Pumpkin Chowder

A lot of you have been asking for my recipes from culinary school and I am working on putting them all together for you.  In the meantime here is my latest culinary creation.  I had to do a presentation on a fruit or vegetable so I decided to  do my favorite Fall fruit, the Pumpkin!  Nothing like doing a 10 minute presentation on pumpkin to make me feel like real foodie geek, lol.

Part  of my presentation included a recipe demo and since this is culinary school I wanted make something using fresh pumpkin and not the pumpkin puree you find in a can.  I wouldn’t have been able to show my face in the kitchen!  I’d never eaten or cooked with fresh pumpkin but I was so surprised at how delicious this chowder is.  It’s not at all what you’d expect and doesn’t have the “pumpkin pie” flavor that we’re all used to.  It’s warm and savory with just enough spice to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  Perfect for a cold Fall day.

Here are some interesting pumpkin facts I found during my research:

  • Originated in North America and first cultivated by Native Americans
  • Small pumkins are best for cooking, more tender and sweet
  • Pumpkins are 90% water
  • Entire plant is edible including the shell, leaves, seeds and flower
  • 80% of pumpkins in the US are harvested in October
  • Excellent source of Alpha & Beta carotene and fiber

P.S. – Sorry for the picture quality but I can’t bring my high powered DSLR camera to the kitchen, lol.

P.P.S. – I’m pretty sure I got an A+ 🙂

Enjoy!

♥ Nina

Ingredients

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 Leeks, trimmed of tough green tops and chopped
3 large Garlic Cloves, finely chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
2 1/4 pounds pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2- by 1-inch-thick pieces
1 1/2 tsp dried majoram
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 1/4 cups frozen corn
6 cups chicken broth

Directions

Heat olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add leeks and cook until very soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for about 2 minutes. Stir in green peppers, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until peppers soften, about 8 more minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and cook until pumpkin is tender, about 30 minutes.

 

Recipe adapted from Country Living

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Banana Nut Bread

So I’m sitting here in my kitchen enjoying a warm slice of banana nut bread and french vanilla coffee.  It’s one of my favorite things about the Fall…pulling a warm loaf of bread out of the oven and enjoying it while relaxing.  I normally am not a big fan of bananas but the combination of spices and warm bread just make my taste buds tingle.

The key to making a delicious banana nut bread is using over ripe bananas.  I would advise buying them a week in advance and putting them in a paper bag.  There is a gas they release that will help them ripen faster.  This also works if you have other fruit like peaches that you want to ripen faster.  Place the fruit in a bag with some bananas and in a couple of days viola, ripened fruit!

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp fine salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for preparing the pan
1 cup sugar
3 very ripe bananas, peeled, and mashed with a fork (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Sift the flour, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl, set aside. Whisk the eggs and vanilla together in a liquid measuring cup with a spout, set aside. Lightly brush a 9 by 5 by 3-inch loaf with butter and sprinkle lightly with flour.

In a standing mixer cream the butter and sugar on medium speed (I use the 4 speed on Kitchen Aid mixers) until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Gradually pour the egg mixture into the butter while mixing until well blended. Add the bananas (the mixture will appear to be curdled, so don’t worry), and remove the bowl from the mixer.

With a rubber spatula, mix in the flour mixture until just incorporated. Fold in the nuts and transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Bake for 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean. Cool the bread in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Turn the bread out of the pan and let cool completely on the rack. Wrap in plastic wrap or place in a cake dome. The banana bread is best if served the next day.

 

Recipe adapted from The Food Network

 

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Chicken Skewers with Walnut Pesto

 

A few weeks ago I went to an event with my sisters and co-workers.  It was a nice relaxing night with my girls and a glass, or two, of wine…my kind of night!  The only thing that made it better was the delicious food.  Nadia G. from the show “Bitchin’ Kitchen” on the Cooking Channel was there to promote her new cookbook “Cookin’ for Trouble”.

Nadia did a demo of some of her new recipes but the one the impressed me most was her Chicken Skewers with Walnut Pesto.  Such a simple recipe that packs a ton of flavor.  I didn’t want to seem greedy but…whatever these skewers are awesome and you should make them now.

