baked potato salad

Baked Potato Salad

My daughter was successful in finishing kindergarten as a word warrior (a title based on the number of first grade words she knew). In our house, this title earned her a dinner of her choosing.   We meandered through the grocery store, and one of the items she picked out was peewee potatoes.  For her special dinner, I roasted some of the tiny potatoes (they are about the size of grape or cherry tomatoes) and contemplated how else I could serve them.

baked potato salad

One idea that came to mind was a potato salad that didn’t involve chopping and boiling.  Hence, the Baked Potato Salad was born. The mini potatoes are roasted whole, and then stirred together with some chive cream cheese, bacon bits, black olives, green onions, and cheddar cheese for a crowd pleaser of a dish.

The Baked Potato Salad was such a hit with my husband, I’m sure the next time I make it I will need to double the recipe to have enough for guests!

baked potato salad

Baked Potato Salad

1 ½ pounds peewee potatoes
4 ounces whipped, chive cream cheese
One 2.25 ounce can sliced, black olives, drained
¼ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
¼ cup real bacon bits
¼ cup diced green onions

 

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Rinse the peewee potatoes, then spread them out on a large, greased baking sheet.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until tender and begin to brown slightly.  Remove from the oven and let cool.

Place the cooled, baked potatoes in a large bowl, add the cream cheese and stir to coat.  Add in the remainder of the ingredients and stir to mix.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Tamarisk Honey Bites

Tamarisk Honey Bites

One of these days I am going to host a honey tasting party.  If you have never tried a honey other than clover, you are missing out. One of my favorites is meadowfoam honey which tastes like cotton candy in honey form. Other honey flavors, such as tamarisk or buckwheat, are dark colored honey with a robust and earthy taste.

Tamarisk Honey Bite

Since I had some tamarisk (and buckwheat) honey on hand, I wanted to make an easy appetizer that showcases the honey.  I topped sweet potato chips with a small wedge of brie cheese, drizzled on some honey and garnished with chives.

Now that I have started to think of ways to sample the honey, I just have to plan and execute the party!

Tamarisk Honey Bite

I typically pick up different honey varieties when I visit farmer’s markets, but some of the larger specialty honey makers sell online as well. A few of the brands that I have tried are Grampa’s Honey and Winter Park Honey.

 

Tamarisk Honey Bites

2 ounce brie cheese
12 sweet potato chips
4 teaspoons tamarisk or buckwheat honey
Chives (optional), chopped

 

Cut the brie into 12 small pieces, then place one piece on each chip. Drizzle evenly with the honey and garnish with chive pieces if desired.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Strawberry Guava Compote

Strawberry and Guava Compote

As I walked through the produce section this week, the guavas literally drew me over to them.  They smelled so fragrant I just knew I had to make some sort of guava dish.  Guavas come in all shapes and sizes, but these Mexican cream guavas are about the size of a golf ball and yellow in color, such that my daughter asked if they were “banana balls”.  To highlight the guava flavor I decided to make a strawberry and guava compote.

fresh guava

Once the flower (the end) is removed, you half and deseed the guava.  The seeds are actually edible, but more of an acquired taste so I removed them from this recipe.

prepped guava

The guava and strawberries are cooked for a few minutes in a spiced syrup, which is all they need to make a delicious compote. The sweet guava compote is the perfect complement to a touch of mascarpone and mint.  The resulting dish is stunning, yet an easy and elegant dessert for Mother’s day, baby shower, or other festive gathering.

Strawberry Guava Compote

Strawberry  & Guava Compote

2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon ground Saigon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 pound (about 10) Mexican cream guavas
½ pound strawberries
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
Mint leaves for garnish
Add the water, sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, and cloves to a large sauce pan.  Heat over medium heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer, and simmer for about 10 minutes or until syrup begins to thicken.

While the syrup simmers, wash the guava and then remove the flower end from the guava. Next cut them in half and scoop out the seeds (reserve for another use, if desired). Remove the stems from the strawberries and cut in half.  Add the guava and strawberries to the syrup and cook for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, transfer the fruit and syrup to a large bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

To serve, place one ounce of mascarpone cheese in the bottom of a serving bowl or glass.  Evenly divide the fruit over the eight bowls, then drizzle with some of the syrup (there will be some syrup left in reserve). Garnish with mint and serve.

