Monday, December 31, 2007

Looks just like the picture!!!

I was so darn proud of myself! I needed to make dessert for my Christmas gathering at my parents house. I saw the pretty peppermint ice cream cake in Cooking Light and thought I would give it a whirl. Now it looks scary & it kind of was. I started making it on Saturday for my Sunday dessert.

I baked the cakes & did the ice cream part Saturday morning. On Sunday morning, I put it all together and let it sit in the deep freeze for about 2 hours. I didn't get any "inside of the cake" pictures but I had to take pictures before we left our house in case anything happened to the cake in transit. I wanted proof!

Peppermint Ice Cream Cake
Cooking Light
Cooking spray
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
3/4 cup boiling water
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup egg substitute
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (about 6 3/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups low-fat peppermint ice cream (such as Edy's/Dreyer's Slow-Churned Light), softened ** I couldn't find this so I got white chocolate chip mint ice cream & added some red food coloring drops **
3 cups frozen fat-free whipped topping, thawed ** I used low fat, not fat free
1/8 teaspoon peppermint extract
8 peppermint candies, crushed

Preheat oven to 350°.
Coat 2 (8-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray. Line bottom of each pan with wax paper.

Combine cocoa, water, and butter, stirring with a whisk until blended. Cool.

Combine sugars in a large bowl, stirring well until blended. Add egg substitute; beat 2 minutes or until light and creamy. Add cocoa mixture, and beat for 1 minute.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to bowl; beat for 1 minute or until blended. Stir in vanilla. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake at 350° for 28 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes on a wire rack. Remove from pans. Wrap in plastic wrap, and freeze for 2 hours or until slightly frozen.

Spread ice cream in an 8-inch round cake pan lined with plastic wrap. Cover and freeze 4 hours or until firm.

To assemble cake, place one cake layer, bottom side up, on a cake pedestal. Remove ice cream layer from freezer; remove plastic wrap. Place ice cream layer, bottom side up, on top of cake layer. Top with remaining cake layer.

Combine whipped topping and peppermint extract, and stir until blended. Spread frosting over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle with crushed peppermints. Freeze until ready to serve. Let cake stand at room temperature 10 minutes before slicing.

And again, CL doesn't disappoint! Not only looked good but tasted good too!

Another Breakfast Bake

I am refusing to go to the grocery store until we start our diet, so that being said, I have enough for lunches & dinners, but breakfast, well that is tricky. I found some ham & swiss cheese and I had bread and some eggs.
Strata it is! Its the same recipe as here but instead of sausage & cheddar cheese, I used ham & swiss cheese.

And now we have breakfast for the week!

Cleaning Out The Fridge

In preparation for the "new years resolution" diet, I need to use up the food items in my house that we can not eat. I absolutely hate throwing away food. Something about my mom telling me kids in Africa are dying of hunger. Anyway, #1 on the list of things you can no longer eat, heavy cream. :( My friends would tell you that I am the only person they know who cooks with heavy cream. I don't do it often but there are times its called for. Like in Vodka Sauce. I don't know that I would ever make this with milk or half and half.
This recipe is from Williams-Sonoma. I added the shrimp at the last minute since it was already pre-cooked.

Penne Alla Vokda Sauce
5 large tomatoes ** I didn't have any fresh tomatoes, so I used a 14.5 oz can and drained it well
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
1/4 cup vodka
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 lb. penne
1/2 cup heavy cream
Leaves from 3 or 4 large fresh flat-leaf parsley
sprigs, coarsely chopped

Peel and seed the tomatoes, then cut them into small dice. If the tomatoes are very juicy, drain them for about 10 minutes in a colander. Set aside.

In a large fry pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic and sauté until just starting to turn golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the stovetop and add the vodka. Return the pan to medium heat and cook until reduced by half. Add the tomatoes, salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Generously salt the boiling water, add the pasta and cook until al dente (tender but firm to the bite), 10 to 12 minutes. Drain well and add the pasta to the fry pan.

Add the cream and cook, stirring, over medium heat until the pasta is well coated with the sauce, about 2 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Pour into a warmed large, shallow bowl. Add the parsley and toss briefly. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Happy Retirement!

My Hubs boss is retiring in a few days. Don't we all wish we could trade places with him?? He has been asking me to make some cheeseballs & crackers since I brought some snacks in a few weeks ago. With the holiday parties/Christmas/shopping, I hadn't had time. He so kindly reminded me on Monday, he only has 6 days left of work. (I needed to get to mixin!)

I snagged this recipe from & realized the ingredients are easily switchable.

Standard Cheeseballs
2 pkg. (8 oz. each) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened 1 pkg.
(8 oz.) KRAFT Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1 tsp. garlic powder
Dash ground red pepper (cayenne)
1/4 cup chopped roasted red peppers
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1-2/3 cups PLANTERS Chopped Pecans

BEAT cream cheese, shredded cheese, garlic powder and ground red pepper until well blended. Divide in half. Add roasted red peppers to one half and green onions to the other half; mix each half until well blended. Cover.
SHAPE into a large ball. Roll in pecans. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Since I wanted to make two different kinds of cheeseballs I only used 1 8oz package cream cheese, 4 oz of cheddar cheese & pinches of the seasonings. I omitted the roasted red pepper b/c I didn't have the time or patience to roast a pepper & in this particular cheeseball, I omitted the onions.
For my second cheeseball I made it with 8 oz 1/3 less fat cream cheese, about 4 oz Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, a little milk, (like 1 tsp) & the green onions.
I served them with Ritz crackers. Had I known how simple they were, I would have made these ages ago! I am sure they will be making some party appearances soon.

Now, I did receive a "photo-tent" for Christmas
I haven't gotten my external light source set up so I haven't had a chance to use it yet. When I do, I am sure I will be beaming!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Tres Leche Cake (Three Milk)

We tasted this amazing cake for the first time in Maui earlier this year. The hubs asked the caterer what this delicious cake was & even asked her for the recipe so we, or I should say I, could make it at home. Its been on the "must make" list for awhile, but I just hadn't made the time. So I asked the hubs "Chocolate Molten Cake or Tres Leche?" Winner: Tres Leche.

