Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Foodie Pen Pals: July

The Lean Green Bean

This is now my second month participating in Foodie Pen Pals and I really been enjoying my experience so far. I love meeting new people and being introduced to new products! My foodie pen pals this month were Amy (a non-blogger) and Elaine from The Hungry Brownie.

Elaine was the sweetheart that I sent my package to this month. Elaine lives in Seattle, but is originally from the Philippines. I'm part Filipino so I was very excited to meet another Filipino! Elaine loves food and photography, and she combines these two loves into a wonderful blog with an awesome name, The Hungry Brownie! She told me that she loves sweets but her and her husband are trying to eat a little more healthy, so I sent her a little of both! If you'd like to see what I sent her, please head over The Hungry Brownie!

My foodie package I received this month!

Amy sent me a really fun package and I've been having a great time trying out all of the different things that she included for me. Here is a list of what Amy sent:

  1. Laceys almond and dark chocolate toffee wafers. How did she know that toffee is one of absolutely favorite candies in the world?! These are so elegant and delicious! I only have a few left over!
  2. Pro Bar Sweet & Savory Cherry Pretzel. This was one of my favorites in the package. I've heard of Pro Bars before, but never tried them. This actually made a great breakfast and kept me satisfied until lunch. I went and bought me some more earlier this week in different flavors!
  3. Larabar in Cashew Cookie. I gave this one to Joe and he said that he really liked it.
  4. Los Bagels Slug Slime Roasted Seasoning Blend. Just the name made this my favorite! How can you not fall in love with something that makes you say you're putting slug slime on it. We sprinkled this over some grilled chicken kabobs. This seasoning is so versatile, you can put on practically anything.
  5. Drakes Glen Creations Chocolate Covered Peanuts. I ate this for breakfast one day and that made me happy. :-)
  6. Quinoa Granola (with its recipe). I have this on my desk at work and have been munching on this for a quick snack. I love the cinnamon flavor it has. I totally didn't know that you could eat quinoa "raw!"

Laceys toffee wafers

Pro Bar and Larabar

Los Bagels Slug Slime (you read that right!)

Drakes Glen Creations Chocolate Covered Peanuts

Quinoa Granola (plus a recipe!)

Thank you Amy and Elaine for being wonderful Foodie Pen Pals. I am really enjoying this experience and cannot wait until next month's Foodie Pen Pal gets underway!

If you would like to participate in Foodie Pen Pals, head over to The Lean Green Bean for more information and to sign up! Also, you don't have to be a blogger to participate!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Blueberry Cheesecake Cupcakes

Blueberry Cheesecake Cupcakes

The Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes have been such a huge hit that I decided to make them again for a party my family had over the weekend. When my mom told me that I should double the recipe, I thought that I would try one batch with the original recipe and the other batch using a different type of fruit. I decided to go with blueberries.

My 14-year old cousin, Belle, came over to help me make the cupcakes. She had never made cupcakes from scratch before, let alone a double batch, so she was in for a surprise! First we made the batch of strawberry cupcakes, rested and ordered a pizza and watched "Walking Dead." Then we started on the second batch of cupcakes with the blueberries.

I originally thought that 4 dozen cupcakes (2 strawberry and 2 blueberry) would be way too much, but between people eating them and taking them home, we ended up with less than 10 leftover! So I guess it is a good thing I doubled the recipe!

The blueberry cheesecake cupcakes came out just as good as the strawberry ones! The blueberries were slightly less sweet, so they weren't as rich. The blueberry cream cake part of the cupcake actually taste a lot like blueberry muffins, which I loved!

Substituting the blueberries for the strawberries was a good idea! These cupcakes are definitely worth sharing and being proud of. These blueberry and strawberry cheesecake cupcakes are still one of my favorite things that I've ever made. You can bet that I'll be making these again and again, and will be one of the most requested goodies that I'll probably ever receive!

