Thursday, December 30, 2010

Daisy Doggy Says Merry Christmas!



Sorry about the lack of posts lately. The holiday craziness has left me no time for blogging. Hopefully this weekend I'll get the ball rolling again with a slew of posts featuring Phildelphia Cooking Creme products! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Santa Came Early This Year!

Hooray! My free stuff has finally arrived! As I mentioned previously, I have been selected to participate in a cooking contest using a new product from Kraft - Philadelphia Cooking Creme. My package of creme (4 varieties) arrived yesterday! YAY! So, tonight I begin experimenting with it. I can't wait. My husband and my brother are my taste testers this time around. Talk about some critics! LOL! My husband has to live with me so he is usually very nice when criticizing my cooking, my brother on the other hand - no mercy, LOL! Hopefully the texture of this stuff will be suitable for the uses I have in mind. I was just too tired yesterday to check it out firsthand. So, tomorrow I will be sure to post my first creation. Wait, perhaps I should wait until I submit it to the contest. Eh, nobody reads this anyway, LOL! But to be safe I will post the picture but maybe not the ingredients and method until later. That should work. So, look for some food porn tomorrow!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Another Photoless Post

Sorry folks! But we were so hungry for dinner last night that every last bit got scarfed down before I could even think about taking any pictures! What was it that put us in such a frenzy you ask - Chicken cordon bleu! MMMMM! While I was making Hubby lunch in the morning I realized that I had all of the necessary ingredients on hand so I grabbed some chicken breasts out of the freezer in anticipation of making it later. Husband LOVES this dish so I did not get any objections from him when I asked if that was something he would like for dinner. I was surprised how quickly this whole meal came together, too. Seriously, I prepped, assembled, cooked and ate it in a about an hour. I told you we scarfed it down! LOL! I used a standard recipe I found on allrecipes.com and adjusted it for quantity and ingredients on hand.

Chicken Cordon Bleu
adjusted from allrecipes
http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/chicken-cordon-bleu-ii/Detail.aspx

2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
2 slices Swiss cheese
2 slices ham
1 Cup all-purpose flour
2-3 teaspoon paprika (I didn't really measure, LOL!)
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 cup milk

Butterfly and pound chicken breasts. Place a cheese and ham slice on each breast within 1/2 inch of the edges. Fold the edges of the chicken over the filling, and secure with toothpicks. Mix the flour and paprika in a small bowl, and coat the chicken pieces.
Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat, and cook the chicken until browned on all sides. Add the chicken stock. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear.
Remove the toothpicks, and transfer the breasts to a warm platter. Blend 1-2 Tablespoons of the unused flour-paprika mixture with the milk in a small bowl, and whisk slowly into the skillet. Cook, stirring until thickened. Salt and pepper to taste and pour over the chicken. Serve warm.

I served the chicken with some rice pilaf and sauteed carrots. The entire meal was quite satisfying and really hit the spot!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Fenn Again's Restaurant - A Review

So, Friday night was date night for Hubby and me. We were kind of tired of our usual dinner places so we decided to try a new restaurant nearby that had been receiving fairly decent reviews. The restaurant, located in Hebron, CT, was billed as an Irish Pub called Fenn Again's. When we got there the place was packed and not at all what I was expecting. The room was brightly lit with high ceilings and was very loud. We waited in the bar for about 20 minutes until our table was ready. The bar area was rather small but had plenty of seating and a VERY good selection of beers on tap. After we were seated we looked at the menu and I was surprised to see only 2 items on it that could be considered Irish; Shepherd's Pie and a chicken version called Cottage Pie. The rest of the menu was burgers, sandwiches and hot wings. I have never seen a cheese steak offered as a house favorite in an Irish Pub before, LOL! WTH! OK, the special of the night was corned beef and cabbage to make that three Irish dishes on the menu. There was also a Reuben but, to me, that is not Irish food. No lamb stew made with Guinness, no bangers and mash, no fish and chips. Are you kidding me! I ordered the shepherds pie and hubby ordered the cheese steak. Our meal took nearly an hour to arrive, which was a bit irritating, not to mention that we were seated near the entrance and got hit with a cold draft every time somebody opened the door. When we finally did get our food it was OK. Nothing to rave about but it didn't suck. All in all, the experience wasn't good enough to make us want to come back.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I'Ve Been Selected to Participate!

Boy, did that make me smile when I saw in my inbox this morning. Apparently, because I had participated in a past contest, I was invited to participate in a new contest from Philadelphia Cream Cheese. This time it's for a new product that hasn't hit the stores yet - cooking creme. I am not really sure what it is but what the hell! It's cream cheese so it has to be good. The best part is - I GET FREE STUFF! I love free! Since I made the entry cutoff and will be participating, Kraft will be sending me a container of each of the four flavors of cooking creme to use in the upcoming contest. I already have a pretty good idea of how I am going to use 3 of the 4 flavors (depending on the contest rules, that is). Now, I just need to find the time to test my ideas and make videos of my submissions. I haven't done video stuff in so long I don't remember how to edit them. LOL! It takes about three different programs to download them from the camera, edit them and then convert them to the appropriate file format. I'm going to have to figure all that out again, LOL! Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

One Great Cake!



So, I survived my first Thanksgiving as the hostess. Let's just say I will not be volunteering that duty for a while. Other than my Mother taking her shirt off in the kitchen (not even kidding) it all went pretty smoothly but, man was it exhausting. You cook for two days and in a matter of minutes....It's over. WTF! Most of the stuff I was tasked to prepare was pretty standard; turkey, mashed potatoes, corn, stuffing, gravy, etc. But what really was impressive was my dessert - Praline-Pumpkin Cake. Not only did it look impressive but is was SUPER easy and delicious. The recipe came from the kind folks at Betty Crocker and even though I messed it up a little it still tasted fantastic. The mess up came when halfway through making this my darling husband called in a panic because he had to work late and could not get to Comcast to upgrade our cable box. He absolutely HAD to watch Thanksgiving football on his new TV in HD. So, being the kind devoted wife that I am, I turned everything off in the kitchen and took care of it. This interruption however, resulted in me forgetting to add the cream to the caramel. BUT, what I ended up with was a candied pecan topping on my cakes that was scrumptious! Now, I will have to make this cake again correctly and see which way I like it better!

Praline Pumpkin Cake
http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/praline-pumpkin-cake/2dcc51b5-2706-4ed8-974f-cd1e51b7bf95

1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 box Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® yellow cake mix
1 cup (from 15-oz can) pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 container (1 lb) Betty Crocker® Rich & Creamy cream cheese frosting
Caramel topping, if desired
Additional coarsely chopped pecans, if desired

1. Heat oven to 325°F. In 1-quart heavy saucepan, stir together butter, whipping cream and brown sugar. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, just until butter is melted. Pour into 2 (9- or 8-inch) round cake pans; sprinkle evenly with 3/4 cup pecans.

2. In large bowl, beat cake mix, pumpkin, water, oil, eggs and 1 teaspoon of the pumpkin pie spice with electric mixer on low speed until moistened. Beat 2 minutes on medium speed. Carefully spoon batter over pecan mixture in each pan.

3. Bake 43 to 45 minutes or until cake springs back when touched lightly in center. Cool 5 minutes; remove from pans to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

4. Stir remaining 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice into frosting. To assemble cake, place 1 layer, praline side up, on serving plate. Spread with half of the frosting. Top with second layer, praline side up; spread remaining frosting to edge of layer. Drizzle with caramel topping and additional pecans. Store loosely covered in refrigerator.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sweet Potato Corned Beef Hash



Freaking YUM! So easy to make too! I could not wait to get home from work to make this. All day I sat at my computer with visions of sweet potatoes! I took yesterdays leftover corned beef and trimmed off the icky gobs of fat from it and diced it up into nice chunks. Then I peeled and diced up a sweet potato. Raw sweet potatoes are a pain to chop - kind of like butternut squash! I actually tore a callous off in the process. Husband though that was quite funny - "You cook so much you get callouses! Ha ha ha"! Yeah, he's a laugh riot sometimes. SO ANYWAY - I put the diced potato into a saute pan with a couple of table spoons of olive oil and got that cooking while I sliced up a medium sized red onion. I added the onion to the pan along with some chopped garlic and a little salt and pepper and let it saute, giving it a stir every now and then. I didn't want to move it around too much because I wanted to give everything time to crisp up a bit. When the potatoes were almost done I added the corned beef and continued cooking in same fashion. After a few minutes everything was cooked though and nicely browned. I sat down and feasted on the meal that had been on my mind all day. Life is good!

