Thursday, October 22, 2009

Turkey Meat Loaf and Chocolate Buttercream Cake and Icing

On Wednesday I cooked a couple recipes from my Barefoot Contessa cookbook. For dinner I made the turkey meat loaf. I took the advice from others and cut the recipe in half. Even the half-sized loaf was quite large especially for only two people. After the loaf had been in the oven for about an hour, I took a peak at it and noticed some…..I guess I will call it “goo,” around the edges of the loaf. At this point I went through the ingredients to make sure that I had included everything. Since I had included everything, I rushed to the blog to see what others had said about it; I guess that is the point of the blog, right?! Another cookbook blogger had experienced the same thing so I felt better about that. Even though I had purchased the leanest ground turkey from the butcher, it still had a little nastiness around the loaf. All-in-all, the meatloaf was ok; it wasn’t horrible, but it was probably the blandest version of meatloaf that I have ever tried. Because it looked a bit nasty I only took a picture of the final product.
Turkey meatloaf with corn and salad (page 138)
For dessert I made the chocolate buttercream cake & with chocolate butterceam icing. As the title implies, this recipe kept up with the theme of this cookbook: lots of butter. This recipe has so much butter in it. While I didn’t alter the amount of butter, I did use low fat buttermilk and sour cream in the cake and omitted the brewed coffee. For the icing I used 18 oz of semisweet chocolate chips and omitted the rum and espresso powder (what section of the grocery store is espresso powder in?!).
Chocolate Buttercream Cake & Buttercream Icing (page 194-196)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cooler Weather

Even though Phil and I were in different states this past weekend, we both experienced some cooler weather. I was in Chicago for the weekend. When I left Houston it was 93 degrees and when I got to Chicago, the high was 43 degrees; a 50 degree difference! I loved the cooler weather because I could finally cool down after the intense Texas summer. The city was beautiful and the people were so nice. I did some shopping and walking around the city. On Saturday night I had dinner with my uncle, whom I hadn’t seen in about 3 years, so it was wonderful to catch up with him. Chicago was gorgeous and worth the only 9 hours of sleep that I got from Thursday to Sunday. I can’t wait to go back with Phil! Some pictures from my trip:
Back in Houston, while I was in Chicago, another "cold" front come through bringing the temperature down to the 50’s. Phil kept pretty busy while I was gone: he stood in line for an hour for tickets to our church’s Christmas Pageant, participated in the service project with our Sunday School class, coached flag football (won one game and lost the other), and studied for a test that he has today. That is was a busy Saturday!

On Sunday after Phil picked me up from the airport, we went on a picnic lunch in Memorial Hermann Park (my favorite park in Houston). It was so beautiful. In the afternoon, we tried to watch the Steelers game but were having some trouble. Because Pittsburgh is so far away from Houston, we don’t get it on the local stations too much. In order to see some of the game, we watched all of the red zones plays on the NFL channel; thank goodness for that channel! All in all, it was a fabulous weekend! Have a great week Hawley Blog Readers!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cooking in Mass Quantities

Typically when I leave to go out of town, I try to cook a lot of food so that Phil has food in the house while I’m gone. To kill two birds with one stone, I cooked a lot of recipes from my Barefoot Contessa cookbook. On Tuesday I cooked the grilled lemon chicken with satay dip and curried couscous. These 2 dishes were incredibly easy and went together very well. For the grilled chicken, I halved the recipe and it was the perfect size for 2 people with left-overs for lunch the next day. The satay dip was different but tasty. I omitted the sherry and decreased the sesame oil. Next time I will probably only use half of the peanut butter because if not then the flavor is so robust that I can’t taste the other ingredients. In the description at the top of the curried couscous recipe Ina says, “it doesn’t feel like cooking” and I couldn’t agree more. The curried couscous was so incredibly fast and easy. There were only a couple of things that I did differently, I substituted dried cranberries for currants and didn’t blanche the almonds (but actually if you look closely at the picture on page 95, those almonds aren’t blanched either). These 2 dishes were so fast, I got them both made and on the table in less than 30 minutes. It was a great meal for during the week when time is limited.
Grilled Lemon Chicken with Satay Dip (page 48) and Curried Couscous (page94)
Yesterday I made the baked Virginia ham. Being from Virginia, this is a typical ham recipe that is made for Easter Dinner….so I just decided to do the entire traditional Easter dinner that way I could make sure there would be lots of left-overs for the weekend. I have was reading that a lot of people were struggling on locating the chutney. I looked in the relishes and the jams/preserves section, but I actually found it in the organic section at the Buffalo Speedway Kroger. This recipe is yummy and I would recommend it.
Baked Virginia Ham (page 119)
I also made the Shortbread Hearts and Pecan Shortbread yesterday. Since these were so similar I made them both. I followed these recipes exactly with all of Carissa’s suggestions, (i.e. rolling the dough on wax paper, only taking out of the refrigerator what you can cook at that moment, only rolling the dough ¼ inch thick, etc). This recipe makes a lot of cookies…..seriously a lot! I took about 30 cookies to a friend, have about 30 cookies at my house cooked, and probably enough dough in my freezer for another 30+ cookies! The recipe probably makes so many because they are just so delicious; I can’t stop eating them. These are yummy and will be great for the holidays.

