Sunday, January 29, 2012

Breakfast Bowls

During the week, with everyone being on slightly different schedules, breakfast is usually a quick muffin or bowl of cereal.  However, on the weekends, I usually try to make breakfast for everyone to enjoy, and this is one of our favorites.  This bowl combines several different breakfast favorites into one bowl that is both hearty and tasty.

This recipe is more about technique than specific ingredients.  Although I call for certain ingredients, you could easily substitute your favorites in their place.  For example, I have used country breakfast sausage and sliced smoked sausage in place of the chorizo.  I have also done fried eggs instead of scrambled.  Any way you go, as long as you use things you know you like, you can't go wrong.

Breakfast Bowls

2 Tbsp vegetable or olive oil
3 cups frozen potatoes O'brien
10 oz chorizo sausage
8 eggs
1/3 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Heat large skillet over medium high heat; add oil.  Add potatoes and cook over medium high heat until browned, stirring occasionally.  

Meanwhile in separate skillet, brown chorizo over medium heat, breaking up as you go.  Remove chorizo to paper towel-lined plate to drain.  Wipe out most of grease from skillet.  

In medium bowl, whisk together milk and eggs.  Add eggs to skillet chorizo was cooked in and stir continuously until eggs are set, about 5 minutes.  To serve, divide potatoes evenly between four bowls.  Layer chorizo evenly over the top of potatoes.  Divide eggs evenly between bowl, then drizzle chipotle sauce evenly over the top of eggs.  Top each bowl with 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Alfredo Sauce

Alfredo sauce is by far my favorite pasta sauce. I like it served simply over some fettuccine, sometimes even with some grilled chicken and steamed broccoli on top. It makes a great dipping sauce for bread sticks. It tastes great as the sauce on a pizza with garlic and spinach. It even goes well in a pan of lasagna with mushrooms, carrots, and zucchini.

The keys to a good Alfredo sauce are quality ingredients and patience. By quality ingredients, I mean whole butter and an excellent quality Parmesan cheese. Stay away from the pasta aisle in your supermarket when looking for the cheese. Instead, head over to the deli and get the good stuff. This is definitely the time and place to splurge. In addition to tasting better, the real stuff will melt better and leave you with a smooth sauce, whereas the cheap stuff from aisle 6 will leave your sauce gritty.

This sauce needs to cook slowly. I never let the sauce boil. I cook it over very low heat and stir it continuously to prevent scorching the cream. I also add a little cream cheese to help smooth out the flavor and thicken the sauce slightly. If this sauce gets too hot, it can curdle or separate, neither of which is appealing to look at or taste.

Alfredo Sauce

2 Tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic (optional for some, a must for me)
12 oz heavy cream
2 oz cream cheese
8 oz freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

In medium saucepan over very low heat, melt butter. Add garlic and cook for 3 minutes, or until garlic is softened. Add cream.

As soon as cream mixture begins to steam, add cream cheese and stir continuously to melt. Add Parmesan cheese and continue stirring until completely melted and sauce is smooth. Remove from heat and stir in nutmeg and pepper (no need to add salt, the Parmesan has plenty of that). Use immediately.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Double Chocolate Muffins

In my house, there is one thing I can usually get everyone to agree on. We all LOVE chocolate. Whether it be Hershey's bars, my Nutella Brownies, or my Chocolate Pie (don't ask, I've never shared that recipe with anyone), it will get eaten. These muffins are no different.

These muffins bake up light and fluffy, and have an intense chocolate flavor. I use a mixture of cake flour and all-purpose flour for these, but you could use just all-purpose flour if desired (if so, use a total of 3 cups + 2 Tbsp of all-purpose flour). The chocolate chunks inside give a little added texture and a punch of additional chocolate flavor. While I like to use semi-sweet chocolate for the chunks, you could also use milk chocolate or dark chocolate if you prefer. Just go with what you like.

Just like my Sour Cream Blueberry Muffins, this recipe will make 12 jumbo size muffins, or 24 standard size muffins. Either way you go, just remember to line the muffin tins with paper or grease them well. There is nothing worse than putting the time and effort into making these, only to have the pan refuse to let them go.

