Super Easy OJ Salmon

I used to hate salmon. Back when it was “in” and every restaurant served the same boring, overcooked, dry, underseasoned salmon over a bed of wild rice. It was just so not my thing. Plus, I’m kind of a fish snob so I already don’t eat tilapia or catfish and it was pretty easy just to lump salmon in with other inferior fishes and move on.

But then, of course, things changed. Beef became outrageously expensive, we got older and realized we couldn’t eat Taco Bell twice a week and not gain weight, and my grocery store started putting salmon on sale nearly every Monday. So, I gave it another chance. As far as meals with a high deliciousness to work ratio, this is a true winner. The leftover marinade makes the sauce and really all you need is a salad on the side and you have a complete, healthy meal.

I use frozen salmon because I live in Texas and 2 pounds is generally enough to feed 4-5 adults in my home provided I have a hearty salad. If you have more fish, just adjust the marinade accordingly – you don’t want to run out of the sauce.

Super Easy OJ Salmon
2 lbs salmon fillets, thawed, de-boned, skin on or off

1 cup orange juice

1/2 cup soy sauce 

1 T honey (no need to use a measuring spoon, a hearty squeeze will do)

cooking oil of choice – I’ve used olive oil spray and coconut oil spray.

  1. In a gallon-sized ziplock bag or a nonporous bowl, whisk together the OJ, soy sauce, and honey until well combined. Place the fish into the marinade, ensuring that all of the fish is covered. Allow to sit for 20-30 minutes, but no longer than that.
  2. Set your oven to “warm” and place a cookie sheet inside (lined with foil if you don’t like scrubbing fishy pans). Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, spray with oil and place 3-4 fillets on hot pan to cook. Cook the fish for about 3 minutes on each side until it flakes. Transfer cooked fish to the warm oven and continue until all of the fish are cooked. DO NOT THROW THE MARINADE AWAY!
  3. Turn the heat up to high and pour the remaining marinade into the skillet. Deglaze the pan, scraping up all of the leftover fish bits.  Stir and cook over high heat until the marinade has reduced by about 75% and becomes thick and dark.
  4. Remove the fish from the warm oven and serve with the sauce.

Hella “Good” Soup (chickpea, farro, spinach)

In the next few months, you might see the recipes at Butter Is My Jam take a slight turn. No worries, butter is, and always will be my true jam, but I started a fitness program with some friends (BodyBack – woo!) and the nutrition component is pretty major. I hate the term “diet” because it sounds like something temporary and dumb. The guidelines are pretty simple – eat more real food, eat less fake food, and don’t eat so much dang sugar. It hasn’t been too hard – I truly love vegetables and whole grains and the good stuff, my main issue is that I also really love hollandaise, pasta, and Reese’s peanut butter eggs. So basically, you might see a few less indulge-y desserts and a few more healthy, filling meals that your grandma would be proud of.

Speaking of that, my grandma is particularly fond of this soup – every time I make it she tells me how much she loves it and how good it must be for you. It’s probably not quite as healthy as her famous vegetable soup, but this one’s quick, easy, and really filling. This recipe usually serves about 5 adults, 2 kids, and leaves enough leftover for a lunch or two. It refrigerates well, but note that the longer it sits the more the vegetables and farro soak up the broth – you may end up with a really dense soup. It’s no big deal, add a little water or broth if you prefer things soupier. Also, if you’re dieting  making healthy lifestyle changes, it’s a filling, nutrient-dense, low-calorie meal.

Also, if you’ve never cooked with farro, you’re missing out! It boasts many of the same nurtitional stats as quinoa, but offers a great chewy, nutty texture. We love it! I use the Trader Joe’s 10 Minute Farro, but refer to your package details to see how long you need to simmer. I cook it directly in the soup, but if you’re worried you could always cook the farro according to package directions and add it already cooked. This soup is also vegan (dairy/meat free!).
image

Chickpea, Farro, and Spinach Soup

1 swirl olive oil

1 medium onion

3-4 carrots

3-4 ribs of celery

3 garlic cloves

32+ oz vegetable broth

28 oz can diced tomatoes

15 oz can chickpeas

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried oregano

1 cup dried farro

2 cups fresh spinach (whatever you have, I’ve never actually measured, but like half a bag – 5-6 handfuls – follow your heart!)

