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I am very easily persuaded when it comes to baking. Last Sunday Brandon suggested that I bake cookies or brownies for dessert and I immediately agreed that it was a fabulous idea. I started flipping through cookbooks to find a new recipe that I could blog about and I’m here to say that I found a winner.

I love the Southern Living Cookbook. It’s one of those cookbooks that never fails me…I can always find something delicious to make from it. The second I saw these white chocolate brownies, I knew that I’d found my dessert.

Brownies are a staple in our dessert rotation but always in the traditional chocolate form. I loved the idea of having a white chocolate base. Brandon had the genius idea of adding toffee. The results were perfect – the white chocolate was the star and the toffee added the perfect compliment. I loved the slight saltiness that the toffee provided.

Top with ice cream and chocolate sauce for extra deliciousness!

White Chocolate Toffee Brownies
(Recipe adapted from The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook)

Ingredients:

1/3 cup unsalted butter
8 ounces white chocolate, chopped and divided
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup toffee

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease and 8 x 8 pan.

Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Add 4 ounces of white chocolate and remove from heat. Do not stir the butter and chocolate. Allow chocolate to slowly melt.

Beat eggs at medium speed with an electric mixer until thick and pale, about 1-2 minutes. Slowly add the sugar, beating well.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add to egg mixer, mixing until just blended. Stir in white chocolate and vanilla. Fold in remaining chopped white chocolate and toffee.

Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes.

Yield: 2 dozen squares

I love everything about summer dinners. Eating outdoors, using herbs from the garden, farmer’s market veggies and grilling. I enjoy entertaining during the summer. Everything is simple but fresh and very relaxed. We had friends over for dinner last weekend and I was able to spend the evening chatting rather than rushing around in the kitchen. The appetizer and side dish were made a head of time and the main and vegetable were done on the grill. It doesn’t get better than that!

While looking for side dishes that could be prepared ahead of time, I came across this Mediterranean Lentil and Couscous Salad. First, I have a serious fondness for anything that involves Mediterranean flavors and liked that that base of the salad was lentils and couscous. The inclusion of tomatoes, feta, arugula and fresh herbs really made this stand out. Second, I have an appreciation for recipes from Gourmet and usually find them to be winners.

I let the salad sit overnight to really let the flavors develop. It was a hit with our guests and the perfect side for a summer cookout. I enjoyed the leftovers for lunch the next few days!

Mediterranean Lentil and Couscous Salad
(Recipe source Gourmet magazine)

Ingredients:

1 cup French green or brown lentils
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 1/4 cups water
1 cup couscous (I used whole wheat)
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, minced and mashed to a paste with 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 bunch arugula, stems discarded and leaves washed well, spun dry and chopped
2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1 cup crumbled feta
1/4 cup fresh basil, julienned

Directions:

Place lentils in a small saucepan and cover with 2 inches of water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes or until lentils are tender but not falling apart. Drain and transfer to a bowl. Stir in one tablespoon vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Cool lentils completely.

In a saucepan, bring water to a boil and add couscous and salt. Remove from heat and let couscous stand, covered, 5 minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in 1 tablespoon oil and cool completely.

In a small bowl, whisk together garlic paste, remaining 2 tablespoons vinegar, remaining 3 tablespoons oil and salt and pepper to taste. Stir lentils and dressing into couscous. Chill salad, covered, at least 3 hours and up to 24.

Just before serving, stir in remaining ingredients, top with basil and season with salt and pepper. At this time I also added another drizzle of olive oil and a splash of vinegar but that’s totally optional.

Yield: 8 servings

White Bean Dip

Before I even get started on the recipe portion of this post, let’s talk about the current status of Bakin’ and Eggs. I am the first to admit that my posts have been few and far between. My schedule has been so insanely busy lately that I just haven’t had time to get in the kitchen and cook new recipes to blog about. We’ve been turning to a lot of old favorites and quick meals that while healthy and delicious, aren’t really blog-worthy. Perhaps the most sad of all is how little time I have had to bake lately. I really miss it. What time I do have, I’ve been putting towards updating my healthy living blog, Peanut Butter Runner.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel though. If you’ll just stick with me, I promise that I will resume to posting 3-5 recipes per week again soon. I am so ready to get back in the kitchen.

Now, on to the dip. I’m not the best when it comes to appetizer ideas. Give me a cheese plate and I’m a happy girl. We had friends over for dinner last night and I wanted to serve an easy, healthy, make-ahead appetizer. I thought of making hummus but while I still love to eat it, I’m a little over serving it to guests. I found this recipe for White Bean Dip from Giada and thought that it sounded like a great alternative to hummus.

