Friday, March 29, 2013

Blueberry Muffin Cookies

My niece Abi turns 7 next week (as I learned when I forgot how to do math and she pointed it out to me!), so of course I had to include some birthday baking when I sent along her gift.  And this is a child who loves a blueberry muffin.  If it's on the menu, she'll order it,no need to think twice.  So as an ode to her favorite breakfast treat, I wanted to make a cookie version--one of my favorite things to do.   And this version is amazing!  A fluffy, tender, soft texture inside with a light sweetness.  Then you bite a blueberry and it just explodes, filling your mouth with that wonderful berry flavor.  Dave was amazed at how spongy these cookies turned out, nothing at all like a cookie, but very much like a muffin.  I hope Abi enjoys them as much as we did!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tortilla Crusted Chicken

Oooh, this is so good!  My favorite snack is chips and salsa and this is a legitimate dinner that encompasses both those things in a tasty chicken dish.  I've made this a few times and love that with a quick pan fry you can get a crispy coating on an otherwise baked chicken breast.  The coating is crunchy and perfectly seasoning, the chicken is juicy, and it served up with Mexican Rice and a salad you have a complete meal.  Topped with some fresh salsa and this chicken is just perfect!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Hearty Beef Stew

Winter just will not quit.  Supposedly we're getting some more snow today.  For a winter season that was slow to start, it's proved to hit New England with a vengeance in February and March.  I'm just hoping we don't get another April Fool's storm like we did a few years ago.  The moral of this story?  Even though it's technically spring, it's still the season for comfort food and this stew is exactly that.  I almost named this CSA Stew since it's chock full of beef, red and yellow potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and onions from a recent farm box.  And can we talk about how good the house smells while this cooks?   I put it on in the morning and when I came home from work, I couldn't get over how amazing and inviting the scents from the kitchen were as they wafted through the house.  Thick, perfectly seasoning, and probably the most delicious way to get your veggies, this stew will help you forget about the remaining foot of snow in your yard.  And warm you up from the frigid winds and cold night temperatures.  At least for a little while.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Tuna Mac & Cheese

I'm not a fish person.  I've tried several different kinds of seafood to no avail. I just can't wrap myself around it to enjoy the taste or the texture.  I typically don't even eat tuna, not in a deli-style tuna salad or anything like that.  But, from an early age, tuna macaroni and cheese was something I always enjoyed.  A little something different in this pasta dish to turn it into a complete meal.  Cheesy pasta with tuna mixed through makes this a hearty, delicious twist on comfort food.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Homemade Animal Crackers

Yes, you can make these at home, from scratch and still have them taste like the store bought cookies that come in the circus box.  Animal crackers are one of those treats that you don't realize how much you like them until you haven't had them in a while.  At my old job, they used to put out jars of candy, pretzels, nuts and animal crackers for an afternoon snack.  I couldn't resist grabbing a few of those little cookies when I had a chance.  Something about that almost but not quite vanilla flavor in a crisp cookie that just melts away.  And of course, the fun animal shapes don't hurt their appeal.  The great debate is how do you eat your animal crackers?  Do you bite off their feet so they can't run away, or bite the head so they can't talk back? However you eat them, this simple recipe will remind you how much you love this children's treat.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Stuffed Pepper Casserole

Dave and I both like stuffed peppers.  I usually make them in the crock pot, stuffing each individual pepper with a tasty, flavorful filling.  But inevitably when we sit down to eat them, the first thing both of us does is to cut it up into a big pile so each bite includes a hearty scoop of filling and a big chunk of pepper.  Kind of defeats the purpose of stuffing each of those peppers.  Enter this casserole.  The peppers are already cut up for you and the whole thing cooks together, covered in a generous helping of melted cheese and purely delicious.  It's a new twist on comfort food both warm and hearty and perfectly seasoned.  The peppers soften perfectly, the beef and rice provide great texture and flavor, and the sauce brings it together to make a great casserole to feed a small crowd.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Homemade Shamrock Shake

A few days early, but Happy St. Patrick's Day!  I didn't make any overtly Irish food this year because Dave and I are finally going on our honeymoon (only 3 1/2 years late) in May and we'll be headed to Ireland!  I'm looking forward to trying some different foods straight from the source, so I didn't want to ruin it by making my own, likely inaccurate, version first.  So to pay homage to the holiday, I whipped up a couple of frosty, creamy, minty dessert in just the right shade of green. This recipe is a great knock-off of the fast-food version of a shamrock shake, taking a thick and creamy vanilla milk shake and giving it a touch of mint and green for a little festive treat.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Sausage, Peppers & Onions

We're fans of sausage around here.  It's a great main meal alternative to chicken or beef and I like that you can make it into a simple sandwich or a dressy main dish.  This recipe for sausage incorporates peppers and onions in a chunky tomato sauce which is perfect on top of pasta.  We've made this dish a few times and this is definitely a recipe that makes me enjoy sausage more and more.  Alternatively to serving over pasta, you could leave the links whole and serve them on toasted rolls piled high with the sauce and veggies, maybe topped with a little cheese.  Yes, that really sounds good now.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Oatmeal Cookie Pancakes

