In the Kitchen: Ricotta Zucchini Fritters

Chances are that you, like me, are always looking for new ways to use ALL THOSE ZUCCHINIS you have this time of year, whether from your garden or picked out of the overflowing baskets at the farmers market. I’ve been wanting to try something like this for awhile now and am so glad I finally did because seriously people, I’m tooting my horn over here on this one.
About 1 pound zucchini, shredded (2 medium or 1 large)
2 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 large scallions, sliced (green and white portions)
zest of one large lemon (about 2 tsp)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
1 scant cup flour
Oil (for frying)
In a large bowl combine zucchini, garlic, scallions, lemon zest, salt, pepper, ricotta and egg and mix well. Add flour and mix until just combined.
Heat 1/4″ oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Use about 2 T batter for each fritter, using the back of your spoon to spread into a thin cake once dropped in the pan.  
Fry for about two minutes on each side, or until golden brown. The middles will stay slightly mushy, which is ok! Set on paper towels to drain excess oil. Serve warm with lemon wedges and sour cream, if desired, and eat your brains out! 
This recipe makes about 12 three inch fritters and can easily be halved. You can keep fritters warm in a 250° oven while cooking if needed, but I have yet to try reheating any leftovers (because I ate them ALL, of course). 
I hope you enjoy these as much as I have (with every meal for the last two days), and let me know what you think!

In the Kitchen: Whole Wheat Apple Cinnamon Pancakes

Nope, they aren’t buttermilk pancakes (which are always the best), but these cook up so fluffy and delicious, no one will ever know the difference. The best part is you don’t need any special ingredients. If you keep whole wheat flour in your pantry and have an apple on hand, you’re all set. No buttermilk, no needing to make your own buttermilk, no yogurt — just the basics. Easy-weasy-japanesey, as my high school geometry professor used to say.
1 large apple, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons raw sugar*
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 1/2 cups milk
3 tablespoons oil or melted butter
*I like to use raw sugar when baking, but regular granulated sugar will work as well. If you prefer a slightly sweeter pancake or like to eat them without syrup, increase the sugar to 3 or 4 tablespoons.

In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg, milk and oil. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients. Add the egg mixture all at once to the flour mixture and stir until just moistened (the batter should be a little lumpy). Gently stir in the apples until all are coated. The key to keeping these light and fluffy is not overmixing the batter.

Pour 1/4 or 1/3 cup of batter onto a lightly greased skillet over medium heat. This is a thick batter so you may need to spread it out a little.
Cook for about 2 minutes on each side or until pancakes are golden. You know they are ready to flip when bubbles begin to rise to the surface and the edges begin to look dry.
Keep cooked cakes warm in a 200° oven if making a large batch at once. Serve warm with butter and pure maple syrup, mmmm mmmm!
This recipe makes about 16 4-inch pancakes, so it’s enough for a crowd, but you can also store the batter covered in the refrigerator and cook them up throughout the week like I do. You can also half the recipe if desired. For the few tricky measurements, here’s a couple guidelines: 1 tablespoon = 3 teaspoons; and for the egg, you can beat one egg and use half or use a small egg. Either works just fine.
And find more easy and delicious recipes here.

In the Kitchen: Maple Pecan Muffins

I have a goal. That goal is to share recipes at a time when it makes sense to share them. For example, strawberry recipes when strawberries are ready for picking, and so on. This, however, doesn’t always work out due to my lack of planning, or in this case, my lack of patience.
I first made these muffins back in March when the maple syrup was flowing in Pancake Town, USA, and while I missed the boat on sharing them then, I knew I couldn’t wait an entire year and figured they’d be perfect for the Fall. This is where my impatience comes in, as you can see it’s August and here they are. Close enough, right?
1/2 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup superfine sugar
2 Tbsp ground almonds
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 cup pecans, coarse chopped
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour*
1 cup unbleached flour*
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
9 Tbsp pure maple syrup
12 pecan halves
*You can also sub 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour or 2 cups all-purpose flour in place of the flours specified.

