Sunday, November 28, 2010

Guest Post: Game Time Soup over German Chive Spaetzel

Danielle hardly ever lets me read, never the less, write, blog posts until they are posted on-line for the world to see.  So, when she showed me the "Chile and Spoon" contest from Marx Foods, I gently reminded her that one of the requirements was that I had to have a blog.  That would pose a major problem.  Shocked, to say the least, was I when she offered me the first EVER guest post on her blog.  Although, one could easily say I deserved it after all the talking she does about me.
My first obstacle down, I set about creating a delicious recipe that included as many chilies as I could get into a single dish. If you've ever read this blog, you know that I love my food as spicy as can be.  I mean, so spicy that I am sweating and tearing up.  That's good food!  And here it perfect contest.  One that allowed me to take over in the kitchen and make something spicy and Danielle couldn't say anything about it! 
I'm a guy, so I started with chilies and meat.  Bacon makes everything better so that came first; stew meat was a close second.  I knew I wanted to make a soup since desserts aren't really my thing, but the soup was an easy way to get in everything I wanted. 

I took out Danielle's crockpot and set it up in the kitchen.  Crockpots are great for guys.  If you put everything in them, and taste it every once in a while, dinner is done; little to no thinking required.  I also knew I wanted to make some kind of Spaetzel.  My ancestory being from Eastern Europe, spaetzel is something I grew up with but Danielle doesn't know how to make.  It was pretty fun to teach her something in the kitchen!
Game Time Soup 
Serves:  4
1 pound stew meat (cubed into bite sized bits)
3 Serrano Chilies, diced
1/2 white onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
4 slices of pre-cooked bacon
2 cups of red wine
1 can of tomato paste (8 ounces)
1 cup beef stock
1 can (14.5 ounces) petite diced tomatoes, drained
3 Thai Chilies
2 Puya Chilies
2 Guajillo Chilies

In a cast-iron skillet, cook the stew meat, chiles, bacon, onion, and garlic over medium heat until the meat is cooked through.  Then, add red wine and continue to cook down until sauce has reduced, about 10 minutes.  In a crockpot, combine tomato paste, beef stock, petite diced tomatoes, Thai Chilies, and Puya Chilies.  Cut Guajillo chilies down the middle and add to the crockpot.  Finally, add stew meat mixture and stir well.  Cook over high heat for one hour covered.  Then, turn the heat to low and continue to cook for three hours. 

Before serving, remove Guajillo and Puya Chilies.  Serve over homemade German Chive Spaetzel (recipe as follows).

German Chive Spaetzel
Serves:  4
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 large eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, pepper, and chives. In another mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the egg-milk mixture. Gradually, draw in the flour from the sides and combine well; the dough should be smooth and thick. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot, then reduce to a simmer. To form the spaetzle, hold a large slotted spoon over the simmering water and push the dough through the holes with a spoon. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until the spaetzel floats to the surface, stirring gently to prevent sticking. Remove the spaetzel and set in the bottom of each soup bowl (about 1/4 cup).  Fill with soup and serve.
Friday, November 26, 2010

Slow Cooking Supper: Crockpot Chili

Last week it got cold in Boston really quickly.  I was in charge of dinner on Wednesday for not just John and I, but my sister and her boyfriend as well.  I wanted to make a crockpot chili that was easy, quick, delicious, and didn't cost me a lot.  You know, the usual.  So, I looked around and probably read about 50 chili recipes.  None of them had the same ingredients, so how could I possibly choose?

As usual, I decided to make my own.  It came out pretty amazing (my sister and her boyfriend said so, it's not just me tooting my horn again)!  I used two different kinds of beans, which I think made it really interesting.  John was nice enough to buy a crusty French baguette which I served with it. 

Crockpot Chili
Serves: 4
1/2 poumd ground turkey
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 white onion
1 can of dark red kidney beans, drained
1 can of red beans, drained
1 can (14 ounces) of petite diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup of tomato sauce
1 cup of frozen corn
2 tablespoons of garlic powder
1 tablespoon of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, cook the ground turkey until no longer pink.  Remove the turkey and place into the crockpot.  In the skillet, saute the garlic and onions until onions are translucent and add to the crockpot.  Add the beans tomatoes, tomato sauce, garlic powder, and pepper flakes to the crockpot.  Stir well and make sure it's thoroughly combined.  Cook on low for about 2 hours.  Thirty minutes prior to stirring, add in corn and adjust salt and pepper to taste.  Let cook for remaining thirty minutes.  Serve with grated sharp cheddar cheese and warm bread.

Until the next time my oven is on....
Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sassy Sweets: Pearamisu

For a recipe contest last week, I made Pearamisu--I used slices of pear instead of lady fingers.  I didn't win, but, it was definitely one of my more interesting dishes to make.  It features 3 distinct USA Pears; which made it a really interesting texture and flavor combo! 

