Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Brownie/Cookie Giveaway

Do you like chocolate? 
Do you like chocolate made in France by a chef?!? 
I recently reviewed Ruth's Brownies made with Valrhona chocolate and included is a giveaway through December 27th. Hurry HERE for a chance to win!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cranberry Upside Down Muffins

I had fresh cranberries in my fridge so for breakfast this morning I made these little beauties. If you're not a fan of the tart flavor of cranberries then you won't like this recipe. I liked that the batter is sweet and cake-like in flavor. My only complaint is the muffin's density; these are hearty (read "heavy") muffins but they taste great.

Serving note: Add butter and a sprinkle of sugar on top of your muffin. Enjoy!

Cranberry Upside Down Muffins
recipe courtesy of joyofbaking.com
Cranberry Sauce:
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 tablespoon orange juice or water
1 tablespoon grated orange zest

Muffin Batter:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place rack in the middle of the oven. Butter well or spray, with a non stick vegetable spray, 12 muffin tins.
Cranberry Sauce: In a medium sized saucepan place the cranberries, sugar, orange juice (or water), and orange zest. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar dissolves and the cranberries start to pop open, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly while you make the batter.

Muffin Batter: In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
In a separate bowl, mix together the milk, egg, vanilla extract, and melted and cooled butter.
Add the milk and egg mixture to the flour mixture. Stir just until combined. Do not over mix the batter or the muffins will be tough when baked.  

Evenly divide the cranberry mixture among the 12 well greased muffins cups and then evenly spoon the batter over the cranberry sauce. Place in the oven and bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until very lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place on a wire rack to cool for about 2 minutes, and then invert them onto a cooling rack so the the cranberry topping is face up..

Makes 12 regular-sized muffins.

*My Notes: I had half a grapefruit in the fridge and used the juices (no zest) in my cranberry sauce. The cranberry flavor was so overpowering that I'm not sure if I tasted the citrus flavor. Also, remember to add a little melted butter and sugar for serving!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Chocolate Gooey Butter Cookies

I'm so glad these cookies are finally eaten and no longer a temptation. Unfortunately, they're eaten and gone because I ate the three remaining cookies this morning. This recipe is so GOOD!! Thanks to my bro Steve who sent me word of this fab recipe.

Chocolate Gooey Butter Cookies
Recipe courtesy Paula Deen


1 (8-ounce) brick cream cheese, room temperature

1 stick butter, at room temperature

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 (18-ounce) box moist chocolate cake mix

Confectioners sugar, for dusting


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Beat in the egg. Then beat in the vanilla extract. Beat in the cake mix. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours to firm up so that you can roll the batter into balls. Roll the chilled batter into tablespoon sized balls and then roll them in confectioner's sugar. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart. Bake 12 minutes. The cookies will remain soft and "gooey." Cool completely and sprinkle with more confectioners' sugar, if desired.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Spinach Soup

"I do not like green eggs and ham. 
I do not like them, Sam I Am"

Most days our tropical Hawaiian weather is a natural deterrent to any desire I might have of enjoying a hot bowl of soup. Yesterday on the other hand the weather was chilly and I realized I really wanted to eat soup for dinner. Unfortunately I didn't know what soup I wanted to eat. I didn't want a tomato-based soup nor did I want chicken noodle. Most of all I didn't want to go to the store at 4PM (rush-hour at any local grocer!) in a heavy downpour of rain (with flash flood warnings to boot!). I also had an abundance of frozen fresh spinach that I've collected over the past month and haven't known what recipe to use it in. That's when I found this lovely soup recipe. My 7 year old had this reaction:
"Mmmmm! Mom, this tastes like broccoli! We should eat this every day."

The best part about this recipe is that it's extremely easy and fast to prepare!

Pioneer Woman's Spinach Soup 
(recipe found here)

  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 10 ounces, weight Spinach
  • 2 cloves Garlic, Finely Minced
  • 4 Tablespoons Butter
  • ½ whole Medium Onion
  • ¼ cups Flour
  • 5 cups Whole Milk
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
  • ½ teaspoons Cayenne Pepper (Optional)
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • cheese and bacon for garnishing

Preparation Instructions
In a large skillet heat olive over over medium heat. Add spinach and garlic and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly until wilted. Add spinach to a blender or food processor. Pour in 1/4 cup hot water and pulse until pureed. Set aside.

In a large soup pot, cook onion in butter over medium heat until onions begin to soften. Sprinkle flour over the top and stir to combine. Cook for about 2 minutes, then pour in milk, stirring occasionally. Add salt, pepper, and cayenne and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour in pureed spinach, then cook another 3 to 5 minutes until thickened.

Check seasonings, adding more salt, pepper, or cayenne as needed. Serve in a bowl. Add a little grated cheese and bacon bits on top if you prefer. 

