Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Szechuan Noodles and Caramelized Butternut Squash, (not together)

A few nights ago I made the caramelized butternut squash. I only used one squash, which fed the three of us with enough left over for me and Ethan for lunch the next day. It was very good, they actually tasted a lot like roasted sweet potatoes. If you've never cut a butternut squash, which I had never done, be sure you have a very large, sharp knife. It was quite difficult. So, if you're not too sure about your knife skills, maybe stick to another vegetable.

Now, the Szechuan noodles, we all really liked it. I made the sauce earlier in the day then just added it to the noodles right before we ate. I didn't use sherry (being pregnant and all) or sherry vingar but put in some red-wine vinegar. I was a little concerned about the sauce when I tasted it by itself, it was very peanut buttery, so I actually added a dash more soy sauce and vinegar. Once it sat in the fridge for a few hours and then on the noodles, the taste mellowed out a bit and it was quite good. We had a single guy friend over for dinner and he really enjoyed it, although anything is probably better than what he has on a consistent basis.

One More Indonesian Ginger Chicken and the Curried Couscous

Turns out that Janice and I cooked the exact same recipes this week! Tonight, I made the Indonesian Ginger Chicken and I paired it with the Curried Couscous. Like Janice, I made the marinade for the chicken the night before and popped it in the refrigerator for a little over 24 hours. I cheated and used already minced ginger and garlic (so much easier and no smelly fingers from the garlic!), so it only took a few minutes to throw together the marinade. Also, I stepped outside of my comfort zone and used BONE-IN chicken breasts!!! Shocking! I'm kidding around, but I really do have an aversion to cooking with bone-in chicken - I can't fully explain it, but I have an irrational fear that I won't cook it correctly. Anyway, it turned out great and everyone in the Johnson clan liked it. My only problem with it was that the skin wasn't crispy enough. Anyone have any tips on how to get crispy skin without overcooking the meat? Is that possible?

Moving on to the couscous, I had procured some curry powder earlier this week, and by some small miracle I had turmeric in the spice rack already, so I was able to make the curry/yogurt mixture as directed. IT WAS AWESOME. I liked it so much that I think I'm going to experiment with it in different recipes - I could see it going really well with chicken in particular. Not much else to note from the preparation of the couscous except that I decided to dice the carrots and steam them a bit instead of grating them and serving them raw. Turns out that I preferred them to be a bit soft, so I would probably do this again. As you can see from the pictures above, both my kiddos had fun helping me make and eat the couscous. :) I agree with Janice that this dish tastes wonderful at room temperature.

Overall, we loved both recipes and will definitely make them again!

And Yet Another Version of Indonesian Ginger Chicken…

I made this recipe up yesterday to marinate a full 24 hours. It was nice just to take something from the fridge and pop it in the oven today. I used chicken thigh/leg quarters, as they are pretty cheap. It has half the back on it—but that didn't bother me. I had no desire to try to cut it off! Husband said this was good, but he expected a stronger flavor from all that marinating. I thought the same. What I would change next time is to have the foil off the whole cooking time (only put it back on if it was browning too fast). I think this would reduce the liquid more and make a thicker, stickier sauce to pour over the chicken and rice that I served it on.

Oh, I put some Chinese 5 spice from Penzey’s Spice in the rice, thinking that would reinforce the Asian theme—is Indonesian Asian??—not really sure about that. But the rice went well with the chicken. I also made a mandarin orange salad with homemade honey-mustard dressing which went very well with the chicken. (By the way—the oranges came from my tangerine tree in my backyard—that was fun to use them.) So….a good, fast, and cheap meal. I like that.

Potato-Fennel Gratin

This recipe should be in the dessert section!

As usual, I cut the recipe in half and made a few changes of my own (with ingredients I had on hand).
- 1 fennel
- 1/2 onion
- 8 medium yellow gold potatoes
- 1/4 pound (about 1 1/2 cup grated) Gruyere cheese
- Topped with fresh parmesan

The Gruyere cheese is a bit expensive- I could only find a 1/2 pound block, so we have enough to make this recipe again. (Freeze your block cheese in foil and a freezer bag and it wil last a long time). You can also google yummy recipes for macaroni and cheese that use gruyere and white cheddar.

The potatoes/cheese browned up very nicely and bubbled for about 30 minutes of the cooking time. I sliced the potatoes myself- just make sure you slice them as thin as you can.

