Sausage + Pepper Cast Iron Frittata

Sausage + Pepper Cast Iron Frittata

I have only had this cast iron skillet since November, but it has already been broken in quite nicely!  The 2 things I’ve cooked most in it so far are Ina Garten’s Skillet Roasted Lemon Chicken (a big hit) and frittatas.  I now love frittatas so much that they’ve become a weekly staple.  I pretty much always use Italian sausage, just because I love the complex flavor.  But as far as veggies go, I have tried a lot, and the follow recipe is my favorite combination. 

This meal isn’t exactly healthy, but it’s not terrible for you, either.  It’s got tons of protein, plenty of vegetables, and it’s very filling.  Plus everyone in my house likes it, even Ben.

When I see people scramble eggs on TV, I always get frustrated.  They always just start with the eggs whole and go in there with a whisk.  I have found a way that is so much easier, especially if you’re scrambling 24 eggs at the same time.  Once I crack all the eggs into a bowl, I take a fork and use the prongs to physically tear each yolk before I start whisking.  Once you start whisking, it’s hard to see if any yolks haven’t been broken yet. 

And for removing the sausage from casings, I like to use a pair of scissors.  I start at one end and just cut all the way up.  It may sound like common sense, but it took me a while to figure that out!

Lastly, I’ve tried shredded hash browns for this frittata, and they mostly just got stuck to the bottom of the pan while I was trying to sauté them.  If you use the diced hash browns, they stay together better.

I eat my frittata with lots of ketchup.

 

Total Time:  1 hour 15 minutes1

Serves:  8

Difficulty Level:  Easy

 

Ingredients

2 ½ cups frozen diced hash browns

24 eggs

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

6 links of Italian sausage (about 1 pound)

1 ½ cup thinly sliced onion

1 ½ green bell pepper, medium diced

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

2 teaspoons granulated garlic

8 ounces freshly grated provolone or mozzarella cheese

 

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Remove the hash browns from the freezer, and let them defrost while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Crack the eggs into a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper, and use a large whisk or fork to break the yolks and mix everything together.
  4. Coat a large cast iron skillet with plenty of olive oil. Turn to medium heat.
  5. While the oil heats, remove the sausage from the casings.
  6. Add the sausage to the skillet, and use a wooden spoon to break it apart as it cooks. Cook until almost done, about 15 minutes.
  7. Remove the sausage from the skillet and set aside.
  8. If necessary, add more olive oil to the skillet. When it’s heated, add the peppers and onions to the pans.  Season the peppers and onions with salt, pepper, plus the paprika and garlic.  Cook for about 5 minutes.
  9. Create a large space in the center of the skillet by moving the veggies off to the side.
  10. If necessary, add more olive oil (if not, don’t). Add the diced hash browns to the skillets and sauté until they become translucent.
  11. Now, mix all the potatoes back in with the peppers and onions so it’s all incorporated and in an even layer.
  12. Add the sausage back to the skillet in an even layer.
  13. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the sausage and vegetable mixture.
  14. Pour the mixed eggs evenly over everything.
  15. On medium heat, let everything cook for about 10 minutes on the stove. Do not stir!
  16. Carefully put the frittata in the preheated oven, and cook until the top has just started to brown, and the center is set (about 25-30 minutes).
  17. Slice, and serve hot or at room temperature.

 

 


Quinoa + Chicken Stuffed Pepper Soup

Quinoa + Chicken Stuffed Pepper Soup

This is the lightened up version of my Stuffed Pepper Casserole.  The casserole is already pretty healthy, but the soup is even healthier.  And it’s just as filling.  I like to flavor stuffed pepper things with Cavender’s Greek Seasoning.  I know stuffed peppers aren’t a Greek recipe, but I feel like the flavors of the soup need to be bold and savory, but not necessarily spicy. 

I didn’t start using Worcestershire sauce regularly until about a year ago.  If you’re cooking a meat or dinner dish, and it’s missing something, but you’re not sure what…add some Worcestershire sauce.  It’s especially good with beef.  Since I don’t eat beef very often, I use it when I’m mimicking beef flavors (like in this soup). 

