July 28, 2011

Cheesy Parmesan Orzo

We all know about my love affair with cheese.

I'm a sprinkle cheese on top of everything girl. My favorite snack as a kid was cheese balls. I'd pop them in my mouth and suck the horrible imitation cheese powder right off of 'em. The ones in the blue can that I haven't seen since 1997. I also loved Cheetos and their commercials with the dancing orange cat. Whatever happened to those... And of course, you can't forget about the infamous blue box of Kraft Mac and Cheese.

Bejesus, what my parents fed me.

Now, as a sophisticated adult, my snack of choice is cheese and crackers. Sophisticated cheeses and crackers. Feta. Goat cheese drizzled with honey. Gorgonzola. Multigrain crackers. Whole wheat crackers. Buttery garlic crackers. I have cheese every time I have grapes. Cheese is always on top of a salad. Cheese finds it's way into quinoa, rice, and pasta.

There's no question that this orzo and I were meant to be. 

It's not rice, as the hubby insists. It's pasta that looks like rice. If you've got a rice lover in the family who isn't so keen on pasta (how is that possible?) this should do the trick. Eat it while it's still piping hot- ooey, gooey, and buttery...

Cheese lovers unite!

Source: Stephanie Cooks

1 cup orzo
1 tbsp. butter
1 14 oz. can chicken broth, garlic and herb broth preferred (I used plain and added garlic powder)
1/2-1 tsp garlic powder, depending on taste (not needed if using the garlic and herb broth, only for plain broth)
1/2-1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

In a small saucepan combine the orzo and butter. Melt the butter and stir regularly, lightly toasting the orzo. Pour in the can of broth (add the garlic powder if needed). Heat over low heat, stirring regularly, until all is absorbed. Make sure to keep the heat low or it will absorb too quickly and not be cooked (I had this problem the first time). Stir in the cheese until melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle parsley over top if desired (it's pretty).

Are you a cheese lover or hater? How do you incorporate cheese into your life?

July 26, 2011

3-Ingredient Roasted Tomatoes

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending a lovely bridal shower for a great friend. Her shower was up in Traverse City, a good 4 hours away. A friend and I drove up together and had a blast in the car. I don't think we even turned on the radio until we had about a half hour left to go.

We arrived a little early so we ran around and explored. Afterwards we prettied ourselves up in the bathroom before heading into the shower. Being a foodie and having a major sweet tooth, the first thing that catches my eye is the dessert table.

I mean, of course, right? You'd be the same. Wondering when you could get your hands on one of those ice cream cone cupcakes. Ice cream cone cupcakes!! Whoever invented such a thing is a genius.

Adorable. I must learn how.

Anywho, today I've got a super easy peasy side for you to make. Summer time is all about the easy peasy. And tomatoes. These tomatoes are a cinch to put together- mozzarella cheese, oregano, basil, and some olive oil. You'll roast them in the oven for about 15 minutes and viola. Look at these beauties.

I didn't know that roasting tomatoes would make them super sweet and juicy. They were very soft and can be quite messy. I wouldn't suggest eating this on the couch. Or while wearing a white T-shirt. I drizzled more olive oil over the tops after they came out of the oven and served it with pork tenderloin.

Source: EatingWell Magazine

4 tomatoes, halved horizontally
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I used mozzarella)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano (or basil, I used both, dried)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 450°F. Place tomatoes cut-side up on a baking sheet. Top with Parmesan, oregano, salt and pepper. Drizzle with oil. Bake until the tomatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

What summer vegetables have you been taking advantage of?

July 23, 2011

Double Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

I've made a couple of ice cream recipes since getting my fantabulous ice cream maker. So far I've made strawberry sour cream, chocolate with crushed up Oreo's, fresh mint, and now double chocolate chip.

Where are the pictures of the rest, you wonder... I didn't take any. :( Ice cream excites me. I forget to do things. Like take.a.picture of it before it's gone. Considering there's only two of us, the ice cream does last a few days before it's gone. Fail.

But wait! I do have a not so wonderful picture of the strawberry sour cream in the bowl I used to freeze it.

This is one of my mixing bowls. I bought a freezer safe container after this bowl proved to be an issue in our ridiculously small chest freezer. The container lasted about a week in there and then I discovered a huge crack along the bottom. Yay.

Anywho, yes, I do have pictures of my newest ice cream concoction!

