Thursday, June 28, 2012

On The Menu: Oven-Baked Sweet Potato Fries

My husband and I are notoriously bad about eating our vegetables...other than potatoes and corn. Not exactly the two healthiest options because they normally get loaded up with butter, sour cream, and salt. So, now that we have a wee bambino, we decided we should probably start incorporating more vegetable dishes into our every day meals. Afterall, if we're going to be buying vegetables for the kiddo to eat, we should set a good example.

I'm pretty lucky in that I like most vegetables. Scott on the other hand... Well let's just say we're doing this in baby steps. I figured we could start with "fries" - of the sweet potato variety. And these were so good and we got plenty of our beta carotene in! These are a great, healthy alternative to a fried russet potato. The recipe I found is slightly adapted from the one found at Simply Recipes.

These fries are pretty sweet, so it's almost like having dessert + vegetables all in one dish. The bonus: only a tablespoon of sugar!

(serves two - baking times vary by oven)

- Two large sweet potatoes, peeled
- 1 T sugar
- 1/2 T kosher salt
- 2 T pumpkin pie spice (or you can make your own combining cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger)
- 1/4 C extra virgin olive oil


1. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place a wire cooling rack on top of the baking sheet. This prevents you from having to flip the sweet potatoes halfway through the cooking time. Preheat your oven to 500° F.
2. Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise, then across. Cut into wedges.
3. Toss the potato wedges with your olive oil in a large bowl. Sprinkle with sugar, salt, and your spices until evenly coated.
4. Spread the wedges onto the wire cooling wrack in a single layer (we had to use two baking sheets and two racks).
5. Bake for approx. 20 - 25 minutes (be sure to check after 15 min or so). Our image looks like they're burnt on the edges - they really aren't. It's just the carmelization from the sugar and the natural sugars in the sweet potato.

Optional Bonus: If you need a dipping sauce for your fries, you can always make the vanilla glaze from this know. Lest you come to your senses and make the dish just a touch TOO healthy.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

On The Menu: Goo Cake

So today I was able to fit into some pre-pregnancy shorts! But like the crazy person that I am, I decided to say, eh, whatever, and make this cake anyways. This cake has been called "Better Than Anything Cake" "Better Than Sex Cake" and "Goo Cake." And with only about 5 ingredients, it's pretty darn easy, too! I saw the original recipe on Pinterest via Chef In Training. You can click the link to the right to follow along with all the yummy recipes I find. Nikki over at Chef in Training has much better pictures of her cake and used Heath bars instead of Twix. I admit I am the world's worst food photographer.

- 1 box of chocolate cake mix (and any ingredients it requires - usually eggs and vegetable oil)
- 1 14oz can of sweetened condensed milk
- 1 8oz jar of caramel sauce
- 1 8oz container of Cool Whip
- Crushed up candy bars of your choice (I think butterfingers would work the best, but Scott isn't a fan so we used Twix)

Super easy directions:
1. Bake cake in a 9x13 pan according to box directions
2. Let cool for about 5 minutes and then poke holes all over the cake with the handle of a wooden spoon.

3. Let cool for a few more minutes before pouring sweetened condensed milk and caramel sauce over the cake. Use the wooden spoon or a spatula to spread them both around and make sure both condensed milk and caramel gets in all of the holes.

4. When cake has cooled completely, spread on the Cool Whip.
5. Sprinkle with your choice of candy bar for a topping.

This cake is super sweet and rich, so I would recommend starting with a SMALL piece. We've discovered this is one of those cakes that gets better the longer it sits in the fridge and tastes best slightly chilled. Enjoy! I'm sorry if I ruined your plans to fit into that swimsuit...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

On The Menu: Easy Blackened Chicken Alfredo

This is the quickest, easiest recipe for blackened chicken fettucine alfredo. And honestly, I think it's better than some I've had at restaurants. You also get to use your cast iron skillet for this! This recipe makes about two servings.

You'll need:
• 2 small boneless chicken breasts or 1 large chicken breast
• About a tablespoon of melted butter
• Cajun seasoning (I used McCormick's Perfect Pinch Cajun)
• Enough fettucine for two people (I always just eyeball it)
• Canned pre-made alfredo sauce (we like Classico or Newman's Own)

*Cast Iron Skillet or oven-safe skillet
*Cooking/Pastry Brush
* Meat tenderizer or rubber mallet
You can get fancy and make your own alfredo sauce, but that would take the "quick" part out of this recipe.

1. Preheat your oven to 350° F. Get your water boiling for your pasta, and heat your cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.
2. Place your chicken breast(s) between two pieces of wax or parchment paper and pound with a rubber mallet or meat tenderizer until your meat is only about 1/4" thick.
3. Brush the melted butter on one side of the chicken and coat with cajun seasoning.
4. If your water is boiling, I would throw in your pasta, because it will actually take longer to cook than your chicken, since it's so thin.
5. While pasta is cooking, place your chicken seasoned-side down in your skillet and sear for 45-60 seconds. While the seasoned side is cooking, brush the remaining butter on the chicken and coat the other side with seasoning. Flip your chicken and sear again for 45-60 seconds.
6. Transfer your skillet to the oven and bake chicken for 5 minutes. I know this seems like it wouldn't be long enough, but it is! Be careful with those cast iron skillets because they get so hot so quickly. I've burned myself a couple of times on mine.
7. After five minutes, take your chicken out and let rest. Drain your pasta and toss with premade alfredo sauce over low heat. Cut chicken into strips and place on top of your pasta and enjoy! This would go well with garlic bread and a salad, but the pasta and chicken is so filling, I normally don't need a side.