John loves Tiramisu and I try to make it whenever I have the money to buy marscapone cheese, and time!  This is a version that really showcases the pears.  If you are intimidated by caramel sauce, use a bottled caramel sauce and cook the pears in it.  While it won't give the same depth of flavors, it's a quick and easy substitute!  I just love quick and easy!
2 Comice Pears
2 Bartlett Pears
2 Red Bartlett Pears
2 cups sugar
2 ounces ginger root (peeled and sliced thinly)
2 cinnamon sticks
2 tablespoons instant espresso
16 ounces Marscapone Cheese
2 tablespoons amaretto
6 ounces of good dark chocolate, shaved

Cut all pears lengthwise into thin strips.  Next, measure 1 3/4 cup of sugar and spread in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. As the sugar starts to liquefy, shake the pan to let the liquid sugar heat and melt the remaining sugar crystals. When all the sugar is melted and a deep amber color, add the pear, the ginger pieces, and cinnamon sticks.  Cook the pears for ten minutes until softened through, stirring so all the caramel will melt again.  Remove from the heat and remove the pears immediately.  Let cool.  Then, using all three pear types, layer in a glass loaf pan until the bottom is covered (about 1/4 of the pears).  In another bowl, mix marscapone cheese, remaining sugar, instant espresso, and amaretto until fluffy.  Spread 1/4 of the mixture onto layered pears.  Top with 1/4 of the dark chocolate shavings.  Repeat, ending with the marscapone mixture on top; decoratively sprinkle the remaining chocolate shavings over the top reserving some, if you wish, to garnish individual plates.

Refrigerate at least 2 hours, or overnight before serving.

Have a very happy Thanksgiving tomorrow; Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  Not just because of how much great food there is on the table, but also because it revolves around being with those you love; not the amount of presents you gave (or have to give)...and every American celebrates it so no one is left out.  LOVE Thanksgiving. 

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, November 22, 2010

Weeknight Dinner: Cajun Poola

As anyone who has read even one of my blog posts knows, John loves spicy foods.  Me, not as much.  I've been challenging myself to branch out and cook with more interesting and different foods.  The Marx Foods' Iron Foodie Competition is one such avenue; another, is that each week John and I are together, I try to make one "interesting" dish.  It's something I probably would have passed over on any other day.  But, this day, I stop and say, "Hmmm, let's try it". 

So, when I picked up some rice this week and saw the Cajun Poola recipe, I thought, why not?  I mean, I constantly tell John I don't like cajun spices, but he loves them.  In fact, sometimes he throws it on already cooked dishes (it's very annoying).  Since he has a big math test this week, a cajun dish was just the thing to inspire him to greatness! 
Cajun Poola
Serves:  6
2 boneless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons cajun spices
1/2 white onion (diced small)
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups chopped celery
1 cup petite diced tomatoes
1 cup frozen corn
1/2 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 1/2 cups half and half
3 cups prepared rice
6 slices of pre-cooked bacon

Cube the chicken into bite-sized pieces and coat with cajun spices.  Set aside.  In a large skillet (I used a wok), add enough oil to coat the pan.  Let the oil heat up over medium heat and add the onion and garlic.  Let cook for about 2 minutes, until fragrant and onion is translucent.  Then, add the chicken.  Cook the chicken about 10 minutes until brown over medium heat.  Add the celery, tomatoes, corn, red pepper flakes and garlic powder.  Let cook about 5 minutes more.  Then, add the half and half.  Let simmer together about 10 minutes.  Stir in the rice (it will suck up most of the sauce).  Crumble bacon and serve over the chicken and rice mixture.

I added the extra spices (and more cajun spice) because it didn't call for any of it and I was afraid it would be too bland.  I loved it, the bacon gave it a nice salty flavoring (part of the reason I used no salt).  It was delicious but way too much for the two of us.  I told John he'd be eating this until Thanksgiving!!!

Until the next time my oven is on...

In other news, John was chosen by Marx Foods to enter their "Chile and a Spoon" contest so he will be guest blogging this week!  Woohoo!  Stay tuned for that...should be coming later on this week!
Friday, November 19, 2010

Sassy Sweets: Pomegranate Ice Cream

Of course, a dinner party at MY house wouldn't be complete without some ice cream.  I made this ice cream in the ice cream maker; but, I showed my mom how to make it without one.  Since she was nice enough to gift me hers, she was really concerned she might not be able to re-make it.  To be honest, making ice cream is pretty easy without an ice cream maker as long as you have some room in your freezer.  Further, I mentioned to my youngest sister, M, that she could even combine some chocolate or vanilla ice cream from the dining hall with the POM juice and refreeze it.  It won't taste the same as homemade, but it will still be good!  I think if you're looking for something quick and refreshing, that is the way to go!

None of my friends were surprised in the least with the fact that I made ice cream.  However, I think everyone was surprised to see I put arils into the ice cream!  It was a fun little treat and I only put them in about 10 minutes before serving, so they weren't hard as rocks!  I decorated plates with pomegranate glaze and additional arils.  This came out along with some delicious Dark Chocolate Pomegranate Amaretto Cookies.  Remember these cookies?  I made the pomegranate ones in much the same way; I substituted arils for cranberries, and added some POM juice as well.  I also put in dark chocolate chunks.  They were chunky and delicious.  I made the dough and couldn't stop eating it (that's how you know it is a SUCCESS!). 
Picture thanks to R, who has a knack for beautiful photos
Pomegranate Ice Cream
Serves:  8
5 cups heavy whipping cream
2 cups POM juice
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons of vanilla extract
1 cup of arils

Beat the whipping cream, POM juice, sugar, and vanilla together until fully combined.  Freeze in a lined 9x13 baking sheet for at least 4 hours.  The ice cream should be hardened; put it into a blender and mix well again.  Then, add in arils and mix by hand.  Transfer back into the freezer for about 5 minutes.  Serve immediately.

