Saturday, September 22, 2007

Yummy Pizza!

My first homemade pizza was a success! I really enjoyed this crust; it was recommended by the ladies on the What's Cooking board and it did not disappoint! I was a little nervous since yeast is not usually my friend and then I forgot to add 2 ingredients (the salt and the olive oil) until after I started kneading the dough. It turned out perfectly, though. I even made my own pizza sauce for the pizza. I was so domestic, my new name is now Martha.

Jay's Pizza Crust

2-1/4 t active dry yeast (1 packet)
1/2 t brown sugar
1-1/2 c warm water (110 degrees F / 45 degrees C)
1 t salt
2 T olive oil
3-1/3 c all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast and brown sugar in the water, and let sit 10 minutes. Stir the salt and oil into the yeast solution. Mix in 2-1/2 cups of the flour.

Turn dough out onto a clean, well floured surface, and knead in more flour until the dough is no longer sticky. Place the dough into a well oiled bowl, and cover with a cloth. Let the dough rise until doubled in size; approximately 1 hour. Punch down the dough and form a tight ball. Allow the dough to relax a little before rolling out.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. If you are baking the dough on a pizza stone, you may place your toppings on the dough, and bake immediately. If you are baking your pizza in a pan, lightly oil the pan, and let the dough rise 15-20 minutes before topping and baking it. Bake pizza in preheated oven, until the cheese and crust are golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.

**Makes 2 large pizzas
Pizza Sauce
from me
1 can tomato sauce
2 t dried oregano
2 t dried basil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T olive oil
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and heat on low for about 8 minutes. Let cool slightly before spreading on crust.
I topped the pizza with green pepper, red onion, black olives, pepperoni, provel cheese and parmesan.

Fall weather has left, but I still want soup!

While last week held the promise of fall, this week temperatures soared into the low 90s. Though it certainly was not fall weather, I had soup on the menu and gosh darn it, I was going to make it. I'm glad I did because it was delicious, but it sure did heat up the kitchen! I didn't make any changes, but I did use skim milk instead of 2% because that was I had. If I make it again, I would add a little more cheese plus just a little bit of salt. I thought it was a little bland; surprising, since there is half a pound of cheese. Very tasty, though!

Baked Potato and Broccoli Cheese Soup
from Southern Living (found on Julie's blog)

1/4 c flour
2 (14 1/4-oz) cans low-sodium fat-free chicken broth, divided
3 c peeled, cubed potato (about 1 1/4 lbs)
2 c broccoli florets, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 1/4 c 2% reduced-fat milk (I used skim)
1 (8-oz) block 2% reduced-fat sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
7 t shredded 2% reduced-fat sharp Cheddar cheese
7 t fully cooked bacon pieces (I used turkey bacon)
7 t chopped green onions

Whisk together flour and 1/3 c chicken broth until smooth. Combine remaining chicken broth and next 3 ingredients in a Dutch oven. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 8 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Gradually stir in flour mixture. Cook, stirring often, 5 minutes. Stir in milk and 8 ounces shredded cheese. Cook mixture over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until cheese melts. Top each serving of soup with 1 teaspoon cheese, 1 teaspoon bacon pieces, and 1 teaspoon chopped green onions.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

It's Not Chicken, Beef, or Pasta

No, this is still my blog, but I have branched out to the "other white meat". There were some boneless pork chops on sale last week at the grocery store, so I decided it was time to try a new meat. I got the idea to stuff them with cheese and apples from Joelen (who I get to meet at the end of the month!), but I changed a few of the seasonings and the type of cheese. The rest of the meal is my own, but were created by pulling from ideas I've seen all over the place. The mac and cheese is essentially made the way my mother makes it, with a few minor changes.

Apple Stuffed Pork Chops
from Joelen, modified by me

4 center cut boneless pork chops
1 apple (I used yellow delicious)
2 oz Gruyere cheese
thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper to taste

Finely chop apple and cheese and mix with seasonings. Cut a slit in center of each pork chop and stuff with filling. Place on baking sheet and seasoning top of pork with the same seasonings. Sprinkle each chop with a little olive oil and bake in 350 degree F oven for 25 minutes.

Macaroni and Cheese
from me

8 oz short pasta (elbows or shells work best)
5 T butter
4-5 T flour (I eyeball it, so this is just a guess)
1 1/2 c milk (I use skim, but you can use any kind)
2 1/2 c shredded cheese, divided (tonight I used sharp cheddar and leftover Gruyere)
1/4 c plain breadcrumbs

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. While pasta is cooking, melt butter in small saucepan. Add flour to make a roux. Cook about 1 minute, whisking constantly. Add milk, continuing to whisk until mixture is thick. Turn off heat and add salt, pepper and nutmeg. (You are essentially making a basic bechamel sauce) Stir in 2 c cheese, whisking until cheese is melted. Add cooked pasta and combine. Pour into baking dish. Toss remaining cheese with breadcrumbs and sprinkle over the top. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes, or until bubbly and the top is browned. Let cool slightly before serving.

