Thursday, December 18, 2014

Bacon and Butternut Squash Risotto

Roasted butternut squash and crispy bacon are paired with creamy risotto to create one ridiculously delicious dish!

I used to be intimidated by risotto and I think many others are, too. People have often said that they only eat it in restaurants because they can't make it at home. That stops today! Risotto is very easy, it just takes some time and a little patience. And your family will be so impressed!

Winter squash is so tasty and butternut is probably my favorite. When roasted and pureed in a risotto, it's practically magical. And then add bacon? You'll be licking the bowl.

Easy enough for a weeknight, fancy enough for company.

Bacon & Butternut Squash Risotto
2.5 cups diced butternut squash (about 1 medium squash)
Extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Honey, for drizzling
8 slices thick cut bacon, diced
4 cups chicken stock + 2 cups water
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1.5 cups Arborio rice
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400.

Place squash on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and honey. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Arrange in a single layer and roast until tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer half of the squash to a food processor and puree with a little water or stock. Set aside both the pureed squash and the remaining roasted squash.

While the squash roasts, heat stock and water in a saucepot over medium-low heat. 

In a deep pan, or a dutch oven, cook diced bacon until crispy, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from pan with slotted spoon and set aside. Drain off all but 2 tablespoons bacon grease.

Add the onions and garlic to the grease and cook until softened, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the wine and deglaze the pan wtih a wooden spoon unitl the wine evaporates. Add the rice and toast, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. 

Add a few ladles of the warm stock/water to the rice and stir until all the liquid has been absorbed. When the rice looks almost dry, add another few ladles of stock. Repeat until the rice is creamy and al dente. It should take 18-20 minutes total and may not use all the reserved stock.

Stir in the squash puree, bacon, and Parmesan. Taste for seasoning. Serve in shallow bowls with reserved roasted squash and additional grated cheese over top. 

Source: adapted from Rachael Ray

Monday, December 15, 2014

Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup

All the flavors of chicken enchiladas - in soup form! Stocked full of chicken, beans, corn, and loads of cheese makes this soup easily a meal on it's own.

Now that it's dark around lunchtime (kidding...), I find myself becoming more of a hermit in the evenings. I don't want to run errands, shop, or even head out to dinner when it's so dark and cold outside. I'd much rather come straight home, start a fire in the fireplace, and eat dinner in front of our latest Netflix series addiction.

Come to think of it, those bears sure are onto something with their hibernation lifestyle!

Meals that are ready when I come home on a chilly dark night are my FAVORITE. Sure, I love cooking but my winter sloth-ness wins out if an appliance will do it for me.

This soup is perfect for long, cold, winter days. It's a little spicy, very chunky, and substantive enough to call it a full meal on it's own. Even the husband agrees! It's loaded with flavor, which I think is often missing in chicken enchilada soups. Definitely one of our favorite soups!

The stovetop prep will take you just 10 minutes to whip together before transferring it to the crockpot. Worth the 10 minutes - promise!

Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 cups milk
1 can (15 ounce) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14.5 ounce) diced tomatoes and green chiles
1 bag (10 ounce) frozen corn
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 can (10 ounce) enchilada sauce
1 pound boneless/skinless chicken breasts (around 2 breasts)
1 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir in the flour and stir until smooth and bubbly. Remove from heat and add the chicken broth and 1/2 cup milk, a little at a time, stirring to keep smooth. Return to heat and bring the sauce to a gentle boil. Cook, stirring occasionally until thickened.

In a large bowl, whisk together the enchilada sauce and chicken broth mixture. Gradually whisk in the remaining milk until smooth. Set aside.

In the crockpot, combine the drained beans, diced tomatoes and their juices, corn, and onion. Place the chicken on top of the mixture and then pour in the sauce.

Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. When ready to serve, remove the chicken and shred. Add it back to the soup and mix well.

Serve each bowl topped with cheese.

