Feb 20, 2013

Black Bean and Lentil Soup

I don't know if this happens to you or not but there are so many times that I'm sure that I have x,y,z ingredients in my pantry and I'm excited to make something, only to find out that I definitely do not have x,y,z ingredients.  And it's always something that I should have on hand such as flour, beans, or canned tomatoes.  You know, pantry staples.

Such was the case on a day when I wanted to make this soup.  Not only did I not have black beans (what??), I didn't have lentils, either.  I looked in my pantry on three separate occasions, hoping that they would miraculously appear.  They didn't.

I picked up TWO bags of lentils during my next grocery shopping trip but guess what?  I forgot the black beans.  The soup had to wait another day and I was rolling my eyes at myself hardcore.  Luckily, James had to run to the grocery store for something so he picked up some canned black beans for us and I quickly made this soup for lunch.  Then ate it for that lunch, then dinner, then lunch the next day.  I did part with some for James to take for dinner one night that he was working and when I finished off the last little bit I was already thinking about the next time that I would make this.

While the soup does need to cook for a little while (45 minutes to an hour, in total), it's definitely worth the wait.  There isn't anything else that is difficult about the prep or cooking, just some chopping, stirring, and waiting.  Honestly, this is one the best soups that I've ever made and I love making soup.  It's healthy, delicious, filling, savory, and makes really good leftovers.  This is one that I definitely better the next day.

Black Bean and Lentil Soup
Printable Version

1 tbsp. olive oil
½ medium onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
½ red bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. paprika
2 bay leaves
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 cup dried brown lentils
4 ¾ cup chicken stock
3 cups water
1 (14 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed, divided
¼ cup chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese, to taste

1. Add the oil to a Dutch oven or other large pot over medium heat. Stir the onions, celery, carrots, and bell pepper into the oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until vegetables begin to soften, about 7 minutes. Add in the garlic, paprika, and bay leaves and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
2. Stir in the tomatoes with juices, the lentils and half the black beans. Then add in the chicken stock and water. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce to medium-high heat and continue to cook until lentil are mostly tender, about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Remove from the pot from the heat and discard the bay leaves. Remove half the soup to a large bowl. Using an immersion blender, blend until fairly well combined but not fully pureed. (You can also use a blender but remember to vent the top.)
4. Return the soup that was not blended to the pot and stir in the remaining black beans and the parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Allow to cook for an additional 15 minutes. Top with Parmesan cheese when serving.

slightly adapted from Smells Like Home, via Cook Like a Champion, originally from Cookin' Canuck

Feb 19, 2013

S'mores Brownies

This is very hard for my husband to believe but I spent the majority of my summers from the age of 11ish to 16ish camping.  In a tent...in the outdoors.  Granted, we lived in Michigan at the time which is beautiful, has super soft grass, and isn't buggy the way the south is.  But it's still hard for him to believe.  Perhaps that's because he can barely convince me to even have a snack outside let alone eat full meals and sleep outside.  ;)

I really do have very fond memories of making s'mores over the campfire, walking through the woods, swimming in lakes (without the fear of alligators), and perhaps talking to the occasional boy - but only when my plethora of brothers weren't around.  We had so much fun burning roasting marshmallows, scaring each other, staying up until all hours, and we didn't even have a tv let alone a cell phone or a tablet.  Amazing.

Even though camping doesn't hold the appeal living in Georgia that it did in Michigan, I really want to create those great, sticking memories with our own family.

These brownies definitely conjured up those campfire memories with ooey gooey marshmallows, crunchy graham crackers, and sweet melted chocolate.  Throw a brownie between and you have something delicious and sweet.  If you have a sweet tooth, these are the brownies for you!

One tip:  When you are ready to cut them, use a very sharp knife and dip it in water between cuts.  The marshmallows are very gooey and can make for a difficult time cutting.

