Thursday, July 30, 2009

Summertime Hot Dogs with Dr. Pepper BBQ Sauce

I have been wanting to make this barbecue sauce for probably about a month now. I mentioned this before, but it seems like every time I put this on the menu something happens and we haven't been able to make this dinner. Last night, though, we finally did!

I had high hopes for the sauce, especially considering my luck cooking with soda before, and it definitely did not disappoint. I love Dr. Pepper but I’m trying not to drink it very much since I'm pregnant, so this was the perfect way to indulge. The Dr. Pepper adds wonderful sweetness and a perfect molasses undertone to the sauce.

The recipe calls for the sauce to be pureed, but I skipped that step simply because it didn't bother me to have chunks of onion and garlic in my sauce. I topped my hot dogs with chopped pickles as Better Homes and Gardens suggested, and it was definitely delicious. We have a ton of sauce left over, which I can't wait to use to feed my barbecue cravings later in the week. We ate this with sweet corn on the cob (the first of the season), and it was the perfect summer supper.

Summertime Hot Dogs with Dr. Pepper BBQ Sauce
source: Better Homes and Gardens

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 12-ounce can Dr Pepper
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon finely ground white pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
8 hot dogs
8 hot dog buns
Optional toppers: pickles, sliced jalapeño peppers, chopped onion

1. For sauce, in medium saucepan cook and stir onion and garlic in hot butter over medium heat about 10 minutes until onions are tender. Add all ingredients except hot dogs, buns, and toppers. Reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 15 minutes. Cook, uncovered, until sauce begins to thicken, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool sauce 10 minutes.

2. Puree sauce in pan with immersion blender, or transfer to a blender jar, cover, and blend until smooth. (I skipped this step.)

3. Meanwhile, on grill cook hot dogs on rack directly over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes or until heated through. Serve hot dogs on buns with toppers.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Creamy Tomato Tortellini

This dish was featured in an e-mail I got from Kraft Foods ages ago, and when I was trying to come up with a pasta dish for dinner this week (I love pasta -- why do I have such a hard time with this?) I came across the recipe and it just sounded good. And it definitely was good. It couldn't have been easier or quicker to make, which makes it the perfect weeknight dinner. I modified the recipe so we'd have leftovers for lunch for the next couple of days, and my changes are reflected below. Quick, simple and delicious -- I don't think it gets any better than that. Even Joe liked this a lot, and didn't once complain about the lack of meat on his plate. I call that a victory!

Creamy Tomato Tortellini
source: adapted from Kraft Foods

1 19-ounce package frozen cheese tortellini
1 16-ounce bag frozen broccoli florets
2 14.5-ounce cans Italian-style diced tomatoes, undrained
8 ounces cubed cream cheese
Parmesan cheese

1. Cook pasta as directed on package, adding broccoli to the boiling water for the last 3 minutes of the pasta cooking time.

2. Meanwhile, cook tomatoes in large skillet on medium heat 5 minutes. Add cream cheese; cook 2 to 3 minuntes or until cream cheese is completely melted and mixture is well blended, stirring frequently.

3. Drain pasta mixture. Add to tomato mixture in skillet; mix lightly. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Key Lime Cheesecake

My husband's drink of choice is rum and Coke with a slice of lime. He really doesn't drink them that often, but last week, he got the urge for one. So, he made a run to the store -- where he saw that key limes were 15 for $1. So he figured, hey, I'll just buy 15 of them. Even though there is no way he could ever drink enough rum and Cokes to use all 15 limes before they went bad.

Long story short, I was left with quite a few limes that were just going to spoil if I didn't use them for something. I thought about making the obvious thing, a key lime pie, but then decided I'd rather try something new. I found this recipe for key lime cheesecake in one my cheesecake cookbooks, so I decided to go for it.

This is a delicious cheesecake. If you're a fan of citrus, I think you'd really love it. It has a sugar cookie crust, a creamy key lime filling, and a tart honey-lime glaze. I have to admit that it's quite tart, so if you're not a huge fan of super-tart things I'd definitely leave the glaze off, or reduce the amount of lime and/or increase the amount of honey in the glaze. Overall, though, this cheesecake was a delicious and refreshing summer dessert, and everyone who tried it absolutely loved it.

(By the way, I still have quite a few limes left to use, so if you have any ideas for ways I can use them up I'd love to hear them!)

Key Lime Cheesecake
source: Cheesecake Extraordinaire, by Mary Crownover

For the sugar cookie crust:

3/4 cup flour
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Substitution: 8 ounces of refrigerated sugar cookie dough

For the key lime filling:

24 ounces cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
5 tablespoons sour cream
5 teaspoons flour
4 eggs
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup frozen limeade concentrate, thawed
1/4 cup key lime juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the honey-lime glaze:

1/2 cup frozen limeade concentrate, thawed
4 teaspoons key lime juice
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon finely shredded lime peel

1. For the crust, in a medium bowl stir together flour and sugar. Add egg, butter or margarine, and vanilla extract. Beat with an electric mixer until well combined. With generously greased fingers, press the dough evenly onto the bottom of a greased 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and set aside.

2. For the filling, in a large bowl combine cream cheese, sugar, sour cream, and flour. Beat with an electric mixer till smooth. Add eggs and egg yolk, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in limeade concentrate, lime juice, and vanilla extract. Pour the cream cheese mixture over the crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Lower the temperature to 200 degrees and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the center no longer looks wet or shiny. Remove the cake from the oven and run a knife around the inside edge of the pan.

3. For the glaze, in a small saucepan stir together limeade concentrate, lime juice, cornstarch, honey, and lime peel. Cook and stir till thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir 2 minutes more. Pour over cheesecake. Chill till serving time. Garnish with lime slices, if desired.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Oven Rings

First of all, I have no idea why the picture is showing up sideways. Sometimes I really hate Blogger. Sorry about that, guys.

