Cookin Mama

Cookin Mama


Recipes (36) adoption (11) Theater (4) Musings (3) Sewing (3) running (3) Volunteerism (2)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Tomato and Basil Tart

It doesn't get more summery than a tomato and basil tart.  Just a few ingredients, three of them fresh (tomato, lemon, basil).  Unfortunately, I could only harvest basil from our garden, our tomato plant seems to be out to lunch this year.  Cuisine at home suggests, "if you can get them, feel free to use colorful heirloom tomatoes."  I have to admit, they were delicious, I used a raw on one burgers over the weekend, but it cost me $15.30 for five tomatoes!  Definitely not a cost effective way to go about this meal.  Good goat cheese isn't cheap, and puff pastry is not exactly economical either.  Therefore, even with the summery taste, this was kind of a splurge...but what a delicious one!  As an added bonus, it had a lot of steps that the little one could help with.  Any recipe that allows her to work alongside me is a good one in my book.  Unfortunately, the usual benefit of a kiddo making a meal = kiddo enjoying the meal did not hold true.  As she said "I'm not a big fan of tomatoes, Mama."  She contented herself with eating the crust after taking the required "perfect bite" we insist on (a bite that includes all of the flavors meant to be together in a dish).  Not sure if the goat cheese was too much for her, or just the tomato, but the adults in the house loved the meal.  I neglected to get any pictures of the vinaigrette, either the making of or the finished product, but trust was yummy. 

Tomato & Basil Tart with Goat Cheese

courtesy of Cuisine at Home Issue 112 August 2015

Vinaigrette Ingredients
1/2 cup sliced fresh basil
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp each honey and Dijon mustard
kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Tart Ingredients
1 Sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 Tbsp water [I used the whole egg]
4 oz goat cheese, softened
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp mined lemon zest
9 slices red and yellow tomatoes

Torn fresh basil leaves for garnish

Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Make the vinaigrette:
I placed all ingredients in the Vitamix, their recipe suggests pulsing in a food processor.  The Vitamix did the usual awesome job and produced a smooth dressing.

Make the tart:
Roll puff pasty on a lightly floured surface into a 13-inch square, transfer to prepared baking sheet.  Fold over a 1-inch border on all sides, then score inside edges of border with the tip of a knife.  Top pastry with another sheet of parchment paper, then cover with another baking sheet.  Bake puff pastry until firm and set, 15 minutes.  Remove top baking sheet and parchment paper.  

Dock pastry with a fork, brush edges with egg wash.  Bake puff pastry until puffed and brown, about 10 minutes more; let cool slightly.

Make the filling:
Combine goat cheese, 1/4 cup basil, 1 Tbsp olive oil, and lemon zest; season with salt and pepper.

Spread cheese mixture inside border of puff pastry.  Arrange tomatoes on top of cheese mixture; season with salt and pepper.

Bake tart 10 minutes.  Garnish with basil leaves and serve with vinaigrette.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Chicken Cordon Bleu

Lesson learned this week: when asking a teenager what their favorite meal is, because you’d like to make it for them, be prepared for anything!  I asked our family member who was staying with us to help watch Evie this week what she likes to eat.  She mentioned Stromboli, and pasta.  I pushed for a favorite “dish” and the answer was: chicken cordon bleu!  I have never ever made this dish.  I’ve had it at banquets and events and haven’t really cared for it, but, if the wonderful girl who is so loved by my daughter (and us) wants chicken cordon bleu…then she’s getting chicken cordon bleu! I went to Google for this one, because I wanted to try to find something different than the deli ham and mozzarella recipes in my old school Betty Crocker books.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of old school…but I wanted this one to be super special.

Thanks to Tyler Florence, and this recipe, we ended up with a winner of a dish!  It was not as difficult to prepare as I had feared, and with the help of my adorable sous chef, we had it prepared and in the oven in about 25 minutes.  One note from my experience with this though is 20-25 minutes cooking chicken breasts at 350° is NOT enough.  I think I ended up baking it for 30-35 minutes, and my oven is pretty accurate.   The prosciutto and the Gruyere were fabulous together, and the fresh thyme made this the best chicken cordon bleu I've ever tasted.  The chicken was not dry at all, a rare occurrence when using chicken breasts (we prefer chicken thighs in this house).

We don't always cook in our jammies, but when we do...we're super cute

The recipe is posted below, copied from the Food Network site I found it on (link above) with a few edits.  I purchased the prosciutto and Gruyere from the deli counter, they kindly gave me a chunk of cheese rather than slicing it for sandwiches.  I purchased extra cheese and extra prosciutto for the sides I was planning, how I made those is shared below Tyler Florence's recipe.

