Archive for May, 2008

Chocolate Chip Pancakes

May 31, 2008

I have a love for all things breakfast, but Chocolate Chip Pancakes hold a special place in my heart. It’s the first thing I look for on the menu at any place that claims to serve a good breakfast. They should be fluffy, golden brown, and gooey with plenty of chocolate inside of them. One of my favorite things to do on a lazy Saturday or Sunday is make a big, indulgent breakfast. My hubby, the one who never particularly cared for breakfast foods other than eggs, has even come to expect and request these big weekend breakfasts. This morning I woke up a little later than usual and wasn’t planning on making anything until my husband asked, “So what are you making for breakfast?” Whaaa?!? Normally I have to say “I’m making pancakes/waffles/etc. and I don’t care if you’re not hungry you have to eat some.” Because everyone knows a girl can’t eat big fluffy breakfast food all by herself…how embarrassing! If someone else helps you eat it, it significantly reduces the embarrassment.

So in to the kitchen I went, armed with a recipe from one of my favorite blogs, The Homesick Texan. I knew they would be delicious because they were her beloved Grandpa’s “special pancakes”. I love nothing more than a good ‘ole secret family recipe (especially when they are TEXAN family recipes). I only made a few small changes in the recipe as noted below but they were SO GOOD. Fluffy, golden brown, gooey just like they should be!

Yes that’s a mimosa in the picture. 🙂

Grandpa’s special pancakes

Source: The Homesick Texan

Ingredients:
1 egg
About 1 1/2 cups of milk
2 cups of flour
1 tablespoon of whole-wheat flour (I just used 1 Tbsp all-purpose b/c I didn’t have whole-wheat)
1 heaping tablespoon of fresh baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tablespoons of sugar
4 tablespoons of vegetable oil (I only used 3 Tbsp and they turned out perfect)
1/2 cup of shelled pecans (I omitted)

Method:
1. Beat together the egg and milk.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients. Mix (can add more milk if needed).
3. Pour 1/4 cup onto skillet heated at medium.
4. Cook for a couple of minutes on one side (until edges are brown and bubbles form in batter).
5. Flip and cook on other side a couple more minutes.
6. Serve immediately.
7. Don’t forget: Mighty good on Saturday morning!
Notes: When Jacob made these, he used buttermilk, which made them extra fluffy. He also used less than four tablespoons of oil. And my uncle Austin recalls that Grandpa insisted his secret to great pancakes was in using a fresh and hearty tablespoon of baking powder.

Philly Cheesesteaks

May 31, 2008

Cheesesteaks

YUM! These will be a dinner staple in our house from now on. I don’t know why I didn’t think of making Cheesesteaks at home in the first place?!? I can thank my friend (in real life – not just a blog friend) Liz for putting the idea of cheesesteaks in my head. You see, Liz and I went to college together and were sorority sisters. She is a little bit older than me though so we didn’t get to know each other too well during college. Recently we discovered, via our friend Facebook, that we both married military men and that we both have a passion for cooking. We started talking and I told her about my food blog. She loved the idea and decided to make one herself!

She has been doing a fantastic job with her blog despite the fact that she was oh about 8 1/2 months pregnant when she decided to start it! I’m so happy to announce that Liz had her baby and she’s a beautiful little girl named Emily Grace! So this one’s for you Emily Grace! I have no doubt that you are going to grow up blessed with some wonderful food made by your Momma. You lucky girl you! Congratulations Liz and Daniel! Best wishes and THANKS for a great dinner idea!

One note: I wasn’t sure how to get “thinly sliced steak” so I asked the butcher at the grocery store. She directed me to the sirloin cut “Milanese Style” (aka very thin). Then, when it came time to cook I just sliced the thin-cut steak into strips. I think it turned out very well!

Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches

Source: Closet Cooking

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 onions, sliced

1 green pepper, sliced

1 pound thinly sliced steak

salt and pepper to taste

provolone cheese

2 hoagie rolls

Heat oil in a pan. Add the onions and green peppers and saute until tender, about 6-10 minutes. Set the onions and peppers aside. Add the steak to the pan and cook until no longer pink, about 3-4 minutes. Mix the vegetables into the steak. Place the steak, vegetables, and cheese on the hoagie roll. Place the open sandwich, with the cheese on top, under the broiler to melt the cheese.

