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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Pomegranate & Mint Margaritas!

As you can see, this photo was taken by JAV. Perfection.

I recently bought and potted two mint plants on my back porch and they are growing like weeds. I decided to use the leaves in a cocktail a few weekends ago when a few of my girlfriends from college were visiting.

And I've made this drink probably 4 times since then, each time it is as good as the first. This is one of the best (if not the best) cocktails I've ever made. You must make it immediately. Right away. Its 5 o'clock somewhere, right? Makes 2 margaritas.

3 ounces tequila
1 ounce triple sec
1 ounce1 pomegranate juice
1 1/2 limes, juiced
8-10 fresh mint leaves

Pour tequila, triple sec, pomegranate juice, and limes juice in a cocktail shaker. Take the mint leaves, rub together and tear into pieces (to release the extract) and drop in the shaker. Fill with ice and shake vigorously for 30 seconds, or until ice-cold. Pour into 2 martini glasses and drink up!

Awesome Apple Pancakes

Until recently, breakfast has been my least favorite meal of the day, but for the past few months I've been into making breakfast foods. And these apple pancakes were delicious! Like very very good. Maybe even as good as my favorite banana bread pancakes from a few months ago. They're quite easy to make and have wonderful flavor. I also made yummy breakfast turkey sausage patties to go with the pancakes... the super-easy recipe for the sausage is at the bottom of this post. Happy weekend eating!

2  eggs, well beaten
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup white all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tbs. sugar
2 tbs. brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2-3 green apples, peeled & grated
1/4 cup apple cider/juice
2 tbs. butter, melted

Whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla in a large bowl. In a separate bowl whisk together both flours, baking powder, salt, sugars, and cinnamon. Slowly stir into the wet ingredients and add the grated apples and stir just until combined. Pour the apple cider and melted butter into the batter and stir to combine.  If the mixture seems to thick, you may thin it out a bit with more apple juice... but don't thin it too much- you want these bad boys to be thick.

Heat a griddle or pans and make pancakes with about 1/3 cup of batter. Spread them out a bit on the pan, or else they'll be mountains. Cook the pancakes until perfectly golden brown on each side. Serve with butter and maple syrup on top. Or make your own sweetened apple syrup and serve on top (boil apple cider/juice with brown sugar and a bit of cinnamon until it reduces and thickens a bit). 

Homemade Turkey Breakfast Sausage Patties
1 lb. ground turkey (85/93% lean)
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon cumin

Mix ground turkey and spices together with your hands. Let sit in refrigerator, covered, over night. Shape into thin patties (they will thicken as you cook them) and fry in a skillet until browned on each side. Makes ~8 2-inch patties. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Cold Brew Iced Coffee

Coffee has taken over my life. I dream about it approximately 2x/week (pathetic, yet truthful). I can't wait to go to sleep at night and wake up in the morning so that I can pour myself a big strong cup. I don't even mind that some days I drink so much that my heart races and I am convinced that I'm having a panic attack. Its worth it.

Now that the temperature is heating up, its iced coffee time! But hot-brewed iced coffee is often too acidic and/or tastes burnt, or old, or just gross. So I bought myself a cold-brew Bodum, which is completely unnecessary to making cold brew coffee, but definitely makes the process a bit easier. I highly recommend it.

3-4 oz. coffee beans
5 cups filtered water
2 large containers (pitcher, large coffee press, etc.)
1 coffee filter
1 fine mesh strainer or colander
creamer, simple syrup, sweetened condensed milk (whatever you like in your coffee)

Grind the coffee beans (medium-coarse grind) and place in the bottom of one of the large bowls, pitchers, or containers. Pour the filtered water on top and stir to combine and soak all coffee grounds into the water. Cover tightly and keep on the kitchen counter (not the fridge) for 12 hours. Depending on how strong you like your coffee, you may want to add more or less coffee grounds or let it sit for more or less than 12 hours. Once it has finished "brewing," you're ready to strain the coffee grounds. This is when the Bodum press is handy- you can just press the grinds down to the bottom and pour straight from the container. Otherwise, set up a coffee filter over a fine mesh strainer and place over your other large bowl/pitcher/container. Slowly pour the coffee and let the filter/strainer gather all the coffee grounds. There you have it! Will stay good in fridge for at least 1 week, but it probably won't last that long.