Preheat the oven to 375°. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners or grease and flour.
Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Stir in the ground almonds then slowly beat in the eggs. Next stir in the chopped pecans.
Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into the butter mixture.
In a small bowl, blend the buttermilk with 6 tablespoons of the maple syrup. Pour it into the butter and flour mixture and blend gently until just combined, be sure to not overmix or your muffins will be tough.
Divide the batter into prepared cups, filling about 2/3 full. These muffins will rise quite a bit, so be sure not to overfill. Top each muffin with a pecan half and bake for 20 minutes, or until risen and firm to the touch.
Cool in the pan for about 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack. Brush the remaining 3 tablespoons of maple syrup on top of the hot muffins until it is all gone.
These muffins are delicious served warm or cold — morning, noon or night. I also find them especially delicious with my Sweet Potato Chili, which I will be waiting ’til the Fall to share, maybe…
And find more easy and delicious recipes here.

In the Kitchen: Blackberry Corn Muffins

There are so many good things about these muffins, I’m not sure where to start. I guess I’ll start by telling you how delicious they are, because that is most important when baking, right? So aside from that (and being really easy to make) you can also substitute any berry you like in place of the blackberries — blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, even cherries or yummy tart currants. These muffins are sweet enough for a light dessert but not too indulgent to accompany a fresh salad, a bowl of chili or a hotdog cook-out for lunch or dinner. You’ll find a printable recipe card at the end of the post.

1 1/4 cups unbleached flour
1/2 cup fine-ground cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup sugar (can reduce to 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup buttermilk, room temp
2 large eggs, room temp
7 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted & cooled
8 ounces fresh blackberries (or other berry)
2 Tbsp raw sugar
Preheat oven to 375° and line 14 standard size muffin tins with paper liners.

If your blackberries are monster sized like mine usually are, cut them in smaller pieces.
In a medium large bowl, whisk together the first five ingredients, set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs and melted butter. Add to the dry ingredients and whisk until combined. Batter will be thick.
Fill each cup with two slight mounded tablespoons of batter. I use a tablespoon sized cookie scooper (like a mini ice cream scooper), two scoops, it works great. The cups will only be about half full, but you need room to add the berries and they will rise when baking, too.
Next add the berries on top of the batter, pushing in slightly, but not too much. Sprinkle the tops with the raw sugar, you can also use regular granulated sugar if you like but I love the rich flavor of the natural raw sugar (I also use it in the batter).
Bake for 10 minutes, rotate tins and bake another 10 – 12 minutes until light golden brown. Cool completely in tins on a wire rack before removing.

The tops will brown lightly giving them a sweet crunch with the slightly carmelized raw sugar, while the insides stay super moist and delicious. They are best enjoyed soon after baking but will store in an airtight container at room temperature for a couple days, though chances are they won’t last that long.
I recently made a batch with some fresh picked sour cherries and they were amazing! So get creative, this batter is the perfect base for almost anything and you can also adjust the amount of sugar you add to it to suit your taste or health requirements. Enjoy!
And find more easy and delicious recipes here.

In the Kitchen: Two Fruity Muffins

Am I the only one in total shock that the Fourth of July is less than two weeks away? If I had a dime for every time I’ve said ‘time flies’, I could buy the $1500 desk I fell in love with yesterday…

Now I know July 4th is just another Sunday to you international friends, but for us here in the states it’s quite a meaningful day. Though really, it’s mostly just become a great excuse to have a picnic and play with firecrackers, sparklers and boom sticks — all of which I’m totally on board with, by the way. It happens to be my favorite holiday, because in addition to peanut butter, rocking chairs and kaleidoscopes, fireworks are one of my favorite things.
Oh, and muffins. Did I mention that I love muffins? And cupcakes. I know they are kinda trendy these days but they have always been my favorite. They are just so cute, portable and perfectly proportioned. Nine years ago, everyone I knew ditched me on my birthday so I baked myself some cupcakes. But don’t feel sorry for me, it just meant I got to eat them all myself.
You may be starting to wonder why I’m so talkative today, I know I am, and I have no idea, so I’ll get back on track! Today I have two delicious muffins for you that are fruity and festive in red, white and blue and are a lighter addition to any holiday picnic (or just great for breakfast or a snack!), whole wheat strawberry banana and blueberry orange buttermilk. Read on for the recipes and printable recipe cards.

