Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Soft & Chewy Molasses Cookies

It's that wonderful time of year when our thoughts turn to baking....apparently we are inbred to fatten ourselves and our families up for the upcoming cold winter! I really just love to bake, and I love to bake for other people, I just don't seem to have enough time to do so. So I'm happy to share my favorite recipes for others to make and enjoy. Does that count? Anyway, I love molasses cookies. Love, love, LOVE them. Especially when they are soft & good. So here is my favorite recipe for them - hope you make and enjoy them too!

Soft & Chewy Molasses Cookies
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup butter -- softened
1 egg
3/4 cup molasses
2-3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and lightly grease the cookie sheets (I usually use Silpats to line my cookie sheets). In a large bowl cream together the brown sugar and butter until creamy. Beat in the egg and molasses until light and creamy. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Add the dry ingredients slowly to the butter mixture. Drop by teaspoonsful onto the prepared sheets 2 inches apart and bake for 8-10 minutes or until set. Cookies should not brown. DON'T OVERBAKE!!! Cool on the baking sheet for 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Store in an airtight container, or wrap well and freeze.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tortilla Soup

My friend LaMonica nicely reminded me that I haven't updated this thing for TWO months. Yikes. Sorry about that. I actually have lots of recipes to post on here, I just haven't had the time. But here is a quick one that is so so good. It's actually from my friend Michele and it's the easiest recipe and SO YUMMY. Perfect for this blustery weather that western Washington is getting right now. Enjoy!

Michele's Tortilla Soup
3 to 4 chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)
2 cans black beans, undrained
2 cans Mexican stewed tomatoes, undrained
1 4 oz can diced green chiles
1 can tomato sauce
1 cup salsa (any kind, just pick your favorite)

Mix all the ingredients in crockpot. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4 hours. When ready to serve, take chicken out to shred. Return to crockpot. For serving, crumble tortilla chips in bottom of each bowl, pour soup on top. Top with shredded cheese and sour cream as desired.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Italian Egg Drop Soup with Meatballs

Yuuuuummmmmm. I made this tonight from a recipe by Rachael Ray, although I changed it up a bit. It was so so so good! And very quick and easy which is an added bonus! :) I will post it the way I made it but here's a link to her original recipe as well:

Italian Egg Drop Soup with Meatballs
3/4 lb ground turkey
1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs (I actually crushed up some croutons!)
1 egg
1/3 cup shredded Asiago cheese
1/2 tsp dried parsley
salt & pepper
olive oil
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
6 cups chicken broth (I had to sub bouillon cubes as I was out of broth)
2 or 3 handfuls roughly chopped baby spinach
3 eggs
1/2 cup shredded Asiago cheese

Gently mix ground turkey, bread crumbs, egg, cheese, parsley and salt & pepper. Form into 3/4" meatballs. Heat a Tbsp. olive oil over med-high heat and lightly brown meatballs.
Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat; add onions and saute until soft and slightly brown, about 8 minutes. Add chicken broth, increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Add meatballs, let come to a boil again. Reduce heat and let simmer until meatballs are cooked through, about 10 minutes. Add spinach. Beat 3 eggs with 2 Tbsp water and salt & pepper. Slowly drizzle eggs into simmering soup, pushing aside meatballs and spinach. Add cheese and serve.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Chicken, Nectarine & Red Onion Kabobs

I can't help it, I'm stealing a recipe from another recipe blog to post here. It is my new favorite and I want everyone to try it while there are still nectarines available!!! These kabobs are INCREDIBLE. The recipe calls for chicken thighs but I've actually used chicken breast and they come out really juicy and tender....just don't overcook them. Dan has gotten very skilled at grilling and our chicken always comes out just right....nothing worse than dry chicken. Bleh. Anyway, this one is perfect. Please please try it. And tell me you love it as much as I do.
Okay, here's the recipe from Noble Pig (one of my favorite foodie sites, check it out!

