Kitchen Concoctions: March 2010

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Issues

I am having issues. Computer issues. I have done EVERYTHING in my power to try and fix my computer for the past two weeks and nothing seems to work. So it seems that I have to break down and take it to someone to see if they can fix it. I don't even dare try and turn it on or try and mess with it any more because I am terribly afraid that I might do more damage or even worse... lose my precious recipes and photos.

And all this completely bums me out because I have been cooking up a storm, typing up the recipes, and actually typing the blog entries. I have everything ready to go and then this all happens.

I guess the good thing is though that because of all this, I have had to cleanse myself of my computer addiction (no emails, no Facebook, no blogs, no web surfing). It is sad, sad, sad, and I do miss you all in every cyber form; but the break has been kinda nice. More time to visit with friends and family, read books, go on runs, take my dog to the park and truly enjoy the spring time!

But don't worry hopefully I will be back full force next week, with all the new recipes that I had made and gotten ready before my computer issues and all the recipes I have made since!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Hungry Housewife

Like I said at the beginning of the month, that since March is my anniversary month of blogging I wanted to feature some of my favorite blogs that inspired me to start blogging. In addition to the Pioneer Woman Blog, The Hungry Housewife was a blog that I found in my early days of blogging. Leslie, The Hungry Housewife, is fun, tells ya like it is, and has some pretty darn good recipes too boot. She has made several appearances on her local news program in Tampa and has even appeared on the Home Shopping Network.

Leslie features the whole gamete of recipes too. From desserts, and main entrees, and side dishes too. She even features easy 'foodie crafts' that you can make with your kids. As she has experimented and taken a stab with cake decorating and using fondant, sharing her cake works of art with her readers. Maybe this Hungry Housewife could start sharing some fondant tips and tricks since what she has shared so far have turned out pretty darn cute.

Leslie does not blog and post new recipes daily as some blogs do; but the recipes she does blog about usually look and sound amazing. She has great photos and funny commentary.

I am actually ashamed to admit that as much as I have enjoyed reading The Hungry Housewife Blog, that this is the first recipe from this blog I have tried. But let me tell you, this recipe convinced me that without a doubt I MUST try more Hungry Housewife recipes and stat! This Sheppard's pie, which was a perfect way to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, was THE BEST Sheppard's Pie I have ever had. Now I hate labeling things as 'THE BEST' because obviously I have not tired ALL the Sheppard Pie recipes out there. But compared to ALL the ones I have tried this one is by far the best. It is not dry and is full of flavor; Eric and his sister and I kept 'oohing' and 'ahing' after each bite.

You MUST make this Sheppard's Pie and you MUST go visit Leslie over at The Hungry Housewife Blog!

Notes: Of course, I did make some changes (like Eric always says I can never leave a recipe how it was originally written). I changed the mashed potato recipe to one that is more closely to Eric's 'famous' mashed potatoes. In the original recipe Leslie uses Guinness and water to make the gravy but I always try and substitute milk, stock or broth in recipes when I can so I used beef broth. Also the original recipe says to use a 2-quart pan to cook the Sheppard's Pie in. This was WAY to small of a pan for the amount of mashed potatoes, meat and veggies I used so I made it in a 9x13 pan which was perfect, plenty for dinner and for leftovers which reheated nicely. If you are worried about the taste of the Guinness in here, don't be. All the flavors blend together perfectly! As always my version is below:

This picture does not even begin to do this amazing recipe justice! I was trying my best to get THE perfect shot for THE perfect Sheppard's Pie but I had ravenous Leprechauns at my feet chomping at the bits to eat! : )


Guinness Shepherds Pie
Printable Version
Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook time: 20-25 minutes Servings: 5-6

4 pounds baking potatoes
1 cup sour cream
1/2 stick butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 1/2 cups Sharp Cheddar Cheese
Salt and pepper
1 ½ pounds ground beef
1 large bottle Guinness Beer
2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
2 packets of dry Brown Gravy Mix
1 cup beef broth
1 medium onion, chopped
Olive Oil
1 (1lb) bag frozen mixed vegetables

Preheat oven to 375.

To make Mashed Potato filling:
Boil the potatoes in slated water until fork tender. Drain completely and place back in pot so all of the water evaporates. In a medium mixing bowl, mash/whip sour cream, butter garlic, and potatoes. Mash until smooth. Stir in 1/2 cup cheese and salt and pepper.

To make Meat filling:
Cook and drain ground beef. Place drained beef back in skillet and add 1 1/4 cup Guinness. Cook until beer has almost cooked out. Add tomato paste to meat.

