The Kitchen Prep: March 2012

Monday, March 26, 2012

Vegetarians, Look Away!

It's probably no surprise, if you look at the patterns in my recipe posts, that meat doesn't really rank high on my list of favorite foods. {I'm pretty sure the hierarchy starts with cheesecake, with Nutella as a close second, followed by brie, and then alternating between other sweets, cheeses, and breads... }.

I don't eat red meat at all. Haven't for years and don't miss it one bit. Not for any moral reason, or for health purposes, but more because I stopped eating it long ago and never had the urge to start up again.

You'll find chicken, turkey, lean pork, and fish on our table when we're looking to fill the protein requirement, but I've often thought that I could probably go vegetarian pretty easily.


I'm pretty sure I will be getting a craving for turkey burgers now that I've created and eaten these.

Bacon Crusted, Pear & White Cheddar Stuffed Turkey Burgers

{Have you noticed that my recipe titles get longer & longer?!}

I made these on a complete whim, bored with the same old turkey burgers we always have and trying to use up a pear that looked like it only had a few hours left before it would need to be trashed.

Oh, good heavens.

We eat our burgers plain {no bun} around here, but I can imagine these would be fantastic nestled into a fresh bun as well. We obviously didn't even notice the lack of carbs. {And notice our feeble attempt at negating the bacon by adding some roasted asparagus to the dish. Ha.}

Turkey Burgers may have just moved up on the favorites list. {Don't worry, Nutella, you're still safe.} ;)

Bacon Crusted Pear & White Cheddar Stuffed Turkey Burgers

1 pound ground turkey
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon ground sage
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 oz. sharp white cheddar cheese, cut into 4, 1 inch square chunks
1 bosc pear, peeled & cut into chunks to match cheese
5 strips of bacon, cut into small pieces

In a medium bowl, combine ground turkey, onion powder, ground sage, brown sugar, and sea salt. {Try not to overmix or overhandle}.

Divide into four portions, and form each portion into 2 pieces. Gently flatten turkey into a patty and place cheddar cheese and pear on bottom half. Form another patty and place on top of cheese  and pear, sealing edges and patting to make sure filling is completely encased.

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add bacon to skillet and cook until browned and crisp. Remove bacon from pan and place on a plate with a folded paper towel to drain.*

When bacon pieces are cool enough to handle, place approximately 1 tablespoon on top of each stuffed burger and press lightly into patties to make it stick.

Place stuffed patties in rendered bacon drippings and cook 5-7 minutes or until browned. Flip burgers onto bacon side and cook for another 4-6 minutes. {Because these are thick burgers, they may not be completely cooked through. If this is the case, turn down the heat and allow to cook through, or place cast iron skillet in a 375 degree oven for 5 minutes or until completely cooked.}

*I have to confess, originally I was going to add the bacon pieces to the ground turkey before forming patties, but I forgot... so the burgers became "bacon crusted" instead as an afterthought. Feel free to do it your way!

Serve hot.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Supper Made Simple

Is there anything better than a 5 ingredient dinner recipe? {Well, a 4 ingredient dinner recipe, I suppose. You know what I mean.}

As much as I like getting fancy in the kitchen, there are days when I open my fridge and pray that the ingredients magically jump out and cook themselves. {One too many Disney movies as a kid??}

While this Chicken with Tomatillo and Cilantro Sauce doesn't actually cook itself, it sure does make a fantastic dinner that requires very little effort. And on days when I am running on empty {or I've spent the day baking, frosting & decorating 100 mini cupcakes. Or am so sore from my barre class I can barely move. Or I am tempted to serve my husband a bowl of cereal for dinner...}, I am truly grateful for simple dishes.

This sauce comes together easily {and flavorfully} by broiling the tomatillos until they look charred {and, yes, kind of scary} , tossing them into the food processor and simmering them with some sauteed onion until you have a rich, tangy sauce. Piece of cake.

If you've never had tomatillos, or aren't sure if they're your thing, I suggest buying a couple and giving them a try. They're often used in Mexican dishes and have a tart sort of flavor that makes for good salsa, or in this case, sauce.

Now, if we can only get the table to clear itself & the dishes to jump into the dishwasher, we'd be all set. ;)

Chicken with Tomatillo and Cilantro Sauce
Adapted from Epicurious

1 pound tomatillos, husked
2-4 skinless chicken breasts
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus extra for garnish
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus extra for sprinkling
{Optional: Chicken Stock for deglazing pan & thinning sauce - about 1/4- 1/2 cup}

Move oven rack to position closest to heating element. Set oven to broil {normally 500 degrees}. Place tomatillos on a sheet pan lined with foil, and broil for 4-5 minutes or until blackened in spots. Turn tomatillos over and broil for another 4-5 minutes until other side is charred as well.

