Tuesday, October 28, 2008

TWD: Chocolate-Chocolate Brownies

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie*** recipe was Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcakes (page 215-217 in the fabulously delicious cookbook "Baking: From My Home to Yours") was selected by Clara of I Heart Food4Thought.

When I saw the title of this recipe I was thrilled. I LOVE chocolate. My husband can tell you that it could be considered my downfall. This recipe had it all: cocoa powder, melted chocolate, chocolate ganache frosting. My mouth watered just looking at the picture in the book.

I was so pleased with my results. What I mean is, I was thrilled with results of the cupcake photo shoot. It shows the shininess of the frosting and makes the cupcake look so tempting. The cake stand that has been in my husband's family for years event looks great.

The reality of the cupcake taste was less thrilling. They were dry. I had seen some of the comments on the Tuesdays with Dorie blog and so made sure to thoroughly cream the butter and watched the time in the oven. Neither of these things seemed to help. This was the first of the TWD recipes that I wasn't thrilled with. But that is what make this group so nice, I know that next week we will move onto something totally new.

Please note: the dryness didn't stop my husband and I from eating them all. We managed to polish them off in just two days.

***If you are interested in joining Tuesdays with Dorie, DO SO QUICKLY. No new members will be accepted after October 31.***

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Parsley, Basil and Oregano - Oh My!

This week I harvested the last of the herbs in my garden. I still had a ton of parsley, basil and oregano.
After making two big batches of pesto and putting it in the freezer, I still had the parsley and oregano to deal with. Since the house is for sale, I couldn't leave trays of herbs all over the house drying for days so I had to find out another option.
Through several Google searches I found that if you freeze parsley, it doesn't loose its flavor and if you act quick enough, the frozen parsley will crumble into little pieces that can be added to recipes. That sounded good to me. So the two quart size bags of frozen parsley will get put to good use all winter long. I love Google.
Google was also the source for info what to do with the oregano. Who knew that if you froze oregano it would make stripping the leaves off easier? Not me before I started. But that is really the case. So now I have a good quantity of oregano to add to sauces and other Italian recipes.
The best part is that I know all my herbs were grown without a single pesticide. Holy cow, I guess that makes me an organic gardener. Yeah for me!

Mr. Gooch Cooks: Yams Make Great Fries

At one of the last Farmer's Markets we visited, one of the farmers had some good looking yams. Now I know that yams are very similar to the sweet potato. This was per Mr. Gooch, who apparently knows all about such things.

Not knowing much about the yam or sweet potato, I asked Mr. Gooch what he wanted to make out of this particular veggie. He asked for fries.

I found several recipes online and on other blogs but when it came down to it, Mr. Gooch just did his own thing. And it tunred out great. Some of the pieces got a little dark, but those were the sweetest ones, strangely enough.
We served this with the Chicken Bacon Ranch Calzones.

Yam Fries

1 large yam
olive oil
seasoned sea salt
fresh ground pepper
Tony Chacherie's Creole Lite seasoning

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
Line 2 cookie sheets with tin foil
Slice the yam down into real small strips
Place the sliced yams in a large bowl
Coat with olive oil
Spread onto the foil lined sheets
Season with sea salt, Creole seasonings and fresh ground pepper
Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the pieces begin to darken

We Crashed, Into The Pioneer Woman's Potatoes

I have been hearing about The Pioneer Woman's Crashed Potatoes on my cooking board for months now. Some raved, some thought they were so-so. We are ravers.

Though I do think that we would not have been such fans if the 'tatoes were made exactly as the recipe calls. As always, I had to doctor them up a bit and think that was the trick. My changes are in italics in the directions.

Mr. Gooch said these can definitely be added to the rotation of sides.

Crashed Potatoes

Red Skin Potatoes
Olive Oil
Seasoned Sea Salt
Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Garlic Powder
Grated Parmesan Cheese
Italian Seasoning

Begin by bringing a pot of salted water to a boil.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Add in as many potatoes as you wish to make, and cook them until they’re fork-tender.

Generously drizzle olive oil on a sheet pan. (I skipped this step since I have a non-stick baking sheet)

When the potatoes are tender, place them on the cookie sheet, giving them plenty of room to spread out.

Using a potato masher, gently press down on the potato until it slightly mashed. (I actually used a meat tenderizing hammer since I use a ricer to make mashed potatoes.) Rotate the masher 90 degrees and finish flattening it. Of course, you don’t want to absolutely smash it into the pan—you want it almost to resemble a cookie. (I only mashed once since I wanted them a bit chunky). Repeat until all are flattened.

Brush the tops rather generously with olive oil. (I just drizzled the Olive Oil over the tops)

Season with Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper and top with fresh herbs. (I topped with a seasoned sea salt, ground black pepper, garlic powder, Parmesan cheese, Italian Seasoning instead).

Place baking sheet onto the top rack of a very hot oven, and cook for 20-25 minutes, or until they’re golden and crispy and sizzling.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Calzones - Holy Tastiness!

