Thursday, August 15, 2013

Baked Hawaiian Ham Sandwiches


So chances are good that if you're on Pinterest, you've seen this recipe and/or pinned it.  We had these last night, and I couldn't believe they weren't on my blog because I've made them several times, and they're completely easy and delicious.

I've always loved the http://www.kingshawaiian.com/products/">King's Hawaiian breads
, and it seems that now they're a whole lot easier to find than they were many years ago.  It used to be a big treat to find them, now pretty much every grocery store has them.  And I love them.  That was selling point number one for these sandwiches.  Although it just occurred to me that I've never looked at the ingredient list.  Sigh.  I probably should, but I'm fairly certain that means I won't want to buy them anymore.  Do you ever run into this conundrum if you try and mainly eat real food?  I suppose I could find a recipe to make my own...surely there's one out there.  But I digress...
I also love sandwiches.  I'd say who doesn't love them, but I do know of someone that doesn't.  She doesn't like mixing her food together, which I understand I guess, but man alive is she missing out!  I can see not wanting your mashed potatoes and peas to mingle together on your plate, but a sandwich is something completely different.  These sounded super easy when I first saw the recipe, and I'm always up for an easy to prepare dinner!  Especially if it's a delicious sandwich.

Baked Hawaiian Ham Sandwiches

One 12-count package http://www.kingshawaiian.com/products/rolls-12-pack/">King's Hawaiian sweet dinner rolls
3 sticks butter
3 Tbsp dijon mustard
1-1/2 tsp worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp poppy seeds
1 onion, somewhere between finely chopped and diced
1 pound thin sliced ham
6 slices Swiss cheese

Preheat oven to 350.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter and add in mustard, worcestershire, poppy seeds, and onion.  Let simmer 5-7 minutes.

Slice entire package of rolls in half horizontally, so you have 12 bottoms and 12 tops.  Keep them connected--don't break them apart into separate rolls.

Place bottom halves of rolls into a foil-lined 9x13 baking dish.  Brush 1/3 to 1/2 butter mixture on rolls.  Place ham on top, layering evenly across rolls.  Lay cheese slices in single layer on top of ham.  Place top halves of rolls over the cheese and brush remaining butter mixture on the top of the rolls.

Cover with foil.  Bake approximately 15 minutes.  Remove foil cover and bake another 5-7.  Slice into individual rolls and serve.

*****

Obviously you can probably tell from my initial comments that these are a huge hit at my house.  My kids don't like the pieces of onion on theirs that inevitably end up on the top of the roll, so they just push them off and have a little onion pile on their plate, which is okay by me.  I'm not sure how many times I've made them, but last night I actually doubled the recipe so there'd be leftovers because we'll eat a whole batch in one meal.  But then of course today, Boy #1 wanted to buy lunch at school, and the husband had an all day meeting with lunch being served, so there's a whole pan of them just sitting in my fridge now.  Good thing it's leftover clean-up for dinner tonight!

By the way, does anyone know of a ham that is free of nitrates and nitrites?  Try as I might, I cannot find one.  I'm starting to think unless I get a fresh ham and cook it myself, it's not going to happen.  And if that's the case, I'll either stick with the nitrites or do away with ham altogether.

Who am I kidding...I would never do away with ham.

Speaking of ham...check out Boy #2 posing with the sandwiches!





Monday, August 12, 2013

Grilled Chicken and Zucchini Yakitori


Well, so much for my plan of keeping my blog updated over the summer.  Boy #1 started second grade last Monday, and Boy #2 starts his last year of preschool this afternoon.  I don't know how they got to be this old.  One of my friends posted a picture on Facebook of Boy #1 and one of his BFFs on the first day of school.  They've been friends since they were one, and seeing them so big and starting second grade had me in tears.  Anyway, now that school is back in the swing, and I have four afternoons a week to myself, I'm hoping to get back on the blog wagon.  The past few weeks I haven't made a whole lot of new stuff.  It's hard to find the time to come  up with meal plans that include a bunch of new recipes when I have both kids at home.

