Thursday, October 31, 2013

Bison Sliders with Maple Balsamic Aioli, Browned Mushrooms, and King's Hawaiian Sweet Rolls ®

Once upon a time, in a not so far away land (right here), there lived a woman named Jenn.  This Jenn was not micromanaged by a Maxwell, and not beholden to a tiny tyrant.  A pretty adorable tyrant (one of the sources of this miniature person's power, the other stemming from his marvelous ability to throw a tantrum), but a tyrant nonetheless.

This Jenn had the ability, the freedom, to use a fork instead of a spoon, whenever she pleased!  If she felt the urge to draw, which was well, admittedly seldom, she did not have to draw only what the small tyrant told her to draw.   She could draw all the things she wanted without argument.  She did not have to hug a toy bus if she didn't want to.  She did not have to explain to this tyrant why she was the one feeding the cats and not Seth.

Obviously, there was a regime change.

And like all political leaders, Max is always on the lookout for acquiring more power.  He somehow managed to get all seven adults who were congregating at my grandmother's house corralled in her basement.  Like cattle.  All there to be of a source of entertainment as well as an audience to/for the tiny tyrant. 

Loyalty to the little master means a promotion to his second-in-command.  The person who helps him use the toilet.  The person who hands him a tissue.  These are the honors one can earn, if they are lucky and faithful.

But one area in which I refuse to cede power to the offspring is in the kitchen.  He can file a request, but that is as far as it goes.

And in that kitchen, the one free of tyranny, I made bison sliders.  Small patties of meat, flavored with Herbes de Provence and melted with shaved Parmesan, topped with browned cremini mushrooms scented with a bit of thyme, as well as an aioli mixed with balsamic vinegar and maple syrup.  Butter lettuce for a bit of green, a bit of crunch. and finally, crucially, King's Hawaiian Sweet Roll ® holds the entire thing together... a sweet, soft, utterly delicious King's Hawaiian Sweet Roll ®.  As an aside, I seriously just eat these rolls right from the package, nothing added, a treat that not only makes me happy, but makes Max and our puff cat happy as well.

These sliders were free of the influence of tiny tot hands.  Free of his micromanaging and quite frankly, bossy ways.  These were a creation born under the hand of liberty.

For the maple balsamic aioli:
1/2 cup mayonnaise (homemade or store-bought)
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon maple syrup
3/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
kosher salt, to taste

For the browned mushrooms:
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 sprig of thyme leaves
pinch kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
splash Worcestershire sauce

For the bison sliders:
16 ounces bison meat
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground dried mushrooms
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons Herbes de Provence
Parmesan cheese, shaved
King's Hawaiian Sweet Rolls ®
butter lettuce

To make the maple balsamic aioli: Stir all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

To make the mushrooms: Melt the butter and olive oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Once the butter has melted and the bubbles in the mixture have started to subside, add the mushrooms and thyme leaves . Stir continuously, allowing the mushrooms to absorb the butter and oil mixture. After a few minutes, the mushrooms will brown. Sprinkle salt and pepper, and add a splash of Worcestershire sauce.

To make the bison patties: In a large bowl, mix together the bison, ground dried mushrooms, Herbes de Provence, Greek yogurt, salt, and pepper. Form the mixture into small patties. I get about 10-12  patties from the mixture.

To make the burgers: Heat canola oil over high heat in a cast iron skillet. Add the patties. Brown one side (about 3 minutes or so). Flip the burgers over and add a Parmesan cheese slice to each. Keep the heat on high to brown the bottoms. Cover skillet with a baking sheet or lid and turn the heat to low to finish cooking the bison and to melt the cheese. Once the burgers are fully cooked and the cheese has melted, remove from pan.

To assemble the sliders: Place butter lettuce and a cooked bison patty on each King's Hawaiian Sweet Roll ®. Top with some mushrooms and the aioli.

Great holiday recipes start with KING’S HAWAIIAN® Dinner Rolls! Vote for your favorite KING’S HAWAIIAN recipe here for a chance to win one of three $500 gift cards! Sweepstakes Rules. I'd love it if you would vote for these sliders!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of King's Hawaiian®. The opinions and text are all mine.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Seared Shrimp with Cilantro Honey Dip

Some people are described as loving misery.  Enjoying, relishing the sensation of rolling around in the muck of unhappiness.

I suspect that this is how some would describe me.  But I'm not sure that is quite right.

