Monday, June 28, 2010

Grapefruit Granita

I have never been a snow cone person.  The flavors are nasty and the syrup just runs into the bottom of the cone so you end up eating flavorless ice and then drinking the way-too-sweet syrup.  Yuck.  This is my solution.  The texture of a granita is the same as a snow cone, but it's not ice with flavoring.  The flavor is what you actually freeze to create this dessert.  I've seen flavors of granita that range from cucumber to peach to espresso.  But the one that caught my eye was the grapefruit.  It's pretty and pink, and a definite refresher for the summer months.  Scratch another of my 100 things off the list.  If you like snow cones, believe me, you will love granitas.  The recipe I used can be found at A Little Yumminess.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Lemon Drop Cookies

These cookies are beautiful.  I was so excited that the pictures turned out so well, because they were gorgeous.  They would be so pretty for tea or a girly shower.  They are tender, lemony, and so easy to whip up.  They literally took about 10 minutes to get done.  The batch makes about 18 cookies, so it's good for when you don't want to be tempted to eat way too many cookies.  You can find the recipe at What Megan's Making.  If you have leftover lemons, I'm sure you have everything else you need to whip these up really fast.
Just because I say they would be good for a girly party doesn't mean that the guys won't like them either.  My husband has been eating his fair share, and as I type this my daughter is asking for another "lemonade".
They really are beautiful, aren't they?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

It's All Greek to Me

This was our table spread for the fantastic Mediterranean meal I made.  A plate of thick cut tomatoes, olives, and feta, homemade falafel, homemade tzatziki, and homemade pitas.  That's right, I did it.  It took time, but really, only the pitas took much labor.  The rest was easy as pie (as such, I've never understood that expression, since pie, especially the crust, is notoriously difficult to make).  First up, Grilled Chipotle Falafel.
So easy.  So delicious.  The smell is intoxicating.  You can find the recipe at Panini Happy.  Now, one note.  The recipe does call for chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.  Personally, I enjoyed the kick, but if you don't, you can always leave it out.  Also, if you have small children, I would recommend leaving it out.  I forgot how spicy the peppers are and was punished by having my 2-year-old daughter throw up falafel all over me.  Lovely.  And on that note, on to the tzatziki!
If you have never tried tzatziki, you are truly missing out.  It is one of the easiest and most delicious sauces you can find.  And please don't try storebought - it really doesn't compare.  It's light and healthy too!  Great for snacks.  The recipe can be found at Kalyn's Kitchen.  And now, for the pitas.
Oh how I love pitas.  Once again, fresh pitas are a million times better than the stuff you get at the store.  They are fluffy and chewy and awesome.  My husband kept sneaking pitas as they came out of the oven.  I had to chase him away to make sure we had enough for dinner.  So there it is.  I made 3 of my 100 things in one go, and it was fabulous.

Pita Pockets
from Family Meals by Maria Helm Sinskey

1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water (105 degrees)
1 teaspoon sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
olive oil

In the bowl of a stand mixer, sprinkle the yeast over 1/2 cup of the water, allow to bloom for a few minutes, then whisk until smooth.  Whisk in the sugar, then whisk in 1/2 cup of the all-purpose flour to form a paste.  Cover with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm spot until bubbly, about 15 minutes.  Add the remaining water, the remaining all-purpose flour, the whole wheat flour, and the salt to the yeast mixture.  Using the dough hook, knead on medium speed until smooth, about 10 minutes.  Shape the dough into a ball, place in a lightly oiled bowl, turn the ball to coat with the oil, cover with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise in a warm spot until doubled, about 2 hours.

