Monday, January 31, 2011

Mushroom Risotto

In December, I went to La Morra in Brookline Village for their $25 Sunday Prix fixe menu.  They change the menu each week, and the week that I went happened to be fried chicken week.  I am not a huge fan of fried chicken, so I wanted to double check with the server that the chicken was NOT like KFC (maybe more upscale fried chicken?) .... to which he replied, "Yes, exactly like KFC!".

Not the best way to sell in a meal.  Really?  Exactly like KFC?  That's like going to a solid Mexican joint and saying it's exactly like Taco Bell.

Either way, part of this Prix-fixe menu included a mushroom risotto, which was hands down some of the best risotto I have had in a long time.  Maybe ever.  Since this night in December, I have been desperately wanting to recreate this dish in my own kitchen.  I finally learned how on a winter weekend in NH, from the fabulous Mike DiMella.  Here's my adaptation from what I learned from him. (Mike knows how to cook- little recipe shunning bastard that he is. I want him to teach me more things.)

Mushroom Risotto:

  • 1 shallot, sliced/chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • chopped herbs, such as thyme and sage
  • 2 cups mushrooms, stems removed, chopped
  • arborio rice
  • chicken stock, about three cups
  • red wine (optional)
  • olive oil/butter as needed
  • Parmesan cheese, grated
  • butter 

Heat a saucepan or dutch oven on medium high heat.  Add butter (or oil, if you want to be on the healthy side) and saute the shallot, garlic and herbs for approximately three minutes.

Saute mushrooms in a separate skillet until soft.  Remove, set aside.

Add arborio rice to the shallot/herb/garlic mixture - I used approximately 1 1/2 cups, dry.  Add as you see fit and saute in the butter/shallot mixture.  Mix until the rice turns opaque from the oil/butter - should only take a few minutes.

Add 1/4 cup of red wine, or chicken stock.  I used leftover red wine.  The point is to cover the rice, and then some.  Reduce heat to medium.  Consistently stir, so the rice doesn't burn on the bottom of the pan.  Once the liquid reduces, add another 1/2 cup and continue to stir.  You should continue this process for approximately 20 - 25 minutes.  This gradual addition of liquid and reduction helps give the rice its creamy nature.

Once the rice is cooked Al dente, stir in mushrooms and then add in two tablespoons butter and 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese.  These two ingredients are the key to making the risotto rich.

I was super impressed with a) how easy this was to make and b) how delicious it was.  I feel uber confident in my abilities to make any sort of risotto now.  It's not by any means a low-calorie meal, however, it is filling and incredibly tasty.

Love learning new things!! Enjoy!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Asian Shrimp with Brussel Sprouts

This is another recipe that I discovered in Real Simple's January 2011 magazine.  I was drawn to it because of the Brussel sprouts.  I've only had them twice before - once post college when we were having regular YP dinner parties every few weeks and once more recently. My girl Molls cheffed 'em up back in the day - and I remember being hesitant, but pleasantly surprised at this strange, tasty new vegetable I just tried.  And when I had them recently, they were a little over EVOO-ed, but I still thought they had decent flavor.  I feel like Brussel Sprouts get a bad rap.... sometimes rightly so.  I think they have to be cooked perfectly and they aren't such a bad little vegetable.  (Raw is a completely different story.  ewww.)

  • 1 cup long-grain white rice 
  • 1 pound shrimp, chopped in halves 
  • 3 tablespooons canola oil, plus more, if necessary 
  • 1/2 pound Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced 
  • 1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks 
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced 
  • 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce 
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar 
  • 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar 
  • 1 red chili pepper, thinly sliced 
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil 
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced 
  • 2 tablespoons chopped roasted peanuts
  • 1/4 carrots (optional)
Get your skillet pan going on medium heat and heat up some of you oil.  Once hot, in go the sprouts, ginger and garlic for 2 to 3 minutes.