I saw this recipe on a couple blogs including What's Cooking in the Orange Kitchen and Laura's Home Cooking. The photo above does not begin to capture the gooey, ranchy goodness of these calzones.

Looking to spice up the usual chicken, this recipe was a great choice. What is there not to like. Ingredients include chicken, bacon, cheese and bread. All positives in Mr. Gooch and my eyes.

Several minor changes I made from the original recipe were skipping the tomato, using Ranch dip instead of Ranch dressing inside the calzone (the thickness kept the crust crunchy), cubing the chicken into 1x1 to 1/2x1/2 inch cubes to save time in cooking, using co-jack finely shredded cheese.
We will definitely be making this again.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Calzone

1 recipe pizza dough divided (I used this recipe)
2 chicken breasts (Cubed)
3 slices of center cut bacon (I used pieces, 2 per calzone)
1/2 cup diced tomatoes (omitted)
2 tsp fresh parsley finely chopped
1/2 cup cheese (I used Co-Jack)
Salt and pepper to taste
Ranch Dip for inside the calzone and dipping


Start by cooking the bacon in a skillet over medium high heat, careful not to burn it!

When the bacon is crisp set aside between 2 pieces of paper towel.

Drain all but 1 tbsp bacon grease from skillet (if your super health conscious just drain it all and use cooking spray).

Brown both sides of the chicken breast in the bacon grease then cover the skillet and continue cooking until the chicken is no longer pink.

When the chicken is done shred with forks and season with salt and pepper.

Then crumble the bacon and add to the chicken.

Roll out the pizza dough in 2 circles.

Fill one side of each circle with chicken and bacon mixture, then diced tomatoes, then chopped parsley, and finally cheese.

Fold the other half of the circle over the top of the filling and pinch to seal the edges.

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

Serve with ranch dipping sauce.

Meal Plan Monday - Fail and Plan

So last week was a bit of a Fail in the menu planning department. We only ate 1 meal planned and this was totally my fault. I forgot on a couple occasions to take the meat for dinner out of the freezer so had to come up with something on the fly. Or, I realized too late that we didn't have the right ingredients to make a dish. Ugh!

So this week, I did a complete survey before planning our menu. No surprises this week.

Sunday: Leftovers from our Anniversary Dinner at Smith & Wollensky
Monday: Cheese Ravioli with choice of pesto cream sauce or tomato cream sauce and best of all, the top of our wedding cake since Monday is our actual Anniversary.
Tuesday: Buffalo Chicken Pockets (Variation on this recipe)
Wednesday: Pot Roast with our version of Pioneer Woman's Crashed Potatoes (blog post on this one coming later today)
Thursday: Leftovers
Saturday: On my own, Mr. Gooch is going to watch a friend's fight.

Will report back next week to let you know how we make out this week on the Plan.

Happy Anniversary To Us!

Monday is our actual anniversary but Mr. Gooch has to work. So last night we went out to celebrate.

Mr. Gooch made all plans and the night's activities were a surprise until just before we left. Turns out we had reservations at Smith & Wollensky in downtown Chicago. S&W is where we went the evening we got engaged so it was the perfect location to celebrate our first year of marriage.
The evening started out perfectly with no traffic holdups on our way into the city. For those who live in Chicago, you know how rare that is on a Saturday night. Even though we were early, there was a table ready and we didn't have to wait. Again, another rarity.
Our starters were the crab cake for Mr. Gooch and the Cesar salad for me. I just love a good Cesar salad and the one I was served was a good one. The dressing was creamy with just a hint of sharpness. Just the way I like it. Mr. Gooch raved about the crab cake, saying the crab was so sweet and the lumps were just huge.

We ordered steaks for our main course. I had the bone-in rib eye with the Cajun seasoning. Mr. Gooch had the New York strip also with the Cajun seasoning. We both loved the seasoning and had to ask our waitress Carrie how it had the great taste without the "burn" that you get with many Cajun spiced dishes. Apparently the steaks are marinated in a Cajun flavored oil versus the spices being rubbed right onto the meat. Once the steak is grilled, more of this oil is applied to the cooked meat. So we will now be on the hunt for a great Cajun oil so we can try to reproduce this same taste at home.

Our side was hashed potato. This dish had a crunchy crust with soft buttery texture underneath. Very very good.
Photo: Anna Grafton/The Daily Pennsylvanian

The crowing glory was dessert. The signature 7-layer chocolate cake topped with a cow shaped chocolate cookie for me. Mr. Gooch had the New York-style cheesecake.
There was enough left over for us to have leftovers tonight. Just as good the next day.
I would recommed Smith & Wollensky for any steak or seafood lover.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Flowers in the Garden - October Edition

Today there is a definite nip in the air. That means Winter is just around the corner. While I love the fall colors, the turkey at Thanksgiving, decorating the Christmas tree and watching the first snow falling, I am already looking forward to the Spring. How awful is that?

So in the next months on the 21st, I will be posting photos of some of the flowers from my garden to help get us all through the cold and dreary winter months.

Enjoy and hope these photos help us all get through the next few cold months.