The overall opinion was the potatoes were VERY yummy! The gruyere and fennel gave it a sweet taste that we enjoyed. I topped it with fresh parmesan and it gave it a nuttier/earthy top taste. We will be making these again this Fall for the holidays.

Salmon with Fennel

Very yummy and easy recipe! My husbands favorite fish is salmon and I am okay with salmon, so we gave this a try. Ina's recipe makes enough for a 10 to 15 people, therefore, we cut the recipe in 1/4.

- 2 pieces of salmon (about a pound total) that were previously frozen.
- 1/2 onion
- 1 fennel bulb (make sure you cut out the core of the fennel and cook until really tender)
- dried thyme (b/c I had it)

I didn't have parchment paper, so I bought some, and it helped! The salmon didn't stick at all.

(This picture was taken before cooking- I forgot to take one after :))

I set my oven to 500 degrees and the fire alarms kept going off, so I lowered it to 450 degrees and it cooked just fine (10 minutes per inch of thickness- ours cooked for 25 minutes). We like our salmon medium-well.

Verdict was that we both enjoyed it- I am an onion lover, but didn't prefer the taste of the cooked onions by themself. I thought the salmon had a wonderful flavor and Danny agreed. We are excited to have found a new way to cook salmon.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

More Roasted Veggies - Brussels Sprouts & Carrots

I too figured since I was going to have my oven at 400° I should roast as many things as I possible... so I tried Brussels sprouts (a favorite of mine) and carrots. Like Lou Ann, I started the sprouts early, then added the carrots 20 minutes later. I only bought a pound of the Brussels sprouts but scaled the recipe down and they were absolutely perfect! Husband & mom liked them and kids both ate what I told them to, even if it wasn't their first choice. They reminded me of the Brussels sprouts Central Market sells, but they were hot and tasty and fully cooked - CM's always seem to be mostly raw. I made the full recipe of carrots (shame on me for buying the 10# bag at Costco...), which was almost 2 pounds of carrots, and I too found them a little on the salty side, especially since the rest of the meal was well salted. But everyone else liked them, along with the (baked) sweet potatoes and (baked) onion crusted chicken. A whole meal in the oven!

Corn Muffins

So, this is my first post and attempt at the cookbook. I decided I was hungry for some muffins and picked the Corn Muffins because they looked easy and I had all of the ingredients....well, mostly!! So, I cheated a bit. I had a box of Jiffy cornbread mix, which happened to contain every single ingredient called for in the recipe, so I felt like it was really simply the smarter choice, especially considering that I LOVE Jiffy cornbread AND that I prefer to spend as little time in the kitchen as possible after a long day at work! I followed the muffin recipe on the box exactly, except I added a dash more milk because it seemed thick to me. After they finished cooking and were golden brown on top, I took them out of the muffin pan (so they wouldn't continue to cook) and allowed them to cool about 45 min.

I didn't have a pastry bag or a round tip, so I just took a small knife and made a cross shaped cut (like this +) and then twisted the knife slowly to make a small hole in the middle. Then I turned the muffin upside down and tapped it a few times to get the crumbs out. I spooned a few scoops of Red Plum Jam (because that's what I had) into a ziploc freezer bag (quart size) and squished it up a bit inside the bag. Then I pushed it all towards one of the bottom corners and cut the corner of the bag off with a pair of scissors (just the tip of the corner, so the hole is not too big). Then I stuck the corner into the muffin and squeezed it in......worked perfectly! Danny is in love, so I call that a success! The red plum jam actually gave the cornbread an unexpected almost has an almond taste to it (as if almond extract was added). Very tasty! This Jiffy recipe made 9 muffins.

Outrageous Brownies

Frances finally got her wish! I made the outrageous brownies!!

All I know is she is young, she is active and she burns through calories as quickly as she consumes them. She had a big square!

Not so for me!

These brownies are outrageous because they contain a pound of butter, two pounds of chocolate and almost a pound of walnuts.

I ate a tiny square (so I can get my jeans zipped tomorrow) and it was outrageously good!

Ina says to cut into 20 squares and you could easily cut these into 40 decent sized squares.

These brownies were made to be shared...I think my sons varsity football team can use the calories ... I'll be sharing with them!

Curried Couscous without the Curry

By Janice~
I was at the grocery store last night to get fennel, but alas, our Wal-Mart supercenter in Tyler does not have fennel (I had suspected that) so I moved on to my next recipe idea—the beets with orange vinaigrette—but we don’t have beets here either. So next was the curried couscous. I bought everything that I don’t normally have at home, or know I am out of—I thought.

