Friday, February 29, 2008

Triple Lindy

Well, tonight was a bit of a bugger...I got my new deepwater overflow cover for the bathtub, so I decided to try my new Lush bath bomb (called Sex Bomb and it was great, I added a touch of Play Your Cards Right and it made my skin so soft!!), but that's not really the story here...

While I was in the bath, reading a good book, I apparently got a call from my boyfriend letting me know he was going to be late getting out of work. I didn't get the message, so I drove to pick him up at the normal time. Well, he said he was going to be 15 minutes late...he ended up being an hour late! At this point, it was late and I didn't want to cook since all the stuff we had would take a while and it was a good thing I didn't leave something cooking like I sometimes do since it would have burnt to a crisp. I stopped at Moe's Southwest Grill while waiting for him and picked us up some food. I was kind of disappointed because I had a dish in mind for our pizza night and we didn't end up doing it! I'll probably do it tomorrow instead. Hopefully he'll get out of work on time!

Last time I tried Joey Bag of Donuts. This time my boyfriend wanted it, and I had to go with something different, so I got the Triple Lindy. It is very similar to the Joey Bag of Donuts, but it has guacamole or sour cream and it also had mushrooms, peppers, and onions on it. This thing was so full they couldn't close the foil and the tortilla burst! Oh, well, I just ate my burrito with a fork and a knife. It was delicious, although I'm not sure how much of a fan of guacamole I am....I liked the parts without it better. I'll have to try guacamole with something else sometime so I can see how I feel about it.

For dessert, my boyfriend apparently thought a rotten banana laptop sounded good...Me? Not such a big fan since it was my laptop that got rotten banana on it! He had a banana in a backpack he uses daily and forgot about it and put my laptop in the bag. Anyone know any tricks for getting bits of banana out of ports on the computer? I'm just afraid of things happening if it stays there long! :-(

Yet Another Apple Dessert

I guess I'm on an apple kick lately. It's just that I don't always feel like having the dinner be my new food, and I'm not usually home for breakfast and lunch when school is in session, so I want something quick and easy for a dessert. Both my boyfriend and I love fruit and the fruit just isn't that good in the winter. Apples aren't as good as the ones you can pick from an apple orchard in the fall, but they don't seem to go bad as quickly as many other types of fruit.

I'm starting to run low on variations of apple skillet recipes, but I did manage to find one with a bit of a sweet taste. This recipe called for honey, which I'd never had in an apple recipe before. Yes, this apple fan, with a bit of a sweet tooth, has never even thought of adding some honey to my apples! Well...I just couldn't leave it at that.

The recipe I found was meant to be a side dish instead of a dessert, but the poster mentioned that if cinnamon is added it gave a dessert taste. In the spirit of making this a dessert, I also decided to add a touch of sugar.

This was a good recipe, the honey did add a nice sweetness to it, but it didn't have a lot of taste and we both preferred the last two apple dishes I made. I like the idea of adding honey to the dish, so I think I might play around with the ingredients a bit more and see if we can get it more to our tastes. These seem like they may be good over vanilla ice cream.

Skillet Apples with Honey

4 apples, sliced thinly and cored; peeling is up to you
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon honey

  1. Combine apples and lemon juice in a bowl. Coat apples well with the juice.
  2. In a skillet, or sauté pan, melt butter over medium-high heat.
  3. Add all remaining ingredients.
  4. Cook until apples are tender, about 5 minutes.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Tater Tot Casserole

Today I was browsing good ol' Recipezaar for a new recipe to try. I do have some cookbooks, but there are so many more recipes online to try and I like how I can search by multiple ingredients at a time online.

Anyway...I was looking for a recipe with ground beef since the pack I bought yesterday was marked down for quick sale. I filtered the search for ground beef and one of the first recipes I saw was for Tater Tot Casserole. I have heard of this before, but never tried it. It also looked really easy. I had plenty of leftover tater tots from yesterday's burger and we didn't use all the Cream of Mushroom soup I bought for the Creamy Crockpot Chicken we had last week, so I figured I'd give it a shot!

It was also perfect for the timing of my meal. I was talking to my friend about sides for meals, since I'm rubbish at getting in vegetables, although I'm trying to be a lot better. I ended up complaining about the timing of dinner since I have to pick up my boyfriend at work and there are a lot of meals I want to cook that can't keep cooking while I'm out. She felt so bad for us when I said we don't usually eat until well after 7, and I like to eat at around 6. She suggested that I get dinner ready before I go get him and just either turn off the oven when the food is close to finishing, or put the oven on warm while I run out to get my boyfriend at work. Well, I couldn't decide what to make for dinner tonight, and since this only needed about 10 minutes prep, and I had to leave in 10 minutes, it was perfect timing! The cooking time was 35 minutes, which is about the time it usually takes by the time I get to Shaw's, wait a few minutes for him to get out, and then drive back home. My boyfriend was pleasantly surprised that dinner was ready when we walked in the door...we were both starving!

When I told Lee we were having something called Tater Tot Casserole for dinner, he made a disgusted face! He liked the tater tots we had for dinner, but couldn't imagine how it could taste good! I said that I guess it's similar to a cottage pie...that it might not be too bad, but I was skeptical too. Worse case scenario, we end up cooking up some spaghetti. ;)

We ended up loving this! We were so surprised at how tasty (where did this word come from anyway, I feel so strange using it!) this was! I tried it both with ketchup and without, and I did prefer it with ketchup when eating bites with more tater tots. The Cream of Mushroom soup make this so creamy. I also think I'm really starting to like the smell of cooking onions. The scent that just starts to waft up from the skillet, especially when mixed with just the ground beef, is just incredible!

Tater Tot Casserole

1lb. ground beef
½ onion, chopped
1-10¾oz. can Cream of Mushroom soup
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1lb. tater tots

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. In a sauté pan, brown ground beef with onions.
  3. Drain, return to pan and mix with soup, salt, and pepper.
  4. Pour into a 2 quart casserole dish.
  5. Top with layer of tater tots.
  6. Bake for approximately 35 minutes.

Rotel Cheeseburgers

I went to Sam's Club today to stock up on some things and saw a box of Rotel. I had bought some on my grocery shopping trip to Walmart a couple of weeks ago and liked it, so I bought the box and figured I could try some more great recipes.

I wasn't sure what I wanted to make for dinner, but I eventually decided on cheeseburgers. I thought about trying to put some Rotel in them. I searched Recipezaar and didn't find any recipes, but I'm becoming more adventurous with my cooking since I've been doing this blog, and I decided I would just come up with a recipe on my own!

I am at the end of my grocery budget, so I didn't buy many supplies. If I were to do this again, I think I would maybe top these with a Mexican cheese blend and some pico de gallo on top. I cooked these on the George Foreman Grill and since it cooks so quickly, I thought I'd cook the Rotel and onions ahead of time. It might give more flavor to cook in the meat, but I wasn't keen on the idea of having undercooked onions in the burger and my boyfriend doesn't like raw tomatoes.

These turned out really well! The first batch didn't turn out very flavourful, but luckily my boyfriend loves to eat and wanted to help me get the recipe right. He ate four burgers and we finally got to what we thought of as the perfect ration of burger to Rotel. Now, this may be different based on your taste buds, but this is the one we liked.

Rotel Burgers

1-10 oz. can of Rotel
¼ white onion, chopped
1 lb. ground beef
cheese
buns

  1. Sauté Rotel and onions in a skillet over medium heat until cooked.
  2. Measure out ¼lb. ground beef and mix with 4 tablespoons Rotel and onion mixture. Form into burger shape. Repeat with remaining meat and Rotel.
  3. Cook on grill. Top with cheese.
  4. Let sit until cheese has melted. Place on bun and top with desired condiments and enjoy!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Parmesan Angel Hair Pasta: Take 1

I love Noodle-Roni. I actually think it's called Pasta Roni now, but I first learned of it as Noodle Roni, so that's what I always still call it. It's kind of like how I still have a hard time calling the amusement park Six Flags New England that name instead of Riverside. It's just not how I think of it.

