Recent Recipes

Raspberry-Almond Torte

Comments (0) | Thursday, October 7, 2010

Banana Cream Pie is a tasty dessert. I won't deny that (if partly for fear of the angry looks from my husband who deems it his all-time favorite.) But when I decided to throw a surprise party for my dear husband's 30th birthday, I knew a banana cream pie wouldn't feed our 10 guests. In an effort to find another palate pleaser, I ran across this amazing recipe. I could barely believe the moistness, the flavor, the look... the perfect party dessert.

A couple of slight alterations to the published recipe (from Cooking Light.) I added 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract to the cake batter after reading in reviews that the almond flavor was too weak. I also added the fresh raspberries to the top for a visual appeal and opted to drizzle the sauce over the entire cake rather than each individual piece.

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MoNsTeR cOoKiEs

Comments (1) | Monday, September 20, 2010

I held off on posting this recipe for two reasons. First, I accidentally altered the recipe when I made them for myself. The recipe was passed on to me from a good friend at work who received it from a friend of hers. "You will LOVE these cookies!" was proof enough that I needed to try them right away. So I quickly scanned over the recipe and got to work. It wasn't until the first batch came out of the oven that I glanced again at the recipe and thought "oh good grief... 1/2 cup of butter?? I put TWO sticks in there!!" Fortunately for me, I also only had 3/4 cup peanut butter left in the jar instead of the 1 1/4 cups the recipe called for. I figure the 1/2 cup of butter just replaced the 1/2 cup of peanut butter (fair trade, right?) The result (having tried both recipes now) is a slightly thinner (yet, tastefully chewy) cookie with a hint of peanut butter taste (instead of overpowering.) The other slight alterations resulted from the lack of ingredients found in my pantry. I figure it was a lucky mistake since the result was probably one of the best cookies I've ever tasted.

The second reason I held off on posting was because the cookies were gone before I could take a decent picture and I hate posting recipes without an accompanying photo. But alas, the demands were too great to hold off any longer :) So here you go Steph, this one's for you ;)

Monster Cookies

1 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp light karo syrup
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 cups old fashioned oats
1/4 cup flour
1 cup plain m&ms
1/2-3/4 cup mini (or regular) chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat butter with sugars on medium speed of a stand mixer until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add peanut butter and beat until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, beating until combined after each addition. Add vanilla and karo syrup; mix until combined. Add salt and baking soda. Add oats and flour and mix until combined. Stir in m&ms and chocolate chips.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonful (I used a medium sized cookie scoop), 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on pans for 5 minutes before removing to racks to cool completely.


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Mongolian Beef

Comments (0) | Tuesday, August 17, 2010

So this is the first post that will not have an accompanying photo. I know... scandalous. The food was eaten so fast I didn't have a chance to capture the right opportunity. But I had to post the recipe anyway because it's incredibly easy, fast, and loved by 5 children and 2 adults (with a doubled recipe.) I served it on top of warm soba noodles with a side of steamed snow peas and carrots. (I also omitted the chile paste to remove the spiciness.)

Mongolian Beef

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons dry sherry
2 teaspoons hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon chile pasted with garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons peanut oil (or sesame oil)
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
1 pound sirloin steak, thinly sliced across the grain
16 medium green onions, chopped

Combine first 8 ingredients, stirring until smooth. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add minced ginger, garlic and beef; saute for 2 minutes or until beef is no longer pink. Add green onions; saute 30 seconds. Add soy sauce mixture; cook one minute or until thickened, stirring constantly. Yield: 4 servings.

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Grilled Pork with Two-Melon Salsa

Comments (0) | Monday, August 16, 2010

8 thumbs up. Fantastic flavor combination. Just the right amount of kick with the chopped jalapeno and the chili powder rub. A new summertime favorite for sure.

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Bacon Potato Bake

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I made this "casserole" as a side dish to accompany a grilled flank steak dinner and it was definitely a winner. The kids cleaned their plates, Joe was full of compliments and the leftovers didn't last long. A little time consuming but worth it in the end. The flavors were fantastic.