Let me tell you, this is good stuff on a hot day. Like the hot days that we've all been having this week. How high has it reached in your area? We were 100 the other day. I feel like I'm back in Miami.

Source: Amanda's Cooking

14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup light cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
4 oz bittersweet chocolate

Place the condensed milk into a medium saucepan. Measure then sift the cocoa into the condensed milk. Whisk the two ingredients together and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until smooth and slightly thickened, about ten minutes. Remove from heat. Immediately break the 2 ounces of bittersweet chocolate into pieces and whisk into the hot milk mixture until melted and smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a large measuring cup, gently mix together the creams and the extracts. Take the chill off by putting mixture into the microwave for up to one minute.

Using a slow and steady motion, drizzle the cream mixture into the chocolate mixture. Whisk the mixtures together as you are drizzling. Be sure to loosen any mixture from the edges and corners of the pan using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Whisk until smooth. Pour through a sieve into a clean bowl, discard any bits left in the sieve.

Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold. Process the cold mixture in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions.

To add the chocolate stracciatella, right before the end of the churning process, melt the 4 ounces of bittersweet chocolate in the microwave at half power. Drizzle the melted chocolate onto the almost churned ice cream, being careful not to drizzle onto the paddle.

If you have a manual ice cream maker, empty the churned ice cream into the container you intend to keep in the freezer. Drizzle some of the melted chocolate onto the ice cream and fold in using a rubber spatula. Repeat drizzling, folding, drizzling, and folding until all the chocolate has been incorporated. You can break up larger pieces using the end of the spatula. The chocolate will harden once it hits the ice cream, creating homemade chocolate chips and chunks. Freeze until hard and ready to scoop.

Eat up!

July 22, 2011

The Rumble of Thunder

Have you heard? Borders is going out of business. This saddens me to such a severe degree. Are you a reader? What have you read recently? Why do you think people don't read anymore?

I ran to the one my house and bought three books: Sarah's Key, The Summer I Turned Pretty, and Saving CeeCee Honeycutt. Love. These are just a few books off my Must-Read-Soon list. Especially Sarah's Key. I bought the one with the movie poster on the cover. I didn't even know it was going to be a movie! Which brings me to The Help. Has anyone read that book? I can't wait for the movie!

Booknerd. That's me.

Now I'm home, it has started to pour, and thunder is rumbling in the background. Love. So I thought I'd show you my new favorite snack.

I go through phases with my snacks. My most recent one was grapes. Grapes, grapes, grapes, every day, after work, with lunch, cheese and crackers on the side. Now it's Stonyfield vanilla yogurt, Granny's Apple Granola from Trader Joe's (swoon), strawberries, and chocolate chips. The perfect yogurt bowl!


Goodness I'm chatty today.

What's going on in your neck of the woods?

July 21, 2011

Bacon, Ranch, and Chicken Mac and Cheese

There is something to be said about gooey, cheesy pasta.

It is my favorite guilty pleasure.

Or, at least, one of them...

I'm not ashamed to admit it- I'm obsessed with that show Switched at Birth on ABC Family. 
I also used to be obsessed with Passions. Best soap opera ever. I loved Theresa.

And then of course there's Gilmore Girls, Gossip Girls (although this past season was disappointing) Dawson's Creek, The Vampire Diaries...the CW never fails to disappoint. I'm a TV junkie.

Today I'm sharing a new gooey ooey cheesy pasta with you to guiltily indulge yourself in. There is also bacon involved. Chicken for protein (that you fry in bacon grease..oops), and if you use whole wheat pasta, it's not so bad.

Everything in moderation, right?


But I'm not gonna stop watching my shows. <3

Source: Cooking Light
8 ounces uncooked elbow macaroni
1 slice applewood-smoked bacon
8 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups fat-free milk (I used reduced fat)
1/3 cup condensed 45% reduced-sodium 98% fat-free cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded six-cheese Italian blend (I used cheddar)
1/2 teaspoon onion powder (I didn't have any on hand so I chopped up a small shallot)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh dill (omitted)
1/8 teaspoon salt
Cooking spray
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded colby-Jack cheese (I used cheddar) 
Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain. 
Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving drippings in pan. Finely chop bacon; set aside. Increase heat to medium-high. Add chicken to drippings in pan; sauté 6 minutes or until done.
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat; sprinkle flour evenly into pan. Cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk. Combine milk and soup, stirring with a whisk; gradually add milk mixture to saucepan, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a boil; cook 2 minutes or until thick. Remove from heat; let stand 4 minutes or until sauce cools to 155°. Add Italian cheese blend, onion powder, garlic powder, dill, and salt, stirring until cheese melts. Stir in pasta and chicken.
Preheat broiler. Spoon mixture into an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle evenly with reserved bacon and colby-Jack cheese. Broil 3 minutes or until cheese melts.