Add soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar and 3/4 cup of water to pan and cook another 2 to 3 minutes until the sprouts are crisp tender.  Unfortunately, I don't know what that means.  In all honesty, I cheffed this up after shoveling and I was a few brews deep.  It was 12 inches.... can you blame me for being a little thirsty??

(On a side note: Southern Tier's Double IPA's are insanely tasty... but with a 8.2% ABV, they creep on you.)

Either way - it looks like this.  The sauce needs to thicken.  I threw a little cornstarch into mine to help speed it along (about 1 to 2 tablespoons).

Don't these look pretty?

Once the sauce has thickened, throw in your shrimps and your chili.  Cook until the shrimps are pink. And, in the grand finale, toss in your sesame oil and scallions and top with smashed peanuts.  If that's your thing.  It's clearly my thing.

I served over a bed of brown rice.

As you can see from the picture below, the vegetables are overcooked - hence the loss of their brilliant colors as shown above.  That's okay.  I believe it tasted pretty good... but by then, I had already moved on from wicked strong beers to a bottle of wine.  

Help me Rhonda.

The leftovers the next day made for a quick and easy lunch.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Super Easy Lettuce Wraps

This is my go-to recipe for a healthy appetizer or snack. I'm currently participating in the Biggest Loser Minnesota Challenge. I'll be snacking on these lettuce wraps multiple times between now and April 15th (the end of this particular challenge).

1 green bell pepper
1 cup of a white or yellow onion
1 lb lean ground turkey
5 oz of Thai peanut sauce (San-J is highly recommended)
A head of lettuce

Other than the peanut sauce and lettuce, I have the other ingredients in my freezer at all times. Part of me is proud of this, and part of me worries that I'm becoming a food hoarder.

Start by chopping the onion and green pepper.

Saute them on medium heat with a little oil. When the onion starts to get a little brown, add in the ground turkey. Brown the turkey and fold in the onion and pepper.
Add in the peanut sauce and turn the heat to low. Let these ingredients simmer for 5 minutes. If you are using an iron skillet, remove it from the heat.

If you like spicy food, toss in a couple dashes of hot sauce into the meat mixture and stir.

Fill each piece of lettuce with a big spoonful of this mixture and serve! It's really delicious and simple. I think you'll be pleased... Folded like a taco:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Villa Mexico - A Review of Gas Station Tacos

Seven months ago, I found myself newly single and moving into a 350 square foot studio apartment in Boston's Beacon Hill.  I was a traumatized soul, wondering what the hell I was doing.  Confident in the move, but terrified of this new life and this new adjustment.  Where there had been safety in two, there was now only me.  Unfortunately, I needed to move over 4th of July weekend, so it was basically just me and my friend's Altima.  Beacon Hill parking is terrible and I stressed about how I would park, unpack and not get 1,000 tickets over the course of the weekend. 

I thought I had my answer in a little gas station across the street called Grampy's.  I assessed their little parking lot and figured I could definitely sweet talk my way into me parking off to the side, out of the way, while I moved and unpacked.  I approached the guy behind the counter, put on my nicest, sweetest voice and asked if he wouldn't mind helping a sista out.  Could I pretty please park right there?  I promise I won't be there long and I won't be in the way.

His reaction was so firm and rude that I left Grampy's with tears stinging my eyes.  I had not felt so lonely in such a long time.  I vowed that I would never, ever, again step foot in Grampy's with a dime of my business.  Ever.

And, with the exception of two very rare instances (I needed toilet paper), I have not.  When I heard rave reviews about a little Mexican restaurant called Villa Mexico that was actually located inside of Grampy's, I vowed never to go there either.  Mexican restaurant?  In a gas station?  Sounds like a recipe for an increase in toilet paper sales.

Except last night.  I worked late.  I was hungry and I'd only had a piece of cheesecake for lunch.  My fridge is awaiting my suburban grocery shopping trip tonight.  I thought about heading to the taco place in the West End, but it was so frigid, I didn't want to veer off course.  I decided I would try my best to make use of the spinach I have in the fridge. 

