Almond-Crusted Asparagus

March 28, 2012

I buy asparagus just about every week. It’s one of my main go-to vegetables, so I’m always trying to come up with new ideas for it. This week I decided to whiz up some sliced almonds for a crunchy coating and it came out very nicely!

Almond-Crusted Asparagus

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed

1 cup sliced almonds

1/8 teaspoon ground dry mustard

1/8 cup panko

salt and pepper to taste

1 eggs

1/8 cup skim milk

Lemon wedges (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Place the almonds, dry mustard, panko, salt and pepper in the food process and process until very fine. Transfer it to a plate. Mix the egg and milk in a bowl long enough to fit the asparagus stalks. Dip the asparagus into the egg mixture, then into the almond mixture and place on the baking sheet. Spray the asparagus with cooking spray. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the asparagus is as tender as you like it and the coating is browning.  If you like, serve with lemon wedges to squeeze over the asparagus.

It was easy and very tasty. I really liked the taste of the almonds with the asparagus.


Creamed Onion Soup (or I Made My Kids Cry)

February 15, 2012

Are you sensitive to onions cooking? It doesn’t bother me at all. I can slice and cook onions all day without shedding a tear. I must be a weird genetic mutant, but any time I cook any amount of onion, my kids stagger into the kitchen with tears running down their faces, practically sobbing “Are you cooking onions?!” I turn on the exhaust fan and open the window (yes, even in February) but nothing much seems to help. I tortured them yet again to make this recipe. They will tell their therapist about this when they are older.

There’s a recipe for Onion Bisque in the March issue of Bon Appetit from Le Petite Grocery in New Orleans that I just had to try (even if it made my kids cry). I am a big, huge, giant fan of French onion soup, but I find it hard to eat with the bread and cheese – too complicated. This recipe purees the soup which solves that problem. I’ve adapted it, so here’s my version:

2 tbsp olive oil

3 large sweet onions, peeled and sliced thinly

4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

1 teaspoon dried thyme

3 cups chicken broth

3 cups beef broth

3 slices day old whole wheat bread

3 slices Swiss cheese

Heat the oil in a large wide pot over medium low and add the onions. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring often. Add the garlic and cook another 20 minutes, stirring until onions are a deep golden color. Add the thyme and broths and bring to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Turn off heat. Add the bread and cheese to the pot and let it sit for about 10 minutes until the bread is mushy and the cheese is softened. Use a hand blender and puree the soup. Reheat to just barely boiling and serve. Serves 4-6.

It was fan-friggin-tastic. Creamy and smooth and so deeply flavorful it made me moan. The bread thickens it nicely and you get all the flavor of traditional French onion soup without the stringy cheese mess or trying to hack up the bread with your spoon. I’ll be making it this way from now on (tears be damned).


Martha Mondays: Brie and Ham Sandwich

February 13, 2012

Ana at Sweet Almond Tree chose Brie and Ham Sandwich for this week. It was definitely an easy recipe, that’s for sure. I ended up wrapping mine in parchment and putting them in the oven to heat them up and melt the cheese. I also used a ciabatta baguette, which is a little flatter and softer than the baguettes in my store, which I find nearly impossible to bite into. I thought it was fine, but not up to the complicated standard most of Martha’s recipes reach! I felt like it just cried out for something more. Maybe a slice of tomato or a tiny bit of raspberry preserves, just something to make it interesting and different. Not that I didn’t enjoy it  – I did and so did Mr. MarthaAndMe, who was raised on what his mother calls “hot ham sandwiches.”

We’re taking a break for next week, and I’ll be choosing our project for 2/27 which I will post soon.


Challah

January 11, 2012

In the winter I usually take on a baking project each weekend. This past weekend I decided to make challah, which probably should count as a dessert, not a bread! It was delicious and made two giant loaves. I use a recipe I adapted from fellow writer Lynne Meredith Schreiber:

Dissolve 2 1/2 tablespoons yeast in 1 cup warm water with 1 tablespoon sugar. Allow to proof for about 10 minutes.

