Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Fresh Start

So...Happy New Year?

2015 had a rough start here. Hubs brought home some ugly bug, and before long, we both wanted to be down for the count. But, life doesn't work that way. There are always commitments and obligations and responsibilities. We tried to keep up as best we could while supplementing with cold meds and naps, but a lot of things lost priority and fell by the wayside.

3 weeks later, and we are finally shaking whatever virus attacked and getting back in the groove. I am still occasionally hacking up a lung, but overall am much better. I feel ready for the new year and a fresh start.

Let's start with breakfast. Do you like bacon? eggs? quesadillas? Bacon and Egg Quesadillas? Crispy tortillas filled with smokey bacon, fried eggs, black beans, pepper jack cheese, and served with guacamole and salsa? Any reason to have guacamole for breakfast sounds like a great start to me.

4 medium flour tortillas
1/2 pound of bacon
4 large eggs
salt and pepper
4 ounces shredded pepper jack cheese
1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed

In a medium skillet, work in batches to cook bacon in batches until crisp. Drain on paper towels.
Remove all but 2 tablespoons of bacon fat from the skillet.
Fry the eggs over easy (or hard, if that is your thing) in the hot bacon fat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a platter and keep warm.
Meanwhile, heat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat.
Place a tortilla in the (dry) skillet and sprinkle some cheese over half. Spread 1/4 cup black beans over cheese. Top with bacon and an egg. Add a bit more cheese and fold the other (bare) half of the tortilla over the fillings. Heat in skillet until tortilla become crispy and golden on the bottom. Flip and crisp the other side.
Repeat with each remaining tortilla to create 4 quesadillas.
Cut each quesadilla into wedges and serve with guacamole and salsa. (Serves 4)

Monday, November 17, 2014

South Dakota Magazine Recap

It is that time of year when things start to get a little cray-cray. Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and then there is no stopping Christmas and all of the many holiday events. Throw in a little year-end business and a few bouts of bad weather, and before we know it 2014 will be done.

Before I get caught up in that whirlwind, maybe I should do another South Dakota Magazine Recap. I have shared several recipes (and a few stories) online with South Dakota Magazine since my last update in early April.

For Easter, I considered a new tradition of layering asparagus, ham, and pasta with cheese and a creamy sauce. Ham and Asparagus Lasagna is a perfectly elegant comfort food worthy of a Spring holiday table.

Cinco de Mayo was observed with simple Sausage and Feta Tacos. The day is a celebration of a Mexican military victory and more than just party with "2 for 1" margarita deals.

My husband was fearful that I would give up his prime asparagus hunting ground when I shared some of his wild asparagus secrets. If you are lucky enough to receive a bouquet of freshly cut wild asparagus, I recommend trying Asparagus Ravioli in Parmesan Broth.

I am happy to report that as summer dawned, the snakes in my backyard seemed to move on. Harvest of strawberries and rhubarb for Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Bars was uneventful...and the bars were delicious.

Nilla is still living in town with us, and before the snow, I noticed a new hole in my cleared-for-fall garden. She must still be digging for worms. I should have taken her fishing for some walleye to make Lemon Butter Fish.

Avocado Toast with Radish Salad pulls from produce both local, and not. Sourcing my food from whatever origins are available for the tastiest options is my "diet" plan.

I didn't get a great spinach harvest from the garden this year, but did manage enough for a few Spinach and Garlic Vinaigrette Salads.

Keeping cool was easy this summer with the Asian influenced Peanut and Cucumber Salad.

If I want to kiss my husband, I need keep my toothbrush handy whenever Bleu Cheese and Bacon Potato Salad is on the menu.

Scrambled Eggs with Pesto and White Beans is a powerhouse for breakfast and an excellent place to start while working toward those big dreams for the day.

In September, I guided Laura from the South Dakota Magazine offices through a south-central South Dakota adventure and made time for some Pho-ish Soup.

Homecoming revealed a little background of a long ago spontaneous pancake party in Colome, and I shared the story with the puffed pancake of a Dutch Baby with Caramel Sauce and Bananas.

As the winter allows Hubs more time at home in the evenings, I can't wait for movie night and Pomegranate and Popcorn.

Pumpkin Black Bean Soup is a perfect fall bowl of comfort. Topping this rich, savory soup with crumbled queso and sliced green onions enhance the earthy flavors.

And, finally, I have the tart jewel of your Thanksgiving table: Homemade Cranberry Sauce, even though I kinda miss the nostalgia of those perfect rings on the log of sauce from the can.