Anyway, I love the Parmesan Angel Hair Pasta. I love to have it with my Ham and Cheese Crescent Wraps and chicken cordon bleu. Well, tonight was a night for a chicken cordon bleu for me, and a chicken kiev for my boyfriend. It's one of the few boxed meals we've had lately, but it's completely worth it!

I wanted to make my own Parmesan Angel Hair Pasta because I really think I should be able to make it myself, especially since I've learned how to do Rice-a-Roni at home. I also think I have heard they don't have this in England and I really want to have it over there. (A box of powdered buttermilk takes up a lot less space in a suitcase than boxes and boxes of noodle roni!) I have powdered buttermilk and other ingredients listed on the package, so I figured I would go for it. Stop & Shop was having a sale on Noodle Roni this weekend, so I bought a few boxes. I opened one up to use for dinner and as a guide for figuring out how to make it myself.

I should have tried making my dry mix before beginning to cook dinner, but oh well. You live you learn! I was trying to add ingredients while the milk, water, and butter were heating up. I was sniffing the powdered mixes, trying to get the scent right and also watching the coloring to see how I was doing. I ended up having to put in the store bought stuff before I was finished with my mixture. I was doing ok until this happened! I ended up having too much garlic and onion powder for this mixture. It also ended up being a little on the dry side. I think that in my efforts to make the mixture be right, I had too much of the mix (I was trying to compensate for the garlic and onion powder).

I'm going to store the recipe here so I can keep it for tweaking, but unless you are going to play around with the ingredients to fix it yourself, don't try it yet!

Parmesan Angel Hair Pasta: Take 1 5 tablespoons buttermilk powder
2 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon parsley
1 1/3 cups water
2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
140g angel hair pasta

  1. Heat butter, milk, and water in a 2 quart saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. When just boiling, add the seasonings and pasta.
  3. Boil until pasta is tender.
  4. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5-15 minutes (my sauce pan holds the heat very well and takes a lot longer to cool) until sauce is thickened.

Another Apple Dessert

I love apples. I love apples with cinnamon. Add a little sugar and it's a fabulous dessert!

Tonight I made the sun-dried tomato risotto that I learned at my cooking class last month. Since I'd already had that before, and I had to bring my boyfriend to work too early to try the grits, I decided a dessert was in order. I procrastinated because I did not want to admit that time was drawing to a close on my February school vacation and did not want to believe that it was getting late. Of course, this means we're having dessert at 10 when I should have been going to bed.

I was looking for a quick and easy apple recipe. After searching for a little bit, I found one that I had all the ingredients for and that did not take long to make.

My boyfriend and I loved these sautéed apples! The syrup that forms has a scrumptious caramel flavor to it that tastes similar to the caramels I made last week. The apples were perfectly tender and even the skin wasn't too hard. This was very easy to make and my boyfriend was surprised at how quickly it was finished. I only had to use my apple corer/slicer to cut the apples, so it literally took no more than 20 seconds to cut all the apples.

Today, while browsing the Leftover Queen Forum, I learned that you are supposed to list the ingredients by the order used in the method. I never noticed that, or even payed attention to it. I'm going to try to remember to make sure my recipes on here are like that from now on.

Sautéed Apples

4 tablespoons butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 cooking apples, sliced and cored

  1. Melt butter in a sauté pan over medium heat.
  2. Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon in a small mixing bowl.
  3. When the butter has melted, add the sliced apples.
  4. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples begin to become tender.
  5. Add the cinnamon and brown sugar.
  6. Cook and stir until the sugars have turned into a syrup.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Topless English Muffins

I grew up eating English muffins on occasion for breakfast. I tried crumpets for the first time in England and found them to be like a thicker, more doughy and squishy English muffin.

My boyfriend loves crumpets and they are very difficult to find here in the States. I have found them once or twice at our local supermarket, but that's about it. I thought I'd make a nice surprise for him and do some homemade ones. I wanted him to be able to have them for breakfast, so I actually made them late last night after I got home from the movies. I ended up starting at about midnight and finishing at 2am. Luckily, he loved them and appreciated the effort I went through. He fell asleep on the chair waiting for them to be made and woke up long enough to eat three before going back to sleep! I wasn't too fond of crumpets when I tried eating them in England and I figured I would try my homemade ones. I think crumpets are ok, but definitely not one of my favorite foods, although I do prefer my homemade ones to the store-bought.

These crumpets did not end up looking like the traditional ones you find in the stores. I wasn't able to get the little bubbles on top. I'm wondering if it was my fault since nobody else who reviewed the recipe mentioned that problem. The important thing is the taste, and they taste just like crumpets.

I feel bad these crumpets didn't have the holes, so I'm definitely going to try them again sometime. They did an excellent job of satisfying my boyfriend's craving for crumpets, so I'd make them again for that reason alone.

I used a ¼ cup measuring cup to drop the batter onto my sauté pan (I don't have a griddle). I sprayed it lightly with a non-stick cooking spray before dipping in the batter and it worked perfectly.

These can be spread with butter or peanut butter.

Crumpets

3½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2½ teaspoons dry active yeast
1 cup warm water
1 cup warm milk
½ teaspoon baking soda dissolved in ¼ cup water
butter for greasing griddle

  1. Put yeast and warm water in a large bowl. Allow yeast to proof for 5-10 minutes or until frothy.
  2. Add the milk, butter, salt, and sugar.
  3. Slowly stir in flour until dough is slightly elastic.
  4. Cover and let stand 45 minutes.
  5. Stir in soda and water mixture. Let rise for 20-30 minutes.
  6. Melt butter on griddle over medium-low heat.
  7. Drop ¼ cup batter onto griddle. Space batter about 2 inches apart.
  8. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes or until the tops look dry and gummy.
  9. Allow to cool. Toast before serving.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Pizza Pockets

a.k.a. calzones.

I can't remember how, but one day last week my boyfriend and I had started talking about calzones. He had never had one before, only a pizza flavored Hot Pocket®. I was remembering my experiences with a place in college that had calzones that never tasted as good without a few drinks beforehand, they were just way too greasy. I don't remember liking calzones because of that, but I thought I'd try to make some for my boyfriend.

I found some recipes that called for bread flour, but I'm almost out of that from making the crescent rolls yesterday. I found a recipe that did not call for bread flour and went for that one.

I ended up having an impromptu dinner party when a couple of friends popped in while I was making the calzones. It's a good thing the recipe makes two large calzones that easily serve four people because I felt kind of rude making dinner and not offering them any. They both loved the calzones and thought the basil was a very nice addition. They both asked about the filling and were surprised to learn I had made the crust too. One friend even commented that I'm becoming quite the Suzy Homemaker. The other commented about how she's happy to help us finish off dinners any time. I think I can live with a reputation of being a good cook!

My boyfriend has a larger than average appetite, so he could use one whole calzone on his own. For the rest of us, a regular calzone can feed two. This was a really simple recipe to make and I'll definitely make it again. I left out the olives.

