Caramelized Onion Jam

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Father’s Day sometimes gets overlooked in the hustle and bustle of June, but I wanted to make sure I took the time to recognize the special men in my life. First, my father.

When I think back to the kind of man my father was (and still is), I remember the fact that he has always been a steadfast source of support and good advice. I’ve realized through my own memories and through my own adventures in parenting, children don’t forget the words their parents speak or the way in which they act;  and they can sense genuineness from an early age. I can still remember the time when I was about eight years old, and my dad asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up while he was tucking me into bed. I can’t remember what I said; but I distinctly recall him sitting on the edge of my bed, patting my shoulder, and telling me, “Lolly- I believe you can be anything you want to be.” It was such a simple statement, but it made a profound impression on me because I trusted my dad and I knew his words were sincere. Dad was always there to help check my math homework, to show me how to attempt a hook shot in basketball, and to teach me the beauty of some musical greats like James Brown and Marvin Gaye. Today, I still ask him for advice and he still offers it, along with a gentle nudge to look into retirement funds and life insurance. Thank you dad, for being a great father to your three children. We love you.


I would be remiss not to mention how much I love seeing the father my husband is to our little rump roast. Robert always makes Smith a priority in his life, despite his busy schedule; and his patience, love, and tenderness towards Smith is a spectacular sight to see. As our beefcake gets older and his personality develops, I can see that he and his dad are cut from the same cloth. I couldn’t be happier. Someday Smith will realize how lucky he is to have hit the jackpot in the dad department; but I think, even as a two-year-old, he already knows that.


After all this sentimental stuff, you may be thinking, “I don’t really find onion jam and dads synonymous,” and I can see your point.  However, this condiment is a way to make just about any meal extra special for those wonderful fathers in our lives . This caramelized onion jam is fantastic smothered on top of a burger, slathered over a thick sirloin steak, or drizzled on top of gooey baked brie. It’s a great item to make because it uses simple ingredients and it stores well in the fridge for a few weeks. I know I will be making a lot more of this when the onions in our garden are ready to harvest. Robert adores this jam, and I think you will too.

Happy Father’s Day to all the fantastic dads, granddads, uncles, and father-figures out there that provide the children of the world with the love and support they need to grow into wonderful adults and human beings. I am especially thankful for those incredible men, today and every day.

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Caramelized Onion Jam

Yield: 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 large sweet onions, cut into thin strips lengthwise
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4-1 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

  1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil. Add the onions, season with about 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook over medium heat. Stir occasionally, until lightly browned, for about 15 minutes.
  2. Tie together the bay leaves and rosemary with kitchen twine. Turn down the heat to low, add the herbs to the onions and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the onions and cook, without stirring, until the sugar melts, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat up to high and cook, without stirring, until a  golden-brown caramel forms, about 6 minutes.
  3. Turn the heat back down to low, stir in the balsamic vinegar and simmer, stirring a few times, until the jam is thick, about 5 minutes. Remove the herbs, season the jam with about 1/4 teaspoon additional salt (or more, if desired). Let cool and top on burgers, steaks, or cheese.

Source: Hugh Acheson, recipe posted at Food & Wine

Farro Cakes

Farro Cakes Aerial

One of my goals for the New Year is to create more nourishing and invigorating dishes that fuel me and my family. I find lunch a particularly challenging meal to plan. A lot of times I will eat leftovers from the night before or toss together a hodgepodge of items collected from the fridge; but I usually discover the food on my plate uninspiring and unfulfilling.  Luckily, I struck gold with this new recipe for farro cakes that had me ready to break out a quill pen and write poetry by the fireside.

Of the grains I have tried, farro is definitely my favorite. It boasts a nutty, chewy, and a slightly sweet flavor that provides a great base to salads and soups. It worked very well as a substitute for quinoa is this dish and the end result was a crispy and earthy patty that reminded me of a new and improved potato pancake. It was positively scrumptious with the addition of a fried egg fresh from our girls out back.

  
 Robert suggested a drizzle of Red Hot on the side and it made our taste buds sing. The man knows how to pair hot sauces with food. There should be a title for this skill. Hot sauceror?

Farro cake close up

Perhaps what I loved most about it is the fact that it is so quick and easy to make. I made the farro the night before while I was cleaning up the kitchen, and this made things as easy as pie for the following day. These farro cakes are everything I was looking for in a lunch and I know I will be making them again very soon. I hope you do, too.

