Monday, March 31, 2008

Chocolate Cracked Earth!

Okay, let me just preface this by saying that I'm committing a huge no-no and posting someone elses photo of this marvelous cake. But my weekend was so crazy that I actually baked this the night before, and had to take it to work with me the next morning, and I didn't garnish it with confectioner's sugar until I actually got there, so no pictures were taken. This was taken by the fabulous Food Network staff.

I was a little intimidated by the fact that this recipe is "by" Tyler Florence. He's so fabulous, so skilled, I didn't think I would be able to keep up with it. But I looked at the recipe and I felt like I might be able to just scrape by if I was lucky and did everything I was supposed to.

Do I ever do *anything* like I'm supposed to? I baked this the same night as the Fetuccini e s... I can't remember how to spell it. Anyway, I was distracted and Jason decided that he wanted to help, so I managed to screw up almost every step of the process.

The first problem was seperating the eggs. Now, I seperate eggs literally all the time. I never eat egg yolks when I cook eggs, so I would think that this wouldn't have been the problem. But I had to fish egg whites out of my egg yolk bowl a couple times, much to my chagrin... When Jason heard me fussing (and cussing), he decided it was time for him to step in and save the day... He who rarely bakes, and has never seperated eggs a day in his life. I decided to step back and see what he would do, give him a chance and trust him until I learn not to... Bad move. Within 10 seconds, he had dropped an egg yolk into my whites bowl, and had decided the best mode of fishing it out would be with a fork... I could just throw the whites out and start from scratch, right? Wrong. I had seperated around 6 out of 9 eggs at this point, and I didn't have six more eggs to replace the ones I had already cracked. So, I spent about 20 minutes fishing out little pockets of broken egg yolk from the whites and condemned Jason to stirring the chocolate on the double burner.

The next problem was tempering the eggs. Neither Jason nor I had done this before, and we didn't know how difficult it would be. The recipe warned to do this so you do not scramble the yolk mixture, and this scared me to death! This could sabotage the whole recipe! We finally figured it out and come to find out it was so easy, it was almost thoughtless. Then it was time to was beat the whites to soft peaks. What the hell are soft peaks?! Thankfully my mom was around for this part, and I very, very leerily let Jason beat the eggs. I was pleasantly surprised! He started out slow, then gradually picked up speed and occasionally lifted up the beaters to check to see how far along it was. I might even say he probably did better than I would have. :) Most importantly, I now know what soft peaks are!

The final problem was my oven. The instructions say to bake the cake at 350 for 25 minutes... 25 minutes came and it was still runny in the middle, then 30, then 35... Finally at 40 minutes it had set, and I had about had a heart attack and KNEW somewhere along the line I had screwed up. When I pulled it out of the oven, it was still very puffed up like a souffle. It was soft and still had a little jiggle in the middle, although when I poked it with a toothpick in several different places it came out clean. The whole house smelled like rich, velvety chocolate!

What came of it was an incredibly light, soft chocolate dessert that was more like a cheesecake than a cake. It was richer than fudge, but light and airy like a souffle. This recipe was wonderful, and if it managed to turn out despite all of the drama involved during its conception, anyone can do it.

Chocolate Cracked Earth (flourless chocolate cake)
1 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1 stick unsalted butter*
9 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
2 cups heavy cream,
cold Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Put the chocolate and butter into the top of a double boiler (or in a heatproof bowl) and heat over (but not touching) about 1 inch of simmering water until melted.

Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar in a mixing bowl until light yellow in color. Whisk a little of the chocolate mixture into the egg yolk mixture to temper the eggs - this will keep the eggs from scrambling from the heat of the chocolate - then whisk in the rest of the chocolate mixture.

Beat the egg whites in a mixing bowl until stiff peaks form and fold into the chocolate mixture. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until the cake is set, the top starts to crack and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out with moist crumbs clinging to it, 20 to 25 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes, then remove sides of pan.