This recipe has been one of our new favorites over the summer.  The first time I made it I was watching my friend Amanda's daughters, and I wasn't sure how the kids would receive it.  I mean, it's grilled chicken, so I figured it would be okay.  Turns out I had nothing to worry about.  This is from SkinnyTaste.com, which is one of my favorite healthy cooking blogs.  I don't think I've ever been disappointed with a recipe I've used from her website.  I love grilling in the summer, especially if we're hanging out in our pool, but I get tired of always grilling the same stuff, so finding a new grilled chicken recipe is pretty fantastic in my book.

Grilled Chicken and Zucchini Yakitori
Source: Adapted from http://www.skinnytaste.com/2013/06/grilled-chicken-and-zucchini-yakitori.html">SkinnyTaste.com

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce (for GF use low sodium Tamari)
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 garlic clove, crushed
3 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs, all fat trimmed
2 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/2-inch thick rings
18 (10 inch) bamboo skewers

Bring vinegar, low sodium soy sauce, honey and crushed garlic to a boil in a medium-sized sauce pan, and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Cut the chicken into 1-inch pieces and place in a ziplock bag; pour half of the marinade over the chicken. Place the zucchini in a second large ziplock bag and pour the remaining marinade over the zucchini. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, soak the skewers in water 30 minutes so they don't burn.

Thread the chicken onto skewers, discarding the chicken marinade.

Thread the zucchini onto skewers, reserving the marinade for basting.

Preheat the grill or a grill pan over medium-high heat. When hot, spray with oil then reduced heat to medium; grill the zucchini and chicken skewers about 5 to 6 minutes on each side brushing both sides of the skewers with the yakitori sauce during the last few minutes of cooking time.

*****

I said above that when I made this for my family and my friend's daughters I didn't have to worry about them not liking it.  The kids all had seconds of the chicken.  There were no leftovers from this, which was kind of disappointing because I had hoped to have some for the husband and me for lunch the next day.  The kids didn't eat the zucchini, but the husband and I loved it.  This thick-zucchini-slices-on-bamboo-skewers was actually my go-to way to grill zucchini over the summer when we'd have it as a side dish.  So easy!  If I wasn't making this recipe I'd brush the slices with some olive oil and sprinkle with some Lawry's or Tony Chachere's and throw them on the grill with whatever protein I was cooking.

This is super easy to put together (as long as you plan ahead for marinating time), and so good.  The original recipe called for sake instead of the rice wine vinegar, but since I didn't have sake on hand I substituted the vinegar.  It also called for green onions to be on the skewers between chicken pieces and zucchini pieces, but I haven't ever done that, so I took it out of the ingredient list.

I have already made this so many times this summer, but it's so easy and my family loves it, so it's definitely going to stay one of my go-to chicken thigh recipes!




Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Grilled Pork Ribs


I just love to grill in the summer.  It does have its downsides being in Phoenix and standing outside in the roasting heat over a hot grill, but it creates significantly less dirty dishes and doesn't heat up my kitchen by using the oven.  Plus we have a pool, so a lot of times whomever is grilling will take pool breaks or just hang out in the pool while dinner cooks.  It's a pretty sweet system.

I've always been a fan of boneless ribs.  Gnawing on ribs with the bones in them has always seemed gross and honestly a little barbaric to me.  although for a lot of years I wouldn't even eat meat with bones in it because it reminded me that it once was walking around.  Can you tell I lived with vegetarians in college?  I don't think I had my first buffalo wing until I was in my mid-20s.  I've gotten over it now, but I still won't eat bone-in ribs.  Recently boneless ribs were on sale for a super good price, so I bought a package of them planning on grilling them.  I wasn't really sure how to grill them, if I just threw them on there or what, so a little Googling directed me to a brine recipe, and I ran with it.  My uncle makes really fantastic grilled ribs, but I knew I'd need ingredients I didn't have, and I try to limit grocery store trips in the summer since I have to drag both kids with me.  This was also my first attempt at a brine, so I was pretty excited to try it out.