The flower for October is the dwarf iris.

TWD: Pumpkin Muffins

No Tuesdays with Dorie for me this week.

While I am sure that the Pumpkin Muffins chosen by Kelly of Sounding My Barbaric Gulp are amazing (as are all of Dorie's recipes), I just am not a fan of pumpkin.

I even wrote a post about my lack of love for the that particular vegetable earlier this month, click here to read those random thoughts.

I will be totally on board next week for the Chocolate-Chocolate Brownies however. Nothing can keep me away from a recipe containing chocolate. Unless is contains pumpkin. :-)

Visit TWD to see other baker's blogs and learn more about Kelly and her baking background.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Chipotle's Barbacoa Beef - Or at Least a Close Approximation

I love Chipotle's Barbacoa Beef Burrito. I love it so much that for a long time Mr. Gooch and I had "Chipotle Wednesday." Translation: we would have Chipotle for dinner every Wednesday (with leftovers for lunch the next day). On many occasion, just knowing CW was coming helped me get through the early days of the week.

Since I am trying to do more cooking at home, I Googled "Chipotle Barbacoa Beef" to see if I could find the recipe. I found one that proclaimed to be the official recipe but it looked way more complicated and had a number of ingredients I would need to purchase (I mean don't we all have packets of avocado leaves in the pantry) so I continued to search.

I then found the recipe below. Simple, without complicated ingredients, and didn't require me to have my oven on for 7+ hours. In other words, my kind of recipe!

Result: This recipe was close but not exact. The taste and texture were a bit different, not as spicy and much moister. Not much I could so about the moistness but I did add Chipotle Tabasco to my burrito to spice it up a bit.

Chipotle Barbacoa Chuck Roast
From recipezaar.com

1 (2 lb) chuck roast
2 (2 ounce) packets seasoning (Ortega Chipotle Taco Season)
2 tablespoons cooking oil (I used Olive Oil)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 dash hot sauce
2 cups water (enough to barely cover roast)

I have a 2 pound roast so the directions will vary due to weight. (1 packet of seasoning per pound, 1 TBS of cooking oil per pound, 1 TBS of apple cider vinegar per pound).

I put 2 cups of water in my crock pot and put the 2 packets of Ortega chipotle taco seasoning in and wisked. Then I added 2 TBS of cooking oil, 2 TBS of apple cider vinegar, and a dash of hot sauce and wisked again.

I placed the roast into a large skillet and seared both sides then placed in crock pot. (I skipped this step to save time.)

Set the crock pot to low setting and let it slow cook for at least 8 hours on low. Remove meat from crock pot and shredded with fork on cutting board and placed in serving dish. Cook time I would say 8 hours minimum on a low setting and less time for higher settings. (I did 2 hours on high and 4 hours on low)

We served with Le Tortilla Factory low-carb tortillas, lettuce, shredded cheese, cilantro basmati rice (click here for recipe), black beans and sour cream.

These were delicious and pretty darn close to the real deal. Depending on what size tortillas you use and how much meat you put into them determines how many servings this will make.

Chipotle Basmati Rice - Can't Have Burritos Without It

So with the Barbacoa Beef recipe in hand, I went in search of a recipe for the Chipotle Rice recipe. I knew that they had to use a particular type of rice since it had a different texture than I made at home. I knew that there was also some cilantro and lime. What else, I just wasn't sure.

But then I found this recipe. Score! So I gathered all the ingredients (including getting some basmati rice from the local grocery) and got ready to make this necessary (and tasty) ingredient in a good burrito.

The only problem was the fact that it didn't outline when to add the cilantro to the recipe. I added it after the rice was cooked with some additional salt and lime juice.

See my edits/changes to the recipe in italics.

Chipotle's Basmati Rice Recipe
The source of this recipe is attributed to Chipolte's Executive Chef (and CEO), Steve Ellis

1 teaspoon vegetable oil or butter (I used unsalted butter)
2 tsp. fresh cilantro (I used about 1 tsp. dehydrated cilantro)
2/3 cup white basmati rice
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Lime (1 tsp. added to the butter plus extra to sprinkle on the cooked rice)

In a 2-quart heavy saucepan, heat oil or butter over low heat, stirring occasionally until melted.

Add rice and lime juice, stir for 1 minute.

Add water and salt, bring to a full rolling boil.

At boiling, cover, turn down to simmer over low heat until rice is tender and the water is absorbed, about 25 minutes.

Fluff rice with a fork.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Menu Plan Monday - New Recipes and Success

Hot on the heels of a successful week in the meal planning arena (we followed the meal plan to a T), I am moving onto another phase of the plan to expand our list of "Go To" recipes. The menu for this week is made up of new recipes from some of the blogs I have in my Google Reader.
The plan of having only 4 planned meals works best for us. Most recipes are writte to feed four so we have plenty left over for lunches and a couple of dinners.
So here are the recipes for this week. Sides will be made up of potatoes or rice; carrots, corn or beans along with a salad.

