July 30, 2010

Stuffed Peppers

Looking for something new for dinner tonight?  Try these, they're really easy and quick and best of all you can use some of that produce you might have in your garden!  It's a win win.

I don't happen to have three different colors of peppers growing in my back yard, but I wish I did. 

Wash them, and cut their little tops off, rip out the seeds and tear out the membranes that are inside. Geez, it sounds like I'm writing a horror film or something. Put them in a large pot of boiling water for about 5 minutes.

Remove them from their hot tub and salt and pepper the insides and set aside for a little while.
Cook the hamburger and onions until the hamburger is no longer pink and the onions are translucent.
If you're using canned tomatoes, you'll just want to get the whole peeled version and then dice them up.  Keep the juice also please.
If you're using fresh, you'll need to par boil them, stick them in an ice bath, peel off the skins and then dice them.
Add the tomatoes, rice, water, Worcestershire sauce, and soup.  Simmer for about 15 minutes.
Now add the cheese and mix well. You'll want to place your peppers in a small oven proof dish.  Now you can begin pouring the mixture carefully into each pepper.  Fill them all the way to the top. Cover with tin foil and bake.
I added more cheese to the top when they came out of the oven.....what, I can do it if I want to!
This recipe leaves lots of room for you to add your own special touches.  Make them spicy by adding jalapenos, add some chili seasonings to the meat and make them more like chili stuffed peppers, add more veggies, the possibilities are endless.
I got this original recipes from here, but changed it slightly: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Stuffed-Green-Peppers-I/Detail.aspx
6 sweet peppers (you pick the colors)
1 lb ground beef
1/2 of a medium onion - chopped
1 - 14.5 ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes or about 4-5 fresh tomatoes.
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup uncooked rice (I used brown rice)
1/2 cup water
1 cup cheddar cheese
2 - 10.75 cans of condensed tomato soup
salt and pepper to taste
Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees.  Cut the tops off each pepper and remove the seeds and membranes inside. Boil for about 5 minutes.  Remove and season with salt and pepper then set aside.
Brown the hamburger and onion until the burger is no longer pink, drain off any excess juice from the pan.
Add the tomato's, Worcestershire sauce, rice, water and soup and let simmer for about 15 minutes. Stir in the cheese and mix well.  Fill the peppers to the top and bake; covered for about 30 - 35 minutes.

July 29, 2010

Strawberry Pie

It's strawberry season so it's time to break out the dessert recipes I've had gathering dust over the winter and make some deliciousness.  My husband and I were in the mood for something light and easy to make on a hot summers night.  We have strawberries in the house all summer long since its one of my daughters favorites so I didn't need to get any ingredients for this one. It does need to cool in the refrigerator for at least an hour so be sure to allow yourself enough time.

To start, you need to pre-bake the crust.  Normally I have one frozen in the freezer but I had to actually make one this time.  Geesh!  It's pretty easy, not many ingredients needed to make crust but you could totally use a pre-made crust.  I started with the flour, shortening, salt and a cup of very cold water on standby. Use a pastry cutter to work the flour salt and shortening together until relatively combined, now start to add the water little by little until it starts to take on a dough consistency.  You'll probably need to get in there with your hands for this part.

Once it's combined you can roll it into a ball and put it onto a lightly floured surface.  Get your rolling pin and flour it up.  I don't have pictures of this part because my hands were covered in dough and flour but basically you want to roll it out in as much of a circle as possible until it's about an inch or so larger than your pie plate.  Then fold it in half and put into your pie plate and unfold.  Now cut the extra dough from around the edge of your plate, or leave a little bit so you can tuck it under and make a nice rim around your pie plate.

Poke holes in the bottom with a fork so that when it bakes it doesn't puff up.  The picture above is of the baked pie crust.  I put it in a 350 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes and kept checking it until it was very slightly golden brown. You can see how the edges of the crust sort of retracted while cooking, I happen to like it this way but if you like lots of crust you'll probably want to do the tuck under method and leave some room for retraction.

Cut up your strawberries and arrange them in the bottom of the pie crust. It needs to look somewhat pretty since this is almost exactly how your finished pie will look.

