Weekend Fare: Baked Blueberry Oatmeal

You know what’s better than a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast? A piece of baked oatmeal! The inspiration for this recipe came from Tasty Kitchen. I “healthy-fied” the recipe and it’s become a breakfast favorite. Most weeks I make a batch and we eat it for 3 or 4 breakfasts. This dish comes with high recommendations from both Jeremy and I!

BAKED BLUEBERRY OATMEAL
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1 Tablespoon + 1/3 cup melted coconut oil or butter
2 Tablespoons coconut sugar, sucanat, or turbinado, divided
1 1/2-2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups old fashioned oats (for gluten-free, make sure to be certified gluten-free oats such as Bob’s Red Mill brand)
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1/4 cup shredded coconut
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sliced almonds

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease an 8×8 pan. Melt coconut oil or butter and pour 1 Tablespoon in bottom of the pan. Pour fruit into the pan and sprinkle with 1 Tablespoon sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a bowl mix together the milk, maple syrup, eggs, vanilla, and remaining melted coconut oil.

In another bowl, whisk together the oats, flax seed, coconut, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry and mix well. Pour mixture over the fruit and smooth the top. Sprinkle the top with almonds and remaining 1 Tablespoon of sugar.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until browned on the top and blueberries are bubbly. Cool slightly. Serve with milk.

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Weekend Fare: Peppermint Ice-Cream

Peppermint ice-cream is such a delicious seasonal dessert! And, when it’s homemade, it’s nothing short of luxury! If possible, make the custard the night before you plan to use it, chilling it in the fridge overnight. If you are in a rush, stir it over the ice bath until very cool.

PEPPERMINT ICE-CREAM
(SimplyRecipes.com)

2 1/2 cups heavy cream (Costco organic is not only very cheap but also very good)
1  1/2 cups whole milk
8 large egg yolks (preferably from free range chickens)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
1/2 cup crushed candy canes or hard peppermint candy

Warm the milk, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. Make sure the sugar and salt completely dissolve.

Pour the cream into a metal bowl set in a larger bowl of ice and set a medium-mesh sieve on top.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a wooden or heatproof rubber spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula, about 5-7 minutes. Don’t think twice when the mixture coats the spoon — remove it from the heat immediately!

Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Then stir until cool over the ice bath. Chill mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator.

Once the mixture is thoroughly chilled, add peppermint extract, a 1/4 teaspoon at a time, tasting the mixture after each addition, until you reach the desired level of peppermintiness.

Once chilled, freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Once the ice cream has been formed in the ice cream maker, it will be fairly soft. Fold in the crushed peppermint candy. Put in an airtight plastic container and place in the freezer for at least an hour, preferably several hours. If it has been frozen for more than a day, you may need to let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes to soften it before serving.

Makes 1 1/2 quarts.

Weekend Fare: Margaritas

Just in time for the holiday weekend – margaritas! We’ve made a couple of different kinds and both were excellent! They make a great accompaniment for a backyard bbq or fiesta. I usually like them on the rocks but whatever you prefer.

TRADITIONAL MARGARITA
Ina Garten/Food Network
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1 lime, halved
Kosher salt
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 5 limes)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)
1 cup Triple Sec
1 cup white tequila (I think we used gold and it was fine!)
2 cups ice, plus extra for serving

If you like margaritas served in a glass with salt, rub the outside rims of 6 glasses with a cut lime and dip each glass lightly into a plate of kosher salt.

Combine the lime juice, lemon juice, Triple Sec, tequila, and ice in a blender and puree. Place extra ice in a cocktail shaker. Fill with margarita mix, shake well, and strain into glasses.

BLACKBERRY MARGARITA 
adapted from Cooking Light, June 2011
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1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 lime
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup 100% agave blanco tequila
3/4 cup Triple Sec (or Grand Marnier as originally called for)
2/3 cup fresh lime juice
12 ounces fresh blackberries

Combine 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar and kosher salt in a dish. Cut lime into 9 wedges; rub rims of 8 glasses with 1 lime wedge. Dip rims of glasses in salt mixture. Combine water and 1/2 cup sugar in a microwave-safe glass measuring cup. Microwave at HIGH 2 1/2 minutes, stirring to dissolve sugar; cool. Combine syrup, tequila, Triple Sec, fresh lime juice, and blackberries in a blender; process until smooth. Strain mixture through a cheesecloth-lined sieve over a pitcher; discard solids. Serve over ice. Garnish with remaining lime wedges.

