Malto Mario


The Lady & Sons

1,000 Italian Recipes

Thursday, June 28, 2007


I just got done reading comments - THANKS you guys! =) And the last one was from Brilynn, who said - and I quote!

"Ah lis, the crispy sundried tomato bagels look like they're covered in bugs! Yes I know, that's know something you want anywhere near food, but it was funny to me... "

Bagel Bugs!

BAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAA!!!! She's right!! After I read her comment, I clicked back over to the post to see what the hell she was talking about.. and well.. BAHAHAHAHAAAA!!!!

OMG tears are STREAMING down my cheeks right now.. SO FUNNY!!

I heart you, Bril =)


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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Bagels... Bageljacks... Bagelcakes.. Bageldiscs..

Hey Hey! It's that time of the month again.. The Daring Baker June Challenge post! WOO! Have you missed us??

Ya'll might guess from the subject of this post, that this month's DB challenge didn't go so swell for me. Imagine that, eh?

Before I get into this kitchen disaster, I want to stress to ya'll that this was NOT the recipe's fault (meaning this recipe is NOT possessed by Beelzebub).. this recipe, when executed properly, will give you big beautiful bagels. And the best tasting bagels you've ever had. Even when you totally screw up, your bagels will still be so flavorful! Flat as pancakes.. but still wayyyyy yummy! ;)

This particular kitchen disaster did not come with exploding batter, aliens invading my kitchen, or a need to start drinking heavily half way through.. I believe this is a good recipe - an excellent recipe actually.. especially if you are a more advanced baker with lots of experience in using yeast and working with dough. BUT, for someone like myself who is not at all familiar with making bread or other yeast doughs, I believe it's a recipe that you really need to make twice. Once to make all your mistakes and take notes.. and the second time to produce amazing bagels. I'd call this recipe and excellent "teaching" recipe. Seriously, I learned A LOT about yeast and dough this month. And that's what it's all about, eh? =) I haven't made my 2nd batch yet - but I will, you can be assured. And I am confident that my next batch will be perfect.

This month's challenge was hosted by our lovely, Jenny of All Things Edible, and the beautiful Freya of Writing At The Kitchen Table. They decided that June would be a month we step away from the sugar and dive right into the savory. Real Honest Jewish Purist's Bagels is the recipe they chose and a fine recipe and choice it was. I was tickled when I saw what we'd be making because I am so afraid of working with yeast. My only experience with it is my Auntie's pizza dough, which I make a few times a year. So badly I want to be the kind of gal who makes her own bread items every week. There is NOTHING like fresh bread, is there? So yeah, the thought of working with yeast and having all the support the wonderful Daring Bakers give backing me up - I knew I'd at least get a lil closer to feeling comfortable working with yeast & dough.

And they did not disappoint! The support was amazing - thank you everyone!

Plain flat bagel
A plain Bageljack

No, my bagels did not turn out well in the looks department. They ended up being flat as pancakes and/or flapjacks and/or compact discs, etc. But like I said, they were the best tasting bagels I've ever had - and I've had a lot of bagels. I feel I know why mine did not turn out though.. and it's much more than my just being a moron. ha!

The recipe says and I'll quote here:

"Soon you should have a nice stiff dough. It will be quite elastic, but heavy and stiffer than a normal bread dough. Do not make it too dry, however... it should still give easily and stretch easily without tearing."

I obviously don't know what a normal bread dough feels like, so I kinda guessed.. meaning I stopped adding flour once the dough stopped being sticky.

Mistake No. 1

I should have kept incorporating the flour until I used up the whole 8 cups the recipe called for. Instead I think I stopped at around 6.5 - 7 cups. Ohhh it was flexible alright.. but not very heavy or stiff. In fact it was quite soft.

After you knead the dough you put it into a lightly greased bowl and allow it to double in size.. my pizza dough takes about an hour to double.. therefore I didn't even check my bagel dough until an hour had passed. Ooops! I should have realized that the FOUR TABLESPOONS of yeast might quicken that rise time just a tad.. as you can see, she not only doubled - but I believe she tripled and/or quadrupled. hahaha!

Mistake No. 2

Bagel dough Bagel dough doubled? tripled?
Yes that is cat food/water bowls you see.. No she did not jump up on the dryer while the dough was rising - covered - because I was running the dryer, which scares the bejebus out of her. MUAHAHAA!

Check your dough after 20-30 minutes - don't let it rise too much.

After your dough doubles in size, you are to punch it down.. and where this recipe says "punch" it's not kidding. You really need to punch most of the air out of it.. this step was great in relieving some tension from a chaotic week at work. ;) After you punch it down, you divide it up into 15 (I got way more than 15) hunks o'dough, to which you will shape into bagels. There are two methods to shaping.. the first being the "dough-centric" method.. where you make a long cylindrical "snake" of dough and wrap it around your hand into a loop and then mash the ends together. The other is the "hole-centric" method, where you shape the dough into a rough sphere, then poke a hole through the middle with a finger and then pull at the dough around the hole to make the bagel.

I went with the "hole-centric" method. Although I do not feel this is a mistake, as it obviously works for many people, I think I would have been better off going the "snake" route as it would have helped to push out even more air.

