Hollandaise sauce

 The first time I ever had hollandaise sauce, my mom had brought me eggs Benedict for breakfast in bed. Something I’m sure she only did once in my life. But let’s be honest, if you’re going to do something only once, let it include hollandaise sauce. 

It’s creamy, rich and a little lemony…soooo good. It is perfect served over eggs Benedict (one of my all-time favorite breakfasts!) and also, super awesome over asparagus. Now, you can use the store-bought packet (I totally do sometimes), but homemade is much better and really not any more difficult.

Be still my heart

Homemade Hollandaise Sauce

Ingredients

4 egg yolks

1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 cup butter, melted and hot

Pinch cayenne

Salt to taste

Directions:

Put your egg yolks in a blender or small food processor. Beat them on high until they’re a light, lemony color. With the machine running, slowly drizzle in the melted butter to form a smooth emulsion. Pour the mixture into a small saucepan and warm over low heat. Whisk in cayenne and lemon juice. Heat until warm and slightly thickened, stirring constantly. Taste for salt/acid and add salt or more lemon accordingly. Serve over poached eggs, meat, fish or veg. Top with freshly ground pepper.

Wheat berries

Wheat berries are a delightfully different food to have for breakfast (or any other time) especially if you’re stuck in a rut and they’re totally naptime friendly! I topped the warm berries with a little honey, homemade strawberry jam and milk/cream (I’m pregnant, don’t judge). Seriously delicious. Another day I did yogurt and bananas, yum! The topping options are endless! You could even use wheat berries as a savory base as you would rice. Mmm stroganoff over wheat berries… Or make a cool salad with it. Needless to say I’m not done rediscovering wheat berries. 

*Naptime tip: Cook a big batch of this one afternoon then pop it into the fridge to use throughout the week!

 

A rediscovered childhood favorite
 
Basic Cooked Wheat Berries 
The ratio for cooking wheat is 1:3z So, measure 1 cup of wheat kernels for every 3 cups of liquid(water, stock, etc.) Add sugar, spices or a dash of salt if desired. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer. Simmer 40-60 minutes until tender and chewy. Drain and store in the fridge until ready to use.

Skillet shepherd’s pie

Growing up, I never liked shepherd’s pie. It seemed like a good idea, but always tasted bland. My husband’s family makes a version using canned tomato soup and lots of cheese. It definitely has more flavor, but is nowhere near traditional. This recipe from America’s Test Kitchen has tons of flavor and is much more traditional. Plus, it makes ground beef seriously tender! That’s a big deal. 

Naptime tip: Chop your veg and get your potatoes cooked, mashed and in a ziplock bag in the fridge. Dinner will come together super fast!

  

Skillet Shepherd’s Pie 

(slightly adapted from America’s Test Kitchen)

Serves 6. 

*Sometimes I split the stew into 2 loaf pans before topping with potatoes. Broil one and freeze the other!

INGREDIENTS
1-1/2 pounds 93 percent lean ground beef

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons water

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Salt and pepper

2-1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1‐inch chunks

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup 2 percent low‐fat milk

1 large egg yolk

8 scallions, sliced thin

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped

4 ounces white or cremini mushrooms, chopped

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons good apple cider 

2 tablespoons all‐purpose flour

1-1/4 cups beef broth

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 bay leaf

2 sprigs fresh thyme

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 teaspoons cornstarch

DIRECTIONS

Place potatoes and 1 tablespoon salt in large saucepan; add water to cover. Bring to boil, then reduce to simmer and cook until potatoes are tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain potatoes; return to saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, to evaporate any remaining moisture, about 1 minute. Off heat, mash potatoes smooth with potato masher. Stir in butter. Whisk milk and egg yolk together in bowl, then stir into potatoes. Stir in scallions; season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover; set aside.

Toss ground beef with 2 tablespoons water, baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in bowl until well combined; let sit for 20 minutes.

