Thursday, July 30, 2015

Pepper Parmesan Vinaigrette

Today I'm sharing my new favorite salad dressing!  I found it over on the Brown Eyed Baker blog and have made it several times.  My version is slightly different from hers and I just love it.  It's very peppery, salty, vinegary, and just all around really good.  It also could not be any easier to make and keeps fine in the fridge for a couple of weeks.
Pepper Parmesan Vinaigrette

7 Tbsp Canola oil
3 Tbsp olive oil (too much will make it bitter)
7 Tbsp white vinegar
4 Tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Combine all ingredients and blend until smooth with an immersion blender, food processor, or blender.  Pour into a jar and store in the refrigerator.  Shake before serving.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Lovely Lemon Bars

This is another recipe from Joanne Fluke, the cozy mystery author.  I just love the Hannah Swensen series, they're the comfort food of the literary world for me!  These lemon bars are from the first book in the series, The Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder.  I made them when a friend came to visit a couple of months ago.  We loved them so much that they all got devoured before I had a chance to take a picture.  Okay, I take that back- there are some pictures of my puppy licking lemon bar off my friend's baby's hand, but that's it!  In spite of being crazy about them, for some reason this was the first time I made lemon bars, but we liked this recipe so much that I don't see myself trying any others!

Lovely Lemon Bars

2 C flour
1/2 C powdered sugar
2 sticks butter, cold
4 eggs
2 C sugar
1/2 C lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest (optional)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 Tbsp flour

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9 by 13 inch baking pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour and powdered sugar, then cut in the cold butter with your fingers or a pastry blender until the mixture looks like coarse cornmeal.  Dump the mixture into the greased baking dish and press it down evenly with your hands.  Bake in preheated oven until golden around the edges, about 15-20 minutes.

While the crust cooks, prepare the filling.  Whisk together the sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest, then whisk in the baking powder, salt, and flour until smooth.

When the crust has finished cooking, immediately pour the filling over the top and return the baking dish to the oven.  Bake until golden on top, about 20-30 minutes.  Let cool before cutting into bars and serving.

Yield:  About 12 bars

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Cheesy Ranch Potatoes

I stumbled upon this recipe on Natasha's Kitchen recently and have made it twice in the past month.  It's so simple and very, very tasty!  The first time, I used red potatoes with the skin on, bottled ranch dressing, and green onions, and this time I used peeled russet potatoes, homemade ranch dressing (actually homemade ranch dressing mix plus mayo and milk), and bacon.  Both were great!

This is very much a "do what you want" recipe.  You can make just a small amount of potatoes, or a whole lot, and pretty much any kind of potato will do.  You also don't have to measure anything, just use your own judgment!

Cheesy Ranch Potatoes

ranch dressing
garlic salt
grated cheddar cheese
cooked, crumbled bacon (optional)
thinly sliced green onion or chives (optional)

Wash and peel the potatoes if desired, then cut them into 1 1/2 inch chunks.  Boil in salted water until they can be pierced with a fork, then drain thoroughly.  Carefully fold in desired amount of ranch dressing, you want them to be coated but not swimming in it.  Spoon evenly into a greased baking dish, season to taste with garlic salt, then bake at 400 until the potatoes start to turn golden in places on top, about 20-25 minutes.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with desired amount of grated cheese, plus the bacon if you're using it.  Return to oven for 5 minutes.  Remove and sprinkle with the green onions or chives if you're using them, then let the potatoes sit for a few minutes before serving.  Leftovers reheat really well!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Secret Recipe Club: Arroz con Pollo

For this month's Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned the fabulous blog, Kitchen Trial and Error!  It's written by the lovely Kate, who lives in Rochester, NY with her family.  She's a busy lady but still cooks all kinds of great looking recipes.  I had a very difficult time choosing one this month and seriously had about 20 set aside to pick from.  Tempting recipes included Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting, Tomato & Meatball Soup, Apple Chicken Chili, and Garlic Brown Sugar Chicken.  Her recipe for baked ziti looks fantastic as well, but it's basically the same as my recipe since it's from the same source!
The recipe I ended up going with was Arroz con Pollo.  I've always wanted to try this dish and for whatever reason, it's the one my mind kept migrating back to.  My minor changes were to use bacon grease instead of olive oil (I followed the recipe back to its source on another blog and it said to use bacon), my bell pepper was a different color, I used a full 4 C of chicken broth, and I only simmered the rice for 20 minutes since that's how long my rice usually takes to cook and I didn't want it to get mushy.  Next time I would wait to add the chicken back to the pan until I add the rice to prevent it from being overcooked, but that's the only change.
Small tinkerings aside, this was a good recipe.  My husband loved it and gave the chicken a 9 and the rice a 10, which surprised me.  He doesn't even like peas, but liked them here.  We actually made this together and it was a lot of fun.  We had an insane amount of rice leftover (no surprise since it uses 3 1/2 cups!), but I'm going to freeze the leftovers to serve with tacos and the like, which will be fun.  In the future, I will use another pound of chicken.

Update:  I have tinkered with the recipe a bit more over subsequent times making it and have updated the recipe to match how I make it now.  We really enjoy it.

Arroz con Pollo

2 Tbsp bacon grease
3 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cleaned and cut in half
1 onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
12 oz beer
4 C chicken broth
8 oz tomato sauce
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 tsp salt, plus more to sprinkle on chicken
1/4 tsp pepper, plus more to sprinkle on chicken
2 tsp cumin, plus more to sprinkle on chicken
2 tsp dried oregano (I used Mexican oregano)
3 1/2 C white rice
1 C frozen peas

In a dutch oven, melt bacon grease over medium high heat.  Sprinkle chicken with salt, pepper, and cumin, then brown on both sides in bacon grease.  Remove to a plate.  Add onion and bell pepper to dutch oven and saute until they turn translucent, then add garlic and saute another minute or so until it turns golden.  Stir in beer, chicken broth, tomato sauce, bay leaf, oregano, salt, and cumin.  Simmer on low for 10 minutes, then stir in rice.  Top with reserved chicken.  Bring to a boil, cover the dutch oven, and reduce the heat to low.  Let cook without lifting the lid for 20 minutes, then remove the dutch oven from the heat and stir in the peas.  Replace the lid and let it sit for a minute so the peas can thaw.

Yield:  12 servings

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Saturday, July 4, 2015


I have been making so many burgers this year!  This is unusual because I've never been known for my love of hamburgers, but it turns out I like them a lot better when I make them myself.  This is my newest burger adventure, I came upon the recipe on the Pioneer Woman blog a couple of weeks ago and immediately decided to make them for the 4th of July today, along with Cheesy Ranch Potatoes and watermelon.  I've never had a burger like this before because we don't have a Freddy's, Steak 'n Shake, Smashburger, Culver's, or any place like that around here, but the idea of smashing two plain meat patties very thin and melting cheese between them intrigued me.

I will definitely make these again because they turned out really well!  These are the most tender burgers I've made, I think because the meat is handled very little.  They have an awesome, browned crust as well, which makes them super yummy.  I plan to make these when my in-laws visit us next, and I only make our favorite recipes for them!

Quick Note:  I use Stacey's Hamburger Seasoning recipe from AllRecipes and leave out the paprika.  I made a quadruple batch and have it in a little shaker in my spice cabinet.  Also, I found the perfect method for smashing the burgers flat.  Based on all the reading I did online, it can be tricky to flatten the burgers, but my approach was great.  All I did was wrap a medium (about 6 inches in diameter), flat bottomed glass bowl in aluminum foil and then pressed down on it with both hands.  The meat did not stick at all to the foil and it was very easy to clean up.


1 lb ground beef
hamburger seasoning
sliced cheese
hamburger buns
condiments of choice

Preheat griddle or large nonstick skillet to 350/medium high.  Form the meat into 8 evenly sized balls and place on a plate.

When the griddle/skillet is hot, grease it by melting a burger sized circle of butter in 4 spots on the cooking surface.  Place a ball on each buttered spot, then immediately smush very flat (about 1/6 inch) and sprinkle generously with hamburger seasoning.

Let patties cook until nicely browned on the bottom, then carefully flip with a spatula or tongs.  Sprinkle the uncooked side with more hamburger seasoning, then continue to cook until the patties are cooked through.

Flip 2 of the patties over again, then top those two with a slice of cheese each and the remaining 2 patties.  It will look like you have two sandwiches with layers of meat, cheese, then meat again.  You can add another slice of cheese on top of each if you would like.  Cook until cheese is melted, then remove to the hamburger buns.

Repeat with remaining 4 balls of meat.

Yield: 4 double layer cheeseburgers.