Kitchen Concoctions: April 2010

Friday, April 30, 2010

My Kitchen Cafe

So it is the last day of the month and I should be finishing up the April cookbook review and thinking about May's cookbook but to be honest I am actually making the final two recipes from the Family Circle cookbook right now as we speak. So I guess I will have to play 'catch up' yet again this weekend. BUT I still want to post a new recipe today. And despite how unbelievable this sounds I have 4 (yes FOUR) new recipes already to go I just have to copy and paste them to the blog and hit post (I know shocker, huh). This post is one of them!

I mentioned back in March that since it was my anniversary blogging month I wanted to feature a few blogs that I have enjoyed reading and who have inspired me along the way. I started this with The Hungry Housewife and then I got a pesky bug (you know the one... the computer bug) and could not blog for a while (I am still trying to recover from that nasty thing). Anyways, another one of my favorite blogs, and one that I have been reading for awhile, is My Kitchen Cafe (remeber I also gave her the Sunshine Shout Out). Mel, the author of this blog is funny and sweet and has tons of great recipes and tips. Every recipe she blogs about looks and sounds delicious; in fact my bookmarked pages from her blog keep growing and growing (how will I ever make it all!). The couple of recipes I have made from My Kitchen Cafe have been success, in fact these hot hoagies have made an appearance on my dinner table several times. Because Mel has a large family of 6, all guys except for herself, all her recipes are family friendly and usually make enough to feed a crowd.

Not only does the blog My Kitchen Cafe, have a large collection of her 'tried and true' favorites; which vary from desserts to breads and soups, to main entrees and sides, but Mel also offers great kitchen tips. Like how to successfully plan a menu, or make Sushi (today's detailed 'how to'), or her recommendations for must have pantry staples!

My Kitchen Cafe is a clean well put together blog and is easy to navigate. Mel includes a couple of great photos for each recipe and if she is giving step by step instructions on for her 'how to guides' then she also includes step-by-step photos. All of the recipes Mel features on her blog are either her own, from friends and family, or from her favorite cookbooks and cooking magazines.

Below is one of her unique recipes for Enchilada Pasta. This dish tasted great and was a fun twist on the regular pasta night!

Notes: I did adapt the recipe some to our tastes. The original recipe called for olives and I omitted them and added corn and Rotel Tomatoes. Also the recipe calls for the chicken to be precooked, but I did not have any precooked chicken on had so I cooked some up while making everything else and added a few more spices.

Chicken Enchilada Pasta
Serves 6-8

2-3 chicken breasts, cubed
1 tablespoon taco seasoning
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 medium onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
4-ounce can diced green chilies
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
2 (10-oz) cans green chili enchilada sauce (I used mild)
2/3 cup red enchilada sauce (I used mild)
1 can Rotel Tomatoes, drained
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
16-20 oz. penne pasta (Depending on how “saucy” you want the pasta)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the pasta until tender. While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet and add chicken and taco season. Cook thoroughly until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken and add onion (you may need to add more oil). Cook for 2-3 minutes until onion is translucent. Add the garlic and red pepper and cook for another 2 minutes, until pepper is barely tender. Add the cooked chicken, green chilies, spices, enchilada sauces, corn, and Rotel Tomatoes. Let the sauce simmer for about 8-10 minutes. Add the sour cream and cheese and heat through, until the cheese is melted (but don’t boil!). Pour the sauce over the hot pasta. Garnish with extra sour cream, cheese, green onions or crushed tortilla chips.

recipe adapted from My Kitchen Cafe

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Mine and Theirs

The thing I am liking about Family Circle All-Time Favorite Recipes is that they really are 'family' favorites just improved but still 'family' friendly, easy and use ingredients that are pantry staples.

This book is great when you haven't been to the store in a week (or maybe more) so you are working with what you have on hand and don't have to get stuck with having your 'go to' basic meals (like sandwiches, spaghetti, or tacos) for the umpteenth time.

