Au Gratin Good Time

Brussels Sprouts Gratin

why hello there

When they’re in season, brussels sprouts find their way onto my plate at least once a week. And while I’m HUGE fan of roasting and sautéing those little beauties, that can get boring.

But if you’re looking for a good time, go ahead and add some cheese. Cheese tends to make everything better, right? And brussels sprouts are no exception.

Most grocery stores have pre-bagged brussels sprouts but if they’re available on the stalk, go for that. It might fit a little awkward in your fridge but they’ll taste fresher and last longer.

Brussels Sprouts Gratin
1 lb of brussels sprouts, ends trimmed
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt & pepper
½ cup of light cream
3/4 cup of shredded white cheddar cheese
½ cup of breadcrumbs
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon of unsalted butter

Heat your oven to 400º.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the brussels sprouts and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until tender. Drain and then roughly chop.

Lightly grease a 9×7 baking dish with cooking spray and then add the chopped brussels sprouts. Add the red pepper flakes, season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Pour the cream over the top and sprinkle with the cheese and breadcrumbs. Then place dabs of butter around the dish. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden and bubbling. Let cool slightly and then eat.


Ooey-Gooey-Chewy Cookies

Chocolate Brownie Cookie

score some brownie points

Life can be hard sometimes, amirite? It’s all about choices. And decisions. And compromises. What to wear. What to watch. What to eat. Like, do you go for a cookie or a brownie?

Well, why should you have to choose?

Why not get both?

Boom.

Yep. A cookie. A brownie. You can have it all. And actually, not to blow your mind again, but you can have it all — and less. That’s right. Because these ooey-gooey chocolatey cookies are flourless. Which is hard to believe, I know. But it’s true. Just check out the recipe. But what’s really great is that they’re so chock full of rich, chocolate flavor, you won’t miss the flour one bit.

See, life’s not so hard all the time.

Chocolate Brownie Cookies
3 cups of powdered sugar
3/4 cups of unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon of salt
2 large egg whites
1 large egg
5 oz of bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Heat your oven to 350º. Make sure your rack is in the upper third of your oven.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Next, whisk in the egg whites and egg until it resembles a thick fudgy mixture. Then fold in the bittersweet chocolate.

Drop rounded tablespoons of batter onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through, until cookies are puffed, cracked and set around the edges. Let them cool completely on the cookie sheet. Then eat.


Orange is the New Pork

orange-mustard glazed pork chops

citrus chops

I feel like a broken record, but:

Baby, it’s cold outside.

Feel free to remind me that it’s only 36 days until spring. With a snowstorm practically every week and temperatures barely out of the teens most days (that’s Fahrenheit, all my international friends), winter is not one of my favorite things right now.

But something that’s always one of my favorites is pork. That other white meat is just as tasty and versatile as the original white meat. And thanks to some unexpected citrus flavors, this dish offers a welcome reminder of the sunshine to come. In you know, just 35.5 days.

Orange-Mustard Glazed Pork Chops
½ cup of orange juice
2 tablespoons of orange marmalade
1 tablespoon of whole grain mustard
1 tablespoon of canola oil
4 bone-in pork loin chops
2 to 3 sprigs of rosemary
1 medium red onion, cut into wedges
2 tablespoons of lime juice

Heat your oven to 425.º

In a small saucepan, combine the orange juice, marmalade and mustard. Heat over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes until slightly syrupy.

Heat a large oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat. Lightly season the pork chops with salt and pepper, and then cook for 5 minutes on one side until browned. Flip the pork chops and add the rosemary and onion to the skillet. Pour the juice mixture over the chops and then bake for 10 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 140.º

Remove the pork chops, onions and rosemary from the skillet. Return the skillet to medium-high heat, add the lime juice, and let cook for about 4 minutes until the sauce thickens. Add the pork chops back to the skillet to coat with the sauce. Then plate, top with some cooked onions, drizzle with extra sauce, and eat.


Heat Up

winter minestrone

hot & hearty

So far it would seem 2014 is only about one thing. Care to take guess, people? No? Well, I’ll just tell you.

It’s cold. Cold, cold, cold.

But fortunately, that means we’re smack-dab in the middle of soup and grilled cheese season. And you simply can’t have soup and grilled cheese season without a hot bowl of soup. Duh.

Normally I prefer my grilled cheese with tomato soup, but as any 6 year old will tell you, pretty much any hot bowl of soup is perfect for dunking your sandwich. This hearty minestrone uses a healthy portion of winter vegetables, tomatoes and beans to create a grilled cheese worthy soup – that tastes just as good on its own. It also doesn’t take too long to go from stockpot to soup bowl so you can eat up and heat up in no time.

