Thursday, November 29, 2007

Chicken Master

I used to have a big chicken phobia. I was a chicken chicken. It's not that I wouldn't eat chicken - I adore it. It's just that I stuck to the breasts. Boneless and skinless breasts. It doesn't get any easier - all you have to do is cook it and eat. Now it is true you need a knife and fork, but at least you don't have to do any precooking knife work. One of my New Years Resolutions was to be a little more adventurous with chicken - and I have!

Step 1: Cook a whole chicken. Everyone told me it was easy, but I was scared. Turns out I had nothing to worry about. I now love making whole chickens because a little seasoning and throw it in the oven - voila! You don't even need to watch it like baked or stovetop chicken. Perfect.

Step 2: Chicken thighs. Cheaper than breasts and they come in boneless skinless varieties too. Why did I never try them? Because I'm not a huge fan of dark meat. However, I have learned that if you're cutting it up and preparing it as a stirfry, in a sauce, or as tikka masala this is easy to work with and tastes just as good.

Step 3: Cutting up a whole chicken. Notice I saved this for last. This seemed like a daunting task. Especially when I asked for advice and people recommended I buy my chicken already cut up. That's never a good sign. However, I also got a recommendation to use Joy of Cooking or Fanny Farmer. Genius. I completely forgot about Fanny Farmer. When I moved out on my own, my mom tucked this book into one of my boxes and it has been a serious godsend because it covers EVERYTHING including what parts of meats come from where on anuimals adn of course, how to cut up a whole chicken. With pictures! So with a little help from Fanny I went from this:

to this:

I used this cut up chicken to make another popular What's Cooking Dish - Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic. The original serves 8, but since there are just 2 of us I cut in in half (I mean you can't really make less than 1 whole chicken) This is some seriously good chicken. It might be my new favorite. Seriously. Warning - it's not a quick dish (Sorry SD and Claire), but it is sooo worth it. The chicken itself is just so flavorful from the roasting with fresh herbs (rosemary and chicken are always a surefire combo). If that's not enough, the sauce is just warm, garlicy and downright amazing. It's such a perfect fall dish because it leaves you (and the kitchen, and your apartment if its as small as mine) all roasty and toasty. Jon went back for seconds which in our household means we have a new winner.

Chicken with 20 cloves of garlic (adapted from Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic)
1 chicken, cut into 8 serving pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 1/2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
20 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 Tbs. minced fresh rosemary
1/2 Tbs. minced fresh thyme
Zest of 1 lemon
1/8 cup white wine
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room
temperature, cut into pieces

1) Preheat an oven to 400°F. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. In a wide Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Working in batches, brown the chicken, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

2) Add the garlic to the pan and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat.

3) Add the chicken, rosemary, thyme and lemon zest and stir to combine. Cover the pan, transfer to the oven and roast for 20 minutes. Baste the chicken with the accumulated juices. Continue roasting, uncovered, until the chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear when the meat is pierced with a knife, about 30 minutes more.

4) Transfer the chicken to a platter; leave the garlic in the pan. Cover the chicken loosely with aluminum foil.

5) Set the pan over medium heat and mash the garlic with the back of a spoon. Add the wine and cook for 3 minutes. Add the stock and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the butter a few pieces at a time. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the sauce to a sauceboat. Serve the chicken immediately and pass the sauce alongside.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

You don't know Monkeybread

This post is dedicated to my favorite monkey. Not because she's sticky and lumpy, but because yesterday she described how she spent her day on the couch and this is really the perfect food for sitting on the couch. Especially if you are aiming to increase the size of your posterior. Growing up, we NEVER had monkeybread. It was a foreign food in my household. However, I had a friend's mother who made monkeybread for every sleepover. I tried to sleep over as often as I could just to get some of its gooey sweetness. And one of the things I learned, is there is no such thing as a single type of monkey bread. Friend's mom would make it with cinnamon, butterscotch, caramel, basically anything she had handy.

