Monday, January 31, 2011

Fancy Pants App: Pizza-Style Breadsticks

I updated the recipe and category indexes this weekend; I do try and update once a month, but it seems like this month I really slacked off on sweets!  I think it's mainly because I am coming up with some delicious possibilities for Valentine's Day!  Not only sweets but dinners, appetizers, and all around deliciousness that can make your Valentine feel extra special the 14th of February or any day of the week.

This week, in preparation of the Super Bowl I have new appetizers, and these delicious breadsticks.  I searched around for a "Pizza-Hut" style breadstick.  There are MANY floating around the internet but I have problems with them for 2 reasons.  The first, they almost all use a bread machine (hello, I live in a tiny apartment isolated from many modern day appliances!).  Also, they dont' tell you what kind of pan to put the bread in.  So, I improvised.

Let me just be the first to tell you, improvising was a terrible idea.  These should go in a 9x13 pan, and you should cut them by the shorter side.  That's going to make a lot of breadsticks so be prepared to either store them.  I froze them, and they baked nicely.  And, I stored them in an air-tight container for about a week without an issue either.  My first batch were WAY too fluffy and thick, which meant that the flavoring wasn't as intense.  But, they go great with soup, spaghetti, and pizza (although this harkens back to the garlic knots--more bread with pizza?!).
Pizza-Style Breadsticks
Serves:  14 9-inch breadsticks (14 people)
1 1/2 cups hot water
1 packet of yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 1/2 cups flour
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon oregano

Dissolve the yeast, sugar, and salt into the hot water.  Let stand about 10 minutes.  Then, slowly add the flour, mixing well.  Once a dough has formed, knead the dough for 8-10 minutes until the dough is elastic.  Roll out the dough to fit into a greased 9x13 pan and place in the pan.  Spread the melted butter on top.  Combine parmesan cheese, garlic powder, garlic salt, and oregano.  Evenly spread the topping over the butter.  Press in slightly.  Using a pizza cutter (or sharp knife), cut the dough into sticks.  Cover with a damp cloth for 15-20 minutes, the dough will rise.  Then, bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes. 

Two things I noticed about this dough.  Most of the recipes I saw called for dry milk.  I didn't have that, but you could substitute 1/2 cup of that for 1/2 cup of flour.  Also, I didn't press the topping into the breadsticks enough and as we pulled them apart, it fell off.  Disappointing, so make sure that they are firmly into the breadstick. 

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, January 28, 2011

Weeknight Dinner: Rachael's Tofu StirFry (Guest Post)

This week, one of my best friends, Rachael and I were on GChat talking about our dinners.  This actually happens quite a lot.  Rachael is a vegetarian and is extremely  health conscious; she's also the owner of the beautiful blog Eletrikfish.  She is the most talented photographer that I know.  Also, I usually talk about her as R on the blog but since I'm posting HER blog and it says her name, I figure her name is now open to the world.

Anyway, her dinner sounded so good that I asked her if I could post it, and if she would take a picture for me.  This is definitely going to be one of the best pictures that I have on this blog!  I wanted to incorporate a little of Rachael's "essence" since she is a firecracker.  So, an excerpt from her e-mail:  this is one of her first sentences to me (after "yo"), "can't give you measurements because it is stir-fry. (but you're a kitchen genius so i'm sure you'll know what's appropriate)"  She is so confident in my kitchen abilities!! 

Last thing about Rachael; her and I have been through many, many, many good and bad days, nights, weeks, months, etc.  Since I first had the pleasure of meeting her, literally my first day of college, she has been one of those people you can always rely on.  They are hard to come least that's what I've found.  So, I'm very grateful not only for her friendship but for her!  She's wonderful, I couldn't say enough good things about her, so I'm just going to move onto her food.
Rachael's Tofu StirFry
Serves:  4
2 cups brown rice
2 cups firm tofu
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs (italian herb)
1 cup steamed snap peas
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 cup chick peas
1/4 cup sesame seeds (optional)