And for your viewing pleasure, a picture of my Daisy doggie because I'll be darned if she isn't just about the cutest thing EVER!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Corned Beef and Cabbage

Goodness Gracious do I love the stuff! I don't know why I don't make it more often! Probably because it only goes on sale in March, LOL! Every time St. Patrick 's Day rolls around I start trolling the grocery store flyer's for the best price on flat-cut corned beef brisket. Then off I go and buy at least two of the biggest they have in the case. I have to have leftovers for hash! I always make my corned beef in the crockpot and about half way through I throw carrots and potatoes in. Never the cabbage though. In my opinion cabbage should never be boiled unless you are making soup or stuffed cabbage leaves. I like to chop my cabbage and saute it in a pan with butter, garlic and cracked black pepper. After it has wilted a little bit I add a ladle or two full of the corned beef cooking liquid and let it simmer until the liquid cooks away. It's delicious. The cabbage has that corned beef seasoned taste but still retains a little crunch, not much but it certainly isn't wilted, soggy and sad like it would be if boiled away to nothing in the crockpot. I recently came across a recipe that used cabbage but, instead of buying a whole head of cabbage and chopping it yourself, the recipe used bagged coleslaw mix. GENIUS! Yes, it may be a little less economical but so much quicker and easier, especially for me since I am the only one in my house that eats cabbage. I can cook up a single portion for myself and use the rest later in soups, salads, or whatever. No muss, no fuss. I like that!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Dinner for My King!

So yesterday was one of those days where I was inspired to cook. I knew it had to be chicken because we have been eating so much beef lately the mere thought of it had us running away. I knew I had a bunch of good stuff to work with but when I have so many ingredients at my disposal I get a little nervous. It's very easy to have too much of a good thing and sometimes simple really is better. Good thing I have my friend S.S. to bounce ideas off of. If she thought something sounded wack I know damn well she would tell me. My dinner for my king was (drum roll please)......

Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Herbed Goat Cheese and Sun Dried Tomatoes over Pesto Risotto.



For the chicken

I butterflied and pounded two chicken breasts flat. Then in a small bowl I mixed a small roll of herbed goat cheese (I forget the brand but it's a common grocery store variety) with about 6 rough chopped, oil-packed, sun dried tomatoes. I divided the cheese mixture between the two chicken breasts and rolled the breasts up tightly, folding in the tops and bottoms to minimize leakage. Then I wrapped each bundle with 2-3 sheets of thinly sliced prosciutto and secured everything in place with toothpicks. I baked this in a preheated 350 degree oven. I did turn the oven up to 400 for the last 5 minutes of cook time. I cooked it for about a half hour (as long as it too to make the risotto).

For the Risotto

Let me say right off the bat that YES I CHEATED WITH MY RISOTTO! I don't care that it's not "true" risotto. It was freaking delicious.

I heated two cans of chicken broth in a small sauce pan. In a second pan I sauteed 1 cup of arborio rice in butter until the broth was well heated. (I would have added a little white wine but I didn't have any in the house). Once everything was nice and hot I added 1 ladle full of broth to the rice and stirred. I continued to stir and add broth by the ladle full as needed until the rice was just about done. Once the broth was all used up, I felt the rice still need a little more liquid and rather than open another can of broth that I wouldn't use up I added a little half and half instead as well as an ounce or two of cream cheese (cheating, I know). Once the cheese was all melted in I added a handful of grated Parmesan cheese and a generous couple of tablespoons of prepared pesto sauce and mixed it all in. By the time the rice was finished the chicken was too. I served this all with some nondescript green giant boxed veggies and dinner was served. Husband really enjoyed it, especially the rice, which was an accomplishment after my first risotto disaster, LOL!

Monday, November 15, 2010

It ain't me, babe.

No, no, no It ain't me babe. I was not selected to be one of the 25 lucky participants in the Iron Foodie challenge. Sigh. :( I have to admit it does leave me feeling a tad defeated. Granted the competition was stiff but, I can't help but wonder what the selection criteria were. My blog may not be the visually outstanding. I am no computer programming genius and it would be a far stretch to even call myself an amateur but, I do my best to stumble through. My cooking may not be the fanciest or cutting edge but, it's what honest hard working people eat and I pour my heart and soul into creating satisfying dishes that all the picky eaters in my family will enjoy. That is not an easy task, I assure you! I suppose I am just being a bit of a sore loser but still, it's no fun not being allowed to join in the reindeer games. Just ask Rudolph!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Naner Bread

I have used the same banana bread recipe for years and haven't had any complaints with it. Since I got home from work a little early yesterday I tried a new one that I had found online. This recipe had so many great reviews that I had to give it a whirl....soon....while the bananas on my counter were still recognizable as bananas. The recipe seemed pretty standard except for the addition of cream cheese but as I was making it I realized that there were no spices in the bread batter. No cinnamon, no nutmeg, none of the standards. There was cinnamon in the topping but that was it. So, I couldn't help but to add a little cinnamon to the batter, not much but some. All that aside, I have to say this bread was fantastic. The cream cheese definitely added something to the texture of the bread and the streusel topping gave it a nice crunch and almost candied taste. No surprise there though, that's what streusel is supposed to do. My only complaint is that the topping had a tendency to crack and crumble and fall off when slicing the bread. When I make this in the future, and I will make it again, I think I will make it either as mini-loaves or muffins. The texture was certainly soft enough to pass for a muffin. The recipe definitely deserved the accolades it received.

Crispy Cinnamon Streusel Banana Nut Cream Cheese Bread
http://www.food.com/recipe/crispy-cinnamon-streusel-banana-nut-cream-cheese-bread-110299

Ingredients

Bread
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas ( about 4 medium)
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Streusel
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions
Preheat oven to 350º.
Beat butter and cream cheese together with an electric mixer until creamy.
Add sugar, gradually, and beat until light and fluffy.
Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until blended.
Gradually add flour and next three ingredients to butter mixture, beating at low until just blended.
Stir in bananas, pecans, and vanilla.
Spoon batter into 2 greased and floured 8x4 loaf pans.
Batter will be thick.
For streusel: Stir together 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans, 1 tablespoon flour, 1 tablespoon melted butter, and 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon.
Sprinkle mixture evenly over batter in pans.
Bake for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
Bread may be shielded with aluminum foil that last 15 minutes to prevent excessive browning of streusel.
Cool in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes.
Remove from pans and cool 30 more minutes before slicing.
For perfect slices, cut with a serrated or electric knife after cooling.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Welcome Home Dinner Ideas

So hubby has been away on a work trip and I am trying to think of something super special to make him as a welcome home dinner. I am really pulling my hair out over this one for a couple reasons. First - He is coming back mid-week so I will be at work all day, meaning that whatever I make has to be relatively simple and/or quick. Chances are I will only have an hour or two to pull it all together. Second - hubby is a man of simple tastes. Bless his heart. I could slave for hours in the kitchen making something complicated and fussy and he would be just as happy, if not happier, with a large pepperoni pizza from our neighbohood pizza joint. He would never say this and would still be appreciative of my efforts but I would still know. So what is a devoted wife to do??? Make homemade pizza?? That I could do but the dough would take too long. Maybe I could do a no knead dough the night before and leave it in the fridge overnight?? Would that work? Guess I will have to read up. Otherwise maybe roast beef and scalloped potatoes?? Fried chicken? Chicken Parmesan?? Could I pull a sauce together in an hour? I think I could. Meatloaf, although a favorite of his, seem a little too easy. Feel free to chime in with ideas.

UPDATE: I made cubesteaks in the crockpot so that hubby could come home to the smell of dinner cooking in case he got home before me. They were good but not my best. The flavor was there but the steaks ended up being overcooked. Should have set the pot to low and not high. I am still mastering the crockpot.

Friday, November 5, 2010

What's the Deal with Cupcakes?

Seriously! I just don't get it. Am I the only one on the planet who thinks that cupcakes freaking suck? I must be seeing as how there are entire TV shows dedicated to them. When I see cupcakes all I think is elementary school party. Of course, you can't even have those anymore on account of the teachers get blamed for all the fat little kids out there. Therefore, it's their job to monitor what they eat to keep them thin while the administrators cut PE from the cirriculum. (I could go on for days about that shit. It's infuriating) But I digress, I realize the benefits of cupcakes in a party situation; they are pre-portioned and easy to eat in hand BUT cupcakes are tedious to make, a pain to transport, and quite frankly, not all that good when compared to a big ol' slab of cake! Just my preference. I'm not saying I never make them. In fact I have a recipe or two that people like so much that they threaten my life if I dare show up to a party without them. Since they are people I care deeply about, I make them without hesitation but, I'll be honest, it's a pain in the ass and I would rather just make a damn cake. None of that piece meal frosting and decorating. I don't have time for that shit. Sorry! Rant over. I'll step off of my soapbox now and get on with my little life. You can't make me like cupcakes though.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Iron Foodie Challange - I'm in!

