Sunday, November 13, 2011

Steeler cake

Go Steelers!

I was craving chocolate cake with mocha icing (see recipe for icing here) so I made this for the game today!  Haven't done too much with icing recently, so I had fun.  I used this template, flipped it to be backwards, printed it, traced it and put it on my cake so that I would have nice looking diamonds and circles.  

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Easiest Mac n Cheese

Not just easy - probably the easiest mac n cheese ever.  Maybe even easier than Kraft Mac n Cheese.  No boiling water, testing your noodles, draining pasta.  It's just a dump and go.  And also...  it's excellent!

We had this at one of Nick's family reunions and I enjoyed it so much I asked one of Nick's aunts if she could get us the recipe.  She e-mailed it to me and we made it for a Steelers game a few weeks ago.  I was excited that not only was it simple, but it was a hit!  Here's the easy peasey mac n cheesey recipe!
Wait til you see the directions for this one!

Mac n Cheese 
•1 1/2 c. uncooked macaroni
• 4 c. milk
• 1/2 c. melted butter
• 1 1/2 c. cheese (velveeta and/or whatever else you have)
• 1 tsp. salt
• dash pepper

Mix everything in a 9 x 13 pan and bake for 3 hours @ 235°F.

I stirred whenever I passed in the kitchen, probably 2 times.  It was runny when I took it out but it will congeal a lot as it cools.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies are very cakey - and very good!  I made them with wheat flour and they were excellent - and I could pretend they were a little healthier.  :)  It's less noticeable if you use half and half wheat and regular flour.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
• 1 cup canned pumpkin
• 1 cup white sugar
• 1/2 cup vegetable oil
• 1 egg
• 2 cups all-purpose flour  (or substitute with wheat and they'll still be awesome!)
• 2 tsp. baking powder
• 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1 tsp. baking soda
• 1 tsp. milk
• 1 Tbsp. vanilla
• 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
• 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional - I didn't add)

1.  Preheat the oven to 350°.  In a medium bowl stir together flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon, and salt.  In a bowl attached to your mixer, combine sugar, oil, and pumpkin.  Add egg.  Dissolve the baking soda in the milk and stir in.  Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and mix well.

2.  Add vanilla, chocolate chips, and nuts.

3.  Drop by spoonful on greased cookie sheet and bake for approximately 10 minutes or until lightly brown and firm.  Move to a wire rack to cool.

Source:  Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies III

Monday, October 31, 2011

Spiderweb Pumpkin and Ginger Cupcakes

My favorite time to bake is when I have a Saturday when we don't have to do anything.  It's especially nice for when I am doing something with icing.  When I have to wait for something to cool, mix colors, decorate, etc. I just like to have a lot of time.  These weren't too bad time wise.  The cupcakes were easy to make and so was the icing. The recipe said it would make 12 cupcakes - I made 15 and they were the perfect size.  I love how festive they are for Fall/Halloween!  They're from a book that my brother and sister-in-law got me for my birthday (Thanks again, guys!)

Spiderweb Pumpkin and Ginger Cupcakes
makes 12 cupcakes
• 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
• 3/4 tsp. baking powder
• 3/4 tsp. baking soda
• 1/4 tsp. salt
• 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
• 1 tsp. ground ginger
• 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
• 3 large eggs
• 1/4 cup (about 1 1/4 oz.) crystallized ginger cut into 1/8-1/4 inch pieces

• 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 6 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract
• 3 cups powdered sugar
• 1/2 to 1 tsp. cinnamon
• 1 to 2 tsp. whole milk

Preheat the oven to 325°F.  Line 12 muffin tin cups with paper cupcake liners.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger into a medium bowl and set aside.  In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on low-medium speed, beat the melted butter, sugar, and pumpkin until smoothly blended.  Mix in the eggs and crystallized ginger.  On low speed, mix in the flour mixture until it is incorporated.  The batter will be thick.

Fill each paper liner with a generous 1/4 cup of batter, to about 1/2 inch below the top of the liner.  Bake just until the tops feel firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.  Cool for 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack.

Carefully place the wire rack on top of the cupcakes in their pan.  Invert the pan and rack to release the cupcakes onto the rack.  Turn the cupcakes right side up to cool completely.  

In a large bowl attached to an electric mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla on low speed until smooth and thoroughly blended, about 1 minute.  Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.  Add the powdered sugar, mixing until smooth, about 1 minute, then beat on medium speed for 1 minute to lighten the frosting further. 

Frost the cupcakes.  Transfer 1/4 cup of the frosting to a small bowl and stir in enough cinnamon to make it a light brown color and enough milk to make a thick but pourable frosting.  Set aside to use for the spiderwebs.  Use a small spatula to put a second layer of frosting on each cupcake.  Be generous with the icing - a scant 1/4 cup on each.  Make a smooth even layer on top.

