Archive for category Cooking

Lemon Ricotta Fritters w/ Berry Compote

 

When my mom comes to visit, we cook. Can’t help it. Actually come to think of it, it doesn’t matter where we are there is always good food around. I have to admit, when my mom is in my kitchen – I feel like an amateur. I always learn a new trick or two and her food just tastes better than mine!

It’s funny because being critical of our food is also kinda hereditary. We have a running joke that if mom thinks something she made is good, then it will be one of the best things we’ve ever eaten. And these lemon ricotta fritters were just that!  Seriously, they were gone before we could get a proper picture….

Lemon Ricotta Fritters

(Thanks to hubs for instagramming the shot above or there would be no photo evidence!)

A light dusting of powdered sugar and a little berry compote to dip them in and we were savoring every last nugget! We started with this Bobby Flay recipe, though we added more lemon zest and improvised on the berry compote. Here’s our version:

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3 Ingredient Ice Cream: Banana, Coconut & Vanilla!

Banana Icecream

 

 

If there’s one thing that is frustrating to give up when you’re pregnant it’s ice cream. Am I Right?  Ladies? Yeah, torture. Since avoiding excess carbs and sugar, I’ve had to get really creative to still get my sweet fix. Especially now that we’ve skipped spring in the South and headed straight for summer temps.

Inspired by two simple recipes, I created a creamy satisfying Sunday afternoon Sundae for Jason and I using 3 ingredients: Frozen bananas, coconut milk and homemade vanilla extract. (You could skip the vanilla, but it just has a great richness that adds to the “ice cream” taste).

If it weren’t for my Pinterest addiction, I would have never known that you could whip frozen banana chunks into cold a cold creamy dream. Top it with some whipped coconut cream and you have a dairy, sugar and definitely guilt free dessert! This would be very satisfying for folks with a dairy allergy too.

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Creamy Jalapeño & Chive Hummus

Hummus from Dried Chickpeas

Eating healthy is always on our list of priorities, but it’s even more important now that I’m carrying a tiny human to feed. I’ve been following 101 Cookbooks, an inventive natural food blog for several years, but always felt the ingredients were something you had to have a Whole Foods budget or a California market to get your hands on.

When we moved to the Atlanta area, I discovered the Dekalb Farmer’s Market and it has quickly become a weekly shopping destination for me. From blood oranges to kohlrabi to dried chanterelles you can find just about anything you could imagine at an awesome price.

Jalapeno Chive Hummus

On my last trip, I picked up almost 2 lbs of dried chickpeas for a whopping $2.97.  I followed Heidi’s recipe pretty closely, although I made a half batch of the hummus part but made the full jalapeno sauce portion.

I also didn’t have parsley on hand, so I swapped it for fresh chives instead. I expected a lot of heat from the jalapeno, but it gave a surprising freshness to the sauce… the heat really took until the next day’s leftovers to show up. Overall this was a smooth, satisfying accompaniment to some toasted oat pitas.

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Homemade Candied Ginger & Ginger Simple Syrup

I’m a big fan of ginger in savory dishes, but only recently have I been turned on to the sweet side of the spicy root. Store bought crystallized ginger is tasty but can be a fairly expensive ingredient for baked goods because its sold in small quantities.

My friend Jenny also spoiled me with Red Rock Ginger Ale and I’ve been mildly obsessed with how hot-but-cream-soda-y it is. At $5 for a 4-pack it’s not cheap either and well, I am.

Homemade Candied Ginger Recipe

Always looking for ways to make things myself, I grabbed a $2 hunk of ginger at the Farmer’s Market and began my research. Obviously the first step to ginger anything is peeling it and my mom (who taught me most everything I know about cooking) showed me a neat trick.

Since it’s easier to show than explain, I made my very first YouTube video just for y’all:

Now that we’ve got our ginger peeled, it’s show time. This recipe is a 2-fer because you end up with chewy spicy candied ginger and a wonderful ginger infused simple syrup – the starting point for ginger ale!

I have big plans for all that candied ginger so stay tuned for some baked goods featuring the ingredient!

Red Quinoa Cakes Recipe

Allow me to introduce my friend quinoa – a versatile, delicious and nutty grain.  If y’all have already met, don’t worry, you’re about to get re-acquainted in a whole new way.

