Monday, July 28, 2014

Peachy Keen

So for some mysterious reason I have been craving peaches lately. Can't tell you why since I have never EVER been a fan of them. Something about that fuzzy skin was always so off-putting for me. This weekend I decided to satisfy my craving now that peach season is in full swing. I found a recipe claiming to be the best peach cobbler I'd ever have- a claim, in hindsight with which I do not agree. Don't get me wrong, it was good, but I found it to be much too sweet for my tastes. The recipe was easy and I had everything I needed on hand but I doubt I would make it again. the recipe says you can use other fruits so maybe something more tart would offset the sweetness of the dessert.  I actually enjoyed eating the peeled and cubed pieces of fruit better than the cobbler itself. But, if you would like to try it here is the recipe.

 Best Cobbler You’ve Ever Had

1 box yellow cake mix (not baked, just the powder)
1/3 cup butter, softened
2  eggs
30 ounces canned peaches, drained (or 4 fresh peaches, peeled and pitted)
8 ounces cream cheese
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Vanilla ice cream

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine cake mix, butter, and 1 egg. Mix ingredients until crumbly. Separate ½ cup of crumble for topping.
  2. Spray a 9x13 glass dish with cooking spray. Press remaining crumble into base of dish.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes. While crust bakes, slice peaches into small, 1 inch pieces.
  4. Beat together cream cheese, sugar, 1 egg, and vanilla until creamy. Layer peaches on top of baked crust. Spread cream cheese mixture on top of peaches.
  5. Top with reserved crumbs and bake for 30 minutes. Allow to cool for 30 additional minutes and serve with vanilla ice cream.

Monday, June 23, 2014

2014 Mermaid Parade

Yep, it's that time again and what a parade it was! The day started with my traditional hot dog from the original Nathan's. I swear hot dogs here just taste better! Skip the mall versions and head to Brooklyn for the original experience. You won't regret it!

I always get mine with their pepper and onion sauce - so delicious. You have to get them right when they open or you wont get within 30 feet of the place. See what i mean:

Anyway, this years costume was a traditional mermaid in blue. It was a mad dash to finish it when my sewing machine decided to shit the bed but with the help of my Mom (Thanks Mom) we managed to pull it together. I think it came out pretty darn good! I am already starting to mull over idea for next year!
After 8 or so years of attending this parade, I finally have it down to a science! There is no WAY you will get near any of the food stands once this thing gets going so you have to pack food if you plan to eat anytime after noon. Since my fellow marcher was a vegetarian, I brought some hummus and whole grain tortilla chips for us to snack on. I also packed some cheese, dried sausages and crackers (for the rest of us) and plenty of water. Sodas were also on hand but were more to keep us awake for the ride home. I also had buffalo chicken salad sandwiches to satisfy the bigger appetites. We used 2 coolers - 1 smaller one for our food that stayed at the car and need to be kept cold and one with wheels to bring with us as we marched that had plenty of water and our bribes for the judges (Wine, Rum, coke, cups and ice). Marching generated quite an appetite and having those snacks waiting for us at the end made us very happy!

Erika's Roasted Red Pepper and Garlic Hummus

1 can chick peas, drained
1 large roasted red pepper (I used jarred)
1-2 cloves garlic (or garlic scapes if you have them, roasted garlic works too)
1 Tbs tahini paste
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp salt
Olive oil

Dump everything but the oil into a food processor. Turn on processor and slowly pour oil through the feed tube until desired consistency. Adjust salt to taste. Enjoy!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Happy Fathers Day

Happy Fathers Day to all and I hope you all got to spend it with family. We had a lovely cookout and put that grill to good use. I still can't believe how good everything that we cook on it turns out! This time it was the zucchini that really was the favorite (aside from hubbys awesome burgers). It is the simplest recipe ever and is just delicious! Enjoy!

Erika's Grilled Zucchini

3-4 zucchini, cut into thick sticks
3-4 Tbs Olive oil
1-2 Tbs white wine vinegar
1-2 Tbs garlic powder
1/2 tbs seasoned salt

Throw all of the ingredients into a zip lock bag and massage so that all of the zucchini is evenly coated. let sit for at leash one hour, Grill on medium heat until cooked. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Product Review - Saber Cast 500 Grill

So, I decided to surprise the hubs this year with a new grill for Father's Day. I had to do it early though because he was already talking about getting a new one and I didn't want him to beat me to it. A few years back I bought him what I thought was a fairly decent grill for Father's Day. Turns out it was a piece of shit! The entire interior of the thing rotted to pieces in about 4 seasons. Now, mind you, we keep the grill under a carport so it was never exposed to rain or snow and we don't go catering pig roasts either. Just normal summer use and it fell apart THAT fast. We looked into replacement parts, but to use anything of quality added up to more than what I paid for the damn thing new (F-U Home Depot!)! So, I decided to embark upon a quest to find a grill worth investing in. I decided on the SABER Cast 500. I spent more than the average person probably would but I wanted something that would last. I have to tell you I LOVE THIS GRILL!! Now Saber is actually made by Char-Broil but is a higher end product line. I have had good grill performance with Char-Broil in the past so I had faith in the brand. They did not let me down.  You can tell immediately that this grill is different when you lift the lid - it is HEAVY! The grill itself has a 10 year warranty and their customer service is top notch (I had some issues with the temperature gauges - I think they needed to break in a bit because they seem to be working fine now but SABER sent me a new set with no questions asked). But the burning question is, "How does it cook?". FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC!!!! Even heat within each cooking zone and no flare ups - NONE! I haven't yet put it through all the paces but we have done burgers, hot dogs, steaks and veggies and they all came out great. You can cook actually cook with 2 different temperatures AT THE SAME TIME. I have no plans on even using my stove or oven for the rest of the summer.