Source; slightly adapted from So Tasty So Yummy

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Fried Brussels Sprouts with Pecans and Capers

Brussels sprouts are deep fried alongside parsley and capers and then tossed in dressing of honey, anchovies, red wine vinegar, garlic, pecans, and more! Salty, sweet, tangy, and ridiculously delicious. Perfect for Christmas dinner!

I find food trends so interesting! You can go back through old cookbooks - especially those with recipes submitted by home cooks - and easily spot what the food trend of that time period was. That's why old church cookbooks are so fascinating! I probably wouldn't cook a single dish shared but I read it with such interest... and occasionally amusement :)

Kale, macarons, quinoa, and sriracha, have seemed to all peak in recent years. I've recently noticed a surge in cronuts, juices and smoothies, and BRUSSELS SPROUTS! If you hop on Pinterest and search for them, a bajillion recipes come up. Since I think they're a deliciously tasty veggie, I'm totally okay with the trend.

This recipe is actually not new - matter of fact, I made it for my dad 4 or 5 years ago and it changed his mind on Brussels sprouts! The ingredient list seems very odd, I know, but Chef Symon knows what he's doing. It all ends up so perfect! Even the anchovies (which I know many of us respond with 'ewww' when asked about them) give a umami quality to the dressing that is a must. The anchovies completely dissolve into the dressing and do not give a fishy taste at all.

This is the perfect green veggie to add to your Christmas spread!

Fried Brussels Sprouts with Pecans & Capers
Vegetable oil, for frying
1 clove garlic, minced
4 anchovy fillets, rinsed and minced
1 serrano chile, seeded and minced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
2 scallions, thinly sliced on the bias
1/2 cup pecan pieces, toasted
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
2 cups loosely packed flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and patted dry
salt and pepper

In a heavy bottomed pot, pour enough oil to come around 3 inches up the side of the pot. Heat oil to 350.

In a large bowl, whisk together the garlic, anchovies, serrano, vinegar, honey, scallions, pecans, and olive oil. Set aside,

Once the oil is hot, deep fry the sprouts in batches until the edges begin to curl and brown, about 3 minutes a batch. To the last batch, add the parsley and capers and let fry for about a minute. Remove each batch using a slotted spoon and place directly in the dressing bowl. Toss to coat and add salt and pepper to taste.

Recipe: adapted from Michael Symon

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Overnight Ham and Cheese Strata

Cubed bread is tossed with eggs, milk, ham, and loads of cheese before refrigerating overnight. The next morning, just pop the pan in the oven and bake! Perfect for Christmas morning!

To say I'm not a morning person would be the understatement of the century. So, in my house, breakfast isn't commonplace. Even if I am up early, the last thing I want to do is cook - much less talk to another human! On holidays, though, things are relaxed and lazy and begging for brunch.

I don't know how it is in your circle but in ours, holiday meals are typically later than normal lunch times. Say, anytime between 1pm-3pm. Which means breakfast is a must!

An overnight strata is the perfect breakfast for me because you make it the night before. First one up (I'm looking at you, husband) gets the honor of throwing it in the oven and setting the timer.

This is super cheesy, just like we like it!

Amounts below are for a very large portion - easily serving 10 people. I halved it and we still had lots leftover!

Overnight Ham & Cheese Strata
10 eggs
3 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
14 cups cubed Italian bread
2 cups cubed, cooked ham
2.5 cups sharp cheddar cheese, divided
3 cloves garlic, minced

Lightly coat a 9x13 pan with cooking spray and set aside.

In a (very) large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, and pepper. Stir in the cubed bread, ham, 1.5 cups cheddar, and garlic and gently stir until well combined. Transfer to the prepared pan and top with remaining 1 cup cheddar. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, remove the pan and let sit while you preheat the oven to 350. Bake until set, about 1 hour. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Baked Gnocchi with Bacon, Tomato, and Mozzarella

Simple comfort in one pot! Bacon, tomatoes, and gnocchi are topped with thick slices of mozzarella and baked until hot and gooey. This guest worthy meal is weeknight easy!

