Friday, February 24, 2012

Deconstructed Lasagna

I have birthday brain.

Today is my Gram's birthday. Last month was Dad's birthday. Next month is my birthday. It's birthday madness I tell you!

My family has a fun tradition for birthdays. The birthday boy or girl gets to choose what to have dinner and  dessert. Growing up, my brother always had the same thing- Chili dogs, velvetta shells and cheese, and chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. Every June 26th we knew that was the plan.

For my birthday it was always the same thing as well- Daddy's Lasagna and angel food cake with vanilla frosting (the color of the frosting changed every year. The year I went with blue sorta freaked my aunts out...)

We never really figured out we could have requested to go to a restaurant to eat. But really, it didn't matter. It was our one day of the year to have a choice all to ourselves. And there was always something special about mom cooking your meal and dad baking your cake.

I still have the Pyrex mixing bowl set and hand mixer that was always used for birthday cakes. Even though I have a beautiful stand mixer, I still mix every birthday cake batter I make in the largest orange Pyrex bowl using that same hand mixer.

As we've gotten older, we have expanded the birthday supper to include an activity for the day. Last year I chose to go to The Okefenokee Swamp to see the gators. This year, we are going to Cumberland Island to see the wild horses and spend the day on the beach. My supper choice has yet to be determined, but I think I may just attempt to make a gluten free angel food cake or gluten free chocolate root beer cake. (Both of these recipes are from a pair of gluten free sisters who always make rockin' recipes.)

It's not my birthday, but I have had a hankering for some lasagna. The recipe I am sharing today is super easy. It's loaded with veggies and it's oh so delicious!

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Deconstructed Lasagna
Serves 5

8 oz gluten free pasta shells
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb lean ground beef
garlic salt, onion powder, pepper to taste
1/2 tsp dry Italian herbs
8 ounces sliced white mushrooms
1/4 cup beef stock
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes with Italian herbs, DO NOT DRAIN
1-2 TBS tomato paste
5 cups baby spinach
3/4 cup cottage cheese or ricotta cheese
1/8 cup shredded mozzarella

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain well. Set aside.

While the pasta is cooking- spray a large deep skillet with cooking spray. Saute onion, garlic, and beef. Once browned, add mushrooms. Add beef stock. Cover and simmer until mushrooms are tender- about 7-8 minutes.

Add tomatoes(with juice), tomato paste, and seasonings. Simmer, covered, 5 minutes. Add cooked pasta. Stir in spinach.

Dollop cottage or ricotta cheese over all. Sprinkle with mozzarella. Place lid on the pot and let warm through OR broil until the cheese is bubbly and golden.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Apple Bacon Pancakes

Imagine if you will, coming home after a long day of work. Your cute little menu board says it's breakfast for supper day. So you get the bacon out, grab your recipe for apple-bacon pancakes, and gather the rest of your ingredients.

You put the bacon in the oven to bake. Your bacon-loving spouse "magically" finds his way to the kitchen. You tell him to keep out of the bacon (just like the mom tells the dad to stay out of the turkey on A Christmas Story). You tell him what you are making for supper. What do you think his reply will be?

"YOU CAN DO THAT?! You are putting the bacon IN the pancakes?!"

Yes, yes you can. And it is delicious!

I found a recipe for apple-bacon pancakes and decided to adapt it to my gluten free lifestyle. They are. Amazing. They are sweet and savory. A perfect pancake in my little world.

You can easily use a traditional pancake batter in place of gluten free. The original recipe makes the pancakes from scratch, but I took the shortcut where I could.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures friends. Cheers!

Apple- Bacon Pancakes with Apple Cider Syrup
Makes 4-6 servings (About 12 pancakes)

1/2 cup apple cider
2 TBS brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp corn starch

1 batch  Namaste Gluten Free pancake mix, prepared according to the package*
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 medium apple, cored and diced small
4 slices center cut maple bacon, cooked and crumbled

To prepare the syrup: Whisk together the cider, brown sugar, lemon juice, and corn starch in a small pan. Bring to a simmer. Allow to cook 1-2 minutes until thickened. Set aside.