Iron Foodie 2010 | Here's Why that will be me:
MarxFoods.com -- Fine Bulk Foods The Foodie BlogRoll


This should be interesting should I be selected to participate. Foodie blog roll is hosting an "Iron Foodie" Competition and I am trying to get selected to participate. Only 25 people will be awarded that opportunity. I think it will be a really cool way to get my creative grey matter working overtime. I love to cook and come up with new and delicious things to serve those I love but I admit, sometimes I feel like I am treading water so to speak. This contest would really get me to think beyond what is expected to come out of my kitchen. I really hope I get to participate. Here is how it works. If selected, I will receive a box with 8 secret ingredients. I am required to use 3 of the 8 ingredients to create a signature dish. The other 5 ingredients are an extra. I am not sure if using more than three equals extra credit but I suppose that will be explained later. To qualify for selection I must answer the following questions:

Why do you want to compete in this challenge?

See above! I want to be challenged creatively in the kitchen to break away from my everyday routine.

Limitations of time/space notwithstanding, whose kitchen would you like to spend the day in & why? Julia Child, Thomas Keller, Ferran Adria, James Beard, Marie-Antoine Careme, or The Swedish Chef?

OMG! The Swedish Chef for sure! Mort, Mort, Mort! I'll even bring my shot gun to help him get the pancakes off of the ceiling. Seriously, I loved the Muppet Show growing up and he was one of my favorite characters. I am not afraid to admit I have Season 2 on DVD and I watch it! Besides, you shouldn't take anything, including cooking, too seriously. You only live once so try to find fun in everything you do.

What morsel are you most likely to swipe from family & friends’ plates when they aren’t looking?

Anything chocolate. Both my parents are chocoholics and so I got a double dose of the chocolate loving gene. Thankfully, my husband isn't a big sweets eater so I usually get to help him finish dessert.

Sum your childhood up in one meal.

Roast Eye Round of Beef with spaetzle and corn. This was my favorite dinner growing up as a child. I have many fond childhood memories of my mother making this and me helping her. I was always in charge of fishing out the spaetzle when it was cooked and stirring the gravy. We always had corn because that was pretty much the only vegetable my mom could get me to eat other than salad, which is funny because now I love most vegetables.

The one mainstream food you can’t stand?
Seafood in general. I just don't like it. The fishy taste, the mushy texture. Blech. I love fishing though. Go figure.


So That's that. Keep your fingers crossed that I get selected! There's a lot of competition and in the end, "there can be only one"! LOL!

Turkey Day Primer and Fun with Leftovers!

My stepson is in town to visit. It's a treat to see him since he lives all the way in Florida. He's entering the service in a week so it is the last time we are going to see him for quite a while. Since he won't be home for the holidays I decided to get all the kids over on Sunday for a Thanksgiving dinner. I already had a turkey breast in the freezer so it seemed almost karmic. We had roast turkey, stuffing, glazed carrots, broccoli casserole, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, and green bean casserole. I think that's everything. It was a lot of food and considering I only have 1 oven rack, I don't feel bad about tooting my own horn for pulling it all together in about three hours! My only criticism, the broccoli was a tad undercooked. Oh, well. Now I'll be sure to get it right for the actual Thanksgiving holiday, LOL!

The following Monday was Hubby's birthday so I used up the leftover corn and mashed potatoes for his birthday porterhouse steak dinner, which we enjoyed with my family despite him being sick. Tuesday he was REALLY sick. So sick that I felt compelled to work at home in case he decided he needed to go to the emergency room or something. My car is in the shop so I wanted to make sure there was a vehicle for him should he need it. Since I was home and he was all doped up on cold medicine I took it upon myself to use up those remaining Sunday leftovers and make something that also is good for a cold. Not being in a soup mood I decided on Turkey stew with dumplings. Here's what I did:

First I put the leftover turkey carcass in a crock pot with a bunch of chicken broth and got that simmering. Several hours later, when it was falling apart, I fished out all of the meat and bones and dumped them into a colander set inside a bowl to cool. While the meat was cooling I sauteed some chopped garlic, celery and onions with some butter in a large stock pot. Once the vegetables had softened I added the liquid from the crock pot. By this time the turkey meat was cool enough to handle so I picked through it and added the meat pieces to the stock pot and let everything simmer. I seasoned the pot with a few sprigs of fresh thyme, rosemary and sage. Then I added the vegetables I had leftover from Sunday. Basically all I had left at this point was green bean casserole and glazed carrots. Both of them went in along with the leftover turkey gravy. Once that heated up. I added a good amount of half and half, turned everything off and went for a jog. Hubby was still out cold and it was too early to go any further. When I got home from jogging Hubby was up and feeling a tad better - not 100% but not worse. A very good sign. I asked if wanted to eat and when I told him what was cooking he was very interested. So I went back into the kitchen and turned the heat back on and got things going again. Before the pot got really hot I spooned out some of the liquid and thickened it with flour. Once the pot started to bubble I poured it in to thicken the stock. I then made a quick dumpling dough using bisquick and milk, which I dropped on top of the stew by the spoonful. Then on went the lid and I let it all simmer for about 15 minutes until the dumplings were cooked through. I purposely used my stockpot with the glass lid so I could see what was going on inside without lifting the lid. As we all know, peeking is a big no-no when it comes to dumplings. The end result was delicious and hubby ate an entire bowl. Hopefully it will help cure his ills!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Why Have I Waited This Long????

To make penne a la vodka, that is. I love this dish and order it frequently when I dine out. If I had known how quick and easy it is to make at home I would be eating it a hell of a lot more often. Maybe it's good that I waited so long because it's pretty calorie laden and I can eat a whole lot of it, LOL! What motivated me to make this was an error in my grocery delivery. My favorite market isn't all that close and lately they have been giving me free delivery so I have been totally taking advantage of that luxury! When I got my delivery this week there was a bag of stuff that wasn't mine. I immediately told the delivery person upon discovery, and quite frankly, she couldn't have given a rats ass. She had me sign my paperwork and took off sans bag. OK. Inside the magic bag of free goodies was a bunch or organic herbs and greens! WOO HOO! There was also two very thickly sliced pieces of prosciutto. I mean THICK! The only thing I could think to use them for was penne a la vodka and since I just happen to have some vodka in the house and some cream, there was no holding me back. Here is what I did.

First I got the pasta cooking in some salted boiling water.

To make the sauce, I chopped some onion and garlic finely using my little food processor and sauteed that in a saucepan with some olive oil. I trimmed and chopped the prosciutto and added that to the pot and kept it all moving until the onions were translucent. Then I added about a 1/4 Cup vodka and let that simmer a bit before adding a can of diced fire roasted tomatoes. I had a few garden tomatoes on the counter that were starting to get funky so I cut off the icky parts, gave them a quick dice and threw them into the pot too. To this I added a ladle full of the pasta water and let it simmer for a bit before hitting it with my immersion blender to smooth it out a bit. After that I added a little Parmesan cheese, basil and oregano and then the cream. I turned the heat off shortly after adding the cream. At this point the pasta was done so I drained it and returned it to the pot and poured the vodka sauce over it. A quick toss to combine and husband and I had ourselves one heck of a dinner!

0 to Dinner in Three Hours!

I know that doesn't sound all that impressive but I thought it was. The menu consisted of the following:

Fried Chicken (boneless breast)
Baked macaroni and cheese
Green bean casserole
glazed carrots



The bulk of the work definitely was the chicken and macaroni and cheese. The green bean casserole was the standard recipe on the side of the fried onion container and the carrots were cooked in butter and then sweetened with brown sugar. Easy Peasy.

For the macaroni and cheese, I adapted my recipe from Delilah's 7 cheese version. I shredded, using my handy food processor, velveeta, mozzarella, fontina, cheddar, smoked gouda (secret ingredient) and asiago cheeses, in whatever proportions looked ok based on what I had on hand. It was a LOT of freaking cheese, trust me on this. I debated adding pepper jack but opted not to this time around. To this I added a mixture of 5 beaten eggs, 2 sticks melted butter and a mixture of heavy cream and 1/2 and 1/2 that probably measured in around 4 Cups. Yeah, this ain't health food folks! Every thing was mixed into a HUGE bowl along with 2 pounds cooked pasta and some salt and pepper until all components were incorporated evenly. I put this in a baking pan and cooked it at 350 for about an hour. I topped it with crushed cheez-its crackers during the last few minutes of baking. I chose to use a disposable pan for this because I only have one oven rack and the pan had to be small enough to share oven space with the green bean casserole but deep enough to hold all that macaroni. It turned out to be a really smart move because it made clean up a hell of a lot easier! BONUS!