One of my biggest Pinterest pet peeves is the overuse of "best" - the "best" chocolate chip cookies, the "best" meatloaf, the "best" iced coffee. Claiming your recipe is the best of all is off-putting in so many ways (not to mention a completely arbitrary measurement!). I know why some bloggers resort to that - it greatly increases their pins and page-views resulting in more income. But I still don't have to like it :)

So bear with me while I claim this recipe to be one of the very best dinners we eat. Yup, I've made it several times and the entire pot was gone before a photo could be taken. I practically guarded this bowl with my life so I could finally snap a (really not impressive) photo. Y'all, hiding under that thick layer of mozzarella is pure joy.

It's creamy, and tomatoey, and gooey, and is peppered with thick cut bacon and pillows of gnocchi that just melt in your mouth. It's what you want to eat after a stressful day. Or when it's freezing outside and you had to shovel your driveway. Or when you have company coming and need something to impress. Or, you know, you just need some bacon in your life.

Will you think it's one of the best? I don't know. I hope so, though.

I know it doesn't look/sound like much but something magical happens in that pot and this tomato-hating-girl is drooling just rereading the recipe.

I think we'll have it again this weekend :)

Baked Gnocchi with Bacon, Tomato, and Mozzarella
8 slices thick cut bacon
1 pound store bought gnocchi
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon paprika
1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes with their juices
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 cup coarsely chopped parsley
12 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
salt and pepper to taste

Spread the bacon out on a foil lined baking pan. Place in a cold oven, set temperature to 400, and let bake for 18-20 minutes or until crispy. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate to cook slightly and then crumble. Keep oven on.

In a large oven safe pot, bring a pot of water to boil and cook the gnocchi for 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Return pot to heat and add 1 tablespoon oil. Quickly fry the garlic and paprika for 30 seconds. Add the diced tomatoes, grape tomatoes, tomato paste, and sugar. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cream, parsley, salt, and pepper. Stir in the cooked gnocchi and crumbled bacon. Top with sliced mozzarella and bake for 10 minutes.

Source: adapted from Simply Delicious

Monday, December 1, 2014

Roasted Butternut Squash Hummus

Roasted butternut squash is blended with traditional hummus ingredients to create a super creamy and slightly sweet twist on a classic. The perfect appetizer for your holiday party!

I can't believe it's already December! I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving holiday. We had a great meal with some good friends (our family is 1100 miles away), watched lots of movies, did some online shopping, and started decorating the house for Christmas.

Just because the calendar turned December (and therefore "winter") I refuse to stop chowing down on fall bounty - especially squash! Look out - I have several more fall-ish recipes coming your way. Butternut squash is still readily available right through the Christmas holidays so this would be the perfect addition to your appetizer spread. Especially since you can make it ahead of time in just minutes!

Roasted Butternut Squash Hummus
1.5 cups cubed butternut squash (1 inch cubes) 
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided (plus more if needed)
2 tablespoons tahini, stirred well
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon smoked hot paprika
2 tablespoons lemon juice
10 pitted green olives (with pimento is fine)
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400. Place the squash on a baking pan, drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, and pepper to toss to coat. Spread in an even layer and roast for 25-30 minutes, turning once with a spatula, until squash is tender and cooked through. Allow to cool slightly.

In your food processor, combine the roasted squash, tahini, chickpeas, garlic, paprika, lemon juice, green olives, and black pepper. Process for 15 seconds. Stop, scrape sides, and process again for 15 seconds, drizzling in the olive oil as it runs. Taste and add salt and more pepper if needed. Process until desired smoothness, adding more olive oil if needed.

Serve drizzled with additional olive oil.

Source: inspired by Whole Foods

Monday, November 24, 2014

Pork Schnitzel

Tender pork cutlets are quickly dredged, pan fried, and served with a creamy dill sauce. Take a break from the endless chicken dinners and put some pork chops to use! This easy family friendly one pan meal is on the table in 30 minutes or less.