Chicken, Nectarine & Red Onion Kabobs

adapted from Rachael Ray
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup apricot jam
2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1-1/2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1-1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, quartered (or chicken breast, cubed)
8 nectarines (about 2 pounds), quartered lengthwise (can substitute with plums, peaches or apricots)
1 red onion, quartered lengthwise and halved crosswise
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (optional for grill pan)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the vegetable oil, jam, vinegar and soy sauce. Add the chicken and toss to coat; refrigerate 30 minutes or up to 4 hours.Transfer the marinated chicken to a bowl. Pour the marinade into a small saucepan, boil for 2 minutes, then let cool.Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium (not hotter, don't do it). Thread the chicken, nectarines and onion on to eight skewers. (If you are grilling this, make sure you soak the skewers in water for 20 minutes before putting them on a grill, unless you want a fire of course.) Grill the kebabs, turning often, (every minute), and basting frequently with the marinade during the first 6 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Ham & Egg Enchiladas

This recipe is so so yummy!! A friend of mine from MOPS passed it along to me (thank you Heather R.!) and I've made it so many times. I love that you make it the night before and just bake it in the morning. So easy for MOPS mornings to bake it and show up with hot dish - everyone is so impressed. :)

Ham & Egg Enchiladas
2 cups diced or chopped ham
1-1/2 cups shredded cheddar or jack cheese (you can mix them or even use some pepper jack)
1/2 cup finely sliced green onions
4 oz. chopped green chiles
8 flour tortillas
6 eggs
1-1/2 cups half & half
1 Tbsp. flour
3 drops hot pepper sauce (optional)

Heat oven to 350. Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish. In a medium bowl, combine ham, cheese, onions, and chilies. Spoon approximately 1/3 cup mixture in the center of each tortilla. Roll up each tortilla tightly and place in dish. In a bowl, combine eggs, half and half, flour and hot pepper sauce; beat well. Pour evenly over filled tortillas. Cover with foil and bake for 45-55 min. or until eggs are set. Sprinkle with more grated cheese, if desired. Cover and let stand 5 min. for cheese to melt. Good served with salsa.
***To make ahead, fill tortillas as directed. Cover and refrigerate overnight. When ready to bake, prepare the egg mixture and continue as directed above.***

Friday, July 4, 2008

Asian Slaw

Well, it's more Thai I guess but oh so good. I got this recipe from my friend Sarah (thank you!!!) who brought it to a MOPS meeting recently and I just had to make it for the 4th. I can't wait to chow on it today, the dressing is so so good! Wow, two recipes in two days...I don't think I can keep up this pace for long!

Asian (Thai) Slaw
2 bags shredded cabbage
1 bag match stick carrots
2 cups broccoli flowerettes (I didn't add these, I don't usually like raw broccoli...except in broccoli salad and then it's okay)
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup chopped red onion

In skillet, melt 3 TBSP butter on med heat add :
2 packages top ramen noodles (crushed)
1 package top ramen flavoring (chicken)
1 cup slivered almonds (unsalted)
1 cup sunflower seeds (unsalted and UN-roasted)
cook until golden brown-set aside and add to salad just before serving

1/4 cup brown sugar
1 T sesame seeds
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup peanut sauce
mix and add just before serving

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Popcorn Gorp

I know my last recipe wasn't exactly "summer" food (though it was REALLY good) so I thought I'd post a couple more recipes. This is a favorite snack food in my family, my cousin-ish requests it whenever possible. It's addicting and tasty and well, just darned good. So simple too! And since I'm making for our 4th of July shindig, I thought I'd share the recipe AND a photo! Whoohoo!

