Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Weeknight Dinner: Greek Pasta Salad

Pasta salads were always "just" a side dish for me.  For many years, macaroni salad, potato salad, and cole slaw were traditional side salads all through the summer.  My mom made the best of them all (to my biased palate).  And it always marked the beginning of summer when the macaroni salad would appear next to the hamburger, hot dog, or steak. 

When I am without John, I often will make a pasta salad on Monday and eat it for a few days, mixing it up between lunch and dinner. It's fast, easy, and most importantly, cold!  The last thing I want to be eating is hot food after a hot subway ride.  The second to last thing I want to be doing is cooking, so this satisfies both.  I also will throw in an assortment of vegetables (literally whatever happens to be lying around the house).However, when I saw this Greek Pasta Salad at Let's Dish, I knew it could satisfy as a meal for both John and I. 

The addition of pepperoni is always met happily by my boyfriend, and the addition of lots of vegetables meant this pasta salad could be the star of the show!  We headed off to the farmer's market to get the much needed elements.  Once home, I realized that I had no more red wine vinegar.  This rarely happens to me, so I did the next best thing.  I added red wine and white vinegar.  I made it since with the right vinegar and I like the red wine a lot better than it's vinegary counterpart.  So, I have adapted the recipe!  Don't be alarmed but the red wine will probably stain the pasta. 
Greek Pasta Salad (adapted from here)
Serves:  4-6
1 box pasta (rotini)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red wine
1/3 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh basil
1 tablespoon fresh oregano
1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in quarters
1 cup red bell pepper, diced
1 white onion, diced
4 ounces black olives, sliced
1/2 cup pepperoni, sliced in halves

Make the pasta according to package instructions.  Meanwhile, combine olive oil, red wine, and white vinegar.  Whisk until it does not separate.  Then, whisk in pepper and herbs (use dried if you prefer).  When the pasta is cooked, toss it with cold water.  Then, toss with oil-vinegar mixture.  Add tomatoes, pepper, onion, olives, and pepperoni.  Cover and let chill at least 2-3 hours.  Serve cold or at room temperature.

While the ingredient list is long, most of the vegetables can be substituted for what you have on hand.  I have now made this a few times throwing in mushrooms, zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, etc.  I've even thrown in spinach and every time the dish tastes great and is devoured.

We added a chicken breast on top and cut back on the pepperoni (I only put in 2 slices on top of each of our plates).  However, for the sake of the recipe, I kept the pepperoni the same and left out the chicken (which was just grilled and then sliced).

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, August 29, 2011

Date Night Dinner: Summer Veggie and Gouda Stromboli

Growing Foodie Note:  I was chosen as one of the "Top 10" in the Draft Magazine Cooking Contest.  If you have a chance to please take a second and vote it would be very much appreciated (it is once a day) until September 9th:  Vote Now!

This past week it hardly feels like summer!?!  Earthquakes (my first ever), Hurricanes, and having to move...ugh.  But you can stay in the summer-y mood with this delicious dish packed with summer veggies and flavor!  To be honest, I almost didn’t make this dinner last week.  I wanted to.  I really, really wanted to.  But, by the time I got looking into the pizza dough and then the filling, I almost opted to use the vegetables we got from the market in another way. 

John eventually convinced me that it would be fun; and, as luck (or not) would have it, John’s car broke down on our way to the event we had planned.  By the time AAA got there and we were back on the road, it was raining, and we returned home more than a little annoyed.  The good news was that there were an additional 4 hours of the day I hadn’t planned on!  We spent the time doing laundry, packing up for the move, and making this Stromboli.

Also, the original recipe doesn’t use measurements, just one of this and one of that.  THAT was a very bad idea as we got the most tremendous zucchini in the world and I definitely overfilled the dough by using “one” zucchini (as evidenced below by the numerous breakages).  We saved it; by that, I mean John saved it while I threw a fit saying, 'lets just go out to dinner'!  In the end, it was worth it.  It was also huge, making dinner for two hungry adults, and four lunches!  My kind of Sunday meal!
Summer Veggie and Gouda Stromboli (adapted from here)
Serves: 6
1 pizza dough (I used this recipe)
1 cup zucchini, diced
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 white onion, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 roasted red pepper, sliced
1 cup spinach leaves
4 ounces sliced black olives
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon italian seasoning
1 cup gouda cheese, grated
1 egg
1 tablespoon water

In a colander, sprinkle zucchini with salt.  Let sit for about 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  When the olive oil is warmed, add onion and pepper and cook until soft.  Then add garlic and zucchini.  Cook until zucchini is softened but not mushy (about 8-12 minutes).  Remove the pan from the heat and transfer to a large bowl.  Mix in red pepper, spinach, and olives.  Season with pepper and italian seasoning.  

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a 10x15 cookie sheet with parchment paper and place the dough onto the paper.  Roll out into a rectangle.  Evenly spread the vegetable mixture over the top, leaving a half-inch from the border.  Spread gouda cheese over the top of the vegetables.  Then, lightly fold the sides of the dough in and start rolling the dough up starting with the side closest to you.  The seam should be on the bottom.  Combine egg and water in a small bowl.  Brush the egg wash over the top.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until top is browned.  Serve immediately.

