Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Our first meal in our new dining room.

I found this recipe in Rachael Ray's magazine, though I don't remember which issue. I halved it since the recipe claims it serves 4, but Rachael's recipes tend to serve twice the number she says it will. We didn't have any leftovers, but that was because we both enjoyed it so much and decided to stuff ourselves a little. A quarter of what I made would have satisfied us, so keep that in mind when trying this recipe. I also only used 1/2 lb of ground beef, but I always use less meat than recipes call for. Matt and I save a ton of money that way and we don't feel we miss out on any meaty goodness.

Beef and Cheddar Potpie
from Rachael Ray

6 T butter, chilled
1 small onion, chopped
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
1 c beef broth
salt and pepper

1 1/2 c flour
2 t baking powder
2 c shredded cheddar
1/2 c milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease an 8x12 baking dish (I used 8x8) and set aside. In a large skillet, heat 2 T butter over med-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the beef and cook, breaking it up as it browns. Stir in the tomatoes and beef broth and season with salt and pepper. Lower the heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has cooked off, about 20 minutes. Pour into the prepared baking dish and spread evenly.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and 1/2 t salt. Using your fingertips or a pastry blender, blend in the remaining 4 T butter and the cheese until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Pour in the milk and stir quickly with a fork to form a dry, shaggy dough. Gather the dough together and knead lightly in the bowl. Transfer to a floured surface and roll or pat into a large, 1/2-in thick round. Using a 3-in cookie cutter, cut out 8 biscuits. Repeat with the scraps until all the dough has been used. Place biscuits on top of the beef mixture as close together as possible and bake until lightly browned, about 35 minutes.

Serves 4 (In RR's world)

It is finished.

After two and half very long months, our dining room is finally finished. What was supposed to be a weekend project turned into one of the more frustrating experiences of our married life together. We survived, though, and actually made it through the whole remodel without any serious fights! Go us.

We had plans for the dining room from day one since it was an absolute disaster. Before I post the pictures of our lovely new dining room, I want to post some before pictures so the change can be fully appreciated.

This is the room before.

This is the awful crown moulding.

And this is what we found underneath it. Yes, that is flowered wallpaper behind the sheetrock. Instead of taking down the wallpaper, the previous owners put another layer of sheetrock over it. And then they didn't bother to cut it right, so there was a gap of as much as one inch around the entire perimeter of the dining room. Fun.

And now, the finished project.

I am so proud of the work we did. It doesn't look anything like the room we started with. We filled the gap, fixed the crooked door trim, then painted the room. The ceiling was not level, making me worry that new paint would emphasize the waviness. My parents suggested that we create a false straight line with picture rail. I painted the ceiling, trim, and approximately 35 centimeters of the wall a light peach. Then I painted the rest of the room orange. The color is perfect and orange supposedly makes people hungry, so it's the perfect color for the dining room.

After the paint, we stained and installed the picture rail. The color was supposed to be a dark mahogany, but looks more brown than anything. It works, though, since the railing is almost a perfect match with the drapes. We also installed a faux cast iron wall sconce over the buffet, hung our clock and a few pictures and ended with an amazing room. It is now our favorite room in the house.

Big thank yous need to be sent to my parents, not only for the decorating advice, but also for loaning us the miter saw, which made cutting the picture rail a breeze. They also provided home renovation support and some gloves so I didn't stain myself mahogany. Thank you also to Ryan, who drove an hour to see us and was then roped into helping us fill the gap at the ceiling. We couldn't have done it without him! Ladies, this very handy man is single...

Thai at Home

I found this recipe while browsing my new favorite recipe website, http://www.myrecipes.com/. It was originally in the December 2004 issue of Cooking Light. It was pretty tasty, but I didn't think it tasted much like Thai food. My husband actually liked it much more than I did, which shocked me. I'm not sure I'll make it again (but when do I ever make things more than once?), but the recipe is worth a try.

I served it over angel hair pasta because I forgot to pick up rice noodles, but the recipe doesn't have you serve it over anything. Rice would work just as well and maybe even better since the sauce is pretty thin.

