Sunday, May 31, 2009

Chicken Fajitas and the BEST Mexican Rice

I have been craving chicken fajitas for months now. I'm on one of those kick where I could eat them everyday for days until I get tired of it. I found this recipe for fajitas on Recipezaar and couldn't wait to try it. I have been so impressed with all my recipes from Recipezaar. I wanted to only serve the fajitas for dinner.....................................................
but I knew my husband would need a side dish with his, so I threw together this recipe for Mexican rice and couldn't believe how absolutely delicious it was!! WOW!! Please make this rice if you are into Mexican food. It is totally the best ever and even better the next day. I promise that you will love it. It is a definite keeper!!
There is a secret to making the rice. You first start by rinsing the rice off in a strainer. This removes some of the starch and keeps the rice fluffy. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP!! Then you saute the rice in a skillet before adding the liquids. The rice is then baked in a covered dish for about 30 minutes. It doesn't look like anything special, but it beats any other rice I have ever tasted. I replaced the tomatoes, onion and jalopeno with a 12 oz. jar of medium salsa and it worked out perfectly. We talked about this rice for days afterwards. I will be making this rice as a side dish for all our fajitas, tacos, burritos, and enchiladas.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Wonderful White Bread for Tyler Florence Fridays

This week for Tyler Florence Fridays I decided to chose a recipe based on necessity. I had planned on baking Tyler's popovers from Stirring the Pot, but we have had too many sweets this week. Instead, I decided on Tyler's Wonderful White Bread so that I could send packed lunches with my husband and daughter. I am also submitting this recipe and post to BYOB/Bake Your Own Bread , which is a wonderful group of bloggers resolving to bake all their own breads at home from scratch.
I try not to buy storebought breads anymore. This is for two reasons. The first reason being that I have recently discovered baking bread and love it. The second reason being that my local store doesn't carry much bread and when they do it is close to expiration. Needless to say, we don't normally have any sandwich bread in the house. Since my daughter needs a brown bag lunch tomorrow I chose this to submit to both TFF and BYOB.
This recipe for wonderful white bread was very easy to put together. I did not have rapid -rising dry yeast so I used my regular active-dry yeast instead. I was careful not to add the yeast until the warmed milk/butter mixture was cooled down to about 110F. Once the dough is kneaded, it needs to rest for 45 minutes to rise. Tyler says not to punch the dough down, but to turn it out onto the counter and form it into a loaf. Cover with cling wrap and allow to rise for another 20 minutes. Before baking, brush with remaining egg white and slash with a knife to allow steam to escape. He suggests boiling 3 cups of water and placing into the oven to create steam and achieve a crispy crust on the bread. I did this and I do believe it paid off. The bread was golden tan on top and just looked marvelous. This bread has the same texture of good quality sandwich bread you are familiar with, except it is fresh and homemade. This recipe is a total keeper and I'm quite sure I will be making it often!! All of Tyler's baking recipes are a surefire hit with me.
Tomorrow I will be using this white bread to make a peanut butter sandwich for my daughter, Olivia. All the kids were required to bring a brown bag lunch for their field day tomorrow. I'm pleasantly surprised that her school is participating in field day. Back when I was in elementary school we had field day at the end of every school year. Each class had their own day and we played all kinds of games, had relay races, ran in potato sacks, and threw water balloons. This is the first year her school has participated in this and I am very excited to go and help out. I wonder how much field day has changed since the 1980's??

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge for May: Apple Strudel

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caf├ęs of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers
This is my first post for the Daring Bakers. I have always baked simple things, but never anything elaborate. Just recently I discovered the joy of baking yeast breads at home and found a love for baking that I never knew existed.
The strudel recipe appeared rather tedious and I felt subject to failure or severe problems while crafting the dough. Naturally I have a way of procrastinating anything that seems remotely confrontational, including this dough. I know it, I'm half crazy and I fully admit it. My procrastination has led me all the way to today where I was stuck making this dessert on the last day. As usual, each time I procrastinate I learn that the task wasn't as bad as I made it out to be and then I tell myself that I won't procrastinate anymore.. yeah, right. Who am I kidding??

Anyway, this recipe wasn't that bad and the dough was simple and also a dream to work with. In fact, this dough was almost addictive to knead. The feel of the dough was so soft that I had a hard time putting it down. (Yes, in addition to procrastinating I also have OCD). When you are finished making and kneading the dough it needs to rest at least 30-90 minutes.
After resting, you roll the dough out onto a huge surface until it is paper thin. The dough should be so thin you could read a letter through it. Once the dough is rolled thin enough, you rub with butter, sprinkle with buttered and toasted breadcrumbs, and add the filling. Once this is complete you roll the pastry up and shape into a horseshoe design. When the pastry is ready to be baked you can brush on additional butter and sprinkle with sugar or any other desired topping. This month the daring bakers were able to chose either a sweet or savory filling and there were many combinations. I chose the apple filling just because that was what I had on hand (especially since I waited until the last minute).
Here is the recipe for the strudel dough:
1 1/3 cups (200 g) unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
1. Combine the flour and salt in a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the water, oil and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add the water/oil mixture to the flour with the mixer on low speed. You will get a soft dough. Make sure it is not too dry, add a little more water if necessary.Take the dough out of the mixer. Change to the dough hook. Put the dough ball back in the mixer. Let the dough knead on medium until you get a soft dough ball with a somewhat rough surface.