I loved that I could make this ahead of time; same with the brownies.  It literally just became about getting the ice cream broken up and adding the arils.  I plated the brownies while the arils froze into the mixture and then added the ice cream; voila!  Dessert served. 

I realize this week I didn't get to my POM dinner--it was a delicious variation of my Stuffed Chicken stuffed with goat cheese, pomegranate juice, roasted red pepper, and arils!  YUM! 

For more POM Wonderful recipes and ideas you can visit their website.  I hope these dishes inspired you to try some of your own! 

Until the next time my oven is on...
Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sassy Sweets: POM Brownies

My favorite part of the this meal was dessert.  Of course!  Who doesn't love dessert?  But, I thought I did something really interesting (nothing like tooting that horn of mine)!  I made brownies with pomegranate juice.  Inappropriately, John thinks that POM Brownies is a pretty funny play on words.  We topped them with some of my pomegranate ice cream (we froze arils RIGHT in the ice cream for a delicious frozen extra kick!) and a few more arils and of course my pomegranate glaze!  Overall, it was a huge hit.

I have to admit that while these look beautiful, they are so much easier said than done.  In the beginning of the week, just to make sure they would taste okay, I used a boxed brownie mix and substituted the water for POM Wonderful juice.  They worked and became super fudgy, moist, and delicious.  When I made them for the party, I used my favorite brownie recipe, and again, substituted some of the wet ingredients for the juice.  But, in a pinch, the boxed brownie mix was great, too! 

It was the perfect ending to a great meal.  The best part, I had made everything well ahead of time (taking into account the fact that the ice cream needed to freeze).  So, all I did was throw it all together in the kitchen, and voila!  A fabulous dessert for all!

POM Brownies
Serves:  12 (well, less if you're with me!)

4 large eggs
1 cup sugar, sifted
1/2 cup brown sugar, sifted
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup POM Wonderful juice
1 1/4 cups cocoa, sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour, sifted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Beat the eggs in a large bowl until fluffy.  Then, add the sugars and mix until well combined.  Add the butter, POM Wonderful juice, cocoa, and vanilla extract.  Combine well.  Finally, mix in the sifted flour.  Place in a 9x9 greased baking pan.  Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 40 minutes (toothpick should come out clean). 

Feel free to play around too, with the types of POM Wonderful juice flavors.  John and I particularly like the Pomegranate Cherry juice.  I went with straight pomegranate for the brownies for the family, but I can bet we'll be trying POM Cherry Brownies sometime in the near future!

Until the next time my oven is on...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Stand Out Sides: Zucchini Rounds

Zucchini Rounds are quickly turning into one of my favorite side dishes.  I don't know where they came from; I do know that my mom started making them a few months ago and now all of her kids are dining on zucchini rounds every chance they get!  They are so easy and delicious...and R told me there's some type of greasiness factor to them that makes them amazing.  I agree.  The problem though, is that one or two zucchinis is never enough!  Oh, and I can't cut things the same size so some are over done, and some need more time.  Story of my life.

I know it's a POM party so what the heck are Zucchini Rounds doing on the blog?  Well, I used the POM Wonderful juice instead of oil and the pomegranate glaze as a topping, and it brought them to a whole new level!  No one could get enough and by the time five zucchinis were gone, I don't think our main meal had even been touched!  It was a frantic grab for these!

There were a few side dishes on the table including a delicious POM salad but this stole the show.
Zucchini Rounds
Serves:  8
4 zucchinis, peeled
1/2 cup POM Wonderful juice
1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs
1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese
2 tsps. pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 tablespoon garlic powder

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Cut the zucchinis into 1/4 inch rounds (the width of the zucchini and the depth of 1/4 inch).  Combine the breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, pepper, salt, and garlic powder.  Then, dip the zucchini rounds into the POM Wonderful juice, then immediately into the breadcrumb mixture.  Place on a greased cookie sheet.  The zucchini rounds should not overlap but can touch.  Cook in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.  Remove and drizzle with pomegranate glaze.  Serve warm.

Until the next time my oven is on...

Time-Out: POM Wonderful Whiskey Shooters

Anyone who knows me well knows that my choice of drink is whiskey.  I agree, it's a little unusual for a girl; but, I'm a little unusual too so it works out.  Someone once told me that their dad warned them to never cross a whiskey girl.  I think that's pretty true, too.  We're a tough group.  Anyway, for the 21 and over crowd at my party, I served a multitude of drinks--most of them, you've probably seen 100 times--POM Margaritas (tequila comes a close second to whiskey for me) and POM Martinis (for my grandmother--she loves her martinis!).  I also made a POM "punch" without alcohol for the kiddies.  A little lemon-lime soda, POM juice, and the arils.  It was beautiful looking.  Plus, everyone got to drink out of my great grandmother's red cocktail glasses.  This kept it in the festive mood. 