S&P

  1. Dice the onion, peel and chop the carrots, chop the celery, and peel and mince the garlic cloves. In a large pot (I use a dutch oven) heat a swirl of olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery, stirring to soften all of the vegetables.  Once soft, add the garlic and cook for a minute or so.
  2. Add the tomatoes with their juices, drain and add the chickpeas and pour in 32 oz of vegetable broth. Stir everything together and season with the basil, oregano, and a little salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  3. Once boiling, add the farro and cook until they’re edible, but not quite done (usually about 10 minutes for me). At this point if things are looking a bit hearty, feel free to add a few cups of water or broth to loosen things up. Turn the stove down and add the spinach a little bit at a time, making sure to stir in each handful so it doesn’t make a big clumpy mess.
  4. Let the whole thing simmer for about 10 more minutes, taste and add seasoning as needed, and serve.

 

Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie Cake

Baking cookies with kids is one of those things that sounds so wonderful when you’re pregnant. You picture yourself with your angel children carefully measuring and pouring ingredients in your well-stocked, immaculate kitchen all while wearing matching aprons with just a little dab of flour on your rosy cheeks. It’s a perfect Martha Stewart moment. You’ll do it every week!  It will be magical! Memories will be made!
image

Then you actually have the baby and see how absolutely ridiculous this idea is because you don’t have time to even take a shower by yourself, much less go to the store, get ingredients, bake cookies, and clean up. I’ve always loved baking, but I’m definitely a control freak in the kitchen and just couldn’t see how to involve my kids without making it a miserable experience for all of us. I like baking – it brings me pleasure and relaxes me, so adding my kids to the mix seemed a little ridiculous so I avoided it for a long time.

But baking with your kids really can be awesome if you do it right. First, if you can manage to do it with one kid instead of 2 or 3, it’s much better. Second, I suggest starting when your kitchen is already a mess – because it will definitely be one by the time you’re finished. Finally, young kids don’t have much of an attention span. Make something fast and easy, or only involve them in a small part (trust me on this – if you’re going to make, cut out, bake, frost, and decorate 100 Christmas cookies, spread it out over a few days and only make 20). This skillet cookie cake is one that RG and I make together a lot. It’s one bowl, there’s plenty of fun measuring and pouring to do, you probably have all of the ingredients on hand, it’s forgiving, and it takes about 20 total minutes. No scooping our individual cookies, waiting for anything to rise, frosting – nothing. You mix, pour, and bake. It’s also absolutely heavenly.
image

Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie Cake

2 sticks of butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup regular white sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons instant espresso or coffee powder

2 cups flour

2 cups chocolate chips (I use 1 cup of bittersweet and 1 cup of semisweet, both ghirardelli)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large mixing bowl or bowl of your stand mixer, cream the butter and both sugars together until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and eggs one at a time, mixing and scraping the bowl between additions. Mix in the baking soda, espresso powder, and salt until everything is combined and smooth.  Add the flour  one cup at a time, making sure the first is fully incorporated before adding the second. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  2. Grease an 8″ cast iron skillet (I just spray a little vegetable oil on mine) and pour the batter/dough in, using a spatula to smooth out the top. Bake for 35+ minutes, until the middle is set and a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cookie cake cool for 20 minutes, but then serve warm out of the skillet, preferably with a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream.

Broccoli, goat cheese, and sun-dried tomato pasta

Some nights I like to try new, exotic, fancy dinners with a million ingredients. Recipes that require me to watch a YouTube video or two, mess up every dish in the kitchen, and listen to pronunciations to make myself sound legitimate. I love to cook and I thrive on new challenges and techniques.

