Saturday, September 13, 2014

Stay at Home & Make this Breakfast Sandwich

Good evening everyone!  While last week I made a variation on the breakfast muffin, tonight I'll be making another variation of a different kind.  While you don't typically think of breakfast sandwiches making their mainstay in the home realm, I've found a delicious dish that will change your mind on how you think this notion.  

The Recipe:  Banana-Almond Butter French Toast Sandwiches
Original Recipe Found In:  Cooking Light, September 2014 Issue

What You'll Need:
2 Large Eggs
1/4 Cup Unsweetened Almond Milk
2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1/4 Teaspoon Cinnamon
2 Tablespoons Almond Butter*
4 Teaspoons Maple Syrup
1 Banana
4 Slices Multigrain Bread

*If you've been in the supermarket the last year or so, you've probably seen several variations of nut butters.  We're all familiar with the peanut variety, but almond, soy, and other nuts have hit the shelves.  Some stores even have the option of making your own nut butter.  This is definitely an untapped market for the blog.  While almond butter isn't as sweet as standard peanut butter, it's creamier, smoother texture and consistency than peanut butter.  This is why it is used in this recipe.

To start, make the french toast dipping mixture.  In a small bowl, crack the eggs and discard the shells.  Also add the almond milk, vanilla extract, and cinnamon.  Whisk to combine and set aside.  If the cinnamon starts to separate from the rest of the mixture before the cooking part, whisk again for consistency.

Next, in a small mixing bowl combine the almond butter and maple syrup until thoroughly mixed.  Set this mixture aside.  On a plate, cut the banana lengthwise into four thin slices then cut crosswise into halves.  Set the banana slices aside also.  Spread the almond butter evenly across all four slices of bread.  Top two bread slices with four banana pieces.  Place the remaining two bread slices over the banana, sandwiching the almond butter and bananas inside.

Using a grill pan and a sandwich press, you can speed up the process of making the french toast sandwiches.  Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat.  Meanwhile, very carefully dip the sandwiches in the egg mixture and let any excess drip off.  Once the grill pan is heated, place one sandwich down and using the sandwich press, cover.  Cook for three to four minutes on each side, until the egg has cooked and the bread as browned.  Also, the almond butter should be heated inside the sandwich.  Place sandwiches on a cutting board to cut in half, serve, and enjoy!

The End Result:

These "breakfast" sandwiches are delicious, melty, and gooey (and I wouldn't want it any other way!)  The almond butter, combined with the maple syrup is an  ingenious design.  While the syrup doesn't shine completely in the butter, it adds a sweetness it definitely needs.  The bananas hit the right notes also and don't weigh the sandwich down with mushiness.  If I make any french toast in the future, I'll want to use the mixture from this recipe.  The vanilla extract with the cinnamon are tasty additions in the standard "milk and egg" french toast mixture.  Overall, another great breakfast for supper (or breakfast for breakfast) recipe that I highly recommend you check out.

Thanks for joining us tonight.  Tyler will close out the week with another delicious burger recipe.  Until then,


Thursday, September 11, 2014

16 Burgers of Summer: Classic Drive-In Burgers

Good evening everyone. We continue our burgers of summer series with a classic that, at one time, I thought would be difficult to duplicate. I'm not talking about the standard "off the grill" burger, but the true "burger joint" burger. If you've ever been to a true blue burger drive in or burger joint (note: not the chains - not a modern "burger bar" but a traditional, old school "burger joint") you know what I've talking about. There's something about a true burger joint's burger that makes them unbelievably savory and yet...difficult to duplicate at home.

Until tonight. I found an America's Test Kitchen recipe for "classic burgers" and an accompanying recipe for "burger sauce". With a few tweaks, I had the base for our own attempt at recreating the burger joint classic.

The Recipe: Drive In Burgers
Recipe Adapted From: Classic Cheeseburgers (America's Test Kitchen)

What You'll Need:

1 Crackin' Burger Recipe
4 Slices American Cheese
1 Small Onion (Diced fine)

For the burger sacue:

2 Tablespoons Mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon Sriracha
1 Teaspoon Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Pepper

For the french fries:

2.5 Pounds Yukon Gold Potatoes (Sliced thin)
6 Cups Peanut Oil

You can make the burger sauce a day ahead of time (just keep it covered in the refrigerator). To make the sauce, simply add all of the ingredients to a small bowl and whisk until blended. Store in the refrigerator until needed.

