Huevos Rancheros

13 01 2014

Huevos Rancheros on Plate

If you want to impress your breakfast or brunch crowd with a fiesta of flavors, you’ll want to prepare huevos rancheros (ranch-style eggs). You only need a few ingredients, and the wonderful flavors this dish offers will have you smiling and saying, “Buenas dias, indeed!”

Here’s how to make them…

Frying Tortilla

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in small skillet. Place one corn tortillas in the hot oil, and turn the tortilla until it is easily pliable.

Lining Baking Dish

Dab tortilla on a paper towel lined plate to remove excess oil, and then set tortilla into a baking dish. Repeat the process with enough tortillas so that the bottom of the baking dish is covered. Set aside, and keep warm.

Onion and Garlic

In the same skillet you heated the tortillas in, sauté ½ cup chopped onion and 1 minced garlic clove. Saute until tender, but not too browned.

Tomato and Green Chili

Add 3 chopped tomatoes, 1 (4 ounce) can diced green chili peppers, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Simmer ingredients, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Keep warm.

Frying Eggs

In a separate large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Gently break 5 to 6 eggs into skillet; sprinkle eggs with salt and black pepper. When edges are cooked and whites are set, add 1 tablespoon of water to skillet. Cover skillet and cook eggs to desired degree of doneness.

Cheese on Eggs

Reserve 2 to 3 tablespoons of the tomato mixture for a garnish, and then spoon remaining tomato mixture atop corn tortillas. Gently place eggs atop tomato mixture. Sprinkle with shredded Monterey jack cheese. Set baking dish under broiler until cheese melts, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Huevos Rancheros

Garnish with reserved tomato mixture and chopped cilantro. Serve immediately, and enjoy!





Homemade Broccoli Soup

9 12 2012

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Now that the weather in Phoenix, AZ has finally cooled off (the high today—December 9, 2012—will be 72 degrees F and the low will be 45 degrees F) I have been inspired to cook comfort food. It’s not near as cold as I would like it to be but I had to put on a sweatshirt last night and that’s good enough for me to cook something cozy and rich in flavor.

I decided on broccoli soup. Broccoli soup is filling enough to savor on its own and is the perfect complement to an ooey gooey grilled cheese sandwich. Today I enjoyed my broccoli soup on its own, but tomorrow I am planning on lovin’ spoonfuls of leftover soup with a sandwich for lunch.

What I love about homemade broccoli soup is that it is so unbelievably easy to make. The first time I made it and tasted the flavors of the fresh ingredients I knew right then and there that I would never again eat broccoli soup from a can. If you ever decide to make homemade soup, you’ll probably take on my theory that canned soup is for emergency situations… or for the birds.

I followed this Food Network Broccoli Soup recipe from The Neelys. <~ How cute are they!?

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Melt 4 tablespoons butter (room temperature) in a heavy Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 1 ½ pounds fresh broccoli (chopped), 1 large onion (chopped), and 1 carrot (chopped). Saute ingredients for about 6 minutes or until onion is translucent.

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Add 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour. Cook and stir ingredients for about 1 minute or until flour reaches a blonde color.

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Add 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth; bring to a boil and then reduce temperature. Simmer ingredients, uncovered, for about 15 minutes or until broccoli is tender.

Mix in ½ cup heavy cream and then puree. Salt and pepper soup, to taste. I toasted slices from a petite jalapeno-cheddar loaf to serve with my soup. Talk about “Mmm, mmm good!”

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My favorite song of choice for cooking today is this awesome tune by Loretta Lynn and Jack White – “Portland, Oregon” What a great duo!





I Think I Can, I Think I Can… Make Pumpkin Cake Doughnuts

19 11 2012

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I’m a meat and potatoes kind of girl, and I love cooking hearty meals that satisfy. In the kitchen, while preparing and cooking, say, a Thanksgiving feast, I move like a graceful ballerina. But when it comes to baking sweets I’m more like Lucy: misreading recipes, using incorrect measurements, and making an explosive mess in the kitchen.

Baking sweets intimidates me and, quite frankly, don’t interest me all that much. Several reasons come to mind: 1) My grandmother was the queen of sweets in our hometown. Big shoes to fill! 2) I ate so many classic sweets when I was a child that—today—I’m just not that into them. 3) Some recipes are so long and have numerous small measurements; just looking at some ingredient lists and necessary kitchen tools exhausts me. But I do have a slight interest in baking sweets for loved ones, and after all, ’tis the season! So here I am. Practicing.

