Friday, January 30, 2009

French Dip Panini

I got this recipe from Rachael makes my mouth water everytime I see the recipe in my book. So simple yet SO GOOD. I could just drink the dipping sauce, it's so tasty! Very few, easily found ingredients and my kids AND husband devour them so it's a big hit all around.

French Dip Panini
4 Tbsp butter, softened
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 Tbsp cornstarch
2 cups beef broth
1 pound sliced roast beef (from the deli)
1 baguette, split lengthwise and sliced crosswise into 4 sections
4 ounces sliced cheese of your choice (cheddar, pepper jack, swiss, whatever you like)

In a deep skillet, melt 2 Tbsp butter over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring until translucent, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the cornstarch, cook for 1 minute. Whisk in beef broth. Add the roast beef to the sauce and warm over low heat. Preheat a nonstick grill pan or griddle over medium heat. Spread the remaining 2 Tbsp butter on the split sides of the baguette sections. Using tongs, top half the sections with the warm roast beef, reserving the sauce. Top with the cheese (add other fillings if desired, see below) and remaining baguette sections. Place the panini on the hot pan. Weigh down with a heavy skillet or panini press and cook for 2 minutes, then flip the panini and cook 2 minutes longer. Remove the panini from the heat and divide the sauce (make sure it's still hot) among 4 small bowls for dipping.
**We also love to add thinly sliced red onion and sometimes a little bit of horseradish to the panini, just to give them a little kick.


I love salads. Love to make them, love to eat them, love 'em! Making a "fancy" green salad is really so easy if you follow a simple equation. Greens + fruit + nuts + cheese. And dressing. Easy! And when you choose really great ingredients, a simple flavorful dressing is the best. Here is my favorite dressing and then I'll give you some different variations of salad ingredients.

6 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp sherry wine vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste - I really like mine salty - I use kosher salt)
3 Tbsp finely chopped shallot

Whisk all ingredients EXCEPT oil together. In a slow, steady stream, add oil, whisking until emulsified. Check your salt & pepper. You can also substitue any other kind of vinegar depending on your taste - strawberry champagne vinegar, grapefruit vinegar, balsamic vinegar, etc.

As for the greens + fruit + nuts + cheese, just have fun! For example:
spring greens + dried cranberries + toasted slivered almonds + crumbled bleu cheese
arugula + pomegranate seeds + sugared pecans + shaved romano
red leaf lettuce + tangerine segments + bbq pecans + bleu cheese
baby spinach & frisee + pepperoncinis + toasted pine nuts + feta
(okay, that doesn't have a "fruit" but it still adds that type of "wet" ingredient to complement the crunchy, salty, leafy stuff)
curly endive + red pears + BBQ pecans + crumbled Stilton (this is my favorite!)

But are you getting it? Try something new! And maybe I will post the BBQ pecan recipe - it's great as a snack or on salads.

Oh! One last note - sugared pecans or almonds or walnuts are fabulous on salad, especially if you have stronger flavors in the cheese and dressing and they are so so easy to make! A handful of nuts, sprinkle with a good amount of sugar in a skillet and heat until toasted and sugar melts, stirring constantly. Be careful not to burn them, they can go from good to bad quickly. Pour out on a plate to cool. You can get creative and add some balsamic vinegar, or use brown sugar, whatever floats your boat.

Tuscan Pumpkin and White Bean Soup

While I'm on the pumpkin kick, I might as well add this easy, yummy and actually pretty healthy soup. LOVE this stuff!!!

Tuscan Pumpkin and White Bean Soup
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 cup chopped celery (I usually omit this, or at least chop it VERY finely)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 cans (14.5 oz ea) chicken broth
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin
1 can (15 oz) cannellini beans, draine & rinsed
1 package turkey kielbasa, sliced
grated parmesan cheese

Brown sliced kielbasa over medium-high heat. Add oil, onions, celery and garlic; cook and stir 8 minutes or until vegetable are crisp-tender. Stir in basil, salt and pepper; cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Add broth, pumpkin, beans and turkey; mix well. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low; simmer 20 minutes; stirring occasionally. Ladle soup into serving bowls. Sprinkle with cheese if desired.

Pumpkin Pancakes

I know people typically make things like this in the fall but I needed a quick dinner last night and didn't really want regular pancakes. And my family loves these and they are really oh so easy. They are best served with real maple syrup, but that can be spendy and they are still really good with regular syrup. I think we had Log Cabin. And let me point out that my picky husband ate 6 of these yummies.

Pumpkin Pancakes
2 cups flour
3 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1-1/2 cups milk
1 cup pumpkin puree (canned or fresh)
1 egg
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 Tbsp vinegar (I usually use apple cider vinegar)

In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, pumpkin, egg, oil and vinegar. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, allspice, cinnamon, ginger and salt; stir into the pumpkin mixture just enough to combine.
Heat a lightly oiled or buttered griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.

Homemade Hummus....better than store-bought!

Wow, it's really been a long time since my last recipe post! I must apologize to my one or two faithful followers, ha ha ha. So I've pulled out my slapped-together favorite recipe book and I'm going to post several recipes. I hope.

This first one is eeeeeeasy. If you like hummus, you will LOVE this. Homemade hummus is SO easy! And probably way way cheaper than store-bought. Just go for it, it's good stuff.

2 cups canned garbanzo beans, drained
1/3 cup tahini ***
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp. salt
2 cloves garlic, halved
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 pinch paprika
1 tsp. minced fresh parsley

Place the beans, tahini, lemon juice, salt and garlic in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Transfer mixture to a serving bowl. Drizzle olive oil over bean mixture. Sprinkle with paprika and parsley. (Occasionally I just add the olive oil to the ingredients in the food processor, along with the paprika...and the parsley can be omitted)

**Tahini is sesame seed paste - it looks like a jar of peanut butter and you will typically find it in the health-food/organic section of the grocery store. DON'T taste it alone, it's not good but it adds fabulous flavor to the hummus! :)