Popcorn Gorp
8 cups popped popcorn
3 cups corn chips, coarsely crushed (Fritos)
2 cups Kix cereal
1 lb. white chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used Nestle white chips, they melted the best)
2 cups M&M's
Combine first 3 ingredients in a large bowl. Microwave white chocolate in bowl on HIGH 1 to 3 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until white chocolate is melted. Drizzle over popcorn mixture, tossing to coat. Stir in M&M's. Spread on a wax paper-lined jelly-roll pan; chill 30 minutes to set. Break into pieces. Store in an airtight container. Yield: 16 cups.
**NOTE! Do not do what I just did - I overmelted the white chocolate and it seized. That means it turned hard. Aargh. Then you have to send your husband to the store. Lucky for you, your husband is so kind and willing to help your every endeavor!!**

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Pepperoni Bread

Oh my word, it has been a while since my last post, sorry!!! Too much craziness in life. But even in midst of craziness, we must still eat! So tonight I tried a recipe out of Family Fun magazine and it was quite the hit with my family! And YES, it is yeast bread but don't be afraid of it, it is SO EASY. Really. Please excuse how the directions read, it was written to make it with kids so I figured I'd leave it that way and you can try making it with YOUR kids! Oh, and I did slightly change the recipe as I used pesto instead of dried basil - WAY better. And since I do make homemade pizza quite frequently, I added some dough improvers to mine that aren't included. If you have any interest in those, here are links to both ingredients I added. Happy kneading!
Easy-Roll Dough Improver
Pizza Dough Flavor

Pepperoni Bread
1-1/4 cups warm water (105° to 115°)
1 package active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar or honey
2 teaspoons olive oil
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
3 to 3-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. prepared basil pesto (or 2 to 3 teaspoons dried basil )
1/4 pound thinly sliced pepperoni
1-1/2 to 2 cups shredded mozzarella

Step 1: Prepare the dough by measuring the water (which should feel slightly warm to the touch) into a large mixing bowl and then sprinkling the yeast over it. Once the yeast starts to dissolve, have your child add the sugar and oil and whisk the mixture to blend it. Set the bowl aside for 5 minutes.
Step 2: Stir the salt into the yeast mixture. Add 2 cups of the flour and beat it in well with a wooden spoon. About 25 vigorous strokes should do it. Add the rest of the flour 1/4 cup at a time, beating well each time, until the dough is firm and no longer sticky. Then scrape the dough from the bowl onto a flour-coated work surface.
Step 3: Have your child rub flour on her hands and sprinkle some on the dough too. Then she should knead the dough for about 7 minutes, until it's springy and supple. TIP: To knead the dough, fold it over itself and push down with your palms, rolling the dough slightly forward as you do. Younger kids can stand on a step stool to get behind the push.
Step 4: Place the dough in an oiled medium-size mixing bowl (it's fun to use a glass bowl so you can watch the dough as it grows), turning it over once to coat the top and bottom. Cover the bowl with oiled plastic wrap and set it in a warm spot until the dough has doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Step 5: Punch down the dough several times with your fist, then turn it out onto a floured surface and knead it for 1 minute. Cover the dough lightly with oiled plastic wrap and let it rest for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, your child can dust a large baking sheet with fine cornmeal. Explain that this will keep the dough from sticking, so there's no need to oil the pan.
Step 6: With floured hands, start pressing the dough into a large square. Switch to a rolling pin and roll the dough into a 12- by 14-inch rectangle. If the dough springs back when you're rolling it, let it rest for an extra 2 or 3 minutes. Keep your rolling pin floured so the dough doesn't stick to it.
Step 7: Have your child lightly brush the surface of the dough with water, then, with dry hands, sprinkle the basil over the dough.**If using pesto, no need to add water, just spread pesto on dough.** Arrange the pepperoni in long rows over the entire dough, except for a 1-inch border on all sides. Then sprinkle on the cheese. TIP: When choosing a cheese for Pepperoni Bread, you can't go wrong with mozzarella but provolone or a combination of other cheeses will taste great too.
Step 8: Starting at the long edge closest to you, roll up the dough snugly like a carpet. Tightly pinch together the dough along the seam to seal it, then pinch the ends closed and tuck them under. Transfer the log onto the baking sheet seam down and loosely cover it with oiled plastic wrap. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes in a warm spot while you heat the oven to 400°. Step 9 Remove the plastic and bake the loaf for about 35 minutes, until it's dark and crusty on all sides. Slide the bread onto a wire rack and let it cool for at least 20 minutes before cutting it into thick slices. Serve warm, with marinara or pizza sauce on the side for dipping. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Mandarin Chicken Salad

