Sunday, July 31, 2011

Weekly Menu 7/31 - 8/5

I can't believe its practically August. Summer is almost over and I'm not even tan! I do have two upcoming vacations planned so hopefully I can at least get a bit more color before fall arrives.

It never fails that by August, when its extraordinarily hot and humid outside I get tired of making summer type recipes. I'm tired of hot dogs, burgers, grilled chicken and salads. I'm ready to start making soups and stews. I've been patiently waiting for a less humid day so I can at least make crab soup. Hopefully August will cooperate with me.

One of my college classes has started and I found out that we can work at our own pace, which is great. I'm going to try to get a huge head start on this class so I'll be more than prepared for my other class that starts at the end of August.

I have to admit that the menu has another repeat. I really want to make the scallops over pasta with the green bean salad but it just doesn't seem to happen from week to week. So once again, I've included it on the menu and I'm crossing my fingers it actually comes through!

Sunday- Filet with a red wine reduction, cheesy risotto and green beans

Monday - mac and cheese

Tuesday - pancakes and bacon

Wednesday - scallops over pasta with sesame green beans

Thursday - pork with bacon and brown sugar glaze with mashed potatoes and corn

Friday - pizza

This weekend I'm baking a roasted peach crisp and pink lemonade cupcakes. I'm also making a peach sorbet.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Orange Smoothie

After I made the orange muffin recipe, I started looking around online to see what I could do with the remaining 3 oranges. I found Ali of Gimme Some Oven and her recipe for Fresh Orange Smoothies.

When I was a teenager and spent quite a bit of time at the mall, I always stopped at the Orange Julius to get a smoothie. Sometimes I'd get the regular orange smoothie but most of the time I'd get a strawberry-banana or strawberry-pineapple smoothie.

Orange Smoothie
Source: Gimme Some Oven!
Yield: about 24 oz. smoothie
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Ingredients:
    • 3 oranges, peeled
    • zest of 1 orange
    • 1/2 cup milk
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
    • 2 tbs. honey
    • 1 1/2 cups ice

Directions:
Add all of the ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth!



Tasting this smoothie definitely brought me back to being at the mall and sipping on a smoothie while browsing through the stores with friends.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Fresh Orange Muffins

Last week I had a recipe that called for one orange. Of course when I went to the grocery store they were out of individual oranges and only had bags of them. I ended up not making the recipe and forgetting to add it to the following week.

The bag of oranges sat on the counter for a week, taunting me to find something to do with them. I know, the obvious solution would be to eat them or make orange juice, but Tom and I aren't huge fans of either. So they sat there, staring at me from the counter every time I walked into the kitchen.

This morning I stared back at the bag of oranges. Orange cupcakes? No, I can never seem to frost cupcakes without them looking horrendous. Orange sorbet? No, there's cherry already in the freezer. An orange glaze over chicken or scallops? No, Tom doesn't like citrus with meats. Chocolate and orange something? No, I already have chocolate in the black bottom cupcakes. Sangria? No, I'd need to go out and buy other ingredients. This went on for about 5 minutes before I finally decided I was just going to wing it and try to make muffins using as many fresh oranges as possible.


Fresh Orange Muffins
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Yield: 12 muffins
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Ingredients:
    • ½ cup fresh orange juice
    • 3 large oranges
    • zest of 1 orange, divided in half
    • 1 stick butter, at room temperature
    • ⅔ cup plus 4 tsp. sugar
    • 1 ¾ cup AP flour
    • 1 tsp. baking soda
    • 1 tsp. baking powder

Directions:
1. Combine 2 tsp. sugar and half of the orange zest together in a small bowl. Stir until the sugar coats the orange zest.
2. Preheat the oven to 400. Spray a muffin tin with non-stick spray or use liners.
3. Peel and seed the oranges. Remove as much of the inner skin as possible. Set aside the segments from one orange. Add the segments from the two oranges and the orange juice to the blender and puree for 30 seconds.
4. Add the butter and the egg to the blender and puree for another 30 seconds.
5. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, ⅔ cup sugar, baking soda, baking powder and remaining orange zest. Stir until combined.
6. Pour the orange mixture from the blender into the dry ingredients and stir until there are no clumps of flour remaining.
7. In a small bowl, combine half of the remaining orange segments with 2 tsp. sugar. Toss to coat.
8. Add the remaining orange segments to the muffin mixture.
9. Scoop the mixture into the muffin tin, filling ⅔ of the way.
10. Bake the muffins for 20 minutes.
11. Transfer to a wire rack. Sprinkle the orange zest and sugar mixture over the muffins, pressing down lightly to make it stick.
12. Top the muffins with the orange segments in sugar. Let cool to room temperature.

