February 28, 2011

Spinach, Feta & Artichoke Pizza

Tonight was another late dinner night, but it was so worth it!  We were both starving when we got home from work around 7pm, so I immediately made cheesy garlic bread with the leftover stuff from last night...only this time I did the quick version. 

375 degrees for 5 minutes with a little Tastefully Simple garlic bread seasoning added for good measure and we had a delicious appetizer.  For the record, I hate Tastefully Simple products, but always feel obliged to order when a friend has a party.


I had initially planned to make pizza sauce but when I realized I still had Boboli pizza sauce in my pantry I went the easier route.  The pizza recipe I followed is from Food.com and the only change I made was to nix to the olives.


Spinach, artichokes, garlic, red onion and parmesan.

   

I made half with tomatoes for Chris.



Two slices from my delicious half of the pizza.  Can't wait to have the rest for lunch tomorrow!

February 27, 2011

Baked Manicotti and Cheesy Garlic Bread

I've become slightly addicted to America's Test Kitchen, something which Chris loves to tease me about.  However, the other night he found himself drawn in when he saw that they were making baked manicotti and cheesy garlic bread (season 8, disc 1).  So I made both tonight, in an attempt to foster his love for my new favorite show :)


I got another late start on dinner tonight, so I made sure to get the garlic bread in the oven first in order to have something to eat while making the manicotti.  This is a perfect cheesy garlic bread recipe!

The photo below demonstrates a great tip that I followed, of transferring the bread to a cutting board with the cheese side facing down because the serrated edges of a bread knife can pull off the cheesy crust. 


And the tip worked beautifully, slicing through the crust (rather than the cheese) first kept the cheese in place.


I would have never thought to use lasagna noodles to make manicotti.  One of my first dates with Chris involved stuffing a spinach ricotta mix into manicotti shells.  I remember more than one shell breaking in his kitchen that evening.





The manicotti was good, but we both felt like it was lacking something.  Not surprisingly Chris suggested that it'd be much better with chicken, ground beef or Italian sausage.  I was thinking along the lines of spinach and more herbs. 

I do plan to keep the recipe for the technique of using lasagna noodles but will use a different filling next time and with 100% certainty I will be making the cheesy garlic bread again :)

February 24, 2011

Spicy Parmesan Green Beans and Kale

Tonight for dinner we had pork chops, this green beans and kale recipe, along with La Brea whole grain bread.  The vegetables looked and smelled great, however the freshly squeezed lemon was so overwhelming that neither of us could finish the portion we took.  However, I still like the main idea of this recipe and will definitely make it again sans lemon juice.


3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed and slice into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 bunch kale (1/2 pound), rinsed, stemmed, and roughly chopped
3 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan

Warm the olive oil in a large, heavy saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms, green beans, salt, and pepper and cook for 2 minutes. Add the wine and continue cooking until the green beans are almost tender, about 5 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and the kale and continue cooking until the kale has wilted, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice and the Parmesan cheese. Toss to coat and serve immediately.



I tried out my new pan for the first time tonight and I loved it.  We needed a new pan because Chris someone left it on the burner on one night while we ate dinner and ruined the pan.  This 12" pan is the perfect size when adding kale which starts out like this...


and after just four minutes, ends up like this!


February 20, 2011

Cranberry-Pumpkin Cookies

After spotting one lonely can of pumpkin still in my pantry and realizing I also still had 2 cups of frozen cranberries to use, this recipe seemed ideal.  Perhaps, more of a fall-themed cookie but definitely delicious anytime of the year :)

I intended to make two different varieties, but somewhat unintentionally ended up with 5 different varieties of the same recipe.  Of all the varieties I made, my favorite was pecans and coconut with no cranberries (the cranberries were so big that they didn't make into some of the small scoops of cookie dough).  Don't get me wrong, they were all delicious, but if I had to pick a favorite that would be it :)


I woke up with no real plan of what to do today, but the weather was perfect for baking.  We got 4 inches of heavy, wet snow.  After a wonderful week of temps in the 40s and 50s, today's storm was a cruel reminder that winter isn't over.


I thought about going outside to take some photos because it was really beautiful snow, however I stayed inside instead.  The photo above is through our living room window and the photo below is through our kitchen window.


So back to the multiple varieties of cookies...the original recipe calls for walnuts, but reviewers recommended adding coconut and subbing pecans for walnuts, so I wanted to try both.  I divided the dough in half and then added walnuts to half, and coconut and pecans to the other half.



I just bought an Oxo small cookie scoop this past week and I think it was the perfect size for this cookie.  This is only my second time using a cookie scoop, but I still can't believe I never owned one until recently...they are so helpful!!


I immediately tried a couple when the first batch came out, and they were so good!  However, after trying one that had a few more cranberries in it, I quickly realized that I forgot to add the orange zest.  So I ended up with one more variety than the two I had planned on.


Reviewers also recommended a powdered sugar glaze, which I thought was ok, but I prefer the cookies without.  I kind of wish I preferred the glaze because it really elevates the look of the cookie, oh well :)


So after trying all the varieties, here is the Pumpkin-Coconut-Pecan cookie I'd make next time...

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 cup solid pack pumpkin puree
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup coconut

Optional:
1 cup fresh cranberries, cut in half
1 tablespoon orange zest

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla, egg and pumpkin. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon; stir into mixture until well blended.  Stir in the pecans and coconut (also cranberries and orange zest, if desired). Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets and bake for 10 minutes.

