Sunday, December 29, 2013

Cookies and Cream Cake

My husband's parents were in town for Christmas, and they love Oreos, so I decided to make this cake!  The cake itself is just the recipe from the back of the Hershey's cocoa can.  If I recall correctly, it was the first from scratch cake layer cake I ever made about 10 years ago.  It always turns out perfectly: moist, yummy, chocolaty, and stays good for several days.  Easy to make, too!  The frosting is slightly adapted from a recipe called "Cookies and Cream Brownies" on The Girl Who Ate Everything blog.  It's really, really good!  Fluffy, great flavor, and just all around amazing, especially on top of chocolate cake!  Definitely will be making this one again, and I'll add crushed Oreos to the cake batter as well.

Quick Note: I made this as a 9 by 13 cake, but think it would work fine as a layer cake.  Just pour the batter into two 9 inch pans and bake a few minutes less, just until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Make the frosting after the layers have cooled, and stick the cake in the refrigerator right away so the frosting can firm up some more.

I decorated my cake with red and green sprinkles and the penguins for Christmas!

Cookies and Cream Cake

Chocolate Cake:

2 C sugar
1 3/4 C flour
3/4 C cocoa powder
1 1/2 t baking powder
1 1/2 t baking soda
1 t salt
2 eggs
1 C milk
1/2 C vegetable oil
2 t vanilla extract
1 C boiling water
Optional: 10 lightly crushed Oreo cookies (not completely pulverized)

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9 by 13 pan.  In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients.  Beat in eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla extract until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl periodically.  Bring the water to a boil and immediately beat it into the batter.  Batter will be thin.  If you're using the Oreos, stir them into the batter.  Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30 to 40 minutes.  Let cool completely before frosting.

Oreo Frosting:

2 sticks salted butter, softened
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon milk, plus a little more if necessary
12 oz powdered sugar by weight, plus a little more if necessary
10 Oreo cookies, crushed

Place butter, cream cheese, and vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat with the paddle attachment until well combined, about 1 minute.  Add powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon milk, and beat on low until powdered sugar is incorporated.  Increase speed of mixer to medium-high and beat until frosting is very fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Add more milk or powdered sugar, just a little at a time, if the frosting is too thick or thin.  Scrape down sides of mixing bowl and mix in crushed cookies.  Serve immediately or cover the cake and refrigerate a few hours- it's great either way.  Just be sure to store the cake in the refrigerator because the frosting has cream cheese in it.

Yield: Enough to very generously frost a 9 by 13 cake.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Sparkling Chai Sables

I can't remember how I stumbled across this recipe from The Naptime Chef, but immediately decided to make it when I saw it!  The cardamom intrigued me and I liked the look of the sugar on the edges.  It was a good decision, because the cookies turned out great.  Deliciously crisp and buttery, surprisingly light with a melt in your mouth texture, and the perfect proportion of spices.  Definitely a good choice for anyone who enjoys warm, sweet spices and shortbread cookies.  Also, I made these cookies over a week ago and they've held up wonderfully!

Quick Note:  The original recipe calls for unsalted butter and then table salt.  I only had salted butter and planned to leave out the additional salt to compensate, but made the recipe by memory and forgot to leave it out.  We liked the cookies just fine as they were and did not find them salty, but you may want to either use unsalted butter or leave out the added salt if you're worried.

Sparkling Chai Sables

3 sticks salted butter, softened
1 C powdered sugar
1 t vanilla extract
1 egg
3 C flour
1/2 t salt
2 t ground cinnamon
2 t ground cardamom
1 t ground ginger
egg white for sugar crust
coarse white sugar for crust

Beat together butter and powdered sugar until fluffy.  Beat in vanilla extract and egg.  Add the flour, salt, and spices, and mix in thoroughly without overworking the dough.  Form dough into two approximately 9 inch logs on pieces of plastic wrap, and wrap them tightly.  Chill in the refrigerator between 6 and 24 hours. 