Spoon the reserved cinnamon frosting into a small self-sealing freezer bag and seal it.  Cut a tiny hole in one corner of the bag, about 1 1/6 inch long.  Hold the bag about 1/2 inch above a cupcake and slowly pipe two circles, one inside the other, with a dot in the center.  Using a toothpick and beginning at the center on the dot, slowly drag the toothpick to the outside of the outer circle.  Alternate the direction of the toothpick as you continue making lines to form the web pattern, making the next line from the outside of the cup cake to the inside.  Finish the rest of the cupcakes the same way.

Halloween cupcake liners

Love these spiderweb cupcakes!

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pretty darn good pork and sauerkraut

Did you know that Giant Eagle sends coupons in the mail specific to what you?  I didn't know, until about a month ago when we got some coupons for $1 off each for bananas, Kraft grated parmesan cheese, pork, strawberries, and a few other things I can't remember.  After tearing apart the coupons and putting them in my purse I ended up carrying them around for around for almost a month.  During what was supposed to be a quick in-and-out grocery trip, I remembered them, (and remembered that we needed milk) so my little shopping basket became quite heavy.  All this to say, I bought a pork roast and was looking for a good pork roast recipe.  I found this one and am glad I did!  Nick said, "Add this to the 'make before not too long' list" so it must be good!

I had a small roast and squeezed it into a pretty small covered dish, covered it with the veggies and spices, and then squeezed the rest of my veggies into another small covered dish.  As a result of my squishing everything into small dishes there was a ton of liquid in both dishes.  The pork was more or less boiled in the juices from the sauerkraut and diced tomatoes.  This was probably not how it was intended to be, but it worked for us!  Also, when I made it I had a small roas, so I halved the sauerkraut, tomatoes, etc.  Here's the recipe:

Pretty darn good pork and sauerkraut
• 41 oz sauerkraut
• 1 - 4 lb. boneless pork loin roast
• 1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes, undrained
• 3 Celery ribs, cut into 1-inch pieces
• 2 medium carrots, cut in half widthwise and quartered (I substituted with a handful+ of baby
• 1 medium onion, quartered
• 3 tablespoons brown sugar
• 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
• 4 bay leaves
• 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
• 1/4 tsp. pepper

1.  Preheat oven to 325°.  Place half of the sauerkraut in a large roasting pan.  Place pork roast over sauerkraut; top with remaining sauerkraut.  Spoon tomatoes over top.  Arrange the celery, carrots, and onion around the roast.  Sprinkle brown sugar overtop.  Add parsley, bay leaves, oregano, and pepper.

2.  Cover and bake for 3 to 3 1/2 hours or until a meat thermometer reads 160°F, basting occasionally with pan juices.  Discard bay leaves.  Let stand for 15 minutes before slicing.

Source: Sauerkraut Pork Supper

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cooking Strange Leafy Veggies Part 2: Eating and disguising greens

When we started this whole CSA thing I didn't know what I was going to do with all of my greens.  There was that first recipe that I posted (see here), then after that we just ate them sauteed for a while, sometimes with pine nuts, and/or crasins (recipe here).  Well, here is a list of suggestions for what to do with your greens, including a few ways to disguise them to help get your husband or family to eat them!  If we join the CSA again next year I will be looking back at this list...

Suggestions for Kale, Swiss Chard... etc. 

•  Throw it in a skillet with some other veggies and meat and have that be your whole meal.  I liked my sausage and potatoes dish.  

•  Sautee them with some garlic, and if you want add some toasted pine nuts and raisins (I use craisins because I like them better...)  Click on the picture above for a link to a recipe.

•  Put in veggie soup!  I didn't actually do this, but what a great idea! Nick's cousin Debbie suggested this to me.
Edit: Or try this recipe from The Pioneer Woman - similar to Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana

•  Stir fry!  I enjoy making an occasional stir fry.  We had a shrimp stir fry the other day that pretty much used all the rest of our veggies.  Broccoli, green and red peppers, onions, garlic, greens, and carrots.

•  We really enjoyed this eggplant dish.  The pasta sauce was a good place to hide the greens.  Which leads me to my next idea...

•  Add all of your veggies to your pasta sauce and eat with your favorite pasta!

•  Kale chips - haven't made these, but there are a ton of recipes for them online!  

Swiss Chard with Garbanzo Beans and Fresh Tomatoes Recipe
•  Really want to make this - Swiss chard with garbanzo beans and fresh tomatoes 

Have any more ideas for greens?  Please share!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cook's Illustrated Lattice-Top Fresh Peach Pie

My blogging is falling way behind my cooking with the end of the summer to school year transition!  Actually, the whole summer has been slow on blogging.  We'll see what Fall brings, but I hope to be able to share some more recipes in the next few months.  With me being behind, this peach pie is now kinda out of season for farm fresh peaches, but can be made with your normal grocery store peaches anytime!

I really enjoyed making this pie!  This was my first lattice-top pie, so I was being pretty dramatic about how proud I was of myself.  Luckily it was only Nick here to see it.  I just felt so accomplished making a lattice top pie!  It's extra work (not much) and it looks much better than a full top crust (much).  Oh yes, so proud of myself.