'kay once that's done, you let them sit for about 10 minutes. They will begin to rise slightly. Ideally, they will rise by about one-fourth volume... a technique called "half-proofing" the dough. By the time I had finished shaping my last bagel, my first bagels had sat for closer to 15 minutes. They did not rise by 1/4th volume. They easily doubled in size.

bagels formed, rising and looking under the weather bagels formed and rising
Just shaped / On their way to raw bagel balloons

Mistake No. 3

The next time I make these bagels, and I will, I will work with sections of the dough, keeping the unused dough in my fridge. I will only work with enough dough for about 4 bagels and I will shape them, let them sit for a few minutes and then throw them into their water "bath" to cook. I will not even touch the rest of the dough until those boiled bagels have been set on a clean towel to cool. Which brings me to -

Mistake No. 3A

Work in small batches (especially if you are baking these on a high humidity day) from the shaping to the boiling steps. Not only did my bagels "half proof" way longer than they should before hitting the boiling water, but they proofed MUCH TOO LONG after that as they were sitting there getting bigger and bigger on my counter waiting for their turn in the water.. Small batches, kids.. small batches.

Another thing to keep in mind is - once your bagels hit the boiling water, they should drop to the bottom of the pot and then slowly and "gracefully" (hee!) rise to the top. The recipe says if they do not sink and only float, you will get a more "bready" bagel. Mine were all floaters - and I don't know why that is.. maybe it's because I didn't get out enough air? I have no idea. But my bagels did not turn out more "bready" regardless. hehee

bagels drowning (or wishing they were) Sad sad mf'in bagel like blobs
Wrinkly prune-like floaters / Sad, sad mf'in bagel like blobs

From the boiling water, you set them on clean towels and once they are cool enough to handle you transfer them to a cookie sheet that has been dusted with corn meal. It's at this point where you can add your toppings if you so desire. I desired. I made 1/2 doz. plain, then 3 sesame, 6 with sun-dried tomato, roasted garlic and fresh basil and 6 brushed with a pear/cinnamon jelly that I melted and topped with cinnamon sugar. (as if I could go all savory!)

Befores of tasty sundried tomato, roasted garlic & basil bagels

Mistake No. 4

Baked & burnt sundried tomato/garlic/basil

Only use toppings that won't burn to lil charcoal crisps. Sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil will turn into charred pieces of squickiness when baked on top of a bagel - next time, they'll go in the dough! (we weren't allowed to add anything to the bagel dough on our first batch, to keep them in check with the Real Honest Jewish Purist people, but we could go crazy on subsequent batches that I just didn't get to yet)

Baked bagels!
Behold! My bevy of Bageljacks! All crispy on the outside, chewy and warm on the inside - fresh from the oven.. SO GOOD.

Unfortunately, the next day they were so rubbery that I couldn't even pull a piece off to gnaw on. So I had to chuck them. Hubbs, the omniscient baking God (he can barely toast bread) said it was because I stored them in ziplock plastic bags over night and that I should have just left them out. I dunno, maybe he was right.. course I won't be admitting that to him anytime soon. *evil gril*

And so it is with mucho grande thanks to Jenny and Freya for hosting a fabulous challenge! And to all my fellow DB friends - your unwaning support is the ONLY THING that gets me through some of these challenges.. I thank you kindly. =)

'kay.. git! Go check out everyone else's posts! There are plenty to see - we keep growing bigger and better with each and every passing month!


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Monday, June 25, 2007

My First SHF! Also - Quite Possibly My Last SHF!

I have always wanted to submit something to SHF, but quite frankly I've been afraid.

SHF is HUGE - EVERYONE knows about Sugar High Friday!! Why on God's green earth would I want to put myself and my far from stellar baking skills in with a group made up of so many talented sugary masters?? Hell Nos! Why don't I just sign up for a bikini contest next?? It might be less embarrassing.

Okay no, it wouldn't be less embarrassing.. it'd be horrendous - the hundreds of people who would instantly go blind - or turn to salt - once they laid their eyes upon The Flab.

Anyhoo.. so then I got to thinking.. "Dude! You're a Daring Baker! You Dare to go outside your normal baking friendly zone.. you bake outside of the box now!!" Well there you have it. How could I turn my back on my Daring Baker status? How could I literally shame the rest of the Daring Baker crew?? I could not! So I am joining in on SHF for the very first time. And I will not be ah-scared! (yes I will)

This month's SHF is being hosted by the lovely Domestic Goddess who created Sugar High Friday almost 2 years ago. For this month's theme she chose "Cravings" - the one dessert that you can't live without. This was pretty much a no brainer for me.. because for the past 2 months, ever since the organized chaos of The Martha's Crepe Cakes, I have been CA-RAVING that Italian Meringue Buttercream filling I made. *swoon* and even before that, every now and again I'd be craving "The Mothership" even though she is evil and I have been afraid to mess with her wicked temper again.

Far From Disaster Cake (Yeah Right!) & Italian Meringue Buttercream
Look at that.. deep dark (possessed) cake with KILLER buttercream.. and notice how it looks like it just lost a fight with a hoodlum wielding a switch blade? All jagged edges and not balanced well at all.. I think my lil slice o'cake needs a drink. =(

But I am a brave and daring baker.. so I got out my sugar, flour, cocoa powder & eggs and I set to making the cake. Everything went smooth as silk, no problems whatsoever. I filled up my two 8" rounds with the extra dark and lovely batter and set them, oh so gently, into my warm and inviting oven. Then I went outside to feed the fish in our pond.. 20 min. later, I'm walking back into my house and I smell something that could not be categorized as "April Fresh". In fact, I was smelling something that was burning. "F*ck!!" I yelled as I opened the oven door to see that The Mothership had landed once again, only this time she did not wait for me to frost her - she decided to explode inside my oven. My clean, warm and what was inviting, oven. That bitch.