Bacon-Potato Bake

8 cups thinly sliced peeled red potatoes

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup (8 oz) sour cream

2 tablespoons butter, melted, divided

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1/4 cup dry bread crumbs

8 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled

Place potatoes in a Dutch oven; cover with water and bring to a boil. reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until tender. Drain; cool for 10 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine flour, eggs, sour cream, 1 tablespoon butter and salt. Spoon over potatoes and toss to coat. Place half of the potato mixture in a greased 2-qt baking dish; top with half of the cheese and half of the bacon crumbles. Repeat layers.

Toss bread crumbs with remaining butter; sprinkle over the top. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

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Coconut Kisses

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These cookies are an absolute "must-try" for anyone who loves coconut, especially in combination with chocolate. I altered a recipe I found to fit the way I thought they should be and this is the fantastic results!! Joe was not a big fan but he's hard to please when it comes to cookies. I, on the other hand, could have eaten the entire batch myself but had to have some self restraint...

Coconut Kisses

1/3 cup butter, softened
3 oz cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp coconut extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
5 cups sweetened flaked coconut, divided
dark chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, cream the butter, cream cheese, and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolk and extracts. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in 3 cups coconut. Cover and refrigerate one hour or until easy to handle.

Roll into 1-inch balls and roll in the remaining coconut. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately press an indentation in each cookie with a small measuring spoon. Fill each indentation with 4-5 chocolate chips and let sit a few minutes to melt. Swirl chocolate with toothpick and remove cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

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Rosemary-Mustard Pork with Peaches

Comments (0) | Friday, July 16, 2010

Ooooh... so good! So much flavor and intensity. Joe was thoroughly impressed and the kids both gave their approval. Anything that calls for fresh herbs from our garden has been catching my attention and this one was a crowd pleaser. I forgot to buy a lemon so I used bottled lemon juice and omitted the rind. I also opted to chop the peaches rather than slice them and serve them on top of the pork rather than on the side. The mixture of flavors was wonderful! Serve with a side of steamed vegetables and rice pilaf.

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Cherry-Chicken Roll-Ups

Comments (0) | Monday, July 5, 2010

One of the things I like best about summertime is the barbecue. Yes, each season revolves around the types of food I get to make. And this one makes me especially happy. Not that you can't barbecue in the rain or snow (I've done that too.) There's just something comforting about warm summer evenings and the smell of food on the grill. And my husband is NOT ashamed to admit that I do the grilling in this family. In fact my mother's day present this year included a nice new set of grilling utensils and this mama was truly ecstatic. So I've committed to trying new bbq recipes this year and branching out a bit. It's hard to go wrong with anything grilled. And when I ran across this recipe I wondered why I had never attempted to grill a stuffed piece of meat before... genius!! And absolutely delicious. No plate was left uncleaned (even Aubrey's...)

*I opted for the lighter version of cream cheese in place of the mascarpone for both cost and nutrition reasons (8 oz. for $2 as opposed to $6 and 4.5 g of fat per ounce as opposed to 14!) but I can guarantee you that it did not sacrifice the taste. These were simply amazing.

Cherry-Chicken Roll-Ups

4 oz. mascarpone cheese (or 1/2 of an 8 oz tub cream cheese)
1/3 cup chopped dried cherries
3 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions
4 skinless boneless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
For filling, in a small bowl, combine cheese, dried cherries and green onions. Set aside.

Place each chicken breast between two pieces of plastic wrap and flatten with a meat mallet to about 1/4 inch thick. Remove plastic wrap and divide filling evenly over each chicken breast, spreading to within 1/2 inch of edges. Roll up from a short end taking care to keep filling inside and secure with toothpicks.

For rub, in a small bowl combine brown sugar, salt and pepper. Sprinkle over chicken roll-ups and rub in with your fingers.

Grill directly over medium heat for 15-20 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink (170 degrees.) OR prepare grill for indirect cooking (preheating one side to medium heat and placing meat on opposite side, closing lid) and grill for 25 minutes.

