 cubes (or how ever many meat balls you get)
  • olive oil
  • flour
  • 1 jar simple marinara sauce

Directions

  1. Mix meat, breadcrumbs, seasonings, onion, garlic, eggs and milk.  Clean hands are the best tool for the job, but a spoon or spatula is fine.  Mix until everything is combined but not overly mixed.
  2. Divide into balls of equal size, 1 1/2 to 2 inches.  Place on a foil lined baking sheet, then take each meatball and press one cube of cheese into the center and form the meat around the cheese so that it is sealed.  Place back on the foil lined baking sheet.  At this point you can cover and refrigerate the meatballs for later.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°F and heat a drizzle of oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Put 1/2 cup of flour into a bowl.  Dredge each meatball lightly in flour, then place in the pan.  Repeat until pan is full but not overly crowded.  Cook for a minute or so on each side (I know this is hard to do with a round shape, but it’s not super important to get every bit of it cooked just the same.  Just make sure the majority of the meatball is browned.)  Be careful not to burn them.  If they’re browning too much, turn down the heat.  As the meatballs finish, move them to a 9×13 inch pan that has been sprayed with non-stick spray.  Repeat with the remaining meatballs until they’ve all been browned, adding more oil if needed.
  4. Pour the entire jar of marinara sauce over the meatballs.  Add about 1/4 cup of water to the jar, screw on the cap, shake it up and pour it over the meatballs also.  Spread it out as evenly as you can.  Put into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes (a little longer is you did not fry the meatballs or if they were refrigerated).  Cut open a meatball to be sure they’re cooked thoroughly, there shouldn’t be much if any pink.
  5. Enjoy on top of pasta, or on some nice crusty bread.

Cornmeal Crusted Baked Green Chile and Jalapeno Jack Cheese Stuffed Chicken

Sometimes I see recipes on Pinterest that look amazing, and I pin them, but with no real intention of ever actually making them.  But this one I found, pinned and made in the same day.  It was pretty wonderful and easily adapts to what you have, what you like and what you need.  The original recipe, found here at Lady Behind the Curtain, makes 6 servings.  I made 3 servings, enough for a couple for dinner and leftovers for me for lunch the next 2 days.  You can easily make this meal to serve 1 or a dozen.  And whoever you serve will be pleased.

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I hate taking pictures of food in my kitchen when it’s already dark out.  I’ve probably lamented about this before, but it really is discouraging.  Natural light is a photographer’s best friend, especially when food is involved.  I’m not a photographer, by the way.  I’d imagine a real photographer would’ve made this look less…strange…and much more appetizing.  But please believe me when I tell you that this is a really tasty and satisfying meal, despite my not so amazing photograph.

Pounded chicken breasts are wrapped around jalapeno jack cheese, green chile and cilantro, dredged in seasoned corn meal and baked, topped with more cheese, then drizzled (or drenched if that’s more your style) in enchilada sauce, and if you’re feeling fancy, sprinkled with some crumbled queso fresco and chopped cilantro.  The chicken turns out moist, the green chile and cheese in the center is really delicious and the corn meal crust is crunchy and delicious.  I used this taco seasoning recipe from Alton Brown.  It will likely become the only taco seasoning I use from now on.  Not because I dislike packaged seasoning and all the unknowns it carries, but because it is just really good.  More flavor from spices and less from the salt when you make it yourself I think.  I highly recommend giving it a try.  You likely have all the ingredients in your pantry.  Here is the link.

If you’ve already gone over to the original recipe and looked at the ingredients you might notice that I’m using more cheese, but making half the amount of food.  It’s not a mistake.  I like cheese and using half an ounce of cheese in one chicken breast made me sad.  I want to cut into the chicken and have melting cheese ooze out.  That is not going to happen with such a small amount of cheese.  Although a smaller amount of cheese is definitely the healthier way to go!  Go ahead and be smart and portion conscious if you want to be, but you might regret it just a little.  I made the original amount of cornmeal crust because I am of the mind that it’s better to have more than you need than not enough.  I did have some left over, but the chicken breasts I had were large and I’m glad I didn’t cut the amount in half, I wouldn’t have had enough.

