Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Amaretto Brownies

I usually make these very fudgy chocolate brownies which I think are the best brownies I've ever tasted... might be a bit biased, but they are damn good! Anyway, being the huge brownie fan that I am, I have been on this "must find new brownie recipes" kick lately. I'm also a huge amaretto fan (well, almonds in general fan) so you can imagine my excitement when I found this! I almost started turning cartwheels down the hallway! ;) That would be quite a sight - I think I haven't done a cartwheel since I was 14...
Anyway, these are a little more on the cake brownie side, but they are still really good! DH tried one and said "wow, did you put a whole bottle of amaretto in these things?!" No, honey, that's just 2 tbsp. and a big hunk of almond paste! ;) Yes, I was eating the almond paste straight from the tube.. maybe it's a good thing that stuff is $8 for a tiny little tube! Prevent me from eating it so much!

This will make 48 brownies - I actually cut the recipe in half which is usually not a good idea! However, seemed to work Ok for these!

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter
1/2 of an 8-ounce tube of almond paste (works out to be about 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 eggs
2 tbsp. amaretto or milk (now who on earth will sub milk for amaretto?! If you do have to sub milk, you could maybe add some almond extract to it...)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. aluminium-free baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 cup milk
Optional: fudge frosting (I'll make sure I post the recipe I use) and some chopped almonds to use as a topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
1. Grease a 15x10x1-inch baking pan and set it aside. In a pan, heat the sugar, butter, almond paste, and cocoa powder over medium heat until the butter is melted. I also used a wooden spoon to "smush" the almond paste around until it was all melted, too. Remove from the heat and cool slightly (we are not going for amaretto scrambled eggs here!) Add the eggs, amaretto, and vanilla; beat with a wooden spoon just until combined.

2. Combine flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Add the flour mixture and milk alternatively to the chocolate mixture, beating after each addition.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean (mine needed about 23 mins). Cool on a wire rack for 2 hours. If desired, frost with fudge frosting and sprinkle with chopped or sliced almonds. Cut into bars.

I found this in the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book.
Better Homes and Gardens Test Kitchen (1996). Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. Meredith Publishing Group: Des Moines, IA.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Menu for week of July 22-28

I'm slacking this week! Already Tuesday and haven't posted this yet... here's the plan for this week:

Sunday/Monday: we ordered pizza on Sunday (oops...) and Monday DH was out/I never got hungry. Easy days! lol

Tuesday: Spaghetti with marinara (homemade) and meatballs for hubby.

Wednesday: Cuban-marinated chicken

Thursday: Cream-cheese chicken

Friday: Margarita salmon - I might just do salmon for hubby and do mine with shrimp... not sure yet.

Saturday: Baked teriyaki chicken for dinner; no idea for lunch! Maybe tuna melts for lunch

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Homemade Pizza!

I have a feeling the "dumb idea fairies" snook into my house this evening and possessed me to bake up a storm even though it's the middle of July and really hot! Phew... I made pizza and brownies today - so hot in my house at the moment! Anyway, it was worth it - the pizza was really yummy and the brownies look great (haven't tried those yet). Here's the pizza recipe... We'll be having leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

I posted this under the vegetarian label since it's really easy to convert it to veggie pizza. I just did mine half non-meat since DH is a total carnivore! There are lots of great vegetables which are wonderful on pizza.

Best thing about this pizza - it was even better the second time around! I heated it up (zapped in the microwave for a couple minutes due to a lack of time!) for lunch today and it tasted just as good if not better than it did last night. Yeay! I am definitely making this one again... shame there's no way to make it fat-free... lol

I made the dough for my crust in my bread maker; this is the recipe which came with the machine. The recipe will make one 1.5 pound crust which was a bit much for what we needed. I think next time I'll split it in half... wonder if the dough will freeze?

**All need to be at room temperature**

1/2 tsp. salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
1 cup water
2 tbsp. olive oil

1. Combine all ingredients in the bread pan and insert the pan into the bread machine.

2. Turn on the machine and select the Dough setting.

3. Press Start/Stop. When unit signals and display reads 0:00 unplug unit and remove dough.

4. Pat dough into 12x15-inch jelly roll pan or greased 12-inch round pizza pan.

5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

While oven preheats, prepare the sauce.
Sauce Recipe

1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 7 1/2-ounce can undrained tomatoes, cut up
1/2 cup chopped onion (I used half red onion and half white onion)
1 tbsp. dried basil

1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
couple shakes of crushed red pepper

1. Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes or until onions are tender.

