Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce

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Salted Caramel.  It’s everywhere, right?  I love it. There’s just something about that combination of sweet and salty.  My favorite dessert in the whole world is at Nostrana in Portland…Butterscotch Budino with Salted Caramel.  Oh. My. God.  I’ve made a few attempts at my own salted caramel sauce, but with not such great luck.

So, I was having a book club meeting at my house and was going to be perfectly satisfied with serving Brownie Sundaes (made from my “Only Brownie Recipe You’ll Ever Need” recipe) and drizzled with some store-bought chocolate fudge sauce and vanilla Haagen-Dazs ice cream, but the day before, a post on my Facebook feed from Bon Appétit pops up that says, “make homemade salted caramel sauce from scratch…to drizzle over anything and everything” and think it would be so good on the brownie sundaes!  Okay.  Fine.  I look at the recipe.  It looks pretty easy.  I’ll give it a whirl.

It was, in fact, VERY easy.  No candy thermometers involved.  I didn’t feel like I was waiting for ever and ever for the mixture to turn dark amber colored.  Honestly, the easiest and most delicious caramel sauce I’ve ever made (and I’ve experimented with a few!)  I could have eaten it by the spoonful, right out of the pot (okay, I’ll admit to using a spatula to scrape what was left in the pot to gobble up every drop!)

The sundaes were a hit ….you’re definitely going to want to make them. (And I highly recommend the book too…The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker.)

Now the question is what will I do with the sauce leftover in the fridge?  I’ve dipped green apples in it already.  It would be amazing drizzled over a slice of Pumpkin Roll or on top of a dollop of whipped cream on pecan pie or apple pie for Thanksgiving!  Stir a spoonful into your coffee or hot chocolate.  Even just lick it right off the spoon.

I might even be inspired now to try to find that Butterscotch Budino recipe and try it!

Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce

INGREDIENTS

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

3/4 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/2 tablespoon flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)

For Brownie Sundaes you’ll need to bake a batch of double chocolate brownies (aka “The Only Brownie Recipe You’ll Ever Need“) and buy some Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream 

DIRECTIONS

Bring granulated sugar, corn syrup, and 2 tablespoons water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil, swirling pan occasionally, until mixture turns a deep amber color, 8–10 minutes.

Remove from heat and gradually add cream (mixture will bubble vigorously). Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and mix in butter and salt.  Let cool slightly before serving.

DO AHEAD: Caramel sauce can be made 5 days ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.

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Chunky Peanut Butter Chocolate Chipsters

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So I suppose you’ve noticed that I love cookies…home-baked cookies. (I think I might have more cookie recipes posted on this blog than any other category…lol!) And I mean, most any kind of cookies…chocolate chip, shortbread, peanut butter, oatmeal…all of ’em. I think it started with my Gramma Lulu who used to make so many different cookies (oh, and pies, too…pumpkin, mincemeat, apple, “Dream Pie”) during the holidays. I loved her peanut butter cookies with the Hershey’s Kisses in the middle, her chocolate crackle cookies, sugar cookies, but most of all…Snickerdoodles!

Four Generations! Gramma Lulu, my mom, me and my daughter Ally (at Ally's bat mitzvah in 2003)

Four generations! Gramma Lulu, my mom, me and my daughter Ally (at Ally’s bat mitzvah) in 2002. Gramma passed away the following year, at age 93. And believe me, she baked right up until the end!

I’ve mentioned my friend Dale (yes, of Chip and Dale), aka the Cookie Queen, a lot on this blog. She’s a wonderful cook and an amazing baker. She’s always got an assortment of cookies going on at her house. And she gave me my favorite cookbook, Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, which has a plethora of wonderful cookie recipes. I’ve never made a recipe from that book that I haven’t loved and usually it becomes my new favorite…Margarita cookies, Chocoblock cookies, World Peace cookies…and now this one. Chunky Peanut Butter Chocolate Chipsters. They’re like all three of the best cookies baked into one (for when you can’t decide whether you want peanut butter cookies, oatmeal cookies or chocolate chip cookies.). I think Gramma Lulu would like these.

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Just a note – I wasn’t sure if I was going to like the addition of cinnamon and nutmeg with peanut butter, but you know what? It works. I adapted the recipe just slightly, as I didn’t have fresh nutmeg (uh…who does?), so I reduced the amount to 1/8 teaspoon of the ground kind.

