Thursday, September 30, 2010

Double Take: Stuffed Peppers

When I was little, I remember my mom occasionally made stuffed peppers as side for supper. I remember they had beef in them, and lots of other items but I have no idea what. I do remember that I really liked them and was excited when they showed up on the table. When I asked my dad about them, he remembers that the stuffed peppers were stuffed with either a meatloaf type mixture and that his mamaw made them as a way to use up leftovers. (The shocking part to me is the existence of leftovers when she had 12 kids! Oy.) My mamaw said sometimes it was a meatloaf mixture inside and others could be a mixture in mashed potatoes. All these variations made me curious. As a results, you can expect to see some variations of stuffed peppers in upcoming posts. This week, Mel and I decided to show you a couple types of stuffed peppers that we tried. Our recipes were selected separately so be sure to stop by Mel's blog to see which variation she tested.


For my selection, I wasn't sure what I was looking for in terms of flavor. After flipping through some recipes that failed to excite me, I cam across a sort of Italian flavored stuffed pepper. I couldn't help but modify it a little.

Italian Style Stuffed Pepper (adapted from All Recipes post )

4 bell peppers
1/2 Tbsp butter
1/2 Tbsp olive oil (I used Greek extra virgin olive oil)
1/2 c. chopped onion
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes with basil and oregano
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
3 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp salt, divided
1/4 tsp black pepper, divided
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
3/4 lb ground beef
3/4 c. cooked jasmine rice (just use whatever rice you like)

1. First make the rice and let it cool. I say this mainly for those like me who start the recipe and on occasion (due to excitement, hunger, what have you) might not notice the rice needs to be cooked ahead of time. I make rice with half the amount of final rice measured and 3 times the amount of water as measured rice. Make it whatever way works for you.

2. Cut the tops off of all the peppers. Then remove the seeds and whitish membranes. Chop up the edible parts of the tops and place in a bowl with the chopped onions. Rinse the peppers under cold water. Place them in a pot and cover them with salted water. Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer (while covered) for 5 minutes. Carefully remove the peppers, dumping the water out of each before lifting them from the pot to prevent them from tearing. (I recommend using tongs.) Set the peppers aside for later.

3. Heat olive oil and butter in a skillet on medium heat until hot. (Why both kinds of fat? Butter gives a nice flavor but olive oil can handle a higher temperature. This way you get the benefit of the flavor and the oil remains longer for the cooking process.) Toss in the chopped green pepper and celery and saute for about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, garlic, oregano, basil, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes.

4. In a mixing bowl, combine egg with the other 1/2 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir and add ground beef, cooked rice and 1 c. of the tomato mixture. Mix well. Fill the peppers with the meat blend and set the peppers into an 8x8 baking dish. Pour the rest of the tomato mixture over and around the peppers. Bake at 350 F for about an hour.

My Reaction: The Italian flavor was more pronounced than I expected. It was like eating somewhat of a lasagna flavor with textures of rice, beef, and pepper. The presence of the pepper components in contrast to pasta was surprising but good. I tried melting a little cheese on top of one pepper but it didn't do anything for it. If you'd like a good Italianesque pepper, I'd recommend giving this one a try.

After eating it, I found myself wanting a spicy stuffed pepper with a more Tex-Mex Southwester flavor. My next pepper will definitely be spiced up a bit. :) Don't forget to see how Mel's peppers turned out.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Daring Baker's Challenge: Decorated Sugar Cookies

The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

At first glance, I thought, sugar cookies? Really? Growing up we made versions of sugar cookies every Christmas. The ones my mom made with us were from an old recipe called Norwegian Butter Cremes.  As kids, we loved punching out angels, gingerbread men, and Christmas trees and decorating them with sprinkles and colored sugar. We also liked the taste of the cookies but I think it was mostly because we made them together. Later, when in undergrad, my friend and roommate (til she got married), Holly, made sugar cookies that had a great flavor. The toughest challenge with her recipe was that the cookies grow a lot in the oven so intricate cookie cutter designs didn't work well with them. That didn't stop us from enjoying them though. In fact, I've had a lot of fun making and decorating Holly's sugar cookies with elementary aged kids that I have babysat.

This month's challenge was different from the sugar cookies I'd made in the past. For one thing, the sugar cookie recipe she listed was required to be used. For another, Mandy challenged us to mix up royal icing and decorate the cookies along a theme of whatever made us think of September. Football, back to school, fall leaves, and apples all floated in my head and back out again. I wanted something more distinct. A conversation with my sister led me to the theme of these cookies. She was telling me about changes in our local fair dates back home. (Side note: I love our local fair. As far as I'm concerned the Appalachain Fair is as good as it gets. There are livestock shows, cooking demonstrations, loads of music (of all sorts), fair rides, fair food ...including brown beans and cornbread. There's a wildlife museum complete with an indoor cave with live animals in their habitat ...snakes, lizards, frogs, etc and a waterfall in the cave! There's also the St. Jude's ducklings playing on their waterslide and in a pond and baby chicks! There's more but I'm really digressing. I love our fair though and have a lot of great memories from it.)

