Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas Food

Christmas is always a big time for food, no matter where you are! This year featured a few old favorites, as well as a few new recipes.
First up, Christmas morning breakfast. We had Sausage Balls, Alton Brown's Overnight Cinnamon Rolls, and fruit. The Sausage Balls are a Cook family traditional Christmas recipe, but Mike loves them so much he would revolt if I didn't make them!

Next up was a new recipe that I've been wanting to make forever: Alton Brown's Overnight Cinnamon Rolls. Alton Brown always has such excellent recipes, but this one is so involved that it's definitely a special-occasion type of recipe!

These were unbelievable! Definitely worth the calories and time, especially since it's shaping up to be a Christmas recipe (hence once a year!)

The only other thing I actually remembered to take a picture of was the poached garlic I made for the relish tray my mom asked me to bring to Christmas dinner. This was the first time I've ever had to make a relish tray, and to be honest I didn't exactly know what it was at first. Apparently it's made up of pickles and pickled peppers and other gross stuff. I decided to try poached garlic because it sounded like an addition that I'd actually like, and it was delicious! The smell as it was cooking was fantastic!

It's cooked in white wine, olive oil, and a little fresh thyme. The smells melding together were enough to tempt me to dunk my hand in the hot oil and try one!

Saturday, December 06, 2008


When I think gingerbread, I think store-bought, hard cookies in the shape of little men, not soft, moist,wonderfully spicy cake, but that's exactly what this is! And lemme tell ya, I've discovered that there is nothing better than the smell of gingerbread in the oven to get you in a holiday mood! The great thing about this recipe is that it can be made with white-whole wheat flour and it still tastes delicious. I decided to add about half a teaspoon of the optional fresh-ground black pepper to this recipe, and I think it complimented the ginger-y flavor perfectly.

It came together easily, although I did take the extra time to grate the fresh ginger and crush the black pepper in my mortar and pestle - totally worth it!

Fresh out of the oven!

I highly recommend you serve it with some real whipped cream on top. The simple-ness of this dessert is refreshingly comforting. I definitely plan on making this recipe again!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cinnamon-Streusel Coffee Cake

Coffee cake is one of those things that I really enjoy, but rarely make. For starters, I don't drink coffee, and secondly, it doesn't have the allure of a real cake or a rich brownie. However, I have yet to find a King Arthur recipe that didn't come out delicious, so I gave this coffee cake a try.

Even though coffee cake isn't the most flashy of treats, it is incredibly easy and satisfying to make. It pulls together quickly and comes out beautifully - especially with the glossy glaze that this recipe calls for.
I didn't use quite enough of the streusel for the middle, so I had a LOT for the top. But the cake was very tender, cinnamon-y, and yummy. I definitely plan on making this coffee cake again!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

French Onion-Pork Chop Skillet

I don't make pork chops very often, mainly because I'm very picky about them - I think that they are often dry and tasteless. But when I saw this recipe in a Kraft magazine, I thought I'd give it a try. I liked that the recipe cooks up quickly, keeping the chops from getting dry, plus the use of onions is always a plus, now that I have two onion lovers in the house. Topping off the dish with mozzarella cheese is a plus, too!

This recipe was really good! It was quick and easy - give it a try!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Orange Chicken

I know this practically makes me un-American, but I never really tried Chinese food* until I met Mike. I was turned off by a very bad experience at a Chinese buffet as a fourth grader, so since my parents hate fast food in all forms, I had never tried it. I never knew what I was missing until my dear husband turned me on to the wonders of cheap Chinese food - BUT it was enjoyed only occasionally, because really, there's nothing nutritionally redeeming about the kind of Chinese food I like. I love Chinese food partially because it's something I never thought I could re-create at home, but that all changed when Mike decided to try this Orange Chicken recipe from Annie's Eats.

Oh. My. Goodness.

This was SO good! It tasted even better than the stuff you can buy! Mike actually used Clementines instead of oranges, but since he used fresh-squeezed juice, the taste was unbelievable. There are quite a few steps in this recipe, but they are all pretty easy to follow. this is definitely a "worth the splurge" meal!!