Farro Cakes

Yield: About 8 small cakes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups farro, cooked
  • 3 eggs. lightly beaten
  • 1 cup loosely-packed and fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 1/3 cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup finely crushed crackers or 1/2 cup bread crumbs (whichever you have on hand or prefer)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Olive oil, for the pan

Directions

  1. Combine the cooked farro, eggs, spinach, onion, parmesan, crackers, salt, and pepper in a medium-sized bowl. Use a wooden spoon or your clean hand to combine all ingredients until well-mixed. Form into 3 inch patties The ingredients are delicate so you have to press them together firmly or you can add more bread crumbs or cracker crumbs as a binder, if needed (I didn’t have to).
  2. Add olive oil to a large, non-stick skillet and heat over medium heat until hot. Carefully place the patties onto the pan and sear for about 3 mins on each side, or until lightly browned and crispy. Remove from pan and place on a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb excess oil. Pan-fry remaining patties. Serve hot with a sunny-side up egg, if desired.
  3. These patties can be re-heated the next day by simply searing them briefly in a skillet with a drizzle of olive oil (about 1-2 mins per side or until warmed).

 

Source: Adapted from Annie’s Eats originally from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day

Homestead Living: Classic Basil Pesto

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I’m in a magical state of mind as I sit here and write this post this morning. The house is so quiet I can hear the fridge humming and the sun is just beginning to peek its head up on the horizon. My little rumpy is still snoozing soundly. This is such a rare moment that I keep tiptoeing back to the bedroom to check on Smith because, at this point, he is usually sprinting around the living room with one of his toys and some treasure he pilfered from my kitchen (usually an ice cream scoop or can opener these days).

It’s hard to believe summer is almost coming to a close, but the window of daylight is gradually shrinking and the little pups are going back to school. I’m always ready for the changes in seasons, but I know I am going to miss the fresh flavors of summer come January. One of the quintessential summer herbs is deliciously wonderful basil. My front porch pot of this plant did great this year and, in an attempt to preserve the sunshine, I made a big batch of pesto that will (hopefully) make it into our meals this winter.

With this particular recipe, I put the pesto into pint jars. I reserved one in our fridge and placed the others in our freezer. My mom introduced me to this method of freezing items in glass jars and I find it keeps very well. The most important step, in my experience,  is to make sure to leave plenty of extra space between the lid and the food. As we know, liquid expands as it freezes and it can result in a big mess if you fill the jar too full.  I find leaving about an inch works well and, with pesto, I put a thin layer of olive oil on top because Ina Garten said so. And it helps keep it fresh. 🙂

I hope you are all having a wonderful week.

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Classic Basil Pesto

Ingredients

  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves
  • 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Place garlic, walnuts, herbs, oil, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in food processor. Process until smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides with a spatula and add in cheese. Process until well-incorporated, about 15 secs. Store in fridge or freeze. Don’t forget to add a thin layer of olive oil or plastic wrap to the top of the pesto to prevent it from browning! Enjoy.

Source: Slightly adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook

Oven-Roasted Salmon Salad with Honey Dijon Vinaigrette

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I made this salad a few months ago when my friend Jamie came over for lunch and I have been meaning to share the recipe for several weeks. My father travels to Alaska about once every two months to help provide orthodontic services at a local clinic. One of the clinic coordinators is a big time fisherman and he invited my dad, who is also a seasoned fisherman, along on an excursion. This resulted in a large haul of King and Coho salmon being shipped back to our midwestern homestead and we have been reaping the benefits ever since.

This salad is highly adaptable. On the particular day I made it, I was in the mood to dress it with pumpkin seeds, goat cheese, fresh strawberries, and roasted pecans; but I would recommend jazzing it up with whatever is in season. We still have a surplus of salmon in our freezer right now (and we enjoyed another great salmon recipe over the weekend), so there is some more salmon coming your way!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday weekend.

Happy Monday!

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Smith sure loves our buddy, Jamie. 

  
  
Honey Dijon Vinaigrette 

Ingredients

  • 1 clove garlic, peeled & minced
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Mix or shake all ingredients together until well-blended.