S'mores Brownies
Printable Version

10 graham crackers, broken in half (20 squares), divided
¾ cup unsalted butter
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
2½ cups miniature marshmallows
1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips

1. Heat oven to 350°F and line a 9x13-inch pan with foil and spray the foil with cooking spray. Lay 15 graham crackers in the bottom of the prepared pan, with sides overlapping as necessary. Break remaining graham crackers into pieces and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, microwave butter and chocolate squares for 2 minutes, then stir until chocolate is completely melted (microwave additional 20 seconds as needed but no do not over heat).
3. Whisk in sugar, eggs, and vanilla; mix well. Stir in flour just until no streaks remain. Pour over graham crackers in pan and smooth gently.
4. Place in preheated oven and bake for 30 to 32 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs. Do not over bake.
5. Immediately sprinkle with marshmallows and chocolate chips. Bake for an additional 3 to 5 minutes or until marshmallows begin to puff. Remove from oven and press reserved graham pieces gently into marshmallows. Using a kitchen torch (or place under the broiler), toast the marshmallows until golden brown.
6. Cool completely on a wire rack. Lift brownies from pan before cutting to serve.

as seen on Beantown Baker, originally from Kraft

Feb 13, 2013

Baked Eggs with Ham and Cheddar

We are pretty big breakfast eaters at our house and not just on the weekends, either.  James is generally home 5 or 6 mornings out of every week (and gone for dinner) so breakfast is a time that we like to have a meal together.  I don't meal plan for breakfast like I do for dinner, I usually just make what I can based on what's in our fridge and pantry.  We eat a lot of eggs, pancakes, waffles, and French toast.  It's not usually a fancy meal or super elaborate but it's definitely a nice way to start off our day.

We rotate through our "usuals" pretty quickly, especially in the egg department - scrambled, omelets, over easy, egg-in-the-hole, rinse and repeat.  The one way that I quickly forget to prepare eggs is to bake them.  My mother-in-law introduced these to us when we were visiting and I thought it was genius!  I never would have thought to crack eggs into a ramekin and then bake them!  They turn out perfectly creamy with set whites and slightly runny yokes and they are endlessly adaptable.  You can throw just about anything into a ramekin with the egg(s) and have a delicious breakfast in about 15 minutes.  This method is also great for a crowd and with so many variations, you can customize them for what people like.

As you bake these, definitely keep a close eye on them so that they don't over-bake.  Every once in awhile I have an egg that just doesn't seem to want to set up.  When that happens, I'll microwave it for 15-25 seconds and that usually does the trick.

Baked Eggs with Ham and Cheddar
Printable Version
Serves 2

Cooking spray
2 tbsp. cream cheese, softened
2 tsp. prepared salsa
2 slices deli ham
cheddar cheese, shredded
4 eggs
1 scallion, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350° F and spray two 8 oz. (or 4 smaller ramekins) with cooking spray.
2. Spread 1 tbsp. of cream cheese into the bottom of each ramekin and top with 1 teaspoon salsa. Layer ham next and then top ham with desired amount of shredded cheese. Crack two eggs into each ramekin (or 1 egg into smaller ramekins), being careful not to break the yolks.
3. Place in preheated oven and bake for 5-10 minutes, just until whites are beginning to set, watching carefully. Turn on broiler and broil for 5 minutes more, watching carefully, until whites are fully set. Top with scallions and additional cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

idea from Jan H., method adapted from For the Love of Cooking

Feb 11, 2013

Chicken Parmesan Pizza

We really don't eat pizza all that often.  I think about it a lot but it just doesn't actually happen too much.  I was trying to figure out why that is and I think it's because I don't plan ahead enough to make the dough in time.  Pizza always seems to be one of those things that never actually makes our weekly menu but when I decide I want it, it's at 4:00 pm which doesn't really give me enough time to make pizza dough.

However, I did recently make calzones and had a ball of dough in the freezer.  I actually remembered to put the frozen dough in the fridge the night before so that it could thaw.  (It needs to sit at room temperature for several hours before making the pizza - I would say anywhere from 3-5 hours depending on the temperature of your kitchen.)

This particular pizza was born out of necessity.  We had very little food to choose from as we are still trying to find a balance of schedules with a new baby that we don't want to take out much right now so getting to the grocery store has been...challenging and way down on our priorities.  I did have mozzarella, pizza dough, marinara and chicken, though.  And there you have it - chicken Parmesan pizza!

