Monday, August 31, 2009


I feel like I'm finally starting to catch up from the back log of recipes. This is the last dish I made while my mother was in town visiting. In my surfing the good ole interweb I came across a site where you could fill out a survey and get a free subscription to Woman's Day. So far, this recipe is the only thing interesting I've found in that magazine. That is one of the many reasons I never subscribe to magazines. I just can't justify the cost of subscribing for one interesting thing, sometimes less, per issue. Anyhow, I digress. Here is the original recipe:

Jill's Favorite Calibasita from Woman's Day Sep 2009 serves 5
4 small zucchini, diced
2 tsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
4 ears of corn, kernels sliced off
2 Roma/plum tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella or feta (optional)

1. Place diced zucchini in colander set over a bowl. sprinkle with salt, toss and let stand 20 min. (this draws out the excess liquid from the zucchini)

2. transfer zucchini to kitchen towel and pat dry.

3. heat oil in large non stick skillet over medium high heat. add onion and garlic, saute 3-5 minutes until soft.

4. add zucchini and corn. saute 6-7 minutes until vegetables are almost tender

5. add diced tomato, saute 2-3 minutes until softened and zucchini is tender. remove from heat and stir in cheese if desired.

Now, for my alterations! I added 1/2 pound bulk sausage. I did this to appease Mr. "It's-not-dinner-unless-it-has-meat-in-it." I had Italian, but breakfast sausage would be tasty too. We had this along with eggs and corn tortillas. The end result was really a veggie loaded breakfast burrito. I mostly added the eggs because I knew that Blockette was more than likely to eat it if eggs were in the mix. (For some reason eggs serve a similar function that ketchup does for most kids, it makes the food palatable. Three cheers for the incredible edible egg!)

I can't figure out why this recipe calls for Feta or Mozzarella cheese. Because this dish has a name that means little squash in Spanish, I can't justify using a traditionally Greek or Italian cheese. I tried a bit of the veggie-meat-egg mix topped with both cheese versions. It didn't work for me. A Mexican blend (from a pre shredded bag) seemed like a better combination.

Next time I'd also add a can of black beans. Not only would it add to the taste, but I think it would look darn nice too. Black beans are a newly acquired taste for me. I used to hate them, but I had them a while ago and now I think they are great. Guess I'm getting less picky in my old age.

Do yourself a favor, when you make this, don't substitute frozen or canned corn. Using fresh corn gave off this rich buttery flavor that the rest of the veggies seemed to soak up. I don't think I would have loved this meal nearly as much sans the fresh from the cob kernels.

Mrblocko added salsa and Tabasco to his portion. EW! He's always gotta ruin a perfectly good meal with junk like that. I shouldn't complain too much, at least he's eating more vegetables.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Blackberry chicken

Here's another dish I made but forgot to take a photo of because I was anxious to chow down. If you're curious about the beautimous nature of this dish, go to the recipe link here for 5 spice grilled chicken thighs with blackberry glaze. I mentioned this recipe in July when I made the uber lemon-y Moroccan Chicken with lemon and olives. While the Moroccan chicken was a disaster, the Blackberry 5 spice chicken was a hit. This is definitely going to be my go to chicken thigh recipe.

The only thing I changed about this recipe was that I didn't brush on the glaze. I kept it reserved on the side to use as a dipping sauce. The recipe has you pouring on the glaze after the chicken comes off the grill. I was worried that the glaze might be too sweet. Leaving it on the side allowed me to control how much sweetness I wanted with each bite. I also guessed correctly that Blockette might turn her nose up at a sauce that wasn't mustard, ketchup or BBQ sauce.

I think it would be interesting to try this recipe basting on the glaze while the chicken is grilling. It sounds like it would be tasty all sticky, charred and caramelized over the grill flame. Or, conversely, it might just burn up into a nasty blackened stinky mess. Good thing Mrblocko is in charge of the outdoor flame. Then I won't be the one to blame if dinner gets ruined!

5 Spice Chicken with Blackberry Glaze from My
1 tablespoon five-spice powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 (3-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken thighs
3/4 cup sugar-free seedless blackberry jam (such as Smucker's)
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon water
3/4 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
Fresh blackberries (optional)

Prepare grill. Combine first 3 ingredients in small bowl. Sprinkle spice mix evenly over chicken. Place chicken on grill rack coated with cooking spray; cook chicken 6 min on each side or until done. While chicken grills, combine jam and next 3 ingredients in a nonstick skillet. Simmer over med-low heat 8 min til glaze is reduced to 1/2 c. Drizzle glaze evenly over chicken; garnish with blackberries, if desired. Serve immediately.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Maple Mustard Burgers

I have a new favorite burger recipe. These were so moist, with a great combination of sweet and tangy. Mrblocko grilled these up a few weeks ago when my mom was in town. She thought they tasted like sweet pickles, and Mrblocko agreed. I greatly dislike sweet pickles and I LOVED these burgers, so clearly they were both wrong.