I think the coolest thing I found out was that the arils float in lots of soda.  John and I tried out a variety of drink options before serving them to our guests.  However, in the small little glasses, my arils sunk.  But, I loved that they were the last thing you tasted!  Even those of us who dislike whiskey (ahem, John), enjoyed the shooters and they were fun to serve.  I made a whole bunch and put them on a few wooden cutting boards.  It made an elegant presentation for sure!  And then people could grab and go!
POM Wonderful Whiskey Shooters
Serves: 8

1 cup diet cola
4 shots of whiskey (we use Jack Daniels)
1 cup POM Wonderful Juice
1/4 cup of arils (pomegranate seed packs)

Pour a half shot of whiskey into each glass.  Combine diet soda and POM Wonderful juice.  Top each shooter with the diet soda / POM combination.  Sprinkle arils on top for a festive presentation.

So easy.  So delicious.  I'm not going to lie, I recreated this in a big glass and it is just as good as the mini shooters were. 

I hope this is inspiring you to get creative with pomegranates.  There are so many more recipes I want to try out...stay tuned for one of my easiest recipes of the party.
Until the next time my oven is on...
Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fancy Pants App: Pomegranate, Pear, and Gouda Pizza

Don't let the name intimidate you, this was an easy and delicious appetizer for vegetarian and meat eaters alike!  Also, with just four ingredients, they come together so quickly.  It's literally a matter of chopping, cooking, and eating!  I have to admit, I was skeptical about the flavor combination.  I found a recipe using similar ingredients but I wasn't sure.  My solution:  to put them on a pizza!  I mean, who doesn't like pizza right??

I used premade flatbreads which was a really sturdy crust and helped hold up the pizza.  Also, I didn't use that much gouda; I didn't want to mask what was underneath!  Of course I put my pomegranate glaze over the top for an extra punch!  Also, I used a ripe green pear and I didn't bother to peel it.  I think it gave it a cool look with the peel exposed.  Everyone knew immediately that it was a pear.

There were a lot of appetizers out when guests first arrived and I'm always interested to see who picks up what first.  I can guarantee if it looks weird, different, or something my dad has never seen before, he hones it for that one!  So, the pizza was his first pick.  Once mom heard the ingredients, she was right there with him!  The less adventurous folk took a little while to warm up to it.  But, everyone agreed it was delicious (phew!). 
Pomegranate, Pear, and Gouda Pizza
Serves:  8 (4 pizzas)

4 flatbreads, premade, or made ahead of time
2 ripe green pears
6 ounces of Gouda cheese
1 cup of POM Wonderful Pomegranate arils
Pomegranate Glaze for drizzling

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  On cookie sheets, lay the flatbreads out (2 per cookie sheet); they should not be touching.  Cut the pears into thin strips and layer over the flatbread.  Then, cut thin strips of the Gouda and layer over the pears.  Place in the preheated oven for 8 minutes, cheese should be melted.  Cover pizzas with arils and pomegranate glaze.  Cut into fours.  Serve warm.

NOTE:  The reason I'm using premade flatbreads is that you don't want these to be in the oven too long.  In fact, 8 minutes was perfect to cook the pear and melt the cheese.  If you want to make your own, I'd suggest baking the pizza dough ahead of time.  Plus, who wants to be standing around and waiting for more.  These pizzas were gone in a flash, so I had extras warming in the oven.  Just cut them and serve!

I'm going to mix it up tomorrow and show you one of the side dishes I served!  And stay tuned for the end of the week with my dessert recipes!

Until the next time my oven is on...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Fancy Pants App: Pomegranate Glazed Meatballs

When you invite your family over for a party, you can practically guarantee who will be early and who will be late, right?  Well, in my family it's no exception.  Like I said, K, came and helped us set-up and get lots of pomegranates ready!  I had all my appetizers in the oven just warming, waiting for guests to arrive.  Because this POM Party could also win John and I a little getaway, I wanted to make sure all my pictures were just perfect.  I took a lot of plated pictures before guests arrived because I didn't want to be fussing around when everyone was trying to enjoy themselves. 

In fact, I invited to the party two of my best friends, and two ladies who are spectacular picture-takers!  So it was "hi, you're invited for dinner...please bring your camera"!  One of my best friends, R, is also a vegetarian so I tried to make enough on the menu for her (you'll see tomorrow).  There are lots of pomegranate recipes out there paired with meat, but on the POM Wonderful website, there is a whole vegetarian section! 
I don't usually think about pomegranates and meatballs but boy was I glad I did.  After the Red Curry Thai Meatballs, I have had a thing for them!  They're also a great addition to a plate of appetizers.  Stick some toothpicks in them and go!  Also, the Pomegranate Glaze went well on just about everything I made that night.  In fact, after everyone had left, I definitely saw John stick a pretzel in the glaze!  It was a delicious sweet, but not too sweet, glaze.  I doubled the recipe you'll find below and it made enough to lightly cover dishes from sweet to savory.
I'm actually pretty proud to say this was one of my shots!

