Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Fruit Kabobs

These made great finger foods for summertime. I used kiwi, oranges, bananas, canned pineapple, grapes, and strawberries. Also fabulous would of been watermelon, cantaloupe, mango, fresh pineapple... any fruits, really. The dip is so easy, it is 1 jar of marshmallow creme, 1 block of cream cheese, and 2 T. orange concentrate. Mix all together, using med speed and pour into a serving bowl. I used shish kabob sticks and broke/cut them in half.

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More tomatoes....

Someone has given us tomatoes from their garden (so good!) and I am trying to use them up. Today for lunch I made another tomato salad and decided to use up the last little bits of ingredients I had from other recipes, so it's got a little bit of everything. :) Excellent summery taste.

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1 large tomato, chopped
1/4 white onion, diced
handful ripe olives
1/4 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cucumber, diced
chunk of montery jack cheese
green onions, sliced
1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 T olive oil
dried basil

Combine all ingredients, toss to coat, and refrigerate to let flavors meld. :)

Spicy Chicken Pizza

Tonight for dinner we had spicy chicken pizza... it was very yummy! Wasn't all that spicy, (Ryan and I like super hot foods) but, it had an excellent taste and was quick and easy. The only changes I made was to use leftover rotisserie chicken and yellow bell peppers. When I went to the grocery store the red bell peppers looked very old. I served it with sauteed squash.

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2 tsp cooking oil
12 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
1 medium sweet red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
Nonstick cooking spray
1 10-ounce package refrigerated pizza dough
1/2 cup hot picante sauce
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 400F. In a large nonstick skillet, heat cooking oil. Cook chicken strips in the oil over medium--high heat for about 5 minutes or until no longer pink. Remove from skillet. Add red pepper and onion; cook about 5 minutes, or until tender. Remove from skillet; set aside.

Coat a 15 by 10 by 1 inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Unroll pizza dough in pan; press to form a 12 by 8 inch crust. Pinch edges of dough. (I just pressed it out to fit the pan)

Spread crust with picante sauce. Top with chicken and vegetables; sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Bake for 13 to 18 minutes, or until crust is brown and cheese is melted.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Tomatoe Salad

I love summer and tomatoes. They just taste so fresh and so summery! They are a great side to anything and an easy way to get your fruit and veggies in (whether you consider them to be fruit or veggie!!) This is a super easy, super quick recipe. I didn't care for the one with parsley, but Ryan did. I loved the one without!
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2 Roma tomatoes, sliced, chopped, and seeded

1/4 White onion, chopped

1 tsp. Olive oil



2 T. Parsley, chopped

Combine tomatoes and onion in a bowl, drizzle on olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Let sit in fridge while you cook the rest of the meal, or for a couple of hours. Serve with French bread to soak up all the juice and oil!

Mushroom Barley

I've fallen in love with barley.... Rice has never been one of my favorite foods, no matter how you cook it. I'll eat it, but it just doesn't do it for me. However, after trying barley a while back, I adore it!! it's a healthy food, whole grains, lots of fiber, no fat....mmmmm. So finding this recipe I had to try it. It was great!

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1 T. margarine

1 (8-ounce) package presliced mushrooms

1 (3 1/2-ounce) package shiitake mushrooms, sliced

1 cup quick cooking barley

1 (1 ounce) envelope onion soup mix

2 1/2 cups water

Heat margarine in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms; saute 5 mintues or until tender.

Combine barley, onion soup mix, water and mushrooms, in a saucepan. Cook over low heat until barley has absorbed all the water.

Garnish with chives, if desired.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Healthy foods....

Believe it or not, eventually this blog will have healthy recipes. Not just time consuming sugary treats :) We have had a lot of stuff going on where I have had the chance to try new 'gourmet' recipes :) I do love to cook new healthy foods, but this will probably be after our move...in 6 days!!

"It's a french pastry"

This is what I ended up saying last night. "It's a french pastry". We held a graduation party for a girl at my church and I decided to try a new recipe. Everyone loved it!! It was a chocolate praline croquembouche. Long name, right? It is pronounced kro-kum-boosh, and means 'crisp in your mouth'. After all evening of 'what's it called?' and 'what is that?' and 'how do you say it?' I gave up and it became.... a french pastry :) This is not a task to take on lightly... it took me two days to make it! Traditionally it is stacked in a pyramid.... but, I left them unstacked. Also, pick a very dry day to make this... I live in the south, and it was a very humid day with rain.... the caramel coating became very sticky!

