Thursday, December 15, 2011

French Bread Pizza

Two pieces of French bread were hollowed (I saved the bread for bread crumbs), filled with Italian sausage, salami, pepperoni, peppers, onions, spinach, and homemade ricotta.  Then, they were topped with provolone and mozzarella, and baked at 400 F. for about 12 minutes.  So simple and so good.  You could make the filling whatever you like.  Usually I don't like "pizza" with so much meat, but the combination of everything was amazing.  We topped/dipped these in marinara.  One loaf of bread made enough food for the two of us for about four days.  Next time I have a party I will serve these and cut them into 16 or 24 pieces.  Try this tonight!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

This year instead of buying canned pumpkin I bought fresh pumpkins, roasted them, pureed the flesh, and froze it for cupcakes, breads, and whatever else I needed pumpkin for.  It was very easy, and I will do this again next year.  The added bonus of roasting pumpkins are pumpkin seeds.

Pumpkin seeds are a little bit of a pain because you have to get all the stringy, goopy stuff off the seeds, but it's completely worth the effort.  Once the seeds were cleaned I put them on paper towels to dry.  Next I tossed the seeds in a bowl with a little oil to coat them and I added salt, pepper, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes.  You could use any seasoning you wanted, I'd like to try ranch or Italian seasoning sometime.  After the seeds were coated I spread them on a cookie sheet and roasted them at 350 F. for 1 hour, stirring the seeds every 15 minutes.  I seeds ended up crispy, and I think they taste a lot of popcorn, but that could just be because I season my popcorn exactly the same way.  Now I just have to get my hands on some more pumpkins.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Steel Cut Oats and Sauteed Apples

It's very late, and I have just completed a little over 5000 words on a 15th century manuscript, but I'm highly caffeinated, so I thought I would complete a post about breakfast to try and wind down instead of lying awake in bed.

I love breakfast, and as I've posted before I loved savory breakfast, but I also love sweet oatmeal.  For me, steel-cut oats have a better texture than rolled oats.  They take a little longer to cook, but it's mostly inactive time, so you can get ready for work or school while your oats are cooking.  Do not try to make overnight oats using steel-cut oats.  I found out the hard way that you need rolled oats for that.
The oats pictured above are topped with a sauteed apple.  I diced an apple and sauteed it in some coconut oil (I use butter too) while the oats were cooking.  I like the texture of the skin, but you can peel the apple if this bothers you.  When the apple was almost done cooking I sprinkled it with some cinnamon and brown sugar.  Then I pour it on top of my oats and try to get a piece of apple in every bite.  I'm out of apples, and because I don't buy apples out of season (they don't taste good to me), but I will try this same technique with pears.  Maybe I'll do this tomorrow since my paper is done and I'll have time for something other than leftovers.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Cinnamon Rolls: Well, Actually More of a Nut Roll

I really like savory breakfasts like omelets, bacon, sausage, eggs Benedict.  My husband likes the sweet stuff. I had my parents and his parents over for a few days for Thanksgiving, and I decided to make cinnamon rolls, which I had never attempted before.  I knew this would satisfy the sweet breakfast people.  I also made a fritatta with potatoes, eggs, sausage, peppers, onions, and cheese for us savory folk.

I found the cinnamon roll recipe in the December issue of Food and Wine magazine.  I knew they would take awhile to make, but they called for a lot of freezing and resting in the refrigerator, so I knew I could make them ahead and then bake them on Thanksgiving morning.  They tasted good, but they were really more of a nut roll.  I'm now on a quest for big fluffy cinnamon rolls like I had as a child.  I'll keep working, and I know my family will be happy to eat all the experiments.  The recipe I made 24 cinnamon rolls, and between 6 people and 2 breakfasts there were only 5 rolls left.  I guess everyone liked them.   Let me tell you one thing though, when you run out of cinnamon you cannot grate a cinnamon stick fine enough in a food processor to make up the extra.  The food processor did smell amazing though.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I Finally Found my Camera Cable and Stuffed Acorn Squash

Wow, I just realized that it's been over a month since I have last posted.  I'm sorry about that, and I really find in unacceptable.  My excuse, though not a very good one, is that I had lost the cable that connects my camera to my computer, but I have finally found it.  I've finally found a good routine with school and life, so expect to see a lot more posts in December.  There is also an upcoming trip, and a lot of homemade Christmas goodies, so I will post pictures from that when it happens.  It should be an exciting month.