Then something came over me and I suddenly decided that I would try the gas station taco joint, Villa Mexico.  I walked in at 9:10 and the lady informed me that they closed at 9 pm.  However, she was very friendly and offered to make me whatever I wanted.  I decided on two chicken tacos for $5.25.  I'm not going to lie.  She microwaved part of it, threw it on a tortilla press and sprinkled on some shredded cheese.  I upgraded with sour cream and guac.  The price came to $5.75 and I went home with my gas station tacos. 

Unimpressive was my first impression.  Two measly tacos.  Microwaved.  At a gas station.  The side of salsa was black and scary looking.  For nearly $6.  I was beginning to regret this decision.  I took a bite, sans salsa.  Pretty unimpressive and bland.  Then I decided to give the salsa a go and I was taken aback.

Whatever is in the black salsa is amazing.  Truly, truly delicious.  I housed the salsa covered tacos in a matter of minutes.  But I couldn't bear to waste the remaining black salsa, so I heated up some brown rice and mixed it all together with a bit of lime juice and cilantro.  So good.

So while I'm not going to rave about this mexican restaurant located in a reject gas station, I will give credit where credit is due.  They make a mean ass salsa.  You can buy it directly from them for $24.00.  However, I think I'll have to start looking for a recipe to recreate it. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Sweet and Sour Shrimp

This is a weekday meal, hands down.  From fridge to mouth, it is under 30 minutes!

This is an easy dish to sub in/out various ingredients. For example, sub out shrimp for pork or chicken. Or even tofu if that's your thing. As for the veggies, you could add whatever you little heart desires - peppers, onions, sugar snaps, etc. This recipe is basically just a sauce and you can customize as you want to!  In addition to being flexible, it comes in pretty low cal.  Just 350 calories per serving (serves 4)!  Yum!
Sweet and Sour Shrimp:  (from Food Network)
  • 1 pound shrimp (or pork, or chicken)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Salt
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 3 tbsp ketchup
  • 3 tbsp sugar, plus a pinch
  • 3 tbsp peanut or vegetable oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 carrots, thinly sliced on the diaganol
  • 3 scallions, sliced
  • 3 cups snow peas
Toss shrimp with 1/2 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and a bit of salt in a bowl. 

Mix the remaining balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, cornstarch, ketchup, sugar, 1/3 cup of water and 1/2 tsp of salt in a bowl.  Wisk together. 

Heat a skillet on the stove using medium heat and a tbsp of peanut oil.  Add shrimp, sauteing lightly until opaque.  Remove with a spoon and set aside.  Wipe the pan clean with a paper towel.

Heat another tbsp of peanut oil in a pan.  Add garlic, pinch of salt and sugar.  Keep moving as to not over do the garlic.  When garlic is overdone, it gets a bitter taste.  Add carrots/sugar and stir fry until crisp-tender, 2 to 5 minutes.  Add shrimp, snow peas and soy sauce mixture.  Stir until the sauce thickens a bit.  Roughly 3 to 5 minutes.  I ended up adding a touch more of cornstarch to thicken it up a bit more.

Then I served over a bed of brown rice.  Optional of course for all you carb watchers!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

French Toast Awesomeness

The women on both sides of my family are blessed with SKILLS in the kitchen. Every holiday is a feast of goodness.

My mom bought me the church cookbook for Christmas, and many of the recipes are from her family. I have dog-eared many of the pages, and I can't wait to try many of the recipes.

Here is my aunt Pam's French toast recipe.

1/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter (one stick)
6 whole English muffins (12 halves)
8 oz cream cheese
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
8 oz cream cheese
Cool whip
Strawberries (or any fruit)

Start by combining the syrup, brown sugar, and butter in a pan. Boil and pour into a 9"x13" pan.

Next, spread the cream cheese between the English muffin halves. Put the slices together like a sandwich. Set these sandwiches on top of the syrupy layer in the pan.

Mix the eggs and the milk and then pour it evening over the English muffins.