Makes 2 servings

Five Things About Me

May 30, 2008

I’ve been tagged by Amy of Sing for Your Supper to share 5 things about me! Thanks Amy! Here goes….

The rules:

Each player answers the questions about themselves. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

What was I doing ten years ago?

I was finishing up my 7th grade year. Ugh Junior High…not a time I remember fondly. This upcoming summer 10 years ago actually might have been the summer I spent in Los Mochis, Mexico staying with some family friends of ours. It was one of the first times away from my parents for more than like a week or two so I was VERY scared to go. It turned out to be one of the best summers of my life, though! I made tons of Mexican friends, crushed on some boys, went to the pool almost everyday, improved my Spanish greatly. etc.

What are five (non-work) things on my to-do list for today?

(Err….I don’t have a job right now so everything on my list is non-work related! Ha!)

-Clean the bathrooms (my least favorite cleaning job)

-Walk the dog (already did it but it was on my list)

-Mail back my Netflix movie so I can get another (my new obsession)

-Write thank-you notes from my birthday (another least favorite thing to do but my mom is nagging me….yes, she still nags me even though we live 3 hours apart and I’m married

-Put away laundry that I did yesterday

Five snacks I enjoy:

I’m not a big snacker these days but I still can appreciate a good one…

1. The new Cinnamon Wheat Thins….yum!!

2. Apples w/ peanut butter….I eat this for lunch sometimes

3. Any baked goods I made and are sitting around my house (right now it would be cupcakes)

4. Oreos…but they are dangerous for me so I try not to buy them

5. Cheese and crackers

Things I would do if I were a billionaire:

1. Buy a house.

2. Build my dream kitchen in said house.

3. Get a new car for me (hubby just got a new one).

4. Open my own restaurant or catering business and never have to get a “real” job again.

5. Travel the world, staring with Tahiti, Italy, St. Lucia, Greece, and Germany.

Places I’ve lived:

1. Katy, TX

2. College Station, TX

3. Sierra Vista, AZ

4. Killeen, TX

Jobs I’ve had:

1. Cashier at Sport Clips, a place for boys/men to get their haircut and watch sports on the TVs.

2. Spa Assistant at a spa in Katy. I laundered the towels, made the massage beds, kept things tidy, served Spa Lunches, etc. That was probably one of my favorite jobs b/c I got 90% off ALL spa services!!

3. Student Assistant at an office on campus at Texas A&M. I loved my co-workers at that job. If I had stayed in College Station I would have gone to work for them full-time.

4. Management Trainee for a rental car company. First “real” job after college and definitely my least favorite. I quit so now I’m job searching again. 🙂

TAG! You’re it…..

1. Liz at Graced by Food

2. Shawna at Daily Deliciousness

3. Danielle at Dinner with Danielle

4. Rachel at Good Thymes and Good Food

5. Jaime at Good Eats and Sweet Treats

Barefoot Bloggers: Herbed Baked Eggs

May 30, 2008

Barefoot Blogger Icon

The Barefoot Bloggers are a new group of cooks and bakers dedicated to making recipes by the Barefoot Contessa herself, Ina Garten. Tara over at Smells Like Home recently started this group up and I thought it sounded so fun so I joined.

The first recipe chosen was Herbed-Baked Eggs which I was very excited about. Alex and I love eggs and I have a mini-herb garden I’m growing that I used for the fresh herbs in the dish! We love breakfast for dinner so I incorporated the eggs into a more “complete” meal for dinner one night. I served them with venison breakfast sausage patties, a piece of baguette, and fresh fruit. It was delicious! Alex said it’s not something he would request for dinner again but that he would definitely eat it again as a breakfast or brunch dish. The herbs just add so much flavor to the dish! I’m so glad I had my herb garden or else I probably would have used all dried herbs which may not have given it the same flavor.

Herbed Baked Eggs

The only problem I had, which it looks like a lot of the Barefoot Bloggers had, was that Ina’s time of 5-6 minutes to cook the eggs under the broiler was NOT sufficient! They looked cooked after that time so I took them out but then I realized they were still completely raw in the center of the dish so I nuked them in the microwave for a few seconds. Unfortunately, nuking them cooked the yellow part of the eggs but still left the center pretty runny. Next time I would just let it broil for another few minutes. All in all though, I was very pleased with the dish! I can’t wait to make more of Ina’s recipes!