Real Italian Calzones

2¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2½ cups flour
1 teaspoon olive oil
½ cup mozzarella cheese
1½ cups extra-sharp cheddar cheese
½ cup diced pepperoni
½ cup sliced black olives
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 egg, beaten

  1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in the water. Add 1 tablespoon oil, the sugar, and salt.
  2. Mix in 1 cup of the flour until smooth. Gradually stir in the rest of the flour until thoroughly mixed and a soft dough forms.
  3. Knead on a lightly floured surface for about 5 minutes or until elastic and no longer sticky. Coat a bowl with the rest of the oil, place in dough, coat, cover and allow to rise for about 40 minutes, or until doubled in size.
  4. While the dough is rising, beat the egg in a bowl. In a separate bowl combine the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate until needed.
  5. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  6. Punch dough down and divide in half. Roll into two circles.
  7. Fill half of each circle with half of filling mixture. Fold in half and seal edges by pressing with a fork.
  8. Brush the top of each calzone with the beaten egg and place on a greased cookie sheet.
  9. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown and heated through.
  10. Serve with warm tomato sauce.

Creamy Chicken and Crescent Rolls

Yesterday the cough I had became a full-blown cold. I was very sore and didn't feel like moving. I was planning to do the crock pot dinner I was going to do Wednesday. My boyfriend ended up putting it all together and throwing it in the crock put. He's not a cook, a fact he admits himself, and this was a very simple recipe, one he couldn't really mess up!

I was really disappointed that I wasn't going to be able to make the crescent roll recipe I found. I took some pain medicine and it really made a difference. I felt up to making the rolls. One problem...we ran out of milk! I had already put the yeast in the water to proof. I wasn't quite sure what to do with it! I ended up getting rid of it because it was 2 hours before I was able to get some milk and the yeast started to have a fishy smell to it. I found out later I could have added a bit of flour to the yeast, but I didn't know at the time and I had to start fresh. This recipe made A LOT of dough! The recipe said the woman uses bread flour, but I wonder how it would turn out with regular all-purpose flour. I might try that next time since the recipe itself doesn't state the type of flour. I divided it into 12 balls of 165g each. Now I know I'm still in the US and we don't use metric much, but I'm finding that it is much more practical and easy to do division in metric. I rolled out one ball and wrapped the rest in saran wrap and put them in a freezer bag for later. I am able to get 4 rolls out of each ball, I figure two rolls each is a good amount. Unfortuntely, we ended up having these as a snack because I didn't get to make them in time for dinner.

The crescent rolls were a great snack later on because neither one of us ate much of the dinner. The meal was very watered down and we could see the fat on top of it. Also, there wasn't much taste to the potatoes. The chicken tasted good, but the skin was just so fatty. I also think it would taste better if the potatoes were in smaller chunks instead of quarters. They didn't really get much of the taste of the soup in it. I think I might try this again with less water because I can see how it has potential to taste really good.

Creamy Crock Pot Chicken

4 chicken thighs

4 red potatoes, quartered
3½ ounces mushrooms
10 ounce condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 cup milk
2 cups water (I'm going to leave out this next time)
1 tablespoon minced onions
salt
pepper

  1. Put ingredients in crock pot and cook on low for about 6 hours or until potatoes are tender and chicken is falling off the bone.

Crescent Rolls
½ ounce yeast
½ cup sugar
1 cup warm water
1 cup milk, scalded (heated 2 minutes in microwave)
3 eggs, beaten
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon salt
7 cups flour

  1. Dissolve the yeast in water with one tablespoon sugar.
  2. Let stand for 5-10 minutes or until yeast is dissolved and mixture is frothy.
  3. Combine milk, butter, salt, and remaining sugar in a large mixing bowl.
  4. Add 2 cups of flour and mix well.
  5. Add the yeast mixture and eggs, beat well.
  6. Slowly add the rest of the flour until a soft dough forms.
  7. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes.
  8. Knead on a lightly floured surface and place in a large, greased bowl.
  9. Cover and let rise until doubled.
  10. Punch down and divide the dough.
  11. Roll and use a pizza cutter to slice into small triangles.
  12. Starting with the large end, roll into crescent shapes.
  13. Place rolls on a cookie sheet, cover, and let rise for an additional hour. Be sure to leave plenty of space between the rolls to allow room to rise.
  14. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 375°F until golden brown.

A Roast with a Kick

Wednesday night I was planning to do a crock pot dinner, but the chicken thighs hadn't defrosted enough for me to get the little pad off the bottom, so that was out. The supermarket was having a huge sale on roast beef and we picked up two of those (each was about 4 pounds and only about $5!). It's not every day that people have a roast dinner because they didn't have the chicken defrosted, but that's what happened to me today.

I found a recipe for a simple roast beef. It was interesting because it calls for cayenne pepper. I haven't ever had a spicy roast beef.

I think I added too much cayenne pepper because this roast had quite a bit of kick to it. It actually tasted really good, but I just don't think of roast beef as a dish that should be spicy.

The Yorkshire Puddings turned out much better this time. I did two eggs in the recipe this time instead of three. They didn't taste like scrambled eggs this time! I don't think I'll use this recipe often, I prefer the one I got from my Betty Crocker cookbook.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Great Meal for a Great Day

Today has been a fabulous day! I found my keys that I lost about 2 weeks ago. I thought I threw them away, but they ended up in one of my sneakers! I planned to get new keys made today, so it was excellent timing. My car also passed inspection today. It didn't pass inspection on the first try last year, so I'm glad the repairs held. I also got all the errands I planned for today finished.

I planned an Italian meal for tonight that included a homemade roasted garlic bread recipe I found a while ago and was wanting to try. I love school vacations because I have more time to relax, get things done, and cook good food. I think my boyfriend likes school vacations because he gets to eat better food all week long! To go with the garlic bread, I made a chicken parmigiana dinner with a homemade tomato sauce.

The dinner turned out fabulously! We both ate loads and wished there was more to eat. The bread recipe makes two loaves, so I'm trying to freeze some for another day. We'll see how they turn out. I'll definitely love to make these both again.

I was surprised at how easy both of these recipes were to make. They both sound complex, but really weren't difficult at all. The most difficult part of the chicken parm recipe was the heating of the oil and the most difficult part of the bread recipe was the rolling. I think I'm becoming a big fan of homemade breads. The ones I've done so far are really quite easy and since I keep most of the ingredients at home anyway, it's really more convenient, and much more tasty, to just make it myself.

The recipes for the bread and chicken parm are a little long, so I'm just posting the links. I made up the sauce today and am posting that recipe here.

Roasted Garlic Bread


























Authentic Chicken Parmesan


Garlic and Herb Tomato Sauce

2-28oz. cans tomato sauce
2-28oz. cans diced tomatoes
2-6oz. cans tomato paste
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ bay leaves
1 tsp rosemary
1 tbsp parsley
1 tbsp basil

  1. Put all ingredients in crock pot and simmer on low for 6+ hours.
  2. Remove bay leaves. Blend with immersion blender if less chunky consistency is desired.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Can't Eat the Chicken Through the Trees

My boyfriend's idea for the title in his "moment of brilliance."

Another new Zaar tag recipe. Unfortunately, this one didn't go as well as the others. This is the first dish that I didn't even want to finish eating. My boyfriend said we they can't all be hits.

This marinade was excellent on the potatoes, but the rosemary just overpowered the chicken. It felt like I was eating a forest. The rosemary just gave such a woody taste that I couldn't even finish eating the chicken. My boyfriend finished eating it just because he was hungry and felt like he should.

Now, I should say that I did like the marinade on the potatoes. They did not seem to hold onto the rosemary as well as chicken, and that is a good thing in this case. As we speak, Lee is complaining that the rosemary is going to kill him. He just made a peanut butter and banana sandwich to exorcise the taste, a la Elvis...

The garlic did not come through in the taste of this recipe at all. This was a disappointment to us because we both like the taste of garlic.

I might use this again as a marinade for a roasted potatoes, but not on chicken.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

My Family Favorite Chicken Wings

Tonight I decided to make my Aunt Jean's recipe for chicken wings. This is a family favorite I grew up with. I've never made these for my boyfriend, my previous attempts ended with spoiled chicken or missing ingredients. Today really was my day for cooking, because it was finally meant to be that I would make these wings. I decided to try my hand at creating a teriyaki rice-a-roni style dish as a side.

