February 13, 2012

Sweets for Your Sweet: Salted Nutella Truffles for Valentine's Day

Salted Nutella Truffles

I love truffles, and not the kind Italian pigs dig up, which I am sure are lovely too, but I'm talking chocolate truffles. I love truffles almost as much as I love cheesecake, and you all know how much I like that! It has its own category on Dianne's Dishes! It's a deep love, an abiding love, an all encompassing obsession. In short I love me some truffles!

I also love Nutella. It's a recent love, but it's a strong love. Chocolate and hazelnuts? What's not to like?? I also love sea salt. Do you see a pattern forming here? Truffle? Check! Nutella? Check! Sea salt? Check! This is the collision of the perfect truffle/Nutella/sea salt storm!

Truffles are really easy to make. You've got a creamy center, dipped in chocolate, and then for added pizazz sometimes you even drizzle/sprinkle something on top of that. Truffles are big on wow factor, yet simple to create. They are perfect for a little gift, such as for Valentine's Day, for that person in your life who is a chocolate lover like me. I know you have one of those, don't we all?

One word for you....

Truffles!

Say it with chocolate. You'll be glad you did! Heck, they'll be glad you did too! ;oP

What You'll Need:
1 - 13 ounce jar of Nutella
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1 - 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar
1 package of semi sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup of coconut oil
1 cup of 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon of coconut oil
Coarse see salt (Note: I prefer either fleur de sel or Celtic sea salt for this. This go round I used the Celtic variety.)

In a large bowl stir together Nutella, sea salt and sweetened condensed milk, until thoroughly mixed. Next add the powdered sugar and stir until "dough" forms.

Scoop out "dough" with a tablespoon and roll it between your hands to form a ball. Place on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet:

Salted Nutella Truffles: Ready for the Freezer

The balls will flatten out a bit due to the heat of your hands, but don't worry. You'll be freezing them for a bit and this will sort itself out.

Freeze Nutella balls for 30 minutes.

Ten minutes before you remove the Nutella balls from the freezer, place semi sweet chocolate chips and 1/4 cup of coconut oil in a microwavable glass bowl and microwave on 20 second intervals, stirring between each one, until chips are melted.

Remove Nutella balls from the freezer and rolls them between your hands to make them more round:

Salted Nutella Truffles: Making Nutella Balls

They're firm enough now to keep their shape:

Salted Nutella Truffles: Ready to be Dipped

Dip each ball in the melted chocolate:

Salted Nutella Truffles: Drizzling

It's easiest to do this with a fork. Unlike Alexis however I wouldn't taste the chocolate as you go. You'll run out! ;oP

Place them on another sheet that has been lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet:

Salted Nutella Truffles: Ready for Drizzle and Sea Salt

Melt 1 cup of 60% cacao chips with 1 tablespoon of coconut oil using the same method as above. Drizzle over the top of each truffle and sprinkle with coarse fleur de sel or Celtic sea salt:

Salted Nutella Truffles

Let harden and then enjoy!

Notes: You can use any type of chocolate you want with this. Milk chocolate would work, as would a white chocolate drizzle. It's all up to you. If you want them to set faster you can stick them in the fridge.

Posted by Dianne at 5:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 6, 2012

Rustic Vegetable Soup

Rustic Vegetable Soup

I love soup. I'm a big fan year round, but especially in the winter. This soup came about from my wanting to incorporate the vegetables I got from our local CSA like vegetable/fruit delivery service this week. I had an eggplant, some bok choy, some chard, along with some left over black eyed peas from New Year's Day. Before long this soup was "born".

This soup is BIG. It makes a lot of soup. It has big chunks of vegetables and is very hearty, all while being healthy too. Pair it with some sour dough or corn bread and a side salad you've got a meal. In reality though the soup itself is hearty enough to be a meal, so you can enjoy it as is too!

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
2 large carrots, cut into round pieces
1 large red onion, chopped
2 cups of sliced mushrooms
4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large potato, cut into bite sized cubes
1 large bunch of Swiss or rainbow chard, chopped
1 bunch of bok choy, chopped
1 large eggplant, cut into bite sized cubes
2 teaspoons of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 quart of chicken broth
2 quarts of tomato sauce
1 - 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes
2 cups of frozen corn
1 - 10 package of frozen lima beans
2 cups of cooked black eyed peas, undrained

First up let me be clear...You're going to need a very BIG pot for this soup!

In a very large stockpot saute carrots, onion, garlic, mushrooms and potato in a little bit of extra virgin olive oil until tender, stirring often. Add chard and bok choy and stir until just wilted.

Add oregano, thyme, a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground pepper and stir to mix.

Next add chicken broth, tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Also add corn, lima beans and black eyed peas and stir to incorporate.

Bring to a quick boil and then lower heat to a simmer. Cover and cook, stirring often for at least an hour.

Serve immediately. Left overs are great too and freeze fabulously!

Notes: If you wanted to make this vegetarian/vegan use water or vegetable broth in place of the chicken broth. You could also use other vegetables like leeks, celery, white beans, etc. Shake it up!

Posted by Dianne at 1:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 29, 2011

Triple Bread Stuffing...It's Not Just For The Holidays!

Triple Bread Stuffing

One of the main reasons the holidays are my favorite time of the year is stuffing! Stuffing (or dressing, depending on what you want to call it) is often neglected during other times of the year and it really is a fabulous side dish no matter what the season.

There are many different ways to make stuffing. My mom makes a really fabulous corn bread stuffing that brings back memories of my childhood. As I've gotten older I've come to like one made with various types of bread instead. Some people add oysters, some people add fruit...In short there is no wrong or right way to make stuffing. What matters is whether YOU like it or not!

To me stuffing needs some basic ingredients and you can't forget the sage! Lots of sage is key! This stuffing is a very simple, yet fabulous side dish that is perfect for any meal. Stuffing...It's not just for the holidays anymore!

What You'll Need:
1/2 loaf of French bread, cut into cubes
1/2 loaf of Callah bread, cut into cubes
12 buttermilk biscuits, cut into cubes (Note: I make these. See below.)
Extra virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, chopped
6 stalks of celery, chopped
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
2 large carrots, shredded
2 tablespoons of crushed dry sage
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1 quart of chicken broth, at room temperature (Note: I make my own, but store bought is fine.)
2 eggs

I usually buy the Callah and French bread, but I make the biscuits. They're simple. In a large bowl mix 2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour, 1 teaspoon of sea salt, 1 tablespoon of baking power and 1 tablespoon of organic cane sugar until completely incorporated. Using a pastry blender or a fork cut in 1 stick of softened butter until mixture is pebbly. Add 1+ cups of buttermilk to this mixture and stir to make your biscuit dough. Sometimes you need more buttermilk, sometimes less. It all has to do with humidity and such. You want a dough that you can handle without sticking to your hands. Roll dough out on a floured surface and cut into biscuits. Bake in a preheated 425 F oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Simple and delicious! If you don't want to make the biscuits you and purchase them at the store. Most freezer sections have frozen buttermilk biscuits these days.

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Cut all three breads into bite sized cubes. Toss with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and bake for 4-6 minutes until golden brown and crouton like.

Remove bread from the oven and let the cubes cool to room temperature.

When you're ready to make the stuffing preheat oven to 375 F.

In a large stock pot saute onion and celery in a little extra virgin olive oil with the sea salt and pepper until just tender. Add the carrots and cook for an additional 1 minute and then remove from heat.

Once the vegetable mixture is off of the heat add the chicken broth, sage and thyme and stir to mix. Slowly add egg and stir until incorporated.

Place cooled bread cubes in a very large bowl and pour the liquid mixture over them and toss to coat.

Pour coated mixture into a 13 X 9 inch baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray and bake for 40-45 minutes.

Serve immediately or you can let it cool and freeze for use later.

Notes: You could add mushrooms in to this for an added treat. You could also use other kinds of bread. It's a mix and match sort of dish.

Posted by Dianne at 1:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 7, 2011

French Toast Casserole

French Toast Casserole

I love to make croissants. I use the recipe that Abby from Abby Sweets blogged about a while back and they're perfect! The only problem is that I'm the only one who can (in Jamison's case) or will (in Lex's) eat them, so I usually end up eating a few and then freezing the rest. They freeze beautifully as they would say on Steel Magnolias.

Anyway....

There was a bag of frozen croissants in the big freezer that I kept looking at whenever I got something out of there to use. For a while now I've wanted to make a French Toast casserole and my mind started thinking it would be fabulous to make the casserole out of the croissants! Why not? When Mom and Darlene were here at the beginning on October I let them thaw and got to work.

The result?

This is a warm, ooey gooey treat that is just perfect for a special breakfast on a cold morning! What could be better than that?

What You'll Need for the Casserole:
8-12 croissants cut into cubes
8 eggs
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
2 tablespoons of natural brown sugar
1/3 cup of maple syrup
1/3 cup of half and half or heavy cream
Cinnamon sugar

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Cut croissants into cubes and place in a very large bowl.

Whip together eggs, cinnamon, brown sugar, maple syrup and heavy cream until completely incorporated. Pour this mixture into the bowl of croissant cubes and toss until all cubes are thoroughly coated.

Pour the cubes into a large baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. (I used a 14 X 10 inch pan, but you can use a 13 X 9 inch pan as well.) Sprinkle the top generously with cinnamon sugar.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and egg is set and then remove from the oven.

Top with Maple Topping (see below) and let sit 5-10 minutes before serving.

French Toast Casserole

What You'll Need for the Maple Topping:
1 cup of heavy cream
1/2 cup of maple syrup

10 minutes or so before the casserole comes out of the oven start making your Maple Topping. You want this to be warm when it goes on the casserole as it comes out of the oven.

In a medium size pot stir together heavy cream and maple syrup. Bring to a quick boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook 5 minutes stirring often.

Pour mixture over the hot casserole and let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Notes: I think some chocolate chips would be good in this for a chocolatey kick. I'd also like to try this with banana, apple or pumpkin bread for a bit of a twist. You can serve with extra maple syrup if desired. Also making your own cinnamon sugar is easy, mix 1 cup of sugar with 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of cinnamon and you're good to go!

Posted by Dianne at 1:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 14, 2011

Cheesy Sour Cream Enchiladas

Cheesy Sour Cream Enchiladas

As I mentioned in my last post we recently had a Tex Mex feast with friends to celebrate Labor Day. One of the dishes that I served was a Cheesy Sour Cream Enchilada dish, along with our other Tex Mex selections.

Now I'm a big fan of enchiladas, when they're done right of course, and this one really was fabulous! I ended up eating left overs for a week, but I didn't regret any of those repeat meals! It's a bit of work to put together, but it really is easy, and if you like these types of dishes then you'll definitely like this one!

On a side note this was my little piece of heaven yesterday:

Assateague National Seashore: Our Spot

Isn't it gorgeous? I really love the Assateague National Seashore in Maryland!

Assateague National Seashore Looking Back up Toward Ocean City, Maryland

Lex had a blast playing in the waves:

My little Mermaid

And we had a really nice time despite the fact I had a small migraine and stayed mainly under the umbrella snoozing much of the afternoon while Jamison and Lex played on the beach. Toward the end I started feeling a bit better. A day on the beach, despite the headache is heaven to me! Even if all I did was enjoy the breeze and listen to the waves!

This was taken right before we started to pack up our things and head home:

Me and Miss G

What does any of this have to do with enchiladas? Nothing! But I wanted to share anyway!

Now let's make some Cheesy Sour Cream Enchiladas!

What You'll Need:
Burrito sized flour tortillas
4-6 cups of shredded cheese (Note: Colby, Cheddar, Monterrey Jack, pepper jack and Colby jack can be used. Or you can use a mix of any of them.)
1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
4-6 heaping tablespoons of flour
2 cups of chicken broth (Note: I used homemade, but store bought is fine.)
1 can of chopped green chilies
1 - 6 ounce jar of fire roasted peppers, drained and chopped
1 can of Rotel
1 small red onion, chopped
1 small container of sour cream (Note: 8 to 10 ounces)
More shredded cheese for topping

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Spray a large, rectangle baking dish with non-stick spray, or brush with olive oil, to prevent sticking. Set aside.

Place a tortilla flat and add a generous amount of cheese down the middle of the tortilla. Since this is your only filling, make sure to add a lot of cheese!

Roll the tortilla around the cheese and place the stuffed cheese tortilla seam down in your dish. Repeat this process until you have filled your dish. You can fit 8-10 tortillas in the dish. The key is to cram them in there together!

Once you are finished filling the dish, set it aside.

In a large skillet heat oil until warm and then add flour, stirring until smooth. Cook for 2-3 minutes and then add chicken broth. Continue stirring constantly to make your "roux". I use this word loosely. You don't want the "roux" to brown, just to thicken.

When "roux" is thickened remove from heat and pour in sour cream, chilies, Rotel, chopped onion and fire roasted peppers until combined. Pour this mixture over the enchiladas in your dish making sure to spread the mixture out evenly.

Top with more cheese and cook in a preheated oven for 35-45 minutes until heated through and the cheese is bubbly and slightly browned.

Remove from oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Notes: You can top these with more sour cream and/or guacamole when servings. Also you could put chicken, beef, shrimp, pork, etc in with the cheese if you wanted meat in your enchiladas.

Posted by Dianne at 4:16 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 6, 2011

Cheesy Mexican Rice

Cheesy Mexican Rice

Who can believe it's already September? The years seem to go faster and faster every year. Alexis started third grade today. How is it possible that she's even old enough to be in third grade?

But I digress...

On Sunday afternoon we had some friends over for a Tex Mex feast. We had spent the Sundays before Memorial Day and the 4th of July together, so I decided we needed to make it a trifecta with Labor Day and invited them over for an early dinner. The kids played, we talked, we ate, we had fun! That's what friends are for.

Over the next few weeks I'll be sharing some of the recipes from Sunday. You'll see queso, sour cream enciladas and a fabulous Triple Chocolate Ganache Cake that is so sinful you might just gain five pounds looking at the screen! I've also got a roasted vegetable enchilada recipe that I made a month ago or so, along with Cheesy Potato skins and honey butter. You'll want to stay tuned for the queso and Chocolate Ganache Cake alone, but the other recipes are lovely too!

I love Mexican themed foods. My dishes are most likely labeled more Tex Mex than Mexican, but I use the terms interchangeably depending on my mood. This dish is the very epitome of comfort food...It's warm, hearty and extremely satisfying. Plus it's a little spicy, which is always a good thing in my book! It makes the perfect side dish to a Tex Mex/Mexican feast. Try it, you'll like it!

What You'll Need:
2 cups of uncooked rice (Note: You can use whatever kind of rice you like. I usually use jasmine or brown rice. I used jasmine this go around)
Extra virgin olive oil
1 bell pepper, chopped (Note: Use what ever color you like.)
1 onion, chopped (Note: Again what ever type you like. I usually use red onion, but this go around I used Vidalia instead.)
3 cups of creamed corn (Note: I used some I had made myself, but you could substitute two cans of creamed corn if you like.)
1 can of Rotel, undrained
1 - 6 ounce can of fired roasted peppers, chopped
1 - 8 ounce package of cream cheese, cut in to cubes and softened
1 cup of Colby or cheddar
1 cup of Monterrey Jack
Sea salt
Finely ground black pepper
More cheddar, Colby and/or Monterrey Jack Cheese for topping

In a large stock pot cook rice according to package directions and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a large skillet saute bell pepper and onion in a little extra virgin olive oil until tender.

Once onions and peppers are tender stir in a generous pinch of sea salt, some finely ground black pepper, creamed corn, fired roasted peppers and Rotel and stir until mixed.

Add cream cheese, Colby or Cheddar and Monterrey Jack cheese to the vegetable mixture and stir until melted and thoroughly combined throughout the vegetables.

Pour vegetable and cheese mixture in to the stock pot with the cooked rice and stir until combined.

Spray a 13 X 9 inch dish with non-stick spray or brush with olive oil. Pour the mixed vegetable mixture into the dish and spread it out to fill the dish. Bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and top with shredded Colby, cheddar and/or Monterrey Jack cheese(s) and place back in the oven for 5-10 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Remove dish from oven and let sit 5-10 minutes before serving.

Cheesy Mexican Rice

Notes: If you can't find Rotel you could use a small jar of salsa instead, but the Rotel gives it a better over all flavor. This makes great leftovers too!

Posted by Dianne at 1:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 24, 2011

Baked Rigatoni

Baked Rigatoni

I go through stages with pasta. Sometimes I can't get enough of it and others I can go for months without having any pasta at all. This spring was one of those times when I was on the pasta train headed toward the corner of noodles and cheese.

Yes I went there.

Anyway....

In March my sister broke her hip ice skating. My mom and dad just happened to be visiting at the time and my mom ended up staying with my sister to help out for a while. On the weekends Mom would come over to spend time with us to give her a little break. She joked that since we live in the mountains of Central Maryland that we were her "Camp David". I joked back if we were then we needed an indoor pool. I'm not even sure if the actual Camp David has a pool, but when I dream I dream big. Why not?

When she was visiting I made a few things that I had wanted to try and this rigatoni had been simmering in the back of my head for quite a while. When I made it the first time I forgot to put the goat cheese in and it was good, but it was missing something. The next time I made it I added in goat cheese and it was perfect!

This is a relatively easy, hearty, comfort food dish that is fabulous with a side salad and some garlic bread. If you're going to go pasta, why not go all out?

What You'll Need:
1 - 16 ounce package of rigatoni, cooked
Extra virgin olive oil
1 small container of mushrooms, sliced
4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 a large red onions, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped (Note: You can use whatever color you like.)
1 tablespoon of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of dried basil
A generous pinch of sea salt
Finely ground black pepper
1 jar of marinara sauce
1 cup of ricotta
1 cup of finely grated Parmesan
16 ounces of goat cheese, crumbled
16 ounces of fresh mozzarella cut into small cubes
More mozzarella and Parmesan to top

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Cook rigatoni according to package directions. Drain and set aside:

Baked Rigatoni: Rigatoni

In a large skillet over medium heat saute mushrooms, garlic, onion and bell pepper, with oregano, basil, sea salt and black pepper in a little extra virgin olive oil until tender:

Baked Rigatoni: Vegetables

In a very large bowl mix together pasta, vegetable mixture, marinara, cheeses and a little more salt and pepper until incorporated:

Baked Rigatoni: Ready for Baking Dish

Brush a large baking dish with olive oil and pour mixture in to the dish and then top with shredded mozzarella and Parmesan:

Baked Rigatoni: Ready to Bake

Bake covered in preheated oven for 35-45 minutes until hot and bubbly:

Baked Rigatoni: Baked

Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Notes: I like to take the covering off for the last 10 or 15 minutes of cooking. You could add meat if you wanted, but I prefer this without.

Posted by Dianne at 10:42 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 22, 2011

Chicken and Noodles

Chicken and Noodles

A few years ago my mom and Darlene were visiting from Tennessee and we popped over to Amish country in Pennsylvania. We often take day trips when they are here and Amish country is one of my favorite places to go! It's quaint, beautiful and you can see a lot of handmade crafts and treasures, including quilts, which I'm particularity fond of.

On this trip we decided to eat at a family style restaurant where you sit with other people and pass dishes just as you would at home. Sadly I don't remember the name of this place, or it's exact location, but they served a chicken and noodle dish that was very satisfying and late last fall (Still working through that backlog!) I decided I wanted to make something similar.

This dish is the very epitome of comfort food. It's simple, quick, hearty and delicious. You can serve it plain or top it with shredded Parmesan, but anyway you have it it's quite enjoyable!

What You'll Need:
1/2 a package of egg noodles, cooked according to package directions
2-3 cups of chicken broth
2 cups of cooked chicken, chopped (Note: A good way to use left over chicken!)
1 cup of half and half
A pinch of sea salt
Finely ground black pepper
1/4 cup of potato flour
Grated Parmesan to top if desired

Cook egg noodles according to package directions and set aside.

In a large pot add chicken broth, chicken, salt and pepper and stir to mix. Bring to a quick boil and then reduce heat to a simmer.

Whisk together the half & half and the potato flour until smooth. Pour mixture in to the pot and cook stirring often until the mixtures thickens slightly.

Once mixture is slightly thick stir in noodles and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes before serving. Top with shredded Parmesan if desired.

Chicken and Noodles: Sprinkled With Parmesan

Notes: You can make additions to this dish, like adding peas and/or carrots. Or how about some sauteed mushrooms? I think some toasted bread crumbs would also be a good addition. This is a very versatile and forgiving dish. There are no wrong answers.

Posted by Dianne at 12:43 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 9, 2010

Tater Tots (And Guess What? They're Gluten Free Too!)

Gluten Free Tater Tots

When I saw these tater (I hate that word!) tots a while back on Vanilla Sugar I immediately thought it would be fun to come up with a gluten free version for Jamison! Of course it seems to take me a while to get around to anything these days, so they sat there taunting me for a while until I finally got around to trying out my theories.

I've lately discovered potato flour, and let me tell you even if gluten isn't really an issue for you, you need to experiment with this versatile little flour! It's the perfect thickener for soups or macaroni and cheese, it just adds a little punch of flavor that is subtle, yet such a savory little bite. It also helps baked goods stay moist and things of that nature. It's really an all purpose little work horse in the kitchen!

Overall these tater tots might not be exactly what you would think of when you picture a tater tot from your youth, but they are really, really good! I still hate the word tater, but trust me you want to try these!

What You'll Need:
4 potatoes, peeled & cut into rounds
1 egg , beaten
1/2 stick of butter, softened
1/3 cup of potato flour
Sea salt
Finely ground black pepper
1-2 cups of gluten free bread crumbs (Note: I made my own with some gluten free bread, but you can purchase them if you like. I may or may not have set off the fire alarm during this step...That's up to you to figure out! ;oP)

Cover potatoes with water and bring to a boil. Cook until fork tender.

Heat oil to 375 F.

While potatoes are cooking gather your other ingredients and have them ready to go. Place bread crumbs into a shallow baking dish:

Gluten Free Tater Tots: Gluten Free Bread Crumbs

I find a pie dish works very well for this.

When potatoes are fork tender drain and place into a glass bowl with butter, salt and pepper and then mash:

Gluten Free Tater Tots: Mashed Potatoes

You can mash to whatever consistency you like.

Next add potato flour and egg and stir until incorporated:

Gluten Free Tater Tots: Ready to Shape

It will kind of look like a dough ball.

Shape 1 tablespoon of dough into a rough rounds:

Gluten Free Tater Tots: Ready to Roll

Repeat until you round out of potatoes.

Roll each round in bread crumbs and then fry 3 or 4 at a time for 2-3 minutes until golden brown:

Gluten Free Tater Tots

Place on a baking sheet that has been lined with paper towels to cool. Sprinkle generously with sea salt.

Repeat process until you run out of tots.

Gluten Free Tater Tots: The Inside

Notes: Jamison actually liked these, which really surprised me, but he would have preferred that they have more of the consistency of store bought tater tots. I on the other hand thought these were a thousand times better!

Posted by Dianne at 9:33 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 4, 2010

Creamy Vegetable Noodles

Creamy Vegetable Noodles

I love pasta. It's such a fun, versatile sort of ingredient that really has no bounds! By adding a few vegetables, and some cheese, you end up with a really hearty, really comforting dish that is ready in no time! It's just perfect for a hectic weeknight dinner. Pair with a salad and maybe a glass of wine, and you're set to go!

What You'll Need:
1/2 a large package of egg noodles cooked according to package directions
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 a large red onion, chopped
4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups of cooked spinach
1/3 cup of half and half
1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese (shredded yourself)

Cook eggs noodles, drain and set aside.

While the noodles are cooking saute onion, garlic and grape tomatoes in a little extra virgin olive oil with a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper until onion and tomatoes are tender.

Once vegetables are tender stir in spinach and cook for 2-3 minutes or until heated through.

When spinach is warmed stir in half and half and Parmesan and cook until cheese melts.

Once cheese melts stir in noodles to mix and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

Serve immediately.

Notes: You could add other vegetables if you liked. I like to add mushrooms sometimes, and even peas.

Posted by Dianne at 11:56 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 26, 2010

The Perfect Brownie

The Perfect Brownie

I love brownies. Seriously what's not to like about a chewy, chocolatety bit of heaven? Jamison was never a fan before Celiacs reared it ugly head (I know, I know...My culinary talents are lost on that boy! ;oP) so I didn't make them that often, but when I saw this recipe at I Am Baker and the resulting pictures I was immediately drawn to the brownie goodness!

As you'll see I didn't make them exactly the same, but trust me these are really, really amazing, really, really awesome brownies! If you're a fan of brownies then you really have found the perfect brownie. They are chocolatey, chewy and just perfect! What's not to like about that?

What You'll Need:
2/3 cup of butter
1 cup of bittersweet chocolate chips
1 3/4 cups of organic cane sugar
1 tablespoon of vanilla
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour

In a medium sized sauce pan melt butter and chocolate chips stirring often until completely smooth. Set aside and let cool.

Place oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 F.

Mix together sugar, vanilla, eggs and sea salt and beat on high for 5 minutes. Slowly add cooled chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and stir until mixed. Add flour a little at a time and mix until just incorporated.

Pour batter into an 8 X 12 inch baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake for 45 minutes until brownies are slightly crackly on top. Let cool and cut and serve.

Notes: You could add chocolate chips to the batter or nuts, but really they are just perfect as they are!

Posted by Dianne at 9:43 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 16, 2010

Sweet Potato Chips

Sweet Potato Chips

Want to hear some fabulous news? I mean really just stellar?

Do you?

Are you ready?

Sun! Melt, Baby! Melt!

We only got an inch of snow last night! An inch! Today the sun is shining and more importantly it's going to be above freezing mind you! And the most important part of my happiness today, and the part that might just save my sanity, is that as of the time that I'm writing this, there is no foreseeable snow accumulation in the 5 day forecast!

None!

Zip!

Nada!

Zilch!

And did I mention none? And did I mention the sun is shining? And did I mention the part about it being above freezing?? (This could change, but I'm going to be Pollyanna and looks for the joy instead! ;oP)

Seriously this makes me more than happy. Who ever thought that I, the Snow Queen, would be actively seeking no more snow! It just goes to show that too much of anything is not a good thing! A variation of The Law of Diminishing Return if you will. But the point is, no snow! (Let's hope Mother Nature doesn't curse me for that statement! ;oP)

(Update: 1:34 PM: Well that didn't last long. Now they are saying we might get snow tomorrow, but "less than a half inch possible". *sigh* It could be worse I suppose! ;oP)

So now that that is out of the way, let's talk some sweet potato chips!

I have a soft spot for sweet potatoes. I just love them! For a while now I've want to make an actual sweet potato chip. I'm not a fan of potato chips in general, but occasionally I do like a sweet potato chip. I've made baked vegetable chips before, which are divine by the way, but I've never made chips the "old fashioned way" until yesterday.