Last year Jon came home from work one raving about this dish his coworker brought in. "It's a bunch of little balls all stuck together" My first thought? Croque en bouche or Struffoli. But I was wrong. It was monkeybread he was raving about. He had waited 27 years for his first bite and he was hooked. When he stopped working with this coworker he missed her breakfasts, so I thought I would attempt to make monkeybread at home. Note: I work best when someone isn't hovering over my shoulder pointing out what I'm doing wrong. Note 2: I love my husband but I hate that he feels himself to be an expert in every matter, including things he has never done. Here are some examples:

Example 1: As I'm removing the bread from the pan -
J: I don't think you did it right. It's supposed to be sticky and gooey on the inside, not just the outside.
K: I don't think you need to worry. I dipped every ball in butter before rolling it in sugar. And I'm about to pour sugar overtop of it. Why don't you go watch a movie or something.

Example 2: As its cooling -
J: Umm where's the cinnamon? It's supposed to have cinnamon! I don't see any cinnamon. I don't think this is monkeybread.
K: How many monkeybreads have you had?
J: A lot.
K: And they were all made by the same person using the same recipe over and over right?
J: Yeah
K: Then you don't know monkeybread. It doesn't have to have cinnamon. This one has chocolate. Did the one you had have chocolate?
J: No
K: You like chocolate better than cinnamon right?
J: Yes
K: Then why don't you not worry about it too much, 'kay?

He went to the bedroom around this time to read, which gave me enough time to sniggle a piece of the bread. It was warm, it was sweet, and it was gooey. I'm tempted not to share....or at least not with him. Instead I will send virtual pieces to WeeMo. Snack up!

Orange Monkeybread
1 pkg frozen rolls, thawed
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
zest of one orange
1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 Tbsp orange juice
chocolate syrup

1) Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease bundt cake pan. Roll dough into 24 even balls and set aside.
2) Mix together sugar and orange zest. Dip dough balls in melted butter and roll in sugar.
3) Place dough balls evenly in prepared pan. Let dough rise until doubled in size.
4) Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and invert out of pan and onto serving platter.
5) Mix powdered sugar and juice and drizzle over hot bread.
5) When cool, drizzle with chocolate syrup.

Ham and Jam

I'd love to play "guess that sauce" but the game is sure to fail. First because the title of this post pretty much gives it away. Second because the fun part of the game is tasting the sauce and trying to figure out what it is - something that doesn't translate well in this visual medium. Instead I'll recap the game as it went last night.

J: This pork is really good - is this a ketchup sauce?
K: There's ketchup in it, but I wouldn't call it a ketchup sauce.
J: Well what kind of sauce is it?
K: It's like a blackberry sauce.
J: Really? I'd never have guessed that.

Apparently the mix of steak sauce and ketchup disguises the taste of the blackberry preserves which then become just a way to add sweetness. The whole meal was yummy and I made 3 chops so there's even leftovers for when I finish the million slices of pizza left over from Jon's birthday.

Glazed Pork Chops (from Allrecipes)
  • 3 pork loin or rib chops, 3/4-inch thick
  • 1/2 cup Blackberry Preserves
  • 1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons steak sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 clove garlic, minced
  1. Preheat broiler to High.
  2. Broil pork chops 3 to 5 inches from heat for 5 minutes. Turn; broil 5 minutes longer.
  3. Meanwhile, in small saucepan, combine remaining ingredients. Heat to boiling; simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
  4. Brush pork with sauce. Continue broiling, turning and brushing with sauce, 5 to 10 minutes longer, or until pork is no longer pink in center. Bring remaining sauce to a boil; serve with pork chops.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I'll try anything once....

At least that's how I feel about Food Network chefs. With one notable exception.... I'm willing to try recipes from all the different chefs and if they're good, I'll try another. If it's not good, it goes in the Rachel Ray pile.

Tonight I adapted a recipe by Michael Chiarello. He's the host of Easy Entertaining on the Food Network. This recipe is a surefire winner for company because it is absolutely gorgeous. It's tasty too, but seriously, when I pulled it out of the oven I did a mouth drop. Lovely. I guess that means I'll start looking more seriously at Mikey's recipes and recommending them!! (PS- Mr. Chiarello does not know I call him'll be our little secret)
Prime Rib Eye Steak with Mustard Mozzarella Crust (from Michael Chiarello)
9 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh, roughly chopped thyme
1 1/2 tablespoons creole mustard
2 boneless rib eye steaks
salt and pepper
3/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese, combined with 1 Tbsp dried basil

1) In a pre-heated saute pan over medium-low heat, pan roast the garlic in olive oil, tossing only once. Allow to brown for 10 minutes. Drain the cloves through a strainer, reserve olive oil. Allow to cool before mashing roughly with fork.

