Sunday, December 30

BAKE IT: Broccoli Cheese Bread

Stuffed breads are widely enjoyed by almost everybody. Usually around the holidays we go somewhere serving them. Sometimes we find they are homemade, but most are either bakery or store bought. Stuffed breads are easy to make, bake up nicely, can be stuffed according to your families tastes, and also make a great brunch or "need to bring something" item. Try this quick and easy recipe and you'll be the stuffed bread maker of everyone's choice!

I use bread dough to make these but, pizza dough can also be used

Full time: 45-60 minutes
Makes 1 loaf

You will need:

1 can French bread dough or 1 load frozen dough thawed or homemade bread dough for 1 loaf
1 head broccoli
1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 tbsp basil
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp butter, melted
*1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, optional
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground garlic

Let us begin:

Start by cutting broccoli head into nice bite size or slightly larger than bite size pieces.

In a pot of boiling water, blanch broccoli by cooking it for 3-4 minutes.

Drain broccoli and shock by running cold water over it.

Allow broccoli to sit in colander and drain completely.

Preheat oven to 350, line a baking tray with parchment paper and set aside for a moment.

Place your dough on a lightly floured surface.

With a sharp knife, slice down the middle of the dough, do not cut straight through, cut only 3/4 of the way down.

Gently fold dough open.

Carefully pat dough into a 1/2" thick rectangle, use rolling pin if desired but hands work fine.

Transfer dough to baking sheet.

Making sure there is no excess water in broccoli, place broccoli down the middle of the dough.

Season broccoli with garlic, salt, and pepper.

Spread shredded mozzarella across top of broccoli.

Season mozzarella with basil and oregano.

Working along one side of dough at a time, cut 1 1/2" wide stripes starting from 1/2" from edge of broccoli out.

Repeat on other side of dough.

Wrap dough slices up and over filling, making sure to layer every other one...see below photos for technique.

Once wrapped, brush top of dough with butter, lightly.

Sprinkle across red pepper flakes if using.

Bake in oven for 25-30 minutes, until the crust has a nice golden color to it.

Remove and allow to stand 15 minutes before moving or serving to allow it to firm up.

Move to serving platter and slice up, exposing all the fun inside. For extra fun, place a side of marinara sauce for dipping.

If not serving immediately, allow to completely cool before wrapping tightly in plastic cling wrap. Store for up to 2 days, to serve reheat in oven for 8-10 minutes until warmed thru.

Thursday, December 27

PRODUCT REVIEW: Perfect Tortilla

Product Review: I want to start by saying this is not a paid advertisement, I speak for myself only, no companies have given me anything for this review. My opinions are completely my own.

Overview: Perfect Tortilla. Is great, lots of fun and easy to use.

I am no stranger to the dangers of impulse kitchen ware. Who hasn't walked into a store, saw a new "As seen on TV" item, and bought it only to regret it shortly after? These days I find it really hard to even look at most of these items. Most are pointless, are not made of any sort of quality material, and are honestly a waste of space and money.

However, occasionally there is a gem hidden amongst these titems. The Perfect Tortilla is one of these gems. I actually have never seen it on TV, never heard a commercial for it, and did not know of its existence until I was in a store one day. I saw it hanging on a rack, looked at it, and walked by.

It took several months of seeing it in the store for me to finally cave to curiosity and buy it. At $10.95, I figured it might be worth the shot. And it is.This product is easy up use, easy to clean, and easy to store! They have a slogan on the box about making any meal fun and I agree! As a fun extra bonus it even directs you on how to make dessert shells in it. So how does it work? Let me show you:

To start the Perfect Tortilla is a baking pan, it is made out of a non-stick metal, and is decency quality too. You get four pans in a box.

Simply heat your oven to 400. Place a 8"-10" tortilla on the pan.

Press gently (almost do not need to) to slide tortilla down.

Once tortilla is in pan, place pan in oven.

Bake 5-7 minutes for soft, 7-10 for crispy. The edges golden up nicely! Once done, carefully remove from oven and let sit 2-3 minutes. Pan gets cool fast, but still be careful, now just slide shell from pan onto plate, wax paper, ect.

Shells can be stored for up to a week after baking. That is all there is to it. The pans clean up easy with hot water and soap. And they stack for easy storage.