Take the remaining strawberries and mush them up using a fork or potato masher. Add the sugar and bring to a boil over medium heat.

Mix the cornstarch and water together until combined and pour it into the hot strawberry mixture. Reduce the heat and simmer until thickened; stirring constantly.

The mixture will take on a much clearer look once thickened, it'll be very red and about the consistency of syrup.

Pour the hot liquid over the berries in the pie shell making sure to cover thoroughly.  Refrigerate the pie for at least one hour but more if possible.

Top with whipped cream or ice cream and enjoy! This is so perfect for a hot summer night, it's not too sweet but totally refreshing.  Great, now I want some more...

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 tsp salt

Mix together the flour, salt, and shortening with a fork or pastry cutter.  Once you get it pretty well combined start to add the cold water a little at a time until the dough can be formed into a ball.  Roll the dough on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin until it's about 1/2 inch larger all the way around than your pie dish.  Fold the dough in half and place in the dish, then unfold.  Cut off the overhanging bits from the edge of the pie dish, use a fork to poke holes in the bottom and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes.

Pie Filling:
1 quart fresh strawberries (about 2 pounds)
3/4 cup white sugar
3 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 cup water

Arrange about 3/4 of the whole/hulled strawberries in the baked pie crust. Crush the remaining berries with a fork or potato masher and put into a medium saucepan.  Add the sugar and bring to a boil. Mix the water and cornstarch and then pour into the strawberry mixture, stir constantly and simmer until thickened. This usually take about 3-5 minutes.  Pour the hot strawberry mixture over the fresh strawberries in the pie crust  making sure to coat it evenly.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Using the whisk attachment on your electric mixer, beat the cream by itself on medium high speed until it reaches the still peak stage; reduce the speed to low and slowly add the sugar and vanilla and whisk only until incorporated.

July 28, 2010

Rick Katz's Brownies for Julia

I recently found this recipe while looking for a brownie recipe to bring to a barbecue.  I knew I wanted fudgy brownies with no nuts or frosting.  While searching one of my favorite food blogs (http://www.traceysculinaryadventures.com/) I found this one.  She actually got the recipe from another website (http://chocolatechic.wordpress.com//) which is where the actual recipe can be found.  I patterned my recipe after this recipe and did as she did and these brownies are very very good.  The only thing I will caution you on is they are SUPER fudgy and even gooey in the middle.  I even cooked mine longer then indicated and used a larger pan knowing they'd be thinner and they were still very gooey in the center.  The edges were the texture I would expect in a brownie however and these didn't last very long at my house. In case you're wondering about the name of these brownies, Rick Katz is a Boston based Pastry Chef and Julia is the one and only Julia Child.  More of the story below.

I didn't have the unsweetened chocolate bakers squares at my house, but I did have the unsweetened cocoa powder and luckily it give the conversion chart on the back. The picture above is the cocoa powder and shortening needed for the conversion.


Luckily I did have the semi-sweet baking chocolate squares so this part required no math (thank goodness).


Butter, cut up as requested per the recipe.  Who am I to argue with a pastry chef after all.

All the chocolate and butter goes into a double boiler (or a bowl over a pot of simmering water) and stir until it's completely blended - but not too much so the butter doesn't separate.

mmmmm, chocolate!  Once the butter and chocolate have melted together add 1 cup of the sugar. Is it combined?  Good, now remove it from the heat and add the vanilla.

Now pour the melted chocolate into a large bowl.

This next part I didn't take any good pictures so bear with me.  Add the remaining 1 cup of sugar to the bowl of your mixer with the whisk attachment. Add in all 4 eggs and whisk them together until combined. Now, ready carefully - pour half of this egg/sugar mixture little by little into the warm chocolate (slowly so you don't cook your eggs). Mix them together slowly but constantly. Now we're caught up to the picture above.

With the remaining half of the egg/sugar batter, whisk together on high until the mixture has doubled in size. Carefully fold this egg/sugar mixture into the chocolate mixture. Stop short of blending it completely together.

Sprinkle your dry ingredients into the chocolate mixture little by little.

Gently stir until you can no longer see the dry ingredients.

