Sunday, October 24, 2010

Busy, Busy

Well, it's Fall around here, and that means we're crazy busy. I won't even admit to what my child has been eating for the last month because of the insanity. Let's just hope that his body doesn't go into some sort of shock the next time he actually gets a fruit or vegetable. Between going back to work, renovating the house, and being heavily involved in a major volunteer project, I see my house long enough to sleep - no time for cooking anything.

But - life calms down in about a week. The renovation will still be going strong, but I'll have my evenings back to be at home with the fam. I'm so ready for that. And, once the renovation is complete, this bad boy will be living in my kitchen:
I'm trying to decide what to make in it for the first meal. Any suggestions? I'm so looking forward to being in the kitchen again, and with the holidays right around the corner, it's the perfect timing!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Wheat Rolls

Things at our house have been crazy - we've been traveling to and fro quite a bit, but thankfully, we're home for a while now. I haven't had much time to be in the kitchen at all lately, and since the heat index has been 100 or higher for the last couple of weeks, I haven't wanted to cook anything.

After one of our farmer's market trips a couple of Saturdays ago, I decided to try a new wheat roll recipe with some of the fresh flour I'd bought. They were great alongside our veggie dinner, and I'll probably make them often.
Wheat Rolls
adapted from King Arthur Flour's Whole Grain Baking

1 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup orange juice
4 Tbps unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
3 Tbsp honey
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached AP flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
Heaping 1/2 cup dried potato flakes
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
2-3 Tbps unsalted butter, melted (for topping)
Combine all dough ingredients, and mix and knead them (by hand, mixer, or bread machine) until you have a medium-soft, smooth dough. Cover and allow to rise until quite puffy (not necessarily doubled), 1-2 hours.
Lightly grease a 9x13, 11-inch square, 12-inch round, or similar sized pan.
Gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly greased work surface. Divide into 16 pieces. Shape each piece into a ball. Place the balls into the prepared pan, spacing evenly; they won't touch one another. Cover the pan lightly with greased plastic wrap, and let rise for 1 1/2 - 2 hours. They'll become very puffy and reach out to touch one another. While the rolls are rising, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Uncover and bake the rolls until they're a mahogany-brown on top, but lighter colored on the sides, 18-20 minutes (book recommends 23-25 minutes, but that was too long). Remove from oven, and after 2-3 minutes, carefully remove to rack. Brush the hot rolls with melted butter. Serve warm or at room temp.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Strawberry Muffins

This week's IHCC theme is potluck. I really had no clue what I was going to make until a trip to the Farmer's Market this morning. We picked up some fabulous strawberries, as well as some freshly ground wheat flour. Muffins sounded like a good way to put them both to use.

I followed Bittman's basic muffin recipe, and added the extra sugar and cinnamon he suggests for blueberry muffins. I also substituted half of the AP flour with wheat flour, and it worked well. We really enjoyed these muffins.

Strawberry Muffins
Adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

3 Tbsp melted butter or canola or other neutral cooking oil, plus some for greasing the tins.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 egg
1 cup milk, plus more if needed
1 cup chopped fresh strawberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a standard 12-compartment muffin tin.

Mix together the dry ingredients in a bowl. Beat together the egg, milk, and butter or oil. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into it. Using a large spoon or rubber spatula, combine the ingredients swiftly, stirring and folding rather than beating, and stopping as soon as the dry ingredients are moistened. The batter should be lumpy, not smooth, and thick but quite moist. Add a little more milk or other liquid if necessary. Fold in the strawberries gently.

Spoon the batter into the muffin tins, filling them about two-thirds full and handling the batter as little as possible. Bake 20-30 minutes, or until the muffins are nicely browned and a toothpick inserted in the middle of one of them comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before removing from tin. Serve warm.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


This week's I Heart Cooking Clubs theme was Movie Night. I really wanted to do pizza, but since we've been traveling to and fro for what seems like forever, I didn't have time. Conveniently, I had a chocolate craving, and decided that I would go with the dessert for movie night.

Bittman's brownie recipe is fairly straightforward, which I like. It's not fancy-schmancy. There are no weird ingredients. I had a craving and 10 minutes later, these bad boys were in the oven baking. (On second thought, that might not be a good thing...)