Whole Wheat Strawberry Banana

1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup unbleached flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh strawberries, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large very ripe bananas
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
The key to baking anything with bananas is making sure they are very ripe, and I mean very. When you think they couldn’t possibly get any mushier, leave them for another 4 days. The skins should be nearly black and if you see fruit flies starting to buzz around your kitchen, they’re ready.
Also, when it comes to the flour in this recipe, if you don’t have whole wheat pastry flour or don’t like it, you can use 2 1/4 cups unbleached or all purpose flour.
Preheat the oven to 350° and line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners or grease and flour cups.

In a large bowl combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Gently stir in the strawberries being careful not to smash them but making sure they are coated. Depending on their size, about 6-8 strawberries equals one cup chopped.

In a medium bowl thoroughly mash the bananas. Whisk in the sugar, eggs and vanilla and then add the melted butter.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined, careful not to over mix. Batter will be thick. Divide the batter evenly among the tins and bake for 20 minutes at 350° or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in tins on a wire rack for 15 minutes before removing and allowing to cool completely.

These muffins rise quite a bit during baking, but always go straight up rather than ballooning over the edges. They also work quite nicely when baked without liners, which I prefer when I’m just baking for myself.
Aside from the pretty, patriotic liners (which I’ll get to later in this post), I decorated half my muffins with red, white and blue nonpareils which I sprinkled on top of the batter before baking. I found they looked better on the blueberry muffins because that cake was whiter without any wheat flour, but they were still fun and festive!
· · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · ·
Blueberry Orange Buttermilk
1 cup fresh blueberries
2 Tbsp powdered sugar
2 cups unbleached flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk
2 Tbsp milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
Grated zest of 1/2 large orange
Preheat the oven to 400° and line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners or grease and flour cups.
Put the blueberries in a large bowl and add the powdered sugar, tossing gently to coat. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar and mix gently until combined. You can also use frozen blueberries in this recipe, just make sure they are thoroughly thawed, drained and patter dry before tossing with the powdered sugar.
In a separate bowl, mix together the egg, buttermilk, milk, melted butter and orange zest. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and fold together just until combined. As a general rule, you never want to overmix muffins or they will become tough.

Divide the batter evenly among the 12 cups and bake for 18-20 minutes until golden and risen. (By the way, and ice cream scoop like this is the *perfect* tool for scooping muffin or cupcake batter. Seriously, it’s totally worth the investment and drawer space it will take up.)

Cool in tins on a wire rack for 15 minutes before removing and allowing to cool completely.

The hint of orange in this recipe really brings the flavors to life and adds the slightest orange hue to the batter which is just so pretty. The buttermilk also makes them rich and moist. This recipe really is a delicious twist on a classic favorite.
I also decorated half of these with the nonpareils, which looked awesome. So, speaking of decorations – let’s talk liners!
When I bake muffins for my own personal munching, I generally skip the liners. Not only do you have less waste, but I personally feel the muffins are easier to eat (and a little bigger!). But when it comes to a party or sharing muffins with others, I always go with liners, and the more festive the better.
There is an amazing selection on Etsy of all different colors and patterns, I tend to go a little crazy. I order most of mine from Sweet Estelle because her shop is just so darn cute and she is super sweet to boot! I used a combination of stripes and retro swirls at my recent Memorial Day picnic and they looked awesome.
Little Monster Hugs also has a great selection of stars and stripes themed liners that would be perfect for for the Fourth of July!
Now if you don’t have time to order liners (or don’t want to spend the money), you can also make wrappers out of scrapbook paper or you can customize them for any occasion by printing words or image before cutting them out. It’s also fun to make toppers for your muffins or cupcakes and tomorrow I’ll have an easy how-to and some templates for you, so I hope you stop back!

In the Kitchen: It’s Strawberry Season!

