May 30, 2010

... Lemon Drop Cookies

A summer barbeque calls for a light and refreshing sweet treat.  These bite size butter cookies do the trick when they're topped with a lemon or lime glaze.

With just a handful of ingredients, these little guys are a breeze to whip up and take to your next summer party.

Make them with lemon or lime - or both - and they're sure to disappear just as quickly as they were made.

makes 6 dozen

1 cup butter (melted)
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 1/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup butter
2 to 4 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cups powdered sugar
zest of one lemon

Put butter, sugar, cornstarch, flour and salt in a bowl and mix on low speed until blended.  Don't over beat.  Roll into marble sized balls.  Place on ungreased cookie sheet.  Flatten with thumb.  Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes.  Don't brown.

Mix butter, sugar, juice and zest together until light and fluffy.  Spoon or pipe onto cool cookies.

Taylor's Notes:
Depending on your idea of 'marble-size' this recipe actually makes about 9 dozen cookies.  They're tiny and they go quickly, so it's not really an issue (unless you're keeping them for yourself and then I recommend eating them while on the treadmill to combat all that butter!) :)

You can also make these with lime juice and zest.  I like to make half and half.  Just reduce the frosting ingredients by half - and you'll still have plenty of frosting.


May 24, 2010

... Grilled Chicken with Basil Dressing

Last week was cool and rainy, this week is hot, humid, and sunny... that's what you get with Midwest weather and I'm loving it!  (well, the hot and sunny part at least)  We found a new twist on the 'same old' grilled chicken, added fresh tomatoes with mozzarella and sweet corn on the cob and once we were done, said "Now that's what I call a summer meal!"

Even after only marinading for 30 minutes, the chicken had great flavor and was really moist.  The basil dressing was so fresh and was an awesome addition.  It was a perfect match with the tomatoes and mozzarella drizzled in olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper.

Give this one a try and I guarantee you'll be glad it's summertime, too!

Grilled Chicken with Basil Dressing
serves 6

2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus 1/4 cup
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds, coarsely crushed
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
3 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
1 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
1 large garlic clove
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

Whisk 1/3 cup of oil, 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, fennel seeds, 3/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper in a resealable plastic bag.  Add the chicken and seal the bag.  Massage the marinade into the chicken.  Refrigerate at least 30 minutes and up to 1 day, turning the chicken occasionally.

Meanwhile, blend the basil, garlic, lemon peel, remaining 1/4 cup lemon juice, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a blender until smooth.  Gradually blend in the remaining 1/3 cup oil.  Season the basil sauce, to taste, with more salt and pepper, if desired.

Prepare the barbeque for medium-high heat or preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat.  Remove chicken from the marinade.  Discard the marinade.  Grill the chicken until just cooked through, about 8 minutes per side.  Transfer the chicken to serving plates, drizzle with the basil sauce and serve.

Taylor's Notes:
I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts rather than bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts and thighs.  Just adjust the grilling time accordingly.  Even  though it was just two of us, I made the 6 pieces because it's never a bad idea to have grilled chicken on hand... especially if you have leftover basil dressing to go with it!

Like I said, we paired ours with juicy tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.  Just slice both in about the same thickness of pieces, layer, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with s&p.  

We also had sweet corn on the cob and, after realizing we were a little behind the ball for putting it on the grill, I remembered a quick and easy way to cook corn that my aunt taught me (thanks Aunt Sass!).  Spread each ear of corn with butter and season with salt & pepper.  Wrap each ear in wax paper and place in a microwave-safe dish.  Microwave on high for 2 minutes per ear of corn - so if you have 4 ears, microwave it for a total of 8 minutes.  Rotate the ears a few times while cooking... and be careful not to burn yourself, those puppies get hot!  


May 16, 2010

... Apple Crisp

Apple crisp is one of those desserts that I just can't get enough of.  It's warm and cozy and somehow reminds you of home.  Which is why we thought it'd be a great end to our Mother's Day meal this year.    

Tart, crisp green apples, cinnamon and brown sugar, and chopped pecans... mixed together and divvied up amongst individual serving-size ramekins.

Top it with cold vanilla ice cream... and you'll be wishing it was Mother's Day every day.  Happy Mother's Day to all the mom's out there!

serves 8

5 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, chopped small
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon lemon juice

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  

For the filling, mix all the ingredients together.  Place into 7- to 8-ounce ramekins.