Oh, and since nobody actually reads this blog, nobody paid me for this review. It's all me, folks.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Food for the Masses

This past weekend was one of my husbands motorcycle events - a progressive dinner ride. Basically, they ride to various clubhouses and have snacks and appetizers at each spot until they get to the last stop where a steak dinner is served. This is the second time they have held this event so I already have my contribution down - chicken salad sandwiches. When I made these the first time it was because I wanted something fairly cheap that didn't require a ton of work to make in large amounts. Turns out they were a HUGE hit - didn't expect that at all! My SIL makes steak and cheese egg rolls - the thought of all the prep makes my head ache! For this latest event I made about 10 pounds of chicken salad (Thank the heavens for truckload meat sales, food processors and stand mixers) and about 75 sandwiches. There was about a quart of chicken salad left over that my husband has been happily eating for lunch all week. Here's how it came together:

Chicken Salad for a Crowd

10 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 30 oz container of Mayonnaise
1 large sweet onion
2/3 bunch of celery
1/2 Cup brown sugar
2 Tbs salt (or to taste)
1/2 Tbs black pepper (or to taste)

Place chicken in a VERY large pot and cover with water. Boil chicken breasts on high heat until cooked through. Turn off heat and let cool in water overnight. When cool, remove any remaining fate, cartilage or otherwise icky stuff from the breasts (if should come off easily now), cut breasts into thirds and shred in a stand mixer using a paddle attachment - work in batches. Place shredded chicken in a very large mixing bowl. (Save poaching liquid - it is now chicken stock)

In a food processor finely chop onion and celery. Add to shredded chicken along with remaining ingredients. Stir to incorporate. If mixture seems stiff or dry add about a half cup of reserved chicken stock to loosen or more mayo - or both! Adjust seasonings to taste. Let sit overnight to meld flavors.

As a rule I always serve these on Kings Hawaiian rolls. They just make it all taste better. I use the mini sub rolls because they are already split. I just cut them in half for perfectly sized appetizer sandwiches and top with a little lettuce for crunch. That's all there is to it!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

2 National Championships and a Recipe

Way to go UCONN!

Ok, enough of that.

As promised I have the recipe for my stuffed shells experiment. I found that these tasted better the second day. I am not sure if it was because I was just more hungry or because that is the way some things are. Anyway, I am happy to report these came out super yummy and are sure to please any of the ranch fans in your life. I do have picture too! Woo Hoo! However, my computer is being a jerk at the moment so I will have to add them in later. Hope you try them and like them as much as the Hubs and I did.

Chicken, Bacon, and Ranch Stuffed Shells

1 box Jumbo Shells
Shredded Mozzarella and Cheddar Cheese for topping

Filling Ingredients
1 large boneless skinless chicken breast (we get these mutant things at out local butcher that are almost 1lb a piece, so if using smaller breasts you want about that much)
1/2 lb bacon
1 small container ricotta cheese
1 Cup shredded Mozzarella
1/2 Cup shredded Cheddar
1/4 Cup Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 envelopes Ranch dip/dressing mix

Sauce Ingredients
2 cups milk or 1/2 and 1/2 (or a combination of the 2)
8 oz (half a block) cream cheese, cubed
1/2 Cup Parmesan cheese
S & P to taste

Cook bacon using preferred method until crisp and set aside to cool (I used oven so I could make the filling at the same time). Once cooled chop fine.

Boil chicken breast in a large pot of water until cooked through. Place in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment to shred meat (not burned fingers, yay). Add shells to now empty pot of boiling water and cook until al dente. drain.

A remaining filling ingredients to chicken and mix to incorporate evenly. At this point I would suggest tasting the filling to make sure it is "ranchy" enough for you. If not, you can add more of the mix until you get to a place that you like. Stuff filling into shells

For the Sauce - Mix ingredients in a sauce pan over low heat and whisk until smooth. Adjust cream/ milk or cream cheese to achieve desired consistency. Note: Sauce will tighten up upon cooling.

Place a small amount of sauce on the bottom of a baking dish. Add stuffed shells.

Pour remaining sauce over shells. Top with additional mozzarella and cheddar cheese.

Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Having Some Fun!

So continuing on my stuffed shell explorations, tonights experiment will be chicken, bacon and ranch stuffed shells. The key will be to get them just ranchy enough without going overboard. It will either be a glorious triumph or and epic failure. Stay tuned to find out which!