Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cinnamon Buns (BBA Challenge)

Cinnamon buns were the focus of this week's Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge and dare I say that I nailed this one! I'm not one to brag, but dang, these turned out much better than I had ever anticipated. I've tried so many cinnamon roll recipes in the past and suffered such dismal failure, that I'd basically given up and just resigned myself to buying the Pillsbury Whack-A-Dough (the refrigerated ones in a can.)

The secret to my success, you ask? Well, I finally broke down and bought a digital scale and instead of measuring my ingredients in cups and spoons, I'm now an official baker-geek and I'm measuring in grams and ounces. And in addition to discovering greater accuracy, I've also noticed that I'm dirtying less dishes. I just slap one big bowl up on the scale and start dumping. Is that great or what?
I made just a few minor changes to Mr. Reinhart's recipe. I didn't have any lemons or lemon extract so I used about a half a teaspoon of Fiori Di Sicilia, a lovely citrus/vanilla flavoring from King Arthur Flour. I also used just a drop of it in my glaze.

And instead of the recommended cinnamon and sugar filling mixture, I used King Arthur's Baker's Cinnamon Filling. I've been dying to try this stuff in cinnamon rolls. It's wonderful. (I noticed that they're currently out of it, however.)

I've eaten two of the twelve. Hubby had two. Molly had one. The rest went into the freezer with my brioche and my fat pants. What am I going to do with all these fattening breads you guys?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Six Unimportant Things That I Love- the meme

Upon my return home from the girl's get-away weekend, I found an invitation from Jane at Foodzilla to participate in this interesting little activity. I was instructed to post about "Six Unimportant Things That I Love," then pass on the invitation to others who might also enjoy sharing little-known information about themselves. Kind of a neat way to get to know fellow bloggers better, don't ya think?

You may not be aware that I love:

1. Milk. Not that it's really the number one unimportant thing in my life, but it's what popped into my head first. I do find it strange though that each and every time I drink a glass of milk, I think to myself (and sometimes even say aloud,) "Man I love milk!" Isn't that odd?

2. Pillows. Where many women feel they must hide new clothes, chocolate and losing lotto scratch-offs from their husbands, I feel I have to hide the pillows that I buy and then I sneak them into the room's arrangement one at a time. Then when hubby asks about a new one, my response is the standard, "What, that old thing?"

3. Throw rugs. Same concept as #2. But I have a hard time throwing away old throw rugs, so now I'm in the process of carpeting my garage.

4. Peanuts and chocolate chips in a coffee cup. And there must be equal amounts of each. And they must be in my Maxine Christmas mug. And I have to eat them with a spoon while watching Army Wives.

5. A new jar of peanut butter. I realize that it's homogenous throughout, but I always feel like I'm getting the best part of the jar when I get to eat that smooth layer on the top.

6. New socks. Is there anything neater than fresh, new socks? My second son shares this belief with me, by the way. And if I ever have more money than I know what to do with, I shall buy 365 pair of socks each year so I can wear a new pair each day. And the Salvation Army will quickly become aware of my sickness.

I'd like to pass along this invitation to:

The Parcel Guy

Moogie & Pap

Susie's Home And Hobbies

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies (Treats for Co Irkers)

This week's "Treats For Co-Irkers" post is a day early and it's a short one. Wanna know why? Well, first of all, I've already posted about this recipe, but mostly it's because the ants in my pants are making it difficult to sit here and type. You see, I'm about to head to the lake for a weekend with the girls and I've got a gazillion things to do before I go. Like buy beer... and sunscreen... and a new bathing suit that doesn't make me look like a bleached whale. (good luck with that, Mags)

The original recipe (the one I used for this batch) can be found here. And my modified version for when I'm trying to bake in a more health-conscious manner can be found here. You decide if you're feeling naughty or not.

Behave yourselves over the weekend and we'll meet up again next week! (I'll be the one with the raccoon-eyes sunburn)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

100 posts in 2009... and a giveaway!

In celebration of a very special milestone, 100 posts in 2009, I've decided to give back to you, my faithful followers. Out of the goodness of my own heart, I'm giving away 100 pounds to the first person to comment to this post. Even though I'm a little tight this month and only have about 90 to spare, I'm going to go the extra mile here, because dog-gone-it, you guys are great!

Here are the rules:

1. There will be no fighting. While I realize that everyone would love to have the extra weight, only one person can win.

