Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Mexican Haystacks, Two Ways

I was just sharing my blog with someone and explaining that, while I am a vegetarian, many members (okay, all of them) are not.  So most of my recipes are meat-free, but every now and then I have to throw the rest of them a bone (literally.  I made ribs on Sunday).

One nice trick I have learned is to figure out a way to make both a meaty and meatless meal at the same time like my vegetarian blog-idol, Kitchen Treaty with her One Dish, Two Ways section.  Here's my first attempt at making the same kind of compromise dish: Mexican haystacks.  Traditionally, haystacks are piles of rice, salsa, ground turkey, and toppings.  I suppose this looks like haystacks?  I like to mix mine all together, but they do look pretty cute with all the separate layers.

Of course, ground turkey isn't my cup of tea, and when I went to the grocery store, I couldn't find any (couldn't even find ground chicken).  Totally fine with me!  I decided to make a vegetarian version using beans in place of the turkey.  Should you want the meat version for your family, go for it.  If you'd rather the beans, kudos to you!  Or, should you want to go with both, that's totally possible too; just cut your garlic powder, salsa and onion in half and cook the beans with one half and the meat with the other.  Dinner, done.  Everyone, happy.

With that said, I should add that my family loved the vegetarian version of these haystacks.  They are so fresh and bright - do not skip the mango!  The toppings tie everything together and make it special!


Mexican Haystacks, Two Ways
adapted from Whole and Free
serves 6 - 8

for rice:
2 cups uncooked brown rice
1 bunch fresh cilantro
for meat or bean layer:
1 1/2 pounds ground turkey or 2 14-ounce cans kidney beans
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups salsa
1 - 2 avocados, chopped
1 - 2 red peppers, chopped
1 - 2 ripe mangoes, chopped
fresh cilantro


1) Start your brown rice in a pot on the stove according to package instructions.

2) If you're making the meat version, add ground turkey and chopped onion to a large sauce pan.  Add garlic powder, salt and pepper.  When the turkey is browned, add salsa.  Bring the salsa to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.  Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.  In the meantime, chop the cilantro, pepper, avocado and mango.


2) If you're making the vegetarian version, add beans and chopped onion to a large sauce pan.  Add garlic powder, salt and pepper.  When the turkey is browned, add salsa.  Bring the salsa to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.  Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.  In the meantime, chop the cilantro, pepper, avocado and mango.


2) If you're making both meat and vegetarian versions, add ground turkey and 1/2 chopped onion to a medium sauce pan.  Brown turkey.  Add beans and the other 1/2 onion to another medium sauce pan.  Add 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder to both, followed by 2 cups salsa to each pan.  Bring the salsa to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.   In the meantime, chop the cilantro, pepper, avocado and mango.

3) When rice is done, stir in almost all of the fresh cilantro, leaving enough to garnish each dish.

4) To serve, stack
rice and meat/beans on each plate, and allow everyone to choose their own toppings.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Summer Garden Pasta

I'm on summer vacation!  Truthfully the summer isn't off to a great start with a migraine and neck pain that has me strapping ice packs to my head, but hey: it's 11:30 in the morning and I'm still in pajamas on the couch.  Summer is awesome.

Besides having the summer off, one of my favorite parts of summer is having fresh local vegetables again: having tomatoes that are actually red and not pink and mealy, and having corn that's sweet and bright, and picking chives out of our garden (I love that chives are perennials!).  All of these things get highlighted in this summer garden pasta.  Plus, you know, bacon.  Because that's all I have to say to get my family interested in a meal. Bacon and pasta make these people happy, so I'll give it to them, along with some veggies to keep them happy and healthy!

Obviously this isn't my dream dish with vegetables sauteed in bacon grease, but my family loved it.  It's really flavorful, and the sauce is light but fantastic.  The fresh summer veggies are the stars of the dish, as they should be to celebrate the start of summer produce!


summer garden pasta
from Annie's Eats
serves 4 - 6

12 ounces pasta shapes (I used a pound of tricolor spiral pasta)
6 slices bacon, chopped
1 medium zucchini, quartered and sliced thin
2 cobs fresh corn, shucked and kernels cut off
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup diced yellow onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup veggie or chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
2 - 3 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
shaved parmesan for serving


1) Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente.  Drain well.

