Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Homemade Sausage For A Homemade Pizza

Mmmm. Pizza. So many possibilities for a cookin' with whatcha got meal. This is the reason why you should have pizza dough on hand at all times. It freezes perfectly, so you can take one out whenever you feel like it. And, you can pretty much add whatever the heck you want (or need to use up) from the fridge and pantry. Genius.

I buy my pizza dough (the whole wheat variety) at Trader Joe's, and I buy 2-3 at a time to store in the freezer. They have plain white dough, whole wheat, and herb dough. They are all really good. Another fun place to get ready-to-bake pizza dough is your local pizzeria. If there's a restaurant crust that you fancy, there's a really good chance that they will sell you a portion of dough, so you can make your own pizza at home. Try it. I'm not joking. Of course, if you're at a regular supermarket, you can also buy the Pillsbury crust. It's pretty good too.

I don't know about you, but I love sausage on my pizza. I'm not a huge fan of pepperoni, but I love sausage pizza. I used to buy sweet Italian sausage for my pizzas, but then one day (years ago) I didn't have any stocked up. I did, however, have ground turkey. I thought about it for a little while and then I realized...sausage is ground meat, just with some seasoning!

So, I played around a little. I pulled out the salt and pepper, Italian seasoning, oregano, red chili flakes, garlic, onion, cumin...a little shake here and there...mixed it into the turkey meat and I had myself some sausage. I tested the seasoning by taking a little bit and cooking it in a small skillet. then taste it. If it needs something else, like salt or garlic, add a little get the point.

This time I used about 1/4 lb of ground turkey to cover one large pizza. Add 1tsp salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp red chili flakes, 1T oregano, 1tsp Italian seasoning, 1/2 tsp garlic powder.

To make my pizza, I used a pizza screen (shown underneath my ingredients) - a gift from my aunt for Christmas. You can find them at restaurant supply stores. The screen makes the crust come out really perfect, because the holes let the hot oven air reach the bottom and crisps it up just enough without burning it. So fun!

I used pesto, mozzarella, roasted red peppers, leeks (I needed to use them, and they are in the onion family!), goat cheese, the sausage, and then I added artichoke hearts at the end - I remembered I had some at the last minute.

Roll out the dough to fit the pizza screen. Pesto on first, then the cheese, then the other toppings...

I always finish my pizzas off with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and fresh cracked black pepper.

In the oven at 450F for 10 minutes, or until the edges are browned and the cheese is melted. Let it rest for 10-15 minutes and then transfer it to a cutting board to slice.

It's so easy and fun to do with friends and/or kids! Happy cookin'!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Healthier Variation on Chocolate Chip Kahlua Cake

I mentioned on Facebook that my hubby requested the chocolate Kahlua cake for Valentine's Day. I was not about to make a whole bundt cake for just him and me. So I looked for a chocolate cake recipe that I could modify into cupcakes and cut in half. It would have been a little too difficult to only use half a box of cake mix.

I took {this recipe}, changed out the less healthy ingredients for healthier substitutes, cut it in half, and made cupcakes. Smaller portions are always a good thing.

Here's my take on it:

Diet-Friendly Chocolate Chip Kahlua Cupcakes (makes about 16 cupcakes)
1 cup flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sugar (or Splenda)
1 cup plain yogurt (I used Greek style yogurt)
3/4 cup egg substitute (or 3 large eggs)
1/2 cup applesauce
3 T Kahlua liqueur
3/4 cup chocolate chips

1.5 cups powdered sugar
4 T Kahlua liqueur

Preheat oven to 350F. Line muffin tin with paper liners.
Sift flour, cocoa powder,  and baking powder in a medium-large mixing bowl to get out any lumps. Add salt and sugar. Then add in all the wet ingredients: yogurt, eggs, applesauce, and Kahlua. Stir until well-blended. Fold in the chocolate chips.
Fill the paper liners with the batter 3/4 full. It should fill about 16 liners. Bake 30-34 minutes or until you can stick a toothpick in and it comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes completely - at least 30-45 minutes. Mix the powdered sugar with the Kahlua to make the icing in a small bowl. Hold the cooled cupcake by the liner and dip the top into the icing. Let them set on a wire rack. Eat one...or two. Share the rest!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tilapia en Papillote

If you're looking for simple meals that impress the masses, this is a recipe and technique for you!

I stock up on fish, poultry, and meat at Costco. For my family of two, I don't have to go more than every 3-4 weeks. I buy in bulk, and freeze everything in 3-serving portions (one for me, one for my husband, and a little extra for leftovers), so that it's ready to defrost on the night before I want to cook it. I like to buy some red meat (like flank steak or stew meat), chicken breasts, ground turkey, and some sort of fish.

This month, I bought tilapia filets. It is an inexpensive fish that holds up well when cooked. So, the method is called fish en papillote or "in paper." The fish is steamed in parchment paper pockets and all of the flavors you add soak up into the meat and tastes delicate and delicious.