2) Add thyme to garlic paste and mash that in as well. When they are pasty but still chunky, mix in the Dijon mustard.

3) Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Preheat a grill to high.

4) Coat steaks with reserved olive oil and season steaks well with salt and pepper. Pound the seasonings in well. Place meat on grill to brown, about 5 minutes each side.

5) Remove steaks from grill, place on a large cookie tray. Cover top generously with garlic mustard. Top with large piles of mozzarella and basil, spreading out to edges carefully with fingers. Place steaks in oven for 8 minutes.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The devil is in the details

Since I share all my cooking triumphs, I may just as well share my cooking trials. Not everything I make turns out as it should. And when things go bad, they go very bad.

But what's a story without some background? As I've often said, I'm not a baker. I actually don't enjoy making cookies very much. If I were a super hero that evil genius that constantly eludes me would be a personified sugar cookie. I have given up on cookie cutter cookies or any sort of "round" shape. I am quite satisfied sticking to drop cookies and sliced cookies. Easy, very nearly fool proof. With this in mind I will share the recipe for "Cookies which will never be made again". Maybe you'll have better luck.

Cookies which will never be made again Cookies
1) While waiting for Thanksgiving dinner, start flipping through latest issue of Cooking Light. Find article on all types of cookies. Think "hmmm maybe the solution lies in here." See tips on making thumbprint cookies. Think "hmmm these looks like fancy drop cookies....I can make these."

2) Decide thumbprint cookies are a great use of leftover jam bits in fridge and leftover pecans from caramel pecan pie.

3) Assemble ingredients:
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 stick butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups AP flour
3 egg whites
2 cups finely chopped pecans
Jam of your choosing (I used strawberry, raspberry, and blackberry)

4)Preheat oven to 350. Spray 2 baking sheets with cooking spray.

5) Add flour on low speed until well blended.

6) In a small bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. This is where you realize that beating egg whites in a small bowl is a very very bad idea. You realize this right after the egg whites end up ALL over the counter. Place pecans in separate small bowl.

7) Scoop and roll dough into balls. This is where you notice the dough does not stick together. It crumbles, it breaks, you use a few choice curse words as you try to make something of the crumbly dough.

8) Dip ball in egg whites and roll in pecans. The pecans will not stick to the dough balls. You will increase your curse word vocabulary right about here, making up new and exotic phrases.

9)Place balls on prepared baking sheet. Use thumb to make indentation on top of each cookie. This action will cause the cookies to split into multiple pieces, crack, and crumble. You're near tears as you try to form the dough back into some semblance of cookie. You tell your husband you are never making these cookies again so he better enjoy them while he can.

10) Bake cookies 8 minutes. Removed from oven. Spoon teaspoons of jam into indentation of each cookie. Return cookies to oven. Bake 8 minutes more until lightly browned.

11) Remove from oven. Cool on wire rack. Even though you're transferring the cookies with a spatula you will still come into contact with the jam which is 173 degrees and burns the skin on all your fingertips. You begin plotting on how to kill the cookies while running your fingers under cold water. When your husband reaches for a cookie you send him death glances. When he tells you he really likes them you wonder if smothering him in his sleep could reduce your sentence to manslaughter due to provocation.....

Happy Birthday Baby!

Friday was Jon's birthday. I told him he could decide whatever he wanted to do for the day and we'd do it. He decided he wanted to get up at the crack of dawn and go surfing. I decided to stay in bed while he did that.

When he got home it was time for presents and breakfast. As I've mentioned before Jon's favorite breakfast is pancakes. I decided to try really hard to make the pancakes the way he'd like them since it IS his birthday. I decided to throw out the recipe he claims his dad used and experiment to create my own version. I also decided to have his breakfast and present be "themed."

See, in March Jon and I went to Mammoth for the first time. Jon has been snowboarding since high school - although not consistently. In fact, he hadn't worn his snowboarding boots since college. When he wore them in March, they were too small for his feet and he ended up with 2 black toenails by the end of the trip. We both had such a great time we knew we would go back, and Jon knew he'd need new boots. He wanted to run out and buy them right away, but his ever rational, economical wife told him it wasn't a good time to buy them.