Normally pesto is made with pine nuts  and olive oil but this recipe calls for walnuts and walnut oil.  It gives the pesto a more mellow flavor in my opinion but I think I’ll try a more traditional pesto next time.  Before this event I’d only seen Bitchin Kitchen a few times. I’m more of a Barefoot Contessa on a Saturday morning kind of girl.  But after trying some of the recipes in her new cookbook I am officially a fan of Nadia G.

Ingredients

For Pesto:

2 cups of basil, packed
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup walnut oil
1/4 cup Parmesan, grated
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Freshly cracked black pepper

For Chicken skewers:

1 1/2 lbs chicken breast, cubed
12 cherry tomatoes
9 pearl onions, cut in half
Sea salt
Garlic powder
Freshly cracked black pepper

Directions

Making the pesto: In the processor, pulse basil, walnuts, garlic, and walnut oil until combined. Add Parmesan and olive oil, and pulse again.  Season with sea salt to taste.

Making the chicken skewers: Soak the wooden skewers in water for 1 hour. Onto each skewer, alternately thread chicken, cherry tomatoes and onions; repeat until skewer is full.

Brush the prepared skewers with olive oil, and season with garlic powder sea salt and cracked black pepper.

Grill for around 5 minutes, turning regularly, until cooked. Slather with walnut pesto.

 ♥ Nina

Recipe adapted from Windy City Live with Nadia G.

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Nina’s Top 5 Halloween Treats

Since Halloween falls on my birthday month I’m usually very festive and happy around this time of the year!  I usually get into the mood but this year has been kind of hectic and I wasn’t able to make my own Halloween treats so I picked some of my favorites that you can still make in time to enjoy the holiday.  I did attempt to make some caramel apples but…let’s just say my microwave turned into a caramel nightmare so that idea was out!  Have a wonderful Happy Halloween NCJ Peeps!

♥ Nina

Pumpkin Patch Puffs from Table Spoon

 

Roasted Pumpkin Pasta from Annie’s Eats

 

Caramel Apples from Paula Deen

 

Crisp Candy-Corn Treats from Martha Stewart

 

Candy Corn Martinis from The Slow Roasted Italian

 

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Corn Flour Cupcakes with Raspberry Buttercream {and Cookbook Giveaway!}

Hello NCJ Peeps!

Here is the winner of the Quick & Easy Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Food book giveaway:

#6 Jenna Z: “Wow, favorite veg dish of any kind?! I am a huge fan of dal, especially a red lentil dal spiced with cumin and garam masala. Yummy!”

Congratulations! (I will be also notifying you by email.)

And thank you to everyone for sharing their favorite veggie dishes!

♥ Nina

The Giveaway:


 

I am so proud of my friend, Alicia Simpson, for putting out her third cookbook this year!  So in honor of her latest achievement I will be giving away a copy of her latest cookbook: Quick & Easy Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Food.  Alicia and I go way way back to our college years.  We stayed in the same dorm right down the hall from each other and I distinctly remember some late night shenanigans that will go down in history, and stay there, LOL!  One day while I was perusing Facebook I saw her status update.  I was pleasantly surprised to see her writing her own line of vegan cookbooks and even though I’m not vegan the pictures had me drooling!  I was intrigued.

So what’s this book about?

150 satisfying, flavorful, all-new recipes to enjoy from breakfast to dinner and anytime in between. However you define “comfort food,” Alicia’s got you covered with down-home Southern standards, Tex-Mex fiesta favorites, backyard BBQ fare, ole-fashioned one-dish meals, riffs on classic takeout—and a few surprises destined to become new standbys.

And they do not lie.  It’s all that and more!  I love how Alicia uses fresh ingredients to make comforting food that is pretty much guilt free (think Baked Hush Puppies, Sweet Potato Salad, Carolina BBQ Sammich, Butter Rum Pound Cake, Mexican Hot Cocoa and more).  The recipes are easy to follow and the flavors and textures almost leap straight off of the page.   I am sincerely excited to make more recipes from her fabulous book, and I’m also excited that 1 lucky reader will win their own copy!   But, let’s talk more about the recipe I made to share with you, these Corn Flour Cupcakes with Raspberry Buttercream. . .

First, let me start by saying that I love meat and really enjoy eating it (ok that came out wrong) but you get what I’m saying!  Secondly, if you’re like me you’re probably wondering what the heck is the difference between vegans and regular vegetarians.  Well according to Wikipedia:

A dietary vegan is one who abstains from including animal products (not only meat and fish, but also dairy products, eggs and often honey, as well as other animal-derived substances) from his/her diet.

