Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Homemade Pizza Dough

One of the first things I wanted to make with my new KitchenAid mixer was homemade pizza dough. It seems this is a good first step with working with yeast, and that is definitely something I will be pursuing with my mixer. Pretty much everything that Annie makes on Annie's Eats looks fantastic, but I've particularly been inspired by her yeast baking, so I went with her dough recipe. I was impressed by how easy this dough was, and I think I was able to learn enough with this recipe to help me with future yeast recipes (my oven, preheating, is too hot for the rising dough to proof on top of it, but if I put a large wooden chopping board on it prior to the dough bowl, it is perfect). I made this with half deluxe pizza toppings (pepperoni, mushrooms and bell peppers) and the other half with bell peppers and tomatoes. I think the deluxe side turned out much better, as the best homemade pizza has dry toppings, in my opinion. I'm looking forward to experimenting with lots more flavors & toppings in the future. I followed Annie's recipe exactly, so I won't repeat it here.

Chocolate Covered Cherry Cookies

In February, we had houseguests. Refugees from the midwest snowstorms, I should say. The husband and I were happy to serve as home base for Santa Barbara training camp for our Ohio transplants. One of this pair happens to be my blog's biggest stalker, and as a thank you for letting them escape to some warmer weather, she sent me this recipe for Chocolate Covered Cherry Cookies. This was a fun recipe, and it came together quickly using my new KitchenAid stand mixer. Yes, folks, I was already gravitating towards more baking, but this new fantastic toy will definitely lead to more sweet treats in my future. This dough would have killed my previous hand mixer, as it is a very thick dough. The stand mixer had no problems with this dough. The cookies turned out chewy and soft, and the cherry flavor really shined through. I did have problems with melting the chocolate for the glaze, but I've always had problems with finding the right heat for our microwave for melting chocolate. Hopefully, this will improve with practice! Thanks to K for this tasty and unique recipe.
Chocolate Covered Cherry Cookies (from my sister-in-law)
For Cookies:
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 egg
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 jar maraschino cherries
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
For Topping:
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp cherry juice from maraschinos
In mixing bowl, cream margarine, egg, sugar and vanilla. Add flour, cocoa, baking powder & soda. Dough will be stiff. Refrigerate. Shape dough into 1 inch balls. Use knuckle to make indents. Push one cherry halfway into each ball. Melt chocolate chips, then add milk and cherry juice and mix well to combine. Spread topping over each cookie (it will not run or melt in the oven). Bake approx 9 minutes at 350 degrees.

Taco Pasta Casserole

If you haven't figured it out yet, I really enjoy casseroles. They are comfort on a plate, and they make great leftovers. I run into trouble finding casseroles that are healthier. So many American casserole recipes are based in creamy condensed soup and/or covered in cheese. I was very excited to see this recipe from Joelen's Culinary Adventures, as Joelen is one of my favorite bloggers out there, and I knew she wouldn't have any condensed soup in her casserole. The best part of this casserole recipe is that it is adaptable. If I don't have one of the ingredients, I can toss in something else, and I can certainly adapt this to more in season vegetables if I want. As expected, this casserole was great as leftovers, too.

Taco Pasta Casserole (adapted from Joelen's Culinary Adventures)
1/2 lb dry short whole wheat pasta
1 Tbs Olive Oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1/2 lb lean ground turkey
2 Tbs Taco Seasoning
2 Tomatoes, seeded & chopped
1 bell pepper, diced (mine was yellow)
1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
1 cup salsa (I used Medium)
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 cup shredded Cheddar Jack cheese
1 green onion, sliced
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large pot, fill with water and let it come to a boil. Add pasta and cook until slightly under done. Drain. Meanwhile, in a saute pan, add the oil and saute onions until softened. Crumble in the ground turkey and brown. Add the taco seasoning, tomatoes, and bell pepper strips. Saute until vegetables soften. Add beans and salsa then add salt & pepper to taste. Toss the ground beef and vegetable mixture until incorporated. Top the pasta with shredded cheese and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until cheese melts and lightly browns. Before serving, top with sliced green onions for garnish. Serve hot and if desired, serve with guacamole and/or sour cream.

Stuffed Pepper Stew

The first time I made this stew, it was well before I had started blogging, but I had been reading several to collect recipes, never imagining I would start my own. I highly recommend this recipe for those interested in stuffed pepper flavor, but without all the time involved in making the real thing. I don't often make soup recipes as a main entree for fear that my husband will wonder where the rest of his meal is, but this recipe is really hearty and definitely holds up to the husband standards. I got the recipe from What's Cooking in the Orange Kitchen but it is originally a Rachael Ray recipe, and I can't find it online anywhere anymore, so I can't link it! This makes really good leftovers, too. I halved the recipe and there were still two full helpings leftover.