The chicken should be cooked through but still juicy!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

On The Menu: Cast Iron Skillet Pizza

Lovely Instagram photo of my homemade cast iron skillet pizza on our fancy paper plates.
So, I realize I've been a bad blogger recently. But I had a newborn, can you blame me? I didn't realize there wouldn't be time for well...anything really other than feeding, changing, getting baby down for a nap, rinse repeat. But we're back in the swing of things and starting to get a little bit of a routine, so I figure I should return to blogging - especially delicious recipes!

I got a cast iron skillet for Christmas, and this recipe is my favorite way to use it - pizza! I got the original idea and the dough recipe here: Macheesmo. You can see step-by-step photos at that site. My hands are always way too messy to stop and take photos of the process. It's important to have a well-seasoned skillet for this so your pizza doesn't stick when you try and slide it out of the skillet. The one I got is a 10" Lodge brand pre-seasoned skillet from Target and it works perfectly. We used the extra dough to make a mini pizza in a 5" skillet.

It's kind of an involved recipe and takes a lot of preparation, but it's SO worth it! I honestly think it's better than restaurant or delivery pizza. We've made this about three times at home, each time getting a little better at it. I would recommend making the dough the day before you want to use it, or at least starting the morning of if you have time. I haven't tried freezing the dough, but that's another option as well.

Dough Ingredients:
• 3/4 tsp active dry yeast
• 2 tsp salt
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• about a cup of warm water (or slightly under - a full cup makes the dough too wet for me)
• 2 1/2 cups bread flour
• Olive oil

1. Mix together your warm water (not too hot or you will kill the yeast), active dry yeast, salt and sugar with a little whisk or fork until everything is dissolved. Let sit for about 5 min until the surface starts to look a little foamy (like..forgive the expression...bathwater).
2. Slowly stir in your bread flour until everything is incorporated. At this point I like to put a little bread flour down on my countertop and start kneading the dough. Use a hand dipped in warm water to get the flour out of the bowl so it doesn't stick to your hands. If your dough seems way too dry as you're kneading it, you can add a tablespoon or two of water. If it's much too wet, add a tablespoon or so of bread flour until you get a good consistency.
3. Knead for about 8 minutes or so. Dough should be very soft and pliable. Gather dough into a ball, rub all over with olive oil and wrap in plastic. Put dough in fridge and let sit for at least two hours.
4. Take your dough out of the fridge at least an hour before you want to use it (two hours is better - you see why I recommend making the dough the night before?)

Sauce Ingredients:
• One 14.5oz can of tomato sauce (we use Hyvee Brand because we're fancy like that)
• 1 tablespoon dried parsely
• 1 tablespoon dried marjoram
• 1 tsp onion powder
• 1 tsp garlic salt
• 1 tsp dried basil
• 1 tsp dried oregano
• 1/2 tsp black pepper
• red pepper flakes to taste

1. This is pretty easy - mix all that stuff together and taste. This is a recipe that you can tweak and add and subtract from the spices to your liking. It's all a matter of experimenting. Start with just a few spices and slowly add and taste and adjust. The above combo is what works for us, but feel free to experiment on your own! It will probably turn out pretty good no matter what.

• grated mozzarella cheese
• sliced mushrooms
• browned italian sausage
• pepperoni

1. Obviously you can use whatever toppings you like, but we like the combo of sausage, mushroom, and pepperoni the best for us. My husband isn't the biggest mushroom fan, so we only put them on my side of the pizza. Feel free to add scallions, peppers, onions, hamburger, etc!
2. I love fresh mozzarella, but I've found it has too high of a water content for us and will make our dough soggy, so we use the pre-grated, bagged mozzarella.
3. There is some debate as to whether or not to cook the mushrooms before you use them because of their water content as well, but we just place them on top of the cheese and it works out fine.

Put it all together:

1. Preheat your oven to 450° F
2. After letting your dough sit, spread some flour on your work surface and some on your rolling pin and roll out your dough to about 1/4" thick. You could try and place the rolled dough in the pan and cut from there, but we're not coordinated enough for that. So we flip the pan upside down on top of the dough and cut about an inch from the edge of the pan. See my lovely diagram below:

2. Now place your cut dough into the skillet and roll down the edges to form a crust.
3. Add your sauce. Make sure you add plenty, because we didn't the first time we made this and it was a little dry.
4. Add a good layer of mozzarella.
5. Add your toppings.
6. Top off with more mozzarella.
7. To get the dough slightly crispy on the bottom, head the skillet on your stovetop for about 3 minutes on medium-high to high. Then transfer to the oven to cook for about 15 minutes. These directions are for an electric range, so you might need to adjust for a gas stovetop. It's important not to spray your skillet with anything like Pam because it may cause the bottom of your crust to burn. Thus the importance of a well seasoned skillet.
8. Let pizza rest for a few minutes before trying to slide the pizza out of the skillet. It will be VERY hot!
9. Now eat that delicious meal you worked so hard for!

*Note that cooking times are for a 10" pizza. The smaller pizza doesn't take quite as long and if you have a bigger skillet you should add a few minutes to the baking time as well.