While beef is sitting, heat oil in broiler-safe 10-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, carrot and mushrooms and cook until vegetables begin to soften, 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and garlic and cook until bottom of skillet is dark brown, about 1 minute. Stir in apple juice, scraping up any browned bits, and cook until evaporated, about 1 minute. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Stir in broth, Worcestershire, bay leaf, thyme; bring to boil, scraping up any browned bits.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Pinch beef into 2-inch pieces and lay on top of mixture in skillet. Cover and cook gently until beef is cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes, stirring and breaking up meat chunks with two forks halfway through cooking time. Combine cornstarch and remaining 2 teaspoons water in bowl, then stir into skillet. Continue to simmer, stirring constantly, until filling is slightly thickened, about 30 seconds. Remove thyme and bay leaf. Season with pepper to taste.

Adjust oven rack 6 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Place mashed potatoes in large zipper-lock bag; snip off corner to create 1-inch opening. Pipe potatoes evenly over filling to cover entire surface. Smooth potato with back of spoon, then use tines of fork to make ridges over surface. Place skillet on rimmed baking sheet; broil until potatoes are golden and sauce is bubbling, 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool slightly; serve.

Weekly dinner menu #5

 After a very, long, lingering first trimester of pregnancy, I’m back to proper meal planning! Here’s the plan for this week:
I haven’t been in the mood for meat much the past few weeks. I’m sure my husband will be so pleased our stint as vegetarians is over!
P.S. I’ll be using bacon, tilapia, hash browns and homemade ravioli from the freezer this week!

Perfect crème brûlée

Crème brûlée is one of my most favorite desserts. It’s a fancy restaurant standby because they (or you) can make the custard hours or even several days in advance, then brûlée it to order. Unfortunately, some restaurants botch their crème brûlées or worse, fake them with a weird pudding mix. Fortunately, I’ve discovered Alton Brown’s recipe which turns out perfect, every time. 

*Naptime tip: This is a make ahead dessert! So make the custards during an early nap and they’ll be chilled and ready to torch by dinner time. 

P.S. Skip the wimpy kitchen torches and buy a REAL propane torch from the hardware store. They’re not too pricy and last 10x longer!

Fresh berries are the perfect compliment to this rich dessert
 

A very slightly edited version of Alton Brown’s crème brûlée

Perfect crème brûlée  

Yields 6 servings

Ingredients

1 quart heavy cream

1 vanilla bean, split and scraped

1/2 cup sugar, plus 1/2 cup for topping

6 large egg yolks

2 quarts hot water

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Place the cream, vanilla bean and its pulp into a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to steep for 15 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean.

While cream is steeping, whisk together 1/2 cup sugar and the egg yolks in a medium bowl until well blended and it just starts to lighten in color. Add the cream a little at a time, stirring continually. Pour the liquid into six 8-ounce ramekins. Place the ramekins into a large cake pan or roasting pan. Place pan in oven and pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake just until the creme brulee is just set, but still trembling in the center, approximately 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.
When ready to serve, remove the crème brûlée from the refrigerator. Divide the remaining 1/2 cup sugar equally among the 6 dishes and shake to disperse evenly on top. Using a torch, melt the sugar to form a crispy top. Allow the top to cool for a minute or two. Serve with fresh berries. Enjoy!

Cabbage Dolmades

Those little stuffed grape leaves you can get at Greek restaurants are most often made like this in Greek homes. Added bonus, my husband liked them better. It may seem weird to mix uncooked rice into the ground meat, but it turns out great! 

*Naptime tip: Steam your cabbage while they sleep so the leaves are cool and ready to wrap for dinner time. 

Cabbage dolmades
 

Here’s a link to the recipe!

Cabbage Dolmades recipe from Elly Says Opa

Garlic onion tortilla stack

This is the best appetizer in all the land. It combines 3 of my most favorite things; garlic, caramelized onions and balsamic vinegar. The recipe comes from Guy Fieri and used to be served at his Johnny Garlic restaurants, but it’s been taken off the menu. So, now I have to make my own.

