Monday, December 31, 2012

Steamed Lemon-Pepper Broccoli

I like really simple side dishes, as you already know. A good side dish should compliment the entree instead of competing with it. This is a simple dish of steamed broccoli, seasoned with a bit of lemon-pepper seasoning. Since it's prepared in the microwave, you don't have to worry about dirtying up a pot or pan, or finding room in the oven or a free eye on the stovetop. 

Steaming locks in a lot of the nutrients that would otherwise be lost through cooking, and keeps the broccoli crisp-tender, but not woody or tough. If you don't like lemon-pepper seasoning, feel free to use something different, like simple salt & pepper, or even garlic powder!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Easy Cheese Danishes

I'm not a huge pastry buff. I can take or leave doughnuts (and we have both Krispy Kreme AND Dunkin Donuts here), I don't prostrate myself for kolaches & rugelach, and I eat maybe ONE croissant or muffin per year. I loathe honey buns, and really don't care for cinnamon rolls either. 

Well, until Hostess went under. Then I had a sudden urge to hoard as many Hostess products as humanly possible. Unfortunately I was a day late and a dollar short - by the time I got to a few local stores, the Hostess inventory was GONE. 

Back to pastries, though. I LOVE danishes. I know they're absolutely horrible for me, and I plain and simple DO NOT CARE. Cheese danishes, fruit danishes, it doesn't matter. I used to buy FLATS of prepackaged Cloverhill Bakery danishes at Sam's. They'd last me a week, and I'd go through at least 3 gallons of milk in that week as well. 

Once the vending machine at work quit carrying danishes, I had no reason to even venture to the break room. Granted, my wallet and pants were grateful, but still...

There are TONS of homemade danish recipes out there on 'them world wide internets'. Some involve making puff pastry from scratch - not going to happen. Some involve using refrigerated crescent rolls - this is more my speed, but it's just not the right type of dough. So, I figured I'd see what I could do with some frozen puff pastry and a little bit of experimentation! 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Beef Tips

There's something super comforting to me about tender, slow-cooked beef served with egg noodles. My Slow-Cooker Beef Stroganoff is one of my all-time favorite comfort meals, and luckily it's SUPER easy to prepare, too. 

This recipe is similar; a cheaper, tougher cut of meat is cooked, low and slow, in a creamy sauce. However, this is prepared in the oven - cooking DOES take 3 hours, but all you have to do is cover the dish with foil and completely forget about it. Don't peek at it or anything. 

We've been having depressingly yucky weather here since Christmas. On Christmas Day, we had tornado warnings, hailstorms and torrential rain, which ushered in some freezing cold weather and winds - we even had a few snow flurries yesterday. It hasn't gotten above 40°, so this meal is sure to warm me up from the inside out! 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Easy Chocolate Mousse (Vegetarian/Vegan!)

A while back, I posted about a healthier way to make chocolate pudding, as well as making it so vegetarians & vegans could enjoy it as well. Pudding is great and all, but what if you're more of a mousse person? Or, maybe you're having company and you'd like something a little fancier than just some glops of pudding in a bowl!

Regular chocolate mousse uses air bubbles to give it that airy whipped texture, and is usually made from egg whites or cream, a definite no-no for vegans (and some vegetarians!). Plus, the cream can be pretty high in fat as well, AND you have to cook the mousse, without scalding the milk or scrambling the eggs instead of tempering them and so on. 

This version uses TOFU in place of the usual egg/cream mixture; it's high in protein yet low in fat. Due to it's bland flavor, it easily absorbs other flavors, like, in this case, chocolate. Plus, no animal products, so it's vegan-friendly (note: MILK chocolate will not be vegan, but most DARK chocolates are)! 