Thai-Style Stir-Fried Chicken
from Cooking Light

1/4 c rice vinegar
2 T brown sugar
2 T fresh lime juice
2 t red curry paste
1/8 t crushed red pepper
1 lb skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 1/2 T vegetable oil, divided
1 c chopped onion
1 c chopped carrot
1 (8 oz) pkg presliced mushrooms (I omitted these- mushrooms are gross :) )
1/2 c light coconut milk
1 T fish sauce
1/2 t salt
1 c fresh bean sprouts
1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro

Combine rice vinegar, brown sugar, lime juice, red curry paste, and crushed red pepper in a large ziploc bag. Add chicken; seal and marinate in refrigerator 15 minutes, turning once. Remove chicken from the bag, reserving marinade. Heat 1 T oil in a large nonstick skillet or work over medium-high heat. Add chicken; stir-fry 4 minutes. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm. Add remaining 1 1/2 t oil to pan. Add onion and carrot; stir-fry 2 minutes. Add mushrooms; stir-fry 3 minutes. Add reserved marinade, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add coconut milk and fish sauce; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 1 minute. Stir in chicken and salt; cook 1 minute. Top with sprouts and cilantro.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Pizza Quiche?

Yes. This is a pepperoni pizza quiche. I found the recipe in the Food section of my local paper and decided to try it. I had some leftover pepperoni from our pizza Tuesday night and figured this was as good a way as any to use it up. I also had a pie crust that had been sitting in our freezer for who knows how long. All signs pointed to pizza quiche.

The recipe is a little weird, and I was nervous at first, but the final product was actually quite tasty. I would recommend it for an easy weeknight meal. It certainly fit the bill here. Matt hasn't tried it yet, as he had parent-teacher conferences last night and was fed very well there, but I know I liked it.

Pepperoni Pizza Quiche
from the St. Louis Suburban South Journal

1 unbaked deep-dish frozen pie shell
2 c shredded Italian blend cheese (I didn't use this much)
2 oz thinly sliced pepperoni, about 20-30 slices, cut into quarters
1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk (I used skim)
3 eggs, beaten
2 T flour
1 t dried basil
1/8 t garlic powder
Other pizza toppings, if desired (I used chopped black olives)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Sprinkle 1 c cheese and half the pepperoni on bottom of pie shell. In medium bowl, whisk evaporated milk, eggs, flour, basil and garlic powder until blended. Pour egg mixture into pie shell. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Decorate top with remaining pepperoni pieces and any other toppings.
If pie pan is made of aluminum foil, place quiche on baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven 40 to 45 minutes until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes before serving.

Shepherd's Pie

I remember my mom making this as a kid, and as I am still remiss in my meal planning duties, this was something I could put together with stuff from my freezer and pantry. It was really good and was definitely a Matthew meal. Put a potato on anything and he'll eat it. There were no leftovers, but there should have been. Matthew found himself in a food coma after dinner, but he said it was worth it. I guess that means the dinner was a success. If Matt's bloated, tired, and happy, I have done my job as a wife and cook.

I used this recipe from Rachael Ray as a starting point, but most of the recipe is mine.
*I have recently been enlightened; because my pie was made with ground beef instead of lamb, mine is actually a cottage or cowboy pie, not a shepherd's pie. You learn something new everyday in the blogging community.

Shepherd's Pie
from Linda with a little help from Rachael Ray

6 potatoes, cleaned and chopped into cubes
1 T butter
1/4 c skim milk
splash of chicken broth
1 lb ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 c frozen peas
1/2 c frozen corn
1 T flour
1 T butter
1/2 -3/4 c beef broth
2 t Worcestershire sauce

Cover potatoes with water in a large pot, then bring to a boil. Once the water has come to a boil, salt, turn heat down, and simmer covered until potatoes are tender. Drain potatoes and return to pot. Add butter, milk, and chicken broth and smash to a smooth consistency. Add additional salt and pepper if desired.