Oven-Roasted Salmon 

Ingredients

  • 1 to 3 pounds skin-on salmon fillets (8 ounces per person)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a roasting pan or baking sheet with foil.
  2. Pat the salmon dry with a paper towel. Transfer to the foil-lined baking sheet. Rub the top of the salmon with oil so that it’s lightly coated. Sprinkle each fillet generously with salt and pepper.
  3. Place the salmon in the oven and roast for 4-6 minutes per half inch thickness of fillet. The salmon will easily flake with a fork when finished (the USDA recommends a minimum internal temperature of 145°F at the thickest part of the fillet).
  4. Remove from oven and place over bed of greens. Garnish the salad with dried cherries, fresh strawberries, goat cheese and pumpkin seeds. Drizzle with honey dijon vinaigrette and serve immediately.

Source: Dressing: adapted from Food Network; Salmon: The Kitchn 

 

Classic Hummus

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Phew! The holidays are over and it’s back to business. This time of year, most are looking for a break from all of the excess of December and we are no different. We are hungry for meals that will give us more bang for our buck, nutritionally, and that are delicious. Contrary to popular belief, health and taste are not mutually exclusive. Just take this recipe for hummus as an example. It’s creamy and earthy and goes really well as a dip for vegetables, as a sandwich spread, or as a base for grilled chicken. And for all of you out there who think they don’t like hummus, I challenge you to reconsider. I am a converted hummus lover. Before we found The Olive Tree, our favorite Mediterranean restaurant in Columbus, I really didn’t care for hummus. I had only tried the store-bought versions and I felt it always tasted kind of pasty; but, at the risk of sounding overly-dramatic (me? … never!), my life changed forever when I tasted the pillowy goodness made by the Greek gods at The Olive Tree. Opa!

I’ve made hummus in the past, but this is the first time I have cooked the garbanzo beans myself instead of using canned beans. Not only is this more economical, it takes hummus to the next level. And, cooking beans is not at all difficult- it just takes a little planning ahead. All you need to do is pour a 15 ounce bag of dried beans into a dutch oven, cover it with water, let it soak overnight, and then simmer for about 2 hours (or until desired tenderness) the following day while you are going about your business. I found the hummus came together really nicely when I used the still-warm beans. There is always the option to peel the skins off the beans before you process them for an even creamier texture if you have extra time on your hands, but my little rump roast was throwing my mini tartlet pans all over the kitchen and heading straight for the heirloom china cabinet in our living room with a look of pure mischief on his face while I was making the hummus, so I wisely opted out of this method.

I hope you are off you a happy and healthy 2015. Happy Sunday, everyone!

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Classic Hummus

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas, liquid reserved and set aside
  • 1 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/3 Cup tahini
  • 7-8 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp reserved chickpea liquid (or water)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Hot sauce, optional (I love Sriracha)

Directions:

Place all the ingredients (except the Sriracha) in a food processor. Pulse until creamy and well-combined. You may need to ad more liquid depending on your desired consistency. Remove from food processor and top with hot sauce, if desired. Store covered in the refrigerator. Enjoy!
Source: Oh She Glows, who adapted it from Barefoot Contessa

The Best Baked Brown Rice

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My friends, do you find yourself leery when you see a recipe labeled “the best” or “the only recipe you’ll ever need for…”? I, too, become leery. Too many times I have ended up disappointed with the results and cried foul on the misleading label. However, I make an exception for this brown rice.

I’ve attempted a few different methods of making brown rice and I am always left wanting something more. That is, until the fine folks at Cooks Illustrated cracked the code. And it really is quite simple. If you can boil water and preheat an oven, you can make this scrumptious and healthy side dish.  Also- I like to double this recipe to have extra rice on hand for making fried rice or to have as leftovers the next day. It’s quite tasty reheated.

It feels good to be slowly getting back into the cooking scene. Our camera is usually smoking from all of the pictures I snap of this little ham ball. 🙂

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Baked Brown Rice

Yield: 4 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups long grain brown rice
  • 2 1/3 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

1. Adjust the oven rack to middle position; Preheat oven to 375 degrees and make sure the oven rack is in the middle position. Spread rice in 8-inch square baking dish.

2. Place water and butter in a saucepan and bring to a boil. As soon as the water starts boiling (letting it boil to long will cause evaporation and affect the ratio of water and rice), remove from heat and stir in salt. Carefully pour water over rice. Cover baking dish tightly with doubled layer of foil. Place in the oven and bake rice for 1 hour, until tender.