This sauce, by the way, is amazingly yummy! I was thinking of adding other spices to it, but it really didn't need anything.

Assembling the pizza:
1. Spread sauce over dough and top with shredded mozarella cheese (about 2 cups). Top with other toppings as desired - I covered half of ours with pepperoni and left the other half just cheese. In the future, I'd like to do half veggie with mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, artichokes, etc...

2. Bake the pizza for 15-20 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Min
e was "deep-dish" style (not on purpose!) so it took considerably longer to cook! Since it's just the two of us, I'll definitely split the dough and only use half of it next time.

There it is! Please excuse the minor "small appliance porn" which got mixed in with the food porn. lol ;)
I think the melty cheese on the rim of the crust looks so appetizing... there's just something about melted cheese!

As mentioned above, the dough/crust recipe came from the little book which accompanied my bread maker. The bread maker I have is an Oster 2-lb. ExpressBake bread maker.

The sauce recipe is from my copy of the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. The only change I made was to add a little crushed red pepper.
Better Homes and Gardens Test Kitchen (1996). Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. Meredith Publishing Group: Des Moines, IA.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Tagged again!

I was tagged two more times recently so let me see if I can come up with 7 more random things about myself... lol :)

1. I'm a bit hooked on that "Big Love" show on HBO.... I started watching it last season and got reeled in during the first episode. It's so interesting - I never really knew anything about polygamy before it (not that what's on the show is necessarily true!) except for the little bit I learned in some sociology classes in college (I was a soc minor). Just one thing I still don't get - why on earth would any man want more than one wife?! Isn't one nagging him all day enough?! ;) Just kidding!
DH keeps asking me what the heck is going on and how so-and-so is related to this other person - gets a bit annoying! He needs to just watch it! lol

2. I don't think I ever want to have children so I'm not one of those people with "baby fever"; however, lately I've had a really bad case of "puppy fever"! I really really want to get a dog but DH keeps saying "no." He's not being mean - he wants a dog, too. It's just that we both work full-time and only have a small yard. Since we both like bigger dogs we'd feel cruel leaving a dog outside in the teeny yard. Plus, the only access to our "yard" is through the master bedroom and the door is a sliding glass door so we couldn't put in a dog door. Oh well, guess we have to move! lol

3. I get along really well with my mother-in-law. How many people can say that?! It's really a great thing - we get together quite often to go to horse shows and stuff and always end up with a bottle of wine (or two...) between us! As a related little tidbit, my parents and my in-laws also get along really well. Weird... but in a very good way! :)

4. I will put dried cranberries on just about anything...! Cereal, plain yogurt, in cookies, on salads. I love them so much! Hey, there are worse things to put on just about anything!

5. I hate driving. I seriously have a major dislike for it. I'm not sure what it is - probably the traffic and the huge number of idiot drivers in San Diego - I just do not like it at all! In fact, when I was in my early teens (13/14) I absolutely did not want to learn to drive! lol I obviously did (got my license at 16) and enjoyed it for a couple years but now it's just a pain!
Honestly, I think it's because people are just so rude on the roads - how hard is it to use your signals/not cut people off/not flip me off when I use my signal and leave plenty of space when passing you/not insist on sitting in my blind spot?? Really, not that hard! lol What can you do though, huh?!

6. I just started that FlyLady thing where you get daily cleaning assignments... So weird for me since I HATE being told what to do and how to do it! Lol, just another thing for me to rebel against..! And really, it's not Mayberry so it's not like people just pop over for a spot of tea (the whole idea of this FlyLady thing is that your house is always ready for unexpected guests)... not that I'd complain - I love tea and I love having people over! Some of it's a bit silly but it will hopefully keep me from wasting time cleaning on the weekends... we'll see how long I can keep it up for!

7. I'm dying for a vacation... We haven't had a "real" vacation since our honeymoon (April 2005!) so it's been a while. We did go to Wisconsin for a weekend last summer but that doesn't count as a real vacation. Hopefully when DH is done with school at the end of this year (yeay!) we can go somewhere to celebrate! Now - where to go?! I did realize the other day that it has officially been 10 years since I've been home (to England)... so sad. I'm having major withdrawals. That also means it's been 10 years since I've seen my best friend (talk about sad!) She's engaged but hasn't set a date (long, sad story) but I'm hoping she will set one soon so I'll have a good excuse to go over there (not like I need one!) :)

I think we've officially ran out of people to tag so you're all free from being re-tagged! :)

Monday, July 9, 2007

Oven-Crisp Potato Wedges

These make a great side dish - a nice alternative to French fries.