Now everyone loves classic chicken salad... Great for lunch, dinner, parties/showers or get togethers. This Mexican Chicken Salad was tasty and a great change to the classic chicken salad. The original recipe said to serve this chicken salad over lettuce in a taco bowl. I on the other hand thought this chicken salad would be delicious in a pita OR with my version of tortilla crisps (kind of a tortilla chip kind of a pita chip). My tortilla crisps were the perfect crunch and spice to pair with the Mexican Chicken Salad.

Notes: The original recipe in the Family Circle cookbook uses tuna, so use that if you want but I think the chicken worked better because it is a little bit firmer than tuna and held up to all the additional ingredients. The original recipe also only used sour cream instead of half sour cream and half mayo. I added the mayo and reduced the amount of sour cream because although I like sour cream it can be a bit over powering at times.

Mexican Chicken Salad
Prep time: 15 minutes Serves: 4

1 (12 oz) can chicken, drained and rinsed
1/2 sweet red pepper, cored seeded and chopped
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
2 green onions
1/3 cup medium salsa
1/4 cup nonfat sour cream
1/4 cup mayo
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

Flake chicken and combine with pepper, corn, and green onions in a small bowl. Stir in salsa, sour cream, and mayo.

Serve on bread or pitas or with crackers or chips. Refrigerate leftovers.

recipe adapted from Family Circle All Time Favorite Recipes

Tortilla Crisps
From Heather of Kitchen Concoctions
Prep time: 5 minutes Cook time: 10 minutes Makes 48 crisps

6 flour tortillas
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon taco seasoning
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut each tortilla into 8 triangles. Lay tortillas in a single layer on a baking sheet.

Melt butter and add spices to butter. Brush each tortilla triangle with butter mixtuer. Flip each tortilla triangle over and repeat.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Little Family History

This is another 'fun' recipe from the Family Circle All Time Favorite Recipes cookbook. My family on my mom's side is from Louisiana and while I have heard my fare share of 'coon-ass' jokes throughout my lifetime (not to mention blonde jokes, and Aggie jokes... man now that I think about it good thing I can take a joke and play along, since I have heard them ALL), there is a lot of great things the state of Louisiana has to offer. Great history, scenery, and culture and of course AMAZING food. I love that I grew up eating seafood gumbo, jambalaya, crawfish (not my favorite but part of the culture), etouffee, red beans and rice, po boys... (Mmm, my mouth is just watering thinking about it all).

So when I saw this spin on a classic movie night, game night, snack time treat I knew I wanted to try me some Cajun Popcorn.

This popcorn was a fun, salty, and slightly spicy change up from the usual popcorn. Another snack that is tasty, easy, and uses all ingredients that are pantry and spice rack staples, why not take an extra minute to make weekly movie night a little more gourmet.

Notes: The original recipe calls to pop the popcorn the good old fashioned way in a popcorn popper and then add the butter and spices... Um does anyone still have a popcorn popper?? No offense if you do I just don't so I used microwaveable lightly buttered popcorn and adjusted the measurements slightly to have the right amount of butter and spices to fit the amount of popcorn I had.

Cajun Popcorn
Prep time: 8 minutes Cook time: 8-10 minutes Makes: 4 cups

1 bag lightly buttered popcorn
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 300 degrees.

Pop popcorn according to package directions. Melt butter and in a seperate bowl combine spices.

Transfer prepared popcorn to a large bowl. Toss popcorn with melted butter and spice mixture, making sure to coat every piece.

Spread popcorn in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake popcorn in heated oven at 300 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Serve warm.

recipe adapted from Family Circle All Time Favorite Recipes

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Health Nut

Feel good when you are eating it kinda food.

These homemade granola bars were the first recipe I tried from April's cookbook and if these are any indication as to how the rest of the recipes are going to be from this book then we are going to have a rockin' month, I mean week.

