Monday, April 30, 2007

White Chocolate Brownies

First of all, I can't believe that I haven't posted about these brownies in the over two years that I've been blogging. They're very good and quite different as far as a brownie goes. I developed them several years ago after being asked to make a trifle for a holiday gathering. I wanted to do something a little different, so I sought out working on a white chocolate brownie that I could pair with some lemon pudding and raspberries. I do remember the trifle being pretty good- but it's the brownie that really stood out, and I've been making it ever since.

This tastes like white chocolate- it's not even just sweet like white chocolate products tend to taste to me, it actually tastes like white chocolate. This is also my brownie for April's blogging event Brownie Babe of The Month- hosted by Once Upon A Tart. Nothing like the last minute, I know, but how could I pass up an opportunity to talk about brownies! Who doesn't love brownies!

Now, when I decided that I was going to participate with my white chocolate brownie, I thought it was going to need something, and I needed to take them a little further into decadent territory. A quick mental tour through my pantry revealed some pecans, mini chocolate chips, and a can of dulce de leche. It didn't take long to weave a ribbon of toasted pecans and dulce de leche into my white chocolate brownie which I'd studded with mini chocolate chips. And oh yeah. I found decadence.

These rose a little more than normal- I'm not sure of the reason for that, but if you prefer a brownie to be more fudgy than cakey- you can reduce the baking powder in these by about half- but you'll need to keep an eye on the baking time. I like these cakey- it pairs well with the white chocolate somehow. Either way, my White Chocolate Brownies with Dulce De Leche Filling are a decadent way to celebrate the humble brownie. Thanks to Myriam for hosting this event- it was a lot of fun to do.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Michael's Chicken

So named for the man who introduced us to his wonderful fennel spice rub- Michael Chiarello. We love watching his show, and adore his fennel spice rub. Anytime I mention roasting chicken, Andy lights up and questions me "Michael's Chicken?" And after many trials, I think I've nailed perfection with it. And while I suppose this could be called a recipe, it's more or less another procedure.

You begin with this recipe for Fennel Spice Rub. Make a lot. It keeps forever in the freezer or for a few months in the pantry.

Next, you need chicken, grey salt, olive oil, one lemon, and a handful of potatoes, peeled, and cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes (big cubes).

You can use a whole chicken or a chicken parts that have been cut up- but for sure, don't waste your time with the boneless skinless variety. Those mean flavor. You remove the bones and the skin and you've got a whole lotta flavorless chicken. This week it was a whole chicken, cut up. If you do leave it whole, you will need to adjust your cooking time- so plan accordingly.

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Spray a half-sheet pan with cooking spray, and place your chicken parts in the center, and spread the potatoes around the perimeter of the pan. Next, sprinkle everything liberally with the grey salt, and then the fennel spice rub. Make sure you flip the chicken to sprinkle both sides. Add freshly ground black pepper if you want as well. After everything has been sprinkled, take your olive oil and give it all a healthy drizzle- use your good olive oil here- and make sure you get the potatoes. Finally, cut the lemon in half and squeeze the lemon juice all over the chicken and the potatoes (trust me- get the potatoes).

Pop it in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. At the 30 minute mark, grab the pan with a hot pad and tilt the pan several times to get the chicken fat from the middle of the pan to the edges under the potatoes. Do this again after another 15 minutes. Finally after one hour in the oven, check the chicken- it should be done. If it's not- give it 10 minutes at a time until done. Let it rest on a rack for about 10 minutes before serving.

If you opt to use a whole chicken, you will want to adjust given the size of your bird. Give it about 15 minutes per pound. With a whole chicken, make sure you dust the cavity with salt and fennel spice rub, AND place one of the squeezed out lemon halves in the cavity for extra flavor points.

The chicken ends up crispy and packed with flavor. The potatoes get all brown and caramelized on the bottom- and they just can't get any better. The whole family enjoys this meal, and it just can't be beat. Company worthy, or everyday dinner, Michael's Chicken is one of our go-to default dinners.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Alpha-Veggie Challenge: A for Asparagus

This is proving to be very interesting. A few days back I had made the Asparagus-Pesto lasagna. Zander really liked it, Abigail thought it was okay- and neither of them knew it had asparagus in it. But they knew that Mom and Dad had asparagus in theirs. Then the other night I had picked up two bunches of asparagus and was prepping one to grill when Abigail walked in and said "Ewww...Asparagus!" I proceeded to remind her that she actually did like asparagus. Doesn't she remember that she likes to pick it fresh out of Grandma's garden and nibble it up. "Oh yeah...I guess I like asparagus not cooked." So I left out some stalks to peel the tough bottoms and leave raw for the kids. They both gobbled them up- dunked in a bit of ranch dressing. Both giving an enthusiastic thumbs up to raw asparagus.

