Friday, July 31, 2009

TFF - Country Meatloaf with Tomato Relish

For this week's Tyler Florence Fridays recipe, I chose meatloaf. While searching for the recipe online, I discovered that there are two nearly identical meatloaf recipes of Tyler's floating on the Food Network's site: Dad's Meatloaf with Tomato Relish and Country Meatloaf with Tomato Relish. The recipe that I've had for years is actually the latter. The main differences seem to be the inclusion of torn bread, milk and bacon in Dad's but not Country.

I mentioned that I've had this recipe for years, and it's true. What's fun about this one is that I have it handwritten on a recipe card, not printed out like many of my more recent recipes, and that it's actually in D's handwriting (which admittedly, makes it a little (lot) harder to read...). He was the one that saw the episode of Food 911 that it was featured on and wrote it down. He's quite fond of this recipe actually!

The recipe involves a little bit of work, but really the end result is worth it. You start by making the tomato relish, cooking onions, garlic and bay leaves until the onions start to carmelize. Next you add in some bell peppers. The recipe calls for red bell peppers, but the grocery store had none, so I substituted orange and yellow ones. Instead of using fresh tomatoes, I actually chose to use canned diced tomatoes this time.

After letting the vegetables soften, you add ketchup and let it heat through. You could certainly make some substitutions here if you have an aversion to ketchup. Now, this is where I deviate from the recipe somewhat. At this point, I actually puree the relish, making it more of a sauce (be sure to remove the bay leaves first!!). See, if I left the vegetables all chunky in there, Sean wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole. But by pureeing it first I can tell him I made my own "ketchup" for it, and all is (relatively) well in the world of picky eaters.

This is prior to pureeing -- see the lovely chunks of veggies?

And after pureeing. It's more orange than usual because of the bell pepper choice this time (orange and yellow instead of red).

When making the meatloaf, I also deviate slightly from the recipe. I add some fresh bread crumbs to the party (I just take two slices of bread, crusts removed and whir them up in the mini food processor or the blender). I also only used two eggs instead of three. Everything else was the same, except that once again I had no fresh thyme so substitued dried instead.

We were so excited (and hungry) by the time it was ready that I didn't have a chance to make a nicely styled plate for pictures. Oh well, this picture is more "keeping it real" with the overflow onto the baking sheet and everything!! We like this recipe because the meatloaf stays moist and has a lot of flavor. Even Kade ate some of this, and he's not a big meat eater.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Operation Baking GALS Anniversary!

As you may recall, I recently posted about participating in Operation Baking GALS for the first time. Well, OBG is celebrating their first anniversary! They are trying to promote the group, as well as celebrating with giveaways and such. Start by checking out the OBG website here.

Now, like I said, the last round was the first time I had participated. I had seen it mentioned on various other blogs, and had even bookmarked the website, thinking to myself "that sounds neat...I should sign up some time." Well, for some reason I was moved to sign up last month, and am very glad that I did.

I'm not sure why I feel so motivated to participate, to be honest. I didn't grow up in a military household. Well, my dad was a Marine (okay, okay, once a Marine, always a Marine!) but he was discharged before he and my mom even met. I don't have any close friends or family that are in the military. just seems like a great thing to do (participating in OBG, that is). I love to bake, and I really like baking for other people, so why not send those baked goods to our troops? Having actually done that now, it gives you a good feeling knowing that you've (hopefully!) brightened a complete strangers day!! You don't have to agree with why the soldiers are there to agree that they could all use some support until they are all safe and sound at home!!!

So...if you haven't already done so, I encourage you to check out the Operation Baking GALS website, and think about joining in. It's really not that hard, and it's a great cause!! You don't even have to bake -- they are tips for what you can send even if you can't send baked goods. The ship dates for the current round will be 8/3-8/12.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Lemon Ricotta Cookies with Lemon Glaze

This month's cookie for the Cookie Carnival was Lemon Ricotta Cookies with Lemon Glaze, a recipe from Giada De Laurentiis (who is just too darn pretty -- it's not fair! LOL).

I don't believe I've ever made a cookie with ricotta in it before, but it was good! The texture was almost like a dense cake, and it reminded me a lot of my Nanny's Pineapple Cookies (I'll have to post about those some day!!). My parents were over for supper, so I whipped these up for them to taste-test for me. My dad tends to like lemon-flavored things, so I figured he would be a good test subject.