While potatoes cook, brown beef in a large pan. Just before beef is no longer pink, add onion and continue to brown until onion is translucent. Move beef and onion to the outside of the pan, leaving an open spot in the middle of the pan. Melt butter in the pan and whisk in flour, making a roux. Add beef broth and Worcestershire sauce, making a gravy. Once thick, which should only take a few minutes, stir into the beef mixture and add the frozen corn and peas. Let simmer on low heat until potatoes are done.

When potatoes are finished, spoon the beef mixture in to a casserole dish. Top with mashed potatoes and sprinkle with paprika. Bake in 350 degree F oven for 15-20 minutes, or until top starts to brown slightly. Place under broiler for 2-3 minutes to further brown the top. Serve hot.

Pumpkin Cookies = Addiction

This cookies were among the best cookies I have ever had. They were so good, I sent a dozen with Matt to school to share with his department and took the rest with me to work to share with my co-workers. I received three recipe requests for these cookies. They were that good. The cookies are cakey, which makes for a super moist cookie. The frosting is to die for and I had a lot of fun browning the butter. I told Matt how fun it was and he told me I was weird. Whatever. He wasn't there to see the butter turn brown! Too cool.

Pumpkin Cookies with Browned Butter Frosting
from What's Cooking in the Orange Kitchen, originally found in Betty Crocker's Fall Baking

2/3 c granulated sugar
2/3 c packed brown sugar
3/4 c butter or margarine, softened
1 t vanilla
1/2 c (from 15-oz can) pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
2 eggs
2 1/4 c all-purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t salt

Browned Butter Frosting
3 c powdered sugar
1 t vanilla
3 to 4 T milk
1/3 c butter (do not use margarine or spread; it will burn)

Heat oven to 375°F. In large bowl, beat granulated sugar, brown sugar, 3/4 cup butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla with electric mixer on medium speed, scraping bowl occasionally, until well blended. Beat in pumpkin and eggs until well mixed. On low speed, beat in flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

On ungreased cookie sheets, drop dough by heaping tablespoonfuls.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until almost no indentation remains when touched in center. Immediately remove from cookie sheets to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 45 minutes.

In medium bowl, place powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 3 tablespoons milk. In 1-quart saucepan, heat 1/3 cup butter over medium heat, stirring constantly, just until light brown.

Pour browned butter over powdered sugar mixture. Beat on low speed about 1 minute or until smooth. Gradually add just enough of the remaining 1 tablespoon milk to make frosting creamy and spreadable. Generously frost cooled cookies.

Pumpkin Bread

Of all the things I have cooked or baked, this is by far the most intimidating. My mother-in-law is practically famous for her pumpkin bread and Matt absolutely loves it. She bakes it in a coffee can and it is always super moist and really yummy. We had some pumpkin muffins at my parents house this past Sunday and he mentioned he wanted pumpkin bread. My mother gave me two cans from her pumpkin stash and that was that. Matt would get his pumpkin bread.

I looked at a few different recipes, trying to find one that looked good, but was also a little different from my mother-in-law's. I settled on this one, which I found on Deborah's blog. It used applesauce instead of oil, which also appealed, since all this recent baking has made my pants shrink a little. It was a good bread, but Matt still prefers his moms. He called it a pumpkin cake instead of a pumpkin bread and claimed the pumpkin flavor didn't shine. Every one's a critic. I guess I'll keep looking for a recipe that compares.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

2 c granulated sugar
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree
3 eggs
1 c applesauce
1/4 c water
2 1/2 c flour
2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t ground nutmeg
1 1/4 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 c mini semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9"x5"x3" loaf pans. (I halved the recipe since I only have one loaf pan.) In a large mixing bowl beat sugar, pumpkin, eggs, applesauce and water until well combined. In a medium mixing bowl combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture until just combined - do not overmix. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour evenly into prepared loaf pans and bake for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into center of bread comes out clean.

Another Pantry Winner

For some reason, this past week I have failed in the meal planning and grocery shopping arena. Monday nights I'm on my own for dinner, so I decided to play with some flavors that aren't Matt's favorites. There was some white wine in the fridge that needed to be used or thrown away, so I used that as a base and came up with a super tasty pasta with a white wine gorgonzola sauce. I didn't measure ingredients, so this is my best guess as to what the recipe is. Everything is certainly to my tastes, so someone else who makes it should make it to theirs. Enjoy!