Tonight when I started the couscous, after I had gone too far to turn back, I realized I did not have any curry powder. When did I run out of it?? I used to have some. Maybe my pantry moths got it last summer, and it got thrown out. So then I looked for the turmeric—and it appears it had the same fate as the curry. I had a dilemma—can you make curried couscous without the curry? I looked for anything that might be similar in my spice cabinet, but came up with nothing, so decided I must change directions with the seasoning. After looking over my options, I choose a Mural of Flavor from Penzey’s Spice. It smelled good—so it became the substitute for the curry. I also substituted dried cherries for the currents, just because I had them. I cut the recipe in half as there were just two of us. We had very generous servings. And the result of all this substituting…? We loved it! Even my sometimes over opinionated husband loved and it—even said so twice!

So I will make this one again. I think that you could use any spice you want and it would be good. The most interesting ingredient was the yogurt—it just blended in completely. I do think I will cut back a tablespoon on the “good” olive oil next time. It was not too oily at all, but I have a feeling it would be just as good with a bit less. Sometime in the future I will try this again with the curry powder. Oh, I also liked that it is served at room temperature. I made it first and just left it on the counter, then made the rest of our dinner. It was nice to have one dish completely done before I started the rest.

Cheddar Corn Chowder

My husband asked me at 5:00 last night if we could feed his parents dinner. He should have known when I readily agreed that I had an ulterior motive, cooking a new recipe for someone that might actually eat it. I'd bought the ingredients for the Cheddar Corn chowder, so that was my pick. I only used one onion. I'm not a big onion fan, but I remembered an earlier post that said without the onion and bacon it was bland. I also left out the bacon but not on purpose. I was sure I had bacon, so I didn't buy any at the store this weekend. It turned out that all of our bacon had been eaten sometime last week.

Both of my in-laws said it was tasty, and they even took a bowl home to Grandaddy because they said he would like it. My husband and kids would not try it because of the onion. My father-in-law complained that he couldn't find any onions in his bowl. (He really likes onions). Overall, this recipe is not going to become a favorite of mine, but I will remember it fondly since other people actually ate it and liked it.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Yet more roasted carrots and some asparagus thrown in!

I really don't like cooked carrots but after all the buzz about these roasted carrots I decided to give them a try.
They were good!
Just in case they weren't edible, I decided to do asparagus as well. Ina loves to roast those vegetables! The asparagus recipe is from another of her cookbooks but same technique. Omit the dill, toss a little Parmesan on top after it roasts, and you have another roasted vegie recipe. Asparagus only needs to cook 10 minutes so I added them to the pan after the carrots had cooked half way. Carrots probably would have been even better with fresh dill but I just used dried dill weed as I forgot to purchase the fresh dill.
My 17 year old son even ate those cooked carrots and liked them!! I think he was starving after football practice and would have eaten anything but still.

A Tale of 2 Cupcakes (Coconut and Non-Coconut)

This weekend my sister was in town to celebrate her birthday with the family.  I decided to try my hand at the birthday dessert and thought the coconut cupcake recipe would be great for the occasion.  Funny thing is, my sister is pretty sure she's allergic to coconut, and the majority of the rest of my family doesn't like coconut at all.  My husband and I really like coconut, though, so I had a bit of an ulterior motive for making these. 

My solution to this dilemma was to make the majority of the batch without the coconut.  I only made 2/3 of a recipe of these, because I thought that would be plenty.  The math got a little interesting (someone please explain why there is no 1/3 teaspoon?), but otherwise, the quantities worked well. 

I decided to aim for 12 cupcakes total, making only 3 of the coconut variety.  This almost went off without a hitch...  If you look closely at the picture below, you'll notice that the bottom left cupcake seems to be running out of the cupcake pan.  It seems this way because this is what it actually did.  I opened the oven after about 15 minutes of baking, and a large portion of coconut cupcake batter had bubbled out of the pan and into the bottom of the oven. 

It seems that the coconut cupcake batter was a lot more dense than the batter without the coconut, and this threw off the equilibrium of the pan, I guess.  Yes, it would have made sense to put the pan on a cookie sheet while baking in the oven to catch messes like these, but hey, I don't claim to be a logical thinking cook (because I'm not).   Also, when Ina says to fill the cupcake tins up with batter, be careful, because this is what I did and I ended up with huge cupcakes.  Not necessarily a bad thing, but just know what to expect. 

