Tuna Burgers

Sunday, January 18, 2015

I absolutely LOVE Tuna.  It's a great source of protein and it is super cheap compared to other fish.  You can buy cans of high quality tuna at Costco for a good price.  Some people are worried about tuna consumption because of mercury.  The truth is, you have to consume an insane amount of tuna in order to get a dangerous amount of mercury in your system, so unless you are pregnant, a small amount once a week isn't going to hurt you.  The benefits of tuna really outweigh the risks.  That being said, this week I made these tuna burgers and my kids DEVOURED them.  Daniel ate two and then asked for a third, then next day, he asked for a tuna burger in his lunchbox!  I serve these on my homemade wheat buns topped with homemade tartar sauce.  YUM YUM!

Tuna Burgers


  • 2 (7 oz) cans chunk light tuna
  • zest and juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tsp. dried dill weed
  • 1 tsp. dried onion flakes
  • 2 green onions, white and green parts, finely chopped 
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp butter or cooking oil for cooking
In a large bowl, mix together the ingredients until thick and they hold together (if you are having trouble getting it to hold together you can add a little more bread crumbs).  Form into 4 round patties.  Heat oil or butter in a nonstick skillet and swirl around to coat the bottom.  Cook the patties in the skillet for about 5 minutes on each side or until very brown.  Serve on a bun of your choice with tartar sauce and a crispy leaf of romaine if desired.  

Honey Wheat Buns

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 stick butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 cup wheat flour (wheat bread flour is even better)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. yeast
  • 1 tbsp. melted butter (optional)
Place ingredients in the bread machine -EXCEPT THE MELTED BUTTER- in the order they are listed and set to dough cycle.  When the cycle is done divide dough into 8 equal pieces (12 if you want to make slider sized buns) being careful not to punch it down too much.  Form each piece in to a tight ball and place on a baking sheet (I use my stone baking sheet- if you use metal cover with parchment paper first).  Flatten each ball into a disk to the desired size you want your buns.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Cover your buns with a dish cloth and allow to prove until doubled in size about 30 minutes (I do this on top of the preheating oven).  Bake 15-18 minutes or until buns are brown and puffed up.  Brush tops of buns with melted butter once they come out of the oven if desired- this is not a required step but this will definitely make your buns softer and help them from getting tough.

Tartar Sauce
  • 1/2 cup high quality mayonnaise (I make my own cooked egg mayonnaise and it is YUM-MY)
  • 1 tbsp. high quality dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp. dill pickle relish (watch out for Yellow food dye!)
  • 2 tsp. dill
  • 1/2 tsp. dried minced onion
  • juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste
In a medium sized bowl, whisk the ingredients together until well combined.  Refrigerate at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to come together. 

Happy and clean cooking everyone!


Meatball Sub Casserole

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Once a week I take my older son Daniel to his Autism therapy and get home around 5:30 pm.  I need dinner ideas that are super easy to throw together during my baby's nap time and throw in the oven or in the crock pot.  This recipe is awesome because I can prep it during nap and have the sitter put it in the oven so it is ready to eat when we get home from therapy.  You can use whatever meatballs you like for this recipe- if I have time I make mine quickly from scratch, or I also like to use the Aidelle's meatballs you can get at Costco.  You can also use frozen meatballs.  I always have meatballs on hand in the freezer because they are so versatile and easy to prepare ahead of time and freeze.  There are lots of different versions of this casserole out there on the Internet.  Here's my version!  Every time I make this it gets eaten up quickly!

Meatball Sub Casserole

  • 4-6 slices of French bread (depending on size of the slices- I use the same bread that I use for my bbq sloppy joes on garlic toasts - but you could use a French loaf from the grocery store or whatever you like)
  • 2 cups spaghetti sauce
  • 1 lb meatballs (about 30 meatballs) - (as mentioned earlier you can use whatever meatballs you like- homemade, frozen, refrigerated, turkey, chicken, beef, whatever you have on hand...I like to make meatballs in large batches and freeze them, I also like the Aidelle's chicken meatballs that are in the refrigerated section at Costco).
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. dried Italian herbs, crushed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan 
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 13 X 9 inch baking dish with cooking spray (or grease with butter).  If your meatballs are frozen, defrost them.  Arrange the bread in a single layer in your baking dish.  In a small bowl, mix together the ricotta with half of the parmesan, dried herbs, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Spread ricotta mixture evenly over the bread.  Arrange the meatballs evenly over the bread and ricotta mixture.  Pour the sauce evenly over the meatballs and spread to cover them.  Top with the rest of the parmesan and mozzarella.  Cover with foil and bake 25 minutes, then uncover and bake an additional 5 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly.  

