Monday, April 7, 2014

Avocado-Mango Salsa

In an effort to make up for my complete lack of culinary creativity that has lasted...well, my entire pregnancy, I made avocado-mango salsa tonight.


Oh my word! I think I made up some serious ground.  It was amazingly flavorful.  I served it on blackened salmon, but seared salmon would be great.  And jerk chicken would be fabulous.  This would be great on chips as an alternative to pico.

People, this salsa was so good.  My husband and I were eating it with a spoon while the salmon cooked.


And I have virtually no pictures because things were a little wild around my house.

We had just gotten home from the girls' swimming lessons, this boy:


was bent on following me around the kitchen, sticking his head up my dress (his new favorite game) (it's apparently hilarious), and the girls were really hungry.  Plus, the girls were cold and trying to change from their bathing suits into their pajamas and my husband had just gotten home from work!  And did I mention that Teddy was WILD.


This one.


Have I mentioned that my puppy is almost one?!?  How does a year go so fast?

So anyway, all that to say...I didn't get many salsa pictures.  But you know how to make salsa.  Just do it.  So delicious.  So simple.  So healthy.

I'm so proud.

For aesthetic reasons, I thought the salsa needed something red - like a finely diced red pepper or a tomato.  But I was in a hurry, so here's what I came up with.  Feel free to add something red.  The flavor was totally awesome without anything else, but I just thought I'd share my red thoughts with you.

Avocado-Mango Salsa

2 mangoes, peeled and diced
2 avocados, peeled and diced
1 onion, finely diced
Juice of 2 limes
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 bunch cilantro leaves, minced (about 1/2 cup minced leaves)

Toss ingredients together in a medium bowl.  Serve immediately.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Roasted Vegetable & Orzo Salad with Lemon-Basil Vinaigrette

I made this salad awhile ago and it was AWESOME!  I'll definitely make it again.  Probably soon.  The leftovers were as good as it was fresh.  My whole family loved it.  I can't believe I haven't blogged it until now!  No excuses.


Since I'm not going to make up an excuse for myself and my lack of blog posting, I'll tell you about the afternoon wherein I almost went postal at Target.


I just have a question: have you been to Target lately?  What has happened to this store???  It used to be a nice alternative to Wal-Mart (for about a zillion reasons...you fill in the blanks).  Now it's like Wal-Mart's red-headed step-child.

So I ran to Target because I need a cupcake carrier (yes, I know.  It was an actual need, despite how it might sound.) and I needed a heap of things for my MOPS group.

When I got to Target, there were no 3-seat carts available (you know the really huge carts where two kids can sit in the back and then the third child sits in the usual child seat in the cart.  Those carts are a total lifesaver for me and anyone else with three or more children.).  Fine.  A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.  I put my boy in the cart and let the girls run wild.


You think I'm joking.

So then I proceed to be able to find approximately nothing on my list without asking an employee, who may or may not have known where the item was located.  While shopping, I ran across someone using one of the 3-seat carts that I DESPERATELY NEEDED.  How many children did this couple have with them?  ONE.

Three seats.  One child.


I had three children.  One seat.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE???

I may or may not have given the dad the evil eye as I walked past him.  He was casually pushing his ONE CHILD in the cart made for three children while I wrangled my three children who were, as I mentioned, running wild.


My luck continued at checkout.  I somehow managed to choose the a cashier on his first day of work.

Said cashier was living proof that Target has tossed employee training to the wind.  Help us all.

I won't give you all the details, but let me just use the Southern catch-all: bless his heart.  While I waited for him to come up with my total, my sweet baby boy emptied the checkout lane of its merchandise.  On both sides.  Candy, toys, trinkets, mini-lint rollers, chapstick...  The woman behind me was giving me about the same look that I gave the one-child-three-seat-cart-couple.

Whatever.


And THEN, when I put my sweet baby boy back into the cart, he proceeded to fill his diaper with sewage.  Then he opened several of the items I was trying desperately to purchase.  Unfortunately my cashier missed the day they taught "how to check a customer out" in Target cashier training school.

AND THEN the brand-new cashier apparently thought it would be a good time to ask me if I wanted a bag for the approximately 29 items I purchased.

I'm just the wrong person to ask that question and this was most certainly the wrong afternoon to ask it.  Do I look like someone who is concerned about the environment?  I'm just trying to get to my van with all of my children and at least most of the things I paid for today.  Um, yes. A bag would be helpful, thanks.

Did I look like the kind of person that carries around those germ-infested reusable bags?

Not a chance, dude.  I don't drive a Subaru and I have too many children to keep up with a passel of dirty, scrubby-looking reusable bags.

Next time I have the urge to go to Target, I'll just make this salad and place an order on Amazon.

