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Deli-Style Potatoes and Onions

29 Mar

I was watching Anne Burrell yesterday (my current favorite TV chef–food is fun, yo!)  making this very fancy-sounding French dish with sole, and she said, “This is French. French, of course, is code for ‘lots of butter.'”

As luck would have it, I’d made potatoes and onions the day before, and told my kids they were deli-style. Which is a phrase I use the same way my girl Anne uses French. Code. Butter. Salt. Decidedly not healthy. But fine for a treat every now and then.

Side note: Yes, I mean that. Every once in a great while, you should eat something that’s chock full of unhealthy, delicious ingredients. I do not mean chemicals. Don’t go using butter and sugar substitutes or fat-free this or that, because all of it’s been crammed full of crappy chemicals you can neither pronounce, define, nor guarantee aren’t eating you from the inside out while you eat it the other way ’round. Real food, boys and girls. The stuff your great-grandparents lived on back when we all moved enough to justify it.  Every so often.

These are not healthy. But I had a bag full of potatoes and a big Vidalia onion laying around, and this is one of the few side dishes my kids beg for. We, my friends, have been known to drive an hour away to get deli potatoes like this, because there’s only one restaurant we know of that does them perfectly right and it’s in Annapolis, which is a heck of a long way to go for breakfast, but you have to do what you have to do sometimes.

So. Occasional treat. Which is FINE. Two or three times a year. Without guilt.

Onward.

This is a pretty basic dish: you take potatoes and onions and you cook them up in butter and salt until they get all golden brown and delicious, and then you stuff yourself with them because they are just that good. They should definitely be on your list of 10 things to have on a deserted island. And your kids…let me tell you, your kids are going to think their real mother or father was kidnapped by aliens and replaced with an amazing chef-mom or dad, and you will not hear a peep out of them for the entire meal because they’ll be cramming these amazing ‘taters into their mouth like the world might end tomorrow, before anybody else takes what might even remotely be part of their share. These potatoes are, in a word, a miracle. The deli angels brought them to earth or something. I promise.

Ready to treat yourself? Of course you are. You need:

Potatoes. I use regular white baking potatoes, about 1/2 large or 2-3 baby per person

Onion. One large Vidalia.

Butter. Don’t even ask.

Salt to taste.

Pepper if you want it.

Bring a big pot of water to boil on the stove. While that happens, wash your potatoes and slice them into about 1/4 inch slices. Leave the skins on.

Once the water boils, dump your potatoes in and let them cook about five minutes, until you can pierce them with a fork easily but before they soften up and fall apart completely. Drain them really well–you don’t want any water in the next steps.

While the potatoes boil, heat a large skillet over medium until it’s really good and hot–a too-cool pan will steam your potatoes, which is not at all what we want here. Cut your onion in half through the stem, and then cut each half-onion into slices across their grains (you should end up with half-circle slices). Plop about two tablespoons of butter in your hot pan, use your fingers to separate those half-circles into onion strips, and cook them until they start to soften, adding a pinch or two of salt.

Once your potatoes drain, mix them up with the onions in the pan. Here’s where this gets a little odd, but trust me: To get them golden crunchy brown, you want to smoosh them down onto the pan. To do that, carefully lay a dinner plate on top of the potatoes and onions, and weight it down with a big can of tomatoes or something from your pantry–don’t use a plate that touches the sides of the pan, or it’ll crack. Yours should look like this:

Every three or four minutes, use an oven mitt to remove your can and plate (the plate will be hot!), give the veggies a stir, and put everything back together. If the pan gets dry, add more butter.

When the potatoes look crunchy brown and yummy, it’s time to eat and soak up the accolades. Once in awhile. Which is fine.

DIY Brownie Bites

12 Mar

Those boxes of pre-packaged mini-muffins and mini-brownies torture me in the grocery store. It’s not because I want them (at all), but because my kids do. They see friends snarfing them down at lunchtime and it’s all “Mom, please!” and “I’ll never ask for anything ever again,” and “You can have some too!”

Bleh.

You can’t explain (well, you can, but it won’t matter) to a 10 year old that those packages only loosely fit into the category of “food.” The kids don’t care that almost nothing on the ingredient labels of those things is found on the shelf of any grocery store, and they also don’t care that four or five mini-muffins is more than any one child needs at any one sitting. You can explain all of this, but it won’t help. They still want them. They’re fun! And cool! And yummy!

Ick.