That being said you don’t have to be a vegan to enjoy vegan recipes!!  Amazing I know, but so true.  I will admit I was a skeptic but after trying some of the recipes in Quick & Easy Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Food I am a changed woman!  I had a hard time deciding what to cook for this post because there was so much that I wanted to try.  After a lot of debate I settled on Corn Flour Cupcakes with Raspberry Butter cream Frosting.  Sounds good, right?  Right!  The cupcake was delicious but the real star is the frosting.  Light and fluffy with a hint of raspberries (or more if you want).  I will be using this on my non-vegan cupcakes in the near future.  Every time I ate one of these cupcakes all I had to tell myself was this is only 178 calories!   I was sold.

Here are the details and how to enter this giveaway:

1. Leave a comment and tell me, “What is your favorite vegetarian dish?”

2. For an extra entry, tweet: ”I want to win a copy of @VeganGuineaPig’s book from @NinasCooking!” Simply come back here and leave a comment telling me you tweeted.

3. Contest ends Sunday, October 28th, 2012 at 11:59 pm (EST) and winner will be selected using random.org and notified by email and announced here on the blog. You must leave a valid email address (will not be displayed) in your entry.

4. One entry per person, please (or two, with tweet). *Your comment may not appear at first, but it’s there.

*Prize courtesy of The Experiment Publishing. Contest is open to US and Canadian residents only.  This is the third in a series of cookbooks by Alicia, check out Quick & Easy Vegan Comfort Food and Quick & Easy Vegan Celebrations.

Good luck, everyone!

Now, here’s the recipe, shared with permission and as written in the book:

Ingredients

For corn flour cupcakes:

3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 cup corn flour (can be found in the organic section)
3/4 cup confectioners sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup plain almond milk
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup plain soy yogurt  (can be found in the organic section)

For raspberry buttercream frosting:

1 tbsp vegetable shortening
1 tbsp Earth Balance margarine, softened
1 tbsp raspberry jam or preserves
1/8 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup confectioners sugar

Directions:

For corn flour cupcakes:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin pan with paper liners.  Stir together the all-purpose flour, confectioners’ sugar, baking powder and salt until combined.  Add the shortening, milk vanilla and yogurt and beat with an electric mixer at medium speed, scraping the mixture from the sides often, until just blended.

Divide the batter equally among the lined muffin cups.  Bake for 20 to 22 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.  Let cool.

For raspberry buttercream frosting:

Beat together the shortening, margarine, jam and almond extract with an electric mixer until thoroughly combined.  Add the confectioners’ sugar and whip until smooth.  Frost the cooled cupcakes using all the frosting.

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Grilled Cheese with Sautéed Onions and Bacon

I’ve heard from several people that Americans really love our cheese.  If you think about it we put cheese on almost everything from tacos, pasta, pizza, broccoli…I could go on but you get it, right? My mom even puts cheese on her pound cake but that’s a whole other story!  So I could resist posting one of my favorite but simple recipes, perfect when you’re hungry but don’t want to make a lot of fuss.

 

I love grilled cheese and think it can be made into almost any type of sandwich.  I’ve even talked myself into thinking it’s healthy.  Hey if I use whole wheat bread, low fat cheese and margarine then I feel justified.  Don’t judge me, lol.  I even ordered it when I went on a date recently…a girl’s gotta eat!

What’s your version of the perfect grilled cheese sandwich?  Please share in the comments below 🙂

Ingredients

4 slices thick cut bacon

1/2 yellow onion, sliced

6 slices Colby Cheese

4 slices bread

2 tbsp butter, room temperature

Directions

Heat a saucepan over medium high heat and cook bacon until crisp but not burnt.  Place bacon on paper towels to drain and set aside.  Pour out the bacon fat from the saucepan but leave a bout a tablespoon.  Add onions to bacon fat and cook over low heat until onions are translucent with a brown color, set aside.

Butter each slice of bread on one side.  Build the sandwich by using one slice of bread, cheese, onions, bacon, cheese and bread on top.  Cook sandwiches until each side is crisp with a golden brown color.