The fries are the most time consuming part of this recipe - so if you're making every part of this dish - begin here. Add the potatoes into a large dutch oven and slowly add the peanut oil. Set the dutch oven on your stove over high heat and bring the oil to a rolling boil. Allow to potatoes to cook at this high temperature for 5 minutes before reducing the heat to medium high. Give the potatoes a light stir and then allow them to cook for 10 minutes before reducing the heat to medium, stirring gently once more and cooking for an additional 5 minutes. During this last 5 minutes, preheat your broiler and place a wire drying rack over a rimmed baking sheet.

Drain the oil from the potatoes and transfer them to the wire rack. Place the baking sheet in the oven under the broiler for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the potatoes are a deep golden brown and are nice and crispy. Serve with a sprinkle of salt alongside a burger  or any dish of your choosing.

To prepare the burgers: add a tablespoon of oil to a large (12 inch) non stick skillet over medium high heat. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the burgers and cook for 3 to 5 minutes per side until the burger has developed an even brown exterior and is cooked through. After the second 5 minute cooking phase, spoon some onions on the top of each patty before covering the patties (and onions) with a slice of American cheese. Reduce the heat to low and cover the skillet for 2 minutes or until the cheese is completely melted and has encased the burger.

Spread a thin layer of the burger sauce on a bakery fresh bun and top with the burger. Serve with the fries and enjoy!

The Results:

It may look like a big goopy mess, but it holds together well (and tastes great!) 

This is, without a doubt, the easiest way to duplicate that traditional "burger joint" flavor without even having to leave the house. The blending of raw onions with the melted cheese and skillet fried burger creates a great flavor - but the true "clincher" is the burger sauce, which when combined with the aforementioned flavors creates the best burgers you can make in your own kitchen. The fries are a nice crispy companion to the burger and are relatively low maintenance (as far as at home frying goes). All in all, this is one dish that's simple to create, but you'll have your family or friends thinking you're a culinary mastermind. That's a pretty good pairing in my opinion!

That's all we have for you this evening. Maggie takes to the kitchen later this week with a unique dish that is sure to please the whole family. I'll follow her with another burger recipe as we near the end of our summer burger series. Until then,


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Not Your Momma's Muffins

Good evening everyone!  As many followers know, we have many themes we rotate through here on the blog.  With the general "healthy" and "good-for-you" overall theme, I often tend to shift between two different themes:  Mexican and breakfast.  As long as there are new recipes to try, I don't think I can ever exhaust recipes from these themes.  Tonight, I present a new breakfast for dinner recipe, that is something completely new, and also completely delicious.

The Recipe:  Savory Egg Muffins
Original Recipe Found From:

What You'll Need:
1 1/2 Cups Water
2 Tablespoons unsalted Butter
1 (6-Ounce) package Stuffing mix for chicken (such as Stove-Top)
3 Ounces ground Pork Sausage
6 large Eggs, beaten
1/3 Cup Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded
1/2 Cup finely chopped Red Bell Pepper
1/4 Cup sliced Green Onions

To start, combine the water and butter in a medium saucepan.  Bring the combination to a boil over medium-high heat and stir in stuffing mix.  Cover with a lid and take the pan off the heat.  Let the pan stand for five minutes, then fluff with a fork.  Uncover the pan and let stand for 10 minutes, or until cool enough to handle.  This might require fluffing additional times while uncovered, because the heat will retain its temperature in the pan!

Next, while the stuffing cools, cook the sausage in a small, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook for five to eight minutes, or until the sausage has browned lightly.  Depending how fatty the sausage is, you might need to drain the excess fat.

At this point, you can preheat an oven to 400 degrees and prepare a muffin tin, by heavily coating the bottom and sides with cooking spray.  Give a quick spritz to your fingertips and press 1/4 cup of the stuffing into the bottom of each muffin cup.

Next, pour the egg mixture evenly into the stuffing cups.

Layer with cheese, sausage, bell pepper, and green onion evenly over the egg.