My mom would always start to marinate these wings the night before she planned to make them. She turned them halfway and the flavour had really seeped in by then. The wings hadn't defrosted in time for me to start marinating last night, so I started to marinate them first thing this morning. They still tasted excellent, but I prefer them with the extra marinating time.

I wanted a teriyaki rice dish and all the ones I found were fried rice. I didn't have any cooked rice, and at the time I started to look for recipes, I didn't have enough time to cook and cool some, so I decided to make my own version! They turned out pretty well if I do say so myself. My boyfriend said he really liked them too.

Teriyaki Mock Rice-a-Roni
2 tablespoons butter
¼ vermicelli pasta broken into ½-1" pieces
1 cup rice
1¾ cup chicken broth
¼ cup marinade from wings

  1. In a sauté pan, melt butter over medium heat.
  2. Add vermicelli and rice. Cook until golden brown.
  3. Add chicken broth and marinade.
  4. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for approximately 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.

Aunt Jean's Chicken Wings
2.5 pounds chicken wings
7.5 ounces soy sauce
4 ounces honey
1/2 teaspoon garlic, crushed or powdered
1 cup beef broth

  1. Place soy sauce, honey, garlic, and broth in a baking dish. Stir together.
  2. Add chicken in a single layer on dish. Cover and marinade for at least three hours. Marinade for up to 24 hours for best flavor.
  3. Drain and bake in a 350°F oven for approximately 30 minutes.
  4. My mom feels these are even better as leftovers.

Caramel: Impossible

Another Zaar tag game had me making caramels. I love caramels, the buttery, sugary goodness that sticks to your teeth so you have a bit of that taste last for a while...the rich golden color...a real comfort food candy. When I saw that the person who was "It" for tag had a caramel recipe, I just HAD to try it!

Now, the recipe looked pretty simple. Looks can be deceiving, as I learned the hard way. Oh, it's definitely simple enough if you've made caramel before, or seen it being made...but for the virgin caramel maker like myself, it just wasn't detailed enough. When I post the recipe, I'll give a link to the original at Recipezaar and here I'll post the directions my own way, including the feedback I gave the person who posted the recipe. I ended up posting my review before the second batch finished cooling, so I didn't know I had make a mistake again. Oh well, the feedback still stands.

I had a candy thermometer at my parents' house, but that was an hour and a half away and I didn't know when I'd be back there to get it. On Wednesday I had a snow day, so I decided to try it using the cold water test for doneness. Let's just say virgin caramel makers like myself really should use a candy thermometer, there is too much room for error if you don't know how to do the cold water test.

For my first attempt, I put in all the ingredients and set the burner to low temperature as the recipe suggested. I wasn't sure whether to stir at this point or not, but I did go ahead and stir anyway. It was taking forever to boil (which I expected with such a low temp) but the recipe said it should take 25 minutes to make, so I decided to put the burner at medium-low until I got a bit of a boil. I then did the next few steps as directed. It looked great and tasted excellent, but I was not having success with the cold water test. I looked online to see what the hard ball should be, but the online sites I found said that caramels should be cooked to a firm ball. I thought maybe the original poster made a mistake, so I cooked it to what I thought was a firm ball. This did not work out. I had a nice soft caramel that could work as a filling or a caramel frosting of sorts, but it wasn't hard enough for caramel candies.

I wanted to give this recipe a fair chance, so on Saturday, armed with a new candy thermometer, I gave it a second go. I fared a little better. I burnt the bottom a little because I saw something that said caramel shouldn't be stirred, but the recipe did call for stirring, so I wasn't quite sure when to stir and when not to. I didn't think much of it, and went on, choosing to stir so I wouldn't burn any more. I should have known when Wednesday's looked so much better as it cooked than yesterday's that I did something wrong. Unfortunately, I woke up this morning to find that it was a little more firm than last time, although still way too soft, but it did not taste as good.

I decided this morning that I would not give up on this recipe. This woman had it as a family favourite so it should work if only I could figure out how! I looked up information online and hit the store to stock up on the ingredients I needed in case I had to do several more batches. If it took all week I was going to get it right!

This morning I found out, from my research, that brown sugar should not be used for caramel candy because of the extra moisture. Now, I looked around and saw a lot of recipes that called for brown sugar so I thought that if so many people liked brown sugar in caramels, there must be something good about it and there must be a way to get it right. Further research told me that the difference between the ball stages is the percentage of the mixture that is sugar. To me, it stands to reason that if the brown sugar adds extra moisture, the caramel should cook to a higher temp to boil away the extra moisture.

Eureka!!!

That must be why the recipe called for a hard ball stage instead of the firm ball!

Now for the sirring question. Some recipes called for constant stirring while others said not to touch it. I'm thinking there must be something going on with the ingredients, and from what I've learned it has to do with the crystallization of the sugar. Now I'm not sure why some need stirring but others turn out bad with it, but I'll save that question for later. For now, I'm satisfied that I can stir it the while time because I watched numerous videos on You Tube® that showed people making caramels where they were stirring constantly.

Now it was time to get to business. I was ready for the long haul and was prepped for combat. I was going to beat this caramel if it was the last thing I did! It seems the third time really is the charm. This time they turned out brilliantly. The brown sugar in the recipe gives it a really dark, rich color that you don't always see with caramels, but it tastes excellent! Neither Lee nor I could stop eating them!

The cutting was a bit tricky. I found the best way to do it was to use a pizza cutter to cut the caramel into long strips, then use a knife to cut it into smaller squares. The caramel stuck to the knife too much for the long strips, but the pizza cutter squished the caramels when used for the small squares. The combination worked a treat. To do the pizza cutter, I ran it over the caramel three or four times in the same spot, applying a little more pressure each time. This allowed me to get a good cut, the caramel didn't have a chance to stick, and it kept the somewhat dull pizza cutter from squishing the caramel. (I'm realizing now I really should get in the habit of taking some pictures in the middle of making some of these dishes so I can show what I mean.)

Any downfalls to making caramels besides eating way to many, you ask? Unfortunately, caramel is a very sticky candy and must be wrapped. Also, caramel is served in small bite-sized pieces, so the individual candies are quite small. This means a tedious job of wrapping, which of course can be alleviated somewhat by eating them!

Three quick tips before recipe time:

  1. Use a sauce pan with high edges. The candy boils up and high edges, higher than you think you'll need, will prevent it from boiling over. (I made this mistake.)
  2. Put the pan on the back burner. The candy spits while it's boiling and it will prevent you from being burned.
  3. Resist temptation to taste test candy. It is VERY hot! Only taste test if set on a spoon and allowed to cool for at least 10 minutes. (I made this mistake too. It hurt!)

Aunt Kathleen's Caramels



Takes about one hour and yields approximately 15o candies. (I only counted a portion and guesstimated the rest.)

½ cup butter (2 sticks)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup white corn syrup
1 cup (one small 14 oz. can) sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
You may add 1 cup chopped walnuts if you like. I don't like....

  1. Line a 8" x 8" pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Coat with butter and set aside.
  2. Heat butter over low heat until melted. Swirl pan to coat bottom and sides so sugar doesn't stick.
  3. Add sugar, brown sugar, and corn syrup. Raise heat to medium-high and stir until boiling.
  4. Once mixture begins to boil, reduce heat to medium and keep stirring for 10 minutes while it boils.
  5. After 10 minutes, take pan off heat and slowly add condensed milk, stirring constantly.
  6. Return to heat, insert candy thermometer according to directions, and boil, stirring constantly, until the temperature reaches 250°F (the edge of firm ball and hard ball stages).
  7. Take off heat and stir in vanilla.
  8. Pour into buttered pan and allow to cook approximately 4 hours.
  9. Cut, wrap, and enjoy! Place in plastic container and they keep for about 2 weeks.

