"It's the company, not the cooking, that makes the meal!" ~Perilee 
(Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Margherita Pizza--LOVE IT!!

No Matter how you shape this pizza it is AWESOME! This is Jack and mine new favorite. I pulled a portion of the Basic Pizza Dough out of the freezer one afternoon and thought I would give this recipe a try. It was so incredible and simple! Jack thought it tasted so good that he asked me everyday when we were having pizza again. I luckily had just planted a large Basil plant in my kitchen window so I didn't have to run to the store.
"The story of Margherita pizza is a colorful one. In 1889, Queen Margherita visited Naples. In her honor, a bread maker dressed up his flatbread to reveal the Italian colors--red tomatoes, white mozzarella, and green basil. Suffice it to say, it was a big hit and the rest is history.

1 portion of Basic Pizza Dough

Assemble Pizza with:
3/4 cup Roma tomatoes coarsely chopped or sliced 1/4" thick
  (I use the big slicing tomatoes that I always have on hand for sandwiches and it worked great too.)
3-4 oz Mozzarella,  thinly sliced (I personally just used shredded Mozzarella)
Sea salt or Kosher salt to taste (Jack prefers the Kosher salt)
Extra-Virgin olive oil

Bake; Brush with:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Finish with:
8 Fresh Basil leaves whole of chiffonade (thin strips) Chiffonade is our recommendation

Preheat oven and stone to 500
Shape dough, pressing and stretching into a 10-12" round (or rolling with a rolling pin into a thinner 12-14" round.) Lift dough onto a peel that's been dusted with cornmeal or flour (we found cornmeal works best).
Assemble pizza with tomatoes, leaving a 1" margin around the edge; top tomatoes with cheese and sprinkle with salt. Drizzle olive oil in s spiral motion from the center of the pizza to the outer edge. (I personally brush the oil on the dough before I put the toppings and call it good.)
Bake assembled pizza on preheated stone 5-8 minutes, or until the edges and cheese are golden brown. Slide peel under pizza to remove. Brush crust edges with oil (I have never done this).
Finish with fresh basil, slide pizza onto a cutting board, slice, and serve

Bruschetta Salad

It seems as if my life in the kitchen is finally picking up again.  There were a couple of weeks where everything I tried didn't really do anything for us!  We tried lots of new recipes and didn't find any we really enjoyed--that really makes me burn-out with cooking in a quick hurry. No one likes to slave over dinner only to be disappointed.  

Then the past week we have had some really big hits. One that is quick and refreshing is this salad. I love salad and I can't wait until we have our home grown tomatoes and basil to add to it.

1/2 cup Tomato, chopped (Roma or Plum tomatoes have less juices inside) More tomatoes makes it better so add more if you wish!
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh Basil
1/2 cup Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing (We like Newman's)
10 oz torn Romaine Lettuce (I like to mix it with Iceberg too.)
1 cup Croutons
6 oz Grilled Chicken Breast
2 Tablespoons Grated Parmesan Cheese

Combine the tomatoes, basil, and dressing; set aside.
Place the lettuce in medium serving bowl; top with croutons, chicken, and tomato mixture. Sprinkle with cheese. Serve immediately. Serve with a nice roll.

** Not everyone is a big fan of Balsamic dressing or maybe even tomatoes so I forgo mixing the tomato, basil, and dressing together an serve them seperately so that everyone can build their salad to their liking. If you like bruschetta you are going to love this refreshing salad!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Frozen Tiramisu Squares

One of Jack's all time favorite desserts is Tiramisu so when I see recipes for it I have to give is a shot for his benefit. I found this recipe on Betty Crocker's website. We enjoyed this recipe and it has inspired me to make my own variations too. If you don't like the flavor of coffee then you might want to consider this: I think it would be wonderful to replace the coffee with orange extract or zest in the crust part! Then leave it out completely in the cream cheese chocolate layer so that you just have Chocolate. I love orange and chocolate together so I can't wait to try it with Orange or maybe even Raspberry flavors. 

