Tuesday, April 27, 2010

TWD: Chockablock Cookies

This is another one of those recipes that I've looked at over and over again since I got my copy of Baking: From My Home to Yours. I loved the fact that there are so many mix-ins (and so many suggestions for variations of mix-ins) in the recipe. It was so nice to know that I could make these cookies with pretty much whatever I had on hand!
I used walnuts and dried cherries, and I included the coconut (which I really didn't even notice in the finished product) and the chocolate. I've checked out a few of the other TWDers who've made these cookies this week, and it seems like everyone used different nuts and or/dried fruit, but all of the cookies look amazing. I just LOVE that we're all making the same "recipe," but we're all getting custom cookies!
A few TWDers were afraid of the molasses in the batter. I went for it (because I had the molasses on hand from these), and I thought I might regret it when I tasted the batter. You see, I'm a batter licker. I can't resist it. If there's batter (or dough, for that matter) of any kind, I have a compulsion to eat it. And most of the time, I'd really prefer to eat the batter than the finished product. So I was a little worried when I tasted this batter (okay, maybe taste isn't the word...I ate at least 2 cookies' worth of batter) and it was really molassesy. But I perservered and baked the cookies...and I was pleasantly surprised. The molasses flavor was just right.
These cookies are great for so many reasons. Again, they are fully customizeable. They don't spread. They stay soft and chewy. And they kind of remind me of trail mix! If you're in the mood to make some of these delicious cookies, visit Mary at Popsicles and Sandy Feet. She's responsible for this wonderful pick, and she's got the recipe. Happy Baking!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Johnny Mazetti for a Living Treasure

My father-in-law, Earl, is a living treasure. Don't believe me? Click here to read all about it! He grew up in the Panama Canal Zone, and one of the local newspapers interviewed him about his childhood there, and his life after leaving the Canal Zone. It's really interesting...especially the part that explains why mosquitoes don't really bother him much anymore!
A couple of months ago, he emailed me a recipe for something called Johnny Mazetti, which is a dish he grew up eating in the Canal Zone. From what I understand, everyone in the Canal Zone loved this Johnny Mazetti stuff, and they're astounded to learn that it didn't originate there! In fact, the recipe is a variation of a different dish called Johnny Marzetti (notice the r here), which originated in a restaurant in Ohio! And after some research, it seems that Johnny Marzetti is a well-loved recipe in the Northeast (Ohio, Wisconsin, etc.). I'm just a little ol' Kentucky girl, and I'd never heard of the stuff before.

There are some differences between Johnny Mazetti and Johnny Marzetti. The Zonian version uses egg noodles, where the Ohio verison calls for elbow macaroni. The Zonian recipe requires something called Arturo sauce, whereas the Ohio version uses a spaghetti sauce. I found my recipe here (because I lost the one Earl emailed to me), and was pleased to find that it even included a recipe for the elusive Arturo sauce (because I certainly wasn't buying a case of the stuff). It seems that Arturo sauce is a key ingredient to Zonian Johnny Mazetti, because when Earl told his sister Mary that I was making Johnny Mazetti, she said, "How is she going to make Johnny Mazetti? She doesn't have Arturo sauce!" And let me tell you, this Arturo sauce is interesting stuff. Some of the ingredients: mushrooms, cider vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar. When I mixed mine up, I couldn't decide if it smelled wonderful or horrible. I decided it would be best not to decide.
The recipe is really simple to prepare...there's just a lot of chopping and shredding involved. Green peppers, onions, celery, capers, olives, three kinds of cheese, etc. As I was reviewing the recipe, I thought to myself, "This is glorified homemade Hamburger Helper!" And I guess maybe it is. But I'd call it gourmet Hamburger Helper, at the very least. There are LOTS of strong flavors going on, and I was very skeptical about how it would come together. To my surprise, it was delicious! David and I both commented on how it smelled...it reminded us both of Bacon Cheeseburger Pizza from Hometown Pizza (a local pizza place). The creamy cheese, tangy olives, and wonderfully weird Arturo sauce combined for one delicious casserole. If you're stuck in a dinner rut and need something new and delicious, you should definitely give this one a try!

