Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cookies & Cream Ice Cream

When I asked my husband for an ice cream maker for Christmas last year, I expected to be making homemade ice cream all the time. I dreamed of opening up my own ice cream store and selling my mouth watering concoctions, of people swooning in the streets over my flavors, and Ben & Jerry knocking on my door and offering me ten million just to walk away. Well, seven months later I've made exactly three ice cream recipes. But that's all gonna change. I mean, it's summer. It's blazingly hot. I've got a plethora of recipes bookmarked. The only way to eventually become Ben & Jerry's arch nemesis is to get started. And what better place to start than with a classic: Cookies & Cream. 

I found this recipe on Pennies on a Platter and even though the thought of doing the whole egg yolk, milk mixing but not curdling thing was a little intimidating, I gave it a try. And you guys, it was not that hard! There was no curdling. It never even thought about curdling. I think the trick is to have a loving (hungry) husband who will help pour the hot milk while you keep beating the eggs. And the result is a creamy ice cream with perfect bites of soft Oreo cookies. It's not too sweet, with just the right ratio of cookies to ice cream.

1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy whipping cream
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
12-15 Oreo cookies

This recipe makes about a quart of ice cream which to me is the perfect amount. And don't worry, if the thought of whole milk and heavy cream scares you, remember you can always use 2%. It just won't be as rich and creamy.

Start by heating the milk and cream in a large saucepan over medium heat. You want to bring it to just under a boil, which is kind of a hard mark to hit. When you see tiny bubbles coming up along the edges or in the middle, remove from the heat. In the meantime, separate your eggs (save those whites for another recipe) and beat them with the sugar.

Now, the recipe says to beat "until yellow ribbons form." Let's chat a minute about these yellow ribbons, mmkay? I find this instruction on a lot of ice cream recipes and I just want to say one thing to those recipe writers: "Stop it." Stop using that description. Yellow ribbons? That's so subjective. I have no idea what it means, or what it's supposed to look like. I need something a little more definitive, please. So... I beat them for about 3 minutes. They looked nice and pale yellow and a little fluffed up. I don't know if there were ribbons or not, but I think it turned out all right. 

Here's where a helping hand comes in handy. You need to slowly add the milk and cream to the eggs while beating it. Do it in small amounts, especially at first. The danger here is that the hot milk could cook the eggs. So take your time. Once all the milk is incorporated, pour it back into the saucepan and cook about 3-4 minutes over medium-low heat until it thickens up a little. 

Then pour it through a sieve into a bowl. Add the vanilla and cool it in the fridge. When it's completely cool pour it into your ice cream machine and follow instructions. Before putting the whole thing in the freezer, while it's still kind of like soft serve, roughly chop up your Oreos and stir them in. You may be tempted to use more Oreos but try to resist. This is really the best ratio. Freeze it up, and there you have it! You're on your way to ice cream fame. Or at least a nice, creamy bowl of sweetness.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Jacques Torres Chocolate Chip Cookies

I didn't eat just one. I ate about half a dozen. That's how good are these cookies. If there's one recipe you see other food bloggers trying the most this has to be it. I've seen this recipe on countless food blogs. And, everyone gives nothing but superb reviews of this recipe. If you know anything about this recipe the most interesting thing about it is that you have to refridgerate the dough for at least 24 hours. I've read that 36 hours is even better. The second most interesting thing is that you don't use all-purpose flour. Instead, it calls for cake flour and bread flour. Fortunately, I had both of these ingredients sitting in my cabinet. The only ingredient I didn't have was bitter chocolate. What I decided to do was to take this blogger's advice and used half bitter chocolate and half semi-sweet chocolate. I just purchased the bitter chocolate chips and the semi-sweet chocolate chips from kroger. I love cookies with lots of chocolate chips in them and this recipe fits the bill perfectly. I brought them to work and everyone loved them. I know you have to wait a solid day before you can eat them, but it's very much worth the wait. Enjoy!

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons cake flour
1 2/3 cups bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar, packed
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/3 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (again, I used bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolate chips)

First, gather all of your dry ingredients (minus the sugar and chips) and place in a bowl. Set aside. Now, take your butter and sugars and mix in your mixer on medium-low speed until light and fluffy. Add in your eggs one at a time. Add in your vanilla. Slowly, add in your dry ingredients that you had set aside earlier. Turn off your mixer, and fold in your chocolate (chips). Take a piece of plastic wrap and place on top of your bowl. Set your bowl in your fridge for 24-36 hours.

