Friday, February 27, 2009

Cheryl's Kicked up Macaroni Salad

I am getting adventurous, I tell ya! My hubby has been gone for almost a whole week now and I actually made this pasta, and took the pictures all by myself, I feel like such a big girl! Kidding, I enjoy his input and suggestions, and he takes the photo's with his fancy camera, but I decided to try it myself this time! Tell me what you think?

My Sister In Law had a 41st Bday party (yes I know you are still younger than me), and I wanted to make Macaroni Salad, which I had never made before. I wanted it to be different and kicked up! I made the standard for her party, because she is a wusss when it comes to spice and made some extra for me, which I kicked the hell up! BANG!

I will give you the Kicked up version. I also added diced cheese and smoked turkey to make it more of a meal than a salad, and so I could live on the leftovers for a few days! Shrimp would also be really good in this salad.

16 oz package elbow macaroni
1 cup mayonaise
2 thick slices of deli smoked turkey, diced (you could use ham or whatever)
cubed pepper jack cheese (your choice, I used Colby Jack this time)
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1-2 jalapenos, seeded and diced
3 celery stalks diced
1/2 large onion, diced
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
yellow mustard to taste
salt and pepper
Cayenne pepper to taste
sweet or dill pickle juice
1 equal
1/2 tsp celery salt
I also added a few dashes of Red Hot Sauce

Cook your pasta as directed on the package, drain, rinse with cold water (don't shake off the excess water, I learned this from Cooks Illustrated)

Combine the remaining ingredients (except the meat and cheese) and mix well.

Taste for heat and piquancy, add any additional spices, or additional mayonaise or mustard, if needed

Add in the meat, cheese and pasta, mix well and chill

**To bring the salad back to life if it gets dry, add a few tablespoons of water and mix well
***The cheese will turn into squares of goo in several days
***It will get hotter the longer is sits

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Pot Roast with Vegetables

First off, a shout out to my Hubby in Beijing, China, us girls miss you! I hope you remember this dinner fondly!

I had been wanting to make a Beef Roast and this chica, and fellow pervert had a beautiful one featured on her blog created by our mutual dream Chef/Hottie, Tyler Florence.

It looked delicious and I wanted to try the method of cooking a roast on the stove top, which I had never done before. I had previously cooked them in either a crock pot or in the oven, braising a roast was new to me.

It was quick, delicious and the drippings made an insanely good gravy! And for once in my life, no tweakage, I pretty much made it as the recipe listed.

One thing I did do was roast the traditional vegetables that would accompany a roast separately in the oven. It was a brilliant idea if I so say so myself!

1 (3 to 4 pound) piece beef chuck roast, trimmed of excess fat
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 cup water
2 yellow onion, halved
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 bunch baby carrots
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 cup button mushrooms, stems removed and sliced in half
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves

Season all sides of the beef with a fair amount of salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot that has a tight cover; heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over moderately high heat.

Brown the meat on all sides, taking the time to get a nice crust on the outside. Pour in the tomatoes and the water.

Scatter the vegetables and herbs around the pot roast, season with salt and pepper; and drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of oil.

Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low. Braise for about 3 hours, basting every 30 minutes with the pan juices, until the beef is fork tender.

Slice the pot roast and arrange on platter surrounded by the vegetables.

Serve with the pot juices. (I used a stick blender to make it smooth) and thickened it up a bit with flour.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Soft White Dinner Rolls

I love baking and it would seem I am fairly good at it. Making bread is another matter entirely. I know how to make one specific recipe (my Father In Law's late Mothers bread). I learned to make that for him, and I certainly earned points for that on the Daughter in Law scale.

I cannot, however, make biscuits or any other kind of bread worth a damn. I decided I would try to make one new bread recipe a month. I started with this one from the King Arthur Website. When blooming the yeast I panicked and found they actually have bakers ON SITE whom you can call with questions. She re-assured me and I continued.

These rolls are quite tasty and fluffy, and my husband loves them! Which is all that really matters!

1 packet "highly active" active dry yeast; or 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast; or 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
7/8 to 1 1/8 cups lukewarm water*
3 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, (I used Better for Bread Flour)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
1/2 cup instant mashed potato flakes

*Use the lesser amount of water in summer (or in a humid environment), the greater amount in winter (or in a dry climate), and somewhere in between the rest of the year, or if your house is climate controlled.

1) If you're using active dry yeast, dissolve it with a pinch of sugar in 2 tablespoons of the lukewarm water. Let the yeast and water sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, until the mixture has bubbled and expanded. If you're using instant yeast, you can skip this step.