This is another one of those things I assumed was hard. You'd think after all the things I've assumed were hard, yet found out to be anything but I'd get past that, but well I'm stubborn. Yes I'm stubborn. There I said it. Most of us are, but isn't admitting it the first step?

So all of that to say I've thought about making sweet potato chips for a long time, yet I hadn't made them. Boy was I sorry I had not! They are even better homemade than any I've every tried out in the wide blue yonder!

So I'd say these were a huge success. Next time I'm going to play around with sea salt and vinegar chips, but I'm not going to wait as long! ;oP

What You'll Need:
Oil for frying (Note: Safflower, vegetable, olive oil, etc. You choose. I do not recommend using canola oil, for this or anything really.)
Sweet potato(es)
A big bowl of water
Sea salt

Heat your oil to 375 F. I use a fryer.

While your oil is heating set up your ingredients and the things you will need for your frying process:

Sweet Potato Chips: Set Up and Ready to Go

You'll need a big bowl of water, a sweet potato (or more if you want to make a big batch of chips), a potato peeler, a baking sheet lined with paper towels, a tool to remove the chips from the hot oil and sea salt.

You might also want to grab a cutting board and a very sharp knife if your sweet potato is big in diameter. We'll get to that in a few minutes.

Peel your sweet potato:

Sweet Potato Chips: Sweet Potato Peeled

Look for a long skinny potato. Also look for one that is relatively unblemished and with few "eyes".

Next you want to make your potato "chips":

Sweet Potato Chips: Ready to Put in Water

I like my chips to have a bit of a thickness to them, but you don't want them too thick or you'll end up with fried sweet potato chunks and not sweet potato chips.

You can use a mandolin if you have one (which I do, but I've never gotten it to work properly) or you can use a potato peeler (which I did).

Place "chips" in a bowl of water:

Sweet Potato Chips: Soaking in Water

This prevents the potatoes from turning brown while the oil heats and you're slicing the rest of the chips.

If your potato gets to be too cumbersome in the middle to make chips, cut the sweet potato in half:

Sweet Potato Chips: Cut in Half

Continue slicing with the potato halves.

It also helps as you're cutting your chips to rotate the potato on each slice so that you don't end up with a slanted edge and you keep your cutting surface relatively flat.

Once your oil is heated take a handful of chips out of the water and drain on a paper towel to remove excess moisture:

Sweet Potato Chips: Draining Before Frying

Place chips in a thin layer into the heated oil, stirring with a metal strainer occasionally until the chips begin to curl:

Sweet Potato Chips: Frying

Once the chips start to curl, continue to fry for another minute or two until they are slightly golden and continue to curl.

Remove chips from oil and place on a baking sheet that has been lined with paper towels. Add a generous sprinkle of sea salt immediately:

Sweet Potato Chips

Repeat process until you run out of potatoes.

Serve immediately, or let cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Notes: I always like to use organic ingredients when possible. This is especially true with potatoes who tend to store pesticides in them readily! Find a really good organic sweet potato or yam. You'll be glad you did!

Posted by Dianne at 12:53 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 26, 2010

Ground Chicken Tacos

Ground Chicken Tacos

I love Mexican food! Seriously I think I could eat Mexican every day and be perfectly content with that fate. Jamison on the other hand isn't a fan. On Sunday I made him take me to have Mexican after church and he grinned and bared it like a champ. I don't usually drag him for Mexican, but sometimes you just want what you want! I couldn't help but tease him that my next husband was going to have to love Mexican food. Bless his heart for putting up with me! ;oP

When I make Mexican inspired dishes at home I like to lighten them up a bit. This version of tacos takes ground chicken and makes a really satisfying alternative to your basic taco. Top them the way you like and voila!...You've got a really great weeknight Mexican dinner that really his the spot!

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, chopped
1 small bell pepper, chopped
1 pound of ground chicken
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon of paprika
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 tablespoon of chili powder
1 teaspoon of cumin
1/4-1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon of ground chipolte chile powder
1 cup of water

Saute onions and pepper in a little extra virgin olive oil until slightly tender. Add ground chicken, a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper and cook until chicken is done through:

Ground Chicken Tacos: Meat, Onions and Peppers

Add remaining ingredients and stir to mix:

Ground Chicken Tacos: Ready to Simmer

Bring to a quick boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until water is absorbed and mixture thickens slightly:

Ground Chicken Tacos: Ready to Make Tacos

Serve in hard of soft taco shells with cheese, tomatoes, avocado, etc.

Ground Chicken Tacos

Notes: This makes a great topping for nachos too! Also this process works with any ground meat.

Posted by Dianne at 12:39 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

January 25, 2010

Homemade Donuts

Homemade Donuts: With Chocolate and Sprinkles

When my parents were here over the holidays we happened to be over in Columbia, MD and my sole thought was "I'm going to get some Kripsy Kreme donuts!" When we arrived however it was only to find that the Krispy Kreme store there had closed. Talk about bummer! And of course once you have something on the brain you can't get rid of that thought for the most part, so I've had donuts on the brain ever since.

I've always been curious about making my own donuts, but again it was one of those things that seemed daunting to me. I decided to do a little research and discovered that yes, they can be a bit time consuming, but they aren't that hard to make and believe me the work is worth the end result! It's not something you will be making every day for obvious reasons, but so worth the effort when you want a little treat!

Another thing that you will see in this recipe that you won't see often on Dianne's Dishes is the use of vegetable shortening. I want to try making them with butter in the future, but the overwhelming majority of donut recipes I came across used shortening, or lard, and really I wasn't going there! ;oP So on my first round I decided that shortening was the way to go.

Homemade Donuts

These donuts turned out just perfect! They were airy and satisfying and the glaze was just fabulous and so simple! Even dipped in chocolate and topped with sprinkles you have the perfect all around donut. You can't go wrong with that!

So it's time to make the donuts! (Yes I went there!) ;oP

What You'll Need for the Donuts:
1/4 cup of warm water
3 teaspoons of yeast
1/4 cup of organic cane sugar
1/4 cup of half and half
1 egg
1/4 cup of shortening (Note: Look for a trans-fat free version)
1 teaspoon of sea salt
2 to 2 1/2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour, divided
Oil for frying

In a large glass bowl mix water, yeast and sugar and let sit for a few minutes until it starts bubbling:

Homemade Donuts: Bubbling Yeast

Next add half and half, egg, shortening, sea salt and 1 cup of your flour:

Homemade Donuts: Ready to Mix

Mix with a mixer until well mixed and fluffy:

Homemade Donuts: Ready for More Flour

Slowly add flour until dough forms:

Homemade Donuts: Dough

You may need all of the remaining flour, or just some. When the dough starts forming and isn't sticky you know you're good.

Shape dough into a ball and place in a bowl that has been buttered:

Homemade Donuts: Ready to Rise

Let dough rise for an hour and then punch down and roll the dough to a 1/2 inch thickness:

Homemade Donuts: Ready to Cut

Now it's time to cut your donuts! They have handy dandy cutters, but I don't actually have one so I used a glass and the top of a water bottle.

First cut your big circle:

Homemade Donuts: Cut

Next cut your hole:

Homemade Donuts: Holes Cut

You can leave the donuts hole to rise or incorporate them back into the dough to cut more donuts. The choice is yours.

Place the dough on a baking sheet that has been lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper:

Homemade Donuts: Ready to Rise

Let rise for an hour or until they are slightly risen:

Homemade Donuts: Risen

When the donuts are almost risen prepare your glaze and/or chocolate for dipping. (See below)

Homemade Donuts: Glaze

What You'll Need for the Glaze:
1 cup of powdered sugar
4-6 tablespoons of cold water

In a large bowl mix sugar with enough sugar to make a slightly thick glaze. You want it to drip, but not quickly. You want a consistency close to honey, but not quite as slow.

Set aside until donuts are fried.

Homemade Donuts: Chocolate

What You'll Need for the Chocolate Gaze:
1 cup of chocolate chips
1 tablespoon of butter
1/4 cup of half and half

Place ingredients in a glass bowl and microwave on 20 second intervals until melted and smooth. Stir well between each interval.

Set aside until donuts are fried.

Homemade Donuts: Fried

Frying the Donuts:

Preheat oil to 375 F. You want a clear oil...Vegetable, safflower, light live oil, peanut oil. etc.

Once the oil is heat drop donuts down into the oil one at a time. Fry on each side until browned (1-2 minutes per side) and then place on a baking pan that has been lined with paper towels to drain:

Homemade Donuts: Fried

Repeat process until you are done with your donuts and then it's time to glaze!

Place fried donut face down into the glaze:

Homemade Donuts: Dipped in Glaze

Next flip the other side into the glaze:

Homemade Donuts:Glazing

Place on a baking sheet that has been lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper:

Homemade Donuts: Glazed

At this point you're ready to eat if you want to! Or you can go on and add a little chocolate, because well, you can't go wrong with a little chocolate!

Take your glazed donut and place it face down in the chocolate glaze:

Homemade Donuts:Dipping in Chocolate

Unlike the glaze you are only going to do one side in chocolate. Return the donut to the baking sheet:

Homemade Donuts: Dipped in Chocolate

Again at this point you're ready to eat, or you can add a few sprinkles!

So dig in!

Homemade Donuts: The Inside

And pretty soon you'll be down to your last delectable bite!

Homemade Donuts: A Bite

Verdict? I wish Jamison could have had one of these! Alexis and I love them!

Makes 4-6 donuts depending on the size you cut.

Notes: I think it would be fun to play around with a citrus glaze instead of using water with the powdered sugar. Also you can use any type of chocolate chip that you want. I used milk chocolate this go around because it was all I had on hand.

Posted by Dianne at 12:23 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

January 21, 2010

Chicken Chili

Chicken Chili

I love chili! It's one of those ultimate comfort foods that in reality isn't that bad for you! It's chock full of an entire meal all in one dish. You've got protein and vegetables in a really satisfying, yet healthy mix when made properly.

For a while now I've wanted to make a chicken chili and yesterday seemed like the day. When I first envisioned the dish I was going to go with shredded or chunked chicken, but I had some ground chicken I needed to use before it expired so my path changed slightly. A change in path is sometimes bad, but in this case it worked quite well!

This dish had all the satisfying qualities of your standard bowl of chili, yet was a bit lighter and not quite as heavy overall. Served with a slice of corn bread, or topped with a little cheese and sour cream, and you've got the perfect bowl of deliciousness!

Up next I'm going to make a "white" chili! I'll tell you about that one when it comes to be. Now let's dig in!

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
A pinch of sea salt
Finely ground black pepper
1/2 - 16 ounce package of frozen corn
2 cups of red beans (Note: I used beans I cooked myself, but you could use a couple of cans of read beans if you wanted.)
1 heaping tablespoon of chili powder
1 heaping tablespoon of paprika
1/4-1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (Note: Use more is you like it hot, less if you don't. You can leave this out all together if you prefer. I'm a hot person myself.)
1 quart of diced tomatoes (Note: I used ones I canned this past summer, but you can use a large can from the store if you prefer.)
1-2 cups of water

Saute pepper, onion and garlic in a little extra virgin olive oil with a pinch of sea salt and some finely ground pepper until peppers are tender and onions are slightly caramelized:

Chicken Chili: Onions and Peppers

Next add ground chicken and cook until browned:

Chicken Chili: Ground Chicken, Onions, Peppers and Garlic

Next add corn and beans and stir to mix:

Chicken Chili: Ready for Spices and Tomatoes

Add chili powder, paprika and cayenne and stir until all the ingredients are well incorporated. Next add tomatoes and then 1-2 cups of water depending on how thick you like your chili. Bring to a quick boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer covered for at least and hour.

(Note: Chili is one of those things that only gets better. The longer you cook it the better the flavor and the leftovers are phenomenal! I usually let it simmer all afternoon.)

Chicken Chili

Note: You could really make this with any ground or shredded meat, or if you wanted a vegetarian option you could add textured vegetable or soy protein, or even just double up on the beans for a completely vegan option.

Posted by Dianne at 9:43 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

December 10, 2009

Classic Pecan Pie

Classic Pecan Pie

I love pecan pie, but I rarely eat it because yum, but oh my on the fat content! For Thanksgiving though I thought I'd try my hand at making one since I never had before. For some reason I assumed that they were difficult to make, but it truly is just a dump, stir and pour kind of recipe. Not only is it easy, but it's delicious to boot! This isn't something you would make every day, and is most definitely a sometimes kind of food, but oh what a sometimes it is! This my friends is comfort food at its finest!

What You'll Need:
1 - 9 inch pie shell (Note: Sometimes I make my own pie crust, but this time I took the easy way out and got one out of the freezer section.)
1 cup of corn syrup (Note: Look for a version that isn't made with high fructose corn syrup.)
1 cup of organic cane sugar
1 teaspoon of sea salt
3 tablespoons of melted butter, cooled
3 eggs
2 teaspoons of vanilla
2 cups of pecans

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl stir together corn syrup, sugar, salt, butter, eggs and vanilla until smooth. Add pecans and stir until incorporated. Pour mixture into a pie shell and sit the dish on a baking sheet just in case it runs over.

Bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven and let cool before serving.

Classic Pecan Pie

Notes: No notes for this one.

Posted by Dianne at 11:13 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 7, 2009

Creamy Salmon Potato Soup

Creamy Salmon Potato Soup

I love snow. I really do. I love watching the flakes swirl and twirl through the air on their way down to the ground. I love how the snow clings to everything in its path, giving the world a quiet, beautiful, bright glow. And surprisingly enough I even enjoy shoveling (though my back wasn't up for it this past weekend)...I know, I know, I'm weird. But snow also makes me want to cook!

This weekend we had our first snow of the season. I actually didn't think it was going to amount to much, but we got a very nice little snow, right around 5 1/2 inches the last time I measured, that was fun to watch and play in. You can't ask for a better weekend than that!

On Saturday I decided I wanted to make some soup. You see snow falling and it makes me think that a nice hearty soup is in order. I had some left over salmon and I was in the mood for potato soup so I thought I'd combine the two. Add some bacon and a few other simple ingredients and you've got the perfect, hearty soup for that lovely snowy day!

What You'll Need:
3 slices of thick center cut bacon, chopped
2 tablespoons of butter
1/2 a sweet onion, chopped
3 potatoes, 2 chopped, 1 baked and mashed
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 quart of broth (Note: I used turkey, but chicken broth will be fine too.)
1 cup of heavy cream
1 cooked salmon fillet, flaked (Note: I usually cook my salmon with dill, so there was an underlying dill flavor there.)

Add bacon to a medium sized pot and let cook over medium heat for a minute or two:

Creamy Salmon Potato Soup: Bacon

Next add butter and let melt and then stir in onions:

Creamy Salmon Potato Soup: Onions, Bacon and Butter

Cook until onions are tender, stirring often.

Next add a pinch of sea salt, some freshly grated black pepper and chopped potatoes and stir to mix:

Creamy Salmon Potato Soup: Ready for Broth

Add broth and bring to a quick boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until potatoes are tender.

For the baked potato you can use a left over baked potato, or you can "bake" (i.e. steam) one in the microwave. Cut the baked potato into pieces, skin and all, and add to a food processor and process until smooth:

Creamy Salmon Potato Soup: Mashed Potato

This mashed potato mixture helps thicken the soup slightly. Add the mashed potato mixture to the soup as the potatoes are cooking and stir to mix.

Once the potatoes are tender stir in salmon and heavy cream to mix. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes to heat through and serve immediately.

Notes: This soup could easily be made without the salmon. Bacon could also be added to the top of the soup as a garnish, along with a little cheese.

Posted by Dianne at 10:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 30, 2009

Creamy Spinach Noodles

Creamy Spinach Noodles

Last week when Jamison was in class Alexis wanted noodles. I had my mouth all set for a really basic egg noodle with butter and chopped parsley when I realized I was out of butter. Not wanting to venture out in the cold, dark, rainy night I decided there had to be something I had on hand that while not exactly what I wanted, would fit the bill and this dish came in to being.

Was it good? Yes! Was it even better that what I orgionally planned? You betcha! I was really pleased with the outcome. With a few simple ingredients you have a really great, hearty, comforting pasta dish that comes together in no time. And the left overs? Well the leftovers were even better the next day. This will definitely be seen again at my house.

Oh and be sure and stop over at the Greenists today and see my post about making your own holiday gifts!

Now let's talk a little pasta!

What You'll Need:
1/2 of a large bag of egg noodles, cooked according to package directions
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 a red onion, chopped
4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large bag of frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup of fat free half and half (Note: Regular half and half or heavy cream would work as well.)

Cook noodles, drain and set aside.

While noodles are cooking saute onion and garlic until onions with a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground pepper until they are tender. Stir in spinach and cook for 2-3 minutes to heat through. Add cheese and half and half and stir until cheese has melted. Pour spinach mixture over noodles and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

How easy what that?

Notes: You could use any type of onion, scallion, shallot, etc. You could also add other vegetables if desired.

Posted by Dianne at 10:29 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 8, 2009

Chocolate Sheet Cake

Chocolate Sheet Cake

Chocolate Sheet Cake is one of those classic recipes that is made a bazillion different ways. Alexis was very impressed with this one, except she decided it should be called "Chocolate Pie Cake" instead! I didn't see the pie tie in, but hey, why stifle her creativity! ;oP

Chocolate Sheet Cake is a quick recipe that comes together in a flash, yet gives you a nice dessert that is just perfect for dinner guests or even to take and share. This cake is simplicity at its best and sometimes simplicity is just what you need!

What You'll Need for the Cake:
2 cups of organic cane sugar
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1/3 cup of cocoa
1 cup of butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 1/2 cups of buttermilk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon of vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large glass bowl stir together sugar, flour, baking soda, sea salt and cocoa until completely mixed. Add melted butter, buttermilk, eggs and vanilla and stir until completely incorporated.

Once the batter is mixed spread it out on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with non-stick spray:

Chocolate Sheet Cake: Ready To Bake

Bake for 25-20 minutes until cake sticks done. Cover with icing as soon as it comes out of the oven. (See below.)

Chocolate Sheet Cake: Ready to Ice

Notes: The original way that my mom made this called for a teaspoon of cinnamon. I'm not a fan of chocolate and cinnamon together, but if that sounds good to you then add it in with the dry ingredients.

Chocolate Sheet Cake: Icing

What You'll Need for the Icing:
1 stick of butter, cut into chunks
4 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (Note: You can use milk or bittersweet if you prefer.)
1/2 cup of heaving whipping cream
1 teaspoon of vanilla
2 cups of powdered sugar

Five to ten minutes before the cake is done making the icing.

Chocolate Sheet Cake: Chocoalte Ready To Chop

Cut butter into chunks and roughly chop your chocolate:

Chocolate Sheet Cake: Chocolate Chopped

Add butter, chocolate and whipping cream to a pot over medium heat and melt, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Once melted bring mixture to a quick boil, stirring frequently, to ensure it doesn't burn. As soon as it boils remove it from the heat.

Add vanilla and stir to incorporate and then slowly add sugar and stir until completely mixed. Pour mixture over baked sheet cake that has just been removed from the oven. Spread out gently to cover the entire cake.

Chocolate Sheet Cake

Let cake cool and then serve.

Notes: If you want you can add a cup of chopped nuts to the icing.

Posted by Dianne at 12:43 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 11, 2009

Pasta & Peas, My Way From Diane

Pasta and Peas

Diane with one n blogs over at Napa Farmhouse 1885. We bonded over our similar name and I was so excited when she agreed to guest blog for me this week! Be sure and stop over and say hello to her on her blog and she what fabulous things she has cooking over there!

pasta & peas, anyone?

i was so happy when my twitter friend dianne...(i always refer to her as “2 n dianne” because I, too, am diane, but with only one “n”)…asked me to guest host her blog while she went on a holiday…I have a blog, napa farmhouse 1885™…and usually write about food…i am a broken record regarding how much I love fresh, seasonal, organic or sustainably-farmed-when-possible ingredients….my motto, “the ingredients really do make the difference”.

like many people, i have become fascinated with the ninety three year old great-grandmother who is hosting a you-tube series on depression cooking. if you are unfamiliar with her story, clara cannucciari shares recipes and techniques for inexpensive, practical dishes which are filling, nourishing and tasty. one of her grandsons started filming her to record her recipes since she...like many grandmothers...never writes anything down. i love this story and wish i had done the same thing when my grandmother was alive…how cool it would be to have not only her recipes, but her voice sharing all the details of the dishes I loved while growing up…

anyway, clara’s grandson started putting his videos on you-tube and they became an instant hit…what perfect timing in this economy to be taught the lessons our grandparents and great-grandparents learned about simple basic food…and how to stretch a dollar. clara is a hoot as she tells stories about what it was like living through the great depression while also demonstrating her cooking techniques. i have watched all the videos and must confess that I am utterly charmed…she seems like such an honest, genuine person...you feel like you know her.

clara’s first video shares a recipe for pasta & peas...and when i saw the title i was immediately interested. pasta and peas is one of my favorites…a really fast, really easy, really delicious go-to recipe because i always have the ingredients on hand…when i saw clara’s version, however, i realized that our two dishes...while named the same…were miles apart…both interesting…but very different. due to the “great-depression” timing, clara does not emphasize fresh, best-quality available ingredients...how could she? she talks about how hard it was during that time…and how you ate what was available. her recipe uses potatoes, onions, canned peas(including the juice) and pasta all cooked together to create an almost stew-like dish. i imagine it was very filling, very warm, very good and very, very welcome during a cold winter night in the midst of the depression.

my version is lighter...no potatoes…fresher...frozen peas during most of the year...fresh peas in spring…and, as always, places an emphasis on the ingredients…but, i think, still delivers on the premise that excellent food can be simple, inexpensive, local, fast...and pretty easy…

please check out clara’s videos…and try my recipe…and let me know what you think...both in the comments section of this blog...and by visiting me over at my place…napa farmhouse 1885.

Pasta and Peas

pasta & peas, my way
1 lb short pasta (like fusilli)
½ yellow onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ tsp red pepper flakes (more if you like it spicy..i do!)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 lb bag frozen peas (or 1 lb fresh in season)
grey sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Pasta and Peas

bring large pot of water to boil…when rapidly boiling, salt water well and add pasta. cook following package directions (10-12 minutes) until just al dente(firm to the bite)…do not overcook. during the last minute of cooking add the frozen peas to the pasta…using a ladle, remove one ladleful of the pasta water and set aside. drain the pasta and peas in a colander. meanwhile, in a large skillet, sauté onions in olive oil until translucent. add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until garlic just begins to brown…add the pasta, peas and reserved pasta water to the onion mixture, stir well and add salt and pepper to taste. serve immediately, drizzling pasta with extra virgin olive oil if desired. top with freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

best,
diane

Thanks Diane with one n! That looks fabulous. Be sure to check back tomorrow to see what's up next during our Guest Blogger extravaganza!

Posted by Dianne at 10:03 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 5, 2009

Swedish Meatballs With A Twist

Swedish Meatball With A Twist

If you've been around Dianne's Dishes for a while, you've probably heard me talk about some of the things that were childhood favorites. Swedish Meatballs was one of those dishes. I've wanted to adapt that dish for a while now, but I just never got around to actually doing just that.

Last month I actually used ground chicken for the first time and I really loved it! I started thinking of other things I could use it for and many things started popping into my head...Burgers, chili, etc. But then I got the idea early this week that it would be fun to try and make Swedish Meatballs with the ground chicken in place of the ground beef, and not only was I really pleased with how this turned out, but I actually liked it better than the original version! That's always fun when that happens!

This dish has three main part, the meatballs of course, a cream based soup or gravy and rice. I'll cover the soup/gravy, which I made from scratch this go around and the meatballs. I think you guys can more than cover the rice! ;oP

So sit back, relax and let's take a look at my Swedish Meatballs With A Twist!

Swedish Meatball With A Twist: Cream of Mushroom Soup

What You'll Need For The Cream of Mushroom Soup:
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of butter
1 small portabella mushroom cap, chopped (Note: I like to just do little cubes.)
6-8 button mushrooms, chopped (Note: See note above.)
1/2 a large red onion, chopped
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup of unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 a quart of fat free half and half (Note: I love fat free half and half because it gives you the illusion of something much richer, but it's not as many calories or fat as using cream.)

Swedish Meatball With A Twist: Mushrooms, Onion and Garlic Ready To Cook

In a medium sized pot melt butter in olive oil. Add chopped vegetables, a generous pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Cook until just tender:

Swedish Meatball With A Twist: Mushrooms, Onion and Garlic Cooking

Add flour and cook for 2 minutes. Slowly stir in half and half and cook for a few minutes until thickened. (Note: It will continue to thicken when it bakes, so don't go for too thick. You can always add a bit more half and half if it thickens up too much.)

Remove from heat and set aside.

Swedish Meatball With A Twist: Browned

What You'll Need for the Meatballs:
1 pound of ground chicken
1 small potato, shredded
1 carrot, shredded
1/2 a red onion, chopped
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup of Panko breadcrumbs
2 eggs
Extra virgin olive oil

In a large bowl mix together all ingredients except olive oil until completely incorporated. (Note: The best way to do this is just to get in there with your hands!) Shape mixture into balls. I like to make them just slightly smaller than a golf ball, but whatever size you want to do is fine. Take into account though that larger it is the longer it will take to cook.

Swedish Meatball With A Twist: Starting to Brown

Heat a thin layer of olive oil and cook, turning the meatballs once or twice, until slightly browned:

Swedish Meatball With A Twist: Browning

(Note: You aren't cooking the meatballs done all the way through, you're just browning the outsides.)

Place the meatballs in a baking dish that has been brushed with olive oil or sprayed with non-stick spray.

Now it's time to put it all together!

Swedish Meatball With A Twist: Ready to Bake

What You'll Need to Put it All Together:
Browned meatballs
Cream of Mushroom Soup
Cooked rice

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Pour the Cream of Mushroom Soup over the meatballs and bake for 30-40 minutes until the meatballs are done through.

Swedish Meatball With A Twist: Baked

Serve over cooked rice.

Notes: I'm going to go out on a limb and say since this worked with ground chicken, you could do the same with ground turkey too. If you want you can used canned soup, but I really liked the fresh taste of the one I made myself.

Posted by Dianne at 8:39 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

March 4, 2009

Sausage and Cheese Two Ways

Sausage and Cheese Two Ways

Today we're actually going to pull one out of the archives and it might surprise you a bit!

I have a confession to make...Once in a blue moon, usually every couple of years, I actually like to have a little Velveeta. I don't know if you'd call it a guilty pleasure or just a comfort factor, or a blast from childhood, but there you have it...My dirty little secret! ;oP

You'll probably be surprised how I enjoy it too. I don't like to use it to make a grilled cheese sandwich, or to top scrambled eggs, or even to make a version of macaroni and cheese, or any other way you might think I might use the product. The way I like to use it, is with sausage!