Grilled Boneless Pork Ribs

1 cup water
1/4 salt
1 T. sugar
3 pounds boneless country style pork ribs

In a gallon Ziploc bag, combine water, salt, and sugar.  Add in ribs, squeeze out excess air, and let sit for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.

Preheat your grill for indirect heat grilling (is that the right phrase?).  My grill has four burners, I turned on all four to heat it up, then reduced the middle two super low.  Lay ribs in the middle of the grill and cook for 10 minutes.  Flip them over and grill another 10.  Their internal temperature should be 145 degrees.  Remove from grill and serve with your favorite barbecue sauce (or make your own if you're an overachiever like me).

*****

I really had no idea how this was going to turn out.  I'll be honest--I had visions of dried out, tough, inedible ribs, and I was working on a back up dinner plan in the back of my head the whole time.  My original plan had been to only cook about half the package of ribs, but Boy #2 was helping me make dinner, and he said we should do all of them so there'd be leftovers.  Thankfully he's a lot more optimistic than his mama because I didn't know if we should plan on leftovers in case they were awful.

These turned out AMAZING.  I don't know why I doubted myself.  Normally my go-to method of cooking boneless ribs is throwing them in the crockpot with a sweet and sour barbecue sauce that's my great aunt's recipe, but this may very well be my new go to.  It was a huge hit with my family.  There were leftovers but not many.  They were good on their own, they were good with the barbecue sauce (although my kids preferred them without the sauce, the husband and I were torn on which was better).  This was an all around winner!!


 My grill could maybe use a cleaning.

 I tried to make this one a little scenic.  See my failing garden in the background?  Those green things are my sad basil plants that are the only remnant of what I had hoped to be a successful summer garden.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Rosemary Crackers


I have a love/hate relationship with crackers.  I love to eat them, but I hate the ingredients in most of them.  Ak-Mak crackers are the exception, but I don't buy them very often because no one else in my family likes them.  Actually I don't buy crackers very often anyway because this family is a bunch of cracker monsters.  Crackers just do not last at my house.  I don't know what it is.  I recently found a recipe to make my own crackers and figured it was worth a shot...especially since it was easy and I had all the ingredients on hand.  Plus making my own crackers sounds kind of kitchen bad ass, which I really like.  Okay, maybe not bad ass but definitely impressive, right?

Rosemary Crackers
Source: Budget Bytes blog

 2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt (plus more for sprinkling)
1 Tbsp rosemary
to taste freshly cracked pepper
4 Tbsp cold butter
½ to ¾ cup cold water

Chop the rosemary well so that there are no large, sharp pieces. Add the rosemary, flour, baking powder, salt, and some freshly cracked pepper to a food processor and pulse until the mixture is evenly mixed (or just stir them together in a bowl).

Cut the butter into pieces and add it to the food processor. Pulse the mixture until the butter is completely incorporated and no chunks remain. Or, cut the butter into the flour mixture with pastry cutter, two knives, or just with your hands until the butter is completely worked into the flour mixture.

Slowly add cold water to the food processor while pulsing, just until it forms a dough (or stir it in by hand until a dough forms). Depending on the humidity and moisture level in your flour, it will take between ½ and ¾ cup water. (I used closer to 3/4 cup).

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll it out until it is approximately 1/16th inch thick. Use a pizza cutter or knife to cut the dough into small rectangles, squares, or triangles. Prick each “cracker” with a fork. Carefully transfer the cut crackers to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Sprinkle the crackers lightly with salt, if desired. Bake the crackers for 20-25 minutes, or until they are golden brown. The total amount of baking time needed will depend greatly on the thickness and size of the crackers, so watch them closely. Allow the crackers to cool and then store in an air-tight container at room temperature.

*****

See what I mean?!  Super easy!  You can be a kitchen bad ass, too, and impress your friends and colleagues or whomever by making your own crackers.  Plus I love stuff that's all done in the food processor.  These were super, super tasty.  But she's right about watching them while they bake--the thinner ones came out a little too dark for my liking.  Personally I loved dipping these into homemade hummus, and they were good with some slices of cheese on top.  I've made these several times and the cracker monsters have always gobbled them up.