The burgers looked and smelled scrumptious right off the grill. Naturally, I got so distracted with wanting to eat them, I forgot to take a picture. Trust me, they don't look all that different from a regular burger.

As for the changes I made: Go ahead and call the snobby cooking police again. I only had a heaping tablespoon of real maple syrup, so I used the fake stuff to make up the difference. The sugar content was still there to get caramelized and there was plenty of maple flavor. (Sometimes the fake syrup tastes more maple-y than the real thing.) The bottom line was the burgers were rockin awesome and that's all that matters. And I said it...check it out.

Also, Mrblocko did not follow the cooking times listed in the recipe. He cooked them about medium to medium-well. I think this was an accident on his part as he normally cooks burgers medium-rare to medium. Even though they were cooked more than usual, the burgers were still perfectly moist. Maybe the moisture content in the burger is such that they need to be cooked longer or they will fall apart?

Sadly, I don't have a clue where the recipe came from. I'd love to give credit where credit is due. When I first started scouring recipes from the Internet I was lax on website documentation. If this recipe looks familiar please let me know what website/book it originated from!

Maple Mustard Burgers
1 pound ground beef
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

3 Tablespoons maple syrup
2 Tablespoons spicy grainy mustard
1 Tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon orange zest (zest of about 1 orange)

In a medium size bowl, combine all ingredients for burger. Form into 4 patties. In medium bowl combine all glaze ingredients. Preheat grill to medium high heat. Brush burgers with prepared glaze. Place patties on grill for 7-8 minutes, basting every 2 minutes or until dark golden brown and slightly crisp on exterior. Flip burgers and continue to cook for another 7 minutes, basting every 2 minutes. This recipe is for well done, adjust time and temperature accordingly if you prefer a less well done burger.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fresh Broccoli Salad

Many moons ago Mrblocko and I were winding down for the night in front of the TV. Correction, Mrblocko was playing a computer game on the couch and I was watching "Good Eats" on the Food Network. Apparently, Mrblocko was paying more attention than I thought he was, because he nudged me and said, "That sounds really good. Can you make that sometime?"

I was shocked because the dish in question was Fresh Broccoli Salad from the episode, "If it ain't broccoli don't fix it." Anytime my husband expresses interest in a salad or veggie, I'm all over it. So, the next day, I went online and printed out the recipe. I stuck it in my recipe binder and promptly forgot about it.

Then, the recipe magically resurfaced and it was a big success. Even Blockette enjoyed it, but she is an unusual kid who begs me to buy broccoli and cauliflower at the grocery store. (Yet another reason why I think she might be someone else's kid. When I was her age, you couldn't get me to touch that stuff with a ten foot pole.)

Mrblocko liked the lemony-ness of the dish. I like lemons, but I thought it was too much of a good thing. Next time I'll increase the mustard. I think that will help to balance the lemon flavor.

I used pecans because they were in the freezer begging to be used. On the episode of "Good Eats" in question, Alton Brown used hazelnuts. For some reason they don't keep hazelnuts with the rest of the nuts at Meijer's. You can only find them in the baking section in teeny tiny bags. Next time I'll splurge and use hazelnuts. I'm interested to see if the flavor of the salad is changed drastically with a different type of nut.

Fresh Broccoli Salad from Alton Brown's Good Eats on The Food Network
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 lemon, zested
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound broccoli, rinsed, trimmed and sliced thinly on a mandolin
6 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
3 ounces coarsely chopped, toasted pecans or hazelnuts
2 tablespoons chiffonade fresh basil leaves

Whisk vinegar, zest, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper in med bowl. While whisking constantly, gradually add oil. Add broccoli and toss to coat. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Stir in tomatoes, hazelnuts and basil. Cover and allow to sit, at room temp or in the refrigerator, for another 15 min before serving.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Disaster Averted

I'm really behind on posting the things I've made lately, but I wanted to write about the Blockette's "cake disaster that almost was" while it was still fresh in my mind.

Many months ago I was surfing the Internet and came across Conversations With a Cupcake's Bow in the Clouds Six Stack Cake. Blockette had been peeking over my shoulder and saw the photo on the blog and inhaled all the air in the room. "Mommy, I want that cake for my birthday!!!"

I thought, why not. It looks like fun. Yeah. Fun. Fun if you like disasters and a huge mess. I went through 2 dishwasher loads of dishes making this one little cake. (Well, I guess at six layers it wasn't such a little cake.) At one point half my hand was purple from the food coloring gel. Thankfully, it washed off after several scrubbings. I thought I was going to have rainbow hands to match the rainbow cake.

