Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bacon-Cheeseburger Potato Skins

Pin It I've been craving these for a couple weeks, and was so excited to finally make them. We ate them for a main dish with a simple salad, but they would be awesome appetizers, especially since I used small'ish potatoes (the kind that come in a 5 lb bag). And not only were they a very tasty meal, I'm going to use the insides I scooped out to make Potato Soup, so they are perfect for planning 2-fer's (I love making a new meal with something left-over from a different meal).

These potato skins are loaded with everything that makes a great cheeseburger: seasoned beef, cheese, onion, bacon, and tomato. The only thing I might do differently next time is to use more cheese. I was worried about using too much and ending up with pictures that looked like potato drowning in a mess of cheese, so I was a little stingy (since it's all about the pictures, right?).

My husband and teenager both voted for more cheese. My two younger kids wouldn't partake. Meh. More for us, right?

Note: These were really easy to make because you prep all the filling ingredients while the potatoes bake in the oven. Then you fill and pop them back in the oven for a few minutes to heat everything through and melt the cheese. You could very easily prepare and fill the potato skins (minus the tomatoes) ahead of time and keep them covered in the fridge until you needed them. Then just put them in the oven to heat everything back up and melt the cheese.

Bacon-Cheeseburger Potato Skins
printable recipe

12 small russet potatoes (3-4 oz each), scrubbed
1 lb lean ground beef
4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
8 slices bacon
3-4 cups shredded cheddar cheese (I used a cheese mix)
2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
coarse salt and fresh black pepper

Heat your oven to 400. Prick each potato a few times with a fork and put them directly on the oven rack. Bake until they are tender, 40-45 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare your filling ingredients:

Note: I used the same 12-inch skillet for the beef, onion, and bacon. I just wiped it out with a paper towel after both the beef and the onion.

For the beef: Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beef, and cook and crumble the meat until it's broken up and no longer pink. Add the Worcestershire sauce, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring constantly for 3-4 minutes. Transfer the beef to a bowl, cover the bowl, and set it aside.

For the onion: Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and let it heat for 10 seconds. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring very often, until the onion is soft and golden brown, 8-10 minutes. Transfer the onion to a bowl, cover the bowl, and set it aside.

For the bacon: Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp (or however you like it). Transfer the bacon to paper towels and dab off the excess fat. Coarsely chop the cooked bacon and set it aside.

To assemble the potato skins: Heat your oven to 400. Let the baked potatoes cool enough to handle and use a sharp knife to cut them in half lengthwise. Use a large spoon to scoop out the inside, leaving about 1/4-inch (+/-) of potato. Save the scooped out flesh for another dish like Potato Soup. Arrange the empty potato skins on a rimmed baking sheet. Layer the following in the skins, dividing it all evenly between them: half of the cheese, the beef, the onion, the bacon, and the remaining half of the cheese. Put the skins in the oven and bake until they are heated through and the cheese is melted, 10-12 minutes. Top with the diced tomato and serve.

Makes 24 potato skins.

Note: I wish I'd lined my baking sheet with foil because getting the cooked-on cheese off the pan was a bit of a pain.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Works For Me Wednesday: Freezing past-prime strawberries for smoothies.

Strawberry season is here! (Or just about, depending on where you live.) Today's Works For Me Wednesday idea comes from my sister--Thanks, Sheree!

Buying strawberries in big packages can be a great deal, but unless you buy them to make jam, or a recipe like strawberry shortcake, or your family really likes strawberries and eats a lot of them, more than likely you'll end up with a handful (or more) strawberries that are past the perfect-for-eating stage, but aren't quite at the throw-away stage.

What to do?

Of course, you could still eat them, but if they are a little soft are you more likely to let them sit in the fridge until they fully at the throw-away stage and then throw them away because they're bad? This is usually me.

Now--thanks to my amazing sister--I'll cut up the less-than-perfect strawberries, freeze them in a single layer on a pan, put them in a bag, and use them for smoothies. Thanks, Sheree! Less food waste is always a good thing.