Suffice it to say, thinking about the fair settled a fair theme in my head for September's cookies. The next question I had could I show other people the fair in cookies? Most pople think of ferris wheels when they think of fairs. I started contemplating how to make something that looked like a ferris wheel. A hexagon maybe....with something to mark the seats? What else is at the fair? The pie baking contest! It wouldn't be too tough to make cookies that looked like pies. Animals were a must! I was on my way. I knew I was going home to visit my sister so I asked her if she'd want to make some fair cookies togther. She thought it sounded fun and reminded me that she had tons of cookie cutters!

The Fair!

We started out with the basic sugar cookies recipe provided. To add some flavor, I included 1.5 Tbsp cocoa and 1 Tbsp hazelnut instant coffee.  Here's the basic recipe:

Basic Sugar Cookies:
Makes approximately 36 x 10cm / 4 inch cookies
200g / 7oz / ½ cup + 6 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
400g / 14oz / 3 cups + 3 Tbsp All Purpose / Plain Flour
200g / 7oz / 1 cup Caster Sugar / Superfine Sugar
1 Large Egg, lightly beaten
5ml / 1 tsp Vanilla Extract / Or seeds from 1 vanilla bean

Cream together the butter, sugar and any flavourings you’re using. Beat until just becoming creamy in
Tip: Don’t over mix otherwise you’ll incorporate too much air and the cookies will spread during baking, losing their
Beat in the egg until well combined, make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add the sifted flour and mix on low until a non sticky dough forms.
Tip: I don’t have a stand mixer so I find it easier to switch to dough hooks at this stage to avoid flour flying
Knead into a ball and divide into 2 or 3 pieces.
Roll out each portion between parchment paper to a thickness of about 5mm/1/5 inch (0.2 inch)
Refrigerate for a minimum of 30mins.
Tip: Recipes commonly just wrap the whole ball of dough in clingwrap and then refrigerate it for an hour or
overnight, but by rolling the dough between parchment, this shortens the chilling time and then it’s also been rolled
out while still soft making it easier and quicker.
Once chilled, peel off parchment and place dough on a lightly floured surface.
Cut out shapes with cookie cutters or a sharp knife.
Arrange shapes on parchment lined baking sheets and refrigerate for another 30mins to an hour.
Tip: It’s very important you chill them again otherwise they’ll spread while baking.
Re-roll scraps and follow the above process until all scraps are used up.
Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C Fan Assisted) / 350°F / Gas Mark 4.
Bake until golden around the edges, about 8-15 mins depending on the size of the cookies.
Tip: Bake same sized cookies together otherwise mixing smaller with larger cookies could result in some cookies being
baked before others are done.
Tip: Rotate baking sheets half way through baking if your oven bakes unevenly.
Leave to cool on cooling racks.
Once completely cooled, decorate as desired.
Tip: If wrapped in tinfoil/cling wrap or kept in airtight containers in a cool place, un-decorated cookies can last up to a

Roll them out!

Put them on the pan.

These are my hand cut lilies. I wanted to see if I could make specific flowers. They have nothing to do with the fair theme.

This recipe didn't work out quite as decribed for us. No matter how long we chilled the dough, it remained a sticky, nasty mess. Our solution? When we had the dough in 2 sections, we added about 1/3 c. flour to each dough ball. In the future (if I can talk myself into it...apparently I've promised myself several times to stop fooling with the dough in the past), I would add 1/2 to 2/3 c. flour to the dough and check the texture. If it feels sticky, I'd add a little more. Our cookies baked quickly. While they baked, I started making royal icing. I started out with the recipe listed below. It tasted terrible. My mom said...tastes like royal icing to me girls, its mainly a taste of powdered sugar. When I was a little kid I loved buttercream icing. I still love a good lemon, caramel, or cream cheese based icing with a myriad of added flavors. I DO NOT like royal icing though. We needed to fix the icing so that we'd be willing to eat the cookies. I was afraid that if we added cream cheese to the icing it would become too runny to set up. I added 2 tsp of vanilla and the royal icing still wasn't good. My mom encouraged us that we had nothing to lose by adding cream cheese by little bits until it tasted ok. We wound up adding 1/4 of an 8 oz package of cream cheese. Awesomely enough, it still set up! To reduce colors, we started thinking simple. We had a would need orange. The chicken would need white, red and we could add other colors from whatever else the pallette required. The duck needed to be yellow, of course, and the cow would need black spots! The blue ribbon we made needed blue and now that we were up to 6 colors we decided to start decorating and see if other colors popped up as necessary along the way.