Traditional stuffed peppers are filled with rice, but I just felt like doing something different.  I use quinoa in this soup, but you can always use rice if you want to.  For this recipe, I’m using my 5 ½ quart French oven, but you can definitely adapt it to a slow cooker!  Add all the ingredients in the same order I’ve listed below, and cook for 6 hours on high, stirring once or twice.

I always serve Stuffed Pepper Soup with hot sauce, grated cheddar or mozzarella, and sour cream.

 

Total Time:  2 hours (but longer is better)featured

Serves: 8

Difficulty Level:  Easy

 

Ingredients

Extra virgin olive oil

1 ½ red bell pepper, diced small

1 green bell pepper, diced small

1 medium sized onion, diced small

2 large (or 3 small) garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons Cavender’s Greek Seasoning

1 teaspoon dried thyme

2 pounds lean ground chicken

1 cup quinoa

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

24 ounces marinara sauce

48 to 60 ounces water

2 tablespoons of beef bouillon powder

 

Directions

  1. Heat a French oven over medium heat. Add olive oil.
  2. When you can smell the oil, add the diced bell peppers and onion. Sauté over medium heat for 5-6 minutes, or until translucent.
  3. Add the garlic, Cavender’s Greek Seasoning, and dried thyme. Sauté for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add the ground chicken. Brown the chicken while breaking it apart with a wooden spoon.
  5. Add the quinoa, Worcestershire sauce, marinara sauce, water, and bouillon powder.
  6. Bring the soup up to a boil for 5 minutes.
  7. Reduce to a simmer, and continue cooking for at least 1 ½ hours (but longer is better).
  8. Serve hot with grated cheddar or mozzarella, sour cream, and hot sauce.

Nutty Vanilla Bean Baked Oatmeal Cups

Nutty Vanilla Bean Baked Oatmeal Cups

This is my first recipe featuring vanilla bean paste, and I have to say, it’s something I’ve been dying to cook with.  I didn’t even bother looking in stores for it because, when it comes to specialty foods, Amazon always has the products I’m looking for.  This is the kind I bought.  Vanilla bean paste is a blend of vanilla beans, vanilla extract, water, and sugar.  Vanilla bean is one of my top 3 favorite dessert flavors (along with lemon and chocolate). 

I like this paste for several reasons.  First, it’s cheaper than buying vanilla bean pods.  Vanilla bean pods are about $6 a piece.  You get about 50 times that many pods’ worth in one 4 ounce jar, and a whole jar is only $15.  Vanilla bean paste has a longer shelf life than vanilla bean pods.  Plus having it in a jar, as opposed to in beans, makes it way easier to use, so I have a reason to put that intense vanilla flavor into everything. 

From here out, expect many recipes using vanilla bean paste!  I just got my first Bundt pan, and I’m planning a vanilla bean and something (to be determined) flavored Bundt cake with vanilla bean glaze.  Doesn’t that sound good? 

For these oatmeal cups, you can substitute out any or all of the coconut flavors if you like, but I love coconut.  The recipe I adapted this from uses canola oil, regular milk, regular sugar, etc.  So you can do that in equal proportions if you like. 

I made these using reusable silicone muffin cups.  I like these because I think they’re cute, they’re reusable, and they won’t ever rip and leave paper in the muffin or cupcake.  Whether you use these or paper liners, muffin liners are a must for this recipe.

You can keep these in the fridge for about a week, and just heat them up for 30 seconds to 1 minute before eating.  If you like, add a little extra milk when serving to thin it out (I always like to do this). 

 

Total Time:  1 hour and 15 minutesgood

Yield:  18 Muffins

Difficulty Level:  Easy

 

Ingredients

2 eggs

¼ cup coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup unrefined coconut sugar

½ cup unsweetened applesauce

2 cups coconut milk

2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste 

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon ground flax seed

3 cups old fashioned oats

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ sweetened flaked coconut

½ cup slivered almonds, plus more for topping

 

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Line your muffin tin with 18 muffin liners.
  3. Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl. Use a wire whisk to break the yolks apart.
  4. Add the coconut oil, brown sugar, and coconut sugar. Whisk together until the sugar has broken apart and dissolved.
  5. Add the applesauce, coconut milk, vanilla bean paste, salt, cinnamon, and ground flax. Whisk until combined.
  6. Add the oats, baking powder, flaked coconut, and slivered almond. Use a rubber spatula to thoroughly combine.
  7. Add ¼ cup of the oatmeal mixture to each muffin cup.
  8. Bake for 35 minutes.
  9. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
  10. Store in an airtight container.

