Friday, July 27, 2012

Recipe Swap: Apple Dumplings

When I am looking through cookbooks and at cooking sites, I rarely see a baking or dessert recipe that I want to make. I'm just not into baking, and I rarely eat dessert. I have a "Sweets" board on Pinterest, but I know I will never bake anything I have pinned... I do plan on sending some of the recipes to my dad, the baker of the family, to make.

However, when I participate in the Taste of Home Cooking Recipe Swaps, I like that they often push me outside my comfort zone. So when I participated in this Blogger's Choice swap, I decided to push myself and choose a dessert recipe.

I was given Kylee's blog, Kylee Cooks. I looked through a lot of her recipes and bookmarked some things I plan on making this winter - good, hearty recipes that will be perfect on a cold day. But for the swap, I chose a recipe for Apple Dumplings. They looked easy, delicious, and although I don't really eat sweets, I do have a weakness for apple desserts. Especially warm and gooey apple desserts which is exactly what this one turned out to be.

Confession - I hate measuring. I have said it before, but after making this recipe, it is confirmed - I hate measuring. And what is sad is that there were only 4 or 5  things to measure! I measured the water, sugar, and butter, but by the time I got to the 4th ingredient - vanilla - I just estimated. I did the same with the cinnamon. Luckily this recipe isn't one that requires you to make dough or crust or I'd be in big trouble. Estimating worked just fine for me.

Back to the recipe... it uses canned biscuit dough which makes it a super easy dessert for those non-bakers like me. It took about 50 minutes from start to finish, and within 5 minutes of taking them out fo the oven, I ate 3 dumplings! They are small but irresistible! And store them in the fridge and just warm them up for 15 seconds in the microwave for breakfast the next day. I will definitely make these again.

Here is the recipe - I made it exactly as Kylee did and wouldn't change a thing.

  • 1 can refrigerated flaky biscuit dough
  • 2 apples - peeled, cored and cut into 8ths
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon mixed with 1/4 cup of sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to around 350 degrees.
  2. Separate the biscuits in the can, and then cut them lengthwise so you have 16 circles of dough.
  3. Wrap each apple slice in one circle of dough. (I had better luck cutting a slit in the flat side and putting the apple wedge in, and then wrapping the dough around it to close it up. Kind of like stuffing a chicken breast when you cut a slit in it).
  4. Put them into a buttered dish.
  5. Put sugar, water, butter and vanilla into a saucepan and heat until sugar is dissolved.
  6. Pour over the apple dumplings, and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar.
  7. Bake for around 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Grilled Beef Negimaki

A few years ago Jon made Beef Negimaki, Japanese Beef and Scallion Rolls, for the first time. We have made it several times since, and last week decided to try cooking on the grill.

For the instructions on how to prep and roll the beef, as well as the marinade ingredients, click here. The key to being successful with these rolls is to pound the meat evenly. Instead of a small meat pounding tool, Jon prefers to use a small frying pan to pound the meat. Place plastic over the meat before pounding it.

Jon cooked these on the grill to medium. In the meantime, I took the marinade and brought it to a boil on the stove, then lowered it to a simmer and let it reduce for about 8 minutes. It made the perfect sauce to be poured over the rolls.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Light Summer Pasta with Tomatoes and Zucchini

The other night I made a Creamy Summer Pasta dish using corn and zucchini my dad picked up at a local farm stand. Tonight I wanted to use the rest of the zucchini, the tomatoes he brought me, as well as the first tomato of the year from my garden.

It was 105 degrees on my drive home this afternoon, so I definitely didn't feel like a heavy cream sauce. I wanted something that highlighted the flavors of the fresh tomatoes, as well as a quick and easy dish since I didn't get to cook until after my daughter went to bed. I came up with this quick and easy recipe.

It was knock-your-socks-off fresh and delicious! I couldn't stop eating it, and am a little mad at myself for not leaving enough to have a nice sized lunch tomorrow, but it was THAT good.

I'll just have to make it again, and I have a lot of tomatoes starting to ripen, so it will be soon!

