Tuesday, February 26, 2013

"Everything is Better in a Skillet"

So after the whole fire alarm debacle with our delicious skillet pizza, the King made a very true statement.  He declared, "everything is better in a skillet."  As I stuffed my face with pizza, I could only nod my head in agreement.  

Growing up, our grilled cheese sandwiches consisted of 2 slices of toast and a slice of processed cheese melted together in the microwave.  Now, I wouldn't dream of making grilled cheese without thick buttered bread and a multitude of cheeses in a skillet.  

It's fair to say the skillet has changed my life.  Tonight, I reheated day old pizza in our skillet and then put it under the broiler.  So much better than the microwave!

The skillet has also caused me to change my crouton making ways.  My original crouton recipe needs updating.  It has been a long time since I made croutons in the oven.  The bread in my Greek Panzanella salad is what reformed me.  

It's more delicious.  Check.  Takes less time.  Check.  And it keeps things crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside just the way I like it.  Done.  
You can use any old bread.  Clearly I did for this picture.  Let's be honest, this is not the most photogenic of cubed bread.  But, it did the trick.

In other completely random news, my kid can sort of sit up for about 10-20 seconds before crash landing on her face.

Skillet Croutons

  • Skillet
  • Olive Oil
  • Day old bread, cubed
  • Salt
  1. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil to your skillet and heat over medium heat.
  2. Add your bread to the skillet.  Season it with salt (or any other flavor you so desire).
  3. Toss frequently for 5-10 minutes until browned.  Add more olive oil as needed.
  4. Allow to cool (or not if you have no self control like me) and then enjoy!

Monday, February 25, 2013

1 Alarm Pizza...

So believe it or not, I have not always been the best of cooks.  When I began "helping" out in the kitchen more and more often as a teen, I was known as the person in my family to most often set off the fire alarm.  In my defense, it was a very sensitive alarm.  If you didn't like your food burned beyond recognition, then I was not the cook for you.

There was an especially memorable time when I was making "no fail fudge" with my best friend Valentine's Day circa 1996.  Let me tell you-it failed.  It failed big time.  We scorched the condensed milk in the bottom of the pan.  My parents alarm system was hooked into the fire alarm and would automatically alert emergency services, so as soon as the smoke hit the ceiling those fire trucks were on their way.  That is one way to see some sexy firemen on an otherwise male free V-day.  PS I don't recall if any of them were actually sexy.

I've burnt toast, sent french fries into flames, and eaten my fair share of blackened cookies.  Thankfully, all of the experimentation and hard-headed perseverence led me on a path to be a somewhat decent cook.  My husband said that he does not recall me ever setting the fire alarm off in the time we've been together!  That is a 5-year streak!

That was all broken this weekend.  For this...
Thankfully, the Princess didn't even cry at the shrieking alarm.  She may have been stunned momentarily, but got over it really quick.  After one bite of this pizza, the fire alarm was well worth it!  The King's annoyance at holding a baby and having to turn off the alarm with the other hand quickly disappeared.  I'll have to work at keeping the fire alarm at bay, because there is a new pizza in our house and I'm afraid it may be the only way to eat it from now on!
In other news, the Princess tried some delicious cereal for the first time.  And by delicious, I mean it looked like sawdust.  I think she would have liked the pizza better...but alas, she'll have to learn life is not always fair.

Skillet Pizza
*adapted from How Sweet Eats

  • Pizza dough
  • Pizza toppings
  • Skillet
1.  Roll out dough to be skillet sized on a pizza peel or baking sheet.  Use lots of flour so that it will slide right into your sizzling skillet.
2.  Set up your oven rack in the middle of your oven and preheat your broiler on the highest setting.
3.  Put your skillet on the burner and crank the heat up to high for 10-minutes.  Smoking is normal.  Fire alarms are probably not.  You may want to open a window/turn on a vent fan at this time in preparation.
4.  While you wait for everything to get hot, add your toppings to the dough.
5.  Pop your pizza into the screaming hot skillet for 30 seconds.  Toppings may fall off and pizza may get misshapen.  But, don't worry!
6.  Turn off the burner and using a pot-holder put your skillet in the oven for 1 minute.  Rotate 180 degrees and cook for one more minute.
7.  Plate it up and allow your pizza to cool.  
8.  Turn off any fire alarms and enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Beer Mac-and-cheese Soup

My sister and I also managed to throw this delicious soup together this weekend so that it might make eating huge amounts of pretzel bread more socially acceptable.  