These granola bars came together fast and were not much effort at all. They tasted amazing (you really could taste a almond, or cranberry, or chocolate morsel in every bite). The coconut adds nice texture and flavor as well and with a hint of vanilla these are over the top. WAY better than ANY store bought granola bar I have ever had (a lot less expensive too) AND WAY healthier with LESS than 100 calories per bar (which TOTALLY makes me feel a lot better for eating about 1/3 of the pan myself in just the first day I made these). And don't just take my word for it (although you should) but Eric didn't stop raving about these and took several 'bars' to his family who also couldn't stop raving about them!

Notes: The original recipe calls for raisins but I am a dried cranberry girl so I used those. Also the original recipe used slivered almonds however I had whole almonds on hand and loved the added crunch and texture that whole almonds gave (I think slivered almonds would 'dissiper' in these bars). And out of chocolate chips? Use a candy bar (or in my case a chocolate bunny) and chop into chunks! (P.S. Ok my bars were probably not less than 100 calories since I made mine kind of on the bigger side, but at least they were healthier than ice cream or cookies... right?)

(look at all that yummy goodness)

Chewy Granola Bars
Prep time: 15 minutes Cook time: 5 minutes Refrigerate time: 2 hours Makes: roughly 20 to 24 bars

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed light-brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup unsalted butter
3 cups low-fat granola
1/2 cup sweetened flake coconut
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips or chocolate chunks
1/2 cup almonds

Combine brown sugar, honey, vanilla and butter in a medium-size saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat. Lower heat; simmer 2 minutes or until sugar is dissolved. Cool.

Meanwhile, combine granola, coconut, cranberries, chocolate, and almonds in a large bowl.

Stir honey/sugar mixture into granola mixture. Spray a 9x13-inch pan with non-stick spray. Spread honey/granola mixture into prepared pan.

Refrigerate for 2 hours or until cooled. Cut into bars.

recipe adapted from Family Circle All Time Favorite Recipes

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Family Tradition

As I mentioned on Saturday I have gone back and forth on doing a cookbook review for this month. I have several reasons, the obvious being since I am so far behind because of my down computer a few weeks ago and with it now being more than half way through the month I just didn't think I had time. Also, the cookbook that I had already picked to review and had already made some recipes from for a baby shower for my sister was not going to happen since my sister has all the pictures of the food and shower on her camera and has since moved, and had a baby and is pretty busy and has not had time to email me the pictures.

I have also been struggling on whether or not I want to keep doing the cookbook of the month review. It is a lot of work and planning and pressure to cook, photograph and write about these recipes and have them posted up here by a certain date (and you all know that obviously I am not perfect and have been late quite a few times). I have also been wanting to feature alot more of my own personal recipes and with blogging about the featured cookbook's recipes 5 plus times a month it takes away from my precious time to blog about my own 'concoctions'.

However even saying all that I cringe. I love doing the cookbook of the month feature. Finding new cookbooks to try, meticulously dissecting them to find the recipes I want to try (if there are not a lot of recipes marked then it is not a good cookbook). And this whole feature started as a way for me to actually use the stacks and stacks of cookbooks I have on my bookshelves. This feature allows me to truly explore my treasured cookbooks and discover new recipes, tips, and flavors that I otherwise might not have tried.

So after debating back and forth I decided I would feature a cookbook this month and just blog about each recipe each day this week (all the recipes that I would have normally blogged about each week of April).

The book I choose to review is one that I have had for quite sometime on my shelf but is still current and up to date but brings back many childhood memories (have I got you confused yet?). I have decided to feature Family Circle All Time Favorite Recipes. This book has over 600 recipes and over 300 pictures (wowie)! Family Circle magazine takes me back to my youth because my mom used too (and still does) have a subscription to the magazine. I remember my mom getting the magazine in the mail and seeing the creatively decorated cakes, or the yummy looking brownies, or some sort of pasta dish on the cover. I remember looking at the picture and wanting to learn how to make whatever tasty treasure graced the cover. Hum, maybe it is Family Circle Magazine who I have to thank for my love of food and cooking and my attempting to test the waters in the kitchen at such a young age!