The Pizza Without a Crust

I hate to say it, but I'm kind of becoming tired of our weekly pizza night and we're only two months into it. I needed something different and was glad to find the recipe for Pizza Casserole.

I must admit, we were both somewhat skeptical of the idea of pizza casserole. First of all, it called for bowtie pasta instead of any crust. Second of all, the sauce is a regular pasta sauce instead of pizza sauce. I wanted to try it, and I tagged it for a Recipezaar game, so I did have to make it. We soldiered on.

It wasn't very difficult to make at all, not really any more difficult than making a real pizza. It ended up being like an interesting cross between a lasagna and a pizza. It tasted like a pizza, but the texture was more like a lasagna. It felt more pizza-like the next day for leftovers.

Despite being so skeptical about trying it, we both ended up loving it and the leftovers of a huge pan only lasted us two days! I'll definitely make this again.

The only change I made to the recipe is that I left out the ham. I didn't have any and I don't really like ham much anyway.

Tomato Basil Pizza Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 large can tomato sauce
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
4 tablespoons basil

  1. Heat oil in sauce pan over medium heat.
  2. Add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds or until fragrant.
  3. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, salt, and pepper. cook for about 15-20 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring and mashing tomatoes with potato masher to crush.
  4. Add basil, stir to blend.
Pizza Casserole
1 lb. bowtie pasta
1 lb sausage
1 large onion chopped
sauce (2- 26 oz. jars of spaghetti sauce if not using homemade)
½ lb. cubed cooked ham
½ lb. pepperoni (more or less depending on how far you spread)
24 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano

  1. Cook pasta until al-dente.
  2. Meanwhile, cook sausage, garlic powder, and oregano in a sauté pan until cooked and juices run clear.
  3. In a slightly greased 9"x13" baking dish, coat the bottom with a thin layer of sauce.
  4. Layer ingredients as follows:
  5. Layer 1: 1/3 pasta, 1/3 sauce, 8 oz. mozzarella cheese, 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, sausage, and onions.
  6. Layer 2: 1/2 remaining pasta, 1/2 remaining sauce, 8 oz. mozzarella cheese, 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, ham.
  7. Layer 3: remaining pasta, remaining sauce, 8 oz. mozzarella cheese, 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese.
  8. Cover top layer with pepperoni.
  9. Bake in 375°F oven for 40 minutes or until cheese is melted and casserole is bubbling.
  10. Let sit for approximately 5 minutes before serving.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Valentine's Treat


I'm a little behind in my posting again, it's been a busy week!

This year is the first year in a while I've had someone on Valentine's Day. Sure, my boyfriend and I were a couple last year, but he was in England and I was in the US. There was a snowstorm and a flower debacle, so I just wanted this year's to be really special.

It did not turn out as planned, but one thing that did go well was my red velvet cookies that I topped with cream cheese. I found the recipe on Recipezaar, but due to problems with their switch over to the new format (an frustration in itself) I'm going to post the complete recipe here instead. I wasn't 100% sure about using one of my precious boxes of red velvet cake mix on an unknown recipe, but since I finally found a Wal-Mart that stocks it a couple of weeks ago, and the Wal-Mart is only about 45 minutes away, I figure I could make an occasional trip out there for a stock-up.

I'd never thought of making a cookie from a cake mix. It turned out really well! I don't like cream cheese, so usually I do a Cool Whip® frosting instead, but for today, I decided to go with the traditional cream cheese frosting. I'm actually glad I did, I liked this version of cream cheese frosting! My boyfriend wasn't too sure about the cream cheese either, but he loved it and said he prefers the cookie version of red velvet to the cupcakes. I'm wondering if it has something to do with the frosting, but I'll have to wait until I make more cake to find out.

My only regret for this recipe is that I didn't use my heart-shaped mini cake pan. It would have done well for these cookies. One thing I will try changing in the future is to only make half the frosting, I had too much left over and I don't plan to make anything with cream cheese frosting in the near enough future.

Red Velvet Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting

Cookies
1 package Red Velvet cake mix
2 eggs
1/3 cup oil

Frosting
8 ounces cream cheese (softened)
¼ cup butter (softened)
2 teaspoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups confectioner's sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Mix all the cookie ingredients together with an electric mixer. (The mixer incorporates more air and I think gives it a lighter texture.)
  3. Using a cookie scoop (small ice cream scoop), place in balls on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  4. Flatten cookies with bottom of spatula.
  5. Bake in oven for about 8-10 minutes or until the cop looks cracked. The cookies will seem very soft and this is fine.
  6. While the cookies cool, beat cream cheese, butter, milk, and vanilla in a large or medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth.
  7. With mixer on low, add confectioner's sugar 1 cup at a time until incorporated.
  8. Frost cookies and enjoy!
Note: To make the chocolate cream cheese frosting, add 2 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, melted and cooled, with the butter.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Copy Cat Night

I love Boston Market chicken. I used to get it all the time when I lived alone because it was a healthy dinner that I didn't have to make. I wouldn't have been able to get through a full meal like that if I made it at home because I'd get sick of it before it was all gone.

I found a fabulous copy-cat recipe that Lee thinks actually tastes a little better than Boston Market® because it was more juicy. I told him that I've had it taste just as juicy at Boston Market, but it depends on the day. It was actually incredibly easy. I wish that I had more of it. I particularly like the skin and could eat just that! I think I'll let the chicken marinate for a little while before baking next time, or cook for longer at a lower temperature, and see if that helps the flavour seep into the chicken itself more, the meat didn't have enough time to really take on the seasonings. I cooked it in my new Pampered Chef® stoneware baker and I think it's becoming well-seasoned.

I also made homemade Rice-a-Roni®. It's actually pretty easy, I just want to get the flavouring a bit better and I'll be good to go. I think adding one more chicken bullion cube for a higher concentration of flavor might do the trick. I'll try that next time.

Homemade Rice-a-Roni

2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup vermicelli pasta cut into ½" pieces
1 cup long-grain rice
2 cups water
2 chicken bullion cubes (I'll try three next time for extra flavour)
1 tbsp parsley flakes

  1. In a large sauté pan, melt butter over medium heat.
  2. Pour in vermicelli and rice, brown.
  3. Add water, bullion cubes, and parsley flakes. Stir until bullion cubes are dissolved and water is boiling.
  4. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes or until water is absorbed.

After Dinner Mint Brownie


When I tried grocery shopping at Wal-mart a couple of weeks ago, I saw a box of Andes Mints brownies and since we both love Andes Mints, I just had to buy the brownies!

I finally decided to make them last night.

I wasn't able to drizzle the chocolate syrup over the brownies like in the picture on the box because of the packaging, but they still turned out brilliantly. They taste just like a huge, soft Andes Mint!

Joey Bag of Donuts

Welcome to Moe's!!!

It never fails to bring a smile to my face when I hear that walking into Moe's Southwest Grill. I know it must be annoying for the staff, but as a customer I love it!

Well, I've been having problems with my garbage disposal, and Sunday night's roast dinner clogged the bugger up. Our dishwasher backed up and maintenance fixed the disposal, but the dishwasher still had three inches of yucky water in it. I had spent over an hour washing all the dishes by hand and couldn't be bothered to cook. When I picked up my boyfriend, we decided to head to Moe's to grab some takeout.

