Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Roasted Chick Peas

This is the season for snacking and here's one way to make those holiday treats a tiny bit healthier: use chick peas!

Roasted chick peas seem to be the new holiday nut trend this year, so we tried them at our house. Super yummy and tasty with a satisfying crunch. And quick and easy to make, too.

You can season them any way you like. A bonus surprise for me is that the Honey Sesame version I'm sharing here tastes like struffoli, an Italian dessert of honey-coated fried dough balls often served at holidays, and something I haven't had in years.

What appetizers and snacks will you be serving at your holiday gatherings?

Mangia! Mangia!

Roasted Chick Peas

2 15 ounce cans of chick peas, drained and dried with paper towels
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss chick peas with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Roast in oven for 30 minutes or until browned and crisp, shaking pan occasionally to turn the chick peas.

Remove from oven and let cool, or transfer to bowl to toss with additional seasonings.

Honey Sesame Roasted Chick Peas
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder

Add all of the above ingredients to bowl of roasted chick peas fresh from the oven. Gently toss or stir to coat all of the chick peas.

Return to oven for about 5 minutes to caramelize and crisp. Serve warm or let cool. After 1 day the chick peas will become chewy -- but they remain delicious!

Chili Roasted Chick Peas
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon chili powder (or more, depending on your preferences)
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder (or more, depending on your preferences)
Salt and pepper to taste

Add all of the above ingredients to bowl of roasted chick peas fresh from the oven. Gently toss or stir to coat all of the chick peas.

Serve and enjoy! This version of chick peas stays crisp a bit longer than the Honey Sesame ones.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Stuffed Bread

This time of year it's nice to get cooking with the kids in the kitchen. My brother Greg visited last weekend and we made stuffed bread (aka, pizza rolls).

I used to make these in my pre-kid days, when the husband and I spent our weekends watching various sporting events with friends.

The rolls are easy to prepare and they make for a quick dinner that goes nicely with a salad. These also make great appetizers, snacks and party or lunch-box fare.

Our favorite part? You can dress them up or down, make them sweet or savory and really use any kind of filling you want. We made three stuffed breads: pepperoni, sausage supreme and taco. Other ideas: brie, cranberry and nut; peanut butter and jelly, etc.

Just remember not to overstuff the bread, or you'll end up with the filling exploding out of the bread and onto the pan (which might even happen anyway.)

Mangia! Mangia!

P.S. If you like this recipe, check out more of my brother's creations by searching #gregssundaydinner on Instagram and Facebook.

Pepperoni Stuffed Bread

1 package refrigerated pizza dough (not thin crust)
1/2 to 3/4 cup tomato sauce, plus more for dotting on top
6 slices provolone cheese
Pepperoni slices (about 1/2 a package)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Unroll pizza dough onto parchment and gently spread it out to a rectangle shape.

Spread tomato sauce in a thin layer on the dough. Top with the provolone slices. Add the pepperoni slices.

My son Sam and my brother Greg working on the pepperoni roll.
Top with shredded mozzarella. Dot with small dabs of additional tomato sauce.

Starting with a short side of the dough, gently roll the dough up. Smooth out and seal the opposite end of the dough. Pinch the ends together and tuck them under the roll.

Reduce oven heat to 375. Bake stuffed bread for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown on top.
As you can see, some of the filling escaped from one of our stuffed breads.
Let stuffed bread cool a bit before cutting.

Sausage Supreme Stuffed Bread

1 package refrigerated pizza dough (not thin crust)
1/2 to 3/4 cup tomato sauce, plus more for dotting on top
6 slices provolone cheese
3/4 cup scant cooked sausage crumbles
1/2 cup thinly sliced bell pepper
1/2 of a small onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Unroll pizza dough onto parchment and gently spread it out to a rectangle shape.

Spread tomato sauce in a thin layer on the dough. Top with the provolone slices. Add the sausage crumbles, pepper and onion slices. Top with shredded mozzarella. Dot with small dabs of additional tomato sauce.

Starting with a short side of the dough, gently roll the dough up. Smooth out and seal the opposite end of the dough. Pinch the ends together and tuck them under the roll.

Reduce oven heat to 375. Bake stuffed bread for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown on top. Let cool a bit before cutting.

Taco Stuffed Bread

1 package refrigerated pizza dough (not thin crust)
1/2 to 3/4 cup salsa or taco sauce, plus more for dotting on top
6 slices cheddar cheese
3/4 cup scant cooked taco meat (use your favorite)
1/2 cup thinly sliced bell pepper
1/2 of a small onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Unroll pizza dough onto parchment and gently spread it out to a rectangle shape.

Spread taco sauce or salsa in a thin layer on the dough. Top with the cheddar slices. Add the taco meat. Top with shredded cheddar. Dot with small dabs of additional taco sauce or salsa.

Starting with a short side of the dough, gently roll the dough up. Smooth out and seal the opposite end of the dough. Pinch the ends together and tuck them under the roll.

Reduce oven heat to 375. Bake stuffed bread for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown on top. Let cool a bit before cutting.

Not to be left out, our dog Trixie also tried to get in on the action of making stuffed bread!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Savory Pesto Palmiers

I love to cook. But, here's the thing; appetizers are hard for me. And they're really, really hard if I need to bring that appetizer to a party. I have to come up with something that travels well, is still tasty at room temperature, and is easy to make Sigh.

Recently I had to bring an appetizer to a Christmas party, so I dug into the HDHH archives for inspiration. Way back in 2011 I posted a recipe for Savory Pesto Palmiers. They met all of my appetizer requirements: travels well, tasty, and easy. Plus it was high time I took some updated photos. (I'm no photographer, but I thought I could do better than this.)

