Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Summertime and Strawberries

Wow, it's been a while since I've posted. Things have been a little crazy while we await the arrival of our son. Which by the way, I thought would have already happened. My due date is actually today, but Logan shows no signs of gracing us with his presence.

Anyway, you would think I would cook more now that I'm no longer at work, but in fact, the opposite is true. Don't get me wrong, I cook, but not much has been blog worthy. Until today. The temperature gauge at my house registered 102 by noon and there was no way this 9 month pregnant girl was venturing outside other than to water my plants. I needed a way to cool off and my thoughts immediately turned to a recipe I'd been hanging on to for quite some time. Strawberry Pineapple Sorbet. Relatively healthy and icy cold! Perfect!

It turned out icy and refreshing, but I think next time I'll stick with just strawberries. I love pineapple, but I guess when it comes right down to it, I'm a strawberry purist. It definitely looks the part of the perfect summertime dessert. Summertime and strawberries, the perfect combination!

Strawberry Pineapple Sorbet

1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 cups sliced strawberries
1 small can pineapple (drained of juices)
1 pinch salt

Put strawberries in a bowl with sugar. Cover and allow to sit for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Using blender, combine strawberries with their juices, pineapple and the pinch of salt. Puree. Refrigerate mixture for at least 1 hour until puree is chilled. Place in ice-cream maker and follow manufacturers instructions.

**I typed the recipe exactly as Amber posted it. I did things a little differently though. I used frozen strawberries because the price of fresh ones has skyrocketed around here. I let them thaw most of the way then just added them to the blender with the sugar and other ingredients. It didn't need to chill since the berries were partially frozen so I added it straight to the ice-cream maker. 25 minutes later, sorbet!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Fridge is Full of Leftovers!

I'm not a big fan of leftovers normally. I am getting better, but I'm just not a big fan of eating things twice in such a short span of time. I don't care how good it was the first time around, most things are not as delectable reheated.

Of course we keep all our leftovers and thankfully my husband is pretty good about eating them. I try to find ways to use them in new dishes so I can trick myself into thinking I'm eating something different.

Last week the fridge was starting to overflow with random leftovers. I had no idea what to do with them to make them more appealing so I could convince myself to eat them. Thankfully a fellow blogger came to rescue. I was browsing Delish and she had just posted about Crescent Chicken Pockets. They looked really good and I got to thinking about the crescent rolls I had in the fridge and maybe I could combine some of the leftovers to make my own crescent pockets.

Mine were nothing like hers because I let my fridge lead the way and most of my leftovers had a decidedly Mexican theme so I went with it. They turned out pretty good and I can see us employing this technique many times in the future. My husband said that if we had used Italian ingredients they would have been like homemade calzones.

Crescent Pockets

Source: Delish

refried beans
2 leftover grilled chicken strips
3 leftover fried potatoes, with one minced shallot
leftover corn, sauteed with minced garlic, cumin, lime juice and cilantro
wrapped in crescent rolls, sprayed with olive oil
topped with bread crumbs mixed with a little dry ranch dressing mix

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day Dessert, the Semi-Homemade Way

Let me begin by saying that I'm not a huge fan of Sandra Lee and her Semi-Homemade show. Not that she doesn't have lots of good ideas, but with her intricate tablescapes and cocktails galore it's a little too much for me sometimes. My sister and I like to call her show Semi-Sober since she is ALL about the alcohol. ;)

Anyway, I did take a page from her book for my father's day dessert. I volunteered to bring something sweet to my in-laws for their father's day celebration and I wanted to use ingredients I already had on hand since I have already done my grocery shopping for the week. I happened to have a Jello Oreo No Bake Dessert (yes, a dessert in a box) in my pantry. It's really quick, easy and best of all, good!

I wanted to jazz it up a little though, so I decided to make individual frozen oreo cheesecakes. The idea to put them in cupcake liners was on the back of the box, so I can't take credit for that. I liked the idea of smaller portions, especially since my father-in-law is diabetic and he can only eat sweets in small quantities. I also decided to add cream cheese to the filling to make it more of a cheesecake than just a cream. I only added 4 oz. of cream cheese because I honestly wasn't sure how it would turn out.

They were really good with a hint of the tangy cream cheese in the filling. Next time I'll probably add the full 8 oz. to make it more cheesecake-like. But hey, you live and learn. The small portions were a hit and made it an easy to eat dessert. Keeping them frozen also made them easier to eat. Once they start to thaw, you need a fork!

