Friday, September 30, 2011

Mini-Stromboli


For some reason the thought came to my mind that I wanted to make homemade pizza pockets. I'm not sure where the thought came from, perhaps I saw a commercial for Totinos pizza rolls? (Oh you Madison-Avenue-mind-manipulating-money-grubbing-thugs! You didn't get me, I'm not buying your product, or your client's product, I'm making it myself. So ha!) I realized that I could easily take homemade pizza dough and shape into pizza pockets, easy shmeazy.

Easy shmeazy it was not. For some reason when I went to shape the pizza pockets, I could not get the dough to stick to each other when I went to close it. I had quite the plethora of shapes. One Hubby referred to as a calzone. Another looked like a hamburger bun (don't ask) and finally I was so frustrated that I just rolled the dough from one end to the other and made a stromboli. I often make stromboli for Hubby and put in deli meat and cheese and sometimes I throw in spinach or peppers.(Hubby isn't the fan of the homemade pizza, but likes when I make stromboli out of the dough. ) This time, I took fresh marina sauce, mozzarella cheese, mushrooms, spinach and japanese eggplant, placed it on the dough, rolled it from one edge to the other and scooped the sides underneath. For Hubby I made one mini stromboli with the fresh marinara sauce, cheese and turkey pepperoni.

The result was a big hit! Hubby said it was the best pizza pocket-calzone-stromboli I had ever made. He recommended making the marinara sauce-pepperoni stromboli instead of the one with deli meat. Bambino and I loved the vegetarian stromboli, so so good! I think the fresh marinara sauce may have had something to do with it? I don't know, but we all enjoyed it! This is a great one to make when you have vegeatarians and meatavarians because everyone can make their own and put their own toppings on it.

I have no link for the original, because it's my own recipe! I'm not going to list the amount of everything, because you decide what you like, just don't be too generous with the toppings because it will ooze out the sides or any cracks you have in the dough. No, seriously.

Ingredients
pizza dough (You can use store bought also. Pillsbury Dough has a good one.)
marinara sauce (Or any tomato sauce you like)
1 Japanese eggplant
1 button mushroom
1 cup fresh spinach leaves
turkey pepperoni
shredded mozzarella cheese
Or any other toppings you like...

Directions
1. Grease a cookie sheet, maybe 2. If using homemade pizza dough, divide dough into 8 pieces and spread into rectangular pieces. If using store bought pizza dough, divide into medium size rectangles. (Sorry I can't be any more useful with measurements.)

2. Spread marinara sauce. Sprinkle with cheese and then place toppings of choice.

3. Roll from the the long side of the rectangle. Once rolled, scoop up sides underneath and place on cookie sheet. (Careful when moving the stromboli!)

4. Bake in oven 10-15 minutes, until outside is golden brown. (You may see some cheese oozing out the sides.)

5. Cool and devour!

Amateur Cooking Difficulty Scale: 4
Whether you are using homemade pizza dough or not, it's an easy dish to make. It's just a variation from the normal pizza. Hubby prefers stromboli over pizza because with pizza he has a certain bar set with the dough that I can never reach, but if I use the same dough for stromboli, I'm a genius!

I'll make this again. It's a nice change from the regular pizza we eat.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Cinnamon Candied Cashew and Chocolate Chip Cookies


So I did it. Russell @ chasingdelicious.com, as amazing as your cinnamon candied cashews were on their own, I was dying to find out how they would taste in the cookies. And you were right, they sure were amazing! They are different than your run of the mill cookie because instead of all purpose flour, it called for bread flour and cake flour, something I had never seen before in a cookie. I thought they would be very light and fluffy, but they were not. They were actually flat and hard, unlike other cookies I make, but it still tasted oh so good!

I usually only make oatmeal raisin or chocolate chip cookies because we love them so. I made chocolate chocolate chip cookies once, which was great, but a little overdone on the chocolate for me. I have yet to come across another cookie that was a heavy rotation cookie, but this one just may be the one!

The three of us all loved the cookie...err Hubby and I loved it. We finished the cookies before Bambino got a chance to try any. Horrible parents, I know. The only thing I will change next time (oh there will be a next time) is to add more cashews. I was skimpy on the cashews because I liked eating them on their own, but the cookie was definitely in need for more of the crunch of the cashew.

Click here for the link to the original recipe (I doubled the recipe because I wanted more cookies!)

Ingredients
4 oz butter at room temperature (Or 1/2 cup vegetable oil. To cut back on oil, I used about 1/4 cup oil. I always use oil in replace of butter)
3 oz granulated sugar
3 oz brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 oz cake flour
2 oz bread flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 oz chocolate chips
5 oz cinnamon candied cashews

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease two baking sheets.

2. Cream together sugars and butter/oil.

3. Add egg and vanilla and mix.

4. In a separate bowl, sift the flours, baking soda and salt. Add in cinnamon. Fold into sugar mixture.

5. Add the chocolate chips and candied cashews until evently mixed.

6. Spoon the dough onto the greased cookie sheets to the size of your choosing. (Or make a cookie cake, why not?!) Bake 8-11 minutes until golden.

7. Cool and devour!

Amateur Cooking Difficulty Scale: 5
This one does take some time because you have to make the candied cashews in advance, but you could easily use any type of cashews, but the candied cashews are what make this cookie. Also, I had to convert from oz to how much of a cup, but thankfully in my pantry I had a measuring cup that has measurements in ounces, hooray!

Definitely going to make it again!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pork Paprika


So here it is. My first bleh meal. Ok, if I'm going to be honest, it's actually only the second time I've ever made a bleh meal. Ok, so maybe I minimize the blehness of many of my attempts of cooking, but when 70% is greatness, why concentrate on the other 30%?

So Hubby found this recipe from the quick and easy Martha Stewart cookbook and it's the second recipe he's picked from that cookbook that turned out bland. I didn't post the first dish because I thought it was a fluke and it wouldn't happen again. Who am I kidding? If I don't post my not so great dishes, I may run out of dishes to post! In all seriousness, I blame Hubby for both dishes, he did choose them. What I'm finding in some of these quick and easy dishes is that because they are quick and easy the flavor is compromised. They have less ingredients and cook for shorter amounts of time, which impact the quality of taste. I think it's time to return the Martha Stewart book to the library.

I had a feeling based on the ingredients that it would be a bit bland. The only flavors are paprika, salt and pepper. The onions and tomatoes add some flavor, but not enough to make up the dish. I pretty much followed the recipe to a tee except that I marinaded the pork in olive oil, paprika, salt and pepper. Also, since Hubby doesn't like tomatoes (why did he pick this dish?) I blended the canned (yes, canned! I even used canned as called for in the recipe!) tomatoes. The smell of the dish wasn't the greatest and when I tasted the sauce I was unimpressed. I served it over pasta and Bambino devoured the pasta and  had some pieces of pork as well. Hubby didn't care for the dish too much. He'll never flat out speak bad of something I've put hard work into it, so his political way of saying he didn't care too much for it came out loud and clear. (But he did eat the entire dish as to not hurt my feelings.)