First, start the rice according to package directions.  Then, remove the tofu out of the container.  Get the water out of the tofu and let is sit out for about 5 minutes, then cube the tofu and pour panko breadcrumbs over it.  Fry the tofu in a tablespoon of olive oil.  When the rice is getting "close to finished" steam the peas.  I'll let Rachael take it from here:
"After tofu breading is golden toasty i toss the rice into the pan, add the peas, and splash the mix with soy sauce, lemon juice, and a little bit of garlic powder + pepper. push it all around in the pan a bit 'til everything is mixed" Dump everything in the pan onto my plates. add the chick peas and sesame seeds (i do use a lot of those) then EAT. wait, no, pour a glass of wine and THEN i eat! (:"

I just love Rachael.  She uses a lot of sesame seeds, and, another suggestion, is to store these separately, so only use what you need.  That way, they keep fresh longer, and Rachael gets to reuse them through the week in other dishes.  Cooking for one is really hard; I know.  But this is such a quick and easy meal, and tasty!  Perfect for a vegetarian or John and I who are trying (not very hard apparently) to watch what we eat!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Slow Cooking Supper: "Down East" New England Clam Chowder

This New England Clam Chowder is so easy--mainly because I live in Boston, where a lot of fish stores will allow you to buy pre-cooked clams already in their broth.  To me, this takes out all that annoying shucking and cleaning of clams and broth.  To be honest, sometimes, I will just buy the clams already shucked and use chicken stock.  It seriously doesn't taste all that different, it's way cheaper, and it's also quick!

I'm currently in a little competition right now called the New England Soup Challenge, and I wanted to show a unique side to New England Clam Chowder.  The first time I ever made this for John, he laughed because he thought I had forgotten tomatoes!  I had no idea tomatoes were in New England Clam Chowder!  The two of us started googling, determined that the other person was wrong (we do this a lot).  In the end, it turned out we were both right.  In Southern Maine, they do often serve their clam chowders with chopped tomatoes. 

Adding the tomatoes and corn (one of my favorites), enhances the flavors of the clam.  Plus it's something different.  I made our soup in the crockpot, but once you get the soup going, it's really easy to throw together.  I know it uses a lot of half-and-half.  I use fat free, but I've also used skim milk, and although it's not creamy, it's definitely pretty good for you!!
"Down East" New England Clam Chowder
Serves:  5
6 slices bacon, diced
1 onion, diced
6 medium-sized red potatoes, chopped with the skin on
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup lobster meat, pre-cooked
3 cups fat free half-and-half
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup lobster meat, pre-cooked and chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 quart clams, shucked and cooked, with their broth
6 tablespoons salted butter
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Cook bacon in a large skillet, over medium heat until crispy.  Add onions and cook, stirring constantly, until onions are translucent.  Transfer the bacon, onions, and drippings into a large saucepan.  Scrub potato skins and dice potatoes keeping the skins on.  Add potatoes to the pan and stir well.  Add clam broth and enough water to cover the potatoes.  Simmer until potatoes are tender (about 15 minutes).  Add corn, half-and-half and evaporated milk; bring to a simmer.  Add lobster meat, clams, butter, and tomatoes.  Simmer for about 10 minutes, but be careful not to boil.  Season with salt and pepper and serve.

I promised something easier, and I think it delivered :) serve this with some homemade rolls and you've got yourself a delicious meal.  Now, I can't go into everything going on right now, but I am hard at work on a week of Valentine's Day dishes, and getting my blog newly designed with the help of my sister, the computer whiz, and John (also a computer whiz).

Lastly, one of my best friends, R, is going to be the guest blogger on Friday.  Well, I will use her recipe and try and incorporate as much of "her" essence as I can. 

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, January 24, 2011

Brilliant Brunch: Banana Cinnamon Rolls

I am a huge breakfast lover.  In fact, no matter what time I wake up, I crave breakfast food.  I could even eat breakfast for dinner (which was always one of my favorite mom meals).  But, these cinnamon rolls really take the cake for me.  It's coming up to Pillsbury Bake-Off entry time.  And that means there will soon be lots of experimenting with refrigerated dough.  To get us started on the right foot, I twisted the usual cinnamon roll recipe to include bananas, and then put a cream cheese-caramel sauce over the top.  It was a breakfast-edition of banana fosters cinnamon rolls.