2. Take the dough out of the mixer and continue kneading by hand on an unfloured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes. Pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally.Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a plate. Oil the top of the dough ball lightly. Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30-90 minutes (longer is better).
3. It would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36 inch (90 cm) round table or a work surface of 23 x 38 inches (60 x 100 cm). Cover your working area with table cloth, dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric. Put your dough ball in the middle and roll it out as much as you can.Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge. This way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs. Using the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough. You can use your forearms to support it.
4. The dough will become too large to hold. Put it on your work surface. Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table. Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands. Stretch and pull the dough until it's about 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 3 feet (90 cm) long, it will be tissue-thin by this time. Cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors. The dough is now ready to be filled.

There was a recipe included for an apple filling, but you can add in any filling you'd like. I was afraid to stray too far from the recipe, but I learned that it doesn't really matter what you fill the dough with. The only exception is that you would not want your filling to be overly wet, but you could put meat and cheese. You could have a veggie strudel. You could even have a nut strudel and drizzle honey on top and it would be somewhat like baklava. All in all, this is really an easy recipe and is no harder than making a good pie crust from scratch. I was very happy with how mine turned out and am happy to add strudel to my list of baking projects. Thank you to Linda and Courtney for their choice this month. Maybe next month I'll be ahead of schedule for once!!

Frozen Lemonade Pie

I once heard Martha Stewart say that she has never ate Cool Whip before. She went on to say that she has never cooked with it and would never use it. We have to give her credit for the empire that she built, but Martha is really missing out!! This pie is truly one of my favorite summer desserts! I got this recipe last summer while I was watching an episode of The Neely's on Food Network. Since last summer I have probably made this dessert at least ten times!
If you buy a premade graham cracker crust then you only need 3 simple ingredients for the filling. The filling consists of 1-14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk, 12 oz. container of cool whip, and 6 oz. of frozen lemonade concentrate. All three items are chilled and you simply fold them together and freeze the dessert overnight. The texture is amazing!! The pie somehow manages to be light but dense all at once. I would say the filling is a cross between a thick mousse or a light ice cream. The filling is smooth, silky, creamy, dense and just has a great mouthfeel. If you cannot tell by now, I am absolutely crazy about this pie!! If you have not tried this recipe, I sincerly urge you to sometime during the summer. It is simply superb, easy, inexpensive, quick and most everyone loves it!! My husband and I ate the whole pie in 3 days! It is the perfect dessert for summer BBQ's, picnics, etc.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Baby Back Ribs & Memorial Day!

Happy Memorial Day!! I hope everyone enjoyed the long holiday weekend. Yesterday we celebrated with a barbecue feast. My supermarket had a sale on baby back ribs so I decided to buy some and give them a try. I have tried cooking ribs before and they have never turned out well so I was determined to give them a second try. We weren't sure what to expect, but they turned out fabulous! I found this recipe online. The ribs were a copycat recipe after the ribs served at Damon's. The sauce was a molasses-based sauce that had a hint of smoke. They were first baked in a covered dish at 350F for 50 minutes. When removed from the oven the ribs were covered in the sauce and baked uncovered for another 50 minutes, or until tender. When those ribs came out of the oven I could just tell they would be a hit! They looked just the way you want your ribs to look...sticky, gooey, and messy. My husband and I were so happy to know that we can cook ribs at home now. We are planning a trip back to the supermarket to buy more.

I served the ribs with a new recipe for coleslaw, baked beans, corn on the cob, baked potatoes, and toasted garlic bread . For dessert we had Frozen Lemonade Pie. I plan on posting the recipe for the pie tomorrow. It is one of my favorite desserts and it is super easy and quick to make.

This weekend marks the beginning of summer everywhere. Down here in Kentucky we ushered in summer with the normal hot, humid and muggy weather. The massive heat seems to come in all at once. It's that kind of unbearable heat that makes you say "it must be 100 degrees out here". The kind of heat that drives you inside to find that it is really only 80 degrees, but the humidity is 50%. Every year at the beginning of summer I am surprised again by the extreme heat and humidity that is the Kentucky summer. I always tell myself that I'll get use to it, but I don't guess I ever will. I've had too many summers in northern Ohio where I was born and raised. Those Ohio summers up by the lake are perfect for me. Moderate weather in the 80's, cool breezes blowing in from the lake, and slightly cool nights....I really miss those days : )

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Veal Piccata with Lemon, Capers, and Parsley-Butter Sauce *Recipe #37 - page 93*