Once all the muffin cups have been filled, place the muffin tin in the oven and bake at 400 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the centers of the muffins have been set.  Bring out of the oven and let stand for five minutes before serving.  Lightly run a small knife around the edges of the muffin cups to loosen.  Serve and enjoy!

The End Result:

These are definitely one-of-kind muffins!  If you are expecting any sort of sweetness, you will not get it from these muffins.  The stuffing gives a base to the muffins, without expanding them at all.  The eggs are just fluffy enough, without too much weight.  Also, the cheese, sausage, and veggies add their own pops of flavor to really harmonize the entire muffin.  If you were to serve this as part of a breakfast meal, I would recommend adding something a bit sweet, to balance out the flavors, maybe a french toast?  But these little morsels can definitely add to your next breakfast (or breakfast for dinner) meal!

That's all we have for you this week, but before we go, I wanted to take the time to wish my blog partner, my husband, Tyler, a happy 4th anniversary today.  We started this blog several months before our wedding and continued through a wedding and moving into a house.  There's been plenty of adventures (besides cooking) to had and there'll be much more to come.  Tyler:  I've been blessed to have you by my side through it all and through the many years ahead.  You complete me and I'm "lucky in love with my best friend".  Thank you for sharing your journey with me - I love you!

Join us next week as we continue our culinary adventures with brand new recipes and product reviews.  Until then,


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

16 Burgers of Summer: BBQ Pork Burger

Good evening everyone! Labor day unofficially marks the end of summer - which SHOULD have marked the end of our burgers of summer series. Of course, life happens and even the best laid plays go astray. As a  result, today's burger entry is number 13 in our burgers of summer series. We've got another recipe on tap for this weekend and we'll look to close out our series NEXT week with two other burger recipes.

A week off isn't too bad in the big picture...right?

Either way, the series continues today with a take on a classic. I saw a recipe for a pulled pork sandwich last weekend that got me to thinking...why can't I turn a pulled pork sandwich into a burger? Now, I knew I couldn't just make a pulled pork sandwich and call it a burger. That'd be cheating by the very strict definition of what a burger really, as I am often accused of doing when I hit the kitchen - I improvised. The result? A delicious take on a culinary classic!

The Recipe: BBQ Pork Burger
This is an Out of the Culinary Original Recipe

What You'll Need:

1 Pound Ground Pork
1 Cup Prepared Coleslaw
Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce

Sometimes the best recipes are the simplest recipes. In trying to duplicate a pulled pork dish, I decided to embrace the elements that make the sandwich great - mainly pork and BBQ sauce. I've seen fresh coleslaw used as a topping on BBQ pork sandwiches, so I wanted to add that element as well - after that, I decided to keep it simple.

To begin, work the pork with a pinch of salt and pepper until well blended. Break the mixture into 4 separate balls and work the balls into smaller, equally sized patties. Like we've done with every burger we've made this summer - pop the patties onto a plate and allow them to rest in the refrigerator for 10 minutes before moving them to the grill.

Speaking of the grill, preheat it to 500 degrees, clean the grates and reduce the temperature of one burner to 300 degrees. Prepare the burgers over this burner.

Cook the burgers for 3 minutes per side. Once each side has developed a nice crisp outer edge - pour on a helping of Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce and spread it evenly with a basting brush. Allow the burgers to sit over heat for 1 minute (so the sauce "bakes" onto the surface) before flipping and repeating the process. Once the burger has developed a nice even sauce glaze, remove them from the grill and place them atop a bakery fresh bun. Serve with a helping of fresh coleslaw and enjoy!

The Results:

The simplest recipes have always been my favorite. This dish simply shines by keeping it simple. The blending of grilled pork with a sweet yet savory BBQ sauce duplicates the all day flavor of pulled pork nicely. The addition of the fresh coleslaw adds a bright element to the burger that standard lettuce simply couldn't bring to the table.

This simple dish is a surefire way to spice up any weeknight meal. Give it a try yourself!

That's all we have for you this evening. Maggie will take to the kitchen tomorrow night with a brand new recipe and I'll close out the weekend with a brand new burger of my own. Until then,


Friday, August 29, 2014

Flautas - Fun to Say, Easy to Gobble Down

Good evening everyone!  On my never-ending quest to find (relatively) healthy, Mexican food, I stumbled upon this gem of a recipe.  While it could be reminiscent of a particular school dish (Crispitos, anyone?) these are far, far healthier and not mass produced for hundreds of hungry minds. I feel like this is an often overlooked Mexican dish, but will not be forgotten any time soon.

