Monday, November 24, 2014

Meatless Monday--Cranberry Sauce Grilled Cheese

Have you picked out your Thanksgiving outfit yet?  You know, the one with sufficiently stretchy pants that look like you're wearing them because they're dressy?  You might want to pick two such outfits this year because you're going to want to make this sandwich day after day.

Tackling Thanksgiving leftovers seems inevitable.  Some dishes get completely devoured during the main event, while other always leave leftovers no matter how small a batch you make.  Cranberry sauce always falls in the latter category, I think.  I'm a cranberry sauce lover myself, happy to stir it into my morning oatmeal or yogurt for a holiday kick.  But this's my new favorite way to eat cranberry sauce.

The sandwich starts with two thick slices of my pumpkin yeast bread.  If you've never made it, now's the time.  The recipe makes two loaves, so you can use one for toast in the mornings and one for making these grilled cheese sandwiches.  After spreading each piece of bread with butter, you pile on creamy sliced fontina or brie and a couple dollops of leftover cranberry sauce.  What happens next is nothing short of magical.  It's like that brie en croûte appetizer everyone always loves, but you get your own entire sandwich.  Gooey, melty cheese, perfectly toasted bread, and sweet-tart cranberry sauce--it's just so right.

Gooey melted cheese and sweet-tart cranberry sauce combine to make the absolute best Thanksgiving leftover sandwich you've ever tasted.

Cranberry Sauce Grilled Cheese
an Apple a Day original 

8 slices pumpkin yeast bread or bread of your choice
butter, for spreading on bread
16 slices fontina, brie, or other white cheese that melts well
3/4 c. cranberry sauce (this is my favorite recipe)

1.  Preheat a large pan or griddle over medium-low heat.

2.  Spread butter on one side of each piece of bread.  Assemble sandwiches by placing two slices of cheese on four pieces of bread.  Top with equal amounts cranberry sauce then two more slices of cheese.  Place remaining bread slices on sandwiches, making sure the buttered side is out.

3.  Place sandwiches in preheated and cook until cheese begins to melt and bread is a deep golden brown, 4-5 minutes.  Flip and repeat.

4.  Remove sandwiches from pan and let cool one minute before slicing.

Yield: 4 sandwiches

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Turkey Soup with Chorizo, Potatoes, and Kale

I'm a firm believer there are some lines out there that just don't blur.  Summer or winter, city or country, cats or dogs--see what I mean?  Pretty clear lines there.  Another clear division comes in the leftovers vs. no leftovers debate.  There are some people out there who just won't eat leftovers.

Me?  I'm squarely in the leftovers camp.  To me, there are few foods that don't get better with a little extra time.  The day after Thanksgiving, I'm perfectly happy with a plate of reheated leftovers or some turkey and cranberry sauce sandwiched between two slices of my pumpkin yeast bread.  But I realize there are others who cringe at this thought.  They can be reformed.

They key to turning leftover loathers into leftover lovers is to repurpose the ingredients.  Don't just reheat the food, use it in a completely different way with a completely different flavor profile.  This soup does just that.  

Thanksgiving turkey, which we're all bound to have plenty of, gets spiced up with the help of plenty of garlic and sliced chorizo.  (If you live in a place where chorizo isn't easily available, spicy Italian sausage would be your best substitute.  You'll need to add a little extra oil.)  You can make this soup really special by using the turkey carcass to make your own broth.  With potatoes for body and kale for the nutrition boost we all need after an indulgent holiday, this soup is bound to convert a leftover hater or two.

Leftover Thanksgiving turkey gets a serious makeover in a soup packed with spicy chorizo, hearty potatoes, and nutritious kale.  

Turkey Soup with Chorizo, Potatoes, and Kale
from Cook's Illustrated, Soups, Stews and Chilis


1 TBSP vegetable oil
12 oz. chorizo, sliced 1/4-in thick
1 medium onion, minced
4 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 tsp. minced fresh thyme or 3/4 tsp. dried
12 c. turkey broth
1/2 c. dry white wine (optional)
1 1/2 lbs. red potatoes, cut into 1/2-in. pieces
1 bunch kale (about 1 lb.), stemmed, leaves chopped into 1-in. pieces
2 c. cooked, shredded turkey meat
up to 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
extra virgin olive oil, for serving

1.  Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering.  Brown the chorizo, 3-5 minutes, then transfer to a plate.

2.  Add the onions to the fat left in the pot and cook until softened, 5-7 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

3.  Stir in the broth, wine, if using, and potatoes and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are nearly tender, 10-15 minutes.

4.  Stir in the kale and simmer until just tender, 10-15 minutes.  Stir in the turkey, chorizo, and red pepper flakes and cook until just heated through, about 2 minutes.  Season to taste.  Drizzle individual portions with olive oil before serving.