Whew. What a list of amazing recipes! I hope you have had the opportunity to enjoy a few, and I can't wait to share more On My Plate and with South Dakota Magazine.

National Peanut Butter Lovers Month

Did you know that November is National Peanut Butter Lovers Month? No? Neither, did I. Until yesterday. Yesterday, I noticed a tweet about #pblovers, and my interested was piqued.

I can't say that my preference for peanut butter falls into the big puffy heart love stage. I like it. I think it can be fabulous. Occasionally, I crave it, but it isn't something that I HAVE TO HAVE on a daily basis.

Hubs has a thing for peanut butter pie, and I have made several. There was Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie recreated after hearing a woman in the diner booth behind me beg for the recipe. Jennifer Perillo's heartache and Pie for Mikey inspired me to make a friend's Peanut Butter Pie. And, both Black Bottom Peanut Butter Pie and Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie with Pretzel Crust celebrated Pi Day.

It wouldn't be Christmas without Peanut Butter Bon Bons. Peanut Butter Sheet Cake graced a puppy birthday party. I ate my weight in Chocolate Frosted Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Treats. And, even though they start with a box mix, Peanut Butter Brownies are always a treat.

While Hubs can eat enough Reese's Peanut Butter Cups to kill a small horse, I can take them or leave them. I won't, however, turn down a peanut blossom cookie topped with that iconic chocolate Kiss. I spread toast thick with peanut butter (smooth perferably) and drizzle with honey or add another decadent layer with a smear of Nutella. Sometimes, I do eat peanut butter with a spoon.

One pairing for peanut butter that I think is absolutely perfect is Banana Bread. There is just something about slathering the rich, nutty butter over a slice of dense, sweet homemade banana bread. Do you know what takes it over the top? Bacon.

I know. Bacon has been so over done. After all, who really needs bacon lip balm? But, trust me. Do it. Peanut Butter and Bacon Banana Bread Sandwiches can inspire love.

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 cups flour
1 cup walnuts, chopped

For sandwiches:
smooth peanut butter
bacon, cooked until crisp

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 4.5"x8.5" loaf pan with baking spray.
Cream butter and brown sugar.
Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until fluffy.
Add baking powder and salt.
Stir in bananas and maple syrup.
Add flour and mix just until blended.
Stir in walnuts.
Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Allow bread to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a rack and let cool completely.
For sandwiches: slice 1/2-inch thick slices from the bread. Spread with peanut butter and top with bacon.
(Reserve remaining banana bread for snacking...or more sandwiches.)

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Bad Publicity

They say there is no such thing as bad publicity, and it seems that many of the current advertising companies out there agree with this sentiment.

I don't.

I see an insipid commercial and immediately back away from whatever product they are hawking. I have never purchased a certain brand of pistachios that are supposedly synonymous with awesome. And after I heard someone comment on the grossness of the smacking sounds in a breakable chocolate bar ad, I can't bring myself to buy one without visualizing open-mouthed eating. However, since I seldom throw these items into my grocery cart, these were not major boycotts.

But with Thanksgiving approaching, I am facing a huge dilemma. King's Hawaiian Rolls have always been a necessary item on my Thanksgiving grocery shopping list. As good as I believe they are, they were never served with the holiday meal. I required these slightly sweet rolls for the perfect leftover sandwich: split the soft bun, spread on tart cranberry sauce, spoon on savory, sage-y stuffing, add sliced turkey (a little white and dark meat), pour over gravy, heat it all, and cap with the top of the bun. Perfection.

But, have you seen their latest commercial? with the sucking? a family sucking the rolls into their mouth? It, honestly, sucks. Big time.

What am I to do? Do I hold myself to my own code of conduct and shun those delicious buns because an ad agency was stupid? Or, do I overlook the vacuous publicity and still indulge in that perfect leftover sandwich? It really is perfect. That sandwich might be the entire reason I want to cook turkey and dressing and gravy and cranberry sauce. What is a girl who believes in bad publicity, but loves a good sandwich to do?

While I am debating, I think I will distract myself by changing up a Thanksgiving side. I have shared our favorite Chiffonade of Brussels Sprouts and Green Beans in Mushroom Sauce, but how about a different version of green beans for the holiday table?

Thanksgiving Green Beans almost seem beefy with a sauce including Worcestershire. It makes them a hearty standout on the Turkey Day table even before I mention the bacon and diced roasted red peppers. Yes. Bacon and roasted red peppers. And, the sauce is made with the bacon drippings. Yes. O.M.G.  No bad publicity here, just delicious beans.