My other big accomplishment with this pie was the consistency of this filling.  I have been making apple pies the last few Autumn seasons and have had some trouble with too juicy pies.  I tried adding more flour, adding cornstarch... still full of juice and soggy-bottomed!  This recipe called for potato starch.  My search for potato starch in Community Market resulted a chain of store associates telling me they didn't know what I was talking about.  They made me feel like I'm crazy.  To all of you, go to this link, look at the last ingredient.  Am I crazy?  Does it not say potato starch?

Luckily I remembered what the alternate ingredient was and found that instead.  I used Minute tapioca to make my peach pie filling thick and yummy.  And that it was!

Oh, and a side note... try this pie crust.  Even if you have a pie crust recipe you love and trust, try this one.  It's worth it!  I had a fight with my food processor while I was making this so I ended up just using a pastry blender, but the recipe still turned out great.  I will definitely use this crust recipe for my next pie!

Here is the recipe, from Cook's Illustrated online.

Lattice-Top Fresh Peach Pie
Pie Dough
• 3 Cups all-purpose flour
• 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
• 1 tsp. table salt
• 7 tablespoons vegetable shortening, chilled
• 10 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/4 sticks), chilled, cut into 1/4 inch pieces and frozen for 30 minutes
• 10-12 tablespoons ice water

Peach Filling
• 6-7 medium peaches (ripe, about 6 cups)
• 1 tablespoon lemon juice from 1 lemon
• 1 cup granulated sugar
• 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
• pinch ground cinnamon
• pinch ground nutmeg
• pinch table salt
• 3-4 tablespoons potato starch (or Minute tapioca)

1.  In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, pulse flour, sugar, and salt until combined.  Add shortening and process until mixture has texture of coarse sand, about 10 seconds.  Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture.  Cut butter into flour until mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse crumbs, with butter bits no larger than small peas, about ten 1-second pulses.  Move mixture to medium bowl.

2.  Sprinkle 5 Tbsp. ice water over mixture.  With rubber spatula fold water and flour together.  Sprinkle remaining 5 Tbsp. ice water over mixture and continue using folding motion to combine until small portion of dough holds together when squeezed in palm of hand.  Add up to 2 Tbsp. more ice water if necessary.  Dough should feel quite moist.  Turn dough onto clean, dry work surface.  Gather and gently press together in cohesive ball, then divide into 2 pieces, one slightly larger than the other.  Flatten large piece into a round 5-inch square and smaller piece into a 4-inch disk.  Wrap separately in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour, or up to 2 days, before rolling.

3.  Remove dough from refrigerator (if refrigerated longer than 1 hour, let stand at room temperature until malleable).  Roll larger dough piece to 11 by 15-inch rectangle, about 1/8-inch thick.  Transfer dough rectangle to cookie sheet line with parchment paper.  With pizza wheel (or fancy edged fluted pastry wheel - to be added to my wish list) or paring knife, trim to even out the long sides of the rectangle, then cut rectangle lengthwise into 8 strips 1 1/4 inches wide by 15 inches long.  Freeze strips on cookie sheet until firm, about 30 minutes.

4.  Roll smaller dough piece on lightly floured work surface or between two large sheets of plastic wrap to 12-inch disk.  Transfer dough to pie plate by rolling dough around rolling pin and unrolling over 9-inch pie plate or by folding dough in quarters, then placing dough point in center of 9-inch pie plate and unfolding.  Leave dough that hangs over the lip of the pie plate in place to seal the edges.  Refrigerate dough-lined pie plate.

5.  Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat over to 425 degrees.  Prepare to blanch peaches to make peeling easy by bringing 3 quarts of water to boil in large saucepan, and filling a large bowl with 2 quarts cold water and 2 trays ice cubes.  With a paring knife, score a small x at the base of each peach.  Next, lower the peaches into boiling water with a slotted skimmer.  Cover and blanch until their skins loosen, about 2 minutes.  Use a slotted skimmer to remove the peaches to ice water and let stand to stop cooking, about 1 minute.  Finally, cool the peaches, then, starting from the scored x, peel each peach, halve and pit it, and cut into 3/8-inch slices.  Toss peach slices, lemon juice, 1 cup sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and potato starch (or Minute tapioca) - 3 tablespoons for moderately juicy peaches, 4 tablespoons for very juicy ones - in medium bowl.

6.  Turn mixture into dough-lined pie plate.  Remove dough strips from freezer;  if too stiff to be workable, let stand at room temperature until malleable and softened slightly but still very cold.  Weave the lattice top together, beginning from the middle longer strips, and alternating adding in a strip going in each direction.  (I think there is a tutorial on the source page at the bottom of this post, but I do it slightly differently - do whatever is easiest for you!)  Lightly brush lattice top with 1 Tbsp. water and sprinkle with remaining 1 Tbsp. sugar.  Place pie on baking sheet and bake until crust is set and begins to brown, about 25 minutes.  Rotate pie and reduce over temperature to 375°.  Continue to bake until crust is deep golden brown and filling is bubbly, 25 to 30 minutes longer.  Cool on wire rack 2 hours before serving.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Baked Three Cheese Eggplant

Reasons to try this:
1.  It's a vegetarian meal that doesn't include pasta
2.  How often do you eat eggplant as a main dish?
3.  Use up the rest of your ricotta cheese after making lasagna!
4.  It's a sneaky way to make your husband or whoever you will share this with eat healthy greens!

