November 20, 2010

The Best Breakfast Sandwich Ever OR Green, Eggs, and Ham

This recipe will ruin you for any other version of the same dish. Though this is technically the same sort of sandwich that you could get at a fast food joint, I can't discuss the different universes in which these sandwiches exist.

These puppies are SO. GOOD. I don't know if it's the eggs, the pan fried bread, or the ham, but I can promise you, if you make one of these for yourself, you won't regret it. Your personal trainer might, but *scout's honor*, you won't.

Start by putting some butter in a pan and frying up some hamburger buns on a low heat. Regular bread works fine here too, but if you do that, be sure to toast both sides of the bread until they look like this:

See how golden and delicious? This adds the perfect flavor and texture. DO NOT pop the bread in the toaster and think that you will achieve the same thing. If you do, I will have to hunt  you down and force you to eat a soggy Egg McMuffin instead because you insult the true nature of this sandwich.

Whew, sorry, that's the second post in a row that I've been openly aggressive to you. Please forgive me. I don't mean to be, I'm just really passionate about these sandwiches, apparently.

*Resuming normal, cordial tone, knowing that everyone respects the sandwich too*

On a normal day, I use plain mayo. Today I was feeling fancy so I chopped some chives and added them. I don't know if it's physically possible to regret a decision made favorably toward chives. At least not for my brain chemistry.

This, however, is not an option. Put dijon mustard on your sandwich.

So say we all.
        So say we all.

Tomatoes and onions taste great, but today, I had an avocado in my fridge. I feel deeply about avocados, so imagine how I feel about them on this sandwich...alright, I won't start that again. Sorry.

Slice your avocado thinly in preparation for the sandwich.

Now, in the same pan that you fried your bread, throw in one egg and a slice of ham.

3 points on this step:

1. I'm an over-medium kinda girl. If you prefer your eggs scrambled, it will not ruin the integrity of the sandwich for you to do so during this step.

2. Please be sure to salt and pepper your egg. The ham adds some saltiness, but you still want the flavor of the egg to pop.

3. I hereby give you permission to go crazy with the deli meat here. If you have bacon, turkey, salami, or even a sausage patty, use that in place of ham. The ham just happened to be in my fridge. As a rule, I cook with what I have available.

At least my ingredients aren't imaginary. That has to count for something in the world.

Spread the chive mayo on one side and the dijon mustard on the other. When the egg is cooked to your liking, place that, the avocado, the ham and a slice of cheese on the bread.

This doesn't look half as divine as it actually tastes.

Each favor is perfectly balanced with the others. The crunchiness of the fried bread perfectly compliments the runny egg yolk and the tanginess of the dijon mustard is balanced by the smooth taste of the avocado.

I made one of these for myself and my sister, and we both decided that our lives were forever changed by the taste of this sandwich.

Forever. Changed.

Think about this the next time you reach for a bowl of Wheaties: will Wheaties change your life?

Best Breakfast Sandwich:

1 tbsp butter
1 hamburger bun
dijon mustard
chopped chives
1 egg
1 piece of ham
1 slice of American cheese

Place bread in a buttered saucepan over medium heat until golden brown. (Do not toast in the toaster. I will hunt you down.)

Chop chives and mix them with the mayonnaise. Spread over the toasted bread. Spread dijon mustard over the other piece of bread. Slice avocado thinly and place on one side of the sandwich.

Fry egg and piece of ham until egg is cooked to liking. (Be sure to salt the egg.)

Place egg, ham, and cheese on the bread.


October 27, 2010

Chicken Kiev

This dish is a tradition in J's family. It was around long before I joined up, and it's something I hope to pass along to our kids.

Speaking of kids, we have an announcement:

This is Rosie. We are pretty much in love with her.

And we have some new digs:

Between packing boxes, hauling furniture, and potty training a particularly stubborn basset hound we haven't had a lot of time to cook. Or blog. Or sleep. Or breathe. So that's why we've been MIA for a little while.

After all of changes, we decided that we deserved to cook ourselves a really great meal.


...some champagne too.

Well, let's get to it.