Even though I made this dish almost 3 weeks ago, I thought I should post it right away because at least where I live, you can still buy acorn squash.  My husband gave me a strange look when I set this dish on the table, but he really liked it after giving it a try.  To me this is a perfect combination of sweet and savory, and if you omit the sausage and use vegetable broth it is a great vegan entree.  This would be a good dish for vegan or vegetarians at a Christmas dinner because it seems special, but it's easy enough to make on a weeknight too.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

  • 1 acorn squash cut in half and seeds removed (you can save the seeds and bake them)
  • 1/2 loaf of sandwich bread white or wheat, torn into bite sized pieces
  • 1 lb. ground turkey or sausage (leave out for a vegan meal)
  • 1tsp. salt
  • ground pepper to taste
  • red pepper flakes to taste
  • 3 stalks celery diced
  • 1/2 onion diced
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon dried sage plus 1 tsp. dried sage
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup vegetable broth or poultry broth
1. preheat oven to 350 F.  Place acorn squash cut sides down on cookie sheet and bake for 1/2 hour.  Set aside while preparing stuffing.

2. Meanwhile, brown turkey in a skillet with about 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tsp. ground sage, 1tsp. salt, pepper, and pepper flakes to taste.  If you are using sausage you can omit the salt and pepper.  Do not drain fat from browned meat.

3. In a large bowl add bread, celery, onions, dried sage, cranberries, broth, remaining oil, and browned meat with fat.  Mix together until the bread has soaked up the broth.  You are looking for broth to come out of the bread when squeezed, but not so much broth that there are puddles in the bottom of the bowl.  Think of a saturated sponge.  You can now taste the stuffing mixture for seasoning and add salt, pepper, or more sage if needed.

4. Stuff mixture into prebaked acorn squash halves.  I usually have extra stuffing which I bake in a small casserole dish.  You could omit the acorn squash completely and bake all the stuffing in a casserole dish.  The squash and stuffing can be wrapped at this point and held in the refrigerator overnight.

5. Bake stuffed squash for 1 hour.  When you eat this pull some of the squash out with the stuffing to enjoy the sweetness of the squash and the savory stuffing. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What to do with Leftovers: Meatloaf

I recently heard that MidWesterners had a stereotype.  I was not aware of this, but I do embody it.  The stereotype is that we're very nice, and we make casseroles.  Yep, I do that.  While meatloaf isn't really a casserole, I think it fits into the MidWestern stereotype, and I'm happy to embrace it.  I know some people have horror stories about dry, terrible meatloaf, but I've never had that problem.  In fact, meatloaf is one of my dad's favorite foods, and a few years ago my mom made it for Thanksgiving instead of a turkey.  One key to a moist meatloaf is to put some water in the bottom of the baking dish, about an inch, and cover the meatloaf for the first 45 minutes of cooking.  It will steam the meat and keep everything moist.  I made meatloaf recently, and I always make mashed potatoes and use the pan drippings for gravy.  I had leftovers that I wanted to doctor up a bit, so I thought I'd make Manhattans (my husband calls them this) or hot meatloaf sandwiches (my term).  Basically I just layered everything up.  I put bread on the bottom, topped with meatloaf, then potatoes, and then gravy.  Heat everything up separately and then assemble for best results.   If you need a recipe for meatloaf then scroll down past the picture, and you will see what I do.


2 lbs. hamburger
4 slices of sandwich bread torn up
1 T. salt
1small onion chopped
2 eggs
1/2 cup tomato juice
catsup for the top

Mix all ingredients together except catsup.  I think mixing by hand works the best.  Shape into a loaf and place in baking pan. Top with catsup to taste.  Add about an inch of water to the bottom of the pan and cover.  Bake at 400 F. for 45 minutes.  Remove lid and bake for an additional 15 minutes.  