Tasty! I think this worked out pretty well for just tossing some ingredients together. And now I only have 3 oranges left that I need to figure out what to do with. I think I'm going to figure out how to make an Orange Julius smoothie.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Weekly Menu 7/24 - 7/29

I didn't even bother to post a menu last week because it was just repeats of all the things I said I would make in previous weeks. Since this is the last week before my college class starts again, I'm determined to make everything this week so I have some new recipes to post!

Sunday - gnocchi with cheese sauce

Monday - recipe swap meal!

Tuesday - Southwest flank steak with potatoes and sauteed peppers

Wednesday - scallops with sesame green beans <--- yes, I STILL haven't made this

Thursday - bourbon chicken

Friday - tacos

I'm not doing anything new for desserts this week, I'm making black bottom cupcakes and fruited bran muffins.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Secret Recipe Club: Croquembouche

Last month was my first time participating in the Secret Recipe Club. I had a great time going through the recipes on the blog I was assigned to choose one so I knew I definitely wanted to participate again.

This month, I the blog I was assigned is Eggs, Cream and Honey. Heather has a ton of baked goodies on her blog and I thought it would be difficult to choose one until I found her post for a croquembouche. The first time I ever heard of/saw a croquembouche was during a Food Network Challenge. I immediately thought it would be an excellent challenge to try to make one myself and here was the perfect opportunity.

Croquembouche
Source: Eggs, Cream and Honey 
Servings: approximately 24 pieces
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Ingredients for the Vanilla Pastry Cream:
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 6 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
Ingredients for the Pate a Choux and Egg Wash:
  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 tbs. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 pinch salt
Other Ingredients/Items Needed:
  • 8 oz. good-quality chocolate, melted
  • 2 baking sheets
  • parchment paper
  • pastry bag and large tip
  • pastry bag and small tip 
  • whisk
  • pastry brush 

Directions for the Pastry Cream:
1. Combine 3/4 cup of milk with sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat.
2. Combine the remaining milk and the cornstarch together in a small bowl. Whisk in the whole egg and then both of the egg yolks.
3. Bring the milk and sugar mixture to a boil and then remove from the heat. Pour about 1/3 of the milk mixture into the egg/cornstarch mixture, whisking constantly so the eggs do not begin to cook.
4. Bring the remaining milk mixture back to a low boil and pour in the egg mixture while stirring constantly so the eggs do not cook. The cream will thicken. Remove from the heat and add the butter and vanilla. Whisk until completely incorporated.
5. Transfer the cream into a stainless steel bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill immediately.  

Directions for the Pate a Choux:
1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 425.
2. Combine the butter, sugar, salt and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat and sift the flour into the saucepan, stirring until combined.
3. Return the pan to the heat and stir until the batter dries and pulls away from the side of the saucepan. (It will look like mashed potatoes.)
4. Transfer to a bowl and let cool for 1 minute.
5. Add 1 egg to the bowl and stir until the mixture goes from wet and shiny to dry and resembling mashed potatoes again. Add the next egg and repeat until you have incorporated 4 eggs.
6. In a small bowl, whisk the remaining egg with a pinch of salt.
7. Spoon the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a large tip. Pipe the batter in a circle, about 1 inch high and 1 inch wide. Each one should be about 1 inch apart.
8. Dip your fingers into water and round off any of the choux that has a tip from the piping. Brush the choux with the egg wash.
9. Bake the choux for about 10 minutes or until they have puffed up and are lightly golden brown. Lower the temperature to 350 and continue to bake for an additional 20 minutes. The choux will be dry. Transfer to a baking rack and let cool.
10. Remove the pastry cream from the fridge and spoon into a pastry bag fitted with a small tip. Once the choux have cooled, poke small holes into the bottom of them (I used a straw). Fill the inside of the choux with the pastry cream.

Assembly:
1. Dip the tops of the choux into the melted chocolate and place onto a cake stand or plate. Make a circle with the chocolate dipped choux and then begin the next layer, placing the choux on top of each other so they can stand alone. Continue building upward in a circular fashion until you have used all of the choux.