The finished cupcakes- non-coconut and coconut.  They were delicious despite the oven/batter debacle.  The non-coconut variety tasted like a really rich vanilla cupcake, which is what I was expecting.  The coconut cupcakes were wonderful also. 

All things considered, these cupcakes were delicious and I will definitely be making them again (with a little less batter in the tins and with a cookie sheet underneath). 

Sugar Snap Peas with Sesame

A few nights ago we were having fried rice for dinner (using our leftovers from the Indonesian Ginger Chicken recipe), and I thought the sugar snap pea recipe would be a great accompaniment.  This has to be one of the easiest reipes ever, so if you're nervous about this whole cooking thing, this would be a great recipe to start with. 

I wasn't able to find fresh sugar snap peas at my grocery store, so I used frozen.  I defrosted them by putting them in water for about 10 minutes, and then dried them off well.  Then I added the sesame oil and sesame seeds.  At this point, I took a taste and my husband and I both determined that it needed a little something more.  So, I added salt and also a little red wine vinegar (my husband's idea).  These ingredients made all the difference.  This was a very tasty, healthy salad.  It's something I will definitely be making again. 

Another Baked Virginia Ham and More Roasted Carrots!

Well, I've had my cookbook for several weeks now and I'm just now getting around to cooking something. You see, I do not this whole experience should be a real challenge for me! My husband has been the family cook since the day we got married...I'm a lucky girl! Since leaving my job as a pharmacist to stay at home with our new baby boy (he's 6 weeks old), I promised myself (and the hubby) that I would start cooking more. It only makes sense, right? Right... Anyway, I am still adjusting to motherhood so I can't guarantee a deep commitment to this cooking business, but I am going to give it a shot!

For my first attempt, I chose to make the Baked Virginia Ham on page 119. Shannon already made this, so I basically followed her lead and bought a pre-sliced ham from HEB that weighed 2.5 lbs. I also halved the remaining ingredients...or so I thought! I actually forgot to use half of the orange zest...oops!! Our ham was very orangey (sp?) so I really wasn't too crazy about it. I think the hubby was on the same page as me. It was edible, though and we did eat the leftovers for lunch today. I wonder if I would have liked it more had I used less zest. Hmm? Also, I did not use fresh garlic...we had some minced garlic in the fridge so I used that to make things easier...don't know if that changed anything significantly. It says to bake for 1 hour, but I think it could have gone longer to brown the glaze even more. The recipe calls for mango chutney and I have no idea what that is. It looked weird. I will say that this recipe is very easy since all you do is mix everything in the food processor, pour it over the ham, and bake it.

For our side, I made the tried and true Roasted Carrots from page 149. I am not a fan of cooked carrots, but I really like these. They were just crisp enough and not too mushy like cooked carrots normally are. This was my first time using kosher salt to cook anything, but I notice that most of Ina's recipes call for it so I am prepared to cook the rest of the book now!

Here are my pictures:

Huge Coconut Cupcake

Instead of little cupcakes I made a HUGE cupcake! I entered it in a dessert cook-off that my Sunday School class was doing....but I didn't win. :(

Although alot of people said they did vote for me! I borrowed a cake pan that had the top and bottom formed pans separate, then you "glue" them together with icing. I might have to buy one of these for myself.

I put a fork next to the cake so you could see get a better feel for what the size is. It tasted great, I'd make it again. I just ate some of the leftovers for lunch...yum!


Coconut Cupcakes

I loved these cupcakes. They were easy to make and very tasty. I halved both the cake and icing recipes, and made 11 cupcakes, with enough icing left over to frost a sister-in-law's recipe! Really, I think I used about 1/4 of the halved frosting recipe. Maybe I wasn't gobbing it on, but I thought there was plenty. But it was definitely a yummy grown-up cupcake. Since they're covered with coconut they even survived the slam-on-the-brakes-&-skid-across-the-trunk on the way to the party!

Shortbread Hearts

They don't look awful do they?

Ryan (3) took one bite and said, "This is yucky for my tummy."

I stifled a laugh, so my husband added, "Ryan, I tend to agree with you."

I responded, "You, haven't even tried them, yet."

My husband, "Honey, yes I did try one earlier."

I can't control my laughter at this point, so Ryan decides to jump back in with, "It will make my tummy sick."

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Some blog info you should know....