While the cake is cooking, whip the cream until it becomes light and fluffy.
Serve at room temperature dusted with confectioners' sugar and topped with whipped cream.

*Cook's Note: Food Network Kitchens tested this recipe after this show was taped and determined that 1 stick butter is the correct amount.

Friday, March 28, 2008

My Google Reader Subscription List

OK, so this is my google reader subscription list that my blog project is being derived from! Anything written in bold is the recipe I chose from the blog.

1) {Nacho Spuds} Celeste's Sugar and Spice -

2) {Apple Dumplings } The Pioneer Woman Cooks! -

3) {Fetuccini e Salsiccia del Pollo} Good Things Catered -

A Year in the Kitchen -

Amber's Delectable Delights -

Blake Makes -

Buon Appetito -

Elly Says Opa! -

Good Eats 'n' Sweet Treats -

Half Baked -

Once Upon a Feast -

Sugar and Spice -

This Little Piggy went to Market -

Fetuccini e salsiccia del pollo - Good Things Catered

OK, so the original name of this is "Fetuccini and Chicken Sausage in Tomato Cream Sauce" but that's a lot of verbage so I decided to give it an official italian name... "Fetuccini e salsiccia del pollo"... Fetuccini and chicken sausage :) I got this recipe from Katie at!

This also begins my little blog mini-project. I've decided I'm going to do one recipe from each of the food blogs I subscribe to on Google Reader... and I'm starting with Good Things Catered! The reason I want to start this little mini project is because the women who maintain these blogs really inspire me to be a better cook and baker, and I feel like I have a little bit to learn from all of them. You'll be able to see in my link bar on the side which blogs I subscribe to, and as I cook/bake things from there, I'll post what I made next to it. Anyway, on with the show!

To be completely honest, this recipe racked my nerves a little bit. I had never made a pasta sauce from complete scratch like this, and before dinner last night, I had never cooked with, much less tasted chicken sausage. But, it didn't have many ingredients, and it was essentially pasta, meat, and cheese (three of the 4 of Jason's food pyramid... the 4th is sweets), so I figured it would be a good recipe to try. But it turned out to be pretty easy, but it was a little cumbersome because I don't have a dutch oven so I had to make do with what was available.

Katie's recipe called for your pasta of choice. She chose Rigatoni, I chose Fetuccini... I figured since the sauce would be medium-weight and wouldn't be very chunky, something like Fetuccini would stand up to it well because it's a little more on the hearty side. If it hadn't have been baked, the fetuccini would have work beautifully. The problem arose when I transferred the pasta and sauce to my pyrex dish to bake. It was VERY VERY AWKWARD when serving. Next time, I want to use farfalle. I think that would work beautifully!

The next "problem" I came up against is simply a matter of taste. I like diced tomatoes, Jason doesn't. The recipe called for 21/2 lbs of diced tomatoes... I didn't think it was a huge deal, but Jason would have just opted to simply not eat it (and pout the ENTIRE time) if he even saw the can of diced tomatoes within 100 feet of the stove. I tried to crush the diced tomatoes as much as possible, but they were stubborn! I desperately need a food processor. pronto.

It ended up being a crowd pleaser though, despite all of these little boo boo's! My sister, who tends to find a reason to cut down everything I do, told me that it tasted like it came from a restaurant :) Jason even liked it, because the diced tomatoes kind of dispersed in the sauce and he ended up not even getting any in his serving. His only request was that next time, I take the sausage out of the casings so the meat is more chunky and in smaller bites, and maybe use pork instead of chicken. This, coming from the pickiest eater on the face of the planet, was a HUGE compliment! He discovered something new he likes to eat, and actually admitted to liking sweet potatoes! I will definately be making those soon... I think my little boy is finally growing up! Mom and David ate 2 servings EACH, and only left a little in the pan because I told them I wanted some to bring with me for lunch today.