For the pancakes: Combine prepared pancake batter, baking powder, apple, and crumbled bacon. Ladle onto griddle over medium heat. Once the bottom is golden, flip and finish cooking. Repeat with remaining batter. (I can fit between 4-5 cakes on my griddle at time, I just pile them up on a plate and keep it covered with a clean towel until I'm ready to serve.)

Serve with warm apple cider syrup.

*One batch of this mix makes six 4 inch pancakes, but we are turning it into 12 of our apple-bacon cakes

Monday, February 13, 2012

Grilled Fish Tacos

I asked Jon what he wanted to eat this week. He thought about it for a minute and decided on... wait for it.... fish tacos.

I was a little surprised at his response. For years he as told me how much he is not a fan of fish. Then it was amended to not liking fish that tastes "fishy". Now, we are finally at the point where he enjoys fish. YAY!

So here I am, with a request for fish tacos. I have never so much as eaten a fish taco, let alone cooked one. I must admit, the concept was difficult for me to wrap my head around. Keep in mind I have made beef, chicken, and black bean tacos. But never have I ventured into a seafood version.

I had to go in search of a recipe. Most of the versions I found involved battering and deep frying the fish. I just don't roll that way folks. I just can't bring myself to deep fry anything. It's too unhealthy for my liking. So I continued my hunt for the perfect first time fish taco recipe. After a little more searching, I came across a grilled fish taco recipe and I knew it was the right one for us.

I was excited because it used fish I haven't tried before. The recipe calls for mahi-mahi or Pacific halibut. I was unable to find mahi-mahi, which was my first choice. So we opted for another fish we hadn't ever used- cod. I knew it was a firm fish and thought it would be good for grilling.

Once we came to taco night, it was very cold out. Like low 20's with wicked winds. I wasn't feeling like grilling in the chilly elements so I opted to broil the fish instead. Though it didn't have the smokey flavor from grilling, the overall taste was fantastic. Between the spice rub and the cool, crunchy, lime-spiked coleslaw, these tacos are made to satisfy both your tummy and your taste buds.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Grilled Fish Tacos
3 servings, 2 tacos each

2 tsp chili powder
1 TBS lime juice
1 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 pound mahi-mahi or Pacific halibut  1/2-3/4 inch thick, skinned and cut into 4 portions

Lime-Spiked Coleslaw

1/8 cup sour cream
1/8 cup mayonnaise
1/2 tsp  lime zest
1 TBS lime juice
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 1/2 to 2 cups finely shredded red or green cabbage

6 corn tortillas

To prepare fish: Combine chili powder, lime juice, oil, cumin, onion powder, garlic power, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Spread the spice rub all over fish. Let stand 20 to 30 minutes for the fish to absorb the flavor.

To prepare slaw: Combine sour cream, mayonnaise, lime zest, lime juice, sugar, salt and pepper in a medium bowl; mix until smooth and creamy. Add cabbage and toss to combine. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat grill to medium-high.

Spray a sheet of aluminum foil with cooking spray and set on the grill rack. Grill the fish until it is cooked through and easily flakes with a fork, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer the fish to a platter and separate into large chunks.

To warm your tortillas: wrap 6  tortillas in barely damp paper towels; microwave on High for 30 seconds. Wrap tortillas in a clean towel to keep warm.

To serve, layer grilled fish, slaw and your favorite taco toppings on a warmed tortilla.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Braised Beef & Mushrooms

Lately, I have been hanging out on a website called Eating Well. They have hundreds of delicious, healthy, filling meals to choose from.

One thing that caught my eye right away was braised beef & mushrooms. I love cooked mushrooms and I adore a good tender beef that has been slow cooked. They way it melts in your mouth is magical. Yea, I said magical.

My parents came over for supper this evening and I decided it was a perfect time to test out this dish. Yes, I am one of those cooks- a cook who isn't afraid to try something new on company. Mind you that I am very careful about what I choose to try out on my guinea pigs, I mean my guests. I always read the reviews and make adjustments as needed. I'm glad I took the risk on this one kids!