*An NCJ Original*

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Late Night Baking Party – Cheddar Chive Cornbread

The first Late Night Baking Party on Nina’s Cooking Journey was a huge success!  There were submissions from several bloggers and NCJ Peeps and I cannot thank you all enough for joining me in this weird experiment of mine.  All the recipes looked amazing and I can’t wait to try some of them myself.  I even Ustreamed during the party and got to know some of you all a little better and hopefully you got to know me.  I will definitely be hosting another party so if you have any ideas for a fun virtual party please let me know!  I wasn’t able to share all of the posts but here are some of the recipes from some of my favorite blogger friends.  Feel free to check out a few more posts from NCJ Peeps on my Facebook Page.  A big thanks to you all…you rock!

 

Banana Pumpkin Nutella Bread from Christine’s Kitchen Chronicles

 

Old Fashioned Apple Crisp with Caramel Sauce from Noshing with the Nolads

 

Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes from Tortillas and Honey

 

Maple Bacon Busciuts from Dixie Chik Cooks

 

Chickpea Chocolate Cupcakes from I Breath…I’m Hungry


Apple Spice Cake from Cooking with Elise

 

And finally, my contribution Cheddar Chive Cornbread.  My mom makes THE BEST cornbread from scratch and usually doesn’t deviate from her recipe.  So I was extremely surprised when she put this on the dinner table one night.  I thought it would be perfect with the Spicy Chili I made the other week and I was right.  It adds a Tex-Mex feel to a traditional southern dish.

 Ingredients

1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 3 tbsp yellow cornmeal
3 tbsp plus 2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp baking powder
1¼ tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 tbsp light corn syrup
1¼ cups buttermilk
¾ cup unsalted butter (1½ sticks), melted over low heat and set aside
½ cup sliced scallions (about ¼ inch wide)
4 oz. sharp yellow cheddar, shredded (use more if you prefer)

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a medium-size mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients.  Using a separate medium-size bowl, whisk together wet ingredients.   Slowly add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, whisking well to combine.  Add melted butter to the batter, stirring slowly to incorporate.  Finish by folding in chopped scallions and cheddar cheese.

Grease a 9-inch cast-iron skillet with 1 tablespoon of butter and then pour in batter.  Bake until edges are a little crispy and top is golden brown, about 60 minutes.

Remove from oven and place skillet on a cooling rack.  The cast iron retains its heat and will continue to cook the cornbread.  Let cool a bit before serving to allow the cornbread to set.

Recipe adapted from Garden & Gun

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Spicy Chili

I’ve been waiting all summer to try out this recipe.  It’s not that I don’t like the summer, but I love all the delicious food that reminds me of Fall….like Spicy Chili!  This chili is spicy, hence the name, but it won’t burn you tongue off and have you running to the water faucet.  Feel free to add more (like my Dad does) or less cayenne or chili powder depending on your preference.  I really like this recipe because you can get a lot of bang for your buck.  The ingredients are not expensive and if you are feeding a large crowd it will feed about 12 with room for leftovers.  Or in my case my family of 6 six had leftovers for an entire weekend…and no we did not get tired of eating chili, lol.

Thanks to one of my NCJ Peeps, James G., for suggesting I post this.  I aim to please!

Yield: Serves about 12

Ingredients

2 pounds ground beef chuck
1 pound spicy turkey Italian sausage
3 (15 oz) cans chili beans, drained
1 (15 oz) can chili beans in spicy sauce
2 (28 oz) cans diced tomatoes with juice
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1 large white onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 green jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
2 tbsp bacon bits
4 cubes beef bouillon
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp dried oregano
2 tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp hot pepper sauce
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp white sugar

Directions

Brown ground beef and turkey italian sausage in a large stock pot over medium-high heat.  Cook until just brown.  Pour out excess fat and return pot to stove and reduce heat to low.  Add the chili beans, spicy chili beans, diced tomatoes and tomato paste.  Stir until fully combined.

Add the onion, celery, green and red bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, bacon bits and bouillon.   Season with chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, oregano, cumin, hot pepper sauce, basil, salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika, and sugar.  Stir to blend, then cover and simmer for at least 2 hours , stirring occasionally.  If you have the time I suggest simmering for at least 4 hours, the longer the better.

Taste and adjust flavor with salt, pepper and/or Tabasco sauce.  Remove from heat and serve.  If you plan to refrigerate to serve the next day, allow the chili to cool to room temperature before placing in the refrigerator.  Garnish with oyster crackers, cheese, sour cream and scallions if desired.

