Monday, August 29, 2016

Broccoli and Cream Cheese Breakfast Braid

Some of my favorite recipes tend to be accidental - recipes you put together because you need to clear your fridge and freezer, but then all of a sudden the most delicious creation emerges from your oven.

This...this is one of those recipes. A very happy, very tasty accident.

Here was the situation I found myself in this weekend. In addition to a grumbling stomach around 11 a.m. on Sunday, there was:

--One sheet of frozen puff pastry that was reaching it's prime hanging in the freezer
--Half a block of cream cheese that was close to it's last leg in the refrigerator
--Two big bags of chopped frozen broccoli
--A small nugget of parmesan cheese and half a ball of mozzarella in the cheese drawer

Individually, these aren't particularly bad situations to find oneself in. Combined, however, I started panicking. I didn't want to waste any of this food, so I knew I had to get creative.

And so goes the story of my Broccoli and Cream Cheese Breakfast Braid. This creamy. dreamy creation is perfect anytime of day. Having some girlfriends over for brunch? Need a quick, low maintenance dinner? Want to treat your family to a special Saturday breakfast? This recipe is just what you need for all these situations and more.

In reality, I should have foreseen the success this dish was going to be. Generally, anything wrapped in puff pastry will immediately have a gourmet touch. Then I went ahead and made a savory cream cheese base...who DOESN'T love warm, melty, rich cream cheese?! A couple of soft-scrambled eggs and chopped broccoli make this dish robust and fulfilling. Plus, you can customize this any way you want! Thinking about adding ham and cheddar cheese? Me too!

Did I mention that it's a showstopper? So gorgeous!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Crock Pot Italian-Style Beef with Cheesy Polenta

I adore this dinner. Simple, slow-cooked, tangy, and cheesy.

These are adjectives to live by! 

Are you, like me, a fool who forgets all about her beloved Crock Pot in the summer? Why do we neglect the one device in our kitchen that cooks our food entirely without an oven?! Well today, we are fixing this problem. 

This Crock Pot Italian-Style Beef with Cheesy Polenta is familiar yet intriguing. Comforting Italian flavors like oregano, parsley, and tangy crushed tomatoes meet boneless chuck steak, make a wonderfully rich ragu as they simmer away while we are at work, THEN get piled high atop a polenta packed with garlic, mozzarella cheese and cracked black pepper. What's not to love?

Oh, I nearly forgot, if you--this time, unlike me--are handy with your summer garden and find it overflooowing with fresh basil, please please PLEASE tear up a bunch and throw it on top. Please? Thank you. 

So, here's how this all goes down:

The night before your delicious dinner: Set out your Crock Pot/slow cooker, the exact spices you need, a can of tomatoes, and honey so you don't have to fumble in the pantry early in the morning. Chop an onion and a clove or two of garlic, then stick them in the fridge in a zip top baggie.
The morning of: Dump onion, garlic, tomatoes, spices, honey, and olive oil in the bowl of your slow cooker. Whisk until combined, then nestle in the steak. Turn on low, go live your life for 8 hours.
Just before dinner: Prepare the most delicious, creamy polenta known to man. Shred up your beef. EAT! 

It's meals like this that remind me why I l.o.v.e. food! Let's eat.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Mixed Berry Red Wine Popsicles

It's Fri-YAY so I made red wine popsicles!!

Specifically, I made Mixed Berry Red Wine Popsicles to help us beat the mid-August heat.

P.S. Can I just say, real quick, how much I hate summer? I did a complete switch sometime after graduating college and now I simply cannot stand it. It no longer has the carefree, "school's out" joy surrounding it. I hate being hot, and sweaty, and uncomfortable, and dehydrated all the dang time! Enough! Give me cold weather now I say!!

At the risk of sounding dramatic, let's just talk about these popsicles. An adult spin on a childhood classic. No matter the flavor, popsicles have a way of brightening your day. Plus they can offer us a fleeting minute or two of chilly comfort in the late summer humidity.

Now, I made these popsicles with the intent of them really tasting like red wine, with just a hint of berries and orange juice in the background to give them a sort of sangria-like flare. Because of this there is more wine than other liquids in the popsicles, and--although they do indeed freeze solid--the melt time on these bad boys is preeetty quick. No worries though, just enjoy them with a small plate or cup underneath to catch any drips!

Dessert and drinks all in one? I'd say we are doing something right this summer.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Breaded Pork Chops with Warm Bulgar Wheat and Arugula Salad

Let's talk dinner!

Really good, incredibly tasty, fast and wholesome dinner.