Slow Cooker Italian Lemon Chicken over "French" Oven Rice

Monday, January 05, 2015


Here's a recipe that appears frequently in my dinner rotation.  I found a similar recipe on Pinterest and of course I messed with it a little :).  It's really easy, flavorful, and excellent if you LOVE lemon like I do.  I serve it frequently over my "French " Oven Rice that one of my best friends in France makes quite a bit (it's not really a French recipe, I just call it French oven rice because my French friend taught me how to make it). I should also add that my  husband LOVE LOVE LOVES the oven rice.  Every time I make rice he asks me, "is this the oven rice?" It's SO good and SO easy!  Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Italian Lemon Chicken


  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 1 packet Italian dressing mix (I use an Organic brand I like- you can also easily make it yourself)
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
Mix the flour and pepper together in a shallow dish.  Dredge each chicken breast in the flour so that both sides are evenly coated. Melt the butter in a large skillet and brown the chicken breasts, about 2 minutes on each side.  You don't need to cook the chicken though because it's going in the crock pot.  Place the browned chicken in the crock pot and sprinkle the Italian dressing mix evenly over the tops of the chicken breasts.  In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, zest, and chicken stock.  Pour over the chicken breasts.  Cook on low for 4 hours.  

"French" Oven Rice
  • 1 cup high quality long grain white rice - I use organic basmati.  (I've never tried this recipe with brown rice...if I ever do, I will let you know).
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. dried herbes de provence (or thyme), crushed
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (I like to use pinot gris or pinot grigio )
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp butter
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Rinse your rice for two minutes under cold water using a mesh strainer.  This is important because it releases the starch.  In a large deep sided, oven proof pot or dutch oven saute the shallot and garlic in the butter until very soft.  Add the rice and herbes de provence,  and saute another two minutes, coating the rice with butter, until very fragrant and beginning to toast.  Add in the white wine, and cook down another two minutes, stirring frequently.  Add in the chicken stock, bring to a boil, cover the pot with the lid and stick in the oven.  Bake 15 minutes, remove from the oven, fluff rice with a fork, cover, and let stand 5 more minutes.  Serve hot. YUM!

Until next time, happy and clean cooking!

Ranch Taco Rolls

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Here's a super easy weeknight dinner recipe.  I make all sorts of different rolls with my homemade crescent dough.  My boys' two favorites are pizza rolls and taco rolls.  Tonight I decided to add a packet of ranch to my taco filling.  My boys gobbled these up!  

Ranch Taco Rolls

  • 1 lb ground turkey (or you could use beef if you prefer)
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 green pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. taco seasoning (I use Trader Joe's or make my own)
  • 1 packet ranch dressing mix (I use an organic brand that my store sells)
  • 1 recipe crescent dough- or you can use store bought crescent dough
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
In a large, deep sided skillet, cook the onion, green pepper, and turkey with the taco seasoning and ranch mix until turkey is fully cooked (no longer pink).  Roll out the dough into a large rectangle (about 12 inches by 16 inches).  Sprinkle the dough with half of the cheese.  Spread the turkey mixture evenly over the dough and cheese (whenever I make taco rolls I never end up using more than half of the meat filling, but you can put as much in as you like, just do not overfill or it will make the dough soggy and it will tear), leaving a 1/4 inch boarder all around.  Roll up the dough (as you do when you are making cinnamon rolls) into a log and seal, pressing the dough together to seal it tightly once rolled up.  Place seam side down on a cutting board and cut the ends off to make them even.  Generously grease a 13X9 inch baking dish.  Cut the log into 12 equal slices and place them in rows of 3 facing up in the baking dish. Cover baking dish with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Bake 30 minutes or until golden brown and cheese is starting to bubble.  Top with a dollop of sour cream.  Delicious!