I will admit that I didn't make the glaze for it -- I took a poll and everyone agreed I should just skip the glaze (I think they just didn't want to wait that long to try one!). I would deem this recipe a success. The lemon was pleasant, but not overpowering. Instead of the two tablespoons per cookie, I just did a heaping tablespoon of dough per cookie (so just slightly smaller).
I sent ALL of the cookies with my mom; I think she took most of them to work with her this morning. From what I understand, they have been getting good reviews!
You can check out the June round-up for the Cookie Carnival here. You're right, you never did see that cookie pop up here on my blog; unfortunately, I never made it! But you should see everyone else's! :)

TWD - Vanilla Ice Cream

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie selection was Vanilla Ice Cream by Lynne of Cafe Lynnylu. You would have thought I could actually get this one made, right? And I intended to. I even went to the grocery store this afternoon and bought the ingredients to make it. Then we got home. And I had to get supper going. And then I re-read the recipe. And realized it would be ready to eat about, oh...say, midnight. So, my apologies to all those to came looking for yummy pictures and rave reviews. I'm sure it's a great recipe (although I may decrease the number of egg yolks, as suggested by some) and I hope to try it soon. In the meantime, be sure to check out what the other TWD Bakers did with the recipe!!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Best. Breadsticks. Ever.

Well, at least the best breadsticks I've ever made! Simple, easy, delicious. You can't go wrong with that! I found this recipe over at Our Best Bites, a blog I've recently discovered. The original recipe can be found here, and has been used for all sorts of things, including breadsticks, pizza, pizza rolls, and more.

I love making yeast breads, and these were a definite hit in our house. The recipe calls for you to start by proofing your yeast, or adding your yeast to a mixture of sugar and water. I skipped this step, because I use instant yeast, which does not need to be proofed first. Instead, I mixed the yeast with 1-1/2 cups of the flour, the sugar and the salt, then added the warm water. I highly recommend checking the temperature of your water/liquid in yeast bread recipes with a digital thermometer if you have one. Having your liquid at the proper temperature is key to achieving a good result with your yeast bread recipe.

After mixing all that together, I added additional flour (I used bread flour for this recipe, since I actually had some handy) and used my beloved Kitchen Aid mixer to mix and knead it. Even with that, I still prefer to finish kneading it by hand. Something about kneading bread dough is soothing, comforting, calming. I just love it!

Next, I let the dough rise until doubled, as instructed. After that, I was supposed to roll the dough out until a rectangle, but mine was more of an ellipse...oh well! Using a pizza cutter, I divided the dough into 12 not-quite-equal pieces, then shaped them into the twisted breadsticks.

After letting them rise again, you can see how evenly shaped and evenly spaced they were (not).

Then, bake them in the oven, slather generously with butter, and sprinkle with garlic bread seasoning (also from Our Best Bites). Try not the eat the whole pan by yourself...unless of course that's what you had planned on making them for anyway, LOL!!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Tyler Florence Fridays - Chicken Noodle Soup

I know what you're thinking. Chicken noodle soup, in July, in Texas. You're thinking I've lost my mind. Well, that is debatable, especially if you ask D... But no, it was chilly and rainy on Wednesday, and chicken noodle soup just plain sounded good!

To top it off, I recently found out about a group called Tyler Florence Fridays. Everyone makes different recipes, either from one of Tyler's books or from his recipes available on the web, posts about it, and a roundup of the week's posts are then made. So, deciding to join in on the fun, I searched for a recipe for chicken noodle soup, and found one on the Food Network's website. The original recipe can be found here. It was actually from an episode of Food 911...I miss that show! :)

Let me also remind you that nothing is ever easy at my house. What should have taken only a few hours (we were making our own stock, you know) in reality took all day. Why, you may ask. Well, I didn't even start making the stock until noon. Got that on the way, well mostly (minus a few ingredients I didn't have, more to come on that shortly) and then I realized it was time to pick Sean up from science camp. I got everything chilled down and into the fridge. Once the kids and I got back home, my mom came over to help deliver D's car to his office (long, long story). Made it back home again, and then I could resume making the soup. By this time it's about 5:00 p.m. and the kids are hungry. We didn't actually eat until close to 7:00 p.m. Seriously. This is what I mean by nothing's ever easy around here.