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Cream Puff Pastry

1 1/4 cups water
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
4 to 6 large eggs

In a heavy saucepan bring water to a boil with butter and salt over high heat. Reduce heat to moderate. Add flour all at once and beat with a wooden spoon until mixture pulls away from sides of pan, forming a dough
Transfer dough to bowl of a standing electric mixer and beat in 4 eggs, 1 at a time, on high speed, beating well after each addition. Batter should be stiff enough to just hold soft peaks and fall softly from a spoon. If batter is too stiff, in a small bowl beat remaining 2 eggs lightly, 1 at a time, and add to batter, a little at a time, beating on high speed, until batter is desired consistency.

Chocolate Pastry Cream

4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
a 3-ounce bar fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), broken into pieces
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits and softened

Praline Powder
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. blanched almonds
Melt sugar over until caramel colored, stir in almonds. Pour into a buttered dish and let cool. Crush into a fine powder.

Chocolate Praline Croquembouche

For cream puffs
1 recipe cream puff pastry
For filling
about 1 cup chocolate pastry cream
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup praline powder
For caramel
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
For assembly
large pastry bag
1/2-inch plain tip
1/4-inch plain tip
Note: a cake decorating turntable is helpful for assembling a croquembouche

Make cream puffs:Preheat oven to 425°F. and butter and flour 2 baking sheets.
Spoon pâte à chou into a large pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip and pipe about 55 mounds onto baking sheets, each about 1 1/2 inches in diameter, leaving 1 1/2 inches between mounds. With a finger dipped in water gently smooth pointed tip of each mound to round puffs. Bake puffs in upper third of oven 10 minutes, switching position of sheets in oven halfway through baking if necessary. Reduce temperature to 400°F. and bake puffs 20 minutes more, or until puffed and golden. Let puffs stand in turned-off oven 30 minutes. Transfer puffs to racks to cool. With a skewer poke a 1/4-inch hole in bottom of each puff. Puffs may be made 2 days ahead and kept in an airtight container. Recrisp puffs in 400°F. oven 5 minutes and cool before filling.
Make filling:
In bowl of a standing electric mixer beat pastry cream until just smooth and soft enough to fold in heavy cream (do not overbeat). In a chilled bowl with cleaned beaters beat heavy cream until it holds soft peaks and fold in praline powder. Fold whipped cream mixture into pastry cream. Chill filling, covered, about 1 hour, or until cold.
Fill cream puffs:
Transfer filling to a large pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch plain top and barely fill each puff (do not overfill), putting filled puffs in a shallow baking pan.
Make caramel:
In a heavy saucepan stir together sugar and water and bring to a boil over moderately low heat, stirring and washing down sides of pan with a brush dipped in cold water to dissolve any sugar crystals until sugar is dissolved. Boil syrup over moderately high heat, without stirring, until it begins to turn pale caramel. Still without stirring, gently swirl syrup in pan (so that it colors evenly) until it begins to turn golden caramel and remove from heat. Caramel will continue to color slightly off heat and will thicken as it cools. As caramel begins to reach thickness of corn syrup, return pan to a burner at lowest possible heat, using a flame-tamer if necessary, and keep warm (do not simmer).
Assemble croquembouche:
Line a tray with wax paper. Working quickly with 1 cream puff at a time, impale bottom of each puff on tip of a small serrated knife and carefully dip top in caramel, leaving bottom 1/3 inch uncoated (to facilitate handling) and letting excess drip off. (Be extremely careful when working with hot caramel.) Set puff, coated side up, on prepared tray. When all puffs are coated, center 3, touching to form a triangle, on a cake-decorating turntable. Form a ring of 9 puffs around triangle and, working with 1 of the 9 puffs at a time, carefully dip 1 edge into caramel, letting excess drip off, and affix puffs to one another in a tight ring around first 3 puffs. Dip bottom of a puff in caramel and center it over middle of first 3 puffs. Working with 1 puff at a time, carefully dip 1 edge of each puff into caramel, letting excess drip off, and build a second, slightly smaller ring on top of the first using 8 puffs (if necessary adding an additional puff in center to stabilize ring), making sure each puff is glued with caramel to the one before it.
Build on top of first 2 rows 4 more rings of 5 puffs each in same manner, always building from inside out with an additional puff in center as support.
For top of croquembouche build 1 layer of 3 puffs and top with 1 puff. Let caramel harden 5 minutes and loosen croquembouche from turntable with a spatula. Transfer croquembouche with hands to a platter.
Slip 5-inch-wide bands of wax paper under edges of croquembouche to protect from caramel drips. Remove caramel from heat and cool to thickness of molasses, 2 to 3 minutes. Dip tip of a small spoon in caramel and drizzle caramel decoratively over croquembouche. (Alternately, all puffs may be dipped in initial caramel and put in a shallow serving bowl without being molded into a cone shape.) Let caramel harden and remove wax paper. croquembouche is best served as soon as possible but may be made up to 12 hours ahead and chilled but not covered.
To serve croquembouche, lightly shatter caramel cage with back of a knife and dismantle, 1 puff at a time.

