Wednesday, July 31, 2013

BTB: Homemade Hummus

Hummus is one of those foods that's been taking the food industry by storm over the past few years.  I think one of the biggest reasons it's become such a hot commodity is because the health craze.  Everyone is jumping on the health food bandwagon, but they want to still have tasty and flavorful options.  Hummus delivers in every way.  It's full of flavor, there are many options, and it's a delicious and healthy snack.
While there are plenty of  prepackaged options out there, I like to make my own hummus for a variety of reasons.  It's incredibly easy, almost effortless,  and takes hardly any time to make.  I also like making my own because I control the ingredients that go into it and I can develop the flavor profile that I like.  If I want a little more garlic flavor, I just simply add it.  A little more lemon flavor?  Just add another squeeze or two of juice.  It's all up to you, adjust the seasonings as you like. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Cobb Salad-in a Jar

Growing up, I stayed with my Grandma and MaMaw after school and through the summer.  Both of them made lunch daily and their kids would stop by on their lunch breaks, have a bite to eat and visit before heading back out for the afternoon.  My MaMaw was from the south so all of her recipes were family style, family favorites with a heavy southern influence; Mexican casserole, sausage rice casserole, the list could really go on and on.  Oh, and each meal wasn't complete without something sweet at the end; a piece of homemade pie, a scoop of ice cream, Nutty Bars, Peanut Butter Bars, or even a vanilla wafer.  My Grandma was from England, so her meals consisted of some traditional British foods but she also like to make some classic American meals, as well. 
My aunts and uncles on my mom's side, my Grandma's kids, didn't have the same lunch times so Grandma tended to make things that could be popped in the oven or prepared quickly when the kids were on their way or when they walked through the door.  Sometime she would make meals that could be made in advance, popped in the fridge and pulled out when ready to eat.  One of her "go to" make ahead meals was salad.  Now, my Grandma's salads weren't your typical salad.  They were works of art, literally.  Honestly, you could take a camera and do a photo shoot with each and every salad that walked out of her kitchen.  They were full of fresh, delicious ingredients and they were bursting with color.  She grouped each food in their own section, making it look like a painter's paint tray; a splash of bright red tomatoes here, a cluster of yellow and white boiled eggs there, vivid pickled beats on the other side.  Each item was arranged and placed on the plate with much thought and care. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

SRC: No-Knead Bread

Bread, glorious bread.  I have a weakness for this stuff.  I love everything about it.  There's nothing better than a hot piece of bread, straight from the oven that's shmeared with a little butter.  Simple yet oh. so. good!  Probably the thing that intrigues me the most is watching very few, basic ingredients come together, double in size, bake and then what comes out of the oven is a delicious, buttery and fluffy bread.  It's like magic.  Even better, I get to create that magic each and every. single. time I bake bread.  I love it.  I love the entire process, especially the kneading.  There's just something about taking that raw dough in your hands, kneading it to the perfect consistency and texture, it's relaxing and almost therapeutic. 

As much as I love the whole kneading process, I'm intrigued by no-knead breads.  Since kneading is such an essential process of bread making, it fascinates me that a delicious and fluffy bread can be made with no kneading required.  Is it possible?  I was skeptical, but I'm a believer now.  Thanks to this month's secret recipe club I found a tried and true recipe that I just had to try.
For this month's secret recipe club I was assigned K & K Test Kitchen.  Now, since I joined SRC I've eyed K & K Test Kitchen.  Not only is it a blog filled with recipes that will make your mouth water just reading about them, but I think my favorite part about this particular blog are the writers.  Kelsey and Kim are a mother-daughter duo that enjoy cooking; both trying new recipes (either  their own or one they came across in a cookbook, magazine or on the ol' web) as well as those tried and true family favorites.  The blog, that was started as a way to pass the time is now so much more than that.  The blog is filled with classics, basics, as well as the occasional rest recipe or two.  One thing is common throughout all the recipes on their site, each recipe features common ingredients that are typically located in your pantry or fridge, ensuring that you won't have to make a run to Timbuckto to get an ingredient.  As I browsed through their site, one thing after another jumped out at me. (side note-don't browse through their site while you're hungry.  If you do you'll end up coating your arem in chocolate and gnawing it off).  From sweets like caramel peanut popcorn (you know I'm a sucker for sweet and salty), to flatbread pizzas and freezer jam, they have something on their site for everyone.  My decision was rather hard this month, but after much debate I finally decided on their no-knead bread for this month's challenge, but with all intent to re-visit the above mentioned recipes and then some.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Weekly Meal Plan