It’s finally cooling off in Phoenix. And every year when the weather cools down I’m drawn to the rich colors and seasonal spices of fall. I’m madly in love with the bright orange color of pumpkin, and I adore allspice, ginger, nutmeg and more. Last week I came across a recipe for Pumpkin Cake Doughnuts on the King Arthur Flour website and decided I was going to face my [sweet] baking fears and indifference head on.

After trying the King Arthur recipe I decided the cinnamon-sugar coating was not for me and I found the doughnuts less flavorful than I anticipated. To each his own, right? I revised the recipe by reducing the amount of salt and by increasing the amount of pumpkin pie spice. I have to mention here that when I made my first batch of doughnuts I accidentally doubled the salt measurement. “Lucy!!!!” I scooped out as much of the extra salt as I could! And for my second batch of doughnuts I made a cream cheese frosting and a glaze for topping options. I loved my second batch, and the doughnuts were a hit with my human guinea pigs. I survived, and I am now ready to move onto something more dense and chocolate-y. A future post…

Here is my recipe (the revised King Arthur recipe) for Pumpkin Cake Doughnuts:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease two doughnut pans. (Note: I found mine at Target.)

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Beat together ½ cup vegetable oil, 3 large eggs, 1 ½ cups granulated sugar, 1 ½ cups pumpkin puree, 2 ½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder.

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Add 1 ¾ cups + 2 tablespoons King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour. Stir ingredients until smooth.

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Fill doughnut pans about ¾ full. (Note: Use a scant ¼ cup of batter in each well.)

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Bake doughnuts for 15 to 18 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean. Remove doughnuts from oven; let cool for about 5 minutes. Once cool, loosen edges of doughnuts and transfer to a cooling rack.

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While still warm, either glaze or frost doughnuts or gently shake in a bag with cinnamon-sugar. Cool completely, and wrap airtight. Store at room temperature for several days. YIELDS 12 DOUGHNUTS

While making a major mess in the kitchen, I was in the holiday spirit and decided Christmas tunes were in order. You just can’t go wrong with a sentimental classic Christmas song like O Holy Night.





Queen Creek Olive Mill: An Agri-Gem in the Desert

31 08 2012

Olive oil rocks! Seriously… it’s a culinary superstar. Olive oil is used as a condiment, as an ingredient, and for cooking. And it holds its own in the kitchen.

When I found out the Valley of the Sun has its very own olive mill I had to go see what it’s all about. What I discovered is the Queen Creek Olive Mill is a little agri-gem in the desert.

The newly renovated and expanded Queen Creek Olive Mill is the perfect destination for a day trip if you live in Arizona. And if you’re planning a trip to Phoenix from another state, you really should put this delightful and delicious destination on your itinerary.

Not only did I learn the Queen Creek Olive Mill is the only company in Arizona that produces extra virgin olive oil and has over 2,000 olive trees and 16 varieties, but I also learned the process of how olive oil is made, via the Olive Oil 101 tour. When I use olive oil now I think about more than just the tasty liquid gold in the bottle and how I will use it—I think about olive trees and pomace and acid levels and… oh, things you’ll learn when you visit the Queen Creek Olive Mill.

Before my Olive Oil 101 tour began I enjoyed freshly brewed coffee from Superstition Coffee—one of the new additions to the Queen Creek Olive Mill. And I was fortunate to have the opportunity to talk with Bill Mohrweis, Founder and Owner of Superstition Coffee. Superstition Coffee is a family affair, with Bill, Terri (Bill’s wife) and the kids providing consumers with incredibly fresh and delicious specialty coffees. Bill shared some great coffee industry stories with me and showed me the coffee roasting process. It was a wonderful added bonus to my day at the Queen Creek Olive Mill.

Superstition Coffee

Before leaving the Queen Creek Olive Mill I had to try something from their Tuscan-inspired eatery: del Piero. I ordered the Kalamata sandwich—del Piero Kalamata Salami, genoa salami, capicola, herb roasted tomatoes, seasonal greens, provolone, and red onion with White Balsamic & Herb Crema on a grilled baguette ($9.99). It’s a meat lover’s dream come true.

Kalamata

One thing that stood out in my mind while I was at the Queen Creek Olive Mill was how busy it was. I was there on a weekday from morning until almost late afternoon and it was packed with people coming and going, nonstop. But it never felt overcrowded.