They were really enjoyable, but, I must say, I thought the dough was too light on the sugar.  The next time I made these, I upped the sugar, and it seemed to work out a lot better.  Also, keep an eye on them in your oven.  They go from good to DONE in just minutes, it felt like.  A softer cinnamon roll might have made the dough taste better!
Banana Cinnamon Rolls
Serves:  16 cinnamon rolls (8 people)
4 1/2 cups bread flour
1 Tbsp instant yeast
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (about 3)
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnmon
4 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons  light brown sugar
5 tablespoons butter
4  ounces  cream cheese, softened
1/2  teaspoon  vanilla extract
3/4  cups  powdered sugar

Mix the flour, yeast, cinnamon, and sugar in a food processor. Lightly beat the eggs and whisk in the banana and butter (I used my new immersion blender for that part!!).  On low speed, gradually add the banana mixture to the dry ingredients. Continue mixing on medium-low until the dough is fully combined and elastic, about 8-10 minutes. The dough should be soft, but not too sticky.

Then, remove the dough, clean and oil the food processor.  Place the dough back in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until it has doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon well.  Set aside. 

Also, while dough rises, make the caramel cream cheese frosting.  Melt brown sugar and half of the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Then, remove the mixture from the heat and transfer the whole mixture to a large bowl. Cool at room temperature, stirring occasionally.  Place remaining butter and cream cheese in a large bowl. Beat together until smooth. Beat in vanilla. Slowly pour in cooled brown sugar mixture, beating constantly. Add powdered sugar gradually, beating well after each addition until completely smooth. Let chill.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  When the dough has risen, roll it out to a 12x18" rectangle.  Brush the rectangle with butter, leaving a 1/2 inch border.  Then, sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture over the dough, pressing in with your fingers.  Make sure you press in hard, otherwise, the filling will slowly fall out.  Roll the dough up starting with the long edge, that should be facing you.  Then, cut the log into 12 even pieces.  Place them into a 9x13 baking sheet (they will expand together as shown above).  Bake in the preheated oven about 20 minutes, until the buns are light brown.  Remove and drizzle with caramel sauce.  Serve warm.

To be honest, although I loved the sauce, a regular, store-bought caramel sauce would have worked just as well, especially one of those caramel "dips".  That would shave a lot of time off this recipe, and a few extra steps.

I know this was a pretty intricate recipe; I promise Wednesday a bit of an easier dish.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Saturday, January 22, 2011

Time-Out: Garlic Knots

This week there's been a plethora of bread-baking going on.  I'm slowly starting to work on doughs now that I have my mom's big food processor at the house.  It makes things a lot easier...and there's nothing easier than this "bread" recipe.  It is seriously so easy that even if you have never worked with yeast before, and it scares you, you can do this one! 

First, many breads need to rise.  So, when John was an hour outside of Boston, there was snow coming down, and I had a great chowder in the crockpot, I really wanted to make something quick and delicious.  This bread rose twice, about an hour and a half in all.  So, even though there aren't a lot of steps, it certainly isn't something I'd be making on a weeknight when we're rushing around after work.  On a positive note, 3 days later, knots heated for 10-15 seconds in the microwave come out tasting like they were freshly baked.  So, I would have no qualms about making these on Sunday for a meal coming up on Tuesday or Wednesday.

I made the dough and split it into two types of rolls; the first was a traditional roll and the second, garlic knots.  Now, most Massachusetts people have just never heard of garlic knots.  In New York, we get them with pizza.  Yes, bread with pizza.  But, it works.  They're buttery, garlicky, and delicious.  I wanted to make mine a bit better for you so I just used some PAM and garlic salt.  They still tasted awesome.
Garlic Knots
Serves:  12 (12 knots)
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon garlic salt
3/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature, soft)
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon of oil or cooking spray
2 tablespoons garlic salt

