|I managed to get out of this house yesterday. It was probably a not so smart thing to do, but my back was starting to really kill me from all the laying and half-sitting with my feet up for close to 10 days straight. My friend Mindy and I were talking about taking a small shopping trip and we had scheduled it for yesterday. I had cancelled it the Friday before.. but ended up calling her Saturday night to see if she still had the day open. Thank gawd she did. Although I paid for it last night (I was miserable) I think I would have went insane had I spent one more day in this house. Today I am going to work, whether I feel like it or not (and no, I do not feel like it - at all), as we have not won the lottery (news flash!) and the bills are piling up due to my taking a week off, unpaid.|
Unfortunately (fortunately?) there was no way I was going to be able to do much walking without trying to ease the pain first, so since I wasn't driving, I took my pain meds before I went. Advice? Don't go shopping on a Sunday during the hours that local churches let out. If you must go at these times, DO NOT attempt this while higher than a kite.
Mindy loves the Trader Joe's, which shocked me, as I had never heard of it before starting to read these food blogs. So hearing a close friend who I've known for many, many years say she loves it, well, I was kinda blown away. How did she know about it all these years and I didn't? hehe Some of you might remember, Hubbs and I took a trip there a few months ago and I wasn't really all that impressed at all. I kinda chalked it up to the possibility that our local Trader Joe's was pretty small with not that great of a selection of things not found in my regular grocery store. But after Mindy talked it up so much I thought maybe it was because we pretty much breezed in and out and I didn't look hard enough.. so I agreed to go.
Eh? Same opinion for me. She's been going for a while, so she's tried more Trader Joe brand products and she knows what's good and what's not. I ended up only purchasing a few items (honey, a block of some cheese I'd never heard of, gelato and a locally grown organic sour cream). Thankfully she had a long list of items she needed because it took me close to an hour to decide on those 4 items while living the highly hazy life of a pseudo-crack addict. The only thing I tried last night was the gelato and lemme tell you this.. I am kicking myself in the ass for choosing Trader Joe brand for my first taste of gelato. What a fool I am. This stuff was not creamy in the least and tasted more like ice milk. I know right now my tasters are way off due to the drugs I'm on and I haven't ate much of anything in 10 days because nothing at all sounds good, but seriously.. I doubt using my illness as an excuse is the true reason why it tasted like crap. blechhh.
We still had some time to kill so I asked her if she wanted to witness the glory of Miles Farm Market and she did. So off we went. Now get this. Miles wasn't even fun to me. I was too disoriented to make a list in my mind of what I'd like to purchase, let alone battle all the little old ladies and little old men. They were pushing me! I about put one lil old man in a head lock but I couldn't figure out how to get my arm back around his neck as the thought was so fleeting.. you see, before I could figure out how to do some serious damage to this 90 year old devil-man, I had spotted olives. Oh! Olives! So I went to the olive table and then stood there because I was bedazzled at the selection. Kids? Their selection is pretty damn good, but I've never had a problem figuring out how to spoon a few of each variety into a lil plastic tub before.
The rest of the time spent there was pretty much the same thing. I did find out, however, that my most favorite Italian bread is only made seeded there and I can no longer have seeds. Again, if I could think straight I should have still bought a couple loaves (I don't get out there that often) and just pulled the seeded top off of the slices. I'm such a loon. I purchased a few fruits/vegetables and a bar of Sharffen Berger Mocha chocolate. That was it for me.. oh, and the olives that Mindy helped me find a lid for and placed in our cart.
You'd think this would be enough of an adventure for this high lil dork, but noooo.. on the way home she asked me where it was that I got my good italian meats and I squealed "Alesci's"! and then I wouldn't shut up about their proscuitto - so she took me there as well. I kinda stood near the walls while she investigated the store. I got my ham and a loaf of their "so-so" italian and then said to her that I really thought it would be wise for me to get my ass home. hehe
Hubbs was still packing up the truck for his trip to Arkansas and I did my best to act upset that he was leaving, but in all honesty? All I could focus on was a hot bath and napping. Poor guy. I'm so grateful he understood the state I was in and didn't take it personally. Because I am truly upset he's gone again.
Did someone mention a hot bath? To not repeat yesterday's haze, I've decided to not take pain meds today so I can be semi-productive at work. A hot bath seems to be the only other temporary fix. So without further ado.. Calgon! Take me away!
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Monday, July 31, 2006
Friday, July 28, 2006
|Hi kids! I have missed this lil blog of mine :(|
Really quick.. just so's ya know I'm still alive. I have 3 bleeding cysts on my ovaries and an infection caused by diverticulitis. Talk about winning the pain lottery! Wooo.
Hopped up on major pain pills and antibiotics. Still in a lot of pain and I can't sit straight up in a chair for long - nor can I walk, stand or play in my kitchen *sob*
Anyhoo.. another couple days and the antibiotics should kick in to fight the infection and well.. there's nothing much I can do about the cysts right now other than have them monitored.
I am getting a lil time visiting my favorite foodies and have been loving what you've all been up to!
Monday, July 24, 2006
Honey Ginger Salmon with Risotto
The story of a drunken fat-ass chicken...
|As I've said before.. Wayne is pretty good in the kitchen. He rarely follows a recipe and just throws things in a pot that usually ends up quite tasty. But when it comes to something he's not familiar with he get's a little hmm.. how shall I say? Uptight? Yes.. uptight. Like all of us, he wants his new creation to turn out beautifully but when chartering unfamiliar waters he fusses over every detail and over thinks each step. If I hadn't been in that situation a few times myself, I would think he's going nuts.. but instead I try to be as understanding and helpful as I can, until he leaves me and then I quietly giggle behind his back. I'm so not nice, am I? ;)|
So as I was stuck in bed on Saturday, he was out on his sofa watching some show on Food TV that featured a chicken, with a beer can shoved up it's heiney, being grilled. Grilled? Beer? Poultry? I'm sure he could barely control himself while watching. Kinda sorry I missed his reaction. When I did venture out to see that the world still existed, and by that I mean I needed coffee, he hopped off the sofa and announced that he was going to grill chicken for dinner! Ta-da! Having not known what he had just witnessed, I was like.. "okay.. good for you, honey" and kind of looked at him strangely. He's never gotten excited over grilled chicken before, so I didn't get what got his britches in such a bunch? I propped myself up on my loveseat (yes, we have designated living room furniture) duly putting my feet up on all the throw pillows (that info is for my doc if she's reading - and I know she is.. right along with Val Kilmer and Tyler Florence) and listened to him go on and on about this fabulous beer can chicken. I was a bit alarmed as part of the story was about how the chef drank half a can of beer and then proceeded to cut the top of the can off. So I'm picturing in my mind's eye, Hubbs guzzling half that beer down (wasn't such a hard image to conjure up) and then trying to saw off the top with a circular saw.. there was blood, lots of blood and foamy beer everywhere. *shudder*
After hearing his story and making him promise to not cut the top of the can off and to poke an extra hole or two in the top instead, I encouraged him to grill his lil heart out. His first duty was to run up to the store to buy a chicken and down the hallway he went (I think he actually skipped down the hallway) to our bedroom to get dressed. Once presentable and with a quick kiss on my cheek he was off. Fifteen minutes later he was back and carrying FIVE bags of supplies and a case of beer. That would be F.I.V.E. (5) bags (I wasn't shocked over the need to purchase a case of beer for one can shoved up the poultry's bum). I watched him unpack a very large chicken (big enough to feed a huge family), lighter fluid, a bag of charcoal, apple juice?, potatoes, several heads of garlic and two bottles of Hershey's Chocolate Shake chocolate milk for me (squeeee!). He so knows what meds to buy me when I'm ill. =)
I snagged the milk from his hands, kissed him and went back to bed.
Over the next two hours, he came into the bedroom with various comments and questions about how to season the chicken, what temperature the grill should be at, what to do with the gizzards and neckbone, should he be basting?, how will he know when the chicken is done? What temperature was that again, honey? Where do I stick the thermometer? Just wanted to let you know it's looking good and smelling great!, Shouldn't the skin be getting brown by now? So I sent him back outside with the camera and told him to take me a picture so I could see how it looked...
