Friday, July 30, 2010

Chicken Caesar Burgers

We have finally upgraded our grilling equipment! We were chugging along with a lava rock grill, but it's small and cooks slowly (not necessarily a bad thing), and now that we have a home and are closer to family, we wanted something a little larger. We decided on the Weber Genesis E-320, and love it!
It's pricey, but built to last, so we are very happy with it (unlike the aforementioned lava rock grill, which after 1 year is spewing rust out the bottom every time we light it).  Of course, I think my favorite part is the side burner.  This means I now have a total of ONE gas burner at my disposal.  ::shoots evil side-eye at electric stove::

We couldn't wait to use it, and decided on these Chicken Caesar burgers for the inaugural run. We've made them before, so we already knew they were great.  These burgers fabulously present that classic combination of flavors, and I especially love the dressed greens on top. 


Of course, my husband generally takes things a step further, and implored me to post a photo of his version:


Chicken Caesar Burgers
Source: Rewritten from Rachael Ray
  • 1 1/4 pounds ground chicken breast (the average weight of 1 package)
  • 3 garlic cloves, 2 finely chopped, 1 cracked from skin
  • 4 anchovies, finely chopped (optional, but recommended)
  • A handful of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • Salt and coarse black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • A handful flat leaf parsley, chopped (I omitted)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest plus juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), plus some for drizzling
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 heart of romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 2 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 4 crusty rolls, split in half

In a bowl, combine the chicken, finely chopped garlic, anchovies, a handful of cheese, a pinch of salt and a generous amount of pepper, Worcestershire sauce, parsley and lemon zest. Mix the meat and form four burger patties.

Heat a large nonstick skillet with one tablespoon of EVOO, a turn of the pan, over medium-high heat. When hot, add the chicken patties and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side.  Alternatively, grill burgers over medium high heat, 3-4 minutes on each side.

Pre-heat the broiler and toast the bread on a cookie sheet or broiler pan. Alternatively, toast bread on the grill.  Once lightly golden in color, remove from oven and rub the breads with cracked garlic. Drizzle bread with the EVOO. 

Combine Dijon, lemon juice and 2-3 tablespoons of EVOO with salt and pepper, and toss the greens with it.
Place the patties on the bun bottoms and top them with a pile of romaine, sliced tomatoes and bun tops.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mustard Grilled Potatoes

I was looking for a different way to prepare potatoes on the grill (we typically do rosemary potatoes). This recipe intrigued me with the suggestion to parboil the potatoes first.  The original recipe calls for rosemary to season the dish, but since I was trying to get away from rosemary, I switched out the seasoning with Mural of Flavor from Penzeys.

The first time I made these, I boiled them for too long and had sliced them too thin. The results, while delicious enough to try the recipe again, were less than photogenic. Second time around, I paid closer attention to the parboil, and made sure the coins were sliced correctly. The mustard/mayonnaise bath provides a lovely crisp coating around the finished potatoes. They are crisp on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside. We love them! I think many different seasoning options would go well with this dish, so feel free to be creative!


Mustard Grilled Potatoes
Source: Slightly adapted from Fine Cooking

By par-cooking your potatoes before they go on the grill, they'll have a soft, almost cakey texture on the inside when they're done, but they'll still have that terrific grilled flavor. The mayonnaise not only adds flavor to the potatoes, but helps keep them from sticking to the grill. Serves four as a side dish.

1 lb. medium red- or yellow-skinned potatoes
Kosher salt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. herb seasoning of your choice
freshly ground pepper

Wash the potatoes and cut them into 3/8-inch slices. Cover the potatoes with cold water and 1 Tbs. salt  in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower to a gentle simmer (you don't want them to break up), and cook until they're almost but not quite fully cooked, 4 to 6 minutes. The potatoes will still be a little hard in the center, but the outer edges will look opaque. Drain in a large colander and rinse with cold water until they're cool; handle them gently. Spread them out on clean dishtowels and let them sit at room temperature (for up to an hour) until you're ready to grill them.

