Monday, November 21, 2016

No Peek Beef Tips

It's no secret that I hate winter, mainly because I really dislike being cold. If I had unlimited resources, I'd keep my house at a balmy 73 degrees all season long. In fact, I have fond memories of the apartment we had before we bought our house. Our rent included heat and air conditioning and since the buildings were old they required us to keep the heat at 72 or higher in the winter so the pipes didn't freeze. We used to walk around the apartment in shorts and t-shirts. It was glorious.

But I digress.

This recipe for No Peek Beef Tips has been on my radar for a while now, but I kept putting off making it due to the ingredients. Yes, I'm a bit of an ingredient snob and the various powders and cream of soup didn't sound appealing. The weather finally took a nosedive this weekend and the cold and wind had me craving comfort food. I also needed something easy for Sunday dinner with my parents.

No-peek beef tips

I didn't tell them what was in this until after they'd tried it. It was raves all around the table before I came clean about the powders and cream of soup. We all agreed that it didn't taste processed at all, nor did we feel like it was overly salty. In fact, if I hadn't said anything they would have believed it was all from scratch. Score!

The recipe couldn't be simpler. I chose to buy a chuck roast and cut it myself, partially because it was cheaper and partially because the butcher at the supermarket told me the roast would be more tender. I replaced the canned mushrooms in the original recipe with sliced white mushrooms and the rest is just mixing and baking. The house smelled glorious as this cooked and we couldn't wait to eat. I served the beef and gravy over buttered egg noodles with some garlicky broccoli rabe on the side.

Even if you have an aversion to these convenience items, I urge you to give this recipe a try. I was pleasantly surprised and I know you will be, too.

No Peek Beef Tips
As seen on Mommy's Kitchen

2 1/2-3 lb beef chuck roast or chuck eye, trimmed of fat and cubed
12 ounces white button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 10.5 oz can cream of mushroom soup
1 0.87 oz packet brown gravy mix
1 1.25 oz packet Lipton dry onion soup mix
1 cup water

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Place cubed meat and mushrooms in a 9 x 13 baking dish.

In a large bowl mix the soup, gravy mix, onion soup mix and water together. Pour over the meat and toss to combine. Cover the dish tightly with foil. Bake for 3 hours. Remember, no peeking!

Serve with buttered egg noodles, rice, or mashed potatoes.
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Thursday, November 03, 2016

Three Cheese Risotto

I've been on a serious risotto kick lately. I've always loved it, but for some reason I'm finding rice so comforting these days. Like pasta, risotto is incredibly versatile. You can add so many different ingredients, serve it with meat or make it meat-free, whatever floats your boat.

I recently printed off this recipe for Four Cheese Spaghetti, but what I really wanted was risotto. So I figured I'd combine the cheeses and fresh herbs from the pasta recipe with my standard risotto recipe. The result was, in a word, outstanding.

Three cheese risotto

This time of year I can't take a good food picture to save my life, so forgive me for the less-than-stellar photo that accompanies this post. Just close your eyes and imagine if creamy, dreamy risotto had a love child with mac and cheese. That's basically what you've got here. We couldn't get enough of this one. Katie took the leftovers to school for lunch and practically licked the Thermos clean.

Three Cheese Risotto
Inspired by Damn Delicious

6-8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 large shallot, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Bring chicken broth to a boil in a saucepan then turn down the heat and keep at a simmer.

In a deep, heavy skillet, melt the oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add the shallot, garlic and Italian seasoning. Saute for about 2 minutes or until the shallot is tender. Add the rice and cook for another 2-3 minutes to toast the rice, stirring frequently.

Add the white wine and bring to a boil. Once the rice has absorbed the wine, add 1 ladle (approx. 1 cup) of the simmering stock. Stir the rice every so often, making sure to push down any rice stuck to the edges of the pans. Once the liquid is nearly absorbed, add another ladle of stock. Continue to do this until the rice is cooked but still slightly chewy. Taste the rice after about 20 minutes to check the consistency. If you notice you're running low on broth, add more to the saucepan so you don't run out.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheeses. Season with salt and pepper, if needed. Add in the chopped herbs, stir to combine, then serve.
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Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Restaurant Knockoff: Chick-Fil-A Chicken Tortilla Soup

I don't know when or how it happened, but I think it's time to admit that the concept of soup has grown on me. I used to claim that I wasn't a big fan of soup, but at some point I decided it wasn't so bad. The right recipes are not only tasty, they're also easy to make. I love a good one-pot meal as much as the next busy working mom, so there's something wonderful about throwing a bunch of ingredients together in one pot and having it turn into a delicious dinner.

Take this Chick-Fil-A Chicken Tortilla Soup. Katie's blog is a staple for me, so when I saw this recipe I immediately printed it off despite not really reading the directions. I decided to make it for Halloween dinner and figured I would need to chop up the chicken, saute it, etc. NOPE! You literally put everything into the pot, bring to a boil, simmer, shred the chicken and serve. What?! Yup!

Chicken tortilla soup

And the result was positively sensational. There's a mild heat from the Rotel and a silky creaminess from the flour and the half-and-half. I served plain ol' cheese quesadillas on the side and we all enjoyed dipping them into the soup. Such a great, simple weeknight meal that's chock-full of flavor. Thanks for an awesome recipe, Katie!

Restaurant Knockoff: Chick-Fil-A Chicken Tortilla Soup
As seen on So Tasty, So Yummy

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 ounce) can great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 (10 ounce) can Rotel tomatoes
1 (15 ounce) can creamed corn
1 cup frozen corn
2 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup half and half

In a large Dutch oven, combine the chicken through the oregano. Stir to combine. Whisk together the flour and water to make a slurry, then stir it into the soup. Bring the pot to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 30 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the soup. Shred with two forks, then return the chicken to the pot and stir in the half-and-half.

MAKE IT IN A SLOW COOKER: Add all the ingredients (except the half-and-half) as outlined above to a slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Stir in the half and half 20 minutes before you're ready to serve.

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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Pineapple Pulled Pork Tacos

I've mentioned this many times but my slow cooker and I do not get along. Thankfully, I work from home so I can still make delicious, slow-cooked meals like these Pineapple Pulled Pork Tacos. You prepare the recipe like you would in a slow cooker, but the meal cooks low and slow in the oven. The results are just as delicious, although perhaps not as convenient.

Pork pineapple tacos

The one downside to cooking dinner all day was the smell. Holy moly, did my house smell AMAZING. I was positively ravenous imagining how good these would taste. What drew me to the recipe in the first place was how totally different it was from regular tacos. We all love these flavors and the end result did not disappoint.

Pork pineapple tacos

The only change I'm suggesting below is to use a piece of pork with more fat. Steve was questioning why I'd cook a lean piece of meat like a tenderloin all day. I thought the pork was still tender, but it was a little dry. Otherwise we all loved these tacos. The subtle pineapple and soy flavor in the pork, the delicious BBQ sauce, the tangy, creamy goat cheese and the bright flavor of the cilantro and scallions. It all works.

The good news is, this makes a ton of food so leftovers are a given. I squirreled away the leftover pork and I'm planning to turn it into a pizza sometime soon - dough, pork and mozzarella cheese baked until golden, topped with scallions, cilantro and goat cheese. I. Can't. Wait!