Pour into a glass over ice and add milk and sweetener if you so desire (remember, though, that granulated sugar won't dissolve easily in iced drinks, so you may want to make a simple syrup or, if you're really bold, sweeten your drink with sweeten condensed milk).

Monday, April 23, 2012

Liberty Square Cookies

I found this recipe on The Girl Who Ate Everything, and she calls them Liberty Square cookies because that's the address where she lived when she created the recipe. She also calls them "Date Me" cookies because, apparently, guys come running when you make these bad boys. I'll keep you posted on that one.

When I considered making this recipe I didn't plan on blogging about them. I thought for sure that I had already posted some sort of butterscotch chip cookie recipe; but when I searched my archives tonight, I realized that I had not (GASP), which is weird, because I love butterscotch. If you don't, thats okay- to each his own... but don't use this recipe and replace the butterscotch with more chocolate... just make a different chocolate chip cookies recipe. In my opinion, these are wonderful BECAUSE of the butterscotch. Chewy, sweet, & a bit salty.

11 tablespoons of butter, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 ounces butterscotch chips
4 ounces chocolate chips

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and both sugars for 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until fluffy (another 1-2 minutes). Slowly add the dry ingredients, beating slowly until incorporated. Add the butterscotch and chocolate chips and stir to combine. Roll cookies into heaping tablespoon balls and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake for ~10 minutes at 350 degrees. Yield 24 cookies.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Tex-Mex Chicken "Gumbo"

This is the first recipe I tried from my new slow-cooker cookbook "America's Test Kitchen: Slow-Cooker Revolution." The recipe in the book calls it a stew, but it reminded me a lot of gumbo with a mexican twist. I served it over a scoop of rice and it was really flavorful, healthy, and filling! Makes enough to serve 8 as a main-course.

2 onions, minced
2 jalepenos, seeded & minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon chile powder
4 cups chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1/4 cup minute tapioca
1 tbs. brown sugar
3 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 cups frozen corn
1 can black beans, rinsed & drained
2+ minced chipotles in adobo
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
salt and pepper

Combine the onion, jalepeno, garlic, tomato paste, vegetable oil, and chile powder in a glass bowl and microwave for 5 minutes, stirring every once in a while, until onions have softened. Pour into slow cooker. Add the chicken broth, diced tomatoes, tapioca, and brown sugar and stir together. Nestle the chicken breasts in the broth mixture and turn heat to low and cook for about 3 hours. Test chicken to see if cooked through (could take anywhere from 3-5 hours). Once cooked, remove the chicken from the cooker and shred with 2 forks. Meanwhile, add the corn and black beans and let cook on high heat for 10 minutes. Add the chicken back into the slow cooker and add the chipotles, tasting for heat (I added 2 chipotle peppers minced plus about a tablespoon or more of adobo sauce). Add salt and pepper and cilantro and serve over a scoop of rice.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Lemon "Cracked" Sugar Cookies

Mmm-mmm-mmm. These cookies are delicious... melt-in-your-mouth... perfectly bright and refreshing. Absolutely a cookie that must be made in your kitchen as soon as possible. The lemon flavor is subtle but present and these cookies continue to taste delicious for days. Recipe adapted, barely, from Lets Dish.

1 stick of butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease 2 cookie sheets.

Using an electric mixer beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed (a good 3-5 minutes). Add the vanilla, egg, lemon zest, and lemon juice and beat another minute. Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda and slowly add it to the wet ingredients, and stir just until combined.

Pour the powdered sugar in a shallow bowl. Scoop heaping teaspoons of cookie dough and roll into balls, rolling in the powdered sugar before placing on the cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes and remove from oven when cookies just begin to crack. Let cool for 3 minutes and remove with a spatula and let the cookies finish cooling on a wire rack. Makes ~30 cookies.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Chocolate-Cherry-Oatmeal Cookies

The recipe that I based these cookies off of call them "heart smart" because of the bittersweet chocolate (high antioxidants help lower blood pressure), the cherries (also high in antioxidants), and the oatmeal (helps lower cholesterol). This recipe also uses whole wheat flour and only 6 tablespoons of butter, which is very little for most cookie recipes. So I thought, what-the-heck, I'll give 'em a whirl. And I'm so glad that I did. Not only will you feel good about eating these because they are a bit healthier than most cookies, they are absolutely-totally-delicious. Adapted from Cooking Light, January 2010. Photo by Jason Volpe. I've said it before, I'll say it again: he's the best.