So for father's day I kept it simple and semi-homemade. ;)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Recreating a Masterpiece

Ok, so maybe not a masterpiece but the Fried Macaroni and Cheese at The Cheesecake Factory is my all time favorite appetizer. Talk about the ultimate comfort food! I go there just to order that fried cheesy goodness.

I've had some leftover risotto in my fridge a little over a month now and I've been planning to make risotto cakes by frying the leftovers. Not that I've ever done it before, but that was the suggestion I got when I asked for my fellow bloggers input. I've been waiting for a night when I would be eating alone, since the husband would not be a fan, and when I would have the time and patience to experiment.

Now I realize risotto and macaroni and cheese are not the same thing. But, you've got a starch and lots of cheese so they are pretty close. The real recreation was the sauce. When you order Fried Macaroni and Cheese at The Cheesecake Factory, it comes plated on a tomato cream sauce that perfectly complements the heaviness of the fried pasta and cheese. I knew I wanted a similar sauce with my Fried Risotto.

The sauce came together pretty effortlessly and I must say it tasted pretty darn close to the original. I actually wish I had made more! The risotto cakes were a little harder. I let the risotto defrost most of the way and patted it into cakes. I then dipped each cake into flour, then egg, then seasoned bread crumbs. Easy, right? Wrong! The cakes began to fall apart when I put them in the egg mixture. I then had to re-make the cakes to add them to the bread crumbs but then they fell apart again! So, I ended up with everything kind of mixed together, pressed back into a cake and topped with more breadcrumbs.

They still turned out very tasty, but I'm sure it wasn't supposed to be that hard. So, anyone out there who has a suggestion as to how to keep my cakes together so that inside is just risotto and not a mixture of the breading as well please enlighten me.

All in all, I really enjoyed my recreation of the masterpiece. The sauce was perfect and the cakes weren't bad either. :)

Fried Risotto with Tomato Cream Sauce
Source: Me

Leftover Risotto formed into patties
1 dish of flour
1 dish with 1 large egg, beaten
1 dish with seasoned bread crumbs
olive oil for frying
2 tbsp marinara sauce
2 tbsp Alouette Herb & Cheese Spread
1 tbsp parmesan cheese
pinch of salt

Dip each patty into the flour, then the egg, then the bread crumbs. Add oil to a skillet over medium heat and fry until golden brown. Remove to a plate and prepare sauce.

Add marinara to a pan over medium heat and warm through. Add the Alouette and stir until combined. Add parmesan and pinch of salt.

Place the sauce in the center of a plate and top with risotto cakes. You can top with extra sauce if you have any and/or parmesan cheese.

Alabama is Hot Hot Hot!!!

But my impatients are thriving! As long as they get their daily dose of water. Thank goodness this is the one the flowers I can keep alive. :)

Friday, June 6, 2008

Shrimp Biscuits

I didn't want a real heavy dinner last night (and it was just me since the husband had to work late), so I decided to make little shrimp sandwhiches. I used some garlic crescent roll dough I had in the fridge, but instead of making crescents I put it in a bowl and added some parmesan cheese to it. I then rolled it out and cut it like biscuits. I left it pretty thick because I wanted it to rise enough to have bread and shrimp in every bite!

I made up a marinade for the shrimp and let it sit about 45 minutes. I just cooked mine in a skillet, but they would have been great grilled or broiled too! Unfortunatly I overcooked my shrimp a little, but these were still really good. And I ate the leftovers tonight!

Balsamic Basil Shrimp

1/2 lb. frozen large shrimp peeled, de-veined and thawed

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 tbsp cayenne pepper

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp fresh basil, minced

1 tsp salt

Improv, It’s Not Just for Comics Anymore!

Who said you have to be a comedian to be good at improvisation? Ok, so maybe no one has ever said that, but just go with me here. In the realm of cooking you need to be able to go with the flow and change plans midstream sometimes. This seems to happen to me most in the world of baking; even when the baking is easy and simple…or should be. This probably stems from my lack of education in this department and not always knowing if it is ok to sub some things for others.

A while ago I printed off The Pioneer Woman’s recipe for Apricot Bars. They looked incredible. Well, everything she cooks looks incredible. Her pictures make me want to eat things I don’t even like! For instance, I don’t like apricots. I knew it wouldn’t be hard to substitute strawberries though. I don’t think this is where it went wrong.

It also calls for brown sugar. Now I’m sure brown sugar complements the apricots rather well, like it would apples. But in my experience, I’m not a big fan of it combined with strawberries. So, I decided to use white granulated sugar instead. I don’t know if this caused the problem or not.