Last night it was soup's turn. I looked to my "Veggie Evangelist" Alanna for inspiration and found a recipe for Easy-to-Elegant Asparagus Soup. I did make a few changes, but overall stuck with the integrity of her soup. The first change I made was to use less celery, and instead I added some chopped mushrooms to sweat with the onion and celery. I also added a pinch of dried thyme to the sweating veggies. Later on, when it came time to add the sour cream, I opted to use half & half instead because Zander doesn't like sour cream, and I wasn't sure if he would taste it. And finally, instead of the vinegar, I used a splash of lemon juice because I loooove lemon with asparagus. On the grown-ups portion of soup I also added some fresh lemon zest. I scooped it all into bowls and topped the soup with some homemade croutons for added kid appeal.

When the kids came to the table they commented on the soup- which was oddly served up as a side dish - that never happens here. So I told them I wanted to talk about my green soup on my blog and wanted to know what they thought of it. First tastes they both burst into "yum!". Zander then proceeded to gobble his up and ate most of his soup. Abigail ate a few bites and then turned her attention to her plate and the waiting goodness there. After they were finished with dinner, I confessed that it was actually asparagus soup- and they both were happy to learn that they liked asparagus soup. Abigail did tell me in all honesty that it's not her favorite, and she would eat it again, but would prefer her asparagus raw next time.

So far I have learned that if I don't come out and tell them asparagus is in something, they will at least taste it. And I guess if I want to hide veggies, I can probably get away with it for a little while, but eventually I think they'll both figure it out. I have one more asparagus preparation for them to try- and this one is going to be obvious. There will be no getting around the fact that they are going to try and eat asparagus. Will it work? Stay tuned.

Tomorrow, Michael's Chicken always puts my husband into a delirious coma. I'll share how I make it so that it is the epitome of roasted chicken perfection.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Our own little veggie challenge

We are a veggie-loving family. There are very few vegetables that I don't care for- the only two coming to the top of my mind is rutabaga and spaghetti squash. Andy pretty much likes them all, although he's not very fond of corn unless it's on the cob. And the kids... well, they are a work in progress. They love raw vegetables. Even vegetables that are normally served cooked (in my world anyway) like zucchini and asparagus- they will happily gobble them down if raw, but cook them up and they develop poison-like qualities. There are cooked vegetables that they enjoy, but there's got to be more! There has to be more for them than salad- not that salad is a bad thing.

The way I figure, there's got to be a way to prepare almost every vegetable that my kids will enjoy them. I've been meaning to get myself organized to do a vegetable challenge for them, but just haven't gotten around to it. Now that we're nearing the beginning of the growing season, I've decided that this is it. We are going to learn to eat vegetables in as many ways as possible. Our original inspiration was a book by Lois Ehlert, called Eating The Alphabet. It's a wonderful children's book, and I thought it would be a blast to go through vegetables A to Z and try some from each letter. Then a week or so ago I stumbled upon this blog, The Great Big Vegetable Challenge, and I knew this was my opportunity. And with asparagus hitting the markets now, we are beginning at the beginning. A for asparagus, and I am determined that I will find a way that my children enjoy asparagus. First up is going to be soup, and then there will be at least two other methods of preparation before we determine a winner.

I will report back with my findings. In the meantime, go check out what picky Freddie has been eating at The Great Big Vegetable Challenge. And maybe later today there will be cookies too. One can always hope.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Homemade Yogurt?

A couple of years ago I really wanted to make my own yogurt. It just seemed like one of those things that I should learn how to do. So I went on a search to find out how to do it, and stumbled across a yogurt maker. At the time, there was an awesome deal on it, and a friend of mine wanted to learn to make yogurt too, so we combined our orders and got two for the price of one. I was eager to make yogurt. My machine showed up, and I immediately went to work and was so disappointed with the results.

Homemade yogurt is not as thick as commercial yogurt that is thickened with gums and starches and things. I was also concerned about how long my homemade yogurt was good for. As it sat day after day, it did get thicker, but I wondered if there was a point where it wasn't safe to eat- we are talking about live bacteria after all. So I tucked the yogurt maker away, and have only pulled it out a few times since.

Since my yogurt making disasters, I have learned a thing or two. One is that I rather like plain yogurt. I love a scoop of plain non-flavored yogurt with a dollop of homemade jam swirled in for flavor. It has so much more character than the super sweet pre-flavored yogurt. I love the tang which I miss when I have a dish of regular fruity yogurt. I really needed to try homemade yogurt making again.

Well, yesterday I was looking at a carton of whole milk I'd purchased for the other day's meatballs, and I was trying to decide what to do with it when I thought of making ice cream. I quickly decided that was not a good idea, and then out of the corner of my eye I caught the tub of plain yogurt, and decided yogurt was what I was going to make.