For the topping, mix the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl.  Blend the butter into the mixture until is forms pea-size lumps.  Stir in pecans and sprinkle over filling.

Bake crisps for 35 to 40 minutes.  Cool 10 minutes before serving.

Taylor's Notes:
These crisps are so easy to make and are always a hit.  Place the ramekins on a cookie sheet to catch any spills and make them a little easier to put in and take out of the oven.


... Ranch Potato Salad

Barbeque season is among us and it seems like potato salad is always a great choice.  I'm not a big fan of mustard-y potato salad, so this Ranch style is right up my alley.  We mixed this one up as a side for our Mother's Day meal and it was a big hit all around.  

It's a simple dish to make and is great served warm or cold.  Red potatoes mixed with chopped green onions, crisp bacon, a few chives and Ranch dressing... it's a creamy addition to any meal.

Ranch Potato Salad

2 pounds small red potatoes, cooked
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 cup Ranch salad dressing
6 strips bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
salt & pepper

Cut slightly cooled potatoes into 1" cubes.  In a large bowl, combine all ingredients.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Taylor's Notes:
Boil the potatoes until you can stab them easily with a fork, about 20 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes.  

You can make the salad ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator until it's time to eat.  Take it out 15 or 20 minutes ahead of time to take a bit of the chill off.


... Chicken & Steak Kebabs

We haven't had the best of grill weather in Kansas City yet this year, but that hasn't kept Rich away from firing it up.  For Mother's Day, we made chicken and steak kebabs, ranch potato salad and apple crisp a la mode for dessert.  The kebabs were delicious with fresh veggies, beef tenderloin tips seasoned only with a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, and chicken marinated in mustard, Italian dressing and garlic... and interesting combo, yes, but very flavorful.

Baxter was really happy to help 'man' the grill.

And after about 20 minutes on the grill, we had a really tasty main dish.

Taylor's Notes:
There's really no recipe to share as Rich just went with it.  Like I said, he mixed up a mustard marinade for the chicken and just barely seasoned the steak since it was such a great cut.  Maybe I should be having him choose the cuts of meat from now on... :)  Add whatever veggies you like, file them onto metal skewers (much easier than wooden ones), throw them on the grill and in less than 30 minutes you'll have a great meal to enjoy with family or friends.


... Margarita Loaf Cake

Our Cinco de Mayo celebration called for a zesty dessert with south-of-the-border flavor.  I made this Margarita Loaf Cake years ago and completely forgot about it until Mom made it and reminded me of how delicious it is.  

Fresh lime zest blended with sugar to bring out all the great flavors, mixed with butter (yes, real butter), eggs, flour and your typical cake ingredients...

Topped with a glaze made of Tequila and Triple Sec and put under the broiler to make a crunchy layer... serve it warm with fresh fruit and whipped cream... and it's a terrific Springtime dessert.

2 1/4 cups unbleached cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups sugar
3 tablespoons minced lime zest
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon tequila
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons Triple Sec

Coat a 9"x5" loaf pan lightly with no-stick spray.  Cut a piece of waxed paper to line the bottom of the pan and press it into place.  Lightly coat the waxed paper with shortening or no-stick spray.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together twice onto a piece of waxed paper. 

In a large bowl, mash together 1 cup of the sugar with 2 tablespoons of the lime zest until moist and fragrant.  Add the butter and beat until smooth.  One at a time, beat in the eggs.  By halves, alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk to the creamed mixture; do not overmix.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake until a tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out almost clean, about 50 minutes.  Cool the cake in a pan on a rack for 15 minutes. 

Position the rack about 6 inches from the heat source and preheat the broiler.

In a small bowl, stir together the remaining 1/3 cup sugar, the tequila, lime juice, remaining 1 tablespoon lime zest, and Triple Sec.

Remove the cake from the pan and peel off the waxed paper.  Set the cake upright on a broiler-proof pan.   Gradually spoon the tequila mixture over the top of the loaf, allowing it to absorb as much of the glaze as possible.  Set the cake under the broiler and broil until the top is bubbling and lightly browned, 30 seconds to 1  minutes.  Transfer to a rack and cool completely.

