Archive for April, 2009

A present!

Friday, April 17th, 2009

A few weeks back, there was a tragic incident involving a glass jar from our spice cabinet and my porcelain “Salt Pig.” The jar fell from the spice cabinet onto the top of the salt pig, and it cracked. Since shards of porcelain are not good eats, (or so I hear) we had to throw it out. I was sad.

I use salt often when cooking. That should be obvious, but I think a lot of people don’t, and that’s one of the things that separates a good cook from an adequate cook–learning how to season with salt and pepper. You can’t be afraid to use them. When I started, I was kind of afraid of using too much salt, but you get the hang of it really quick. Just add it a little at a time, and keep tasting. One thing that helps, for me, is to use kosher salt, and to add it by hand. Table salt is much harsher a flavor, and it’s very easy to add too much without knowing. Kosher salt is easy to pinch and add a little at a time. And it tastes better, too! A salt pig is where I keep my kosher salt.

I like that it keeps the salt semi-covered. It’s easy to get to, because it can stay out on the counter, but the curved shape keeps dust and stuff out of the salt. Apparently, it’s designed so that the unglazed ceramic interior keeps moisture away from the salt, which prevents it from clumping. I’ve never had an issue with clumping salt, but I use a salt pig, so I guess it works!

Ever since the broken salt pig, I’ve been thinking about a replacement. I’d looked a couple of times, but hadn’t bought anything yet–and you know what? This week, my very favorite Leah (You know her as Test Subject #2) bought me a new one!

salt

Can I just say that I love it? It’s pretty, it’s functional, it goes well with our blue tile backsplash…AND it’s Le Creuset. It’s my first piece of Le Creuset stoneware, but not my last. One day, this will be mine. (Oh, and I just found this to match the salt crock. And this! We need a butter dish!)

Sorry…got a little carried away there. The point? Thank you, Leah, for the awesome gift! I love it!

P.S. I guess it’s called a salt pig because the opening kind of looks like a pig’s snout? Also, maybe because stone pots used to be called “pigs” in Scotland. *shrug* Whatever works.

Sausage Balls

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

Nothing beautiful or fancy here, but these sausage balls are are a quick, satisfying crowd-pleasing appetizer. I made them at Thanksgiving  last year and again for Easter at my Grandma’s house, at the request of my little sister. Enjoy!

sausage-balls

Sausage Balls
Adapted from Paula Deen and Friends

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray or line with parchment paper. I like the parchment paper, because it makes clean-up extra easy.

Combine all ingredients in a large glass bowl. Mix well with your fingers. The mixture will be very crumbly. Form into 1 inch balls, squeezing the mixture so it holds together, then rolling it between the palms of your hands to form balls.

Place the balls on the baking sheet. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. To prevent sticking, move the balls with a spatula halfway through cooking.

Note: The end result is like a cheesy biscuit made of sausage. I know that doesn’t make sense, but once you’ve tasted them, I think you’ll understand.

Chicken Baseballs

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

Chicken Baseballs is a recipe that I found on the Weight Watchers message boards a while ago. It’s basically a creamy, cheesy chicken filling baked inside a flaky dough. I’ve made them a few times, and they’re very tasty. My method, it seems, is a little different than the one floating around the boards these days. I’m not sure if I changed the recipe or they did, but here’s how I make them.

Chicken Baseballs

  • 1 package (tube)  reduced fat crescent roll dough
  • 1 pound (about 2 cups) cooked boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 8 ounce block “1/3 less fat than cream cheese” (neufchatel cheese), softened
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup low fat sour cream
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet by spraying with non-stick spray or lining with parchment paper.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, sour cream, salt, pepper, garlic, onion powder, and cumin.  Beat with a hand mixer until smooth. Stir in shredded cheese and chopped chicken until combined.

3. Unroll crescent roll dough on prepared baking sheet. Break the roll into four rectangles. Each rectangle will be made up of two intact triangles. Pinch together the seams on each pair. Scoop one quarter of the chicken and cheese mixture onto each rectangle and carefully shape the dough around the filling by pulling each corner to the top. When the filling is completely enclosed, place on the baking sheet seam side down. Repeat with remaining filling and rectangles of dough.

4. Sprinkle each roll with sesame seeds and bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until crescent dough is golden brown.