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Beat the egg white with a fork in a small bowl, then brush the egg white on a dough log.  Sprinkle generously with the coarse sugar.  Cut the dough into approximately 1/3 inch slices and arrange 1 inch apart on the cookie sheets (they won't spread much).  Chill cookie sheets until ready to go in the oven.  Bake until very light golden, about 12 to 15 minutes.  Cool completely before storing in an air tight container. 

Yield:  This recipe produced 55 cookies for me.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Cheese Straws

Okay, yesterday I said I'd sit on this recipe until I make them again next year since I didn't have the cayenne pepper amount quite right.  They turned out less hot than I wanted (though extremely flavorful!) so I sprinkled cayenne pepper on some of them before baking.  My plan was to up the amount of cayenne pepper in the actual dough next year and then post the recipe here with that amount included.  However, many of the cheese straws went to work with my husband and he returned home with feedback that his coworkers (all guys who usually like spicy stuff) preferred the cheese straws without the extra cayenne on top.  Also, I'm pretty sure the ones without extra pepper would be fine for kids and people who don't like hot things.  Decided to just go on ahead and post the recipe as is with the recommendation to either add more cayenne pepper in the dough or sprinkle some extra on top if you want them hotter.  My in-laws are visiting for Christmas and I'm actually glad I made the cheese straws as I did, because they'll be able to enjoy the less spicy ones while my husband and I eat the ones with extra cayenne.

Until I made these the other day, I'd only had cheese straws once in my life.  On one of the Christmases I spent with my dad in Louisiana as a teenager, lots of neighbors and friends gave him tins of treats.  One of those tins contained cheese straws!  Neither my dad nor I have all that much of a sweet tooth, and the cookies all went neglected because we only had eyes for the cheese straws.  They were so cheesy, crunchy, and very spicy.  I don't have an especially high tolerance for hot things, but loved those cheese straws.  Yum. 

A few nights ago, I got to thinking about how good they were, and decided to try to make some myself!  Basically picked this recipe from the Food Network because it had the highest cheese to flour ratio of all the recipes I saw, and cheese is of course what it's all about.  I then halved the recipe but kept the amount of cayenne and black pepper the same and added some other spices.  I also used my cookie press with a flat extruder plate to make long, rectangular crackers, then cut them in half down the middle and slightly separated them on the cookie sheet, but you could roll the dough out and cut it into long, skinny strips instead.  Lucky for me, the cheese straws turned out extremely well and basically just like I remember, especially the ones with the extra cayenne sprinkled on top!  My husband loved them just as much, if not more.  They're very similar to a cheese cracker, but richer, cheesier, and just all around better.  I can't promise these will be made every Christmas from now on because there are so many other recipes we love and still others I want to try, but they will definitely appear frequently.

Update: I made these again for Christmas 2014, and we somehow forgot about them after a few days.  The tin was in the pantry for a solid month and the cheese straws were still very good and quickly eaten!

Cheese straws with extra cayenne on top, and plain on the bottom!  This is a very small tin.

Cheese Straws

15 oz sharp cheddar cheese, freshly grated, then covered and allowed to sit out until it reaches room temperature (not the bagged, shredded cheese, it won't combine with the butter properly- also 15 oz is an odd amount, but you can just take care of that extra ounce by having a little snack!)
1 stick salted butter, at room temperature (needs to be quite soft)
1 1/2 cup white flour, plus a bit more
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried mustard
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (you could try 1/4 t cayenne if you want them spicier!)
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat your oven to 325 and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, place the cheese and butter.  Attach the paddle and beat on low until the mixture is very soft, about 15 minutes (you could try this with a hand mixer as well, make sure your ingredients are very soft to start with).  You'll need to scrape down the sides of the bowl frequently.  While that's happening, whisk together 1 1/2 cup flour and the spices.  Add to the cheese mixture about 1/3 cup at a time and beat in each flour addition thoroughly.  When all the flour has been added, add more flour 2 or 3 tablespoons at a time- up to 1/2 cup total- until the dough comes together and is no longer sticky, but still pretty soft.  I only needed about 3 tablespoons more.