1 cup Original Bisquick® mix

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup baking cocoa

1 Tablespoon instant espresso coffee (dry) (I use Regular Decaf!)

1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted

2 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese, softened

1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk

1/4 cup frozen (thawed) orange juice concentrate

1 teaspoon instant espresso coffee (dry) (again Regular Decaf)

1 Tablespoon hot water

1/4 cup chocolate-flavored syrup

1 1/2 cups whipping (heavy) cream

Baking cocoa, if desired for garnishing on top

Heat oven to 350ºF. Spray 13x9-inch pan with cooking spray. In medium bowl, mix Bisquick mix, sugar, 1/3 cup cocoa, 1 tablespoon coffee and the butter until crumbly. Crumble mixture lightly into pan. Bake 6 minutes; cool.


In medium bowl, beat cream cheese with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Gradually beat in milk. Place about 2 cups of the cream cheese mixture in separate bowl. Add juice concentrate to cream cheese mixture in one bowl. Dissolve 1 teaspoon coffee in hot water; stir coffee mixture and chocolate syrup into cream cheese mixture in other bowl.


In chilled medium bowl, beat whipping cream on high speed until stiff. Fold half of the whipped cream into each cream cheese mixture. Cover and refrigerate chocolate mixture. Spoon orange mixture over crust.


Freeze crust with orange mixture about 1 hour or until firm. Spread chocolate mixture evenly over orange mixture. Freeze about 4 hours or until firm. Let stand 10 minutes at room temperature before serving. For squares, cut into 5 rows by 3 rows. Sprinkle each serving with cocoa. Store covered in freezer.

High Altitude (3500-6500 ft): No changes.

Tender Pot Roast

I modified a recipe I got for "Flavorful Pot Roast" from Quick Cooking magazine. This pot roast is tender, delicious, and SIMPLE--my favorite part for throwing together a low maintenance meal.

2-3 Boneless Beef Roast (I have used Chuck, Rump, etc and they all turn out great!)
1 envelope Ranch Salad Dressing Mix (dry)
1 envelope Italian Salad Dressing Mix
1 envelope Brown Gravy Mix
1/2 cup Water

Mix the dry salad dressing mixes and the gravy in a small bowl. Then rub on the meat. Add the water.

Add on top:
3 Ribs celery finely chopped
Potatoes of choice (Typically around 3-3.5 lbs or I count out what I think I will need per person)
Carrots (I use 1 - 1.5 lbs of the baby carrots for ease. When I don't have them I peel and cut regular carrots and cut them in about 1-inch thick pieces.)

Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours or until meat is tender. If desired, thicken juices for a gravy (I seldom do this! It is great without it.) Often times the roast is so tender that if I don't use and electric knife it shreds and ends up looking more like pulled beef, either way it is wonderful.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Food can be Healthy and Fun!

I have to post this picture of Cameron! I had slices fresh strawberries for their breakfast and when I came back into the dining room he had created a flower in his oatmeal and he was so proud of it. "Do you like it mom? It's beautiful!" I had to agree and make it a kodak moment.
Quin wanted to participate once Cameron started getting his picture taken. So he threw a few strawberries in his bowl and called them "Decorations! Do you like my Decorations mom?"
Having these little mouths to feed, that are willing to put up with all my trial recipes is one of the greatest blessings in my life.

French Toast for Challah or Sandwich Bread

This recipe comes from The New Best Recipecookbook. We made it for our Sunday lunch because Cameron wanted French Toast. This is a rare treat at our house. I love it and so does everyone else, so don't ask why we don't make it more. I won't have a good excuse!;-)

It makes 4 to 5 slices from Challah bread (whatever it is I can't get it here!) or 6 to 8 slices High-Quality Sandwich bread is what the recipes states it would yield. We used Montana Wheat bread, because that is what we had and probably the best quality I will be buying for now. (For those of you in UT it is similar to Granny bread) We got 6 slices out of the recipe. So do yourself a favor and double it right from the get go. The cookbook says that they made this French toast sweet enough to eat by itself, but not to sweet so you can still add fruit, sugar, or maple syrup if you desired. We had to try the different toppings. I like the freshness of the fruit and powdered sugar, but syrup was hands down our family's favorite way to eat it up.

1 large egg
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Day old bread 3/4" thick or Day old High Quality Sandwich bread
Unsalted butter for frying (1 Tablespoon per batch) ** we used more like 1 1/2 teaspoons

Heat skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, beat the egg lightly in a shallow pan or pie plate; whisk in the melted butter, then the milk ad vanilla, and finally the sugar, flour, and bread without over saturating, about 40 seconds per side for challah or 30 seconds per side for sandwich bread. Pick up the bread and allow the excess batter to drip off; repeat with remaining slices.