Note: In case you were wondering, they’re called chicken baseballs because the seam in the crescent roll dough kind of resembles the seams on a baseball. Or so I’m told.

Just a quick note…

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

In case you’re interested in seeing them, I made those Garlic Herb Dinner Rolls again for Easter and now have a picture to prove it! I updated the original post with the photo, here.

Chosen for Photograzing!

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

One of my pictures was posted on Photograzing again this weekend. I was so busy cooking for Easter, I didn’t even have a chance to notice!

picture-of-the-day-pasta

Froot Loops Treats

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

You like Rice Krispies treats?

Yeah, that’s what this is–but with Froot Loops. And it tastes exactly like you’d expect: fruity (frooty?), gooey, sweet, basically just a tasty treat. And easy too.

By the way, this was pretty much David’s experiment. I would’ve used Rice Krispies.

froot-loop-treats

Froot Loops Treats

  • 3 tablespoons  butter or margarine
  • 1 package (10 oz., about 40)  regular marshmallows
  • 6 cups Froot Loops cereal

1. In large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.

2. Add Froot Loops cereal. Stir until well coated.

3. Using buttered spatula or wax paper evenly press mixture into 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan coated with cooking spray. Cool. Cut into 2-inch squares. Best if served the same day.

Easter Cake Pops!

Monday, April 13th, 2009

I hope everyone had a Happy Easter…I sure did. We went to my Grandma’s house for a big Easter lunch, before heading over to Dave’s Aunt and Uncle’s house. I had a nice time, even though I was pretty tired by the end of the day. After all, I spent most of Saturday cooking…cake pops!

Once again, I borrowed Bakerella’s cake pop method. Everyone loved them!

They were almost too cute to eat!

Almost.

Smoky Ham and Bean Soup

Friday, April 10th, 2009

You know what’s funny? I like ham, but I love all the delicious things you can make with leftover ham. Like the one and only casserole I grew up with, ham and rice casserole. Or like the subject of this post, ham and bean soup.

I know it doesn’t sound flashy. It probably doesn’t even sound good. All you have is my word, but I promise you, it’s tasty. Very tasty. As soon as we decided to make ham for Fake Easter, I had visions of the ham bone, simmering away in my crockpot. And my visions came true. With real Easter coming up this weekend, you might very well get your hands on a ham bone of your very own. If you’re lucky enough to be “stuck” with a leftover ham, here’s what to do.

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Smokey Ham and Northern Bean Soup

  • 1 pound of leftover ham, diced
  • 1 large ham bone, leftover from a roasted ham (if you can’t get one of these, you can skip it, but do try–it really adds to the flavor)
  • 1 quart chicken stock, ham stock, or prepared ham soup base (I used chicken stock)
  • 1 large can of northern beans, partially drained (I poured out about half the liquid)
  • 2 small cans Campbell’s Bean with Bacon soup
  • 1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1 cup V8 vegetable juice
  • salt & pepper to taste (you probably won’t need much salt, so go easy on it)

Combine ingredients in large crockpot, and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 2-3 hours. Honestly, you could eat it as soon as it’s heated through, but the longer it simmers, the better it’s going to taste. If you don’t want to use a crockpot, this can be done on the stove over low heat. Just be sure to keep an eye on it and stir frequently. The starchy beans will get scorched and stick to the bottom of the pot if you don’t.

Spinach Fettuccine with Proscuitto, Peas, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

This was the third dish we made at my pasta making class, and it was the one I liked the best. Of course, it being a pasta making class, we made our own fresh spinach pasta, but you could certainly use a store-bought variety here.

This was a really quick and tasty dish, with bright, fresh flavors. I was impressed with how delicious it was, especially for how quickly it came together. I’m sure you could add grilled chicken, but I didn’t feel it was necessary at all. The original recipe called for roasted red pepper strips in place of the sun-dried tomatoes, but I like the sun-dried tomatoes, so that’s what I used.

Spinach Fettuccine with Proscuitto, Peas, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

  • 1 lb spinach fettuccine, preferably fresh
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 ounces diced prosciutto
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh peas
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil to cook your spinach pasta. Cook pasta according to package directions for al dente. Drain, and keep in a warm place.

2. While pasta is cooking, brown proscuitto in 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. When the edges begin to get crispy, add the cream and simmer until reduced by half–about 10 minutes. The cream sauce will be considerably thicker.