For the fried chicken I prepped the chicken breasts the night before and soaked them overnight in buttermilk. When it came time to bread them I seasoned a mixture of cornstarch and flour with salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, celery salt, basil, thyme and oregano. Each chicken piece was dipped in beaten egg, dredged in the seasoned flour and set on a rack to "get gummy" before cooking. Once the rack was full I heated the vegetable oil and deep fried the pieces, returning them to the rack to drain when done. (yes I washed the rack to prevent cross contamination). The resulting chicken was delicious! And as a feather in my cap, I managed to get it all done and on the table in about three hours without completely trashing my kitchen! YAY! With DH helping me, clean up was a snap and we got to spend some time afterwards with our dinner guests. Perfect!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Now I Know Why!



Ladies and gentlemen, I learned something this week! I now know why stuffed cherry peppers are so damn expensive. It has a little to do with the fact that good provolone cheese and prosciutto ain't cheap but more to do with the fact that they are a TOTAL pain in the ass to make. The worst part - coring and seeding. Making these things seemed like a great idea until I had been coring and seeding little tiny peppers for an hour and a half! WTF! But I'll be damned if I don't finish what I start so I pressed on until they were all done.

Once all the peppers were cored and seeded they were quickly rinsed and allowed to drain before going into a plastic bucket of white vinegar. I weighted them down with a plate to ensure they stayed completely covered. The peppers soaked in the vinegar for 24 hours. After the soaking I rinsed them again and allowed them to drain. Then I got a nice block of sharp provolone and cut cubes to fit inside each pepper. Each cheese cube was wrapped with a piece of prosciutto before being shoved into the hollowed out pepper. I used the back of a spoon to tuck in any pieces of prosciutto that were being "resistant", LOL! I ended up with about two and a half quarts of peppers! Once all were stuffed they went into containers and I poured Olive oil over them to cover. Husband was very happy to see these when he got home. So happy in fact that he took them all! It's okay though, I really had made them for him anyway.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fall Dinner



It was a late dinner on account of Husband having a meeting after work and his daughter having class but it was delicious nonetheless and fairly easy to prepare. Last night I made a simple roast stuffed pork loin with roasted carrots and potatoes. I served it with the summer squash casserole I talked about in a previous post. The dishes went together beautifully and allowed for enough short cuts with the use of prepared ingredients that I wasn't completely wiped out making it after a long day at work. First I butterflied a 2-3 pound pork loin. To make extra room for stuffing I used a "V" shaped cut so I could open the loin kind of like a tri-fold pamphlet. I hope that makes sense. I opened the loin up and laid it flat and spread the inside with a generic boxed pork stuffing that I had prepared and added some shredded carrots to. I though about adding some chopped sauteed apples but then decided that was too much work. LOL! Once the stuffing was spread on the loin, I rolled it up jelly-roll style and tied it up with some twine and put it in an oiled roasting pan. Then I rubbed the loin with some oil, salt, garlic powder and rosemary. Then I surrounded the loin with some cubed carrots and red potatoes that I had tossed in the same oil, salt, garlic and rosemary mixture. I baked the whole thing at 350 for about an hour and let it rest another 20 minutes or so before cutting into it. It was delicious!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

VICTORY IS MINE!!!!

I DID IT! I baked bread and it wasn't a total disaster! I started off a little shaky but managed to save my efforts and turn out some pretty darn tasty bread. Woo Hoo! I used the recipe below (Tomato, Basil, & Garlic Filled Pane Bianco) - with a few modifications (some voluntary and some not). I tried to make the recipe in my bread machine initially but then discovered it was more than my little machine could handle, LOL! By the time the kneading process had ended only half the ingredients were mixed. OH CRAP! So, out came the trusty Kitchenaid. The greatest invention EVER! I quickly dumped my half-mixed bread into the bowl, slapped on the bread hook and got back on track. To make matters worse the recipe called for 4 tsp yeast. I had three of those little paper packages of yeast in the cupboard and thought it would be plenty. Then I read the packet - 1/4 tsp in each. DOUBLE CRAP! But then I thought 4 tsp sure did sound like an awful lot of yeast. 1 packet has always been enough yeast for every other bread disaster I have had (LOL). I said, "screw it", and dumped all three in. After about 5 minutes of kneading in the kitchenaid, I turned the dough out. It seemed kind of lumpy but I followed the directions and oiled it, covered it, and put it in a warm place to rise. Rise it did! Beautifully! I formed half into the shape the recipe called for. I filled it with Parmesan,basil and oregano. I had too much going on to pat dry sun-dried tomatoes. Maybe next time. The other half I rolled out onto an oiled pizza pan so that I could make pizza strips like you get in Rhode Island. I let both rise again for about 40 minutes. Then I took the pizza batch and spread it with sauce, sprinkled it with Parmesan and baked it at 350 for a good half hour. When that was done, in went the fancy loaf. Both came out great! Husband, being a Rhode Island native, loved the pizza strips so much I think he fell in love with me all over again! LOL! They really were delicious. They tasted just like the ones you get from Palmieri's! I can't wait to make them again. Oh, and the other loaf tasted good too. LOL! I plan to experiment with fillings in the near future.

ri pizza strips Pictures, Images and Photos

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Scratch that Itch....Maybe????

It's been weeks since I posted that I had the urge to bake something and that urge has yet to be fulfilled. Sigh. I am the first to admit that I am one terrible baker. I lack the patience and finesse required to be a truly good baker. I like to think I make up for it in enthusiasm. I really WANT to be good at it. So today, if I can get home from work early enough, I am going to attempt to make this bread that has been rolling around in my head ever since I first learned of it's existence. Those people over at King Arthur Flour are evil geniuses! LOL!



Tomato, Basil, & Garlic Filled Pane Bianco

The winning recipe from the first-ever National Festival of Breads, this white bread filled with fresh basil, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic powder, and shredded cheese has a wonderful soft texture and is packed with flavor. The unique shape is simple to achieve and makes an impressive presentation. Congratulations and thanks to Dianna Wara of Washington, Illinois, for creating this recipe — it's a winner, for sure!


1/2 cup warm water
1/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 cup warm low-fat milk
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons salt
6 cups King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
1 (8 1/2-ounce) jar oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
3/4 teaspoon granulated garlic or garlic powder
1 1/2 cups shredded Italian blend cheese, divided
2/3 cup chopped fresh basil


Directions
1) Combine the water, sugar, yeast, milk, olive oil, eggs, salt, and flour, and mix and knead - by hand, stand mixer, or bread machine - until you've made a cohesive, soft dough. If you're kneading in a stand mixer, it should take 5 to 7 minutes at second speed, and the dough should barely clean the sides of the bowl, perhaps sticking a bit at the bottom. In a bread machine (or by hand), it should form a smooth ball. Place the dough in a greased bowl, and turn to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double, about 45 minutes.

2) Meanwhile, thoroughly drain the sun-dried tomatoes; lay them on a paper towel to absorb any excess oil. Using kitchen shears, finely chop the tomatoes.

3) Line two baking sheets with parchment. Gently deflate the dough and divide it in half. Roll one piece into a 22" x 8 1/2" rectangle. Sprinkle on half the garlic, cheese, basil, and tomatoes.

4) Starting with one long edge, roll the dough into a log the long way. Pinch the edges to seal.

5) Place the log seam-side down on a baking sheet. Using kitchen shears, start 1/2" from one end and cut the log lengthwise down the center about 1" deep, to within 1/2" of the other end.

6) Keeping the cut side up, form an "S" shape. Tuck both ends under the center of the "S" to form a "figure 8"; pinch the ends together to seal. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double, 45 to 60 minutes. Repeat with the remaining dough.

7) While the loaves are rising, preheat the oven to 350°F.

8) Bake the first loaf for 35 to 40 minutes. Tent the loaf with foil after 15 to 20 minutes to prevent over-browning. Bake the remaining loaf.

9) Remove loaves from their pans; cool on racks. Store any leftovers well-wrapped, at room temperature.

Yield: 2 loaves.

DOES THAT NOT LOOK AND SOUND DIVINE! I hope mine comes out well. Good thing there are step-by-step pictorial instructions on the KA website for me to follow. Fingers crossed everyone! It should go wonderfully with the petite fillets we will be grilling for dinner and I think my DH will enjoy coming home to the smell of freshly baked bread. I know I would!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Summer is OVER!

Yes, and in a big way, too! Ever since October started the days have been damp and dreary and downright depressing! The only positive note in this sad song is it's got me in the mood to make soups and stews. I am in such a mood to make soup, however, I am having a hard time deciding what kind to make! They all sound so good! My poor husband is sick with that nasty stuff I had last week so chicken noodle is definately an option. I even have leftover cutlets in the fridge that I could use. But some tomato soup with mini ravioli in it also sounds enticing. Then there is my favorite autumn sausage stew that I make with cabbage and apple juice in it. RECIPE OVERLOAD! Since we had already planned on cheesesteak sandwiches for dinner I think I am going to go with a simple tomato basil soup to go with it. I am still pretty worn out from the weekend AND the addition of a 12 week old puppy in my life. Best to keep things simple.

