Monday, December 20, 2010

Great Sushi!

My wonderful hubby took me out for sushi while we were shopping in Grand Junction today. We went to one of my favorite sushi places....No Coast Sushi. Devin had the Wicked Garden and the Wasabi Nut Crunch rolls. I had the KA (eel) and the Cougar (fried oyster). I absolutely love this place. If you are ever in Junction and looking for great sushi, this is the place to go!

If anyone knows any other sushi places in Junction, please leave a comment and let me know. I'm always looking for new places to check out!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Soup and Sandwiches for Dinner!



Tonight I decided to take my panini press for a spin. I hadn't done that in a while. I knew we were having the cheesy brat soup for dinner, so I figured grilled cheese sandwiches would be a good combination.

Dev just wanted gouda cheese in his sandwich. I was in the mood for something a little more...complicated.

I took a slice of Dev's homemade bread and put 4 slices of brie on it. Then I laid a few pieces of thinly sliced deli turkey on the brie. Next, I piled on some radish sprouts and 2 pieces of bacon. I slathered the other piece of bread with a thin coat of sour cherry preserves. One more piece of brie finished off the sandwich. I slathered both outsides with butter, and fired up the panini press.

I think the picture pretty much sums up how good this sandwich was.

Cream Cheese Stuffed, Bacon Wrapped Jalapenos



These are so good, they're sinful. And addictive. And rich. And easy. And relatively quick.

A couple of weeks ago, Dev and I went to a covered dish supper for the last night of our Spanish class. One of the many wonderful dishes there was a tray of stuffed, roasted jalapenos. They were whole jalapenos, somehow hollowed out, with cream cheese piped in, and wrapped in bacon, then roasted.

They were heavenly! The pepper itself was soft and sweet, the bacon done, but not too crispy, and the creamy filling was warm and gooey. I knew then that I had to make them for myself.

I had 6 jalapenos laying around in my produce basket. I couldn't figure out how to hollow them out so they could be whole, so I halved them. Then I took out the seeds and membranes. I decided since I could cut the cream cheese into sticks while it was still cold, not to soften it. This is good, because this time of year, room temperature in my kitchen isn't nearly warm enough to soften anything! So I cut 12 short sticks of cream cheese and laid the pieces in the pepper halves. Then I cut 6 pieces of bacon in half, and wrapped a half piece around each stuffed pepper. Then I secured the little bundle with a toothpick. They baked at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes. Larger peppers with more cheese might take longer.

I don't have the words to describe how good these were. There was just a hint of heat from what little membrane I left in the peppers. If you like spicier things, just remove the seeds and leave the membranes. The peppers get soft and sweet from the slow roasting. And cream cheese is cream cheese- you can't go wrong there.

Please make these for yourself! I promise you won't regret it.

Beer, Brat and Cheese Soup



Today was a good soup day. It was cold and rainy.

I sat down and looked through my soup recipes and found an old favorite. The only thing I did differently this time was using kielbasa instead of brats (because that's what I had).

Brat, Beer and Cheese Soup
From Penzey’s

3 bratwurst sausages, cooked and sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 c. onion, finely chopped
1 c. celery, finely chopped
1 c. carrots, finely chopped
1/4 c. flour
1 lb. potatoes, peeled and diced
6 c. chicken stock
1 beer (12oz)
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
1/2 c. milk or half and half
1/4 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
2 c. grated sharp cheddar cheese

Heat olive oil in soup pot over medium heat. Add onion, celery and carrots. Cook about 15 minutes or until tender, stirring every so often to keep from sticking. Stir in flour; cook about 1 minute. Add potatoes, stock and beer. I didn't have 6 cups of stock, so I used 4 cups stock, 1 cup white wine and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil and cook 10-15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Add mustard powder, garlic, salt, pepper and chipotle powder. Combine milk and worcestershire sauce in a bowl. Stir into the soup. Remove soup from heat. Add cheese, stirring until the cheese is melted and smooth. Remove 2 cups of vegetables with some liquid and puree in blender or food processor. Stir back into the soup to give it nice body. Return to low heat and add sliced, cooked bratwurst. Cook until sausage is warm; 5 minutes should do it.

I didn't puree the 2 cups of soup. I used an immersion blender to blend the soup in the pot until it was as chunky as I wanted it. I also had a lonely ear of corn in the ice box, so I cut the corn off the cob and threw it in when I added the sausage to the soup.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Shrimp Curry and other pantry purging meals...



Earlier today I posted about New Year's Resolutions. I had another brilliant idea. I resolve to figure out what all I have in my pantry, and start cooking with it. There are 2 benefits to this strategy. The first is, of course a neater, trimmer pantry. The second is the opportunity to make room for new stuff!

Being a foodie, I have amassed some pretty odd stuff. And the sad thing is, I have no idea what all's in my collection.

So this afternoon I poked around on the shelves and found a package of curry mix. Here's a pic of it...



Ok. Go ahead. I'll wait. I know you want to make jokes about the name of the mix. It is frightfully close to gonad shrimp curry. There. I said it. Now can we get on with the post?? Thanks.