Menu for July 29- August 3, 2013

Flat roasted chicken, roasted mixed vegetables and homemade bread
Corn risotto stuffed poblanos, refried beans, and green salad
Chicken, risotto balls, caprese salad and bread
Out to eat
Fish tacos, pico, salsa and cheese dip
Brisket, potatoes, and salad

DB: Chocolate and Caramel Tart

In a "celebration" of past Daring Baker and Daring Cook challenges, Lisa challenged all of us to search through the Daring Kitchen archives and pick any one we'd like! The REAL challenge was picking which delicious recipe(s) to try!

And boy was it a big challenge.  There are so many previous challenges that I've "bookmarked" in my little noggin that I wanted to re-visit for one reason or another, but to this day still haven't go back and try them again.  Well, this month we were given that opportunity for the challenge.  Even after all the notes I made and recipes I saved this month was still particularly difficult to figure out what I wanted to make.

After much debate, I ended up settling on a recent challenge.  Not because I had failed or didn't like the outcome, but because it was fresh on my mind and I had difficulty choosing which particular recipe to make that month.  So this month I decided to revisit the pie challenge and make the chocolate and caramel tart.  That recipe jumped out at me when I saw it initially, but the "Crack Pie" won in the end and I ended up making that recipe for the June challenge.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Chocolate Sheet Cake

Sheet cake.  It's comfort food.  It's one of those recipes that immediately transports me back to my childhood.  The days where my worries consisted of who was going to come over and play, whose house I was going spend the night at, and the days not lasting quite long enough for me to fit all that swimming and playing in.  Now those were the days!  Can I press rewind?  If it were only that easy!
Even though I can't press the rewind button and go back to the good ol' days, I can make recipes that bring back all those warm, cozy feelings!  Sheet cake is one of those recipes that is simple.  Basic.  And some would even it's kind of boring.  It's definitely not one of the most impressive looking cakes that screams "come to me, I'm pretty, frosted and fancy", it's more of a humble cake that sits to the side and whispers "I'm here, come have a bite if you want".  The whisper is all it needs to have the crowds gather, it is one of the best tasting cakes I've ever sunk my teeth into.  It's also one of the most popular desserts at any "pot luck" or gathering, it's always the first to disappear.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Baked Halibut with Chorizo Butter

I saw this recipe on Climging Grier Mountain back in April, and from the moment I saw it I knew I had to make it.  Flaky fish over creamy polenta, topped with spicy, rich chorizo butter.  Yes please!  I can't tell you how many times I've had this recipe on my menu, and for some reason or another each and every time I've planned to make it I haven't been ablt to.  Well, all that finally changed about a week ago.  I had everything I needed to make this recipe! Halibut? Check. Arugla? Check. Cheesy, creamy polenta? Check. Chorizo? Check. And butter? Having this on hand is never an issue, so check! 
I set out in the kitchen and fired up my stove top and started preheating my oven.  I started on my polenta and got that well on it's way.  Once the polenta was doing it's thing I prepared the fish and popped them in the oven.  Then it was time to start on the chorizo butter.  I think I was actually most excited about this element of the recipe.  I love love love chorizo and the hint of spice it brings to any dish.  And butter.  Well, butter just makes everything better.  I couldn't wait to combine this sauce and taste the goodness of the rich, buttery sauce that was seasoned with the spicy chorizo!  Oh my!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

