Monthly Archives: June 2012

‘Smores Brownies

Shopping List:

1 package fudgy brownie mix of choice

1 cup of mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 16-ounce package mini-marshmallows

12-16 graham crackers, divided along the perforation into 4 pieces each


1. Bake the brownies in a 9 x 13 pan according to the package directions. Test for doneness by inserting a knife in the center. If it comes out clean or with a crumb or two, then the brownies are cooked through.

2. Immediately remove the brownies and turn the oven up to the Broil at High level. Top the brownies with the chocolate chips and enough of the marshmallows to cover the brownies (about 2/3 of  a 16 oz pakage).

3. Put the brownies in the super hot oven and watch them as the marshmallows quickly begin to puff up and brown. Remove the brownies when the marshmallows are  golden brown. Watch carefully, this only takes about 2 minutes.

4. Once you’ve removed the brownies, press the graham rectangles into the melty mallows. Let it all cool, and then when you are ready to cut it up spray your knife with cooking spray to help with cutting through the melted marshmallows.

Makes approximately 24 brownies


Two Fruity Lemonades: Watermelon and Cinnamon Peach

Nine years ago now, when my hubby and I were celebrating our first anniversary we took a wonderful vacation to Maine. There we sampled such fresh and flavorful cuisine that we don’t often get the chance to expereience in California.

One of the many farm inspired dishes I tried and loved, wasn’t a dish at all. It was a simple blueberry lemonade. Yes, I know it seems pretty basic, espeically since we’ve all seen those fruit lemonades that various restaurants serve. It seems to me what really made the difference with this one and had me hooked was that the fruit was incredibily fresh and of course, in season. So here’s my take on the season’s best fruit lemonade. Nothing quite says summer like fresh squeezed lemonade.

Shopping List and Instructions for Watermelon Lemonade:

4 cups of watermelon cubed

1 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice

1/3- 1/2 cup of agave syrup

Start with putting the watermelon in a food processor and puree it until most of the chunks are gone. Then, in a 2 quart pitcher pour in your fresh lemon juice and about 3 cups of watermelon puree. At this point you’ll want to taste it to decide if you want more lemon flavor or more watermelon and adjust accordingly. Also taste test for sweetness as you are adding the agave syrup, or honey if you can’t find agave. I ended up using about 1/3 of a cup of the syrup, but that’s because my melon was super sweet.

Shopping List and Instructions for Cinnamon Peach Lemonade:

1 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice

2 cups of peeled cubed peaches

3 cups of water

1 stick of cinnamon

1/3-1/2 cup of agave syrup

In a medium-sized pot over high heat bring to a boil the water, peaches and cinnamon stick. Once it comes to a boil, you can reduce the heat to a simmer and let it cook for 30 minutes. At that point you will want to remove the cinnamon and let the juice cool 10 minutes before pureeing it in a blender. If you want this to be less chunky then strain it, however, I think this is a pointless step since it takes way too long. Once you’ve got the puree, add it to your 2 quart pitcher along with the lemon juice and adjust the agave to your taste.

Pesto Potato Salad

With summer in full swing, barbeques and potlucks are plentiful. And of course, I’m always debating about what to bring for these events. Since it really depends on the group your serving, and if you’ve been assigned a specific dish or not.  It can be tough to bring a side that stands out, but at the same time will tempt most palates. For a different take on a potato salad, try this pesto infused travel-friendly version. It’s super easy to throw together and pretty tasty as well.

Shopping List:

1 pound baby new potatoes, halved

2 cobbs of fresh corn, with corn cut off

1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch peices

1 red pepper, roughly chopped

1/2 cup of prepared pesto, here’s my version of pesto.


1. Bring a small pot of water to boil, with a 1 teaspoonn of salt.

2. Add the potatoes to the pot and set the timer for 10 minutes. At ten minutes throw in the green beans for only two minutes. And then immediately, toss them all in ice water to stop the cooking process. The potatoes should be a tender, but still crisp.

3. While the potatoes are warm stir in the pesto sauce, the corn and red pepper. Then, it’s ready to serve.

Serves: 6-8 people

Other Potluck Friendly Sidedish Posts:

Israeli Couscous Spa Salad

White Bean Picnic Salad

Make-Ahead Mushroom Salad

Thai Carrot Slaw

Bacon and Carmelized Onion Pinwheels

In my former life when I held dinner parties for adults, rather than kids, I used to pull out every stop to make an impression with some star ingredients. And I think I kind of do the same thing now, but with a more realistic working-mom approach. With that idea I still love to include food that caters to adults, but with flavors that kids will enjoy too. And the icing on the cake is that I’ve come to realize that a few shortcuts that help to make it seem like I’ve fussed a lot, is certainly worth it.