Blueberry Cheesecake Cupcake
Adapted from The Girl who Ate Everything

Graham Cracker Crust:
2 sleeves of graham cracker crumbs (about 18 whole crackers)
8 Tbs. unsalted butter, room temperature (1 stick)
2 Tbs. of sugar

1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
12 Tbs. unsalted butter, room temperature ( 1 1/2 sticks)
1 c. + 2 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. sour cream
4 large egg whites
2 c. fresh blueberries (plus 24 individual blueberries for garnish)
2 Tbs. flour (for dredging blueberries before they go into the batter)

Cream Cheese Frosting:
2 (8 oz.) packets of cream cheese, room temperature (16 ounces total)
16 Tbs. unsalted butter, room temperature (2 sticks)
3 3/4 c. powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (For high altitude, I decreased the temperature to 325) and line 16-18 muffin tins with cupcake liners. (I got 24 cupcakes out of this recipe.) Mix graham cracker crumbs with butter using a food processor. Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of the crushed graham cracker into the bottom of each prepared muffin tin. (I ended up getting about 3 Tbs per cupcake, which worked out perfectly.) Press down using fingers and bake for 3-5 minutes or until slightly browned. Remove immediately from oven and set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy and then add the vanilla and beat on a low-speed. Then add half the flour mixture until incorporated then mix in the sour cream or yogurt. Add remaining flour and mix until just blended.

In a medium bowl beat the egg whites until stiff, glossy peaks appear, about 3-4 minutes, be careful not to overbeat. Set aside.

Gently fold 1/3 of the egg into the batter until combined, do not over mix the egg whites or the cake will fall flat. Add remaining egg. Toss the 2 c. of blueberries in a couple tablespoons of flour, this will help prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the batter while they cook. Fold in the blueberries into the batter. Fill each muffin tin about 3/4 of the way and bake for about 20 minutes depending on your oven. You can test to see if they are done by sticking a toothpick through the center, if it comes out clean it is ready to take out!

For the cream cheese frosting:
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar slowly in small batches, beating on low speed until incorporated. Once all sugar has been added, increase the speed to high and mix until light and fluffy. Refrigerate for 1 hour. When ready to serve, spread icing on cupcakes or use a pastry bag with a star tip. Garnish with a fresh blueberry in the center and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Pan-Seared Blackened Pork Chops

Pan-Seared Blackened Pork Chops

I've been making this recipe for Pan-Seared Blackened Pork Chops for the past couple years. It was the first time I made pork chops and the first time I made fresh green beans. It's an incredible easy meal and healthy meal to throw together. And there's a ton of flavor that won't leave you wondering.

The green beans almost steal the show from the pork chops they are so good. You have a little bit of the blackening mixture and olive oil left from the cooking the pork chops, then you add butter, garlic, and shallots. All that goodness, these green beans are easily some of the best green beans that I've ever had. These put canned green beans or Cracker Barrel green beans to serious shame.

This is an insanely easy recipe to remember. Nearly all the ingredients are in 2 Tbs increments! 2 Tbs of this and 2 Tbs of that... that's all you need to remember and the ingredient list and you are good to go. For the spices, I found that I don't use all of it so I save half right away to use at another time. Half the amount seems to be perfect for the coating.

This is a perfect weeknight dish to make. And absolutely do not forget to make the green beans!

Pan-Seared Blackened Pork Chops
Slightly adapted from G. Garvin "Make it Pure Simple"

16 oz. fresh green beans (I trimmed mine and cut them to 1-inch pieces)
2 Tbs garlic powder
2 Tbs onion powder
2 Tbs blackening spice
Kosher salt
4 4-ounce boneless pork loin chops, cut 3/4 to 1 inch thick
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs unsalted butter
2 Tbs chopped garlic
2 Tbs chopped shallots
Black pepper


In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Add green beans and cover. Cook 8-10 minutes or until beans are nearly crisp-tender. Drain. Place in a bowl of ice water to stop cooking. Drain again and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine garlic powder, onion powder, and blackening spice. Add salt to taste. (I actually saved half of this mixture to use for a second use at another time because you're not going to use all of it!) Pat pork dry with paper towels, then coat both sides of the pork chops with seasoning mixture.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over meadium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, then add pork chops. Cook 8-12 minutes or until done, turning once. Remove pork chops from the skillet to a plate. Cover with foil and set aside.

Drain skillet if there's a lot of oil or fat. Add butter to the skillet and heat over medium heat until the butter is melted. Add garlic and shallots. Saute 1-2 minutes until shallots are soft. Add green beans, then saute 4-5 minutes longer until beans are crisp-tender. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with the pork chops.

Makes 4 servings.

Friday, July 13, 2012

New Mexico Pile-Up

New Mexico Pile-Up

This is another recipe probably everyone in New Mexico has a different version of or a different name to call it by. Some just call it breakfast!

Breakfast is one of my favorite meals and this is definitely one of my favorite breakfast meals, though I hardly ever have it or a substantial breakfast really.