Okay, this salad is an addiction. I think about it. I think about making it. I think about eating it. It is such a simple dish, but so very good! I actually got this recipe from my wonderful friend Katharine who got it from her very sweet mom, Muriel. Thank you both for sharing this one!!!

Mandarin Chicken Salad
4 chicken breasts (or use a rotisserie chicken from the store)
1 16 oz box acini de pepe pasta
3 small cans mandarin oranges (or 2 large cans)
3-5 stalks celery, chopped finely
1/3 sweet onion, chopped finely
small bunch green grapes, cut in quarters (I prefer red but green taste great too)
2 pkgs. slivered almonds (1 cup)
1-1/2 cup mayonnaise (or to taste)
salt & pepper (to taste)
1 tsp. celery seed
1 tsp. Johnny's Seasoning Salt

Bake chicken in pan covered with foil at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes or until done (or remove meat from rotisserie chicken). Meanwhile, cook pasta as directed and refrigerate. Once chicken is cooled, finely shred or cut into small cubes; toss with seasoning salt. Mix all remaining ingredients. Stir and chill before serving. Salt & pepper to taste.

TRY THIS ONE!!! It makes a ton but lasts for a long time so you can do what I did and eat it for lunch and dinner for 4 days in a row. Sorry I don't have a photo - I will try to be better about photos with my recipes for you visual people (like me!).

Monday, May 5, 2008

Mexican Cookies

I grew up eating these cookies a LOT, as my mom made them frequently. They are really, really easy and quick to make. And I can scarf down a plate of these things in minutes. Though I can't imagine that these are actually frequently eaten in Mexico! But with the tortillas, cinnamon & chocolate, they do have a Mexican "flavor". So this recipe isn't so much a recipe as it is just directions.

Flour tortillas
Cinnamon & sugar (mixed of course!)
Softened butter (or margarine or whatever you prefer)
Chocolate chips

Spread tortillas with butter. Sprinkle liberally with cinnamon & sugar. Cut into triangles and place on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for....oh, just until they are crisp. While they are baking, grind or grate or finely chop the chocolate chips to a powder. You can put them in a blender or just use a food chopper, just try to get all the chunks out so it's pretty fine. Once the tortillas are crisp, remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with the chocolate. Let set so chocolate melts. Then eat them!! These are so good, really!

By the way, I tried them tonight with whole wheat tortilas since that was all we had ... and they were actually pretty good. I still prefer the white flour but hey, they were a bit healthier this way, right? Really, these aren't so bad for the old diet - you use very little butter & sugar & chocolate but they still satisfy a sweet tooth.

Monday, April 28, 2008

PW's Salad

Here is something a bit lighter and healthier than my last post. I saw this recipe on Pioneer Woman's blog and have been wanting to try it ever since. Finally got my chance. SO yummy!!! And really pretty easy and pretty healthy (well, except the dressing maybe....).

I'm just going to post the link to the recipe as she has all the step-by-step instructions and pictures. TRY THIS!!! And invite a friend or two, it makes a TON.

Pioneer Woman's Salad

The veggies I used were baby spinach, red yellow and orange peppers, cucumbers (I peeled, seeded and sliced thin), shredded carrots (buy them pre-shredded!), purple cabbage, Napa cabbage, green onions....oh and I used whole-wheat linguine. And no hot peppers in the dressing, and toned down the cilantro a bit. You can really do whatever you want here, it's pretty versatile. Some extra salt is needed when you serve it....and the chopped cashews on top are yummy.