* Note- these can be made ahead of time- just prepare as directed but instead of letting them rest for 30 minutes place them in the refrigerator.  Remove from the fridge 1 hour before you are ready to bake them. 
Until next time, happy and clean cooking!

Brownie Pan Chewies- The Only Cookie Recipe You will EVER Need!

I.  LOVE. COOKIES!  LOVE THEM! Cookies are my absolute weakness.  I absolutely love a good, soft, chewy cookie.  Especially chocolate chip.  When I was in grad school I had a professor who would bring us cookies.  For the life of me I cannot remember her name, what she taught, or even what she looked like, but boy do I remember her cookies!  One day she brought in the most fabulous chocolate chip cookie I have ever eaten.  It was big and soft.  It was chewy and chocolaty.  I immediately asked her for the recipe and I've made this cookie ever since.  Being true to myself, I had to mess with it to take it to the next level.  I have used the base of this recipe and changed it up from chocolate chips, to cherries and chocolate chunks, to chocolate toffee bits, to caramel bits.  These cookies are AH-MAZ-ING.  Oh, and did I mention that I bake them in a brownie pan, which gives them a unique square shape and thick, soft texture?  That takes them to the limit of cookie deliciousness!  Don't have a brownie pan?  NEVER FEAR!  You can bake them in muffin tins!  YUM!

Brownie Pan Chewies
(makes 24 brownie pan cookies or muffin tin cookies)
Dark Chocolate Chunk Cherry Chewies

Wet ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 sticks melted butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
  • 1/2 cup baker's sugar 
  • 1 egg (room temperature)
  • 1 egg yolk (room temperature)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
Dry Ingredients:
  • 2 1/4 cups pastry flour 
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
Mix in ideas (any one of these or combination of these):
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried cherries
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips (or semisweet or whatever chocolate chips you like)
  • 4 oz chopped dark chocolate chunks
  • 2 cups chocolate toffee bits
  • 1 cup m&ms
  • 1 cup caramel bits
  • Any other thing your heart desires!
  • A small amount of sea salt (for the top)
In a medium sized bowl, sift together the dry ingredients and set aside.  In a large bowl, mix the wet ingredients together (I like to use my KitchenAid).  Gradually mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until fully mixed together.  Fold in your mix-ins until well incorporated.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for AT LEAST two hours. A cold dough is VERY important otherwise the dough will not bake properly.  Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and grease two brownie (12 count) brownie pans or muffin tins.  Using a medium cookie scoop or a large tablespoon drop large rounds of cookie dough into each tin (do not flatten). Sprinkle the top of each cookie with a small amount of sea salt - yes this sounds weird but trust me, it is WORTH IT! Bake 15-20 minutes, watching carefully after 15 minutes so they do not over bake.  Cookies will be lightly golden brown and soft in the middle.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool 5-10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Until next time, happy and clean cooking!

Authentic French Bonne Maman Bûche de Noël

Saturday, December 27, 2014

For years I have been trying to make a Bûche de Noël- the traditional dessert that the French serve at Christmas.  When I lived in France, I either bought one from the local bakery, or one of the many French grandmothers I knew made one.  The last time I had a really good one was in 2007 when David and I spent Christmas with my French family  in Paris and Bonne Maman made one.  Since then, I have been trying to replicate the cake without success- until now!  So here's the thing...I SUCK at baking.  I mean, I am terrible at it.  Except bread- I am pretty awesome at baking bread- and cookies.  But cakes? Forget it.  I can never seem to make a good cake.  I think the mistake I have been making all these years of trying is that I have been trying to bake a regular chocolate cake in a jelly roll pan.  So this year, I decided to do some research, I asked some of my French friends and some of my francophile friends if they have a good recipe or if their grandmothers have a good recipe (since most of my friends in France also buy theirs from the boulangerie).  One of my friends was kind enough to ask her "Bonne Maman" (one of the things kids in France call their grandmothers) for her recipe.  I converted it, and it is amazing!  I no longer have to be afraid of making a bûche, and I can permanently make it part of our family Christmas tradition...as I have so desired for so long!  So...here's the recipe!