Decorate with remaining chocolate, sugar flowers, spun-sugar, etc.

These are really tasty! They taste like little chocolate eclairs and honestly, this isn't as hard to make as it appears. The only difficulty I had is that my choux weren't the same size so it was hard to get them to stack on top of each other. I definitely plan on making these again, probably for some holiday get together that we'll have here because I definitely don't want to try transporting this!




Sunday, July 17, 2011

Le Creuset

If you enjoy spending a lot of time your kitchen, you probably have or desperately want something from Le Creuset. Even before I spent a lot of time cooking and baking, I knew that the best of the best items to have came from Le Creuset. The quality of their items is amazing and they've spent the time perfecting their products to make them what they are today.

I've never bought any Le Creuset products because they're pretty expensive and at this point in my life, I'm satisfied with decent quality products for cheaper prices.

A few months ago, I was reading posts on the What's Cooking? board on The Nest. Every couple of months or so there will be a post where you can enter to win something related to the board you are on. There was a sweepstakes post for Le Creuset items. Since I've always thought it would be nice to own them, I figured I'd enter the drawing.

Fast forward to May. I've forgotten all about entering the sweepstakes. My college classes have just finished up and I'm looking forward to Memorial weekend at the beach. One night, right before the weekend, I'm sitting at my computer going through emails when I came across one from The Nest. It said that I had won the Le Creuset Cookware set from the giveaway and that because the total prize was over $600, I'd need to provide my SSN and have the affidavit notarized for tax purposes.

Hesitantly, I responded to the email requesting more information. I'm not one of those unusually lucky people who wins anything. I can easily count the number of things I've won in my 26 years of life. A spelling bee in the 6th grade because I was the person with the closest spelling of antidisestablishmentarianism (which yes, I've managed to remember how to spell correctly since then), a poetry contest in high school, a scholarship in my senior year, a basket of ice cream related goodies at a basket bingo, $100 on a scratch off ticket after spending $75, and $40 during my one and only trip to the casino. Needless to say, I didn't think that I actually won the Le Creuset items because well, I vaguely remembered entering the sweepstakes to begin with, and like I said, I'm just not the person who wins things.

A few emails later I decided the likelihood of someone scamming me from a Nest email address was relatively slim so I filled out the affidavit form, got it notarized and sent it off. I put the winnings out of my mind, figuring I'd just be really impressed if they actually showed up at my doorstep and didn't "get lost in the mail".

Two weeks ago, the items began showing up and the reality that I had won began to sink in.

My total winnings included a 6-piece Le Creuset set containing a 5.5 qt. round oven, a saucier pan, a square skillet grill, an 8x11" roaster pan, 9" iron handle skillet, and an 8 qt. stockpot, a small, medium and large sized Le Creuset Revolution spatulas, a Screwpull Original Lever Model Corkscrew, an Edgeware Slicing Mandoline, Peuoget Paris Classic salt and pepper mill set and from Chicago Metallic Bakeware, two jelly roll pans, a muffin tin, a rolling pin, and stainless steel measuring cups and spoons.

I now needed to go through the kitchen and get rid of some things in order to make room for the new stuff. Two of my friends were the lucky recipients of all my old kitchen items.

I've hardly had a chance to use the new items and I have to admit, I'm a bit afraid of using the cast iron pieces. I know they need to seasoned first, but how much oil is necessary? How long before you need to re-season them? What is the best way to clean them?

And just for good measure, here is a picture of me with all of my winnings.
And now the standard disclaimer stuff when including companies/brand names in a blog post: I chose to write this post after receiving the items I won from Le Creuset, Chicago Metallic Bakeware, Edgeware, and Peuoget giveaway on The Nest. The previously mentioned companies did not ask me to write this post and I'm 99.9% sure they have absolutely no idea who I am. :)


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Chicken and Mushrooms in a Garlic Wine Sauce

I began to feel like I was running out of healthy dinners to make that Tom and I would both like and then I found this recipe. I've tried making a wine sauce before but it never seemed to turn out the way I wanted it to. It either tasted too much like wine or I didn't let it reduce long enough and it was more liquid than sauce. I managed to get this one right, though.

