Thursday, July 30, 2009

Creative Thursdays: Breakfast Pies

When I was little my Dad would make any challenge into a game. He was always being creative and loved to see where it would lead him. Most people would be frustrated with only change in their pocket, but my Dad loved it. I've watched him laugh as he scooped change from a jar and headed out to lunch. He always said he appreciated those times because they were like a game to him. He wanted to be able to use his wits to make do with what he had. He always came back with a funny story.

Since going back to work part-time, I have found myself challenged, especially in the kitchen. Inspired by my Dad, I've turned this challenge into somewhat of a game. I've been rethinking the way I grocery shop and focusing on a well-stocked pantry so that I can create meals all week without running to the grocery store. I've started to notice that I'm saving money and having a lot of fun. I know all of us have days where we are short on time, short on ingredients or short on money. For my family, this happens towards the end of the week, namely Thursday nights. So, I have decided to have a new post every Thursday to chronicle my creative fun in the kitchen! Every Thursday I am going to post a new recipe featuring a staple ingredient from my pantry. These recipes will more than likely be quick, easy and economical. I will also be sharing tips I've learned about keeping a well-stocked pantry. I would love to hear all comments, feedback, and suggestions. All of us have some creative genius hiding inside : ) We could probably start an entire blog on this theme alone.

This week, I am featuring refrigerated biscuit dough as a staple ingredient to keep in your kitchen. These breakfast pies are great for using up leftover ingredients. You can customize the filling to suit your family. I like to make them ahead of time and reheat them in the morning. This recipe makes 10 individual breakfast pies and takes less than 30 minutes. I'm estimating that the cost is around $5.00 for the whole batch, even less if you buy your biscuit dough on sale and use leftover meat and/or veggies.

Breakfast Pies, adapted from All Recipes, Family Favorites

3/4 pound ground pork sausage
1/8 cup minced onion
1/8 cup minced green bell pepper
1 (12 oz) can refrigerated biscuit dough
3 eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup shredded colby-jack cheese

Preheat oven to 400F. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, combine sausage, onion, and green bell pepper. Cook until sausage is evenly browned. Drain, crumble, and set aside. (I used bacon and left out the veggies because my husband and kids are picky)

Separate the dough into 10 individual biscuits. Flatten each biscuit out; line bottom and sides of 10 greased muffin cups. Evenly distribute sausage (or bacon ) mixture between the cups. Mix together the eggs and milk and divide between the cups. Sprinkle tops with shredded cheese.

Bake in preheated oven for 18-20 minutes or until filling is set.

Notes/Ideas: This is a great recipe for using up leftovers. Instead of sausage, use leftover meat or veggies. Use up that salsa left in the bottom of the jar and add it as a topping to the pies. Stock up on refrigerator or freezer biscuit dough when it is on sale. Biscuit dough is one of those ingredients that is like a blank canvas, you can do many things with it. A friend told me that she has used regular sandwich bread in place of biscuit dough and also had great success.

As far as my Dad goes, he' ll be 61 next week and he's still making games out of everything. He recently took my step-nephew for a ride one afternoon. They had about $3.00 altogether. They pumped as much as they could in gas, drove as far as they could, and split a candy bar. My step-nephew said it was the most fun he had in awhile : )

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Basil Grilled Chicken for My Girl, Paula

I recently joined the group My Girl, Paula! This is a great group of gals who are cooking with Paula Deen recipes each week. There is a new recipe each week and let me tell you.....they all sound wonderful. This week, the recipe was Basil Grilled Chicken. I knew instantly that I would like this chicken recipe and set out to find some basil. I can speak from experience when I tell you that basil and other fresh herbs are hit and miss in my small town. However, I ran to the grocery early in the morning and was thankful to find some.

The recipe is for 4 chicken breasts, or one pound of chicken. You simply make a mix of minced basil and melted BUTTER. We all know Paula loves her butter!! You brush the melted butter and minced basil on the chicken and begin to grill. While the chicken is grilling you baste it with another mixture. Are you ready for it???? Yes, the second mixture for basting has yet MORE BUTTER!! However, it also has more basil, garlic, and Parmesan cheese. I don't think I used the same amount of butter, but the dish was so flavorful!! The chicken was moist, flavorful, and had an intoxicating smell. It reminded me of an grilled Italian chicken that I would pay big money for while dining out!! In fact, my husband even liked it and he dislikes basil!! Way to go Paula!! This dish is rated 5 stars on the food network and I have to agree. It is definitely a keeper dish that I will be repeating soon. I am already craving it!! You can find the recipe here.