If you're going to use a cookie press, fill the press according to the manufacturer's instructions and choose an extruder plate that will allow you to make long, skinny crackers.  If they're still fairly wide (mine were about an inch wide), cut them in half down the center and separate slightly.  The dough doesn't spread much, so you can put them fairly close together.  If you don't have a cookie press, you could just roll the dough out directly on the parchment paper lined cookie sheet, cut into skinny strips, and separate them.  If you'd like, you can sprinkle extra cayenne pepper on top of the cheese straws, but remember that a little goes a long way!

Bake the cheese straws until they turn light golden and are crunchy, about 20 minutes.  I confirmed they were done by taking one out of the oven and sticking it in the freezer so it would cool quickly.  They're good while still soft, but are more like a cheese cookie than a cracker!  Let the cheese straws cool completely, then store them in an air tight container. 

Yield:  Lots!  I failed to count, but got 3 large cookie sheets full.  Guessing about 100 cheese straws.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Chocolate Almond Spritz Cookies

Long, LONG time without a post!  I've still been using my little blog to look up recipes I made, just haven't had the right recipe to post.  Plus I was sick for a couple of months and had surgery, so didn't end up cooking during that time.  My little blog has not been forgotten, I'm just very sporadic with my additions to it :)

Anyway, Chocolate Almond Spritz Cookies!  My mom has made Spritz cookies since I was a kid, but they were of the standard, non-chocolate variety.  She always made red poinsettias sprinkled with red sugar and green Christmas trees sprinkled with colored sugar.  They're my grandpa's favorite cookie, but they've just never wowed me.  Blah.  Sorry to those that love the traditional recipe!  Yesterday I made cheese straws for the first time (that recipe is for next year, I need to tweak the amount of cayenne pepper before sharing it- they're fantastic, though!) and needed a cookie press. 

I've actually had a cookie press for about 7 years but only used it once to make some cheddar crackers.  It's survived many a kitchen purging because I always think HEY!  I'll surely use this one day!  That day was yesterday, with the cheese straws.  And today, with the Chocolate Almond Spritz!  I found this basic Chocolate Spritz recipe on the Wilton website, halved it (still got 72 cookies from half a recipe), and used almond extract instead of vanilla.  If I may say, these little cookies are wonderful.  Crunchy, chocolaty, almondy, and the sugar on top makes them even better.  Admittedly I am particular about cookies, but I think these are infinitely tastier than the regular kind.  Sorry, Grandpa!

Chocolate Almond Spritz

10 tablespoons salted butter, softened
1/2 C white sugar
1/3 C brown sugar
1/2 t almond extract
1 egg
1 1/4 C flour
1/3 C cocoa
1/4 t baking soda
1/8 t salt

Preheat oven to 375 and get out a couple of cookie sheets (do NOT grease them or use parchment paper or the dough won't come out of the cookie press properly).  Beat together butter and sugars, then beat in almond extract and egg.  Whisk together dry ingredients, and stir it into the butter mixture about 1/3 cup at a time, until everything is well combined.  Do not over mix.  Put the dough in the cookie press however the instruction manual says and pick whichever extruder disk you want.  Follow the cookie press directions to get the cookies on the cookie sheet, then decorate with sugar and sprinkles in whatever way you want and lightly press the toppings on.  Bake until set, about 10-12 minutes.  If you decorate them with crushed candy canes (yum!), don't sprinkle on the candy canes before baking!  Instead, sprinkle it on right after the cookies come out of the oven and gently press it into the tops of the cookies.  Let cool completely, then store in a tightly sealed container.