That, after all, is exactly what this recipe is! It's comfort food, but lightened up. It's fresh but fulfilling. The flavors are bold and full of that summer brightness. I just love it, and I'm sure you will too!

I served this recipe for Breaded Pork Chops with Warm Bulgar Wheat and Arugula Salad for Monday night dinner and it was the perfect start to a busy week. I had a couple of 3 ounce pork chops that I sliced in half lengthwise then pounded them out thin. I breaded them the way all good cutlets are breaded: dredged in flour, dipped in egg, pressed into whole wheat seasoned bread crumbs. Fool-proof and delicious.

Along with the crispy and juicy chops, we need a light and refreshing salad. Summertime means lemon, tomatoes, arugula and basil are plentiful, so we must be sure to utilize this season's bounty. For a nutty bite, try ditching the quinoa or rice or barley and walk on the wild side with a bit of bulgar wheat. Bulgar wheat is a whole wheat grain that has been cracked and partially cooked. It has a texture similar to cous cous but is less starchy and a bit more flavorful.

Summer, if you can believe it, is flying by but you can really savor it with this dish. It's quick enough to enjoy on a weeknight, but pretty (and pretty delicious!) enough to serve for a dinner party. Break out a chilled bottle of prosecco or sauvignon blanc and savor every bite!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Recent Eats - Volume 2

A round-up of my favorite bites and other food drama from the past few weeks

Guys, are you enjoying your summer? Are you going to the beach, eating a bit too much ice cream and cheeseburgers, getting a tan, getting bug bites, and overall loving life? I hope you are! That's what summer is about. I've spent a lot of time with family and friends on little but wonderful long weekend trips and, of course, eating!

Golden Harvest in East Lansing, MI

My best friend recently moved out to Michigan where her boyfriend is pursuing his PhD. Not too long after she moved, we planned a weekend for me to come visit and the trip didn't disappoint! We went to a beach along Lake Michigan, drank wine slushies and lots of beer, and ate some great food. The best of it all was Sunday breakfast at Golden Harvest.

This small and eclectic diner-style joint is, as I understand it, pretty famous in the Lansing area. They have outrageous breakfast and brunch-style dishes and their specials are to die for! We started the meal with an order of the biscuits and gravy (OMG) and then I had a Monte Cristo sandwich with a side of homefries. I mean...they say a picture is worth a thousand words so I'll just leave you with this:

*hearts eyes emoji*

Pulled BBQ Chicken

Cory takes trips up to Rochester for work from time to time, and during his last visit a coworker sent him home with three local barbecue sauces to try. BBQ is my favorite kind of food so I couldn't wait to put these sauces to good use. I used this Country Sweet Mild Cooking Sauce to make some of the best pulled chicken ever!

I started by searing a couple of pounds of seasoned boneless, skinless chicken thighs and a quartered onion in a big dutch oven. When the chicken was golden brown, I dumped in a whole bottle of this amazing cooking sauce and let it simmer away for over an hour. The chicken then shredded like a dream and was perfect for sandwiches, salads, even tacos!

Peach Cobbler Popsicles

We recently threw a party for some friends who were moving away from Boston out west. The theme was Wild Wild West, because who doesn't love a themed party?! For dessert, I whipped up these delicious Peach Cobbler Popsicles.

I adapted the recipe from Billy over at Wit and Vinegar, replacing the berries with chopped peaches. This was my first go around making homemade popsicles and it worked like a dream! Have some patience when you are trying to unmold the the bottom of the mold under warm water for a quick 15-25 seconds then use a little elbow grease to pull them right out. These popsicles were sweet, decadent, and truly delicious!

Slide By Food Truck in Boston, MA

My friend and I started a little tradition last summer where we visited a new food truck near our office every week and posted our lunches on Instagram with the hashtag #JessAndIvyFoodTruckAdventure. While we haven't been as consistent this year, we recently tried the Slide By food truck. They offer 3 to 4 different sliders each week, each meal coming with 2 sliders and french fries - a perfect lunch portion! I had panko-crusted chicken sliders with bacon. I have never had a more perfectly fried piece of chicken, and from a truck no less! Absolutely recommend :-)

A beer, for good measure

Cory and I took a trip to Cooperstown, NY, for the Baseball Hall of Fame Induction ceremony this year to see my all-time favorite player, Mike Piazza, get inducted. It was an awesome weekend filled with baseball and beer. On our way out, we stopped at the Saranac Brewery in Utica, NY. They are currently offering the most amazing Cold Brew Coffee Lager that any and all coffee lovers MUST get their hands on! It is smooth and rich, yet somehow a bit refreshing.

P.S. I'll be back with new recipes next week! But in the about Nutella Ice Cream?