Authentic French Bonne Maman Bûche de Noël


Sponge:

  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1 tsp. almond extract (or you could use vanilla)
  • 1/3 cup + 1/2 cup bakers' sugar (like fine granulated) 
  • 1/3 cup cake flour (or I used Bob's Red Mill pastry flour)
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder (I used a mixture of natural and dutch process)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder 
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper that is sprayed generously with cooking spray (I use a stone jelly roll pan but you can also use metal- note- this is NOT the same as a 13X9 inch baking dish). Sift the dry ingredients together and set aside.  Beat egg yokes together with almond extract on high speed until thick and glossy- about 5 minutes.  Continue beating on high speed and gradually add in the 1/3 cup of sugar and continue to beat on high another 5 minutes.  Remove egg yolk mixture to another bowl.  Clean your bowl and whisk and dry.  Beat the egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form, then gradually add in the rest of the sugar and continue to beat on high speed until thick, glossy, and stiff.  Carefully fold the egg yolks into the egg whites with a rubber scraper, then sift the dry ingredients into the eggs and very carefully fold them together until just mixed- DO NOT OVER MIX! The mixture will resemble mousse. Pour the batter into the prepared jelly roll pan and spread evenly.  Bake 12-20 minutes or until the sponge lightly springs back when touched and a cake tester comes out clean.  Watch it closely, it will appear under done when it is actually ready and will over bake very quickly.  While sponge is baking, dust a clean kitchen towel with powdered sugar.  When the sponge has finished baking, remove immediately from the oven and turn out onto the kitchen towel. Carefully remove the parchment paper- it is ok if some of the sponge sticks to the parchment paper.  Roll up lengthwise in the towel - DO NOT ALLOW TO COOL or else you will not be able to roll it.  Allow the roll to cool completely- this teaches the sponge to stay rolled once it is filled.  Once sponge is completely cooled (at least two hours) unroll and fill with buttercream frosting (recipe follows), roll back up (don't be surprised if your sponge cracks a bit as it is slightly fragile...it will be covered up so don't worry!) and refrigerate for an hour.  Frost with chocolate ganache frosting (recipe follows) about an hour before serving, and decorate!  In France they decorate usually with little Santa figurines or holly leaves and berries.  I chose to decorate mine simply with powdered sugar and sprinkles.  

Buttercream filling:
  • 2 sticks butter at room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. almond extract (or vanilla)
  • 3 tsp. heavy cream
Whip the butter on high speed using the whisk attachment until light and fluffy- about 3 minutes.  Lower the speed to medium and add the sugar gradually.  When all the sugar has been added, increase the speed to high again and whip another 2 minutes.  Add the heavy cream and the almond extract until it is soft and spreadable.  

Chocolate Ganache Frosting
  • 4 oz. high quality chocolate (I use the Ghirardelli semisweet baking bar)
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 1 1/4  cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp. heavy cream
Melt the chocolate, butter, and heavy cream together over medium heat, being careful not to scorch the bottom or the chocolate will seize (keep stirring with a whisk).  Transfer to stand mixer and mix in powdered sugar until well incorporated and smooth.  If the mixture is too thick, you can add drops of water a little at a time until desired consistency.

Another Bread Post- French Baguettes like from the Boulangerie! But at Home!

One of the things I miss the most about living in France is the bread! Those delicious, golden baguettes that are crispy on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside.  I miss going twice a day to my local boulangerie where I would pick up my fresh bread, as is the tradition in France.  In the years since I have lived there, I have tried to find a baguette to match the ones in France- whether it be from a local bakery or making it at home- but I have never found anything even remotely close...until TODAY!  For Christmas I got some Baguette pans and baguette banneton proofing baskets from my husband and sons.  The last year or so I've been working really hard learning how to make bread so that I don't have to buy it anymore.  Not only is it much cheaper to make your own bread, it is also much healthier.  There's all sorts of crazy gross stuff in store bought bread.  Last Christmas David bought me a bread machine, and so I have combined the ease of using the bread machine with baking artisan type breads in my oven on a baking stone.  The result has been beautiful and much easier than I thought once I learned the technique.  The last several days I have been making baguettes with my new equipment and today I perfected the baguette- it's just like in France!  I've made 6 baguettes today  just to be sure I had it right and they all turned out the same! I have found the most successful loaves I made were the ones that used a starter.  There is a specific starter you can make for baguettes or you can just pull out some of my sourdough starter from the fridge (see my sourdough post).  I did it both ways and honestly, it turned out exactly the same.   Also, I used artisan bread flour for these.  I also tried them with regular bread flour and 00 flour.  The artisan bread flour yielded the best results, but the other two flours were also delicious.    So don't be afraid, give this a try!  I promise you, it will be well worth it!  