Yield: 8-10 servings

Monday, November 10, 2014

Meatless Monday--Holiday Baked Oatmeal with Cranberries, Apples, and Orange

It's almost tough to believe how close we are to the holiday season.  In just a couple of weeks, we'll be traveling, receiving guests, giving thanks, decorating, shopping up a storm, and making memories.  We'll also be spending plenty of time cooking, baking, and eating.  With so many hectic days and holiday treats out there, we all need to have a few simple, healthy recipes up our sleeves.  

This baked oatmeal, an adaptation of one I've made time and time again, is packed with the warm and comforting holiday flavors we've all come to know.  Apples and a familiar blend of spices provide instant comfort, while cranberries and orange brighten the whole dish up, both visually and in taste.  If you've got a house full of guests coming, this is the perfect breakfast to fill their bellies and keep them warm and energized all morning long.  It takes less than ten minutes to put all the ingredients together and the baking time is just right for enjoying a cup of coffee and some time to visit.

Make your holiday guests feel extra special with this comforting baked oatmeal packed with cranberries, apples, spices, and a hint of orange.

Holiday Baked Oatmeal with Cranberries, Apples, and Orange
adapted from this recipe
originally from Heidi Swanson, Super Natural Every Day

1 1/4 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 c. chopped toasted hazelnuts or walnuts, divided
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 c. maple syrup
2 oranges, zested and juiced (should yield about 1/4 c. juice)
1 1/4 c. milk or almond milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 TBSP unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 large crisp apple, peeled, cored, and chopped into 3/4-in. pieces
1 c. fresh cranberries, 3/4 c. left whole and 1/4 c. halved

1.  Preheat the oven to 375° F.  Lightly grease a 2-qt. casserole or baking dish.

2.  In a medium bowl, stir together the oats, half the nuts, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt.  (This mixture can be done the night before to expedite morning prep time.) 

3.  In a liquid measuring cupe, combine maple syrup, orange zest and juice, milk, egg, butter, and vanilla.

4.  Spread the chopped apple pieces in a single layer on the bottom of the casserole or baking dish then top with half the the whole cranberries.  Sprinkle the dry mixture over the fruit in an even layer.  Pour the liquid mixture over the oats.  Sprinkle the remaining nuts and cranberries over the top.

5.  Bake, uncovered, 35-40 minutes, until the top is browned and the oat have set.  Place on a wire rack and let cool 5-10 minutes before serving.

Yield: 4-6 servings  

Friday, November 7, 2014

Soft and Chewy Snickers Cookies

Let's talk about Halloween candy, shall we?  If you're at all like me, you have quite the love/hate relationship with it.  I mean, it's delicious and fun and brings back all kinds of happy memories.  We loved getting it as children and we love handing it out as adults.  But oh, the calories.  We didn't really think about that as kids.  Calories are less fun.

As adults, we choose when and if we treat ourselves.  We debate about whether or not that slice of pie, scoop of ice cream, or piece of cake is worth it because we all know not every indulgence is worth it.

These cookies are worth it.  Period.

I've used my BEST-EVER chocolate chip cookie recipe as the base.  It's by far the most popular recipe on this blog and I've loved reading all your comments about making these cookies for your children, husbands, boyfriends, and friends.  Your adaptations have been so creative.  Today, I have my own adaptation for you--I've swapped out the chocolate chips in my best-ever chocolate chip cookies for chopped up Snickers.  

The idea came to me as I stared at a giant container of leftover candy.  I thought it might work, but I had some reservations about the candy pieces oozing out of the dough and becoming a tough, sticky mess.  There was a little candy bar ooze, but oh my goodness, was it a good thing.  This dough is already perfectly buttery, soft, and chewy, but the Snickers pieces added the most incredible hint of nuttiness that almost makes the entire cookie taste like a peanut butter cookie.  But with Snickers.  I can honestly say I might like this adaptation even better than the original.

Leftover Halloween candy gets a tasty makeover in these soft, fluffy, buttery cookies based off my BEST-EVER chocolate chip cookies.

Soft and Chewy Snickers Cookies
adapted from Apple a Day
original recipe by Anna Olson, Food Network Canada

3/4 c. unsalted butter
3/4 c. dark brown sugar
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1 egg
2 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
10 fun-sized Snickers, cut into tenths (about 1 c. chopped)

1.  Preheat oven to 350° F.

2.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars until fluffy and light in color.  Scrape down sides of the bowl, then add egg and vanilla.  Mix until fully incorporated.