Know what helps? Taking 10 minutes to throw together your own mini-snacks out of real ingredients that you can identify and control, and then dividing them up into reasonable portions and tossing them into your freezer for later lunchbox distribution. It helps even more if you involve your kids in making the goodies, because everything tastes better when you had a hand in it, yes?

We talked about this awhile ago, and I shared my DIY Little Bites recipe with you (it’s still a hit around here). Yesterday, my daughter donned her pink apron and her chef’s hat and her oven mitt, and we spent those 10 minutes making bite-sized brownies to bag and freeze and put into lunchboxes today in pairs, which are far more reasonable than the portion size in the boxes of the factory-made bites.

This is my favorite brownie recipe (note: if you’re making brownies from a mix, please go read the labels. Recognize all of what’s there? Any of what’s there? Right. This seriously takes seconds to throw together.) with a little baking powder thrown in; that helps lighten these and make them rise just a touch, so they look like the commercially-produced brownie bites. They taste better, though, and they’re not full of dexty-hywhatsis or poly-bythingies. Simple, pure ingredients. Sweet.

Don’t skip the paper muffin liners on these. I tried it. It wasn’t pretty. Just a hint. 🙂

DD and I had a ball making these and they’re happy in my freezer and a welcome, much more reasonable treat than the stuff my kids used to beg for at the Giant. To make them, you need:

6 tbsp butter

2 squares (1 oz each) unsweetened baking chocolate

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

2/3 cup flour

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp baking powder

Heat your oven to 350 degrees and line a mini-muffin tin with paper liners.

Chop your chocolate (roughly) and cut your butter into tablespoons. Put those into a microwave-safe mixing bowl and nuke it for one minute. Take it out and stir it for a minute to melt the rest of the chocolate; if it doesn’t melt after stirring, nuke it again in 15-second increments, stirring well after each (over-nuking scorches chocolate. That’s gross.). If you don’t have a microwave, you can melt them together in the bowl set on top of a pan filled with water on the stove.

Once the chocolate is melted into the butter, stir in the sugar. Then, stir in the vanilla and eggs. Finally, stir in everything else. Drop by tablespoons into your mini-muffin tins and bake for about 12 minutes, or until done. Let cool.

I put mine into snack-sized bags, two in each bag, and then put all of those bags into a freezer bag and popped the whole mess into the cold box. In the morning, I pull out however many bags I want and put them into lunchboxes; they thaw in about 15 minutes.

Cinnamon-Kissed Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes

9 Mar

How’s that for a title?

This came about because of the two browning bananas in my refrigerator and my (temporary) disinterest in banana bread. And a school holiday when we slept late and craved something a bit more substantial than the normal racing-out-the-door, five minutes at the kitchen island breakfast. I wanted banana pancakes, but most recipes were pretty much normal pancake batter with slices of fruit added on the griddle. Which wasn’t what I wanted at all; I wanted pancakes that tasted like banana all the way through.

I doctored up this recipe that seems to be all over the internets, and it is delicious. Be sure you cook them all the way through–they take a few extra minutes more than plain pancakes. Also, be sure to mash up your banana really well. I used my handy-dandy potato masher to squish them up with the butter, egg, and milk in a bowl, and then a whisk to finish the job. You could use an electric mixer or a blender, too.

This recipe made eight pancakes. We ate four and popped the leftovers in the freezer for another morning (hot breakfast without the mess tomorrow–score!). They are quite banana-ey, so you won’t need much syrup at all (less sugar–another score!). And despite my children screwing up their noses at the thought of fruit inside their flapjacks, they loved the final result and scarfed down their meal in no time flat. Sweet.

These are super easy. You need:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tbsp sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 egg

1 cup milk

2 tbsp melted butter

2 brown bananas

Chocolate chips

Preheat your griddle over medium heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together your dry ingredients (up to and including cinnamon).

In another bowl, mash together your wet stuff (everything else except chocolate chips) until it’s well combined and only a few banana lumps remain.

Dump the wet stuff into the dry stuff and gently stir together until it’s combined. If it’s not pourable, add more milk or some water in small doses until it is. Gently pour onto your griddle and cook the bottom side until it browns (about two minutes on my griddle, but keep checking on yours). When that happens, sprinkle chocolate chips on the tops of the raw sides, flip them, and cook until done.

I’ve Got A Secret Salmon Burgers

22 Feb

Listen, gang. I’m going to share this with you because it really is just too good to keep to myself, but you cannot, under any circumstances, tell my kids what I’m about to say. Ever. That includes you, Mom.

Agreed?