For me, nothing says summer like strawberries! Here in Northeast Ohio, they’re the first fruit ready for picking and since they aren’t available (even in stores) for most of the year, I tend to go a little crazy when I see the juicy red berries come to life.
Aside from my standbys of strawberry lemon marmalade and cheesecake with strawberry sauce, I try to make different treats each year. I’m not always successful with my kitchen endeavors but today I have three delicious recipes to share that I couldn’t be happier with – strawberry cupcakes with strawberry cream cheese frosting, strawberry crumble pie and strawberry scones.
My initial pick of about five quarts got me through these three recipes, two failed frosting attempts, a batch of cheesecake sauce and plenty of daily eating. Just in time to head back out and pick the second batch of bloomers. Get your buckets ready and read on for the recipes, how-to’s and printable recipe cards. Happy Picking!
· · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · ·
Strawberry Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

If you aren’t tempted to lick your computer screen right now, you better check your pulse. These cupcakes are like heaven in a little fluted liner. Perfectly moist, soft and fluffy with a zen like balance of fresh and sweet. Plus they’re pink, which automatically kicks up the awesomeness a few notches. They’re also pretty easy to make, so what are you waiting for?

Ingredients yields about 16 cupcakes
1 1/3 cup unbleached flour
1/4 cup cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick butter, room temperature
1 1/8 cup sugar
3/4 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 cup finely chopped fresh strawberries
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick butter, room temperature
2 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp strawberry puree

Preheat the oven to 350° and line muffin tins with paper liners. I often bake muffins (and some cupcakes) without liners but I find these cupcakes work better in liners.
If you have trouble finding cake flour, look by the cake mixes rather than the bags of flour. It’s in a box and looks like a cake mix so it’s hard to spot if you haven’t seen it before. Pillsbury Softasilk is the most common brand but there are others, too. It does make a difference in this recipe, so do use it.
Sift together the flours, baking powder and salt, set aside.

With an electric mixer (stand or hand), cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla on medium high speed. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until just mixed.
On low speed, beat in half the flour mixture, then half the milk, then the remaining flour and lastly the remaining milk, beating until well mixed. Gently stir in the strawberries by hand.

Spoon batter into prepared liners, filling about 3/4 full. I have one 12-cup muffin pan and two 6-cup muffins pans for recipes that make more than 12 cupcakes. Having the smaller 6-cup tins allows for better baking when you have 3-4 extra cupcakes and having two of them allows for two full 12-cup batches.
Bake for 15 minutes and rotate tins in oven. Bake for another 10 – 15 minutes until the tops are lightly golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the tins on a wire rack for 15 minutes then remove the cupcakes from the tins and allow to cool completely before frosting.
To make the frosting, you’ll first need a little strawberry puree. Finely chop about 5 – 8 strawberries (depending on size) and mash them in a bowl with a fork or masher until pureed.
Next, cream together the butter and cream cheese with a electric mixer. Beat in the strawberry puree followed by the powdered sugar, one cup at a time. Beat until well blended and thick. Add additional powdered sugar as needed to taste or for thickness. Do note, this frosting will be a little thinner than a standard cream cheese or buttercream frosting because of the strawberries. Chill it in the refrigerator for 30 – 60 min before piping and it will work nicely.
My piping is a little sloppy because I was impatient (and running out of daylight), so I piped my cupcakes before the frosting chilled enough. It still works just fine and wont run off the cupcakes, but will look much prettier and stay put a bit better if chilled.

All that’s left now is to enjoy! If these don’t make it into someone’s belly the first day, store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. Allow them to sit for at least 30 minutes (or longer) and warm to room temperature before eating. Trust me on that one, they’re too hard when cold but just as good as fresh baked after they warm up, even a week later. Fat chance if they make it past day two.
· · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · ·
Strawberry Crumble Pie
If pie is more your thing, listen up. Chances are you are used to cold strawberry pies, topped with piles of whipped cream or made chiffon style. And while there’s nothing wrong with those classics (trust me, I’ll throw back a piece or seven), you don’t often see a warm, gooey baked strawberry pie. Topped with a sweet crunchy crumble, sitting atop a chewy cream cheese crust you say? Yes, please.
It’s not a very sweet pie, it lets the simple strawberry filling speak for itself, but the crumble topping adds a sweet crunch and the buttery cream cheese crust has the perfect bite. I don’t even like fruit pie, let alone warm fruit pie, but I’ve been on this one like a duck on a slug.