As I have shared with many of my friends, I now truly believe that this recipe is, indeed, POSSESSED BY SATAN. What I remembered in that 5 seconds it took for me to recognize that I had chocolate cake batter smeared, plopped and ON FIRE in my oven, was that this recipe made WAY TOO MUCH batter for two lil 8" rounds. I had forgotten that when I first met "The Mothership" I had enough left over batter for a dozen (ONE DOZEN) cupcakes. I thought it seemed a lil strange when the batter filled those rounds ALL THE WAY TO THE TOP. Oh yeah, I definitely thought it was strange. But did that stop me from stepping back a moment, assess the situation and think it'd be prudent to maybe bail a cup or two of the batter out of those filled pans? No. No it did not. Hello? I had a batter eruption in my oven for crissakes. No, I definitely did not use any brain power What. So. Ever.

Far From Disaster Cake (Yeah Right!) & Italian Meringue Buttercream
Seriously? How does one frost a cake with even layers? Why can I not accomplish this? It looks like The Mothership is sucking all the delicious buttercream into her black vortex of hell.

And yes, I do understand that what happened was not the fault so much of the recipe's but more so because I am a complete moron. BUT I STILL BLAME THE DAMN RECIPE. So Shoosh!

An hour later after I had scooped and scraped all of the raw batter, as well as the batter that was spot welded to the inside of my oven, into my garbage and had all the dishes washed I looked around at my kitchen and said to my self, "Yo Moron! Are you going to let a silly cake show you who's boss?? Besides, you have a pound + 3 TBS of diced butter in the fridge! You must reign victorious over the hell bitch!" 'kay well I didn't really talk like that in my own head.. it was probably more like a whimper and an emotional fight between making the cake again and going to watch The Bridge to Terabithia on DVD.

Far From Disaster Cake (Yeah Right!) & Italian Meringue Buttercream

So after careful consideration, I poured myself a drink.

And then I went about rounding up all the ingredients again. I remade the cake, filled the two 8" rounds a little over half way full and instead of cupcakes I made four cute lil cakes with my mini heart and round shaped silicone pans, making sure to fill those only half way as well. I carefully placed the mini's on a cookie sheet and then slid those in on the lower shelf of the pristinely clean oven, then even more carefully slid the 8" rounds in while saying a prayer under my breath.

Lotta good that did me.

That MOTHER HUMMING cake did it me again!!!!!!! I can't fakkin believe it! I didn't fill the pans nearly as full! WHOT? THE? FRIG? At least this time there wasn't lava like chocolate goo all over my oven, this time the 8" rounds were only dripping down onto the cookie sheet where the minis were - and the lil heart shaped cakes were completely flowing out of their lil heart shaped silicone pans onto the cookie sheet too. Joy.

I remember saying that I would get my payback one day soon. Officially? Yesterday was THE day.

I did manage to salvage these cakes.. and the taste & texture was spot on.. they did break on me, but that FanFarkingTastic buttercream came to the rescue, just like it rescued my The Martha Crepe Cake. I even have buttercream left over and frozen -so you know, when I feel like an Italian Meringue Buttercream (I just like calling it that) sundae, I'm all set. :P

Far From Disaster Cake (Yeah Right!) & Italian Meringue Buttercream
I half expected the tines on my fork to start melting once it made contact with Her Evil Highness

You'll notice that my frosting skills have not improved much and that basically, I still ended up shaming my fellow Daring Bakers with my inability to reign victorious over a fakkin cake recipe.. (and if you aren't shamed fellow DB's - you should be!) heee! But I was really jonesin' for a good Kitchen Disaster's installment so all of my cravings were met for this month's Sugar High Friday! I got my cake, I got my buttercream and I got my embarrassing post. Go me. =)

Far From Disaster Cake (Yeah Right!) & Italian Meringue Buttercream

You can find the directions for the "Far From Disaster Cake" (Yeah right!) on Molly's blog, Orangette

Basic Buttercream
Recipe by Jacques Torres (I heart him)
I don't know exactly how much this makes - but it's a lot. ;)

Scant 1/2 cup water
2 1/4 cups plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
5 large egg whites
2 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cubed
Raspberry jam, for assembly

The first step is to start cooking the sugar. Pour the water and sugar into a 1-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan and place over medium-high heat. When the bubbles start to form around the edge of the pan, insert a candy thermometer in the mixture.
Place the egg whites in a large mixing bowl and whip with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until foamy and slightly holding soft peaks.

The sugar is ready when it reaches 250 degrees F, what is known as the soft ball stage. Make an Italian meringue by pouring the cooked sugar down the side of the bowl while you continue to whip the egg whites. Do not pour the hot sugar onto the beaters, or it will splatter. Continue whipping the meringue on medium-high speed until the outside of the bowl is warm but not hot, about 5 minutes. Add the butter all at once and beat on medium speed until incorporated. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and whip until the buttercream is thick, smooth, and shiny, about 10 minutes. At his stage, you can add flavoring, if desired.

