Sunday, March 30, 2008

Garden in a Bag

Herbs. I love them! Especially fresh herbs. Last year was the first time I grew my own. It is so much cheaper than buying them at the store. I had cilantro and basil last year. This year I came across little brown bags called Garden in a Bag. Basically you get a little bag filled with soil and seeds. You let the plants sprout, root and grow in the bag and then move them to larger pots when needed. I just loved that I could put these on my kitchen counter and soon I will have fresh herbs. Well, hopefully I will have fresh herbs. First we will have to see if these little Garden in a Bag products actually work. This will be my little spring project.

The first step is to plant the seeds in the soil and cover the bag with plastic. You are supposed to sit the bag in a warm place out of direct sunlight. It says the plants should sprout within 7 to 10 days. We shall see. Stay tuned...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

That's Amore!

You know, like "when the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie?" Cheesy, I know. :) I got the idea to make homemade pizza from Dela over at Not Your Mama's Southern Cooking. She recently posted about making her own pizza dough for the first time and it inspired me, since I have never made my own either. The husband and I have also been getting tired of my usual meat and potatoes meals (one of which I have planned for this weekend) and wanted a change of pace. Taylor loves pizza and everyone says there is no better pizza that the one you make yourself since you can personalize it to your tastes. This also means we can each have individual pies to our liking. This might not matter to you, but for us it means we will both enjoy our pizza more. I love white sauces, especially Alfredo, on pizza. Taylor is not a big fan and would rather have a really good tomato sauce. This way we will both get what we like!

I wanted to make the entire meal from scratch, so first I had to find a dough recipe. I also wanted to use what I had on hand in my kitchen. No time to run to the grocery store after work...I was way too hungry for that. And that means no yeast in the dough. I don't bake bread often...well ever, so yeast is not something you will regularly find in my cabinets. Dela made her dough with beer, but we also don't keep that on hand, so I had to keep looking. I finally found what looked like a good no yeast pizza dough on We both loved the crust. It had a good flavor and texture, but it didn't brown much on the edges.

No Yeast Pizza Crust
Source: - my additions in italics

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup water
1 tbsp cooking oil
1 tbsp Italian Herbs
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
2 dashes cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare pizza pan by spraying with non-stick cooking spray. Combine dry ingredients in mixing bowl. Add liquids and stir to incorporate dry ingredients. Knead dough by hand 6-8 times on a lightly floured surface. Roll dough thinly. I halved the ball of dough and we had individual pizzas that were perfect for one serving. I rolled mine out pretty thin in more of a square shape. Taylor wanted his a little thicker, so we made it round.

Place rolled dough onto prepared pizza pan, rub a little oil over the top to keep the sauce from making the crust soggy. Add your favorite sauce and toppings. Bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes, depending on crust thickness.

I also wanted to make the sauces myself instead of from a jar. However, my attempt at homemade Alfredo sauce was a bust and I ended up using some from a jar. The marinara sauce recipe turned out awesome! I just came up with my own recipe using ingredients I had on hand. It was quick and easy! Taylor loved it!

Quick Marinara Sauce

Source: Me

1 can stewed tomatoes, pureed
2 tbsp Italian Seasoning Spice blend
1 large clove or 2 small cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot or 1/2 small white onion, minced
olive oil, just enough to saute the garlic

In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, add the oil, garlic and onion. Sautee until tender. Add the tomato puree and Italian seasonings.
Bring to a light boil then reduce heat to simmer for about 5 minutes, or longer if you have the time. The longer it simmers, the more the flavors will develop. I made the sauce first and let it simmer while I made the pizza dough.

The pizza's turned out great!

Mine was Alfredo sauce, red pepper flakes, mozzarella, smoked gouda and grilled chicken that had been marinated in Italian dressing.

Taylor's was marinara sauce, mozzarella and pepperoni. He said it was much better than any frozen pizza from the store. We will be making homemade pizza again. We've already been brainstorming about possible toppings for next time!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Quick Shrimp Alfredo

I'd been thinking all day about what I was going to make for dinner tonight. Taylor wanted leftover roast from Saturday night. I however took leftovers for lunch today, and probably will tomorrow too, so I was NOT eating that again. I wanted something quick, but really good. I got home from work around 5:30 and was sitting down to eat at 6:00. Not bad! This isn't an authentic alfredo sauce, but it tastes similar so that is the name I chose.

Jaime's Quick Shrimp Alfredo

Source: Me
Serves One

1 cup uncooked Jasmine rice
2 cups chicken stock
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp Alouette Garlic and Herbs Cheese Spread - See product rave below.
1/2 cup milk - give or take
parmesan cheese, to taste
10 medium shrimp - I only had frozen shrimp, but this would have been even better with fresh!
parsley and red pepper flakes for garnish

Add the sesame oil and pressed garlic to a sautee pan over medium heat. Add the uncooked rice
and stir to coat. I have found that toasting the rice prior to cooking adds a nutty background flavor, which in this case is enhanced by the sesame oil. Toast for about 5 minutes, stirring often.

