Monday, August 29, 2011

Zucchini Pancakes

I've been in such a cooking rut lately.  I had mentioned before that this summer has been super hot and cooking hasn't been happening a lot in my kitchen.  Truth is, I don't always love cooking.  Nope, I have those moments/days/weeks that I just don't want to cook.  When it's really hot and I'm tired, the last thing I feel like doing is getting in the kitchen.  Instead, my butt gets parked on the couch.  I'm really looking forward to this fall and even winter, although cold weather isn't my favorite, the food that accompanies that weather is my favorite! I've been dreaming of soups and stews and slow roasted chicken :) Yum....

But, a girl's gotta eat and until the temperature drops, I've still got to cook.  I saw these zucchini pancakes at King Arthur  and since I had some leftover zucchini frozen in my fridge I whipped these up one night.  I liked them alright, but honestly, I should have added more cheese! Afterall, you can never have too much cheese, right?  They were quick and easy and I didn't break a sweat making them :) That's always a good thing.
Zucchini Pancakes
Printable Recipe 
Adapted From: King Arthur Flour 

I cut the original recipe in half and left out a few ingredients. 
  
Yield: about 10 cakes.

Ingredients:

2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or coarse black pepper
1/8 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons salt, to taste
1 teaspoon dried basil\
2 cups coarsely grated zucchini; about one 10" zucchini
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan


Directions:


Preheat a griddle or frying pan over medium-high heat.

Beat the eggs with the oil, salt, and pepper until thoroughly combined.

Add the basil, zucchini, and cheese, stirring to combine.

Stir in the flour.

Grease the hot skillet/griddle lightly. Drop the batter in 1/4 cupfuls onto the griddle.

Cook cakes for 3 minutes, or until they're brown on the bottom, and bubbles have appeared on their tops.


Flip the cakes, and cook them for about 3-4 minutes on the second side.

Repeat until you've used all of the batter. 

Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold; with butter and grated cheese




Saturday, August 20, 2011

Gooey Chocolate Caramel Cake

I made this cake last week for a co worker's Birthday. It's one of my favorite desserts and since I had forgotten to ask what he wanted me to make, this is what he got :)  I've made this cake more than any other dessert and it always turns out great and everyone loves it.  Although it's not made from scratch, it's a crowd pleaser and everyone will want to know how you made it-which is one reason I always keep the ingredients on hand.  Since I took this to work, I wasn't able to get a picture once it's sliced-so you don't get to see the yummy gooey caramel that will pool on your plate :) But trust me, it's delicious! 


I usually call this the "cake with the holes" but that doesn't really describe what it's made of so I renamed it for this post.  I can't remember who this recipe originally came from but my mom has made it since I was a child and it's often what I request for my Birthday cake.  It was also the first dessert I managed to make all on my own!  
Gooey Chocolate Caramel Cake
Printable Recipe 
 
Ingredients:

1 chocolate cake mix (I used devil's food)
1 can sweetened, condensed milk
1 can caramel sauce, set aside a few tbsp. to drizzle over top cake
1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate because that's what I had but semi-sweet is good too)
1/2 cup heath brittle*
1 package cool-whip, thawed

*If your store doesn't carry the heath brittle in a bag just crush 2 or 3 bars

Directions:

Cook cake by box directions in 13x9 baking dish

Allow cake to cool completely then grease (I use non-stick cooking spray) the end of a wooden spoon that has a round handle and poke holes in cake, about 1/2 inch apart.  If you don't have a wooden spoon with a rounded handle, you can use a tooth pick or cake tester and just make a circular motion to make larger holes. 
I forgot to grease my hole-maker...oops!

Mix caramel sauce and sweetened condensed milk and pour over cake. 

Place cake, covered, in refrigerator over night (you don't have to do this step but it allows the cake to really absorb the sauce and tastes best this way).

Spread cool-whip topping over cake evenly and sprinkle with chocolate chips, heath brittle, and caramel sauce.
You can keep this cake stored in the refrigerator, covered, up to 3 days but I HIGHLY DOUBT it will last that long :)  Next time you need a quick, easy, DELICIOUS dessert, make this cake! I guarantee you won't be let down.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pot Roast & Birds Eye Review

I'm what some might call the black sheep of the family when it comes to food.  Everyone in my family loves meatloaf and pot roast.  Until two years ago, if you asked me what my two most hated foods were it would be meatloaf and pot roast.  Pot roast definitely being my most hated food! My mom made roast a lot growing up, my brother can eat a WHOLE roast.  If you think I'm exaggerating, I assure you I'm not.  The look of it always threw me off and I despise cooked potatoes and carrots together with the roast.....EWWWW!!! 

