Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Skillet Strata with Cheddar and Thyme

I told you I've been going a little egg-crazy since Caroline outgrew her allergy.  And this particular dish has made several appearances on our breakfast, lunch, and dinner table.  It's a super simple recipe that comes together quite quickly.  Onions are quickly sautéed in some butter, then bread cubes are toasted in the skillet as well.  A mixture of eggs, milk, some spices, thyme, and cheese is poured over the bread cubes, then you transfer the pan to the oven and it bakes up into a beautiful and delicious strata.  The sharp cheddar, buttery bread, and fresh thyme combine to create a dish that's definitely greater than the sum of it's parts.  Any dish that can be made with pantry staples and is immediately inhaled by everyone at the table is a true winner in my book!

Another bonus?  It's infinitely adaptable.  Add some bacon or sausage (or any meat, really).  Amp up the nutritional value by adding veggies - spinach and zucchini would be especially great.  Change up the cheeses.  Play around with the seasonings and spices.... The sky's the limit here.  It's a great recipe to use up random ingredients in your fridge.  And as if you need another reason to make it, the leftovers reheat beautifully, so you can make this over the weekend and then reheat individual portions throughout the week for an easy breakfast.

Skillet Strata with Cheddar and Thyme
adapted from America's Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook
serves 4-6

  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 4 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
  • 4 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 tsp minced fresh thyme (or 1/4 tsp dried)
  • pinch of cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp mustard powder
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 cups of 1-inch bread cubes (about 5 slices sandwich bread)
Heat the oven to 425 degrees and adjust the oven rack to the middle position.  Whisk the eggs, milk, and cheddar together in a medium bowl.  

Melt the butter in a 10-inch ovensafe nonstick or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Swirl the pan to coat, then add the onion, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Cook until softened and beginning to brown, 4-6 minutes.

Stir in the bread, thyme, cayenne, mustard, and garlic, and toss to coat the bread with the butter.  Cook until the bread cubes are lightly toasted, about 3 minutes.

Remove the pan from heat and fold in the egg mixture until well-combined with the bread.  Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook 10-12 minutes, or until the edges are browned, the center of the strata is puffed, and the edges are pulling away slightly from the sides of the pan.  Serve.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Nutella, Sea Salt, and Browned Butter

Say hello to the best cookies I've ever made.  Imagine the perfect chocolate chip cookie - slightly crispy edges, soft and chewy interior, buttery, sweet, with just a little bit of salt.  Now imagine that it's made with browned butter.  And sprinkled with a bit of sea salt.  Oh yeah, and stuffed with Nutella.  Did you just run to your pantry to see if you have everything you need to make these?

There are certain food trends that I am over... or never got behind in the first place.  But nutella, sea salt, and/or browned butter will always be loved by me.  And apparently Joey.  And Caroline.  And Smith.  And I'm sure if Henry and Tucker could eat cookies, they'd love them too. :)

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Nutella, Sea Salt, and Browned Butter
adapted from Ambitious Kitchen, via Annie's Eats
makes about 24 cookies

  • about 1/2-3/4 cup Nutella (or other chocolate-hazelnut spread)
  • 16 Tbs (1 cup, 2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp fleur de sel, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbs sour cream or greek yogurt
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Spoon the nutella into a pastry bag or sandwich bag, and squeeze it all into the corner/bottom.  Snip off the end, then pipe into 1-2 tsp dollops on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Transfer the baking sheet to the freezer, and freeze 1-2 hours, or until the nutella is firm and frozen through.

Meanwhile, brown the butter.  In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Once it's melted, it will foam and bubble a bit.  Begin whisking it very often, and continue to cook until the butter turns brown and smells nutty. Immediately remove from heat and set aside to cool.

In  a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

To make the cookies, combine the brown sugar, granulated sugar, and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat at medium speed until well-combined.  Add the egg + egg yolk, vanilla, and sour cream and mix well.  Reduce the speed to low and slowly add the flour, mixing until just incorporated.  Using a spatula, fold in the chocolate chips.  Transfer the bowl to the refrigerator and chill for about 30 minutes.

When ready to shape and bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.

Measure out about 2 tablespoons of the dough, and roll into a ball.  Flatten the dough ball in the palm of your hand, then place a dollop of the frozen nutella in the center.  Fold the edges over the nutella, enclosing it in the dough.  Transfer to the prepared baking sheet, and repeat with the remaining dough, spacing the dough balls about 2-3 inches apart.

Bake 13-15 minutes, or until the edges are golden-brown the the cookies are set, rotating the pans halfway through baking.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the sea salt.  Allow to cool slightly before transferring to a wire rack (or before eating them!).

Note:  These are best eaten warm, and will harden the following day.  To enjoy, just reheat in the microwave briefly (about 10-20 seconds).