Anyway, on with the recipe (pictures to follow as soon as I upload them!)

Source: Katie, Good Things Catered
1 box pasta of choice (I used Publix issue fetuccini)
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
4 links of chicken sausage with spinach, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 28oz can of diced tomatoes, crushed with back of spoon
1/2 tsp salt
splash heavy whipping cream
1/4 c. flat leaf parsley, chopped fine
1 c. fontina cheese, grated (my only substitution... I used italian blend shredded cheese because the fontina at Publix was $6 for 1/2 lb!)
1/2 c. garlic and her bread crumbs

-In large Dutch oven of lightly salted water, cook pasta according to directions to just al dente (still firm).
-Transfer pasta to large colander and set aside to drain.
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees
-In Dutch oven, now empty, add olive oil and bring up to almost smoking.
-Add chicken sausage, and cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, about 5 minutes.
-Add garlic and crushed pepper and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
-Add diced tomatoes and salt and stir to scrape up all browned bits
-Bring to boil and reduce to simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
-Add cream, stir to combine, add pasta and parsley, toss for one minute.
-Sprinkle on cheese and then bread crumbs and bake, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until bubbly

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Crispy Oven Fried Fish, Oriental Cole Slaw, and Classic Risotto

I had yesterday off, so I wanted to make something that took a long time and some effort to put together. I gained a little confidence after cooking Tilapia recently, so I decided that I wanted to try it again. So I made crispy oven fried tilapia, oriental cole slaw, and classic risotto. I found the tilapia and risotto recipe in my BHG cookbook Jason bought me for my birthday, and the oriental cole slaw recipe is my aunt's.

I managed to take a few pictures, but naturally I didn't take any after everything was cooked. It was really good!!! I highly suggest it.

Crispy Oven Fried Fish
Prep: 20 minutes
Bake: 4-6 minutes per 1/2 inch thickness
Oven: 450 degrees
Makes: 4 servings

1 lb fresh or frozen skinless fish fillets, 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick
1/4 c milk (I used vitamin D in an effort to stay low fat)
1/3 c all purpose flour
1/3 c dry bread crumbs
1/4 c grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp dill (omitted)
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp salt - added by me
2 tbsp melted butter (I somehow managed to miss this step)

1. Thaw fish, if frozen. Rinse fish; pat dry with paper towels. Cut into four serving-size pieces, if neccesary (note: at Walmart, I found 1 lb of tilapia cut into 5 filets). Measure thickness of fish.

2. Place milk in a shallow dish. Place flour in a second shallow dish. In a third shalow dish combine bread crumbs, cheese, dill, and pepper. Add melted butter, stir until combined (I forgot to do this, but we didn't miss it. It was still good). Dip fish in milk, then flour, then milk again, then the bread crumb mixture. Place fish on a greased baking sheet. Bake, uncovered, in a 450 degree oven for 4 to 6 minutes per 1/2 inch thickness. Mine were about 1 inch thick, and I cooked it for 9 minutes.

Fish is done when it flakes when tested with a fork.

Classic Risotto
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: about 15 (more like 20)
Makes: 4 side dish servings

1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tablespoons butter, seperated
1 cup uncooked arborio rice
2 14-ounce cans of reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese (2 ounces) - I used Asiago
1/8 tsp black pepper

1. In a large saucepan, cook onion and garlic in hot oil and 1 tbsp of the butter until onion is tender; add rice. Cook and stir over medium heat 2 to 3 minutes or until rice begins to brown.