To change this to suit your taste use a different type of cheese, whatever you like or have, white cheddar, colby jack, etc. You could also use a different type of enchilada sauce, green, mild, hot, etc.  And again, this is easily adapted to suit the number of people you need to serve.  Eat up and enjoy!

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Cornmeal Crusted Chicken with Green Chiles and Jalapeno Jack Cheese

Ingredients

  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 3 ounces of jalapeno jack cheese, cut into 1 ounce slices + 1-2 extra ounces shredded cheese for topping
  • 2 whole green chiles, sliced in half lengthwise (I used whole canned green chiles and froze what I did not use in a zip top bag.)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning (again, this one is amazing!)
  • 1/3 cup cornmeal
  • 1 egg
  • red enchilada sauce (store bought or homemade)
  • crumbled queso fresco (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F
  2. Whisk egg in a wide shallow bowl, set aside.
  3. Whisk cornmeal and taco seasoning together in a wide shallow bowl, set aside.
  4. Pound each chicken breast to 1/8 inch thickness (pound between layers of plastic wrap or wax paper) and lay each out on your work surface.
  5. Lay one slice of green chile in the center of each chicken breast.  (You’ll have a slice leftover if you’re making 3, so either add it to one of the breasts, or cut it into 3 pieces and add one to each breast.)
  6. Place a slice of cheese on top of the chile, followed by a sprinkle of cilantro.
  7. Roll up the chicken.  Dip into the egg to coat, then into the cornmeal to coat.  Place into the baking dish, seam side down.
  8. Repeat with all of the chicken breasts, then bake for 25-30 minutes.  During the last 5 minutes of cooking, sprinkle with the extra shredded cheese.
  9. Warm the enchilada sauce in a small saucepan.  Drizzle sauce over the chicken after is comes out of the oven and sprinkle with more cilantro and queso fresco if desired.

 

Grilled Caprese Chicken with Balsamic Glaze

How can something so simple be so good?  You probably have every almost every ingredient for this in your kitchen right this very moment.  Add to that the minimal amount of time it takes to get this on the table, pair with a green salad and some crusty bread and you have the perfect meal.  Make it for a casual family weeknight or for weekend company.  It’s easy to make 2 servings or 10.  This is one of those recipes to go to when your mind isn’t working well enough to think too hard about dinner (this happens to me a lot) or when you’re having last minute guests and don’t have much time to shop for or prepare dinner.  The drizzle of glaze isn’t just great for flavor but it’s also beautiful and adds a touch of fancy to an otherwise very simple dish.   I’m real excited that this chicken found its way into my life.

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Since there are only a few ingredients, make sure they’re all fresh and of good quality.  Get the best looking tomatoes you can find.  Romas are a good choice and usually a good size.  They are what I used.  If the heirlooms at the store look good, splurge on them.  You only need 1 or 2 (to serve 2-4 people) so go for it!  Get fresh mozzarella, the kind packed in water, and make sure to slice it generously.  Now the basil.  If you have some in your garden then just grab your shears and head out the back door.  If not, get the fresh kind at the store.  Don’t use dried basil.  It will just not be the same.

This really could not be simpler.  Grill the chicken (or cook it in a pan on the stove), and in the last couple minutes place the cheese on top so it has time to melt.  If you do this in the oven you might turn the broiler on for a minute or so to melt the cheese.  Top with a slice of tomato, sprinkle with the chopped basil and drizzle with balsamic glaze.

The glaze is probably the most time consuming and complicated part about this.  It’s not hard, it just requires time and some patience.  But it’s worth it.  The recipe below makes more than you will probably need, but you can save it, keep it in the fridge, and use it for other dishes.  Drizzle on top of a caprese salad (just what you’re using in this dish minus the chicken) or as a finishing sauce for grilled pork tenderloin or other meats.

Below are the ingredients that will serve at least 4 using 4 chicken breasts sliced in half horizontally to make 8 total pieces, 2 per person.  But some of your lighter eaters may just eat one piece.  If you end up with leftovers I HIGHLY recommend reheating and serving some of the chicken on warm crusty bread with some arugula or other green to make a chicken caprese sandwich.  Enjoy!