I just made these a second time this week and hubby said "you know, those are really really good... but I bet they'd be even better fried!" Ha! He knows I don't like to fry foods (much as I love her, I'm no Paula Deen!) so he will have to put up with them baked. They are really good, though! I honestly don't think frying would make them any better...

Serves 4 (I halved it and just made enough for 2)

1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes
1 tbsp. olive oil
4 tsp. finely minced garlic
3/4 tsp. coarse salt (sea salt or kosher salt will work well)
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 525 degrees (since I halved the recipe, I set my oven to 500).

1. Quarter the potatoes and place in a large bowl. Drizzle olive oil over them and toss well to coat. Sprinkle the potatoes with the garlic, salt, paprika, and pepper; toss to coat.

2. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray the foil with fat-free cooking spray. Arrange the potatoes on the sheet. Roast for 20 minute
s (I gave mine a little less), turning twice during cooking.

3. Raise the oven temperature to Broil and broil the potatoes until they are crispy - about 1-2 minutes.

Here they are served with spicy chicken and salsa/broccoli:

Friday, July 6, 2007

Southwestern Mac and Cheese

As much as I love it, I am always a bit weary of Mac and Cheese recipes. It seems any time I've tried to make it in the past, it has come out quite bland... I'm not a fan of bland food! I just found this one so I decided to try it - wow! It has totally changed my mind about making mac and cheese! Not bland at all - it actually has quite a nice kick to it. Definitely one to make again in the future.

This recipe uses soy milk. However, if you have a soy allergy, you can sub regular milk (use the same amounts). I was a bit curious to see if hubby would notice it wasn't made with "real" milk, but you can't tell! He actually went back for seconds - a HUGE second helping so that's a good sign!

One of the great things about this recipe is that it can be made ahead - you can make the casserole without cooking it and keep it in the fridge for up to 2 days. So, you could make it on Sunday then come home from work on Monday and all you have to do is throw it in the oven! Gotta love recipes like that!

This will serve 6 (I made the whole thing even though it's just the two of us - we can finish it off for lunch today. Hubby is a big guy - he'll eat it all!)

8 oz. elbow macaroni or cavatappi pasta
2 cups plain soy milk
1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese - I used 1 cup of sharp cheddar and 1 cup of this pre-shredded Mexican cheese mix (cheddar, queso quesadilla, Monterey jack, and asadero)
1 4-oz can of chopped green chiles
1/2 cup chopped onions (you can use green, white, or red onions or a combo - I used mostly red with some white onion)
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup plain dry bread crumbs (I used panko)
1/2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. olive oil

1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water (lightly salted) for 4-5 minutes or until it is barely tender. Drain and rinse with cold water to cool slightly. Place the pasta in a large bowl.

2. If you are not making this ahead, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray an 8-inch square glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup of the soymilk and the flour until smooth.

3. Heat the remaining 1 3/4 cups of soymilk in a heavy saucepan over medium heat until small bubbles form around the outside edge. Add the flour mixture and cook 2-3 minutes or until the sauce bubbles and thickens, whisking constantly. Remove from the heat.

4. Add the cheese to the milk mixture and stir until melted. Stir in the chiles, onions, cilantro, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and a couple shakes of red pepper flakes. Pour this mixture over the pasta and stir well to mix. Place the pasta mixture in the prepared baking dish.

5. In a small bowl, mix together the bread crumbs, paprika, oil, and a little red pepper flakes. Sprinkle the crumb mixture over the pasta. The casserole can be made up to this point and then kept in the fridge for up to 2 days.

6. Bake, uncovered, for 35-45 minutes (35 was perfect in my oven) or until bubbly and golden brown.

I found this recipe in the August/September 2001 issue of Cooking Pleasures Magazine. I really didn't change much - just used different cheese and added some red pepper flakes.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Garden Stuffed Baked Potatoes

I actually got hubby to eat a completely vegetarian meal for lunch today! And, he enjoyed it! I thought for a second he wouldn't miss the meat but afterwards he said "you know, those would be really good with some bacon bits or something..." oh well! Can't hope for too much ;) We had these with a green salad (with all the toppings!) for lunch.
The original recipe called for 1/4 cup of ranch dressing but we don't use that so I subbed 1/8 cup of blue cheese dressing + 1/8 cup of sour cream.
Serves 2 (can easily be doubled or tripled)

2 russet potatoes
1 tbsp. margarine
1/6 cup onion, chopped
1 cup frozen chopped broccoli, thawed and drained (or 1 cup fresh broccoli, chopped)
1/8 cup blue cheese dressing
1/8 cup sour cream

1/2 tbsp. olive or canola oil salt and pepper
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Pierce the potatoes with a fork and microwave them for 10 minutes on HIGH power. After microwaving, transfer them to a cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes in the ov

2. While the potatoes bake, heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add the margarine and onion. Saute until tender, about 5 minutes.

