Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Blueberry Dump Cake-Cobbler-Crisp

I was in a Food Network "Chopped" Tournament.  I arrived very tardy, since I had to work late and I didn't know the "secret basket ingredients" and everyone else was already in the middle of preparing their meals.  My heart was racing trying to figure out what to make, on what was now an even more abbreviated time frame.  I told myself not to panic and pull it together. 

I ran to my refrigerator and started putting together a roasted pork tenderloin with creamy mustard sauce (one of my go-to dishes).  Then, I find out that the secret basket is a wedding theme meal and one of my opposing chefs brought her wedding gown to present her meals in...really???

So, I thought to make my dish look beautiful, I would serve the dinner on my white wedding china.  Ted Allen, the host, then announces "When the four nuns arrive to judge, you have two minutes to plate your dish for presentation".  I can't find my china anywhere, because my mom has them spread out in every room of our house, making it look like model home.  My blood pressure goes into overdrive and I really start to panic because now I have nothing to put my dish on and I am going to lose the competition.  I then hear my daughter, "Mom...it's 5:45, you need to wake up".  

Oh thank God, my Chopped Tournament dilemma was only a dream, but so real.  One of those dreams where you are trying to wake up from a heavy REM sleep fog and you can't catch your breath.

Clearly I have way too much on my mind right now, planning the end of season school volleyball banquet, which I am in charge of this year.  I have been speaking with restaurants, caterers, planning table settings, decorations and even figuring what color napkins and ribbons to wrap the silverware in.  Yes, too much going on in my brain!!

Well, this dessert will definitely get you the winning votes in any culinary championship.  You can call it a dump cake, cobbler, crisp, or you can just call it, oh so sweet deliciousness!

Blueberry Dump Cake
Dedicated To Dreams

(2) 14 ounce bags frozen blueberries (kept frozen)
grated zest of one lemon
1 (13 ounce) jar Stonewall Kitchen Wild Maine Blueberry Jam (or whichever brand you can find)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 box Butter Flavor Yellow Cake Mix
1 stick butter, cold
2 Tablespoons sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9 x 13 glass baking dish with non-stick spray.

Gently stir frozen blueberries, lemon zest, blueberry jam and cinnamon together in a bowl.  Pour into prepared baking dish.

Sprinkle the dry cake mix all over the blueberry mixture so it is well covered. Cut cold butter into thin slices and place all over cake mix.  Sprinkle sugar all over butter pieces and cake mix.

Bake for approximately 45-60 minutes, until blueberries are bubbling and the crust is a light golden brown.

Serve cake warm, with vanilla ice cream or whipped topping...(or better yet, serve with both)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sauteed Chicken with Olives and Roasted Mushrooms with Garlic & Thyme

During our weekend visit with Steve and Leslie while the guys went golfing, Leslie and I had the pleasure of attending Sur La Table's Cooking School in Boulder.  I signed us up for their class of "Fast & Fabulous Chicken Dishes".  I feel that we can never get enough opportunities to keep learning and soaring in whatever we enjoy doing, be it our careers or hobbies.

Our chef/instructor was fabulous.  I loved her humor, personality and candor.  She told amazing stories and captured our attention at every moment. We even exchanged grease burn stories and showed our battle scars on our arms and hands...I felt like such an accomplished chef.

I worked hard for those cooking scars and there was this unspoken respect.  Okay, maybe I am exaggerating a little - but a girl can dream, right?  Back to the cooking part...we made four different chicken dishes and this one rocked it.  I loved all the flavors and it was so easy for a weeknight dish, yet impressive enough that you could serve to guests.

Sauteed Chicken with Olives
Courtesy of Sur La Table

2 Tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
4 (5-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 medium shallots, peeled and sliced
1 medium garlic, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons minced thyme
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pitted Kalamata olives
2 Tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley

Place a large skillet on the stove over medium-high heat and add 1 Tablespoon of the oil.
* Chef's Tip:  Dry the chicken really, really, really well before you put it in hot pan.
When the oil is shimmering, generously season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper.  Add the chicken to the pan, presentation side down first and cook until brown, about 3 minutes.  Turn the chicken and cook on the other side, about 2 minutes longer.  Transfer the chicken to a plate, reserving the skillet.

Add the remaining 1 Tablespoon of oil to the skillet.  When the oil is shimmering, add the shallots and cook until tender, about 2 minutes.  Add the garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Return the chicken to the skillet, presentation side up.  Add the broth, bring to a boil then reduce the heat until simmering and cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 6-8 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  Stir in the olives.