About an hour before you are ready to bake your cookies; remove the dough from your fridge. And, let it come to room temperature. When you are almost ready to bake set your oven to 350 degrees. I used a small ice cream scoop to scoop out my dough. Place on your cookie sheet. Sprinkly lightly with sea salt. My oven baked these cookies in 6 to 10 minutes and I turned the pan halfway thru the baking. However, your oven could take longer. So, just keep an eye on the cookies until they're golden in color. Let cool on a cooling rack. Or, eat them when their warm. ;-)

(Click here for printable recipe)

Creamy Parmesan Baked Eggs

During the week, I am not a breakfast person. Actually, let me be more accurate: I’m not a morning person. And breakfast is merely collateral damage. But on the weekends when I’ve been up for a few hours and have come to grips with the fact that I am awake, I start getting that urge for eggs. Usually I cook them up scrambled, or sunny side up with toast to dip in the yolks. But this weekend I had the urge to try something new. I saw this recipe for baked eggs on Shop Cook Make, and it stuck in my head. It looked so good and was so easy, it seemed like something I could make even while half asleep.

2 eggs
2 tbsp heavy cream
1 tbsp shredded parmesan (give or take)
½ tsp Italian Seasoning
Salt & Pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. You’ll need a small (really small) baking dish like a ramekin. I got some for Christmas that I hadn’t used yet so I broke them out. Spray it with cooking spray. I missed this step and it wasn’t a huge deal, but I am sure it would make things easier. Crack two eggs into your ramekin, then add the cream. You don’t need to stir or anything, just pour the cream all over the eggs. Season with the herbs, salt and pepper. And then sprinkle parmesan cheese on top. It’s so easy it hardly seems like a recipe at all!

Cooking is where I got into a little trouble. It looks like the cooking times were based on a wider, shallower dish than my ramekin so I had to increase the time. Then I got worried that it would be underdone and ended up overdoing it. I think that 16 minutes might have been the perfect time, but probably anywhere between 14-20 and you’re good. The top should have a little wiggle to it, but not so much that it looks uncooked. Unfortunately I cooked mine completely and the yolks were hard, but it was still really tasty and I can see the potential for this to be truly amazing when cooked properly. And another benefit is that you don’t have to dirty a whole bunch of skillets or dishes, it all cooks in the ramekin. It just might change my mind about breakfast.

(Click here for the printable recipe)

Restaurant Review: Azzurro's

I'd been looking forward to trying Azzurro's ever since I saw it on Urbanspoon and checked out the website. Richmond seems to be a hotbed of delicious Italian restaurants from the ever popular Mama Zu's and Edo's Squid, to (my favorite) Maldini's, so there's a multitude of choices when you're craving pasta. I figured Azzurro's would have to be on par to stay afloat in this environment, but after the meal we had there last weekend, I am not so sure what's keeping them open. Well, okay, that's admittedly a little harsh. In truth, my meal was not so hot, but there were others who enjoyed theirs. However, the service was a real problem for everyone. Most of us only got to order one drink for the whole meal (the smart ones got a bottle of wine), and it took us forever to get the check. The waitress seemed pretty capable, but I think she had too many tables and we got the short end of the stick.

The appetizers and salads are all meals in themselves. I ordered the beef carpaccio (as I am wont to do) and was so excited to tear into it that I totally forgot to take pictures of any of the appetizers, so you'll have to use your imagination. My carpaccio was very good, although admittedly it's hard to mess up raw beef. I did take issue with the mountain of salad it was on top of and the fact that they used thickly shredded parmesan instead of shaved. It seemed like the generic shredded cheese you get at Kroger. But that's me being picky. I do give them props for letting Steve order shrimp wrapped in prosciutto off menu (an item that had been removed). Unfortunately it was so salty that he couldn't finish it. I can't remember the other appetizers, but overall I think they were well-received. 

(clockwise from top left: penne vagabundo, bucatini carbonara, tortellini azzurro, espresso martini, key lime martini, vitello parmigiano, toasted pepperoni pizza)

Steve and I both ordered the carbonara which is a favorite, but again it was waaaay too salty. I think the problem was the prosciutto they were using was extra salty, and they didn't account for that when seasoning the rest of the dish. I only ate about a quarter of the meal and declined a box which is almost unheard of for me. I think the rest of the dinner guests enjoyed their main dishes well enough although the salt issue was a common theme. The desserts were pretty decent, and again, gigantic portions. I had the espresso martini which was so good I wanted to drink it in one gulp (I resisted that urge.)

Overall, while Steve and I didn't enjoy our meals the rest of the table seemed happy enough, but the service just put a dark stormy cloud over the whole thing. In a restaurant of that quality, with those prices, having to look around for a server and never getting a drink refill is just unacceptable. Maybe they were just extra busy that night and we got unlucky, but unfortunately with the multitude of great Italian restaurants around here, they aren't going to get a second chance from us.  

Pros: We hear it's great for lunch
Cons: Salt! And really bad service. And did I mention the salt? 

