Skinny tortilla lasagna

Skinny tortilla lasagna

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Our downstairs neighbors are super old. Because of this their television is always super loud. It reminds me of what it would probably be like to live with a teenager. It’s funny how life is cyclic.

If we’re lucky then we are all watching the same thing and it’s just in stereo. Recently there was some breaking news happening in Pennsylvania, and I was able to follow along all day without turning on the television. I just followed along through my floor.

It happens.

I’m big into traditional, authentic ways to prepare food because I think part of preparing and consuming home-cooked meals plays as much a role in one’s culture as his or her culture plays in the food. And, I hate to say this, but often times the “Americanized” version of a traditional meal is not the best. There are usually shortcuts that cut down on the quality of the overall dish.

But as the world gets smaller, more and more cultures are swirling together and sometimes there’s magic.

Cue this tortilla lasagna. It’s made with tortillas instead of noodles and ground meat with latin spices instead of meat sauce and oregano. There’s still cheese, but it’s cheddar instead of ricotta or mozzarella. But the Italian method is still there — it’s layered and baked.

I made this as the entre for Wine Night, and what’s nice is that I could put it all together ahead of time, and then put it in the oven right after everyone arrived. This allowed for some good snacking time on chips and guac while we poured the wine and gossiped.

I started by making the meat layer. Chopped onions, ground turkey, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder.

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[Read more...]

Maple-bourbon glazed salmon

Maple-bourbon glazed salmon

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If there’s one thing I love, it’s bourbon. Sorry I’m not sorry. On the rocks. In cocktails. In desserts. On fish?

Totally on fish. With sticky maple syrup and toasted pecans. This dish is warm. I mean, obviously warm in temperature. But also warm in flavor.

The best part about drinking bourbon is the way your whole mouth and throat warms after the first few sips. You can feel the blush rise up in your throat and burst in your mouth and it’s just lovely after a hard day, or a mediocre day, or a good day. Any kind of day.

Obviously the alcohol mostly cooks out of this dish, so it doesn’t create that same blush as when you drink bourbon. But it creates a flavor that’s warm and rich and lovely. Also, this dish is quick and easy, but doesn’t taste like it. Those are my favorite kinds of dishes.

I started by preparing my sauce: some bourbon, some maple syrup, a little water in a sauce pot over high heat. [Read more...]

Apple vanilla crumb bars

Apple vanilla crumb bars

apple crumb bars

So, of course, I’m still working through the 40 apple dishes for the applepalooza, but apple recipes are so autumn-ish, and I really wanted to do something different with my apples. Something that didn’t include warm cinnamon, zippy nutmeg and earthy allspice. Those flavors are wonderful, but eventually the apple pies start tasting like the apple crisps and apple bettys, and please for the love of everything holy give me something that doesn’t take like red and orange leaves with a dash of pumpkin.

Enter this crumb bar. No fall-spices. No spices at all. A lovely, buttery shortbread crust, some apples doused with a vanilla syrup and a crumb topping. This does not taste like fall spices. This tastes like spring.

I started by making a shortbread crust. That involved mixing up some flour, sugar and salt. [Read more...]

Chicken breasts with lemon-butter sauce

Chicken breasts with lemon-butter sauce

letter butter chicken

There’s this specialty espresso shot at Starbucks that I really want to try, but haven’t felt bold enough to order it.

It’s sometimes called an Undertow, but I think the general Internet consensus is to not call “secret” Starbucks drinks by their made-up names and just order the drink the way you want. It’s a layered drink with vanilla syrup, milk and espresso. You take it all at once and taste the hot, bitter espresso first, then the creamy, cool milk, followed by the sweet syrup.

Sometimes you just want flavor to hit you in the face.

This dish has no vanilla syrup or creamy milk or bitter espresso, but it does hit you in the face.

Sometimes you just want to take a bite of chicken and taste every single ingredient you put into it in a perfect harmony of, well, POW.