The Recipe:  Baked Chicken & Spinach Flautas
Adapted Recipe Found From:

What You'll Need:
1 Pound boneless, skinless Chicken Thighs
16 Ounces Beer (or Chicken Broth)
2 Cups Water
1 Teaspoon Paprika
1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 Teaspoon ground Cumin
1 Teaspoon Chili Powder
1 Jalapeño pepper, minced
3 Cups Baby Spinach, chopped
5 burrito-sized Flour Tortillas
6 Ounces Mexican Cheese, or other melting cheese, shredded

To start, place the chicken thighs in a deep-sided, non-stick skillet and cover with the beer and water. Cover with a lid and raise the temperature to medium-high heat.  Once at a boil, reduce the heat of the skillet to a simmer and cook the chicken for 10 minutes, keeping the lid on the skillet.  Once cooked, remove the chicken from the skillet and place on a cutting board.  Let the chicken cool for several minutes, then begin to shred the meat.  Place the meat in a large mixing bowl and add the paprika, salt, garlic, powder, cumin, and chili powder.  Mix all these ingredients together until well combined.

Next, preheat an oven to 450 degrees and spray a large cooking sheet with cooking spray.  Meanwhile, reserve 1/4 cup of the beer/water mixture and pour out the rest.  Bring the skillet back to medium-low heat and add the reserved liquid back to the skillet.  Add the jalapeño and spinach to the skillet and cook for three to five minutes, or until the spinach has wilted.

By now, all the ingredients have been cooked and are ready for assemble.  Cut the tortillas in half and set aside.  Place 1/2 tortilla on a clean preparing board and spoon a tablespoon of the chicken mixture on the inside straight edge of the tortilla.  Repeat with the spinach and cheese.  Roll the tortilla tightly and place seam-side down on the prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with the remaining tortillas.

Spray the flautas with cooking spray and place the baking sheet in the oven.  Bake for 10 minutes, then flip over and continue to cook for five minutes, or until crispy.  Serve with salsa and enjoy!

The End Result:

I'm quite pleased with the results of these flautas.  For the first time hearing about them, not to mention baking them, they were quite superb!  The seasonings of the chicken definitely mellowed out during the cooking process and you don't really notice the spinach.  It helps when the spinach has been cooked down and it's not much more than filler ingredient.  The cheese is definitely a binder and ties all the ingredients together.  Baking this dish, instead of frying it, makes it noticeably healthier too.  One flauta is about 180 calories, plus being delicious, is a win-win in my book!

Thanks for joining us tonight.  Check back on Sunday for a brand new recipe from Tyler.  Until then,


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

16 Burgers of Summer: Hawaiian Burger

Good evening everyone! A slight technical glitch caused my recipe from last week to vanish into the ether of the internet. As such, last week’s post…never happened. Instead, you’re getting TWO burgers of summer this week! (Lucky ducks). We’ll get things started by sharing our take on a classic – the Hawaiian Burger.

Depending on the menu you’re looking at or the part of the world you hail from – the phrase “Hawaiian burger” can mean many different things. I knew when I started the burgers of summer series that I wanted to try at least one Hawaiian burger, but I quickly found the market was highly diversified and there was little in the way of consistency when it came to a true Hawaiian burger. Does it have ham? Does it have BBQ sauce? Do you season the pineapple? Grill the pineapple? There was nothing in the way of consensus – so I did the only logical thing. I made my own recipe. Let’s get cooking!

The Recipe: Hula-Hula Burger
This is an Out of the Culinary Original Creation

What You’ll Need:
1 Crackin’ Burger Recipe
1 Can Pineapple Rings (Whole slices)
2 Tablespoons Low Sodium Soy Sauce
1 Teaspoon Sriracha Chile Sauce
½ Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 Tablespoon Pineapple Juice (From the canned slices)

Begin, as most of our burger recipes have, by preparing the crackin’ burger recipe. Once the patties are formed, open the pineapple rings and season each ring (one per burger) with a pinch of kosher salt.