I will say I was worried about making this. When the food network difficulty rating is "Expert" I start to worry. I will say, I would never had made this without my Kitchen Aid. I don't think I could have stood still long enough to beat the eggs to their nice peaks.

6 large eggs, separated
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cream topping:
1 14-ounce can evaporated milk
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup heavy cream

To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease and flour a 9 by 13-inch baking dish and set aside. (I used a smaller rectangle pan & a muffin tin, b/c I wanted individual cakes for presentation)
In the bowl of a mixer, beat the egg whites on low speed until soft peaks form. Add the sugar gradually with the mixer running and peak to stiff peaks. Add the egg yolks 1 at a time, beating well after the addition of each.

Sift together the flour and baking powder and add to the egg mixture, alternating with the milk. (Do this quickly so the batter does not lose volume.) Add the vanilla. Bake until golden, 25 minutes.

To make the cream topping: In a blender, combine the evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream and blend on high speed.

Remove the cake from the oven and while still warm, pour the cream mixture over it. Let sit and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight.

Now some recipes have you use a light frosting for the top. In Maui, we had whipped cream. I hadn't ever made my own whip cream, but with the leftover heavy cream I had, I thought, why not? I looked for a Giada recipe, knowing I had seen her on TV last Wednesday making her own whipped cream & saying how easy it was. And she was right, it was easy and delicious!

Homemade Whipped Cream
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 teaspoons confectioners' sugar

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the heavy cream until soft peaks. Add the vanilla extract and confectioners' sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks.

*I"ll definitely be using this recipe for future desserts.

I put the whipped cream into a zip-loc bag, cut off a small piece of the corner & topped the Tres Leche cake.

Our First Married Christmas

This was the hubs & my first Christmas as a married couple. Yes, we have lived together for 2 previous Christmases, but this one was different. Last year, we were skimpy on the presents since we were getting married 4 months later, plus we spent most of the time driving from North KC to West Topeka to South KC. I had worried that with Christmas falling on a weekday, we would be super stressed out, but it turned out great. We started our own Christmas tradition of Christmas Eve together. (take note family, this is going to be our Christmas from here on out)
In the tradition of Christmas dinners, I decided to go with a nice lamb chop. Its amazing, but Sam's Club has the best selection of meats/poultry/seafood. We picked up some lamb loin chops for our dinner. I marinated them in a little olive oil, S&P and rosemary.
In the meantime, we opened stockings & snacked on Italian Cheese Fondue. I thought this would go well with the bottle of Port Santa left the hubs. However, something about that smelly Gruyere cheese turned us off to it. The pancetta was great and the fontina, but the gruyere made the cheese just have a funk to it.

Next up was the main meal. I had researched a lot about lamb chops & how to sear/grill/cook them. We transported our rosemary bush into the house before the first freeze, so I have fresh rosemary and the combo sounded wonderful. This was so easy! As I mentioned above, I marinated them for about 2 hours. In a heavy cast iron skillet, heat 2 Tbs butter until bubbly. Place lamb chops in the pan, pour the marinade into the pan. Sear each side 3-5 minutes.

With this, I made some garlic roasted red potatoes. Another delicious side, but not time consuming at all. We received some garlic olive oil from our fave winery, Viansa, so I just cut up a few red potatoes, tossed them with the olive oil & spread them out, single layer, on a cookie sheet. Placed in a 425F, preheated oven & roasted for about 30 minutes.

I also made Tres Leche Cake, but will post that separately. I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Turtle Cheesecake

I needed to make some desserts for my husband's family Christmas. I still have 1 1/2 bags of pecans in my pantry & cream cheese was on sale at the grocery store. Oh I also still have about 2 lbs of caramels in my pantry. So, turtle cheesecake it is!
Now I have attempted to make my own cheesecake crust in the past. I usually end up frustrated, but it tastes good. However, with the minimal time I had, and three desserts to cook, I nixed making my own crust and went with the pre-made kind.

So the original recipe is from Kraft. I'll put my notes at the bottom.

Ultimate Turtle Cheesecake is not cooperating with me, so I will post the recipe later.

*When using premade crusts, this will make enough for almost 2 cheesecakes. I did end up adding one more 8 oz bar of cream cheese, 1/4 cup of sugar and 1 tsp of vanilla so my second cheesecake would fill up. And in case of "spillage" I cook the cheesecakes on a baking sheet.

Ragin Cajun Jambalaya!

This is such a simple, yet delicious meal. I made it last year sometime & just kept forgetting about it. I like my jambalaya with shrimp and smoked sausage, but you can do chicken and sausage, like the recipe calls for. I will say, ro-tel is hot when not mixed with Velevetta. Yowser! The original recipe is from Ro-Tel, but I have changed it a bit so I'll just say, its mine.

Rajin' Cajun Jambalaya
1 pkg smoked sausage, cut into slices
approximately 2 cups shrimp cooked, with no tails
1 medium onion chopped
1 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans of Ro-Tel original
1 14 oz can tomato sauce
13-14 oz of chicken broth
4 servings of prepare minute rice

In a large saucepan, drizzle with olive oil and saute the onions & garlic. Add the sausage, ro-tel, tomato sauce & chicken broth; bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer, add prepared rice. Let simmer for about 20 minutes. Add shrimp about 5 minutes before you are ready to serve, otherwise it will come out chewy.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Oh the holidays..