Grilled Caprese Chicken with Balsamic Glaze

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced horizontally into 2 pieces
  • 1-2 medium to large tomatoes, or 3 to 4 small (you want to try to almost cover the chicken with the tomato slices
  • 8 slices of fresh mozzarella (again, you want the mozzarella slice to almost cover the chicken breast)
  • kosher salt and pepper
  • fresh basil leaves, 8-10 (leave them whole or chiffonade)
  • 1 1/2 cups balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Directions

Balsamic Glaze

  1. Pour balsamic vinegar into a small, heavy saucepan.  Bring the vinegar to a low boil over medium high heat.  Adjust heat as needed to keep it at a low boil.  Stir occasionally until vinegar begins to thicken and coat the back of a spoon, 15-20 minutes.  
  2. Stir in brown sugar and mustard and cook an additional 5 minutes, remove from the heat and let cool slightly before serving.  This will thicken a bit as it cools.

Chicken

  1. Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper.
  2. Grill the chicken, 4 minutes on the first side, then flip the breasts over and let cook for another minute or 2.  Place one piece of mozzarella on each chicken breast and let cook for another 3-4 minutes until chicken is done and mozzarella is melted.
  3. Transfer chicken breasts to a serving platter and immediately place basil leaves on top of the cheese followed by the tomatoes.  Drizzle lightly with balsamic glaze and serve additional glaze on the side.

 

 

 

Penne with Asparagus, Chicken, Goat Cheese, Sundried Tomatoes and Wilted Greens

Inspiration for this came from a couple of pastas I’ve made before.  This one (originally from Smitten Kitchen) and this one from Fine Cooking.  I actually didn’t realize how similar they were until I started writing this recipe after I made this for dinner.  I thought about not posting it since they were so much alike.  But then I figured that it’s worth sharing because it shows how great this method is.  Adding a log of goat cheese to warm pasta, along with a little pasta water, makes for a super simple, creamy and delicious sauce and a great jumping off point for whatever else you feel like adding in.

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If you read the ingredient list below you’ll notice some amounts for a few things aren’t too specific.  The reason for that is that I didn’t do a great job of writing down what I was doing as I made this!  If you’re a recipe follower and prefer a precise measurement, I encourage you to use this recipe to broaden your horizons and have a little faith in yourself and find your inner Martha, or Julia, or whoever.

If you don’t like sundried tomatoes, use less or leave them out, same with the greens.  Don’t have quite 2 cups of leftover chicken?  Not a problem.  I used to hate when recipes said “salt and pepper to taste”.  I’d get worried about not adding enough or adding too much.  So taste as you go, starting with a little and adding more if you feel like it needs it.  Same with the lemon juice.  It really ends up being a fun process when you get comfortable doing it.

Ricotta would be an OK cheese to substitute, if you don’t love the tang of goat cheese.  I guess you could use blue, but I’m sure that would be overwhelming for even a blue cheese lover like myself.  I don’t think feta would melt properly, but let me know if you try it and it does!

Use different types of pasta, flavored goat cheese, whatever veggies you want, add chicken or sausage or leave out the meat for a satisfying vegetarian meal.  There are lots of great options to make this pasta your own!  Eat up and enjoy.

Penne with Asparagus, Chicken, Goat Cheese, Sundried Tomatoes and Wilted Greens

Ingredients

  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • 1 bunch asparagus, tough ends snapped off and cut in halves or thirds on the bias
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups cooked shredded chicken (rotisserie chicken works well)
  • 1 4-5 ounce log plain goat cheese
  • 10-15 sundried tomato halves, packed in oil, julienned
  • a couple generous handfuls of greens (spinach, arugula, baby kale)
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup of reserved pasta water (you may not use it all)

Directions

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions to al dente, adding in asparagus during the last 2 minutes of cooking.
  2. Set aside a cup of the pasta water, then drain pasta and asparagus and transfer to a large bowl.  Add in the goat cheese and begin to mix, add a little pasta water to create a sauce and help melt the cheese.
  3. Add in the greens, chicken and sundried tomatoes.  Toss to coat then season with salt, pepper and lemon juice.  If the pasta seems dry, add more pasta water.