For more great Works for me Wednesday ideas go here.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Gluten-Free Italian Cornmeal Cake

Pin It This is my first gluten-free cake, and I have to tell you I had almost no faith it was going to turn out. I mean, this cake is like the platypus of cakes: cornmeal, ricotta cheese, ground almonds, orange juice. And no flour. I'd never seen such a crazy combination of ingredients (though it's true I don't get out much). I got this Whole Foods recipe from a friend who recently found out she has a gluten allergy; she said her sister makes it for her at family gatherings so she can have something sweet. I loved that it had the cornmeal, and I'd never used ground almonds, so I was excited to try it--even though I had a hard time believing it would come together.

But come together it did.

This cake was so good.

It was just sweet enough, had a delightful orange flavor, and had a great texture from both the cornmeal and the ground almonds. I served it with some lightly sweetened, softly whipped cream and it was darn-near perfect. I never missed the flour, and I had a very hard time leaving it alone. Yum. YUM.

Note: I could not find ground almonds, so I made my own. I bought a package of slivered almonds and pulsed them, in two batches, in my food processor. Apparently you're living on the edge when you make your own ground almonds because if you go too far you end up with almond butter. I like to live dangerously (not actually), so I pulsed the almonds a few times. A few more times. A few more times. And then I decided to not push my luck any more because I didn't want to go back to the store. If you want less texture you could try to find almond flour (sometimes called 'almond meal'), which is very finely ground almonds.

Gluten-Free Italian Cornmeal Cake (adapted from Whole Foods)
printable recipe

1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1 cup ground almonds
2 teaspoons gluten-free vanilla
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
zest from 1 orange (about 1 tablespoon)
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
lightly sweetened whipped cream for serving, if desired

1. Heat your oven to 375. Spray a 9-inch spring form pan with non-stick spray.

2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Add ricotta, almonds, vanilla, orange juice, and zest; mix well. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, and mix well.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until it's set and firm in the middle. Remove from the oven and let the cake cool completely before cutting. Serve with whipped cream.

Makes 8-10 servings.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Works For Me Wednesday: Storing Silpat Liners

I wish I could say I thought of this on my own, but I know I read about it in one of my cooking magazines (though it was a while ago and I can't remember which one).

Silpats are great to use but trying to store the big, flat, floppy liners is a problem. Enter the humble papertowel tube--something you already have and won't cost you a penny. Simply roll the Silpat (short-end to short-end) and they are a perfect fit.

Tip: Roll the Silpat liner as tight as you can to make it easier to put in the tube. Once in the tube it will unroll itself for a tight fit.

Now I keep my liners in the drawer next to my foils and wraps, nice and neat, and ready when I need them.

Go here to read some other great Works for me Wednesday posts!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Cookie Carnival: Chocolate Brownie Oatmeal Cookies

Yum. Yum. Yum. I made these Chocolate Brownie Oatmeal Cookies from Quaker for the March Cookie Carnival and they were so, so good. With chocolate and oatmeal, how could they not be? I was curious about the cream cheese, though. Why was it there and what would it do to the cookie?

I made my first batch of cookies exactly as the directions said (I chilled the dough for an hour, scooped the dough onto the baking sheet, and baked them for about 10 minutes). Other than the dough being very hard to scoop (I should have scooped the dough first and then chilled it), the cookies turned out really good and we happily gobbled them up.

Of course, I wondered if I could make them even better. They had a nice chocolate flavor, but I wanted to pump it up a little with some additional chocolate chips. I also wanted them to be more fudgy (they are supposed to be like brownies, right?), and I wondered if freezing the scoops of dough and then cooking them from frozen would do the trick (this is what my sister does to make her incredible oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies so good and chewy).

I let the remaining dough come back to room temperature, mixed in 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips, scooped the dough on to waxed paper using my regular-sized cookie scoop, and froze the dough. I put the frozen dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment and cooked them at 350 for about 11 minutes. They seemed very underdone, but I hoped once they cooled they'd be really fudgy.

Boy, was I right. The cookies were amazing. This was one awesome chocolaty, fudgy, brownie-like oatmeal cookie. Remember to go HERE for the recipe.