I noticed that alot of you have saved "drafts" that you haven't published yet. A little tid-bit on this...when you do publish your draft, it will be published in the order it was saved. So, if I saved a draft last Friday...and then publish it today it wont show up at the top of the blog, it will show up back with everything else that was published Friday...and all the Saturday and Sunday stuff will be at the top of the blog. It is all done chronologically. (at least this is the case in two posts that I have done)

For the rest of us, we should just back track several days every once in a while to make sure we didn't miss a post. There could be some good info that is hidden under another post.
Amy, if you know a way to change this let us know.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Applesauce, by Jenny Johnson

"Mommy, why is there chunks?"
"Because Honey, 'Mommy' doesn't know what zest means."

Indonesian Chicken, by Jenny Johnson

I don't think I can say anything about this chicken that hasn't already been said. My pictures will not inspire you, nor will my stories.

But did you know, that in Indonesia, they have these all-night puppet shows that sometimes last 8 hours? They are so important that people sometimes build their houses to accommodate them, with the whole front of the house opening up like a stage of sorts.

I wonder if they eat this chicken during the show. If so, I think I want to move.

Chocolate Buttercream Cake by Jenny Johnson

This is one seriously delicious cake. Moist, but not fudgy, with a complex chocolate flavor. Coffee is used in both the cake recipe and the icing, which at first I grumbled at- one more step, got to make coffee. But it's nice really; you can sip a cup while you're waiting for your cake to bake.

One of our fellow bloggers, whom I can testify is downright adorable and tiny, decided to lighten this cake by substituting applesauce for some of the butter. I can respect that- after all, the icing for this thing is pretty much a slab of brown-colored butter. But as for me, for better or worse, health has got to be the last thing on my mind when making something like this. In fact, sometimes, just knowing how sinfully rich it is makes the experience all the better. If you're that kind of baker, this is the cake for you.

As far as tips.... You might need to bake it 5 minutes longer. Regarding serving. if you store the cake in the fridge, make sure you let it thaw just a bit. Otherwise, your guests will figure out the magic ingredient pretty quick. When cold, this thing looks and feels pretty much like a hunk of butter; let it thaw, it'll transform into a glossy delicacy. Either way, it tastes pretty awesome. I took it to a Home Fellowship Group tonight and left with an empty plate.
"That's so, granola..."
by Jenny Johnson

In our house, we use the term "granola" to describe our free-spirited, hippie-esque friends who refuse to shave for weddings and such. Not a knock. More like a term of endearment, really.

But THIS? Well, this might very well redefine granola. Just look at it! That is one classy bowl of oatmeal. I mean, figs? Wow! That is fancy. Heck, I don't think I'd ever even eaten a fig before (apart from fig newtons , of course). But I couldn't help but ask myself, is it toooo fancy?

After all, the reason granola is so comforting is the simplicity of it, right? The brown. The crunch. The honey. Not 'the figs' necessarily. By the way, use excellent local honey, because your milk will be flavored with it when you run out of granola. In fact, it seems every time I eat this, I end up in the same routine. Me, trying desperately to slurp all the honey-milk out of a bowl of left-over fruit. Perhaps that's a sign. A sign, of excessive fanciness.

My suggestion? Let us get back to our "granola" roots! Just add cranberries. It'll be enough. No need for an orchard. The granola- with the nuts, the almonds, and coconut- it's fabulous already. And, by the way, watching that fluffy mixture cook to a crispy golden brown is truly a satisfying experience. Made me feel downright wholesome, and my house smelled good too.

Just for fun, here's one of my favorite fun-lovin' commentaries on all things "granola." Enjoy!

Merle Haggard, "Okie from Muskogee."

Friday, September 25, 2009

Chocolate Buttercream Cake

Well, I made my first Ina recipe last night. I made the chocolate buttercream cake, mostly because I had all of the ingredients on hand, but also a little bit because I love chocolate :) I did make a few changes to the recipe in order to make it a bit more figure/heart healthy. The recipe calls for 3/4 cup room temperature butter, which I exchanged for half butter and half natural applesauce. It also calls for buttermilk and sour cream to which I used lowfat buttermilk and light sour cream. These changes cut out a good 800 calories and 70 grams of fat.

