Jun 30, 2011

Margherita Pizza

(AKA the best pizza I've ever had in my entire life. No joke.)

I'm dead serious when I say this really is the best pizza I've ever had. I was shocked at how delicious it was. My husband wasn't home so I sent some over to the neighbors before I ate it all. Because I honestly would have. Only one of my kids didn't love it and she's the one who would prefer a bowl of cardboard over anything with flavor. 

Here is how it began... (Skip down to the recipe if you can't stand my ramblings.... I won't be offended. Just don't expect a Christmas present from me this year. Because I'll know. Oh trust me, I will.)

We are in week 2 of summer vacation and my kids have been destroying my house and each other. Yesterday the bad energy peaked and my daughters behaved the worst I have ever seen. I think they were practicing their audition for American Gladiators. The best part was when they ran into their room and the volume hit jet engine intensity. Mckenna started screaming, "NOOO! DON'T, EMMA! NOOOO!" I found out later that Emma had bit Mckenna's Pillow Pet. The nerve. I love that the worst possible thing she could do was slobber and crunch on a stuffed monkey. We had to get out of the house.

So we headed down to our local library for story time. The theme for the day was "From Pisa to Pizza." We learned all about Italy. We heard cute stories, learned a few Italian words, made Carnivale masks, and the kids got to try a small piece of pizza. All with no fighting. Not a pillow pet in sight.

When we got back in the car, I was dreading returning home. Sitting in the driver's seat, waiting for my kids to buckle, I tried to think of a fun activity, using the knowledge we'd just gained. Then I remembered the story we learned about how the Margherita Pizza came to be. All we needed was fresh basil, so we headed to the local market and then rushed home for some fun pizza making. And this amazing creation was born. And my kids were happy. And their mom was happy. And their home was peaceful. And smelled really yummy.

I used my perfect crust recipe as the base. Just click the linkie. It's foolproof and fantastic.

This recipe makes two large pizzas. You can half it if you're chicken. Or smart.
INGREDIENTS:

1 recipe for Perfect Pizza Dough - make all the way to the resting stage
6 Roma tomatoes
4 whole garlic cloves, minced
1/3 c. olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
Cornmeal
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese - I would recommend slicing fresh mozzarella, but we only had shredded and it worked beautifully.
15-20 fresh basil leaves

1. Preheat pizza stone in oven at 500 degrees for 1 hour. After dough has rested for just over an hour, wash and slice tomatoes into 1/4" slices. Set in a medium bowl with minced garlic, olive oil, and salt. Let rest 15 minutes.

2. Turn a metal pizza pan (or other large, flat, round platter) and generously sprinkle with cornmeal, especially the outer edges. Place 1 ball of risen dough (you should have 2) on center of pan. Roll or press to edges. Brush liquid from tomato mixture on pizza dough, being sure not to let any dribble over the edges onto the pan. That would make it hard to slide off later.


3. Let kids sprinkle half of cheese all over crust. Top with half of tomatoes and basil leaves. Brush tops of basil leaves with tomato marinade to keep from burning.
 



4. Carefully slide pizza onto hot pizza stone. Cook approximately 10 minutes, until edges are just golden. Repeat with second pizza crust.
5. Devour.

P.S. If you live in a hotter summer climate, skip preheating the oven, and just slide this on a hot BBQ. Keeps your house cool, and you can still enjoy this dish!

Oatmeal and Wheat Flour Blueberry Pancakes

Easy, yummy recipe. Just double the amount of blueberries.

Ingredients


1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
2 cups soy milk
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup frozen blueberries

Directions
1.Preheat a lightly oiled griddle over medium heat.

2.In a large bowl, mix whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt.

3.In a small bowl, mix oats and soy milk. Whisk in eggs and olive oil. Pour into the flour mixture all at once. Continue mixing until smooth. Gently fold in blueberries.

4.Pour batter about 1/4 cup at a time onto the prepared griddle. Cook 1 to 2 minutes, until bubbly. Flip, and continue cooking until lightly browned.

Fourth of July Flag Cake


For my sweet daughter's 7th birthday she requested a cake with strawberries and blueberries. I gave her about 6 different ideas of cakes I could make and she chose a white cake with blueberry filling and strawberry frosting. While looking for a yummy white cake recipe, I came across the Barefoot Contessa's Flag Cake. As soon as I opened the webpage, my cute girl started jumping up and down. "MOMMY! That's what I want! That one! The flag!" And, since her birthday is roughly a week before independence day(and because this recipe looked so yummy), I happily obliged. The only two things I did differently were use strawberries instead of raspberries, and use about 3/4 the amount of powdered sugar that the frosting recipe called for, because that's all I had. The less sweet frosting was actually just right for the sweet cake. I found this awesome 5 minute video of Ina Garten(AKA Barefoot Contessa...AKA genious) baking the cake, and picked up some great tips from that. This cake was heavy, moist, flavorful, and delicious. And oh so festive! The best part is, my daughter loved it (as did everyone else!).