2. Meanwhile, in another saucepan bring broth to boiling; reduce heat and simmer. Slowly add 1 cup broth to the rice mixture, stirring constantly. Continue to cook and stir over medium heat until liquid is absored. Add another 1/2 cup broth to the rice mixture, stirring constantly. Continue to cook and stir until the liquid is absorbed. Add remaining broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until the broth as been absorbed. Let me add a little blurb of my own here. I think it's better to watch this and play it by ear than time it. The way that works best for me is when I add a ladle of chicken broth, stir in, and watch the consistency. When you stir in the broth at first, the water stands seperate from the rice, has the consistency of oatmeal, and begins to lightly bubble. It's time to add more liquid when the chicken broth has been soaked into the rice. If you wait too long, it can burn the rice on the bottom of the pan and messes with the consistency of the rice, so it's important to keep a watchful eye. Keep adding chicken broth in this manner, one ladle-ful at a time, until the rice almost triples in size and is al dente.

3. stir in the remaining butter, the cheese, and pepper. Enjoy! Note to all: I went a little cheese crazy and put twice the amount called for. It was delicious, but don't do it! It's too rich to be eaten as a side dish in that way.

Oriental Cole Slaw
Prep time: 15 mins
Chill time: several hours. Good to make the night before
Serves: 6?

1 pkg chicken flavored ramen nodles
1 pkg angel hair cole slaw
1/2 c toasted sunflower kernels (shelled)
1/2 c slivered almonds
1/2 c vegetable oil
3 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Break up Ramen noodles, making a point to break up large chunks. Combine noodles, cabage, sunflower kernels, and almonds in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together seasoning packet from ramen noodles, vegetable oil, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. Pour over cabbage mixture, toss, and chill.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Apple Dumplings

o. m. g. these were SO yummy, it's not even funny. Words do not even begin to describe how wonderful these are. My stepdad literally, not figuratively, licked the plate clean. The buttery, sugary, vanilla-y sauce mixed with the soft, flaky crescent rolls matched with them baking crusty and crunchy on top, but incredibly soft and dough-y on bottom, then with the tang of the granny smith apples... Sitting next to that was a nice big scoop of vanilla icecream covered with a little of the extra sauce... I literally almost died with the first bite. This is so good, it's just not even right.

So, go make it. NOW.

I actually took pictures this time, but I didn't get around to it until after everybody had plenty. The picture doesn't even begin to do them justice. If you want to see beautiful pictures of this heavenly confection, go scoot over to The Pioneer Cooks!
Apple Dumplings
2 Granny Smith apples
2 cans crescent rolls
2 sticks butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoons vanilla
1 small can Mountain Dew -I used half of a 20 oz bottle
Peel and core apples. Cut apples into 8 slices each. Roll each apple slice in a crescent roll. Place in a 9 x 13 buttered pan. Melt butter, then add sugar and barely stir. Add vanilla, stir, and pour over apples. Pour Mountain Dew around the edges of the pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Serve with ice cream, and spoon some of the sweet sauces from the pan over the top.
Thanks to pioneer woman! This recipe is amaaaaazing.

Citrus Chicken

oh. my god. This stuff was soooo good. We -being my stepdad, my mom, and myself- had a pretty rough weekend because we found out exactly how grave my stepgrandfather's condition is. It's not good, and my stepdad is VERY sad, and I love him very much so I wanted to make him feel better by putting something warm in his tummy. On top of those of us in my house feeling gloomy, Jason has had a horrible week or two with feeling pressure from school and wanting to find another job, so I knew it was time to fill the tummies of the men in my life up and do my best to help them feel better... even if it's only for a few hours.

For dinner I made Citrus chicken with parslied jasmine rice, and for dessert I made apple dumplings (in the post to follow). I got the dinner recipe from the swanson webpage, and the dessert recipe from The Pioneer Woman Cooks! Her blog is located in the links section on the right-hand side of the page.

In true form, I forgot to take pictures of dinner before we gobbled it up. Honestly, I care more about giving everybody their food than taking tons of great pictures.