Johnny Mazetti
Recipe adapted from Best Room in the House
1 lb. ground beef
1-2 tsp. olive oil
1 green pepper, chopped fine
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 stalk celery, chopped fine
1 medium can mushrooms, drained
3 cloves garlic
salt & pepper to taste
1 can tomato soup
1 can tomato sauce
1 tsp. chopped capers
1 can Arturo sauce (see recipe below)
1/2 bottle stuffed olives, drained and chopped
3/4 of 1 pkg. of egg noodles (maybe less), boiled
1/2 lb. shredded American cheese (shred your own!)
1/4 lb. shredded Swiss cheese (shred your own!)
1/4 lb. shredded mozzarella (shred your own!)
5 strips bacon, fried and crumbled
1/4 cup red or white wine (use white wine on odd days and red on even)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a large casserole dish (at least 9x13) with cooking spray. Put a large pot of water on to boil. Brown ground beef in a very large skillet. Remove from skillet and drain well. Heat olive oil and saute green pepper, garlic, onion, and celery until softened. Add ground beef back to skillet and add mushrooms, tomato soup, tomato sauce, capers, Arturo sauce, and olives. Simmer on low until thoroughly heated. While the mixture is simmering, boil egg noodles, but not until they're al dente. They should still be a little undercooked. Pour contents of skillet into a very large bowl. Add in the half of each of the three shredded cheeses and al of the egg noodles. Mix until thoroughly combined. Place into greased casserole dish and top with remaining cheese and bacon. Bake for 1 hour. Yields 6-8 servings.
Arturo Sauce
Yields approximately 1 cup
1/4 cup finely chopped mushrooms
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 Tbs. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. black pepper
pinch of ginger
pinch of nutmeg
Combine all ingredients and mix well.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

TWD: Sweet Cream Biscuits

I think that I can count on one hand the number of times I've made biscuits. We just don't eat biscuits that much around here. We love 'em though...that's for sure. Maybe that's why I don't make them! In the past, on the few occasions we've had biscuits with dinner, I've just bought the frozen ones and heated them up. (I know, I know...but they're good!) I think biscuits have a reputation as being difficult to make, so I kind of bought into it, I guess. And, being from a Southern state, a girl kind of feels obligated to make delicious, light, flaky biscuits. Well...I can't say that I've got biscuit making down to an art, but I've got a start!
Dorie (and everyone else who is good at making biscuits) will tell you that one of the keys to light, flaky biscuits is to NOT OVERWORK THE DOUGH. This is the thing I have the most trouble with in baking. I guess I just like to be stern with dough. If I get dough in my hands, I have to work it! It's a compulsion! With these biscuits, I tried not to work the dough too much. I was afraid that I had erred too far on the side of caution, but they rose pretty well. I also didn't twist my biscuit cutter when I cut my rounds. I think that helps some, too. I don't understand the chemistry of it all, but I'm pretty sure it helps the dough rise a little higher. Overall, these biscuits were very well-received at my house! David ate 5 of them. But they're teeny-tiny biscuits...cut with a 2-inch cutter. I'm not used to petite biscuits...around here, we want a biscuit the size of your fist! But I do think that these would be precious at a shower with country ham sandwiched between the two halves. YUM! If you'd like to make your own batch of super-easy and delicious biscuits, check out Melissa's blog, Love at First Bite.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Florida Pie

Last weekend, I made dinner for my father-in-law's birthday. Last year, I gave him a choice about his birthday dessert, and he chose banana cream pie. This year, I didn't really give him a choice. But Earl loves Florida, so I thought I'd make Dorie's "Florida Pie."
It was delicious, as are most things I bake from Baking: From My Home to Yours. The pie starts out with a simple graham cracker crust (which is delicious on its own!), and then it gets a little fancy. It's a double-decker pie. The bottom layer is a coconut cream, and the middle layer is lime filling. Dorie's recipe calls for Key limes, but I had no intention of juicing a bazillion little limes to get 1/2 cup of juice. I used regular limes, and they were delicious. I took the recommendation of several TWDers who made this in the past and I included the zest of one lemon in the lime filling. It was tart and limey and incredible! Of course, the top of the pie is covered in meringue.
I got a little over zealous and let my meringue whip a little too long. It was awfully stiff and not so pretty. Not anywhere near as pretty as the meringue on David's grandmother's (Mama) pies, but I guess I don't have quite as much practice as she does, either! All in all, this was a wonderful pie. It was perfect for a springtime birthday, but it would also be a welcome treat during the hot and humid Kentucky summers we'll be experiencing before too long. If you'd like to try the Florida Pie sometime soon, just click the link above, or you can find it on page 340 of Baking: From My Home to Yours.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