Remove from oven and transfer to food processor. Blend.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Season chicken breasts lightly with salt. When oil is hot, place chicken breasts in pan until browned. Turn over and brown other side. {Chicken will not be completely cooked through.} Remove from skillet and place on a plate or pan.

Add about a tablespoon of olive oil to s, the same skillet where chicken was cooked, and add diced onion. Season lightly with salt, and allow onions to cook until golden. {about 6-8 minutes}

Once onions are soft and caramelized, add garlic. Cook for 1 minute. {Optional: Deglaze pan with about 1/4 cup  chicken stock to remove brown bits from bottom of pan.} Add blended tomatillo to the pan and stir. Simmer for 2 minutes, uncovered. Add cilantro and 1/2 teaspoon salt and stir.

Place chicken into the sauce and simmer, covered, until chicken is cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. {If sauce thickens too much, loosen it up with a little bit of chicken stock if you'd like.}

Serve with a side of rice, quinoa, or favorite veggies.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"Faint" Recollection: Tales of a Baker v. The Barre

My health nut of a husband has suggested for years that I get into some organized form of exercise. He says it's because he wants to keep me around for a long time {not because all the confections I bake are visible in my hind quarters}. ;)

The problem is, I'm not much of a "sporty" girl. 

I don't like to sweat. I am not extremely competitive. My idea of "lifting weights" is hoisting my 9 pound cast iron skilling onto the stove top. So, you can imagine that finding an exercise regimen that fits my idea of non-torturous semi-enjoyable hasn't exactly been easy.

A few weeks ago, the hubs showed up with a 10 session package deal for classes at a local fitness studio. {Men. They never learn.} And so, while I was admittedly less jazzed about this little "gift" than I would normally be, I decided to be gracious and humor him by attending the barre exercise{barre... not pole. There's been some confusion when I've mentioned this to other people...} classes they offer.

I was involved in ballet for most of my youth, so I figured that perhaps my muscles wouldn't balk too much at the "ballerina style muscle sculpting" they mention on their website.

Let me preface this by telling you that this class is only 30 minutes long. Surely, I could handle half an hour of exercise.

Yeah, not so much.

Approximately 15 minutes into the class {And exactly 3 minutes into an intense thigh workout}, I felt a sudden wave of dizziness wash over me. I thought it would pass, so I powered through, not wanting to interrupt the class and embarrass myself in the process.

When I turned to barre instructor to let her know I wasn't feeling quite right, her expression spoke volumes. My face had lost any trace of color. I was drenched in cold sweat. And apparently, the dimming lights were not a strobe light effect to make the class more exciting. I was thisclose to passing out.

After a brief "time out" of sitting on the mat and trying not to throw up on everyone's feet sipping some water, I started to feel slightly normal again. Ok, not really. But I had to redeem myself. So I got back up, hung on to the barre for dear life and finished the class with my head held high. {Or at least I think it was. I was still slightly disoriented.}

The verdict?

I am not cut out for much more than brisk walks and gentle yoga. In short, I have the exercise ability of a 70 year old woman. Oh well, you can't win 'em all. {I will, however, be finishing out the rest of the classes I have left... so if I suddenly stop posting altogether... you know what did me in.} ;)

In all seriousness, though, I am hoping that the next class goes a little more smoothly and that I can summon the fitness goddess within. Until then, I'll be eating lots of fresh, healthy meals like this one to help keep me in shape {and more importantly, keep me conscious!}.

The bright, citrusy flavors from the different kinds of oranges in the salsa are a great compliment to this Sear-Roasted Haddock {and if you're not a fish person, I'm sure it would go great with chicken, too}. Your tastebuds won't even know that you're trying to behave! A perfect dish for introducing some lively flavors into your Spring menu.

Sear-Roasted Haddock with Blood Orange Salsa
Slightly adapted from Fine Cooking

For Blood Orange Salsa:
1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh navel or Valencia orange juice
1 blood orange, cut into segments, segments cut in half
2 tbsp minced red onion
1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp finely grated navel or Valencia orange zest

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For Fish:
2 skinless halibut fillets
1 tsp finely grated navel or Valencia orange zest
1 tsp chopped dried thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbs. olive oil

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 425°F.

Make the salsa
In a small saucepan, boil the orange juice over medium heat until reduced slightly, 6-8 minutes. Let cool.