My rating: 2 sporks out of 5
Location: 6221 River Road,
Henrico, Virginia 23229
Cuisine: Italian
Pricing: $$$$

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Easy Tomato Sauce

I haven't purchased a bottle of tomato sauce in probably over 6 months. The reason for this is that it's super easy to make your own. Plus, it's healthier, tastes better, and cheaper to make. I've been making a quicker version of this tomato sauce that uses canned diced tomatoes instead of fresh tomatoes. However, I recently came across this recipe that Annie posted on her blog.
It sounded like this tomato sauce recipe was extremely popular, and received raved reviews from commenters and bloggers alike. I was pretty positive I had all of the ingredients. Afterall, it only called for 4 ingredients (counting the salt). Well, I now understand what all the fuss was about. This tomato sauce has a very robust flavor, and it was super good. I hope that you give it a chance. Everyone in blogger-land was right. It's simple and very tasty. Enjoy.

1 (28 oz.) can whole peeled tomatoes, with juices
1 onion, peeled and halved
5 tbsp. unsalted butter
Salt, to taste

Basically, all you do is take the first three ingredients and put them in your sauce pan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and let it simmer for about 45 minutes. Be sure to crush the tomatoes using a masher, or the back of a wooden spoon. I used a masher. Stir every once in a while. I definitely thought this sauce needed salt. So, I added to taste. Be sure to remove the onion once the sauce has simmered for the alloted time and the sauce meets your expectations seasoning-wise. I sprinkled some chopped basil on mine. Enjoy!

(Click here for the printable recipe)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Poulet Vallée D’Auge

I have a collection of cookbooks that my mother gave me around the time I got married. They were the ones I had seen on her old baker’s rack for years, so familiar but full of secrets. They had never been opened by my hands before. Now, I love picking one at random from my kitchen shelf, flipping through until something catches my eye, and then seeing what culinary treasures emerge.
Today, I chose 365 Ways to Cook Chicken and found myself in the midst of Chapter 5, ‘The Well-Traveled Chicken.’

“The French,” the author Cheryl Sedaker tells me, “perfected the art of chicken cookery while we were still out in the woods shooting squirrels.”

How could you not be hooked after a line like that?

Ms. Sedaker recommends 1 chicken at roughly 3 pounds, but I used 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts. She also recommended Calvados or applejack, which I didn’t have on hand (honestly, I had to look up what they were!), but I substituted apple juice. The other ingredients are true to her recipe.
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt & Pepper to taste
3 tbsp. butter
2 large tart apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 large onion, chopped
¼ cup apple juice
1 cup heavy cream

In a large frying pan, melt butter over medium heat. Once melted, add chicken, seasoned lightly with salt and pepper. Cook until browned on both sides, about 5 minutes per side.
While chicken is cooking, you have the perfect amount of time to peel and chop the apples and onion. After the chicken is browned, remove from the pan and set aside. Toss the apple and onion into the pan with the leftover chicken juice and butter. Cook, stirring often, until onion is tender, roughly 5 minutes.

Return the chicken to the pan and add in apple juice. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cover while it cooks for 20 minutes. Stir in the heavy cream and then cover again for 10 more minutes. At the end of this time, chicken should be tender and fully cooked. Season again with salt and pepper to taste.
I served this recipe over a bed of rice.

I’m guessing using an apple liquor would definitely have changed this recipe (possibly for the better), but my test run with ingredients already in my kitchen was really good. The flavor combination is definitely unique, one that will be returning to our table again.


(Click here for printable recipe)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sausage & Egg Breakfast Casserole

If you’ve ever looked for a go-to breakfast when you’re having family over for a long weekend, having friends over to brunch, or really just to have a great start to the day, this is absolutely it. I tried it out for the first time in May, and it has already made multiple appearances since then.
Something about melted cheese and the smell of sausage gets me every time. My trick was to use lean turkey sausage and use egg substitute for a portion of the recipe to save on the guilt/fat/cholesterol factor. No one was the wiser, and everyone asked for seconds. This is a recipe that has never had any left-overs and will now be a staple on our breakfast table. Pair it with mixed berries or fresh melon, and this is what I call a breakfast of champions. Sorry Wheaties.

Cooking spray
1 package lean turkey breakfast sausage
2 cups 1% low-fat milk
2 cups egg substitute
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon dry mustard
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
16 (1-ounce) slices white bread
1 cup finely shredded reduced-fat extra sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 teaspoon paprika

How easy is this? Cook sausage in a frying pan for roughly 5 minutes or until browned. Remove from heat and set aside. Combine milk, egg substitute, eggs, mustard, salt, black pepper, and red pepper in a large bowl and mix thoroughly with a whisk. Cube bread into 1/2 inch squares, and then add bread cubes, sausage, and cheese into the large bowl with mixed ingredients. After spraying a 13 x 9 inch dish with non-stick cooking spray, pour bowl's contents into casserole dish.

