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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Taco Salad

Not much to say about this dinner - you can't go wrong with taco salad! I've never baked the tortillas into a bowl shape before, but it was pretty simple and kinda fun. I just took 2 small bowls that could go into the oven face down on a cookie sheet, sprayed both sides of the tortilla with cooking spray, laid the tortillas over the bowls and baked for 10 minutes at 450.

I browned some ground beef and seasoned it with the following taco seasoning. I only used 1/2 in the meat and saved the other 1/2 for next time.

Taco Seasoning:
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
14 tsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp paprika

Our tomatoes are starting to be picked faster than we can eat them, so this salad didn't have dressing, it just had a lot of fresh salsa made from red & yellow tomatoes, red onion, 1 serrano pepper, 1 hot banana pepper, cilantro, lemon juice and a little salt.


Layers in bowl:
chopped iceberg lettuce
ground beef
cheese
salsa
fat free sour cream
cherry tomatoes - halved
I could eat this every night. I forgot the beans!

Refigerator Pickles

One time, I got a gallon size jar of pickles as a Christmas present. That's how much I love pickles. That love is only for dill pickles, can't stand the sweet kind. With all of the cucumbers we have, the thought crossed my mind to try and make my own pickles!

I've had homemade pickles before. My mom and grandma used to can them. They were not good. At all. I was pretty young, so I'm not sure what made them so terrible, but I just knew I didn't like homemade pickles. So, I wondered if I could make pickles that tasted like the deli pickles you get - you know, the best kind of pickle ever? I've been known to choose something on a menu for the sole reason that it comes with a pickle on the side. Oh, and if you don't want your pickle...I'll take it.

Turns out, deli style pickles aren't made the normal pickle canning way. It's even easier! There is no heating involved. I literally made these pickles in 10 minutes. But then, the hardest part is waiting 2 entire days to eat them!!

Our cucumbers from the garden are all over a foot long. Our jars are only quart size. I asked Aaron if he thought we could find a big enough jar that I could put all of our whole, 12-15 inch cucumbers in a jar and pickle that! He kind of ignored me, and so I decided I'm making pickle spears for my first try. The only thing that is unclear about this recipe is that it doesn't say how much dill to use! I bought some fresh dill and put 2-3 sprigs in the bottom of each jar, filled 1/2 way and did 2-3 more.
So, you're dying to know if these pickles were as awesome as they sound, right? Well, let me just say - yes, they are. I was all ready to spit it out just in case they were nasty...but instead I ate like 5 of them. I'm already planning to pack them for lunch tomorrow...with like a gallon of water to wash some of that sodium out.
I am definitely making these again as soon as I get more vinegar. I don't have a clue how long these last in the refrigerator, but it doesn't matter. They'll be gone by the weekend. On my next batch, I am going to cut the garlic in half. It was a little overpowering, especially if I am going to eat them at work - stay away from my office!

Ingredients:
3 cloves garlic, minced
fresh dill
cucumbers

Brine:
3 cups water
6 TBSP white vinegar
3 TBSP Kosher salt

Directions:
Put some of the fresh dill in the bottom of each jar. Pack 1/2 full with cucumbers. Lay more fresh dill on top and finish filling the jar with cucumbers. Put minced garlic on top, pour brine into jar until it's full. Put the lid on, and leave them in the refrigerator for 2 days before using.
Here are my pickles, posing with tomatoes and a hot banana and serrano pepper.

Blackened Chicken Pizza with Yellow Tomato Salsa

We're growing yellow tomatoes in our garden. Golden Jubiliees to be exact. I have never had one, so I wanted to find a recipe that specifically called for yellow tomatoes. This pizza recipe was perfect because we had all of the ingredients at home and I wouldn't have to go to the store! That never happens! I love making homemade pizza.
The flavor of this pizza was great. It was very light & fresh tasting - basically a veggie packed pizza (yeah, it had chicken) without sauce. I think I'd like some sauce on it next time. Also, the amount of salsa it made wasn't enough to cover the entire crust. Now what? I only had 2 ripe yellow tomatoes! I had to add some red - not really a problem, they are starting to ripen, too. I also added some sweet banana peppers because have like a gajillion of them.
There was just one problem with this pizza - kind of soggy crust in the center. I even tried to prevent this because the reviews warned about it. Make sure you really drain off all liquid before spreading it on the crust. I thought I did that. Well, more liquid came out. It was still great, only the center was a little soggy. We ate it with a fork. I'd make it again with a few modifications.