The buttercream can be used immediately or can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days or in the freezer for several weeks if held in an airtight container. If it has been chilled or frozen, allow the buttercream to come to room temperature before using, then whip it with an electric mixer on medium speed until it returns to its initial volume and is once again thick, smooth, and shiny.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Beans! Beans! The Magical Fruit...

The more you eat.. the more you Hi! I just can't help myself from mentally singing that lil diddy everytime I think about beans. They are quite magical, aren't they?

Not that I'd really know, as not many beans pass these almost 40 year old lips. Yeah.. I'm not a big bean lover. Nope, not so much hip on the legumes. I know. I'm weird. I realize I'm in the minority here and that most really enjoy beans. I, personally, can't get past the texture.. kinda fibery & creamy at the same time. And they sometimes get stuck at the back of the roof of your mouth - you know, where the hard palate rolls into the soft palate right before you hit the uvula? heh heh Nay Sayers.. you didn't know I was so fakkin educated on areas in the human mouth, now didja? I'm not really.. I just looked it up - but I was pleasantly surprised when I realized I could use the word "Uvula" in a sentence. I love that word. Uvula. I don't use that word often enough, yanno?

Anyhooooo.. yeah the bean meat or whatever ya wanna call it.. the pasty stuff sometimes gets stuck in that area of the mouth and sometimes it's hard to get it off.. sometimes you find yourself chipping away at it with the tip of your tongue, or even worse, rubbing it with the base of your tongue in a way of trying to scrub it off.

Quit looking at me that way.

Are you trying to tell me that I'm the only person EVER to get the bean meat stuck on the roof of my mouth? The only one who could spend hours trying to chip away or scrub it off with her own tongue?? Whot. Evah. You've NEVER experienced that waxy, pasty, grainy, squicky feeling sometimes brought on by pasty bean meat? How about when it adheres to your two front teeth like little ill-fitting wool sweaters?

So, I'm guessing you get the idea why I'm not a huge bean loving gal, eh? BUT! I want this to change! I dooo!! I know I'm missing out on all kinds of delicious salsas, hummus, nachos, southwestern eggrolls, rice & beans, layer No. 1 of most Mexican 7 Layer dips.. I mean the list could go on and on.. And what's more, I've heard that beans are good for you. Can you imagine?

Well now, I gotta tell you how excited I've been for the past 48 hours. Squeeeeeeeeeeee! I made a bean dish - And - I LOVED IT! No, LOVE is not strong enough of a word.. I.. I.. I could make out with this bean salad. I could! Okay a lil background.. I'm going to spoil it for those of you who are waiting with bated breath (baited breath? like fish hook baited?) for the big Salad Stravaganza debut on July 1st, but I can't help it. Alanna of A Veggie Venture submitted a recipe for the Stravaganza that just made me NEED to run out for green beans and almonds. 'kay well, you know I gotta mess with everything.. so I opted for cashews in lieu of the almonds, BUT STILL! I RUSHED to get these ingredients and I RUSHED to get home to prepare this dish.. this amazing BEAN dish.

Fresh Green Bean Salad w/Asian Dressing

Ohh.. uhhmmm.. all that stuff you just read up there - yanno, about the hate hate relationship I have with beans? 'kay that really had nothing much to do with this post because I like green beans. I've always liked them. heh heh So yeah, no, I've never really been known for shootin' straight from the hip. Ya dig? I kinda liked takin ya'll on a wild bean hatin' rant before I got to the point of this here post. heeee!

So as I was saying, Alanna submitted this dish and I just fell in love with it, and honestly? I can't really say why. But I did and I tried it and it was the best bean salad I have ever had in my whole and entire life! The beans were crisp and flavorful, the dressing was tangy and zingy and was all about the Asian flavored love. And the icing on the cake was the Soy Glazed cashews that are sprinkled on top of the green beans. Those were so good on their own that Hubbs has informed me that no nut will pass his lips if they aren't soy glazed nuts.

That didn't sound exactly right...

If this description hasn't made you push yourself away from the screen in a mad dash to find yourself some green beans and the nut of your choice, then maybe this will help.. green beans are low in calories (only like 44 calories in 1 cup!), they are an excellent source of Vitamins C & K and something called manganese! And! And! They are really good for your heart and all the lil things attached to it! Dudes.. these green beans pack a major healthy punch!

Fresh Green Bean Salad w/Asian Dressing

Since I only changed the type of nut used in Alanna's recipe, I'm not going to give the recipe here - but I am going to give you a word to click on that will take you to the recipe.. but kids? Single file, okay? Don't be jammin' up Alanna's site. :D

Okay here's the word: --> UVULA <--

And because Alanna has already submitted a recipe to Ilva's and Joanna's Heart Of The Matter No. 4, and because The Heart Healthy gals prefer one-event submissions, I'm going to submit this recipe in Alanna's name just because I feel so strongly that it should be passed around and seen in events that are healthy eating related. So I'm hoping the gals won't see this as a recipe coming from another event as the Salad Stravaganza has yet to "debut". heee!

Fresh Green Bean Salad w/Asian Dressing

PS - You might notice that I labeled this dish as a starter, a side dish and the main dinner dish, because I feel it would work as all three. =)


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Friday, June 15, 2007

A Jumble of Salads Because it's a Stravaganza!!


I have no time, but wanted to post quickly on a couple things that I've been meaning to share.