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All-Star Berry Tart

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I ran across this festive 4th of July recipe and couldn't pass up making one to take to work Saturday night. And when I walked out the door leaving the tart behind, my amazingly wonderful husband (who would have gladly kept it for himself) packed up the kids and transported the tart to me at work. Once the fist slice was made and the forks were out (OK, we ate it with plastic spoons, the only utensil deemed necessary on our unit...) there were rave reviews all around. You really can't go wrong with a vanilla pastry cream topped with fresh berries and an apricot glaze...

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Turkey BLT

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Yes, everyone knows how to make a good BLT. And even how to add turkey to fill it up a little. But I promised this picture would make it to the blog, so here is my husband's Front Burner debut...

Saturday morning I made an excess of bacon with our eggs for breakfast and Joe saw that as a perfect opportunity to craft a delicious lunch. I was busy making a tart to take to work and asked if he wouldn't mind making me one too. He feigned annoyance but got hard to work creating the "perfect" sandwich, adding to the traditional BLT some turkey and avocado... a delicious combo. But when I turned around and saw him staging a photo shoot with his beloved sandwich I had to stifle a laugh... this is MY blog after all...

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Cilantro Turkey Burgers

Comments (2) | Saturday, July 3, 2010

Amazing flavor if you enjoy the taste of cilantro. These burgers were fantastic and got approval from all 3 mouths I have to feed (as well as my own...) And finally I got an appealing picture of a burger! Poor Brendan sat down at my place at the table and I turned around and shouted "buddy, that's not your plate!!" Joe just looked at him with a "she's kind of crazy" look and said "sorry bud, that's mommy's picture plate..."

Cilantro Turkey Burgers

1 lb ground turkey

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 tsp ground coriander

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

2 tsp. bottled minced garlic

3/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

4 rolls, buns or sandwich thins

sliced tomato

4 lettuce leaves

1 recipe Orange-Cilantro Mayonnaise (below)

In a large bowl, combine turkey, cilantro, chopped onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Shape into 4 (3/4-inch thick) patties. Place patties on grill rack directly over medium heat. Grill for 14-18 minutes or until no longer pink, turning once halfway through grilling. Place patties on bottom side of buns, top with Orange-Cilantro Mayonnaise, tomato and lettuce.

Orange-Cilantro Mayonnaise

In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons snipped fresh cilantro, 1/2 tsp. finely shredded orange peel, and 1 teaspoon orange juice.

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Cinnamon Apple Muffins and Brunch Casserole

Comments (0) | Monday, June 21, 2010

These muffins were outstanding and the perfect pairing to one of my favorite brunch casseroles. Our special Father's Day breakfast that I got to share with both my husband (the best darn daddy in the whole world) and my dad!

As a side note on muffins, I'm convinced that the right pan makes a world of difference. For Mother's Day my mom got me a very nice aluminum muffin pan and it hasn't done me wrong. Or maybe I'm just getting better at making muffins. I don't know. But the 10 year old nonstick pan went in the donation pile... good riddance.

Everyone I've ever made this casserole for or given the recipe to has absolutely loved it. Enjoy!

Sunday Brunch Casserole

6-8 bacon strips (or approx. 2 cups chopped cooked ham)

1 small onion, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

1 (16 oz.) carton egg substitute (or an additional 6-7 eggs)

4 eggs

1 cup milk

4 cups frozen shredded hash browns

1 cup shredded cheese

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1/4 tsp dry dill weed

In a large skillet, cook bacon until crisp. Drain, crumble and set aside. In same skillet, saute onion and bell pepper until tender. Remove and set aside.

In a large bowl whisk eggs, egg substitute and milk. Stir in remaining ingredients and add reserved bacon and onion mixture. Transfer to a 9x13 dish coated with cooking spray. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean.