Judging by the crowds at Costco this weekend, many of us are making preparations already for Turkey Day. The week of Thanksgiving (or any food centered holiday) is a rough one for meal plans. The last thing you want to do is destroy your kitchen, or stand at the stove for long periods of time, but you also don't want to eat 3 nights of take-out!

Unlike most food bloggers this week, I'm not sharing a Thanksgiving-appropriate dish. Instead, I'm sharing the perfect Thanksgiving week dinner. It's fast, uses no oven, and dirties just one pan!

This is one of my favorite pork dishes. I'm not a huge pork chop fan but this recipe is the exception. It's thin, crispy, and cooks up fast and I LOVE dill so the creamy dill sauce is like the icing on top! When I had this dish at a German restaurant in Fredericksburg, TX, it was served alongside spaetzle so I usually follow suit when we make it at home.

I originally shared this recipe over 2 years ago and it deserved a revisit!

Pork Schnitzel
4 boneless pork chops
1/4 cup flour
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 cup panko
1 teaspoon ground paprika
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1.5 cups chicken stock
4 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
1 cup sour cream
salt and pepper to taste

Place the pork chops between two sheets of wax paper and pound to a 1/8 inch thickness. Trim fat from around the edges and make a cup of small slits in the center of each piece to avoid curling during cooking.

In a shallow bowl, add the flour along with some salt and pepper. In another shallow bowl, whisk together the egg and milk until frothy. In a third shallow bowl, mix together the panko and paprika. 

Dredge each pork chop in the flour mixture first, followed by the egg, and then finally the panko, pressing to make sure the panko adheres. 

Once all pieces are coated, heat vegetable oil in a deep skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the pork until golden brown and cooked through, about 3-4 minutes per side. Be sure to not overcrowd the pan. Place the chops in a warm oven to keep warm.

Pour the chicken stock in the hot skillet and reduce heat to low, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. As the stock simmers, stir together the dill and sour cream in a bowl. Using a ladle, remove about 1/2 cup of the simmering stock and whisk it into the sour cream mixture. Pour the contents of the bowl into the skillet. Heat until warm and thick, about 5 minutes. 

Serve the sauce over the pork. 

Source: adapted from All Recipes 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Butternut Squash Cod Chowder

A warm, flavorful, one-pot chowder stocked full of bacon, butternut squash, and cod. Perfect for chilly nights!

Lately, the weather in Charlotte has been warmer than my home in Texas! Though that will likely change in the next couple of days, we are still much better off (or worse off, depending upon how you feel!) than other parts of the country that are already covered in snow and freezing temps. There are few things better than a roaring fire and a big bowl of soup on a cold night - especially on a day that keeps you out in the elements. I'm always on the hunt for one pot (read: easy) soup/stew/chowder recipes to get us through the cold winter months so here is one to start the season off.

This is actually the first fish based chowder recipe I'm sharing and it's a great one. Fish cooks super fast, is healthy, and a nice change from the usual chicken-beef-pork rotation many of us stick with. You could use any very firm white fish but cod works especially well alongside butternut squash.

This chowder is so substantial that when served alongside a chunk of baguette, it's a meal!

Butternut Squash Cod Chowder
8 slices thick cut bacon, chopped
1 onion, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
2 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped
1.5 cups diced butternut squash (or 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced)
1.5 tablespoons flour
3.5 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup clam juice
12 ounces skinless cod fillets, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
pinch of cayenne

In a large dutch oven over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until crispy, about 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and set aside. 

Drain off all but 2 tablespoons bacon grease then add the celery and onion. Cook until the vegetables are tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in the dill and cook for 1 minute. Add the squash and flour and cook, stirring, until the flour begins to brown, about 2 minutes. 

Stir in the vegetable stock and clam juice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the squash is tender, about 10-12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the cod, cover, and simmer until the fish flakes easily with a fork, 4-5 minutes. Stir in the cream, cayenne, and 3/4 of the bacon, reserving 1/4 for topping. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if needed.