Weekend Fare: Lemon Coconut Bars

Okay, seriously, these are delicious! Citrus and coconut – how can you go wrong? The creamy, sweet, and tart were just the perfect balance. These would make a wonderful contribution for a pitch-in or for a light dessert.

LEMON COCONUT BARS
(Bon Appetit Dessert Cookbook)
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Crust:
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut, toasted, cooled
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Filling:
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon (packed) finely grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt

1/4 cup powdered sugar

For crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 8x8x2-inch metal baking pan with foil, leaving overhang. Butter foil. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in processor; blend 5 seconds. Add coconut and butter; process until mixture resembles fine meal and begins to clump together. Gather dough into ball. Press dough evenly over bottom of prepared pan. Bake crust until golden at edges, about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare filling:
Combine 3/4 cup sugar, eggs, lemon juice, lemon peel, flour, baking powder, and salt in processor. Blend filling until smooth.

Remove crust from oven. Pour filling evenly over hot crust. Return to oven and bake until filling begins to brown at edges and is just set and springy to touch in center, about 30 minutes. Transfer pan to rack; cool lemon bars completely.

Using foil as aid, transfer lemon bars to work surface. Flatten foil edges. Cut into 16 bars. Sift powdered sugar over. (Can be made 5 days ahead. Store airtight in single layer in refrigerator.)

Weekend Fare: Brunch & A Giveaway!

This Giveaway is now closed. Thanks to all who entered!

I’m late getting this post put together. My husband was home working on some paperwork today and the boys were busily cleaning their rooms. As the hours passed and we still really hadn’t eaten breakfast, I decided it was the perfect morning to make brunch. And thus this morning became a lovely morning of cooking for the men I love!

We enjoyed breakfast egg sandwiches and a fruited spinach salad. It was wonderful to spend time preparing for the day and feasting on the delicious, seasonal food.

The sandwich began with an inspiring loaf of rosemary olive oil bread. I decided to use parmesan as the cheese because I felt it would compliment the bread and not detract from it. The combination of flavors and textures proved fabulous.

BREAKFAST SANDWICH
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1 egg
fresh grated parmesan cheese (or whatever cheese you prefer)
pepper to taste
2 slices bread (I used rosemary olive oil bread)
butter
1 slice cooked bacon
a few leaves of baby spinach
2-3 slices of tomato

Fry the egg in a litte butter – breaking the yoke. When it is almost finished, sprinkle parmsan cheese and allow to melt. Sprinkle with a little pepper.

Toast the bread – I put it under the broiler to crisp one side, leaving the other side soft. Butter one side of each piece.

To Build:
Top first slice of bread with baby spinach, then bacon, then the egg, then the tomato and top with remaining slice of bread. Serve immediately.

The salad was a delightful combination of fresh. The granola was perhaps the most interesting and most surprising addition. It took the salad right over the top and solidified it as a brunch salad. Simple and delicious.

BRUNCH SPINACH SALAD

Baby spinach or mixed greens
Creamy Balsamic Dressing (or dressing of your choice – a sweet poppy seed would also be lovely)
Fresh berries (I used raspberries and sliced strawberries)
Granola

Toss the greens with the dressing and place on plate. Top with berries and granola. Serve.

________________________________________

It’s been a very  LONG time since we’ve had a giveaway! Things have been busy and quite frankly, I just haven’t gotten around to it! However, a very thoughtful and generous reader and friend offered us this delightul book to giveaway. Thank you!

Do you like to entertain and set a beautiful table? Do you wonder how to pull together things you may already have to create ambience? Do you just enjoy creativity and love looking at beautiful inspiring photos? Then this is the book for you! The gorgeous photos of table ideas for all occasions will definitely inspire you. You can keep it simple or dress a table the would make Martha Stewart proud. Table Inspirations by Emily Chalmers is a lovely addition to any home. You won’t be disappointed!

Here’s the all important information on HOW TO ENTER:

Leave a comment on this post telling us 1 of your favorite summer dishes or a favorite summer recipe.
– Make sure we have a way to contact you!

For additional entries (just leave us a comment telling us which ones you have done!):
Subscribe via the link to the right or with google reader.
– Add us to your blog roll.
– Join our facebook group – The Cooks Next Door.
Facebook about this giveaway.
Tweet about this giveaway.
Blog about this giveaway.

There you go! You could earn as many as 7 entries. And if you already are in our group, subscribe etc, let us know and we will add in the extra entries!

This giveaway will be closed on Tuesday, June 7 and the winner announced on Wednesday, June 8!