Anyway. I've made lots of onion rings in my day, but they've all been of the deep-fried variety. So when I saw an oven-baked version of onion rings in a recent issue of Everyday Food, I was intrigued. Could they possibly be as crispy as their fried counterpart? The answer is a very definitive YES.

These onion rings were delightfully crispy with a perfectly seasoned breading. They came together very simply (and without too much mess, surprisingly). The trick to the crispiness is a hot sheet pan, hot oil (the original recipe calls for olive oil, but I used canola because it has a higher cooking temperature), and…cornflakes. (Psst: They don't even have to be name brand cornflakes. The store brand works just fine.) We had these with our burgers on Friday, and they were the perfect accompaniment. We dipped them in Sweet Baby Ray's horseradish-based signature sauce, which was delicious. Joe liked them so much that he's insisting we have these onion rings every Friday. I'm not sure if we'll have them that often, but this will definitely be my go-to onion ring recipe from now on!

Oven Rings
source: Everyday Food, June 2009

1 1/2 cups corn flakes
1/2 cup plain dried bread crumbs
1 large egg
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 medium sweet onion, such as Vidalia, sliced and broken into rings (discard small center rings)
2 tablespoons olive oil (I used canola oil)

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a food processor, pulse corn flakes and bread crumbs until fine crumbs form, then transfer to a medium bowl. In another medium bowl, whisk together egg, buttermilk, flour, and cayenne and season with salt and pepper.
2. Dip onion rings in egg mixture (letting excess drip off) and dredge in cornflake mixture; place on a large plate. Pour oil onto a rimmed baking sheet. Place in oven and heat 2 minutes. Remove sheet from oven and tilt to coat evenly with oil. Arrange onion rings on sheet.
3. Bake, turning once, until onion rings are golden brown, about 16 minutes. Season with salt.

Weekly Meal Planning

This week our menu is packed with everything I'm craving. Joe is just along for the ride; he'll eat what I make, and he will like it. I really owe him a week of only food that he wants (which basically means a week of having lasagna every day). Maybe I'll do that in a few weeks, but for now, it's all about fulfilling my voracious cravings. He really is a saint for putting up with me sometimes.

Monday -- Soup or Salad: BBQ-ranch fried chicken salad. I probably won't "officially" post the recipe for this salad, but here's how I make it: I buy a package of fried chicken tenders from the deli counter at the grocery store, then warm them, slice them, and put them on top of a store-bought salad mix that I've jazzed up with grape tomatoes, sliced green onions, and cheddar cheese. Then I douse the whole thing with BBQ-ranch salad dressing. Simple, semi-homemade, and delicious!

Tuesday -- Pasta: Creamy tomato tortellini, garlic bread

Wednesday -- Grilling: Hot dogs with Dr. Pepper BBQ sauce, grilled corn on the cob. It's getting comical how the universe is conspiring against us having this meal. We didn't have it two weeks ago because I was feeling particularly lazy pregnant. We didn't have it last week because I came down with a terrible summer cold (the worst kind, in my opinion) and I didn't feel like cooking. Plus, it stormed all day -- not exactly ideal grilling weather. So we ate leftovers last Wednesday. But I really want to eat this, so we are going to have it this week, I swear!

Thursday -- Quick and Easy: BLTs, hashbrowns

Friday -- Burgers and Fries: Pub patties with horseradish sauce, steak fries

Saturday -- Regional or International: Pierogies with smoked sausage and sauerkraut

Sunday -- Comfort Food: Slow-cooker BBQ beans and sausage. Jessie mentioned this recipe recently, and I can't believe I overlooked it in my latest issue of Food Network Magazine. I know, I know, three barbecue dishes in one week. Start buying stock in Sweet Baby Ray's! The baby is going to come out slathered in barbecue sauce at the rate I'm going.

Pineapple and Green Chile Pork Tacos

I don't think it's any secret that I love, love, love Mexican food. Sometimes there's just nothing that tastes better to me than a taco, smothered with salsa and sour cream and tons of cheese. This recipe is a wonderful twist on a taco. It uses sweet and spicy pulled pork cooked in the Crock pot, so it's remarkably easy to throw together -- and the end result is beyond delicious. I made sure to use a mild tomatillo salsa so Andrew could enjoy this dinner with us, and did he ever enjoy it! He literally ate the pork by the fistful. The meat was sweet and tender and juicy, and all three of us loved it.

I used a 2-pound pork roast, and I got two meals out of it. We ate the leftovers in quesadillas last night, and they were equally as good as the tacos. This one's definitely going into the regular rotation!

Pineapple and Green Chile Pork Tacos
source: Real Mom Kitchen, who got it from Prudence Pennywise

2 pound boneless pork roast
1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple with juices
1 16-ounce jar tomatillo salsa
2 4-ounce cans green chiles, undrained (I used 1 7-ounce can of fire-roasted green chiles)
2/3 cup brown sugar
Optional items for serving: warm flour tortillas, shredded cheese, chopped cilantro, lime wedges, additional tomatillo salsa, sour cream

Combine all ingredients in the crock pot and cook on high for four hours or on low for six to eight hours. Shred pork and season to taste with salt and pepper. In a colander, drain juices from crock pot. Mix shredded pork with pineapple/salsa mixture that remains in colander and serve in tortillas with desired accompaniments.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Burger and Fries Friday: Roasted Poblano Cheddar Chicken Burgers

There's nothing really fancy about this week's burger. It doesn't have anything special in it; it doesn't have a complex sauce. It's very simple. The ingredients are straightforward and simple, the flavor profile is simple. But the truth is, this burger just doesn't need anything to fancy it up. The flavors are great, even if they aren't cutting edge. Joe and I both loved these burgers.