My Notes: 
*I have so much spinach in my house that I've resorted to freezing the fresh leaves. When I removed it from the freezer I put it in a bowl and microwaved it for 1 minute. This can replace the wilting process on the recipe instructions. If you follow this procedure just skip the olive oil process and add the garlic the last 1 minute of cooking the onions in butter.
*I only had stringy mozzarella on hand for garnishing but it tasted wonderful with the spinach/onion flavor. My husband loved the bacon and liberally garnished his bowl with this porky treat. If you decide to add bacon make sure you lightly salt the soup since the bacon adds a good salty flavor.
*I added the milk way to quickly and didn't whisk it like I think I should have. The result was flour clumps in my soup. (I was rushing to get dinner on the table before my three kids completely lost their composure!)
*I did not add cayenne pepper since I have wee-ones in my household.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Christmas is my favorite holiday. I love giving gifts, focusing on the birth of Christ, gathering with family, singing carols, and most especially I love the looks on my children's faces Christmas morning. My SECOND favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. My reason? Simply put, I love good food. This morning I had a call from a friend asking for my turkey brine recipe because she tried it last year and loved it. Well, the recipe is not "mine" per say but I'm always happy to pass along good recipes. In fact, this brine recipe is so good it recently bested Bobby Flay in a...Throwdown! THE Bobby Flay! How exciting is that?!?

For all you food loving fans, here are a couple of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes that will be gracing my menu plan this week:

Creamy Mashed Potatoes (another Throwdown best from PW)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Different Cranberry Sauce

Okay. My Thanksgiving confession is I don't like cranberry sauce. My first impression of the sauce was as a young child at my grandmother's house. I still remember seeing the ring marks from a can on the jelly-like red substance that stood firm in the serving bowl. I guess even as a child I felt that if a food looked far from it's natural state it wouldn't taste good (and most likely wasn't healthy for me).

I probably never gave the stuff a fair taste test until a few years ago when my dad made this recipe. As a little introduction to my wonderful dad, he loves stores that give samples (Trader Joes, Costco) and most of the time he gets the recipe, buys the ingredients and makes the dish at home. Yes, that marketing strategy works very well on my dad. I love this version of cranberry sauce or relish to be exact. It's light and fruity and most definitely fresh. I'm excited to make this recipe for our Thanksgiving seeing as we now live in Hawaii and can include fresh pineapple. I LOVE pineapple bought fresh on the islands. Mmmm.. Now if I can only find a market that sells sugarloaf or white pineapples I will be completely pineappley satisfied.

Cape Cod Cranberry Relish
Slightly adapted from recipe featured at a local Albertsons store; source is Decas Cranberry Sales, Inc.

1 lb fresh cranberries, washed and picked through
2 small navel oranges, well washed (or 1 large)
1 c sugar
half a fresh pineapple, cut in 1-in chunks (or canned pineapple tidbits)
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and cut in 1-in chunks
1/2 c chopped dates
1 c chopped walnuts, lightly toasted
Additional sugar, if necessary

Remove the peel of the oranges with a zester.  Place the peel and sugar in a food processor.  Pulse until peel is ground and well mixed with sugar.  Scrape frequently.  Add the cranberries and pulse until chopped well.  Place in a large mixing bowl.  Remove the white pith from the remaining oranges, cut oranges into 2" chunks, and process in the food processor by pulsing quickly.  Add to cranberries and orange.  Repeat the process with the fresh pineapple chunks and apples and add to cranberries and orange.  Add the chopped dates and nuts to the cranberries and fruit, stir well and cover.  If desired, add additional sugar to taste.  Refrigerate 24 hours before serving.  Serves 4-6.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tomato and Basil Pie

My mom-in-law recently sent me an email with the subject line of: "You've got to try this!" When you get an email from mom with those words in the title you know the recipe must be good.

Last week my husband and I were invited to a work potluck dinner. I wasn't sure what to bring but when I saw my pile of freshly picked tomatoes this recipe came to mind. Feel free to call me crazy for making a dish for guests that I have never tasted! Thankfully the dish turned out great! I loved the lightness of the filling compared to a more dense quiche. Also, don't be afraid of the amount of basil. It works!  For my next pie I might make the addition of green onions and cheddar like the lovely Mrs. Paula Deen does in her variation of this recipe.

*Note: This photo is of the pie before you spread the mayo/cheese mixture on top.

Tomato and Basil Pie 
  • 9-inch prepared pie crust, unbaked*
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 5 plum or 4 medium tomatoes
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • Additional basil for garnish
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  
  2. Prepare and bake your 9-inch pie crust. Remove from oven and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Cool on a wire rack. 
  3. Cut tomatoes into wedges and drain on paper towels. Arrange the wedges on top of the melted cheese in the baked shell. In a food processor, combine the basil and garlic, processing until coarsely chopped. Sprinkle over the tomatoes. 
  4. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the remaining mozzarella cheese, mayonnaise, Parmesan and pepper. Spoon cheese mixture over basil mixture, spreading to evenly cover the top. 
  5. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top is golden and bubbly. Serve warm garnished with basil leaves. Serves 4 to 8.