Right before serving, top with a pinch of reserved bacon.

Source: adapted from Rachael Ray

Monday, November 10, 2014

Baked Broccoli & Ham Mac and Cheese

Hot pasta, diced ham, and broccoli florets are tossed in a creamy cheese sauce, topped with breadcrumbs and Parmesan, and baked to perfection. Comforting, warm, and a crowd pleaser.

Yeah, mac and cheese is where it's at. I've yet to meet someone who isn't a fan and if I did, I wouldn't want to know them long as there is something seriously wrong. Pasta. Cheese. The End.

Sometimes, you just want to eat mac and cheese for dinner. And while you think a big bowl of it is a perfectly acceptable meal, your husband does not... because there is no meat.

So you toss in ham for him. And because he insisted on meat, you throw in broccoli because you love it. And it makes it healthy.

Baked until bubbly and stuff your face worthy.

This is also perfect for those times when you need to deliver a home cooked meal to a friend!

Baked Broccoli & Ham Mac and Cheese
16 ounces pasta (your choice of shape)
1.5 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
1 cup chicken broth
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste
12 ounce bag fresh broccoli florets, cut into bite sized pieces
8 ounces diced ham
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the pasta and broccoli according to the package directions for al dente. Drain well and set aside.

Coat a 9x13 baking pan with cooking spray and set aside. Preheat oven to 375.

In a large skillet, melt butter. Add the onion and cook over low heat for 2 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and cook another minute. Add the milk and chicken broth and whisk. Raise heat to 375 and bring to a boil; cook about 5 minutes or until the sauce is smooth and thick. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove sauce from heat and add the cheese, a handful at a time, stirring until completely melted. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Stir in the chopped ham, cooked pasta, and broccoli and mix well.

Pour into the prepared pan and top with breadcrumbs and Parmesan. Lightly spray the top with additional cooking spray.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, then broil for an additional 1-3 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are golden brown on top.

Source: adapted from Skinnytaste

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Honey Walnut Shrimp (Panda Express Copycat)

Light and crispy battered shrimp are quickly fried and then tossed in a sweet and creamy sauce with candied walnuts. Restaurant quality in minutes!

I love making restaurant copycat dishes at home... especially since our favorite local Chinese restaurant closed and we haven't found a safe alternative. Honey Walnut Shrimp is a standard dish on most Chinese restaurant menus - and a popular one at Panda Express - and it's absolutely my favorite. The batter is always light and crunchy and the sauce is addictive. Top it off with candied nuts and what could go wrong?

The key to your success in mastering the Chinese restaurant batter is rice flour. It does something magical to your batter making it adhere perfectly to the shrimp and fry up quickly and perfectly. Plus, it's naturally gluten free!

This is one of our top favorite recipes, and I can never seem to make enough. It'll be a family favorite in your house, too!

I first shared this recipe 4 years ago and it deserved an update and new photo!

Honey Walnut Shrimp
1 cup water
2/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup walnut (whole or pieces)
4 egg whites
2/3 cup rice flour
1 pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed - don't pat dry
1/4 cup mayonnaise (not Miracle Whip)
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon canned sweetened condensed milk
1 cup vegetable oil, for frying

Combine the water and sugar together in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and add the walnuts. Boil for 2 minutes, drain, and spread walnuts out on a cookie sheet to dry.

Whip egg whites in a medium mixing bowl until foamy. Stir in the rice flour (it should be pasty in consistency). 

Heat the oil in a heavy deep skillet over medium-high heat. One hot enough to fry, dip each shrimp in the batter and then fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes total. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels using a slotted spoon. 

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, honey, and sweetened condensed milk. Add the shrimp and gently toss in the sauce. Sprinkle the candied walnuts on top. 

Source: adapted from All Recipes 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread

The perfect banana bread! Moist, easy, delicious, and accented with a thick swirl of cinnamon sugar. Don't throw out those brown bananas - make this instead!