Growing up, occasionally my mom would pair sausage and Velveeta and the put it on top of toast. The thought of this takes me back to childhood so quickly! As I've grown older I've done the process by using cheddar, but to be honest, and this may shock some of you, I actually prefer this dish with the Velveeta! Don't get me wrong, for every other dish I can think of, hands down I'd go to cheddar first, but for this, I just want that old familiar taste, but either way it's a fabulous way to add a little spice and goodness to your breakfast. A friend of mine even says the Velveeta sausage mixture makes a good dip!

So below I'll give you the methods for both and you can make it either way you choose. What's better in life than choices? ;oP

What You'll Need:
1 pound of breakfast sausage, cooked and crumbled
8 ounces of Velveeta, cubed or cheddar, shredded
Toast

Cook sausage and drain if necessary. If you're using Velveeta add the cubed Velveeta directly to the pan:

Sausage and Cheese Two Ways: Velveeta Ready To Melt

Cook until Velveeta melts, stirring frequently.

If you want to use cheddar then skip below to the toast assembly.

Preheat oven to broil.

Now it's time for the toast!

First we'll take a look at the cheddar version. Place a piece of toast on a baking sheet and top with a layer of sausage:

Sausage and Cheese Two Ways: Ready to Top with Cheddar

Next top with cheddar:

Sausage and Cheese Two Ways: Cheddar Ready to Broil

To make the Velveeta version simply spread the Velveeta/sausage mixture onto the toast.

Next up comes broiling. You want to broil for about 1-2 minutes. Just enough time to melt the cheese if you're doing the cheddar version and to make the mixture slightly bubbly if you're using Velveeta:

Sausage and Cheese Two Ways: After Broiling

Serve immediately.

Notes: You could use other kinds of cheeses using the same method as the cheddar. Obviously this isn't something you want to eat everyday either in terms of calories/fat and such.

Posted by Dianne at 9:48 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 3, 2009

Cinnamon Buns

Cinnamon Buns: Yummy Bite

Before we found out Jamison couldn't have gluten cinnamon buns were one of his all time favorite breakfast foods. I keep trying to come up with a gluten free version that he would like, but so far I haven't had a lot of luck. We'll get back to that in a minute....

For me I was a sometimes cinnamon bun sort of girl. I would have one occasionally and enjoy it, but my ideal breakfast is something much lighter. I'm not much of a morning person truth be told and I prefer cereal or some sort of fruit to get things started. But as I said above from time to time though I would get the urge to indulge and lately I kept thinking about cinnamon buns and thinking about them a lot.

So I started thinking, but I felt guilty about making them because I didn't want to taunt Jamison. He however said I should just make them, so I did! And oh boy these were good! Who doesn't like a fresh, warm, fabulous cinnamon bun? Top them with a little cream cheese frosting and you've got the prefect, sinful breakfast sometimes treat!

Cinnamon Buns: Dough

What You'll Need for the Dough:
2 cups of warm water (Note: I just use warm tap water. You want it warm to the touch, but not hot.)
1/2 cup of organic cane sugar
2 tablespoons of yeast
2 teaspoons of sea salt
4-5 cups of unbleached bread flour

In a large glass bowl mix together water, sugar and yeast. Let sit for 5 minutes or until mixture is foamy. (Note: Sometimes it foams within a minute or two. When it's foamy you're good to go.)

Add sea salt into the foamy sugar/water/yeast mixture and stir to mix. Next slowly add flour until dough ball forms. (Note: As with any bread you might need only some of the flour, all of it or more. When dough forms stop adding flour.)

Turn dough ball out onto a floured surface and knead for 1-2 minutes. (Note: You want to knead just until the dough is elastic. You don't have to knead it for a long time.)

Now you're ready for the next step....Finishing the buns!

Cinnamon Buns: Ready for Cream Cheese Icing

What You'll Need to Finish the Buns:
1/2 stick of butter, melted
1/2 cup of organic cane sugar
Cinnamon

First you want to roll out your dough to about 1/4 of an inch thick:

Cinnamon Buns: Ready for Butter

Next you want to brush the surface of the dough with melted butter and then sprinkle with sugar and then cinnamon:

Cinnamon Buns: Cinnamon and Sugar

Then you want to start to roll the dough on one of the long sides:

Cinnamon Buns: Starting to Roll

Keep rolling until the dough is completely rolled:

Cinnamon Buns: Rolled and Ready to Slice

Next using a serrated knife, cut the dough into slices roughly 3/4ths to 1 inch thick:

Cinnamon Buns: A Slice

Place slices on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat:

Cinnamon Buns: Ready to Rise

Set baking sheet in a warm place (I like to put them in the oven with the light on) and let rise until roughly doubled in size:

Cinnamon Buns: Risen

After the buns have risen preheat oven to 350 F. (Note: If you use your oven as your rising spot, be sure and take the buns out BEFORE you preheat!) Bake for 25-20 minutes or until golden brown:

Cinnamon Buns: Baked

You can eat these plain OR you can frost with cream cheese frosting. (See below.)

Cinnamon Buns

What You'll Need for the Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 - 8 ounce package of cream cheese, softened
1 stick of butter, softened
2 cups of powdered sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla

Cream together cream cheese and butter until smooth. Slowly add sugar and mix until completely incorporated. Add vanilla and stir until just mixed. Use immediately.

Notes: Sometimes I use natural brown sugar instead of organic cane sugar. You can use as much, or as little, cinnamon as you like. I normally use 2-3 tablespoons at least.

Posted by Dianne at 8:16 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 26, 2009

Gluten Free Fried Chicken

Gluten Free Fried Chicken

Who says you can't have fried chicken even if you can't have gluten? This version is amazing and trust me, you'll never miss the gluten! ;oP

What You'll Need:
1 chicken, cut into pieces (Note: You can cut it yourself or get your butcher to do it for you.)
1 quart of buttermilk
1 cup of gluten free breadcrumbs (Note: I like Gillian's version.)
2 1/2 cups of corn flour, divided (Note: Corn flour is NOT corn starch. They are made from different parts of the kernel and very different.)
3 tablespoons of Creole seasoning (Note: I used Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning.)
Sea salt
2 eggs, beaten

Place chicken in a large glass dish or bowl. Cover completely with the buttermilk and then cover the dish or bowl. Place in the fridge and let "marinate" for at least 4 hours, but overnight is better.

When ready to cook the chicken preheat oil to 375 F. (Note: I like to do this in a large stockpot on the stove top.) You want several inches of oil in the bottom of your pan. I usually use one small bottle of oil. This go around I used an Omega-3 version.

Preheat oven to 425 F.

While oil and oven are heating get the chicken and "breading" ready.

In a small dish place 1 cup of corn flour. Set aside.

In a large dish mix 1 1/2 cups of corn flour with the bread crumbs. Stir in Creole seasoning until incorporated. Set aside.

Beat two eggs and pour into a flat dish like a pie plate. Set aside.

Remove chicken from the fridge and drain off most of the buttermilk. You want a little coat of buttermilk to help the first coat and salt stick. Place on a plate.

Now set up an assembly line. First you want the chicken. The next step is the corn flour. Next up is the egg and finally the corn flour/breadcrumb mixture.

Now let's start the assembly line! Once the oil is heated first sprinkle the piece of chicken with a little sea salt all over. Then coat with the plain corn flour.

Next dip them in the beaten egg.

After the egg give them a nice roll in the corn flour/breadcrumb mixture and then fry each piece for roughly 7 minutes or until a very nice golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels and then place in a baking dish.

Once all the chicken is fried place the baking dish in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes. I like to do this to make sure the chicken is done all the way through. After baking serve immediately.

Notes: You could spice up your breadcrumb/cornflour mixture any way you liked. Cayenne pepper would be good. You could do simple salt and pepper. Paprika would be really good or Old Bay Seasoning would even work! Make it your own!

Posted by Dianne at 8:36 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 25, 2009

Gluten Free Macaroni and Cheese

Gluten Free Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and cheese is one of those ultimate comfort foods and the base usually uses flour to thicken the sauce. When I made a homemade macaroni and cheese at Christmas (linked in the sentence before) Jamison was very interested in it, but of course couldn't eat it since it had flour in it and regular noodles. I decided to try my hand at making a gluten free version, but just never got around to actually making one. That changed yesterday.

Overall I was extremely pleased with how this turned out. At first Jamison wasn't too sure about the dish, but in the end he said he'd give it 4 stars out of 5. That's saying something for him! ;oP I think for him he might have enjoyed it more with all cheddar or possibly even a bit of Colby instead of Swiss. I may play around with it a bit more, but this version suited me just fine! This is just perfect if you're looking for a familiar favorite, all while being gluten free. What's better than that?

What You'll Need:
1 - 12 ounce package of gluten free macaroni noodles (Note: I like Mrs. Leepers corn pasta.)
1 stick of butter
1/3 cup of corn flour (Note: Corn flour is NOT corn starch. They are made from different parts of the kernel.)
1/3 cup of tapioca flour
5 ounces of shredded Swiss cheese (Note: You want to shred and weigh the cheese yourself. Pre-shredded cheese has weird stabilizers in it so it won't mold as fast and it doesn't work as well. You could use it if you wanted, but your results won't be quite the same.)
8 ounces of shredded cheddar cheese (Note: Ditto to the note above for Swiss.)
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Cayenne pepper
Extra shredded cheddar

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Cook pasta according to package directions and drain.

While pasta is cooking melt butter in a large sauce pan. Once butter is melted add, a pinch of sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, a generous pinch of cayenne pepper, corn flour and tapioca flour and stir until thick. It will thicken fast! Remove from heat and stir in cheese until mostly melted. Pour in the hot, drained macaroni noodles and stir until mixed.

Pour mixture into a a baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Top the dish with more shredded cheddar and bake for 8-10 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove casserole dish from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes and then serve.

Gluten Free Macaroni and Cheese

Notes: You could omit the cayenne if you liked.

Posted by Dianne at 8:54 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 15, 2009

The Ultimate Macaroni and Cheese

Ultimate Macaroni and Cheese

Who doesn't like a cheesy, ooey, warm macaroni and cheese? It's the very epitome of comfort food and a childhood staple for many. For a while now I've been looking for a good homemade mac and cheese and I've been largely disappointed until this creation! I made this on Christmas Eve and knew I was on to something when Jamison looked at it and said "That looks good!" He's never shown any interest in homemade mac and cheese before. Sadly though he couldn't taste it because it wasn't gluten free, though I want to try a gluten free version in the near future for him! Then I took a bite and oh my! So good! This is definitely one to pull out when you want to wow them!

What You'll Need:
1 - 16 ounce package of pasta (Note: You can use any kind that you like...shells, macaroni, twists, penne, etc. I used chiocciole, which are like big macaroni noodles.)
4 tablespoons of butter
3 tablespoons of unbleached all purpose flour
2 cups of milk (Note: You can use any type of milk you like. I used skim.)
1 teaspoon of onion powder
A small pinch of sea salt (Note: Cheese is sometimes salty so go easy on the salt.)
A generous pinch of black pepper
8 ounces of Fontina, shredded
5 ounces of cheddar, shredded (Note: You can use whatever level of cheddar that you like. I used extra sharp.)
5 ounces of Swiss, shredded
1 cup of Parmesan, grated
1 cup of Panko bread crumbs

(Note: You really need a kitchen scale for this recipe. It's best to weight the amount of cheese. It can be a little over or a little under the weight (0.1 or 0.2 ounces here or there) it doesn't have to be completely exact, but a kitchen scale is a nice tool to have for this.)

Ultimate Macaroni and Cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside.

Preheat your broiler.

In a large pot melt butter and then add flour and stir to mix. Cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds to a minute, but do NOT let it brown! Add milk, onion powder, salt and pepper and stir until mixture thickens slightly (about 1-2 minutes). Remove from heat when the mixture is slightly thickened and add cheeses and stir until completely melted.

Pour cheese sauce over pasta and stir gently until pasta is completely coated. Pour mixture into a 3 or 4 quart baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Sprinkle the top of the macaroni with panko and Parmesan and broil for 3-4 minutes until top is golden. Let sit for 5 minutes and then serve.

Ultimate Macaroni and Cheese

Notes: There are all sort of variations you could do with this. You could add cayenne pepper instead of black. You could add in some salsa for a Mexican variety. You could play around with the cheeses. The possibilities are endless!

Posted by Dianne at 10:37 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 10, 2008

Chili Cheeseburgers

Chili Cheese Burger

The first time I had a chili cheeseburger was my first year in college at the University of Tennessee. I can't remember where I got it, but I remember being very impressed with the whole concept. Don't get me wrong, even then I realized how simple the concept was, but until that point I had never really thought of a chili cheeseburger...Chili dog yes, but not a burger. Years passed and I hadn't had another and then one day I started thinking about just how simple it would be to do. I don't make them that often, but occasionally I like a nice chili cheeseburger...Chili? Cheese? What's not to like?

What You'll Need for the Chili:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
A pinch of sea salt
1 tablespoon of chili powder
1 tablespoon of paprika
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1 teaspoon of onion powder
1/4-1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (Note: More if you like it hot, less if you don't. You can omit it all together if you prefer mild chili.)
1 - 15 ounce can of red kidney beans
1 - 15 ounce can of tomato sauce
1- 14.5 can of diced tomatoes

In a medium sized pot sauté onion until tender with a little sea salt. Add the rest of the spices and stir to mix. Next stir in kidney beans, tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Bring to a quick boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for at least 30 minutes. (Note: The longer chili cooks the more the spices meld. You could dump all of this minus the olive oil into your slow cooker and cook it on low for about 4 hours that way too. I usually don't add meat to my chili, especially if I'm using it on chili cheeseburgers, but if you want you can add that too.)

Next comes to fun part...What do you want to put in/on the burger?

If you want you can easily use a veggie burger. A regular hamburger would be great too, or how about a turkey or chicken burger? Another non-meat option would be a grilled portabella mushroom cap. I've never tried that, but now that I type that sentence I think next time I just might!

Cheese is also up to you. You can use cheddar, or American, or Swiss, or Monterrey Jack, or a mix! You can even leave the cheese off all together for a basic chili burger if that's more to your liking.

Condiments are also up to you. I have a friend who likes mayo and ketchup. But what ever you like will make the perfect burger for you. My burger usually consists or either a veggie or normal burger, cheddar or American cheese and lots of mustard on a whole grain bun. Serve with oven fries and a side salad and you've got the perfect meal!

Notes: Everything in this is gluten free except for the bun. If you wanted a gluten free option you could leave the bun off all together or use a gluten free bun in place of the regular bun. You could also use black beans if you preferred or even a mix of both black and red.

Posted by Dianne at 8:37 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 4, 2008

Election Day Apple Pie

Election Day Apple Pie: Baked

For election day I wanted to do something that was the epitome of Americana and you just can't get more American that apple pie! Apple pie is just one of those quintessential American dishes that you'll find time and time again across America. As I type this the smell of the warm pie is wafting up through the house and it just screams America!

Apple pie, while delicious, is also extremely easy to make. I wanted to play around with my normal recipe a bit, so I tweaked it and what you see here is the result. It's luscious, cinnamony and oh so delicious! Warm or cooled, this pie will definitely win raves! You could even pair it with some vanilla or caramel ice cream for an even bigger treat, but over all what's better than a little all time American traditional food, using in season local ingredients, on election day all with a message baked right in? ;oP

So if you haven't already, don't forget to get out there today and vote! :o)

Election Day Pie: Vote

What You'll Need:
1 double pie crust (Note: I actually bought crust for this pie, but you can make it from scratch if you prefer. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't.)
5 apples, cored and chopped (Note: I used 4 Golden Delicious apples and 1 Fuji apple. There is no need to peel the apples, unless you just want to add an extra step for yourself! ;oP)
2 tablespoons of cinnamon (Note: I adore cinnamon. If you aren't as fond of it as I am, then you can use 1 tablespoon instead.)
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon of vanilla powder (Note: You can omit this if you want. This was new addition that I have been wanting to try and I must say I liked the little kick it gave!)
1 cup of natural brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1/2 cup of unbleached all purpose flour
1 egg, beaten
Organic cane sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Press pie dough into a pie dish and set aside.

Election Day Pie: Apples

Place chopped apples in a large bowl.

Election Day Pie: Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

Add cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla powder, brown sugar, salt and flour and toss to coat.

Election Day Apple Pie: Ready for Top Crust

Pour apples into the pie dish. (Note: They may stand up a bit over the edge of the dish...This is ok.)

Election Day Apple Pie: Ready for Egg Wash

For the top crust you can do it one of two ways: 1) You can place the dough on top and use a knife to make vent holes or 2) You can cut out a shape(s) with small cookie cutters and then place the dough on top. Once dough is on top, crimp the edges to seal the pie and place it on a baking sheet.

Election Day Apple Pie: A Slice

Next brush the top of the pie with egg and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 30-40 minutes until pie is golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Election Day Apple Pie: A Bite

Notes: I know some people like raisins in their apple pie (me not so much) so if that sounds good to you, you could add in 1 cup of raisins as well.

Election Day Apple Pie:

So if you haven't voted yet, what are you waiting for? Go on! Go vote! ;o)

Posted by Dianne at 7:16 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

October 29, 2008

Simple Beef Stew

Beef Stew

When it comes to beef stew I'm very minimalistic...The simpler the better! You don't need a whole lot of things going on to make a fabulous, delicious meal in one. This stew is comfort food at its finest, because sometimes something comforting is just what you need.

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 pound of beef stew meat
Sea salt
Black pepper
1/4 cup of unbleached all purpose flour (Note: If you wanted to make this gluten free you could use corn starch or tapioca flour.)
1-2 cups of frozen peas 3 large carrots, cut into roughly 1 inch chunks
1 large potato, cut into nice bite sized chunks
2-3 cups of small button or baby portabella mushrooms
4 cups of beef or mushroom broth

Preheat oven to 275 F.

In a large oven proof dutch oven sauté onion in some extra virgin olive oil until just soft. Add beef and sauté until browned. Add a generous pinch of sea salt, a good amount of freshly ground black pepper and stir to coat. Add vegetables and beef broth and stir to incorporate.

Place dutch oven covered into the oven for 3-4 hours, removing from time to time to stir, until veggies are tender and broth thickens. Serve immediately.

Beef Stew

Notes: Beef stew is fabulous served with a nice piece of crusty bread. It's definitely a fabulously hearty meal all in one!

Posted by Dianne at 9:04 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 6, 2008

Gluten Free Buttermilk Biscuits

Gluten Free Buttermilk Biscuits

Jamison loves bread. While I can go days without even touching a single piece of bread, Jamison has always liked bread, in some shape or form, with every meal. When we discovered that he could not have gluten this changed.

The first weekend that we were dealing with the Celiac bomb as I like to call it, we tried out several pre-made gluten free baked goods and I have to say the results were not that stellar. Then we tried a few bread mixes in the bread machine that were ok and ultimately I ended up coming up with my own gluten free bread that I bake every week or so for Jamison's lunches. I've tried some gluten free roll type concoctions here and there, but they were ok, but not quite what either of expected and then came this gluten free buttermilk biscuit!

The first thing I was really surprised by was how easily it came together and how well the dough formed. I've never made a gluten free dough that was anywhere near comparable to a gluten dough in texture, but this one was pretty close and it even was able to be rolled! The most fabulous thing was that the texture held when baked! By simply starting with a dry gluten free base (which is simply the dry base for Jamison's gluten free sandwich bread) you open up infinite possibilities!

What You'll Need for the Gluten Free Baking Mix:
2 cups of sweet rice flour
1 cup of tapioca flour
1/2 cup of sorghum flour
2 tablespoons of xanthum gum
2 teaspoons of sea salt

Mix together ingredients and store in an airtight container.

Gluten Free Buttermilk Biscuit

What You'll Need for the Gluten Free Buttermilk Biscuits:
2 cups gluten free baking mix (see above)
3 tablespoons of organic cane sugar
1 tablespoon of baking powder
3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 eggs
1 cup of buttermilk
Tapioca flour for rolling

Preheat oven to 400 F.

In a large bowl add gluten free baking mix, sugar and baking powder and stir to mix. Add olive oil, eggs and buttermilk to the dry mixture and stir to form dough. Turn dough out onto a surface that has been dusted with tapioca flour and knead briefly to form ball (roughly 1 minute).

Gluten Free Buttermilk Biscuits: Dough

Roll dough out to about an inch thick and dust a glass or cutter with tapioca flour and cut biscuits until dough runs out. Place on a baking sheet that has been lined with a silicone baking sheet or parchment paper.

Gluten Free Buttermilk Biscuits: Read to Bake

Place in baking sheet in the preheated oven and bake for 8-15 minutes until biscuits are slightly browned. Serve immediately.

Gluten Free Buttermilk Biscuits: The Insides

Notes: Look at that inside texture in the picture above! How's that for fabulous? Next time I make these I think I am going to try to brush the tops with melted butter. They also kept for several days in an airtight container without drying out.

P.S. Don't forget to take this link and sign up for your chance to help me celebrate my birthday and win a $50 Williams Sonoma gift card!

Posted by Dianne at 8:54 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

October 3, 2008

Dill and Cheddar Potato Cakes

Dill and Cheddar Potato Cakes

Living in a house with Jamison mashed potatoes are often on his menu and most of the time that means left over mashed potatoes too. For a while now I've wanted to make some Potato Cakes. I've tried it in the past and never just quite got the process down. This time however they turned out great!

I decided to give the Potato Cakes a little kick and threw in some dill and cheddar. The flavors just melded so well! Topped with a little sour cream and it was the ultimate indulgence! True this is not something you would make and eat everyday, but it's just perfect for when you want something warm and scrumptious! If you like potatoes and cheese this is the ultimate comfort food!

What You'll Need:
2 cups of mashed potatoes
2 eggs
1/2 cup of unbleached all purpose flour
1 tablespoon of dill
A pinch of sea salt
1/2-3/4 a cup of shredded cheddar
Olive oil for frying

Dill and Cheddar Potato Cakes

Heat a pan over medium heat until hot. Spritz with some non-stick spray and then add about a tablespoon of olive oil. Place dollops of potato mixture into the pan. When side down has browned flip the dollop over and flatten it. Cook until both sides are golden brown and place on a plate with paper towels to drain. Add more oil between batches if needed.

Serve immediately plain or a dollop of sour cream.

Dill and Cheddar Potato Cakes

Notes: You could add in finely chopped onion if you liked. You could also leave out the cheese and dill.

P.S. If you haven't already be sure and sign up for your chance to win a $50 Williams Sonoma gift card! All you have to do is leave a comment on this entry. So what are you waiting for? Take the link and enter to win! ;o)

Posted by Dianne at 1:55 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 26, 2008

Loaded Barbeque Baked Potatoes

Loaded Barbeque Baked Potatoes

We're going to wind out the week with another quick, easy post. Hopefully my thumb will be more on the mend by Monday! It's doing much better, but still very sore!

This recipe is a great way to use up pulled pork or chicken! You've got all the elements of a fabulous barbeque dinner all rolled into one! What's not to like?

What You'll Need Per Person:
1 russet potato, baked
Sea salt
1/3-1/2 cup of pulled pork or chicken, warmed
1/4 cup of barbeque sauce, heated
1 ounce of cheddar or Colby cheese, shredded
1 scallion, chopped
Sour cream (optional)

Slice open baked potato and sprinkle with a little sea salt. Top with pulled pork or chicken, barbeque sauce, cheese, scallion and some sour cream. Serve immediately.

Loaded Barbeque Baked Potatoes

Notes: Pair this with a salad and you've got the perfect meal! If you want to make it vegetarian you could use mushrooms in place of the meat.

Posted by Dianne at 8:47 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 8, 2008

Mini Double Cheese Quiches

Mini Double Cheese Quiche

I like single serve dishes. For me, for some reason, it makes it easier to eat only what I am supposed to and not keep eating and eating. When I am faced with a big something I tend to eat more of it than I should...Why is that? What better way to control portion size than to make single servings! This is perfect for breakfast, brunch, lunch or even dinner. By making the quiches in small single serve pans it's easy to know where to begin and where to end. Pair the quiche with a salad and you've got the perfect meal!

What You'll Need per Mini Pan:
1/4 of a prepared pie crust (Note: I used a store bought crust for this, but any type of crust will work. You just want enough to fill the bottom of your mini tart pan.)
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon of dried dill
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons of swiss, shredded
2 tablespoons of fontina, shredded

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Fill mini-tart pans with pie crust. Set aside.

In a glass bowl beat eggs. Add dill, sea salt and freshly ground pepper and stir to incorporate. Stir in cheeses and fill each pan with egg mixture until full. Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden brown.

Mini Double Cheese Quiche: Baked

You can make as many, or as few of these as you like. I ended up making two mini quiches...One for then and one for later.

Mini Double Cheese Quiche: A Bite

Note: Quiche is the ultimate play around with food. Add in more cheese, or different cheeses. Play around with herbs that you like. You could even throw in some mushrooms and onions. Or how about some spinach and leeks? The possibilities are endless!

Posted by Dianne at 7:10 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 31, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge August 2008: Éclairs!

Daring Bakers August 2008 Challenge Eclairs: Oblong

It's the end of the month so you know what that means...The Daring Baker's Reveal! This month's challenge was chosen by Meeta of What's for Lunch Honey? and Tony of Tony Tahhan and our challenge was Éclairs!

I must say this challenge both excited me (I mean come on...Éclairs??) and terrified me all at the same time. I've attempted a Pâte à Choux type pastry dough exactly once before and they fell completely flat and who really wants a flat Éclair? Not I! ;oP So I procrastinated...I put it off and put it off and put it off and finally when I made them Thursday afternoon I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome!

Daring Bakers August 2008 Challenge Eclairs: Round

Now don't get me wrong...This challenge has a bit of work involved and you aren't going to just whip them up in thirty minutes, but it wasn't that hard in the long run and the results were heavenly! I ended halving the recipe when I realized there was no way I would get up early enough to send these to work with Jamison (and used 3 eggs because let's face it...It's a little hard to halve five eggs! ;oP) and made six oblong Éclairs and four round puffs and I must say they turned out fabulously!

I also decided to make my pastry cream a vanilla bean version instead of making it chocolate since we had the choice to keep one of the chocolate elements and use something else for the other option. I simply followed the recipe for the pastry cream and added in one scraped vanilla bean and one tablespoon of vanilla flavoring instead of the chocolate and it turned out perfectly! I still have some of the cream in the fridge...Oh the things I can do with that! ;oP

So this recipe is most definitely a winner! Be sure and check out the Daring Baker's Blogroll and see how everyone else's Éclairs turned out!