It begins with milk. In this case, I used whole milk and 1% combined. To the milk, some powdered milk is added and then the two are heated to just below boiling. Then it is left to cool to around 100ºF. After it's cooled, 1/2 cup of plain yogurt with active cultures is slowly mixed in, and then the whole mixture cooks up for as many hours as you'd like in a yogurt maker. My personal preference is around 6 hours. Less time gives you less tang, and more time gives you more tang. When I pulled that yogurt out of the yogurt maker and set it in the fridge to finish firming up, I had such a sense of satisfaction. I had made yogurt from scratch. With this plain homemade yogurt, I can make more yogurt by taking out a portion as another starter. With this yogurt I can take a tour of other cuisines that feature yogurt. I can visit Greece again, Lebanon, Turkey, or India. I can take this yogurt and drain it a bit to make yogurt cheese (a distinct possibility). And I'm toying with the idea of adding a few things and plopping the whole mixture into my ice cream maker- frozen yogurt anyone?

It's wonderful. Tart and creamy, and I can add any flavorings I want. This mornings flavor is a cherry-berry jam I made myself- tomorrow's will likely be blueberry-lime. Homemade yogurt is indeed a treasure- and well worth learning how to make.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

What Did I Do!!

Sometimes I can be so rash...

Welcome to yet another new look. It's fun and quirky- I like it, but it wreaked some havoc on my blog. Please let me know if you have any problems- especially with any of the links in the sidebar. I had to redo the whole thing.

Cat Cora's Kitchen

I love Greek food. It's one of my favorite cuisines- I just love the flavor combinations and the freshness of most Greek inspired food. This past Sunday for Company Dinner it was Greek night, and for me that always means a big Greek salad at the very least. I wanted something a little different to accompany, and while I originally had been thinking pork or turkey tenderloin, I decided to peruse a yet-to-be used cookbook instead.

Cat Cora's Kitchen is a gorgeous cookbook. Every single recipe looks really good and appetizing. My only problem with this book is that many of the recipes are daunting. There are several steps or long cooking processes. Overall though, it's a keeper. Especially when the first recipe out of the gate is a winner.

Aegean Meatballs are excellent. A moist and flavorful meatball that was perfect for dunking in tzatziki, or would make excellent sandwiches in some pita bread. That is actually what the recipe called for, but since I didn't feel like making pita this past weekend, we did without. (Since I learned to make it, store bought pales in comparison.) I followed Cat Cora's recipe with three changes. One change I made was to eliminate the mint. I can't stand mint in savory cooking, so instead I used oregano and parsley. The second change was that I didn't use the egg. I was out, and another run to the store didn't sound fun to me, so I just went ahead without- the meatballs still held together nicely. And the last change I made was to use far less oil than called for. Both in the meatballs and for cooking them. Instead of the 1/4 cup called for in the meatballs, I just added a healthy drizzle- maybe a tablespoon or so. And for cooking them up, I used a non-stick pan with a drizzle in the pan. Worked just fine, and I had no problems. Aegean Meatballs were excellent and will be a repeater here. You can also find my recipe for Tzatziki here as well.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Magazine Day

Every month, when the new issue of Cooking Light magazine comes out, Alysha of The Savory Notebook lists all the recipes she'd like to try from the issue. It's a good idea. Other than the occasional recipe, I haven't been cooking a whole lot from my magazines, which is a shame since I get several good ones. So today I thought I'd play along with Alysha. I am going to make a list here of Cooking Light recipes that I'd like to attempt, followed by a list of recipes from Eating Well.

Will I get around to making them? That's hard to say. Although today Andy did officially head back to work- 4 months and two days after being laid off, so in the weeks to come I will be able to allocate more to the grocery budget. That means more cooking for me- which of course means more fuel for the blog. Here is my list- and if you'd like to play along, head on over to The Savory Notebook and let Alysha know. She would love to link your list with her list.

Cooking Light Recipes:

Jerk Chicken
Indonesian Beef Curry with Coconut Rice
White Chocolate, Strawberry and Oatmeal Cookies
Lemony Chickpea Dip
Asparagus- Apple Salad with Blue Cheese Vinaigrette
Hot Brown Sandwiches
Greek Wet Rub
Raisin Honey Milk Bread
Vegetarian Taquitos
Mushroom and Fontina Quesadillas
Grilled Teriyaki Shrimp Kebabs
Sausage and Pepper Calzones
Chili Verde
Raspberry Phyllo Tarts
Chocolate Raspberry Tart with White Chocolate Cream
Onion Pissaladiere
Pesto Halibut Kebabs

Eating Well Recipes:

Gnocchi with Tomatoes, Pancetta, and Wilted Watercress
Tropical Cucumber Salad
Cucumber and Black-Eyed Pea Salad
Eating Well Crispy Taco Shells
Lean & Spicy Taco Meat
Thai Chicken Pizza
Rhubarb Crisp
Sugar Snap Pea & Shrimp Curry
Lebanese Potato Salad
Baba Ganouj
Shish Kebab with Tahini Sauce
Kusa Mihshi
Pirate Marinade
Red Wine Marinade

That's quite the list! Of particular interest to me right now is the series of Lebanese recipes from Eating Well. I would love to make that some time for Sunday Company Dinner. Not included in my list here is the handful of recipes from Vegetarian Times that I'm also interested in. Hopefully I'll get to cooking sometime soon! Coming up tomorrow- another cookbook checked off my list by a favorite Iron Chef of mine- Cat Cora. Stay tuned!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Gooey Goodness

But not from me.

