Make Your Own Pizza Night: Pear, Blue Cheese, and Caramelized Onion Flatbreads

We have “make your own pizza night” every couple of weeks at our house. It’s an easy weeknight meal that gets the whole family involved, uses up some leftovers and gives us a chance to be creative. We use all different kinds of things for crust from pre made doughs, pitas, tortillas, Naan, and pre made bread crusts. Whatever happens to be on sale or leftover from the week’s dinners can become a canvas. This weeks winner was a flat bread topped with thinly sliced pears, blue cheese, caramelized onions and fresh arugula.

Pear, Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onion Flatbread

4 flatbreads (we used round ones found in the deli section of our supermarket)

1 sweet yellow onion sliced

2 T butter

2 c mozzarella or Monterey jack cheese

3 T blue cheese crumbled (use the good stuff here)

1 large ripe pear sliced thin

2 cups arugula

1 t lemon juice

olive oil

salt and pepper

Add 2 T butter to a med sized pan, melt over med high heat, add sliced onions and cook over med low for about 30 minutes or until onions are caramelized. This is a slow and tedious process but you will be rewarded with flavor. Pre heat oven to 400 degrees. spread about 1 tsp of olive oil on each flat bread, I used a pastry brush, but a paper towel will also work. Cover the inner circle with about 1/3 c mozzarella or monterey jack cheese. Top the flatbreads with caramelized onion, pears and blue cheese. Bake in oven for about 5  minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbling. Toss arugula with 1/2 T olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Cut and serve.

Sharing a Labor of Love: Oma’s Rouladen

Some of my favorite memories of my Oma (that’s grandmother in German) are in the kitchen. She patiently (or sometimes not so patiently) taught me how to make several traditional German family favorites. I was her oldest grandchild born to her oldest son so I was chosen to carry on these traditions. I wasn’t so sure as a young girl but now I know I was the lucky one that got to spend many a weekend learning to prepare  potato salads, crumb cake, kohlrouladen, potato pancakes, and rouladen. There were no written recipes, she just knew how to do it by feel, and taught me the same way. I admit this was difficult, but it was when I was cooking with her that I really learned that cooking was more than following a recipe, it was about making something for someone, a gift to be enjoyed by family and friends, a way to show someone you love them.

I now have a love for cooking, it is a way for me to relax, a hobby that takes my mind off the ordinary and mundane. It is a way for me to give back to the people I care about. I don’t always include my children in the actual process of cooking, it is my time, but when ever I make one of my Oma’s recipes I get nostalgic and without even thinking invite my son into the kitchen with me. It is like there is something more than food with these recipes, it is a bond that must be passed on. This week when Rouladen was on the menu he joined me at my side and I realized that even though we don’t have this dish that often he already knew exactly how to make it. We didn’t even get out measuring cups, but he just looked at the ingredients we had prepared and said we are going to need more pickles and  he went straight to work chopping up some more. I smiled and knew my job was done, he is now the chosen one, I hope someday he thinks he’s lucky.

Oma’s Beef Rouladen

1 1/2 lbs of thinly sliced bottom round steak

1/4 c dijon mustard

approx 6 strips of raw bacon cut in half

1 c chopped dill pickles (use the refrigerated kind)

1 c chopped red onion

2 T butter

2 T flour

2 1/2 c  stock or water

1/4 t pepper

Place the steaks between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet until thin but not falling apart. Spread a thin layer of mustard on the steak, place 1/2 a strip of bacon on each piece of meat. Add about 1 1/2 t of chopped pickles, and 1 1/2 t chopped onion to the top of each steak. Roll meat into a bundle and secure with a small wooden skewer or a couple of toothpicks,making sure the onions and pickles will not come out.

Preheat an electric frying pan and melt the butter over med high heat. Add the rouladen and brown on both sides.

Add 1 cup chicken or beef stock or water, reduce heat to low and simmer for one hour. Remove the rouladen from pan.

Add 1 1/2 c water or stock mixed with 2 T flour to the pan, bring to a boil and then reduce heat, cook until gravy is slightly thickened, about 4 minutes.

Serve with boiled potatoes and cabbage or collard greens if you are a southerner like me.

Creamy Tomato Soup with Pesto

I don’t know what it is about Fall, but this time of year makes me go right for the comfort foods and classic combinations I grew up with. As I looked at my menu board for the week I thought this could have been one my mom had when I was a child. Last night’s dinner was grilled cheese and tomato soup. I made the soup in the crock pot so it was done and ready for whenever my family decided to make their appearance for dinner, and the bonus is you get to smell its deliciousness all day.