You already know from this post how I came to eat meatloaf and now I actually like it and look forward to eating it.  Roast has been a little harder for me to overcome.  I'm still working on it and I've actually made it twice and ate a regular portion without covering the meat in ketchup or gagging as I swallow :) In fact, when I made this Friday night I enjoyed my roast! YAY!!!  This is very exciting since everyone else in my family loves this dish.  I cook mine differently-no carrots or potatoes.  I just use pot roast, seasoning, beef stock, one onion and thyme.  It's yummy and super easy!

Let's pause a moment and talk about side items.  A lot of time I don't really make side items because Steve and I can't eat them and a main dish without wasting a lot of food.  The good folks at Foodbuzz Tastemaker sent me some Steamfresh Chef's Favorite by Birds Eye this past week.  ***Please be aware that all opinions of the product are my own and I have not been paid to give a favorable review.***  I decided to try out the Primavera Vegetable Risotto to go along with my pot roast. I have to say I was a bit skeptical about this selection because as I've already mentioned I don't like cooked carrots and I also don't like peas.  That being said, you can imagine my delight when I tasted this risotto and found that I loved it!  The rice was very creamy and the carrots and peas were really good as well-not all mushy, cooked but yet still firm.  I can't wait until these Birds Eye steamer bags are available at the store this September because I will definitely be getting some more.  I did mine in the microwave which impressed me even more because I have never been big on microwave meals of any kind.  Usually things you pop in the microwave come out mushy, overcooked, or undercooked. Luckily, this steambag works great and resulted in a dish that taste like it was homemade! I was VERY impressed. 


Pot Roast
Printable Recipe 

Ingredients:

3-6 lb. pot roast 
extra virgin olive oil
Weber Steak N' Chop Seasoning*
5-6 fresh thyme sprigs
1 box beef stock
1 onion, quartered

*Use any seasoning you like, salt and pepper works just fine

Directions:

Preheat oven 300 degrees F.

Heat dutch oven on medium heat and add about 2-4 tablespoons olive oil.

Add roast and onions, brown on all sides.

Remove from heat and add 1 box of beef stock and thyme sprigs (I bundle mine with kitchen twine so it's easy to remove).

Cook for 3 1/2-4 hours (if using 3 lb. roast), 5-6 hours if using larger roast, until fork tender.  Remove thyme bundle and serve.  You can also cook in a crock-pot (slow cooker) on low 6-8 hours if you don' want your oven on all day. 

Serve over rice and spoon juices from roast on top! I also like to add some hot sauce to mine :) YUM!!


Monday, August 15, 2011

Chicken Pilaf

Are you ready for summer to be over? I AM!!! I couldn't wait for the warm weather and sunshine but I've had enough and I can't wait for fall. I'm sure by late November I'll be complaining it's too cold but right now I welcome the cold weather.  I am sick of sweating all day even at 10:00 PM it's still to hot and humid to enjoy sitting outside on the patio.  :( Even Greta is over the heat, she can't enjoy being outside for more than an hour before she's laying in the shade heaving.  Poor pup.

I've been trying to get rid of some over-stock in the pantry so the other night I made some pilaf (from a box) and added in some chicken and cheese...YUM!

made your pilaf per box directions


Add cheese
Add chicken
 I put 4 chicken breast in a crock pot with salt pepper and half a box of chicken stock and cooked on low all day.  After I made the pilaf and added grated Parmesan cheese I just shredded the chicken breast with a fork and added it in as well. 

I'm really liking these quick and easy meals :)  What have you been making this summer?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Chicken, Peppers, & Onions

This summer I've been extremely lazy in the kitchen.  I don't know if it's the extreme heat or what but when I come home from work the last thing I want is to get into the kitchen and cook up a time-consuming meal.  I know that sounds horrible, but it's just the truth.

So, I just decided to cook up some chicken breast, onions, and bell peppers in the skillet the other night and called it dinner.  It wasn't too heavy and yet it was very satisfying.  Perhaps I'll be making more of these easy, light meals...who knows?
I'm not really sure you can even call this a recipe.  I simply chopped up  2 chicken breast, an onion and 3 sweet bell peppers and seasoned the chicken with salt and pepper and tossed it all in the skillet with some extra virgin olive oil.  About 10 minutes later, dinner was served! I added some Italian parsley for garnish and called it a night.  And it was delicious. 

Next time you're not feeling like really cooking or cleaning a lot of dishes afterward just make this :)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Garden Update

I have been worried about my peppers. Although they are growing they weren't turning red and I was beginning to think although I bought pepper plants that were marked as sweet red peppers, they were just regular green peppers. 

But alas....
 I am happy to say my first two peppers are turning RED! YAY!!!! I cannot wait until they are ready to eat :)

A few new additions
No relation to my garden, but isn't this butterfly pretty?
Oh, and her too? She's just a beaut! haha

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Saturday Fun

This past Saturday my mom and I went to a few antique stores in Versailles and had a lovely lunch at 303 W which is in Danville.  What is now 303 W used to be a pool hall way back in the day and my grandfather actually went there often.  They have renovated the place but kept a few of the original pool tables and the original hardwood floors which I just adored.  It's such a cute little place to eat and the history makes it that much better.  I forgot my camera and didn't think about pulling out my phone to take a picture of our lunch.  So instead of showing you, I'll just tell you what we had...