One would think that it being the holidays, we bakers/cookers would be in heaven. Lots of parties/events to cook & bake for and all. Well, not so much for me. I have been crazy busy & haven't had time to do a lot of cooking and, most of all baking. The parties I have attended, I have made apps, mostly things I have made before, so no need to blog about them. I have blogged about some of my baking. I went on a cooking frenzy and had so many leftovers, I wasn't allowed to cook anymore. And then came this week.
The Hubs and I didn't have much going on this week. A few nights of baking & cooking seemed to be in order. Until Monday afternoon, when some super flu bug hit us. Not only the hubs & I, but close to 10 other people at a party we attended on Saturday night. YUCK! Thankfully, we have recovered, but last night was the first night we were actually going to attempt a real meal. As in, not Sprite & saltine crackers or ramen soup. I had all the fixens' for jambalya, but I didn't think that was a good idea. Comfort food sounded best. So meatloaf, mashed potatoes with brown gravy & corn it was.

Now I don't think meatloaf takes a pretty picture. I mean, how could it, its ground beef & some form of tomato sauce/paste/ketchup. For example:
My picture:

FoodNetworks Picture:

Courtsey of Paula Deen

Now whose looks more appetizing? I am going to be bias and say mine.

Here is the recipe, we received it from our local wine shop in their monthly newsletter. It is said to be their highest rated & most requested recipe ever sent out. (Cellar & Loft)
Brown Sugar Meatloaf
1/2cup brown sugar
1/2 cup ketchup
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 tsp ground ginger
3/4 cup finely crushed saltine crackers

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 10" loaf pan. Press the brown sugar to the bottom of the pan. (You can use more here if you need to cover the pan) Spread ketchup over the sugar.
In a separate bowl, mix the remaining ingredients thoroughly. Shape into a loaf and place in pan. Bake for about an hour or until juices run clear.

*I added a little Worcester sauce as well, and my meat didn't really make a firm loaf so I just put it in the pan. I also cooked until the meat thermometer read 165.
Very different taste for meatloaf. It had nice crispy bottom from the brown sugar but was also very sweet and made the perfect "recovery" meal for the hubs & I.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What Happens when you don't have to cook dinner?

Well I don't know what to do with myself! Normally, we get home from work, change into comfy clothes, I start on dinner, the hubs starts on whatever "project" he has for the night. Well, since I have been cooking dinner since Friday, we have quite a few leftovers which meant, I wasn't allowed to cook dinner.
What to do, What to do...
Ah-ha! I had some buttermilk in the fridge that was going to spoil, I knew I bought it for a reason and that reason was, Ginger Spice Cake with Warmed Cranberry Sauce. I saw this in my Tyler Florence "Real Kitchen" cookbook. I think b/c it had molasses in it I thought I should make. Since the bourbon pecan tart called for 2 Tbsp and the hubs bought a giant jar, well, I need to use it in something!

Ginger Spice Cake with Warmed Cranberry Sauce
Tyler Florence "Real Kitchen"

Ginger Spice Cake
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp ground ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
1 egg
1/2 cup molasses
1 cup sugar
1/2 unsalted butter, melted
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350F. Coat a 9" round pan with nonstick cooking spray. Cut a circle of parchment to fit the bottom of the pan and place it inside, spray again. Set aside.

Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs, molasses, sugar & butter until thick. Gradually mix in the dry ingredients in 3 batches, alternating with the buttermilk. Beat for one minute after each addition to incorporate ingredients & strengthen the cakes structure. Mix until smooth

Pour the batter into the prepared pan & smooth down the top. Bake for about 35-40minutes or until wooden toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before removing from pan.

Warm Cranberries
2 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup dried cranberries
2 cups water
2 cups brown sugar, packed
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp nutmeg

While the cake is baking, combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Top cake slice with cranberry sauce & sprinkle with powdered sugar.
And we had a luncheon at work so I brought this along with my spinach & artichoke dip.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Risotto Follow Up

Thank you for all the tips on making risotto. The next time I am going to add another cup or two of broth & have it cook a bit longer. I'll keep you posted!!

Mexican Mondays

As I am sure many of you fellow cooks find, you have a 5 page document with "must try" recipes. I felt a little overwhelmed but I really wanted to try all these items. So to keep me in order, I determined Monday to be a mexican inspired dish, Friday to be fake out take out and then I can fill in the rest of the days. However, the last time I did mexican monday, well, it didn't turn out so well. I attempted empanadas and well, it didn't work out for me. (see post "a few failed attempts") Last night I was determined to get back on the Mexican Monday wagon. Since I still had chipotle peppers in adobe sauce, I wanted to use those.
I am came across this recipe on Cooking Light, of course. I made some changes & boy am I glad I did. I think it would have been pretty bland had I not. My changes are in green and probably made it not "light" anymore.

Chili & Cheddar Bow Tie Casserole
Cooking Light
1 (7-ounce) can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup diced Canadian bacon (about 2 ounces) ** I didn't have any so I used real bacon**
1 cup thinly sliced green onions
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 1/4 cups 2% reduced-fat milk ** I only used 1 cup**
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese, divided
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
8 cups hot cooked farfalle (bow tie pasta) or other short pasta
Cooking spray
** 1 can diced tomatoes**

Preheat oven to 400°.
Remove 1 teaspoon adobo sauce and 1 chile from canned chiles; mince the chile. Place remaining sauce and chiles in a zip-top plastic bag; freeze for another use.

**Here I cut the bacon into bite-sized pieces & cooked in a skillet. I drained the fat & placed the bacon on a paper towel to blot out extra grease**

Melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper ; sauté 4 minutes. Add onions; sauté 1 minute. Stir in the adobo sauce, minced chile, flour, chili powder, salt, and cumin; cook 1 minute. Gradually add milk; cook until thick and bubbly (about 4 minutes), stirring constantly with a whisk.
** Here I added the can of tomatoes to the milk mixture. I think it gave it much more flavor**
Remove from heat. Gradually add 1 1/2 cups cheese and cilantro, stirring until cheese melts. Add pasta to pan; toss well.

Spoon the pasta mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese over pasta mixture. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until browned.