From: Campbell's Kitchen
Prep: 5 minutesCook: 35 minutes
Serves: 4
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 3/4 cups Swanson® Chicken Broth (Regular, Natural Goodness™ or Certified Organic)
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup uncooked regular long-grain white rice
3 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
Orange slices

Cook chicken in medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat 10 min. or until browned. Set chicken aside.
Add broth, orange juice, onion and rice. Heat to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat 10 min.
Return chicken to skillet. Cover and cook 10 min. or until chicken and rice are done. Stir in parsley.
For a special touch, sauté orange slices in a hot non-stick skillet until lightly browned. Serve over chicken.

Nutrition Information
Calories 341, Total Fat 4g, Saturated Fat 1g, Cholesterol 75mg, Sodium 474mg, Total Carbohydrate 43g, Dietary Fiber 1g, Protein 31g, Vitamin A 6%DV, Vitamin C 31%DV, Calcium 4%DV, Iron 18%DVSwanson® Natural Goodness™ Chicken Broth Calories 343, Total Fat 4g, Saturated Fat 1g, Cholesterol 73mg, Sodium 309mg, Total Carbohydrate 43g, Dietary Fiber 1g, Protein 32g, Vitamin A 6%DV, Vitamin C 31%DV, Calcium 4%DV, Iron 18%DV

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Din Din! Part 3

This part was Jason's least favorite, and didn't touch it with a 10-foot pole. I thought it was pretty good and I enjoyed the light, crunchy texture next to the fish and mashed potatoes. It was a great compliment and asparagus is DELICIOUS this time of year.

Sauteed Garlic Asparagus

2 tbsp evoo
1 lb pencil asparagus
1 tbsp minced garlic
S&P to taste

Heat evoo in a skillet on medium heat. Rinse and pat dry asparagus, and break off or cut off woody ends. Throw in minced garlic followed by the asparagus, and season to taste. Toss regularly until asparagus is slightly soft but still has some texture.

Din Din! Part 2

For the most part, I eyeball these mashed potatoes in terms of what goes in. In my opinion, they are the best mashed potatoes I've ever had, so I highly suggest giving them a shot.

All of these ingredients are tenative because I season to taste with everything that goes in, and the measurements are a guesstimate.

3 large baking potatoes
a couple quarts of water
1/4 c. (or so) mayo
1/2 c. (or so) milk
1/2 c. (or so) butter alternative - I use ICBINB :)
Garlic Salt to taste (maybe a tablespoon?)
Parsley to taste (I would say I used a couple tablespoon's of it)
Parmesan to taste (probably around a half a cup)
Course Ground pepper to taste (mmm... maybe a tablespoon?)

Everybody has their own way of mashing potatoes, so I consider giving directions unneccesary. But for the sake of blogging, I'll go ahead and give an idea of what I do since everybody does it differently :)

1) scrub and peel potatoes. In a large pot, fill halfway with water and heat on med/high.
2) roughly chop potatoes into 2" or so cubes, put into water with a handful of salt.
3) boil them until they are easily run through with a fork.
4) Strain and return to pot. I don't like beating my potatoes with a beater, I MASH MASH MASH them with one of those metal potato masher things to the desired consistency. I prefer for there to be a little texture, myself... One thing is for certain though. A potato masher is a great investment, and cheaper than therapy ;).
5) Add butter subsitute, milk, mayo, parmesan, garlic salt, parsley, and ground pepper a little at a time until flavored to taste and has reached the desired consistency. With mashed potatoes, consistency is a big deal to me if you didn't notice in the previous step. But I always start with the milk, butter sub, and mayo, and I use my potato masher to sort of mash in the ingredients until the texture is light, fluffy, creamy, and hold their shape, then I add everything else. I suggest to be careful with the milk, because it can dilute the potatoes and make them runny.

:) Din Din! Part 1

I'm doing these three recipes seperate for label purposes... Anyway, Jason and I have begun feeling more inspired in the kitchen, and cooking has become more of an adventure for us than ever before.