Sunday: Leftovers
Wednesday: Chicken Bacon Ranch Calzones (using left over chicken from Monday)
Friday: Leftovers
Saturday: Out for our 1-year Anniversary

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

TWD: Lenox Almond Biscotti

This week for Tuesdays with Dorie, Gretchen of Canela & Comino chose Lenox Almond Biscotti. A great (and totally) tasty pick.

When I told Mr. Gooch that I was planning on making this recipe, he thought I said Lemon Almond Biscotti. At that point he said it sounded frou frou and if I was going to "man it up" by adding some ground glass or broken nails. He thinks that biscotti is slightly girly.

However, this recipe changed his mind. My new nickname is "Hotti Biscotti" because of it . So thank you Gretchen and Dorie.

Back to the recipe review. This was an easy recipe to follow.

The ingredients came together easily and quickly (just another reason I love my Kitchen Aide Mixer) without much mess.
I did have to bake the "loaves" about 10 minutes more than the recipe but I think that is because my oven is a bit off.

It loaves were easy to cut and stand up after the first baking for the second round in the oven. The final product was crispy and more than enough for many breakfasts and coffee breaks.

I ended up making 2 batches. One as written and one with dried cranberries added. I have to say I prefer the batch with the cranberries. It adds just a bit of tartness to the sweet flavor of the dough. (Note: Mr. Gooch says the cranberry version doesn't go as well with a Cinnamon Dolce Latte as the original version.)

I do wonder what these would taste like if you toasted the almonds first before adding to the dough? I think it would add a stronger nutty taste that would compliment the cranberries. Guess I will have to add that to the list of recipe modifications to try.

Visit TWD to see other baker's blogs and learn more about Gretchen and her baking background.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Dinner Rolls - How Sweet They Were

When this recipe popped up in my Google Reader, I knew that I had to make it. Sweet Dinner Rolls, posted by Daily Deliciousness, is a great dinner accompaniment. I made them one evening when we were having marinated steak. Their sweetness was a wonderful foil to the saltiness of the marinated meat.

The only change I would make next time would be to cut the sugar amount to 1/4 cup to see if it impacts the sweetness. They were just a bit to sweet for me but Mr. Gooch loved them.

Since it was just Mr. Gooch and I, I separated the pan full of rolls into 3 Ziploc bags and froze 2 for later use.

Sweet Dinner Rolls
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup warm milk
1 egg
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1/4 cup butter, softened (for topping rolls)

Place water and milk in microwave safe bowl and microwave for 1 minute or until liquids reach (110 degrees F/45 degrees C). Pour liquids into mixer bowl; add sugar and stir to dissolve. Add in yeast and let set for 10-20 minutes to proof (the mixture will be foamy).

Attach the bowl to the mixer and mix on low speed adding the salt, 1/3 cup butter and egg. Once well mixed add in the flour 1/4 cup at a time. Remove the paddle attachment and attach the dough hook. With the mixer; knead the dough for 5-10 minutes or until smooth and elastic.

Remove the dough from the bowl and shape into desired shape. Cover with a clean towel and let rise in a warm place for an hour. (You can place a bowl of very hot tap water in the bottom of your stove and place the rolls on the rack above it *this is what Daily Deliciousness recommended and it worked like a charm!). Gently brush the tops of the rolls with half of the remaining softened butter.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and bake the rolls for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Upon removing the rolls from the oven brush them with remaining softened butter once again.

Apricot Cream Scones - A Total Success

I had previously made blueberry scones and enjoyed them so much, I had to make them again.

After the success of the Rustic Italian Bread from America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book, I used their recipe for Cream Scones which used a food processor. Holy Shamoly! That appliance made a huge difference. I think it was able to more evenly incorporate the butter.

These scones were lighter, fluffier and puffed up higher than my previous attempt, which was made without the food processor.

Apricot Cream Scones
America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Cookbook

2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped into small pieces
1 cup heavy cream

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees.

Place flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in large bowl or work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade. Whisk together or pulse six times.

If making by hand, use two knives, a pastry blender or your fingertips and quickly cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few slightly larger butter lumps. Stir in currants. If using food processor,remove cover and distribute butter evenly over dry ingredients. Cover and pulse 12 times, each pulse lasting 1 second. Transfer dough to large bowl.

Stir in heavy cream and apricots with a rubber spatula or fork until dough begins to form, about 30 seconds.

Transfer dough and all dry, floury bits to countertop and knead dough by hand just until it comes together into a rough, sticky ball, 5 to 10 seconds. Form scones by either pressing the dough into an 8-inch cake pan, then turning the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, cutting the dough into 8 wedges with either a knife or bench scraper.

Place wedges on ungreased baking sheet and bake until scone tops are light brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

My First Real Loaf of Bread - Italian Rustic Loaf

I now know why the bread maker gets up in the middle of the night to bake the bread. Baking bread is a time intensive process. Good thing I ran all my errands yesterday.

I decided to make bread this weekend after I purchased the American Test Kitchen's Family Baking Book this week at Costco. Baking bread is my weakness so I wanted a clear and easy book to follow to try my hand at baking a loaf of bread.