The roasted poblano pepper is what makes these burgers so incredible. The pepper gives them a deep flavor with just a hint of spice -- but the spice definitely isn't overwhelming, so don't worry. (I think I'll still probably have heartburn for the rest of the night, but it was definitely worth it.) I don't really know what else to say about this week's burger. It was juicy, flavorful, and delicious. I topped mine with sour cream, and the burger as a whole actually reminded me a lot of a fajita -- and anything that tastes like a fajita is A-OK with me.

On Monday I'll post about the baked onion rings we ate with these burgers. Even as I sit here typing this, Joe is still raving about how delicious they were. I'm just too worn out (and full!) to post about them now.

Roasted Poblano Cheddar Chicken Burgers
source: slightly adapted from Everyday Food, July 2009

1 poblano chile
4 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 large white onion, halved and thinly sliced lengthwise
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 pound ground chicken breast
2 teaspoons hamburger seasoning blend
4 slices sharp yellow cheddar
2 teaspoons butter, room temperature
4 burger buns, split

1. Over a low gas flame or under the broiler, roast chile until charred, about 6 minutes, turning frequently. Place in a bowl and cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Let chile steam 20 minutes, then rub with a paper towel to remove skin. Remove stem and seeds. Slice chile into 2-inch strips and return to bowl.

2. In a large skillet, heat 2 teaspoons oil over medium-high. Add onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook until onion is soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add onion to bowl with chile and stir to combine.

3. Add hamburger seasoning to ground chicken and form into four patties. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add 2 teaspoons oil and swirl to coat. Cook burgers 2 minutes. Flip, top each with cheese, and cook until cooked through, about 4 minutes more.

4. Meanwhile, heat broiler. Butter inside of buns and place on a baking sheet, buttered side up. Toast under broiler. Place burgers on buns and top with onion and chile mixture.

Cantaloupe Chicken Salad

When I was browsing through my Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2008 cookbook a few weeks ago, one of the (many) recipes that caught my eye was a recipe for cantaloupe chicken salad. When I saw the recipe, it was like a light bulb went off in my head. I love fruit in my chicken salad -- why hadn't I ever thought of using cantaloupe instead of the grapes I typically use?

I really intended to follow their recipe, but I kept tweaking it until, ultimately, it turned out pretty much just like my go-to chicken salad, only with cantaloupe instead of grapes and a few other minor changes. I loved the taste of the cantaloupe in the chicken salad; it provided such a nice sweetness and lent its lovely juice to the flavor of the dressing. This was such a quick and easy dinner, and it's going to be perfect for lunches over the next couple of days. I'm so glad I stumbled across the recipe that gave me this idea!

Cantaloupe Chicken Salad
source: inspired by a recipe in Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2008; the original recipe can be viewed here

2 cups cubed or shredded cooked chicken breast (a rotisserie chicken works perfectly for this)
1 1/2 cups cubed cantaloupe
1/3 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped green onions

1/8 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 to 1 cup Miracle Whip or mayonnaise
Wheat rolls, split

Combine first seven ingredients in a large bowl. Add Miracle Whip or mayonnaise to desired creaminess. Serve on wheat rolls. Cover and refrigerate leftovers.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Philly Cheesesteak Macaroni and Cheese

Talk about comfort food! This meal is the very epitome of comfort food. This is yet another Rachael Ray recipe -- I seem to be using her recipes a lot lately, mainly because of the quick and easy factor. This one was definitely quick and easy, and it really delivered on the flavor, too. The only thing I would do differently next time to make this taste even better is add some red hot and a couple glugs of Worcestershire sauce to the cheese sauce to bump up the flavor even more.

I will say I was surprised that Rachael's website called this "Philly cheesesteak" mac and cheese -- the original recipe doesn't even contain two of the things I immediately think of when I think of Philly cheesesteaks, green peppers and mushrooms. (I also think of Cheez Whiz when I think of traditional Philly cheesesteaks, but I wasn't willing to go that far.) The mushrooms and peppers were easy additions, though, and truly made this dish evoke those familiar steak sandwich flavors.

Andrew couldn't get enough of this -- he ate an entire bowl of it. So this was a hit with the whole family, and something I have a feeling Joe's going to request a lot in the future. He called this "the perfect man food," but I must say that I found it completely irresistible too.

Philly Cheesesteak Macaroni and Cheese
source: adapted from Rachael Ray

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large onions, thinly sliced
1 large green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 6-ounce package sliced mushrooms
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound short pasta (I used rotini)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups milk
3 cups shredded provolone
1 7-ounce package thinly sliced deli roast beef, roughly chopped

1. Place a large pot of salted water over high heat and bring it to a boil.

2. Place a large skillet over medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onions to the pan and cook until tender and lightly caramelized, 8 to 10 minutes. Add green pepper and mushrooms and saute for 5 minutes. Season the vegetables with salt and freshly ground black pepper and reserve, covered with the lid or foil to keep them warm.

3. When the onions are almost ready, cook the pasta to al dente according to package directions. Once you drop the pasta into the water, place a pot over medium-high heat and melt the butter. Sprinkle the flour over the melted butter and cook the mixture for about 1 minute. Whisk the milk into the butter-flour mixture slowly and bring up to a bubble to thicken. Remove the pot from the heat and whisk in the shredded cheese. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and reserve.