July 19, 2011

Homemade Tomato Sauce

The hubbs and I are not huge tomato sauce fans. We're white sauce, or bechamel people. However, I do like to make spaghetti and meatballs on occasion. If I've got the craving for it. Usually I'll buy a can of plain tomato sauce and add my own herbs and spices to it. This time I was in the mood for something a little different. 

And I have to say...this sauce was the bomb. Haha. I don't know where that came from.

It's sweet, has a little bit of chunk to it (depending upon your chopping skills, you can determine whether you want it smooth or chunky), and is by far the best tomato sauce I've ever had.

It does take a while to cook. Be sure to read through the recipe- a total of about an hour and 20 minutes. When my sauce had about 20 minutes to go, I put the meatballs in the oven and started to boil the water for my spaghetti. Also, be sure to keep the heat on low while it's simmering, or you'll have a pretty messy red splattered kitchen... I speak from experience. :)

Source: Everyday Italian by Giada De Laurentiis

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped (omitted)
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped (omitted)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, plus more to taste
2 (32 oz) cans of crushed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Saute until the veggies are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Remove and discard bay leaves. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper to taste (I also added oregano, garlic powder, and basil at this point). This sauce can be also be made 1 day ahead. Cool, then cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat before using.

I'm getting a kick out of all this homemade stuff. It's fun.

July 14, 2011

Homemade Pop-Tarts

For my birthday I got all kinds of things food related.

An ice cream maker.

A waffle maker.

My very own Kitchenaid mixer.

And molds to make calzones and pop tarts!

I am very loved. And very easy to buy for. Hush up husband, you knew exactly what to get me this year!

I've used all of my new gadgets since my birthday, except for the calzone mold.  Last week I tried out the pop tart mold. It is probably the funnest (I have amazing vocabulary skills) tool that I currently own. Not to mention that it's bright red and adorably cute. How could it not be fun? I lurveee it.

I filled my pop tarts (or toaster strudel, can't decide which pastry these are more related to) with nutella, strawberry jam, and raspberry jam. O.M.G. nutella. You are the bane of obesity.

The hubbs took these to work with him and apparently everyone wanted to try one. Not just for kids folks. Even medical students will happily chow down on a pop tart (toaster strudel).

Source: Sugarcrafter

2 cups flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1″ pieces
1 egg
2 Tbsp milk
1 egg + 1/2 Tbsp water (to brush on pastry)

To make the dough, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Using a pastry blender, work the pieces of butter into the flour mixture (I don't have a pastry blender. I waited for the butter to get soft and used a fork).

In a small bowl, whisk together the milk and egg. Stir the egg mixture into the dough, and knead lightly to incorporate. Divide the dough in half, and then roll out each half on a lightly floured surface to about 1/8″ thickness. If you don’t want to make the pastries immediately, you can wrap each half of the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Cut the dough into rectangles about 3×4.” Beat the additional egg with the water and brush it over the surfaces of the bottom pieces of dough. Place a tablespoon of the desired filling on the center of each piece of dough, and then place another piece of dough on top. Use a fork to seal the edges.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Prick the top of each pastry multiple times with a fork. Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack.

July 12, 2011

Knock My Socks Off- Breakfast

What have you eaten recently...

...for breakfast....

...that have...

...knocked your...

...socks off?

I'm talking something delicious. Out of this world, must.make.now, I-can't-stop-dreaming-about-it, goodness gracious, delicious. For breakfast. Share with me. 

July 11, 2011

Simple Apple Pie

While the in-laws were here, I made all kinds of things. Grilled chicken, roasted potato wedges, red ranch dressing, smore's cookies, strawberry sour cream ice cream, chocolate chip pancakes, an apple pie.

Goodness. That's a lot of cooking.

Don't get me wrong. I love cooking for my family.

I absolutely love having our family over to visit. I love waking up before most of the house is up to contemplate what to make for breakfast. I love hearing the sounds of my parents or in-laws making coffee in the kitchen. But most of all...I love that I have at least 2 or 3 people around to wash dishes. Ah yes. That's the life.

