Friday, August 29, 2008

Pizza tricks

When I was growing up, Friday night was always pizza night. Its something we often have if we are home on Friday nights. Lately I've been trying to perfect my homemade pizza making technique. I love very thin, kind of crusty and chewy pizza with a minimal amount of toppings.I have recipes to make dough and I'm sure someday I'll do that more. For right now, I just pick it up at the gourmet grocery store that is on my way home from work. I don't use a pizza stone (cause I don't have one and also because I prefer it cooked on a cookie sheet). Here are my tricks I've learned along the way.

1) Grease the cookie sheet with PAM. I haven't always done this, but it helps
2) Turn the oven up as high as it can stand. I do this in an effort to recreate the woodfire pizza style of pizza. It cooks the pizza quicker and gives it a chewier crust and gets the cheese all golden-y
3) When heating the oven, place an oven safe casserole dish full of water in the oven and leave it in while cooking the pizza. This also adds to the woodfire pizza effect by adding steam, similar to how big sourdough loaves are baked. Its really makes a difference in the crust.
4) Brush olive oil on the crust before putting on the pizza sauce. I've tried olive oil on top and it just doesn't work
5) Use very little sauce (like 1/3 cup or two good sizes spoonfuls)
6) Grind fresh pepper on top of the made pizza
I wish I knew how to jeep basil from getting scorched when I make margherita pizza. Maybe I need to put it on later in the cooking process. What are your pizza tips?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Chicken Scampi

This one of my favorite go-to recipes. Its so easy. Its not necessarily low in fat, but its worth the calories.

Chicken Scampi
1/2 C butter
1/4 C olive oil
1/4 C finely chopped green onions
1T minced garlic
juice of 1 lemon
2 lbs boneless, chicken breasts, cut in 1/2 inch cubes
1 t salt
1/4 t black pepper
1/4 C minced parsley
1 tomato, chopped
noodles or cooked rice

In skillet, heat together butter and olive oil and saute green onions and garlic. Add lemon juice, chicken, salt, pepper and parsley. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, for 5-8 minutes or chicken is done. Add tomatoes and heat through. Serve over noodles or rice (I usually do thin spaghetti.)

I got this recipe from my grandma and mom, who got it from this cook book. I've found Junior League cookbooks to be some of my favorites, and great if you want to cook by regional cuisine.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tailgating food?

Anyone have any good tailgating recipes or ideas? The college football season starts for us on August 30th (say what!). We have grills and coolers, and in the past have done BBQ chicken sandwiches, brats, hot dogs, Barry's awesome breakfast casserole (Laura's husband makes it), chili, chicken kebabs, taco dip, etc.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Pork Chop Recipes?

Pork, it's what's for dinner tonight at my house...any good recipes so I can try something new?

Mmmmm, Caprese!

Is there anything better than Caprese salad in the summer? I don't think so and in fact, we've been having them two or three times a week. Gotta love the fresh basil plant we bought at the farmer's market and the deal on Mozzarella at Costco!

Photo courtesy of

Crunchy Avocado Salad

I know I'm not the only one who loves avocados! While cleaning the kitchen the other day after a long weekend of guests, I turned on the Food Network and saw Bobby Flay putting together this salad. It looked really good even though the combination of foods seems a little odd to me. Let me know if you try it!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Fresh (& easy!) Peach Crisp


1/2 c. rolled oats
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 c. butter
10 med. peaches or 5 large
fresh lemon juice and zest

In mixing bowl combine oats, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Peel and core peaches- then slice and put into a baking dish. Squeeze half fresh lemon over peaches and add a bit of lemon zest to taste. Sprinkle oat mixture on top of fruit and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Banana bread

This is one of my all-time favorite recipes from my childhood.

Banana Bread
2/3 C butter (2/3 C=10 1/2 T)
1 2/3 C sugar
3 eggs
1 1/4 C mashed bananas (6 or 7)
2 1/4 C flour
1 1/4 t baking powder
1 1/4 t baking soda
1 t salt
2/3 C buttermilk (I use dry buttermilk)
2/3 C nuts (I skip the nuts)

Cream butter and sugar. Blend in eggs. Add bananas and mix well (I mash with a hand mixer). I always use very ripe, dark skinned bananas that I freeze until I'm ready to use them.

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. I also add a liberal amount of cinnamon, nutmeg and ground cloves. If using dry buttermilk, you can add that to the dry ingredients and just use water in the next step.

Add dry mixture to flour, alternating with buttermilk. Stir in nuts if using. Pour into greased angel food pan (my mom's way) or bundt pan (my way). Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes.

