Friday, September 20, 2013

My Favorite Sandwich: Avocado BLT's

I am constantly trying to find quick and tasty weeknight meals and a good sandwich is one of my favorite choices (and Matt's too).  For men, there is something about shoving things between two pieces of bread, not using silverware, and stuffing it in their mouth.  Matt could eat a sandwich for every meal, and it hardly matters what is between those pieces of bread.  We regularly have tomato and mozzarella grilled cheese, left over deer meat with spinach and mustard, and chicken salad with cranberries.  But this is my absolute favorite!  It has everything that I love and it is only five ingredients.  Does it get any easier than that??

Avocado BLT's

How fantastic does that sandwich look??  And those fries??  I would be more than happy to pay $10-12 if I was served this at a restaurant.  You can make four sandwiches at home with fries for around $5.  That is my kind of meal!

I am going to let you in on one of my secrets to a great sandwich.  Get yourself some good bread.  I have tried so many kinds of bread to please my sweetie, but his absolute favorite is this 9 grain and seed bread from the Kroger deli section.  I am hoping I do not regret letting y'all know about this bread because there are only a few loaves there every week.  Please save me a loaf if they are going like hotcakes!

Cut your bread into slices.  This bread has fantastic texture.  Look at all of that flaxseed, sunflower seeds, and millet!  The seeds add a crunch and the inside is soft and fluffy.

Grab an avocado and cut it in half.

Is there any color more gorgeous than avocado?  It is just such a lovely color green and how it graduates from a dark green to light...lets just say it inspires me.  I could create a whole kitchen based on an avocado, and I just might one day.

 Scoop out the avocado into a bowl and add pepper.  I did not add salt because A.) we try to not eat too much salt in our diet and B.) the bacon is salty enough to where you do not miss it.

Cook yourself up some bacon in whichever way you like to make it.  My mom uses the microwave method, I use the stovetop method, and you can even use the oven method.  I used two slices of bacon for each sandwich.

Mash up your avocado.  I would recommend doing the whole avocado cutting and mashing as close to serving the sandwich as possible.  Avocados oxidize very quickly and turn an unappetizing brown color.

Assemble your sandwich.  First, layer some of your avocado on your bread.  Take a few tomato slices and place them lovingly on top of your avocado.

I believe I can hear the angels singing.  Next comes the bacon!  At this point, I start feeling like that dog on the Beggin' Strip commercials.  It's BACON!!!

The final step is to apply some lettuce to your creation.  I used spinach because that is what I had on hand.  Mixed greens or Romaine lettuce would be delish too.  Top your sandwich with your last slice of bread and dinner is done!

But wait...there were fries in that picture!  I want fries!  I want fries!  I want fries!
Okay, okay, calm down.  These are my crispy baked fries.  They are one of my favorite sides, and I usually start out the meal by making these first so they finish baking while I am assembling my sandwich.  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Take one potato for each person and scrub all of the grit off of its skin.

Cut your potato into long slices.  FYI: The skinnier the slices, the quicker the fries cook.

Cut each slice into fries.  A really quick way of doing this is by purchasing a kitchen appliance called a Mandoline.  I have one, but I must have had a rough day and needed to chop something.  Woah... that sounded creepy.  No judging!  Cooking is my therapy!

Take a cookie sheet and for easy clean up, lay a sheet of tin foil down.  Spray the foil with non-stick spray to prevent the fries from sticking.

I use different seasonings on my fries every time I make them.  I use whatever I have in abundance in my garden.  In the winter I use dried herbs, but in the summer, fresh herbs really kick these fries up a notch.  Here I used fresh chives.

Put your fries on the cookie sheet.  Add your chives, 2 minced cloves of garlic, salt, and pepper.  Drizzle your fries with olive oil.

Toss everything together and get the fries in a single layer.  Otherwise they will not brown correctly.  I have found that a cookie sheet's limit is two potatoes.  If I am cooking for a crowd, I used two cookie sheets.  If you don't then the fries will steam and not crisp up.

Let the fries cook for about 20 minutes.  Toss the fries and put them back in the oven for another 10 minutes or so.  And now you have delicious, fragrant baked fries that you will never guess were baked.  

Two recipes in one!  I hope you enjoy your easy, inexpensive weeknight dinner.  And don't forget what I said about the bread!  If I show up at Kroger next week and all my bread is gone, I will be so sad.

