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Thai Basil Beef Salad

Branching out our taste-bud’s this week with a meal that actually just took under 20 minutes to prepare and left my family full AND healthy!  All sorts of “wins” there!

This meal really is low in calories (less than 300) and high in protein!  Plus, more importantly to me, is it is soooo full of flavor that I didn’t mind giving up my normal TexMex comfort food!  You can mix and match a few ingredients to meet your family’s palates as well.  This is definitely worth a try my friends….

The Starting Lineup

  • 1 lb flat iron steak (can also use sirloin, hanger or even ground beef!)
  • 1 cucumber, sliced
  • 1 tomato, quartered
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/4 cup green onion, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 Tbsp Sriracha sauce
  • 1 tsp low-sodium soy sauce or Tamari sauce
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • Hefty pinch of black pepper

*Serve with cooked, long-grain jasmine rice and lime wedges!  I actually like to add fresh lime juice and chopped cilantro to my fluffed rice as well.

**Optional ingredients to add to dish are julienned carrots, Thai hot chili’s, cilantro, red bell pepper slices.

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Dressing: whisk together the rice wine vinegar, oil, Sriracha, soy sauce, and garlic and in a bowl.  Toss the basil, cucumbers and tomato with dressing. Cover and set aside.

Season beef with a hefty amount of pepper and a bit of the canola oil, then sear in a large, non-stick pan over medium-high heat 5 minutes per side; add green onions, cook briefly then remove from heat to rest for 5 minutes. *yields medium-rare.

Spoon rice into bowls and top with the dressed vegetables.  Slice beef against the grain, and place overtop.  Serve with extra soy sauce, Sriracha, hot chili’s and cilantro if desired.

ThaiBasilBeefSalad

 

Stuffed Tomatoes Puttanesca

A lot of influences helped bring this recipe idea to mind.  One, being my love for Pasta Puttanesca, a common order from me at many Italian restaurants.  Secondly, I love having people over and serving unique appetizers aka hors d’oeuvres if I’m being fancy, and thought this will make a great contender for my counter….and lastly, my hilarious, old soul of a little 6-year-old son who legitimately enjoys anchovies on his pizza.  Yes, if he’s not a chef, food critic or stylist when he grows up, I will be shocked.  Future foodie right there!

So because of that last reason, I had a couple containers of anchovies handy and the rest of the ingredients are pantry staples for me…so given all that, the Stuffed Tomato Puttanesca was born!  Thanks Brooks. 🙂

Also, you can make this with out stuffing the tomato/oven-step and serve in a dish drizzled with a bit more olive oil alongside crackers, bread and veggies for a great tapenade!  Heck, even spread it on your bread for an amped up turkey sandwich!  Endless options folks!  Ps.  These are great paired with a juicy steak and glass of red….

The Starting Lineup

  • 12 small cocktail style tomatoes, 2-3 inches and ripe
  • 1 Tbsp garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 25+ pitted Kalamata olives, rough chop
  • 1 Tbsp capers
  • 8-10 anchovy filets (canned or jarred in olive oil)
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs or panko
  • 1/4 cup Romano cheese, grated
  • 2-3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2-3 Tbsp tomato juice
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shaved

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment, foil or silpat sheet.

Using a serrated knife (I always use serrated when dealing with tomatoes, trust me), slice off the tops of each tomato (keep) and carefully scoop out the inside of each tomato with a spoon into a bowl.  Once finished, pour and press the tomato flesh through a fine mesh sieve to get the fresh tomato juice.

In a food processor, place in the tops of your tomatoes (stem cut off), Kalamata olives, anchovies and garlic.  Process until well chopped.

Combine the olive paste with the bread crumbs/panko, capers, parsley, thyme, olive oil, the tomato juice, pepper and Romano cheese.

Place the cut and hollowed tomatoes onto your lined baking sheet and use a spoon to stuff each tomato with your tapenade filling.  Once they’re all full, sprinkle the tops with the shaved parmesan cheese slices.  Place into your preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, until the cheese has browned and tomato is slightly wilted and heated through.