This was after two hours.. it looked pretty sad to me and I couldn't help but to laugh. He's got one of those smoker things that can be used as a grill and a steamer as well.. here I thought he was using either our propane grill (that can also be used with charcoal) or the grill we take camping. Unfortunately, the smoker grill thingie just doesn't get hot enough for huge items to cook thoroughly (unless, of course you are smoking it for hours and hours and hours) when grilling. So that bird, which normally would have taken two hours tops, still had a good two hours or so to go. I thought he was going to faint when I mentioned that lil tidbit to him. So I told him it might be a good idea to preheat our oven and bake the chicken there. If he were to put the racks on the bottom there would be plenty of room for the chicken to still stand up on it's can. (no pun intended)
I could tell when he brought the chicken in as the smell of smoke wafted back to our bedroom. I about died. He, obviously, forgot to take the old chips out of the smoker before putting the charcoal in. Gah. A little background here.. he bought a bag of wood chips a few weeks ago - a type he'd never cooked with before and I couldn't tell ya what the hell kind they were - to smoke a pork roast and some ribs. Whatever the hell type they were, they totally ruined the roast and ribs.. the taste was putrid and we still marvel at how we managed to even try the meat because getting a piece of it past our noses was amazing in itself. I waited to hear the oven door shut before I called him back to the bedroom and reminded him of the stanky and putrid pork. He said he took most of the chips out, he just left a few in.. well a few was a few too many. Can you see where this is going?
Forty five minutes later, we had a beautifully browned chicken.. cooked to perfection. He took it out and let it rest. After five minutes we were both gagging. The smell was atrocious. We had hoped that because he had taken out most of the evil chips, that maybe just the skin would have that putrid taste and the meat would be fine. But noooooooo.. we were wrong. The whole fakkin thing tasted exactly like the pork of a few weeks ago. We had tears streaming down our faces.. because of the smell and the way we were both manically laughing. Three hours of cooking one chicken and some potatoes and none of it was edible. It looked fantastic.. but.. Gah.
"Hello, Donatos? Yes, we'd like to order a large pizza..."
Sunday, July 23, 2006
I never thought I'd say I was sick of my bed..
|I've been stuck in bed with my feet up and a heating pad on my tummy for the past few days. Yes, I am NOT following doctor's orders and I am sitting at my PC right this minute. But lemme just tell you. A sentence of being imprisoned in bed for even 24 hours is way toooo hard to deal with. 72 hours and I'm going absolutely batshit crazy. I can not read another book, I can not talk on the phone for another minute. I will poke someone's eye out with my number 2 pencil if I am forced to do yet another puzzle. So I walk across the hallway to the office and sit with my feet up on the couch and play a lil online canasta, check my e-mail and do a lil surfing.. which brings me to this post. I found an incredibly funny and (for me) completely wonderous fairly new blog. It's not even a foodie blog.. it's a personal blog written by a gal who is originally from Texas but now lives in Naples, Italy. She did not deny her dream. She had visited Italy a few times and fell in love with it and knew she had to live there. So she upped and moved. Her journal describes what life in Italy is like compared to life in the states. She's fantastically funny and has a great gift in describing what she's feeling, seeing, tasting or doing. Oh.. and she takes pictures so you can see some of the beauty that she is seeing. Did I mention that a lot of those pictures include her boyfriend, Gennaro? Okay well, I don't speak Italian, but Gennaro must mean, "George Clooney clone" in Italian. *swoon*|
If you'd like some funny, make you feel all melty/gooey, good reading.. check out Tracie and her adventures in Naples at My Life Italian. My recommendation is starting from her first post back in January and reading through the whole blog. The last month or so is sparsely posted as she found a job and life took over her blogging time.. but up until then, it's a great read. =)
Okay back to me now!! *cheesy grin* I haven't cooked, due to my prison sentence, but Hubbs made a "beer can chicken" yesterday. I'm happy to say it was a complete disaster. (Only because of the giggling and fun making we both got caught up in during the process of making this chicken he had to try and then in the less than fantastic results while eating said chicken.) I'll post about it another time when I can sit longer.
Also, I don't mean to be mysterious about what ails me.. I, apparently, over exerted myself while helping Hubbs bend some metal at work on Thursday.. I guess there are some abdominal muscles, that are easily aggravated since the hysterectomy, that I shouldn't f*ck with. As if I knew I was using these muscles?? And I pulled something.. or rubbed something the wrong way.. I dunno.. doc wasn't toooo concerned, but because of severe cramping and a couple other icky factors, she's sentenced me to bed rest. Some of the icky factors are going away but the cramping is still excruciating, so even though I'm a horrible patient (always have been, always will be) and am being naughty by sitting at my PC, I shouldn't stay here long.. so I'm off! Back to bed. Gah.
Friday, July 21, 2006
Stuffed Peppers ala Hubbs
|When we saw that the bell peppers were really taking off in our garden, I mentioned to Hubbs that stuffed peppers sounded so good. That was a week or so ago. Yesterday, when I got home from the dungeon, what did I see?? 8 beautifully stuffed peppers sitting in a baking dish ready to go into the oven! I couldn't believe my eyes.. dinner - done! (almost) And I didn't have to lift a finger! Don't get me wrong, Hubbs treats me well.. but dinner being made for me in the summer was truly a treat and completely shocking. heheee He does cook, actually stuffed peppers is one of his specialties, but never in the summer. Well, I thanked my lucky star (and him!) and relaxed the rest of the evening. I'm totally hooked on Rescue Me. Anyone watch that show? Denis Leary and an equally hysterical cast in a show about New York Firemen. I've wanted to watch it since it first came on a few seasons ago, but never managed to remember what night it was aired. So I've been renting the complete past seasons on DVD and catching up so I can watch this season repeated this fall. It is an excellent show. Rather raunchy (which I love) and very addicting. Thank gawd for Blockbuster.|
Anyhoo.. while peppers baked, I started to watch the first disk of season 2 while lounging on the loveseat. After work.. on a week day.. I thought I had died and went to heaven! heheee
When the peppers were done, we took them outside and ate on the deck. They were fabulous. The peppers were tender and you could really taste the difference between these peppers and peppers bought from the store. Nothing like veggies right from the garden. We had garlic bread and a salad of fresh cucumbers from the garden, as well. Yum! The stuffing was made up of part ground round and part pork sausage with sage. He then added a few more ingredients, covered them with the last of my marinara and additional tomato sauce and voila.. stuffed peppers. =)
1/2 lb. ground round
1/2 lb. pork sausage seasoned with sage
1 med. onion, diced fine
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4-1/3 c. Minute Rice, uncooked
3 to 4 C. your favorite marinara sauce or seasoned tomato sauce
Salt & Pepper to taste
8 bell peppers (Ours were kinda of long and narrow - so if you use bigger peppers, probably only 6)
Preheat oven to 350º F.
In a large bowl, combine meats, onion, garlic, rice and S&P well with your hands. Slice the tops of the peppers off, reserving them, and clean the inside of the peppers free of membrane and seeds. Stuff meat mixture evenly in peppers and slap the tops back on. Place a layer of tomato sauce or your favorite marinara in a 9 x 13 x 2 inch Pyrex baking dish and then add the stuffed peppers. If they won't stand up straight you can either cut off a bit of the bottoms to steady them or simply cook them on their sides. Top off peppers with more tomato sauce/marinara and cover loosely with foil.
Bake 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the peppers are fork tender and the filling is cooked through.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
|The last recipe I tried from my new Cooking Light's Annual Recipes 2006 cookbook was Steak Diane. I'd heard of this sauce before but have never tried, so I'm not sure if Cooking Light's version holds a candle to the real thing or not.. but we found it to be wonderful. It added just the right zing to the tenderloin steaks that I grilled Sunday night. Let's not forget.. I wasn't in the greatest shape Sunday after the gigglefest of the night before and had no energy to make anything even remotely complicated. This sauce came together in a jif, thankfully.|
So the verdict is in.. although I'm still not thrilled with the disorganization of this book - I made 5 recipes and each one was fantastic. Hubbs was very happy with the results as well, so I'll be keeping this book. I might even subscribe to the magazine, who knows? =)
1 tsp. butter
1/2 c. finely chopped shallots
1/3 c. water
2 TBS. Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 TBS. fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 TBS. dry sherry
1/4 tsp. salt
2 TBS. chopped fresh parsley
2 steaks of your choice - I went with 2 6 oz. tenderloin steaks.
seasoning of your choice - Recipe suggested salt & pepper, I went with garlic salt & pepper.
Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Season the steaks and add them to the pan (or grill them on the grill, as I did), cook 4 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Remove from pan, cover and keep warm.
Melt the butter over medium heat. Add shallots and cook 2 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add water and next 3 ingredients, stirring with a whisk. Reduce heat and simmer 1 minute. Stir in 1/4 tsp. salt. Spoon sauce over steaks and sprinkle with parsley.