Yield:  About 72 cookies

Monday, July 22, 2013

Buttons and Bowties

My poor, neglected little blog!  I haven't forgotten about it, I just haven't really been cooking a lot of new things.  Or at least not new things that I think are worth sharing because they're either way too easy or kind of embarrassing.  We've been eating a lot of the following: Avocado toast (avocado slightly mashed on a piece of toast, with salt, lemon juice, and red pepper flakes optional).  Salad.  Baked potatoes with assorted toppings such as chili.  Steamed rice with sauteed turkey Spam, scrambled eggs, and a sprinkle of soy sauce (this would be one of the embarrassing ones, but it's good!).  None of those require recipes.

The recipe I'm sharing today is pretty brainless, too, but my poor blog was getting so lonely that I decided to post it, anyway.  It's perfect for hot days and also really yummy!  Oh and kudos to my husband for thinking of the cute name, he thought the sliced olives looked like buttons.

Buttons and Bowties (aka Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad)

1 lb bowtie pasta
2 small cans sliced black olives, drained
8 oz grape tomatoes, halved
1 large cucumber, diced large
1/4 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
3/4 C ranch dressing (can use my recipe or the kind in a jar, if you get a jar, get the good stuff from the refrigerated section!)
salt to taste

Boil the pasta in lightly salted water, be sure not to overcook it.  Drain and rinse with cold water until cool.  I usually let it sit in super cold water for a minute, drain it, then do it again a couple of times and it works well to chill the pasta.  Drain thoroughly, and add all other ingredients ONLY if it will be served immediately.  If you won't be serving it right away, I suggest leaving the tomatoes, cucumber, and bacon out and only add them when you're about to eat it because the ranch will do weird things to the veggies if left too long and the bacon will get soggy.

Yield: About 10 side portions or 6 main dishes

Friday, July 5, 2013

Slow Cooker Split Pea and Barley Soup

Okay, I realize that July is the wrong time of year to be sharing a soup recipe.  But the latter half of June was SO HOT here in Interior Alaska (as in, mid 90s- fun when you don't have air conditioning) and so far July has been so very mild by comparison, with temperatures in the 60s-70s.

I like soup in general, but split pea is among my favorites and always has been.  Peas are my favorite veggie, maybe that's why.  It's also a major comfort food for me, maybe because my mom made it just for me for holidays when I was vegan as a teenager.  Usually I make mine the same way- split peas, broth of some variety (can be chicken or veggie), onion, garlic, carrots, potato, rosemary, and bay leaf.  I don't use a specific amount of anything, just start tossing things into the crock pot and it always turns out perfectly.

This time though I wanted to try split pea and barley soup.  We were in Washington visiting family last month and I tried this soup at the California Pizza Kitchen and loved it.  Found a copycat recipe last night, fiddled with it a bit, and was able to toss all the ingredients together in 10 minutes this morning before leaving for work.  Came home 5 hours later to the best lunch you could hope for!  To my delight, it needed no further tweaking at all.  Just split pea and barley perfection.  The lemon seemed like a rather odd ingredient, but brightens the flavors just a bit and was very nice.  Can't say for sure whether it tastes just like the restaurant version, but I loved it.

The original recipe is here, I streamlined the recipe so it could go in the crock pot and also adjusted it according to my tastes and what I had.  Feel free to add diced carrots, the only reason I didn't do this was because I wanted it to be different from my regular recipe and I didn't want to mess with chopping things up this morning.  Since I use frozen diced onion (can't stand cutting them up myself!) and jarred minced garlic, I didn't have to chop or peel anything!

Split Pea and Barley Soup

8 C veggie or chicken broth
3 C water
1 lb dried split peas
1 C barley
about 1 1/2 C diced onion (I used half of a 12 oz bag of frozen diced onions)
3 cloves minced garlic
1/2 t black pepper
1 1/2 t dried summer savory
1 T sugar
salt to taste (I used a full tablespoon)
2 T lemon juice

Stir everything together in a 6 quart slow cooker.  Cook on low until peas and barley are tender, which took 5 hours in my slow cooker.