Sprinkle a bit of fresh thyme or parsley overtop and serve as an appetizer or side dish, enjoy!

PuttanescaTomatoes

Eggnog Pancakes with Maple-Nog Syrup

It’s that time of year again….Yep, you have a quarter-gallon left in your half-gallon of Eggnog and since the tree is down and gifts have dispersed, you have very little desire to drink it.  Oh what to do.

Well, we are BIG advocates of not wasting food in our home, even if it becomes a game of “Chopped” in my kitchen to see what I can come up with.  Funny, how usually it’s the best tasting of meals too??  Anyway, that was the exact case one cold and cloudy morning, as I stared blankly at the lack of ingredients in my refrigerator….then I spotted the eggnog!

Combining the magic ingredient with a basic pancake recipe made for our last bite of the holiday season!  Plus, with that eensy-teensy bit left in the bottom of your half gallon, it makes for a wonderful syrup addition!  Points for mom!!

Now the only problem, is that they were so yummy that I’m concerned to if I can buy the ‘nog in July??….. answer to be continued.

 

The Starting Lineup

Eggnog Pancakes

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 cups of your favorite eggnog
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp rum extract
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Maple-Nog Syrup

  • 1/2 cup real maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup of your favorite eggnog
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • pinch of salt

 

Syrup:

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the maple syrup and the eggnog and bring to a simmer.  Cook until it’s reduced by a quarter, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and swirl in the butter and salt until melted.  You can keep warm, on low, stirring ever so often.

Pancakes:

Preheat either a large skillet or an electric griddle to medium/medium-high heat (about 350 degrees for your griddle).

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dry mix (flour, baking powder, nutmeg and salt).  In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients (eggnog, eggs, butter and the rum and vanilla extracts).  Pour the wet mixture into the dry and whisk together until just combined, small lumps are ok.

Using a ladle or measuring cup (spray with nonstick for ease of batter removal), pour about 1/3 cup rounds onto your preheated, buttered or lightly oiled cooking surface.  Cook until bottom side is a golden brown, flip and repeat on the other side.

Serve with your favorite pancake accompaniments:  fresh fruit, powdered sugar, toasted pecans or walnuts AND that fabulous warm syrup!!  Enjoy!

EggnogPancakes

 

Crustless Loaded Quiche

This brunch time classic was inspired by one of my husbands favorite memories…His childhood babysitter, from infancy until he was about 9 years old, was a sweet lady named Sharon who often made him what she referred to as “Bacon Pie”.  When it was described to me, I envisioned a sort of quiche/frittata combo, but every time I made the classic versions of both (with bacon of course), he said it just “wasn’t Sharon’s”.  Stumped.

More years passed with more stories about the lady I never met and her famous bacon pie, till one day it was brought up around another family member who also recalled this family favorite.  BISQUICK!  Yep, she said nonchalantly “ohhhh, yeah, Sharon used the back-of-the-box Bisquick quiche recipe”…I was shocked.  All these years of quiches and frittatas and no’s and maybe’s and it was a simple as that?!

That being said, as I read the famed recipe to my dear husband, we both agreed that the original sounded quite bland and we also both agreed that this was likely why his toddler age palate loved it.  So he gave me the go-ahead to add a bit more flavor and texture to the recipe and see how it goes.

Well, I have to say, I FINALLY heard “mmmm…it’s just like Sharon’s.”

Mission Accomplished.

*What’s great about this recipe is you can basically add any, or none at all, breakfast meats, leftover vegetables, etc. to the mix and create your own favorite “quiche”!

*Serve for brunch with mimosas or even as a light lunch or dinner alongside a salad.  Also, holds up well for great leftovers.

The Starting Lineup

  • 1 package bacon, cooked crisp and chopped
  • 4oz cooked ham or Canadian bacon (about 4 slices), chopped
  • 1/3 cup red onion, diced
  • 1/3 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/3 cup green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 1 cup swiss cheese, shredded
  • 1 (4oz) container feta cheese
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup Bisquick
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Chives or scallions for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and lightly coat a 10″ pie dish with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, add and toss to combine the cooked bacon, ham, fresh vegetables and cup of Swiss cheese.  Season with a hefty pinch of salt and pepper.   Add to the prepared pie dish.

