Not Always Winners

For the most part when I try a new recipe I like it enough that I would make it again and therefore post it on the blog. When the meal comes up that I don't love much I just skip it and move on to the next. This week I only had two new recipes on my menu and I didn't love either of them but maybe it's just me. I decided to post a couple "failures" anyway...maybe someone else will love them :-).
Fiesta Pork and Cheesy Polenta
I was really excited about this one and overall it was pretty good. It was my first time making polenta and the only other time I tried it, it was in firm circles so I think the texture threw me off more than anything.
image and recipe via Rachael Ray
* 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* One 1 1/4-pound boneless pork loin, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
* 1 tablespoon chili powder
* Salt and pepper
* 2 cups frozen bell pepper strips, thawed and patted dry (I used fresh peppers)
* 1 bunch scallions, green portions thinly sliced, white portions finely chopped
* 3/4 cup instant polenta
* 1/2 cup heavy cream (I used FF half and half)
* 4 ounces pepper jack cheese, cut into cubes
* 1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
1. In a medium saucepan, bring 2 1/2 cups water to a boil. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over high heat, swirling to coat the pan. Add the pork to the skillet in an even layer and season with the chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring, until just brown all over, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the pork and any juices to a plate. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, the bell pepper and finely chopped scallions to the skillet and cook, stirring, until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes.
2. Whisk the polenta and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper into the boiling water and cook, whisking, for 2 minutes. Lower the heat to low, whisk in the cream, then stir in the cheese; cover to keep warm.
3. Add the corn to the bell pepper mixture and cook for 1 minute. Return the pork and any juices to the skillet and cook, stirring, until heated through, about 1 minute. Stir in the sliced scallions. Serve with the polenta.

French Fry Franks
This recipe caught my eye in The Food Network Magazine because I knew my kids would love it and I thought it seemed like a gluten-free twist on a corn dog. Unfortunately, a pack of curly fries comes with only 3 or 4 fries that actually work to go around the little hot dogs. When I saw that I decided to skip the mess of battering the hot dogs and just baked the dogs and french fries on a pan together. So, I didn't end up following the recipe at all, but the kids still thought it was quite a dinner treat.
image and recipe via Food Network
For the Franks:
* 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
* 1/3 cup cornmeal
* 1 teaspoon sugar
* 1/4 teaspoon paprika
* 1 large egg, lightly beaten
* 1/4 cup milk
* Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
* Vegetable oil, for frying
* 18 cocktail franks (I used turkey ones)
* 5 to 6 cups frozen curly french fries, thawed slightly (about 1 pound)
For the Dip:
* 1 tablespoon Sriracha (hot Asian chili sauce) Juice of 1/2 lime
* 1/4 cup mayonnaise
Make the franks: Whisk the flour, cornmeal, sugar and paprika in a large bowl. Add the egg and milk and whisk to make a thick batter, adding more milk if the mixture is too dry. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste.
Heat about 2 inches vegetable oil in a large pot over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 375 degrees F. Dip the franks in the batter, then carefully wrap a long curly fry around each. (If desired, thread the franks on wooden skewers before wrapping with fries.)
Working in batches, fry the franks in the hot oil, turning, until golden on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels; sprinkle with salt. (I was planning to just back them anyway)
Meanwhile, make the dip: Whisk the Sriracha, lime juice and mayonnaise in a bowl. Serve with the franks.

Fried Rice Pilaf

veggie fried rice
Another meatless hit from Rachael Ray! I thought this dish was pretty simple, had great flavor, was filling and was healthy too. My sister and I had it for dinner one night and then I enjoyed leftovers for lunches the rest of the week. You could easily add some chicken to it if you wanted to, but I didn't think it needed it at all.

* 1 cup jasmine rice
* 1/4 cup vegetable oil
* 4 eggs, beaten
* Salt and pepper
* 3 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
* 1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
* 1 can (15.5 oz.) white beans, rinsed
* 1 cup frozen peas and carrots mix, thawed
* 1 tsp. ground cumin
* 2 tbsp. soy sauce
* 1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1. In a small saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, cover the rice with water and stir until the water becomes cloudy; drain and repeat twice. Return the rice to the saucepan, add 1 cup cold water, cover and cook over medium-low heat until the water has been absorbed and the rice is cooked, about 25 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
2. Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tbsp. oil over medium-high heat. Add the eggs, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until set and just dry, about 1 minute. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool; coarsely chop.
3. In the same skillet, heat 1 tbsp. oil over medium-high heat. Add the scallion whites and bell pepper and cook until crisp-tender, about 1 minute; season with salt and pepper. Add the beans and peas-carrots mix and cook until heated through; transfer to a large bowl.
4. In the same skillet, heat the remaining 2 tbsp. oil and the cumin over medium-high heat. Stir in the cooked rice. Spread into a single layer and cook, undisturbed, until the rice forms a crust, about 3 minutes. Break up the rice and sprinkle with the soy sauce. Stir in the scallion greens, cilantro, bean mixture and eggs and cook until heated through.