*I used the Betty Crocker recipe of flour, salt, shortening and water.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Asian Lettuce Wraps

Disclaimer: I'm married to a Chemist and to him cooking is like chemistry in that you must follow the recipe word for word and MEASURE everything! (I usually just shake, sprinkle and eyeball my ingredients and it drives him nuts.) I must say that he is a fabulous cook, especially when it comes to an intricate recipe that requires patience and lots of work. I on the other hand like to tweak and change recipes as I go along but I don't inform him of this until I see the smile of enjoyment on his face after he has taken the first bite. Tonight's experience was no exception. (*wink*) He loved this recipe! It's an even greater compliment that my husband enjoyed my version of an Asian dish because he lived in Taiwan for two years and he knows what the authentic food really tastes like.

Tonight I really wanted to make Asian Lettuce Wraps because I had a 3-pack of iceberg lettuce I needed to use but I didn't have ground chicken like I used in my previous posting for this recipe. I had a package of ground turkey so I searched online to see if any recipes use this ingredient in place of chicken. (We love the taste of ground turkey and use it often as a healthy alternate to ground beef.)  When I couldn't find a recipe that looked tasty or didn't require ingredients that were not in my cupboard I decided to wing it. To my husband's great pleasure the recipe turned out fabulous! Even better was that my kids LOVED this! It isn't often that my 7 year old is the last one to leave the table but tonight she was. 

Asian Lettuce Wraps
(Who "Dished" it first? Me!)

1 pound ground turkey
1/2 of a red bell pepper (about 1/2 cup), diced
2-3 stalks celery, diced very small
1/2 cup finely grated carrots
1-2 teaspoons garlic
2 green onions, finely diced (I didn't have any so I used a shake or two of onion powder)

Sauce: (I have seen sauce recipes that include sesame oil and hot sauce but I was all out and I wanted to keep the heat out of this recipe for my kids' sake.)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons rice vinegar (I didn't have any tonight so I used apple cider vinegar)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger

Brown the ground turkey in a sauce pan drizzled with olive oil. Add the vegetables when the meat is cooked and saute for 1-2 minutes. (You can reserve the carrots to add at the very end. I've done that before but tried this tonight where I add them at the beginning at since they were so finely shredded I didn't taste a noticeable difference. I think the real difference is presentation and preserving the bright orange color.) Add three-quarters of the sauce mixture, reserving the remaining sauce for dipping. Simmer this mixture until the sauce is reduced and there is almost no liquid in the pan. While this is simmering wash, dry and separate your lettuce leaves. When the meat mixture is prepared serve it on individual lettuce leaves dribbling a spoonful of the reserved sauce on top of each. 

**My notes: The soy sauce mixture can be salty so I would use low-sodium soy sauce if you have it. Traditionally lettuce wraps are served with the reserved sauce for dipping but my family is usually happy without the extra sauce. In fact, recently I'm experimenting with adding less than 3/4 cups of sauce to the meat mixture. Leave a comment to tell me if you like it with less sauce.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Hamburger Buns

I made hamburger buns from scratch!! I can't believe it! I'm not a professed baker of breads but with the exorbitant costs here in Hawaii I thought I would give these a try. The best part is they turned out and tasted fabulous! 

Light Brioche Burger Buns

3 tbsp. warm milk
1 cup warm water
2 tsp. instant yeast
2½ tbsp. sugar
1½ tsp. salt
1 large egg
3 cups bread flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2½ tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
For topping:
1 large egg beaten with 1 tbsp. water, for egg wash
Sesame seeds
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the milk, water, yeast, sugar, salt and egg.  Mix briefly to combine.  Add the flours to the bowl, and mix until incorporated.  Mix in the butter.  Switch to the dough hook and knead on low speed for about 6-8 minutes.  The dough will be somewhat tacky, but you want to avoid adding too much extra flour which will create tough buns.
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1-2 hours.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.  Using a dough scraper, divide the dough into 8 equal parts.  Gently roll each portion of dough into a ball and place on the baking sheet, 2-3 inches apart.  Cover loosely with lightly oiled plastic wrap and let rise again, 1-2 hours, until puffed up and nearly doubled. (*I live in a very warm climate and mine were large enough to bake after less than 30 minutes.)
Set a large metal pan of water on the lowest rack of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 400˚ F with a rack in the center.  Brush the tops of the buns lightly with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Bake the buns about 15 minutes rotating halfway through baking, until the tops are golden brown.  Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
Source: adapted from Smitten Kitchen, originally from Comme Ça via The New York Times

Mango Shortbread Bars

Living in Hawaii we're blessed to eat fresh tropical fruits. We've tried papaya milkshakes for breakfast and pineapple floats for dessert (fresh pineapple juice with pineapple ice cream). The other night I noticed our mangos were getting over ripe so I looked online for a fun recipe to make with them. This mango shortbread had a tasty crust (3 cubes of butter...it better be good!) and the mango flavor was nicely complimented by the nutmeg and cinnamon.