Place the sauteed chicken onto warmed serving plates. Spoon olive mixture over the top, sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.

* These mushrooms are super delicious and go with everything!!

Roasted Mushrooms with Garlic & Thyme

16 mushrooms (white button or baby bella), cleaned and dried well
3 Tablespoons olive or canola oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped very finely
3 Tablespoons butter, softened
2 Tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
5 Tablespoons Panko Japanese breadcrumbs
1-1/2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
pinch of salt 
pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly fry the mushrooms, cap-side down, in hot oil for 2-3 minutes.

Arrange the mushrooms in a 9x13 cooking dish with the stalks facing upwards.

In a small bowl, mix together the butter, garlic, thyme, lemon juice, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Spoon a little of the garlic butter mixture on to each mushroom, then lightly press the breadcrumbs on top.

Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or golden around the mushroom cap.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Dad's Dilly Dip

It as been a week since we said good-bye to Steve and Leslie and the great weekend we had with them...full of laughs, cooking, bbq and wine tasting.  I think I need to go back on South Beach again before Thanksgiving hits, UGH!!!  Once again, too much of weekend indulgence.

Since I had the opportunity to try out some new (and a few oldies) recipes, I thought I would change up my posts for the rest of this month.  For the next nine posts, I will be featuring "Dips, Dinners and Desserts".

The first dip was inspired and really more of a necessity to use up our extra herbs.  I think we bought out all the farmers market dill from here to the Wyoming border, so my husband could make his annual dill pickles.  We had such an abundance of dill that I needed to use it up quickly - so came Dad's Dilly Dip.

Dad's Dilly Dip

1 cup Best Foods Olive Oil Mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
1-1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
3 Tablespoons fresh dill weed, finely chopped
pinch of salt

In a medium bowl combine all ingredients.  Mix together, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Serve with freshly cut vegetables or Ruffles chips.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Grilled Halloumi Cheese and Tomato Sandwich

Tonight we come upon two years to the day that we arrived here in Colorado to start our new life with the girls and puppies.  It was quite a journey to get here to say the least, and has been full of so many adventures and growth ever since.

As I took our girls and their friends to the ever anticipated high school homecoming football game tonight, all spirited out in their glitter, beads and hair bows (coordinated in their school colors of course), I realized once again how quickly time is going by, right before our eyes.

As part of our home alone date night, I tried out this new cheese that I have been hearing and reading about everywhere..and I can never get enough of cheese.  It is Halloumi, a Greek cheese which I found at our specialty Cheese Importers store.

Grilled Halloumi Cheese and Tomatoes - Perfect as a sandwich,
appetizer or accompaniment to a salad.

Grilled Halloumi Cheese and Tomato Sandwich

Halloumi Cheese (found in specialty cheese case)
1 Roma Tomato, thinly sliced
Canola Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Olive Oil
1 loaf of your favorite rustic bread ( I really like a kalamato olive loaf)
Fresh Parsley, chopped

Cut bread in 1/2" slices and lightly toast in toaster or on a grill pan.

Heat 2 teaspoons canola oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add thinly sliced halloumi cheese and sear 2 minutes on each side or until browned.

Add one slice of the grilled halloumi cheese on toasted bread.  Add 2 slices of tomatoes and top with another layer of grilled cheese.  Season with a small bit of salt and pepper.

Drizzle the "sandwich" with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Finish off with a sprinkle of the chopped fresh parsley.

Get a knife and fork and your're ready to enjoy!

* I served this little piece of deliciousness as a side dish with my Bourbon Glazed Grilled Salmon, carmelized onions and Butter Dill Sauce.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Gorgonzola Grilled Chicken and Spinach Salad

So here is how the conversation went during our wine time debriefing and getting dinner ready....

Me:  "Honey, since Steve and Leslie will be here next week, please make sure we have enough propane for the bbq with all the grilling that we're going to be doing."

Him:  "Oh, there's plenty of propane for the bbq, we don't need to fill it up."

Me:  "Are you sure, because we have been grilling a lot lately."

Him:  "Yes, we'll be fine."

He then puts the chicken breasts on for our Gorgonzola Grilled Chicken and Spinach Salad and we continue to talk out on the patio, while the chicken cooks.  He goes to check on the chicken to see if they are almost done...

Him:  "Oh, ****, the burners and heat turned off...we are out of propane."

Me:  "Seriously!!!?"