 

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Tuna & Oat Bowl

Tuna & Oat Bowl

I have a rather large bag of steel cut oats sitting in my pantry and I decided it was time to find other ways to incorporate them into my diet. Steel cut oats are a great source of fiber and protein, so I really have nothing to complain about. 

Tuna & Oat Bowl

I was in the mood for something that would qualify as a side dish or an entrée, rather than a breakfast item.  The resulting Tuna & Oat Bowl is more of an updated version of tuna noodle casserole.  Instead of noodles, the dish has a large serving of steel cut oats. The addition of tomatoes, dill, and goat cheese round out the dish and add a fresh taste. As an extra bonus there is no baking involved so it is quick to get on the table.

While the Tuna & Oat Bowl might not be the most photogenic, I found that it was a great dish for lunch since it kept me satisfied for a long time.  It looks like I may have found a way to finish all of my steel cut oats!

Tuna & Oat Bowl

Tuna & Oat Bowl

4 cups water
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups steel cut oats
4 ounces goat cheese
2, 7 ounce cans tuna, drained
1 ½ cups chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon dry dill
¼ teaspoon salt

Bring water and salt to a boil in a large sauce pan.  Add the oats, cover, and simmer for 10-15 minutes, covered, or until liquid is absorbed and the oats are tender but chewy.  Remove from the heat and let sit a few minutes. Next, stir in the goat cheese until the oats are coated.  Next add the tuna, tomatoes, dill and salt, stirring to combine.  Serve; refrigerate any leftovers.

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Madras Curry Lentils

Madras Curry Lentils

I have had a taste for lentils, but wanted to create a sauce with a different flavor profile than my Caponota Red Lentils or Lentil Salad.  What came to mind was a dish reminiscent of saag paneer.  I toyed with the idea of adding spinach to my Madras Curry Lentils but ultimately decided to keep the dish about the lentils and streamline the sauce.

The sauce for saag paneer often has a blend of garlic, fenugreek, garam masala, turmeric, ginger, and cayenne pepper among other spices.  I noticed that hot madras curry powder uses many of these ingredients, so as a time saving measure I opted to just use the curry blend. The heat of the spice is muted a bit by the cream sauce, but still added a good kick to the lentils.

Madras Curry Lentils

The addition of tomato and feta brightens and lightens the dish.  I also liked the creaminess that the feta added to the Madras Curry Lentils. While seeking out and adding paneer would be more in keeping with the theme of the dish, I regularly have feta on hand and thought it made a great substitute.  I’d love to hear about your variations on this recipe, whether cheese or curry substitution.

Madras Curry Lentils

1 cup lentils
4 cups water
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup diced shallots
2 teaspoons hot madras curry powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup half and half
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup diced tomato
½ cup feta cheese

Place the lentils and water in a large sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until lentils are tender.

In a separate, non-stick pan, melt the butter and add the shallots.  Saute the shallots, stirring frequently, until the shallots begin to brown (about 8 minutes). Add the curry, salt, and half and half and bring to a boil, then add the flour and stir until thickened; remove from the heat.

Drain the lentils and pour the curry sauce over the lentils, stirring to combine. Add the tomatoes and feta, stir to combine, and serve.

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Stuffed Mushrooms

Stuffed Mushrooms

I’m often amazed at how many variations there are on classic recipes.  Take for example Stuffed Mushrooms. When I first started making these I used leftover bratwurst from a summer BBQ and I have been doing so ever since. I have even used the stuffing base in other recipes, such as my Stuffed Acorn Squash.

Stuffed Mushrooms

In addition to bratwurst meat, the stuffing includes breadcrumbs, onions, cheese, and fresh parsley.  The combination is a wonderful, savory starter.

Stuffed Mushrooms

 The instructions below start from an uncooked bratwurst, just in case you want to make these anytime.  If you do have some cookout leftovers, the timesaving instructions are noted as well.

Stuffed Mushrooms

 

Stuffed Mushrooms

1 lb button mushrooms
1/3 lb uncooked bratwurst (~1 bratwurst)
1/2 Cup yellow onion, diced
1 Tablespoon freshly minced garlic
¼ cup seasoned breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons fresh, minced flat leaf parsley
¾ cup pecorino-Romano cheese

 

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Wash mushrooms, then remove stems.  Mince the stems and set aside.  Place the mushroom caps (top down) in a large, greased casserole or 9×13 pan.