On the original recipe on, it is suggested to put this mixture in the refrigerator overnight or 8 hours. I did this once, and it was awesome. I skipped this step on the second go (pure forgetfulness on my part!) but it was still pretty darn good. Long story short: I wouldn't stress about this step.

Cook casserole 45 minutes at 350 degrees, and then let it stand to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Side perk of this recipe: your house will smell fabulous.


(Click here for printable recipe)

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

I didn’t have the most experience with mushrooms growing up, and what experience I did have—wasn’t good. Pretty much when I thought of mushrooms, I pictured those slimy little things I found in my mom’s tuna casserole (sorry mom!). But as an adult I gave mushrooms another shot and now they are truly one of my favorite foods. And as I said before with my Mushroom Bourguignon recipe, Portobello’s are a great substitute for meat. Of course, I also added real meat to this recipe, and I do think it needs it. The sausage gives it some spice and is just plain tasty. I got this recipe on Tasty Kitchen and adapted a few of the ingredients, and the amounts. I think I might try this again with a few more flavorful vegetables, or some more spices.

(By the way, this is not a pretty looking piece of food. Ignore that, taste it, you'll like it.)

4 Portobello mushroom caps
½ pound sausage
Pinch of red pepper flakes
½ cup chopped white onion
½ bell pepper (your preference), chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 sprig rosemary
½ cup chicken broth or white wine
2 slices sourdough (or white) bread, toasted
½ cup shredded sharp cheese, plus more for topping
1 egg
Salt & Pepper to taste
Cayenne pepper (optional)
Olive oil

Preheat your oven to 450. Gently clean the Portobello’s and wipe away any dirt, then use a spoon to scrape out the gills. Be careful doing this as you can break the cap if you are too rough (I say from experience). Drizzle olive oil in the bottom of a baking dish and then lightly over the mushroom caps and set them aside. In a large skillet, start browning the meat. I used Jimmy Dean’s Hot Sausage and that brought a nice spice to the mixture, but you can use any flavor you want. Sprinkle on a pinch of red pepper flakes as you brown the meat up. When it gets pretty brown, drain out the oil and add in the chopped onion, bell pepper (I used orange), celery, garlic and rosemary. Cook that for another 5 minutes or so until the vegetables are tender.

Next, pour in the broth or wine and deglaze the pan. We used broth only because I didn’t have any wine on hand (can you imagine that?) but if I make it again I might try wine. Cook this for another 5 minutes, letting some of the broth boil down. Then add the bread and cheese. The bread will serve to soak up most of the rest of the liquid. At this point, taste it and season with salt and pepper. Beat an egg in a small bowl, remove the skillet from the heat, and mix it in. Do this quickly so the egg doesn’t cook.

Now you are ready to fill the mushroom caps. Divide the mixture between the four caps, and press it into them, making sure the filling won’t fall out. I then sprinkled on some cayenne pepper on the tops before adding a little more cheese, but that’s just my MO. Pop them in the oven for 30-40 minutes. The original recipe said 35-40, but mine were perfect at 30, so you definitely want to check them. Be very careful when you pull them out because the insides are really, really hot, even when the outside seems to have cooled a little.

These were really tasty, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside with the spicy sausage, meaty Portobello and tasty cheese. The only downfall for me was that the onion, celery and pepper kind of disappeared, flavor wise. Next time I think I’ll add more onion, and perhaps try some other veggies, or maybe even cut them into larger chunks. But the point is, I’ll definitely be trying this again.  

(Click here for the printable recipe)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Rosemary Parmesan Crackers

I've been wanting to make crackers since Barefoot Contessa showed us how to do it on one of her episodes. I had a perfect excuse to make them. I wanted to make a batch for my friend as a gift. I was hoping she would like rosemary as this and the parmesan are the primary feature of the cracker. However, it seemed the cracker was more biscuit/cookie like than cracker. But, maybe that's because we've been conditioned to eat crackers like saltines, wheat thins, etc. My friend was pleased with the result as was I. I highly recommend this "cracker." It was really good, and thanks to Delishhh for the recipe. Enjoy!

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 egg yolk
3 tbsp heavy cream
1/2 cup plus 6 tbsp all purpose flour
¾ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp sugar (optional)
2 tbsp fresh rosemary finely cut
1 tsp sea salt (1/2 tsp in dough and ½ tsp for sprinkle)
Pinch freshly ground nutmeg
1 tbsp Olive oil