As I said in my original post, today's recipe is absolutely perfect for the shin-digs filling up your social calendar during the holiday season. And they sound as classy as you'll look in your hipster skinny tie. Savory Palmiers. You can prepare them ahead and pop them in the oven just before your guests arrive. Or bring them to the party already cooked. Although they're sublime straight from the oven, these palmiers are also delicious at room temperature.

Party on, dudes.

Let's get cooking!

Savory Pesto Palmiers
From The Barefoot Contessa. Originally posted November 2011.
Makes 50-60 appetizers

1 package frozen puff pastry, defrosted
1/4 cup prepared pesto
2/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped sundried tomatoes
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Unfold one of the puff pastry sheets onto a lightly floured board or parchment paper. Roll it out slightly using a rolling pin until the pastry is about 9.5" x 11.5". (Mine was a bit bigger than this, and it worked just fine.)

Spread half of the pesto over the pastry. Sprinkle with half the goat cheese, half the tomatoes, and half the pine nuts. Season with salt.

Starting at the short end of the pastry, roll each end halfway toward the center. Then fold each end toward the center again until the folded edges almost touch. Fold one side over the other and press together gently. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat the process with the second sheet of puff pastry and the remaining ingredients. Cover the puff pastry with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the rolls of puff pastry into 1/4" thick slices.

Place the palmiers face up on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for 14 minutes until the palmiers are puffed and golden. This makes about 60 appetizers, so you might need to bake them in batches. If you bake two trays of palmiers at once, make sure you rotate them halfway through so they cook evenly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

P.S. You can reheat Savory Palmiers at 350 degrees for about 7 minutes.

P.P.S. I can't help but share when my kids come to "help" when I'm taking blog pictures. Palmiers are officially toddler approved.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Cranberry Gingerbread Cake

This holiday cake is worth the wait, people. I bookmarked the recipe a year ago but never got around to making it.

Then a few days before this Thanksgiving, my husband emailed me a link to a New York Times story about holiday recipe ideas, and there it was again.

With three bags of fresh cranberries practically shouting at me every time I opened my fridge, I needed to take the plunge.

I didn't change much from the original recipe. I reduced the sugar to achieve some tartness in the cranberries — to counterbalance the sweetness of the cake batter.

Let me just say: Sauced cranberries partnered with gingerbread and a nice dollop of whipped cream make for the perfect dessert this season. And, FYI, this treat tastes even better the next day, so consider making it ahead.

Mangia! Mangia!

Cranberry Gingerbread Cake
Tweaked from this New York Times recipe.

2 cups fresh cranberries
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 stick unsalted butter
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup molasses
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger

Line a 9-inch square or round baking pan with parchment paper. Preheat your oven to 350.

In a small saucepan, combine cranberries, white sugar and 1 tablespoon of water. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the cranberries begin to break down. Continue to cook about 10 minutes, until half of the cranberries have burst and the sauce is thick and bubbly. Remove from heat and set aside.

In another saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, milk, maple syrup and molasses. Stir over medium heat until butter is melted, then bring to a simmer. Do not let the mixture boil.  Remove from heat once butter mixture reaches a simmer.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, spices, baking soda, baking powder, salt and pepper. Beat in the butter mixture, and then beat in the eggs. Then add the grated ginger and beat until combined.

Pour batter into pan. Then dot the top with big spoonfuls of the cranberry sauce. Use a butter knife to swirl the cranberry sauce into the cake batter.

Transfer to the oven and cook for about 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let pan cool on a wire rack before serving.

Slice and serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Leftover cake should be wrapped and stored in the refrigerator. Tastes best served at room temperature.

    Wednesday, November 16, 2016

    Herb Roasted Chicken with Shallots & Garlic

    I just wrapped up a big work project that kept me out of the kitchen for a bit. With my deadline behind me, I needed some time to nest.

    A roasted chicken always does the trick for a family dinner, but this time I wanted to change things up a little. I turned to my trusty 365 Ways to Cook Chicken cookbook for ideas.

    This recipe is tweaked a bit, and I bet it would work with a turkey, too, if you need some Thanksgiving inspiration (hint, hint.)

    Don't be put off by the large number of shallots called for in this recipe. They are quite mellow after roasting and they give the chicken such amazing flavor.

    Mangia! Mangia!

    Herb Roasted Chicken with Shallots & Garlic

    5-6 pound whole chicken
    Kosher salt and pepper
    Juice of 1 lemon
    1/4 cup softened butter or 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
    10 sprigs of fresh thyme, plus more for decoration
    6 sprigs of fresh rosemary, plus more for decoration
    6 sprigs of fresh oregano, plus more for decoration
    10-12 fresh sage leaves
    16 shallots, peeled
    6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
    1/2 cup white wine, such as chardonnay

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

    Pat inside and outside of chicken dry with paper towels. Discard. Place chicken in a shallow roasting pan.

    Rub half of the softened butter or half of the olive oil between skin and chicken breast, being careful not to pull the skin apart. Stuff some sprigs of the herbs (about 3 on each side of the bird) under the skin.

    Season inside cavity with salt and pepper. Pour in lemon juice. Stuff with some of the herbs.

    Rub remaining butter or oil on the outside of chicken, covering the entire bird. Season with salt and pepper.

    Put pan in oven and roast chicken for 15 minutes.