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Corned Beef Hash and Eggs

I love corned beef.  Every year on St. Patrick's day I make corned beef, cabbage, and parsley buttered red potatoes.  I also buy a second corned beef to freeze and eat later in the year.  A few weeks ago I decided it was time to pull the corned beef out of the freezer.  I cooked it in the crock pot, and ate it with a lot of cabbage.  The problem was that I had a lot left over.  My solution: corned beef hash.  Corned beef hash is something that I've always enjoyed.  I used to buy cans of it, you know the stuff that kind of looks like dog food.  I'd plop the hash out of the can and fry it until it was crispy.  I bought the canned stuff recently, and it just tasted greasy.  Homemade has is much better.

Here's what I did:

I had some leftover baked potatoes in the fridge that I peeled and tossed in a preheated cast iron pan with a little oil. Be sure to season with salt and pepper.  If you don't have pre-cooked potatoes then steam or microwave your potatoes before putting them in the pan.  I cooked the potatoes on medium-low for about 10 minutes.  The potatoes were starting to brown and get crispy.  Next I added half a chopped onion, and cooked this for another 5 minutes.  Last, I added the diced hash and cooked until the potatoes were really crisp and the hash was warm.  I served the hash with over-easy eggs on top.  This is a really easy breakfast using leftover and so much better than the canned stuff.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hot Apple Cider with Buttered Rum: Because More Drinks Need Butter

I'm finally back to posting, and it was difficult to decide what to post first because I have so many pictures waiting.  I thought I would post this hot apple cider because it's perfect for this time of year.  Around here I can actually get unpasteurized apple cider which I'm really excited about.  I haven't really liked apple cider since it started being pasteurized.  I do remember the taste from my childhood, and I must admit that I did a happy little dance in the farmer's market when I found it.  Don't be frightened of putting butter in a drink.  Think of it like a delicious sauce that runs throughout your drink adding a nice element.  It's not at all greasy.

Here's what you do.

Heat apple cider on the stove, or if you're taking this to a party you can put it in a crock pot with or without the rum.
meanwhile, place a small pat of butter (1 tsp or so) in the bottom of a coffee mug.
Add a shot (1 to 2 oz) of rum to the mug.
Top with hot cider.
Let butter melt and stir.

I used unsalted butter, so I also added a small pinch of salt to the cup.  Also, do not use margarine for this.  It will melt strangely and not give the same effect.  If it's margarine or nothing I'd just go with nothing.

Monday, October 24, 2011

I'm still here

Hey, just a quick post to say that yes, I'm still here.  I've been cooking more, and I'm getting into a better routine with grad school.  I plan on getting back to a point where I can post something most weekdays.  I will have a food post up either late tonight or early tomorrow.  Thanks for your patience.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Chicken Likka

I'm always a little hesitant about cooking Indian food.  I've never really eaten any authentic Indian food that I know of, and so I'm never sure if I will get the flavors right.  While flipping through a cookbook, I found a recipe for Chicken Likka that looked interesting.  Basically, cubed chicken gets marinated in a mixture of yogurt, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, allspice, and tomato paste, and baked quickly in a hot oven.  The recipe called for the chicken to be skewered, but I didn't have any skewers, so I just baked it on a cookie sheet.  The chicken was extremely flavorful and tender.  It was actually a little too powerful to eat on its own. I took the leftovers and wrapped them in flat bread with cucumber, which toned down the powerful spices, and was just right for my tastes.  Other than the marinade, the dish came together very quickly.  This chicken made me think that maybe I should take more of an interest in Indian cuisine.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Clean out the Fridge Breakfast

Once again, I find myself in the position of apologizing for a lack of posts.  Grad school just started, and I'm trying to juggle my work and school schedule while still putting meals on the table.  I haven't been too creative lately, but when I am I will document it.  I have an experiment in the crock pot right now, and if it turns out well, I will let you know.  In the meantime, stay with me and know that I will keep posting.