It's been a busy week. I want to take this time to share some things that happened this week. I do realize that this is a food blog, but I am also a mother and cannot help but share these two stories. This week I was reminded of what can happen in a couple of seconds.
I was at the mall on Saturday afternoon. Despite the economy, the mall was packed. People were out in droves. I was lucky enough to be shopping without my children and took the time to go to Macy's. I worked for LUSH at Macy's this past Christmas and still know some people up there. I was chatting away when a voice came over the intercom, "CODE ADAM". Never in my life has there been a voice over the intercom at the mall. "CODE ADAM - two missing caucasian children. One 5 year old girl, blond hair, pigtails, blue eyes, red dress. One 3 year old boy, brown hair, blue eyes, green shirt. Call xxx if you see them. CODE ADAM. The voice asked all employees to abandon their stations and cover the doorways. I cannot tell you how very, very quiet that huge store became. No one talked and everyone froze. You could look around and tell who was a mother and who wasn't. It seemed like forever but it was probably only five minutes. The children were found and a message came on to tell us they were with their mother again. I was so happy and thankful. I made a mental note to keep a closer eye on my own children.
A couple days later one of my neighbors was knocking on my door. When I came to the door she was crying. This neighbor has seven children. Most of them are teenagers or preteens. The youngest are two girls, ages 4 and 6. It was around 3:30 or 4pm and not time for husbands to be home from work yet. My neighbor was consoling her preteen who was upset about something that had happened at school. While consoling her preteen, the two youngest slipped out of the house. At first she figured they were right out front. When they weren't, she gathered her other five children and they all went looking. They had been looking for over 30 minutes when they came to my house. She told me later that my house was her last resort. When I opened the door and she didn't see them she really started crying. My daughter and I ran out to help her search and I gotta tell you I was really scared. We live in a quiet and rural small town in Kentucky but you never know. Our homes are in the middle of new construction and there are so many people in and out of here during the day.
After what seemed like forever we saw two empty bikes by the roadside. I watched my neighbor fall to the ground. In my mind I thought the empty bikes were good news. I thought we finally had a clue of where to look. In her mind she thought someone had taken her two girls. There were a lot of people outside at this point and quite a bit of commotion going on. I bent down to talk to my neighbor and when we looked up we saw them!! Two little girls walking towards us. They were walking right out of that field by our homes! Apparently, they thought it was a great idea to walk through that field. You never know what ideas children will come up with. That poor mom had taken just a couple minutes to console an older child. I made a mental note to have all available eyes and ears on my children at all times.
Things are starting to slow down just in time for the weekend and I sure am glad!! I am so excited to have a long holiday weekend!! I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday. Hope you enjoy lots of good food and picnics : )
Tonight I made Tyler's Veal Piccata from Stirring the Pot. I finally was able to locate some good looking veal at the local Kroger. I have never bought veal before and was surprised to see it was rather inexpensive. I think I paid about $3.00 for four thin cutlets. Not too bad!! I was so thankful that this was a fast and quick recipe!! It was a matter of cooking spaghetti and sauteing up the veal and dinner was served. The whole thing took less than 30 minutes. The sauce was rather piquant and bright and the veal was very tender and surprisingly flavorful. I used Marsala wine in the sauce because it is my favorite wine to cook with. I would recommend this dish if you are looking for something quick, affordable, and somewhat sophisticated. You can find another Tyler version of this recipe here. This is my weekly post for Tyler Florence Fridays. Head on over to this site every Friday night to see what we have made. Or better yet, join us, and make a Tyler recipe of your own chosing each week.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Two Dishes: Bourbon Chicken and Funky Chicken and Sesame Noodles

It's no secret that I am a HUGE fan of the Recipezaar website. In fact, my new hobby is searching their website by ratings to find the best recipes on there. The Bourbon Chicken has received 1723 reviews (one of the most reviewed recipes on Recipezaar). This is rated as a five-star recipe. How can you go wrong? This recipe for Bourbon Chicken was so easy! I just cubed up my chicken and cooked until lightly browned being careful not to cook it through. Then you add all the other ingredients to the pan and throw the chicken back in. Bring everything to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes or until the sauce becomes thick and glazed. I served the Bourbon Chicken over brown rice with scallions. This recipe was so tasty and was seriously one of the best things I've ate in awhile. I also gave this recipe a five-star rating and will be making it once every week or until I get my fill of it!! It is pictured in the top two pictures.

The next day I made Funky Chicken and Sesame Noodles. The recipe can be found here. I chose this recipe mainly because my daughter loves "chinese noodles" and I was hoping this would be something she would like. She is rather picky about food and I love when I can add something else to her list of foods. My husband is a huge fan of Chinese restaurants and I figured this was a sure thing for him as well. This was rated almost five-star on Recipezaar and was also a popular recipe. This recipe says to marinate the chicken and the noodles, but I'm not sure this is a necessary step. I think there was enough flavor to just combine all ingredients and cook straight away. My husband and daughter LOVED this dish. I was excited that Olivia enjoyed the noodles and am happy to add something new to her diet. I learned that I might not be a huge fan of sesame oil. The noodles were combined with soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and scallions. Sesame seeds were to be sprinkled on top, but I did not have any so we skipped that ingredient. I did however really enjoy the chicken which was marinated in a combinations of soy sauce, terriyaki sauce, ginger, and brown sugar. The chicken was sauteed in sesame oil, but could easily be cooked in olive oil, canola or any other substitute. All in all this recipe is really good for the family. See the huge portion it made in my third picture!! I will make it again but I will add less sesame oil to the noodles and cook my chicken in canola oil.
Try them both and see which one you like best!!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Chicken Spiedini Salad *Recipe #36 - Page 156*

I have been so sidetracked with baking and other new recipes that I have neglected Tyler! I made this recipe from Stirring the Pot about two weeks ago when I had leftover Caesar dressing. The chicken spiedini are kabobs with cubed chicken and sausage and Tyler serves them with his Caesar salad on the side.