This is probably one of my favorite meals because it reminds me of breakfast at my grandma's house. She always had homemade tortillas and fried potatoes. We normally had eggs and bacon too, but I would skip the chile because I didn't actually start eating chile until I was older (shame, I know!).

I made my grandma's famous fried potatoes this weekend and decided to make a pile-up. I used her potatoes as the base, then topped them with fried eggs. I made the bacon in the oven (400 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until crispy, depends on the bacon). Then I topped it with cheese and 505 Southwestern Green Chile. I like their chile and I love that they sell individual sized green chile packets! After that, I popped it in the microwave until the cheese melted and drizzled it with some hot sauce. I also served it with tortillas... I didn't make any homemade tortillas, but we had Bueno Tortillas on hand so we used those.

The great thing about the pile-up is that you make it whichever way you want! Load whatever your heart desires onto the pile of potatoes and pile it all up until you get it perfect. I like mine with bacon, eggs, cheese, chile, and hot sauce. And served with a tortilla (it all gets sandwiched in a tortilla for me anyway!). But make it how you like it. Whatever eggs you like, whatever cheese, chile, hot sauce, meat, or other toppings you'd like. If you don't have all the ingredients on hand, just use what you have. Just remember to pile it all up!!

This is a huge, comforting breakfast New Mexican style! The terms New Mexican comfort food and New Mexican soul food are starting to become popular here, and it's very fitting!!

No homemade tortillas today, so Bueno had to do

My favorite green chile because it's in single serving packets!

Breakfast always needs bacon

Eggs and chile... staple here in New Mexico

I love over easy eggs, but make them any way you like

The ENTIRE view (with hot sauce)

New Mexican comfort food at its best

Make how you'd like it-- potatoes, eggs, cheese only (Joe's version)

Potatoes, eggs, cheese, and hot sauce only (Joe's version part 2)

Potatoes, eggs, cheese, green chile, hot sauce (served with a tortilla of course!)

More views without the meat

Scoop the goodie into a tortilla and eat it like this too!

New Mexico Pile-Up
A T&H Original

For 2 servings:

1/2 recipe prepared Grandma's Famous Fried Potatoes (about 3 cups)
4 eggs prepared over easy (or any way you like)
6 slices of prepared bacon, crumbled
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 c. fire roasted New Mexico green chile (or use red chile if you have it... or use both!)
2 tortillas to serve on the side, toasted (I heat them up on top of a gas stove until there are brown marks, careful not to burn!)
hot sauce for drizzling (I like Cholula), optional

To assemble:

On two plates, equally distribute the ingredients. First add the fried potatoes, then top with the fried eggs and the crumbled bacon. Sprinkle the cheese on top, then smother with green/red chile. If the cheese doesn't melt, pop the plate into the microwave for 20-30 seconds until the cheese melts. Drizzle with hot sauce, if you'd like, and sop up any goodie with a tortilla.

The toppings are really whatever you like... use sausage, leftover ground beef, shredded chicken or turkey! Don't like over easy eggs, use scrambled eggs! Use any melting cheese that you like! Use any chile you like, red or green or both or none at all! Use tortillas to sop up or use toasted bread or English muffins or bagels. Just pile up any of your favorite ingredients!


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Grandma's Famous Fried Potatoes

Grandma's Famous Fried Potatoes

I'm sure everyone has their favorite fried potatoes or home fries recipe. This just happens to be mine! Just like my homemade tortillas recipe, no one does fried potatoes better than my grandma. I haven't had others' fried potatoes that taste like hers (maybe it's just psychological). My mom could never replicate it exactly and sometimes she got close, but it wasn't the same. And the few times I tried to make it, the potatoes burned. 

If you ask my grandma how she makes it, all she says is just to cook the potatoes in a little bit of oil. A couple years ago, I finally went over to her house so that she can show me exactly how she makes it.

Here's what she left out that I think are the secrets to her magnificent potatoes: 1) Rinse the potatoes twice in cold water; 2) Cover the skillet with a lid while the potatoes cook so that you're essentially steaming them and frying them at the same time.My grandma's fried potatoes are crispy and cooked perfectly through. They're pillowy soft, but not overly-greasy like other fried potatoes.

This was one of my favorite recipes growing up and I'm so happy that I finally am able to make it on my own and share it with others. Besides the tortillas, this is another essential recipe that I needed to learn.

