Monday, October 29, 2012

Carrots with Herbes de Provence

Last time I went to Costco, I bought a gigantic bag of carrots. Not baby carrots, big carrots. It's a pain in the patootie to peel and cut them up compared to the ease of baby carrots, but I think they taste better. And, if I have to be honest about the reason I really bought them, they were cheaper.

Needless to say, the husband and I have been eating a lot of this delicious orange vegetable. Glazed carrots, carrot sticks, roasted carrots... You get the picture. I was pawing through my spice cupboard looking for a way to add pizzazz to our now standard side dish, when I came upon Herbes de Provence. It was a delightful pairing.

Carrots with Herbes de Provence
Serves: 3

4 large carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4" thick circles
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 teaspoon butter
1/2 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
Salt and pepper

Place carrots and chicken broth in a skillet over medium high heat. Once it reaches a boil, cover, reduce heat, and allow to simmer for about 6 minutes. Remove the lid, increase heat to medium, and allow to continue bubbling for 5-7 more minutes, until the liquid is reduced and carrots are tender. Stir in butter, Herbes de Provence, and salt and pepper to taste.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Bacon and Apples

There are many nights when we need to get dinner into our bellies in a hurry. There are also nights when I just don't feel like spending a lot of time in the kitchen. And then there are nights when I want to eat something cozy and delicious.

All of these occasions are perfect for a grilled cheese sandwich. The husband makes a mean grilled cheese. He figured out a way to get a cheesy crust on the outside of the bread as well as the melty, gooey inside. It's genius, really.

Recently I decided to take a stab at his specialty, but I added a twist with smoked cheddar, salty bacon, and sweet apples. I don't like to toot my own horn, but it was crazy good. Next time you're in a hurry/not in the mood to cook/hankering after comfort food, give this sandwich a try.

Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Bacon and Apples
Serves: 2

4 slices bread
1 cup shredded smoked cheddar cheese (We're generous with the cheese at my house.)
6 slices bacon, cooked
1/2 apple, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons butter, softened

To make each sandwich layer 1/4 cup cheese, 3 slices bacon, half of the apple slices, and then another 1/4 cup cheese. Spread the butter evenly on the outsides of each piece of bread. Cook in a skillet over medium heat until the cheese is melted.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Fall Salad with Pork Tenderloin and Smoked Cheddar

There was a bit of pork tenderloin left over after we made Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Sweet Potato and Brussels Sprout Hash. I decided to throw it together with some other items languishing in the fridge. It turned out to be a delicious and easy main dish salad; the perfect way to re-purpose leftovers. I snapped a photo with my phone so I could share it with all of you.

The recipe below is more of a guideline than an actual recipe. Feel free to substitute leftover chicken or even leave out the meat altogether. And if you don't have smoked cheddar, you can use the regular stuff. But it could be a good excuse to try smoked cheddar cheese. It's crazy good.

Fall Salad with Pork Tenderloin and Smoked Cheddar Cheese
Serves: 2

4 cups mixed greens
1/4 pound cooked pork tenderloin, sliced
1 apple, diced
1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup shredded smoked cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper
Balsamic vinegar (My favorite is 18-year aged balsamic vinegar. It tastes like candy.)
Extra virgin olive oil

Combine greens, pork, apple, almonds, cranberries, and cheddar cheese. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Or, if you're my husband, slather it in Ranch dressing. Because there's noting wrong with Ranch dressing.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Pork Medallions with Sweet Potato and Brussels Sprout Hash

As you've probably noticed by my lack of posts over the last month, I haven't been cooking too much lately. I've been busy changing diapers and snuggling my sweet baby boy. That and trying to sneak in a nap to avoid becoming the most cranky lady in the history of the world. Seriously, I missed my mommy nap a few days in a row, and I almost had a melt-down. Naps are, apparently, essential for survival.

Thankfully, I have incredibly generous family and friends who have brought meals and treats to keep the husband and me from certain starvation. You all know who you are, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Enough with the mushy stuff. It was time for this girl to get back in the kitchen, and who better to help me out than my gal-pals, Kelly and Jill. We drank some wine and whipped up this fabulous meal. Ok, if I'm perfectly honest, Kelly and Jill did most of the cooking because I had to feed Danny boy and put him to bed, but I did help a little. A very little.