For this recipe, I highly recommend using a brand new 7 year old as a chef's helper. She did a great job and we had so much fun.
(Notice the pants tucked into the shirt - circa 1989? And these pants aren't even the favorite pants. The favorite ones can be pulled about 3 inches higher on her waist so she appears to be rockin the "mom jeans" look. I swear she came out of the womb with a diaper hiked up to her ribs.)

Ingredients

18 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1 cup sour cream at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

For the icing:
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 pounds cream cheese at room temperature
1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

To assemble:
2 half-pints blueberries
3 half-pints raspberries

Directions
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter and flour an 18 by 13 by 1 1/2-inch sheet pan. (I used parchment paper too, just because I love how easy it is to remove the cake from the pan. As far as buttering - this is where the 7 year old comes in handy. We like using extra soft butter and a basting brush:




Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed, until light and fluffy. On medium speed, add the eggs, 2 at a time, then add the sour cream and vanilla. Scrape down the sides and stir until smooth.

Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda in a bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until just combined. Pour into the prepared pan. Smooth the top with a spatula. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool to room temperature.

For the icing, combine the butter, cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mixing just until smooth.

Spread three-fourths of the icing on the top of the cooled sheet cake. Outline the flag on the top of the cake with a toothpick. Fill the upper left corner with blueberries. Place 2 rows of raspberries across the top of the cake like a red stripe. Put the remaining icing in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and pipe two rows of white stripes below the raspberries. Alternate rows of raspberries and icing until the flag is completed. Pipe stars on top of the blueberries.

I serve this cake right in the pan. If you want to turn it out onto a board before frosting, use parchment paper when you grease and flour the pan.





Even though I didn't get the 13 stripes on there, I did get 50 stars! For the berries, I used 60 - 6 rows od ten berries. Then I just piped the stars in between the 6 rows so I had 5 rows of 10 stars.


P. S. With all that fresh fruit and cream cheese, you need to store this in the fridge. It is fine if you want to bake the cake the day before, but if that's your plan, cover the cake in plastic wrap and decorate it the day you plan to serve it. Otherwise the fruit juices will run into the frosting and you risk having purple-y pink frosting. Just be sure to refrigerate the leftovers.

Jun 26, 2011

Eggs Florentine Casserole + Utah Scones

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Can I just take a minute to tell you how happy I am for 11 am church? Whoop. Last year, our church started at 8 am. How on earth am I supposed to get 4 kids ready for church, serve my husband a stellar breakfast in bed, and then be front and center, perfectly coifed in the pew by 8 am?? I'd have to wake up before dawn!

But 11 o-clock? That I can do.

I've been wanting to make this fun recipe for a while and was holding off for Fathers Day. I've never had eggs florentine, but this still sounded fab. Pastor Ryan is a frequent poster on Pioneer Woman. I love his I-had-an-idea-and-thought-I'd-go-with-it attitude when it comes to cooking. And everything turns out amazing, just like this casserole.

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On the week before Father's Day, my daughter had heritage day at her school and someone brought scones. She requested we make those soon. However... I guess her idea of scones and my idea are drastically different. Her version are like the Starbucks rock biscuits - dry, crumbly, with bits of dried fruit. Yuck. My version is apparently referred to as the Utah Scone. Also fry bed and elephant ears. Who knew? And since I made these, instead of my daughter's request, I suppose you'll be seeing a recipe on here for rock hard scones soon. Assuming they're worth consuming...

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I assumed I'd find oodles of recipes for my version of scones all over the internet. Nope. I also assumed this scone would be something I'd mix up with flour and yeast and have some rising time. Nope again. You'd assume I'd be done assuming by now, eh? Nah. They're just defrosted Rhodes Rolls, fried in hot oil. The recipe is on the Rhodes Rolls website. Super easy peasy lemon squeezy. OK Now I'm talking like my 8 year old. Enough of that. Here are the recipes:

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lbs Goetta or any other breakfast meat (I used Jimmy Dean's Breakfast Sausage)
2-3 potatoes
2-3 T butter
2 T olive oil
2 cups cheddar-jack mix cheese
3-4 cups spinach leaves
18 large eggs

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Cook breakfast meat according to directions. I sliced the sausage and cooked like patties.