(adapted from The Wholesome Dish)

 

 

 


Lavender + Fleur de Sel Cookies, 2 Ways

Lavender + Fleur de Sel Cookies, 2 Ways

I have been really waiting to a good reason to feature fleur de sel.  I bought it back in November,  but I wanted to save it for something where I could really let it shine.  The crystals are huge compared to regular salt, and they’re almost soft in texture.  It’s not the kind of salt you use for flavoring while you’re cooking.  I would only use it to finish a dish –and when you want it to be really special.

This recipe requires ground dried lavender.  You can buy it here, and grind it with this.  My inspiration for combing salt and lavender came from a bottle of hand soap I got from Marshall’s.  I always get soap there because the scents are unusual.  When I smelled the Sea Salt and Lavender soap, I immediately knew I was going to do Lavender + Fleur de Sel Cookies.

I decided originally to make Lavender Caramel Fleur de Sel Cookies first.  I got The Flavor Bible for Christmas, and according to the panel of experts, caramel is not noted as a flavor pairing for lavender.  But both caramel and lavender pair with fleur de sel, so I figured it was worth a try. 

I thought it would be a fun challenge to break the dough in half and do a second flavor:  Lavender White Chocolate Fleur de Sel Cookies.  This is a safer pairing.  According to The Flavor Bible, all three flavors pair with each other. 

I like having the book as a guide, but I don’t think I can grow in my cooking if I don’t push the boundaries a little.

 

Total Time:  2 hours 11

Makes: 24-28 cookies (12-14 of each)

Difficulty Level:  Easy

 

Ingredients

3.5 ounces Werther’s soft caramels (about 16 candies)

3.5 ounces premium white chocolate baking bar (about 7 squares)

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ tablespoon ground dried lavender

2/3 cup melted unsalted butter, slightly cooled

1 ¼ cup white sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon Fleur de sel

 

Directions

  1. Unwrap and chop the soft caramels into thirds. Keep in the freezer until ready to use.
  2. Chop up the white chocolate into sizes about the same as the caramel. Keep chilled until ready to use.
  3. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the ground dried lavender, and set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, add the cooled melted butter. Add the sugar.  Use an electric hand mixer on medium speed to mix the ingredients until fully incorporated.
  5. Add the egg and vanilla extract to the butter and sugar mixture. Mix together with the hand mixture.
  6. Add one third of the flour mixture at a time to the wet ingredients, mixing in between each addition until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.
  7. Divide the dough in half and put in 2 separate bowls.
  8. Add the caramels to one half of the dough. Use the rubber spatula and/or your hands to work quickly folding the caramels into the dough.
  9. Add the white chocolate to the other half of the dough. Use the rubber spatula and/or your hand to work quickly folding the white chocolate into the dough.
  10. Cover each dough, and chill for at least one hour.
  11. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  12. Line a half sheet with a silicone baking sheet. Form the cookies into balls and put on the baking sheet.
  13. Spray the bottom of a drinking glass with non-stick spray, and use it to slightly flatten the cookies.
  14. Sprinkle the cookies with fleur de sel. Gently pat the fleur de sel crystals into the cookies.
  15. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes.
  16. Remove from the oven, and let cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet before using a spatula to let them finish cooling on a metal rack.
  17. Let the cookies cool completely before serving.

(adapted from Lavender, Honey, and Lemon Cookies)

 


Thai Eggplant + Basil Chicken Curry

Thai Eggplant + Basil Chicken Curry

Last January, I decided to go outside my comfort zone of cooking.  I had never cooked anything African, Asian, or Middle Eastern.  The recipe I found is one I’ve now cooked many times:  African Peanut Soup.  I never realized how simple it was.  In college, I took a few cooking classes, and I remember making a hand-ground Moroccan spice blend.  Maybe I just associated those flavors with being very specialized, expensive to accumulate, and labor intensive.  But really, you can get lots of exciting spice blends for these kinds of cooking just like you can get Italian seasoning or taco seasoning.  I’ve incorporated these new flavors into my pantry, so I can make a curry or an authentic African stew at a moment’s notice. (I realize this is not important to everyone.)