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Cheesy Cauliflower Soup

First off, I'd like to thank everyone for the well-wishes for the birth of our twin boys.  Slowly but surely, we're adjusting to being a family of six.  And of course it goes without saying that I'm basically a human milk-factory.  And sleep-deprivation is no joke.

However, I'll take it over the final weeks of pregnancy any day.  First off, I get to cuddle two babies at a time!  I pretty much always have a baby to cuddle, and Joey and I don't have to fight over who gets to hold the baby.  Secondly, the discomfort was pretty much indescribable.  And compounded by horrendous heartburn.  I thank the good lord that I've only experienced heartburn during pregnancy, because well - it really really sucks.  The cruel irony was that I craved spicy foods and chili, but those obviously made it worse.  Even water gave me heartburn.

However, this soup was a welcome respite from the heartburn.  It was one of the only things I ate during those last few weeks that actually left me feeling happy and comfortable.  With that said, you might think it must be super bland and flavorless.  But it's not at all.  The soup is made creamy and hearty by the addition of a potato and a little cheese.  The cauliflower flavor is prominent, but not over powering, and the hit of Dijon mustard adds a wonderful complexity.  And the mustard-infused croutons were a lovely garnish - just try not to eat them all before the soup's finished cooking!

If I'm being honest, cauliflower isn't my favorite vegetable, but this soup was pretty perfect.  Quick, cheesy, hearty, comforting... pretty much perfection.  I had intended to freeze half for a quick and easy dinner or lunch after the babies were born, but instead I enjoyed it for lunches throughout the week.  And that's okay because it just means I'll have to make it again.

Cheesy Cauliflower Soup
adapted from Super Natural Every Day via Annie's Eats

For the croutons:
  • about 6 oz crusty bread, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 2 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 Tbs Dijon mustard
  • Kosher salt

For the soup:
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and diced into ¼-inch cubes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • ½-3/4 head cauliflower, chopped into small florets
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, plus more for garnish
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard

To make the croutons, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  In a medium bowl, toss the bread cubes with the butter, olive oil,  and mustard.  Arrange the bread cubes in an even layer on a baking sheet and sprinkle with the salt.  Bake for 10-15 minutes or until browned and crunchy, tossing halfway through the baking time.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add the shallots and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 4-5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, and add the potato, garlic and vegetable broth.  Cover the pot and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat to a simmer, keep covered, and let cook for about 8 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.  Add the cauliflower and cook an additional 5-6 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender.  Stir in the cheese and mustard.

Use an immersion blender (or regular blender) to puree the soup to your desired consistency (I like a few chunks rather than it being totally smooth).  If the soup is too thick, stir in additional water or broth.  Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.  To serve, ladle into individual bowls and top with the croutons and additional cheese as desired. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Introducing Tucker and Henry!

It's with so much love and excitement that we introduce the newest members of our family:  Tucker Joe and Henry Pope!  They were born on Wednesday, Jan 9.

After a nearly textbook labor and delivery, Tucker was born at 3:27 pm.  He weighed 6 lbs 13 oz, and is 19.5 inches long.

Eighteen minutes later, Henry Pope was born, weighing 6 lbs 3 oz.  He is also 19.5 inches long.

Both babies were initially very healthy, but after a few hours, Henry was having a little trouble breathing, and was sent to NICU.  He improved very quickly and we were so fortunate that he only required a brief stay.  In less than 24 hours, he rejoined Tucker in our room.

We are all home now, and slowly but surely adjusting to being a family of SIX!!  Caroline absolutely adores the babies, and pretty much wants to hold, cuddle, and kiss them 24/7.  Smith alternates between being completely oblivious to the babies and thinking they are totally hilarious - he just points and laughs.

Thanks so much for all the support, well-wishes, and advice over the past few months.  It still seems pretty surreal that have twins!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Red Beans and Rice Soup

Red Beans and Rice has long been one of my favorite meals - my mom used to make it quite often when I was growing up as an easy vegetarian meal - sans andouille sausage, of course.  I posted a really awesome version a few years ago, but it's a recipe that you have to plan ahead for - soak and cook the beans, etc.  I also have been majorly slacking in the meal-planning department as of late, so I usually spend a good chunk of the afternoon trying to decide what to make for dinner based on what we have on hand.

Enter this soup.  The weather's been cold, we've all had colds, and I was craving something hearty and comforting, but still somewhat light.  And one of the best things about this recipe is that it's all made in one pot - sauté the chicken sausage, cook the onions and peppers, then dump everything else in (rice too!) and let it simmer away.

The finished soup is hearty and filling, spicy, and oh-so comforting.  Joey and I both loved it, and while it was a tad too spicy for Caroline and Smith, I toned it down with a little Greek yogurt, and they were fine.  And you MUST serve it with cornbread.  It's not even optional.