*Note: The yield on this sauce is 6 servings (serving size 1 1/2 TBS. sauce). I did cook the sauce a little longer than called for so mine reduced a bit - but even so, there is just no way this recipe will yield 9 TBS. of sauce. So if you are cooking more than 2 steaks, double (at least!) the recipe.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Winging the Paella
|Somehow I managed to make us all dinner Saturday night. I had help from my girlie girls and none of us managed to chop the tips of our fingers off. Bonus! I put Cindy on sausage patrol, while I took care of the onions, garlic and peppers. Mindy took care of dishes and hubbs sat on the deck taking care of his Miller Highlife. Mmm hmm.|
Like I said earlier, I checked out my favorite go-to sites for recipes and found a few interesting recipes for Paella. None had the exact ingredients I wanted to use, but that wasn't a big deal. What I learned from the combination of all the recipes I looked at was that Paella is just a big rice/seafood stew that isn't hard at all to make. I was relieved. I really wanted to Wow! the guestifriends, but I didn't want an asspain in the process, yanno?
So in a nutshell (kinda) here's what I did. I started off sauteing diced onions, minced garlic, diced red pepper and spanish paprika in a lil olive oil. I had Cindy slice keilbasa and Andouille sausages and brown them. While she was doing that and my veggies were sauteing, I made the rice using chicken stock and saffron.
Once all the components were cooked, I threw them all together and then added my shrimp and mussels. I needed to add extra chicken stock to give the mussles some steam to open. They took the longest. Had I known they would take that long to open, I wouldn't have added the shrimp with them. But, the shrimp came out beautiful anyway, not tough in the least. We served it simply with cornbread and butter - which was the perfect compliment to the savory stew.
If you get the chance and haven't tried this dish yet.. I totally recommend it. Other than a lot of pans used up (and really, had I been more "with it" I would of just sauteed the veggies and sausages together in the big pot that I was making the rice in.. because this totally could have been a one pot meal) this was super simple to put together and sooooooooooo delicious for not so much effort. =)
The ingredient list I'm giving you will make a LOT of Paella. I've still got a huge bowl of it in the fridge and we had some with steaks the next night.. so really, cut the ingredients in half if you aren't feeding an army.
1 c. vidalia onion, small dice
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 whole red bell pepper, diced
1 TBS. olive oil
2 tsp. spanish paprika
1/2 lb. keilbasa sausage, sliced on the diagonal
1/2 lb. Andouille sausage, sliced
1 1/2 c. uncooked white rice (I used Basmati rice)
2 2/3 c. good chicken stock
pinch of saffron threads
1 lb. fresh mussels (1 lb. gave us about 18 mussels - plenty!)
1 lb. med. raw shrimp, peeled & deveined
1 c. frozen sweet peas (I forgot the damn peas. Ugh.)
extra chicken stock (I have no idea how much more I put in - wing it people! :D)
2 TBS. fresh parsley, chopped
Your choice.. either use up a bunch of pans, like I did.. or start with a big stock pot and cook all your ingredients in it to save on clean up.
Saute the onions, garlic, peppers and spanish paprika in the olive oil. Brown the sausage. (We found these two sausages didn't give off much grease at all, so again this can all be done in one pan, if you'd like.) Prepare the rice by bringing the 2 2/3 c. chicken stock and the saffron threads to a boil, add the rice. Put a lid on it and lower the heat, simmering for roughly 15 minutes or so. (The rice wasn't done at this point, but I knew it had a while longer to cook once I added the seafood.)
Add the mussels first, put the lid back on and let them steam until they open - it took roughly 20 minutes for all of mine to open. If the rice soaks up all the chicken stock, add more so that the mussels can steam properly. As soon as they have opened, add the shrimp. If you need to add a lil more chicken stock at this point, do so.. you don't want the rice to burn to the bottom of the pan - and all the stock I used did not mellow out the flavors of any other ingredient. Shrimp should take about 5 minutes before they are ready.
Pour it all into a huge bowl and serve with a giant spoon and some hot cornbread with butter on the side. *swoon*
Monday, July 17, 2006
Between the giggling...
|We did have some fabulous food at our little slumber party and we did manage to nosh on it all night in between fits of giggles.|
For the munchy portion of the evening, I made a tapenade with toasted garlic baguette along with a veggie platter. Mindy brought this most amazing Key Lime Cheese Ball that she served with cinnamon-sugar tortilla chips. Her cheese ball was made from a mix bought from a Tastefully Simple party that she attended recently. I've been to these parties before and bought some good items - but more not so good items. So I wasn't too jacked about this cheese ball.. that is until I tasted it. Wow! This is a great item to try if you know someone who is a Tastefully Simple representative. (also, they have a website where you can order products as well). It's a sweet cheese ball and is terrific served with the above mentioned tortilla chips or on graham crackers. Mindy said you can also pour the mixture into a pie shell for a quick and easy key lime cheesecake pie. Hmm.. sound familiar? And I spent all that time squeezing limes. Sheesh!
For dinner, we made a Paella. I didn't have an exact recipe. I read a few different recipes for the dish, but couldn't decide on which one I wanted to make - so I just winged it. It ended up being delicious and something that I hope I can recreate again. I'll post about it a little later as I'm running out of time this morning. Ugh.. back to the dungeon today. Vacation is over. *sob*
c. pitted kalamata olives
2 cloves garlic
1 TBS. capers, drained
5-7 sun-dried tomatoes
2 TBS. fresh parsley
2 anchovy fillets
In a food processor, chop all ingredients finely, drizzling olive oil through top of processor until you get a paste like consistency. Do not process excessively, or you will get a puree like consistency. You want to be able to see bits of all ingredients.
Spread on toasted baguette slices that have been rubbed with garlic or simply buttered. Also good on crackers.. or hell, even by the spoonful. :D
*Note: You'll notice the bowl doesn't look very full.. this would be because I almost forgot to take a picture - after we tore into it. I blame the Mojitos.
A most drunkenly weekend...
|Drunkenly? Is that a word? Whatever.. it best describes my weekend. This bloggin' gal has not had a snootful in ages.. shame, isn't it? I didn't think so before this past weekend, but because of the fun and hilarity than ensued.. I definitely think it's a shame now. hehee I pretty much quit drinking socially a few years ago. The very instant I'd take a slip of any alcoholic libation, I'd start to sweat. I'm not talking about a lil hot under the collar.. I'm talking full blown, looked like I had stepped outta the shower, wet. It was horrible. It just happened one day and ever since that's my reaction to alcohol. I suspect it had something to do with my sugar being out of control, because now that I've got at least a good handle on it, I did not have that reaction this weekend. Thank Gawd!|
The only reaction I had after a few cocktails was giggling - over anything. I don't remember not giggling for a minute (even when eating dinner!) the whole night. I don't even recall what the frig I was giggling over. All I know was that I was giggling, Mindy was giggling and Cindy, at one point, almost lost some of her delicious cocktail through her nose because of the giggling. My cheeks hurt badly on Sunday. My head felt as though it was going to explode on Sunday.. but as for Saturday - yep, giggling. How fun! Hubbs looked on in what appeared to be mild terror as we girls were giggling. Of course that made us giggle even more. Yes, he was stuck home with three drunken women who found mirth in everything. Thankfully, he joined in after he couldn't stand not knowing what the hell was so funny and he began giggling too. I think. Or maybe that was a dream? I'm not sure.. but he did say he had a good time.. so hopefully he was giggling as well. I wonder though, how many times can one use the word "giggle" in a post? Someone should prolly call Guiness.
Alrighty then.. the object of our desire Saturday night was a most delicious concoction of rum, mint leaves and lime juice. The Mojito! I've seen this beverage made on a few of Food TV's shows as well as read about it on many blogs. It sounded too good not to try and woooooo baby, am I glad I tried them. I've never been a big rum fan - my drink of choice was always whiskey - but these Mojitos are fanfarkintabulous, to say the very least. The combination of the simple syrup with the lime wedges and rum followed by a minty hit after you've swallowed is heavenly and so refreshing! A definite summer drink to enjoy on hot and humid days. Mindy and Cindy brought a bottle of Grey Goose and some orange juice as their chosen cocktail of the evening, but after trying my Mojito - it was Mojitos for everyone the rest of the night! My only change the next time we do this - oh and there will definitely be a next time - is to figure out a good ratio to make the Mojitos in a pitcher and not as a single cocktail. No, no.. we will not waste any time in making a single Mojito refill.. we will make up a giant batch of them so we don't lose any valuable drinking time. hehee
8-10 fresh mint leaves
2-3 wedges of lime (I used 2 wedges that I cut in half)
1 lg. jigger of simple syrup (See Note)
2 lg. jiggers of rum
In a cocktail glass, muddle the mint leaves, simple syrup and lime wedges until they are crushed well. Add ice then fill glass with rum, leaving about a 1/2 inch from the top of glass. Fill to top with club soda. Stir and enjoy!
*Note: To make simple syrup - in a medium saucepan, place equal parts of water and sugar - I used 2 c. water and 2 c. sugar) and heat until it boils. Let cool. You can store this syrup in your refridgerator for up to 2 months. I washed out an empty vodka bottle and stored my syrup in there. It also made it easy to use as I just topped the bottle off with a pourer.
