Sunday, February 26, 2012

Szechuan Green Beans



These green beans are DIVINE.  The longer you cook them the better....Charlie said these were the highlight of the meal.  And he hates vegetables!  Hope you guys decide to make these :)


SZECHUAN GREEN BEANS


INGREDIENTS
1 lb fresh green beans; trimmed, and cut into small pieces
a dash of salt
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
a dash of sesame oil
2 tsp honey
1/4-1/2 tsp hot chili flakes, depending on how much spice you want (I only added a pinch)
1 Tbsp olive oil
a pinch of sesame seeds

DIRECTIONS 
Mix together soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey, sesame oil, olive oil, and chili flakes. Boil water in a large pot and add beans and salt. Cover and cook, stirring once, until beans are bright green and still sorta crunchy, 8 or 9 minutes. Drain and rinse beans in cold water. Stir soy sauce mixture and add to pan, bring to a boil, and add the beans until cooked through.

Hope y'all enjoy!

xoxo, Sara

Chicken in Orange Sauce



Whew, life has been busy!!  About a week ago, I successfully helped plan a retreat and concert for the youth orchestra I manage....man that was quite the organizational feat!  But everyone seemed to have a really good time, which definitely put a smile on my face.

The week after, I started rehearsals for the CU Symphony, and we played Pictures at an Exhibition!  Man, I really miss orchestra playing....sometimes I wish I was less busy so I had time to practice 5 hours a day and get that orchestra job I've dreamed of ever since I was a little girl.

Anyway, so these past couple of weeks, my personal life has taken a toll as well.  Charlie got a new job, which is SO great, but instead of waking up as late as we want to, his job starts at 8 am....icck.  I started making him dinner around 1 pm, so he could eat dinner a little early, while I'm at work.  The first dinner I made for him follows this blurb: Chicken in Orange Sauce and Szechuan Green Beans.

The chicken in orange sauce was okay....pretty darn good and flavorful, but I prefer the orange flavor in my pork recipe (which I will have to post later!).  The green beans were quite exceptional---it even passed Charlie's stamp of approval!  Hope you guys decide to make these!  It took about 2 hours to make both of these.


CHICKEN IN ORANGE SAUCE

INGREDIENTS  
6 chicken thighs
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, sliced finely
2 oranges, rind pieces and juice
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock (optional)
2 tablespoons honey
salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS 
Season the chicken with salt and pepper, and set aside.  In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil and fry the chicken pieces until golden. Remove the chicken and set aside.  In the same pan fry the onions over medium heat until translucent, and add the chicken back into the pan.  Add the white wine into the pan and reduce until you have half the liquid.  Add the orange juice and simmer until the chicken is cooked and tender, around 20 minutes; add chicken stock if necessary.  Add the orange rind and honey and simmer a little longer until the sauce thickens.  Serve warm.

Hope y'all enjoy!

xoxo, Sara

Friday, February 3, 2012

Mint Triple Chocolate Cookies



Today was such a GREAT day.  Woke up late, made my boyfriend a delicious breakfast, and went to visit his friends Trey and Allie at their farm.  They have wonderful land out there....about 30 horses, 10 tractors, lakes to go fishing.  It was fun to spend the afternoon with them, remembering how truly simple life can be.  With my hectic life, it's nice to have a day off and to just have one simple day out of the whole week :)

After that, we had our great friend Lloyd come over and hang out for a bit, so I decided to bake some cookies for the boys: Mint Triple Chocolate cookies.  They are pretty unbelievable and rich....goes great with a cold glass of milk!  The cookies turned out to be HUGE, so I'd recommend making 12 of them, or if you want to just fit them all on one cookie sheet to save some dishes, cut them in half like I did.

These cookies are INCREDIBLE, and literally took 45 minutes-1 hour for the entire thing: assembly and baking time.  I hope you guys decide to make these!



MINT TRIPLE CHOCOLATE COOKIES
INGREDIENTS

3 Tbsp unsalted butter
8 oz dark chocolate, roughly chopped
1 large egg
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup  granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract  
1/4 cup cake flour
2 Tbsp Dutch-processed cocoa
1/2 tsp espresso powder (I used ground coffee and turned out just fine!)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda


DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 350°F and sift and whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.  Chop dark chocolate into small bits, and melt with butter over medium heat in a heat-proof bowl or the top of a double boiler set over a pan of simmering water; set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, mix the egg, with sugars and vanilla.  Pour in the chocolate mixture, beating on slow speed until well combined.  Stir in the dry ingredients in 3 additions, mixing well after each addition.


Arrange 12 equal amounts of cookie dough on two nonstick cookie sheets. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the tops of the cookies start to crack.  Serve warm with a cold glass of milk.