INGREDIENTS
1 1/2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
3 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cut into 1 inch strips
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 yellow pear tomatoes, stems removed
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 lime, zested and juiced
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pre-baked thin pizza crust (I used Paula Deen's Basic Pizza Dough that I had frozen a couple weeks ago - I prebaked it for about 10 minutes or so - see the picture down there?)
8 ounces shredded pepperjack cheese (I used colby-jack cheese)


DIRECTIONS
Preheat over to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). In a small bowl, combine paprika, garlic powder, salt, black pepper, onion powder, thyme, oregano, and cayenne. Sprinkle liberally over chicken.

Store any remaining mixture in airtight container for later use.
Heat a large skillet over high heat. Pour oil into hot skillet, and cook chicken in oil for 2 to 3 minutes, or until fully cooked.

Combine tomatoes, onion, jalapeno, garlic, cilantro, lime zest, and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread over pizza crust, then arrange chicken over tomato mixture.
Top with cheese.


Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until cheese melts.

Chicken Noodle Soup


Chicken Noodle Soup isn't something I would normally think to make on a 95 degree day in July, but after boiling an entire chicken to make Kim's Mom's Chicken Salad, I didn't want to waste all that stock. So I froze a container for later, and put some of the shredded chicken back into the pot and started adding whatever I could find. I also was able to use some things from the garden - always a bonus!
Ingredients:
chicken broth (seasoned with salt and pepper)
noodles - I had half of a bag of the klusky noodles I needed to use up
chopped carrots -however much you have or like
chopped sweet banana peppers - from our garden!
pearl onions - I left them whole
2 garlic cloves, minced
chives - our neighbor gave us some dried chives she grew
fresh basil - torn into smaller pieces
fresh parsley - torn into smaller pieces
Directions:
Boil everything together - 16-18 minutes for the noodles to cook.

Kim's Mom's Chicken Salad



I miss working with Kim - we worked together for 3 years before we both decided we couldn't stand that place anymore and had to leave. Even though the company was terrible, I have never worked with such a fun group of girls before. I still get together with the YCC girls every other month for dinner, so it's all good :) Quick side note: YCC stands for the name of the company we worked for - but Kim worked for a company called YIH, but we were all under another company called TPN. Yeah, I never did figure out why one place with 10-12 employees needs 3 names.

Anyway...when we all worked there, we would eat lunch together in the kitchen area of the warehouse. Kim used to bring in chicken salad that her mom had made and let me have a taste. Needless to say, I loved it and had to get the recipe and still make it occasionally. This weekend was such occasion.

There isn't an official recipe, but a list of ingredients and you just mix and taste as you go. I bought a whole chicken for $3.71 at the grocery and made lunch for week (+ one dinner). I boiled the chicken in water with salt and pepper. I didn't want to throw out all of that broth, so after removing the chicken and shredding it, I put some back into the pot of broth to make some chicken noodle soup. But this post is about Kim's Mom's Chicken Salad, so you'll have to read about Chicken Noodle Soup separately.

Ingredients:
1 whole chicken, cooked & shredded
1 can crushed pineapple
1 can pineapple tidbits (We had fresh pineapple this time, so I chopped some up into smaller pieces and threw it in instead of canned)
mayo (we always use light)
pickle relish
salt & pepper
sugar -white, granulated (I probably put about a tablespoon in the entire bowl)

Directions:
Mix all ingredients to your liking.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Pizza Burgers

We got out of our Wilton class a little early tonight (again, I was the last one one...I don't know, I always used to be the first one done with tests and stuff when I was in school...I'm slacking in my old age). On the way home I was thinking - I really should make us a nice dinner tonight. Aaron's been so patient with not getting dinner on Monday nights all month, not really complaining at all. And by not getting dinner I don't mean he doesn't eat, he just eats out and then I grab whatever random thing that sounds good when I come home.

But tonight I thought he really deserves something gourmet...better than what you'd get at a 5-star restaurant. But, it also needs to be quick. I knew I wanted to blog about my cake before bedtime - which was about 30 minutes ago. The only thing I could come up with that would fit all of those requirements - pizza burgers! You know, those things they served you in the school cafeteria that you couldn't stand? Yeah - I loved them and we eat them at our house. It's been a while since we've had them, but I actually put them on the menu for one night this week. And since this is an upscale meal, you need an upscale side...like fries? No...not fries, they are too blah...it's gotta be seasoned fries! So without further adieu, I present....Pizza Burgers & Seasoned Fries!