The dip was so super simple to make and ready in under five minutes. It’s just a puree of white beans, parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and salt and pepper. If you wanted to mix it up, I think that it would also be great with basil instead of parsley. I served it with mixed veggies and pita chips. It was a perfect make-ahead summer appetizer!

White Bean Dip
(Recipe source Giada de Laurentiis)

Ingredients:
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1-2 garlic cloves (depending on how much punch you want to pack!), peeled and crushed
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup (loosely packed) fresh Italian parsley leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:
Place the beans, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and parsley in a food processor or blender. Pulse or blend until the mixture is pretty smooth but still has some texture. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer to a small bowl and garnish with fresh herbs.

Yield: 6 servings

 

Bacon Ranch Potato Salad

My parents make great traditional potato salad. You know, the mayonnaise-based kind that includes celery, onion and hard boiled eggs. I’ve tried to recreate it a few times but it never tastes as good as it does when they make it and I really don’t love old school potato salad unless it’s that recipe. So instead of trying to master their version, I like to try different variations of potato salad.

We attended a family cookout for Memorial Day last night and I volunteered to bring Feta Potato Salad. I was in the process of making my grocery list when this recipe for Bacon Ranch Potato Salad popped up in my Google Reader. I immediately abandoned plans to make a tried and true recipe in favor of trying something new (not that the feta potato salad isn’t amazing…you must try!).

I knew my audience and Bacon Ranch Potato Salad sounded right up their alley…especially with a large number of kids in attendance. This recipe is relatively simple with boiled potatoes being tossed in homemade ranch dressing and crumbled bacon. Actually, my favorite thing about this recipe was that the ranch dressing was homemade with a short ingredient list of things that are usually in my kitchen. I would make just the ranch dressing part of this recipe for salads. It was delicious!

This new twist on potato salad was a hit with my family and is sure to be a winner at any summer cookout!

Bacon Ranch Potato Salad
(Recipe source Confections of a Foodie Bride)

Ingredients:

2 pounds red potatoes, unpeeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
1/4 cup plain reduced-fat yogurt or sour cream
2 tablespoons chives, chopped
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped (plus more for garnish)
1 green onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup buttermilk
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 slices thick cut bacon, cooked to a crisp and crumbled

Directions:

Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with 1-2 inches of cold water and 1 tablespoon of salt. Bring potatoes to a boil and cook until just tender, about 10 minutes.

While potatoes are cooking, whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream, herbs, green onion, garlic, lemon and buttermilk in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Drain potatoes and transfer to a serving bowl. Let stand for about 10 minutes and then pour half of the ranch dressing over the potatoes and half of the crumbled bacon and gently toss to combine. Refrigerate one hour and then toss with remaining ranch dressing. Top with the rest of the crumbled bacon and garnish with chopped parsley. Return to refrigerator until ready to serve.

Yield: 8-10 servings

Herbs de Provence is one of my favorite spices but I don’t find many opportunities to use it. I ran across this recipe for Herb-Rubbed Chicken with Creamy Orzo on Annie’s Eats a few years ago and have been making variations of it ever since.

This is a simple dish to prepare because the chicken and orzo cook in the same pan. The original recipe includes broccoli in the pan with the chicken and orzo but I find that I prefer it roasted on the side. If you feel inclined to make it a one-pan dinner, throw the broccoli in there! (Side note, if you haven’t tried roasted broccoli yet, you must. It’s life changing.)

I really like recipes where chicken is braised in liquid. It’s a fool-proof, forgiving method for getting juicy, perfectly cooked chicken. The original recipe includes heavy cream but think all the other flavors are so great that I don’t need more than just a sprinkle of parmesan at the end.

Herbs de Provence Chicken with Orzo
(Recipe inspired by Annie’s Eats)

Ingredients:

2-3 chicken breasts
2 teaspoons herbs de provence
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 can petite diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup orzo
1 cup chicken stock
Freshly grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Season chicken with salt, pepper and herbs de provence. Set aside.

Preheat a large sautee pan (with a lid) over medium heat. Add olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Add chicken and let cook for about 5 minutes until browned on one side. Remove chicken from pan and add orzo, tomatoes and chicken broth. Stir and return chicken to pan, browned side up. Cover and let cook over medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes or until orzo is tender and internal temperature of chicken reads 160 degrees.

Sprinkle with Parmesan and serve.

Yield: 2-3 servings

Strawberry Crisp

Recently I found myself with a fridge full of strawberries and the desire to make a dessert other than strawberry shortcake with them. Since I am a firm believer all fruit can be made even more delicious by topping it with a crunchy topping and serving it warm with a scoop of ice cream, I decided to try a crisp. (Case in point here and here.)