Chicken Parmesan Pizza
Printable Version

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast, butterflied
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 egg, beaten with ½ tsp. water
½ cup bread crumbs
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping pizza
1 ball pizza dough
 ~½ cup marinara or pizza sauce
~2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Fresh basil, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 450° F. Place pizza stone in oven and allow to heat for 30 minutes.
2. Heat a medium skillet over medium high heat and add oil and butter. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Combine bread crumbs with dried basil, garlic powder, and Parmesan cheese.
3. Dip chicken into egg mixture and coat thoroughly. Dredge in bread crumbs, being sure that chicken is well coated. Place chicken in hot pan and cook for 4-6 minutes per side, until fully cooked. Remove from pan and pat with paper towels to absorb oil. Let cool for 3-4 minutes and then cut into slices or chunks.
4. Set a large piece of parchment paper on a pizza peel or overturned baking sheet and form dough into a large circle. Bake untopped pizza for about 5 minutes. Remove dough from oven and carefully spread marinara or pizza sauce over dough, then top with chicken. Add mozzarella and additional Parmesan cheese. Return pizza to the oven and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until dough is crispy and cheese is beginning to brown.

Good Thymes & Good Food original recipe

Feb 6, 2013

Lemon Crinkle Cookies

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of cookies (who isn't?) and I'll pretty much try any recipe that I come across.  Some are a huge hit and some are a bit of a miss but these, these were a big, big hit with everyone.  They have perfect texture with crisp edges but chewy centers.  They are light and full of lemon flavor that is super bright.  These beauties were a great change of pace from heavier desserts and they kept really well.  This recipe makes fairly small amount, 16-18 cookies, but for us, that was a perfect amount.

I'm sure a lot of people are ready for spring to arrive (not me, though) and these gave just a little glimpse into what is on the horizon.  Lemon always reminds me of spring and sunshine so if it's a little dreary in your neck of the woods, try these out.  They are sure to help wipe away some of the winter blues!

Lemon Crinkle Cookies
Printable Version

½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. baking powder
⅛ tsp. baking soda
½ cup powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Light baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add in vanilla, egg, lemon zest and juice and beat until blended. Scrape down the sides and mix again.
3. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Slowly add dry ingredients to butter mixture, mixing only until just incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again, very briefly.
4. Place powdered sugar into a small bowl. Using a cookie scoop, form dough into balls and gently roll in the powdered sugar. Place on prepared baking sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes, until the bottoms of the cookie are just beginning to turn golden brown. Do not over bake. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheets for about 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

as seen on Lauren's Latest

Feb 4, 2013

Oven Fries

I've been making oven fries for so long and I've made them so many different ways that I was surprised that I hadn't blogged about every single one of them!  Maybe, though, that was because I was waiting for a really great recipe to come along and come along it has.  I've used this method countless times now and every time it produces oven fries that are super crisp on the outside with pillow-y, light potato centers.  This is one of the most consistently good recipes that I've ever made and yes, I realize that is a pretty bold statement to be making.

You start by soaking the sliced potatoes in water which removes some of the surface sugar and then improves the smoothness of the interior of the potato.  Once the potatoes have been dried off, you cover them on a sheet pan and cook them at a high temperature for about 5 minutes before removing the foil covering and roasting them until they are crisp and golden.

These might take a few extra minutes and have a few extra steps but they are always worth the wait. I always make more than we actually need but somehow we never have leftovers.  Hmm...funny how that works out.  ;)

Oven Fries
Printable Version

3 russet potatoes (~8 oz. each), washed and cut lengthwise into 10-12 even wedges
4 tbsp. vegetable oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Place an oven rack in the lowest position and heat oven to 475°. Line a baking sheet with several layers of paper towels; set aside.
2. Place the cut potatoes in a large bowl and cover with water. Let sit for 10 minutes. While potatoes are soaking, spread 3 tablespoons of the oil onto another large baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; set aside.
3. Drain the potatoes and dry well on paper towels. Rinse and dry out the bowl that held the potatoes and then return the dry potatoes to the bowl and toss with remaining tablespoon of oil. Arrange potatoes in a single layer on oiled baking sheet. Cover very tightly with foil and bake for 5 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 15-20 minutes, until bottoms of potatoes are beginning to brown. Rotate pan halfway through baking.
4. Once potatoes begin to brown on the bottoms, carefully flip the potatoes over and continue baking another 5-15, until desired crispness is reached.
5. Transfer cooked potatoes to paper towel lined baking sheet and drain excess oil. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if needed.

slightly adapted from The New Best Recipe from the editors of Cook's Illustrated