Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Beer & Cheddar Fondue

I think this dip screams, "Game Day!" A cheesy, garlicky warm dip made with beer.... perfect for dipping soft pretzels, pretzel sticks, apple slices, those little smoked sausage links, or (in honor of my late hubby)... Slim Jims : )  This dip needs to be kept warm, so if you have a fondue pot, here's an excuse to finally break it out and use it. If you don't have a fondue pot, you can give this dip a quick reheat and stir during commercial breaks (just microwave it for 20 to 30 seconds). The flavor is great - there is no alcoholic taste to it.  I'm not a beer drinker at all - my Dad had to donate a can of beer for me to make it. If you are worried about the kids trying it, I understand. The beer is cooked on the stove-top, so some of the alcohol is cooked out of it, but you can also use a nonalcoholic beer if you wish. I found this recipe in an old Taste of Home Magazine (Feb./Mar. 2011). Note: I have written the full recipe below, but the photos show me making a 1/2 recipe. (I just made it for my family of three.)

Here's what you need:

  • 4 c. (16 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. beer or nonalcoholic beer
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-1/2 tsp. ground mustard
  • 1/4 tsp. ground pepper
  • Items for dipping: pretzel sticks, soft pretzels, smoked sausage links, apple slices, or Slim Jims
In a large bowl, combine cheese and flour:

In a small saucepan, heat the beer, garlic, mustard, and pepper over medium heat until bubbles form around the sides of the pan:

Reduce the heat to low, and add a handful of the cheese mixture, stirring constantly. When it is almost completely melted, add another handful. Continue adding cheese, one handful at a time, allowing the cheese to melt with each addition. Be sure to continue stirring the entire time.

When all the cheese is mixed in and the dip is smooth, transfer to a serving dish. Keep warm. Enjoy!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Pulled Pork BBQ with Cole Slaw

With the upcoming Super Bowl in mind, I'll be posting "Game Day" recipes all throughout this week! This pulled pork BBQ is a great one for Game Day (or any other gathering) because it's cooked in the crock pot and can be made in advance. The pork cooks up nice and tender, and the sauce is tangy and flavorful. I love the creamy cole slaw on top of the BBQ because it balances out the tang of the sauce perfectly. I know there are lots of versions of cole slaw out there. Where I live (in PA Dutch territory), this cole slaw is a popular one. It's sweet and creamy, and the recipes comes from one of my favorite cookbooks: From Amish and Mennonite Kitchens by Phyllis Pellman Good. The Pulled Pork recipe is my own.

Here's what you need:

  • 3 to 3-1/2 lbs. of pork tenderloin - (I had 2 small ones in my freezer that equalled 2.5 lbs.)
  • 1/2 c. ketchup
  • 1/3 c. apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp. smoked paprika (If you don't have it, regular paprika is fine.) 
  • 2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp. yellow mustard (If you don't have yellow, just use what you have.)
  • 1-1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1-1/4 tsp. pepper
Place the pork in a crock pot lightly coated with cooking spray. In a small bowl, mix the remaining ingredients together to make a sauce:

Pour the sauce over the pork. Cook on low 8 - 10 hours, or high for 3 to 5 hours (depending on your crock pot).  Remove pork, let rest for 15 minutes. Using 2 forks, pull the meat apart so it is in shreds:

If you have any animals in the house, they will be at your heals right about now : ) This is Tucker...staring me down for a piece of pork. (Yes, I gave in.)

So while you're shredding pork and shooing animals away, bring the sauce to a boil. Once your pork is completely shredded....

...add it back into the sauce. Keep warm in the crock pot.  It will keep in the fridge for several days, and it freezes well too.  This recipe should serve 10 - 12. Serve on hearty, toasted kaiser rolls with a side of creamy Cole Slaw.......

Creamy Cole Slaw

You need:

  • 6 c. of shredded cabbage (I used a bag of pre-shredded cabbage with carrots mixed in.)
  • 1 c. mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. vinegar
  • 1 tsp. mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. celery salt
Blend the mayo, sugar, vinegar, mustard, and celery salt together.

Pour over the cabbage and mix well.