Salads! I know I've been posting everything but salads lately, but that doesn't mean I haven't been eating them left and right! Okay well at least 2 times a week for dinner and 5 days a week for lunch. Although I have not tried any of the AMAZING submissions we've received for the Salad Stravaganza yet, I have finally got out to buy the ingredients and will be experimenting starting today. Yay!

This first salad I want to share is the best grilled chicken salad you will ever eat! As long as you over-look my horribly lit pictures and try it. ;) It's a simple salad.. your basic greens.. and yes, I'm an iceberg lover.. even though there are definitely many more lettuces out there that have more flavor, I usually buy iceberg. Do you see now how badly I need salad help?? hehe But the crunchiness of the iceberg lettuce works nicely with this recipe.

So all you do is, marinate your chicken breast - I do this simply with Wishbone Robusto Italian salad dressing. I swear by this stuff. Although I can't stand it as a salad dressing, for marinating chicken it's wonderful. I marinate for at least 30 minutes if I'm in a rush, but usually at least 8 hours. I either grill the chicken or pan sear it until it's nicely browned, being careful not to over-cook it. Cut it into bite sized chunks and throw into a salad made of iceberg lettuce, sliced cukes, grape tomatoes, diced bell peppers, black olives, and small diced pancetta - cooked until crispy. I prefer pancetta in this salad as it's not as potent as your basic bacon. DO NOT GET ME WRONG. There is nothing better than bacon!!!! But, for me, in this salad, I prefer the dressing and the chicken to be the main flavors with the pancetta adding a nice crunch and background hit of heavenly porkiness. heee!

Salad Stravaganza

'kay so you've got all your components in a big giant bowl.. I am now sharing with you my most favorite and pretty much only dressing I eat.. where there is nothing spectacular about the ingredients, I firmly believe it's all in the shake and the salt. I sprinkle garlic salt on the salad.. just when you think you've got enough, go ahead and give it one more little sprinkle (nope the salad doesn't turn out salty). And then in some kind of vessel, I use the cruet that you can buy with Kraft's Good Seasons packet dressing (I sometimes use the packets in a shrimp marinade, I'll have to blog about that one day, eh?). I fill the cruet up past the line for the vinegar (about an 1/8 of inch over) with balsamic vinegar. Then I fill the rest of the bottle with canola oil. I'm not a huge fan of olive oil and balsamic as a salad dressing. I prefer the lighter canola oil on my salads, and the olive oil in my cooking. Anyhoo.. once it's filled, I pop the cap on and I shake the mo'fo until I've got an emulsion - and then I shake some more. I have no idea if I'm adding anything to the emulsion by shaking it longer than necessary.. I just like prancing around my kitchen while shaking it. :P Once you're emulsified, pour a generous amount over your salad.

Wait there's more shaking involved!!!

I put a tight fitting lid on my bowl of chicken salad (or plastic wrap secured with a rubber band) and I shake, shake, shake.. shake, shake, shake, shake my salad.. shake my salad.. I know!!! Am I a freak of nature when it comes to my salad dressing, or what??? But I'm telling you - it comes out perfect each and every time.. SO GOOD!! Ohhh and if you use this method for just veggies without lettuce and let it sit for an hour or two, or even over night - heavenly when you finally dive in. I do this with bell peppers a lot - slice 'em up, shake 'em up with the dressing and just let them sit, with maybe an extra shake every once in a while for good measure - then we snack on them later. SO GOOD. SO FAKKIN GOOD.

Salad Stravaganza

But Wait! There's more!!!

As an added bonus, if you really get into your shaking abilities, you'll burn off the pancetta before you even eat it! How's that for a bonus?? :D

The second salad, is basically the same dressing - although the components are different. This one is made with our first harvest of the leaf lettuce we are growing in our garden - squeeeeeeeeee! We may not have 'maters yet (Sher :P ) but we've got lots of lettuce and it's fab. I just threw on some cukes and grape tomatoes, gave it a shake with my balsamic and oil dressing and shaved some Parmigiano Reggiano over top.. heavenly.


Finally.. potato salad. My mom's potato salad, to be specific. Quickly (as if, like I could be quick and to the point in my posts.. har!) boil potatoes with their skins on and take them out the very second they are fork tender.. let cool. Peel and dice - throw into big bowl. Dice some white onion - as much as you prefer. Dice some bell peppers, black olives, green olives, celery, and boiled egg - all amounts are what you feel is right for you. Give it a quick mix in the bowl with the potatoes. Now find some vessel again - the cruet won't work here, you need something bigger. Add 3-4 TBS. of Hellmann's mayo or Kraft or whatever, but NO MIRACLE WHIP (or as I like to call it, Miracle Sh*t), add 2 good squirts of either Dijon or plain yellow mustard, add a good sprinkling of celery salt, spanish paprika, onion and garlic powders and black pepper. Now, drizzle in eh? 1/4 c. - 1/3 c. milk - be careful on the milk, you don't want your dressing to be too thin - and you can always add more if it's too thick. Now, put the lid on your vessel and.. you know what to do, ladies and gents.. SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE - SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE - SHAKE YOUR POTATO SALAD DRESSING - SHAKE YOUR POTATO SALAD DRESSING!! Please feel free to frolic in your kitchen while shaking. It adds to the flavor.