Cover and refrigerate overnight. Then, bake at 350. The recipe called for 30 minutes, but mine took about 35 minutes. It's not cute at this point. :)Serve with strawberries (or any fruit of your choice) and cool whip. I like to flip the pieces over as I serve them. That way you get the syrupy goodness on the top like a typical piece of French toast.

It's even great as a leftover!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Blogger Event and Lessons on Food (in the office!)

What a fun few days we've had here! 

On Monday, I had the fabulous opportunity to attend the Boston Food Bloggers Launch Party at the Gallows in Boston's South End.  One of my goals in 2011 is to expand my circle and get to know others who share a love for being in the kitchen and food in general.  This was clearly the perfect event to do so.  I am not going to lie, this was my first meet up and I attended by myself, so I was really, really nervous.  I never had to be the "new kid" at school growing up, but I imagine that the anxiety I had before attending would probably be on par with how those strange new kids felt walking into new middle and high schools.  Luckily, I ran into Liz, a co-worker of mine, in line and she blessedly took me under her wing for the night to introduce me to new people!  We also ran into Summer and her husband.  It was fun getting to know your professional colleagues in a new light!  It was also great to meet some of the fabulous ladies behind so many of the blogs I read.

Being the ice cream crack fanatic that I am, I was happy to see SoCo Creamery at the event.  I obviously helped myself to the Espresso Cookie - which was hands down some of the better ice cream I have had lately. 

And yesterday, Chef German Lam came into the agency to talk to a group of us about clean eating.  I've made a similar comparison in the past - pretend each of us is a sports car.  Our performance depends on what sort of fuel you put into it.  (I happen to be a Audi: classy, sleek, practical.  Not a flashy Porsche, nor a ho-hum KIA.  Who doesn't want to drive an Audi?)  Therefore, if I want to run in optimal performance, I need to put higher octanee fuel into my engine.  Right?  

So what does that mean?  It means eating as cleanly as I can.  I try to stay away from processed foods. Most of my grocery store shopping is done in the produce section.  Many clean living supporters would say that that means eating organically as well.  I am starting to toe the line on organic foods.  I have been reading a bunch about sustainable fishing and the way in which meat is raised and about how much chemicals are in our food.  However, I live alone and I am on a budget, so therefore I have to find a balance.  Much of what German talked to us about reinforces the motto I have come to adopt into my life over the last six months.  If you prepare your own food, you have the choice of what goes into it. 

German has a bunch of food from Whole Foods on display and he challenged a couple of us to come up to the front and create our own dish.  So much of cooking is finding inspiration.  Unlike baking, which usually requires precise measurements in order to have the chemistry of the ingredients work, cooking is so flexible.  Recipes are merely guidelines, not something that is strict and unyielding.  I am finding myself getting more and more confident in the kitchen.  I can sub out ingredients.  I understand what the burn points are for oil and how that affects my food/cooking.  I am starting to get a sense of what each herb and spice brings to a dish.  I am becoming much much more confident in the kitchen, in only a matter of about six months.

Now remember.  I used to make Salmon, glazed in a store bought teriyaki with a side of Parmesan cous cous.  Absolutely nothing wrong with that, except now I can make glazes on my own and more tasty side dishes.

Of course, this one raised her hand to go up front and chef up a creation.  I took a bit of arugula, watercress and topped it with roasted yellow peppers, zucchini, tomatoes and a bit of mushrooms.  Topped that with a bit of pine nuts, crumbled feta, edamame, some grape seed oil and a few tears of mint.  I.  Love. Mint.  It just takes a dish to the next level.  This was so easy, really tasty and incredibly healthy fuel for you body.  Again, I came up with this on the fly. Cooking doesn't have to follow a recipe.  It can be just following your gut about what you think will taste great together.  Part of that comes from understanding food.