Chicken and Mushrooms in a Garlic Wine Sauce
Source: Skinnytaste.com
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1" pieces
    • 4 tbsp. all purpose flour
    • 12 oz. mushrooms, sliced
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1/4 cup white wine
    • 1/3 cup chicken broth
    • 2 tsp.. olive oil
    • 2 tsp. butter
    • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
    • salt and pepper to taste
Directions:
1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper then lightly dredge through flour, shaking off the excess.
2. In a large skillet, add 1 tsp. each of the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat. Once the butter has melted, at the chicken to the skillet and cook until lightly browned on all sides.
3. Transfer the chicken to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.
4. Add the remaining olive oil and butter to the pan. Add the garlic and mushrooms to the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes or until the mushrooms are lightly golden.
5. Add the chicken broth, white wine and parsley to the pan. Stir with a wooden spoon to break up any of the brown bits from the chicken. Cook for 3-4 more minutes or until the liquid has reduced by half.
6. Serve the mushrooms and sauce over the chicken.

Tom and I both really liked this recipe. I've made it quite a few times. I serve it over brown rice and sprinkle it with additional fresh parsley.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Recipe Swap: Chinese Bakery Style Cake

Last Saturday, while making my grocery list, I looked at the calendar and realized that I was an idiot. My recipe for the Secret Recipe Club was due on 7/18 and is a dessert. I had promised my friend that I would make sugar cookies for her son's 2nd birthday party on 7/16. On Friday I had purchased peaches and blueberries to make this peach-blueberry crisp and I had this cake to make, due by 7/15. The cookies could wait until Wednesday, but thats a ton of baking to do in one weekend, especially since I brought home a good 6 hours of work to do.

Luckily, this cake didn't turn out to be nearly as time consuming or difficult as I had expected after briefly glancing through the recipe. The hardest part was translating the measurements. For the original measurements, please refer to Christine's blog.

Chinese Bakery-Style Cake
Slightly Adapted from: Christine's Kitchen Chronicles, modified from Edible Memories
Servings: 8-12 slices
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Ingredients:
Cake:
    • 6 eggs, at room temperature
    • 3/4 (heaping) cup sugar
    • 3.1 oz. all purpose flour
    • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
    • 1 heaping tbs. butter, melted
    • 1 heaping tbs. milk
    • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
    Filling:
    • 3.4 oz. box instant vanilla pudding
    • Frosting:2 cups heavy cream
    • 2 tsp. vanilla instant pudding mix
    • 2.5 tbs. confectioner's sugar  
    Decoration:
    • fresh fruit, cut into bite sized pieces

Directions for Cake and Filling:
1. Cut out parchment paper rounds to cover the bottom of two 9" cake pans. Spray lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 340.
2. Prepare the vanilla instant pudding according to package directions and refrigerate until ready to use.
3. Separate the six egg whites into the bowl of your stand mixer with the beater attachment. Place the egg yolks into a large mixing bowl.
4. Pour half of the sugar into the bowl with the egg yolks and whisk until the mixture is slightly thick. Stir in the vanilla and whisk until it is incorporated.
5. Create a meringue by beating the egg whites (speed 4) until foamy and about halfway to forming soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining sugar and then increase the speed (6) until stiff peaks form.
6. Using a rubber spatula, spoon half of the meringue into the egg yolk mixture and lightly fold.
7. Add the flour and baking soda and mix until combined. Add the milk and egg and then fold in the remaining meringue.
8. Divide the mixture evenly into the two cake pans and bake until the tops are lightly browned, 20-25 minutes.
9. Remove the cakes from the oven and place the pans on wire racks to cool.
Directions for Frosting:
1. Pour the heavy cream into the bowl of your stand mixer with the beater attachment. Beat on low speed (2) until small bubbles form. Increase the speed (4) until the mixture slightly thickens. Then increase the speed to high (6-8) until the mixture becomes fluffy.
2. Add the sugar and vanilla instant pudding and continue to beat until a stiff frosting has formed.
Assembly:
1. Remove one cake from the pan and place on the cake stand. Cut any uneven edges if necessary.
2. Spread the vanilla instant pudding onto the top of the cake, leaving 1/2 inch around the sides.
3. Place cut up fruit on top of the pudding. Top with another layer of the pudding.
4. Place the second cake on top of the first cake and cut any uneven edges if necessary.
5. Using a rubber spatula, cover the cake with the frosting. Top with more fruit or use the remaining frosting to pipe onto the cake.
6. Refrigerate the cake until ready to serve.