Ingredients:
1 lb. ground beef
1 small jar pizza sauce - your favorite kind
2 slices of cheese - I used our last slice of American and then a slice of Pepperjack
hamburger buns

Directions:
Cook and drain the ground beef. Add pizza sauce and heat. Open up bun and put meat mixture on each half. Place each half on a foil lined pan, and top with a 1/2 piece of cheese. Place under broiler until the cheese gets melty, bubbly and brown.
Fries - open bag, place on foil lined sheet and bake at 450 for 20 minutes.


Wilton Course 1 - Class 4


Tonight was the final Course 1 class for decorating. The class started with 11 people and by tonight only 5 of us were left! I used the Best Ever Banana cake for this class and had a much easier time frosting this cake than my last one.


We finally got to complete our rose! I haven't had much success with the rose thus far, and tonight was no different. It started out pretty rough. I was thinking about throwing the entire cake on the floor out of frustration, but the instructor said she hasn't done that in all of the 20 years she has been decorating, so I thought that might be extreme for my 3rd attempt - no practice in between.
It's the consistency that makes all the difference, I'm convinced. I'm really good at making medium and thin. I just can't get the stiff right. it's either too stiff, or it's medium. But, after about 10 failed roses, I asked for help - I hate asking for help. I like to figure it out myself. But, I'm so glad I did. She came and made a rose for me to watch and I saw where I was going wrong. I was squeezing too little buttercream out and twisting too fast, so it was getting stretched and tearing too much. So, it was more of a user error than consistency problem. So, I managed to get a couple decent enough I wouldn't be totally embarrassed about putting on my cake. Not bad for the first attempt...at least I like to think so.

Next we practiced sweet peas. Looking at the sample cake in the book, I thought they were totally cute. Then we made them and I changed my mind. I will never put a sweet pea on a cake. Kinda dumb.

Then we made ribbons & bows - pretty easy. I forgot my camera tonight, so I don't have any photos of the techniques we practiced. Crap! - but it's better than forgetting the icing, like I did the first night.

Leaves...they just might be my specialty. Too bad I can't think of a design that uses stars and leaves - I've got them both mastered. I was able to squeeze out dozens of leaves almost perfectly. The only problem was finishing it - but was told that it was the tip's fault. If I took my spatula and kind of stuck it between the opening of the tip to open it up some more, it would fix that problem. I'll have to try that. For some reason my spatula was too thick for the tip.

I'm ready for Course 2 - it starts in 2 weeks! More pictures for your enjoyment - before I bring it to work and my coworkers devour it!
Next time - roses need space. When I placed the first rose on the cake, I really didn't think I'd get another one to turn out and thought this might be a one-rose cake. By the time I added the last one, they were clumped too close and on top of each other. The icing really didn't look that gray, but it's 10pm, I can't get a great picture at this time.

Maybe my best rose:

Best Ever Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting


...minus the Cream Cheese Frosting. We buy bananas almost every week at the store, usually 4-5 of them. Almost every week, we have bananas left over - getting browner each day. So why do we keep buying 4-5/week? It's Aaron's fault. We shop together from a list and the first part of the trip, in the produce area, we split up. I'll send him to get a few things from the list, one of which is usually bananas, and then I continue to get other things from the list. He always comes back with more bananas than I would want. But, I don't argue, they are cheap and he says he is going to eat all of them. So we continue on from produce and I send him off to buy the meat - he likes that job - it's manly.

Anyways - back to our kitchen and the 3 rotting bananas. Do I really want to make more bread? No...but I do need a cake for class on Monday. So I did some searching and found this recipe on recipezaar for banana cake.

I didn't make it right. I must have been too worried about being able to use all of the bananas because after I put the cake in the oven I realized it didn't call for 3 bananas, it called for 1.5 cups. Oops. I hope it turns out. (That reminds me of that episode of Everybody Loves Raymond where Ray and Debra get Frank and Marie the fruit of the month gift and they flip out about what they are going to do with all that fruit and how bad of a gift that it was...remember that one? hilarious! )

This recipe makes a lot of cake batter. I was able to fill 2-8 inch round pans and still have leftover batter. I thought about making them into cupcakes, but I didn't have any liners and didn't want to grease the muffin pan. So I was lazy and baked the rest in a 9 inch square pan.
I ended up baking the 8 inch cakes for about 10-15 min longer than it says (due to the extra bananas and me not following directions I am sure), but my leftover pan was done in an hour - probably sooner. As it was baking I was up showering and getting ready, so I should have checked it at about 45-50 minutes, because it got a little brown on top, but it had less batter to begin with. The verdict...tastes like a light, fluffy banana bread. Mmm...I can only imagine how good it is with the cream cheese frosting.