I don't love being miserable.  I just truly love to complain.  To analyze things to death.  I'm not mad or unhappy or upset (usually) while engaging in these activities.  These are just some of the entries on my life list of, "things that make Jenn happy," like chapstick...  or wearing polka dots...  or eggnog

It still catches me off guard, however; though at this point, it really shouldn't, when someone is under the impression that I am unhappy.  Especially when that person is your husband.  We recently were out for lunch, trying out a new place.  I suppose, without realizing it, I was being critical of the food we had ordered.  Seth apologized to me for bringing me to a place that would make me so miserable.  I was so confused - I wasn't miserable at all!  I mean, yes, it would have been better if the food was better, but, it was a way of whittling away the time, of engaging my brain.  It was useful information to have - whether or not this restaurant was actually good.  Now i just know to not go back.  Which again, is useful information to have at your disposal.

And also on my list of things that make Jenn happy, dipping of course.  In this case, some nice seared shrimp dipped into a cilantro and honey sauce, a sauce with just a bit of heat from the fresh ginger and sweetness from the green apple.  I don't relish the thought of unhappiness, but I always relish a good dip.

For the dip:
1 bunch cilantro
1/4 cup basil
1/4 cup Granny Smith apple, peeled
1 teaspoon honey
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon sesame paste
1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 inch piece of peeled ginger

For the shrimp:
1 pound shrimp, defrosted and deveined, shells removed
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
canola oil, for frying

To make the dip:  Put everything in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until it all comes together like a pesto.  Serve with the shrimp.

To make the shrimp:  Heat a bit of canola oil in a cast iron skillet over high heat.  Sprinkle shrimp with salt and pepper, then place in pan.  Once side is pink with some browned parts, flip and finish cooking the other side.  The whole process is pretty quick!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Baby Greens and Pear Bowl with Za'atar, Yogurt, and Fried Egg

"Be a tennis ball, not an egg."

These were the confusing words written on a sign.  A sign located in Pennsylvania. A sign that was seen while riding in a vehicle with my mom and my child.  And most importantly, most unfortunately - my sister.

For as long as I can remember, my sister has considered me to be an egg. It has never been quite clear to me why this is so.

I can't believe I need to point this out, but I am not an egg. I do not have a shell and/or a yolk.  I'm fairly certain I have a brain.  I think therefore I am, and all that.  Also in my favor of not being an egg, I can use my vocal cords to speak and communicate.  I'm going to go out on a limb and say that an egg can't do all of that.
Upon reading the sign, my sister displayed some sympathy for me, and told me that it was okay to be an egg, it was okay to be me.  I thanked her for her concern, as I was experiencing an unusual mixture of emotions - 1) amusement by the extremely roundabout way the sign owner tried to convey his/her wisdom 2) apathy, as it has absolutely nothing to do with me, because I am not an egg 3) indignation, as it should be perfectly okay to be an egg, 4) horror at the thought that I have perhaps conceded the egg point to my sister.

Upon arrival to our destination, I called Seth and told him about the sign we had passed in our travels.  His response was "Oh, bounce, not break, well in that regard you may be a bit egg-like." I thanked him for his faith in me, as well as for hopping on board my sister's egg train.

Now we are here with a lunch bowl.  One filled with baby greens (I used baby kale)and pears, and a bit of scallions and parsley for some flavor, coated with olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon juice.  And sunflower seeds.  And a dab of Greek yogurt and zaatar.  And of course, most importantly, a fried egg.  I broke that egg into a hot frying pan, cooked it with some salt, pepper, and smoked paprika,  placed that broken and fried egg in the bowl as well, then topped it with a sprinkling of chopped mint leaves.  An egg may break not bounce, but it sure is delicious.

2 cups baby greens
1/4 cup diced pear
1 tablespoon scallions
1 tablespoon parsley
1 tablespoon roasted sunflower seeds
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
pinch kosher salt
pinch freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon za'atar
1 fried egg, sprinkled with a pinch of salt, smoked paprika, and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon mint leaves, chopped

Toss baby greens, pear, scallions, parsley, and seeds in a bowl.  Drizzle olive oil and lemon juice, then sprinkle just a touch of salt and pepper.  Add a dollop of Greek yogurt and sprinkle with za'atar.  Top with the fried egg sprinkled with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika.  Finish with chopped mint leaves.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Crab Vodka Salsa

Were someone to ask me what animal I would be, which, as an aside, I can't actually imagine someone asking me, but I guess if I were to ask myself what animal I'd be, I'd have to say "hyena."  Hyenas are quite clever.  Scavenging for scraps, but possessing the ability to hunt when needed.  They only exert the energy to hunt when it is actually necessary.

I too, can hunt.  If by hunt, you mean obtain food from a market, bring it home, and turn it into dinner.  But just because I possess this ability, it doesn't mean I need to expend the energy all the time.  Rather I can circle around my offspring's meal, and retrieve the leftovers after he has finished. Having a child who makes a lot of requests for certain foods, but doesn't actually go through the whole part of eating it,  means this is an effective food gathering strategy for me. Sometimes I have been known to scavenge while he is still eating, like taking the remains of a cookie after he has placed it down on the table and has turned his head.