{Slow Cooker} Pineapple Pulled Pork Tacos
As seen on PreventionRD

3 lbs pork loin/shoulder/butt
1 28-oz can pineapple chunks with juice
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons apricot preserves
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Pineapple BBQ Sauce:
1/2 cup ketchup
3/4 cup reserved pineapple chunks
2 tablespoons apricot preserves
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
juice of 1 lime

To serve:
6-inch taco size tortillas
cilantro, chopped
goat cheese, crumbled
scallions, chopped

If using a slow cooker, place the pork in the slow cooker. If using the oven, preheat to 225 degrees and place the pork in a Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the juice from the canned pineapple, the soy sauce, apricot preserves, garlic powder, and black pepper. Whisk to combine and pour over the pork. Reserve 3/4 cup of the pineapple chunks to use in the BBQ sauce. You can place the rest in the slow cooker/Dutch oven with the pork or save in the fridge to serve with the tacos. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Remove pork from the oven and shred the meat. Discard all the liquid and return pork to the crock pot/Dutch oven. Cover until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, combine all of the ingredients for the BBQ sauce in a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth. Pour over the pork and gently mix to coat.

Serve the pork with the tortillas. Top with cilantro, goat cheese, and scallions.
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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Warm Mexican Corn Salad {Esquites}

This is probably the fourth or fifth time I've made this Warm Mexican Corn Salad {Esquites} this summer, but I'm only just sharing it now because I never remembered to take a photo. Oops.


This is my new go-to side dish whenever I make tacos and for good reason - it's a very simple recipe to make. The hardest part is getting all that darn silk off the corn cobs (I HATE that stuff - so annoying). I've been using fresh corn, but I imagine frozen would work, too. We're getting to the tail end of corn season here in PA, so I'm sure I'll find out soon enough.

I made quite a few changes and omissions to the original recipe to fit our preferences and to use what I had on hand the first time made this. This is one of those side dishes we can't stop eating and always end up fighting over the leftovers. This is enough for the three of us, which means if I ever decide to share I'll need to double or even triple the recipe.

Warm Mexican Corn Salad {Esquites}
Adapted from The Barbee Housewife

2 tablespoons butter
3 cups corn, cut from the cob {about 4 ears}
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 tablespoons minced red onion
handful of cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
Chili powder, to taste
1 avocado, removed from the peel and diced
salt and pepper, to taste

Melt the butter in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the corn. Let it sit, without stirring, so the corn starts to brown. Stir every so often until the corn is brown in spots, about 6-10 minutes.

Let the corn cool slightly, then add it to a bowl along with the mayonnaise, red onion, cilantro, lemon juice, and chili powder. Gently stir in the avocado, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve warm or keep refrigerated until ready to eat.
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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Crazy (but delicious) Pasta Salad

I'll warn you now - the ingredients in this pasta salad are WEIRD.

Pasta salad

I'm always up for trying new things, but when I ran this one by Steve he looked at me like I had three heads. I suggested we try it out for Sunday dinner with my parents (they're such troopers, always being my tasters for new recipes). And then I remembered I had an appointment early Sunday morning so he'd be the one actually making it. I figured it was easy - the only cooking you have to do is boiling the pasta - and it would be a chance for Katie to help out in the kitchen. They were just getting started mixing up the sauce when I left and by the time I got home the salad was done and chilling in the fridge. And Steve admitted it was delicious.

Pasta salad

Later, when we served it to my parents, we all kept going back for another spoonful. I won't pretend to know why but trust me, it works. And it couldn't be simpler. This is definitely one of those side dishes I'm going to make again and again.

Allison's Best Pasta Salad
As seen on Taste and Tell

2 cups dry farfalle (bowtie) pasta
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried dill
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups diced, cooked ham
1 1/2 cups red grapes, halved
6 oz sharp cheddar cheese, cubed
1/2 cup sliced green onions

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and reserve.

While the pasta is cooking, stir together the mayonnaise, sour cream/Greek yogurt, cider vinegar, mustard, sugar, pepper, dill and salt in a small bowl.

Once the pasta is finished cooking, combine the drained pasta, ham, grapes, cheese and green onions. Pour the dressing over the top and stir to coat. Cover and chill for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.
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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Eggplant, Prosciutto and Mozzarella Stacks

A few months ago I came to the realization that I only like fried eggplant. Well, that's partially true because I also like Chinese eggplant with garlic sauce. Anyway, I've tried cooking eggplant in pasta sauces or grilling it, but I'm just not a fan.

Recently I was thinking about a recipe I'd seen years ago for fried eggplant stacked together with prosciutto and mozzarella cheese. I got it in my head to try recreating it, preparing the eggplant the same way I do my eggplant rollatini.

Eggplant garlic caper pasta

The results were outstanding. Despite being fried, the eggplant is light without being greasy. The prosciutto crisps up nicely in the oven and the melty mozzarella is perfection. Steve (and Katie, for that matter, but she was away when I made this meal) like everything I cook. But it's rare for Steve to actually rave about a meal. But this one he could not stop talking about. I texted him the next day to ask whether the eggplant stacks reheated well and he said they did and that he was in love with them.

Eggplant garlic caper pasta

As you saw in yesterday's post, I served this alongside spaghetti in a light, flavorful sauce made simply with butter, chicken broth, lemon juice and capers. It was the perfect side dish for this meal. I had two small-ish eggplants and they yielded 14 stacks, which was the perfect amount for me and Steve. If Katie had been home we'd have been in trouble, so keep that in mind if you're cooking for a larger crowd.

And speaking of crowds, these were great warm or room temperature, making them perfect for a party. I ate mine with my hands when cutting into the prosciutto proved challenging. So, so good.

Eggplant, Prosciutto and Mozzarella Stacks

1 large or 2 small eggplants
3 eggs
1 cup flour
vegetable oil, for frying
extra virgin olive oil
1 slice prosciutto per stack (approximately 14 slices)
1-lb fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
Pecorino cheese, grated

Cut both ends off the eggplant, the peel the skin. Slice each eggplant into thin rounds (make sure you have an even number of slices). Place a clean kitchen towel on a baking sheet. Lay the eggplant slices on top, then sprinkle with salt. Flip over and salt the other side. Top with another clean kitchen towel and let sit for at least an hour. When ready to cook, pat the eggplant slices dry with the top towel.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour 1/2" of vegetable oil into a medium skillet and heat over medium-high heat.

While the oil is heating, whisk the eggs in a wide, shallow bowl or pie plate. Spread the flour in an even layer in a separate wide, shallow bowl or pie plate. Dredge the eggplant slices in the flour, shaking the excess off. Dip the floured eggplant into the egg mixture, turning well to coat both sides evenly.

Add as many of the coated eggplant slices to the pan as will fit without touching. Cook, turning once, until golden on both sides. Drain on a rack set over the same baking sheet you used to salt the eggplant. Repeat the process until all the eggplant is cooked.

Remove the rack from the baking sheet. Lightly oil the baking sheet with the extra virgin olive oil. Place half the eggplant slices on the sheet. Top each slice with one piece of prosciutto and one slice of mozzarella. Top with another eggplant slice.

Bake for about 15 minutes, until cheese is melted. Top with some grated cheese. These can be served warm or at room temperature.

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Monday, August 15, 2016

Pasta with Garlic Butter Caper Sauce

Sometimes I feel like this guy:

I really haven't been doing a good job as a blogger lately and I'm sorry for that. But like the meme promises, if you DO see a post from me it means I've made something so delicious I simply have to dust off my computer and type up a post.

Take this meal for instance. Today I'm sharing the side dish - Pasta with Garlic Butter Caper Sauce. Tomorrow you get the real star - Eggplant, Prosciutto and Mozzarella Stacks. But don't think for one second that the pasta isn't delicious in its own right.

Eggplant garlic caper pasta

I was a little sad that I only made 6oz of pasta because I could have eaten a whole pound myself. It's light yet flavorful and so, so simple. I simplified it even further by cooking everything in one pot. And I left out the wine because all I had was Riesling. We didn't miss it so I probably won't bother with it next time. And there will most certainly be a next time since this is now Steve's favorite meal of all time.

And hey, don't forget to come back tomorrow for those delicious eggplant stacks.