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Chocolate Coconut Devils

Comments (0) | Thursday, June 3, 2010

One of Brendan's favorite things to help with in the kitchen is making cookies. At the age of almost 4-years he has become quite the helper and I welcome his company in the kitchen. He scoops, he pours, he measures... and he can tell you matter-of-factly that as soon as he turns 5 he will learn the art of cracking eggs. These were fun to make and great to eat!

*I used Nestle Chocolatier Bittersweet Chcolate but only had 4 oz. so I added some Ghirardelli semisweet chocolate chips and would probably add about a 1/4 teaspoon coconut extract to give them a little extra coconut flavor.

Chocolate Coconut Devils

2 2/3 cups lightly packed sweetened coconut (one 7-oz. bag)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, spooned in and leveled
1/4 cup Dutch processed cocoa, spooned in and leveled
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
6 ounces fine-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3 large eggs
1 1/3 cups superfine baker's sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray cookie sheets with cooking spray and line with parchment paper.

Place the flaked coconut in a food processor and pulse 6-8 times or until medium chopped. Set aside. Strain together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a medium glass bowl set over simmering water (or a double boiler), on low heat, melt the butter. Add the copped chocolates and heat until just melted, gently stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and keep warm.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer using the whisk attachment, beat the eggs on medium speed until light. Gradually add the superfine sugar over about 2 minutes. Scrape down the side of the bowl as needed. Stop the mixer and pour in melted chocolate mixture, then mix on medium speed just until combined. Add the vanilla and almond extracts.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the dry ingredients. Remove the bowl from mixer and let the batter rest for about 5 minutes or until it begins to thicken. Then sprinkle handfuls of coconut over the batter, folding briefly with a large rubber spatula after each addition. Do not combine thoroughly. Some of the coconut flakes should still be visible.

Drop by heaping teaspoons onto cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until tops are just set. Cookies will firm as they cool. Let stand for 1-2 minutes then loosen from pan with spatula and transfer to cooling racks.

variation: fold in 1 cup chopped toasted pecans with the coconut.

* recipe provided courtesy of "Great Cookies: secrets to sensational sweets" by Carole Walter

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Stuffed Flank Steak

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I've never been a huge fan of beef but I've taken a liking to it more and more lately. I'd like to think I can prepare it rather well and I tend to pick the leanest cuts for a healthier choice. This one, however, was stunning both to the eye and the palate. Served with a side of roasted asparagus and orzo pilaf (both recipes available upon request.) Even Brendan enjoyed the meal and gave me his sweet customary "Mommy, you make SUCH good dinner!" (I love that boy...)

Stuffed Flank Steak

1 flank steak (about 1.5 pounds)
1/2 of 10-oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 ounces (1/2 cup) sun-dried tomato or herb-garlic flavored feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon seasoned bread crumbs
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 egg white, lightly beaten
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Place a rack in a shallow baking pan. Coat with cooking spray.

Lay steak on work surface. Cover with plastic wrap or parchment paper and pound to an even thickness. In a bowl, combine spinach, feta, bread crumbs, 1/2 tablespoon of oil and the egg white. Season steak with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Press spinach mixture onto steak leaving a 1-inch border. Beginning on a short end, roll up to enclose filling. Tie steak at 2-inch intervals with cotton twine.

Rub steak with remaining salt and pepper. Heat remaining oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Brown meat on all sides, about 5 minutes total. Transfer steak to prepared rack. Roast at 425 for 35 minutes or until internal temperature registers 135 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Remove meat from oven; let rest, covered, 10 minutes before slicing.

*NOTE* I could not find a sun-dried tomato flavored feta cheese and coincidentally already had some plain feta cheese in my fridge. I purchased a bottle of oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped up a handful and added it into the mixture with the plain feta cheese... delicious!

*recipe provided courtesy of Family Circle magazine

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Chicken Carne Asada Tacos

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No, the recipe did not call for homemade tortillas but I ran across an incredibly simple recipe and decided to give it a try. Not only was it a ton of fun, but storebought tortillas will never compare. I'm not a huge fan of corn tortillas as they tend to fall apart so easily. These tacos were amazing and as Joe told me, I could quote him saying "Mmmmmm!!" We couldn't stop raving. Perfect paired with a side of black beans and corn (and an ice cold margarita.)