I decided to make the Rustic Italian Bread. It took two days but tasted amazing with some Kerrygold Irish Butter.

Rustic Italian Bread
Source: America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

This recipe requires a bit of patience—the sponge, which gives the bread flavor, must be made 11 to 27 hours before the dough is made. We find it makes the most sense to prepare the sponge (which requires just 5 minutes of hands-on work) the day before you want to bake the bread.

On the second day, remove the sponge from the refrigerator and begin step 2 at least 7 hours before you want to serve the bread. If you own two standing mixer bowls, in step 1 you can refrigerate the sponge in the bowl in which it was made. Use the second bowl to make the dough in step 2. Have ready a spray bottle filled with water for misting the loaves.

2 cups (11 ounces) bread flour
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1cup water, approximately 110 degrees

3 cups (16 1/2 ounces) bread flour, plus more for dusting the work surface and hands
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/3 cups water, approximately 110 degrees
2 teaspoons salt

1. For the sponge: Combine the flour, yeast, and water in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook. Knead at the lowest speed until the ingredients form a shaggy dough, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the sponge to a medium bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature until it has risen and fallen. Let sit at room temperature for at least 6 hours or up to 24 hours.

2. For the dough: Remove the sponge from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature while making the dough. Combine the flour, yeast, and water in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook; knead at the lowest speed until a rough dough is formed, about 2 minutes. Turn the mixer off and, without removing the dough hook or bowl from the mixer, cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap; let the dough rest 20 minutes.

3. Remove the plastic wrap, add the sponge and salt to the bowl, and continue to knead at the medium low speed until it is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes (the dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom). If after 4 minutes more flour is needed, add 2 tablespoons at a time until the dough clears the sides of the bowl but sticks to the bottom.

4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter, knead by hand to form a large smooth ball, Place the dough to a large lightly oiled bowl (at least 3 times the dough’s size) and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a cool, draft-free spot until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour.

5. Remove the plastic wrap and leaving dough in the bowl, slide a plastic bench scraper under one side of the dough, gently lifting and folding one third of the dough toward the center. Repeat with opposite side of the dough, and, finally, fold the dough in half, perpendicular to the first folds (so that it resembles a rough square). Replace the plastic wrap; let the dough rise 30 minutes. Turn the dough again, replace the plastic wrap, and let the dough rise 30 minutes.

6. Top a rimless (or inverted) baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn dough out onto a work surface lightly coated with flour. Gently scrape the dough from the bowl and invert onto the work surface (the side of dough that was against the bowl should now be facing up). Dust the dough and your hands liberally with flour and, using minimal pressure, push the dough into a rough 10-inch square, gently dimpling it with your fingers. Then fold the top left corner diagonally to the middle. Repeat this with the top right corner, and begin to gently roll the dough from top to bottom, continuing to roll until the dough forms a rough log. Roll the dough onto its seam and, sliding your hands under each end, transfer the dough to a sheet of parchment paper. Gently shape the dough into a 16-inch football shape by tucking the bottom edges underneath. Coat the loaf lightly with vegetable oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap; let the loaf rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

7. Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position, place a baking stone on the rack, and heat the oven to 500 degrees. Let the stone heat for at least 30 minute but no more than 1 hour.

8. To bake: Using a single-edge razor blade or sharp chef’s knife, cut three diagonal slits 1/2 inch deep across the top of the loaf; spray the loaf lightly with water. Slide the parchment sheet with the loaf onto a peel or inverted rimmed baking sheet, then slide the parchment with the loaf onto the hot baking stone in the oven. Bake 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees and quickly rotate the loaf from front to back using the edges of the parchment; continue to bake until deep golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf reads 210 degrees, about 30 - 35 minutes longer.

9. Transfer to a wire rack, discard the parchment, and cool the loaf to room temperature, about 2 hours.

Menu Plan Monday - This Week and a Review

I thought that it would be nice to take a look at the this coming week's menu and a review on how we did on our Menu Plan from last week.

This week, we have several items that are being moved from last week. Additionally, I think we actually only need to plan 4 or 5 meals for the week since we usually end up with so many leftovers we can eat them throughout the week at several meals.

Sunday: Leftovers
Monday: Peach BBQ salmon or chicken (moved from last week)
Tuesday: Spaghetti with Meat Sauce (moved from last week)
Wednesday: Barbacoa Beef Burritos with Cilantro Basmati Rice (moved from last week)
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Out of town for a wedding.
Saturday: Out of town for a wedding.

As you may remember, below is the plan for last week. We ended up not making many of the recipes since I forgot to take the meat out of the freezer on two occasions and had to substitute some other things.