To this add:

1 cup warm water

1 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon salt

4 eggs

1 1/4 cup sugar

7 cups bread flour

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

Knead for 5 minutes then place in a greased bowl and allow to rise for 2 hours. Divide in half and then divide each half into thirds. Roll these out like logs that are about 2 feet long. Place 3 of them on a baking sheet and smush one end together. Braid the three pieces and smush the other end. Do the same with the other 3 logs. Allow to rise about an hour. Brush with an egg wash and bake at 325 for  30-40 minutes, rotating shelves and direction of the pans, until light golden brown and the bread feels cooked in the center when you touch it.

This is enough for 4 meals for my family of 4. I think in the future I might make it into 4 smaller loaves, so you can definitely try that as well.


Scallops with Citrus Sauce

December 14, 2011

This is a recipe I make very often because it’s just so easy, but it also tastes really complex like you spent a lot of time on it!

I start with making the sauce. In a saucepan combine 1/2 tbsp butter, 1 cup orange juice, salt and pepper to taste, 1 tbsp tamari or soy sauce and 1 tbsp lemon juice. Bring to a boil then reduce to medium and cook until it is reduced to a syrupy sauce, about 15-20 minutes. Set aside.

I use about 12 sea scallops for this one. In the summer I like to grill scallops, but in the winter, I pan fry them. When you cook scallops you want to first make sure you rinse them well to get rid of grit. Then you want to peel off the little muscle on the side. Then it’s very important to completely dry them so they will caramelize.

For this recipe, I get the pan very hot and melt 1/2 tbsp butter and 1/2 tbsp olive oil. Then I drop in the scallops (which have been seasoned with salt and pepper). Be sure you have a big enough pan, so there is about an inch or so between the scallops. If you don’t, they will boil in their juices instead of caramelizing. Cook about 2-3 minutes, then flip. Cook until cooked through, another 2-3 minutes.

Remove the scallops and pour the sauce into the scallop pan. Heat the sauce, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom. Serve with the scallops. This is good served over rice too.


Chicken With Balsamic Pears

December 2, 2011

I recently made this as a spin on the recipe in October Everyday Food for Turkey with Balsamic Pears. Instead of the turkey, I used 4 small chicken breasts. This recipe seemed to take forever to make! I guess there were just a lot of steps and different combos to cook at different times. It turned out nicely though. If  I made this again, I think I would cook the chicken only about halfway first, then I would add it back in when I added the pears, so that the flavors of the sauce could permeate the chicken more. I might even marinate the chicken in the broth/balsamic/mustard mix for a bit.

I really enjoyed having pears in a completely different way. It was a nice fall meal.


Sweet Potato Muffins

November 22, 2011

We first enjoyed sweet potato muffins when we were in Colonial Williamsburg, where we stopped for a weekend before we headed to Hilton Head for a family vacation several years ago. We had a great time, except for how dang hot it was. I ended up buying a giant straw hat just to stop the sun from burning my face, shoulders and neck (even with sunscreen on). My husband bought a refillable mug and kept getting it reloaded with root beer to stay cool.

We love living history museums and this was a great one, except there was a LOT of walking, which is not so much fun with kids in the heat. We spent two days here and saw a witch trial, took a ghost tour, explored the governor’s palace and visited many working period shops in the “town” and petted some farm animals. My daughter declared that Patrick Henry was her hottie after passing him on the street where he was proclaiming “give me liberty or give me death.”. She came home with a tricorn hat to remember the experience.

We stayed at the Williamsburg Woodlands hotel in a nice little two room suite, which was like a lovely little Poconos-type resort with a game room, a mini golf course in the woods, and lots of green space. One night we dined at Christiana Campbell’s Tavern, a tavern George Washington often visited. This is where we had the muffins, and all of us enjoyed them immensely. After we came home, I hunted down a recipe and found it online somewhere (the tavern used to hand out the recipe to diners).  I do this a lot when we travel – enjoy something and come home to learn how to make it myself.

I have tweaked the recipe a bit over the years and it remains a family favorite, perfect for fall, and for Thanksgiving! Serve with honey butter.