I had a most delicious pulled pork BBQ sandwich with sweet potato fries. It was so yummy! The BBQ sauce was my favorite-so sweet and smokey and thick :) I like my BBQ sauce extra thick and it was so tasty with some homemade sweet potato fries.  My mom had a chicken salad wrap which she was gracious enough to allow me to try-it was also excellent! Then for dessert (not that we needed any because we were full) a chocolate chip cheesecake with fudge sauce drizzled on top.  The cheesecake was very good as well but I think I enjoyed the presentation just as much as the taste.  Again, I wish I had a picture to show you...but it came in a martini glass with 4 little individual cheesecakes and fudge sauce and whipped cream on top! It was such a great lunch.

After eating, we headed home but not before making a stop in Lancaster to visit a new (just opened last fall) butcher shop, called Marksbury Farm Market. They have a great assortment of meats and also fresh breads, local produce, pastas, grains, and diary products.  They also have some jams, honey, and even a few body products.  It's just the cutest little shop EVER! I loved it and wish I could work there :)  You can also find them on facebook.  I did remember my phone this time, so here's a picture:
Marksbury Farm Market
 This may sound so incredibly stupid but I was super excited about buying some milk there because not only is it from a local farm but it comes in a GLASS container! How cute is that? I took a picture of my loot:



Not sure if you can read the text but I thought this was pretty cute
We don't have many local stores like this and I was so glad to go there and plan on going there more often.  They were extremely busy which is encouraging-hopefully they will be in business a long time.  If you're every in my area please take some time to stop at the Marksbury Farm Market, you'll enjoy it :)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Potato Gratin

I had nothing planned for dinner the other evening and The Santa Clause was on TV. Why? I have no idea why that movie would be on in late July but it was and we were watching it.  I started dreaming of winter and Christmas time and although it was 90 degrees I wanted something warm and comforting.... I suppose I thought if I made something appropriate for cool weather it would cool down outside...HA!

I broke out my iron skillet (best gift EVER).  Let me interrupt my food talk for just a second to tell you about an iron skillet.  It's pretty much the most invaluable tool in my kitchen.  Before I got married my mom asked me what she could get me as a gift ... something I really really wanted? Well, I wanted an iron skillet. NOT A NEW ONE! EW, heck no! I wanted a well seasoned one that had been cooked with for years, preferably one in our family. My mom, being the wonderful woman she is gave me one of hers! Yup, that's what mom's do. They give you their stuff-the stuff they love but you want. They just give it to you because they love you! THANKS MOM!!! Usually, I'm all about wanting new stuff (I can be bratty that way) but when it comes to an iron skillet you really don't want a new one unless you're into seasoning it yourself.  Now, you may read several articles or even blog posts about how easy it is to season a skillet. Although these posts are true and helpful there is nothing like a skillet that's been used and well seasoned for years. You just can't get that from doing it yourself a few times. Plus I'm not really into trying, it's much easier to just get a used one :) My skillet was my mother's (she got it when she first got married to my dad, over 30 years ago) and before she had it, my great aunt had used it.  My skillet has history, sentimental value, it's well seasoned, AND it produces great flavor and food :) It can also be used as a weapon if someone tries to break into your home ;)

Okay, back to the food....I didn't have much to work with because like I said-No planning had been done. I saw a bag of potatoes in the pantry, sitting by my skillet and just like that this potato gratin was born. It's nothing fancy but it's good and satisfying and so very comforting.

Potato Gratin

Printable Recipe 

Ingredients:

6 russet potatoes, sliced 1/8 inch (use a mandoline if you have one)
3-4 tbsp butter, softened
2 garlic cloves, minced or grated
2 cups milk
salt & pepper
dash of Cayenne pepper
1/2-1/3 cup heavy cream (or half and half)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Prepare iron skillet by rubbing with butter all around the sides and the bottom

In a small saucepan bring milk to a simmer, add garlic and salt and pepper and sit aside.

Toss potato slices with a little salt and pepper cayenne pepper.

Place a layer of potatoes in skillet, overlapping them.  Repeat layers 2 more times or until you've used all your potatoes or skillet is full.

Pour enough heavy cream to come up just below the top layer of potatoes.

Cover skillet with foil and bake for about 1 hour or until potatoes are fork-tender.

Increase oven temp to 425 degrees F and remove foil.  Bake for about 10-15 minutes or until top is slightly brown then add the rest of the heavy cream (coming over top layer of potatoes) and bake another 10-15 minutes  or until top is golden brown and bubbling.


*If for some silly reason you don't have an iron skillet you can use a simple baking dish as well.  However, I highly suggest you run to your mom's or your granny's and take one of theirs ;)

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