Uncooked Red QuinoaIf you want to mix it up at dinner, Quinoa (pronounced kee-no-ah if you’re me, or keen-wa if you’re my mom) is an excellent healthy alternative to rice, pasta or potatoes. It contains tons of protein and vitamins! I buy my quinoa in bulk and throw it into the dinner rotation at least once a month.  Until now, my fav recipes have been pilaf or salad style (both excellent recipes to try out if you are just getting started with quinoa).

 

Quinoa originates from South America and there are three main varieties: red, black and white.  I’ve tried all three and personally I prefer the little bit of nuttiness and pepperyness of the red one, or you can make a medley of all three. Quinoa contains naturally occuring compounds called saponins that act as a pesticide, so pro tip: you’ll want to rinse your quinoa prior to cooking.

 

Always scouting for new recipe ideas, I came across these quinoa burgers on Pinterest (yes, I’m officially obsessed with this awesome inspiration/idea cataloging tool!). As Jason lovingly pointed out, me and veggie pancakes have a love-hate relationship. I love to eat them, but they hate to stay together in the pan for me.  I thought there were going to be issues with these babies because I ended up with more of a lumpy batter than a patty (thus the addition of a bit extra flour in the recipe below).

Red Quinoa Cakes

Low and behold, the quinoa cakes turned out beautifully. Did I mention they were savory and super satisfying? Moist on the inside, with a crispy exterior and even a bit of a burger texture to them thanks to the quinoa grains. We decided these would be best accompanied by a green salad because they are protein and carbs all-in-one! I topped them with a bit of greek yogurt dip (as recommended in the original recipe) and we also snuck in a handful of sweet potato fries that were free with a coupon.

Have you tried quinoa?  What are your favorite ways to prepare it?

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Crispy Accordion Potato Bake Recipe

Accordion Potatoes are like baked potatoes sophisticated older sibling, and once you try this you may never go back!  My mom used to do a version of this taking a russett potato, slicing it into 8 or 12 slices and shoving a slice of onion between each tater section.  A little sprinkle of salt, tiny pat of butter and wrap it up in foil to bake for an hour. MMmmMm!

Crispy Accordion Potatoes Recipe

This version is similar but you get a lot more potatoes, a little bit of crispyness on the edges and a gorgeous rustic presentation!

I first came across a photo of this recipe on my new favorite site, Pinterest.  You know how they say a picture is worth a thousand words?  This site lets you save a picture with a note and even keeps the info to the link  you got it from for easy reference later. Like this:

Pinterest Collage

(See the “Inspired by” photos over there in the sidebar? —>  Those are the most recent things I’ve saved!)  Thanks to Sherry at YoungHouseLove for showing me the Pinterest light!

Anyway, back to the tiny slices of potato amazingness. Let me warn you that if you don’t have a mandoline, you are gonna be awhile slicing your little heart out.  (In that case I’d actually recommend you go with the approach I mentioned above).  I absolutely LOVE my mandoline, it suctions to the counter, has super sharp adjustable-thickness blades and a veggie holder to prevent taking off your thumb.

Accordion Potatoes Getting Brushed With Butter

Enjoy!
Baked Accordion Potatoes CloseUP

Budget Friendly Creamy Tomato Bisque Recipe

An abundance of canned tomatoes from a recent coupon shopping trip left me thinking up a multitude of ways to use this versatile ingredient.  Y’all know I’m a frugal gal, some might even call me cheap (and I’d take it as a compliment!).  Often times, shopping what’s on sale leaves you with an interesting combination of ingredients on hand.  A little creativity and you can get dinner on the table:

Creamy Tomato Soup Recipe

 

Here is a (very short) snippet of my grocery shopping list from this week.  I scored 8 huge cans of tomatoes for 43¢ a piece, 12¢ sour cream, 67¢ shredded mozzarella and paid 69¢ for 7 delicious ciabatta rolls. (If you have a Publix nearby and want to grab these deals yourself check out SouthernSavers for the Publix Weekly Ad w/ coupon matchups for more details.. you have until 4/23!)