Chunky Peanut Butter Chocolate Chipsters

INGREDIENTS

3 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chunks, or 1 1/2 cups store-bought chocolate chips or chunks (I used chocolate chips)

DIRECTIONS

Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Whisk together the oats, flour, baking soda, spices and salt. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter, peanut butter, sugar and brown sugar on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition, then beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients, beating only until blended. Mix in the chips.

If you have the time, cover and chill the dough for about 2 hours or for up to one day. (Chilling the dough will give you more evenly shaped cookies.) Note: I only chilled the dough for about half an hour, so didn’t bother with the rolling into balls and flattening…they turned out perfect. If the dough is not chilled, drop rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto the baking sheets.

If the dough is chilled, scoop up rounded tablespoons, roll the balls between your palms and place them 2 inches apart on the sheets. Press the chilled balls gently with the heel of your hand until they are about 1/2 inch thick.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back after 7 minutes. The cookies should be golden and just firm around the edges. Lift the cookies onto cooling racks with a wide metal spatula – they’ll firm as they cool.

Make sure you wait for the baking sheets to cool completely before making the next batch. And I used parchment paper, which I turned over to use the unused side for the second batch.

Parmesan Chicken with Caesar Roasted Romaine

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A while back, Bon Appétit posted an article called, “27 Recipes for Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts That Are NOT Boring“.

The description said, “chicken breasts may be everyone’s go-to lean protein—but, man, can it be BORING. Too often it’s an overcooked afterthought, sautéed and tossed into pasta or tumbled over some greens. Nobody likes dry, flavorless chicken, even if it is healthier than, say, luscious, drool-inducing pork belly.

But we say: No more! WE WILL NOT PUT UP WITH BORING BREASTS! That’s why we’re presenting 27 of our best, most enthralling chicken-breast recipes—from a hearty Moroccan stew to a rich roulade to a light chicken salad—each of which will take your healthy chicken routine from drab to fab.”

Okay.  I’m curious. So I scrolled through the slide show and found a bunch that looked good (including Chicken w/Herb-Roasted Tomatoes & Pan Sauce, Chicken Breast Dijon, Chicken w/Salsa Verde and Chicken, Asparagus & Wild Mushroom Stir Fry), but the one that really tempted me was the very first photo…Parmesan Chicken with Caesar Roasted Romaine, so I printed out the recipe and added it to the ever-expanding recipes-I-must-try pile.

Then a few weeks later, we’re having the “what shall we have for dinner?” conversation and I remembered the chicken.  Pulled out the recipe.  AND had all the ingredients on hand.  Perfect.

Not only was it super duper easy, but it was really delicious too.  I honestly couldn’t believe how moist the chicken stayed.  And I loved the roasted romaine.

The only thing I changed was that I had some homemade Caesar salad dressing in the fridge, so I used that for drizzling on the romaine before roasting and drizzled a little more on just before serving.

Parmesan Chicken with Caesar Roasted Romaine

INGREDIENTS

4 7-ounce skinless, boneless chicken breasts

Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup grated Parmesan, Pecorino, or Asiago cheese (about 1 1/2 ounces)

1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

2 garlic cloves, chopped, divided

2 large hearts of romaine, halved lengthwise

4 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained, chopped (optional)

1 lemon, cut into 8 wedges

Ingredient info: Panko is available in the Asian foods section of most supermarkets and at Asian markets.

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 450°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil. Season chicken with salt and pepper; place on prepared sheet. Combine cheese, panko, 2 tablespoons oil, parsley, and 1 garlic clove in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper. Pat panko mixture onto breasts. Roast chicken until crumbs begin to turn golden, about 10 minutes.

Drizzle romaine with 1 tablespoon oil and sprinkle with remaining 1 chopped garlic clove. Season with salt and pepper. Remove sheet from oven; place romaine roast right around chicken. Roast until chicken is cooked through and lettuce is browned at edges, about 5 minutes. Divide among plates. Top lettuce with anchovies (if using); garnish with lemon wedges for squeezing over.

Kale and Quinoa Salad

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So, a year ago I would have told you that I don’t like kale. In fact, I probably would have pouted, stomped my foot and said, “I don’t like kale.” Then I had a Kale & Brussels Sprouts Salad that converted me. A month ago, I would have told you that I don’t like quinoa. Then I had a Quinoa and Kale (whaaaat?) salad at Great Maple and it forever changed my mind about quinoa.