I think I'm going to eat it for lunch. AGAIN. Yum.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Sin in a Pan

I had to post another dessert recipe. This is goooooooood stuff. I got this recipe from my girl Detective Shel (holla! LOL). Anyway, my other girl Investigator Kat (NOT Kitty Kat) has dubbed this Sin in a Pan. Absolutely correct. And no it is not a typo, there IS that much butter in this recipe! But hey, you can use fat-free condensed milk, that should help the fat grams. Ha ha, yeah, right. This is soooo good, and oh so addicting. But wait! 3 cups of oats? That's healthy, right? I mean, come on, it has to count for SOMEthing, right? Try this. You'll love it. Just make sure to remember it when you pray and ask for forgiveness. Because it is truly sinful. And delicious!

Double Fudge Oatmeal Bars (aka Sin in a Pan)

6 oz chocolate chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk (you CAN use fat-free)
2 Tbsp. butter
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
Melt these ingredients together in a saucepan until creamy, and set aside.

2-1/2 cups flour
2 cups brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
3 cups oatmeal
1 tsp. salt
1-1/2 cups softened (or melted) butter (YES! it IS 3 whole sticks!!!)
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
Mix all ingredients together until crumbly. Press half of the dough into a greased 9x13 pan. Pour chocolate filling over the dough. Put remainder of dough over filling to cover. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

This stuff is soooooooooooooooo good. Try it. But exercise some moderation. Because it didn't get it's nickname of Sin in a Pan for nothing. :)

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Inside/Outside Chocolate Chip Cake

I'm back!! Sorry it's been a while since my last recipe - I was just feeling the pressure to come up with something wonderful!! But I decided to go with something EASY and wonderful, so here's a simple for those of you that like easy recipes with very few ingredients (and you KNOW who you are....). I love this one, but I am a big chocolate fan. Really really like it. And this one is easy and very chocolatey - yummmmmmm. I don't know who I got this recipe from and I would love to give someone credit (Sharon?) but I don't know where it came from! So whoever you are, let me know! :)

Inside/Outside Chocolate Chip Cake

1 small box instant chocolate pudding
1 Devil's food cake mix
12 oz chocolate chips
2 eggs
1-3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients together by hand, adding chips last. Pour into well-greased bundt or tube pan. Bake for 50-55 minutes - do not overbake!! Let cool in pan 15 minutes, then remove from pan. **once cake is cool, make sure to cover in plastic or the outside gets a little hard/chewy.
Easy-peezy and yummy!!!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Crispy Cinnamon French Toast

This is a popular recipe in our house - usually for dinner. In fact, tonight's dinner! This recipe is also great for a group since it's all done at the same time, unlike normal french toast where someone is always waiting to eat! Try it - it's really easy and I think you'll love it. Even those of you that don't like soggy bread, and you KNOW who you are. ;)

Crispy Cinnamon French Toast
3 cups corn flakes -- coarsely crushed
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
12 1" thick french bread slices

Preheat oven to 450°. Combine crushed cereal, sugar and cinnamon in pie plate. Whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla and salt in another pie plate. Let bread soak in egg mixture about 30 seconds on each side; coat with cereal mixture. Place on cookie sheet sprayed lightly sprayed with non-stick spray. Drizzle 2 Tbsp. melted butter over slices. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Serve with warmed maple syrup. (Bacon and sausage optional.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Asian Noodle Bowl

We are having this for dinner tonight so I thought I would add it to the list. The girls and I both love this recipe - Dan is learning to like it the more often I make it. :) Which is frequent! I got it from a Pampered Chef cookbook and really, it's just yummy and easy. Oh, and I even have a picture I can add!