This Family Circle All Time Favorite Recipes is great! Not only does it have hundreds of recipes and pictures in every category (appetizers, main entrees, side dishes, bread, desserts). Each recipe has the time requirements and nutritional information listed (however no serving amounts are listed). I have a ton of recipes marked to try and have been having an extremely difficult time narrowing them down to just a handful to try right now for this review. But I will say this, so far so good on the recipes that I have tried and will blog about soon!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Simple Yumminess

I have been debating back and forth on whether or not I am going to do an April cookbook review. Because of the computer issues I had a few weeks ago I am so far behind on so much stuff not just blogging; and April is half way over anyways... so I don't know. I will have to think about it and if I do have a review maybe just do it next week and post a recipe each day for the week.

Anyways, the April Pillsbury recipe is actually a recipe I am sure everyone out there knows and loves. It is one that I have been making since I was a kid and and one that I was actually going to blog about many times ago (that is how frequently I make it) but never got around to blogging it or my pictures turned out awful (not that I am saying these pics are great but they are WAY better than the others I have).

The recipe I am talking about is Pull Apart Bread a/k/a Monkey Bread. I know this is a classic and like I said I have been making it for years now but I thought I would share. There are probably a million different 'versions' of this yummy and comforting breakfast/brunch item; but the basic ingredients are pretty much the same: biscuits, sugar, cinnamon, more sugar, and butter. How can you go wrong with this simple, classic, easy, yummy breakfast comfort food. Like I said in the Pillsbury calendar they had their version and I have seen several different versions over the years but the concept is all the same (I wonder who actually came up with this idea... was it Pillsbury?). Anyways my version is below!

Monkey Bread
from Heather of Kitchen Concoctions
Prep Time: 12-15 minutes Cook Time: 15-20 minutes Serves: 4-5

1/3 Cup plus 2 tablespoons Brown Sugar
1/4 cup butter
2 teaspoons Cinnamon
1 can of Buttermilk Biscuits
1/2 cup Sugar

Melt 1/3 cup brown sugar and butter in pan.

Cut each individual biscuit in quarters. Mix cinnamon, white and remaining brown sugar in a ziploc bag. Add cut biscuits 2 to 3 at a time to bag and shake bag until biscuits separate and are coated in cinnamon and sugar. Grease a pie plate and arrange sugar coated biscuit pieces in a single layer in pie pan. Pour brown sugar and butter mixture over biscuits. Bake at 350 for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

An award for you, and you, and... too! So while I was off living in the land of the dark ages with no computer, a dear reader of mine gave my blog an award. I was so excited when I saw my little blog was awarded the Sunshine Award, for bringing sunshine to this world of blogging. How sweet! Leslie over at La Cocina de Leslie was the one who awarded it to me. So thanks Leslie for the honor I am so happy that I bring sunshiny goodness to your day.

This blog award is perfect because I was already planning on sharing with you some of my favorite food blogs and a recipe from them (like I did with the Hungry Housewife review) but now I can give some of my favorite blogs an award and shine a little spotlight on them.

Some of the blogs I chose to award the Sunshine award to are some 'littler' blogs or or should I say the blogs that I love and have great recipes, stories, information and share their love of food with their readers but may not have hundreds or thousands of readers just yet and a few are pretty well known! But they are all very deserving.

As part of the award you are supposed to credit the person who awarded you the award (check) and then award 12 other blogs the "Sunshine Award" and tell why you chose them. So here goes:

1. Stacy over at My Favorite Recipes is a dear friend of mine and has been supporting my love of cooking and food for many years. She encouraged me and helped years ago when I was in high school and took on the daunting task of putting together a cookbook to sell to help girls go to summer camp and even now she was one of the very first readers of Kitchen Concoctions. Many of her recipes I have been fortunate enough to taste first hand over the years and am so glad that now I have even more of her great recipes to add to my collection.