Don't turn away from the recipe because of the long ingredient list.  You can substitute all of these veggies for anything you have on hand!  We will definitely be remaking this in the fall with a different variety of vegetables!  And, you can serve it with marinara sauce on the side, but truthfully we didn't need it!
I used the King Arthur dough recipe found here; I am so partial to my mom’s quick pizza dough recipe, but here I really wanted to make sure I used dough that would stand up to the rolling and filling.  I loved the King Arthur recipe because the top really gave a nice crust with the egg wash!  Wow!  It was delicious.  Another great alternative is buying dough from the local pizzeria.  Their dough is much more likely to stand up to this filling and give you a great crust without the hours-long prep time!

Also, it's perfect for the autumn weather where you're happy to turn on your oven, but can still get your hands on some late-summer produce!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, August 26, 2011

Time-Out: Jalapeno Watermelon Margaritas

Let's just deconstruct this cocktail (in case you were wondering what prompted this drink):  Jalapenos (John's favorite), Watermelon (Summer favorite), and Margaritas (Dani's favorite).  Overall, this is pretty much the perfect cocktail for any night John and I are together!  I hope you enjoy this happy hour cocktail outside, soaking in the last few rays of the summer!! 

When I first saw the recipe at DomesticFits, I knew that we would making this as soon as we caved into getting more jalapenos.  Unfortunately (or fortunately for John), it was sooner than I would have liked, but when I surprised him with these on a Friday afternoon, he was definitely game for a few.  He informed me that to "increase the heat" I should add the seeds to his!  I did; it was too hot for me but he was loving it.

To be honest, the watermelon slushie is so good that you can serve that to your kids without the alcohol and I bet they will gulp them down!  I couldn't stop drinking them (leading to weaker and weaker margaritas to keep myself awake).  We also froze the watermelon for 2 hours before I made this.  That made it really easy to make frozen margaritas, and that is what I would suggest if you want to do that.  Watermelon has a high water content so they freeze easy and allows you to elminate the ice (therefore not watering down your drink).
Jalapeno Watermelon Margaritas (adapted from here)
3 cups watermelon cubes (optional:  freeze overnight, or at least 2 hours before using)
3 ounces tequila (to taste)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 jalapeno, top removed and diced (remove seeds if preferred)
1 cup ice (omit if watermelon is frozen beforehand)

In a blender, combine watermelon, tequila, sugar, lime juice, diced jalapeno, and ice (if needed).  Serve in margarita glasses with a slice of jalapeno.

It's so easy to make for your next barbeque party (to sit right next to that jalapeno lemonade), that you could hardly resist!  Again, omit the alcohol for the kids (and maybe the jalapeno seeds), and it's a great snack that feels like a huge treat.

Quick Growing Foodie Note:  This past week, John and I spent our time remaking some of our favorite summer recipes.  Some of them have been posted on the blog lately, and when appropriate, I've updated those links.  We used the other half of the homemade pasta (and my FIRST foodgawker post) to make the Parisian Summer Pasta that I featured back in June.  I added some ingredients and did a lot better shaping the pasta! I also enjoyed re-taking their pictures.  Check out the recipes if you haven't before.  They are delicious and perfect for late summer / early autumn.  No oven dinners are perfect lately here.
Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Brilliant Brunch: Double Berry Crumble

Crumbles were made a lot in my family, particularly in the summer and fall months with as many fresh fruits as Mom could fit in the pan!  It’s no different now that we have two kitchens cooking simultaneously (of course with one in Boston and one in New York).  Just last week, John and I picked up a huge box of strawberries at Haymarket for $1.50.  The downside was, as John put it, we needed to eat them all by the end of the weekend.

Having a lot of ripe berries just calls out for a crumble like this.  Mom made one last weekend and all I kept hearing about was how younger sister, M, had been eating it with yogurt for a semi-healthy breakfast.  M, as I’ve mentioned, is a picky eater, but that doesn’t stop Dad from teasing her about having dessert for breakfast!  Believe me, it’s better that she eats this then suffers through eating half of a muffin, which is her usual routine.

Anyway, crumbles are so easy and you can mix and match with whatever fruit you have on hand.  Also, since my fruit was pretty ripe and sweet, I didn’t add sugar to the berries.  You always could add a tablespoon or two.  The less sugar you put in, the more likely you would want your family to gobble this up for breakfast!  Fast, easy, delicious, full of fruit, and when paired with yogurt, a great sweet brunch item!  When paired with vanilla or chocolate ice cream (like I like it) it becomes the perfect summer dessert!
Double Berry Crumble
Serves:  4
1/2 cup blueberries
1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup flour
1 cup oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
6 tablespoons butter

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Grease a 9x6 glass baking dish.  Combine blueberries, strawberries, and lemon juice.  Add sugar if necessary (about 1 tablespoon).  Pour into greased dish.  In a small bowl, combine flour, oats, baking powder, and brown sugar until mixed well.  Cut the butter into tablespoons and using two forks (or a pastry blender), cut the butter into the flour mixture until the butter is tiny peas.  For this, I like to use my hands (forget the gadgets!).  Spoon the crumble mixture over the top of the berries.  Bake in the oven for 25 - 35 minutes until the topping is golden brown and the berries are bubbling up on the sides.  Serve with vanilla yogurt.