Good, now pour this into a pan. 

Remember, I used a larger pan so they'd be thinner and maybe not as gooey in the middle as a thicker brownie might be.

Into a 350 degree oven for somewhere between 20 and 25 minutes.  I put mine in for 25 minutes and they were still nice and gooey so I guess it'll depend on how hot your oven is and your elevation.

Cook until the top looks dry, but when you insert a toothpick it comes out sort of wet and gooey.

I didn't have a lot of time to let these cool as I should have since I had to take them to a barbecue but I think they were fantastic all the same.  The original recipe says if you let them cool they'll set and you'll be able to cut them easier than the picture above.

Here's the story behind this recipe, and the recipe directly from ChocolateChic's blog.   

Dorie writes “In 1995, when I was working with Julia Child filming the PBS series Baking with Julia and writing the companion book, Boston-based pastry chef Rick Katz was running the prep kitchen in Julia’s basement. Working between the washing machine and the dryer, Rick was in charge of getting the recipes of each of the twenty-six visiting chefs ready for their close-ups. An ordinary human would have had his hands full, but superman Rick always found time to make us extra little goodies, among them these very dark, very fudgy brownies. The way he prepares the batter is different from any other brownie recipe I know. Half of the eggs and sugar are mixed in with the chocolate, while the other half are beaten until they double in volume and are as light as a sponge. Whipping the eggs creates the surprisingly creamy, soft and definitely fudgy texture.

Here is the recipe:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, coarsly chopped
2 oz. buttersweet chocolate, coarsly chopped (I used semi-sweet)
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and set the rack to the middle. Put a 9x9 inch pan (I used 9x13) on a baking sheet.  Whisk your flour and salt together and set aside.

Put a heat safe bowl over a pot of simmering water, don't allow the water to touch the bottom of the bowl.

Cut your chocolate and butter and add them to the double boiler (that's the bowl on top of the pot of water) ;).  Stir the chocolate and butter until it's combined - do not overcook.  Add 1 cup of sugar and mix well, then remove from the heat and add the vanilla and transfer to a large bowl.

In a mixing bowl add the remaining 1 cup of sugar and the eggs.  Use your whisk attachment and whisk these together.  Take 1/2 of this mixture and gently pour into the warm chocolate mixture while stiring so that your eggs don't cook from the heat of the chocolate.  Whisk the remaining sugar/egg mixture on high for about 3 minutes or until it's doubled in size.  Fold this egg/sugar mixture into the chocolate gently using a spatula. Fold until almost combined but not fully. Sprinkle the dry ingredients into the mixture and fold these in until you can no longer see the flour.  Pour the mixture into the pan and bake for about 20-25 minutes. The top should look dry, but when you test the middle with a toothpick it should come out slightly gooey.

Now cool and then cut and enjoy!

July 26, 2010

Creamy Macaroni and Cheese (my new favorite)

Here we go again, another Macaroni and Cheese recipe right?  Wrong, well technically you're right but this one is super fantastic, it's my favorite so far.  If you're looking for a creamy mac n' cheese that your kids will love, this is it.  I was looking for some very specific elements when we got invited to a friends house for a barbecue this past weekend.  I wanted a mac n' cheese that would be orange (because some kids believe that all cheese is orange and that's the only way they'll eat it), I wanted something that used Velveeta and sour cream.  Strange you say?  Well, in my experience these items combined make a super duper combination and I was right! If you're wondering why I don't have any photo's of this all dished up on a plate and ready to eat, it's because the minute it came out of the oven we got in the car and headed to our friends house...but trust me it was good.

Start by boiling your pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water while you get some of your ingredients ready so you can just cruise right along.  This isn't required of course but it does make things easier. I eye balled about 8 oz of Velveeta since I had the large box of it on hand.  I of course added a little more than 2 cups of shredded sharp cheddar because, hello it's cheese! The only 2% milk I had on hand was my toddlers milk (yes she gets the good milk and her daddy and I suffer with store brand skim milk). Anyway, you get the idea here. Not pictured are the spices.

Melt a stick of butter in a large sauce pan. You know this will be good if it starts with a stick of butter right?

