It's bad manners I know. And don't you just hate people who can't just finish chewing before they start spewing little pieces of whatever into your personal space because talking is more important than your personal comfort! Hahah! What could be THAT important???
So I hope you will accept my apology when I say I didn't mean to fling cookie crumbs in your direction. Trouble is, you're leaning in to your screen wishing you could taste what you see, I just couldn't stop telling you about these treats while I'm eating them. Seriously, since the first one came out of the oven and was frosted, I've been shoving them in my mouth. Guess this IS that important.
It's just the fact that when you mix cream cheese, and peanut butter, and chocolate together, crazy things happen. You certainly forget you've sworn off sugar for the week. And I can guarantee the concept of "portion control" is meaningless.
For all the evil that these cookies may represent, I submit that endorphins are underrated. And there is a smidgen of protein in them for sure, as well as the heart benefits of chocolate that make these actually health conscience treats! And if all of that sounds like baloney, perhaps it's just that it's Monday. And everyone deserves a little bit of cookie happiness on the first day of the week.
Go ahead, talk with your mouth full. And then, have another one, and another one...
RECIPE: Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies with Cream Cheese Peanut Butter Frosting and SemiSweet Chips
Makes 28-32 cookies / Click here for printable version.
½ C shortening
½ C + 1/3 C creamy peanut butter, divided (I like Trader Joes no-stir organic PB)
½ C firmly packed light brown sugar
½ C white sugar
1 large egg
1 T + 1 t vanilla
1 ¼ C all-purpose flour
½ t kosher salt
¾ T baking soda
2-3 T heavy cream
2 ounces full fat cream cheese
1 C powdered sugar
Milk to moisten
¾ C semi-sweet chocolate chips to sprinkle
In a large mixing bowl, cream the shortening, sugars, eggs, and 1 T vanilla on high until creamed together. Add the soda and salt to the flour and add these dry ingredients one third at a time, blending each time until the flour is well mixed. After the second batch of flour, add a bit of cream if it looks crumbly. (When you’re using a more pure peanut butter, without the additives, it may need a little more liquid.)
Preheat ove to 375. Take some dough and make it into about a 1 inch ball. Set on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 8-9 minutes or until the bottom is brown and the top starts to crack JUST a little. Remove and cool.
To make the frosting, add the 1/3 C peanut butter to the 2 ounces of cream cheese as well as another teaspoon of vanilla extract and blend well with a fork or hand mixer. Add the powdered sugar a little at a time and blend well. Can cut with a little cream. It really helps the consistency. This frosting will stay tacky which makes it easy to set the little semi-sweet morsels atop the cookies but hard to cover the cookies! You can freeze them but the icing won’t be quite a pretty. I recommend you eat them all!
I needed a little 'zing.' I needed a little 'easy.' I got what I asked for with this quick orzo and salmon success story!
Aww, the cute little 'orzo.' Not rice, not grain, it is actually a pasta. A tiny, flat, football-shaped pasta that is often nothing more than filler for pasta salad, or soup. Maybe not something to build a menu around, but that's your assumption. This somewhat uninteresting ingredient was muse for this whole post.
I had been having a particularly bad day. Not catastrophic, just bleh. REALLY bleh. And when it came to dinner time I just wandered around my kitchen, opening the pantry and the fridge and the cupboards and just uttering more, "bleh..." As I moved around boxes from the back of the shelves looking for inspiration, I ran across the dreaded Onion Soup Mix box. Yes, I do have some of that. Some of you may need a moment to compose yourself after gasping. But remember, I don't always use ingredients the way they may have been intended. I often take one thing and make it another, or use only the flavor packet. Quite frankly I figure there are no rules when it comes to cooking something unique. Those words, "Three easy steps!" on the side of any prepackaged food box mean NOTHING to me.
But I did have an idea for that onion soup mix. Remember, I was having a bad day. I needed a little zing. And I needed to use the frozen Alaskan salmon in my freezer. Hmmm. Maybe I could accomplish all this in one pan and whip up something that would be the poster child for comfort food?