Since chocolate mousse is all about THE CHOCOLATE, make sure you get a good-quality bittersweet or dark bar (basically, don't just grab a Hershey bar in the checkout line). You can melt the chocolate with a double boiler, or microwave it instead to keep this dish a 'no stove' recipe! 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Lambic Ice Cream Float

Lambic is a Belgian beer, traditionally brewed in the Pajottenland region, southwest of Brussels. Unlike most beers, fermented with cultivated strains of yeast, lambic is fermented spontaneously through wild yeasts. As a result, lambic has a distinctly cider-like and dry flavor. Lambic is also typically matured in old oak or chestnut barrels (previously used for port or sherry)  and is usually a blend of several lambic beers. 

Types of lambic include kriek (sour cherry), framboise (raspberry), pĂȘche (peach), cassis (black currant) and pomme (apple). Gueze lambic is a non-fruit blend of lambics, and, in my opinion, taste REALLY sour and musty. I tried a gueze (Lindemans Cuvee Rene) once, and it tasted exactly the way burning tires smell. Or as if a skunk had cabbage-farted inside my mouth. Either way, it was NOT my favorite.

Here in the US, the most common brand of lambic is Lindemans. Around here, I can usually only find them at specialty beer stores, World Market, and Whole Foods. Delicious on its own (except for that infernal gueze), adding ICE CREAM elevates the lambic to another level. 

Trust me on this one. Here I've used plain old vanilla ice cream, but if you can find sweet cream or cheesecake flavor, those will work extremely well, too! 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Pan-Fried Thick-Cut Pork Chops

Merry Christmas, everyone! 

Growing up, I LOVED fried pork chops. Mom would get the really thin ones, with the bone still on them, and would pan-fry them in a cast iron skillet. I LOVE THEM. Served simply with a dazzling array of Southern sides, from fried okra to collard greens, I always preferred bone-in chops, since the bone lends a certain amount of flavor, AND, in a small way, keeps the meat from doming in the center like a fried bologna bubble! 

This version is similar to Mom's, but uses thick-cut pork chops. The chops are dredges in a seasoned flour, then fried in a butter and oil mixture - the butter helps with the browning. No sauces or thick breadings distract from the taste of pork - the chops stand out on their own. Keep the sides simple, and you've got an elegant meal in minutes! 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Chili Cheese Dip

I really do try to eat well, but sometimes you just HAVE to go a little crazy. Like with big football games - nobody wants to eat QUICHE while watching a good game, right? Don't get me wrong, I *like* quiche, but, when it comes to football, I need cheap beer and something greasy, cheesy and guaranteed to induce wicked heartburn or house-clearing gas. 

Recently, I've become obsessed with chili cheese dip. We went to lunch at Beef O'Brady's; I ordered their "chili cheese chips and dip". We watched Monday Night Football at Buffalo Wild Wings; I ordered their "chili con queso dip". I knew I was getting into a deep, dangerous relationship with some seriously trashy eats. 

Though my beloved Bears seem intent on disappointing me this season, at least I get to watch the Tide go to yet another National Championship, and hopefully bring that crystal football home to Tuscaloosa. And on January 7th, I GUARANTEE this dip will be on the menu. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Southern Bourbon Balls

Last year, I went a little crazy with Christmas candies. I made balls. LOTS of balls. I made an assortment of truffles, some chocolate coconut cherry balls (a special request from the BF), and the classic chocolate peanut butter balls. I'm pretty sure I even made some sausage balls.

This year, I'm only making one type of ball - schweddy bourbon balls, a CLASSIC Southern holiday treat. Bourbon balls are basically a type of truffle, usually made with cookie crumbs and pecans, and infused with a good plash of bourbon (ALWAYS bourbon, NEVER whiskey/whisky). Ideally, bourbon balls are made several days to a week ahead of time in order to let the boozy goodness meld with all of the other flavors.

Though my usual favorite bourbon is Bulleit, I opted for Maker's Mark this time. Any good bourbon will do, but PLEASE remember that Jack Daniels is NOT bourbon! 

If you don't like bourbon (shame on you), you can use rum instead (or so I've heard; personally, I do NOT like rum). If you want the flavor without the alcohol content, you can buy rum flavoring at most grocery stores! 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bark

Since y'all are probably sick of bark recipes by now, I PROMISE that this will be my last bark recipe for a while. You knew I couldn't do a bark post without including one involving two of my favorite food groups, right? (Those food groups being peanut butter and chocolate).