Ingredients (2 servings)
  • 2 tbsp good olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 zucchini, halved and then sliced into strips
  • 3 tomatoes, roughly chopped (large bite-sized pieces)
  • 1/4 c low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • Handful of fresh basil, cut into a chiffonade 
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 servings cooked pasta
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (approximately 3 tbsp)

  • Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat
  • Add onions and garlic; saute 2-3 minutes.
  • Add zucchini; saute 2 minutes.
  • Add tomatoes; saute 1 minute.
  • Add broth, half of the basil, and salt and pepper to taste. Lower to a simmer and let cook for 5-7 minutes (don't let the tomatoes get too mushy - you still want them to maintain their shape).
  • Add pasta and toss. Mix in most of the Parmesan. Serve topped with a bit more Parmesan and basil.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

BLT Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

I LOVE BLTs. Smoky bacon, juicy red tomatoes, crisp lettuce, and creamy mayonnaise - it might just be my favorite sandwich. So what better than an appetizer than tastes just like a BLT?

I first made these tomatoes about 7 or 8 years ago - I honestly don't even remember where I saw the recipe, but there are a ton out there, I'm sure. I haven't made these in years and didn't follow a recipe this time - I just went based on how I wanted it to taste. Plus, they are pretty simple as far as ingredients go. You'll see from my recipe below that I pulled it together as I went along and my measurements are approximate.

However, I will warn you that preparing the tomatoes takes a while. I made 45 of these and it took close to an hour. Cutting the tomatoes and scooping out the insides and then filling each one requires some patience. It's not hard work, but it's small and delicate work, if that makes sense. I had to use a 1/4 teaspoon to scoop out the insides of the tomatoes, being very careful not to rip them.

Ingredients (for 45)
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Approximately 5 tbsp mayonnaise (I only use Hellman's!)
  • 4-5 pieces of cooked, crumbled bacon or a few spoonfuls of Real Bacon Bits
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Cut the tops off the tomatoes and carefully scoop out the insides
  • Mix the mayonnaise, bacon, and green onions
  • Spoon the mayo mixture into the tomatoes. Chill an hour before serving.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Creamy Summer Pasta

Every summer my dad makes weekly or biweekly runs to a farm stand just over the bridge in New Jersey. NJ is known for amazing Jersey tomatoes so he always gets those, and today he picked up some sweet corn and zucchini, too. I didn't need much else to inspire me to make this dinner tonight!

I decided to use my julienne slicer to julienne the zucchini, keeping it a similar shape and size as the spaghetti (I had some leftover, plain cooked spaghetti in the fridge from the weekend). I also had some roasted red peppers my dad made that I also cut into long, skinny strips. And since most of my ingredients were on the sweeter side, I decided to keep the sauce mellow and subtle rather than make a salty, Parmesan  or Pecorino Romano cream sauce. Instead, I used a mixture of cream cheese and Parmesan cheese which perfectly complemented my ingredients.

My final decision was how to cook the corn. Have you seen this video on YouTube about the easiest way to shuck, clean and cook corn? My dad first told me about it, and I almost didn't believe it until I saw it. You throw the entire ear of corn, husks and everything, into the microwave and cook on high - 4 minutes per ear. When you take it out - carefully, it's hot! - chop off the end and shake. The cob of corn falls right out and it is perfect clean. It really works! Once it was out I cut the corn off the cob using a sharp knife.

So in ten minutes - maybe 15 - I chopped a few things, made a sauce, cooked the veggies, and threw everything together with the pasta. So easy! I loved this and so did my daughter. It tasted like summer, had great texture from the different vegetables, and the sauce was sweet and creamy and went perfectly with the rest of the dish.

  • 1/2 zucchini, julienned
  • 1/2 roasted red pepper, cut into skinny strips
  • 1/2 sm yellow or white onion, chopped
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 3/4 c half n half
  • 2 tbsp cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Cooked spaghetti; enough for 2 people
  • In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil and butter. Add flour and whisk for a few minutes until you have a nice roux (no lumps, creamy but thick). Add the cream and bring to a simmer. Add the cream cheese and Parmesan and whisk until smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper.
  • In the meantime, heat a touch of olive oil in a small pan. Add the onions, garlic, and zucchini. Saute 3-4 minutes. Note: you could cook the onions, garlic, and zucchini in the large pan before you add the flour, but I prefer making my roux separate from the veggies.
  • Cook the corn in the microwave using the method above; cut corn from the cob.
  • Put everything into the sauce - onion/garlic/zucchini mixture, cooked corn, sliced red peppers. Toss. Add pasta, toss. Adjust seasoning if needed.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Recipe Swap: Ali's Lightened-up Eggplant Parm

Vegetarian was the theme of this Taste of Home Cooking Recipe Swap. I submitted my recipe for Quinoa with Roasted Garlic, Tomatoes, and Spinach and was given a recipe for Lightened-up Eggplant Parm. The recipe was created by Ali, a fellow member of a cooking board I frequent. She doesn't have a blog, but I think she should start one - this was a great recipe!

