Monday, February 28, 2011

Pork Tenderloin a la Mexicana

Here's one that I had made many moons ago, but hadn't shared yet. The picture is not the best, but the dish was surprisingly good.

Pork may be the other white meat, but is definitely not one of our go to meats in this house. We enjoy it well enough, but in our experience, it goes from almost done to overcooked in a matter of seconds. The nice thing about this dish is that even if your pork gets a little overcooked, the flavors are still delicious enough that it doesn't matter.
Pork Tenderloin a la Mexicana 
(Puerco a la Mexicana)
Serves 4
  • 2 large fresh poblano chiles
  • 1 to 1 1/4 pounds pork tenderloin, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 medium white onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped or crushed through a garlic press
  • One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice (preferably fire-roasted), drained
  • 3/4 cup beef broth OR 2/3 cup water plus 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 large branch fresh epazote OR 1/2 cup (loosely packed) coarsely chopped cilantro
1. Roast the peppers over an open flame or 4 inches below a broiler, turning regularly until blistered and blackened all over, about 5 minutes for an open flame, 10 minutes for the broiler. Place in a bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and let cool until they can be handled.
2. While the chiles are cooling, pat the meat dry on paper towels. Sprinkle liberally all over with salt. Heat the oil in a very large (12-inch) skillet over medium-high. When the oil is hot, add the pork in an uncrowded single layer and cook, stirring and turning regularly, until browned all over, about 4 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove to a plate, leaving behind as much oil as possible. Set the skillet aside.
3. Rub the blackened skin off the chiles and pull out the stems and seed pods. Rinse the chiles to remove bits of skin and seeds. Cut into 1/4-inch strips.
4. Return the skillet to medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until richly golden but still crunchy, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and chile strips and stir until fragrant, then pour in the drained tomatoes, broth (or water-Worcestershire combo) and epazote (save the cilantro to add later). Bring to a boil and let cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Add the meat to the pan (and cilantro, if that’s what you’re using). Reduce the heat to medium and simmer briskly until the pork is cooked through–I (Bayless) like it still a touch rosy inside, which usually takes just about 5 minutes of simmering.
5. Taste and season with salt, usually about 1 teaspoon. Remove the epazote from the pan, if necessary, and you’re ready to serve.

Source: Rick Bayless Mexican Everyday

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Apple Hand Pies

I have a special love in my heart for those little Hostess fried pies, especially the apple. There is something wonderful about little apple pieces loaded between two pieces of fried pie dough and glazed. My only complaint about them (other than the amount of fat, calories, and hydrogenated oils) would be the coating in my mouth after I eat one. I'm not gonna lie - It's a little gross. 
Now imagine all the deliciousness, but no oily feel or hydrogenated oils, hot and fresh from the oven. Perfection.
I picked up an apple filling from a local farm market, but the filling included in the original post sounds tasty, too. If you don't have the time to make a pie crust from scratch, we used Trader Joe's, and it tasted great.

Adios, Hostess. Heeeelllloo mostly homemade goodness. Check out Our Best Bites for some other really cute ideas, including turning these treats into Pie Pops.

Apple (or Fruit) Hand Pies
  • 1 recipe of homemade or store bought pie crust dough
  • Small bowl of water
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • Course sugar or sprinkles for top
  • Canned pie filling, or homemade apple (below)
  • Cookie or Biscuit Cutters

Apple Pie Filling (combine all ingredients below):
  • 1 medium tart green apple, peeled and grated
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon cold butter, grated

Glaze (Whisk all ingredients until smooth.  Add milk until desired consistency is reached):
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1-3 tsp milk
Preheat oven to 375°.  Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat if desired.

Roll out pie dough on a floured surface about 1/8 inch thick. Cut out heart shapes (or other shape of your choosing) and place them on your baking sheet.  Place about 1-2 tsp of filling on one cut out, keeping it at least 1/4 inch away from the edges.  Wet your finger in a small bowl of water and wet the edge of the pie dough shape.  Wet the edges of a 2nd pie dough shape (one without filling) and place on top of the other.  Press together gently with your fingers to seal the pieces together.  Use a fork to crimp edges.  Poke a fork into top of pie one time so steam can vent.  If desired, brush top of pie in melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.  (Or leave plain to glaze after).