Monte Cristo Sandwiches

These sweet and savory sandwiches remind me of a restaurant that used to be in Austin called Bombay Bicycle Club.  It was a special place we’d go for birthdays and I’m pretty sure that I almost always ordered the monte cristo.  Theirs was full of meat and cheese, deep fried, covered in powered sugar and served with a side of raspberry preserves.  And I think it came with fries.  And I probably had a hot fudge sundae for dessert.  This was back in the days of high metabolism.  Those were good days.

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When a post came up on the King Arthur Flour blog the other day about croque monsieurs and monte cristos I immediately added the ingredients to my grocery list.

I usually buy groceries a few days in advance, and sometimes (when Ben does the grocery shopping for me on Sunday afternoons) I will have groceries for the entire week of meals and not need to go to the store.  The only problem with this is that sometimes I get to the day I had planned to make such-and-such for dinner and I don’t want to make it.  That happened with this meal.  It just seemed like more work than I wanted to put in to dinner that night.  But in the end it was a really quick meal with less mess than I’d anticipated and more deliciousness.

I found this incredible brioche loaf at Whole Foods (set me back $8 but was totally worth it).

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You can use any bread you like, but a soft white is pretty wonderful since it really soaks up the egg.  These are triple-decker sandwiches, turkey and ham on one half and Emmentaler swiss on the other.

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If you’re using thick bread slices you may want to smoosh the sandwich a bit with your hand.

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After assembling the sandwiches you dredge both sides in a mix of egg and milk.

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And then cook them until golden brown.

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After cooking, sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve up with a side of raspberry preserves for dipping.

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If you’re making more than 2 sandwiches just increase the amount of bread, meat and cheese.  The egg is enough for probably 4 sandwiches.  Set your oven to 200°F and put the finished sandwiches on a cookie sheet lined with foil while you cook the rest of the sandwiches.  They won’t have the great crunch they do when they’re fresh, but at least they’ll be warm.  To make sure your sandwiches are heated through and that the cheese gets perfectly melted, take the meat and cheese out of the fridge for 20 minutes before cooking so that it’s not cold when it goes into the pan and keep the heat medium-low so that the outside doesn’t cook too much before the center is warm.  Enjoy!

Monte Cristo Sandwiches

Makes 2 sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 6 slices of good white bread
  • 4 slices of ham
  • 4 slices of turkey
  • 2-4 slices of swiss cheese (depending on the size of your bread and how cheesy and delicious you’d like your sandwich to be)
  • butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons of milk
  • powdered sugar
  • raspberry preserves

Directions

  1. Heat skillet over medium-low heat.
  2. Arrange meats on bottom layer of bread, top with a slice of buttered bread, top with a slice or 2 of cheese.  Repeat with other sandwich.  If your bread is thick, press the sandwich down with your hand to flatten it slightly.
  3. Whisk egg and milk together in a pie plate or shallow dish.  Dip both sides of the sandwich in the egg.
  4. Melt a little butter in your pan, then place the sandwiches in the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, making sure it doesn’t get too dark.  If it is cooking too quickly, turn down the heat.
  5. Move sandwiches to a cutting board and slice in half.  Move to plates and sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar.

 

Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf with Caramelized Onions

The more I cook, the more I realize how much I absolutely love cooking comfort food.  And eating comfort food.  I really love eating comfort food.  And I’ve been doing a lot of it lately. This meatloaf has been one of our favorites.

baconmeatloaf

Covering your dinner with bacon can’t be a bad thing.  This meatloaf is covered in 10 strips of bacon which give it great flavor and create a great slicing guide.  I got this recipe from The Pioneer Woman, my go-to for comfort food.  Try her pot roast!  It makes me smile just thinking about it.  The only change I made to this meatloaf was to add some caramelized onion.