As it happened, I didn't have enough of the "right" kind of cheese (cheddar) for this recipe.  My sister convinced me the more cheeses the better.  Let's be honest, that did not take a lot of convincing.  And she was SO right!
This was a combination of cheddar, colby jack, and shredded Parmesan cheese.  

The beer was kind of obvious upon eating the first bowl, but in subsequent indulgences, the beer flavor seemed to mellow.  Don't get me wrong, every bowl I had was delicious.  

And tasted great with at least 3 slices of pretzel bread.

Speaking of a variety of cheeses, here's my favorite kind!

Beer Mac-and-Cheese Soup

  •             6 strips bacon, cut into 1 inch slices (omit and replace with 2 tablespoons of oil or butter for vegetarian)
  •             1 bag mirepoix (about 2 cups)
  •             1 jalapeno pepper, diced
  •             2 cloves garlic, chopped
  •             1/4 cup flour 
  •             2 cups chicken broth 
  •             1 (~12 ounce) bottle
  •             1 pinch nutmeg
  •             1 cup elbow macaroni (I used ditalini)
  •             1/2 cup heavy cream
  •             1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  •             1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
  •             3 cups cheddar cheese, shredded (or any shredded cheese you have on hand)
  •             salt and pepper to taste

            1.  Cook the bacon in a pan over medium heat and set aside on paper towels to drain, reserving 2 tablespoons of the grease in the pan.
            2.  Add the mirepoix and jalapeno and cook until tender, about 10-15 minutes
            3.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute.
            4.  Mix in the flour and let it cook for 2-3 minutes.
            5.  Add the broth, beer, nutmeg, bacon and bring to a slight boil.  
            6.  Add the macaroni and let cook until al-dente, about 7-8 minutes.
            6.  Add the cream, mustard, worcestershire sauce and cheese and cook until the cheese has melted without bringing it back to a boil.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Pretzel Bread

So it all stemmed from this:
And then that beautiful loaf of amazingly easy pretzel bread morphed into a dinner full of  love...and bacon for Valentine's Day.  Pretty sure nothing says "I love you" like bacon.  
Cheddar bacon grilled cheese on pretzel bread.

From there, I was able to take my pretzel bread to the next level.  The ultimate food love of my life.
Croutons (and more on the soup later).

My sister came in for a visit this weekend.  She left today and I was so sad to see her go.  We had tons of fun and she babysat the Princess on Saturday night so the King and I could have a proper V-day date.  When we came home from said date, my kid was bathed and sound asleep.  My house was picked up and wiped down.  When she left today, she washed her own bedding and towels, and took out all of her garbage.  She also ran and emptied my dishwasher at least twice while she was here and changed countless diapers for me.  She is amazing.  I am pretty sure I should have made her 3 loaves of this bread instead of just the one.  And maybe kissed her feet.

This is the recipe I used:  Bread machine pretzel bread.  I was sort afraid of the braiding part , but the dough was fabulous to work with.  I will be making this again!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Mythical Diagnosis...

I must be doing an okay job at this whole mom thing because last weekend I spent an hour of my time in urgent care being diagnosed with what sounds like a mythical disease-Mother's thumb.  I have had severe pain in my right thumb for a few weeks and when I woke up on Saturday my whole hand was throbbing.  I had to wake the King up because there was no way I could even lift the Princess out of her crib.  The doctor in urgent care had to look it up on her iPhone.  It was very comforting.  But, it seemed a fitting diagnosis for what I've got going on.  It apparently happens as my body continues to get rid of all those blessed pregnancy hormones and my tendons return to an un-stretchy state.

De Quervain's syndrome, also known as "Washer Woman's Sprain", just means I am working too hard at this stay-at-home mom stuff.  Therefore, I rely on ice, advil, a stylish thumb splint and Wegmans to help me get the rest I require to heal.  Wegmans provides excellent pre-chopped meat and vegetables so I can whip up something as delicious as this with little effort or strain.
The King declared this to be one of his favorites...a good chunky soup.  