Friday morning I decided I needed to clean out some items from the refrigerator which was already looking bare.  We were going out of town for the weekend, and I didn't want to leave some things sitting around to get old.  Plus, we needed breakfast.  I thinly sliced 2 red potatoes and put them into the steamer.  While they were steaming I preheated the oven to 350 f. and put my cast iron pan in the oven to get hot.  Next, I beat 6 eggs, and about 3 tablespoons of heavy cream together.  I added a quarter of a minced red onion, 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1/2 cup of grated sharp cheddar, and mixed it with the eggs.  After the potatoes were soft, I took the cast iron skillet out of the oven and lined it with the potatoes.  I laid my pot holder over the cast iron handle so I didn't burn myself.  I have a bad habit of grabbing hot pan handles.  Next, I poured the egg mixture over the potatoes and then I added crumbled goat cheese to the top.  The eggs were cooked for about 40 minutes.  Breakfast was delicious, and I was able to tidy up and pack while the eggs were cooking in the oven.  I need to make this more when I have company.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Wow, once again it's been over a week since my last post.  I've had a lot of company lately, and I am currently nursing a bad case of strep throat, so meals have been old stand-bys for company, and whatever my husband can make me while I'm sick.  I do have some things I've been meaning to post though, so while I'm sitting at home I thought I'd do just that.

Tuna Noodle Casserole is something I had never really eaten until I was in my twenties.  My mom just doesn't really care for fish, so we never ate it.  I love it, but I never make it.  A few weeks ago it sounded really good, and after looking at a few recipes, I decided I could come up with my own version.  It turned out great, and I think it would freeze nicely.  The leftovers reheated really well, and I think it was almost better the second and third day.

Tuna Noodle Casserole

  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 1 small hot pepper (jalepeno, serano, etc.) or 1/4 cup bell pepper minced
  •  1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cans condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 2 cups milk
  • 15 oz (3 small cans) Albacore tuna
  • 1 lb. frozen green peas
  • 8 oz. cooked egg noodles
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1. Add olive oil to skillet or dutch oven and heat.  Saute onion and pepper until onion is soft.  

2. Add cream soup, milk, tuna, and peas to softened onions and peppers.  Stir together and simmer until peas are cooked.

3. Add cooked noodles to tuna, cream soup and peas and mix well.

4. If not already using an oven safe dutch oven, transfer mixture to oven safe baking dish.

5. Top with bread crumbs and Parmesan Cheese

6. Bake at 400 F. for 15 minutes

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Fruit Crisp

 Don't get me wrong, I do love pies, and all those of you out there who think pie crust is scary, it just takes patience.  When I'm feeding a large group, or when I have a ton of fruit to use up, I make a crisp instead.  Crisps are super simple.  If you can chop, measure, and pour, you can make a crisp.  The crisp I made last week was rhubarb, but I've also used the same recipe with peaches and blackberries.  Other than melons or pineapple, I really can't think of any fruit that wouldn't work using this method.  These are especially good for picnics and it can be served warm or at room temperature.  This recipe makes a 9 x 13 in. pan, but feel free to make half in an 8 x 8 in. pan.

Fruit Crisp

At least 4 cups of bite sized fruit (berries are really easy because you don't have to chop them)
1-2 cups of granulated sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
4 Tablespoons white sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2/3 cup melted butter

 1. Preheat oven to 375 F. and filling 9 x 13 in. pan with chopped fruit.  Top chopped fruit with sugar.  I know 1-2 cups is a huge difference, but it just depends on how sweet your fruit is.  For rhubarb and blackberries I use the 2 cups.  For peaches I only use 1 cup of sugar, so you'll need to judge this on your own.

2. Mix all ingredients for the crumble and sprinkle over fruit.

3. Bake for 45 minutes.  At this point, the fruit will be cooked through and start bubbling through the crispy top.  With really juicy fruit like berries, I usually put a cookie sheet under the baking dish in case it bubbles over.

4. That's all there is to it.  Enjoy your crisp!
Hot crisp, ready to eat.  I wish I had more.  My husband and I ate the entire pan in three days.

Is the food ready yet?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Mashed Potatoes: A Recipe

Mashed potatoes are one of my favorite foods.  In fact, as a kid when we went to a buffet I would always skip the dessert and grab a bowl of mashed potatoes.  In my family, I've been the one making the potatoes for years.  I've been wanting to post this recipe for awhile, but I've never measured what I do when I make them.  I just go by taste and how they look.  I finally got around to measuring everything, so I could tell you what I do.  Below is my recipe, and yes, I said I would post this yesterday.  However, I had this post almost finished, and then I remembered my secret weapon: my grandpa's potato masher.