This recipe freezes very well and travels well if you are visiting someone. We had it this weekend when we had out of town guests. YUM.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Perfect Summer Drink

Thank you Amanda! I've managed to make both the white and red sangria recipes you sent this weekend -- both are a party pleasers!

Since I didn't have all the fruit and/or items from the original recipes -- below are my altered versions.

White Sangria
bottle white wine (I used a cafe Zin)
1 lemon, 1 lime, cut into wedges
1 cup sliced strawberries
1/2 container of blueberries
bunch of green and red grapes halved
2 peaches pitted and sliced (my favorite fruit in this drink!)
2-3 cups ginger ale (to taste)
frozen lemonade concentrate
approx 1 cup brandy

Red Sangria
bottle red wine (I used a Shiraz - YellowTail)
1 lemon, 1 lime, cut into wedges
1 cup sliced strawberries
1/2 container of blueberries
bunch of green and red grapes halved
2 peaches pitted and sliced (my favorite fruit in this drink!)
2-3 cups ginger ale (to taste)
frozen OJ concentrate
approx 1 cup brandy
approx 1/2 cup triple sec

Be sure to let the sangria sit for awhile in the fridge before serving. And, to be completely honest -- you can reuse the fruit. I quickly ran out of the white sangria, so I made up a batch of the red with some of the remaining white sangria fruit. Honestly, anything goes with this tasty drink.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Oriental Salad

This is one of my favorite recipes from my mom. It's great any time of year -- but it especially hits the spot during the summer months.

1 bag of Cabbage
1 bunch of green onions
1 package of shaved almonds (2 1/4 oz)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 teaspoon Accent
2 packages Ramon not use the seasoning included in the package
Crush the bag of Ramon noodles

Mix all the above together in a large bowl

Mix together:
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons white vinegar
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
6 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon salt
Whisk well together and pour over cabbage and toss well. I also add a bit more rice vinegar to rinse out the bowl.

Chill and serve.

Strawberry Cheesecake Trifle

I was looking for a fancy, delicious treat to share with friends and family. This one sealed the deal - so quick and easy. And, oh so tasty. It's hard to belive -- but if there is any left over -- it's actually better the next day!

2 quarts strawberries, sliced
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons almond extract
2--8 ounce blocks cream cheese, softened
1 C. sour cream
2 C. powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
1/4 t. almond extract
16 ounce tub whipped topping or 1 pint cream, whipped (I've used strawberry whipped topping -- equally delicious)
1 large angel food or pound cake, torn into pieces (I prefer angel foo)
Preparation:Set aside some berries for garnish. Mix rest with sugar and almond extract. Set aside. Mix cream cheese, sour cream, powdered sugar, vanilla and almond extract. Fold in whipped cream.
In a trifle bowl: 1/2 cake, 1/2 berries, 1/2 cream cheese mixture, repeat layers. Garnish with remaining berries. Refrigerate.

Refrigerator Pickles

Just idea for a summer treat!

2 C Sugar
1 C Vinegar
1 T Celery Seed
1 T Salt
9 C Sliced Cucumbers
Sliced Onion (optional)
Sliced Green Pepper (optional)

This mix keeps in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.

This week in meals

I have a confession to make. A large part of why I wanted to start a food blog is so I could better plan and manage the meals I make. Its really been working and this week I was quite proud of the planning and meal making that went on in our household. I know it sounds silly, but with all of the other things going in my life, I really needed to eliminate stress when it came to eats.

Here's what we had this week:
Saturday-BLTs for lunch, chicken gyros with tzatziki sauce, spinach squares and red grapes
Sunday-state fair (and Foreigner concert) fried pickles, cheese curds and nitro ice cream
Monday-Anthony grilled a steak, salad with balsamic vinegar dressing + a peach, leftover spinach squares and yogurt (the fair filled me up the night before)
Tuesday-turkey burgers on grilled country wheat bread (I used leftover tzatziki on mine), locally grown summer squash and zucchini sauteed with olive oil, onion, salt and pepper
Wednesday-slow roasted pork tenderloin rubbed with olive oil, sea salt, garlic and thyme, red grapes and Barefoot Contessa's vegetable slaw

All of these recipes were way easy and very tasty. I relied heavily on my Joy of Cooking cookbook this week, which is good for basics to expand on.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Carnivale's Mojito Recipe

For the drinkers of the group...

I went to a mojito class last night at a Cuban/Latino restaurant here in Chicago called Carnivale: Supposedly they have been voted as having the best mojitos in town- now we can all be the judge!