Awesome, then.

For loads of us, today starts six weeks of avoiding meat on certain days. And while options are certainly way better than when I was a kid (fried fish? or pizza? which would you like?), it can still be a challenge, particularly when our kids are fixated on chicken and beef for dinner. Sure, you can bring out the pasta and the olive oil and garlic or the tomato sauce, and you can chuck some shrimp in there, but sometimes you need a meat-and-potatoes feeling dinner even when there’s no meat involved.

Enter the salmon burger. It’s hearty, it sits on a potato roll so you can eat with your hands, it feels all manly and stuff, and it’s darned healthy most of the time (check your labels! some of those salmon burgers in the freezer section are terrifying!). It’s also one of those things that’s easier to make from scratch than hassling with pre-made and frozen. And these, my lovelies, have a secret that makes them both more delicious and way healthier.

Are you ready? Because this is the part where you read in silence. Ixnay on the aringshay with the ildrenchay, capice?

The secret is this: You know how we use breadcrumbs as filler/binder in hamburgers and meatloaf and those sorts of things? These yummy meatless burgers use oats.

HA! Whole grains and fiber goodness that makes the outside of these deliciously crunchy like a “real” burger, and your kids will never suspect a thing. Eat your heart out, Jessica Seinfeld. We real-world moms have this one covered.

You’re going to use quick-cooking oats for these burgers. Don’t have those? Give regular oats a whirl in your blender or food processor to break ’em up–same difference. Mix them up in a bowl with your salmon and your egg and all the other yummies in this recipe, gently put ’em in a hot (HOT!) pan with a little olive oil, and you’ll have a meatless meal your kids and your pediatrician will love. Rock on with your bad grain-hiding self.

You’re going to start with cooked salmon, either canned (oh stop it–it’s totally fine if you read your labels) or a filet or two that you’ve cooked (any old way) and flaked up. This does two things: it makes the burger assembly easier and it ensures nobody gets any tummy nasties in the very small chance your burgers don’t cook all the way through to a specified high temperature. The rest of this is super easy.

I give you salmon burgers with a secret. Don’t go telling on me and ruin them, OK? You need:

Salmon, either a 14.75 oz can (look near the tuna at your grocery store) or a filet or two, cooked and flaked up.

1/2 cup quick-cooking oats

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped (or 1 tbsp dried)

The juice of half a lemon

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat until it’s screaming hot.

In a bowl, gently stir together everything up to and including salt and pepper, flaking up the salmon as you go, until everything is looking all combined and burgery. Take a small handful of the mixture and squeeze it together–if it doesn’t hold in a ball, add a tablespoon or so of olive oil to the mix. Using your hands, form the mixture into burger patties, making sure they’re flat in the middle and that you’ve squeezed them enough that they’ll hold together.

Pop them into the fridge for a few minutes. This’ll help them hold together on the stovetop.

Once your pan is super hot, coat the bottom of it with oil. You’re not deep frying–you just want enough to stop the patties from sticking. Gently lay your burgers in the pan, giving them a little room to groove (I cooked mine in two batches). Cook them for about three minutes, gently lifting one up after that to see if it’s browning.

Once it’s brown on the cooked side, carefully flip your burgers over and let them go until they’re crunchy on both sides. Serve–we liked ours on potato rolls, but you have them however you’d like.

 

Peanut Butter-Free Blossom Cookies

13 Feb

Y’all have seen the idea on Pinterest by now: You take a peanut butter blossom cookie recipe and make it with a heart-shaped Dove chocolate for Valentine’s Day. Cute, cute, cute.

Here’s the thing, though: peanut allergies are rampant, and if you want to send these little cuties in as a surprise in your kids’ lunchboxes, as I do, they can’t rightly have peanut butter in them. At least, I won’t send them that way. I know too many kids and one of my favorite people on earth who have nut allergies, and couldn’t live with myself if a cookie put them in harm’s way.

So today, I made up a batch of sugar cookie dough. Any one will do–choose your favorite. Only instead of rolling them out to cut with cookie cutters, use your palms to roll them into balls, with about a tablespoon of dough in each ball. Don’t squeeze them, or you’ll melt the butter inside and they’ll spread in the oven. You want a gentle roll. No heat.

Bake your dough balls as directed in your sugar cookie recipe. When they come out of the oven, gently press a Dove heart (or a Hershey Kiss) into the center of each cookie, and let them cool. My Dove hearts liquified (they held their heart shape, but they got soft and gooey), so I stuck them in the fridge after a few minutes to harden back up. And I have a perfect, nut-free treat to send in with my loves for lunch tomorrow (including the one I married–nobody tell!).