Now, before I get to the recipe and the process, let me tell you- you DO need to have the correct equipment.  The bannetons were around $25 on Amazon and the baguette pan was around $18.   I also use my bread machine to make the dough.  I know that bread purists would probably scream at me for doing this, but I have found that it makes life easier and why not let the machine do all the kneading and the first rise for me!  I have an Oster bread machine which costs around $60 and I never bake my bread in it, not even my sandwich loaves, I only do the dough in it.  I also have a baking stone in my oven.  The stone is a fibrament stone from Forno Bravo.  To make the baguettes you do not need a stone, but it does help with the distribution and retention of heat in the oven while baking the bread.

Ok so on with it...

French Baguettes

Starter:
1/2 cup water
a pinch of yeast
1 cup bread flour

Mix the ingredients in a clean non reactive bowl (like a glass bowl- not metal).  Cover lightly with a kitchen towel and allow to rest overnight (at least 12 hours).  It should rise slightly and become bubbly.  


Bread Dough:
  • Starter (all of the prepared starter or one cup of sourdough starter straight out of the fridge, unfed)
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 1/2 cups artisan bread flour (like 00 or other good bread flour)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. yeast
For Baking:
  • 1/4 cup cold water in a clean spray bottle
  • 10 ice cubes
1. Place all ingredients IN THE ORDER THEY ARE LISTED in the bread machine and set to dough cycle.  

2. When the dough is ready, preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  Turn the dough out carefully onto a lightly oiled and floured surface.  Without deflating it, cut it in to three equal pieces (about 6 oz each- you can weigh them using a kitchen scale if needed but it's not essential).  

3. One at a time, press each piece out into a small rectangle with your fingers and preform.  To preform- take the top half of the rectangle and press it into the middle with your fingertips to create a crease.  Bring the bottom half up to the crease and press lightly with your fingertips.  Bring the two halves together and press together with the heel of your hand.  





4. Place each preformed dough piece seam side down on a lightly floured surface and cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 15 minutes.  (note-I only have two proofing baskets and two slots in my baguette pan, so I actually only work with two at a time, forming the third piece of dough into a ball and placing it into the fridge for the next round of baking).  

5. Once the dough has rested, working with one piece of dough at a time, press the air out evenly and gently with the tips of your fingers.  Using the same action as you used to preform the dough, form your baguette.  Cup your hands over the formed dough and gently roll from the middle outwards to elongate the baguette.  Place each roll into floured proofing baskets and cover with a clean kitchen towel.  Allow to rise until doubled in size about one hour.








6.  Spray your baguette pan generously with cooking spray and sprinkle lightly with flour.  Turn the risen baguette rolls out carefully into the baguette pan, being extra careful not to deflate them.  Use a very sharp knife or bread lame to make three slashes about 5 inches each along the length of the baguette at about a 45 degree angle.  Use a spray bottle and spray the tops of the baguettes generously with water (this will help create the super crispy crust).  Place the baguettes in the oven and toss the ice cubes in the bottom of your oven (this will create steam and contribute to a crispy crust...and no...it will not hurt your oven).  


7.  Bake baguettes 25-30 minutes until deep golden brown and the internal temperature reaches 205 degrees (internal temperature is important because it is what tells us what type of crumb the bread will have- dense, soft and chewy, or light and airy).



Enjoy!  My husband has been eating jambon beurre sandwiches using our leftover Christmas ham!  YUM!   


Please let me know if you have any questions or need any clarification!


Until next time, happy, healthy, and CLEAN cooking!




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