Microwave the milk for 10 seconds, until the milk is slightly warm to the touch.  Stir together the yeast, sugar, salt, garlic salt, and milk until the yeast dissolves.  Mix in the butter and let stand for about 5 minutes. Mix in the flour until the dough begins to leave the sides of the bowl (about 10 minutes).  Punch the dough down, flipping it over once.  Then, place it in a greased bowl, turning once to bring the greased side of the dough up.  Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm spot until dough doubles in volume (about 45 minutes). Separate dough into 12 even balls. Shape rolls by rolling them into a U-shape and then tying them in knots.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Place on a greased cookie sheet and let rise an additional 30 minutes, until knots have doubled in volume.  Brush with oil or cooking spray and sprinkle with garlic salt.  Bake for 15 minutes, until knots are lightly brown. 

Next week look for the newest side panel showcasing some of my old favorite "Super Bowl Ready Recipes"!  No matter who you are rooting for, the fans will love these, plus I have some new ones, just in time for the big game (well, a few weeks in time, but I give you time to shop!). 

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Date Night Dinner: Champagne Shrimp Pasta

John and I don't drink champagne that often (does anyone?).  But, when his mom gave us champagne, I kept trying to find ways to use it up.  We both can have about a glass at a time, but really that's about it.  Unless it's prosecco, I'm pretty limited by just drinking it. 

So, when I saw Snappy Gourmet and her Champagne Chicken, I thought to myself, champagne is a great substitution for any kind of dish that uses white wine.  So, I set about making a shrimp scampi-type dinner for John and I with the remainder of champagne. 

It turned out really well, and I loved that the shrimp soaked up the champagne taste.  It was a great date-night dinner that could easily be adapted for Valentine's Day!  It's just around the corner, really, and I've been preparing a bunch of recipes for you and that special someone.  Or, heck, I've had many years without a special someone but that doesn't mean you can't celebrate!  Valentine's Day is about celebrating love--whether with someone special, the love for your family, and, just as importantly, the love for yourself. 
Champagne Shrimp Pasta
Serves:  6
1 box of thin spaghetti
2 cups frozen peas
4 ounces salted butter
1 cup champagne
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon parsley
2 teaspoons pepper
2 pounds of shrimp
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, for garnish

Cook spaghetti according to package directions.  Place the peas in a colander and let them defrost.  Meanwhile, melt 4 ounces of butter in a large skillet.  Add half of the champagne, lemon juice,  garlic powder, parsley, and pepper.  Let simmer for about 5-10 minutes.  Then, add shrimp, cooking for about 10 minutes, shrimp should be pink.  Add frozen peas, the remainder of the champagne, and the pasta.  Toss the shrimp and sauce with the peas and pasta until well combined.  Plate the dish and sprinkle parmesan cheese over before serving.
Monday, January 17, 2011

Time-Out: Homemade Pretzels

When I was in elementary school, one of my favorite after-school "treats" were baked pretzels.  These "treats" were savored because we rarely got them!  While most of the time we had the frozen pretzels that were baked in the oven, sometimes Mom would bake them with us. 

I really think these are perfect for kids.  First of all, I always thought dough was like magic; you put it in a bowl and then an hour later you come back and its grown!  Magic!  Second, allowing the kids to roll out their own pretzels and then wash them with egg yolk is fun.  Plus, if you ration out the salt then you know they aren't pouring the salt over them! 

This was my first time making them myself, but I was pretty happy with how they turned out.  I used Alton Brown's recipe but since I didn't have a stand mixer I had to invent some ways to make them! I thought the boiling before baking (which mom never did) was genius.  It really gave them a traditional pretzel feel.  YUM!  I wanted to make a bunch of different kinds for you all but John was intent on pure salt!  Figures...but, they came out so good.  I had to share.
Homemade Pretzels
Serves:  6 (12 pretzels)
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
4 1/2 cups flour
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
5 cups water
1/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk, beaten
2 tablespoons pretzel salt