Blog of the Week July 17, 2006
|I can't believe I haven't posted about Cathy's My Little Kitchen before now! I've been reading her blog for a few months and am slowly getting through her archives. Cathy is from a Maryland suburb of Washington DC and she's a fabulous baker and cook. What drew me to My Little Kitchen was Mondays with Maida. This is her ongoing adventure with making every cookie recipe in Maida Heatter's Book of Great Cookies. She fell in love with the book many, many years ago and after making some tried and true recipes from it, along with a couple new ones - she came up with the idea of how great it would be to blog about a new cookie recipe every week. There are approximately 150 recipes in the book and she started this adventure back in 2004! She's still going strong and as I can attest, these cookies look marvelous. I actually get a little excited each Monday morning because I know there will be a fabulous new cookie creation waiting for me to drool over. Cathy has a panel of 4 judges who taste the cookies each week and give their honest opinions of what they liked (or disliked) about the cookie. I love that because it's so great to know what others think.. as every cook and baker knows - it's not always good to just use your own opinion about a recipe you've made.. sometimes you don't think it's that great, but others who try it think it's fabulous and vice versa.|
Currently, Cathy is on the icebox cookie chapter. I've never made icebox cookies before and now I want to make some very badly! I like the idea of making up a dough, chilling it and slicing them up to bake whenever I want to. She's already baked through the drop cookie and bar cookie chapters, with marvelous results. Although she doesn't share the recipe each week, she gives you page numbers to reference to for both the original Maida Heatter's Book of Great Cookies and the newer edition of Maida Heatter's Cookies. Cathy says the only real difference in the books are the illustrations. Both are very reasonably priced and I think one of them will be a new addition to my ever-growing cookbook shelves. =)
Mondays with Maida isn't the only fantastic reading you'll do on Cathy's blog. She blogs about other recipes that are mouth watering and inspirational, to say the least.
Cookie lovers.. rush to My Little Kitchen as soon as you can to check out a terrific blog and some magical recipes!
Labels: Blog of the Week
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Espresso Cream Cake with Chile-Chocolate Sauce
|I was too tired last night to write about that 4th fabulous recipe from the Cooking Light book. Espresso Cream Cake is light and fluffy - a type of angel food cake, actually. I wasn't prepared for that. Not that it's a bad thing, it was delicious.. you can really taste the coffee, which I love. I've just never attempted an angel food cake before and even as I was folding in the meringue I had no idea how the cake was going to turn out. Silly me, guess that should have been my first clue, yes? hehe|
I did veer off the recipe when it came to the cream though. The recipe called for Silken Tofu and when I mentioned that to Hubbs the look of fear that came across his face was priceless. I have to admit, I'm still afraid to try tofu myself. I've read many a recipe with tofu as the main ingredient and those recipes make me want to try it as the recipe looks delicious, but all I can think about it how it looks as if it tastes like eating a flavored sponge, so I always chicken out. So for the espresso cream, I went to Nigella. Remember that gooey gorgeous sinfully rich cake I made a few months ago? Nigella had suggested serving that cake with her Caffe Latte Cream, which I didn't make. I figured this would be perfect with last night's cake and WOW! was I right! I could sit and eat this cream by myself.. the whole bowl. The coffee flavor is outstanding and the cream is neither too sweet nor too bland. It was heavenly. Here's the thing though, I didn't have white chocolate, so I subbed that for 3 heaping TBS. of confectioners' sugar. The final component of the Espresso Cream Cake is the Chile-Chocolate Sauce. I was intrigued because it called for chocolate infused with Ancho Chile powder. Yay.. another chance for added spice! I bought the Ancho Chile powder and couldn't wait to use it. Although the chocolate sauce is excellent, very creamy and chocolately, I could not taste any spice and I even doubled the amount of the chile powder. I'm hoping that maybe the spice will have boosted some after sitting for a day. We'll see tonight.
All in all this is a fabulous light dessert that I'll make again for company one night. =)
1 1/3 c. sifted cake flour (about 5 1/2 ounces)
1 1/4 c. sugar, divided
6 large eggs, separated
3 TBS. brewed espresso, cooled (I don't have an espresso maker, but the recipe says you can use very strong coffee, which I did)
1 1/2 tsp. finely ground espresso powder
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. cream of tartar
Espresso Cream (Original version)
1/2 c. firm silken tofu (about 1/2 [12.3 ounce] package)
6 TBS. fat-free sweetened condensed milk
1/4 c. brewed espresso, cooled
Caffe Latte Cream
3 oz. white choclate, broken into small pieces (I didn't have the chocolate so I subbed it for 3 TBS. confectioners' sugar)
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
scant 2 tsp. instant espresso powder
1/4 c. (2 ounces) bittersweet chocolate
2 TBS. fat-free milk
1/4 tsp. ancho chile powder (I used 1/2 tsp.)
Preheat oven to 350º F.
To prepare cake, sift together flour and 3 TBS. sugar, set aside.
Combine 1 c. sugar and egg yolks in a large bowl, beat with a mixer at high speed 5 minutes, or until thick and pale. Combine 3 TBS. brewed espresso, espresso powder, vanilla, and salt in a small bowl; add to egg yolk mixture, beating at low speed until blended. Sift flour mixture evenly over egg yolk mixture, stir until just moist.
Beat egg whites with a mixer at high speed until foamy using clean, dry beaters. Add cream of tartar, beat until soft peaks form. Slowly add 1 TBS. sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Gently stir one-fourth of egg white mixture into batter, gently fold remaining egg white mixture into batter.
Pour batter into a 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 350º for 40 minutes or until cake springs back when touched lightly in center. Cool in pan 1 hour, run a knife around outside edge, remove sides of pan. Cool completely on wire rack.
To prepare espresso cream (Original version), place tofu, condensed milk and 1/4 c. brewed coffee in a blender, process until smooth. Chill
To prepare Caffe Latte Cream (What I used), Melt the white chocolate either in a microwave or double boiler, and let it cool. Fold in the cream and espresso powder, whipping the latte cream together to thicken it a little. Nigella said, "For some reason the white chocolate seems to make the cream instantly thicker; if I whisk the cream first it can seize a little when it's stirred into the chocolate." If you don't have the chocolate and use the confectioners' sugar like I did, place heavy cream, sugar and espresso powder into a mixer and whip together on high speed until cream thickens.
To prepare chocolate sauce, combine chocolate and fat-free milk in a 1 cup glass measure, microwave at HIGH 1 minute or until chocolate is almost melted. Add chile powder, stirring until smooth.
Spoon espresso cream onto dessert plates, spreading evenly. Drizzle chocolate sauce in center of espresso cream, top with cake slices. (Or drizzle tons of chocolate sauce over the whole thing because it's chocolate for crissakes and it's a sin to only use a tiny bit. :P)
Yield: 12 servings (serving size: 1 cake slice, about 1 1/2 TBS. espresso cream, and about 2 1/2 tsp. chocolate sauce)
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Hand-Hacked Pot Stickers with Tangy Ginger Dipping Sauce
|We're 3 for 4 in the Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2006 countdown. Actually, to be truthful, 4 for 4 as that first recipe was pretty darn tasty, just a tad too much vinegar for my tastes. Tonight's try-out was the above mentioned Asian dish. I've had pot stickers from a restaurant one time and I did not like them. Why did I try this recipe then? A.B. (Alton Brown) talked me into it after watching one of his episodes on wonton wrappers. Not to mention, the recipe in the book looked easy.|
These were simply delicious. Capital D little licious. I feared Hubbs would not agree, but he was very disappointed after he ate his dozen pot stickers because there were no more. The man even drank the rest of his dipping sauce. Now ya know he hadda like it, eh? Actually there are more. They are in my freezer for another night when we want something quick and super easy (yeah super easy then.. there will be no chopping and wrapping of lil dumpling goodness like there was tonight.)