A few weeks ago we went on vacation. And in typical pre-vacation form, I was frantically cleaning my house, doing laundry, packing, and sorting through the fridge the night before we left.

Jason had bought 7 bananas, stored them behind a box on the counter, and promptly forgot about them. I discovered them at midnight while cleaning the kitchen. So what does anyone do when exhausted and stressed about getting it all done? They bake.

Thankfully, this is a toss-it-together-in-5-minutes baking exercise so I wasn't up all night. Since we had so many bananas, I made 2 loaves. One went with us on vacation and one was frozen. Both were perfect in every way! And, I didn't have to throw out 7 super ripe bananas on our way out of town.

You could add a powdered sugar glaze over top if you like a super sweet banana bread. I don't think it needs it :)

Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread
For the bread:
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2 eggs
3 very ripe bananas, mashed (should be 1.5 cups)
1/3 cup plain or Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the swirl:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9x5 loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon for the swirl and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon and set aside. In a large bowl, beat the brown sugar and butter with a hand mixer until well blended. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well in between each. Stir in the mashed bananas, yogurt, and vanilla. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and gently mix together. Don't overmix.

Spoon half the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the cinnamon/sugar mixture over top. Spoon the remaining batter and smooth it out on top. 

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for 15 minutes then transfer the bread out of the pan and onto a cooling rack. 

Store in a sealed container at room temperature or wrap it well and freeze. 

Source: adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction

Monday, November 3, 2014

Saag Paneer Enchiladas

The popular Indian spinach and cheese dish, saag paneer, transformed into enchiladas! Saag paneer is rolled in flour tortillas, topped with a yogurt based cilantro mint sauce, and baked until bubbly. This vegetarian Tex Mex-Indian mash-up is guaranteed to be a family favorite.

Saag paneer is a creamy spinach dish that uses - you guessed it - paneer cheese. Since paneer doesn't melt down, the spinach has bites of delicious cheese throughout and a creamy, rich flavor. I recently shared a recipe for homemade paneer cheese as I was fruitless in my search for it - and come to find out, it's just 2 ingredients and minutes to make!

The enchilada sauce is yogurt based (a nod to Indian cuisine) and loaded with cilantro, mint, jalapenos, and other Indian-TexMex flavors. I know, the mint sounds strange but it totally works!

Don't be intimidated by the seemingly long list of ingredients - there are duplicate ingredients used in both the filling and sauce so it's really not as many items as it appears. Plus, your food processor does most of the work!

Saag Paneer Enchiladas
For the filling:
1 medium yellow onion
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 10-ounce packages of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed of liquid
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 pound paneer cheese, cut into 1/4 inch cubes

For the sauce:
2 cups cilantro
1/4 cup mint leaves
1 jalapeno, seeds and stems removed, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup buttermilk
1.5 cups plain yogurt or sour cream
salt to taste

For the enchiladas:
8-10 flour tortillas
Additional paneer cheese, for crumbling over top

In a food processor, chop the onion, garlic, and ginger. In a skillet, heat some vegetable oil over medium-low heat, add the onion mixture, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the spinach, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, cayenne, yogurt, and buttermilk. Turn the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the half and half and paneer cheese and simmer for 5 more minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, puree the cilantro, mint, jalapeno, garlic, ginger, cumin, lemon juice, and buttermilk until smooth. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl and stir in yogurt. Add salt to taste.

Preheat the oven to 350. Wrap the tortillas in foil and place in the oven for 10 minutes while it's preheating. 

Lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish. Spoon 1/4 cup of filling down the center of a tortilla. Roll and place seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas. 

Pour the cilantro sauce over the tortillas and crumble additional paneer cheese over top. Bake uncovered for 5 minutes. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Homemade Paneer Cheese

Making cheese at home is fast, inexpensive, and fun! Stop the endless search for paneer cheese - you're just 2 ingredients from your own batch.