One thing I like about Moe's is the creative names for the meals, all after someone in the entertainment industry. My friends love the Homewrecker, but I usually get the Alfredo Garcia. I decided to try something different and after a lot of thought, settled on the Joey Bag of Donuts with chicken as the meat and pinto beans instead of black. Joey Bag of Donuts has a choice of meat, beans, rice, shredded cheese, and pico de gallo. I thought about getting the Homewrecker, but I don't like sour cream and there was sour cream in the Homewrecker and the only other thing the Joey Bag of Donuts doesn't have is guacamole, which doesn't bother me if it's left out.

I liked the Joey Bag of Donuts. One thing I don't like about fajitas is the assembly, and I loved not having to assemble the burrito, it's already done for me!

I also tried their tomatillo salsa. I liked it, but it prefer the red salsa. Their tortilla chips are also delicious, and not salty like ones you buy in a store.

I didn't realize until I started eating that I had actually fulfilled my quota of a new food! I usually stick to the same old things when I ordered out. I guess in about a month and a half, this blog has already started changing how I think about food!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Pampering our Roast Dinner

My friend dropped off my new Pampered Chef® stoneware covered baking dish and gravy separator. Yippee!!!

I was going to make a chicken dish, but thought that I should christen my new cookware with a roast dinner. We had roast beef in the freezer, so I put it in some water to quickly defrost it.

I just winged the recipe for the meat and vegetables. I had learned about a mirepoix from my cooking class last month and wanted to try it. I didn't think I had any onions, but I found a red onion in the fridge to cut up. I then sliced some carrots and celery to make my mirepoix, and decided to add in some potatoes. I cut some thin slits into the meat and placed slivers of garlic in the slits before grinding some mixed herbs over the meat and vegetables.

I decided to try a new recipe for the Yorkshire pudding. I won't post the recipe until I get to try it again because I don't think I made it right. I needed ½ cup eggs, but two eggs was a little under ½ cup, and three was a bit over. I decided to go with the three eggs, not realizing it might make a difference to the taste and density of the pud. Given the excellent reviews most people gave, I think I should have gone with the two eggs and will try that another time. Yorkshire Pudding should not taste like scrambled eggs! I don't feel it's fair to the recipe or the person who put it out there if I give it a negative review because of my error.

The meat and vegetables turned out really well. I think I overcooked the meat a bit, but it still tasted very well and wasn't too dry with the gravy and red currant jelly we had with it. The vegetables had a night flavour that I believe came from the stone cooker. It's supposed to get better with each use since it needs to be seasoned. I can't wait to see how it does after it's well-seasoned! By the way, I just looked up the proper cooking temperature in my cookbook and I accidentally cooked it to the proper temperature for poultry, way too hot for beef!!!



Stoneware Roast Beef with Garlic and Mixed Herbs

¾ red onion, cut into chunks
3 large carrots, cut into three inch long sections
3 red potatoes peeled and cut into chunks
3 stalks of celery, cut into three inch long sections
2 cloves of garlic, cut into slivers
2 teaspoons mixed herbs
pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. On the bottom of the pan, place onions, celery, and carrots in a single layer. Place meat over mirepoix and place potatoes and remaining onions, celery, and carrots all around.
  3. Cut thin slices into meat and place slivers of garlic in each slice. Sprinkle pepper and mixed herbs over top of meat and vegetables. Cover and roast in oven for about 1 hour.
  4. Uncover and cook until internal temperature reaches 135°F for medium-rare (let carry-over cooking heat beef to 145°F internal temperatre) or 150°F for medium.
  5. Cut and serve with red currant jelly and gravy.
Gravy
pan drippings (add beef stock until you have 4 cups juices)
4 tablespoons flour
pepper

  1. Separate fat from pan drippings. Add beef stock until juices reach volume of 4 cups.
  2. Place fat in pan and cook with 2 tablespoons flour until browned. Slowly add juices, while whisking. Add pepper to taste. Continue whisking while boiling until thickened and no lumps remain.

South of the Border Dinner

Two nights in a row are brought to you by Zaar Tag. Last night I made a Salsa Meatloaf recipe to review. I was excited about this one and couldn't wait to try it.

When I finally began to put together the recipe, I realized there was a very high meat to vegetable ratio. In the end, there ended up being more filler in the meatloaf than actual meatloaf. I feel a meatloaf should be very simple comfort food, and this wasn't. I think that grating the onion, carrots, and zucchini would have been easier if I had a food processor I could put them through. As it was, I decided not to grate the onions to save my eyes. I used frozen zucchini, so I used the chopper attachment on my new immersion blender, which ended up more pureeing the food, but it worked out fine. At this point, I was becoming very worried about how much we would be able to taste the meat. After all, there was definitely more filler than meat at this point.

I decided to keep going. The meat mixture was very loose and watery, but I knew that some of that would come out of it while cooking. I was surprised the recipe did not call for any salsa in the meatloaf, it was just poured on top halfway through cooking.

I wanted to try to make my own version of mashed potatoes and thought this would be a good time to try. Since I was making a salsa meatloaf, I decided to add some spice to the mashed potatoes. I didn't have any fresh peppers, so I added some hot sauce, cayenne pepper, and chipotle powder. I then sprinkled it with freshly grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese.

The verdict: the meatloaf was ok, and my attempt at making my own Mexican Mashed Potatoes turned out pretty well (I liked it and I asked my boyfriend to be brutally honest since I was going to post it if it turned out well). We both wanted to taste more of the meat and to have some of the salsa within the meat itself.

I'm posting the recipe as I would make it in the future with a link to the original.

Salsa Meatloaf

2 egg whites or ¼ cup egg white substitute
¼ cup oatmeal

¼ onion, grated or minced
¼ cup zucchini, grated
¼ cup carrots, grated
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon worcestershire sauce
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1lb. ground beef
¾ cup salsa

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a bowl, lightly whisk egg whites. Add oatmeal, onion, zucchini, carrots, garlic, Worcestershire Sauce, salt, thyme, ¼ cup salsa, and pepper. Mix well.
  3. Add ground beef and mix with clean hands until all ingredients are incorporated.
  4. Line a roasting pan or baking pan with sides with aluminum foil. Put meat mixture in the pan and shape into a loaf. Cook for about 40 minutes. Pour rest of salsa evenly over meat and cook for about 20 more minutes or until meat reads 170°F with a meat thermometer.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Pizza Night with a Twist....Tandoori Chicken Pizza

When I think pizza, I think of a lovely crust with a delightful marinara sauce...nice, soothing, and comforting. There are some pizzas that are completely different and having decided to join the recipe tag game on Recipezaar, I found one that uses a curry sauce! Since my boyfriend loves curry, I thought it would be a nice treat for him to try. I figured I'd try it for him.

One fun part of the curry pizza experience was going to the Indian import store. On one hand, it's nice to get the curry things so close and for cheaper than at the supermarket, but it's frustrating that the British Import store is about 45 minutes away! We'd get so much more from there. I was very excited to find okra at the Indian import store!!! I haven't really had fried okra much since we moved back up north, and I have never found them anywhere. I saw some really interesting vegetables at the import store too that I might want to try sometime. My boyfriend wants to try some Indian tea, so we may take a trip back there for that.

Anyway, back to the topic. This recipe is from the California Pizza Kitchen®. It's not very difficult to make, but it was a little time consuming to prep. I think the best way to do this is to combine each group of ingredients ahead of time so they can just be dumped in the pans quickly since the stages of the cooking process move fast.

My boyfriend really liked this pizza, but doesn't think he'll want it every week; he feels it's more of a treat pizza than an everyday pizza. I thought it was ok, but I didn't eat much of it. I'd eat it once in a while for him, but wouldn't order it or make it for myself.

I did a method slightly different from the way it's written, so I'll post it here. One more thing to add, this seemed to make enough for one extra-large pizza, so if making a regular pizza, you may want to halve the ingredients. I will halve the recipe next time.