Plus, this is random, but every time I've done a career analysis to see what field I would be a good match for, I've always come back with either jobs in the service industry doing something like sociology, psychology, or going into the ministry, or jobs in the creative industry such as marketing, advertising, studio arts, writing, and cooking. I always thought that was a strange thing to stick in the middle of a list of renaissance arts- reading, writing, and art. But now that I've become more comfortable in the kitchen, I've found that cooking has become a creative outlet for me. The ways I like to express myself creatively always evolves and changes, so it doesn't surprise me that this is my "flavor of the week" so to speak (and no pun intended). But it's almost an adrenaline rush for me to see a countertop covered up in raw veggies, packages of raw meat, and jars of spices evolve into something beautiful and delicious... With my help, of course. Jason likes to be creative with his hands too, so it's something that we love to do together, and something we've only really done with each other. Cooking with someone isn't something we've shared with past relationships... It's new to us and it's new to our relationship, which is hard to come by almost 4 years in. To us, every meal is an adventure, especially when something new is to be tried.

So, last night, we embarked on an adventure in uncharted territory... Pecan crusted dijon tilapia, served with parmesan garlic mashed potatoes and sauteed garlic asparagus.

I made the potatoes and the asparagus, and Jason helped me with the fish. It was delicious! (naturally, I found this recipe on Celeste's blog ;))

INGREDIENTS:1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup brown mustard, such as French's Bold 'n Spicy (I used Grey Poupon Dijon mustard)
1 pound tilapia fillets, if frozen, thaw
1/4 cup chopped pecans, finely chopped

DIRECTIONS:Lightly butter a large, shallow baking pan, such as a jelly roll pan. In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise and mustard.
Using paper towels, pat fish lightly to dry. Arrange fish fillets in prepared baking dish.Spread mayonnaise mixture over each fillet. Sprinkle each fillet with chopped pecans; press down gently.

Bake in a preheated 350° oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Dinner for my man

After this crazy past week and a half of depending on Jason for everything from getting me back and forth from car dealers on his evenings off to lining up our joint insurance to scheduling an appointment for the winshield replacer guy to come replace the windshield in my new car because it had a crack in it when I bought it (no worries, the dealership paid for it), I really wanted to show him my appreciation by making him a big, hearty dinner the night after we bought my car. The dinner was only a very small way to show my gratitude, I don't think I'll ever be able to make it up to him. The wonderful thing is, that's what love is about. He doesn't expect me to make it up to him or repay him in any way. I just know that I want to be there for him in his hour of need the way he's been here for me, loving, comforting, and uncomplaining.

So I made something delicious and hearty... Homemade Spaghetti! Once again, I hi-jacked this from Celeste's blog, and it was soooo yummy. True to my nature, I had to tweak stuff, and it made it a little different but it was still really good. I'll start putting my little tweaks in red. :) I served roasted asparagus (I got it from Maryanna's blog, Taste & See) and garlic biscuits whose recipe I "made up" myself.

The best part about this recipe is that I was running late getting home because I had to get the ingredients at the store, and instead of being mad, Jason wanted to help cook and we learned a lot together :)

I think it goes without saying that my relationship with Jason as grown, evolved, and morphed into something bigger and more beautiful than either Jason and I. He is the kindest, most gentle, most beautiful man I have ever met in my entire life. I can't wait to start my life with him!

Brad's (Celeste's dh) Spaghetti:
1 box uncooked spaghetti
1 green bell pepper, chopped -I omitted this, Jason *hates* bell peppers.
1/2 onion
2 garlic cloves, minced -I got a jar of minced garlic and 1/2 tsp = 1 clove
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (E.V.O.O.), plus 1 tbsp. E.V.O.O. for pasta
1 jar Ragu spaghetti sauce (we always get the garlic and onion flavored kind) -I got the jar of parmesan and romano Ragu. Warning- it was on sale because it's been discontinued!
1 can tomato paste
1 can stewed tomatoes Here is where I screwed up. I was rushing and grabbed two cans of tomato *sauce* instead of tomato *paste*. I was going to omit the stewed tomatoes because Jason and I don't like tomato chunks in our spaghetti sauce and use two cans of the paste instead. Oh well, c'est la vie!
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 tbsp. dried oregano I used more than this because I seasoned to taste.
Garlic salt, to taste
Grated parmesan for seasoning
1 tbsp. butter I omitted this, honestly I just forgot about it.