What is quinoa anyway? It’s not a grain. It’s some weird seed-type thing. We were told last year at the Urban Solace Passover Seder that it’s okay to eat on Passover because it’s not a grain. I had to look it up on Wikipedia. Also learned from Wiki – 2013 is International Year of Quinoa. Seriously. “The objective is to draw the world’s attention to the role that quinoa plays in providing food security, nutrition and poverty eradication, in support of achieving Millennium Development Goals.” Go, Quinoa!

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Uncooked quinoa

Uncooked quinoa (Trader Joe’s Organic Tricolor Quinoa)

Okay, so back to the quinoa salad story… Great Maple is a new-ish restaurant in San Diego, housed in what used to be an old-school coffee shop. It’s funky and cool and the food & cocktails are really good. Tony and I went a couple of Friday’s ago. They do this cute thing every Friday at 6:30pm…they bring a glass of champagne to every patron and do a toast called “Cheers to Charlie”, basically saying thanks for a great week. Very cute. (Oh, and did I mention the cocktails? I had a Great Maple Honey Mule…honey vodka, mint, lime & ginger beer. Served in a really cute bear glass. Heaven.)

great maple mule

Sidetracked again.  The salad. Great Maple calls it Suzi’s Farm Kale Salad: fresh local kale, quinoa, Pecorino cheese, fresh tomato, red onion and shallot vinaigrette. It was delicious. So delicious, in fact, that I couldn’t stop thinking about it. So the Sunday after we ate there, I created a similar recipe. And we’ve had it twice three times since. Might be my new favorite salad.

Kale and Quinoa Salad (sorta like Great Maple’s)

INGREDIENTS

Dressing:

(adapted from Lemon-Shallot Vinaigrette from Jan Birnbaum, Food & Wine)

1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons minced shallot

1-1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1-1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

1 small garlic clove, minced

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to tasted

In a blender, combine the lemon zest and juice, shallots, mustard, vinegar and garlic and puree until smooth. With the machine on, slowly add the olive oil until emulsified. Pour into a bowl and season with salt & pepper.

Salad:

(adapted from Great Maple…via my memory)

2 cups cooked Quinoa (I used Trader Joe’s Organic Tricolor Quinoa)

2 cups chopped kale (cut thick center stem pieces out)

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced into rings and then halved

1/2 cup coarsely grated Percorino Romano cheese

1/4 cup pine nuts (the salad at GM may or may not have had pine nuts; I thought I remembered them, but I don’t see them listed on the description on their menu online)

Cook quinoa according to package directions. Fluff with a fork & set aside to cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, add kale, tomatoes, and red onion. Gently toss.

When cooled, add quinoa, gently tossing with a fork to further fluff & separate the quinoa. Drizzle dressing over and toss gently. Add cheese and pine nuts. Gently toss again, adding more dressing if necessary.

Best if made a little ahead of time, chilling for at least half an hour.

Fried Egg Sandwich with Bacon and Blue Cheese [Egg Sandwich Lyonnaise]

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The first time I had a Salade Lyonnaise was at a birthday lunch for my sister-in-law Kelly at Café Chloe (a cute little French restaurant here in San Diego) and I was instantly in love.  The combination of bitter greens (typically frisée), lardons (crisp bacon pieces), croutons and a poached egg tossed in a warm vinaigrette…c’est bon.

Then our friend Christine (of “Blanquette de Veau” fame) served it at a dinner party at her home.  Again.  C’est bon.  So when I saw that Smitten Kitchen posted a recipe for a sandwich that was inspired by Salade Lyonnaise, I knew I had to make it.  She fries the egg, rather than poaching, and uses a little of the bacon grease to make the vinaigrette (oh my!) and adds crumbled blue cheese, all on a crusty ciabatta roll.  C’est très bon.  It’s a quick and easy and really delicious weeknight dinner.  Add a glass of white Burgundy, some pommes frites (aka shoestring French fries) and voilà…you’ve turned your kitchen into a little French bistro!