Tandoori Chicken Pizza
tomato-yogurt curry (for the pizza sauce)
1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon minced garlic
½ cup diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger
1/8 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garam masala
¼ teaspoon minced jalapeño pepper
¼ cup chicken stock
¼ cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon butter

Tandoori chicken
1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger

1 teaspoon miced garlic
½ teaspoon minced jalapeños
2 tablespoons Tandoori paste
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 tablespoon butter, melted
2 boneless chicken breasts

pizza
1 pizza dough
½ small zucchini, chopped
½ small yellow squash, chopped
1½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
½ cup major grey's chutney (optional)

The recipe says to cook the sauce first, then do the chicken and the rest, but I cooked the chicken in the skillet and it would be better to have that cooking while making the sauce.

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Combine all the marinade ingredients for the chicken. Cut the chicken breasts into cubes.
  3. Put chicken in a skillet over medium heat and add the Tandoori marinade. Cook until done.
  4. Remove chicken from skillet and set aside to cool.
  5. For the tomato-yogurt curry, put the oil and garlic in a saucepan and heat until the garlic is translucent. Add the remaining curry ingredients except for the cilantro and butter.
  6. Boil curry ingredients for about 3 minutes. Add butter and cilantro. Set the mixture aside.
  7. In the skillet where the chicken was cooked, there should be remaining sauce. Place in the zucchini and squash and cook for a few minutes, just to start the cooking process.
  8. Use a ladle to spoon the tomato-yogurt curry over the pizza dough. Just use a little, enough to coat a thin layer or it will overflow when the additional ingredients are added.
  9. Place the zucchini and squash in a thin layer over the sauce and cover with mozzarella. Place chicken over mozzarella and top with cilantro.
  10. Cook pizza in oven for about 15-20 minutes or until dough is browned and cheese is melted.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Great Balls of Garlic!

I had a late night at work and didn't much feel like cooking, so I decided to make a well-loved comfort dinner. Of course, I couldn't use my usual recipe for meatballs since I needed to try a new recipe (didn't have much time for a homemade tomato sauce), so I found a new recipe for meatballs.

This recipe called for freshly minced garlic. In hindsight, I should have used my garlic press, but I minced the garlic with a knife. My garlic press gets the garlic much smaller than I was able to mince it. The fresh garlic added a wonderful flavour to the meatballs, but in some spots it tasted a bit too much like garlic. Mixed with the garlic bread I served as a side, it ended up being way too much garlic for this meal! My boyfriend and I both have a strong garlic taste in our mouths and just KNOW we will be smelling of garlic for days! At least we won't have to worry about any vampires.

I've never made meatballs in the oven without browning them in a skillet before. I think they turned out really well just baking them in the oven on a cookie sheet. I actually think they taste better than cooking in the skillet. I'd make this recipe again, but cut down on the garlic.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

I just used jarred spaghetti sauce tonight.

1 lb. ground beef
1 small clove garlic, minced (I used large and it was too much)
½ cup Italian breadcrumbs

½ cup tomato sauce
½ teaspoon basil
½ teaspoon oregano
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 egg
salt
pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Combine ingredients in bowl and mix until well blended.
  3. Form meat into small balls and place onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
  4. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until cooked through.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Apples in a Skillet



I stupidly planned a lot of meals that required a fair amount of prep, or at least prepping the night before so they could marinate. I've had another busy week at work and didn't get home in time for the casserole I had planned, so we had leftover Rotel Goulash from the other night. This was still delicious, but I needed something new to eat and that left me with only dessert.

I'd bought some apples last week for an apple crisp, but haven't made it yet. They were getting old, so I wanted to use them up. I found a recipe for Buttery Cinnamon Skillet Apples and decided to make those. I've always loved cinnamon apples. When I make apple pie, I love having extra filling because I always heat that up in the microwave and eat them while the pie is baking. I thought this would be a nice dessert tonight.

This was very easy to make. I was surprised how thick the sauce became. It was definitely more of a syrup. I actually ate spoonfuls of the syrup while I was waiting for the apples to become cool enough to eat. While all the sugar probably isn't good for the teeth, it felt pretty light and comforting.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Pancakes Around the World...

...or at least pancakes in England and the US. Happy Shrove Tuesday/Pancake Day! In the UK, instead of Carnival or Mardi Gras and partying like there's no tomorrow, they make pancakes. Kind of mundane in comparison, but I can't say that to my boyfriend! He told me not to say things I can't take back, I said I won't plan to take it back.

A little back story, last year I was in England for Shrove Tuesday (my boyfriend gets mad if I just say Pancake Day) and I was told about this holiday. I had never heard of English pancakes before, and was confused when a family of people who sounded so excited for pancakes just got up and did their thing without making them! I asked my boyfriend what happened to making pancakes, and he realized that nobody told me that the English eat pancakes as a dessert or with savory filling for dinner (I learned the filling part this year)! His family then explained it to me and had a good laugh. I know better this year!

Anyway, in honor of Pancake Day, I made American pancakes in the morning to get in both of our cultures. I had chocolate chip and my boyfriend had plain. Of course we had real Vermont Maple syrup on top.

Tonight was English pancakes which are much thinner than the American version and are more like crepes. I've never had a crepe, but I'm told English pancakes are a bit thicker. It's traditional to serve them sprinkled with superfine sugar and lemon, rolled, and sprinkled once again with lemon and sugar. I am not a big fan of lemon flavor, so I just do a little drizzle of that once, not after rolling.

I actually did pretty well with making the pancakes. The batter was a bit lumpy so I had to strain it. I think it's because I followed the recipe's directions to whisk in the eggs, but maybe whisked a bit too much. I was also worried about flipping them because they are so thin, but I was actually able to flip them up in the air and get them in the skillet! I only messed up one and that was because it ended up folding when I flipped it. The first one was also a little messed up, because I hadn't gotten a hang of pouring the batter into the pan and rotating it so it's a thin layer.

The English pancakes were ok, but a little plain. I learned today that people put different things in them and don't just do the lemon and sugar. I'll have to try that sometime, see if it tastes better.


English Pancakes


220 grams all-purpose flour
1 pinch salt
4 eggs
400 ml milk mixed with 150ml water
100 grams butter

lemon wedges to taste
superfine sugar to taste

  1. Sift flour into mixing bowl.
  2. Make a well in the flour and crack eggs in the well. Slightly whisk in eggs.
  3. Slowly add the milk and water mixture, whisking to get lumps out of flour. The batter should be runny, like cream.
  4. Melt the butter in a skillet, put 4 tablespoons into the batter and pour out the rest into a bowl to save for buttering the pan between pancakes.
  5. Heat the pan to medium heat.
  6. Ladle some batter (about 1/4 cup) into the hot skillet, tipping the pan to coat the batter evenly around the pan. When the bottom has browned and the pancake is dry around the edges and bubbling, flip over.
  7. Cook until browned. Place on plate, sprinkle with sugar and lemon, keep warm until serving.
  8. Before serving, roll into longs and sprinkle with additional sugar and lemon.

Monday, February 4, 2008

An Easy Dish After a Crushing Blow

I admit, I'm devastated today by the Patriots loss yesterday. It would have been so much easier if it wasn't for the perfect season, or if it wasn't lost with 36 seconds left on the clock. I love my Pats, and always will. I have avoided the news all day. I tried watching BBC World News America this morning while getting ready for work, but even they had a segment about the game! This is one time I'm glad there is an election going on and it's saturating the news, it makes it easier to avoid being reminded of last night. I know it's only a sport, and I'm just a fan and not a player, but when you love a team so much, it's heartbreaking all the same. Note to news stations: hometown fans would have liked to see House, not continuing news coverage something so depressing. That would have been a sole point of comfort last night, since I couldn't sleep well and was in shock anyway.