Sauteed Spinach
from Linda
4 c fresh spinach
1 garlic clove, sliced
1/2 T olive oil
1 T white wine vinegar

Saute garlic in olive oil until lightly brown. Add spinach 2 cups at a time, wilting the spinach. When spinach has wilted, add vinegar and saute for 1 minute. Transfer to serving dish and serve immediately.

It's Fall!

When the weather here dipped into the low 70s, I knew it was time to have some traditional fall food. What's better than chili in the fall? Chili with Frito's and cheese. Yummy. I made this batch in the crock pot, but it can also be made on the stove top. It just needs to simmer for 30+ minutes.

I would also like to add that this particular meal tasted even better because when I ate it I was a lawyer! Yes, that's right. I have officially passed the bar. While chili at home was not the way I initially planned on celebrating the best day of my life (second only to my wedding day), it was actually a pretty darn tasty way to celebrate. Plus, Matt took me out for dessert at a fabulous little restaurant in Webster Groves, Cyrano's. I had an AMAZING brioche bread pudding. To die for.

Linda's Chili
from Linda

1 large can Brooks Chili Hot Beans
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 lb ground beef, browned and drained
1 can tomatoes for chili (2 if you want a thinner chili)
chili powder

shredded cheddar
chopped onion (white or red is best)

Combine beans, beef, tomatoes and seasonings in crock pot. Heat on low for about 5 hours, but as long as 8 (depending on your crock pot). Serve over Frito's and top with cheddar and onions.

My Favorite Comfort Food

I have always loved Tuna Casserole. My mom used to make it a lot when I was a kid and it would make my night. She used wild rice more than she did noodles, but I don't have wild rice on hand like she did. I'm more likely to have some kind of short pasta, so that's what I use most often.

I was feeling the need to go back to my childhood, so Tuna Noodle Casserole was the solution. I never make it the same way twice, but it does always have tuna, noodles and cream of celery soup. I know not everyone is a fan of the cream ofs, but I like the way it makes this casserole taste. So there.

Tuna Noodle Casserole
from me

8 oz short pasta
1 can cream of celery (I always use low-sodium)
1 1/2 c shredded cheddar, divided
2 cans tuna packed in water, drained
mix of frozen vegetables (I always use peas, but tonight I added corn and broccoli to the mix)
1 can diced tomatoes (I don't always use this)

Cook pasta according to package directions. Add frozen vegetables the last 2 minutes of cooking time. Drain. In large bowl, combine remaining ingredients, reserving 1/2 c cheese. Add pasta and combine. Pour into baking dish and top with remaining cheese. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

A Family Favorite

Or at least our small family's favorite. This is probably the dish my husband requests the most. Of all the recipes I've tried since we've been married, this is the one I've made the most. Matt even requested the dish for his birthday. I learned that night if you put candles in a hot casserole, they melt from the bottom and fall before you have time to sing. That casserole had small puddles of blue, pink and yellow wax, but I don't recommend that addition.

This recipe was given to me as part of a shower gift, again from a woman I went to church with. Jen promised we would love it and the recipe did not disappoint! I have only made this dish with ground beef, but I'm sure it would be just as good with chicken. When I made it this time, I forgot that the meat is added separately and browned it with the onion and other sauce ingredients. The taste was the same, but it didn't look as pretty. All well. Still a great dinner!

Easy Enchilada Casserole
from Jen

1 medium onion, chopped
2 T vegetable oil
1 19 oz can enchilada sauce
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes with jalapenos
1 can Mexi-Corn, drained
1 t chili powder (I use more)
1 t cumin (I use more)
1 10 oz package corn tortillas
3 c cooked chicken (or 1/2 lb to 1 lb ground beef)
Mexican 4-cheese blend

Saute onion in oil until tender. Stir in enchilada sauce, black beans, tomatoes, corn and spices. Simmer 5 minutes. Spoon 1/3 of sauce mixture into bottom of a lightly greased 13x9 baking dish. Layer with 1/3 of tortillas, 1/2 of meat, and 1 c of cheese. Repeat layers. Top with remaining tortillas, sauce mixture, and cheese. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes.

I served this with salsa rice.

Williams and Sonoma Meal #2

Before I get into this meal, I would like to add that I made Bourbon Chicken from All Recipes the night before (found in Amber's blog) and it was quite tasty. I took the food to my husband at work and forgot to take a picture, but we both really enjoyed it and I would recommend it. The only changes I made were to replace the soy sauce with chicken broth because I forgot I was out of soy sauce until I was half-way through making the dish. Still tasty, though!

Tonight I made a second dish from Williams and Sonoma. This meal was definitely made for me because I adore olives, but my brother and husband were not totally enamoured. My brother said it was too bitter and my husband said he didn't like kalamata olives, so I felt a little bad, but we did some doctoring that made it a pretty enjoyable meal for all of us. I figured it need something sweet to cut the bitterness a little, but my brother thought it needed more spice, so he added some Parmesan cheese to the top and some hot sauce. My husband took my suggestion on the sweetness and added some chopped tomato. It was really really good with the tomato.