It's true - I really won't turn down anything that combines peanut butter and chocolate. Case in point: Chocolate Peanut Butter BarsPeanut Butter & Chocolate PieBuckeyes (Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls) and Peanut Butter & Chocolate Fudge.

Needless to say, this is one of my absolute FAVORITE barks. Plus, it's incredibly easy!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Rocky Road Bark


Chocolate, marshmallows & nuts? It's a simple combination, but it's what makes Rocky Road so incredible. I don't even like marshmallows (it's true!), but I LOVE Rocky Road. Most people associate Rocky Road with ice cream, but it works GREAT as a bark recipe, too!


Cheddar Bacon Ranch Dip

This is one of those recipes that I've had for SO long; I honestly don't know WHERE it came from, and I've seen it reposted a million times online. Some people refer to it as "crack dip". Personally, I cannot STAND when people refer to something as "crack"; it's honestly one of my biggest pet peeves. I also kinda think it's tacky to use a highly addictive drug reference to refer to a food, but that's just me. 

However, it's hard to deny that the combination of bacon, cheddar and ranch go together SO well. From cheese balls to hashbrown casseroles to macaroni & cheese and potato salad, it's been proven to be a winning combination. Just not "crack" though.

ANYWAY, now that I've stepped off of my soapbox, back to this dip! It's incredibly easy to prepare, taking less than 5 minutes to basically dump everything together and stir it up. HOWEVER, this dip is MUCH better when you make it ahead of time. Ideally you want to let it chill for 24 hours to let the flavors meld, but I think 8-12 hours will be fine. If you're wanting to make it for a Sunday football game, just throw everything together before you go to bed on Saturday and you'll be ok :)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Gingersnap Bark

So, I FINALLY posted a bark recipe, for my absolute favorite bark - cookies & cream bark! BUT, maybe you're one of those people who doesn't like Oreos (we can't be friends anymore), or you just want something a little more "holiday". Lucky for you, I've got more than one bark recipe up my sleeve (honestly, I have 11 or 12 total)! 

To me, THIS bark is the most "Christmassy", due to the gingersnaps! Though I could have used my homemade gingerdoodles, this recipe works best with store-bought gingersnaps, since they're good and hard - a soft cookie would just get moist and mealy and gross in this recipe! 

Bonus - only two ingredients! 

Cookies & Cream (Oreo) Bark

I had these grand plans of doing an entire week of holiday bark recipes for Christmas, kind of like how I did a week of Korean banchan earlier this year. didn't happen. Time seems to have FLOWN by this month, and I've been insanely busy and stretched thin. 

So, I'll post just a few bark recipes, since Christmas will be here before we know it, which means holiday parties, office parties, and suddenly being accosted with unexpected gifts. NOTHING feels worse than receiving an unexpected gift and having nothing to give in return! Luckily, people still love and appreciate homemade gifts, ESPECIALLY a gift of sweets. I like to make an array of sweets, and have them boxed up in little tins or colorful Chinese-takeout-style containers so I never am caught without a gift. 

The rest of the bark recipes? I'll eventually post those, too - don't worry! 

In years past I've made fudge. Or balls. Or an assortment of cookiestrufflescheesecake bars, and PLENTY of my chocolate pretzel turtles & Saltine toffee!

This year though? I'm doing bark. Today's recipe is a SUPER easy one - it requires only TWO ingredients - white chocolate & Oreo cookies. I think this is probably the one bark that I make that EVERYONE seems to love, considering I don't know a single person who doesn't like cookies & cream! 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Corn & Chicken Chowder

Ugh. The last 24 hours have SUCKED, weather-wise. It WAS nice early yesterday; temperatures in the 60s and clear. Then the rain moved in and brought with it a bunch of cold, wet, miserable weather. It's the kind of weather that makes me just want to sit around the house in sweatpants. 