I knew I was really in trouble when I flipped over the first 2 cake pans and one of them fell completely apart. The inside was still uncooked. How did that happen? I baked it for 25 minutes, five minutes longer than the longest suggested cook time. I gently placed the cake back into the pan and cooked it for another 15 minutes. That seemed to work. At least the cake was set, although it had seriously deflated.

Once the layers had cooled, I made the frosting. This was the first time I made frosting completely from scratch. Wow did that ever make a lot of frosting! The frosting was much thinner than the stuff from a can that I usually use. I put a thin schmeer of frosting between each cake layer, just enough to help keep the cakes in place. I attempted to put a crumb coat on the exterior of the cake but the icing kept sliding down and pooling at the bottom.

I waited an hour and made another attempt. Same results. Lather, rinse, repeat for another 4 hours. At this point, the frosting had thickened up quite a bit, but now the frosting was too heavy for the moist cake and the cake started to tilt. Hooray for the leaning tower of Rainbow cake!!! I improvised and inserted some bamboo skewers to help prevent any further slippage. That seemed to work, but then the frosting started to slide down again.

I figured the cake wasn't going to get any better and I should just quit while I was ahead. I threw on some rainbow chocolate chip sprinkles Blockette had picked out, and called it a day. You can see in the photo below how the frosting continued to melt downward. Apparently gravity was not the best buddy of this icing. I'd hate to think what would have happened had it actually been a humid summer-y day, and not in the low 70's. Thank goodness for unseasonably cool weather!

Anyhow, the Blockos ate dinner and put the excited almost 4 year old Blockette to bed. I went back into the kitchen to spy on the cake. There was a small blue moat forming around the base of the cake. I tried not to panic/cry. A few hours later Mrblocko and I headed off to bed ourselves. I peeked once more at the cake and the moat had grown. I calmly got out a pink cake mix I happened to have in the back of the pantry and resolved get up early and make cupcakes. I waited to have my meltdown until after I got to bed. Mrblocko assured me everything would work out in the end. I was not a believer.

That morning I awoke to find a nice blue lagoon around the cake and the side had sprouted a slow orange leak. Good thing I had that pink cupcake mix. The cupcakes baked with no problems and I went about my business preparing for the party.

Eventually, it was cake time. I didn't have Blockette blow out her candles on her cake, but put them on cupcakes instead. I wasn't sure if the cake could stand the short journey from the kitchen to the dining room without sustaining structural damage. Mrblocko thought we should at least cut the cake and see what it looked like. I was afraid of what I might discover, so I made Mrblocko do it.

He exclaimed, "Look Honey! It isn't ruined. It looks cool!"
Here is the first slice.
Notice that the blue layer is almost non existent, and the purple layer is much thinner than the other layers. Eureka! That's why there was a blue mess around the base of the cake. The weight of the other 4 layers pressed out the fruit juices from the purple and blue layers.

How did the cake taste? Delicious! My best friend MrsThunder said she was curious to find out if you could taste the food coloring gel. If there was any weird taste resulting from the gel, the fruit covered it up nicely. No one went back for seconds because even a tiny sliver wound up being a huge slice. I couldn't eat my whole piece. I think that was more due to the frosting. Man was it ever uber sweet! It was good in small doses between the cake layers, but if you got a big hunk of it you needed a healthy swig of milk to neutralize the sweetness.

I sent the leftover cake to work with Mrblocko. He said it disappeared in less than 15 minutes. People said it was very rich, but it didn't stop them from eating the cake. I also had Mrblocko give some of the cupcakes to our neighbors. We still have a lot. I'll probably send the leftovers to work with Mrblocko just so I don't O.D. on cake.

Unless I was bribed and it was a very special event, or if I had selective amnesia, I wouldn't make this cake again. It was good, but too many things went wrong. I do think that if I wanted a particular fruit flavored cake I'd make this on a smaller scale. I was especially fond of the orange and lemon layers. I bet either one, or both would make a tasty 2 layer cake.

I won't make the frosting again. It was just too sweet. I have over a cup left over that I'm not sure what to do with. It's too bad it's so sweet. I love eating leftover frosting on graham crackers. Maybe I'll use it to frost sugar cookies. I think if I warm it up so it gets to a thin glaze consistency it would be used in a smaller dose and therefore, not nearly as sweet. Any other ideas of what to do with super sweet leftover frosting?

Bow in the Clouds Cake from Cheeky Kitchen
2 boxes white cake mix
6 eggs
1 c. water
2/3 c. oil
1/2 c. raspberries
Zest of 1 orange + 2 T. juice
Zest of 1 lemon + 2 T. juice
Zest of 1 lime + 2 T. juice
1/2 c. blueberries
1/2 c. blackberries
Wilton Icing colors in red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple

In large bowl, combine cake mix, eggs, water, and oil . Scoop 1 c batter in 6 small bowls. In 1st bowl, mix raspberries and 1/4 t red coloring. In 2nd bowl, mix orange zest, juice, and 1/2 t orange coloring. In 3rd bowl, mix lemon zest, juice and 1/4 t yellow coloring. In 4th bowl, mix lime zest, juice and 1/4 t green coloring. In 5th bowl, mix blueberries and 1/4 t blue coloring. In 6th bowl, mix blackberries and 1/4 t purple coloring.