3. While meat is cooking, julienne potatoes on a mandoline. (I just shredded them in the cheese shredder... but realized at the end of my last potato that I should have been using the shredder on my food processor.) Heat butter and oil in a skillet. Add the potatoes, season with salt and pepper. Turn every few minutes to get the potatoes crispy. Once they’ve browned a little bit, you can transfer the potatoes into a 9 x 13 casserole dish. No need to grease this glass dish. Add the breakfast meat in a single layer.


4. Crack the 18 eggs into a large bowl. Add in 1 1/2 cups of the cheese, reserving 1/2 cup for later. Whisk together. Add spinach and stir to coat with egg and cheese mixture. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Sprinkle remaining cheese and return to oven 5-10 minutes until cheese has browned. Remove and serve.

On to the scones!



Ingredients:
12 Rhodes Texas™ Rolls, thawed to room temperature
vegetable oil
powdered sugar, butter, jam or honey, if desired

Instructions
Pour oil 2 to 3-inches deep into a small sauce pan or an electric frying pan, and heat to medium high setting or 375° F. Flatten each roll into a 4-inch circle. Fry dough on each side until golden brown (about 15 seconds each side). Remove and drain on paper towel.

Serve hot. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or serve with butter, honey or jam, if desired.


Yummmmmmmmmmmmmm. I'm going to go wipe the drool off my chin.

Cobb Salad

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MMMMMMMMmmmmmmmm
Yum

There are so many ways to make Cobb Salad. My way uses 4 of my all time favorite foods...


Eggs:
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Red Bell Peppers:
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Bacon... drool:
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And Onions?
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NOOOOO.

Spinach. But I forgot to take a picture of it. So instead you have to look at the picture of one of natures nastiest creations. Onions. *shudder*

I have plenty of bad things to say about onions, but I do have some good to say about them. I like their flavor when they are diced REALLY small and cooked in recipes as a seasoning. I do not like to bite into them. I also do not like to peel them or cut them, and I especially do not like to roll over in the middle of the night and smell them on my husbands breath. Eww. Suffice it to say we're both grateful for a king size bed on those nights. Bleh. 

However, my husband was out of town and I got brave this week. I saw a yummy recipe on Pioneer Woman for a spinach salad. Most Cobb Salad recipes use fresh, raw red onions. But Pioneer Woman cooked her onions before adding them to her salad. So I decided to try that.

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Don't they look a little like dead earthworms? Well they tasted just as gross. But, if you love onions, I think you'd love this addition. I had to pick mine out. My bravery only goes so far.

Moving on... Cobb salad is a great dinner to have on a busy summer day. All of the ingredients can be prepared in the cool morning and then tossed with dressing right before it's time to eat. If you like your bacon warm, you should probably fry that up just before serving, but the eggs can be boiled and refrigerated, the bell peppers washed and cut, the spinach washed and stems pulled off all before the day heats up. Oh yeah, and if you want to fry some onions you should probably do that just before serving. Yuck.

Ingredients:

6 cups fresh spinach
1 red bell pepper
6 eggs
8 slices of bacon
1 red onion(optional!)
salad dressing

Directions:
1. Boil eggs(check out my tutorial for Perfectly Boiled Eggs).

2. Slice onions in 1/4 in. slices. Separate rings and set aside.

3. Fry bacon on both sides in a hot skillet until crispy and remove to drain on paper towels. Drain 1/2 of bacon grease from pan and add onions. Fry onions until "caramelized and reduced" - a la Pioneer Woman. Set aside.

4. Wash spinach. Remove stems. Wash and dice bell pepper. Slice eggs.


5. Assemble salad: Place spinach in bowls. Add bell peppers, eggs, onions, and bacon. Drizzle with your favorite dressing.

*My kids prefer Ranch Dressing with everything, so for us, cobb salad is always served with Ranch. We have this awesome onion dressing, and since I was being bold, I tried it on my salad. Delish!

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Pumpkin Bread Pudding

I know what you're thinking. I only know this because I'm very clairvoyant. But you're wrong. It's not pudding that tastes like pumpkin bread. It's bread pudding that tastes like pumpkin. And I'm not actually clairvoyant. I had to look it up to make sure I spelled it right, that's how unclairvoyant I am. A real clairvoyant person would already know how to spell clairvoyant, because they would be so clairvoyant-ish. And now that I've said that word so many times it just sounds weird. But unclairvoyant is not a word. My spell checker doesn't like it.

That said, you should make this. It's divine. Original recipe is here a la Martha Stewart. And, oddly enough, Martha didn't take a picture with her cell phone like I did. Weird. So you can go look at her pretty picture if mine doesn't make your mouth water.