*In this post, "Chinese food" will refer to the hole-in-the-wall type of take-out restaurants that are always next to a grocery store in strip malls. I realize that this does not even closely resemble authentic Chinese food, but that's another post. Bear with me, here!

Continuing on the pumpkin theme, I decided to try these Pumpkin-Craisin Muffins for breakfast. Don't look too closely at the picture below, or you can see how much I was in need of a good breakfast that morning - sheesh, I've never seen such a messy muffin tin!

These muffins were delicious - I've discovered that they're good plain (or with butter!) in the morning, and yummy with cream cheese as a snack. They seem like they would freeze well, but they didn't last that long in this house!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Pumpkin Waffles With Maple-Cream Cheese Sauce

One of the things I love about cooking is changing with the seasons. Even though we don't get much change in the weather here in Florida, I find that my cooking style definitely changes!

Fall has definitely come to Florida - I'm sitting on my couch, watching the Gator game, while a breeze from outside tickles my toes. When the weather reaches this point, I get the urge to make everything pumpkin. When I checked out How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (a great book by the way) from the library back in June, I just had to set this recipe aside to try when it cools off! I made breakfast for dinner recently, and these Pumpkin Waffles were the main dish - they were light and fluffy and WONDERFUL! They were definitely different from the traditional waffle recipe I usually go for, but they were a nice change. And they came out such a beautiful, golden-orange color!

The recipe was a little fussy - you have to prepare the dry and wet ingredients seperately, which is par for the course, but you also have to whip egg whites (below) to add to the batter at the last minute. This really makes them fluffy, but it's also an extra step. But with my Cuisinart Smart Stick Hand Blender, it was no problem.

The last step - making the cream cheese-maple sauce! I let the cream cheese sit on the counter while I made the waffles so it could get to room temperature, then used the tiny food processor attachment on my Smart Stick to whip it up in a jiffy. By the way, I'm not getting paid to advertise for Cuisinart or anything - I just love my hand blender!! The maple-cream cheese sauce really completes the waffles. Yummy!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

I Still Cook....

But not as much as I used to. Now that I work full-time as a first-grade teacher, my cooking has changed a lot. I use my crock-pot a lot more now:

This is a really good chicken recipe, and it couldn't be easier! All you do is take a whole chicken, dump it in the crock pot, and pour some Hoisin sauce on top*. You can get more complicated if you'd like by marinating it overnight and pouring some of the sauce in the cavity, along with a few garlic cloves, but that's optional. Then let it cook all day on low in your crock pot, and when you walk in the door exhausted (or is that just me?!?), dinner's done! Lately, that's the type of dinners I like!!

My cooking style has definitely changed, and it's taken some getting used to. I used to almost never buy convenience foods, but now I buy things like refrigerated pasta and frozen skillet meals. At first I felt guilty buying those things...but then I realized that something had to give. As a first-year teacher, I just plain don't have time to make bread from scratch anymore or spend hours crafting a meal. Yeah, the bread from the tube isn't quite as good, but it's better than eating out every night - which is what we were doing until I realized we needed to change. I still like to cook when I can, but I had to make some allowances! Mike has been great helping out with cooking - I have a list of meal options on the side of the fridge, and there have been nights when I'm pulling out of the school at dinnertime, and he's glad to step up and help out. Lucky me!

*Hoisin can be found in the Asian section of your local supermarket. I really like Soy Vay's Hoisin Garlic sauce.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Pan-Fried Flounder with Squash Saute and Roasted Potatoes

I was in the mood for some seafood this week, and while we usually go for salmon (because we all like it and it's on sale often), the local grocery store surprised me by having flounder that looked relatively decent at a relatively low price. Plus, it was wild caught - bonus!!

I actually had very little to do with this meal, but it was so good I just had to share. Plus, I haven't been doing much cooking at all lately, what with my new job and all. Mike decided to pan-fry the flounder with panko breadcrumbs (I finally found some!) and roast some new potatoes, while Nils did the Squash Saute. That squash recipe is excellent - I like zucchini, but it had to be done right - it can NOT be slimy or squishy!! I highly recommend that you try this recipe!
On top of the fish is minced garlic and parsley - a great way to give it a little more flavor! The fish was crispy and delicious. I think Nils enjoyed dinner, because I caught him doing this with the leftovers:

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Sour Cream Chocolate Cake

I saved this recipe from a Taste of Home magazine a while back and finally decided to give it a try when my mom asked me to bring a dessert to a family dinner. I made sure the butter was room temperature before I started - I'm always glad when I do that! It makes the batter even lighter and more fluffy. Adding the sour cream only makes it more so!