Potato salad
I just realized that's a crappy picture because you can't see all the good stuff in it.. but trust me there was good stuff in it. :D

Pour your freshly shaken dressing over your potato salad and give a good mix, but be gentle so you don't mash your potatoes.. cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.. longer if you can - over night is best.. The ONLY potato salad I'll eat. =)

I'm also linking to past salads I've made as they all need re-introducing.. each one is sooooo fakkin' good.. Such as:

tortellini salad

Chopzanella cu

Broccoli Slaw

- A savory Broccoli-slaw

Kevin's Grilled Corn and Shrimp Salad

- Kevin's Grilled Corn & Shrimp Salad that I make all the time now!

Fish Salad

- My Dad's favorite Fish Salad

Mango Rice Salad with Grilled Shrimp

- A low cal/low fat Mango Rice Salad with Grilled Shrimp

And finally - a quick fruit salad - which I haven't made in a while for some STOOPID reason, but will post pictures when I do.. take your favorite melons and cut into bite sized chunks, add your favorite type of grapes, maybe some mandarin oranges, strawberries and other types of berries are excellent as well. Give 'em a light toss.. now in some kind of vessel (methinks you know where I'm going with this) combine (whisking is allowed here, but you don't burn as many calories in whisking as you do in SHAKE SHAKE SHAKING your booties!!) 2 TBS. honey with 2 tsp. freshly grated ginger and 3/4 c. citrus juice - I've tried them all and they all work wonderfully, but orange is my favorite - Pour over your fruit, give quick, gentle mix and let macerate for a couple hours. You can do this in the fridge or on the counter top, depending on if you prefer your fruit salad to be cold or room temp (I usually go room temp) - mow down.. is fabulous. =)

And lastly, I attended what I guess is becoming my yearly Women In The Outdoors (since I'm all about the linkage today) event with my friends again last week. Although I was not as awestruck as I was that first time, I did have fun and I kicked 14 out of 20 clay pigeon's arses. WOOO!

Okay well I'm sorry I squished all these delectible salads into one very long and not so quick post - but, as I'm sure some of you can relate to, summer blogging isn't as easy as winter blogging... that sunshine, fresh air and my pooches are what I crave, so my PC is getting the cold shoulder more often than not. =(

Nigel Jiggs Mofelli (2)
Nigel is being sneaky here.. this is when he looks away from you but keeps walking very... slowly... towards you and then POUNCE! He'll try to tackle your knees. We call it stalking - it's hilarious. =)

How can you resist that face and that schnozz?? Chloe likes to play ball. And after a 20 minute game of catch the ball and bring it back, she likes to play ball again. Then after that she likes to play ball AGAIN. It's kind of never ending. :D



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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Favorite Blogger Recipe and I'm the Luckiest Gal in the World...

Well the beautiful weather, a hectic work schedule and a slight back injury (ugh) has kept me away from my PC for way too long.. I am so behind in posting and what's even worse, I'm so behind in reading my favorite blogs. I hate that! I will catch up though.. some how. hehe

I have been cooking and grilling.. lots. Mostly grilling - which I am falling in love with again. Thank the baby Jebus for aluminum foil, kids. What a wonderful invention. I tell ya, you just chop up some veggies, give 'em a lil sprinkle of sea salt & cracked black pepper, a lil drizz of EVOO, wrap it up and set it on the top rack of your grill and BOOM in a short time you've got perfectly roasted veggies. Ohhh and potatoes.. dear lord.. roasted to perfection, crispedy and creamy all at the same time.. Reynolds Wrap, I heart you! =)

But this post is not about grilling. Actually this is one of those posts O'mine that I enjoy thoroughly (no, not a kitchen disaster - much to my chagrin), it's all about seeing another food blogger's phenomenal recipe and knowing without a doubt that this one isn't going to hit the "MUST MAKE" pile, it's going to be made hours after you read about it.

There's a relatively new food bloggin' gal in town, some of you already know her. I've got the distinct pleasure of being her partner in this Salad Stravaganza fun-fest we've got going. Her name is Kelly and she's the author of Sass & Veracity. Kelly's cooking isn't pretentious.. most times it's not fancy at all.. it's the kind of food that assures your need for a huge glass of water after reading it because of all the fluid you'll lose due to the droolage. She's yet to post something that doesn't make me want to move in with her. By the way, Kel? Is that a possibility? I can pack up the pooches and be there in less than a week! :D

One of her most recent posts was all about her and her son making tortillas from scratch. A very interesting and informative read, complete with step by step instructions. And although that was all good, it was what she did with those home made tortillas.. she wrapped them around delicious pork Carnitas. One of my most favorite items to order when I hit my favorite Mexican restaurant. I'd never even given thought to making it myself.. until I saw Kelly's post.

I read that post early Sunday, and by 10:30 that morning Hubbs and I were on our way to purchase a pork roast that we could throw into the crockpot when we got back. Ya know, crockpots aren't just for Autumn/Winter. Which I'm sure many of you realize. For me though, when I think about using my crockpot it's for a rather heavy meal such as beef roast, chili, stew, etc. I don't think I've ever dragged it out in the summer before and how fakkin silly is that? It doesn't heat up your already inferno-like kitchen, you can spend 5 minutes in the morning, not worry about it all day long and then spend another 10 minutes in the evening and voila! You've got dinner. Perfect for those days when we are all about the garden and flower beds.. the last thing I want to do is slave over a hot oven or even a hot grill..