In that same large bowl you had the veggies in, now beat the eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Next, whisk in the milk and Bisquick until smooth.  Pour over the bacon and veggie mix in your pie dish.  Sprinkle the feta cheese evenly over the top and place your quiche into the preheated oven, uncovered, for 40-50 minutes or a toothpick comes out clean from the center of your quiche.  *For easy transfer, I place my pie dish on a baking sheet before I even pour in the egg mix to get in/out of the oven, as it will be full.

Allow to cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes to set up, slice and serve.  Enjoy!

Quiche

Ranch Hand Potatoes

Ok, this is quite possibly my favorite side dish to bring to any potluck, tailgate party, picnic or just a side for a dinner at home when my husband smokes a brisket…yummmm.  This WILL feed a crowd and your crowd will leave nothing behind!

There are a few variations of similar recipes, but personally, they tend to be quite bland and have zero texture.  This doctored up version has many depths of flavors, yet is still mild enough for any palate with the bacon, chiles and that good, ol’ fashioned ranch flavor!  Plus it’s sooooo easy!  Basically, it’s a “dump & stir” side, bake and walk away!

The Starting Lineup

  • 6-7 russet potatoes
  • 1 package bacon, cooked crisp and chopped
  • 1 poblano pepper, chopped
  • 1-2 (4-oz) can of green chiles
  • 1 (10.5-oz) cream of chicken
  • 1 (10.5-oz) cream of poblano soup (*You can use two cans a cream of chicken to substitute)
  • 1 (16-oz) container of sour cream
  • 1 (1-oz) packet of Hidden Valley Original Ranch Seasoning
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (*I use Kraft Sharp Cheddar)
  • Green onions (scallions), sliced for garnish after baking

Let’s start with the simple “prep work”:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cook up your bacon, drain/pat dry the grease, chop up.
  3. Clean the russet potatoes, cut in half and boil in salted water till just fork tender.  You do not want to over boil, as you’re not making mashed potatoes and want a bit of texture.  *I prefer to leave the skins on for visual appearance and, again, texture.  Drain into a colander and once cool enough to touch, cut into rough bite size pieces, similar to a potato salad.

For potlucks, I prefer to use a deep dish (disposable if possible) 11×9 foil pan.  By all means, you can use your handy 9×13 too.  Layer your par-cooked potatoes into your serving dish in an even layer.

In a large bowl, thoroughly stir together the cooked bacon, poblano peppers, green chiles, cream of chicken/poblano soups, sour cream, ranch seasoning and shredded cheese.

Pour over the potatoes and toss to coat.

Transfer, uncovered, to your preheated oven and bake for 50-60 minutes.  Top with the scallions and enjoy!!

RanchhandPotatoes

 

 

French Onion Chicken Poutine

What kind of comfort-food-sort-of-blogger would I be without a plate full of hot salted fries, topped with a rich gravy and melty cheese chunks?  Not one that I would like to know…

Now here in the states, we fondly know of this dish as Disco Fries (main difference being the variety of cheese overtop), but it’s more commonly known everywhere as “Poutine” thanks to our friends north of the border, eh Canada?  That main difference, again, is the use of real cheese curds…and please choose the white variety for more authenticity.

Now myself, I find the cheese curds in the gourmet cheese/deli section, but if you just cannot track them down, you can substitute torn full-fat mozzarella chunks (NOT the fresh mozzarella you’d make a pizza with) as you actually do not want these cheese chunks to completely melt.

Now to add my weird twist on the forever popular dish, I made a classic French onion soup combined with chicken (my boys always HAVE to have their protein) and turned it into a poutine.  So whether you prefer to eat this with your hands or a fork, you will NOT be unsatisfied!  It’s also equally great as leftovers!!