Herbed Eggs

Herbed-Baked Eggs

Source: www.foodnetwork.com

1/4 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
1/4 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan
6 extra-large eggs
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Toasted French bread or brioche, for serving

Preheat the broiler for 5 minutes and place the oven rack 6 inches below the heat.

Combine the garlic, thyme, rosemary, parsley, and Parmesan and set aside. Carefully crack 3 eggs into each of 2 small bowls or teacups (you won’t be baking them in these) without breaking the yolks. (It’s very important to have all the eggs ready to go before you start cooking.)

Place 2 individual gratin dishes on a baking sheet. Place 1 tablespoon of cream and 1/2 tablespoon of butter in each dish and place under the broiler for about 3 minutes, until hot and bubbly. Quickly, but carefully, pour 3 eggs into each gratin dish and sprinkle evenly with the herb mixture, then sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Place back under the broiler for 5 to 6 minutes, until the whites of the eggs are almost cooked. (Rotate the baking sheet once if they aren’t cooking evenly.) The eggs will continue to cook after you take them out of the oven. Allow to set for 60 seconds and serve hot with toasted bread.

I’m a Proud Mama!!

May 22, 2008

Ok I’m a little bit lame to be so excited about this BUT shortly after moving into this new house I hung some flower baskets from our front porch. Well, a little bird decided to build a NEST in one of the hanging baskets. How convenient because I can take it down and check on them everyday!! She laid her tiny, adorable little eggs and I had been checking back everyday to see if they had hatched. Wellllll, yesterday I checked and low and behold – there was a newborn baby bird in the nest!!!!!!!

Baby Bird

See that little reddish pink, fury thing in there?!?! That’s a BABY BIRD!! He/she is not very attractive just yet with patchy feathers and skeleton-like body but I know he/she will be quite a looker when he/she gets a little bigger! The other 3 eggs haven’t hatched yet but I’ll be anxiously waiting for them to join the world.

Oh and don’t worry, I will be sure to post updates on my babies (whether your care or not)!

Baby bird

Balsamic Skirt Steak with Polenta and Roasted Tomatoes

May 22, 2008

Balsamic Skirt Steak

This was a GOOD dinner! It’s quick, easy, and well-balanced. A complete meal in about 30 minutes! The recipe hails from Everyday Food magazine March 2008 issue. I really didn’t change much of anything other than I, unfortunately, had to omit the Balsamic Vinegar sauce because I didn’t realize I was out of it. The steak was still really good and simple without the sauce but I would definitely make it next time (my husband is a balsamic vinegar freak!). We especially enjoyed the Roasted Tomatoes. These are not something I would have thought to make as a side-dish but they were DELICIOUS! So sweet and tangy!

Balsamic Skirt Steak with Polenta and Roasted Tomatoes

Serves 4

-2 pints grape tomatoes

-6 scallions, white and green parts separated and cut into 1-inch pieces

-2 tablespoons olive oil

-coarse salt and ground pepper

-1 cup yellow cornmeal

-1 tablespoon butter

-1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan

-1 1/2 pounds skirt steak

-1 cup balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large saucepan, set 4 cups water to boil. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss tomatoes with scallion whites and 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast until tomatoes are tender and some skins have split, 12 to 15 minutes; toss with scallion greens.

2. Meanwhile, add 1 teaspoon salt to boiling water; gradually whisk in cornmeal. Simmer very gently over low heat, whisking occasionally, until polenta is thickened and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Whisk in butter and Parmesan, and keep warm over very low heat (whisk in some water just before serving if polenta becomes too thick.)

3. Heat remaining tablespoon oil in a large skillet over high. Season steak with salt and pepper; add to skillet. Cook, turning once, 6 to 8 minutes total for medium-rare. Transfer to a plate, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest, 5 to 10 minutes (reserve skillet).

4. Add vinegar to skillet and boil over high until reduced to 1/2 cup, 5 to 7 minutes; stir in any juices from resting steak. Slice steak, and serve with vinegar sauce, polenta, and tomatoes.