1 stick butter, slightly softened
3 ounces cream cheese, slightly softened
1 1/4 cups unbleached flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 cup sugar (I use raw turbinado sugar)
1/2 cup unbleached flour
3/4 cup old fashioned or quick-cook oats
4 Tbsp melted butter, cooled
5 generous cups quartered strawberries
1/2 cup sugar (if you like a sweeter pie, use 2/3 cup)
2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp flour
1/4 tsp grated orange zest

To make the crust, beat together the butter and cream cheese until combined. If you have a food processor, you can make the crust in there, otherwise, you can use a hand mixer and a spoon!
Add the flour and salt and mix until blended. Dough will start to come together but still be in pieces. Remove the dough from the bowl and shape into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 45 minutes.

While the dough is chilling, you can make the crumble topping. Combine the sugar, flour and oatmeal in a small bowl, stir until blended. Add the melted butter (cooled slightly) and stir until incorporated. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Back to the dough! Once chilled, remove from the fridge and on a lightly floured surface, roll to about 1/8″ thick and large enough to fill a 9″ pie pan.

I find the easiest way to transfer dough to a pie dish is to roll it around the rolling pin (add a little flour as you go so it doesn’t stick to itself). Hold the rolling pin over the pie dish and unroll over the pan.
Press to fit as needed, trim edges about 1/4 above rim of pan and shape as desired.
Now, I’ll tell you, I’ve never been all that fond of rolling pie dough. It really is a fine art but I do ok after years of practice. However, this dough is a different story. It’s soft, it’s hard to work with, it will probably tear and make you go crazy. But don’t worry! Just smoosh it back together and move on. It won’t look pretty, but it doesn’t have to. The deliciousness will far outweigh a less than perfect fluted edge and everyone will be so impressed that you even made the dough, they won’t care what it looks like.
Place the crust back in the fridge for 15 minutes and preheat the oven to 350°. Once chilled, prick the bottom of the dough with a fork and bake the empty crust for 15-20 minutes until lightly golden. Place on a wire rack to cool while you prepare the filling.

Increase the oven temperature to 375°.
Add the lemon juice and orange zest to the strawberries and toss gently to combine. Next add the sugar, cornstarch and flour, stirring gently until thoroughly mixed.

Spoon the strawberries into the crust and top with the chilled crumble mixture.
Bake for 50 minutes until topping is golden brown and filling starts to bubble. Place on a wire rack and let cool slightly before serving.
As I mentioned earlier, I find this pie best served warm, slightly gooey and syrupy and just cool enough to not burn your mouth. You certainly can eat it cold, which is how I usually like my pie, but I think you lose the sweetness of the strawberries and pick up more of the flour taste in the filling when it’s cold.
Store any leftovers in airtight container in the fridge and heat slices in the microwave for about 30 – 45 seconds before serving.
I’ll end by simply saying, look at that crust…
· · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · ·
Whole Wheat Strawberry Scones
Scones – you either like ’em biscuity (like me), like ’em sweet (like my parents) or you don’t really know what they are (like my husband). Essentially a scone is a small british quickbread of scottish origin. It was originally round, flat and baked on a griddle but the invention of baking powder took this treat to a new level and the common triangle or wedge shape took popularity to minimize dough wastage.
Most scones in the US these days are sweeter than their foregin counterparts and often topped with icing, but I prefer mine less sweet with a sprinkling of coarse sugar and made with whole wheat flour for extra nutrition. You could equate my recipe below to a slightly sweetened fresh strawberry biscuit and for me, it doesn’t get much better than that on a rainy Sunday morning.
1 cup whole wheat flour*
1 cup unbleached flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
6 Tbsp butter, slightly softened
2/3 cup cream
1 1/2 cup fresh strawberries
1 egg + 1 Tbsp cold water
Coarse sugar
*You can omit the whole wheat flour and use 2 cups total white flour if you prefer.