Maybe the dish looks intriguing to you (as it did to Hubby) and you can tell me what I did wrong!

Click here for the original recipe. (The book calls the dish pork paprika, but online it's fancified and called pork paprikash.)

Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pork tenderloin (about 1lb) with excess fat and silver skin removed. Cut in half lengthwise, then cut again.
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can (14 oz) whole, peeled tomatoes in juice
1/2 cup sour cream

Directions
1. In a medium bowl combine the pork with 1 tablespoon of paprika and season with salt and pepper. In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil on medium high and cook pork until all sides are browned. Transfer to a plate.

2. In same skillet, reduce heat to medium and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and onion. and cook until onion is soft. Add pork, 1 tablespoon paprika, tomatoes and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil then simmer for 10  minutes until sauce thickens. (My sauce never thickened!)

3. Remove skillet from heat and mix in sour cream. Cool and serve with egg noodles. (I served with farfalle since that's what I had in the pantry.)

Amateur Cooking Difficulty Scale: 4
It was actually easy to make, not too much work. I get the feeling that this is a dish that needs to stew for awhile to build up flavor and in this quick way of making it, it didn't have time to build flavor. Perhaps making it in the slow cooker would be a better idea?

Not going to make this again. I'm not interested in perfecting this dish when there are plenty of other pork dishes that Hubby likes.

Let me know if you have success!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Stuffed Poblano Peppers


I've always wanted to try to make stuffed peppers, bell peppers that is. The first time I tried a stuffed pepper was on a trip to Greece. Suprisingly there was a fair amount of vegetarian fare in Greece, beyond the Greek salad. Or as they refer to it as, salad. There was the spanakopita and of course the stuffed pepper. I actually didn't know that it was a Greek dish (and technically still don't know if it is) but regardless, it was good stuff. Rice, beans and veggies stuffed into a vegetable, yum! I've always wanted to try to make it, and after seeing Bethenny Frankel make it once on her show, I wanted to make it even more. (No, my love for Bethenny has since diminished, for many reasons, much too many to get into here. But do not worry, I still watch her show.) The reason I never made it in the past is because you are committed to a whole pepper. Whether it's too much or not enough, you have to consume that portion. I thought it would be something impressive to make for a dinner party, but then you have to make enough peppers per person, plus extra (for the option of seconds of course) and it just wasn't for me. And with bell peppers being about a buck a pop, that gets to be a pretty expensive side dish.

So I found this recipe in the quick and easy Martha Stewart book and decided to try it. I like that the pepper was halved and then stuffed, as opposed to stuffing everything into one whole bell pepper. I had to make some adjustments, of course. I added more into the filling (rice and corn) to make it a little more filling. The result was a success! I had so much filling that I took two bell peppers, halved them and put stuffing into it and gave it to my parents. The sauce was really good as well, but unfortunately because I used fresh tomatoes instead of canned tomatoes I did not have enough sauce, and it was oh so good! I mashed up the pepper and rice and added some low fat sour cream for Bambino and she devoured an entire pepper on her own! 

This is good, good stuff. I will definitely make it again. It's great for a full meal for a vegetarian or you can add in some shredded chicken to the filling and perfect for a meatavarian. I think the next time I make it I will make half with chicken and half without so Hubby can eat some too.


Ingredients:
1 can whole tomatoes (28oz) in puree
1/2 red onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
salt and pepper
2 cups cooked black beans (Or 1-15 oz can)
2 ears of corn with kernels chopped off
1/2 cup  yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup water
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon of chili powder (or more, depending on taste)
1/4 cup uncooked rice
1/2 cup water
4 large poblano peppers, cut in half with seeds and stems removed

Directions
1. Place 1/4 cup rice in a pot with 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil then cover and simmer until all water is absorbed.

2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a food processor, pulse tomatoes, 1/2 of onion and 2 garlic cloves. Season with salt and pepper. Pour sauce into a greased baking dish. 

3. In a bowl, combine cooked rice, black beans, corn, cornmeal, 1/2 cup cheese, remaining onion and garlic, chili powder, cumin (I was generous with the chili powder and cumin), 3/4 cup water and season with salt and pepper.

4. Dividing evenly, stuff peppers with rice/bean mixture and place on top of sauce in baking dish and cover with aluminum foil. 

5. Bake in oven until peppers are tender, about 45 minutes. Remove aluminum foil and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese and bake an extra 10-15 minutes more.

6. Cool and serve

The extra filling used for stuffed bell peppers

Amateur Cooking Difficulty Scale: 7
I thought this was going to be an easy shmeasy dish to make, but I was wrong. Because I used fresh tomatoes (Which I boiled and then removed the skin before putting them in the food processor), used raw beans (which had to soak the night before then cooked in the pressure cooker) and made fresh rice, it turned out to be a bit more complicated with a lot of dishes to wash! 

I did like the dish a lot, so next time I know what I'm getting into and will plan my day accordingly. Also, I liked the taste of the fresh tomatoes, so next time I'll have to use about 10, since 6 were not enough. 


Monday, September 26, 2011

Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese


Please excuse the photo. It was another one of those days where I was trying to juggle too much and taking a photo of dinner became a nagging chore as opposed to an artistic form of expression.

I'm not a fan of macaroni and cheese. Never have been and I don't think I ever will. I think it's because I don't like Velveeta cheese. What is Velveeta cheese anyways? It is real cheese? I like to refer to it as imitation cheese. Then again, I'm not the biggest fan of cheese, so you smack some maybe cheese on pasta and it's like dumping ketchup all over a filet mignon. (Not that I would know.) My mother didn't make much mac and cheese growing up, probably because I didn't like it. She would occasionally make some spicy version of velveeta shells and cheese and I wouldn't touch it. What's worse than faux cheese? Spicy faux cheese!

I do make macaroni and cheese for Hubby and Bambino. (Of course, another dish we disagree upon.) I got the recipe from a Betty Crocker cookbook and I do not use the pseudo cheese, but instead 2 % milk cheddar. (Some may say lean cheese is just as much a disgrace as Velveeta, I'm sure.) I also add vegetables and turkey sausage to make it a full meal. And of course, another meal that I don't touch.

So I was watching the Rachael Ray show one day (I know, gasp!), it was actually the first time I watched the show. I saw her make the only recipe of hers that I like, butternut bowties. Essentially, instead of using pure macaroni and cheese, she used pureed butternut squash, farfalle pasta and cheedar cheese to make the dish. I really liked that she healthied up the dish with a fresh vegetable. Since I was more than used to working with pureed butternut squash (from making homemade baby food) I was excited to try the dish.

And try the dish I did. It was a big hit! I added some peas to it as well. Hubby, Bambino and I all loved it! It's perfect for a side dish to protein because it has both a starch and vegetables. This one is in heavy rotation around here.

Click here for the original recipe.