This is a recipe in the grill section of the cookbook. It is not featured yet on the Food Network. Here are the ingredients for the chicken spiedini:

1 crusty baguette, sliced into rounds
2 medium boneless, skin-on chicken breast halves, cut into 4 pieces each
4 links sweet Italian pork sausage, halved crosswise
12 fresh bay leaves
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 lemons, juice only

Thread the components, alternating bread, chicken, sausage, and bay leaves, until skewer is full. Baste the kabobs with the 1/2 cup olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Preheat grill to medium. Place on hot grill; cook for 8-10 minutes, until golden brown, basting with lemon juice and turning to ensure even color on all sides. Serve alongside Caesar Salad and grilled lemons. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

We had to pitch our old outdoor grill and we have not replaced it yet. Meanwhile, I've been reduced to my indoor electric grill. I pulled out my indoor grill and rubbed it down with olive oil. I went to turn the knob that adjusts the heat and the knob broke off. Fabulous!! I screamed for my husband because he can almost always fix everything. He came in and kept turning the knob on and off. On and off. It went on and on. Lord knows that I am not a patient person. It was driving me crazy. I was trying to explain to him that I needed that grill to be really hot so that I could get that good sear on my meat. He was looking at me like I was crazy. I had one of those moments where I lost it and starting saying that the whole dish was ruined.

Sometime during the on and off sequence the knob completely broke. And, when I say completely..... I mean completely. The knob shattered into hundreds of little black plastic pieces all over my kitchen counter. I totally freaked out. I can't stand it when something goes wrong like that in the middle of a recipe. We tried turning the knob with a piece of the broken plastic but that gauge was hot!! It was too hot to touch. It was impossible to tell what setting the grill was on. I was so hot (from standing over the grill) and angry that I put a skewer next to the salad and snapped a picture. After the picture was taken, I pulled everything off the skewers and threw it in a skillet so that I could finish cooking, Apparently that grill had touched a nerve with me!!

The chicken spiedini turned out well considering. I thought the flavors added to the meat were terrific, but my husband thought there was too much lemon. I served the dish with the caesar salad and couscous. This is the first time that I have used a skewer in cooking. I will say that this was both new and fun for me. I learned that if you want to skewer meat then you should cook it on an outdoor grill so that the flames can rise up and cook all the meat evenly.

Later that night, the grill took a trip to the trashcan outside. In the end I really felt like I won the battle with that grill. I didn't even clean it off before I threw it away : )

First Daring Cook's Challenge: Ricotta Gnocchi

I am so happy to participate in the first ever Daring Cook's Challenge. This recipe was chosen from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rogers. We were able to make any variation on the recipe as far as sauces and toppings were concerned. I chose sauteed spinach, minced garlic, and parmesan cheese. The final result was a light cheesy pillow with more flavor than I expected. I was impressed with what became of such humble ingredients. The final dish was simple, light, fresh and flavorful.

Here are the ingredients needed for the gnocchi:

1 pound (454 grams/16 ounces) fresh ricotta (2 cups)
2 large cold eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) unsalted butter
2 or 3 fresh sage leaves, or a few pinches of freshly grated nutmeg, or a few pinches of chopped lemon zest (all optional)
½ ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated (about ¼ cup very lightly packed)
about ¼ teaspoon salt (a little more if using kosher salt
all-purpose flour for forming the gnocchi

Step One: Prepare the Ricotta
The recipe calls for fresh ricotta, but there were those of us who could not find this product. I had to use regular old ricotta in the container. When I opened the container, it did not appear wet, but you wouldn't believe how much liquid finally came out of it. I lined a colander with cheesecoth, placed it into a bowl, and laid the ricotta in the cheesecloth for about 36 hours. The next morning, there was very little liquid in the bottom of the bowl. I decided to wrap the cheesecloth around the ricotta and squeeze. This squeezing method proved to work for me and after a couple hours of intermittent squeezing I was ready to begin step two.

Step Two: Prepare the gnocchi dough
The ricotta need to be smooth. Mash it with a spatula or spoon to see if there are any more curds and if there are put the dough through a strainer to make cheese more smooth. Mine was smooth and I skipped this step. I halved the recipe so my dough was a little different. To the strained and smoothed ricotta I added:
1 cold egg, slightly beaten
half tablespoon melted butter
1 tbsp. lemon zest
1 tbsp. chopped parsley
1/8 cup parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
The batter should be soft and fluffy and not have any streaks. Everything should be mixed in well.