1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed and rinsed
6 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2-3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
a few dashes Tabasco
1/2 cup roasted red peppers, chopped (from a jar...or make your own, they are pretty easy)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add the green beans and cook for 3-4 minutes, until tender crisp. Drain.
Meanwhile, fry the bacon in a large skillet until crispy.
Transfer the bacon to a paper towel lined plate and set aside; reserve the drippings
Reduce the heat to low and stir the Worcestershire sauce, honey, dry mustard and Tabasco into the bacon drippings.
When sauce is warmed and combined, toss with the green beans to coat, add the roasted red peppers, and most of the bacon.
Garnish with the remainder of the bacon. (Serves 8)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Word Salad

This afternoon, I am sitting in an area coffee shop with the intention of working, but as I scroll through the images in the photo files of my laptop and flip through the notebook of scribbled recipe notes, my mind is just a jumbled word salad. There are so many stories and recipes that I want to share with you all, but my brain is screaming with an unintelligible jumble of words. Nothing makes sense on its own. Ideas are flowing freely, but not fluently.

Did you know that I visited Chicago last fall and have since been working on perfecting my own homemade deep dish pizza? Did you know that a good dog toy lasts about a week with Nilla, and a bad toy lasts mere minutes? Did you know that since posting my tried and true homemade pasta sauce, of which I can quarts and quarts each year, I have found a roasted tomato pasta sauce that might rival it? Will my dryer finish the drying cycle, or is the temperature gauge indeed on the fritz? Did you know that I once again volunteered at the Antiques Roadshow...this time in Albuquerque? Did you know that I brought home 20 pounds of freshly roasted New Mexico green chiles (That was an aromatic drive across several states.) and have a profound love of green chile cheeseburgers (of course, with an egg, if I have the option)? Does anyone appreciate political campaign phone calls? Did you know that there isn't a day that passes without me scrolling through the Zappos app on my phone looking for the perfect 3/4 height boot? I didn't buy new Halloween costumes for Tabby and Jenn because you really can't top dachshunds dressed as hot dogs, can you? Did you know that I actually survived the food presentation at the Etc. Expo for Her and might have even enjoyed it a little (except for the poor quality of the presentation "kitchen")? Did you know that after 20+ years of marriage, last night, Hubs admitted that he may actually like pears...especially when I throw together a pear galette with warm caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream for dessert? Did you know that tomorrow is Halloween, and that I usually invite some of my friends who live in the country over for a casual dinner and to help pass out candy to my little ghouls, but just realized that I dropped the ball and haven't invited anyone? Did you know that I am addicted to candy corn? Did you know that the USPS has lost 2 (2!?!) of my packages within one year? Did you know that I have ground beef defrosted at home and no clue what I will be doing with it for supper? Did you know that there is a head of cauliflower in my fridge that was supposed to be a side with supper last night, but I forgot to cook it? Did you know that I haven't yet raked a single leaf from the yard, and it is driving me nuts? Do you know the best place to purchase durable, warm, white, fluffy, down alternative comforters? Mine is showing the effects of weekly washings to rid it of dog hair. Do you like fennel? I was recently surprised at how many people were turned off by the thought/taste/idea of a licorice-y flavored vegetable. Did you know that I came to the coffee shop today because the dust in my house has reached gas mask proportions, and instead of clean, I decided to try to blog (and drink a dirty chai)? (Maybe this is why I haven't invited anyone over for tomorrow?)

So...that is only a small sample of the random mixture of insanity in my brain. All of the frivolous craziness. I won't bore you with the real stuff that haunts me. We will keep it light. Just a Word Salad, not the main course.

However...word is that this Green Apple and Celery Salad is the word. Word. Salad.

I enjoyed this as a light, fall lunch, but think that it would be an elegant addition to a Thanksgiving menu. (It would even make ahead well...just toss the dressing over other ingredients prior to serving.) The crisp celery and green apples are pleasantly contrasting earthy and tart flavors. The sharp mustard vinaigrette lends a tangy balance to the salad. I can see this being a very welcome freshness in the middle of all the heavy mashed potatoes, roasted squash, stuffing, gravy, and turkey weighing down the upcoming holiday table. Word. Salad.

(adapted from Bon Appetit)

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
5 teaspoons honey
2/3 cup olive oil

1 large bunch celery
2 large Granny Smith apples
1/4 cup fresh parsley
3/4 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

Add first 4 ingredients in a small mason jar.
Secure the lid and vigorously shake to combine.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Slice celery thinly on the diagonal. (My microplane made quick work of both this slicing and the thinly sliced apples.)
Core and thinly slice the apples. (Peel, if desired, but I didn't.)
Chop the parsley.
Combine celery, apples, parsley, and walnuts in bowl.
Toss with dressing to thoroughly coat.
Season with salt and pepper. (Serves 8.)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Where's the Beef?