Royal Icing:
315g – 375g / 11oz – 13oz / 2½ - 3 cups Icing / Confectioner’s / Powdered Sugar, unsifted
2 Large Egg Whites
10ml / 2 tsp Lemon Juice
5ml / 1 tsp Almond Extract, optional

Beat egg whites with lemon juice until combined.
Tip: It’s important that the bowls/spoons/spatulas and beaters you use are thoroughly cleaned and grease
Sift the icing sugar to remove lumps and add it to the egg whites.
Tip: I’ve listed 2 amounts of icing sugar, the lesser amount is good for a flooding consistency, and the larger
amount is for outlining, but you can add even more for a much thicker consistency good for writing. If you
add too much icing sugar or would like to make a thinner consistency, add very small amounts of water, a
few drops at a time, until you reach the consistency you need.
Beat on low until combined and smooth.
Use immediately or keep in an airtight container.
Tip: Royal Icing starts to harden as soon as it’s in contact with air so make sure to cover containers with
plastic wrap while not in use.

We used multiple techniques for decorating. I know piping was encouraged so we made sure to pipe on some details. However, the smallest tip was still a bit broad. As a result, we also employed the pointy tips of toothpicks and even some mini chocolate chips to help.

Here are the final results.

Argie (my brother-in-law) loves Halloween so we had to make him a  jack-o-lantern.

FAIR with trophy, blue ribbon, and biggest pumpkin.

Duckling, duck and rooster.

Making the cherry pie
Blueberry and 2 cherry pies!

Sheep, cow, pig

Piping the ferris wheel

All the Fair stuff together. Whew!

We liked the cookies. The addition of the cocoa and hazelnut made for an interesting flavor. The addition of cream cheese to the icing made it taste good too! Sugar cookies are a lot of work when you make this many details. They were fun though overall. I'd like to have an icing recipe that piped well and was super tasty. I was ecstatic over how well the lily cookies worked. 

If anyone out there has an alternate icing, please let me know!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Double Take: Skillet Creamed Corn

I like corn....cornbread, corn on the cob, corn salsa, sometimes even corn casserole (especially Andrea's). I avoid corn syrup and typically avoid creamed corn too. My normal issue with creamed corn is the common lump formation due to corn starch. Ugh! I am willing to try things though so I tried USL's creamed corn (which didn't include corn starch). It did however, include bacon and basil. Unusual.

Rather than retype the recipe, I'm providing the link to it here. I only changed the proportions and based on my impression, it wasn't something I felt was needed to retype.

My reaction: I tried it. It was better reheated than when first out of the pan but its not my thing. I was glad I halved the recipe. I thought about tossing it but didn't want to waste the food. It was better the next day but I wouldn't make it again. In terms of why, it wasn't the texture (for a change), it was the flavor. The bacon dominated the corn and the way the recipe had the corn prepared caused it to take on a flavor that I didn't enjoy. On the other hand, the meatballs I randomly composed were good. I preferred them fresh as opposed to reheated though.

Are you curious to see what Mel thought? Find out over at Fabulously Fun Food.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Double Take: Loaded Garlic Smashed Potatoes

This recipe looked super tasty. It also looked like it fed a small army! I decided to cut it down and modify it a bit. Then I paired it with some fried chicken, peas, and cardamom rolls. Due to my ever growing consciousness of salt and the presence of high blood pressure in my family, I opted to reduce the salt...perhaps too much. Also, due to my overwhelming hunger, I skipped baking it in the oven for 10 minutes. I just couldn't wait.

Loaded Garlic Smashed Potatoes (slightly adapted from Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook)

2 garlic bulbs
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
3 bacon slices
1/2 bunch of green onions, chopped
2 lbs red potatoes
1 (8 oz) container of sour cream
3/4 c. (3 oz) shredded cheddar cheese, divided into 1/2 c. and 1/4 c.
1.5 Tbsp butter (or just go for 2 Tbsp to keep it simple)
1/8 c. milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp of pepper
Garnish : more chopped green onions

1. Cut off the pointed end of the garlic. Place the garlic in aluminum foil and drizzle with olive oil. Fold the foil to close up the garlic and place in an oven at 425 F for 40 minutes. Cool. Squeeze the pulp from the garlic and set aside. (Impatient person: Do let the garlic cool at least 5 minutes. Grab a pair of nitrile gloves and squeeze the pulp from the garlic to prevent having burnt, garlic smelling fingers.)

2. Cook the bacon in a skillet on medium heat until crisp. Cook it til its your desire doneness. I prefer it to be a deepened red color but not over done to the point of being brittle and shattering in my mouth..ugh. Place the bacon on paper towels when done to absorb some grease. Don't pitch your grease!