4. Once the pasta has finished cooking, drain it and return it to the pot it was cooked in. Add the cheese sauce and reserved vegetables to that pot and toss everything to combine. Right before serving, stir the roast beef into the pot with the cheesy pasta and heat through for about a minute.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Chicken Tortilla Soup

I don't know what it's like where you are, but around here the weather has been absolutely beautiful lately. We've had temperatures in the mid-70's during the day, and in the 50's at night. It's such a welcome change from a typical hot and humid Ohio July, and we've been enjoying it to the fullest and spending a lot of time outside.

I threw this soup together very quickly last night, then let it simmer on the stove while Joe and I played outside with Andrew. I've been wanting to make tortilla soup at home for a while now. I became addicted to it when they started serving it at our cafeteria at work, and when they took it off the menu I was incredibly disappointed. But now I can make it myself anytime I want with this delicious recipe! This is some seriously delicious soup -- spicy, but not too spicy, and incredibly flavorful. Tortilla soup just isn't tortilla soup to me without homemade fried tortilla strips, so I sliced up a couple of flour tortillas and shallow-fried them until they were crispy. Along with the sour cream, they were the perfect topping for this soup. I'll definitely be making this one again, and I’m going to freeze a huge portion of it when I start making freezer meals before the new baby comes. You should definitely try this one; I don't think you'll be disappointed!

Chicken Tortilla Soup
source: adapted from Allrecipes

1 red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 14.5-ounce can chili-style diced tomatoes
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1 4-ounce can chopped green chile peppers
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 cups cooked and shredded chicken (I used the legs and breasts of a rotisserie chicken)
Optional toppings for serving: shredded cheese, tortilla strips, sliced avocado, sour cream

1. In a medium stock pot, heat oil over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic in oil until soft. Stir in chili powder, oregano, cumin, tomatoes, and stock. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.

2. Stir in corn, chiles, beans, cilantro, and chicken. Simmer for 10 minutes.

3. Ladle soup into individual serving bowls, and top with desired toppings.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Weekly Meal Planning

A couple of last week's dinners are carrying over to this week because I didn't get the chance to make them -- one night because we went out, and one night because we were both just plain lazy. It happens. I still feel guilty, though, so I am going to cook all week this week, no matter what!

I just can't rave enough about how much I love meal planning now that I'm doing it consistently. It makes me look forward to dinner every night, rather than seeing dinner as a hassle. This week is no exception; I'm really excited about our menu and can't wait to eat all of the yummy food!

Monday -- Soup or Salad: Chicken tortilla soup, grilled cheese sandwiches

Tuesday -- Pasta: Philly cheesesteak mac and cheese (We didn't get to have this last week, because we were able to wrangle a babysitter, have dinner out and see the new Harry Potter movie -- so much fun!)

Wednesday -- Grilling: Hot dogs with Dr. Pepper BBQ sauce, grilled corn on the cob (We didn't have this last week, either, because neither of us felt like messing with dinner, so we had Subway instead. Home cooking FAIL!)

Thursday -- Quick and Easy: Canteloupe chicken salad sandwiches, potato chips

Friday -- Burgers and Fries: Chicken burgers with roasted poblano and onion, baked onion rings

Saturday -- Regional or International: Pineapple and green chile pork tacos

Sunday -- Comfort Food: Mom's Cajun meatloaf, mashed potatoes, creamed corn

Goat Cheese, Basil, and Sun-Dried Tomato-Stuffed Chicken

Two weekends ago when we traveled out of state, I randomly grabbed a few cookbooks from home to keep myself occupied on the drive. Ultimately, it was my little boy who kept me the most occupied throughout the trip, but during the few minutes that he actually napped, I got to peruse a couple of the cookbooks.

I love it when I rediscover a cookbook I haven't used for a while, like Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2008. Earlier this year I made this shrimp from the cookbook, which Joe and I absolutely loved. On the opposite page from that recipe, I found this gem. And I couldn't wait to try it. (In fact, I think I bookmarked half of the book to try in the future!)

I'd never cooked chicken in a foil packet before, and I was curious how it would turn out. I couldn't believe how moist and flavorful it was. Because I used goat cheese instead of feta, the finished product reminded me a lot of a dish called Chicken Bryan, my favorite thing to order at my favorite Italian restaurant. It has all the same flavors as that dish does: lemon, basil, sun-dried tomato, goat cheese.

Joe and I were both very impressed with how delicious this was and how simple it was to prepare. I'll definitely be making this one again!

Goat Cheese, Basil, and Sun-Dried Tomato-Stuffed Chicken
Source: adapted from Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2008, original recipe found here

2-3 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, thinly sliced
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
2 large skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoons thinly sliced fresh basil (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 425°. Combine tomatoes, cheese, 2 teaspoons chopped basil, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl.

2. Place chicken breast halves between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap, and pound each piece to an even thickness using a meat mallet or small heavy skillet. Cut a horizontal slit through one side of each chicken breast half to form a deep pocket. Stuff 1/4 cup cheese mixture into each pocket. Sprinkle both sides of chicken with salt and remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

3. Fold 4 sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil in half crosswise. Open foil; place 1 tablespoon butter on half of each foil sheet. Lay one stuffed chicken breast half on top of each portion of butter. Place 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon rind on top of each stuffed chicken breast half, and drizzle each serving with chicken broth. Fold foil over chicken, and tightly seal edges. Place packets on a baking sheet.

4. Bake packets at 425° for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, and let stand for 5 minutes. Unfold packets carefully, and thinly slice each chicken breast half. Garnish each serving with sliced basil, if desired. Serve immediately.

Cucumber-Orzo Salad

I must say, this was a pretty delicious pasta salad. I love pasta salads with lots of crunchy veggies, so this version definitely had that going for it, and I really liked the tangy-sweet dressing. Joe didn't like this quite as much as I did, but I think it was just a little too "different" for him. He's a pasta salad purist, that one.