For the seasonal fruit variety, we had a blueberry one and it was delish- perfect blend of sour and sweet!

8-10 mint leaves (remove stems)
1/2 lime quartered
1.5 oz. white rum
1 oz. simple syrup (use equal parts sugar & warm water- simmer until sugar dissolves)
club soda

In a highball glass, muddle limes and mint, then add rum and simple syrup.
Fill glass to top with ice and top off with club soda.
Pour all ingredients into a shaker and back into the highball glass. Serve with a straw and ENJOY!

For seasonal fruit flavored mojitos, use recipe as noted above but only use 1/2 oz of simple syrup and 1 oz. of fresh fruit puree (to be added before rum and simple syrup).

To make fresh fruit puree, stew your desired fruit over low heat with a bit of water. Once fruit is soft, drain any remaining water and blend into a syrup.

Vegetable Slaw

I had no idea there was a Barefoot Contessa web site with recipes! I made this last night from the Barefoot Contessa at Home cookbook. I cheated and used a bag of pre-cut slaw, and I halved the dressing recipe since the bag was a 1lb bag and it was just the two of us. Very tasty!

Vegetable Coleslaw (serves 8 to 10)
1 pound white cabbage (1/2 small head)
3/4 pound red cabbage (1/2 small head)
5 carrots
2 cups good mayonnaise
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons celery seeds
1 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Fit a food processor with the thickest slicing blade. Cut the cabbages into small wedges and place horizontally into the feed tube. Process in batches. Next, fit the food processor with the grating blade. Cut the carrots in half and place in the feed tube so they are lying on their sides. Process in batches and mix in a bowl with the grated cabbages.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, sugar, vinegar, celery seeds, celery salt, salt, and pepper. Pour enough of the dressing over the grated vegetables to moisten them. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Placing the vegetables horizontally in the food processor ensures long shreds.The vegetables can be grated a day ahead and stored, wrapped in plastic, in the refrigerator. Keep the red cabbage separate, or it will turn the other vegetables pink.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What is your Favorite Seasoning?

This is mine. I use it on everything...well, maybe not everything but a lot of things. What's your favorite seasoning?

Image courtesy of

Monday, August 11, 2008

Food substitution resource

I always call my mom when I have food substitution questions, but on Saturday I found this handy web site, called Cook's Thesaurus. I was make Camby's spinach squares and wanted to make sure I knew what would be a good brick cheese substitute if my grocery store didn't have it (they did).

Not only did I get the history of brick cheese, it also listed several substitutes. I love the internet (and the squares were delish!)

Nutella Ice Cream for Camby

Found this on a blog I read. Don't know if you guys have an ice cream maker, but thought I'd share...

Chocolate Hazelnut Gelato
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar, plus 1/4 cup
4 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread (recommended: Nutella)
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, crushed, for garnish

In a saucepan combine the milk, cream, and 1/2 cup sugar over medium heat. Cook until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl whip the egg yolks with the remaining sugar using an electric mixer until the eggs have become thick and pale yellow, about 4 minutes. Pour 1/2 cup of the warm milk and cream mixture into the egg mixture and stir. Add this mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over very low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture becomes thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 7 to 10 minutes.

Place a strainer over a medium bowl and pour the warm custard mixture through the strainer. Stir in the vanilla and hazelnut spread until it dissolves. Chill mixture completely before pouring into an ice cream maker and follow manufacturer's instructions to freeze. To serve, scoop gelato into serving bowls and top with hazelnuts.

Does cilantro taste like soap to you?

I read this article about cilantro the other day and thought it was very interesting. I never had any idea that cilantro tastes like soap or metal to some people! I guess I think of it like onions. I love the taste it adds, but I'm non-plussed by the actual vegetable itself. For me cilantro is what makes guacamole and fresh salsa so yummy, but I hate the smell of it and I don't like it when its on noodles.Read the article here. How about you ladies?

Photo from

Saturday, August 9, 2008


All this talk of Greek food makes me want to make something Greek this weekend. Will you ladies share your some recipes? We'll be doing chicken this week(end).

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Easy and Healthy Dessert

I absolutely love fresh pineapple and could eat it everyday. So when some friends of the family had us over for dinner one night and dessert was a pineapple cake, I was excited to get the recipe. It turns out though there was no need to even write the recipe down because it is so simple.

Mix together one box of Angel food cake mix and one can of crushed pineapple. Bake in cake pan for 30 minuntes at 350 degrees.