In a medium sauce pan, prepare the brown gravy according to package directions,
however, use 1 cup beer and 1 cup beef stock. Pour gravy into meat mixture. And cook all together until you get a nice thick gravy.

For Vegetables:
In medium skillet with olive oil sauté onions until soft and translucent. Add mixed vegetables to the onions and cook until warm throughout.

In a 9x13-inch baking dish, add meat as bottom layer, then add vegetables, and then add the mashed potatoes. Top with remaining shredded cheese. Cook at 375 for about 20 minutes or until cheese in nice and bubbly.

recipe adapted from The Hungry Housewife

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Too Tired

I am officially too tired to:

-cook
-clean
-take photos
-write
-read your blogs (or anything else for that matter)
-type
-think

I am barley awake enough to post this recipe. Maybe I am way too busy, or maybe it's because of the stupid time change (I want my hour of sleep back!), or maybe (do I dare say it) I am just getting old(er) and can't 'hang' like I used to... but man I am beat. But because my eyes are rolling into the back of my head and I am about to rest my head on this keyboard I am going to keep this short and sweet (I know, finally for the first time in my blogging life, I am keeping it 'short and sweet').

This recipe comes from The Pioneer Woman Cookbook (March's cookbook). And true to Pioneer Woman fashion it is not exactly diet food. Oozing with cheese, cream, and butter I call these "The Hungry Man's Potatoes" because any true blue 'gotta have my meat and potatoes guy' will love these. I too found them very rich and creamy and delicious; but because they were very rich and creamy and delicious and ull of flavor this is one recipe we might be saving only for special occasions or when we have company over for dinner and I won't have a huge pan of these left over staring me in the face.

Notes: The original recipe made a whopping 9x13 pan! Whoa! Maybe if I was feeding a small army I would make the full recipe. However, I halved the original recipe to make enough for an 8x8 pan and this was still A LOT especially for just two people.


Creamy Rosemary Potatoes
Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 1 hour Serves: 10-12

4 tablespoons butter
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup heavy cream
6 medium russet potatoes, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 tablespoon dried rosemary
3 green onions, green and white parts thinly sliced
1 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons minced chives

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rub a 9x13 inch baking dish with butter. Combine half-and-half and cream in a large measuring cup.

Slice the potatoes very thinly. Place potatoes in a large bowl. Drizzle with half of the half-and-half/cream mixture and set aside.

In a large skillet over medium-low heat melt the butter. Add garlic and onion. Cook until translucent, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes.

Cut cream cheese in half and add to skillet, stirring occasionally. Continue to stir and cook mixture until smooth and combined.

Pour in remaining half-and-half/cream mixture and stir. Add salt, pepper, rosemary, and green onions; stir. Add 1/2 cup parmesan cheese and stir.

Layer cream soaked potatoes and cheese mixture in prepared 9x13 inch pan. Sprinkle remaining half of Parmesan cheese over top of potatoes and bake for at least an hour or until golden brown and bubbly.

Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes. Garnish with chives.


adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes From An Accidental Country Girl




On a quick side note, I would  like to thank Pillsbury for featuring my blog and some of my Pillsbury 'remakes'. If you want any last minute St. Patty's Day ideas (from Kithen Concoctions, Puilsbury, and several other great blogs) go here!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Some 'Green' Love or Luck... However You Want To Look At It

Remember the Pillsbury Calendar I got a few weeks ago, that I decided to feature the yummy monthly recipes each month from the calendar on this blog? Well here is March's recipe. This little cookie WAS yummy (hence the name of the cookie). Two soft sugar cookies with smooth almond icing in the middle. Yum! Because these are small cookies and they are so good it is hard to just eat one. The almond flavor is subtle but strong enough to give these cookies a nice and slightly unique flavor.

The original recipe uses red food coloring to make the frosting pink and has the cookies pictured with a pink background; which in my opinion was completely wrong for the month of March. Valentine's Day is over and we are on to St. Patty's Day so I thought a green filling was more appropriate and of course I could not resist taking these pictures with a nice St. Patty's Day themed background!

The color of the frosting filling is of course changeable for your wants and needs. Do green and red for a Christmas party, or blue or pink for a baby shower, or leave them plain if you have no food coloring on hand.

These cookies are perfect for a party or shower since the recipe makes so muck, or to share with friends over a cup of afternoon tea... if that's your thing! : )


Yummy Little Almond Sandwich Cookies
Prep Time: 1 Hr 15 Min Total Time: 1Hr 15 Min

Makes:
About 3 dozen sandwich cookies

Cookies:
1 roll (16.5 oz) Pillsbury® refrigerated sugar cookies
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Filling:
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
4 teaspoons milk
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 drops green food color

Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, break up cookie dough. Stir or knead in flour and almond extract until well blended.