Pasta with Garlic Butter Caper Sauce
As seen on Iowa Girls Eats

6oz spaghetti
2 tablespoons butter, divided
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
juice of 1 small lemon

Cook the spaghetti according to package directions. Drain well and set aside.

In the now-empty pot, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and saute until just starting to brown. Add the chicken broth, lemon juice, and capers then turn heat up to high. Simmer until the sauce is reduced by half. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Taste and add salt, only if necessary.

Turn off the heat and add the cooked pasta to the pot. Toss to combine, then let sit for 3-4 minutes so the pasta can absorb some of the sauce.
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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Pasta with Shrimp, Brie and Tomatoes

I love when my friends post on Facebook about the meals they make, especially when they include a recipe. As much as I love reading food blogs, many of the ones I follow simply don't cook the way I do. They post all sorts of fancy, trendy meals that I just know in my heart I'm never going to make for my family. So when I see posts from friends about food they're actually cooking, I pay attention.

Take this recipe for Pasta with Shrimp, Brie and Tomatoes. I was hooked as soon as I saw my friend's photo. This recipe has it all - pasta, one of my favorite cheeses, fresh tomatoes and shrimp. And, bonus, it's a one-pot meal. What's not to love?

Pasta with shrimp, Brie and tomatoes

The original recipe calls for sundried tomatoes and Kalamata olives, both of which I left out, opting instead for all fresh tomatoes, and no olives simply to save Steve from going to the olive bar at Wegmans. This really couldn't be simpler - mix the Brie with the tomatoes and seasoning, cook the pasta and, in the last few minutes of cooking, add in the shrimp. When the pasta is done, toss everything together and serve. I can't wait to make this one again.

Pasta with Shrimp, Brie and Tomatoes
Recipe adapted from Coastal Living

8 ounces Brie
4 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup fresh basil leaves, minced
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces uncooked spaghetti
1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Remove the rind from the Brie, if desired. Cut the Brie into pieces and add it to a bowl along with the tomatoes, garlic, basil, salt and pepper and olive oil. Toss to combine, then cover and let stand at least one hour.

Cook pasta in boiling salted water according to package directions. Add the shrimp two minutes before the pasta is done. Finish cooking, then drain well. Immediately toss the pasta and shrimp with the Brie mixture. Serve immediately with freshly grated Parmesan.
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Monday, August 01, 2016

One Pot Taco Spaghetti

You know you've been a terrible blogger when people start calling you out for your lack of posts. Ooops! A friend asked me to post some a new recipes and since today is her birthday, I figured I'd oblige (hi, Tara!) Unfortunately, the only recipe I photographed recently was this One Pot Taco Spaghetti, so I didn't have much of a choice. The good news is, this was delicious. And a one-pot meal, which is always a good thing to have in your repertoire.

One pot taco spaghetti

The recipe might look long, but it's mostly spices. See, the original recipe calls for a packet of store-bought taco seasoning, but I prefer to make my own. I always have all these spices on my spice rack and, this way, I control the sodium content. Otherwise this is basically meat and pasta, with a little cheese and tomato on top. Delish!

One Pot Taco Spaghetti
As seen on Damn Delicious

1 pound ground beef*
1 medium/large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 (10-ounce can) Ro*Tel® Mild Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies
1 tablespoon tomato paste
8 ounces spaghetti
3 cups water
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 Roma tomato, diced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the ground beef and cook until the beef just starts to brown. Add the onion and cook for another 3-5 minutes, making sure to crumble the beef as it cooks, until the beef is completely cooked.

If there's excess fat in the pot, turn off the heat and move the beef/onion mixture over to one side. Tilt the pot so all the fat is at the other end. Use crumpled up paper towels to soak up the excess fat. I like to keep the trash can right by the stove when I do this so I can easily throw the paper towels away. Make sure to leave a little bit of fat in the pan. Turn the heat back on and add the dried spices (chili powder through ground pepper). Stir to combine.

Stir in the Ro*Tel®, tomato paste, spaghetti and water. Bring to a boil, then cover. Reduce heat and simmer until pasta is cooked through, about 13-16 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the pot from the heat. Add both the cheeses. Put the cover back on so the cheeses can melt. To serve, place some of the pasta and meat on a plate and top with chopped tomato and cilantro.

*You can also use ground chicken, turkey or pork. If you do, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan before browning the meat.
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Friday, July 15, 2016

Szechuan Pork with Bok Choy

I love a good stir fry. Not only are they quick and easy to prepare, they're the perfect way to get protein and veggies in one dish. Serve over rice or toss with cooked pasta and dinner is done.

Szechuan pork with bok choy

My friend Mary Ellen recently posted this recipe for Szechuan Pork with Bok Choy. I immediately put it on the menu. Unfortunately, my grocery store didn't have the large heads of bok choy so I guessimated the number of baby bok choy I'd need as a substitute. I was way, way off. The bok choy all but dissolved in the sauce and Steve said he would never have known it was in there if I hadn't told him. Cooking fail.

I vowed to try again and this time, I looked up bok choy on Wegmans' website. I really love that their site lists their products as well as where you can find them in the store. I saw that a large head of bok choy weighs in at 1 1/2-lbs, so I told Steve to buy 1 1/2-lbs of baby bok choy. Problem solved! I remade the dish and this time, there was plenty of that crunchy goodness.

Szechuan pork with bok choy

This is such a simple meal that's packed with flavor. I love how the pork and vegetables stretch 8-oz of pasta into 5 meals and how quickly I was able to get this meal on the table. Thanks for another delicious dinner, Mary Ellen!

Szechuan Pork with Bok Choy
Slightly modified from Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations, originally from Rachael Ray

1 1/2-lbs baby bok choy
2 tablespoons sesame oil, divided
1 small onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1 lb ground pork
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon chile garlic sauce (more or less to taste)
1 cup chicken broth
8 spaghetti, cooked and drained
4 scallions, chopped

Cut off the bottom stem of each baby bok choy and discard any yellowing outer leaves. Chop the remaining bok choy into large chunks.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the bok choy, onion, garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions and bok choy start to soften, about 5 minutes. Remove the vegetable mixture to a bowl and return the skillet to the stove.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of sesame oil to the pan, then add the pork. Cook, breaking the pork up with your spoon, until browned.

Add the soy sauce, chile garlic sauce and chicken broth to the pan. Bring to a simmer, then add the vegetables. Simmer together for a few minutes, then add in the cooked noodles and scallions. Toss together and serve.
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Friday, July 08, 2016

The Best Shrimp and Grits

I'm a sucker for shrimp and grits. If I see it on a menu, I have to order it. I just love the creamy, soft grits topped with the bursty, delicious shrimp. I've tried making it at home a few times, but wasn't successful. Now my search is over - I've found THE BEST recipe for shrimp and grits. This was Katie's first time eating grits and she literally licked her plate clean. Steve couldn't stop raving about it either. We were all silent as we ate, each of us savoring the delicious plate of food in front of us.

Shrimp and grits

The recipe could not be simpler - grits are cooked in a mixture of chicken broth, milk and butter. Aside from stirring them every once in a while, they cook themselves. Shrimp are cooked in delicious bacon fat with a little garlic. The whole thing takes less than 30 minutes to prepare, making it the perfect weeknight meal.

Shrimp and grits

I served the shrimp and grits with spinach sauteed in oil with some sliced garlic. It was the perfect accompaniment, especially since I could just plate it alongside the shrimp. The only thing I might do is add a little fresh chopped tomato - not because the dish needs anything but for that hint of freshness and acidity.