** I just guessed on the spices, I wasn't sure how hot the adobe sauce would make it so I would add the spices, then taste, then add more spices. Also I think you could use different kinds of cheese, like monterey jack would be good in this. You could make this into a vegetarian dish by omitting the bacon as well. **

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sunday Dinner

I like to make something on Sunday that takes a bit of TLC. Its nice to cook & relax on a Sunday night. The Hubs was wrapping presents so I had some time to myself in the kitchen. I had a recipe for porcini mushroom risotto & bone-in pork chops were on sale at the store, nice 1 1/4" thick ones. So we had Parmesan pork chops & mushroom risotto. Well the risotto recipe I got from Williams-Sonoma I didn't totally read, really I just read the ingredients, then as I was cooking was like, huh? pressure cooker?? So I pulled out the risotto recipe I made awhile back & used its directions.

Porcini Mushroom Risotto

2 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
4 1/2 cups chicken stock, plus more as needed
1 cup water
8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 yellow onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups Carnaroli rice
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus
more for serving
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the mushrooms, 1 cup of the stock and the water. Bring to a simmer, then remove from the heat. Let soak for 30 minutes to soften. Drain the mushrooms, reserving the soaking liquid and discarding any sediment that falls to the bottom of the pan. Chop the mushrooms and set aside.

**This is where I started to use the Giada Risotto recipe, but I used some of the mushroom stock & chicken broth. HOWEVER, what am I doing wrong?? My risotto rice is always hard-not a nice soft rice, but crunchy. Really pissed me off since I spent $8 on 10 oz of porcini mushrooms!**

Parmesan Pork Chops

2 large eggs
1 cup dried Italian-style bread crumbs
3/4 cups freshly grated Parmesan
4 (1/2 to 3/4-inch thick) center-cut pork loin chops (each about 10 to 12 ounces)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons olive oil
Lemon wedges, for serving

Whisk the eggs in a pie plate to blend. Place the bread crumbs in another pie plate. Place the cheese in a third pie plate. Sprinkle the pork chops generously with salt and pepper. Coat the chops completely with the cheese, patting to adhere. Dip the chops into the eggs, then coat completely with the bread crumbs, patting to adhere.
Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a very large skillet over medium heat. Add pork chops, in batches if necessary, and cook until golden brown and the center reaches 150 degrees, about 6 minutes per side. Transfer the chops to plates and serve with lemon wedges

** I marinated the pork chops in a lemon & buttermilk sauce for about an hour to keep them from drying out. After pan frying the chops, I placed them in the over at 350 until my thermometer read 160. They were still pink, so I hope we don't get tapeworm. **

Icey Weather

So a nice ice storm came over the Mid-West this weekend. I knew it was coming but the news always makes it out to be worse than it will be "ICE STORM 2007!" Puh-lease, its just some ice & snow. But, alas, they were somewhat right.
I spent Friday night making some baked goodies for our annual girls Christmas Exchange. I didn't believe those silly meteorologists. So I made cream cheese brownies & peanut butter chocolate bars.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars

Southern Living
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 (16-ounce) box powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups vanilla wafers, crushed (about 45 cookies)
1 (12-ounce) package semisweet chocolate morsels
1/2 cup whipping cream

Beat butter and peanut butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until blended. Add powdered sugar and vanilla wafer crumbs; beat until blended. Press mixture evenly into a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking pan lined with wax paper.
Stir together chocolate morsels and whipping cream in a medium saucepan over low heat until melted and smooth. Spread evenly on top of peanut butter mixture. Chill 1 hour or until firm.

Remove from refrigerator, and let stand at room temperature 10 minutes or until slightly softened. Cut into 48 bars.

**These were great b/c they are no bake!! I put them in the wrong size dish so they were really thick, but still soooo good**

Cream Cheese Brownies
Cooking Light, December 2007
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (about 6 3/4 ounces)
2 cups sugar, divided
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, divided
2 large eggs
Cooking spray
1/2 cup (4 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1 large egg white

Preheat oven to 350°.
Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, 1 3/4 cups sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Place butter and chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave at HIGH for 45 seconds or until melted, stirring once. Combine milk, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and eggs, stirring well with a whisk. Add chocolate mixture and milk mixture to flour mixture; beat with a mixer at medium speed until blended. Spoon batter evenly into a 13 x 9-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray.

Place remaining 1/4 cup sugar, remaining 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, cheese, and egg white in a medium bowl; beat at medium speed until well blended using clean, dry beaters. Drizzle cheese mixture evenly over chocolate mixture; swirl batters together using the tip of a knife. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until batter begins to pull away from sides of pan. Cool completely on a wire rack.

**For a little twist on this, & to make it a bit more holiday-ish, I used 1/2 tsp vanilla & 1/4 tsp of peppermint extract. **

So those forecasters were right & the party was rescheduled, but I had these delicious goodies!! (Thank god I didn't make the snickerdoodles & macadamia nut cookies too) So my husband & my lucky co-workers got some holiday snacks!!

3 Cheese Frittata

This came from the Martha Stewart Blog and I think its been floating around the blog-o-sphere for a few days. I try my best to make a big breakfast on Sundays so the hubs & I have breakfast for the week. I am a HUGE fan of eggs, I would make them every morning if I could. That was the only upside to doing P90X earlier this year, eggs galore for breakfast!!!

Serves 8 – 10
Extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. small potatoes
4 small red onions thinly sliced
2 medium leeks washed and thinly sliced **We don't like leeks, so I used shallots**
1/4 tsp. paprika, salt and freshly ground pepper
2 slices white bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cloves garlic peeled and crushed
1 C. parsley, chopped
7 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 C. gouda, shredded ** Didn't have any gouda so I used extra sharp cheddar**
1/2 C. swiss, shredded
1/2 C. blue cheese, crumbled
In a large non-stick skillet with an ovenproof handle, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the potato slices and lightly brown on one side, about 3 minutes, then toss and lightly brown the other side. Add the onion to the skillet, toss with the potatoes, and sauté for a few more minutes until the onions are soft and translucent. Next, add the leeks and continue to sauté for about 5 minutes more.