Pomegranate Glazed Meatballs
Serves:  8 (24 party meatballs)
1 pound of ground turkey
1/2 cup of breadcrumbs
1 egg
1 tsp. salt
2 tsps. pepper
2 cups of POM Wonderful pomegranate juice
1/2 cup of sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Combine ground turkey, breadcrumbs, egg, salt and pepper with your hands.  Form into small 1-inch diameter meatballs.  Then, to cook the meatballs, I use this fancy trick.  I place the meatballs on a cookie cooling tray--make sure the meatballs won't fall through!  I start at the edge and put each meatball on a square, I even let them touch.  It's okay.  The cooling tray goes on top of a large cookie sheet (this catches the drippings).  Let them bake about 20 minutes in the oven, until they're brown, and the center is no longer pink.  Meanwhile, in a large skillet over high heat, combine pomegranate juice and sugar.  Stir constantly (this was a John job).  The sauce should reduce by half and be a little sticky.  Remove the meatballs from the oven and let cool.  John and I dipped the meatballs in the sauce.  Then we realized it was easier to just pour the sauce over.  So, in the end, that's what we did.  Serve with toothpicks for easy grabbing!

You could make these really easily as an after-work or after-school snack with frozen meatballs.  Just heat the meatballs up in the microwave while you make the glaze!  Then within 5 minutes, you have an easy and delicious snack.  Or, if you're like me, who freezes her own meatballs, same thing! 

Also, at room temperature, this glaze lasted for hours and hours.  If refrigerated, it hardens up and needs to come back to room temperature in order to be used.  I'd suggest leaving it at room temperature, covered, while you're using it.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Sunday, November 14, 2010

POM Party Host!

What a great way to start the week...this past weekend, I threw a party for my family and friends with a BIG helping hand from POM Wonderful.  Earlier this month, I was chosen as one of 100 party hosts around the country.  There were only three chosen from Massachusetts and I was so happy to be one of them! 

Once I found out, I immediately got started on the details.  You know, those little details that make everyone feel welcomed, invited, and most of all, glamorous!  POM helped out a lot...they gave me an adorable apron and all these great goody bags (check out my sister and I trying them on)!

Anyway, I made cute little invitations and sent them out to everyone.  I already knew I wanted all the generations of my family present at the party along with some of my best friends.  My grandma couldn't wait to try a pomegranate for the first time!  On the other hand, my sister K, is in love with pomegranates and couldn't believe her good fortune!  She lives 15 minutes from me and her and her boyfriend couldn't wait to come on over and help us prep for the party!
My original theme was to have a couples only party.  But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to show my family and those that I love the most how great pomegrantes were.  They are healthy and full of antioxidants, which is so good for everyone, whether 7 or 70!  The best part was, inside that goody bag, each guest got a huge pomegranate thanks to POM Wonderful to take home.

I also made a menu and "place cards" for people once they got inside the house.  I had some interesting decorations too!  I tried to include pomegranates in every single way I could.  Oh, and I made the whole family wear red or pink!  Just for a festive theme...who doesn't love theme parties?

Overall, one of my favorite moments came when I was showing everyone how to open a pomegranate and how easy it is!  My dad kept dunking his hand into the bowl to eat the arils (seed packets).  I couldn't stop laughing!  POM asked to include a video of this demonstration and it took a few times until everyone could calm down enough. 
This week, in honor of the party, I'm showing you my recipes!  I made pretty involved and in-depth recipes, but, because most of my friends, and my two younger sisters, have little time, I also made "fail-proof" recipe adaptations.  I'm providing you both!  From POM brownies that you can make using a boxed mix, to POM glazed meatballs using frozen meatballs, instead of homemade, this party is about luxury, and how to incorporate that POM luxury into everyday life!

NOTE: While POM gave each party host goody bags and free merchandise, these thoughts are wholly my own.  Also, by providing recaps to POM I will be entered to win a trip for two (what John and I wouldn't do for that right!).  So this week, look for my own recipes and I hope you take them to your own table!

Lastly, this is the day they arrived at the house...I was so excited:

Until the next time my oven is on...
Saturday, November 13, 2010

Marx Foods' Iron Foodie 2010 Update!

Quick update--Remember last week, my post regarding Marx Foods and the Foodie Blogroll's challenge to pick 25 bloggers to be the first "Iron Foodie".  Well...I am proud to say I AM IN!!!!!!

Yes, I was notified last week but wanted to make sure everything was in order; I got the notification that the "treasure box" of secret ingredients is shipping out from Marx Foods.  AND The Foodie Blogroll just posted the 25 competitors here.

Check them all out--I have!  This is going to be amazing!  I can't wait to fill you all in on what the treasure box contains, and of course, what I am making with it!

Thanks everyone for believing in me, and Marx Foods and the Foodie Blogroll for an amazing opportunity for such a young blog!  YAY!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, November 12, 2010

Date Night Dinner: Mushroom Smothered Chicken

There's nothing worse than reaching into the cabinet to find that you are out of what you're looking for.  It rarely happens to me; I seem to have an iron brain when it comes to what is in the kitchen.  But, last week, I wanted to make chicken fajitas.  I reached into the cabinet and, there was no rice.  No matter, I thought, I'll just put it in tortilla shells.  Nope, none of those either.