However, like the hyena, I too can occasionally put a damper on my scavenging ways and move on to some actual cooking.  Like this salsa.
This month's Creative Cooking Crew challenge, hosted by Laz of Lazaro Cooks, is "cooking with spirits." Check back here at the end of the month - I'll post a link to the roundup of all the CCC dishes for the month!  Roundup is live, click here to see all the amazing creations!

We chose to go with vodka, giving this crab-filled salsa a bit of a kick as it slides down your throat.  Gypsy and jalapeno peppers, garlic, cilantro, red onion fill each bite with vegetal goodness, while using smoked sea salt and smoked paprika leaves a little something behind to linger on your taste buds.  The kind of food that is worth giving up my hyena ways and becoming human again.

1/4 cup olive oil
2 celery stalks, diced
half a large onion, diced
5 gypsy peppers, divided, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
6 ounces lump crab meat
smoked sea salt, to taste
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup vodka
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice, plus more to taste
minced jalapeno, optional
tortilla chips, for serving

In a large saute pan, heat oil over medium low heat.  Add celery, onion, and three of the gypsy peppers. Once the vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes, add the garlic and red pepper flakes.  Cook for a minute, until garlic is fragrant, but not burned.  Add the crushed tomatoes.  In a bowl, stir together the crab meat, a hearty pinch of smoked salt, smoked paprika, and a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper.  Add the crab to salsa.  Stir.  Add the vodka.  Turn heat to medium high.  Once the vodka has cooked down (it will leave a spiciness in your throat but no longer screams VODKA), about 8-10 minutes, let the mixture cool down a bit and add lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper, as well as the remaining gypsy peppers, red onion, and cilantro.  If you want more heat in the salsa, add some minced jalapeno.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Persimmon and Grapefruit Yogurt Parfaits with Gingersnap and Pecan Crumbles

We look forward to, anticipate, build up some upcoming experiences.  Daydreaming about what it will be like. Crystal clear pictures of the amazingness form in our heads.

Which, are then, of course, subsequently crushed.  Shattered.  Destroyed when reality sets in.

I was terribly excited to go to the East Coast.  To visit friends and family.  But mostly to experience the fall weather that they supposedly have out there.  Visions of sweater wearing while galloping through piles of fallen leaves danced in my head.  Hay rides with toasty plaid blanket after blanket piled on top of me.  Warm cinnamon-spiced apple cider consumed while plucking bushels of apples right from trees.  Tromps through pumpkin patches with my tall boots.  It would be a perfect autumn week.  A super cliched autumn week.

Until I arrived in Pennsylvania and became aware that the weather was hot.  Like hot.  Like maybe I hadn't actually left the state of California hot.  Like wow, I'm glad I packed sandals hot.  Like take the small child to the park in the morning and want to go back home within 5 minutes because the sun is so hot.  Clearly, this wasn't what I had been hoping for.

Sometimes, though, life hands us exactly what we had been envisioning.  I wanted to stick a spoon into something creamy, something sweet, something fruity, something with a little bit of zing to it.  This parfait has all of that.  Persimmons and grapefruits mixed together.  Creamy Greek yogurt flavored with vanilla and orange.  Topped with crushed gingersnaps and chopped toasted pecans.  Each spoonful so satisfying, so unique with its own proportion of fruit to yogurt to gingersnap topping, that I would immediately look forward to the next.  And this time, I wasn't disappointed.

Need more information about persimmons, a most wonderful fruit?  Here is a useful article from Cooking Light!

1 cup chopped persimmon
1/2 cup segmented grapefruit
1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon orange juice
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1/4 cup crushed gingersnaps
2 tablespoons finely chopped toasted pecans

In a small bowl, gently toss the persimmon and grapefruit.  In another bowl, stir Greek yogurt, vanilla, honey, orange juice, and orange zest.  In another bowl, mix the finely chopped pecans and crushed gingersnaps.

To serve, layer the fruit mixture and then the yogurt mixture, then top with the gingersnap mixture.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Malt Syrup Blondies with Chocolate Chips

I've always found it difficult to truly be in the moment. To live in the now.  I'm either stuck behind in my thoughts or I have already moved on to something new and shiny.

And usually it is the latter.

This isn't a case of missing things completely out of season, like wanting Christmas in July.  Which is also a problem I have.  I pine for eggnog in July.  What I'm referring to is a slight rushing ahead rather than enjoying what is in front of me.

Once autumn comes around, I'm in full-on Thanksgiving/Christmas mode. Christmas decorating starts at the beginning of November. September and October exist purely for Thanksgiving meal planning.  I can't actually enjoy the weeks and months for what they are. Once spring greens litter the markets, I'm already dreaming about the berries and the peaches that lay head.