Shortbread “Hearts” and Pecan Shortbread (page 177 and 181) as pumpkins, leaves, and acorns.

With all of these dishes filling up my refrigerator, let’s hope that there is enough food to make it through the weekend!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Football Weather

Since I am trying to begin my posts with an adjective other than “busy”, I will say that the past couple weeks have been quite funny. As I mentioned in an earlier post, this month is Octoberstache. To be honest, at this point in the month I cannot take Phil seriously anymore. Every time I look at him I start giggling. Each week he has a new “style.” It’s been pretty funny to watch.

Last weekend was super nice. It rained on Friday but after the rain we had a “cold” front come through Houston. The temperatures were low enough that Phil and I could turn the air conditioning off for the first time since March! It was nice to finally open the windows and have fresh air blowing through the house. It was such a treat even if it was only for a couple days. Saturday was Phil’s first game coaching for our Sunday School football team and it was the perfect football weather. We won both games! Go Saved2Serve!!!
Phil warming up for the second game

New Friends, Old Friends, and Guacamole

This past Saturday was the first potluck dinner for the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook Club. Each woman brought a dish from the book; I brought an appetizer, guacamole. In our house the avocado master is my husband. He makes guacamole all the time and is an avocado aficionado. I was nervous to try Ina’s recipe because I had a connoisseur taste-testing for me. But, apparently there wasn’t anything to be nervous about. It was a really simple and fast dish to make, that disappeared even faster. According to Ina, Haas are the best avocados and here is a link on how to pick the perfect avocado: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0NAH/is_3_33/ai_104836639/
This is a picture of the size and color avocados that I used.

Guacamole (page 50)

I have found that after refrigerating left-over guacamole it turns brown and isn’t very pretty. To store your left-overs (should you have any) cover the guacamole with saran wrap, pressing the plastic down so that it is actually touching the guacamole.

The dinner party was really fun! Since the club is made up of women from my Sunday school class and a Sunday School class from a different church, it was awesome to finally meet the other women that I have been blogging with. I had a blast discussing the recipes and the unique twists others suggested. I’m looking forward to the next potluck for sure!

Carrissa set a beautiful table for us
Lemonade (I have made this dish...but mine was not even close to this pretty!)
Dinner: sun-dried tomato dip, my guacamole, cheddar corn chowder, povencal potato salad, sugar snap peas, baked Virginia ham, roasted carrots, and roasted baby pumpkins. (Of these I have only made the guacamole, cheddar corn chowder, sugar snap peas, and roasted baby pumpkins)
Dessert: pecan shortbread, pecan squares, and croissant bread pudding. (I have yet to make any of these)
Ina Garten's Successors

Friday, October 9, 2009

Caramelized Butternut Squash

One of my girl friends from college, Miriam, mentioned a couple weeks ago that she was going to try and introduce butternut squash to her husband. Since I had never cooked a dish with it before and I had a recipe for it in my book for the cookbook club, I thought that I would try it also. I had never cooked, tasted, or even seen butternut squash before this and I was struggling with it (I posted a picture below in case you are like me and don’t even know what it looks like). I attempted this recipe last night and struggled with it. I went online this morning to blog about it for my cookbook club and noticed that another woman had also tried it last night and had trouble with it. Maybe my knives were dull? Maybe I don’t know how to buy ripe butternut squash? Maybe I simply had no idea what I was doing? (That last question is most likely the most accurate reason for why I struggled with this dish.) If you notice the picture below, there are two; I had every intention to cook both of them, but it was too hard for me to peel and cut even one, so I only cooked half of one and used only a quarter of all of the ingredients (omitting salt and pepper). The flavor was unique, but not in a bad way. I might cook this again if someone enlightens me on tricks-of-the-trade for butternut squash.
Butternut Squash

Caramelized Butternut Squash (page 151)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Another kind of pie