Add the rice to the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Stir and then cover, reducing the heat to simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes. **You will have more rice than you need for the sauce and the shrimp. I plated my serving and saved the rest in the fridge for another quick dinner idea to come soon!**

While the rice is cooking, add the Alouette to the sautee pan from earlier (make sure you remove all the grains of rice) over medium low heat. Add a little milk and stir. As the cheese spread melts, continue to add milk. The amount of milk you need to add depends on how thick you like your sauce. Once the Alouette is completely melted and combined with the milk, add parmesan cheese. Increase heat slightly continuing to stir. Add the thawed, or fresh, shrimp to the sauce and let cook completely. Stir the sauce every once in a while, coating the shrimp. Once the shrimp is done, you can reduce the heat to warm/simmer and wait on the rice to finish cooking.

Once the rice is done, pour sauce and shrimp over one serving of rice. Sprinkle parsley and red pepper flakes on top. A perfect, quick, simple weeknight dinner!

William Sonoma Gift Card Give-Away!!!

Who doesn't love William Sonoma? I love to just wander through the store and lust over all the cooking/baking items. If you are like me, check out The Clean Plate Club. She is giving away a $50 gift card to William Sonoma on May 1st. You have to have your entry in by April 30 at 5 pm EST though.

I have thought about what I would buy if I won and I've decided on a spring form pan. #1, I don't have one and #2 I've recently seen several yummy looking cheesecake recipes that call for this pan. Plus, winning the gift card would be just another good excuse to spend some time browsing the store. ;)

Happy Easter!

We had a beautiful, yet cold and windy, Easter here in Alabama! We spent it with family and enjoyed the day with people we only see once or twice a year. I took dessert to the luncheon at my grandmother's. I usually take an oreo dessert that comes out of a box that everyone loves. But this year I wanted to make something blog worthy. Strawberries are my favorite fruit and one of my favorite foods in general, so I wanted to use them in something. The idea of a trifle came to mind, so I looked through recipe books and searched the internet for a Strawberry Trifle recipe. None were exactly what I wanted, so I took a little from several and came up with something of my own.

Strawberry Trifle

Many sources, combined by me

1 1/2 cups sugar
16 ounces cream cheese
1/2 - 3/4 cup milk

1 store-bought angel food cake, cut into cubes
2 lbs. halfed strawberries

In a large bowl combine the strawberries and 3/4 cup sugar. Mix well and allow the berries to marinate.

In a medium bowl, combine 3/4 cup sugar with the cream cheese. Using an electric mixer, whip on medium speed until combined. Add milk a little at a time, mixing until you get an icing like consistency.

To build the trifle, line the bottom of a trifle bowl with a layer of cake. Spoon a layer of the cheese mixture over the pound cake (I had to use a knife to spread it out), and then a layer of berries. Repeat. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

I made this the night before and it was really good the next day. The bread will soak up the juice from the strawberries so if you don't want your bread to get soggy, I would suggest serving this after only an hour or two of chilling. My family actually liked the juice soaked bread and this dessert was a hit.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

To Die for (or not) Saturday Night Dinner

My in-laws gave us a beef roast that I tossed in the freezer a few weeks ago and this weekend seemed like the perfect time to pull it out. I am not a huge roast fan mostly because I've never had one with a lot of flavor. I searched the internet for a new pot roast recipe and came across To Die for Crock Pot Roast. I love using the crock pot because you don't have to babysit your dish. You just prep it, throw it in and it cooks itself. Perfect for a Saturday when I have a million things to do.

It was ok. I wouldn't say it was "to die for." I ended up adding a little worcestershire sauce to mine and it was a decent dinner. I think it all comes down to my general dislike of the flavor of roast meat. Taylor liked it though. Anyway, my additions/changes to the recipe are in italics.

To Die for Crock Pot Roast

1 beef roast, any kind
1 package dried brown gravy mix
1 package dried Italian salad dressing mix
1 package dried ranch dressing mix
1/2 cup water -I added a little more
6 medium red potatoes, quartered - you could add any veggies you want.

Mix together dried mixes in a bowl and use as a rub on the roast. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours. You will have some of the dry mix left depending on the size of your roast.

Place potatoes in the bottom of the crock pot. Place beef on top of the potatoes. Sprinkle the left over spice mixture around and over the roast. Pour water around the roast. Cook on low 7-9 hours.

To go with the pot roast, I made a copy cat recipe of Jim N Nicks cheese muffins. My husband and I always order a basket of these when we frequent the restaurant so I decided to give this recipe a try. The recipe comes from my friend Dela's blog, Not Your Mama's Southern Cooking. She has a great blog, you should check it out! These turned out great!! The recipe was really simple and they taste just like the "real thing."