2) Meanwhile, in large saucepan or skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp.  Remove to a paper towel-lined plate, reserving 2 teaspoons of the bacon grease in the skillet.  Add the zucchini and corn kernels to the pan and sauce until crisp-tender and warmed through, about 5 minutes.  Remove to a separate plate or bowl.

3) In the same skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter.  Add the onion to the pan and saute until beginning to soften, 2 - 3 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and cook about 30 seconds more, just until fragrant.  Stir in the broth and bring to a simmer.  Lower the heat to medium and let simmer until liquid is reduced by about half, approximately 5 - 8 minutes.  remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cream.  Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.

4) Add the drained pasta to the pan with the sauce and toss well to coat.  Stir in the chives, tomatoes, zucchini, corn, and bacon.  Serve immediately with shaved parmesan if desired.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Baked Egg Sandwiches

 You know my love for breakfast sandwiches, but Alex has a love for them that borders on obsession. Alex has a bit of an addictive personality (just ask him how often he asks Rachael to go play disc golf), and his latest obsession has been the egg sandwiches from the Bagel Inn in Leominster.  He says the egg is fluffy and better than our average fried egg or scrambled egg sandwich.  As an egg sandwich lover myself, I was intrigued - and then super excited when my May Food Network Magazine had a recipe for baked egg sandwiches.  The photographs of the sandwiches showcased fluffy eggs like Alex had been raving about, and I knew I had to give it a try.  However, the rest of the recipe kind of weirded me out.  Eggs with Peppadew peppers and dijonnaise?  No thanks.  I took the recipe for eggs and worked the breakfast angle.

So, how do you make baked eggs for sandwiches?  It's pretty easy.  Whisk together eggs with heavy cream (aha! That's where the creamy fluffiness comes from) along with salt, pepper and fresh chives. This mixture gets poured into a pan, and then that pan is placed into roasted pan that has some water in it.  The eggs bake in this water bath which keeps everything moist and even. When they're set, they can be cut into squares for individual sandwiches!  It's definitely a genius way to make breakfast sandwiches for a crowd - which I happened to be doing.

You can top your sandwich however you want, and use whatever bread you prefer.  This is kind of just a sandwich blueprint.  We used English muffins, but bagels would be awesome too, and the original recipe called for brioche hamburger buns.  I topped my sandwich with cheese and called it a day, but avocado would have been great too.  If you're like the rest of my family, go for it and add bacon (just don't ask Kenzie to cook it, because she almost burned the house down), or Canadian bacon, or, hey, Peppadew peppers and mayo and dijon mustard.  I like to suggest mild-tasting toppings so that the chives in the egg can shine a bit, but if you want to douse your sandwich with Sriracha, go for it.  Just promise me that the next egg sandwich you make will be baked!  I've made them twice already.  My family and I are big fans.  Fluffy, flavorful and fast.  There's some breakfast sandwich alliteration for you to celebrate my last day of work tomorrow :)


baked egg sandwiches
adapted from the May 2015 issue of Food Network Magazine
serves 4

8 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
your choice of breads (English muffins, bagels, brioche buns) and toppings (cheeses, avocado, bacon, sausage, Canadian bacon, etc.)


1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Whisk the eggs, cream, chives, 3/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper in a bowl until fluffy.  Generously coat the bottom and sides of an 8 inch square or round cake pan with olive oil; add the egg mixture.  Set in a roasting pan; add enough water to come 1/4 inch up the sides of the cake pan.  Carefully transfer to the oven.  Bake until the eggs are set, 20 minutes.