Finally, the best thing about these muffins is... they are called muffins. If you called them cupcakes, you would be inferring that they are dessert. By calling them muffins, that makes them breakfast, right?

Double Chocolate Muffins

2 cups cake flour
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 cups milk
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups chocolate chunks or chips + 1/2 cup chips or mini chips for topping

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Prepare muffin tins by greasing or lining with paper liners.  In large mixing bowl, stir together cake flour, all-purpose flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and powdered sugar.  In separate bowl, beat eggs.  Add milk, oil, and vanilla and whisk to combine.

Pour liquid mixture over dry ingredients and stir until just combined (if there are a few lumps, don't worry about it).  Add 1-1/2 cups chocolate chunks and stir gently to combine.

Divide batter evenly between prepared muffin cups (each cup should be about 2/3 way full, or 1/3 empty if you are slightly pessimistic).  Sprinkle remaining chocolate chips over top of batter.

Bake at 375 degrees until toothpick inserted into center of muffin come out clean (16-19 minutes for standard muffins, 22-25 minutes for jumbo size).  Remove from oven and let cool in pan 5 minutes.  Remove from pan and cool on wire rack until completely cooled.  Store in plastic bag for up to 2 days or freeze any leftovers.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Carnitas is on of my favorite dishes to order at a Mexican restaurant.  Now, when I say Mexican restaurant, I'm not talking about Taco Bell.  I'm talking about the small, one-of-a-kind places you can find spread along the southern border from the Gulf of Mexico all the way to San Diego.  I'm talking real, authentic Mexican food that tastes good.  If you've ever tried one of these places, you'll know what I'm talking about.

Carnitas (which means "little meats" in Spanish)  is basically just boneless pork shoulder that has been simmered until it is fall-apart tender and then roasted to produce a crispy outer layer.  Some people swear that the only thing that should go in the pan is pork, water, salt, and pepper.  Other people add all different kinds of spices and even some citrus in the form of oranges and/or orange juice.  I'm a middle-of-the-road type guy myself.  I like the simplicity of the pork, but with a little bit of added flavor meant to enhance the dish, not overpower it.

As with any good thing though, you will have to wait.  When I made this last weekend, I started it on the stove at around 1:45 PM.  I finally pulled the finished carnitas out of the oven at around 7:00 PM.  But let me tell you, the wait was definitely worth it.  I could have eaten these on a plate with just a side of rice and beans.  Instead I decided to go a step further and roll the meat up with some rice (I used my Chile Cilantro Rice), cheese, and onion in a flour tortilla shell.  It turned out to be one of the best burritos I have ever had.


4-5 lb boneless pork shoulder
1 Tbsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp chile powder
1 tsp ancho chili powder
1/4 tsp cumin, ground
1 bay leaf
1 stick cinnamon

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Cut pork loin into 6-8 large pieces.  Rub pork pieces with salt.  Heat vegetable oil in Dutch oven over medium high heat.  Sear pork, 3-4 pieces at a time, in oil until all sides are browned.  Remove pork and drain on paper towels.

Add 1 cup water to pan and stir in garlic powder, chile powder, ancho chili powder, cumin, bay leaf, and cinnamon.  Add pork back to pan and then add enough water to cover pork about 3/4 of the way (I used a total of about 2-1/2 cups myself).

Bring to a boil and then place Dutch oven, uncovered, in oven.  Braise pork for 3-1/2 hours, stirring hourly, or until pork is very tender.  Remove pan from oven and remove pork.  Allow pork to cool slightly and then break into smaller chunks.  Return pork to pan and pan to oven.  Cook another 1 to 1-1/2 half hours, uncovered, or until liquid is nearly gone and outer edges are lightly crunchy.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Chile Cilantro Rice

We love rice.  We eat it a lot.  Usually I just cook up a batch of plain white or brown rice and use it as a bed for some sort of stew or stir-fry.  But recently I thought to myself, why does the rice have to be plain?  Why can't it have some flavor as well?  How can I have flavorful rice without using a packet loaded with salt and a bunch of other things I can't pronounce?