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups bananas, mashed, ripe
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
2 1/8 cups sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (I used the vinegar and milk substitute)

Frosting (I had to skip this frosting because I'm using the cake for the wilton class and needed to bring my buttercream!)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups icing sugar

Garnish
chopped walnuts

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 275°.
2. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 pan.
3. In a small bowl, mix mashed banana with the lemon juice; set aside.
4. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
5. In a large bowl, cream 3/4 cup butter and 2 1/8 cups sugar until light and fluffy.
6. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then stir in 2 tsp vanilla.
7. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk.
8. Stir in banana mixture.
9. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in preheated oven for one hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
10. Remove from oven and place directly into the freezer for 45 minutes. This will make the cake very moist. (I skipped this, I figure my cake is going to be moist enough with twice as many bananas)
11. For the frosting, cream the butter and cream cheese until smooth.
12. Beat in 1 teaspoon vanilla.
13. Add icing sugar and beat on low speed until combined, then on high speed until frosting is smooth.
14. Spread on cooled cake.
15. Sprinkle chopped walnuts over top of the frosting, if desired.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Chicken Tikka Masala


Two weeks ago, Aaron and I went to dinner with our friends Haren, Payal, Alf and Renee to an Indian restaurant in Clifton (I can't remember the name). I ordered Chicken Saag and Aaron got Chicken Tikka Masala. Both meals tasted great, but the chicken tikka masala was the best! You know it must have been good if I went home and found a recipe to make it myself! So, I meant to make this last week, but it got pushed off until tonight.

I was surprised to learn that Chicken Tikka Masala is "Britain's true national dish", according to Wikipedia. I found this highly rated recipe on Allrecipes.com, and only made a couple minor adjustments. Since we are on pepper overload from the garden, I used one jalapeno and one serrano pepper (minus the seeds from both) and it turned out to be just the right amount of heat that I like in my food.

INGREDIENTS
1 cup yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger (I omitted)
4 teaspoons salt, or to taste (I recommend using less salt - maybe 2 tsp in the total recipe)
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
4 long skewers

1 tablespoon butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
(we added 1 chopped serrano also)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
3 teaspoons salt, or to taste (I recommend leaving this out completely next time - I only used 1.5 tsp and still thought the recipe was too salty)
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

DIRECTIONS
In a large bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, black pepper, ginger, and 4 teaspoons salt. Stir in chicken, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat a grill for high heat.
Lightly oil the grill grate. Thread chicken onto skewers, and discard marinade. Grill until juices run clear, about 5 minutes on each side.

Melt butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Saute garlic and jalapeno for 1 minute. Season with 2 teaspoons cumin, paprika, and 3 teaspoons salt. Stir in tomato sauce and cream. Simmer on low heat until sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. Add grilled chicken, and simmer for 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter, and garnish with fresh cilantro.

And that's it!

The whole thing was very easy to make. Aaron prepped the chicken while I was at work and got it marinating so it was ready to go by the time I got home. I skewered the chicken and he grilled it while I made the sauce inside. (Note - do NOT buy round skewers no matter how cool you think they look. They are a pain to get food on or off.)

I made basmati rice and mixed in some chopped cilantro after it finished cooking.


I'm a little disappointed because half-way into making this, I remembered I wanted to make naan to go with it. I had a recipe in mind, but that would have meant postponing dinner another 2+ hours. So, we figured we like this enough that we'll be having it again. I can make the bread next time.

Garden Update

I thought this would be a good time to give an update on our garden. We have planted tomatoes (several varieties), red, orange, yellow, green and chocolate bell peppers, sweet banana peppers, hot banana peppers, hungarian wax, cayenne, pimiento, mild jalapenos, serranos, habaneros, and cucumbers.

A couple weeks ago I was a little disappointed in our garden this year because I didn't think it was growing as well as it did last year. We changed a couple things this year, one of them being the fertilizer. Last year we used the liquid Miracle Gro, and this year I bought the pellet form that is supposed to last 3 months. Last year, our tomato plants were taller than me and had tons of fruit on everything we planted. Aaron's philosophy with everything seems to be that more is better (drives me nuts when I am cooking and he can't follow a recipe because he wants to put more than it calls for of any given ingredient). Being impatient, I decided to listen to him and figured a little more fertilizer won't hurt. We bought more of the liquid feed and started putting that on last week. Then we left for the weekend...and when we came back...WOW! Maybe I just don't remember the timing of everything last year, and I needed to wait longer, but I like to think it was the Miracle Gro that made a huge difference in just a matter of days.
We have 15 inch cucumbers...