Red Beans and Rice Soup
adapted from Elly Says Opa

  • 1 Tbs canola oil
  • 12 oz chicken andouille, sliced (use a little less if you're sensitive to spice)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 tsp Cajun seasoning, divided (again, adjust accordingly based on spice preference)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes (undrained)
  • 3-4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup brown rice
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced

Heat the canola oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Place the sausage in the pot and cook until nicely browned, stirring often. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon. If there is an excess amount of fat, drain it from the pot.
Reduce the heat to medium, and add the onion, bell pepper, celery, and half of the Cajun seasoning. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the diced tomatoes, broth, bay leaf, remaining Cajun seasoning, and kidney beans into the pot.  Return the sausage to the soup and bring to a boil.
Place the brown rice in a small mesh strainer and run cold water over it until it runs clear, about 30 seconds. Add the brown rice to the soup, and simmer over medium-low until the rice is cooked, about 35-40 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Ladle into bowls and top with sliced green onions.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Baked Breakfast Taquitos

We have become quite fond of breakfast foods in our house ever since Caroline outgrew her egg allergy.  We eat breakfast for breakfast, breakfast for lunch, and breakfast for dinner.  I feel like a whole new world has been opened up when it comes to feeding my family.  There have been many evenings in which I haven't felt like cooking or eating dinner, so scrambled eggs, toast, and fruit have become a staple for dinner for the kids and Joey.

Our love for baked taquitos has also been pretty well-documented here, so I totally felt like Joey Tribiani when I came across these breakfast taquitos - eggs + taquitos.  Put your hands together, my friend.

The basic premise here is a flour tortilla stuffed with scrambled eggs, salsa, cheese, herbs, and whatever other mix-ins you may prefer.  I used a little crumbled bacon, some cilantro and scallions, and Greek yogurt.  There's also a lime-chipotle dipping sauce that's pretty delicious, but Joey said he actually preferred them dipped in salsa or au naturale.

And a few more reasons why these are totally awesome:

  1. They can be frozen for an easy grab-and-go breakfast
  2. They are infinitely customizable - play around with the cheeses, use sausage or chorizo - or go vegetarian. 
  3. They are high in protein and relatively healthy.
  4. They are really easy.
So take my advice:  make a big batch.  Freeze some.  Eat the rest.  And then enjoy a quick and easy breakfast all week.  Happy New Year!

Baked Breakfast Taquitos
inspired by Our Best Bites
  • 4 slices bacon, chopped 
  • 12 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 cup grated cheese - cheddar, Colby jack, pepperjack, etc
  • 1/2 cup salsa (thick and chunky preferred over a thinner salsa)
  • 1/4 cup minced green onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • juice of half a lime
  •  hot sauce to taste
  • 16-20 6″ flour tortillas
  • cooking spray or olive oil
  • Dipping Sauce:
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • juice of half a lime
  • 1/4 tsp chipotle chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.   Spray with cooking spray or lightly brush with oil and set aside.
Chop the bacon into 1/2-inch pieces and cook in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, stirring often, until browned and crispy.  Use a slotted spoon to remove from the skillet and drain on a paper towel-lined plate.  Discard all but 2-3 teaspoons of the bacon fat.
 Meanwhile, crack eggs into large mixing bowl.  Whisk in the Greek yogurt, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cumin.  Add egg mixture to pan.  Using a rubber spatula, gently scrape bottom of pan and fold eggs over to scramble.  Remove from heat when slightly undercooked.  Add cheese, salsa, cooked bacon, green onions, cilantro, hot sauce, and lime juice.  Mix to combine, taste, and season with additional salt, pepper, and/or hot sauce as needed.
Place the tortillas on a plate, cover with a damp paper towel, and microwave 30 seconds.  Working with a few tortillas at a time, place a scant 1/3 C egg mixture into the center of each one and roll up.  Place on a prepared baking sheet, seam-side down, spacing 1-2 inches apart.  Lightly spray tops with cooking spray, or lightly brush with olive oil.  Sprinkle lightly with salt.  Bake for 15 minutes or until edges are golden-brown and crisp.
While taquitos are baking combine all the ingredients for the dipping sauce.  Stir to combine season to taste.  Remove taquitos from oven , let cool for 5 minutes, and then serve with dipping sauce.

To Make Ahead: The egg mixture can be made a day ahead of time and stored in the fridge until ready to use.  You can also prepare the taquitos and instead of baking right away, cover tightly in plastic wrap and store in the fridge overnight, or freeze for later use.  To prepare frozen taquitos, place (un-thawed) directly on a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick spray.  Follow original baking instructions, increasing time by 5 minutes or until taquitos are golden brown.