2) Meanwhile, toast your bread and prepare your toppings.  When the eggs are done, cut into 4 equal pieces.  Prepare sandwiches to your liking and enjoy!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Beer Bread

This is the last recipe I made before my life took a downward spiral.  It makes me feel a bit stressed to write about it, going back to this time in my head.  But please, don't let that take away from this beer bread.  Because, if there is a lesson to be learned from this, it's that a good beer bread can even be good when your life is sort of falling apart.  And it's so easy to throw together (one bowl, 5 ingredients) that you could even make it while scream crying and having anxiety... you know, should you ever find yourself in that situation.  Hypothetically.

The story behind the beer bread is that Mark was cleaning out the garage and throwing out all the bottles of beer we had left over from last summer.  I begged him to find me some that weren't skunked to bake with, because the thought of all those wasted bottles was stressing me out.  He managed to dig up two bottles that weren't frightening, and I made bread with one.  With the other, since I only own one bread pan, I made beer bread mini muffins.  I brought both to my mom's for a little party they were having. They made a dip to go with the muffins, but it wasn't so good so I won't be sharing.  What is your favorite beer bread accompaniment? I need a good beer bread go-to dip.

I decided to make beer breads/muffins because I wasn't sure how else to use oldish beer, but while I was looking up recipes I saw all sorts of interesting things, including beer bread with cheese, beer pizza dough, beer cakes, brownies, you name it.  Have you tried any of these?  What do you make with beer?

For me, the bread made awesome sandwiches (it was totally amazing with the tempeh bacon I made for the vegetarian BLTs) and really good toast too.

Really, it's too easy not to make the next time you have an extra bottle of beer.  No excuses.

beer bread
fromHalf Baked Harvest

3 cups flour
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
12 ounces of beer
1/2 teaspoon salt


1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Spray a 9x5 loaf pan with nonstick spray.

2) Add the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, and a pinch of salt to a mixing bowl.  Pour in the beer and stir with a mixing spoon until just combined.

3) Pour the batter into the loaf pan.  Bake for 45 - 50 minutes or until the top of the bread is lightly browned and the middle is set.  Allow to sit 15 minutes before serving.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Cream Cheese Chocolate Chip Cookies

"Secrets don't make friends."  Have you heard that line before?  Sometimes I find myself saying it to my fifth graders when I see them whispering to each other with someone else staring at them longingly.  Secrets do not make friends, it's true.

But this?  This is different.  This secret, which I am about to share with you, will change the way you make chocolate chip cookies.  Maybe that's the difference: I'm going to tell you my secret for making the softest, chewiest, best chocolate chip cookies.

My secret is two-fold: cream cheese and cornstarch.  I've heard the cornstarch secret before: it creates the softest cookie dough, and thus the softest cookies.  But this recipe has cream cheese too, for an even creamier texture with a slight tang.  The cookies puff up beautifully and make everyone happy.  I've made a big batch of these twice now, and every single one gets devoured.  Nick asks for them at least once a week, including yesterday.  See the Snapchat he sent me?  I think it's safe to say he's a fan.  And you will be too, I just know it.


cream cheese chocolate chip cookies
from American Heritage Cookies
yield 24 cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup cream cheese, softened (don't use fat free, light or whipped)
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


1) Whisk together in a medium bowl the flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

2) In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter, cream cheese, sugars, egg and vanilla together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.

3) Reduce the speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture in 5 - 7 small additions.  After each addition, mix until just incorporated.

4)Add the chocolate chips and mix briefly to distribute.

5) Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Scoop the dough using a 2" cookie scoop or a 1/4 cup measuring cup and place 2" apart on the cookie sheet.  Refrigerate as long as you can to enhance flavor, 2 hours or up to 3 days.  If you can't wait and want to bake immediately, that's okay too! When you are ready, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

6) Bake 11 - 12 minutes.  The sides should just be starting to brown.  You don't want them to be brown, just to have a nice kiss of color.  Let them cool 5 minutes on the baking sheet and then move to a wire rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Vegetarian BLTs

You already know my love for tempeh because of the amazing penne with tempeh.  I even recall saying that the delicious tempeh would make a great sandwich.  So imagine my excitement when A Couple Cooks came up with the genius idea for a BLT using tempeh instead of bacon!  Yes!  Facon! :)  Just give it a try, okay?