For this curry, I used Red Curry with Chicken and Chickpeas as a guideline.  When you use coconut milk for curries, don’t use the kind in a carton (aka the kind you use as a milk substitute).  Use canned coconut milk.  I like to sauté the onion and garlic, but not the bell peppers or eggplant.  The reason is that I don’t want the peppers or eggplant to get overly soft, so I add them just right before the coconut milk and curry paste.  This is the brand of coconut milk I use, and this is the curry paste.

This recipe goes over Perfectly Cooked Brown Rice, but you could also serve it over Perfectly Cooked Quinoa.  I also did an adaptation of Basic Baked Chicken for this recipe.  The adaptation is for bone-in, skin-on breasts, and you can find it here.

Total Time:  90 minutesimg_5803

Serves: 8

Difficulty Level:  Easy

Ingredients

Vegetable oil

½ onion, diced small

2 cloves of fresh garlic, minced

1 yellow bell pepper, diced small

1 green bell pepper, diced small

½ medium eggplant, diced small (about 2 cups)

Small Diced Basic Baked Chicken, 3 bone-in breasts (use recipe adaption)

1 4-ounce jar of green curry paste

3 cans light coconut milk

2 recipes of Perfectly Cooked Brown Rice

Lime wedges

Torn basil

Directions

  1. Add a few tablespoons of vegetable oil to a large pot over medium heat.
  2. As the oil heats up, add the onion, and sauté until translucent, about 6 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic, and saute for another 1-2 minutes.
  4. Take the pot off the heat. Add the yellow and green bell peppers, eggplant, diced chicken, curry paste, and coconut milk.
  5. Return to heat. Bring the curry up to a rapid simmer (medium high heat).
  6. Let the curry cook for about 30 minutes. (**see note)
  7. Serve the curry hot over Perfectly Cooked Brown Rice. Squeeze fresh lime juice over, and sprinkle with freshly torn basil.

**Note:  You can either serve it now over rice.  Or you can turn it down to low, cover, and keep warm until ready to serve.


Bucatini Aglio e Olio + Salt Cured Egg Yolks

Bucatini Aglio e Olio + Salt Cured Egg Yolks

This recipe is all about showcasing individual flavors and really simple ingredients.  In the question of which came first, the bucatini or the egg?  The egg came first.  I found a recipe (or science project?) for salt cured egg yolks and was fascinated.  It takes a long time to make the egg yolks, but it’s almost all hands-off.  These kind of cooking experiments make me feel like a mad scientist.

When you want to showcase a new flavor like the egg yolks, I think it’s best to serve it over something really simple.  Bucatini is my favorite pasta shape, and since I always have a stockpile of boxes, it was a good excuse to cook it.

Aglio e Olio just means “garlic and olive oil.”  You can taste each individual flavor of this dish.  It feels very earthy and very authentic– good ingredients, good flavors.

Making the eggs was a pretty cool experiment.  The salt slowly draws out all the moisture, so when you remove the yolks on the 4th day, the salt has taken on a strange new consistency.  You need to try this.

 

Bucatini Aglio e Olio

 

Total Time:  under 30 minutes

Serves:  4

Difficulty Level:  Easy

 

Ingredients

½ pound of bucatini

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 large cloves of garlic (or 4 small), thinly sliced

2/3 cup freshly grated Asiago cheese

½ cup freshly chopped parsley

Freshly cracked pepper

Freshly grated salt cured egg yolks (technique follows)

 

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rapid boil.
  2. Add the bucatini, and cook until al dente, about 9-10 minutes.
  3. Drain the pasta, and set aside.
  4. Put the empty pot back on the stove, and add the olive oil.
  5. When you can smell the olive oil, add the sliced garlic. Cook on medium heat for 1-2 minutes.  Watch closely so it doesn’t burn.
  6. Remove from heat, and add the pasta, asiago cheese, parsley, and cracked pepper.
  7. Use tongs to toss the pasta together.
  8. Top with freshly grated cured egg yolks.