Weekend Fare: Sweet Potato Egg Cups

I found these egg cups on a blog I read occasionally, Everyday Paleo. I decided to give them a try for Jeremy and I’s Easter brunch. As per my usual, I changed the recipe by adding a few more ingredients and making it more my own. The taste was amazing. I did have trouble removing these from the muffin tin so they weren’t as pretty as I’d hoped. However, if you want a fun presentation for a brunch or fancy breakfast, this is definitely a recipe to consider.

SWEET POTATO EGG CUPS
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3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and grated
1/4 cup butter, melted
sea salt to taste
12 eggs
4 slices of bacon, diced
4 mushrooms, diced
3 green onions, sliced

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease thoroughly a muffin tin.

Mix the grated sweet potatoes with the melted butter. Using your hands, press the grated sweet potatoes into each muffin cup making sure the bottom and sides are completely covered. Press down firmly creating a potato “basket.” Bake the sweet potatoes for 25-30 minutes.

While potato baskets are baking, cook the diced bacon, drain and set aside. Lightly saute the diced mushroom and green onions in olive oil.

Remove potato baskets from the oven, place a few bacon pieces and some of the mushroom mixture in the bottom of each (make sure not to overfill, just a little bit of goodies!). Top with an egg. Return to oven and bake until the egg whats are set, but yolk is still slightly runny, about 10 minutes. Garnish with additional green onions, if desired.

Weekend Fare: Coconut Lime Chicken

I’ve recently been experimenting with using coconut milk in cooking and baking and I’m excited with the results! (I am referring to the coconut milk in the can, such as Thai Kitchen brand.) In honor of my recent experience with this versatile ingredient, I wanted to share with you two recipes: Coconut Lime Chicken and Chocolate Coconut Milk Ice Cream.

The chicken is incredibly tender (although the photo shows a whole piece of chicken make sure to cube it because the result is much more tender!) and the almond butter dipping sauce adds a delicious twist. The ice cream is amazing and so simple! It’s unbelievably creamy. I adapted it slightly from a recipe I found online and promptly forgot where I found it. 🙂

Both of these recipes are gluten-free and dairy-free.

COCONUT LIME CHICKEN
(from The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook)
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2 large boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
coconut oil, for sauteing

Marinade:
2 Tablespoons coconut milk
2 Tablespoons lime juice
2 Tablespoons wheat-free tamari (or soy sauce)

Almond Lime Dipping Sauce:
6 Tablespoons almond butter
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup coconut milk
1-2 Tablespoons tamari (or soy sauce)
1 Tablespoon agave nectar or honey
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed

Place the chicken breast pieces into a bowl and cover with the ingredients for the marinade. Stir together to coat evenly. Let chicken marinate for 30 minutes.

Heat a 10-inch skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add about one Tablespoon of coconut oil. Then add chicken pieces. Saute, stirring frequently, for about 3-5 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

Place the dipping sauce ingredients into a bowl and whisk together until mixture is thickened and well combines. Alternatively, sauce can also be warmed on the stove in a small pot over low heat.

To serve, divide dipping sauce into four small bowls and serve alongside chicken. (Brown rice and stir-fried veggies make a great side!) Serves 4.

CHOCOLATE COCONUT MILK ICE CREAM
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1-14 ounce can coconut milk (not light)
1/3 cup sugar or agave nectar (I used coconut sugar)
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend thoroughly. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Pour into the bowl of an ice cream freezer and freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions. Serves 2.

Weekend Fare: Meat Piroshki

These tasty meat pies go by many names internationally. In Kazakhstan, you can find them being sold on the street corners and in bakeries – they are nearly always wonderful! These hearken back to bierocks that my husband enjoyed and pierogies that are traditional for our friends. Whatever the name, these are great for travel, for making ahead, and for freezing. I think they would be really good with some cabbage or other vegetables in them as well.

MEAT PIROSHKI
adapted from Cooking for Kaz: Meals for Hope, Volume 2
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 Meat Filling:
1 med. onion, diced
1 T. oil or butter
8 oz. ground beef
salt & pepper to taste
pinch of nutmeg
fresh herbs (opt.)
1 egg

Brown the onion and ground beef together with oil or butter if needed. Add seasonings. Allow to cool. Add egg. Stuff in piroshiki dough as described below.