Flash forward till now. I decided to get Jon boots for his birthday. I spent weeks looking for the perfect pair and then weeks worrying that I might not have got the right boots! Thankfully Jon loved the boots. And even more thankfully - he LOVED the pancakes. He claims they're the best pancakes I've made. I'm sure the snowman shape didn't hurt either ;-)

Snowman pancakes
1 cup Bisquick
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1 banana, mashed
chocolate chips
powdered sugar

1) Heat griddle and spray with cooking spray.
2) In a medium bowl, combine Bisquick, buttermilk, egg, and banana. Stir until mixed throughly.
3) Add milk until batter reaches desired consistency.
4) Drop large circle of batter on griddle. Wait 2 seconds and then drop slightly smaller circle directly above larger circle so that they touch. When bubbles appear on the surface of the pancake, flip over for another 30 seconds. Repeat with additional batter.
5) Give the snowman eyes and buttons with the chocolate chips. Dust with powdered sugar.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving recap

New Traditions:
5:00 AM my alarm went off. Jon groaned, but I hopped out of bed and pulled on some clothes so I could begin making smoothies. Around 5:20 AM the first one arrived. By 6:00, we were all here. A group of 8 girls with one goal in mind. Okay so actually there were two goals, but both involved the 10K known as the Turkey Trot. Some of us were anxious to get a good time, and others were just looking for the accomplishment of completing the 6.2 miles!

We got to the race about 40 minutes before it started. It was cold. We gave each other encouraging hugs to keep warm. At 7 AM the gun went off an so did we. This is where the group dispersed as everyone began searching for their pace. I stayed back with A, partly because I had promised her I would, and partly because I was really nervous about finding a pace I could stick with for all 6 miles. A provided the perfect pace for me and I didn't even think about distance until she gave me a cheery "2.2 miles left."

Throughout the course we saw the other girls and we cheered each other on. A group of the husbands made camp on the course and cheered us as we passed. Katie and Kam even showed up with a sign!

A and I crossed the finish line together. 6.2 miles! We met up with those who had finished before us, and waited at the line till everyone had crossed. Then, as usual, there was lots of picture taking and lots of congratulations for everyone. We've already made plans to do it again next year.

Old Traditions:
When I got home from the race I had one more task to accomplish for Thanksgiving dinner. I had to make the pumpkin pie. Mmmm Pumpkin pie! Definitely one of my all time favorite parts of Thanksgiving. And quite possibly one of the easiest dishes to make. Of course, it would be easier if you have a fridge that doesn't freeze your pie dough........Once the dough defrosted enough to roll out, it was a matter of moments until it was in the oven and then there was just waiting as the scent of cinnamon and nutmeg filled our apartment. Jon felt I overfilled the pie, but my cousin was in heaven. He only likes the filling - leaving the pie crust. He loved how much filling there was!

After the pie was cool enough to move we headed to my parents for a second Thanksgiving tradition - the movie. Along with my brother and father we headed to the theater, leaving my mom alone to work her magic. Lack of sleep and emotional fatigue had me crying all through Fred Clause.

After the movie I promptly fell asleep on the couch until all the family and friends arrived. We ate, we drank, we laughed, we shared stories. We toasted my bar passage and sang happy birthday to Jon. My father had finally won his battle to have Turducken, although my wise mother made a regular in addition. I'm glad she did - the Turducken was a little fatty for my taste! After everyone was full to capacity, we were sent home with some ice cream cake. It was a very successful day!

Pumpkin Pie
1 pie crust

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons AP Flour

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 1/1 cups canned pumpkin

12 ounces Evaporated Milk

1. Heat oven to 375°F. In a large bowl, mix brown sugar, flour, spices and salt.
2. Stir in egg. Beat in pumpkin and Evaporated Milk until smooth.
3. Pour mixture into prepared pie crust. Bake 50 to 55 minutes. Serve warm or cold.

Take Out at Home

Know what's fun? Getting take out and vegging in front of the tv. Know what's fun AND healthy? Making your own take out!

One of my fellow bloggers calls dinners like this "take out fake out" because it tastes as good as the "real thing." Personally, I think it tastes better! Especially because this is a meal we never order for take out, yet eating it at home is perfect because it has all the flavors of our favorite Chinese foods.

1 pound of steak cut into chunks
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
2 green peppers, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 package dry brown gravy mix, mixed with water
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1) Marinate the steak overnight in the soy and worcestershire

2) Cook steak in large saucepan with a tiny bit of olive oil.