Season with the paprika, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste, then transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Return the skillet over medium heat and add 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the bread cubes and the garlic and toss until the bread is lightly browned and crispy on all sides. Add the bread, parsley, and eggs to the sautéed vegetables. Meanwhile, heat 2 more tablespoons of olive oil in the skillet and when nice and hot, pour this egg mixture into the pan. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top and cook over medium heat for about 5 to 6 minutes until a thin crust forms on the bottom and sides.

Place the skillet in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes. Check the consistency and continue baking until the eggs are just set. Invert the omelet onto a large cutting board and slice into wedges to serve.
I think my next frittata I will omit the bread & add more cheese. The bread made it taste like a strata & I really wanted more of a baked omelet feel.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Bourbon Pecan Tart

I swear Cooking Light is the best thing ever!! Why would you make a full fat dessert when you have an even more delicious one with a Cooking Light recipe?? the hubs boss was selling pecans for some fundraiser, so we picked up 2 bags & I wanted to make a pie or something. I had never made pecan pie so this was going to be an experiment.

Bourbon Pecan Tart with Chocolate Drizzle
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup dark corn syrup
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons bourbon
2 tablespoons molasses
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 large egg white
2/3 cup pecan halves
1/2 (15-ounce) package refrigerated pie dough (such as Pilsbury)
Cooking spray
1/2 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 350°.
Combine first 10 ingredients, stirring well with a whisk. Stir in pecans. Roll dough into a 13-inch circle; fit into a 9-inch removable-bottom tart pan coated with cooking spray. Trim excess crust using a sharp knife. Spoon sugar mixture into prepared crust. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until center is set. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Place chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave at HIGH 1 minute. Stir until smooth. Drizzle chocolate over tart.

12 servings (serving size: 1 wedge)

Nutritional Information
CALORIES 277(32% from fat); FAT 10g (sat 2.7g,mono 3g,poly 1.5g); PROTEIN 2.4g; CHOLESTEROL 39mg; CALCIUM 32mg; SODIUM 156mg; FIBER 0.7g; IRON 0.9mg; CARBOHYDRATE 45.2g

My husband was so excited to try this that I didn't even get a chance to drizzle the chocolate over the top. It was so good and I no longer fear the pecan pie!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Drewie + Nemmie=YUMMY

My two friends, Drewie & Nemmie created dinner for us tonight. I said "This is good" Hubs said "Don't use the g word, its yummalicious" then proceeded to tell me this was the best rabbit food he had ever had. So, what did we have??
Drewie's Gorgonzola Chicken Alfredo & Nemmie's Chopped Salad(with some adjustments)

I won't post the recipe, but the salad dressing was amazing, I will use it again for sure. I omitted the pasta & chicken, since we were already having that in the main dish. And I didn't add green onions b/c we don't like raw onions.

Drewie's Gorgonzola Chicken Alfredo

2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts2 cups cooked penne pasta
1 pkg sliced baby bella mushrooms
1 jar Alfredo sauce (or you make your own)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp Gorgonzola cheese crumbles
1 Tbsp butter

Cook the pasta according to directions.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Season the chicken with some S&P, saute in olive oil until done, then cut into strips. I cut into strips first then sauteed them. Remove from pan.
Saute mushrooms in the same pan you cooked the chicken in, until deep brown color. Remove mushrooms from pan.
Melt butter in the pan & add garlic. Cook until tender.
Add Alfredo sauce to the butter & garlic, add Gorgonzola cheese and stir until the cheese is completely melted.
Stir everything together & pour into casserole dish.
Bake for 20 mins.
On a side note, I can not wait to get my photobox so my pictures don't look yellow! Eating in the midwest any time after 5pm means no natural light, so my pictures are looking yellow :-(

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Cheese & Sausage Strata

My husband & I really like warm breakfast, cereal won't do in our house. It causes a few issues though, either we eat out for breakfast because their isn't enough time to make something, or I get up extra early and, well, that makes for a bad day for me. Normally, I try to cook some kind of breakfast bake on the weekend so the Hubs & I have something for the week to take to work, but not being home on the weekends, I had to make time last night. Well actually, last night & Tuesday night.

This is a recipe from my awesome aunt Kathy. She made this a few years ago at our holiday family get-together brunch, so I snagged the recipe. You need to plan in advance for this, as the strata has to sit overnight in the fridge.

Cheese & Sausage Strata
For a 6x9 Pyrex dish
10 oz sharp cheddar cheese grated
6 slices white bread cubed
6 eggs
2 cups milk
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp dry mustard
Scant ¼ cup melted butter (melt it)
1 package of breakfast sausage

Dry bread crumbs in 250 oven. In a skillet, cook the sausage thoroughly. Make sure to drain off the fat or your strata will come out greasy. Grease casserole dish. Place bread, cheese & sausage in 2 layers of each. Beat eggs, add milk, salt and mustard and pour over the layers. Pour melted butter over all. Refrigerate overnight. Bake at 350 oven for 1 hour or until fully cooked.
When this cooled I separated it into individual portions so the hubs & I could just pick one up on the way out the door. This morning, it was wonderful after heating in the microwave for about 45 seconds.

Ode to Chicken

You will see a theme this week with my cooking. Its my "ode to chicken" I was looking through my "fall recipes to try" document & had a ton of chicken recipes. Knowing that we had eaten poorly the past two weeks & we are not working out, chicken is probably the best option for dinner to keep us for ballooning out.

Chicken with Goat Cheese Sauce & Roasted Fall Veggies

Chicken with Goat Cheese Sauce
Cooking Light
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
4 thyme sprigs
1/4 cup (2 ounces) soft (log-style) goat cheese
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

Place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/2-inch thickness using a meat mallet or rolling pin. Sprinkle chicken evenly with salt and pepper.
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add chicken; cook 6 minutes on each side or until done. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm. (I didn't pound them out this time since I had just done that last night, cooking took a bit longer, but to keep them moist I added a little white wine to the pan)

Add wine to pan; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Cook until mixture is reduced to 1 tablespoon (about 1 minute). Add broth and thyme sprigs; cook until mixture is reduced to 1/2 cup (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat; discard thyme sprigs.