Drizzle E.V.O.O. in a skillet over medium heat. Take half of the bell pepper and half of the onion (reserving the other half for later) and add them to the skillet; saute for a few minutes or until bell pepper and onion are softened. Add garlic and saute for an additional 2 minutes or until garlic is fragrant. Add ground beef to the skillet and cook until no longer pink, gently breaking the meat apart as it cooks.
Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil and add pasta. Season the water with a generous amount of salt and 1 tbsp. of butter. Cook pasta until al dente.
In a separate large saucepan, pour contents of Ragu jar. Add tomato paste, stewed tomatoes, and the other half of the bell pepper and onion. When beef is completely cooked, drain if needed and then add to the spaghetti sauce mixture. Season with the oregano and garlic salt to taste. Let the sauce cook through for approximately 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

***The reason Brad sautes half of the bell pepper/onion and then adds the rest directly to the spaghetti sauce later is because it adds texture. You will end up with half soft, sauteed bell pepper/onion and half slighty crunchy bell pepper/onion. It adds a special yummy-ness!***

Pour pasta in a strainer and rinse with HOT water. Let drain. Brad hates runny pasta, so that is why he adds this step! Put drained pasta back into the pot. Drizzle with 1-2 tbsp. E.V.O.O. and sprinkle with oregano. Stir.

Put cooked pasta on a plate and top with a generous serving of the spaghetti sauce. S
prinkle with grated parmesan

Maryanna's Roasted Asparagus:
1-2 bunches fresh asparagus, rinsed with water and dried
Olive oil flavored cooking spray I used good old fashioned evoo
salt to taste I also used coarse ground pepper for a little kick

Snap the tough ends of the asparagus and discard. Place the asparagus in a single line on a baking sheet. Spray with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt. Broil for 5-7 minutes.

My Garlic Biscuits:
Basically, this is the red lobster biscuit recipe, except I didn't have any cheese (I bought a full bag of shredded sharp cheddar on sunday, my mom's fi ate the whole. damn. bag. by Tuesday afternoon).

2 2/3 cups bisquick
1 cup milk
¼ tsp. garlic salt
4 tbsp. butter, melted
¼ tsp. parsley
Preheat oven to 450º F

In a large mixing bowl, combine bisquick, milk, garlic salt, and a pinch of parsley. Mix together until a soft dough forms then beat vigorously for 30 seconds. On an ungreased baking pan, spoon the dough onto the pan in small balls. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Keep an eye on them though, they tend to bake quickly!

While they are baking, combine the melted butter, extra garlic salt, and the rest of the parsley. Once the biscuits are done cooking, brush the butter mixture onto the biscuits while they are still on the baking pan. Best served when warm.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The mini boy's night at my house, part 2.

Mmmm. Better Than Sex Dip! So simple, so yummy. Unfortunately my DA future step dad forgot to put it back on the stove top to warm it up because it is meant to be eaten hot, so it sits un touched in my fridge.

Again, this is a sad excuse of a recipe, but it's so good! It really doesn't need anything. You could even take this recipe to the next step and serve it as an appetizer in a phyllo shell. It's light, it's creamy, it's spicy, and it is FABULOUS. I don't even like sausage and I love it!

The great thing about this recipe is the versatility. You can use whatever salsa you like, and get as crazy with it as you want. Fi doesn't have a very... what's the word... broad palette. He likes what he likes, but he doesn't like much outside of meat, potatoes, and cheese, so I have to go with a boring, atypical mexican restaurant salsa. I think that a pineapple mango salsa or a black bean and corn salsa would be excellent with this recipe. Both of those are just a little sweet, and it would really balance well with the creamy texture from the cream cheese, and the salty, spicy sausage.