Bake pies for 15-20 minutes until barely golden brown.  Cool for a few minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack.  If glazing, gently brush or spoon glaze over pies while still warm.

Source: Our Best Bites

Friday, February 18, 2011

Quick Tortellini Soup

This soup is a new find for me. I had a very tasty version at the birthday party I took the butterfly cupcakes to, and have since wanted to recreate it. I knew the ingredients were simple... Cheese tortellini, chicken broth, fresh spinach, and her version had little meatballs which were a great complement.

The version I made was meatless and added some chopped tomatoes and a little shaved Parmesan cheese to the top. It's a pretty low key, low maintenance, (and low fat!) easy dish. A word to the wise, don't use a low sodium broth for this one. As there are minimal ingredients in the dish, the lower sodium took a bit away from the overall flavor. There is an alternative recipe for a tortellini soup that uses some canned tomatoes that I plan to make in a couple weeks, so I'll share which version is better at that time. :)

If you want to make it a more substantial meal, or add a protein, little meatballs or some cooked and crumbled Italian sausage would both be a delicious addition.

Served with some crusty bread, it's soup!

Quick Tortellini Soup
Serves 6
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • Pinch of parsley
  • 16 oz. package of fresh or frozen tortellini
  • 4 cups baby arugula and spinach*
  • 2 Roma tomato, seeded and chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Parmesan shavings, for serving
*Half a bag of frozen peas or Trader Joe's French cut string beans are both good substitutions.

Heat chicken broth and parsley over medium-high heat. Add tortellini to the hot broth. Cook until heated through (see package directions). Divide greens between 4 bowls. Ladle soup over the greens and top with chopped tomato and Parmesan.

Source: Confections of a Foodie Bride

Monday, February 14, 2011

Butterfly Cupcakes

I feel in love with these cupcakes when I saw them on Annie's blog recently. I even went so far as to actually buy all the things I would need to make the cupcakes (like fun flower-shaped cupcake wrappers!) without actually having an occasion to make them. When I got invited to a girl's night to celebrate a friend's birthday, I practically begged to bring dessert. I was so happy (and relieved!) that the cupcakes turn out so beautiful and delicious.

The butterfly is made up entirely of Wilton melts chocolate discs that I picked up at JoAnn Fabrics. Up until the night I made these, I had never worked with Wilton melts before, and now I fear that I will go broke buying them. They were easy to use and produced such beautiful results that I will be looking for other new fun ways to incorporate them into desserts. Or, maybe I'll just make these pretty butterflies all the time. :)

Check out Annie's site for the tutorial on how to make these. The butterfly wings can be made up to a few days in advance and stored until the cupcakes are ready to be assembled. I used the buttercream icing she recommended as well, and let me tell you, it is rich and delicious and held these butterflies in place quite well. The icing recipe is posted below.

So if you now feel the need to run to JoAnn's for supplies, I completely and totally understand. I may even see you there! :)

Easy Vanilla Buttercream
20 tbsp. (2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/16 tsp. salt (small pinch)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. heavy cream

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds.  Add confectioners’ sugar and salt; beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 45 seconds.  Scrape down the bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully combined, about 15 seconds.  Scrape bowl, add vanilla and heavy cream, and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 10 seconds.  Then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice.

Source: Annie's Eats, originally from Cook’s Illustrated, April 2007

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Banana Espresso Chip Muffins

I happened to have some overly ripe bananas and an open bag of chocolate chips when I saw the below recipe on Tara's blog. These muffins put my recently posted blueberry muffins to shame. They were so incredibly moist, full of banana flavor, and really just an all around delicious muffin. They were delicious warm or at room temp, but I was especially fond of eating them a little warm as the chocolate chips were gooey and amazing. And, this is one of those recipes that is really a win-win: They are so good that you have to give them away to avoid eating them all (true story), and then people love you because you gave them an awesome muffin (also a true story). A win-win. It doesn't get much better than that.