 

Recipe adapted from All Recipes

 

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Devil’s Food Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache Frosting

You all know (or maybe you don’t, but now you do know) I LOVE chocolate so when I was trying to figure out what to make for my next post a light bulb went on right above my head.  Not literally but you know what I mean, lol.  Me and chocolate have a love / love relationship and it’s hands down my most favorite flavor of all time. From chocolate ice cream (what do you know about Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food?) to chocolate candy to chocolate cake; ok I think you get my point.

The ganache icing is the star on this cupcake.  I iced mine while the ganache was still warm by holding the cupcake upside down and swirling it in the bowl to create a thin layer of icing.  But if you like a thicker more substantial frosting simply refrigerate for about an hour, stirring every 5 minutes, to allow the frosting to thicken.  You will be able to frost your cupcakes just like you would with butter-cream.

Also, using coarse salt is very important.  I know it may seem counter intuitive but adding salt to sweet dishes actually brings out the sweet flavor.  When I ate these cupcakes every once in a while I got a little salty zing on my palate that made everything that much more yummy!  I will be making these at least once a month if only to satisfy the little chocolate monster inside of me.

Makes about 32 

Ingredients

For the cupcakes:

3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3/4 cup hot water
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream, room temperature
For the frosting:
1 pound good-quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 1/3 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup corn syrup
2 tbsp chocolate sprinkles for garnish
Directions
For the cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners.

Whisk together cocoa and hot water until smooth. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Melt butter with sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring to combine. Remove from heat, and pour into a mixing bowl. With an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat until mixture is cooled, 4 to 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
Add vanilla, then cocoa mixture, and beat until combined. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the sour cream, and beating until just combined after each.
Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three- quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool 15 minutes; turn out cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.
To finish, use a small offset spatula to spread cupcakes with frosting.
For the frosting:
Place chocolate in a large heatproof bowl. Bring cream and corn syrup just to a simmer over medium-high heat; pour mixture over chocolate. Let stand, without stirring, until chocolate begins to melt.  Beginning near the center and working outward, stir melted chocolate into cream until mixture is combined and smooth (do not over stir).
Refrigerate, stirring every 5 minutes, until frosting just barely begins to hold its shape and is slightly lighter in color. Use immediately (ganache will continue to thicken after you stop stirring).  Garnish with chocolate sprinkles.

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

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Salmon BLT Sliders with Chipotle Mayo

So I know I’ve been on a dessert kick and after last week’s peach series I felt like it was time for something with a little kick.  After much thought (and browsing on Pinterest) I found this awesome recipe.  I feel like I should have been making and eating this all my life!  I mean it has salmon which I love and bacon which makes EVERYTHING taste better.  Throw in some sauteed mushrooms that I had left over in my fridge and all I needed was a glass of wine and I was done.  Plus they’re so small and cute, how could you resist eating them?!

The Adobo sauce definitely adds some heat to these already yummy sliders.  Don’t be like me and try to taste the sauce by itself…it will burn your tongue off!  Mixing it with the mayo cools it down a bit but if you really like spicy food feel free to add more than the recipe calls for.  These sliders would be awesome to serve at a party.  Let your guests build their own and sit back and get all the glowing praise.   Or just eat them yourself…I won’t judge you.

 

makes about 6-8 sliders

Ingredients

1 pound raw skinless salmon

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tbsp olive oil

2 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into thirds

2 tomatoes, sliced

lettuce for topping

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 tbsp Adobo sauce (from a can of chipotles in adobo)

6 slider buns or dinner rolls, toasted if desired

Directions

Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat and add bacon. Cook until crispy and fat is rendered, then remove and let drain on a paper towel.

Preheat the broiler in your oven and place the top oven rack as close as it can go to the broiler. Cut the salmon in to squares pieces that fit the size of your buns.  Brush with olive oil, then cover both sides with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Place on a broiler pan (or nonstick baking sheet) and broil for 5 minutes. Gently flip and broil for about 5 minutes more.  Depending on the strength of your broiler you may need to place the oven rack lower (which is what I did).  Just keep a close eye on the salmon and if it is browning too fast move the rack down or lower the heat on your broiler.

In a small bowl, mix mayo with adobo until smooth. Spread some on each bun, top with a square of salmon, a slice of bacon, a tomato sauce and lettuce. I also topped mine with sautéed mushrooms and onions because I had extra in my fridge but feel free to leave off if you’re not a big mushroom fan.

Recipe adapted from How Sweet It Is

 

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