Shape dough into 1/2-inch balls. Place balls 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Press bottom of glass dipped into granulated sugar on each ball until 1/4 inch thick; prick top of each with a fork.

Bake 6 to 8 minutes until set but not brown. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in small bowl, beat filling ingredients with electric mixer on low speed until smooth and creamy. Spread about 1 teaspoon filling on the bottoms of the cookies. Top each with another cookie, bottom side down; press gently.

recipe adapted from Pillsbury.com

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sad Christmas Day Memories

I have a love hate relationship with yeast. If I can conquer it's finikieness I love the end result and love what yeast can become. I have been told by so many people not to be afraid of yeast or dread working with it; that it is so easy to work with and give it a chance.

Well to date approximately 50% of yeast recipes I have worked with so far have come out great and the other 50% not so much. Maybe the underlying problem is that I am NOT a very patient person (in all aspects of my life) so waiting for something to rise or proof is just not in my nature. I mean when I want cinnamon rolls, or pizza, or homemade bread I want it now or as soon as now as possible; not hour (or 3) later.

But despite all this I was determined to make PW's world famous cinnamon rolls, when I choose to feature her cookbook this month. I have drooled over her cinnamon rolls for quite sometime but the whole yeast thing and waiting for them to rise and what not has been keeping me from making them.

But when I decided to feature her cookbook I knew NOW was the time to make them. Actually Christmas was the time to make these for me. You see I was originally going to feature The Pioneer Woman Cookbook awhile back when it first came out but other things, and cookbooks, got in the way. And when I was going to feature her cookbook a while back I had promised myself (and my family) that I would me making homemade cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning bruch.

My family was excited, I was excited and maybe our excitement caused me to rush a little bit when making these homemade cinnamon rolls.

And maybe because of my rushing, the rolls did not have enough time to rise; my warm milk, to activate the yeast, was too hot or too cold; or maybe I shoved too many rolls into too small of a pan; or because this recipe makes 50 cinnamon rolls and I knew this was way too many for my family of 7 that when I halved the recipe I didn't do my math right..... BUT unfortunately these rolls were not that great. The acclaimed PW cinnamon rolls were doughy and overall a disappointment. My be it was all or one of those reasons listed above, or maybe it was because I had heard so much about them and put them on such a high pedestal; but WE ALL were very disappointed. And my cinnamon roll loving enthusiast family; who lets no cinnamon roll go uneaten threw away half the batch away.  : (

Maybe I will attempt these again (and hope for better luck and patience) or seek out another homemade cinnamon roll recipe all together but right now I think I need a little yeast and homemade bread baking break. Bring on the cupcakes, brownies, or muffins please!  : )

Notes: The P-Dub uses a maple icing traditionally on her cinnamon rolls (she does offer other variations for this cinnamon roll in the book) however I chose to make a classic cream cheese frosting (I have added my cheese cheese frosting recipe below).

Pioneer Woman’s Cinnamon Rolls
Prep Time: 2 Hours Cook Time: 30 Minutes Difficulty: Easy Servings: 8
Dough:
1 quart whole milk
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
2 packages (4 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
8 cups (Plus 1 Cup Extra, Separated) All-purpose Flour
1 teaspoon (heaping) baking powder
1 teaspoon (scant) baking soda
1 Tablespoon (heaping) Salt

Filling:
2 cups melted butter, plus more as needed
2 cups sugar, plus more as needed
1/4 cup ground cinnamon for sprinkling

MAPLE FROSTING:
2 pounds Powdered Sugar
1 tablespoon maple flavoring or maple extract
½ cup Milk
6 tablespoons melted butter
¼ cup brewed coffee
⅛ teaspoon salt

Mix the milk, vegetable oil and sugar in a pan. “Scald” the mixture (heat until just before the boiling point). Turn off heat and leave to cool 45 minutes to 1 hour. When the mixture is lukewarm to warm, but NOT hot, sprinkle in both packages of Active Dry Yeast. Let this sit for a minute. Then add 8 cups of all-purpose flour. Stir mixture together. Cover and let rise for at least an hour.

After rising for at least an hour, add 1 more cup of flour, the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir mixture together. (At this point, you could cover the dough and put it in the fridge until you need it – overnight or even a day or two, if necessary. Just keep your eye on it and if it starts to overflow out of the pan, just punch it down).
When ready to prepare rolls: Sprinkle rolling surface generously with flour. Take half the dough and form a rough rectangle. Then roll the dough thin, maintaining a general rectangular shape. Drizzle 1/2 to 1 cup melted butter over the dough. Now sprinkle 1 cup of sugar over the butter followed by a generous sprinkling of cinnamon.

