31 August 2007
29 August 2007
1 (8 oz.) package refrigerated crescent rolls
1 (3 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. confectioners' sugar
1 c. canned cherry pie filling
1/4 tsp. almond extract
Place crescent dough on a lightly floured surface; seal seams and perforations. Cut into 2-in. circles. Place in greased miniature muffin cups. In a small mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and confectioners' sugar until smooth. Place about 1/2 teaspoon in each cup. Combine pie filling and extract; place about 2 teaspoons in each cup.
Bake at 375 degrees F for 12-14 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool. Refrigerate until serving.
28 August 2007
2 (6-oz.) cans tuna, drained and flaked
1/2 c. shredded Cheddar cheese
1/3 c. mayonnaise
1/3 c. sliced ripe olives
1/8 tsp. lemon-pepper seasoning
1 (12 ounce) package refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
1 egg, beaten
1 1/4 cups crushed potato chips (bread crumbs work well as an alternative)
In a small bowl, combine tuna, cheese, mayonnaise, olives and lemon-pepper; set aside. On a lightly floured surface, flatten each biscuit into a 5-in. circle. Spoon 2 rounded tablespoonfuls of tuna mixture onto one side of each circle. Fold dough over filling; press edges with a fork to seal.
27 August 2007
Every time Scott and I dine India Palace downtown, we ask ourselves why we don't eat there more often. The atmosphere inside is dark and cozy, the décor is tasteful, the staff is quiet yet attentive. But, of course, it's the food that shines. Rich vindaloos and masalas, not to mention the samosas and pakoras and nan. Each and every one a real treat, because all are a bit too complicated and intimidating to replicate at home.
And then, I came across a samosa recipe that used Pillsbury crescent rolls. Hmmm! A common Indian street food, samosas are tasty fried pastries filled with an aromatic filling (commonly potatoes and peas). Classic Indian snack. And to boot, this recipe was a wee bit healthier (no frying involved). I couldn't help myself, I had to try them.
These samosas have quite a different texture than the traditional kind, obviously - no crispy fried coating. Instead it's a little puff of softness enclosing the potato/pea mixture. But still satisfying, and if you've never had samosas I recommend this recipe - no need to go to a restaurant and order them, and the flavor is very good. The sauce could use some work, maybe more cilantro? Some mint? Just not the same as the green chutney at an Indian joint, but it does the trick for these.
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 can chopped green chiles
1 can whole new potatoes (or 1 large baking potato, parboiled and cubed)
½ tsp. salt
1 (15-oz) can peas, drained (or about a cup of frozen peas, thawed)
1 tsp. curry powder
1 ½ tsp. lemon juice (or more to taste)
Ground black pepper, to taste
2 (8-oz each) cans crescent roll dough
1 c. plain yogurt
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 garlic clove, minced
½ tsp. cumin
¼ tsp. salt
Ground black pepper, to taste
Heat oven to 375 F. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat until hot. Add 1 garlic clove and 4 tablespoons of the chiles; cook and stir 2 minutes. Add potatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook 8 minutes or until potatoes are light golden brown, stirring frequently. Add peas, curry powder, lemon juice and pepper; cook and stir until thoroughly heated, mashing slightly as mixture cooks.
Separate dough into 16 triangles. Place 2 rounded tablespoons potato mixture on shortest side of each triangle. Roll up, starting at shortest side of triangle, gently wrapping dough around filling and rolling to opposite point. Pinch edges to seal. Place on ungreased large cookie sheet.
Bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until samosas are golden brown.
Meanwhile, in blender container, combine all sauce ingredients. Cover; blend until smooth. Refrigerate until serving time. Garnish samosas with remaining chiles. Serve warm with sauce.
This recipe yields 16 samosas; 8 servings.
26 August 2007
Then I seal up the seam, and the two sides. I roll it in my hands a few times to seal well.
And there you go. All enclosed and non-messy and totally dippable.
24 August 2007
1 (10-oz.) can refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
4 thin slices deli ham
4 slices provolone cheese
4 slices Swiss cheese
6-8 slices Genoa salami
1/8 lb. pepperoni sausage slices
½ (12-oz.) jar roasted red peppers, drained and patted dry, cut into thin strips
2 medium eggs
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 C).
Unroll one-half of a can of crescent roll dough, and cover the bottom of a 9X9-in. pan. Bake in preheated oven for 6-8 minutes, until just set (not yet browned). Allow to cool slightly.
Layer the ham, provolone cheese, Swiss cheese, salami, pepperoni, and red peppers, on top of the dough.
In a bowl, beat the eggs lightly, and stir in the parmesan cheese and black pepper. Pour 3/4 of this mixture over the peppers. Unroll remaining half of dough, and place over the top of the peppers. Brush with the remaining egg mixture.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove foil, and bake another 10 to 20 minutes, or until dough is fluffy and golden brown. Cut into squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.
22 August 2007
Now, since I was cheating with the crust, I thought I'd go all out with toppings. First I fried some bacon, and drained and crumbled it. Then I sliced a small onion and pan-fried it in the bacon grease until nice and caramelized. I pulled out the onions and then added sliced portabello mushrooms to the grease, and sautéed them until soft. Lastly, I sautéed garlic in the bit of bacon grease left until nice and golden.
I smooshed the canned crust into a jelly roll pan and baked the crust for 6 minutes as recommended, then pulled it out and added toppings. I used leftover marinara for pizza sauce, then topped with the bacon, onions, mushrooms, and garlic as well as pepperoni slices and lots of shredded mozzarella. I popped it back in the oven for about 14 more minutes, until the toppings were heated through and the cheese was gooey and browning on top.
The pizza ended up really great. The flavor of the onions and garlic really came through due to the sauté beforehand, the mushrooms were soft and flavorful, and the meat was delicious of course. The crust was actually really good too - crispy but not overly cooked, and actually tasted like DiGiorno crust. All in all, I was rather impressed and it made for an easy meal to whip up on a weeknight. If you ever want to make pizza on your own, I highly recommend the Pillsbury canned pizza crust.
We're wandering around the store, and I went to get some butter. Lo and behold, but what did I see? A huge sale on all Pillsbury canned products, all the biscuits and crescent rolls and breadsticks and breads… At a buck apiece, I just couldn't help myself. So I loaded the cart with a bunch of different products, some I've never used before, and started hunting the aisles for possible ingredients.
With that in mind, I decided this week (and all food posts) will revolve around said Pillsbury products. My own personal food challenge of sorts. Every day I'm going to cook our dinner using canned whatnot, and I'll give the recipes and/or critiques. We'll see how it goes! In a minute, I'll be posting my creation from last night.
21 August 2007
Wisconsin might not be the first state you think of when you think of great food (or the 2nd, or 3rd, or 10th...) but it should be someplace you consider. Wisconsinites love their food as much as their beer. And there's a lot of regional cuisine you find here that you just can't find anywhere else, hence this (very long) post dedicated to the place I call home.
We flew into Madison, the Berkeley of the Midwest, then drove up north to Appleton, then Stevens Point, on to Green Bay, then made our way back down to Madison (with a stop in my hometown, Fond du Lac). I initially planned on posting everything in chronological order, but that would get confusing. Instead, we're going to explore the state by their unique foods/dishes/brew. And to start, let's go with the beer...
We had some lunch first in Madison, at the Great Dane Brewery. Hubs is a beer nerd, a card-carrying member of Beer Advocate even, so he did his research before our trip and asked that we stop there for lunch. And I gotta say, it was good. The beers are yummy - I had their Mallard Cream Ale, a light beer that lives up to the name - very creamy, almost no aftertaste. Mmmm. Their lunch menu was also good, unfortunately I was too busy eating to get a good picture of any food. Had the Great Dane burger - hamburger smothered in artichoke dip - and it was divine. Tinnie had the prime rib wrap, and Hubs had the brat burger on a pretzel roll (can't get a more WI burger than that).
After lunch we visited Monona Terrace (the last architectural design by Mr. Frank Lloyd Wright) and headed to the shops on State Street. Had a beer at State Street Brats before hitting the road up North, too bad we were full because their brats looked mighty tasty! I totally recommend this place if you ever find yourself in Madison - for happy hour they run a "stock" ticker on the TV screens behind the bar, upping and lowering the costs of beers continuously. You can get a good beer for $1.50 if you watch closely (make sure you're not ordering one at a steeper price too!). Fun fun place, with a great beer garden to boot. That's a shot of my sister pretending to punch Bucky in the nose, by the way. I'm surprised we weren't escorted out at that point.
The night before we flew back to Kansas, we hit up Ale Asylum in Madison as well. Another great brewpub, this one with good dark beers. I had their porter, and it rocked. Hubs was partial to the Hopilicious, and Tinnie got their Gold Digger (a blonde ale). All were very, very good. The decor is very modern-slash-goth and they also serve food, but we skipped that and filled up on the brews instead.
Those were the only microbrews we visited, but definitely do not begin to give you an idea of the amount of great beers found in the state. There's Miller for the cheap goodness, and Leinenkugels (Wisconsinites call them Leinies). Stevens Point has a great brewery where they make their famous Point Beer. Another favorite brewery is New Glarus, and their beer is unavailable outside the state, such a pity. New Glarus Spotted Cow is to die for, and I ordered it whenever I had the chance. We also got a 6-pack to enjoy in our hotel room our last night there.
Fish plays a big role in Wisconsin's "culinary" traditions. Minnesota may be known as the Land of a Thousand Lakes, but Wisconsin takes a close second. All these lakes are filled to the brim with perch, walleye, bluegill, herring, whitefish, you name it. So when in my hometown, we made sure to have a meal at my most favorite seafood restaurant, Salty's. Fond du Lac is at the foot of Lake Winnebago, a lake so big you can't see across it (we had a lighthouse, for goodness sake). Our house was a mere 3 blocks from the lake, and Salty's is only 1 block off the water. It also serves the best seafood in town. It's a small place and the bar takes up more room than seating, nice and dark on the inside as well: the perfect supper club type of place. Did I mention that Wisconsin is also known for its rocking supper clubs?
Anyhoo, back to the food. Hubs had the grilled skate wing. Tinnie had the crab cakes and I got the battered bluegill. All were served with a side of twice-baked potato or German potato salad as well as coleslaw. The bluegill was battered with the skin still on, but it really added to the flavor and the skin so thin you never noticed. Their batter was dotted with lots of spices, I could taste garlic and onion and pepper. Very good. Crab cakes were okay, but the skate was probably the best of the three - the meat was so tender and soft, it fell apart when you put your fork into it. I can't place the taste of it, but it was very good and not "fishy" at all.
We also ordered a bowl of their famous seafood chowder - it was cheddar-cream base full of whitefish and shrimp and veggies. So, so good. We gobbled it down even though we were already full from our meals. Cheesy and thick and every bite had a big chunk of fish. Good stuff.
We also had some Friday Fish Fry (see below), but Salty's is a classic and a place worth stopping by if you ever find yourself passing through Fondy...
Friday Fish Fry
I was too chicken to break out the camera with so much family around, so sadly I have nothing to show for it. The restaurant had versions of fish fry with walleye and shrimp, but as my sister told us, "It's the perch you want." The perch I got and the perch I ate, crispy on the outside and moist yet firm on the inside; absolutely perfect. The fish comes with tartar sauce and that Wisconsin dipping tradition, melted butter. Um, I'm not too fond of the melted butter. But all was so good, we ate our fill and then some. Also? This place meant business when it came to the beer batter. You could taste the beer quite distinctly. A bit of a surprise, but yummy too. Gotta love Wisconsin.
One tradition that blankets the state in general is the Friday Fish Fry. Every Friday night, the people of Wisconsin head out to their favorite restaurant to enjoy their fish fry. Almost every restaurant has a fish special on Friday, and you can find at least one GREAT fish fry restaurant in every town in Wisconsin. Lightly breaded, deep-fried lake fish, a side of fries, coleslaw, bread, and you're there. We went to visit my sister Carole and her family in Appleton, where she took us out to the best fish fry in town: Cinders Restaurant.
I love brats. Saturday we met up with my cousin Joylyn, who just happened to have 4 tickets to the Packers game that evening, close to the field too... Yeah, I'm a lucky b*tch. We breezed into town about 90 minutes before the game, changed and grabbed some rain gear (it was rainy and in the 60s, and the venerable Lambeau Field has no dome), then headed to the game. We got to the stadium just in time to scarf down a brat before finding our seats, perfect timing.
Now, I'm sure most people know Wisconsin is known for their brats, but the best are available anywhere. Johnsonville really is one of the best you can find, and that's what they serve at the stadium. But it's how their made that makes them so good: simmered in beer and onions, then thrown on the grill to brown and crisp up the skins before eating. They mash them in a bun and top with kraut, then send you off to add your own choice of mustard. Only a spicy brown mustard will do for brats, my dear friends. Those stadium brats are perfection on a bun, and I wolfed mine down in no time.
Hubs rather enjoyed his as well.
After the Packers game we met up with Joy's husband at a local pub, where we made sure to order fried cheese curds with our Leinies.
Not sure what a cheese curd is? A one-of-a-kind delight in the state of Wisconsin, these are the balls that first float up during the cheese making process. You can buy/eat them in their original cheese curd state (the best and freshest make a squeak when you bite into them). But better yet: batter or bread and deep fry them, and you have heaven that no other cheese stick product can replace. We ordered a pile of them and finished them in no time. Creamy and cheesy and crispy on the outside, yum. Perfect bar food. You have to try these before you die.
Custard and Blue Moon Ice Cream
Our last evening in Madison, Tinnie and I begged and begged until Hubs took us to our favorite place in town, Ella's Deli. This is a sentimental favorite, as our parents used to take us here for sundaes when we were kids. But I must say, it is quite possibly the best ice cream place on the planet. There's a carasol located right outside the restaurant, and when you walk in it is like being in the middle of a carasol itself. Antique toys attached to strings and pulleys are zooming and dipping at you, covering the entire ceiling. Other toys are out for you to play with in the aisles. All the tables have a toy theme, with the toys encased in the table itself under glass. I can imagine, though, for some parents it's quite headache-inducing.
Ella's Deli serves kosher food, but is really known for its custard and ice cream. Their sundaes are to die for, and we ordered the Turtle Pound Cake. It had a slice of homemade walnut pound cake on the bottom, topped with vanilla custard and then buried in hot fudge and homemade butterscotch. Add whipped cream, and you're all set. Frozen custard is so rich, the vanilla really comes out and isn't overwhelmed by the cake or toppings. We all shared the sundae, as well as a dish of that Wisconsin favorite: blue moon ice cream.
Never heard of it? Blue Moon is a regional flavor mostly found in Wisconsin and Michigan. I had always thought it was a regular flavor everyone had, like mint chocolate chip or butter pecan, until we moved to Kansas and it was never to be found. The ice cream is a bright blue hue and tastes just like Fruity Pebbles cereal. My absolute favorite, and now I'm craving it again. Damn. Sylas and Maddy's in downtown Lawrence will make it (maybe once every few years), so I'll just have to deal until I can find it again.
That's all we sampled while there, but doesn't begin to lift the surface of the state's offerings. If you ever visit, also try to find Racine kringle (pastry), local cherries or cranberries in anything, wild rice salad, and cream puffs (which are best from the state fair). Ahh, I wish we had months to visit instead of just 4 days... Okay, I will go back to pining away for my home state in private, but I hope that gave you a decent idea of the awesomest state in the Union. In my humble opinion.
16 August 2007
This recipe is from Giada De Laurentiis' cookbook Everyday Italian. I make loads of her regular marinara sauce at a time, usually on the weekends, and then freeze it into Gladware so that I can pull one out to thaw for an easy pasta dinner during the week. It's a great basic recipe: tons of flavor but yet nothing is overpowering (Hubs makes a marinara with lots of red wine and basil; very good but also quite strong). The carrots add a tinge of sweetness to the acidy-tomato base, and I love the chunky texture.
This sauce makes a great "starter" to make other pasta sauces. When I thaw out a container of sauce, I'll stir in vodka/cream/parm for a vodka sauce, or will add any multitude of things to keep it interesting (sauted mushrooms, meatballs, mixed olives, you get the picture). I am giving the basic marinara sauce recipe below, as well as my favorite variation on it: Tuna and tomato sauce. It is SOOOO good.
Basic Marinara Sauce
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
2 (32-oz.) cans crushed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves
In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, and 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper. Cook until all the vegetables 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 the bay leaves. Taste, and adjust seasonings.
If making ahead, cool, then cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Or transfer the cooled sauce to freezer bags and freeze for up to 3 months.
Tuna and Tomato Sauce
This is so good. The lemon zest wakes up all the flavors and perfumes the dish, but doesn't overpower anything. It's a from-the-pantry version that comes together really quickly with the pre-made marinara.
3 c. Marinara sauce
2 (6-oz) cans tuna packed in oil, drained (get the good stuff if you can find it on sale)
1 Tbsp. drained capers
1 tsp. grated lemon zest (about half a lemon)
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper, plus more to taste
1 lb. pasta of choice (rigatoni or large shells work well)
Freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional)
Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to the bite.
Meanwhile, combine the tomato sauce, tuna, capers, and lemon zest in a heavy large skillet. Using a fork, break the tuna into chunks. Simmer to blend the flavors, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Add the pasta to the sauce and toss to coat. Toss the pasta with enough reserved cooking liquid to moisten. Stir in the parsley and serve. If you're in the mood, dust with some parmesan.
15 August 2007
Not much time to write today, it's a busy one. Have to fly out to WI early on Friday. So here's a goodie from my archives. This recipe is for a chewy cookie (not a huge fan of crunchy cookies), and a very poofy one at that (thank you, shortening). And at my house we don't add Hershey kisses, we put Hershey bars on them. Kinda rations out the chocolate with the peanut butter better. This time I placed two bars on each cookie, as they turned out a bit large.
Peanut Butter Cookies
¾ c. peanut butter (creamy or crunchy will work)
½ c. shortening or butter-flavored Crisco
1 ¼ cup brown sugar, packed
3 Tbsp. milk
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 ¾ c. flour
¾ tsp. salt
¾ tsp. baking soda
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine peanut butter, Crisco, sugar, milk, and vanilla in a bowl. Beat at medium speed until well blended. Add egg. Beat until just blended.
Combine the last 3 ingredients in a separate bowl. Add to creamed mixture at a low speed until just blended. Chill dough in the fridge for at least an hour.
Drop onto baking sheet, and flatten slightly with a fork dipped in sugar (making a criss-cross pattern). Bake for 7-8 minutes.
After removing from the oven, immediately push candy bar piece into cookie. Let cool for a few minutes on the baking sheets, and then carefully transfer to a cooling rack (be careful to not smash the chocolate, which will be melty at this point). Allow chocolate to harden before storing.
14 August 2007
Not sure what exactly it is? Toad in the Hole is a simple (read: cheap) dish basically made up of sausages and Yorkshire pudding, baked together in the oven. And it is soooo good – sizzling sausages in a fluffy "popover" type thing, brown and crispy on top, soft in the center. Mmm. Easy to make and very tasty.
I've been craving Toad in the Hole nonstop since Christmastime. This past weekend apparently I was a very very good girl who asked nicely (or perhaps I just have a lovely Hubs), because Scott found a recipe and made me some Toad in the Hole. And it turned out great – a wee bit on nice and golden brown and he bought the wrong type of sausages (TURKEY??), but yummy nonetheless. Just a few more (dozen) pans of Toad in the Hole, and I'm sure he'll have it down pat. Practice makes perfect and all that…
Toad in the Hole
Preheat the oven to 400 F. On the stovetop over low heat, cook the sausages in a frying pan on all sides until nicely browned.. Do not prick the skins! Allow to cool.
Using an electric mixer (or whisk by hand) blend the eggs, milk, flour, and salt & pepper together until smooth. Allow the mixture to rest awhile.*
13 August 2007
Linguine with Garlic Sauce
12 oz. uncooked linguine
1/2 lb. sliced bacon, diced
5 c. fresh spinach
1/2 c. chopped onion
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 1/4 c. milk
1 pkg (8 oz.) cream cheese, cubed
2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
1/2 c. pine nuts, toasted
Cook linguine according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove to paper towels and drain. Reserve 1 Tbsp. of bacon drippings in pan.
In the drippings, saute the spinach, onion, and garlic until tender. Add the milk, cream cheese, butter, salt, nutmeg, and pepper. Stir until smooth. Stir in bacon and pine nuts to heat through.
Drain pasta and toss with sauce.
10 August 2007
9 Tbsp.(1 1/8 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 half-pint blueberries
2 half-pints raspberries