Yield: about 10 servings

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Sour Cream Fruit Dip

Usually we have fruit plain, but sometimes it's nice to make it a bit more special with a sweet dip!  My mom has been making this one for as long as I can remember.  It's super easy and definitely my favorite.  A bit tart, brown sugar sweet, and the cinnamon pleases my cinnamon loving soul.  Over the years I've had it with basically every kind of fruit you can imagine and it always tastes good!

You can change the recipe around by altering the sour cream.  You could try light sour cream, greek yogurt, a mixture of whipped cream and sour cream, or a mixture of sour cream and cream cheese if you want it thicker.  Also, the amount of brown sugar you use is completely up to you.  I tend to go kind of heavy on the sugar but you don't have to!  I'll bet a few drops of vanilla extract would be really nice, too!  Point is, you can't go wrong with this dip recipe and feel free to make it your own.

Sorry about the lack of a picture!  I meant to take one but it was all gone by the time I got around to it!  Will try to remember next time.

Sour Cream Fruit Dip

1 C sour cream
1/2 C brown sugar (you may want to start with 1/4 C and add more if you think it needs it)
1/2 t cinnamon

Stir everything together in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for an hour or so before using if possible so the brown sugar can dissolve.  Serve with any kind of fruit!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Slow Cooker Potato Leek Soup

This is one of our favorite soups and the one I've been making the longest.  I first had it when I lived in Austria, my host brother made it and it was so good!  My husband was skeptical the first time I made it for him (about 6 years ago when we were dating), but he's become extremely fond of it as well.  Usually I make him chicken noodle soup if he's sick, but he said next time he has a cold, he wants this one!  It's also just perfect for a cold day, and sad to say it but halfway through April we still have a thick blanket of snow on the ground.  The original version has caraway and I'm not a big fan of it usually, but it is perfect in this soup.  It's also pretty perfect without the caraway so you can't go wrong either way! 
In the past I always made it on the stove, but it occurred to me that it should be just fine in the slow cooker, and I was right!  It's hardly difficult to make on the stove, but you have to stir it a lot as the potatoes cook so it doesn't burn, and the slow cooker makes that unnecessary.  If you do want to make it on the stove, just simmer everything but the sour cream in a big pot for about 2 hours, stirring every few minutes, especially towards the end.  You might need to add a bit more water or broth if some cooks off.  When it's finished, you may or may not need to use a potato masher (the stirring action tends to break down the potatoes).  Remove the soup from the stove and add the sour cream like the recipe says, then serve.

Slow Cooker Potato Leek Soup
1 large leek, quartered and sliced (white and beginning of green part only)
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 1/2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and diced
8 C chicken broth
1/4 t black pepper
salt to taste, I ended up using a full tablespoon
optional: 1/4 t caraway seeds
2 C sour cream

Mix together everything but sour cream in a 6 quart slow cooker.  Cook on low about 8 hours or until potatoes are very tender and breaking apart.  Mash slightly with potato masher so only some chunks remain.  Stir in sour cream until completely incorporated, being careful not to allow the soup to boil.  Remove from heat and serve.  Soup reheats very well in the microwave, too!

Yield: about 10 servings

Monday, March 25, 2013

Dreamy Baked Ziti

I've tried several recipes for Baked Ziti in the past and none have been remarkable.  Not bad by any means- how can pasta, tomato sauce, and cheese be bad?- but forgettable.  Until tonight!  Last week I came upon this recipe at Mel's Kitchen Cafe (it's originally from Cook's Illustrated Magazine) and I just knew we would love it.  Turns out I was absolutely right!  It's nice and creamy (but not too creamy) and the herbed tomato sauce goes with it perfectly.  The melted, golden cheese on top is the crowning glory.  If you are like us and love the pasta, tomato sauce, and cheese combo, definitely give this recipe a try!  And just as nice is the fact that this recipe is pretty quick and easy to get going, only about half an hour of prep time before it slides into the oven.  My search for a fantastic Baked Ziti recipe is definitely over and I can't wait to make this for my in-laws when they visit next!