Where's the beef?

Saturday, October 18th, at 11am, the beef is going to be at the Sioux Falls Convention Center and the Etc. Expo for Her. With the South Dakota Cattlemen's Auxiliary, I will be presenting Spinach Meatballs in a food demonstration.

We will discuss some of the important nutritional benefits of beef and cover the nuances of creating a perfect meatball. (Here's a hint: we will be using ground beef.)

Currently, I am still nervous, that zit I told you about in my last blog post now has an ugly step-sister, and as I was packing up my gear for the demo, my husband asked that I not take my good knife with me just in case I panicked and ran away in the middle of my presentation. (He was kidding. I hope.)

Tomorrow is the day, but just in case you can't make it, here are the meatballs I will be sharing. I do have complete confidence in  the fact that they are absolutely delicious.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground beef
1 (10 ounce) box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs
3/4 teaspoon dry basil
1/4 teaspoon dry oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350F.
Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.
Add onion and saute until tender.
Add garlic and cook until fragrant.
Set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine ground beef, spinach, egg, breadcrumbs, and seasonings.
Mix all ingredients gently and form into small (walnut-sized) meatballs.
Place on a lined baking sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes.

Monday, October 13, 2014

I Have a Zit

I have a zit on my forehead. I haven't had a real breakout in several years, but here I am trying all the acne remedies and hoping that
A) the zit disappears by Saturday; 
B) the zit doesn't multiply by Saturday; 
and C) my forehead isn't a scaly, flaky mess from over-treating with acne remedies by Saturday.

What's so important about Saturday?

I am going to do my first public food demonstration.


Double yikes.

Double zit-producing yikes.

The South Dakota Cattlemen's Auxiliary in conjunction with The South Dakota Beef Industry Council has asked me (ME!?!) to present a beef recipe as part of a seminar at the Etc. Expo for Her in Sioux Falls this weekend. The expo, sponsored by etc. for her, is 2 days of shopping, fun, entertainment, and pampering designed for women of all ages. This ninth annual event will host exhibits that cover health, food, wine, fashion, home decor, cosmetics, fitness, entertainment, finance, career, art and more.

I will be the first to admit that while I am very confident in my own kitchen, public speaking is stepping way out of my comfort zone. A few years ago, it seemed that all the cool kids in the blogging world were vlogging, or video blogging. I was asked when I would take the plunge, and I quickly informed everyone that not only are my knife skills really poor, I also lick my fingers when I cook. Nobody wants to see that.

Well, here I am, with a zit, a date for a public presentation (waaaay worse than vlogging -- there are no do-overs or edits in public), and a hope that I don't lick my fingers.

My demonstration at the expo will focus on an easy meatball recipe with a twist. It works as a weeknight meal, a hearty game day or party appetizer, and even for entertaining. I will show your how the ever-versatile meatball can solve all your menu dilemmas, and discuss how to effortlessly adjust flavor combinations and even incorporate veggies to create this delectable, make-ahead beef staple.

 It really is an honor to share my everyday kitchen experiences in support of the beef industry and agriculture. "Agriculture is the largest contributor to the South Dakota economy and the beef industry is one of the major driving forces behind our economy." (from South Dakota Beef Council website) While my husband and I actually raise sheep, we live in the middle of cattle country and are surrounded by excellent cattle ranches. Beef is what's for dinner very often in our house. 

Just this past week, we enjoyed another simple and quick beef meal. Mongolian Beef is a slightly spicy dish that comes together almost instantly. It actually will take longer to make a pot of rice or rice noodles to serve with it than it will to cook the thinly sliced beef. The garlic and ginger sauce is boosted by savory soy sauce and green onions offer a slight crunch. 

Putting Mongolian Beef On My Plate is so quick and easy that I have lots of time before Saturday to worry about public speaking and the zit on my forehead. 

(adapted from Cooking Light

4 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
3 teaspoons rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon chile paste with garlic (more, if you like the heat)
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 pound sirloin steak, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
16 green onions, cut into 2-inch pieces

Whisk together soy sauce, honey, cornstarch, hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, and chile paste.
Heat peanut oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add beef and saute until beef starts to brown.
Add garlic and ginger and continue to cook until beef is cooked through, just a couple of minutes.
Add green onions and saute for 30 seconds.
Stir in the soy sauce mixture and cook 1 more minute until thickened, stirring constantly.
Serve over rice or rice noodles. (Serves 4)
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