Step Three: Forming the Gnocchi
Fill a small pot with water and add a generous amount of salt. Bring this pot to a boil and then keep it at a simmer. You will use this to test your first gnocchi to make sure the dough is correct. If the dough fell apart in the pot then you would make adjustments to your dough.
On a sheet pan or other large surface create a bed of a/p flour. Scoop up 2 - 3 tsp. of dough and at an angle use the spoon to roll the dough into the flour. Gently cover the gnocchi with the flour and put in the simmering pot for 3-5 minutes. The gnocchi will bob to the top when it is finished. If the gnocchi falls apart than it means your ricotta was probably too wet and you can add 1 tsp. egg white to remedy this situation. Repeat the process of testing one to see if this corrects the problem. If your sample comes out heavy, beat 1 tsp. beaten egg to the batter and test again. Once you have the right dough, you can put 4-6 gnocchi into the flour mixture and set them all aside on a sheet tray until you are ready to cook them. Judy Rogers recommends storing them in the refrigerator for an hour to allow them to firm up. Or, if you are impatient like me you can cook them right away.

Step Four: Cooking the Gnocchi
You will need a wide pan filled with 2-3 quarts of water. I started with this pan to begin with (for the testing). I am not into washing loads of dishes!! I had my sauce/topping close by in another pan so that I could toss the gnocchi with the final ingredients directly after cooking them. Bring your wide pot to a boil and salt in generously. Keep the water at a simmer and drop the gnocchi in one at a time. Cook them for 3-5 minutes or until they float to the top. Remove gently with a slotted spoon and toss with sauce or toppings. Serve immediately. When my gnocchi were finished cooking I tossed them with some sauteed spinach and garlic. I topped the dish with some parmesan cheese and black pepper.

When the dish was complete I was very impressed with what I had created from rather humble ingredients. Cheese, egg, a dusting of flour and some flavorings and I had a rather impressive dish. The final product was like a soft and fluffy cheese pillow. There was a little bit of tang from the lemon zest and the spinach and garlic complimented the gnocchi very well. I enjoyed this recipe and did not find it complicated at all. All the steps make it seem like it was very involved, but it wasn't. The overall dish was light but very satisfying. I was very pleased with this first challenge.

If you are interested in joining the Daring Cook's, head on over to and check out the details.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Almost Famous Breadsticks

I served these breadsticks alongside the "almost famous" garden salad on Mother's Day. These breadsticks are meant to be just like the ones served at Olive Garden. They were very zesty and buttery and the texture of the dough was just perfect. The recipe makes a very generous 16 big breadsticks. The whole batch was gone in no time at all. I grabbed two and wrapped them up for my husband so that he could have a chance to try them! Sometimes you gotta be sneaky like that : )

The best part about these breadsticks is that they are very quick since they only require a 45 minute rising period. There is no second rising which makes them much quicker to serve. I would like to share that the dough did not rise very much at all. In fact, when I removed my kitchen towel and looked at the dough I was scared. I thought maybe I had done something wrong and the dough had not rose. They were only slightly puffy but I decided to go ahead and bake them anyway. I was so happy when they turned out so great.

The only change I made to this recipe was adding more butter. How can you ever go wrong with more butter? I wanted them to be extra special for Mother's Day! The breadsticks are brushed with a melted butter and salt mixture before baking. When they come out of the oven they look so moist and you can see all that lovely salt glistening on the tops. Then you top them with more melted butter, garlic salt and I also added Italian seasoning. The recipe does not call for Italian seasoning but I think this greatly improved the taste of the breadstick. They were extremly flavorful and zesty. I'm so excited to share this quick and easy recipe for breadsticks. I really hope that someone will try it and let me know what they think.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Almost Famous Garden Salad - Olive Garden Style

I have a subscription to the new TV Food Network Magazine and I can't tell you how much I love it. My favorite section of the magazine is the Almost Famous section. In the last issue they gave a recipe for soft pretzels that taste just like the ones you buy in the shopping mall. Imagine my surprise when I saw the most recent issue has the recipe for Olive Garden's salad and breadsticks!! I know my whole family (especially the women) love going to Olive Garden just for the salad and breadsticks alone. I knew instantly that I wanted to make this for my mom and mother-in-law for Mother's Day. I doubled the recipe and took a salad to each of them yesterday. We all LOVED this salad. It was the perfect lunch for us this year as we are all craving fresh and light salad dishes. Even the men enjoyed it!! I am really urging everyone to try this one. It's as simple as making a quick dressing in a blender and tossing it with some prewashed salad mix.

Blackberry Roulade For Mother's Day

I have been trying blackberry desserts lately in favor of my Mom. She loves desserts containing lime, lemon and blackberries. I found this recipe in Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook and it is not online. It is a basic recipe for a sponge cake that is baked in a 17 x 12 inch rimmed baking sheet for about 10 minutes and then immediately laid out on a powdered sugar covered kitchen towel. Once the cake cools it is filled with a creamy blackberry filling. The cake is then rolled back up and coated with more powdered sugar.

The filling was the easiest part of this recipe. It is simply 1 pint of blackberries smashed with a fork. I strained my smashed blackberry mixture to remove most of the seeds (Martha does not call for straining). Beat 1 cup of cream with 3 tbsp. powdered sugar and fold into blackberries. This is a lovely light purple color and delicious on its own.

