Friday, August 24, 2012

Salsa Beef and Bean Lettuce Cups

Beef Bean Taco Lettuce Cups 2

I have two teenage boys. One 17 and one almost 16.

For the most part, they are really great kids. No problems with drinking or drugs, no staying out late, not hanging with the wrong crowd. They do well in school, the treat people well, they are not prejudice, see no color, voice their opinions when they think something is wrong, they are kind hearted....sounds pretty good huh?

Well here is a question.....what happens between the age of 15 - 17 that makes them think they know EVERYTHING?

It drives me crazy. My oldest will argue and argue with me till I am ready to scream. Drives me mad!

So I'm just venting a bit, and reaching out to the Mom's out there for guidance or words of wisdom on dealing with my smart alec.

I keep warning the younger one "Watch and learn".

Speaking of friend Rebecca at Foodie with Family happens to have 5 of them! She comes up with the greatest recipes to feed know-it-all's and smarty pants alike. We are always looking for recipes to feed our hungry crew and Rebecca came up with another great one.

We love tacos at our house. We probably have them 2 times a month. I'll switch out the filling to break up the monotony. Some times it's ground beef, some times it's chicken and some times it's fish tacos (their favorite).

I never made ground beef and bean filling and I had never used lettuce cups...until now.

Behold the Salas Beef and Bean Lettuce Cup:

Beef Bean Taco Lettuce Cups

What a great change of pace from the regular ole tacos.

Salsa Beef & Bean Lettuce Cup
recipe from Rebecca
For the Beef Filling:
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1/2 of a pound of sliced bacon
1/2 an onion, peeled and finely diced
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced or pressed
1 can (15.5 ounces, approximately) chili beans in sauce
1/4 cup chopped cilantro or parsley
To Serve:
Butter or Iceberg lettuce leaves
shredded extra sharp Cheddar cheese
cubes of ripe avocado with lime juice squeezed over them

To Prepare the Filling:
Stack the bacon slices and cut cross-ways into 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick strips. Fry those over medium heat in a 12-inch, heavy-bottomed skillet or frying pan until crispy. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Pour the remaining bacon fat from the pan and return the pan to medium heat.

Break up the ground beef into the hot pan and add the chopped onions and garlic. Use a wooden spoon to continue breaking the beef and working the onions and garlic into it as it cooks. When the beef is no longer pink in the center, drain off any fat (if there is any!) and return the pan to the heat. Add the can of beans with their sauce, stir well and bring up to a simmer. You can simmer it to thicken the sauce if necessary.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cilantro.

To Serve:
Stack the lettuce leaves 2 to 3 thick to provide a little structure for when you lift it to eat it. Scoop about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the beef filling in the center of the lettuce cup. Top with the shredded cheese, cubes of avocado and a dollop of salsa.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Buttermilk Blueberry Breakfast Cake

Blueberry Buttermilk Cake 1

I have lots of blogs that I follow. I don't always get to read all of them every week. I try, but I have it admit, that would be a part time job in itself.

There are the blogs that I will glance over, seeing if something peaks my interest and then there are those blogs that I almost get giddy with excitement over when I see they have a new post, cause I know it's going to be something beautiful to look at, and something I know I'm almost always going to want to make.

That's how I feel about Alexandra's Kitchen. Not only are her photos beautiful, but whatever she seems to make I find my self wanting to run right out to get all the ingredients to make it myself.

Sign of a great blog I think.

I saw this Buttermilk Blueberry Breakfast Cake and I knew it would be in my oven.

Lucky for me I had just picked fresh blueberries that week. It was like this recipe was waiting for me.

Blueberry Buttermilk Cake

There is just something magical about the smell of fresh blueberries baking in the oven. This cake was nothing short of delicious.

Buttermilk Blueberry Breakfast Cake
recipe from Alexandra's Kitchen
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tsp. lemon zest or more — zest from 1 large lemon
7/8 cup* + 1 tablespoon sugar**
1 egg, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 cups fresh blueberries
½ cup buttermilk

* 7/8 cup = 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons
** This 1 tablespoon is for sprinkling on top

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Cream butter with lemon zest and 7/8 cup of the sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Meanwhile, toss the blueberries with ¼ cup of flour, then whisk together the remaining flour, baking powder and salt.

Add the flour mixture to the batter a little at a time, alternating with the buttermilk. Fold in the blueberries.

Grease a 9-inch square baking pan (or something similar) with butter or coat with non-stick spray. Spread batter into pan. Sprinkle batter with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake for 35 minutes. Check with a toothpick for doneness. If necessary, return pan to oven for a couple of more minutes. (Note: Baking for as long as 10 minutes more might be necessary.) Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Toffee Pretzel Bark

Pretzel toffee

So here I was just a few posts ago saying I don't make cookies much in the summer and now I go and make candy! I just put myself to shame.

I don't know if you can technically call this candy, there is no thermometer involved, there is no tempering, none of that. There is just melting and chopping and incorporating goodness on to the baking sheet them breaking it apart with your hands to eat it.

This recipe was so good. I mean so, so good. It's similar to the ghetto crack that's been around for years.

We love salty/sweet and this didn't dissapoint. The original recipe called for a white chocolate topping. No one in this house is a fan of white chocolate so I substituted milk.