And so, I plopped my locally, humanely treated and raised, organic pork roast (Non Smithfield, I'll have ya'll know. *bastages*) into my crock pot with a lil chicken stock, a lil wine, some fresh herbies from my herbie gardens - dropped the lid on and forgot about it for 5.5 hours. When I came back in, the second - THE SECOND I touched it with a fork, it fell apart. Heaven. I pulled it with 2 forks, seasoned it a bit more with sea salt & cracked pepper and a big handful of chopped, fresh cilantro and diced green chilies. Another what? 3 minutes? sloppin the fixin's into cute lil bowls just like Kelly did - and we had dinner.. an amazingly tasty and filling dinner that didn't feel like we had just ingested an 80 lb. bag of mortar mix.

I urge you to whip out your crockpots! Throw in your protein and some seasonings - and walk away people. Walk. Away. Go and enjoy your day.. don't stress over dinner.. let the pot O'crock do the work for you. hehee =)

Huge thanks to Kelly for giving me the awesome idea (and courage to try it on my own).. now I can have Carnitas as good as what my favorite Mexican restaurant serves.

Pork Carnitas
Pork Carnitas

2-3 pound pork roast
2-3 c. chicken stock (veggie stock would work well too)
1/2 c. dry white wine - I used a Pino
1 handful each, fresh herbies - I used Thyme, Oregano and a sm. amount of Sage
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 Spanish onion, sliced
Sea salt & cracked, black pepper to taste
1 lime, juiced
1 large handful of fresh, chopped cilantro

Shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 Avocado, diced
Salsa or 1 tomato, diced (I went with Chi-Chi's new Garden Salsa YUM!)
Shredded lettuce
Diced green chili (I used the canned kind)
Light Sour Cream (Daisy's - it's the best)
Flour tortillas, home made or store bought

Place the stock and wine in the crockpot. Rub the roast with the salt & pepper and garlic. Sprinkle the herbs on the roast and in the stock. Cover the roast in the sliced onion rings. Turn on high, place the lid on and let it go - ours took approximately 5.5 hours.

Pork Carnitas

Once the pork is fork tender, remove from crockpot, and shred with 2 forks or your hands, whichever you prefer. Add the fresh cilantro and the lime juice as well as more salt & pepper (if you so desire), mix and serve with warm tortillas and the rest of the fixin's.

Pork Carnitas

Ohh and I also made my favorite Banana-Banana Pudding, but this time I added a layer of butterscotch pudding over the banana pudding.. delish! :D

Banana-Banana Butterscotch Pudding

And finally, I couldn't resist sharing with you, what a proud, proud woman I am..
I'm a proud woman
Everyone.. meet Hubbs! Yesterday, he was kneeling on a particularly sticky tar & gravel roof, doing his thing.. well the heels of his work boots were covered in tar and when he'd shift back and sit on his heels, well yeah.. the tar got all over the seat of his pants. You'd think he'd come home and just take the tarred pants off and throw his shorts on.. but no, not my hubbs. Bless him. Instead he decided to take a plastic bag and lay it down where ever he was sitting. So each time he'd get up the bag would be stuck to his ass. After reminding him that he had a bag stuck to his ass about 40 times, I decided to keep my mouth shut and snap a picture instead. *evil grin*

Step back, ladies!! He's ALL MINE.

Just a reminder - we're a little over the half-way mark until the due date for submissions gets here! Your salad doesn't have to be just leafy - we're accepting any possible variation, as long as you can call it "salad". Potato salad, Seafood salad, Cole slaw, Broccoli-slaw, fruit salad, jello-salad, twigs & berries salad.. you get the idea. ;) Thanks! xoxo

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Friday, June 08, 2007

WCC No. 17 - Cornmeal?

My cornmeal experiences have not been very creative or frequent.. I've made a honey cornbread from scratch and I think that's about it. Oh yeah! Polenta.. I made polenta from scratch but wasn't thrilled with the recipe. Oh wait! One more - a most delicious "hamcake" pancake type thing made with cornmeal & ham and then you pour a maple syrup and pineapple mixture over them.. heavenly. Other than that - cornmeal has basically been ingested from corn bread or corn muffins made from those lil boxes of Jif cornmeal mix. I KNOW! How pathetic, eh?

But the good news is from the couple of lame experiments with cornmeal, I had plenty on hand for this month's WCC challenge! I just needed a recipe.. day after day passed.. and then week after week.. until I thought that I just wasn't going to participate this month, which made me sad because I love participating in the WCC and I love my sweet friend, Sara. So what the hell was I going to do??

This past Monday, I believe it was, Hubbs and I were vegged out in the living room watching Emeril's show. Something we rarely do.. I think we overdid Emeril way back when and now we just aren't into his show or his cooking anymore. Go figger. But anyhoo.. the show was based on recipes from FoodTV's cookery book Favorites, which I happen to own thanks to a friend giving it to me this past Xmas. Here's where I admit, I've barely opened the damn book up. But the recipes that Emeril, Mario Batali and Alton Brown made were pretty enticing. Especially AB's - Pineapple Upside Down CORN cake!! I knew I had just found my WCC recipe submission. :D

Pineapple Upside Down Corn Cake

AND get this.. I'm actually participating in this month's WCC with a recipe from..

Wait for it..


A COOKBOOK! How do you like them apples?? teee!

