Thursday, February 17, 2011

Chocolate Pecan Toffee Bars

These are gooey and messy and so delicious!

You'll need:
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 sticks butter, softened
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees and greasing a 9x11 glass baking dish.

Throw the first four ingredients into a mixing bowl, and blend until creamy.

Then, mix in the flour 1/2 cup at a time.  I used white whole wheat flour to try and add a smidgen of nutrition to this dish, but you could use all-purpose flour if that's all you have - no big deal.

After you add the flour, the mixture might be a little crumbly, but it should still be pretty moist.

Pour the mixture in your greased glass dish, and use a rubber spatula to press it firmly to form an even layer.

Bake for 20-22 minutes.  While that's in the oven, chop your pecans.

As soon as you take the bars out of the oven, sprinkle the chocolate chips over the hot surface. Give it about 30 seconds to melt and then use a spoon or rubber spatula to smooth out the chocolate into a thin layer.

Sprinkle on the pecans.

Now who can resist this?

 Let cool, and cut into bars!

 Sending you (gooey) love from my kitchen.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bison Fettuccini

Woahh, it's been a while since I've posted!  Don't worry, I've still been cooking everyday - life has just been too crazy to upload pictures and write out recipes.  But I have some fun stuff saved up for you, starting with this interesting dish...

My 11-year-old brother came to stay with me last weekend, and I wanted to make something extra-special for him.  This kid is used to experiencing phenomenal cooking on a daily basis (because he lives with my mom), so I knew he wouldn't impress easily.  We went to the grocery store on Saturday afternoon, and as we're walking through the store, we have this conversation...

What do you want for dinner?
I don't know... what can you make?
Tell me what you want, and I'll tell you if I can make it.
Sure, what else?
Mixed together?
Yeahhhh (with a big smile)

Sounded easy enough.  But then we head toward the meat section, and I see him eyeing the raw meat through the glass.  Next thing I know, he's convinced me to purchase a pound of bison sirloin steak.  On the ride home I start to get nervous.  I've never cooked bison and only eaten it once before.  Or was that buffalo?  Is there even a difference?  The nice, old man behind the meat counter had given me some tips for how to cook my bison, but as soon as I got home I started researching.  (Google-ing food is my idea of fun, so just go with it.)  Did you know that there's a National Bison Association?  Well, their website WOWed me... I learned that bison has one-third less fat than chicken, and it pretty much outshines any other kind of meat when it comes to having more iron, less cholesterol, fewer calories, etc.  Most importantly, I learned from their Bison Cooking 101 page that it cooks much quicker than beef, so I should cook it slowly on low heat.

Once I was properly educated, we got started!  My little bro was excited to take pictures while I cooked, so there's a lot for this post.

You'll need:
3/4 pound fettuccini
1 pound bison sirloin steak
3 Tablespoons of olive oil, divided
2 Tablespoons Original Allegro Marinade
1/4 cup chopped onion, finely chopped (more if desired)
3 baby bella mushrooms, thinly sliced (more if desired)
1 large clove of garlic, minced
16 oz. tomato sauce (2 small cans)
3 oz. tomato paste (1/2 small can)
1 Tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

We wanted a simple spaghetti sauce that wouldn't overpower the bison, so we steered away from alfredo and went with a homemade tomato-based sauce with fresh herbs.  It ended up being the perfect choice with the bison, but if you absolutely have to, you could go with a store-bought jar to save time.

Add 1 Tablespoon of olive oil to a sauté pan and turn to medium-low heat.

Chop and add onion.  I wanted to add 1/4 cup more, but Brother said, "That's enough!" So I stopped chopping.

I begged Brother to let me put mushrooms in.  (Have you noticed that I use baby bella mushrooms in just about any dish I can?)  I convinced him that they were crucial to the integrity of the sauce.  That was kind of a lie, but that's how much I love mushrooms - enough to sin.  ;)

Mince the garlic next, and add to the sauté pan.

Once the onions and mushrooms are tender, add tomato sauce and paste, and stir.

Add basil and parsley.

Add oregano, salt, and pepper.

Give the sauce a stir, and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes on low heat, stirring occasionally.  Don't forget to sample the sauce at some point to make sure it's seasoned the way you like it.  I tend to under-salt it at first and have to add a bit more.

Meanwhile, put a large pot of water on high heat to come to a boil for your fettuccini.

Now, let's tackle this bison! First, drizzle another tablespoon of olive oil in a small sauté pan and turn on your burner - remember, low heat!

I poured a tablespoon of Allegro on each side and just massaged it into the meat. I also sprinkled on salt and freshly ground pepper.  I wish I would have had time to marinate it a few hours earlier, but it was still tasty. :)

Cut into strips...

And then into small chunks.  These should be bite-size. 

Spread these in your small pan.

Turn the meat as it starts to brown - don't overcook!

Using a slotted spoon or spatula, move the bison to your pasta sauce and stir together.

In the meantime, you should have added your fettuccine to the boiling pot of water.  Cook it according to the package directions.  

I always have to set a timer for the pasta because I usually have several burners going at once, and I get distracted.

Okay, drain the pasta, and return it to the pot, but this time with the last tablespoon of olive oil and on low heat.

Add the butter.

Add the Italian seasoning and stir gently, so that the butter melts and seasoning spreads throughout.

You're ready to eat!

I served this dish with some cheesy bread (provolone melted on french bread) and asparagus on the side.

Needless to say, it was delicious!

I think my next experiment will be Bison Chili in my slow cooker!

Sending you love (and bison) from my kitchen.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sweet Baked Salmon

Not everyone is crazy about fish, but I'm a pretty big fan... plus it's SO good for you, especially salmon.  I grew up with my mom preaching the health benefits of salmon, and it just takes a quick Google search to find that she's absolutely right.  It's high in Vitamin D and protein, but the real stars are the Omega-3 fatty acids. They do wonders for our bodies, helping to prevent heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, and even depression.  One thing you must do though - buy wild salmon, not farm-raised.  They put dye in the farm-raised salmon to trick you into thinking it has just as much flavor (but it doesn't), and there's also less Omega-3 oil, so you're not getting the most that this fish has to offer.

Okay, nutrition lesson over.  Let's get to this sweet salmon!  I usually eat salmon seasoned with just salt, pepper, and few herbs, but that's boring and I needed a change.  There are variations of this recipe on the Internet, but I'm pretty much in love with my version.  The sweetness of the honey and crunch of the pecans goes perfectly with the soft, flaky salmon. Plus, this recipe is simple and quick!

You'll need:
Salmon (I used two 4-oz. pieces, but you could use up to 4 pieces.)
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
Dash of Salt and Pepper
1/4 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and spray a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with cooking spray.

Defrost your salmon if necessary, and make sure it's clean.  You can remove the skin if you want, but I like to keep it on... just be sure no scales sneak past you.

In a small bowl, stir together mustard, honey, butter, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.

Chop the pecans.

And combine them with the breadcrumbs in another small bowl.

Brush or spread about a teaspoon of the honey mixture onto each piece of salmon, and top with the breadcrumb mixture. Feel free to add more breadcrumbs or pecans to your mixture as needed.  Don't worry too much about proportions - just follow your stomach.

Place on the baking sheet, and bake for 12-14 minutes.

Serve with your favorite veggie and garlic bread.


Sending you love (and Omega-3s) from my kitchen.