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.)

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Backyard BBQ: Ribs

We enjoyed these ribs yesterday for Father’s Day! I wish I could take credit for this delicious sauce – it was fabulous! I found the recipe on Food Network. I did change the cooking instructions to start with baking – I think it makes ribs more tender and you still have the wonderful grilled flavor from finishing on the grill. I would probably make these with baby backs next time…and there will be a next time! As I note, I did not use an entire can of chipotles – add them until you reach your desired heat level.



HONEY-CHIPOTLE PORK RIBS
(Cooking Method adapted – Recipe from foodnetwork.com)
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1 cup honey
2 cups ketchup
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 (7-ounce) can chipotles in adobo sauce
3 pounds country style pork ribs, bone in

In a food processor, combine honey, ketchup, ginger, and 5 chipotles with adobo sauce. Blend until smooth. Taste and add remaining chipotles, or more honey, if desired. If sauce is too thick, thin with a little water or apple juice. Pour half of the sauce over the pork and reserve the rest. Marinate for at least 4 and up to 24 hours.

Bake at 300 degrees for 2-3 hours. Prepare a grill or grill pan. Grill the pork ribs until cooked to desired doneness. Some charring on the pork is delicious. Brush with some of the reserved sauce. Remove pork from heat and slather with remaining sauce or serve sauce alongside.

My Kitchen View: Freezing & Marinade

I recently spent a few hours putting some meals in the freezer. It’s not generally my style – you may have noticed that there really aren’t many casserole recipes here. However, I like the concept of easy, go-to meals and despite my general lack of excitement about casseroles, I decided I could make it work. So, many of the meals were meat in marinade which means all I need to do is thaw and grill. My kind of summer meal!

The meal round up (my sister helped and we made 26 meals in a matter of a few hours!) included burgers (ground turkey & beef combined), meatballs, taco meat, pizza kits (dough, sauce, browned meat & onions, and cheese frozen together), sweet and sour chicken, pork roasts in marinade, BBQ drumsticks, marinated chicken and pork. So far, we have really enjoyed everything. I plan to do this a few times a year to make life a little easier on the days I work or for when I just need a break from cooking. It’s really makes meals pretty easy – I just add a salad or steamed vegetables and fruit or bread to make a complete meal. 

First, you need to start with fresh meat. DO NOT thaw and re-freeze meat. Add the desired portion into a freezer bag or container and pour in marinade. Clearly label the package and include the date. Place in freezer until ready to use. I try to remember and stick the meat I want for a meal in the refrigerator the day before we are going to eat it.  

Here is a marinade recipe that made a lot – I was able to use it on about 5 or 6 packages of meat (good thing we liked it! :)). I used it on pork chops and chicken breasts. We’ve tried it on the pork and it was wonderful! We sauteed some baby bella mushrooms in butter and topped the pork chops with them for serving. Delicious!

MARINADE (adapted slightly from from allrecipes.com)
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1 1/2 c. canola oil
3/4 c. soy sauce
1/2 c. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 c. red wine vinegar
1/3 c. lemon juice
2 Tb. dry mustard
1 tsp. salt
1 Tb. black pepper
1 1/2 tsp. finely minced fresh parsley (or 1 tsp. dried parsley)

In a medium bowl, mix together oil, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, wine vinegar, and lemon juice. Stir in mustard powder, salt, pepper, and parsley. Use to marinate meat before cooking as desired.

Market Fresh: Strawberries

I’m so excited that it’s strawberry season and grill season! I combined the two into a Balsamic Grilled Chicken Strawberry Salad. This was so delicious and so summery and the colors are stunning! This will definitely make a frequent appearance on our summer menu!

CREAMY BALSAMIC GRILLED CHICKEN STRAWBERRY SALAD
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1/3 c. olive oil
1/3 c. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. herbs de provence
1 tsp. salt
1 Tb. heavy cream
1 lb. boneless chicken breasts or chicken tenders

Combine first five ingredients. Place chicken in a bag or container and pour marinade overall. Marinate for at least 1 hour. Grill until chicken is fully cooked – juices will run clear.