This recipe serves 12 to 14. (Note: The pictures show a half-recipe here because I just needed enough for my family - not a large crowd.)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Roasted Red Pepper Cream Sauce with Chicken & Pasta

I love the flavor of roasted red peppers, and I've had my eye on this recipe for a while. I finally got to make it this weekend, and I'm happy to say it will be added to my "favorites" list. Yes, it uses half & half. No, it isn't a low-fat dish, but keep in mind when you order a dish like this in a restaurant, they are typically using heavy cream and lots of butter. I cut back on the butter (the original recipe called for 1/4 cup). And the half & half.... well, you're not ingesting the full 2 cups - after all is reduced, and taking into account the red peppers, you're probably getting about a 1/4 cup of it on your plate, which equals 7 grams of fat. The red peppers are full of vitamins A & C, so maybe that helps justify the splurge - it did for me. : )  This recipe was adapted from allrecipes.com (Roasted Red Pepper Cream Sauce). Here's what you need:

  • 1 jar (12 oz.) roasted red peppers
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped garlic
  • 1/4 fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Cups half & half
  • 1/4 Cup grated Romano cheese (If you don't have Romano, Parmesan will work fine too.)
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 boneless chicken breast (about 6 to 8 oz.), cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 12 oz. linguine
  • salt & pepper to taste
Preheat a large skillet over medium heat with 1 Tbsp olive oil. Add the chicken, and season with salt and pepper. Saute chicken for about 8 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from skillet; set chicken aside on a plate and keep warm.

Next, add to the skillet: 2 Tbsp. olive oil, roasted red peppers, garlic, and basil. Cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes so the flavors blend.

Meanwhile, start your pasta: Cook 12 oz. of linguine according to package directions. After you drain the pasta, toss it lightly with olive oil, transfer it to a large serving bowl. Lay the sauteed chicken pieces on top of the pasta and cover with foil to keep warm until the sauce is finished.

After the red pepper mixture has cooked, very carefully, pour the mixture into a blender and puree until smooth. Return the puree to the skillet:

Bring the mixture to a boil, stir in the half & half, and reduce heat. Simmer gently for 5 minutes.

Stir in the Romano cheese, 1 tsp. kosher salt, and the butter.  Cook and stir until the cheese is melted and the butter is blended in. Taste-test for seasoning. Sprinkle in additional salt if preferred. Pour over pasta and chicken. Serves: 8.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Saucy Baked Pork Chops

This is a great recipe for a weeknight meal. It calls for 4 boneless pork chops - make sure you buy the thick ones that have some fat on them. That fat cooks down during baking, keeps the chops tender, and blends with the sauce - adding flavor. This recipe goes great with the Roasted Parmesan Potatoes I made the other day. All you need to do is mix a few ingredients together, pour over the chops, and throw them in the oven. You could even mix the sauce the night before and store it in the fridge so you're good to go the next day.

Here's what you need:

  • 1 pkg (roughly 1.25 to 1.5 lbs.) of thick, boneless pork chops (My package was 1.38 lbs., and my chops were about 3/4" thick.)
  • 3 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 3 Tbsp. local honey
  • 2 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar (If you don't have this, distilled white vinegar will do.)
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. seasoned salt
  • Kosher salt
  • about a 1/3 C. water
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Place pork chops in a baking dish that was sprayed lightly with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, mix together the tomato paste, honey, soy sauce, cider vinegar, garlic powder, and seasoned salt.

Sprinkle the chops lightly with kosher salt. Then pour the sauce over them. Turn them so both sides are coated with the sauce.

You might notice in the photo that I sprinkled pepper on mine. Don't do it. I tried it to see if it would add to the recipe, but it doesn't. The pepper actually competes with the nice flavor of the sauce.

Before you put the chops in the oven, pour about 1/3 cup of water into the baking dish. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until their internal temperature reads 160 degrees. Serves 4.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Roasted Parmesan Potatoes

I just realized that I haven't posted any side dish recipes yet. This is one of our favorites. I know there are a lot of variations of roasted potatoes out there. But I just love the flavors of this one so much, I could snack on the leftovers cold.....not that I've ever done that : ) If you're baking pork chops or chicken breasts in the oven, these can go right in alongside of them. They're also great for brunch... you know those seasoned "breakfast potatoes" you can get at diners? These potato wedges beat them hands down. Here's what you need:

  • 1-1/2 to 2 lbs. baby potatoes, scrubbed (I had the yellow ones in my pantry, but the red ones work great too.)
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 C. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. seasoned salt
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Coat a baking dish lightly with cooking spray.