Luckily for me, John was stuck in traffic (well, good for me; bad for him).  I had a little over an hour and I had made mashed potatoes the day before.  I used the Microwaved Red Potato recipe and added about 1/2 of a cup of whole milk and mixed it together.  Yum.  To me, mashed potatoes goes with meats, not chicken.  So, I hopped online to see if I could find anything.  A lot came up but I was out of most the ingredients.  Back to the drawing board.

I had about a cup of sliced mushrooms left from my Shell Casserole, white wine, garlic, onions, and lemon juice.  I thought, hmmm that could be a nice sauce. 
It was!  And yes, I used my wok, the biggest saucepan I have!  Then, I breaded the chicken and cooked it in a little vegetable oil.  I put some mashed potatoes on the plate, topped it with the chicken, and topped it all off with the mushroom sauce.  The dinner took a while; probably an hour, I'd say.  Way too long to qualify as a weeknight dinner.  However, John was so in love with the recipe; I thought it could be something featured on a menu at a restaurant!  There was something very comforting about chicken and mashed potatoes, and, it used lots of local and seasonal products!

Mushroom Smothered Chicken
Serves:  2
2 chicken breasts
     salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons olive oil (to cook chicken)
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup white wine
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons italian seasoning
1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
12 garlic cloves, crushed
2-3 tablespoons flour

First, pound the chicken breasts until they are 1/2 inch thick.  (If you've never done this before, don't be intimidated.  Place the chicken on a cutting board, top the chicken with some plastic wrap, and then using a rolling pin, roll the chicken out until 1/2 inch thick.  Me, before we had a rolling pin, I used to hammer it out.  It was more fun!

Then, season the chicken with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Dredge the chicken in breadcrumbs, patting to make sure breadcrumbs stay firmly on. 

Meanwhile, combine in a large saucepan the chicken broth, white wine, lemon juice, and italian seasoning over medium-high heat.  Let simmer for about 10 minutes.  Then, add the crushed garlic and mushrooms.  Cook about 10 minutes more, until garlic becomes translucent; reduce heat to medium-low.  Finally, slowly add flour and let simmer for 15 minutes, or until sauce thickens.  (I used 3 tablespoons but I added it very gradually.  Don't just pour it in all at once, judge if you need more or less).

While sauce thickens, place 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil into a large skillet over a medium-hot burner.  Let oil warm, and then add chicken breasts, cooking about 8 minutes on each side, or until cooked through.  (I always cook mine too long because I'm afraid but 8 minutes seemed about right).

To plate, place 1/4 cup of mashed potatoes onto the plate, top with chicken and spoon sauce over the top.  I used about 1/4 cup of sauce to each chicken. 

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Time-Out: Fresh Pumpkin Puree

When John and I went pumpking picking in October, we chose 5 pumpkins.  Three were babies, I love the babies.  One was a huge perfect jack-o-lantern pumpkin; the last one was about five pounds and perfect for pumpkin puree (you want smaller pumpkins, not jack-o-lantern types).  Anyway, after we carved our jack-o-lantern (see below), I couldn't put off pureeing the pumpkin any longer.
I love just looking at pumpkins, but I really wanted to challenge myself to make fresh pumpkin puree rather than running out and buying a can every time I needed pumpkin.  Lately, I have been using it in EVERY recipe contest I've entered, practically.  And, that can get expensive. 

I really wanted to take step-by-step pictures but when you're so focused on doing everything right, its so hard to remember the camera!  I tried though...PS, this is a perfect winter activity because the heat from the oven keeps the house nice and toasty!

Pumpkin Puree
Serves:  1 1/2 cups of puree

Ingredients:  One Pumpkin

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Cut the pumpkin into half or thirds and remove all the seeds.  I saved the seeds for toasted pumpkin seeds while we were watching a movie that night.  Place the meat of the pumpkin facedown on a tin-foil lined pan.  Cook in the preheated oven for 90 minutes.  The pumpkin should be soft, the skin will turn a dark orange/brown.  Turn the pumpkins over to view the meat of the pumpkin.  It should easily come off with a spoon.  If not, place it back in the oven for another 10 minutes.
Scrape out the meat of the pumpkin and place in food processor.  Process until smooth.  It will look like the pumpkin puree shown above. 

I have used this in pumpkin mousse, pumpkin muffins, and plan on making pumpkin cheesecake, too!  It tastes amazing, way better than the canned pumpkin.  But, it is a lot of work.  It was a nice lazy day activity!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, November 8, 2010

Sassy Sweets: Apple-Cranberry Dessert Lasagna

Quick and special thanks to everyone who tuned into TV Diner this weekend--what you didn't see on TV was that I came in 4th place!  I was honored to receive $100 and a year's supply of free Cooked Perfect Meatballs!  YUM!

Dessert contests have been crazy recently.  I think its partially due to Halloween and the onslaught of Christmas.  Not too sure.  Either way, I've been baking up more sweets than I know what to do with.  Most of the time, I will send them home for the week with John.  I assume they get eaten there.  Once you slave over dessert for hours, it looks wholly unappetizing to me!  Except for this was soooo good.  I kept the dessert lasagna and ate it for breakfast (hey, it seemed like a good idea).  I think you'll enjoy it, too.

It used all the leftover cranberries I had from the Ocean Spray Patriots Tailgating Cookoff.  I love that cranberries will last so long in the freezer or fridge.  I have definitely gotten full use out of them!  And, it used up any leftover apples I had from the pies and crumble that I made (recipes forthcoming).