Really though, they weren't hard to make at all.. just time consuming. Thankfully, I made those other wonton appetizers for the 4th of July, so I knew what was in store and made myself a wrapping station at our dining room table so I could be comfortable for the long haul. After the chopping and wrapping of the dumplings, cooking was a breeze. You just brown them on each side for a few seconds and then cook them in some chicken stock for a few minutes more. They had fabulous flavor and the dipping sauce was both tangy and sweet, which accompanied the pot stickers perfectly - I so love the savory/sweet taste sensation. :D
Hand Hacked Pot Stickers with Tangy Ginger Dipping Sauce
Courtesy of Cooking Light's Annual Recipes 2006
1 c. chopped napa (Chinese) cabbage
1 c. chopped spinach (Recipe didn't say, so I used fresh spinach)
1/2 c. minced green onions
1 TBS. low-sodium soy sauce (I used regular soy sauce)
1 tsp. minched peeled fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. dark sesame oil
Dash of white pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 lb. lean ground pork
1/4 lb.peeled and deveined shrimp, chopped (I threw 'em in my processor and they were done in a jif)
24 round wonton wrappers or gyoza skins (See *Note below)
1 TBS. canola oil, divided
2 c. fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth, divided (I used a good chicken stock - full fat and full sodium. So apparently I suck at this eating light thing)
Green onion strips (optional)
Combine first 10 ingredients in a bowl. Working with 1 wonton wrapper at a time (cover remaining wrappers with a damp towel to prevent drying), spoon about 1 heaping teaspoon of filling into center of each wrapper. Moisten edges of wrapper with water. Fold in half, pinching sealed edges of pot sticker between thumb and first two fingers of each hand, form 3 or 4 pleats along seal. Place dumplings, seams sides up, on a platter.
Heat 1 1/2 tsp. canola oil in a large nonstick skillet.
Arrange 12 pot stickers, seam sides up, in pan, and cook 30 seconds or until browned (I did this for all 3 sides). Add 1 cup chicken broth to pan, cover and cook 5 minutes. Uncover and cook about 1 minute or until liquid evaporates. Remove pot stickers from pan, cover and keep warm. Repeat procedure with 1 1/2 tsp. canola oil, 12 pot stickers and 1 c. broth. Garnish with green onion strips, if desired. Serve immediately.
Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 3 pot stickers)
*Note: HA!! As if 3 pot stickers would serve Hubbs and I as one serving. Puh-lease. Regardless of that lil tid-bit, the amount of stuffing exceeds 24 wrappers, by quite a bit. I used a heaping teaspoon (sometimes more) in each of mine and I got a whole package of rectangular wontons (less 2 that ripped) filled. I made 18 tonight and froze the rest.
1/2 c. chopped, peeled tomatoes (Oopsie didn't have any so I chopped up about 10 grape tomatoes)
1/3 c. chopped green onions
1/4 c. fresh lime juice
1/4 c. rice vinegar
1 1/2 TBS. white, granulated sugar
2 tsp. chopped, peeled ginger
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (I forgot, once again to buy a jalapeno, so it was omitted - I can't help it, I'm not use to buying hot peppers! hehe)
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, stir well with a whisk until sugar dissolves. Chill for at least an hour.. or several hours for maximum flavor melding.
Yield: 1 cup. (serving size: 1 TBS.)
Super Stuffed French Bread Pizza Rustica
|Time somehow got away from me yesterday - and I have no idea how that happened, as I did nothing.. nada.. not a thing. But somehow it got too late to run to the grocery store for the planned meal of Hand Hacked Pot Stickers with a Tangy Ginger Sauce from the Cooking Light book. It might have been something to do with all the fakkin rain. I swear, leave it to me to take a week off when all it does is rain. *sigh* All I could muster up the energy for yesterday was some light cleaning and mostly ploppin me arse on the couch all day watching movies and reading a book. Woo.|
So anyhoo, I didn't have the wonton wrappers to make the meal I had planned, thankfully I remembered I had promised to make Rachael Ray's Super Stuffed French Bread Pizza Rustica for Hubbs at some point in the week. Last night was the night.
I've had some luck with Rachael's recipes and then I've had some major bombs as well. I wasn't sure how these were going to turn out but I didn't have a super good feeling as I'm not a huge french bread pizza fan and well.. I'm a pizza snob in the first place. I really only like the pizza's I make that were taught to me by my Auntie Ann. But what's a girl to do when she's too lazy to round up ingredients? I didn't use the exact "stuffing" ingredients as Rachael did and pretty much just stuffed them with what we had in the fridge. But let me tell you.. these were fanfarkingtastic! I think the two reasons these turned out sooooo damn good was because of Rachael's idea of browning sausage onions and bell pepper then combining them with ricotta cheese. That was the base of the stuffing. The other reason I think they were so delicious is that I used a pork sausage made with sage that Hubbs always buys when he goes out to farm land to visit his brother's cabin. I use to never like sausage on my pizzas before, until I tried this particular sausage made exclusively at this tiny mom and pop grocery store in Jefferson, Ohio. It is fabulous.
They are very heavy as you really stuff them with a lot of "toppings". And you use a good sized loaf of French bread that you hollow out. I got about 6 nice sized slices for each half of the pizza and I could barely get two of them down, it was so filling. The bread crisps up nicely and gives a good chew along with a nice crust on the bottom - and the best thing is, with all the stuffing plus my addition of some of my marinara, the bread did not get soggy whatsoever. I sliced one half for us to enjoy and froze the other half for another day when we wanted something super quick to munch on. Had I known they'd be so damn filling, I wouldn't have baked the other half and just froze it instead. Next time I'll know.
I'm going to post Rachael's recipe as I found it on Food TV and I'll note the changes I made to ours. Try this if you are in need of something really quick and filling one night.. they were awesome. =)
1 (2 foot long) loaf French bread
1 pound sweet Italian sausage
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 package frozen chopped spinach defrosted and squeezed dry (I didn't have spinach, so it was omitted)
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups part skim ricotta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 pound sweet sopressata, from the deli, sliced thick, chopped (Didn't have this as well, so it was omitted)
1/2 stick pepperoni, chopped (I didn't chop mine, but made a layer under the cheese of sliced pepperoni)
1 sack (10 ounces) shredded mozzarella (I used the crumbled Italian 4 cheese blend type cheese)
1 sack (10 ounces) shredded provolone
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
I added maybe 1/4 cup of my marinara, which I spread lightly over the sausage mixture, before adding the rest of my toppings. It wasn't much - but enough to add a little more moisture to the mix. I also added mild banana peppers, black olives and sliced mushrooms.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Split bread lengthwise and hollow it out. Cut in half across, making 4 shells for pizzas.
Heat a skillet over medium high flame and brown sausage in extra-virgin olive oil. Brown and crumble sausage. Add red bell pepper, onion and garlic. Cook 3 to 5 minutes, add spinach. Remove mixture from heat and season with a pinch of salt and black pepper, to your taste.
Transfer to a bowl. Combine sausage and veggies with ricotta, Parmesan, sopressata and pepperoni. Fill bread shells and top with mounded mozzarella and provolone cheeses. Place in hot oven on cookie sheet and bake until cheese melts and bubbles and bread is super crisp, about 10 to 12 minutes. Top pizzas with oregano and hot pepper flakes. Serve immediately, or snack all night!
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Mango Rice Salad with Grilled Shrimp
|Today marked the first day of cooking recipes from my Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2006. You might remember my bad review of the book from a few days ago, as it's not organized very well and there aren't enough pictures for my liking. However, if the rest of the week's recipes turn out as well as last night's.. then it's a keeper for sure and I'll apologize to the powers that be regarding my first impression. I might even subscribe to the magazine. Yep, the Mango Rice Salad with Grilled Shrimp was AWESOME.|
A lot of chopping and prep work, but well worth it. Also, my first taste of mango - as well as using it in a savory recipe. Hella Good. =)
The only two changes I made to the recipe was substituting chicken stock for the coconut milk, because Hubbs hates coconut. And substituting 1 of the 4 tsp. of curry with hot curry. (Go me!) I also used their suggestion of trying it with Basmati rice. Again, a new ingredient for me. I happened to see it a few weeks ago and picked up a jar of it for shites and giggles.
The combination of the grilled, tender, slightly spicey shrimp and the sweet, tangy rice was just fabulous. The mango, cilantro and lime juice lent a tropical feel to the dish that I've never experienced before. This was a dinner that was completely out of our range - something light and exotic for us. Hubbs wasn't thrilled with the mango in the rice, but I really didn't think he'd like it in the first place. I don't care though.. I loved it and will most definitely make this dish again - maybe at our next party.
4 tsp. curry powder (I subbed 1 tsp. of reg. curry with hot curry)
1 TBS. minced, fresh garlic
1 TBS. minced, peeled, fresh ginger
1 TBS. low-sodium soy sauce (I used regular soy sauce)
1/8 tsp. ground red pepper ('kay I left this out because of the hot curry addition and I was ah-scared)
1/8 tsp. ground cumin
1 1/2 lbs. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (About 36 shrimp)
2 c. water
2/3 c. light coconut milk (I used 2 2/3 c. chicken stock in place of the water and coconut milk)
1 1/4 c. uncooked long-grain rice (I used basmati)
2 c. diced, peeled mango (About 2 mangos)
1 1/2 c. diced red bell pepper
3/4 c. shredded carrot
1/2 c. sliced green onions
2 TBS. fresh lime juice
1 TBS. chopped, fresh cilantro
1 TBS. chopped, fresh parsley
1/2 tsp. salt
Cooking spray (I used olive oil for extra flavor)
Cilantro sprigs (optional)
Combine first 6 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add shrimp, toss to coat. Cover and chill 1 hour.