You can then add a dollup of whip cream to the top of each serving for an easy light dessert. Strawberries would be great on top as well!

Summer = Mexican Food

While I love mexican food year round, I especially love it in the summer. Tonight I am trying a new super easy recipe because we bought a flank steak and I don't think I've ever cooked one before.

Shredded Beef for Fajitas
Flank Steak (You could also use chicken)
1 Sliced Onion
I Jar of Salsa
Fresh Cilantro

Cook all ingredients in a crockpit on low for 6 to 8 hours. Use forks to shred beef and enjoy with other fajita fixin's.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Corn Fritters

I just picked up some more corn at the market and found this recipe that I'm going to try tonight- I'll let you know how they are!

Corn and Shiitake Fritters
Sweet corn kernels take two different forms in these crispy cakes. Half the corn is pureed into the batter; the other half is sautéed with shiitake and onion to give the fritters crunch. Servings: 4 side-dish servings

· 3 ears of corn, shucked
· 1 large egg
· 1/4 cup milk
· 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
· 3 large shiitake mushrooms (2 ounces), stems discarded and caps cut into 1/2-inch dice
· 1/4 cup diced sweet onion
· 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
· 1 teaspoon baking powder
· 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
· 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

· Cut the corn kernels from the cobs and transfer half of them to a blender. Using the dull side of a knife, scrape the pulp from the cobs into the blender. Add the egg and milk; puree until smooth.

· In a very large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the shiitake and onion and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining corn and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Scrape the mixture onto a plate and freeze just until no longer hot, about 5 minutes.

· In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. Stir in the puree, then fold in the corn kernels, shiitake and onion.

· Wipe out the skillet and add the remaining 1/2 cup of oil. When it is hot, add eight level 1/4-cup mounds of batter to the skillet and spread them to a 1/2-inch thickness. Fry over moderately high heat, turning once, until the fritters are golden and crusty, about 4 minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve warm.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches

On Saturday I made chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches-it was definitely an exercise in trial and error, but a tasty one.

I made chocolate chip cookies (Nestle tollhouse recipe of course). Then I softened some Breyer's real vanilla ice cream and spread it on one cookie and put another one on top. I put them directly in the freezer and then wrapped them in parchment paper later. Things I learned for next time:

1) Totally freeze the cookies before adding ice cream. I made the mistake of using cooled, but not chilled or frozen cookies. The kitchen was still hot from the oven and even thought I threw them right in freezer, the ice cream melted all over the sandwiches.
2) Use a more generic vanilla ice cream. The real vanilla ice cream competed with the cookie a bit too much for my taste.
3) Make smaller cookies. This will be hard for me because I'm super lazy and make big cookies.
4) Use butcher paper to wrap the sandwiches. Nothing sticks to parchment paper, not even packing tape.

Photo from

Potlatch seasoning

Okay ladies, we are venturing into cooking salmon tonight. I was originally going to do a recipe from my sister-in-law Colleen (salmon in foil with ginger, soy sauce, butter, green onions and pea pods) that I will just have to try another time. We doing it on cedar planks on the grill, with this yummy Potlatch seasoning from Williams-Sonoma. So good

Wishing Tree Wine

Well, the dinner party on Saturday turned out great. Along with the things I mentioned earlier we ended up making some Greek Chicken Kebabs so we had one meat option and then we made some Greek vegetarian stuffed peppers that were really good and pretty too since we used all colors of peppers! I meant to take a picture to post but completely forgot in all of the chaos of getting ready.

Some of our guests brought us a delicous bottle of wine so I wanted to share since I'm always searching out wine and just pretty much look for cute labels! It is Wishing Tree Unoaked Chardonay 2006. I won't even begin to try to explain it but you can read about it here.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Steak Fajita Marinade

My mom got this recipe for steak fajitas from a restaurant she used to go to when my grandparents lived in Texas. It's delish!

2lbs Skirt Steak
1/2 cup Italian Dressing
1/2 cup Soy Sauce
1/2 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1/3 cup Worcestershire Sauce
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 Lime

Marinate overnight and then grill up for a yummy Southwestern specialty!

Friday, August 1, 2008


I'm making sangria for a shower/bachelorette party tomorrow night at my house and have bought strawberries, blueberries, and peaches for the fruit. I'm wondering if anyone has any expertise on the idea of soaking the fruit in the wine overnight? Most of the recipes recommend this but I'm wondering if that would be okay to do considering the types of fruit I'm using. I'm imaging the strawberries getting all slimy and gross from being chopped up...but maybe not. Any thoughts?