This is what I use to make mashed potatoes.  I used to use a mixer, which will give a much creamier potato, but really, using this I have no lumps.  One of the big keys to having non-lumpy potatoes is to mash the potatoes while they are still hot.  If you let them cool they will get lumpy, and this will cause a tantrum right before Thanksgiving dinner (ummm, not that I would know about that or anything).  Anyway, below is my mashed potato recipe.  Please note, if you are doubling this recipe, keep the butter amount the same.  Anything over 5lbs. of potatoes will require more butter.

Mashed Potatoes
2 1/2 lbs. potatoes
1 stick butter
1/4 to 1/2 cup sour cream
3 TBS. Milk
garlic powder

1. Peel and cube potatoes.  I had smallish potatoes, so I cut them into fourths and sixths.  The smaller they are cut, the quicker they will cook, and the easier they will mash.

2. Put potatoes in large pot and cover with cold water.  The cold water part is really important, the potatoes will become gummy if you start them out in hot water.  Add about 3 tablespoons of salt to the cooking water. This will help impart some flavor to the potatoes, but you will still need more salt after they are cooked.  Bring water to a boil and cook until potatoes are tender.  This will take around 15 minutes.  A trick I use to test the doneness of the potatoes is to squish them with tongs.  If they squish easily, they are done.  You could also poke them with a fork.

3. After potatoes are cooked, drain them in a colander.  Remember, you need to mash them while they are still hot, so have your other items ready to go.  

4. Put your stick of butter into the pan you just cooked the potatoes in.  This will help melt the butter.  Pour the potatoes over top of the butter.  Now, mash the potatoes.  After all the potatoes are mashed up, put in the sour cream and stir.  You will want this to be thick.  Add the milk slowly until your desired consistency of potato is reached.  Next, add salt and garlic powder.  I usually use fresh garlic, but in the case of potatoes, I think the powder is the way to go because it blends in easier.  Again, do not be afraid of the salt.  It will seem like you are adding a lot, but just taste as you go.

5.  Serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Beef and Noodles

I know that during the summer most people want light meals, salads, and cold sandwiches.  Not me, kind of like how I crave salads in the winter, I want hardy comfort food in the summer.  If you're one of my readers who likes to keep his or her heavy meals for when the snow if falling, read on anyway, and save this idea for later.  

 First I caramelized about 2 lbs. of onions.  I found some amazing candy onions at the farmer's market, and I was actually thinking about making French onion soup with them.  Beef and noodles won out, so maybe I'll make the soup next week.  If you don't normally caramelize onions, don't be afraid of the amount.  They cook down a lot.  I get my pan hot, add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and then add the onions.  I then turn the heat down to medium low and generously salt the onions (about 2 teaspoons salt).  Stir onions after addition of salt and about every 5 minutes after that.  I let my onions cook for 20 minutes until they were nice and brown.
 See, I told you they would cook down.  I could have taken them even further than this, but I knew they would be sweet, so I stopped here.  Next, I added about a quarter cup of vodka to deglaze the pan.  Deglazing just means added a liquid to get up all the delicious brown bits.  If you don't have vodka, you could use red or white wine, beef or veggie broth, or water.

 Next I added about 3 lbs. of round steak (we really like this leftover).  I had three packages in the freezer, so that's what I used, but you could use anything you have lying around.  I actually wish I had a bone in chuck roast because I think it would have had a richer flavor.  I also added 6 cloves of garlic, 2 bay leaves, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, 2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, and about 2 cups of water.  I let this simmer, covered, for about 3 hours.  When I opened the pan, the beef was nicely tender and cooked to perfection, the onions had cooked nicely into the broth.  Next, I removed the beef and set it aside.  I tossed out the bay leaves and I added about 3 cups of water to the broth and tasted for salt.  I brought the broth to a boil and added 8 oz. of egg noodles and cooked according to package directions.  Last, I added the beef back to the pan and checked again for seasoning.