Off to the internet I went in search of a recipe. I was surprised to find that strawberry crisp recipes were scarce. Most involved the addition of rhubarb, which I was not interested in. So I did what any food blogger with an idea in their head would do, combined a couple of recipes to create exactly what I was looking for.

The results were wonderful! The strawberries were warm and sweet with a nice consistency and the topping was a great combination of a buttery oat mixture with toasted pecans.

We took the crisp to a friend’s house for a dinner party and it was a huge hit. And just as I expected, it was even better with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Don’t miss out on this one while strawberries are in season!

Strawberry Crisp
(Recipe adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook and Culinary Concoctions by Peabody)

Ingredients:

FOR THE BERRIES
3 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

FOR THE TOPPING
1 cup oats
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 stick butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup pecans, chopped

Directions:

Butter an 8 x 8 baking dish or small oval baker. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Mix together strawberries, sugar, lemon juice and cornstarch. Set aside.

Whisk together flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in medium bowl. Add butter and mix in with your fingertips until mixture sticks together in clumps. Stir in oats and nuts.

Place strawberry mixture in prepared baking dish and crumble topping over. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until topping is browned and strawberries are bubbly.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Lemon Coconut Pound Cake

Pound cake is one of my favorite no-fuss desserts. It’s simple, easy and versatile. Pound cake also reminds me of my grandmother, who taught me that it’s a perfectly acceptable breakfast treat. 😛

I was flipping through the March issue of Southern Living and came across this recipe for Lemon Coconut Pound Cake. I just happened to have all of the ingredients on hand in my kitchen so 10 minutes later I found myself baking. I had the cake in the oven in less than 15 minutes and it smelled wonderful while it was baking.

I was extremely pleased with both the texture and flavor of this cake. Sometimes pound cakes can be a bit dry but this one was soft and moist. I attribute the great texture to the use of yogurt in the batter. The lemon coconut flavor provided the perfect Spring twist on pound cake.

We ate this plain and it was delicious but it would also be nice with a glaze or with berries and fresh whipped cream. Make this cake a must on your Spring dessert rotation!

Lemon Coconut Pound Cake
(Recipe heavily adapted from Southern Living)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut, plus extra for topping cake

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour a 9 x 5 loaf pan. Stir together flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or using a hand mixer, beat butter at medium speed until creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Slowly add sugar, beating until fluffy and lightened in color. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.

Alternate adding flour mixture and yogurt to butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice and 1/2 cup coconut. Pour batter into a greased and floured 9- x 5-inch loaf pan.

Bake for 1 hour and 5 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. (Mine took closer to an hour and 15.) Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes and then remove from pan to wire rack, and cool completely (about 1 hour).

Yield: 8 servings

Rustic Chicken

I recently received the Canyon Ranch: Nourish cookbook from one of the readers of my healthy living blog. It is a beautiful cookbook full of delicious and healthy recipes. Brandon and I have both skimmed through the book and I’m pretty sure that we want to make every single thing in it!

I was feeling a chicken dish for dinner tonight and this recipe for Rustic Chicken sounded perfect given the blast of winter weather that we’re experiencing. Last week it was 80 degrees, this weekend it is 40 and raining…go figure. I am ready for spring to be here to stay!

This Rustic Chicken is simple and comforting but still elegant and flavorful with the addition of fresh herbs and a nice mixture of vegetables. I made a some changes to the original recipe, including adding carrots and parsley and subbing oregano for the sage. Next time I will use chicken cutlets rather than full breasts because I think they will absorb more flavor and we found we didn’t need a whole breast with all the other elements of the dish.

One Year Ago: Baby Greens with Warm Goat Cheese
Two Years Ago: Simple Broiled Mahi

Rustic Chicken
(Recipe adapted from Canyon Ranch: Nourished)

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1/4 cup shallots, sliced thinly
1 cup seasonal wild mushrooms, sliced (I used white and baby portobello)
1 1/2 cups frozen pearl onions
1 cup baby carrots
2 cups chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1/4 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups cooked pasta
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 4-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts

For garnish: grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley

Directions:

Season chicken breasts generously with salt and pepper. In a large sauté pan, over medium heat, heat one tablespoon of oil. Sauté chicken breasts for 5-6 minutes per side or until browned and internal temperature reads 160 degrees. Remove from heat and cover loosely to keep warm.

Add remainder of oil to pan and saute shallots, mushrooms, onions and carrots for 8-10 minutes, or until shallots are translucent and mushrooms are soft. Add chicken stock, deglaze pan and reduce liquid by half.  Add rosemary and oregano and season with salt and pepper. Add pasta and toss together until well combined.

Evenly divide the pasta mixture into 4 bowls.  Top each serving with a chicken breast and sprinkle with grated cheese and parsley.

