Monday, September 28, 2009

Bar Food feat. Kee-Style Chicken and Black Bean Nachos

Last Saturday night I didn't feel like making a "real" dinner, we were too tired to go out, and we'd had enough pizza and Chinese takeout for the week. We love a good happy hour, so I decided to put together a little bar food in lieu of a real dinner.

I made SG's Potato Skins using the recipe from a blog that I really enjoy for both the recipes and the food photography!

I also made Chicken and Black Bean Nachos, my own recipe (so I guess we'll call them "Kee Style"). The great thing about nachos is that you can just throw in whatever you have and whatever you like. Here's how I do it at my house:


2 c. (2 handfuls) of shredded romaine lettuce
2 c. of shredded cheese (we use a Mexican blend of cheddar and monterrey jack)
tortilla chips (say, um... four handfuls)
1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained
2 T. taco seasoning
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, washed, dried, and pounded to a 1/4" thickness
1-2 fresh jalapenos, chopped (seeded if you want to cut back on the heat)
1 tomato, chopped

1. Turn the oven to broil. Cover the bottom of a small baking dish (8"x12") with tortilla chips.
1. Rub the chicken on both sides with the taco seasoning. Add 1 t. vegetable oil to a hot skillet and cook the chicken on medium high heat for 4 minutes on each side, or until done. Remove the chicken from the pan. Chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces.
2. Saute the jalapenos in the same pan over medium heat for 1-2 minutes.
3. Add the cooked chicken to the pan with the jalapenos. Add the black beans and cook over medium heat until warmed through. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Spread the hot chicken and black bean mixture over the tortilla chips. Top with the cheese.
5. Broil for 3-5 minutes, but keep an eye on it! Remove from the oven when the edges are brown and all cheese is melted.
6. Top with lettuce and tomatoes and dig in!

Now, of course there are variations on this recipe. Maybe you want more or less cheese. Perhaps you have some leftover cooked chicken or some chili that you'd use instead of the chicken. Maybe you want to add onions or sour cream. Go to town! I make ours this way because we agree that this works for us. Kinda reminds us of a crunchy burrito.

Serve these hot, crispy appetizers with your favorite drink and you're good to go. I wish it was the weekend again...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Apple Cake with Caramel Glaze

Fall is here! In honor of this colorful season, I'm sharing my new recipe for apple cake.

On our weekly Costco trip (oh, how I love Costco...) we picked up a dozen Gala apples. I came home and looked for a creative way to use these juicy, semi-tart goodies and I came across this recipe on I made some modifications and ended up with my own version. This cake is best served warm, but I also enjoyed the moist leftovers with my coffee the next morning. The best part is that this cake is mixed entirely by hand, which is convenient since my Kitchen Aid stand mixer is out of order (long story for a future post). This cake will definitely be making repeat appearances during the holiday season. It's outstanding when served warm, but it's good at room temperature, too. We served this for dessert, but I enjoyed a slice with my coffee the next morning and I think it would be great for a breakfast/brunch, especially this time of year!
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/4 cups unsweetened apple sauce
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 eggs, beaten
3 1/2 cups chopped apples (peeled and chopped into small pieces)
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

for the glaze:
3/4 cups packed brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spray a Bundt pan with vegetable spray (Pam) and then flour the pan.
2. In a large bowl, Sift together flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and baking soda. Make a well in the center and add applesauce, eggs and vanilla. Mix well (batter will be thick). Fold in chopped apples and nuts. Spread into the Bundt pan.
3. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean. Glaze while still hot.

To make the glaze: In a saucepan, combine brown sugar, milk and butter. Bring to a boil and continue cooking for 2 1/2 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour over cake while still hot.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Stuffed Pork Loin

One of my favorite fall meals is roasted (or barbecued) pork loin. Two years ago I came across a basic recipe for roasted pork loin in Real Simple magazine and I haven't looked back since. In honor of my fading summer garden and the chill in the Delaware air, I'm sharing the recipe for roasted pork loin with cornbread stuffing.

There are some special tools necessary for this recipe: a meat tenderizer and a meat thermometer. I wouldn't attempt his recipe without these tools, and you can purchase both for under $10.

I purchase my pork loin on sale ($1.99/lb.) in large, 10-12 lb. loins. I cut the loins into 3 lb. pieces and use my Food Saver to freeze them for future meals. This recipe uses a 3 lb. loin. It took nearly 90 minutes to bake this thick loin, so I also recommend using a pork tenderloin of similar weight.

If you've never stuffed a pork loin, I found this collection of web clips helpful.

Here's my adaptation of The Neely's Stuffed Pork Chops recipe (using a butterflied pork loin, instead):

1. Butterfly the pork loin (watch the video clip mentioned above).
2. Brine the pork according to the directions in the Neely's recipe.
3. Follow the recipe exactly as stated, but stuff and tie the pork loin with the cornbread dressing (since you're not making pork chops!).