2. All of you who already have a surplus, play fair. Let the skinny-minnies reap from my bounty.

3. And lastly, keep in mind, I'll make more (like Doritos, only better)

Zucchini Chicken Bake

I don't mean to incite panic here, I really don't. But you guys do realize that in just a few short weeks, a new crop of zucchini and summer squash is going to be coming off your neighbor's garden, right? And when they lovingly deposit it on your front porch, you're going to get all excited about freezing the surplus and imagine all those wonderful recipes you're going to use it in throughout next winter, yes? (Here's where the panic's about to set in) I bet if you go look in the freezer right now, you'll find that you still have most of LAST year's crop in there. Go ahead; go look.

We're going to need to use that up, buttercup. And pronto.

Before I continue on with this recipe, I'll admit to you that I have had an ongoing love affair with boxed stuffing mix since the very first time I tasted it. I make my own stuffing at Thanksgiving, of course, but most other times stuffing is called for, I'm using the boxed stuff(ing) because it calls to me. In fact, each time I start a new diet, Stovetop Stuffing is my last guilty pleasure the night before. Isn't that crazy?

I used a mix of shredded yellow squash and zucchini here but you can use all of either one or a combination as well. If you're using frozen squash, thaw and drain well.

Zucchini Chicken Bake

3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and shredded
salt and pepper
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
6 cups shredded zucchini or yellow squash
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp paprika
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup milk
1 cup sour cream
1 (6 oz) package of cornbread stuffing mix
2 cups cooked chicken, diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.

In large skillet, melt butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and carrots, season with salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes. Saute for 4-5 minutes to soften vegetables then add zucchini. Season again with salt and pepper and cook 8-10 minutes. Sprinkle flour over all and cook for another 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add in chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer to thicken. Add in poultry seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika and parsley and simmer for another minute or two. Stir in milk. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl combine sour cream, cornbread stuffing mix and cooked chicken. Add in sauteed vegetables and combine thoroughly. Pour all into prepared baking dish and place in oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until bubbly and brown.

Sloppy Joes And Oven-Roasted Spuds

Sloppy Joes are another one of those foods that my family would prefer be made from a can. (specifically Manwich) While the old me (pre-retirement) felt a great sense of relief that I could please their palates with something so quick and simple, the new me (got-too-much-time-on-my-hands) loves to make things from scratch, preferably dirtying the most possible pots, pans and dishes. Call me crazy. Call me irresistible. Call me darlin', darlin'. Just don't call me late for dinner.

Magwiches (Get it?)

1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef (I use Laura's Lean)
1 small onion, diced
1/2 bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 tsp garlic powder
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1- 8 oz can of tomato sauce
1 Tbsp white vinegar
1 1/2 Tbsp A-1 steak sauce
1 1/2 Tbsp worchestershire sauce
2 Tbsp Splenda brown sugar (or 1/4 cup of regular brown sugar)
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper

In a large skillet season ground beef with salt, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes and garlic power and brown with onion and bell pepper. Drain. Stir in tomato paste, tomato sauce, vinegar, A-1, worchestershire, garlic powder and brown sugar. Simmer for 15-20 minutes on low-medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add in chopped parsley and stir through. Season again with salt and pepper if needed.

Oven-Fried Potato Wedges

2 pounds red potatoes, scrubbed, skins on, sliced into wedges
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Fill a large bowl with ice water and soak potato wedges in it while oven is preheating. Line a baking sheet with non-stick aluminum foil (or regular foil sprayed with cooking spray.)

Drain potatoes and towel dry. Combine potatoes with olive oil, rosemary, parsley, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Stir well to distribute oil and seasonings. Place potatoes in a single layer onto prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 15-20 minutes then flip potatoes to ensure even browning. Return to oven and bake for another 15-20 minutes, until potatoes are tender, crispy and browned.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Ciabatta (Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge)

When I first flipped through the pages of The Bread Baker's Apprentice, I came to a screeching halt when I landed on the ciabatta bread recipe. You see ciabatta is my all time favorite bread when I'm making panini. And I was thrilled at the thought of being able to make it myself instead of continuing to pay the high price for ciabatta from the bakery.

I used the recipe for the poolish version and I can remember thinking that the difference between the needed amounts of water listed (6 tablespoons to 3/4 cup) left quite a large margin for differences in hydration. And since this was really the first "wet" dough we've worked with thus far, my experience with this type of dough was nil. I didn't even come close to using 3/4 cup of water and I'm guessing from what I've read about ciabatta since I made my loaves, the amount of water used dictates the final outcome of the bread's texture.