Take some chicken breasts and fillet them. You can pound them out if you want, but usually, filleting them is enough.

We season our fillets with Fumee de Sel Sea Salt from The Savory Spice Shop. I could seriously spend a few hundred dollars there without batting an eye.

No, seriously.

Take two tablespoons of butter, some fresh chives and some green onions. Someday, I will make a chicken dish without green onions.

That day is not today.

It's probably not tomorrow either.

Throw some freshly minced garlic in here too. I didn't, but you should so I can live vicariously through you.

Using a needle and thread, sew up the chicken into a pocket. A butter pocket. Yum. Butter.

We didn't have any thread. Or any twine. So we used red yarn.

Don't judge.

My sewing kit was in the garage somewhere. And the garage looked like some bizarre reverberation from "Hoarders". So we made do with yarn.

Mix up some flour, garlic salt, seasoned salt, bread crumbs, and some more Fumee de Sel. If you're feeling crazy, throw some paprika in there. We wanted something we could count on to treat us well. We didn't want the free-radical of paprika.

You're more than welcome to it.

And in a separate bowl, two to three eggs and some milk.

Throw the chicken in the egg mix.

OK, don't throw it, the eggs might splash all over your counter top. Bacteria. BACTERIA!

Then cover the chicken with the flour mixture and throw it in the oil.

Again, with the violent instructions. Just ignore me. It's been a crazy month. I'm prone to be more violent than necessary, I guess.

The oil shouldn't be too hot. We're talking 5. We put more oil in the pan than usual. Most of the time, just a thin coating of oil on the bottom of the pan is sufficient. We were just a little exuberant because we hadn't spoiled ourselves in a while.

Why spoiling ourselves means liberal use of vegetable oil, I don't know. But really, we were desperate.

Also, please note the fried yarn in the above picture.

Mmm, fried yarn.

That will be the next recipe posted if you're lucky.

Once the chicken has been in the oil long enough to develop a golden brown crust (4 or 5 minutes), put it in a glass baking dish and throw it in the oven for 25 minutes.

This picture does not do the dish justice.

I need a new camera, and I was too hungry to make sure the picture came out clear before I devoured it.


But I promise you, pair this with Jake's Fried Rice and a Cesar Salad, and you will have an amazing meal on your hands.

Chicken Kiev

Chicken Breasts
Chopped Chives
Chopped green onions
4 tablespoons of butter (cold)
1 cup flour
1/2 cup bread crumbs
Garlic salt
Seasoned Salt
2 eggs
splash of milk
1 cup vegetable oil
cooking twine

Fillet chicken breasts and season with seasoned salt. Pile two tablespoons of butter, some chives and green onions in the center of each breast.
Sew (or tie) up the chicken breasts into little purses and fry for 4 to 5 minutes in hot oil.
Put fried chicken in a glass baking dish and cook in oven for 20-25 minutes at 350.


June 3, 2010

Dill and Blue Cheese Macaroni Salad

Beverage of choice: Red Wine
Soundtrack: Ben Harper's Greatest Hits

Oh, June. What a wonderful month. Everyone starts the month with a little R&R on Memorial Day, it's peak wedding season, and it ushers in summertime. It's a time of BBQ's, sunscreen, and cheap beer. Freshly cut grass, open windows, and hot dogs.

What goes better with all these than a fresh macaroni salad?

Nothing, I say!

What I love about this recipe are the colors! Nothing beats fresh veggies in the summer.

Start by cooking three cups of macaroni. The type doesn't really matter. I've always been partial to bow-ties, but if cavatappi gets you excited, be free. 

Drizzle with a little bit of olive oil so they don't become one gargantuan mass of starch, cover, and refrigerate.

Chop up some veggies. These are usually my three amigos for this recipe: Grape tomatoes, a cucumber, and half a red onion. If you have some bell peppers or mushrooms hanging out in your fridge, now would be the time to chop them up!

Note: I chop my onions big so that those who don't like them can easily pick around them.

Also note: I usually remove the innards of my grape tomatoes. I don't like runny salads, so after chopping them in half, I give them a little squeeze. That way the seeds and extra juice don't mess with the texture of my finished product.