Swirl 1 Tablespoon butter on the hot skillet. Transfer the prepared bread to the skillet in a single layer; cook until golden brown, about 1 minute 45 seconds on the first side and 1 minutes on the second. Serve the French toast immediately. Continue adding, 1 tablespoon butter to the skillet for each new batch. ** see not in recipe for cutting this down.

Cameron's French Toast
Cameron is my budding little artist and chef. He sees me having fun with trying to make a nice presentation of food on our plates, so he has do do his own versions too. It is really cute and a lot of fun to see what he comes up with and hear him explain it to me.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Pork Chili Verde Tacos

I got this recipe from the Sisters Cafe, it was a hit with my family. I loved that it was low maintenance to prepare. My brother-in-law loved the change from the regular tacos that they usually have.  We added more toppings then they suggested which made these taco's even all the better.  We served it with a side of Mexican rice (which we don't have a great recipe for so if anyone has a good recipe to pass on to us we would LOVE IT!) It makes a lot so if you aren't having company over and have a small family, freezing the left overs worked well for us.

3 pounds pork roast, fat removed as much as possible -They sell a three-pack of pork roast at Costco (*If using a roast any larger than 3 lbs, double the remaining ingredients)

1 onion chopped

3 cloves garlic crushed

1 10oz can green enchilada sauce

1 4oz can diced green chilies

1 14oz can diced tomatoes with chilies 

2 chicken bouillon cubes

½ tsp cumin

½ tsp oregano

¼ tsp pepper

The original instructions are included, so you can choose your method. Crockpot vs Oven

In a large pot or fry pan, over medium heat, brown meat, then add onion and garlic and saute a few minutes. Place in crockpot. Stir in the rest of the ingredients, cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours. 1 hour before serving, remove roast and set aside. Strain out the onions and tomatoes as much as possible and put with the roast. Pour remaining liquid into a large saucepan. (I place the roast and strained solids back into the crockpot, TURNED OFF, with the lid on to keep warm.) Bring the liquids to a boil on the stove, and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring every now and then, until considerably reduced. (If you are in a hurry like I seem to be most dinner times no matter how much I think I have prepared ahead. How does that happen? I used to small frying pans and split the liquid in half and it reduced in 15-20 minutes, depending on who thick you like your sauces.) The point is to concentrate all the liquids to make a thicker sauce. This is a very important step, because all the flavor is in this liquid, and you want to preserve all that flavor for the meat. If meat has too much liquid it runs out the back of the burritos. (You could also opt to drain the tomatoes at the beginning to make this step go faster.) Mix the thickened sauce into the shredded meat and serve. Serve with warm tortillas, Monterey Jack cheese, cilantro, diced tomatoes, avocado, sour cream, and lettuce (Sister Cafe recommended Monterey pepper jack is good too.)

Original instructions say: Cube roast. In a large heavy pot, over medium heat, brown meat, then add onion, garlic and ½ cup water with the bouillon cubes. Cover for 15-20 minutes then stir, getting all the brown bits off the side of the pan. Stir in the rest of the ingredients, cover and cook on low for 2-4 hours (or in oven at 300°).

Taco Soup

Happy Cinco De Mayo! I love a good reason to have a gathering and good food. So today I thought I would post more Mexican Flavored dishes that I haven't posted yet, that our little family enjoys.
Growing up I remember my family eating Taco soup often. It is a comfort food and we enjoy it! I have tried a few different versions on Taco soup now, but I still love the my mom's soup recipe the best. Because I usually have all the ingredients in food storage and the spices are simple and not overbearing.

1 lb Hamburger, ground
1 onion, finely diced
1 pkg. Taco Seasoning
1 can Kidney Beans, rinse and drained
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1 can corn
1 can olives, sliced
Grated Cheese
Sour Cream

Brown hamburger and onion together, drain off fat. Add seasoning and all canned ingredients. Simmer 20-30 minutes. Serve topping with cheese, chips, and sour cream.

*We love homemade tortilla chips too. The ones in this picture can be found under the snack label. These are a tasty substitute when you don't have actual chips to crush on top. I always have tortillas on hand so it works nicely.