Preheat the oven to 400°.
Coarsely chop the strawberries and let sit in a colander for about 5 -10 minutes to drain any excess liquid. Toss with about 1 Tbsp sugar and set aside.
Mix flours, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Cut the butter into cubes and cut it into the flour mixture using a pastry blender, fork or two knifes until it resembles coarse, pea sized crumbles.
Stir in the strawberries and then add the cream, stirring gently until combined and dough starts to hold together.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface (it will be a little sticky, add a little flour as needed) and shape into a disc about 1″ thick. Cut into 6-8 wedges and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Alternatively you can shape the dough into a rectangle, cut two squares and then cut each square in half forming 8 triangle scones.
Bake at 400° for 15 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk together one egg and one tablespoon of water (alternatively you can use milk). Remove the scones from the oven, brush with the egg wash and generously top with coarse sugar. I use raw turbinado. You can skip this step if you prefer and top with a powdered sugar icing if you like a sweeter treat but I find them perfect with the sparkly, crunchy raw sugar topping.
Return to the oven and bake an additional 5 – 10 minutes until tops start to brown. Mine took an additional 7 minutes. Be careful to not overbake or they will get dry.
Let cool on pan or a wire rack about 10 minutes before munching. I find these most delicious when served fresh out of the oven and slightly warm, topped with a little butter and fresh fruit spread (like homemade peach butter!).
You can store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days and allow them to warm to room temperature or pop them in the microwave for a few seconds before enjoying.
You can also substitute a variety of fresh fruit for the strawberries in this recipe, such as blueberries, raspberries or peaches – yum!

I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s strawberry celebration! I’d love to hear what you think if you give these recipes a try and I’d also love to see you’re favorite strawberry recipes. Feel free to share in the comments below and happy picking!

In the Kitchen: Huevos Rancheros

If you love mexican food but have never tried this hearty breakfast dish, you’re in for a real treat, which is also delicious for lunch or dinner! As with many dishes, there are a variety of ways to make it from how you cook your eggs to the ingredients in your sauce. This is how I love ’em, feel free to roll with it from here. This recipe makes four servings and you’ll find a printable recipe card at the end of this post.
8 corn tortillas, fried
6 eggs, scrambled
1 cup refried pinto beans
shredded cheddar cheese
Ranchero Sauce:
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1/2 cup chopped red pepper
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup chopped tomatoes with their juice
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
To make the sauce, heat about 1 tablespoon of oil over medium high heat in a medium saucepan. Add the onion and bell peppers and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the cumin, salt, jalapeno and garlic and cook for about a minute.
Next add the chopped tomatoes, chicken broth (can also use vegetable broth) and tomato paste and simmer until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the fresh cilantro.

You can certainly leave the beans out, but they add a delicious flavor and heartiness to the dish. You can use canned beans or make them any way you like. I make mine from scratch using dried beans. I soak and rinse them, then cook them in water with some chili, garlic and onion powders and some cumin. I drain out most of the liquid, saving it, then mash them up with my mixer. Add more liquid back in as needed and season again to taste with the same spices plus some crushed red pepper and salt, if desired. I make these when we have tacos and enchiladas and always have leftovers, which are perfect for this dish.

To prepare the tortillas, heat about 1/4″ of oil (I use canola) in a non-stick skillet and lightly fry the tortillas until they begin to bubble and brown a bit, flipping as needed.
Lay four tortillas on a baking sheet and spread about 1/4 cup beans on each and top with another tortilla.

Next, top the tortilla with the eggs, followed by the sauce and finally the shredded cheese. I like my eggs scrambled, but you can also try this dish with fried, or even poached, eggs.
Place the baking sheet under the broiler on low for about 5 minutes until the cheese starts to bubble. Serve immediately and enjoy!
The sauce and the beans can be made ahead of time and store well in the fridge, making this dish quick and easy to cook up when you’re ready to eat. Add a side of tropical fruit or citrus salad and you have a hearty, impressive meal that’s perfect morning, noon or night. My dad loves this dish, so guess what’s on my Father’s Day brunch menu!
And find more easy and delicious recipes here.