3. Remove baking dish from oven and uncover. Fluff rice with dinner fork, then cover dish with clean kitchen towel. Let the rice stand 5 minutes. Uncover and let rice stand 5 additional minutes. Enjoy!

Note: If doubling the recipe ,use a 9×13 inch baking dish and keep the baking time the same.

Source: A Veggie Venture, originally from the magicians at Cook’s Illustrated

Hummus

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I recently had a life-changing experience in the realm of Mediterranean food. There is a lovely gem of a restaurant in our neighborhood called The Olive Tree and Robert and I had never given it a chance up until a few months ago. I’ve always been a bit underwhelmed by the Greek food I’ve made and/or ordered at restaurants. That is, until we decided to try something different for a quick weeknight dinner. I ordered the chicken shwarama with hummus, Robert got the spicy chicken and mushroom dinner, and the rest is delicious history. I now frequently crave their hummus and pita bread after a long day at work. More so, I dare say, than pizza (!?!). The Olive Tree has made a Mediterranean convert out of me and I am not ashamed to admit it.

I decided to make a homemade version of hummus myself and was quite pleased with the outcome. While I still am forever loyal to our beloved Olive Tree, this hummus is a budget-friendly and delicious alternative. It’s also a healthy snack for this weekend’s Super Bowl.  I have to admit, though, that I don’t follow NFL football at all, but I enjoy the social aspect of the game. 🙂

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Looking for other appetizer ideas for Sunday’s big game? Here are a few of my favorites:

Cajun-roasted shrimp

Baked jalapeno poppers

Buffalo chicken dip

Baked garlic fries

Hummus

Printable Version

Yield: About 2 1/2 cups hummus

Ingredients

  • 1 16 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 5 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup tahini, stirred well
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

1.Put the chickpeas, garlic, and salt in the bowl of a food processor (or blender). Pulse for 15 to 20 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and pulse for another 15 to 20 seconds. Add the lemon juice, tahini, and water. Pulse for about 20 seconds longer. Scrape down the bowl; and, with the processor running, drizzle in the olive oil. Serve with pita bread, vegetables, or eat straight from the bowl.

Source: Alton Brown 

Wheat Berry Salad with Roasted Root Vegetables & Cooking with Jess

How is that for a long title?

This past weekend, Jess and Greg came over for dinner and what seems like forever since Jess and I last got together for a “Cooking with Jess” segment. What can I say, we are busy folks. But, then again, who isn’t this time of year?

As always, Jess and I had a lovely time together and the food was equally wonderful. It’s not always easy to get together and sometimes it feels like there just isn’t enough time in the day, but I’m always glad when we make it happen.

The menu consisted of mostly fall-inspired foods (with the exception of Jess’s tasty strawberry daiquiri shortcakes for dessert). In addition to the scrumptious dessert, we had classic pot roast, pumpkin soup, and wheat berry salad with roasted root vegetables. I had been eyeying the wheat berry salad recipe as a possible Thanksgiving side dish for a few weeks; and, after gentle coaxing from my Aunt Khaki, decided to include it on our holiday menu.

I could think of no better occasion to give the recipe a test run than cooking with my like-minded culinary friend, Jess.

Wheat berries, also known as Farro (as Khaki so lovingly educated me), are pine nut-sized Italian whole grains that are- in my opinion-a delicious hybrid between rice and pasta. It was somewhat tricky for me to find Farro as my usual grocery store didn’t carry it. I ended up getting it at Giant Eagle in the international section after nearly giving up hope. It tastes great cold or warm and it is even better in this salad with roasted sweet potatoes, parsnips, onions, pine nuts, and goat cheese. Although it’s not exactly traditional, I am looking forward to adding this to the table next Thursday.

Wheat Berry Salad with Roasted Root Vegetables

Yield 6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups wheat berries (farro)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 large parsnip, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup  dried cranberries or cherries, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 2-3 ounces goat cheese, chopped

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with tin foil and lightly grease with spray oil. Set aside.

2. Place 2 quarts water in a medium pot. Add in about 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil. Add in the bay leaves and wheat berries. Cook until chewy and tender, about 40 minutes.