    Remove pan from oven and arrange peeled shallots and unpeeled garlic cloves around chicken. Top with remaining herbs. Pour wine over shallots.

    Roast for another 45 minutes or until thigh juices run clear.

    Remove chicken from oven and let rest for 5-10 minutes.

    Carve chicken. Place on platter. Arrange shallots around meat. Gently press garlic out of skins and arrange on the serving platter with the chicken. Garnish with fresh herbs and serve.

    Saturday, November 12, 2016

    Saturday Shout-Out — Prep Freeze Cook

    When life gets busy, I often joke that I need a personal assistant — or a wife.

    Wouldn't it be nice to have someone do the laundry and cook a few meals when us busy moms get even busier?

    I haven't been cooking much lately, but I have been able to put some yummy meals on the table thanks to a local shop called Prep Freeze Cook. This gem of a store lets you purchase pre-made, frozen meals that you can pop in the oven or the crockpot whenever you need them.

    When my boys were little and I was working full-time in Cincinnati, I frequented a similar outlet called Dream Dinners.

    The beauty of these meal preparation shops is that you can add your own special touch to each entree. And when you find a dish the whole family loves, you've got a new recipe to add to your rotation.

    I love the chance to try out new meals that I might not normally make at home. It's a great way to get my brain working on new recipes to test in my own kitchen.

    So I thought I'd share a few of the Prep Freeze Cook meals my family likes.

    Do you frequent a meal assistant shop or use one of the many online offerings? I'd love to learn about some of your favorites, too.

    Mangia! Mangia!

    Zuppa Toscana: This Italian soup features sausage and beans for a hearty, flavorful meal. Pair it with some crusty bread and dinner is served.

    Taco Casserole: This is almost like a zesty, thick chili. We added shredded cheddar cheese and sliced green onions on top.

    Chicken Chili: This white chili is so delicious. All we added was some fresh ground black pepper and cilantro.

    Sweet & Sour Meatballs: These tangy meatballs were a big hit with my boys, one of whom choose to stuff them into a hot dog bun instead of eating them over rice.

    Monday, November 7, 2016

    Slow Cooker Fish Tacos

    I love fish tacos and on a recent 80-degree November day (gotta love Fall in Charlotte!) they seemed like an excellent idea for dinner Chez George. I'd bookmarked California-Style Fish Tacos in my America's Test Kitchen Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution and followed it nearly to a T. And what the halibut?! They were gooood!


    Slow Cooker Fish Tacos
    Based largely upon America's Test Kitchen Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution
    Yields 12 tacos

    4 limes (1 1/2 sliced 1/4 inch thick, plus 3 tablespoons juice and lime wedges for serving)
    1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
    1-2 tablespoons minced canned chipotle chile in adobe sauce (just the liquid part)
    1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
    1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
    Salt and pepper
    4 (6-ounce) skinless halibut fillets, 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick (can be fresh or frozen; if frozen, thaw ahead of time)
    1/2 small head of cabbage, cored and sliced (use slicer setting on food processor) or buy a bag of already slice cabbage. (You want 4 cups.)
    6 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced
    3 scallions, sliced thin
    1/4 cup light mayonnaise
    1/4 cup low-fat sour cream
    2 garlic cloves minced
    12 (6-inch) corn or flour tortillas, warmed (I prefer corn.)

    Fold sheet of aluminum foil into a large sling that covers the bottom of your slow cooker across the long width of your slow cooker. You want there to be extra foil at the ends to grab when it comes time to remove the fish. Arrange lime slices in single layer on the bottom of the slow cooker. Add water (about 1/2 cup) until it is level with the lime slices.

    Microwave 2 teaspoons oil, 2 teaspoons chipotle juice, coriander, cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper until fragrant, about 30 seconds and let cool slightly. Lightly dab halibut with paper towel to remove excess water, especially if thawed from frozen. Rub one side of each fillet with spice mixture and then place (spiced side up) on top of lime slices. Cook on low for 1 to 2 hours. You will know when the halibut is done, because it flakes when a prodded with a paring knife and the internal temperature registers 140 degrees. (I could tell by just looking and prodding; didn't need to use a meat thermometer.)

    While fish is cooking, combine cabbage, 1/4 cup cilantro, scallions, 2 tablespoons lime juice, remaining 1 teaspoon oil  and 1/4 teaspoon salt in bowl. Place in fridge until ready to serve.

    And in separate bowl, combine mayonnaise, sour cream garlic, remaining 1 tablespoon lime juice, 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons chipotle sauce and remaining 2 tablespoons cilantro. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place in fridge until ready to serve.

    Gently lift foil sling from slow cooker and transfer place on cutting board. Lift fish fillets from the limes. Cut each fillet into 3 equal pieces. Spread sauce evenly onto warm tortillas, top with fish and cabbage and serve with lime wedges.

    If your crew can't eat 12 tacos at dinner, just know that that this dish holds up for leftovers.

    Friday, October 28, 2016

    Tasty Thai Noodles

    My little lady is 14 months old. She's adorable, hilarious, strong, and full of joie de vivre. Also, she likes to be held. Especially while I'm trying to make dinner.

    I've been doing my best to get ready before the dinner time drama begins, and this recipe is a prime candidate for nap-time preparation. You can make the sauce, cook the noodles, prep the chicken, and chop the broccoli earlier in the day or the night before. Then you can stir fry these Tasty Thai Noodles at the last minute while your clingy toddler is distracted by Caillou and the Tupperware drawer.

    When it comes to getting hot dinner on the table, you gotta do what you gotta do.

    Let's get cooking!