Banana Espresso Chocolate Chip Muffins
Yield: 18 Muffins
  • 1½ c. mashed, very ripe bananas (about 4)
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 c. whole milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1½ c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. espresso powder (or instant coffee)
  • 1½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. (6 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Spray muffin pan(s) with non-stick spray or line with paper liners. In a medium bowl, stir together the bananas, sugars, butter, milk, and egg. In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, instant espresso powder, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the well and stir just until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Fill each cup about 3/4 full. Bake in the center of the oven for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffin comes out clean. Move the muffin pan to a cooling rack, and let cool for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove the muffins from the pan and let them finish cooling on the cooling rack. Muffins can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days, or can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 2 months.

Source: Smells Like Home, originally from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

Friday, February 11, 2011

Russian Mushroom and Potato Soup

The year was 2007. Some friends of ours had recently returned from living in Russia and had also just given birth to their third child. We wanted to bring them over a dinner that would remind them a little of home, but having very little knowledge of Russian cuisine, I was stumped. Some internet searches later, I found this soup on and decided it was exactly what I was looking for. Warm, comforting, and the word "Russian" was right in the name. It had to be a winner, right?

And it was.

The ingredient list appears unassuming, but the combination of flavors is just perfectly delicious together. A couple suggestions:
  • If you have never used leeks, fear not! They are just like big green onions that need to be cleaned a bit better. Here's a site that will show you the easiest way to clean them. Also, only use the white and light green portions of the leeks. 
  • The recipe calls for chicken stock, but vegetable stock also works well in this recipe.
  • Don't substitute the half-and-half. The creaminess depends on it. I'm sure it would still taste good, just not as good.
  • We needed more salt and pepper in our soup than the recipe calls for, so make sure you salt and pepper to your personal taste preference.
And as to whether the family liked it? We received a phone call later that evening saying that not only did they love it, but their other two children (who had pretty much been raised in Russia) loved it and actually ate more that night for dinner than they had in a while. And that made my heart happy.

Russian Mushroom and Potato Soup
Yields: 6 - 8 Servings
  • 5 Tbsp. butter, divided
  • 2 leeks, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 6 c. chicken (or vegetable) broth
  • 2 tsp. dried dill weed
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 lbs. of potatoes, peeled and diced (about 5 med. potatoes)
  • 1 lb. fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 c. half-and-half
  • 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • Fresh dill weed, for garnish (optional)
Melt 3 Tbsp. butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Mix in leeks and carrots, and cook 5 minutes. Pour in broth. Season with dill, salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Mix in potatoes, cover, and cook 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender, but firm. Remove and discard the bay leaf.

Melt the remaining butter in a skillet over medium heat, and saute the mushrooms 5 minutes, until lightly browned. Stir into the soup.

In a small bowl, mix the half-and-half and flour until smooth. Stir into the soup to thicken. Garnish each bowl of soup with fresh dill (optional) and serve.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Strawberry Rice Krispie Treats