Prepare six 8" cake pans by greasing and flouring each generously. Using a spatula, spoon and spread each color of batter into its own cake pan. Bake in an oven, preheated to 350F for 17-20 min, til tops spring back when touched lightly. Allow to cool completely. Frost with White Chocolate Frosting.

Billowed White Chocolate Frosting
1 c. butter, softened
1 bag white chocolate chips
3 lbs. powdered sugar
1/4 to 1 full cup milk

In  large bowl, microwave white chips JUST until melted. Immediately beat in butter until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and beat  til light and fluffy. BE SURE TO ADD YOUR MILK in bit by bit, beginning with 1/4 c at first, then slowly adding by T til desired consistency is reached. Cover and refrigerate 5 min to firm up just slightly. Makes enough frosting to ice between each layer of cake, and around the outside of the cake.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The most famous Basil

The things you find on the internet! My favorite cross stitch designer is Teresa Wentzler of TW Designworks. I was farting around on her website, looking for an update on a pattern she had been designing called Illuminata. I didn't find anything about the design, but I did find this.

I submitted it at least 6 years ago. At the time, she said that she was having issues with her website and couldn't upload it to her site. I checked every so often to see if her site had been updated. After a while I stopped checking, and forgot about it until today!

The rules behind the submission were that it had to be your own original design and the finished dimensions of the stitched piece had to be one inch by one inch. I remember agonizing over the whole thing because I couldn't chart up the design small enough. Then there were the teeny tiny stitches. What can I say, I'm a glutton for punishment.

It's so funny to see that little stitching of one of my cats. I can tell the design is old because Basil still has a bit of a kitten look to him. He's such an old man now. Don't tell him he's famous, he'll get even more full of himself than he already is.

Bummer of a slaw

This recipe for Spicy Radicchio Slaw with Pecans comes from an article about Cole slaw written by Deb Pearlman of Smitten Kitchen. (It's the second recipe from the bottom.)

I had really high hopes for this salad, and I did enjoy it...the first day I ate it. I think the radicchio and cabbage got too soggy after a few days. It wouldn't have lasted so long, but Mrblocko hated it and wouldn't eat anything past the first bite. My mom who was visiting wound up eating most of it. I'm still not sure if she liked it, or was eating it to be nice. She is tricky like that sometimes.

I think the radicchio was the main culprit. It was very very bitter. I don't remember ever having radicchio that tasted quite so acrid. Perhaps it was a dud radicchio? Either way it overpowered the salad. Purple cabbage would be a good replacement. It would eliminate the bitterness, but keep some of the beautiful color within the salad.

The produce at the grocery store must be off right now, because the Granny Smith apple I used was very tart. I nibbled on a few of the slices before I popped them into the mixing bowl. I like a tart apple but, zowie! The tartness of the apple was not complimentary to the bitter radicchio. Next time, (sorry Mrblocko, I gotta give this recipe another go. Bear with me!) I will use a mix of Granny Smith and a sweeter apple like a Honeycrisp.

I attempted to cut the bitter and tart elements of this salad by adding something sweet. I had originally wanted to use raisins, but I only had currents. The currents were too small to give the needed burst of sweetness. Next time I'll use raisins. I noticed that the grocery store now carries three colors: green, red and the regular dark purple. If I use purple cabbage, I'd eliminate the green cabbage so I didn't have a bunch of leftover cabbage that went to waste. With all that purple in the salad, I'd use green raisins to help balance the color of the salad.

One carrot seemed a bit sparse for my liking. Two or three would add to the color and sweetness. I usually add more carrot than a recipe calls for. I don't know why I didn't do it this time.

I don't know if using regular paprika had a big effect on the taste of the salad. I need to get some smoked paprika and find out. I keep forgetting that I don't have to go to a specialty store to purchase some. They sell smoked paprika in the spice section of the grocery store now. Must be my recent onset of age. Memory is the first thing to go. Where am I!? What am I doing? Who's blog is this! Aieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Spicy Radiccio Slaw with Pecans from NPR Makes 6 to 8 servings
1 head radicchio, halved, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 medium head of Savoy cabbage, halved, cored, halved again and thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled and shredded
1 Granny Smith apple, cut into thin matchsticks
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon smoked spicy paprika
3/4 cup mayonnaise
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine radicchio, cabbage, carrot, apple, onion and pecans in a large bowl. Mix well with hands and set aside. In a small bowl, stir mustard, sugar, paprika, mayonnaise and lemon juice until blended. Season with salt and pepper. Pour dressing over cabbage mix and toss well to coat. Taste again for seasoning, then mound onto a platter.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Forgetting to put the lime in the coconut... er burger

I made this burger 2 weekends ago. I'm just a bit behind on recipes.