Chicken Cordon Bleu

Recipe courtesy of Tyler Florence, 2008

4 chicken breasts skinless and boneless
4 thin slices prosciutto di Parma
1/2 pound Gruyere, grated
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup panko bread crumbs
4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
Extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Lay a chicken breast between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Using the flat side of a meat mallet, gently pound the chicken to 1/4-inch thickness. Remove the top sheet of plastic and lay 1 slice of prosciutto neatly over the top to cover the breast and sprinkle a quarter of the cheese over the prosciutto. Tuck in the sides of the breast and roll up tight like a jellyroll inside the plastic wrap. Squeeze the log gently to seal and twist both ends tight to form a nice log. Repeat with remaining chicken.

Season the flour with salt and pepper. Mix the bread crumbs with thyme, garlic and kosher salt, pepper, and melted butter. The butter will help the crust brown. 

Remove the plastic wrap. Lightly dust the chicken with flour, dip in the egg mixture and gently coat in the bread crumbs. Lightly coat a baking pan with olive oil and carefully transfer the roulades onto it. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until browned and cooked through.

To the recipe I added sautéed Brussels sprouts and cheese sauce. 

Brussels sprouts: The sprouts were sliced thin, and added to a sauté pan that already had minced garlic and shallots with thinly sliced prosciutto crisping up in olive oil.  It was a nice vehicle for the rich chicken breasts and cheese sauce I added. 

Cheese sauce:  sauté garlic and shallots in olive oil.  Add heavy cream (about ½ cup I think) and ¼ cup gruyere.  Throw in a sprig or two of thyme.  Melt cheese.  Pass sauce through strainer to remove solids, and you have a smooth cheese sauce to drizzle over finished dish! 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Pork & Pineapple Kebabs

After a two month hiatus, Mama is back!  Between helping to get a show up, keeping the household running, actually running, and end-of-school-year stuff, the old blog had to take a break.  We found some new and fun recipes recently, and I’m hoping to share a lot of them.  However, I think the whole meal plan blog might be on a permanent break.  While I still meal plan for the family, the actual blogging of said meal plan didn’t seem to be very popular.  Straight up blogs about one recipe or meal seems to work out better.  Feel free to let me know in the comments your thoughts, I can always share the plans…maybe at the end of the week instead of the “as we go” approach.

For today’s blog, I am sharing a recipe from my current favorite go-to cooking magazine: Rachel Ray Magazine.  I have two or three of her cookbooks, but I do not believe I have ever made one recipe from any of those.  However, the magazine is FILLED with wonderful recipes, tips, tricks, and ingredient information.  This current week, our meal plan is made entirely with Rachel Ray recipes, including the Golden Quinoa salad for my lunches this week, and it has been delicious and satisfying! 

The recipe for this blog post is: Pork and Pineapple Kebabs with Teriyaki sauce.  It was FABULOUS.  Definitely a “make again” in this house!  The only small note is that the tedious nature of slicing the snap peas into thin strips might give me pause on a rushed night.  Other than that, it was quick, no heating of oven or stove, we used the grill outside instead!  Perfect summer dish!

My Grill Master.  I don't grill...but that's a story for another time.

Pork and Pineapple Kebabs

Courtesy of Rachel Ray Magazine


1 pound pork tenderloin, cut into twenty-four 1-inch cubes
1 small red onion, 3/4 cut into 1-inch pieces, 1/4 thinly sliced
3/4 pound peeled fresh pineapple, cut into 1-inch cubes
3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp. store-bought teriyaki sauce - we used organic sesame-teriyaki sauce
3/4 pound sugar snap peas, thinly sliced lengthwise

Put pork pieces in a bowl, toss with teriyaki sauce, a pinch of kosher salt, and a couple grinds of black pepper.  Thread pork, red onion pieces, and pineapple cubes on skewers. Brush kebabs with 1/2 cup teriyaki sauce. Cook on grill or grill pan over medium-high, turning, until pork is cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes. Using clean brush, glaze with 1/4 cup teriyaki sauce. In bowl, toss snap peas, red onion slices and 1-2 tbsp. teriyaki sauce. Serve with skewers.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Mama's Meal Plan, Week 14: Easter leftovers! and Week 15: Big ProjectLeftovers!

Mama took a hiatus from the blog for Easter, and then another to finish up a big project!  Below is the recap, but here it is in a nutshell:  Week 14 was Easter leftovers and meals made from those.  Week 15 was leftovers from a weekend where we completed a big project thanks to friends and family, and we had leftover food from feeding the "workers!"  Hopefully Week 16 will be us back on track!