Add 1-2 tablespoons olive oil to large sauté pan, and place over medium high heat. Remove the bratwurst meat from the casing and add to the saute pan. Saute the bratwurst meat, breaking it apart with a spoon, until it is cooked throughout. Remove the cooked meat, place in a large bowl, and set aside. Add the minced mushroom stems and onions to the man and cook, stirring frequently, until softened – about 5-8 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes longer.

Remove from the heat, and add the mushroom stems and onions to the bratwurst meat, along with the breadcrumbs, parsley, and ¼ cup of pecorino Romano cheese; Stir to combine.  Evenly divide the stuffing between the mushroom caps, then sprinkle the tips with the remaining cheese.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until cheese begins to melt and brown slightly. Remove from oven and serve.

Note: If you have a leftover, cookout bratwurst, place brat in food processor and process for about 20 seconds, until well minced to eliminate the meat-cooking step.

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Lemon and Blueberry Oatmeal

A few weeks ago I shared my Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake Cups which used lemon curd.  Since I had some lemon curd leftover I was wondering what other ways I could enjoy it.  What came to mind was a variation of my Date and Goat Cheese Oatmeal.

lemonBlueberryOatmeal

 I swapped out the dates for a bit of lemon curd and dried blueberries, and added ground cloves. The resultant Lemon and Blueberry Oatmeal was every bit as delicious as the original recipe.  In fact, it might even be an excuse to keep lemon curd always on hand. 

lemonBlueberryOatmeal

Lemon and Blueberry Oatmeal

½ cup dry old fashioned oats
1 cup water
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
Dash salt
1 ounce goat cheese
1 tablespoon lemon curd
2 tablespoons dried blueberries

Combine oats, water, cloves, and salt in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for 2 ½ minutes (alternatively, you can make the oatmeal on the stovetop by boiling the water, stirring in the oats and cooking for 5 minutes).  Remove from the microwave and stir in the goat cheese until the cheese begins to melt, then stir in the lemon curd and blueberries and serve.  Makes 1 serving.

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breakfast burritos

Make Ahead Breakfast Burritos

A few weeks back a friend asked me if you can freeze cooked eggs.  Even though cooking eggs usually doesn’t take too long, there are those mornings when you are running a bit late but you don’t want to scrimp on breakfast. I told her I’d do some experimenting (and a bit of research), which led to these breakfast burritos.  

breakfast burritos

From everything I read online it seemed that cooking and freezing eggs was easy, with a few simple tips.  First, undercook the eggs a bit as they will cook more on reheating.  Second, let any make ahead burrito contents cool before rolling to ensure the tortilla stays together. Finally, choose mix-ins that freeze well (tomatoes, for example, would not have a great texture on reheating).

For my experimentation I first tried just scrambled eggs (two) with cheese.  To reheat it took only about 1-1.5 minutes to warm them up from completely frozen, and they tasted great.  I was now ready to venture into Make Ahead Breakfast Burritos. 

I typically eat a lighter breakfast, but there are definitely days I enjoy the treat of eggs or a breakfast burrito.  For these burritos I added cheddar cheese and precooked pork sausage, which is a combo I have always enjoyed in breakfast casseroles. The meat and eggs cooked up fast and the burrito rolling was easy once I watch a tutorial to make sure I was doing it correctly.  Then came the fun part – freezing and reheating for breakfast to determine the correct thaw time.  These burritos can be reheated from frozen and only take 2 minutes.  I found this time ensured that the entire burrito was thawed throughout, but did require a minute or so to cool a bit before eating.  Now that I know having a quick and healthy breakfast on hand is so easy, I think I will always keep a stock in my freezer.  I love food challenges posed by friends!

breakfast burritos

 

Make ahead Breakfast Burritos

12 large eggs
1 pound breakfast sausage, cooked,drained, and cooled
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
8 burrito (large) tortillas (~10 inch in diameter or larger)

 

beat and pour eggs into a large pan that has been coated with a bit of nonstick spray. Scramble the eggs for 4-5 minutes or until barely set; stir in cheese.  Let cool, then stir in breakfast sausage.   Evenly divide the egg mixture between the burrito tortillas, placing slightly over to one side. Roll one side over the filling until the filling is covered, then fold in the left and right side and then continue to roll to the end. Wrap in a sheet of foil and continue with remaining burritos.  Place the burritos in a gallon sized freezer bag and freeze until ready to eat. To reheat, remove the foil and then microwave each burrito for 2 minutes on high, flipping once.  Let cool slightly before eating. (Note: 1.5 minutes left the burritos still a bit cold in the center).