*Naptime tip: Chop onions and peel garlic one day, then cook and assemble the next. You can even freeze a finished stack to grill later!

Rachael's iPhone 20140806 359
Garlic, onion, grilled…these are AMAZING!

Garlic Onion Tortilla Stacks

(Slightly adapted from Guy Fieri/Food Network)

Ingredients
3/4 cup roasted garlic
Olive Oil
2/3 cup canola oil
4 cups small-diced red onion (about 2 pounds)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons grated Parmesan
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp. dried thyme (or 1 Tbs. fresh thyme or sage)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Twelve 8-inch flour tortillas
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Directions
Add the garlic to a skillet over low heat with a little olive oil and cook until the garlic is soft and squishy.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, heat the canola oil. Add the onions and cook until lightly browned but not overly dark, about 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the butter and sugar and cook until the onions have thoroughly browned, 20 to 25 minutes.

Add the roasted garlic, Parmesan, mayonnaise, cilantro and salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat and transfer to a medium bowl. Blitz with a stick blender until you have a smooth paste. Cover and refrigerate until cool, about an hour.

Reserve one-third of the mixture in the refrigerator to use to make the dipping sauce. Evenly spread a thin layer of the remaining mixture on the top of 11 of the tortillas. (Spread, stack, spread, stack, etc.) Stack the tortillas on top of one another and top with the 12th tortilla. Wrap the tortilla stack in plastic wrap, weighted down with a plate and refrigerate overnight to set up. (Or weight and freeze for later use.)

Preheat a grill to medium. Cut the stack into 16 wedges. Thoroughly oil the grill grates! Using tongs, grill each wedge on the cut sides until it’s warmed and grill marks appear. Don’t leave on the grill too long, or stack will fall apart!

Mix the reserved onion mixture with the balsamic vinegar to make a dipping sauce; season to taste. Serve the wedges with the dipping sauce.

 

Chocolate-dipped truffles

It IS possible to temper chocolate chips! And tempering chocolate is not as hard as you think. I made these for a Relief Society activity where I was demo’ing truffles. They were delicious! And the flavor combos are endless! *Naptime tip: Make the ganache and prep your toppings during one nap and then temper and dip during another for stress-free chocolatiering!

Classic cocoa, pecan, cherry with sprinkles, Himalayan pink salt, plain milk chocolate, cayenne, mint with crushed candycane

Chocolate Dipped Chocolate Truffles(Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)

Ingredients

For the ganache:

8 oz. good quality dark or milk chocolate chips (Ghirardelli or Guittard recommended)

½ cup heavy cream

2 Tbs. butter

1 Tbs. corn syrup

*Optional ¼-½ tsp. extract or up to 2 tsp. of other flavoring (juice, oil, spices, etc.)

For the tempered chocolate coating:

10 oz. chocolate chips

2 oz. tempered chocolate bar, broken into 1 oz. pieces

Toppings (chopped nuts, crushed candy cane, sprinkles, spices, cocoa powder, etc.)

Directions:

Place a metal bowl over a pot containing about 2 inches of simmering water. Melt chocolate chips in bowl set over low to med-low heat, stirring often until melted. Place heavy cream, butter and corn syrup into a microwave-safe bowl and heat on high for 30-60 seconds until cream is hot and butter is melted. Whisk cream mixture to thoroughly combine. Add extract/flavoring if using. Once chocolate chips are melted, remove bowl from double boiler and whisk in the cream mixture until shiny and smooth. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (or overnight) until ganache is set.

When ready to dip, remove set ganache from fridge and scoop tablespoon-sized balls onto waxed paper-lined tray or cooling rack. Quickly roll each ball of ganache in your hands to create a uniform shape.

Chill the balls in the freezer for 10-15 minutes (or up to overnight in the fridge). Prep and assemble truffle toppings.