3) When it is a little more than halfway done, add the garlic, peppers, onions, and red pepper flakes.

4) After 4-5 minutes, add 3/4 of the gravy. Mix the remaining gravy with 1 tbsp flour and set aside. Simmer 10 min.

5) Add remaining gravy/flour mixture. Simmer another 5 min. Serve over rice.

Friday, November 23, 2007

A southern treat

I have Southern roots. They're not obvious until I'm tired and my wacky accent comes out. Then my vowels elongate and my occasional "y'all" finds its way into every other sentence.

Another place my roots can be found is in my tastebuds. I lived in the south long enough to develop an affinity for grits, okra, and pecan pie.

For as long as I can remember my mom's been making an amazing pecan pie. Before my dad's heart attack it was a Thanksgiving tradition. Well, it would alternate between a regular pecan pie and a derby pie (a pecan pie with the addition of chocolate chips).

This year for Thanksgiving I wanted to make my own version of the classic dish. Pecan pie, but with addition of caramel, the most Thanksgivingest of all the dessert sauces. Caramel just seems like the perfect fall flavor for me. I love it with pumpkin, apple cider, and of course it would be perfect with pecans!

Let me give you a brief run down of the reactions:
Jon: It's good sweetie, but I really am too full to finish. (My mom makes one heck of a Thanksgiving)

Me: Be careful mom, it's good but its a little two sweet - like a diabetic could die if they smelled it.

Mom: I don't know what you're talking about this is fantastic!

Caramel Pecan Pie
1 pie crust
2/3 cups sugar
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
3 eggs
12 ounces caramel topping
1-1/2 cups pecan halves

1) In mixing bowl, beat eggs slightly with fork.

2) Add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Stir in topping and butter; mix well. Stir in pecan halves.

3)Pour filling into pie shell. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

4) Cool thoroughly on rack before serving. Cover; chill to store.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Classic Cookies

My traditional Thanksgiving cookie? Peanut Butter. And it doesn't get more traditional than the Jif Peanut Butter recipe. Disclaimer - this is not a tradition in my family as we NEVER bought anything but natural peanut butter because Jif, Skippy, Peter Pan all had way too much sugar. In truth, I don't really know what my mom used to make her peanut butter cookies, but she definitely didn't use this recipe.

Nevertheless, you can always count on "brands" to have classic recipes. Take for example my favorite holiday treat - candied yams. Last year when I asked how to make them, I was let in on an old family secret - the recipe comes from the can of Bruce's Yams which is the necessary ingredient.

So when I wanted to make a "classic" cookie, I just looked to the side of my peanut butter jar (Jon won't eat natural.....its not sweet enough....go fig)

Irresistible Peanut Butter Cookies (from Jif)

3/4 cup Jif Creamy Peanut Butter
1/2 cup Shortening
1 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 large egg
1 3/4 cups All Purpose Flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1.Preheat oven to 375ºF.
2.Combine peanut butter, shortening, light brown sugar, milk and vanilla in large bowl.
3.Beat at medium speed of electric mixer until well blended.
4. Add egg. Beat just until blended .
5.Combine flour, salt and baking soda.
6.Add to creamed mixture at low speed. Mix just until blended.
7.Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheet.
8.Flatten slightly in crisscross pattern with tines of fork.
9.Bake at 375ºF for 7 to 8 minutes or until set and just beginning to brown. Cool 2 minutes on baking sheet on a cooling rack; remove cookies to rack to cool completely.

The Baking Begins

Thanksgiving! It's my mom's favorite holiday and she sure isn't shy about it. Preparation starts well in advance and mom takes care of everything. My job is usually to keep my dad occupied and out of mom's way.

This year, I feel really honored that mom has asked me to make desserts. ME! I get to make something for Thanksgiving! I'm going a little overboard, but who knows when I'll get the opportunity to do this again!

The plan is a combination of traditional and traditional with a twist. I'm making 2 different types of cookies and two different types of pies (one traditional and one with the twist).

First up. The cookies.