Hope y'all enjoy!


xoxo, Sara

Egg Florentine Casserole



This is seriously one of my FAVORITE breakfast/brunch items to make.  It had been a busy week, and it was my day off today....I figured I'd make this delicious casserole for my sweetheart this morning :)  Eggs, sausage, peppers, potatoes, and onions....where could you go wrong?

Just trust me on this: if you make this for someone, they will love you forever, and beg you to make it again.  Trust me.


EGG FLORENTINE CASSEROLE

INGREDIENTS
2-3 medium potatoes, julienned
1 package (16 oz) breakfast sausage
1/2 c. red and green peppers, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
6 eggs
handful of spinach, thinly sliced (I just used spinach leaves and it was fine; whatever you prefer!)
1/2 bag cheddar cheese
olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Grease an 8" x 8" casserole dish with butter and set aside.  In a medium bowl, beat eggs and add cheese and spinach, making sure to fully coat.

Heat butter and some olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, and add julienned potatoes, season with salt/pepper, and cook until browned and crispy. Spread evenly on the bottom of the casserole dish.

In the same skillet over medium heat, add onions and peppers. Season with salt/pepper and cook until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Pour evenly over potatoes. 

In the same skillet once again, crumble breakfast sausage into small pieces and cook until browned. Spread evenly over top of the vegetables in the casserole dish. Pour the egg mixture on top of the sausage, making sure to coat all the sausage.

Bake in preheated oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, until eggs are set. Remove from oven and cool 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
 

Hope y'all enjoy!

xoxo, Sara   

Cheddar Bacon Biscuits



These biscuits are unbelievable!  Cheddar biscuits are pretty amazing, but when you add bacon, it's just explosive!!!  Make sure not to over-bake these---I did for the first batch, and they're really not edible if you do that.  If you do bake these the correct amount, they're a great starch side dish for a delicious meal :)



CHEDDAR BACON BISCUITS

INGREDIENTS
2 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1-1/2 tsp salt
12 Tbsp unsalted butter, cold and chopped
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1 cup grated Cheddar cheese
6 pieces bacon, cooked and crumbled
2-4 scallions, green parts only, thinly chopped

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 425º F, and whisk dry ingredients together. Cut butter into mixture until you have a meal with lumps about the size of small peas.

Beat buttermilk and egg, and add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture until just combined.  Lightly coat cheddar with dusting of flour and add to dough along with crumbled bacon and scallions until just distributed.


Dump out onto a well-floured board and knead 6-8 times. Press dough flat and cut with biscuit cutter. Transfer to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and bake for 18-20 minutes, until the tops are lightly browned.  Serve hot.

Hope y'all enjoy!

xoxo, Sara

Italian Sausage Soup



Okay, so funny story about this soup.  I planned on making this about 2 months ago, near the start of my relationship with Charlie.  I made the soup before work, and told Charlie that I all I needed him to do was to let the soup simmer for a bit, and to watch it every now and then until I got home.  At about 5:30 pm, Charlie facebook messaged me:

Charlie: "Sara....I think I messed up your soup."
Sara: "Oh no sweetie, I'm sure you didn't do anything wrong!"  Charlie: "....no really.  I messed it up."

So, I got home, greeted him with a kiss, and noticed the whole house was clean and there were flowers waiting for me.  I thought it was SO sweet....and then I noticed the soup.  I opened the pot, and the soup was MUSH.  Like, I picked up some soup with a big spoon and it plopped.  I stopped for a second, looked at the soup, and looked at Charlie, who had the most sorrowful look on his face, and I just burst out laughing.  He started laughing too, and I was like, "Well....hm.  Sushi?"

Needless to say, we didn't have the soup that night, but I made the soup a second time when our friend Lloyd was over to help us move around some stuff around the house.  The soup was absolutely delicious....very hearty and delicious!  A word of advice though....DEFINITELY only put half a box of macaroni in the soup.  Just trust me on that one.  Other than that, it's absolutely delicious, and gets the Charlie stamp of approval!


ITALIAN SAUSAGE SOUP WITH MACARONI, TOMATO, AND BASIL

INGREDIENTS
8 cups chicken stock or broth
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp ground fennel
2 cans diced tomatoes with juice
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp. olive oil 
5 links hot or sweet Italian sausage
1 onion, diced
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 cup macaroni
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving 

DIRECTIONS
Heat chicken stock or broth, and add the dried basil, ground fennel, and diced tomatoes with juice. Let the mixture simmer while you cook the sausage.

Heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a heavy frying pan.  Squeeze the sausage out of  casings and cook until nicely browned, breaking apart with a metal turner as the sausage cooks.  Add browned sausage to the soup pot.

Add the other tsp. of olive oil to the frying pan if needed, then saute the onions for 3-4 minutes, until softened.  Add the minced garlic and cook 1-2 minutes more.  Add the onion and garlic to the soup pot.  Let this simmer on low heat for 15-20 minutes.

