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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Stuffed and Happy.



This was my daughters birthday meal request bacon cheeseburgers w/ smiley potatoes... I stuffed the burgers with the bacon and cheese...and browned up some smiles! October. That's how long these have been hanging out in my computer...sheesh.


Chocolate Orange Roll
Saturday, April 24, 2010

Pasta done right...and done right again.

I remember praising the brilliance of scrambling eggs with why did I never think of topping pasta with fried eggs? Huh. Slow on the uptake, I guess. Lucky for me I have a little Bitty to help me with things like that.  I was broke trying to use up some more pantry items the other day...and came across 2 pasta recipes that I had HAD! to I went ahead and just cooked up a pound of pasta and divided it in half.  So there.  Nothing holds me back ;).

Both of these come from my current fave, Kitchen Express...and ya know, cooking up a pound of pasta two ways didn't actually take that long.  While I waited for the water to boil and then the pasta to cook, I was able to whip up the two add-ins and finish everything at the same time.  The key was starting the onions caramelizing first thing, cuz that takes a while to do right. Although, the actual recipe didn't actually call for caramelizing come to think of just called for browning.  But that deep natural sweetness that comes from that process is just tooooooo amazing not to do it if you have the time (and if you're waiting for a big pot of water to come to a boil and cook up some pasta, you have the time!). 
Pasta with Fried Eggs
from Kitchen Express by Mark Bittman
Boil salted water for pasta and cook it; meanwhile, fry four eggs in butter, keeping them very runny. Drain the pasta, reserving some of the cooking water, and toss it with a few tablespoons of olive oil or butter, lots of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and enough of the reserved water to moisten; top with the fried eggs. Roughly cut the eggs up and toss the pasta again to serve.I also added in a little crushed red chilis...and I used gasp! Parm from a can. I know, I know. I was broke, remember! out of fresh.  So good and so that warm, oozing yolk coating the pasta just so!

Pasta with Balsamic Onions
from the same place
Boil salted water for pasta and cook it; meanwhile, in a tablespoon or so of olive oil, sear a couple of sliced onions until nicely browned, stirring almost all the time. Splash some balsamic vinegar over all and sprinkle with salt and lots of black pepper; reduce the heat so the mixture thickens into a sauce. Drain the pasta, reserving some of the cooking water; toss the pasta with the onion sauce, adding some of the reserved cooking water; toss the pasta with the onion sauce, adding some of the reserved cooking water as needed to moisten and serve. Parmesan cheese is optional. As if.

I used four onions since I was caramelizing...I knew they'd cook down to almost nothing.  Sweet nothing.
This (well, these) is my entry for this weeks POTLUCK over at IHCC...and I'm also sending it over to Katie of Thyme for Cooking who is hosting Presto Pasta Nights this week.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Garlic Chili Shrimp for National Garlic Day!!

It's here again!! That day I sooooo love to celebrate....a day to honor one of my favorite things in the whole wide world....GARLIC!  Ah, that sweet, earthy perfume.  Remember, you're talkin' to the girl who adores the smell of garlic on her fingers.  A girl whose next tattoo (currently in the design process) is going to be of garlic.  Really.  Roast it, smash it, shmear it, love it!  If you forgot...or perhaps didn't realize that today was one of the bestest holidays of them's a quickie to set the mood.  Have you tried Roland Garlic Chili Sauce before?'s so good! Spicy and deliciously pungeant... use it to whip up a tasty lunch, that's what I did.

Spicy Garlic Shrimp
by girlichef

shrimp- raw p&d, tail on (or off) or alternately use cooked shrimp
garlic- minced
green onions- sliced thin
ginger- minced
Roland Garlic Chili Sauce
Olive Oil

Okay, there's not really a set quantity here... simply add a little olive oil to coat the bottom of a hot pan.  Throw in the garlic, green onions and shrimp and sauté quickly, until shrimp is just done.  Stir in Garlic Chili Sauce to taste.  Serve hot over a bed of rice. 

Couldn't be much simpler than that, huh? 

I think I may have to go make a quick batch of the Golden Garlic Soup w/ Fideos that I celebrated with last year.....

Here's some delicious guides to Nirvana ;)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Pantry Raid = Cookies. Soft, Nutty, Oat-filled Cookies!