Basic Tomato Soup

1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, pressed
2 big cans tomatoes - fire roasted if possible
1 dash celery seed
2/3 cup cream
handful of fresh basil, chopped
1t or so fresh oregano, chopped
S & P to taste

Heat the butter in a large saucepan and sauté the onion and garlic 5 minutes, or until translucent. Add the tomatoes, cream and seasonings. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer for 15 minutes. Add vegetable broth, tomato juice or water if mixture seems too thick. Remove from the heat and puree in batches in a blender. Return the soup to the pot and reheat to a simmer, seasoning to taste with more salt and pepper. Serve with seasoned croutons and/or grated cheese (Parmesan, mozzarella, provolone) or a nice grilled cheese sandwich.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Honey Love!

While I do love my honey, he is not the focus of this particular post. Recently my blog was accepted to the Foodie Blogroll - They like me, they really like me! One of the perks of belonging is that I get to enter for all sorts of give aways and product trials. YAY, Me likes free stuff! This month is a give away featuring Mohawk Valley Trading Company Raw Honey. MMMMM! I am going to try and win me some and if I win make an attempt at making some Greek pastries. My former brother-in-law was married to a Greek girl and her mother would make some of the most delicious pastries I have ever eaten. They had phyllo, almonds and honey and were called some Greek tongue twister that I could never pronounce correctly. I am going to have do a little research in finding the recipe. Once I see the ingredient list I'll know if I am on the right track or not. I have confidence. Wish me luck!


OK, So after a fairly exhaustive internet search for the pastries I am thinking of, I found NOTHING! Zero, Bupkis! But, I did find a recipe for a Greek donut soaked in honey syrup. They looked pretty awesome and I can't wait to try them so let's hope I win me some honey!

LOUKOUMADES
http://www.thegutsygourmet.net/loukomades.html

INGREDIENTS:

1 large cake yeast
2 egg yolks
8 oz. whole milk (lukewarm)
4 oz. water
2 c. cake flour
(approximately)
1 tsp. sugar
pinch of salt
oil for frying
16 oz. jar honey
1 c. water
cinnamon
chopped nuts

Melt yeast cake with a little milk; add eggs, rest of
milk, water, sugar and as much flour as it will take to form a
loose dough. Let mixture rise in a warm place about 1 hour.
Drop spoonfuls of mixture in hot oil and fry until all sides
are golden brown. Remove from oil and place on paper towels to
absorb excess oil. Dilute honey with water and warm in large
pan. Dip loukoumades in honey; remove and roll in chopped
nuts. Sprinkle with cinnamon and serve warm. Excellent for
brunch or as a dessert served with fruit.


Honey

Monday, September 27, 2010

My Apologies

I have been somewhat remiss in my postings of late. But I have a good excuse. I have been sick as a dog the past few days. I mean "somebody shoot me an put me out of my misery" sick! It was a sinus-throat thing and I while I put up a good fight, it kicked my ass! Thank goodness for Amoxycillin! One think I have to have when I am sick is spicy food. It's the only thing I can taste! I made a fantastic batch of enchiladas. Of course I forgot to take a picture. I have to admit to feeling rather silly photographing my dinner. I promise I'll work on getting over that. I will, however, leave you with the recipe when I get a free moment.

Erika's Pork Enchiladas

1 pound leftover roast pork butt or shoulder or leftover pulled pork, trimmed
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic minced
1 Tbs chili powder
1Tbs cumin
3-5 hot peppers, jalapeno, serrano, chipotle, chopped
Generous handful chopped cilantro
1 Tbs oil

Corn tortillas
oil for frying

1 can prepared enchilada sauce
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded

Heat oil in a large pan and saute onions, garlic and pork until onions and garlic are soft. If using roast pork, process mixture in a food processor to get a pulled pork like consistency. Be careful not to make paste. If using pulled pork there is no need to do this. Return mixture to pan and add peppers, chili powder and cumin and continue to saute. Remove from heat and add cilantro. Set aside to cool.

While the filling is cooling prepare the corn tortillas by quickly frying them in a lightly oiled pan to soften.

Pour enough of the enchilada sauce into a 9x13 roasting pan to coat bottom. Place a few Tbs of filling across the tortilla and roll them into tube. Place the filled tortillas in the baking dish. Once dish is full pour the remaining enchilada sauce over the tortillas, top with cheddar cheese and bake at 350 until heated through and cheese is melted. Serve with sliced avocados, sour cream and chopped lettuce and tomatoes.

This recipe works well with chicken and beef as well and you can also add beans. The filling combinations are endless!

Friday, September 17, 2010

I Surrender!

So, after spending all that time yesterday dissing the lowly casserole, I ended up going home and making one, LOL! It was a squash casserole and OMG was it good. Better than it looked for sure, LOL! Now, my burning question is this- is a casserole truely a casserole if there is no meat in it? This came to mind as I was preparing it and the thought stemmed from an episode of Throwdown I saw on the Food Network. It was the macaroni and cheese throwdown that pitted Bobby Flay against Phildalphia's sweetheart, Miss Delilah (She really does make some awesome macaroni and cheese, BTW). On that show Delilah stated that if you put meat into your macaroni and cheese then it is no longer macaroni and cheese, it's a casserole. So, if I don't have meat in my casserole does that make it an au gratin?

Summer Squash Casserole

2 lbs. (about 6 C.) yellow squash or zucchini
1 C. chopped onion
1 can cheddar cheese soup
1 C. sour cream
½ C. butter or margarine (melted)
1 package herb seasoned stuffing (or 4 C. dry stuffing)


In a saute pan cook sliced squash and onions. Combine soup and sour cream. Fold in squash and onions. Combine stuffing mix and butter or margarine. Spread half of this mixture in a 12 x 7 ½ x 2 baking dish. Layer with vegetable mixture and top with remaining stuffing mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until well heated.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Feeling Uninspired

I think it has something with all the cooking I did last weekend between the chili cook off and the cookout at our house the following day. After 3 batches of rice krispie treats, corn chowder, tortellini salad, and a batch of stuffed shells, quite frankly, I don't feel much like cooking lately. The last two days were pizza and chinese take out. I have been on kitchen strike! Although I must admit that I can feel my cooking mojo starting to return. Lately, I have been thinking about casseroles. I have a love/hate thing with casseroles. They are delicious and I love the simplicity of their preparation and clean up but at the same time find them lazy and visually unpleasing. Let's be honest here, most of them look like vomit. That's why you always have to sprinkle a topping on them. But they are quick, easy and relatively inexpensive to make and I can certainly appreciate that. Maybe it's just my inner food snob coming out.
I also have a pork loin in the freezer that has been beckoning me. Since we are having company next week I will be scouring the tomes for the perfect recipe. I think I would like to stuff it with vegetables and cheese. Maybe brie? I have had brie on the brain lately, too. Or perhaps some smoked gouda? Fontina? GAWD, too many choices! One thing is for sure and that's scalloped potatoes to go with it. whatever "it" ends up being. I'll try to remember to take pictures too since I have nothing to show for all of my cooking efforts last weekend. But I will leave you with my corn chowder recipe. It is a relatively thin chowder but you could certainly thicken it with a roux if you wanted to. It was delicious and perfect for a damp and chilly day.

Erika's Corn Chowder

1/2 pound sliced bacon
1 medium onion chopped fine
1 carrot, shredded
2 large stalks celery chopped fine
6 ears corn, roasted in the husk
2-3 potatoes peeled and diced
1 large box chicken broth
1-2 Tbs chicken base (the paste stuff)
1 C cream


Fry bacon until crisp. Reserve fat. Chop bacon and put aside.
Saute onion, carrot and celery in reserved fat until soft.
While vegetables are sauteing cut kernels from corn cobs.
In a large stock pot bring chikcen broth to a boil. Add corn cobs to broth and allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes, scraping any remaining kernel bits from cobs. After about 10 minutes remove and discard cobs.
Add sauted vegetables to stock pot along with corn kernels and diced potatoes and continue simmering.
Add chicken base. Salt to taste.
When potatoes are cooked turn off heat and add cream and chopped bacon to stock pot. Stir.
Taste again for salt and add if necessary.
Serve!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

What the Hell am I going to Make?