Salad:
1/2 lb. baby spinach
1/2 lb. strawberries, cleaned and sliced
1/4 c. feta cheese (blue or gorgonzola would also be great!)
1/4 c. pecans, chopped

Arrange on a platter or in a salad bowl. Top with grilled chicken. Drizzle dressing over all.

Dressing:
3 Tb. olive oil
3 Tb. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. heavy cream

Combine all ingredients and shake or whisk well to combine.

Kids in the Kitchen: Chicken Strips

My boys absolutely LOVE helping me cook and it’s a great bonding activity! Recently we did a kids’ pick night. We pulled out all of our kid cookbooks and each boy chose a recipe. We went to the store for the ingredients we needed which they also really enjoyed! The menu was Crunchy Oven-Baked Chicken Toes, roated asparagus (my choice), ants on a log (celery with peanut butter and raisins), angel food cupcakes, and cherry punch. They helped with each part of the dinner and very proudly told my husband what was for dinner when he got home. It was a great evening!  

The chicken toes were so delicious and the dipping sauce (so sorry it isn’t pictured!) was excellent. The boys loved helping to get the chicken ready for the oven – the messy hands were a fun bonus for them. 🙂

CRUNCHY OVEN-BAKED CHICKEN TOES!
(adapted from Cooking Rocks! Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meals for Kids)
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1 c. corn flakes cereal, any brand
1 c. plain bread crumbs
2 Tb. brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. allspice
3 Tb. oil
1/3 c. flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 lb. chicken breast tenders (you can cut these into 2 inch pieces but we left them as whole tenders)
1/4 c. honey mustard (I make mine with mayo, honey, and dijon)
1/4 c. barbecue sauce

Make the breading: Pour the corn flakes into a pie pan or shallow dish. Crush the cereal up with your hands. Mix in bread crumbs, brown sugar, salt, pepper, and allspice.

Drizzle the vegetable oil evenly over the breading. Toss and turn it to mix the oil all through the bread crumbs and crushed-up corn flakes.

Pour the flour into another shallow dish, and the beaten eggs into a third dish. Coat (dip) the chicken in flour, then eggs, and then in the special crunchy breading. Arrange the chicken on a baking sheet coated with nonstick spray.  Place the chicken in the oven and cook until crisp and brown all over, about 20 minutes (until juices run clear).

Mix together the honey mustard and barbecue sauce in a small bowl. Enjoy with your chicken toes!

Baker’s Delight: Kazakh Cheese Pastries

These savory pastries would be perfect for brunch or a snack or a dinner or any time. They are seriously delicious! They were a hit with children and adults alike. The buttery, flaky crust with the creamy cheese filling was pretty much perfect. I’m think these may be added to the Easter brunch menu this year.

KAZAKH CHEESE PASTRIES
adapted from Cooking for Kaz: Meals for Hope, Volume 2
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Pastry:
1 ½ c. flour
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cream of tartar
8 Tb. butter
¼ c. ice water

Place flour, salt, cream of tartar, and butter in a food processor, Blend until texture is coarse and add water. Blend just until the mixture is combined and begins to mass together (add more water if needed). Place on plastic wrap, flatten to disk and wrap airtight. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Roll dough on floured surface to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut out 24 circles with 3 inch water glass or biscuit cutter. Pleat edges of circles and fit in bottom of muffin tins. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Cheese filling:
1 egg
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese (I used sharp & 3-cheese blend)
3 T. grated parmesan cheese
2 Tb. parsley, chopped
2 T. chives, chopped

Beat egg in bowl. Add remaining ingredients. Spoon 2-3 tsp. filling in each pastry shell; spread level. Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes or until the filling is golden brown. Cool on rack and serve warm.

*These could be made ahead, refrigerated and warmed in the oven.

Market Fresh: Russian Zucchini Dill Casserole

This is another Kazakh/Russian dish. My husband didn’t love this one as much as I did. I liked the flavors and textures together a lot! It is healthy and hearty. Dill is such a big part of many of the Kazakh dishes I’ve enjoyed. I will be growing it in my garden this year for sure!