This recipe is a very simple way to serve rice that has a lot of flavor.  As the rice cooks, it absorbs the flavor of the chiles, then I stir in the cilantro right before I serve it.  If you add the cilantro too early, it takes over the dish and loses a lot of its vibrant color in the finished product.  You could make this with brown rice if desired, just increase the water to 5-1/4 cups and let it simmer for 40 minutes instead of 20.

I like to serve this rice with Mexican food, but you could also replace the green chiles with 1 Tbsp chopped fresh hot red chiles to serve this rice with Thai food.

Chile Cilantro Rice

4 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups long grain white rice (not quick or instant)
1 small can chopped green chiles
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

In large saucepan, bring water, salt and green chiles to a boil over medium high heat.  Add rice and return to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until all water is absorbed.  Stir in cilantro and serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Nutella Brownies

I have decided to do away with my dessert of the month page. It just seems criminal to only share one dessert per month. As a result of this decision, I will be reposting some of the desserts that have previously been posted on that page. This is the first, and by far the most popular, of my former Desserts of the Month. I will be adding some of the other desserts here in the near future.

This dessert is something I knew my wife would like, and was inspired by watching the Food Network. I call it simply Nutella Brownies. Nutella is a wonderful chocolate and hazelnut spread that is almost the consistency of peanut butter, and can be found in the peanut butter section of the grocery store. It is extremely rich, so a little goes a long way.

My brownies start as a basic batch of brownies, but are then iced with Nutella and sprinkled with chopped hazelnuts and mini chocolate chips. I even like to stir some hazelnuts into the brownie batter prior to baking. These brownies are very rich, so serve with a glass of milk and enjoy.

Nutella Brownies

1 7x11 pan brownies (made from scratch or boxed mix)
1 jar Nutella
2/3 cup chopped hazelnuts
2/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Bake brownies according to recipe directions.  If desired, stir 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts into batter.  Allow brownies to cool completely (this is the hardest part of making these brownies, I want to cut right into them as soon as they come out of the oven).

Spread thin layer of Nutella over brownies (you should have some left over, the extra goes good in crepes the next day).  Sprinkle evenly with hazelnuts and chocolate chips.  Place in 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes, or until chocolate chips start to melt.  Remove from oven, let cool 5 minutes, cut, and serve.  Enjoy.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sauteed Summer Squash and Mushrooms

Zucchini and yellow summer squash are two of my favorite vegetables due to their versatility.  They can be steamed, breaded and fried, added to soups or stews, or in this case, sauteed in a little olive oil and seasoned.  The mushrooms bring an earthy flavor to this side dish, and absorb the flavors of the Montreal steak seasoning well.  In about 5 minutes, this vegetable dish is ready to serve along side any chicken or fish entree.

Sauteed Summer Squash and Mushrooms

2 medium zucchini (about 1 lb total)
2-3 yellow summer squash (about 1 lb total)
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 Tbsp Montreal steak seasoning
2 Tbsp olive oil

Trim ends from zucchini and discard.  Cut each zucchini in half lengthwise, then slice into 1/2 inch pieces.  Repeat with summer squash.

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add zucchini and yellow squash and cook 2 minutes.  Add mushrooms and Montreal steak seasoning.

Continue to saute, stirring often, until mushrooms and squash are tender, yet still firm enough to hold their shape (about 8 minutes).  Serve immediately.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Shrimp Scampi

Shrimp scampi is one of my favorite shrimp dishes.  I love the simple flavors of the dish and the quickness with which I can have it on the table.  It is also a very simple dish to prepare, yet elegant enough to serve for company.  The key to this dish, though, is to make sure all the prep work is done prior to turning on the stove.

Since the entire dish cooks in less than 10 minutes, I like to make sure I have everything ready to throw in the pan before I even start heating up the pan.  I chop the parsley, mince the garlic, thaw the shrimp, and measure out the other ingredients while bringing the water for the pasta to a boil.  Once the water is boiling, I heat the skillet for the shrimp.  As soon as I drop the noodles into the water, I place the butter in the skillet and start melting it.  By the time the noodles are done, the shrimp and everything else have been added to the pan, cooked through, and are ready to serve over the pasta.