Mango Shortbread Bars


  • 1 1/2 cups butter
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups sliced mango
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. In large bowl, cream together butter and 1/2 cup sugar. Blend in 3 cups flour and press 1/2 of mixture into the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish.
  3. In a medium bowl, stir together mango, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup flour, cinnamon and nutmeg until well combined. Pour mango mixture over shortbread in pan. Sprinkle remaining shortbread mixture over mango mixture. Press down lightly.
  4. Bake 1 hour, until topping is golden brown. Let cool 15 minutes in dish before cutting into bars.


We love Italian food in our house. One of my favorite qualities of Italian cooking is the wide range of ingredients that most often are fail-proof. For instance, pizza is so versatile we love to experiment with toppings.

Our new favorite recipe that is bound to be an outlet in our food creativity is calzones. I found this recipe and I love the creaminess of the ricotta, the sausage is delicious and the dough surprisingly light and flavorful. I can't wait until next time I make this to add some mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, and maybe cook it one or two with pepperoni per the kids' request.

Ricotta Calzones with Sausage
Taste and Tell's slight adaptation from The New Best Recipe

4 cups bread flour
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon warm water

1 15-ounce container whole-milk ricotta cheese
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 1/2 ounces freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
8 ounces hot or sweet sausage
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Extra-virgin olive oil for brushing on tops
Kosher salt or coarse sea salt for sprinkling on tops

FOR THE DOUGH: In the bowl of a standing mixer, whisk the flour, yeast, and salt to combine. Attach the bowl, and with mixer running on medium-low speed with the dough hook, add the olive oil, then gradually add the water. Continue to mix until the mixture comes together and a soft, elastic dough is formed - about 10 minutes. Lightly spray a large bowl with cooking spray. Place the dough in the bowl and cover. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled - 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

FOR THE FILLING: In a medium bowl, stir together the cheeses, egg yolk, oregano, salt, and black pepper. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

Remove the casings from the sausage. Cook the sausage in a skillet, breaking it up into 1/2 inch pieces, until it is cooked through. Stir in garlic and red pepper flakes until fragrant, about 10 seconds and remove from heat. Set aside to cool.

TO ASSEMBLE AND BAKE: Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and set a pizza stone on the rack. Heat the oven to 500 degrees for AT LEAST 30 minutes. Divide the dough in half, and then divide each half into thirds, giving you 6 pieces of dough. Gently shape each piece into a ball and set on a piece of parchment paper that has been sprayed with nonstick spray. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for at least 15 minutes, but no more than 30 minutes.

Form the calzones by rolling each piece of dough into a 9-inch circle then placing 1/2 cup of the filling on half of the circle and topping with 1/6 of the sausage. Fold the top half of the dough over, leaving a 1/2 inch border uncovered. Lightly press the dough to seal it. Beginning at one end, place your index finger diagonally across the edge and gently pull the bottom layer of the dough over the tip of your finger. Repeat until the calzone is sealed.

With a very sharp paring knife or razor blade, cut 5 slits, about 1 1/2 inches long diagonally across the top of each calzone. Make sure not to cut completely through the calzone, but to just cut through the top layer.

Brush the top of each calzone with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake until golden brown - about 11 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes before serving. While the first batch is baking, prepare the second batch.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Hawaiian Salad with Grilled Chicken

In honor of our recent move to the Hawaiian Islands I have this tasty and fresh salad recipe to share.

Tropical Salad

    * 1 head romaine lettuce, torn
    * 3 green onions, chopped
    * 6 slices of bacon, crumbled (I used 8 pre-cooked slices)
    * 1 can pineapple tidbits, drained and reserved for dressing
    * 1/2 cup macadamia pieces
    * 1/4 cup toasted coconut
    * 1/4 cup pineapple juice
    * 3 Tbs. red wine vinegar
    * 1/4 cup olive oil
    * salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, onions, bacon, macadamias, coconut and pineapple.  In a container with a tight fitting lid, combine the other ingredients.  Shake to mix.  Pour over the salad right before serving.

We grilled up some chicken and served it with the salad.