I followed the directions on the packet and combined 3/4 cup of lemon juice with an equal amount of olive oil, then whisked in the powdered spice packet. I defrosted and peeled about a pound of shrimp and put them in a dish. I poured the mixture over the shrimp and marinated them for about an hour. I stir fried some zucchini, green peppers, mushrooms and sugar snap peas. I added the marinated shrimp and let them cook for about 3 minutes. At the very last moment, I stirred in a few glugs of half in half. I served it over rice.

To be honest, this wasn't the best curry I've had. It didn't have that much flavor. Now that I've used that packet up, I can go out and buy some better curry!

American Macaroni Salad



I have rediscovered pasta salads. I don't know why I'd forgotten about them. If you think about it, any sort of pasta salad is the perfect lunch! You can add protein and veggies, and you've got pasta! There are vinaigrette type dressings, mayo based dressings, the sky's the limit...

I took a macaroni salad to our staff Christmas Party. It was the classic macaroni salad. The only change I made to the recipe was to add sharp cheddar.

American Macaroni Salad
From Food Network Kitchens
Prep Time:
20 min
Inactive Prep Time:
--
Cook Time:
10 min
Level:
Easy
Serves:
6 servings
Ingredients
• 2 cups dry elbow macaroni, cooked, rinsed, and drained
• 1/3 cup diced celery
• 1/4 cup minced red onion, soaked in cold water for 5 minutes, drained
• 1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley
• 1/2 cup diced vine-ripened tomato (optional)
• 1/2 cup prepared mayonnaise
• 3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
• 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
• 1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
• 3 tablespoons sour cream
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
• Freshly ground black pepper
Directions
In a large bowl combine the macaroni, celery, onion, parsley and tomato, if using. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, sugar, vinegar, sour cream and salt. Pour the dressing over the salad and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve. Store covered in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days.

New Year's Resolutions

I'm starting a little early this year on my New Year's Resolutions. I've been brain-storming a few ideas, which the goal of narrowing them down and picking the top two to tackle in the coming year. Here are the 2 I thought of today:

1. Spend less time watching TV and more time practicing my hobbies (cooking and knitting).
2. Get more active- this would be good for me and the dog. We took him out for a romp in the snow this morning and now he's pooped. That equals not as hyper, which equals happier owners.

Brickle Drop Cookies

Here's one of the recipes I made last week, but didn't have time to take pictures. These turned out really well. I added mini chocolate chips as well as the toffee bits. They passed the kid test...my husband used them as "auction items" in his 5th grade class.

Brickle Drop Cookies

Ingredients
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1-1/3 cups (8 oz. pkg.) HEATH BITS 'O BRICKLE Toffee Bits

Directions
. 1. Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease cookie sheet or line with parchment paper. 

. 2. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and salt in large bowl until blended. Add eggs; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and cream of tartar; gradually add to butter mixture, beating until blended. Stir in toffee bits. Drop by heaping teaspoons onto prepared cookie sheet. 

3. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly; remove to wire rack. Cool completely. About 6 dozen cookies.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Break!

Yay! Two weeks off...sigh.

I have a whole bunch of recipes to try AND our new Wii should be here any time now. I can't wait!! One of my goals for the New Year is to be better about posting to my blog and remembering to take pics of the stuff I cook. I've been cooking up a storm, I just don't take time to stop and document it.

Wow- this has been a random post....

Monday, December 13, 2010

Soft Pumpkin Cookies

Old-Fashioned Soft Pumpkin Cookies

Yields:
36 cookies
These cookies are something different and great for after school with a big glass of milk.
Ingredients
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1 cup LIBBY'S® 100% Pure Pumpkin
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Glaze (recipe follows)
Directions
PREHEAT oven to 350° F. Grease baking sheets.

COMBINE flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in medium bowl. Beat sugar and butter in large mixer bowl until well blended. Beat in pumpkin, egg and vanilla extract until smooth. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto prepared baking sheets.

BAKE for 15 to 18 minutes or until edges are firm. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Drizzle Glaze over cookies.

FOR GLAZE:
COMBINE 2 cups sifted powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons milk, 1 tablespoon melted butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract in small bowl until smooth.

These were indeed very soft. Almost too soft. They would have made excellent whoopie pies, though. I had some leftovers and made pumpkin ice cream sandwiches out of them. Sorry I didn't take pics!

Getting in the Christmas Spirit...

Here are some silly Christmas pics I snapped over the past couple of days.





So cute!