So, since the weather is yucky, I decided to indulge in some comfort food and make a warm & hearty chowder. This particular chowder comes together pretty quickly, thanks to shortcuts like canned corn and rotisserie chicken. It's thick, creamy, and perfect for enjoying, curled up on the couch in a pair of ratty sweatpants. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Perfect Baked Potatoes

CRAPPY BLOGGER ALERT! Yeah, I know. It's been two weeks since my last post. End-of-year work stuff, holiday shopping, and half-marathon training has kept me insanely busy. Also, I've been trying to eat more from our chest freezer, since it's pretty much CRAMMED full of goodies right now (and eating from the freezer means less money spent on groceries!). 

So yeah, sorry 'bout that, y'all. 

I know baked potatoes are supposed to be a side dish, especially with steaks, but I find a GOOD baked potato to be a great meal on its own. MAYBE with a side salad. Or, as is popular here in Alabama, topped with a huge pile of BBQ pulled pork

A lot of restaurants serve horrible baked potatoes; mealy, soggy affairs wrapped in foil and doused with huge portions of toppings to mask the bland taste. Recently, more places are serving GIGANTIC baked potatoes, weighing several pounds. I got one of these recently during a mad craving for baked potatoes. It ended up giving me REALLY bad heartburn/chest gas/something that had me pretty much convinced that I was having a heart attack - luckily the BF calmed me down, had me lie down to relieve the pressure, and I survived. 

My high school introduced a "baked potato bar" when I was a junior. I ate them pretty frequently, even though they were more like boiled potatoes. But, with enough sour cream and shredded cheese, I was OK with it. As I've gotten older, though, I've gotten a LOT pickier about my food...

Alton Brown (back when he still ate carbs and butter) has always been the master of methods to me. His method for cooking boiled eggs is absolutely perfect. The science nerd in me also REALLY enjoys learning WHY his methods work as well. In his second episode ever of Good Eats, Alton demonstrates his method for making the perfect baked potato, and, as usual, IT WORKS. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Pinkberry-Style Frozen Yogurt

Several years ago, the hottest thing in desserts was Pinkberry. It sparked a HUGE trend in frozen yogurt shops, and AT LEAST ten different shops opened up here in town. Granted, most of them are now closed, and then last year, we got our very own Pinkberry location. I tried a few of the OTHER fro-yo places, and have always preferred the plain flavor from Pinkberry. I don't prefer their prices, or fighting godawful mall traffic to get it, though. 

'Plain' frozen yogurt can be REALLY hard to find sometimes. Then, when I DO find it, it has all these weird ingredients in it. Luckily, I quickly realized that I could just make my own. Adding a bit of sugar gives the sweetness that I want, while still keeping that great 'tang' that makes yogurt so, um, yogurty. 

Now I just need some strawberries and mochi to recreate my absolute FAVORITE Pinkberry treat! :)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Slow-Cooker Pulled-Pork Chili

It's pretty safe to say I like chili. It's the first thing we all here in the South want to cook as soon as the temperature just starts to cool down, and college football season gets underway. I've posted numerous chili recipes here, from my standby plain chili recipe, to recipes for vegetarian roasted pepper chili, black bean & cilantro-lime chili, and even "white" chilis made from chicken or leftover Thanksgiving turkey. One thing I've never tried, though, is a pork-based chili. 

The idea came from a post-run discussion yesterday with my half-marathon training group. We were all talking about football foods for the SEC Championship Game (side note: CONGRATS TO BAMA AND ROLL TIDE!), and the subject of smoked pork came up. Long story short, some of us batted around the idea of using smoked pulled pork in chili, almost like a Brunswick stew, but with all of the chili flavors we love so much. 

Coincidentally, Publix is running a sale on Boston Butts for $1.99 per pound, so I decided I'd try my hand at a pulled pork chili, using my go-to slow-cooker pulled pork recipe as a starting off point. The vinegar in the pulled pork added the perfect compliment to all of the smoky flavors I added to the chili; this chili turned out bold, robust and incredibly hearty - I was MORE than pleased with how everything turned out!