 

 

Cured Egg Yolks

(method found at Bon Appetit)

 

Total Time: 4 days plus 3 hours

Makes:  8 egg yolks

Difficulty Level:  Easy (patience level must be high)

 

Ingredients2

3 ½ cups kosher salt

2 ½ cups white sugar

8 extra large egg yolks

Nonstick cooking spray

 

Directions

  1. In a large mixing bowl, toss together the kosher salt and white sugar until thoroughly combined.
  2. Pour the mixture evenly into a 9×13 casserole dish (I used a large clear Pyrex).
  3. Create 8 yolk-sized divots in the salt/sugar mixture.
  4. Separate the eggs (you could save the whites for this or this).
  5. Very carefully place each yolk into its own divot.
  6. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and keep refrigerated for 4 days.
  7. Preheat your oven to the lowest temperature possible (mine is 170 degrees Fahrenheit).
  8. Place a baking rack on a half sheet pan.
  9. Spray the baking rack thoroughly with nonstick spray.
  10. As you remove the egg yolks from the salt/sugar, gently dust as much off as you can.
  11. Place each yolk on the rack.
  12. Cook the cured egg yolks on the lowest temperature for 1 ½ to 2 hours.
  13. Remove from the oven, and let them come to room temperature.
  14. Store in the refrigerator for up to one month.

 

 


Smoky Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Smoky Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I first got this idea back in the fall when I was brainstorming interesting cookie flavors.  I had heard of putting a little cayenne into cookies, and then I thought it would be cute to call them Chocolate Chocolate Chip-otle cookies.  Right?  I ended up keeping the idea, but cutesy names are so not me.

It turns out I am not the first person to think of chocolate chipotle cookies.  I found a base here, just to see how much chipotle powder to use per amount of cookies.  Other than that, this is a completely original recipe.  The amount of chipotle powder in here is perfect.  If you know it’s there, you can definitely pick it out, but it’s very subtle and not hot at all, just smoky.  If you don’t know it’s there, it will just taste unbelievably rich, and you won’t be able to pinpoint why!  I want to do another version with a little cayenne and/or cinnamon, too.  Just a little background spice to excite the senses.

I have learned a lot about cookies so far.  First, I always like to use melted butter because it makes a chewier cookie.  Second, I always give my dough a good chill (at least an hour, but up to overnight is better).  Chilling the dough keeps the cookies from spreading.  Third, I decided to never measure vanilla extract because it always tastes good, and it’s easy to estimate.  However, I don’t ever estimate anything else when I’m baking. 

Also, the tip I learned from Ina Garten and always do when I’m baking anything is to sift the dry ingredients.  It really helps to keep lumps from forming.  It’s especially helpful when you’re using cocoa powder because it tends to clump a lot. 

Total Time:  2 hours (but a longer chill is better)

Yield:  24 cookies

Difficulty Level:  Easy

Ingredients16252325_423637034641605_6694498653982159762_o.jpg

1 stick unsalted butter (1/2 cup)

1 ¾ cup flour

½ cup cocoa powder

¾ teaspoon chipotle powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup brown sugar

½ cup white sugar

2 room temperature eggs

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

2/3 cup plus a handful of dark chocolate chunks

Red sugar sprinkles (optional)

Directions

  1. Put the butter in a microwave safe bowl, and cover loosely. Microwave until melted in 30 second increments (it should take about 1 minutes).  Remove from the microwave and let it come to room temperature.
  2. Meanwhile, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, chipotle powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Once the butter has come to room temperature, add the brown sugar and white sugar. Use an electric hand mixer to mix the butter and sugar together.
  4. Add and mix one egg at a time to the butter and sugar mixture.
  5. Add the vanilla, and finish mixing.
  6. Working in thirds, add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. In between each addition mix to fully incorporate.
  7. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides.
  8. Fold in the chocolate chunks.
  9. Refrigerate dough for at least one hour.
  10. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  11. Remove the dough from the fridge, and roll into one inch balls.
  12. Gently flatten the balls with your hands, and press a few extra chocolate chunks into the top. Sprinkle a few red sugar sprinkles into each cookie.
  13. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes, or until the edges look a little crispy. Refrigerate the extra dough in between batches.
  14. Let the cookies cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.
  15. Allow cookies to cool completely before eating.
  16. Store in an airtight container.