I always season fish with a little salt and pepper before anything else. Here, it's already laid out on a piece of parchment paper. You can make these in individual little pouches or do them all in one. This time I made all three filets in one because I was hungry. Just trying to save some time...

To my lightly seasoned tilapia, I added slices of lemon and ginger (seen above), then after looking in the fridge, I found white wine (about 1/4 cup) and capers. Other yummy things to add are garlic, lemon grass and fresh herbs or even a little mustard. You can also steam veggies in with the fish, like broccoli, zucchini, asparagus, carrots, cauliflower, etc.

After all the flavors are added in, fold over the parchment. My parchment paper actually has foil on the other side, which reminds me to tell you that you can also just use aluminum foil if you don't have parchment! Fold the edges all the way around to form a half circle/oval. Make sure it's completely sealed so that no steam escapes!

Bake it on a cookie sheet at 375F for 12-15 minutes or until the fish is just done all the way - you can peek inside the packet and close it back up if it's not done...I did. The thicker the filet, the longer time you'll need.

And voila!

When you open it , this is what you will see. Flaky fish in it's juices, ready to plate and serve! It's still amazing to me how much flavor it has, just from topping it with good ingredients. Mmm..good.

Happy cookin'!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Our Valentine's Day Tradition: Fondue At Home

On February 14, 2006, the guy I was dating had a very special evening planned for me. It was a total surprise, but I went to his place prepared - with a card and two wine glasses (and maybe a bottle of wine too. I can't remember...) as a small gift.

I walked in to his apartment but he was no where in sight. But then behind the door to his room (he was sharing a place with two roommates at the time), there he was. He had set up a makeshift table with a red tablecloth, candles, and the fixings for fondue for two.
I'd never made fondue before - I probably had only had it at restaurants in Paris where I had been living the year before. He knew how to make fondue? Cool!
So we enjoyed a romantic dinner, shared cards, and headed out to a jazz concert. Such a great memory. That night I told this guy that I loved him for the first time. And every February 14th since then, I've had fondue with the same guy and I've told him that I love him. I love traditions and I love that the fondue-maker is now my husband of almost 5 years.

We've varied the type of fondue we make each year. The first year was Welsh Rarebit. The 3rd year we were in Paris, so we went out to a fondue restaurant there.

This year, our seventh year, we did one of our favorites: gruyere cheese and leeks made with beer. Mmm, good.

First, saute the leeks in a little bit of butter, then add 2 tablespoons of flour to create a roux - the thickening agent to make the cheese a nice consistency.

Add a cup of beer. We used Blue Moon Winter Ale - it's what we had on hand. Then add 2 cups (more if you like) of shredded gruyere cheese. It would work with white cheddar as well.

It should be nice and gooey after all the cheese melts. Yum.

This time we did a vegetarian version and used a whole wheat french bread, cut into cubes, and roasted fingerling potatoes and romanesco cauliflower from our CSA box. Other nice dippers are green apples (sweet and salty are good together sometimes!), sliced sausage, carrots and/or broccoli. Veggies can be steamed, boiled, or roasted - whichever way you like.

Here's my valentine enjoying fondue, some Alsacien Gerwurztraminer, and Leffe Brune, a Belgian ale. And yeah, your eyes are correct. We have drum kit in our dining area. :)

We have an electric fondue pot by Rival, but you can use a traditional pot with a flame underneath, or just make it over the stove in a pot then transfer it to a dish for dipping at the table. The benefit of an actual fondue pot is that it keeps it melted and hot during the whole meal.
Here's the recipe:
Leek & Gruyere Fondue
1 cup finely chopped leeks (be sure to clean all the sand out from each layer)
2T butter
2T flour
1 cup beer
2 cups shredded gruyere cheese
pepper to taste

In a small pot or a fondue pot, melt butter and add leeks. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until leeks are transparent but not browned. Sprinkle in flour and stir for 2 minutes. Add beer and stir until thickened. Add cheese and continue to stir until completely melted. Top with cracked black pepper. Enjoy with dippers and a glass of wine or beer!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Chocolate Chip Kahlua Cake

One of my cousins made this cake years ago, and it was a memorable one. The sour cream and pudding mix make it super moist and who doesn't love melted chocolate chips and coffee liqueur?

It was another cousin, Kris' 21st birthday and I thought immediately about this cake as being quite the celebratory offering for a guy who loves chocolate and could now legally eat the icing. :) Teehee.

We all enjoyed it and now you can too.
Picture isn't great, but the cake turned out beautifully!
1 - Devil's Food cake mix (I only use Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines - they are more moist)
1 4-ounce vanilla or chocolate instant pudding mix
2 eggs
1/2 cup Kahlua
1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
2 cups sour cream
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
Heat oven to 350F.
Combine cake mix, pudding mix, and eggs in a bowl - beat well 
Add liqueur-sour cream and oil--beat 3 to 5 min stir in chocolate chips.
Pour into greased bundt pan. I used cooking spray, liberally. 