It's time to raid the pantry again!  That's our theme this week over at IHCC...and it could not have come at a better time.  There are so many this-n-that's crowding my pantry* that need to get used up it's almost ridiculous.  I think I went a little koo-koo with the nuts this past winter because I have so many waiting to be turned into something delicious.  Not that nuts aren't delicious just naked in their own rite. And, to be completely honest, they're actually in the freezer...not the pantry.  But I did use up some other items that are actually in the pantry, so...

With what I had to use up, I almost made granola...but I didn't have enough dried fruit variety for my liking...and no I went with a nutty oatmeal cookie instead.  Although if you want to see some killer granola, Deb did make some that had me drooling and cursing my not-so-well-stocked (as I thought) pantry!  But cookies did suffice.
Nutty Oatmeal Cookies
from Food Matters by Mark Bittman
yield: ~3 dozen cookies
items I used up from my pantry or fridge/freezer

1/2 c. peanut oil or vegetable oil, or 8 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. applesauce, or 2 eggs
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. rolled oats (not instant)
1 c. (~3 oz) chopped dried apples, or other fruit I used only 1/2 c. raisins & dates
1/2 c. chopped walnuts or pecans I upped it to 1 c. of nuts and also used pine nuts & almonds
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
pinch salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 c. almond milk, rice milk, oat milk, or cow's milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla or almond extract
...Bittman also suggests adding 1/2 tsp. ground ginger and 1/4 tsp. each allspice & nutmeg and bumping up the cinnamon to 1 tsp. to make the spice flavors more prominent...if you like...and I do.  Like.  You can also add an extra 1/2 c. of chocolate if you're feeling "decadent".  Which I wasn't.  And also, take a look at the recipe ingredients...if you choose the first options through the list, you've got a vegan cookie! 

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F.  Use an electric mixer to cream oil or butter and sugars together; add applesauce or eggs and beat until well blended.

2.  Combine the flour, oats, fruit, nuts, cinnamon, salt and baking powder in a bowl.  Alternating with the milk, add the dry ingredients to the butter & sugar mixture by hand, a little at a time, stirring to blend.  Stir in the vanilla.

3.  Put tsp-size mounds of dough about 3 inches aprt on ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake until lightly browned, 10-12 minutes.  Cook for ~2 minutes on the sheets, then use a spatula to transfer the cookies to a rack to finish cooling.  Store in a tightly covered container at room temperature for no more than a day or two.
I seem to remember saying that I was going to do a pantry cleaning every few months just to use things up and see what kind of good stuff could be made from forgotten items...mission accomplished!!  As a matter of fact, one of the last times I went on a pantry raid...I ended up making something else from Bittman.  Hmmm.

These cookies were good. Not my favorite, but I ate them.  My favorite oatmeal cookies have more of a chewy texture while these were very cakey and soft (probably because of the use of baking powder instead of soda, I'm guessing)... I think they would have been good with a thin drizzle of icing.  And while some are of the school that screams at those nuts and fruit to stay out of their cookies! I am not.  I love nuts and fruit in my cookies.  Yum.

*and by pantry I mean tall, awesome converted bookshelf
Be sure to hop on over to IHCC to see what else was made from a simple pantry raid!
There is still time to enter my giveaway for a chance to win a great cookbook...Make-Ahead Meals for Busy Moms!
Thursday, April 15, 2010

Lemon Mascarpone Blondies...and only 3 months later.

Moist...lemony...delicious!! I made these blondies a while back...back before the hiatus. Back when we made Mascarpone for Forging Fromage I didn't get around to using it in time to post it...but this was one of the things I ended up doing with it! Can you imagine that creamy, smoothness and how well it complimented the yellow tartness of that lemon zest? Oh man!

I remember originally seeing this recipe in a couple of places...I think originally at Simply Recipes but also Joanne's version at Eats Well with Others...and I remember thinking how great they sounded. Well, they definitely exceeded my expectations...they beckoned me from the pan...

Lemon Mascarpone Blondies
recipe by Vanilla Garlic found at Simply Recipes
yield: 9 (good-sized) blondies

1/2 c. butter, melted
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 tsp. vanilla
8 oz. Mascarpone
2 Tbs. Lemon Juice
2 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. baking soda
pinch salt
1 c. AP flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter and flour an 8x8 pan. 
Whisk butter & sugar in bowl.  Whisk in egg & vanilla.  Add juice, zest and mascarpone...mix thoroughly.
Add flour, baking owder, baking soda and salt...mix. 
Pour into pan & spread. Bake 25-30 minutes or until it passes the toothpick test.  Cool on rack.
Yum. Now I want to make them again right now! And speaking of homemade cheese (I was. Speaking of homemade cheese. The mascarpone. Sort of in code, but...), we're making Halloumi over at Forging Fromage this month if you want to join us!