2) Combine the dissolved yeast (or instant yeast) with the remainder of the ingredients. Mix and knead everything together—by hand, mixer or bread machine set on the dough cycle—till you've made a smooth dough. If you're kneading in a stand mixer, it should take 5 to 7 minutes at second speed, and the dough should barely clean the sides of the bowl, perhaps sticking a bit at the bottom. In a bread machine (or by hand), it should form a smooth ball.

3) Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl. Cover the bowl, and allow the dough to rise, at room temperature, until it's nearly doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Rising may take longer, especially if you've kneaded by hand. Give it enough time to become quite puffy.

4) While the dough is rising, lightly grease two 9" round cake pans, or a 9" x 13" pan.

5) Gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly greased work surface. Divide it into 16 pieces.

6) Shape each piece into a rough ball by pulling the dough into a very small knot at the bottom, then rolling it under the palm of your hand into a smooth ball.

7) Place eight rolls in each of the round cake pans (or all 16 rolls in the 9" x 13" pan), spacing them evenly; they won't touch one another.

8) Cover the pan(s) with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the rolls to rise till they're very puffy, and have reached out and touched one another, about 1 hour. While the rolls are rising, preheat the oven to 350°F.

9) Bake the rolls until they're a deep golden brown on top, and lighter on the sides, about 25 minutes.

10) Remove the rolls from the oven, brush with butter, and after 2 or 3 minutes, carefully transfer them to a rack. They'll be hot and delicate, so be careful. Serve warm, or at room temperature.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Sisterhood Award

I want to thank the amazing Katherine at Smoky Mountain Cafe for the Sisterhood Award, she is an amazing cook and I am flattered to have received this award! Thank you!

The rules of this award are:

1. Put the logo on your blog or post.

2. Nominate at least 10 (OK I am doing 5) blogs which show great Attitude and/or Gratitude!

3. Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.

4. Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.

5. Share the love and link to this post and to the person from whom you received your award.

I would like to give this award to the following folks:

1. Jan at Range Warfare, she is an amazing writer and cook!

2. Paula at It's All Gouda, she is a great cook and homeschools too!

3. Pam at For the Love of Cooking, she is an excellent cook and mother!

4. TJ at From a Kiwi Kitchen with Love, she is a friend from down under, and has some wonderful recipes!

5. Elra from Elra's Cooking, she is a creative cook and takes breathtaking photos!

Thank you all for being part of my life!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Cubano Sandwich

I have often heard of the infamous Cubano Sandwich, and actually had one once, it was as delicious as I had expected. As I was thinking of how I could use up some of our leftover smoked pork roast, I decided a Cubano Sandwich would be just the ticket!

I checked out a few recipes on the web for direction and went to town. It was delicious and great for a change of pace! I made one big sandwich, cooked on my Paninni Grill, and cut it into lunch sized portions.

1 large loaf of French Bread
Sliced Deli Ham
Swiss Cheese (sliced)
Shaved smoked Pork
Dill Pickles (I used stackers)

I cut the french bread in half and then cut off a plank an inch or so on both the top and the bottom inside (I wanted less bread)

Smear your Dijonaise on both sides of the bread

Layer your slices of cheese, pork, ham and Dill Pickles

Place on your Pannini press until cheese is melted (you could bake it in the oven with something heavy pressing down on it, as an alternative)

Cut into pieces and enjoy!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Gingerbread Pancakes

I frequent Coconut & Lime, a great website by Rachael Rappaport, all of her recipes are original. I was there a few days ago and saw a recipe for Gingerbread Pancakes, and since we are breakfast FIENDS, I decided to try them this morning. The only change we made, was to add 1/4 cup of blue cornmeal and a bit more buttermilk.

All I can say is "OH MY GOD", these are the best pancakes I have eaten in my entire life. Seriously, try them, then tell her how much you love them!
I served with Apple, Maple, Chicken Breakfast Sausage and the combination was incredible!

1 cup flour
1 cup buttermilk, plus extra
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 egg at room temperature
1/4 cup Blue Cornmeal (optional)

Whisk egg, molasses, butter, sugar and buttermilk together until smooth, set aside.

In medium bowl, whisk corn meal, spices, flour, baking soda, baking powder.

Slowly mix in egg/milk mixture, there should be no lumps, batter will be thick

Cook on your buttered non stick griddle until both sides are nicely browned

Monday, February 16, 2009

Apple, Maple, Chicken Breakfast Sausage

One day while watching the Food Network Channel, I saw Rachael Ray making this sausage for a breakfast sandwich. I thought it sounded tasty and would be a great deal less fat than regular sausage. It is sooo delicious, I highly suggest giving it a try. You could use the patties in a sandwich as well.

I purchased some ground chicken and a package of boneless, skinless thighs and used the grinding attachment of my Kitchenaid Mixer to grind some of my own chicken. I mixed the two together and it was a nice texture. I doubled the recipe, and used my round silicone pancake mold to make them a nice round shape.

It is pretty obvious which chicken I purchased and which I ground myself.

2 tablespoon vegetable oil, 1 turn of the pan
2 pounds ground chicken breast
2 small McIntosh apple peeled and finely chopped (I used a green and a red apple)
1/4 to 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoon grill seasoning blend (recommended: Montreal Steak Seasoning by McCormick)
2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp Cayenne pepper
salt and pepper

Preheat a skillet over medium-high heat with 2 tablespoon oil. Mix chicken with apple, syrup, grill seasoning, poultry seasoning, cinnamon, cayenne, salt pepper and nutmeg.

Form large patties and set into hot oil. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 165-170, using your instant read thermometer. I highly recommend the CDN brand of Instant Read Thermometer

Friday, February 13, 2009

Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies

We like Peanut Butter in this family and my husband will actually eat one or two of these cookies if I make them (he is not a sweets type guy). I enjoy making them on the holidays as they are a hit with everyone who tries them.

This year I used Carmel Hersheys Kisses instead of regular chocolate, this added a new level of decadence!

1/2 cup Shortening
1/2 cup Creamy Peanut Butter
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
48 Hersheys Kisses, unwrapped

HEAT oven to 375°F.

CREAM together shortening, peanut butter, brown sugar and 1/2 cup sugar. Add egg, milk and vanilla. Beat well.

STIR together flour, baking soda and salt. Add to creamed mixture. Beat on low speed until stiff dough forms.
SHAPE into 1-inch balls. Roll in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.

BAKE 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.

TOP each cookie immediately with an unwrapped chocolate piece, pressing down firmly so that cookie cracks around edge. Remove from cookie sheets to cool.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tacos Carne Asada

We both love Mexican Food and have Carne Asada Tacos on a fairly regular basis. The recipe we use is from Tyler Florence and we highly recommend it!

2 pounds flank or skirt steak, trimmed of excess fat (see Mojo Marinade below)
Olive oil, for coating the grill
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Corn tortillas
Shredded romaine or iceberg lettuce, for serving
Chopped white onion, for serving
Shredded Jack cheese, for serving
2 limes cut into wedges for serving
Sour Cream (optional)
Guacamole (optional)
Pica De Gall0 (we used store bought)

Mojo Marinade:
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
1 large handful fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 limes, juiced
1 orange, juiced
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil

In a mortar and pestle or bowl, mash together the garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, salt, and pepper to make a paste. Put the paste in gallon ziplock

Add the lime juice, orange juice, vinegar, and oil. Shake it up really well to combine, add in your steak. Marinade for 1 hour up to 7 hours.

Preheat an outdoor grill or a ridged grill pan over medium-high flame (you can also use a broiler). Brush the grates with a little oil to prevent the meat from sticking.

Pull the steak out of the mojo marinade and season the steak on both sides with salt and pepper. Grill (or broil) the steak for 7 to 10 minutes per side, turning once, until medium-rare.

Remove the steak to a cutting board and let it rest for 5 minutes to allow the juices to settle. Thinly slice the steak across the grain on a diagonal.

Warm the tortillas for 30 seconds on each side in a dry skillet or on the grill, until toasty and pliable.

Assemble your tacos as you wish.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Guacamole the Dunkin Way

I have been using the same Guacamole recipe for soooo long I can't even remember where it came from. This is simple and tasty way to make Guacamole, and I will let you in on my secret!

If you buy an Avocado and place it in your refrigerator it will stay good for a very very long time, weeks even, and ripen very slowly!

2 medium Avocados, seeded, peeled and diced
1 thin slice of onion, chopped
1 tbl fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1 small tomato, diced

Mash everything together in a bowl, using a fork (except tomato)

Add the diced tomato to finished Guacamole and mix well

I always add a tablespoon or two of fat free Sour Cream to lighten the color up and give extra flavor.