The end result is a vibrantly flavored shrimp dish that is light enough for a summer dinner, or can be served as a first course at a dinner party.

Shrimp Scampi

6 oz angel hair pasta, cooked
1 lb raw colossal shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 to 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup white wine
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Place large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add oil and butter and heat until butter melts and stops foaming.  Add garlic and red pepper flakes.  Cook for 30 seconds, or until garlic is softened.

Add white wine, then shrimp.  Spread shrimp into single layer and cook for 3 minutes, or until shrimp are nearly opaque.

Turn shrimp over and cook 1 minute longer.  Add lemon juice and parsley to pan.  Serve immediately over angel hair.  Spoon sauce over shrimp.  Top with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Breaded Pork Tenderloin Sandwich

Growing up in Indianapolis, I used to frequent a small sandwich shop simply called The Sandwich Machine.  It was a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant that made sandwiches fresh to order.  They had an incredible list of both cold and hot subs, but my favorite sandwich has always been, and will always be, their giant breaded pork tenderloin sandwich.  I have no idea how many of these I have eaten in my life, but the process has always been the same.  Unwrap the sandwich, remove the tenderloin, fold it in fourths, and replace on bun, then eat.

These are not nearly as big as the original (although they could be by cutting the tenderloin into 8 oz pieces instead of 4 oz pieces), but the flavor is the same.  Crispy breaded pork on a hamburger bun, garnished with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, and mayo.  So good.

Breaded Pork Tenderloin Sandwich

24 oz pork tenderloin, cut into 4 oz portions
2 eggs
2 Tbsp water
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
1/4 tsp ground red pepper
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 cup dry bread crumbs
Vegetable oil for frying
6 hamburger buns
Tomato slices
Thinly sliced onion
Dill pickle slices

Using meat tenderizing mallet, pound pork tenderloin pieces between sheets of plastic wrap until flattened to 1/4 inch thickness.  In large flat bowl or plate, whisk together eggs, water, onion powder, seasoned salt, red pepper, black pepper, and garlic powder.  Place bread crumbs on separate plate.

Heat 1/2 inch vegetable oil in large skillet over medium high heat to 360 degrees F.  Working two at a time, dip flattened pork pieces in egg, then bread crumbs.  Shake off excess bread crumbs and fry in oil until golden brown on both sides (about 2 minutes per side).  Remove to paper towel-lined plate to drain.  Repeat with remaining pork pieces.  To assemble, place cooked pork fillets on buns and top with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, and mayonnaise.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sour Cream Blueberry Muffins

I received the Taste of Home cookbook for Christmas and let me tell you one thing...I love this cookbook.  There are so many great recipes in the cookbook, it will take me all year to make the ones that look appetizing.

These muffins are based on the first recipe from this cookbook I tried.  The original version  of these muffins had a streusel topping and a sugar glaze over them.  I simplified them a bit by sprinkling them with just a pinch of coarse sugar on top of each one before baking.  Also, I doubled the original recipe since I had double the blueberries that the recipe called for.  I baked them as jumbo muffins, but you could also do them as standard size (2-1/2 inch) muffins.  Using the recipe below, I was able to make a dozen jumbo size muffins, so the yield for standard size muffin tins would be about two dozen.  If you make the standard size muffins, make sure you check them at 15 minutes, as they will cook a lot quicker than the jumbo size versions.

Sour Cream Blueberry Muffins

2 Tbsp butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
16 oz sour cream
4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups blueberries
Coarse turbinado sugar, for topping

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  In large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar together for two minutes.  Add eggs and sour cream.  Beat 1 minute or until fully incorporated.

In separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, and baking soda.  Add flour mixture to sour cream mixture and mix until just blended.  Gently fold in blueberries.

Prepare muffins tins by lining with paper cups or greasing.  Divide batter evenly between cups.  Sprinkle turbinado sugar over top of muffins.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 23-28 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center of muffin comes out clean.  Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 5 minutes.  Remove muffins from pan and cool on wire rack until completely cool.

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