The problem is that my bars never really got brown and the didn’t really harden. It came out more like a crisp; tasted great by the way, but that wasn’t the point. I wanted the cute little bars PW came out with. Oh well, maybe I’ll try it again with apple and brown sugar. If anyone has any ideas as to why mine didn’t really work out, let me know. FYI, I followed all the other directions to a “T.” I promise!!
**Update! I revisited my bars the next day and they actually stayed together like bars!! I think I tried to cut and eat them before they had really cooled completely. (I'm not a very patient person...another problem with me and baking) Also, I did them in a 8" square pan like suggested, but next time I think I'll do them in something larger so the bars will be thinner. I think they will stay together better that way.**

Strawberry Bars turned Strawberry Crisp
Original Source: Apricot Bars from The Pioneer Woman

1 ½ cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 ½ cups oats
1 cup packed brown sugar (this would be where I used white granulated sugar)
1 ¾ sticks cold butter, cut into pieces
1 10-12 oz. jar apricot preserves (I used strawberry)

Mix all ingredients except the preserves. Press one half of the mixture into a buttered 8” square baking dish. Spread with the preserves. Sprinkle other half of mixture on top and pat lightly. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until light brown. Let cool completely, then cut into squares.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

I'm it!! ;)

I was tagged for a meme by Celeste at Sugar & Spice! These are always a lot of fun and you get to learn more about the people whose blogs you read regularly. If you haven't checked out Sugar & Spice, you need to do so, if only for her amazing photos of the food she has made. She is an awesome photographer!

The rules:Each player answers the questions about themselves. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

1. What was I doing ten years ago?

10 years ago, I was 16 and it was the summer before my senior year in high school. WOW! I can't believe it is almost time for my 10 year reunion. Now I don't know if I like this meme. It makes me feel old! LOL! I think I was working at a daycare over the summer and probably just hanging out with friends. I'm sure I was very excited to start my last year of high school!

2. What are five (non-work) things on my to-do list for today?
  1. Empty the dishwasher
  2. Wash clothes
  3. Figure out something for dinner tonight
  4. Water the's been 90 degrees or more this week in Alabama! Not fun at 8 months pregnant!!!
  5. Oh yeah, and I'm supposed to be resting before the baby gets here. So I plan to lay down with a good book!

3. Five snacks I enjoy:

  1. Doritos, especially the spicy varieties
  2. Cornflake Clusters (get the recipe here)
  3. Ice Cream Sandwiches
  4. Strawberry smoothies
  5. Cereal (these days the choice is Lucky Charms)

4. Things I would do if I were a billionaire:

  1. Finish my back yard: a pool, landscaping the whole deal!
  2. Finish my basement and garage like we would really like
  3. Buy a condo at the beach
  4. Pave the roads of my subdivision!!
  5. Pay off my house and the houses of family members

5. Places I've lived:

  1. Grayson Valley (Birmingham), AL
  2. Auburn, AL
  3. Southside (downtown Birmingham), AL
  4. Trussville, AL
  5. Odenville, AL

6. Jobs I've had:

  1. Daycare worker
  2. Office Assistant at Land Title Company
  3. March of Dimes - Public Relations Intern
  4. Gymnastics Coach
  5. Public Relations at Land Title Company
  6. Post Closing Assistant at Land Title Company

Here we go! TAG, you're it...

Jen at Look Out Bobby Flay!

Erin at Mommy Meals

Dela at Not Your Mama's Southern Cooking

Patsy at Friends, Family and Food

Emiline at Sugar Plum

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Bacon Cheeseburgers...Sort of

My husband has been wanting "plain" burgers. That means just salt and pepper to flavor the meat. Of course I like a little more flavor action, but he had a rough week last week and I wanted him to have something he would really enjoy. He loves bacon cheeseburgers, so that was the plan...for him anyway. I even made sure we had lettuce and all his favorite condiments so it would be his perfect burger.

I wasn't about to eat a plain old burger when I was at my own house and had the option not to. I decided to make a cilantro chipotle mayonaise to add a little spice. I'm also not a big bread person (I'd rather just have the meat) so I did without a bun and crumbled my bacon on top of the mayonaise. I forgot to add cheese to mine in my hurry to eat, which is odd because usually the cheese is my favorite part. But as has been stated previously, there is not waiting when it comes to food these days. The hunger just takes over!

For the "fries" I did grilled potato wedges basted with garlic olive oil. They turned out really well and the garlic didn't overpower them. I can be a bit heavy handed with seasoning, so I'll have to remember this for when other people come over. I sometimes forget not everyone loves garlic as much as I do. ;) We also had baby dill pickles with our burgers and fries.