3. Keep 2 Tbsp of bacon grease in the skillet. Place the rest of the grease in your bacon jar (...if you have one. If you don't have one, start one!)

4. Crumble the bacon and place it back in the skillet with the green onions and cook 1 minutes until the onions are tender. Set aside the bacon and onions. (I put them in a samll bowl to save stove space.

5. Place a pot of salted water on the stove to reach a boil. While the water heats, peel potatoes...or at least wash them well and slice them into 1/4" pieces. Cook potatoes in boiling salted water for 15-20 minutes, until they become tender. Drain and place back in your warm pot.

6. Add pulp from roasted garlic, bacon/green onion mixture, sour cream, 1/2 c. cheese, butter, milk, salt and pepper.

7. Mash with a spoon, fork,. potato masher, or even a hand mixer. (Note: Some people insist on potatoes being mashed rather than whipped. Technically, the hand mixture constitutes whipping. I say, eat them how you like them. If you want them a little chunky, grab a big fork or a potato masher. That's what I did. However for those that prefer the whipped version, go for it. The most important part is that you like it!)

At this point I ate them. The actual recipe continues....

8. Spoon the potatoes into a lightly greased 8x8 pan. Sprinkle with 1/4 c. cheese and bake at 350 F for 10 minutes. Garnish with green onions if desired. (I think this would've helped the flavors meld more but I could not force myself to wait any longer!)

Review: I went lighter on the salt than I have listed above. That was an error. Cooking salt in is always going to add more flavor than if you have to add more later. I recommend not messing with the salt above. In the recipe above, I also increased the garlic from the original recipe. The flavor of the garlic was too light to be called loaded garlic smashed potatoes as written. Loaded mashed potatoes would've been a better title. Either way, it was pretty good. It still made 6 servings but its a bit challenging to reduce to a smaller portion than that. I think the mixture would make some awesome potato cakes. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to try that out due to the hecticness of life.

Final Decision:
Ruthann...not bad but could use some more flavor, especially garlic. Might've had more flavor melding if it had been baked. (She was hungry too though so we agreed to dig into them.)
Me: Where's the garlic? (The above recipe compensates for the lack of garlic flavor by doubling the garlic. :) )
We'd make it again with more garlic but there are probably better mashed potato recipes out there. I really think these would make awesome potato cakes though!

See what Mel thought by checking out Fabulously Fun Food!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

August Cooking Night: Norwegian

Potato Encrusted Halibut, Roasted Zucchini with Onions, Garlic and Rosemary,
and Cardamom Rolls

Finally posting August's cooking night. Apologies for the delay.


August in North Carolina is hot! In fact, its apparently the hottest summer on record! In January, it was so cold the Hawaiian theme seemed appropriate to break the chill. Now, we long for cooler weather. Not as cold as winter, mind you but going over a week with a broken air conditioner in 95+ degree weather is dreadful! It makes cats cry and people struggle to sleep. I'm very thankful that the A/C is fixed. In fact, we couldn't have stood the temp in the kitchen had we not had A/C.

Anyway, I have a recent curiousity with Scandinavian food. Part of this has come as a result of exposure to the PBS program, New Scandinavian Cooking. Its very fun and each season is hosted by a different chef from a different Scandinavian country. Regardless, its hot. So I thought, we could do an Alaskan cooking night or a Norwegian one. Why Norway? Mainly because I was determined to make Baked Alaska. Incidentally, this dessert is also known as a Norwegian omelet. The dessert was renamed in 1846 by a restaurant in honor of Alaskas statehood. It is supposed that the dessert was named for its general appearance looking like the icy geography of Norway. It is comprised of a cake layer at the base, a dome of ice cream on top and meringue piped all over. You freeze it, then either torch the outside with a butane torch or place it in the oven for 5 minutes on a low temperature to brown the meringue.

But I digress, it was either Norway or Alaska so I polled my friends. One friend voiced specific interest in Norway and everyone else was willing to eat whatever I came up with to prepare.

For the entree, I was thinking fish. Obvious, eh? But what kind? After a fair amount of contemplation, I recalled a Bon Appetit issue from a year or so ago in which they made potato encrusted halibut. How did I remember this random tidbit? Who knows? I guess I really liked the technique section in the back, in which they demostrated the technique. I looked for a recipe online but didn't have much luck. I went home and flipped through my issues of bon March 2009! With some modifications, we were on our way!

Now we needed vegetation...and bread. I found a fancy bread in Beard's bread called Verterkake...but he said it was difficult. I decided I had no time to practice and didn't want to ruin the bread. Option 2 for Bread's Bread was a Norwegian Whole Wheat Bread...but it couldn't hold my interest. I found cardamom buns using a google search for Norwegian breads and it piqued my interest. I waffled over the wheat bread and decided..who cares, we're making cardamom buns.

