Recipe: Puff Pastry Brunch Cups

breakfast cup6

First off, these things don’t have a real name so I am not married to the one I gave them.  Boyfriend was very set on naming them something with the word “Bomb” in them.  And they are the bomb, so I guess that would be fitting.  Anyway, if you have any awesome names for these, just let me know.

Per usual, this is based on one of my mom’s recipes.  I changed it up a bit for brunch I hosted.  I regularly use these same ingredients to make what we call a breakfast braid, where you put the filling on a sheet of puff pastry and braid it together.  So, you can take the same ingredients and do that if you do not want to do all the cutting of the puff pastry dough.  I was just going for something that you can easily eat while you mingle.

My brunch had a Valentine’s Day theme, so I added cutesy heart cut outs to the top of each cup.  You could just do a circle, or braid together a few small strips.  You will definitely want the top layer of puff pastry because there is no such thing as too much puff pastry.  That is a real, scientific fact.

Puff Pastry Brunch Cups

Makes 12 cups

  • 2 sheets puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 1/2 c. potatoes O’brien
  • Additional bell pepper and onion as desired (I always add more)
  • 1 – 1 1/4 c. diced ham
  • 6-8 eggs, scrambled with 1-2 T. cream cheese, 2 T. milk, and 1 tsp. or so salt + pepper (the eggs should be just barely set)
  • 1/2 c. shredded Colby Jack or nacho blend cheese
  • 1/2 c. shredded Parmesan

As always, my quantities are estimated.  You can always combine any leftover ingredients to make an omelette filling or scramble them in with eggs.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Start by rolling out the pastry dough on a floured surface.  Use a glass (naturally, I used a wine glass) or cutout tool of your choice to cut out 12 circles of dough.

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Place the dough in the bottom of a muffin tin sprayed with cooking spray.

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You may as well go ahead and cut out the shape of your choice for the tops at this point.  Set those aside.

If you are doing this the morning of, go ahead and saute the potatoes and extra bell pepper and onion (if using) in a skillet sprayed with cooking spray.  If you are prepping this the night before (which works just fine), you really don’t even need to thaw the potatoes.  You may want to saute the peppers and onions (again, if using) though.  Layer a little bit of the potato mixture on top of the puff pastry circles, like so:

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It takes a lot less than you think, so if you are a chronic over-filler like me (I am a terrible taco/burrito maker because I think I need all of the things in it) just resist the urge to over-stuff.  I am talking a tablespoon or so of the potatoes.  Anyway, then go ahead and add a little ham, like so:

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Next comes a sprinkling of Colby/nacho/cheddar cheese, then a scoop of scrambled eggs, and then a sprinkling of Parmesan.  Top that off with your top shape of choice and you’re ready to bake!

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Bake for 20-22 min. at 400 degrees.  Let cool slightly and enjoy!

breakfast cup6

And I really am serious about the name suggestions.

Review: The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

red queen

I have been anxiously awaiting The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard.   I ordered a few copies for my library and took one home last weekend to preview it.

Mare lives in a world divided by blood: those who bleed red (Reds) and those who bleed silver (Silvers).  She is born a Red, and all Reds are forced to live in poverty, scraping by and succumbing to the king’s will, whatever it may be (obviously, he is a Silver).   At the age of eighteen all Reds who are not employed are conscripted, or forced to join the army.   They are fighting a centuries-old battle for the Silvers.  Mare is simply waiting out the clock until she is inevitably conscripted.  However, one night she meets a mysterious stranger and the next day she is offered a job at the palace.

As it turns out, Mare has a certain power that she did not know about; and, it is a power that could bring Silvers to their knees.

That is all I am going to tell you about the book.  Seriously.  It is a decent YA dystopian novel, albeit not terribly original.  Mare reminds me a little of Tris in Divergent, Katniss in The Hunger Games, and America in The Selection.   The darkness of the whole plot was reminiscent of Marie Lu’s Young Elites.  It has a ton of action and plenty of plot twists, but does not develop the background story or the characters all that well.  It is an easy (as in you will get really into it and not realize that hours have passed) read and I devoured it, and will probably even read the second installment, which is very rare for me with YA series.

And I mean seriously, HOW GORGEOUS is that cover?

Recipe: Asian-Inspired Julienne Vegetables

I accidentally made this recipe up one night when I was attempting a different one.   Let me just say that beef with julienne vegetables rolled up inside of it is way easier than it looks.   I improvised and ended up with this awesome side dish.   It is super quick to cook (the chopping really takes most of the time) and adds a ton of color and flavor to any protein.

Asian-Inspired Julienne Vegetables

  • 1 bell pepper, julienned
  • 1 carrot (or 5-10 baby carrots, depending on the size), julienned
  • 1 zucchini or yellow squash, julienned
  • 1/4 onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. (or so) soy sauce
  • a dash of crushed red pepper (optional)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

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Start by chopping the vegetables, keeping them as close to the same size as possible.  Then, heat a skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat.

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Add vegetables to the pan.  Sautee for about 1 minute, and then add soy sauce and seasoning.  Play around with the quantities to your taste.  Sautee for about 4-5 more minutes, and serve alongside your favorite protein.  I actually baked some chicken in the marinade from my pulled chicken sandwiches.  I marinated the chicken overnight and baked at 375 for about 35 minutes.

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Happy Monday!

Recipe: Western Frittata

I hate wasting produce.  Like, I really hate it.  So I often find myself using up produce on Sundays in omelets and recently, in quiches and frittatas.  I have been on more of a frittata kick lately just because it is a lower carb option.  I also didn’t have any pie crusts lying around and was not in the mood to attempt one from scratch.