The Best Shrimp and Grits
As seen on The Redhead Baker, originally from Taste of Home

For the grits:
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup uncooked stone-ground/old-fashioned grits
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese

For the shrimp:
6 thick-sliced bacon strips, chopped
1 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 scallions, thinly sliced

Combine the broth, milk, butter, salt and pepper in a large saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Slowly whisk in the grits. Reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the shredded cheese and stir until melted. Set aside covered, and keep warm.

In a large skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate with a slotted spoon; reserve drippings in the skillet.

Saute the shrimp and garlic in the bacon drippings. Flip the shrimp as soon as they turn pink. Remove once both sides are pink.

To serve, divide the grits into four bowls. Top each with one quarter of the shrimp. Garnish with the reserved bacon and scallions.
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Friday, June 10, 2016

Skillet Salsa Chicken with Cilantro Lime Rice

Like most people, I'm a big fan of easy weeknight meals. Obviously I love to cook or I wouldn't have a food blog, but even I have nights where I just don't feel like cooking. That's when a meal like this Skillet Salsa Chicken with Cilantro Lime Rice comes in handy.

Salsa chicken with cilantro lime rice

I've seen recipes for salsa chicken floating around the Internet for years, but they all seem to involve the slow cooker, which I don't use. That's why I was so excited when my friend, Melissa, posted this recipe. A skillet salsa chicken was right up my alley and I knew it would pair beautifully with cilantro lime rice.

Salsa chicken with cilantro lime rice

What a show-stopper. Katie isn't a picky eater and loves pretty much everything I make, but she couldn't stop raving about this one. After every bite she said some variation of, "Mommy, you are an amazing cooker. I'm so lucky to have you cook for me. Can you make this again soon?" I was right there with her, practically swooning over the delicious flavors, especially when I mixed the rice and chicken together with the creamy avocado. Yum, yum, yum.

And the best part - dinner took almost no time to make so we could play after dinner. That's a win-win in my book.

Skillet Salsa Chicken with Cilantro Lime Rice
Slightly adapted from Hunt, Cook, Eat

1-1/4 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 teaspoon garlic powder)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon chile powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups salsa
1 cup chicken stock or water
1 cup corn kernels
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon lime juice
Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

1 cup dry basmati rice
1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
1/4 teaspoon salt

Diced avocado, for serving

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat with just a touch of olive oil. Add the chicken and cook for 4-5 minutes until no longer pink. Add the onion and saute for another 2-3 minutes until onion is soft and chicken is cooked through. Add minced garlic (if using) and stir for 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the seasonings, salsa, water, corn and black beans to the pan and stir to combine.

Turn the heat down to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the sour cream and lime juice. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro.

To make the rice, follow the directions on the package. My basmati calls for soaking the rice beforehand (which I highly recommend). Once you've cooked the rice, drizzle the lime juice and oil over the top while it's still warm. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro and salt, then fluff with a fork.

To serve, pile some rice in a shallow bowl and top with some of the chicken. Add diced avocado and serve.
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Thursday, June 09, 2016

Bacon, Parmesan & Arugula Potato Salad

Sometimes the best things come into your life when you least expect them. Take this Bacon, Parmesan & Arugula Potato Salad. I wasn't looking for a new potato salad recipe, but as soon as I saw Kylee's post I just had to make it. And I'm really glad I did because we all absolutely loved it.

Potato salad with bacon arugula parm

I halved the recipe (the full amounts are listed below) and it was more than enough for the three of us. I brought the leftovers on a picnic the following day to share with friends and they raved, too. The best part is, it's super easy and incredibly flavorful.

Bacon, Parmesan & Arugula Potato Salad
Slightly modified from Kylee Cooks

3 lbs Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 teaspoon salt
1 lb bacon
1 5-oz bag arugula
Shaved or grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
Freshly ground black pepper

Place potatoes in a large pot of cold water covering them by 1-inch. Bring to a boil over high heat and add salt. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Don't overcook them or they'll get mushy!

Meanwhile, cut the bacon into pieces using kitchen scissors. Cook it in a pan until crispy, then drain on a paper towel. Reserve the bacon grease in the pan.

Once the potatoes have cooked, drain them and immediately toss with the reserved bacon fat. Drain again and spread out on rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate until cooled, about 30 minutes.

Mix the cooled potatoes, bacon, arugula, mayonnaise, Parmesan, and pepper together. Taste and adjust seasonings and mayo as needed.

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Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Pulled Pork Flatbread Pizzas

The last time Steve made pulled pork, we had some left over. I'd had this idea of making flatbread pizzas in the back of my mind for a while, so I squirreled it away in the freezer for another time. That time finally came last week. I even had some leftover BBQ from our favorite spot, Sweet Lucy's in Philly.

Pulled pork pizzas

I wasn't planning to blog these, but I posted photos on my personal Facebook page and on Instagram. I had a few people ask me for the recipe, so I promised I'd throw this blog post together. This is more of a method than a recipe. I don't have measurements and I've never blogged the pulled pork recipe Steve uses, so I hope what little I've got for you guys below will work for those who asked!

Pulled Pork Flatbread Pizzas

6 flatbreads or naan
Leftover pulled pork
Your favorite BBQ sauce
Grated Monterey Jack cheese
Grated mozzarella cheese
Thinly sliced red onion
Fresh cilantro, minced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Butter both sides of the flatbreads. Heat a grill or grill pan over medium heat. Add the flatbreads and cook, turning occasionally, until each side is browned and slightly crispy. Remove to a baking sheet and repeat with the remaining flatbreads.

Mix the pulled pork with some BBQ sauce, to taste.

Sprinkle some Monterey Jack and mozzarella on each flatbread. Divide the pulled pork evenly among the flatbread. Top each with some of the sliced red onion, followed by more of the cheeses.

Put the baking sheet in the oven and cook until the cheese melts, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle each pizza with fresh cilantro and cut into pieces. Serve immediately.
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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Baked Camembert

Do you remember when food blogs weren't nearly as plentiful as they are today? Back when I started blogging (August 2006!) the Internet was a much quieter place. One of the first food blogs I stumbled on was The Food Pornographer. She rarely posts recipes - her focus is on restaurants and photos of food - but she did post this one for Baked Camembert, which her extended family likes to make for special occasions.


I made the same tweaks that they did - more garlic, no nuts or cranberries - and served it with crackers as our first course on Mother's Day.


The smell of the garlic and rosemary baking in the oven was downright intoxicating. As soon as it came out of the oven we all descended like vultures and it was quickly devoured. Poor Steve is lactose intolerant so he took a Lactaid pill to enjoy the cheesy deliciousness. And then Katie proceeded to all but elbow him out of the way to get to the cheese. I had to restrain her so Daddy could have a few bites. That girl loves cheese, just like her parents.

Baked Camembert
Modified from Jamie Oliver

8oz Camembert cheese
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves, minced
olive oil
crackers or bread for dipping

Preheat the oven to 350.

Cut off the rind from one side of the cheese. Put the cheese into an oven-safe ramekin. Press the sliced garlic into the top of the cheese, then sprinkle with the minced rosemary. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cheese is soft and gooey.

Allow to cool slightly, then serve with crackers or bread cubes for dipping.
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Monday, May 09, 2016

Buttermilk Pie

Whenever I buy a quart of buttermilk to make my homemade chicken nuggets, I end up with quite a lot leftover. I've heard about powdered buttermilk, but I've never seen it in our supermarket. I've also tried a homemade version using milk and lemon juice, but I didn't think it tasted the same. I have an amazing recipe for IHOP pancakes that uses buttermilk, so we usually have pancakes a few weekends in a row. But this time I wanted to try something different, especially after my friend, Kylee, posted this recipe for Buttermilk Pie.


From what I understand, this is a Southern staple, which means I'd never heard of it before Kylee posted the recipe. I went into this with zero expectations, just excited to try something new.