The cake batter was a little frustrating make. For the first time, I didn't feel like the recipe was written clear enough. There was one list of ingredients and several steps and I ended up adding sugar to wrong mixture. There was an egg yolk mixture, an egg white mixture, and a dry mix that is folded together and baked. In the end, the cake turned out to be a dream to work with as far as rolling is concerned.

This is a huge cake that would easily serve 12-18 people. I cut the cake in half and took half to my mother-in-law and half to my mom. Everyone really enjoyed the light and airy aspect of this cake. They said it had a melt-in-your-mouth quality. My husband also enjoyed it and he doesn't even like blackberries. I didn't really know what to think of it. I realize that it is a "sponge cake" but it was very spongelike. It seemed like the cake was lacking flavor and was rather light and mild. Maybe this is someone's idea of a fabulous dessert, but I want my desserts to be sinful, rich, and decadent : ) I don't know if I would make this one again.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Cinco De Mayo Pizza

I just started baking breads and pizzas a couple months ago. I have been using this recipe for pizza dough and it always turns out perfectly. I've thought about trying a new recipe, but why fix what ain't broke?? We have really been enjoying homemade pizza and all the toppings that you can create at home.

For Cinco de Mayo, we decided to go with a Mexican-inspired pizza. I made the pizza dough and and rubbed it down with some chili oil. Then I layered it with refried beans, taco sauce, ground beef cooked down with taco seasoning, monterey jack cheese, olives, and jalapenos. This was one hot and tasty pizza! I really enjoy hot and spicy foods, but my mouth was really on fire! I was happy I had made some frozen chocolate bananas. They were the perfect dessert to help cool my mouth down.

PB & J Pancakes

Breakfast food is my all-time favorite. Maybe it's because we don't usually have the time for a hot breakfast everyday. Or maybe it's because there is such a wide variety of things to serve for breakfast. In fact, there are so many recipes for pancakes alone that it could make your head spin. I was craving pancakes the other night and I searched the food network for a new and unique recipe. I was planning on trying the Tyler Florence recipe that has been so popular lately, but I found this one instead. This is a recipe from Sunny Anderson's show, Cooking for Real.
I can remember watching this episode and thinking she was on to something with this recipe.
I am not exaggerating when I say that I don't know if I have ever been so impressed with a recipe before!! I was expecting them to be good, but they blew my socks off!!

The recipe is easy, quick and produces perfectly fluffy and golden brown peanut butter pancakes! The jelly syrup is pure genius! This is a wonderfully written recipe with the perfect balance of peanut butter flavor and just the right amount of sweetness in the syrup. The pancakes puff up in the pan and are so tender they will melt in your mouth.

I cannot tell you how much we enjoyed this recipe. Even my husband said they were a full blown 10, and he hardly ever says that. This means a lot coming from him, especially when there is no meat involved.

If you need more proof of just how good this recipe truly is, then check here. It has been rated 5 stars by 45 people on the food network website. If you like peanut butter and jelly you will not be disappointed.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Olivia's 8th Birthday Cake!!

I had big plans for Olivia's cake yesterday. Every year she wants a boxed yellow cake mix with chocolate frosting. This presents a challenge every year because a chocolate frosted cake is hard to decorate. This year I thought I had a great idea. On our recent trip to Disney World we purchased a huge Mr. Potatohead with all kinds of cute little parts. There were Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy parts. I wanted to cut the cake into a potatohead shape and decorate with potatohead pieces. Although Olivia loves to play Mr. Potatohead with her little brother, she did not like this idea. The reason why? A Mr. Potatohead cake did not match her Hannah Montana themed birthday party. She asked me if she could decorate her own cake and how could I refuse? It was her cake after all. Good thing I didn't have any sprinkles!! They would've been poured on the cake!

Chocolate Fondue and the Chocolate Fountain

My mom bought this little chocolate fountain on sale last year. She thought it would be fun for my daughter. We have tried working with it two times now and it has given us trouble each time. The first time we made a cheese fondue (the instruction booklet said the fountain would work with cheese fondue). Just yesterday, I made a chocolate fondue. This fountain is like the little engine that couldn't. It's little motor is running but it just can't pump the fondue through. We are about to part ways with it very soon! I'm wondering if anyone else has ever tried one of these? Have you had a good experience with one?

On the other hand, how can you go wrong with chocolate fondue? Does it matter to a chocolate lover when the chocolate isn't running smoothly through the fountain? Of course not!! We just scooped the chocolate out onto our plates and carried on. We had pineapples, strawberries, bananas, animal crackers, and pretzels. The bananas were my favorite!!

I think I might just purchase a regular old fondue pot. I'd love to hear everyone's comments about fondue and things to dip in fondue. Please share!!

Melt In Your Mouth Meatballs

I am a HUGE fan of Recipezaar. I stumbled upon in about one month ago when I was searching for a dessert using blackberries. I love the how user-friendly the website is. It is lightning fast to look up recipes. My daughter wanted to have buttered pasta for her birthday yesterday so Iwas looking for a sauce that I could cook in the crock pot. After all, I would be very happy with buttered pasta, but the men would not! Men have to have meat or they think they aren't have a real meal or something. Does this happen to all you other ladies out there?