Bake 45 to 60 min or till cake tests done with toothpick.
Cool in pan several min--20 to 30-- invert onto serving plate.

Let the cake cool completely - this may take over an hour...and then you can either dust it with powdered sugar OR you can make this quick (and delectable) icing...

Take 1 cup of powdered sugar and mix in 3 tablespoons of Kahlua liqueur.

It'll look like this after you stir it up until all the lumps are gone.

Then you pour it over the top of the cake. I didn't let it cool long enough so it sort of melted and soaked into the cake. It will be a thicker glaze if you wait. Patience...yes, I'm still working on it.

Then, to top it all off...I made a Kahlua whipped cream by taking a small carton - half a pint - of heavy whipping cream, 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar, and 3 tablespoons of Kahlua to my mixer and letting it whip until fluffy. Oh baby, is that yummy.

Slice a piece of cake, dollop on some Kahlua cream and you're in choco-coffee heaven. Hubby wants me to make it again for V-Day. We'll see. ;)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Check out "Worst Cooks in America" on the Food Network

Just a short post for shameless plug for our friend, Kelli, who is a contestant on Season 3 of Worst Cooks in America, which airs tonight on the Food Network! We will be watching and hope you do too. Here's the {link} to the preview. Stay tuned for the series on Sunday nights. Go Kelli!

Our friend is the one in the teal shirt sitting in the front on Anne Burrell's team

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Hawaiian Ahi Poke

If you like sashimi or sushi, and you haven't tried it before, Hawaiian Ahi Poke is the dish you need to make. It's a raw fish salad that originated in Hawaii. The work poke means "slice or cut" and that's all that is required for making this dish. No cooking required. Most commonly made with Ahi, or yellowfin tuna, it is cut into cubes and marinated or dressed in wonderful Asian flavors.

I find my tuna at Costco in a package of 1.5-2lbs and dice both steaks up into inch-sized cubes.

All the recipes I've found vary a little bit, but mine includes soy sauce, sesame oil, red chili flakes, sea salt, green onions, shallots, seaweed, and toasted sesame seeds.

I buy my seaweed at the Japanese market down the road from where I live, but any Asian market would probably have something like it. It comes dehydrated, so I take a half a cup of water and soak the seaweed until it is soft, mabe 10 minutes.

Then you just add all of the ingredients into the bowl, mix it up and let is chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour, to let all of the flavors soak in to the fish.

It serves as a great appetizer or salad course. I've also eaten it by itself as a meal with a green salad at lunch time. Tuna can be expensive, so this is a treat that I like to make once or twice a year. It is super easy to do and is an impressive dish for guests as well. That is, if you feel like sharing. :)

So, try it out next time you're feeling a little bit of aloha spirit!

Here's my recipe:
Hawaiian Ahi Poke
1.5-2lbs ahi tuna steak, cut in 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup soy sauce (I use lite soy)
2 T sesame oil
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
1-2 shallots, finely chopped
1/4 cup seaweed, rehydrated in water
1tsp sea salt or kosher salt
1tsp toasted sesame seeds
1/2 tsp red chili flakes

Mix all the ingredients together. Cover with plastic wrap and chill it in the refrigerator for at least one hour. Keeps well in fridge for 2-3 days.

Take a bite, close your eyes, and imagine you're on a Hawaiian beach at sunset...until next time,  aloha!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Cauliflower & Turnip Mash, Sauteed Leeks & Mushrooms

All this beautiful produce came in my CSA box a few weeks ago: cauliflower, turnips, trumpet mushrooms and leeks.

I decided to try mixing the turnips and cauliflower in a mock mashed potato, then saute the mushrooms and leeks for another side dish.

I started by dicing up all of the cauliflower and turnips. I put them in a big stock pot with some chicken stock for more flavor, but you could use water or vegetable stock too. Boil them up, and when you can slide a knife through the veggies, they are done.

I put the cooked veggies into my food processor (a blender would work too), and pulsed it until it was smooth. I added a little milk, salt and pepper, and it was ready to go.

For the leeks and mushrooms, I chopped them all in uniform pieces. I threw a tablespoon of butter and another 2 tablespooons of olive oil in a pan, then added the veggies over medium-high heat. When the mushrooms were soft and the leeks were transluscent and a little brown, those were done too.

I was ready for a restocking trip to Costco because I hardly had any protein in my freezer to add to the meal. But I did have some cajun chicken cocktail sausages! So I warmed those up and there was dinner. The leeks and mushrooms were so fresh and buttery. The mash was creamy and didn't weigh us down like a potato would do. Farm fresh dinners are so great.