I have a serious dilemma here, folks. This weekend is the third anniversary of our non-profit organization (www.bikersagainstanimalcruelty.org). An occasion that we always celebrate with a huge party featuring a chili cook-off. Now, before you all jump up and scream, "Make Chili, Dumbass", you need to know that I plan on riding my motorcycle to the event. That's a 1 hour ride each way. So, no crockpot will be coming with me. I suppose I could quadruple saran wrap some tupperware containers and try to reheat over a bonfire but I just know that shit would just spill all over my saddlebags and be a stinking mess by the time I got there. Besides, there will already be about 10 pots of chili without mine so, really, is anybody going to miss it? I think not. I am thinkng I should bring a dessert. Something that would travel well on the back of a motorcycle. Obviously cakes and pies are OUT. I know everybody there will be wanting me to bring my peanut-butter filled chocolate cupcakes but, again, I am afraid they will be reduced to nothing but a gloppy mess during the ride. Cupcakes + one hour of vibration = mess. Wouldn't you agree? So now I am thinking rice krispie treats or some variation thereof. I have a bag of toasted coconut marshmallows that may work well for something like that. I am thinking if I use them with choloate chips and golden grahams cereal I may end up with something akin to a Samoa cookie or at least a tropical s'more. I mean, it couldn't possibly be BAD, could it? I guess I'll have to give it the old college try and let you know how it turns out.

UPDATE! The toasted coconut marshmallows, when combined with golden grahams cereal and Hershey's mini kisses, made for one heck of a tasty treat. It survived the saddle bags with flying colors, too!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Dinner was AWESOME!

It was so good even husband said I should have taken a picture! Of course, this revelation came about halfway through it, so by then it was too late. We had already happily scarfed down most of my delicious creation. What was this delightful dish you ask? Stuffed London broil! You see, last night was date night for us and I promised to make something special for dinner. I made the stuffing, rolled it, and tied it, and marked it with a "B", and baked it in the oven for hubby and me. 50 minutes at 350. I then wrapped it in foil and let it rest a good 20 minutes before cutting into it. I served it with rice pilaf and steamed broccoli. Husband was practically singing with delight as he ate. That made me so very happy! Hope he saves me some of the leftovers!

Stuffed London Broil

4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
4 ounces thinly sliced salami, cut into 1/4-inch-wide matchsticks
6 chopped, sun dried tomatoes packed in oil
8 ounces Italian Fontina, grated
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 London broil (about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds), trimmed of excess fat, butterflied and tenderized

In a medium bowl, combine the garlic, scallions, parsley, salami, tomatoes, Fontina, Parmigiano, and bread crumbs and mix well. Add 1/4 cup of the olive oil and mix well with your hands or a spoon. Set aside.

Cut ten 15 inch-long pieces of kitchen twine. Open up the butterflied steak, arranged so the grain of the meat is parallel to you. Spread the breadcrumb mixture evenly over the beef, leaving a 1/2-inch border along the side furthest from you; press and gently pack the stuffing mixture onto the beef to keep it in place. Starting from the side nearest to you, roll up the meat like a jelly roll, pressing any stuffing that falls out of the ends back into the roll. Tie the beef tightly with twine, spacing the ties evenly about every 1 1/2 inches. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes in a foil lined roasting pan. Once cooked, wrap the roast in foil and let it rest for a good 10-15 minutes before cutting into it. Cut into rounds to serve

Friday, September 3, 2010

The urge to Bake and eat Burgers

Lately I have been thinking about baking. I don't know why. I am a sucky baker. I hate to measure stuff, I hate getting flour all over everything and I don't even know how to set my oven timer. Yet, I find myself with an almost overwhelming urge to bake something, anything. Perhaps it's because a lot of the other food blogs I have been reading are featuring delicious looking baked goods? Perhaps it's because summer is winding down, the heat has finally broken and it's fathomable to actually turn the oven on. Perhaps it's because I love the smell of baking bread. I don't know. I also find myself CRAVING burgers in a fierce way. The thing is I want a non-traditional burger like a greeen chili burger or a turkey burger with avocados on it and hot sauce. Something along those lines. Maybe I should look into baking some hamburger buns or portuguese rolls to put burgers on. Hmmmm. I just might be onto something here!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My Solution to my Chinese Food Dilemma

So, I have already come clean about my Chinese food addiction and how my body revolts every time I eat it. But my name is Erika and I'm a Chinese foodaholic so I keep eating it anyway. Last night I decided to try my own hand at making it figuring that it would give me more control over what is in it and thus I would not wake up bloated and dehydrated. I have always been intimidated by the prospect of cooking Chinese food. The concept seems so simple - high heat - yet I just never could master it. So, for this I opted for a fairly simpified and Americanized take on Chinese food and it was pretty darn good. I actually adapted the recipe from an Asian style pasta salad recipe and I think it worked out rather nice. I subbed rice noodles for the regular lo mein noodles (i.e. spaghetti) because it was too hot in the kitchen to have water boiling for that long. What I ended up with was a meal that not only made for a delicious hot dinner but would also work well as a cold salad. And, Today I do not feel bloated and cranky! Guess what's for dinner tonight! LOL!



Spicy Asian Style Noodle Dinner

Vinaigrette:
1/2 C. soy sauce
2 t. olive oil
1 t. sesame oil
1 t. crushed red pepper, or to taste (you may want to start with less)
1 t. minced garlic (I used more like a tablespoon. Me likes garlic)
1 t. Sriracha hot sauce (Thai hot chile sauce marked Tuong Ot Sriracha on the label)

Noodles:
salt, to taste
1 (16 oz.) package spaghetti or fettuccine or rice noodles
2 C. shredded napa cabbage
1 C. shredded carrots
1/2 C. diced red pepper
1 C. broccoli florets - blanched
1 C. snow or sugar snap peas
1/2 C. chopped cilantro leaves
2 C. cooked chicken, shrimp or beef (optional)- I cooked the meat, in this case chicken, in some of the vinagrette

For Vinaigrette:
In a bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, olive oil, sesame oil, crushed red pepper, garlic and Sriracha hot sauce. Set aside.

For Noodles:
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling bowl, add salt to taste, then add noodles and stir. While noodles are cooking, prepare the cabbage, carrots, red pepper, cilantro and chicken, shrimp or beef. When noodles are done, drain and immediately pour into a large bowl.

Add vinaigrette, vegetables and meat or fish; stir to combine thoroughly. Serve.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Soup is good food!



Well, it's been a scorcher of a summer here in New England and I have been loving it. This week we were lucky enough to get a much needed break in the summer weather and have been experiencing a few days of classic New England dampness. Overcast skies, wind, rain and humidity. Perfect timing since we really did need the water and because I had some leftover prime rib that I wanted to make into soup. No fucking way I am making soup when it's 90 degrees outside. I saw my opportunity and I took it. I started out with leftover bone-in prime rib roast that I put in the crock pot with some beef stock. I let this simmer over night. I woke up about 2 or 3 AM and turned the pot off so the meat would be cool enough to handle when I really had to get up. Now, I just want everybody to know that I did not set my alarm to do this. I just happened to wake up and thought to do it. I don't set my alarm to make soup. LOL! Anyway, when I got up for real around 6AM, I removed the meat from the pot and seperated out all of the icky fat - BLECH! I then returned the meat to the pot and added a few shakes of worcestershire sauce, chopped garlic, onions, celery and carrots. I also salted the broth to taste. I turned the pot back on and left for work. When I got home I was greeted by the smells of beef - perfect for a damp and gloomy day! I added some tubetini noodles to the pot and proceeded to complete a few household chores. When I was done the pasta was fully cooked and I had myself a nice bowl of homemade soup for dinner. YUM! The weatherman says the hot weather will return tomorrow so I will probably have to freeze the rest but at least I will have it on hand for the next wave of cool weather. YAY!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Chinese Food Haiku

Ate Chinese take out.
Now I'm bloated and cranky.
And I slept like shit.


It may not be profound but damned if it ain't true!

What is it about chinese food that has me by the shorthairs? I LOVE it! Lo mein, fried dumplings, won ton soup, mei fun, sesame beef, curry chicken. There really isn't much on a standard chinese take out menu that I won't eat. I gorge myself on it knowing the price I will pay the following day. This is the typical routine - Spend $20-$25 dollars on take out. Go home and feast on it with hubby. Burp it up for the next two hours. Try to go to bed but not be able to get comfortable because of swollen tummy full of food. Wake up at two AM with tongue stuck to roof of mouth and dying of thirst. Drink 5 glasses of water. Go back to bed and toss and turn. Get up to pee. Finally fall asleep but have weird dreams. Wake up for work tired. Get dressed and find that pants don't fit right and rings are stuck on fingers due to overnight bloating. Go to work tired and depressed about feeling so damn fat. Swear I'm never eating that shit again. Repeat every three weeks.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dining Out

As much as I love to cook, I think I enjoy dining out just as much. Maybe more since I don't have to do the dishes afterwards. That alone is worth the price. Last night DH and I decided to hop on the bike and go out to eat at one of my favorite places, the Lake View restaurant in Coventry. The food is good, the prices are good, the service is good but what really makes this place a stand out for me is the huge deck that overlooks the lake. Last night was the perfect night for dining al fresco and there was no other place I wanted to go. Funny thing is, while there are lots of delicious sounding entrees on the menu I always seem to get the same thing - Grilled Chicken Salad, Buffalo Style with Ranch Dressing. To me, salad always tastes better when somebody else has to make it, LOL! Husband got himself a Chicken Ceasar Wrap with fries. Because we got there before 6 we also enjoyed an order of fried mozzarella for half price. Gotta love happy hour specials! All in all it was a wonderful dinner on the deck with my honey. We even got to feed some of the extra fries to the resident flock of ducks that like to hang around the place. QUACK!

http://www.coventrylakeview.com/index.html



Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!