BLT per sandwich:
2 slices of bread
2 slices of bacon
2-3 slices of tomato
1/2 avocado
Spinach leaves

Bakes Fries:
2 Russett potatoes
2 minced garlic cloves
2 TBSP of chives
1-2 TBSP of olive oil
Salt and pepper

BLT: Cook your bacon until preferred doneness.  Slice your tomatoes.  Cut your avocado and scoop the flesh into a bowl.  Add some pepper to your avocado and mash it until creamy.  Assemble your sandwich by adding avocado to the bottom slice of bread, add the tomato slices, followed by the bacon, then spinach.  Add your top slice of bread to top off your sandwich.

Fries: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Cut your potatoes into fries and cut your herbs.  Add the potatoes, herbs, salt, pepper, minced garlic and olive oil to your cookie sheet.  Toss everything together.  Bake for 20 minutes and toss the par cooked fries.  Return to the oven and cook for another 10 minutes until crispy.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Friendship Cookies

Let me start off by saying, baking is not my thing.  It is simply something you have to have a feel for, and lets just say, I don't got it!  This is why you so rarely see a dessert on this blog.  To branch out from my pastas and pizzas, I decided to throw in these delectable cookies.  

Several weeks ago, my dear friend, Sara invited Matt and me over for dinner with her and her sweet boyfriend,, Dustin.  (Sorry, a little inside joke).  I asked if I could bring anything, and she suggested a dessert.  So, naturally, the whole week I planned and planned what I was going to bring.  Just kidding!  That is not exactly what happened.  I get home from school Friday and realize I have completely forgotten I was supposed to bring a dessert!

In a panic, I dig through my pantry to see what I have that could possibly whip something up with.  And that, my friends is how I came up with my Friendship Cookies.  They have that comforting, buttery flavor with chocolate, nuts, and coconut smattered throughout.  All of my favorite things mixed into one, just like my dear friend, Sara.

Friendship Cookies

One thing I decided I really needed to invest in is a cookie scented candle.  The smell of cookies baking in the oven is probably on up there in favorite smells with the first fire in the fireplace and flowers blooming to announce the start of spring.  

Add one cup of flour to a bowl along with 1/2 a teaspoon of salt and baking soda.  Wisk the dry ingredients together.

In a mixing bowl add 1 stick of butter, 1/2 cup of granulated sugar,1/2 cup of light brown sugar and a dash of vanilla extract.

Mix the butter/sugar mixture until it is creamy 

Add one large egg to the butter/sugar and mix until well combined

Although it doesn't look like it is on low, turn your mixer on low and gradually add the flour.

This is the part where I tell you to take the mixing paddle out and do not lick the batter off because there is raw egg in the dough... but I won't tell on you if you won't tell on me!

Sad dough with nothing in it :(((

Add 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips (or chunks if you prefer)

Sprinkle in 1/3 a cup of shredded sweetened coconut.  Coconut is not a typical ingredient that I use (which is why it was left over in my pantry, I am sure), but it adds a really good texture to these cookies without adding too much coconutty flavor.

Finally, add 1/3 cup of chopped walnuts.  Mix your morsels into the dough until they are well combined.  You will have a hearty dough with speckles of deliciousness all throughout.

Spoon out generous lumps to make very large cookies.  Tip: Small cookies are just not appropriate unless they are for a wedding/baby shower where girls feel better about eating 5 or 6 small cookies instead of 2 large cookies.

Please do not judge me if I happened to sneak a cookie dough ball before they hit the oven.

After you have let the cookies bake in a 375 degree oven for 12-15 minutes, they will have magically transformed into the ooey, gooey cookies that will be a delightful finish to any meal.  These cookies are too good to keep to yourself!  Grab your best girlfriend and share stories of the good ole days.  Don't forget the milk!

Dear, sweet Sara!  We have shared so many fun times together and I am so grateful for your friendship.  Whether it be watching the Secret Garden, rooming together at formals, having wrecks, dressing up in Aunt Fannie's clothes, crying over heartbreaks, or laughing over lizard tongues, we always have the best time and I love you very much!

1 cup of flour
1 stick of butter (1/2 cup, unsalted and softened)
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
dash of vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup of shredded coconut
1/3 cup of chopped walnuts

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  To a medium bowl, add your flour, salt, and baking soda.  Wisk the dry ingredients together.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl with a hand mixer), add the butter, sugars, and vanilla.  Mix until thoroughly combined.  Add 1 large egg to the butter/sugar mixture and mix together.  Add the chocolate chips, coconut, and walnuts to the bowl.  Stir together until everything is evenly dispersed.

Spoon out large drops of dough onto a cookie sheet.  Bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes or until the tops begin to brown.  This recipe makes about 15 cookies.