This recipe for Grilled Caribbean Burger hails from Betty Crocker. It's quite rare that I find a main dish from BC that I think the whole family will like. Desserts are usually the only thing I find appealing. However, this recipe caught my eye because it contains ground pork. It was great to have yet another burger that was different from the norm. The allspice, red pepper flakes, and thyme were a great combination but I thought they needed something sweet to tame the intensity of those strong flavors. Mrblocko and I thought adding some pineapple to the mix would add sweetness and moisture.

A few days later I was looking for something in the fridge and I came across this lonely lime. Wait a minute...ack! I forgot to put the lime zest in the burger. Duh. That probably would have balanced out the flavors really nicely. Hey, maybe that's why it was in the recipe! I'll try this again in a few weeks WITH the lime zest and then post a comment on here with the results.

Oh, the recipe also suggested you serve them on grilled french bread. I'm sure that would have tasted wonderful, but I thought it might have been a bit difficult to bite into without unhinging my jaw.

Betty Crocker's Grilled Caribbean Pork Burgers
1 pound lean ground pork
1 tablespoon grated lime peel
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 medium red onion, cut into 1-inch slices
8 slices French bread, 1 inch thick
1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil

Brush grill rack with veg oil. Heat coals or gas grill for direct heat. Mix all ingredients except onion, bread and oil. Shape mix into 4 patties, about 3/4" thick.
Cover and grill patties 4-5" from med heat, 15-18 min, turning once, til no longer pink in center. Add onion slices to grill for last 8-10 min of grilling, turning once, til golden brown. Brush both sides of bread slices with oil. Add bread to grill for last 2-3 min of grilling, turning once, til golden brown.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


I started this cross stitch many moons ago. Let's just say the year had a 9 in it, but I won't tell you where or how many. Originally, it was supposed to be a Christmas present for my mom. Halfway through the project I realized I had made a mistake. Try as I might I couldn't find my error, so I abandoned the project. I've been in a stitchy mood lately and was going through my stitching stash. I came across this and was determined to finish it. Here she is in all her moo-riffic glory. Oddly enough, in writing this post I discovered the cow has a shadow. How come I didn't notice that while I was stitching it?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

If I can't grow the real thing...

For some reason my strawberry plants aren't producing fruit. They get plenty of flowers and then little teeny tiny green strawberry bud-lings. Then they fizzle and turn brown. What is up with that?

Since I've been sick I haven't felt like doing much. Sewing makes me feel like I'm doing something semi productive. Because I've been stitching small designs like this, I can finish them quickly and get the satisfaction of completing something. I picked this design cause these little strawberries make me smile. (Seriously, can you look at them and not grin?)

Their faces were a pain to stitch because I used Aida instead of evenweave or linen. Aida was the only stitching fabric I had that wasn't some shade of tan. As you can see, this pattern is more seasonally appropriate that the previous one I made. That must mean I'm feeling better. Just tell that to my lungs ok?

Design: March-Smiling Strawberries from Vermillion Stitchery's 2007 Design Potpourri Series

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

German Chocolate Pops

My favorite homemade Popsicles are made from the below recipe. The recipe comes courtesy of the Mott's applesauce jar.


Motts Apple Banana Breakfast Shake
2 c applesauce
1 c skim milk
1 large banana
1/2 c creamy peanut butter
1 c crushed ice

Whirl all ingredients together in a blender until smooth.


Normally, when I use this recipe I fill the Popsicle molds 3/4 full, then carefully add in mini M&M's to the top. I poke them down with a long handled spoon, or chopstick. If you mix the candy in before you put the shake mix into the molds, the color from the candy coating will come completely off. The Popsicle then turns a nasty puke-y gray. Not tasty looking at all. Adding the M&M's at the end eliminates a lot of the bleeding. If the color from the candy coating comes off, it is in streaks, which is much more fun.

The breakfast shake recipe makes a lot more than my 6 tiny Popsicle molds can handle. I freeze the leftovers and thaw it on the counter or microwave when I want to make more. This time I had the idea to make German Chocolate Popsicles. I added a bit of coconut to the defrosted shake. I eyeballed everything so I'm not sure how much I used. I added just enough coconut to make the mix look wispy and scraggly like a teenage boy's beard. I spooned in 1-2 teaspoons of shake into the mold. Next, I added 1-2 salted roasted pecans that I broke up by hand, and a small bit of mini chocolate chips, just enough to cover the pecans. I continued alternating layers of shake and pecan/chips, ending with shake.
You can see I didn't try very hard to make the layers nice and even. Some of the chips sank. I assure you my taste buds didn't mind one bit. The only thing that would make this better was if I made the shake with chocolate milk, or chocolate syrup, or added a layer of fudge after the pecan/chip layer.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Zesty Italian Crescent Casserole

This is another one of those ugly but good recipes. I like that you can see all the different layers through the side of the dish. That's about the only nice thing about this photo.