Cut the larger baby potatoes into quarters and the smaller ones into halves, so they are all about the same size. Place the potato wedges in a baking dish and drizzle them with the olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt, and grind about a 1/4 tsp. of black pepper over them. Toss them to coat.

In a small bowl, combine the Parmesan, basil, seasoned salt, and garlic powder. Sprinkle this mixture over the potatoes, and toss again to coat.

Make sure the potatoes are in a single layer in the baking dish. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 - 30 minutes or until golden brown and tender. Serves 4 - 6.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Frittata with Sausage, Potatoes, and Peppers

When we get bored with our typical lunch choices, I like to make a frittata to change things up a bit. This hearty egg dish is perfect for any meal, really. For dinner, add a salad and some fresh bread or rolls. It makes for a perfect brunch dish on the weekend too. You can switch out the meat and vegetables to suit your taste, or leave out the meat altogether. It's been changed slightly for my family's taste, but the basic recipe comes from How to Cook Without a Book by Pam Anderson. This frittata is cooked in a 10-inch, ovenproof, nonstick skillet (with a lid). You're going to start it out on the stove top, and finish it in the oven.  Here's what you need:

  • 8 large eggs
  • 5 - 6 oz. mild Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 2 new potatoes, sliced thin
  • 3/4 c. diced red bell pepper
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 c. water
  • salt & fresh ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and adjust your oven rack to the upper-middle position.

Put olive oil, water, sausage, potatoes, garlic, and a sprinkling of salt & pepper into the skillet.

Set the heat at medium-high, cover, and allow the ingredients to steam for 4 minutes. Then add the red pepper to the skillet.

Cover again and allow everything to steam for 1 minute more. Remove lid, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid evaporates and the potatoes and sausage start to brown - about 4 minutes longer.

While the meat and vegetables are cooking, lightly beat the eggs, Parmesan, parsley, and salt & pepper to taste.

When the skillet ingredients are cooked and ready for the next step, they should look like this:

Next, pour the egg mixture into the pan. Do not stir - cook (uncovered) until they start to set around the edges, just about 1 minute. The edges should look like this:

Put the pan into the preheated oven, and bake until the eggs are puffed and set, about 8 to 10 minutes, but keep an eye on it. Slide it onto a large plate, and cut into wedges. Serves 4.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Brown Sugar-Crusted Baked French Toast

This is my family's favorite french toast recipe. The bread is soaked in the classic egg/milk mixture, then smeared with a butter/brown-sugar glaze. Bake them glazed-side down, and the end result is better than anything I've ever had in a restaurant -  a rich, vanilla-flavored french toast with a caramel coating on top. You do not need any maple syrup for these! Just a dusting of powdered sugar will do. Fresh berries go perfectly with this dish. A side of sausage links or patties will round out this breakfast, providing the sweet/savory balance many people crave. This is my "go to" recipe when I have company over for brunch. It's perfect for entertaining because it's easy, it bakes for 25 to 30 minutes, which gives you time to clean up and prepare a side dish, and it looks so pretty. I found this recipe several years ago on mrbreakfast.com, and adapted it to suit my family's taste. I made these this morning to celebrate our first snow day - the kids were thrilled!

Here's what you need:

  • 1 French loaf (should be stale), cut into 1-inch slices
  • 6 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1-3/4 cups milk (or half & half if you don't mind the extra fat)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • confectioner's sugar (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Position your oven rack one notch down from the middle of your oven. Cover a large baking pan with parchment or aluminum foil for easy clean-up and spray lightly with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine eggs, milk, and vanilla until well-blended.

In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, melted butter, and cinnamon until well blended.

Place a few pieces of bread in the egg/milk bowl and soak for a couple minutes - turning once.

Remove the bread slices with a slotted spoon and place on the greased baking pan. Use a rubber spatula to spread some of the brown sugar mixture on one side of each bread slice.

Then turn each slice over, so the brown sugar-coated side is face down.

Repeat this process until your bread is used up and your pan is full. The brown sugar/butter mixture will separate as it sits, and you will need to stir it each time you coat a batch of bread slices. I used an extra long French loaf and had a few leftover pieces. If you use a standard-size French loaf, you should have enough to dip and coat the entire loaf.

Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.You'll see that the bottom of the pan is filled with gooey, caramel-like sauce.

Let them cool for a few minutes, then serve them brown sugar-side up. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired.