Thursday, June 25, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers Gazpacho

This week for our Barefoot Bloggers challenge, Gazpacho was the choice made by Meryl of My Bit of Earth. I was really excited about this one because I have always loved Gazpacho, and because it was too stinking hot to be doing much more than chopping! I really liked how it turned out...the texture, the depth of flavors, the sour cream I added to top it off. Matt on the other hand could not get on board with this one. It is rare that he doesn't like something, but the cucumbers were too much for him to stomach. I would make this again, but in retrospect I would halve the batch because it really does make a large portion.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Not Just Tigers and Kid Rock

Today I want to give some props to the Motor City for churning out some really tasty potato chips. I was thumbing through my July issue of Country Living magazine when the spread Potato Chip Nation caught my eye. The magazine chose 31 favorites, and Better Made Special Potato Chips made the cut. We try to do our part by purchasing locally grown and produced products, so naturally I was happy that my snack habit is supporting Michigan's economy. Better Made has been a Detroit business for over 70 years. They source the majority of their potatoes from Michigan and really have an outstanding chip at a very reasonable price. I can't get enough of the Salt and Vinegar, but the Sour Cream & Onion comes in a close second. Better Made doesn't stop at chips, however, as they stock everything from pretzels to beef jerky. So, if you live in Michigan do your part and buy some Better Made Potato Chips for your next backyard BBQ, and if you don't, check out the article in Country Living and buy local!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Veggie Bagel

Now that we are finally having consistently warmer days, we are starting to see local vegetables making an appearance at our farmer's market. Today we hit the jackpot with tomatoes, red pepper, and pickling cucumbers. Since it was sweltering today, I thought it was the perfect time to use those vegetables for my version of The Pioneer Woman's Veggie and Cheese Bagel.

Veggie and Cheese Bagel
adapted from The Pioneer Woman
*please note that I am not listing amounts, just the ingredients we used to assemble the bagels

Thomas' Everything Bagels
muenster cheese
pepperjack cheese
red onion
mesclun mix (from the raised garden bed of your's truly♥)
dill pickle
Philidelphia Garden Vegetable Cream Cheese Spread

Of course Matt had to add ham and salami to his "veggie" sandwich, but I went for straight up vegetables. Suspiciously, Matt brought home the Thomas' bagels without being asked to, so it makes me wonder if he has been spending sleepless nights scouring The Pioneer Woman's site. You be the judge. Also, if you haven't tried Garden Vegetable cream cheese, you're really missing out. It is perfect on bagels, crackers, and even as a dip for vegetables.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Corn Salad

I was looking for a light salad to play a supporting role to our protein last night and decided on Ina's version of corn salad. After the couscous debacle I had to right a wrong and this dish pulled through for a big win. Although we obviously don't have local corn yet, there happened to be a five-pack on sale this week and I had all the other ingredients on hand. It was just meant to be! The acidity of the vinegar paired well with the sweetness of the corn, and let me just say...basil and sweet corn are a match made in heaven.

Fresh Corn Salad
Ina Garten via Food Network

5 ears of corn, shucked
1/2 c. small diced red onion
3 T. cider vinegar
3 T. good olive oil
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c. julienned fresh basil leaves

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the corn for 3 minutes until the starchiness is just gone. Drain and immerse it in ice water to stop the cooking and to set the color. When the corn is cool, cut the kernels off the cob, cutting close to the cob.

Toss the kernels in a large bowl with the red onions, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Just before serving, toss in the fresh basil. Taste for seasonings and serve cold or at room temperature.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Raspberry Cream Tart

Yes, I know I should be making something with fresh Michigan strawberries, but this tart was calling my name. Since my sister mentioned that she had good luck with it over Memorial Day, I thought I better give it a go. The tart was featured in the May/June issue of Midwest Living magazine and it couldn't have been easier. I felt like I was cheating using a pre-made sugar cookie crust, but the flavor was delicious and it went together in a snap.

Raspberry Cream Tart
Midwest Living
1 16.5 ounce roll refrigerated sugar cookie dough, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
2 3-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. finely shredded lemon peel
1 T. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 c. fresh red raspberries, blueberries and/or blackberries
powdered sugar
Fresh red raspberries, blueberries and/or blackberries (optional)

1. Press cookie dough slices into bottom and fluted sides of a greased 11-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Do not prick. (Or, press onto bottom of greased 12-inch pizza pan.) Bake in a 350° oven 20 minutes or until light brown. Remove from oven; set aside.
2. In a small mixing bowl, beat cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add 1/4 c. sugar, egg, lemon peel, lemon juice and vanilla. Beat until combined. Pour cheese mixture over warm crust and spread evenly.
3. Place the two cups raspberries in a single layer on top of cheese mixture. Sprinkle raspberries with 2 tsp. sugar. Bake for 15-17 minutes more or until cheese mixture is set. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool for 30 minutes before serving.
4. Just before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar. Garnish with additional fresh berries if you like. Makes 8 servings.

**A couple notes: I used a 9-inch tart pan since I am too cheap to buy the right size. I simply cut back on the sugar cookie dough, but I did add the same amount of filling. Because of this change, I only needed one small package of raspberries. We let the tart cool for the recommended 30 minutes, and it was very good, BUT, I think it would be even better if it chilled in the refrigerator prior to serving. I just think there is something seductively delicious about cold and tart lemon desserts! I also added more lemon juice, because that is just how I roll.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers Curried Couscous

This edition of Barefoot Bloggers comes to us courtesy of Ellyn over at Recipe Collector and Tester. She chose Ina's Curried Couscous and has used the recipe as is for several years. I was excited to try something that I would not choose on my own, which is really one of the reasons I joined the group to begin with.
The dish was extremely easy and fast to prepare and had a great texture. After browsing the reviews on the Food Network website, I decided I would only add a little of the dressing at a time. I was glad I did. Matt loved the dish, but I just thought it was okay. Don't get me wrong, I really did enjoy the combination of the ingredients in the couscous mixture, but maybe I am just not a curry fan. I will certainly give it another chance, but I may make a different dressing for this particular salad.

It's 5 o'clock Somewhere!

Yesterday was the last day of school where I have volunteered in the Kindergarten class. Quite a while back I stumbled upon Kelsey's blog Apple A Day and saw the cutest idea for happy hour cupcakes that she brought to school the first week. I figured the end of the year would be a great time to share these with the teachers who have worked hard and are ready for a little happy hour themselves! I adapted Kelsey's idea for a sign to put by the cupcakes: Sometimes Summer Vacation is too long to wait for Happy Hour, so have your Margarita/Pina Colada now! These were a big hit at school, and I would make again in a heartbeat. I knew I didn't want to put alcohol in the cupcakes since they were headed to a drug-free school zone (what a drag, right?), so here are the recipes I used.
Margarita Cupcakes
1 Duncan Hines Classic White cake mix
1 c. margarita mix ( I used non-alcoholic)
1/3 c. water
3 egg whites
2 T. vegetable oil
1 T. lime zest

Blend all ingredients on low speed until moistened. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour batter in muffin cups and bake immediately. Bake at 350° for 18-21 minutes. *My oven is a real beast, so I only baked mine for 15 minutes.

Lime Buttercream
c/o Hostess With the Mostess
8 Tbsp butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 Tbsp lime juice (approx 2 fresh limes)
1 Tbsp margarita mix
1 tsp lime zest
5 cups powdered (confectioners’) sugar
cane sugar & fresh limes (for garnish)

In a large bowl, combine butter, cream cheese, lime juice, margarita mix, and lime zest. Beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, and continue beating until smooth. If icing is too thin, add more powdered sugar, a couple tablespoons at a time. Spread icing generously on each cooled cupcake* or use a pastry bag to frost. Sprinkle cane sugar around the edges of the cupcake for a “salt rimmed” look and garnish with lime wheels & wedges.

*Make sure to remove cupcakes from pan and cool completely before frosting.I was nervous about using fresh limes to garnish because of the moisture, so I picked up some mini gummi fruit slices and used Wilton White Sparkling Sugar for the salt rim.

Pina Colada Cupcakes

1 Duncan Hines Classic Yellow cake mix

1 c. Pina Colada mix (I used non-alcoholic)

1/3 c. water

1/3 c. oil

3 eggs

Blend all ingredients on low speed until moistened. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour batter in muffin cups and bake immediately. Bake at 350° for 18-21 minutes.

Pina Colada Buttercream

1 stick butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 T. pina colada mix
5 c. powdered sugar

Beat butter, cream cheese, and pina colada mix until fluffy. Add powdered sugar, a little at a time until the mixture is smooth.
**I used umbrella straws from Pier 1 as a garnish. I have had these for a couple years, so I don't know if they still carry them.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

$6 Dip

Last Spring when I was home visiting family, I got the chance to have dinner with my good friend Maria. Not normally ones to order an appetizer (rather have a cocktail!), we couldn't pass up the leek dip they had on the menu that night. It came to us piping hot and to our surprise, the base of the dip was goat cheese. Now readers, I know I have mentioned my love of goat cheese in previous posts, but let me reiterate: I ♥ goat cheese!

I knew that I would have to try to recreate this dish at home. Here is what I came up with:

Leek and Goat Cheese Dip

8 oz. cream cheese
8 oz. goat cheese
1 stick butter
3 c. leeks, chopped
1 small head garlic, roasted

Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add leeks and saute until tender. Stir in garlic and over low heat, fold in the cream cheese and goat cheese. Season with salt and pepper. We usually throw this in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, but you certainly don't have to. Our favorite way to serve this is with homemade bread, but crackers or pita chips will do in a pinch.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Cups and Cakes

Another busy weekend filled with sweets! First on the list was a double batch of Cupcake Pops for my friend Lindsey. Her parents are retiring this month and happen to be celebrating their 40th anniversary, as well. She originally wanted me to make cakes, but after I showed her Bakerella's handiwork, the pops were a done deal. I used red velvet cake mix with cream cheese frosting for the base and the Wilton candy melts for the dipping. Let me just say that my new Wilton Chocolate Pro Melting Pot is indispensable. I got lucky and had a 40% off coupon at Hobby Lobby, so the pot ended up being a "sweet" deal. I highly recommend investing in one if you are going to be doing a lot of pops or even for candy making at the holidays. It really makes the job so much easier!

Next up were some Banana Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream. I originally was just going for yellow cake, but Matt spotted some ripe bananas that were on their way to the garbage and started reminiscing about his favorite cake from childhood. His mom used to make a banana cake with chocolate frosting and I must say it is delicious. I had a yellow cake mix on hand and did a little searching on the internet to come up with the following:

Banana Cake Mix Cake
adapted from Barbara Whiting
1 pkg. yellow cake mix
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. water
1/2 c. oil
2 ripe bananas, mashed
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a hand mixer, combine all ingredients and beat on low for 30 seconds. Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour batter into cupcake liners and bake 18-21 minutes. Cool completely and frost with your favorite chocolate frosting.

I decided to use a chocolate buttercream for the frosting. Normally, I use cocoa powder, but today I thought I would give the melted chocolate a try. I think it improved the texture and the flavor had a deeper chocolate taste.

Chocolate Buttercream
1 c. butter, softened
3 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 oz. semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter and sugar until blended. Add vanilla and milk and beat for 4 minutes. Add chocolate and beat about 1 more minute, or until combined.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Big Piece of Pig!

Roast Pork Loin on Foodista
Let me introduce myself before I get going on the current post. I am Matt, Coco's husband, and I love to cook and eat just as much as my wife. Coco asked me to be the guest blogger on tonight's post, A Big Piece of Pig.
Occasionally, the wife needs a night off from the kitchen. This is where we usually decide to order Chinese or get a quick sandwich out somewhere, but last night I decided that I was going to make dinner. I stopped at our local market and perused the sale items. That is when I saw it. A large piece of pork loin, about 4lbs, that was on a crazy sale. I had no idea what I was going to do with it at this point, but when I see 4lbs of pork loin for $6.83, I will find something, believe me. After picking up some other items I cruised home to show Coco my find. I was as proud as a cat bringing its master a freshly killed bird. "Look Coco," I yelped. "4lbs of loin for $6.83! Don't you think that's a great find?!" Coco was happy with my pick, but reminded me that 4 lb's of pork for 2 people is a little much. Even though I have to agree, I was thinking of the leftover pork sandwiches, the diced pork in my salads, the ground pork for homemade sausage. I could harldy contain my glee.
I decided a simple rub of salt, pepper, and jerk seasoning would suffice for the pig. I rinsed it off, patted it dry, and sprinkled the seasoning on. I proceeded to throw this in the oven at 250 for an hour. After that hour, I added a 1/2 cup of Worcestshire and threw it back in to slowly bake in it's own juices for another 2 hours. In the meantime......
This is where my cooking can get downright dangerous. When I have a large piece of meat that is cooking slowly for multiple hours, my mind whirls like a dirvish thinking of all the glorious sides that can accompany the main meat course. I decided on a couple things. With about 3lbs of fresh asparagus in the fridge, this was a no brainer. Fresh asparagus is one of our all time favorites. The only problem is coming up with a new and refreshing way of preparing it. I decided to blanch the aparagus and then pan fry it with some bacon and jalapeno pepper. Not really a new and exciting method, but when you put bacon in anything, you are guaranteed a sure winner. Next I had a 3 lb sack of B size red taters. I chose to simply boil until about halfway cooked and then finish them under a skillet of onions and about a T. of the bacon grease I had from the asparagus dish.
I tossed together a green salad and I was thinking that I was done. Now, I could have easily grabbed a beer from the fridge, sat down on the couch and waited for all of this to come together. But the last time I opened the fridge, I saw last night's leftover sitting in a tupperware container. 1 large filet of Tilapia looked at me as if to say,"If you don't use me tonight, more than likely I will find my way to the garbage can. Please! Please! Please, find something to use me up in." That is when it came to me. Why not really surprise the wife with an appetizer?! I grabbed the tilapia out of the fridge and proceeded to grind it up with my stick blender. When the fish was ground up finely, I added a T. of mayonnaise, and a few pieces of crusty day old French bread, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and a small dash of Tabasco. I whipped this up and served it on pieces of crusty bread. Viola! Poor man's whitefish spread! Tasty indeed!
The wife enjoyed the meal and she was right when she told me that we would have tons of leftovers.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Fresh Fish!

We try to incorporate fish into our diet, but it is not always the pick of the litter when your only option is the grocery store seafood counter. We happened to luck out with some very firm tilapia that was on sale this week at our market. I had seen Giada prepare a lemon vinaigrette for whitefish and I thought it would be a light and simple accompaniment to the fish. We paired it with some roasted asparagus drizzled with a balsamic reduction and had a fast, healthy meal that you could certainly serve to company. I simply placed the tilapia on some oiled parchment paper, seasoned with salt, pepper, and a shot of fresh lemon juice. After I wrapped them up, they went on the grill for about 10 minutes while the asparagus roasted and the balsamic reduced. The vinaigrette came together in a flash and was spooned on while the fish was hot off the grill.

Lemon Vinaigrette

courtesy of: Giada De Laurentiis

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup lightly packed fresh Italian parsley leaves

2 cloves garlic

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Blend the lemon juice, parsley, garlic, lemon zest, salt, and pepper in a blender. With the machine running, gradually blend in the oil. Season the vinaigrette, to taste, with more salt and pepper.

*Note: I did not feel the need to add any additional seasoning. I used the stick blender to whip this together and it worked like a dream.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Easy Like Sunday Morning

If there's one thing that my friend Timm knows how to do, it's making a creamy white sauce! Timm and Faith came down this weekend and Sunday morning we found ourselves wondering what to make for breakfast. Matt and Timm went to the store and when they came back, they had the makings of a delectable Sunday brunch. What started as the standard breakfast fare, turned in to being a hearty and delicious breakfast dish.
Timm told us the story of his aunt making creamed eggs on toast for her large family because it was delicious and economical at the same time. She was definitely onto something! Timm simply made his famous white sauce and then added some cheese, hard boiled eggs, ham, salt, and pepper. Meanwhile, Matt toasted some sourdough bread and Timm proceeded to ladle that creamy goodness right over the toast. He served this with fresh fruit and maple sausage. Now, my friends, we could have stopped there, but I had been dying to try PW's Monkey Bread and figured that a few more carbs couldn't hurt. The bread was easy to throw together and it gave me a chance to bring my bundt pan out of retirement after a traumatic baking experience back in the year 2000. It was time and much to my surprise the bread came out of the pan with no trouble. We were lucky to have another lovely meal with good friends and tasty food.