I served this as a side dish, so if I were serving it that way again I'd definitely halve the recipe. This made a lot of pasta salad, more than we could eat even as leftovers. It'd be a great dish for a barbecue, though, in which case I'd definitely make the full amount. Feta cheese and/or halved grape tomatoes would make great additions to this salad.

Cucumber-Orzo Salad
Source: Better Homes and Gardens

1 cup dried orzo pasta
1 small cucumber, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup chopped red sweet pepper (I used yellow; it was all I had on hand)

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar (I used regular balsamic, which tasted fine)
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup snipped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. Cook orzo according to package directions; drain. Rinse with cold water; drain again.

2. In a large bowl combine orzo, cucumber, sweet pepper, and red onion. In a small bowl whisk together olive oil, vinegar, honey, lemon peel, salt, and black pepper; add to orzo mixture. Stir gently to combine. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.

3. Just before serving, stir in parsley.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Burger and Fries Friday: Cuban-Style Burgers

You guys, this is a good burger. A really, really good one. I can see how Bobby Flay won his Burger Throwdown with this recipe. It really is that good! All the flavors work so perfectly together. It's just like a Cuban sandwich on a bun. Except I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this is even more delicious than a traditional Cuban sandwich.

I made a few changes to the recipe, because I have to be me. I added hamburger seasoning and Worcestershire sauce to the burgers themselves, and I used honey mustard instead of Dijon, because Joe doesn't like any other kind and I can't get enough of the stuff lately. I also used garlic powder instead of roasted garlic in the mayonnaise, just for convenience's sake. These changes are reflected below. The only thing I'd do differently next time is that I'd wait to put the mayo and mustard on the burgers until after I'd already pressed them. These burgers were supposed to be pressed, panini-style, but the sauce on them made them all slippery. I think the whole "pressing" aspect would have worked better if the sauces were left off until afterwards.

Other than that one little thing, though, these burgers were absolutely perfect. Joe proclaimed them "the best burger we've had in a while," and I couldn't get enough of them either. Even Andrew seemed to enjoy the few bites he got. These are definitely going to become a staple in our house!

Pressed Cuban-Style Burgers
Source: adapted from Food Network

1 pound ground chuck
Hamburger seasoning
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup honey mustard
4 hamburger buns
4 slices thinly sliced smoked ham
8 slices thinly sliced Swiss cheese
8 sandwich-style pickle slices

1. Combine ground chuck, hamburger seasoning and Worcestershire sauce. Form the meat into 4 burgers. Cook in a saute pan over high heat to desired doneness.

2. Meanwhile, combine the mayonnaise and garlic powder in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Spread both sides of each bun with mayonnaise and honey mustard.

3. Place a slice of cheese on the bottom portion of each bun, place the burger on top of the cheese, top the burger with a slice of ham, then another slice of cheese, then the pickle slices.

4. Place the tops of the bun over the pickles and cook on a sandwich press -- or wrap the burgers in aluminum foil and cook in a hot skillet over high heat with a heavy skillet placed on top of the burger -- to press the sandwich. Cook until golden brown and cheese has melted.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cajun Chicken Pasta

This is a Red Lobster copycat recipe, but I can't confirm how much it does or doesn't taste like the original; I haven't had Red Lobster's version enough for the taste of it to really be imprinted on my tastebuds. What I can confirm, however, is that this pasta is absolutely delicious. It's full of flavor, with the perfect amount of spice, and a decadent creamy sauce that balances the whole dish perfectly. With 2 cups of cream and a lot of butter, it's certainly not something you'd want to eat every day, but this could easily be lightened up by using half-and-half instead. Plus, the pasta is full of vegetables, which redeems it a little bit, right?

Regardless, both Joe and I really loved this pasta. It's hearty and yummy and works great as leftovers, which is always a plus in our house.

Cajun Chicken Pasta
source: adapted from Recipezaar

2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, cut into thin strips
2 teaspoons cajun seasoning
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium green pepper, thinly sliced
1 medium red pepper, thinly sliced
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 green onion, sliced
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon pepper
8 ounces
linguine, cooked and drained
Finely chopped fresh parsley

1. Place chicken and Cajun seasoning in a bowl or resealable plastic bag, toss or shake to coat.

2. In a large skillet over medium heat saute chicken in butter until almost tender, about 5 to 7 minutes.

3. Add peppers, mushrooms and onion; cook and stir for 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce heat.

4. Add cream and seasonings; heat through.

5. Add linguine and parsley and toss; heat through.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Homemade Taco Seasoning

Saturday evening was one of Joe's favorite nights at our house: taco night. He becomes a little boy whenever tacos are involved; he simply can't get enough of them. I always make fun of him for his excitement, even though secretly I love taco night, too.

Anyway, when I looked in the cupboard, I discovered a mini-crisis: I didn't have an envelope of store-bought taco seasoning mix like I thought I did. I've always hesitated to make my own taco seasoning at home -- could a homemade mix ever taste as good as the store-bought version? But at that point I didn't have a choice. I remembered (and actually located -- a miracle) a recipe I printed off a while ago for homemade taco seasoning, so I decided to give it a shot. And I'm so glad that I did! This stuff is every bit as flavorful as the store-bought mixes. I'm not looking back, baby!

It seems like a lot of people I talk to are looking for a homemade taco seasoning mix, so that's why I'm posting this. I promise you that it's delicious, and a nice alternative to the high-sodium store-bought mixes. I think I'm going to make a big batch of this so I always have it on hand.