Sweet bananas galore...




The yellow bells have really taken off. I hope our other colors catch up and do as well.


Finally...RED tomatoes!! These are the German Queens...

Just for fun - my little garden helper, Brownie:



Brownie - trying to push Trixie out of HER garden!


As I was standing at the kitchen sink the other day, I saw this hummingbird come to the feeder. I happened to have the camera nearby, so I got one good picture.



Trixie noticed right away and hopped up to watch.

Pepperoni & Cheese Stuffed Chicken

Sounds good doesn't it? That's what I thought when I saw it in Toby's Treats. This week I am having trouble coming up with dinners since we weren't home on the weekend to grocery shop and our weeknights are so busy that we don't have time to go. But, it's a good opportunity to use up some of the things we have. This meal worked out nicely because I had everything! I wasn't sure what to serve it with, so I made a little angel hair for the side. Aaron loved it - I made a little extra to have leftover for lunch today. This will be a regular in our house. I can't wait to make it again using mozzarella cheese.
Recipe:

Ingredients
Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
Sliced Pepperoni
Cheese
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Italian Seasoning
Salt & Pepper
Toothpicks


Directions

Between wax paper pound out the chicken breasts until thin

Layer the sliced pepperoni- however much you would like

Layer the cheese (I used provolone because that's what we had) - however much you would like

Roll the chicken up and secure it with toothpicks, seam-side down

Place in oven safe dish- drizzle with EVOO (I forgot that part) and sprinkle with S&P (I skipped the S&P, instead put a little garlic powder on top) and Italian Season to your liking

Bake on 325 for about 30 minutes or until done

Wilton Course 1 - Class 3

Tonight at class we learned some more basic techniques including the shell border, star flowers, swirl flowers, character figures, and the second part of the wilton rose. I thought I was more prepared for class this time since I made up my bags with the couplers ahead of time, but that was not the case. I always seem to be about 5 minutes behind the rest of the class. This time it was because I was trying to make black icing. Here's a tip - don't try to make black buttercream from white buttercream. I used so much color to try and make it dark enough and still wasn't happy with the result. I'll use chocolate next time.

I didn't want to put clowns on my cake, but I did practice them on my board ahead of time. See?



I should have taken a picture of my rose, but I didn't. I did much better this week because the consistency of my buttercream wasn't as thick and I could squeeze out the base easily with one hand. Next week I want to add a little piping gel so the edges of my icing don't look so jagged and cracked. That was a little trick our instructor told us to get smoother roses.

I wanted to do a turquoise and orange cake this time, and got a little crazy adding the color. So, it turned out really bright/dark! I added a shell border along the bottom, swirl flowers around the top. I need a lot more practice on the swirl flowers, but I really like them.

Ok, by this time, class was over - everyone was packing up and heading home. I didn't want to bring home 1/2 bags of icing, so I made some rosettes on the top with the leftover icing, and some stars on the side. Now, I'm not sure we were supposed to learn the rosettes this week (I was too into mixing my colors to listen to everything), but it was on my practice sheet next to the shells and I just did it anyway. I did try to pipe a black panda bear face on top, but between the grayish color and my lack of skills, it looked more like a deformed blob. So I scraped it off and covered it with a bigger rosette.
Finished cake looked like this! This cake was the Cookies & Cream box mix recipe.

Cookies & Cream Cake

Wilton Cake #2 - Cookies & Cream. I didn't have much time last week to prepare for class, so I went with a box mix. Not wanting to make a totally boring plain cake, I got the idea to crush up some Oreos into the batter from Duncan Hines. It turned out pretty good, although I couldn't say I really tasted the Oreo flavor much. But, that could have been due to the amount of buttercream on top :)

Here's the cake:


And here's the recipe:

Ingredients:
1 pkg Duncan Hines® Moist Deluxe® Classic White Cake Mix
3 large egg whites
1 1/3 cups water
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup cream filled chocolate sandwich cookies, coarsely chopped
additional cookies (optional)

Baking Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.
2. Combine cake mix, egg whites, water, and oil in large mixing bowl. Beat at low speed with electric mixer until moistened. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Fold in 1 cup cookies. Pour into prepared pans.
3. Bake 28 to 31 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 15 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely.
4. Fill and frost cake with frosting. Garnish with additional cookies, if desired.

Makes 12 to 16 servings.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Mexican Chili Cheese Burgers

I love Mexican food. I could eat it every day and still not get tired of it. It helps that I always have pretty much any ingredient you'd need to make a mexican meal.