The recipe couldn't be easier - you just mix all the ingredients together and pour into a pie crust. This actually makes two pies, so it's perfect for a family get together or to bring into the office. We gave the second one away to a friend and he said the pie was gone the next morning.

The consistency is almost like a custard, but denser. It's impossible to describe - there's a hint of vanilla, a slight tang from the buttermilk and a mellow sweetness. I chose a ready-made shortbread pie crust because I didn't want to futz with making my own crust, but next time I might try to find a traditional pie crust instead. I did over bake my pies (the tops are very brown) so make sure you start with 50 minutes and check it often.

Buttermilk Pie
As seen on Kylee Cooks

6 eggs, beaten
1 cup low fat buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon table salt
1 cup butter, melted and cooled
2 unbaked 9-inch pie crusts

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla together with a hand mixer for about 5 minutes. In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, cornstarch, salt and melted butter. Mix until well combined. Add the sugar mixture to the eggs and stir together, using a wooden spoon, until just combined.

Put the pie crusts (in pie plates) onto a large baking sheet. Divide the filling between the two crusts.

Bake for 50-55 minutes. You want the filling to be loose/wobbly (kind of like a thick custard) when you tap it, but not runny and the top to be lightly browned.

Let the pies cool completely. Serve at room temperature.
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Friday, May 06, 2016

Banana Crumb Coffee Cake

What do you do when you have overripe bananas sitting on your counter? You bake with them, of course. As luck would have it, I saw this recipe for Banana Crumb Coffee Cake just as my bananas were starting to go from edible to mush. A quick check of the pantry and fridge showed I had all the ingredients on hand, so I set to baking.

Banana crumb coffee cake

What a cake. I loved the subtle banana flavor mixed with the traditional coffee cake. This was moist and delicious, just perfect to have with your morning coffee or tea (I don't drink either, by the way) or as a sweet treat.

A few notes:

1. I don't like using my stand mixer so I used my hand mixer. It worked fine.
2. I don't own a pastry cutter, so I attempted to break up the butter for the streusel topping by hand. It didn't work. I ended up just mixing it together as best I could and sprinkling it on top of the cake. The butter melts as the cake cooks, so it didn't matter.
3. I tried to divide the batter in half, sprinkling some of the streusel in the middle before topping with the remaining batter. It didn't work. It also didn't matter.
4. Steve is lactose intolerant, so he asked me not to glaze the cake (since the glaze contains milk). And, let's be honest, this is sugary enough without adding more sugar on top. You won't miss it. We certainly didn't.
5. This makes a TON of food, which makes it great if you're having a party or know people who will take a few slices off your hands. We kept four pieces for ourselves and gave away the other 12 (3 sets of 4 pieces each). We had some very thankful friends and family, let me tell you.

Banana Crumb Coffee Cake
As seen on Tide and Thyme

2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 ripe bananas
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk

For the streusel:
12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) cold butter, cubed
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon

For the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9×13 baking dish with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or a large bowl with a hand mixer), mash bananas until they become liquified. Mix in butter until combined and then mix in sugar, eggs, milk, and vanilla.

With mixer running on low, carefully add flour and mix until just combined.

Prepare streusel by combining all the ingredients in a medium bowl, cut the butter in with a pastry cutter until a coarse crumb forms.

Pour 1/2 of the batter into the prepared pan. Top with 1/3 of the crumb mixture. Cover the filling with the remaining batter and top with remaining crumb mixture. Don't worry if this doesn't work - it didn't for me and it still tasted great.

Bake for 50-55 minutes until the center is set and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for at least 1 hour.

Mix together the glaze ingredients and drizzle over the cake before serving.
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Monday, April 25, 2016

Shrimp Carbonara

We love a good carbonara around here. It's been a while since I made a new variation, so when I was reading a book that mentioned pasta carbonara I knew it was a sign. And thus, Shrimp Carbonara was born.

Shrimp carbonara

I'm not sure why it never occurred to me to make this before but now that I have, it will definitely become a regular thing. All I did was add shrimp to my standard carbonara recipe. I mean, what's not to love about shrimp cooked in bacon fat? Positively delicious.

Shrimp Carbonara
Based on Nigella Lawson's carbonara recipe

1 pound spaghetti
6 slices bacon, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 pound shrimp, any size you like, peeled and deveined
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup dry vermouth (or white wine)
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 cup half and half cream
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly ground nutmeg

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

In a large skillet that will fit the pasta later, cook the bacon until crispy but not crunchy. Remove with a slotted spoon, leaving the bacon grease in the pan.

While the bacon is cooking, pat the shrimp dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. After you've removed the bacon from the pan, add the shrimp in an even layer. Cook the shrimp until they're pink on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Remove to the plate with the bacon.

Add the sliced onions to the pan and cook until softened and starting to caramelize, about 15 minutes. Add the vermouth and let it bubble so that, after a few minutes, you have a small amount of thick syrup left.

While the vermouth is reducing, beat together the eggs, Parmesan, cream, pepper and nutmeg in a bowl.

Once you have a nice syrup, add the pasta to the pan, tossing well to coat with the sauce. Take the pan off the heat (remove from the stove completely, don't just turn off the burner) and add the egg and cheese mixture, swiftly tossing everything with tongs to mix well. Add the bacon and shrimp and toss again. Taste and season with some more pepper and grated cheese, if desired.
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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Lemon Chicken Risotto

Last night was one of those nights where I felt frazzled by the thought of making dinner. I was making this recipe for Lemon Chicken Risotto, so I should have been walkin' on easy street. I love risotto and don't know why it has a reputation for being complicated. Maybe it's because a lot of recipes claim you have to stand at the stove, constantly stirring the rice, for upwards of 20 minutes. Let me tell you this - I've been making risotto for years and I never babysit it like that. True, I don't leave the kitchen so I can keep an eye on it, but I just make sure the pan never gets too dry and give everything a quick stir every few minutes.

Lemon chicken risotto

Anyway. I was frazzled, which meant by the time dinner was done I forgot all about photographing the gorgeous skillet full of deliciousness. As Steve and Katie made oohing and ahhing noises over the bright, lemony flavors and the perfectly cooked chicken, I realized my mistake. I quickly gathered the leftover risotto to one side of the pan and tried to strategically photograph it so it didn't look like 3/4 of the pan was missing. Ha!

Guys. This is some seriously good risotto. We all love risotto, but this was a real showstopper. The fresh herbs and the punch from the lemon were utter perfection. I don't have lemon pepper seasoning, but I did have some free samples of Mrs. Dash, so I used that last night. I should probably put lemon pepper seasoning on the shopping list, though, since I plan to make this one often.

Lemon Chicken Risotto
Slightly modified from How Sweet It Is

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 to 6 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 scallions, minced
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
salt and pepper for seasoning
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
lemon wedges for serving

Season the chicken with the salt, garlic powder and lemon pepper seasoning on both sides. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the chicken. Cook on both sides until golden brown and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Remove the chicken to a plate. Once cool, cut into bite-size pieces.

Heat the stock over medium heat.

If the pan looks dry, add a little more oil, then add the onion. Cook until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes, then add the rice. Stir to toast the rice until it's somewhat translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the white wine and wait until the rice absorbs it before starting to add the stock, stirring until the rice absorbs the liquid like it did with the wine. Repeat this until all stock has been added and the rice is al dente. This process should take about 20 minutes.

Stir in the scallions, lemon zest, parmesan, basil and parsley. Taste and season with more salt or pepper, if needed. Add the tablespoon of butter along with the chicken, and toss to melt the butter. Serve immediately with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice on top of each serving.
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Tuesday, April 05, 2016

One Pan Orecchiette with Sausage and Kale

I've been on a serious kale kick lately. If I see it on a restaurant menu, there's a good chance I'll order it. But I very rarely (read: never) cook with it at home. I think I've purchased kale only once for this Italian Sausage, Potato and Kale Soup. I'm also really into one-pot meals, specifically when they involve cooking pasta in a flavorful broth. This One Pan Orecchiette with Sausage and Kale combines my two latest obsessions into one delicious meal.