I had a bit of difficulty with Taste and Tell's Zesty Italian Crescent Casserole, but it had absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the recipe. The recipe was great, my ability to make sure I have everything I need before I start making something is not.

My first mistake was not having the proper size baking dish. The recipe calls for a deep dish pie pan. I only have the regular kind. So I used this lovely gold baking dish. Doesn't it look like it is from the 70's? (I got it second hand so it probably is.) Any food photographer will tell you the more yellow tones in a food picture the more appealing it is. NOT! (I'll use any excuse to justify a bad food picture.) Anyhow, the circumference of the dish was smaller than a pie dish so I had to overlap the crescents to get them to fit. That's why the top looks so bumpy.

Mistake number two came when I grabbed the container of sour cream and realized Mrblocko used a nice big dollop on his chili he took to work that morning. I opened the sour cream to discover only a scant 1/4 cup remained. The recipe called for 1/2 cup. I think the casserole still tasted fine, but the cheese wasn't as gooey as it should have been. This may have worked in my favor because Blockette does not like gooey cheese. Hopefully, she will grow out of that. There is something terribly wrong about not liking gooey cheese.

The third mistake came when I realized we were still out of Parmesan. I guess that's what happens when you don't buy any at the grocery store. It doesn't magically restock itself in your fridge. Yet again, I substituted Parmesan from the *GASP!* green jar. Please forgive me. You know what? It wasn't that bad. The top didn't brown up as nicely as it could have, but it was OK in the taste department. I think mixing the parm with melted butter reduced the powdery grittiness you usually get from the green jarred stuff. It would have been better with the real thing though.

I don't know if this was a mistake, but I used reduced fat crescent rolls. For some reason the reduced fat turn out more doughy than flaky. I prefer the flaky version. (You are what you eat right?) The next time I make this I'll remember to use the original crescent rolls, or at the very least bake the dish longer if I use the reduced fat.

Blockette said she didn't like this dish and begged me not to make it again. She ate all of what I put in front of her, so I'm guessing she was just saying that to be contrary. Shocking! I know!! A three year old being contrary. What is this world coming to? Too bad for her, she has been over ruled. I will make this again. Mrblocko and I both liked the casserole and it was super easy to throw together. Although, for some reason Mrblocko thought this was a Mexican dish and put hot sauce all over it. What is wrong with that boy? Sometimes he is sooooo broken!!!

Zesty Italian Crescent Casserole from Taste and Tell
1 lb. lean ground beef
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 cup tomato pasta sauce
6 oz. (1 1/2 cups) shredded mozzarella or Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1 (8-oz.) can Pillsbury® Recipe Creations (Or Crescent Dinner Rolls)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Heat oven to 375°F. In large skillet, cook ground beef and onion over med for 8-10 min til beef is thoroughly cooked, stirring frequently. Drain. Stir in pasta sauce; cook til heated. Meanwhile, in med bowl, combine mozzarella and sour cream; mix well. Pour hot beef mixt into ungreased 9 1/2 or 10" glass deep-dish pie pan or 11×7"(2-quart) glass baking dish. Spoon cheese mix over beef mix. Unroll dough over cheese mix. In small bowl, mix Parmesan and butter. Spread evenly over dough. Bake at 375°F 18-25 min til deep golden brown.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Mediterranean chicken burgers

As the summer winds down I start to get tired of the usual grilled fare. These Mediterranean chicken burgers from elly says opa! were a nice change of pace.

I had the hardest time finding the ingredients at my grocery store though. I didn't think Kalamata olives and sun dried tomatoes were specialty items. I had to ask 4 people where they were and no one seemed to know. How does that happen? You'd think that the kalamata olives would be with the rest of the olives. No, they were in the Greek section. OK, I can see that, but why did none of the employees know that? I found the olives after my "helpers" had abandoned me.

The "helpers" did assist me in finding a $8 jar of sun dried tomatoes in oil. Um, no. There was no way I was going to pay that much for a teeny tiny container. Oh, but they were ORGANIC so that totally justifies the insane price. Yeah, right. I opted for the $2 jar of sun dried tomato pesto instead. The tomatoes were going to be ground up in the food processor so I guessed it would be a sufficient substitute.