Now, let's talk more about the recipe itself. It starts out simply - rinse and de-gibletize your (preferably free-range) chicken and place it in a pot with water, vegetables and herbs. When I got the notion to make soup, I did a quick survey of the fridge and pantry to see what items I had on hand. I did indeed have a whole chicken thawed in the fridge, which was a miracle because I don't usually buy whole chickens. However, I'd been planning to butterfly and grill it, but that would just have to wait. Soup was calling. I have no idea if it was free-range or not, but I do know that it was a Texas chicken. The label said so. It was also already giblet-free. Kudos for that one, to whoever helped me out there. :)

I was missing the turnip and fresh thyme called for in the stock (imagine that...being out of thyme...bwahahaha...okay, so you can now agree with D that I am *not* a comedian, nor do I even come close). I did have some dried thyme on hand so I went with that. I also didn't have any celery. But I can indeed tell you that the stock smelled quite wonderful while cooking.

By the time I got started on the soup itself, I had stopped on the way home to grab some celery. Wish I'd thought to grab some fresh thyme, but oh well. Such is life. I got the fresh veggies prepared and cooked until softened, then added the stock from earlier. I had initially planned on making homemade egg noodles, but quickly regained my sanity and used the dried pasta noodles that I had in the pantry. I added those and the shredded chicken and let it simmer away.

I thought it was very good. Although I wish I'd had the fresh thyme. I think it would have punched up the flavor a bit. Sean did actually try it (well, technically he ate the chicken, some broth and some noodles...the veggies were carefully avoided). On the other hand, Kade mostly ate carrots. I didn't expect anything different.

This recipe will be going in my keeper file, though it probably won't see the light of day again until the middle of winter. :)


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Isn't it cute?

The new blog design, I mean. :) As you may know, I've been playing around with the design myself. However, I recently stumbled upon Scrap-e-Blog and thought her backgrounds were just the cutest, so I grabbed one and even had her make me a custom header to go along with it!! Thanks Cori!!!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Chip Chick

First, a little randomness before I get to the topic of the day. Tonight my parents were over celebrating my dad's birthday. He mentioned that the cafe that he has coffee at every morning charges 89 cents for a "little ol' chocolate chip cookie". Now, he doesn't realize that I've paid much more than that for a cookie, nor does he really need to. But anyway, I laughed and said "I'm in the wrong business." I look over, and my husband has his fingers stuck in his ears, saying "I can't hear you!" It was just amusing. Maybe you had to be there.

Now, onto this "Chip Chick". It's my version of chicken strips/nuggets. I actually made this Tuesday night. pictures this time. My original recipe was handwritten on a piece of notebook paper, so I'm not entirely sure where this one came from. My apologies if I'm not giving credit where it is due.

Also, I was once told that "how can you use potato chips? They are so high in fat!" Yes, yes they are. But they are also high in flavor. And it's not like I'm eating the entire bag at once (um, wouldn't know anything about doing something like that...) and I'm not serving an entire bag to each member of my family. I feel like paired with healthier sides, it's really not a bad way to serve chicken. My two cents right there. :)

Chip Chick

1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into strips or nuggets
1/2 -3/4 cup milk
1 egg
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 (11 oz) bag potato chips**

Preheat oven to 400'F. Grease a large baking sheet (or I prefer to line it with parchment paper).

In a large bowl, mix together the milk, egg, pepper and garlic powder. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Set aside.

Cut a small slit near the top of the potato chip bag to let the air out. Place the bag on the counter, and releasing all of your frustrations from the day, smash up the potato chips. I prefer to use a rolling pin and just let them have it!

Place about half of the crushed chips in a pie plate. Taking one or two pieces of chicken at a time, coat them well with the potato chips and place on the prepared baking sheet. You can add more chips as you run out. If you have a husband handy, they are (fairly) good at adding the chips for you. Medium or large children can also be useful here (small children can be helpful, but they can also be messy, just beware). Or do as I do, and keep one hand clean for pouring the chips onto the pie plate.

Bake the chicken for 15-25 minutes or until done, depending on the size of your strips/nuggets.

**I use the original Lay's potato chips, but I've always wanted to try it with the BBQ or sour cream & onion chips. I'm not sure how a thicker chip would work, but feel free to try it and let me know. :)


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Operation Baking GALS

Several times over the last few months I've run across posts mentioning Operation Baking GALS. I'd even bookmarked the website. Well, a few weeks ago I stumbled onto this post from April at Wine Lover's Cooking Diary asking for people to join her team. I don't know April, or her brother, but something told me to sign up. I just had to.