Add the macaroni, stir, and continue to simmer the soup for 15-20 minutes more, or until the macaroni is soft.  Stir in the chopped fresh or frozen basil and cook 5 minutes more.  Serve hot, with freshly grated Parmesan cheese if desired.


Hope y'all enjoy!

xoxo, Sara

Garlic Bread



This is a GREAT recipe for garlic bread....it reminded me of one of my all-time restaurants as a kid, Dom's Italian Restaurant.  We would go there for special occasions, and every time I would order Tortellini with Marinara sauce.  Dom's would make these amazing breadsticks---crunchy, pieces of fresh garlic and butter on top :)

It does take a bit of time to make, because the garlic takes a while to prepare well....definitely leave a substantial amount of time in advance for the bread.  I also over-baked the bread a little bit, so I'd recommend baking it closer to 3-5 minutes.  But trust me, it will be well worth all of this!




GARLIC BREAD

INGREDIENTS
10 cloves garlic with skins left on
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp parsley
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 loaf Italian bread, halved lengthwise (I just sliced the bread, but whatever you prefer)

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 500º F.  In a small ungreased skillet over medium heat, toast the skin on garlic until blotched and browned in spots, about 15 minutes.  When cool enough to handle, skin and mince the garlic.  Using a dinner fork, mash together the toasted and raw garlic with the butter, olive oil, cheese, herbs, and salt in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined.

Evenly spread the garlic butter mixture on the cut sides of the each bread half.  Transfer loaf halves, buttered side up, to a baking sheet. Bake, reversing position of baking sheet halfway through baking time, until the surface of the bread is golden brown and toasted, about 8-10 minutes. Cut each half into 2-inch slices.  Serve warm.
 
Hope y'all enjoy!
xoxo, Sara

Baked Broccoli with Garlic and Parmesan Cheese



This dish turned out wonderfully....I ended up baking mine a little too long, so I'd recommend baking the broccoli closer to 20-25 minutes.  It's a wonderful side vegetable dish to pair with any hearty meal!




BAKED BROCCOLI WITH GARLIC AND PARMESAN CHEESE
INGREDIENTS
4 lbs broccoli
7 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
4 cloves of garlic, diced
1 bag Parmesan cheese
lemon juice from 1 lemon

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 450ºF, and cut the broccoli into florets.  Make sure the broccoli pieces are fairly large and are well dried off.  Put the broccoli in a large bowl and toss with 5 tablespoons of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Add 4 garlic cloves and line a baking sheet with tin foil.  Spread the florets evenly across the pan and roast for 20-35 minutes. Take the pan out of the oven and zest a lemon over the broccoli, squeeze a bit of lemon juice over the broccoli, add 2 Tbsp more olive oil, and sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top.  Serve warm.


Hope y'all enjoy!


xoxo, Sara

Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo Penne


Hey everyone!

What a busy couple of weeks it's been.....I played again with the CU Symphony and we played Mahler 1, Saint-Saens Violin Concerto, and Corigliano's Gazebo Dances.  A pretty incredible program....man, I do love playing in an orchestra, and hopefully someday I can do it professionally someday!  

Work has definitely been kicking my ass, and I've barely had time to rest!  But Charlie has definitely been helpful in keeping me sane, and he's just such an amazing person to be around.  He even gets me to clean the house on a regular basis, no matter how busy it gets!  How crazy!  :P

So, to thank him for his wonderful attitude toward me, I made him some chicken broccoli alfredo pasta with baked parmesan broccoli and garlic bread.  Yeah.  I love him a lot.  :)  The meal really wasn't hard to make, but I'm still trying to get used to making a complete meal of 3 things, which takes more time than I'm used to.  All together, it took about 2-2.5 hours to make, but the pasta itself took VERY little time.  Trust me....you're gonna want to make this.  It makes a lot of pasta, but you WILL eat all of it.  I promise.  :P



CHICKEN AND BROCCOLI 
ALFREDO PENNE


INGREDIENTS:
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
5 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 medium shallots, minced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/3 cup white wine
1-1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
4 cups penne pasta (whole wheat)
1-1/2 cups broccoli florets
salt and ground pepper
DIRECTIONS
Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet with olive oil, add chicken, and cook 12-15 minutes turning once. Once cooked, leave to rest for 5 minutes, then slice.  Cook penne according to directions on the box.  During the last 5 minutes, add broccoli; drain in a colander.

Meanwhile, sauté shallots in butter for 4 minutes, and then add garlic. Cook another minute then add wine. Cook until wine reduces by half, for 4 or 5 minutes.  Lower burner to low heat, and add cream stirring occasionally until thickened for 3 to 4 minutes. Add cheese and stir until melted.   Add sliced chicken, broccoli and pasta to skillet. Stir until combined then season with salt and pepper.

Hope y'all enjoy!

xoxo, Sara