Pretzel toffee 1

Toffee Pretzel Bark
Adapted from a recipe at the Brown Eyed Baker

14 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped *see note.
½ cup broken pretzel pieces, (I used pretzel sticks broken in 3 pieces)
½ cup Heath toffee pieces
7 ounces milk chocolate (I used chips)
More chopped pretzels and toffee for sprinkling.

Line a baking sheet with parchment. In a double boiler or in a microwave melt the dark chocolate, stirring until the chocolate is smooth. (I did this in the microwave on half power). Remove from heat and stir in the pretzel and toffee pieces. Spread the mixture on the parchment. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Melt the milk chocolate and spread over the hardened dark chocolate. Sprinkle with chopped pretzels and toffee. Use your palm to press them lightly into the chocolate. Return to the fridge to harden. Once hardened, chop into pieces. Store in fridge in airtight container.

Note* I found my dark chocolate at Aldi. They have some fantastic imported chocolate at great prices.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Baked Maple Oatmeal

Baked Oatmeal 2

I know it may seem strange to be blogging about baked oatmeal in August, but just stay with me on this.

I've been meaning to make this recipe for months now.

Does that happen to you too? Do you have those "to make" recipes that seem to take forever to get to?

I have a pretty flowered folder that I carry with me everywhere. It's filled with recipes I want to make. These are the "make within a few months recipes" as opposed to my huge file of "keepers" and "make sometime in my lifetime" recipes.

My sweet friends Rebecca and Melissa raved about this baked oatmeal. I saw it on Rebecca's site and thought "I must make this" and I saw it again on Melissa's site and said it again.

Baked Oatmeal 3

It sat in my pretty flowered folder for months. It slowly made it's way to the top of the pile. It was crying out for me to make it. I had no choice.

I went to my local Whole Foods. Grabbed some old fashioned rolled oats and committed myself to making it.

Baked Oatmeal 11

Boy am I ever glad I did! DELICIOUS! I made this on a Sunday morning when I have my breakfast buddy Tati over. We ate it warm from the oven with a tiny bit of maple syrup drizzled on it. It was so good. Crazy good. I can only imagine how much better it will be in the fall and winter when we you really need something to fill you up and keep you warm.

Melissa has some great serving suggestions. In her words:

"I know what you're probably thinking: "a pan of oatmeal? yawn..." You don't know. This recipe has - no exaggeration - changed the way Steve and I eat and function Monday through Friday.

Every workday morning, we both open up a container of this stuff, pour in about 1/3 cup of water, heat in the microwave for 1 minute, drop in some dried blueberries, dried cranberries or sliced banana, put the lid back on for a few minutes to soften the fruit and voila. Instant moments of heaven right in the middle of the work morning.

Coffee and a banana used to suffice, but no longer. Now, because of this oatmeal, I can never go without a real breakfast again. It's beyond delicious and nourishing and satisfying. Truly. You really have no idea by looking, but seriously. I just finished making it for the sixth week in a row and I have no plans to stop anytime soon".
Baked oatmeal forever!


Baked Maple Oatmeal
recipe from Rebecca & Melissa
2 tablespoons butter
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (do not substitute quick or instant or steel cut oats)
1/2 cup raw sugar (you can substitute granulated or brown sugar if necessary.)
1/2 cup slivered almonds
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the 3 tablespoons butter in an 8-inch x 8-inch or 9-inch x 9-inch baking pan (I used a deep dish pie plate). Place the pan on the center rack of the oven and let the butter melt as the oven heats. (Don’t forget it’s in there. As soon as the butter is melted, remove the pan from the oven or the butter may scorch.)

Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Whisk together the milk, eggs, maple syrup and vanilla extract in a separate bowl, pour over the dry ingredients and mix together with a sturdy spoon or spatula until everything is evenly combined and wet. Scrape into the pan with the melted butter and stir until most of the butter is incorporated.

Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown around the edges.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Coconut Macaroon Cookies

Macaroon Cookies

I miss making cookies.

It seems like once the warm weather hits I just don't make cookies very much. Cookie making is a fall/winter kinda thing for me.

My youngest even said to me "how come you haven't made any cookies?" Well maybe because it's hotter 'n hell outside? He didn't think of that? Poor kid, he just wanted some cookies.

So what did I do? I made cookies. I cranked up the A/C and got out my batter bowl and recipe and churned out these delicious cookies. Only one kids don't like coconut. Ooops!

Bad Mommy. Totally forgot about that.

My friend was over for breakfast last Sunday morning. She was happy the kids didn't like them. She happily took home a bagful.

This is a simple (only 4 ingredients) cookie to make. Sometimes it's nice to work with a recipe that has just a few ingredients. I stand in the kitchen thinking "wow that was fast". Quicker to the oven, faster in your mouth!

The batter will be almost puffy. Let them get nice and golden in the oven, but be careful not to let them burn.

Macaroon Cookies 1

Coconut Macaroon Cookies
1 package (16 ounces) Angel Food Cake
½ cup water
1 ½ teaspoons almond extract
2 cups flaked coconut

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cake mix, water and almond extract on low for 30 seconds. Scrape the bowl and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Fold in the coconut.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto a parchment lined baking pan. Bake at 350 for 12 - 15 minutes. Remove to wired rack to cool.