Apple-Cranberry Dessert Lasagna
Serves:  4

8 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 apples (peeled, cored, and chopped)
1 cup cranberries
20 sheets of phyllo dough (thawed)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, mix cream cheese, sugar, heavy cream, and cinnamon until well-combined. Next, in a food processor, chop the cranberries so they are in halves or thirds. The apples should be bite-sized pieces. Add the cranberries and apples to the cream cheese mixture and mix by hand. Assemble by putting 4 layers of fillo dough on the bottom of a deep lasagna dish. Spread 1/4 of the apple-cranberry mixture on top. Layer another 4 pieces of fillo dough on top; repeat so there are five layers of fillo dough, with the fillo dough ending on top. Cook for approximately 30 minutes, top should be golden brown.

This is a decadent dessert with the cream cheese mixture; but, the apples and cranberries make it tart and also (sort of) healthy!  I could definitely double this as a breakfast!  Although, I doubt that would be looked highly upon haha. 

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, November 5, 2010

Weeknight Dinner: Red Curry Thai Meatballs

Yesterday, I got to attend a taping of NECN's "TV Diner" with Billy Costa (quickly becoming one of my favorite emcees for cooking events).  I was chosen as a finalist in Cooked Perfect's Meatball Madness contest for my Red Curry Thai Meatballs.

Now, obviously, I cannot tell you the results.  But, I can tell you we will be airing on Saturday, November 6th at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.  I will be watching, of course, will you?  Ahead of the show, I've featured my recipe!  I'll be honest, I often cook my own meatballs, and even freeze them myself rather than buy the store bought ones, but both John and I agreed that the Cooked Perfect Meatballs were yummy! 

Just because I cook my own meatballs doesn't mean I can do everything, right?  I often use frozen vegetables to round out our meals; mainly with two people, you can only buy so much produce before it goes bad...and in the dead of winter when I want some White Chicken and Corn Chili frozen corn is the best way to go!  Anyway, that's why I used frozen veggies in the recipe.  If you're busy and are buying frozen meatballs, the chances are you could incorporate frozen veggies, too, to make it a nutritiously balanced meal.  PS these are also great served with toothpicks as appetizers!
Red Curry Thai Meatballs
Serves:  4

16 meatballs
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons red curry paste
2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons chunky peanut butter
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons cilantro
2 teaspoons ginger (minced)
2 cups frozen pepper and onions mix
Coat a skillet in olive oil. Over medium heat, add the Cooked Perfect Angus Meatballs.  Add garlic and stir constantly for about two minutes.  Remove the meatballs and garlic; set aside.  Add red curry paste and heat for one minute.  Add chicken stock, chunky peanut butter, sugar, cilantro and ginger. Heat for about
three minutes until the mixture is smooth.  Add the garlic and meatballs along with the peppers and onions.  Let simmer for about ten minutes, or until thoroughly heated.  Serve over your favorite kind of rice, and enjoy!
Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Slow Cooking Supper: Shell Casserole in a Crockpot

My personal goal for this winter is not: to lose 10 pounds (although it should be), or learn a new hobby (although I could use some help in photography), it's incorporating my crockpot into my weekly cooking!  John had to dig through the closet to find it because I think I have used it once since we moved into this apartment (over 15 months ago). 

There's a lot of history in this one pot; it was my grandmother's and she passed away while I was in college.  Mom held on to the crockpot but we never really got much use out of it in my house either, which is probably why I stink at using it!  Anyway, Mom also had a great Crockpot recipe book from 1980 which I have procured.  Last week, I was leafing through it and found this recipe.  It looked delicious, and I made it on Sunday since we'd be home.  The age of the crockpot is the one negative--its very old.  Therefore, there's no timer on it which means I don't feel comfortable leaving it on when I'm going to be out of the house for long periods of time.  And, I can't set it to start while I'm at work like you can with the new nifty ones!

So, it's not going to be done in 30 minutes, but its very little prep time and if you have a new one, you can set it to go on, whenever you want!  Therefore, I think you can easily make this on a weeknight!  I served it with some salad.  But, you don't even have to since there are mushrooms in it, you could even stir a cup of corn in, which I was kinda wishing I did but definitely will do next time.

Shell Casserole
Serves: 4

1 pound ground beef (I used ground turkey)
1 small onion, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup hot water
2 teaspoons beef bouillon granules (I used one beef bouillon packet)
2 tablespoons red wine
6 ounces of large shell shaped pasta
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup sour cream

In a skillet, cook the ground beef and onions until the beef is no longer pink.  Transfer to the crockpot.  Add salt, garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce, flour, hot water, beef bouillon packet, and red wine.  Let cook on Low for 2-3 hours covered.  About 2 hours later, cook the pasta in a pot of boiling water and drain.  I cut the pasta into halves since the pasta was BIG and hard to eat.  Then, add the pasta, mushrooms, and sour cream to the mixture.  Cover and let the mixture cook on High for about 15-20 minutes.  Serve.

