Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Bacon-Wrapped Lit'l Smokies

Meat Candy!

File this under:  junk food.  But you know what?  Sometimes you want what you want, and you just have to vow to eat only broccoli for the next two days, and just go with it.

My husband and I were going to a church function for married couples this weekend and we were to bring an appetizer for 4-6 people.  I knew immediately I wanted to make these.  I could see it now:  two kinds of hummus, chips and salsa, a veggie tray with ranch dressing ... necessary, but boring.  I wanted to bring the pizzazz!  And I did - these little wienies were the first to disappear!

Bacon-Wrapped Lit'l Smokies


  • 1 pound bacon
  • 1 package Lit'l Smokies
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

Not health food.  Not even close.  But SOOOO good.

  1. Heat oven to 400 F.  Line a cookie sheet or baking pan with foil (makes for a much easier clean up.)
  2. Cut each slice of bacon into thirds.  Wrap a Lit'l Smokie in bacon, and place seam-side down in the tray.  The package I had made 33 of these, so you'll need about 11 pieces of bacon.  When all the Lit'l Smokies are wrapped in bacon, sprinkle heavily with brown sugar.
  3. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the sugar is bubbling and melty.

I then poked each one with a toothpick.  If it's just you and the family going at these guys, you can use forks, but for a potluck, keep it simple and use the picks.  These are like crunchy, smoky, sweet, salty, meaty candy.  I cannot overstate how fantastic these are!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Warm Arugula and Mushroom Salad

I don't think it's possible to overstate how much I love a green salad.  I'm always on the lookout for new recipes, new flavor combinations, and new ways to eat healthy.

Once again, Trader Joe's comes to the rescue.  Printed on the back of their bagged, washed and prepared arugula is this simple but fantastic recipe.  If you wanted to make it a dinner salad, add some shredded grilled chicken.  Otherwise, follow the recipe for a side salad that will serve - and delight - four people.

Warm Arugula and Mushroom Salad
(recipe adapted from the Trader Joe's Arugula package)


  • 1 bag Trader Joe's arugula, or about 7 ounces, washed and dried 
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced, (preferably baby creminis, but buttons are fine)
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts (I usually omit these because they are expensive, but they are quite nice if you have them)
  • 4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

  1. In a saute pan over medium heat, add the olive oil and onion.  Stir and cook for a few minutes, until they start to get translucent, then add the mushrooms.  Stir and cook until everything is soft and fragrant.
  2. In a large bowl, crumble the goat cheese.  Pour the onions, mushrooms and pan juices into the bowl and fold to combine the goat cheese.  Add the arugula, balsamic vinegar, and pine nuts and gently toss.  Serve warm.
We had this with roast chicken, warm bread, and a nice Pinot Noir. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Doenjang Jiggae - Korean Basics

In Korean cuisine, there are two main types of soup:  guk and jiggae.  Guk is very brothy, while jiggae is more like a stew and is more substantial.  Doenjang jiggae is one of the most basic and traditional Korean soups, and is named for the fermented soybean paste that is the center of the stew - the doenjang.

There are many different brands.  I don't read Korean, so honestly, when I buy a tub of doenjang, I read the ingredients and hope I pick a good one.  I'm sure they can't vary that much between brands, but some varieties include other flavorings and ingredients, like anchovies, so read the ingredients list carefully, or look for illustrations on the label to make sure you buy just regular, plain doenjang.

Doenjang roulette - I picked a tasty one!

Once you buy the doenjang, you're set for a while.  It's already fermented, and will last a good year in your fridge.  The other ingredients in doenjang jiggae are readily available and won't require a special trip to the Korean grocery store. 

Enjoy this healthy, richly flavored soup with rice for a first foray into Korean cuisine at home!