I don't have much exciting to post about today. It was a gorgeous day yesterday, so Andy broke out the smoker- and I didn't do any cooking myself to post about. But I do want to direct my readers to one of the yummiest bites of gooey chocolate-goodness to cross my lips in a while.

Joe over at Culinary In The Country made these scrumptious looking bars the other day. Being the thoughtful person that I am- and having the ingredients on hand, I whipped up a batch Sunday morning. My plan was to share them with our Sunday Company. I tucked them out of site before company arrived because I wanted them for after dinner, and we all have a tendency to pick at the desserts beforehand. Anyway. Imagine my surprise when one of my guests shows up with something that looks very similar to what I'd just made! What are the odds of that! Her recipe was from Bon Appetit magazine, and was different than mine, but similar enough that I just left mine hiding away for another day. The basic recipe is a cookie or shortbread crust with a caramel layer, and then chocolate on the top. My friend's called for the addition of sea salt, which we both were shocked to find out was really good- and what totally made the bars. Joe's recipe is quite a bit different, but looks similar. Andy says this recipe reminds him of an upscale Caramel Twix bar- and I don't think he's that far off.

So having said all that, I am going to direct you to Culinary In The Country for his awesome Marbled Chocolate Bars. Because his look way better than mine ever could.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Educating Peter

by Lettie Teague

It's not every day that you see a book review on this blog. In fact, I have a whole separate blog specifically for the purpose of keeping track of what I read. But this book is different. This is a book designed to educate the masses in a completely new way.

The subtitle of this book is "How I taught a famous movie critic the difference between Cabernet and Merlot." OR "How anybody can become and (almost) instant wine expert."

In the interest of full disclosure, I will start out with saying that I was approached by the publishing company with this book. Would I like to check it out? I thought about it and decided that I am always interested in learning about wine, but wine books are so daunting, so perhaps this is the book for me. I said I was interested and I did receive the book in short time, and I wasted no time getting into it.

Educating Peter started as a very easy book to read. We were introduced to the subject Peter the movie critic, and found out right away that he was not a wine expert by any means. He knew very little about tasting, and knew almost nothing about different varieties. This was promising. We were given a list of basic terms to know, and were invited along with Peter on his adventure around the wine world. I enjoyed the banter between Peter and Lettie and was looking forward to seeing Peter's transformation. The journey around the world began with one of the most important countries in wine-making, France. I have to admit though, the chapter on France was a little daunting to me. I read it twice, because there is a lot of information within its pages. The designation system of France is still confusing to me, but I am sure with some time, I will grasp the concept of Chateaux and Grand Cru Estates. France got the most attention in this book as they discussed all the many regions in France- including the well-known Bordeaux and Burgundy regions.

After France, they made trek through Europe, discussing wines from Italy, Spain, Germany, Portugal, Austria, and Hungary before making their way to The New World. The New World countries included Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Chile before settling into the United States and the many productive regions here. While discussing the U.S. winemakers, Peter and Lettie actually went on a trip to Napa to explore that region and demystify the wines there. They also discussed The Finger Lakes in New York, Washington State, and Oregon. I will admit that a bit of me was rather pleased to learn that one of my favorite wines that we've discovered- Chateau Ste. Michelle was listed in this book as a great producer.

It really was amazing to watch Peter's transformation unfold on the pages of this book. And he really did! At the beginning he knew nothing- by the end, he was bidding on a case of wine at an auction, and ordering wine to pair with food while out to dinner. He had countless conversations with winemakers and purveyors, and by the end of the book, you had a real sense that he knew what he was talking about. This book provided an excellent education on the wine industry for me in such a fun and new manner. I will say that at times the information got to be too much at one time, and I would set the book down, but then I would pick it right back up and forge ahead. My only complaint with this book was the timing for me to read it. I really wanted to head to the wine store several times to learn exactly what Peter was learning. I wanted to taste some wine. And while I have a few bottles on hand, it just wouldn't have been the same.

This book isn't quite a textbook, and it isn't quite a story. It's an expert blend of both. In fact, I fully intend to use this book until its tattered to learn all about wine and the difference between grapes, regions, and vintages. By following Peter's example, I suspect that I can use this book to learn more about wine than what I already know- and that's not much. I can imagine how much fun it would be to open a bottle of wine for company and explain how this was a good vintage for this producer and discuss the nose or finish with my guests. I can imagine how Peter felt- volatizing his esters for the first time.