Moving on to vegetation, I began looking for Norwegian sides and vegetable recipes. I had seen a recipe for carrot soup on New Scandinavian cooking but when I mentioned it among my friends, I got some disgusted faces and only a couple interested faces. I set that aside for another time and kept looking. Norway mostly grows root vegetables. Items like cabbage, carrots, brussels sprouts, turnips...all the things many people wrinkle up their noses at and say gross! I love carrots but since I knew my friends don't (generally speaking) I needed another option. I turned to my garden produce and another friend mentioned..what about doing something with all that zucchini in your fridge? Great idea, I thought but how do I make it have a Norwegian flair? Garlic, onions and rosemary would complement the fish and would be accessible in Norway. I decided to roast zucchini with them and it'd be good to go.

Recipes ready, it was time to cook! A critical part of group cooking is timing!

Cooking Plan:

1- Start the custard for the ice cream the night before cooking night. (Time saver/Stress reducer: Could prepare ice cream earlier in the week or use store bought.)
2- Morning of cooking night, combine the custard with the cream and place in an ice cream maker for 40-60 minutes until thick. Line a bowl with an ~ 9" diameter base or mid section with saran wrap prior to adding ice cream. Pull out thickened ice cream and place into the lined bowl. Place bowl into freezer for 6-8 hours. If you have it in there longer, bonus. If not, 6 hours will be fine.
3- After getting the ice cream situated, prepare your pound cake in a 9" pan. I recommend a spring form pan as you will minimize the dome this way.
4- 30 minutes to an hour before people arrive, mix up the bread so it can begin rising.
5- Guests are here! Now what? We have meringue to make for the cake, and the cake needs to freeze one hour. Let's start there. Make sure you have a platter that will fit in your freezer too. We made the meringue, brought the ice cream up and set it on top of the cake. A perfect match! We piped the meringue onto the cake...that's right, the four of us took turns. It was very fun. We learned its harder to get the meringue into a piping tool than we expected. Its pretty messy but the merigue was surprisingly tasty so we didnn't mind.
6- After adding the meringue, the cake was placed into the freezer...On with the show.
7- Rolls were risen! Time to punch down the dough, shaped into balls, covered and placed back on the porch to rise some more.
8- Zucchini, onions, garlic and rosemary were chopped and placed into the 9x13" pan. The pan was placed into the preheated oven.
9- Fish! Potatoes were sliced paper thin and halibut was cut into sections while the potatoes were arranged onto silicone mats.
10. The fish was wrapped up and cooked 2 pans at a time with 3 pieces of fish per pan.
11. While the fish cooked, we popped the rolls into the oven for 6 minutes per pan.

Voila...Dinner is served. If you have cooking help arrive at 5pm, you should be done around 7pm. We had a roll delay due to a very busy host schedule but still finished at 7:20pm. All the food was done at the same time.

12. After eating dinner, don't forget dessert! After we were out of our quite full comatose states, the dessert was brought from the freezer, torched with the butan torch and served. Use a big knife and be careful. Frozen pound cake is a challenge to slice.

Potato Encrusted Halibut (significantly adapted from Bon Appetit March 2009)
(serves 10)


2 lbs halibut
5 Yukon Gold potatoes (each about 3 inches in length)
2-3 Tbsp of fresh rosemary
4 cloves of garlic, minced finely
2-3 Tbsp of your oil of choice (I used vegetable oil)


2 frying pans
1 spatula
1 mandolin (or another method of slicing potatoes thinly without slicing your fingers!)
plastic wrap or silicon sheets (for arranging the potatoes with fish)

How To:

Slice the potatoes into paper thin slices (less than 1/8" on the mandolin). The slices should be so thin that they are flexible.

Arrange the potatoes such that they are two slices wide and multiple slices down overlapping the slices. (A fabulous image of this was shown in the techniques section of the March 2009 Bon Appetit magazine.) Basically, you want to lay 2 potato slices with longest part laying horizontally such that they over lap by about 1/4" (or around 1 cm). Then, take two more slices and lay vertically lower than the first two slices such that the tops of the two new slices overlap by 1/4"-1/2" (1-2 cm) over the first two slices. Repeat. The total number of slices should relate to the length of fish sections you cut. If you fish doesn't quite fit, add two more slices to extend the column of potatoes.

Rinse each section of fish. Slice the fish into rectangles 4" long by 1"-1 1/2" wide.

Season the potatoes with salt, pepper, garlic and rosemary. Lay a piece of fish on top of each potato column. (Feel free to season the fish if needed. You really can either season the inside of the potatoes or the outside of the fish. Either way you season the inside but there's no need to season twice. Just select one.)