While I really enjoyed the flavor of this ciabatta, I was disappointed that it wasn't as holey as I had anticipated. And I don't mean in a "come to Jesus" way. I like my ciabatta filled with all those air pockets to soak up herbed olive oil or whatever else I have close by to dip it in.

I shall attempt this again, and the next time I will pay closer attention to the amount of water I add. I won't be defeated. And... this challenge still rocks!

This panini is the family's new favorite. Deli-sliced thin roast beef, gruyere cheese, sauteed onions and green peppers, and mayo (mixed with a bit of horseradish.) Grill it then dip it in beef broth or consomme. Delish!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Cinnamon Streusel Muffins (Treats For Co Irkers)

You know what's worse than screwing up a recipe? Not screwing up a recipe but thinking you screwed up a recipe and starting all over when you wouldn't have had to if you'd just been a patient little girl and not gotten your knickers in a knot and been over-anxious to unwrap them and eat one because you didn't have any breakfast and the smell was driving you insane! (geeze Mags, take a breath already; Really.... it'll be OK)

Let me explain. I've had my eye on this cinnamon streusel muffin recipe from King Arthur Flour for quite some time. And the reason I've been itching to try this recipe is because I've had these delicious little cinnamon chips in my pantry, waiting for a baked good to call home.

So, I baked the first batch of muffins this morning, and as I stated earlier in this post, I became impatient in letting them cool and set properly. When I peeled my luscious little treat from its paper, I was so disappointed to see that the filling part had settled to the bottom of the muffin during baking and it was now stuck to the paper. The muffin fell into pieces. No matter at the moment because I was starving. I shoved it down the hatch before even thinking about how I was going to remedy the situation. It was probably just one of those freak things, I thought to myself. It was just that muffin. The rest will be OK. And, I'm still hungry enough to eat another one, so let's just see how the paper peels off the next one. Same stinking thing happened! Now I'm getting a little miffed. Miffed enough to comment on the King Arthur website. (which I NEVER do!)

I decided to regroup and come up with another treat for hubby to share with his co workers, because there was no way I was sending these flops into work with him. But in the back of my mind, I was still wanting this recipe to work.... badly. So, I decided to make another batch and leave the filling out. Success! I even went back to the King Arthur website and commented again!

Hours passed. It was now time to write up this post. And I thought it would be interesting to take a picture of one of the "dud" muffins to show you how it stuck to the paper and fell apart, etc. I unwrapped every single one of the original batch. NONE OF THEM STUCK TO THE PAPER. NOT ONE. (I'm too ashamed to go back to the King Arthur website to comment a third time today. They won't let me order from them again, I'm just sure of it...lol)

Did I mention that patience is not one of my virtues?

Cinnamon Streusel Muffins

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup diced pecans (I toasted mine first)
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons softened butter

3 Tablespoons softened butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
3/4 cup milk
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup cinnamon chips
Preheat your oven to 400°F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake papers and spray lightly with cooking spray.

Prepare the topping by mixing the ingredients together until crumbly. Set aside. (I had enough topping to do two batches of muffins)

Prepare the filling by mixing the ingredients together until they've become paste-like. Set aside.

To make the batter: In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, milk, and eggs. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the dry mixture to the liquid, stirring just until combined.

Divide half the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Dollop 2 teaspoons cinnamon filling onto each muffin, then top with the remaining batter. Sprinkle with topping, pressing it in lightly.

Bake the muffins for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they're golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and wait 5 minutes before transferring them from the pan to a rack to cool.

Drizzle with a powdered sugar glaze, if desired.

Yield: 12 muffins.


At the risk of losing your credibility in me, I'm about to post a Paula Deen recipe that includes NO BUTTER.

It's true. The woman makes a darn good fat-free lemonade, I'm tellin' y'all!

This lemonade has the perfect balance of sweet and sour, at least to my taste buds. However, if you like it a little more tart, add more lemon juice. If you need it sweeter, add more sugar. Paula also uses mint to garnish. I have no use for mint unless it's a part of chocolate or toothpaste, so I left it out. I also used Splenda instead of sugar.