Okay, so this dish is baked eggplant topped with tomatoes, onions and spinach (or in my case, whatever greens I had from the CSA), then cheese and tomato sauce.  This was one of those recipes that I made with what was in my fridge, so we missed the yummy ricotta cheese.  The other thing that I modified in this recipe was the amount of sauce.  It called for 3/4 cup sauce.  I used an entire jar of Marinara.  What can I say? We like sauce!

Lastly... don't stack your eggplant.  Make sure it can all touch the bottom of the pan.  I had two pieces that didn't fit that I stacked on the others, and they weren't cooked as much as the others.

The recipe below includes my adjustment of sauce, but has the original directions for spinach and ricotta cheese.

Spinach (oops, I used random greens instead), tomatoes, onions, and garlic

Baked Three Cheese Eggplant
1 eggplant
• 2 tablespoons olive oil, or as needed
• 1 tablespoon garlic powder, or to taste
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 small onion, chopped
• 3 cloves garlic, chopped
• 2 small tomatoes, chopped
1 10 oz. package fresh spinach leaves
• 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
• 3/4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
• 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
• 1 jar of your favorite tomato-based pasta sauce
• 2 tsp. Italian seasoning

1.  Preheat oven to 350°.  Slice eggplant into 1/2 inch rounds.  Place on a baking sheet, brushing both sides with olive oil.  Sprinkle garlic powder on top and bake for 10 minutes.

2.  Heat pan to medium.  Add onions and garlic and cook for 3 minutes.  Add chopped tomatoes and spinach.  Cook and stir for a few minutes, until tomatoes have released their juices.  In a medium bowl, mix together 1/2 cup ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup mozz. cheese, 1/2 cup parm. cheese.  Set aside.

3.  Place the eggplant in a greased 9x13 pan.  Top with spinach and tomato mixture.  Spoon the cheese mixture on top.  Pour pasta sauce over the cheese, and top with remaining mozzarella and parmesan cheese.  Sprinkle with Italian seasoning.

4.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until eggplant can be easily pierced with a fork.

Layered, before baking


Monday, September 5, 2011

Goat Cheese Ice Cream with Roasted Cherries

Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at HomeAdam and Heather bought me these great recipe books for my birthday - one of cupcakes, and one of ice cream.  This was my first experiment from them!  Making ice cream is not the easiest thing - but there is nothing really difficult about it either.  You just have to take some time, follow directions, and then clean up while your ice cream maker is doing all the work!  I have an ice cream maker attachment for my Kitchen Aid and I love using it (KitchenAid KICA0WH Ice Cream Maker Attachment.  This book is called Jenis Splendid Ice Creams At Home by Jeni Britton Bauer.

If you make this be careful about how long you roast your cherries for.  The recipe said 30-45 minutes and I left mine go for about 40, stirring every 15.  When they cooled they were really hard to separate to layer in the ice cream.  And to eat they tasted mostly either very hard and crunchy - or stuck to your teeth.  I think they should be kinda soft and chewy.  

On the whole, I thought this tasted like cream cheese ice cream (or cheesecake?), and I'm not a huge fan of cream cheese.  So Nick ended up eating most of it.  This ice cream had a cream cheese base.  Actually, a lot of the ice creams in this recipe book have a cream cheese base.  I think the cream cheese taste is so potent because of the double cheeses, but I'm curious if you'll be able to taste the cream cheese in the other recipes.  Oh well, I'll let you know next time.... onto the recipe!

Goat Cheese Ice Cream with Roasted Cherries
Makes a generous 1 quart
• 2 cups whole milk
• 1 tablespoon plus 1 tsp. cornstarch
• 1/2 cup (about 4 oz.) fresh goat cheese
• 1 1/2 oz (3 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened
• 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
• 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
• 2/3 cups sugar
• 1/4 cup light corn syrup
• Roasted cherries (recipe below)

Make a slurry by mixing 2 Tbsp. whole milk with 1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. cornstarch.  
In a separate bowl whisk the goat cheese, cream cheese, and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. 
Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

Combine the remaining milk, cream, sugar, and corn syrup in a 4-quart saucepan.  Bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat and boil for 4 minutes.  Remove from heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry.  Bring the mixture back to a boil over med-high heat and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute.  Remove from heat.

Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese mixture until smooth.  Pour the mixture into a 1 gallon ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag into the ice bath.  Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.

Pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister and spin until thick and creamy.  Pack the ice cream into a storage container, alternating it with layers of the cherries and ending with a spoonful of cherries; do not mix.  Press a sheet of parchment paper directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid.  Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.