Add cheese to pan; stir with a whisk until smooth. Serve sauce over chicken; sprinkle with thyme leaves.

Yield 4 servings (serving size: 1 chicken breast half and about 3 tablespoons sauce)

Roasted Fall Vegetables
Found on Good Things Catered, originally from Williams-Sonoma
Deep Roasted Fall Vegetables

1 lb. small white onions, each about 1 1/4 inches in diameter
3 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 lb. carrots, peeled and cut crosswise into 1-inch slices (about 1 cup)
4 cups broccoli florets (from 1 large bunch) I omitted these & used zucchini
1 lb. yellow summer squash, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh marjoram
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
I also added about 3 potatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces

-To peel the onions, bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat.
-Trim off the top and root ends and make a small X in the root end. Drop onions into the boiling water.
-When it returns to a boil, drain the onions, plunge them into cold water and drain again.
-Slip off the skins.
-Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 500°F.
-Coat the bottom of a heavy 18-by-13-inch roasting pan with the olive oil.
-Add the onions and shake the pan to coat them with the oil.
-Roast for 7 minutes.
–Shake the pan to turn the onions over, then move them to the center of the pan.
-Surround the onions with the carrots, broccoli and squash and roast for 15 minutes more.
-Turn the vegetables over and roast until browned and tender, about 7 minutes more.
-Add the marjoram and roast for 3 minutes more.
-Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

Another dinner success. The goat cheese sauce was awesome, it had such a creamy smooth texture and the thyme paired very well with it. I did use more than the recipe calls for b/c I wanted it to be extra creamy.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Finally back in the kitchen!!!

And I couldnt be happier! The Hubs & I have been traveling for the past few weeks, so it didnt make sense go to the grocery store, but finally we are back for the remainder of the year, so let the cooking begin!!

Chicken in a Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce
From CookingLight
1 (8-ounce) jar oil-packed sun-dried tomato halves
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar **I added about 1 Tsp for an extra kick

Drain sun-dried tomatoes in a sieve over a bowl, reserving oil. Set aside 1 1/2 tablespoons reserved oil to cook chicken. Finely chop 1/4 cup tomatoes; set aside for sauce. Place remaining oil and tomatoes in sun-dried tomato jar; reserve for another use.
Place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/2-inch thickness using a meat mallet or rolling pin. Sprinkle chicken evenly with 1/8 teaspoon salt and pepper.

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons reserved oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add chicken; cook 6 minutes on each side or until done. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm.

Add chopped sun-dried tomatoes, 1/8 teaspoon salt, broth, oregano, and vinegar; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Cook until broth mixture is reduced to 1/2 cup (about 3 minutes). Serve sauce over chicken.

4 servings (serving size: 1 chicken breast half and 2 tablespoons sauce)

Also on the menu, risotto. I was going to make red-wine risotto, but since I had never attempted the risotto before, I decided to stick with the standard. Now, I wasn't ever intimidated by risotto, I just don't normally have the time to make it. I am a multi-tasker in the kitchen and my main dish (the meat) gets most of my attention when I cook. But, since I had been out of the kitchen for so long, it was so relaxing to stir the risotto for 45 minutes.

Red-Wine Risotto
From Giada
3 1/2 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup arborio rice, or medium-grain white rice
1/2 cup dry red wine **I used white wine
1/3 cup frozen peas, defrosted, optional
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus additional for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring the broth to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cover the broth and keep it warm over very low heat.
Melt the butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Stir in the rice and cook for about 2 minutes until the rice is toasted. Add the wine and stir until it is absorbed, about 1 minute. Add 3/4 cup of hot broth; simmer over medium-low heat until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 6 minutes. Repeat, adding 3/4 cup of hot broth 2 more times, stirring often, about 12 minutes longer. (At this point, the risotto can be made 4 hours ahead. Refrigerate the risotto (the rice will still be firm) and remaining broth, uncovered, until cool, then cover and keep them refrigerated until ready to proceed. )

Bring the remaining broth to a simmer, then cover and keep it warm over very low heat. Stir 3/4 cup of hot broth into the partially cooked risotto over medium heat until the broth is absorbed and the risotto is hot, about 3 minutes. Add the remaining broth and simmer until the rice is just tender and the mixture is creamy, about 5 minutes longer. Stir in the peas and parsley. Add the 1/2 cup of Parmesan. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Spoon the risotto into bowls. Sprinkle additional cheese over and serve.

This was a great welcome home, healthy dinner for the two of us who have been eating out for the past two weeks.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Roll Tide Roll

The hubs & I made a weekend trip to Birmingham this past weekend to visit friends we met on our honeymoon. Talk about a great time!! So before I get into the details of said trip, thanks for having us, even though I am a klutz :-)

Since we were visiting from the BBQ mecca of the US, we brought down some rubs & BBQ sauce from various KC Local places: Arthur Bryants, Oklahoma Joe's, Jack Stack & a few other places. This seemed quite appropriate seeing as my husband is a "Certified BBQ Judge" .

Saturday we hit up the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, football game & even though we were probably the bad luck charm (Losing to La. Monroe???) we enjoyed the game thoroughly. Hubs & I were in absolute awe at how large the stadium is. To give you an idea, Arrowhead seats about 80,000, this stadium sat about 93,000!!

Before leaving Tuscaloosa, our friends took us to Dreamland BBQ "Ain't nothing Like 'em Nowhere!" Hubs gave the ribs a 7 out of 9 for appearance, 9 out of 9 for texture 7 out of 9 for taste. Not too bad if I do say so!

Another local favorite we sampled, Milo's. They put some kind of sauce on the burger, almost like a spicy BBQ sauce. And you can't visit the south without having sweet tea.

And while I didn't take any pictures, Stefan made some great steaks for us on Sunday night.

So thanks again friends!! We can't wait for you to come up to KC.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Using up the produce

I had zucchini & some fresh tomatoes at home that I didn't want to go to waste while we were out of town. It was our last batch of garden fresh tomatoes & it would have been sad to toss them in the garden. I wanted to make something where the leftovers could be frozen since we are headed out for a few days. So I sliced up the zucchini, tomatoes & made a risotto-type of meal.