Combine the water, sugar, and kosher salt in a large bowl.  Sprinkle the yeast on top and let it sit for about 7 minutes, or until it begins to foam.  Add the flour and melted butter; using an electric mixer, mix the dough on low until it is well-combined (should be crumbs of dough).  With your hands, knead the dough together for 5-7 minutes until the dough comes together and is smooth.  Wash the bowl and using vegetable oil, cover the inside of the bowl.  Place the dough in the bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap.  Let the bowl sit in a warm place for about 55 minutes*, until the dough has doubled in size.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Brush two cookie sheets with vegetable oil and set aside.  Split the pretzel dough into 12 equal pieces.  Using clean hands, roll out the dough into 18-inch ropes.  Make a U-shape, cross the ends, and press the dough together where they meet.  This is important--make sure you press the dough so when it goes into boiling water, it does not fall apart.  After all the pretzels have been made, boil 5 quarts of water and 1/3 cup of baking soda.  Drop the pretzels in one at a time for 30 seconds each, removing each with a spatula.  Place each one, one-inch apart, on the greased cookie sheets.  Brush with egg yolk and top with pretzel salt.  Bake the pretzels until they are golden brown in color, about 13 minutes. 

To store, let the pretzels cool completely and place in a tupperware. 

*It's winter and my house is cold.  I pre-heated the oven to 400 degrees F and then when the dough was ready, turned the oven off.  I opened the oven door and sat the bowl on the door (on an oven mitt).  It worked and it was warm enough to rise the dough.

These seriously have a ton of instruction, but really were a breeze.  Plus, with kids (or John) helping you, they were fast and really fun!  We ate them right out of the oven, and I really think they were the best way to eat them.  I heated the remaining ones when we ate them over the next few days.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, January 14, 2011

Dorm Room Dinner: Annie Chun's Pad Thai

It has been a crazy snow-filled winter here in Boston lately!  Yesterday was pure white-out, snow day, bringing me back to being like 8 years old and waking up to find we had no school!  When you're stuck in the house with nothing to eat, this is a great recipe to turn to.

Basically, if you know how to boil water and cook eggs, you can make this recipe.  That's not the only reason I love it though.  I loved it because it really enables you to throw WHATEVER you have on hand into the dish.  It was late one night and neither John nor I were extremely hungry, but, we needed to eat.  I was begging to go out for sushi and he was reminding me about the leftovers we had from my many contest cooking forays last week.  In the end, we compromised, like a good couple!  We made pad thai out of leftover chicken breasts, remaking leftovers but I felt like we were eating something new! 

As I mentioned, Annie Chun's sent us a huge box of food. I have my computer back and so can share the pictures I took the first day the box came (I was so excited)!
It is a lot of food!!!  John said the box weighed about 12 pounds and since he's the one that carried it up the stairs and into our apartment, I will just take his word for it.  I had enough stuff in there to probably make 2 of each dish, if not more.  The pad thai was a hit, and I made it with shrimp for the party.  I tried to do a chicken, shrimp, and steak dish!  The chicken was in a traditional chinese stir-fry which I am sure I will post on here before long. 
Annie Chun's Pad Thai
Serves:  5
1 box of Annie Chun's Pad Thai Noodles
3 eggs
2 chicken breasts, cooked and diced into bite-sized pieces
1 cup Annie Chun's Peanut Sauce
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon cilantro flakes

Following the directions on the Pad Thai Noodle box, cook the noodles in boiling water for approximately 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a large wok, over medium heat, heat two tablespoons of oil and then break eggs into the wok.  Working quickly, stir the eggs constantly until they are scrambled.  Then, turn the heat to medium-low and add the chicken pieces.  Drain the noodles and add to the wok along with peanut sauce, red pepper flakes, and cilantro flakes.  Combine and serve immediately.

This is the best way to reuse leftovers whether it be steak, chicken, shrimp, or fish, or a combination of them!  We are loving the Annie Chun's products and though they were free, we'd probably use them all the time--it's way cheaper than going to a Thai or Korean BBQ restaurant but just as delicious!  Love it!