Ingredients
1 butternut squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
1 box of bowtie pasta, 16 oz (Or whatever you choose. I used mini penne.)
2 tablespoons olive oil (Recipe calls for 2 tablespoons butter, but I prefer olive oil)
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
a pinch of nutmeg
a pinch of cinnamon
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I use 2% milk)
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup frozen peas

Note: When I made this recipe I divided all ingredients by 2, otherwise this makes  A LOT of pasta. Also, the recipe will say to bake the butternut squash in the oven. I broke down the butternut squash in small chunks and cooked it in the pressure cooker for about 20 minutes.


Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the butternut squash halves on a baking sheet, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil on each side and bake cut side down. Bake until cooked through, about an hour. Remove from oven and cool. Remove skin.

2. Place butternut squash in a food processor and puree. (I like my butternut squash silky smooth, so I add in a little water to make it look creamy.)

3. Cook box of pasta according to directions. Once cooked transfer to a greased baking dish.

4. While pasta is cooking, warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add in the flour and mix for about one minute. Add in the milk and whisk until the milk begins to bubble and the sauce thickens. (This will take several minutes, just keep mixing.)

5. Once sauce has thickened, add in butternut squash, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt and pepper to taste. Add in the cheddar cheese and Parmesan cheese until melted into sauce.

6. Pour sauce into baking dish with pasta. Add frozen peas. Cook in oven (still at 400 degrees) for 10-15 minutes until hot and bubbly. Cool and serve.

Amateur Cooking Difficulty Scale: 6
This one may look a little difficult, but it really is not too bad. If you don't want to deal with cutting apart the butternut squash (it takes some muscle) you can easily you frozen butternut squash. Since I half the recipe when I make it, I freeze the leftover pureed butternut squash to use the next time I make the dish.

Technically, this dish is more in rotation, not heavy rotation. No specific reason, I make it often, but not that often. Good stuff here.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cinnamon Candied Cashews


Mmmm. Nuts. Like Marc Zuckerburg and his Addidas sandals, like Carrie Bradshaw and her circa 2000 flower lapel and like the Kardashians and their athletic boy toys, that is I with nuts, something I just cannot live without. As a vegetarian it is the one protein that I must consume. Whether they are pecans in a banana bread, peanuts in thai salad or hazelnuts in Nutella, I like it all, no matter how it comes.  I'll eat every nut out there no matter how you serve it, but there is one particular nut that is my arch nemesis. That would be the macadamian nut. I love all things Hawaiian, but I think that the Hawaiian center of tourism should keep macadamian nuts on the down low. I just don't understand them. They are like Hawaii's imitation crab in a california roll. All is good, but then  you have to add that faux seafood and it ruins a perfect piece of vegetarian yumminess.

So I actually came across a recipe for cinnamon candied cashew and chocolate chunk cookies. I was drawn to the recipe because while I have eaten cashews in many savory and sweet dishes, I had never had them in a cookie! I felt I must make the cookie right away. I looked at the recipe and went out the door to buy cashews. (I did have some cashews at home that my mother had brought back from India, but Indian cashews are so good, so fresh that I didn't want to tamper with such simple, greatness. Instead, I chose to buy H-E-B cashews from the bulk food aisle.) I made the cashews right away and figured I would make the cookies the next day. Well. These cashews came out amazing. I mean, wow. I love nuts, but sugary candied nuts?! You just can't go wrong! Bambino even had a few pieces and fell in love. For now, I'm not sure if I want to make the cookies because I am enjoying consuming these cashews on their own!

Click here for the original recipe.

Ingredients
1 egg white
1 tablespoon water
8 ounces raw cashews
2 ounces brown sugar (1/4 cup)
2 ounces white sugar (1/4 cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

2. Whip together water and egg white until light and frothy. (I used a hand whisker for this.)

3. Add in the cashews and mix until completely coated.

4. Add in brown sugar, white sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix to coat.

5. Spread cashews on a greased baking sheet.

6. Bake 30 minutes and stir once.

7. Let cool completely. Break apart any pieces that are stuck together.

Amateur Cooking Difficulty Scale: 1
Super duper easy and oh so good! This is a good one to make if you're having a party and need a little something to be sitting on the counter. Perfect for the holiday parties!

Definitely going to make them again. Still undecided about the cookies. I wish I made more so I could make cookies and have excess to munch on.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Turkey Meatloaf with Feta and Sun-Dried Tomatoes


I know I've professed my love for Giada on a more than a plethora of occasions, so I felt it was time to finally post one of her recipes. I found this recipe almost a year ago, for Thanksgiving. Since it was only going to be the three of us and my parents, we didn't want to get a whole turkey. The only people who would eat the turkey would be Hubby and my dad, the almost vegetarian, so we really didn't need anything grandiose. (Bambino was far too young to be consuming pieces of turkey at this point.) Around November of last year I was at the peak of my Food Channel/Cooking Channel obsession. (And at the peak of my Housewives of Bravo obsession as well. Both has of now toppled down similar to spindle that eventually tires out. Come on, Andy Cohen, your Housewives franchise has taken a dark turn, I think it's now time for an E! True Hollywood Story about the show and lets call it a day. But I digress, as usual.) So when I was looking for alternative turkey recipes, I only looked at the Food Network website and this was the first recipe I came across. I had never made meatloaf before so I showed the recipe to Hubby and he was beyond enthused about trying it. He loves meat, he loves cheese and while he doesn't like tomatoes he does like sun-dried tomatoes. (Don't ask.I sure don't.)

The result of the dish was actually a huge hit! Not only did Hubby love it, but my almost vegetarian dad loved it as well! I, of course, didn't touch it, but I served it alongside a couscous-chickpea salad with ginger lime dressing and made it a Mediterranean themed Thanksgiving. This is a dish in our family that is in heavy, heavy rotation. I've even shared this recipe with friends. I don't what it is that makes this dish so amazing, but whatever it is, it works!

Click here for Giada's original recipe. (I don't change a thing in this dish. It's pretty healthy, so I stick with it.)

Ingredients:
vegetable cooking spray
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes in olive oil
2 eggs, at room temperature, slightly beaten
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
 1 lb lean ground turkey

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a loaf pan with vegetable cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl stir together bread crumbs, parsley, sun dried tomatoes (you can pour in some of the oil from the jar as well), garlic, eggs, milk, feta, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Add in turkey meat and combine. Be careful not to overwork the meat.

3. Pack the meat in the loaf pan and bake until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees, which is about 45 minutes. Remove from heat. Place on a platter, slice and serve!

Amateur Cooking Difficulty Scale: 3
I had never made meatloaf before, and had never really planned to, but this one turned out super simple. It's a little different than the traditional, American dish, but still facile to make.