Roasted Vegetable & Orzo Salad

1 eggplant, peeled
1 red bell pepper
2 zucchini
1 large sweet onion
4 cloves garlic, grated
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

8 oz. orzo pasta (about 1 1/4 cups uncooked pasta)
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

Lemon-Basil Vinaigrette:
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 T prepared pesto 
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Chop the veggies into a small-dice.  Toss the veggies together with the salt, pepper, garlic and olive oil on a large baking sheet.  Roast at 425 degrees for 30 minutes.  Use a spatula to toss the veggies once about halfway through.

Allow the veggies to come to room temperature while you make the orzo.  Cook the orzo according to the package directions in salted boiling water.  Drain and pour pasta into a large bowl.  Add the veggies.

Whisk together the vinaigrette and pour over the veggies and pasta.  Toss to coat.  Crumble in the feta cheese and add the pine nuts.  Stir to combine and serve at room temperature (can serve chilled as well).

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Pear & Pomegranate Salad

I'm sorry.  There's just no way I can do justice to this salad.


No amount or quality of pictures can even come close to the fabulous flavor and texture of this salad.

It's a shame that I can't tell you how amazing this salad is, so you'll just have to trust me and make it for yourself.


It's one of the best things I've ever eaten.  In my life.


My mom got this recipe from a friend, and my mom has been making it all winter.

I can't get enough!


The pomegranate seeds (or arils, if you're fancy) pop with juice and sweetness and tartness, the pistachios are crunchy, the pears are sweet and fresh, the feta is salty, and the dressing...


Oh, the dressing.

Wow.

Pear & Pomegranate Salad
Adapted from Food 52

4 cups baby arugula
4 cups shredded romaine lettuce
Seeds from 1 pomegranate
2 pears, cubed
1/2 cup pistachios, toasted
4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

Dressing:
2 shallots
2 T pomegranate molasses (can be found at Whole Foods or specialty market; can substitute pomegranate juice)
3 T apple cider vinegar
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Toss the salad ingredients in a large bowl.  For the dressing, puree dressing ingredients in a food processor until thick and smooth.  About 10 minutes before serving, pour the dressing on top and toss to coat.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Nutella Cookies

Do you like Nutella?  If your answer is "no" or "I've never tried it," then I don't even know what to say.  Consider me speechless.


Nutella!  I could sing a song about it.  But that would frighten you, so I won't.  This stuff is dangerous.  Maybe even deadly.


And my life has been complete since Sam's started carrying jumbo-sized containers of it!

I don't generally bake with the chocolaty-hazelnut spread.  Because it's just so good right out of the jar...on a graham cracker...or a spoon...or your finger...


But I digress.


I tried these cookies and WOW.  They are amazing.  Totally Nutella-y.  Perfectly so.  And the peanut butter flavor isn't overwhelming; it gives a bit of flavor and just enough structure to hold the cookies in a perfect mound.


This is one Nutella cookie recipe worth trying.  They're really delicious.

And a note about the batter: it's the weirdest consistency I've ever seen with cookie dough.  Totally weird, a little oily, seems like it'll never work and actually bake into a cookie.  But it does!  Somehow, it works.  Amazingly.  Try it.

I mean, what's not to love?

Fudgy Nutella Cookies
Adapted from Averie Cooks

3/4 cup Nutella
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 T butter
2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk chocolate chips (or a combo semi-sweet/milk chocolate)

Place the Nutella, peanut butter, brown sugar, butter, vanilla and egg in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Beat on high for about 5 minutes, until the ingredients are completely incorporated.

Add the remaining ingredients and beat on medium-low speed until just combined (don't overmix at this point).

The batter will be oily and an odd consistency.  You're on the right track.  Scoop mounds on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 9-10 minutes (they will look slightly underdone when you take them out but will set up as they cool).

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Cherry Cobbler

My husband loves cherries.  Artificial cherries, cherry flavoring, real cherries...you name it.  He loves it all.


I love almond extract and everything you can put it in.

Cherries and almond extract got married.


This is the result.

It is so easy and so good.


Whose idea was it to pour a dry cake mix over some fruit and call it cobbler?  I'd like to meet the person.

You can definitely use any fruit you want.  Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, apples, pears (do I need to go on?).  I might not use bananas though.

Just sayin'.


I don't think I have anything else to say about this dessert except that it's screaming for a scoop of vanilla ice cream.


Unfortunately, I don't like vanilla ice cream unless it's on top of a warm brownie or, in this case, warm cherry cobbler.

I'm more of a pralines & cream girl.


I digress. Make the cobbler. Yum.