I can't wait to see what next month's challenge brings! I hope you all are having a fabulous Labor Day Weekend and for all my international readers I hope you're having a fabulous weekend too! :o)

Pierre Hermé's Chocolate Éclairs
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• Cream Puff Dough (see below for recipe), fresh and still warm

1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Divide the oven into thirds by positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with waxed or parchment paper.

2) Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough. Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 41/2 inches (about 11 cm) chubby fingers. Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff. The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.

3) Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip the handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking time should be approximately 20 minutes.

Notes:

1) The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.

Assembling the éclairs:

• Chocolate glaze (see below for recipe)
• Chocolate pastry cream (see below for recipe)

1) Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside the bottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.

2) The glaze should be barely warm to the touch (between 95 – 104 degrees F or 35 – 40 degrees C, as measured on an instant read thermometer). Spread the glaze over the tops of the éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the bottoms with the pastry cream.

3) Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottoms with enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry cream and wriggle gently to settle them.

Notes:

1) If you have chilled your chocolate glaze, reheat by placing it in a bowl over simmering water, stirring it gently with a wooden spoon. Do not stir too vigorously as you do not want to create bubbles.

2) The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.

Daring Bakers August 2008 Challenge Eclairs: Baked

Pierre Hermé's Cream Puff Dough
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• ½ cup (125g) whole milk
• ½ cup (125g) water
• 1 stick (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
• ¼ teaspoon sugar
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
• 5 large eggs, at room temperature

Daring Bakers August 2008 Challenge Eclairs: Dough Pre Egg

1) In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the boil.

2) Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it's supposed to. You need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough will be very soft and smooth.

Daring Bakers August 2008 Challenge Eclairs: Dough Post Egg

3) Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your handmixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough. You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time you have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.

4) The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.

Notes:

1) Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately.

Daring Bakers August 2008 Challenge Eclairs: Ready to Bake

2) You can pipe the dough and the freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.

Daring Bakers August 2008 Challenge Eclairs: Vanilla Pastry Cream

Chocolate Pastry Cream
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by PierreHermé

• 2 cups (500g) whole milk
• 4 large egg yolks
• 6 tbsp (75g) sugar
• 3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
• 7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Velrhona Guanaja, melted
• 2½ tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1) In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy‐bottomed saucepan.

2) Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture.Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.

3) Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat).Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.

4) Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth.

5) Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.

Notes:

1) The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

2) In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.

3) Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.

Chocolate Glaze
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 1 cup or 300g)

• 1/3 cup (80g) heavy cream
• 3½ oz (100g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 4 tsp (20 g) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
• 7 tbsp (110 g) Chocolate Sauce (recipe below), warm or at room temperature

1)In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.

2) Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.

Notes:

1) If the chocolate glaze is too cool (i.e. not liquid enough) you may heat it briefly
 in the microwave or over a double boiler. A double boiler is basically a bowl sitting over (not touching) simmering water.

2) It is best to glaze the eclairs after the glaze is made, but if you are pressed for time, you can make the glaze a couple days ahead of time, store it in the fridge and bring it up to the proper temperature (95 to 104 F) when ready to glaze.

Chocolate Sauce
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 1½ cups or 525 g)

• 4½ oz (130 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 1 cup (250 g) water
• ½ cup (125 g) crème fraîche, or heavy cream
• 1/3 cup (70 g) sugar

1) Place all the ingredients into a heavy‐bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly. Then reduce the heat to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.

2) It may take 10‐15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon.

Notes:

1) You can make this sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for two weeks. Reheat the sauce in a microwave oven or a double boiler before using.

2) This sauce is also great for cakes, ice-cream and tarts.

Posted by Dianne at 12:01 AM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

August 29, 2008

Turkey Pasta Bake

Turkey Pasta Bake

So you want some sort of pasta dish, but you aren't actually thinking along the line of something tomato based and you are stumped about where to go from there...Now what? Why not pull out some pasta, turkey and peas? This combination makes a lovely savory combination that will become a instant favorite if turkey and peas are your thing. It's just perfect for when you want a little pasta, but you'd like to put a hold on the tomatoes! ;o)

What You'll Need:
1 box of whole wheat penne, cooked according to package directions
Extra virgin olive oil
4 turkey cutlers, cooked and cut into chunks (Note: I cooked 4 cutlets, but only used two of them as I halved this recipe.)
1 onion, chopped
2 cups of mushrooms, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
Sea salt
Black pepper
1 cup of fat free half and half
1/2 pound Gruyère cheese, shredded
1 package of frozen peas
Pecorino Romano cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Cook penne according to package directions, drain and place in a very large bowl. Set aside.

Turkey Pasta Bake: Turkey Chops Cooking

In a medium sized pan sauté turkey cutlets until done through. Remove from pan, cut into chunks and set aside.

In the same skillet that you cooked your turkey, add a bit more olive oil and sauté onion, mushrooms and garlic until tender with a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground pepper. Add half and half and Gruyère and stir until mostly melted. Stir in peas and turkey chunks until incorporated and pour mixture over the pasta, stirring gently to incorporate, but not mash the noodles.

Turkey Pasta Bake: Ready for Cheese

Once noodles/veggies/turkey are mixed pour into an 13 X 9 inch dish that has been brushed with olive oil and spread out to ensure the mixture covers the entire dish.

Turkey Pasta Bake: Ready to Bake

Top with grated Pecorino Romano cheese and bake for 25-30 minutes until cheese melts and is slightly browned.

Notes: I halved what you see above made an 8 X 8 inch pan instead. You could use chicken or shrimp in place of the turkey, or even just add more mushrooms and leave out the meat all together.

Posted by Dianne at 7:47 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 8, 2008

Southern Baked Beans

Southern Baked Beans

Growing up when we had a barbeque or cook out nine times out of ten baked beans would be present. I don't know if that is just a Southern thing or what, but invariably there would be baked beans and potato salad. As I've gotten older my version of what baked beans should be has changed a bit, but sometimes it's fun to take a trip down memory lane and make them like the beans of my childhood. I still like my version a bit better, but these beans are ridiculously easy to make and sometimes ridiculously easy is exactly what you need when you want something in a hurry.

Oh and on a side note I'm taking the weekend off so What's For Dinner (after this afternoon's addition) will be back on Monday! Have a great weekend everyone! :o)

What You'll Need:
2 large cans of pork and beans
1 cup of a good, sweet barbeque sauce
1/4 cup of natural brown sugar
1/4 cup of honey
1/4 cup of mustard
1 onion, chopped
Sea salt
Black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large baking dish mix together all ingredients until well incorporated. Bake for 1 hour.

As far as serving you can serve them right out of the oven, or you can chill them first and then serve them cold. They are good either way.

See...Ridiculously simple!

Notes: You can also add in a chopped bell pepper if you like.

Posted by Dianne at 7:36 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 29, 2008

Bacon Cheese Curly Fries

Curly Cheese Fries

So lets talk sinful today shall we? And what could be more sinful than fried potatoes, melted cheese and bacon? Not much I dare say!

Cheese fries and Potato Skins are some of Jamison's all time favorites so every one in a while, and in this case it was his birthday earlier this month, I pull out all the stops and make something along these lines. Usually it is more likely to be Potato Skins, but this time I wanted to try to make cheese fries since I never have and I have to say I was very pleased! These fries were just to die for! (Possibly quite literally given all that cholesterol! ;oP) These are definitely a sometimes food, but oh what a happy sometimes that is!

What You'll Need:
4-6 russet potatoes, cut into curls (Note: I have a machine that does the curly cuts that Jamison's Mom left with me when they were here for Alexis' birthday. If you don't have the ability to make curly cuts then you can simply cut the potato into regular fry pieces and fry them that way.)
Seasoned salt
1 to 1 1/2 cups of shredded Colby or Cheddar (Note: I used Colby.)
4-6 pieces of bacon, chopped or crumbled
A fryer and oil for frying (Note: If you don't have a fryer you can simply heat oil on the stove top in a deep pot with a thermometer.) Ranch and or sour cream for dipping (optional)

Preheat oil to 375 F.

First cut your potatoes and put them in a container so they are readily available:

Curly Cheese Fries: Curly Potatoes Ready to Fry

I like to use a glass bowl.

Once the oil is heated add the potatoes in small batches and fry until just soft and not browned:

Curly Cheese Fries: Ready for Second Fry

This is also known as parboiling. Remove from the oil and drain on a plate or platter that is lined with a paper towel.

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Once all the potatoes are parboiled put them back in the fryer in small batches until they are browned. Remove them from the fryer and place on a plate or platter with a clean paper towel and let drain again. Sprinkle the fries with seasoned salt generously.

Once the are drained place them on a baking sheet that has been lined with a silicone baking sheet:

Curly Cheese Fries: Ready to Top

Be sure to spread them out a bit.

Next top with shredded cheese and bacon:

Curly Cheese Fries: Ready for the Oven

Place the baking sheet into the preheated oven and bake for 5-6 minutes until cheese is melted. Remove from oven and serve immediately.

Notes: You could do a mix of cheeses if you wanted. Monterrey Jack would be fabulous! As would some of the Mexican cheeses. You could also add some chopped scallions to them right before serving, but obviously that isn't Jamison's cup of tea.

Posted by Dianne at 7:36 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

July 22, 2008

Slow Cooker Turkey Breast

Slow Cooker Turkey: Ready to Slice

If you've been a reader of Dianne's Dishes for a while you've seen me talk a lot about not heating up the oven that much during the summer. But not heating up your oven doesn't mean you have to give up foods you would normally cook there, it just means you find a different way to cook them and a slow cooker is a perfect way to do just that!

The other day I got a turkey breast from South Mountain Creamery and I decided to see how it would turn out in the slow cooker. I mean you can cook chicken quite well in a slow cooker so why not turkey? I must say even though in theory I thought it would work I was very pleased with the result! The breast was tender, juicy and overall just very delicious and the whole process was beyond simple! I'll most definitely be trying this again!

Another good thing about turkey is that you can do many things with the leftovers too! How about Turkey Avocado Salad or Turkey Noodle Soup or Turkey Salad...You can also use turkey in just about any recipe you would use chicken instead. How is that for versatile?

Slow Cooker Turkey

What You'll Need:
1 turkey breast (Note: I used one that had the bone.)
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Dried rosemary

Place turkey breast into the bowl of your slow cooker. Drizzle with olive oil. (Note: You want a few tablespoons max.) Flip the breast over to make sure you get olive oil on both sides. Sprinkle with sea salt, black pepper and dried rosemary. Place lid on slow cooker and turn heat to high. Cook for 6-7 hours.

Slow Cooker Turkey: Sliced

Halfway through the cooking process flip the breast once. Once cooked bring out of the slow cooker and let sit for 10 minutes before slicing. Serve immediately.

Slow Cooker Turkey: Leftovers!

Notes: Any dried herb you like will work. Thyme would be fabulous!

Posted by Dianne at 7:26 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

July 21, 2008

Chocolate Peanut Butter Drop Cookies

Chocolate Peanut Butter Drop Cookies

These cookies are one of Jamison's all time favorites. As a child we called them "Cow Drop Cookies" and I'll let you just imagine why! ;oP I have made these many times over the years and I have even made a gluten free non-oat version in the past since I haven't been able to locate gluten free oats that don't cost a bazillion dollars a pound.

See there I go digressing again...Where was I? Oh yes!

A few weeks ago our neighbor did us a huge favor and I wanted to send something home with him for helping us out. My mind immediately set on these cookies! They are quick, easy and beyond delicious and just perfect for when you want to whip something up fast to share! I also sent a batch to work with Jamison the next day, because why not share all around! ;o)

What You'll Need:
1 stick of butter
1 cup of organic cane sugar
1 cup of natural brown sugar
2 heaping tablespoons of cocoa
2/3 cup of half and half
1/2 cup of peanut butter
2 cups of oats
2 teaspoons of vanilla

Melt butter with both sugars, cocoa and half and half in a medium sized pot and bring to a quick boil over medium heat. Boil for five minutes. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter until the peanut butter is completely melted and smooth. Stir in vanilla and then add oats. Drop by the rounded tablespoonful onto a baking sheet that has been lined with waxed paper or a silicone baking sheet. Let set for an hour or two and serve. Store in an airtight container.

How simple and delicious is that?

Notes: You could use crunchy peanut butter if you liked.

Posted by Dianne at 7:15 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 15, 2008

Cheesecake Brownies

Cheesecake Brownie

Cheesecake and brownies...Who doesn't like those? Why not combine the two and see what you come up with? This is it! These brownies are rich, decadent and oh so delicious! These most definitely are sometimes food, but oh what a sometimes food they are! In fact they were so good I kept a couple and sent the rest off to work with Jamison for a treat day this morning! They were just that tempting! ;oP Of course I haven't sent anything for a treat day at Jamison's office in a while, so this was the perfect excuse!

Cheesecake Brownies: Baked

Seriously these were heavenly, but they'd cause me to have to spend way too much time on the treadmill and in case you didn't know I despise the treadmill even though I drag myself upon it anyway, but why have to drag myself upon it longer than I have to?!!?!? ;oP

What You'll Need for the Brownie Layer:
2 sticks of butter
6 ounces of baking chocolate
2 cups of organic cane sugar
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 tablespoon of vanilla
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl melt butter and baking chocolate in the microwave on 30 second intervals until completely melted and smooth. Stir in sugar. (Note: It may be a little grainy one you add the sugar, but don't worry.)

Stir in baking powder and vanilla and stir to incorporate into the chocolate mixture. Add eggs and stir until well mixed. Next slowly stir in flour until completely incorporated.

Pour mixture into a 13 X 9 inch dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Set aside.

What You'll Need for the Cheesecake Layer:
2- 8 ounce packages of cream cheese, softened
1 cup of organic cane sugar
2 eggs

Cheesecake Brownies: Ready to Swirl

In the bowl of your mixer mix together cream cheese, sugar and eggs until completely smooth. Drop cream cheese mixture by large dollops on top of the brownie mixture. With a spoon swirl cheesecake into the brownie mixture. (Don't worry it's not going to be pretty at this point. It blends more into a swirl once you bake.)

Cheesecake Brownies: Swirled and Ready to Bake

Bake for 30-40 minutes until edges are done and cheesecake center is set. (Note: It may still be a little wiggly. Don't worry.) Remove from oven and let cool completely. Cut into squares and store in an airtight container.

Cheesecake Brownie

Notes: As I mentioned these are very rich, so smaller is better. :o)

Posted by Dianne at 12:23 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 25, 2008

Spinach Ravioli

Spinach Ravioli: The Inside

Several years ago for Christmas Jamison got me a pasta maker and ever since then I had intended to make ravioli, but I never got around to it. On Saturday Jamison and Alexis decided that they wanted spaghetti and I am most definitely spaghettied out! I tossed around the idea of making a fresh pasta topper, but decided instead it was high time to test out some ravioli!

You don't really need a pasta maker to make ravioli if you're willing to roll out the dough over and over, but the pasta machine makes that step so much easier! I also don't have a ravioli "mold", but you don't really need one...All you need is a pizza cutter and you're good to go!

This version is made with semolina flour, ricotta and spinach. I had intended to throw in mushrooms too, but I got side tracked and it was all good in the end so that is all that matters. Don't let homemade pasta intimidate you because it is really quite easy, not to mention completely delicious!

What You'll Need:
2 cups of semolina flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
3 eggs (Note: Depending on humidity and such you might just need 2 eggs.)
1 cup of part skim ricotta
1 cup of chopped, cooked spinach, drained well
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Tomato sauce (Note: I usually just eat tomato sauce, but in this instance I used Jamison's meat sauce from his spaghetti and it turned out great!)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a large bowl stir together semolina flour and sea salt until incorporated. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture an add 2 eggs. Stir until mixed and test dough by squeezing with your fingers. If it sticks together like dough then you won't need the other egg, if it's still crumbly then add another egg and stir to combine. Take your hands and knead the dough until a ball forms. Set aside.

In a glass bowl mix together ricotta cheese, a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper and stir to mix. Add spinach and mix until incorporated. Set aside.

Spinach Ravioli: Semolina Dough In The Pasta Machine

Divide the pasta dough into eight sections. Sprinkle a little flour onto your pasta machine and squish the dough into a flat circle. Run the pasta through your machine several times until smooth. If you need to add a little more flour then do. Each time you send it back through the machine, just fold the dough over on itself. If it seems grainy or it isn't sticking together like you think it should, just keep sending it through the machine and it will come together. The first time I made pasta I didn't work the dough enough and it turned out crumbly.

Spinach Ravioli: Semolina Dough Cut Into Strips

Take the rolled out dough and on a floured surface cut it into 2-3 inch strips.

Spinach Ravioli: Getting Ready to Fold

Place a dollop of ricotta mixture in the middle of the strip (1/2-1 tablespoon of the mixture) and fold over. Mash the dough around the dollop of spinach ricotta and then use your pizza cutter to cut off the excess dough.

Spinach Ravioli

Place the individual raviolis on a baking sheet lined with a Silpat or parchment paper and then repeat until you run out of dough an filling.

Spinach Ravioli: Read to Boil

Rule number one for pasta making...It doesn't have to be perfect! Just have fun. If you get a little spinach and/or ricotta into the dough no big deal. If it isn't perfectly sealed, well that's ok too! Once you have made the ravioli set it aside.

At this point you can do one of two things: 1) Boil some water and make ravioli or 2) Freeze the ravioli. If you want to freeze the ravioli simply put the baking sheet into the freezer and freeze until solid (by freezing them first it keeps them from sticking together) and then put in a storage container and place it in the freezer for up to 3 months. With this batch I froze half of them and cooked the other half. If you want to start cooking see below.

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Salt the water with a little sea salt and add a single layer of the ravioli to the pot. (Note: They will sink to the bottom.) As the ravioli cook they'll start to float. When they float take them out of the water. If you have one that seems to be taking longer than the others then take your spoon and give it a nudge, it might be stuck. If it's not stuck then let it keep cooking until it floats. (Note: I've never noticed this with store bought ravioli, but it happened with every one of the ones I made.) Repeat this process until all the ravioli is cooked.

Spinach Ravioli

Once you remove them from pot let them drain in a colander or on a wire baking rack for a moment. Then place them on a plate, top them with a little hot tomato or meat sauce and some freshly grated Parmesan and serve immediately.

Notes: Cooked mushrooms would be a good addition to the filling, as would caramelized onion or you could do a simple ricotta an herb filling instead.

Posted by Dianne at 7:09 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

June 12, 2008

Barbeque Chicken Pizza

Barbeque Chicken Pizza

Every couple of weeks we have pizza night. Jamison always has a tomato sauce with pepperoni and ground beef on a gluten free crust with rice mozzarella, Alexis usually has a tomato sauce with mozzarella, Parmesan and black olives, though as of late she has eschewed the olives and me, well I like to switch it up. Sometimes I have Chicken, Artichoke and Spinach Pizza or a Goat Cheese Pizza with Zucchini and Cherry Tomatoes or taking the dough and making a Calzone or you can leave out the crust all together and make Eggplant Pizzas. The possibilities are endless!

This go around I decided to make something a bit more contemporary and put together a Barbeque Chicken Pizza on a White Whole Wheat Crust! You can top this any way you like and you end up with a personalized pizza that hits the spot! What's better than that?

What You'll Need For the Crust:
2 cups of white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
3/4 cup of warm water
1 tablespoon of honey
4 teaspoons of yeast
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

In a large bowl stir together flour and salt to incorporate. In a glass measuring cup add honey and yeast to warm water and let sit for 3-5 minutes until foamy. Add olive oil to the flour mixture and then slowly add water/yeast mixture stirring until ball of dough forms. (Note: Depending on humidity and such you may need a little more or a little less water. Eyeball it as you go. Once the ball forms you'll know to stop. It's hard to mess this recipe up. It's very forgiving. If you go too far with the water then add more flour a tablespoon at a time until ball forms. If you need more water then add it a tablespoon at a time. Easy peasy.)

Once the dough ball forms you need to let it rise. This make roughly one large pizza or 4-6 personal sized pizzas depending on how big you like them. I like to make personal sized pizzas so that way everyone can have their own favorite toppings. If you're making one big pizza simply place the dough on a baking sheet in your oven with your oven light on (the oven light puts out just enough heat to rise to dough) or if you want to make personal sized pizzas divide the dough into 4 to 6 small balls and place on a baking sheet and follow the same procedure as for the large ball. You can freeze the dough balls before you let them rise if you want to use them later and then pull them out and let them thaw and rise at another time. If you aren't freezing the dough then let the dough balls rise for at least one hour. Then roll or push out the dough on a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper (use a little olive oil on your hands to keep it from sticking) and top with your favorite pizza toppings to bake.

What You'll Need To Complete The Personal Sized Pizza:
1/4-1/3 cup of barbeque sauce
1/2 cup of shredded chicken
1/3 cup of mozzarella, shredded
1/4 cup of Parmesan, shredded
1/4 cup of sliced black olives
1/4 of an onion, chopped (Note: I used Vidalia, but any onion will work.)

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Spread a layer of barbeque sauce out onto the spread out crust. Next add a layer of chicken. Top with mozzarella and Parmesan and then add olive and onion. Bake for 8-12 minutes until crust is golden brown, cut and serve.

Barbeque Chicken Pizza

Notes: Pineapple is a good addition to this pizza. Green peppers work too.

Posted by Dianne at 10:55 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

April 18, 2008

The Best Slow Cooker Pot Roast You'll Ever Eat

Slow Cooker Roast Beef

Pot Roast is one of, if not the, quintessential comfort food of all time. When you cook a pot roast in a slow cooker you end up with a tender, moist roast that literally falls apart. You can cook it alone and make some mashed potatoes and a side salad to accompany the meal, or you can throw in some cut up potatoes, carrots, parsnips, etc to make a wonderful one dish meal.

Any way you make it, this is bound to become a family favorite! And the best part is this is simple and easy to throw on in the morning and have a hot, hearty dinner ready for the evening. Pot roast isn't just for Sunday dinner anymore!

What You'll Need:
1 roast (Note: You can chose shoulder, rump, whatever you like.)
Water
Sea salt
Black pepper

Place roast in the bottom of you slow cooker and cover with water until just covered. Add a very generous pinch of sea salt and a lot of freshly ground black pepper and believe it or not that's it!

Now for cooking. You can do it one of two ways. You can cook it on high for 5-6 hours or you can cook it on low all day long. You'll know it's done when you stick the roast with a fork and it sort of shreds.

Once the pot roast is cooked remove it from the slow cooker and let it sit for 5-10 minutes before slicing. I usually let it rest on a cutting board or in a glass dish. When you start to slice the roast it will normally just sort of fall apart. Once in a blue moon you may get a roast that does not, but it's very rare. 9.9 times out of 10 when a roast is cooked like this it just falls apart and is very tender.

Slow Cooker Roast Beef

If you want to add in vegetables then layer them on the bottom of the slow cooker and then lay the roast on top. After that follow the same directions as above.

If you want you can make gravy with the broth that forms from the cooking of the roast by taking 2 cups of the broth and placing them in a stock pot. Take about 1/4 a cup of broth and mix with 1-2 tablespoons of flour until smooth and add to the pot. Stir the broth/flour mixture in to mix and then cook over medium heat until mixture thickens. There is no need to add salt or pepper as the broth already has both. You can also reserve the left over broth for soup.

Notes: If you want you can add in a sliced onion on top of the meat or throw in 6-8 garlic cloves, but it's not necessary unless you just want to. The salt and pepper bring out wonderful aspects of the meat itself. You could also add in some rosemary and/or thyme.

Posted by Dianne at 7:24 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

April 7, 2008

Cheesy Ham Bake

Cheesy Ham Bake

I love Easter and not to mention the leftover Easter ham! A thick slice of ham makes a wonderful sandwich, but you can just eat so many sandwiches before you start looking to make something else. An omelet with ham and cheese is a good alternative or you can make a sinful, cheesy, macaroni bake with nice bites of ham through out. It's not light and it's not something you want to make everyday, but it's a fun treat or "sometimes" food an sometimes that's just what you need!

What You'll Need:
3/4 of a 16 ounce package of pasta (Note: I used rotini, but you can use whatever shape you want.)
2 cups of milk (Note: You can use whatever kind of milk you want. I used skim.)
2 - 8 ounce bars of Colby cheese, shredded
9 ounces of goat cheese, crumbled
Black pepper
4 cups of ham, chopped into bite sized pieces

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking melt cheese in the milk until smooth with a little black pepper. (Note: You can add salt it you want, but given the cheese and ham are salty in and of themselves I don't. I think these two elements make the whole dish salty enough.)

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a large bowl toss together pasta and ham. Pour melted cheese mixture over the mix and stir to coat. Pour mixture into a 13 X 9 inch dish that has been buttered or sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the mixture is slightly browned. Serve immediately.

Notes: I had planned to add 2 cups of broccoli florets into the mix too, but I was out of broccoli. You could add in other veggies if you wanted and leave out the ham if you wanted a vegeterian option. Mushrooms would be good, as would onion and/or bell peppers.

Posted by Dianne at 7:04 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 2, 2008

Mushroom and Tortelloni Salad

Mushroom and Tortelloni Salad

I love a good pasta salad. The mix of pasta, vegetables, olive oil, vinegar and cheese just melds so perfectly together and makes a wonderful all in one meal!

Pasta salads are a good pot luck dish or even make a good addition to a picnic. You can mix and match ingredients and you always end up with a hearty, satisfying dish that can be changed the tiniest bit or drastically depending on what you're in the mood for, all while giving you a familiar, yet different experience. It's an extremely versatile alternative to your common salad. What's not to like about that?

What You'll Need:
1 - 8 ounce package of Barilla Ricotta and Spinach Tortelloni or equivalent product, cooked according to package directions and cooled (Note: If you want to cool it quickly you can simply rinse it in cool water.)
1 package of button mushrooms, sliced
Extra virgin olive oil
1 bell pepper, chopped
5 scallions, chopped
1 small can of black olives, drained
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, shredded

Cook tortelloni according to package directions, drain and let cool.

Slice mushrooms and sauté in a little bit of extra virgin olive oil until mushrooms are tender. Let mushrooms cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl toss together vegetables and olives to mix. Add tortelloni and toss to incorporate. Set aside.

In a glass canning jar with a lid shake together vinegar, olive oil, sea salt, black pepper and oregano until completely incorporated. (Note: You can also do this in a glass bowl with a whisk, but the jar method is much easier.) Pour over the vegetable/tortelloni mixture and toss to coat.

At this point you can do one of two things. You can refrigerate the salad for an hour or two, sprinkle with Parmesan and then serve. Or you can just sprinkle with Parmesan and serve at room temperature. Most pasta salads don't store well due to the vinegar content breaking down the vegetables and are best eaten when made or within a couple of hours there after.