This is a great brunch and stays well if you want to make it the day before serving!  Or, serve it with whipped cream or ice cream for a dessert-brunch or dessert!  Deliciousness anytime!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, August 22, 2011

Dorm Room Dinner: BLT Panini

John and I have been hitting up the Brookline Farmer's Market for the past few weeks.  It used to be really hard for me to get there when I got out of work (it closes at dusk) which means the beginning and end of summer it is too late by the time I get home.  But two weeks ago, I got out of work really early and thought it would be a great outing for us.  Not only is there a great variety of organic produce (much more variety, albeit more expensive than Haymarket) but they have an ice cream truck, cheese and meat vendors, and Clear Flour Bakery who brings probably a dozen different types of bread to choose from.

The bread is to die for and anyone who knows me in real life knows my affection for bread (almost as much affection as ice cream).  The first week we had it, I started brainstorming reasons that we NEEDED to buy bread on Thursdays.  I mean, after all, we're only living in this area a few more weeks.  Soon, we'll be too far to stop by; we need to get it while we can!  I had some leftover bacon and a beautiful tomato.  We picked up some lettuce and whole wheat bread at the market.

Dinner was delicious.  We only got a 1/2 loaf which was perfect for 2 sandwiches plus the heel which I nibbled the remainder of the night (I told you, I love bread!).  We might have snuck in a rootbeer float while we were perusing the produce; I'll never tell.  I don't even like rootbeer and I fought John for the last sip.  It was that good.  Nothing rivaled the bread though, and after the success of this panini, I started tucking away other easy paninis and sandwiches!  They will be making appearances on the blog over the next month or so.  They are quick, easy, delicious, and when paired with a big salad, a perfect summer or autumn dinner!
BLT Paninis
Serves:  2
10 slices of bacon
1 large tomato
2 large romaine lettuce leaves
4 slices good quality whole wheat bread
3 tablespoons mayonnaise

In a skillet, cook the bacon over medium-high heat (about 10 minutes), until the bacon is very crispy; drain the grease from the skillet.  Meanwhile, slice the tomato into thin slices.   Also break each of the romaine lettuce leaves into two pieces.  Layer the lettuce leaves over the bread, top with a few slices of tomato, and then place 5 slices of bacon on top of each sandwich.  Spread the mayonnaise over the two remaining slices.    If you have a panini maker, place the sandwiches in the preheated panini maker for about 3 minutes, until warmed throughout.  Serve warm.

Or, without a panini maker, keep the bacon skillet (drained).  Heat over medium-low heat.  Place each sandwich into the skillet and place a smaller skillet on top pressing down hard.  Flip and repeat with the smaller skillet.  The bread should be toasty after about 2 minutes on each side.  Serve warm.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, August 19, 2011

Sassy Sweets: Dark Chocolate Jack Ice Cream

Happy Friday!  In honor of the weekend and happy hour, comes this ice cream recipe!!!  My favorite drink, as I have chronicled before, is whiskey and diet coke.  It’s delicious and I am probably the happiest drunk when I drink this.  John would probably beg to differ since it takes about 2 ½ drinks of any liquor (or wine) to get me to “happy drunk Dani” place, but who asked him anyways?!

To end ice cream week, I finally caved and used egg yolks.  Ugh, I’m so sad about it.  But four great non-egg recipes for one recipe of egg yolks AND with the combination of Jack Daniels; well, I put my easy-first attitude aside for a minute.  I am glad I did!  While this is not a kid-friendly dessert by any means, I loved it atop brownies!!  It is also great served in a martini or margarita glass with a few dark chocolate shavings on top and a great presentation for any guests! 

The recipe comes from Emeril so immediately you know its going to be great.  He only put in ¼ cup of Jack Daniels but I added a few extra tablespoons to get an extra oomph and substituted his semisweet chocolate with dark chocolate.  I had no problems with getting the ice cream to freeze, although it becomes a creamy semi-soft ice cream (like the Nutella ice cream this week) rather than a hard ice cream.  I would have drank it right from the pot so, either way is fine by me!
Dark Chocolate Jack Ice Cream (adapted from here)
Serves:  4 (4 cups ice cream)
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
4 ounces dark chocolate chips (or bar broken into chunks)
1/3 cup Jack Daniels

In a medium saucepan over medium heat bring cream and vanilla to a simmer.  Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a medium bowl until pale yellow and thick.  When the cream mixture has reached a full simmer, slowly pour about 1/2 cup of the milk into the egg yolk mixture whisking to combine.  Add an additional 1/2 cup slowly while whisking.  Whisk the egg yolk mixture into the hot cream mixture (back into the saucepan) and turn the heat to low.  Stir the mixture constantly!  with a wooden spoon.  When the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, remove from the heat.  Pour the chocolate chunks/chips into a bowl and pour the cream mixture over it.  Allow to sit undisturbed for a full minute before whisking to blend.  Add the whiskey to the ice cream and stir to blend.  Then, set aside to cool completely.  Place the bowl in the fridge for at least an hour to fully chill (I left it in there overnight).  Then, once the ice cream is chilled, churn the ice cream using your ice cream maker.  Transfer the ice cream into an air-tight container and store in the freezer until ready to serve.

The ice cream churned really nicely into a soft custard.  You could serve it like this but it is much better fully frozen (as hard as it was, we waited overnight).

I hope you all enjoyed ice cream week as much as I have!  While ice cream can be enjoyed anytime, I find it most fun to make during the summer.  No ice cream machine?  No problem!  I hope the instructions without ice cream machines make it easy for everyone to try them (whether in a dorm room, a beach house, or a tiny apartment) this summer. 