The Queen Creek Olive Mill has so much to offer. In addition to what I’ve already mentioned, the marketplace is chock-full of flavored olive oils, locally made foods and unique gifts, and the Queen Creek Olive Mill hosts great events, such as their upcoming Labor Day Grill at the Mill.

And another new addition at the Queen Creek Olive Mill is Arizona Style Artisan Pizzas, Beers, and Music!

Go!

The Olive Mill

25062 S. Meridian Road

Queen Creek, AZ 85142

(480) 888-9290

Hours:

Monday – Thursday 9am-5pm

Friday – 9am-10pm

Saturday – 8am-10pm

Sunday – 8am-5pm

While at the Queen Creek Olive Mill I heard Andean music being played over the PA system. The happy beats set the mood for a happy day! “Kusi-Kusi” – Performed by RUMINAHUI





Penne with Vodka Sauce

8 08 2012

Penne with Vodka Sauce

I don’t remember how old I was as a young girl when my pasta eureka moment hit me. That moment when I understood why certain pastas are ideal for certain sauces and dishes, like macaroni for pasta e fagioli or fettuccine for Alfredo sauce. I do remember, though, when that moment hit I was eye-balling—rather closely—pasta shells and tomato sauce sitting in my spoon. I was amused in seeing seashell pasta filled with tomato sauce, as if the shells were miniature culinary ships carrying precious cargo straight to my mouth.

The shapes and textures of pastas complement different ingredients and sauces—culminating in dishes that offer perfect mouthfeels and perfect marriages of flavors. Creamy Alfredo sauce thoroughly coats the length and width of fettuccine; cheesy sauces nestle in the hollows of macaroni; and a ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan and beef mixture is the perfect stay-put stuffing for tubular manicotti. Can you imagine manicotti with just a simple pasta sauce? Talk about a limp noodle!

I adore pasta and eat it every week. Recently I discovered Giada De Laurentiis’ Penne with Vodka Sauce recipe… I’d never made vodka sauce before and the ingredient list piqued my curiosity. I queued up an Italian playlist, including Mambo Italiano, and then fired up the stove. I doubled the recipe so I could share the pasta love with family.

Here are the recipes for Giada’s Simple Tomato Sauce and Penne with Vodka Sauce:

SIMPLE TOMATO SAUCE

Ingredients

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes

4 to 6 basil leaves

2 dried bay leaves

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, optional

Directions

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Colorful & Flavorful Ingredients for Simple Tomato Sauce

In a large casserole pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until soft and translucent, about 2 minutes.

Olive Oil, Onions, Garlic

Add celery and carrot and season with salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.

Olive Oil, Onions, Garlic, Celery, Carrots, Salt & Pepper

Add tomatoes, basil, and bay leaves and reduce the heat to low.

Simple Tomato Sauce

Cover the pot and simmer for 1 hour or until thick. Remove bay leaves and taste for seasoning. If sauce tastes too acidic, add unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, to round out the flavor.

Pour half the tomato sauce into the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Continue with remaining tomato sauce.

If not using all the sauce, allow it to cool completely and then pour 1 to 2 cup portions into plastic freezer bags. Freeze for up to 6 months.

Yield: 6 cups

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

PENNE WITH VODKA SAUCE

Ingredients

1 quart Simple Tomato Sauce (from the above recipe)

1 cup vodka

½ cup heavy cream, at room temperature

½ cup grated Parmesan

1 pound penne

Directions

Simmer the tomato sauce and vodka in a heavy large skillet over low heat until the mixture reduces by ¼, stirring often, about 20 minutes.

Tomato Sauce and Vodka

Stir the cream into the tomato and vodka sauce. Simmer over low heat until the sauce is heated through.

Tomato and Vodka Sauce and Cream

Stir in the Parmesan cheese until melted and well blended.

Tomato and Vodka Sauce, Heavy Cream and Parmesan

Tomato and Vodka Sauce, Heavy Cream and Parmesan

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta and transfer it to the pan with the sauce, and toss to coat.

Penne with Vodka Sauce Topped with Shaved Parmesan Cheese





Food Play

28 07 2012

Many of us have heard, at some point in our lives, “Don’t play with your food!” Depending on the situation, I say, “Strike that, reverse it!” Playing with food can be a great way to inspire creativity, generate ideas, and get kids to eat more fruits and vegetables. And creating art with food is an affordable, fun activity for a child’s birthday party; just make sure the kids have clean hands and an adult is chopping the food! If you’re planning an adult party, be it a themed party or casual barbecue, you can impress your family and friends with food that will win you rave reviews, on looks alone. And bento boxes… they’re all about creativity!

