Thursday, June 30, 2011

4th of July Fruit Pizza

Although I can't be in my normal stomping grounds for the 4th of July, I wanted to bring a little of home to life with this fruit pizza.  It's something my Mom has made every 4th of July since I can remember.  You can make this for any occasion.  I think it works best in the summer with fresh fruit, but really anytime of year with any fruit would be great.  I usually buy the Nestle pre-made chocolate chip cookie dough from the store, this time I decided to make the dough myself.  I liked it a lot more than the store bought, and although it does take a little more time, it's worth it. 
I will post the cookie recipe at the bottom.  I made half the batch and it was the perfect amount!  I also let the dough cool, covered, in my fridge for two days before making the "pizza" crust.  I'm taking my leanings from the best chocolate chip cookies ever, and putting them to use.  If you don't have the time to chill the dough for a few days, it'll work great to use right after you've made it as well.
Press the dough onto a cookie sheet.  Try to get it as even and flat as possible.  I used a 9x13 inch cookie sheet, and had just enough extra for one cookie :)
Bake in the oven at 350 degrees F for around 8 minutes.  Make sure you check on the dough a couple times as the dough bakes fast.  The edges will start to brown, that's how you know it's done.
Once the cookie has completely cooled, spread a thin layer of cool whip on top.  I used low fat, just so I could eat a couple more pieces and not feel AS guilty!
This is where you can get really creative.  Since it's the 4th of July, I made a flag and sprinkled some powered sugar on every other row of strawberries for the white stripe. 
 I've eaten this with many different fruits, and they all taste great.  Bananas, grapes, raspberries, blueberries - you name it and believe it or not, it'll go great on a chocolate chip cookie with cool whip :)
What are your favorite 4th of July desserts? 
Almost the weekend...

Chocolate Chip Cookies
*I cut in half! 
2 cups butter
24 oz mini chocolate chips 
4 cups flour
2 cups brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups sugar
5 cups blended oatmeal
4 eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla

Measure oatmeal and blend in a blender until it's a fine powder. *
Cream butter and both sugars together.
Add eggs and vanilla and mix together well.
In a separate bowl combine the flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
Pour dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix until well combined.
Add chocolate chips.
Roll into balls for cookies, or spread onto a baking sheet for cookie pizza.
Bake at 350 degrees for around 12 minutes for cookies, 8 minutes for pizza.
*You can skip the oatmeal in these cookies altogether, but they do taste great with the oatmeal included!

Fruit Pizza
1/2 batch of the above cookie dough, or store bought Nestle chocolate chip cookie dough
1/2 cup cool whip, possibly a little more

Spread the cool whip in an even layer over the cooled cookie dough.
Cut into equal sized pieces.
Add fruit to each piece 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Big Green

I wanted to share a some pictures from my trip out to Dartmouth to see my brother graduate.  It was a great weekend filled with family, memories, and some new friends.  I was so happy I was able to go and see him graduate into the real world, although I did try and convince him to stay in college! "They never listen..." ;)
My Mom, through one of her many connections, found a house for all of us to fit in for the weekend.  Suzanne, the owner, rents out two houses on her property in Woodstock, Vermont.  Please take a look at her website by clicking here.  My Mom first found Suzanne because she was looking to do a walking tour around the Woodstock area, and that's exactly what Suzanne does.  The houses are both beautiful and the views are beyond words, even in rain.  Suzanne joined us for lunch the first day I was there, and was a great addition to the group.  I encourage anyone who's thinking about taking a trip out east to check out her walking tours and accomodations. 
My Grandma and one of my Aunts from my Mom's side, as well as both my Grandma and Grandpa from my Dad's side were able to all be there.  It was so nice to have us all under one roof, as it doesn't happen very often.
The house was very pretty, and had a ton of nooks and crannies to be explored.  I really loved this old barn door that led to my room.
My Mom arranged for a personal chef to come in and make us lunch.  Much more on that to come (oh my god, the food was so amazing.)  Here are her and my brother as we're about to eat!
My brother's hockey frat held a "BBQ" for the graduates and their families.  The reason why I have BBQ in quotations is because apparently that means white table clothes, linen napkins and salmon, which to me is not a true BBQ, but they're east coasters so I let it slide ;) 

More pictures to come... 