I’ve made this twice now.  The first time I followed the recipe exactly, but felt that the bacon was kind of soggy.  So the next time I baked the meatloaf without the sauce at the beginning of the cooking time at an attempt to crisp it up a little before putting the sauce on.  I think it was better, not so much that I could definitely tell a difference but enough that I will do it that way in the future.  Either way the bacon is a great addition and makes this meatloaf spectacular.  It would still be good without the bacon, so leave it out if you must.

I don’t have a roasting pan.  Not sure why.  I should probably get one.  So I baked the meatloaf on a shallow baking pan lined with parchment.  It releases a lot of juice, so I soaked it up with paper towels after it came out of the oven.  I can see why a roasting pan would be helpful, but don’t fret if you don’t have one.  You don’t need it.

This would easily feed 8 people, possibly 10.  Ben and I can easily make 3 meals out of it.  Sliced for dinner the first night, then meatloaf sandwiches for lunch or dinner a couple of times.  Few things can beat a meatloaf sandwich on some soft white bread.  Enjoy!

Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf with Caramelized Onions

From The Pioneer Woman

Ingredients

Meatloaf

  • 1 medium yellow onion, halved and sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 6 slices white bread
  • 2 pounds ground beef (I used 1 pound of 85/15 and 1 pound of 93/7)
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup minced Italian parsley
  • 4 whole eggs, beaten
  • 10 slices Thin/regular Bacon

Sauce

  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups ketchup
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup brown Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard

Directions

  1. Caramelize the onion: Heat 1 tablespoon of butter and drizzle of olive oil over medium heat in a skillet.  Add the sliced onion and stir the onion to coat with butter.  Sprinkle with kosher salt and a generous pinch of sugar.  Let cook, stirring occasionally and monitoring the heat so the onions do not burn, 10-15 minutes.  Onions should be brown and soft.  If the onions begin to crisp and burn and there is no moisture left in the pan, add a few teaspoons of water.  Remove from the pan from the heat and let cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour milk over the bread slices. Allow it to soak in for several minutes.
  3. Place the ground beef, milk-soaked bread, onion, Parmesan, seasoned salt, salt, black pepper, and parsley in a large mixing bowl. Pour in beaten eggs.
  4. With clean hands, mix the ingredients until well combined. Form the mixture into a loaf shape on a broiler pan, which will allow the fat to drain. (Line the bottom of the pan with foil to avoid a big mess!)
  5. Lay bacon slices over the top, tucking them underneath the meatloaf.
  6. Cook meatloaf for 15 minutes.
  7. While the meatloaf is cooking, make the sauce: stir together ketchup, brown sugar and mustard in a mixing bowl. Pour 1/3 of the mixture over the top of the bacon. Spread with a spoon.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes, then pour another 1/3 of the sauce over the top. Bake for another 15 minutes. Slice and serve with remaining sauce.

 

Cauliflower Mac with White Cheddar, Parmesan and Thyme

In my dreams I am someone who eats nothing but good-for-you foods, mainly fruits and vegetables, that are all beneficial to my health and do things like make my skin glow, provide me with all my daily vitamins, and will add years to my life.  I grow all my own vegetables and get my eggs from the chickens I’m raising in my backyard.  In that backyard I am hanging my clothes out to dry on the clothesline.  In reality I love a greasy hamburger with cheese and bacon served up with a plate of crispy fries and followed by a creamy vanilla milkshake.  I’ve never grown anything edible besides some tomatoes that didn’t make it through the season.  And I actually hate the way clothes feel and smell after drying outside.  I’m nothing like I am in my dreams.  I like healthy foods, but I also really like to indulge.  I’ve visited both extremes of unhealthy habits with food and over time I’ve become better able to understand that there is a healthy balance between the two.  I believe that there is a time to indulge in cheesy macaroni and a time to take it easy and fill your body with nutritious vegetables.  This dish allows you to have your mac and eat it too.