Orrecchiette with sausage and kale

Looking at the pictures of this meal made my mouth water and the end result did not disappoint. I made a few minor adjustments to the cooking method but otherwise I followed the recipe. Katie and I both cleaned our plates in record time. I had the leftovers for lunch today and they were sensational, dare I say better than the first day. I needed to add a smidge of water just to loosen the sauce a bit, but this reheated beautifully.

Not that I have any nutrition background whatsoever, but as far as our personal eating habits, this is a pretty awesome meal. You've got grains, protein and veggies covered. The pasta is minimal (less than half a pound, thankyouverymuch) and plenty of healthy kale. And a bonus - the Italian sausage we buy is actually made from turkey instead of pork. The best part is, you can't taste the difference. We've served this sausage to countless people who had no clue they were eating turkey instead of pork.

One Pan Orecchiette with Sausage and Kale
As seen on For the Love of Cooking

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow or white onion, diced
1 lb mild ground Italian sausage (if you buy links, remove casings)
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed well
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 quart chicken broth
6oz (weight) orecchiette pasta
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
4oz (weight) kale, chopped
Parmesan, shaved or grated

Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally until soft and golden, about 5-6 minutes. Stir sausage into the onions along with the Italian seasoning, oregano, crushed fennel seed, red pepper flakes and garlic. Cook and stir until sausage is broken up and just browned, about 3-4 minutes.

Pour the chicken broth into the sausage mixture and bring to a boil. Be sure to scrape up the browned bits off of the bottom of the pan. Once the broth is boiling, add the orecchiette pasta. Cook, stirring every so often to prevent the pasta from sticking together or to the bottom of the pan, about 15 minutes. Taste and season with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, if needed. Be sure to taste before adding any salt since the chicken broth will be salty.

Stir the kale into sausage mixture until it wilts, about 1-2 minutes. Ladle pasta into bowls and top with Parmesan.
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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Scalloped Potatoes and Ham

Every Easter my mom makes a ham and sends us home with leftovers. This year I had my eye on a new recipe for Scalloped Potatoes and Ham. I liked that Ree added onions and cheese so I was excited to give it a try.

Scalloped ham and potatoes

When I made this I followed her recipe exactly save for one thing - precooking the potatoes. I made the mistake years ago of attempting to make scalloped potatoes using raw potatoes. It simply does. not. work. Do NOT make that mistake. You must always parboil the potatoes, otherwise you'll be waiting forever for the potatoes to cook through (or eating crunchy potatoes). I also splurged and used heavy cream, something I haven't purchased in years. And you know what, this was way too rich. Our tastes have certainly changed so feel free to use equal parts half-and-half and heavy cream, if that's what floats your boat. Next time I'm switching to all half-and-half or maybe even equal parts half-and-half and milk.

Another tip - use more cheese. I upped the amount below. And do yourself a favor and use extra sharp Cheddar. Steve didn't even realize there was cheese in the dish until he was setting aside his lunch portion.

It may sound like we didn't enjoy this but that's definitely not the case. And I wanted to share it with you now because I'm confident these small tweaks will make all the difference.

Scalloped Potatoes and Ham
Slightly adapted from The Pioneer Woman

3 pounds Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes
1 yellow or sweet onion
2 tablespoons butter
3 cups diced ham
3 cups half-and-half (or 1 1/2 cups each half-and-half and milk OR heavy cream)
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
8oz grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
4oz grated Monterey Jack cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a large, deep casserole dish (at least 2 1/2-quarts, preferably larger).

Peel the potatoes, rinse under cold water, then pat dry. Using a mandoline or a sharp knife, slice potatoes into very thin slices (1/8-inch). Put the slices into a large pot of cold water. Repeat with the remaining potatoes. Once all the potatoes are sliced, bring to a boil then continuing boiling for 3 minutes. Drain well and set aside to cool slightly.

Cut the onion in half then cut each half into thin slices. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat and add the onions. Cook until they start to caramelize, about 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Combine the half-and-half and milk OR heavy cream (if using) then whisk in the flour, salt and black pepper until totally combined. Set aside. Combine the two grated cheeses. Set aside.

Layer 1/3 of the potato slices in the buttered casserole dish. Sprinkle on 1/3 of the ham and onions, then 1/3 of the cheese, then pour on 1/3 of the cream mixture. Repeat this twice more, ending with a sprinkling of cheese before pouring on the rest of the cream mixture.

Cover the dish with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 20 minutes at least, or until bubbly and hot.
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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Spinach Salad with Strawberries and Bacon

A few weeks ago I was looking for a light, fresh salad to bring to a friend's house for one of our semi-regular cooking extravaganzas. I knew my friend, Jaida, would have something delicious on her blog and I was right. As soon as I saw this Spinach Salad with Strawberries and Bacon I knew I had a winner.

Spinach salad

I left out the toasted almonds due to Katie's nut allergy and decreased the amount of sugar in the dressing because we prefer things tangy, but otherwise I didn't change a thing. I've made this twice now and both times it was a sleeper hit. People don't seem to expect much from such a simple salad, but the flavors are so light and delicious. I know I'll be making this one often this spring and summer.

Pro tip: I like to cut bacon with kitchen shears. Simply remove however many slices you need from the package, keeping them stuck together, and cut them in half. Hold the chunk o' bacon over the skillet and snip pieces off directly into the pan. Repeat with the other half. No muss, no fuss.

Spinach Salad with Strawberries and Bacon
As seen on Sweet Beginnings, originally from Lauren's Latest

8 slices bacon, chopped
1 6oz bag baby spinach
2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1/4 cup toasted almonds, chopped (I left these out due to Katie's allergy)
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
salt & pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon poppy seeds

In a large skillet, cook the bacon pieces over medium heat, until just crisp. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

Place the spinach in a large bowl and top with the strawberry slices, almonds and bacon.

Combine the yogurt, mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper, and poppy seeds in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Drizzle the dressing over the salad just before serving.

All the components can be prepped a few days ahead of time and stored separately in the fridge.
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Monday, February 22, 2016

Dill Pickle Dip

People. People! Have I got an amazing party treat for you.

I had this recipe for Dill Pickle Dip saved for almost a year before I got around to making it. Why? Because we so rarely go to parties these days. Sad, but true. So when a friend invited a group of moms over for a post-Valentine's Day party, I knew this was my chance.

Dill pickle dip

As soon as I unpacked the chips and dip, all the moms were oohing and ahhing. Apparently I'm not the only one who loves pickles. I hadn't bothered to photograph the dip beforehand, not knowing just how good it would be, so as soon as everyone started raving I grabbed the chips and the plastic container I'd brought the dip in, asked the hostess for a proper bowl, and went into the kitchen to take a quick photo.

Rebecca said this dip is also amazing as a burger topping and I can't wait to test that out.

Dill Pickle Dip
As seen on Foodie with Family

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 cup chopped dill pickles
1/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion
4 tablespoons pickle juice (use less for thicker dip or more for thinner dip)
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
salt and pepper, to taste
Pretzels, vegetable sticks, crackers, or potato chips for serving

Place the cream cheese in a bowl and use a wooden spoon to press and loosen the cream cheese. Stir in all of the remaining ingredients and mix until evenly distributed. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

If you have any leftovers, this dip will keep for up to a week tightly covered in the refrigerator. It may become thinner as it sits.
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Friday, February 19, 2016

Restaurant Knockoff: Chick-Fil-A Sandwich

I don't always crave Chick-Fil-A, but when I do, it's Sunday.