Homemade Tortillas
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup water
3 Tbsp. olive oil
In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Stir in water and oil. Turn onto a floured surface and knead 5-6 times. Divide dough into 8 equal portions. On a lightly floured surface, roll each portion into a 7-inch circle.
In a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray, cook tortillas over medium heat for 2-3 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Keep warm.

*NOTE* When rolling portions into circles, do NOT stack them on top of each other unless seperated by wax paper... My 8 tortillas turned into one fat tortilla by the time I finished rolling them all and I had to start over, dividing them and rolling them a second time!

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Greek Turkey Burgers

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OK, so I don't have a picture for this one. I promise I will not be slacking off much but this recipe (and most burgers in general) was not very photogenic. I have to say honestly that all of the pictures I post are my very own photos and are not doctored in any way (have you HEARD what they do to the food they take pictures of for magazines and cookbooks???) This one you'll just have to take my word for. They were absolutely FABULOUS! I served them on toasted Oroweat Sandwich Thins which have become a favorite of ours since you get to taste so much more of the burger that way (AND cut down on calories from a filling bun...) I also cut out the olives in half of the Olive-Tomato Relish since the only two things my husband will not eat are olives and mushrooms. Brendan and I, however, LOVE olives so we splurged with ours.

Greek Turkey Burgers

1 egg white
1/3 cup dry wheat bread crumbs
1 Tbsp. milk
1 (0.7-oz.) envelope Italian salad dressing mix
1 lb. ground uncooked turkey or chicken
4 pita bread rounds, sandwich thins, or whole wheat buns
1 recipe Olive-Tomato Relish (below)
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

In a large bowl, use a whisk to beat egg white; stir in bread crumbs, milk, and half of the dry salad dressing mix. Add turkey; mix well. Set aside remaining dry salad dressing mix for relish. Shape turkey mixture into four 3/4-inch thick patties. Place patties on grill rack directly over medium heat; grill for 14 to 18 minutes turning once, halfway through grilling. Serve patties on buns with feta cheese and Olive-Tomato Relish.

Olive-Tomato Relish: In a small bowl, stir together 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons olive oil and reserved salad dressing mix. Stir in 1 cup chopped tomatoes, 1/4 cup chopped cucumber, and 1/4 cup chopped kalamata or ripe olives. Serve on top of burgers.

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Brown Bread and Beef Barley Soup

Comments (1) | Thursday, May 27, 2010

I have to admit, I'm always skeptical about "health food" looking recipes. Not that I don't like to eat healthy. I'm just not a big fan of crunchy, nutty, healthy breads. But I often approach recipes with skepticism only to be pleasantly surprised. Such was the case with this easy and delicious bread. The buttermilk mixed with the oats, wheat germ and wheat flour created a dense but very moist loaf. The perfect pairing for any hearty soup (we topped the warm bread with butter and drizzled honey.)

I am a big fan of making and freezing meals. With two small children, the time it takes in one afternoon to stock the freezer with several homemade meals is worth the effort. The appreciation comes on those days when making dinner feels like a daunting task. And so I reach for a freezer meal and spend that extra time with the kids instead. I will likely be posting several of my favorite "freezer meals" since this is a hobby that I truly enjoy (I've often envisioned a business where I make and sell frozen homemade meals... a dream come true...) Often the problem is, you have no idea what the end result will taste like and don't want to risk wasting food. I can guarantee you that if my recipes sound like something you would like, you are guaranteed to enjoy them (because I've tried them and wouldn't post them if my tastebuds didn't approve.) So I present to you, Beef Barley Soup... easy to make, freeze, remove when needed and pop in the crockpot!