Quick note: I've both tweaked and simplified this recipe a bit.  Basically, I commit the cardinal sin among parmesan cheese and just use a container of shaved parmesan.  Also, instead of cooking the cream with the cornstarch to thicken it, I just stir both ingredients in with the cottage cheese mixture and it ends up thickening perfectly in the oven.  Saves time and dishes!  Oh and if you're leery of the cottage cheese, don't be- it's very good in this dish and apparently Cook's Illustrated baked a version with ricotta but discovered that the ricotta dried it out.

Dreamy Baked Ziti

1 lb ziti or rigatoni
2 T olive oil
5 cloves minced garlic
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
15 oz tomato sauce
1 t dried oregano
1 T dried basil
1/2 t black pepper
1 t sugar
1 t salt (or to taste)
1 lb cottage cheese
2 eggs
1 C cream
6 oz oz grated or shaved parmesan, divided
8 oz cubed mozzarella cheese, divided
1 t cornstarch
1 t salt
1 t dried parsley

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9 by 13 pan and a piece of aluminum foil.  Cook pasta in salted water until almost tender.  It will continue cooking in the oven.  While pasta cooks, heat olive oil over medium and saute garlic until golden.  Stir in tomatoes, oregano, basil, pepper, and sugar, reduce heat, and simmer about 10 minutes.  Add salt to taste.  While pasta and sauce cooks, stir together all other ingredients except for half of the parmesan and half of the mozzarella cubes.  When pasta has finished cooking, drain and then stir in cottage cheese mixture and about 1 cup of the tomato sauce.  Spread pasta mixture in baking dish and top with remaining tomato sauce, spread to cover.  Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cubes and parmesan and cover with aluminum foil.  Bake 30 minutes, remove foil, and bake 30 minutes longer or until nicely golden and bubbly.

Yield: About 10 servings

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Shrimp Egg Foo Young

SHE LIVES!  Sorry about the long hiatus.  I started a new job in January and have been pretty busy with that so haven't been cooking a lot of new recipes.  Several times I did refer to the blog though for recipes I've already made so I could make them again!  Hopefully I am out of my cooking slump though.  Last night I spent a solid couple hours looking at new recipes and am all excited to try them out.

To kick things off, here is a recipe I made for dinner last night.  Egg foo young.  A couple of weeks ago my in-laws took us to a nice Chinese restaurant to celebrate our birthdays (which are a week apart) and I ordered a combination plate that had egg foo young on it.  Had never had it before, but it sure was good, so I decided to try it at home!  The recipe I made is loosely based on this one from AllRecipes.  Had to tweak it a bit based on availability of ingredients and so it would suit our tastes better, but it turned out REALLY well and I will definitely make it again.

Oh and I served this with brown rice.  I'd never actually cooked brown rice, but found out you could bake it so decided to give it a try!  Worked PERFECTLY and it turns out we both really like brown rice, so I plan to make it frequently now.  I just followed Alton Brown's recipe, which you can find here.  My only suggestion is to cut back on the salt a tad if you're going to serve it with something salty like Chinese food, and the butter is probably unnecessary.  Also I haven't tried it yet, but apparently you can double the recipe and bake it in a 9 by 13 pan if you want a whole lot of brown rice!

Quick note:  I cooked the Egg Foo Young as one big omelet in the pan to save time, but you could cook it in smaller amounts like pancakes so they're round.