Homemade Taco Seasoning
Source: Nothing But Crumbs

Single Serving (enough for 1 pound of ground meat):

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (omitted)
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon corn starch


3/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 tablespoon paprika
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons cumin
2 tablespoons salt

2 tablespoons white pepper
1/4 cup corn starch

Mix all ingredients together. Use 3 tablespoons (single serving) and 2/3 cup of water for each pound of browned meat.


We had a really delicious dinner last night, but I can't post about it yet because I didn't get a chance to upload my photos. Or rather, as I was uploading the photos, my camera battery died. Woe! You'll just have to wait until tomorrow. I know, how can you stand the suspense? ;)

In the meantime, though, I'll use this lull to pass on an award I recently received from FinsMom, the author of a food blog I recently discovered, Latest Addictions, which is quickly becoming one of my favorites. She shares recipes that somehow manage to be both healthful and decadent, and I never fail to leave her blog without salivating. Thank you so much for this award!

So here are the rules:

1. Accept the award, post it on your blog along with the name of the person who has granted the award, and his or her blog link.
2. Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you’ve recently discovered.
3. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

Here are the blogs I'd like to pass this award on to:

The Friday Friends
Katie's Korner
Dinner at Our House
Mrs. Ca Cooks
mocha me
My Tasty Treasures
Daily Sweet Pea
Food for a Hungry Soul
Sara's Kitchen
Get Off Your Butt and Bake!
Mommy's Kitchen
Nett's Nook
Rachel vs. "The Kitchen"
Recipes of a Cheapskate
The Sisters' Cafe

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Blueberry Cream Cheese Pie

One of the things I've been craving the most lately is blueberries. I can't seem to get enough of them in any way, shape, or form -- in muffins, in bread, in salads, in handfuls. My grocery store had a really good sale on blueberries recently, so needless to say I stocked up. And then I found myself with an abundance of blueberries, more than we could possibly eat. And it was then that Deborah very fortuitously posted a recipe for blueberry cream cheese pie on her blog. And I knew that I had to have it immediately.

This pie is soooo good, there are really no words to describe it. Basically it's a no-bake cheesecake, but the filling is fluffier and lighter than a traditional cheesecake. You could make this pie with absolutely any fruit topping; I'm going to try strawberries next. Cherries or blackberries would also be delicious. This is the perfect summer dessert!

Blueberry Cream Cheese Pie
Source: adapted from Deborah's Culinary Confections, original recipe from Allrecipes

1 8-ounce block cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 16-ounce tub whipped topping, thawed
1 9-inch prepared graham cracker crust
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 cups fresh blueberries

1. In a medium mixing bowl beat cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth. Fold in whipped topping. Spread evenly into graham cracker shell and set in refrigerator to chill.

2. In a large saucepan combine the sugar, cornstarch, water, and lemon juice until smooth; stir in blueberries. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook for 2 minutes or until thickened, stirring frequently. Allow blueberries to cool, then spread over cream cheese pie layer. Refrigerate until serving.

Country French Omelet

My feelings about Ina Garten are hard to put into words; I adore her, but I sort of hate her at the same time. She seems sort of stuck-up, but also there's something really warm and welcoming about her. I think maybe I'm just jealous of her perfect house and her amazing kitchen and her obvious wealth, etc. etc.

So while my feelings about Ina herself may be a little mixed, my feelings about her food are definitely not: I love it. I've loved every single one of her recipes that I've tried, and I appreciate the fact that they're so simple to prepare and are made with such readily available ingredients. I was browsing through one of her cookbooks a couple of weekends ago, and when I saw this omelet I knew I had to try it. And I'm so glad I did. Joe and I were both absolutely blown away by this meal. It's made with simple ingredients, but the final dish is just so unbelievably good. You could play with the ingredients a lot, which is something I'll surely do in the future, but I'd suggest making it Ina's way at least once. Yummy!

Country French Omelet
Source: Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics by Ina Garten

3 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup diced, unpeeled Yukon Gold potatoes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 extra-large eggs (I used six large eggs)
3 tablespoons milk
Dash of hot sauce
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon fresh chopped chives

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Add the bacon to a 10-inch skillet and cook for 3 to 5 minutes over medium-high heat, until the bacon is browned but not crisp. Take the bacon out of the pan and set aside on a plate.

3. Place the potatoes in the pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Continue to cook over medium-high heat for 8 to 10 minutes, or until very tender and browned. Remove to the same plate with the bacon.

4. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, beat the eggs, milk, hot sauce, salt, and pepper together with a fork. After the potatoes are removed, pour the fat out of the pan and discard. Add the butter, lower the heat to low, and pour the eggs into the hot pan.

5. Sprinkle the bacon, potatoes, and chives evenly over the top and place the pan in the oven for about 8 minutes, just until the eggs are set. Slide onto a plate, divide in half, and serve hot.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Weekly Meal Planning

Late last night we returned home from a long day trip to Michigan, and our whole family is just exhausted after spending eight hours in the car in one day. So this week's menu is all about meals that are quick, comforting, and easy to prepare. I think it's going to take me at least a week to catch up after all of yesterday's activity!

Monday -- Soup or Salad: Buffalo chicken tenders salad

Tuesday -- Pasta: Cajun chicken pasta, breadsticks

Wednesday -- Grilling: Hot dogs with Dr. Pepper BBQ sauce, grilled corn on the cob

Thursday -- Quick and Easy: Sloppy joes, potato chips

Friday -- Burgers and Fries: Pressed Cuban-style burgers, steak fries with cilantro-lime mayonnaise

Saturday -- Regional or International: Feta, herb, and sun-dried tomato-stuffed chicken, cucumber-orzo salad

Sunday -- Comfort Food: Philly cheesesteak mac and cheese

Friday, July 10, 2009

Burger and Fries Friday: Waffle House Burgers

There's something I haven't told you guys. It's not that I've been intentionally holding this little factoid back, it's just that it hasn't come up in our conversations. Okay, here goes: When I was younger, from the ages of 16 to 22, I was a waitress. Probably not earth-shattering news in and of itself, but the place I waitressed? It was the Waffle House. And let me tell you, I really loved that job.