Thank you everyone with My Girl, Paula for letting me be a part of the group. I really loved this first recipe!!

Please head over to the My Girl, Paula site to check out what everyone else thought of this dish. Next week we will be making Paula's Hummingbird Cake- Yum!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Winner of the Lush Giveaway is.........

Congrats to Arlene at The Food of Love! Arlene is the winner of the Lush product giveaway. I will be sending Arlene a message so that she can collect her prize. Arlene has a great shrimp and mushroom ravioli dish over on her blog right now, go check out : )

Thank you to everyone who entered the drawing. I really enjoyed reading the comments about your first "trials" in the kitchen. Sounds like pasta is a popular choice!! Here is what Arlene had to say about one of her first dishes in the kitchen:

I love pasta, too, but it isn't the first "dish" I remember cooking. No, that would be toasted mozzarella. Yes, I did say toasted and I didn't mean on a sandwich. When mom wasn't around, I would spear a big hunk of mozzarella on her big fork and hold it over the gas flame until it got nice, blistery char marks--yes, and made a mess, which I'd clean up after devouring the melted cheese.

Well, I think most of us will agree that any kind of cheese, especially melted, is also a good reason to get into the kitchen! Thanks to everyone who shared their stories.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Strawberry-Lemon Puddings

Do you ever sabotage yourself? I do it all the time, but I really did it with this recipe. For example, this should be a simple recipe! Tyler takes a store-bought pound cake, which is layered with a store-bought lemon curd and heavy cream. He combines them both with some strawberries and makes this cute little pudding. Tyler throws his little puddings together in no time flat.

Here's what I did to myself. I had a box mix for pound cake in my pantry. In an effort to clean out my pantry and freezer I decided to make my own pound cake. Would you know that darn pound cake took about an hour to bake?? Why didn't I think of that? Conveniently, I also forgot that the pound cake would be HOT for a long time!! I got angry with myself and sat the pound cake aside until the next day. I can never find store-bought lemon curd, so I decided to make it myself. Lemon curd is one of those time consuming recipes that consists of zesting quite a bit of lemons and then cooking over low heat for quite some time. I had made it once before with success, but this time it didn't turn out!! So, I made it again, but not until the next day. Do you see a recurring theme here?? (And by the way.....yes I know I have quite a temper, but I've learned when to walk away). The next day, the strawberries weren't looking so good and the pound cake was half gone. I really didn't want to go back in the kitchen and work on this, but I wanted to just get it finished. I found enough strawberries to make one little pudding and I ate it for breakfast. It was really good and would be even better if I had followed Tyler's directions and actually bought store-bought ingredients. Why do we do these things to ourselves??

Strawberry-Lemon Puddings, adapted from Tyler Florence, Dinner at My Place

2 cups strawberries, hulled and halved
1 meyer lemon, juice only
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1 cup powdered sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for garnish
1/2 cup store-bought lemon curd
1 store-bought pound cake

Combine strawberries, lemon juice, and 2 tablespoonsof powdered sugar in a small saucepan; place over medium heat. Cook and stir for 4 to 5 minutes, then remove from heat to cool. Remove 4 strawberry halves from saucepan and reserve for garnish.

Whip heavy cream in a large mixing bowl until soft peaks form. Fold in the 1 cup owdered sugar and the lemon curd, a little at a time, until combined. Set aside in the refrigerator while you prepare the cake. Preheat oven to 350F. Cut pound cake into 1/4" thick slices. Use an inverted 6-ounce ramekin, carefully cut out 8 rounds. (The rounds should fit snugly inside of the ramekin itself). Break the remaining scraps of pound cake into coarse crumbs and toast on a baking sheet in the preheated oven about 5 minutes, until golden brown and fragrant.