Beef Barley Soup
(makes 4 entrees, 6-8 servings each)

6 pounds sirloin tip beef or other beef suitable for slow cooking
6 cups sliced carrots (about 12 medium)
6 cups sliced celery (about 12 stalks)
4 cups chopped onion (about 4 medium)
2 large green bell peppers cut into 1-inch pieces
4 (14.5 oz.) cans diced tomatoes with juice
4 cups basic red sauce (recipe follows)
4 tablespoons beef bouillon granules
4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 cups (1 pound bag) pearl barley
8 one-gallon freezer bags
4 one-quart freezer bags

Rinse and trim beef as desired. Cut into bite sized pieces. Divide beef evenly among 4 of the 1-gallon freezer bags. Into each of those 4 bags measure 1 1/2 cups carrots, 1 1/2 cups celery, 1 cup onion, one-fourth of the bell peppers, 1 can tomatoes with juice, 1 cup red sauce, 1 tablespoon bouillon, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Seal.

Into each of the 1-quart freezer bags measure 1/2 cup barley. Seal. Label the remaining 4 freezer bags with name, date and directions. Place one bag of soup and one bag of barley into each labeled bag. Seal and freeze for up to 6 months.

Directions: Put frozen soup into crockpot (or thaw enough to remove from bag). Add 4 cups water and the bag of barley. Cook on LOW for 8-10 hours or HIGH for 4-5 hours.

Basic Red Sauce (makes about 10 cups)

1 (12 oz.) can tomato paste
2 cups hot water
2 tablespoons dried parsley
2 tablespoons minced onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspon dried thyme
1 (28 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes with juice
several 1-quart freezer bags

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. DO NOT COOK. Measure into appropriate proportions for immediate use. Divide remaining sauce into 2 cup portions among 1-quart freezer bags for later use. Seal, date and label each bag with amount of sauce inside. Freeze for up to 6 months.

*recipes courtesy of "Fix Freeze and Feast"

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Strawberry-Orange Muffins

Comments (0) | Monday, May 24, 2010

I can't say much because words won't do them justice. Just try them for yourself. These were amazing. I've tried a lot of muffin recipes and usually end up tossing most. A muffin has to be outstanding to earn a home in my recipe file and this one has found its place.

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Jamaican Banana Bread

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A new twist on an old classic. Since I married a man who LOVES banana bread (not that I don't... he's just more of a banana enthusiast...) I've tried to find ways to mix it up a little. Our favorite is a chocolate marbled version but this one was quite tasty. With a hint of coconut, lime and rum, it was the perfect addition to the original banana. I let the topping cool in the pan too long (the bread wasn't ready) and it hardened quickly. So, rather than spreading it on top, it was more like "crumbling" it on top.

And just for fun, if you ever wondered why recipes recommend adding dry and wet ingredients alternately to the mix, I researched that very question. It has to do with the formation of gluten which results when certain wheat flour proteins come in contact with water. Gluten inhibits the rising of your baked products. And so, with this process, the first batch of dry ingredients gets coated with the fat which interferes with the formation of gluten. Alternating the rest of the ingredients while mixing as little as possible results in a smooth batter with little gluten formation. And now you know! :)

*information courtesy of http://www.kitchensavvy.com/

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Pear Dutch Baby

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Or Apple... as my luck would have it. I decided to make this to accompany the omelettes I was making for Mother's Day dinner. One of my favorites... breakfast for dinner (or "upside down dinner" as my mom's friend calls it.) But it was a spur of the moment recipe decision so I had to substitute apples for the pears. It turned out great but I think next time I would incorporate the apples/pears into the batter rather than as a topping (placing the apples in the skillet and pouring the mixture over them before placing in the oven.) But in any case, this was heavenly. I liken it to a very thick crepe but much easier and yummier. Definitely a keeper!

WARNING: #1- you must own a skillet that is oven proof and can handle the heat... a cast iron skillet works best but any oven proof pan will do. #2- when removing the pan from the oven using your special handle cover that your sister-in-law sent you for just these occasions, LEAVE the cover on the handle after setting the skillet down!!! DO NOT remove the cover only to grab the handle, seconds later, attempting to pick the skillet up, forgetting that it had been in a 425 degree oven!! (what can I say... my cooking comes with casualties...)