Fresh Corn Salad

fresh corn salad
I had already planned out the menu for Mike's birthday dinner when this salad was posted on Mel's Kitchen Cafe. It looked so yummy and fresh I couldn't resist and decided to add it last minute to our dinner plan. I even went back to the store for the ingredients. I'm so glad I did! This was the perfect side for a summer BBQ...or any summer meal. It is full of fresh flavors and light and crunchy and pretty much perfect. Everyone who tried it looooved it, and I used the leftovers in a quesadilla the next day and it was equally heavenly!

6 ears of corn, shucked
1/2 cup finely diced red onion
1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
3 tablespoons cider or red wine vinegar (I used red wine vinegar)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup julienned fresh basil leaves

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When boiling, add one tablespoon sugar and one tablespoon vinegar. Add the cobs of corn to the pot of water and bring to a rolling boil. Cover the pot, remove from the heat and let the corn sit for 10 minutes. Remove the corn from the pot. When the corn is cool, cut the kernels off the cob, cutting close to the cob.

Toss the kernels in a medium bowl with the red onions, tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Just before serving, toss in the fresh basil. Add additional salt and pepper to taste, if desired. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Fresh Raspberry Bars

fresh raspberry bars
I LOOOOVE raspberries! They are one of my favorite things to eat and definitely my favorite berry, so when I saw the gorgeous pictures of these in my Better Homes and Gardens magazines I knew I would get around to making them. Mike's birthday presented the perfect occasion and they received rave reviews from everyone. They are SO good and super easy to make too.
(view the pretty step by step pictures from BHG here)

recipe by Scott Peacock
* 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks) cut into 1-inch chunks
* 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
* 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
* 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
* Softened butter (for brushing sides of foil)
* 3/4 cup seedless raspberry jam or preserves
* 1 pint (2 cups) fresh raspberries
* 1/2 of an 8-oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
* 4 oz. goat cheese or 4 oz. cream cheese (I used all cream cheese)
* 1/2 cup granulated sugar
* 1 Tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
* 1 large egg
* 1 large egg yolk
* 2 Tbsp. finely shredded lemon peel (zest)
* 2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
* 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla
* Powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 13x9x2-inch baking pan with a 24-inch-long sheet of aluminum foil, leaving extra foil extending over ends (use these later to lift bars from pan); set aside. In a large bowl beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed until it just begins to blend and soften slightly, about 30 seconds.

2. Add brown sugar and salt, beat on low speed until incorporated, 30 seconds to 1 minute. You're not trying to cream it, you're just mixing it in, Scott says. With mixer off, add the 2 cups flour. Beat on low speed until flour is incorporated. Increase speed to medium, mix until ingredients form an even, cohesive dough. "People tend to undermix shortbread, which makes it too crumbly," Scott says. "It's tough to overmix because of the amount of butter we use."

3. Break dough into small chunks and distribute in prepared pan; with your fingers press dough into an even layer. Bake 20 minutes or until dough has begun to puff and is just set. Cool on wire rack 5 minutes.

4. Lightly brush exposed sides of foil with softened butter to keep filling from sticking. Spread jam evenly over crust.

5. Sprinkle evenly with raspberries.

6. With a lemon zester, remove peel from lemon, making sure to avoid bitter white pith. "For the most flavor, you want to do this right before baking," Scott says.

7. In a large bowl beat cream cheese and goat cheese with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Mix in granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon flour until blended. With mixer running, add egg, egg yolk, lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla. Beat until smooth.

8. Pour custard batter evenly over berries. Tilt pan back and forth to distribute evenly. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes or until barely set. Transfer to a wire rack until completely cool, about 1 hour; cover and transfer to refrigerator. Chill 2 hours. Top will crack slightly as it cools.

9. Use foil to lift the bars from pan. With a knife or metal spatula, support the sides of the bars while you gently peel the foil downward and away from sides of the bars.

10. Cut into long bars, peel foil from bottom, and transfer to cutting boars using side of a long knife or spatula. "Cutting first on the foil results in cleaner edges," Scott says. Cut into 24 squares
Sprinkle very lightly with powdered sugar. "It's much more interesting with just the rumor of sugar on top," Scott says. Makes 24 bars.

Vegetable Stir Fry

vegetable stir fry
Although the kids weren't thrilled with this Rachael Ray meal, Mike and I loved it...especially me! And the leftovers for lunch the next day were just as good. I'll add more of the bok choy next time, but overall I thought it was perfect. I loved all the fresh veggies and the sauce had a great flavor to it!

Ingredients:1 pound whole grain spaghetti or linguine pasta (I used GlutenFree spaghetti)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs, beaten
2 baby bok choy, thinly sliced
1 small red bell pepper, halved and thinly sliced
1 small bunch scallions, chopped into 3-inch lengths
1/2 cup shredded carrots
A handful of snow peas, thinly sliced on an angle
One 1-inch piece fresh ginger, grated
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons black bean sauce
Juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce or sambal olek sauce
1 tablespoon honey or sugar (I used sugar)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

Directions:1.Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain.
2.While the pasta is working, in a large skillet or wok, heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 1 turn of the pan, over high heat. Add the eggs and scramble until firm. Transfer to a plate. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, 2 turns of the pan, and heat until smoking. Add the bok choy, bell pepper, scallions, carrots and snow peas and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry for 1 minute more.
3.In a small bowl, stir together the tamari, black bean sauce, lime juice, hot sauce, honey and sesame oil.
4.Toss the pasta with the sauce and vegetables. Top with the egg.