Easter week was a little off the plan, we hosted our families for Easter dinner, so the meal planning was really for one big meal...and we plan on getting by with leftovers for the rest of the week!  There may be a few breakfast for dinner evenings - in fact, Monday night the Mister did just that, fried up some leftover ham as well as two eggs.  

Happiness is a full house on Easter!

Easter Dinner Menu was:

Baked Smoked Ham with a mustard, maple, and brown sugar glaze
Homemade au gratin potatoes
Brussels sprouts with bacon
Sauteed green beans
Deviled eggs
Pickled eggs

Homemade strawberry cake and cupcakes.

During that week, we had a delicious ham and noodle dish made in ONE SKILLET (my favorite), I made Ted Allen's heirloom bean soup with leftover ham, along with ham sandwiches, etc.


 The BIG PROJECT I mentioned was swapping our daughter's original nursery/big girl room with the guest/sewing room.  We had friends and family by our side helping the whole time, and thankfully a big job went by in one weekend. We're so blessed to have these lovely people in our lives.

Mama and Papa in front of a VERY pinky purple wall

My little sis took time from fixing up her own home to help us!

A friend that is more a family member, our Miss Maggie!

Evie working with her favorite "Mr. Kerry" on the bunkbed

It's like a big puzzle! Uncle Matt was the painting foreman.

 Now we have a guest and sewing room set up, as well as a room fit for two little girls!  Evie can't wait to welcome her little sister from Haiti into their bedroom.  Still no idea on how long it will be until that happens, but we're hopeful to receive a referral this year!

A very happy little girl in her new room!!

On the Saturday morning of the project I made baked oatmeal with blueberries (ALWAYS a huge hit), and a sausage, egg, and cheese casserole.  

For lunches, meatballs were in the crock pot in sauce ready to be put in rolls with cheese.  Dinner was more meatballs over pasta.  Boom!  Crowd fed.  It also fed us during the week.  We had a chicken and fresh vegetable stir fry with rice on Monday, Mama had a smoothie and Daddy and E had leftovers on Tuesday, Wednesday was more leftovers, Thursday and Friday were nights out.  

Evie says a big THANK YOU to EVERYONE who helped!!

Ted Allen's Heirloom Bean Soup

This is one of my most prized cookbooks.  Not only for the recipes, which are truly for those who love to cook, but also because this book is signed by Mr. Allen!  I wish I could stay I met him, but I ordered it special to be signed.  Maybe some day I'll get to meet him...for now, I'll just continue to enjoy his recipes and his hosting of Food Network shows. On to the recipe!  Speaking of the recipe, if you enjoy this, I highly recommend purchasing the book...there are many gems like this one!

This is a pretty simple, but flavorful dish.  We used our leftover ham bones and ham from Easter, but you can purchase a smoked ham hock as the recipe states, we've made it that way too.  I also believe this would be just as delicious made vegan, as ham is the only non-plant/spice in this long as you ignore the huge hunk of Italian bread slathered with unsalted butter and a pinch of kosher salt we serve this with...

We soak our beans overnight with some baking powder, drain and rinse for the soup.  I pretty much like making this just for the smell of the soffritto and spices sauteing together in the beginning!

Heirloom Beans with Pork, Soffritto, and Smoke
from Ted Allen's In My Kitchen ©2012


1 pound dried beans (we used navy beans this time, I usually prefer pinto and cannelini)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons chili or chile powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne or 1 chopped seeded jalapeno chile
1 smoked ham hock (we used ham bones and chopped leftover ham)
3 sprigs fresh thyme, tied together with cotton string
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Rinse and pick over the beans (after soaking over night or at least 2-3 hours), discarding any small stones or other debris.  

2. In a large Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat, warm the oil, and then cook the onion, celery, and carrot until tender, about 8 minutes.  Add the garlic, bay leaf, and if using, chili powder, cumin, and cayenne, and cook until fragrant, about one minute.  Add the beans, ham hock, thyme, and water to cover the beans by about 1 inch.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer gently, partially covered, for 30 minutes.  Add 1 teaspoon salt and simmer for 30 minutes.

3. After an hour, spoon out a few beans and taste for tenderness.  Keep cooking and testing as needed, checking at least every 15 minutes, as things speed up toward the end of the process.  Add small amounts of hot water, if needed.  When the beans are tender and the liquid is creamy and thickened, they're ready. Season with salt and pepper to taste.