 

SouthernSavers Publix Weekly Ad

A kitchen full of assorted random ingredients just leads to me get creative and after a few suggestions from Twitter and Facebook friends, I decided to make a chunky tomato bisque, (thanks @mariafrey!) Except that I made it chunk-less (you’ll see what I mean)…

 

Making this soup allowed me to reconnect with two of my kitchen utensils that don’t get a lot of action: My big ol’ stockpot, and  the stick blender that I used to puree this chunky soup silky smooth!

 

Stockpot with Onions and PeppersCuisinart Stick Blender

I followed the recipe pretty closely, making small adjustments based on what I had and seasoning to my taste. Its a big batch so you can feed 6-8 easily depending on whether its an entree or starter.

If you add up the extra produce, I made this whole pot of soup for less than 4 bucks! And you know tomato soup gets even better the next day so we’ll be chomping on this with half a sandwich for lunch tonmorrow!

I have a couple more recipe suggestions to try including a super simple tomato sauce (thanks Kristy!) and a tomato eggplant sausage penne that my sis likes to make. I’ve still got 6 cans of tomatoes left so I’ll be adding these to our menus for the next few weeks!

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Confetti Chicken Pasta Recipe

Confetti chicken pasta is a “recipe” my I-can-make-anything-with-what’s-on-hand momma whipped up back when I was little.  It took no time for this to become a family favorite and now she makes it with a rainbow of bell peppers and a spicy cream sauce each time.

Confetti Chicken Pasta with Veggies Recipe

Actually, I don’t have her recipe (she’s probably afraid I’d share it… hehe), but I do have a very clear memory of what Confetti Chicken is supposed to taste like. Most of my cooking is that way and I learned how things should taste from the best cook I know!

For me dinner is about sitting down with your family to something that might have taken hours to make, but only a few minutes to eat and savor. You always want more, but there’s no room in your belly so you wake up the next day thinking about those delicious leftovers you’ll have for lunch.  Its about layering flavor – opening up the fridge to see what you have on hand that will work well together – and whipping up something you want to eat again and again! (psst…. you are getting a peek of the kitchen in the new place we’re renting)

Confetti Chicken Pasta with Veggies Recipe

Here are all the colorful veggies and chicken heading into the sauce and pasta!! Don’t mind the Amy vs. Oven burn on my right hand.  That happened the last night before we moved when all was packed and nothing was left in the freezer but a frozen pizza and no utensils…

Here’s the version of Confetti Chicken Pasta that I made last night, but feel free to switch out the type of cheese, veggies and shape of pasta depending on what you have in the house (or what’s on sale!) as I frequently do.

Ok, I’m hungry now, time to start on tonight’s dinner….

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Ten Kitchen Tips: Meat

Photo Courtesy of TheBusyBrain

I have to admit, when Jason and I first got married, I was more than squeamish about handling meat.  Growing up, I was grossed out by fat, bones, skin and because my mom is awesome, she would trim up and cook my meat longer than everyone else in the family. Call me spoiled, but I was all about lean, pristine cuts (boneless skinless chicken breast, pork loin, ultra lean ground beef).  These lean cuts are not only more expensive, they can also be very dry and chewy.

Over time, I have branched out to less perfectly trimmed meats because they are typically cheaper and more flavorful. However, I’m still not a fat and gristle kinda girl.  Here are my top 10 ways to make any cut of meat delicious and save money doing it.

1.  Shop when the meat is on sale.

I have a stock up price for most cuts of meat that we enjoy.  Make use of your freezer to buy when its cheap and then use over time.

Cut of Meat Good Price Cut of Meat Good Price
Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast $1.99/lb Whole Chicken 99¢/lb
Split Chicken Breast 99¢/lb Pork Loin $1.99/lb
Boston Butt $1.69/lb Pork Chops (Bone-In) $1.59/lb
Lean Ground Beef $2.99/lb Steak $4.99/lb
2.  Trim and bag into family-sized portions.

For our family of 2, that’s two chicken breasts, a lb of ground beef, or two 1″  thick pork loin medallions,  which fit nicely into a quart-sized freezer bag. If you have a family of 4, double it and use a gallon size storage bag.  Trimming the meat in advance means its ready to use, saving you time on weeknights.