I make this dish quite often. As I stated earlier, it is in heavy, heavy rotation and will stay there for awhile!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Roasted Vegetable Tart



Ohh the tart. The tart. The tart. The tart. I have been trying to master the technique of making you, but your elusive nature has made it so difficult. I've had some vast experience now of working with homemade dough, but the tart, why are you so difficult? Or should I say crostata. For those of you who are unfamiliar with all dishes Giada, a crostata is basically the Italian way of saying tart. And what exactly is a tart, you ask? Basically it is a pie crust, but can be used with savory foods or sweets. I have watched Giada make different types of crostatas on numerous occasions and she makes it appear so simple, yet I have struggled so grandly  with making the pastry! Honestly, I know what the problem is. A tart is very rich with LOTS of butter and I always try to healthy the dish up a bit. And I know, I know, the three rules of making a tart are: 1.) You don't tamper with the ingredients. 2.) You don't tamper with the ingredients  3.) You don't tamper with the ingredients. Well, that's what I did. I tampered with the ingredients. The third time that I attempted the apple crostata (I won't even bother discussing the first two attempts, you don't want to know.) I followed the recipe exactly...wait. No. I didn't follow the recipe exactly. Somehow, instead of lining the baking sheet with parchment paper, as directed, I used saran wrap. (Gasp!) Yes, it melted and I feared feeding our guests the toxic apple crostata. Although, it looked beautiful! 

So, even though the third tart was not edible, I realized I had finally mastered the technique. And honestly, I don't prefer making something so rich for the family to eat. So when I was looking at other blogs, I came across this recipe for a whole wheat crust. Yay! A healthier version of a crostata. But technically, it is not shaped like Giada's crostata, but that's because it doesn't have all the malleable butter qualities as does Giada's. But it's healthier and scrumptious! 

When it came to a filling I decided to go with my own concoction. I had looked up numerous tart recipes (Martha Stewart sure has a vast array of them, but that didn't stop me!) and saw the different flavor combinations and decided just to  put together my own preference of vegetables. I was a little worried on the end result, but it came out so, so good! Hubby, of course, wouldn't touch it with a ten foot poll since it has all of his nemeses, eggplant, tomato and mushrooms. Bambino had a few bites of mine when I was eating it and didn't spit out and came back for more. Woo hoo! If you're a health nut who likes fresh vegetables, you'll like this dish. 

Click here for the original recipe for the crust. (I did make some slight changes and used the same techniques as making classic tart dough)

Ingredients for the crust
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 tablespoons ice cold water

Ingredients for the filling
1 Japanese eggplant, chopped into small pieces
1 button mushroom, chopped
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 cup packed spinach leaves
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
goat cheese (optional)

Directions for crust
1. In a food processor pulse together flour and salt. While the food processor is going, pour in olive oil. Add in ice cold water 1 tablespoon at a time until it begins to bind. I used all 4 tablespoons. (My mixture was a bit crumbly)

2. Dump out mixture onto saran wrap. Close saran wrap and shape into disc. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

3. In a tart pan, spray with cooking spray. Spread out dough to shape pan. Place to side.

Directions for filling
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a bowl, combine eggplant, tomatoes, mushroom and garlic. Add 2 tablespoons of oil and mix. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

2. Grease a cooking sheet with cooking spray. Spread out vegetables. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until vegetables are cooked through. Drop oven temperature to 375 once vegetables are removed.

3. While vegetables are roasting, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet on medium high heat. Add spinach and cook until wilted. 

4. Combine vegetables together in a bowl and add mozzarella. Mix. Place in prepared pie crust. Sprinkle top with goat cheese as desired.

5. Place in oven and cook for about 40 minutes, until crust is browned. Cool and enjoy!

Amateur Cooking Difficulty Score: 5
This one isn't too difficult at all. The crust is more of the feisty part of the equation. You could easily use store bought crust for this recipe as well. The filling is definitely worth making it for!

I'll definitely be making it again. It's the type of dish you would see at a wedding shower or baby shower. Definitely very girly. (I probably feel this way since my meatavarian Hubby did not take well to this dish and thus I am equating it with girlyness.) Regardless, I'm for sure making it again. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cornbread


When I made the chicken and sausage gumbo the other day I asked Hubby if he wanted to make cornbread along with it, as showed in the recipe book. I caught my words after they came out because I remember Hubby telling me on numerous occasions that in high school he worked at a restaurant that served cornbread and he would often eat the superfluous amounts of leftover edges from the pans (those not appropriate for customers) and thus has an aversion to cornbread to this day. Suprisingly, Hubby responded to my question with a simple No, that's ok. Rice will be fine. As the day went on I couldn't get the thought of that cornbread out of my head. I, on the other hand, enjoy me some cornbread. There is a specific restaurant in town (A steak house that I love, I know I'm a walking paradox. And no, I don't get the steak.) that serves warm, fresh rectangular pillows of yellow yumminess that I love. As the minutes passed on my sweet craving and need for cornbread just couldn't diminish. So while Hubby couldn't stand the sight of cornbread, I had to have it!

I looked up cornbread recipes and saw just how simple they were to make and that I had all the ingredients in the house! So I made a batch of the cornbread and they quenched my need for the bread of corn and all was good on my palate. Bambino loved her some cornbread as well. And Hubby ate some too! Apparently he wasn't as averse to the wife-proclaimed aversion as I thought. His response was Where's the corn? Isn't that what makes it cornbread? No, my sweetheart. It would be the use of cornmeal that makes it called cornbread.

So we all stuffed ourselves with some cornbread and still have plenty left. If you like cornbread, go make this. 


Ingredients
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2/3 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a square shaped baking pan with cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl sift flour, cornmeal, salt and baking powder. Add in sugar.

3. Stir in egg, milk and vegetable oil. 

4. Bake in preheated oven 20-25 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Amateur Cooking Difficulty  Scale: 2
This is truly an easy one. I can literally say that I threw this together on a whim and met all of my cornbread expectations.

I'll definitely be making this one again the next time I have a need for cornbread. 


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo


My parents spent some time living in Louisiana before I was born, so it was there that my mother perfected the traditional, N'awlins style Gumbo. She has the roux down pat along with the right seasoning. If true authentic, canjun style gumbo is what you're looking for, then this is not the recipe for you. But if you are looking for a simple replica of the same dish with the same basic flavors, then this is for you! 

Hubby found this recipe in the Martha Stewart book I checked out from the library. He had mentioned making it a couple of times and I forgot. So when I asked him to pick out some recipes he reminded me how he really wanted to try the gumbo recipe. Oh yeah, I forgot! So off I was to make this recipe. I do recall my mother making the dish when I was  younger and I would eat the broth and vegetables with rice and picked out the meat and shrimp. I actually liked the flavor of the broth. I remember that when my mom made the dish it seemed like such an arduous task so I was hesitant try the dish but the recipe does say it can be done in 30 minutes! Rocco Dispirito would probably disagree that this could be done in 30 minutes considering on his show Rocco's Dinner Party he really let one of the contestants have it for making Jambalaya in 30 minutes and not letting the roux slowly boil and build flavor, but I'm not cooking for Rocco and let's be honest his show tanked as did his previous one The Restaurant. Oh! And I checked out one of his cookbooks from the library and there wasn't one recipe of interest in there. When it comes to Italian chefs, I'll stick with Giada. Wow. How did I get on this tangent? Oh yes, so gumbo in 30 minutes I shall make and Rocco can hate it all he wants.