Creamy Tomato Soup with Pesto

1 28 oz can of peeled whole tomatoes

1 20 oz can of petite diced tomatoes

1 1/2 c vegetable stock (chicken would work too)

1 T italian seasoning

1/4 teaspoon of pepper

1 t salt

1/4 c brown sugar

1 cup chopped onion

2 cloves of garlic chopped

1 c cream

2 T butter

For Pesto

1/2 c  fresh basil

1/4 c parmesan cheese

1/4 c pine nuts

1 large clove of garlic

1/4 c olive oil

Add tomatoes, stock, Italian seasoning, pepper, salt, sugar, onion and garlic to a large slow cooker/ crock pot. turn on high and cover. Cook for one hour and then turn to low. Cook for 2-3 more hours or until tomatoes and onions have completely softened. Add cream and butter and use an immersion blender to puree. You could also use a regular blender or use a wooden spoon to mash. Place on warm until ready to serve. Taste for salt and sugar add more if desired.

Meanwhile place basil, parmesan, garlic and pine nuts into a food processor, pulse until smooth and then slowly add olive oil while processor is on until pesto is the desired consistency.

Serve soup with a drizzle of pesto over the top.

Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Nutella Glaze

 

Fall is here, time to use one of my favorite seasonal ingredients, pumpkin.

Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Nutella Glaze

1 15 oz can of pumpkin puree

1 c canola or vegetable oil

4 eggs

1 T vanilla

2/3 c water

3 c sugar

3 1/2 c flour

2 t baking soda

1 1/2 t salt

1 t cinnamon

1 t nutmeg

1/4 t cloves

1/2 t ginger

1 c chocolate chips

1/4 c Nutella spread

2 T powdered sugar

2-4 T milk

 

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a large bundt cake pan. In a large mixing bowl whisk together pumpkin, eggs, oil, water, vanilla and sugar. In a medium bowl stir together, flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Add dry ingredients to wet gradually stirring until smooth.

 

Add chocolate chips and pour into prepared bundt pan. Bake in oven for 50 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted comes out clean.

 

Let cake cool in pan. Meanwhile make Nutella glaze by whisking together Nutella, powdered sugar and milk. Add milk a tablespoon at a time until desired consistency. When cake is cool invert onto a plate or cake stand. Drizzle glaze over top and serve.

 

 

Fall Flavor: Apple Ginger Pork Roast

What is a more classic combination than pork and apples? This is an updated version of pork chop and applesauce night. It’s made in a slow cooker and has a beautiful, savory ,and delicate flavor of apples and ginger.

Apple Ginger Pork Roast

1 1/2 lb pork loin roast

2 T coarsely chopped fresh ginger

1 large onion quartered

3 large or 4 small apples peeled and sliced into 1 inch wedges (use a firm variety)

3 cloves of garlic peeled and chopped

2T soy sauce

2 C chicken broth

2 T apple cider vinegar

1/2 t ground cloves

1/2 t ground nutmeg

Add roast, apples, onions, garlic and ginger to a large crock pot / slow cooker. Add soy, chicken broth, vinegar and spices. Turn on high, cover and cook for 4 hours.

Remove Roast and slice, meat will be very tender.

Serve, I served mine on top of mashed potatoes and served the au jus and apples from the pot over the top.

Kale, Potato, and Pork Soup

Hearty, Yummy, and Easy. This is a perfect weeknight meal for fall or anytime of the year. The vinegar added at the end adds a nice flavor and brightness to the soup.

Kale, Potato, and Pork Soup

1 yellow or white onion chopped

2 large potatoes cut into bite sized chunks ( I left the skin on)

3 T olive oil

1- 1 1/2 lbs ground pork  (substitute any ground meat that you have on hand)

3 cloves garlic chopped

1/4 t  black pepper

1/4 t red pepper flakes (add more if you like it spicy)

1/2 cup chopped carrots

1 T Italian Seasoning

32 oz chicken broth

1 T balsamic vinegar

In a large heavy pot, add olive oil and heat over med high heat. Add potatoes and onion and cook for about 3 minutes, add ground meat, garlic, pepper and red pepper flakes. Cook until Meat is no longer pink. Add carrots, Italian Seasoning and chicken broth. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat. Cook for about 20 minutes or until potatoes are soft. Add balsamic vinegar and cook for 5 more minutes. Serve.