Doenjang Jiggae


  • 1 block tofu (I like firm, but you can use any kind)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 cups water (if you are making rice to go with the jiggae, save 2 cups of the starchy water from rinsing the rice.  This will give your broth a little more substance.  If not, no biggie.)
  • 1/4 cup doenjang
  • 2 zucchini or other summer-type squash, sliced
  • 1 or 2 hot peppers, diced (optional - I don't use them because I'm kind of wimpy)
  • 1 bunch enoki mushrooms (I didn't have any, but they're very cute, so pick some up if you see them)
  • 2 or 3 green onions, sliced very fine

  1. Unwrap tofu and drain away water.  I also like to press the block of tofu between two bowls and get out as much water as possible.  In a soup it doesn't matter as much as if you were frying it, but still, squeeze that baby for all you're worth!
  2. In a large pot, heat over medium flame and add sesame oil and the tofu.  Saute the tofu in the oil, breaking it up into small pieces.  After a few minutes, add the garlic.  
  3. When the garlic gets golden, add water and the doenjang, stirring to dissolve the doenjang.  It will still have pieces of bean; don't worry about those.  You just want to make sure the doenjang gets incorporated and doesn't sink like a stone to bottom of the pot!
  4. Add the zucchini (and mushrooms and hot peppers, if you are using them), turn the heat down to low, and simmer for about 20 minutes.  Taste for seasoning - you can add more doenjang if you want a deeper flavor, or you can add soy sauce too.  Serve hot, sprinkled with green onion.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

It is really hard to capture dark chocolate in a photo!  Just sayin'.
It's zucchini season.  If you have plants in your garden they are probably throwing a last hurrah of giant squashes right now.  (The plant at my daughter's preschool has a zucchini the size of a football!)  Tired of zucchini bread?  Read on!

These little snackers have very little sugar added to them, so in the cupcake vs. muffin question, they fall squarely in the latter category.  The bittersweet chocolate, hints of banana and zucchini, and moist texture make for a sophisticated and healthy dessert.  To fancy them up, try a cream cheese frosting!

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins


  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups flour (I used half regular flour, half whole wheat)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 stick butter, melted 
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 zucchinis, grated
  • 1/2 bag chocolate chips (about 6 oz. or 2/3 cup)
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease muffin tin or use paper liners.  (I just use Pam.)
  2. In a bowl, combine first six ingredients - all the dry ones.  
  3. In a larger bowl, whisk vanilla and melted butter into eggs, then mash the banana and add that to the eggs.  Whisk in sugar and stir in grated zucchini.  Stir in the chocolate chips.
  4. A little at a time, stir the dry ingredients into the wet.  Pour into muffin tin and bake for 20-25 minutes.  

This recipe made 18 muffins for me.  We ate a bunch and froze the rest.  To thaw, microwave for 30 seconds, but be careful, the chocolate chips get all hot and melty again!

Kid-tested, Mother-approved, napkin-required muffins!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Mushroom Ban Chan - Korean Basics

Unlike a typical American meal - protein, vegetable, and starch - a Korean meal has several components.  Rice is always present, as is a protein and some kind of kimchee.  Soup is almost always included, and my favorite part - the ban chans.  Those are those myriad little dishes that come with your dinner at the Korean restaurant, and are usually small bowls or plates of different kinds of vegetables - salads, sautés, pickles, and other presentations.  If you are cooking Korean food at home, the rice is easy to do, and you are probably putting some meat on the grill, but don't forget about the best part - the ban chans!

Here is an easy one to start with.  These are sautéed mushrooms, Korean-style.  Put the rice in the cooker (bap soot) and make these tonight!

Mushroom Ban Chan


  • 1 package King Trumpet mushrooms (also called King Oyster mushrooms.  Can't find them?  You can use button or creminis, but next time, go to the Korean grocery store and look for these!  They're usually $2 a package - pretty good deal!)
Serving suggestion.  Mushroom dancing lessons not included.

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • sesame oil
  • salt
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup very thinly sliced carrots, optional (I had these left over from making kim bap, and I think they added a nice sweetness and color contrast to the dish, but they are in no way necessary to a good presentation)
  1. Slice the mushrooms into bite-sized pieces.  Finely chop the garlic, and thinly slice the green onion.
  2. Add a little sesame oil to your pan, about 2 tablespoons, over medium heat.  Add the carrots, if using, and sauté for 2 minutes.  Add the garlic and mushrooms and stir to coat.  Sprinkle with salt.  The mushrooms will soak up the oil pretty quickly and you may need to add more, but don't worry, they release it back out, along with a lot of water.
  3. Saute for 5 or 10 minutes, until the mushrooms sweat out all their water and they are soft and chewy.  Turn off the heat and toss with the sliced green onions and sesame seeds.  Eat hot or cool.
If you have leftovers, try them with scrambled eggs the next day for breakfast.