The other day, I made these potatoes for breakfast and decided that I'd sneak in a little butter for some extra flavor (not like it needed it anyway!). Once the potatoes were cooked and crispy the way I liked them, I added a couple tablespoons of butter and re-covered the pan. Once the butter was melted, I added some more salt and served them up. I wasn't sure if you'd be able to tell the difference, but Joe asked, "Did you make these the same? These are freakin' good!" Of course, I didn't fess up and just let him believe they were the same potatoes. (And knowing my luck, this will be the one post he actually reads!) I didn't think you could make my grandma's any better, but I guess you could! And of course it's butter, right? :-) So make it with or without the butter, it's wonderful either way. I probably will only add the butter as an extra special treat since my grandma's potatoes are a special treat as it is. ;-)

Come back soon and see what I made with my grandma's potatoes! Ever heard of a pile-up? :-)

This is my Grandma on her 84th birthday!

Don't forget to rinse the potatoes

Ready to start cooking!

Make sure to cover as potatoes cook

Sneak in some butter after it cooks if you'd like!

All finished!

Without butter

Without butter #2

Without butter #3

With butter
With butter #2

With butter #3

Grandma's Famous Fried Potatoes
A T&H Family Original

5-6 large Idaho potatoes, washed, peeled, cut into quarters lengthwise and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
1/4 c. oil (vegetable oil or lard) (You'll need more if you're not using a non-stick or well-seasoned skillet)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter (optional)
Salt for seasoning

Once potatoes are washed, peeled, and sliced, place in a large bowl. Cover potatoes with cold water, then rinse and drain twice or until water is mostly clear.

Add the oil to a large skillet and heat on medium high. Drain potatoes, then add potatoes to the skillet and season with salt. Cover the skillet with the lid and cook between 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally until potatoes are cooked through. (Cooking time varies on different stoves.) I like my potatoes with a golden crust so once they're cooked, I continue to brown the potatoes and flip them and brown more of the potatoes until I get the amount of browned and crispy potatoes that I want.

Once potatoes are cooked and browned to your liking, add the 2 Tbsp. of butter and cover until melted. (Not necessary and not actually part of my grandma's recipe, but it adds a bit more flavor!)

Taste potatoes and add more salt if needed. Serve warm.

Makes 3-4 servings

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Old-Fashioned Potato Soup

Old-Fashioned Potato Soup

So we're having 100 degree weather here in New Mexico. It's excruciatingly hot and I'm trying to make the adjustment from having an air conditioner to having a swamp cooler. I really miss having an air conditioner! 

You'd think that would stop me from using the oven or eating soup. Nope, you're not getting me to give up my baking for several months! And, seriously, green chile chicken soup is a year-around thing for me.

I needed to use up some leftover potatoes that I had/have and decided to make this potato soup. It's a very quick soup to throw together and you use ingredients that you most likely have on hand. The only thing I didn't have was dried parsley. To be honest, when recipes call for fresh parsley, I sometimes skip it because I don't grow it and I don't see the point of buying a thing of it (even if it's cheap and makes everything look prettier). So I was hesitant to buy the dried parsley, but I'm kind of glad that I did. The parsley still had the vibrant green color that makes dishes pop. So I think from now on if I feel like skipping the fresh parsley, I might just add the dried stuff instead. (Don't kill me!)

I only made a few adjustments to the recipe, which is reflected below. Real butter instead of margarine, added another carrot, and added more seasonings (garlic powder, salt, and pepper). This is a very good and simple soup. I expect this to be a go-to recipe for the fall and summer months when I want something warm to fill my belly. You may not want to eat this during the summer months like I am (I know kinda crazy!), but do keep this in mind for a comforting fall soup in the next couple months!

Preparing the potatoes and carrots

Preparing the onion and milk mixture

Soup complete (with better lighting!)

We're ready for lunch!


Add some crushed crackers and we're ready to eat!

Old-Fashioned Potato Soup
Adapted from Our Eating Habits, originally from Allrecipes

1/4 c. unsalted butter
1 large onion, diced
6 large potatoes, peeled and diced
3 carrots, diced
3 c. water
2 Tbs. chicken bouillon powder
3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
3 c. milk
1 Tbs. dried parsley
1/4 tsp. dried thyme, crushed
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Place potatoes, carrots, water and chicken bouillon powder in large soup pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt butter in medium-sized skillet. Add onions and cook onions until tender. Stir in flour. Add milk slowly and simmer until mixture has thickened.

Add flour/milk mixture to cooked vegetables. Stir to combine.

Add seasonings (parsley, thyme, garlic powder, salt, and pepper). Heat through.

Eat and enjoy!


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