To assemble, start with a layer of the lemon cream on the bottom of each of the four 6-ounce ramekins, followed by a cake round, some strawberries, and lemon cream. Add another layer of cake. Drizzle the final cake layers with syrup from the strawberries and then top with a swirl of lemon cream and some toasted pound cake crumbs. Garnish each pu dding with a reserved strawberry half and dust with powdered sugar.

My advice, should you decide to make this, take Tyler's word and buy store-bought. I think that guy knows a thing or two about cooking!!




Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Baked Egg Rolls and Awards!!

I am so excited about this simple and fun recipe. This recipe for Baked Egg Rolls is one of the most adaptable, economical and fun recipes I have made in awhile!! All you really need is a package of egg roll wrappers and you can fill these with your choice of ingredients. They can be vegetarian or full of meat, either way they are delicious. Play with the ingredients and different dipping sauces to see what suits you. The first time I made these, I followed the recipe and used ground pork. They were delicious and I knew I wanted to make them again. This week at the grocery I found some ground chicken on sale for $1.49 a pound!! I thought of these egg rolls and bought a couple packages of that ground chicken. The egg roll wrappers were about $1.79. add that to the price of the chicken at $1.49, and the entire dish is definitely less than $5. Best of all, you can personalize them and serve them next to sesame or ramen noodles. Can you tell I'm excited about these?

On another note, my husband is hysterical!! My camera was taking very blurry pictures and I asked my husband to take a look at it. Thankfully he was able to fix the camera. I had no idea he had taken pictures of these egg rolls. When I downloaded the pictures I had a big laugh! He had the egg rolls arranged nicely, on great plate, but with baby squash on the side!! The entire thing just made me laugh out loud. There were no squash in the egg rolls, but he thought the colors made the egg rolls stand out. It was so cute and I just couldn't help but use his picture in the post.

Baked Egg Rolls, adapted from All Recipes Family Favorites**

1 pound ground pork
1 cup finely shredded cabbage **didn't have on hand, left out
1/4 cup finely shredded carrot
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro **didn't have on hand, left out
1/2 tsp. sesame oil
1-1/2 tsp. oyster sauce **didn't have on hand, used soy sauce
2 tsp. grated fresh ginger root
1-1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. chili sauce **used some asian garlic chili paste
1 TBSP. cornstarch
1 TBSP. water
20 egg/spring roll wrappers
4 tsp. vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 425F. Place ground pork in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until evenly browned (do not overcook because they will bake in oven for 20 mins). Remove from heat and drain meat. In a medium bowl, mix together pork, cabbage, carrot, green onions, cilantro, sesame oil, oyster sauce, ginger, garlic, and chili sauce. Mix cornstarch and water in a separate small bowl. Place approximately 1 tablespoon of the pork mixture in the center of each egg roll wrapper. (I think my wrappers were larger and I used about 2 tablespoons of filling, you definitely want to fill them up.) Roll wrappers around the mixture, folding edges inward to close. (The egg roll wrapper will probably show pics on how to roll them.) Brush wrapper seams with cornstarch mixture to seal. Arrange egg rolls in a single layer on a baking sheet and brush with vegetable oil, both sides. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, turn them over, and 10 minutes on the opposite side.

The nutritional information is listed for this recipe: 154 calories per roll, 7g protein, 20g carbs, 5g fat, 1g fiber, 15mg cholesterol, 200mg sodium

NOTES: Be careful when separating the egg roll wrappers. They are extremely thin. I realized halfway through that I had double egg roll wrappers on my first few rolls. They turned out just as good, but I would've had more egg rolls : ) If you have leftover filling, add it to your rice or pasta on the side. I had about 1/2 cup of leftover filling, but I'm blaming this on my inability to separate those egg roll wrappers correctly.

Now, onto some more fun!! I received this much appreciated award from Allison of Dinner at Our House. Allison has a great blog herself, with many great recipes. Check out her Pizza-Hut Pan-Style Pizza. It looks better than Pizza Hut!!

I would love to pass this award on to everyone!!! There are so many great blogs out there that I enjoy reading. Here are the fifteen that I have chosen. I hope that you will take the time to check out these blogs, they are all great for different reasons!!

Heather of Girlichef - Heather has so many great recipes and beautiful photos, and she is such a great person!