    Tasty Thai Noodles
    Gently adapted from America's Test Kitchen
    Serves: 4

    12 ounces chicken breast, sliced crosswise 1/4"
    2 tablespoons water
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    8 ounces rice noodles (I used pad Thai noodles like this.)
    About 12 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
    1/4 cup oyster sauce
    2 tablespoons soy sauce
    2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
    1 tablespoon vinegar (I used red wine vinegar because I was out of rice wine vinegar.)
    1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
    3 eggs, beaten
    1 large head broccoli, cut into 1" pieces
    Lime wedges for serving

    In a medium bowl, combine chicken, water, and baking soda. Set aside on the counter for about 15 minutes. Rinse with cold water, drain, and pat dry.

    Meanwhile, cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Drizzle with a couple teaspoons oil and toss until noodles are evenly coated so they don't sit together. Set aside.

    Next make the sauce. Whisk together oyster sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, and vinegar. Set aside.

    Place your biggest non-stick skillet over high heat and add a couple teaspoons vegetable oil. Add the chicken in a single layer. Allow to cook 2 minutes, until the first side is browned. Flip and cook another 1-2 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in a couple tablespoons of sauce and push the chicken to one side of the skillet.

    Add another couple teaspoons of oil to the empty side of the skillet, then add eggs. Use a spatula to gently stir the eggs until they're barely set. Then stir the eggs into the chicken for another minute. Transfer to a bowl and tent with foil to keep warm.

    Add another couple teaspoons oil to the now empty skillet. Stir in broccoli and 3 tablespoons sauce. Cover and cook for 2 minutes. Remove the cover and cook for another 3-4 minutes, until sauce is thickened and broccoli is crisp-tender. Add broccoli to the bowl with the chicken.

    Yet again, add another couple teaspoons oil to the now empty skillet. Add half of the cooked noodles and 2 tablespoons sauce. Cook for 2 minutes until the noodles start to brown, then stir and continue cooking for another 2 minutes. Remove the noodles to the bowl with the chicken. Repeat with another few teaspoons oil, 2 more tablespoons sauce, and remaining noodles.

    Once the final batch of noodles is stir fried, stir in chicken, eggs, broccoli, and remaining noodles. Cook for a couple minutes, until everything is heated through. If desired, stir in extra sauce until the noodles are as "saucy" as you'd like. Serve with lime wedges.

    Wednesday, October 26, 2016

    Rosemary, Maple & Mustard Pork

    Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs, yet for a long time the only thing I ever combined it with was roasted baby red skin potatoes. Until this summer, when a friend started giving me lots of fresh rosemary from her garden.

    The herb goes really well with other vegetables, too, as in Fresh Corn & Rosemary Basil Pesto.

    Now that fall has arrived, it seemed fitting to use rosemary to flavor a pork roast for dinner. You probably already have everything else you need to make this marinade and sauce: olive oil, maple syrup and mustard are blended with the rosemary.

    To me, this combination of flavors truly tastes like fall.

    Mangia! Mangia!

    Rosemary, Maple & Mustard Pork
    Inspired by this recipe from Eating Well

    1 2-3 pound pork roast or pork loin roast
    3 tablespoons olive oil
    3 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
    3 tablespoons maple syrup
    3 tablespoons spicy brown mustard

    Prick pork roast all over with a fork. Season with salt and pepper.

    In a small bowl, mix together olive oil, rosemary, maple syrup and mustard.

    Lightly coat a roasting pan with cooking spray. Place pork roast in pan. Pour about half of the sauce on top of the pork roast. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours to overnight.

    Set aside the rest of the sauce and keep at room temperature.

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place roasting pan in oven. Cook for about 1 hour, or until pork is no longer pink inside.

    Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes. If your roast is wrapped in a string net, remove string, then slice pork roast. Top with remaining sauce.

    Friday, October 21, 2016

    Pork Loin Roast with Apple Gravy

    Pork and apples are a perfect pair. I mean, if there's a Brady Bunch episode about something, it must be good. But there are a couple aspects of today's recipe that take "pork chops and applesauce" to the next level.

    First we brown the seasoned pork loin roast to create a tasty crust. Then we nestle the pork into sauteed vegetables and apples so all the flavors meld while they cook in a hot oven. Now—here's the key to juicy, tender pork—use your instant thermometer to check the temperature and pull that roast out of the oven when it reaches 135-140 degrees. It will continue to cook while the meat rests. Finally, we create a rich-but-simple apple pan sauce. You'll be going back for seconds. Probably thirds.

    Pork Loin Roast with Apple Gravy is the kind of hot dinner that would make Peter Brady proud.

    Let's get cooking!

    Pork Loin Roast with Apple Gravy
    Adapted from The Food Network

    2 pounds pork loin roast
    Salt and pepper
    3/4 teaspoon Fines Herbes*, divided
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    5 carrots, cut into 1" chunks
    3 ribs of celery, sliced 1/2" thick
    1 onion, peeled and sliced 1/4" thick
    2 apples, peeled, cored, and cut 1/2" thick
    1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
    1 cup apple juice or cider
    1 tablespoon Dijon mustard or grainy mustard
    1 tablespoon butter

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

    Season pork generously on all sides with salt and pepper and half of the Fines Herbes. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add pork and cook until browned on all sides, about 4 minutes per side. Remove pork to a plate and set aside.

    Add carrots, celery, and onion to now-empty skillet. Season with salt and pepper and remaining Fines Herbes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are beginning to soften, about 8 minutes. Stir in apples.