RUSSIAN ZUCCHINI DILL CASSEROLE
adapted from Cooking for Kaz: Meals for Hope, Volume 2
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6 zucchini, sliced
3 med. carrots, peeled & chopped
2 c. onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 Tb. tomato paste
 3 T. fresh parsley, chopped
 2 Tb. fresh dill, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
2 c. tomato juice
¾ tsp. sugar
1 ½ Tb. cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large skillet or dutch oven, sauté carrots in water or vegetable stock over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Add the onion, celery, and zucchini and sauté, stirring, until all the vegetables are starting to tenderize.

Stir in the tomato paste and sauté for 3-4 minutes more. Remove from heat and stir in the parsley and dill. Mix the tomato juice with the sugar, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Stir this mixture in as well and just bring to a boil. Pour the mixture into a flat-bottomed heatproof casserole that will accommodate the entire amount. Bake in the oven until tender – about 40 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley before serving if desired.

International Cuisine: Chrov Plov

My oldest two sons were born in Kazakhstan. We feel so blessed to have the chance to celebrate and explore another culture. And we truly love the country, people, and food (!) of Kazakhstan. March 22 marked the Kazakh New Year (Nauryz) and so we enjoyed celebrating with friends and eating some traditional dishes. This was one of my absolute favorites but I will be sharing four different recipes throughout the coming weeks – they were all delicious.

The recipes were adapted from Cooking for Kaz: Meals for Hope, Volume 2 – my mom and I both have recipes in the book as well as many other talented cooks (how is that for a shameless promo! :)). Please feel free to check it out – the fundraiser is put on by Two Hearts for Hope and all proceeds from the sales of the cookbook benefit orphans in Kazakhstan. And the cookbook features many different types of recipes in addition to several Kazakh recipes.

CHROV PLOV
adapted from Cooking for Kaz: Meals for Hope, Volume 2
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1 c. rice, uncooked
¼ c. almonds, chopped
2 T. currants
2 T. raisins
6 dried prunes
3 T. dates, chopped
4 T. butter
¼ c. dried apricots, cut into strips
1 T. honey
2 c. water

Soak dates, currant and prunes in warm water for 15 minutes. Remove and pat dry, mix with apricots and raisins. Melt the butter in a large skillet over high heat and add the fruit mixture and almonds. Reduce the heat to low and stir for four minutes. Stir in the honey, rice, and water. Raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce to low, cover and simmer for 25 minutes, serve hot.

*I very successfully made this in my rice cooker by adding the sautéed fruit, almonds, butter, and honey to the rice and water in the cooker.

Market Fresh: Pearl Onions

Generally speaking, I have not been a recent fan of Taste of Home but the March issue had surprising number of recipes I was interested in trying (and so I must give them a little credit!). It featured several onion recipes and I tried the glazed pearl onions with great success. they were very easy, a little high in sugar & fat, and very good. 🙂 They are a wonderful side dish and wold be especially good served with steak.

 

GLAZED PEARL ONIONS – adapted very slightly from Taste of Home, March 2011
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1 package (16 ounces) frozen pearl onions, thawed
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

In a large skillet, saute onions in butter until tender. Add brown sugar and mustard; cook 2 minutes longer. Sprinkle with parsley. 6 servings.

Easiest Tomato Soup

We don’t frequently have tomato soup at our house, but it is a comfort food that I crave every so often. And, I never have the cans of tomato soup sitting around when that craving hits (nor do I really relish canned soup). This problem is now solved for all time. This tomato soup is so easy to make, and the ingredients are nearly always in my pantry, that I think we’ll be enjoying this for lunch regularly.

EASY TOMATO SOUP
(The Cooks Next Door)
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1 jar (32 oz.) good quality spaghetti sauce (I used Bertolli)
32 oz. chicken stock (I use “Better than Bouillon” paste mixed with water)
1/2 cup heavy cream

Heat the spaghetti sauce and stock in a saucepan until piping hot. Stir in the heavy cream and serve.

Serves 4-6.