Heat about 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet. Add minced garlic, I used 2 cloves. Next add the sliced zucchini, I used 2. Saute until tender. In the mean time, cook about 4 servings of rice. I used brown rice, but you can use whatever.
When the zucchini are soft, add the tomatoes. Next add the rice, about 1 cup of chicken broth & some shredded parmesan cheese. Cook over low heat until creamy.

Mine turned out a little watery, i think b/c I didnt seed the tomatoes before I put them in. All in a good vegetarian dish!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Chicken Stew & Ranch Dumplings

The hubs & I are pretty busy for the next two weeks. We are going out of town for the next two weekends & turkey day,etc.. Well I refuse to shop & I want to use up the fresh produce in the house. I also wasn't feeling well so I wanted some Chicken Soup/Stew/Something.
I found a chicken stew recipe on Cooking Light, but adapted it to what I had at the house

Chicken Stew
4 chicken breasts, cut into bit sized pieces
Olive Oil
2 cups of red potatoes, cut into bite size pieces
1 cup celery, sliced
1 cup carrots, sliced
1/2 cup onions, diced
garlic powder
8 cups of chicken broth (low sodium)
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup corn
3/4 cup of water
1/4 cup of flour

Heat oil over medium heat in a large pot or dutch oven and add chicken. Cook until chicken is browned.
Add the next seven ingredients to the pot & mix well. Let the vegetables saute for about 5-7 minutes.
Add the broth, peas & corn & bring to a boil. Cook until potatoes are tender.
In a separate bowl, mix flour & water until no longer clumpy. Gradually add to the soup. Stir well.
Reduce heat to low & let the stew simmer.

For the dumplings, and this is where it gets funny, i used 1 cup of bisquick & 1/6 cup of ranch dressing & 1/6 cup of water. Now I did this b/c we had no milk in the house. The hubs though ranch was like milk so we should use it. Pretty funny, but it worked. (Note you should use 1/3 cup of milk to make the dumplings)
Drop about 8 balls of dough into the soup mixture. cook on low, uncovered about 10 minutes. Then cover & cook for an additional 10 mins.
Just what the doctor ordered!!

A little soiree

I had some friends over on Friday night. Its rare that I get to entertain so when I do I go all out. (Hint people, visit me more often!)

So yes, I made quite a bit of snacks. I really wanted to use some of the serving trays I got as wedding gifts so I based my snacks around those.

First was the 3 bowl serving tier:

On top, some homemade hummus, in the middle garlic & tyhme dip, and on the bottom a ratatouille dip. I served these with some garlic pita toasts.

Courtesy of Jill(who couldn't be present but was represented)
One 15oz. can garbanzo beans, drained
2 teaspoons bottle lemon juice
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon paprika
Bottle of wine

Pour a glass of wine. Puree the beans. They don’t have to be completely smooth: in fact a little
texture is a good thing. Drink some wine, so it doesn’t matter. In a bowl, mix the pureed beans
with the remaining ingredients. (If it’s too thick for you, add a little extra oil or some water.) Or
drink some more and you won’t care.
Garlic & Thyme Dip
Found on, orginally from Epicurious **
1 tablespoon (packed) fresh thyme leaves
1/2 garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 71/2-ounce package farmer cheese or one 8-ounce package cream cheese
1/4 cup sour cream

Blend first 4 ingredients in processor until garlic is finely chopped, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. Add cheese and sour cream; blend well. Season with more salt and pepper, if desired. Transfer to serving bowl; chill 30 minutes. (Dip can be made up to 1 day ahead. Cover; chill.)

Ratatouille Dip
I'll have to get back to you on this one. I can't remember where I found it.

Garlic Pita Toasts
Courtesy of Jill(who couldn't be present but was represented)
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
Three 6 inch rounds pita bread

Heat Oven to 350 Degrees. Drink more of the aforementioned wine. Pour the oil into a small
bowl, sprinkle with garlic powder, and stir. Brush the oil lightly all over the pita round. If you
don’t have a brush, just drizzle a little and rub with your fingers. You might be drunk at this point, so it may not matter in neatness.
Bake on baking sheet for about 10 minutes, or until the wedges have gotten crisp on top.
Finish off the bottle of wine.

Next a little anti-pasta platter
In the middle are some marinated olives, courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis, Everyday Italian
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cup Sicilian cracked green olives or other green olives
1 1/2 cup kalamata olives
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil

In a medium size heavy skillet, stir the oil, lemon zest and red pepper flakes over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat & stir in the olives. Add the lemon juice and basil, toss to coat. Transfer the olive mixture to a container. Cover and refrigerate to allow the flavors to blend, stirring occasionally, about 12 hours.
Bring the olive mixture to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Transfer the olive mixture to a small bowl & serve.

I also did a tier of bruschetta/crostini.

This was a basic tomato bruschetta: tomatoes, basil, garlic, olive oil, balsamic viniagrette. This was a roasted red pepper topping, I need to locate that recipe as well...

This was a sun-dried tomato & chickpea topping, From Giada, Everyday Italian
1 large garlic clove
1 (15.5 oz) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained & rinses
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained & coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil
1.4 cup fresh Italian parsley
Lemon zest for garnish

To Make Crostini: preheat oven to 375F. Place baguette slices in a single layer on a baking sheet, and lightly brush with oil. Toast in the oven until golden, about 8 minutes.

To Make Dip: Mince garlic in a food processor. Add the chickpeas, lemon juice, 2 Tbsp water, salt & pepper. Process until mixture is almost smooth. While the machine is running, gradually blend in the oil. Process mixture until completely smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add sun-dried tomatoes and the herbs. Blend until the tomatoes and herbs are finely chopped.