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Hopefully I can get my regular (read: fantastic) bread pudding recipe up here soon. (It's up now! Here ya go! ) But this is a great change. My comments are below.

Ingredients

Unsalted butter, room temperature, for ramekins
6 tablespoons dark-brown sugar
1 cup raisins
1/3 cup bourbon
1/3 cup hot water
One 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
4 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch of salt
One 12-ounce, day-old loaf brioche or challah bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Directions

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter six 10-ounce ramekins or custard cups, and sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon brown sugar, and set aside on a baking sheet. Place raisins in a small bowl, and cover with bourbon, if using, and the hot water; let soak until plump, about 20 minutes. Drain; set aside.

2.In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, eggs, granulated sugar, milk, vanilla, spices, and salt. Toss in the bread cubes, and stir gently to evenly coat; let stand a few minutes. Fold in the raisins. Divide among prepared dishes, pressing down slightly to make level.

3.Bake until custard is set in the center and top is golden, about 40 minutes. If bread browns too quickly, cover loosely with aluminum foil. Remove from oven; let cool slightly. To serve, un-mold onto plates; dust with confectioners' sugar.

My comments:
I love that this recipe says it makes 6 servings. This is one of those desserts I like to enjoy with my man once the kids are all in bed, so it doesn't need to serve an army. I don't have 10-oz ramekins, mine are the smaller creme brule type, so I ended up making 8 small ones and one larger one in a little Corningware dish I have. That said, I think it was better in the smaller dishes because 10 oz is quite a large serving! However you bake it, just be sure to adjust cooking times if you put the ingredients in bigger or smaller dishes than the recipe instructs using.
 
Also, the directions say to invert the dishes and serve. But, like I said above, this is something I'll probably only serve 2 at a time. If you're not serving right away, feel free to leave them in the dishes, cover liberally with plastic wrap, and stick in the freezer. When serving, remove and allow to defrost to room temperature, then zap in the microwave or reheat in a hot oven.
 
Remember when making bread pudding of any kind that the quality of bread you use is very important. Wonder Bread is not what we're looking for. A thicker dense white bread with a slightly crispy crust is best. Breads shouldn't be fresh or you'll end up with a more mushy dish that all kind of melts into one entity. Bread pudding should have multiple textures and flavors in each bite.
 
Lastly, I didn't have any Bourbon, so I just doubled the water and I didn't notice anything lacking. But if you do have it, I highly recommend it, as I'm sure it warms up the dish and gives it just a bit more flavor.

German Chocolate Cake

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Buckle up kids, we're in for a loooong ride...
For my husband's birthday this last January, we did a joint BBQ with his awesome friend, Trever. I told the hubs I'd make him any dessert he wanted - even if I didn't like it. So he chose German Chocolate Cake. I don't love coconut, so I'd never had a German Chocolate Cake that I liked, but I wasn't going to let that stop me. He said it was amazing, and I actually liked it. It is not a very quick thing to make, but well worth the time. I found some recipes that included all three parts, but the reviews were never great for all three. I ended up just combining 3 different recipes.

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Cake recipe:

Ingredients
4 (1 ounce) squares German sweet chocolate (You can find these in the baking aisle of the grocery store)
1/2 cup water
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
4 egg whites

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line bottoms of 2 - 9 in pans with parchment paper.


2. Microwave chocolate and water on high for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Stir halfway through. Stir until all is melted and smooth.

3. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, soda and salt. Set aside.

4. In a large bowl, cream 1 cup butter and 2 cups sugar until light and fluffy. Add 4 egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in chocolate and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk. Beat after each addition until smooth.

5. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites on high until soft peaks form. Gently fold into batter. Pour into 9x13 inch pan.

6. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 25-30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes, turn out to cool on wire rack. Cool completely.
 
Chocolate Frosting - This is a GREAT and easy recipe to use for anything:
 
Ingredients

2 cups butter (no substitutes), softened
9 cups confectioners' sugar
2 1/2 cups baking cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk

Directions
1.In a large mixing bowl, cream butter. Gradually beat in confectioners' sugar, cocoa and vanilla. Add enough milk until frosting reaches spreading consistency.
 