Happy, save, Valentine’s Day, gang!!

Fluke (Oven Baked Salmon Sticks)

26 Jan

DH and I both had big lunches yesterday (and mine was delicious!) and didn’t need real dinners last night. I also didn’t really feel like cooking and cleaning up. The kids, though, were hungry, and my healthier eating resolution is still sticking (except for lunch–shaddup, I know).

What to do, what to do?

I mentally ticked off everything that might make dinner that was in my freezer: chicken, ground beef, rockfish, salmon. Aside: the friend I had lunch with and I had a great conversation about that in the car, and it’s so true. Having the basic stuff of meals in the cold box makes life so much easier when it comes to home-cooked, healthy meals. It’s so worth the time to figure out your family’s six or seven staple meals that are simple to put together, and make sure you have those basic ingredients in your pantry and freezer. Lifesaving.

Anyway. Salmon. Salmon is good–it’s full of omega-3s and is super easy to cook, and everybody likes it. So I pulled out two filets, defrosted them in a bowl of water in my sink, and cut them (along the grain) into fish sticks. I whipped two eggs together in a bowl with a fork, and put a handful of Panko in another bowl. Each salmon stick got dunked in the egg, rolled in the Panko, and placed on a foil-lined, olive-oil sprayed baking sheet. They then got a sprinkle of No-Salt and about 10 minutes in the oven at 400 degrees.

As it happens, DH wandered into the kitchen as the kids sat down to eat. “Those look interesting,” he said. “Kind of like tempura.” So I broke a hunk off of one and handed it to him, just so he’d see he wasn’t missing a gourmet meal. Guess what he said then.

“This is the best salmon you’ve ever made.”

Are

You

Serious??

Y’all those little goofy salmon sticks took me five minutes to put together. Cleanup was throwing four bowls in the dishwasher and a hunk of  foil into the recycling bin. And if I’d known he was gonna eat them, I’d have tossed some lemon pepper in with the Panko. I mean, I didn’t even take a picture because I had no intention of telling you guys about them–they were that thrown together in a moment of “must put something on the table.”

Best salmon ever. Total fluke. Go figure.

My Favorite Cinnamon Bread

24 Jan

You’re thinking I said cinnamon raisin bread. But I didn’t. Raisins, as far as I’m concerned, have no business in baked goods, and especially have no business in something as perfect as this amazing, comforting, perfect loaf of yumminess.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, this was a recipe from the old standard Better Homes & Gardens New Cook Book that I’ve doctored up. And the doctoring has led to a slightly sweeter, slightly crunchier cinnamon bread that’s reminiscent of a cinnamon roll. Yummy for a snack, divine for breakfast, and y’all, this stuff makes some seriously kick butt French toast.

You should go make some. Right now. Before your kids get home from school, so you can enjoy the first amazing slice all by yourself. And I’m going to stop talking just so you can. You need:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast

2/3 cup milk

1 1/2 tbsp sugar

3 tbsp butter

1 tbsp light brown sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

1 egg

Another 1/4 cup brown sugar

Another 1 tsp cinnamon

Measure your milk into a Pyrex cup or microwaveable bowl. Add the regular sugar and the butter and nuke it for about a minute, until it’s warmer than body temperature but not hot.

While that’s nuking up, pour your flour, yeast, egg, brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon into your bread machine (or into the bowl of your mixer). Add the warm milk mixture and either set your bread machine for the dough cycle and walk away, or gently mix everything together, knead it with your hands or a dough hook for five minutes, put it into a greased bowl, cover it with a clean dishtowel, and let it rise until doubled, which will be about 45 minutes.

Once your bread machine is done and/or your dough has risen, heat your oven to 375 degrees and spray a loaf pan with your nonstick goodness of choice. Punch the dough down and set it on a floured countertop, and then spread a little flour on top of it too–it’s going to be sticky. Roll it out into a rectangle about as wide as your loaf pan and maybe 18 inches long.

In a small bowl, combine your 1/4 cup of brown sugar and your teaspoon of cinnamon.

Gently brush your dough with water and spread the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture all over the top of it. It’ll be a very thin layer–do not freak out. Starting with a narrow end, tightly roll the dough up and then lay the roll in your bread pan. Cover it with a clean dishtowel, give it a half-hour to rise, and then bake it for a half-hour, until it’s done.

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