Notes: You can add in other veggies if you like. Cucumbers are a wonderful addition to pasta salads, as are peas and corn.

Posted by Dianne at 7:38 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

March 27, 2008

Matzo Ball Soup

Matzo Ball Soup

I had never had Matzo Ball Soup, but I was curious. It looked like such a hearty, comforting soup and those I know who had tried it were big fans, so I decided about a year ago to make some. Of course somehow I always got sidetracked and never got around to making it, but that all changed last week and I must admit I was highly impressed! I'll most definitely make this again and I may try one of the other variations I've seen as well.

Overall this is a simple, basic, hearty soup that really hits the spot. It's exactly what you're looking for when you think of comfort food, with the added bonus of a hearty broth and nice chunks of chicken and vegetables. What's better than that?

What You'll Need:
1 whole chicken, rinsed
Water
Sea salt
Black pepper
2 cups of matzo meal
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 eggs
A pinch of salt
2 tablespoons of chicken broth
Extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2-3 carrots, chopped
2 ribs of celery, chopped
1 leek, chopped

Place your chicken (and any gizzards and such) in a large stock pot and cover with water. Add a generous pinch of sea salt and some black pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 30 minutes to an hour, until chicken is done through and the water has formed a broth. (Note: This is just a very basic chicken stock. You can add in other veggies or herbs and such if you want, but for this soup simple is best.)

While the broth is making mix together matzo meal, olive oil, eggs, salt and broth in a medium sized bowl until a sticky dough forms. Place the bowl in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to chill.

Once the chicken is done and the broth has formed remove the chicken and place it in a glass or stainless steel bowl to cool so you can remove the chicken from the bone. Strain broth through a sieve into a large glass or stainless steel bowl and set side.

Return the empty stock pot to the stove over medium heat and sauté onion, celery, carrots and leeks until the onions are tender. Return the broth to the pot and bring to a boil. Cook for at least 30 minutes or until the carrots are tender. Taste the broth and if more salt or pepper are needed add accordingly.

Once the chicken is cooled enough to handle remove the skin and discard. Next tear off chicken until all of the edible meat is off of the bone. Once the carrots are tender add the chicken pieces back to the pot. Bring the mixture back to a boil and take the chilled matzo mixture and roll it into balls slightly smaller than a golf ball. Once all the matzo balls are added cook the soup for an additional 10 minutes to cook the matzo balls and then serve the soup warm.

Notes: One of the recipes I read a few years ago for this soup called for putting dried dill into the matzo balls. I must admit that intrigues me and I may try it next time, but this time I wanted to leave the soup as basic as possible.

Posted by Dianne at 7:52 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 13, 2008

Not Your Mama's Banana Pudding

Not Your Mama's Banana Pudding

One of Jamison's all time favorites it Banana Pudding, but when he had to give up dairy due to IBS then he had to give up the pudding. Last week I decided to make him a non-dairy version, though we'll have to adapt it more now that we've found out he can't have gluten either, so the wafers will have to be changed as well, but we'll breach that another time. For now this version is what evolved.

Overall Jamison was completely surprised. He kind of got that "you did what?" look when I first told him what I'd done, but after he tasted it I won him over. It's a simple and dairy free alternative to your basic banana pudding, but you don't lose any of the flavor. That's just what you look for with this sort of thing!

What You'll Need for the Vanilla Pudding:
1 quart of Eden Blend Rice and Soy Beverage
2 vanilla beans split and scraped
1 cup of organic cane sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4 cup of corn starch

In a medium sized pot pour rice/soy milk. Cut and scrape two vanilla beans into the milk and then throw in the split beans. Bring the mixture to a boil and boil for 3-4 minutes to let the vanilla seep into the milk. Pour mixture through a sieve and return strained milk, minus the split beans, to the pot. Lower the heat and return pot to the flame. In a separate bowl whisk together sugar, salt and corn starch until mixed. Add to the milk and whisk constantly until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and cool pudding in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

What You'll Need for the Banana Pudding:
1 batch of Vanilla Pudding (See recipe above)
Vanilla wafer type cookies (Note: I used a light version. I'll now be looking for a gluten free version for the next time I make this for him.) Bananas

First place a layer of vanilla wafers on the bottom of a baking dish:

Not Your Mama's Banana Pudding: First Cookie Layer

Next place a layer of bananas on top of the vanilla wafers:

Not Your Mama's Banana Pudding: First Banana Layer

Now add the pudding:

Not Your Mama's Banana Pudding: Pudding Layer

Since bananas have a tendency to brown after exposure to air next you want to switch the top two layers and add the bananas directly on top of the pudding:

Not Your Mama's Banana Pudding: Second Banana Layer

Next add a final layer of vanilla wafers covering as much of the surface area of bananas as possible, blocking them from the air as much as possible:

Not Your Mama's Banana Pudding: Second Cookie Layer

Serve immediately or store in the fridge covered for up to two days.

Notes: You could use plain rice milk or plain soy milk in place of the blend, but I really like the flavor of the blend. You could also substitute 1-2 teaspoons of vanilla in place of the vanilla beans. The pudding itself is not only dairy free, it's vegan. I don't know if vanilla wafers are vegan however, though I'm sure there is a vegan equivalent out there somewhere if they aren't, and as I mentioned before I will now be searching for a gluten free version of the wafers as well for the next time I make this.

P.S. Don't forget the March edition of the Dianne's Dishes contest series for your chance to win some free herbs and spices! The contest ends today, March 13, 2008 at 5 PM EST so if you haven't entered yet then do! ;o)

Posted by Dianne at 7:14 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 7, 2008

Another Double Dose: Pineapple Eggrolls and Funnel Cakes

Note: We're doubling up again today so we can wrap up the "fry" day recipes. Enjoy! Next week we'll have some healthy recipes to make up for all this fried stuff! ;o) Don't forget that on Monday we'll have the March edition of the Dianne's Dishes contest series as well so check back for your chance to win!

Pineapple Eggroll

When Jamison and I first got married we lived in Huntsville, Alabama and we used to love to go to a Chinese restaurant there called Formosa (Sorry, but I can't find a webpage for them!) and they had the best pineapple dessert type eggrolls. For years I've wanted to try to make them, but I just hadn't gotten around to it. I've made blueberry eggrolls and regular eggrolls, but I never got around to the pineapple version until this past Saturday and we all thought they turned out great! Ben even tried some topped with some of the Dulce de Leche I made for this week's Tuesday with Dorie. Pineapple and caramel...What's not to like?

What You'll Need:
1 package of egg rolls wrappers
2 - 8 ounce packages of cream cheese, softened
1 cup of organic cane sugar
1 large can of crushed pineapple, drained well
1-2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
Organic cane sugar

Preheat oil to 350 F.

Cream together cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Stir in pineapple until well mixed.

Take an eggroll wrapper and lay it flat. Place a spoonful of the pineapple mixture in the center of the wrapper. Fold the sides to cover the filling. and then fold one end up and then the other. If it is having problems sticking run some water along the seam and then stick it back together and it will seal perfectly. Place in the oil and turn it several times to ensure that it browns on all sides. Once it is golden brown remove from the oil and place on a paper towel to drain. Sprinkle with organic cane sugar to coat. Serve warm or cooled.

Pineapple Eggroll: The Inside Goodness

Notes: You could really do this method with any type of fruit. Peaches would be really good, as would strawberries. Or another option would be to add chocolate chips to the cream cheese/sugar mixture instead of fruit. It's really just up to you and your imagination.

And now let's go on to the funnel cakes...Yum funnel cakes! ;o)

Funnel Cakes with Dulce de Leche (aka Caramel)

When Katherine and I were children my mom used to make us funnel cakes from time to time and it was always a treat we relished. I've made them once or twice since I've left home and it always brings back a nostalgic wave of memories. I couldn't find my recipe on Saturday morning so I called my mom and she read it off to me from her recipe box. It was almost as if she was here with us on Saturday after all! ;o)

We ended up topping the funnel cakes with powdered sugar and some of the Dulce de Leche I made for this week's Tuesday with Dorie...We used the soup out of that stuff on Saturday! It's good! ;o) But overall this dish was most definitely a blast from the past!

What You'll Need:
1/4 cup of sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3-4 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
2 cups of buttermilk
3 eggs
Powdered sugar for dusting

Place enough oil in a deep sided skillet to go up the side of the pan at least 1/2 inch. Heat over medium heat until you can drop a drop of batter in the oil and it immediately starts to fry.

While oil is heating mix dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir to mix. Add buttermilk and eggs and stir until batter forms. Place some batter in a narrow neck funnel or a measuring cup with a pour spout and swirl the batter into the hot oil. Fry until one side turns golden brown and then flip. Cook for 1-2 minutes more until the other side is browned and remove from oil. Drain on a paper towel and then top with powdered sugar.

Funnel Cakes

Notes: You could add in some cocoa powder for Chocolate Funnel Cakes. You could also top the funnel cakes with sugar and cinnamon for a different twist. Whipped cream would also be good, or even a chocolate drizzle. Use your imagination! ;o)

Posted by Dianne at 7:07 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 6, 2008

Two For The Price of One: Veggie Corn Dogs and Dianne's Seasoned Chicken Fingers

Note: I'm going to double up on the recipes today and tomorrow to wrap up the "fry" day recipes. Next week we'll have the March Edition of the Dianne's Dishes Contest series. So let's get started shall we?

Veggie Corn Dogs

Corn dogs are definitely a fair food type of deal. As I've grown older I've also sort of grown away from your traditional hot dog and when I have a craving for something of that sort I usually go for a veggie dog. So when we decided to try corn dogs I immediately went for the veggie dogs and they turned out great! It was a blast from the past, all with a new spun twist.

What You'll Need:
1 package of Jumbo Smart Dogs or some other soy/veggie dog equivalent
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 tablespoon of organic cane sugar
1/2-1 cup of buttermilk
1 egg
Corn starch
10 wooden sticks

Preheat oil to 340-350 F.

Cut hot dogs in half. (You'll have to do this for most fryers in order for the corn dog to fit inside.) Place a stick in the end of each hot dog. Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl mix together flour, sea salt, baking powder and sugar and stir until incorporated. Add 1/2 cup of buttermilk and 1 egg and stir to mix batter. The batter should be thick, but not gloppy. If it is too thick then add a bit more milk. Place mixed batter into a tall glass and set aside.

Place some corn starch on a plate and roll each hot dog in the corn starch to coat. After they are coated dip each hot dog down into the glass of batter and fry immediately, turning several times to ensure that it browns evenly. When they are golden brown they are done. Remove from oil and place on paper towels to drain. Serve with mustard and/or ketchup.

Veggie Corn Dogs

Notes: This would work with conventional hot dogs as well.

And now let's talk a little chicken...Shall we?

Seasoned Chicken Fingers

Chicken fingers or "chickens" as Alexis likes to call them...What's not to like? We ended up making two versions. This one and a honey mustard version that Leann adapted from a certain food network "chef" (who will remain nameless because I'm far from a fan, but you marinate the tenders in honey mustard and then coat them in bread crumbs and herbs.). Both versions were to die for, though I'll only share mine here. But either would be good dipped in a mixture of equal parts Dijon mustard and honey, which was good on the french fries we made too, but we'll get into that another time! ;o)

What You'll Need:
1-2 pounds of boneless and skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 cup of unseasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup of a parmesan type cheese (Note: I used Kerrygold's Dubliner cheese, which is a personal favorite, but you can use regular old parmesan if you want.)
1-2 tablespoons of a Seasoning Mix (Note: I used Kirkland Signature Organic No-Salt Seasoning, which I got at Costco. It is a dried mix of onion, garlic, carrot, black pepper, red bell pepper, tomato, orange peel, parsley, bay leaves, thyme, basil, celery, lemon peel, oregano, savory, mustard seed, cumin, margoram, coriander, cayenne pepper, citric acid and rosemary, but what ever kind of seasoning you like works.)
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
Buttermilk

Preheat oil to 340 F.

Cut chicken breasts into strips. Set aside.

Mix together dry ingredients in a shallow baking dish. Set aside.

Pour some buttermilk in to a bowl and dip each strip in the buttermilk. Then take each strip and coat with the dry mixture. Drop each coated strip into the hot oil, two or three at a time, and fry until golden brown, turning a few times to ensure that all sides brown. This usually takes about 4-5 minutes. Remove from the oil and drain on a paper towel. Serve with honey mustard for dipping.

Seasoned Chicken Fingers

Notes: As I mentioned above you can make a simple (and delicious) honey mustard sauce/dressing simply by mixing equal parts honey and Dijon mustard...For instance 1 cup to 1 cup or 1/2 cup to 1/2 cup depending on how much you want to make. The sauce/dressing will store in the fridge for weeks.

Posted by Dianne at 6:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 27, 2008

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies With Cashews

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies With Cashews

Most people like cookies, and while a good old chocolate chip cookie can really hit the spot, sometimes you want something a little different. So what do you do? You take a basic chocolate chip recipe and tweak it a bit and you end up with something new and delicious! This was also the perfect cookie to share with Jamison's coworkers so I packaged them up and sent them along to share. If you're a chocolate lover (or know someone that is) and like cashews too this is the cookie for you!

What You'll Need:
2 sticks of butter, softened
3/4 cup of organic cane sugar
3/4 cup of natural brown sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla
3 eggs
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda
2/14 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup of raw cashews
1 package of milk chocolate chips
1 package of white chocolate chips

Cream together butter, sugars, vanilla and eggs until smooth. Mix in sea salt and baking soda until just mixed. Add flour and mix until just incorporated and dough forms. (Note: If you want to sift the dry ingredients together you can, but if you add the salt and soda first to the wet mixture and make sure it's mixed in you can then add the flour and it works just fine. The sifting is just an extra step in terms of cookies that I've long since moved away from. There are some recipes, such as delicate cakes and things of that nature, that you would still need to sift or whisk the ingredients together, but for cookies it isn't necessary, unless you just enjoy sifting, which I don't. :o)) Stir in cashews until completely incorporated throughout the dough. Add milk chocolate chips and stir to mix throughout and then repeat with white chocolate chips.

Place the mixed dough in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before baking. (Note: This is a VERY important step when baking cookies with butter. If you don't let the dough chill you'll end up with flat, weird cookies. The butter needs to be given the chance to re-solidify somewhat.)

Once the dough is chilled preheat oven to 375 F.

Using a tablespoon measuring spoon scoop out balls of dough and place them on a baking sheet that has been lined with a silicone baking sheet or parchment paper. Bake cookies in a preheated oven for 10-12 minutes until cookies are done.

Remove baking pan from the oven and sit the pan on a wire wrack and let them cool for a few minutes before removing cookies from the pan.

Makes roughly 5 dozen cookies.

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies With Cashews

Notes: You could use a combination of any two types of chocolate chips that you liked. You could also substitute another kind of nut if you aren't a cashew fan. Or you could even use some honey roasted cashews or other nut for another taste element.

Posted by Dianne at 7:23 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 25, 2008

Chicken Soup A La Alexis

Chicken Soup A La Alexis

"Mommy I want to make some chicken soup."

"OK."

"And I want it to have big chunks of chicken."

"Anything else?"

"And salt, pepper, peas, corn, onion and leeks."

"Is that all?"

"Oh and egg noodles!"

"Sounds good."

"And when we get finished I want you to take a picture of my soup and put it on your 'bog'!"

So we made some soup just as she asked and I'm sharing it with you now. Why stifle creativity? ;o)

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 small carrot, chopped
1 leek, chopped
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 boneless skinless chicken breast
At least 1 quart of chicken broth
1 cup of frozen peas
1 cup of frozen corn
1-2 cups of whole grain egg noodles

Sauté onion, carrot and leek with a pinch of sea salt until onions are tender. Add chicken breasts and chicken broth and cook until chicken is done through. Remove from soup and cut the chicken into chunks and then return to broth. Add peas and corn and cook until they are unfrozen (about 5 more minutes). Add noodles and cook until tender. Serve immediately.

Notes: Thyme would be a good addition to this soup. Any other veggies you wanted to add in would be good as well.

Posted by Dianne at 7:39 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 11, 2008

Clam Chowder

Clam Chowder

Clam Chowder is one of my all time favorites. I've loved Clam Chowder since I was a child and a few years ago I tried my hand at making my own. My first attempts involved me adapting a recipe from Cooking Light that used canned clams and clam juice. From there it evolved even more.

While making chowder I had never actually made it with fresh clams. I had always wanted to try, but for some reason the thought was a bit daunting to me. The other day when Alexis and I were at the market they had some very nice, very fresh clams and I decided it was time to try my hand at chowder completely from scratch. My version is still on the light side as far as chowders go and is chunky with vegetables and clams. It's a lovely, creamy, chunky version that's also not as heavy as other chowders sometimes are.

Chowders made with canned clams and juice are great, but nothing compares to one made with fresh clams. Clams in and of themselves aren't overly expensive seafood either, so you won't break the bank. I readily find them here priced about $1 a pound, but that might not be the case in other areas of the country. If you're interested in making some chowder from scratch start watching your seafood counter and see how clams run in your area.


Clam Chowder: Clams Ready to be Cooked

What You'll Need:
3-6 pounds of clams (Note: Use more if you like a lot of clams, less if you don't. Remember when you are buying your clams that the majority of the weight is in the shell, so while 3-6 pounds might seem like a lot for a small batch of chowder, in reality you aren't really putting that many clams into your pot.)
Water
Extra virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, chopped
4 ribs of celery, chopped
6 potatoes, 3 peeled and chopped, 3 peeled and left whole
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2-4 cups of clam juice reserved from cooking the clams
3-4 bay leaves
1 cup of fat free half and half

When you buy your clams you want to use them immediately. The fresher the better. This is a recipe you'll want to purchase your clams and make the same day. Place clams in a large glass bowl and cover with water and ice. Let them sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour. This helps rinse them and let the sand settle out of them. You will see air bubbles rising to the top of the water. Don't worry...This is a good sign!

In a large stock pot cover rinsed clams with water, bring to a boil and cook until clams open. Usually about 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat and take clams out of the clam water, reserving clam juice for the soup. (Note: A rule of thumb to always remember with clams...Clams that are opened before they are cooked are bad so toss them!...Clams that don't open when they are cooked are bad too so toss any of those that might arise! In this batch I lost 4 clams. 3 before cooking and 1 after.)

Once the clams are cool enough to touch remove them from their shells, remove their beards (Note: You'll be able to tell which part is the clam and which part is the beard...The beard is a flowery little projections that looks like, well a beard! Alexis had a ball doing this step and was disappointed when there were no more clams to separate.) and place the clams in a large glass bowl. Cover the clams after they are separated with some cooled clam juice and set aside. I like to do this step while the soup is cooking.


Clam Chowder: Cooked Clams

In a large stock pot sauté onion, celery and cubed potatoes, with a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper, until onion and celery are slightly tender, but not mushy and still have a bit of a bite to them. Cover the veggies with clam juice and add the three whole potatoes and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are tender.

Once the whole potatoes are tender remove them from the pot and mash them with the half and half. Remove the bay leaves and discard. Then return this mashed mixture to the pot to help thicken the soup. Drain the clams and then stir them into the soup. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes to heat clams through. Serve immediately. (Note: Don't cook for too long after you add the clams. They get tough if cooked too long.)

Notes: Fat free half and half is great in that it gives you that creamy aspect of heavy cream without the extra fat. You could use corn starch or flour to help thicken the soup, but the potatoes give the soup a very creamy thickness that is a bit healthier than the other alternatives. Some people like to add thyme to their chowder, and while I'm a fan of thyme, I don't care for it in chowder. Ditto for nutmeg, which is also sometimes added. If I add anything to chowder other than your basic sea salt and black pepper I go for Old Bay Seasoning to give it a kick.


Dianne's Dishes February Contest: Kids in the Kitchen!

P.S. Don't forget Dianne's Dishes February Contest: Kids In The Kitchen for your chance to win one Pampered Chef "My Safe Cutter" along with one Pampered Chef "Kid's Apron and Chef's Hat Set"! Just leave a comment on this thread with a valid e-mail address (and don't worry, no one will see your e-mail address but me!) before 5:00 PM EST, Thursday, February 14, 2008. I'll print out the participants and my little sous chef will pull a name out of the hat. I'll e-mail that person for their address and announce the winner on Friday, February 15, 2008! Anyone anywhere on our little planet earth is eligible to enter so what are you waiting for?

Good luck! Oh and tell your friends! ;o)

P.S.S. Oh and go check out the winner of Culinate's Death by Chocolate contest!

Posted by Dianne at 9:16 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 6, 2008

Peanut Butter Ice Cream

Peanut Butter Ice Cream

Jamison and Alexis are both avid peanut butter people.  I mean seriously, if peanut butter ceased to exist the world might just cease to exist for the two of them, as far as they are concerned.  I too enjoy peanut butter, but truth be told almond butter, or more importantly cashew butter, are more up my alley.  Overall though, if you’re not allergic to peanuts, which we aren’t, then what’s not to like?

 

The other day my little sous chef asked me if anyone made peanut butter ice cream.  I told her that I’m sure someone out there did, but right off the top of my head I couldn’t think of anyone.  We got busy with other things and I forgot to do a little research to see what I could find.  The next day she asked me if we could make some peanut butter ice cream and since we hadn’t made any ice cream in a while we gave it a whirl.

 

Now let me tell you, if you like peanut butter, even the tiniest little bit, you will LOVE this ice cream!  It’s rich and creamy and there are little bits of peanut butter throughout the whole peanut buttery flavored ice cream itself that just burst in your mouth.  The ice cream itself would be superb topped with some hot fudge sauce, but even alone this is the very epitome of the peanut butter lovers dream!

 

P.S. Speaking of chocolate...If you haven't gone over to Culinate yet to vote in their Death By Chocolate contest then you should!  You could win a trip for two to Napa's Chocolate Festival!  My entry was Hot Fudge Cake. 

  

 

What You’ll Need for the Peanut Butter Ice Cream:
1 - 18 ounce jar of peanut butter
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1 pint half and half
1 - 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of vanilla

 

In a large stock pot add all ingredients and cook until sugar and peanut butter are melted.  Remove from heat and let sit until the mixture cools to room temperature.  (Note: As the mixture cools the peanut butter may separate from the milk a bit, but you can easily stir it back into the mixture.  I stirred it several times as it was cooling and once before putting it in the ice cream maker.  Once in the ice cream maker the machine does the stirring for you!)  Once the mixture is cooled add to your ice cream maker and freeze according to your models operating instructions.  When it is finished you will have your basic soft serve ice cream and can serve it immediately.  Place the mixture into the freezer in a covered container to let harden fully if you prefer a more firm ice cream.  Thaw for a few minutes before serving. 

Peanut Butter Ice Cream

Notes: Alexis wanted to add chocolate chips to the ice cream itself, but we couldn’t find mini-chocolate chips, as they work best in ice cream mixtures due to their small size.  (Do they make those anymore?  I haven’t looked for them in years!)  This ice cream is not low-fat or anything of that nature.  While I normally try to look at making things healthier, in this case this is an indulgence and as such should be enjoyed once in a while in moderation, but you know that drill! ;o)  That being said if you wanted to lighten it up a bit you could use light cream, fat-free half and half and light peanut butter and it should all work fine, though it might freeze harder once you put it in the deep freeze.   Also this recipe is designed to be made in this ice cream freezer, but you could double it to go in a larger model.  In reality I ended up with a bit more (about a cup or so) than what my freezer would hold, but you could freeze that and use it later if you needed.

Posted by Dianne at 8:54 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

February 1, 2008

Marshmallow Peanut Butter Brownies

Marshmallow Peanut Butter Brownies

Last Saturday a friend of mine was supposed to come over for lunch, but she had to reschedule at the last minute. We ended up taking Alexis to her first in theater movie so it wasn't a total wash of a day, but I had already made dessert! I ate one brownie and then put them out of sight and sent them to work with Jamison on Monday morning to share with his coworkers, but let me tell you these brownies are to die for! They are ooey, gooey, swirly and just heavenly! If you like peanut butter and/or marshmallows these are the brownies for you!

What You'll Need:
1 - 5.3 ounce Green and Black's 72% baking bar
1 - 4 ounce bar Ghirardelli White chocolate baking bar
1 1/2 sticks butter
1 - 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 cups of organic cane sugar
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
1 - 10 ounce package of peanut butter chips
1 - 7 1/2 ounce jar of marshmallow cream (Note: As always look for a version with NO high fructose corn syrup!)

Marshmallow Peanut Butter Brownies

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In the microwave or in a sauce pot melt chocolate, butter and sweetened condensed milk until smooth, careful not to scorch. Let cool slightly.

While the chocolate is melting whisk together flour, sugar, sea salt and baking powder in a very large bowl to incorporate. Set aside.

Once the chocolate is cooled add to the flour mixture along with eggs and vanilla. Stir until completely mixed. Pour 3/4 of the batter into a 13 X 9 inch pan that has been buttered and floured or sprayed with non-stick spray. Set aside.

Melt peanut butter chips in the microwave or in a sauce pan until smooth. Again watch to be sure they don't scorch! Once they are melted stir in marshmallow cream, but don't mix completely. Leave it swirly. Pour peanut butter/marshmallow mixture into the dish with the 3/4ths batter and gently spread out, careful not to push it all the way to the bottom of the batter. Take remaining 1/4th batter and drop into spoonfuls on the top of the marshmallow mixture so as not to cover completely.

Place baking dish in the oven and bake for 30-35 minute until chocolate edges are chewy, but not hard. A few crumbs with a brownie is not a bad thing when sticking to check for doneness! Remove from oven and let sit for at least 30 minutes before cutting. Store in an airtight container.

Marshmallow Peanut Butter Brownies

Notes: You could add in nuts if you like. Next time I make these I think I'm going to use a cup of melted peanut butter instead of peanut butter chips.

Posted by Dianne at 7:24 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

November 30, 2007

Macaroni and Five Cheeses

Macaroni and Five Cheeses

Macaroni and Cheese is one of those foods that immediately makes most people think of comfort, of warmth and of home. It's warm, creamy and oh so sinful, but in a comforting sort of way and sometimes you just need that sort of thing.

Macaroni and Five Cheeses takes your normal Mac and Cheese and takes it to a whole different level. By baking the macaroni in the oven it makes the flavors meld in a way that simply cooking on the stove top doesn't allow, though it's certainly ok to just eat it at that step too! This isn't a dish you want to make often because it's definitely not health food, but occasionally it's nice to indulge is some warm, cheesy goodness!