If we make this again, I will use fewer olives, more parsley, and add chopped tomatoes. I would also be sure to serve lots of grated cheese on the side. Oh, and because I didn't have marjoram, I used fresh oregano instead. The tastes are similar, but oregano is a tad stronger, so I used a little less.

Spaghettini with Olive Pesto

1/2 c olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/2 lb. black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
1/2 lb. green olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
1 t minced fresh marjoram or 1/2 tsp. dried
2 T salt, plus more, to taste
1 lb. spaghettini or spaghetti
1/4 c minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. In a food processor, combine the 1/2 cup olive oil, the garlic, olives and marjoram and pulse to combine. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and then pulse once or twice more to form a coarse sauce. Transfer the olive pesto to a large bowl.

Meanwhile, add the 2 Tbs. salt and the pasta to the boiling water. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until al dente, according to the package instructions. Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the pesto along with the parsley and toss to combine. Add as much of the reserved cooking water as needed to loosen the sauce. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil and serve.

Serves 4.

Fusilli with Raw Zucchini, Mascarpone, and Ricotta

Earlier this week I was browsing the Williams and Sonoma website and adding to my kitchen wishlist when I stumbled upon the recipe section of their site. I cannot believe I hadn't looked here before! The recipes looked amazing and I knew I had to try a few. Annie from Annie's Eats has a lot of recipes from their site in her blog, but I never thought to browse it myself. I was doing my menu planning for the week the same day I browsed the site, so two of their recipes made it to the week's menu. This was the first.

The recipe was pretty good, though I felt it was a little bland. More Parmesan helped a lot, and if I make it again, I will definitely salt the pasta water. I don't usually do that because I generally don't like a lot of salt in my food, but this recipe needed a little help. Otherwise it was a nice, easy recipe that was super quick and made very little mess. It also didn't heat up my kitchen, which is always a plus when the temperatures are still in the 90s. Now that cooler weather is approaching, I'll probably shelve this recipe until it heats up again, but it is one to remember when I need a simple summer dish.

Fusilli with Raw Zucchini, Mascarpone, and Ricotta

2 small very fresh zucchini, trimmed and cut into large chunks
1/4 c mascarpone cheese
1/4 c ricotta cheese
1 c grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 t grated lemon zest
4 fresh basil leaves, chopped
Salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
1 lb. fusilli
2 T coarse salt

In a blender or food processor, combine the zucchini, cheeses, lemon zest and basil. Process until a light green paste forms. Season with salt and white pepper. Set aside.

Bring a large pot three-fourths full of water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and the coarse salt, stir well and cook until the pasta is al dente (tender but firm to the bite), about 9 minutes.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking water. Place all of the sauce in a warmed serving bowl and stir in the cooking water. Add the pasta and toss well to coat with the sauce. Serve immediately.

Serves 4 to 6.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

A little help from Trader Joe's

I am absolutely addicted to Trader Joe's. One of my favorite convenience items is their ravioli. It comes in so many tasty varieties and I think I've almost tried them all. Tonight I wanted something easy and I had some heavy cream that was on the brink of expiration, so I decided to pull the ravioli out of the freezer and have that for dinner. I had the spinach and ricotta ravioli in my freezer, so I figured a simple white wine cream sauce would compliment the ravioli nicely. The sauce is my own creation, pulling from various recipes. I'm really proud of it; I think it came out restaurant quality!

White Wine Cream Sauce
from Linda

1 shallot, diced
1 T butter
1/2 c heavy cream
1/4-1/2 c white wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc)
1 t cornstarch
red pepper flakes
grated Parmesan
fresh basil

Melt butter in large skillet. Saute shallots in the butter until translucent. Add heavy cream and wine. Whisk in salt, pepper, pepper flakes and cornstarch. Heat over low heat until thickened, whisking constantly. Add cooked ravioli to pan. Toss lightly in the sauce. Transfer to serving plates and sprinkle with cheese and basil.

Blowing the dust off the old crockpot

I have not had a lot of success with the crockpot. Maybe it is the recipes I've used, but I haven't been impressed with it so far. Everyone raves about the wonderfulness of the crockpot, though, so I decided to give it another chance. I'm glad I did! I got this recipe from a woman from church at my kitchen shower. It was really tasty and my husband, who claims he isn't a "soup man" loved the soup! I would definitely recommend it.

Taco Soup
from Kara

1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed (I used black beans)
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 pkg taco seasoning
1 lb ground beef, browned (I only used 1/2 lb)
1 onion, chopped
1 can cream of potato soup
1 can beef broth

Brown the ground beef with the onions. Combine all ingredients in crockpot and cook on low for a few hours. (Mine cooked for about 6). Serve over corn chips with taco toppings (I used sour cream, cheese, black olives and cilantro).