First, take out your butter and let it soften. Once the butter is ready take it and the lemon zest and place in your mixing bowl. Stir till combined. Next, take your egg yolk and heavy cream and pour into your mixing bowl. Stir until combined. Now, take a separate bowl and combine the flour, rosemary, grated parmesan, 1/2 tsp salt, and nutmeg. Stir. Gradually, add to your mixing bowl on medium speed. Scrape the side of the bowl as needed. Make sure dough is nice and sticky then remove from mixer. Now, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill about 30 minutes. Take a baking sheet with parchment paper on it, and sprinkle some flour on it. Take your dough and roll till about 1/4 inch thick. Freeze for about 15 minutes. Then, take the dough out and cut it into desired shape. Brush the dough with some olive oil and sprinkle wih some sea salt. Bake at 325 degrees for about 20-25 minutes or until crackers are golden brown. Let sit on baking sheet for a minute, and then transfer to a cooling rack and then let it cool completely. Enjoy.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Seared Tuna with Asian Slaw and Wonton Crisps

I love raw tuna. There, I said it. I especially love it when it’s served with something crunchy—the texture just plays off the tuna so well. Kona Grill (it’s a chain, I know, I’m sorry) serves my favorite raw tuna dish in Richmond: crispy wontons with sesame seared tuna and a wasabi aioli. I could literally eat it every single day. Pretty much the only things stopping me are the probability of mercury poisoning and my desire to avoid Short Pump traffic. So when I was home in Indiana last summer and my brother said he wanted to make a seared tuna dish with crispy wontons, I was fully on board. And he did not disappoint. In fact, I asked him to make it again the last time I visited and then I took the next logical step and asked for the recipe. Well, he and his wife Amber don’t really do recipes so much. I’m not sure how that works, but as long as they keep feeding me tasty meals they can do whatever they like. They told me the ingredients and I went from there. So what follows is my recipe for the delicious, fabulous, recipe-less tuna.

Sushi-grade Tuna (Ahi if you can get it)
Wonton wrappers
Garlic salt
Oil for frying

For the tuna marinade:
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. mirin
1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp. honey

For the Asian slaw:
3 cups shredded Napa cabbage
1 cup shredded red cabbage
½ cup thinly sliced red onion
½ cup thinly sliced carrot
1 cup mayonnaise
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tsp chili oil

I like to make the Asian slaw first so that the flavors can develop a little more while you’re making everything else. You’ll want to slice everything as thinly as possible, especially the red onion. A really sharp knife will make this easier. And don’t make the mistake of buying baby carrots like I did; that made it more of a challenge to get the shredded texture I was looking for. Mix the mayo, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar and chili oil in a separate dish, making sure that they are completely combined. Then pour it over the bowl with the veggies, stir it all up, and put it in the fridge while you start on the tuna.

Because you are serving the tuna basically rare, you need to get really high quality tuna. We got ours at Fresh Market. It’s expensive, but it’s worth it! We also got the wontons and Napa cabbage there since they can sometimes be hard to find at Kroger. My brother marinates the tuna in soy sauce and then covers it with black and white sesame seeds. It’s good that way, but we decided to try something new this time and really liked it as well. Plus it’s a lot less messy without the seeds. Mix the soy sauce, sesame oil, mirin (which is an Asian sweet cooking wine), rice wine vinegar and honey in a quart Ziploc bag, and then add the tuna. Marinate it for about 20 minutes. If you leave it too long, then the flavors will overpower the taste of the tuna. You also want to let it marinate at room temperature, otherwise when you sear the tuna it will be really cold in the middle.

I would do the wontons next. Cut them diagonally into triangles, and then set up a plate with a few paper towels on it for the finished wontons. Next fill a skillet with vegetable or peanut oil, about an inch deep and heat it up. Be careful to watch the heat on this, if it gets too hot it can burst into flames and that is a very, very bad thing. Once the oil is hot enough (test it by sprinkling a drop of water—if it sizzles, it’s ready), put one wonton triangle into the oil. I would just start with one because they go quick and you don’t want to throw a bunch in there and burn them up. Let it fry on one side for 20-30 seconds, then use your tongs to turn it to the other side. Once it’s turning a light brown, take it out because it will continue to cook. Basically, I would test it a few times and  you’ll get a feel for how long it takes. Once you have a few crisps done, sprinkle them with garlic salt. Don’t wait too long or the salt won’t stick. Make a lot of the crisps—even if you don’t use them all with the tuna, they are tasty on their own.

Alright, now time for the tuna. Put a little oil in a skillet and get it hot. We like our tuna mostly rare so the cooking is merely a formality, but if you like yours more done you can sear it a little longer. We basically seared the tuna for about 20 seconds on the top and bottom and that’s it. Then slice it thin and serve! The best way to eat this is to take a crispy wonton, put a little Asian slaw on it, and a slice of tuna, and pop the whole thing in your mouth! It gets messy, but that’s part of what makes it so good. Besides, what’s the point of making a restaurant quality meal at home if you can’t get a little on your chin?   

(Click here for printable recipe)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

French Toast Casserole with Berries

I’ve been on a breakfast casserole kick lately. It’s probably because we’ve had a lot of family and friends staying over this summer, but I always love the excuse to try something new. The original recipe called for blueberries – and I’m sure that would have indeed been lovely – but what if the folks coming for breakfast don’t happen to like blueberries? What if they’re more strawberry people? Or what if they don’t like berries at all?