Dough:
1 ½ tsp. dried yeast
pinch of sugar
5 Tb. warm water
5 Tb. butter, softened
1 lb. (about 4 c.) flour
1 tsp. salt
8 T. milk
2 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Dissolve yeast and a sugar in the warm water. Mix in the softened butter, flour, salt, milk, and eggs. Knead into smooth dough (I let my mixer do the kneading). Leave to rise until it has doubled in volume. Punch down. Roll out dough until quite thin. Cut out in small circles and brush the inner edges with milk. Stuff with filling and fold into semi-circle or canoe shape. Bake for 10 minutes until golden brown.

Weekend Fare: Chicken with Wine

I am not an avid drinker of wine. I like it, but I can also pass it up. However, I have a new found appreciation for cooking with wine after the deliciousness that is beef bourguignon.

I found this lightened up coq au vin recipe in the March issue of Cooking Light and decided to give it a try.  I love mushrooms, so the combination of mushrooms, chicken, and wine appealed to me. Although it didn’t photograph too well, I was pleased with the result. It was simple to prepare and tasty to consume.

CHICKEN WITH WINE
(from Cooking Light, March 2011)
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1 Tablespoon flour (I used gluten-free flour)
salt and pepper
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, sliced into 8 cutlets and pounded thin
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 Tablespoons butter
10 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1 cup red wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

In a shallow bowl, combine the flour and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Coat the chicken, shaking off any excess.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the chicken and cook, turning once, until just cooked through, about 5 minutes; transfer to a plate.

Add 1/2 Tablespoon butter and the mushrooms to the pan and cook, stirring, until browned, about 5 minutes; transfer to the plate of chicken. Stir into the pan the shallot and the remaining 1 Tablespoon butter. Add the wine and chicken broth and simmer until reduced by one-third, about 5 minutes.

Return the chicken and mushrooms to the pan. Add the thyme and cook, turning, to heat through; season with salt.

Weekend Fare: Easy Beef Bourguignon

The first time I made this Beef Bourguignon I told Jeremy it might just be the best dish I’d ever cooked. The flavor was superb. Unfortunately I can’t take the credit for the recipe, that will have to go to Ina Garten, though somehow I still feel as if it’s mine. Silly, I know.

Although this is technically an easy version of this classic recipe (anyone see Julie and Julia?!), there are several steps. So, if you’re in the mood for a quick meal, this probably doesn’t fit the bill, though I think it comes together quite easily considering. But for an evening you have a little extra time or you want to impress some guests, pull out this dish. You won’t be disappointed!

I have made this three times in the last month (if that’s not high praise, I don’t know what is!), twice at home and once when at my parents house. After I raved about it, Alaina made the dish this weekend and gave it a thumbs up as well.

It’s great on its own, but even that much more delicious served over some mashed potatoes.

Cooking Notes: I went ahead and included the original recipe, but I have never used the Cognac (as I don’t have any). Also of note, I’ve never needed an entire bottle of wine; closer to half a bottle. Just use your judgment. If you want more spices than just the thyme, dried sage, a bay leaf, dried basil, or dried oregano are all good. I would just start with 1/4 tsp of your desired herbs.

EASY BEEF BOURGUIGNON
(from Ina Garten on FoodNetwork.com)
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1 tablespoon good olive oil
8 ounces dry cured center cut applewood smoked bacon, diced
2 1/2 pounds chuck beef cut into 1-inch cubes
Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound carrots, sliced diagonally into 1-inch chunks
2 yellow onions, sliced

2 teaspoons chopped garlic (2 cloves)
1/2 cup Cognac
1 (750 ml.) bottle good dry red wine such as Cote du Rhone or Pinot Noir
1 can (2 cups) beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 pound frozen whole onions
1 pound fresh mushrooms stems discarded, caps thickly sliced

Preheat the oven to 250° F.

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is lightly browned. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a large plate.

Dry the beef cubes with paper towels and then sprinkle them with salt and pepper. In batches in single layers, sear the beef in the hot oil for 3 to 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove the seared cubes to the plate with the bacon and continue searing until all the beef is browned. Set aside.

Toss the carrots, and onions, 1 tablespoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of pepper in the fat in the pan and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the Cognac, stand back, and ignite with a match to burn off the alcohol. Put the meat and bacon back into the pot with the juices. Add the bottle of wine plus enough beef broth to almost cover the meat. Add the tomato paste and thyme. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and place it in the oven for about 1 1/4 hours or until the meat and vegetables are very tender when pierced with a fork.

Combine 2 tablespoons of butter and the flour with a fork and stir into the stew. Add the frozen onions. Saute the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of butter for 10 minutes until lightly browned and then add to the stew. Bring the stew to a boil on top of the stove, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Season to taste.