Until the next time my oven is on...(and I've dug myself out of the snow)!
Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Date Night Dinner: Sweet and Spicy Korean Steak

A few weeks ago, I received notification that I was one of 250 party hosts chosen by Annie Chun's to have a dinner party!  We got enough Annie Chun's food to make 3 different dinners--Chinese, Thai, or Korean.  Korea's recipe idea was Sweet and Spicy Korean Steak.  John saw steak and that was the end of that.  Actually, I made all 3 for my dinner party and let people sample and taste at will.  I think that was a really enjoyable way of introducing my family to Asian influences, flavors, and cuisines.  Truthfully, growing up food choices were limited compared to today.  I never remember seeing sushi or Thai restaurants so we never had those things.  When I got to college, I made up for it by eating, well, everything.  Seriously, if you see pictures of me from then, you will know I really did!

Thai is by far my favorite asian cuisine, but this steak is delicious.  Seriously out of this world.  The recipe Annie Chun's provided recommended that you marinate the steaks at least 30 minutes, or overnight.  I did both, I made a "first round" test for John and I and then kept the other steaks marinated until the next night.  M's boyfriend, also, coincidentally named, M, is an extremely picky eater but ate a good amount of this steak.  Everyone was pretty impressed with that, including me!

The Annie Chun's sauces made it really easy to make this dish, but I have a few suggestions if you don't want to go running out and spending a lot of money.  Really, who likes spending money?  The good thing about the sauces, though, there was enough for about 6 pounds of the sauce really goes a long way if you use 1/4 or 1/2 and then save the rest in the fridge for a few weeks!
Sweet and Spicy Korean Steak
Serves:  6
2 pounds steak (it suggests flank steak I used the steak that was $2.99 / lb versus $7.99 / lb flank steak)
2 cups Annie Chun's Korean Barbeque Sauce*
1/2 cup Annie Chun's Gochujang Sauce
12 pearl onions, cut into quarters
2 cups cooked rice (I used Annie Chun's Sticky White Rice Rice Express)

Combine the sauces and marinate the steaks in the sauce for at least 30 minutes, or overnight.  Then, cook the steaks on a grill or griddle on the stovetop until done to your liking.  We made it medium, with it just pink throughout.  Let the steak rest for 5 minutes.  In a large saucepan, sautee the pearl onions until they are translucent and tender (about 5 minutes).  Then, slice the steak and serve with onions and rice. 

*Substitute 1 1/2 cups soy sauce; 1/4 cup light corn syrup; 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced; 2 tablespoons pear puree (pear baby food works great!); 1 tablespoon each of onion and garlic powder; 1/4 cup of rice wine; and 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds.  Mix well in a large bowl.  Cover and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, to let the flavors gel before serving.

I did this substitution just to see how it would come out. I think it tasted pretty much like the real deal, but if you don't want to be bothered with all those extra ingredients, well then the Annie's sauce is quick, convenient, and really does go a long way!

Again, I got all of these Annie Chun's products for free but the substitutions and ideas are, as always, wholely my own!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, January 10, 2011

Dorm Room Dinner: Creamy Chicken Pizza

I'm excited to bring you this week recipes...they all have one thing in common, that through various contests, I received the products for free.  In fact, I've really enjoyed experimenting with them!  Being tight on money means that I try not to buy 'luxurious' products at the grocery store!  Plus, two of them use leftovers and definitely count as dorm room dinners!  YAY!

Let's get started.  As many of you know, I've been a part of the Real Women of Philadelphia Cream Cheese contest since the beginning and even though I haven't been a winner yet, there's no reason to stop trying.  In fact, a few weeks ago I got a great new product that is about to hit the market called Philadelphia Cooking Cremes.  Last week I was tasked with using the Italian Cheese and Herb flavor.  Seemed to me that it called for a pizza!