The best thing is that from between the sausage and the salsa, you really don't have to season it at all. It is perfect as is.

It would also be good with chopped onion and/or black olives. It might even be good with artichoke. Again, I'm limited with fi, so I can't really experiment with that.

1 block low fat cream cheese
1 jar salsa of your choice
1 tube of the sausage of your choice. I chose a basic mild breakfast sausage.
1 1/2 tbsp evoo

Pour evoo into the bottom of a sauce pan, heat it on the stove top on med/med-high. Break the sausage into the bottom of the sauce pan, and break it up with a wooden spoon so it crumbles as it cooks. When the sausage is cooked all the way through, turn the stove top down to low and stir the cream cheese into the meat until it melts. Stir in the salsa, and serve!

It's good cold, but it's best served hot with frito's, boiled fingerling potatoes, or whatever your heart desires.

The mini-boy's night at my house, part 1

I got this recipe from Down Home With the Neely's on Food Network! I am honestly amazed that they featured it on the network and not on the back of a package of Nestle or Kraft products, but I'm not complaining. It was incredibly easy and it tasted good. I'm going to go ahead and say that I didn't make the ganache or cognac whipped cream that accompanies this recipe because I didn't have the ingredients on hand or the balls to attempt it. I also didn't serve it with the raspberries because I didn't see any that looked halfway decent at the store.

My precious fi walked through the front door of my house just as they came out of the oven. The caramel from the twix had oozed up the sides of the dish and was bubbling and the fragrance of rich, decadent chocolate was wafting through the air. He was literally led by his nose to the kitchen. I waited until he got there to cut it because, being a man, I know he is visually stimulated and these were no regular brownies. I cut him the first piece, still hot out of the oven, as he stood there and the whole thing steamed and oozed and gooed chocolate caramel goodness. I thought his eyes were going to pop out of his head. Amazingly, they tasted as good as they looked. I sit here the next morning, the couple pieces left over from last night on a plate and a tall glass of milk next to me, and I am here to testify that they are just as gooey and delicious the next day.

Here are a few things that I did a bit differently:
1) I used 1 1/2 cups of chopped pecans instead of just 1. I love me some pecans.
2) There is a typo in the recipe. Only add a total of 3 eggs. Do not use 6 eggs.
3) They don't mention this in the recipe, but they mention this on the show: instead of greasing the pan, line the pan with aluminum foil and have a little extra come up on the sides. When the brownies are done, just put a plate on top of the baking dish and flip the whole thing over so the brownie falls onto the plate. Simply peel off the aluminum foil and you're ready to spread the ganache all over it.

Butter, for greasing pan
1 (21-ounce) box brownie mix
3 large eggs
1 cup chopped pecans
10 chocolate-caramel covered wafers (Twix - I used 16 fun size bars instead)
Ganache, for brownie topping, recipe follows
Whipped topping, recipe follows
Fresh raspberries
Chocolate shavings

Preheat oven at 350 degrees F.
Prepare brownies as directed on the box for "cake-like" brownies but add additional 3 eggs. Spread half the batter into an 8 by 8-inch prepared pan, top evenly with the pecans and chocolate caramel covered wafers.. Cover with remainder of batter. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the brownies are almost cooked through. Remove brownies from oven. Cool completely. Remove brownies from pan keeping square intact. Place on a baking sheet.
Top with ganache, whipped topping, raspberries, and chocolate shavings.

Ganache: 2 tablespoons light corn syrup 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped finely 1/2 cup heavy cream warmed
Mix together syrup and chocolate. Pour warm cream over syrup and chocolate. Stir until melted.
Whipped Topping: 1 cup heavy cream 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar 2 tablespoons cognac
Whip the heavy cream, adding the sugar and cognac

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