But this is a food blog, not a sports blog, so I'll end my rant and get on with the food.

I did not feel like cooking tonight, so I was looking for something quick and easy to make for dinner. I had bought a couple of cans of Rotel the other day because I've heard good things and never tried it. I'm starting to get better at eating spicy foods since my boyfriend likes curry and I wanted to try it to see if it was good. I found a recipe for Rotel Goulash.

I liked it. I thought it was spicy, but drinking a soda with it took care of the burn. My boyfriend thought it was ok. He doesn't really like uncooked tomatoes, or tomatoes that haven't been cooked for a long time, so I think that if I were to make it again I would have to cook the tomatoes for a lot longer than the recipe calls for. He also didn't like the heat in it, strange since he loves curry and liked the Mexican Mashed Potatoes I made a while ago. We both feel that this is a different type of spicy than curry. Curry is spicy in a thick, creamy kind of way...this was spicy in a light way. I hope that makes sense, it's difficult to describe.

Rotel Goulash

1lb. ground beef
16 oz. of tomato sauce
20 oz. of Rotel
8 oz. of elbow macaroni
1/2 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
salt and pepper

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook macaroni until al dente.
  2. While macaroni is cooking, brown the beef in the skillet. If there is a lot of juice, drain.
  3. Add the tomato sauce, Rotel, macaroni, salt, and pepper. Simmer 15-20 minutes.
  4. Shred cheese over macaroni and heat until melted.

Toad in the Hole


I heard that the UK is trying to get a National Yorkshire Pudding Day. Since my boyfriend moved over here this year and we both love Yorkshire Pudding so much, I thought it would be nice to be a little bit of history in the making. My beloved Patriots were playing in the Super Bowl and I knew I wouldn 't want to do a full roast dinner, so we decided that I would try to make some Toad in the Hole.

Despite the odd name, this is actually a simple and tasty dish that has sausages, not toads in it. I didn't have any meat drippings since I wasn't doing a roast, but I used some vegetable oil instead. Let me tell you, that vegetable oil gets smoky! We had guests over for the big game and we all had our eyes burning a bit. I think I put in a little too much oil though, so that could be part of it. I used plain breakfast sausages because my boyfriend feels those are the best for Toad in the Hole. Our friends and I loved this dish and they were amazed at how easy it seemed to be for me to make it and said they'd like to try it sometime.

The recipe is posted on Recipezaar. The only change I made was to refrigerate the batter for a little while. It's supposed to help the pudding rise, but I didn't notice much of a difference. It did help with the timing though.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Pizza, Pizza

So, my boyfriend said he doesn't want me to mess around with the pizza and mozzarella sticks recipes for our weekly pizza night. I decided to try a new one anyway.

I found a recipe that uses cornmeal in a thin layer on the bottom of the pan, and decided to try that. I noticed a few pizza places do that.

I didn't tell my boyfriend until after we had eaten that the crust was different. He liked it though.

The crust didn't crisp up as much as I would have liked and wasn't brown. The cheese was fully melted and would have been burnt if I left it in longer, maybe it needs a slightly higher temp. I didn't time the pizza, so maybe I didn't leave it in as long as I was supposed to. I have more of the crust left, so I'll try to time it next week to find out for sure.

I'm awful about remembering to take pictures of the pizza! I'll try to remember next week!

At Last...My Brioche Has Come Along!

A month later than hoped, I have finally made some brioche and it was well worth the wait.

During my first trip to England, I bought a sweet bread called brioche at ASDA. I loved it and had eaten the whole bag (8 small brioches) by the next morning. I bought some more to eat while there, and then bought some to bring home. Ever since then, I have bought bags of this heavenly treat on my visits and have longed for them here in the States. I cannot seem to find them where I live!

This summer I was delighted to find that the Joy of Cooking book I bought had a brioche recipe, so I made it as soon as possible. I was very disappointed. This recipe said it was a French recipe, but it was way too buttery and ended up tasting like a croissant, and even had the texture of a croissant. We ate them, but I didn't plan to use that recipe again.

Six months later and after buying five bags of brioche in England (which were made in France), I was determined to try again! I looked at the ingredient list and searched for recipes online with those ingredients, but had difficulty finding them. I finally asked around and was given an authentic French recipe to try.

Not to knock Joy of Cooking, because there are some recipes in there I have enjoyed, but this recipe I was given was so different from the one I had before I don't know why they said theirs was the French recipe, maybe there are regional differences. The recipe I was given is from a person in France and from a French cookbook, so it should definitely be French!

These brioche were delicious! I overcooked them a little, but they weren't too badly overdone. I made some plain butter ones, and some chocolate chip ones. My boyfriend, who says he doesn't like sweet things, but actually eats loads of it, said he liked both, but preferred the chocolate chip ones. This recipe was well worth looking in three different stores for superfine sugar!

Brioche (no amounts are given because I feel badly about posting other people's recipes without their permission)

Yeast Batter:
dried yeast
milk, hand-hot
superfine sugar
bread flour

other ingredients:
bread flour
salt
superfine sugar
butter
eggs


Yeast Batter method:

  1. Stir yeast in to milk, let stand for 5 minutes.
  2. Mix the flour and sugar and let stand in a warm place until frothy, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile...
  1. In a separate bowl, mix together rest of flour, salt and sugar.
  2. Slice cold butter into thin pieces and rub into flour mixture.
To finish...
  1. Beat eggs into the frothy mixture.
  2. Stir in the flour mixture until it is a soft dough. Place on lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and no longer sticky.
  3. Cover the dough and let it rise for about 1½ hours or until doubled in size.
  4. Punch down the dough.
  5. Grease tins and divide the dough into twelve equal pieces. (or place in a loaf pan) Pinch off a small piece of each of the twelve sections. Form the larger pieces into balls and place in tins. Make a small indentation and form the smaller pieces into balls and place on top. Glaze with a beaten egg.
  6. Cover and leave the brioche to proof for about 30-40 minutes or until light and puffy.
  7. Bake at 450°F until golden brown (15-20 minutes). Cool on a wire rack. (Bake for 45-50 minutes if using a loaf pan)

I Can't Believe It's Not Chicken!

A couple of months ago, I found a recipe on Recipezaar called "City Chicken, but It's Not Chicken!" We both loved it, but I didn't make it how the recipe said because I didn't have garlic salt, chicken broth, or onion soup mix. I used garlic powder, chicken bullion cubes, and onion powder as substitutes. I wanted to see if following the recipe to the letter (well, aside from the wooden skewers, I still didn't have those and it isn't a big deal to fish out the pieces of pork)would make it taste even better.

Let me just say, this recipe is heaven and I don't usually like pork! I first tried this recipe because my boyfriend likes pork and we had bought a huge pork tenderloin that he had cut up into smaller pieces. I'm becoming a big fan of using onion soup mix in my cooking. I'm really trying to use fresh ingredients whenever possible, but I found out this year that my family recipe for stuffing uses it (and this is one of the best stuffings I've ever had), and now this recipe uses it too.

I did veer off the recipe in the method: I put the flour, garlic salt, and pepper in a zip-lock bag so I could just shake it up. I used some tongs to take the pork out of the bag and place it in the skillet. I realize now that I should probably have saved some of that flour for the gravy instead of using plain flour from a bag. The gravy is by far the best part of that dish and there is loads to smother over the pork and mashed potatoes. We both ate until we couldn't eat another bite.

It is very important to just use plain mashed potatoes as a side dish for this recipe. The gravy has such a strong, fabulous flavor that any herbed mashed potatoes would be too much and take away from the delicious gravy.

We were both so excited to eat, that I forgot to take pictures, but there are pictures on the Recipezaar site.

 

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