 

The Starting Lineup

Chicken

  • 2-4 (about 1lb) chicken breast or thighs, skinless/boneless
  • 2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced into rings
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup plus 4 tablespoons beef broth, divided
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 4 slices Swiss cheese
  • ¾ cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • Cheese curds
  • Fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped, for topping (optional)

French Fries

  • Frozen bagged fries are fine or….
  • 4 very large russet potatoes, skin on, cut into 1″ wide fries
  • Vegetable/ or Canola oil, to fil a large skillet/pot 2″ (or deep fryer)
  • Kosher salt

Begin by cleaning and cutting your potatoes, if making homemade fries.  Add the cut potatoes to a large bowl of ice water and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.  This helps to remove the starch, resulting in a crispier fry.  *Completely pat dry before frying.

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Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large oven-safe skillet, over low heat, melt butter. Add onions and 4 tablespoons of the beef broth; sauté onions till a buttery brown in shade and are rich and caramelized, about 20+ minutes.  Transfer to a bowl and cover to keep warm.

While onions are cooking, prepare the chicken by drizzling with oil, then seasoning with salt & pepper and the Italian seasonings. Once onions have finished cooking and are removed from the pan, cook chicken for 4-5 minutes on each side over medium-high heat (don’t clean out the pan between the onions and chicken) until browned on both sides. (Chicken may not be fully cooked through yet, that is okay).  Remove from pan.

To the skillet, pour in the beef broth over medium-high heat to deglaze and stir while scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Next, turn down to medium-low heat and whisk in the flour thoroughly for 5-6 minutes until smooth; taste for seasoning.  Add the sautéed onions and browned chicken back in.  Cover the chicken with the Swiss cheese slices and transfer, uncovered, to the oven for 10 minutes, till cheese is melted and bubbly.

*Meanwhile, pat dry (between two towels) and fry up the sliced potatoes.  Salt and keep warm. **After you fry, transfer each batch to a paper towel/baking rack lined baking sheet and straight into a 225 degrees preheated oven.

Remove the skillet of your French Onion Chicken from the oven and either shred or slice the chicken in pan.  Ladle the rich gravy and chicken over your fries and top with the fresh, chopped parsley and cheese curds!  Enjoy!…because I so know you will!!

Poutine

 

Creamy Crockpot Cocoa

‘Tis the season!  This is a fairly popular recipe for the beloved mug of Christmas cheer and my family’s favorite!  So much so that I’ve been known to make a batch for our Christmas Eve party and another within 24 hours for Christmas Day!  Plus, besides the rich and creamy flavor, the large batch (can be doubled even) allows you to enjoy the gathering and NOT the kitchen while making individual cup by cup for your guests.

If serving for a party, make sure to set up a “Hot Cocoa Bar” with marshmallows, sprinkles, candy canes, flavored syrup and perhaps some Baileys or Schnapps’ for the adults!

*This can also be made in a large pot on the stove top in only 30-40 minutes!  You can serve from there or you can quickly make and transfer to a slow-cooker to keep warm!! 🙂

The Starting Lineup

  • 14oz can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1.5 cups of heavy cream
  • 2 cups of bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
  • 6 cups milk
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

So simple!  To your crockpot, add all of the above ingredients, cover and set on low, stirring ever so often till combined, 2-3 hours.  Set on warm and serve with your favorite accompaniments.  Makes about 12 large mugs/24 smaller cups.  Can be doubled if a large party.

CreamyCrockpotCocoa

 

OPTIONAL:

*Peppermint Marshmallow Stir Sticks:

  • Chocolate chips (I prefer semi-sweet, but you could even use white!  Milk chocolate is too bland and artificial, to me), melt in a bowl in the microwave.  Stir every 30 seconds until melted.
  • Stir Sticks or skinny candy canes (stick halfway into the large marshmallow)
  • Large marshmallows
  • Crushed peppermints or sprinkles, etc. 
  • Wax paper

    Dip the “marshmallow-on-a-stick” at least halfway into your melted chocolate of choice, drizzle off excess and the roll into the crushed peppermints or sprinkles or leave as is.  Transfer, stick up, bottom of coated marshmallow down onto a sheet of wax paper.  This can also be refrigerated for quicker hardening of the chocolate.

Marshmallow-Dips-Variety-590x412

*Borrowed pic, courtesy of @RoseBakes. as I forgot to take one!  Oops!

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