My friends, what you see before you is pure genius. It's a rice krispie treat made with heart-shaped jet-puffed strawberry marshmallows (in place of the usual marshmallows) and freeze-dried strawberries tossed into the mix. Cut them out with heart shaped cookie cutters and you have one of the cutest and tastiest Valentine's treats you can make. What's even more wonderful is that I picked up the ingredients for this at Target! And who doesn't love Target?!
Go to Target, buy the ingredients and make these! You will be ♥loved♥.
Strawberry Rice Krispie Treats
Yield: One 9"x13" pan
  • 16 ounces Strawberry flavored marshmallows (1½ bags)
  • 6 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 9 cups Rice Krispie cereal (or knock off)
  • 1 cup freeze dried strawberries
Butter a 9-x-13-x-2-inch pan. Or be lazy like me and use baking spray. Over low heat, melt 6 TBSP butter in a large pot (I like to use my stock pot because I am a messy person).
Once butter has melted, add marshmallows. Continue to cook over low heat while they melt. It may take a little time. Don’t turn up the heat to try and make it go quicker, you could end up with burned marshmallows or your treats could end up too hard once they firm up
When most of the marshmallows have melted and they resemble marshmallow crème with a few lumps, remove from heat and add the cereal and sprinkle in freeze dried strawberries (try not to dump those all in one place).
Using a wooden spoon, stir, stir, stir some more, until all the cereal is fully coated and other parts of the pot are not hogging all the marshmallows (so evenly coated).
Pour into prepared baking pan. Take a rubber spatula and either spray it with non-stick spray or simply get some water on it (I just put mine under the faucet real quick). Using the spatula, press the cereal/marshmallow mixture down into the pan, attempting to create a flat, even surface.
Cover with foil and let sit for a few hours to firm up.
Take foil off. Place wax paper down that is a little bit longer than the baking pan. Flip the pan over onto the wax paper. Cut into squares. Some would say 2-inch. But whatever size you would like works. You can also use cookie cutters to make them fun shaped.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Blueberry Streusel Muffins

Who doesn't love a good muffin? We were having breakfast for dinner a couple nights ago and I thought we'd shake things up a bit by having muffins instead of toast with dinner. My girls were more than happy about the change of pace and we all enjoyed these.
The recipe is not overly sweet, so if you decide to forgo the streusel topping, I'd increase the amount of sugar in the recipe to 1/2 c. (based on other reviews). I would also add an extra 1/2 c. of blueberries, but that might be because my oldest kept helping herself to the blueberries before we added them to the batter. :)

Blueberry Streusel Muffins
Yields: 12 muffins
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
In a mixing bowl, cream sugar and butter. Add egg; mix well. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; add to the creamed mixture alternately with milk. Stir in vanilla. Fold in blueberries. Fill 12 greased or paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. In a small bowl, combine sugar, flour and cinnamon; cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over muffins. Bake at 375 degrees F for 25-30 minutes or until browned.

Source: Allrecipes

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Weeknight Bolognese

I have some food aversions, or "don't"s, which actually make me a bit of a picky eater. I have a hard time with meat on the bone, hot dogs or sausages ("tubed" meats), and I don't eat duck (too greasy) or veal. It's kind of a big list, I know, but I'm difficult like that.

Bolognese is something that I traditionally do not order because I have found veal is usually listed as one of the meats used. So when I received Ina's new cookbook, How Easy Is That?, and happened upon the weeknight bolognese recipe, imagine my delight when I saw she called for good ol' lean ground sirloin. (I know I can always omit or substitute sirloin for any variety of meat called for, but somehow it was just extra special that this recipe used my preferred type of red meat.) :) Truth be told, the "weeknight" also lured me in.

As an added bonus, a lot of the ingredients are pantry items.

To make the bolognese (full recipe below): 1. Brown meat in a skillet, then add garlic oregano, and red pepper flakes. Cook for 1 min. 2. Pour in a cup of wine and get all the bits off the bottom of the pan. 3. & 4. Add in 1 can of crushed tomatoes, some tomato paste, salt and pepper. 5. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 min.

Because no Ina recipe is complete without cream and/or butter, add in 1/4 c. heavy cream.

Also add basil, nutmeg and a little extra wine to the sauce and simmer it for another 8-10 minutes.

Add the sauce and some grated Parmesan to the cooked and drained pasta, preferably not in the same pot you cooked it in. Why? Because all the delicious Parmesan cheese I tossed in stuck to the nice, warm bottom of the pan. Ina suggests mixing it together in a large serving dish, and I should have listened.

Serve with a salad and some yummy bread and you have a molto buona meal!
With the 1¼ c. of vino, it definitely has a stronger wine flavor. I enjoyed it, but it was not my girls' favorite and may have been a bit much for my sister. You can definitely adjust it to taste. The depth of flavor drawn out in a dish that took less than an hour to make was really impressive and quite tasty.