What You'll Need for the Macaroni:
1 - 1 pound box of elbow macaroni, cooked according to package directions
4 tablespoons of butter
1/3 cup of unbleached all purpose flour
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2-3/4 cups of dairy (Note: Milk, half and half, heavy cream, etc. I used skim milk today.)
2 cups of cheddar cheese, shredded (Note: I like sharp, but what ever you prefer works fine.)
1 cup Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
1 cup of provolone cheese, shredded
1 cup of swiss cheese, shredded

Cook macaroni according to package directions, drain and set aside in a very large bowl.

Macaroni and Five Cheeses: Macaroni

In the same pot that you cooked the macaroni melt butter and add flour, a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes stirring constantly to cook the flour. Add dairy and stir to mix. Cook until roux thickens slightly and add cheese. Stir until cheese is completely melted and mixture is smooth. If the mixture is really thick add more dairy to the mix. It should be like thick pancake batter in consistency.

Macaroni and Five Cheeses: Cheese Sauce

Once the mixture is smooth pour it over the macaroni noodles until well incorporated.

Macaroni and Five Cheeses: Pre-Oven

At this point you can dig in if you want and you basically have Macaroni with Four Cheeses, but now let's take it to another level!

Pour macaroni mixture into a greased 13 X 9 dish or two smaller dishes. (Note: I went with two smaller dishes. We're having oven issues at the moment and are waiting on the repair guy to do what needs to be done. I actually baked the two smaller dishes in the toaster oven! One is for me and the other one I'm going to put in the freezer and give it to my sister the next time I see her. See it's a share with your friends/family type of dish! ;o))

And now on to the topping!

What You'll Need for the Topping:
Unseasoned bread crumbs
Parmesan cheese, shredded
Sea salt
2 tablespoons of butter, cut into small dot sized pieces

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Once the macaroni is spread into the greased dish cover the top with a thin layer of bread crumbs and then sprinkle the top with a thin layer of Parmesan cheese and sea salt.

Macaroni and Five Cheeses: Bread Crumb and Parmesan Topped

Dot the top with the small butter pieces.

Macaroni and Five Cheeses: Ready for the Oven

Bake for 30-40 minutes until top is golden brown. Let sit for 5 minutes and then serve.

Macaroni and Five Cheeses

Notes: This can be reheated easily and you can even freeze it with the topping on and thaw and bake later. Any type of cheese you like will work. You could even add in some salsa for a Mexican flare!

Posted by Dianne at 10:20 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 19, 2007

Thanksgiving Dessert Yummy: Pumpkin Cheesecake

Pumpkin Cheesecake

This week let's delve into some Thanksgiving dessert yummies! They are a bit harder to freeze so I make them the week of Thanksgiving! On Wednesday I'm going to go all out and post a dessert recipe and my version of brining a turkey! How's that for crazy???!?!? ;o)

Up first Pumpkin Cheesecake!

Within my circle of friends and family I'm somewhat known for my cheesecakes. I've got a ton of different scrumptious variations and people ask for them often! Key Lime, Chocolate, Peppermint, Caramel Irish Cream, Turtle, Peanut Butter, Regular, among many others and one of my favorites is my Pumpkin Cheesecake! Every Thanksgiving I whip one of these gems up and I look forward to it all year! It's a different twist on the standard pumpkin pie, but it will draw raves! Try is and see.

What You'll Need for the Crust:
2 1/2 cups of gingersnap cookies
1/4 cup of sugar
1 stick of butter, melted

Measure 2 1/2 cups of ginger snap cookies and then process them in the food processor until smooth. (Note: If you don't have a food processor then place them in a plastic bag and have fun smashing them! ;o)) Process in sugar and melted butter until a crumbly mixture forms. Press the crumb mixture into a 9-inch spring form pan that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Wrap the outside of the pan with aluminum foil to the very edges of the pan, without covering the opening. Set aside.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Gingersnap Crust

What You'll Need for the Filling:
3 - 8 ounce packages of cream cheese, softened (Note: You can use regular, light or even fat free cream cheese.)
1 - 15 ounce can of mashed pumpkin or 1 and 3/4 cups of freshly mashed pumpkin
1 cup of ricotta cheese (Note: You can use the whole milk, part skim or fat free version.)
1 cup of natural brown sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice
1 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 325 F. (Note: This is very important when baking a cheesecake! The oven must be preheated! Do NOT skip this step!!)

Put a pot or kettle on to boil with enough water to cover 1/2-3/4 of the cheesecake pan with water.

Cream together cream cheese, pumpkin, sugar, ricotta and eggs until well blended. Mix in pumpkin pie spice and flour until just blended. Pour into prepared crust.

Pumpkin Cheesecake "Help"

Place cheesecake pan into a baking dish. Pour hot water into the dish or pan being careful not to get any water on or in the cake itself. The water depth should be at least 1/2 the way up the side of the spring form pan, but no more than 3/4ths of the way up the side.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Ready to Bake

Bake for 1 hour. Turn oven off and open oven door to the broil position and let the cake sit unmoved for 1 more hour.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Resting

After the cheesecake sits for 1 hour carefully remove from the oven and take out of its water bath. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

Notes: The water bath helps the cheesecake top to not split as much. If you're making this on a cold day (like today for example), you might have trouble getting the cream cheese to cream completely smooth. Don't worry about this as it will not affect the taste of the cheesecake. You can also use graham cracker crumbs instead of gingersnaps, though I think the gingersnaps give it that extra omph. If you want you can decorate the top of the cheesecake with seasonal shaped cookies (such as leaves, acorns, pumpkins, etc.) and I recommend serving it with a dollop of fresh whipped cream on top.

Posted by Dianne at 1:15 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 13, 2007

Thanksgiving Yummy: Cornbread Dressing

Cornbread Dressing

Cornbread dressing (or stuffing...I guess it depends on whether you stuff it into the bird or not! ;o)) is more traditionally a Southern recipe I would say, but regardless it's an essential holiday side dish! The version below is very similar to my Mom's traditional dish, though I've omitted the butter and use the healthier extra virgin olive oil instead. Some people add in meat, some add in other veggies, or you can add whatever you like. It's all up to you, but regardless of how you do it, the end result is delicious!

What You'll Need for the Cornbread:
2 cups of corn meal
1 cup of flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
2 eggs
2 cups of buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add eggs and buttermilk and mix until incorporated. Pour into a 8 x 12 inch dish (or 13 x 9 inch dish if you want) sprayed with non-stick spray and spread out evenly. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.

What You'll Need for the Dressing:
One batch of cornbread (See recipe above)
Extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 onions, chopped
1 bunch of celery, chopped
A pinch of sea salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
2-3 heaping tablespoons of sage or poultry seasoning
1 quart of broth (Note: Vegetable, chicken or turkey broth will work fine.)
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Crumble the cornbread into a large bowl and set aside.

Sauté onion and celery until tender and slightly caramelized. Add to cornbread. Add seasonings, broth and eggs. Mix thoroughly and pour mixture into a 13 X 9 inch pan that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake for 35-45 minutes until golden brown.

Serve immediately or freeze for up to six weeks. If frozen thaw and then reheat for 20-25 minutes covered with foil until warm through. If needed add a bit more broth to moisten.

Notes: You can add in 1-1 1/2 cups of shredded carrots, sliced mushrooms or even corn if you like. Some people like to add ground beef or sausage, but I've never tried that. You could even add in oysters or clams if you like. For a more un-Southern version you can use toasted French or white bread instead of cornbread.

Posted by Dianne at 1:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 6, 2007

Pimento Cheese

Pimento Cheese

Once in a blue moon I get the taste for a Pimento Cheese sandwich. When I was a child my Mom would make it occasionally and the kind you make is oh so much more satisfying than the type you buy in your local deli. It's not something I eat often, but every other year or so I'll whip up a batch. It's one of those comfort foods at their finest and it's simple to make to boot. Easy comfort...What's not to like?

What You'll Need:
1 - 8 ounce bar of cheddar or Colby cheese, shredded
2 - 4 ounce jars of pimentos, drained
2-3 heaping tablespoons of mayonnaise (Note: I use Helmann's Light.)
Freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt (Note: Optional. I only add salt depending on the cheese I'm using. Most of the organic varieties are a bit less salty, so taste the mixture and if it needs salt then add it accordingly.)

In a large bowl mix cheese through pepper until incorporated. Taste. If needed add salt. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

Pimento Cheese

Notes: This works well on bread as a sandwich topping or you can use celery sticks and scoop up the mixture. You can easily half this recipe as well.

Posted by Dianne at 3:08 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 15, 2007

A Little of This and That Risotto

A Little of This and That Risotto

Risotto is a go to dish at my house, yet it is rarely the same twice. It will always have Parmesan, but often I like to throw in goat cheese too. I mix and match the other ingredients as the whim strikes me. This version is a little of this and that that I needed to use up in the refrigerator. It's a very easy dish to mix and match, but it always turns out fabulously!

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 carrot, shredded
1 can of artichoke hearts, drained and chopped (Note: This was what I had left over from when I made the Chicken, Artichoke and Spinach Pizza so it was short two hearts, but you could easily use the whole can instead. Risotto is a very giving dish. A little more, a little less, it won't matter in the long run.)
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup of risotto rice (aborio rice)
Broth or water
1 cup of Parmesan cheese, shredded

In a large skillet or stock pot sauté onion, carrot and artichokes with a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper until onion is tender. Stir in risotto and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add broth or water to cover the ingredients in the pot and cook, stirring occasionally and adding water or broth as it evaporates as necessary until risotto has plumped and is done through. Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan. Let sit for 2-3 minutes before serving.

Notes: The longer it sits the creamier it gets. You can add any veggies or meat that you like. As I said before risotto is a very giving dish.

Posted by Dianne at 7:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 12, 2007

Parmesan Pea Pasta

Parmesan Pea Pasta

Creamy pasta! What's not to like? This dish is quick, easy and versatile. It also draws raves. What better for a quick, delicious dinner on a week night?

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups of frozen or fresh peas
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup of fat free half and half
3/4 cup of Parmesan, shredded
1/2 cup of mozzarella, shredded
2 cups of cooked spaghetti noodles

Parmesan Pea Pasta

In a large skillet sauté onion, garlic and peas with a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper until onion is tender. Stir in half and half and cheese and stir until the cheeses melt. (Note: Some mozzarella is slightly stringy when it melts. If this happens don't worry about it. It won't change the taste of the dish.) Once the cheese melts stir in cooked spaghetti and stir to coat. Serve immediately.

Makes 2 servings.

Notes: Shrimp or chicken could easily be added to this dish. You could add in other vegetables as well.

Parmesan Pea Pasta

Posted by Dianne at 7:47 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

October 10, 2007

Caramel Apple "Brownies"

Caramel Apple "Brownies"

It's treat day again at Jamison's office! I love trying something new and then sending it with Jamison so I'm not tempted to eat more of it than I should! ;o) Although there is no chocolate in this recipe it's still very brownie like. With the abundance of apples this time of year it's fun to come up with new things to do with them.

Caramel Apple "Brownies" take the best of two worlds and bring them together. You've got your apple and you've got your caramel, but in a totally different combination than your basic caramel apple, which I might add are one of my favorite treats! Who says you can't bring a little fusion to dessert? ;o)

Caramel Apple "Brownies"

What You'll Need for the Brownies:
1 stick butter, softened
2 eggs
1 cup of organic cane sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1 heaping teaspoon of cinnamon
1 cup of walnuts, chopped
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
2 large apples, cored and chopped

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Cream together butter through cinnamon until smooth. Stir in nuts until incorporated into the wet mixture. Slowly add flour and stir until just mixed. Add apples and stir to incorporate throughout the mixture. Spread apple mixture into a 13 X 9 inch baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake for 35-45 minutes until golden brown and "brownies" stick done.

Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Caramel Sauce

What You'll Need for the Caramel Topping:
1 cup of organic cane sugar or natural brown sugar
1/2 cup of dairy (Note: You can use half and half, fat free half and half or heavy whipping cream.)

While the "brownies" are beginning to cool mix sugar and dairy in a medium sized pot and cook, not stirring, until it turns a golden amber color. If you want you can swirl the pan a few times instead of stirring. (Note: I like to bring the mixture to soft ball stage (235 F) on a candy thermometer, but you don't have to check the temperature if you don't want to. When it turns amber it's ready to go.) Remove from heat and let sit for about 2-3 minutes and then drizzle over the "brownies".

Notes: You could add a little nutmeg into the "brownies" if you liked. Any kind of nut will work as well, or you can leave those out entirely. Also any type of apple you have on hand works well too.

Posted by Dianne at 7:39 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 8, 2007

Basic Chicken Soup

Basic Chicken Soup

I love fall (well usually this 90 degree stuff in October is past old, but that's another story all together!), but fall also brings on allergy season. As I've gotten older my allergies have gotten worse and the pollution around here doesn't help matters either. Sometimes it's nice to just whip up a nice pot of Basic Chicken Soup. It's a healthy comfort food that helps you feel better when you're suffering from allergies or even a common cold.

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup of onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
Sea salt
Black pepper
1 quart of chicken broth
2 cups of chicken
1 cup of edamame

In a medium sized stock pot sauté onion and carrot with a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper until onion is tender. Add broth, chicken and edamame and bring to a boil. Cook for 30 minutes or until carrots are tender.

Notes: You can make it vegetarian by using vegetable broth and leaving out the chicken. Any veggie will work. Sometimes I add leek and/or peas and corn. It's an easy soup to mix and match. You can also add in pasta of some sort if you like.

Posted by Dianne at 8:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 2, 2007

Homemade Peanut Butter

Homemade Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is a big hit at our house, but I worry about the trans fats that come with commercial brands. Most of the big companies have gotten them down to a point where they can list that they are trans fat free, but if the word "hydrogenated" appears on the label, then the trans fats are still there!

Natural nut butters are the way to go and they are extremely easy to make. You just need some roasted nuts and a little honey. Combine the two and you've got a fantastic alternative to commercial varieties. Get the kids involved, they'll love this process! After you're done grab an apple and smooth on some Homemade Peanut Butter and you've got a fantastic snack!

What You'll Need:
2 cups of dry roasted peanuts (Note: Not salted. You can find plain dry roasted peanuts in most health food stores or natural markets. If you want a salt kick add in 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.)
1/3-1/2 cup of honey (Note: Much like working with flour you might need more or less. When the "butter" starts to form and ends up to the consistency you like stop adding honey.)

In a food processor process peanuts until chopped fine. Start adding honey with the processor still going until "butter" forms to the consistency you like. Store in an air tight container.

Homemade Peanut Butter

Notes: This will work with any roasted nut. Also natural peanut butters tend to separate sometimes so you may need to stir before using. If you want a crunchy variety stir in a 1/2 cup of chopped peanuts.

Posted by Dianne at 10:02 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

September 27, 2007

Simple Baked Chicken with Rosemary

Simple Baked Chicken with Rosemary

This week it has been all about simple in terms of food here at our house. I got through stages where I like things a bit more complicated and then I go through stages where I like simple, straight forward food. Baked Chicken is one of those simple and straight forward type dishes that always hits the spot.

There are so many things you can do while baking a chicken. You can mix up the spices, you can go with barbeque, you can make it plain Jane, but no matter what you do the key is making it what you like. It's versatile and easy, both of which are nice especially on a week night when things can be a little crazy. My personal favorite herb for chicken is rosemary. It's the perfect compliment.

What You'll Need:
1 chicken, rinsed and dried
1 small onion, chopped in half (Note: You don't even have to peel the onion.)
1 lemon, chopped in half (Optional)
Extra virgin olive oil (Note: You can use butter if you like, BUT olive oil is healthier and I think it tastes better for chicken as well.)
Rosemary leaves pulled from the stem (Note: I think the more rosemary the better, but if you want to go with less that's ok too. I wouldn't use less than a tablespoon though.)
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

First when baking a chicken you need to decide which way you're going to go. You can either preheat the oven to 350 F and bake the chicken for a couple of hours or until internal temperature reaches around 180 F OR you can preheat the oven to 450 F and cook it for an hour or until internal temperature reaches around 180 F. Either way works and both ways are delicious. The 350 F method is a bit juicier, but the 450 F makes for a crisper out shell. Last night I chose to go with the 450 F route. So which ever method you choose preheat your oven to that temperature.

Rinse your chicken and pat dry. Place in a baking dish. Stuff the chicken with the onion and/or lemon. Cover the outside of the chicken with olive oil and sprinkle with rosemary, coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bake according to the temperature instructions above. Remove from the oven and let sit for 10-15 minutes before cutting.

Notes: Like I said above there are numerous ways you can bake a chicken. You can make an Old Bay Chicken by covering the chicken in Old Bay. You can use thyme instead of rosemary or even sage. What you choose is completely up to you and each time it's like you've made an entirely different dish. You can also use different stuffing medium such as garlic and/or apple. Mix it up.

Posted by Dianne at 2:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 24, 2007

A Birthday Party: Beef Stroganoff and Chocolate Cake with Almond Buttercream Icing

Katherine's Birthday Cake

Saturday was my sister's birthday and I'm a big believer in celebrating a birthday! Some people as they get older don't want to celebrate their life anymore and choose to mourn the day instead, but I think birthdays should be embraced and reveled in. Life is a grand adventure and birthdays simply remind us of our many adventures along the way!

I invited Katherine, Ben and Nelson over for dinner to celebrate. The tradition at our house growing up was that you got to pick what we had for dinner on your birthday and you got to pick your cake. Katherine chose Beef Stroganoff and chocolate cake with almond buttercream icing. Katherine also wanted a salad, some sort of veggie and some yeast rolls, so I made a big spinach salad with a choice of homemade ranch or blue cheese dressing, some roasted asparagus and a batch of Parker House rolls. We broke out the good china and had a grand old time!

Birthday Table

Over all everything came together well. The rolls could have risen a bit longer, but I got side tracked. The Beef Stroganoff was a play on the one my mom used to make as a child, that I adapted into Mushroom Stroganoff over the years. This go around though I skipped the onion soup mix and used all fresh ingredients and instead of ground beef I took a pot roast and sliced it across the grain into somewhat bite sized chunks. The result was wonderful! I highly recommend this if you like this sort of dish!

Beef Stroganoff

What You'll Need For the Beef Stroganoff:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 small package of mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons of flour
2 1/2 pounds of beef tips or other type of beef cut into chunks
1 15 ounce can of tomato sauce
1 cup of sour cream
1 package of egg noodles cooked according to package directions

In a large pot or skillet (and I mean LARGE!) sauté onion, mushrooms and garlic until tender with a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Once the veggies are tender add two tablespoons of flour and cook for 2 minutes stirring constantly. Add beef and cook for about 15 minutes until it's mostly brown stirring occasionally so it won't stick. (Note: A little red here and there is not a problem as you'll be cooking the dish a while more.) Add tomato sauce and cook for 35-40 minutes to allow the beef to become tender. Add sour cream and cook for 2 minutes or until heated through. Serve over egg noodles.

Notes: In a pinch you could use onion soup mix. Just omit the onion and garlic. You could also use garlic powder or salt if you're out of fresh garlic. Having made it both ways I highly recommend the fresh onion and garlic. Both variations are good, but the fresh version definitely was the best! You can also substitute more mushrooms for the beef to make the vegetarian equivalent.

After dinner we dug into the cake!


Katherine's Birthday Cake

Cake: The Inside

The basket weave wasn't as neat as I would have liked, but the icing was having issues on Saturday so we went with what came out. It turned out ok in the end and it tasted delicious, so that's all you can ask for. :o)

Posted by Dianne at 8:37 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 20, 2007

Chicken and Spinach Lasagna

Chicken and Spinach Lasagna

Lasagna is one of those quintessential comfort foods. Normally it's tomato based, but it doesn't have to be. I had some chicken left over from this weekend from when I made some chicken noodle soup and thought this would be an interesting way to use what I had left. Throw in a little spinach along with the chicken and you've got a hearty twist on the classic, that will fast become a favorite. It's nice to have a twist to pull out to surprise those you might be serving. Try it, you'll love it!

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 purple onion, chopped
4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
6 cups of spinach leaves, washed and chopped
3 cups of shredded chicken
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Lasagna noodles
Mozzarella
Parmesan

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Sauté onion and garlic in a little extra virgin olive oil until just tender. Add spinach and cook until wilted. Stir in chicken and add a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Remove from heat and set aside.

Brush an 8 X 8 inch dish with olive oil and place a layer of lasagna noodles on the bottom of the dish. (Note: If you want to make the dish go faster pre-cook the noodles and decrease cooking time in the oven by 45 minutes. Otherwise just put the noodles into the dish straight out of the package.) Add a layer of chicken/spinach mixture and top with Parmesan and mozzarella. Repeat these steps until you run out of chicken/spinach mixture, ending with a layer of spinach/chicken topped with cheese.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 50-60 minutes until noodles stick tender. Cook for the last 10 minutes with foil removed. Remove from oven when done and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Chicken and Spinach Lasagna

Notes: You could use mushrooms and leave out the chicken to make it vegetarian.

Posted by Dianne at 8:03 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 17, 2007

Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin Soup

I just love this time of year! The mornings are brisk, the days are cool and those beautiful fall leaves are right around the corner!

Ah...Fall! My second favorite season, Winter being my favorite. Winter, Fall, Spring and then Summer. That's my list! ;o)

My sister commented the other day that it has become Pumpkin Central around here at Dianne's Dishes the past few days and Alexis and I have certainly been rocking the pumpkin recipes! I mentioned before that it is amazing how many things you can make with three small sugar pumpkins! But when they are local, fresh and oh so lovely, why not utilize them?

For years I've read about Pumpkin Soup, but I had never tried it because it sounded odd to me. I'm not sure why that is given I love Butternut Squash Soup and the two are very similar, but sometimes you just get an idea about food in your head and it takes actually trying something to knock out a preconceived notion.

I decided to whip up a batch of soup and much to my surprise I loved it! Alexis did too. It's warm, healthy and hearty. Who can ask for a better combination?

What You'll Need:
4 cups of raw pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks (Note: I like to cut the sugar pumpkins into slices as you would a cantaloupe. From there you can scoop out the seeds on one side and use a potato peeler to peel the skin off the other side. Then it's simple to cut the slice into chunks once it is scooped and peeled.)
1 large sweet potato or yam, chopped into chunks (Note: You don't have to remove the skin from the sweet potatoes. They have a lot of vitamins and such you don't want to get rid of, especially in this soup where it's all blended in the end anyway.)
2 large carrots, cut into chunks (Note: Again there's no need to peel them.)
1 small onion, skins removed and cut into chunks
3 or 4 thyme branches (Note: If you want you can strip the leaves off the branches, but you don't have to. As the thyme cooks the leaves will fall away from the stem and then you can remove the stems before you blend.)
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Water

Dump all of your ingredients into a large stockpot. Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt (about a teaspoon or so) and freshly ground black pepper. Cover the ingredients with water and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and cook until ingredients are all completely cooked through and tender.

Remove veggies from cooking water and reserve water. Remove thyme branches and discard. Process veggies in a food processor or blender until smooth adding some of the cooking water to help smooth out the mix. You may have to do this in batches depending on the size of your food processor or blender. Return pureed mixture to your empty stock put and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes over medium to ensure it is warm through. Serve immediately.

Notes: You could add any root vegetable that you like to the mix. Parsnips would be good especially. It's a very simple mixture, but it's delicious none the less. You could also make this with a couple of cans of canned pumpkin by adding it during the processing stage or you could freeze pumpkin to use later.

Posted by Dianne at 1:06 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 12, 2007

Pumpkin Surprise Muffins

Pumpkin Surprise Muffins

Last weekend Alexis saw some local sugar pumpkins and wanted to get some. She's all about pumpkins. Loves them! We decided one of the things we could do was to make some Pumpkin Muffins and I decided it would be fun to add a little twist, a "surprise" if you will. What's better than a surprise? Most people like surprises. The "surprise" in these muffins is a little bite of cheesecake in the middle of each one! I decided this would make a good treat for Jamison to take to work since Fall is on our doorstep. I'm really enjoying making up new recipes and testing them out on Jamison's coworkers! Hopefully they are enjoying it too. :o)

What You'll Need for the Pumpkin Batter:
3 cups of unbleached all purpose flour (Note: I had intended to use White Whole Wheat flour, but I realized I was out. You could easily substitute it for all of or part of the white flour.)
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of sea salt
2 cups of mashed pumpkin
1 stick of butter, melted (Note: You could use unsweetened apple sauce instead of the butter. Again this was my intention, but I realized I was out of apple sauce.)
1 cup of natural brown sugar
1/2 cup of maple syrup
1 cup of light or fat free sour cream
3/4 cup of light or fat free buttermilk
2 eggs
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
2 teaspoons of vanilla

What You'll Need for the "Surprise":
1 package of cream cheese, softened (Note: Any variety is fine...Regular, light or fat free)
1/2 cup organic cane sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1/8 cup of unbleached all purpose, flour

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Mix dry ingredients (flour through sea salt) in a large bowl and set aside.

In a separate bowl mix remaining ingredients (pumpkin through vanilla) and stir until incorporated. Mix dry mixture with wet mixture and stir until completely mix. Set aside.

Cream together cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth. Add flour and mix until just incorporated. Set aside.

Spray two muffin pans with non stick spray. Fill each cup 1/4 of the way full with pumpkin batter and then add a dollop of the "Surprise" mixture (roughly 1 tablespoon or less) into the middle of each cup. Top with more pumpkin batter to cover the "surprise".

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until muffins stick done.

Makes about 24 muffins

Pumpkin Surprise Muffins

Notes: You could add a cup of nuts and/or raisins to the pumpkin batter for even more yummy goodness. We used fresh pumpkin that we roasted in the oven and mashed ourselves. This process gave lovely little bits of pumpkin throughout the muffins. You could easily used canned pumpkin instead.

Posted by Dianne at 7:37 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 11, 2007

Fresh Tomato and Thyme Risotto

Fresh Tomato and Thyme Risotto

9/11...Who can forget that day? I can still tell you exactly where I was and what I was doing that morning when I found out what was happening and how Jamison's dad and I had been in DC just a few days before. The whole day was surreal, but then again you can probably tell me the exact same things about your day that horrible morning as well.

It's hard to beleive it's been six years. On days like this you just need a little comfort food! Add in some fresh veggies and herbs to this dish and you've got the perfect mix of fresh and comfort. Sometimes you just need to indulge and why not do so with some good stuff thrown in as well.

What You'll Need:
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of butter
1/2 a red onion, chopped
4 cups of grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced into quarters (Note: I used two cups of orange cherry and 2 cups of red cherry tomatoes.)
2-4 tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups of risotto rice
2 cups of broth
Water
2 1/2 ounces of goat cheese, crumbled
1/3-1/2 cup of Parmesan, grated

In a large pot or skillet sauté onion, tomatoes and thyme with a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground pepper in extra virgin olive oil until tomatoes and onion are soft. Stir in risotto and cook for 2 minutes. Add broth and stir occasionally until broth evaporates. Add water 1 cup at a time and repeat the stirring until it evaporates. Keep adding water 1 cup at a time until the rice is tender. Remove from heat and stir in cheese until melted. Let sit for at least 5 minutes until serving. (Note: The longer it sits the creamier it gets.)