Coconut Frosting:
 
Ingredients


1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup white sugar
3 egg yolk, beaten with 1 teaspoon water
1/2 cup margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup flaked coconut

Directions
1.In a large saucepan combine evaporated milk, sugar, egg yolks, margarine and vanilla. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thick. Remove from heat and stir in pecans and coconut. Cool before assembling cake.
To assemble the cake place one cooled cake on a plate. Spread cake with a thin "crumb layer" of chocolate frosting. Pipe a circle of frosting on the edge of the top of the cake, not going farther than 1" in. This is to keep the coconut frosting from spilling out between the two cake layers. Spread half of coconut frosting on the middle of the cake all the way to the lip of frosting. Place second cake layer centered over the first. Again, cover top layer in a thin "crumb layer" of chocolate frosting. Pipe another ring of chocolate frosting on the outer edge of the top of the cake. Spread remaining coconut frosting on the top to the edge of the upper cake. Frost and decorate with remaining chocolate frosting.
 
Enjoy!

Broccoli Cheddar Rolls

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Still featuring the ugly cell phone pics series...

1 recipe dough for Lion House Rolls, prepared through first rise


1 (10-oz.) bag frozen chopped broccoli, thawed and drained

1 cup grated cheddar cheese

1/4 cup dried minced onions

1 egg

1 tsp. onion salt

2 Tbs. grated Parmesan cheese

1 tsp. Seasoned Salt

2 Tbs. butter, melted

-

1. After dough for Lion House Dinner Rolls has completed first rise, turn out onto a floured surface. Roll out dough into a large rectangle, about 1/4-inch thick. Mix broccoli, cheddar cheese, onions, egg, onion salt, Parmesan cheese, and the seasoned salt in a small bowl. Spread broccoli mixture over dough. Tightly roll up the dough jelly roll style. Using a little water on fingertips, pinch edge firmly to seal dough. Cut dough into 24 slices.

2. Place slices, cut side up, on greased baking sheet. Brush panned dough with melted butter. Cover with plastic wrap and let rolls rise until double in size, about 1 hour. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Remove from pan immediately to cool on a wire rack. Makes 2 dozen rolls.



Poached Eggs Pods

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This isn't actually a recipe at all, but we got these awesome egg poachers and I felt that the world needed to know! We've had two other egg poachers before. Our first one broke. The second one was just didn't work for us. It only cooked 4 eggs at a time(we are a family of 6) and it was impossible to get the eggs to slide out without leaving behind a very hard to remove film.  My husband searched around, read some reviews, and decided on these awesome Poach Pods.

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The best part (other than how cool they look) is that you only need to take out, use, and clean as many as you're planning on eating. But they also cook the eggs perfectly and then the eggs slide right out. Plus, they're dishwasher safe!

Perfectly Boiled Eggs

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This is just a quick little how-to-make-perfectly-boiled-eggs tutorial. I've spent too many years throwing away half-peeled eggs because the white would come off with the peel or the thin membrane was stuck to the white. Also, overly cooked egg yolks are way too dry and chalky. My sweet mother-in-law was visiting for Easter a few years ago and taught me to boil eggs just right. And it is SO simple.

Ingredients:

Eggs
Water

Directions:

1. Carefully place eggs in the bottom of a large pot. Cover with cool water. Place on stove over medium-high heat. Stay nearby and watch carefully. Bring to boil. Once fully boiling, immediately remove pot from heat and cover. Let stand 18 minutes.

2. Carefully pour hot water out of pot and cover with ice and cool water. Once eggs have cooled, remove from pot and refridgerate until ready to peel and serve.

Lasagna

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I'm not sure I know a single person who doesn't LOOOVE lasagna. (If you happen to be reading this and you are someone who does not like lasagna... I no longer know you. You are dead to me.) Lasagna is magnificent. It has everything wonderful going for it: it's warm, gooey, cheesy, saucy, noodley, and Italian. All things that I love. Plus - and this is definitely high on the list of positives - it's extremely easy to make!

I know you can complicate this recipe by making your own sauce, using noodles you have to boil, and grating fresh Parmesan, but really - it would probably taste exactly the same and add at least another hour of prep time. So do it the easy way and you'll have more time to play with your kids. Or, in my case - tackle the mound of laundry on the coffee table while sending my kids outside to play. Tomato/tomato, right?

Ingredients:
2 (15 ounce) containers ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
4 cups fresh spinach
2 (26 ounce) jars pasta sauce
12 uncooked lasagna noodles

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Combine ricotta, 1 cup mozzarella, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and eggs in bowl.

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2. Spread 1 cup pasta sauce in 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Layer 4 uncooked noodles, then 1 cup sauce and 1/2 of the ricotta mixture, and two cups spinach; repeat.

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Top with remaining 4 uncooked noodles and 2 cups Sauce.



Cover tightly with aluminum foil, place on cookie sheet, and bake 1 hour.

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3. Remove foil and sprinkle with remaining cheeses. Bake uncovered an additional 10 minutes, just until cheese is melted. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Serve.