Yeah, I think I can.
If there is anything that is a dead giveaway of flavor combinations for my style of cooking, it is that I love salty and sweet together. I just think the tongue deserves it. One brings out the other. And whatever is in between just gets better.
The results of this blending were super spectacular. Just the right texture. Just the right flavors. Just the right dinner for turning a night of bleh into zing!!!!
First secret is building layers of flavor. Some butter and onion and a little garlic are shoe-ins. And of course a good stock and other complimentary seasonings are essential. I decided to begin by toasting the orzo a little in the oil and butter, much like the first steps you take when making good 'ol RiceARoni. It helped create the right amount of chew for the orzo, and the gradients of color from the browned butter were lovely.
Once you nest the salmon into the boiling liquid, setting the lid on askew is vital. You want it cooked in the liquid but you don't want it rubbery. And salmon cooks in an instant. So don't dally and let a little steam off while poaching (actually it is a little braising and poaching...).
You may not have all these ingredients and I usually like to share recipes using items you can easily get, but I encourage you to use a somewhat sophisticated preserve flavor if you do not have brandied cherries. I used a bottle from Harry & David but there are several purveyors that offer the same kinds of flavors and will yield excellent results.
Just looking at these photos makes me realize how much my mood changed when I was eating this. It is testament to the fact that I am actually easy to please after all, and a hug, along with a good bit of food can put any level of blues on hold.
RECIPE: Poached Salmon with Orzo and Brandied Cherry Sauce
Serves 4 / Click here for printable version.
4, 4 ounce Alaskan Salmon Filets
1/3 C sweet onion chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 T unsalted butter
2 T oil
2 C good chicken stock (reserving ½ C only if needed)
3 T fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/3 C white wine, (Unoaked Chardonnay best)
2 T onion soup/dip mix
¾ C chopped flat leaf parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 C brandied cherries (or other not too sweet bottled cherry preserves) I used Harry & David brand
2 T fig vinegar
Using one large saucepan begin by heating 2 T of oil to medium high. Add the onion and saute until they begin to barely brown a bit. Add some salt and pepper and 2 T butter and then the 1 C of orzo pasta. Saute until bits of the orzo begin to brown and caramelize. Add the two T of the onion soup mix, turn to medium high and mix in until moist, bringing all ingredients to a good blend. Deglaze the pan with the wine and let bubble off for a minute. Then add the lemon juice and stir well. Finally, add 1 C of the stock and turn to low so it is simmering consistently. Stir and blend a bit, letting it bubble, then stir, almost like you would if you were making a risotto. Then add the garlic about halfway through the process, and continue to stir. When half the liquid is absorbed, add the other ½ cup of stock and stir, and then add half the parsley and combine. While still on low but bubbling slightly, nest the salmon filets in, and top each with a dot of butter, using the remaining 2 T of butter to do so. Gently ladle a bit of the liquid atop each filet. Then cover with the lid askew and let braise in the liquid just until you see it becoming opaque but not cooked through which only takes about 3 minutes. The mixture should be thick and moist but not dry. If needed, add a bit more stock a tablespoon at a time.
Mix the brandied cherries and fig vinegar together and heat through either in a small pan or the microwave. Don’t boil, just get piping hot.
To plate, put a mound of the orzo mixture in the middle of the plate. Top with a salmon filet. Drizzle a couple of spoonfuls of the brandied cherry sauce on top. Sprinkle with more parsley to finish. Serve.
I was fairly adept in the kitchen before I understood that you can make a salsa with just about anything. I mean anything. I've made salsas using mint and oranges. I've made them using kiwi, peach and cherries. And of course there's salsa with corn, cucumbers, even ginger as an ingredient. Just think about what benefits from a little zing, and either lime juice or another acid, and you can consider it a salsa.
In this case I am showcasing two dishes that make the most of salsa brilliance. One, a simple pan sauteed chicken breast with a pineapple and tomato salsa, (don't kid yourself. I loaded it up with other amazing flavors, too...) and secondly, a quick twist on a Mexican classic, the meat enchilada.