I thought the olive-tomato tapenade was a bit on the salty side. That was most likely due to the olives rather than the pesto I used. Mrblocko thought it was good though. He wished we had made more. He also suggested the burgers might be more moist if we mixed in the tapenade into the burger before grilling. He is right, but the burgers would be too salty for me. Keeping the topping separate allows me to control how much goes on my burger and therefore the saltiness.

I'll have to think some more on a solution to make the burgers more moist. Maybe an egg? I'm open to suggestions.

Mediterranean Chicken Burgers from Elly Says Opa! Makes 4 burgers
1 lb. ground chicken (alright, alright…or turkey)
3 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1.5 tsp. dried oregano
12 kalamata olives, pitted
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, drained and chopped
1 Tbsp. olive oil (or oil from the tomatoes)
1 clove garlic
salt and pepper

Mix chicken, feta, parsley, oregano and salt and pepper to taste in a bowl. Shape into 4 patties. Lightly spray a grill/grill pan with oil and cook burgers til done, about 5-6 min per side. Meanwhile, make tapenade by putting olives, sundried tomatoes, garlic and a little ground pepper in a food processor, pulsing til combined. While pulsing, drizzle in oil. Top burgers with tapenade.

Seasonally Confused

I figured, since my body doesn't seem to know you aren't supposed to get sick in the summer, I would stitch something from a season more appropriate for having a cold. Happy Halloween everybody!

This is a free design from Brooke's Books Publishing called Stitchie Witchie.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cake Mix Cookies Take Two

I wrote about my first run in with cake mix cookies here. Not to get discouraged, I tried Once Upon a Gourmet Gin's Vanilla Toffee Crinkles. Yay verily they did not suck. Them was good. No...GOOOOOOOD. Sit down and eat the whole pan good. Holy cow. They are buttery and chewy and airy and light and num-o-riffic.

The only bad thing about this recipe is that it calls for 1/2 cup of oil. Wowza that's a lot. Eat too many of these things and you will feel it in the end. Literally. Next time, (oh yes there will be loads of next times) I'll try substituting half the oil with applesauce. If that turns out just as tasty as the original version, I'll try subbing all the oil for applesauce.

I don't know if it was all the oil, but my cookies didn't get that nice crinkle look to them. I wound up sprinkling powdered sugar on top of them right as they came out of the oven to get that crackled effect.

Vanilla Toffee Crinkle Cookies from Once upon a gourmet gin
1 (18 1/4 ounce) box white cake mix
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 bag toffee bits
confectioners' sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 350°. Stir dry cake mix, oil and eggs in a large bowl til dough forms. Gently fold in Toffee Bits. Dust hands with confectioners' sugar and shape dough into 1" balls. Roll balls in confectioners' sugar and place 2" apart on non stick cookie sheets. Bake 8-10 min til center is set. Remove from pans and cool on wire racks.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Chicken Cacciatore

Yeah, ain't that a whole lotta ugly? If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times. Me, red sauce and the camera just aren't friends. While she won't win any beauty contests, this baby was gooood. How timely, after my previous post, that this recipe for Chicken with tomatoes and mushrooms, more commonly known as cacciatore, comes from Martha.

This is the first thing that I've made from Martha, the first thing I've wanted to make, to be more specific. Her recipes have always seemed too difficult technique wise or contained some impossibly rare ingredient. This seemed so simple, I thought it might be too good to be true. Maybe she's got some real people working for her in the kitchen instead of the Stepford automatons I think she had creating her recipes in the past.

The chicken was so juicy and tender, but not so tender that it was falling apart. The mushrooms soaked up the juices and were even more delicious than a plain old sauteed button mushroom. (Which happen to be top drawer in my book.) I think I enjoyed this more than anyone else in the house, because I could not shut up about how delicious I thought this meal was. It's not that Mrblocko and Blockette didn't like it, I was just very vocal about my taste bud's reactions. Perhaps it was because I had low expectations? Who cares. A good meal is a good meal is a good meal.

I think my substitutions were what made this meal fantastic. I don't really care for stewed tomatoes, so there weren't any in the pantry. I did have several cans of diced tomatoes, and why go out and buy stewed tomatoes when you've got plenty of something so similar. I noticed that one of the cans of diced tomatoes had basil, garlic and oregano already in it. That was pretty similar to the flavors that the recipe called for so it seemed like a no brainer. We love garlic so I added the 2 cloves of garlic stated in the recipe, but didn't add the dried oregano. I don't know if diced tomatoes contain less juice than the stewed variety, or if the meat and mushrooms just soaked up a lot. As this was cooking, Mrblocko and I thought this dish could use more sauce, so I added a splash of chicken stock.

Mrblocko and I thought there should be more mushrooms and Mrblocko thought there should be more tomatoes. Next time I'll double both, and add more chicken stock. The sauce was so good over rice, we pigged out. Consequently, the sauce was a tad on the stingy side for the leftovers. With two cans of tomatoes, I think this recipe requires at least a cup of stock, if not two to meet our sauce requirements.