2. Speaking of friends I feel like Leah, over at Dinner Made Easy, and I are long lost friends and we don't even know it! We have so many things in common: we love cooking for our boyfriends, friends and family. We both love the Food Network and Rachael Ray. Leah even shared her Top 100 List recently, of 100 things she has wanted to learn how to bake/cook. I TOO have a Top 100 List of things relating to the food/cooking/baking world that I want to eat, learn how to make, and even cooking appliances/gadgets that I hope to own one day! I have been working on my own list for a few years and maybe I should post it on here so that I can keep better track of it!

3. Another Sunshiny blog that I have to award is Lisa Knows Tea. I am kind of partial to this interesting blog because THE Lisa of Lisa Knows Tea is my dear Aunt Lisa. Lisa is a “Certified Tea Specialist," speaker and author. Her blog like her books feature interesting facts and history about tea and even include recipes. I am not a big tea drinker but because I am a lover of all things food I love learning about all types of food and beverages and how different beverages can complement food.

4. Another favorite blog and one deserving of this award is the Taste and Tell blog. Deborah also features a cookbook of the month and this year is featuring cookbooks with cuisine from around the world. Deborah is also a big fan of Rachael Ray and now has a feature called Saturdays with Rachael Ray where she shares a tried and true Rachael Ray recipe and allows readers to share their Rachael Ray recipes by linking their blogs on Taste and Tell. Deborah's photos are great and she blogs new recipes pretty much 6 days a week!

5. The Girl Who Ate Everything is another fun blog. Christy lets her personality shine through her stories and recipes. I have tried several of Christy's recipes (I hope to share them soon) and they do not disappoint!

6. If you are looking for a blog where you can feel right at home head over to The Sisters' Café. The Sisters' Café is 5 sisters sharing their tired and true family recipes. This is a warm and inviting blog that makes you feel like you are part of the family. (and for my little PSA the pumpkin pancakes with apple cider syrup are to die for!)

7. Risa of Baked Perfection also has a great fun loving blog. However due to Risa's crazy work schedule she only has time to blog a few times a month. : ( I wish we could get more Baked Perfections from Risa but I guess we will just have to take what we can get!

8. Right before I had to take a forced hiatus with my computer issues I started featuring blogs I love and a recipe from them. The first one I chose was The Hungry Housewife for her great pics, cute and talented (I am so jealous) cake decorating skills and fun sense of humor (not to mention AMAZING Sheppard's Pie) and now not only can she say her blog was featured on Kitchen Concoctions ; ) she can say she received an award too!

9. Jenny over at Picky Palate is already pretty well know around this blogging world but I had to award her this award. Her blog is so cute and 'sunny'. From tasty recipes and baked goods to regular give-aways and two adorable 'sous chefs' Jenny is well deserving of this award.

10. Mel over at My Kitchen Café also has a great personality and is striving to reduce the amount of premade, processed food her family eats but doesn't compromise taste or convenience. She has defiantly inspired me to try harder to 'watch what I eat.' (stay tuned for a more in depth review of My Kitchen Cafe and a recipe too).

11. Gina over at Gina's Weight Watchers Recipes is keepin' yummy classics and some of her own creations light, healthy, and tasty... which means you can enjoy the pool, park, and 'sunshine' this summer and not worry! : )

12. And last but not least I would like to put a little spotlight on Monica over at Lick The Bowl Good. I originally wasn't going to give her this award since Leslie also awarded her this same award when she did her list. However I thoroughly enjoy Lick The Bowl Good, the recipes are yummy, and Monica is so sweet. So why can't I give her another Sunshine award?
Thanks again to Leslie at La Cocina de Leslie for awarding me the Sunshine In Blogging award. And congratulations and thanks to all of the above blogs for keeping me inspired in my kitchen and blogging adventures!

The Sunshine Award is given to bloggers whose positivity and creativity inspire others in the blog world. Here are the requirements:
  • Put the logo on your blog or within your post. Pass the award on to as many as 12 bloggers.
  • Let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blog
  • Share the love and link to the person from whom you received this award.
  • Link to the nominees within your post.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Finally Saying So Long To March

Since I am finally finished posting all the recipes for March's cookbook review I guess I should do a final overview.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes From An Accidental Country Girl was all that you would expect if you are already a reader of the Pioneer Woman blog. The recipes are true home cooking at the finest. Each recipe includes step by step instructions along with photos for each step (perfect for a beginner cook). The cookbook also includes stories about the recipes along with stories and photos from The pioneer Woman's life on an oklahoma ranch.