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Chicken Kabobs (minus skewers)

Can you believe it's almost the 4th of July?  I'm on a time crunch to get my red/white/blue dessert done, but hopefully I'll pull it off and be able to share it with all of you.  Kabobs are the perfect summer meal if you ask me, so I thought I'd share a great recipe for grilled kabobs that you might try for the holiday weekend.  I had pre-made chicken kabobs in my fridge from Central Market, but you could put these together yourself very easily.  We had some technical difficulties due to the wooden skewers breaking, so this isn't as pretty as I would like, but either way they were still delicious.
These kabobs had chicken, green and red peppers, onion, and zucchini slices.  You could use pieces of beef or shrimp, as the marinade would taste great on pretty much anything. 
Place around four tablepsoons of honey in a medium sized bowl.
Add oil, pepper, and balsamic vinegar.
Mix together until well combined.
I placed the kabobs in a 9x13 inch baking dish and poured the marinade over them and let them soak overnight.  Turn them at least once to make sure the other side has a few hours to soak.
This is where we had to go "off roading" and just take everything off the skewers since we couldn't really flip them anymore due to the broken skewers.  FYI if this happens to you, putting everything in a little foil packet works just as good as on the grill!  Cook them on the grill for around 10 minutes, flipping at least once, until the chicken is cooked thoroughly. 
Serve immediately.  I served with cheese and pepper pasta, which I posted about yesterday.
As promised, here's a photo of my perfect bite.  Which one looks better mine or C's?  I guess you need to be the judge because I'm a little biased.  Take a look at his bite by clicking here. These kabobs were so great, they were full of flavor, and the perfect summer dinner! 

Chicken Kabobs
4 tablespoons honey
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 teaspoons pepper
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
Pour the marinade over kabobs and let soak overnight.  
*If you can't do overnight, at least 2 hours.
Turn once around half way through marinading.
Cook on the grill or in the stove until chicken is cooked through.
Serve immediately, and enjoy!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Cheese & Pepper Pasta

I hope you all had a great weekend!!  Tomorrow I'm posting an awesome kabob recipe, but today wanted to share what I ate with the kabobs.  I got the recipe from Elaine over at The Italian Dish, she lives in Michigan, which automatically makes me like her.  Most importantly though, her pictures are amazing, and her recipes are authentic Italian. Please take a look at her blog, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do! 
I always like trying new things from Target, as I think their Archer Farms line always has new and interesting products.  I decided to try some of their organic whole wheat spaghetti for this recipe.  It was great, and I couldn't tell the difference between this and the more expensive pasta imported from Italy.
Boil pasta in a pot with salted water until cooked al dente.
A minute or so before the pasta is finished cooking, heat the olive oil and pepper in a medium pan.
Grate around a cup and a half of fresh Parmesan cheese and set aside to add to the pasta.  I highly recommend using fresh, it makes such a huge difference in taste.
Once the pasta has finished cooking in the pot of water, drain, and place into the pan with the olive oil.  Toss until well combined.  Keep the pasta water!!
Add the Parmesan cheese and stir until combined and melted.  Add a tablespoon or so of the pasta water to make it easier to combine.
This pasta has very little ingredients in it, but the simplicity is the best part; it's light but full of flavor.  Make sure when you go to make this you have good pasta, fresh ground pepper, freshly grated Parmesan cheese and you won't be disappointed!
This is C's perfect bite, it does look pretty yummy.  Tomorrow I'll show you mine so you can compare.  Happy Monday everyone!

Cheese and Pepper Pasta
Adapted from: The Italian Dish
8 oz whole wheat spaghetti
3 tablepsoons olive oil
2 teaspoons freshly cracked ground pepper
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan reggiano cheese

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, and boil the spaghetti until al dente.
In a large skillet heat the olive oil and pepper.
Saute gently for a couple of minutes.
Once the pasta is cooked drain and place into the skillet. *Keep the pasta water
Swirl to coat the pasta with the olive oil and pepper.
Add the cheese and continue swirling to cat.  
Add a tablespoon or so of the pasta water until everything is well combined.
Serve immediately.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Desserts... again.