Sunday - Grilled Salmon with a variation on the Caprese Salad. Sides of various cheeses and breads we got Saturday at the local bakery and cheese shops.
Monday - Slow Cooker Root Beer Pulled Pork with corn on the cob and salad
Tuesday - Steaks with Sweet Mesquite Marinade (moved from last week) with roasted peppers and potatoes and salad
Wednesday - Peach BBQ Salmon with mashed potatoes and salad
Thursday - Homemade Barbacoa Beef Burritos with cilantro Basmati rice.
Friday - Spaghetti with Meat Sauce
Saturday - Chicken Quesedillas with Spanish Rice

Our actual weekly menu was
Sunday: Leftovers
Monday: Falafel
Tuesday: Homemade Pizza
Wednesday: Rootbeer Crockpot BBQ Pork (planned meal)
Thursday: Chicken Quesedilla with Spanish Rice (planned meal)
Friday: Dinner with friends. Grilled salmon with Multi-veggie caprese salad (planned meal)
Saturday: Marinated Grilled steak, mashed potatoes, sweet corn and salad (planned meal)

Make sure to visit orgjunkie.com to see what others are planning for their menus this week.

More Apple Goodness - Baked Apples

One of the very first recipes I ever made for Mr. Gooch was the baked apple. It has few ingredients but just screams fall goodness, without there needing to be a pumpkin in sight. (See my post here for my lack of love of the pumpkin in food.)

Mr. Gooch made an amazing dinner last night with grilled steak, sweet corn, mashed potatoes and salad. So I made dessert - the baked apple. It was the perfect dessert to finish the meal.

Baked Apples
Source: Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook c-1996

4 apples cored
1/2 cup raisins
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 Teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup water or apple juice (I used 1/2 cup)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Core apples and peel a strip from the top of each.
Place apples in a 2-qt. casserole (I used a pie pan)
Combine raisins, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Spoon into the center of the cored apples.

Pour water or apple juice over apples into dish.
Bake apples for 40-45 minutes or until tender, basting occasionally.
Serve with ice cream or half and half. (I served with whipped cream).

Alternative Football Food - Cheddar Beer Fondue

Mr. Gooch and I love a local restaurant called Cafe Winberie. They have an amazing Sam Adams cheddar and beer fondue which is served with apples and crusty bread. We get it every time we go to eat there.

I had recently bought a fondue set at the Linens & Things closing in my area, with the intention of making a home version of this tasty treat. After getting a bunch of apples at the farmer's market and bread from the local bakery, I knew this weekend was the time to attempt to recreate the dish. Especially since the Chicago Bears/Atlanta Falcons game was on and nothing says football like fondue.

I found several recipes online and ended up combining aspects of several into the version below. I would strongly suggest using all cheddar cheese. I didn't have enough cheddar in the fridge and had to improvise.

All in all this was very close to the version we get at the restaurant. So when we need to clog our arteries on another occasion, this will be on the menu.

Sam Adams Cheddar and Beer Fondue

2 Tablespoons Butter
2 Teaspoons Flour
1 1/2 Teaspoons Dried Mustard
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce (I used White Wine Worcestershire)
1 Teaspoon Chipotle Tabasco (for a bit of smokey heat)
1 Lb Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded (I used 1/2 cheddar and 1/2 co-jack)
10 Oz. Sam Adams Boston Lager

Combine butter, flour, dried mustard, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco and beer in small saucepan and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and add cheese.

Melt and place in fondue pot.

Serve with apples and crusty bread.

Apple Crisp to the Rescue

Mr. Gooch and I were invited to dinner at a friend's house Friday. The hitch, their house is almost 2 hours away, we were leaving in about an hour and I was going to bring dessert.

After my initial panic of realizing that the apple tart I wanted to make would not work due to the time constraint, I went right to a great source of help. The What's Cooking board on The Nest. The ladies there recommended several recipes and I ended up making a variation on the apple crisp. I used a recipe I found on Jenn and Food, Perfect Together as the starting point and added 1/2 cup of rolled oats to the crust to add more crunch.

Apple Crisp
4 cups sliced apples
ground cinnamon
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats (do not use quick cook kind)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Grease an 8x8 inch baking dish.
Place apples in prepared dish.
Sprinkle with cinnamon.
Pour water over all.
In a bowl, cream together sugar and butter. Blend in flour and oats.
Sprinkle mixture evenly over apples.
Bake in preheated oven 50 minutes, until apples are tender and crust is golden.

To prepare for the trip, Mr. Gooch peeled the apples and sprinkled with lemon juice to keep them from browning and then placed them in a gallon bag Ziploc bag. Using my Kitchen Aide mixer, I combined the crust ingredients and placed in a Ziploc quart bag. Both these bags went into a cooler for the trip along with the 8x8 inch glass pan, ground cinnamon and Pam (to grease the pan).

We assembled all the components at our friend's house and baked in the oven.

Served with vanilla ice cream it turned out amazing. With everyone wanting the the recipe, I am counting this one as a total home run.

I have also submitted this to Joelen's Culinary Adventures Cooking Challenge: Cobblers, Crumbles & Crisps, Oh My!

Bauck Bauck - Chicken Quesedillas

I love the chicken quesedilla. I love it's cheesy goodness, the crispiness of the tortilla, the spiciness of the chicken, all of it is so good.