Cherry Cobbler

2 one-pound bags sweet pitted cherries (I used the frozen ones from Kroger - excellent choice)
1 cup sugar
1 yellow cake mix (dry)
1 1/2 sticks butter, melted
2 tsp almond extract

Pour the cherries (leave them frozen; it's fine) into a greased 9x13 baking dish.  Sprinkle the sugar evenly on top.  Sprinkle the cake mix evenly on top.  Stir the almond extract into the melted butter and pour it in top.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until bubbly and golden brown on top.  Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Beef & Barley Soup

Hi.  I've been absent for awhile.  I wonder on what I should blame my distraction.


Let's see...  Three kids?  With one on the way?  The fact that my oldest is in kindergarten?  The fact that I didn't know that kindergarten was such a big deal?  That I hope for enough snow to cancel school more than my 5-year-old?  (My child loves kindergarten.  And I love her school and teacher.  But school is a whole thing, ya know?  And I'm still adjusting.  Six months in.  I know.)  Or maybe I could blame my distractedness (spell check says that's not a word.  But I'm gonna roll with it.  Computers don't know everything, after all.) on my 9-month-old golden retriever.

He's so sweet.  Just look at that face.  He's also bad.  You wouldn't even believe what he's capable of.


Oh! And I also just read one of the best books eveh.  Unbroken.  Check it out at the library.  Order it from amazon.  Whatever.  Just get your hands on a copy and read it.  You won't be able to put it down.  Promise.


Where was I again?  Oh yeah.  I got distracted from telling you why I'd been distracted.  Um, maybe it's because all of the paint in my entry hall needs to be touched up (read: completely repainted).  Could everyone under 4' tall please KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF THE WALLS!?!  That is asking a lot, I know.


All that to say, I made this soup during December.  Sometime during that month.  It was cold, and I had barley in my pantry.  So I made this soup.  It was delicious.  Very hearty and satisfying.  Totally a guy soup, though I loved it too and my kids even scarfed it down!


It's nice and thick so it's easy for kids to scoop up.  I'm just not into brothy soups.  So if you are, add some more water or broth.  Then be sure to adjust the seasonings.

I adapted this recipe from Southern Lady.  Southern Lady is a great magazine.  It always has yummy recipes in it!

Beef & Barley Soup
Adapted from Southern Lady

2 T olive oil, divided
1 1/2 - 2 lbs beef stew meat, cubed
1 lb carrots, diced
6 stalks celery, diced
2 onions, diced
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
6 garlic cloves, minced
15 oz. diced tomatoes
2 T Worcestershire sauce
6 cups beef stock
2 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp pepper
1 T + 1 tsp garlic powder
5 sprigs fresh thyme (you can leave it on the stem and fish the stem out when the soup is done)
1 1/2 cups pearl barley

Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat and add the beef.  Brown the meat on all sides and then remove and set aside.

Add onions, carrots, celery and mushrooms.  Cook for 15-20 minutes until beginning to brown, stirring occasionally.  Add the browned meat, garlic, and remaining ingredients EXCEPT FOR THE BARLEY and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce to low and simmer, covered, for about 2 hours (until the meat is fall-apart tender).

Stir in the barley and cook for another 30-35 minutes, until the barley is done.  Remove the thyme stems (the leaves will have fallen off during cooking) and serve.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Cornbread Poundcake

Last summer, we renovated our kitchen.  I know you know this.  But you don't know about the cornbread my mom brought us one night from the Fresh Market while our kitchen was out of commission.


She brought us a whole dinner to go with the cornbread, but really all I remember is the cornbread.

It was memorable, to say the least.  Almost worth renovating an entire room of my house again, just so I might get another delivery of Fresh Market cornbread.


The packaging of this cornbread is totally deceiving, too, because it looks completely innocuous.  Like just a regular chunk of cornbread.

It's so not.


It's so amazing.

So, being that it's January and cold and snowing and I'm pregnant and inside with three (wild) children, I thought it would be a good time to try to knock off Fresh Market's cornbread.

I stirred together some dry ingredients (using my favorite coarse-ground yellow cornmeal from Weisenberger Mill, naturally) and then stirred in some wet ingredients...


and while my girls licked the spatula (we have no fear of raw eggs in this house), the cornbread baked.

And when it came out, I put butter and honey on top.  And called it lunch.


This recipe makes a LOT of cornbread.  Fortunately, I was taking my friend half of it with some vegetable soup, so it was perfect for two families.  But if I were just making it for my crew?  I'd definitely halve it.

Lastly, this recipe isn't quite as heavy and dense as Fresh Market's, but I've decided that's a good thing?  It feels a bit less heavy.


Oh! And one more thing.  The original recipe calls for whole milk, but I subbed half of the milk for buttermilk (it was in my fridge and I was afraid it would go bad before I used the whole thing), and it was great.  But all milk would be great too.  Whatever you have on hand.

Cornbread Poundcake
Adapted from Daily Dish Recipes

1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal (I like coarse ground if you can find it)
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 T baking powder
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 T honey
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
2 1/2 cups milk (use all whole milk or a combo of whole milk/buttermilk)

Whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.  Add the remaining ingredients and whisk until just moistened (there may be a few lumps left).