cauliflowermacaroniandchees

Upon first reading this recipe in Fine Cooking I dismissed it as being way too much work.  I came across it again a few weeks later and thought I should give it a try.  It turned out to be really delicious and not terribly time consuming.  This is nothing at all like the ooey gooey cheesy macaroni and cheese I usually make, so it isn’t truly fair to compare them.  However, the flavor of this macaroni was full and rich thanks to the sharp cheese and fresh thyme.  Since it’s a warm baked pasta dish it still serves as comfort food, but it doesn’t carry all the butter, whole milk and cheese (and guilt) of the full fat version.  One of the best parts about it is the cauliflower and onion puree.  There’s half a head of cauliflower in this!  And it adds a wonderful flavor and creaminess as well as a good amount of vitamin C.  Purees are a great way to get more vegetables into your diet, and I’m going to look for ways to do more with them.  There are only so many salads and sides of steamed broccoli a girl can take before she needs some real food.  And while you eat this you can feel good knowing you’re getting some of your daily veggies.

There are a few things I did that are different from the original recipe.  I used macaroni instead of penne.  I used heaping measurements for the cheese because, well, I just love cheese.  And I used 2% milk instead of 1%.  I know there is a big difference between the two, and next time I will try 1% if I remember to pick some up.  Ben and Carson both drink 2%, and I have recently made the switch to almond milk, so that’s all the milk we have in our house most of the time.

If you make this dish start to finish it probably wouldn’t take you all that long, but it dirties a lot of dishes.  One of those dirty items is a blender, and I kinda hate cleaning the blender, not sure why.  As a stay-at-home mom I rarely have the luxury of making dinner leisurely and I also don’t want me or my husband to be stuck with a bunch of dishes when all we want to do is sit down after the kids are in bed.  So, here are some ways to make this easier and less stressful to prepare.

  • Make the vegetable puree earlier in the day, or even the day before, and store it in the fridge.  Warm it up in the saucepan and continue the recipe from that point.
  • Grate the cheese ahead of time and store in the fridge in ziplocs or tupperware.  (I prefer bags because I can throw them away.  But that’s because I am lazy and wasteful.)
  • Cook everything, put it in the pan, cover and put in the fridge.  Bake it that evening or the next day.

Give this a try. Even if you hate cauliflower I think you’ll like it.  And if you have any healthy and delicious recipes to share, please do!

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

Ingredients

  • 4 cups 1-1/2-inch cauliflower florets (about 1 lb.; from 1/2 head) 
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and sliced 
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled 
  • salt and pepper
  • 12 oz. macaroni noodles
  • 2 cups 2% milk 
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard 
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme 
  • 2 oz. coarsely grated sharp white Cheddar (about 1/2 cup) 
  • 1-1/2 oz. finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1-1/2 cups using a rasp grater)

Directions

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 375°F.
  2. Put the cauliflower, onion, and garlic in a steamer basket set over 1 inch of boiling water in a 6- to 8-quart pot. Cover and steam until the cauliflower is tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the cauliflower, onion, and garlic to a blender.
  3. Fill the pot three-quarters full of salted water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook for 3 minutes less than the package timing. Drain and return the pasta to the pot.
  4. While the pasta cooks, add 1 cup of the milk, the dry mustard, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper to the vegetables in the blender and purée until smooth. Transfer to a 3-quart saucepan and stir in the remaining 1 cup of milk and the thyme. Heat over medium-low heat until hot but not boiling, about 3 minutes.
  5. In a small bowl, mix the Cheddar and Parmigiano. Add all but 1/2 cup of the cheese to the sauce and stir until the cheese is melted. Add the sauce to the pasta and stir to combine.
  6. Transfer the pasta and sauce to an 8-inch square baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
  7. Bake until heated through and the cheese is beginning to brown, 20 to 30 minutes.

 

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas with Goat Cheese and Homemade Enchilada Sauce

When my dear, sweet sister Sarah came to help with Betsy right after she was born, she made us dinner.  She made these incredible vegetable enchiladas with sweet potato and black beans.  They were delicious.  The really wonderful thing about them was the goat cheese.  I would’ve never thought to do that, and I would’ve never thought it would’ve been as terrific as it was.  I tried to recreate them last week and while Ben and I really enjoyed them, they weren’t quite like Sarah’s.  So I’ll have to get an enchilada lesson from her the next time we’re together.