Asian Noodle Bowl
2 cups diced cooked chicken (I always use a rotisserie chicken)
2 cups thinly sliced bok choy
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup julienne cut carrots (I buy a bag of pre-shredded carrots)
1 1-inch piece peeled fresh gingerroot, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups water
1 can (14 oz) vegetable or chicken broth
2 Tbsp soy sauce (I use a bit more than this)
1 package ramen noodles (any flavor you prefer)

Dice, slice and chop ingredients as according to recipe. Place mushrooms, carrots, gingerroot and garlic in 4-qt (or larger) pan**. Add water, soy sauce, broth, and seasoning packet from ramen noodles; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add chicken, bok choy, green onions and noodles. Cover; remove from heat. Let stand 3 minutes. Serve immediately. Yield: 8 servings.
**Sometimes I saute these in a bit of sesame oil, just adds some flavor. You can also increase the amount of noodles if you prefer more. And for those of you that like a little heat, you can spice it up with some asian hot sauce or something.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Enchilada Casserole

Oh this was a good one. Really really yummy. The girls gobbled it up and actually loved it as leftovers the next day. Dan was a little on the fence - he helped me make it and SAW that I put sour cream in it so he insisted that he could taste it (he does NOT like sour cream). I insisted that he CAN'T taste it as there is such a small amount. Anyway, you should try it. It is really good and I'm looking forward to lunch so I can have it again! :) Hope you like it.

Pork Enchilada Casserole
12 oz. ground lean pork
1 cup chopped onion
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 can (15 oz) pinto or chili beans, drained and rinsed
1 can cream of mushroom soup (I use the fat-free or 98% or whatever it is)
1/2 cup sour cream (I used the light or reduced fat)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground oregano
1 can (10 oz) green chile enchilada sauce
12 6-in. corn tortillas, cut into 2-in. pieces
6 oz cheddar cheese, shredded (I used a mix of cheddar and jack)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 2-quart shallow baking dish (I used a 12x8 pan) with cooking spray. Cook pork, onion and garlic in a large, nonstick skillet, breaking up the meat, until browned. Drain; stir in beans, soup, sour cream, cumin and oregano. Spread 1/2 the enchilada sauce in bottom of pan. Top with 1/3 the tortillas, 1/2 the meat mixture, and 1/3 the cheese. Repeat once with tortillas, meat and cheese (you should have 1/2 cup cheese left). Top with remaining tortillas and enchilada sauce. Cover tightly with foil. Bake 45 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake uncovered 15 minutes. Garnish with cilantro if desired.
**I was only able to find ground pork shoulder which was a little fatty, but if you can find a leaner ground pork it would be a bit healthier.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Baked Potato Soup

This recipe is a BIG favorite in our house!! I've also made it quite a few times for moms with new babies as it's pretty mild and comforting. And oh so yummy. And really quite easy, honestly. I got this from a Southern Living cookbook (GREAT recipe books by the way). Hope you like it! You can tweak the amounts pretty easily to double it if you're having a crowd too.

Baked Potato Soup
4 lg. baking potatoes
2/3 c. butter or margarine
2/3 c. flour
6 c. milk
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
4 green onions, chopped and divided
12 slices bacon, cooked, crumbled and divided
1-1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese, divided
8 oz. sour cream
Bake potatoes at 400 for 1 hour or until done (don't cook in the microwave - doesn't come out the same) Let cool. Cut in half lengthwise; scoop out pulp and set aside. (I like to freeze the leftover skins and have potato skins for another meal or appetizer)
Melt butter in heavy saucepan over low heat; add flour, stirring until smooth. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually add milk, a small amount at a time; cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture is thickened and bubbly.
Add potato pulp, salt, pepper, 1/2 the green onions, 1/2 the bacon and 1 c. cheese to saucepan. Cook until thoroughly heated and stir in sour cream. Add extra milk if necessary. Serve with remaining onions, bacon and cheese to top.