Browsing Cookinglight.com the other day, I found this recipe for Chili Cheese Burgers. There's not actually chili on the burger, but the flavors are mixed in the meat and grilled to make this awesome variation on your normal grilled burger.

This might be the first burger I've mixed ingredients in to, other than whatever seasoning I'm using, before grilling. This burger has chopped tomato (a grocery tomato - I can't wait to use some from our garden!), cilantro (the last of the good cilantro from the pot on our deck - my plant is now officially dead), chopped jalapeno (from our garden!), and then a few spices. Oh - and I grilled it! Normally Aaron does all of the grilling, but while he was watering the garden, I took over!

Aaron wanted a second burger, so this one's a keeper. I served these on toasted whole wheat buns, but I could see putting this on a tortilla next time. The burger with the pepperjack cheese and sour cream melts in your mouth. I think I want another now, too...


Source: Cookinglight.com
Cover recipe: It's best to use plum tomatoes inside the burger as they're less watery than other varieties. If you prefer to use fat-free cheese, you'll save about 4 grams of fat per burger.

Ingredients
1 pound ground round
1 cup chopped seeded plum tomato
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons minced seeded jalapeño pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Cooking spray
4 (3/4-ounce) slices reduced-fat Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese
1/4 cup fat-free sour cream
4 (1 1/2-ounce) hamburger buns
4 iceberg lettuce leaves
8 (1/4-inch-thick) slices tomato
Grilled onions (optional)

Preparation
Combine first 9 ingredients in a bowl; stir well. Divide mixture into 4 equal portions, shaping into 1/2-inch-thick patties.

Prepare grill. Place patties on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 6 minutes on each side or until done. Place 1 cheese slice on top of each patty; cover and grill an additional minute or until cheese melts.

Spread 1 tablespoon of sour cream over top half of each bun, and set aside. Place patties on bottom halves of buns; top each with lettuce, tomato, onions (if desired), and top half of bun.

Yield
4 servings

Nutritional Information
CALORIES 381(31% from fat); FAT 13.1g (sat 5g,mono 6.4g,poly 0.7g); IRON 4.2mg; CHOLESTEROL 84mg; CALCIUM 212mg; CARBOHYDRATE 28.1g; SODIUM 655mg; PROTEIN 36.3g; FIBER 1.7g

Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream


Remember my 35 pounds of blueberries? They're still around, but now we have 3 cups less. This is the first ice cream recipe I have made that wasn't in the book that was included with the ice cream maker. This recipe came from cookinglight.com. It was a more time consuming than the other recipes we have tried, since I had to cook the eggs and the blueberries, wait for it to cool, etc. Not hard, but that meant we had to wait longer to eat it!

What I also didn't consider was the amount it would make. Yeah, it says right there in the first line of the recipe, but I didn't read. I should have made 1/2 recipe. Once it came time to pouring it in the ice cream maker, there was way too much (or our ice cream maker was just too small). So I had to make this ice cream in 2 batches. It has a really good cheesecake, creamy flavor and pretty, too! My favorite is still reese's peanut butter cup, but this is really good for a fruity flavor.

Source: CookingLight.com
This recipe yields two quarts of ice cream, so if you make the entire recipe, use a traditional bucket-style freezer. Halve the recipe if you use a countertop model; they typically have a smaller capacity.

Ingredients
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup (6 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
4 large egg yolks
3 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
1 cup half-and-half
3 cups fresh blueberries, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup water

Preparation
Combine first 3 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until smooth. Combine milk and half-and-half in a medium, heavy saucepan; bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Gradually add half of hot milk mixture to cheese mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Return milk mixture to pan. Cook over medium-low heat 5 minutes or until a thermometer registers 160°, stirring constantly. Place pan in an ice-filled bowl. Cool completely, stirring occasionally.

Combine blueberries, powdered sugar, and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes or until mixture thickens slightly, stirring frequently. Remove from heat, and cool completely.

Stir blueberry mixture into milk mixture. Pour mixture into the freezer can of an ice-cream freezer; freeze according to manufacturer's instructions. Spoon ice cream into a freezer-safe container; cover and freeze for 1 hour or until firm.

Yield
12 servings (serving size: about 2/3 cup)

Nutritional Information
CALORIES 268(26% from fat); FAT 7.8g (sat 4.4g,mono 2.3g,poly 0.5g); IRON 0.3mg; CHOLESTEROL 90mg; CALCIUM 49mg; CARBOHYDRATE 45.8g; SODIUM 100mg; PROTEIN 5.4g; FIBER 0.9g

Monday, July 14, 2008

Wilton Course 1 - Class 2

I'm a cake decorator now. Not a good one, as you will soon see. But, I was pretty happy for my first cake. No major disasters. One small mishap - As I was taking the cake out of the refrigerator for class, I slipped and put a big dent into the side. It turned out to not be a big deal, I just planned my design to cover it up!