Lightly flour a baking sheet.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, and roll into a thick log.  Cut the log into 12 equal pieces, and roll each piece into a ball.  Place on the prepared pan, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rest 10-15 minutes.  Position a rack at the lowest point in the oven, place a large baking sheet on it, remove the other racks, and preheat the oven to 500.  For each pita, on a lightly floured surface, roll out a dough ball into a round about 1/4 inch thick.  Lay the round on your palm, open the oven door, flip your hand over, dropping the round onto the hot sheet pan, and quickly close the door. (Ashley's note: I wouldn't suggest trying to bake more than one pita at a time.)  Bake until the round has puffed, 3-4 minutes.  Flip the puffed round with tongs and bake until browned, 2-3 minutes more.  Using the tongs, transfer the pita to a dish towel, fold the towel over to cover, and press gently with the tongs to deflate.  Work carefully, as the released steam is very hot.  Serve the pitas warm.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Strawberry Smoothie

I have been in a breakfast slump as of late.  It seems like all I ever eat is cereal, mostly because it's convenient.  But I seriously needed a break.  And thus, the strawberry smoothie was born.  It's creamy, summery, cold, healthy and delicious.  But, I do have a bone to pick with my kitchen...

I am unfortunate enough to own a crappy blender.  Among all of my lovely kitchen gadgets that I enjoy immensely, the blender is the red-headed step-child of my appliances.  It sits on the top shelf where I can barely reach it because I know that I will  only reap disappointment when I use it.  Seriously, I've only used it a handful of times in the 4 years that I've owned it.  I need to fix this problem, because I really want to make some more strawberry smoothies.

Do you have any good smoothie recipes?  What's your favorite fruit combo?  Do you have a good blender?  Because if you do, I would love to know what kind it is so I can finally rid myself of my terrible blenderness.

Strawberry Smoothie

1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1/3 cup milk
1 cup frozen strawberries
2 tablespoons sugar

Blend and enjoy!  If you have a dumb blender like mine, do the strawberries in two batches.
Makes 1 smoothie.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Lemon Fusilli with Arugula

You. Must. Try. This. Pasta.  I'm serious.  This is for sure one of my top 10 recipes.  It is absolutely delicious and so easy to make.  I make it for company all the time and am constantly asked for the recipe.  I don't add the arugula, but that's just because I couldn't find any the first time I made it and just haven't bothered ever since.  This is not anywhere near a light recipe, so it can't be made all the time, but goodness gracious it most definitely needs to be made.  Please.  I'm begging you.  Make this now!  You will fall in love.

Lemon Fusilli with Arugula
from Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic (2 cloves)
2 cups heavy cream (hence the not lightness)
3 lemons
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound dried fusilli (or rotini) pasta
1/2 pound baby arugula (or 2 bunches of regular arugula, stems removed and leaves cut into thirds)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the garlic, and cook for 60 seconds, then add the cream, the zest and juice of 2 of the lemons, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until it starts to thicken.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta, and cook al dente according to the directions on the package, about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.  Immediately add the cream mixture and cook over medium-low heat for 3 minutes, until the pasta has absorbed most of the sauce.  Pour the hot pasta into a large bowl and add the arugula, parmesan, and tomatoes.  Cut the last lemon in half lengthwise, slice it 1/4-inch thick crosswise, and add a few slices to the pasta.  Toss well, season to taste, and serve hot.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars

I'm going to try to learn some things about photography so that you can see how beautiful this food actually looks instead of seeing these pictures that don't do them justice.  I was seriously craving some peanut butter the other day, and based just on what I had in the pantry, I was able to make these delicious bars.  I'm not usually a peanut butter person, but when you're trying to lose weight, peanut butter becomes almost a no-no.  And you know how those no-nos are when you're trying to get that weight off.  They call to you at all hours of the night and won't leave you alone until you give in.  So, I made room for these awesome peanut butter chocolate bars.  When you bake them, I would suggest putting them in for the full time and letting them cool completely before cutting into them.  Just like cookies, they'll be gooey in the middle, but they'll keep cooking after you take them out.  All I can say is, I am thankful that we were taking dinner to someone that night and that my husband ate most of the rest, because otherwise I would have gained about 3 pounds eating these.

