May 30, 2008

Red Pepper Hummus

I discovered hummus as an adult. I don't remember ever hearing of it growing up. Once I discovered it, I loved it! It's such a simple thing, and it makes a great snack with pita wedges or various crudites. I've even been known to add it to a turkey sandwich to add a little "something" to it. Until today, I had never made it myself. It's not because I didn't want to, but for the longest time I couldn't figure out where they kept tahini in the grocery store. Well, I finally found it - in the section where they have the peanut butter and the jams, etc. Who knew?

The other night, I had pulled out the June 2007 Cooking Light searching for some inspiration for next week's meals. I actually ended up marking quite a few recipes to try which is funny since I hadn't marked any last year. Funny how your tastes change or what you are willing to make does over time.

We were having a last minute get-together with some friends tonight, so I thought this would be a nice starter to the meal. I bought some multi-grain pitas (couldn't find whole wheat, and now I'm happy I tried these since I liked them better!), and cut into triangles to serve with the hummus. The Red Pepper Hummus is so quick to make it's ridiculous to buy it. I can totally see changing up the flavors a bit on this recipe. I like that it's lighter and does not use oil in it. If you just can't live without adding it, I would think that it would make it slightly creamier. It was still creamy because I let the food processor go for several minutes to ensure that everything was thoroughly blended.

Everyone enjoyed it, and I'm marking this as a definite "make again". So simple and healthy, too! Can't beat that, right? Since this recipe includes a beautiful red pepper, I'm going to submit it to Sweetnick's ARF 5 a Day Round Up for next Tuesday. Be sure to head over and check out all the fantastic healthy recipes being made around the blogging world!

May 29, 2008

Another Quick and Easy Dinner

This week has been a time of getting back into the normal routine groove. With that came baseball practice tonight. Since that required that I get My Oldest to the field by 6 p.m. and My Youngest had to tag along, dinner was a bit of an after-thought. We ended up hanging around for most of the practice even though My Husband was there helping coach. Once we got around to leaving, I had to start thinking about what to do with the chicken I had thawing in the fridge.

Penzey's to the rescue! As I mentioned before, I bought a few different spice blends when I was shopping. Tonight, I chose to use the Tuscan Sunset blend on grilled chicken. I can see using this blend in tomato sauce or any tomato based soup. You could also sprinkle over grilled veggies along with a bit of EVOO. Sounds good to me! Since my salad fixin's were finished off last night, I figured I'd make a bit of whole wheat pasta. Now, plain pasta is ok most of the time but tonight I wanted to add a bit of flavor to it. Penzey's Pasta Sprinkle added just enough to make the pasta more interesting. Even my Youngest liked it and he prefers his pasta completely plain.

Overall, it was a simple dinner but tasty. I am enjoying these new spices and will have more reviews of them to share over the weekend.

Penzeys 2

May 28, 2008

Shrimp - using a shortcut

As you know, we just returned from vacation only 2 days ago. My cupboards are a bit bare so I went digging through the freezer and pantry to figure out dinner. I came up with a 1 pound bag of frozen shrimp and what was left of a bottle of Wegman's Basting Oil. I defrosted the shrimp and threw the shrimp into a large zip-top bag with the basting oil so they could marinate for about 20 minutes. I tossed them onto a hot grill basket and they were done in no time at all. That's one of the things I LOVE about shrimp.

I have cooked with this oil before, and enjoyed the flavor... but, this time My Husband was not thrilled with it. The rest of us enjoyed our shrimp anyway. I'd still recommend it if you have access to a Wegman's. If you don't, I think you might be able to order it on-line here.
Photo of the basting oil from the Wegman's website.

Daring Bakers May Challenge - Opera Cake

This month's challenge was chose by Fran of Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie, Shea of Whiskful , Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice, and Lis of La Mia Cucina. Ivonne and Lis are the co-founders of this incredible group of bakers. They decided that this month's challenge would be the Opera Cake!

The Daring Baker's are also dedicating this challenge to Barbara of Winos and Foodies. She is hosts a Blogging event called a Taste of Yellow to support the Live Strong foundation. As a way of dedicating this challenge to Barbara, the Opera Cake was to only use light colors and flavors.