6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 large egg, room temperature, lightly beaten
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped dried cherries
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer cream the butter and brown sugar together for about 4-5 minutes, scraping the sides halfway through. Add the egg and vanilla and beat another minute. In a separate bowl mix together both flours, oatmeal, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and beat just until combined. Add the cherries and chocolate chips and stir to combine.

Roll into heaping tablespoon-sized balls and place on prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or just until edges are slightly browned and center is still gooey. This will result in a perfectly chewy cookie. Remove from oven, cool on racks, and serve with a glass of milk!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Spicy Turkey Meatballs and Spaghetti

Everyone knows that I love Italian food. But, as I have mentioned in the past, I don't often cook traditional Italian foods because so many of my friends are pure-blooded Italians and I leave it to them. However, I was watching Barefoot Contessa this past weekend and watched Ina make these spicy turkey (and sausage and prosciutto, drool) meatballs and I knew that I'd be making them ASAP. Ina served her meatballs on top of spaghetti and jarred sauce, but I was warned by multiple friends (near and far) that this was sacrilegious and was told to not make this same mistake.

So, I made Ina's meatballs and my first ever all-day-sauce, adapted from Cook's Illustrated. Everything about this dish was wonderful. The sauce was rich and hearty, and naturally sweet with a spicy kick. The meatballs are denser than traditional meatballs (after all, they are made from turkey, not beef), and they have the most amazing flavor (thank you, sausage... thank you, prosciutto). This was an absolute hit. I would not change a thing about it. Don't be scared by the number of ingredients... it really is an easy recipe. This recipe will make enough sauce & meatballs for 2 lbs. of pasta and will feed 8 very hungry people.

3 cups 1-inch bread cubes from a round rustic bread (whatever that means), crust removed
2/3 cup whole milk
2 lbs. ground turkey (85%-92% lean)
1/2 lb. italian sausage, castings removed
4 ounces (1/4 lb.) thinly sliced then diced prosciutto
1 cup freshly grated (in food processor) parmesan 
1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 1/2 teaspoon salt
ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for brushing meatballs
2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten

Put the bread cubes in the food processor and grind until medium-sized bread crumbs. Pour into a small bowl and add the milk, stirring to combine. Set aside for 5 minutes. 

In a large bowl, using your hands, carefully combine the milk-soaked bread, ground turkey, sausage, prosciutto, parmesan, parsley, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Add the olive oil and egg and combine carefully using a fork. Roll into 2-inch balls and place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Brush tops of meatballs with a bit of olive oil and bake at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until lightly browned on top and cooked through. Remove from oven and place in pot of sauce.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, grated
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
2 (28 oz.) cans crushed tomatoes
3 cups tomato juice
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons parmesan, grated (in food processor) 
1 teaspoon dried basil

Heat the olive oil in a large pot on medium heat. Add the grated onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 6-8 minutes. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and oregano and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato juice, chicken broth, and white wine, and bring to a simmer. Turn heat down to low and cook until thickened (about 20 minutes). Add the salt, pepper, parmesan, and dried basil and stir to combine. Continue to simmer for a few hours- if the sauce gets too thick, you can thin it out by adding more tomato juice or chicken broth. Add the meatballs and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for a few more hours to let the meatballs braise and flavor the sauce. Taste for salt, pepper, sugar, red pepper flakes, etc. Once finished, serve over spaghetti and enjoy! 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Arugula Salad with Shaved Fennel, Grapefruit, & Parmesan

This is my dad's favorite salad and he made it for me last month when I was home in North Carolina (along with a huge pan of lasagna bolognese... he knows me so well). It was such a nice spring salad that I thought I'd make it again this week. I think its a winner due to the seemingly unusual but wonderful flavor combinations of all the ingredients (the subtle licorice-ness of the fennel, the bitterness of the grapefruit, the saltiness of the parmesan, and the spiciness of arugula). Its very easy to make and was enjoyed by all. Photo by Jason A. Volpe.

5 ounces arugula
1/3 cup shaved fennel bulb
1 juicy ripe grapefruit, sliced into segments
2-3 oz. good parmesan, shaved with a vegetable peeler
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

Put all ingredients in a large bowl and toss with salad dressing (below).

1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon grapefruit juice
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt & pepper

Put all above ingredients in a jar and shake to combine/emulsify. Taste and season appropriately. Pour over salad and serve.