It was a hit. It was very flavorful and satisfying. I served it over mashed potatoes with a side of fresh sugar snap peas.

This will definitely be in my "company worthy meal" file. Even the pickiest eaters will dig this dish. My husband who claims to not like mushrooms cleaned his plate without a single complaint. That, is a winning dish in my book!

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Braised Beef & Mushrooms
Serves 5-6

1 TBS olive oil
2 cups diced sweet onion
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 TBS tomato paste
1 TBS sweet paprika
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
2 lbs chuck roast, cut into 1 1/2 in cubes
1 tsp salt
pepper to taste
8 oz button mushrooms
8 oz portobello mushrooms
1/2 cup beef stock
splash of red wine- optional
2-3 tsp fresh minced tarragon or dill to garnish

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large skillet, saute onions and garlic in olive oil until translucent and beginning to brown. Remove from heat. Stir in all remaining ingredients except fresh tarragon or dill.

Transfer meat and mushroom mixture into a large casserole dish with a tight fitting lid. Bake for 2 1/2 hours until meat is very tender.

Remove from oven and let sit for 15 minutes undisturbed. Skim off visible fat.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat and mushrooms to a holding dish and keep warm. Pour remaining juices into a skillet. Simmer until reduced by half.

Return meat to the casserole dish. Pour reduced juices over all. Sprinkle with fresh tarragon or dill. Serve with mashed potatoes or buttered noodles.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Creamy Spinach and Artichoke Dip

We love the Superbowl around here. There's the game, the commercials, and... the eats!

This year we had super easy cocktail weenies, spinach and artichoke dip, pecan crusted cheese ball, raw veggies, and peanut butter rice crispy bars. All our little eats came together very quickly. They were perfect game day treats.

Last year I tried a spinach and artichoke dip that was, well, a little lack luster. I was so bummed. I was determined to make a spectacular dip this year. I scoured the copycat websites, blogs, and recipe collection sites. Then I checked where I should have in the first place- my cookbooks. And there it was- Creamy Spinach & Artichoke Dip (Delish!). I don't recall where I acquired this recipe, but I apparently thought it was "delish" since I had hand written it into the title!

The recipe called to be baked in the oven for 30 minutes, but I really didn't want to turn on the oven and heat up the house. Instead, I mixed everything together in my crock pot insert Saturday. I had Jon pop the insert into the crock on Sunday. When I got home from work it was creamy, bubbly, and ready to go.

From the very first bite, I knew it was a winner. Jon even took a break from his beloved little smokies to enjoy some chips and dip.

We had some leftover dip that I will be re-purposing as a sauce over chicken and pasta. I am looking forward to revisiting the bold flavors in new dish.

Hope you all had a tasty and enjoyable Superbowl Sunday 2012!

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Creamy Spinach & Artichoke Dip
Crock Pot

7 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed- DO NOT DRAIN*
3 large handfuls of  fresh spinach, chopped*
1 14 oz can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 cup parm-ramano cheese mix (I used the grated variety)
½ cup mozzarella
12 oz prepared alfredo sauce**
1 TBS minced garlic
5-6 oz soft cream cheese
½-1 tsp onion powder
black pepper

Mix all ingredients into a crock pot insert.

Cover with saran wrap and let sit overnight in the fridge. 

Remove insert from fridge. Take the saran wrap off and place the lid on the dish. Place the insert into the crockpot. Heat on low for 2 hours, stirring once after about an hour.   

Thicken with a small amount additional Parmesan if needed.

Serve with tortilla strips.

* You may use 10oz frozen, thawed spinach in place of the combined fresh and frozen spinach. 

 **A quick note about this recipe: it is not gluten free by nature. If you are gluten free, be sure to check your ingredients carefully. If you can't find a prepared gluten free alfredo sauce, look for a gluten free alfredo sauce mix. Prepare it according to the package directions and proceed with the recipe.