That said, sometimes at 6:30 it is just not possible.

Sometimes at 6:30 I’ve been up for too many hours with hyper, obnoxious children and am only running on leftover coffee fumes. Sometimes I come in from yard work or playing with kids in the yard and barely have time to wash my hands before jumping into cooking because all of my grannies come over for dinner on Tuesday. Sometimes I’ve been breaking up sibling fights and getting whacked with cars and have dried cheerios stuck to my pants and just need to make something so easy that I can do it AND send kids to the naughty chair at the same time. Sometimes the kitchen is already a disaster and I have a sink full of dirt, a dishwasher full of dirty dishes, and a barbie convention taking place on the counter. Tonight ALL of those things happened, and I made this pasta.

Also, it has 5 ingredients and they’re mostly in the title, so you can remember them even when a 4-year-old uses your grocery list to spit something gross into and you’re racing through the store with a screaming toddler who stuck his complimentary magic pop (sucker) in his hair and thus can’t lick it and you have to pee so bad because you quit drinking diet coke and replaced it with iced tea, which causes you to always need to pee.

So basically this dinner is cheap, easy, fast, requires only a few dishes and ingredients, and has vegetables in it so you can just serve it without any pesky sides or anything. It’s also vegetarian and grandma/kid friendly.

Broccoli, goat cheese, and sun-dried tomato pasta

Serves about 6

6ish cups of fresh broccoli (about 3 heads)

3-4 large cloves of garlic

1 lb dried orecchiette pasta (you could easily use bowties, too)

8 oz jarred sun-dried tomatoes (TJs makes an 8.5oz jar, I just use that)

6 oz goat cheese

Salt, pepper, olive oil

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°, and bring a large, salted pot of water to boil for the pasta.
  2. Chop the broccoli into bite-sized florets and peel the garlic cloves. Toss the broccoli and whole garlic cloves with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, arrange onto a baking sheet, and bake for about 15 minutes.
  3. Cook the orecchiette according to package directions (10 minutes or so). When you drain the pasta, reserve about a cup of the pasta water. Chop up the sun-dried tomatoes if they are whole, if they come julienned just grab a glass of wine and pretend to be busy.
  4. When the broccoli and garlic are done, roughly chop the roasted garlic. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and pour in about a tablespoon of the sun-dried tomato oil. Cook the garlic in the oil for 30 seconds or so, then stir in the broccoli and the sun-dried tomatoes cooking it all together for about 5 minutes.
  5. Stir the cooked pasta and the broccoli mixture together in a large bowl. Crumble the goat cheese on top and stir to melt the cheese in. If the mixture is too dry, add in some of the reserved pasta water to loosen it up (I typically add in 1/4 to 1/2 a cup). Season with S&P to taste.

Chocolate Strawberry Dipcakes

When I was little, driving through Dairy Queen on a road trip was one of the finest pleasures known to me. A blizzard lover myself, I long lamented the lack of DQs near my home, but was able to satisfy cravings frequently on weekend trips to our lake house. When my youngest brother was about 2 years old he fell in love with Dip (or is it dipped?  I live in Texas, here it’s just dip) Cones. He would savor it slowly, letting all of the melted chocolate and ice cream cover the entirety of his body, hair, and overalls. It was always a look of pure bliss.

I didn’t know you could apply the dip cone process to cupcakes until a few years ago.  It’s called a “hi hat”and it’s much easier than it looks. It is a 3-step process – baking the cupcakes, making the frosting and piping, then dipping, but it’s worth the process. You could do this with any flavor of cupcake and buttercream, too, but Valentine’s Day kind of lends itself to chocolate covered strawberries. I call them “dipcakes”. When I last made these, I did make the mistake of making mini-cupcakes. You get about 4 mini cupcakes for every 1 regular cupcake, so it sounds awesome in theory, but baking, frosting, and dipping 100+ cupcakes was super annoying.  Half the recipe if you want minis.