One of the things I loved about it -- aside from the (mostly) positive interaction with people -- was the food. I probably gained more weight during those six years than at any other point in my life, and I think I can include my first pregnancy in that estimate! As employees, we could eat almost everything on the menu for free, and the burger I'm sharing with you today was one of my favorite things to eat during my shifts.

True to the Waffle House's reputation, this burger is not in the least bit healthy. It's buttery and greasy and represents pretty much everything in the world that's bad for you. But it's so delicious that I find it hard to care.

Aside from when I'm grilling, this is the only burger I make using pre-shaped burger patties. I get beautiful ground chuck patties from our local butcher, and they're perfect for this burger. The bottom line is, this one is so good that it doesn't actually need anything in it to make it taste better. Every bite is a little taste of nostalgia for me, taking me back to my first job, when things were simpler and all I had to worry about was the next tip I'd be stuffing in my apron.

Waffle House Burgers
Source: Cassie

4 pre-shaped ground chuck patties
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil and butter
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
4 slices tomato
Thousand Island salad dressing
4 hamburger buns, split, buttered, and grilled

1. In a small saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add onion and salt and pepper to taste and cook until onions begin to caramelize.

2. Meanwhile, melt vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet. Season burger patties with salt and pepper on both sides. Cook to desired doneness. Top each patty with 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, then top with cheese to melt.

3. Assemble burgers by placing a slice of salted tomato, the caramelized onions, and the Thousand Island dressing on top of each patty.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"Olive Garden Salad Dressing"

I put the title of this recipe in quotes, because to be completely honest, this salad dressing tasted absolutely nothing like Olive Garden's famous dressing, at least not to my tastebuds. That's not to say it's not a delicious dressing in its own right -- it is -- but it just didn't fulfill that craving I sometimes have for Olive Garden's dressing.

The website where I found this copycat recipe also has another recipe for this dressing, which I have a feeling probably tastes a bit more like the original -- but it contains raw egg, which my pregnant self can't have right now.

This truly is a very good salad dressing, as long as you don't have expectations that it's going to taste like the original. For my part, when I'm craving Olive Garden's dressing, I'm just going to go to the restaurant across the street from where I work and buy a bottle of it.

"Olive Garden Salad Dressing"
Source: Group Recipes

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons corn syrup (I used sugar)
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons Romano cheese
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt (or 1 garlic clove, minced)
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon parsley flakes
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Mix all ingredients in a blender or food processor until well-combined. Serve over salad.

Tuscan Garlic Chicken Pasta

I'd been looking forward to making this meal for a long time, pretty much ever since Lisa introduced me to the recipe section of Olive Garden's website way back when. I've only had this dish once in the actual restaurant that I can recall, but I remember thinking it was pretty good.

That's exactly what I'd call this at-home version of the dish: pretty good. It wasn't fantastic, but it wasn't terrible either. The chicken had a nice crispy skin and was very flavorful, but Joe and I were both underwhelmed by the pasta. We both found it too bland for our tastes. I think the sauce needed some red pepper flakes, or even just some black pepper, to spice it up a bit.

It wasn't bad, though, and it wasn't nearly as expensive to make at home as it would have been to order in the restaurant. Overall this was a decent dish -- but it's probably not something I'll rush to make again.

Tuscan Garlic Chicken Pasta
Source: Olive Garden

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 1/2 cups flour, plus 1 tablespoon
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 pound fettuccine pasta, cooked according to package directions
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
1 red pepper, julienne cut
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 pound whole leaf spinach, stemmed (I used baby spinach)
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1. Pre-heat oven to 350º.

2. Mix 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, pepper and Italian seasoning in a shallow dish. Dredge chicken in the mixture, shaking off any excess.

3. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large skillet. Cook chicken breasts 2 at a time over medium-high heat until golden brown and crisp (2-3 minutes). Add more oil for each batch as necessary.

4. Place cooked chicken breasts on a baking sheet and transfer to preheated oven. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165°.

5. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a sauce pan. Add garlic and red pepper and cook for approximately 1 minute. Stir in 1 tablespoon flour, wine, spinach and cream and bring to a boil. Sauce is done when spinach becomes wilted. Complete by stirring in parmesan cheese.

6. Coat cooked, drained pasta with sauce, then top with chicken and remaining sauce. Garnish with extra Parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Fruity Poppy Seed Salad

Yesterday saw the return of some really, really hot weather to central Ohio, so it was the perfect night to have salad for dinner. I've had my eye on Jessie's fruity poppy seed salad recipe for a while now, and I'm so glad I finally got around to making it. It was so simple, and it truly is one of the most delicious salads I've ever had. I love fruity salads during the spring and summer, so this one was right up my alley.

Like Jessie's husband, my husband maintains that a salad without meat is not really a meal, so I grilled up a chicken breast and sliced it over the top. This made for a light, refreshing, and very satisfying dinner on a miserably hot day.

Fruity Poppy Seed Salad
Source: adapted from Jessie

1 chicken breast, sliced across the center to form 2 thin cutlets
Montreal steak seasoning
Half a bag of chopped romaine lettuce, washed and patted dry

1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 can mandarin oranges in juice, drained
1 cup blueberries
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup sliced green onion
Poppy seed salad dressing

1. Season chicken with steak seasoning and grill until cooked through. Let rest, then thinly slice.

2. Mix all salad ingredients except dressing in a large bowl. Top with sliced chicken. Toss dressing with salad or serve on the side.