Jim N Nicks Cheese Muffins

Source: Not Your Mama's Southern Cooking

1 1/2 cups self rising flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
4 tbsp butter, melter
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix ingredients together and pour into greased muffin pan. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until done.

Friday, March 21, 2008

A new spin on cereal for dinner

I have been craving a snack/dessert from my childhood the last few days and tonight I couldn't wait any longer. Cornflake Clusters were a staple at my house growing up. I'm not sure where the recipe originated, but it was one of the first recipes I learned from my mom. I came home and immediately started cooking. Thank goodness these only take about 10 minutes!

Cornflake Clusters
Source: My Mom

1 cup yellow label syrup (you can use any light colored syrup that you have on hand)
1 cup sugar
1 cup peanut butter
6 cups cornflakes
wax paper

Before beginning set out a large sheet of wax paper.

Place a medium/large sauce pan on over medium heat and add the sugar and syrup. Cook until liquid comes to a light boil, stirring the entire time. Once it begins to boil, cook for an additional one minute. The sugar should be completely dissolved and the liquid should look clear when running off your spoon. Remove from heat and add the peanut butter stirring until smooth. Add the cornflakes a few cups at a time incorporating them into the peanut butter mixture.

Drop spoonfuls of the mixture onto the wax paper and let cool.

The best part is eating a nice warm bowlful. I get fuller faster these days, so it just happened to become dinner tonight. Yeah, I know it isn't even remotely healthy, but it was worth it! (For those wondering about my poor husband, he had leftovers) ;)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Product Rave!!

When grocery shopping, my husband usually tries to steer me away from the specialty cheese case. He is not a big fan of what he calls "weird, moldy cheeses." To him, this includes everything except Cheddar and American...even if the cheeses are not remotely moldy. I do happen to make it to that lovely piece of heaven every once in a while and I have a new discovery. Alouette spreadable cheese.
It is SOOOO good! I purchased the Garlic and Herbs variety and spread it on some equally wonderful crackers, Parmesan Basil Wheat Thins. Trust me, I can make a meal out of this stuff. I also discovered that Alouette has a website where they have lots of recipes in which to use their products. I will be testing out some of those soon!

If you are wondering where this random, middle of the day post comes from, let me enlighten you. A pregnant woman's brain is always thinking about food. And I happen to have this tub of yumminess in my fridge at home, but I am stuck at work day dreaming about it. Therefore, you have a post to read while I sit here drooling on my keyboard.

A little less talk

and a lot more action! Well, I put my money ( or should I say my cooking) where my mouth is last night and I cooked a real dinner for the first time since the awful pregnancy sickness hit me. ;) I got motivated after browsing some of my favorite blogs yesterday. So, I got home and got in the kitchen! I didn't go overboard though and kept it simple. I made Balsamic Grilled Chicken, which is an easy and familiar recipe for me, and a new spin on roasted potatoes. I forgot to take pictures because I was so excited about cooking again! The potatoes turned out great though, so here's the recipe:

Parmesan Garlic Roasted Potatoes
Source: Me

8 small/medium red potatoes sliced into wedges
Olive oil
Hot sauce - use your favorite kind
2 large cloves of garlic minced
1 1/2 TBSP butter
Sea Salt
Parmesan Cheese - grated

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the potato wedges on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and hot sauce. Use your hands to toss and coat the potatoes. Arrange them in a single layer across the pan and sprinkle with salt. Bake for about 20 minutes. They should be fork tender.

Take out of the oven and sprinkle liberally with grated parmesan cheese. Turn off the oven, but stick them back in for about 5 - 7 minutes. The cheese will melt together and form little parmesan crunchies.

While the potatoes are back in the oven, place minced garlic and butter in a small sautee pan over medium heat. I also sprinkled a little sea salt in there because I like my potatoes extra salty. Let the butter melt and simmer the garlic until it is tender, but watch out and don't let it burn.

After the potatoes come out of the oven place them in your serving dish making sure you get all the parmesan crunchies off the pan and into the dish. Drizzle the garlic butter over the potatoes and toss to coat. You could strain the minced garlic out of the butter if you wanted, but we love garlic at my house so I left it in.

These were really good and I will definitely make them again.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Wow, it's been a while again

I know I said I was back in the last post, but that was nearly 2 months ago. Things have been busy and I still wasn't full force back in the kitchen. I think I just had a good cooking day. :) I can now watch Food Network all day again and actually enjoy it, even if I wouldn't want to eat the food they are preparing. All this to say, I will be posting more often now. I even have recipes I plan to try out this weekend. One for a weekend dinner at home with the husband and one for Easter dessert! Make sure to check back and see how they turn out.