Hawaiian Grilled Chicken

    * 6 boneless chicken breasts 
    * 2 cups pineapple juice
    * 2 T Worcestershire sauce
    * 2 T soy sauce
    * 2 T brown sugar

Combine all the ingredients, except the chicken.  Pour the marinade over the chicken and refrigerate.  The longer the chicken marinates, the better.  Cook them on the grill.  (*Six chicken breasts makes a lot of chicken.  If you serve the chicken with the salad like we did I cooked fewer chicken breasts. Other times I've served the chicken over rice alongside the salad and that was tasty too.)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Chicken Ranch Pizza

I made the PERFECT pizza dough the other night. The recipe made two crusts and this recipe is how I prepared the first pizza. It was delicious!! Unfortunately, the second pizza turned into a complete wreck. First, I grabbed the container of enchilada sauce and not the container of tomato sauce. That pizza quickly became a new Mexican style pizza. To make matters worse I had a hard time transferring the pizza to the stone. In the end everyone said they liked the taste of the pizza but it sure looked a mess with ridges and bumps from the wrinkled transfer onto the pizza stone.

Chicken Ranch Pizza
Ingredients: (These amounts are all approximates and can be adjusted per your preference. Bacon would be a good topping as well but we are trying to limit our pork intake.)

1 pizza crust
1/3 cup Ranch dressing (enough to thinly cover the crust)
¾ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
½-1 grilled chicken breast, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 tomato, seeded and diced
2-3 green onions, chopped
¾ cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven and a pizza stone to 500° F.  Prepare your crust for toppings.  Spread the Ranch dressing in a thin layer evenly over the unbaked crust.  Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella.  Top with grilled chicken, tomato and green onions.  Sprinkle with shredded cheddar.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and browned.  Slice, serve, and enjoy!

Perfect Homemade Pizza Crust

I make homemade pizza more often than purchasing it but I have never been completely satisfied with my crust recipe. When I read on Annie's Eats that she prefers this pizza to ordering out I had to give it a try. The verdict was that this recipe makes a delicious dough!!! We all thoroughly enjoyed it!

Basic Pizza Dough
Recipe from Annie's Eats
Yield: enough dough for 2 medium pizzas or 4 calzones

½ cup warm water
2¼ tsp. instant yeast
4 cups (22 oz.) bread flour, plus more for dusting
1½ tsp. salt
1¼ cup water, at room temperature
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Measure the warm water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup.  Sprinkle the yeast over the top.  (*While the yeast is proofing I added 1 tsp. honey since I've always learned that yeast needs a bit of sugar to work properly. I then let it sit until the yeast began to foam.) In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the bread flour and salt, mixing briefly to blend.  Measure the room temperature water into the measuring cup with the yeast-water mixture.  With the mixer on low speed, pour in the yeast-water mixture as well as the olive oil.  Mix until a cohesive dough is formed.  Switch to the dough hook.  Knead on low speed until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, 1½-2 hours.

Press down the dough to deflate it.  Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface.  Divide the dough into two equal pieces.  Form each piece of dough into a smooth, round ball.  (If freezing the dough, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze at this point.)  Cover with a damp cloth.  Let the dough relax for at least 10 minutes but no longer than 30 minutes.

To bake, preheat the oven and pizza stone to 500˚ F for at least 30 minutes.  Transfer the dough to your shaping surface, lightly sprinkled with cornmeal.  Shape the dough with lightly floured hands.  If the dough springs back a lot while you are trying to shape it, let it rest for 15 minutes and try again. This allows the gluten in the dough to relax and should make shaping easier. Brush the outer edge lightly with olive oil.  Top as desired.  Bake until the crust is golden brown, and cheese is bubbling, 8-12 minutes.

Annie's tips on freezing the dough: (Yes, FREEZING! Isn't that great?!?) I was cooking both pizzas at once so I haven't attempted to freeze the dough yet but I'm excited to try this.
If you don’t plan on using your dough immediately, freeze it.  To do this, mix up the dough as usual and let it rise as normal.  After dividing the dough into two equal portions, wrap each tightly in plastic wrap and store inside a freezer-safe bag, and transfer to the freezer immediately.  (Reuse these bags to avoid being wasteful!)  The double layer is important here.  Even after the dough is moved to the freezer, it will continue to rise a bit before the rise is completely suspended.  It always, always pops through the plastic wrap so the extra layer of protection is needed to prevent exposure.
Freeze the dough until it is ready to be used.    

The day you plan to use the dough, transfer it to the refrigerator in the morning to thaw in time for dinner that evening.  (If using the dough for lunch, transfer to the refrigerator the night before.)   The dough that has been frozen tastes every bit as good as fresh, so it is incredibly convenient to have available for a quick, throw-together meal. Before making the pizza, take the dough out of the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes to take off the chill.