The only problems I had with this was (1) I could not get the praline powder to crush into a fine powder, so I had to keep cleaning out the tip when I was stuffing the puff. (2) I could not dip the puffs fast enough, I do not know how the creator of the recipe managed to dip all those puffs and fix them together and drizzle it over the top!! I had dipped about half of them when my carmel begin to harden and turn grainy. So, I had to wait to finish the rest until I had cleaned my pan and began the caramel process again!!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

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This is the first real tart that I have made, and it turned out great! It tasted wonderful and popped out of the tart pan perfectly (something I was very worried about, as my cakes do not pop out of their pans very well!) I used the recipe from epicurious.com, the only thing that I changed was to make it with semi-sweet ghirardelli's chocolate. I love sweet stuff, can handle extra sweet when others can not, however, if this had been made with milk chocolate I do not think that I could of handled it!! An excellent way to make sure the whipped cream whips the way it should is to place the bowl and beaters in the fridge and then place that bowl inside another bowl filled with ice and water!! Works great, whipped up in no time!! Also, be patient I thought my caramel was not going to set up, it did, just took longer than 40 minutes. I used a 9 inch tart pan instead of the individual tarts.
Milky Way Tart
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch process)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 large egg yolk

3 1/2 ounces high-quality milk chocolate (such as Lindt or Perugina), chopped
2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons water

Unsweetened cocoa powder (for dusting)

Make crust
Whisk flour and cocoa in medium bowl. Beat butter and powdered sugar in another medium bowl until well blended. Beat in yolk. Add flour mixture in 2 additions, beating just until blended. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate 2 hours.

Divide dough into 6 equal pieces. Press each onto bottom and up sides of 4 1/2-inch-diameter tartlet pan with removable bottom. Refrigerate crusts 1 hour or freeze 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake cold crusts until set and dry-looking, about 12 minutes, pressing with back of spoon if bubbles form. Cool crusts in pans. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; store at room temperature.

Make filling:
Place milk chocolate in medium bowl. Bring 1 1/2 cups cream to simmer in small saucepan. Pour hot cream over chocolate; let stand 1 minute, then whisk until melted and smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours or overnight.

Combine remaining 1/2 cup cream and butter in small saucepan and stir over medium heat until butter melts; remove from heat. Combine sugar and 3 tablespoons water in heavy small saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil without stirring until color is deep amber, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan, about 8 minutes. Immediately add hot cream-butter mixture (mixture will bubble vigorously). Remove from heat and stir until any caramel bits dissolve. Transfer caramel to small bowl and chill until slightly firm (semi-soft), stirring often, about 40 minutes.

Spoon caramel into center of baked crusts (about 2 generous tablespoons for each crust). Set aside.

Using electric mixer, beat chilled milk chocolate-cream mixture until peaks form; spoon atop caramel in crusts, dividing equally (about 1/2 cup for each crust) and spreading evenly. Chill at least 2 hours. DO AHEAD: Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated.

Remove tartlets from pans. Lightly sift cocoa powder over tartlets and serve.

Welcome to my food blog!!

After visiting many food websites and message boards I've been inspired to create my own! I love to cook and bake and to try new recipes! Cooking relaxes me, most of the time after a long day, it does not bother me to cook dinner, it is a chance to chill and get away from it all. So, maybe I can inspire someone else with my blog. Bon Appetite!!