What I ended up with looked oh-so-American in its red, white and blue glory … or perhaps I should say French. This was a French Toast Casserole after all, and if I only designed my berries in a different order, I could have easily made the French flag.

2 (8 oz.) packages of cream cheese
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
10 slices of French bread (store bought is fine as long as it's fresh) cut about 3/4-1 inch thick
Blueberries and strawberries (but any fruit topping will do!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon in a large bowl and mix until well blended (use a mixer! You want that cream cheese to be smooth!). Add in the eggs, again mixing well after each one, and then the milk. Cut the french bread, and arrange slices in a 9 x 13 baking dish. Spread fruit over bread. Making sure that the mixture is thoroughly blended, pour cream cheese mix over the bread and berries, and let stand for 15 minutes to soak in. Finally, bake for 40-45 minutes.

My original recipe called for maple syrup or confectioners' sugar for topping, but you definitely don't need it. Everyone at the table raved about this recipe, so the practice run was a success. I love easy but mouth-watering delicious recipes! Next time, I think the entire thing will be covered with a mixture of strawberries, blueberries and something else. Perhaps bananas. Mmm… I’m getting hungry again.


(Click here for printable recipe)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Naan That May Be Pita

I decided to try a recipe for spiced lamb burgers (recipe coming soon), and it was suggested that they be served with flatbread instead of a regular bun, which I thought sounded mighty tasty. So I went to Kroger to look for flatbread, but what I found was disappointment. The only true flatbread to speak of was “light” and looked more like an elongated tortilla. The one brand of pita I could find is one that I know to be dry and flavorless. And those new flat sandwich buns from Orowheat just look nasty, I’m sorry. So I did what any sane woman faced with a flatbread famine would do. I decided to make my own.

Well, technically, I made Naan, not flatbread. Naan is an Indian flatbread that is quite a lot like pita, but without the pocket. Usually. As you’ll read later, my first few Naan (Naans?) had sort of an identity crisis and thought they were pita (pitas?). But by the end we had everything sorted out. I used a recipe that I found on Mel’s Kitchen Café.

3-4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon sugar
3-4 tablespoons, melted butter

This recipe makes about twelve Naan, so I cut it in half. Start by heating your milk in the microwave (or on the stove if you’re all fancy and love to do dishes) until it’s just lukewarm. They say 110 degrees is ideal, but I’m not into measuring so I just guesstimated. Add the sugar and yeast to the milk and wait for 4-5 minutes until the mixture gets foamy. This means that the yeast is alive and well! Pour it into a large bowl and add the salt, plus about half the flour. Mix it up well until it’s combined and continue to add small amounts of flour until you have a soft ball of dough that is not sticky and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Knead this for just a few minutes until the dough is smooth, and then store it in a lightly greased bowl covered loosely with saran wrap, for around 2 hours. As I’ve said before, the microwave seems to be the perfect spot for this. 

Once the dough has risen, turn it out on a lightly floured surface and divide it into 12 equal pieces (or 6 if you cut the recipe in half). Form those pieces into balls. Cover these with a dry towel and let them rest again for another 30 minutes. I find this is the perfect time to let yourself rest on the couch as well.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees and pop in your pizza stone to heat up as well. Here’s where I think my Naan got all pita-y. Make sure you patiently wait for the oven to fully preheat. I might have jumped the gun, and I suspect that’s why my first few Naan puffed up like pita pillows, while the last few stayed down like good Naan. Roll your dough out one at a time to about 6-8 inches wide, then put it on your hot pizza stone and spritz it with water. This is my other possible culprit, as I didn’t take the spritzing seriously in the beginning. Cook your Naan for about 2-4 minutes until it starts looking nice and brown with a few bubbles. If the whole thing puffs up, don’t panic. I just let it go and when I pulled it out of the oven, I just poked a hole in it and pushed out the air. Be careful and use a hot pad since the air will be hot, hot burning steam. As you set each Naan aside, brush the outside lightly with melted butter, and stack them on top of each other. They taste best when served still warm, so eat fast!

Maybe the puffing up means this is really pita, and not Naan, and I’m sure the Naan purists out there are shaking their heads and clucking their tongues. But in the end, it tasted really darn good. And that’s all we pleasure-seeking heathens and charlatans really care about anyway.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Beef Noodle Salad

Gosh it’s hot. Not like, warm. Not even just humid. It is H-O-T. Like fry an egg on the sidewalk hot. Like don’t sit on a vinyl chair in short shorts hot (you know what I mean.) They say that the heat index today is 110 in the shade. Now, I don’t know about you, but when it’s that hot, there’s no way I want to put something hot in my mouth. Or spend much time in a hot kitchen. But it can be a challenge to find a cold meal that is hearty enough to satisfy my carnivorous, seemingly cavernous husband. Enter the trusty site The Pioneer Woman and her delicious recipe for a cold beef noodle salad.