Dave always gives me a hard time when I try to have dessert for breakfast.  Like if I say I want ice cream or cake at 8 am, he tells me that apparently those aren't appropriate breakfast foods.  Whatever.  So I was thrilled with this recipe that combined proper breakfast foods (oatmeal and pancakes) with my favorite type of dessert (cookies).  Hello?  Have you met me?  Of course I want a cookie for breakfast!  And these pancakes really do taste just like oatmeal cookies.  I love how nutty and sweet they are, loaded with oatmeal cookie essentials, like cranberries, cinnamon chips and nuts.  Plus they cook up fluffy and moist, like a really good pancake ought to.  Perfect and hearty, this breakfast will absolutely be gracing our brunch table again.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Polish Kluski (Drop Dumplings with Butter & Onions)

These little balls of tastiness were a Lenten staple in our house growing up. They are super quick to make, very tasty and use pantry staples.  My mom would often round out a fish dinner with these tasty dumplings that just get better with the addition of butter and onions.  While mine turned out a little plumper and bigger than hers, they still tasted perfect (although more butter always makes these even more delicious).  I have memories of watching my Mom whip these up to put a quick dinner on the table, so while it may seem unusual, these are comfort food to me.  I served these with tuna patties and salad for a last minute dinner and everything just felt right with the world.  A cross between a buttered noodle and an unfilled perogi, these dumplings remind me of home.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Roasted Winter Root Vegetables

The thing with a winter CSA in New England is that there are weeks when you are overrun with so many root vegetables that you might be overwhelmed at the idea of making a bunch of different dishes to use them all.  Sweet potatoes, beets, rutabagas, rainbow carrots, parsnips; the list goes on.  And while I'm learning to enjoy some of these new-to-me veggies, I don't necessarily want to invest a whole lot of time, effort, and energy into prepping something I don't know if I like yet.  I want to be able to taste the essence of these veggies the first time I make them.  Then, once I know I like them, I can experiment with  new cooking methods, seasonings, and dishes to incorporate them.  So these basic roasted winter veggies are a a perfect way to enjoy each vegetable in it's own flavor, but also use up a lot of different vegetables at once.  Perfectly seasoned and roasted to a crisp outside and fluffy soft inside, this recipe is a great way to just enjoy the bounty of winter.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Crock Pot Cheesy Potatoes

A perfect side dish!  Toss it together and forget it all day while these cheesy delights cook and are ready when you come home.  Perfectly tender, well-seasoned and lightly coated in a melty cheese topping, these potatoes pair well with chicken, pork, meatloaf or just about anything.  I actually ran two crock pots for this meal--one with a lovely chicken dish and the other cooking up these lovely gems for a hearty, complete meal that literally took 10 minutes to make.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Red Cabbage Coleslaw with Orange-Ginger Vinaigrette

I know coleslaw is traditionally a summer side dish, but we're starting to get closer to spring and the cabbage is ready now, so really, what's stopping you?  Colorful red cabbage speckled with pretty orange carrots and dotted with scallions makes this a perfect introduction for a bright, cheery spring.  The dressing is tasty, but I didn't think the ginger flavor shined through to really make it a ginger vinaigrette.  I'm sure that's because I used ground ginger, rather than fresh and probably didn't use enough of it.  But the orange juice and the cider vinegar provide a nice, bright and tangy flavor with a little sweetness from the honey.  The coleslaw pairs nicely with pork (we had it with pork chops, mashed potatoes and gravy), but I also topped a bowl of romaine with it for a lunch salad alternative and it was great.  I also think it would be tasty atop a pulled pork sandwich or a side for anything grilled.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Mexican Rice

Need a side dish to go with those tacos from last week?  Man, is this stuff good. It's not quite as perfect as the stuff we get at our favorite Mexican restaurant, but it's the closest I've come at home. The rice is a little sticky with lots of flavor thanks to onion, salsa and vegetable broth.  Toasting or sauteing the rice before adding the other ingredients opens up the flavor and I think it made a different in the texture.  A very quick dish to prepare, this a wonderful side to any Mexican dinner or when you just want to add a pop of flavor when you'd normally serve plain rice.  I have a hard time thinking of and following through with actually making them.  So that's why this week I'm bringing you a week's worth of side dishes to help you plan a complete meal, not just main dishes.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Baked Tacos

Holy. Crap.  We will never make tacos the "old"way again.  These were amazing.  The ground beef isn't just seasoned with taco mix, but refried beans and tomato sauce add a creamy texture.  Piled into shells and topped with cheese, these tacos then get baked up to perfection where the cheese gets melty and gooey and the shells soften just enough that they don't completely crack open on the first bite, letting all the taco fixin's inside plop out onto your plate.  Not only delicious, but these tacos would be perfect to make for a party taco bar--prefill the tacos with meat and cheese, then let guests gussy up their portable dish with taco sauce, sour cream, lettuce, tomato, onions, olives--whatever you fancy.