I’ve had many questions pertaining to the need to freeze the dough if you plan to use it the very next day.  It seems logical that you could simply refrigerate it immediately after the rise and use it the following day.  However, I have tried this and it didn’t go well.  The refrigerator is not cold enough to stop the rise quickly and the result is an over-risen, crazy puffy monster dough.  My solution?  I still use the freezer initially to completely stop the rise, and then I transfer the dough to the refrigerator until it is ready to be used.  (I think another solution would be to use less yeast in the dough initially, but I don’t feel super comfortable altering recipes and changing amounts of yeast, so this is my preferred method.)

Notes regarding using a pizza stone:
I have heard many people say that using a stone is a MUST! Here is what Annie says:
A pizza stone is an integral part of really good homemade pizza.  Why?  The stone is preheated with the oven, producing a very hot surface for baking the pizza.  When you slide the assembled pizza onto the stone, the bottom of the crust starts baking immediately, producing the perfect crisp bottom that provides the slices structural integrity, while the top portion is still soft and chewy.
I have a stone and a large wooden board that I used for preparing the pizza. Once I was ready to transfer it to the stone my pizza stuck and I could not move it! What a mess! Next time I'm definitely using parchment paper. I cooked both of my pizzas so for the second I cooked it on a metal pizza pan with 1/2 inch holes int he bottom. This created a beautiful crust so maybe with more practice I'll have a better opinion of using a stone.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Sloppy Turkey Joes

As a family we are trying to trim the amount of red meat we eat and I had a lot of ground turkey in the freezer so I looked for a turkey version of sloppy joes and this is what I found. We all loved the recipe, especially served with our version of Tyler Florence's coleslaw.

Sloppy Turkey Joes
Rachel Ray


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan
  • 1 package, 1 1/3 pounds, ground turkey breast or lean ground turkey
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon grill seasoning blend (recommended: McCormick Montreal Grill Seasoning or Mrs. Dash seasoning for poultry)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup tomato sauce,( 8- ounce) can
  • 4 crusty sandwhich rolls, split


Drizzle olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the ground turkey, diced onion and red bell pepper. In a small bowl combine: grill seasoning blend, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce and the tomato sauce. Pour the sauce evenly over the meat and stir everything together. Turn the heat down to simmer and cook the sloppy mixture for 10 minutes. Serve over toasted rolls!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Heart-Healthy Pork Chops Parmesan

Heart-Healthy Pork Chops Parmesan
Devin Alexander
Recipe Copyright ©2005, American Heart Association, "No-Fad Diet"

vegetable oil spray
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
egg substitute equivalent to 1 egg, or 1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 slices whole-wheat bread
1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley or 1 tablespoon dried, crumbled
1/4 cup shredded or grated Parmesan cheese
10 medium to large fresh basil leaves or 1 teaspoon dried, crumbled
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried, crumbled
2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried, crumbled
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 boneless center-cut pork chops (about 4 ounces each), all visible fat discarded

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly spray an 8-inch-square baking pan with vegetable oil spray.

Put the flour and egg substitute in two separate shallow bowls.

In a food processor, process the remaining ingredients except the pork chops until the bread is chopped into crumbs and the herbs are coarsely chopped. Put the mixture into a third shallow bowl.

Set the bowls with the flour, egg substitute, and bread-crumb mixture and the baking pan in a row, assembly-line fashion. Coat a pork chop with the flour, shaking off the excess. Coat it with the egg substitute, then with the bread crumb mixture. Place in the baking pan. Repeat with the remaining pork chops.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until the pork is no longer pink in the center.

Serves 4; 1 pork chop per serving

Nutritional Value Per Serving:

    * Calories: 251
    * Total Fat 9.0g
    *     Saturated Fat: 3.0 g
    *     Polyunsaturated Fat: 1.0 g
    *     Monounsaturated Fat 4.0g
    * Cholesterol: 75 mg
    * Sodium: 267 mg
    * Carbohydrates: 11 g
    *    Fiber: 1 g
    *     Sugar: 1 g
    * Protein: 21 g

Friday, April 30, 2010

Feta-Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Feta-Stuffed Chicken Breasts
adapted from BHG

1 tablespoon snipped dried tomatoes (not oil-packed) or oven roasted tomatoes (see comments below)
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 1 1/4 pounds)
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons softened cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 350F.

Place tomatoes in a small bowl. Cover with boiling water. Let stand for 10 minutes. Drain and pat dry; set aside. Meanwhile, using a sharp knife, cut a pocket in each chicken breast by cutting horizontally through the thickest portion to, but not through, the opposite side; set aside.

In a small bowl, combine feta, cream cheese, basil, and tomatoes. Spoon about 1 rounded tablespoon into each chicken pocket. If necessary, secure openings with wooden toothpicks. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.