Paula Deen's Lemonade

2 cups sugar
1 cup hot water
2 cups fresh lemon juice
1 gallon cold water
1 lemon, sliced
mint sprigs, for garnish

In a 1 gallon container, place sugar and hot water, and stir until sugar dissolves. Add lemon juice and cold water to render 1 gallon. Stir until well mixed. Pour lemonade over glasses of ice, squeeze slice of lemon on top of each, and garnish with a sprig of mint.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tuna And Noodle Casserole

I was originally going to title this post "albacore tuna and linguini in cremini cream sauce" just to make you think I'd gone all Emeril on you, but let's face it folks, it's just tuna and noodle casserole. I get such a kick out of finding basic, old-fashioned recipes with new, jazzed up names. I stumbled across a recipe for "Haricots-Verts With Cream of California Crepe Mushrooms," and had to chuckle after I read the list of ingredients. I thought to myself, "Oh, for the love of Mike, that's green bean casserole!"

So, if you ever see me post about "fingerling potatoes in creamy mustard aioli," don't get all excited. It'll just be my recipe for plain old potato salad.

Tuna And Noodle Casserole

8 oz. noodles, boiled in salted water per package instructions, drained
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
1 small onion, diced
8-10 ounces of mushrooms, sliced
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 clove garlic, minced
4 Tbsp flour
1-14 oz can of chicken broth
1-5 oz can of evaporated milk
2-5 oz cans of tuna, drained
1 cup frozen peas
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper

Topping: Combine two tablespoons of melted butter with one cup of Panko breadcrumbs. Season with salt, pepper and a couple of tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley.

Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet. Add onions and red pepper flakes and saute for a minute or two then add mushrooms. Saute until mushrooms have lost their moisture, about 8 minutes. Add in the garlic and saute for another minute or so. Season with salt and pepper then sprinkle flour over mixture and stir to combine. Continue cooking over medium heat until flour has lost its rawness, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Gradually stir in broth and evaporated milk. Simmer until sauce has thickened. Add the drained tuna and peas. Stir in thyme and parsley and season again with salt and pepper if needed.

Combine noodles with sauce and pour into a lightly greased 9X13 baking dish. Sprinkle topping over all. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes or until casserole is bubbly and the topping browned.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Oat-Fig Bars

This chewy bar-cookie recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour's Whole Grain Baking. The original recipe uses dates as the fruit, but since I don't like dates (I'm a married woman, don'tcha know) I opted to use dried Mission figs instead. The whole grain here is oatmeal and it makes for one heckuva flavorful crust and topping.

Have a big glass of milk ready; you're going to need it.

Oat-Fig Bars


3/4 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats, ground for 30 seconds in a food processor
1/2 cup all purpose flour


1 pound (about three cups) chopped dried Mission figs (I pulsed these in the food processor until they were the consistency of kitty litter.... sorry, I was just trying to provide a visual for you.)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 tsp lemon juice
pinch of salt


3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats, ground for 30 seconds in a food processor
3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
6 Tbsp unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Lightly grease a 9X13 pan.

TO PREPARE THE CRUST: Cream the butter, sugar, salt and vanilla until smooth. Add the ground oats, rolled oats and flour. Mix until the dough is smooth; it'll be quite stiff. Press the dough into the prepared pan. Prick the crust all over with a fork. Place pan in oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool while preparing the filling. Increase oven temperature to 350 degrees.

TO PREPARE THE FILLING: Combine the figs, sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Set the pan over medium heat and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid is nearly evaporated. The figs will become sticky and thickened after about five minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the butter, lemon juice and salt. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes.

Dollop the filling onto the baked crust. Gently spread to cover entire crust.

TO PREPARE THE TOPPING: Whisk the ground oats, rolled oats, sugar, baking soda and salt together. Work in the butter until the mixture is crumbly.

Sprinkle the topping evenly over the filling. Bake the bars until the figs are bubbly and the topping is beginning to brown, 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack. When lukewarm, cut into bars.

Challah (BBA Challenge)

Let's just get one thing out of the way before I continue with this post. I am braid-challenged.(That's braid, not brain... although there are some who might argue that I'm both.) So when I first looked at this week's Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge recipe, I felt a little nervous. Challah, a Jewish specialty, is traditionally made as a braided loaf, and I was forced to step outside of my comfort zone when it came to the shaping stage of this recipe. Fortunately, I found a resource to ease my troubled mind.


I managed to pull this one off, but I can clearly see that I need more practice with braiding. When I first pulled my loaves out of the oven the first thought that came to my mind was, "Mommy, Mommy, my pigtails are too tight!" I think I must have stretched the dough as I was working it because the braids just looked pulled and strained.
Overall, this was a very easy bread to make. The dough came together beautifully and proofed nicely. I enjoyed the flavor very much, but I must be getting tired of these eggy enriched breads because it just didn't thrill me like I had hoped it would.