3.  Meanwhile, place the chopped vegetables on the foil-lined baking sheet. Toss lightly with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until lightly browned.

4. When the wheat berries are done cooking, drain well and place in a large bowl. Add in the olive oil,cranberries, pine nuts, goat cheese, and roasted vegetables. Stir gently to combine (the goat cheese will melt into delicious creaminess). Serve hot or cold.

Source: Adapted from David Lebovitz

Whole Wheat Pasta with Ricotta Vegetable Sauce

Do you ever go to the grocery store and buy lots and lots of produce, thinking of all the grandiose plans you have in store for it only to find that once crisp cucumber lying limp in the bottom of the crisper a week later? I do that. More than I care to admit and I always tell myself that I will get better.

On the drive home the night that I made this, I was really trying to talk myself into just stopping to pick something up for dinner. Unfortunately, I knew there was a heap of vegetables in my fridge just about to turn a little too ripe. It really made no sense economically not to try to find a way to use it up. Especially since I just recently lost temporary control of my will to not spend money at Target (or Tar-jhey as we like to say when we’re feeling fancy).

The end result was this pasta dish. Throwing whatever you can find in your fridge into pasta usually seems to work and it’s a really versatile and simple way to use up ingredients. I was pleasantly surprised with how it turned out. The ricotta added a slight richness to the dish and the fresh lemon juice and basil added great freshness. Basil just epitomizes summertime and it is making me look oh so forward to using it all the time in the coming months.

Robert was a little insecure when he saw this was a vegetarian dish, so I made sure to throw the remaining leftover porkchop on the side for him to calm his nerves. He’s a trooper. 🙂

Whole Wheat Pasta with Ricotta Vegetable Sauce

  • 1 12 oz box whole wheat pasta (I used penne)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, rinsed and dried
  • 3 shallots, diced
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup reserved pasta water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped (plus more for garnish if desired)
  • Parmesan cheese, shredded

Directions

1. Place about one quart of water and about a 1/2 teaspoon of salt into a medium-sized pot. Bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente (still slightly firm, but not hard). Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Drain the rest of the water. Set the pasta aside.

2. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add in the peppers, shallots, and tomatoes. Saute until tender. Add in the minced garlic and cook just until lightly brown. Season with salt, pepper, and pepper flakes. Stir to coat the vegetables evenly. Remove from heat.

3. To the vegetables, add the ricotta, pasta water, and lemon juice. Carefully stir or whisk until smooth. Carefully add in the cooked pasta and toss until all pasta is coated. Stir in fresh chopped basil. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, if desired.

Source: Lolly’s Sweet & Savory Treats

Scalloped Potatoes Au Gratin

I love cheese. Especially the extra sharp and sometimes stinky cheese. There’s so much flavor in just a tiny bite that you don’t need much. While I love most low fat and nonfat dairy products, reduced calorie cheese is something I just can’t do. And I’m okay with that.

This scalloped potatoes recipe comes from Ellie Krieger, one of my favorite celebrity chefs. It’s made with Gruyere cheese and I added in a little freshly shredded Parmesan as well. Any extra added bonus, this dish is not quite as heavy as typical scalloped potatoes as low fat milk is used instead of heavy cream.  It’s a win-win and a great side dish for any meal.

Have a great weekend, everyone. Go out and savor some stinky cheese! 😉

Scalloped Potatoes Au Gratin

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients

  • Olive oil spray
  • 3 pounds yellow potatoes, like Yukon gold, unpeeled, sliced into 1/4-inch slices
  • 3 cups cold low-fat milk
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large or 2 small sprigs thyme, or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 3/4 cups (6 ounces) grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 2 quart, shallow baking dish with olive oil spray.

2. Put the potatoes into a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are just tender, about 8 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool slightly.

3. Put the milk and flour into a large pan and whisk until the flour is dissolved. Add the garlic and thyme and heat over a medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil and is thickened, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat, discard the thyme sprig, and stir in the salt and pepper. Add 1 cup of the cheese and stir until melted.

4. Arrange half of the potatoes in the dish. Pour over half of the cheese sauce. Add the remaining potatoes and top with rest of the sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining Gruyere and the Parmesan cheese and bake for 25 minutes, until bubbling. Put under the broiler and broil on high until the top is browned, about 2 minutes. Serve hot.

Source: Ellie Krieger