Leave an inch around the edge of the pork before you roll it up...

Roll the pork loin, rub it with olive oil, and tie it up...4. Bake at 400 degrees until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.5. Let it rest for 15 minutes, then slice and serve.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Sunday Mornings

Sometimes I feel like I live for the weekends. My husband and I both commute one hour each way to work and then there's the classes, the evening hours, and all the other "fun" stuff that comes with adulthood. A few months ago I decided that I would take my husband's advice and reclaim my weekends. Yes, I still have papers to write, laundry to clean, and errands to run, but we've found a leisurely pace that works for us.

My husband works a lot weekends in the fall, so I took this picture to represent our last "summer Sunday". Whenever we can we like to sleep late (8:00 a.m.) and enjoy a pot of coffee with some homemade goodies like these sticky buns or a full breakfast with pancakes, bacon, and the works. Somehow our laptops always make it to the breakfast table, but we use the time to play on Facebook, blog, and do other non-work activities on the web. I also spend the time researching recipes for weekend dinners. Our best meals are on Sunday nights.

I'll be sharing one of my latest Sunday dinners in an upcoming post: Stuffed Pork Loin.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

When The Garden Dies

It's September.

Somehow as soon as Labor Day comes the nights and mornings get cooler and the humidity disappears. On the positive side, our utility bills decrease because we don't need the air conditioning. On the negative side, my summer garden fades.

I plant my container garden in mid-May and it peaks in August. By the time the school busses start rolling through the neighborhood I have so many tomatoes, peppers, and fresh herbs that I need to find ways to store them or use them while they are still available. But my vegetable plants are on their way out.

I love tomatoes, so I'll be making plenty of fresh bruschetta, salsa, and marinara in the next few days. When I end up with too many overripe tomatoes mid-week I freeze them whole and cook them down for marinara sauce when I get the free time. I share my peppers with coworkers.

Losing the fresh herbs is the most difficult part. I have an abundance of sage, basil, and thyme and a substantial amount of chives and rosemary. Fresh herbs can be expensive at the grocery store, but they make my food taste so much better. It's just a shame to lose them at the end of the season. I've tried bringing the pots into the kitchen for the winter, but they never last. This year I'm looking for tips on preserving fresh herbs.

I'm watching my container garden fade and I'm looking forward to May 2010 so I can start it again.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


I'm not a big fan of soda. Every now and then I enjoy an ice cold Coca Cola product, but for the most part I try to stick to water, coffee, iced tea, and the occasional glass of juice or lemonade.

A few weeks ago Costco put out a coupon for IZZE, a carbonated juice product. I bought a case for our week at the beach and surprisingly my husband and I both liked it. Our variety pack included pomegranate, blackberry, and tangerine flavors, but there are other options. IZZE isn't as sweet as soda, and each 12-ounce bottle had about 130 calories. My husband recently discovered the grapefruit version and makes his new favorite drink, la paloma, with it.

Drink IZZE!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

So Good Brownies

A visit to my doctor turned into the discovery of the yummiest homemade brownies ever. Two weeks ago I got sick and ended up in the doctor's office. I picked up the August 2009 issue of Southern Living in the waiting area, flipped through the magazine and found this brownie recipe. I'm embarassed to admit that I quietly ripped out the page right before I was called into the doctor's office. Yes, I know I shouldn't mutilate the public magazines, but when I see a good recipe I get desperate.

I finally got around to baking these brownies this weekend and, um, wow... they are good! I've been baking since I was in elementary school and I'm embarassed to admit that I just stopped using boxed brownie mix last year. But these... oh man... no more shortcuts ever again. I promise they are easy! I've also made them with toasted almonds and toffee bits... even yummier! Here's the recipe:

Shared via AddThis

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Cooking for Two

I live in a household of two adults and two small dogs. Sometimes my mother (who lives two miles away) comes to visit, but most of the time I am only cooking for two.

Cooking at home allows me to express myself, relax, and make high quality meals. The problem is that it's difficult to cook for two. If I make soup or chili we end up eating it for at least three meals, and that is after I freeze half the batch. We like making pulled pork in the Crock Pot, but inevitably you get tired of eating it after several sandwiches.

We enjoy entertaining because we rarely have leftovers after sharing a meal with friends. However, on most weeks I end up throwing out food on Thursday nights (trash day is Friday). Expired milk goes down the drain (I buy it by the gallon because it's only $2.17 at Costco), cooked pasta goes in the trash, and dried out cuts of leftover meat go to the dogs or get tossed. I feel guilty about wasting food and I try to plan our meals to allow for freezing batches and using leftovers, but you can only have minestrone soup for lunch for three days before it gets boring.

Why is it that some of the best foods (lasagna, cakes, pies, soups, chili...) come in huge batches? That may be the only bad thing about loving to cook! If you have any tips for cutting portion size or storing food, please feel free to share!
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