Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The weather continues to swelter here in Florida, so there hasn't been a lot of cooking going on. It's like the heat is sucking out my creativity! My cousins did visit for the weekend, however, so for dinner Saturday night we made personal-sized pizzas. I mixed up a 2-pound ball of whole-wheat pizza dough, then divided it up and rolled them out. We all put on our own sauce, cheese, and toppings:

Rachel and April's: green peppers, onion, and pepperoni (for April).

Mine (pepperoni) and Mike's (green peppers, onions, and pepperoni).

Rachel putting together her pizza.

The pizzas were great - you can't beat homemade pizza! We used Newman's Own Vodka Sauce for the pizzas, and it was delicious. The girls seemed to enjoy picking out the toppings and putting together their own pizzas.

We also made homemade vanilla ice cream in my ice cream maker. I received it as a wedding gift, but it didn't get much use in our small apartment because I had no storage space and couldn't put it in an accessible place. I had forgotten how good homemade ice cream is. I used the clear vanilla extract I have for cake decorating, thus the pretty white color.

We've all heard of the "double-churned" low-fat ice cream, and I wondered what would happened if I tried it myself. So I used low-fat milk instead of whole and let the ice cream maker churn for 40 minutes instead of 20. I plan to do the same thing next time, because it was delicious! It was the most like store-bought ice cream I've ever made, as far as texture goes. Yummmm.

Onto tonight's dinner: chicken and broccoli stir-fry with Pillsbury dinner rolls. I've never been into making stir-fries, but I found a neat chart in a cook book that lists all the different meats, veggies, and spices you could use. It also includes some cool stir-fry tips, like freezing your meat for 30 minutes to make it easier to thinly slice (it works!).

I used chicken breast, broccoli florets, black pepper, soy sauce, and lime juice. It turned out well, but I was surprised at how quickly the broccoli went from firm and bright green to pale and a little limp. They had to sit for a few minutes while the rolls finished browning, so next time I will be more careful to finish everything at the same time. I also realized when I was dishing everything up that I should have made rice to go with the stir-fry! Rolls were the only carb I could think of when I was planning dinner. Like I said, the heat is taking it's toll on my brain! But I still think dinner turned out well.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Just a note to let you know that by request, I have posted the recipe for the Chocolate Cake I made for our anniversary. I have named it Chocolate-Covered Oreo Cookie Cake, and you can get to it by clicking here. Enjoy!

Also by request, I have added hand-mixing instructions to the Rosemary Bread recipe. Personally, I think it would be easier to just go buy a breadmaker, or do what I did and put out the word and have your relatives look for one at a yard sale. Breadmakers seem to be a pretty common item at garage sales, not sure why. Maybe people start out with good intentions to make their own bread, then fall from glory? I know I use mine enough!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Although I wholeheartedly agree with Dee that it's too hot to cook much, I did make a special dinner for my mom's birthday on Friday. Thus, you get lots of new recipes! To start with, Rosemary Bread that the recipe states tastes like the bread from Macaroni Grill.

I've only been to that particular restaurant once, years ago, so I can't tell you whether or not it did, but I can tell you that this bread was delicious! I replaced some of the bread flour with whole wheat flour, so I doubt it was exact. I let my bread maker mix up the dough, then baked it in the oven to avoid that weird rectangular shape my bread maker turns out. We had this bread with olive oil and dipping spices, and it was almost gone by the time the main course was served!

I tried a new pork tenderloin recipe that used my crock pot, featuring an Asian-style glaze. I decided to try a new recipe for tenderloin because I felt like I was in a rut with my favorite way to prepare the dish. I would have never thought to try tenderloin in a crock pot, because it works so well with cheap, tough cuts of meat, but I must say I was quite pleased with this recipe. The pork was super-tender and moist, and the glaze was amazing. The recipe also works with ribs, so I plan on trying that as soon as I can lay my hands on some!