There are not really any negatives to them, unless you want to split hairs. In this case here are a few drawbacks:
1) you only get four in a box, so you can only make four shells at a time.
2) they require 8-10" shells, smaller ones do not work.
3) you have to store them.
Seriously, having trouble finding negatives here. I will just say it this way, if you like fajitas, taco salads, ice cream sundae bowls, it is worth the $10.95!

Monday, December 24

Simple Marinaded London Broil

London broil is a great cut of meat for families to enjoy together. You can usually get a 3-4 pound London broil for under $10, and they can easily be marinated. Marinating a London broil can be done in 4-5 hours but overnight usually tastes the best. Here is a simple family favorite of mine which imparts bold flavors, great tastes, and little to no work!

Full time: 20 minutes cooking and 4 hours to overnight for marinating
Serves 4

You will need:

3-4 pound London broil
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tsp celery salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp rosemary

Let us begin:

In a large zip bag combine all marinade ingredients.

Add in London broil and zip bag closed, massage bag to fully coat meat.

Allow to sit for 4-24 hours, flipping bag over once or twice.

Preheat broiler.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Place London broil, on baking sheet reserving liquid for basting.

Cook in broiler 5 minutes and then baste.

Cook additional 5 minutes and then flip over.

Baste and cook for 5-8 minutes.
Remove from oven and let rest 5 minutes.

Remove from baking sheet and move to serving platter, enjoy!

Saturday, December 22

Sweet Potato Soup

Sweet potato soup is one of my favorites. And when autumn begins to turn cold and winter approaches, sweet potatoes are at the hight of their season. Around the holidays you can usually find a 10 lb. box for $3 to $5 dollars. Which means plenty of good food and several recipes to enjoy. Sweet potato soup is a great full flavor soup, it has a great earthiness to it which is rounded out with a hint of spice. This is a great way to use extra potatoes and have a cold nights meal in a bowl!

Full time: 45 minutes
Serves 4

You will need:

2 large sweet potatoes, diced into 1-2" chunks
1 small white onion, cubed
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
3/4 cup half and half
3/4 cup warm water
2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp lemon juice

Let us begin:

In a medium to large pot combine potatoes, onions, and stock.

Bring to a boil over high heat.

Cover and reduce heat to low.

Cook 25 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Remove from heat, carefully move half of the contents into a blender or food processor. Remember this is hot so you want to work in small batches, if you need to do less than half at a time be safe and do so. Also, if using a blender protect your hand by placing a kitchen towel over the lid when holding it.

Pulse until smooth, use caution when opening the lid, it will be steamy.

Move blended soup into a bowl and repeat with remaining un-blended soup.

Once it is all blended, return to pot, and add in water.

Add nutmeg, salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

Mix well to combine.

Turn heat on to medium low and add in half and half.

Mix well to combine.

Cook 4-6 minutes or until nicely warmed.

Serve along side some crusty bread with a sprinkle of nutmeg across the top, enjoy!

Thursday, December 20

Vietnamese inspired Shrimp with Lemon Basil Sauce

Quick and easy meals are always a bonus on a busy work night. One if the easiest meals is sauteed shrimp, if you start with fully cleaned, precooked shrimp you can have dinner on the table in minutes! I enjoy making sauteed shrimp inspired by Vietnamese cooking which imparts bold flavors in a short amount of time.

Full time: 20 minutes
Serves 2-4

You will need:

1 lb. 50/70 count fully cleaned precooked shrimp (if using frozen make sure to fully thaw first)
1 lb. asparagus, diced long
1 pint sliced mushrooms
1 small red onion, sliced large
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tbsp butter
1 1/2 tbsp dried basil
1/2 tbsp salt
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground black pepper

Let us begin;

In a deep saute pan melt butter over medium high heat.

Add the asparagus, mushrooms, and onions into the pan. Allow to cook for 5-8 minutes or until asparagus begins to get tender.

While this cooks in a large bowl place the shrimp along with salt, pepper, garlic, and basil.

Toss bowl to fully coat shrimp.
Add shrimp into your saute pan.

Toss to full mix shrimp and vegetables. Add in half of the lemon juice.
Lower heat to low and cover. Allow to cook for 5-8 minutes or until shrimp are warmed through.
Remove from heat.
Using slotted spoon, remove shrimp and vegetables to a serving plate, leaving sauce behind.
Add remaining lemon juice into the pan and stir well, return to heat for 1-2 minutes.
Move sauce into a serving container and enjoy!