Fried Egg Sandwich with Bacon and Blue Cheese [Egg Sandwich Lyonnaise]

Makes 2 sandwiches

INGREDIENTS

2 ciabatta rolls

1 1/2 cups frisée (French curly endive), torn into-bite size pieces (I couldn’t find frisée either time I’ve made the sandwiches – I used a Spring mix once and arugula once…both were delicious)
1 bacon slice, preferably thick-cut (I actually used two slices!)
1 tablespoon minced shallot (from 1 small)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 teaspoons red wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese

1 to 2 teaspoons unsalted butter, divided
2 large eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS

Split your rolls and put them in to toast.

Place frisée in a medium bowl.

Cut bacon crosswise into 1/4-inch wide lardons. In a small heavy skillet, cook bacon over moderate heat, until pieces are crisp. With a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels, reserving bacon fat in pan. Add shallot to bacon fat and cook for one minute, stirring. Add red wine vinegar and let hiss and bubble for 20 to 30 seconds, then remove from heat and whisk in Dijon. Immediately pour hot dressing over frisée and toss with drained lardons, salt and pepper.

Remove rolls from toaster and divide bacon-frisée salad between each bottom bun. You’ll want to heap on more than seems feasible or needed, especially once you realize how tasty it is. Top each salad pile with half (2 tablespoons) of the blue cheese.

Reheat skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter and swirl it to coat the pan. Crack one egg into the skillet, season with salt and pepper and reduce heat to medium. I like to cover the skillet with a small lid at this point, as it seems to help the egg cook faster and more evenly. In one minute, you should have a perfect sunny-side-up egg. However, I find that for this sandwich, to somewhat rein in the mess, it helps to then flip the egg for 20 to 30 seconds, until the yolk is still runny, but less likely to run right off your sandwich.

Remove the egg from the pan and place it on top of the bacon-frisée salad on the bun. Repeat with remaining egg and come on, what are you waiting for? Dig in.

Chino Chopped Vegetable Salad

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Okay.  Here’s another one of my “I’ve been making this for oh-so-long” recipes.  I clipped it out of a magazine (maybe San Diego Home & Garden?) at one time  and then when I received Wolfgang Puck’s Live, Love, Eat! cookbook as a gift years ago, it was in there too.  I have since lost the one from the magazine, but still have the cookbook (albeit pages 1-45 have come loose from the binding, which is very funny because the two recipes I use – Chinois Chicken Salad and this one, are on pages 42 and 44.  The rest of the book is perfectly intact.)

This is called Chino Chopped Vegetable Salad.  Wolfgang calls it that because he says “What tastes better and lighter on a hot summer day than a fresh vegetable salad?  No one I know grows better vegetables than the Chino family on their organic farm in Rancho Santa Fe north of San Diego.”  To be quite honest, I’ve never been to Chino Farms.  I just had to look to see if they are still around.  They are.  But since the time Wolfgang published the cookbook (2003), farmer’s markets have sprouted up all over the place and you can get really wonderful farm fresh veggies at any of them.

This is one of my favorite salads.  I’ve simplified it a bit and often take shortcuts by using frozen (shhhh…don’t tell Wolfgang or the Chino family) veggies.  There’s a lot of chopping involved, but really, it’s pretty easy.  The dressing makes enough that you’ll have more than you need. So save the leftovers and use for another salad another day (or…make this one again!)

And, be creative…use whatever veggies you like.  Fresh peas, chopped zucchini…if you like hearts of palm better than artichoke hearts, use those.

Chino Chopped Vegetable Salad

 INGREDIENTS

Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette:

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar (or you can use red wine vinegar)

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup safflower oil

salt

freshly ground pepper

Salad:

1/2 cup chopped artichoke hearts (from a jar of marinated hearts, drained)

1/2 cup diced carrots

1/2 cup diced green beans (you can use fresh or I’ve used Trader Joe’s frozen haricots verts)

1/2 cup diced red onion

1/2 cup chopped radicchio

1/2 cup corn kernels (you can use fresh or I’ve used Trader Joe’s frozen roasted corn)

1/2 cup diced celery

1 small tomato, chopped

1 small avocado, peeled, pitted and chopped

4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS

To prepare the vinaigrette:  In a small bowl, combine the mustard and vinegar.  Whisking continuously, slowly pour in the oils and mix until emulsified.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To prepare the salad:

If using fresh green beans – bring a pot of boiling water to a boil.  Put the beans in a wire strainer, set inside the pot of boiling water and cook until al dente, tender, but still firm, 2 to 3 minutes.  Plunge the strainer into a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process.  Drain and set aside to cool.