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Tips and Alterations:
-When spreading the ricotta cheese mixture, don't just dump half of it in the pan or you'll have a hard time getting it spread evenly. Drop by spoonfulls evenly over the pan and then spread.

-You can brown a pound of ground beef or Italian sausage (or both) and add that to the sauce before assembling. I don't think lasagna needs meat, but I know there are some people in this world, *ahem-men-ahem* who don't think a dinner is a dinner unless it has some butchered creature lying dead on their plate. Just make sure you use a bigger dish, or you'll have some over-spillage.

-Also, the spinach was just something I added, but the recipe doesn't actually call for it. So if your kids won't touch something green with a ten-foot pole, you can either omit the spinach, or just spread it on half of the lasagna.

-Lasagna is one of those awesome dishes that I like to double. That way we have one to eat tonight and one to freeze for another day. If you're making one pan of lasagna, you might as well be making two. So after you've covered it in foil, but before placing in the oven, take a roll of plastic wrap to it and wrap the heck out of it... think Kathy Bates in Fried Green Tomatoes. Then, on the morning of a busy day, take it out and let it sit on the counter until you're ready to cook it.

Jun 24, 2011

Chicken Fried Chicken

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I know the picture's not the best and we're missing southern biscuits, but use your imagination. My husband got halfway through making fried chicken when we remembered we had somewhere to be in 20 minutes. So he hurried up and finished, we zipped over to our previous committment (hungry), and then hurried back (very hungry) to have a late 8 o'clock - reheated dinner. And it was still fantastic.

Chicken Fried Chicken
Ingredients

30 saltine crackers
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons dry potato flakes
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

Directions
1.Place crackers in a large resealable plastic bag; seal bag and crush crackers until they are coarse crumbs. Add flour, potato flakes, seasoned salt, and pepper to bag and mix well.

2.Beat egg in a shallow dish or bowl; heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.

3.One by one, dredge chicken pieces in egg beat, then place in bag with crumb mixture, seal bag and shake to coat.

4.Reduce heat to medium and cook coated chicken in skillet for 15 to 20 minutes, turning frequently, until golden brown and juices run clear.

White Cupcakes + Buttercream Frosting

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For my brother and sister in law's birthday(they're twins) I called and asked what their favorite treat was. Tuni, my cute SIL said she loved plain white cupcakes, no frosting. So I obliged. But I had to frost some of the cupcakes because, to me, a cupcake just isnt a cupcake without the perfect ratio of cake to frosting

I colored the frosting green, yellow, and red - like the Ethiopian Flag because Miki and Tuni (the birthday twins) are from Ethiopia... And every time I see Miki, he's wearing something with those colors. I flavored the yellow frosting with some lemon juice for my husband who loves flavor.

I've made many white cakes before and I've never been very pleased. This time, I think I found my winner. This cake was light, moist, and had a good flavor. I even enjoyed a frosting-less one!

I didn't love the frosting, but I think that's because I love cream cheese frosting so much and think that every frosting should be made with cream cheese. This frosting had a great thick consistency and didn't melt in the warm sun at our BBQ. My husband said it was delicious, so if you like buttercream frosting, this was a good one.

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 White cupcakes:

Ingredients

1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9x9 inch pan or line a muffin pan with paper liners.*

2. In a medium bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder, add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Finally stir in the milk until batter is smooth. Pour or spoon batter into the prepared pan.**

3. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven. For cupcakes, bake 20 to 25 minutes. Cake is done when it springs back to the touch.***

Tips:
*After placing cupcake liners in muffin pan, spray the whole pan with cooking spray. This will ensure that the cupcakes come out of the paper lining without sticking and also if your cupcakes bake over the edge, they won't stick to the top of the pan.


**I use a Pampered Chef scooper to fill my muffin tins. 2 scoops are just right. There are 3 positives to this: 1. I never have a cupcake cook over the rim. 2. All of my cupcakes are uniform in size. 3. I never drip batter all over the muffin tin.

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***You do not want to overcook these! They will be dry and crumbly if you do. They should have hardly any golden color to them. Usually I just knock my oven a little to see if they're jiggling. As soon as the jiggling stops, they're done.

Buttercream Frosting
Ingredients

2 cups shortening
8 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons clear imitation vanilla extract (I just used regular because I was dyeing my frosting.)
6 fluid ounces heavy cream

Directions

1.Cream shortening until fluffy. Add confectioner's sugar and continue creaming until well blended.

2.Add salt, vanilla, and whipping cream blend on low speed until moistened. Add additional whipping cream if necessary (up to 2 ounces). Beat at high speed until frosting is fluffy.

Pioneer Woman's Perfect Pot Roast

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Pot Roast is one of the easiest dishes you can ever make. The reason I know this(other than the fact that I've made it) is because it is one of the five dishes that my mom made that didn't require a microwave or tipping the waiter (or hamburger helper... puke). The easiest way to do this is to brown beef roast in a pan on the stove, then put it in a crock pot with onions and carrots, cover with water and cook for 4 hours. After 4 hours, add large chunks of whole potatoes and cook one more hour. That's it. I love this dish for its simplicity and its flavor, but wanted to see if I could improve upon it. Turns out I can and I can't. By that I mean, the recipe I found did make it taste better, but I still prefer my mom's version because it tastes like home to me and reminds me of my amazing momma. So, you can either make the above version, or spend about 30 more minutes to make it have a more rich flavor and possibly a prettier presentation.

I'm going to post the recipe below, but I suggest you head on over to Pioneer Woman's website and check out her step by step instruction with awesome pictures. I did some things differently and those alterations are below the recipe.

Ingredients


■1 whole (4 To 5 Pounds) Chuck Roast

■2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

■2 whole Onions

■6 whole Carrots (Up To 8 Carrots)

■Salt To Taste

■Pepper To Taste

■1 cup Red Wine (optional, You Can Use Beef Broth Instead)

■2 cups To 3 Cups Beef Stock

■3 sprigs Fresh Thyme, or more to taste

■3 sprigs Fresh Rosemary, or more to taste

Preparation Instructions

First and foremost, choose a nicely marbled piece of meat. This will enhance the flavor of your pot roast like nothing else. Generously salt and pepper your chuck roast.

Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Then add 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil (or you can do a butter/olive oil split).

Cut two onions in half and cut 6 to 8 carrots into 2-inch slices (you can peel them, but you don’t have to). When the oil in the pot is very hot (but not smoking), add in the halved onions, browning them on one side and then the other. Remove the onions to a plate.

Throw the carrots into the same very hot pan and toss them around a bit until slightly browned, about a minute or so.

If needed, add a bit more olive oil to the very hot pan. Place the meat in the pan and sear it for about a minute on all sides until it is nice and brown all over. Remove the roast to a plate.

With the burner still on high, use either red wine or beef broth (about 1 cup) to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom with a whisk to get all of that wonderful flavor up.

When the bottom of the pan is sufficiently deglazed, place the roast back into the pan and add enough beef stock to cover the meat halfway (about 2 to 3 cups). Add in the onion and the carrots, as well as 3 or 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary and about 3 sprigs of fresh thyme.

Put the lid on, then roast in a 275F oven for 3 hours (for a 3-pound roast). For a 4 to 5-pound roast, plan on 4 hours.

My alterations:

First - and, I feel most importantly, - you need to know that I threw everything in the crockpot and went to a petting zoo with my boys for the day. I was able to set my crock pot for 4 hours and it then turned to the warm setting until I came home. I turned it back on low and put the potatoes in for one more hour.

Second, did you notice I said I put the potatoes in? Pioneer Woman is anti potatoes-in-pot-roast. She thinks they are dumb. I think she's dumb. Ok I don't really, I think she's awesome, but I think the fact that she doesn't like potatoes in her pot roast is super dumb. That's one of my favorite parts! She served her pot roast with mashed potatoes, which I'm sure was lovely, but that's not how I was raised.

Third, I just used dried herbs and it was fine. If you have the fresh herbs, awesome. If not, no biggie. Just use a small amount - like maybe 1/2 tsp of each and it'll still taste fab.

P.S. Serve your pot roast with this and you'll have a very happy belly.

Lion House Rolls

I'm going to tell you a story.

Once upon a time(as all good stories begin), a man went to Walmart. The man's wife had been having a stressful day and as the man left, the wife said, "Buy me something special." And by special she meant chocolate. So the man headed off to Walmart and bought something special. But not chocolate. He returned and handed the wife this book. And she was happy. Well, as happy as she could be without chocolate. But still happy. Ever after. The end.

This is where your story begins. Go make these AMAZING rolls. And tell me about it.


(sorry for the ugly cell phone pic!)
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Lion House Rolls

Ingredients:
•2 cups warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
•2/3 cup nonfat dry milk (instant or non-instant)
•2 tablespoons dry yeast
•1/4 cup sugar
•2 teaspoons salt
•1/3 cup butter, shortening, or margarine
•1 egg
•5 to 5 ½ cups all-purpose flour, or bread flour

Method:
In large bowl or electric mixer, combine water and milk powder; stir until milk dissolves. Add yeast, then sugar, salt, butter, egg, and 2 cups flour. Mix on low speed until ingredients are wet, then for 2 minutes at medium speed. Add 2 cups flour; mix on low speed until ingredients are wet, then for 2 minutes at medium speed. (Dough will be getting stiff and remaining flour may need to be mixed in by hand). Add about ½ cup flour and mix again, by hand or mixer. Dough should be soft, not overly sticky, and not stiff (It is not necessary to use the entire amount of flour).

Scrape dough off sides of bowl and pour about one tablespoon of vegetable oil all around sides of bowl. Turn dough over in bowl so it is covered with oil. (This helps prevent dough from drying out). Cover with plastic and allow to rise in warm place until double in size, about 45 minutes.

Scrape dough out onto floured board. Turn dough over so it is floured on both sides; gently flatten to about 1 inch thick. With rolling pin, roll out to a rectangle about 18 inches long, 8 inches wide, and ¼ inch thick. Brush with melted butter. With pizza cutter or very sharp knife, cut dough in half to make two strips about 4 inches wide. Make cuts through strips of dough every 2 inches, making about 18 pieces of dough.

Starting with short end, roll up one piece of dough, with butter on the inside. Place roll on parchment-lined pan with other short end down on the paper. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough. Be sure all rolls face the same direction on baking pan. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise until double in size, about 1 to 1 ½ hours. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes, or until light to medium golden brown. Brush tops of rolls with melted butter. Serve with Honey Butter. Makes 1 to 1 ½ dozen rolls.

Helpful Tips for Making Rolls
Always add flour gradually and keep dough as soft as you can handle. A soft dough will produce a lighter roll.

It is not necessary to use the entire amount of flour called for in the recipe—add only enough flour to make dough manageable.

To shorten dough's rising time, use one of these methods:

1) When dough is thoroughly mixed, oil bowl and cover dough with plastic wrap. Fill sink or larger bowl with about 2 inches of hot water or enough water to come about half or three-fourths the way up outside the dough bowl. Place bowl of dough in bowl of water and allow to rise until double in size.

2) Just before mixing dough, turn oven on lowest possible temperature. Place a pan of hot water on bottom oven rack. When dough is thoroughly mixed, place in oiled bowl. Cover dough with plastic wrap; place in oven. Turn oven off, shut oven door, and allow dough to rise until double in size, about 50 to 60 minutes. Shape or cut into desired rolls. Place rolls on greased or parchment-lined pans and allow to rise until double in size. Bake according to recipe.

Brush top of rolls with butter when first taken from oven.

How to consistently make attractive, good-tasting rolls? Practice! Practice! Practice!

Honey Butter
Ingredients:
•½ cup butter, softened
•½ teaspoon vanilla
•½ cup honey
Method:

Whip softened butter until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and honey gradually. Beat for 20 minutes. Makes 1 cup.

Chicken Caesar Salad Pizza

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notice the paper plate? we were celebratin' and eatin' real fancy-like that night...

This recipe was one of the first meals I learned to cook as a newlywed. I went to a Pampered Chef party and fell in love! Because I was too lazy to type it up, I googled it and found a very slightly different recipe. I've changed everything to be more like mine, with one difference: The last step says to arrange chicken strips over the top of the pizza. My recipe has all of the chicken mixed in to the cream cheese mixture, but I think I'll switch to this new way. I like to try new things. Keeps me young.

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Chicken Caesar Salad Pizza
Recipe:

1 Pizza Crust (I have two favorites: white flour Here and wheat flour Here

Salad Toppings
2 ounces fresh Parmesan cheese, grated, divided (1/2 cup)
1/2 cup fat-free Caesar salad dressing
1 teaspoon Lemon Pepper Seasoning Mix
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 package (8 ounces) fat-free cream cheese, softened
3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cooked (about 12 ounces)
4 cups romaine lettuce, thinly sliced
1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1 can (3.5 ounces) pitted ripe olives, sliced

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1. Make pizza dough and cook until crust is golden brown; remove to cooling rack.

2. Grate Parmesan cheese. In small bowl, combine 1/4 cup of the cheese, dressing, lemon pepper, and garlic; mix well.

3. Place cream cheese in a bowl; add half of the dressing mixture and mix well. Chop half of the chicken; add to cream cheese mixture. Slice remaining chicken into thin strips; set aside.

4. Slice lettuce and chop bell pepper. Slice olives. Place lettuce, bell pepper and olives in large colander bowl. Add remaining dressing mixture; toss to coat.

5. Spread cream cheese mixture over crust. Top with salad mixture. Arrange chicken strips over salad; sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese. Cut with a pizza cutter; serve.

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I made this for Father's Day last year with a fruit pizza... Yum!
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