Which of these flavors was your favorite?  I’m going to continue a bunch of these flavor profiles into the fall with souffl├ęs, cookies, and beverages!  I can’t wait to share them with you.

Until the next time my oven is on…
Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sassy Sweets: Nutella Ice Cream

Well, it's only Thursday but after making this ice cream, I was just about to end ice cream week with it.  It is the most decadent ice cream, so delicious, so creamy, so over the top good, that I didn't want to make anymore.  Of course, that only lasted until the Nutella Ice Cream was gone, and then I was off and running to the perfect happy hour ice cream with which we will end the week tomorrow!

When I first planned ice cream week, I wanted to include a gelato that would be a nod to other countries and also mix things up a little.  When I found Chocolate-Hazelnut Gelato, I knew I found a winning combo--John absolutely loves Nutella!  Then, I read the instructions; and I kept reading the ingredient list, and the instructions.  There are very few ice cream recipes that I will make with a frozen custard base.  To me, it's unnecessary, and time consuming.  It's also a tricky process, and we all know that I can't really follow recipes too well.  A nice, simple ice cream recipe always seems best.

With that, I decided we didn't need a gelato to complete the week of ice cream.  But, I couldn't let the Nutella thing go.  Finally, I started looking and found this ice cream recipe in my first go.  I knew it looked good, so I went off and running, making very necessary adjustments (like more Nutella)!  I only made this for the first time 3 weeks ago, I am so sad to tell you we have made it every other week since!  Oops.  It is just too good.  TOO good.  I promise you won't be able to put it down.  It even freezes into a nice firm, but not rock-hard ice cream that is easy to scoop and serve.  Make a double batch.  Trust me.
Nutella Ice Cream (adapted from here)
Serves:  2 (2 cups)
1/2 cup Nutella
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk (we used skim)

In a large bowl, combine Nutella, sugar, heavy cream, and milk.  Blend well.  Place into your ice cream machine and follow manufacturer's instructions.  Don't have an ice cream machine?  No problem.  Pour the cream mixture into a loaf pan.  Let it sit for about 2 hours in the freezer, it should be firm on the edges, semi-soft in the middle.  Remove it, blend it up again (using a machine or spoon), and put it into an air-tight container.  Seal it up well and place back into the freezer; wait a few more hours for the ice cream to set.  Easy as pie (or, well, ice cream in this case).

I thought about classifying this as a dorm room dinner for the few ingredients; every dorm room has to have an ice cream party now and again, right?  John said it would be "misleading" because I never have ice cream for dinner (oh, I don't?  News to me).  What he didn't say though, was I got up the morning after we made this (we had to let it set in the freezer), and stuck my spoon in it for a little taste test!!!  When he went to scoop some out for us that night, he just started laughing.  I couldn't help it!  I was curious.

I can't rave enough about this ice cream.  So, I will stop raving, start eating, and let you enjoy it yourself!  Can't wait to show you tomorrow's post. 

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sassy Sweets: Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream is my absolute favorite.  In fact, when I am having a bad day (this does not happen that often), I say that Mint Chocolate Chip will always make it better.  And it is true.  My absolute favorite is Turkey Hill (just the smooth taste and the way the chocolate melts in your mouth). 

So it was obvious that ice cream week could not be complete without a mint recipe.  Although I made the fresh mint ice cream a few weeks ago for my Cook the Books Club, I just had to try another recipe.  This time I used mint extract instead of fresh mint leaves.  I use slightly more peppermint than mint because I think it is harder to taste, but also is more refreshing.  I found the mint to be slightly heavier in taste.

Also, if you want to "healthify" this recipe, I often use 1 cup whole milk, 1 cup skim milk.  This will definitely keep the ice cream from getting that "icy" quality but still lighten it up a bit.  When I used only 2% milk, I found it to be a lot more icy.  Personally, I like my ice cream very creamy; and, if I'm going to eat it, I want to eat the good stuff!  But if you are more into healthy than creamy, go for the 2 cups of 2% or skim (they taste almost identical to me). 
Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream (adapted from here)
Serves: 6
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon mint or peppermint extract
3 drops green food dye
2/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Combine milk, cream, sugar, extract, and food dye.  Add more drops of green dye if you would like a brighter green color.  Place the mixture into your ice cream machine and make the ice cream according to manufacturer's directions.  Add mini chocolate chips towards the end.  Freeze until use. 

If you don't have an ice cream machine, spread the ice cream in a 9x9 pan that is lined with tinfoil.  Freeze for an hour. Stir in chips, and then pour into a permanent container and freeze until hard; keep frozen until serving.

And voila!  A refreshing ice cream perfect for summer (or if you're me, anytime!).

Until the next time my oven is on...
Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sassy Sweets: Oatmeal Raisin & Brown Sugar Ice Cream

Sometimes there is a lot going on behind the scenes that you just don't get to hear about (mostly because I think it is boring, and also, sometimes wholly embarassing).  When I first made my Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, I had a different recipe than the one I shared with you all.  I made a whole batch, only to find out that once out of the oven they resembled discs, rather than cookies. 

The batter was delicious but I knew I couldn't take deflated cookies with me to make a good impression.  No, I (at 10 p.m.) went out, got more raisins, and proceeded to make the batch that I recounted for you in the recipe linked above.  So what to do with those lovely leftovers?