I like making frittatas on the weekend just because that means I have leftovers for lunches during the week.  Are you seeing a theme in my lunches?  Anyway, I like to pair a green salad with a slice of frittata for an easy, filling lunch.

I vary my frittata ingredients based on what I have lying around.  I have been known to do a “BLT” version with bacon, spinach, and tomatoes; however, this week I had some leftover peppers and diced ham so I made up this “western” (or is it “Denver” that uses ham and peppers?) frittata.  It came out wonderfully and the best part is that you can adjust a lot of the ingredients to what you need to use up in your refrigerator.

Western Frittata

  • 1/2 c. chopped onion
  • 1/2 c. chopped bell pepper, any color (I had yellow and red so I used that)
  • 3-4 eggs + 3-4 egg whites (I used 3 full and 4 whites)
  • 3/4 c. skim or unsweetened almond milk (believe it or not, almond milk is just fine in this)
  • 1 c. diced ham cubes
  • 3/4 – 1 c. shredded cheddar cheese (I use the Go Dairy fake cheese shreds and it’s fine)

Preheat oven to 350 and spray a pie dish before you dice your vegetables.  Saute peppers and onion in a skillet until softened.  While your vegetables are cooking, whisk eggs and egg whites with your milk of choice.  Stir in ham, cheese, and salt and pepper (to taste).  When peppers are ready, stir those in as well and then pour into pie dish.

quiche uncooked

Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes.  Allow frittata to cool a bit and then cut into 6 slices.  It goes great with toast for breakfast or a green salad for lunch/brunch.

frittata cooked

Recipe: Spinach Smoothies

smoothie

Let’s talk smoothies.  And by smoothies, I mean the kind with spinach.

I have been making smoothies for breakfast for a few years now.  Not every day, but enough.  I usually take one for breakfast at least once a week to school, and I have recently been throwing one in my Blender Bottle for a mid-day snack.  Honestly, smoothies are all about making it up as you go.  My ingredient list has changed over the years depending on my mood and what I want out of the smoothie (protein, energy, just some nutrients, etc.).  Feel free to play around with these recipes – there is no way you can ruin them.  Unless you add cucumber to any of them.  You will definitely ruin them if you add cucumber.  Trust me.

So, I am just going to give you a few of my favorite combinations.  I do have two key ingredients that I always like to have on hand for smoothie making:  Trader Joe’s whey protein powder and PB2 (I am recently VERY into the chocolate kind).  I have the most success when I use the chocolate protein powder with the PB2, and the vanilla protein powder with citrus fruits and berries.

protein powderpb2

Spinach, Banana, and PB2 Chocolate Smoothie

  • 1 small banana, preferably frozen
  • 1 1/2 – 2 c. baby spinach
  • 1 scoop chocolate whey protein powder
  • 2 Tbsp. PB2 (or, chocolate PB2)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 T. ground flaxseed OR chia seeds (I use these interchangeably and just use whatever I have on hand)
  • 1 – 1 1/2 c. unsweetened almond milk*

Blend and enjoy!

*Substitute cow’s milk if that is what you drink.  I just can’t really do dairy anymore. You could also add Greek yogurt to make it thicker.  I miss Greek yogurt.

Tropical Protein Smoothie

  • 1 small banana, preferably frozen
  • 1 1/2 – 2 c. baby spinach
  • 1 c. tropical fruit blend (I use Trader Joe’s, which has pineapple, mango, and strawberries – or use any combination of these types of fruits)
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 1 Tbsp. chia seeds
  • 1 – 1 1/2 c. unsweetened almond milk

Berry Spinach Smoothie

  • 1 small banana, preferably frozen
  • 1 1/2 – 2 c. baby spinach
  • 1 c. frozen berry blend or a variety of frozen berries
  • 1 Tbsp. ground flaxseed meal OR chia seeds
  • 1 – 1 1/2 c. unsweetened almond milk
  • Optional: vanilla protein powder

Play around and let me know if you come up with any awesome combinations!  For example, to get my dad to drink the green smoothie pictured at the top of this post, I added vanilla ice cream and we experimented with flavored liqueurs.  FYI: creme de cacao (white chocolate) was the best.

Recipe: White Chicken Chili

As I was prepping for the week, I decided to make one of my all-time favorite comfort foods: white chicken chili.   My mom made this all the time growing up and it has worked its way into my regular rotation.   I call it a chili because that what we always called it; however, boyfriend claims that it is a soup because it “isn’t thick enough to be a chili.”  Whatever.  You can make this on the stove or in the crock pot.  I have been making this in the crock pot lately, but you can also just saute the vegetables and then throw in everything else and simmer on the stove top (it takes about 20-30 min.).  You will want to use cooked chicken in you do it on the stove top.  Otherwise, follow the recipe below!

white chicken chili

White Chicken Chili

  • 1 c. chopped onion (I like yellow for this recipe)
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 2- 14.5 oz. cans Great Northern or Cannelini beans (seriously, either works)*
  • 1 lb.-ish chicken breast
  • 32 oz. chicken broth (I’m a big fan of Trader Joe’s low sodium)
  • 2- 4 oz. cans diced green chiles
  • 1 t. dried oregano
  • 1/2 – 3/4 t. cumin
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • shredded Monterrey Jack cheese and cilantro, for topping

* Today I substituted 3/4 c. dried Great Northern beans.  If you use dried beans and forget to soak them beforehand like me, tack a couple hours on to your cooking time.  And maybe read the directions on the bag of beans.  Just an idea.

Spray your crock pot with cooking spray.  Layer onion, garlic, and beans.  Place chicken breasts on top.  Sprinkle with spices.  Pour chiles and broth over the top.  Cook on low for about 4-6 hours or high for 3-4 hours.  Serve with a little shredded Monterrey Jack and chopped cilantro.

Makes 6-8 servings.