Enjoying food is as much about texture as it is taste.


Next use throw the sour cream (I use low fat), mayo (I do not use low fat), some dill, a sprinkle or two of black pepper and some garlic salt together in a bowl and mix.

This is where I usually venture into the fridge to see how my noodles are surviving in their frigid new environment. You may want to pull one out of the bowl and test your sour cream mixture. It makes the noodles feel less abandoned. Reminds them of their purpose.

You're doing the noodles a favor by checking your flavors here, trust me.

This may be controversial, but I will say it proudly:

I adore blue cheese. I put it on anything that sits still long enough. Steaks, salads, burgers, bread, cheese plates, apples, a fork.

Jake on the other-hand thinks that it smells like feet.

If you happen to be like my husband (or are with child), feel free to omit this. The recipe works perfectly fine without it. You may want to put in a little bit of extra salt, because you are missing out on the depth of this enticing, tangy, mouth-watering, salty, life-changing flavor. But hey, on your own head be it.

Add blue cheese to the sour cream mixture if you dare.

After about 30 minutes in the fridge your noodles should be cool enough to assemble the salad. Dump in your veggies.

Then add your sour cream mixture.

Toss the salad until everything is covered in the sour cream mixture. Check your flavors again here. If you need more salt, I won't be offended. If you need more pepper, I would probably agree with you. Season it to your taste.

Dish it up and enjoy.

I really love this after it's been sitting in the fridge for a few hours. The onions give it all wonderful flavor and the creaminess mixed with the fresh veggies is perfect for a lazy summer afternoon.

Here's the recipe:

Macaroni Salad

3 cups uncooked macaroni
1 cucumber
1 pint of grape tomatoes
1/2 red onion
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon dill (more to taste)
2 teaspoons garlic salt
salt and pepper to taste
4 oz blue cheese (optional)

Boil your macaroni. When cooked, drain into a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, cover, and place in refrigerator.

Chop cucumbers, tomatoes, and red onion.

Mix together sour cream, mayonnaise, dill, garlic salt, and blue cheese.

Toss together cooled macaroni, vegetables, and sour cream mixture. Salt and Pepper to taste.

Serve cold.


May 31, 2010


Beverage of choice: Pink Lemonade
Soundtrack: Pearl Jam, Backspacer

Oh, how I love these little bread pockets of Italian delights. Really, the term little is relative, but hey, they sound healthier that way. 

The true glory of this recipe is the dough. The homemade dough. With yeast. I promised we would talk about it, so fasten your seat belt and let's talk about how to rule this finicky little creature:

You will need your water to be between 110 and 115 degrees fahrenheit . If you don't have a thermometer, the best way to find that temperature is to put your wrist under the running water. If it feels warm and ALMOST hot, you've got the right temp. I know this sound like those recipes that call for a "pinch and dash", but trust me and the sensitive skin on your inner wrist, it works every time.

Put your sugar and your yeast into either a plastic or a glass bowl. (Yeast and metal don't get along too well) I usually put the sugar in first and dissolve it in the water before adding the yeast. It's just prettier that way. Once I do add the yeast, I don't stir it around too much. It will combine with the water, so stir it once if you wish, then leave it alone.

This is the yeast/sugar/water mixture before.

And this is what it looks like after about 10 minutes.

Now you're ready to add your flour, salt, and oil. Stirring this can all but give you carpal tunnel. Usually I'll mix it around a little bit and then stick my (clean) hands in to really work it into a sticky dough.

Like so.

Next, put the dough on a floured surface. We are not fancy here in the Nyen house, so I knead the dough on the countertop. Knead for about 5 minutes. This is creating gluten fibers in the dough that will trap the air that the yeast gives off as it bakes and make your bread fluffy. Kneading is directly correlated to texture. Don't skip this step.

When you are done kneading, put your dough in a clean and greased (or floured) bowl. Again, be sure the bowl is not a metal one. Cover it with a small, damp towel and place this in your oven. I usually turn my oven on the "warm" setting. Sometimes I'll have it on the "warm" setting for the first half of the time that the dough is rising and turn it off for the second half. This you kind of have to do by feel because all ovens are different. Mostly you want to make sure that you're not baking your dough or melting your bowl (if it's plastic like mine).