Light a charcoal grill and allow the fire to reach a medium-hot temperature (the top of the coals should be 5 to 6 inches from the grill grate, and you'll be able to hold your hand over the fire for no more than 3 to 4 seconds when it's medium hot). Alternatively, heat the entire surface of a gas grill until it reaches medium hot.

In a medium bowl, combine the mayonnaise, mustard, seasoning, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss the potato slices with the mayonnaise mixture until the potatoes are well-coated. Put the potatoes on the grill grate in one layer, directly over the fire. Cook for 3 to 6 minutes or just until deep golden brown and crisp. With tongs, turn the pieces over to the other side. Cook until that side is deep golden brown and crisp, another 3 to 6 minutes. Remove and serve immediately.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Decadent Chocolate Trifle

This is a fantastic dessert that can be made the semi-homemade way, or dressed up with from scratch versions of chocolate cake, whipped cream, and caramel. Either way, it is delicious and sure to be a big hit at any party!


And yes, I changed the name. I've made this twice now, and with small children at both parties, the original name just didn't seem appropriate!

Decadent Chocolate Trifle
Source: Slightly adapted from Deborah's Culinary Concoctions

1 box chocolate cake mix
ingredients for completing cake mix, as directed by the box
1/4 cup semi sweet mini chocolate chips
7 oz sweetened condensed milk
7 oz caramel ice cream topping (plus additional for garnish if desired)
4 Skor or Heath candy bars, chopped
2 (8 oz) tubs Cool Whip Lite whipped topping.

Prepare cake mix according to box directions, and fold in semisweet chocolate chips before spreading batter into pan.  Bake as directed.  Set aside to cool.

In a saucepan over low heat, combine sweetened condensed milk and caramel topping, stirring until smooth and blended. Using a skewer or the handle of a spoon poke holes across the top of the cake every 1-2 inches. Slowly pour the warm caramel topping mixture over the top of the cake, letting it sink into the holes. Cover and refrigerate until just before serving (I have made the cake the night before, then completed the trifle the next day). 

Just before serving assemble dessert in a large glass trifle or serving bowl. Cut cake into chunks and layer evenly across the bottom of bowl, top with a layer of Cool Whip and a small amount of chopped candy bars (reserve some for garnish) - repeat layers, ending with Cool Whip topping. Top with reserved chopped candy bars and drizzle with caramel topping if desired.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Margherita Pizza

Alton Brown is one of my favorite chefs (TV personalities?), yet he often falls to the back of my mind. Then someone says those two magic words and I have to make whatever they are talking about, because I know it will be fantastic.


I've made margherita pizza before at home. While it was good, and hit the spot, I recently saw someone recommend Alton Brown's version. Naturally, the challenge was on. I had to make his recipe, and soon. Luckily, it's not too hard to convince my husband that I need to forgo any other plans and make pizza. He is always ready for pizza!


This recipe was no exception to the AB rule. Marinating and grilling the tomatoes is such a great way to add new depth to this pizza. My only complaint would be that the amount of mozzarella and tomato seems small for the size of the pizza dough. I'll admit to not measuring the size that I rolled the dough to, but I know I was in the vicinity of 16 inches and I felt the toppings were a bit sparse. It was easy to add more mozzarella and basil, but next time I will have to remember to add a bit more tomato as well. Either way, the flavor is fantastic, and is definitely my go-to way for making margherita pizza.


Margherita Pizza
Source: Slightly adapted from Alton Brown
  • Enough dough for one 16" pizza (see below for a whole wheat pizza dough recipe)
  • 1 large tomato, cut into 1/3-inch thick slices
  • 5 to 7 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2-ounce grated Parmesan
  • 4 ounces part skim mozzarella, shredded or sliced thin into rounds
  • handful large basil leaves, shredded
Heat a gas grill to high and make sure the grill grates are clean and free of debris.

Toss the tomato with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the garlic, salt and red pepper flakes in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.