I tasted the batter as I was pouring it into my baking pan, and I was pretty amazed. It was delicious. I guess I wasn't expecting know, it's just chocolate cake. But I thought it was really good. Marc and I ate some that night after dinner as well as tonight. Yum. Oh, and Marc said the icing tastes like a chocolate bar (I lightened it a bit too, but I'll never tell him that..heehee.) - Alicia Gelnett

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Roasted Carrots and Fingerling Potatoes

Hi everyone! I finally got started with the cooking club this week, and I decided to start off with the roasted carrots and the fingerling potatoes (which I served with parmesan-crusted chicken breasts). Both were incredibly easy to prepare and tasted delicious! The only thing I would change the next time I prepare either of these two dishes is the amount of olive oil I use. I was not preparing as much food as the recipe called for, so I had to guess at the right amount of olive oil, and I overshot the mark a little bit, especially on the carrots. Nevertheless, both dishes were very yummy (my three year-old son, Ethan, scarfed the carrots!) and I have a feeling these will become staples in the Johnson household. LOVED the dill on the carrots!

Lobster ( and Crab) Pot Pie in under 2 hours, for under 17 dollars!!

I know that we have all been dreading this recipe, not because of the difficulty but because of the cost. Well I managed to make this meal for only $16.50. Most of the ingredients we already have in our kitchens, which makes this a much cheaper dish. However, I purchased only Kroger brand products to help keep the cost down. When I made the crab cakes the crab cost me a little over $8.00, so this time I got the crab and lobster that was in a pouch in the seafood section by the meat counter…so not the freshest but not in a can; somewhere in the middle. I figured if they were only $3.25 I would give it a shot. Below is my cost breakdown; I included all of the costs, even for the items that I already had (so technically this dish is even cheaper!). Notice though that I omitted fennel, pernod, and frozen whole onions (mostly because I couldn’t find fennel & frozen onions and I’m still clueless about pernod). Since I couldn’t find the fennel and frozen onions I included more seafood…who doesn’t love more seafood?!
Onion: $0.75
Butter: $0.25
Flour: $0.25
Clam Juice: $2.25
Salt: $0.05
Pepper: $0.05
Cream: $0.50
Lobster 8oz: $3.25
Crab 8oz: $3.25 (x2)
Peas: $1.00
Parsley: $0.05
Pie Crust: $1.50
Egg: $0.10
Total: $16.50!!!
Before I put the top crust on
Right out of the oven
Tips from my experience: To save time I bought the piecrust dough, which comes 2 per pack, which is perfect for recipes like this one. For the parsley, I used 1 tablespoon of dried parsley flakes because ½ cup seemed like way too much! When I got to the part of the recipe that called for the clam stock, I realized that I had only bought 1 cup. So I just refilled the jar with water, shook it up and then added that water to the clam stock. It worked like a charm! I have two recommendations for preparations…In the recipe it says that there is “no need to defrost” the peas, I disagree because it adds too much water to the mixture. Just put the bag in the microwave for 2 minutes and then let the peas drain in a strainer while you’re preparing the rest of the dish. When baking the potpie, set the pan on a baking sheet in case some of the filling spills over (this prevents your oven from getting dirtier…and no one likes to clean their oven!). This was a delicious dish and I recommend trying it…. it’s fast and cheap! (I bet you didn’t expect that comment for the Lobster Pot Pie!)
Yummy Lobster & Crab Pot Pie (page 132)

Pan-Fried Onion Dip

This is my first blog entry so hopefully it works!

Yesterday I made the onion dip for our small group snack. It was actually very easy to make just get ready to cry a little when cutting up the onions!

Here is a picture of the caramelized onions.....I did it the 10 min on medium and then the 20 min covered on low-medium. It worked perfectly I thought.

I had looked at the reviews on and they were all really good but said to double the recipe so that I did. Afterwards I was a little worried because it was a lot but no fear the Heights small group ate 85% of it!

Based on reviews from foodnetwork I did not use as much butter and oil as called for. I doubled everything in the recipe except I only put one and a half times as much butter and oil which I even think could have been the original amounts for double the recipe. I also used canola oil because that is all we ever buy because it's healthier than vegetable oil and as far as I know there was no difference in taste.

Oh and just make sure you have your cream cheese at room temp. I think mine could have been a bit warmer as when I mixed it there were little dots of cream cheese. Which in the end didn't matter because you couldn't tell but still!:)

We served with Baked ruffles and Ritz Toasted Chips (main street original) and everyone gobbled them up.
Oh and it is a strong onion taste but a good one if you like onions!

Banana Crunch Muffins

I had several "too-ripe-to-eat" bananas so I made the banana crunch muffins. I halved the recipe which made 10 regular size muffins. The recipe gave the option of putting granola, coconut, or banana chips on top, I put granola but it got a little mushy after baking. However, the muffins were very moist and the coconut along with the banana gave it a good flavor. The girls in my small group enjoyed them!