Educating Peter is an excellent book. It really is. If you have any interest in learning some of the basics about wine- this is your book. It's so much more than a basic textbook or informational book. This is entertaining at the same time. And I highly suggest you purchase your own copy, because if you have any interest in wine, your book will look like mine in no time, and will be full of notations and highlighter marks.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Vegetarian Night

One of my resolutions this year was to cook more vegetarian meals for my family. Admittedly that hasn't really happened much yet other than the occasional veggie pizza. But yesterday I was flipping through older magazines looking for anything to cook for dinner that was a little different. I was in the mood to cook- but I didn't know what. It was in the April 2006 issue of Vegetarian Times that I found my inspiration. Asparagus-Pesto Lasagna caught my eye. As I recall it did a year ago when I first got this magazine. And as I read through the recipe I had almost everything I needed for this dish- including the asparagus. I also recalled that a gentleman who goes by Bob on the CLBB had made this dish and raved about it. (Some things just stick in your head- and Bob has never steered me wrong so I pay attention when he raves.)

I assembled my lasagna before lunchtime actually. I was using no-boil noodles, according to the recipe, and I wanted to make sure they absorbed the sauce and were soft, so I thought making it ahead and allowing it to sit for a few hours would be beneficial. I only made two minor changes to the recipe as it was. The first was to add a handful each of mushrooms and onions to the asparagus as it cooked, and the second change was to use less noodles. The recipe called for 16- and since no-boil noodles swell, I ended up only using 9- and it worked just fine.

The lasagna was fantastic- in a word. It wasn't heavy or cloying like I thought it might be using a milk based sauce. It was just plain delicious. The asparagus worked perfectly and really came through flavor wise. The sauce was soaked right up, and the proportions really were perfect. I could go on and on about how delicious this lasagna was- it was that good. Most definitely company worthy, that's for certain. One of the things I liked best about this lasagna was that it was good and hearty, and it definitely filled me up, but after dinner was done I didn't feel heavy. I felt full and satisfied, but not in a bad way. That's one of the reasons I want to play more with vegetarian cooking. The fullness factor is definitely different after eating a nutritious veggie meal than after a heavy protein based meal. Two thumbs up from Andy and I, Zander enjoyed it, and Abigail just said it was okay, and didn't want to eat more than a few bites. She prefers her asparagus raw. Overall Asparagus-Pesto Lasagna was an instant hit, and will be repeated here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Default Side Dish

I guess I've been a little MIA lately. I haven't done a huge lot of new cooking- nothing exciting really. It finally warmed up a tad, so we've been running the grill a little making standard grill food- burgers, chicken breasts, hot dogs, etc. Nothing really blog-worthy. And I guess I decided that it's better to not blog than blog about nothing. Last night though as I was assembling some potatoes for the grill, it occurred to me that while not really special, foil potatoes are kind of standard fare here once grilling season starts. Being inspired by my friend Janelle's "Default Dinners" posting, I thought I could share the process for foil potatoes.

You begin with the grill on and warming up, and a few sheets of aluminum foil. Personally, the heavy duty always works best for grilling, but you can use the standard if you double it up. Next, you grab a handful of potatoes and an onion. (Gauge the potatoes as to how much your family will eat. I like to use red-skinned potatoes, as I like to leave the skin on- but feel free to use any potato you like and peel if necessary. Scrub the potatoes, cut them in half lengthwise, and then in half lengthwise again. Cut these pieces into thin slices, and repeat until the potatoes are sliced. Then chop half of the onion into small pieces. Spray your foil with cooking spray and pile the potatoes on. Next, sprinkle the onions all over the potatoes. Sprinkle the potatoes very liberally with your choice of salt (I like seasoning salt or sel gris) and plenty of freshly ground pepper. If you have herbs, this would be a great place to add a handful of fresh rosemary or chives. Then drizzle olive oil over the whole mass. If you are a butter lover, you can dollop pats of butter on the very top. I like to use olive oil if I'm using rosemary with just a few tablespoons of butter for flavor on top. Oh- chopped fresh garlic is tasty in here as well!

Then wrap the foil around the potatoes tightly- making sure it's well sealed, using additional foil sheets if necessary. Plop this package on your grill over indirect heat and let if cook- rotating as necessary to cook all sides. It takes about 45 minutes, which is plenty of time to toss a salad and prepare and grill your main course. If you let the potatoes go a little longer, they get all browned and caramelized around the edges- very tasty stuff. This works well on a grill or an open fire (in the instance of camping). I also swap out the plain potatoes for sweet potatoes at times- although then I use more butter and add cinnamon and brown sugar instead of herbs and onions. (I'm a sweet girl, I like my sweets on the sweet side.) Any way you do it, it's quick to throw together, and really cooks itself. Foil Potatoes is one of our default side dishes. The picture above here is of the potatoes ready to be wrapped up and cooked. I failed to take a finished picture-sorry!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Homemade Croutons

Sometimes you forget that you know how to make the simplest of things. And sometimes it's those simplest of things that make a difference. Last night we had a simple dinner of BBQ chicken and salad. The salad was just a green salad with cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, and carrot shreds. As I assembled this, I became annoyed that I forgot to pick up croutons. Yes, I confess to buying croutons. Then, out of the corner of my eye I caught the corner of a foil wrapped package- the homemade buttermilk oatmeal bread from the other night. Ding-Ding! In no time I had little cubes of bread awaiting some seasoning.