Here are some chunks:
Make this soup:  Slow-cooked beef minestrone.  And do yourself and your thumbs a favor and buy their beef stew meat that comes pre-chopped!

5 months new...

It just gets better and better.  Although, she did decide to wake up in the 3am hour to celebrate this morning.  This is sort of terrifying to me because I hadn't seen a 3 on the clock in the middle of the night in a good three weeks.  Having recently mastered the art of rolling back to tummy, she cannot stop moving.  Which is sort of surprising because everytime she rolls onto her tummy, she hates it!  She just did it in her crib for the first time today, and I am dreading what that means for all of us sleeping tonight.  

We have had such feeding issues that it is amazing to have picture proof that my kid is gaining weight!  And she is so dang happy.  My new favorite thing is when I get her in a fit of giggles and she just cannot stop laughing.  It surprises me the things that she finds funny-high fiving, the word "goo", and moving tissue paper.

She is reaching out and grabbing things more and more often, as can be seen by her attempting the "happy baby" yoga pose in her 5 month picture.  I just recently got punched in the eye with a fistful of my own hair and found it pretty hilarious, actually.  

Since lack of sleep and mommy brain have seriously impacted my memory, thank you for reading this sappy baby progress post so that I will have written documentation of what my kid was doing at this point in her young life if I ever choose to look back!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Playing chicken

It seems like the craziest thing I do nowadays is play chicken with my kids naptime.  I test the Princess to see just how close we can make it without her falling asleep.  If we're out and about and she starts rubbing her eyes or yawning, it becomes my mission to do whatever I can to keep her awake for a very long ride home.  Any parent knows, if your kid falls asleep in the car, even for the briefiest few winks, naptime is RUINED.  And your kid will stay awake making you both completely miserable until the next naptime...if there is one.  

For example, this happened at Wegmans last week.  The Princess made it all the way through our shopping event only to start to drift off while we were in line!  I had her on me in her carrier and I was bouncing, shaking, and shimmying the poor girl while my food items were being rung up.  Trust me, I gave the checkout lady quite a show!  Thankfully, when we got outside the cool air revived my kid briefly and then I was in it to win it on the 15-minute ride home.  

I turned the heat way down to keep the car comfortably cool and ward off any snoozing.  I had no shame.  I pulled up to stop lights singing obnoxious children's songs at the top of my lungs, clapping, and reaching around to jiggle the Princess to ensure she didn't fall asleep.  When we turned onto our street, I began to plot how I would get my kid back in the house, out of her carseat, and up the stairs so that victory could be declared.  Somehow we made it and in my mind I was declared champion.  They really should make this an Olympic event.  I would watch.

Since that is my game of chicken lately, I thought I might also attempt something a little wild with some actual chicken.  It's not completely off the wall because it is buffalo chicken and you can't really go wrong with that in my book.  I normally make classic Sunday dinners.  Think meat and potatoes, pasta and meatballs, chili and beer bread, et cetera.  But, this one is just slightly outside of a classic Sunday dinner, that I did feel sort of rebellious.

Check out my wild and crazy Buffalo Chicken Shepard's Pie:

With a lot of help from Wegmans, this one took about twenty minutes of prep work and into the oven it went.  It was quite delicious if you can't tell from the pic.  So go ahead, play chicken.  It's totally worth it.

Buffalo Chicken Shepard's Pie

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound boneless chicken breast, cooked & diced
1 bag of Wegmans pre-cut mirepoix (or 2 medium carrots, 2 ribs of celery, and 1 medium onion chopped)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons paprika
Kosher salt
black pepper
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup buffalo wing sauce
4 ounces blue cheese crumbles
Prepared whipped mashed potatoes (I went with the value sized potatoes to ensure I had enough for the top of the pie)
        •      Shredded Colby Jack cheese for topping if desired

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.
2.  Microwave your whipped potatoes for about 10 minutes and then stir them.
3.  In a large skillet heat olive oil. Saute mirepoix (or celery, carrots, onion) with garlic until tender.  
4.  Add your cooked chicken back into the skillet.  
5.  Add the paprika, salt and pepper.  Add chicken broth and buffalo wing sauce to the pan.  Stir to combine.  Reduce the heat and simmer.
6.  Pour the chicken mixture into the bottom of the prepared baking dish and top with blue cheese crumbles. 
7.  Spoon the potatoes on top of the chicken mixture.  Top with shredded colby jack if desired.
8.  Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden and the filling is bubbly.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Brunch Eggs x 2

This past weekend, we had the pleasure of being invited to not one, but TWO days of brunch!  That is a major win in my book.  I love to brunch.  I love any excuse to eat period.