I have one more dessert recipe for you this week, but man oh man it's a good one!  The is the final recipe I'll give you from my Central Market cooking class; chocolate ganache.  First, I do want to prove to you that I didn't just east desserts all night.  We did have some dinner before we got down to business.  I loved these flowers too, Central Market has a great flower selection and I thought this was a proud display for us to enjoy while in our class!
Can't really go wrong with salami and cheese.
Add some carbs and a small salad and I was good to go.  And by go I mean ready to chow down on dessert.  :)
I was so hungry I used three spoons all for myself.  Just kidding!!  This was a bowl of ganache that they had made ahead of time, chilled and we rolled them into truffles.
In this case we made truffles with the ganache, but you can do many other things with it too.  The plan was rolling the chocolate in either nuts or cocoa. 
And we were off!  I'm not sure which I liked better, both were creamy and delicious.
This is a great finger dessert to make if you're having people over, also great as a little gift.  Plus they look like they took a lot of work - when in reality you didn't have to do that much, which is always a plus.
There are a lot of additions you could make to these too.  We used just chocolate and heavy cream, but you could also add brandy or triple sec.  You can also use bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, which ever you prefer. 
Hope everyone has a great weekend :)

Ganache into Truffles
Adapted from: Central Market cooking school
1.1 pounds of semi sweet chocolate
2 cups of heavy cream

Bring heavy cream to a boil over a double boiler.
Pour over chocolate in a mixing bowl and stir thoroughly.
Strain through a sieve.
Put in a bowl without covering and put into fridge.
Take out of the fridge and roll into balls, you must work fast as the chocolate comes down to room temperature very fast.
Roll in nuts, cocoa power, or whatever you wish.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Basic Desserts from Central Market

As I've stated many times before, one of my favorite places here in Dallas is Central Market.  I could wander around the store for hours and be content.  I also enjoy taking their cooking classes from time to time.  This time instead of a type of cuisine I decided to try the desserts class.  Hey, someone had to go otherwise the chefs would be bored with no students!
We made a couple different things, and the pictures show the steps throughout the process.  This was the start of a baked custard recipe.
We made them in ramekins (cutest thing ever if you don't have any!) and shredded some fresh nutmeg on top before baking them.
I've never seen a whole nutmeg or smelled one, and wow have I been missing out.  It's amazing and so fresh, the next time I am baking something that uses it I'm going to try using a fresh one instead of the jarred.  I'll keep you posted on that!
Baking away!  We worked hard and deserved the desserts when we were finished.
Weird how it was all women.... not.
Fresh (and huge) raspberries for the berry sauce.
For the custard we made a berry sauce and an Anglaise sauce to put on top.
They also showed us how to make designs on the plate by mixing the two.  Makes for a very beautiful presentation.
Besides putting the sauces on the custard, we used them for a bottom sauce for a sponge cake.  Very festive!
We made a ton of recipes, I'm going to share with you the berry sauce, and one other, but that's for tomorrow.  I loved the berry sauce because it was so versatile.  You could use it in so many dishes, and it would taste great in all of them.  Plus it's pretty simple.  We used it to top off the custard and for our sponge cake, but it would be great on top of brownies, ice cream, angel food cake, pancakes, waffles, or even straight out of the jar and into your mouth! 

Berry Sauce
Adapted from Central Market cooking school
3 cups frozen raspberries
3 tablespoons Grand Marnier or wine, to taste
2-4 tablespoons of sugar, to taste
3-4 tablespoons super fine sugar*

In a food processor puree all ingredients until smooth.
Pour puree through a fine sieve into a bowl, and chill covered.
Sauce may be made up to two days ahead and chilled and covered. 
Serve over your favorite dish and enjoy!

*To make super fine sugar, take regular sugar and pulse it in a food processor for a few minutes.  That'll make it break down so it's super fine.