***There's still time to enter to win Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms!!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Basic Shepherds Pie (that you can make in advance)

Is there anything quite so comforting as a childhood favorite?  How 'bout the fact that you can make a dish your whole family will gobble up?  I know a goal for me has always been to make up some meals for the week in advance so that I can pull them out of the fridge or freezer when I'm in a rush or just don't have the time or energy to put something together that day.  Although by the time a day rolls around when I need that made-ahead meal, there's not usually one there. Best intentions.  Although I did find a way to make it a little more doable. 

Jane of Make-Ahead Meals for Busy Moms recently released a book by the same name!  Jane was kind enough to send me a copy of her new cookbook to try and review.

Although Taco Pie, Tuna Noodle Casserole, Sloppy Joes and Chicken Cordon Bleu and Cheesy Pasta, Ham and Peas all made it onto my list of must-tries from the book...Shepherds Pie was the recipe that ultimately earned its way into this post!  Jane's book is all about turning favorite family recipes into "make-ahead" recipes so that her family...and ours...can get something healthy and home made onto the table instead of resorting to quick and unhealthy in our busy lives.  Surprisingly, using a little of our spare time to create meals in advance can save us time and money....and sanity, if you ask me. 

I found that Jane's recipes are easily doubled...and are all very family friendly.  And while I love a good challenge...something gourmet and unusual...I equally love simple, flavorful dishes that are reminiscent of my childhood and that the kiddos will eat without countdowns and threats of no dessert for the rest of their lives.  This book fits that mark perfectly!

I think in the past, whenever I made Shepherds Pie, it was basically a meatloaf with mashed potatoes on top.  Jane's version is a little different...looser meat on the bottom and an added layer of creamed corn (something I hadn't used in mine before)...but simple and delicious and a new version that I will make often!

Basic Shepherds Pie
from Make-Ahead Meals for Busy Moms by Jane Doiron
yield: 4 svgs. (I doubled this & used a 9x13)

1 lb. ground beef, 85% lean
1/4 c. onion, diced
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 lbs. potatoes (~4 med.), peeled & sliced I used red potatoes, just quartered
1/2 c. chive & onion cream cheese (red. fat) I used regular Neufchatel
1 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs.milk
1/4 tsp. black pepper
14.5 oz. can creamed corn

In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the beef and onion together.  Drain well and season with salt and pepper.  Place the beef mixture in a 9x9x2" baking dish.  Set aside to cool.  Meanwhile, boil the potatoes in a medium pan for 20-25 minutes. Drain the potatoes and place them in a large mixing bowl.  Add the cream cheese, butter, milk and pepper.  Mix on medium speed until smooth. Pour the creamed corn evenly over the beef mixture.  Spread the mashed potatoes evenly over the corn.  When the potatoes have cooled, cover with foil and refrigerate until ready to bake.

Remove the dish from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Uncover and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the corn is bubbly around the sides.

This is a delicious basic recipe...but of course it is open to interpretation.  If you want to add different seasonings, by all means do...they would fit right in!  I added a little garlic to my potatoes, melted cheese on in the end and added hot peas...because I love peas with my meat & potatoes. Delish! 

And can I tell you a little secret?  I even made this a second time...and ate it right away!  No make-ahead that time...and it was just as good :)
Saturday, April 10, 2010

Chickpea Sliders Bite!

Mark Bittman. The Minimalist. Why do I adore thee? Hmmmmm. So many explanations. And I'm going to post one once a week for the next six months! Yup, we are now cooking the recipes of MB over at I Heart Cooking Clubs YaY! It was fabulous cooking with Nigella for so long, but now I get an opportunity to start working my way through all of the bookmarked pages in Kitchen Express!! This book is so killer...and I've cooked from it plenty already, but I haven't even made a dent in the things I want to make in there!!! Of course, that's not his only book (I'll use his other recipes as well) but it's definitely my favorite at the moment. Our introductory Bittman theme is Bites of Bittman! So, now I can remove the bookmark from Chickpea Burgers. Oh yeah, we're talking bites...I made them into sliders. This is a burger very reminiscent of hummus Looooove it. In a sing-song voice. Looooove it. Do you remember me telling you before how this is a book of recipes that are "precisely imprecise." Really. He said it. Precisely imprecise. What a perfectly wonderful oxymoron!
Chickpea Burgers (or sliders)
from Mark Bittman's Kitchen Express
Drain a can of chickpeas and put them in a food processor with a chopped shallot or some onion, a bit of oregano, paprika, salt and an egg. Pulse the mixture until its slightly grainy but even in consistency. Add enough flour--about a quarter cup--so you can form the mixture into flat burger patties. Sear them in olive oil until golden, about 4 minutes per side. Serve on good whole grain bread or a bun with tahini (optional), greens, and a squeeze of lemon juice.