So one of my favorite shortcuts that makes everything fancier is puff pastry dough. You can easily throw anything in there, and it tastes like you’ve slaved for hours because of the buttery richness of the dough. So, this classic pinwheel appetizer marries some wonderful flavors that certainly impress and at the same time is pretty easy to throw together with a kid or two underfoot. I guess I will need post some of my other favorites with puff pastry, like empanadas and custard pies.

Shopping List:

2 sheets puff pastry thawed

1 onion, carmelized (see instructions below)

1 cup crumbled cooked center cut bacon (see this post for a simple technique)

1/4 cup shredded parmesan

4 Tablespoons deli mustard

1 egg

1 tablespoon water


1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Whisk together the egg and water, then set it aside to use later.

3. Lay out the puff pastry sheets on a floured surface to prevent sticking.

4. Spread 2 tablespoons of mustard on each sheet. You want to try and leave a 1/2 inch border on one of the short ends, but otherwise paint a thick layer of this good stuff.

5. Divide the carmelized onion in half and evenly distribute it on top of the mustard.

6. Again, divide the bacon in half and chuck it on top of the onions.

7. Now here’s the tricky part, start rolling it all up from the short end of the pastry. Try and make it as tight as possible, so pull and stretch if you need.

8. Using a serrated knife cut each roll into 1/2 slices. Try to use a gentle sawing motion, so as not to rip the dough. I ended up cutting about 15 slices in each of mine.

9. Place them cut side down on a parchment lined baking sheet. The brush with the egg wash and sprinkle the parmesan on top.

10. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until golden on top. I ended up baking both sheets at the same time, to save a bit of time, but if you do the same, just make sure to rotate your trays half way through so that the bottom tray gets some sun too. Also, it allows for even baking. Enjoy!

CARMELIZED ONIONS: a lovely base to many a good dish.

In a large saute pan on high heat pour 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. Heat the oil for a minute so that the oil is hot. Meanwhiile slice your onion. Slice them however thick you like, but know that the thinner you slice the faster they carmelize. Once the oil is hot, add your sliced onion, and coat it in the oil. Let it cook for a couple of minutes until the onions become translucent. At this point you can turn the heat down to medium-low, and let it cook away–ignoring it slightly.  You do want to make sure you stir them, so they brown evenly though. It will take about 30-45 minutes for them to get really sticky, so if you’re short on time, do a big batch to use all week and they will definitely freeze well in a freezer safe bag. Having these on hand certainly comes in handy when at the dinner crunch. You can slap them on a burger or sandwich for sure, or you can plop them on some chicken for French Onion Chicken or use them as the starter to a French Onion Soup or slide them inside a tortilla for an inspired take on a quesadilla. The possiblities are endless.

Simple Technique: Bacon in the Microwave

A long time ago (Oh gosh, maybe 20 years ago now) I learned somewhere how to cook bacon in the microwave, and that began my steady decline into a love affair with bacon. Whether it was bacon wrapped shrimp, a BLT or simply a side nestled next to my eggs in the morning, bacon was my temptation.

Then more than a decade passes, and I have a picky eater who refuses to eat hot dogs, but scarfs down bacon at any given moment.

That’s when I knew I had to bring this technique to it’s full potential. Yes, it was a dangerous food to be playing with for a toddler, but I went head first into a diet of daily bacon for the little guy. Eating bacon every day is not good, but I was pushed to my limits. Well, that lasted a few months when I realized he might go into overload, so we took a break from it. But now we’re back in action and adding bacon to other parts of a meal.

Although this blog is all about expirmenting with flavors for the whole family, I think you’ve got to start with what’s familiar first.  So by adding a little bit here and there, I’ve been able to get my kiddo to try new things. And that was the goal. But in all honesty, who can argue with the crispy decadence that comes with a meal sprinkled with the smoky, saltiness of this meat.

Shopping List and Tools:

1 package of REAL center cut bacon

paper towels

microwave-safe plate


A Simple Technique for cooking bacon fast.

1.  Simply place the bacon on a layer of paper towels on top of a microwave-safe plate. Leave a little space between each slice.

2. Cover the layer of bacon with one paper towel.

3. Microwave on HIGH for 3 minutes and 30 seconds. Depending the thickness and/or type of bacon, you might need to cook it for an additional minute. With this technique all of the fat soaks into the paper towels, so if you like your bacon more chewy rather than crispy then err on the shorter time frame.

Much less mess to clean up!

If you like bacon like I do, check out these other posts that include it.