Roasted Cherries
Makes about 1 1/4 cups
• 2 cups pitted fresh or frozen (not thawed) red or black cherries
• 2/3 cup sugar
• 2 tsp. cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 400°.  Combine the cherries, sugar, and cornstarch in a 9-inch square baking dish, tossing to mix.  Roast for 30 to 45 minutes, until the juices are thickened and bubbly.  Stir every 15 minutes.  Let cool completely, then chill in the refrigerator.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Chicken, pepper, and mushroom alfredo

This sauce was EXCELLENT.  It made a huge difference using shredded cheese instead of the Kraft grated cheese in my alfredo sauce.  I had about half a bag of Sargento 6 cheese Itailian cheese left, which was great.  It had shredded mozzarella, smoked provolone, asiago, parmesan, romano, and fontina cheeses.  I should sometime actually plan to make alfredo with fresh cheese.

The peppers and mushrooms were just thrown in because we have tons of peppers in our garden and mushrooms from the farm... but they went perfectly with the dish.

I adapted the recipe to use my last 3/4 cup of heavy cream (from the goat cheese ice cream we had last week... recipe to come!).  Here is the recipe before my quantity adaptations.  Oh, also I tend to cheat on garlic.  I just dumped in some garlic powder instead of using a garlic clove.

Chicken, pepper, and mushroom alfredo
• 6 oz. Mushrooms
• 1 green pepper
• One large chicken breast, or two me
• 1/2 box Fettucine
• 1/4 cup unsalted butter
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 1 clove garlic, crushed
• 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parm cheese
• 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Prepare pots and pans - Prepare chicken pan by heating pan and adding oil.
                                      Prepare veggie pan by heating pan and adding oil.
                                      Prepare pot for pasta by boiling water.
                                      Get out a small pot for sauce.

Chop veggies and pre-measure for sauce.

Add pasta to boiling water and multi task!  Cook your chicken and veggies, and begin to melt the butter in the sauce pot.  Once butter is melted, whisk in cream and simmer for 5 minutes.  Add garlic.  Add cheese little by little, whisking until mixed in.  Stir in parsley.

When chicken and veggies are done, remove from heat and slice chicken into bite-sized pieces.

Drain pasta and return to pot, tossing with sauce.  Add chicken and veggies and serve!

If you are looking for a "healthy" alfredo sauce, check out this one instead.


Monday, August 8, 2011

Pesto Mushroom Pizza

Since I made pesto a few weeks ago I have been itching to make a pizza with it.  A box of mushrooms (from the CSA, of course) gave me a reason to do it.  Definitely don't be shy with the mushrooms for this!

I have been seeing this on other blogs all summer (hence the cravings for it) but didn't really use any of those recipes.  I have been using a recipe for pizza dough from my cousin's blog for a while now.  I like it better than the one from Buddy Valastro that was maybe my first blog post because this one is easier to stretch without tearing holes and makes a little thicker crust.  Still, we tend to have odd shaped pizzas.  Any tips for stretching them better?

Also, we have been grilling pizzas ever since the weather has allowed and will continue as long as the weather allows.  If you have a grill and have not yet grilled a pizza... seriously, try it!  Nick is in charge of grilling... so if I make the crust and help take toppings outside he takes over.  When he grills pizza he wipes the grate with olive oil, then slides if off of our giant cutting board onto the grill.  After one side cooks just a little (maybe for 2 minutes) he'll take it off and put it on the cutting board, cooked side up.  Then we add toppings, slide it back on the grill, and cook it until the cheese melts and we think it's done enough.

Pesto Mushroom Pizza
• Pizza Crust
• Mushrooms (a pound?)
• 3/4 cup - 1 cup of pesto
• 2 Cups mixed provolone/mozzarella cheese

Sautee mushrooms in olive oil.  Grill crust as directed above.  Remove from heat and add pesto and mushrooms.  Top with cheese.  Grill until heated and cheese is melted.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A birthday cake

I made this cake last weekend for my aunt's birthday.  I was pretty proud of myself, considering my pastry bags and decorator tips have been put away since the memorial day cupcakes.

The cake is a classic white cake that I made during my cake class.  If you've never made not-from-a-box cake before, it's a great starting point.  It's not difficult, is moist and perfect.  

Happy Birthday, Elizabeth!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pasta with Pesto Cream Sauce

Okay, I know, this looks similar to the pesto pasta salad.  Trust me, it's not!  This is hot... and creamy!  It was really good, and I will be making more with the rest of my heavy cream.  Yes, heavy cream.  Heavy cream and butter make the pesto sauce soooo good.  I'm afraid to go back to pesto sauce without heavy cream... the kind you eat when you don't want to gain two pounds just from dinner.

Pasta with Pesto Cream Sauce
• 3/4 - 1 cup pesto
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1/4 cup grated parmesan
• 1 box pasta (cavitappi (pictured), fusili, etc.)
• 2 whole Diced tomatoes (or grape tomatoes, halved)

1.  Cook pasta according to box, until al dente.  Meanwhile, heat cream and butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add pesto and stir.