The dish was pretty simple to make. I did cook and marinade the chicken when it called for using precooked chicken. I also added in some more vegetables.I served it along side rice and homemade cornbread. Hubby loved it and so did Bambino. I took a couple of bites of the vegetables and broth and thought it came out really well. Next time I'm going to have to try a vegetarian gumbo.


Ingredients
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into pieces
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper
1/3 cup flour
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 ear of corn, kernels chopped off
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
10 pieces of okra, chopped 
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 package of precooked lean turkey sausage, cut into pieces
rice and/or cornbread for serving (optional)

Directions
1 Marinade the chicken with chili powder, cumin, 2 cloves garlic, salt and pepper. Refrigerate over night. (You can skip this step and just use precooked chicken)

2. In a pot sprayed with cooking spray, add turkey and cook turkey on medium high for 10 minutes, constantly moving. Remove turkey from pan.

3. In same pan add the in the chicken and saute until browned on all sides. Remove chicken. Once cooled, chop into smaller pieces.

4. In the same pot, heat oil on medium heat. Add flour and cook, whisking constantly until pale golden, 5-7 minutes.(The roux!)

5. Stir in onion, garlic, bell pepper, corn and okra. Add salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until vegetables are cooked though, 10-12 minutes.

6. Add 2 cups chicken broth and 2 cups water; stir in chicken and sausage. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Cool and serve with rice and/or cornbread.

Amateur Cooking Difficulty Scale: 5
This is a pretty easy one, not too much work. It's almost a one pot dish, you just have to make some rice to eat along with it or don't make rice if you're anti-carb. (I, of course, am not.)

I will definitely be making this one again. It was a big hit in the household so definitely going into heavy rotation! 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ricotta Gnocchi


I've made gnocchi a couple of times in the past. Originally, I made it with potato. I didn't pay attention to the directions and they turned into jumbo gnocchi. I didn't know what to do with them so after Hubby said they tasted like dumplings I made chicken and dumplings...err chicken and jumbo gnocchi. Seriously, it was like I was cooking for the Jolly Green Giant! So after watching an episode of Italian at Home and seeing Giada make sweet potato gnocchi, I figured out the technique and tried it again, but this time with spinach because I didn't want to deal with having to cook potatoes and letting them cool prior to making the dough. The spinach gnocchi actually came out pretty good. I sauteed them with some olive oil and garlic and Hubby devoured them. Bambino was less than a year old so she munched on some small bites too.

It had been awhile since I made gnocchi and I remember how much Hubby liked them so I thought I'd try it again. A couple of months ago I found a recipe for easy ricotta gnocchi and since I had a whole container of ricotta cheese in the fridge, and no spinach, ricotta gnocchi it was! After having made gnocchi in the past and after having read the recipe from top to bottom, the process was pretty easy and it came out exactly like the photo! (A rare occurrence.)

I sauteed the gnocchi with cherry tomatoes, garlic and olive oil and they came out pretty good. Gnocchi in general is a little heavy for me, so I just prefer a couple of bites along with my meal. Bambino seemed to enjoy them and I think the most of it will be going in Hubby's lunch this week along with a sandwich. (Mr.Carnivorous Carnivore needs meat with his meals, even though he often denies this, but sans a meat in his lunch he'll come home ravenous.)

Click here for the original recipe.

Ingredients:
1- 16oz container ricotta cheese (I used fat-free)
1 large egg
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4-1 cup all purpose flour

Directions:

1. Set a strainer with three coffee filters, or three pieces of paper towels and dump out ricotta cheese and let drain for an hour. (Shhh. I cheated and only strained it for 30 minutes.)

2. In a large bowl mix the strained ricotta, egg, cheese, salt and 3/4 cup flour until all ingredients are incorporated. If needed, add in last 1/4 cup of flour. (I had to because the dough was quite sticky with only 3/4 cup flour. At first I used a spatula, then used my hands to knead the dough.) Wrap dough in saran wrap and place in fridge for 15 minutes. (I've only posted photos of the dough making process because it can be very intimidating.)

Post kneading/mixing

Saran wrapped and ready for the fridge!

3. Once taken out of the fridge lay on a floured surface and cut dough into 4 pieces.

Divided into four.

4. Before shaping, put a large pot of water to boil and also take out a floured baking pan. Take one of your pieces, divide into two and roll out into a log formation. Then cut into 1 inch pieces. You can leave them in the little pillow shape, or you can shape them into the traditional gnocchi shape by rolling them off of a fork. Place gnocchi on floured baking sheet.

Rolling the dough.

Chopping the dough.

 Gnocchi fork roll: Step 1

Gnocchi fork roll: Step 2

Gnocchi fork roll: Step 3

The floured baking sheet.

5. Add 1 tablespoon of salt to the boiling water. Add in half of the gnocchi. Carefully stir the gnocchi to prevent sticking. When the gnocchi float to the top, let sit for 2-3 minutes before taking them out of the water and placing them in a colander. Repeat with second half.

6. Toss gnocchi with sauce immediately. You can toss with a marinara sauce or, as I did, sauteed some garlic and cherry tomatoes in olive oil and threw in the gnocchi as soon as they were ready.

Amateur Cooking Difficulty Scale: 6
Don't be intimidated with working with dough. This is really not that difficulty to do. It takes the most amount of time to roll the dough into logs and shape, otherwise it's all pretty easy.

This is the third time I've made gnocchi and when I make it again I'll make it with ricotta cheese. It literally is the easiest of them all to make! Also, you can impress people with your dough making prowess. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Applesauce


When Bamibino was an infant I made all her baby food from scratch. It was pretty easy, cut fruit/vegetable, cook in pressure cooker then blend. Remembering these old days (or not so old) I decided to make applesauce from scratch. (And maybe because apples were on sale). Bambino is starting to get tired of eating the same foods day in and day out, so I'm having to be inventive but with little effort for my own sanity.

I looked up applesauce recipes and was impressed at how easy it was to make and how similar it is to making baby food. (Or maybe that should have been obvious?)

The smell of the applesauce cooking was similar to apple pie. (Perhaps because of the sugar?) The house smelled very patriotic for the 30 minutes the applesauce was cooking. And the taste was amazing! So, so much better than jarred applesauce. I don't think I could go back to the jarred kind!  My views on applesauce have completely changed.

I basically stuck to the recipe, except that I had to change the apple to water ratio than was listed and also added some lemon juice.


Ingredients:
3 apples- peeled, cored and chopped (I used granny smith apples because they are my favorite, but you could use any that you like)
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
juice of 1/2 of a lemon

Directions

1. In a saucepan, combine apples, water, sugar and cinnamon.

2. Cover and cook over medium heat for 20-30 minutes, or until apples are soft. (Keep an eye on them! Cooking time will vary. The recipe said 15-20 minutes, but mine took longer) Allow to cool, then mash with a potato masher.

3. Cool and consume!

Amateur cooking difficulty scale: 1
This was ridiculously easy. The most amount of work is prepping the apples.

I already made this twice and it's safe to say I will make it a third time! And don't think it's just for kids. I devoured a bowl of it myself. You can mix it with vanilla yogurt and makes for a heartier dish. Or even add to a topping on ice cream!

Chicken Cacciatore



For some reason I always thought chicken cacciatore was some type of chicken, spaghetti casserole. Wait a minute, the more I think about it, I think I was confusing chicken cacciatore with chicken tetrazini! Ohh! For awhile, when I was in high school, my mom had chicken tetrazini in heavy rotation. My brother and father loved, but I did not. I remember watching them add hot sauce to the dish as well. Watching them spice up the drab dish (sorry mom!) was not satisfying either. I'm not sure what it was, considering I liked pasta and back in high school I did eat chicken?  Whatever the reason, I somehow confused the name with chicken cacciatore, and thus I never made chicken cacciatore.

It wasn't until I was watching Fabio on Top Chef All Stars make chicken cacciatore for the Italian food challenge at Rao's Restaurant that I realized chicken cacciatore is not chicken tetrazini! Suprisingly, Fabio did not win and unfortunately lost to Antonia's mussels dish. (I loved Fabio's response, Antonia beat me with a bowl of steamed mussels and some fennel. That's a French dish! There's something wrong with this picture.) In commiseration with Fabio for his loss, and learning that chicken cacciatore is authentic Italian food, I decided to try the dish. Despite his loss, Tony Bourdain gave him kudos for the dish. Now I know Bourdain doesn't eat chicken tetrazini, so it was off to try the recipe!

The direct translation of cacciatore in Italian is hunter style. So chicken cacciatore is a way of cooking the chicken hunter style, with specific vegetables. The recipe I found was a simpler and healthier version of the traditional dish. I modified the dish slightly, only because I was low on tomatoes. Hubby said it was great. I wanted to serve it with polenta a la Fabio, but I wasn't in the mood to deal with my tempestuous relationship with polenta. That's for another day. 


Ingredients
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (Recipe calls for bone and skin, but after the chicken and rice soup fiasco I chose no bones.)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 bell pepper
1/2 white onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/3 cup white wine
2 roma tomatoes, chopped
1 can tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1. Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium high. Add onions and cook until transluscent. Push the onions to the side and add garlic and chicken. Cook until chicken is browned and then flip to other side and brown it. Season chicken with salt and pepper on both sides.

2. Add wine and bring to a simmer until reduced by half. Add tomatoes and cook until juices are coming out of tomatoes. Add in tomato paste.  Bring everything to a boil, then simmer with lid slightly ajar.

3. Cook the chicken in the simmering liquid, basting from time to time,  until chicken is tender and falling apart,  40 minutes to an hour. If stew starts to dry out, add a couple tablespoons of water.(I shredded the chicken completely after cooking to make it easier to eat with pasta)

4. Cool and serve with rice, pasta or polenta. I served it with capellini.

Amateur Cooking Difficulty Scale: 5
This is pretty simple, a couple of different steps, but over all pretty easy. Hubby ate a heaping helping of it and said it was great.

If I do make this dish again I think I will use chicken breasts instead of thighs. I was a little irked out at using the dark meat, something I'm not used to. I make plenty of pasta/chicken dishes so I'm undecided if this will go into heavy rotation, it's up to Hubby.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Pretzel Bites


Snacky foods are my favorite type of food, says the carboholic. I could easily go all day just munching on things like wheat thins, pretzels, banana chips (the Indian salty variety) vanilla wafers, etc. It's absolutely horrible for you since it's pretty much empty calories (and the wheat of the wheat thins always do a number on my stomach), but it's so, so good. Oh, and tortilla chips! I love me some tortilla chips. I've never attempted to make any type of munchie food at home, because I never really thought you could. When I think of the rectangular boxes with vivid colors shouting out at me as I go down the cracker/cookie aisle at H-E-B (Buy me! Eat me! You know you can't resist me!) I don't think of these items as foods that I can make at home. I think of them as food created in factories by corporations looking to get the average consumer hooked to their not so good goods as does a crack dealer with their vast array of addictables.

So when I was discovering different food blogs and came across this recipe, 2 hours later I was in the kitchen prepping the dish. (When I use the word prepping it makes me feel like a contestant on Top Chef.) The particular blog I found had found this recipe from another blog who found it from Allrecipes.com. And now it's my turn to blog the recipe. I wonder if the original cook who scripted the recipe wants royalty fees?

These pretzel bites came out...in the words of Giuliana Rancic (literally, she's the only person I'v heard say this)...amaze balls! (No pun intended. They're shaped like balls, get it?) Seriously. Right out of the oven they taste like something you'd get at a pretzel stand at a carnival. I highly recommend you make these. If you don't own a bread machine, go buy one or borrow one from someone just to make this recipe!

Click here for the not-so-original recipe.

Ingredients
1 1/8 cups water
3 cups all purpose flour
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
8 cups water
1/2 cup baking soda
salt
olive oil to brush on top (calls for melted butter)

Directions:

1. In a bread machine add water, flour, brown sugar and yeast. Set machine on dough setting and press start.

2. Remove dough once cycle is complete and set on a lightly floured surface.

3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

4. Bring 8 cups of water and 1/2 cup baking soda to a boil.

5. Drop 1 inch size balls of dough into water 2-3 at a time and keep submerged for 10-15 seconds and then place on paper towel.

6. Place all balls on greased baking dish and bake for 8-10 minutes until golden brown. Brush with olive oil and salt. (I brushed and salted it before baking because I didn't read the directions properly and they came out great! I'll probably do it that way again.)


Amateur Cooking Difficulty Scale: 4
This one is an easy one, as long as you have a bread machine. It does take three steps, but there's really little work to do.

I will DEFINITELY be making these again. They came out so, so good. They taste best fresh, right out the oven. They held up well the next day, but not as good. Can't tell you how it holds up on day three because we finished them today! Yes, WE! All three of us loved them!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Chicken and Rice Soup


In honor of the cooler weather we've had (It's only a high of 96 degrees today as opposed to 106, yay!) I decided to make some soup. Hubby loves him some soup. When we were first married, and for awhile afterwards, he would buy cans of soup as if we were preparing for a hurricane. (It's what we do in the South. That and pray.) He wasn't too particular of the type, just something with meat and a starch. Since I cook a lot more and there is usually fresh food waiting in the fridge, he doesn't often eat soup anymore. (That and the fact that I do the grocery shopping and don't buy him canned soup.) I wanted to make something for him that I hoped he would enjoy. Also, Bambino tends to prefer softer foods to eat (And it makes eating meals faster!) so I thought I'd get the blue jay and the robin with just one stone.

Initially I found a recipe for chicken and wild rice soup in a Martha Stewart cookbook, but felt the recipe was a little too simple and lacked flavor. I scoured internet and found a recipe on The Pioneer Woman's website. I've visited her site occasionally, but never cooked any of her dishes. I have yet to form an opinion on her. I've heard many people rave about her blog, but from researching her blog I feel that were as opposed as city mouse and country mouse, literally.  I will admit, some of her cowgirl foods look appetizing and she is going to star in her own show on the Food Network, so she must be somewhat good? So I decided to give the recipe a try.

What I learned about this recipe is to not work with meats that still have the skin and bone on it. The smell of a chicken boiling in water was not the most appetizing of smells for me. I was actually surprised by this. I work with chicken breasts all the time, but something about the breast having the bone and skin on it irked me out a bit. And then cutting the meat off of the bone after it was cooked also freaked me out. I'm not sure why, but it did. 

I'm not sure if Hubby liked it. He did consume an entire bowl, but commented on how good the accompanied ciabatta bread tasted. I packed the leftovers it in his lunch the next day and the container came home empty, so I'm assuming he did eat it? Bambino really liked it. She had a heaping bowl full and ate it quickly. If you like chicken soup, then this one is up your ally because it has all the basics and it is from the fancy shmancy Pioneer Woman. 


Ingredients:
1 cup white rice + 2 cups water
2 whole chicken breasts with bone and skin
6 cups water
2 cups vegetable broth  (TPW calls for 8 cups water and bouillon cubes, but I chose a water-vegetable broth combo instead)
1/2 onion chopped
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 celery stick, chopped
1 ear of corn, kernels cut off
6 Tablespoons olive oil
6 Tablespoons of flour
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Cook rice. Add 1 cup rice to 2 cups water. Bring to a boil then cover and simmer. 

2. Wash two whole chicken breasts (skin, bones and all) and place them in a pot, cover with 6 cups of water and 2 cups of vegetable broth. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium and cook until chicken is done, about twenty to thirty minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot and let cool for a few minutes. (Reserve broth!) Cut all the meat from the bones and chop into bite size pieces. This was the step I didn't care for.

3. While chicken is boiling, cut up onion, bell pepper, carrot and corn.

4. Once chicken is cooked and chopped up, in a skillet cook the olive oil at medium high heat. Once heated, add the flour. It should become thick. If it is still liquidy, add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time. Drop mixture into broth.

5. Using the same skillet (that maybe you washed?) add onions, bell pepper, carrot and corn and saute. Add in chicken. Add in paprika. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

6. Add meat and vegetable chicken to broth. Add in cooked rice.  Add in turmeric powder. (TPW said to add food coloring, but I was vehemently against that. In the review someone mentioned turmeric powder and I was all for it.) Bring to a boil then let simmer for 20 minutes with the top off. 

7. Cool and serve. 

Amateur Cooking Difficulty Scale: 5
There were a lot of different steps to this dish, which gives it a five. Working with bone and skin on a protein is new to me, which upped the score as well.

I don't think I'll be making this dish again, at least not with chicken that has skin and bone on it. I did not like the smell of the broth (Although the smell of store bought chicken broth doesn't bother me.) or digging into the breast pulling out the meat. The dish made PLENTY of soup, we still have two containers in the freezer. So for now, there's enough to last for awhile. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Orange Bread



Yesterday was another baking day. I usually bake some type of sweet once a week in hopes that it will satisfy our sweet craving for the week, but we often finish the scrumptious baked good by day three. Last week I made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and as is often the case there are about two cookies sitting in the bottom of the container. And they will most likely sit there until I eat them and wash the container. I blame Hubby that the reason he doesn't eat the last few is because he doesn't want to have to wash the container. (If you're wondering why I didn't post the oatmeal cookies it's because I somehow mixed up the recipe I usually use with some faux Nestle Tollhouse recipe. So when I went to make the alterations to the recipe, as I always do, the end result was a bit too diet-y. I liked it, but didn't feel it was worth posting. When I find the authentic recipe, for some reason it wasn't on the chocolate chip bag like it usually is, I will share with you.)

Enough talk of the cookies that taste like something that should be sold in the Gluten free section of Whole Foods (Oh, is that the whole store these days?) on to this recipe. I had eaten some good oranges over the past few weeks and thought I'd look for a recipe to make with the oranges. I usually stick to cakes and cookies and I wasn't in the mood for an orange cookie (Ok, so I wasn't in the mood to make cookies, more work than cake) so I looked around for an orange bread or cake. As usual, when looking for the recipe to a fruit bread I came across A LOT of recipes that called for orange juice instead of oranges. No, I don't have any juice in the house. I do have oranges, so where are you, recipe? I finally came across a recipe on some peculiar website I had never seen before, Instructables.com. I'm not an Internetist (Yeah, I coined that word.) so that's not necessarily saying much.

The recipe was very simple and required one orange and all your other basics, flour, salt, sugar, etc. It turned out pretty well. Not the sweetest of all breads I've made, but amazing fresh out of the oven. Hubby commented on how good it came out and Bambino couldn't get enough of it!. I wouldn't rank it at the top of the list, but for a bread that isn't too sweet, I liked it. Again, I lessened the oil in the recipe to make it a bit healthier.

Click here for the original recipe.

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
dash of salt
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/8 cup vegetable oil (Recipe calls for 1/3 cup melted butter)
1 tsp vanilla
1 orange
1 tablespoon sugar (for orange pulp)
2 tsp water

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Add in sugar and put to side.

3. Peel orange and take apart. Place in blender (or magic bullet!) along with 1 tablespoon sugar and 2 teaspoons water. Move to a bowl.

4. Add egg, vanilla and oil to orange pulp. Fold in flour.

5. Place in greased (with cooking spray) loaf pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes until knife inserted and comes out clean.


Amateur Cooking Difficulty Scale: 3
Super easy and doesn't take too much time to complete. The familia enjoyed it and it was easy, can't go wrong with this one.

It's a toss up on whether I'll make this one again. Like I said, it wasn't at the top of my list, but it's an easy dish to make and it quenches the family's sweet craving.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Slow-cooker Sweet and Spicy Asian Pork


Here's another one from The Real Simple magazine book. Hubby had marked quite a few recipes in the book he was interested in and when I saw the words slow cooker, I was all on it! Slow cooker dishes are great because you just mix all the ingredients and pop them in. From my experience, I do not like to add vegetables into the slow cooker, they always come out too mushy. Perhaps I cook them too long, I don't know. I'm no slow-cooker professional and I won't pretend that I am, but for now, I keep vegetables outside of the slow cooker and add them after the fact. Hubby does like certain meats that I cook in the slow cooker, so I'm always ecstatic to find a new recipe to use in it!

This recipe actually calls for pork shoulder. Hubby stated he had never had pork shoulder and wanted to give it a try. So off we were to the grocery store together. (With Bambino chilling in the cart munching on some goldfish) While I was getting cheese at the deli counter Hubby and Bambino had scampered over to the meat section. When I got over there I noticed Hubby just staring at the meats. I was scurrying around trying to find the pork when I noticed that was what Hubby was staring at. He pointed to the pork shoulder with a blank look to which I responded, That's it? Is that a bone? What's that stuff on top? To which Hubby responded with that's the attachment to the arm. I of course was disgusted. I know that I cook meat all the time, but I don't work with bone too often, and when I do it is usually chicken. Hubby doesn't like bone in his food so he wasn't too happy with the looks of the pork either. So there were the two of us. Staring at the pork. Our mouths agape. Hubby finally broke the silence with, maybe we can ask the butcher to cut it up? I quickly said no and purchased a pork tenderloin. It was familiar and what I know. Case closed.

The funny thing is, when I came home and was ready to marinade the dish, I remember reading the recipe thinking, I could have butchered that pork shoulder myself! I don't know where the fear came from, but in the comfort of my kitchen it was gone. Oh well, for another time. So I made the dish with a pork tenderloin and Hubby devoured it! I had only 1/2 of the required soy sauce and I used much of the sauce for a stir fried side dish so I thought it appeared a bit dry. Apparently not! Hubby ate almost 3/4 of the pork in the first sitting. Bambino and I ate some of the stir fried noodles, but it was mainly a dish all for Hubby, and he apparently appreciated it!

Click here for the link to the original recipe.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons Asian chili-garlic sauce (I had never used this before, but it added a great taste to the dish!)
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger (I always have ginger in my freezer)
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder (Or as I call it, the Chinese curry powder)
1 1/4 lbs pork tenderloin (Or pork shoulder de-boned and cut into 2-in pieces, if you're brave enough)

Directions:
1. Mix together soy sauce, brown sugar, chili-garlic sauce, ginger and Chinese five-spice powder. Coat pork with mixture and place in an airtight container over night in the fridge.

2. Place in slow cooker next day. Cook for 3-4 hours on high. Cool and serve!

I served the dish with stir fry rice noodles. I sauteed vegetable oil, garlic, carrots and zuchini on medium high heat adding sauce from the slow cooker 1 tablespoon at a time. Once the vegetables were cooked I added in the rice noodles. I added more sauce about a tablespoon at a time and just went by taste.

Amateur Cooking Difficulty Scale: 3
This is such an easy one. Very little work and Hubby was excited by the outcome. I really liked the taste of the sauce with the noodles. I will have to find more recipes for the chili-garlic sauce.

Definitely making it again!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Vegetable Cutlet: The Indian Veggie Burger


As a vegetarian I do of course love the stereotypical vegetarian cuisine, the veggie burger. I've tried pretty much every brand (Morning Star, Boca, Gardenburger, Amy's) and have my likes and dislikes. (My favorite is the Morningstar Spicy Black Bean) I've always gotten upset when going to a restaurant and ordering a veggie burger they give me a Morningstar patty. Come on now, I didn't spend ten bucks for you to give me something I can get frozen, in a pack of four for around three bucks. Now when a restaurant does make a veggie burger from scratch, I'm always impressed. And I've had some good ones. Potato based, black bean based, rice based, some good stuff and some not so good, but I appreciate the work they do for the vegetarians, we're customers too! Seriously, if your going to put it on your menu, don't make it something I can access at a grocery store. (And make better with my own toppings!)

So I felt it was time to make my own veggie burger. What I didn't realize was that my mom has been making homemade veggie burgers all my life, except I didn't know that's what they were. They were disguised as vegetable cutlets! Vegetable cutlets are a popular Indian snack food. Traditionally, they are deep fried nuggets of potatoes mixed with some peripheral vegetables. They are often eaten as a snack with tea or as an appetizer. There is always an array of chutneys to dip them into or sometimes just good old ketchup. (Or sauce as it is referred to in India.) My mother would often make these when we had dinner parties, as an appetizer. It was always a guest dish, not an everyday eating meal dish.

A few years ago I made the traditional Indian dish of batata bhaji (sauteed potatoes in numerous spices) and had a ton of leftovers. I was searching for what to do with all the leftovers when I remembered veggie cutlets!  I decided to whip them up with the leftovers and what a scrumptious hit they were with me and Hubby. I realized at the time that based upon the shape of the patty, they could homemade veggie burgers. When I shared this information with my mom, she was already ahead of the game. Apparently vegetable cutlets were used as veggie burgers in her household. Why wasn't that shared with me? (Dad didn't even tell me about this?) So a fancy dish that was only made for guests was now a heavy rotation dish since the kids had flown the coop? I see how it goes.

So I often make vegetable cutlets. They're great as a vegetable patty or a veggie burger. Bambino and I prefer to eat them with plain yogurt, Hubby likes it smeared in sour cream and my parents eat it with sauce.

This past weekend I was looking for something fresh to make and I searched the vegetable bin in the pantry and basically took everything out and dumped into the patty. I do make a healthier version. I don't like to deep fry them, but instead skillet fry and then bake in the oven, just like my mom shared with me. It came out really good. And again, I got to utilize my griddle when making them!

I have no original recipe to link this to. This is another one I got from my mom and added my own flare to.

Ingredients:
1 large baking potato
1 carrot, diced
1 green pepper, diced
3/4 cup cooked black beans (Optional. This is not traditional, but I had some cooked in the fridge so I threw them in there)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon mustard seed
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp jeera powder (Can substitute with 1/2 tsp cumin and 1/2 tsp coriander)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 cup cashews
1 cup breadcrumbs
3/4 tsp vegetable oil per patty for skillet frying

Directions:

1. Peel and chop potato into small pieces. Boil in water until cooked through.

2. In a large pot add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil on medium high. Once oil is heated, move to side, add 1/2 tsp mustard seed, place cover and move back to medium high heat. Listen for mustard seeds to pop. Once popping is done take off cover.(Be careful! To get with a mustard seed can be painful!)

3. Add onions and saute until browned. Add in carrot and green peppers. Saute with onions until halfway cooked.

4. Add potatoes, blackbeans and cashews. Mix together.

5. Add turmeric powder, jeera powder (or cumin/coriander mix), salt, sugar and fennel seeds. Mix together. Lower heat to medium and let all vegetables cook through. (Potatoes should be mushy)

6. Once potato mixture is cooked, take off heat and let cool. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Once mixture is cool enough to handle, take out 1 cup of breadcrumbs. Form patties from the potato mixture. (I prefer patties, but you can make balls too. But if you make balls know that unless you deep fry it it won't become completely browned on all sides.) Dunk in breadcrumbs and coat on all sides.

7. Warm skillet (or griddle!) to medium high. For each patty place about 3/4 tsp of vegetable oil in the skillet. Cook on both sides for about 3-4 minutes each, until browned.

Working the griddle, again!

8. Once browned, place on pregreased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10-12 minutes per side.

9. Cool and serve! Can be eaten with ketchup, yogurt or even sour cream if you are crazy enough!

Amateur Cooking Difficulty Scale: 7
If I can make this dish, it's really not that difficult, but it does have numerous steps so it takes some time to put together. You could easily make the potato mixture a day ahead, keep it in the fridge over night and then cook it the next day. Makes life a little easier. Also, I loved using the griddle so I didn't have to pan fry each individually.

I've made this in the past and definitely going to make it again! (Especially since all three of us loved this dish, a rare occurrence in this house.)