Salad is a little bit of a misnomer here. The only vegetables involved are cilantro leaves and green onions. Definitely my kind of salad. And my husband’s too since he couldn’t stop gushing about how tasty it was. Well, “gushing” might be a little strong. I think his exact words were, “I could eat this again.” But trust me, that’s high praise. I really enjoyed the meal too. It had a lot of flavor, slightly sweet but with nutty sesame in the background. And I love cold beef and pasta so that’s a win. I would suggest making this a double batch so you have plenty of leftovers. I suspect it would make a fantastic lunch. Unfortunately we ate all ours, but I won’t make that mistake again.

Sirloin steak, 3/4 To 1 Pound
Kosher salt
3/4 cups Ponzu
3 tablespoons sesame oil (dark)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon chili oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sliced green onion
8 ounces thin spaghetti
Cilantro leaves

This is a dish you can make early in the day to eat later. I would at least suggest starting early, so that you have time to let things rest in the fridge. That way you’ll get the best flavor. Start by salting your steak to taste and throw it on the grill. You want a good medium rare. Then let it cool down and make your marinade. You can find Ponzu in your store’s Asian section, although you may have to look a little. Kikkoman makes one. You can use soy sauce in its place if you want, but I think you’ll miss the slight citrusy flavor that the Ponzu brings. Whisk together all the liquid ingredients plus the garlic, ginger and brown sugar. The next time I might try a little more chili oil, but as you know, that’s just how I do.

Once the steak cools enough, put it in a plastic bag with three tablespoons of the marinade. Don’t rush this—if you put a hot steak in plastic it will steam and you’ll end up with chewy, well done meat. Put the steak in the fridge for at least a half hour.

Cook your spaghetti and rinse it with cold water. Add your marinade, green onions and cilantro, and toss to combine. Let it sit in the fridge as long as possible. The recipe asks for a few hours, but we were too hungry so we only left it for about a half hour. We also added the thinly sliced steak (against the grain) or you can leave it separate and just place it on top when you’re ready to eat. Serve it cold on a hot day and beat your hunger and the heat.

PS. Note my nice new dishes! I think they will make my photos a little nicer.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Homemade Salsa

Salsa is one of those things I normally just buy. For one, I don’t eat it much outside of a Mexican restaurant. For another, tomatoes aren’t my favorite things in the world. But I’ve had some pretty tasty homemade salsas in my life (one made by my mom, another by fellow Dinner Club cook Emily), so when I saw a good-looking recipe on The Pioneer Woman Cooks, I decided to try it.

It turned out really delicious, fresh and bright. My version was a little spicy, but I did that on purpose and you can easily make yours more mild. And it was easy. So easy that it makes buying a jar of salsa at the store feel like hard work. I will warn you that this recipe makes a lot. I’d recommend cutting it in half, or making the whole thing and giving half away.

1 28 oz can whole tomatoes
2 10 oz cans Rotel tomatoes with green chiles*
½ cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic
2 serrano chiles
¼ tsp sugar
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp cumin
¼ tsp pepper
Juice of 1 lime

*These come in mild, original or hot. I used one original and one hot and it was pretty spicy. Use the combo that’s right for you.

I poured the tomatoes (juice and all) from all three cans into a large bowl. Then the onion, garlic and chiles. For the onion and chiles, you don’t need to chop them super small because you’ll be putting them in the food processor, but if you throw in too big of chunks they won’t process at the same rate as the tomatoes. I also added in a big handful of cilantro. Add as much or as little as you like. More is always better, in my opinion. Pulse this in batches in your food processor (it’s too much to fit all at once) to your desired consistency. I like mine a little more finely chopped, but you can leave yours chunky if you prefer. Once it’s all processed and back in the bowl, add the sugar, salt, cumin, pepper and lime juice. Mix thoroughly and then refrigerate for an hour. The longer you let it sit, the more the flavors will meld. Then serve with tortilla chips (scoops are the best) and a cerveza. 

(Click here for printable recipe)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Red Sauce, White Sauce: Two Homemade Pizzas

Pizza, man. I mean, what can you say about pizza? There’s a reason why there are millions of pizzeria’s out there. It’s just one of those beloved foods with such a variety of ways to make it that everyone has their favorite. We eat more than our fair share of frozen or delivery pizzas, but over the long weekend I decided to try my hand at homemade. I really wanted to try a white pizza, but Steve definitely prefers a red, so I made both. I got the dough recipe from Savoring the Thyme, the red sauce I adapted from a recipe on The Kitchn, and the white sauce was a garlic cream sauce I found on Simple Comfort Food. This might seem like a lot of work, but it was actually much simpler than you would think.