Last, dessert! I tried the blueberry-orange cheesecake recipe from the latest issue of Taste of Home, but with a few twists. First, once I had decided to make this recipe and had assembled the ingredients, I remembered that my springform pan has been MIA since the move. I decided to go ahead with the recipe, but make them into individual-sized cheesecakes. They were much easier to serve that way, and I think they still turned out well. Second, I used strawberries to creat a pretty design on top of each cupcake. I decided to try this recipe because it uses cottage cheese instead of cream cheese, and I wanted to see what a difference that made in taste.

It definitely was different - more mild, but with the sour cream-sugar concoction on top, and the pretty berries on top, it was a great dessert, and not as heavy as New-York style cheesecake, which was great after a big meal.
I think this meal was a success! Happy birthday, mom!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Playing Catch-Up

As I've said on my personal blog, I took a few days off from blogging to celebrate Mike and I's anniversary, so now I have a slew of pictures to show you! First off, the special dinner I made for our anniversary:

The steaks were thick ribeyes that I got at Publix for $6.99 a pound. They originally had porterhouses and t-bones on sale at that price, but the selection was picked over, so the butcher gave me these amazing-looking steaks for the same price. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I love Publix. They were EXCELLENT! I'm salivating right now just thinking about how good they were. Mike also requested mashed potatoes and cheesy broccoli, so we had that along with strawberry daiquiris:

And then...the motherlode!! I've been wanting to try my hand at recreating Ruby Tuesday's Chocolate Tallcake, because I think it's one of the best desserts out there. I'm the type of person who typically prefers the creativity and freshness of locally-owned places, but Ruby's got this dessert right. I looked online for a copykat recipe to no avail, so I had to combine several different recipes: one for an oreo-embedded chocolate cake from a mix, one for buttercream icing which I combined with crushed oreos for the filling, and one for chocolate mousse for the icing.

This was a very involved process, but holy cow, just look at it!! It was sooooooo good. I noticed that this cake seemed to taste even better after sitting in the fridge for a day. Paired with a tall glass of milk, eaten while floating in my pool....yes please!

Now let's all wipe the droll off our faces so I can show you tonight's dinner. I used the rest of the steak from our anniversary dinner to make steak fajitas. They were sauteed with green peppers, onions, and...zucchini? Yes, that's right. I don't care much for onions or green peppers, so I decided to throw some zucchini to sautée for the last few minutes and try that in my fajita, and I must say I enjoyed the extra serving of vegetables. Even Mike enjoyed some zukes in his fajita! I was careful to take out some of the squishy, seedy stuff out of the middle, much like you core an apple, and I think that helped.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Tonight I used my crock pot to make dinner. I love my crock pot, but I don't use it as much in the summer because of the heat it generates. I know I could set it on the washer in the garage, but that's way too much work. Anyhoo, tonight's dinner was beef pot roast with Yukon gold potatoes and a can of French onion soup poured over it all. I've used cream of mushroom and chicken soups before, but I was bored of that, and the can of French onion soup had been sitting in my pantry for a long time, waiting to be used. It turned out very well, the soup tenderized the meat and gave it a nice flavor. A taste test a few hours in revealed that the dish was a little bland, but some celery salt fixed that.

We also had pretzel rolls from the Yalaha Bakery, one of Mike's favorite, and some sauteed green beans from the freezer. By the way, if you like the Yalaha Bakery as much as we do, go here and vote for them for WESH Channel 2 news' A-list contest. They're up against some big bakeries in Orlando, so they need lots of votes. Everything I've ever had there has been absolutely delicious, and they deserve to be named the best bakery in Central Florida!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

I wanted to share this summer family favorite with you all: Fruit Pizza!

This picture is of the fruit pizza my mom made for my uncle's birthday. It has a sugar cookie crust, cream cheese filling, and a fruit and glaze topping. It's perfect for summer, and always gets compliments when we bring it to a gathering.

I actually didn't used to be a big fan of this dessert when I was a kid, but now I LOVE it! I think it's not something that kids traditionally go for, because it doesn't have icing, chocolate, cartoon characters, etc. But I love it now, and it's especially good for when you don't want something too heavy.