If using frozen green beans (and frozen corn) – put the beans and corns into a colander.  Run hot water over for a few minutes until defrosted.  Drain and set aside.

In a large bowl, add artichoke hearts, carrots, green beans, red onion, radicchio, corn and celery.  Gently toss with a little vinaigrette.  Just before serving, add the tomato and avocado.  Gently toss again with a little more vinaigrette.  Divide salad among salad plates and sprinkle with the grated Parmesan. Season with freshly ground pepper.

Cinnamon Roll Cake

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Debra, one of my very favorite coworkers, had a birthday (a BIG birthday) last month.  Okay, really, Debra’s not just one of my favorite coworkers, but one of my very favorite people on the whole planet.  Really.  She’s kind and thoughtful and funny and generous and has a laugh that is absolutely contagious.

I was invited to her surprise party but couldn’t make it, so I wanted to do something special to make up for missing it.  I asked her wife what her favorite baked good was.  She said, “Deb loves cinnamon rolls…lemon bars too, but cinnamon rolls are her favorite.”  Cinnamon rolls.  Hmmm…I think I’ve made them once or twice and I really didn’t have time to do the whole wait-for-the-yeast-to-rise thing.

Then I remembered seeing a recipe that someone had posted on Facebook for a Cinnamon Roll Cake.  I tried to find which friend had posted it (spent way too much time on that little venture), but couldn’t.  So I Googled.  Duh.  There were dozens of them…seems to be a popular recipe on Pinterest and the food blog circuit.  And they are all exactly the same recipe. So I went to the blog that I thought looked cutest (The Girl Who Ate Everything) and made that one.  It was really easy and smelled heavenly while baking.

(As a little side note here, it smelled so good baking that it caught Tony’s attention.  He came into the kitchen and asked what I was baking.  I told him it was for Debra’s birthday.  He said something along the lines of, “how come you always bake such good stuff for work and not for me?” Guilt.  So I made a second one!!!!  Crazy, I know…but at least this way I got to sample it!  And it tasted just as heavenly as it smelled.  All warm and cinnamon-y and gooey and delicious.  Tony loved it and the neighbors we shared it with did too.)  

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The next day, I took the one I made for Debra to work and left it on her desk.  And then waited for her to discover it.  A while later, she walked over to my cubicle and said, “Bruser…did you make this delicious cinnamon cake”?  And I said, “yes, it’s a cinnamon roll cake.”  And she said, “Cinnamon rolls are my favorite thing.”  And I said, “I know.”  Giggle, giggle.  And she said, “how did you know?”  Giggle, giggle.  “Did my wife tell you?”  More giggling.  Anyway…it was very cute.  She said she loved it.  Said it might even be one of the best things she’s ever eaten in her life, “like a cinnamon roll and coffee cake all in one.”

Later that night, Debra texted me a picture of her son 14-year-old Ethan eating a piece of the cake.  She said, “He’s in heaven, Bruser!”

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So here you have it.  Cinnamon Roll Cake.  Like coffee cake and cinnamon roll all in one.  You don’t even have to wait until one of your favorite people’s birthday.  Make one this weekend. You’ll be so happy you might even laugh like Debra.

Cinnamon Roll Cake

INGREDIENTS

Cake:
3 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1-1/2 cups milk
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup butter, melted

Topping:
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon

DIRECTIONS
Mix everything together except for the butter. Slowly stir in the melted butter and pour into a greased 9×13 pan.

For the topping, mix all the ingredients together until well combined. Drop evenly over the batter and swirl with a knife. Bake at 350° for 28-32 minutes.

Glaze:
2 c. powdered sugar
5 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla

While still warm drizzle the glaze over the cake.

Tomato-Glazed Mini Meatloaves

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I love meatloaf.  I mean, I really love meatloaf (and leftover meatloaf sammies?  Don’t event get me started!) Tony, on the other hand, not such a fan.  When I first broached the subject a couple of decades ago, his response was something like, “No way. Meatloaf?  Gross.  Why would anyone want to eat a loaf of meat?”  Okay.  I’ll admit, when you phrase it like that, it’s not so appealing.  My argument was, “but you like burgers…it’s basically the same thing, only bigger.”  Well, it was an argument I wasn’t going to win.

So I order meatloaf when we go out.  And often usually pretty much always, when Tony goes out of town, I either make myself a little mini meatloaf (from that old tried-and-true Betty Crocker cookbook) or I order “to go” the Frieda’s Meatloaf from our local favorite Trails restaurant.