For the 4th of July, we ate pretty simply. Earlier in the day we went to a park and strolled through trails beautifully lined with heavy, thick green trees.

Afterwards we were tired, hot, and hungry, so we headed to the pool to cool off. We had some left over shredded pork that my father-in-law bought all the way from Miami, so we turned that into sandwiches and had potato wedges, potato salad, and pasta salad. The pie was a hit.

It's so easy to make and what makes it even easier is using a store-bought pie crust. I have yet to venture into the land of pie crusts. It scares me. After peeling all the apples, dump them into the pie shell and sprinkle flour, sugar (I used brown sugar), and dot with clumps of butter. Done!

Source: Scrumptini

I don't have exact measurements for this pie. Use your judgment- I'm sure you don't want cups of sugar and flour. I'd say to use around 1/3 cup of each between layers.

Peel and slice 7-8 apples for a deep dish pie or 5-6 for a regular pie (I used Granny Smith and peeled 4). Put apple slices in a bowl with water and 1 Tbl lemon juice so they don't get brown (You don't need to do this if you work quickly). Put a layer of apples in the pie shell and sprinkle with flour, sugar and a little cinnamon - (you can use brown sugar if you prefer). Dot with butter in a few places. Sprinkle with a dash of nutmeg. Add more apples and again sprinkle with flour, sugar and cinnamon- dot with butter. Repeat until the shell is mounded, as the apples cook down.

Crumb Topping

Use equal amounts of sugar and flour (about 1 cup each). Add a touch of cinnamon if desired. Mix with a fork and enough butter or margarine to become crumbly. Sprinkle over pie.

Bake at 325 for about 45 minutes for a regular pie or 1 - 1 1/4 hour for a deep dish, as more apples are used. After it has been cooking for 30 minutes keep a close watch to make sure the topping doesn't brown too much. (You can cover the pie with foil if it starts to get too dark.)

July 7, 2011

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

I meant to post this along with my string of 4th of July specials, but it's still summer and you're still grilling, right? I haven't gotten tried of it yet.

So what have I got for you? When I made this barbecue chicken, I wanted something cheesy to go with it. And we also had to have some kind of veggie thrown in...

..cauliflower it was. I'm usually not a fan. Are you? I don't ever have it in the house but earlier that week I was hanging out in the frozen veggie aisle and saw a big bag of the stuff. I thought, why not, let's try this thing. Now that bag is taking up room in my freezer. What should I do with it?

This mac and cheese would pair wonderfully with grilled chicken, steak, or burgers. Although, be mindful of the fact that you've got something outside grilling and something inside cooking. I'm still getting a hang of watching both at the same time. Usually the hubbs helps out when we've got something on the grill and that definitely makes it easier. I still run back and forth. I don't want to miss out on the action.

Source: Rachael Ray

1 pound short cut pasta (I used whole wheat rigatoni)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large head cauliflower (I used frozen cauliflower)
1 cup chicken stock
3 tablespoons butter
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons flour
About 2 1/2 cups whole milk
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
3-4 sprigs fresh sage leaves, very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 cup sharp white cheddar cheese, divided (I used yellow cheddar)
1 cup Gruyère cheese, divided (omitted)
1 cup shredded Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, divided
1 small bundle watercress, washed and chopped
Bring the water to a boil for the pasta. Salt the water and undercook the pasta by 2 minutes, about 5-6 minutes.

While the water comes to a boil, in a covered Dutch oven, heat the EVOO over medium to medium-high heat. Cut the core away from the cauliflower and set the head into the pot. Add 1 cup stock, cover and steam for 12-15 minutes, until tender. Remove and separate the cauliflower into florets. Discard the water from the pot.

Over medium heat in the same pot, melt the butter, then add the onion and garlic. Sauté for 3-4 minutes, until tender. Add in the flour and whisk for 1 minute. Whisk in the whole milk and season with salt, pepper, nutmeg and sage. When thickened, stir in the Dijon mustard and two-thirds of the combined cheeses.

Drain the pasta and add it to the cauliflower. Stir in the cheese sauce, transfer to baking dish and top with the remaining cheese. Cool completely and cover for a make-ahead meal.

To bake, pre-heat the oven to 400°F. Bake until brown on a baking sheet to catch the bubble-over. The casserole will take 40-45 minutes to heat through.

July 5, 2011