After an hour and a half the dough should nearly triple in size.

Meanwhile, about 20 minutes before the dough has finished rising, start prepping your fillings. The beauty of calzones is that I can make mine foo-foo and girlie, and Jake can stuff them with all sorts of pork and beef products. This dish really is a win-win for us.
Jake's typical calzone fillings:

Sweet Italian sausage
Canadian Bacon
Ricotta cheese
Mozzarella cheese (we only use the fresh stuff, but pre-shredded works fine too)

Renee's typical calzone fillings:

Sauteed red onions
Sauteed mushrooms
Roma tomatoes
Minced garlic
Ricotta cheese
Mozzarella cheese
Parmesan cheese

So feel free to put whatever you want in there. We do.

Ricotta cheese is a wonderful filling for a calzone, it's not as runny as melted mozzarella (pictured in the big bowl at the bottom-right in "pearl" form) and makes a great base for the other ingredients. (pictured in the big bowl at the top-right.) The recipe will be at the bottom of this post along with the dough.

Back to the dough. Once it is done rising, pull it out of the oven and put it on a floured surface. If you don't have a rolling pin, you can use a tall, straight drinking glass instead. That's what we did in our pre-rolling pin days. Ghetto? Maybe. But it works.

Roll out the dough until its about a quarter of an inch thick.

Cut out a circle. (This is the top of my spring-form pan. It makes a calzone for  a very big boy.) You can cut the circles freehand if you so desire. Also, preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Brush the dough with olive oil.

Add your desired fillings. Try not to over-fill. Good luck.

Fold it in half like a burrito and pinch the edges together. Be really thorough here. You don't want your filling to ooze out while baking.

Line them up on a baking sheet. Realistically, you will need two baking sheets. Brush the tops with olive oil. Pop them in the oven for about 25 minutes. Make sure you're watching them, though. In my oven I have to switch the pans to the opposite shelf to avoid the top of one and the bottom of the other being overcooked.

Pull them out when they are an enticing golden color and you can't resist the smell any longer.

We like to serve them with some marinara sauce and not much else. This meal is flavorful, hearty and really delicious.

Here's the recipe for the Ricotta cheese mixture:
8 oz of Ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
grated parmesan cheese

Stir together.
(yup, that's it)

For the Calzones:
3 teaspoons sugar
2 packages active dry yeast (4 and 1/2 teaspoons)
1 1/4 cups warm water
3 1/4 cups of flour (and more for kneading)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
Olive oil (for brushing)

Mix warm water and sugar with yeast. Set aside for 10 minutes. Stir in flour, salt, and vegetable oil. Mix with your hands if necessary to form a sticky dough.

Knead dough on floured surface for at least five minutes. Put into a an oiled bowl, cover with a damp towel, and place in a warm (but not hot oven) for an hour and a half. Once the dough has more than doubled in size, remove it from the oven and turn the heat up to 425.

Roll the dough out and cut circles in it. (Remember, your calzone will be 1/2 the size of the circle.) Brush with olive oil. Pile desired filling in the middle. Fold the edges of the dough circle together and pinch the edges.

Place on a baking sheet. Brush with olive oil. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve with marinara sauce. 

Makes 4 large calzones.

April 29, 2010

Apple Sauce Doughnuts

Beverage of choice: Milk
Soundtrack: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Audio Book

Yep. We've gone and done it.

Here is the homemade equivalent of food-nirvana. Make these and I defy you to not to eat a dozen in one sitting.

This recipe comes to us courtesy of Jake's mom. She makes them every year at Christmastime and they don't usually last too long.

Yep. They are that good.

This is my mixer. It was one of the best wedding presents we received. I would highly HIGHLY recommend using a mixer for this recipe if you have one. It helps the doughnuts achieve a fluffy texture with which hand-mixing can't compete.

Put 1/3 cup sugar and 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder in the bowl. I like my doughnuts really fluffy so I usually make sure that I have just a touch over 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder. Just barely.