Anyway, I typed in meatballs and searched by ratings. Kittencal's Famous Italian Melt-In-Your-Mouth Meatballs popped up on the screen. It was rated 5 star recipe by 472 people so how could I go wrong? I had to double the recipe so I decided to go with 2 pounds of ground beef and 1 pound of mild italian sausage. I kept all the other measurements the same. I believe the recipe calls for you to cook the meatballs in the sauce, but also says that you can bake them for about 25 minutes. I decided to bake them. I have cooked meatballs in sauce before and had the sauce become a little greasy. I didn't want that to happen at the birthday party, so I baked them just in case. The outcome was so fabulous! I used 80/20 ground beef and there was no grease at all. The only thing on the baking sheet was a little bit of melted parmesan. These meatballs were so super tasty and delicous when they first came out of the oven. They were almost better without any sauce on them at all. My husband was standing over the oven trying to steal all the meatballs. He kept saying "Are you sure you need all those for the party tomorrow."

I refrigerated them overnight and added them to the sauce the next morning and cooked them in the sauce in the crockpot until they were heated through. They were a big hit at the party yesterday. These meatballs were very flavorful. You can taste the garlic, parsley, oregano, and parmesan cheese. There is nothing bland about them at all. And, every single meatball held its shape. They were baked, regfrigerated, dumped in the crockpot, and stirred and stirred and poked by several people. There were no little broken up pieces at all. I was super impressed with this meatball recipe and will be trying it again. I'm especially thinking about turning this recipe into a meatloaf. We love meatloaf at our house. It's one of our favorites!!

Caesar Salad *Recipe # 35*

Caesar Salad is one of my favorite things when I go out to a restaurant. For whatever reason, I have never made this at home until now. Sure, I have had it with the bottled dressing at home but never with homemade dressing. I kept putting this one off. Everytime I was hungry for Caesar Salad I thought about the anchovy paste and the raw egg yolk in the dressing. Why do I allow these things to bother me? I guess I'm quirky that way.
Normally I am the only person in my house who will eat salad. I don't usually like to make a big salad like this because it would just go to waste. However, yesterday was my daughter's 8th birthday and we had some family over. I knew I had at least 4 or 5 salad eaters so I decided to go with this recipe. Everything was so chaotic and busy that I forgot about the raw egg yolk and anchovy paste and shoveled the food down my throat as fast as possible. The salad was really good!! It was so good that by the time I ate it was almost gone. My sister-in-law said it was the bomb! I was glad to hear it because I haven't really made too many salad dressings in my life and I was a little unsure about how this one turned out.
This recipe is easy and very easy to follow. You make the salad dressing in the blender and it is finished in no time at all. I did some research online and found that 1 teaspoon anchovy paste equals 4 anchovies. I added the 1 teaspoon anchovy paste, 2 egg yolks, 1 tbsp. dijon mustard, juice of 2 lemons, and 2 tbsps. water in the blender and processed for 30 seconds. With the blender running, in poured in the oil. I poured the dressing into a bowl and stirred in 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese and added black pepper. I refrigerated the dressing for a couple hours.
I had already cut up the romaine lettuce and the only other thing left to do was create the garlic paste to rub onto the serving bowl. Tyler says to take 1 clove of garlic that is peeled and smashed. He mixes this with a little salt and olive oil to create a paste and rubs it all over the bowl. Before serving you just add the salad and dressing and toss. I had some baguette that had been toasted, but I thought it was still too hot to add to the salad. I added some big parmesan curls to the top of the salad and served it.
I would make this again if I had some salad eaters around to help me eat it all! The only thing I would change is the quantity of lemon juice. I added the full juice of 2 lemons and my dressing was a little on the lemony side. It was also a little thin. I don't know if the juice of 2 lemons is a very good measurement. I looked this up online and found that one lemon should yield 3 tbsps. juice. This means that I should have added only about 6 tbsps. lemon juice. I think I added a little more than this. In my rush to get all the food prepared, I didn't measure the lemon juice. I think the next time lemon juice comes up in a recipe I will measure the juice of one lemon as 3 tbsps. I enjoy learning these things sometimes. After all, I bet I've read the information about lemons several times. But, you learn by trial and error and then you usually never forget it!!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Tyler Florence's Big Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have ate so many cookies today!!!!! Maybe that's a good thing! Surely I won't want to eat any sweets tomorrow at the Derby party?? Well, maybe for the first hour and then I bet I'll start craving sweets again : ) Well, I saved the best cookie for last!! My all-time favorite cookie is Tyler's big fat chocolate chip cookie. I have made this about 7 or 8 times since my first post. I have made them with all dark chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, milk chocolate, and today I made them with half semi-sweet and half white chocolate. This was all the chocolate that I had left in my pantry and I figured that I couldn't go wrong. We were not dissapointed!!
This cookie recipe is a sure thing! If you haven't tried it yet, then I am telling you that you have been missing out!! This is the best cookie recipe around. Try it with all kinds of chocolate. Throw in some oatmeal, raisins, nuts, coconut... Make your own adapatations. I certainly have and the recipe works everytime. The one thing that I will say is that you have to make the cookie BIG. I tried to make smaller cookies and they were not as chewy. Experiment with this recipe, but continue to make the cookies the 1/4 c. size in the recipe. I bet you won't be dissapointed either : )