These blondies, baked with a smattering of chocolate chips, are adapted from Cooking Light.  They have the magical ability to bring me back to the moment.  Instead of using butterscotch chips, I decided to throw in some malt syrup. I was most pleasantly surprised by the results.  Instead of turning out like a cookie, the malt syrup gives them an almost sticky gingerbread feel.  But they aren't gingerbread. They lack the denseness, thickness, the spicy sumptuousness of gingerbread.  There will be a day to enjoy that.  But not yet.  These are a treat for the now.

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup barley malt syrup
2 tablespoons half and half
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350.  Spray an 8 x 8 pan with cooking spray or fit parchment paper to pan.  Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl.  My barley malt syrup was super thick from being refrigerated, so I placed the malt syrup, half and half, and butter that had yet to be melted in a microwaveable bowl and microwaved carefully in 15 second intervals until the butter had melted and the mixture could be stirred.  If the malt syrup is runny, whisk with the half and half and melted butter.  Pour the microwaved mixture into a mixing bowl, along with the brown sugar, canola oil, vanilla, and eggs.  Beat for 2 minutes.  Stir in the flour mixture until just combined, and then stir in the chocolate chips. Bake for about 20-30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Hot Crab Dip with Chives, Scallion, and Horseradish

I am pretty sure you can never trust a toddler. Or at least the toddler that lives here.
Recent examples of his lack of trustworthiness include:

1) Created a book titled, "Eat Green Eggs and Ham Book."  Said book includes only pictures of butterflies, cars, a bicycle, a moon, and a caterpillar that were clipped from magazines.  No eggs.  No ham.

2) Insisted that he did not poo. Evidence suggested otherwise. Actually, evidence was actually quite clear on this.

3) Claimed to want to eat crab.  I had talked up eating crab in a dip.  He seemed super excited by the prospect.  Not surprisingly, he wanted no part in this once made.

But I did...  Creamy dip filled with green onions and chives and crab meat and horseradish.  Simple but so luxuriously delicious.  And much more trustworthy than the toddler.

6 ounces lump crab meat, sprinkled with a bit of Old Bay seasoning
about 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1/3 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup snipped chives
1/4 cup mayo
1/4 cup sour cream
4-5 ounces cream cheese
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
baguette, crackers, or whatever you want for serving
snipped chives, for serving

Heat oven to 400. Mix everything together.  Bake in ovenproof dish for 15-20 minutes until bubbly. Serve with baguette or crackers.  Sprinkle chives on top.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Chicken and Bacon Chopped Salad with Avocado Garlic Jalapeno Dressing

Like an earworm playing the bars of a song over and over, ideas too get stuck in your head, repeating themselves until you are either driven mad or you are finally forced to act upon them.

Like when you get it in your head that you need some sneakers. And not the kind that are useful for athletics. But the Keds kind, emblazoned proudly with stars. Basically, shoes that a seven year old would wear. These will complete your life.

Or when your best friend starts going on about doughnuts and how it is really sad that there aren't Dunkin Donuts near you, or any other doughnut establishment for that matter. I should note that there was a delicious one in town. Then it closed and my doughnut supply dried up. And after this conversation with your best friend you absolutely cannot stop thinking about doughnuts and so you find yourself in line at the grocery store with a dozen donuts from the bakery section and you know in your heart of hearts that these will not actually be good but you physically are unable to force yourself to put the box down.

And so it is with this chopped salad. Or... I suppose it is a chopped salad.  I'm actually quite unsure on what exactly makes something a chopped salad, but I must have heard the term and it just burrowed into my thoughts until I couldn't stand it any more. I decided to interpret the chopped salad as a salad with some heft, not leafy greens with a vinaigrette.  A substantial and filling salad.  A salad full of romaine lettuce and chicken and bacon and hard boiled eggs with an avocado and garlic buttermilk dressing.  And now I'm unable to get the salad out of my thoughts.

For the salad:
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
handful cherry tomatoes
sliced purple or red bell pepper
1 avocado, peeled and pitted, diced
4 cooked bacon strips, crumbled
1/2 pound of cooked chicken breast, sliced *
3 hard boiled eggs, sliced
3 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 cup julienned jicama

For the dressing:
2 small avocados, peeled and pitted
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon lime zest
juice from 2 small limes
4 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons minced jalapeno
salt and pepper, to taste

To cook the chicken, I sprinkled both sides of the chicken with garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper.  Place in cast iron skillet with cooking oil (I actually used the bacon fat) and put flame on high. Add the chicken pieces.  Brown one side then flip.

In a big bowl, toss together romaine, tomatoes, bell pepper slices, avocado, bacon, chicken, eggs, celery and jicama.

For the dressing: Place all ingredients in a bowl and blend with an immersion blender until creamy.

Pour desired amount of dressing over the salad and toss to coat.

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