Bow Ties in a White Wine Gorgonzola Sauce
from Linda

8 oz bow tie pasta
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c chopped onion
1/2 c white wine
1/2 t cornstarch
1/4 c gorgonzola
salt, pepper and dried basil to taste (I think it was basil. It may have been oregano. I really don't remember.)
1 small tomato, chopped
2 handfuls baby spinach
chopped black olives

Cook the pasta according to package directions. In a large saute pan, saute the garlic and onion in a little olive oil until onion is soft. Add white wine and cornstarch. Let simmer until reduced by 1/4-1/2, about 5 minutes. Stir in gorgonzola and seasonings. Add cooked pasta, along with a little of the cooking water (maybe 3 T). Toss to coat. Stir in tomato and black olives. Wilt in spinach by handfuls. Serve hot.

20 minutes from start to tummy.

Now this is what I call fast food. This took almost no prep work, was on the table in under 10 minutes, and was super tasty. It will definitely be filed under the "too tired to cook but don't want to order out" tab in my head. It was all stuff I had on head, too. I'm not sure there is anything better than that. Again, I must thank Annie for having a fabulous blog and introducing me to this recipe. Now if I could just get her to cook for me.

Black Bean and Salsa Soup

2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 c vegetable broth
1 c salsa
1 t cumin
sour cream, green onion, and shredded cheese for garnish (I had some guacamole left over from the tostados, so I used that as well)

Combine beans, broth, salsa and cumin in a food processor. Blend until fairly smooth. Heat soup in a saucepan over medium heat until thoroughly heated. Put soup in bowls and garnish as desired.

You're killing me, Smalls.

Unfortunately, this fall I have not been to a hayride and have not had the pleasure of sitting around a bonfire and making S'mores. That was not going to stop me from having S'mores, though! I saw this recipe on the Williams and Sonoma website, but before I had a chance to make them, I saw them on Annie's blog. That sealed the deal. I had to make these treats. I didn't have to use the oven, so it was nice to keep the kitchen a little cooler while we had our mini-heat wave in the middle of October. They were good, but I think in the future I will limit them to something fun to make with my cousins. Not a star dessert, but a fun concept and certainly tasty. It's hard to go wrong with grahams, chocolate, and a (flaming) mallow.

S'More Bars

3 T unsalted butter, cut into chunks
6 whole graham crackers
3/4 c sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
1 1/3 c semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 t vanilla extract
1 pinch of salt
1 c miniature marshmallows
2 whole graham crackers or 1 c mini-graham cracker shapes

Line an 8-inch square baking pan or dish with aluminum foil so that the foil hangs over the sides. Grease the foil with butter.

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the 3 tablespoons butter. Using a pot holder, move the pan to a heatproof surface. Let cool for 5 minutes.

Put the 6 whole graham crackers into a zippered plastic bag. Press out all the air and seal the bag. Using a rolling pin, gently but firmly crush the cookies to make tiny crumbs. You should have 1 cup of crumbs. Add the crumbs to the melted butter and stir with a wooden spoon until blended. Scrape the crumbs into the baking pan.

Lay a piece of plastic wrap loosely over the crumbs. Place your hand on the plastic wrap and spread the crumbs to coat the bottom of the pan. Once the crumbs are in place, press down firmly to make a solid, even layer. Throw away the plastic wrap when you are finished flattening the crumbs.

In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the condensed milk and chocolate chips. Heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Using a pot holder, move the pan to a heatproof surface. Add the vanilla and salt and stir until blended. Pour the filling over the graham cracker crust and spread evenly with the spoon.

Scatter the marshmallows evenly over the chocolate filling and press them in gently. If using the 2 whole graham crackers, break them into little pieces. Stick the broken crackers or mini-cracker shapes into the filling among the marshmallows.

Cover and refrigerate the bars until they are firm, about 4 hours. To serve, lift the foil from the pan and set the smore square on a cutting board. Peel the foil away from the sides, and cut the square into rectangles with a sharp knife. Keep refrigerated until just before serving.

Makes 12 bar cookies.