Bring water and coconut milk to a boil in a medium saucepan, add rice. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Add mango and next 7 ingredients, toss gently to combine.
Prepare grill or grill pan to medium-high heat.
Thread 3 shrimp onto each of 12 (6 inch) skewers. (I threaded 6-8 shrimp on my long 12 inch skewers.. Because really? Why the hell would I want to have all those skewers?) Place skewers on grill rack or grill pan coated with cooking spray (I brushed the shrimp lightly with olive oil before grilling), grill 3 minutes on each side or until shrimp are done. Serve skewers over salad. (I took the shrimp off the skewers as you can see in the pic - easier to make a glutton out of yourself when you don't have to fiddle with sticks, eh?) Garnish with cilantro sprigs, if desired.
Yield 6 servings (serving size: 2 skewers and about 1 c. salad)
*Note: I followed the recipe without thinking and we had a boatload of rice left over. Unfortunately way too much rice for just me to enjoy, so if there are only two of you, cut the salad recipe by at least half. As for the shrimp.. if you are like us, you can never have too many shrimp to nibble on :D
Monday, July 10, 2006
My Gawd, it's almost done...
|Yesterday Hubbs finished building the fence. OH. MY. GOD. Three weeks and it's finally all up and looking glorious! Not only did he get this thing built pretty much by himself, but he also worked on the pond and mulched all the beds. He has been a very busy man. I've been with him every step of the way, but truly, I can't take much credit as I was basically just his helper and someone to keep him company while he worked on the fence. He did a most beauteous job, it looks gorgeous. The only things left are to stain it and install the 2 gates. As for the pond, we ran out of stone for bordering it and the waterfall is not built, pretty much for the same reason. We've decided to make the waterfall from the same flat stones/slate as the border, so hopefully another weekend or two will finish that up. I don't recall what I was doing last night, maybe making dinner or brushing out the dogs.. but while I was inside for a bit, he got creative and spruced up the area around the pond.. it looks so cute! Our office is decorated in a nautical theme, so he snuck in here and took a couple items to hang on his new fence. Then he ran lighted rope underneath the rocks and surprised me with it once it got dark last night. I'm so happy these projects are finally looking to be almost done.|
Here are a few pictures.. the rest you can see on my Flickr account, just click on one of these pics to take you there.
PS - Today is the start of my vacation, so I promised Hubbs to make new dishes for dinner all this week. I've picked a bunch from the Cooking Light Annual Recipes book to decide if I'll be keeping it. Verdict will be Friday! :D
Labels: House Pictures
|So we took a break from the fence on Saturday to go to the West Side Market - as we were driving there, we realized that we've never been there during the summer before! We always go in the fall and winter, so we were looking forward to seeing what it was like in the nice weather. I thought maybe some of the vendors would move outside instead of being in the buildings, but I was wrong. I guess if I had thought about it, I would have realized there really is no room outside. There was some kind of small craft festival across the street, but we didn't get to check it out as everyone and their brother had the same idea as we did, apparently. That was pretty much the only difference that we noticed about the Market.. 50 gazillion people go in the summer. It was packed! Needless to say.. we didn't walk around all day as we normally do. We hit our favorite stands and I visited a Mediterranean store that I've always wanted to go into. I'm glad I did, it was awesome for items that I've read so much about but have never seen offered in any grocery store I shop in. Alas, I didn't buy anything new and exciting this trip, but now I know where I need to go when I do need something that falls into that category. I did find a great deal on 2 pounds of Israeli couscous and I snagged up 2 bars of Green & Blacks chocolate! Well here, look!|
We also hit that spice stand I've talked about and I stocked up on a few staples. From the bottom left I've got garlic powder, on top of that is spanish paprika. On the bottom right is vietnamese cinnamon, above the cinnamon is onion powder. The two stacked on top are celery salt and hot curry. Did you hear that, Kev? Hot. Curry. teeee!
I couldn't pass up one of the very many bakers who have kiosks at the market because she had some fresh, right out of the oven, french and italian bread. I promised Hubbs I'd make french bread pizzas this week, so I'm glad our pizza will be made from this heavenly smelling bread. I tried the italian last night and it was superb. We passed the little kiosk that offers a huge variety of stuffed olives that we always purchase from and bought a pound of these lil salty snackers. I believe we got some salmon mousse stuffed, sun-dried tomato stuffed, prosciutto stuffed, pesto/cream cheese stuffed and marinated portobello stuffed olives this time. Yum! Oh, and I can't forget.. the little red, round items sitting on top of the loaves of bread? Those are called "pizza bagels" and I'm addicted. I can not go to the market without ordering one to nibble while I'm there and a 1/2 dozen to bring home to freeze. There really is nothing special about these "bagels" they are just dough that's been baked with tomato sauce, onions, some herbs and melted cheese. But they melt in your mouth and the dough is so soft and chewy. *swoon*
Finally we hit the produce section of the market and this was the section you could barely move through with all the people, so we had to make it quick. I bought my mom a few black plums and a couple super sweet cantelopes along with the garlic and mangos pictured.
All in all it was very different from what we are use to, as we were in and out in a little over an hour.. but it was a great experience to see the variety of cultures. If there's one thing that sticks in my mind the most, it's not the great food being offered, but the colors. Spectacular colors everywhere. In people's clothes, the color of the many fruits and vegetables, the beautiful blue of the sky and the luscious green of the grass. It was a beautiful day for the market, for sure. =)
Labels: Market Trips
Friday, July 07, 2006
Mom's Cabbage Rolls
|I hit the dinner lottery last night.. my Mom called me at work to tell me that she had made a batch of cabbage rolls and she'd like me or Hubbs to stop by and pick some up. Hooray! I got a break from cooking, which meant I could spend some quality time out on the swing by the pond - something I was wishing I could do as yesterday was an exhausting day.|
I'm posting my Mommie's cabbage rolls because they are too good not to share and I make mine the exact same way (well, duh!) just not very often. Her cabbage rolls are on the larger side, the cabbage is always fork tender and her stuffing is the perfect amount of tasty meat and rice. She makes them in the morning and then slow cooks them in her oven all day. Nothing is needed when having Mom's cabbage rolls other than a lil sour cream and a crusty bread to sop up all the delicious sauce and juices :D
1 head cabbage
3 lbs. ground chuck
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. minute rice
3 tsp. salt
2 tsp. pepper
1 lg. vidalia or spanish onion
5-6 cloves garlic
small amount of water
2 lg. cans of tomato puree
2 lg. cans of water
2 TBS. dry basil
3 TBS. dry parsley
1 TBS. oregano
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
Preheat oven to 350º F.
Using a sharp knife, cut a square around the core of the cabbage - you aren't trying to take the core out, you are just making deep slices on each side of it to allow peeling of the leaves. Boil head of cabbage in large pot until it's soft and pliable - about 20 minutes. Being extremely careful, use a spaghetti fork (That's what we call them.. the really long fork with 2 tines that's also used in carving meat) to lift the cabbage out of the hot water, allow it to drain a bit and then transfer it to a counter top that has a clean kitchen towel spread over it. Start peeling off the tender leaves. Once you get to the leaves that aren't as tender, place the head of cabbage back in the boiling water to cook a little longer. You want your leaves to be tender, but not so soft that they will burst open when rolling them around the filling - I guess you could say you'd want them almost al dente (If there is such a thing for cabbage? heee!) Place the leaves on the towel to drain.
Once you've got all the leaves separated and draining, cut up the onion in large chunks and smash the garlic. Place the garlic and onion in a blender with a small amount of water to help the blades work through it and puree them. Transfer pureed onion and garlic to a large saucepan and add the tomato puree, water, basil, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper. Mix well and set aside.
In a huge bowl, combine the ground round, eggs, rice and salt & pepper well with your hands.
Place about a large golf ball size amount of the meat mixture not quite in the middle of a cabbage leaf. Roll until filling is just covered, then fold left end over towards middle, roll once more and then tuck the right side into the middle, inserting the leave into the meat mixture with your finger. Secure with a toothpick, if needed.
Cover the bottom of a large roasting pan with a thick layer of the sauce, place rolls on top and then more sauce over the rolls.
Bake for AT LEAST 2 hours.. but you'll find more like 3 to 4 hours is best.