I wanted it to be a slight version of white pizza since the sauce would be cream based, but really it's so easy using store-bought dough.  The point of this competition is really to get your recipe on the back of the containers, so for me, something simple, easy, and delicious was the points I tried to focus on.  The recipes already on the back almost all include chicken and pasta.  I tried to stay within the themes.
Creamy Chicken Pizza
Serves: 4
1 refrigerated pizza dough (as you know, we always buy ours from Trader Joe's)
1-10 ounce tub of Philadelphia Cooking Creme - Italian Cheese and Herb
1-14 ounce can of diced tomatoes (or 3 tomatoes, diced fine)
2 cups shredded mozzarella 
1 cup shredded pre-cooked chicken (I used a leftover chicken breast--rotisserie chicken would work well too)
sprinkle of oregano or italian seasoning

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Roll out the pizza dough onto a 10x15 inch greased cookie sheet until the dough is fully spread out.  In a small bowl, mix Philadelphia Cooking Creme and diced tomatoes.  Spread the Philadelphia Cooking Creme mixture over the dough.  Top evenly with cheese, then add the chicken.  Finally, sprinkle with oregano or italian seasoning.  Then cook in the pre-heated oven for 10-14 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.  Serve hot.

After today, John and I take a quick culinary trip through Asia with the rest of my week's posts, and help from Annie Chun's products.  I can't wait to share those with you.  Also, my 100th blog post is coming soon and something big is in the works!  Keep checking in :)

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, January 7, 2011

Weeknight Dinner: Stuffed Pork Chops

My mom LOVES pork chops.  In fact, when I was home for Thanksgiving I went food shopping with my mom and dad.  They have such a cute routine where they go every week together after looking through the ads.  My mom is the queen of budget shopping!  But, now that no one is home with them, it's funny that sometimes they still buy huge amounts of meat.  They bought that "family pack" of pork chops which has like 12 pork chops whatever kinds (with bone, without bone, etc) they throw in it.  I thought it was pretty funny.

But then, John and I got snowed in at home...and I needed to enter a cooking video for a contest.  I opened the fridge, poked around, took out those frozen pork chops from my shopping trip with my parents, and made up this recipe.  I had a blast filming with everyone watching, and I think they enjoyed it, too.  At first, M, complained, "do we have to have a recipe contest recipe?" as if they were too bizarre or creative for her to think about eating, but in the end, everyone loved them and I'm so happy to share them with you!
Stuffed Pork Chops
Serves:  6
6 pork chops, we used cutlets no bones
1 tablespoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 apples, peeled and diced
1/2 cup cranberries, diced
3/4 cup blue cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cut pockets in the pork chops, slicing about halfway through the chop.  Combine garlic powder, sea salt, pepper, and paprika.  Season both sides of the pork chops with the paprika mixture.  Mix together the apple, cranberries, and blue cheese.  Mix well.  Stuff the pork chop pockets full.  Place on a glass baking sheet and cook in the oven for 30 - 40 minutes, until fully cooked through. 

This is a great stuffing that I'd love in seasoned chicken, etc.  Also, the cooking contest was for Lawhorn's Signature Seasoning.  If you live in the south you have probably seen it at your local grocery store.  I ordered mine on-line but liked the flavors a lot, and that I would substitute for the spice blend I showed above. 

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Dorm Room Dinner: Easy Pesto Meatball Subs

One of my blog resolutions this year is to boost up my Dorm Room Dinner category.  I feel like I constantly cook with leftovers but forget to write them down or photograph them.  I'm going to try and change that, starting today!

When I came in fourth place in the Cooked Perfect Meatball Madness competition, I received a year's supply of free meatballs.  I like that they're frozen and so easy to use.  I gave a lot of the coupons to my sisters, who, as you know, are trying to navigate their dorms and/or food for the first time.  With it, I also suggested using these meatballs to make this easy pesto sub.

John and I made these to celebrate New Year's Eve along with a variety of appetizers, most of which have already been written about on the blog!  It was a nice way to celebrate the end of the year.  These are so easy that with frozen meatballs you only need 5 ingredients.  We had leftover meatballs from spaghetti and meatballs earlier in the week so I used those.  Either way, they are delicious.
Easy Pesto Meatball Subs
Serves:  4
1 pound ground turkey
1/4 cup prepared pesto
1 egg
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 cup red sauce
1 cup mozzerella cheese
4 sub rolls

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Combine the ground turkey, pesto, egg, and breadcrumbs.  With your hands, make 12 large meatballs.  Set in a shallow baking dish and bake for 35 minutes, until fully cooked.  Keep the oven on.  Meanwhile, spoon half of the red sauce evenly in the middle of the sub rolls.  Top with meatballs and cover with the remaining red sauce.  Sprinkle cheese over the meatballs and bake in the oven for about 5 minutes, until cheese has melted.  Serve immediately.