I formed them into little sliders (made 8), drizzled with lemon juice and tahini and put a few cilantro leaves on each one. Oh yeah, and a Hawaiian Bread Roll. Mexi and I liked them. To my surprise, he liked them even more than I did...course he's always asking me when I'm gonna make hummus I should have figured! They also reminded me a bit of falafel. Not exactly, but reminiscent in a certain way.
Now, what shall I make next!? Be sure to hop on over to IHCC to see what everybody else is cookin' up with MB!
Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Cheese, Sausage, Pancakes and Intrigue?

I've told you before about my alter ego....remember? Not only am I a mystery-solving caterer, in my spare time, I also run a cookie shop and bake up lots of goodies for my friends, family and neighbors. I do believe I'm getting a complex, though. I mean, each time I come up with a fabulous recipe that begs to be shared, somebody winds up dead. With a piece of my fabulous creation close at hand. Mind you, the cause of death has never been the actual food, but's enough to give a girl a complex. This time was no exception... Marge shared her comforting, homey, delicious recipe for apple turnovers with me so that my partner Lisa and I could bake up a bunch to donate to the local charity event this past weekend. Several of us were kept beyond busy making and baking these for 3 days. Everybody seemed to love them. But, as luck or lack of? would have it, I found my 13th-ish dead body (sorry, that sounds so blunt...but true) the other day. And of course a half eaten apple turnover was sitting close by.

I feel like I should tell you that I'm not going to be sharing the recipe for the apple turnovers. Nope. Not today. Today I want to share some killer ba dum bum pancakes with you. My sister Michelle made them for me the other morning as I was fumbling for my morning cup of fuel at 4 am. These are not your everyday run of the mill flap jacks. No sir, they are that perfect mix of sweet and savory that I adore so much. Well, only sweet if you top them with syrup. Which I highly recommend!

Sausage and Cheese Pancakes
yield: ~16 smaller sized pancakes

1 large egg
1 c. plain yogurt
1/4 c. heavy cream
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. all-purpose flour (pack it down in cup when you measure it)
1/2 c. fried breakfast sausage, broken into pieces I used bulk Bob Evans, my fave
1 c. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Beat the egg with a wire whisk in medium bowl until fluffy. Whisk in yogurt, cream and vegetable oil. In a small bowl, combine baking powder, baking soda, and salt with the flour. Stir it around with a fork until it's evenly distributed. Add dry ingredients to wet and stir well. Add sausage and cheese to your batter and stir thoroughly. Bake as you would normal pancakes on your favorite pancake making surface.
These were sooooooo good. SO GOOD! It's like a pancake on a stick or bacon baked into your waffle. Mmmmmm. Breakfast. And honestly, I snacked on a few throughout the day at room temp (w/out syrup). Good that way, too. I doubled the recipe and ended up with a lot!

Okay, you probably guessed that I DO NOT own a cookie shop...and I don't find dead bodies on a regular basis...and I don't have a sister named Michelle. BUT, Hannah Swensen does. Hannah is the main character in the fun foodie-mystery series by Joanne Fluke. Her latest book is called Apple Turnover Murder. It's the 13th deliciously sinful guilty pleasure in the series and just as fun as the rest. I'm a mystery lover. I'm a food lover. Her books have mystery. And food (recipes included!). Need I say more? Challenging...nope. Do I care...nope. This is just one of the foodie-type mystery series' that I love (and pine for in between release dates). If you haven't read any, you should definitely check them out.
.....My inspiration for this post and my favorite pancake baking cast-iron pancake pan. Makes perfect small pancakes! Yes, sometimes I freestyle my cakes, but I love this pan for some reason.....

For a double recipe I used about 2/3 of a 1 lb. roll of Bob Evans breakfast sausage. I just sprinkled the rest over the top of the syrup for a delicious garnish.
Looking at the sun streaming in to say hello to this little plate of heaven.☺