Couldn't help myself.  Just dug in.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Meat Update

I've mentioned before that I'm cutting back on meat. I started trying Meatless Mondays, and I've really liked it so far. I have definitely cheated, but I always make up for it with other meatless meals throughout the week. Honestly, I feel better, and I've noticed a change on the scale. It's been fun to eat balanced meals that do not include meat. I've enjoyed experimenting with beans and nuts.

Americans are consuming too much meat. This is one of the biggest reasons why I've tried to cut back on meat.

Meat in the news:

The good: USDA To Require Nutrition Labels On Meat

The bad: 200 dead cows found in Wisconsin field

Monday, January 17, 2011

And the winner is...

The winner of the CSN Stores giveaway is #3, Christine Anderson!! The winner was selected via

Christine's response was:

Congratulations, Christine. We will be contacting Christine to provide information on how she will access this gift card.

Thank you to all participants!

Stuffed Portabello Mushrooms

Happy Martin Luther King Day!  Hope you are all enjoying a day off! 

Vegetables, when done right, can be a meal in and of themselves.  I find that portobello mushrooms are a really filling and satisfying substitute for meat.  Tasty, low calorie, animal friendly - what's not to love?

Ricotta and Spinach Stuffed Portobellos (as adapted from Eating Well)
  • 4 large portobello mushroom caps
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup finely chopped fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped kalamata olives
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 3/4 cup prepared marinara sauce


Check out these beauties!  These are large portobellos that I picked up from Trader Joe's (LOVE that place!) I think they were 2 for $5 and each package contained either 2 large or 3 medium mushrooms.  Make sure you properly clean your portobellos - even in their gills - and then remove the stems at the base.  If you are careful, the stem will gentle tear from the base using your hands.  Pat dry and get as much water out of the gills as you can.

It's time to roast these beauties - 450 degrees, cap side up on a greased baking sheet for 20 to 25 minutes until tender.  I think mine only took approximately 15 minutes - my small oven is temperature finicky I guess. 
While those mushrooms are roasting, start mixing your ingredients.  Throw all ingredients, except the marinara, in a bowl and mix well. 


I am a sucker for a really really good marinara sauce - can eat it by the spoonful.  This one shown in the picture was a disappointment.   It was part of a 3 pack I bought at Costco a long, long time ago, when I actually had a membership.  It was a very tomato-y red sauce and it's flavors just didn't do it for me.  While I love making my own red sauces now that I know how easy they are, I don't turn my nose up at store brands.  I think some of Ragu's chunky sauces are excellent for a quick and easy night.  Don't judge me for that.
Side note on red sauces:  many, many years ago, I once wanted to cook a fancy dinner for a then-boyfriend.  If memory serves me correctly, I chopped up some green peppers and threw it in a saucepan with a jar of Prego.  Then I served over angel hair.  And probably put some of that green Parmasean cheese on it.  Of course the green peppers barely softened and cleared added nothing to the sauce.  SO FANCY.  I mean, who doesn't love crunchy green peppers in a jar of Prego?
Go ahead and judge me for that one!

Check on your portobellos.  I was sad to see mine had shrunk a fair amount while roasting, but that's to be expected.  They will probably be filled with water, so carefully tip each one over the sink to drain.  Be careful not to ruin the cap OR burn your hands.  Pat the tops dry with a paper towel.


 It's stuffing time!  Are you ready!?
Layer the mushroom caps with a bit of marinara and then a heaping thing of the spinach ricotta mix.  Don't be shy - fill 'er up!

 Now that's how you stuffed a mushroom cap!  Top each with remaining Parmesan cheese.
Finally, put back into the oven and heat for 10 minutes until heated thoroughly and the parm on top is lightly browned.

And VOILA!  Instant dinner!  This recipe made two servings.  One for dinner that night and one for lunch the next day. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Lasagna Soup Deliciousness

I have tried a ton of awesome soup recipes, and this lasagna soup recipe was definitely one of my favorites. It also made for AWESOME frozen leftovers which I was cautious about. I'm going to make it again this weekend when we are in northern Wisconsin.