Pecan Sandies - Everyday Food

These were the first of the four cookies that I made today! I simply made these cookies to use up my last bit of pecans that were laying around. They were a cinch to make and were also very, very quick. There were very few ingredients needed. The dough was a little on the crumbly side and just a tad hard to roll into a ball. I used my little ice cream scooper and it managed the dough a lot easier. These cookies really grow on you as you eat them. By the time you are finishing your first cookie you are wanting another one!
My husband and I both thought that this was a really good recipe when you want to stray from the old standby cookie. We even said that this would make a great ice cream sandwich with some vanilla ice cream sandwiched in between two cookies!!
You can find the recipe here on Martha's site.

Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies - Everday Food

This is another great recipe for cookies from the newest copy of Everyday Food. These sandwich cookies were a lot easier to make than the "oreo" type posted earlier. The dough is simple and is rolled in cling wrap and then tucked in the freezer for an hour. Once the dough is removed from the freezer it is much easier to slice and bake. Mine are a normal cookie size and round in shape. It looks like they are more log shaped in the magazine. It didn't really matter to me (especially after making four types of cookies- LOL). In fact, when I was adding the filing I was practically falling asleep. It didn't matter to me how pretty they looked!!

This is a very tasty and addictive cookie and it should come with a warning!! The recipe makes about 30 sandwiches and I would advise you to have lots of company to help gobble them up!! If you are a peanut butter lover than this is your cookie!!

Chocolate N' Cream Sandwich Cookies - Everyday Food

I baked four types of cookies today for a Derby party tomorrow. Of all the cookies I baked, these ones were the most time-consuming, the most messy and the biggest pain. I had to add more butter to the cookie dough because it was too crumbly. Then I had to mop the floor and clean off all the cookie crumbs everywhere. They are very, very good though. I have seen all kinds of homemade oreo type cookies on blogs this year. I am very excited and happy to say that I tried these today. We loved them and are excited to share them tomorrow at the Derby party. I don't think they'll last long!!

This recipe was found in the latest edition of Martha's Everyday Food Magazine, or you can go here and see the video and recipe. These cookies are made with butter for the cream filing and let me tell you that I love that!! I have been avoiding these cookies simply because I am not a fan of shortening. I don't want to eat it and I don't even want to think about eating it! It's not that I'm really trying to be healthy, it just makes me nauseous!! These cookies are delicious and rich and I'm happy to say that I really felt fulfilled after eating just one!

Lamb T-Bones with Smashed Potatoes and Peas *Recipe # 34*

Today was such a busy day, but at least I was productive. I needed to decide on what to make for a Derby party tomorrow night. Then I needed to plan a menu for my daughter's 8th birthday party on Sunday. Plus, I had these lamb t-bones in my refrigerator that had to be cooked today. There was no way I was wasting those babies! They were $13 for three little portions.

Well, I must have been feeling motivated this morning while looking through my copy of Martha Stewart's Everyday Food magazine. She had a section on famliar favorite cookies. The hostess for the Derby party was saying that she needed more desserts and I must say that I was inspired by this magazine. There were recipes for peanut butter sandwich cookies, handmade oreos, pecan sandies and more. I guess I was ambitious because I made all three of those cookies and then I made Tyler's Big Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies. I am probably going to post all those cookies separately. They were all so delicious that they deserve their own spotlight.

Anyway, back to the Lamb T-Bones. In between my dough resting in the freezer I marinaded the lamb t-bones in a combo of lemon juice, bay leaf, shallot, parsley, olive oil, and salt and pepper. The lamb marinades for 45 minutes. While the lamb marinades you boil 8 medium new baby red potatoes in a large pot for about 30 minutes, or until fork tender. During the time the potatoes are cooking you blanch 1 cup of frozen peas in boiling water and then shock them in a cold water bath. When the potatoes are fork-tender, you drain them and add 1/2 cup heavy cream and a drizzle of olive oil. After you stir the cream and oil in then you add the peas and mix. Absolutely delicous!! I have never made potatoes with cream and olive oil before and it was a very tasty combo!!

I grilled the lamb chops for 5 minutes on the first side and about 2 minutes on the second side. Tyler says to cook them for 2 minutes on each side for medium-rare. Mine were still very close to rare. Rare is not my favorite way to eat meat but this dish was to die for!! I ate the plate even though the meat was rare! My daughter (who is very picky) was begging for more!! She loved the flavors. My husband says that this is one of his favorites from the book so far. His only complaint was that there was very little meat on the t-bone and that it was hard to cut the meat away from the bone! My daughter picked hers up and ate it with her hands! She was knawing on that bone trying to get all the meat off. I really loved this dish and I think it is a dish that would please almost everyone. You have to try the red potatoes and peas mixed with cream and olive oil. You could even serve a steak in place of the lamb t-bone and it would be delicous as well. This is a make again dish for us. We loved the citrusy marinade on the lamb and want to try it on other meats.

This one is an A+ and I am so glad!! I really wanted to love the dish after all the cooking today!!