3. Marinate

Marinades and dressings are one of the cheapest and easiest ways to doctor up your meat. (They are often B1G1 and have coupons too!) It requires a little bit of planning ahead, but you can pull something out of the freezer, dump some marinade in the Ziploc and throw it in the fridge overnight to thaw.  Or, if you are really organized, you could add the marinade BEFORE you freeze it and then just take it out the night before you want to cook it. My favorite marinade is sun-dried tomato vinaigrette!

4. Brine

Brining is not technique used that often by home cooks. My dad brines fish and meat before he smokes it to help it cure and flavor it.  But I learned recently that you can brine anything and it results in an oh-so-tender grilled hunk of meat.  Try a sugar brine on porkchops – just make sure you rinse or pat the brine off before you cook it (if you don’t it will be too salty).

5. Slowcook

The slowcooker is one of my ultimate time-savers. Who doesn’t love a hot meal ready and waiting for them after a long day, especially when its cool outside? This works great for cheaper cuts of meat because you always end up with a tender flavorful result. My dear friend Erica introduced us to Chicken Parisienne and its one of our go-to favs!

6. Jaccard


Most people have never heard of this tool. Actually, it looks more like a weapon.  My Jaccard has 48 tiny blades that pierce meat with spring-loaded action! Tough cuts are broken down, and marinade can penetrate better into the meat. It also evens out the thickness for more uniform cooking.  I see them at TJ Maxx/Ross frequently for $20, or you can find one at Amazon for about $25. We’ve give away several as gifts because its just that awesome!

7. Skip It

One of the best ways to save on meat is to skip it all together.  I’m not suggesting becoming a vegetarian by any means, but skipping meat just one night a week is great for your wallet and your waistline.  Also, eating low on the food chain helps save energy and natural resources (that’s the hippy in me talking 🙂 ) Try my roasted tomato pasta for a tasty meat-free dinner. If you can’t go totally meatless, try reducing your portion size at each meal instead!

8. Roast

My favorite way to cook pork tenderloin is to season and pan sear it on all sides and then roast it in the oven for a good 40 minutes. A nice crust forms on the outside of the meat and the inside stays very tender. We love this Pork tenderloin with roasted grape sauce.

9. Don’t Overcook – Pretty Please!

At first, I cooked everything to death for fear it wasn’t done (did I mention my squeamishness).  Even now, I have trouble eating a steak that isn’t well done.  But, overcooking is a surefire way to end up with a dry, rubbery piece of meat.  You can look up the cooking times for various cuts of meat and levels of doneness.  A simple thermometer lets you check the internal temp of the meat and decide if its done.

Cut of Meat Perfect Temp Cut of Meat Perfect Temp
Poultry 165 F Pork 165 F
Steak, Med 160 F Steak, Well 170 F
10. Let it Rest

Its tempting to pull a steak off the grill or a pork loin out of the oven and immediately slice it.  But there is good reason to let it sit for 10-15 minutes tented with foil.  High temps release the moisture in your meat as steam. If you immediately cut it open, that moisture is lost to the air. Oops! By letting the meat cool down some, the moisture is redistributed within the meat instead of escaping meaning a more juicy steak for you!

What I’m Cooking This Week

Almost every Sunday we make a plan for our weekly meals.  This helps prevent us from buying extra ingredients or overbuying because we are hungry and it allows us to plan meals around what is on sale.  I love to try out new recipes, so we have been saving them using Evernote and pulling them up on our iPad instead of wasting paper and ink to print them.

I am embracing the fact that its Fall. The leaves are starting to change from bright green to a yellowish hue, and there is a hint of cool air in the mornings.  Here is what we’re eating this week:

Monday:

Buttermilk Brined Pork Chops (I will use pork loin cut into 1″ chops)
Garlicky Greens (Swiss Chard)
Butternut Squash

Tuesday:

Chicken Enchilada Soup (will adapt for slow cooker)

Wednesday:

Greek Style Burgers with Cucumber, Tomato & Tzatziki on Flatbread
Sweet Potato Fries

Thursday:

Tarragon Chicken Pot Pies

Friday:

Grilled Shrimp
Quinoa Edamame Salad

Saturday:

A special meal out to celebrate Jason finishing his book update, and me finishing my research work at USC.