Weeknight Bolognese
Serves 6
2 TB good olive oil, plus extra to cook pasta
1 pound lean ground sirloin
4 tsp minced garlic (4 cloves)
1 TB dried oregano
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 ¼ cups dry red wine, divided
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
2 TB tomato paste
Kosher salt & black pepper
¾ pound dried pasta, such as orecchiette or small shells (
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
¼ cup heavy cream
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
Heat 2 TB of olive oil in a large (12 inch) skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and cook, crumbling the meat until the meat is no longer pink and has started to brown. Add the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 more minute. Pour 1 cup of the wine into the skillet and stir to scrape up any browned bits. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 1 TB salt, and 1 ½ tsp pepper, stirring until combined. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the directions on the box.
Finish the sauce while the pasta cooks. Add the nutmeg, basil, cream, and the remaining ¼ cup wine to the sauce and simmer for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened. When the pasta is cooked, drain and pour into a large serving bowl. Add the sauce and ½ cup Parmesan and toss well. Serve hot with Parmesan on the side.

Source: Ina Garten's How Easy Is That?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Annie's Cheesy Chicken "Benchiladas"

I've been putting off any sort of real grocery trip, so we've been trying to use up what we have around the house. I actually have an enchilada recipe that we love, but didn't have all the ingredients for it on hand. I did, however, have the ingredients for these "Benchiladas" (from one of my favorite blogs) so it was time to see how our favorite recipe compared to her husband's favorite.

All that is needed is shown below: Cheese, tortillas, cooked chicken, a mix of sour cream and ranch dressing (1/2 c. of each), and salsa. (We halved the recipe since we were working with limited ingredients and we only needed 3 servings.)

Add half of the ranch/sour cream mixture to a separate bowl, then combine it with the shredded chicken breast.

We had no cheese in our house aside from a package of jack cheese cubes. A lot of our cooking requires improvising and working with what we have, hence the chopped cheese below, but if you so happen to have a stocked fridge with a Mexican cheese blend in it, by all means, use that.

Assemble your enchilada: Start by spreading about 1 Tbsp. of the remaining sour cream/ranch mix on a tortilla. Top it with some of the chicken mixture, then some salsa and cheese, and then roll it up. Place it seam-side down in a pan. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

I like to fill mine a little bit fuller so I only eat one enchilada, but that's just a personal preference. The recipe states that it should make about 5-7 enchiladas halved and we ended up with 4. 

Bake it at 375° for 25-30 minutes. Let stand for a couple minutes before serving.

And the verdict: I may be biased, but I really didn't think these held a candle to our usual enchilada recipe. Nate and I both thought they were okay, but were a little bit on the bland side. However, a lot of people have made them and loved them based on the comments on Annie's blog, so it may just be a personal preference. I'll plan to post our enchilada recipe sometime this month so you can try those as well and decide which better suits your taste.

Annie's Cheesy Chicken "Benchiladas"
Serves: 4-6
  • 4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 8 oz. reduced fat sour cream
  • 8 oz. Ranch salad dressing
  • flour tortillas (10-15) – we like Azteca, packs of 10
  • jar of salsa
  • shredded mexican cheese (Annie usually uses close to 4 cups)
Cook chicken breasts by preferred cooking method until cooked through. Set aside to cool a bit.
While chicken is cooling, mix up the sauce. In a large mixing bowl, combine half of the sour cream and half of the Ranch dressing. In a small bowl, combine the rest of the sour cream and Ranch dressing. Stir both until well combined. Shred or chop the cooked chicken and add to the large mixing bowl. Mix well with sauce.

Preheat the oven to 375°. Grease a 9 x 13″ pan (and possibly another, smaller pan if needed). Take one tortilla and top with a little less than 1 tbsp. of the sauce from the small bowl. Spread over the tortilla in an even layer. Add some of the chicken mixture to the center of the tortilla. Top with salsa to taste. Sprinkle with shredded cheese, to taste. Roll up tortilla and place, seam side down, in the prepared baking dish. Repeat with remaining ingredients (usually makes 10-15 enchiladas).

Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes (30 for a crispier tortilla). Allow to cool a few minutes before serving.

Source: Annie's Eats