Taylor's Notes:
Although the recipe calls for cake flour, I just used all-purpose.  I'm guessing the cake flour would make the cake lighter and less dense, but there were no complaints about the end result.  

When you place the cake under the broiler, be very careful to keep an eye on it as the alcohol will catch fire.  Once it bubbles and turns light brown, you're golden... so to speak.

I took the leftover cake to work the next day and it disappeared before lunch, so apparently it's great for breakfast too!


... Steak with Avocado Sauce and Tomato Salad

Cinco de Mayo certainly called for Mexican food, but we weren't really in the mood for the typical Tex-Mex that we most likely would have ended up with.  Enter grilled steak with south-of-the-border spices, warm tortillas and a creamy avocado sauce.  Now, I haven't quite gotten a good handle on cuts of meat and what's good and not-so-good, so when the recipe called for Eye of Round that's what I bought.  Next time... we'll try something else.  I think flank steak would be a great choice... but please feel free to make recommendations of your favorite cuts!

The avocado sauce saved the day and we'll be using that recipe often in tacos, fajitas, nachos... yum!

The addition of the tomato and hearts of palm salad was great and made for a fresh, tasty side.  It kept well in the refrigerator and I had it for lunch a few days later.  

We really loved the grill-warmed flour tortillas and, like I said, the steak would be better with a different cut of meat, but the flavors were terrific and a great alternative to a big burrito, crunchy tacos or cheesy enchiladas... although all of those sound pretty terrific right now!

I hope you had a great Cinco de Mayo celebration!  We enjoyed ours with margaritas and this tangy dessert.  Ole!

serves 4

1 1/4 pounds beef eye round roast (in 1 piece)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Mexican-style chili powder
kosher salt
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
7 to 8 canned hearts of palm, thickly sliced
2 tablespoons lime juice, plus lime wedges for garnish
freshly ground pepper
1 ripe Haas avocado
1/3 cup fresh cilantro
1 large clove garlic
flour tortillas, warmed, for serving (optional)

Slice the roast crosswise into 3 even steaks.  Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Brush the steaks  all over with 1 tablespoon olive oil, season with the chili powder and add salt to taste.  Cook until a thermometer inserted into the side registers 125 degrees for medium-rare, 4 to 5 minutes per side.  Let rest for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, toss the tomatoes and hearts of palm in a bowl with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste.  

Halve and pit the avocado; scoop the flesh into a blender or food processor.  Add the cilantro, garlic, the remaining 1 tablespoon lime juice and 1/2 cup water; puree.  Season with salt.

Thinly slice the steaks.  Serve with the avocado sauce, tomato salad and tortillas for wrapping, if desired.  Garnish with lime wedges.

Taylor's Notes:
Short of switching out the cut of meat for one that'll be a little less chewy, this was an easy weeknight meal with great flavor.  It'd be easy to add extra toppings, like a fresh salsa or grilled onions, to mix it up.


May 3, 2010

... Chicken and Black Bean Tostadas

Now this was a good find!  This is, I think, the third time we've made this recipe, but I hadn't started my blog the first two times and after making it last night I'm wondering how I could have possibly waited so long to make it again.  And when you make it, I guarantee you'll be wondering the same thing.

I love recipes that encourage you to use rotisserie chicken.  It's so easy and such a time saver.  You can do this part ahead of time - days, even - and if you have leftovers it's perfect to put in a quesadilla, chicken pot pie, or tacos.  Next is the colorful part - chop up bright purple cabbage, julienne a few red radishes and toss in some cilantro.  The dressing is really easy and the adobo sauce and garlic really give it a great kick.

When frying the tortillas, be sure your oil is hot enough.  You can do so by carefully (!) sprinkling some cold water into the oil.  When it bubbles, you're good to go.

Now top those warm, crisp tortillas with smashed black beans, shredded chicken, tasty slaw and lime-flavored sour cream and you'll be wondering how many times you can get away with making the same recipe is one month.

Chicken and Black Bean Tostadas
serves 4

1/4 cup canola oil, plus more for frying
4 corn tortillas, preferably white
kosher salt
1 15.5-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
freshly ground pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ancho chili paste or adobo sauce (from a can of chipotles in adobo)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 cups finely shredded green or red cabbage
1 bunch radishes (about 6), juilienned
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 rotisserie chicken, skinned and shredded into large pieces

Heat 1/2 inch oil in a small heavy skillet over medium heat until shimmering.  Fry tortillas one at a time until golden and crisp, 2 minutes per side.  Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt.