Preheat your grill to 500 degrees, clean the grates and reduce the temperature to 300 degrees. Turn off one side of the grill and cook only over the side with the burners on. Next, add the pineapple to the grill – placing it directly on the grill grates. (We want the sugars to caramelize slightly, so the pineapple rings need a head start over the burgers). After about two minutes, add the burgers to the grill. Cook the burgers for 4 to 6 minutes per side, or until they’re cooked through. The Pineapple rings should take about 5 minutes per side to nicely caramelize (thus, the head start).

Shortly before you’re ready to remove the burgers, combine the soy sauce, Sriracha, garlic powder and pineapple juice in a small dish. Using a basting brush spread the mixture over the burgers (liberally covering them). Allow the sauce to thicken on the burgers (over the heat, this should only take about 30 to 45 seconds) before flipping the patties and basting again. Repeat this process twice for each side.

Once basted to perfection, transfer the patties to a bakery fresh bun and top with the grilled pineapple ring. Serve and enjoy!

The Results:

We opted to create a teriyaki style sauce for our burger patties in an attempt to bring out a little heat / spice to balance the pineapple. The soy sauce / sriracha combination did just that. It added a nice element of depth and complexity that balanced the especially sweet (since we caramelized the sugars) pineapple.

This burger provided just the right blending of summer time sweetness with savory seasons – it will certainly hit the spot on any summer day.

That’s all we have for you this evening. I’m back again tomorrow night with ANOTHER burger recipe. We’ll follow that up with a new dish from Maggie before closing the week with a product review. It’ll be a busy week here  - so be sure to stop back each night and see what we’ve got cooking. Until then,


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Give Me the Dough, I'll Give You Endless Possibilities

Good evening everyone!  While ordering pizza to go is often a convenient and simple choice for many families, I much prefer making my own.  Once you've started on that journey, there's no way going back to regular pizza.  And while ordering and picking up (or delivery,) makes dinner time a snap, there's something to be said about creating and eating your own pizza.  Tonight, I'll create a unique, one of a kind pizza that is also super simple.

The Recipe:  Prosciutto-Mozza Pizza
Original Recipe Found In:  Cooking Light, September 2014 Issue

What You'll Need:
1 Pound refrigerated fresh Pizza Dough
1 Tablespoon Cornmeal
2/3 Cup lower-sodium Marinara Sauce
6 Ounces fresh Mozzarella Cheese, pre sliced or thinly sliced
2 Teaspoons Olive Oil
2 Ounces thinly sliced Prosciutto, torn into 1/2-inch-wide strips
1/4 Cup small fresh Oregano leaves

To start, let the dough stand at room temperature, in a greased bowl or pan, covered with plastic wrap for at least 30 minutes.  Next, place a pizza stone or heavy baking sheet in an oven.  Allow the oven to preheat to 500 degrees, keeping the pizza stone or baking sheet in the oven to preheat also.  

Once the dough has stood at room temperature, lightly dust a clean work area with flour and roll the dough into a 14-inch circle.  Pierce the entire surface liberally with a fork.  Once the pizza stone has been preheat, carefully remove from the oven.  Sprinkle the surface with cornmeal and place the pizza dough on the pizza stone.

Spoon the marinara sauce on the dough and spread evenly with the back of the spoon, leaving a 1/2-inch border.  Evenly top with the mozzarella cheese.  Place the stone back in the oven and bake at 500 degrees for 10-14 minutes, or until the crust is golden  and the cheese has lightly browned.  

Remove the pizza from the oven and brush the outer crust with the olive oil.  Arrange the prosciutto slices over the pizza and top with oregano.  Cut into even slices, serve, and enjoy!

The End Result:

I can't reiterate how much simplicity works in so many recipes.  There's (technically) only three ingredients topping this pizza, but there's so much flavor with the fresh mozzarella and the thin slices of prosciutto.  While the meat might still have a twinge of cold, don't let that deter you.  You'll be surprised and how much flavor can permeate from such a simply pizza.  The crust cooks up perfectly, without little to no effort.  Again, if it's easy to create it on your own, why not do it?  It's the whole concept behind this pizza.

Thanks for joining us tonight.  Tomorrow, Tyler crosses an ocean to bring you another Burger of Summer.  Until then,