TWD: Swedish Visiting Cake

I've been a member of the Tuesdays With Dorie baking group for just a little over a year now. I flip through the cookbook pretty regularly, because I love the pictures (which are so delicious!), and because I like to fantasize about what I might choose when (and if) we get to my turn in the rotation. I waffle between choosing something dramatic and rich, or something simple and rustic (because honestly, I'm a little lazy in the kitchen). This cake is something that I've looked at almost every single time I've opened my copy of Dorie's book.
Every time I look at the picture and the recipe, I think it's just a sweet cake, but it's certainly simple. Look at it...it's made in a cast-iron pan, there's no frosting, and it's pretty squatty. I've wanted to make it so many times, but for some reason I never had. Usually, when I bake something from this book it's for one of two reasons: 1) it's what I'm supposed to make for TWD that week or 2) I'm taking the dessert somewhere and I want something a little impressive. I guess that's why I've never made this cake before...it doesn't fit either of those criteria. So when I saw April's selection of recipes, I was glad that Nancy, of The Dogs Eat the Crumbs, chose this one. It was so good.
When I made this cake on Saturday, I'd already had a marathon cooking session. I'd been in my kitchen cooking and washing dishes for about six hours. At about 9:45pm, I jumped up from the couch and decided to make this cake. Thank goodness it's so simple! Here are the dishes that were dirtied in the making of this cake: 1 bowl, 1 whisk, 1 spatula, 1 cast iron pan. The whole thing took about 10 minutes to throw together, and my house smelled delicious while the cake baked. David wanted to eat the cake when it came out of the oven at about 10:30, but I told him he'd have to wait until the next day. I planned to take it to my parents' house for our dessert after our Sunday dinner.
When Mom cut slices of the cake, David said, "Oooh! It looks like those Danish butter cookies in the blue tin!" (By the way, lots of things look like Danish butter cookies to David.) But I don't think it tasted (or looked) like those cookies. In fact, I think Nancy hit the nail on the head in her post. It tastes a lot like a thick, chewy, almondy sugar cookie! I loved how dense the cake was. There's lemon zest in the cake batter, but I could only taste a hint of it in the cake. It was a perfect complement to the almondy-vanilla flavor. I'm usually not a fan of almond flavored desserts, but I'm certainly a convert now. This will certainly be a cake that's in my regular repertoire. In fact, my church women's group will be going to a nursing home on Thursday night to take desserts to the residents and spend time with them...and I'm pretty sure this will be my contribution. I have a feeling that it will be well-received. If you like almond, or if you like simple, delicious desserts, please visit Nancy's blog to get the recipe.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Tuna Croquettes: YUM!

Do you remember my discovery that ground turkey is disgusting? The texture was just gross. But I have found something even more disgusting than ground turkey. CANNED SALMON. Yikes. That is some nasty stuff. I had planned on making salmon patties for dinner. I got out my can of salmon, opened it, and was revolted. I realized that it had LOTS of little bones in it. And some kind of black slimy stuff. When I dumped it out to pick out the bones, I discovered that the black slimy stuff was skin. It was too much. I couldn't do it. I threw it away. And I got out some tuna and got to work.
And I'm so glad that I did! These were so very good. I know that it probably sounds crazy to gush about how wonderful tuna croquettes are, but these are definitely something you should try. The ingredients are all things that you probably have on hand: tuna, onion, bread, eggs, lemon juice, some herbs. It's all combined and shaped into patties that are lightly fried in olive oil. So good!
By the way, my mom used to make salmon patties for us growing up. I HATED salmon patty night. I called her and asked how she could stand to make the patties with the nasty canned salmon. She said, "I use the salmon that comes in a pouch. It's boneless." Oh. I had no idea the stuff existed! I knew that tuna came in a pouch, but then again, I'm not a salmon connoisseur, either. Anyway, who needs canned salmon? Use tuna and make these instead!
Tuna Croquettes
Adapted from Three Fat Chicks
15 oz. canned tuna, drained well
1/3 c. minced onions
2 c. soft bread crumbs (whirr about 4 pieces of bread in your food processor)
1 T. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. dill
2 T. fresh parsley
2 eggs
olive oil for frying
Mix all ingredients together well. Shape into croquettes (patties) and fry in olive oil until golden brown. (To get my patties all the same size, I used a small ice cream scoop to portion them out, then flattened them. It worked pretty well.)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