But like the snake in Eden, all is not good is the garden of quesedillas. Tortillas are high in fat, cheese is high in fat, all in all not a very low-cal meal. But I was determined to make a lower fat version at home.

First, find a tortilla that was not so full of the bad stuff. Check. I found La Tortilla Factory tortillas that are actually 0 points due to the low cal, high fiber, low fat numbers.

Second, get a tasty cheese. I found a low fat finely shredded co-jack. The fine shred lets you get better coverage with less. 1/3 cup is 2 points.

Third, the chicken. I boiled and shredded skinless chicken breasts. The lowest cal way I could think of. To give it some kick in the quesedilla, I seasoned the meat with taco seasoning and a few drops of Chipotle Tabasco. 3 oz. of chicken is 3 points.

Seasonings and accouterments were low/no cal as well. Chipotle Tabasco, Taco Sauce, low fat sour cream (for Mr. Gooch).

The final product was pretty darn tasty. And they look pretty darn good too. I used another pan to press the tortillas together on the grilled, helping to really bring ot the grill marks.

The best part was when I did the math and figured that our entire dinner was 11 points. That included a large salad, the chicken quesedilla and small serving of spanish rice.

Going Pork for the First Time - Rootbeer Pulled Pork

Growing up, we never really ate pork. Other than the Honey Baked Ham at the annual Christmas Eve gathering. So all those ads talking about "Pork, the other white meat" were lost on me. I was perfectly happy with my chicken, turkey and beef.

But with the increase in food costs and the decrease in our income, I decided that I should look into this "other white meat" since it was often on sale at the grocery. But I wanted something that was familiar, since I have my picky eating to deal with.

So when I saw this recipe for Rootbeer Pulled Pork posted on Lovestoeat's weblog, I had to give it a try. I am not a huge fan of rootbeer so I figured that ingredient and the pork were the stretching of my palate for this meal.

The recipe couldn't be easier and is made in the crockpot so you can turn it on and pretty much forget it until about an hour and a half before dinner time. And the taste of rootbeer is faint and not really noticeable. But it does keep the meat really moist.

Rootbeer Pulled Pork
Pork Roast (I think ours was about 2.5 lbs.)
12 oz of root beer
Bottle BBQ Sauce

Place Pork Loin in Crockpot
Pour in root beer
Cover and cook on low for about 6.5 hours
After 6.5 hours, drain liquid and shred meat
Pour bottle of BBQ sauce over shredded meat and cook on low for another 1.5 hours
Serve on a bun (I added a slice of low fat swiss cheese as well)

Homemade Pizza - I May Never Go Back to Storebought

Inspired by the creation of my homemade pizza sauce and the recent purchase of a pizza stone, I knew that I had to make some pizza dough so Mr. Gooch and I could have a little pizza party.

Hitting the Google Reader, I found a recipe for Drunken Pizza Dough on Lynsey Lou's blog. I liked the idea of using wine in the dough and it turned out to be fabulous tasting. I split the dough to make 4 smaller pizzas. I guess they would be considered personal size.
I made two versions of our personal pizzas. The first was chicken sausage with the tomato sauce, the second was chicken sausage with BBQ sauce. Both were amazingly tasty though the BBQ was my favorite.

I can say for sure this will be made again. I already have the smoked Gouda to be used for next time.

Personal Pizzas

Pizza Sauce or BBQ Sauce
Drunken Pizza Dough (click for recipe) - split into 4 balls
Shredded Mozzarella Cheese - I used low fat
Andouille Chicken Sausage - thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Roll out pizza into desired thickness
Spread sauce
Place sliced sausage on sauce
cover with cheese
bake for 12-15 minutes or until cheese is bubbly

Finally Falafel

For the last few months I have been craving falafel. The crispy crunchy spiciness has called out to me. The problem: the local grocery didn't have any and the thought of making what I thought was a complicated recipe from scratch was too daunting. So my falafel dreams would have to wait.

Then it hit me. The store that I don't allow myself to go into because I would end of spending our e-fund on organic fruit and veggies should have falafel mix. You know what store I am talking about. Yup, that's the one...Whole Foods. Surprisingly, even WF had only one brand of mix and it wasn't even organic. Weird.

So I was on my way to tasty falafel treats. To compliment the accompaniments, I made a cucumber yogurt dill sauce. It was the cool sauce was the perfect addition to the warm falafel.

Cucumber Yogurt Dill Sauce
1 cup plain fat-free yogurt

½ cucumber - peeled, seeded, and finely chopped

1 teaspoon dried dill weed

1 clove garlic (pressed)
salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon mayonnaise
(I omitted this since I didn't have any in the fridge)
Dash of lemon juice, to taste (just to add a but of acid)

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Pumpkin - What is the Big Deal?

Every fall I get to ask myself the questions...what is the big freaking deal about pumpkins? and Why do people feel the need to add pumpkin to every recipe or baked good in the fall?