Shrimp Egg Foo Young

about a tablespoon vegetable oil, divided
1/2 lb shredded cabbage (I used the shredded cabbage and carrots in a bag for coleslaw)
1 clove garlic, minced
5 eggs
1 C frozen cooked baby shrimp, thawed
1/3 C thinly sliced green onion
1/4 t salt
1 T soy sauce
2 t sesame oil

1 1/2 C chicken broth
1 T sugar
1 1/2 T soy sauce
1 T white vinegar
1 1/2 T cornstarch
2 T cold water

Heat about a teaspoon of oil in a 10 inch skillet over medium-high heat.  Add shredded cabbage and garlic and cook just until it starts to wilt.  Set aside to cool.  In a separate bowl, beat eggs, then add in remaining Egg Foo Young ingredients.  Add cabbage mixture once it has cooled.  Stir well to combine.  Heat remaining 2 t oil in skillet over medium (don't want it too hot), then pour in mixture.  Let it cook until it's nicely set on the bottom and sides, about 4 minutes, then cut the round into quarters with a spatula and carefully flip each quarter over.  Cook until lightly browned on the other side and completely set, about 2 more minutes.  Remove Egg Foo Young to a plate and keep warm in an oven set to 200 while you make the sauce.

To make the sauce, rinse out the skillet or use a saucepan.  Add all ingredients except cornstarch and cold water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Stir together cornstarch and water in a small bowl until smooth.  Once liquid comes to a boil, reduce heat a little, then whisk in cornstarch mixture and cook until thickened and clear, which should only take a minute or so.  Serve over Egg Foo Young and rice.

Yield: 4 dinner sized servings

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Tuesday's with Dorie: Pizza Dough

Okay, okay, so I really only made half of this week's Tuesday's with Dorie recipe, which is supposed to be Pizza with Onion Confit (can find the recipe here at The Boy Can Bake).  I didn't make the onion confit, which sounded very interesting, because my husband was horrified by the idea of topping a pizza with so many onions, and I envisioned my house reeking of onions for the next 3 months.  So I decided to make a different kind of pizza, though the dough recipe was followed straight from the book.  Sorry, Dorie and Julia!

The verdict: Pretty good!  Easy to make, easy to work with, tender, soft.  Definitely not a chewy crust (which may or may not be good, depending on your own tastes!), not heavy or dense, and not too breadlike, which is good.  Not especially remarkable though, and no better than my regular pizza dough recipe but takes longer to make since first you make a sponge, let it rise an hour and a half, then make the dough, and let that rise for an hour and a half.  Don't think I'll be making this one again, but we ate it happily and the other half of the dough will be enjoyed later, too.

I made my dough into a good ol' pepperoni and olive pizza, which is our default.  Used my pizza sauce recipe and baked it on my cast iron pizza pan.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Salad Stuffed Shells

I came across this recipe on AllRecipes the other day and had to make it right away!  What a clever idea, spooning chopped salad into large pasta shells.  It's also quick to make and pretty healthy.  These would make a great lunch or summer dinner, but I didn't want to wait that long and anyway it was in the 20s here today which is practically summer, right?

This is more of an idea than an actual recipe.  Make your favorite salad (with the salad and other ingredients chopped up), add dressing, and stuff it into pasta shells.  Feel free to follow this recipe, but you can really put in whatever you want!  Oh and if you decide you want leftovers, you can mix up the salad part on the first day, just make sure to only add the dressing to the portion you plan to serve right then.

Salad Stuffed Shells

20 large pasta shells (I suggest just cooking the entire 12 oz box since some will undoubtedly tear)
1/2 of a 10 oz bag pre-washed lettuce, chopped into slightly smaller than bite size pieces
1/2 cucumber, chopped
1 C cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered depending on size
1 C cooked, shredded, and cooled chicken
1 small can sliced black olives, drained
caesar salad dressing to taste (this recipe is our favorite, or you can use bottled)
6 T grated parmesan, divided

Cook pasta shells in a large pot of salted water, then drain and rinse thoroughly with cold water until shells are cold.  Drain well, then blot each shell dry.

While pasta cooks, combine salad ingredients, dressing, and 2 T of the parmesan.  When shells are ready, spoon some of the salad mixture into each one.  Arrange on plates and sprinkle with remaining parmesan.

Yield: 4 or 5 dinner sized servings