I did make Eggs-In-The-Challah-Hole with it this morning. (Sounds like a great name for a country song, doesn't it?)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Raspberry Crumble Bars (Treats For Co Irkers)

This week's Treats For Co-Irkers started out like an episode of Friends. Remember the one where Rachel is making an English trifle for Thanksgiving?

First there’s a layer of ladyfingers
Then a layer of jam,
Then custard, which I made from scratch !
Then raspberries,
More ladyfingers,
Then beef sauteed with peas and onions.....
Then a little more custard,
And then bananas,
And then I just put some whipped cream on top!

As it turns out, Rachel's precious trifle was a combo-recipe caused by the pages of her cookbook sticking together. I thought I'd pee my lil Pilgrim pants when the rest of the gang was forced to try her trifle-slash-shepherd's pie concoction. "It tastes like feet!!".... LOLOL!! (I heart Ross)

My mix up didn't get quite that far. But... I was forced to start over when I realized I was baking from two different recipes. *SIGH*... the lengths I go to for these co-irkers.

Raspberry Crumble Bars (from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking)


3/4 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp packed light or dark brown sugar
3/4 tsp salt
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tsp vanilla


6 cups (two 12-oz bags) frozen raspberries
1 1/4 cups packed light or dark brown sugar
6 Tbsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 tsp cinnamon


3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp orange juice
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter

Several hours before you plan to make the bars, empty the raspberries into a large saucepan and allow them to thaw.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 X 13-inch pan.

TO PREPARE THE CRUST: Beat the butter, sugar and salt in a medium bowl, then add the flours, baking powder, orange juice and vanilla. Place the dough in the prepared pan, patting it till it covers the bottom. Smooth it out with your fingers as best you can, though you don't need to be overly particular; it'll smooth itself out as it bakes. Prick the dough al over with a fork.

Bake the crust until it's barely beginning to brown, 40 minutes. Remove it from the oven and set it on a rack to cool for about 1 minute. Run a knife around the edge to loosen the crust in the pan. Increase oven temperature to 350 degrees.

TO PREPARE THE FILLING: Stir the sugar, cornstarch and salt into the raspberries in the saucepan. Place the pan over medium heat and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and loses its cloudiness. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the butter, lemon juice, vanilla and cinnamon.

TO PREPARE THE TOPPING: Whisk the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in the orange juice, then work in the butter until the mixture is evenly crumbly.

TO ASSEMBLE AND BAKE THE BARS: Spoon the raspberry filling over the baked crust. Sprinkle the topping over the filling. Bake the bars till the raspberry filling is bubbly and the topping is golden brown, 35 minutes. Remove the bars from the oven and let cool for 30 minutes, then use a baker's bench knife or table knife to loosen the edges of the bars from the sides of the pan. Allow the bars to cool overnight before cutting.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Slow Roasted Vidalia Onion Soup

Because Vidalia onion season is quickly coming to an end I decided to look for a recipe to turn them into soup. I just love the sweetness of this onion and although I'll always go cuckoo for a good bowl of French onion soup, I knew the Vidalia would shine as the key ingredient in a soup of its own.

Upon researching, I learned quite a bit about this famous Georgia onion. It turns out that the discovery of the Vidalia was actually a fluke. Farmers in the 1930s were disappointed with results from traditional row crops like cotton and tobacco. Looking for a new “cash cow,” they planted onions and were delighted with the unique sweetness of their new local treasure. And did ya know that they even have a mascot? Meet Yumion.

The recipe I ended up using was right under my nose all along. As I was opening the bag of onions I noticed a recipe posted right on that bag. How convenient was that!

The author of the recipe is Chef Michael Tuohy, owner of the Woodfire Grill in Atlanta, GA.

Slow Roasted Vidalia Onion Soup

6 medium Vidalia onions, outer layers removed
1/4 cup canola or grapeseed oil
2 leeks, white part only, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 quarts chicken stock
1 cup sweet sherry
1 cup heavy cream (I used half and half)
2 Tbsp fined chopped fresh thyme
salt and pepper
1 bunch fresh chives for garnish

Wrap each onion separately in aluminum foil and place in a 300 degree oven until onions feel tender all the way through, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Heat oil in a large pot. Add leek and celery; cook until softened but no browned. Remove onions from foil, quarter and add to pot. Add chicken stock and sherry. Simmer about 45 minutes. Stir in cream and thyme. Remove from heat. Working in batches, puree mixture in a blender until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish each serving with chives. Makes 12 servings.