Leftover Tomato Basil Soup Tip

Last night we finally ate our last bowl of roasted tomato basil soup that I made for a first course dinner party 6 days ago! Even with serving 10 people (small servings) we still had soup showing up at several more meals for the two of us this past week. But I remembered a little trick last night that made the last bowl a little different. My son, Ben Johnson, served me creamed asparagus soup like this once--he put a spiral drizzle of half and half (a staple in most coffee drinker's refrigerators) on the top of the soup. So I tried it in my tomato soup--and it was beautiful! I just wished I had thought to take a picture before I stirred it in and made my soup into a creamed tomato basil soup. It changed the taste just enough that it felt like a new soup!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Barbecue Sauce - Barbecue Chicken

Made barbecue sauce this morning, marinated boneless, skinless chicken thighs all afternoon and threw them on the grill for dinner. They were good but nothing exceptional and that sauce has a lot of ingredients!! I had all the ingredients at home except was out of Worcestershire sauce so just skipped it. Halved the recipe and had about a cup left. Sauce was nice and thick but nothing special - seems to me I could just purchase sauce and have the same result!! Have some good leftovers though!!

Indonesian Ginger Chicken

I too decided to try out the Indonesian Ginger Chicken recipe.  It looked easy and healthy, and I was extra excited that you could do all the preparation work a day ahead.  That is my kind of recipe!

As I started putting together the marinade, I realized that I was short on ginger by a lot.  A word of warning- you will need a lot of ginger in order to make this recipe.  I decided to go for it anyway and just added less of the other ingredients in order to balance it out.  I only made about 2/3 of the marinade amount called for in the recipe, because I think I only used about 2/3 the amount of chicken called for.  I used 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts rather than the whole chicken, because that's what I had on hand and I also knew it would make it a little healthier. 

Here's the chicken right after coming out of the oven.  It ended up taking about the same amount of time to cook as it called for in the recipe with the whole chicken.

We had the chicken with rice and haricot verts with caramelized onions and bacon. 

The verdict: the flavor of the chicken was really good.  You could definitely taste the ginger.  It was a little more dry than I'm sure it would have been had we cooked it with the skin on and as a whole chicken, but it was overall very tasty.  We ended up with a lot of chicken left over, which is great, because I think it will be delicious in some fried rice that we'll be making for dinner tonight.

Shortbread Cookies With and Without Nuts

These cookies were really good. I made both of Ina's shortbread recipes since they were almost identical, I just added vanilla and walnuts to half the dough. I liked the half with nuts better...had more interest to the cookie than just flour sugar and butter.

We had several people over last night to taste test them and the whole plate got eaten! Danny Matthew gets the award for eating the most...I think he ate 12 of them! I tried dipping half in chocolate for some and drizzling some, which I thought was prettier, but the dipped chocolate tasted better...more chocolate per bite! I just used chocolate bark cuz that is what I had on hand, I know it isn't the highest of quality, but it got the job done.

Ina suggests rolling them out to 1/2 inch thick..that seemed a bit much to me, so I did 1/4 inch, and thought they were perfect. I roll cookie dough between two sheets of parchment paper and then I stick them in the fridge sandwiched between the paper to chill until really cold. This keeps your rolling pin clean, your counter clean, and your cookies tender cuz you don't have to add extra flour to the dough while rolling it out. When you are ready to cut the dough, just remove the top sheet of parchment paper and leave the bottom on there, refer to picture.

This dough gets too soft if you let it warm up much. So make them one pan at a time, so the dough is cold going in the oven. I only baked them for 9-10 minutes since my cookies were so small, I got almost 85 small bite size cookies. I have lots in my freezer now! I say it is a keeper


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Parmesan Smashed Potatoes

This was a tasty recipe! The only thing I substituted was 3/4 cup whole milk and the rest half-and-half. I also used Pecorino(sheep's milk) husband and I fell in love with it while in Italy.

Gazpacho with Parmesan Croutons

By Jessica and Julie

First of all, Jess and I decided we wanted to be real Barefoot Contessas with the fancy ingredients. Therefore, we are doing this project together to lessen the expense.

For example the "good" olive oil (seen below) which you can only get at Williams and Sonoma costs $30!!!!!!! And for this recipe (which we cut in half) we used a 1/4 of a cup!

We decided to start with the Gazpacho since it seemed not so intimidating and no one else has tried it. It's not a recipe that has to be cooked. You just chop up the ingredients and put them together with seasoning and tomato juice.