Donna of My Tasty Treasures - Donna has a big following and it is so easy to see why. She has great recipes and her posts are hysterical, adventurous and just plain fun. She is a sweetheart and has been following me from the beginning.

Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies - Natashya is a bread baking goddess!! I'm convinced that there is nothing this woman can't cook!! Plus, she does a great job hosting the Tyler Florence Fridays blog.

Deb of Kahakai Kitchen - Deb is great at cooking up colorful, bright, and healthy meals. It is always a delight to see what she has made each week for Tyler Florence Fridays. She is also great as a host on Tyler Florence Fridays.

Megan of My Baking Adventures - Megan has many baking adventures in the kitchen. I am really enjoying Megan's adventure into ice cream this summer. Every Monday, she posts another great ice cream recipe entitled "The Weekly Scoop".

Beth of the Seventh Level of Boredom- I'm convinced that Beth and I lead parallel lives. Sometimes I think we married the same picky eater : ) Beth cracks me up. Her posts are witty and funny and I enjoy them greatly. Sometimes we are even making the same dish!

Joanne of Eats Well with Others - Joanne is a young woman of many talents. She cooks, bakes, runs marathons and is enrolled in an MD/PhD program at Weill Cornell/Rockefeller/Sloan-Kettering Tri-Institutional MD/PhD. Her posts are well-written and she makes some great things for herself, for her roomies, and for her family.

Pam of Sidewalk Shoes - Pam has the most beautiful pictures. Everything on Pam's blog is so impressive. Visit her blog and you will be amazed at her photos and recipes.

Arlene of The Food of Love - Arlene is another devoted blogger with Tyler Florence Fridays. Arlene shares great information about each of her recipes. She gives notes, changes, and opinions along the way. I love her honesty and attention to details.

Lizzie of Every Last Cookie - Lizzie is a sophomore in college who is baking her way through Martha Stewarts Cookie Cookbook, all 147 recipes!! The post are well-written and the photography is great. I am really enjoying all the cookies!

Julie of The Sporadic Cook - I have just recently found Julie's blog and she cracks me up. I love how candid she is and enjoy her posts so much. She also makes great home-cooked meals and shares her ups and downs in the kitchen.

Erica of My Colombian Recipes - Erica's blog is unique and beautiful. She shares many Colombian recipes with great sentiment for her home country. The photos are beautiful and I learn something each time I read a post. I'm going to be trying some of her recipes shortly.

Mimi of Standing at the Kitchen Door - First of all, the background on this blog is my all-time favorite!! Go there just to check out the adorable background! I just found her blog this past week and I love it for it's great recipes, pictures and sentiment. Mimi remembers her mother at the end of each post by signing them "Mom & Me". I think that is just priceless. Don't we all feel close to our mothers when we are in the kitchen??

Laura of Tide and Thyme - I just found Laura last week and I can already tell she is a sweetheart. She has a great blog and her love for food and cooking are well conveyed on her blog.

and last but not least.........

Libby of Cooking with Libby - Thank you to Libby for introducing me to the Paula Deen cooking club. Where have I been hiding this whole time! The world of food blogging is filled with wonderful people and Libby is no exception. She's still in the kitchen, even with a knee injury. Check out her site for great Paula recipes and many others.....

I also want to say thank you to everyone who visits my site. I appreciate all the comments and love reading through them.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Red Onions Roasted with Balsamic and Honey

Okay, I will confess now.....I LOVE onions, especially red onions!! I can eat them raw, cooked, caramelized, etc. Since I love onions so much, I was surprised to find that I didn't care for this recipe (sorry Tyler!!). I loved the idea of this recipe and it looks and sounds delicious! It was super easy and the kitchen smelled great, but in the end I didn't love it. If I had this recipe to do over, I would quarter up the onions and separate them. The flavor was good, but I wanted the onion to be a little more crunchy or crisp. Anyway, here is the recipe for all you onion lovers out there.