NOTE:  I did not have sour cream so I reduced the amount of water originally and used milk and some more flour and a little lemon juice.  Worked just fine!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Marx Foods' Iron Foodie 2010

Iron Foodie 2010 | Here's Why that will be me: -- Fine Bulk Foods The Foodie BlogRoll

That's right!  IRON FOODIE!  This month, Foodie Blogroll and Marx Foods are teaming up to give 25  bloggers the shot at foodie fame!  It's so close I can taste it....

Many of you know that I was salivating to join the Foodie Blogroll from the moment I started blogging, and after my month of waitinggggg, I was accepted.  I very proudly display that badge on the right ----> side of my blog.  It wasn't just about helping me increase readership (although that doesn't hurt), but it was also a source of pride!  There are some amazing chefs and bakers on that site, and I love feeling like a real part of the food blogging community!

It's also being sponsored by Marx Foods.  If you've never checked out their website, you definitely should--their molded ice creams are AMAZING looking. 
They've posed tough and interesting questions to us...I am ready for the challenge.
  • Why do you want to compete in this challenge?
This challenge is about making your mark on food and over the last year, I have challenged myself to do just that.  While I, and my blog, are still young, my semi-finalist and finalist places in national and regional cookoffs and recipe contests show I have the chops to make interesting and diverse ingredients into delicious dishes that other home cooks can emulate.  Taking on larger blogs, and more experienced bloggers, will really allow my creativity to flourish and my competitive senses to shine.  I want the opportunity to show that you don't need to have the best blog, the most readers, or the most years in the kitchen, to win it all!
  • Limitations of time/space notwithstanding, whose kitchen would you like to spend the day in & why? Julia Child, Thomas Keller, Ferran Adria, James Beard, Marie-Antoine Careme, or The Swedish Chef?
Easy! Julia Child for many reasons.  What a legend!  As most of you know through my work with Girl Scouting and other organizations, I believe in strong women.  Julia Child emerged on top of a cooking world that was predominantly male.  Further, I remember growing up to her Master Chef cooking shows that my mother and father would watch endlessly!  I'd love her help on some breads and pastries (I am still trying to master the croissant).  I work in my tiny Boston kitchen; she, in her much larger, Cambridge kitchen.  If we could move time, I could get there quite easily!  She was a master in the kitchen and in life; she ended her last cookbook with, "... thinking back on it now reminds that the pleasures of the table, and of life, are infinite - toujours bon app├ętit!" and that is a motto that anyone can live by. 
  • What morsel are you most likely to swipe from family & friends’ plates when they aren’t looking?
The pickle!  If I go out with my boyfriend, and he orders any type of sandwich that comes with a pickle, he eats it immediately or else it's in my belly!  With my family it's a little different; all three girls are huge pickle lovers (we even make our own!).  So, that means its gone as soon as the plate touches the table.
  • Sum your childhood up in one meal.
My mom's baked macaroni and cheese.  It was warm; it was gooey; it was comforting and cozy.  When I look back on my childhood now, I realize I had all of those things.  As "cheesy" as it sounds, the warmth and comfort that I grew up in allowed me to become the strong and independent woman I am today.  My mom was a great baker, but she cooked with less gusto. For baking, I will still always go to her but for cooking, she has admitted that I hold the golden spatula!
  • The one mainstream food you can’t stand? 
Cauliflower!  Ugh.  I read these questions aloud to a few people before I began writing.  This one was a unanimous decision.  My mom lamented that she tried cauliflower in every way imaginable including with cheese but I'd never eat it.  Even I'm not sure why, but still to this day, hate the taste (and I do continue to try it).  Luckily for me, I found a boyfriend who also hates cauliflower! 

**I hope that sometime next week I can confirm that I'll be competing!!  New and interesting ingredients have always whet my palette and they are the main reason I began experimenting in the kitchen!  I'll let you know either way sometime next week.  Thanks for reading--what would your answers be?  I'd love to know!
Monday, November 1, 2010

Weeknight Dinner: White Chicken and Corn Chili

Sorry about not posting Friday, I made delicious Milky Way brownies but it's been a rough two weeks so they will get posted sometime this week! 

 McCormick has a delicious White Chili package that you can buy for like $1.79 or something at my local grocery store.  John and I had it once and loved it, so it prompted me to go looking for substitutes with what I have in the kitchen!  The current recipe is delicious but I've seen many chili recipes call for some jalapeno or green chiles as well.  To me, that's not needed although I'm sure John would disagree!

I served this without rice; I'm not sure rice would even be necessary here because as you see below, the majority of the liquids get boiled out and it becomes a nice thick sauce.  But if you wanted to boil less, and add rice, that would probably be equally delicious!  With two chicken breasts, this was enough for both of us plus leftovers for the week.  But serving any more than 4, adding more chicken breasts would be best.

White Chicken and Corn Chili
Serves:  4

2 cups chicken broth
2 chicken breasts (diced)
1 can (15-ounces) of cannelini beans (drained)
1 cup of frozen corn
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano flakes
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

I have a lot of updates to do this week, so check back often!  Plus, I'm making a special TV appearance in the New England area...details coming this week too!

Until the next time my oven is on...
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Welcome! I'm Dani (aka the Growing Foodie), just a girl balancing her career and passion for all things edible in NYC. I hope you'll join me in my adventures in life, through food. (Click for More)
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