There are pumpkin bars, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin breads, pasta with pumpkin cream sauce, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin butter, pumpkin cookies and on and on and on. And then there is this season's must have item, Hershey Pumpkin Kisses, to be added to any and all baked items. Oh, and we cannot forget the staple of the season, pumpkin pie.

Of course, I have never been a fan of anything pumpkin-y, having avoided the pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving since I can remember.

I just don't get it. What is the allure of the orange-y pumpkin-yness of that round vegetable? Could it be the spices usually used with the pumpkin? I know cinnamon is popular, so is nutmeg and allspice.

Again, this may be a part of my lack of pumpkin desire since I am not a real fan of any of those spices. Which leads me to another question that I often ask myself, why do so many people love the cinnamon roll?

But back to the pumpkin, my belief is that pumpkins should be carved and put on porches for decoration with only their seeds (after toasting and salting) being eaten. No need to add it to every culinary creation from the first day of fall until after Thanksgiving.

TWD: Caramel-Peanut-Topped Brownie Cake

This week's recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie Caramel-Peanut-Topped Brownie Cake suggested by Tammy of Wee Treats by Tammy sounded very tasty but every time I got ready to make this, we got a call from the realtor that someone wanted to see the house. Sticky caramel and needing a pristine kitchen do not go together so this recipe will have to be added to the "Have to Make Sometime in the Future" list.

But I am looking forward to Lenox Almond Biscotti and Chocolate-Chocolate Cupakes.

Watch for posts reviewing those recipes in the coming weeks.

See you next Tuesday for the Biscotti.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Organic School Project - Grow, Teach, Feed

Recently I volunteered to help out with a fundraising event for the Organic School Project held at The Golden Triangle (an amazing asian furniture store). This is an organization that partners with the Chicago School System with the goal of providing school age children with a mindful foundation for a healthy lifestyle through wellness programming initiatives, expressed through a three-part mission Grow.Teach.Feed.:

Grow: OSP reconnects our children to their food source through school and community organic gardens.

Teach: OSP teaches children nutrition, mindfulness, and environmental stewardship through an integrated curriculum and wellness workshops.

Feed: OSP feeds children More Positive Foods(tm) through the school food service system. OSP meals are made-from-scratch, organic, natural and sourced locally when seasonally available.

By providing programming that helps children make a connection between the food they eat and their health, and that fosters stress-reducing attitudes and behaviors, OSP strives to combat the childhood obesity epidemic and other health-related illnesses.

OSP is a demonstration project with doctors and medical faculty collecting data and evaluating, so the findings can be presented to the USDA and government agencies urging them to provide additional funding to the National School Lunch Programs.

What a worthwhile cause, teaching kids about healthy eating. I am glad that Mr. Gooch and I decided to donate to this group and I was able to volunteer at the event.

A Ms. Gooch Creation - Salmon with Lime Lake Shore Drive Seasoning Marinade

As part of my recent acquisition of a number of spices. mixes, rubs and blends from Penzeys and The Spice House, I secured a jar of Lake Shore Drive Seasoning from The Spice House. This is a great blend that contains shallots, dried green peppers, chives, salts and peppers.

I made a marinade for salmon fillets from this blend by mixing it with olive oil and lime juice. I then let the fillets marinate for about 1 hour or so.

Holy crap!! This was totally tasty. It was so good that I did not get a photo of the finished product before it was consumed. Maybe next time, since this will definitely be repeated.

I am pretty proud of myself since it is usually Mr. Gooch who creates the marinades from various ingredients making the tasty dish.

Lake Shore Drive Marinade (for salmon)
2 1/2 Tablespoon Lake Shore Drive Blend
3 Cup Olive Oil
4 Tablespoons Lime Juice
2 6 Oz. Salmon Fillets

Place salmon fillets into a Ziploc bag and pour 3/4 of the mixture over the fillets, seal bag and place in fridge.
Reserve about 1/4 of the mixture to use for basting the salmon during baking/grilling to keep it moist.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Menu Plan Monday - Clearing out the Fridge and Freezer

The theme of this week's menus is eating out of the fridge and freezer. The goal is to have the shortest list for the grocery as possible.

Sunday - Grilled Salmon with a variation on the Caprese Salad. Sides of various cheeses and breads we got Saturday at the local bakery and cheese shops.

Monday - Slow Cooker Root Beer Pulled Pork with corn on the cob and salad

Tuesday - Steaks with Sweet Mesquite Marinade (moved from last week) with roasted peppers and potatoes and salad

Wednesday - Peach BBQ Salmon with mashed potatoes and salad

Thursday - Homemade Barbacoa Beef Burritos with cilantro Basmati rice.

Friday - Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

Saturday - Chicken Quesedillas with Spanish Rice

Lunches will be made up of leftovers.

Breakfasts will be cereals, muffins or scones.

So based on this menu the items we need to get at the grocery are pretty minimal.
Black Beans
Basmati Rice
Buns for pulled pork
Corn on the Cob
Tomato Sauce/Spaghetti Sauce (2 jars)
Romaine Lettuce
Ground Turkey

Visit orgjunkie.com to see what others are planning for this week.


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