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Blue-Cheese Stuffed Chicken

Comments (0) | Thursday, May 20, 2010

The recipe that started it all... I posted on Facebook that I had made this for dinner and got so much response that I knew I had to share. In fact, it was my sister who said "hey, why don't you just create a blog with all of your yummy recipes??" And so this blog was born...

This has to be one of my favorite new recipes to date. A little time consuming for sure, but beware that any recipe that involves "stuffing" a piece of meat will surely take some extra time. This one I can say was truly worth the extra effort. I served it with an amazing spinach orzo salad and roasted cauliflower. I cannot attest to the buffalo sauce, as I tend to cut out any spiciness (no one in this family is a fan.) So I left it out and served the chicken as-is (in hindsight I could have made the sauce and omitted the tabasco...) The only one who didn't clean her plate was Aubrey but she's a tough critic these days.

Spinach Orzo Salad
1 pkg (16 oz.) orzo pasta
1 pkg (6 oz.) fresh baby spinach, finely chopped
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
3/4 cup finely chopped red onion
3/4 cup reduced-fat balsamic vinaigrette
(my favorite is actually a fat-free version by Maple Grove Farms of Vermont)
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (I actually left these out because I forgot!)

Cook orzo according to package directions. Drain and rinse in cold water. In a large bowl, combine the spinach, cheese, onion and orzo. In a small bowl, combine the vinaigrette, basil and pepper. Pour over orzo; toss to coat. Chill until serving. Just before serving, stir in pine nuts.

(courtesy of Taste of Home Healthy Cooking magazine)

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Pizza Puffs

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This is one of my absolute favorites for kids. Incredibly easy and the kids devoured them! I will not pretend that every recipe on here is going to be insanely healthy but I do try to alter most of them with healthier ingredient options and will edit in those changes when necessary.

Also, if a recipe isn't listed directly into the text of the blog then it will be included as a hyperlink (you can click on the name of the recipe and it will take you to the website with that particular recipe...) This one, however, will be typed up in easy format.

Pepperoni Pizza Puffs

Mix 3/4 cup flour with 3/4 teaspoon baking powder; whisk in 3/4 cup milk (I used nonfat, it's what we have in our fridge) and one egg. Stir in 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese and 1 cup pepperoni (cut into small pieces); let stand for 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Stir batter and divide evenly among a greased 24-mini-muffin pan. Bake until puffed and golden, 20-25 minutes.

Serve with red bell pepper slices and warm pizza sauce for dipping.

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The Beginning

Comments (1) | Wednesday, May 19, 2010

And so it begins. I've been struggling with the name, the layout, the content... I wanted everything to be just right. I got overwhelmed with the number of food and recipe blogs already existing and thought "who would really want to read MINE???" But then realized that cooking is my passion and even if I only end up sharing it with a few friends and family, then it's still worth the time and effort to me. Will I end up on the "Top 10 food blogs" list? Most definitely not. But since this isn't really a goal of mine, I guess I'll be just fine :)

So let's start with the name. The poll on my family blog ended up putting me into near hysterics (I'm exaggerating of course.) I wanted something fun but wanted my name in it. I wanted people to like it, for it to be catchy, original, my own. But I ended up with so many options I finally had to stop looking. The winner was "Bessman's Best" and while I loved this option, I felt like I couldn't really take claim for all the content on this blog since they are NOT my own original recipes (although I tend to "tweak" them here and there but still can't take all the credit!) And so I created a combination of the two top choices, naming the site "Bessman's Best" and the blog title "Front Burner." I hope this appeals to everyone and if not, well, take it or leave it I guess...

The layout is a work in progress and wasn't what I had originally had in mind. Picture a background photo of me donning an apron and chef's hat with my children in my kitchen. Now THAT is the reality of my passion for food. But this will have to do for now (fun and cute anyway...)

And as for the content... I am backed up with recipes and pictures to post, all of which will be coming soon. I appreciate all the support and look forward to feedback! Thank you and please stay posted!

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