    Move veggies and apples to the side and nestle pork in the center. Place skillet in the oven and cook until pork reaches an internal temperature of 135-140 degrees, about 45-50 minutes. Transfer pork, vegetables, and apples to a plate and tent with foil. Allow pork to rest until it reaches an internal temperature of 145-150 degrees.

    Meanwhile, return skillet with cooking juices to high heat. (TIP: Put an oven mitt over the handle of the skillet so you don't accidentally grab the hot handle. I learned this the hard way, and it hurts.) Whisk in vinegar, scraping the bottom of the pan to incorporate any browned bits, and allow to cook until it's reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Whisk in apple juice and allow to cook until reduced by half again, another 7 minutes. Turn off the heat and whisk in mustard and butter.

    Serve sliced pork with apples, vegetables, and apple gravy.

    *Don't have Fines Herbes? I'm a big fan, and this might be a perfect excuse to try something new! But if you don't feel like it or if you've gotta get dinner on the table stat, just skip it or try substituting tarragon or thyme. Honestly, I often sniff around (literally) in my spice cupboard and see what smells good. Make it your own!

    Wednesday, October 12, 2016

    Edible Beard Man

    A recent Facebook post from my friend Andy showed his daughter stirring scrambled eggs on the stove. It made me think I should start teaching my boys how to do more in the kitchen than use the microwave, but I'm still worried about them burning the house down — or burning themselves!

    My youngest, Sam, does love to cook, though. Amy gifted my boys Roald Dahl's Revolting Recipes and it's perfect for cooking with kids. Sam has bookmarked quite a few recipes inspired by the characters in Dahl's books.

    We took a stab at making Mr. Twit's Beard Food and it was pretty fun — and definitely the kind of thing many boys would enjoy eating. Mr. Twit's most noticeable trait is his very messy beard, which contains leftovers from his meals. Yuck. But who doesn't like playing with their food?

    You can change things up anyway you like with this general recipe. Since mashed potatoes form the base, you can let your child craft an edible version or his or her favorite character. I could see my niece Layne forming Elsa's long braid instead of a mashed potato beard, for example.

    So, if you're faced with a rainy day or a long afternoon, get into the kitchen with your kiddos and see what they create.

    Mangia! Mangia!

    Edible Beard Man
    Inspired by Roald Dahl's Revolting Recipes cookbook

    3 large potatoes
    1/4 cup butter
    1/2 cup milk
    (Note: Feel free to use instant mashed potatoes instead. Follow package directions.)
    3-4 cocktail franks
    4 mushrooms
    1 hard boiled egg
    1 black olive or 2 raisins
    1 slice bread
    Small bag potato sticks or "fries" (I mean the kind from the potato chip aisle, but you could also use cooked french fries.)
    Small bag pretzel sticks
    Handful of cornflakes
    1/2 shredded cheese
    Optional: 1/4 cup peas or carrots, 1/4 baked beans, ketchup

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

    Peel potatoes and cut into large chunks. Place in medium pot and cover with water. Boil until potatoes are soft. Drain potatoes and return them to the pot. Add butter and milk and mash until everything is combined. Set aside and let cool for a few minutes.

    Cover a baking sheet with foil.

    Peel the egg and cut it in half.

    Using about 1/3 of the mashed potatoes, form a base for the face on the baking sheet. It should resemble the outline of a football. Then use the rest of the mashed potatoes to form a beard that tapers at the end. You can make your beard rounded or pointy.

    Position the egg halves within the opening of the face to form the eyes. You can flip the rounded yolk halves and place them upside down on the egg whites to make building eyes. Add a raisin or piece of black olive for the center of the eye.

    Separate a mushroom stem from its cap and place between the egg eyes. Use two mushroom caps to make nostrils at the bottom of the mushroom stem.

    Use the two remaining mushroom caps to make the ears.

    Slice the crust off the bread and place it above the eggs to make eyebrows.

    Slice the franks lengthwise but not all the way through. Place them on the mashed potatoes to form a mouth. Using the remaining bread, make teeth by pinching small pieces of bread together and rolling them into a pointy shape. Put the bread teeth between the sliced franks so they stick out at odd angles.

    Next, make the hair. Stick the potato sticks or fries into the mashed potatoes above the eyes and ears.

    Then, fill in the beard! Use potato sticks, pretzel sticks, cornflakes and whatever else your child likes to eat to make a messy-looking beard. Squirts of ketchup or dollops of baked beans look great.

    Sprinkle the beard with cheese. Warm in oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Then watch as your child devours his or her creation.

    Friday, October 7, 2016

    Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Muffins

    My son is four now (Four!! Insert all the crying emojis.), and he goes to preschool three mornings a week. He is a bit of a picky eater, and getting him to eat enough for breakfast that his little belly stays full until snack time is my morning mission.

    We've been making his favorite No-Bake Granola Bars, but it was time to mix things up. Danny thought muffins would be tasty, but how to make a muffin that would be hearty enough to keep stick to his ribs? Enter superstar ingredient (and one of my kids' favorites): oatmeal.

    These Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Muffins are healthy, delicious, and filling. They taste like a cross between Brown Sugar Oatmeal Coffee Cake and Baked Oatmeal. The sprinkling of cinnamon sugar on top might even convince your kids that they are breakfast cupcakes. Just sayin'.

    Let's get cooking!

    Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Muffins
    Makes 10 muffins

    1 cup old-fashioned oats
    1 cup milk
    1/2 cup no-sugar-added applesauce
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    1 egg
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    1 cup flour
    1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 tablespoon granulated sugar

    In a medium bowl, combine oats and milk. Set aside to soak for one hour.

    Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 10 cups of your muffin tin and set aside.

    Stir applesauce, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla into the milk-soaked oats. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined.

    Evenly divide batter between 10 cups of your muffin tin. Combine remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar over batter. (I didn't use all of the cinnamon sugar. Use any leftover for cinnamon crisps! Mmmm.)

    Bake for 16-20 minutes, until muffins are set and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

    Wednesday, October 5, 2016

    Half-Day Chili Sauce

    One of the best things about my neighborhood is that us moms stick together. And when school lets out early for the monthly "half-day" teacher inservice trainings, it's good to have a plan for how to fill those hours when the kids are usually in class.

    Molly supplied the idea and the recipe for our most recent free afternoon. Luckily, Jeannie has a garden that won't stop producing tomatoes, I had a bunch of poblanos and onions and we were all ready and able to get chopping — and talking.

    Our kiddos were just happy to be running around outside together all day.

    Molly's recipe is from David Letterman's mom, Dorothy. (I never knew she wrote a cookbook!)

    But with all the tomatoes and extra peppers we had, our version got tweaked a bit, and we nearly doubled the recipe. We divided everything among three pots for the final cooking process so that each of us had one to take home.

    The instructions for this chili sauce are pretty simple and you can easily make adjustments according to what and how much you have on hand.

    The best part? Getting some time with friends to chat and catch up while chopping and deseeding the peppers and tomatoes.

    This sauce tastes so good on its own. You can use it to top all kinds of grilled meats or burgers. Molly uses the chili sauce as a braising liquid for a roast. I added some to a meatloaf. Let us know how you put this yummy sauce to work in your kitchen!

    Mangia! Mangia!

    Half-Day Chili Sauce
    20 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped
    6 to 8 large onions, chopped
    10 medium green bell peppers, chopped
    2 to 4 hot peppers (use your favorite, such as jalapeƱo or poblano)
    3 tablespoons salt
    2 cups granulated white sugar
    2 teaspoons ground ginger
    1 teaspoon celery seed
    1 teaspoon ground pepper
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1 cup cider vinegar

    If you're not sure how to peel a tomato, follow these steps: Bring a pot of water to a boil. Score the bottom of each tomato with an X. Fill a large bowl with ice and cover with water. Once water boils, put a few tomatoes into the boiling water at a time. Let sit for just a minute, then transfer to ice water.

    Remove tomatoes from ice bath after a minute or so. Starting at the X, peel skins off the tomatoes. They should slide off fairly easily.

    Peel your onions and cut them in chunks. Cut up the peppers, too.

    Working in batches, pulse the tomatoes in a food processor or blender until well chopped but not mushy. Transfer tomatoes to a pot. Then chop onions and peppers in the food processor and add to the pot with the tomatoes.

    Add the spices, sugar and vinegar to the pot. All the laughter in the room from the fun conversations you'll have while making this chili sauce with friends is sure to add some sweetness, too.

    Bring to a boil, then simmer for an hour or more until desired consistency.

    Let cool completely, then transfer any sauce you won't use right away to ziplock, quart size freezer bags. You can freeze the sauce until you are ready to use it.

    Friday, September 30, 2016

    Quick & Easy Asian Beef

    I don't know about you, but I'm in over my head this fall. I need to get dinner on the table fast. And it needs to be easy. Bonus if it tastes good and at least one kid will eat it.

    So I've been searching this here ol' blog for my favorite super easy meals. We've got six years (SIX YEARS!!) worth of recipes here on Hot Dinner Happy Home, and sometimes I need to turn back to the classics.

    This Quick & Easy Asian Beef is a definite family favorite. The salty goodness of soy sauce, bite of ginger, and smokey sweet flavor of dark brown sugar make this dish kid- and grown-up-approved. Steam some edamame in the microwave and open a package of frozen, pre-cooked rice, and you can have dinner on the table in 15 minutes.

    With Quick & Easy Asian Beef, hot dinner is within reach!

    Let's get cooking!

    Quick & Easy Asian Beef
    This recipe was originally posted in December 2013.

    1 tablespoon vegetable oil
    1 1/2 pounds ground beef
    2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
    2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger
    1/4 cup dark brown sugar
    1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
    1 teaspoon sesame oil
    Pinch crushed red pepper
    3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
    Hot cooked rice for serving

    Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add ground beef and cook, breaking up the beef into bite-sized pieces with a spatula, until beef is browned and cooked through, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Stir in dark brown sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and crushed red pepper. Allow to simmer for 2-3 minutes until the sauce is thickened and all the beef is evenly coated. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve over rice.

    Monday, September 26, 2016

    Pumpkin Brownies

    It might still be 90 degrees in Charlotte, but it's Fall, that time of year when everything comes up pumpkin. For example, while reading my People magazine (guilty pleasure) the other day, I found a recipe for The Cake Boss Buddy Valastro's "Pumpkin Chocolate Brownies."

    I decided to try them out — minus the chocolate sauce, because my kids don't like frosting or icing. Plus, nine eggs, one and a half cups of butter and four cups of sugar make these brownies plenty sweet. In fact, the recipe called for four and a third cups of sugar and two and two thirds cups of butter, so I trimmed a bit. I also added a generous pinch of cloves, because you can't have pumpkin spices without the cloves.

    The verdict: Pumpkin brownies deserve their place next to pumpkin lattes, pumpkin bread and pumpkin beer. Yum!

    Happy Fall, y'all!