Some of the recipes are very basic and don't even include measurements just directions while others are more advance but are still 'just great home cooking'. Like I said this book is great to keep around to have all those basic recipes in one location.... From meatloaf, to chocolate cake, to au gratin potatoes PW takes classics and makes them her own.

We loved these Cowboy Calzones! It was a nice change to our usual pizza night and even though the pizza dough is made from scratch these were so easy and if you make the dough in advance they come together fast.

I was slightly disappointed with this Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf. While the meatloaf had great flavor my bacon was not crisp but chewy. Maybe this was my fault for not baking it in the right pan to let the grease drain.

These au gratin potatoes were super rich and cheesy. I halved the recipe since the original recipe made enough for an entire army and because of the rich and heavy flavors this is one of those recipes where less is more.

You know how much Eric and I like pork and this recipe for spicy pulled pork was no exception. This was my favorite recipe that have I made so far from this cookbook. This pork was so easy to make, so full of flavor, so juicy, and so versatile. Perfect by itself or in tacos or in quesadillas or on nachos.

My family and I love cinnamon rolls and so I was excited to try The Pioneer Woman's famous cinnamon rolls. However I did have some trouble with these. Maybe I will have to try them again one day and hopefully I will have better luck the second time around.

Friday, April 9, 2010

A New Old Favorite

The last recipe I had chosen from the Pioneer Woman Cookbook to include in March's cookbook review was these Cowboy Calzones. Eric and I love pizza, calzones, pepperoni rolls; and do 'pizza night' a couple of times a month so this 'cowboy version' of our favorite was a must to try.

These of course turned out awesome and were super filling. They may seem like a lot of work because you are making the pizza dough from scratch but it really is not that much 'extra' work just some planning. The pizza dough can be made up to two days in advance and refrigerated and if you want to make and us the dough the same day, the dough only requires 1 to 2 hours to rise (so you can do like I did and make the dough and then go running that way you don't feel guilty about eating a few of these bad boys). Then after the dough is made and ready to go these Cowboy Calzones come together quite quickly and are not much work at all!

Notes: The original recipe called for breakfast sausage and I used Italian instead. Also I added some Italian seasoning and changed up the measurements some on the amounts of cheese, tomatoes, etc (when it comes to cheese my philosophy is more is better!). I served these with my favorite tomato/spaghetti sauce and ranch dressing for dipping. Yum!

Cowboy Calzone
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 12-15 minutes Serves: 6-8

1/2 pound Italian sausage
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 onion, finely diced
1/2 tablespoon Italian seasoning
one 10 oz. can tomatoes and chilies (Rotel)
15 oz. whole milk ricotta cheese
3/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 egg, beaten
salt and black pepper
Olive oil for brushing
Pizza Dough (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 450. In a large skillet, combine the sausage and hamburger with the onion. Brown over medium heat. Drain excess grease. Pour in the tomatoes and chilies. Stir to combine, and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

In a bowl, combine the ricotta, mozzarella, Monterey Jack, and egg. Add a dash of salt and pepper. Add the cooled meat mixture to the cheese mixture and stir gently to combine.

Divide the pizza dough into 8 equal size balls. With a rolling pin on a floured surface, roll each ball into a 6 inch circle. Place meat/cheese mixture in the middle of each circle. Fold half of the circle over the other half, gently pressing to slightly spread and flatten the filling inside. Press a fork along the edge to seal closed, then transfer the calzone to a greased baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling brush the calzone with olive oil.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown.