Lightly flour the countertop and flatten the dough ball. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a 16-inch round, rotating and stretching the dough as you go. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured pizza peel or baking sheet and stretch to re-shape if necessary.

Oil the grill grates and decrease the heat to medium. Brush the dough with 1 to 2 teaspoons of olive oil and flip onto 1 end of the hot grill, leaving room for the tomatoes on the grate. Put the prepared tomatoes on the grill, close the lid and cook until the bottom of the crust is golden brown and the tomatoes are softened, about 1 to 2 minutes. Brush the raw side of the dough with 1 to 2 teaspoons of olive oil, then immediately flip using the peel. Top with the grilled tomatoes, smashing and spreading the tomatoes to create a sauce. Sprinkle with the Parmesan, mozzarella and basil. Close the lid and cook until the bottom of crust is golden brown and the cheese has melted, another 1 to 2 minutes. Shift the pizza back onto the pizza peel or baking sheet (a large, flat spatula may help), and move the pizza to a cooling rack to let rest for 3 minutes before slicing.

I was in a pinch (you know, since this urge was sudden) for pizza dough as I didn't have any of my old standby... well, on standby in the freezer. I turned to an issue of Everyday Food for a semi-whole wheat pizza dough recipe that could be made in one day. I found it easy to work with and think it makes a very good crust. One recipe make enough dough for two 16" pizzas.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
Source: Everyday Food Magazine, January 2009
  • 1 1/2 cups warm (115 degrees) water
  • 2 packets ( ounce each) active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for bowl
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for kneading
  • 2 cups whole-wheat flour (spooned and leveled)

Place water in a large bowl; sprinkle with yeast. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Brush another large bowl with oil.

In bowl with yeast, whisk sugar, oil, and salt. Stir in flours with a wooden spoon until a sticky dough forms. Transfer to oiled bowl; brush top of dough with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap; let stand in a warm spot until dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface. With floured hands, knead until smooth, about 15 seconds; divide into two balls.

Shape one ball into desired size for pizza. Other ball can be wrapped in plastic wrap, stored in a ziploc bag, and frozen. Thaw completely in refrigerator before use.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Stuffed Strawberries

This dessert has been a favorite of mine for years. I am glad to have the chance to finally share it. I made this for a recent summer party (finally took a picture of them!) and everyone loved them. The filling isn't overly sweet, but in combination with sweet, ripe strawberries, the balance is perfect.  As an added bonus, this dessert is easy to prepare. 


Stuffed Strawberries
Source: Slightly adapted from Amber's Delectable Delights /

1 pint fresh strawberries
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, or to taste
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Cut the tops off of the strawberries and stand upright on the cut side. Make a cut 3/4 of the way down from the tip of the strawberry towards the bottom. Rotate the strawberry 90 degrees and make another slice.

Beat together the cream cheese, sugar, and extract until smooth in a mixer or a food processor. Place into a piping bag with a star tip. Pipe into each strawberry and arrange on a serving platter.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Tomato Basil Orzo Salad

I made this recipe once, years ago, and remember liking it very much.  We were invited to a summer party a few weeks ago, and I was pondering what to bring when my husband suggested this orzo salad.  I thought it was a great idea, and we got to use some fresh basil from our Aerogarden.  It was a huge hit with the party guests!  

Tomato Basil Orzo Salad
Source: Sunset Magazine
Yield: 4 to 6 light-entrée servings or 8 to 10 side-dish servings

  • 1 1/2  cups  dried orzo pasta (use whole wheat orzo to make this a clean eating dish)
  • 1 1/4  pounds  firm-ripe tomatoes, at room temperature
  • 3/4  cup  chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1  or 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 3  tablespoons  extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2  tablespoons  balsamic vinegar
  • About 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper

1. In a 3- to 4-quart pan over high heat, bring 1 1/2 to 2 quarts water to a boil. Add orzo and cook until barely tender to bite, 8 to 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, rinse and core tomatoes; chop and place in a large bowl. Add basil, garlic, olive oil, and vinegar; mix gently.