Spring Chicken Roll-Ups

We had these chicken roll-ups for dinner on our "quick and easy" night last Thursday, and they couldn't have been simpler to make or more delicious. Joe and I both loved these, and we actually ate all four of them between the two of us. Thank you, Rachael, for another quick and delicious recipe!

I made a few changes to the original: I didn't make the sauce, because Joe likes neither mustard nor lemon, and I used regular deli ham to save both money and time at the deli counter. The filling was so delicious; the tangy, gooey provolone paired perfectly with the salty ham and the crunchy asparagus. Paired with baked potatoes cooked up in the microwave, this was a quick, easy, and very satisfying meal.

Spring Chicken Roll-Ups
Source: adapted from Food Network

2 (6-ounce) pieces boneless, skinless chicken breast
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 thin slices provolone cheese
4 thin slices deli ham
12 thin spears asparagus, trimmed of tough stems and blanched in salted water 2 minutes, drained
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1. Halve the chicken breasts horizontally separating each into 2 cutlets.

2. Place each halved cutlet in an individual freezer plastic storage bag. Add a tablespoon of water to each bag and pound into 1/8-inch thick cutlets.

3. Arrange the 4 cutlets on work surface. Season cutlets with salt and pepper on the side facing up. Cover each piece of chicken with 1 slice cheese and 1 slice ham. Starting on 1 side of the breast, place a small bundle of 3 asparagus spears. Wrap and roll the chicken around the asparagus.

4. Heat about 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the chicken roll-ups to skillet with seam side down. Season the roll-ups with salt and pepper. Cover the pan loosely with tin foil and cook 4 to 5 minutes, turn roll-ups over and cook another 4 to 5 minutes. Remove cooked roll-ups to a serving plate.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Weekly Meal Planning

I hope all of you had fantastic Fourth of July weekends! Ours was wonderful -- full of family and friends, celebration, and lots and lots of delicious food. And speaking of food...on to the meal plan!

I have to say, I'm seriously loving this whole meal planning thing now that I'm doing it consistently. And now that I'm in the second trimester, not only is my energy starting to come back (thank goodness), but the food aversions and nausea are finally behind me, which makes finding things for dinner much easier.

This week's menu is full of some of our household standards and a few new recipes I've been wanting to try for a long time now. I can't wait to eat all of it!

Monday -- Soup or Salad: Fruity poppy seed salad with chicken, breadsticks

Tuesday -- Pasta: Olive Garden at home! Tuscan garlic chicken pasta, breadsticks, salad with copycat Olive Garden dressing

Wednesday -- Grilling: Grilled bratwursts with sauerkraut, tomato slices, potato chips

Thursday -- Quick and Easy: Breakfast for dinner -- Country French omelets, toast, tomato slices, fresh fruit

Friday -- Burgers and Fries: Waffle House burgers, fries

Saturday -- Regional or International: Soft tacos with all the fixings

Sunday -- Comfort Food: We'll be in Michigan for the day, so if we're not completely stuffed from the cookout we'll be attending at my aunt's house, we'll probably just grab some fast food on the way home. Not quite my definition of comfort food, but a Big Mac will do in a pinch.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Burger and Fries Friday: Jerk Pork Cheeseburgers with Green Apple Slaw

I almost didn't make this burger this week. I almost scrapped my burger plans and went with an All-American version of a burger instead, in celebration of the Fourth of July. But this burger just sounded too good to scrap, or even to postpone for a week, so I stuck with it. And boy, am I ever glad I did!

This burger was a real hit in our house. It was almost too delicious for words. I've liked all the new burgers I've made so far since I started the Burger and Fries Friday feature, but this one was definitely the best. The real star was the green apple slaw, which had the perfect balance of tart and sweet and spicy, and which worked so well with the bacon and cheddar cheese on the burger. Yum, yum, yum. The only change I made to the recipe was using regular cheddar cheese rather than smoked, since that's what I had on hand, and I left the apples unpeeled and julienned them rather than grated them. Have I raved enough about this burger yet? It was just delicious!

This was also the first time I've cooked with ground pork (aside from, you know, sausage), and I was so pleased with the flavor. I'm definitely going to look for more pork burger recipes in the future!

I think you should all try this burger right away. It's summery and simple and absolutely stuffed with flavor. I promise you won't be disappointed!

Jerk Pork Cheeseburgers with Green Apple Slaw
Source: adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray

2 granny smith apples, julienned
Grated peel of 1 lemon plus 1 1/2 tablespoons juice
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup chopped chives
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons Jamaican jerk seasoning
1 1/2 pounds ground pork
8 slices applewood smoked bacon
4 thin slices cheddar cheese
4 kaiser rolls, split and toasted

1. In a medium bowl, toss the apples with the lemon peel and juice. Add the mayonnaise, chives, 1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup and 1/2 tablespoon jerk seasoning; stir to combine; refrigerate.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup and 1 1/2 tablespoons jerk seasoning. Add the ground pork and combine. Shape into four 1-inch-thick patties, pressing your thumb in the center of each to prevent it from bulging.

3. In a large nonstick skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Transfer to paper towels to drain, reserving the skillet with the drippings. Cover the bacon with foil to keep warm.

4. Heat the bacon drippings over medium-high heat until sizzling. Add the pork patties and cook for 4 minutes; flip, lower the heat to medium and cook for 3 minutes more. Lower the heat to low and top each patty with a slice of cheese; cover the skillet and cook until the cheese is melted and the patties are cooked through, about 2 minutes more.

5. Place a pork patty on each toasted roll bottom; top with 2 bacon slices, a quarter of the apple slaw and a roll top.