I would like to give a Shout Out to "Great Cooks Community" for featuring me and my blog on the FRONT PAGE of their website. Great Cooks is a wonderful community of Foodies, so if you haven't signed up yet, now is the time!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Honey Roasted Carrots

I was checking out some blogs yesterday and saw Honey Roasted Carrots over at Sarah's place, they looked amazing and I knew I wanted to make them right away!

I have roasted about every vegetable, but for some reason I have never roasted carrots. These were caramelized and tasted amazing! I finished with Grey Sea Salt which added a nice contrast.

Seriously, I could of eaten them ALL, but I shared with my husband because I would of felt guilty otherwise!

Carrots (I used 3)
1 tbl honey
1 tbl olive oil
Sea Salt or Grey Salt or even Kosher salt for finishing

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Peel your carrots and cut into 3-4 inch lengths

Cut each length in half, cut the half into half again

Place your carrots on a non stick baking sheet
Mix the oil and honey with the carrots

Bake for 20 minutes

Remove pan from the oven, and flip them around

Bake for an additional 10 to 20 minutes or until they are tender and browned (as you can see we like them well caramelized)

Place on serving dish and drizzle a bit more honey on top and finish with your salt. A bit of Modena Balsamic Vinegar would be good as well!

And last, but not least, my most favorite wife of a Firefighter, and humorist in her own right, Donna at My Tasty Treasures gave me an award. Thank you so much! You need to check out her blog, she is funny and an amazing cook!

I hereby present it to YOU, YOU and yes YOU!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Chicken Cordon Bleu

I have been thinking about making Chicken Cordon Bleu for quite some time, my husband has made it many times but I had not. I realized yesterday I had everything I needed to make it and decided to give it a try.

This is not the traditional way of making it, more of a cheater Cordon Bleu, but it tasted fantastic and exactly like any other I had tried!

Making Chicken Cordon Bleu sounds complex but this recipe is a very easy one, try it! You will impress your guests!

3-4 chicken breasts, rinsed and patted dry
6-8 slices of Swiss Cheese (cut into 2 inch lengths)
Deli Ham slices or Canadian Bacon (cut into 2 inch lengths)
Sage (you could use fresh sage leaves as well)
salt and pepper to taste
1 box Shake and Bake for Chicken

Carefully slice your chicken breasts in half, leaving one side attached, so it opens like a book.

Shake your ground Sage onto the open chicken breast

Place your cheese slices on the chicken breast off to one side or the other (you will eventually fold it over)

Place your ham slices on top of the cheese

Salt and pepper, fold your chicken breast over and secure with toothpicks or a skewer (to keep the filling inside)

Spray each breast with pan spray

Assemble your bag of Shake and Bake and coat the breasts evenly

Bake on a sheet pan using a cookie cooling rack or some type of rack to keep it from lying directly on the baking sheet (this will help it crisp up)

Bake at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes

Monday, February 2, 2009

Ham and Beans

This soup/stew was a two day labor of love. My husband is a bean fiend, and I have tried to make beans so many times and they never come out exactly right.

I am glad to say that he deemed these perfect in every way! I used my leftover ham bone from Thanksgiving!

I served it with Jalapeno Cornbread and Honey Butter.

1 large ham bone
2 onions, 1 reserved and one chopped into large chunks
3 large carrots, 1 reserved, peeled, chopped large
1 Jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped fine
1 bay leaf
Ham, diced
Pinto Beans, small sack
Red Kidney Beans, small sack
Franks Red Hot
Cayenne pepper

The first thing you must do is create the Ham stock.

Place your Ham Bone, water, a roughly chopped onion, several roughly chopped carrots, 1 bay leaf and some salt and pepper into a large soup pot and simmer for 12-15 hours. As it reduces you can add more water.

Your stock should have reduced and be a beautiful brown color.

Drain the contents of the soup pot thru a mesh strainer into a large bowl.

Refrigerate the stock overnight, the next day scrape off the layer of fat which formed at the top of your stock.

Add your beans, the additional onion which you will dice into small pieces, and the additional carrot which you will chop into small pieces. Add your diced ham, jalapeno, and some Franks Red Hot and Cayenne.

Let simmer on low heat for about 3-6 hours, testing periodically and adjusting seasonings. We like it spicy so I added quite a lot of Franks Read Hot.

When the beans are at the level of tenderness you like, serve with Cornbread!

How to spatchcock a chicken or turkey!

Finishing some of Cheryl's drafts... Keeping spatchcocking simple. Using a VERY sharp cleaver or kitchen shears -- not scissors, carefu...