In a large oven-proof skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken, cook until browned, flip over, and cook on second side until browned. Move skillet to the preheated oven and bake until chicken is no longer pink and registers 170F on an instant read thermometer, about 25 minutes.

**My Notes: I did not have dried tomatoes so I very thinly sliced one Roma tomato, placed the slices on a cookie sheet and drizzled olive oil on top. Then I put them in the oven on broil until they began to dry out and slightly darken. I thought I would need to chop the tomato even more before adding it to the cheese mixture but the tomato blended nicely.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Roast Cabbage

This recipe is healthy, tasty, and most importantly very easy! I had some cabbage growing in the garden that I wanted to eat so I looked around and found many internet references to roasting cabbage wedges.

Roasted Cabbage
1 cabbage
olive oil
1 lemon

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cut cabbage into about 6 wedges. Be sure leave the core intact so that each wedge has 1/6th the core. This helps keep the leaves of cabbage intact in the wedge. Arrange cabbage on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush both sides of wedges with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast, flipping halfway through, until edges are brown and crisp, 25 to 30 minutes. Squeeze lemons over cabbage.

*I forgot to squeeze lemon on top and it tasted just fine. Next time I'll give the lemon flavor a try. I thought about using lemon pepper as a part of the seasonings as well.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Creamy Mashed Potatoes

My husband is the official mashed potato maker in our home. That's because he is VERY good at it! The other night we invited my brother over for dinner since his wife was out of town. I realized as I was planning the menu that we always make mashed potatoes when he visits since it's an effort to step up the meal quality. Since the meal I had planned was pot-roast and who doesn't like potatoes with their roast I decided to try a new recipe to give my ol' brother some variation. To make things even more exciting I made the potatoes instead of my husband. ("Ooooooooo! Ahhhhhhh!) End result: these were a HIT!

Creamy Mashed Potatoes
(Pioneer Woman)

5 pounds Russet Or Yukon Gold Potatoes
3⁄4 cups Butter
1 package (8 Oz.) Cream Cheese, Softened*
1⁄2 cups (to 3/4 Cups) Half-and-Half
1⁄2 teaspoons (to 1 Teaspoon) Lawry's Seasoned Salt
1⁄2 teaspoons (to 1 Teaspoon) Black Pepper

Peel and cut the potatoes into pieces that are generally the same size. Bring a large pot of water to a simmer and add the potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook for 30 to 35 minutes. When they’re cooked through, the fork should easily slide into the potatoes with no resistance, and the potatoes should almost, but not totally, fall apart.

Drain the potatoes in a large colander. When the potatoes have finished draining, place them back into the dry pot and put the pot on the stove. Mash the potatoes over low heat, allowing all the steam to escape, before adding in all the other ingredients. Turn off the stove and add 1 1⁄2 sticks of butter, an 8-ounce package of cream cheese and about 1⁄2 cup of half-and-half. Mash, mash, mash! Next, add about 1⁄2 teaspoon of Lawry’s Seasoning Salt and 1⁄2 a teaspoon of black pepper. Stir well and place in a medium-sized baking dish. Throw a few pats of butter over the top of the potatoes and place them in a 350-degree oven and heat until butter is melted and potatoes are warmed through.

(When making this dish a day or two in advance, take it out of the fridge about 2 to 3 hours before serving time. Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 20 to 30 minutes or until warmed through.)

*My Note: I didn't do the last step of warming it in the oven because of a lack of time. Thankfully my mashed 'taters were still steaming hot for service at dinner.

Pot Roast

I have always struggled to cook the perfect pot roast. I'm not sure why I struggle since it's not like I'm attempting rocket science! I cook a moderately good roast but what I really love is the beef that just shreds with a fork and is moist. This recipe is what I can confidently call a fool-proof recipe! There are no onion flavor packets or confusing techniques. This is just simple searing and roasting...and mmmm was it good!

Ree appeared on the today show this month to demonstrate this recipe. She commented that she doesn't like to put potatoes in with the roast to cook since they get soggy.  I agree! Leaving them out allows for the juices to pool and later be used in a delicious gravy.

Pioneer Woman's Pot Roast
(source: PW)

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 whole (4 To 5 Pounds) Chuck Roast
2 whole Onions
6 whole Carrots (Up To 8 Carrots)
Salt To Taste
Pepper To Taste
1 cup Beef Broth
2 cups To 3 Cups Beef Stock
3 sprigs Fresh Thyme, or more to taste
3 sprigs Fresh Rosemary, or more to taste