2.  Drain pasta and place in a serving bowl.  Pour pesto cream over the top.  Toss to combine.  Add diced tomatoes and toss.  Serve immediately.

Source: The Pioneer Woman blog

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Pesto Pasta Salad

When I decided I was going to cut my basil way back and make pesto the other day I was researching pesto recipes.  I thought this would be a good side dish, a little different from normal pasta salad.  We enjoyed it.  I liked the tomatoes, peas, and pine nuts in it.

Pesto Pasta Salad
• 1 box spiral pasta
• 1/4 cup pine nuts
• 1 cup frozen peas, defrosted 
• 12 oz. cherry or grape tomatoes (halved)
• Several fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
• 1 Tbsp olive oil
• Mozzarella cheese (or substitute with cheese of your choice)
(You can add other vegetables if you want!)

1.  Cook pasta according to box.  Remove from heat and strain when pasta is cooked, but still firm (al dente).  Meanwhile, toast pine nuts in a small pan over medium heat, stirring almost constantly, until they begin to brown (no longer than 8 minutes).

2.  Put pasta in a large bowl.  Mix in pesto and pine nuts.  Gently mix in cherry tomatoes, peas, fresh basil leaves, olive oil, and cheese.  Salt and Pepper to taste.  Chill or serve at room temperature.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Basil Pesto

And here beings a small pesto series.  This is just the basic pesto recipe.
To follow are 2 pasta dishes that I made this weekend with basil.

A few weeks ago I checked out the America's Test Kitchen Cookbook from the Library.  I have not yet returned it.  I've renewed twice (and have 2 renewals left!).  It's so fun to pick up and read one recipe.  They write this big thing before the recipe about their goals.  For example, "Our goals when testing pesto were simple-heighten the flavor of the basil, mellow the punch of the garlic, and figure out how to handle the nuts." (The America's Test Kitchen Cookbook, p. 14)  They then go on to tell about what happened when they used different kind of nuts, what was the best way to tone down the garlic flavor a bit, etc.

I used the recipe in the cookbook and multiplied it by 4 because I had tons of basil.  This is the original recipe.

This was also the first time I ever blanched garlic, which was their way of taming down the garlic taste a little bit.  It's really not difficult and doesn't take very long.

Basil Pesto
• 1/4 cup pine nuts (can substitute walnuts or almonds)
• 3 medium cloves garlic, threaded on skewer
• 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
• 2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (optional)
• 7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• salt
• 1/4 cup finely grated parmesan

1.  Toast nuts in a small, heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until just golden and fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes.

2.  Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot.  Lower whole cloves of unpeeled, skewered garlic into water and boil for 45 seconds.  Remove and immediately run under cold water.  Remove from skewer and peel.

3.  Bruise your basil to release flavor.  Place it in a ziploc bag and use the flat side of a meat tenderizer or rolling pin to smash it.

4.  Place nuts, garlic, basil, oil, and 1/2 tsp. salt in food processor fitted with steel blade.  Process until smooth, pausing to scrape down the sides of bowl.  Trasnfer mixture to small bowl, stir in cheese, and adjust salt.

Surface of pesto can be covered with sheet of plastic wrap or thin film of oil and refrigerated for up to 5 days.

It can also be frozen.  You can freeze in ice cube trays, pop them out and keep them in a freezer bag for easy keep and defrost.

Use on pasta, sandwiches, etc.!

If you have any great pesto recipes, share them with me!  I have tons to use!

Source:  America's Test Kitchens Cookbook

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cooking Strange Leafy Veggies Part 1: Success! Kale, Sausage, and Potatoes.

My mom signed up for a local CSA farm (Community Supported Agriculture) and is splitting her shares with myself, my brother and sister-in-law, and my sister and brother-in-law.  I think my mom has been doing this for a while now.  I remember going with her and picking stuff up.  They set up all these veggies in kind of a U shape in this barn.  Each share gets so much of everything, according to how much of each they have that week.  So they write a big list on a chalkboard, like this:

Tomatoes: 2
Radishes: 2
Kale: 1 bunch
Lettuce: 4 handfuls

Anyway, the list is much longer than that, and has much stranger things on it than that.  I don't know what all was there this first week, since we're splitting it between the 4 couples, and I wasn't the one to pick it up.  I just know that we got kale, a lettuce mixture, and some garlic somethings that I was told to make hummus with.  Research, cooking, and maybe recipe to come, when inspiration strikes.

This evening, when I was tired and hungry and in a hurry to make dinner, I also wanted to use up our kale, knowing that we have different things planned to eat or places to go the next few days.  I had made a dinner before with sausage, onions, potatoes, green peppers, and who knows what else cooked together in a pan.  Nick likes to call this a hobo meal, although I found this slightly offensive.  Urban dictionary says that a hobo meal is one requiring "no plates or dishes to cook with".  The first time I made something like this it was some internet-sharer's grandma's famous Italian sausage bake or something... which I worked hard to make, and I was slightly offended when it was called a hobo meal!  Nick had "hobo meals" when he was camping a few years back, which happened to have ingredients similar to this dish.