I love tomatoes. Really, I do but lately they have been taking over my life. Seriously, I am running out of ideas of things to do with them. Every day I go out into my little garden and there are at least four or five more that need to be picked. I have had tomato sandwiches, salad, soup, sauce, salsa, bruschetta......the list goes on and on! It's funny how in the winter all we talk about is how we are looking forward to that first garden fresh tomato sandwich. Now, it's no more tomatoes, PLEASE!



I have to admit though, last night, thanks to all those tomatoes, I made the BEST marinara EVER! I had a pile of tomatoes on the counter that were starting to get funky so I cooked them up. It will be a cold day in hell before I willingly waste food. Basically, I squished them into a pot and boiled them down. Once cooked I ran them through a food mill that I borrowed from my mom. (Thanks Mom!) The result was a very watery tomato sauce. I put that in the fridge for a couple of days while I tried to think of something to do with it. I would have frozen it but my freezers are still jam packed. Since I was feeling particularly lazy yesterday, I decided that we would have pasta for dinner. I figured it would be a perfect way to use up that watery squished tomato stuff that was hanging out in the back of the refrigerator. Rather than make a traditional meat sauce that would require more effort than I was willing to put forth, I poured all of squished tomato stuff into a large pot, brought it to a boil, and cooked the pasta directly in it. My reasoning was that the dried pasta would absorb the excess water and the starch would thicken it up into a nice sauce. For once I was right! YAY Success! While the pasta was cooking I added some salt, chopped garlic and some fresh basil and oregano from the garden. The end product was AWESOME! I ate it until I thought I would burst!



This afternoon I think I will cook up some more tomatoes as the garden is full of ripe ones again. Take that tomatoes! You will never overtake me! HA HA!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Suck it up, Buttercup!

My friend is having surgery on both feet. Whenever any of my friends go under the knife I cook them goodies or I at least stop at the pastry shop and bring them goodies that I couldn't possibly make myself. She doesn't want me to make her anything but you know what, I'm making her something anyway. GOT THAT S.S.! EAT IT OR DIE!!!!!! Usually I make lasagna but since I think she probably makes a better lasagna than me, I'm going to make her shepherds pie because when it comes to anything with gravy, I RULE!!! I have two versions I make - one has corn in it the other with peas and carrots. The latter I make for others mostly since I think peas are kind of gross. She won't tell me which she would rather have. Maybe I'll put all three in there. Take that, woman!

Shepherds pie is the easiest of casseroles and hearty comfort food to me. It freezes well so that a bonus, too. Here is how I make mine:

Brown a pound or so of ground beef with some chopped onions and crushed garlic until everything is cooked. Drain most of the fat - NOT ALL OF IT! Add a tablespoon or so of flour to the remaining fat to make a roux. Add enough beef broth to make a nice gravy and throw in a couple dashes of Worcestershire sauce. Bring everything to a simmer until thickened. I like to add beef base to the stock to make it richer. Pour this on the bottom of a baking dish. Over this make a layer of corn or peas and carrots. I usually buy frozen and defrost. The last layer is mashed potatoes. I use Russets that I peel and boil and I mash them with generous amounts of butter and cream. I also add a good amount of salt. Mashed potatoes need salt. Once it's all put together I wrap it in foil for delivery. An hour at 350 should do the trick and voila hot dinner is served - even to the family of a temporary invalid!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Love/Hate Work Travel

I have to travel for work this week. Not someplace exotic or interesting - Harrisburg, PA. Now, no offense to any of you who think it's the greatest place on earth but when other people in my company are going places like Hawaii, Guam and Key West - Harrisburg kind of loses any luster it may have had, don't you think. What's even worse it that my dear husband can't come with me so I can't even consider it a mini-vacation. Just long, hot, dirty days followed by lonely nights. I haven't even left yet and I am already dreading it. I hope I find a decent place to eat that I can blog about. The "love" part to this is that at least I get out of this darn office for a bit and the weekend should get here quickly. We are headed to the beach for the weekend. CAN'T WAIT! Still I will miss my doggie and my husband terribly while I am away. To prepare for this foray into what, for me, will be Dante's ninth circle of hell I have been cooking up a storm so that husband will have plenty of home cooked vittles to eat while I am away. I made a HUGE pot of homemade red sauce on Saturday which set the stage for the sausage lasagna I made on Sunday. Ever notice that you can't make a little lasagna. This thing has to weigh twenty pounds. Even though there was still 19 pounds of it left in the refigerator, last night I made a Brady Bunch sized meatloaf. In my defense I had to make it. My freezers are jam packed and I had to cook the ground beef before it got yucky. Besides, you can't have too much meatloaf in my opinion. It's kind of like the Thanksgiving Turkey - the best part is the sandwich you make with the leftovers the next day. I strayed from my usual meatloaf mix and this time I mixed the following in with the beef:

1 envelope onion soup mix
ketchup
yellow mustard
relish
cheddar cheese
eggs
breadcrumbs
garlic
half and half

I was going for a cheeseburger thing. After it was all mixed together I shaped it into a loaf, slathered it with ketchup and placed it in a roasting pan. I baked it for about an hour at 350. I was really happy with the taste. I had never put relish in a meatloaf before and, although I only used a little, I think it worked. I'll bet it will make an awesome sandwich today.



Tonight for dinner, we are going to whittle away at that lasagna some more. My tomatoes are ripining like crazy so I'll make a nice caprese salad with fresh basil and mozzarella to go with it. It should make for a nice meal.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Fauxsotto

That's what I think I'm going to call last nights dinner. Don't get me wrong it was delicious but it wasn't "real" risotto and god forbid I even hint that it was or I'll have a full on blitzkrieg by the food Nazis (you know who you are). I kind of ruined the risotto experience at my house. You see the first time I ever made it I totally fucked it up. I accidentally burned the garlic and then I used the wrong wine. If it wasn't for that I think it would have been OK as the texture and creaminess were right but the taste was off - WAY OFF. My husband, who is usually very supportive of my culinary concoctions, said it tasted like "dirty feet". So now I doubt I could convince him to eat it again. So instead of rice I used orzo pasta in this dish and it came out great. First I prepped the veggies. Onions, yellow and green squash from the garden, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes were chopped and sauteed in a red pepper vinaigrette salad dressing. When they were almost done I removed them from the pan and added some butter and the orzo. I sauteed the orzo a little bit before adding chicken stock that I enriched with some bouillon paste (I LOVE bouillon paste). As the liquid was absorbed I added more as needed. Right before it was done I returned the veggies to the pot and added a generous amount of Parmesan cheese and a handful of Italian cheese blend. You know the kind that comes preshredded in a bag for pizza and stuff like that. I turned off the heat and mixed this all together and served it with grilled chicken breasts that had been marinading in the same dressing all day. The result was a delicious summer meal that was relatively easy to prepare and not too heavy. Husband was very happy, so mission dinner accomplished.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Beaches, Bikes and BBQ - What a Weekend!

It was hot, hot, hot but that's what summer is all about! We knew the heat was coming so husband and I had some well laid plans! I escaped to the beach with my sister in law and niece while he took of with his buddies for a motorcycle ride. We all hooked up later in the day at a friends house for a poolside BBQ. Cold beers, hot food off the grill and my favorite loaded baked potato salad! AHHH life is good!

Erika's Loaded Baked Potato Salad.



First and foremost let me say that when I first came up with this recipe I used russet potatoes that I cubed and roasted in the oven with some salt and olive oil. Since it was in the mid- to upper-nineties this week with near 100% humidity there was no way in hell I was turning my oven on to make this. So, this time around I used red skin potatoes that I boiled the day before and let cool in the sink overnight. Either way tastes good to me and is a nice break away from all those mayo based salads.