Yield: 4 servings

We really enjoy noodle bowl creations but usually lean towards broth-based, curry flavored noodle bowls. This recipe caught my attention because I have never cooked with soba at home and it seemed healthy and satisfying. I’m in the midst of a 10 day break from meat so I added this vegetarian dish to this week’s menu.

Soba noodles are Japanese thin noodles made from buckwheat flour. They are high in fiber contain all eight amino acids, making them a great source of vegetarian protein. I experienced some difficulty finding them in my normal store – they carried them but they were out of stock at two different stores. Brandon stopped by Earth Fare and discovered they had several different brands. If your local grocery doesn’t carry them check an Asian market or a health foods store or substitute whole wheat spaghetti.

I was drawn to two different recipes – I liked the dressing from Annie’s Eats and the vegetable mixture for the noodles from a Gourmet recipe. I decided to combine the recipes and was pleased with the results. I also think this would be delicious with tofu or chicken added to the mix.

Add this to your weekly menu plan as a meatless main! It’s easy, healthy and flavorful!

One Year Ago: Kefta and Zucchini Kabobs
Two Years Ago: Indian Spiced Chicken Burgers

Spicy Soba Noodles with Edamame, Mushrooms and Cabbage
(Inspired by Annie’s Eats and Gourmet)

Ingredients:

FOR THE DRESSING
1/2 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
4 green onions, chopped
2-3 teaspoons chili garlic sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar

FOR THE NOODLES
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons peeled ginger, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
10 ounces fresh mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced (shiitake or button)
1 pound Napa cabbage, thinly sliced (5-6 cups)
2 green onions, sliced
8 ounces soba
1 cup frozen shelled edamame

Directions:

FOR THE DRESSING
In a medium bowl, whisk together all ingredients and set aside.

FOR THE NOODLES
Toast sesame seeds in a large, heavy skillet (not nonstick and with no oil) over medium heat. Stir often and cook until pale golden. Transfer to a small bowl.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Saute mushrooms, stirring frequently, until they start to brown, about 4 minutes. Add ginger and garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add cabbage and scallions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until cabbage is crisp but tender, about 6 minutes. Add sauce and simmer for another 2 minutes.

While the cabbage is cooking, cook the soba and edamame together in a large pot of boiling salted water. Cook until noodles are just tender, about 5-6 minutes. Drain and rinse under cool water.

Transfer noodles to a large bowl and toss with sesame seeds and vegetable mixture.

Yield: 4 servings

 

 

Greek Chicken Burgers

If you’ve been reading for a while then you might be familiar with my tendency to create a recipe including things like feta, spinach, sundried tomatoes and kalamata olives and call it Greek. Case in point – Greek Pasta, Greek Chicken Breasts and Greek Inspired Flounder. Actually, there are 11 recipes in my “Greek” category…right up there with the 12 in the “Italian” category. We just love foods with Mediterranean flavors!

Brandon and I were enjoying happy hour at our local brewery last night and brainstorming ideas for dinner. I remembered seeing feta and spinach turkey burgers on Jenna’s blog this week and I mentioned making an amped-up version of those. Brandon is always up for a good burger so he happily went along with the plan.

We prefer ground chicken over turkey so we started with that as our base. I pretty much went through the fridge and pantry and added in anything that I thought went with my Greek chicken burger theme. We ended up mixing in sundried tomatoes, kalamata olives, spinach, feta, parsley and oregano. I made a spin on tzatziki sauce to accompany the burgers.

These “on the fly” burgers totally ended up exceeding our expectations. After all the mix-ins, this was definitely not your average boring chicken burger. They were so easy to make and full of flavor.  I cooked them inside in a skillet but I’m sure they would be great grilled too.

One Year Ago: Mini Quiche (and dinner at Top Chef Kevin Gillespie’s restaurant!)
Two Years Ago: Lady Strawberry Cake

Greek Chicken Burgers
(Recipe inspired by Eat, Live, Run)

Ingredients:

FOR THE BURGERS
1 pound ground chicken
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 cup baby spinach, chopped
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup kalamata olives, chopped
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley (or 1 -2 tablespoons fresh)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
A few cranks of freshly ground pepper

FOR THE SAUCE
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon olive oil
Squeeze of lemon juice (maybe 1 teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
Salt, to taste

Directions:

Whisk together ingredients for the sauce. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine all of the burger ingredients and mix together (it’s easiest to use your hands here). Form into four patties. The mixture will feel pretty wet and like it’s going to fall apart but it will firm as it cooks.

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add a little oil and burgers. Cook about 6-8 minutes per side or until internal temperature reads at least 160 degrees in the thickest part of the burger.

Serve on toasted, buttered buns with sauce, lettuce and tomato. Top with extra feta if desired.