Note:  If you use frozen meatballs, use 12-15 depending on size and that will replace the first 4 ingredients. Heat the meatballs in a skillet with 1/2 cup of prepared pesto (maybe more depending on size).  This will give you the same flavors as my homemade meatballs.

Until the next time my oven is on...

Monday, January 3, 2011

Fancy Pants App: Nacho Sliders

I saw a similar recipe for Nacho Sliders in Rachael Ray's magazine and they had sooo many ingredients that I almost just passed it on by.  But, it sounded so good so I took it out.  The more I read it over, the more I was convinced I could make them less stressful.  Who wants stress anyways?  Also, this is the perfect tailgate appetizer.  They require a fork, but I thought it was a nice twist on traditional nachos, or sliders. 

In two of the cook-offs I was in last year, sliders beat me, so it's fairly obvious that they are still a huge draw to most of us (and that I should start making more sliders!).  These are such a cute alternative.  I love the mexican flair and you don't need 100 spices to do that.  If you saw this in the magazine and passed it on by, I encourage you to try my "alternative" Nacho Sliders.  I'm hoping to do a few more "tailgate inspired" appetizers over the next few playoff weeks for a little collection leading up to the Superbowl, despite the fact that my team shot themselves in the foot and aren't in it.
Nacho Sliders
Serves:  8 sliders (4 people)
1 pound ground turkey
1 packet taco seasoning
1 teaspoon cilantro flakes
1 tablespoon garlic powder
~16 tortilla chips
1/4 cup refried beans
1 cup cheese
1/2 cup salsa

Combine ground turkey, taco seasoning, cilantro flakes, and garlic powder.  Mix well.  Then, shape 8 small patties with your hands.  Grill the patties (I put them on a George Forman) or cook them on the stove until they are fully cooked through.  Then, using the refried beans as "glue", place some on the burger, layer one tortilla chip, place some refried beans on top of that tortilla chip, and lay a second tortilla chip on top.  Repeat until all 8 patties are covered.  Place the burgers on a non-greased cookie sheet and top with cheese.  Broil for about 3 minutes.  Watch these carefully, as you notice on the picture above, the chips burn FAST!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year 2011!

Happy New Year everyone!!  I'm so excited for this year, I really think it's going to be a great year for all of us.  I love spending New Year's Day looking ahead at the year before me while remembering the year that had just closed.  I have a lot of things that I want to change with the blog this year.  The first, is that sometime in the next few weeks, I hope to be blogging at  No more blogspot!  I will let you know when that occurs.  Also, over the next few weeks, you'll be seeing a lot of format changes.  I've been reading a lot of blogs lately and I have a few formats that I really like.  I'm excited for these changes and I can't wait to show you them all!

Of course, I'll keep my recipe and category indexes.  I'm trying to update them today so they should have all of 2010 in them!  It's a big job...but I'm going. 

Now that I have a clear plan for 2011, what about 2010?  Well, John and I have compiled my five favorite recipes from the blog so far (I know that only makes it about once a month, but work with me here)!  We picked them by reading the list of topics, and it worked out with a really good cross section!  I'm hoping that we can do this each year for a sort of "most memorable".  I'm not choosing the "best" recipes but the ones that mean something to us.  They're unique, different, and some of them (like pomegranate or cranberry) represent some really cool opportunities that were afforded to us this year.  I hope we are lucky enough to get more great opportunities this year!

So without further ado, our favorite 2010 recipes!

Pomegranate, Pear, and Gouda Pizza
November 16, 2010

Touchdown Sausages with Chunky Cranberry-Beer Topping
October 4, 2010

Microwaved Red Potatoes
September 29, 2010

Cheesy Pasta Salad
September 17, 2010

Apple-Plum Crumble
December 8, 2010

Really wish I had a better picture of the crumble.  Oh, well, we ate it way too fast to have any left.

Can't wait for this week of recipes--I'm really excited about them!  Should be a perfect start to 2011.

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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