There were a lot of leftovers and I scratched my brain for a while.  I called my mom and jokingly told her I should stick it back in the oven to make granola.  She countered that I should just use it as an ice cream topping.  Laughing, we both hung up but the wheels in this girl's head were churning.  And I thought, why not put the oatmeal raisin cookie crumbs IN the ice cream?  Off to the internet I went--I knew I wanted to use brown sugar to complement the brown sugar in the cookies.  And, we all know how opposed I am to ice creams out of custard.  So, when I found Baked Bree, I knew I had the ice cream for me. 
Oatmeal Raisin and Brown Sugar Ice Cream
Serves:  4 (approx. 3 cups of ice cream)
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
3 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon vanilla vodka (optional)
One-half batch of Oatmeal Raisin Cookies batter, or 12 store-bought oatmeal raisin cookies (no icing)

Note:  I add the vodka because it makes the ice cream smoother and you don't really taste it.  But, you can omit this if you want; you will need to remove the ice cream from the freezer for about 5-10 minutes before serving to easily scoop!

If you are using the oatmeal raisin cookie batter, spread it into a greased 13x9 baking pan (should be thin).  Bake at 350 degrees for about 10-12 minutes, until browned on the edges.  Remove and let cool. 

Beat the milk, brown sugar, heavy whipping cream, vanilla, and vanilla vodka together until well-combined (if you aren't using an ice cream machine, beat the mixture for about 90 seconds).  Crumble the oatmeal raisin cookies (either store-bought or homemade) and stir in with a wooden spoon.  Place the mixture in a tin-foil lined 8x8 baking pan and fold tin-foil over it as well.  Let freeze for about 2 hours, until firm, before serving.

If you have an ice cream machine, you will want to follow the directions for it very carefully.  I know I have mentioned mine before, since it is so old (and not electric), I throw in the cream mixture until it starts to become creamy, and then add the oatmeal raisin bits.  If you have an electric mixer, you usually add stir-ins in the last 5 minutes.  So please read your directions! 

Finally, this ice cream is seriously heavenly.  I couldn't think of a better way to turn a disaster into a success.  But, even better, John and I have been making it several times since then.  Yummy.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, August 15, 2011

Sassy Sweets: Dulce de Leche Ice Cream

Welcome to Ice Cream Week at The Growing Foodie! I’ve been planning this week since the start of the summer and am so glad that it is finally here.  I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate the last weeks of summer than with my favorite food group, ice cream.

Oh wait, that isn’t a food group?  Really?  My mom always taught me that it was, and I was also taught to always respect my elders so…ice cream food group it is!  The week is going to feature five great ice cream flavors, of which four do not even involve eggs (or an ice cream machine for that matter)!  But let’s get to the star of the day…

If you made my Dulce de Leche along with me this weekend, then you’re all set for this!  If not, buy some premade from the store and play along!  John has actually dubbed this ice cream “Dulce de Likey” I kid you not because of both of our desires to slurp right from the bowl rather than churn it into ice cream!  However, once churned, it becomes this creamy frozen dessert with a light caramel flavor.  If you have extra, stir it into your iced coffee—that is how John has been doctoring his lately!
Dulce de Leche Ice Cream (adapted from here)
Serves:  4 (4 cups)
3 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
2/3 - 1 cup Dulce de Leche (taste as you go)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1 vanilla bean’s seeds)

Combine heavy cream, milk, dulce de leche, and vanilla extract.  Whisk together until the dulce de leche is combined into the cream (about 3 minutes).  Taste and add more dulce de leche depending on taste.  Pour into an 8x8 baking pan and stick it in the freezer for at least 2 hours, edges should be set (middle still jiggles).  Then, whisk it together again until re-incorporated (3 more minutes).  Pour it into an airtight container and store 4 more hours, or overnight, until hardened.

Or place the whisked ice cream into your ice cream machine and a soft ice cream that is pure decadence will come out! 

The greatest part (to me) about this recipe is the lack of sugar.  The sweetened condensed milk turned dulce de leche is so sweet and tasty that I didn’t add additional sugar!  And we didn’t miss it, which is the most important part!  I also substituted the whole milk for skim and it worked fine too.  For a creamier end result, omit the milk entirely and just use the heavy cream.  It is a creamy delight! 

Stay tuned for tomorrow…a recipe all my own that features a kitchen disaster (who wouldn’t want to hear about THAT?!). 

Until the next time my oven is on…
Sunday, August 14, 2011

Time-Out: Dulce de Leche

This week is The Growing Foodie's "Ice Cream Week" in honor of my all-time favorite food.  Most of the recipes are egg-free and extremely easy with very few ingredients and even directions without an ice cream maker.  For the first day, I gave John three choices with his favorite ingredients and toppings in mind.  It should be pretty obvious from this post to know which ice cream he picked, but I won't tell until Monday!

That being said, if you get a chance over the weekend to make this Dulce de Leche, you can play along with my ice cream week.  Even if you don't, give this a shot!  I was very skeptical about the whole process especially since most of the cans specifically say do not boil!  But, the way I did it, I thought for sure there would be no problems.

I was right; luckily, John stayed home with the can all day and watched it.  In about 6 hours we had a perfectly flowing Dulce de Leche.  John has been eating it straight from the can, in coffee, and just about any other way you can think.    Also, just because I made this recipe sucessfully, does not mean that it will always work.  The warning on the can is there for a reason.  Be smart and be careful if you're going to attempt this.
Dulce de Leche
Serves:  1-14 ounce can
1-14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk

Cook on low in a crockpot fully submerged in water.  Make sure the can is always fully submerged.  Cook 4-6 hours until done.