This tempeh gets marinated in olive oil, soy sauce, sriracha, cumin, black pepper, maple syrup, and liquid smoke (I left out the latter, but if you want the traditional smoky flavor, then go for it).  It gets sliced into bacon-sized pieces and then cooked on a griddle just like real bacon.  In fact, to be fair to the carnivore I married, I made real bacon too for his sandwich.  I actually burned some of my hair while doing so (still not totally sure how that happened... thanks for the emergency haircut, Sam!)
facon on the left, bacon on the right!

Now, at this time of year, tomatoes that are actually red and juicy are finally coming back out.  But, this BLT recipe has a suggestion to help you avoid those winter tomatoes (there's nothing worse): canned fire-roasted tomatoes!  Top some bread with your tempeh bacon and some Bibb lettuce (no mayo ever for me and Mark, but go for it if that's your style) and you have one hell of a sandwich.  I loved this!  The tempeh bacon was amazing and definitely better than Mark's real bacon.  I was the sandwich winner that night.


vegetarian BLT
from A Couple Cooks
serves 4

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons liquid smoke
1 tablespoon sriracha hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon cumin
3 grinds black pepper
1/2 teaspoon maple syrup
1 8-ounce package tempeh
8 slices bread
15-ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes
8 leaves Bibb lettuce
mayonnaise (optional)


1) In a bowl, mix together olive oil, soy sauce, liquid smoke, sriracha, cumin, black pepper, and maple syrup.

2) Cut tempeh in half; stand each piece up on its edge and cut into thirds.  Lay the three pieces down on top of each other and cut into thirds again to make 18 slices that are 1/4 inch thick, 1 inch wide and 3 inches long.  Place the strips in a shallow dish and pour the marinade over the tempeh.  Let sit for 30 minutes or more, if time.  Reserve the marinade from the bottom of the dish.

3) Heat a griddle to medium heat.  Place tempeh strips on the griddle and cook 2 - 3 minutes per side until browned.  Turn off heat, then brush both sides of each piece with the reserved marinade.

4) Lightly toast 8 pieces of bread.  Drain the canned tomatoes, letting them sit in a colander for a few minutes to remove excess liquid.  Prepare 8 leaves of Bibb lettuce.

5) To serve, spread mayonnaise on each bread slice if you're using it
.  Top with lettuce, tomatoes, and slices of tempeh.  Top with a final bread slice and serve immediately.  Tip: the lettuce on the sandwich acts as a shield to the bread below from the juiciness of the tomatoes.  Make sure to place the lettuce below the tomatoes.  Try to make up the sandwich immediately before you serve it, since the bread can become soggy form the tomato liquid.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

One Pan Mexican Quinoa

Any time something has the words "one pan" in the title, I'm intrigued.  Add the words "Mexican" and "quinoa," and I'm hooked.  Quick, easy, and no hours of pan-washing afterwards?  Yes please.

I ended up making this at my mom's house one night when they were all being carnivores and I wanted an alternative.  I packed up the ingredients that I didn't think they would have and brought it over.  Unfortunately I assumed they would have frozen corn.  Doesn't everyone always have frozen corn in their freezer!?  No such luck.  I had to make up for it with frozen peas.  Definitely not the same Mexican vibe, but better than nothing.

Besides corn (or peas), this quinoa has avocado, black beans, jalapeño, fire-roasted tomatoes, and garlic.  It's all flavored with lime juice, chili powder, cumin and fresh cilantro.  Doesn't that sound good!?!  For a one-pan dish?  Mexican fabulousness for dinner within 30 minutes.  Go.

One Pan Mexican Quinoa
from Damn Delicious
yield 4 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup quinoa
1 cup vegetable broth
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 14.5-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 cup corn kernels
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 avocado, halved, seeded, peeled and diced
juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves


1) Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add garlic and japan and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, 1 minute.

2) Stir in quinoa, vegetable broth, beans, tomatoes, corn, chili powder and cumin.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer until quinoa is cooked through, about 20 minutes.  Stir in avocado, lime juice and cilantro.  Serve immediately.