There’s not so many ingredients here — some lemon, some lemon pepper, some butter and some breaded chicken. But it’s enough.

(Today is the last day to take the readers’ survey so if you haven’t yet, would you please? I have had 39 responses, and wouldn’t it be nice to get to a nice round 50?)

I started by pounding my chicken thin (doing this is really essential, and it really makes pan-frying a breeze). Then I breaded the chicken with a little flour, mixed with some salt and lemon pepper. [Read more...]

Slow cooker creamy salsa chicken

Slow cooker creamy salsa chicken

creamy salsa chicken

This slow cooker creamy salsa chicken is so easy that I seriously questioned whether it was worth posting.  But we all like easy dishes, I think. Especially delicious, easy dishes. Especially delicious, easy, largely hands-off dishes.

One of the things I love about cooking in the slow cooker is that the meat largely comes out perfectly tender. I can’t say the same for when I bake or pan-fry chicken.

To make this dish, [Read more...]

Back to basics: potatoes–types, baked, mashed, roasted

Back to basics: potatoes–types, baked, mashed, roasted

potatoes back to basics

Just a few of the many, many varieties of potatoes.

There are more than 4,000 types of potatoes in this world. Don’t worry, I’m not going to list them all. No matter what kind of type you use, you really only need to know one thing about your potato. Is it waxy, starchy or somewhere in between?

The potato you use depends largely on what you’re making. Here are the basics: [Read more...]

Pennsylvania Dutch schnitz pie

Pennsylvania Dutch schnitz pie

schnitz pie

This looks like an ordinary apple pie, but this pie has a secret: it’s made with schnitz.

What is schnitz?

(It would be easier to tell you my secrets if you would fill out the readers’ survey.)

Schnitz is (are?) dried apples, and the word comes from the German “schnitzen,” which means, to carve.

During apple season, the Pennsylvania Dutch sliced and dried harvested apples to preserve them. Then they used those apples to create savory dishes, such as schnitz un knepp, and sweet dishes such as this schnitz pie. (Sidebar: I made schnitz un knepp last weekend, and it was not my favorite thing ever.)

This was the second dessert I made for wine night and let me tell you dried apples have an expected concentration of flavor. My friend Renatta said the pie sort of tasted like a Christmas candle because it has major apple/orange/cinnamon flavor going on. Not inedible, but a little overpowering. Over the next few days, the flavor really mellowed out, so this is definitely a make-days-before kind of pie, which, let’s be real, are the best kind.

I started by reconstituting dried apples. That is a fancy word for [Read more...]

A coffee cake for a (belated) National Coffee Cake Day

A coffee cake for a (belated) National Coffee Cake Day

Hey guys! I’m really excited to share a post written by my super creative, funny, fun cousin, Elisha. She recently celebrated National Coffee Cake Day, with none other than a coffee cake! The coffee cake is light and fluffy with delightful swirls of cinnamon-sugar and nuts!

(Also, have you filled out the readers’ survey, yet?!)

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Happy Belated National Coffee Cake Day!

Several years ago when my way cooler, younger cousin accepted my friend request on Facebook, I thought that I was cool by association.  Then recently she asked if I wanted to guest post on her blog!  Clearly, my coolness factor has gone up no matter what my teenage kids think.  However, what on earth would I blog about?  Then inspiration hit me at work on Friday.

I am the first person you see when you enter the office.  On my desk is a digital frame.  Each day I create slides to welcome clients to the office.  What started out as a joke between my CEO and I has become an office expectation:  I list the holidays that are celebrated each day.  More specifically, I focus on the lesser known holidays.  For example, April 7 was among other things: National No Housework Day (which I made a very dedicated effort to observe), National Beer Day and National Coffee Cake Day.

In addition to it being an office expectation, my family has enjoyed my observance of these lesser-known holidays, as well.  There was the night I made waffles for International Waffle Day, and the time I made a boatload of oatmeal cookies for National Oatmeal Cookie Day and forgot to take them with me to work.  (Don’t get me started on meals based on movie themes… I really hope that when my kids are old and have families of their own and get a good laugh when they remember these moments.)