Rebecca's a lean, mean, potato slicing machine!

Place the Fish on the layered potatoes and season

Wrap the potatoes around the fish to enclose it. Continue repeating above until all fish is seasoned and wrapped in potatoes.

Folding the Potatoes over the fish

Halibut all wrapped up!

Heat 1 Tbsp of oil in each of 2 frying pans using medium heat. Test to see that the oil is hot. (I test by spritzing a little water off my fingertips into the oil and waiting for a hiss and pop...Be sure to step back after doing this to avoid being popped by the oil.) Pick up each fish section carefully using a spatula and gently sit it in the pan. I cooked 3 fish sections in each pan.

Cook the fish for 3-4 minutes on each side until the potatoes are golden brown.

Finished Fish

Total prep time depends on your potato slicing technique. Total Cook time was about 16 minutes. Total time for us (4 gals in the kitchen, assembling together and laughing and talking a bit) was about 40 minutes. We used one person on the mandolin. Two people assembling potatoes. One person slicing fish. Then one of the people cooked the fish....well I cooked the fish. I was nominated.

(I guess that way if the main dish was injured, it was just on me. Fortunately, it came out great. Warning: Flipping the fish should be a careful process as the potatoes can flip over on you and expose the fish. If this happens to you, take the spatula, and gently slide it under the fish and potatoes until they are rearranged. Don't panic. This only happened to me on a couple pieces out of 12 and they were able to go back together.)

Roasted Zucchini with Onions, Garlic and Rosemary
(serves 10)

Zucchini and Veggies in the Pan!


1 huge zucchini (ok so this zucchini was probably the equivalent of 4-6 grocery store zucchini), skinned and sliced into bite sized pieces (1" x 3/4" roughly).
1 large sweet onion, sliced coarsely
4 cloves of garlic, smashed but not minced
4 cloves of garlic, smashed and minced finely
1-2 Tbsp of rosemary, minced finely
2 Tbsp of your oil of choice (again I used vegetable oil)


1 9x13 pan
1 oven
1 large spoon
2 oven mitts

How to:

Cut up the zucchini, onion, garlic, and rosemary as listed above. Toss together into a 9x13 pan with oil, salt and pepper. Place in a 400 F oven for 30-45 minutes.

Total slicing time: 10-15 minutes. Total cooking time: 30-45 minutes. Total time: 40 - 60 minutes.

Cardamom Buns (adapted from Sons of Norway)
(serves 10)

Carolyn and Becky shaping the rolls


1 c. (2.5 dl) milk
4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) (55g) butter
1/2 pkg active dry yeast
1/8 c. (1/4 dl) water, warm
3/8 c. (1 1/8 dl) sugar
1/2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3 whole cardamom seeds (crushed) (1/4 - 1/2 tsp of ground cardamom)
3 1/2 c. flour


1 medium stove pot
1 large bowl
sarap wrap or 2 linen towels
2 cookie sheets/baking sheets
1 oven

How To:

Heat the milk in a pot on medium heat until just before boiling. When a few small bubbles start to form, remove from heat.

Add butter to the milk and let stand until melted and letthe milk cool to lukewarm. (If you're in a hurry, pour the milk/butter mixture into a plastic bowl and sit on ice.)

Place yeast and 1 Tbsp of sugar into the water water and stir. Allow to sit until the yeast is proofed. (Proofed means that you should see bubbles of activity from the yeast. If you have no bubbles, your yeast may be too old. I'd encourage using fresh yeast if you have no bubbles.)

In a large bowl, add remaining sugar, salt, and cardamom.

Pour in lukewarm milk. Add yeast, and enough flour to make a stiff dough. (This should be about 3 1/2 cups.)

Work the dough by folding it over itself for about 2 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl. Rinse the bowl out and grease it.

Place the dough in the greased bowl. Cover with saran wrap or a smooth towel until the dough rises to double in bulk. To rise more quickly, sit in a warm area. I placed mine on the back porch and it doubled in 1 hour.

Punch the dough down and shape into balls the size of ping pong balls. (Ping pong balls are around 1 - 1 1/4" in diameter.)

Place the balls 1 inch (2 1/2 cm) apart on a greased baking sheet. Cover with saran wrap or towels again. Let rise until double in bulk.

Bake at 450 F (230 C) oven for 5-6 minutes. (Seriously, if you go for 7minutes, the bottoms will be dark.) Brush with butter while still hot.

Presenting....our dinner!


Baked Alaska!

See previous post for the details on this one but here are a couple teaser pictures for you. This will be more dessert than 10 people can eat. Its probably around 20 servings. This means you can either make new friends at work or have friends over one night later in the week to help you finish it off!