TWD: Coconut Tea Cake

Here I am again...doing my Tuesdays With Dorie "assignments" out of sequence. This beautiful cake was supposed to be last week's post, but I wanted to make it for the Klingenfus Easter dinner.
Lots of people have an aversion to coconut, and I guess I do too...in some ways. I wouldn't touch an Almond Joy or Mounds candy bar with a 10-foot pole. I'd rather have a Butterfinger Crisp or Snickers. But I like lots of other coconut-flavored things (pina coladas? yes.), and I don't mind sweetened dried coconut, either. I can add this to a yummy coconut dessert that's very well received by groups, too! I had never used coconut milk before, and when I opened the can, it reminded me a lot of wallpaper paste. I'm glad Dorie's recipe said to stir up the coconut milk, because I wouldn't have thought of that. I wish I had kept the tiny bit that was left...it would have made a much better glaze than the one I threw together at the last minute. Even with the coconut milk and the sweetened dried coconut, the coconut flavor wasn't overwhelming. I also added some lemon juice (although most TWDers used lime, I think), and it was a nice addition. There was rum in there too, but I couldn't taste it at all.
When I made last week's Mocha Walnut Marbled Bundt Cake, my pan stuck and ripped away chunks of the cake. As I turned this cake out of the pan, I prayed over and over, "Please don't stick. Please don't stick. Please don't stick." And look at it. Honestly, it's the most beautiful bundt I've ever made. I love how it's lightly browned at the top and gets darker toward the bottom. I couldn't get over how pretty it was!
This week's pretty Coconut Tea Cake was chosen by Carmen, of Carmen Cooks. If you're in the mood for a tasty coconut cake, visit her blog for the recipe.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Greek Chicken Pitas and The Winner!

The Blogiverary Giveaway winner is all the way at the bottom of the post. I know you can't wait to see if you won...but stick around here first to see what we've had for dinner recently!
When I was younger and still living at home, I can remember Mom asking, "What do you want for dinner?" And pretty regularly, my response was, "Something fun to eat." And Mom would get exasperated and say, "What's fun to eat?!" And you know what, I didn't know. I didn't have any idea. Now, I think that by "fun," I meant "different." These Greek chicken pitas are very different from what David and I have on a normal evening, and by different, I mean fun! When David pulled the pitas out of the grocery bag Sunday afternoon, he said, "Oh! We've never had these before!" I think he was excited to try them.
I really enjoyed these sandwiches, but I wish I had stuffed my pita with more chicken and less lettuce. The lemon/garlic marinade on the chicken was really good, and it's something that I'll definitely use again...maybe just on chicken breasts to grill. The lemon flavor was pronounced, but not overwhelming.
I also served Greek rice with the pitas, and it was delicious! This stuff was so good...I liked it better than the chicken. For lunch the next day, I mixed some of the chicken and rice together, and that was a great lunch! The Greek rice also has lemon juice in it, which is a perfect complement to the herbs and onions. This one is a keeper, for sure!
Greek Chicken Pita Pockets
1/2 cup lemon juice
4 Tbs. olive oil (you can probably get away with a little less)
1 1/2 Tbs. garlic, minced and divided
1 tsp. ground mustard
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch strips
shredded lettuce
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
black olives
pita pockets
Combine lemon juice, oil, 1 tsp. of the garlic, the mustard, and the oregano in a gallon zip top bag. Add chicken and seal bag. Turn bag and gently move chicken around to distribute marinade evenly. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.
Greek Yogurt Sauce
1/2 cup cucumber, chopped
1/3 cup nonfat yogurt, plain
1/4 tsp. dillweed

In a small bowl, combine cucumber, yogurt, dill, and remaining garlic (from the pita recipe above). Cover and refrigerate until serving. (NOTE: Cucumbers have a lot of moisture in them, so if you want your sauce to be less runny, squeeze as much water from your cucumbers as possible.)
To Assemble the Pita Pockets:
Saute the chicken for 7-8 minutes or until the juices run clear. Fill pocket with lettuce, black olives, onion, and chicken. Top with cucumber sauce.
Greek Rice
Taste of Home Message Board (Redraspberrygirl)
2 cups water
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1 cup brown rice
1/2 tsp each: thyme, oregano, and rosemary, crumbled
2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 Tbs. chopped kalamata olives
Combine water, rice, oil, salt, and garlic in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Serves 6.
Now, for the winner of The Sweet Life's Blogiversary Giveaway! Suburban Prep was the reader chosen by the random number generator. Please send me an email (no later than Wednesday, April 7th) with your name and mailing address. You can email me at erinssweetlife[at]hotmail[dot]com.
Thanks so much to all who entered! I love reading your comments and getting to know you all! I appreciate all your encouragement!
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