I slightly modified this Lasagna Soup Recipe from an awesome blog, A Good Appetite. Go check out that blog. It's also on our list of "What we are reading.." on the right menu.

It seems like a lot of ingredients, but it's actually a lot of stuff that you probably already have.

1 lb hot Italian sausage (If you can handle it, otherwise wimp out and get the medium)
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 teaspoons of kosher salt
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
2 cups of crushed or diced tomatoes (I used some that I had leftover in the freezer)
2 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons sherry
1 cup milk
1/4 cup of grated Parmesan
1 cup ricotta
6 lasagna noodles

When I first made this recipe, I didn't have a Dutch oven. This week, I bought a Dutch oven, and I'm elated to use it in the future.

For this recipe, you certainly can use a Dutch oven, but you could also use a stockpot. Start by browning the sausage. After the sausage is browned, set it aside, but continue using the pot/Dutch oven for the next step. Toss in a little olive oil and tenderize the garlic and onions.
Then, add the oregano, basil, salt-n-peppa, and tomato paste. Cook these ingredients for a few minutes before adding the tomatoes. Simmer for 15 min.
In another big pot, start boiling water for the lasana noodles. Cool the noodles until your desired tenderness. I'm an al dente girl, but it's kind of irrelevant in a liquidy soup, especially when frozen. Drain the noodles.

Go back to the simmering mixture. Now, it's ready to be blended. My sister gave me an immersion blender for Christmas, and I can't wait to try it with this recipe! After this mixture is blended, put it back in a pot on low heat. Add in the chicken stock, sherry, and milk. Then, add the Parmesan and ricotta. This makes for an odd texture. At first I didn't like the texture, but I grew to love it. You'll want to melt these ingredients over the low heat, but they'll never total become smooth. The texture will always remain.

Finally, add the sausage and noodles.

Serve alone. I wouldn't add crackers or any garnishes to this soup. It's a meal in itself. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Homemade Coffee Liqueur

Love Kahlua or other types of coffee liqueurs?  Hate spending $20 for a bottle?  

Problem Solved with this tasty substitute.

Homemade Coffee Liqueur:
  • 4 cups brown sugar (or 2 cups brown sugar, 2 cups white sugar)
  • 3.5 cups of water
  • 1/2 instant coffee granules
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 750 mL of vodka. 

In a saucepan, combine sugars, water and instant coffee.  Bring to a low boil and allow to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring frequently.  

Remove from  heat, let cool completely.  Once it is cooled, stir in vanilla and vodka.  Pour into dark bottles and store in cool, dark place.

A few things about this recipe:
  • for a more Kahlua type taste (chocolate), add 2 tablespoons chocolate syrup to the sugar, coffee, water mixture
  • I struggled to find bottles that were appropriate for this - I bought vinegar from the grocery store (in various glass bottle shapes - 12 to 18 ounces) for approximately $1.50 each.  I drained, washed and sanitized.  
  • Then, I came across the genius idea to use wine bottles with twist off tops.  I thought this was a better option since I clearly love white wine - the bottles are definitely around my house.  Less wasting of the vinegar.
  • To remove labels, soak the bottles in extremely hot, soapy water for about 15 minutes.  Immediately start scrapping labels off using your fingers or the back of a butter knife.  The glue on the labels needs to be hot.  If it starts to get harder, just submerge in the hot water again.
  • The better the vodka, the better then liqueur.  With that being said, in my test batch, I used the most bottom shelf, cheapest stuff I could find and I still thought it was good.  For gifts this season, I used something mid range.
  • This recipe will make two wine bottles worth of coffee liqueur.  
  • You can use this to make White Russians - 1 ounce of vodka, 1 ounce of coffee liqueur, add while milk or cream as you prefer.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Giveaway from CSN Stores

My Kitchen, My Sanctuary readers,

We are pleased to announce the details of a giveaway!

CSN Stores have a boatload of kitchen gadgets, along with modern dining room furniture, and anything else your little heart could desire. Don’t you wish you had $25 to spend there? NOW you do!