    Pumpkin Brownies
    Adapted from The Cake Boss Buddy Valastro's recipe in the Sept. 26 issue of People magazine

    2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
    1 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/8 teaspoon ginger
    1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    1/4 teaspoon table salt
    Generous pinch of ground cloves
    9 large eggs
    2 (15 ounce) cans plain pumpkin puree
    4 cups granulated sugar
    1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, melted
    2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

    Equipment note: This recipe makes two 9X12 pans of brownies! The batter barely fit in the bowl of my KitchenAid blender and some of it was sloshing out. Next time I will use a hand mixer and my largest bowl.

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

    In a medium bowl, stir together the flour and next five ingredients. Set flour mixture aside.

    Using an electric mixer, beat eggs and pumpkin on medium speed until combined. Beat in sugar.

    With mixer running, add in the melted butter in a steady stream. Next, gradually add in the flour mixture, stopping now and then to scrape the sides of the bowl. Stir in the chocolate chips.

    Lightly grease two 9X12 baking pans and divide the batter between the two. Bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle of the brownies comes out clean.

    Friday, September 23, 2016

    Cranberry Pot Roast

    Happy autumn, guys! It's always a bummer when summer comes to a close, but the cozy days of fall are some of my favorites. Sweater weather, apple picking, and comfort food? Yes, please!

    Growing up, one of my favorite fall meals was Cranberry Pot Roast. My mom used cranberry juice in place of chicken broth. (Knowing my mom, she was out of broth one day and made an on-the-fly substitution. Way to get dinner on the table, Mom!) It's been years since I've had Cranberry Pot Roast, and when the crisp weather rolled in, I decided it was time to give it a whirl. Instead of cranberry juice, I used cranberry sauce. Just the canned stuff, people. But if you have leftover homemade cranberry sauce, by all means, use that.

    In addition to being delicious and make-ahead friendly, I love Cranberry Pot Roast because it's forgiving. After adding the veggies and popping the roast back in the oven for the final 45 minutes of cooking time, I decided to take the kids to the park. "Oh, we'll be back in time to turn off the oven. No prob!" So an hour later when we were flying down the slide, and I finally looked at my watch...whoops! We hustled back to rescue the roast, and this baby was no worse for wear. It was perfectly tender. Now this is the kind of meal that fits with my lifestyle.

    Let's get cooking!

    Cranberry Pot Roast
    Adapted from Pot Roast with Bacon and inspired by my mom

    2 tablespoons olive oil
    3-4 pound beef bottom round roast
    Salt and pepper
    1 rib of celery, diced
    1 onion, peeled and diced
    1 1/2 pounds carrots, divided - dice 2 carrots, and cut the rest into 1" chunks
    2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
    1 teaspoon sugar
    1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
    1 (14 ounce) can whole cranberry sauce (or use homemade)
    1-2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
    1 bay leaf
    3 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
    8 ounces whole cremini mushrooms
    Cooked egg noodles or mashed potatoes for serving
    Chopped fresh parsley for garnish, optional

    Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

    In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high. Season beef generously with salt and pepper. Add beef to pan and cook, turning as needed, until all sides are browned, about 8-10 minutes total. (You'll know it's time to turn the beef when it's easy to flip. If it's sticking to the pot, it's not ready. Give it another minute to cook then try again.) If the browned bits on the bottom of the pan start to burn, turn the heat down to medium. When the roast is browned, remove to a plate and set aside.

    Add diced carrot (set aside the carrots cut into 1" chunks until later), celery, and onion to the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, about 8 minutes. Stir in garlic, sugar, and thyme until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

    Stir in cranberry sauce, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Return meat to pan. Pour in enough chicken broth so the liquid reaches about halfway up the side of the roast. (For me, this was about 1.5 cups of broth.) Add bay leaf to the pan. Bring liquid to a boil. Cover, turn off the stove, and put the covered pot in the oven.

    Allow the beef to cook for 3 hours, turning the meat over a few times while it cooks. Add the remaining carrots and parsnips to the pot, making sure they're submerged in liquid. Re-cover the pot, and cook for an additional 45 minutes to 1.25 hours (if you're at the park), until meat and vegetables are tender.

    Remove meat and vegetables to the serving dish and cover with foil to keep warm. Skim any fat from the liquid remaining in the pot. (If you have one, you can use a fat separator to remove the fat and then return the liquid to the pot.) Bring the cooking liquid to a boil over medium-high heat and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour cooking liquid over meat and veggies and serve over buttered egg noodles. Garnish with parsley if you're feeling fancy.

    Wednesday, September 21, 2016

    Oatmeal Chip Squares

    Say hello to a stand-by afternoon snack at our house. Crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, these bar cookies are packed with enough fiber and sweetness to fill those empty after-school bellies.

    (These squares hold up well inside the lunch box, too.)

    I like to add dried cherries or cranberries or raisins to these, depending on what my boys will tolerate.

    The ease of getting bar cookies into the oven makes me a big fan, but you can easily use this recipe to make drop cookies if you prefer.

    My son Sam says the only bad thing about these oatmeal chippers is that he wants to eat them all day long. (Love that kid!)

    Mangia! Mangia!

    Oatmeal Chip Squares
    (Inspired by recipes from Quaker Oats and Ocean Spray)

    3/4 cup packed brown sugar
    1/2 cup white sugar
    1 stick plus 6 tablespoons softened butter
    2 eggs
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    1 1/2 cups flour
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon cinnamon
    3 cups old fashioned oats
    1 cup chocolate chips
    1 cup white chocolate chips
    1 cup dried fruit (cherries, cranberries, raisins, etc.)
    1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with parchment paper so that paper hang over each end.