Also, let it be known that I finally figured out how to make a degree symbol in wordpress.
image

Chocolate Cupcakes

yield 24 regular cupcakes or a million little cupcakes (90+)

1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee

3/4 cup cocoa powder

12 T (1.5 sticks) butter, softened

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

3/4 cups sugar

3 eggs

1 T vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups AP flour

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. In a small bowl, whisk the cocoa powder into the coffee until it is all dissolved and set aside.
  2. In a bowl of a stand mixer or large mixing bowl, cream the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Add in the eggs one at a time until incorporated, then the vanilla and beat it all together for a minute or two.
  3. Stir the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together. Add the flour mixture and the coffee mixture to the butter mixture about a cup at a time, alternating the two and making sure each addition is fully incorporated and scraped down before adding more.
  4. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full and bake for about 20 minutes (12-14 if you’re making minis), until a toothpick comes out clean.  Allow the cupcakes to completely cool.

 

Strawberry Buttercream

yields approximately 8 cups of frosting – plenty to frost 24 cupcakes.

1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened

1 cup crisco (I buy the foil wrapped packs, it’s one stick)

7-8 cups powdered sugar

1 T vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

1/3 cup milk or cream (up to a 1/2 cup)

1 cup finely diced fresh strawberries

  1. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy – at least 5 minutes. Add in 7 cups of powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, making sure to fully incorporate between additions.  Beat the mixture for another few minutes to fluff it up.
  2. Add in the vanilla and cream and beat the whole mixture for an additional 3-4 minutes until the whole mixture becomes light and fluffy. If the mixture seems too dense, add in a bit more cream, a tablespoon or two at a time, if it seems too runny, add in powdered sugar 1/4 cup at a time until you reach your desired consistency.
  3. Pour in the strawberries and beat on high until the strawberries are beaten in, this takes a few minutes on high. Stir to make sure no big strawberry chunks remain and check consistency again.
  4. Frost cupcakes using a wide tip (because the strawberry bits tend to get stuck – I use my biggest round tip). Be generous with frosting and remember that the chocolate hides a lot of imperfections.

 

Chocolate Dip

10 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips (I use the ghirardelli in the brown bag)

1-2 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil

  1. Stick the frosted cupcakes in the freezer for about 10 minutes, heat the chocolate while they cool.
  2. Melt the chocolate in the microwave in 30 second increments (it will burn if you go any longer). I use a pyrex glass 2-cup measuring cup for this. Between each microwave, stir the mixture completely and allow to cool. The chocolate will melt as it sits, so be patient. Stir in 1 T of oil after the first microwaving and add more if the chocolate doesn’t easily ribbon off of the back of a spoon. Once your chocolate is smooth and luscious, get the cupcakes out of the freezer.
  3. One at a time, dip the cupcakes into the chocolate, making sure to twist them a bit on the way out to let the excess chocolate drip off.  I use a toothpick to make sure all areas are covered.  After letting the chocolate run off for a few seconds, let the chocolate cool and harden – this can take about an hour, especially if it’s warm in your kitchen. If you’d like to add sprinkles or gold dust, add that about 5 minutes after you’ve dipped.
  4. Once completely cool and hardened, store the cupcakes at coolish room temperature (the refrigerator does weird things to them, but heat will melt them).

Prosciutto Asparagus Hash with a fried egg

Lately, making a pan full of rich goodness and then frying an egg on top of it is kind of my thing. I love fried eggs – the runny yolk, the temperament, the way it oozes into everything – it’s perfection. This hash also contains only items I love. It takes about an hour, but the hour is really easy and cleanup is minor.