Balsamic Steak

Chocolate Chip Blondies

May 21, 2008

Blondies

(Ahem, please excuse the doggie nose in the background of that photo…she was very intrigued by my blondies.)

The other day my husband had to pull a 24 hour staff duty shift (he’s in the Army, remember?) and he called me about half way through his shift asking if I would be willing to bake something for him and the 4 other guys who were working with him all day and night. I was thrilled that he actually requested I bake something since he’s not a big sweets person so I obliged.

I had seen Joelen’s blondies and decided I must make them. Believe it or not, I had never made blondies before until now. They will definitely be a more frequent occurence though! They are so delicious and chewy. The only problem I had was that after cooking for the specified time I pulled them out because the top looked done. However, upon cutting them into bars I realized they were still quite under-cooked. At that point though it was too late to put them back in because they had already cooled so I just let it be. Next time I’ll know to increase the baking time.

Milk Chocolate Caramel Brownies

Source: seen on Joelen’s Culinary Adventures and Orignally from 2005 America’s Test Kitchen Live! cookbook

1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted & cooled
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup milk chocolate caramel morsels (Nestle brand) (I just used semi-sweet choc. chips b/c that’s what I had on hand)
1 cup walnuts, chopped (I omitted b/c my husband doesn’t like nuts)

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13 by 9 inch baking pan with two pieces of foil. Spray the foil-lined pan with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.

3. Whist the melted butter and brown sugar together in a medium bowl until combined. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well. Using a rubber sptula, fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture until just combined. Do not overmix. Fold in the morsels and the nuts and turn the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing thetop with a rubber spatula.

4. Bake until the top is shiny and cracked and feels firm to the touch., 22 to 25 minutes. Place the pan on a rack and cool completely. Cut into bars.

Blondies

Cherry Crisp

May 21, 2008

Cherry Crisp

I almost squealed the other day when I walked in my grocery store and saw CHERRIES were on sale!!!! Wooohoooo! Cherries are one of my favorite fruits and they bring to mind the beginning of summer to me. My mom is a cherry fanatic too so I have fond memories of sitting around snacking on cherries with her on hot summer days and spitting the pits into a bowl. Back then what I loved about cherries was their sweet, tart taste, but now that I’m a grown-up (sorta) I also can appreciate how BEAUTIFUL cherries really are. I bought them with the intention of hoarding them to myself and snacking on them but when I got them home I realized they were just too beautiful not to blog about. I figured it would be a pretty lame blog post if I just posted “How to snack on cherries” so I decided to bake with them.

I did a quick search through one of my favorite go-to cookbooks The Joy of Cooking (given to me by my grandma) and settled on a Cherry Crisp. Crisps and crumbles are one of my favorite desserts. They are the perfect way to really show off the fruit because the only other element is a little crunchy-sweet topping. The crisp turned out mouthwatering good!! The picture I took does NOT do it justice!!

Cherry Crisp

Cherry Crisp

Adapted from: Joy of Cooking cookbook p. 692 “Apple or Fruit Crisp”

6 to 8 servings

-1 bag fresh cherries, pitted (JOC says 2 1/2 lbs but I’m pretty sure I didn’t have that much. Just use as many as you want.)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Have ready an unbuttered 2-inch deep 2-quart baking dish. Spread cherries evenly in the baking dish.

Combine in a bowl:

-3/4 c. all purpose flour

-3/4 c. packed brown sugar

-1/2 tsp. salt

-1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

-1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Add:

-1/2 c. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Using a pastry blender, 2 knives, or a food processor, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. Scatter the topping evenly over the fruit. Bake until the topping is golden brown and the juices are bubbling, 50 to 55 minutes. Serve hot or cold with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Ashley’s Tip on Pitting Cherries:

I don’t have a cherry-pitter but I wannntttt oneeeee (said in a whiny voice). If you’re deprived like me, the easiest way I have found to pit the cherries is to use a paring knife. I just cut the cherries in half but cutting around the pit. Then pull apart and squeeze out the pit. Some people I know just use a large knife and mash down on the cherry with the side of the knife until the pit pops out but I have two problems with this method: 1) too messy with pits flying everywhere and 2) you lose too much of the yummy juices and such.  My method is still pretty time consuming and I came pretty close to slicing the tip of my thumb off a couple times but it gets the job done in the best way I have found without a pitter. Basically what I think I’m trying to say is GO BUY A CHERRY PITTER. 🙂

Wilton Course 1, Class 2

May 21, 2008

I recently decided to sign up for a Wilton Cake Decorating class as a way to meet people in our new town and as a way to improve my decorating skills obviously! I really am not much of a cake-maker. I rarely make them and I would almost never choose a cake as a dessert over pie, cookies, bars, cobblers, etc. Thus, I figured this would be a great way to get me out of my comfort zone!