    With an electric or stand mixer, beat butter and sugars until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well.

    Add flour, baking soda and cinnamon and mix well.

    Add oats and mix. Add dried fruit and mix with a wooden spoon. Be sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to incorporate all dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.

    Transfer cookie dough to baking pan. Use a spatula to evenly spread dough in pan. Smooth the top and sprinkle with mini chocolate chips.

    Bake for about 30 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely.

    Use edges of parchment paper to lift bar cookie out of pan. Set on cutting board and cut into squares.

    Goes well with a cold glass of milk!

    Monday, September 19, 2016

    Easy Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Casserole

    My husband loves my Easy Crockpot Mexican Lasagna and even counts it among my top five dinners. What I like most about it is that it's so easy to make. Recently, I was craving another easy dinner and decided to experiment. Enter Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Casserole.

    The verdict Chez George: Jeff liked this dish as much as Mexican lasagna and the kids liked it more because it wasn't as "spicy" — due to green enchilada sauce vs. red — and didn't contain any cilantro, which they don't like at all. We all decided I couldn't call it Chicken-Mex Lasagna as I'd intended, because the chicken is too chunky and not at all like ground meat and so not very lasagna-y.

    Bottom line: An easy family dinner that was a hit with all.

    Sometimes you just need dinner to be easy, so I hope you enjoy my Easy Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Casserole.


    Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Casserole

    2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts
    Ground pepper
    1 small onion, sliced
    1 red pepper, sliced into strips
    1-2 cups salsa
    20 ounces of green enchilada sauce (I have seen this in 10 and 20 ounce cans)
    2 cups shredded Monterey Jack or Colby Jack cheese
    12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
    Cilantro for garnishing, optional
    Sour cream for serving, optional
    Sliced black olives for serving, optional

    Place chicken in glass dish, sprinkle with ground pepper. Place onions and peppers around chicken and top everything with salsa. Bake at 350 until chicken is cooked through.

    Using two forks, shred cooked chicken and cut up the onions and peppers into smaller pieces. Stir in one cup enchilada sauce and 1 cup of cheese.

    Line your slow cooker with an aluminum foil collar and spray with vegetable oil spray. (The purpose of the foil collar is to put a layer between your food and the heating element of the slow cooker. Without a foil collar or sling – the latter involves lining the bottom of your slow cooker – some dishes, like this one, and fish, will overcook and dry out. To make a foil collar, simply fold two pieces of aluminum foil to fit around the inside of your slow cooker.)

    Spread 1/4 cup enchilada sauce at bottom of crockpot.

    Arrange 3 tortillas at the bottom, breaking the third tortilla in pieces so that it will fit to fully cover the bottom. Top with a third of the chicken mixture and 3 more tortillas; repeat layering two more times until all 12 tortillas have been used. Cover the top layer of tortillas with enchilada sauce and cheese. (For more photos on the process, refer to Easy Crockpot Mexican Lasagna.)

    Cook for 3 hours on low, until casserole is heated through.

    Remove foil collar. Sprinkle with cilantro, if desired. Top each serving with sour cream and black olives, if desired. Enjoy.

    Friday, September 16, 2016

    Shepherd's Pie II (The Remix)

    Several people (including Mo. Hey, Mo!) have told me that Shepherd's Pie II is their favorite recipe here on HDHH. This is the perfect simple, make-ahead meal to get through the insanity that is September. And true confession: I usually don't make my own mashed potatoes. As I mentioned in my original post, I hate making mashed potatoes. So I buy the pre-made ones. No shame here, people. Sometimes I need to make my life easier, ya feel me?

    It was high time I took some new, better pics of Shepherd's Pie II, but you know what I discovered? It's dang hard to take a good pic of Shepherd's Pie! So I gave it my best shot. Better than the originals.

    Shepherd's Pie II (The Remix)

    Adapted from Real Simple
    Serves: 8

    2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
    1 large onion, peeled and chopped
    1 cup peeled and sliced carrots
    Salt and pepper
    1.5 pounds ground beef (I used ground sirloin.)
    1/4 cup tomato paste
    1.5 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
    1/4 cup flour
    2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
    1.5 cups frozen peas
    1 cup corn kernels (optional, but delicious)
    5 cups mashed potatoes*

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a 10" oven-safe skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium high. Add onion and carrots. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 6 minutes, until vegetables are beginning to soften. Transfer to a separate bowl.

    Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in the skillet. Add the beef and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring often to break up the beef, about 8 minutes, until meat is no longer pink. Drain the grease from the skillet. Stir in tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce. Sprinkle in flour and cook, stirring, for one minute to cook off the raw taste of the flour.

    Stir in broth, scraping the bottom of the pan to incorporate the flavor bits that have accumulated there into the sauce. Add peas, corn, and cooked onions and carrots. Bring to a simmer, then turn off the heat.

    Spoon mashed potatoes on top of the meat and vegetable mixture in your skillet. Bake 40-45 minutes, until filling is bubbling and potatoes are lightly browned. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

    * If you're a better person than me and decide to mash your own potatoes, Real Simple suggests the following:
    3 pounds potatoes (I like to use Yukon Gold when I do mash my own.)
    Salt and pepper
    1 cup milk
    4 tablespoons butter

    Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and add 1 teaspoon salt. Reduce heat and simmer for 15-18 minutes, until potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife. Drain and return potatoes to the warm pot. Add milk, butter, and salt and pepper to taste. Mash potatoes.