Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Watermelon Daquiri

Last summer, I went thru a watermelon kick. Kroger's had some awesome sales on watermelon that I just kept eating it and eating it and eating it. So, I decided to make a drink where I could incorporate watermelon. I thought to myself that a daquiri would be a really refreshing drink, and I could freeze the left-over watermelon. So, I went searching online for some recipes and found one that called for watermelon, sugar, water, and fresh lime. However, when I tried that recipe it wasn't sweet enough for me. I thought to myself that it's probably because the sugar is going into a cold drink and thus doesn't dissolve. So, I decided to use my signature sugar syrup. Okay, not really signature. But, it's my go to for sweetning drinks. Once I incorporated the simple syrup into the watermelon daquiri it really made the drink. Enjoy on one of these record breaking hot days!

1 cup watermelon (or more)
Juice from 1 lime
1/8 c to 1/4 c simple syrup (heat till sugar dissolves 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water)
1 jigger light Rum
glass of crushed ice

Puree in a blender until smooth. This makes about one big glass of daquiri.
Garnish with a lime wedge or watermelon slice.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mystic Pizza

One of my favorite movies of Julia Robert’s is Mystic Pizza. The movie revolves around a family of sisters who own a pizza shop and go thru heartache, happiness, and sadness. The pizza in the movie is one of the stars as well. Thus, this particular recipe is called: Mystic Pizza. This recipe actually came out of the Cooking Light edition back in 1998. I remember trying it for the first time in our home in Brandermill. My mom made it for us and I just loved it. I brought this recipe back to life about 3 years ago, and have continued to make it since. It’s a very easy recipe and it really doesn’t take long to make. Trust me don’t be scared of creating your own dough. It’s really easy and if you use the Fast Rise yeast as opposed to the Active Rise yeast it will go even quicker. And, I’ve never added cornmeal to this recipe. What also makes this recipe fun is that you can choose any ingredient you want to top the pizza with, and you can experiment with the tomato sauce. I have stopped putting fennel, red pepper flakes, and I’ve never added fresh cilantro in the sauce. I use dried basil, oregano, and cilantro. I add a bit of sugar and salt to the tomato sauce as well as a clove of garlic and it’s really good. Though, their recipe is great, too.

Yield: 6 servings


• 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• 1 package quick-rise yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
• 1/2 cup warm water (105° to 115°)
• 1 teaspoon olive oil
• 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
• Cooking spray
• 2 teaspoons cornmeal
• 3 garlic cloves, minced
• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
• 1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
• 3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
• 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
• 1 (8-ounce) can no-salt-added tomato sauce
• 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese


Normally, I use rapid yeast, which makes this process so much easier. Basically, you put one pouch of yeast into a bowl, lightly spoon 1/4 cups flour and level it with a knife, pour in the sugar, 1/4 tsp salt, lightly pour in the olive oil, and then pour in the warm water. Stir quickly until it forms a soft dough.
Sometimes I add just a little bit of flour so it isn't too wet. Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. It says to knead until smooth and elastic which is about 10 minutes. I usually only do it for about 5 minutes and it turns out just fine. Again, I have to add some flour just to make sure it doesn't stick too much to my hands when kneading the dough. Next, place the dough in a bowl coated with cooking spray; turn to coat the top. I cover it with some plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm oven (85°) for about 30 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

Take out the dough, and punch your fist into it. Then roll it out onto a floured surface. Then place onto your pizza pan. Crimp the edges if you like and let the dough stand for 10 minutes covererd. I usually skip that part, too.
Preheat oven to 450°.

Punch dough down; roll dough into a 12-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Place dough on a baking sheet or 12-inch pizza pan coated with cooking spray and sprinkled with cornmeal. Crimp edges of dough to form a rim. Let dough stand, covered, 10 minutes.

In a small sauce pan, I add a clove of garlic, a small can of tomato sauce, some salt, some oregano, cilantro, basil, and pepper, and I cook for about 10 minutes until the sauce is very warm. I skip the fennel seeds and I use dried herbs. Spread sauce over pizza crust; sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 450° for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and crust is golden. Remove pizza to cutting board; cut into wedges.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Lattice-topped Blackberry Cobbler

We have a monthly dinner tradition with some of our neighbors. Each month, someone hosts, and every couple brings either the main course, an appetizer, or a dessert. Tonight, it was my turn for dessert, and you know how I can get carried away…

Somehow for a rather simple recipe, I still made of mess of my kitchen. How is there a white flour-like mess on my counter tops after the only powder-like ingredient I used was corn starch, and I only used 3 tablespoons. Kitchen messes continue to be a mystery.

2 Pie crusts (Pillsbury always works for me)
48 oz. blackberries (4, 12 oz. containers)
2/3 cup sugar
3 tbsp corn starch
1 tbsp lemon juice.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Unroll one pie crust along the bottom of your pie pan. After rinsing blackberries, mix blackberries, sugar, corn starch and lemon juice in a bowl. Pour this bowl’s contents into pie pan. Roll out the second pie crust on a cutting board, and slice it into 1 inch strips. Remember how you latticed construction paper in elementary school to make Easter baskets? Follow suit with these strips of dough, pressing together the edges. Dabbing this lattice with melted butter has a pretty browning effect. Bake for 15 minutes at 450, and then reduce heat to 375 for the remaining 40-45 minutes. Covering the edges of the pie with aluminum foil or a pie guard can prevent over-browning the outer crust.

I served it with a scoop of Turkey Hill vanilla ice cream on top. (I learned today by perusing the ice cream in the Kroger freezer that Turkey Hill was one of the few ice creams without corn starch and with all natural ingredients. They were not the only one to claim “natural ingredients” but they were the only one where I understood and could picture each and every ingredient on the list. Sorry to sound like a commercial, but I needed to share my discovery.)
In the end, it turned out pretty well. It was tasty, but it was an absolute mess. I think it needs more of a breadcrumb or something similar in the middle with the blackberries to hold it together in actual slices. I'll definitely try it again, though.
Happy cooking!

(Click here for printable recipe)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Iron Chef Melon: Thornton Melon Ball

I thought I would go for a drink in this particular Iron Chef. It's hard to win one of these with a Drink, but you never know. I found this particular recipe a year ago for Sara's bachelorette party. We did a drink contest, and I went with my Mojito recipe instead. This drink concept is from Rodney Dangerfield's movie Back to School. And, Guy Fieri posted the drink on Food Network's website.

I didn't win, but it's a really good drink.

1 part your favorite vodka
1 part melon liqueur (recommended: Midori or generic brand) 
Orange juice
Various melon balls (cantaloupe, honeydew, or watermelon - using all 3 is called "Triple-Lindy" and is definitely money)

This drink can be served straight up or on the rocks. To make this drink straight up: Place in a cocktail shaker; ice, vodka, melon liqueur, and a splash orange juice; shake vigorously and then strain into a large, chilled martini glass and garnish with melon balls. I made mine on the rocks. I just added ice to a glass and poured the vodka, melon liqueur, and enough orange juice to fill the glass. Then, I stirred and garnished with the melon balls. (Click here for printable recipe)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Iron Chef Melon: Chicken Meatballs in a Barbecue Sauce and Watermelon Puree

Iron Chef strikes again, and this time, I decided it was time to up my game, both on my recipe and my presentation.

When I was a kid, my mother used to always wow friends and neighbors at Fourth of July barbecues with her watermelon bowls. These were not simple affairs. After gutting the melon of its fruit in perfect red balls, the rind was cleaned into a flawless bowl. Edges were curved or decorated with zig-zags. Sometimes, the melon would be more of a basket, with a wicker-like handle carved with an artist’s hand. My mother was a melon master, and maybe those genes were what led to my creation.  