(Why, yes, the picture up top is from Instagram...I had to brag on my kitchen bad ass-ness when I made them the first time!)



Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Ham and Artichoke Sandwich


So I was just looking up my dinner recipe for tonight on my blog (Crockpot Beer Chicken Fajitas, if you're curious) and saw I've only done nine blog posts for the whole year.  Nine!  And it's June!  Yowza.  I need to get back to blogging.  I promptly opened my "cooking blog" photos folder and scoured for something to post.  I'll be honest, when I saw these pictures I couldn't remember exactly what it was, until I saw the artichoke hearts and then remembered.

Every January (well, this year and last year anyway) we go up north to Flagstaff, AZ with my mama the last weekend of winter break.  I love Flagstaff.  It reminds me a lot of where I went to college, and in the summer it's a great escape from the Phoenix heat, and in the winter it's a great place to go get a bit of winter. When the husband and I were there one time years and years ago we stumbled upon a brewery that we fell in love with, now we always make it a point to go there when we're visiting.  Beaver Street Brewery.  Awesome beer (they have a scotch ale which also reminds me of my favorite brewery where I went to college), great food, good place to take kids.  We actually went twice this past trip...once on a date night dinner while my mom kept the boys and then with my mom for lunch one day.  The husband and I always get pizza when we go for dinner (actually he might have gotten pizza again for lunch this trip), but for lunch I wanted to try something new.  This sandwich sounded fantastic (and it was), so I tried to recreate it once we were home.

Ham and Artichoke Sandwich
Source: adapted from Beaver Street Brewery's Wood Fired Ham and Artichoke Sandwich

1 French roll
Few slices of ham
2 slices provolone cheese
Marinated artichoke hearts

Split roll in half lengthwise and toast.  Place ham slices on bottom half of roll.  Top with marinated artichoke hearts and place cheese on top of artichoke hearts.  Place sandwiches (but not the top half of roll) on a cookie sheet and heat under the broiler until cheese melts.  Top sandwich with top half of roll and serve.

*****

Obviously the ingredients above are for one sandwich, so adapt as necessary to fit your needs.  This was a tasty sandwich but not nearly as good as the one at Beaver Street.  I used real ham for mine, not just deli ham, because it's what I had but either would work.  Next time I would brush some of the marinade from the artichoke hearts onto the rolls to give it a little extra boost of flavor.  For those of you that have an aversion to ham, I bet it would be tasty with chicken as well.





Friday, May 24, 2013

Chocolate Snack Cake


Quite awhile ago now, my dear friend Betty sent me a recipe for a chocolate snack cake that sounded super easy to make.  It's no secret that I'm not a fan of baking, which is both bad and good.  Bad because I really love baked good and good because I really love baked goods.  Not wanting to ever take the time to make them or dirty all the dishes involved (seriously, is it just me or does baking dirty way more dishes than cooking?!) makes it pretty easy to stay away from cookies or cakes or pies that I'm just going to sit and gorge on if I make them.  But, I have two little kids, so some times I have to bake things to appease them.  For one thing they like to help me, and for another, they really love to eat stuff that I bake.  Recently we were having a family fun night, and I decided to make this cake.  I wanted a fun dessert for my family, and this sounded super easy.  And the best part?!  You mix it up in the baking dish, so there aren't a ton of dishes to deal with once you're done!  Jackpot!

Chocolate Snack Cake


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 cup cold water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In an 8-inch square baking pan, whisk together all-purpose flour, sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder, baking soda, and coarse salt.