This meal does NOT serve more than 4. It is, in fact, ideal for 3.

image

Prosciutto Asparagus Hash

4 ounces prosciutto

1.5lbs potatoes (I used yukon gold, but red would be fine here, too)

1 onion

1 bundle of asparagus (no idea how big these are, but they always come in a rubber band)

4 eggs

3-4 ounces goat cheese

3 green onions

S&P, olive oil

  1. Slice the prosciutto into small pieces and fry them in a large skillet over medium/high heat for a few minutes until crispy. Pull them out with a slotted spoon, leaving the rendered fat in the pan. Hide the prosciutto somewhere so you don’t eat it all while cooking. Dice your potatoes into 1-inch pieces. I chose not to peel mine, because I like things rustic and lazy.
  2. In that same pan, add a little olive oil if needed, and toss in the potatoes.  Season them with salt and pepper and let them start to brown. Chop the onion while you’re waiting. After about 10 minutes, add the onion in and continue to brown until they’re not quite done, but close, about 15 minutes more. Keep turning them every few minutes so they don’t burn or stick.
  3. While you’re waiting on potatoes to brown, because it takes forever, cut off the woody ends of the asparagus and chop them up into 1-inch pieces. Crumble up the goat cheese and finely chop up the green onion.
  4. Toss the asparagus in and let it cook in for another 5 minutes with the lid on, then add the prosciutto back on and let it all get nice and hot.
  5. Crack the eggs on top and let them cook on top of the hash. It takes about 5 minutes, but I gauge doneness by when the egg whites are opaque.
  6. Serve with crumbled goat cheese and green onion. Make sure everyone gets an egg.

 

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Pizza Dough

Making dough is definitely in my top 3 favorite cooking tasks (the bottom 3 tasks include cutting raw meat, cutting up whole pineapples, and slicing watermelon).  The rising, punching, and kneading process is so very manual – a job where you really have to just dig in and get your hands dirty.  Some doughs are easier to work with than others and pizza dough is one of the easiest to work with and handle.  It’s easy, there are only 5 ingredients, and it always, always turns out great.

This dough is suitable for calzones, pizza baked in the oven, and, my favorite, grilled pizza.  It’s a relatively small recipe – it would comfortably feed a family of four, but usually for my crew of 6-8 I double it.  You really only need 2 hours start to finish, but if you happen to make it 4 hours ahead of time, that’s fine too (just add another raise).  If you make too much, it’s easy to freeze – just roll it into a ball, coat with a thin layer of olive oil, wrap in plastic wrap, and stick it in a ziploc bag.

wpid-20150613_194839.jpg

Pizza Dough

1 TBSP yeast

1 TBSP sugar

1.5 cups warm water

1/2 tsp salt

3.5 to 4.5 cups flour

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir the water, yeast and sugar together and let sit for about 10 minutes.  When the yeast is bubbly and foamy, stir in the salt and begin adding flour, 1 cup at a time, until combined.  I typically use about 4.5 cups, but depending on humidity you may need less or more.  Once the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl, I add about a half cup more and then let the mixer knead the dough at medium speed for a few minutes, just to make sure all of the flour is incorporated.

2.  Manually form the dough into a ball – if you find it sticking to your hands excessively, consider adding a bit more flour.  Transfer the dough into a greased bowl, cover it, and move it into a warm spot to rise (in the wintertime I turn my oven to warm and then turn it off and allow my dough to proof in there).

3. After 45 minutes to an hour, when the dough has doubled in bulk, punch it down, reform into a ball and allow to rise again.

4. 45 minutes to an hour after the second rise, when the dough has doubled to tripled again, punch it down and roll out to your desired size.  I find that this dough requires ample flouring to avoid sticking to your rolling pin and surface.  You could also freeze the dough at this point.

If you plan to grill your crusts, spray each side with olive oil and place the crust directly on the grill.  Once the first side is done, flip the crust and quickly arrange the sauce, cheese, and toppings to your liking.  Remember that grilled pizza is highly artisanal and traditional aesthetics do not apply.