The second class is the first one where you are required to bring a baked, iced cake to class. I wanted something fool-proof for the first class since I was kind of unsure of my homemade cake baking skills so I went with a boxed white cake mix and filled it with strawberry jam. My new friend and fellow Army wife, Angie, came over to my house and we made our cakes together. Unfortunately, I think our icing was still a little too “stiff” because when we went to ice the cake it just kept falling away from the cake and globbing up. It was not easy, but using a metal spatula dipped frequently in water to smooth the surface we FINALLY got our cakes iced.

After the simple icing process giving us so much trouble, I was obviously more than a little anxious about how I would do on the actual cake decorating part. In the class we practiced with our star tip, practiced making the rose “base”, and our writing with icing. Then, we started on decorating our cakes. Unfortunately, we did not have much time to decorate the cake before class ended so most of my cake was finished at home. The design we were encouraged to make was a rainbow using the star tip but we could really be creative and do whatever else we wanted to do. I wasn’t sure how I was going to incorporate a rainbow into a cake but I ended up going with a “Spring Cake”.

Rainbow Cake

When I finished the rainbow, I thought the bottom part of the cake was too empty so I decided to add some “grass” and flowers. The orange-ish color in the picture is actually hot pink but it didn’t photograph well.

Rainbow Cake

It was a slow, messy, and somewhat tedious process but the feeling when I finished the cake was so great. I can’t wait to learn more techniques and get creative!

Rainbow Cake

Sausage Dinner-Style Migas

May 15, 2008

One of Alex and my favorite things to do on a weekend morning is to go to our favorite hole-in-the-wall Mexican joint and eat breakfast. Our choices very from breakfast tacos, to Huevos Ranchero, to Chorizo and Eggs (only for Alex after my last chorizo experience). But one of our favorites is Migas!

Migas

Migas were originally eaten as a meatless dish during Lent and as a way to get rid of old tortillas. I was surprised to find out (thanks to Google) that Migas are not a traditional Mexican dish, but rather originated in Texas. The basics of Migas are eggs, corn tortilla strips, onions, peppers, and cheese. At the restaurants where we get them they always served with frijoles (refried beans) and flour tortillas on the side so you can make them into tacos.

When I saw the Homesick Texan feature homemade Migas on her blog I knew I must make them right away! We love breakfast for dinner so I transformed this into a more hearty dinner dish by adding ground pan sausage to the Migas. Plus I have an overflowing amount of this Venison Pan Sausage in my freezer thanks to my husband’s kill last deer season. Gotta get rid of it somehow!

Sausage Dinner-Style Migas

Adapted from Homesick Texan

Ingredients:

1 lb. ground breakfast sausage, browned and crumbled

8 eggs
1/4 cup of milk or half-and-half
1/3 cup of peanut oil
4 corn tortillas cut into strips
1/2 an onion diced (about 1/2 a cup)
4 jalapeno peppers diced
1 cup of shredded cheese such as Longhorn cheddar or Monterrey Jack
1 to 2 cups of salsa
1 cup of cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:
1. In a bowl, whisk eggs together with milk. Add a dash of salt and pepper.
2. In a large iron skillet, heat up peanut oil on medium-high, and place tortilla strips into skillet, cooking for about three minutes, turning once.
3. Add onions and jalapenos to the pan, and cook for a couple of minutes.
4. Pour egg mixture and ground sausage into skillet and let eggs sit for about one minute or until set on the bottom and then gently stir.
5. Sprinkle cheese on top of eggs and continue to cook until melted.
6. Add salt and pepper to taste and top eggs with salsa and cilantro.
Serves four. And note that migas go mighty fine with refried beans and flour tortillas.

Migas