Egg Salad-Club style

Club Hot Pocket

Stuffed Potato Chowder

Bacon and Apple Stuffing

Brussel Sprout Salad

For a super-cute Father’s Day idea with bacon, check out Our Best Bites’ Bacon Bouquet.

© Suzanne Brown and The Family Style Chef, 2011-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Suzanne Brown and The Family Style Chef with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Pineapple Thai Noodles with Shrimp

There’s something about Thai food that makes me feel like vacation. I think it’s all of the exotic flavors that get mixed into a dish with such ease. From simple stir fries packed with spice, to uncomplicated soups, the flavors of Thailand call to me.

Now, it might be that someone I know is vacationing there right now! or it might be that it’s the start of summer, but either way, I’m totally and utterly in love with the taste of Thai food.

One of my family’s favorite dishes when we visit the local spot is the pineapple fried rice. Again, all of these wonderful spices come through and tempt the palate to eat the whole plate. I mean, it really makes me smile to know that everyone at the table will gobble this dish up.  With a lovely touch of spices and herbs along with a tad for the sweet tooth and some crunch to it–it’s certainly a comfort food worth adding to the repertoire.

But since we’re trying desperately to get out of this food rut I thought this would mix this dish up a bit and put my own twist on it–and not order it , but instead make it myself. Enjoy!

Shopping List:

2-3 oz. packages of udon noodles (or any dry pasta you have on hand)

2 tablespoons sesame oil

2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon chinese 5-spice powder (If you don’t have this spice, you can get some of the same flavors from just using cinnamon, nutmeg and black pepper. The powder contains star anise, cloves, cinnamon, fennel seed and black pepper.)

1 tablespoon peanut butter

1/4-1/3 cup pasta cooking liquid

1/4 cup chopped peanuts

1 diced red pepper

1/2 cup pineapple peeled and diced, alternatively you can use 4 oz. drained pineapple slices that you cut into smaller bites

1 cup chopped peeled and cooked shrimp (personally, I keep these on hand in the freezer for a quick defrost to a healthy and speedy meal)

1/3 cup chopped cilantro


1. Cook your pasta according to the directions on the package. Udon only takes 4 minutes!

2. Meanwhile, in a serving bowl stir together the oil, soy sauce, spices and peanut butter.

3. When the noodles are cooked, reserve up to 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid before draining the pasta.

4. Toss the pasta in the bowl with the sauce, red pepper, pineapple, shrimp and cilantro. Add enough cooking liquid, a splash at a time, to make the sauce the consistency you prefer. I used about 1/3 cup. Top with chopped nuts to serve.

Serves: 3-4

Shrimp and Bacon Fried Rice

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted a recipe. Honestly, between work and play it’s been hard to get inspired in the kitchen. But what better way to get out of a rut than just man up and force myself to do it, right?  It’s time for a little change in my family’s dinner repertoire.

I don’t want it to seem like I am normally trying new recipes with my family all of the time, but I do try to mix it up a bit and introduce something new once a week, but in the recent past my inspiration was zapped.

For a while there it seemed that every recipe I tried went up in flames…literally. That happened a few times when I was working with the barbecue. I mean what cook wouldn’t become despondent over multiple meals being tossed in the trash. Thank goodness for takeout and frozen meals. But part of my mantra has been to get rid of those premade meals and eat out of the box. So it here it is… time for change and a chance to experiment with flavor. So with this recipe I am trying to add more veggies to our diet and vary our proteins by experimenting with shrimp.

Shopping List:

1/2 orange juice

1 tablespoon crushed garlic, about 5 cloves

1 tsp. soy sauce

1 tsp honey

1/4 tsp .  crushed red pepper

5 slices of bacon

1 lb. peeled deveined raw shrimp, 21-36 count size is preferred

1 cup carrots roughly chopped

2 cups of cooked rice

1 bunch brocollini, tops only

5 slices of bacon chopped


1. While the rice cooks (about 15 minutes), marinate the raw shrimp in the orange juice, soy sauce, garlic, honey and red pepper.

2. In a large saute pan on medium-high heat cook the bacon until crispy. Do not drain the fat when it is finished cooking, this imparts wonderful flavor to the rice.

3. Add the cooked rice to the pan and coat it with the bacon drippings. Then add the carrots and brocollini and stir fry 5-7 minutes, until the carrots are cooked to desired tenderness. I prefer them crunchy, so I would only cook them about 5 minutes. That is about how long it will take to cook the brocollini too.

4. Add raw shrimp to pan and cover the pan to steam for 3-5 minutes. Shrimp should be opaque and pink throughout when cooked.

Serves: 3-4 people