I know there's plenty of you out there who feel me on that one. Anyway, even though there's a Chick-Fil-A all of 5 minutes from our house, we never seem to go there. But that's not to say we don't all love a good fried chicken sandwich. I printed out this recipe for a Copycat Chick-Fil-A Sandwich ages ago, but for some reason I hadn't gotten around to actually making it.

CFA sandwiches

Disclaimer for any current or former CFA employees: yes, this recipe contains pickle juice and yes, I'm fully aware that there's no pickle juice in an authentic CFA sandwich. Don't worry, my friend Chelsea (a former manager at CFA) gave me the run-down:

"Here's how we made the sandwiches: filet the raw chicken breasts, making sure they're a uniform thickness. Submerge completely in a milk wash (buttermilk/egg/water) and then coat thoroughly in seasoned flour, shaking off the excess. The flour mix comes in prepackaged bags and has paprika, onion powder, salt, pepper (I don't know exact quantities). I assume there was MSG or other ingredients as well, and most likely sugar. Deep fry in peanut oil in a pressure cooker for a couple minutes until golden brown. Place on a bun that's run through a toaster with "butter oil" on it, add two dill pickle chips, and serve."

Chelsea's theory for why these at-home recipes include pickle juice is due to the pickles sitting on the bread and the bread and chicken absorbing the flavor. I'm not sure two pickle chips is going to impart that much flavor, so my theory is that pickle juice adds that awesome tang but it also keeps the chicken moist, almost like brining. I don't know about most home cooks, but I'm not deep-frying in a pressure cooker. I shallow-fried the chicken for these sandwiches in less than an inch of oil. Frying in a pressure cooker is going to help the chicken retain moisture. The pickle juice helps replicate that for the home cook.

After doing some research online, it looks like the folks over at Serious Eats have come the closest to the real recipe. Hats off to them! As for me, I absolutely love marinating chicken in pickle juice. It's the secret to my homemade chicken nuggets and I highly recommend it, even if it isn't truly authentic.

Speaking of pickle juice, for years I threw all that delicious brine away once we'd eaten the pickles. Not anymore! At any given moment you'll find at least two jars of pickle juice in my fridge. I use it for nuggets, and now I'll use it for these sandwiches. I also put it in my potato salad in the summer.

One last thing - while the restaurant only serves two pickle slices with their sandwich, since you're making it at home you can do whatever you want. We all love pickles so I put at least 6 or 8 on our sandwiches. Rebel!

Restaurant Knockoff: Chick-Fil-A Sandwich
Slightly adapted from Hilah Cooking

4 small boneless chicken breasts*
1 cup pickle juice
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups flour
3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
vegetable, canola or peanut oil for frying
4 hamburger buns, buttered and toasted
Pickle slices, for serving

Place the chicken breasts, one at a time, in a plastic food storage bag. Pound to an even 1/2 inch thickness. Place all the chicken in a plastic food storage bag and marinate in the pickle juice for 4 hours.

Beat the egg and milk together in a bowl. Combine the flour, sugar and spices in a plastic food storage bag. Remove the chicken from the pickle juice and place in the bag with the flour. Seal the bag and toss to coat the chicken. Dip each piece of chicken in the egg mixture to coat on both sides, then put it back in the bag with the flour. Once all the chicken went through the egg wash, seal the flour bag again and toss to coat.

Heat about 1/2 an inch of oil in a deep skillet until smoking. Add the chicken and cook for 5-6 minutes per side, or until golden brown and cooked through. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Serve on the toasted buns mayo and pickle slices.

*If your chicken breasts are huge (like so many seem to be these days) only use two large breasts instead of four. Cut them in half width-wise and then pound them thin.
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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Skillet Beans and Rice with Kielbasa

Before I tell you about this truly amazing, super simple one-pot meal I have exciting news! We're one month away (one month!!) from Daylight Savings Time. Gah! I can hardly stand it. I am so, so, so, so ready to be able to photograph meals in natural light again. So ready.


Now that we've got that out of the way, let's talk about this Skillet Beans and Rice with Kielbasa. Lordy, was this GOOD. Honestly, I wasn't expecting much. It's a pot of rice, beans and kielbasa; how exciting could it be? Boy was I wrong.

Skillet rice and beans with kielbasa

My mom's side of the family is Polish so I'm no stranger to kielbasa. We have it every year at Easter, but it's not a meat I usually cook on a weeknight. That will definitely change after this little beauty.

Unfortunately, my parsley went bad in the fridge but I didn't even miss it. I also subbed the 3 minced garlic cloves with 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder. It pains me to say it, but I just can't handle fresh garlic anymore. It started when I was pregnant - garlic gave me wicked heartburn. It's been 7 years and I still can't handle it. I've been leaving it out of recipes or subbing garlic powder when I can. Sigh.

Skillet Beans and Rice with Kielbasa
Ever so slightly modified from BellyFull

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 package (14 ounce) polska kielbasa, diced
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1 cup white rice
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 can (14 ounce) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

Heat the oil and butter in a large non-stick skillet (make sure it has a lid) over medium-high heat. Add the kielbasa and onion. Sauté until the onions become soft and translucent, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with the fat, about 1 minute.

Add the chicken broth, beans, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to low so it stays at a simmer. Cook for 22 minutes, stirring occasionally so the rice doesn't stick.

Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley.
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Monday, February 15, 2016

Oreo Peppermint Cookies

You're going to laugh at me. Do you want to know the reason I made these Oreo Peppermint Cookies? It's because I had half a brick of cream cheese leftover from the weekend of Winter Storm Jonas when we treated ourselves to bagels for breakfast.

That seems silly, right, trading cookies for a bagel. But see, here's the thing - if there's cream cheese in the house, I'll want to buy bagels to use it up. And then it becomes a vicious cycle of buying more cream cheese to finish the bagels and more bagels to finish the cream cheese. The truth is, I have a serious weakness for bagels. I used to eat half an everything bagel with cream cheese for breakfast every morning. In the summer I'd add nice, thick slices of fresh Jersey tomatoes and wash it all down with a tall glass of orange juice. That breakfast was the first thing to go when I decided to get serious about weight loss, exercise and healthier living a few years ago.

Oreo peppermint cookies

But cookies...meh. I can take or leave a cookie. The only dessert I have no willpower over is cake. I figured I'd make these cookies, we'd eat a few and then the rest would go into the office with Steve. Katie and I made the dough one Sunday morning and baked them off that afternoon before we went to my parent's house for Sunday dinner. And, as planned, the rest went to the office Monday morning.

Steve couldn't find the Andes Peppermint Crunch chips listed in the original recipe, so he just got a regular box of Andes mints. I crushed them up like I did for the Oreos and that worked fine and tasted great.

Because of the cake mix, these don't taste like your typical homemade cookie, but everyone who tried them liked them.

Oreo Peppermint Cookies
Slightly modified from Inside BruCrew Life

1 box yellow cake mix
1 stick butter, melted
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
8 Oreo cookies, crushed into pieces
1 package Andes mints, crushed (or 1 cup Andes Peppermint Crunch pieces)
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the cake mix, melted butter, egg, and extracts in a large bowl. Using a hand mixer, beat until a soft dough forms. Add the softened cream cheese and beat in gently until combined. Stir in the Oreos, peppermint pieces and chocolate chips. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes.

Using a 1 1/2 tablespoon cookie scoop, divide the dough into 36 balls.

Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 9 minutes. These didn't spread at all, so I was able to fit 8 dough balls on each sheet. The cookies will be very soft and look under done. Let them sit on the hot cookie sheet for 2 minutes, then gently remove them with a spatula to a cooling rack. Very gently tap the tops of the cookies with the bottom of the spatula to even out the tops. Let them sit until completely cool. Store in an airtight container.
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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Lemon Butter Chicken

If you know me at all, or have read this blog for any length of time, you know I love to cook. That seems like a ridiculous statement because, duh, why else would I have a food blog. But I say that because, as you may assume, my love of cooking means I've done quite a lot of it over the course of my life. So for me to say this Lemon Butter Chicken is one of the Top Ten Best Things I've Ever Cooked...Ever carries a lot of weight.

Lemon butter chicken

I'm not even exaggerating. We all swooned over this meal. Katie and I each ate one thigh and then she asked to split another with me. She might be a good eater but that's still a lot of food for her. I cooked all 8 thighs, thinking we'd have a ton of leftovers, but between the three of us we easily ate it all between dinner and lunch the next day.

The sauce is what makes this so amazing. It's garlicky and creamy and positively drinkable. You'll want a nice mound of fluffy mashed potatoes (or even some crusty bread) to sop it all up. The only changes I made were to lighten it up a bit by using half-and-half rather than heavy cream (a substitution I've been making for years), and to use fresh thyme.

And, as if you need another reason to run right out and make this, it's SO EASY. Like, ridiculously easy. A novice chef could make this without any issues. All you have to do is season and brown the chicken, then pour over the sauce, wilt in some spinach and pop it in the oven. Chicken thighs are incredibly forgiving, so you can't mess this one up. Do yourself a favor and make this meal ASAP.

Lemon Butter Chicken
Ever so slightly modified from Damn Delicious

8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
Smoked paprika, to taste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Juice of 1 large lemon
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
3 cloves garlic, minced or grated
1 6oz bag baby spinach

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Season the chicken thighs with paprika, salt and pepper, to taste. Combine the chicken broth, half-and-half, Parmesan, lemon juice and thyme in a measuring cup or bowl.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large oven-proof skillet over medium high heat. Add the chicken, skin-side down. Sear both sides until they're golden brown, about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove the thighs to a plate and discard the excess fat in the skillet.

Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in the skillet. Add the garlic, and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the sauce ingredients (chicken broth, etc.) you combined earlier. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and stir in the spinach. Stir the sauce to wilt the spinach. Place the thighs back in the skillet.

Put the skillet into the oven and cook for 30 minutes. Remove, remembering to place a pot holder on the handle so you don't burn yourself. Serve immediately over mashed potatoes.

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Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Coconut Shrimp Curry

My friend, Katie, posts photos of her family's dinner on Facebook sometimes. The other night she made this Coconut Shrimp Curry recipe and I couldn't get it out of my head. I quickly printed off the recipe to make this week.

Shrimp curry

This was so, so good. Light and fresh, with perfectly cooked shrimp. The only change I made was to add zucchini so I could call it a complete meal. You could add whatever veggies you like. I think carrots would be nice. Katie added sweet potatoes and said that was good.

Coconut Shrimp Curry
Slightly modified from Jo Cooks

For shrimp
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 lb extra-large shrimp, peeled and deveined

For sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small zucchini, quartered lengthwise, then cut into bite-size pieces
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon yellow curry powder
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (5.5 oz) unsweetened coconut milk

Fresh cilantro, minced
Cooked basmati rice

In a bowl or plastic food storage bag, toss the shrimp with the marinade ingredients. Allow to marinate for 15 minutes.

While the shrimp is marinating, heat the oil in a medium size pot. Add the onion and zucchini, and cook for 2 or 3 minutes. Stir in the ginger, garlic, pepper, salt, coriander, turmeric and curry powder.

Continue to cook over medium heat until the onion is translucent, another 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes with juices and stir well. Cook for about a minute, then add the coconut milk. Stir and bring to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the shrimp with the accumulated juices from the marinade and cook for another 5 minutes or until the shrimp is pink and cooked through.

Serve over hot rice garnished with cilantro.
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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Restaurant Knockoff: Roasted Potato and Rosemary Pizza

There's a place near my house called Jules Thin Crust. It's a cross between pizza and a flatbread, loaded with all sorts of delicious toppings made with fresh, organic ingredients. We love going there in the warm months when we can grab a few slices and sit on their outdoor patio.

Roasted potato and rosemary pizza

I finally got around to harvesting my rosemary recently and decided to try to recreate one of our favorites from Jules - the Veggie #3: sliced roasted organic potatoes, sour cream, parmesan, rosemary, scallions, mozzarella. I have to say, my homemade version was spot on. So, so good. We inhaled it and it even reheated well the next day for lunch.

Roasted Potato and Rosemary Pizza
Inspired by Jules Thin Crust

3-4 medium Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed clean
olive oil
4-6 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves finely minced
garlic salt
1 lb. pizza dough
flour, for dusting as you roll out the dough
grated pecorino cheese
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
sour cream
half-and-half or milk
scallions, finely chopped (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Slice the potatoes about 1/4-inch thick. Drizzle a large baking sheet with about 1 tablespoon olive oil. Arrange the potato slices on the baking sheet. Drizzle with more oil, about half the rosemary and a good sprinkling of garlic salt. Place the baking sheet in the oven and cook for 20 minutes.

Once the potatoes are done, remove from the oven and set aside until you're ready to top the pizza. Place a pizza stone on the middle rack of your oven and increase the oven temperature to 500 degrees.

Sprinkle a square of parchment paper the size of your pizza stone with flour and roll the dough into a 14-inch round. Top with some grated Pecorino cheese and then the mozzarella. Arrange the potato slices on top of the cheese, then sprinkle with the remaining rosemary and some more garlic salt.

Transfer the parchment paper to the preheated baking stone and bake for 10-12 minutes or until bubbling and golden brown.

While the pizza is cooking, put some sour cream into a squeeze bottle and thin it with half-and-half or milk. When the pizza is done cooking, remove it from the oven and drizzle with the sour cream sauce. Top with freshly chopped scallions, if desired.

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Friday, January 08, 2016

Creamy White Chicken Chili

You know how I've always claimed not to be a soup person? Well...times have changed. I don't know what happened, but sometime recently I realized that soup is pretty good. Delicious even. These days I ::gasp:: find myself searching for soup or stew recipes when I'm making my meal plan. What's come over me?

I printed out this recipe for Creamy White Chicken Chili years ago and never made it because, soup. We ended up buying a lot of chicken at the store recently so I figured what the heck, I'll give it a try.

Creamy white chicken chili

Please forgive the "it's winter and I don't have natural light to take good photos" photo above and just trust me - this is one delicious soup, errr, chili. SP wasn't convinced it was chili (he said chili is supposed to be tomato-based, and I don't necessarily disagree) but this was still delicious.

We used tortilla chips to scoop up the chicken and beans, or just dunked them in, and for some reason that really hit the spot. And the best part - it was incredibly simple to make. Definitely an easy weeknight meal.

I was looking at Mel's blog and some of the comments said they served it with her cornbread with fluffy honey butter, so I might do that next time, if I'm feeling adventurous.

Creamy White Chicken Chili
Mel's Kitchen Cafe
Serves 6

1 tablespoon oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced or grated
2 cans (15 1/2 ounces each) Great Northern Beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) chicken broth
2 cans (4 ounces each) chopped green chilies (if you like less kick, add just one can)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
Fresh cilantro, for garnish
Grated Monterey Jack cheese, for garnish

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the chicken in a single layer and leave it alone for 1-2 minutes to allow it to brown. Stir, then add the onion and garlic. Cook until the chicken is no longer pink, about 3-5 more minutes.

Add the beans, chicken broth, chilies and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, then simmer (uncovered) for 30 minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir in the sour cream and heavy cream. Serve, topping each bowl with fresh cilantro and grated cheese, if desired. This is especially good served with tortilla chips.
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