I really enjoyed the flavor of this soup, and I can see it as being a wonderful first course dish. However, since I was serving it as the featured item for lunch, I decided to boil some cubed potatoes and noodles in some chicken broth, then added them to the pot to make a more substantial meal-like soup. I've got German hausfrau written all over me, don't I.

Cheese Dip (With A Poem)

An Ode To My Favorite Cheese Dip (By Mags, the non-poet... who knows it)

Alas, the shame I felt that day
Discovering I'd no crudite
Nor hors d'oeuvres to offer thee
so kind enough to visit me.

But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?
It is cream cheese, Juliet. Philadelphia Light Cream Cheese, to be exact.
And thou knowest I cannot rhyme to saveth my Montague arse
So I'm just going to share this recipe with thee beforeth I kill myself.

OK, so when the kids were here last weekend, I scrambled to whip up some snackies while we sat outside and enjoyed the sun. This is my go-to cheese dip recipe, as given to me by my bestest friend Nan. However, if after you've tried this recipe you're wanting to thank Nan, thank her mother instead. It's her recipe. Thanks Judy.

2 8-oz packages of light cream cheese, room temperature
2 3-oz packages dried beef, finely diced (I do mine in the food processor)
1 jar of Kraft pimento cheese spread
1 jar of Kraft Old English cheese spread
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Worchestershire sauce (Don't you guys hate it when spell check doesn't accept Worchestershire)
1 Tbsp or 2 of finely chopped Italian parsley

Combine all of the above and mix thoroughly. Grab yourself a Townhouse Cracker (if you're one of my kids,) or a Reduced-Fat Triscuit (if you're me) and enjoy the cheese.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Zesty Pasta Salad Supreme

When I bought the pasta attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer a few years back, I justified its expense to hubby by assuring him that it would pay for itself in no time. "I mean, really, just think of all the money we'll save by not having to buy noodles and pasta!" (I love it when I can convince him into thinking that I might possibly be proficient at these kinds of monetary matters.)

The last time I did the math, I figured out that I only have to make 467 more batches of homemade pasta to warrant the purchase of this product. I know... you're impressed by my frugality and ingenuity. I am too.

Imagine how savvy you'll find me when I eventually blog about how much money I'm saving by raising the chickens to lay the eggs for my homemade pasta! And then when I'm milling my own flour from the comfort of my own living room couch! Yeah, then you'll all think I'm somethin' special indeed! (keeping in mind that we all have our own definition of "special," of course...lol)

Ok, so my favorite pasta salad started out as a McCormick's Salad Supreme recipe. And since I'm all about giving credit where credit is due, my friend's hubby Chris is the one who originally turned me on to this recipe. I finally made it a point to watch him make it so I could duplicate it myself. It's such a tasty way to incorporate vegetables into your salad, and it's especially great during the summer months when all those cucumbers, zucchini, bell peppers and tomatoes are coming off the garden.

This particular batch of pasta salad has some ingredients that are unique to my usual recipe. I'd purchased some pepperoni to use in my Casatiello bread, so I decided to use the leftovers to spice up this salad a bit. I also had some leftover sharp cheddar cheese from the same Casatiello bread, so that went in there too.

Now let's talk a little bit about tomatoes. And I'm going to get a tad bit hatey here, because I've been suffering from fresh REAL tomato withdrawal for going on a year. I positively hate being without REAL tomatoes during the winter months, don't you? And as God is my witness, I refuse to buy another plastic-tasting tomato this year! I can calm myself and be patient for a few more weeks until mine are ready to pick from the vine. The point here being, I didn't have the heart to put fauxmatoes into this salad. So here's what I did. I used a half a jar of oil-packed sundried tomatoes. Very tasty addition and one to remember for when I want to make this salad in the winter. And to any of you who happen to already have ripe garden tomatoes.... I don't even want to hear about it!

Vegetable Pasta Salad

1 pound pasta, cooked per package directions, rinsed under cold water and drained
5 cups assorted vegetables, chopped into bite-size pieces (I used an English cucumber, a zucchini, a Vidalia onion, and a red bell pepper)
1, 8-oz bottle of zesty Italian salad dressing (I used a light-version)
3 oz of oil-packed sundried tomatoes (this was about a half a jar)
A couple of ounces of pepperoni, cubed and fried until slightly crisp, drained on paper towel
A couple of ounces of sharp cheddar cheese, cubed
1/4 cup McCormick Salad Supreme seasoning
salt and pepper as needed

Combine all of the above into a huge salad bowl. Toss to incorporate all ingredients. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.