In a medium bowl, combine the reduced orange juice, blood orange segments*, onion, cilantro, olive oil, and orange zest. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

*You may want to collect the dripping juice in the bowl as you segment your orange to get all of the orangey deliciousness.
Cook the haddock
In a small bowl, mix the orange zest, thyme, 1 tsp salt, and a pinch of cracked black pepper. Rub the mixture all over the halibut fillets. Heat the oil in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.

When the oil is shimmering hot, arrange the fillets in the pan. Sear for about 2 minutes without moving; then use a thin slotted metal spatula to lift a piece of fish and check the color.

When the fillets are nicely browned, flip them and put the pan in the oven.

Roast until the halibut is just cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the halibut to serving plates. Spoon some of the salsa over each fillet.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Cookies & {Irish} Cream

Well, I'm still working on figuring out how to right the wrong that was supposed to be my St. Patrick's Day recipe. As I mentioned earlier in the week, I had a catastrophic small fiasco in the kitchen when I accidentally overflowed water from my sink, all over my counter top, and onto the floor and then proceeded to spill other assorted ingredients everywhere. To add insult to injury, the recipe didn't even turn out.

Evidence of my clumsiness.
I was not going to let a little kitchen mishap get to me, or stop me from sharing something festive. No, ma'am, not this little baker.

Yesterday, I was up before the crack of dawn {heaven knows why}, and in the kitchen as the sun rose so I could bring you these. {You know, before the next holiday.}

What are they, you ask?

Malted Irish Cream & White Chocolate Chip Cookies with Irish Cream Glaze, that's what.

And guess what? The Irish Cream in these? I made it from scratch!

It is just as good {if not better} than the stuff you buy at the store. I'm so glad I happened upon the recipe over at The Cupcake Project. I adapted the recipe just a little bit because I didn't have enough Jameson, so I adjusted the proportions and also made my own chocolate syrup to add to it. {I know, I'm out of control.}

But back to the cookies...

They are soft, chewy, and sweet with just a hint of the Irish Cream and malt flavors shining though. And the glaze adds a little extra Irish Cream punch in case subtlety isn't your thing when it comes to boozy desserts.

Since these cookies are spiked with the good stuff {and since I don't want to be arrested for serving minors}, I had to come up with an alternate treat for the kiddos I work with and for those who don't partake in the sauce.

Thanks to some Pinterest browsing and the creativity over at Hostess with the Mostess, I swiped this adorable idea for Leprechaun Goodie Bags {complete with printable tags!!}. Aren't they the cutest?


So, it may be back to the drawing board on the original recipe I planned on posting {at this point, who knows if it'll ever happen}, but I feel like I've made up for it with the trifecta of St. Patty's Day goods I've shared today. ;)  And tomorrow?

I may or may not have one more thing up my sleeve...

Malted Irish Cream & White Chocolate Chip Cookies with Irish Cream Glaze
Inspired by How Sweet It Is

1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 2/3 cups flour
1/2 cup malted milk powder
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
9 tablespoons Bailey’s Irish Cream {or homemade, if you prefer}*
1/2 to 1 cup white chocolate chips {I wanted mine less "chippy"}

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all dry ingredients in a medium bowl.

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy and pale. Add eggs, one at a time until incorporated, and vanilla. Add in Bailey’s one tablespoon at a time. Add flour, malted milk powder, instant espresso powder, baking soda and salt mixture and mix until combined.

Fold in white chocolate chips. Refrigerate dough for 2-3 hours or until firmed up.

With a mini ice cream scoop or a tablespoon measure, scoop uniform balls of dough and place on a greased or lined cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes until slightly golden around the edges, but set in the centers.

For Irish Cream Glaze

1 to 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons Irish Cream

In a small bowl, add Irish Cream, one tablespoon full at a time, to powdered sugar. Stir until desired consistency is reached. Drizzle over cookies and allow to set.

* If you'd rather not add alcohol to your cookies, a good substitution would be Bailey's Coffee Creamer which is non-alcoholic but has a similar flavor.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Just My Luck

There must be something about St. Patrick's Day that invites disaster to my kitchen. Seriously.

Last year while doing some St. Patty's Day baking, a careless move caused me to drop about half of my cupcakes all over the floor. No good.

This year, I managed to nearly flood my kitchen, spilled an entire bag of candy melts everywhere {and some places, I'm sure, that I haven't even discovered yet}, and turned out a completely botched recipe {that I'm now trying to figure out what to do with so I don't have to throw it all away}. Sigh.

Isn't St. Patty's Day supposed to be "lucky"???