Pork Medallions with Sweet Potato and Brussels Sprout Hash combines some of the best flavors of fall. And if Brussels sprouts make you nervous, this is a good gateway recipe. The sweetness of the sweet potatoes off-sets the slight bitterness of the sprouts. I've used this combination before in my Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Brussels Sprouts recipe, and, trust me, it's a good one.

Without further ado, here's today's recipe. Enjoy!

Pork Medallions with Sweet Potato and Brussels Sprout Hash
Serves: 6
Adapted from The Chew

1/2 pound bacon, diced
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and very thinly sliced
1 red apple, cut into very small (1/4") cubes
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into very small (1/4") cubes
1 large shallot, peeled and diced
Salt and pepper
2 pounds pork tenderloin, sliced into 1" thick medallions
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons butter

In a large skillet, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until crispy. Remove bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside. Drain most of the bacon grease, reserving about 1 tablespoon in the skillet. Add the Brussels sprouts, apple, sweet potatoes, and shallot to the skillet. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook until the sweet potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes, stirring regularly. Stir the cooked bacon into the hash.

Meanwhile, season both sides of the pork tenderloin medallions with salt, pepper, and thyme. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a second skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the medallions to the pan and cook for about 5-7 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the pork is golden brown and cooked through. Remove the pork to a plate and tent with foil to keep it warm. Add the remaining tablespoon olive oil the skillet and repeat with the rest of the pork. (Note: You don't want to crowd the pan or the pork with steam, and it won't get the golden-brown crust you're looking for. If your skillet isn't very big, cook the pork in three batches to avoid crowding the pan.) Remove second batch of pork from the skillet and set on the plate with the first batch. Tent with foil to keep it warm.

Add wine to the skillet you cooked the pork in. Allow the wine to cook for 1-2 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan to incorporate the browned bits into the sauce. Stir in mustard, butter, and any juices that accumulated on the bottom of the plate where the pork was resting.

Serve the pork drizzled with the white wine mustard sauce over a bed of sweet potato and Brussels sprout hash.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies

Years ago, I picked up a bag of Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips. The next time I needed to make chocolate chip cookies, I used the recipe on the back of the bag. The husband couldn't get enough of them. So this has been my go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe ever since.

Although I'm typically more of a dark chocolate gal, I always use the Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips for these cookies. It gives them a simple sweetness that I just love. But feel free to use your favorite chips...or even a combo. Hmmm, I might have to try that out next time. Milk and dark chocolate chips in one cookie? Yes, please!

Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies
From Ghirardelli

2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 large eggs
1 (11.5 ounce) bag milk chocolate chips (about 2 cups) - I use Ghirardelli brand.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat together butter, white sugar, and brown sugar at medium speed until creamy and light-colored. Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time, mixing at low speed until combined. Gradually add dry ingredients to the wet and mix at low speed until everything is incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper (for easy clean-up!) or mist with non-stick cooking spray. I usually make pretty big cookies, so I drop golf ball-sized dollops of dough onto my cookie sheet, making sure to leave plenty of room for the cookies to spread out.

Bake about 12-14 minutes, or until golden brown. (If you use about a tablespoon of dough per cookie, they'll need to bake about 9-11 minutes.) If you're baking two trays of cookies at once, rotate the baking sheets halfway through so they cook evenly.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Make-Ahead Marvels

As a new mom, I'm keeping my eyes peeled for make-ahead meals. Something I can make the night before or earlier in the day while Danny is snoozing. If dinner is waiting in the wings, it's much less stressful when hunger pangs strike at 6:00 p.m., and Danny, the husband, and I all want to eat at the same time.

Here are some of my favorite make-ahead meals from the Hot Dinner Happy Home archives:

Overnight Oats II: Everyone says that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And one can only eat so many bowls of Reese's Peanut Butter Puffs cereal.

Ham and Cheese Toasties: Put these simple and delicious sandwiches together when you have a chance and pop them in the fridge. When you're ready to eat, just heat them in the oven until the cheese is melted.

Slow Cooker Baked Potato Soup: This soup is filling enough for even the heartiest appetites.

Chicken Packets: These reheat beautifully so you have dinner and lunch for the next day. Double bonus.

Pot Roast with Mushroom Gravy: Another slow cooker recipe. This is feel-good food.

Tuna Noodle Casserole: This is a fresh take on your mom's classic recipe that doesn't use cream-of-anything soup.

Turkey Meatloaf Florentine: Healthy. Easy. Delicious.