Let's compare the before and after cookies:

The cookie on the left is from my first batch. A very tasty cookie, a little on the crisp side, not especially fudgy (They made very nice ice cream sandwiches). The cookie on the right has the extra chocolate chips and was baked from frozen. It was loaded with chocolate flavor and was super, super fudgy. As an added bonus, they didn't spread as much as the first batch which meant I could fit more cookies on the baking sheet. More cookies in less time. Awesome.

As with most things cookie, what you do will depend on what you want from your cookie. Do you like a more crisp cookie or a more fudgy cookie? Do you want to take the time to freeze the scoops of dough? (Although if you chill them for an hour you might as well freeze them for an hour.) For me, I want chewy, fudgy cookies, so I'm ready to scoop and freeze and wait for the prize.

As an end note, I'm still not sure about the cream cheese in the dough. You can't taste it at all, so maybe it helps the cookie to be more brownie-like. I think it needs further experimentation.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick's Day Quesadilla

I always have left-overs from our traditional St. Patrick's Day dinner of corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, and carrots. Always. And I can only eat a repeat of the meal a couple of times before it needs a make-over. Turning the left-overs into a filling for quesadillas is fast, easy, and tasty.

I used mozzarella cheese because it's what I had (and it melts so nice), but monterey jack would probably work just as good.

There are no specific measurements because it's a use-what-you've-got deal; more a great idea than a recipe.

Cut up the corned beef, potatoes, carrots, and cabbage so they are small and uniform in size.

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium to medium-high heat (I don't grease my pan). Layer a flour tortilla, 3-4 tablespoons mozzarella cheese, the cut up corned beef, carrots, potatoes and cabbage, another 3-4 tablespoons mozzarella cheese, and another tortilla.

Cook the quesadilla until it's golden brown. Flip it over (carefully so the filling doesn't fall out) and cook it on the other side until golden brown.

Cut into wedges and enjoy :)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Spring Pea Pasta Salad

The mint in the Spring Pea Dip in my last post reminded me so much of a fantastic pasta salad my sister makes I decided to try using some of the left-over dip to make a pasta sauce. The first night we ate it warm and it was really good. But when I ate it cold straight from the fridge the next day I liked it even better.

Spring Pea Pasta Salad
printable recipe

10 oz uncooked rotini, or other shaped pasta
1 cup Spring Pea Dip
1/2 cup buttermilk
6 green onions, thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and rinse until cold.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the Spring Pea Dip and buttermilk. Add the green onion and season with salt and pepper.

3. Add the pasta to the bowl and stir until the pasta is well coated with the sauce. Chill until ready to serve.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Spring Pea Dip

I'm very predictable. As soon as January rolls around I start to pine away for a vegetable garden. Then the seed and plant catalogs start to appear in my mailbox. I know if look through the catalogs chances are high I'll order something; seeds, miniature greenhouses, tomato netting, whatever. But it's all I can do to not peek. It's a sickness, I know.

While so far this year the garden catalogs have gone straight to the recycle bin (phew), I did open my latest Cuisine At Home magazine and found this recipe for Spring Pea Dip. It calls for fresh green peas, and practically screamed SPRING! at me. When I saw a bag of fresh English peas at Costco (in early March when there is still snow on my yard), I knew it was fate. This dip was going to give me my garden fix so I'd be able to hold off on seed buying and garden planning. I'll still have to avoid the garden sections at Home Depot and Walmart. I don't have that much willpower.

The dip was really quite good. The ingredient list is short and each one plays an important part in the final flavor, so don't leave anything out. And let's not forget the color--isn't it gorgeous?! You should definitely put this dip on your Easter table.

Note: The instructions say to process the dip until it's chunky. I wanted my dip more smooth than the dip pictured in the magazine, so I let it process a little longer.

Spring Pea Dip (from Cuisine at Home)
printable recipe

2 cups fresh shelled green peas, blanched (or 2 cups frozen peas, thawed)
1/2 cup drained marinated artichoke hearts, oil reserved
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon tahini or olive oil (I used olive oil)
1 teaspoon minced garlic (I used 2 cloves)
salt and black pepper to taste

Combine everything except salt and pepper in a food processor and pulse until it's the consistency you want. Season with the salt and pepper.

Serve the dip with pita bread or crackers.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups dip.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...