Recently I have been making chicken pot pie and lobster pot pie, but last night I made a spinach pie from Ina’s cookbook. This dish was simply delicious and its aroma couldn’t have been better! I really liked this tasty dish. Coming from the northeast coast, this dish definitely reminded me of home and the Greek-Italian restaurants that over populate New York. The only thing I did differently from Ina with the ingredients was to reduce the nutmeg to half of the suggested about amount. In the future I think that I will decrease the spinach by a 1/3 and add in some chicken (my hubby suggested sausage). Also I think I will decrease the salt by half next time. I didn’t have an oven-safe sauté pan, so I just used one of my Corningware dishes; I cooked it for the same amount of time and it was fine. I had never used Phyllo dough before this dish and it was tough at first; primarily because I couldn’t find it in the grocery store (FYI it is in the frozen dessert section). Once I had it home and thawed, I had no idea how fragile it is. Handle it with grace because it breaks extremely easily. On the plus side, a lot comes in a box so I think I might try out some baklava with the left over dough.
Spinach Pie page 163
I tried to make my picture look just like the one from the book

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sugar Snap Peas & Roasted Baby Corn

I don’t feel like I spent that much time in the kitchen this weekend, but when all of the pictures on our camera are pictures of food I realized that I must have. The first recipe for the cookbook club that I made this weekend was the Sugar Snap Pease with Sesame. Because we enjoy the taste of sugar snap peas and think they are delicious on their own, I found it very hard to add ingredients to them. The sesame oil and seeds added quite a unique flavor to these peas. Obviously because of the minimal ingredients and zero cooking time, these are an easy and fast salad or side dish.
Sugar Snap Peas with Sesame page 105. I know that this isn’t a great combination but this was what was requested for dinner. I served the sugar snap peas with a pot roast with carrots and potatoes.
The second recipe for the cookbook club that I made this weekend was the Roasted Baby Pumpkins. Phil and I wanted a snack on Sunday afternoon while the football madness was running (over and over and over and over….). I was happy to retreat to the kitchen to make an afternoon snack. I had the small pumpkins around the house for seasonal decorations so I decided to make this dish with them. There is one change that I would make: substitute brown sugar for the salt and pepper. Salt, pepper, pumpkin and applesauce is just a weird combination. I made a couple like the recipe said and then did my own variation. While I’m not trying to sound pompous, I would strongly recommend cooking my variation with the brown sugar. This dish is beyond easy and so cute. If someone is having a Halloween party or hosting a large crowd for thanksgiving, this would be an adorable appetizer. Also you could roast the baby pumpkin seeds for another appetizer.
Roasted Baby Pumpkins filled with applesauce (page 153) before, during, and after

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Family Food

Food has always been something in our house that brings everyone to the table becoming quality time spent together. I have always cherished this time with my family, especially the time I spend preparing the food with my family. Baking bread is something special that I do with my dad. Since my early teens, my dad and I have been baking bread, specifically banana nut bread. I’m not totally certain how this tradition came to be though; if I had to guess, it’s probably because either my mom or my dad got a Kitchen Aid mixer since we use the recipes from the cookbook that came with the mixer. Since moving to Houston, I don’t get the opportunity to make bread with my dad much anymore. When I do bake bread, no matter how hard I try (even when I’m using the same recipe) the bread just never tastes as good when I make it with my dad. My family is fairly consumed (no pun intended) by the Food Network and one of my personal favorite chefs is Paula Deen. For Christmas last year my dad gave me a Paula Deen cookbook. Being in the bread-baking mood, I decided to bake a loaf of bread from the cookbook my dad got me.
Pumpkin Bread

Friday, October 2, 2009

Italian Halloween

This Wednesday Phil and I were scheduled to lead the lesson and provide snack for smallgroup. I was scared that I wouldn’t have enough food, so I laid out all of the food in our dining room to make sure I had enough.
This was my version of an Italian Halloween Snack:
Pumpkin Spice cupcakes as “pumpkins” and “brains”,
mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, feta stuffed green olives,
and ciabatta bread with oil.

French Potato Salad

This was the latest dish I cooked from the Cookbook Club. This was such an easy recipe and it turned out great (not to mention it required minimal mess). Though I will say that my version of this dish does not look as pretty as Ina’s does on page 140. So far I have yet to follow a single recipe as published in the cookbook. I somehow always come up with something different. For this recipe I didn’t have the scallions so I just used a small amount of yellow onion that I already had. I reduced all of the spices because it just looked like too much for our taste buds; reduced to: dill ½ tsp, parsley ¼ tsp, ¼ tsp basil, and 1 tsp of salt at the end. I served this dish cold, because I really wanted to give the potatoes time to soak in all of the flavors. As mentioned in a previous post on the Cookbook Club Blog, this is the perfect picnic dish because there is no mayonnaise in it!
French Potato Salad (page 96)
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