Chop Chop! We don’t think onions would stand a chance in this thing! That, and it’s very pretty with it’s stainless steel exterior and its small nature.

A lucky reader will receive a $25 gift card to spend on anything you dream of at CSN Stores! This giveaway is funded by CSN Stores. To enter this drawing, please leave a comment listing items in your kitchen that you could not live without.

Only one comment should be submitted per person. Yes, we will check. The giveaway is open until Friday at noon CST. We will be using to randomly select a winner. A winner will be notified in a future blog post. The winner must have an address in the US or Canada.

Tell your family and friends!

Peace in the Kitchen!

Kelley & Amy

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sloppy Joes, with a Mexican Twist

It must be my midwestern roots, but I am a sucker for sloppy joes.  Both my mom and my stepmom make fabulous ones and I can eat them straight up - no bread required.  When I stumbled across this Mexican inspired Sloppy Joe recipe in an issue of Cooking Light, I was psyched.  I made these on a Saturday night... and less than 18 hours later, I had single-handedly eaten all of it.  I should probably be more embarrassed about this.  

But I am not.

Chipotle Sloppy Joes (modified from Cooking Light, March 2009)
  • 2 1/2 cups Vidalia or other sweet onions
  • 1 7 ounce can of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • 1 or 2 roasted red peppers
  • 1 teaspoon jalepeno peppers
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 cup chopped green pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 8 ounce can tomato sauce
  • buns or bread, as preferred.

Start by browning your ground beef.  Drain, pat dry to get rid of excess grease.

I think the base of every one of my recipes starts with either garlic or onions.  One of my top priorities over the next few weeks is to find something that will easily chop onions and garlic for me.  I'm sick of crying (onions) and I am sick of having fingers that consistently smell like garlic.

Saute your onions until browned as in the picture.  Add in celery and green pepper - saute for two minutes.  Add in chiles, red pepper, and jalapeƱos - saute for one minute.

In a saucepan, combine all ingredients and bring together until warm.  I simmered mine on low for about 20 minutes to really combine all the flavors.  Be sure to keep stirring constantly so that it doesn't burn to the bottom of the pan.

Now, let me show you the various ways in which I crushed this recipe:

Straight Up from the saucepan

On a multi-grain roll from Au Bon Pain

Open face for a low calorie option.

On warm tortillas - sort of like a taco.  With sour cream, pico de gallo, and chopped avocado.

Besides the last option - I didn't do anything too entirely exciting.  If I were serving to others, I might have topped with very thinly sliced onions on big delicious rolls.  There is a ton of flavor in these, so not too much else is needed.  

**BE SURE TO CHECK My Kitchen, My Sanctuary THROUGHOUT THE WEEK. LOOK FOR DETAILS ON AN EXCITING GIVEAWAY FROM CSN STORES! They have over 200 online stores where you can find everything from great cookware to kitchen appliances and cutlery to modern dining room furniture. More information will be revealed this week.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Grilled Beer & Cheese Sandwich

WARNING: This recipe may cause a dance party to occur in your kitchen. I challenge you to find the hyper-linked music video.

I was raised in Wisconsin, and I'm a huge sucker for CHEESE. I also don't mind a beer every now and again, in moderation of course. It leads to karaoke moments like this.

When I stumbled upon this recipe in Wisconsin Cheese Talk, I knew that I had to make it IMMEDIATELY.

I followed this recipe to a T.

First you have to make the bread. Don't worry. It's really easy, BUT if you don't want to make it from scratch, there are packets to buy from places like Tastefully Simple.

Ingredients for the beer bread:
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup sugar
12 oz beer
3 tablespoons butter

Preheat your oven to 350. Mix the baking powder, flour, salt & sugar. Add the beer. Stir. Shift the formed dough to your loaf pan. Melt your butter and pour it over the dough.

Bake for 35-40 minutes. Cool the bread.

Next, start making the delicious sandwich!

The ingredient sizes really depend on how many sandwiches you intend to make.