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pistachio chai tiramisu

Pistachio Chai Tiramisu

‘Tis the season for baking, so why not combine it with a cooking contest? This week’s recipe was inspired by the Simply Sesame Blogger Recipe Challenge hosted by Simply Sesame. Simply Sesame sent me their three different flavors of Simply Sesame spread: Pistachio-Cardamom, Vanilla-Almond, and plain. I instantly gravitated toward the subtly exotic pistachio-cardamom (though I enjoy all of the creamy flavors) to make my Pistachio Chai Tiramisu. The other great thing about these spreads is that they are gluten free and peanut free.

pistachio chai tiramisu

Tiramisu is an Italian dessert which typically consists of ladyfinger cookies soaked in a coffee-rum mixture and layered with a mascarpone cream layer then dusted with chocolate.  For this recipe I decided to play on the cardamom flavor of the Simply Sesame spread and soaked the ladyfingers in a chai-brandy mixture. Next, I folded the pistachio-cardamom simply sesame spread into the mascarpone (along with a bit of powdered sugar) to create my creamy layer.  Finally, the top of the tiramisu was decorated with a bit of caramel syrup and crushed pistachios.  The result was a beautifully presented tiramisu unlike any you have tasted.

pistachio chai tiramisu

It received a thumbs up from my hubby who is a tiramisu aficionado. I hope you enjoy it just as much!

pistachio chai tiramisuLooking for even more sesame spread recipe ideas? Follow Simply Sesame on TwitterInstagram, or Facebook.


Pistachio Chai Tiramisu

½ cup boiling water
1 chai tea bag
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
½ cup powdered sugar
½ cup Simply Sesame Pistachio-Cardamom spread
4 tablespoons brandy, divided
16 lady finger cookies
2 tablespoons caramel syrup
2 tablespoons shelled, crushed pistachios
 
Place the chai tea bag in the boiling water and let steep for 3-5 minutes; set aside.  While the tea is steeping, prepare the cream filling.  Add the mascarpone cheese to a standing mixer bowl along with the powdered sugar.  On low speed, stir until combined.  Add the Simply Sesame Pistachio-cardamom spread to the mixing bowl and mix on low speed until combined. Finally, stir in 2 tablespoons of the brandy until well mixed and set aside.

Remove the tea bag from the water and place the tea in a shallow bowl along with the remaining 2 tablespoons of brandy and stir to combine.  Dunk the ladyfingers in the chai tea mixture one at a time, 2-3 seconds per side and place in the bottom of an 8 x 8 dish or trifle dish (you should only need half of the cookies to cover the bottom of the dish).  Spread half of the mascarpone mixture over the ladyfingers, then add another layer of the soaked ladyfingers on top. Spread the remaining mascarpone mixture over the top to coat the cookies (you should have two layers of cookies and two mascarpone layers). Refrigerate until ready to serve, at least 2 hours.  Just before serving, drizzle the top of the tiramisu with the caramel syrup and then evenly cover the top with the crushed pistachios.  Cut and serve the pistachio chai tiramisu.

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Individual Egg Souffle Stack

Individual Egg Soufflé Stacks

Changing work schedules and the start of the school year has resulted in a desire (and need) to simplify prep of weekday meals and snacks.  Consequently, when I was reminded about muffin tin eggs I thought I should give a variation of the recipe a try. Since I had just found hash brown patties the same size as my mini loaf pan I knew that I just had to make an individual stacked egg soufflé.

 

Individual Egg Souffle Stack

Using the muffin tin method of cooking the eggs lends itself to individualization of the mix-in ingredients.  If you don’t happen to be a fan of tomatoes or onions – no problem! Swap in your favorite veggies.  The recipe I used as my guide suggested 12-15 minutes for muffin tin cooking, but I found I needed 20-25 minutes to set the eggs in the larger min loaf pans.

Individual Egg Souffle Stack

The layering of the hash brown patties, honey ham, and egg soufflé was a great balance of rich flavors in a manageable personalized portion.  The presentation and built-to-suit egg soufflés were also a hit with my guests!