Here is a little excerpt talking about what Operating Baking GALS is:

Baking GALS (GALS stands for Give A Little Support) is a group of volunteer bakers who bake and ship homemade goodies to our heroic troops that
are currently deployed. Each soldier is “Hosted” by a blogger, and potential bakers are “recruited” from the bloggers own site as well as the GALS site. Each Host recruits between 20-25 bakers, meaning LOTS of goodies get delivered to our soldier…so many, in fact that he or she has plenty to share with their fellow troops!

Why do we do it this way? Why not just ship to “Any Soldier”? Well, we don’t know “any soldier” – and “any soldier” doesn’t know us. And receiving baked goods from a stranger, while probably safe, is frowned upon and in many cases, those Any Soldier gifts could be thrown out. Baking GALS will introduce you to a soldier. You will know his name, a little bit about him, maybe even his favorite cookie…and he will know in advance that he will be on the receiving end of a cookie bombardment – so everyone is prepared. It is a safer way to treat our troops, and it helps them to know when to expect a barrage of goodies.

I was supposed to have everything mailed out yesterday, the 11th. Well, unforeseen circumstances preventing me from baking on Friday like I had planned, so I'm baking today -- chocolate chip cookies ramped up with pecans and coconut. Yum. I don't know if it was the outside temp (97'F) or my oven, but they didn't bake up quite has pretty as I was hoping for. Kade, my taste-tester approved though. (Hey! I have to make sure they are acceptable to send to our troops, right??)
My taste-tester. :)

Packed up in the containers...

Taped up and ready to go except for labels and forms! Hopefully they will arrive relatively unharmed. ;)


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes

Just so you know, I blog all the time. In my head anyway. I'm always thinking to myself "I could write about this, and that..." I do this while shopping, driving, attempting to sleep. Sometimes while actually cooking. And yet, many of these thoughts never make it to the computer. Such is life, I guess.

But look at me go. How many blog posts in a week's time? Let's hope this trend continues.

While flitting about on the internet the other day, I came across a post on Bakerella's site about blueberry cornmeal pancakes. I became intrigued. Mostly because I love blueberry pancakes, and just so happened to have some blueberries in my refrigerator. It was fate, I tell you.

Monday night I whipped up a batch of the orange maple butter. It was not as easy as described. Sort of like mixing oil and water. Oh, wait... Anyway, I got it "mixed" and into the refrigerator.

Tuesday morning - cooking time. Cornmeal in my pancakes was an interesting idea. How would it go over with the family (i.e. Sean). Time would only tell. I'm in the kitchen, gathering equipment, measuring ingredients, and I hear "what are you making?" Pancakes was, of course, my response. His? "I thought so. I saw the griddle. That only means two things it could be. Pancakes or grilled cheese sandwiches." Observant, that one.

Was I going to tell him about the cornmeal? Nooooo. Was I going to get a blueberry near his pancakes? Nooooo.

It's a very simple and straightforward recipe. And quite good. I (finally) tried the trick of keeping the extra pancakes warm in the oven. You know, it actually works! This will be going in my "keeper" file. The non-blueberry pancakes were a hit with Sean. The cornmeal was not overpowering, but gave it a nice taste and texture. I don't know that I would have been able to tell it was cornmeal if I hadn't been the one making them.

Note to self: strip Kade to his diaper before letting him feed himself blueberry pancakes.

My goodness he's cute.

Here's the recipe, but do please check out Bakerella's site (with her awesome pictures!!)

Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes with Orange Maple Butter

Orange Maple Butter

1 stick butter, softened
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp orange juice

Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar, plus two tsp for blueberries
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup milk
3 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled
1 egg lightly beaten
2 cups blueberries

Extra butter for coating griddle

Maple Syrup

For the orange maple butter, combine all ingredients in a bowl with a rubber spatula. Scrape the mixture onto a piece of wax paper. Roll up and shape into a small log. Twist the ends of the wax paper to secure and refrigerate.

For the pancakes, heat a griddle over medium heat. Run the extra butter over the surface of the griddle to coat (repeat as necessary).