Well, my second challenge was exactly that - a challenge. After reading and re-reading the recipe every day for 2 weeks I was sure I was ready for it. Of course, I got off schedule when I began the recipe on a Friday night, and didn't get to assemble it until Tuesday! Yikes! Yep, life got in the way of me really completing this challenge as it should have been done. Too many distractions and just rushing through parts... next time I hope to begin earlier and really go step-by-step. Guess you can say my lesson has been learned! My baking has always been very simple recipes that do not have a lot of steps involved, so when I saw this month's Daring Baker's challenge I had to work up some courage to begin working on it.

Anyway, the Opera Cake is a really pretty cake (and you can see some really fantastic examples by visiting the Daring Baker's Blogroll). There are layers of jaconde, syrup, buttercream, mousse and a white chocolate glaze. Let me begin by telling you how my attempt at making this cake went...

On a Friday evening, My Husband had a movie to watch that I really wasn't interested in and my boys were in their playroom doing whatever boys do when mom isn't watching. So, I set to work, with no one around to interrupt. The jaconde was simple to make, and I was thrilled that I had the whisk attachment on my Kitchenaid, as it made the job of whipping egg whites simpler than simple. You can imagine my excitement that I was able to accomplish that part of the task with such ease. I cut the recipe in half since I knew we couldn't eat the entire cake by any stretch of the imagination, and we'd be leaving soon for vacation. Fortunately, the measurements halved relatively easily.

Once I got the jaconde into the oven, I set to making the mousse. Or so I thought I was making the mousse... talk about not looking at the recipe the right way! I had both the recipe for the mousse and the syrup printed on the same page, and it seems that I got the ingredients for both a bit mixed up! Yep, mistake number one! I had to start over on the syrup, which I was flavoring with limencello (my good friend, Anya, was nice enough to share some she had from Italy). It had a nice scent as I brought it just to a boil before removing it to cool. Off it went into a container so it could wait in the fridge until I was ready to assemble.

Next, I made my second attempt at the mousse. This time I closely followed the directions. I decided that with the almond meal in the jaconde that with the mousse layer I would flavor with amaretto. I took a quick taste once it was completed and was really happy with the way it turned out.

Now, we were given a buttercream recipe to use, which required cooking part of it before mixing. We did have the option of using another buttercream recipe as long as we kept the flavors light. I opted for a simpler buttercream that did not require cooking and flavored it with almond extract. Can I just say, this icing was hard to keep in the house as it kept calling to me - it was so good. I'll be keeping that recipe to the side next time I need to ice something for grown-ups... as I doubt my little men would appreciate the flavor - they are vanilla lovers.

So, after working in the kitchen the entire evening, I had nearly all the elements prepared. I felt like it was all going together rather well. I had planned on assembling the cake on Saturday... well, that did not happen due to a number of other things that became a higher priority that day. Then, Sunday we had family come to visit for the afternoon then, before I knew it Monday arrived. Ughhhh, by the time Monday rolled around, I had to start getting us packed for our trip to Arizona! So, on Tuesday, I assembled the cake (using my ever-so-sharp memory - NOT!), and as I am going along I realize I completely forgot the syrup! Oh no! I had not iced the top layer yet, so I drizzed it on top. As I was going along, I also was clearing out the fridge and was tossing anything that was not needed into the garbage. Can you guess what leftover ingredient I managed to toss before realizing I needed more? The buttercream! I needed one more layer of it on top. At this point, I am stressed and just needed to take a break from the whole fiasco. So, I wrapped it and put it in the fridge.
Opera Cake-3

I never got the glaze done as I didn't want to make another batch of buttercream that would end up tossed. So, my cake is definitely lacking when it comes to it's appearance. I do promise to do better on the next challenge as I have certainly learned a few lessons from this one.

  1. Make sure a multi-step recipe is printed on separate pieces of paper so I don't mix up the ingredients.

  2. Set aside enough time to complete the challenge in one day if at all possible.

  3. Don't assume I can remember the steps as my memory is forever challenged at this point!
I'm happy I did attempt the recipe even if it did not go as well as I had hoped. Here's to next month!