The original recipe says not to use instant pudding for the filling, but it was the only vanilla pudding I had in the house. I also skipped the step of making a simple syrup to brush over the cake to keep it moist and I didn't create the glaze for the fruit. I had planned on including bananas, strawberries and kiwi on the cake, but the banana I had ended up being too ripe and the kiwi magically disappeared. (I really have NO idea where it went).

Either way, the cake was delicious and definitely lived up to Christine's comments that you could eat multiple slices without feeling sick from all of the sugar and weightiness found in most cakes. Since I had so many recipes to bake this weekend, I figured I'd take the cake into work, but its so light and tasty, I think I'm just going to keep it here. :-)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

For some reason I can't eat a regular banana. I can cut it up and put it in cereal, make a banana split, add it to a smoothie or eat it in baked goods, but eating banana by itself is just not possible.

I was cleaning out my pantry the other weekend and found that I had a small amount of chocolate chips leftover. Bananas were really cheap at the farmers market and I was looking for something to have for breakfast, so I decided to make banana chocolate chip muffins.

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 16-18 muffins
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Ingredients:
    • 3 medium bananas, mashed
    • 1 cup whole wheat flour
    • 1 cup all purpose flour
    • 2 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1 egg
    • 1/2 cup applesauce
    • 1/4 tsp. vanilla
    • 1/4 cup milk
    • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Spray muffin tins with non-stick spray.
2. In a large bowl, combine the mashed banana, egg, applesauce, vanilla and milk. In another bowl, combine the wheat flour, AP flour, sugar and baking powder.
3. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients but keep the batter lumpy. Stir in the chocolate chips.
4. Scoop the muffin mixture into the tins, filling a little more than halfway.
5. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.


Yum! I ate two of these for breakfast each morning. They were hearty enough to keep me full until lunchtime.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Weekly Menu 7/11 - 7/14

Whew! What a week. Well, I should say what a month this is going to be! I briefly mentioned it in last week's menu post, but the last week in June was a huge change at work. The owner came down, let someone go, and spent the rest of the week with us. It was hectic with the interviews and everything else going on, but I had no idea this past week would be just as challenging.

The decision was made that until we hire a new manager, I'm in charge of everything. Which is fine and dandy, because I was handling a lot of the stuff before. We're in the process of creating new procedures, job descriptions and working on better standard operating procedures. The company is definitely in the process of changing and I'm glad that I'm part of it. But I'm not going to lie. I'm 100% overwhelmed. On top of my regular accounting job, I'm still training our new admin and handling all of the tasks the manager would have. Oh, and last week is the busiest week of accounting because its when everything is due and I need to close out the previous month.

I hardly cooked at all last week. I worked 9 hour days, came home (stuck in 45 minutes of traffic on two days) and started working from home. I'm truly exhausted and I know its not going to end any time soon. I can only hope that by mid-August when my college classes start again that my life at work will be easier.

Anyway, enough of me whining about how exhausted I am. Here's the menu for next week. It's pretty similar to last week, actually.

Sunday - meatballs with peppers and pineapples

Monday - corn fritters

Tuesday - chicken wraps (this one for me, fajita style for Tom)

Wednesday - stuffed peppers

Thursday - scallops with sesame green bean salad

I don't have anything on the menu for Friday because I more than likely won't be home. My friend is having her son's 2nd birthday party on Saturday and I offered to make sugar cookies and come over the night before to help her get everything together.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Weekly Menu 7/3 - 7/8

Is it really July already? I have no idea where the past week has gone. Last week the owner was at our office all week and a bunch of changes were made. We held interviews for two days straight and went over about a million things. My brain still hurts to think about it. After leaving the whirlwind of work on Thursday, I came home and packed for a weekend at the beach at Tom's parents house.

It was completely relaxing and I finally have some semblance of a tan, but the weekend went by too quickly. I can't believe I'm back at work again with a million and a half things to do. Because of how crazy last week was with work, I didn't cook at all. This week's menu is pretty much a repeat of last week so I could use up the ingredients before the went bad.

Monday - fajitas with mexican rice

Tuesday - chicken and mushrooms

Wednesday - summer corn fettuccine

Thursday - seared scallops over pasta with sesame green bean salad

Friday - pizza

One thing I did manage to do yesterday on my last day off work was to make banana chocolate chip muffins. I need to blog them along with about 10 other recipes. I hope to get caught up soon!