Pour the batter into a well-greased 9x13 baking dish (it would be a good idea to use parchment paper in the bottom...I'll do that next time).  Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes, until just set (a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with just a few crumbs sticking to it).

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Cheeseburger Pie

Hey.  Have you had this before?  It's certainly not my original recipe, but it is a good one.


My husband and I had this as an appetizer at a Christmas party.  I was all, "What is this stuff?  Where has this been all my life?"  It was during a reprieve from my nausea and I'm pretty sure I could have polished off at least half of the casserole dish.  By myself.  But I didn't, because that would have been embarrassing!

And I try not to embarrass myself more than necessary.


So I asked for the recipe and came home and made it.  It's a great appetizer.  It also makes a great dinner.  I probably don't even need to tell you that this was a huge hit with my husband and kids.


That's a no-brainer.

So it's just a layer of crescent rolls (don't you like where this is going), a layer of ground beef mixed with onion soup mix (I love that stuff), American cheese, pickles (hang with me here) and a top crust of crescent rolls.


Bake it and voila!  Cheeseburger pie. Portable.  Delicious.


And here's the kicker: it's generally called White Castle Casserole.  But I just can't do it.  I. Just Can't.  So I renamed it.  Some people apparently serve it with yellow mustard.  The mustard adds a nice tang but isn't required.  It's your call.


Aren't you glad to know that.

Cheeseburger Pie

2 8 oz. cans crescent roll sheets
1 1/3 lbs ground beef (I used 80/20)
1 envelope dry onion soup mix
Dill pickle slices (enough to cover the surface of a 9x13 baking dish)
10-12 slices American cheese
Yellow mustard, for serving

Grease a 9x13 baking dish and fit one sheet (from one can) of crescent rolls in the bottom.

Meanwhile, brown the meat in a skillet and drain any excess fat.  Stir in the onion soup mix and combine well.  Sprinkle meat mixture on top of the crescent roll crust.

Evenly spread the pickles on top of the meat mixture.  Layer the cheese on top.  Use the second roll of crescent roll dough to form a crust on top.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until golden.  Serve with yellow mustard.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Spaghetti Pie

One of my New Year's Resolutions is to post all the recipes my mama made for us growing up.

Actually, that's not true.  While I do plan to eventually post all of my mom's recipes, I don't do New Year's Resolutions.

And here's why: I don't do resolutions because they're annoying.  And everyone's sound the same: lose 10 pounds, eat healthier, work out 8 days/week, drink more water, don't sweat the small stuff, etc. etc. etc.


Resolutions are either too vague to be measurable or too unrealistic to be accomplished.

And yes, I was raised by a father that said if you can't measure it, you can't reach it.  A goal, that is.

So where was I?  Yes. Spaghetti pie. I love spaghetti pie.  And I don't think it probably fits your New Year's Resolutions.  But since I didn't make any resolutions, I'm going to have some spaghetti pie.

My mom did make this for us.  A lot.  We loved it.  We still do.  It's so good.  What's not to love?  New Year's or not.

You've probably had this in some version or another.  It's called "pie" because you make a "crust" with the spaghetti, eggs and parmesan cheese.



Then you spread on a layer of sour cream.


And then you top it with sauce.  You can do any kind of sauce you want.  Sometimes I make my own marinara; sometimes I add ground beef to it; sometimes I use a jar of Prego.  Whatever you want.


And then you want to top it with cheese, of course.  I think my mom always used mozzarella, which is great.  But I usually combine mozzarella with cheddar.  Something about the cheddar sets it off, I think.  But you could also use a 5-cheese Italian blend.  Or colby jack.  It doesn't matter a whole heck of a lot. As long as you use a lot of cheese.

So good luck with those resolutions.  And eat a few carbs while you're at it.

Spaghetti Pie

12 oz. (or so) angel hair pasta
2 eggs
1 cup parmesan cheese
2 cups sour cream
Marinara sauce (one recipe of homemade; if using jarred, you'll need 2 jars); add 1 1/2 lbs ground beef cooked with an onion if desired
4 cups (about a pound) shredded cheese - I like a combo of mozzarella & sharp cheddar

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water for the recommended time on the package.  Drain it and return it to the pot.  Scramble together the eggs with the parmesan cheese.  Dump it on top of the pasta and quickly stir it around with a fork, tongs or a pasta scoop to coat the noodles (but stir quickly so the eggs don't scramble!).  Spread the pasta "crust" in a 9x13 baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.

Spread the sour cream on top of the pasta.  Top with marinara sauce.  Top the whole thing with cheese and cover loosely with foil.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes uncovered until the cheese is bubbly.

Let it sit for about 10 minutes before cutting and serving.