So this all looks like a lot right? Well the best part is all of it could be made the night before. All I had to do on Friday was put it on the serving trays and voila!
Thanks for the night of fun ladies!!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Dinner Made Easy

Last night I needed to make a quick dinner b/c I wasn't feeling well and I needed to do some prep work for a party on Friday. I had two chicken breast thawed out and decided to have chicken sandwiches with soup. (Sick=Soup)
I didnt just want to grill the sandwiches so I coated them in ranch powder. Oh my husbnad was sooo happy.

Anyway, after cooking the chicken in my grill pan, I sliced it up and made paninis that had the chicken, provolone cheese & fresh tomatoes.

I made Campbell's Tomato soup with this. Nothing like a little "Mmm Mmm Good" to make me feel better.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Baked Penne

This is what happens when you have a little bit of this and a little bit of that leftover in the fridge.

Last week we had spaghetti for dinner and I had some of the sauce leftover. I had some ricotta cheese in the fridge, some other shredded cheese and 2 italian sausages. I had some homemade marinara in the freezer so I pulled that out too. And voila

Delicious! I boiled the italian sausages & sliced them into bite size pieces. I cooked the corkscrew pasta until al dente. Then I combined the leftover spaghetti sauce, the marinara sauce, the ricotta cheese & other cheeses and the pasta in a bowl. Mix well. Place in a baking dish & cook at 350-375 for about 30 mins or until bubbly. I sprinkled the bake with more cheese and let it get nice and brown.

We also had a hlaf a loaf of french baguette, so I spread some butter & garlic powder on it, wrapped it in foil & placed it in the oven with the pasta bake.
So easy, great use of leftovers & delicious!

A few failed attempts

I am making this one blog entry even though it was actually 2 dinners. I wouldn't say they failed, but they didn't turn out how I was expecting them to. I am sure I did something wrong, b/c the girls I grabbed these recipes from have amazing success. So I won't totally rule out making these 2 items again, but it may be awhile before I attempt.

I had been wanting to try my hand at Crab Rangoon. I had a recipe from Tyler Florence, but after reading his, it called for mayo, not cream cheese, so I went on search for another. I snagged a recipe from Joelen.
I won't repost the recipe but I think my mistakes went as follows:
a) I should have filled all the wonton wrappers with crab mixture, then turned on the oil, then I could just work in batches.
b) I used dungress crab thinking it would be better, but it made it more fishy
c) My mixture was a little watery, I don't know why, but maybe the dungress crab did it.
Anyway, the hubs said he liked these, but they definitely didn't taste like the kind you get at the local Chinese Restaurant.

Next up was my hand at homemade empanadas. When we were in St. Lucia, my husband had a little treat he called a "beef fritter". After reading the empanada post from Ally,, I thought these sounded pretty close to these fritters he had had.

The filling was delicious! I used chicken breast that I seasoned with the spices she had put on her whole chicken, then I pan sauteed the breasts & let them cool. I went on the search at the store for the empanada dough- no dice. But I had a feeling this would happen so I researched and read that you could use pie dough. That I could find.

Well, the pie dough didn't hold together, and it definitely didn't fry quite right in the pan, basically they all fell apart. The hubs said, well I think its delicious, just b/c it doesn't look good doesn't mean its bad. I wasn't so worried about it looking good, but it did not look like Ally's at all.

Onto the rice recipe of Ally's. Eek. I should not be allowed to make any rice but minute rice. I can do minute rice pretty darn good. But I tried this long grain Mexican rice & well, after 45 mins of adding additional broth, tomato sauce, etc.. The rice was still crunchy. I have no idea what I did. But it did smell good while it was cooking.

So I post these here for two reasons: One, everyone has kitchen disasters but you won't learn from them if you don't at least try to make them. I think these were pretty ambitious recipes, but hey, I tried right? Two, tips for the next time I feel like I can make these??

Monday, November 5, 2007

Fake Out Friday

Back in the day, when the hubs & I were wedding planning, (ok yeah it was like 6 months ago) I decided that on Friday or Saturday, I would make a nice "gourmet" meal. Either a 4 course meal or maybe something we had had at a restaurant that I had been wanting to make at home. We were cutting back on "entertainment" costs to save for the wedding, but we discovered, most of the time, 80% of the time, what I made was almost better than what we had at restaurant.
So after entering the realm of the food blogs, I have discovered "Fake Out Take Out" and made on Friday, PF Changs Style Lettuce Wraps.

For the filling
3 Tbsp Oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup water chestnuts
2/3 cup mushrooms
3 Tbsp onions, chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
1 head iceberg lettuce
For the Special Sauce
1/4 cup of sugar
1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 Tbsp ketchup
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp hot mustard
2 Tsp water
1-2 tsp garlic or red-chili sauce I used Sriracha sauce
For the stir-fry sauce
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp rice wine vinegar

Make the special sauce by dissolving the sugar in water in a small bowl. Add soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ketchup, lemon juice and sesame oil. Mix well and refrigerate this sauce until you're ready to serve.
Combine the hot water with the hot mustard and set this aside as well. (I didn't do this, hubs doesn't like things spicy)
Eventually add your desired measurement of mustard and garlic chili sauce to the special sauce mixture to pour over the wraps.
Bring oil to high heat in a wok or large frying pan. Saute chicken breasts for 4 to 5 minutes per side or done. Remove chicken from the pan and cool. Keep oil in the pan, keep hot.
As chicken cools mince water chestnuts and mushrooms to about the size of small peas. (I used my pampered chef chopper, it worked perfectly.)
Prepare the stir fry sauce by mixing the soy sauce, brown sugar, and rice vinegar together in a small bowl.
When chicken is cool, mince it as the mushrooms and water chestnuts are.
With the pan still on high heat, add another Tbsp of vegetable oil.
Add chicken, garlic, onions, water chestnuts and mushrooms to the pan.
Add the stir fry sauce to the pan and saute the mixture for a couple minutes then serve it in the lettuce"cups".
Top with"Special Sauce".

These were great!!! I was going to make crab rangoons with them, but ran out of time. However, these alone were filling enough. Another successful Fake Out Take Out!