I have no recipe, more procedure, but trust me, it works. I started with about 4 cups of bread cubes. I placed these in a bowl and added 1 tablespoon of melted butter and 1 tablespoon of canola oil. I tossed the bread thoroughly and then added some seasonings. A healthy grinding of fresh black pepper, a sprinkling of garlic powder, and a teaspoon or so of dried basil. All this was tossed until it looked evenly distributed before being spread out on a sheet pan. I heated the oven to 375ºF, and before putting the cubes in the oven, at the last minute I decided to sprinkle them with some Parmesan cheese. Total these baked for about 20 minutes, but I was checking on them and tossing them every 5 or so. And the end result was the perfect topping for an otherwise plain salad. We all gobbled them up, and these were even good enough to just snack on all by themselves. Next time I'm faced with a heel of leftover bread, I'll be making these again.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Magic Freezer Week

First, a quick mention that I forgot yesterday. I took a bit of a departure this week at Well-Fed and tried my hand at writing for a different platform- The Cook's Kitchen. The article I submitted was a product review, that you just have to check out to believe.

This week has been all about eating out of the freezer. I honestly did not do that on purpose. I guess not feeling too much like cooking for a few days makes one get a little more creative to not do work-yet feed the family well. (Does that make sense?)

It started Monday with the found pan of enchiladas. Then on Tuesday I had planned to attempt egg curry, but was missing some ingredients when DH declared his intention to grill. A quick rifle through the freezer uncovered a pork tenderloin that was thawed and marinated to accompany some cheezy rice and vegetables. Wednesday was ballet class, and a snowstorm to boot, so I made some homemade bread and pulled a frozen container of chili out of the freezer to warm in the crockpot while we were gone. Wednesday to Thursday I also managed to but something INTO the freezer as I gently simmered up some ham stock from Sunday's ham bone, and now I have a pot of navy bean soup waiting for further instruction.

This brings me to last night. Zander wanted spaghetti. I wanted something different. Peering into my little freezer I found the container of leftover smoked salmon from a few weeks ago. This needed to be used and was going to be my inspiration. A month or so ago in an issue of Everyday Food magazine, they had featured a pasta made with smoked salmon, cream cheese and capers. I remember eyeing it up because it looked really good. I decided to play off of that. I did have to run and pick up some cream cheese- as I wanted the chive and onion flavors and my chives were buried under snow. I also picked up some bowtie pasta- I wanted those little curvy shapes to pick up the luxurious sauce I would be making.

It began with a few tablespoons of chopped yellow onion. They gently cooked in butter until translucent before meeting up with a little bit of milk. Next came 8 ounces of chive and onion cream cheese, and plenty of black pepper. This was stirred and stirred until combined and creamy, and then the salmon was pulled into pieces and dropped in. After this had simmered together for awhile, I added a handful of leftover green peas for color, and a bit of the pasta cooking water to loosen the sauce up and it was done. A quick toss with some bow tie pasta and some thinly sliced raw red onions proved to be delicious. Smoked Salmon Pasta is in the recipe trove, but please adjust the ingredients as you see fit. I think you could use the commercially smoked salmon with no problems, and I also think this would make a good cold salad if done properly. Anyway you do it, the flavors really sang together, and we enjoyed this one.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Are You A Thinker?

I am honored and humbled to be a recipient of the Thinking Blogger Award. Mimi, at French Kitchen In America has honored me with the title of Thinking Blogger. That means a lot to me, as sometimes I wonder if people really care much about what I am posting, and I do try to post real content- not the fluff that many blogs succumb to. The tough part (which Mimi also wrangled with) about such a distinguished award is that I must pass it on to five other bloggers. Is it more tough to limit it to five? Or is it more difficult to find the five I feel are full of thinking content?

I think the latter- there are so many wonderful food blogs, and I have a hard time myself keeping up with all of them. I could easily spend an entire day visiting with my food blogger friends and checking out their kitchens, and then discovering even more through them. The food blog world is a close-knit group, despite our global differences. And so here I list five food bloggers that I share the award of Thinking Blogger with.

If you haven't visited with these bloggers before, you're surely missing out. And for even more thinking bloggers, you can check out the list at Mimi's blog for other thinkers. Who knew there were so many of us!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Is There Any Better Smell...

Than that of freshly baking bread and a pot of ham stock simmering on the stove?

I don't think so. :-)

There is a snowstorm on its way as I type this, and I'm really not looking forward to it. But at least we will have freshly baked bread and a pot of soup waiting for us when we get home from ballet tonight. Provided we have ballet tonight...

And if you happen to be looking for a new snack idea, check out today's article at Kids Cuisine. Other than that, it's been a quiet couple of days. Bear with me, I have ideas in my head, and the wrong opportunity to cook them. I am still batting around an Indian food menu- I'm just trying to figure a few substitutions, and work out the timing.