February 13, 2011

White Chocolate Cranberry and Macadamia Nut Cookies

I love macadamia white chocolate cookies, but until tonight have never made them.  This recipe sounded great because I also love dried cranberries in cookies. 


I didn't love my first bite as I expected to, however I'm 98% certain that was due to the brand of white chocolate chips I bought.  After I removed the white chocolate chips from the dough, I LOVED the new cranberry and macadamia nut version!  I used Ghiradelli chips, so I'll have to try this recipe again with a different brand. 

February 10, 2011

Sweet Potato Fries

Around 6pm tonight, I was trying to decide if I should stay and get more done at work, or head home for the night.  That's when I suddenly remembered I have to fast for 12 hours before my 7:15am appointment tomorrow morning.  Not a big deal, still plenty of time to eat, but I promised Chris I'd make sweet potato fries and I wanted to try them too! :)

So I hurried home and followed this recipe, although it's not really much of a recipe.  The end result just tasted like a normal sweet potato, there was nothing really fry-like about it.  Chris and I agree this recipe is missing oil and needs a higher oven temp.  Simply Recipes is one of my favorite recipe sites, so I plan to try this version next time.

February 05, 2011

Pasta Fagioli Redux

A month ago, I made pasta fagioli and while it was really good, we both thought it could use more greens and less pasta.  So tonight, with kale and spinach in my fridge that needed to be used, I made pasta fagioli again and it was so good!  Below is my modified recipe.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes
32oz reduced-sodium broth
4 ounces (about 1 cup) small pasta shells
3 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 bunch fresh kale, tough stems discarded, cut into 1-inch pieces and washed
3 cups packed spinach
2 cans small white beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Grated Parmesan, for serving

1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook 5 minutes. Add garlic; cook 1 minute.

2. Stir in tomatoes, broth and 2 1/2 cups water. Bring to a simmer over high heat. Add pasta and Italian seasoning. Cook, stirring, 5 minutes.

3. Stir in kale and spinach; cook 5 minutes more. Reduce heat to medium and stir in beans, tomato paste, salt and pepper. Heat through.

4. Ladle into bowls; garnish with Parmesan.


I've been watching a lot of America's Test Kitchen lately.  I really love that show!  I'm in the middle of watching the Best Baking Recipes dvd and this is by far my favorite dvd of the three that I've watched so far.  Although, I do much prefer baking to cooking, so that could be why :)

One element of the show I like is the "Taste Test" section.  Up until seeing the tomato paste taste test, I didn't realize that tomato paste could be purchased in a toothpaste-type tube.  It's fantastic when you just need 1 tablespoon, like for the recipe above.  Even better, Amore, which comes in that type of container, was number 1 in their taste test.

While shopping at the grocery store today, I decided to try boxed broth for the first time (I've always used bouillon in the past) and I'm wishing I had checked the ratings on America's Test Kitchen website first because the brand I bought is in the "Not Recommend" section.  I wanted to try a low-sodium version because bouillon can be so salty but wasn't happy with this broth, and now seeing the rating, I definitely won't buy this brand again.

February 02, 2011

Making Candy

I had a lot of fun this evening trying to make candy for the first time on my own.  The hour-long demo I attended at Cake & Bake this past Saturday was the perfect introduction, and all I needed to get started on my own. 

I used two Wilton melting pots and I highly recommend getting at least one if you want to make candy at home.  You need 1 tablespoon of paramount crystals per pound of chocolate for dipping, and 1 tablespoon per 1/2 pound for drizzling.


Pouring dark chocolate into the drizzle bottle. 


Pretzels rods are easy to dip and decorate.  I added Heath bits, cashews and sprinkles, along with chocolate drizzles.


These are fudge oreos.  I bought this shape because I was thinking about doing something football related but next time I'm going to stick with round oreos because they're easier to dip (from what I remember at my cookie-making party back in December).


Graham crackers dip well too.  I particularly enjoyed white chocolate and coconut on the graham crackers.  Notice there were none left for me to photograph :)


Packer colors for our football potluck at work on Friday.


My favorite treat to make however were the nut cups.  To make them, you just squeeze a layer of chocolate on the bottom, then add whatever filling you want (I used a combination of coconut, dried cranberries, cashews and/or Heath bits), squeeze more chocolate on top, and finally garnish with a bit more of the filling on top (which helps people know what's inside).


February 01, 2011

Cowboy Caviar

I had never heard of cowboy caviar until I searched for recipes that would use up an extra can of black eyed peas we had.  I ended up following this recipe with the following three exceptions: I used dried instead of fresh basil, I used Dijon mustard instead of dry mustard powder and I omitted the hot pepper sauce.  This food blog gives an interesting account of the origins of cowboy caviar, if you're curious.


Oil and red wine vinegar.


So I made the recipe yesterday, since it advises to refrigerate for 24 hours before serving, and Chris and I tried it today upon getting home from work.  We're home a couple hours early due the storm that's crippling a 1/3 of the country right now.

First of all, the salad is fantastic on it's own.  After that sample, I tried it inside two "Itsy Bitsy" pita pockets and that was also fantastic.  On a side note, I really like this new pita size that Kangaroo is making.


Finally, I blended some with my Cuisinart Immersion Blender to make a dip for tortilla chips.  The dip was ok, but I definitely prefer the salad un-blended.  The dip reminded me of wet cat food, and the great flavors were no longer as strong.