The finished product was served over mashed potatoes.  Gasp!  I know my mother would never approve of this meal with its two starches, but it was really good.  Tomorrow's post will contain the recipe for my mashed potatoes because I finally got around to measuring everything.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Restaurant Review: Don Sol Mexican Grill

Moving has some advantages, and a big one for me is checking out great new restaurants.  My husband took me to Don Sol a few months ago for their Sunday buffet, and I was blown away.  I had never seen a Mexican buffet before, but I think it's a great idea.  The buffet contains hard, soft, and fried bowl taco shells.  It has about four kinds of fajita meat along with tilapia, carnitas, carne asada, and grilled chicken.  It also includes tamales, cheese enchiladas, spicy potatoes, spicy eggs, refried beans, and rice.  In addition to all that there is a cold salad bar with traditional salad fixings but also pico de gallo, sour cream, and guacamole.  There are also several kinds of desserts and a choice of ice cream or ice cream bars.  There is too much to try it all, and I know I'm leaving a few things out.  With all this variety, the food is still really good.  The fajitas suffer a little from sitting in the hot bar, so I usually stay away from those.  The carnitas are amazing, perfectly seasoned and tender.  The pico de gallo is some of the best I have ever had. Whenever family or friends come to visit, I take them to try the buffet.  If you are in Mattoon, Il. on a Sunday, you should check out Don Sol.  I want to go on a different day to try the menu, but I have heard good things about it too.  You can check out their website link
 My plate: refried beans, grilled chicken, tilapia, carnitas, beef chimichanga, and soft tortillas
 This really is a great pico de gallo
 My mom's plate: Chicken fajitas, beef fajitas, shrimp fajitas, carne asada, and rice
 My husband's plate: chicken fajitas and grilled veggies
Dad's taco salad.

Looking at all these plates I realize that we all have a ton of meat.  However, if you are a vegetarian, you could still find more than enough to eat.  They have grilled veggies, beans, rice, potatoes, eggs, and cheese.  

Monday, August 1, 2011

Homemade Ricotta and Baked Ziti

A lot of times I like to try making something in the kitchen just to see if I can.  Some projects I considering are homemade soda, mead, divinity,  kaiser rolls, and bourbon balls.  Right now I'm getting a little obsessed with making cheese.  I know I posted about homemade ricotta before, but this time I thought I would do a few step by step pictures, so you can see that the process is really easy.  You can do this too. All you need are lemons, whole milk, heavy cream, and salt.  The ricotta that this technique produces is so much better than anything in the grocery store, and you will feel amazingly accomplished and cool if you make this.  I use the recipe found here.  
First, cut and juice your lemons.  I always make a double batch of ricotta, so this is twice as much lemon juice as called for in the recipe above.
 Wait for milk to reach proper temperature.
 After milk has come to temperature, stir in lemon juice gently and let sit for 5 minutes.  Then you can pour the curds and whey into a few layers of cheesecloth set over a strainer and bowl.
 Let sit for 1 to 2 hours depending on how firm you want this.  
Make baked ziti.  I used the recipe here.  This was amazing.  It was extremely rich though, so I wish I had made a salad to go alongside.  It was even better the next day as leftovers.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Glazed Peach Pie: Because Even When Tragedy Strikes You Must Eat

I had a rough week.  I mean a really rough week.  Our kitten passed away very unexpectedly Saturday morning.  This was after a week of working outside in extreme temperatures, so I was worn out both physically and emotionally.  Still, I knew we needed nourishment, and my parents were coming to visit.  I still had part of the 1/2 bushel of peaches I had bought from the farm market, and knew I wanted peach pie.  I used the recipe here substituting peaches for strawberries, and using real butter.  I really like the shortbread crust and the fact the most of the peaches remain uncooked.  A little tip: place cut peaches in a little water with lemon.  It helps keep them from turning brown in the pie.  Also, I don't peel my peaches, but I know for some people this would be a problem.  On top of the pie is whipped cream.  I took a cup of heavy cream and whipped it at high speed in the stand mixer and added in powered sugar to taste.  This only took a few minutes and tastes much better than the packaged stuff.  If you're not whipping your own cream, you should.