Gorgonzola Grilled Chicken and Spinach Salad

Spinach Leaves
Baby Bella or White Button Mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
Red Grapes, cut in half lengthwise
4 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
White Balsamic and Honey Salad Dressing/Vinaigrette 
(typically found on the top shelf area of salad dressing section with the specialty flavors)
6 ounce container, Gorgonzola Cheese, crumbled
Olive Oil

Preheat the grill to hot.  Rinse and dry the chicken thoroughly. Take each breast and pound gently to an even thickness. Do not pound too thin; the breast will not be completely uniform. Liberally salt and pepper the chicken and allow to sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes.

Place the chicken breasts on the hot grill, with the thicker portion facing the hotter part of your grill (usually the back). Allow the chicken to cook undisturbed until char grill marks are made, about 4 minutes. Flip the chicken, keeping the thick part of the chicken toward the hot part of the flame, and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the chicken reads 155 degrees F, about 3 more minutes. 

Pull cooked chicken breasts off the grill and set in a glass dish. Sprinkle chicken with the crumbled Gorgonzola cheese and loosely cover with foil.  Allow the grilled chicken to rest for 5 minutes, covered, before serving.

While chicken is resting, saute the mushrooms in equal parts butter and olive oil in a medium-high heated saute pan. 

To plate, start with the spinach leaves.  Cut the rested Gorgonzola covered chicken in evenly sized slices and place on spinach leaves.  Add the sautéed mushrooms to each plate over the chicken.  Spoon any remaining butter/olive oil from the mushroom pan over each plate, this adds an extra layer of flavor.

Add as many (or as few) cut grapes that you like to your plate and drizzle with the White Balsamic and Honey Salad Dressing.

Serve with a crusty, rustic bread (like a Garlic Olive-Rosemary loaf) and your favorite Chardonnay wine.

Here is the dressing we used for tonight's salad.

P.S.  Just make sure you have enough propane before your start your dinner venture!

One Year Ago:  Nutella Cookies

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Lemon Spaghetti with Jumbo Shrimp

We had a very special treat this week, in the midst of all our late summer/early fall rain and thunder.  We walked out of the girls' school and were greeted with a double rainbow...but the best part was you could actually see the ends of both rainbows! (...and no, I didn't find my pot of gold at either end, unfortunately).   I typically only see one end of a rainbow and the other is off to infinity somewhere.  The photos don't do it justice, since I was trying to save my camera in the torrential downpour, but the sight was absolutely breathtaking.

This is the perfect, quick, go to weeknight dish to warm you up from a rain storm.  Of course, anything I can put shrimp in, I love and anything that I put capers in, my husband is all over and any pasta for my kids just goes without saying, so it was a win-win for family night.

Lemon Spaghetti with Jumbo Shrimp
Courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound spaghetti
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2/3 cup grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 large lemons)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

2 tablespoons capers, fried briefly in a little olive oil

For the shrimp: In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the shrimp with the salt and pepper, then add to the pan in a single layer and cook until pink and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Set aside.

For the pasta: Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving the pasta water.

While the pasta is cooking, whisk together the olive oil, Parmesan, lemon zest and juice in a large bowl. Toss the drained pasta with the lemon sauce, the shrimp and some of the reserved pasta water; add 1/4 cup at a time as needed to moisten. Add the salt, pepper and basil and toss. Garnish with the fried capers.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Strawberry Blueberry Crunch

Fall is in the air here.  I can feel the nights starting to cool down, the leaves are starting to turn cranberry red and golden orange and I am craving cinnamon, nutmeg and warm baked goodies.

Baking season will soon be upon us and we have had fun trying out different desserts for the upcoming autumn season.  This was from The South Beach Diet and was the perfect cure for some warm yumminess!

Strawberry Blueberry Crunch
Courtesy of The South Beach Diet Taste of Summer Cookbook

1/4 cup whole almonds plus 2 Tablespoons sliced almonds
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 Tablespoon trans-fat-free margarine 
2 cups sliced strawberries
1 cup blueberries
1 Tablespoon granular sugar substitute
6 Tablespoons part-skim ricotta cheese 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a blender or spice grinder, grind whole almonds until finely ground.  In a small bowl, combine ground almonds, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Add margarine and stir to combine.

Lightly coat an 8" x 8" baking dish (I used a glass pie pan) with cooking spray. 

Place strawberries, blueberries, and sugar substitute in the dish; toss to combine.

Dot with ground nut mixture (it will not cover entire surface) and then sprinkle with sliced almonds.

Bake for 35 minutes, or until topping is golden and fruit is hot.  Divide fruit among 6 dessert bowls and top each serving with 1 Tablespoon of ricotta.

** Since I am not a fan of ricotta (unless it's buried in lasagna), I substituted it with low-fat vanilla frozen yogurt, in small portions.