Stuffed Pepper Stew
2 tbsp EVOO
1 1/2 lbs ground sirloin
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp allspice (I used a tsp of chili powder instead for the 1/2 recipe)
4 cloves garlic
1 lg onion cut into bite size pieces
3 green peppers, seeded and cut (I used one green, one yellow for the 1/2 recipe)
1 bay leaf (I omitted)
1 quart chicken stock
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 cup orzo pasta (I used about 3/4 cup for my 1/2 recipe)
12-15 basil leaves,torn (I chiffonaded these instead)
Grated Parmesan to top
Heat medium soup pot over medium high heat with EVOO. When oil is hot add onions, beef, salt, pepper and allspice (or chili powder). Brown the meat for about 5 minutes then add garlic and peppers and cook 7-8 minutes or until veggies are tender. Stir in stock and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook to al dente. Turn off heat and fold in basil. Serve in shallow bowls with grated cheese on top.

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Our local Ralph's grocery store had some kind of fruit mishap involving some bad grapes, rain checks and false advertising that led to bananas costing only 29 cents per pound! I snatched them up at that price, knowing that we could always use them in banana muffins if we didn't eat them before they went brown. I found this recipe on Lemons & Love (originally from epicurious) and loved that they looked really chocolatey and delicious. They did not disappoint, as I made two separate batches of these. I did add one teaspoon of vanilla, because everything is better with vanilla! They came together quickly and my husband's co-workers LOVED them. I even got a message at home from his boss saying simply "The muffins were great, thank you!" I will make these often.

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 large)
1 large egg
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line twelve 1/3-cup muffin cups with foil muffin liners. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Mix mashed bananas, egg, melted butter, vanilla and milk in medium bowl. Stir banana mixture into dry ingredients just until blended (do not overmix). Stir in chocolate chips.Divide batter among prepared muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake muffins until tops are pale golden and tester inserted into center comes out with some melted chocolate attached but no crumbs, about 32 minutes. Transfer muffins to rack; cool

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Stuffed Strawberries

I just finished "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver. In it, she describes how she and her family ate entirely locally (from their own or neighbors farms) for one year. It inspired me to go a little more frequently to our (very local) Farmer's Market. It is literally a walk in the park away, so I don't know why we don't go more often. One of my latest finds, in addition to my absolute favorite local strawberries, was a soft German style cream cheese called Quark. I always think of ad formats, not food, when I hear this word. It comes in lots of varieties, but the kind sold at our market is a lightly lemon flavored and slightly sweet cheese and it is fantastic with strawberries. I stuffed our local strawberries with this cheese and rolled them in graham cracker crumbs to create this lovely dish. Served with a little Hershey's syrup, these were a delicious and light dessert. The cheese only has about as much fat as yogurt, believe it or not! I don't know how regularly available this cheese is elsewhere, but if you have access to it, I urge you to try this application!

Homemade Brownies

I have always classified myself as more of a cooker than a baker. Most of my baking has been of the boxed mix variety. One of the best things about the blogging world is that I have found so many inspiring baking recipes to try out. I decided to make these after a discussion board I frequent was questioning the best brownie box mix on the market. Most said that Ghirardelli brownie mix is the best, but so many also said that making from scratch is so easy that they haven't tried mixes in a long time. I thought - Easy, Chocolatey and homemade goodness? Perfect! I found this recipe on Hershey's website and it really was very easy. I made this while my houseguests were napping and by the time they woke up, it was brownie time! I don't think I'll ever make a boxed mix again. These really didn't take much more time, and the result was a delicious brownie with a perfect texture - not too rich, not too dry, and not oily like I sometimes find the boxed mixes to be. These were a hit with my houseguests and were also a hit with the bike shop when I made another batch a week later. I think I might be inspired to bake a lot more now (hmmm, maybe I need a Kitchenaid Mixer?)!

Homemade Brownies (from Hershey's Kitchens)
3/4 cup butter, melted
1-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 eggs
3/4 cup AP flour
1/2 cup unsweetened baking Cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Optional: 1 cup chocolate, peanut butter or butterscotch chips
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 8-inch square baking pan.
2. Combine butter, sugar and vanilla in bowl. Add eggs; beat well with spoon. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; gradually add to egg mixture, beating until well blended. Add chips and mix well (optional). Spread batter evenly into prepared pan.
3. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars. About 16 brownies.