I (stupidly) tried in vain to find fresh paneer cheese locally. Even Whole Foods didn't carry it! Before throwing in the towel, I Googled how to make it just for kicks and found out how easy it was. And really, it's not only easy, it's like doing a science experiment in your kitchen that results in a big ball of fresh cheese. If we had made cheese in high school science class, I probably would have been more interested...

Paneer is SO delicious - like all Indian food! It's a fairly soft, mild in flavor, crumbly non-melting cheese. Similar to queso blanco but without salt. Since it doesn't melt down or become gooey, it's perfect in hot dishes where you want a big bite of creamy cheese (like saag paneer). I used it in an AMAZING enchilada recipe I'll be posting in a few days!

Since paneer is not aged you can be eating it in 30 minutes. Which is much faster than running all over town looking for it :)

Though not typically salted, you may want to salt it prior to pressing if you plan to eat much of it plain. 

Homemade Paneer Cheese
8 cups whole milk
1/4 cup lemon juice

Line a large colander with a double layer of cheesecloth and set in your sink. If you'd like to save the whey, place a bowl under the colander. 

In a large pot, bring the milk to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom to avoid burning. This takes awhile so be patient.

Once barely boiling, add the lemon juice and turn down to low. Stir gently and you should almost immediately see the curds and whey start to separate. The curds are white milk solids and the whey is a greenish liquid. Try to stir the curds together instead of breaking them apart.   

If the milk doesn't separate, add another tablespoon of lemon juice and turn the heat up again. 

Once the milk seems to be separated, pour the contents into the prepared colander. Gently rinse the curds with cool water. Grab the ends of the cheesecloth and twist to remove the liquid and create a ball of cheese. Tie the cheesecloth to your faucet and allow to drain for 5 minutes.

Once drained, place the (still wrapped in cheesecloth) cheese on a dinner plate with the extra cheesecloth gathered on the sides of the cheese (this is so your cheese is nice and smooth). Put another dinner plate on top and weigh it down using cans or something heavy. Place it in the fridge and let sit for 20 minutes. 

Unwrap it and it's ready to go! 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Chicken Fajitas

An easy, no fail recipe for proper Texas fajitas! A quick marinade results in a weeknight friendly AND family pleasing meal!

Awhile back, I had the joy of having not one but two friends hand deliver me fresh flour tortillas, straight from Texas. We were in heaven! I lamented the lack of good tortillas awhile back. It's a serious problem :)

Now with this load of fresh tortillas, I got to menu planning a TexMexPalooza of meals for the coming days. And what is more Tex Mex than good ol' chicken fajitas? When ordered at a restaurant, they come out on these sizzling hot plates that fill the restaurant with this drool-worthy aroma. I haven't mastered that at home yet but I didn't hear any complaints coming from my other half when I served up a plate of these, straight off the grill.

There are a lot of fajita recipes out there but I'd argue that this is one of the best marinades I've tried. And it couldn't be easier! It only needs to marinate an hour or two which helps those of us who forget to thaw the chicken in time to marinade it before work.

Don't have a grill? See the note below for stove-top instructions. 

Chicken Fajitas
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
6 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
4 dried chiles de arbol, stems removed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs
2 bell peppers, seeded and halved
1 yellow onion, quartered
flour tortillas, fajita size
toppings: salsa, guacamole, sour cream, and shredded cheddar cheese

In a food processor, combine the lime juice, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, cumin, and chiles de arbol. Blend until smooth and add the salt and pepper. Place the chicken in a gallon sized resealable bag and pour the marinade over top. Seal and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Drain the chicken from the marinade and discard. Grill the chicken until cooked through, about 7 minutes per side. Grill the onion and peppers until tender, turning often, about 10 minutes for the peppers and 15 minutes for the onion.*don't have a grill? see note below*

Transfer the grilled chicken and vegetables to a large cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice the onion and peppers into thin slices. Slice the chicken crosswise into strips.