This seems like a silly recipe.  I punctured 2 holes in the top of the can and then submerged it completely in water in a large crockpot.  The sweetened condensed milk did leak out a little, and some water got into the can (very little), but it was worth it for me to mitigate the risk of explosion!  It also meant that you could open the can immediately and I just mixed it quickly with a spoon.  I put it in an airtight container and it sat tight until I was ready to use it!

If you do NOT poke holes in the can, you should wait for the can to come back to room temperature before opening it. 

This weekend we are in New York celebrating with the family at K and E's engagement party!  I was in charge of the desserts (notice a theme?).  The Creme Brulee cupcakes made an appearance, much to everyone's delight.

Can't wait to see you tomorrow to show you a week of delicious ice creams; sure to beat the heat this summer!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, August 12, 2011

Fancy Pants App: Paprika Shrimp Quesadillas

It's a fishy week!  And, yes, ANOTHER Rachael Ray August magazine recipe.  Page 114 for anyone who is following along with my "cook the magazine" lately.  The funniest thing is, I was complaining to my mom over the winter how many ingredients Rachael Ray's recipes have, and how unlikely I am to make them (without major adjustments). 

This is a constant problem for me--in cooking contests, there are some contests where the winner's ingredient lists seems like a page long!  I've never been good at mixing a lot of layers together.  I like fast, easy, delicious.  So of course, the same month in which I need to renew my Rachael Ray magazine, comes a gluttony of delicious recipes that not only look great, but, I actually made.  Jeez, if you have a short-term memory like me, well, you renew for another year!  Looks like Rachael Ray won't be leaving my kitchen anytime soon.

These quesadillas are a great barbeque food.  In fact, John and I planned to go out to dinner downtown last night, but John has had a really awful summer cold.  I didn't want to have a date night out on the town if he wasn't feeling good.  I'd rather wait for a night that we can both fully enjoy it.  So, we had a bunch of little appetizers I made with the bits and ends in our fridge.  Sometimes, these are our favorite nights--a couple glasses of wine (me), a few beers (John), and a bunch of finger-foods.  It's a relaxing way to spend a Saturday night. 
Paprika Shrimp Quesadillas (adapted from Rachael Ray August 2011 Magazine)
Serves:  4-6 (4 quesadillas)
24 pre-cooked shrimp (31-40 count)
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lime juice
4 tortillas
1 tablespoons fresh cilantro, julienned
1 avocado, should still be firm
1 plum tomato
1/4 cup diced red onion
2 cups shredded mexican blend cheese (Rachael suggests Monterey Jack)

Preheat the grill to medium-heat (or an indoor grill or a panini press).  Remove the shrimp tails.  Chop the shrimp into small bite-sized pieces and place in a large mixing bowl.  Add spices to mixing bowl with lime juice and toss well.   Arrange the shrimp evenly over half of the four tortillas (split each tortilla in half in your mind.  Cover one half of each with the ingredients, then, it is easy to fold it over and grill).  Top each with cilantro.  Dice the avocado and plum tomato and with the red onion, sprinkle them evenly over the tops.  Next, add the cheese (it should lightly cover all of the ingredients).  Fold the tortilla over; we used an indoor grill.  Because the quesadillas were getting cooked on both sides at the same time, the mixture flattened out.  Make sure if you use a grill like this you leave room at the edges of the quesadilla for the ingredients to spread out (without falling out!).  Serve with a dollop of lime-sour cream. 

I mixed 1 tablespoon of lime juice into 1/4 cup of sour cream.  It was delicious (and not in the original recipe, but do it; you won't regret it!).

Quick notes to Rachael's original recipe--we added the red onion, cheese choice, and mixed around the spices (she used onion powder as well but I didn't have any).  We also used raw shrimp, like Rachael suggested, but it seems unnecessary.  She just grilled them on skewers (we did too).  I like using already cooked shrimp--makes it easy, fast, and then the shrimp aren't cooked twice.  Plus, it just saves time.
We finished up the night watching the movie "Hall Pass".  We picked it because John has had to sit through a few girly movies lately.  But, it was hysterical; a little crude, but hilarious.  We could not stop laughing.  A good end to a nice Saturday night. 

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Brilliant Brunch: Mocha Frappucinos

It has been well-documented here, and beyond, that John loves all spicy things.  What a lot of people don't know is that he also loves coffee.  In fact one of his favorite parts of visiting my family in New York is that (in his own words) "mom makes the best coffee".  When I realized how much happier John was in the morning when he had coffee, we went right out and bought a tiny 3-cup coffee maker.  It has really improved my quality of life!

On the other hand, I, absolutely hate coffee.  Sure the smell is awesome, but the taste?  Gross.  Especially because John drinks his coffee black.  I have no problem making it for John but just don't come near me with your coffee breath.  So last September when Food Network published their version of a Starbucks Frappucino, I wanted to make it for John.  The first time I did was in November.  Not exactly the smartest time to be serving iced coffee.  He was good about it though; he drank it and liked it.