In the Kitchen: Sausage Gravy

I have a guest chef in the kitchen today as my fiance, Tyler, exposes his roots and shares his hand-me-down Sausage Gravy recipe with us! There are no fancy ingredients and it’s not hard to make, but the key to its deliciousness lies in the technique and, most importantly, the pan you use. Put away the non stick teflon, pull out the stainless steel and get ready to clog a few arteries! You will find a link to a printable recipe card at the end of this post.

Prep Time: 5 min | Cook time: 20 – 30 min | Serves about 4 – 6
1 lb pork sausage (we use the kind that comes in a tube)
3 cups of milk
heaping 1/2 cup of flour
salt and pepper to taste

Cut the sausage into 1″ slices and begin cooking over medium heat in a stainless steel skillet. A NON STICK SKILLET WILL NOT WORK! You want the meat to stick to the bottom of the pan so just let it sit.
In the meantime, pour the milk into a mixing bowl and add the flour.

Mix with a whisk until well blended. We use a glass bowl so it’s easy to check for lumps that may be hiding on the bottom!

Now back to the sausage… continue cooking over medium high heat without stirring or moving the sausage until a thin layer sticks to the bottom of the pan. You will then begin to break up and brown the sausage, leaving a thin layer stuck to the bottom of the pan.

As the rest of the sausage is cooking, move it to one side of the pan, letting exposed grease simmer and brown onto the surface of the skillet. Move the sausage again and repeat until most of the skillet surface is covered with browned grease. This is where you get most of your flavor and the grease will not simmer down while under the sausage, it needs to be exposed in the pan.
Once the sausage is cooked, add the milk and flour mixture along with salt and pepper to taste. Cooking over medium heat, scrape the burnt sausage and grease off the bottom of the pan as it softens up. Continue cooking and stirring until gravy thickens to your liking.
If it is too thick or you would like more gravy, you can add more milk.

Serve over biscuits or toast with a side of Hashbrown Casserole and cinnamon rolls and you have a stick-to-your-ribs breakfast that is sure to please! It’s also delicious over scrambled eggs, omelets and potatoes.

You can find more easy and delicious recipes here.

In the Kitchen: Hashbrown Casserole

This week – Cheesy Hashbrown Casserole – if you like it at Cracker Barrel, you will like this! The hardest part about this recipe is finding a big enough bowl to mix it in. It’s delicious for breakfast but also makes a great side dish for dinner. This recipe could easily serve about 10 but it also stores well in the fridge. When I make a pan, we just heat up individual servings each morning for breakfast and it lasts through the week. You will find a link to a printable recipe card at the end of this post.
Prep time: 15 min  |  Cook time: 45 min  |  Serves: About 10
What you’ll need:
one bag frozen shredded hashbrowns
1/2 C margarine, melted
1 small can cream of chicken soup
8 oz colby cheese (cheddar works, too)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 C finely chopped onion (optional)

In a large bowl, mix the margarine, cream of chicken soup, cheese, onion (optional), salt and pepper until blended. I leave the onion out but use about 1/4 tsp onion powder instead.
Next add the hashbrowns and mix until coated. It helps to leave the hashbrowns out to thaw in the fridge about an hour before making this, or on the counter for about 30 min. If frozen, beat the bag on the edge of the counter before mixing in to help break them up.
Grease a 9×13 baking pan with cooking spray or butter and spread mixture evenly into the pan.
Cook at 350° for about 45 minutes or until top begins to bubble and brown. The potatoes will still look the same as they did when frozen, so you can taste it to make sure they are soft and cooked through. 
It’s also hard to over cook this, so it’s great to make for a party or potluck – just throw it back in the oven to warm it up before serving. It also reheats well in the microwave.
One bite and you will surely be addicted.