3. Drain pasta well and add to tomato mixture. Mix, adding parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper to taste.

Nutritional Information:
Calories: 255 (32% from fat)
Protein: 7.8g
Fat: 9g (sat 1.8)
Carbohydrate: 37g
Fiber: 2.6g
Sodium: 74mg
Cholesterol: 2.6mg

Thursday, July 15, 2010

96 Candles

In case you were ever wondering what 96 candles would look like on a birthday cake (which is also known as the earthquake cake for the rift that went right through the "Happy Birthday" wording)... I give you...

96 candles (95 + 1 for good luck, for the beloved Grammy)


Let’s just look past those decorating “skills,” mmmmkay?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Three Year Blogiversary!

I know things have been a little slow around here, but life has more or less gotten in the way, with selling our house, moving 1000 miles, crashing at my parent's house for a month, and setting up shop in a new home in the northeast. I promise there are plenty of recipes to come, and soon! 

Today, I am celebrating my three year (!) anniversary of writing this food blog with a list of my top 10 favorites from the past year.  As I reviewed my posts, I saw quite a few recipes that we loved and have made over and over again.  This was previously something that is quite rare for us, as I have a list of new recipes to try that is seemingly a mile long, and I like to try many new recipes each week.  Please enjoy a second look at some of these favorites of ours.

1. S'mores Cupcakes

I am starting off with the only dessert recipe on this list - quite a change for me!  I think part of the reason for the lack of sweets on the list this year is my switch over to clean eating.  I was baking up less and less of the decadent treats.  These cupcakes were wildly popular at a summer cookout last year, and are a really fun twist on a classic summer treat. 

2.  Whole Wheat Breads

I'm sort of cheating here, but I have loved everything that I have made so far from Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads book.  Reinhart really knows what he is talking about, and I return time and time again to this book for bagels, bread, burger buns, pizza dough, etc.  The time commitment may seem intimidating, but it's really not that bad if you plan ahead.

3. Southwestern Chicken Pizza

When it comes to homemade pizza, my husband and I have had a blast creating unique topping combinations at home.  I came across this pizza recipe one day while looking for a way to use up tomatillos, and it became an instant classic in our house.  It's our favorite pizza recipe, by far!

4.  Artichoke Stuffed Turkey Burgers

I don't think it gets much better than a burger stuffed with artichokes and fontina cheese.  Need I say more?

5. Pico de Gallo

I was dying to find a replacement for my husbands all-too-frequent snack of chili+salsa+velveeta.  One weekend, at his suggestion, we made an old favorite of his from back home.  I fell in love, too, and demanded we make it every weekend thereafter.  Though we have missed some here and there, this pico de gallo recipe is pretty much a given on the weekends in our house. 

6. Oat Bran Cranberry Pancakes

Bisquick used to be my standard pancake "recipe."  I slowly began to branch out and try various scratch pancake recipes, but after the turn to eating clean, still needed something more nutritionally sound.  The search was most definitely over after trying this recipe, and I now use it as a base for just about any kind of pancakes (though truthfully, apple cinnamon is almost always what we end up making).  The batter seems thin after preparing it, but puffs up nicely while cooking and ends up being a great texture.

7.  Lemon Thyme Roasted Turkey Breast

For the first time last year, I went with a turkey breast on Thanksgiving instead of a whole bird.  I knew I wanted to add some flavor to it, and Cook's Illustrated came through for me yet again.  This was absolutely phenomenal, and I plan to use it for a long time coming!

8.  Baked Oatmeal

Between whole wheat bagels and baked oatmeal, I was never short on healthy, filling breakfast ideas this year.  A warm bowl of this oatmeal was a perfect, and very quick, way to start those cold midwest winter mornings.

9.  Italian Chicken Patties

This unassuming dish packs great flavor and comes together relatively quickly without too much effort.  Perhaps it's the gravy talking, but I was instantly in love.

10.  Sesame chicken and noodles

This was yet another dish that had us fighting for the leftovers.  I think it's a must-try if you like sesame!