I also made Philly Cheese steaks that night, but I forgot to take a picture.  I will make the sandwiches again and post my recipe.  Even though this wonderful meal did not take away the pain of our loss, it was something I could throw myself into and give those around me at least a little comfort.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Stuffed Jalapenos

I made these a few weeks ago, but I forgot to post.  I bought some jalapenos for a salad dressing, and I only needed one, but they came in packs of four.  My husband doesn't like anything too spicy, so I didn't want to throw them into the other dishes I was making, but I knew I needed to use them.  I decided to split these in half and remove the seeds. Then I stuffed them cream cheese, finely diced fresh mozzarella, minced garlic, salt, and a tiny bit of mayonnaise.  After they were stuffed, I baked them at 375 for about 20 minutes.  The longer they are baked, the milder they will be.  These were delicious and very mild until you got close to the stem.  All the heat seemed to linger at the top.  I think these would be great for a party.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Peach Martinis

The time has flown by now that I'm working all day in the heat.  By the time I get home, go back out to the gym, make supper, and clean up, it's almost time for bed.  This isn't an excuse for my lack of posts lately, but I promise I will try to do better.  Now that we have that out of the way, I've been waiting for peaches.  I saw them in the grocery store a few weeks ago, but they were hard and scentless.  Finally, after weeks of anticipating, and smelling every peach I saw, the peaches are here!  I bought a half-bushel, which is probably way more than I need, but the price was right and like I said, I really wanted peaches.  Essentially what I'm trying to say right now is to expect some upcoming posts featuring peaches.  Saturday night when I came home with my bounty of peaches I decided to make a drink.  These martinis are pretty strong, but you could use less vodka or even completely omit it and serve over ice as a peach-ade.

Peach Martini

  • 2 cups chopped peaches (I left the skin on, but this is optional)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water cooked on the stove until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Please make this yourself.  It's easy)
  • 1 to 2 cups club soda
  • 1 to 2oz vodka per drink depending on how strong you want your drink (the above recipe made 6 very full martinis)
1st: chop peaches while your husband stands on a chair and takes 30 pictures.  

 2. Place peach slices in blender
 3. feed slices of peach to dog.
 4. Add simple syrup to blender.  Start with 1/2 cup, blend and taste.  I only needed 1/2 cup because the peaches were sweet.  You can use leftover syrup in lemonade or iced tea.  If you bake a cake you can pour the leftover syrup over the cake after you pull it from the oven.  This will keep the cake moist.
 5. After peaches are blended, and the sugar level is correct, pour into a pitcher.  Add 2 cups club soda and stir.  Chill mixture.  Add 1 to 2 oz vodka to ice filled shaker and add some of the peach mixture.
 6. Pour into martini glass and enjoy.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Homemade Ricotta and Stuffed Shells

I made cheese.  That's right, homemade cheese, and it was really easy. I never even considered making cheese, but after reading about it I wanted to try it out.   I followed the instructions here.  I will never buy ricotta again.  The product I got was unbelievably creamy and wonderful.  Since I had ricotta, I needed something to do with it besides eating it straight from the bowl (which I certaintly could have done), so I decided to make stuffed shells after reading this recipe.  Warning about the recipe!  If you do not like spicy foods either omit or reduce the amount of red pepper flakes.  I thought the amount of spice was great, but it was almost too spicy for my husband.  I also didn't have any lemon, so I left it out, and I substituted basil for the chives because I didn't have that either.  The stuffed shells were a great dinner, and I'm sure they would be great even if you don't make your own ricotta, but really you should.  

The shells right out of the oven.

Close up of a shell.  Look at that ricotta!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

How Will I Use the Leftovers? (Shepherd's Pie)

Considering that I only cook for two people, but I make enough to feed 6 to 8 at each meal, we ate a lot of leftovers in this house.  Lunch is always leftovers from the night before, and we have a leftover night on Thursday.  After Thursday everything is finished, frozen, or thrown away.  Last week I had some leftover roast beef.  I considered slicing it up for sandwiches, but there really wasn't enough.  I stuck it in the freezer and waited for inspiration.  That's when I thought of Shepherd's Pie.  If you've never had it, Shepherd's Pie is meat, vegetables and gravy, topped with mashed potatoes and baked.  It's extremely easy to make especially if you have leftover potatoes and vegetables.  All I had was the roast in its juices, but this was still very easy to pull together.  