Individual Egg Soufflé Stacks

8 large eggs
4 tablespoons butter, melted
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup diced baby tomatoes
¼ cup diced green onion
8 tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese blend
4ounces thinly sliced honey ham lunch meat
4 hash brown patties

 

Preheat oven to 350 °F.  Spray a small cookie sheet and a mini loaf pan (8 mini loaves) with nonstick spray.  In a large bowl, stir together the eggs, butter, salt, garlic powder, and pepper. Evenly divide the tomatoes and green onions between four of the mini loaf pans. Then, evenly pour the egg mixture over the tomatoes and green onions, and then top each with 2 tablespoons of cheese.  Place one ounce of honey ham in each of the remaining loaf pans, and place the hash brown patties on the cookie sheet. Place the loaf pan and the cookie sheet in the oven.  After 10 minutes, flip the hash brown patties and return to the oven.  Continue baking both until the eggs are set, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and then plate by topping each hash brown patty with one ounce of ham and one mini egg loaf.  Serve warm.

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Fried Stuffed Olives

Fried Mozzarella Stuffed Olives

I don’t know how I have never heard of fried olives until now.  On a recent work trip I noticed them on a menu and I was instantly intrigued.  I just HAD to make these at home. A multitude of recipes abound on the internet, but for my first batch I decided to stick with a classic mozzarella filling for the fried olives.

Fried Olives

I also wanted to keep it simple – I used a mozzarella cheese stick cut into nibs that would easily slide into the center of the pitted olives.  A dredge in flour and then a dunk in egg and seasoned bread crumbs is all the coating that is needed.  The olives are fried for only a minute, but that is long enough to give them a crunchy exterior.

Fried Olives

It should come as no surprise that they were a hit with my hubby, so you can be sure these fried olives will be made for our next family gathering!

Fried Olives

Fried Olives


Fried Mozzarella Stuffed Olives

Canola oil for frying
One, 0.75 ounce mozzarella cheese stick
24 pitted Castelvetrano olives, drained (about 4 dry ounces)
1/8 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg, beaten
¼ cup seasoned bread crumbs
Marinara sauce for serving

Place oil in a deep fryer according to manufacturer’s instructions, or add oil to a large pot to a depth of 2 inches. Heat oil to 350°F.

While oil is heating, cut the cheese stick in quarters lengthwise and then cut each piece into 6 equal sized segments to make 24 mozzarella nuggets. Place one piece of mozzarella in each olive cavity.  Dredge the olives in the flour then coat with the egg and finally coat with the bread crumbs. Fry the olives for 45-60 seconds and then remove from oil and drain on a paper towel lined plate.  Cool for a few minutes then serve with marinara sauce.

Note: I tried these with gluten free flour and bread crumbs, and it doesn’t impact taste or quality

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Chicken Tinga Sloppy Joes

Chicken Tinga Sloppy Joes

The Del Real recipe challenge deadline was extended a few days, so I took advantage of the extra time and created another entry.  I decided to try a unique version of a kid favorite classic – the sloppy joe.  Instead of the usual ground beef and tomato-based sauce, I used Del Real’s Chipotle Chicken Tinga.  To create a sweet & spicy sandwich I stirred in a bit of avocado and mango and added a slice of pepper jack cheese to each sandwich.  The mix-ins also helped to tame the spiciness of the chipotle for the younger crowd.

Chicken Tinga Sloppy Joes

I have really enjoyed trying the different flavors of ready-to-eat products Del Real offers.  While I didn’t have time to finish creating a third recipe with their shredded beef, I was impressed with the flavor as it tasted as if I had ordered it in a restaurant.

The contest has netted quite a few tasty looking recipes – you can view and vote for your favorite on the Del Real Contest website!

Chicken Tinga Sloppy Joes


Chicken Tinga Sloppy Joes

16 ounce package Del Real Chipotle Chicken Tinga
½ cup diced yellow mango
1 Hass avocado, peeled and diced
4 good quality hamburger buns, split
Four, 0.75 ounce pepper jack cheese slices

Heat Del Real Chipotle Chicken Tinga in microwave according to package directions.  Add to a large bowl and shred large pieces of chicken.  Add the mango and avocado to the chicken and stir to combine.  Evenly place the chicken mixture on the bottom slices (cut side up) of all four buns.  Add one slice of pepper jack cheese on top of each mound of chicken, then top each sandwich with the top half of the bun (cut side down) and serve.

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