His recipe is here. The only change I made was to add a 3rd egg - I prefer cakey brownies to fudgy/chewy brownies, so I always add an extra one of I'm just making them for us. I really liked these - they had a nice chocolate flavor with just enough sugar. This batter is also a nice base to add all kinds of add-ins or flavors.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Spicy Chicken Pita Wedges

This is an appetizer that I first found through a Junior League cookbook - A Sterling Collection - The Best of the Junior League of Memphis. I had to make it for my placement one year, and loved it. I fix it at least a few times a year, and it's always a hit.

Spicy Chicken Pita Wedges
Adapted from A Sterling Collection - The Best of the Junior League of Memphis

1-2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, boiled & chopped
12 ounces of cream cheese, softened
6-7 oz cheddar or monterey jack cheese, shredded
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup chopped red onion
3 green onions, sliced
1-3 Tbsp pickled jalapeno peppers, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground coriander
salt and pepper to taste
4 pita rounds

Combine chicken, cream cheese, shredded cheese, sour cream, onion, jalapeno, garlic, cumin, chili powder, coriander, and salt and pepper in a large bowl & mix well (this works well in a stand mixer).

Split the pita rounds horizontally and place on work surface, with cut side facing up. Spread the chicken mixture on the pitas. Cut each round into 8 wedges with a sharp pizza cutter and place the pita rounds on a nonstick baking sheet.

Bake at 375 degrees for 5-7 minutes, or until the chicken mixture is bubbly. Serve immediately.

Can garnish with things such as olives, green onions, shredded cheese, sour cream, cilantro, etc...

(The cream cheese mixture freezes well and can be made ahead of time. Just thaw in refrigerator.)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Light & Fluffy Pancakes

So glad to be back in the swing of things and cooking something for this week's I Heart Cooking Clubs - a breakfast recipe by Bittman. As I looked through the breakfast recipes in How to Cook Everything, nothing really jumped out at me, so pancakes it was.

Of course I couldn't just make pancakes. No... I had to get all healthy and try buckwheat pancakes. (There is a substitution note included with the recipe.) Not sure what bee flew up my bonnet at that moment, but it wasn't a good one. Pancakes aren't meant to be health food. The flavor was much too earthy for breakfast pancakes with syrup on top.

The texture was good, and I think if I had used white flour (or maybe half white/half wheat) they would have been fabulous. The addition of the fluffy egg whites makes them delish. So, all in all, I think this is a good pancake recipe - provided you enjoy your pancakes and don't try to get all health-nut-crazy with them.

Light and Fluffy Pancakes
Adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

1 cup milk (1 1/4 cup for buckwheat flour)
4 eggs, separated
1 cup all-purpose flour (or buckwheat)
dash salt
1 Tbsp sugar (2 Tbsp sugar if using buckwheat - although it doesn't help that much.)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
Butter for skillet

Preheat a griddle/skillet over medium-low heat while assembling the pancake batter.

Beat together the milk and the egg yolks. In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients. In a 3rd bowl, beat the egg whites with a whisk or electric mixer until stiff, but not dry.

Combine the dry ingredients with the milk/yolk mixture, stirring to blend. Gently fold in the beaten egg whites - they should remain somewhat distinct in the batter.

Add roughly 1 tsp of butter to the skillet, and when it is hot, add the batter by the heaping tablespoon, making sure to include some of the egg whites in each spoonful. Cook until lightly browned on the bottom (3-5 min), then turn and cook until the second side is borwn. These may be kept warm in a 200 degree oven for up to 15 minutes.

I took a picture, only to realize my memory card wasn't in my camera. They weren't really pretty pancakes anyway due to the buckwheat.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Quinoa Pilaf

It's been a rainy, rainy day here. And we're all really, really bored. Which led to cleaning out the pantry. Which led to finding the ginormous bag of quinoa I bought at Costco back in January (you know - when we all have every intention of eating better?). So, why not make something with it?

There are thousands of quinoa recipes, and it can be used in everything from side dishes to baked goods. It's a healthy grain, packed full of nutrients, and much healthier than the white rice and pasta we eat so often. I decided to try a pilaf. After looking around the web a bit, I got an idea of ratios, and then just went with what was on hand. It was just as good as a side dish as rice, and I think this might replace the typical rice side dishes we have so often.

Quinoa Pilaf

1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
10 baby carrots, sliced thinly
1 stalk celery, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups broth (chicken, vegetable)

Rinse the quinoa at least once (I rinsed twice) in a strainer. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add onion, carrots, and celery, and saute for about 5 minutes. Add quinoa and garlic, and give it a few stirs before adding the broth. Add broth and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to simmering for about 15 minutes.
Serve hot. (I think you could also serve cold, but something about that sounds icky to me.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Spatchcocked Chicken With Tomatoes

I get an insane number of magazines every month, but one of the ones that never fails me is Everyday Food. There are always recipes in there that I end up trying (and loving) every month. The magazine is also small and the perfect size to hang out on my kitchen shelf.

I got this month's copy in the mail yesterday, and immediately wanted to try the recipe for spatchcocked chicken with tomatoes. A spatchcocked chicken is essentially a split, then flattened chicken. There's an excellent how-to pictorial in this month's magazine.

This dish was simple to make, cheap, and tasted fantastic. It's a keeper.

Spatchcocked Chicken With Tomatoes

1 whole chicken, spatchcocked
3 unpeeled garlic cloves, smashed
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
salt and pepper, to taste

Preaheat oven to 500 degrees.

Season spatchcocked chicken with salt and pepper and place in a pan breastside up. Add the 3 garlic cloves. Salt and pepper the chicken.
Pierce all of the tomatoes with the tip of a paring knife. Add the tomatoes to the pan, and drizzle with tsp of olive oil (*I used more than a tsp and drizzled it over everything). Salt and pepper the tomatoes (I just added a little bit more s & p to the tomatoes around the edges).

Pour wine and water into pan.

Roast chicken until juices run clear when pierced between breast and leg, or when an instant-read thermometer reads 165 degrees when inserted in thickest part of a thigh, avoiding bone. This will take 30-50 minutes (the magazine suggested 30, but mine took much longer).

Let rest 5 minutes, and sprinkle with fresh basil before carving.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Raid the Pantry! - Hummus

This week's I Heart Cooking Clubs theme was to raid the pantry - so I knew exactly what I was going to make. I had a sad little can of chickpeas sitting in my pantry that had been there forever, as well as a can of tahini that I had bought with the best of intentions, but just hadn't opened. The food processor was out on the counter, I had pita chips on hand, so it was time to make some hummus.

There are many things to love about hummus - it's cheap, it's easy to make, it's pretty healthy as dips go, and the flavor possibilities are endless. You can add all kinds of spices, roasted peppers, and on and on and on. This time around I stuck with his recipe (which was good), but I'll probably kick it up a little next time I make it - maybe some chile powder or a tad more cumin. This was tasty and a relatively healthy snack. Fabulous with pita chips or crudites.

Adapted from How to Make Everything by Mark Bittman

2 cups drained well-cooked or canned chickpeas
1/2 cup tahini (sesame paste)
1/4 cup sesame oil from the tahini or good olive oil
1 small clove of garlic, peeled, or to taste (could also use roasted garlic)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 Tbsp ground cumin, or to taste, plus a sprinkling for garnish
Juice of 1 lemon, plus more as needed
About 1/3 cup water, or as needed
1 tsp olive oil, for drizzling over top

Place everything except water and 1 tsp olive oil in the container of a food processor and begin to process. Add water as needed to make a smooth puree.

Taste and add more garlic, salt, lemon juice, or cumin as needed. Serve, drizzled with a little olive oil and sprinkled with a bit of cumin. Serve with vegetables, crackers, or pita.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Bites of Bittman - Vegetable Pancakes

I'm thrilled to be cooking along with I Heart Cooking Clubs, and for the next 6 months, the focus will be on Mark Bittman recipes. I have (and love) both How to Cook Everything and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

This time the focus was on small bite recipes, and I decided to go with Vegetable Pancakes. I had trouble getting the recipe crunchy - I'll forgot the step of sqeezing all the excess water out of the shredded veggies. Even without being crunchy, though, they tasted great, and are a fabulous way to get picky eaters to eat their veggies. I used zucchini, yellow squash, and carrots. I shredded it all in the food processor (along with the onion), and it was a snap to make. This will definitely become a regular in our meal rotations, especially during the summer months when I run out of ideas for cooking squash and zucchini.

Vegetable Pancakes
1 1/2 lbs grated vegetables (peeled if necessary), and squeezed dry
1/2 small onion, grated; or 4 scallions
1 egg or 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
approx 1/4 cup white or whole wheat flour (more or less)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil, vegetable oil, or butter for frying

Preheat oven to 275. Grate the vegetables by hand or with the grating disc of a food processor. Mix together the vegetables, onion, egg, and 1/4 cup flour, and add salt and pepper to taste. Add a little more flour if needed to hold the mixture together.

Put a little butter or oil in a large skillet or griddle on medium-high heat. When the butter is melted or the oil is hot, drop in spoonfuls of the batter, using a fork to spread the vegetables into an even layer, press down a bit. Work in batches without overcrowding. (Transfer finished pancakes to the oven while the others finish cooking.) Cook, turning once, until nicely browned on both sides, about 5 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Meet My New Salad Best Friend

Monday night was cooking club, and we're still working our way through At the Table with Patty Roper. So far, we've all been really pleased with the various dishes we've tried. Nancy over at Casual Cuisine brought the salad this month, and oh. my. gosh. It was goooood. I think she'll post it (hopefully with a pretty picture), but I wanted to share it also. I'll be making it again tomorrow. The key ingredient that brought it all together was cinnamon. Very unexpected, but oh so good.

Spinach and Pecan Salad
adapted from At the Table with Patty Roper

1 cup pecans
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 apples, sliced
1/4 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Stir together pecans, brown sugar, butter and cinnaomn. Spread the nut mixture on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes, stirring often. Cool and break apart; set aside.

For the dressing, mix all ingredients well. Place spinach and apple slices on each plate (or in big bowl). Drizzle with dressing and top with pecans.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Sugar Cookie Quest, Part 2

I mentioned my search for the perfect sugar cookie a couple of weeks ago. I received several recipes, and one I still need to try (it's by ATK, so I assume it works well - I just never have the cream cheese on hand to make them). Anywho, since I use King Arthur flour, I decided to head over to their recipes to see if they had anything that would fit the bill. And they did.

If you prefer a really soft, thick sugar cookie, this won't be your favorite. I tend to prefer a thinner, chewy-almost-crunchy sugar cookie (although I'd never turn down a thick one!). That's exactly what this recipe is, and I've made it twice now. It has no baking powder or soda, and I didn't have any issues with puffing up or spreading this time. I also didn't have to put them back in the fridge between cutting them out and putting them in the oven. This is my new favorite cookie recipe.

Holiday Butter Cookies
adapted from King Arthur Flour

1 1/4 cups confectioner's sugar
1 cup + 2 Tbsp salted butter, room temperature
1 large egg yolk
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp Fiori di Sicilia (or flavoring of your choice)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used a bit less than they call for)

Combine first 5 ingredients, beating until smooth. Add the flour, mixing until smooth. If the mixture seems to dry, add a tablespoon of water.

Divide the dough in half, and shape each half into a disc. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Remove dough from refrigerator and allow it to soften for 20-30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough and cut as desired. Bake on parchment-lined cookie sheets for 12-14 minutes, until they're barely brown around the edges and set. Remove from oven and cool directly on the pan (or on the parchment paper if you need the pan for the next batch).

Monday, April 5, 2010

Cheddar Crackers

I was inspired by Home Ec 101's Fearless Friday post last week about these cheese crackers. According to several posts, they resemble a certain fishy cracker. I didn't get that from them, but they sure were tasty. Mine were really puffy and light and cheesy and buttery. I'm not going to lie - I ate half of the batch within 10 minutes of coming out of the oven.

The only thing I did differently from the recipe was to add a dash of cayenne pepper to them. The fabulous thing about this recipe is that there are all kinds of directions you could take it - different spices, cheeses, and I'm going to try making them next with at least some wheat flour.

Another thing I'll do next time is only roll out and bake half at a time. They really are best fresh out of the oven, and they take no time at all to roll out and cut with a pizza cutter (I wasn't going for pretty - they're not even close to being the same size or shape). Super-easy afternoon snack for the kidlet and myself.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Parmesan Onion Puffs

I tend to get stuck in a rut with appetizers - I have my usual go-tos, but I wanted to find something a little lighter for Easter lunch. I knew we'd be eating a pretty heavy meal, so these little beauties seemed like a winner. (Plus, they're pretty much my favorite dip - onion souffle - on bread, but with built-in portion control.)

Parmesan Onion Puffs
adapted from The Best of Gourmet

2-2.5 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 small onion, minced
1/8 tsp cayenne (it could have had a little more)
Loaf of white sandwich bread

Preheat oven to 400 degrees (make sure rack is in the upper third of oven).

Stir together cheese, mayonnaise, onion, and cayenne. Set aside.

Using a cookie cutter, cut 2-4 rounds (depending on size) from each slice of bread. Arrange and bake on a cookie sheet for about 4 minutes, until tops are crisp and just golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for a couple of minutes.

Top each toast with a 1/2 tsp (or more, if bigger circles) of the cheese mixture, and spread to the edge of the bread with a knife. Return to oven, and bake for 6 minutes, or until top is puffed and golden. Serve immediately.

The puffs are the front right.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

It's getting close...

Can't you just smell summer in the air? The weather is warmer (thank goodness!), the days are longer, and everyone seems just a little more carefree. I'm so ready for the days of grilling, eating outside, and fresh produce.

When those days come, my oven rarely makes an appearance in the preparation of our meals. It just gets too hot. We had our first mostly-not-cooked-in-the-oven dinner tonight, and it was delightful. There are no recipes here - just excited to think about the months to come and how yummy summer foods really are. I mean, really - what I wouldn't give for a quality tomato and some fresh okra right about now...

Shrimp was cooked on the grill, risotto in the bread maker, green beans in the microwave (thank you, Steamfresh), and bread cooked quickly in my small oven.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Last week, I noticed a post over at My Kitchen Cafe for classic Italian lasagna. What caught my attention was the lack of ricotta or cottage cheese - 2 things I absolutely cannot stand. I'm used to picking around ricotta in normal lasange - it's a texture thing. I also noticed that this included a cream sauce, and I was sold.

I did a couple of things differently from the original recipe. I used ground beef instead of ground turkey, and I added the beef into the red sauce while it simmered. I also added a little bit of nutmeg to the white sauce. I keep pureed veggies in the freezer to sneak in other foods, so I also added a 1/2 cup of pureed carrot (couldn't taste it, so mission accomplished). Additionally, my white sauce wasn't cooperating on the thickening, so I added a bit of mozzarella to it, and it did the trick. Since I needed to assemble this during naptime, I refrigerated the uncooked dish for a few hours before baking, and it did fine. (The original recipe is quite long, so I won't retype it here.)

This will be my new go-to lasanga. The flavors are rich, but not overwhelming. The red sauce was good enough to eat on its own with pasta, and I think that part of the recipe lends itself to quite a bit of tweaking based on personal taste. This recipe is time-consuming, but not hard. You will get several pots and pans dirty, but it's worth it. Now that I've made it once and I know what tasks I can do simultaneously, I think it will go much faster the next time around. Next time I make this, I'm going to split it into 2 smaller pans, and try freezing one unbaked. I'll let you know how that goes.
Before heading into the oven.

It completely fell apart coming out of the pan, but it was so good.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Jalapeno Corn Chowder and Roasted Pork Paninis

We just returned from a most fabulous trip to Chicago, and I'm sure we've eaten our weights in food this weekend. One of the places we enjoyed was Rosebud Prime, which is one of the newer Rosebud restaurants in Chicago. They had a delicious jalapeno corn chowder, so I came home and tried to recreate it. I didn't do theirs justice, but we did enjoy this chowder - I will tweak it some more next time I make it - like using heavy cream, and maybe adding a little bit of crab meat.
I've also been craving a roasted pork sandwich lately. We used to have a fabulous little lunch spot in town, and they made the best - it was this super-thick, crusty bread, the perfectly cooked pork, and manchego cheese. I went to the small grocery today, so I settled for some Vermont white cheddar, rather than going to another store for the manchego (but it's so worth it if you can get it!).

Jalapeno Corn Chowder

1/6 roasted jalepeno (more or less, depending on your taste)
3 strips bacon, cooked
3 cups frozen corn, divided
14.5 oz chicken broth
1/8 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp sugar
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup milk or cream

Roast jalapeno. I do this by putting it on an open flame (don't let it catch on fire!) on my gas stove. Once it's blackened on all sides, put it in a plastic bag and let it sweat for 5-10 minutes. Remove from bag and remove skin. Cut jalapeno into strips, removing membrane and seeds. I only used one little slice of the pepper, but you may prefer more or less. Set aside. (Be sure to either wear gloves and/or wash your hands thoroughly before touching anyone or anything - especially your skin or eyes!)

Cook bacon in a skillet or your soup pot until done. In a blender, grind the bacon, jalapeno, and half of the corn, along with some of the broth to the desired consistency. (If you prefer your chowder on the smoother side, you may want to use more than half of the corn.)

If you use the same pot that you cooked your bacon in, add a little bit of the broth to the pan and get up all the bits on the bottom of the pan. Add in the pureed corn, bacon, jalapeno, and broth mixture, as well as the rest of the corn and broth. Add cumin, sugar, salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer, and then add milk or cream. Turn heat down to medium low and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes, until hot. Serve immediately.

Pork Tenderloin Panini

1lb pork tenderloin
1 tbsp olive oil
salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder, to taste
6 slices of thick bread, or 3 hoagie rolls, sliced in half
9-12 slices of cheese (3-4 per sandwich) - sharp cheddar, manchego, swiss, etc...
handful of spinach for each sandwich

Salt and pepper tenderloin. Heat olive oil in skillet or dutch oven, and brown meat on all sides. Transfer to a preheated 450 degree oven, and bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove meat, and let rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing. Heat panini press.

Slice tenderloin. Assemble sandwiches with cheese, meat, spinach, and any other toppings. Add butter to bottom and top of sandwich and cook in panini press to desired doneness. Serve immediately.

There are so many other things that could be added to this sandwich - the possibilities are endless. Next time I make it, I'm going to try some cranberry sauce or maybe some apple slices.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Cheesy Drop Biscuits

A friend of mine made these biscuits for a meeting a few weeks ago, and I couldn't stop eating them! They are so tasty, and when she sent me the recipe, I realized that they're also easy. This recipe makes about 2-3 dozen mini-muffin size biscuits.

Cheesy Drop Biscuits

2 cups self-rising flour
1 cup melted butter
1 cup (8 oz) sour cream
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Either drop by spoonful onto greased cookie sheet, or bake in greased mini muffin pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes for mini muffins, or 25-30 minutes for drop biscuits. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Friday, March 5, 2010

My Sugar Cookie Quest

I had to laugh this morning when several blogs on my sidebar had similar posts. It seems we're all on the hunt for the best sugar cookie!

I've been trying several recipes, and they've all been tasty. My main problem is that, no matter what I do, my batter spreads and puffs up when I bake the cookies. I've lowered the oven temp. I've put the pans in the refrigerator to cool the dough back down before going in the oven. I've decreased baking soda/powder. Really, nothing I've done has helped. Anybody have any good advice on this one?

Despite the spreading while they baked, they still somewhat retained their shape for me to ice. I just use a basic royal icing (using meringue powder). The two recipes I go back and forth between are the one at Joy of Baking and the second one on the page at Simply Recipes. After doing both, I think I lean towards the one at Simply Recipes. It's more difficult to roll out, but I like the texture just a tad more. Either way, though, you can't go wrong!
The one thing I do differently with both recipes is not using almond extract - I'm not a huge fan of almond flavor, so that's just a personal choice. I've started adding about 1/2 teaspoon of Fiori Di Sicilia from King Arthur Flour, and really like that flavor.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Cooking Club - French Vanilla Tiramisu

Our cooking club is now in its second year, and has moved on to a new cookbook - At the Table by Patty Roper. This book is full of those recipes that you'll go to on regular weeknights - not difficult, but still tasty and filling.

I had dessert this month, and chose the French Vanilla Tiramisu. I'll say up front that calling this "tiramisu" is generous. It doesn't bear a whole lot of resemblance to the real thing, but it is tasty, and a snap to make.

French Vanilla Tiramisu

4 oz cream cheese (1/2 package)
1 1/2 cups cold milk
1 (3.5 oz) package French Vanilla instant pudding mix
2 (3 oz) packages of ladyfingers, split
1/4 cup brewed coffee
1 (8 oz) container whipped topping (I used Cool Whip)
2 squares Ghirardelli semisweet baking chocolate, grated

Beat cream cheese, and add milk and pudding mix. Beat on low to medium speed with electric mixer. Set aside.

Sprinkle cut sides (i.e. - flat sides) of ladyfingers with coffee. Place on bottom and up sides of a trifle bowl (reserve some for the middle layer). Top with half of pudding mixture, then half of whipped topping, then half of grated chocolate. Repeat the process of ladyfingers, pudding, whipped topping, and top with grated and curled chocolate. Refrigerate.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

My Favorite Midnight Snack

I'm not even going to call this a recipe, because it's so incredibly simple. It's one of my favorite nighttime snacks - curbs the sweet/chocolate craving, but has some redeeming qualities with the fruit. (Or so I tell myself.)

Simple as pie - graham crackers, Nutella, and sliced bananas. The list of possible toppings (marshmallows, anyone?) could go on and on. There's a reason Nutella has its own day of the year.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

So Ready For Spring!

We've finally had a few sunny days here, and they couldn't have come soon enough! We southerners aren't used to all this snow and all this bitter cold, so being back to high 40s/low 50s during the day has been bliss.

Since we're now 6-8 weeks out from our last frost here, it's time to start those seedlings, and this sunny day was a great day to start! I ordered a ton of heirloom seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds earlier in the winter, and have been chomping at the bit to get some of them planted. I was practically drooling while I was planting the various tomato varieties I ordered.

In the next few weeks, we'll start tilling up the yard and putting out the wooden borders, so that everything will be ready to go in late April/early May. I have high expectations for this garden this year, and if even half of those expectations are met, I'll be totally thrilled!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fabulous Sandwich Bread

I've been on the hunt for a delicious sandwich bread for the past year or so. I want something chewy, but light, and full, but not dense. I also wanted to it to be at least partially wheat, and wanted to avoid a ton of sugar. I stumbled upon this recipe for Oatmeal Buttermilk Bread over at Confections of a Foodie Bride when I was perusing blogs last week. I'm now already on my second loaf, and we love it.

I've adapted it a bit for making the dough in a bread machine. If you're not using a bread machine, just head over to her site and follow the instructions there. Using my bread machine on the dough cycle always gives me near-perfect results with dough, so that's what I did. I use a Zojirushi Home Bakery Supreme, which can bake up to a 2 lb loaf. The order of ingredients for this machine is liquids first, but be sure to check your own machine for the correct order. (I wasn't totally sure where to put the soaked oats, so I just add them with the liquid component, and it's worked fine.)

Oatmeal Buttermilk Bread
Adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride

1 1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup boiling water
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp + 2 tsp agave, divided
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp instant yeast

Set aside 1/4 cup oats. Place the remaining oats in a bowl, and add the boiling water. Mix with a spoon, and let sit for 10 minutes.

While the oats are sitting, in the bread machine bucket, add water, 2 Tbsp + 1 tsp of agave, buttermilk, and olive oil. Once the oats are ready, add them. On top of this, add the 2 flours and salt. Make a little well in the flour for the yeast. Place bucket in bread machine and run the dough cycle (I've been using the quick dough cycle with great results).

When cycle is completed, transfer dough to a floured surface. Flatten it with your hands to release any air bubbles, to about a 12 x 6 inch rectangle, and position it so that a long side is facing you. Fold the 2 short ends on the top, so that they meet in the middle. Starting with the closest side, roll the dough away from you into a log shape, and let it rest on its seam for a few minutes.

Preheat the oven to 385. Transfer the dough to an oiled 10 x 5 loaf pan (a 9 x 5 pan is too small), pressing dough into the corners. Combine 1 tsp of agave with 1/2 tsp very hot water. Brush the agave/water mixture over the top, and sprinkle the remaining oats over the top. Let sit for 35-45 minutes, just until loaf has risen over the pan.

Bake at 385 for 1 hour, and allow to cool completely before slicing. Enjoy! (I didn't get a picture of the finished product, because when I was making today's loaf, I completely forgot about it rising in the pan. It was a bit puffy. Still good, but not so pretty.)

Monday, February 15, 2010

My Favorite Spaghetti Sauce & Homemade Pasta

When I was in college, I went through all of my mom's cookbooks one weekend and pulled out all of the recipes that looked easy enough for me to make. One of the gems I came across was this spaghetti sauce, and I've adapted it over the years to our tastes. It is by no means gourmet or in any way authentically Italian. But, I do love it much more than any jarred sauce, and it makes a huge batch at one time, so I can always freeze half. It's a full, hearty sauce, and is just as good on a piece of bread as it is over noodles.

I also finally tried making my own pasta - it's something I've wanted to do for a while, but just haven't taken the time. It was so easy. I know there are still things I can do to make it better (roll it thinner, cut it skinnier), but for a first try, I was very pleased. Because of the addition of AP flour in this recipe, it's also not authentic, but I didn't have enough semolina on hand. I will definitely do an all-semolina (or 00 Italian flour) next time. It really doesn't take much time at all, and I can't wait to try things like ravioli. The recipe I used was found here at AllRecipes - I cut it in half, and we still had more than we could eat. One thing I would suggest is adding more salt to the dough.

Spaghetti Sauce

1 lb ground beef
1 small onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 10 oz bag of sliced mushrooms
15 oz can tomato sauce
6 oz can tomato paste
1 envelope Italian spaghetti seasoning (in the packet section)
1-2 Tbsp sugar (depending on taste)
salt, pepper, and other seasonings to taste

In a skillet, brown ground beef and drain fat. Add onions and green pepper, and cook for another 5 minutes. Transfer ground beef mixture to sauce pan, and add remaining ingredients. Simmer on low heat for 15 minutes - 2 hours.* Serve over pasta. Freezes well.

*You can cook this quickly if needed, but the flavors taste even better after simmering all afternoon.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Weekly Menu

Last week's menu went pretty well. Until last night, when I went into survival mode and ordered a pizza. Hey - at least I don't have to think about tonight's meal. :)

This week's menu makes use of lots of things I already have in my freezer/pantry. All I have to buy at the store tonight is the fresh stuff. I like those kinds of grocery store trips! This is a busy week arond our house, so everything here is something I can make easily and quickly.

Friday: CORN (leftover pizza, polenta, and pork)
Saturday: Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic, couscous, green beans, roasted carrots
Sunday: Leftovers
Monday: Cabbage soup, blitz bread
Tuesday: Leftovers
Wednesday: Church
Thursday: Honey-soy glazed salmon, brown rice, broccoli

Friday, January 8, 2010

Weekly Menu

It was helpful to me in the past to post weekly menus here, mainly because I invariably lose the piece of paper the menu is written on, but also becaue I can look back over several weeks to see what kind of variety we've had and whether or not we're eating too much or too little of something.

Since I like to do my grocery shopping in the quiet and solitude that is Friday night, I've stayed with that schedule. There were several things in Everyday Food from this month that I wanted to try, so those are heavy on the menu this week.

Friday: Salmon with green beans, risotto, spinach
Saturday: BBQ (party)
Sunday: Slow-cooker chili, crunchy breadsticks
Monday: Chili leftovers
Tues: Pork tenderloin with swiss chard & polenta (in this month's Everyday Food, but not on the site)
Wed: Church
Thurs: Polenta wedges with asparagus & mushrooms

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Wheat Pita Bread

I asked for another King Arthur Flour cookbook for Christmas - this year, it was the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking Cookbook, and I've already dogeared 30 or so pages of recipes I just have to try. Since I had a ton of other things to do today, I wanted to start with a relatively easy recipe, which was the wheat pita. And we needed something for lunch.

I used my bread machine on the dough setting to do most of the work. I put in the ingredients, walked away for 1:45, and came back to dough that was ready to cut and shape. Since meeting its untimely demise last year, I don't have a baking stone, and just used the bottom of a regular baking sheet to bake the pitas.

While in the oven, these were really puffy, although they deflated pretty quickly upon coming out. Some of them had great pockets for sandwiches, and on the others, we just used the two halves and put the sandwich fillers in between. These were light and fluffy, and had no weird aftertastes. And it's cheap. (Pita bread is so expensive around here.)

The recipe is available at the King Arthur Flour site. Enjoy!