3.  Meanwhile, in a separate medium bowl, mix together flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt.  Add dry mixture to wet mixture in three additions, mixing on medium-low speed and scraping down sides of the bowl in between additions.

4.  Add in Snickers pieces and mix together on low.

5.  Using a standard-sized cookie scoop or tablespoon, drop dough onto a prepared baking sheet.  Press dough down very slightly.  (The cookies will not spread very much.)  Bake 8-10 minutes, until the cookies are barely golden brown around the edges.  (The tops will not brown, but do not cook longer than 10 minutes.)

6.  Let cookies cool on the sheet on a wire rack for 5 minutes.  Remove cookies from the baking sheet and let cool completely.

Yield: approximately 3 dozen cookies

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Smoky Chicken Tortilla Soup

Hi guys!  I'm so glad to be back and posting again.  It's been a crazy time around here.  Work, grad school, church, and my new house were keeping me plenty busy.  I woke up one Wednesday feeling just fine, ready to take the day.  Just a few hours later, I was leaving work, nauseous, dizzy, and in severe pain.  Four days later I was in the ER and a week after that I was having surgery.  Like I said, it's been crazy.

The very clear up side to this is how blessed I am that my surgery went just as expected and everything will be okay.  The other major, MAJOR positive is just how fortunate I am to have a sister and a mom who are nurses.  My sister drove an hour to get to me while I was in the ER and my mom hopped on a plane that night and flew from Phoenix to Dallas to be with me.  She stayed for three weeks, helping me with anything and everything I needed, and spoiling me plenty along the way.  I'm not ashamed to say I cried several times thinking of her leaving.

Among the many, MANY amazing things she did, cooking for me was so beyond comforting.  Anyone who grew up with a mom who cooked, especially if she did it well, knows just how loved you feel when you get some of mom's home cooking as an adult.  When that home cooking is because you literally cannot cook for yourself, it's even more amazing.

Mom, thank you so much for making this soup and for everything you did for me while you were here.  You've always known just how to make me feel better.  I will never be able to repay you for.  I love you and miss you terribly already.

This soup, with tender chicken in a thick, bold, spicy, smoky broth, will warm you right up on on a chilly fall or winter night.

Smoky Tortilla Soup
from Lisa Fain, The Homesick Texan Cookbook
adapted to include shortcuts and vegetarian options

For the soup:
2 dried pasilla chiles, stemmed and seeded
1/2 c. plus 1 tsp. vegetable oil, plus more for greasing baking sheet 
6 corn tortillas, preferably stale
1 lb. plum tomatoes OR 1 (14 oz.) can fire-roasted tomatoes, drained
1 medium yellow onion, quartered
6 cloves garlic
2 canned chipotles chiles in adobo
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 c. chopped cilantro
6 c. chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. smoked paprika
2 TBSP fresh lime juice
salt, to taste
2 c. cooked, shredded chicken (rotisserie works great!) and/or black beans
Optional garnishes:
crushed tortilla chips (if not frying tortillas)
2 c. grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced
1/4 c. Cotija heese, crumbled
1/4 c. chopped cilantro

1.  Preheat a dry skillet over high heat.  Toast the pasilla chiles on each side, about 10 minutes, or just until the start to puff.  Fill the skillet with enough water to cover the chiles.  Bring water to a boil then turn off the heat and let the chiles soak until softened, about 30 minutes.  

2.  If frying tortillas, heat 1/2 c. vegetable oil in a lrge skillet on medium heat until a candy thermometer reads 350° F.  Slice the tortillas into 1/4-in. strips.  Add them to the oil in batches and cook until crisp, about 1 minute.  Drain on paper towels and set aside.

3.  Place oven broiler on high and grease a rimmed baking sheet.  If using fresh tomatoes, slice in half and place on prepared baking sheet along with the onion quarters and garlic cloves.  Broil on each side for 5 minutes, or until black spots begin to appear.  (If using canned tomatoes, complete this step with onion and garlic only.)  

4.  Place the tomatoes (either fresh or canned), onions and garlic in a blender.  When pasilla chiles are fully hydrated, drain and rinse them, then add to the blender along with the chipotle, cumin, oregano, cloves, cilantro, 1/2 c. fried tortilla strips or crushed chips, and 1/2 c. water.  Blend until smooth.  

5.  In a large pot, heat 1 tsp. vegetable oil on medium and add the purée from the blender.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, until mixture thickens and darkens in color.  It will likely pop and squirt, so be carefully.  

6.  Add the broth and Worcestershire sauce.  Bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.

7.  Stir in the paprika, lime juice, salt to taste, and chicken and/or beans.  Simmer 10 minutes.

8.  To serve, ladle soup into bowls and garnish as desired.

Yield: 6 servings