It's a cold soup. Which really didn't sound too appetizing, especially to Julie whom HATES vegetables.

It's extremely easy to make and not expensive (as long as you don't buy the "good" olive oil). All other ingredients where purchased from Whole Foods for $14 total. Once it's all combined you just pop it into the fridge for about an hour and let the flavor chill and marinate the veggies.

We tried the Gazpacho both before and after the chilling process and there was a definite improvement in taste after. We also made the croutons (as kind of failed at that, they are cajun style). If you don't use the baguette type bread then 15 minutes is way too long to cook it! We loved the flavor of the of the croutons and we added basil seasoning to it.
The Gazpacho was not as good on it's own as it was with the croutons or with plain bread. We also sprinkled some parmesan cheese on top and that definitely added to the taste.
It's a very refreshing type soup for summertime lunches. Jess and I are not fans of onions and this had a whole onion in it. However, Audrey (Julie's daughter) had no problem eating the raw onions, ICK! So we decided to chop it up quite fine and that did well (instead of coarsely like all the other ingredients).

We also decided fresh reggiano parmesan cheese which neither of us realized how hard it is and how difficult it is to grate so we enlisted the help of Julie's hubbie.

The overall review (without knowing what Terence thinks) is, it's okay. Julie didn't care for it, but she tried it! Jose said he really wouldn't want it again because it's really only good with something else. Jess says it's alright, she would eat it again but not everyday.
We will let you know what Terence and Audrey think.

Roasted Fennel With Parmesean

Tried the roasted fennel and it was YUMMY! Had only had fennel raw in a salad and never tried it roasted. Very easy recipe. Halved the recipe so did only 2 bulbs. Kids didn't like it but my husband and I both loved it and wished I hadn't halved the recipe! They shrink up a lot when roasting. Served with salmon and brown rice. Excited to have a new veggie to add to my repertoire!

Outrageous Brownies

This was my first recipe from the cookbook. I had to go to the grocery store twice because I had forgotten the unsweetened chocolate and had not bought enough walnuts. Let me just say this is a fabulous recipe. The instant coffee added a great flavor. For those of you who know me from Facebook... you know I love my coffee. : )

Ina recommended cutting these brownies into 20 large squares. I ended up cutting them a little bigger than a domino to stretch the recipe. With a cold glass of milk... Perfect!

Roasted Potato and Fennel Soup

On a day like today where it is rainy and dark, soup is always a great idea! I decided I would try out the potato soup. Again Ina's recipes tend to be large, so I halved this one. I didn't use as much fennel, because that is a new ingredient for me and wanted to make sure that I like it. :) The taste of the soup was terrific, but it wasn't thick enough too me. When I make it again I will either add more potatoes or lessen the chicken broth.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Roasted - Tomato Basil Soup and Parmesan Croutons

This is my first post and I'm so excited to be doing this with you ladies. I'm getting a late start in the game and to be quite honest I'm a little intimidated by all the great stuff the rest of you ladies have already made, and the fabulous pictures you have posted.

For my first recipe from the book, I chose Roasted-Tomato Basil Soup and then later decided to make the Parmesan Croutons too. I only made half a recipe (my husband is out of town) but I think next time I will make more and see if I can freeze some.

I was happy with how it came out. Except I think I over salted the tomatoes when I roasted them, so the salty taste of the soup was a little overwhelming. I used Sea Salt, and I think it has a stronger flavor. I tried to add a little lemon juice to off set the salt, but it didn't help much. So, next time I know, less salt.

I do think roasting the tomatoes adds to the flavor. I don't have a food mill, so I used my food processor instead, it seemed to do the job just fine.

As for the croutons, I used the bread that I already had, but I was thrilled with how they came out. I'm sure with baguette they would be even better. But, I plan on making these again to just have on hand.

I thought the soup was just calling out for Parmesan Cheese, so I put some on top. I realized after I took the picture that you see more Parmesan than you do soup, oops.

Looking forward to more cooking!

Roasted Carrots

I know many of you have already cooked I will keep it brief. I usually cook carrots with lemon juice and thought I would miss that taste, but I sure didn't! We loved these carrots. We like our veggies on the crisp side. So, I cooked the carrots at 380 degrees with the Indonesian Chicken for 30 minutes and they were perfect for us. I tossed them with fresh leaf parsley at the end. Danny's only comment were they were a bit salty. (I admit I didn't measure the salt and probably should have). We will be cooking these again very soon!