Oh darn!!! Just realized I have no picture of this fabulous meal!  Please humor me as I send you to look at pictures on a different website of something that is similar, but not the same.  That link is a recipe like what I made a few months ago.

Tonight's recipe has no measurements.  It's more of a dump-and-go thing.  I used up half an onion we had, the rest of some potatoes we had, and all of our kale.  Here's the general idea:

1.  Heat a pan over medium heat.  Add oil and let it heat up.  While heating your pan and oil, cut up some potatoes into chunks or slices that will be able to cook in 15-ish minutes.  Throw them in your pan and let them start to cook.  Loosen them from the bottom and stir every few minutes.

2.  Cook 2 sweet Italian sausages in another pan.  Either remove the casing before cooking sausages, or slice after they're done cooking.

3.  As sausage and potatoes are cooking, cut up onions, kale, and whatever other veggies you want to put in.  Once potatoes are tender, add veggies.  (If you're using carrots or another veggie that would take longer to cook, use your own discretion for when to add them and how long to cook them).  Optional: add parsley, basil, and any other spices you think would be yummy.  Add sausage, mix, serve, and enjoy!

Similar kale and other strange leafy vegetable posts to come as the summer goes on.

Please let me know if you have any kale suggestions!!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I made these a few weeks ago and somehow they slipped through the cracks of blogging.   But here they are!  Honestly, when I started writing this post, it had been a few weeks since I'd made them... but I decided to make them again today.  Best decision of the day, for sure.

What's awesome about these cookies is how big and soft they are.  I've never made cookies this big before.  It's hard not to laugh as you're making these cookies a scant quarter cup each.  I think the day I made these I just wanted to make something sweet and just started searching on  When I found these I couldn't resist.  If you haven't yet found your perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe, give this one a try.  These are certainly worth your time to make at least once if you're still on the market for the "perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe".

Oh, also, mine might be slightly larger than they're supposed to be.  The recipe from brown eyed baker is supposed to make 18.  But I found it's easier to put 8 giant cookies on my cookie sheets than 9, so I gave in and only made 16.

Also, I made these cookies without any measuring! ... almost.  The weights of the ingredients are included below and she strongly suggested using weight instead of measuring cups to make them.  So I did!  Until I came to the chocolate chips.  I ended up measuring only the last ingredient.  Oh well.

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 18 cookies
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (10 5/8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
• 1/2 tsp. baking soda
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
• 1 cup packed (7 oz.) light or dark brown sugar
• 1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz.) granulated sugar
• 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
• 2 tsp. vanilla extract
• 1 - 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1.  Adjust the oven racks to the upper- and lower- middle positions.  Heat the oven to 325°.  Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or spray with non-stick cooking spray.

2.  Measure and whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt together, in a medium bowl; set aside.

3.  Mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended.  Beat in the egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined.  Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined.  Stir in the chips to taste.

4. Roll a scant 1/4 cup of the dough into a ball.  Pull apart into two equal halves.  Rotate the halves 90 degrees and, with jagged surfaces facing up, join the halves together at their base, again forming a single ball, being careful not to smooth the dough's uneven surface.  Place the formed dough balls on the prepared baking sheets, jagged surface up, spacing them 2 1/2 inches apart.

5. Bake until cookies are light golden brown and the outer edges start to harden, yet the centers are still soft and puffy, 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking time.  Cool the cookies on the sheets.  Remove the cooled cookies from the baking sheets with a wide metal spatula.

Source: Browneyedbaker's blog, originally from Baking Illustrated, pg. 434

Monday, June 13, 2011

Colby BBQ chicken

This is an easy BBQ chicken stuffed with cheese.  There is no mixing or measuring, and if you're like me, husband does all the grilling - so this is an easy one.  Or, if you don't have a grill, or a husband, or just don't feel like grilling, you can also broil it.  When I first found this recipe I figured I'd broil it, but grilling just seemed so much better that I changed my mind.

So, watcha gotta do for this scrumptious chicken is cut it in half, and put cheese in it.  Cheese of your choice.  The recipe said pepper jack - but I had slices of colby, so it's what we used.  My chicken is a little beat up, as you can see in the picture below.  That's because of the lady that was buying chicken at the same time as me at Giant Eagle.  We were discussing how all of the "thin sliced chicken breasts" cost way more than the regular ones.  She said, "Just get those ones and pound it out."  And as I stood there and continued to look at the chicken, she choose her thick chicken breasts, shoved them in her overflowing basket, and starting saying to her little girl, "I'll just have to pound it out.  Pound it out."  I think she was giving herself a pep talk.  So I followed suit, got the giant thick chicken breasts, and pounded it out.  Nice and pounded out, it became 2 chicken breasts (cut in half) and then I sliced them in half the other way and stuck the cheese in.