Somehow, I got stuck making egg dishes both days.  I always struggle to find a good egg dish that tastes delicious, will feed many, and travel well.  So I decided to experiment.

Saturday's egg dish went a little something like this:
Breakfast Omelette Casserole.  It has EVERYTHING-a crescent roll crust, topped with hash brown potatoes, a dozen eggs, bacon, and topped with cheese for good measure.  The King voted this one his favorite.  It sounds strange, but I felt the flavor was lacking.  If I make this one again, I will be sure to season the potatoes and eggs really well with salt and pepper.

Sunday's eggs were vegetarian.  We were running behind that day, so I didn't manage a picture.  It was a Spinach, Feta, and Tomato Quiche.  It had a phyllo dough crust with feta, spinach, red onion, and tomatoes topped with a couple eggs.  This one had the flavor I was looking for!  This one got my vote.  

So, if someone puts you in charge of eggs for your next brunch gathering, I guess you can't go wrong with either of these recipes!

Where you can go wrong is sitting babies too close to one another on the couch.  Apparently, the Princess needed something to hang onto.  Poor kid didn't even see it coming...

Monday, February 4, 2013

Superbowl XLVII

Our menu for the Superbowl was going to be simple.  I had planned on sticking with my favorite chili recipe- Terrific turkey chili and my old standby- honey beer bread.  Side note about this chili:  adding beef broth to the turkey gives it that meaty flavor to fool the masses.  I have faked out many people who still believe they are eating beef in this chili.  Let's keep it a secret.

Anyway, getting back on track.  Chili and beer bread.  That was the plan.  But, then I got an email from my sister.  She was making mac-and-cheese muffins and wanted to go over some of the ingredients and had her own proposed substitutions.  I got food envy.  We needed to have these too.  So hugs and thanks to her for inspiring me to make them for us as well!  Mac-and-cheese is one of the King's absolute favorites, so I knew it would be a winner!  After tossing our baby football around:
We enjoyed our mac and cheese muffin appetizers, followed by the chili and beer bread.  I watched a little of the game, and all of Beyonce's halftime performance (loved it!), and then managed to pass out during the power outage and wake up in time for the end of the game.  I'd say it was a successful viewing.  Thank goodness for the power outage nap that powered me through the rest of the game!  Maybe all games should come with a lengthy intermission?

Mac and Cheese Muffins
*adapted from Annie's Eats Mac and Cheese Bites

12 oz. elbow macaroni noodles (ditalini worked well too!)
2 cups panko bread crumbs
3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1 (5.2 oz.) package Boursin garlic herb cheese (I used light and it worked just fine)
2 tbsp. cold unsalted butter
2 large eggs
¾ cup milk
¼ cup sour cream
¼ tsp. salt

1.  Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. 
2.  Cook the pasta to al dente according to the package directions. Drain well. 
3.  While you wait for the water to boil, lightly grease standard size muffin pans with cooking spray. 
4.  Melt the 8 tbsp of butter in a medium sized bowl.  Mix in the panko and ½ cup of the shredded cheese until combined. Firmly press your panko mixture into each muffin cup filling about 1/3 of the way (I used the bottom of a shot glass to pack it down in).
5.  In a large bowl, combine remaining shredded cheese, boursin, and cold butter.  Add your drained pasta. 
6.  In a liquid measuring cup, whisk the eggs, milk, and sour cream together. Add the liquid mixture to the bowl with the pasta. Stir in the salt.
7.  Add your macaroni to the muffin cups and fill the rest of the way.
8.  Bake until golden about 20-25 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool in the muffin pans at least 10-15 minutes (otherwise they'll fall apart- I found out the hard way).  Serve warm.