Did you make Coffee Cake on Monday?  I made Coffee Cake really late Saturday night because I started my observance of National No Housework Day a day early and I knew there was no chance I was making a Coffee Cake after work on Monday.

According to Answers,  “Food historians generally agree the concept of coffee cake [eating sweet cakes with coffee] most likely originated in Northern/Central Europe sometime in the 17th century. Why this place and time? These countries were already known for their traditional for sweet yeast breads. When coffee was introduced to Europe these cakes were a natural accompaniment. German, Dutch, and Scandinavian immigrants brought their coffee cake recipes with them to America.”

For my version, I adapted Taste of Home’s recipe.

I would like to say that I followed the recipe exactly.  And if I said that, I would be lying.  For example, somewhere in my house is a 10-inch tube pan.  When we moved in (a year ago) I must have protected this pan and put in somewhere to keep it super safe during the 4.5-mile move.  So super safe, in fact, that I have no idea where it is.  I used a Bundt cake pan.  It worked.  Also there was a little issue with the sour cream.  And as much as I would like to share that I switched out the sour cream for nonfat Greek yogurt to make it healthier, I would again be lying.  I didn’t make it to Target to pick up sour cream until about 9 p.m., and they were completely out, and I didn’t want to make another stop on my way home.  (Maybe I shouldn’t grocery shop at Target…) Lastly I swapped the walnuts for pecans, for no other reason than I don’t like walnuts.

I started my creaming the butter and sugar together until the batter was light and fluffy.

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Then I added the eggs, one at a time, beating after each time and added the vanilla. [Read more...]

Slow-cooker coffee-braised brisket

Slow-cooker coffee-braised brisket

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We are friends, right? We hang out. We break bread. We talk about food. This essentially the foundation of all my friendships. I feel like because we’re friends, good friends even, that I can tell you a secret and you won’t judge me.

Sundays are my lazy day. I  don’t leave the house on Sundays. I stay in my pajamas all day. And what’s worse, is that I always make a slow-cooker dinner on Sunday. So not only do I not leave the house, but I try to find the easiest dinners to make. I am sitting here, at 8 p.m. on a Sunday, unshowered, in a sweatshirt and yoga pants, watching some half-interesting documentary on Netflix, after having ate (having eaten?) this brisket that practically cooked itself, and I don’t even feel bad about it.

Coffee is so versatile. It adds earthy richness. It is so flavorful, but when mixed with savory meats it’s not overpowering. I’m a big fan of coffee in things. This has coffee grounds and brewed coffee and onions and cumin and paprika. All of those flavors that cut through the fat of beef and bring out its flavor.

STEP ONE. Create a spice rub. I love spice rubs. It feels so … real. Real cooking like kneading bread or sifting flour. I know, I’m totally weird. It’s Pajama Day. Weirdness abounds on Pajama Day.

I combined garlic powder salt, pepper, paprika, cumin and brown sugar.  [Read more...]

Back to basics: hard-boiled eggs (for Easter!) and an avocado and egg salad sandwich

Back to basics: hard-boiled eggs (for Easter!) and an avocado and egg salad sandwich

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Easter is almost here and that means it’s time for egg dying! We probs won’t be dying eggs for Easter (perhaps for Spring Brunch decorations), but I make hard-boiled eggs to eat. There are two methods for making hard-boiled eggs: the stove and the oven.

(But, first, I want to hear from you! Would you please take my readers’ survey!?)

The stove takes less time, but is more hands-on than oven, and I think the shells are easier to peel. But you can make more eggs at a time in the oven.

I made them both ways to show you how.

Both methods involve ice water to dunk the cooked eggs in at the end to stop the cooking process/make them easier to peel. I don’t have ice in our freezer, but I do take a bunch of stuff out and put in a stainless steel bowl to make very cold water. I leave it in the freezer while the eggs are cooking. [Read more...]