3 lbs potatoes cubed and roasted or boiled and cubed. However you cook them make sure they are cool before you add the rest of the ingredients
1 generous cup sour cream
6-10 strips of bacon cooked crisp and chopped
3/4 Cup shredded Cheddar Cheese
4-6 green onions, chopped
salt and pepper to taste - don't be shy with the salt!

Mix the sour cream, chopped bacon, cheese, green onion, salt and pepper and gently fold mixture into the cooked potatoes. Adjust seasonings to taste. I find that this recipe usually requires more salt than one would assume. Hey, potatoes need salt. What can I say! Let chill or serve right away.

The following Sunday was still warm but not nearly as oppressive as the day before and since my spearfishing trip with Dad and been canceled due to the threat of thunderstorms, husband and I managed to round up a few friends that weren't too hungover to take a ride and try out a new BBQ joint in the area - Hilltop BBQ.

We were familiar with the location since it was previously a biker bar and were happy to know a BBQ joint was now located so close to our doorstep. But was it any good? You see good, true BBQ is an art form in my opinion. A skill people spend their lives mastering. True BBQ, being more of a southern and western delicacy, is hard to find in New England and GOOD, true BBQ is even harder to find. There have been more BBQ joints popping up in the area lately, and admittedly, I haven't tried many so Sundays lunch was a real treat for me. As far as BBQ in New England goes, Hilltop was good. Not the best BBQ I have ever had but solid nonetheless.

We started with the mesquite chicken quesedilla rolls for an appetizer. They were surprisingly spicy which was a plus in my book because I like it spicy!!! I ordered a brisket and rib combo with cole slaw. The Hilltop offers 2 styles or ribs - Memphis and St. Louis. Both are dry rubbed but only the St Louis are smoked. This being a BBQ joint, I opted for the St. Louis style because in my book BBQ = smoke, accept no substitutes. The ribs were served unsauced with three different sauces offered on the table - another plus in my book. I like to taste the meat and the smoke and quite frankly, good BBQ doesn't need much sauce. The three sauces offered were house, sweet and hot. I preferred the house sauce and found the sweet to be a little too sweet and the hot not hot enough. The house sauce was juuuusst riiiight! The ribs were good, perhaps a bit dry but meaty and flavorful. The brisket, in my opinion, was the real standout of the meal. Moist and tender and full of flavor, I was left wanting more.

As for the sides the coleslaw did not disappoint. It was tangy, not too mayo-ey and not at all bland. The cornbread was also good and had a strong corn flavor without being too dry. The meal also came with a refreshing slice of watermelon, which was an unexpected surprise.



To finish off, instead of the standard moist towelette, we were presented with warm towelettes at the end of the meal. I thought this was a nice touch since these towels were much larger and softer than the standard scratchy square one normally receives. All in all, everyone enjoyed their meal and I do believe we will be visiting again.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I have a camera, Dammit, now why can't I remember to use it?

I really should have taken a picture of last nights dinner. Seriously! By the time I even remembered that I started this blog thing Daisy doggie had already licked every last morsel from the plates and all that was left to photograph were dirty dishes. Sigh!


Daisy Doggie - My pre-rinse cycle and best friend!

Yesterday was one of those days where I knew exactly what I wanted for dinner as soon as I woke up. I love those days. No picking of brains, mine or anyone elses, trying to figure out what will satisfy everyone. Just come home inspired and ready to cook and serve it up. Any complaints get the traditional response - EAT IT OR DIE! LOL! Anyway, we have had a burger and hot dog stretch followed by a chicken and pasta stretch so last night it was pork chop time. Not pork choooops and applesaaauuce though. Just a quick honey-mustard version. I had some very nice thick loin chops defrosted, which I quickly seasoned with salt and pepper. Then I heated some oil in a skillet untill it was nice and hot. The chops went in (make sizzle sound here) and I seared them quickly on both sides. Never skip the sear when preparing loin chops becasue not many things suck more than a dry and tasteless porkchop! Once those juices were sealed in, I added some chicken stock to the pan (more sizzle sounds), a generous tablespoon or so of dijon mustard and another generous tablespoon of honey. I worked that all together and added a couple shakes or garlic powder and parsley. I had intended to use fresh garlic at the beginning but forgot. The garlic powder worked fine though so no harm done. I let that all simmer turning the chops every few minutes until the were firm. By that time the sauce had reduced nicely and we had oursleves the beginnings of one fine meal! I served it with carrots that i simmered in butter with a pinch of sugar (heart attack but so worth it) and a ready made pork stuffing. Hey I work for a living and can't make everything from scratch! The important thing is that husband enjoyed the meal as much as I did and ate every last bit on his plate. I would say that is mission dinner accomplished!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I am so freaking lazy!

Seriously. Sometime I suprise even myself with how lazy I can be. Especially with it being so hot out. I just don't want to move let alone cook something even remotely complicated. Of course, in the winter the same is true because it gets dark so early and I want to go to sleep. Either way I have an excuse! LOL!. I have been craving enchiladas for weeks now. I have the pork in my freezer already cooked and shredded but the idea of frying and rolling tortillas has me reaching for a box of pasta every time. Same goes for tamales. Damn, do I love those things. I even made them once.... ONCE! It took me all day to make them and all of about 30 minutes to devour every last one. I can't just go out and buy them either because here in Connecticut good tamales are few and far between. Besides that, in addition to being a lazy cook, I am also cheap. Why buy tamales when I can make them myself. Um, because it will be a cold day in hell before you motivate yourself to make them, dumbass! So I just accept my enchilada/tamale free day and try to fill the void with a take out egg roll. Another delicacy I am too lazy to make but at least I can get one for a buck on nearly every corner.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Holy Crap it's Hot!

Here in New England we are being inundated with the hottest, stickiest most disgusting weather in years. Even though it's raining today there is no relief. It's like a steam bath out there! YUCK! But on the plus side, this weekend we were treated to a wonderful cookout with DH's family. They have a swimming pool and it was perfect! Now, my mother raised me to believe you never come calling empty handed so my contribution to the event was macaroni salad. Now, I have an arsenal of macaroni salad recipes but since I was not sure how adventurous the party goers were I decided to stick with a traditional version. Here it is.

My Traditional Macaroni Salad

1 pound pasta - whatever shape suits your fancy
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 red bell pepper chopped
1/2 C sour cream
1/2 C mayo
2-3 Tbs chopped parsley
1 Tbs chopped Dill
1/2 Tbs chopped tarragon
1 tsp celery seed
1-2 Tbs cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

OK, So let me say right off the bat that all these measurements are estimated. You see, I hate washing dishes so I only use measuring cups when I feel I have to. I am an eyeball it and wing it kind of person in the kitchen. Anyway, to save time I also use my food processor to do the chopping for me when I make this. It certainly isn't necessary but I like to save time whenever I can.

So, you cook the pasta in heavily salted water until done the way you like it. Drain and rinse with cold water.

In a large mixing bowl add all the other stuff and mix together. Once cooled and drained add the pasta and gently mix until coated. Adjust the seasonings to taste. That's all there is to it.

I'll try to get a picture up when I think of it. I am not in the habitat of photographing my food. I am usually more concerned with eating it, LOL!

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Best Way to Start Summer - Hot Dogs and Mermaids!



So lets catch up on some stuff. A few weeks ago I went to my all time absolute most favorite event to kick off the summer - The Coney Island Mermaid Parade! This annual display of freakish mayem is something I look forward to with giddy delight every year. Of course, while there I had to indulge with an Original Nathan's Hot Dog which I happily scarfed down on the boardwalk. HAPPINESS IS! I prefer mine with sauted onions and peppers. So good! of course such a hot dog for breakfast probably wasn't the best idea since I kind of carried it with me for quite a while - I'm sure this had nothing to do with the raging hangover I was also carrying, LOL! But It was breakfast or nothing since I knew the lines would be outrageous later in the day.



Next we were off to the Freak Bar to indulge in some Coney Island Craft Beers. Let me tell you, on the surface these may seem like a novelty but this is some serious beer folks! Being that the following Sunday was Father's Day, I picked up a sampler 12-pack for my Dad. He LOVED it!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

And I am off.

OK. I need to share something with you right off the bat. I have absolutely no idea what I am doing right now. Seriously. I am from that generation that fell through the computer gap. I mean we had a computer at my high school. I remember it was big and coveted by all of the teachers who let us know, in no uncertain terms, that we would be in deep shit if we even thought about touching it. Computer education was about knowing the difference between a bit and a byte and a nanosecond and a millisecond. We never actually used a computer. They we much too expensive to be trusted in the hands of a bunch of unruly teenagers. So, everything I know about computers I learned in college by watching the younger students who actually knew what they were doing. Cut and Paste feature was quite a revelation, let me tell you! But this old dog learns new tricks all the time so I expect things to start looking more savvy over time. Just how much time remains to be seen.