First and foremost, choose a nicely marbled piece of meat. This will enhance the flavor of your pot roast like nothing else. Generously salt and pepper your chuck roast. Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Then add 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil (or you can do a butter/olive oil
split). Cut two onions in half and cut 6 to 8 carrots into 2-inch slices (you can peel them, but you don’t have to). When the oil in the pot is very hot (but not smoking), add in the halved onions, browning them on one side and then the other. Remove the onions to a plate. Throw the carrots into the same very hot pan and toss them around a bit until slightly browned, about a minute or so. If needed, add a bit more olive oil to the very hot pan. Place the meat in the pan and sear it for about a minute on all sides until it is nice and brown all over. Remove the roast to a plate. With the burner still on high, use beef broth (about 1 cup) to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom with a whisk to get all of that wonderful flavor up. When the bottom of the pan is sufficiently deglazed, place the roast back into the pan and add enough beef stock to cover the meat halfway (about 2 to 3 cups). Add in the onion and the carrots, as well as 3 or 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary and about 3 sprigs of fresh thyme. Put the lid on, then roast in a 275F oven for 3 hours (for a 3-pound roast). For a 4 to 5-pound roast, plan on 4 hours.

Round Steak with Vegetable Gravy in the Slow Cooker

I love a good family-friendly recipe, meaning my kids clean their plates with a smile and the food is healthy. I found this recipe the other day on Eat at Home and I was convinced I should make it when Tiffany said: "I found this recipe stuck in my tattered recipe binder, jotted on a calendar page from 1998. I used to make it quite a bit, but somehow forgot about it. With those two sentences I was sold! We made this today for Sunday dinner and everyone loved it!

 We served this with penne pasta since we have eaten a lot of potatoes this week. My only comment is that the round steaks shrink, a lot, so plan accordingly.

Round Steak with Vegetable Gravy in the Slow Cooker 

Recipe from Eat at Home

   * 3 carrots, peeled and diced
    * onion, diced
    * small green pepper, diced
    * 2 stalks celery, diced
    * 2 lb. round steaks
    * 1/2 cup ketchup
    * 1 Tbs. vinegar
    * 1/3 cup water
    * salt and pepper
    * 2 Tbs. flour
    * 1/2 cup water

Place the meat in the crockpot.  Put the diced veggies on top.  Mix the ketchup, vinegar, water and salt and pepper together.  Pour over the meat and veggies.  Cook on low for 8-10 hours or high for 5-6 hours.

Remove the meat from the slow cooker.  Turn it up to high.  Mix the flour and 1/2 cup water together in a container with a tight-fitting lid.  Shake it to combine until smooth.  Whisk into the broth in the slow cooker and let it cook just a few minutes until it’s thickened a bit.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Lemon Cheesecake Cheese Ball

Last week received an invitation to a Valentine party and this was the hors d'oeuvres we made. I wanted to make something somewhat healthy (fruit) and yet with plenty of fun flavor. The lemon brought a light and fresh flavor to this treat and we all loved it! This recipe is a keeper!

Lemon Cheesecake Cheese Ball
(Original Recipe from NPR, this adaptation found on Annie's Eats)

10 oz. cream cheese
2½ tbsp. sugar
Zest of 1 large lemon
4 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 graham crackers

Combine the cream cheese and sugar in a medium bowl.  Stir together with a spoon or spatula until well combined and smooth.  Mix in the lemon zest and lemon juice until smooth.  Transfer the mixture to a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a ball, wrapped tightly.  Refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours. Reshape if necessary once firm.

Coarsely crush the graham crackers and transfer the crumbs to a plate or bowl.  Roll the cheese ball in the crumbs until evenly coated.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Cooked Mexican Pinto Beans

In my attempt to serve more meatless dinners as well as learning to cook with dried beans I found this yummy recipe. I'm sure it is just an average mexican pinto bean recipe but I have always wanted to learn how to make refried beans without the 'refried' and I was so happy when my first attempt was successful! Even my picky 2 year old ate a whole bowl!

Refried Beans (without the Refry)
Recipe and photo from AllRecipes


  • 1 onion, peeled and halved
  • 3 cups dry pinto beans, rinsed
  • 1/2 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (I used 1 can diced green chili peppers)
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 5 teaspoons salt
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin, optional
  • 9 cups water


  1. Place the onion, rinsed beans, jalapeno, garlic, salt, pepper, and cumin into a slow cooker. Pour in the water and stir to combine. Cook on High for 8 hours, adding more water as needed. Note: if more than 1 cup of water has evaporated during cooking, then the temperature is too high.
  2. Once the beans have cooked, strain them, and reserve the liquid. Mash the beans with a potato masher, adding the reserved water as needed to attain desired consistency. 

My Notes: I cut my onion into maybe 8 pieces so that it would mash easier with the beans at the end. Cooked beans can end up very bland so just be sure to add salt to taste. I also added a few sprinkles of hot sauce to give it more pep.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:  Calories: 139 | Total Fat: 0.5g | Cholesterol: 0mg

(Sorry I don't know the serving size. This recipe makes 15 servings so I would assume a serving is about 1/2 to 3/4 cup)

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