But that’s not to say that I haven’t tried to convert him. I think in the 29 years that we’ve been married (plus the four we were dating before that), maybe three times I’ve convinced him to try a “loaf of meat”.  First time was pretty early on.  It was my favorite from aforementioned Betty Crocker cookbook.  No go.

So I took a few years off and then last year, there was a recipe in Bon Appétit for banh mi-inspired meatloaf sandwiches, with a hoisin glaze.  He actually liked that.  (It was a pretty complicated recipe and involved cooking bacon first and adding it to the meat mixture and, of course, we didn’t have it in “loaf” style, just sliced on sandwiches, topped with a really yummy slaw, but we’re getting closer!)

Then when I bought the Smitten Kitchen cookbook a few months ago, there was a recipe for Tomato-Glazed Meatloaves.  She writes that she is a “sucker for a good meatball…however, it had always been my belief that I had no such adoration for meatloaf” and then someone pointed out that meatloaf is like one giant meatball.  HA!  She says she came up with a great recipe, but that still couldn’t “get past the loglike meatloaf shape”, so makes these little “meatloaves masquerading as big meatballs.”  So I figure I’ll try them.  Tell Tony they’re just big meatballs.  HA!  And guess what?  It worked.  He liked them!

Now I’m happy that there are two “loaf of meat” recipes I can make.  This one is much easier and cooks a lot quicker (the cooking time is about a third of what it takes to do a full-sized loaf).  Annnnddd…you can have meatloaf sliders for lunch the next day!

Tony was away at a guys’ golf trip this past weekend…guess what I made?

Tomato-Glazed Mini Meatloaves

(adapted just slightly from Smitten Kitchen)

Makes 12 mini meatloaves – serves 6

INGREDIENTS

Glaze:

Glaze:

4 teaspoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup tomato paste

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 teaspoons honey (I would actually double this next time – I like a sweeter glaze)

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon salt

Meatloaves:

2 slices sandwich bread (should be about 1 cup of crumbs.  Note – I actually “cheated” and used a cup of store bought panko crumbs)

1 garlic clove, minced

1 medium stalk celery, chopped

1 medium carrot, chopped

Olive oil, for cooking

2 pounds ground beef

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 large eggs

Optional – 8 ounces mushrooms, doubled or quartered, to toss in the baking dish and bake alongside the mini loaves

DIRECTIONS

Combine glaze ingredients in a small saucepan, and simmer, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes. Set aside.

Preheat your oven to 350°. Tear the bread into chunks and then blend it, in a food processor, into breadcrumbs (or use one cup store bought crumbs). Place breadcrumbs in a large bowl. Add the vegetables to processor and finely chop (or do it by hand).

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once the skillet is hot, coat the bottom with olive oil; add the finely chopped vegetables. Season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to brown, about 10 minutes.

Add the vegetables to the large bowl with breadcrumbs, then add the remaining ingredients. Stir together with a fork. With wet hands, form the mixture into twelve 3 inch meatballs.

Space the meatballs so that they are not touching, in a baking dish.  Brush each with a teaspoon or so of the tomato glaze. (If you’re adding mushrooms, here’s where you’d do it…just quarter or halve and scatter around the meatballs.) Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through.

Serve on a bed of your favorite mashed potatoes.

Grilled Lemony-Herb Cauliflower Steaks

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The other night we were trying to think of a side dish to have with burgers.  Tony says, “How about grilled cauliflower?  I think I saw a recipe for cauliflower steaks in one of our magazines recently.”  Hmmmm…intriguing.  I’ve come to find that most veggies are better either grilled or roasted.  So I Googled.  I found the one he was referring to, in Bon Appétit.  Cauliflower Steaks with Olive Relish and Tomato Sauce.  Well, they weren’t grilled and they were a little more complicated than I wanted and I am not a fan of olives. So back to Google.  I actually found a bunch of recipes for grilled cauliflower steaks.  I knew I wanted to just brush with a little olive oil, maybe some lemon juice and herbs, but I wanted to find the method.  So I ended up combing ideas from a few of the recipes.  The result?  A-mazing.  The cauliflower gets all nutty and caramelized….mmmm…goodness.  Yummy.  Healthy.  Delicious.