So, when it got warm here in Boston, I knew it was time to resurrect this recipe.  As with many of my brunch ideas, this is a make-ahead.  In the summer, John loves iced coffee so I try to keep at least one of our three ice cube trays filled with leftover coffee from the days he doesn't drink it all.  That way, the coffee can cool down without being watery (one of John's biggest pet peeves).  It's a great idea for those iced coffee lovers in the house; and if you do that, there is practically no excuse NOT to make this recipe!
Mocha Frappucinos (adapted from Food Network Magazine October 2010)
Serves:  4
2 cups coffee
2 tablespoons sugar (FN suggests 3)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup boiling water
2 ounces milk chocolate (I use mini chocolate chips)
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup skim milk
Whipped cream, for garnish

Make the coffee.  Stir in sugar, until it dissolves.  Pour this into an empty ice cube tray.  Freeze for at least 4 hours, optimally overnight.  Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine cocoa powder, sugar, and boiling water.  Heat on medium-low until the sugar has dissolved.  Remove from heat and stir in chocolate, honey, and extract.  Stir until smooth.  Transfer into a small air-tight container and let cool in the fridge (usually about 2 hours, but I just let it sit overnight).
To make the frappucinos, add coffee ice cubes, 4 tablespoons of chocolate mixture, and milk to a large blender.  Blend until well-processed and smooth.  Pour into 4 glasses.  Top with whipped cream and additional chocolate mixture.  Serve immediately.

Another great idea is if this is a family brunch, make these frappucinos for the adults, but make mini ones for the kids.  Pour chocolate milk, instead of coffee, into the ice cube tray.  You can omit the chocolate sauce in the frappucino and just pour a little on top with a dollop of whipped cream.  I guarantee they will love emulating the adults at the table!

I also made the whipped cream myself (there are lots of ice cream posts coming up in August on The Growing Foodie, therefore there is lots of heavy whipping cream in my fridge)!  I didn't add any sugar to it, and I thought it was a nice touch since the Frappucinos do have a lot of chocolate and sugar. 

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, August 8, 2011

Date Night Dinner: Fresh Fish Tacos with Homemade Salsa

In June's Food Network Magazine there was a recipe for Fish Tacos.  I actually skipped right by them the first time, but, cut out the page for the recipe next to it (Carolina BBQ Chicken).  I was flipping through it last weekend, and saw the fish tacos again, which got my brain working!  They fried the fish, but as you know, we are trying to stay a lot healthier these days.  Also, if I'm going to go through all the expense of buying fresh fish, I want dinner to taste like fish!

Haddock was on sale this week so we substituted that for the original catfish suggestion.  I also made double the salsa because John and I love salsa.  In fact, we finished the double amount with our tacos, so it worked out perfectly.  Since the fish were originally fried, I upped the seasonings on them just to give the dish a little more overall flavor. 

I couldn't get over the fresh taste of the meal!  Also, because the fish weren't being fried, I felt like the dish came together a lot quicker than the 30 minutes Food Network suggested.  I left the fish in filets to sear them easier.  After they were cooked we flaked the filets into large chunks, which is very easy, just using a fork.  It was a perfect summer date night dinner.  YUM!
Fresh Fish Tacos with Homemade Salsa
Serves:  2 (1 pound of fish)
2 tomatoes
1/2 red onion
1/4 cup of cilantro
1 jalapeno pepper (alter to taste)
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 pound haddock filets
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon lime zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons oil
4 tortillas
1/2 cup shredded iceberg lettuce

Dice the tomatoes, onion, cilantro, and jalapeno.  Mix together in a small bowl with lime juice and set aside.  Meanwhile, season the haddock filets with pepper, lime zest, and salt.  Heat the oil in a large castiron skillet.  Cook the fish until fully cooked through (about 5-8 minutes, depending on thickness), turning once.  Flake the filet into large chunks and portion the fish amongst the four tortillas.  Top with homemade salsa and iceberg lettuce.  Serve immediately.

This is a perfect recipe to celebrate the summer with someone you love (and a big glass of cold white wine, too!). 

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, August 5, 2011

Sassy Sweets: No-Bake White Chocolate Cheesecake

No-bake desserts are currently my go-to (if you haven't noticed), especially when I'm asked to bring something into the office.  The apartment is hot enough (and small enough) that adding the oven to the mix for even just 15-20 minutes, really cranks up the heat in here.  I'm sure you've noticed, too, that a lot of our dinners lately I have been refraining from using the oven.

I can't see that many people would disagree with me there though.  So, when one of the guys in the office requested a white chocolate cheesecake, I held him off for a few weeks.  I took my time trying to find a really, really good recipe that I wouldn't have to bake.  I have made a lot of cheesecakes in my life, but most of them are in the oven for at least 30-45 minutes.  I didn't have the energy, nor the desire to sweat, just to feed some sweets to my co-workers.  This is a sweet recipe though, a perfect sweet treat to get you to the end of the week (I hope they felt the same!).