Happy 600th post to me today! And we've passed my two year blog birthday without me noticing. The very first foodie post was a recipe for Mocha Truffle Cookies originally shared by the fabulous Sweetnicks. Those cookies are still a regular and still manage to impress adults and children alike. Maybe one of these days I'll come up with a proper post to commemorate the road behind and the road coming ahead. I've been thinking about taking a new direction with Tummy Treasure, and focusing a bit more on some particulars. But I think I like it being across the board- a little bit of this, a little bit of that. There may be a big visual change coming, as I've asked someone special to work on a re-design, so stay tuned. 600 posts behind me, and so much more cooking to do, and so much more to say.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Freezer Surprise

Yesterday in my comments section I mentioned that I was going to clean my fridge and freezer yesterday. Well, I didn't get very far, to be honest. Today maybe? But as I was standing there looking into the freezer I spied a forgotten item. I pulled it out and then of course, remembered what it was. "White chicken enchiladas 8-30-2006"- hey hooray for labelling and dating! This had been an experiment. I wasn't totally sure that enchiladas would freeze okay. But as I looked at this frozen entree in my hand I became overjoyed- I didn't have to cook dinner! It was already done for me!

Although I was skeptical, I roasted up some potatoes and made a chopped salad with jicama, cucumber, and baby carrots, and popped my frozen enchiladas into the oven in a frozen state. One hour later, I pulled them out, and they looked okay- in fact, they looked really good. And the verdict? They tasted like I just made them that day! Not only did I not have to work hard at a tasty dinner last night, I actually discovered something that freezes very well. My recipe for White Chicken Enchiladas is in the Recipe Trove, freezing directions included.

On tap for today, I have plenty of Easter Eggs to use, and I have it in my mind that I want to make an egg curry of some kind. I've never made one, but I've seen them, and I still have a craving for Indian food, so that may just be the ticket. I will leave today on that note, but I do have a couple of fun pictures to share. The first is a picture of Zander. He wanted to help make pizza on Saturday, and Andy got a great picture of him spreading the sauce- he was concentrating pretty hard. The second picture is both kids being silly. They decided to line the stairs with all their stuffed friends so that they could do a play for them. They never did get to the play- but the friends all lined up was so cute. The two shadows at the very top are Zander and Abigail.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Cooking Slump

I'm officially tired of leftovers and comfort food. I'm running out of creative bones to reinvent those leftovers just one more time. Ugh. And it's April! We're supposed to be firing up the grill from time to time, and instead it's like 30 degrees out- so no grilling yet. All that to say that I have no idea what's ahead for the week. There is a chance that Andy may actually be back to work this week. If not this week, it will be within the next two, so that is a HUGE happy thought. In the meantime though, I'm in a bit of a cooking slump, with not so much ambition. Tonights dinner will probably be a chicken pot pie, because I have leftover chicken and different vegetables that need to be used up. (Thank goodness I've had that inspiration at least!)I've posted about that a few times already- the recipe is here for anyone interested. Maybe I'll bake something today...

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Happy Easter!

This morning was the return of the annual egg-coloring festivities. Nothing fancy here yet, the kids just enjoy getting the colors on the eggs.

A little later today we'll be heading over to my brother's house, in addition to Easter being tomorrow, it also happens to be my niece's third birthday, so we're having the birthday party today. And of course, Easter and birthday would not be complete without a blanket of snow. And blowing wind. Where did spring go?

Friday, April 6, 2007

Cakey Cookies

Last nights dinner was a reheating of leftovers, so there certainly isn't an exciting dinner post. But despite being gone most of the day having fun with the kids, by the time I got home I was ready to bake something. I decided to knock another cookbook off of my list and make a cookie out of Sara Foster's Fresh Every Day. This cookie intrigued me- pumpkin white chocolate cookies sounded really different to me, and I had all the ingredients on hand. So while the oven warmed up, I pulled some frozen pumpkin out of the freezer to defrost and gathered the rest of my ingredients.

The very first step is one I should talk about because it is vital to this cookie, and is different from other cookies that I've made. You begin by placing your flour and baking soda in a food processor and whirring to combine. Then you add 1 cup of butterscotch chips to the flour, and process again. This chops up the butterscotch chips into the flour and adds a very light flavor of butterscotch to the cookies without being overwhelming. The rest of the ingredients are stirred in and then the whole mixture is chilled for a bit before baking. I did not make these cookies as big as the recipe recommends. My cookies were more like two inches, and it made about 40 cookies for me.