ONE - Take a look at this beauty. the secret is sauteeing the chicken in good flavors, then reducing it ever so slightly with a good white wine. Adding pineapple allows you a lot of latitude with other sweet flavors so I finished it with a few dots of fig balsamic reduced to a yummy syrup. And to serve it, I rested it atop quinoa cooked with a bit of jalapeno oil. It was just sweet enough and just savory enough to keep me entertained and cha, cha, charged about this new recipe.
TWO - The other salsa-sensational dinner is a twist on the meat enchilada (BELOW), wherein the tortilla is swapped for a tasty pastry you could hold in your hand. However, once you add a simple salsa that was quickly composed of canned tomatoes, canned ortega chiles, and some cilantro, it might be advisable to use a fork. I had a hard time not using my hands I wanted to eat it all so quickly! Resting on a plate of black beans and finished with some lime juice made this just about the prettiest enchilada I've EVER seen.
What's fun about this meal is the meat mixture that goes inside. You could use a tender skirt steak for fancy nights, but well seasoned hamburger with peppers, jalapeno and onion work just fine. By adding a little canned enchilada sauce and some cumin, you've gone all inventive without all the fuss.
Both of these meals were ridiculously simple and used a lot of ready-made ingredients that added lots of flavor in no time.
Check out the recipes below!
RECIPE: Pan Seared Chicken with Pineapple Tomato Salsa
Serves 4 / Click here for printable version.
4, 6 ounce boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut lengthwise
1 C canned seasoned diced tomatoes, such as basil and garlic flavored, drained
4 rings of canned pineapple cut into small chunks, reserving just a few T of the juice
1/3 small white onion chopped
1 large clove of garlic, chopped finely
½ t dried basil leaves
1/3 white wine such as a Riesling (or chicken stock)
3 T fig balsamic vinegar or other sweet, dark balsamic, cooked to thicken for about 5 minutes
2 T canola oil
1 T jalapeno oil if you have it, for the quinoa
1 C quinoa
¼ t ground coriander powder
Sprinkling of hot chili flakes
1 T salted butter
Salt and pepper
Heat 1 ½ C water and some salt as well as the jalapeno oil in a saucepan. When boiling add the quinoa. Stir, turn heat to very low, keep covered and cook for 20 minutes.
Heat a large saucepan to high and add 1 T canola oil. Add the onions and a little salt and pepper and cook until they are soft but some are browned. Add the pineapple juice, tomatoes, pineapple and chili flakes. Toss to coat and let cook until hot and all the flavors are cooked together which only takes a few minutes. Add the dried basil and a little more salt and pepper. Stir for a minute and then remove all the ingredients to a bowl and cover it. Do not wipe out the pan. Bring it back to medium high heat and add 1 T canola oil. Making sure the chicken is room temperature, sear on both sides for about 2-3 minutes and then turn the pan to medium low and let cook for about 4 minutes so the chicken can finish cooking on the inside. Now, add the wine and let it reduce for about 3 minutes. Add 1 T of the reduced balsamic and toss. By now your chicken should be just barely done. It’s important that all your pieces be the same size and not too thick so they cook evenly and not get over done. Now add back in the salsa, and stir it in with all of the balsamic and pan juices.
To serve, arrange the chicken over the quinoa and top with the salsa.
RECIPE: Meat Enchilada Hand Pies with Ortega Chile Salsa
Serves 4 - 6 / Click here for printable version.
1 package of pie crust mix, or your own homemade pie crust with enough for 2 crusts
2 T butter to grease baking sheet
1 lb 85% lean, grass fed ground beef
½ large red pepper diced
1 small jalapeno diced
1/3 C sweet onion diced
1 12 oz can enchilada sauce
½ t ground cumin
1 C chopped cilantro
1 15 oz can refried black beans
Juice from half a lime and the other half cut into 4 slices for garnish
1 C grated sharp cheddar cheese
1, 4 ounce can diced green Ortega chiles
3/4 C diced tomatoes drained
Salt and pepper
1/3 C heavy cream to brush onto pastry
In a large sauce pan, brown the meat. Then add the red pepper, onion, and jalapeno. Add salt and pepper to taste and cook until done. Add about 1/3 C of the enchilada sauce. Set aside.