Winter Minestrone
1 medium onion, chopped
1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes with basil, garlic & oregano
1 small butternut squash, cut into small cubes
3 medium carrots, chopped
1 15 oz can of navy beans, rinsed & drained
½ to 3/4 cup of ditalini (or other small pasta)
1/4 cup of grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

In a large stockpot, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, 3/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are soft, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes (including juice) and simmer until thickened, about 8 minutes. Add the squash, carrots, beans and 6 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Add the pasta and simmer until tender.

Right before serving, stir in the grated Parmesan. Ladle into bowls and then eat along with a grilled cheese sandwich.


Let’s Get the Meatball Rolling

shortcut sausage meatballs

hot and fresh out tha kitchen

Happy New Year, people! So far, it seems that 2014 is only about one thing: the cold.

Seriously, there’s something called a polar vortex screwing up all the weather across the US. The South is cold, the Northeast is freezing, the Midwest is like the Arctic. So, when it’s this cold out, I can think of only one thing to really warm me up: some hot – and fast – comfort food.

But first, let’s talk about meatballs.

I know. Everyone has their favorite meatball recipe. Grandma Whatever used to make them with so-and-so ingredient, and that means they’re the best meatballs on the planet. Sure, sure. We’re all entitled to our favorite meatball recipe. But sometimes you don’t have the time to let your meatballs slow-cook away all day in a pot of sauce. Sometimes you just want to stuff your face with meatballs before your nose falls off from frostbite. True story.

So when that happens to you, put Grandma Whatever’s recipe away, and whip up these bad boys instead. And in no time you’ll be enjoying heavenly little sausage meatballs, cooked (quickly) in a flavorful sauce.

Shortcut Sausage Meatballs
1 lb of Italian sausage (I used hot)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
½ bunch of scallions, diced
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 28oz can of crushed tomatoes
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper
Your favorite pasta (I used spaghetti)
Grated Parmesan, for garnish

Start by removing the sausage from the casings. Place into a medium bowl and gently mix together. Roll cherry tomato-sized meatballs and place on piece of wax paper.

shortcut sausage meatballs

hey fellas

In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the meatballs and cook until they’re brown on all sides. Add the scallions and oregano, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Next add the crushed tomatoes, ½ can of water and the bay leaves, and bring to a simmer. Cook uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes until the sauce slightly thickens and the meatballs are cooked through.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a pot of salted water until al dente. Then drain.

Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper. (Remember to remove the bay leaves before serving.) Plate the pasta, top with a few meatballs and spoonfuls of sauce, garnish with some grated Parmesan, and eat.


Christmas Cookie Roundup

sugar & spice

sugar & spice

Even though today is Christmas Eve Eve, it’s not too late to make some Christmas cookies. Here are some of my favorites that I’ve made over the past few years. (Click on the photo for the recipe.)

Hello Dollies (aka Magic Cookie Bars) – so many delicious layers

check out all those layers

check out all those layers

Cream Cheese Spritz Cookies – get your (cookie) gun

cream cheese spritz

trim the tree

No-Bake Chocolate Clusters – there’s literally no baking involved; just melt, mix and set

no-bake chocolate clusters

no bake, no fuss

Merry Christmas, everyone!


Christmas Cookie Day: Toffee Bars

toffee cookie bars

toffee time

These aren’t your typical Christmas cookies. But who says you need to be typical? The holidays deserve something special, and there’s something very special about toffee and chocolate and a few well placed flakes of sea salt.

Toffee Bars
1 ½ cups flour
½ teaspoon of baking powder
½ teaspoon of salt
1 ½ sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cups of brown sugar
1 egg
½ vanilla
1/4 cup toffee bits
1 ½ cups of Heath candy bar bits*
½ teaspoon of flaky sea salt

Heat your oven to 325º.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, and then add the eggs and vanilla. Add the flour mixture a little at a time until well combined. Stir in the toffee bits.

Lightly grease an 8×8 (or similar) baking dish. Line with parchment paper, leaving extra that hangs over the edge, and lightly grease the parchment. Spread the batter into the dish in an even layer. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Sprinkle the Heath bits over the top and bake a few minutes more until the chocolate is melted. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with the sea salt, and let cool completely in the dish. When cool, use the parchment paper to lift out the bars and then cut into squares. Then eat.

*I used 30 miniature Heath bars, which I unwrapped, placed into a large ziploc bag and then smashed with a rolling pin. It was very therapeutic.


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