3. Add tomatoes and peas and continue cooking until heated through, about 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

4. Toss with hot pasta and Parmesan cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.

Note: Ideally, you want to finish the pasta and the sauce about the same time. The timing will depend largely on whether you use fresh pasta, which will only take about 3-4 minutes to cook,  or dried pasta, which will take at least 9-11 minutes to cook. If your timing is off, don’t stress–just keep the pasta as warm as possible, and keep the whole dish over heat for a bit once you add the pasta to the sauce.

Also, I bought some kind of weird dried/fresh pea hybrid meant for soup instead of fresh peas. I won’t make that mistake again.

Alton Brown’s Homemade Pizza Dough

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009
I don’t have very exacting pizza tastes. I like frozen pizza and thick crust pizza and thin crust pizza. I like Pizza Hut and Aurelio’s AND Lou Malnati’s. I like pizza from a box.
David on the other hand, is a bit more picky. Though he also likes Aurelio’s and Lou Malnati’s. He’s not that into my pizza from a box, and he’d rather not eat frozen pizzas. Of course, when he wanted us to make pizza from scratch, he went to Alton Brown’s recipe. I have mixed feelings about this recipe. We’ve struggled with the recipe a little bit–once it was way too sticky, another time, the dough didn’t really rise or stretch. (Could be due to the age of the active yeast we used, though). You also have to prepare the dough way in advance…it needs to rise in the fridge for about a day.
Really, there’s nothing wrong with this pizza dough recipe, but I’m holding out for one that’s a little bit easier to work with.
Alton Brown’s Pizza Pizza Dough
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 2 cups bread flour (for bread machines)
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • Olive oil, for the pizza crust
  • Flour, for dusting the pizza peel

Directions

Place the sugar, salt, olive oil, water, 1 cup of flour, yeast, and remaining cup of flour into a standing mixer’s work bowl. Using the paddle attachment, start the mixer on low and mix until the dough just comes together, forming a ball. Lube the hook attachment with cooking spray. Attach the hook to the mixer and knead for 15 minutes on medium speed.

Tear off a small piece of dough and flatten into a disc. Stretch the dough until thin. Hold it up to the light and look to see if the baker’s windowpane, or taut membrane, has formed. If the dough tears before it forms, knead the dough for an additional 5 to 10 minutes.

Roll the pizza dough into a smooth ball on the countertop. Place into a stainless steel or glass bowl. Add 2 teaspoons of olive oil to the bowl and toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 18 to 24 hours.

Place the pizza stone or tile onto the bottom of a cold oven and turn the oven to its highest temperature, about 500 degrees F. If the oven has coils on the oven floor, place the tile onto the lowest rack of the oven. Split the pizza dough into 2 equal parts using a knife or a dough scraper. Flatten into a disk onto the countertop and then fold the dough into a ball.

Wet hands barely with water and rub them onto the countertop to dampen the surface. Roll the dough on the surface until it tightens. Cover one ball with a tea towel and rest for 30 minutes.

Repeat the steps with the other piece of dough. If not baking the remaining pizza immediately, spray the inside of a ziptop bag with cooking spray and place the dough ball into the bag. Refrigerate for up to 6 days.

Sprinkle the flour onto the peel and place the dough onto the peel. Using your hands, form a lip around the edges of the pizza. Stretch the dough into a round disc, rotating after each stretch. Toss the dough in the air if you dare. Shake the pizza on the peel to be sure that it will slide onto the pizza stone or tile. (Dress and bake the pizza immediately for a crisp crust or rest the dough for 30 minutes if you want a chewy texture.)

Brush the rim of the pizza with olive oil. Spread the pizza sauce evenly onto the pizza. Sprinkle the herbs onto the pizza and top with the cheese.

Slide the pizza onto the tile and bake for 7 minutes, or until bubbly and golden brown. Rest for 3 minutes before slicing.

Note: As far as toppings go…go nuts. This time, we had some tomato, basil & feta pizza for Leah, while Dave and I stuck with a more traditional tomato sauce-sausage-mozzarella combo. Do what you like. 🙂

We were happy with the pizza stone method described in the recipe, and I do recommennd that you go that route if you’re going to make your own pizzas. Even our inexpensive one has made a vast improvement over pan pizza.