In a small bowl, toss the blueberries with 2 tsp sugar. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, milk, egg and butter. Add milk mixture to dry ingredients and whisk just until combined.

Pour batter onto prepared griddle 1/4 cup at a time. Add sugared blueberries to each pancake. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Flip and cook the other side for about 2 minutes.

Place the finished pancakes on a cookie sheet in the oven at 200 degrees to keep them warm. Serve with orange maple butter and maple syrup. Makes approx 16 pancakes


Tuesdays with Dorie - Tribute to Katharine Hepburn Brownies

Mmmm...brownies...yum. Brownies with espresso powder, cinnamon, chocolate chunks, and pecans...YUM! This week's Tuesdays with Dorie pick was Tribute to Katharine Hepburn Brownies, chosen by Lisa of Surviving Oz. Lisa is not a regular TWD baker, but she recently won the TWD logo contest so she got the honor of making this week's choice. omg, you should read her blog...she's hilarious! Now, on to the brownies!

I'll admit, mine are still baking away in the oven, but I wanted to get my blog post in while it was still technically Tuesday, and if I don't do it now while I have a chance, well it might never get done!!

According to Dorie, this makes a thin, soft gooey brownie. Doesn't that just sound sinful? :) It's actually made without much flour at all, which sounds intriguing to me. I'm anxious to see how they turn out. Here comes the hard part...the waiting...I have to let them cool for 30 minutes in the pan after baking, then I am instructed to let them cool completely. mmmkay, we'll see how that goes. I'm envisioning a warm, gooey brownie topped with what little remains of the vanilla bean ice cream from Saturday.

I will certainly come back and report how they fare in my house. I have a feeling Sean won't like them because of the nuts, and D may not like them because of the gooey-ness (and the espresso powder that I am not telling him about!). But I can't wait to dig in!

Be sure to check out what all the other TWD Bakers did with this recipe!!



Update: oh my sweet ooey-gooey-chocolatey-nutty-coffeeish heaven! Wowsers. Can you tell I liked them? Okay, well let me 'splain. First off, I'm not entirely sure they were done. I mean, I know they're supposed to be gooey and all, but mine were super gooey. However, I didn't exactly let them cool after I turned them out of the pan. We'll see how they are when they cool. D swears I was eating raw brownie batter. Which of course meant he certainly wasn't going to try it. I didn't care, personally. It was just delish! And with a scoop of homemade ice cream on top...excuse me while I moan with delight!

I might also add that I baked it in an 8x8 glass dish, so I did decrease the temp by 15 degrees and baked it the instructed cooking time. I used espresso powder instead of the instant coffee the recipe called for, but didn't notice an overwhelming coffee flavor, as some others did (but then again, I'm a coffee addict). I did cut the cinnamon by half, just because my cinnamon seems quite strong. I think it probably would have been fine at full strength though.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Oh happy baking day!

Happy Belated Fourth of July everyone!! Christi and her family came over yesterday, and I decided to celebrate the occasion by baking... a lot! :)

She had requested homemade ice cream. I was happy to oblige that request! I tried a new recipe, which can be a scary thing when you're having company over, but this one is definitely a keeper! A friend had shared this online article about ice cream with me, and I chose to try the Vanilla Bean Ice Cream recipe. It has some ingredients in it that I would never have thought of in ice cream - namely cream cheese and cornstarch! But they worked. With great results! If you've never made vanilla bean ice cream, you should definitely give it a try at least once - you won't be disappointed! And I can highly recommend this recipe. It is simple and easy to follow. I should also add that the size of the recipe is made for a smaller electric ice cream freezer, like the one I have. If you have a larger one, you may have to play around with doubling or tripling it.

I also decided to whip up a batch of toffee cookies. This was a last-minute decision, so I rummaged through the pantry to see if I had all the ingredients. Luckily, I did! I actually used the recipe on the back of the toffee bits bag. I'd never tried if before, but I thought it turned out well! Here's a link to the recipe.

And then there's apple pie. I couldn't help myself. :) I will admit, however, that I used pre-made pie crust, the kind that comes in a box and you unroll it to place it in your own pie pan. It may not be as good as homemade, but it will certainly do in a time crunch! There are about three million different apple pie recipes, but this one is the one I used yesterday. It was well received, I think!!

Well, that was it for yesterday! ;) I hope everyone had a great weekend!!