Notes: As always risotto is not a hard dish to make and you can tweak this until your hearts content. You could use different cheeses or add other veggies. You could use rosemary instead of thyme or another herb of your choice. It's an easy dish to mix and match.

Posted by Dianne at 12:28 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 5, 2007

Not Your Mama's "Fried" Okra

"Fried" Okra

Fried okra is one of those quintessential Southern foods that automatically makes you think good, not to mention heavy and fat laden, but it doesn't have to be that way. Growing up in Tennessee it was amazing the many different ways that I had this dish. Some people dipped the okra in batter and then deep fried it, others fried it up in a pan with bacon fat or lard. My mom's method of cooking was pan fried in melted shortening, but regardless of how it was made and no matter how good it tasted you could bet it was heavy as all get out!

When we moved to Maryland it obviously became harder to find okra as it's more of a southern crop. I finally found a local farm owned by some older folks who grew it and that is where I picked it up, that was until last summer. Last summer, and I'm not sure why, the local farm closed and I think it's because the couple became too old to farm the land. They were the sweetest little couple. The gentleman reminded me of my grandfather, but I digress.

Anyway, I could occasionally find okra at Whole Foods and once in a blue moon it would show up at my local Giant store, but it was definitely harder to find. At the Farmer's Market on Saturday one of the vendors had okra and I was excited to see it as I hadn't seen it all summer! Over the years my sister and I have slimmed down the "fried" okra and substituted the healthy fat of olive oil, for the heavier unhealthy fats and/or trans fats. You still "fry" it, but you use a lot less frying medium and as I mentioned that medium is healthier too.

Oh and it's easy to make to boot! That's always an added plus! If you like okra, then you'll love this!

What You'll Need Per Cup of Okra:
Okra, sliced
1/4-1/3 cup of corn meal
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat a large pan over medium heat with a thin layer of olive oil (just enough to coat the bottom of the pan).

In a bowl mix corn meal, sea salt and black pepper. Add okra and toss to coat.

Okra Ready to Cook

Add prepared okra to the preheated pan and cook stirring occasionally until golden brown. Serve immediately.

Notes: You can also use this method for zucchini, squash or green tomato slices.

Posted by Dianne at 7:23 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

August 28, 2007

Tuna Salad

Tuna Salad

I love tuna, but I don't eat it that often due to mercury concerns. Every once in a while I grab some a tuna roll, grill a tuna steak or make some tuna salad. Yesterday was one of those days that started on a bad note and unfortunately when you start on that path you get caught up in a negative feedback loop and it's hard to snap out of it and it was just a sour day all over. Tuna salad is one of those ultimate comfort foods for me, so I whipped up a batch.

Tuna salad is usually heavy, but it doesn't have to be bad for you. In fact it can be good for you, though as I mentioned above with mercury concerns it's not something you want to eat everyday, but it is possible to make a lighter version of the heavily mayonnaised versions you might get in a deli or even grandma might have made. You can make it into sandwiches, serve it in a bell pepper or tomato or even just eat it plain. The possibilities are endless and it's quick and easy to mix up. What's better than that?

What You'll Need:
2 - 8 ounce cans of tuna packed in water, drained
2 ribs of celery, chopped
2 eggs, boiled and chopped
1/4 cup of sweet pickle relish
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon of light mayonnaise
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl to incorporate. Chill for 30 minutes before serving.

Notes: I sometimes add in chopped bell pepper and/or chopped cucumbers to the mix as well. I also sometimes omit the pickle relish. I always use light mayo because it has half the calories and fat, but still tastes like the full fledged equivalent.

Posted by Dianne at 1:41 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 1, 2007

Fried Buttermilk Chicken and Biscuits

Fried Buttermilk Chicken

It would appear I'm on a southern food kick this week! It must be this god awful heat that is making me think of childhood comfort food from Tennessee! ;o) Fried Chicken is the very epitome of what you think about when you think of southern cuisine. Throw in some Buttermilk Biscuits and mashed potatoes and you've got southern through and through!

What You'll Need For the Buttermilk Fried Chicken:
1 chicken, cut into pieces
1 quart of buttermilk
2 cups of flour
2 teaspoons of salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1 tablespoon of paprika
2 teaspoons of garlic powder
3 tablespoons of Vogue Cuisine Instant Vege Base Soup and Seasoning or vegetable bullion powder
Sea salt
Black Pepper
Oil for frying (I like safflower)

You can either buy the whole chicken cut up by your butcher or you can cut it up yourself. Either way, once it's in pieces wash chicken and pat dry. In a large container with a sealable lid place layer the chicken and cover with the quart of buttermilk. Place container in the fridge and leave it there for at least 24 hours.

When ready to make chicken heat oil to 350 F in a large skillet or stock pot. ( I prefer to use a stock pot...Less splashing and chance for burns!) Preheat oven to 425 F.

While oil is heating mix together flour, salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder and Vogue Cuisine Instant vege Base Soup and Seasoning and place in a shallow dish. Remove chicken from buttermilk mixture and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Then dredge each piece in the flour mixture to cover completely. Place directly into heated oil and cook until each piece is golden brown turning once or twice to ensure all sides are browned.

Fried Buttermilk Chicken Frying

Place fried chicken on a baking sheet that is topped with a cookie wrack or a broil pan with top and bake for 10-12 minutes to make the chicken crisp. Drop heat to warm (about 170 F) and leave chicken in the oven to keep warm until ready to serve.

Fried Buttermilk Chicken

Notes: The larger the piece the longer the frying time. It takes roughly 7-10 minutes per side for a large breast piece. A wing takes about 2-3 minutes per side. Watch the color and you want it to just be golden. You also don't want to completely cover the chicken with oil. You just want it to come up the sides of each piece. 2-3 inches of oil is usually what you're looking for. Fried Chicken also makes a good picnic food the next day cold.

Buttermilk Biscuits

I decided to change my regular biscuit recipe a bit and play around with it a little. This was the result...I was very pleased!

What You'll Need For the Buttermilk Biscuits:
3 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 tablespoon of organic cane sugar
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1 stick of butter, softened
1 1/2 cups of buttermilk (Note: You made need more or less depending on humidity. Add slowly and once the dough forms stop!)
Melted butter for brushing, optional

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and sea salt into a large bowl or into the bowl of your food processor. Cut the butter into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter or the food processor until crumbly. Add buttermilk and stir until just mixed. Turn out onto a floured surface and roll out the dough and cut into biscuits using a glass or biscuit cutter. Place on a baking sheet that has been lined with a Silpat or parchment paper. Let the biscuits sit for 20-25 minutes and rest. Then brush with melted butter if desired and baked for 7-10 minutes or until golden brown.

Posted by Dianne at 9:49 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

July 24, 2007

Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie is another one of those ultimate comfort foods. There are many ways to make the dish, but it's hard to find a version much better than this one! It's warm, hearty and oh so delicious!

What You'll Need For The Crust:
4 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of salt
2 sticks of cold butter
1 1/2- 2 1/2 cups of ice water

In a food processor pulse together flour and salt to mix. Cut cold butter into pats and add to the food processor. Pulse the butter with the flour until mixture becomes crumbly and roughly the size of peas. Slowly add water until a dough ball forms. (Note: You might not need all of the water. When the ball forms stop adding water. It's also possible that you might need a bit more water. It all depends on the humidity in the air and such. You can't judge beforehand unfortunately so pay attention and when the ball forms stop adding water!!) Divide the dough into two balls and wrap each dough ball in plastic wrap or place in an airtight container and put in the fridge to chill for at least an hour.

Let the dough soften at room temperature for 20-30 minutes before rolling out so it will be easy to use.

What You'll Need For The Filling:
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked in water and chopped into large chunks
1 stick of butter
1 onion, chopped
6-8 large button mushroom, sliced
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup of unbleached all purpose flour
1/3 cup of parsley, chopped
2 cups of chicken cooking water
2 cups of frozen mixed vegetables
1 cup of frozen peas
1 egg, beaten

Cook chicken in a pot by covering with water. Add a little sea salt and black pepper and cook until chicken is done through. Reserve 2 cups of cooking liquid and cut chicken into chunks and set aside.

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Melt 1 stick of butter and sauté onions and mushrooms with a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper until tender. Add flour and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add parsley and stir to mix. Add chicken cooking water and let the mixture thicken (about 2-3 minutes). Add veggies and chicken and stir to mix. Remove from heat and set aside.

What To Do To Assemble the Pot Pie:

Roll out dough and press into a pie dish. Add filling to the pie shell. (Note: The filling will be slightly higher than the top of the dish. Push the bulk of the filling to the center of the pie shell.) Roll out the other dough ball and cover the pie, crimp the edges and cut steam holes. Brush the top of the crust with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sea salt:

Chicken Pot Pie Baking

Bake for 35-35 minutes until crust is golden browned.

Chicken Pot Pie Baked

Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Chicken Pot Pie

Notes: You could easily leave the chicken out of this and make it a Vegetable Pot Pie. You could substitute vegetable broth for the chicken water in this scenario to make it completely vegetarian. Leeks would also be a good addition, as would cubed potatoes. You can also make the filling and chill it before using for a day or two in the fridge or freeze in the freezer for months.

Posted by Dianne at 8:10 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 11, 2007

Cherry Pie

Cherry Pie

Let's talk cherries! What's better than a fresh cherry pie? One thing is for certain though, the next time I make this little gem I'm going to have one of these! (Hint, hint again birthday fairy! Or perhaps in my case since he's male the Birthday Elf! ;o)) Stained fingers aside, you can't beat this pie. If you like fresh cherries, try it...You'll fall in love!

What You'll Need:
3 1/2 to 4 pounds of fresh cherries, pitted
1/2 cup of organic cane sugar
2 tablespoons of corn starch
1/8 teaspoon of salt
1 double pie crust (boxed or recipe)
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon of organic cane sugar

Preheat oven to 425 F.

In a large stock pot mix cherries, sugar and salt and cook until a sauce forms. (About 5-10 minutes. The cherries don't have to be completely cooked, because they will finish cooking in the oven.) Stir in corn starch and cook for about 2 minutes to thicken. Remove from heat.

While cherries are cooking press a pie shell into a pie dish and trim the edges. When cherries are done pour them into the pie dish lined with the pie shell:

Cherry Pie Filled

Top the pie with another shell and cut vents or shape(s) to let out steam:

Cherry Pie Ready to Bake

Brush the top of the pie shell with beaten egg and sprinkle with one tablespoon of sugar.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.

Pitted Cherries Ready To Be Made Into Pie Filling

Posted by Dianne at 7:33 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 9, 2007

Not Your Mama's Chicken and Stars Soup

Not Your Mama's Chicken and Stars Soup

As a kid I loved Chicken and Stars soup. As I've grown older though canned soup just doesn't cut it anymore. All the preservatives and salt just make it not appealing! I wanted to introduce Alexis to a childhood favorite without resorting to canned soup and I started thinking about making my own. This version has a few more vegetables than the canned variety and of course less salt! Overall I was very impressed and Alexis loved it, so what more can you ask for?

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
4 stalks of celery, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
1 leek, chopped
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2-3 cups of chicken, chopped (You can use white or dark meat or even a little of both. Add more or less, it's up to you.)
2 boxes of chicken stock (Or the equivalent of homemade stock, which I actually used)
1/2-1 cup of star pasta (I used bionaturæ stelline pasta. Use more if you like a thicker soup, use less if you don't.)

In a large stock pot sauté veggies until tender with a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Stir in chicken and chicken broth and bring to a quick boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes to let the flavors meld. Add star pasta and cook until pasta is tender, roughly 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

Notes: I thought about adding peas in after the fact. I think they would have made a nice addition, especially since I have some fresh peas in the fridge. Alexis thought it would be fun to add tomatoes into the soup and I think we might try that next time. She's all about tomatoes and tomato based soups. It would take this soup to a whole different level!

Posted by Dianne at 12:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 1, 2007

Zucchini Bread

Zucchini Bread

Zucchini Bread is one of those things that immediately sounds delicious if you're in to such things. There are many variations of this bread, but my recipe is an adaptation of my mom's Banana Bread. I've even seen recipes that called for chocolate chips! The possibilities are endless, but anyway you slice it (yeah I went there again! ;op) it's delicious!

What You'll Need:
2 large zucchini, shredded
1/2 cup of safflower oil or unsweetened apple sauce
2 eggs
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 heaping teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 cup of heavy cream or half and half
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 cup of chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
1 cup of raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Beat together oil (or apple sauce) and sugar. Stir in eggs and zucchini. Add remaining ingredients and place batter into one prepared loaf pan. Bake for 35-30 minutes or until golden brown and sticks done.

Zucchini Bread

Posted by Dianne at 8:15 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

June 28, 2007

Chicken Casserole

Chicken Casserole

Chicken Casserole reminds me again of childhood and this is my take on my Mom's classic. It's another one of those ultimate comfort foods! It's also very versatile. Throw in what you like, bake and about 40 minutes later you've got a hearty meal! How comforting is that?

What You'll Need For The Topping:
2 cups of cornmeal
1/2 cup of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda
2 teaspoons of baking powder
2 eggs
1 1/2 - 2 cups of buttermilk (You may need more or less depending on humidity. You are looking for batter consistency.)

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Mix all ingredients and put into a baking dish that has been sprayed with nonstick spray. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Let cook and then break into crumbles and set aside.

Chicken Casserole

What You'll Need For the Chicken Casserole:
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1/2 a large onion, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
4-6 cups of crumbled corn bread (See recipe above)
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2-1 cup of chicken broth (Notes: You are using this to moisten the topping. See the notes below in the recipe itself.)
2-3 cups of cooked chicken breast, chopped (Notes: Use 2 if you use extra mushrooms, 3 if you choose not to)
2 cups of mushrooms sliced
1 can of cream of mushroom soup OR 2 cups of a creamy soup such as this one
1/2 cup of fat free half and half

Sauté celery and onion until just tender. In a large bowl mix cornbread, celery, onion, broth, a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper until mixture is moist. Use more or less broth depending on consistency. (Note: You are looking for the constancy of stuffing or dressing.) Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Spray a 13 X 9 inch dish with non-stick spray and set aside.

In a large bowl mix together chicken, mushrooms, cream of chicken soup, half and half, a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Once mixed spread mixture into the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Top with stuffing mixture and spread out to cover the chicken mixture entirely.

Bake for 30-45 minute, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Notes: I sometimes add sage and/or thyme into the topping for a bit of a twist.

Posted by Dianne at 7:06 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 21, 2007

Dianne's Spinach Artichoke Dip

Spinach Artichoke Dip

I love spinach artichoke dip so it's no surprise that I came up with my own. This dip has evolved over time and the latest rendition has goat cheese (surprise, surprise! ;o)), but every time I serve it it gets raves and I've even had people who thought they didn't like spinach try it and like it. It's one of my most requested dishes. It goes great with cut veggies, chips or other dip type scoopy foods.

What You'll Need:
1 cup of light sour cream
1/2 cup of light mayo
1 - 8 ounce package of light cream cheese
1 cup of Parmesan cheese, grated
1 - 5 ounce package of goat cheese, crumbled
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves of garlic, minced or 1 teaspoon of garlic salt with parsley (If you use the garlic salt, adjust sea salt accordingly)
1 jar of artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
2 boxes of frozen spinach, thawed and drained (Note: I don't remember the exact ounce of the package here, but I used Cascadian Farms boxed frozen spinach if you want to compare it to other brands.)

In a medium sized pot melt cream cheese, Parmesan and goat cheese with sour cream and mayo until smooth. Stir in seasonings, artichokes and spinach until blended and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and serve immediately or let cool and store in the fridge until ready to use.

To serve from fridge remove from fridge and place in an oven preheat to 350 F for 20-25 minutes or until warmed through or place in a microwave safe container and microwave on high for 3-5 minutes or until heated through.

Notes: This was the first time I had made my dip with goat cheese and it definitely was a wonderful addition. It gave the dip a hidden depth that wasn't there before. You could leave out the goat cheese if you wanted, but I will be adding it from now on.

Posted by Dianne at 7:43 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 19, 2007

Spinach and Chive Quiche

Spinach and Chive Quiche

I love quiche and surprise, surprise, Jamison doesn't. So every once in a while I make one for lunch. This variation turned out especially yummy! The cheeses settled to make layers that all sort of melded together into a lovely taste sensation! If you like quiche then most definitely try this one!

What You'll Need:
1 pie shell
8-10 eggs (Depending on size. More on that in the recipe itself.)
1/3 cup of chopped chives
1 1/2 cups of fresh spinach, chopped or julienned
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup of Buttermilk cheese (or Cheddar), shredded

Spinach and Chive Quiche

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Press pie crust into a pie dish and set aside. (Note: You can make your own or you can use a premade shell. It's completely up to you. I happened to have a couple of shells in the fridge from when my parents were here so I just used one of those.)

Beat together 8 eggs and stir in remaining ingredients and pour into pie shell. If this doesn't fill up the pie shell then beat a couple of more eggs and pour over the top. Bake quiche for 30-40 minutes or until done through. Remove from oven and let sit 10 minutes. Serve warm.

Spinach and Chive Quiche

Notes: You can add other cheeses, or throw in some meat, or even use different veggies. Mushrooms are always good, as are onions and asparagus. It's another one of those recipes you can tweak endlessly and it's always good! Add a side salad and you've got a meal!

Posted by Dianne at 7:54 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 4, 2007

Four Cheese Veggie Lasagna

Four Cheese Lasagna

Lasagna is the ultimate comfort food. Noodles and cheese, melding with tomato sauce and Italian herbs hits the spot when you want something hearty and warm. Most families have their own versions of lasagna and their own ideas about what goes into them, which may change over time, or who you are making for, I know mine does. Regardless of what you like in your lasagna you can always tweak a basic lasagna recipe and add what you like.

A while back a saw an episode of The Barefoot Contessa where Ina made a lasagna with goat cheese. Now my adoration of goat cheese has been mentioned here many times before and will most likely be mentioned again, but I never got around to actually trying it until the other day and I must say I was highly impressed! It's added a creamy, tangy background that melded just perfectly with the Italian seasoning and tomatoes. Though I've never tried it I would hazard a guess that Feta would be good as well. I may just have to try that notion the next time I make lasagna.

Cooking is all about tweaking here and there and adding ingredients that speak to you. Most importantly you should have fun, while making something that you enjoy. Lasagna is the perfect dish for experimentation and this Four Cheese Veggie Lasagna could be tweaked infinite ways. What sounds good to you?

Oh and this lasagna makes superb leftovers! But then again lasagnas usually do! ;o)

Four Cheese Lasagna Baked

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 small package of mushrooms, sliced
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoons of dried oregano
2 - 14.5 ounce cans of diced tomatoes, drained
1 - 12 ounce package of bionaturæ lasagna noodles, cooked al dente
1 - 15 ounce container of ricotta cheese (I used fat free)
1 - 4 ounce container of goat cheese, crumbled
Parmesan cheese
Mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a large skillet over medium heat sauté onion and mushrooms in a little extra virgin olive oil until tender and then stir in garlic and cook until garlic is done. (Roughly 1-2 minutes.) Add a pinch of sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, basil and oregano and stir. Next add drained tomatoes and stir to mix. Remove from heat and set aside.

While your veggies are sautéing cook 1 package of bionaturæ lasagna noodles according to package directions to al dente, drain and set aside. (Note: Any lasagna noodle will do, but I like the bionaturæ lasagna noodles because they are the perfect size for an 8X8 dish without having to be cut!)

Brush an 8X8 glass dish with extra virgin olive oil to prevent sticking and follow the steps below.

Step One:

Four Cheese Lasagna Step One

Place two noodles in the bottom of the dish. (Note: As you add layers you may add three noodles to subsequent layers because most dishes have a slight slope to them and get wider as they approach the top.)

Step Two:

Four Cheese Lasagna Step Two

Add a layer of ricotta cheese.

Step Three:

Four Cheese Lasagna Step Three

Add a layer of the veggie mixture, spreading it out to cover the ricotta.

Step Four:

Four Cheese Lasagna Step Four

Sprinkle some parmesan over the veggie layer.

Step Five:

Four Cheese Lasagna Step Step Five

Next add some goat cheese crumbles.

Step Six:

Four Cheese Lasagna Step Six

And lastly add a layer of mozzarella. (Note: I used pearline fresh mozzarella and like the name suggests, it's simple little balls of mozzarella about the size of a pearl. You can use whatever type of mozzarella you have on hand and tear it if it's fresh mozzarella or shred it if it's from a block. I ran out of pearline so for the top layer I tore some fresh mozzarella from the ball.)

Next repeat steps one through six until you get to the top of your dish.

On your top layer you do NOT want to put a layer of ricotta, nor do you want to put goat cheese. The top layer consists of a layer of noodles, topped with a layer of veggie mixture, sprinkled with parmesan and mozzarella.

Four Cheese Lasagna Ready For The Oven

Place lasagna in the oven on a baking sheet in case it bubbles over. Cook for 30-40 minutes or until cheese on top slightly browns. Remove from oven and let sit for 10-15 minutes before serving. Serve with a tossed salad and/or garlic bread.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Posted by Dianne at 12:05 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 26, 2007

Goat Cheese Pizza with Zucchini and Cherry Tomatoes

Goat Cheese Pizza with Zucchini and Cherry Tomatoes

If you've been reading Dianne's Dishes for a while you've probably figured out I love goat cheese. You've also probably figured out I love tomatoes and rosemary...Put them all together and you've got one heck of a pizza! Throw in some zucchini and garlic and it's heaven!

What You'll Need For the Crust:
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
3/4 cup of warm water
1 tablespoon of honey
4 teaspoons of yeast
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

In the bowl of your food processor pulse flour and salt until mixed (roughly 4-6 pulses). In a glass measuring cup add honey and yeast to warm water and let sit for 3-5 minutes until foamy. Add olive oil to the food processor and turn the machine on. Slowly add water/yeast mixture until ball of dough forms. (Note: Depending on humidity and such you may need a little more or a little less water. Eyeball it as you go. Once the ball forms you'll know to stop. It's hard to mess this recipe up. It's very forgiving. If you go too far wit the water add more flour a tablespoon at a time until ball forms. It's all about the dough ball! ;o))

Once the dough ball forms you need to let it rise. This make roughly one large pizza or 4-6 personal sized pizzas depending on how big you like them. I like to make personal sized pizzas so that way everyone can have their own favorite toppings. If you're making one big pizza simply place the dough on a baking sheet in your oven with your oven light on (the oven light puts out just enough heat to rise to dough) or if you want to make personal sized pizzas divide the dough into 4 to 6 small balls and place on a baking sheet and follow the same procedure as for the large ball. Let the dough balls rise for at least one hour. Then roll or push out the dough and top with your favorite pizza toppings to bake.

What You'll Need For The Pizza Topping:
1 zucchini, chopped
2 cups of cherry tomatoes, chopped
1/2 an onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic chopped
2 sprigs of rosemary, stripped
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 450 F. (Note: I like to do this in a toaster oven, but you can do it in a regular oven as well.)

Place tomatoes, onion and zucchini on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with minced garlic, a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Top with rosemary leaves that have been stripped right off the stem (there's no need to chop them!) and place in the oven for 8-10 minutes until zucchini is slightly tender.

What You'll Need To Complete The Pizza:
Extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Cooked veggie mixture
Sliced black olives
1/2 of a 5 ounce log of goat cheese crumbled
1/3 cup of fresh Mozzarella, grated

Preheat oven to 425 F.

While the veggies are roasting, spread out pizza crust(s) and brush it with a little extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake for 5-7 minutes until crust is done, but not browned and remove from oven.

Top baked crust with veggies mixture and black olives. Sprinkle with crumbled goat cheese and mozzarella. Place back in the oven for 5-8 minutes until cheese is melted and crust is browned. Remove from oven and serve immediately.

Even though it looks in depth it's really quite easy. Once you start making your own pizzas you'll love them a lot more than carry out or order in anyday! ;o)

Posted by Dianne at 8:58 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 1, 2007

Chicken and Dumplings

Chicken And Dumplings

Chicken and Dumplings is one of those quintessential dishes that exemplifies the idea of Southern cooking and every family that likes them has their own twist on this classic. Some like to add onions, others add potatoes, but in my mind Chicken and Dumplings should be more straight forward and ultimately more simple.

I grew up in Tennessee and in my family my mom and I were the ones that loved Chicken and Dumplings (and still do!) My father isn't much of a chicken person and I'm not sure what my sister's opinion of the dish is, but it wasn't strong either way or I think I would remember. (Sisterpooh if you're reading you can add your two sense worth in the comments! ;o)) This simple dish is my take on the Southern Classic. It's simple, quick and delicious!

What You'll Need:
2 large chicken breasts, bone in and skin on
Water (Enough to cover the chicken...Usually about 4-6 cups)
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1 cup of buttermilk (Note: Depending on humidity you may need a little more or a little less. You want a very, very sticky dough.)
3 tablespoons of unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup of dairy (Your choice heavy cream, light cream, half and half, milk)

In a large pot over medium heat place both chicken breasts in the bottom of the pot and cover with water. Add a pinch of sea salt and some black pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cooked covered until chicken is done. (Usually 20-30 minutes depending on the size of the chicken breasts.

While the chicken is cooking mix 2 cups of flour, sea salt, baking soda, baking powder and buttermilk until a very sticky dough forms. Set aside.

When the chicken breasts are cooked remove from pot and put the cover back on to the pot. Take the skin off of the chicken breasts and discard. Remove the meat from the bone. Chop or tear meat into bite sized pieces with caution as the meat is still very hot. Add chicken back to the pot.

Mix your dairy and 3 tablespoons of flour until smooth with no lumps and pour into the pot with the chicken and stir to mix. Drop spoonfuls of dough into the pot until dough is gone to make dumplings. Put the lid back on the pot and cook for 20-30 minutes until mixture has thickened. Serve warm.

Notes: As I mentioned in the intro you can add onions if you like, or potatoes or I've even seen mushrooms added to the mix! You can also top it with chopped parsley if you want, which I do sometimes, but ultimately I think the simpler the better is best for this dish. Also if you have some left over chicken you can use that instead and substitute chicken broth for the water, heat it to simmering and then skip on to the dairy step.

Posted by Dianne at 9:25 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 29, 2007

Salsa Macaroni and Cheese

Salsa Macaroni and Cheese

Nothing is as good as freshly made macaroni and cheese! It's one of the best comfort foods out there. This is a spicy twist on a classic. What's not to like?