A few weeks ago, after reading a Facebook post by my friend Laura B. Marcell, I was inspired to create the above edible tropical island using an orange, a banana, and three kiwi fruit. For just a couple dollars I put together a delicious and nutritious snack for myself and co-workers. It was a tasty treat that generated smiles all the way around!

Here are some links to inspirational food fun:

Food Network – Play With Your Food

Parenting – 20 Easy Bento Lunch Boxes

Parents – Play with Your Food

She Knows – Fluffy, Fun Pancakes

If you’re creating delicious delights with kids, you can set the mood with fun food songs. There are so many! Here’s one from Beauty and the Beast… Be Our Guest.





Croque Madame: An Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich

27 03 2012

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Breakfast is the one meal of the day that I have a hard time fitting in, mostly because I’m not all that hungry when I wake up. But every now and then I’ll crave a classic Sunday morning breakfast of over easy eggs, slightly crisped bacon, garlic-packed breakfast potatoes, and buttered toast. And a few weeks ago, after perusing the Saveur website from my horizontal office at 11:00PM, I decided to go all out (for me) for the next day’s breakfast. I made croque madame.

Prior to making croque madame, and several months ago, I’d treated my taste buds to a croque monsieur from Petite Maison in Scottsdale, AZ. Croque monsieur, which originated in France, is a grilled or toasted hot ham and cheese sandwich with béchamel sauce. Add a fried egg on top and you’ve got a croque madame. The egg is said to resemble a woman’s hat, thus croque madame. “Croque” comes from the word “croquer,” which means “to crunch.” And there are several versions of the croque sandwich, including croque Bolognese, croque Provençal, croque señor, and more. Each one offering up wonderful crunch and delightful flavor combinations.

In my humble opinion, the croque madame is an ultimate breakfast sandwich due to its layers of flavors and fork and knife elegance. And the Gruyère béchamel sauce for this recipe… C’mon… I could eat spoonful after spoonful of this French white sauce. There’s a reason why béchamel is one of the four “mother sauces,” and the béchamel sauce is the reason why your taste buds melt with love when you bite into a croque madame.

Making this breakfast sandwich is incredibly easy, and if you’ve never made béchamel sauce, you have nothing to worry about—it’s easy, too.

While making my croque madame I enhanced the experience by listening to one of my favorite French songs: Paris Paris. It’s a sexy little number by Malcolm McLaren, and the video features Catherine Deneuve. Malcolm, who passed away on April 8, 2010, was manager of the Sex Pistols and the New York Dolls, and he had an amazing career full of projects.

And here are the no-fail instructions for making mouth-watering croque madame. Recipe courtesy of Saveur. Note: I use Italian or sourdough bread for toasted sandwiches, because I love the extra crunchiness these breads provide once toasted.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 12 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
  • 12 (3/4-inch-thick) slices pain de mie or Pullman bread, toasted (these breads are the equivalent of sandwich bread)
  • 6 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 12 thin slices baked ham
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 6 eggs

Preparation

Heat butter in a 2-quart saucepan over medium high heat.

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Add flour; cook and whisk until smooth, about 1 minute.

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Whisk in milk; bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and let simmer until slightly reduced and thickened, 6 to 8 minutes.

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Add 1/3 cup grated Gruyère and the Parmesan.

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Whisk until smooth. Season with salt, black pepper and nutmeg.

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Heat broiler to high. Place 6 slices toasted bread on parchment paper-lined or foil-lined baking sheet, and spread 1 tablespoon mustard over each.

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Top with 2 slices ham and remaining Gruyère.

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Broil for 1 to 2 minutes, until cheese begins to melt.

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Top with remaining bread slices. Pour a generous amount of béchamel on top of each sandwich. Broil for about 3-4 minutes, until cheese sauce is bubbling and evenly browned. Note: The photo below is before broiling.

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Meanwhile, heat oil in a 12″ nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add eggs, season with salt and black pepper, and cook until whites are cooked but yolks are still runny (sunny-side up), about 3 minutes. Place egg on top of each sandwich, and serve hot. Note: Generally croque madame is topped with a sunny-side up egg, but I like my eggs cooked over easy.

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The croque madame is a super tasty breakfast sandwich that will impress anyone, whether you’re eating alone or you’re feeding a crowd. After just one bite… You’ll say, “Oui!”








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