May 26, 2008

I'm Back, and a New Seasoning!

Sorry for the lack of posting this past week. We were gearing up for going to Arizona to visit family and not a lot of cooking was going on while I got us organized for the trip. We are home, a bit tired but happy from our vacation.

For me, one of the highlights was going to a spice store in Scottsdale, Penzey's. I have been getting their catalogs for quite some time but haven't ordered anything. I just wasn't sure if it was really worth buying spices mail order. Well, if you get a chance to visit the store, you'll find a really nice assortment of spices and seasoning mixes. I picked up quite a few that really appealed to me (or My Husband, he was quite a help while shopping!).

Even though we just got home this afternoon, it was time to get back to normal and eat a healthy dinner. Keep in mind that when we go to Arizona, we take the opportunity to enjoy some fantastic Mexican food... just loved Rosita's and for quick Mexican food, Rubio's really hit the spot. So, tonight it was time for a salad! I used Penzey's Florida Seasoned Pepper blend on some grilled chicken breasts. It was really tasty, but beware the pepper has a bit of kick. I enjoyed the citrus flavor and I know I'll be using it throughout the summer months.

Penzeys Florida Seasoning

If you get the chance to visit a Penzey's don't delay, go check it out! If you don't have one nearby, request their catalog and make your shopping list! The catalog also has recipes using their spices and mixes. Can't beat that!

May 20, 2008

Oh, so good... Fried Pasta

I think we all have one dish that our mom made when we were growing that was so completely wonderful, and yet not so healthy but we loved it and craved it. If we were lucky, we watched and learned to make it ourselves. My Husband managed to pick up Fried Pasta from his Mom. Now, when I was dating My Husband and he made it for me, I had no idea what I was in for since Fried Pasta was not something I had even heard of before. Such a simple idea, but really tasty and hard to resist.

I don't think there is an actual recipe for this, but I'll give you the basics and I'm sure you can manage to make it for yourself. And, you simply must give this a try! First get the pasta cooking, then chop a large onion (we use either the large yellow onions or Vidalia's when they are available). Heat canola oil (about 3-4 tablespoons or so) in a large non-stick skillet over high heat, then add the onions and cook until soft and beginning to brown. Allow the pasta to cook until slightly overdone, then once the onions are nicely browned, add the pasta and give a good stir. Once the pasta starts to get crispy, lower the heat to medium and allow to cook until the pasta gets crunchy. At this point add a healthy sprinkling of paprika over the pasta. You will need to be patient and not stir the pasta too often or it won't get to the crunchy stage. It's so good, and even better when you serve it with a grilled steak smothered in chopped garlic (not tonight, but that's my favorite combination), and some fresh corn on the cob. Yum!

May 18, 2008

Simple Dinner

With several evenings scheduled with baseball practice or games this past week, I wanted to keep dinners relatively quick and easy. So, when I received the June issue of Real Simple and they devoted an entire section to marinades, rubs and sauces I jumped right in and tried the Lemon and Rosemary marinade. The marinade was simple enough to make with ingredients I had on hand already, which is always a plus. I didn't have fresh rosemary, so I subbed dried. I allowed the chicken to marinate for about 30 minutes before tossing it on the grill to do its thing.

While the chicken was cooking, I started making Green Beans with Mushrooms and Shallots. I've made this before and I think this is the absolute best way to prepare fresh green beans. Something about the shallots and the mushrooms makes them so good. I can eat a whole bowl full of these green beans and not bother with anything else. I also can't resist a side dish that's more interesting and goes together within 15 minutes while everything else is cooking.

The chicken was just "ok" in my opinion, which is why I am not bothering to add the recipe to my blog. I really just want to make sure there are good one's out there since the purpose is to keep track of things we really enjoyed. I haven't given up on the Real Simple recipes though, the rubs look really good and have the potential to replace the store-bought one's that I have in my cabinet at the moment. I like knowing exactly what's in it and that I don't have to guess at the 15-syllable ingredient names.

green beans and mushrooms

May 16, 2008

National Chocolate Chip Day

Ok, so I am a day late in posting this since National Chocolate Chip day was actually Thursday. Oh well, it's been a busy week and it seems the pollen has been aggravating me more than usual lately. Somehow, I finally have a bit of energy back and I wanted to make sure everyone knew about National Chocolate Chip day!

Ok, if you don't know already, I am a bit of a ... um... chocoholic. There I said it. They say the first step iis admitting you have a problem, right? Although loving chocolate is not really a problem far as I see it. So, of course, when I heard about this national holiday I couldn't let it pass by without making something in honor of it. What kind of chocoholic would I be if I didn't pay tribute?

In honor of this great holiday (don't you love made up food holidays?), I revisited the Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies and used a combination of white chocolate chips and semi-sweet chips. Of course, my family adores these cookies otherwise I wouldn't keep making them. They are the easiest cookies ever, so I don't even think twice when it's time to add to my cookie stash.

All you really need is a cold glass of milk and you've got the perfect chewy chocolate chip cookie. They stay fresh in an airtight container for up to 1 week (if they last that long), and the freeze really well.

chocolate chip cookies 2

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe by Adapted from Crisco - Cookies for a Year of Celebrations

  • 1 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar (I always use Dark brown sugar)
  • 3/4 cup Butter Flavor Crisco all-vegetable shortening
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • egg
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I always use 2 cups - milk chocolate chips)
Cooking Directions
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place sheets of foil on countertop for cooling cookies.

  2. Place brown sugar, shortening, milk and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat at medium speed of electric mixer until well blended. Add egg; beat well.

  3. Combine flour, salt, and baking soda. Add to shortening mixture; beat at low speed just until blended. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans (if using).

  4. Drop dough by rounded measuring tablespoonfuls 3 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet (I use parchment paper to keep them from sticking to the cookie sheets and to aid in easy clean-up).

  5. Bake one baking sheet at a time for 8-10 minutes for chew cookies, or 11-13 minutes for crisp cookies. Do not over-bake. Cool for 2 minutes on baking sheet. Remove cookies to foil or cooling racks to cool completely.

May 14, 2008

Fire up the grill - for Pizza?

Who doesn’t love pizza? Well, except for my youngest who only likes melted cheese and no sauce, I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t like pizza. In the summer, it’s more fun to cook outside on the grill than to heat up an oven and be stuck inside. Enter a new cookbook that will save the day: Grilled Pizzas and Piadinas!

This cookbook not only has beautiful pictures of the finished dish, but step-by-step pictures that help ensure that you are preparing each pizza or piadena to perfection. The Author, Craig Priebe, gives excellent instruction on making the pizza dough and grilling it. I found it to be really helpful since I have not grilled pizza before, or made dough at home. I referred to the pictures several times to make sure I was rolling out the dough correctly and to know what to look for when the crust was ready to flip on the grill. When you are ready to begin grilling, you should have all your toppings ready and waiting near the grill.

Grilled Pizza-2

The crust is starting to bubble and will soon be ready to "flip".

There are tons of pizza topping variations and recipes in this cookbook. The book does have a recommended list of toppings that work well together, and I ended up using that as my guide for our first pizzas. I wanted to use ingredients I had on hand already. So, in addition to a simple cheese pizza, we also had one that had bits of pesto, mushrooms, black olives, cheese and marinara sauce on it. It was so nice and crispy, just the way we like it. I'll be making many more recipes from this cookbook as the summer months get here.

May 13, 2008

Salmon Cakes, Patties, Croquettes... all pretty much the same thing

Growing up, there were a number of things My Mom made that I always enjoyed. A good number of them were fried, and boy were they delicious. I try not to fry too many things these days, or at least lighten them in some way. One thing I always loved were Salmon Cakes. Those patties were my first introduction to salmon back then.

I've wanted to make them for awhile so I could introduce My Boys to them. In my searching, I realized that they have many names: Salmon Cakes, Patties or Croquettes. The recipes are similar with only minor differences. I found a recipe in Ellie Krieger's, The Food You Crave, and ended up modifying it to accomodate what I had on hand. I also, don't care for cilantro so I knew that wouldn't work for me or my boys. I needed to make it simple in order to make it closer to how I remembered it. I also didn't want to add a lot of unusual flavors that would turn off the younger members of the family. I made breadcrumbs from some whole wheat white bread that I always have on hand and chopped up some scallions to add a little bit of color. This went together quickly and easily. If you have canned salmon in the pantry, you most likely have everything else in the pantry for this quick and simple dinner.

Overall, they were well-liked by everyone tonight. My Oldest managed to eat 2 or 3 of them on his own, and we ended up with just one leftover when dinner was finished. Even My Youngest enjoyed them and I got a thumb's up from him. I'll be keeping these ingredients on hand so that I can throw this together for a quick dinner.

Salmon Cakes

Recipe by Inspired by My Mom and an Ellie Krieger recipe
  • 4 slices whole grain sandwich bread
  • 24 ounce can pink salmon, drained
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • scallions, chopped - green parts only
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Cooking Directions
  1. Cut the crusts off the bread and then pulse in a food processor until you have a fine crumb.
  2. In a medium bowl, break up the salmon with a fork. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Add the bread crumbs and scallions mix until combined.
  3. Form the salmon mixture into 8-10 salmon patties. Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 5 patties to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes on each side. Once complete, remove and set aside - keep warm, while cooking the remaining patties.

May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to to everyone celebrating today! My boys were very good to me this year and it's been a rather nice day. My Husband made pancakes for breakfast, and he gave me the new Top Chef The Cookbook! I'm enjoying reading through it, but really don't think there's much I will actually make from it - at least not so far. My Oldest gave me the sweetest little flower pot that has a flower with a picture of him growing out of it. So cute! My Youngest made an adorable butterfly card at school and it has a sweet picture of him on it as well. I'm a lucky Mom!

I couldn't completely stay out of the kitchen today, so I decided to bake up some cookies from another new cookbook,Martha Stewart's Cookies: The Very Best Treats to Bake and to Share (Martha Stewart Living Magazine). I have to say, that this cookbook is truly fantastic! A picture of nearly every recipe and they go together pretty easily. A lot of the recipes are repeats from the special cookie magazines from Martha Stewart, but they are all in one place now!

After going through the 50 pages that I have marked to try, I settled on the Giant Chocolate Sugar Cookies. It is Mother's Day, and I love chocolate so I figured that the cookie should be something I could really enjoy. Now, when I saw that these were giant cookies, I really didn't think they'd be that big... until I got out my ice cream scoop to portion them out. I just love using the scooper for drop cookies so easy and they all end up looking exactly alike! This recipe makes between 6-8 cookies, and they are each about 4 inches wide. Yes, you read that right, these are as big as bakery cookies. They have a wonderful cakey texture and are crisp at the edges. They have to be some of the simplest cookies I've ever made and they are so delicious!

May 8, 2008

Decadent Outrageous Oreo Brownies

This week is Teacher (and Staff) Appreciation week at My Oldest son’s school. So, when I received the email asking the parents to sign-up to make (or buy) something to contribute for the luncheon, I quickly responded that I’d make brownies. The main reason I chose brownies is that I do work a full-time outside of the home, so arriving at the school with something hot at 11 a.m. is just not going to happen on a Wednesday. Sorry, but it’s just not possible. Brownies I can do, AND I live around the corner from the PTA President so I knew I could give them to her and she’d make sure they’d arrive on time.

I’ve had my eye on this recipe for quite awhile now. Joe at Culinary in the Country adapted the recipe and uses bittersweet chocolate in them. I had every intention of making his version, but when I went through my stash of baking chocolate I realized I forgot to buy bittersweet chocolate! So, off to the Internet I go searching for the original version hoping that it used something I already had in my pantry. Wouldn’t you know it? I found Ina “pound of butter” Garten’s original version on Oprah’s site for her magazine, “O”. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think Ina Garten has some really nice recipes, but they are more for special occasions since she is one of the Chef-ebrities (yep, I’m trying to be cute, and My Husband will surely tell me I’m a Dork for that one, but that’s ok!), that tends to use a pound of butter in every dessert. So, either the teachers and staff will love me for making these incredible brownies or they will be cursing me for creating the temptation to eat them! Either way, I’m happy to share!

These brownies are very dense and fudgey, which is exactly how I like them. The coffee flavor is very subtle, but it's there. I thought it would be more intense since there are 3 tablespoons added to the batter, but I think all the chocolate really overshadows it. These are definitely “special treat” brownies as a little goes a long way. I’m a big fan of chocolate, but these are so rich that you’ll want to cut them into smaller pieces and make the happiness last as long as possible.

May 7, 2008

Blueberry Muffins Bursting with Berries

I recently received a copy of a new cookbook,Summer Gatherings: Casual Food to Enjoy with Family and Friends. This cookbook has tons of beautiful pictures and so many recipes that I can't wait to make for family and friends this summer.

When I was in high school, there were a group of us who used to take turns hosting slumber parties every weekend. Whenever they were at my house, My Mom always made mini-blueberry muffins and everyone always went nuts for them. The reason this was a big deal was because all the other moms brought in donuts every weekend, which is why for years I couldn't stand looking at another donut. Sadly, I am over that but I do manage to avoid them these days. Anyway, whenever I see blueberry muffin recipes I always think back to those fun times with my friends back in high school. We are lucky that we are all still in touch "all" these years later and still very close despite the various states we all live in now.

So, when I saw the Melt-in-Your-Mouth Blueberry Muffins you know I just had to make them. With a name like that, how could I resist? They were simple to prepare, and with the addition of sour cream in the batter they had a nice cake-like texture. They were a huge hit with My Oldest and a nice treat for breakfast. They are best served the first day, but you can freeze them for up to 2 months and bring them back out when you just have to have a homemade blueberry muffin.

Melt-in-Your-Mouth Blueberry Muffins

Source: Summer Gatherings, Rick Rodgers

2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup full-fat sour cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 10 muffin tins with paper liners. (I was able to get 12 muffins from this recipe.)

Sift the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt together into a medium bowl. Beat the eggs until combined in another medium bowl, then stir in the sour cream and melted butter. Add to the dry ingredients and stir until just moistened. Fold in the blueberries. Spoon equal amounts of the batter into each muffin tin.

Bake until the muffin tops are golden brown and a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, 20-25 minutes. Cool in the tins for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire cake rack. Serve warm or cooled to room temperature. (The muffins are best served the same day that they are baked. Freeze leftovers, stored in a self-locking plastic bag, for up to 2 months. Defrost at room temperature.)

May 6, 2008

Garlic Potatoes and Grilled Chicken

On Sunday, after a day of baking various things we still needed to eat dinner. I had just been to the market where I buy my produce that morning, and had also just watched a recent Sunny Anderson show. She's got a new show, Cooking for Real, on Food Network. I'm not in love with her style or the show, but her Garlic Hasselback Potatoes caught my eye.

My Husband didn't care much for the potatoes, but I thought the garlic really made them. For once, I didn't feel they needed additional butter - or my favorite, sour cream. I didn't bother to make her herbed sour cream, and they really didn't need it.

The chicken was made very simply with a herb mix that we picked up at Costco recently. It has panko bread crumbs and parmesan cheese with a really flavorful mix of herbs. The kids could have done without it, too much flavor I guess. My Husband and I liked the flavor and the chicken would go nicely over salad greens, which could be a separate meal all together.

May 5, 2008

Broccoli with Toasted Garlic

One vegetable I can almost always get my boys to eat is broccoli. I know it's weird, they could care less about green peas but broccoli they will eat. Of course, steaming it all the time gets b-o-r-i-n-g. Enter Ellie Krieger! Her recipe for Broccoli with Toasted Garlic is so simple and so delicious that you'll want to make it this way all the time. The garlic is really crispy and brown and nice to nibble on by itself.

After you toast the garlic in the EVOO, you take it out and set aside. Then you toss in the broccoli and toss it with the EVOO in the skillet that has been infused with the garlic. The broccoli takes on the garlic flavor which is truly the star of this dish.

If you want to try something a bit different from the usual steamed broccoli, this is a good one to give a try. It's actually a bit faster than steaming and it tastes so much better. This side dish is even nice enough to serve to guests, so mark it to try soon.