Plan on making your cake ahead of time and having 8 - 10 hours for freezing everything.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Double Take: Ham-and-Cheese Omelets, sort of

Say cheese! CHEEEEEESE! This omelet is all about the cheese. Due to my chronic non compliance with recipes, I almost switched cheeses. (I love pepper jack and cheddar so much.) My grocery run coincided with just leaving spin class so I wound up hungry at the store. The result: new cheese to try! This recipe called for Swiss and Havarti. I've learned that I don't hate swiss, I just don't like the waxy sort of swiss. I like the more soft, large holed (longer aged) Swiss with its smooth texture and light flavor. I don't remember having Havarti. Jonathan Beard said with age it could take on a hazelnut flavor but was otherwise smooth, buttery, and easy to melt. When I found Havarti on a super sale at the grocery (wahoo, around $3 / lb was a steal), I decided it was time to try it.

The USL recipe called for ham, 2 cheeses, green onions, and eggs. That's incomplete (for me). I like onions, bell peppers, and garlic (of course) in omelets. The recipe also was meant to serve several people so I took their notes as suggestions and went freelance from there.

Tab's Ham and Cheese Omelet


1 frying pan
1 spatula


1/3 c. chopped bell pepper
1/3 c. chopped sweet onion
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 eggs
2 - 3 thin slices of ham (shredded or just ripped up by hand)
.5 oz Havarti cheese (shredded or just crumbled or torn by hand)
1.2 oz Swiss cheese (shredded or just crumbled or torn by hand)
2 tsp. butter (or reserved bacon grease)
salt (to taste)
pepper (to taste)
2-3 chives, chopped (optional)

How To:

1. Chop up the bell pepper, onion and garlic. Place 1 tsp of bacon grease (or butter, the bacon grease adds more flavor) in the pan and turn to medium heat.

2. Toss bell pepper, onion and garlic into the hot oil and cook 3-5 minutes until the onions start to get a touch of brown on them. Remove to a bowl.

3. While peppers, onions and garlic are cooking, beat eggs and add salt and pepper to taste. Make sure your cheese and ham and prepped and ready to go into the pan.

4. After removing peppers and onion mixture, add 1 tsp bacon grease to pan. Allow to melt, then add eggs. Let the eggs cover the full base of the pan. (Wiggle the pan around if necessary to let the eggs flow to cover the surface.) Let the eggs cook a 1-2 minutes.

5. Add cheeses, ham, and pepper and onions mixture. Continue cooking until the eggs start to pull away from the edges of the pan or start getting a body to them rather than a fluidic texture. When the eggs have a firm body, fold the omelet in half. The color should the light golden brown on both sides. If not, cook a little longer.

6. Remove from pan. Cut in half if its a bit big for your plate. Toss some chopped chives on top, if desired. Enjoy!

Rating: I liked it. I was really surprised at how well I liked Havarti and Swiss paired together. I thought I'd want more flavor but was pleased with this combination. If you like a little heat, a jalapeƱo pepper would be a good addition to the peppers and onion mixture. (I had thought about this earlier but in my gym famished state, I wanted more eating and less chopping. Pull out the pepper seeds if you are cautious about having too much heat and wear gloves when working with the pepper. If you have no gloves, try the old sandwich bag over the hand trick. You'll be glad later.) I'd make this again...especially if I found Havarti on sale.

Be sure to pop over to Fabulously Fun Food.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Double Take: Bistro Grilled Chicken Pizza (sort of)

Technically, this recipe became a bit of a free for all. (Which I am elated about, by the way.) I really like Barbeque Chicken Pizza. I am not fond of chicken on pizza with tomato sauce. I mean, I'd eat it... but given the choice, I'd choose a barbeque sauce base every time to go with chicken. After talking it over, Mel decided we'd try grilled chicken pizza and toppings and sauces were given as taster's choice. I decided to marinate my chicken in my bbq sauce of choice...Mary Hoobler's sauce...what? you've never heard of it...never tasted it...oh the humanity! As a disclosure, this goes great on pork ribs. If you read the Margarita Pork Tenderloin posts, you are probably beginning to feel I really like pork. This is only partially true. I really like pork prepared in ways that are firecracker party in your mouth awesome. To the extent that I have trouble eating pork that isn't awesome. Anyway, I digress..Mary Hoobler's sauce is a barbeque sauce from the book Deadeye Dick by Kurt Vonnegut. Its an odd book. I read it b/c of the sauce recipe. No lie. I wondered if anything else in the book's recipes would sound or taste as good. None of the rest of them made me feel compelled to make them (in case you were wondering). I first had this sauce on ribs with Mel and Bender. It has become a favorite for me. In addition to ribs, it goes well on chicken, corn on the cob, ice cream (just kidding about the ice cream) but seriously the sauce is good. My only issue is that it really doesn't need all the oil that is in the original. In fact, it might not need as much as I'm about to list but ooh well. Also, I find that I tend to double the sauce. For one pizza, you just need the regular amount of sauce listed.

Mary Hoobler's sauce (slightly adapted)

1 c. chopped onions
3 chopped garlic cloves
1/2 stick (1/8 lb.) of butter
1/2 c. ketchup
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 dash Tabasco (1/8 tsp)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp basil
1 Tbsp chili powder

Saute a cup of chopped onions and three chopped garlic cloves in an eighth pound of butter until tender. Add a half cup of catsup, a quarter cup of brown sugar, a teaspoon of salt, two teaspoons of freshly ground pepper, a dash of Tabasco, a tablespoon of lemon juice, a teaspoon of basil, and a Tbsp of chili powder. Bring to a boil and simmer for five minutes.


Before the sauce though, you need dough. Mel wasn't feeling making dough. I really like making bread. Lately, making bread has gone very well for me. Saturday was hot and sunny so I waited to make the dough so that it wouldn't rise too much. Hah hahaha to me. As my dough was set on the back porch the wind picked up a bit. I thought, “No problem. Its warm out, it'll rise just fine.” It became a problem when the temperature fell as a rainstorm came through. Nuts! I moved the dough but it refused to play nicely. I heated the oven slightly, it rose a little. In general, it became thin crust pizza dough with a disappointing yield. I want to blame the recipe but I don't think it would be fair. I think the weather played a role. A couple notes on the dough, I think they called for too much flour so as you reach 2 3/4 c., make sure you just work it in and don't have it too dry to be flexible and grow. If your dough feels dry, you can also use up to an extra Tbsp of oil.

Pizza Dough (Adapted from All New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook)

1 c. warm water
1/8 tsp sugar
1 (1/4 oz) envelope active dry yeast
2 ¾ to 3 c. all purpose flour
1 ½ tsp salt
2 Tbsp oil (extra virgin, light olive, vegetable…whatever makes you happy)
1 Tbsp oil (same as above)

Place the warm water and sugar in a small boil. Add the yeast. Stir until dissolved and let sit for 5-7 minutes. (This proofs your yeast..If you don’t have bubbles, get fresh yeast. If it bubbles, continue.) Place 2 c. flour and the salt into a large bowl and mix together well. Add the yeast and 2 Tbsp oil. Continue mixing. Add more flour until you can form a ball. Adding too much flour will prevent your bread from having flexibility. Don’t feel the need to dump it all into the bowl. Once your mixture forms a ball, remove from the bowl, rinse the bowl out and rub the surface with 1 Tbsp of oil. Place your dough ball inside, cover (using plastic wrap or a smooth towel), and let rise until doubled in size. This should take between 1-2 hours. The warmer and dryer the faster it grows. After rising, punch down and divide the dough as desired. I divided it into 3 personal size pizzas and rolled it out. Allow the dough to rise until double again.

To use: Top with toppings as desired and bake at 400-425 F for 10-20 minutes. I use the cheese as a gauge. If the cheese is melted, the pizza is done.

What else did I need? I thawed chicken to be marinated and grilled. Then I chopped up an onion and some garlic. I placed them in foil and sat them in the oven with the dough to get a little roastiness going. I was set. After the dough "rose" once, I pushed it down (also laughable) and divided it into thirds. It made 3 small pizzas that were thin crusted. While I waited for the dough to rise again, I grilled the chicken on medium heat for between 15 - 20 minutes. The somewhat rise dough was plopped on a preheated grill and I waited four minutes. It puffed a little. Nice! This was definitely not the crust I expected but worked fine for the grill. After flipping, I became concerned by a small tear. I reverted to the oven for completion since I didn’t want to lose my pizza to an inability to remove it from the grill in one piece. This really may have been an unnecessary worry but I baked it in the oven at 400-425 F anyway.

Toppings? Grilled chicken with Mary Hoobler’s sauce marinade, oven roasted garlic and onion, and basil on top of a 50/50 blend of Mary Hoobler’s sauce with KC masterpiece hickory. The pizza was topped with shredded whole milk mozzarella. Mary Hoobler’s was blended with KC masterpiece so that a) KC masterpiece had flavor b) Mary Hoobler’s had the texture of pizza sauce. Overall, the pizza had some kick from Mary Hoobler’s and I enjoyed it hot and cold (when I finished the leftovers).

Next time: I plan to use a different dough recipe. The only resemblance this has to southern living’s recipe was basil and chicken. I liked the toppings, but I prefer a thick crust that I can pick up with my hands more easily. Further iterations are required to get this just right.

Check out what Mel did with her version of the pizza over at Fabulously Fun Food.

Tell me…What’s your favorite pizza?