Red Onions Roasted with Balsamic and Honey, adapted from Dinner at My Place by Tyler Florence

1/4 cup extra virgin-olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup honey
1/2 bunch fresh thyme sprigs (about 8 sprigs), leaves only
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 red onions, halved and papery outer peel removed
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 slices
fresh thyme sprigs

Preheat oven to 375F. Whisk together the oil, vinegar, honey and thyme. Season with salt and pepper; whisk until combined. Put the onions in a large bowl and pour the dressing over them. Toss together until the onions are coated. Put the onions on a roasting tray, cut sides up, and drizzle with additional vinegar. Top each onion half with a butter slice and thyme sprig. Roast in the preheated oven about 40 minutes, until the onions are soft and slightly caramelized.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Post # 101 - Tyler's Penne Pasta with Baby Artichokes, Olives, and Peas ** plus a LUSH Giveaway!!!**

Ever since I can remember, pasta has been my favorite thing to eat. I love all kinds of pasta: spaghetti, lasagna, ravioli, macaroni and cheese, pasta salad, etc. Pasta was also the first thing I learned how to cook. What kind of pasta did I cook? Kraft macaroni and cheese in the blue box. It was the cheesiest after all!! Since then I have cooked so many pots of pasta, but it was my love for pasta that got me in the kitchen in the first place. Was there something that you loved that got you into the kitchen? Do you remember the first thing you ever cooked?? I'll be asking you again later.

For my 101st post, I decided to cook a pasta dish from Tyler Florence. I've had my eye on this recipe for Penne Pasta for a long time. I had to adapt the recipe slightly. I used canned artichokes hearts instead of fresh. I also used a spoonful of tomato paste instead of chopped tomato. Additionally, I left out the peas because I didn't have any. The pasta was very bright from the lemon and very fresh tasting with the artichokes, lemon and olives. The tomato paste created a pretty color and a nice tomato flavor. I really enjoyed this as a light lunch. I think it could even be eaten cold as a pasta salad.

Now onto the giveaway!! I have a part-time job at one of the most fun places up at the mall.....LUSH FRESH HANDMADE COSMETICS. Everything is handmade up in Canada and shipped to us fresh. We have all sorts of goodies: bath bombs, bubble bars, solid shampoo bars, lotions, skincare, fresh face masks, handmade soaps, etc. This giveaway is for two products!! One of our BESTSELLING bath bombs......SEX BOMB (see below). Drop this bath bomb into the bath for a jasmine scented bath and enjoy the light pink colored water!!The second part of the giveaway is for one bar of extra-virgin olive oil soap. This soap is great in the shower or great by the kitchen sink. It has a very gentle lather and a very light floral scent which comes from the fresh EVOO. This is a great and moisturizing soap.

Remember earlier when I asked you about the first thing you ever cooked? Please leave a comment sharing the first dish you ever made. I'm really excited to see all the different answers.

Each comment will receive one entry into the giveaway. The giveaway will go on for one week, ending at midnight next Friday. I will announce the winner next Saturday and mail them their prize. I will do the giveaway the the old-fashioned way. All names will go into a hat and one will be chosen by this little guy below. He plays fair, I promise : )

This is my entry this week for Tyler Florence Fridays. Head on over there to see what everyone else is cooking up.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Pastel Vasco with Blackberry Compote and Poured Cream

This is my 100th post and I couldn't think of a better recipe to share with you! Awhile back, I ordered Sunday Suppers at Lucques, by chef Suzanne Goin. It is a beautiful cookbook and I am going to post a cookbook review on it shortly. While going through the book, the recipe that caught my eye most was this recipe for Pastel Vasco. I'm excited to share with you that this recipe produced a wonderful dessert that is easily one of the best things I've ate in awhile. Suzanne explains that while working in France she and her coworkers would go to Spain on days off and head to the bakeries of the Basque bakers. The Pastel Vasco is a pound cake made with rum and layered with fruit compote. In her restaurant, she serves this cake toasted, with compote and poured cream. This is a must try recipe!!