I found the adapted recipe for these scrumptious bars at Bake at 350.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Pizza Buns

Cinnamon rolls + pizza?  Can it be done?  Yes!!  And it's delicious.  These pizza buns were a pleasant surprise and were scrumptious.  Add your favorite toppings and make it your own!  It would be so easy to play around with, and pretty much any kind of dough will do.  I used some pizza dough that I had in the freezer, added some garlic and olives, and voila!  Dinner is served.  Do you get sick of pizza?  Because I do when it's coming in the same form over and over again.  But this is a little change from the ordinary and great for families!  Not only were they delicious, but they knocked out yet another of my 100 things.  I found the idea at The Other Side of 50.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cherry Chip Cookies

This is a very different cookie. When I bought this magazine a year and a half ago I had never heard of or seen cherry baking chips. But lo and behold, one day a few months ago I actually found them in the grocery store. Naturally, I had to buy them just so I could try these cookies. The cookie itself is really tasty, but the verdict is still out on the cherry chips themselves. It might just be that I'm not expecting that taste in a chip or a cookie, but I'm not sure. They are really pretty and definitely worth a try! Enjoy!
Cherry Chip Cookies
by Joan-Marie Gerth from Taste of Home Best Loved Cookies and Bars 2008

1 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 1/4 cups flour

3/4 cup crushed cornflakes
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup cherry baking chips
Additional sugar
In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add egg yolk and almond extract; mix well. Combine the flour, cornflakes, and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in chips.
Shape into 1-inch balls; place 2-inches apart on greased baking sheets. Coat bottom of glass with cooking spray, then dip in sugar (I skipped this step). Flatten cookies with prepared glass, redipping in sugar as needed. Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Remove to wire racks to cool. Yield: 4 dozen

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Basic Dinner Rolls

And here's the third from my 100 Things list. Dinner rolls. Yes, that may seem boring, but I have never been good at yeast, and I've always wanted to be able to make some rolls to go with dinner. To be honest, I wasn't totally thrilled with this recipe. I'm not sure if it was the ingredients or what, but the texture was slightly off and the taste was a little bit bland. They were very easy and fast though, so if you want some practice with yeast, this is a good recipe to try. Click here for the link to the recipe.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Pappa al Pomodoro

I'm on a roll! Here is the second recipe from my 100 Things to Cook, Bake and Make list. Pappa al Pomodoro is an Italian soup that is thickened with bread. That's what interested me in this recipe. It's actually very simple to make and yields a pretty high flavor for very little effort. My husband was stealing pieces of bread and dipping it in the soup on the stove the whole time it was cooking, so you know it must be good. The ingredients are mostly things that you may have on hand already, and it would be great for a night when you really don't feel like cooking. I'm not usually a big fan of Rachael Ray, but this recipe is a winner. Enjoy!

Pappa al Pomodoro
from Express Lane Meals by Rachael Ray

1 loaf chewy bread, such as ciabatta
1/2 cup olive oil
1 sprig fresh rosemary (I used dried)
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small onion (I omitted this because my husband has issues with onions)
1 cup chicken stock
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 cup fresh basil, about 20 leaves
Salt and black pepper

Chop about 2 cups (a couple of small mounds) of the bread and reserve the rest to pass at the table.
Heat a medium soup pot over medium heat. Add about 1/4 cup of the olive oil, then add the sprig of rosemary and the garlic. Peel and halve the onion and, using a box grater, grate the onion directly into the soup pot. Sauté the mixture for 5 minutes, then remove the rosemary stem. Add the chicken stock and the tomatoes and bring it to a bubble. Add the bread chunks and stir until the bread has melted into the soup; the result is a super thick consistency. Tear or shred the basil and stir it into the soup. Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste and ladle the soup into bowls. Top it with an extra swirl of olive oil, 1 tablespoon per bowl, and lots of shaved Parmesan.
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