My mom has many famous cookies. One of these are her chocolate crack cookies. So called because they have cracks on them - not because of their addictive nature, although one could easily make that mistake. I decided to add my own spin on these cookies by adding some peanut butter.......because I love peanut butter and chocolate!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Crack Cookies
1 pkg. Brownie Mix
1/4 cup butter, melted
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 egg
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
Chocolate Fudge Frosting (I make mine with melted chocolate and confectioner's sugar)

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2) In medium bowl, beat brownie mix, melted butter, cream cheese and egg 50 strokes with spoon until well blended (dough will be sticky). Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets to make 24 cookies; smooth edge of each to form round cookie.

3) In small bowl, mix powdered sugar and peanut butter with spoon until mixture forms a ball. With hands, roll rounded teaspoonfuls peanut butter mixture into 24 balls. Lightly press 1 ball into center of each ball of dough.

4) Bake for 10-14 minutes or until edges are set. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets. Cool at least 30 minutes.

5) Spread thin layer of frosting over peanut butter portion of each cooled cookie.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bite Size Goodies

Lately Jon's been getting on my case. Apparently we don't have enough snack food in the house. We don't have snack food for a couple reasons. 1) I don't really snack. 2) What I consider snack food (nuts, dried fruit, cottage cheese) is very different than what Jon considers snack food (chips, crackers, candy bars). His big request lately if for "something salty." Sometimes, when we have extra time on the weekends, or I'm feeling especially magnanimous I make him an afternoon snack.

Pepperoni snacks are the perfect snack. Except for the fact they possess no redeeming healthy quality. There is arguably protein to be found, but you'll have to look hard under the massive amounts of fat in each delicious bite. Of course, once you take one bite, you probably won't be looking for anything other than another pepperoni snack.

Pepperoni Snacks
1/2 pkg of sliced pepperoni, chopped
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 tomato, chopped
1/4 cup italian dressing
1 Tbsp pesto
1 pkg Grandes refrigerated biscuits

1) Preheat oven to 350. In bowl, combine pepperoni, cheese, tomato, dressing, and pesto.
2) Cut each biscuit in half. Place biscuit halves into greased miniature muffin cups, pressing gently to fill cups.
3) Spoon 1 Tbsp of filling into each cup.
4) Bake 20 minutes.

Tea and Scone

When I was in 11th grade my English class took a field England. It was an incredible trip and we got to see such different parts of England, from the slums of London to the Yorkshire Highlands. From the academia of Oxford and Cambridge, to the beauty of the Lake District.

One of my favorite parts of our England trip was our daily tea. This wasn't built into the schedule, but my friends and I were determined that when in England we MUST have tea every day. This was especially important in London when tea was our only meal of the day (where "food" consisted of canned fruit and a jello-like substance we dubbed "yello").

In England tea is not complete without scones and scones are eaten with jam and a generous portion of devonshire cream. They are delicious and filling enough to last us until our next tea time.

I drink a lot of tea when I'm sick. I drink a cup of tea every 3 hours (because I alternate with water and juice every hour). And nothing goes better with tea than scones....except I really can't make scones. Or at least I've never attempted an English scone. Instead this is my Tea-time cake: A moist mousse cake topped with jam and marscapone-cream. It may not be a scone, but it mimics one well enough for those days I just want to be back on the moors!
Tea-time Cake
1 cup strawberry jam
1/2 tsp crushed ginger
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1 cup marscapone, at room temp
1/3 cup confectioner's sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup chilled heavy cream
1/2 cup cake flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
3 eggs, at room temp
3 egg yolks at room temp
3/4 cup sugar

1) Heat oven to 350. In small bowl combine jam, ginger, and cardamom. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
2) In medium bowl beat marscapone, confectioner's sugar and vanilla until smooth.
3) In medium bowl, whip heavy cream until soft peaks form. Fold whipped cream into marscapone mixture in 3 additions. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
4) Grease and flour 9" round cake pan. Begin to simmer water in small pot. In small bowl sift together cake flour and cornstarch. Set aside.
5) In medium bowl whisk together eggs and yolks until well combined. Slowly whisk in sugar. Set bowl over simmering water and continue whisking until instant-read thermometer reads 110. Remove from heat.
6) Beat egg mixture until it's tripled in volume, 3-5 minutes. Fold in flour mixture in 3 additions. Pour batter into prepared pan.
7) Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack.
8) When cake has cooled completely, cut in half horizontally and cut 4 rounds from each cake half with a round cookie cutter.
9) Top each cake round with 1 tbsp strawberry preserves. Spoon marscapone over preserves and smooth with metal spatula. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 hours.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, will you join the dance?