What You'll Need:
1 - 16 ounce box of large macaroni elbows
1/2 an 8 ounce package of cream cheese
1/2 of an 12 ounce bar of cheddar cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons of fat free half and half
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup of salsa (I like medium)

Prepare macaroni according to package directions and drain well.

While macaroni is cooking, melt cheese with half and half and black pepper until melted and smooth. Once mixture is melted and smooth stir in salsa.

Pour melted cheese mixture over cooked and drained macaroni and stir to mix. Serve warm.

Note: You can pour the macaroni into a buttered dish and top with more shredded cheese and bake at 350 F for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and slightly browned for an extra yummy treat!

Posted by Dianne at 9:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 21, 2007

Smashed Buttermilk And Parsley Potatoes

Smashed Buttermilk And Parsley Potatoes

Nothing says comfort like smashed potatoes! The possibilities of what you can do with them are endless! You can throw in a few different ingredients and mix and match and you have dish after dish of yummy goodness!

What You'll Need:
2 pounds of red skinned baby potatoes
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Black pepper
1/2 cup of buttermilk
2 tablespoons of butter
1/4-1/2 cup parsley

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Wash potatoes and cut into quarters. Toss with some extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until tender and then place potatoes in a large glass bowl.

Right before you remove the potatoes from the oven heat buttermilk and butter until butter melts. Pour mixture into the bowl with the potatoes and smash. Stir in parsley (more if you like or less, it's up to you) and serve warm.

Simple, easy and delicious!

Posted by Dianne at 7:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 9, 2007

Dianne's Egg Salad

Egg Salad

So now that Easter is over what do you do with all those boiled eggs? Well Deviled Eggs are always a good choice, or you can use them in Potato Salad or even Tuna Salad, but the King of all egg recipes is Egg Salad. I developed this recipe a few years ago after wondering what Egg Salad actually was. I had never had it before. This take is not as heavy as some, but it's delicious none the less. Eat it on bread, or in a tomato...You can't go wrong either way!

Note: I do NOT advise making anything with Easter Eggs that have spent hours out of the fridge. We color eggs, but don't hide them, so they go from the pot, to the fridge, to the dye and back to the fridge. If your eggs have been out in nature for several hours or more waiting to be hunted, especially if it's warm, then you might want to rethink cooking with them.

What You'll Need:
6-8 boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 teaspoon of celery seed
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup of light mayo
2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
Tomatoes
Lettuce
Bread (Optional)

Mix eggs, celery, celery seed, salt, pepper, mayo and mustard until incorporated. Serve in a quartered tomato with lettuce or on bread with lettuce and tomato as a sandwich.

Posted by Dianne at 10:42 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 19, 2007

Champ

Champ

I had heard of the Camp for years, but had never made it. It's a twist on mashed potatoes, but it's oh so good!

What You'll Need:
6-8 large baking potatoes, peeled and cut into circles
Irish butter (or just regular butter if you want)
Heavy cream
Sea salt
Black Pepper
1 bunch of scallions, chopped
More butter for serving

Boil potatoes in a large pot until tender. Remove from heat and drain. Mash with butter, heavy cream, sea salt and pepper.

While potatoes are cooking sauté scallions until just tender and set aside. Once potatoes are mashed, stir cooked scallions into the mashed potatoes until mixed.

To serve place a mound of Champ on your plate and make a small well in the middle to be filled with butter:

Champ

Then eat and enjoy taking a bit of butter with each bite! :o)

Posted by Dianne at 9:33 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 10, 2007

Potato Soup With Buttermilk Biscuits

There's nothing like a warm, creamy, potato soup! It's comforting and oh so good! Throw in some buttermilk biscuits and you've got comfort food to a tee!

What You'll Need For The Potato Soup:

Potato Soup

3 small potatoes, peeled and cut into rounds
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 of a large yellow onion, chopped
1/2 of a large leek, chopped
1 large celery stalk, chopped
2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons of butter
1 cup of heavy cream
2 cups of skim milk

Peel 3 small potatoes and slice into rounds. Bring to a boil and cook until tender. Drain and mash. Set aside.

In a medium sized pot sauté onion, leek and celery until tender. Stir in cubed potatoes a little sea salt, some freshly ground black pepper and cook for about 2 minutes. Add butter and let melt. Once butter is melted stir in heavy cream and skim milk. Cook for 30 minutes and then stir in mashed potatoes to help thicken the soup. Cook for an additional 30 minutes and serve warm.

Pot Of Potato Soup

Makes 2-4 servings.

What You'll Need For The Buttermilk Biscuits:

Buttermilk Biscuit

3 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 cup of transfat free vegetable shortening
2 cups of buttermilk
Butter, melted (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Mix flour, sea salt, baking soda and baking powder in a large bowl. Cut vegetable shortening into the flour mixture. Stir in buttermilk until dough forms. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead a few times. Roll out dough with a rolling pin and cut biscuits with a glass or biscuit cutter. Place onto a baking pan that is lined with a Silpat or parchment paper. Brush the tops with melted butter if desired. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.

Buttermilk Biscuits Baking

Makes about 15 biscuits.

Posted by Dianne at 11:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 9, 2007

Dark Chocolate Brownies

Dark Chocolate Brownies

Brownies are one of those comfort foods that most everyone likes. The possibilities of what you can add into a brownie are endless. All you have to do is use your imagination! This recipe is just a plain and simple brownie, but the taste is anything but!

What You'll Need:
1 cup of butter, melted
7 ounces of dark chocolate, chopped and melted (I used 2 - 3.5 ounce Green & Black's Dark Chocolate candy bars)
1 cup of organic cane sugar (Note: Organic cane sugar is not as white as most processed sugars. It has a wonderful flavor and bakes up just like conventional sugar.)
1 cup of buttermilk
2 eggs
2 teaspoons of vanilla
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
3 cups of unbleached all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Melt butter in the microwave (about 1 minutes). Stir in broken up chocolate and place back into the microwave until melted (about 1 minute) being careful not to scorch the chocolate. Microwaves differ in power so use your knowledge of your own microwave to estimate times. My microwave is super wimpy so it takes a little longer. Stir in sugar and mix thoroughly. Add butter milk, eggs, vanilla and salt and stir until mixed. Add flour and mix until just incorporated. Pour into a 13 X 9 inch baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Notes: You can add in 1 cup of chopped nuts if you like or coconut or chocolate chips or all three! Be creative...That's what cooking is all about!

Posted by Dianne at 12:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 27, 2007

Homemade Loaf Bread

Homemade Loaf Bread: The Inside Goodness!

I've been making a lot of bread lately and it's true...Once you start making your own, the stuff you buy at the store just doesn't seem that appealing! This is an old recipe that I've had for years. I remember making it when I lived in Knoxville and I left there in 1997, so it's been a while. I believe I copied the recipe from my Mom's recipe box, but I can't remember for sure and of course being me I've adapted it over the years. Regardless it's extremely good! Try it...You'll like it! There's just nothing like freshly made bread right out of the oven!

What You'll Need:
4 teaspoons of yeast
1 1/4 cup of warm water
2 tablespoons of melted butter
2 teaspoons of sea salt
2 tablespoons of honey
3 cups of unbleached all purpose flour

Mix yeast, water, butter, salt and honey and stir to mix. Add flour and stir until a sticky dough forms. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 1-2 minutes until elastic. Place in an oiled bowl in a warm spot and cover. Let sit for 45 minutes to 1 hour and let double in size.

Punch dough down and shape into a loaf. Place in a bread pan that has been sprayed with non-stick spray, cover and let rise again for 45 minutes to 1 hour and let the dough rise and fill the pan. (I have a larger bread pan and when I first put the dough in it doesn't "fit" the pan, but after it rises for a while it fills in nicely!)

Homemade Loaf Bread: Ready For The Oven!

Preheat oven to 375 F and bake for 30 minutes.

Homemade Loaf Bread

More bread to come. I'm trying to find one that Jamison adores, and anyone that knows him knows how picky he is! This one wasn't quite what he was looking for, though I liked it a lot! My goal is to not have to buy the nasty stuff at the store anymore! ;o)

Posted by Dianne at 8:45 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 26, 2007

Blueberry Pancakes

Blueberry Pancakes

Nothing says comfort food like pancakes! Throw in a few blueberries and you've got heaven on a plate! ;o)

What You'll Need:
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1/3 cup of organic cane sugar
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
2 eggs
2 cups of buttermilk
Blueberries

In a large bowl mix together flour, sugar, sea salt, baking soda and baking powder. Stir in eggs and buttermilk and stir until smooth.

Preheat skillet over medium heat and spray with non-stick spray when hot. Pour batter into the pan in circles (about 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of batter depending on how large you want your pancakes).

Drop blueberries onto the pancake spaced evenly:

Blueberry Pancakes Cooking

Turn when bubbly and cook the other side until done through. Serve plain or with maple syrup.

Blueberry Pancakes

Minus the blueberries this is my basic pancake recipe. You can add any kind of fruit you want or just eat them plain.

Plain Pancakes

What's not to like?

Posted by Dianne at 9:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dianne's Take On Semolina Bread

Semolina Bread Sliced

A few days ago I came across this recipe for Semolina Bread and I knew I would have to try it! The below recipe is my adaptation. Even Jamison liked it! ;o)

Semolina Bread

What You'll Need For The Starter:
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of warm water
1 teaspoon dry yeast
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour

Mix water and yeast in a bowl and let sit until yeast foams. Add flour and stir until dough is incorporated. Dough will be sticky. Transfer starter dough into a large oiled bowl and let rise, covered overnight. (I usually let bread rise in my oven with the light on. It gives off just enough heat to make a wonderful raising area.)

What You'll Need For The Semolina Bread:
1 cup of starter
3 cups warm water
3 teaspoons dry yeast
4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
4 cups semolina flour
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 egg, beaten

In a large bowl add 3 cups of warm water and add yeast. Let yeast sit until foamy. Add starter to yeast mixture (reserve left over starter in fridge to make bread again) and stir until it begins to dissolve. Sift together salt and flours. Add flour mixture to water mixture until a dough forms. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 2 to 3 minutes. Place dough in a large oiled bowl and let sit for 45 minutes until 1 hour until doubled in size.

Semolina Bread Dough Rising

Punch down dough and cut into 4 pieces. Roll out once section of dough until it's flat:

Semolina Bread DoughRolled Flat

Then roll the flat dough into a tube:

Semolina Bread Dough Rolling

Semolina Bread Dough Rolled


Twist dough tube into a figure eight and place on a baking sheet lined with a Silpat or parchment paper:

Semolina Bread Dough Shaped Into Curves

Brush with a beaten egg:

Semolina Bread Dough Curves With Egg Wash Rising

Top with sea salt and/or sesame seeds and/or herbs or leave plain with just egg wash:

Semolina Bread Dough Curves With Sesame Seeds Rising

Repeat procedure with other 3 pieces of dough.

Let shaped dough rise for 30-45 minutes until it rises again.

Preheat oven to 450 F and bake loaves for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Semolina Bread With Sesame Seeds And Kosher Sea Salt

Semolina Bread

Makes 4 small loaves, 2 medium loaves or 1 large loaf.

Posted by Dianne at 1:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 13, 2007

Chili Dianne Style

Chili Dianne Style All Fixed Up

When the weather outside gets frightful I immediately start thinking of chili and cornbread! So today with the snow and ice I decided to cook up a pot. The thing about chili (or at least in my opinion) it needs to cook and simmer for a long time to let the flavors meld so you need to do a little planning ahead, but it's oh so worth it!

Chili Dianne Style

What You'll Need For The Chili:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 pound of grape tomatoes
1 small bag of pinto beans, soaked overnight
3-4 tablespoons of chili powder
1 tablespoon of paprika
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
1 pinch of sea salt
1 pinch of cinnamon (optional)
1 quart of stewed tomatoes (I used some I canned this morning)
1 quart of water
1 small can of tomato paste
1 cup of textured vegetable protein

Toppings: (Optional)
Cheese
Sour cream
Scallions

In a large stock pot sauté onion, bell pepper and garlic in extra virgin olive oil until tender. Add cherry tomatoes and beans and stir in seasonings. Add stewed tomatoes, water and tomato paste and bring to a boil. Lower temperature and let chili simmer stirring occasionally for 6-8 hours. 20 minutes before serving add textured vegetable protein an stir to mix.

Serve plain or with cheese, sour cream and scallions.

Chili Dianne Style With Cornbread

What You'll Need For The Cornbread:
2 cups of yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda
2 teaspoons of baking powder
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups of buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Mix all ingredients and put into a baking dish that has been sprayed with nonstick spray. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.

Posted by Dianne at 7:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 11, 2007

Chocolate Cheesecake

Chocolate Cheesecake

I LOVE cheesecake! I have a basic cheesecake recipe that I tweak depending on what type of cheesecake I'm in the mood for. I make pumpkin cheesecakes (one of my favorites), turtle cheesecake (probably my most favorite), peppermint cheesecake, key lime cheesecake, peanut butter cheesecake, chocolate cheesecake, strawberry cheesecake, cookie dough cheesecake, and so many more!

Last night I made a chocolate cheesecake since we are having some friends over for dinner. It's rich, creamy and oh so good! Cheesecake AND chocolate...What's not to like!??!?!?

What You'll Need For The Crust:
1 sleeve of chocolate graham crackers, crushed
3/4 a stick of butter, melted
1/4 cup of sugar (optional)

In a food processor process graham crackers until crushed. Add butter and sugar (optional) and pulse until combined. Press into a spring form pan that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Sit aside.

What You'll Need For the Cheesecake Batter:
4 -8 ounce packages of cream cheese, softened
1 cup of ricotta cheese, room temperature
1 cup of sugar
4 eggs
1/2 cup of cocoa (I'll say this every time I use chocolate. I recommend Ghirardelli or Green and Black's! I've also heard Dagoba is excellent, but I haven't tried it because it's a bit pricey, but I'll let you know if I ever do!)
1/2 cup of unbleached all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 325 F. IMPORTANT!! DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP!

Cream together cream cheese, ricotta, sugar and eggs until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowls to ensure everything incorporates properly. Add cocoa and mix until completely incorporated. Add flour and mix until just incorporated. Pour batter into pan with crust and spread out evenly. Tap a few times on the counter top to ensure you remove any air bubbles.

Wrap the bottom and sides of the the springform pan with aluminum foil making sure you have an airtight seal. Place pan into a baking dish. Add enough warm water to come up to 1/2 way up the springform pan. You want it to come up at least 1/4 of the way minimum. This helps keep the cheesecake from cracking.

Chocolate Cheesecake Ready To Bake

Place baking dish in the oven and bake for 1 hour. Turn oven off and leave cheesecake in the oven with the oven door in the broil position for 1 more hour. Remove cake from the oven and refrigerate. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving.

Posted by Dianne at 4:41 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 10, 2007

Vegetarian "Sausage" Balls

Vegetarian "Sausage" Balls

For the past few years when I've eaten meat (but not fish for some reason) it always has increasingly made me sick to my stomach. So in January I decided to do a little experiment and see if I could go an entire month meat (including fish) free. My experiment worked quite well and I haven't looked back! I have readded fish in the month of February, but the other stuff is gone for good!

When I made this change I was a bit hesitant. I will readily admit I LOVE bacon and sausage, though I didn't eat it very often. But the thought of never having it again was a bit, well, daunting. I've found mock "chicken" and "mock" meat that I like, but up to this point I had not found a "sausage" and still have not found a "bacon" that worked. Today I tried out a sausage substitute and adapted the old sausage ball recipe I used to use and it worked out PERFECTLY! Trust me, you'll never know the meat sausage is not there!

What You'll Need:
1 - 8 ounce bar of cheddar or Colby cheese, shredded
2 cups of baking mix (I used Bob's Red Mill Buttermilk Biscuit Mix)
1 package of Gimme Lean Sausage Style
2 tablespoons of butter
1 tablespoon of olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In the bowl of your mixer dump all the ingredients and mix until crumbly. It looks crumbly, but it will readily stick together when mashed. Form into small balls using roughly 1 tablespoon of crumbles and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

Makes about 3 dozen.

Note: The vegetarian sausage does have the fat content that meat sausage does so you have to add a little fat into them to get them to bind together.

Posted by Dianne at 1:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 8, 2007

Alphabet Soup

Alphabet Soup

As a kid most of us ate alphabet soup, but these days who wants to eat soup with all those preservatives and such a high salt content? Not me! And I certainly wouldn't feed it to Alexis! So here's my take on the classic. It's warm and oh so comforting! It will remind you of your childhood.

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup of red onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped into small pieces
1 rib of celery, chopped
2 large button mushrooms, chopped
1 cup of chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup of chopped scallions
1 cup of frozen peas
1 cup of frozen corn
1 1/2 cups of vegetable broth
1 - 15 ounce can of tomato sauce
1 pinch of sea salt
1 pinch of black pepper
1 pinch of dried oregano
1 pinch of dried basil
ABC noodles

Alphabet Soup

In a medium sized stock pot over medium heat sauté garlic through scallions until tender. (Note: Carrots will not be tender. They will continue cooking while the soup cooks.) Add the rest of the ingredients except for ABC noodles and cook for 30 minutes to an hour. Add noodles and cook for 8-10 minutes and serve immediately.

Note: You can put in as few or as many noodles as you like. I like more so I added between 1 cup and 1 1/2 cups.

Posted by Dianne at 7:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

There is something oddly comforting about your basic chocolate chip cookie. There's no need to tweak the recipe, the basic works just fine! It's simple and delicious and sometimes that's just what you need!

Posted by Dianne at 12:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 7, 2007

Butternut Squash Soup And Cheese Muffins

We woke up this morning with snow on the ground and on days like today I want to bake things and I want to make soup! I decided I wanted to make an old stand by of mine Butternut Squash Soup and then my mind flew to Cheese Muffins and I wondered how the two would go together. It turns out they compliment each other quite well!

Butternut Squash Soup

What You'll Need For the Soup:
1 large butternut squash, peeled and chopped
1 red onion, chopped
1 large sweet potato, cut into cubes
1 large carrot, cut into chunks
1 large parsnip, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large apple, cored and chopped
1 large stalk of celery, chopped
Coarse ground pepper
Pinch of sea salt
1 container of vegetable broth

Place veggies and apple in a large stock pot and pour in broth. Add water until the veggies and apple are just covered. Add salt and pepper. Bring ingredients to a boil over medium heat and cook until tender. Remove vegetables from broth, reserving the liquid. In a food processor or blender process veggies until smooth adding broth as needed to smooth out the mixture. (Normally no more than 1 cup of broth total).

Serve immediately.

Note: Leave the peels on the potatoes and apples for added vitamins. You can also add 3 or 4 garlic cloves if you like. It's a healthy, easy soup to play with and it's delicious!! I usually reserve the left over broth to make lentil soup or something later.

Cheese Muffins

For The Cheese Muffins:
1/2 cup of butter, melted
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
2 cups of buttermilk
2 1/2 cups of shredded cheese (Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Colby, etc.), divided

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Mix melted butter, flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and milk until a very sticky dough forms. Stir in 2 cups of shredded cheese and stir until incorporated. Spoon into a muffin pan that has been sprayed with non-stick spray and put a little cheese on the top of each muffin. Bake for 8-12 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes about 20 muffins.

Note: You can add in garlic salt with parsley or garlic powder and they taste very similar to the garlic cheese biscuits they serve at Red Lobster.

Posted by Dianne at 12:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 1, 2007

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

Earlier today when Alexis and I were at the grocery store there was a heavenly smelling tomato basil soup near the salad bar. It was one of those smells that just screamed out "Eat me! Eat me!" So when I got my salad for dinner (which I didn't end up eating and will eat for lunch tomorrow instead) I got some of the tomato soup for lunch since we were running behind schedule. We bustled home and I couldn't wait to try the heavenly smelling soup! Unfortunately it smelled much better than it tasted as is often the problem with store bought items.

The first bite of the soup was sickeningly sweet. I was shocked by the sugar content in this soup! Then after you got over the sugar shock you were hit by a secondary spicy heat sensation that was disturbing in that it didn't hit your tongue in the area that normally senses heat! It was just weird! I tried to eat a little bit of it to see if I could figure out what they had done to the soup, but I just couldn't get over the weird sweet/hot flavor combination that sort of made you feel as if you had vertigo!

So as always my brain kicked into gear and I started thinking about how easy it would be to make a simple Creamy Tomato Basil Soup and I decided to test my idea and what do you know...It worked! And it was perfect with the No Knead Bread I made yesterday! It's simple, fast and delicious! You can have Creamy Tomato Basil Soup on the table in under an hour!

What You'll Need:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 red onion, chopped fine
2 large button mushrooms, chopped fine
2 baby portabella mushrooms, chopped fine
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons of dried basil
1 pinch of sea salt
1 pinch of freshly ground black pepper
2 - 15 ounce cans of tomato sauce
1 - 6 ounce can of tomato paste
1 cup of light cream

In a medium sized pot sauté onion, mushrooms and garlic with basil, sea salt and black pepper until tender in a little olive oil. Add tomato paste, tomato sauce and light cream and stir until mixed. Bring to a quick boil and then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30-minutes to an hour and serve.

Notes and Thoughts: Tomato sauce in and of itself is sort of sweet so I'm not sure why they thought they needed to put so much sugar into the soup. I'm all for letting nature do it's thing and there was absolutely no need to ruin the entire soup by sugaring it up.

Also I'm not a huge fan of hot peppery type spices in Italian type food. I know that traditional Italian food uses them, but I prefer to keep spicy heat on the Mexican side of the food fence, but if you wanted you could add some red pepper flakes for a kick if you like that sort of thing.

Posted by Dianne at 7:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Everyone's Doing It: No Knead Bread

No Knead Bread Baked

For a while now I've been reading with interest the buzz around the food blogs concerning a no knead bread recipe that was published in the New York Times. The recipe is adapted by Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery and I decided that it sounded good and had to be tried. The results were excellent!

My next endeavor is going to be figuring out a whole wheat version, as well as a dark pumpernickel version, but for now I share with you the basic white no knead bread! It's super easy. What's not to like?

What You'll Need:
3 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon of yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt
1 1/2 cups of lukewarm water

Mix the ingredients together in a large dish and cover with a towel or saran wrap and sit in a warm place for 12-20 hours. (I've done two loaves and have let one sit 18 hours and one about 19.5.) I usually just put the dish in my oven with the oven light on. The light makes enough heat to make a nice rising place.

After it has risen it should look something like this:

No Knead Bread After 18 Hours

This is a sitcky dough so don't let that make you think something is wrong. It isn't. It should be sticky.

Using a little bit of flour or corn meal turn the dough out onto a flat surface and fold over once. Let sit for 10-15 minutes.

At this point I deviated a bit from the recipe after the first go around. The recipe calls for taking a cotton towel (not terry cloth) and placing it in a bowl. Then you are supposed to cover the towel in flour and place the folded dough into the towel lined bowl. I did this the first time and the dough stuck to the towel . It wasn't pretty! It was a mess! So the next time I made it I lined my bowl with aluminum foil and sprayed it with a little non-stick spray. That worked MUCH better!

Let dough rise in the line bowl for about 3 hours. After 3 hours it should look something like this:

No Knead Bread Second Rise

After the dough has risen for 3 hours you need to preheat your oven to 450 F WITH the bowl/pot you plan to bake the bread in in the oven. I used a Pyrex dish with a lid. I've seen it done in cast iron skillets or pots. It's up to you. I only heated the dish and not the lid.

Once the oven and dish/pot is preheated then remove the dish and dump the bread dough into the hot dish/pot carefully. Shake it around a couple of time with a pot holder to settle the dough. It may look lumpy, but don't worry it will all work out in baking. Put the lid on the dish/pot and bake for 30 minutes. Do NOT grease the pan. I know it sounds counter intuitive, but trust me it works!

At the end of 30 minutes take the lid off of your dish/pot and let the bread continue to cook for 15-20 more minutes or until browned.

You'll end up with a crusty, hearty white bead that is to die for!

No Knead Bread: The Inside

At first when I saw this recipe, though everyone kept going on and on about how simple and good it was I hesitated due to the fact you have to let it sit so long the first rise. The best thing to do is mix it up in the afternoon and let it rise over night and then begin in the morning. It's really quite easy and it's really quite good! Try it...You'll love it!

Posted by Dianne at 2:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 31, 2007

Rosemary Garlic Smashed Potatoes

Rosemary Garlic Smashed Potatoes

Nothing says comfort food like mashed potatoes! I like to jazz up mashed potatoes a bit and I also like to cook the potatoes in the oven, instead of boiling them. They're more smashed than mashed, but delicious none the less! This recipe is quick, easy and delicious! What more could you ask for?

What You'll Need Per Person:
1 potato of your choice (Idaho, Red Bliss, etc), skin on, cut into cubes
2 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary, chopped
1 pinch of sea salt
1 pinch of freshly ground black pepper
A splash of extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of milk, heavy cream, half and half or buttermilk, warmed

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Place potatoes through olive oil in a baking dish and toss to coat. Roast until tender about 40-45 minutes.

Place hot potatoes into a mixing bowl and mash with warm milk. There's no need to add butter because the potatoes are roasted with olive oil and it gives them a wonderful flavor! Serve immediately.

Posted by Dianne at 2:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Meatless "Meat"loaf

Meatless "Meat"loaf

Since I started my no meat in January test I started thinking of ways to take "classic" meals that have meat in them and transform them into veggie versions that make you never miss the meat! Actually I've been doing this over the past few years when I started avoiding red meat, given it makes me sick to my stomach. Meatloaf was one dish that I had never tried to adapt though. Given the main ingredient of meatloaf is well, meat, the idea was a bit daunting, but I'm never one to be persuaded when I put my mind to something.

I started scouring the internet to see what was out there. I found rice versions and lentil versions and though they looked delicious, they just weren't what I was looking for. Then I came across Gimme Lean Ground Beef Style and decided that it would be the perfect for a "meat" loaf and I was right...It worked like a charm!

What You'll Need:
2 packages of Gimme Lean Ground Beef Style
2 eggs (If you want to veganize this you could substitute egg replacer)
1 1/2 cups of rolled oats
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
1 cup of organic ketchup, divided
1 pinch of sea salt
1 pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Mix GLGBS, eggs, oats, bell pepper, red onion, 1/2 cup of ketchup, sea salt and black pepper with your hands until completely incorporated. (You've got to get your hands dirty to make a little comfort food!) Place mixture into a loaf pan that has been sprayed with non-stick spray and spread out/flatten to form a loaf. Top with remaining 1/2 cup of ketchup and baked for 30-35 minutes until browned on top.

Serve immediately.

Makes about 8 servings.

Note: I actually halved this recipe and made two mini meat loaves. I had one for dinner last night and froze the other one for later.

Posted by Dianne at 2:23 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack