Saturday, April 30, 2011

May Meal Plan

As I was scrolling through my recipe box looking for dinner ideas I was dismayed to find that less than one percent of the recipes in there were wheat-less. Yikes!  Nearly everything was pastas, breads, had breading, etc.  Using less wheat and avoiding processed foods is going to require more thinking outside the box than I had first thought.  We have become such a bread centered society it is hard to avoid it.  There are still some bread-type recipes (like all the pizzas on Mondays, I love pizza) but there are a lot less of them this month than there were for previous months.  Enjoy!

Mon. Tues. Wed. Thur. Fri. Sat. Sun.

Zucchini Parmesan
3 Cheese Spinach & Broccoli Pizza Corn Chowder Garlic-Mustard Glazed Chicken Kebobs Swedish Meatballs, Mashed Potatoes Game Night Pan Fried Falafel, Tzatziki, Greek Salad Mother's Day
Spinach & Broccoli Calzones Baked Salmon w/Tomato Mayo BBQ Chicken stuffed in a loaded Baked Sweet Potato Beef Stir Fry w/Snap Peas

Eggplant Balls w/Marinara
Black Beans with Homemade Tortillas

Rosemary Balsamic Chicken over Salad
Sicilian Pizza Sweet Potato & Pecan Burgers with Caramelized Onions Grilled Herb Chicken, Grilled Summer Squash Kefta and Zucchini Kebabs Sausage-Stuffed Potatoes, Spinach Salmon Patties Cranberry Orange Chicken, Rice
Grilled Pizza Cream Cheese & Parmesan Baked Salmon, Baked Potato, Spinach Sweet & Spicy Wings, Sweet Potato Fries Stuffed Cabbage Chinese Barbecued Pork, Fried Rice Anniversary Pollo Rosa Maria, Mashed Parsnips
Memorial Day Cobb Salad

Friday, April 29, 2011

Canned Salmon Burgers

Sometimes when I read the title of a recipe I kind of cringe wondering how in the world someone thought that was a good idea.  And then I look at the accompanying photo and think, "Hmm, actually that doesn't look too bad.  In fact, it looks rather tasty.  Actually, why don't I go see if we have the necessary ingredients, Hey, Babe? Dinner is going off schedule tonight."  This was one of those times.  Except, since we didn't have the ingredients, it got added to the upcoming menu instead of cutting in line.

In our house we eat Salmon Salad Sandwiches the way that most people eat Tuna.  With a little mayo, some spices, and hopefully some finely diced celery and onions all mixed together and spread on a piece of toasted rye or a nice hard roll.  In that application it is delicious, cravable even.  Unfortunately all I could picture was a scoop of that dolloped onto a hot greased skillet and fried into a gooey, gross mess.  Blech!

Upon seeing that the recipe called for a slightly different and much more effective approach than the one in my wild imagination, I decided to see if it was a satisfactory way for Hey, Babe (the fish hater) to enjoy eating a fishy-fish (his opinion) like Salmon.  Does it tell you anything if I mention that he requested it be added to next month's menu?  Delicious! 

Since we aren't eating much wheat at the moment, and the instances we are eating it are reserved for such delicacies as pizza (yum, yum, and yum!), the next time we have these Salmon Patties we will be eating them over a bed of salad instead of rolls.  But these patties?  They will still be delicious, breadless or otherwise.  Enjoy!

Salmon Patties
adapted from Dana
1 (14 3/4 ounce) canned salmon, drained and fluffed with a fork
1/4 cup onion, minced
1/4 cup parsley, minced
2 garlic cloves, crushed/minced
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup flour (next time I'm trying Parmesan here, I'll let you know how it goes!)
1 egg, beaten
2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tsp lemon juice

dash salt
dash pepper
dash Tabasco Sauce
Oil for frying

To a medium bowl add all the ingredients and mix to combine well.  Divide the mixture into four even portions and then use your hands to press each portion into an even patty, around 1/2 - 1 inch thick.

Heat a heavy skillet over medium high and add some oil to coat the bottom of the pan (1-2 tablespoons).  When the pan and oil are hot, fry the Salmon Patties until they are golden on each side.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Salisbury Steak and Potatoes

Growing up, every once in a while we would be allowed to have tv dinners as a special treat.  There was something special about getting to pick your own entree without a concern for who else liked it, and to have your own personal tray of perfectly portioned out dinner and your own dessert too. None of which you had to share! 

Most often the way I chose which dinner I wanted was based on the dessert included.  I remember wanting to go with Mom to the store to pick out my dinner instead of just placing my order, so to speak.  That way I could see what was available and make sure I got a good combination.  Cell phones would have come in quite useful at the time, I'm sure.

Unfortunately, sometimes the dessert I wanted was accompanying a meal I didn't.  When that happened I still got the dessert it just meant I had to eat something gross first, Salisbury Steak for example.  I never really cared for it, and since the only time I had tasted it was in a prepackaged dinner that isn't very surprising.  What is surprising is that when I saw a recipe for Salisbury Steak, I got a weird nostalgic craving for it, a food I'd never liked. 

After reading the recipe and seeing all that Salisbury Steak could have been I was tempted to try it, and eventually gave in.  The tender and moist beefy patties weren't spongy like a remembered.  The rich and hearty mushroom sauce wasn't nearly as salty and was missing a distinct chemical aftertaste.  In other words, it was delicious and beyond surpassed my childhood memories.  Enjoy!

Salisbury Steak
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup instant potato flakes (not granules or buds, they won't work here)
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 tablespoons butter/oil
1 large onion halved and sliced thin
1 pound white mushrooms sliced thin
1/2 tsp salt
2 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups beef broth

In a large bowl combine the milk and potato flakes.  Add the beef, salt and pepper and using your hands mix it until it is thoroughly combined (you don't want pockets of mashed potatoes!).  Shape into 6 patties, about 1/2-inch-thick each.  Refrigerate for 1-4 hours to allow them to set up a bit..

In a large skillet set over medium high, heat 1 TB oil and cook the patties 5 minutes or so per side until they are well browned.  Remove the patties from the pan to a plate.  To the empty pan add the remaining oil and cook the onions for 5 minutes until they are soft.  Add mushrooms and salt and cook until their liquid is gone, about 6 minutes.

Mix in the tomato paste and flour and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes.  Stir in the broth and bring to a simmer before returning the patties to the pan.  Reduce heat to medium low and cover, cooking the patties for 12 minutes or so until they are cooked through.  Season to taste with more salt and pepper if needed.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Daring Bakers Make Mousse in an Edible Container

The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blog Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at!

So, can I tell you a secret?  I'm not writing this at the last minute.  It always seems that real life craziness gets in the way of my ability to complete the Daring Challenges until the very last minute (like the day it is due to be posted) and then I find myself up late after the kids are in bed trying to get the post finished.  Not this time!  I have more than a week to go before this post will publish.  It feels kind of...strange actually.  But I think I like it.

When I first read this challenge, I only skimmed over it assuming that it was the same as the Daring Cooks edible container challenge, except sweet instead of savory.  I missed one key detail in reading the instructions where it said, "There are 2 mandatory components to this challenge. You must make one of the 2 maple mousse recipes listed below and you must make an edible container in which to place your mousse for presentation."  They even put them in bold.  Somehow I thought I could make any filling and it wasn't until the other day that I realized I was suppose to make a maple mousse.

When I realized the filling had already been selected for me I didn't really mind, but I wasn't able to get back to the store to get the real maple syrup that was required.  Not seeing any time in the near future that would be convenient to pick some up and wanting to get started filling the bowls I had already made, I decided to go with Honey, which had been presented as an alternative.  The dried pineapple bowls were inspired by the dried pineapple flowers on Martha Stewart's site, which I saw quite some time ago.  Her recipe says you only need to dry them for around an hour which I found not nearly sufficient.  Perhaps if you can manage to get your pineapple slices paper thin that will be fine, otherwise expect to check it every half hour or so until it is nice and dry and tacky. 

I'm wondering if it would have helped to dried them flat for the first half hour or so before trying to flip them over and place them in my silicone muffin cups.  Trying to fit the stiff, fresh pieces of pineapple was a little tricky because they wanted to tear and break but I noticed when I was checking on them that they had become much more pliable after a little time in the oven.  Be sure that you dry your pineapple on some parchment paper, or a silpat, or something else that it won't stick to otherwise you will end up rather aggravated later.  The muffin cups I used were a gift from one of my brothers (hmm, I seem to get a lot of cooking paraphernalia from those guys) and I don't get to use them often but they worked marvelously for this.  I might make some individual sized fruit leathers in them soon.

Here I am rambling on and I haven't yet told you how wonderful the pineapple and honey went together!  The mousse on it's own was incredibly sweet and I can't really see myself eating much of it that way.  After I paired it with the dried pineapple I was surprised how much less sweet it seemed.  Even though pineapples are a sweet fruit the acidity from the citrus really seemed to mute the sweetness of the mousse.  The pineapple cups were a little chewy and I loved that next to the melting smoothness of the mousse. 

Don't forget that this month's challenge is a competition!  Browse around and see what some other creative souls from the Daring Bakers have come up with and make sure that you vote for your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at!  And if you'd like to try it, find the challenge recipe here!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Coffee Cake (not Coffeecake) With Chocolate Icing

For Hey, Babe's birthday we were planning on having a party with his family that, due to various illnesses that bounced between households, never actually happened.  Because of that, I am really glad that I decided last minute on his actual birthday to whip together a cake for an intimate family celebration after dinner.  Plus, even though Hey, Babe isn't a dessert person I know that Little Man was looking forward to singing to Daddy and eating some CAKE!

When I was scanning through some recipes I knew I didn't have a lot of time, which meant that the recipe had to be very simple.  It also couldn't be a chocolate or a vanilla cake since I already had two layers of chocolate cake in the freezer for the coming weekend party and he doesn't care for vanilla.  After flipping through some books I decided to Frankenstein a few recipes and came up with this one.  I  used the recipe for Boiled Milk Frosting that you can find here, choosing to make the chocolate version (add 1/4 cup cocoa powder) that was given as an alternate option.

The cake came together quickly and easily.  It was a very tasty cake, and had it not been for the added icing it would have been a very simple, every day sort of snack cake.  It isn't often that I have a coffee flavored cake and for that reason alone I'd have made it again, but for a cake that was cobbled together from several recipes (mostly Dorie Greenspans Cinnamon Squares) I was quite pleased with how it turned out.

Quick Coffee Cake
1 3/4 cups Flour
1 cup Sugar
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Salt
3/4 cup Whole Milk
1 tablespoon Instant Coffee Granules
2 Eggs
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
10 tablespoons Butter, melted and cooled
1 recipe Boiled Milk Frosting (your choice of flavor) optional

Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease and flour either an 8-inch square or 9-inch round cake pan.

In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  In a large Pyrex measuring cup measure out 3/4 cup of milk and add 1 tablespoon (or more if you'd like it a bit stronger flavored) of coffee granules.  Stir to dissolve.  Whisk in the eggs and vanilla.

Working quickly but gently, stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just until they are combined.  Use a spatula to carefully fold in the cooled melted butter until you have a smooth batter.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 35 minutes or so until a knife or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool at least 10-15 minutes before removing from pan.  If you plan on icing it be sure to cool the cake completely first.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pizza Hut Style Pepperoni Pan Pizzas

Wow, that's a lot of P's.  The salad pizza I showed you last time would be considered rather healthy by most standards, make it with a whole wheat crust and low fat dressing and you'd be golden.  Especially when you look at that pizza in comparison to this pan of greasy, salty goodness.  Now, just like with my children (or my appliances) I don't love one more than the other, I just love them differently.  A nice slice of pizza is welcome any time in my book, be it breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacktime, or even sometimes in the middle of the night.  If I am hungry I'll never turn my nose up at pizza.  To Hey, Babe's amazement I'll eat it cold from the fridge just as happily as hot from the oven.

All that being said, there is something wonderful about getting your own personal pan of pizza that you are not going to be expected to share and you can top however you wish.  Hey, Babe and I are nearly always in agreement over pizza toppings (thank goodness!) and if the topping in question is pepperoni Little Man is on board as well.  These all ended up being the same but still, we each had our own.  When we make these pizzas Little Man loves that he gets to smoosh out his own pizza dough and I just love how soft and tender the thick crust is.

We haven't reached the stage where we need two batches of this dough to feed us, so instead of just making 2 9" pizzas and splitting them up, I make the two it calls for plus a smaller third one for Little Man which results in slightly thinner (but still incredibly tasty!) pizzas.  Honestly, a whole 9" pizza is a bit much and we end up with leftovers for lunch (yay!).  This could easily serve 4-5 people, especially if accompanied by a salad.  When I am making Little Man's pizza, I use one of my Pyrex Storage Bowls in either the 7 cup or 4 cup size depending on how hungry he has been recently.  (Have I ever mentioned how much I love these bowls? They are awesome.  I had to get a second set because I am always using them and could probably use a third set. Good-bye plastic!)

This recipe was originally from a Cook's Country magazine, and in light of Hey, Babe's refusal to bring home "normal" pizza from work I tried it right away.  I had high expectations and was thrilled to have them met.  Since I don't quite have the sauce right I can only recommend that you use your favorite homemade or jarred tomato sauce, and feel free to mix up the toppings.  Keep in mind that this is a greasier pizza than one cooked on a pizza stone and so is is a bit less healthy.  Knowing that, I comfort myself with the fact that all the ingredients are relatively wholesome and that there are no chemicals or soy.  Go ahead and try it.  You know you want to.

Pan Pizzas
2 tablespoons oil, plus more for the pans
1 cup milk, warmed to 110 degrees
2 teaspoons sugar
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for counter
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 1/3 cups for favorite prepared pizza sauce
3 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
Toppings of your choice (pepperoni, sausage, chopped veggies, etc.)

1. Evenly coat each of two 9-inch cake pans with a generous portion of oil, about 1-2 Tablespoons a piece.

2. In a large glass measuring cup, combine the warmed milk with the sugar and 2 TB of oil.  To the bowl of your mixer add flour, yeast, and salt, mix just to combine.  Attach your dough hook and on low speed slowly start adding the wet ingredients.  Increase the speed to medium-low and keep mixing the dough for about 5-6 minutes until is is smooth (if you are doing this by hand you will need to knead around 10 minutes or so).  Shaped the dough into a ball and leave it covered in a warm place until it has doubled.  This should take about 30 minutes depending on how warm a place you leave it.  I often allow my oven to preheat to around 100°F and then turn it off to let it rise in there, or I put it in my laundry/boiler room which is around 80°F at any given time, it takes a little longer to rise in the boiler room.

3. Lightly flour your counter and taking half of the dough, roll it into a ball.  Flatten it into a largish disk and then transfer it to the oiled pan, using your fingers to gently press it evenly to the edges.  If at any point the dough you are working with starts to get tough and uncooperative, switch to the other piece and allow the first to rest a little.  Cover the pans with plastic wrap and let them rise in a warm place about 20 minutes.  Don't use your oven this time because you are going to need to start preheating it to 400°F. 

4. After the dough has risen, start assembling.  Divide the sauce, cheese, and toppings evenly over the tops of the pizzas to within a half inch or so of the edge.  Bake until the cheese is melted and your pepperoni (if you used any) is browning around edges, about 20 minutes. Let the pizzas rest in pans for 1 minute after removing them from the oven before taking them out of the pan and serving them.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Salad Pizza

During the first few years of our marriage, Hey, Babe worked as a manager for a fast food pizzeria.  Considering that it was the same place he had worked for all through high school and had returned to it for a few years after college while we were waiting for me to graduate and get married, it is no wonder that he had long since tired of their food.   I found this rather frustrating since it would have been quite convenient if he had been able to bring dinner home on the nights I didn't feel like cooking.  Especially considering Pizza is one of the foods I love and can eat over and over again in nearly any configuration.

One of the only ways Hey, Babe was willing to accommodate me was to on rare occasions bring home a not-from-the-menu salad pizza.  He and his brother had worked at the pizzeria together through high school, and upon tiring of all the heavy, greasy, salty pizzas readily available, they began instead to create various versions of this salad pizza when hunger struck them.  The salad bar and various pizza toppings available made it quite easy both to assemble and to switch up the ingredients by making it spicy, or with chicken, or bacon, etc.  It wasn't always the same exact ingredients, but it was always good.

I know this is another pizza recipe and I have posted several already, but since pizza is so awesome can you really blame me?  It really is one of my favorite things and because you can change up the toppings so drastically you never have to eat it the same way twice.  Coming up soon...Pepperoni Personal Pan Pizzas.

Salad Pizza
1 lb or so of your favorite pizza dough (I've even used this No Knead Dough)
4 oz. Cheddar Cheese
4 oz. Mozzarella Cheese
1/4 - 1/2 cup Creamy Dressing (we use Ranch, but Italian or Caesar could work too)
1 Red Onion, diced
4 cups Romain Lettuce, thinly sliced (you could also do spinach, iceberg lettuce, etc.)
2 small Tomatoes, chopped
2 Carrots, thinly sliced or grated
1 Bell Pepper, chopped
1 Cucumber, chopped

Optional Ingredients
Cooked Chicken
Bacon, Chopped
Hot Peppers
Sausage, Chopped

Preheat oven (and pizza stone if you have one) to 450ºF.

On a piece of parchment paper, roll out your pizza dough into a circle of your desired thickness.  Sprinkle cheddar over the dough followed by mozzarella both to within an inch or so of the edge.  The mozzarella is less likely to burn and should go on top of the cheddar.  Place on preheated pizza stone and bake 12-14 minutes or until crust is golden brown and the cheeses are melty and starting to turn golden.

There are now two ways you can assemble this.  The first is to mix all the remaining ingredients, including dressing and your selection of optional ingredients into a bowl, toss them together and then spread them evenly on the pizza.  This works fine but then you get a big bowl dirty and you chance there being an uneven distribution of ingredients.  Instead, I usually spread some of the dressing on the top of the cooked pizza and then start layering the ingredients on, scattering them evenly over the top sometimes finishing with a little more derssing.  It's your choice.  Either way, slice with a pizza cutter and serve it warm.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Baking Tips Part 1: Cookie Shaping

When I first started baking I learned the hard way that you should read through a recipe and make sure you are certain of two things: first, that you have all the ingredients, and second, that you understand all the instructions.  The worst time to realize you aren't sure of either of those items is when you are halfway into making a recipe.  Along the way I have picked up some various other tips and tweaks that I regularly apply to my baking and for this half I'd like to touch on shaping the cookie dough.

Something else I learned early on is that I am a lazy cook when it comes to certain steps, especially when it comes to shaping cookies.  Here are a few things I routinely do to make my cookie baking easier, faster, or less messy than the instructions call for.  There are several ways of shaping cookies and I find that they fall under two tiers, the first tier being the simpler. If I were to list them in order of preference based on ease of assembly they would be:

   First Tier-
  • Bar Cookies- By far the easiest and least fussy method.  Plop the dough into your prepared pan and smooth it out using a spatula, your wet/greased hands, or a piece of wax paper.  Wonderful in that you do not have to babysit the oven, turning trays and switching trays and putting a new tray in, but it will take a bit longer to cook so your instant gratification is reduced.

  • Drop Cookies-  One of the more common methods, perhaps even the most common.  I bought three sizes of cookie scoops (1 tablespoon, 2 tablespoons, and 3 tablespoons) and no longer dread gooey fingers or uneven sized cookies that lead to overdone and underdone cookies on the same tray.  Easy to assemble but you need to babysit the oven, filling trays and switching them around. (Along these same lines are thumbprint cookies which are drop cookies that have been indented, usually with your thumb, and then filled.)

  • Rolled into a ball and flattened-  This is where you divide the dough into even little balls of a determined size or number before using your wet/greased/floured hand or the bottom of a floured/sugared glass to press them into thinner flat disks.  Previous to buying my cookies scoops I didn't like this method much as it sorely tested my patience when it came to getting all the balls to be even.  Now I use my cookie scoops to plop them out all the same size without a bit of hassle.

   Second Tier-
  • Slice and Bake- Here you take the entire portion of dough and shape it into a long log using parchment paper, wax paper, or plastic wrap.  It is then chilled before slicing off even thicknesses of dough and baking them.  My dough often does not cooperate.  The pitfalls of this method include: round logs turning square, square logs turning round, dough sticking to the wrapper, slices getting squashed or cut unevenly.  This works well for a nice thick dough that is well chilled but as the dough softens you run into trouble.

  • Rolled Out and Cut- Using a floured or greased surface and rolling pin the dough is rolled out to a prescribed thickness and shape before being cut into smaller portions with a knife, pastry cutter, pizza wheel, cookie cutters, etc.  Unless you cut the dough into squares you are left with scraps and the procedure must be repeated.  Each time it is repeated with subsequent scraps the uncooked dough gets a little warmer/softer resulting in a tougher finished product.  Also, you may run into dough that wishes to stick to either the rolling surface or the rolling pin and after doing so, tears when you try to move it to the baking sheet.

  • Rolled, Filled and Shaped- Like the previous method, this dough is rolled out flat and cut into smaller portions.  Those portions are then filled with some concoction and then the dough is wrapped to hold the filling in some way.  This is by far the most fastidious method and the one I am least likely to do.

About that lazy cook thing that I mentioned before.  When I am making any cookie in the second tier, 99% of the time I will switch it for a first tier method.  It makes my life simpler and makes me happy while I'm baking.  The final products are not usually drastically different from the original intent and sometimes I even prefer them.  Although I must admit, since I have never made some of the second tier cookies in their original presentation, I am only making an assumed comparison.  Sometimes I will even turn first tier cookies into the simplest form, that of the bar cookie.  It really depends on my mood and my time constraints.

I know that there are other methods of shaping cookies, and even variations on the above methods.  Cookie guns or cookies presses for example aren't anywhere on my list, but since I have never used one I can't comment.  I won't pretend that the above list is by any means complete, it is, however, complete according to the methods I typically come across.  So, what have I missed?  Would you agree with that order of ease or do you switch some around?  Are you a baker (lazy or otherwise) with any tips to share?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Daring Cooks make Edible Containers

Renata of Testado, Provado & Aprovado! was our Daring Cooks’ April 2011 hostess. Renata challenged us to think “outside the plate” and create our own edible containers! Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 17th to May 16th at

I like it when I can kill two birds with one stone.  I selected Southwestern Egg Rolls for March's menu and then didn't get the chance to make them.  When this challenge was announced I was a bit overwhelmed with all of the possibilities, especially given the news that there were prizes to be awarded.  The pressure was on!


After thinking for a bit I came to the decision that this recipe would fit the requirements nicely. Now that I have completed it, I am a little less certain that I went in the right direction.  Since it is too late to do anything else I am just going to have to soldier forth with what I have regardless and simply try harder next time.

I really like being able to mix up the presentation or flavor of a standard food.  These egg rolls in no way resemble your standard takeout fare.  I love how light and crispy the wrapper becomes around the filling, much more delicate than if these had been made with tortillas.  I am sure that similar things are available, in fact I think I recall some that were served with a thin avocado and something dipping sauce, but I am thrilled with how these turned out.  Good Luck to all the Daring Cooks who have thrown their hats into the ring.  If you'd like to vote on any submissions don't forget to visit The Daring Kitchen, there were so many wonderful things made for this challenge!

Southwestern Egg Rolls
1 chicken breast cooked and diced
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced into matchsticks
1/4 cup green onion minced
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup frozen spinach thawed and drained
1 jalapeno, minced
1/2 tablespoon parsley minced
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
dash of cayenne
3/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese shredded
several won ton wrappers (I think I used 6 or so but I really filled mine)
small bowl of cold water (for sealing wrappers)
sauces to serve (salsa, guacamole, sour cream, etc.)

To a large bowl, add all the ingredients except for the won ton wrappers, mix well.

Taking one wrapper at a time and leaving the remainder of the package covered with a damp towel, arrange the wrapper so that one of the corners of the square is pointed toward you.  Put a line of about 1/4 - 1/2 cup of filling in the center of the wrapper.  The less filling you use, the more like appetizers these will be, I tend to load mine up, but that is a personal preference. 

Dip a finger in the cold water and run it around the edge of the square to moisten.  Fold first the left and then the right points toward the center, they may or may not meet.  Fold the top point down toward you carefully and begin rolling the egg roll toward you, moisten with a little more water if needed to seal.

Continue assembling until all the filling has been used.  They can be prepared through this step and held covered in the fridge for a few hours before proceeding.

In a large, deep skillet, heat about 1/2 inch of oil to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).  Cook the egg rolls for about 2-4 minutes on each side until nice and golden and heated through.  Drain on a paper towel and serve with salsa, guacamole, or sour cream.

note: I prefer my veggies to be more crisp than many people.  If you would rather, you can saute the filling first (minus the cheese) until they reach a bit more tender state.

Random Thoughts

I like that the more I cook, the better I am getting at recognizing potential problems in a recipe.  I can't recall a specific recipe that prompted this thought, but it makes me happy just the same.

I read on a forum about a family that was having trouble with the kids complaining about the house not having any food.  The trouble was summed up very clearly when it was pointed out that there was apparently a discrepancy with the definition of food.  As far as the kids were concerned food equals something already prepared that they need to do little to nothing to in order to consume it.  In the kids eyes Mom was only buying ingredients. 

In that case, we don't really buy any food at all (except for fruits and veggies most of which require little more than a rinse in the sink).


I love to watch my kids interact with one another.  I love that I can use them to cheer one another up or ward off a funk.  If the Storm Sprite is upset I can often encourage Little Man with little or no coaxing to come talk with her and try to cheer her up.  In fact, usually I don't need to do anything and he comes to see what's the matter of his own volition.  This can be done by him shaking his head back and forth 2 inches from hers with his nose all scrunched up and a big grin dominating his face as he says repeatedly, "Gimme those smiles! Yeah, yeah! Gimme those smiles!"  Other times he is more mild and simply pats her and reassures her that he is there, (or I am there, or Daddy is there). 

Likewise, if Little Man hasn't woken himself from his nap by 3, I know that I have a much better shot at a happy child if I bring the Storm Sprite in with me and lay her down next to him as I try and rouse him.  Instead of getting a wimpy, whiny boy, I end up with one grinning and snuggling his sister for a few minutes before he decides he is ready to get up and move on with the day.

Of course, since they are both human (and still rather small, immature ones at that) it can also be frustrating to watch their interactions.  The two of them were sitting on my lap giggling and tickling and having a grand old time.  For no apparent reason this went suddenly downhill as Little Man bit his sister's finger.  No warning.  No reason.  And that was the end of that merry scene.


Little Man loves his daddy.  I have numerous pictures of Little Man copying, helping, or just following Hey, Babe in whatever he is doing.  One of the things that he wants to be able to do with Hey, Babe, is mow the lawn.  He has his own little plastic walk behind mower, just like his daddy does.  Unfortunately for him, we don't let him use it while Hey, Babe is actually mowing the lawn because we have too many rocks in our yard that might become accidental projectiles. 

One particular day as Little Man joined Hey, Babe putting his equipment away, he decided to help.  To do so he bent down pushed on the body of the still very hot mower and before anything could be done had burned his fingers.  Thankfully it wasn't a bad burn but still it hurt, especially for a child only beginning to expand his repertoire of painful experiences.  Since that occurrence, when we tell him not to touch something and that it is hot or dangerous he always asks, "Like a lawnmower?"  In our house it is not hot like a stove. Nope.  Around here, it's dangerous like a lawnmower.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cheese Blintzes with Blueberry Compote

When I found myself with a partially used container of ricotta cheese languishing in the fridge, I decided I wanted to bake something.  Anything.  Well, anything sweet really, since I wasn't in the mood for stuffed shells or lasagna or other such things.  It was with this in mind that I found myself browsing through the first cookbook anyone had ever gotten me, The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion.

I received this cookbook as a Christmas gift from one of my brothers while I was in college.  I don't recall having as pronounced an interest in cookbooks, recipes, and cooking then as I do now, but it is safe to say that this book was probably the catalyst that sparked my current interest.  It was unlike any other cookbook we as a household owned (and by we I mean Mom).  Mom had a few of your typical cookbooks such as Better Homes and Garden's New Cookbook (the link is for a newer version) as well as some not so typical like the Le Leche League's Whole Foods for the Whole Family (which I'd still like a copy of and again, I think that link is for an updated version).  There were a scattering of other cookbooks and magazines of cookie recipes and such, but this book was strictly for baking.

Growing up there wasn't a lot of baking happening in our house.  Mom was, and still is, an incredible cook.  She was able to seemingly instinctively throw together ingredients, sometimes with random leftovers, and create a delicious meal.  Baking, however, didn't happen except during predictable times such as pies for Thanksgiving and cookies for Christmas.  I think that having eight kids to corral kept Mom understandably otherwise occupied.  Which is why a book devoted to baking held such an allure.

I have read through the book cover to cover at at least once.  I like that it has short captions, suggestions, and interesting tidbits of information scattered throughout the recipes.  If it were up to me, there would be a lot more pictures of the final products included but we can't have everything.  This time, while I was flipping through it with intent, I came across this recipe for Cheese Blintzes with Blueberry Compote and even without an accompanying picture I knew it would be the perfect way to use up my neglected ricotta.

The filling recipe had to be modified a bit to cater to how much ricotta I had left and I cut the sugar for the compote in half (why does everything have to be so sweet?) as well as altering the cooking method a bit.  The results were absolutley delicious.  The tang of the blueberries were offset nicely by the delicate crepes and the smooth creamy filling.  I am sure that this would grace a breakfast buffet just as easily as a dessert table.  We ended up eating it as breakfast for dinner and were perfectly content.

Cheese Blintzes with Blueberry Compote
1 3/4 cup milk
3 eggs
5 Tablespoons melted butter or oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, or vanillla (optional)

To your blender add all the ingredients and pulse until very smooth.  Allow the batter to rest in the fridge for about an hour.  This allows the gluten to relax (I often skip this step because I'm impatient).

Preheat a lightly greased nonstick crepe or omelet pan over medium high heat.  The amount of batter you will need for each one will be determined by how large your pan is, for an 8 inch pan use about 1/4 cup of batter.  Tip and tilt the pan in a swirl to allow the batter to spread into a thin coating on the surface of the pan.  Cook the pan until it has set and no longer looks wet.  Remove the crepe to a plate to cool and start the next one.

You may stack the crepes as long as you stack them with the "uncooked" side all facing the same direction so that they don't stick together.    These can be topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar, sliced fruit, Nutella, etc. if you don't want to make blintzes.

Creamy Ricotta Filling:
6 oz cream Cheese, softened
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1 egg yolk (I added the white to the crepes)
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup Ricotta

In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese, salt and sugar together until well combined.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix until well combined.

Blueberry Compote:
1/4 cup cold water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
pinch salt
2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)

Combine water and cornstarch in a medium saucepan.  Add remaining ingredients and stir to combined.  Heat over a medium flame until the mixture is starting to bubble and slightly thicken.  Cool to lukewarm.

Blintz Assembly:
Place about 2 tablespoons of filling in the center of each crepe.  Fold the sides in, the top down, and then roll the crepe to enclose the filling.  Place them all in a lightly greased pan and bake them in a preheated 350°F oven for about half an hour or until they are heated through.  Serve them hot topped with the blueberry compote.
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