And they were a very different cookie! They were not a crispy cookie, which disappointed me at first, but the flavor was good enough to get me going back for another cookie. The pumpkin comes through, and the white chocolate bites are really balanced, and not overwhelming like white chocolate can get. Overall, a really good cookie. Next time I make them I plan to add a dash of cinnamon, but other than that, these cookies are a winner and different enough to make them a repeater. You can never have enough variety when it comes to drop cookies. Then last night as I was putting away these cookies, I was struck with inspiration. These are on the cakey side, and it occurred to me that they would be really good with ice cream. So I pulled out the vanilla frozen yogurt and placed a generous scoop between two cookies. This I wrapped with plastic wrap and tucked into the freezer for a few hours to meld. A little bit later, Andy and I had ice cream sandwiches while we got caught up on The Amazing Race. These cookies make very excellent ice cream sandwiches. In fact, those sandwiches were so good, that these cookies are worth making just for that purpose! Pumpkin White Chocolate Chunk cookies are really good, and the recipe is in the trove, ready for sharing. Thanks Sara Foster!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Meatloaf in a Crockpot?

It's been a while since I made a meatloaf. It's one of those things that we enjoy, but it just slipped off the radar for awhile I guess. I was trying to figure out what to throw in the crock pot for yesterday, and I had originally thought of some leftover country style ribs. But given that Abigail had some dental work done, and ribs are her favorite, that wouldn't be very kind to her. Then I thought of some ground beef in the freezer and the thought came to me to try a meatloaf in a a crock pot. I wasn't completely convinced that it would work well, but it seemed worthwhile enough to try, and set about looking for some specific crock pot recipes. What I was really looking for was to see if the recipes for a crock pot were any different than for the oven, and I didn't find many differences. So I chose a couple of recipes and ended up with an amalgamation of them to create my own.

The result was a surprise to us. It was very good! It was moist and full of flavor, and really much better than I'd anticipated. My only "beef" with it was that it wasn't very nice to look at, as you can imagine coming out of a crockpot. So when making this, I strongly recommend topping it with sauce before serving. Whether that be BBQ or ketchup or a beef gravy, make it on the side, warm it up, and pour it over the top and you'll be good to go. I didn't think that far ahead, and it really would have been spectacular with a sauce of some kind, and thinking more on it, I think gravy would have been the way to go this time.

My recipe calls for herb crackers- I used a rosemary and black pepper organic cracker- so use that as your guide. I would stay away from butter crackers or soda crackers- what you want is something that packs some flavor. The rest of the recipe is fairly standard meatloaf fare- just make sure you chop your veggies pretty finely, and you'll be good to go. No doubt this could be made in a conventional oven if you want as well. My recipe for Crockpot Meatloaf is in the Recipe Trove, and if I had to guess, you could feed about 8 people on this recipe. As it is, Andy's enjoying sandwiches the rest of the week, and he's thrilled with that. I only cooked mine for about 6 1/2 hours, and it was perfectly done, so gauge the timing according to your crockpot. Mine cooks a little hot, so I had planned for it to be done then instead of at 8 hours- by 8 hours, it may have been dried out. Oh, and sorry, no picture, as I was rather unappealing to look at- but very good for eating.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Checking In

Not much to post about today. I should have a new crockpot recipe for tomorrow, so you'll want to come back and check that out- it has potential. Today I'm taking Abigail for her second round of dental work- wish me luck with that nightmare! In the meantime though, I do have an article up this week on Kids Cuisine - the sneaky mom is back, so be sure and check that out for another sneaky idea. Today we woke to a scattering of snow and some pretty vicious winds- where did spring go! We're supposed to hover around freezing for the next week, so if anyone would like to send spring back our way, I sure would appreciate it. This is soooo not spring break weather!

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Spring Break

That means some sporadic posting this week. Abigail has spring break this week, so I'm busy spending time with her that I don't usually get to, and the kitchen is not the top priority. But I'll post when I can and when I have something interesting to post.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Nothing Special...

But they sure tasted good! This last weekend I was at the grocery store when I saw that cake mixes were buy one get one free. Not a girl to pass up a bargain like that, I picked two up and headed for home. By the time I got home, I had decided that the chocolate fudge mix was going to become cupcakes. And by the time I got in the door, I had decided that they needed something special about them. So it was back to the store and the Easter candy aisle for some mini Milky Way bars. And I'm sure you can see where this is going. I mixed up the mix according to package directions. Then I put half the batter in the bottom of the cupcake liners. A single square of Milky Way found itself nestled in each mound of batter, and then those were topped with the remaining batter.

And while you wouldn't think that a single Milky Way candy bar could enhance a cake mix cupcake very much, let me assure you that these cupcakes were fantastic. The chocolate of the candy bar kind of melted into the cupcake itself, adding some richness, and at the very center of the cupcake was this yummy caramel-nougatey bite that was almost decadent. And since I was worried that these might be on the sweet side, I made a cream cheese frosting to hold back on the sweetness, and the cupcakes were perfect. My kids ate two a-piece, and all the company seemed to enjoy them. So imagine my almost-embarrassment when I was asked if I was going to post the recipe on my blog today. Er- no recipe. Just cake mix. And candy bars. And for those curious, the cake mix this time was Pillsbury Chocolate Fudge. Sometimes a box of mix just fits the bill perfectly.