Cook the oil slightly and discard all about 2 tablespoons.  Add the beans and cumin and cook, stirring, 1 minute.  Add the broth and cook, smashing the beans, until saucy and hot.  Season with salt and pepper.

Whisk the garlic, chili paste, 2 tablespoons lime juice, the sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl.  Slowly whisk in a 1/4 cup oil to make a dressing; add the cabbage, radishes and cilantro and toss.  Mix the sour cream and the remaining 2 tablespoons lime juice in another bowl; season with salt and pepper.

Top each tortilla with beans, chicken, cabbage slaw and sour cream.

Taylor's Notes:

We used flour tortillas instead of corn.  It seems like the first time we made it, we used corn and they didn't fry quite like we wanted them to.  If you have tips on frying corn tortillas, please share!  Flour tortillas fry pretty well, but you have to be patient and get them crispy enough or they'll be chewy.  I heat my oil between medium and medium-high (specifically, a 6 on a dial of 1 to 10).  Leave the tortilla in the oil for 30-45 seconds per side or until it's golden brown.  If the tortilla bubbles up, you can poke the bubble with a knife to let a little steam out - just be careful not to burn yourself.

Depending on how many tortillas you fry, you can get more like 6 or 7 servings out of this recipe.  There's plenty of chicken and a bunch of slaw, but if you're going to have more than 4 people - or if you just have a couple of hungry ones! - you should probably double the bean recipe.  Definitely don't skimp on the beans - they're too good!


May 2, 2010

... Blue Cheese Scallion Drop Biscuits

Supper Club #3... Grilled Pork Tenderloin, Wedge Salads, Cheesy Corn Bake, Blue Cheese Scallion Biscuits, Angel Food Cake with Strawberries and Whipped Cream.  I apologize for the lack of pictures of the other dishes... everything was too good to waste time taking pictures!

When this recipe hit my inbox from Smitten Kitchen, I couldn't wait to make them.  When can I make them?  Who should I make them for?  I want to make them NOW!  And then... Ding!  Supper Club!!

Honestly, she had me at "Blue Cheese" and "Biscuits."  Then when I saw it was a one-bowl recipe and took less than an hour to mix up the dough and bake the biscuits, it was a no brainer.  Now, if you're not a fan of blue cheese, you could use the same amount of grated cheddar - with or without the scallions.  Regardless of your preference, find a time to make these biscuits soon!

With their crunchy exterior and soft, crumbly interior these biscuits were a huge hit at supper club - as were all of the other dishes that we had! - and this recipe will stay within easy reach for a long time.  

Blue Cheese Scallion Drop Biscuits
makes one dozen

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 1/2 cups crumbled blue cheese
4 scallions, finely chopped
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a bowl, then blend in butter with your fingertips until mixture resembles course meal.  Stir in blue cheese and scallions. Add buttermilk and stir until just combined.

Drop dough in 12 equal mounds about 2 inches apart onto a buttered large baking sheet, or one lined with parchment paper.  Bake in middle of oven until golden, 16 to 20 minutes.

Taylor's Notes
When you're blending in the butter, just make sure that all the cubes are blended in with the dry ingredients.  The mixture doesn't really get to a 'course meal' consistency throughout, but as long as there aren't any chunks of butter you'll be good to go.

I only used the green tops of the scallions, none of the white-ish tips.  Smitten Kitchen mentioned adding one more scallion (5 total) so I did.  You could add it or not - depending on how much of that flavor you'd like in you biscuits.

I'd recommend lining your baking sheet with parchment paper.  I buttered the first sheet and the biscuits stuck a little.  I sprayed the second sheet with non-stick cooking spray and they stuck a little there, too.  Speaking of the second baking sheet... I did make two batches of the dough.  You could probably just double the recipe, but the dough gets pretty sticky, so I think two separate batches may be easier to handle.  Other than that, no more notes... except don't expect these biscuits to stick around too long after they come out of the oven!


If you should end up with a few biscuits leftover the next morning...

fry an egg, warm up a biscuit and make a tasty breakfast sandwich that will make you want to stash a couple of biscuits even before you put them out the evening before.