Braised Chicken with Tomatoes and Garlic



Chicken with Tomatoes and Garlic

Prep Time: 10 Minutes Cook Time: 1 Hour Difficulty: Easy Servings: 6
Ingredients
• 8 pieces Chicken Legs Or Thighs
• Salt And Pepper, to taste
• 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
• 1 Tablespoon Butter
• 1 can (28 Ounce) Diced Tomatoes
• 1 can (14 Ounces) Whole Tomatoes
• 2 Tablespoons (Heaping) Tomato Paste
• Fresh Herbs: Basil, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary
• 8 cloves Garlic
• 16 ounces, weight Pasta (I Used Cavitappi)
• Grated Parmesan Cheese, For Serving
• ½ cups White Wine (or Red Wine)
Preparation Instructions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Salt and pepper chicken legs.
Heat ovenproof skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and butter. When oil/butter is hot, add chicken legs to the pan. Using tongs, brown on all sides, about 2 minutes. Remove chicken from pan.
Pour in wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any bits. Cook for 1 minute. Pour in tomatoes with their juice and add tomato paste. Add salt and pepper to taste, stirring to combine. Bring sauce to a boil, then turn off heat. Add plenty of fresh herbs, 8 cloves of peeled (but whole) garlic, and the chicken legs. Put lid on pot and cook in the oven for 1 hour.
Remove pot from oven and allow it to sit on the counter with the lid on while you boil the pasta.
Cook the pasta to al dente, Drain and add to a large serving bowl.
Remove lid and check sauce. If it’s overly thin, remove the chicken from the pot and boil the sauce on the stovetop for 5 to 10 minutes. Check seasonings and adjust as needed.
To serve, pour sauce over cooked pasta, then arrange chicken pieces over the top. Sprinkle generously with fresh Parmesan and serve with crusty French bread.

This was REALLY good. And after we ate the chicken the first night, I saved the braising liquid and tossed it with angel hair pasta to get another whole dinner out of it!

Pecan Pie Bars


Several people have asked for the pecan pie bar recipe. So here it is. I aim to please!

Pecan Pie Surprise Bars

Base:
1 pkg. yellow cake mix
1/3 c. butter, softened
1 egg

Filling:
½ c. firmly packed brown sugar
1 ½ c. dark corn syrup
1 t. vanilla
3 eggs
1 c. chopped pecans

Heat oven to 350. Grease 13x9 pan. Reserve 2/3 c. dry cake mix for filling. In large bowl, combine remaining dry cake mix, butter and 1 egg at low speed until well blended. Spread in prepared pan. Bake at 350 for 15 to 20 minutes or until light golden brown.

In large bowl, combine reserved cake mix, brown sugar, corn syrup, vanilla and 3 eggs at low speed until moistened. Beat at medium speed about 1 minute or until well blended. Pour filling over base; sprinkle with pecans. Return to oven and bake 30 to 35 minutes or until filling is set. Cool completely. Cut into bars. Store in refrigerator.

36 bars.

I followed the recipe exactly as it is written here. I don't remember from whom I stole this. I'm guessing either allrecipes.com or an old issue of "Taste of Home" magazine. The only problem I encountered was after putting them in the ice box overnight, they were very difficult to get out of the pan. I would suggest waiting a while for them to cool on the counter, cutting them and removing them from the pan, putting them on a serving platter AND THEN putting them in the ice box. Then maybe you wouldn't need a jack hammer to remove them.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Rolls- 2 batches from one great recipe!

So today I decided to do some baking. Over the Thanksgiving Break, I spent some time in Savannah with my parents. They get the Cooking Channel with their cable package (I don't here in Rifle). I watched it quite a bit at night when Mom and I would get back from the hospital. One evening I caught an episode of "Kelsey's Essentials" (that might not be the exact title). She was making homemade roll dough that could be used to make either sweet or savory rolls. After I got home, I remembered it and downloaded the recipe.
I was extremely pleased with the way it turned out. I followed the recipe exactly. It made enough dough for one batch of cinnamon rolls and one batch of dinner rolls with rosemary/garlic.
For the cinnamon rolls, I just rolled out the dough and spread it with softened butter. Then I sprinkled brown sugar, cinnamon and pecans on it. I rolled it up, cut it in one inch slices, put the slices on a cookie sheet, let them rise 20 minutes and baked them at 400 for 25 minutes. While they were still hot, I slathered them with cream cheese glaze.
For the dinner rolls, I portioned the dough into 12 balls, then put them in a cast iron skillet, leaving some space between for rising. I brushed them with melted butter that I had flavored with rosemary and chopped garlic and let them rise for 20 minutes. They baked at 400 for 25 minutes.

Rapid Rolls:
• 3 (.25-ounce) packets active dry yeast
• 1 3/4 cups warm water
• 1/2 cup honey
• 1/2 cup melted butter, plus more for brushing
• 2 teaspoons salt, plus more for sprinkling
• 2 large eggs, beaten
• 4 to 6 cups flour, plus more if needed

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the instant yeast, and warm water. Let it activate for 5 minutes until bubbly. Stir in the honey.
On low speed, add 1/2 cup melted butter, 2 teaspoons salt, and eggs. Slowly add the flour cup-by-cup until fully incorporated and the dough pulls away from the sides of the mixing bowl. Add more flour if it is too sticky.
Portion the dough into 24 even servings. Form the rolls into desired shape and let rise approximately 20 minutes, or until doubled in size. Place the rolls in a cast iron skillet or on a baking sheet. Brush the rolls with melted butter.
Bake for 25 minutes until the tops are golden brown. Remove from the oven and brush with more melted butter, and sprinkle with a little salt.
Cook's Note: This recipe can be used as a traditional loaf bread, pizza dough, and for both savory and sweet rolls.
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