I doubled the original recipe to make two cheesecakes, and rather than make them in springform pans, I made them in 9x9 baking pans with tin foil (to easily move them, etc).  I felt like since this was being served and more "take and go" than a traditional cheesecake it would be better.  I also served a really easy raspberry sauce next to it.  To be honest, the raspberry sauce really made the cheesecake for me. 
No-Bake White Chocolate Cheesecake (adapted from here)
Serves:  24 (2-9x9 baking pans)
4 cups crushed Oreo crumbs (about 1 full package of Oreos)
16 ounces white chocolate chips
32 ounces (4 packages) cream cheese
28 ounces (2 cans) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 ounce unflavored powdered gelatin (2 packages)
1 1/3 cups water
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
18 ounces raspberries
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch

Line the 9x9 baking pans with tinfoil.  Make sure the tinfoil hangs off the sides (this will help you transport it later).  Press the Oreo crumbs into the bottom of the tinfoil.  Set aside.  Melt the white chocolate chips in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds, for about 2 1/2 minutes on half-power (Power 5).  Then, beat in the cream cheese, until there are no lumps.  Add the sweetened condensed milk and beat until fully mixed and smooth.  Then, mix the gelatin into the water in a medium saucepan and let stand about 1 minute.  Heat the gelatin gently until dissolved.  Then, mix it carefully into the cream cheese mixture until it is fully combined.  Fold in the whipping cream.  Then, pour half of the mixture over one pan of Oreo crumbs; pour the remaining into the second pan.  Let chill in the refrigerator (optimally overnight).  Before serving, combine raspberries, sugar, and cornstarch into a large bowl.  Mix and then let stand about 5 minutes.  Top cheesecake with raspberry sauce.

You can make the raspberry sauce ahead of time, too, and then put it all together the day you want to serve it (like I did). 

Also, I was shocked when I poured in the gelatin mixture--I didn't think it was ever going to get fully combined; but, it did.  It took a little bit of time (and manpower because by that time I was using a wooden spoon), but just be patient with it.  Then, make sure once the gelatin is fully incorporated, you move quickly so it doesn't set up before it can be poured!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Time-Out: Jalapeno Lemonade

Here we go again, another jalapeno recipe!  Like I mentioned last week, we bought a ton of jalapenos, and I was trying to find interesting, fun things to do with them!  Last year for the Beringer Great Steak Challenge in Newport, Rhode Island, John and I had dinner at this little local Mexican Restaurant.  It was very cute and lively (and we were really hungry).  I may or may not have indulged in a lot of Beringer wine beforehand.

Either way, they had some really interesting dishes; the one that stuck out to John (of course), was their Jalapeno Lemonade.  He couldn't believe it.  In fact, I think he had two or three glasses.  It was the first time I had ever heard of it (maybe we live under a rock, I don't know).  But, when I saw all the jalapenos, I knew this was a beverage we would have to try.

The lazy lady that I am, did not want to have to make a simple syrup; boiling anything, even for lemonade in this heat sounded like no fun.  So, I searched until I found a recipe that was simple, easy, and delicious.  In fact, if you omit the jalapenos all together, it is an easy lemonade that will cool off anyone on a hot summer day!
Jalapeno Lemonade (adapted from here)
Serves:  4 (2-8 ounce cups)
3 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 15 large lemons)
2 cups sugar
12 cups water
3 jalapenos

Whisk together lemon juice, sugar, and water in a large bowl.  Poke 7-10 holes in the jalapenos.  Place in lemon mixture.  Cover and transfer the bowl to the fridge.  Let chill for at least 30 minutes, checking every 30 minutes for the taste that you like best! 

Needless to say our lemonade sat about 2 hours before John liked it.  Me, I added some extra sugar and a slice of lemon! 

Regardless of how you like it, it's a great idea to serve a variety of lemonades at your next barbeque from the traditional to a berry lemonade to this!  I think it's a really fun and unique serving idea!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, August 1, 2011

Dorm Room Dinner: Foil-Baked Chicken and Vegetables

We have been making a ton of new recipes lately; all of this fresh (and cheap) produce from the market plus my ever-handy binder of recipe ideas has really been inspiring!  John was away this week and I wanted a really quick and easy meal when I got home from work late one night.  I had just bought mushrooms (primarily because I knew I would eat them all before John got back).  A fan of mushrooms he is not.

I had cut out a recipe from, probably a Taste of Home magazine, although I have no idea because it is not written anywhere on the page which I was really anxious to try.  They were savory chicken packets.  Well, in the end, I made my own savory chicken packet with what we had in the house.  You can do these on the grill, or in the oven; they both come out fabulous!  I am just loving all of these grilling recipes, aren't you?!

The best part about this recipe is that it is literally a "leftovers" recipe.  I threw in 1/2 of an onion, a million mushrooms, 1/2 of a zucchini, leftover parsley, and 1/2 of a lemon was used to make lemon juice and lemon zest.  Just sit back, wait, and let your dinner do all the work for you!  I can't stop exclaiming (to everyone) how easy this is; and delicious, especially over some brown rice.  It is the perfect dorm room dinner! 
Foil-Baked Chicken and Vegetables
Serves:  2
2 chicken breasts
2 teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 onion, diced
1 cup mushrooms, diced
1 cup zucchini, diced
1/4 cup parsley
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F OR grill to medium-high heat.  Place 2 squares of tinfoil down on your work station.  Season each chicken breast equally with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Put one chicken breast in the middle of each tinfoil square.  Top each chicken breast evenly with the onion, mushroom, zucchini, and parsley.  Drizzle with lemon juice and top with lemon zest.  Fold the packets, and seal the top (I just folded the tinfoil over itself a few times on the top.  Place directly on the grill, or in a glass dish and in the oven (this will prevent any juices from leaking, but no juice leaked from mine).  Bake for 30 minutes, until the chicken is fully cooked through.  Serve immediately.

I have made fish this way before (in tinfoil packets) but had never heard of chicken--I loved it and I know this will be a favorite dish with winter vegetables too.  It even makes its own delicious sauce (see the picture below). 
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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