AB's cake looked down right delish on the show and I am not a Pineapple Upside Down cake lover. Hell, I'm not even a liker. I have squicky memories of them, from my childhood, being way too sweet. And there's no chocolate involved. WTF? But the idea of the corncake combined with the pineapple and brown sugar AND a half-cup of butter was just too good to pass up. Plus it gave me an opportunity to cook with my cast iron skillet, which I don't think I've used since this.

Pineapple Upside Down Corn Cake

Okay so here's the deal - it was very good.. even though I cooked mine too long, making it slightly dry. But I still really loved it and will make this again. I liked the texture of the cornmeal cake and the slightly burnt caramel and pineapple topping was even better. I didn't burn it on accident, but I cooked it a lil longer than called for because I like the slightly burnt taste of caramel made with brown sugar and butter. I'm kooky, this I know. Next time though, I will not go by the instructions and bake this cake for 35-45 minutes. I will take it out at 25-30 minutes and I think I'll double the topping part of the recipe and add mandarin oranges. I think a lil toasted coconut in the batter would be quite delish as well. I also did not have pineapple rings and just couldn't muster the energy to run up the street to the store for 1 can of them when I had a can of pineapple chunks in my over stocked pantry. I blew off the marachino cherries cuz they squick me unless they've been soaked in 151 proof rum. *evil gril* and I blew off the pecans because I can't have 'em. Other that those 3 things, I followed his recipe.

Give this a try.. it's different from your "normal" Pineapple Upside Down Cake, which I don't think is a bad thing. =)

Pineapple Upside Down Corn Cake
Alton Brown's Pineapple Upside Down Corn Cake
Adapted from Food TV's Favorites cookery book.

Recipe below is written exactly as in the book.

Yields one 10 inch cake.

3/4 c. whole milk
1 c. coarse-ground cornmeal
4 oz. (8 TBS.) unsalted butter
1 c. packed dark brown sugar
6 slices canned pineapple in heavy syrup
6 maraschino cherries
1/3 c. chopped pecans, toasted
3 TBS. syrup from canned pineapple
1 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3 whole eggs
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. canola oil

Preheat oven to 350ยบ F. In a microwave-safe dish, bring the milk to a boil. Remove the milk from the microwave and add the cornmeal. Stir and let soak at room temperature for 30 minutes. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add the brown sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and carefully place 1 slice of pineapple in the center of the pan. Place the other 5 slices around the center slice in a circle. Place the cherries in the center of the pineapple slices and sprinkle the nuts evenly over the fruit. Drizzle the reserved 3 TBS. of pineapple syrup over top.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium mixing bowl and whist to combine. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the sugar to the eggs and whisk to combine. Add the canola oil and whisk. Add the cornmeal and milk mixture and whisk to combine. Add this to the flour and stir just until combined. Pour the batter over the fruit in the skillet and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Remove from oven and let cool for about 30 minutes in the skillet. Set a platter on top of the skillet and carefully invert the cake.

As always - thanks Sara!! I look forward to what promises to be a very interesting round-up. =)


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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

My Annual Gardening Brag :)

Every year, Hubbs and I spend hours upon hours cleaning out our flower beds, planting new flowers, dividing established plants, mulching, weeding, roto-tilling the vegetable garden & planting the veggies, etc. We also spend hundreds of dollars on new plants each year. My God, we need a 12 step program. It got so bad this year that we nervously joked, as we were walking out of the last nursery we hit with our huge bootie of gorgeous perennials & annuals, that we could very well lose the house because we had just spent some of the mortgage money.. but hot damn it'll look fantabulous at the Sheriff's Auction!

He's always had a green thumb and has always had flower beds and gardens throughout his life. I, on the other hand, never had either. Oh sure, my mom would buy a few impatiens every year and plant in the lil flower bed outside of our back porch, but that was it. The closest we ever had to a garden was an Italian plum tree, which died when I was in my mid-teens. So, when I bought my first house I promised myself that the yards would be beautiful and, lucky me, he feels the same way.

So keeping up the tradition of showing my blogging friends some of what we've planted and cared for - the rest of this post will be photos of this year's beauties. Happy Summer to all of my northern hemisphere friends! To everyone else who are starting (or will be starting in the near future) to experience the colder temps, I hope these photos warm you up a bit! Enjoy :D

Sweet William
Sweet William


Coleus Saavy
My absolute favorite Coleus "Saavy" LOVE the Autumn-like colors =)

That autumn leafy looking thing I bought last year that I covet
The other plant with Autumn-like colors that I covet, but still don't know what the hell it is. :D

Giant Peony
Peony - they got HUGE this year


Dahlia Dahlia
Two of my 3 smaller variety Dahlias (my favorite flower), the 3rd was just budding when I took these photos, but I'll post later because it's gorgeous!

Lady Luck
"Lady Luck" is what the tag said, not sure what kind of flower this is though.

Herbs Oregano & Cilantro
Pineapple sage Lavender
1- My herb pot. This year, lots and lots of basil, chives, tarragon, thyme and sage. 2- Big old bucket o'cilantro and smaller planter is oregano. 3- Pineapple sage. 4- Lavender in a bed that obviously needs weeded again. Also that lil curly looking vine coming through our new fence? A gorgeous Clematis that he thought he killed last year when he put the new fence up.. now it's sandwiched between the old and new fences - so he's going to take some boards off and try to bring it inside the new fence. Oops a daisy!

And my most favorite photo of the summer - our new Zinnias. Do they rock or do they not rock, people?! They totally rock. :D

More pictures here


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