Warm the tortillas and serve with salsa, guacamole, sour cream, and shredded cheese.

*If not using grill: Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil over medium heat in a large heavy skillet. Add the chicken and cook, covered, for 5 minutes per side, or until cooked through. Remove and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, slice the onion and peppers into thin slices. Heat another tablespoon of oil and add the sliced peppers and onion. Cook until tender and soft, around 7-10 minutes.    

Source: adapted from The Homesick Texan's Family Table

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Walt Disney World Food and Wine Fest 2014 Reviews

I love Walt Disney World anytime of year but especially for Food & Wine Fest! If you're not familiar with Food and Wine Fest, here's a brief overview: you eat your weight in food and then go home, 20 pounds heavier. Kidding. Sorta. World Showcase (a large portion of Epcot, which features 11 countries) is turned into a food fest. Booths are set up around the lagoon and each booth features large sample sizes of various cuisines from that country/region. The sample sizes range from $3-$7, with various beers, wines, and cocktails also offered for $3-$12. In addition, there are lots of ticketed events you can attend including demos, dinners, and desserts. 

Much of the booth food is repeated for several years so if you're planning to visit soon, check out my post from last year here. We tried to pick different items this year.

Mexico: Sweet Corn Cheesecake - $3.50

I'm a cheesecake fan and I loved this version! Doesn't taste "corny" at all - just sweet and creamy like a traditional cheesecake. Also a decent portion for the cost and a great crust. 

Italy: Ravioli all Caprese: Cheese ravioli, tomato sauce, mozzarella, Parmesan, and basil - $6.00

This was just 'eh' to me. It tasted fine, but no different than a (dare I say it) frozen ravioli dinner. It was nothing special for sure and we would not order it again.

France: Crème brûlée caramel fleur de sel: Sea salt caramel crème brûlée topped with caramelized sugar – $4.25

This is one of Jason's favorite desserts so he was not skipping this booth! He really liked it - and I don't think I even got a bite! 

France: Gratin de crozet de savoie: Wheat pasta gratin with mushrooms and Gruyere cheese – $4.95

This was probably one of my favorite F&WF dishes to date! It was creamy, cheesy, and loaded with mushrooms. Good portions size, too.

Ireland: Kerrygold® cheese selection: Reserve cheddar, Dubliner with Irish Stout and Skellig – $4.00

In year's past, they had a cheese booth as part of the festival. They didn't this year for some reason but some booths still offered a cheese selection. Kerrygold cheese is one of my favorite brands (plus their butter is amazing!) so this was a no-brainer. This was a substantial plate, with large portions of each cheese plus bread/butter and the chutney. Very good!

Ireland: Lobster and seafood fisherman’s pie – $6.25

Someone in our group ordered this and said it was delicious. I was too busy gorging on cheese to ask too many questions - I apologize :)

Scotland: Seared sea scallop with spinach-cheddar gratin and crispy bacon – $4.50

This was another favorite of mine. The scallop was perfectly cooked and the spinach was ridiculously tasty. They worked well together. My only complaint? I wanted 4 of them :) Definitely would order again!

Scotland: Fresh potato pancake with smoked Scottish salmon and herb sour cream – $4.25

My mom ordered this and said it was delicious. Smoked salmon is rarely not delicious, IMO.

Terra: Chocolate-blood orange cupcake with tofu icing – $2.25

Just a couple of years ago, Terra made it's debut at the festival featuring all vegan food. We are meat and cheese loving people so we typically ignored it but this year, mom couldn't pass up the chocolate orange cupcake. I was afraid she'd hate it, since it had tofu icing, but she LOVED it. Said it tasted just like a "regular" cupcake. It must have been a hit because the lady behind her in line was getting her 3rd of the night. They aren't huge but still, that speaks volumes!

We also saw Fuel in concert! If you're going to the Food and Wine Fest, be sure and check the schedule for the Eat to the Beat Concerts. They are free and a lot of fun!

See Aimee Cook

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