Colby BBQ chicken:
• Chicken breasts
• Colby, Pepper Jack, or other sliced cheese - 1 per chicken breast
• BBQ sauce

If necessary, pound and cut chicken to desired size.  Carefully cut a pocket for cheese.  Insert 1 slice of cheese in a chicken breast and close it with metal skewers or wooden skewers (soaked in water first).  Grill over medium heat, brushing with BBQ sauce often.  OR broil 4 in. from heat for 6-8 minutes on each side until juices run clear, basting frequently with BBQ sauce.  Remove skewers before serving.

Source:  Taste of Home Simple and Delicious Cookbook (2007), page 63

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Grilled Corn

This was our first time grilling corn.  Until recently I haven't heard much about grilled corn - but this year and last year I keep hearing people talk about it.  I was really impressed with it and think I'd prefer it to regular boiled corn.

I didn't research what to do until after I'd husked it, so I ended up wrapping them in foil.  They were so good!  Even though I want to try grilling them with some of husk on, I'd do it like this again.  We really liked the flavor from the olive oil on these.

Grilled Corn (out of husk):

1.  Husk the corn.  Heat grill to 350°.

2.  Brush with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and any other herb or sauce that you want.  Wrap in foil and twist the ends closed.

3.  Grill for 20-30 minutes over med-low heat.  Use an oven mitt to hold them.  Unwrap and enjoy! 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Too much pasta - not enough veggies!

I was looking back at some of my blog posts from more recently.

We eat a lot of pasta.  It's just so easy and so darn good!

A friend made dinner for us last night - yummy vegetarian tacos.  Black bean and corn tacos, I believe.  Seeing the vegetarian cookbooks in her kitchen and eating those awesome tacos went right along with what I've been thinking about recently - we don't eat enough veggies!

The problem with what I'm thinking is that we don't need less meat... we need less carbs, and healthy choices and portions for meat.  I'm not looking for a diet or anything... just some ideas for better balanced meals.

I went ahead and got online and reserved a few cookbooks from the library that will hopefully be helpful to my "healthy cooking" ideals.  So in the next few weeks you may see some recipes from those!  Any suggestions for recipes or sources would be appreciated!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy Memorial Day!

Thank you to those who have given their 
time, energy, and lives so that we as Americans 
could enjoy freedom!  You are amazing!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Chicken and Asparagus Alfredo

Last week I bought a really big bundle of asparagus.  We ate it multiple times... as a side dish, in stir fry, with this pasta.  I really liked it with pasta and Alfredo sauce.  And for this I cheated and used a jar of Alfredo sauce, which made it a nice easy meal after a day at school.

We are looking for the secret to juicy cooked chicken.  When I cut it into bite-sized pieces and then cook it it tends to dry out a little.  We decided we should try to cook the whole chicken breasts and then cut them up, maybe that will be better.

Chicken and Asparagus Alfredo
• Chicken breasts (1 for each person you're serving)
• Asparagus (1/2 cup to 1 cup for each person)
• Pasta of your choice
• Alfredo Sauce

1.  Begin cooking chicken in a pan with oil and set a large pot of water over high heat to boil for pasta.  When water boils add in pasta and cook according to box.  When chicken is done remove from pan and let sit until cool enough to cut.

2.  Steam asparagus in a pot with a lid and boiling water just covering the bottom for 3-5 minutes.  Cut chicken into bite-sized cubes.

3.  Drain pasta and put back in pot over low heat.  Add Alfredo sauce, asparagus and chicken.  Stir and keep over low heat just until alfredo sauce is hot. (No longer than 3-5 minutes so that it doesn't dry out).

Friday, May 27, 2011

Mustard Chicken

Pros for this recipe:
• Made with stuff I already had at home
• Only 3 ingredients
• 5 Minutes or less prep time
• Yummy (with respect to how easy it is)

This is maybe not the best chicken that I've ever had, but considering how easy it is, we said it's good enough to make again.  I've had corn flakes, bread crumbs, spice mixtures, etc. coating chicken, but I've never had French Fried Onions on chicken.  We liked this one because it was different.  Plus, I've never used French Fried Onions for anything but green bean casserole.  I like knowing that I can use them for more than one thing.

Some of the reviews on said it doesn't really taste like mustard.  We thought it tasted like mustard.  Those people are nuts.  Not that it was a bad thing.  It just... tasted like the mustard that was on it.

I didn't measure how much mustard or onions I used.  I pretty much just estimated.  That's what I usually do when I coat stuff.  Then if I need more, I just dump in more.

Mustard Chicken
• Chicken breasts
• Mustard
• French fried onions

Preheat oven to 375°.  Lightly grease a glass pan.
Get out two bowls.  Put in one bowl enough mustard to cover your chicken, and in the other bowl enough French fried onions to coat your chicken.  Dip the chicken in mustard, then move it to the second bowl and coat with French fried onions.  Place in lightly greased pan.
Cook for 40-50 minutes or until juices run clear.

Source: "Juliet"at