Once the butter has melted, pour in your flour and stir to blend.  (No lumps here please).

You can see how it combines rather well, that's exactly what you want.

Stir in the milk slowly while whisking until smooth. Turn your heat down to simmer and whisk continuously until thickened.  This shouldn't take more than a minute or two.

Drain your pasta and add the cheddar to the hot pasta and mix well. Set this aside for a moment.

Now mix in the Velveeta, sour cream, Parmesan cheese and spices and stir until well incorporated.

Once your Velveeta has melted pour this mixture into the pasta and cheese mixture.  Mix well and then pour into a casserole dish (2 quart) that has been sprayed with non-stick spray.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until the top is slightly brown and bubbly on the sides.

Now, sit down and enjoy this wonderful macaroni and cheese, we sure did!

This is a "Taste of Home" Recipe and can be found at: http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Creamy-Macaroni-and-Cheese

2 cups of uncooked pasta
1/2 cup of butter
1/2 cup of all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups of 2% milk
8 ounces of  Velveeta - cubed
2 cups (8 ounces) of shredded sharp cheddar
1 cup (8 ounces) of sour cream
1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. ground dry mustard
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Boil the pasta in a big pot of salted water until al dente.  While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a large saucepan.  Once melted, add the flour and whisk until smooth.  Pour the milk in slowly until well incorporated and reduce the heat to simmer.  Whisk this mixture until it's thickened and doesn't have any lumps.  Add the sour cream, Parmesan cheese, Velveeta and spices and stir until the cheeses have melted.  Right about now your pasta should be done, drain it and mix the hot pasta with the shredded cheddar cheese.  Once your creamy Velveeta cheese mixture is smooth, mix with the pasta and cheddar until well incorporated.  Pour this mixture into a 2 quart casserole dish that's been sprayed with some cooking spray.  Cook for about 30 minutes or until it's slightly brown and all bubbly along the sides. 

July 21, 2010

Scalloped Tomatoes with Croutons

I tried this recipe for the first time last night after seeing it on one of my other favorite food blogs (www.smittenkitchen.com). As you know, I have an excess of tomatoes and basil in my garden so this was the perfect recipe to try. I'm sooooo happy that I did, it is delicious! It's sort of like a bruschetta casserole. Apparently its a recipe by Ina Garten from The Food Network, but who ever it's from originally is brilliant. You must try it.

I bought Italian bread from the bakery not realizing the original recipes calls for French bread, but I don't really think it makes a difference. Remove the crusts and cut into squares about 1" in size.

Put some olive oil in a skillet and brown the bread on all sides until they are golden and crunchy. Crunch is important here.

Dice up some tomatoes...

Chop up the basil - don't skimp on the basil, try to use the full 1/2 cup even if you're not that fond of it. Tomatoes and Basil were made for each other. I even read somewhere that if you're growing these two items in your garden you should grow them next to each other because the basil improves the flavor of the tomatoes. How cool is that?

In a bowl mix the tomatoes, sugar, salt, pepper and garlic together - then add it to the browned croutons.

After cooking the mixture for about 5 minutes, turn off the heat and add the basil.

Now pour this mixture into a small shallow baking dish and top with the Parmesan cheese. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 35-40 minutes.

I added more Parmesan cheese to my portion, because in my opinion you can never have enough cheese. We had this with a simple salad and it was wonderful.

Here is the recipe from Smitten Kitchen:

Here's a recap:
3 tablespoons olive oil (reduced from original)
2 cups bread from a French boule, in a 1/2-inch dice, crusts removed (I went closer to 3 cups, after buying a loaf of very puffy Italian bread by accident)
2 1/2 pounds plum whatever good tomatoes you’ve got, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup thinly slivered basil leaves, lightly packed
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat your oven to 350 and begin cutting your bread into cubes. Brown the bread in some olive oil on all sides until golden brown.
Dice your tomatoes, add to this the sugar, garlic, salt, and pepper.
Once your bread is browned, add the tomato mixture and cook for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the basil. Pour this mixture into a small shallow baking dish and top with Parmesan cheese. Bake for 35-40 minutes.