I was so excited to go to class. I had all of my supplies ready because it's a rush to get home from work and get there on time. Half-way there, I realized I didn't bring my buttercream! How was I going to decorate my cake??! So, I had to call Aaron and beg and plead and bribe him with a Chipotle burrito to bring my icing to Michael's and it worked. He brought my icing about 5-10 minutes into class and saved the day and I gave him money for his chicken burrito bowl (mmm).

Here is a picture of my iced cake- that icing tip came in pretty handy! The cake looks good, but the cardboard - SLOPPY! Someone please tell me how to keep it clean. I baked a chocolate zucchini cake for this class and can't believe how much work it was to prepare all this! And to think I have to do it all again in a couple days since we're going out of town this weekend. Maybe with practice I will gain speed.
Tonight we practiced making stars, curved lines, zig-zags and writing. We also made the first part of the Wilton Rose, and we'll learn a different part each class. I didn't get to practice this because my stiff consistency icing was so hard, I couldn't squeeze it out of the bag with one hand and hold the nail. Rather than trying to thin it down in class, I just watched as I was catching up/preparing for our cake. So, I'll have to catch up next week on the Rose.
I didn't want to do the rainbow design in the book, so I brought a cookie cutter with me to class and used that as my pattern. I lightly pressed it into the icing so I could follow the lines. I wanted to make my icing a bright pink and bright orange, but it was taking forever to get the colors darker (I went through about 10 toothpicks) and decided I like the lighter colors. Besides, I can always photoshop them darker (just kidding - this was the real color).

I like making stars and dots. I was running out of time and wanted to finish before packing up, but as I was squeezing out the orange dots, my bag broke and I got icing everywhere. For that reason, you are only seeing one side of my cake.
There are 11 people in our class and everyone brought cameras! I wish I had thought of that. Next week. So, here's the full, finished cake 1!

Chocolate Zucchini Cake


This weekend I made a chocolate zucchini cake for my 1st Wilton Cake Decorating Class. I love zucchini bread (I'm sure it will be in my blog soon), so why not cake? And Chocolate? Oh yes...

I didn't get a whole piece of the cake because I am bringing it into work so my coworkers can enjoy it. So I don't have a good picture of the layers. I did get a taste, though. Since one of the cakes turned out pretty lop-sided, I leveled off the top. Then, took the leveled off piece and spread some extra buttercream icing on it and Aaron and I have been eating that. It reminds me of one of those big cookies you can get decorated. It was delicious, the cake is very moist and dense and the chocolate chips are a great addition. You can see in the photo how some of the chips stuck to the pan as I removed the cake (see the holes?). I should have let it cool longer, but I get impatient like that!


Preheat oven to 325
Grease and flour 9"x13" pan (I used Wilton 8" round pans)

Ingredients:
1-3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup soft margarine
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour milk (you can make this by adding 1/2 teaspoon vinegar to the milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-1/2 cups flour
4 tablespoons cocoa
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups finely grated zucchini
1/2 to 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:
Cream together margarine, oil, and sugar. Add the eggs, vanilla, and sour milk. Beat well.

Mix in flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, & cinnamon.

Stir in zucchini and chocolate chips.

Pour batter into pan and bake at 325 for about 35-45 minutes (depends on your oven, but
I start checking with a toothpick at about 30 minutes).

Cool completely before you sprinkle on confectioners sugar. You could also add chocolate frosting if you really want a rich dessert.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Spinach Artichoke Stuffed Shells with Parmesan Crusted Chicken

This is a Rachael Lee meal - Part Rachael Ray, Part Sandra Lee. About a month ago I made a recipe from Rachael's 365-No Repeats book, the Spinach and Artichoke Calzones. That was pre-Delicious Meliscious, so it didn't make it in the blog. Anyways, the recipe used this pesto I'm listing below and I used the leftovers to make stuff shells that I threw into the freezer. I've never made stuffed shells before, so I'm just making this up as I go.

I got the shells out of the freezer last night and left them in the fridge. Are you supposed to cook them frozen or let them thaw? I didn't think to take out a container of the spaghetti sauce made from our garden along with it, so I used a jar of Newman's Own for this -thanks for the idea Aunt Sandy! Knowing I couldn't pass off stuffed shells as a meal to Aaron (no meat, ya know?), I made some parmesan crusted chicken along with it.