Or maybe, I just got carried away…

My entry was Chicken Meatballs in a Barbecue Sauce and Watermelon Puree, and my watermelon bowl was formed with an artist-want-to-be’s hand into a hedgehog (toothpicks giving the creature its spikes).

5 pounds of ground chicken
5 eggs
2.5 cups of Panko breadcrumbs 
Roughly 3 cups of Carolina Treet barbecue sauce
Roughly 3 cups of pureed (seedless) watermelon.

Mix ground chicken, eggs, and panko breadcrumbs, and form into small balls. Brown balls in a skillet until cooked through (roughly 20 minutes). As meatballs are finished (this took me a few batches), place into crock pot to keep warm. Scoop out watermelon and puree in a blender. Mix pureed watermelon with barbeque sauce and pour over meatballs in crock pot. Stir to cover evenly. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Hedgehog watermelon bowl inspired by this website:

This was my first time making meatballs, and apparently it was a success. I walked away with my first Iron Chef winning night.
Happy cooking!

(Click here for printable recipe)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Cowboy Spice Rub

I’m not sure what makes this “cowboy spice,” exactly. I mean, if you think about it, the cowboys out there herding cattle across Texas probably don’t carry around a menagerie of spices in their saddle bags. Gotta think salt and pepper are pretty much it. But name aside, this spice rub is pretty delicious.

This makes more spice rub than you’ll need, but you’ll probably want to make it and save the rest for another meal. Apparently it’s pretty good on other meats too. I got this one from a blog called “Choosy Beggars.”

1.5 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp chipotle chili powder
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1.5 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
3/4 tsp kosher salt, or to taste

Pretty much the only change I would recommend to this is to cut back on the cinnamon a little. The next time I might add a little cayenne to it as well (which I add to almost any recipe, actually). Just mix up the spices, making sure they are uniformly mixed, and rub generously into whatever meat you want (we used pork tenderloin), then let it rest in the fridge for about 30-45 minutes. You could probably let it sit in the rub even longer for stronger flavor, but it worked for us pretty quickly. Then you simply cook it, and eat it! We broiled ours and served it with a nice arugula salad. But I think grilling would put a nice tasty caramelized char on it with that brown sugar. Or you could do it the cowboy way and throw it over an open campfire and eat it with your bare hands. Totally up to you.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Sausage Cheese Breakfast Casserole

My family is not a breakfast casserole family. I don’t know why. It’s not like we don’t enjoy them when someone else makes them. It just wasn’t something I ever had growing up. It might be because my mom makes a killer cinnamon bun. Or because we preferred those Entemann’s streudels. Whatever the reason, I decided it was time to put an end to our shunning of this great breakfast option. I found this recipe on my favorite site, epicurious, and made it for a recent party. It was very tasty warm, and good reheated the next day as well.

8 bread slices, cut into cubes
1 pound bulk pork sausage, crumbled and cooked
1/2 small white or yellow onion
1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar
12 large eggs
2 cups milk
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt

What I really like about this recipe is that it’s a great base to build from. You can add and change the ingredients to make it your own. For example, the recipe calls for white bread, but you could use any bread you like to change the flavor. Just make sure you cut the crusts off. I used sourdough and recommend it. I also chose to use Jimmy Dean’s Hot Sausage to spice things up a little bit. You could throw in peppers, broccoli, spinach, or anything else you like with your egg.

You definitely want to make this the night before so the bread has all night to soak up the egg mix. Start by greasing a 9 by 13 inch glass baking dish and then spreading out the bread cubes. Sauté the onions with the sausage and add the mixture over the bread. Also, sprinkle some of your cheese over the sausage. In a bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, mustard, salt and pepper. Here you could add other spices if you wish to change the flavor (cayenne, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, etc.). Pour the egg mixture over the sausage and bread, and then top with the rest of the cheese. Cover it and stick it in the fridge overnight, and in the morning when you wake up, pop it in the oven at 350 degrees. It’ll take about 45-50 minutes to puff up, and then you can dig in! It’ll be a family favorite in no time. 

(Click here for printable recipe)