1 cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons dried herbs
3 cups all-purpose flour

I probably will try another dough recipe when I make pizza in the future. This dough was good, but it wasn’t particularly memorable. I think it could have used more salt. Steve thought it needed a hint of sweetness. If you do make this dough, start it about two hours before you need it. Put the lukewarm water in a large bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top. Let that sit for five minutes or so until it gets frothy. Mine never got really frothy for some reason, but I went ahead anyway and it was fine. Add the olive oil, salt and herbs and stir. I used an Italian seasoning mix, but you could just do half basil and half oregano if you prefer.

Incorporate the flour slowly, stirring between additions to make sure it is completely soaked up. I started with a cup, then did half cups from there. Once you’ve added all the flour, knead the dough a few times until it’s smooth (don’t be afraid to flour your hands generously). Then put it in a greased bowl, cover it lightly with saran wrap, and let it rise for an hour or more until you’re ready to make your pizzas. I like to put mine in the microwave to rest. Once it’s risen, punch it down and divide it in two parts. Using flour to keep it from sticking everywhere, roll the dough into pizza shaped circles. Or toss it in the air if you’re daring and don’t mind a floury mess on your floor.

Garlic Cloves
Olive Oil
Hunt’s Tomato Sauce (about 20 oz)
1 Tbs Tomato Paste
½ cup water
½ Tsp Black Pepper
1 ½ Tsp Salt
½ Tsp Marjoram
1 Tsp Thyme
1 Tsp Basil
¼ Tsp Cayenne (optional)

Mince the garlic (as much or as little as you want) and lightly sauté it in olive oil in a saucepan. Then add the tomato paste and stir that up for a minute or so. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir, letting the flavors develop over medium heat. Don’t let it boil or you’ll have a big mess.

1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tbsp olive oil
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1/4 cup of 2% milk
1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, grated
Generous pinch of salt
Generous pinch of black pepper
Very small pinch of red chili flakes

Melt the butter and olive oil in a skillet. We actually used the same skillet that we used to cook up sausage for the topping, which added some good flavor. Saute the garlic over medium heat for a quick minute then add the cream and milk. Stir and bring it to a light boil, then add the rest of the ingredients. It will thicken quickly (keep stirring!) so you need to stay on top of it and pull it off the heat when it does. Try to time this sauce up so you are ready to use it fairly quickly.

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees using a pizza stone if you have one. Then prep your toppings. We used cooked ground sausage, thinly sliced onions, and mushrooms on both pizzas (mozzarella cheese on the red pizza only), but obviously you can use whatever toppings you fancy. Wow, that was British of me, wasn’t it?

Carefully put your dough on your hot pizza stone and spoon on your sauce. I suggest making the white pizza first if you are doing both. Then add your toppings and pop it in the oven for around 15-18 minutes. Take it out when it looks good. I mean, you know what pizza should look like, right? Slice it up. Let it cool. Eat it. One thing I can guarantee is that it will definitely taste better than any pizza you can get delivered. 

(Click here for printable recipe)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Iron Chef Strawberry: Strawberry Chipotle Jam

I fear that my title might be taken after I post the recipe used for my strawberry chipotle jam and cheddar biscuits. This was my first time making jam so I made a trial batch a week before. Regardless how simple, after one bite I knew it would be a winning recipe.

Thank you to A Spicy Perspective for the recipe.

3 cups of sugar
1 lemon
1.5 lbs of strawberries (or 3 cups chopped)
2-3 chipotle peppers (from canned)

Prep by chopping the strawberries and peppers into tiny pieces. I used my pamper chef chopper which made the process go much faster than using a knife and it mashed up enough to make a nice consistency for the jam.

Zest and juice the lemon into a large pot. Combine with the 3 cups of sugar over medium heat. Stir regularly until the sugar is dissolved. Getting the sugar fully dissolved can be tricky and you really don't want to burn sugar. I used a rubber spatula and smeared the mixture on the side of the pot until it didn't feel gritty anymore.

Add the berries and peppers to the mixture and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes then test and repeat. The spicy perspective recipe gave a great suggestion to test the jam consistency. Take a tiny bit and put on an ice cube to test. If hot, the jam will always appear runny until cooled and the longer you cook it the thicker the jam will get. Mine took 40 minutes to simmer until just right, but I imagine each stove top will be different.

2 cups of bisquick
2/3 cups of milk
1 cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese
(get the thick shredded cheese, not the fine)
1/2 cup of melted butter
tsp of garlic powder

Preheat oven to 425. Combine the bisquick and cheese. Then add the milk and 1/4 cup of butter. Use a large spoon to create and drop biscuits onto a greased baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic powder to the remaining butter and brush the mixture on top the finished biscuits. Let cool and enjoy!

(Click here for printable recipe)