This next ingredient is important that you don't substitute. You'll need 2 tablespoons of shortening. Yep, good old-fashioned Crisco. No replacements.

Go on, buy yourself a tub if you don't already have one. It won't go bad until after the apocalypse. I think the only things that keep longer are canned beans and twinkies.

Finally some color! After adding 1 teaspoon of salt, throw in 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.

If you are a rebel like me, you'll add another dash or two of cinnamon. I'm not usually a huge fan of cinnamon, but these suckers are better with more!

2 eggs.
1 tablespoon milk.
1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
2 cups flour.
1/2 teaspoon baking soda. (again, if you put a touch more than that, it will make these things fluffy as a cloud.)

And for top billing: Apple Sauce.

I can't reiterate how weird it is that I'm obsessed with these doughnuts. I don't like cinnamon and I REALLY don't like apple sauce. Reason for the apple sauce is that when I was a kid and refused to take the chewable children's Tylenol I needed for things like fevers, my mom would grind it up and put it in apple sauce. Decades later, I can't eat apple sauce by itself without shuddering.


But it makes for some killer doughnuts, so add 1/2 cup of it to your other ingredients and fire up the mixer.

When it's all mixed up, it should have a consistency thicker than cake batter and thinner than cookie dough. It should be pretty heavy and very sticky.

Now you need some vegetable oil. You'll need to be fairly liberal with it. Sometimes I even do these doughnuts in my wok because it's so big. Be sure that you use a pan that responds well to heat. I would recommend against cast iron here.

Make sure you have enough oil to allow the doughnuts to float. What is shown here is the MINIMUM amount you should use. (It was all I had left.)

I usually turn my oil on about 10 minutes before I'm going to start frying anything. I turn it on medium heat.

Take anywhere from 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of the dough and drop it in the hot oil. This is your little tester guy. (You can sing "Little Surfer Girl" to him with the alternate lyrics of "Little Tester Guy" if you want him to reach his full flavor-potential.)

Don't do anymore than 1 teaspoon because they really puff up when they start cooking. You'll end up with a doughnut the size of your fist, and that just takes forever to cook.

When the oil is bubbling around Little Tester Guy, feel free to give him some friends. See how cute and golden he is compared to his friends? He's been in there for about 3-4 minutes.

As you cook your doughnuts, your oil gets steadily hotter. If the oil bubbles too much when you drop the dough in, or if they start browning too fast, feel free to turn it down. It should always be pleasantly bubbly as you drop the doughnuts in.

See the tongs to the left of the pan? I cannot recommend making these without some form of tongs. The hot oil is just a little too dangerous.

These can get pretty dark before they're completely done on the inside. Don't be afraid to let them get brown.

When they are finished, put them on a plate with a paper towel lining so they can cool.

Sorry for the blurriness of this picture. Holding one doughnut while taste-testing another and taking a picture all at the same time gives you prize-winning art like this:

You can do a number of things to enhance the already awesome taste that you've just created.

You can do a powdered sugar frosting. (Butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and a touch of milk)
Or just powdered sugar by itself.

But my personal favorite is cinnamon and sugar.

Take about a cup of sugar and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon (and a pinch of nutmeg if you're feeling crazy) and combine them in a bowl. Then roll your doughnuts around in the mixture. I like to do this while they're still a little bit warm, so the sugar really sticks to the doughnut.

Delicious. That's all that can be said.

These are best when warm. Right out of the pan is great, but even after they've been hanging out in the fridge for a day or two (if they last that long) I would recommend popping them in the microwave for a little while.

Make these for your family, your friends, and even your enemies. You will be loved.


Here's the recipe:

Apple Sauce Doughnuts

1/3 cup sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons shortening
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup apple sauce
Several cups of vegetable oil

1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
nutmeg if desired

Combine all the ingredients into an electric mixer. Mix for 5-7 minutes.

Heat the vegetable oil on medium heat. Drop a test doughnut in. The oil is ready when it bubbles around the dough. Use tongs to flip your doughnuts and remove them from oil. Put them on a paper towel on a plate to cool and drain.

Mix sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg together and roll the doughnuts in the sugar mixture.


~Jake and Renee