3. Slice off the tops of the potatoes and scoop out the pulp carefully (be sure to leave the skins intact). Mash the pulp in a medium bowl. Add the onion, broccoli, and dressing to the potato pulp and mix well.

4. Brush the outsides of the potato skin shells with oil. Carefully spoon the potato and broccoli mixture into the shells. Bake the potatoes for an additional 10-15 minutes until heated through (the tops will be slightly browned). Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

I'm really not sure of the source of this recipe - I found it a long time ago and wrote it on a recipe card without citing the source (oops...)

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Orange and Honey Tofu Stir-Fry

This is a wonderful low-fat dish - the tofu really picks up the flavours from the marinade. It's quick and easy to make - feel free to substitute any veggies you like!
My husband prefers it made with chicken - you can easily substitute cut up strips of boneless skinless chicken for the tofu. I have a feeling this would also be excellent with shrimp (the pre-cooked frozen shrimp from Trader Joe's would work well for this).
Serve over hot cooked rice.

Serves 4

2 tbsp. honey (or agave nectar to make it vegan)
2 tbsp. orange juice (I like to use fresh-squeezed juice; you can use prepared OJ)
1 tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
1/2 tsp. sesame seeds
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (just a good shake or two!)

1 block extra-firm tofu (12-ounce package)
2 tbsp. honey (or agave nectar for vegan)
2 tbsp. vinegar
2 tbsp. orange juice (fresh-squeezed or store-bought)
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. cornstarch or 2 tsp. all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. cooking oil
2 cups frozen stir-fry vegetables
**If frozen stir-fry veggies are not available, you can use carrots, bell peppers, snap peas, water chestnuts, broccoli, and celery. If desired, you could also add baby corn and pineapple chunks. If you use fresh veggies, they will just need a little extra cooking time during the first step.**

1. Prepare marinade by combining all marinade ingredients in a bowl or gallon-sized plastic zipper bag. Squeeze excess liquid from the tofu using paper towels and cut tofu into small squares (about 1/2-inch by 1/2-inch). Gently toss tofu into marinade ingredients. Cover (or seal zipper bag) and marinade for 30 minutes; toss occasionally during the marinating process. After marinating, drain the tofu and discard the marinade.

2. Prepare sauce by combining 2 tbsp. honey, 2 tbsp. vinegar, 2 tbsp. orange juice, 1 tbsp. soy sauce, and 1 tsp. cornstarch in a small bowl.

3. Pour cooking oil into a wok or large skillet. Preheat over medium-high heat (I have an electric wok that I preheat to 250 degrees. It works perfectly for this dish). Stir-fry the vegetables only for 3 minutes or until they are crisp-tender. Remove the veggies from the wok and add the tofu. Stir-fry the tofu for 3 minutes until lightly browned. Push the tofu from the center of the wok (do not remove it). Add the sauce to the center of the wok and cook until it is thickened and bubbly.

4. Return the cooked vegetables to the wok and stir all ingredients together until they are coated with the sauce. Cook and stir for about 1 minute until everything is heated through.

This is a modified version of the Honey-Glazed Chicken Stir-Fry recipe found in the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook.
Better Homes and Gardens Test Kitchen (1996). Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. Meredith Publishing Group: Des Moines, IA.

Black Bean and Corn Salsa

This is basically the filling from the black bean and corn quesadillas I made for the second round of the Platinum Chef Challenge. I thought this would make a delicious salsa.

1 ear of corn or 4 servings of frozen corn
1/2 of a 15-ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup of onion, chopped - you could use red, white, green, or a combo of them (I like red and white ones mixed)
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
1 tbsp. lime juice
1/4 tsp. salt

1. If you are using fresh corn - heat the grill to medium-high heat. Remove the silk from the corn but leave the husks intact. Grill the corn for about 12 minutes or until it is tender. After allowing the corn to cool, remove the husks and scrape the kernels off the corn.

2. If using frozen corn - just cook the corn according to the package directions. Allow to cool.

3. Place the corn kernels in a non-reactive bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well to combine. Allow to stand for 30 minutes to 1 hour so the flavours can mix.

Enjoy with tortilla chips.