Homemade Pizza

Dan and the girls (and me too) LOVE pizza. And we love family movie night, which traditionally calls for pizza for dinner. However, I am cheap and dislike paying that much money for pizza delivery and not getting exactly the type I want, due to different taste preferences in this house. So I have started making my own and seriously, it is WAY better than delivery. And really quite easy. My favorite pizza dough recipe is one I found online by Wolfgang Puck who is known for pizza. It's an easy recipe and you can kick it up (different chef!) by adding some things to it. I hope some of you will be willing and adventurous to try it!!!! :) Please post and let me know if you tried this and how it came out!!!!

Pizza Dough
1 package active dry or fresh yeast
1 teaspoon honey
1 cup warm water, 105 to 115 degrees
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for brushing
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of italian seasoning
Toppings of your choice

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and honey in 1/4-cup warm water. In a mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, italian seasoning and the salt. Add the oil, the yeast mixture, and the remaining 3/4 cup of water and mix on low speed until the dough comes cleanly away from the sides of the bowl and clusters around the dough hook, about 5 minutes. (The pizza dough can also be made in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse once or twice, add the remaining ingredients, and process until the dough begins to form a ball.) You can also mix it by hand, you just have to knead it a bit longer.

Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and knead by hand 2 or 3 minutes longer. The dough should be smooth and firm. Cover the dough with a clean, damp towel and let it rise in a warm spot for about 30 minutes. (When ready, the dough will stretch as it is lightly pulled).

Divide the dough into 4 balls, about 6 ounces each. Work each ball by pulling down the sides and tucking under the bottom of the ball. Repeat 4 or 5 times. Then on a smooth, unfloured surface, roll the ball under the palm of your hand until the top of the dough is smooth and firm, about 1 minute. Cover the dough with a damp towel and let rest 15 to 20 minutes. At this point, the balls can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Place a pizza stone on the middle rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. (I KNOW Pampered Chef says you don’t have to preheat your stones but this really works better – the crust bakes enough without burning the toppings).

To prepare each pizza, dip the ball of dough into flour, shake off the excess flour, place the dough on a clean, lightly floured surface, and start to stretch the dough. Press down on the center, spreading the dough into an 8-inch circle. If you find this difficult to do, use a small rolling pin to roll out the dough. Spread sauce as desired and arrange the topping of your choice.

Using a lightly floured baker's peel or a rimless flat baking tray, slide the pizza onto the baking stone and bake until the pizza crust is nicely browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Remember that the oven is very hot and be careful as you place the pizza into and out of the oven. Transfer the pizza to a firm surface and cut into slices with a pizza cutter or very sharp knife. Serve immediately.
**I also like to make garlic butter with fresh garlic and brush it all around the crust once it comes out of the oven. Soooo good!**

My favorite toppings are pesto (instead of sauce), salami, black olives, shredded mozzarella and dollops of ricotta. Here is another recipe that I love too, for something a little different. This one is really easy as you use a prebaked crust (like a Boboli) so for those of not into making yeast breads. :) This one is SO not low-fat but it's SO good for you adventurous pizza eaters!!!

Chicken & Cranberry Pizza
1 12" pre-baked pizza crust
1-1/2 cups whole-berry cranberry sauce
2 cups shredded chicken (use a rotisserie chicken)
4 ounces Brie, cut into small chunks
3 to 4 medium green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1 cup shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place crust on a cookie sheet or baking stone, and spread 1 cup of cranberry sauce over crust. Toss remaining sauce with chicken. Top pizza with chicken, brie, green onions, almonds and mozzarella. Bake until the crust is crisp and cheese melts, 10 to 12 minutes. Cut into slices and serve.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Pork Chops

I'm sure some of you are thinking, oh great, Pork Chops. I'm sure we all grew up eating pork chops that were, well....not good. Dry and chewy, and you HAD to dip them in something to help chew them. Ick. However, I have discovered the wonders of brining!!! Though you have to plan ahead a bit, this is an EASY way to make really good, moist pork chops. I will explain the brining and then post a yummy recipe for Grilled Yucatan Pork Chops and Southwestern Rice Pilaf. Here goes:

I used to buy the nice, thick boneless pork chops at Costco but they're just too thick to cook easily and I end up butterflying them instead. Now I buy the bone-in chops and I love how they come out.