Note – one whole head of cauliflower was devoured by the two of us.  You’ll see that when you start slicing the cauliflower, you only really get three or four “steaks”.  The rest falls off into big (and some small florets).  You can grill the bigger floret pieces.  Save the smaller ones for dipping into hummus.

Grilled Lemony-Herb Cauliflower Steaks

INGREDIENTS

(Serves two)

1 head cauliflower

1/4 cup olive oil

juice of one lemon

2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped small

1 tablespoon fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

DIRECTIONS

Preheat grill to medium-low.

Whisk olive oil, lemon juice, basil, parsley and oregano.

Remove outer leaves and trim stem end of cauliflower, leaving core intact. Place cauliflower core side down on a work surface. Using a large knife, slice cauliflower into three or four 1/2″ “steaks” from center of cauliflower.  Some pieces will fall off.  You can grill the larger pieces.  Save the small florets for dipping, raw, into hummus, for a healthy snack.

Brush both sides of the cauliflower steaks with olive oil mixture. Grill cauliflower on each side, brushing with additional olive oil mixture, until cauliflower is nutty brown and tender but still firm, about 3 or 4 minutes per side.  Serve warm and with additional olive oil/lemon/herb mixture for dipping.

Espresso-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

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Labor Day we had a few friends over for a barbecue.  (Of course, you knew that already because you read the Pomegranate-Queso Fresco Salsa post, right?  Remember…Rosh Hashanah started just days after Labor Day…I was in barbecue mode, not Jewish holiday mode…remember? Yeah.  Yeah.)  Main course was Sriracha-Glazed Chicken Skewers and Broccoli Slaw.

Well, I really wanted to break out the Kitchenaid ice cream maker attachment and make a new flavor ice cream for dessert.  I looked all through David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop and didn’t see anything that really grabbed me, so I went to old faithful Smitten Kitchen and found Butterscotch Ice Cream.  I had been dreaming about this dessert (Butterscotch Budino from Nostrana) I had in Portland while visiting our son Kyle last year (okay, I dream about that dessert a lot…one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Seriously.), so I figure I’ll try the ice cream.  It was good (not Butterscotch Budino good, but good).  I served it sprinkled with a few chopped sugared pecans from Trader Joe’s on top and accompanied by Espresso-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies.

Oh yeah, the Espresso-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies.  At the very end of the ice cream recipe, she says, “Note: If you serve with espresso-chocolate shortbread cookies, your friends might never leave. Proceed with caution.”  Okay fine.  Now I gotta make the cookies too.  Well, let’s just say it was a very good decision.  In fact, the cookies received far more kudos than the ice cream!  I mean, I love shortbread cookies anyway, but hat I liked about these is that you can really taste coffee in them.  And with the little bits of dark chocolate?!?  Mmmmm.   Will definitely make these again (even without the Butterscotch Ice Cream)!

Espresso-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

(SK says these are adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking, of which I am also a huge fan!)

Makes 42 cookies

INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon boiling water
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (plain, or a toffee variety), finely chopped, or 3/4 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)

DIRECTIONS

1. Dissolve the espresso in the boiling water, and set aside to cool to tepid.

2. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and confectioners’ sugar together on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until the mixture is very smooth. Beat in the vanilla and espresso, then reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, mixing only until it disappears into the dough. Don’t work the dough much once the flour is incorporated. Fold in the chopped chocolate with a sturdy rubber spatula.

3. Using the spatula, transfer the soft, sticky dough to a gallon-size zipper-lock plastic bag. Put the bag on a flat surface, leaving the top open, and roll the dough into a 9 x 10 1/2 inch rectangle that’s 1/4 inch thick. As you roll, turn the bag occasionally and lift the plastic from the dough so it doesn’t cause creases. When you get the right size and thickness, seal the bag, pressing out as much air as possible, and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, or for up to 2 days.

4. Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

5. Put the plastic bag on a cutting board and slit it open. Turn the firm dough out onto the board (discard the bag) and, using a ruler as a guide and a sharp knife, cut the dough into 1 1/2-inch squares. Transfer the squares to the baking sheets and carefully prick each one twice with a fork, gently pushing the tines through the cookies until they hit the sheet.

6. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point. The shortbreads will be very pale–they shouldn’t take on much color. Transfer the cookies to a rack.

7. If you’d like, dust the cookies with confectioners’ sugar while they are still hot. Cool the cookies to room temperature before serving.