Kalamata Olive Aioli: The Paris Wife

Book Club time again, this month’s selection was The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. It tells the story of Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemmingway’s first wife. I loved it, but then of course historical fiction is my favorite genre, and Paris in the 1920’s intrigues me. It also meant the food for book club would be easy, Paris, Spain, champagne and elegant meals, there was lots to choose from. And did I mention costumes, I do love to dress up and putting together a flapper costume was great fun. The hardest part this month was narrowing my options down. I chose to go with olives as my ingredient. In chapter three, Hadley tries olives for the first time at a greek restaurant in Chicago, she says, “I suppose it’s embarrassing, but I’ve never had olives before.” Ernest replies, “That should be illegal. Here open”. and feeds her an olive which starts their romance. I made an olive plate, but also wanted to actually make something so I made a dip that I also served at my sons chip and dip graduation party.

A kalamata olive aioli, which I loosely based on the Kalamata dip served at Nordstrom’s cafe with their fries (it is delicious, try it if you ever get a chance). It is simple, elegant, and has lots of applications, it is a great dip for crunchy potato chips or raw veggies, a great spread for bread and cheese or chicken sandwiches, and would also be great on roasted vegetables or french fries.

Kalamata Olive Aioli

1 1/2 c mayo

3 cloves of garlic, or 5 cloves of roasted garlic

1/2 c pitted kalamata olives

1 T lemon juice

1/2 t lemon zest

cracked pepper

add mayo, olives, garlic and lemon juice and zest to a food processor, blend until olives are completely incorporated into the mayo.

Add pepper and stir, and serve.

Perfect Tuna Salad, My Favorite Lunch

I know this is not glamorous or creative but it is the my go to lunch that I crave. It is delicious on bread or as shown here a top salad greens.

Perfect Tuna Salad

1 can of tuna drained ( spring water or oil is fine)

1/4 c mayo

1T red wine vinegar

1 hardboiled egg chopped

1 stalk celery chopped

2 T chopped onion

1/2 t dried dill

2-3 cups salad greens

cherry tomatoes (optional)

salt and pepper

Combine tuna, mayo, vinegar, egg, celery, dill and onion in a med bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve on top of greens with tomatoes as shown or on any bread as a sandwich.

Twice Baked Cauliflower Casserole

 

Cauliflower replaces the higher carb potatoes or grits in this easy cheesy casserole.

Twice Baked Cauliflower

1 1/2 heads of Cauliflower, cut  into large pieces

1/4 c water

1/4 c cream

4 oz cream cheese

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

2 T butter

1/4 t cayenne pepper, 1/4 t salt

1/8 t black pepper

2 eggs (beaten)

6 strips of cooked bacon crumbled

Place cauliflower and water in a large pot, bring to a boil reduce heat to simmer and cover. Cook for about 7-10 minute or until cauliflower is soft. Drain Water. Add cream and butter. Using a hand held blender, puree the cauliflower until smooth. (you could mash, use a blender of food processor too)

Mix in cream cheese, cheddar, salt, cayenne and pepper. Add in eggs. Pour into a large baking pan and top with cooked bacon (omit for a vegetarian option).

 

Bake at 350 for about 30 min.

 

Lemon Curd: The Most Delicious Way to Use Up Egg Yolks.

The other day when I made dark chocolate mousse in the blender I found myself with 6 left over egg yolks, what was I going to do with that? I googled recipes and found one for lemon curd, which was funny because I also had an abundance of lemons. I went ahead and made it, it was super easy, and I was surprised at how delicious it was, I found that I wanted to put it on everything. The recipe I found was on about.com from John Mitzewhich. I will be making this again.

Classic Lemon Curd

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 4-5 lemons)
  • 2 T grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter (1 stick butter), cut into 1/8-in slices
  1. Add 1-inch of water to a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat. In a medium metal bowl whisk the egg yolks and sugar for about 2 minutes until smooth. Whisk in the lemon juice and zest until combined.
  2. Place the mixing bowl on top of saucepan (the bowl should be wide enough to fit on top of the saucepan, but shouldn’t be touching the simmering water). Stir the mixture constantly with a rubber spatula, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl as you stir, until it begins to thicken, and will coat the back of a spoon. This will take approximately 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
  3. Whisk in the butter, one slice at a time. Wait until each piece almost disappears before adding the next.

 

We served it on pancakes with blueberries for a sunday breakfast, also try it on scones, muffins, biscuits, pound cake or as a filling for layer cakes.