Here's what I did:

First I made a batch of mashed potatoes.  I made sure to make these like I always do with plenty of garlic and salt.  Each layer should be able to stand alone, so don't skimp on the seasonings.  While the potatoes were boiling, I separated the meat from the broth.  The meat was shredded, and the broth was put on the stove to boil.  I chopped one stalk of celery and one large carrot and added these to the broth.  I let the carrot and celery cook until tender.  Next, I added a 16oz bag of frozen peas to the broth.  Once the broth came back to a boil and boiled for about 5 minutes, I added a few tablespoons of corn starch, whisking while it was added.  When the vegetable/broth mixture was thickened to a gravy, I checked for seasoning and added the beef.  This was placed into a baking dish and topped with the mashed potatoes.  Finally, I sprinkled the potatoes with cheese.  The cheese is optional, and once again, it was a leftover that I needed to use.  I baked the dish at 375 for 20 minutes.  

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Weeknight Kitchen: Potato Cakes with Over Easy Eggs

I made this dish several weeks ago, and as I was looking through pictures tonight, I realized I hadn't posted it.  This is another wonderful recipe from Splendid Table's Weeknight Kitchen newsletter.  If you're not getting the newsletter, you should.  This recipe below was super fast and easy, but it's something I wouldn't have thought about doing.  I have potatoes and eggs frequently, but the addition of lemon and dill made these seem really special.  I also liked the fact that I could put most of the ingredients in the food processor and quickly prep.  This was supposed to have mushrooms, but I forgot to buy them.  The portabellas would have been a nice addition, but the dish didn't need it.  I don't think I'll make potatoes and eggs without dill and lemon again.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Spinach, Sausage, and Mushroom Frittata

I made this frittata a few weeks ago.  It was from a cookbook called Celebrate Chicago that I've been cooking from quite often lately.  I don't know why I don't make frittatas more often, especially when I have company.  This frittata had bold flavors and reheated easily.  It was excellent served with toast and a side of fruit.  I'm sure it could be made ahead and baked when needed.  This particular meal included Italian sausage, mushrooms, onion, spinach, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese.  Next time I know I'm having someone over for breakfast I must remember to make this frittata.  

Above: before going into the oven.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Hearty Hooters at The Burger King in Mattoon

That's right, I said hearty Hooters.  What, you may ask, is a Hooter?  A Hooter is a quarter pound cheeseburger at The Burger King in Mattoon, Il.  The Burger King has been around for 59 years.  They existed before the chain, and a federal lawsuit actually resulted.  I've been wanting to check out this place for awhile.  When you first walk in the door, you get a small town, burger place feel.  One counter is used for ordering burgers, hot dogs, fries, onion rings, and soda, while the other side is an ice cream parlor.  The first thing I noticed on the menu was a Hooter.  I've done a little research, and the people who started the restaurant had a last name of Hoots, hence the burger name.  The Hooter was a good burger.  It was large in diameter, and served with a generous amount of toppings.  The bun was very pillowy, and covered in a perfect amount of sesame seeds.     Another thing I enjoyed about The Burger King was the soda serving size.  My husband got a 32 oz. SuperCoke.  I ordered a small, which was about 10 ounces.  This was exciting for me because so many times a small soda is huge, and much more than I could drink, so I actually enjoyed the range of sizes available.  

While waiting for our burgers, I noticed a diversity in the customers.  A few groups were in their late 50's to early 70's.  These people would come in and get ice cream and chat with each other.  It seemed like everyone knew everyone else.  These people have probably been coming here for a long time.  I also noticed several groups of young couples in their early twenties probably starting off their weekend dates.  Then groups of young teenagers came in.  It seemed like everyone felt at home at The Burger King.  If you're in Mattoon stop in, and you'll feel at home too.

The sign.  I wish the sky didn't look so ominous.  
 My Hooter
 The first bite
 My husband's ice cream.  They put eyes on it!