I used dark chocolate cocoa powder for the cake - go big or go home, right?!?

I almost decided to make a cream cheese icing (my favorite!), but since this cake has three layers I was concerned about having enough to cover the whole cake. I made the icing that the recipe called for and had just enough. It was mild, which went well with the rich taste of the cake.
I thought that the icing went on beautifully - I covered it first with a very thin layer, then let it harden in the fridge. This seals in all the crumbs so the second layer goes on nicely.
Three layers of chocolate-y goodness!
German Cooking

I don't know how "German" this dish really is, but it was made by our German foreign exchange student, so I'm going to call it German. Nils has surprised me with his wonderful cooking skills - he made me some eggs with red onions and feta cheese.

I don't really have any more information on this dish, but I just had to show it off :)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Bavarian Pretzel Rolls

I found this recipe from a new blog I've been reading called A Year in the Kitchen. I've printed several recipes from Ashlee's blog (thanks, Ashlee!), but this is the first one I've tried. Mike loves the pretzel rolls from the Yalaha Bakery, so I thought I'd try my hand at making them myself. It took a bit of work, but I really enjoyed the process. It was a great way to stretch myself! And they were SO good!

I used the dough hooks on my stand mixer, and after a rising I rolled it up and cut it into pieces.

After another rising, they were ready to be boiled.

You have to add baking soda to the water to make it very bubbly. The boiling process cooks the rolls on the outside, giving them that pretzel look - browned on the outside and chewy on the inside. I guess the baking soda keeps them moving constantly?

Ready to go in the oven.

Oh man, they were SO good right out of the oven! I put some of them in the freezer for later, and the rest disappeared pretty quickly. They make great sandwiches!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Note: As I have previously mentioned, Blogger has been acting up for me recently. It is not uploading pictures (as opposed to just flat-out refusing!), but some of them are coming out sideways. I have decided to just keep blogging and ask you to turn your heads ninety degrees when the occasion calls for it to properly view the picture!

Anniversary Dinner: Meat Loaf Wellington

This week Mike and I celebrated our third anniversary, and I wanted to make a special dinner to celebrate. Meat Loaf Wellington is one of Mike's favorites - it does have a lot of steps, but if you follow them closely it's not particularly hard, but the result tastes and looks like it's very complicated!!

I decided to try using ground buffalo, which my local Publix recently started carrying. I was using a little less than the recipe calls for, but I mistakenly used the original amount of cheese, so you will later see that it came oozing out a little! Otherwise I was very happy with the buffalo.
With the meatloaf ingredients mixed in. Ground buffalo does have a bit of a different feel to it - it's less "granular" feeling, more....moist, maybe? I think the finished result is also a little more moist than beef.

You put down a piece of aluminum foil (that Reynolds Release nonstick foil stuff works especially well if you have any) and form the meat into a rectangle, then sprinkle the cheese to within one inch of the edges.
This is the tricky part - using the foil, you have to roll up the meat like a jelly roll. If you go slowly it'll be fine, it's very forgiving. I usually have to fix some bare spots after I'm done!
You put the loaf in the oven to cook almost all the way, then pull it out to drape crescent roll dough over it.
This new prodcut from Pillsbury is perfect for a recipe like this - it's crescent roll dough without any seams! I draped it over the meatloaf and tucked over the edges, but next time I will probably trim it to fit with my kitchen scissors.

Twenty minutes later, THIS beauty comes out of the oven! Fair warning: this smells absolutely wonderful while baking, so keep a cattle prod around to drive away any husbands or animals you may have in the house.
I paired the meat loaf with roasted garlic green beans.
The finished product!* This is an excellent treat - the buttery crescent rolls, paired with the cheese and meat.....yum!! A great anniversary meal!!
*Note that the original recipe calls for topping the meat loaf with cheese and parsely, but I don't do this.