Ingredients for the sandwich:
Onion slices (to your preference, but for one sandwich I used about 1/3 cup)
A dash of oregano
Worcestershire sauce
Black pepper
Medium sharp Cheddar cheese
Fontina cheese
Dijon mustard
A olive oil & little butter

Start by slicing the onions. On medium head, add a drizzle of olive oil, the sliced onions, and some oregano to a frying pan. Throw in dashes of salt-n-peppa and Worcestershire sauce. P.S. I really struggle with pronouncing Worcestershire. Here's how you say it. Remove the onion mixture from the pan. Make sure that the pan is still greasy.

Spread some Dijon mustard and cheese on the bread. Add the onions. Put the sandwich pieces together. Try not to spill the pieces, and shift the sandwich to the frying pan. Grill until browned on both sides.

Eat and be merry!

**BE SURE TO CHECK My Kitchen, My Sanctuary THROUGHOUT THE WEEK. LOOK FOR DETAILS ON AN EXCITING GIVEAWAY FROM CSN STORES! They have over 200 online stores where you can find everything from great cookware to kitchen appliances and cutlery to modern dining room furniture. More information will be revealed this week.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

My first attempt at making hummus!

Do you have any vegetarian friends? I've noticed lately that most of my appetizer recipes are not vegetarian friendly. I decided to try making hummus for the first time. I'm glad that I made it because I quickly learned that it's one of the cheapest and easiest appetizers on earth! Also, I was able to add an ingredient to my repertoire: chickpeas. There are many synonyms for chickpeas -- garbanzo beans, Indian peas, Bengal gram, & ceci beans.

I encourage you to stop by How Sweet It Is. She has great food photos. That is where I found this super easy Peanut Butter Hummus recipe. It's the perfect introduction to making hummus.
(Don't zoom in on the PB. It expired in Nov. Whoops!)
Ingredients as listed on How Sweet It Is:
15 oz. can of chickpeas
2 tablespoons of peanut butter

1/4 cup of olive oil
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (plus some for garnish, optional)

Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Toss them into a food processor or blender. Ground until you can ground no more. Mine never got as fine as I would have liked, but later on in the process, it
became smooth. Have I mentioned that I loved having a food processor? It truly changed my life. Add the peanut butter, mix, and then slowly add a stream of olive oil as you are running the food processor or blender. Mix until it looks creamy. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix one more time.

Hummus should be served cool. I popped mine in the fridge for a bit. I served my hummus with bagel chips and carrots. I had some cilantro purchased for another dish; I used that as a garnish. Do you like cilantro? Or are you one of those people who think that cilantro tastes like soap? I need you to read this - NPR: Getting to the Root of the Great Cilantro Divide.

I'm looking forward to making more hummus recipes in the future.

Are you interested in going meatless for one day a week? Read here.

Want to make more vegetarian dishes? Click here.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Homemade Banana Ice Cream

You know those bananas you have laying around?  The ones that are past your preferential eating ripeness?  The ones you might otherwise waste by throwing in the garbage?  Maybe you're like me and you put those 'naners into the freezer for a later banana bread date.  Well, maybe you're also like me and you ate too much cheese and  drank far too much wine over the past few weeks.  Banana bread is not in your diet rotation right now, but you're still craving a bit of indulgence.  (a small bit of indulgence is critical when trying to shed a few pounds.)

Well, have I got a super easy treat for you!

It's as simple as this:

Take your frozen bananas out of the freezer.  

Defrost for 5 to 10 minutes.

Put them in a blender or food processor and grind 'em up.  You'll notice that I added two teaspoons of Dulce de Leche to my bananas.  It actually didn't add all that much flavor.  You could also add a tablespoon of peanut butter or a bit of honey if you want.  Or just do the bananas as they are.

Transfer to a bowl and snarf it up - tastes just like banana ice cream.  Except it doesn't have any added sugar and it's all natural.  It's low calorie.  It's guilt-free.  Divine.

You are welcome my friends. :)