Please excuse the ghetto plastic plate. As you can tell it has been microwaved and used quite a bit and has a little wear and tear. It's about the food people. Ignore the plate.

Cilantro Chipotle Mayonaise

2 tbsp mayo
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 chipotle in adobo, minced
1 tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp thai chili paste

Grilled Potato Wedges

4 Idaho potatoes, "baked" in the microwave until tender (about 7 minutes)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, pressed
sea salt
cracked black pepper

Cut the potatoes into wedges. Mix the other ingredients in a small bowl. Place on the grill and baste with the garlic olive oil. After about 5 minutes, turn to the other side. Baste again. After the potatoes are crispy and have slight grill marks, remove from grill and toss with remaining olive oil.

Monday, June 2, 2008

I love learning new tricks!

Yesterday was our Sunday to bring breakfast or snacks to Sunday School. I have been craving blueberries, a fact which was spurred on by Kate and all her blueberry posts. I decided I would make blueberry muffins...from scratch! A first for me, and my first official act as a stay at home mom. ;)

I found this recipe on Patsy's blog: Family, Friends and Food. The title does not lie; Melt-in-Your-Mouth Blueberry Muffins. They are excellent and I had many compliments on them yesterday morning. They really aren't much more complicated than opening the bag of muffin mix that I normally use.

But here is where the title of this blog comes in. I learned a new trick! I love learning the basics of cooking and baking so I can improvise more easily, especially when I do not have the called for ingredients readily on hand and a mad dash to the store is just not happening. In these cases, google can be a girl's best friend.

This recipe called for sour cream. I know I read that originally, but it slipped my mind until I looked it over again Saturday night. I didn't have any sour cream! Google came to my rescue and I found that you can substitue 3/4 cup sour milk plus 1/3 cup butter when a BAKING recipe calls for sour cream. Great! But how do I get sour milk? (or you can use buttermilk but I don't have any of that either!) I just googled that also and found that if you add 1 tbsp lemon juice or white vinegar to 1 cup of milk and let it sit for 10 minutes you have sour milk! So, I used this little trick instead of jumping in the car and going out to get sour cream.

Also, I only had 1 egg and the recipe calls for 2. I did originally have 2 eggs but broke one on accident...long story, not going there right now. ;) I decided to just add a little oil to the one egg and call it a day. Both my substitutions did not seem to harm the outcome of the recipe and I was proud of my ingenuity! I am learning something through all this cooking and food blogging!

Melt-in-Your-Mouth Blueberry Muffins
Originally from: Summer Gatherings, Rick Rodgers

2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 cup full fat sour cream
5 tbsps unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 10 muffin tins with paper liners. I got 18 muffins out of this...well 12 full sized ones and 6 1/2 sized ones...I had too much batter for just 12 muffins. Also, I didn't use liners. I just sprayed the pan with cooking spray.

Sift dry ingredients into a medium bowl. Beat the eggs until combined in another medium bowl, then stir in sour cream and butter. Add to dry ingredients and stir just until moistened. Foldin blueberries. Spoon equal amounts into each muffin tin.

Bake until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. Mine took exactly 21 minutes. :)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

"I'm not eating that."

That is what my husband said when I told him we were having roasted cauliflower with our steaks. He doesn't like cauliflower (in any way, shape or form according to him) and he just flat out wasn't eating it. I love raw cauliflower, but am usually not a fan of the cooked stuff. However, I've seen more than one blog post about how wonderful roasted cauliflower is and I am always looking for new side dishes that don't include corn or potatoes since those are my default sides. I begged him to just taste it and promised I would make him another option in case he was right and didn't like it.

Well, he didn't like it and I wasn't a huge fan either. I think I just don't like mushy cauliflower. When it is cooked, it loses it's bite and the crunch is the best part. I did however like it before I roasted it. Ha! I tasted a few pieces befor putting it in the oven and it was really good. I could have eaten the whole pan just like that as a snack. Maybe next time I'll just do that! It has a good flavor though, so if you liked cooked cauliflower, give it a try.

Oven-Roasted Cauliflower with Garlic, Olive Oil and Lemon Juice

Source: The Recipe Girl My additions/changes in italics

6 cups cauliflower florets (I just used a whole head)

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp sliced garlic (I minced mine)

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp kosher salt (I used sea salt)

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

2 tbsp parmesan cheese

chopped chives, for garnish (I used some dill I had instead)

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Place the cauliflower in a roasting pan (I used a rimmed baking sheet). Drizzle with olive oil and season with garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Toss to coat cauliflower. Place in oven and cook 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with parmesan cheese and garnish with chives. Serve while warm.