In another pan, heat the black beans through. In a small pan or microwave safe bowl, heat the enchilada sauce with the cumin. Chop the cilantro. Cut the lime and juice half of it and add the juice in a bowl with the tomatoes, ortega chiles, about a third of the chopped cilantro, and a little kosher salt and black pepper. Set aside.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Grease the baking sheet. Roll out the pie crust dough very thinly and make 6 rectangles about 5 ½ inches by 8 ½ inches. Place about 1/3 C of the meat mixture in the center of the bottom half of the rectangle. Close over to make a pocket and seal. Can use a fork to make marks along the border with the tines if desired. Cut “x” into the top of each hand pie for steam to be released. Place hand pies on the cookie sheet, brush with a little cream, and bake for about 15 minutes until the pastry is browned.
To serve, place a serving of the refried black beans on the center of the plate, set the hand pie on top of that, add cheese, cover with some of the hot enchilada sauce, add some of the salsa, and sprinkle each serving generously with remaining cilantro. Garnish with a lemon wedge and avocado if you’d like.
There are two times of the year that food marks a note of dread when received. Fruitcake Season and of course the perpetual Zucchini Season. Grimacing and hopelessly upset that we answered our own front door, we are asked to receive these two food groups into our homes without giving up a hint of horror. -- Oh, if only our well-meaning neighbors could see our trash cans!
Although I have no remedy for fruitcake woes, (except perhaps to mush it up, place it at the bottom of a planter, and hope it doesn't kill your ferns,) I have an excellent solution for the green bullet of everlasting perpetuity.
I see it, that look in your eyes as you take in those little floating droplets of butter, listening with your tongue to the siren call of the San Marzano tomatoes, and breathing in the subtle hint of sweet parsley. But there's more. Hidden underneath this creamy blanket of eden-like goodness is the smoky flavor of ham, potatoes and onion. A little fresh grated ginger compliments. And the quintessential tool of flavor-fabulousness: lemon juice finishes it off.
Oh, I didn't quite stop there. There is an ever so small hint of curry powder that is undetectable except for the way it marries the whole thing together. And you need to get your nutmeg whole. Grated fresh nutmeg makes you feel absolutely god-like.
The secret to this dish is the layering of flavors. I intentionally built up the umami with the caramelization of the ham, potatoes and onions enjoying their sautee in butter, and the addition of a nice chicken stock that reduces and helps complete the broth is essential.
Then of course, unless you really do like fruitcake, (not sure we can be friends...) the addition of heavy cream sends it to the stratosphere. And, suddenly this squash soup shows us her Zowza revealing the je ne sais quoi moment -- the hold me back before I cry, kind of tastiness -- a moment you think your mouth has actually melded itself to your spoon.
...All in the hopes that at least for one season you will not dread the doorbell.
RECIPE: Creamy Zucchini Soup with Ham and Potatoes
Serves 4 - 6 / Click here for printable version.
4 ½ C zucchini washed and cut into 1/2” chunks
1/3 C onions, diced small
1 small new potato and 1 small Yukon potato peeled and cut into 1/4” chunks
¾ C honey ham cut into ¼” chunks
2 C good chicken stock
1 C heavy cream
¼ t coriander powder
1/8 t curry powder
¼ t fresh grated nutmeg
4 T salted butter, divided
4-6 T olive oil
1 t fresh grated ginger
2 T fresh squeezed lemon juice
Good Fiori blend flavored salt (no substitutions)
Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
A little Italian flat leaf parsley and tomatoes to garnish
1 t Fiori blend sea salt
Prep all ingredients, putting the onion, grated ginger, and potatoes in one dish, the ham in another, and the zucchini in a large measuring cup. Have your stock all ready. I suggest using either your own, or a concentrate dissolved in hot water. I don’t care for the canned variety.