Pizza Dough
makes enough dough for 2 pizzas or 8 calzones

1 tsp. or 1/2 packet active dry yeast
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

Pour 1 1/2 cups warm water into a bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the water. Combine the flour and salt in a mixing bowl. With an electric mixer on low speed, drizzle in the olive oil until just incorporated.

In a separate bowl, gently stir the yeast/water mixture. Drizzle it into the flour/oil mixture; mix until the dough forms a ball. You can also mix by hand.

Drizzle a little olive oil into a clean bowl. Toss the ball of dough in the bowl and turn over to coat in oil.
Cover the bowl with a moist kitchen towel and set in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours, or cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge for up to 2 days.

For pizza:

To prepare pizza, preheat oven to 500.

Divide the dough in half. Lightly drizzle olive oil on a pizza pan or rimmed baking sheet. Using your hands, stretch the dough to the desired shape, pressing the dough into the pan with your fingers. Lay the desired toppings over the dough and bake the pizza for 8 to 10 minutes, unti the edges of the crust are golden brown.

The other half of the dough may be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerated up to 2 days before use, or frozen for up to 6 months.

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

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I'm Back!

I am back and I am ready to rock and roll! I got my computer back and it is fixed and all set up in my office. Now I have to catch up on my e-mails, Facebook cruising, blog reading and most importantly start blogging like crazy to make up for all the time I was away!

You would think that with swim-suit season right around the corner I would be cutting down on all the 'hearty' 'manly' foods. That I would be eating more salads, and grilled fish, and fruit. But no I am eating things like this meatloaf, meatloaf wrapped in bacon in fact. If you remember (I know it has been a long time) the cookbook I featured back in March was The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes From An Accidental Country Girl; and because of the computer issues I had half way through the month of March I never got to finish my review of this cookbook. I debated and debated on whether or not I should go back and feature these recipes and the recap of this book since now we are almost half way through April; but in the end of course I have to share them. So like I said I guess my only option is to start blogging like crazy to get all caught up!

Eric and I had mixed feelings abut this meatloaf. We were super excited to try meatloaf with bacon wrapped around it but I guess we thought the bacon was going to crisp up and add a different texture to the meatloaf but it did not. It was chewy but it did add a great layer of flavor to the meatloaf. The directions for the meatloaf say to cook 'the loaf' on a roasting pan so the juices (read fat) can drip to anther pan underneath. I did not do that so my loaf was swimming in the drippings which did make it moist and flavorful but as kinda gross pulling it out of that mess and trying to serve. I loved the 'tomatoe gravy' (or doctored ketchup) although Eric thought it was too sweet (I on the other hand thought it complemented the meatloaf/bacon well). Overall in the end we liked the meatloaf and will make it again (cuz now we know what to expect)!

Note: I served this meatloaf with PW's Creamy Rosemary Potatoes and my roasted broccoli.

Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 1 hour Serves: 8

1 cup milk
6 bread slices
2 pounds ground beef
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt, such as Lawry's
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
4 eggs, beaten
8 to 12 thin bacon slices
Tomato Gravy (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350. Pour the milk over the bread and let soak for several minutes. Place ground beef, milk soaked bread, parmesan cheese, salt, seasoned salt, black pepper and parsley in a large mixing bowl. Pour in the eggs. Mix the ingredients until well blended.

Form the mixture into a loaf shape on a broiler pan, which will allow the fat from the meat to drain (make sure and put another pan underneath while baking so that the drippings won't make a mess of your oven). Lay bacon slices over the top tucking them underneath the meatloaf.

Pour 1/3 of the tomato gravy over the top of the meatloaf. Bake for 45 minutes, then pour another 1/3 of the remaining tomato gravy over the meatloaf. Bake for an additional 15 minutes.

Serve with the remaining tomato gravy on the side as a dipping sauce.

Tomato Gravy
1 1/2 cups ketchup
6 Tbs. brown sugar
1 tsp. dry mustard
Dash or two of hot sauce - more if you like heat

Pour the ketchup into a small mixing bowl. Add the brown sugar and dry mustard, and splash in the hot sauce. Stir the mixture until well combined.

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