I made eggplant parm once before and it was good. But what I really liked about Ali's recipe was the layering of the thinly sliced eggplant, cheese, and sauce, making it more like what I'm used to getting at restaurants. Plus, the recipe was a lightened-up version (baked eggplant instead of frying, which is what I prefer), so I was really looking forward to eating this dish.

Below is Ali's recipe in her words with my notes in italics.

  • 3.5-4 cups home made chunky marinara sauce (like this one)
  • 1 medium eggplant, peeled and sliced into ¼ inch rounds
  • ¾ lb fresh salted mozzarella cheese, sliced to 1/8 inch rounds
  • 1-1.5 cups seasoned breadcrumbs (I used plain breadcrumbs and seasoned them myself to omit some of the sodium. I also used a mix of panko and regular breadcrumbs)
  • ½ cup plus 1 tbsp. freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 2-3 large egg whites, lightly beaten
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 3-4 tbsp salt
  • Cooking spray

  • Pre-heat oven to 350.  Coat 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
  • Place eggplant in a colander in the sink, sprinkle with salt and mix to coat. Let rest 20 minutes.
  • Combine breadcrumbs, 1 tbsp of Parmesan, Italian seasoning and garlic powder (I also added a touch of salt and pepper) in a shallow dish.  Place egg whites in another shallow dish.
  • Rinse eggplant well and pat dry.  Dip eggplant into egg then into breadcrumbs. Place on a non-stick baking sheet and bake in oven for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned, turning once.
  • Spread a thin layer of marinara sauce onto the bottom of the baking dish, then 1 layer of eggplant, scatter 1 layer of mozzarella, sprinkle with Parmesan. Spoon another layer of marinara sauce over the cheese and continue making layers until all of the ingredients are used-finishing up with a final thin layer of sauce and cheese. There should be about 4 layers.
  • Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes until cheese is melted and cooked thoroughly.
  • Remove from oven and serve.

The one major change I will make the next time I cook this dish is to remove the skin from the eggplant. The skin stayed a bit tough after cooking, and everything else was just so tender and melted in my mouth that I think not having the skin to chew through would make this the perfect dish.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Argentine Hot Dogs (with chimichurri, pickled red onions, marinated queso fresco, and chorizo)

Last month I was going through starred posts in my Google Reader when I read this title out loud to Jon - "Argentine Hot Dogs with chimichurri, pickled red onions, marinated queso fresco, and chorizo." That immediately caught his attention and he said it sounded great. I agreed, so when I was making the menu for a casual Father's Day, I decided to make these.

The original recipe for these dogs was posted on a great blog, Oishii. I have made several recipes from Oishii and have never been disappointed, so I knew these would be great.

What I loved about this recipe was that everything could be made ahead of time, leaving you with only the dogs to grill when you are ready to eat. And what a way to bring your hot dogs up a level!

The Chimichurri:
  • 1/2 a bunch of parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Juice of 1 small lemon
  • 1 TBS. red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed garlic
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red and yellow peppers
  • 2 tablespoons grated carrot
 Combine the first six ingredients in a food processor; pulse to pesto-like consistency. Season to taste with salt. Fold in peppers and carrot. Set aside. Can be made several hours ahead. Cover and chill. Take out of refrigerator 1 hour before serving.

The Pickled Red Onions:
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 2 TBS. white wine vinegar (or champagne vinegar)
  • agave nectar to taste
  • Kosher salt to taste
Place the sliced onions in a bowl and add the vinegar. Add a good drizzle of agave nectar (or you can use honey or sugar) and season with a little salt. Stir to combine. Taste and add more sweetener if needed. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The Marinated Queso Fresco:
  • 4 ounces queso fresco, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed garlic
  • Zest from 1/2 lemon
  • Salt, pepper to taste
Combine the marinated queso fresco ingredients. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The Chorizo:
1 link of chorizo is more than enough for 2 dogs. Crumble into a hot pan and cook until browned and cooked through. You want to make this as close to the time you are eating as possible.

To Assemble:
2 grilled beef hot dogs
1 steak roll – cut in half lengthwise, with a slit cut into each half to form 2 hot dog “buns”

Lightly toast the buns on the grill, grill the hot dogs, and top with cooked, crumbled chorizo, chimichurri, pickled red onions, and marinated queso fresco.