Serve with crusty bread and a light, grassy Sauvignon Blanc wine.
This blog post has been in the works for a long time sitting in my DRAFTS folder for almost a year. Then I realized just because the content is a little dated, the food and photos are still perfect for summer! Enjoy!
I had to figure out how to author content that blended good food, family memories, heart pounding and fulfilling moments, and mountain fresh air. Not so easy to convert into a food blog. But VERY easy to experience.
So, what did I do when I wasn't holding babies, hugging the stressed out bride-to-be, cutting up enough watermelon to feed 100 people, I did cook! However, it was mostly without my trusty yellow pad. So not all the recipes made it to a recorded version.
I don't think that means you should miss the recipes, though. I created several really good dishes, making things up along the way, and feeling pretty good about not really creating any structured set of instructions. What you will get in lieu of an itemized recipe list is an overall description of the dishes, and maybe a tip or two about a sauce, about a technique, or about an ingredient that I recommend be included in your cooking repertoire, so I know we've connected.
What you most certainly can count on is a story. I will attempt to spoon-feed you a sense of place along with the narrative. You will see the faces of those who surrounded my table and picked up a fork and thankfully said, "Wowza, this is good!" It is for these people that I have a passion for nourishing others, which reinforced, even away from my own kitchen, that cooking for others makes me feel like every day is part of the best vacation, ever!
Utah and berries are synonymous terms. And the local farmer's market did not disappoint. Like jewels before a princess, I couldn't help turn them over in my hands, taking them to my nose, and holding them in the sun as I worked out a plan for menus throughout the visit. I made salads, added them to sauces, dribbled them on top of breakfast casseroles, and popped them in my mouth by the dozens.
Holy cow. Then I went to visit my sister's garden and I just understood what it means to see a miracle. She has the touch when growing things. (I do not, by the way.) And I rocked in her outdoor swing with my grandniece and grandnephew as she bent over to gently yank carrots from their loamy pockets, pluck tomatoes from heavy vines, and snip bouquet after bouquet of beautiful herbs that still held a cloud of brown, powdery, Utah soil.
Once you start cooking with things that you just took out of the ground, you get real snooty about anything that has been on a train, airplane or even a local truck before going into your meal. So as you view these beautiful dishes, remember that many of them had been drawing nutrients just hours before they were set on the table.
Roasted chicken and couscous makes a satisfying dinner. Especially when paired with a bok choy, cilantro, parsley and snap pea green salad singing with a delicious honey oregano vinaigrette. I encourage you to try bok choy as a salad stable instead of cabbage. It is so mild and the texture so versatile. Kinda pretty, too.
After a full day of fun with kids, kids and kids, a simple dinner was in order. We grilled steak and had heaping, gigantic, brimming bowls of this tomato, potato and cucumber salad all swimming in a simple parsley pesto dressing.
On that same note of simplicity, I did find a great little recipe for mock Red Lobster Cheddar Biscuits. Click here to see it on #GimmeSomeOven. They turned out great, don't you think? And who doesn't love butter, and cheese, and playing with kids on the floor...hehehe.
If I'm not careful I will get really carried away with the whole, "Playing with the kids!" thing. And it will tip the scales beyond a food blog into a sappy Aunt Camine blog. But we really had fun being silly.
I am certain, that nothing compares to sitting down to a table with your family and eating food you've lovingly prepared. Take this delicious local trout, swimming in lemon dill sauce, and bejeweled with artisan carrots. Well, you can't really take it. But you can imagine it. And then go grab a pan and start cooking. I promise you everything will be alright.
Watch my short video about getting comfy in the kitchen.
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Meet the Cook...
My name is Camine Pappas and I love to create beautiful and delicious food that anyone can make. My signature style centers around a love for combining things in a way you might not expect as I work to find a hidden combination of colors, textures and flavors from the things that are in my pantry and/or easy to obtain.