Thursday, July 06, 2006
I've Been Mocked.. Again.
|I've been made fun of. I've been mocked. It was a slightly traumatic experience for me. And this isn't the first time I've been mocked. Hubbs quite enjoys mocking me. Especially in front of guests. He thinks he's a funny guy. Okay well, he is a funny guy and I like the word "mock".|
After dinner on the 4th, the four of us could barely move because we were more than slightly stuffed. The Beavette, on the other hand, was just full of energy and was doing her best to make sure the dogs would sleep like babies later that night. While she was dancing around, hopping around, running around, throwing the balls for Nig & Chloe, teaching Nig to drop the ball on command, searching for frogs near our pond, rolling in the wet grass with the dogs, and anything else she could think of to make me completely exhausted just watching her, our conversation turned to my packed to the brim freezers, pantries and refrigerators. He just had to tell them how he built the second pantry because the first one was so jam packed that when he opened the door to it, something would inevitably fall out and smash his toes. Ward was looking on with a knowing expression on his face and June looked as if this was a completely normal scenario in their household as well. Hey - when butter goes on sale, I'm stocking up people! The same for canned goods, flour, meats, baking supplies and spices! One day something horrible will happen and we will be fine because I've got every imaginable food item on the planet well stocked in our house! He won't be mocking me then, will he??
Okay so yeah, I've got a problem. Instead of using up what we have, I tend to shop for ingredients I don't have for a certain recipe. I should skip that recipe for another time and find one that contains what I have on my shelves, but I don't do it. I admit I need food procurement therapy. Hi, my name is Lisa and I'm a obscure ingredient horder. I wonder if there is a 12 step program out there that will help me control my bingeing? My 2 pantries are on the verge of imploding, my freezers can not hold another item and my fridge is so packed that it's impossible to see what we have at times. I don't even want to talk about my spice drawer(s) and cupboard(s). *sigh*
So, to save myself from future mocking, I've decided to NOT shop this weekend. I will use what I have in the house and will continue this "therapy" until I've cleared out some space. Most likely I will rush to fill that space soon after.. but hey.. baby steps! I am on vacation next week.. so I will have plenty of time to figure out what I'll make for dinner each night with already bought ingredients. I can do this! Right??
Which brings me to last night's dinner. I had a lot of London Broil left over (imagine that.. 4.5 people over for dinner and I cook for 20. Shocking, eh? - it's the damn restaurant life.. I'll never cook for a small group, no matter how hard I try - I've got too many years of cooking for huge groups in my system.) and I thought I'd make a stroganoff or a pepper steak, but noooooooo he had his fill of steak the night before and would it be too much trouble to find something else to make? Gah. All other meat was frozen and I hate, hate, hate defrosting in the microwave.. so I checked the fridge and continued on making quite a gourmet meal of hot dogs on the grill. Woo. In searching for the hot dogs, I found 2 quarts of strawberries that I had forgotten to use *blush* so I decided that I'd better get on that before they turned furry. Checking my freezer, I found a nice big bag of blackberries and blueberries that I had picked last summer and froze. In the pantry I found a big box of Bisquick and decided that I should make shortcakes to go with all my berries. Hey, what a fantastic summer dessert and all my ingredients were on hand! Party on! The berries thawed by the time the hot dogs were done, so I chopped up the strawberries, mixed in the other 2 berries and macerated with sugar and a little Grand Marnier. About an hour later, I took my potato masher to the mix and ended up with some tasty berries swimming in their kicked up juices.. yum! The "shortcakes" are a breeze to put together and really this Bisquick recipe is the only kind of shortcake I like. What it really is is a slightly sweet biscuit that holds up well to the fruit.
2 quarts fresh strawberries, hulled & chopped
2 pints fresh or frozen blackberries
1 pint fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. Grand Marnier (orange juice would work just as well)
For the "shortcakes":
2 1/3 c. Original Bisquick mix
1/2 c. milk
3 TBS. sugar
3 TBS. butter or margarine, melted
Preheat the oven to 425º F.
Mix all the berries together with the 1/2 c. sugar and Grand Marnier, set aside for an hour or so.
Stir the Bisquick mix, milk, 3 TBS. sugar and butter until a soft dough forms. Drop by 6 spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
Mash berries to give more juice and spoon them over the warm "shortcakes".
Makes 6 shortcakes.
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
4th of July with a Lil Asian Twist
|We had a loverly 4th of July this year, as I hope all of you did! This year we decided that because of work the next day (ugh) that dinner with the Cleavers would be the perfect way to celebrate the holiday. =) Yes.. the Cleavers. One of my closest friends in alla world, Mindy, has been dubbed June Cleaver. Her fabulous husband Dan, also known as Ward, and their beautiful little girl, Lily - better known as the "Beavette" are my Cleaver family. When Mindy and Dan first started dating they were so funny together as Mindy would ask Dan for a favor and Dan would always reply, "Yes, Dear." At first I thought it was for my benefit, but soon found out that this was Dan's (Ward's) constant reply to June, err, Mindy! They are the perfect couple ('kay they fight light cats and dogs, just like the rest of us) with the perfect child (she's 7, amazingly beautiful, and she's got a knack of getting herself in some predicaments, that end up being quite funny - such as, yesterday she accidentally slammed her finger in our slider door and howled as if she chopped the the damn thing off.. June took her to the bathroom for some first aid and when they made it back out to the kitchen Lily was still quite upset until she noticed me slicing the London Broil with my electric knife - she instantly stopped crying and in a very serious tone, commented that the knife was quite a nifty gadget.) So yes, we had dinner with the Cleavers and it was a fabulous day. =)|
For munchies before dinner, I prepared Mindy's Guacamole which I served in hollowed out cherry tomato halves such as Ilva of Lucullian Delights created with her Avocados & Cucumbers Thanks Ilva! :D Along with melon wrapped in prosciutto and these fabulous little wonton snackers, that everyone enjoyed, even the very picky Beavette =) I found the recipe on Recipzaar a few weeks ago and thought they'd be a nice addition to my appetizer repertoire. They were easy to make and delicious served with both sweet & sour and plum sauces. I was a little nervous while frying them as the wonton browned quickly, too quickly I thought, for the pork filling to cook completely - but I left them in the hot oil and happily saw that the wonton only got a bit more goldeny brown while the pork filling cooked completely. I had intended to make a dipping sauce of rice wine vinegar, freshly grated ginger and soy sauce, but somehow ended up not making it.. guess I had too much fun chit chatting with June, eh? =) Regardless, these were the perfect little snackers for just about any occasion.
1 lb. ground pork
3 cloves chopped garlic
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
3 carrots, finely diced
3 stalks celery, finely diced
6 green onions, finely diced
1 package wonton wrappers
oil (for deep frying)
your favorite sweet and sour sauce or plum sauce
Combine pork, garlic, ginger, soysauce, and vegetables in a bowl.
Separate wonton skins.
Place a heaping teaspoon of filling in the center of the wonton. Brush water on 2 borders of the skin, covering 1/4" from the edge. Fold skin over to form a triangle, sealing edges. Pinch the two long outside points together.
Heat oil to 350 degrees and fry 4 to 5 at a time until golden.
Drain and serve with sauce.
A New Cookbook
|A few weeks ago, Cooking Light magazine sent me an offer for their "Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2006" cookbook. Their promotion for the book was quite enticing, with lots of gorgeous pictures and some really yummy sample recipes.. so enticing, that I sent the little postage-paid card back the same day requesting the book.|
I received it this past Friday and couldn't wait to sit down and go through it. Much to my chagrin their finished product wasn't anything like the promotion. There are tons of recipes, yes.. but they are all presented in a mish-mash way on the pages, with "clumps" of picture pages throughout the book. The recipes are organized by monthly issue instead of the normal categories you'd find in just about any cookbook published.. EVER. So to find a recipe, say, something in the appetizer or side dish category, I have to go to the back of the book and look in the index that's listed by INGREDIENT. In other words, unless I know exactly what main ingredient I want to use for a certain appetizer or side dish, I have to peruse the whole freakin index to find something that fits the bill. Gah. Okay, so I've found a couple recipes that look good - and am hoping they are appetizers and/or side dishes - I go to their corresponding pages to find that I then have to search the page to find the recipe, because they've slammed about 5 recipes on each page. If I want to see what the finished recipe looks like? Yeah good luck.. I can go through the several clumps of picture pages and MAYBE get lucky if they've taken a picture of the recipe I've chosen, but I found I didn't luck out very often.
This isn't my first cookbook made up of a magazine's year's worth of recipes. I have several of "Home Cooking"'s annual collection of recipes and those books are categorized by appetizer, main dish, side dish, desert etc.. with pictures on every single page that actually correspond with the recipes. So shame on Cooking Light - it looks as if they had 2 people in charge of creating this book and those 2 people waited until the last minute - so they just slapped typed recipes all over the place and as an afterthought, threw in those picture page clumps. No organization whatsoever. Okay, I lied.. organized by monthly issue. I don't receive the magazine, so I don't know what was published each month. Had I received the magazine, I can GUARANTEE that I would not remember what was published each month anyway! Sheesh.