To brine 4 pork chops:
In a non-reactive bowl (glass), mix together 5 cups water, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1/4 cup kosher salt. Put the pork chops in the brine, cover and refrigerate overnight. After brining, rinse chops and season as desired. I love to just put salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder on them and grill them. YUM. And make sure you don't overcook them - don't turn them a lot, and cook them until JUST slightly kind of pinkish inside. They will continue to cook a bit as they rest. These days, we really don't have to cook pork as much as in the past - 160 degrees is sufficient. So here is a yummy recipe to try along with a rice side dish - hope you like it!

Grilled Yucatan Pork Chops
1 can diced green chiles, 7 oz can
2 tablespoons Olive oil
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon minced garlic
4 8 oz pork chops
Pineapple Salsa (below)

(brine pork chops overnight before seasoning). In bowl, combine 1/4 cup green chiles, oil, chili powder, cumin and garlic. Rub onto both sides of pork chops. Cover; chill at least one hour. Grill or broil coated pork chops for 6 to 8 minutes per side or until done.

Pineapple Salsa:
In small bowl, combine remaining green chiles, 1 8 ounce can crushed pineapple (drained), 1/2 cup each diced red pepper and chopped green onions, 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro and 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Let stand 1 hour to blend flavors.

Southwestern Rice Pilaf
7 cups water
2 1/2 tablespoons chicken bouillon
1 tablespoon ground cumin
3 cups long-grain white rice -- uncooked
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup slivered almonds
3/4 cup green onions -- chopped

Combine first 3 ingredients in a dutch oven; bring to a boil and stir in rice. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Melt butter in a skillet; add nuts and cook, stirring constantly, until golden. Stir nuts and green onions into rice.

(Jaime, I'll post a homemade pizza recipe soon. :)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Leek, Bacon & Potato Soup

So I really love to cook. And bake. Oh, and eat. And I'm a collector of recipes - sometimes I just like to read them. And my thought was to share some of my favorites with everyone. Rather than letting them all get lost in the shuffle of photos and cute kid moments, I just created another blog. For those of you wondering, Cucina Pazza means "Crazy Kitchen" in Italian. And those that have seen me cook will agree with the title! I also have a sign on the wall in my kitchen that says it. Maybe I should take a photo of it and put it in the header, if I can figure that out.

On to the recipes!! Here's the first one - I just tried this new recipe tonight. Haven't a clue where I got it from but it was REALLY good. I mean REALLY REALLY good. Like we all gobbled it down and went back for more. And relatively healthy and low-ish fat. Try it, I think you'll like it!

Leek, Bacon & Potato Soup
6 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
2 leeks, white and pale-green parts, sliced thin (DON'T use dark green parts)
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups peeled, diced potatoes (I use yellow or Yukon Gold potatoes)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1-1/4 cups shredded cheddar cheese

In a large deep pot or saucepan, cook bacon on medium-high heat for 5 minutes, until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Discard grease, wipe out pan. (I prefer to cook my bacon on a cookie sheet in the oven, then crumble it for the soup.)
In the same pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook for 2 minutes. Add carrots and leeks and cook 2 more minutes. Add broth, potatoes and cayenne. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, covered, for 20 to 25 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Take soup off heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in bacon and 1 cup of the cheese. Serve, garnishing with additional cheese if desired. (I also like to add a dollop of sour cream.)
**If your kids don't like lumpy soup, you could easily use a hand blender or pour in a regular blender to make this smooth - do it before you add the cheese and bacon.**