Pardon this iPhoned and Instrgramed photo.  I’m honestly just proud that I took a picture at all.  And to be quite honest I like that if I don’t try to take a good photo, then I can have an excuse for taking crummy ones.  One day I’ll start taking better quality pictures…

These enchiladas are a healthier option when you’re craving Tex-Mex.  They aren’t heavy laden with cheese, and they can be totally vegetarian if you choose to skip the chicken.  You really won’t miss it.  The goat cheese adds a perfect tangy surprise.  If you don’t like goat cheese, add some regular shredded cheese to the filling.

Sarah cooks like I wish I could.  She doesn’t really measure anything.  She doesn’t really follow a recipe.  She just makes what she thinks will be good.  And every time she’s done that when I’ve been around to taste the end result, it’s been quite yummy.  I tried to take some inspiration from Sarah and cook without measuring cups or spoons, so my measurements below are approximate.  The beautiful thing about that kind of cooking is that if you don’t have or like something below you can replace it with something else and not get too preoccupied with doing things a specific way.  Just taste as you go to make sure you have the flavor you want.  I used a packet of chicken taco seasoning, but you can use your favorite spices to make your own seasoning mix.

Other ingredients that I would consider trying in these enchiladas are corn, green chiles, spinach, mushrooms, shredded carrots and zucchini.  In place of chicken you can use ground beef or turkey, or some shredded pork if you happen to have some left over from another meal.

I realized when I started to put these together that I didn’t think to get any sauce and wondered if Sarah had even used any.  So I asked her and she said she just used a can of enchilada sauce.  And of course I had no enchilada sauce.  What’s a girl to do?  Make her own enchilada sauce of course.  And where does one find a recipe for enchilada sauce?  The internet of course.  I just Googled “homemade enchilada sauce” and I found this little gem.  I followed the recipe except for a couple things.  I didn’t have any tomato sauce so I pureed a can of diced tomatoes after draining off some of the juice.  In place of the self rising flour I used regular.  I used the spices it called for and as it cooked I tasted and added a little more chili powder, some paprika and I believe a little more salt since I didn’t have onion salt.  It tasted ok, but I was worried about how it was going to turn out on the enchiladas.  Turned out to be wonderful paired with the enchiladas, and something I’m going to make again the next time I need enchilada sauce.

Now I know flour tortillas are not what is traditionally used for enchiladas.  I used flour because that’s what Sarah used.  I might try corn sometime.  If you decide to, make sure to soften them in warm chicken broth or in the microwave to soften.  If you skip that step they will crack when you go to roll them up.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas

Ingredients

  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • 1 large sweet potato, cut into small dice
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups cooked, chopped chicken (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning
  • goat cheese, 3-4 ounces
  • 8-12 flour tortillas (taco or burrito size)
  • 1 can enchilada sauce (or make your own using the recipe below)
  • shredded cheese, optional
  • sour cream and cilantro for serving

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 400°F.  Toss sweet potato, bell peppers and onion together with olive oil and salt on a large rimmed baking sheet.
  2. Bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from oven and let cool a bit.
  3. Combine vegetables, black beans, chicken (if using) and seasoning.  Taste and season as needed.
  4. Crumble goat cheese into filling and combine gently, keeping the goat cheese in good sized chunks.
  5. Scoop some filling into a tortilla and roll to close.  Fill generously but do not overfill, the tortilla should overlap itself by at least 1 inch.  Place seam side down in a greased pan.  Repeat with remaining tortillas fitting them tightly in the pan.  You may need 2 pans depending on what size tortillas you use.
  6. Reduce oven to 350°F.  Top with enchilada sauce, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove foil (add cheese if using) and bake for 15 minutes more.
  7. Serve topped with sour cream and chopped cilantro.

Enchilada Sauce

Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 8 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • salt to taste
Directions
  1. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in flour and chili powder, reduce heat to medium, and cook until lightly brown, stirring constantly to prevent burning flour.
  2. Gradually stir in tomato sauce, water, cumin, garlic powder, and salt into the flour and chili powder until smooth
  3. Continue cooking over medium-low heat approximately 10 minutes, or until thickened slightly. Season to taste with salt.