While ganache balls are chilling, make the tempered chocolate coating. Slowly melt the 10 oz. of chocolate chips in a metal bowl set over a pot with 2 inches of barely simmering water. Using an instant-read thermometer, heat chocolate chips to 120 degrees F (115 for milk and white chocolate) stirring often, then remove from heat. Remaining chips will melt as you continue to stir off-heat. Stirring constantly, cool the chocolate down to 100 degrees F. Add 2 pieces of tempered chocolate bar to “seed” the chocolate. Keep stirring until chocolate registers 90 degrees. Chocolate is now in temper.

Remove ganache balls from freezer. Toss one ball at a time into the tempered chocolate, rolling it around with a fork to coat it completely. Lift the truffle out of the chocolate and tap the fork on the bowl to remove excess coating. Scrape the fork off on the edge of the bowl then lower the truffle onto the waxed paper, using a toothpick to push truffle off the fork. Sprinkle with desired topping or roll in cocoa powder (gently shaking off excess cocoa after coating is set). **Make sure your tempered chocolate stays between 90 and 80 degrees!** Continue dipping until all ganache balls have been coated. If tempered chocolate drops to 80 degrees, re-warm gently over double boiler until chocolate just reaches 90 degrees. Once the tempered coating has set, truffles are ready to serve. Store finished truffles in the fridge for up to a week. Enjoy!

*Tips*

– Make sure no water gets into your chocolate while it’s melting or it will seize up!

– Depending on the amount of liquid flavoring added, you may need to decrease amount of cream slightly.

– Return ganache balls to the freezer if they start getting too soft to dip.

-It’s ok if chocolate is heated above 120, just be very careful not to burn it.

– Check the temperature of the tempered chocolate often to keep it between 90 and 80 degrees.

– Use a heating pad under your bowl to keep chocolate in temper.

-If tempered chocolate dips below 80, re-warm it up to 120, re-seed with another ounce of tempered chocolate and bring it back down to 90, stirring constantly.

– break or cut off hardened chocolate “foot” of truffle for a neater presentation.

– If tempered chocolate doesn’t harden, serve truffles cold 😊

Low carb croque Monsieur w/Parisienne salad

Pan-sear some deli ham or turkey. Top it with plenty of Swiss cheese and let it spill over on to the pan so some of it gets crispy. Serve alongside shredded romaine, dressed with my low-carb “sunny mustard” vinaigrette (made with Splenda).
*Naptime prep tip: Buy whole heads of lettuce, they’re cheaper than salad bags. Shred one head and bag it during naptime at the beginning of the week, then you can add it as needed to meals throughout the week.

This quick low-carb lunch totally reminded me of Paris!

Cranberry Bog Turkey Burgers

I’m a big fan of Rachael Ray’s Book of Burger. This recipe comes from that book, plus my husband made the English muffins! I loved this burger because it wasn’t trying to make turkey taste like beef and I could smother it in the cranberry mayo.

*Naptime tip: Use your kid-free time to chop your apple and veg, split your muffins and mix up the mayo. Dinner will come together so quick!

Rachael's iPhone 20140806 363

Cranberry Bog Turkey Burgers

(Recipe from Rachael Ray)
Total Time: 30 min     Prep:15 min     Cook:15 min     Yield:4 servings

Ingredients
Bog Burgers:
1 1/3 pounds (the average weight of one package from meat case) ground turkey breast
1 small McIntosh apple, finely chopped
1 small white onion, chopped
1 rib celery from heart of the stalk, finely chopped
1 rounded teaspoon poultry seasoning
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil, for drizzling
4 sandwich size sourdough English muffins
1 cup prepared whole berry cranberry sauce
1/2 cup mayonnaise or reduced fat mayonnaise
8 leaves Bibb lettuce, cleaned
Directions
Combine turkey, apple, onion, celery, poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper in a bowl and form into 4 large patties. Preheat a large skillet or a grill pan to medium high heat. Drizzle skillet or brush grill with vegetable oil and cook patties 5 to 6 minutes on each side. Toast split English muffins. Mix together cranberry sauce and mayonnaise. Spread muffin halves with cran-mayonnaise and pile in burgers and Bibb lettuce.