May 4, 2008

2 Layer Chocolate Cake

Last night we got together with another family for dinner. To keep things simple, we just did a taco night which everyone enjoyed. Sorry, no pictures as they were eaten soon as they were ready!

When we were at the grocery store picking up a few things to go with dinner, My Husband decided that he really wanted a chocolate cake. And, being the wonderful wife that I am, I said sure we can do that. Now, I'll admit that I don't have a favorite chocolate cake recipe so we picked up a box of cake mix. I know... sharing with friends I should have made a cake from scratch. One thing I don't like to do is go in search of a dessert recipe after I've made it home from the store... which means I may not have all the ingredients. Soon as we got home, I got the cake baking. I should also mention that I've never made a 2 layer cake before. I have the pans, but for some reason I've never made a layered cake. Of course, I needed to change that so the batter went into 2 round cake pans. They baked up just as the should (remember it's a mix - how hard can that be, right?), they did dome a bit in the middle though.

I could have gone the easy route with the frosting as well, but where would the fun be in that? I ADORE frosting (who doesn't?). I used a VERY basic chocolate buttercream recipe that is on the Domino powdered sugar package. Super easy to make, that you really don't need to bother with the pre-made frosting. My boys enjoyed licking the little bit of frosting left in the mixing bowl.

My Youngest wanted to help with frosting the cake, but I told him I had a special decorating job for him once I had that part done. As I mentioned before, the cakes domed in the middle so I had to slice off that part of the bottom layer so that I could frost it and the top layer would sit properly. Once I had it frosted, I let My Youngest put chocolate sprinkles over the top. I think for my first attempt and a layered cake I did a pretty nice job.

Chocolate Cake1

May 2, 2008

Quick, Simple and Comforting


When I got home today and was talking to My Husband about our dinner options I mentioned that I did happen to have the ingredients necessary to make risotto. I've made the Spinach and Pancetta Risotto several times, but it has been a little while since I last made it. It truly is a favorite dish of ours and so quick and easy.

Now, if you have only recently begun reading my blog, you may not be aware that I have this magical secret to making incredibly creamy risotto in under 10 minutes. I don't even have to stir it constantly to achieve that comforting creamy texture. Now, I'll share that secret with you, but you must promise never to tell another soul, ok? Just kidding! I make it in my amazing pressure cooker! Yep, the pressure cooker has come back and is now cool to use again! The new one's are fantastic and you don't have to worry about them exploding and sending food flying across the room. Yes, I have been told stories of this happening with the old style cookers.
So, with a bit of chill back in the air today, something warm and comforting was in order. Dinner was ready in a snap. If you are able to get your hands on a pressure cooker, I highly recommend getting one! I'd also suggest picking up a copy of Pressure Cooking for Everyone because it is a great cookbook to use when you are just learning about using a pressure cooker.

May 1, 2008

Crispy Panko Butterfly Shrimp

Panko Shrimp

Last weekend we were shopping at Costco and they had some large shrimp at their seafood counter. We've been happy with the quality before, so we decided to buy them and didn't really have a plan on how we'd use them. Of course, this was the same trip where we picked up our latest cookbook that I've been talking about the past few posts.

We found a recipe for a breaded Butterfly Shrimp and decided that was worth a try. This is a pretty simple dish to prepare. The only part I was a bit uncertain about was butterflying the shrimp. I didn't want to destroy them in the process. Fortunately, they were pretty large in size so I had enough to work with and it was very simple to do. When breading the shrimp, you need to really make sure to coat all the exposed surfaces with the panko bread crumbs. That will give you the best results.

Since we were already in the "frying" mode, we decided to fry up some Chinese rice noodles. The way they expand when they hit the hot oil is really pretty cool to watch. So, we served the shrimp over a bed of the crunchy rice noodles.

Now, to simply say that the shrimp were good would be stating the obvious. Who would turn down a fried shrimp? Pretty much anything deep-fried is going to taste good, that's a no-brainer. I doubt we'll make it very often because the clean-up afterward took quite awhile. It was worth it though, those shrimp were so yummy!

After this week of frying up fish and shrimp, I think we are going to have to spend the next few weeks focusing on lighter recipes!

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