Now, starting at the opposite end, begin rolling the dough in a neat line toward you. Keep the roll relatively tight as you go. Next, pinch the seam of the roll to seal it.

Spread 1 tablespoon of melted butter in a seven inch round foil cake or pie pan. Then begin cutting the rolls approximately ¾ to 1 inch thick and laying them in the buttered pans.

Repeat this process with the other half of the dough. Let the rolls rise for 20 to 30 minutes, then bake at 400 degrees until light golden brown, about 15 to 18 minutes.

For the frosting, mix together all ingredients listed and stir well until smooth. It should be thick but pourable. Taste and adjust as needed. Generously drizzle over the warm rolls.

adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes From An Accidental Country Girl


Or you can use my more traditional Cream Cheese Frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
from Kitchen Concoctions

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 ounces softened cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk
2 cups powdered sugar

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until creamy. Add the cream cheese and beat until combined. Then add the vanilla extract, milk and powdered sugar and beat at low speed, occasionally stopping to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, until light and fluffy.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Kinda Irish

A few days ago I told you all about a 'foodie' calendar that Pillsbury sent me. Well since I just thought about making each recipe featured each month on the calendar and featuring them each month on this blog I have to take you back to January for a minute and feature the recipe that was featured then (another long winded sentence for ya... sorry about that... hope for your sake it makes sense).

This twist on the Monte Cristo was the Pillsbury recipe featured in January. After a good friend of mine got me hooked on the Monte Cristo at Bennigan's years ago, I religiously got the sandwich every single time I went to back there to eat (unfortunately for my taste buds the majority of Bennigan's Texas locations have gone out of business; however I am sure my thighs are quite grateful that there is not a Bennigan's near by since I am sure the calorie count in those sweet and savory pieces of heaven are probably a lot more than what I should consume in one meal... probably even one day). I could never finish Bennigan's Monte Cristo Sandwich because it was so big, rich, and heavy. Luckily this version is a little bit 'lighter' since it is not deep fried and covered with all the frying batter.

This is a nice little sandwich and could easily be made for a crowd or party. I of course had to add the powdered sugar because for me a Monte Cristo is not a Monte Cristo without powdered sugar! : ) I loved the fact that the raspberry jam (the classic dipping sauce for the Monte Cristo) was already smeared in between the layers. I served this tasty and easy to make sandwich with the Chicken and Rice Soup that I featured here a few days ago. What a perfect combination; the savory soup with the sweet and crunchy sandwich. Um, yummy comfort food!

And although the Monte Cristo is a twist on an old French sandwich, called Croque Monsieur; I thought it would be the perfect introduction to some St. Patty's themed recipes! You know going back to were I first fell in love with this sandwich, at Bennigan's Irish Bar and Grill.


Crescent Cristo Sandwich Loaf

Prep Time: 15 Min Total Time: 40-45 Min Makes: 8 servings

Loaf:
2 cans (8 oz each) Pillsbury refrigerated crescent dinner rolls or 2 cans (8 oz each) Pillsbury Crescent Recipe Creations flaky dough sheet
2 tablespoons Butter, melted
2 tablespoons honey
6 oz thinly sliced smoked cooked turkey breast
6 oz medium sliced muenster cheese
6 oz thinly sliced cooked ham
1/3 to 1/2 cup raspberry preserves or jam
Topping:
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon sesame seed
powdered sugar

Heat oven to 375°F. Separate or cut dough into 4 long rectangles. Place rectangles crosswise on 1 large or 2 small ungreased cookie sheets (rectangles should not touch); if using crescent dough, firmly press perforations to seal. In small bowl, mix butter and 2 tablespoons honey. Brush over dough.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown; cool 15 minutes.

Grease 15x10x1-inch pan. Carefully place 1 crust on pan. Top evenly with turkey. Place second crust over turkey; top with cheese and ham. Place third crust over ham; spread evenly with preserves. Top with fourth crust; brush top with 2 tablespoons honey. Sprinkle honey with sesame seed.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until crust is deep golden brown and loaf is hot. Let stand 5 minutes. Cut into 8 slices. Dust the top of each 'sandwhich' with the powdered sugar.

recipe adapted from Pillsbury.com

Look at those yummy layors:

Thursday, March 4, 2010

March Makes A Mark

I apologize right here and now for the long and lengthy post. I was originally going to make this a two part post but the days got away from me and before I knew it, it was already pretty much the 5th of the month. So read, take and break,and come back and enjoy some more!