I forgot to take pictures of the pesto part of it in the shells before I covered them in sauce. But before I show you a picture, I have to talk about my pasta bowls. I love them. I wanted pasta bowls since we've moved into our house almost 2 years ago and could never find any I really liked. I had them on my Christmas list this year and got the BEST set from my Sister-in-Law, Michelle. Here they are...aren't they awesome? Thanks Michelle!



Pesto Recipe:

Ingredients:
4 oz. walnuts (about 1/3 cup)
1 15-ounce can artichoke hearts
1 large garlic clove
zest of 1 lemon
a handful of flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
course black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cups coursely chopped arugula or baby spinch leaves (I used spinach)

Directions:
In the bowl of the food processor, combine the nuts, artichoke hearts, garlic, lemon zest, parsley, cheese, some pepper, and nutmeg and pulse the ingredients until chopped. Turn the processor on and stream in the EVOO in a slow stream until the pesto forms. It should be thick and pastelike in consistency.

Then I cooked the shells, stuffed them with this pesto, threw them into the freezer. I poured them into a baking dish, covered with a jar of sauce and some mozzarella cheese and baked for about 40 minutes or so.

So, just as I put the shells into the oven, I breaded some chicken breasts using Italian bread crumbs, a few tablespoons of flour, and a couple handfuls of shredded asiago cheese. Normally I use parmesan, but I needed to use this asiago. I guess that means we had Asiago crusted chicken.

1. Dredge in breadcrumbs
2. Dip in milk
3. Dredge in breadcrumbs again

I browned the chicken on the stovetop and then threw them into the oven to cook with the shells until done.

I've made this chicken several times and always love it. The meal was great and very filling. That means there are lots of leftovers for Aaron's lunch tomorrow! Sorry the picture isn't very good.
We had dinner at 9:30 and I had a hard time getting the right color. Looks like this:

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Fish Rolls Primavera

This week, we skipped grocery shopping and decided to eat what we already have at home. We're stocked up on tilapia, and I have been wanting to try these fish rolls for a couple weeks now. The recipe came from my Great American Favorite Brand Name Cookbook. This was kind of fun to make and different than how we normally prepare fish fillets.

As is, the recipe was ok. The 1/4 cup of lemon was too much for me, so I'm only going to rate this meal a 5 or 6. I will definitely make it again with some modifications, including more vegetables from our garden (if they ever ripen!) and less lemon - I'd probably use about a tablespoon or 2, and then make up the rest of the liquid with broth instead.

Ingredients:
1 c. shredded carrots
1 c. shredded zucchini
2 tablespoons finely chopped onions
1/2 c. bread crumbs
1/4 c. melted margarine or butter
1/4 cup REALEMON Lemon Juice from Concentrate
4 fish fillets, fresh or frozen, thawed (about 1 lb.)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In medium bowl, combine vegetables, crumbs and thyme. In a small bowl, combine margarine and ReaLemon brand; add 1/4 cup to vegetable mixture. Place equal amounts of vegetable mixture on fillets; roll up. Place seam-side down in shallow baking dish; pour remaining margarine mixture over fish rolls. Bake 15 minutes or until fish flakes with fork. I also sprinkled the top with a little salt & pepper and dill. I topped each with some of the leftover shredded vegetables.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Greek Salsa

I keep saying I don't like Greek food. Aaron loves it. He's dying to make his own gyros at home, especially after seeing the Good Eats episode where Alton Brown shows you how to make the gyro meat in the oven or on a rotisserie on the grill.

Even though I'm not a fan of Greek food, I am a huge fan of salsa so I thought this was worth a shot. I found this recipe on Kraftfoods.com and made it for a BBQ today. It might not look very appetizing, but I've been doing enough taste testing and I just might have this as my entire meal today. Maybe I like Greek food after all.

Prep Time: 10 min
Total Time: 10 min
Makes: 2 cups or 16 servings, 2 Tbsp. each

1 pkg. (3.5 oz.) ATHENOS Crumbled Reduced Fat Feta Cheese
1/2 cup halved kalamata olives
1/2 cup chopped red onions
1/2 cup chopped cucumbers
1/2 cup chopped roasted red peppers
1/2 cup chopped tomato (my own addition)
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup KRAFT GOOD SEASONS Greek Vinaigrette with Feta Cheese and Oregano Dressing made with Extra Virgin Olive Oil

MIX all ingredients until well blended.

SERVE with ATHENOS PITA THINS Toasted Chips Original.
 
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