2 - 1/4 cups, plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 extra-large eggs
1 cup, plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, plus a handful for sprinkling over the cake
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus 3 tablepsoons unmelted
2 tablespoons dark rum
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
Blackberry compote (recipe follows)
1 cup heavy cream

Blackberry Compote:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 pints blackberries
2 tablespoons brandy (I used Chambord and loved the results)
Pour the sugar into a medium pot. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, and use a pairing knife to scrape the seeds and pulp into the sugar. Add 1/3 cup water, and bring to a boil over medium heat, without stirring. Cook about 10 minutes, swirling the pan occasionally, until the mixture is an amber caramel color. While the sugar is caramelizing, stir 2 tablespoons water into the cornstarch in a small bowl (this is called a "slurry" and will help thicken the fruit juices). Set aside. When the sugar has reached and amber caramel color, add half the blackberries and the brandy/Chambord to the pot. The sugar will harden. Continue cooking for another 3-5 minutes, without stirring, over medium-low heat, until the berries release their juices and the sugar dissolves. Strain the berries over a bowl, and pour the liquid back into the pot. Transfer the cooked berries to the bowl, and stir in the remaining uncooked blackberries. Bring the blackberry caramel back to a boil over medium heat, and slowly whisk in the cornstarch slurry, a little at a time. Cook a few more minutes, stirring often, until the sauce thickens. Pour the thickened juices over the berries and stir to combine.

For the Pastel Vasco: Sift the flour and baking powder together. Add the salt. Whisk 3 eggs together in a large bowl. Whisk in the sugar, melted butter, rum, extracts, and orange juice. Fold in the dry ingredients, and let the batter rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400F. lightly butter a loaf pan. Pour three-quarters of the batter into the pan, and spoon 3/4 cup compote over it. Top with the remaining batter, letting some of the berries show through. Beat the remaining egg, and brush it over the batter. Sprinkle a handful of sugar over the top. Bake about 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely on a rack. Cut into 3/4 -inch slices, and butter lightly on both sides. Warm the remaining compote in a small saucepan over low heat. Heat a griddle or a large cast-iron pan over medium-high heat. Toast each slice of cake lightly for a minute or two on each side, until it's golden brown and crispy. Arrange the slices, slightly overlapping, on a large platter. Spoon the warm compote over the slices of cake, and serve with a small pitcher of cream

You wouldn't believe how incredibly delicious this was. I'll probably try this same recipe with raspberries, blueberries or strawberries sometime soon. One of my favorites and a keeper recipe for sure!!

Post # 101, coming next, will be my post for Tyler Florence Fridays and will have a fun giveaway included. I have two goodies from Lush Handmade Cosmetics that I will be posting about with my next recipe.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Watermelon Nectar with Lime Salt

Tyler Florence has so many great recipes for mixed drinks. In his new cookbook, Dinner at My Place, he has a whole chapter devoted to them. This recipe for watermelon nectar with lime salt caught my eye when I first received the book. It looks like the perfect mixed drink for summer, doesn't it?
Well, I finally found a small seedless watermelon at the grocery store. All I needed was the white tequila. Since we live in a dry county, I hardly ever get to the liquor store. I decided that I really needed a drink, so I piled the kids into the mini van and we went for a drive. I went through the drive-thru at the liquor store and bought some Jose Cuervo. The best part of it all was that my kids thought it was McDonald's or something. My two-year old was in the back seat screaming for french fries and my eight-year old was asking "Hey, where's my drink?". The guys inside the store were cracking up and I was too!! The whole thing just made my day.
Lime Salt:
2 tablespoons sea salt
zest of 1 lime
1 small seedless watermelon
4 ounces white tequila *I bought Jose Cuervo*
2 ounces Simple Syrup
Splash of lime juice
1 lime, cut into wedges, for garnish
To prepare Lime Salt, using a mortar and pestle, combine salt and lime zest until the salt tkes on a bright green color. Set aside.
To prepare watermelon nectar, cut up watermelon flesh and place in a strainer lined with a clean kitchen towel over a bowl. Gather the corners of the towel and squeeze tightly to extract watermelon nectar. Measure 8 ounces; reserve remaining nectar for another use. Combine watermelon nectar, tequila, Simple Syrup, and lime juice in a cocktail shaker. Shake and pour drink through a strainer over ice in glasses. Garnish with lime wedges and Lime Salt.
Simple Syrup- combine 1 part water and 1 part sugar in a saucepan. Bring to boiling over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved(syrup is done when the mixture is clear and the surface is covered in bubbles). Remove from heat; cool in refrigerator until ready to use.
Serves 2-4
Time 8 minutes
Notes: You only need about 1/4 of a small seedless watermelon to get 8 ounces of nectar/juice.
I forgot to make the simple syrup ahead of time and then had to chill it in the freezer to try and rapidly cool it down. Next time, I would make the simple syrup well ahead of time. I only used 2 ounces of tequila to 8 ounces of watermelon nectar and 2 ounces of simple syrup. The drink was still REALLY STRONG. I can't imagine how strong the drink would be if you were to add the 4 ounces of white tequila that Tyler calls for in the recipe. The drink is beautiful, refreshing, and crisp. If you enjoy a strong drink, make this one!! Or, try it without the tequila. I think that would be great too!!
I am submitting this post to Tyler Florence Fridays. Click here to check out what everyone else is making this week.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Oreos N Cream Cake

Awhile back, I made the oreo chocolate chip cookies from Donna's site, My Tasty Treasures. Those cookies were absolutely delicious and we gobbled them up right away. My husband took some to work and everyone loved them. My mom took hers to work and had to share with everyone. Now it's 1 month later and imagine my surprise to find almost an entire package of oreos leftover in my pantry!! That never happens. I hid them so well..... I even hid them from myself : ) I wanted to make something else with them and I remembered that Donna had also made and posted this oreos n cream cake. Here is link for Donna's post on oreos n cream cake. If you are not familiar with Donna's blog, My Tasty Treasures, then you should head over there right now!! Donna has so many great recipes and she serves them up in a naughty, fun, adventurous way that will make you laugh!!

This cake was a huge hit. The whole family was on standby waiting for it to be finished. My daughter kept coming in from her friend's house to check and see if it was finished. The cake consists of two 9" chocolate cakes that are cut in half horizontally. There is a cream cheese filling that is spread between the layers. When the cake is assembled, it is covered in sweetened whipped cream, coated in oreo cookie crumbs and decorated with oreo cookies. (Donna's post shows the recipe step by step) The cake is suppose to sit in the refrigerator for 20 minutes before slicing and serving. I don't think we waited the full 20 minutes: ) It was really delicious!! My husband said it was something that could be served in a restaurant. We all went on and on praising the cake. It was the perfect indulgence for my super sweet tooth that I've been having. I will say that the cake is even better the next day after sitting in the refrigerator overnight. The presentation is also better the next day. You can get a very clean nice slice.

If you love all things chocolate you should make this cake!! It was really impressive and the whole family enjoyed it. The recipe can be found on Donna's post, link posted above. Thank you Donna for sharing the recipe!!

On another note, I haven't been doing a lot of cooking or baking lately. Last fall I got a job at LUSH Fresh Handmade Cosmetics. I worked there at Christmas and just started back up last week. If you are not familiar with them, you should check out this site. All of the products are natural, great for the environment and handmade in Canada. There are so many great products, such as solid shampoo bars, bath bombs, bubble bars, shower jellies, massage bars, handmade soaps and face masks. In fact, I will be having a giveaway coming up soon!!

I have also spent a lot of time glued to my TV set watching all the specials on Michael Jackson. I realize there are many people who are tired of hearing about him and I can understand that. However, I'm not one of those people. Michael reminds me of so many great memories, but mostly of my childhood.

In 1982, for Christmas, my parents bought me a cassette player and Michael Jackson's Thriller cassette. I opened it up on Christmas Eve and was instantly in love. I played it over and over again. My grandpa and my parents even enjoyed it. Michael was the beginning of my love for music.

Later on that year, the small town newspaper issued a free color poster of Michael Jackson in the newspaper. My girlfriends and I hung our first poster in our bedrooms that year. Thinking of this now makes me realize that Michael really did break the color-barriers in the early 1980's. It certainly wasn't common for 4 little white girls, living in small-town Ohio, to have a poster of a young black man hanging on their wall. But, he was Michael Jackson, and everyone loved him. We kissed his poster every night before we went to bed.

Michael Jackson was really starting to catch on that year. My third grade class had an entire day devoted to Michael. We got to watch the "Making of the Thriller video" and then we watched the actual video over and over again. Everyone spent the day doing the moonwalk and trying to dance like Michael. In fact, we still laugh about our art teacher trying to do the moonwalk. That year in school we wore our Thriller shirts, carried our Thriller purses, wore a white glove and tried to dance like Michael.

In 1983, I turned eight years old, and for some reason I will always remember that year. I was turning into a big girl, riding my bike, decorating my own room, listening to my own music, and gaining my independence. Michael Jackson will always be a part of my childhood and I'm thankful for that. It was a privilege to grow up with his music and his legacy. I will remember him through the eyes of a child forever.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Dr. Tyler's Chicken Meatball and Tortellini Soup

I could use a comforting bowl of this soup right now. I have been having so many issues with my computer lately. Is anyone else getting the error message "operation aborted"? It seems that I can't visit some of my favorite blogs. This makes me frustrated for so many reasons!! This morning I wanted to make Donna's Oreo Cake, but I can't get onto her blog!! I love seeing what everyone is making and I want to stay updated with your blogs. Can anyone let me know if they have a fix to this? Or, are there people out there going crazy, just like me? If so, I'd like to offer you a bowl of this soup.

I chose to make this soup simply because I am working on cleaning out my freezer and pantry. I had these sweet little heart shaped ravioli in my freezer. Naturally, I was saving them for a "special occasion". Apparently, I never found the right "special occasion". I decided that anything using a Tyler recipe was special enough and I dug them out for this recipe. Why, oh, why do I always save things for a "special" occasion?

This soup was a little on the labor intensive side. Tyler give you the option of using 4 links of apple-chicken sausage or using the equivalent in ground chicken. I can tell you that you should totally opt for the ground chicken! The sausage I bought was hard to remove from the casing and was not soft or easy to crumble and mold into a meatball. Once my meatballs were formed, it dawned on me that I was very nevous about making meatballs with poultry. Because I am a very paranoid person, I was sure to overcook them. The rest of the soup was very easy to throw together. I thought the final outcome was very tasty and I thought the chicken meatball was a very original idea. The soup was adorable with those little heart shaped raviolis floating around. I like the light apple flavor of the soup and the meatball gave a wonderful flavor to the broth. I think the novelty of it all was lost on my husband. He liked the soup, but declared that the meatballs in the soup didn't count as meat. Does anyone else have a husband who has to have a huge amount of meat at every meal? It literally drives me crazy. Can you tell I'm in a wonderful mood today?
Chicken Meatballs
4 links organic chicken-apple sausage or equivalent ground chicken meat
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs (2 slices fresh white bread ground up)
1/2 cup whole milk
1 egg
2 tbsp. chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano, plus 2 tbsp. for sprinkling
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
4 fresh thyme sprigs
2 large carrots, cut into circles
1 medium onion, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
kosher salt
2 quarts reduced-sodium chicken broth
4 black peppercorns
2 tbsps. chopped fresh italian flat-leaf parsley
1 bay leaf
1 pound fresh refrigerated or frozen cheese tortellini, thawed **I used ravioli**
1/4 cup finely chopped italian flat-leaf parsley
grated parmigiano
fresh parlsey sprigs, for garnish
1 crusty French baguette **I served this with my pretzel rolls**
Preheat oven to 375F. Prepare meatballs by combining loose ground chicken meat (discard casings, if using sausages), bread crumbs, milk, egg, parsley, and the 1/4 cup parmigiano in a large mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper, then mix until fully combined. Using a small ice cream scoop, make balls and set on a roasting tray. Drizzle lightly with oil and sprinkle with the 2 tbsps. Parmigiano. Roast in a preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown and caramelized.
While the meatballs are roasting, prepare the soup. Set a large stockpot over medium heat. Add a 2-count of oil, the garlic, and thyme. Gently saute until frgrant, about 2 minutes. Add carrot, onion, and celery. Season with salt and cook for 5-7 minutes. Pour in chicken broth and add peppercorns, the 2 tbsps. parsley, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes.
Once meatballs are cooked, scrape them into the pot of chicken soup and add tortellini/ravioli. Bring to a boil and cook for 2-3 minutes to allow the flavors to come together. Remove peppercorns and bay leaf. Season with sal tand pepper and serve in shallow bowls. Sprinkle with parsley and grated parmigiano. Garnish each bowl with a parsley sprig and serve with some torn pieces of crusty bread/pretzel rolls.
I am submitting this recipe to Tyler Florence Fridays for this Friday's roundup. Head on over there Friday evening and see what everyone else cooked up this week!!