Make a well in center of flour mixture and add vegetable oil, pure vanilla extract, white vinegar, and cold water. Whisk until well combined. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

*****

Let me tell you...my family devoured this cake.  The consistency was similar to a cake-like brownie.  It was a little denser than a chocolate cake you'd make from a box mix but not chewy like a brownie, if that makes sense.  It did not last long...like maybe until the end of the movie we were watching.  I also really liked that it was vegan because my brother and his girlfriend are vegan, so it's nice to have options I can make for them when they come visit.  Normally they come for each of my kid's birthdays, and I want them to be able to have cake to celebrate with us.  Anyway, this is super easy, hardly dirties any dishes, and it's stuff I always have on hand.  I kind of wish I'd had this recipe when I was pregnant either time because I bought a lot of chocolate cake mixes and randomly baked cakes both times.

Actually writing this out and seeing the pictures kind of makes me want to whip one up to share with my boys tonight!


Note to self: put away dishes before taking pictures for blog.  A cheese grater in the chocolate cake picture?!  Come on, Claire!  Class things up a bit around here!



Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Calico Relish


I think I've shared my childhood aversion to zucchini before.  I really didn't like it, and somehow my mom always had an abundance of it in the summers when I was little.  I don't remember her growing it, so I have no idea how it would end up in our kitchen, but she would use it in everything.  My mom was never big on baking, so my brother and I learned to get very skeptical if all of a sudden there were cookies since it usually meant there was zucchini in them.

There was a delicious relish we'd have a lot in the summer with grilled hot dogs or sausages or brats.  It was my dad's aunt's recipe, and I loved it.  Then I found out the main ingredient was zucchini.  I stopped eating it.  I didn't want anything to do with it because of the zucchini.  I kind of forgot about said relish until recently.  I've since learned to appreciate zucchini and actually eat it pretty often.  I don't begrudge my kids a whole lot for not eating it since I didn't when I was little.  Plus there are enough vegetables they eat willingly that I don't see the point in fighting with them about one that they don't like.

Anyway, remember how I recently mentioned Market on the Move?  One of last month's offerings was a ton of zucchini.  Not an actual ton, but it may have come close.  I was trying to figure out what to do with it since there's only so much sauteed zucchini or zucchini bread one can eat.  Well, maybe not on zucchini bread, especially chocolate zucchini bread.  But I digress.  I remembered I had gotten this recipe from my mom (once I learned to embrace the zucchini) maybe last summer when for some reason I had a bunch of zucchini to use up.  I was so excited to make up some of this, especially with it getting to be the time of year that I do a lot of grilling, so I know we'll be having it alongside a lot of meals coming up.

Calico Relish
Source: my great aunt Irene

4-6 unpared zucchini, coarsely ground (3.5 cups)
6 medium carrots, ground (1.5 cups)
2 medium onions, ground (1 cup)
2 Tbsp uniodized salt
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vinegar
1 1/2 tsp celery seed
1 1/2 tsp dry mustard

Combine ground vegetables, stir in salt.  Let stand 3 hours.  Drain well, squeeze if necessary.  Combine remaining ingredients and bring to boil.  Add vegetables, simmer 20 minutes uncovered.  Seal in jars.  Makes 2-1/2 pints.

*****

I found the easiest way to do this was bust out my food processor.  Oh how I love my food processor.  I put in one of the grating/shredding blades (I'm sure there's an official name for it, but I can't think of it and don't feel like looking it up...I only have 15 minutes until I need to leave to pick up kids from school) and put it on the finer of the two options so my shreds of everything would be smaller.  Actually for the onions I put in the regular blade and just pulsed until the pieces of onion were tiny.

I could barely wait to have some of this.  Shortly after making it the husband and I had grilled sausages for dinner one night after the kids had gone to bed, so I got out one of my jars and served some up with our sausage.  Oh it was so tasty!  Just as good as I remembered.  And the husband liked it, too!  It's super easy to make up, and it will be a great way to use up some of that summer bounty of vegetables!

My shredded veggies, awaiting their salt.

Boy #2 was helping with the process. This kid loves the food processor!  He wanted in on one of the pictures.  Don't mind his shaggy-way-overdue-for-a-haircut face or the yogurt stains on the table behind him.  Hmmm...maybe I shouldn't have pointed those out?

Relish cooking away.

 How freakin' adorable are these jars?!  They're wide mouth half pint jars.  I love them.