The comment section for Martha's recipe has several suggestions for additions including: wine, peppers, and zucchini. I'm not a fan of peppers so I don't think I'd try that version, but the wine and zucchini sounds tasty to me. I bet with more veggies and liquid this would be a great stew for a cold winter day. Add ins aside, I can't wait to try this recipe with fire roasted diced tomatoes, or the diced tomatoes that come in balsamic vinegar.

Hey mom, didja ever think I'd be so enthusiastic about cooking with tomatoes? When you come to visit and I catch you lookin in the closets, I'll know you are searching for the pods.

Chicken Cacciatore from Martha Stewart
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, about 1 1/2 pounds
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 can (14.5 ounces) stewed tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a large (5-quart) saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, heat oil over med-high ; swirl to coat bottom of pan. Cook chicken, turning when it easily releases from pan, til golden, 4-6 min. Transfer to a plate.
Add mushrooms; cover, and cook til softened, 5 min. Add garlic, tomatoes, and oregano. Reduce heat to med-low; cook, covered, til tomatoes have broken down, 10-15 min. Return chicken and any accumulated juices to pan; cover, and cook til chicken is opaque throughout, 4-6 min. Turn chicken to coat with sauce, and serve.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Dark Chocolate Cherry Cookies

I got the recipe for Katie Lee Joel's Dark chocolate and dried cherry cookies from GOOP, Gwyneth Paltrow's website. (The recipe is the 2ND one from the top.) These cookies almost didn't get made. I originally saw them on Cookie Madness. If not for her blog, I would never have made them.

Before I get into the recipe, lemme talk a bit about Miss Paltrow. I used to be a huge fan. Stress the used to. I love Love LOVED her movies. Then one day, several years ago, I saw her on Oprah . She seemed so self righteous in her new agey macrobiotic ways. I'm sorry lady, you ain't better than me cause you won't eat white flour or sugar. Her attitude repulsed me so much that when I tried to watch some of my favorite movies, (Emma and Shakespeare in Love) I turned the TV off in disgust after 5 minutes. Obviously, if she is featuring cookies on her website, she has relaxed her dietary regiment. I just can't get it out of my mind that she is some sort of wack-job when it comes to food.

When I first went to the link Cookie Madness provided on her blog, I decided to peruse the GOOP website. I was turned off immediately. The main page has six icons that you can click on that say "Make, Go, Get, Do, Be, and See." I must still be extremely disenchanted with Miss Paltrow because my initial reaction was, "Gee, that seems pretty bossy." and "Kind of presumptuous, assuming I am going to follow your demands/instructions." Needless to say I will not be subscribing to the weekly newsletter. I'm definitely not going to fall in line as one of the patrons of her B.S.

I've heard people referring to Gwyneth Paltrow as the next Oprah, or Martha Stewart. That's great, but I'm not one of their disciples either. So to me that statement gets a big ole "whoop-de-do."

Anyhow...the recipe was good. I didn't have any unbleached flour so I substituted regular bleached all purpose flour. They turned out just fine regardless of the "White" sin I had committed. I know ten thousand baby seals were killed in the bleaching process of the flour, but I'm sure that just added to the deliciousness of the cookies.

Mrblocko liked these cookies best while they were still warm from the oven. At that point I thought they were mediocre. I couldn't even taste the cherries and the dark chocolate was extremely bitter. I was correct when I guessed the flavors would improve once they had cooled completely. Dark chocolate and cherry is a great combo. The only bad thing about the cookies was that they didn't have a great shelf life. After about 4 days they started to lose freshness. I put some in the freezer at that point and they freezed OK. Sometimes when you freeze cookies, they taste better once they are thawed. These tasted exactly the same. I ended up sending most of them to work with Mrblocko rather than see them go stale. Even though they were beyond their best, everyone thought they were delicious.

Would I make these cookies again? Maybe. I think if I got in a cookie rut and wanted something different I'd turn to this recipe. The cookies were good, but I wouldn't eat the entire pan in one sitting. I could stop at two. Hmmm...maybe that's a good thing eh?

Dark Chocolate Cherry Cookies from GOOP
2 1/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
8 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (be sure to use a high-quality chocolate with more than 60% cacao)
1 cup dried cherries (about 6 ounces), coarsely chopped
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375ยบ F. Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter with sugars til light and fluffy, 3 min. Add eggs, one at a time, beating til incorporated. Beat in vanilla. On low speed, add flour mix. With a wooden spoon, fold in chocolate, cherries and pecans. Scoop by heaping tablespoonful onto 2 cookie sheets. Bake til golden and chewy, 12 min, rotating after 6 min. Transfer cookies to a rack to cool and repeat process with remaining dough.