BBQ Chicken French Bread Pizza

While I enjoy making new recipes and meals that involve different methods and procedures, some that are labor intesive and take quite a bit of time to cook, I also enjoy making basics as well as favorites I enjoyed from my childhood.  I also enjoy the company of the cutest sous chef ever, so when he wants to accompany me in the kitchen I jump at the opportunity to involve him.  On those regular occasions, I try to choose a recipe that isn't labor intensive, but has enough going that it keeps my little man's interest.
French bread pizza is one of those recipes that requires very little work.  It's acutally a matter of cutting and stacking the ingredients, then popping it in the oven to melt the cheese.  The cooking time is rather short, as well, since all the ingredients are already cooked.  Now you can't beat that when you've got a hungry bunch to feed and a young helper assisting you.  Another thing I love about french bread pizzas is that they are so versatile.  You can't spread, stack and layer any combination of ingredients to suit your taste.  These are also great when you have a house full and they all have different tastes, make everyone their own personal pizza!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Frosted Triple Coconut Brownies

Lately I've been a coconut craving fool.  I don't know what my deal is, but every single time I think about or see coconut I can't help myself.  I start scouring my cookbooks, Pinterest boards, and various blogs I follow trying to find a coconut laden recipe to make to quench my ongoing craving. 
In my ongoing quest to fill this coconut craving, I thought why not incorporate the shredded, sweet stuff in some gooey, fudgy chocolate brownies?  Sounds good, right?  I think so!  I wanted a thick, gooey brownie filled with that coconut goodness.  Then I thought, what about a thick, gooey, coconut filled brownie topped with a fluffy, light frosting with more coconut?  And hey, lets top it of with more, both toasted and raw.  Now, that's what I'm talking about.  Coconut goodness!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Semi-Homemade Refried Beans

Mexican food is a weakness of mine.  I mean, I think I could eat it every. single. day and never get tired of it.  Give me some thin, crispy chips, cold salsa and some cheese dip and I'll be beyond happy.  Add a meal to the mix and hey, that's an added bonus. 
Now when Spencer, Tucker and I frequent our "regular" Mexican restaurant, Tucker gets his trusty cheese quesadilla and Spencer and I typically split a meal.  We rarely stray from our norm which is either mixed fajitas (with a side of shredded cheese) or a sizzling bowl full of fajita chicken, steak cooked to perfection, assorted veggies, grilled pineapple and grilled cheese sticks.  Yum!  Both of these things, along with pretty much every other menu item is served with beans of some sort and rice. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Mozzarella, Prosciutto, and Peach Sandwiches

Sometimes simple is best, and less is definitely more.  As much as I love good ol' comfort food, there are times, especially during the summer months, that I tend to gravitate towards those recipes that are simple, light and quick. 
I can't count how many times I've said that I love all the fresh fruits and vegetables that are avaiable during the summer months, and how much I love to utilize all those fresh fruits and veggies, but it's the truth.  I love fresh produce.  So during the summer I keep all types of fresh fruits and veggies on hand, both for snacking and to incorporate in meals.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Weekly Meal Plan

Menu for July 7- July 13, 2013

Fish tacos with chipotle sauce
Sausage and rice casserole, green salad and garlic bread
Halibut filets with chorizo butter over cheesy polenta
Hamburgers, french fries and bbq beans
Crab cakes, corn with cilantro butter, arugula and red onion salad, and garlic cheese biscuits
Out to eat

Take 5 Granola Bars

I have long been a fan of chewy granola bars.  I remember going to the grocery and constantly eyeing those chewy granola bars and asking my mom if we could pleeeaaase get a box of those tasty, delicious breakfast treats.  And she always agreed and allowed me to get a box to quench my craving.  Well, many years have passed since I frequented the grocery store with my mom, but I still have a weakness for those soft and chewy bars.  Spencer also shares a love for those, as well as Tucker.  Since we all have a weakness for them I decided it was about time to give the homemade version a whirl.
Now I believe the most popular flavor has to be the basic chocolate chip granola bar, but I wanted to amp the flavors up a bit so I decided to take some inspiration from my all-time favorite candy bar, Take-5, and use some of those ingredients in a granola bar.  These granola bars are incredibly easy to make and they are even no bake; just a few steps and a little time to allow them to set up and then you're in business.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Fruit Dessert Pizza

During the summer it seems like people are always have gatherings, cookouts, bbq's and of course going on vacation.  All of these fun, summer events involve food.  Savory foods are always easier to think of, but desserts seem to be a bit more of a challenge.  A lot of people don't want to stand over a hot stove on a hot day, and others don't want to take the time to measure, whip and beat the ingredients.  For this reason, it seems like dessert is either done away with or a trustee gallon (or 3) of ice cream is brought out.  While there is absolutely nothing wrong with ice cream, I do like to try to think outside the box to come up with some tasty desserts that are quick and festive.
Once the end of April roles around, summer vacation is on every kids brain, and rightfully so; it's been a long, hard school year.  Quick and easy meals are definitely the topic of conversation during summer and vacation.  I, personally, love helping with the menu planning and meal preparation while we're on vacation.  As important as a meal is, I also like to have some sweets on hand, but when you're in a condo supplies are limited and specialty kitchen tools are most likely out of the picture.  So quick and easy is the name of the game.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

BTB: Panzanella Salad

During the summer fresh produce is definitely in abundance.  I always try to serve well balanced meals to may family, and during the summer I try to utilize as much fresh produce as possible.  We have a garden in our back yard so I'm definitely spoiled and I try to take advantage of all the fresh veggies that are at my fingertips during the summer months.  From appetizers, to sides and even main courses, I try to use as many fresh veggies as possible.
Panzanella salad is a terrific side that is perfect for those warm, summer days.  It's also a great way to utilize those fresh herbs and veggies that are right outside my back door.  This salad is one of those things that can be made for a main course, but is perfect for a side.  It takes no time to assemble and the recipe can be adjusted to serve both large crowds or a family of 4.  It's so versatile, that's another reason I love it.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Tzatziki Chicken Skewers

I'm lover Greek fare.  Gyros are my "go to" whenever we frequent the local Greek restaurant.  They're refreshing, lite and bursting with flavor.  Every gyro, unless otherwise specified, is topped with a creamy white sauce that is full of cucumber, dill and garlic.  It's full of sublte flavor that compliments numerous types of meat without being overpowering.
Gyros are definitely one of those things that are filling without weighing you down.  They are also portable, but if they sit for any length of time the pita ends up getting soggy and it becomes a hassle to eat.  When I started thinking of foods that are perfect for thost hot summer days, gyros were one of the first things to pop into my head.  But then I started thinking about the predicament that some people would face if they tried to make these in advance to enjoy at a park, on a boat or wherever else they wanted to venture.  If they tried to make a gyro early one morning before heading out, then it would be all soggy and not so wonderful by the lunch time.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

White Chocolate Cheesecake Trifles

I love being in the kitchen, I believe that is pretty well understood by anyone that knows me.  I love trying to recipes, both sweet and savory.  But I kind of have a weakness for the sweet recipes.  Don't ask me why.  I mean, I love my sweets but I think I actually love making them more than I do eating them.  Weird, I know.  I just love the process, I love being creative and desserts allow me to have my baking therapy.
While I love the whole baking process, there are times where even I don't want to be in the kitchen with a 350 degree oven cranked up, like on those days where it's 105 with heat index that makes it feel like it's easily 120.  Yeah, those days definitely keep me away from the oven.  So what's a girl to do when she needs to make something sweet but she doesn't want to stand over the oven?  How about a "no bake" dessert that's delicious and can be assembled in a matter of minutes?  Sounds great right?  And no, it's not too good to be true.
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