Saturday, January 24, 2009

Green Bean Bundles

Green Bean Bundles. Thank you Paula Deen for this recipe! And muchos gracias to my friend Leslie for telling me about these. She made these for a family holiday gathering and as she described the dish to me my mind hung on the words "wrapped in bacon..." I have no idea what she said after that phrase.

How bad could it be? And could you even screw this up? Wrap _______ (insert disgusting thing here) in bacon and I'd probably like it.

Start with beautiful fresh green beans. I can't believe how well these posed for photos. The first thing I did was snip the ugly ends off the green beans.

I gave the bacon a head start by placing them in a 350 oven on a wire bakers cooling rack so the grease could fall off and the bacon wouldn't sit in the grease. I just want to bake them for a short bit so the bacon would be a tad cooked and also easier to handle when warm.

Blanch the green beans by boiling a large pot of water and adding the fresh beans for just a few minutes.

Then remove with a slotted spoon and dunk in a bowl full of chilled water - I even added a few ice cubes to the water to stop the cooking process.

Shake the green beans dry a little and place on baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil.

Now sprinkle the seasoning. You could use ANYTHING here, I chose garlic salt and black pepper.

Toss everything together to evenly coat the green beans in the olive oil and seasoning.

The last step is to take one piece of bacon and wrap a "bundle" of about 5 beans. I placed seam side down on a wire rack set in a baking sheet.

How simple is this? They already look yummy and I haven't even put them in the oven yet.

Please don't mind my many photos of these green bean bundles...they are just so photogenic!

Here are the finished babies after roasting for 15 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

Super easy to put together, minimal ingredients, beautiful vegetable side dish - and one that TASTE great too.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Gingersnap Cookies

I know in the new year everyone is watching what they eat. My house is no different, but I don't think we should have to do without - but simply have treats in moderation. What I loved about Simply Recipes Gingersnap Cookies was that I could freeze the dough and easily slice off just what I wanted to bake. Don't even get me started on my levels of self control. With this freeze-for-later recipe the self control is built in. It takes 10 minutes for my oven to heat, and 15 minutes to bake.... as opposed to walking through the kitchen and devouring a handful of cookies that are sitting out on the counter. I slice the gingersnap cookies very thin so they are crispy and "light" or maybe they just give me the feeling that I'm indulging without overindulging. These are SO good with a glass of milk, truly addicting!

Without further adieu, here is what you need to gather for your own batch of self-controlled Gingersnap Cookies.

8 oz unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 small eggs or 1 1/2 large eggs
1/3 cup molasses
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper

I first creamed the butter in my KitchenAid mixer until soft.

Then add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy.

I really enjoy this Mexican vanilla I purchased across the border.

Add the vanilla to the mixer.

Along with the eggs.

Continue to beat until fluffy.

Before adding the molasses, I first sprayed the measuring cup with Pam!

That way sticky liquids like molasses or honey will slip right out.

The smell of molasses reminds me of BBQ, I love it.

Okay, so add the molasses to the mixer and continue to beat until well-mixed.

Next, I sift the dry ingredients together in another bowl. Flour.

Baking soda.


Ground ginger.

Ground black pepper (yes, this ingredient surprised me too.)

Once the dry ingredients are sifted together, add this to your mixer in thirds. Mix only until the dry ingredients are incorporated.

All mixed!
Now, line a loaf pan with plastic wrap - leaving some overhang on the side.

Press the dough into the bottom of the pan.

Here all the dough is packed in tightly and leveled off on the top.

Cover the dough with the plastic overhangs and freeze until very firm. I left in the freezer overnight.

Yeah, it's the next day and I can't wait to try these crispy cookies!! Unmold the rock hard dough from the loaf pan. This was super easy because I used a silicone baking pan, I just love those!

Here is my Gingersnap brick.

Slice brick into thin slices.

Place on parchment-lined sheetpan. Space an inch apart because they do puff out a bit.

Bake at 350 degrees until the edges turn dark brown. My perfect number was 16 minutes...but this all depends on how thinly you have sliced the dough. You may only need to bake for 7-10 minutes.

I just love how thin and crispy these turned out and SO full of flavor!

Wrap up your unused brick of dough in plastic wrap.

Then I wrapped like a present (to myself) with brown parchment paper.

To remind me what the baking time and temperature is, I wrote it right on the package. As you can see in the picture, I made the dough in early December and I JUST finished slicing the last bit of the brick last night. I'm savoring the last cookie as I type this. Time for a new batch!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Classic Beef Enchiladas

I decided to make these beef enchiladas because Jim received the domino game "Mexican Train" for Christmas and I thought we should have a few friends over and serve enchiladas and margaritas while we play the game.

This recipe comes from Pioneer Woman who has never let me down with her recipes. If you aren't a fan of beef, then check out my Chicken Verde Sour Cream Enchiladas, they are SO GOOD!

I start with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large sauce pan over medium-low heat, then whisk in 1 tablespoon of flour. I'm making a rue here. This will serve as the base for our sauce, and thicken the can of red enchilada sauce that I'm about to add. Keep whisking as it cooks, for about 2-3 minutes.

I had to open this can from the bottom because the top was awkward. I found this mild enchilada sauce at my grocery store on the Mexican food aisle.

Pour in one large 28 ounce can of red enchilada sauce and add some seasoning: 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 30 to 45 minutes.

For the meat mixture I started by sauteing 1 diced onion in a large skillet. Then crumbled 1 1/2 pounds ground beef on top and let it brown. Then drained off most of the fat and add 2 4-ounce cans diced green chilies. Last, add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Meat - Done. Turn off the heat and let this cool for a while.
The sauce has thickened quite a bit and a taste test tells me this is right on track!

In another skillet (yes, this is my third pan to dirty) heat about a half inch of vegetable oil and we are going to fry individual corn tortillas just until soft. We don't want them crispy at all, just soft and a little blistered - just a few seconds on each side.

Here is my stack of softened corn tortillas after I fry them in the oil. Just stack them on a paper towel and we will begin assembly in just a sec.

Start by dipping each corn tortilla into the warm sauce. Just a quick dip is all they need.

I dipped about five at a time and set on my assembly plate.

Our additional filling may surprise youme. One can of chopped black olives and a bowl of chopped green onions.

Here are the easy steps to filling our tortillas: Spoon some of the meat mixture, then some chopped black olives, add some green onions...

AND don't forget the shredded cheese. This is pre-shredded store bought cheddar. It's all the same to me, although some would argue that shredding your own cheese is best. Whatever, I don't always have time for that.

Then simply roll the tortilla up like a cigar and place seam side down in your baking dish. As you can see in the picture I spread a little of the enchilada sauce on the bottom of my casserole dish. This will help me get them out after baking.

Once you get them all in the baking dishes, pour more sauce over the top and add more cheese and green onions. Bake for 20 minutes at 350, or until cheese is melted and enchiladas are bubbly. After you remove the pans from the oven, top with chopped cilantro for a great Mexican look and flavor.

Definitely serve with margaritas or a mexican beer like Tecate or Dos Equis...and play Mexican Train while you eat these up - that's really fun!