Okay before sending this book back, I've decided to try a few recipes to see if they are worth keeping the book, regardless of the ass-pain it would be to search for a recipe when I wanted one. The first one I chose was a type of potato salad that was mayo-less and used roasted potatoes. I served this potato salad with my London Broil, some steamed asparagus and a salad that my girlfriend, Mindy, and her family brought yesterday for our lil 4th of July get together. The salad was decent, very different from any potato salad we've ever had. The roasting of the potatoes was fabulous and I'd really like to try the other potato salads I've made in the past with roasted potatoes to see if they'd work. The vinaigrette was a bit vinegar-y for my taste, but also quite delicious.. in other words, I'd make it again but cut the vinegar back quite a bit. So with that, and the opinions of my guests... this recipe is a keeper but with a little tweaking needed. I have hope for the book.. this recipe isn't the deal breaker, but it does make me want to try others.
2 tsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
4 lbs. small red potatoes, quartered (I did a large dice)
1/2 c. chopped green onions
1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley
4 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
2 1/2 TBS. balsamic vinegar (I will cut this down to 1 TBS. next time)
1 TBS. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
Preheat oven to 450º F.
To prepare potatoes, toss potatoes with 2 tsp. olive oil and 1/4 tsp. kosher salt. Arrange in a single layer on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for 30 minutes or until tender. (I found that even diced, the potatoes weren't exactly fork tender after 30 minutes, so I flipped them around and continued roasting for another 20 minutes, which made them nice and tender and also a tad bit crispy around the edges - which was perfect). Cool potatoes. Combine potatoes, onions and bacon.
To prepare the viniagrette, whisk together vinegar, mustard, salt & pepper while drizzling the olive oil in until you've created a thick emulsion. Pour viniagrette over potato mixture and coat well. Serve immediately.
This recipe serves 8 with 1 c. servings.
Sunday, July 02, 2006
Key (not) Lime Cheesecake Pie
|This is one of the reason's for me choosing Rachel at Coconut & Lime as this week's Blog of the Week. She posted a most mouth watering, draw dropping recipe for her Coconut Key Lime Pie a while back and I've been thinking about it ever since. I've been a huge fan of Key Lime Pie since I was a little girl back in the 70's when my parents would take us for a month long vacation to Florida each winter. Back in the day when the restaurant was booming and we could afford a month's vacation. I can't even fathom that luxury right now. Hell I've got a week's vacation coming up next week and I'll be travelling to.. well.. my back yard, mostly. *sigh* Anyhoooo.. We'd start our vacation somewhere in the middle of Florida and slowly work out way down to Key West for the last 2 weeks. It was heavenly.. poolside all day, exploring Florida's beaches with my Dad, eating at restaurants every night and being allowed to have lobster as much as we wanted!! Holy crap I want to be little again!!|
My most fond memories are of Key West. It was in this glorious tropical city (island?) that my mother introduced me to Key Lime Pie. At first I didn't want to try it.. it was not covered in chocolate, how could it be good?? But she persisted until I tasted it. She was happily surprised (as I was!) that I loved it and probably not as happy to watch me eat her entire dessert. Hey.. it was her fault. Since those years of vacationing in Florida, I've only had Key Lime Pie once or twice.. each time sorely disappointed when a slice of green pie was set before me. Green? Key Lime Pie is not green! Why, oh why, do some restaurants insist on adding food color to make a beautiful pie "more attractive"? Gah.
For years I've wanted to make this pie myself, but finding Key Limes in this part of the woods is pretty hard. The one time I did see them for sale at a local grocery store, I snagged them up and then let them rot in my veggie bin of the fridge. What the hell was wrong with me?? Sheesh! Unfortunately, time got away from me in that instance and since then I've not seen a single Key Lime offered anywhere. Well, again, in reading Rachel's blog, Key Lime Pie has been foremost on my mind and yesterday I said to myself that I was going to make this delicious dessert regardless if I did not have any Key Limes. I also wanted to re-create her Coconut Key Lime pie in the worst way, but Hubbs put the kabosh on that the minute he saw me take a bag of coconut out of the pantry. There are only a few foods that he refuses to eat and coconut is one of them. :( I put the coconut back (reluctantly) and decided that when he goes back to Arkansas (yep.. they are sending him back for a week or two to take care of an issue that the corporation decided they wanted done - AFTER - our guys left.. bastages.) I will make Rachel's Coconut Key Lime Pie.. oh yesssss I will. I decided then to try the other Key Lime Pie recipe I had found on the Kraft Foods website, which was more of a cheesecake/pie recipe.
The pie turned out to be absolutely delicious. Creamy and tangy, but not exactly as I remembered from my days in Florida. I'm assuming it's because of the use of your every day lime.. they are not as mellow as Key Limes and a bit more acidic, I believe. But still.. wow, what a fantastic summer dessert! I also made a raspberry sauce to spoon over it and the taste of raspberries paired with the lime was outrageous. =)
1 1/2 c. graham crackers, finely crushed (The original recipe calls for 1 1/4 c. graham crackers, but I like my crust to be thick, so I upped it a bit)
1/4 c. butter, melted
3 TBS. sugar
2 (8 oz.) pkgs. cream cheese, softened
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened, condensed milk
1/2 tsp. lime peel, grated (I upped this to a tablespoon)
1/3 c. fresh lime juice
Preheat oven to 350º F. Mix crumbs, butter and sugar; press firmly onto bottom and up side of 9-inch pie plate. Bake 10 minutes. Cool.
Beat cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add peel and juice; mix well. Pour into crust.
Refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight. Store leftover pie in refrigerator.
1 bag of frozen raspberries, thawed (or use 1 pint of fresh raspberries if you have them)
3 TBS. of sugar (Or to taste)
Place both ingredients in a small sauce pan and cook over medium heat until the sugar melts and the raspberries start to break down. You can stop here, or if you prefer seedless sauce, mash raspberries through a sieve into a bowl, so that just the juice remains, discard pulp & seeds. Cool and then refrigerate.
Spoon over slices of Key Lime Cheesecake Pie.
|I just finished my blog of the week post and looked behind me to find both Nigel & Chloe passed out. Yes, they've been awake since 7:30 (it's now 8:30) after getting a good 7 hours sleep with their mom. That whole hour they were awake must have been pretty damn exhausting, eh? I thought I was bad when I insist on taking a 2 hour nap on Sunday afternoons! At least by the time I nap I've done my laundry, started prepping for dinner, worked in the yard and other miscellaneous Sunday chores.. sheesh! Oh, to live a dog's life..|
Check out what all the rest of the canine group has been up to at Sweetnicks tonight! :D
Blog of the Week July 2, 2006
|What I am finding in my blogging travels is that there are soooo many great "real food" home chefs out there. I'm talking about people who create the kind of food that looks and tastes delicious but isn't overly fancy. They don't present their food with an emphasis on fancy decoration or techniques hard to understand by the average home cook. These are the blogs I enjoy the most. Oh sure, I love the blogs from those that have the knack of making their food look almost too good to eat, more like a magazine layout than a pictorial showing of what they had for dinner last night. They are great.. but those are the recipes I'm least likely to try as they are intimidating to me. It's silly of me, I know.. but give me a gal or guy who can concoct delicious meals or deserts that make me want to make them the instant I see them, knowing I won't have a hard time finding the ingredients or recreating something that looks close to what they've created, any day!|
Which brings me to today's salute to Rachel of Coconut & Lime. She is a wonderful cook who isn't afraid of creating recipes from whatever ingredients she has in her kitchen. She'll look at a lone apple sitting in her fruit bowl and realize she's got some limes that are close to passing their time and BOOM! She's got a yummy looking Key Lime & Apple bread that's moist, delicious and the perfect fare for a breakfast on the go. This would be me looking at my fruit bowl this morning and seeing 3 donut peaches and 3 fresh mission figs and creating something spectacular out of them. Yeah right. Maybe separately, but not together.. I'm just not that creative. Rachel is, though! Much to my delight :)
I have to admit, the name of this blog is what caught my eye in the first place. My most favorite Bath & Body Works scent is their Coconut Lime Verbena. They make an overly priced air freshener that you load up with your favorite scent and plug into your outlets that last about a month. I am addicted to them and if you were to walk into my house at any given day this is the aroma that will hit your senses the instant you walk in the front door. (Unless, of course, I'm cooking, then you'll most likely smell garlic. teee!) So when I saw Rachel's blog, I figured it just had to be good! I was right.. her recipes are her own and each and every one of them is truly worthy of trying to recreate in your own kitchen. Please, go check out Coconut & Lime and see what I mean! :D
Labels: Blog of the Week