March is my one year blogging anniversary!!! I can't believe that I have been writing and creating in this little, I mean big blog world for a year! I also still can't believe that I have regular readers of my blog that check in, write comments, send e-mails, and just overall show their love, support, and encourage me.

And whether or not if I have any readers or not I enjoy blogging. I love making and documenting my recipes, taking a stab at photography, writing, and of course reading other blogs.

So for the month of March, my anniversary month, (please if you go back and look at my first few month's of blogging don't judge me too harshly, I was just a newbie back then) I thought I would feature some recipes and blogs that inspire me and started my interest in blogging (and a few other blogs that I have found along the way).

Since I am paying tribute this month, to blogging and blogs that inspire me; my natural choice for cookbook of the month was "The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes From An Accidental Country Girl," by Ree Drummand. I am sure most of you avid blog readers already read 'The Pioneer Woman' blog and if you don't I am sure you have heard of her.


The Pioneer Woman Blog has not only has great recipes, but stories about life on an Oklahoma cattle ranch; home and garden tips, a 'how-to guide' to stay sane while homeschooling AND living on a cattle ranch; and photography lessons. Not to mention some pretty awesome giveaways on a regular basis. Ree's blog is funny and light hearted and she updates the blog on a daily basis.

Pretty much all her recipes are her own, are from her friends and family, or classics with her own adaption. The recipes on her blog can be printed on 3x5 or 4x6 recipie cards, or on full size 8 1/2 x 11 paper. Each recipe has cooking times, serving size and the level of difficulty listed. Ree not only shows pictures of the final product but she also includes step by step photos of the cooking process for each recipe along with a photo of the 'cast of characters' (or ingredients to be used in that recipe).

Ree's cookbook, "The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes From An Accidental Country Girl," which came out back in October, has the same step by step photos and format of her blog (including the cooking times, serving size, etc.). She includes appetizer, breakfast, super, dinner, dessert recipes and recipes for entertaining. The cookbook also has stories and pictures of her family and their life on the ranch. This cookbook is very well put together and P-Dub (The Pioneer Woman) obviously put her soul into it.

The one disappoint I had with this cookbook, though, was that approximately 95% of the recipes in the cookbook were ones already featured on her blog. Now don't get me wrong, in this high tech world I still love having a good, well put together cookbook with tons of photos; to read, cook from, and flip through. But I was hoping for some new recipes from The Pioneer Woman.

I still love this book and would recommended it to those who don't even obsess in this blog world; considering all the recipes are what good home cooking should be; simple, tasty, and not to mention the step by step pictures.

This first recipe was absolutely delicious. Eric and I love tacos and eat them on a regular basis. This shredded pork was the perfect filling for tacos, enchiladas, and as a topping for nachos. I hate leaving my oven on for long periods of time so I adapted this recipe for the crock pot. This pork turned out perfect in the crock pot which was great because I didn't have to babysit it and I could leave and go run errands and not worry about my stove being on for hours.
The picture below totally does not do this pork justice. Like I said this pork was perfect because it is easy, full of flavor, and can be used for so many different dishes with great results.


Spicy Shredded Pork
Prep Time: 20 Minutes Cook Time: 4 Hours Difficulty: Easy Servings: 8

1 (5 To 7 Pound) Pork Shoulder or Pork Loin
1 teaspoon Dried Oregano
2 teaspoons Ground Cumin
1 tablespoon Chili Powder
1 to 2 teaspoons Salt
1 to 2 teaspoons Black Pepper
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons White Wine Vinegar
4 Cloves Garlic
1 whole Onion, chopped
2 cups water
Lime Wedges, for serving

Rinse and pat dry the pork shoulder.

Combine the dried oregano, cumin, chili powder, salt, black pepper, garlic, olive oil, white wine vinegar and brown sugar.

Place pork loin into crockpot. Pour olive oil over pork loin. Add spice mixture and thoroughly rub spice mixture all over pork loin.

Add the 2 cups of water. Cover tightly and cook on low heat for 6 to 7 ours; turning once every hour or so. When it is fork tender crank up the heat to high, and roast it, skin side up for another 20 to 30 minutes to get the skin crispy. When it’s done let it rest for 15 minutes before shredding.

Shred the pork shoulder (two forks work well). When it’s all shredded be sure to pour the juices all over the meat. Serve with warm tortillas, lime wedges, sour cream, pico de gallo, guacamole, tomatillo salsa …


adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes From An Accidental Country Girl
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