While I clean up the mess I made yesterday, I'll go ahead and leave you with a recipe I was able to handle without total catastrophe.

The only connection I can make to the Emerald Isle is the fact that it's got some green in it. I'll take what I can get.

As a side note, this recipe was the first time I've ever {knowingly} eaten broccoli rabe. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it turns out I liked it. I imagine that on it's own it's a bit on the bitter side because even with the sausage and cheese toning it down a bit, I could still taste that tinge of bitterness. {Though it could have been my bitterness from the day's events. Who knows.} All in all, though, I'll probably be using it again.

Hoping to post my St. Patty's contribution tomorrow... that is, if I can manage to avoid another fiasco!

Pasta with Sausage and Roasted Broccoli Rabe
Adapted from Real Simple

1 bunch broccoli rabe, rinsed and stems cut
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed {I always use chicken sausage, but you can use what you like}
2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
1/2 pound mini shells {I used gluten free brown rice pasta}, or your favorite pasta
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup sharp white cheddar {or your favorite melty white cheese}
2 tablespoons butter, cut up into pieces
Lemon {optional}
olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a medium  sheet pan with a piece of foil.  Bring 2 pots of water to a boil  on the stove over high heat. {One for pasta and one for broccoli rabe}.

When water boils, add broccoli rabe and boil for 1 minute. Drain in a colander, and when cooled slightly, shake out excess water. Place onto prepared sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Put in preheated oven and allow to roast for 15-20 minutes, or until wilted and tender.

Meanwhile, add pasta to second pot of boiling water and cook according to package directions until al dente. 

While pasta cooks, add sausage to a large skillet over medium high heat, and break up until crumbly. {I like to use a potato masher for this job.} Cook until beginning to brown and no longer pink. Add garlic and allow to cook one minute. Remove from heat and set aside.

When pasta is ready, drain reserving about a half cup of the pasta water. Scoop pasta into the crumbled sausage mixture. Remove broccoli rabe from oven and add to pasta & sausage. Combine gently.

Add butter. Sprinkle cheeses over top. Mix together, adding a ladle full of pasta water at a time until desired consistency is reached and a "sauce" is created.

Squirt a few teaspoons of fresh lemon juice over pasta. Season with salt to taste if desired.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Lemon Love

These days have been slipping by way too quickly... at least quickly enough to ruin my plans of posting several times per week. And while I'm happy the weekend is here once again, I hang my head in shame when I see my backlogged task list including plans to share several delicious recipes.

I'm glad I managed to get around to posting the Linguine with Avocado & Arugula Pesto {as were my other avocado loving friends out there. The excitement was palpable!}, but you know that no week is complete {for me} without a sweet little somethin'.

Last week I posted a status update on TKP's Facebook page asking everyone out there {you are out there, aren't you??} to give me some ideas for using up the excessive amount of lemons in my kitchen.

See, Steve and I have recently started shopping at this little local produce store where the fruits and veggies are dirt cheap, so we've been stocking up on even more wholesome goodies than usual. {Something happens to a girl when, what is normally "forbidden fruit" - or veggie - is suddenly offered to her for pennies.}

So, a few weeks ago I bought a bag of lemons. And then last weekend I bought another bag, forgetting completely that I was already fully stocked in the citrus department. Oh, well. Worse things have happened.

The lemons have been staring at my from my fruit bowl begging to be used up. And I do use lots of lemons. Whisked into vinaigrette. Squirted over fish. As a complement to pasta. In a refreshing glass of ice water. Still, loads of lemons.

When my Facebook friends left their suggestions on my wall, I noticed a theme: dessert. Pudding, pie, bars, curd... looks like I'm not the only one with a sweet tooth! ;)

I remembered having pinned a recipe on Pinterest a while back for some Lemon Crinkle Cookies that looked divine and simple. {And simply divine!} So with only an hour before having to head to work {I always get the urge to bake right before I have somewhere to be. Sigh.}, I whipped up a batch of these.

I'm so glad this recipe won the lemon lottery.

Chewy cookie lovers, these are the perfect cookie for you. Warm out of the oven, they elicit audible "Mmmmm's".   If you happen find yourself with an excess of lemons {or really, if you just want delicious chewy cookies}, give these a try.

Chewy Lemon Crinkle Cookies
Ever so slightly adapted from LDS Living

1 stick of butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1 whole egg
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoons baking powder
⅛ teaspoons baking soda
1-½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease baking sheets with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add vanilla, almond extract, egg, lemon zest, and juice. Scrape sides and mix again.

Stir in all dry ingredients slowly until just combined, excluding the powdered sugar. Scrape sides of bowl and mix again briefly.

Pour powdered sugar onto a large plate or in a bowl. Roll a heaping teaspoon of dough into a ball and roll in powdered sugar. Place on baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough.

Bake for 9-11 minutes or until bottoms begin to barely brown and cookies are crinkly but not wet looking. Remove from oven and cool cookies about 3 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Clean, Green Cooking Machine

How was your weekend? Ours was actually one of the best we've had in a while. We had a really fun, casual date night on Friday at one of our fave local spots {I'm slightly obsessed with their grilled fish sandwiches}, spent the day in the gorgeous sunshine while Steve played in a volleyball tournament on Saturday, and had a lazy Sunday at home {with the brief exception of grocery shopping & making mojitos}.

The hubs in action.
Since I hung out by myself almost all day Saturday while Steve played ball, I got to catch up on some cooking magazines that I've had piling up and am reinvigorated with some new, healthy recipes {and of course, some sweet treats, too.} After last week's cooking slump, I'm more than ready to get back to whipping up some healthy dishes.

Now that March is officially here, I'm sure a whole lot of "green" recipes will be popping up around the internet & cooking blogs to coordinate with St. Patty's Day themes. {I plan on sharing a few myself!} A lot of them will include the addition of food coloring to achieve that verdent hue. But not this recipe...

No artificial colors here. Just pure, fresh avocado, arugula and basil to give this pasta dish that pretty Kermit color. ;)

This Linguine with Avocado & Arugula Pesto has quickly become one of our weekday favorites. It comes together in minutes, and packs a nutritious punch {we've even left out the cheese a few times to healthy it up even more, and didn't miss a thing}.  The no-cook sauce is so creamy and full of flavor that I bet you can get the pickiest of eaters to give it a try... especially if you tell them that the leprechauns lent a hand in making it green!

Linguine with Avocado & Arugula Pesto
via Food Network

  • 1 pound linguine pasta {or your favorite. I used gluten free brown rice linguine}
  • 2 medium avocados, halved, peeled, and seeded
  • 3 cups baby arugula leaves
  • 1 packed cup fresh basil leaves
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice {from 2 large limes}
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

  • Toast almonds - arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees oven for 6 to 8 minutes until lightly toasted -OR- toast in a skillet over medium high heat until fragrant and lightly browned. Cool completely before using.

    Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente. Drain and reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water.

    Using a spoon, scoop out avocado flesh and place in the bowl of a food processor. Add the arugula, basil, lime juice, garlic, salt, and pepper. Blend until smooth.

    Pour pesto in a serving bowl. Add pasta and toss together. Add cheese {optional} and almonds and toss together until coated, adding the pasta water, as needed, to loosen the pesto.

    Thursday, March 1, 2012


    Welp, I fell off the face of the Earth for a few days {Ok, a week. But who's keeping track?}. I had totally planned on wrapping up Mardi Gras week last Friday... but I didn't. And then I planned on posting over the weekend to make up for the lapse... and had a sudden aversion to sitting in front of the computer. It happens.

    So here we are. It's Thursday, and I've got nothin'. Mainly because I think the most interesting thing I've made this week is a bowl of cereal. {Although I did have some really delicious & different pasta this weekend at a local restaurant. I'll have to give you the details soon.}

    Since it's been a while, let's recap what was happening in the kitchen last week:

    Cajun Jambalaya...

    Mini King Cakes {and step-by-step directions on how to make them}...

    Oven Baked Beignets with Cafe au Lait Dipping Sauce...

    I'd say all that work deserved a week's worth of resting... wouldn't you? ;)

    So, yes, Mardi Gras is over. But luckily, you don't have to store these recipes away with your beads & crazy jester hats. And that's a good thing because a year is way too long to wait for all that deliciousness.

    Speaking of storing Mardi Gras beads, I thought I'd offer a suggestion for those of you who have no extra space {Read: completely taken up by cooking gadgets & baking accouterments...} or would rather do something useful with your glittery goodies.

    Each year, ARC Gateway collects unwanted beads and baubles, providing employment opportunities for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The beads are repackaged and resold at a discounted cost, while simultaneously keeping tons of plastic out of landfills. It's a double duty good deed!

    If you'd like to donate your beads to ARC, you can visit any of their drop off locations listed here {and if you don't live close by, I'm sure you can mail them in, though you might want to call & double check to make sure.}

    Alright... enough cereal and yogurt this week. It's back to the kitchen for me! Looking forward to coming up with some new spring recipes!