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 stick of butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 cup cooked mashed sweet potatoes/yams (about one yam)

1/2 cup skim milk

optional: 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and spray 12 regular size muffin tins with cooking spray (I use silicone tins). Beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add in eggs, yam, and milk and mix completely. Add flour, baking powder, salt, and spices and mix until completely combined. If  using pecans, stir them in. Divide among muffin tins and bake for 20-25 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.

Honey Butter

Mix 1 tablespoon honey with 4 tablespoons butter in a food processor. You can also use maple syrup instead of honey.


Quick and Easy Cider Chicken

November 16, 2011

I was making a really quick dinner recently but was just craving something that felt slow cooked. I came up with this moist, delicious chicken recipe that has a cider infused gravy. It was fantastic (yes, there was fighting over it at the table). Serve with some mashed or oven roasted potatoes (which will taste great with the gravy!).

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts

1/4 cup cider

1/8 teaspoon onion powder

1/8 teaspoon rosemary

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 tbsp butter

2 tsp Wondra

1/4 cup chicken broth

Preheat oven to 400 and spray a small glass baking dish. Place the chicken breasts in it and pour cider over them. Sprinkle onion powder, rosemary, salt and pepper on chicken and dot with butter. Bake for 25 minutes until the breasts are cooked (165 degrees with a meat thermometer). Remove the breasts and heat the pan over a burner. Whisk in Wondra and broth until thick. Serve over chicken.

Super simple, but with a very complex flavor!


Pumpkin Pancakes

November 9, 2011

I love cooking with pumpkin. Pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin muffins are in my fall and winter rotation. Sunday mornings are when we have our “big breakfasts” at my house – pancakes, waffles, or French toast with bacon and/or sausage. It’s infinitely complicated because some people need their bacon practically raw, while others prefer it very, very well done. Mr. MarthaAndMe always has bacon duty and it is a toss up if it will burn – we buy organic uncured bacon which somehow goes from raw to black in the microwave in an instant. Don’t get me started on the sausage either. We have to make two kinds – those frozen little ones and fresh apple maple chicken sausages – to please everyone.

Pancakes aren’t always a slamdunk. Plain goes over well, as do my oatmeal pancakes. Mr. MarthaAndMe and I like blueberry pancakes and I adore buckwheat pancakes, but the kids won’t touch them. I would never in a million years eat chocolate chip pancakes but the kids love them. So, you can see that breakfast isn’t a simple task.

This past Sunday I decided to put together some pumpkin pancakes, thinking that everyone would eat them since the kids love anything with pumpkin. Silly me. Dude Martha complained that he liked pumpkin, just not in his pancakes, and would not try them. 3 out of 4 of us did eat it and loved it.

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 flour

1 egg

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup pumpkin puree (from a can)

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ginger

pinch nutmeg

Mix and cook on a griddle or in large pans that have been sprayed with cooking spray. Try to spread the batter out when you pour it. If the pancakes are very thick, they take much longer to cook through. Makes 10-12 pancakes. Serve with maple syrup.


Stuffed Acorn Squash

November 2, 2011

There was a recipe for stuffed acorn squash in October Everyday Food. I was interested, but didn’t like the stuffing, so I decided to make my own.

1 acorn squash

2 ounces pancetta

1/2 cup diced sweet onion

1/4 teaspoon thyme

salt and pepper

2 cups of packed kale leaves

2 slices whole wheat bread, torn into 1 inch pieces

2 tablespoons cream

1 tablespoon chicken broth

1/4 cup shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese

Preheat oven to 350. Cut the squash in half and scoop out seeds. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for an hour and 15 minutes, until the squash is soft.

Cook the pancetta. Remove it, leaving the drippings. Cook onion over medium high heat until soft and translucent (about 3-4 minutes). Add thyme, salt and pepper. Stir in kale, reduce heat to medium and cover for about 3 minutes, until kale is softened. Stir in bread, cream, broth, pancetta, and cheese and stir until combined. Stuff into squash and bake at 400 for 10 minutes until slightly browned on top.

I really liked this. I like acorn squash to begin with, but this added color and flavor to it in a big way. You don’t even realize it has kale in this (good if you have kids). The pancetta and cheese add a lot of nice flavor to it. Definitely something worth making!


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