If you recognize the title of the post, then you already know the main ingredient of tonight's recipe. If you don't, Shame on you! You are clearly missing out on one of the world's greatest works of fiction.

Tonight's dinner was a stacked lobster salad. It was cold, it was easy, and though I was nervous about how it would turn out, it was very well received. Due to cost, Jon thinks this would work just as well with crab - which is expensive, but not nearly as expensive as lobster. Plus the lobster was a little salty.

Stacked lobster salad
3 zucchini, sliced in 1/4 inch slices
2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
4 oz goat cheese, room temp
1 roasted red pepper, seeded and halved
1 cup chopped fresh spinach
8 oz cooked chopped lobster

1) Preheat broiler. Line baking sheet with foil and lightly brush with 1 Tbsp olive oil. Place zucchini slices on prepared sheets. Brush with 1 Tbsp olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Broil 3 minutes on each side, or until cooled through and lightly browned.
2) Puree goat cheese and remaining olive oil in food processor until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
3) Line glass loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving 4" overhand. Place single layer of zucchini on bottom of pan. Top with roasted red pepper. Spread half of goat cheese over peppers. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup chopped spinach and half of lobster.
4) Repeat layer of zucchini. Layer remaining cheese, spinach, and lobster.
5) Cover lobster with last layer of zucchini. Fold plastic over to cover. Press down gently. Refrigerate overnight until firm.

The Lobster Quadrille (from Alice in Wonderland)
"Will you walk a little faster?" said a whiting to a snail, "There's a porpoise close behind us, and he's treading on my tail. See how eagerly the lobsters and the turtles all advance! They are waiting on the shingle -- will you come and join the dance? Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, will you join the dance? Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, won't you join the dance? "You can really have no notion how delightful it will be When they take us up and throw us, with the lobsters, out to sea!" But the snail replied "Too far, too far!" and gave a look askance -- Said he thanked the whiting kindly, but he would not join the dance. Would not, could not, would not, could not, would not join the dance. Would not, could not, would not, could not, could not join the dance. "What matters it how far we go?" his scaly friend replied. "There is another shore, you know, upon the other side. The further off from England the nearer is to France -- Then turn not pale, beloved snail, but come and join the dance. Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, will you join the dance? Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, won't you joint the dance?

Ringo's Race!

Most of you know that this is race week for me. My first 10K on Thursday, Thanksgiving morning. Well Ringo was feeling a little left out because he's never run a race before, so we had to change that. Today Ringo ran his first 5k! What a trooper! It was to benefit animal shelters in Southern Orange County. (Ringo really supports this cause since he knows about these shelters first hand). There were costume contests and Ringo really wanted to show his holiday spirit so he wore his brand new scarf I made for the occasion. He loved the scarf and all the complements he got on it. He really was sad when we took it off once we got home.

Ringo did all 5K with only a few brief stops for some water. He was cheered on the whole time by the volunteers who made up cheers especially for him. After the race there were pictures with Santa and playtime with some other dogs. Ringo really loves other dogs. Here he is giving them hugs for finishing the race.

Since we were gone all day I utilized my crockpot to prepare dinner for the night. I had dubbed this week stroganoff week to experiment with various forms of the dish, since the chicken stroganoff went over so well. This version is a tomato based version.

The review? I'm not quite sure I would classify this as stroganoff. I mean, sure, it has stroganoff seasonings in it - but it looked more like spaghetti with meat sauce to me. Of course, I'm partly to blame. In an effort to use up the massive amounts of pasta we always seem to have on hand, I didn't buy egg noodles, using linguini instead. On the other hand, stroganoff or no, this meal was critically acclaimed in my household. Jon kept saying how great it tasted and its so easy, I can see it becoming a regular staple in this house. And since it's not creamy like the real stroganoff I can even consider it semi healthy!

Tomato Stroganoff
1 lb sirloin steak, cut into chunks
1/2 can crushed tomatoes
1/2 can tomato sauce
1/2 can tomato paste
4 oz sliced mushrooms
1 pkt beef stroganoff seasoning
1 cup noodles, cooked
1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream

1) Combine steak, tomatoes, sauce, paste, mushrooms, and seasoning in crock pot.
2) Cook on high for 4-6 hours.
3) Add noodles in last 20 minutes of cooking.
4) Stir in sour cream before serving.