Monday, March 29, 2010

more pizza

I know you're tired of reading about pizza, and I promise I make other things to eat, but Friday night's pizza was a winner and I need to talk about it.

Edwin and I sometimes (and by sometimes I mean often) talk about all the restaurants we don't have here in Murphy, and we like to bemoan the fact that Cherokee County is without a Moe's, Starbucks, Shiki Sushi or City Beverage (hello Raleigh/Durham, I miss you). One chain we love is Brixx Wood Fired Pizza.

Edwin and I are both big fans of the Bronx Bomber, and last week I decided I would try to recreate it. I went online, looked at the Brixx menu, and went from there.

Here's what I did:

I spread my yummy crust with Mom's Arrabiata Sauce, since I had it in the fridge. I bought it the last time I was at a Whole Foods. I love Mom's, and was glad to find, upon my google search, that I can get it through Amazon (even though it looks like Amazon only sells certain kinds, not including my Arrabiata).
I did a pretty thin layer, since I'm not a lots-of-red-sauce-on-pizza kinda gal.

I topped that with cooked spicy Italian sausage, prosciutto, gorgonzola, mozzarella, and fresh oregano. In it went to my 500 degree oven for about 17 minutes, and out it popped: a new favorite.

I give you The Gransee Bomber:
This is a MEAT pizza. I am not usually a meat-lover's-pizza kinda gal either, but this combination is special. It's spicy and flavorful and so so good. Since it's not exactly good for you (hello two pork products and two cheeses/wish you were here, vegetables), I recommend serving it with a big salad and going easy on the slices.

While we were eating, Edwin started talking about my bomber jacket, and he insisted I pose for the following photo. So again, I give you The Gransee Bomber:I hope you like it. I made it.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Best Ever...again

This week I tried two more best ever recipes. We threw my boss a little surprise housewarming shower on Thursday (she just bought her first home and we wanted a party). I volunteered to bring cake.

I have looked at this Pioneer Woman recipe about 20 times and always told myself I would make it. Ree calls it The Best Chocolate Sheet Cake. Ever. Even though the icing Ree uses looks amazing, I wanted to try another best recipe from Tasty Kitchen and missydew, That's the Best Frosting I've Ever Had. I was intrigued by the icing (I almost always call it icing, not frosting. What about you?), as it contains flour and granulated (not powdered) sugar.

The chocolate cake is easy to make. You don't have to grease the pan and it doesn't take long to assemble. I don't ever have buttermilk, so I did the milk-vinegar trick. Do you know this trick? You can do it with vinegar or lemon juice. Fill the measuring cup almost to the top of what you need with regular milk. Pour vinegar or lemon juice in until it reaches the line. Stir and let it sit for a minute, and voila! Buttermilk.

After I dumped the batter into my pan (I don't have a sheet cake pan so I just used a regular lasagna size one) I licked the bowl clean. Normally I have pretty good self restraint when it comes to bowl licking, and I only take a couple obligatory licks. Not this time. That batter was perfect! I must have spent several minutes on it, searching for one last dollop of batter.

My cake took closer to 30 minutes to cook (instead of the 20 it says in the recipe) since it was thicker. You can see where I used my knife (still no cake tester) to check a few times. I let the cake cool overnight.
Thursday morning, I got up a little early to make the icing. I wanted it to be nice and fresh. The icing was easy, too. I made the flour/milk mixture on the stove, and went about my morning toilette while it cooled. Then I creamed the softened butter and sugar, and combined it all. It really did look like fresh whipped cream once I finished.

Since it was 6:45, I wasn't sure I'd like it when I tasted it. But then I remembered who I am, and I wasn't surprised in the least when I wanted to lick this bowl clean. The icing is fantastic! It has the texture of fresh whipped cream (one of my all time favorite foods) but the flavor of butter cream icing. It isn't as sweet at butter cream, though, and I was instantly obsessed.
I had to wait until we had it at work to determine if the cake was, indeed, the best I've ever had, but my mind was already made up about the icing.

Final verdicts:

Any time a recipe says it's the best ever, I want to make it immediately. Sometimes I'm disappointed (Alice's cookies) but sometimes I'm beyond thrilled (this icing). Sometimes I'm just very pleased (PW's lasagna).

The cake was delicious. It's moist and flavorful, but not too chocolatey. Edwin had leftovers on Friday, and that was his main critique. He says it's a delicious cake, but in order for him to deem it the best ever, it would need more chocolate. I agree. To truly be objective, I need to make this cake again with the icing Ree uses, which would definitely up the chocolate ante.

Despite its not-overly-chocolateness, this is a great cake. It is my new go-to recipe for sheet cakes and cupcakes (Ree says it makes good cupcakes too). I bet I could, if I were using this white icing, make it in round cake pans and layer them. Then it would look fancier.

So while not the best ever cake, it is really really really good.

But the icing?

Without a doubt that's the best frosting I've ever had.

I hope you like it. I made it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Spicy Garbanzo Bean Burritos with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce*

*Edwin loves when I announce recipes that have really big titles. One of his favorite titles is "Mediterranean Salad with Spiced Chickpea Patties." He liked this name, too. I think it has something to do with the with in it.

I have really been loving the Splendid Table's weekly newsletter. Last week's recipe was Spicy Garbanzo Bean Burritos with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce. Unfortunately, I can't give you the link for it. Try as I might, I haven't been able to use my librarian skills to find archived newsletters on the Splendid Table's web site. I just couldn't find them. If you want this recipe, email me and I'll send it to you from my gmail. Or, if you find the link, send it to me and I'll put it up!

To make this easy dish, you saute onion, red pepper, and garlic until soft. Then you add a mixture of paprika, cumin, red pepper flakes, and ground coriander seeds-- follow this with your garbanzo beans and cook for about 5 minutes. The mixture turns this really pretty reddish gold color and smells amazing. Stir in fresh cilantro and spoon onto tortillas. I used whole wheat tortillas and added spinach to get all my food groups in. Top that off with the cucumber yogurt sauce and roll into burrito. The sauce is just greek yogurt, cucumber, and paprika-- it looks like pink tatziki.
YUM. Edwin and I loved this meal. It had flavors from middle eastern and mexican cuisine, which we adored. It's not too spicy, either, and really was delicious and full of flavor. We'll definitely be having this often.

Thanks, Splendid Table, preesh.
I hope you like it. I made it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

about the cookies

They were not the best ever.

The Estradas, Edwin and I sat down to do our taste test Friday afternoon. I made the cookies Thursday evening, and 18 hours later, they were hard! I was completely shocked with how crunchy they were. I love crunchy cookies, but not when they're thick.

Edwin liked the sea salt ones the best and MM preferred the plain. They softened up after a quick dunk in milk, but the best cookies ever shouldn't get so hard so fast.

I'm making cousin Laura's CCC soon.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Best Ever?

If you've ever visited Two Peas and Their Pod, you know Maria has a serious affection for cookie recipes. I was browsing her sweet treats, and I found this post about chocolate chip cookies. I love cookies, but I'm definitely not a live-breathe-and-die-by chocolate chip cookies kinda girl. (Personal favorites include Girl Scout Cookies; and cousin Laura's oatmeal cookie hearts and chocolate whoppers) But there is nothing, nothing, that makes your house smell as good as chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven.

Since Edwin and I are going to be in Raleigh this weekend for a wedding, I thought I'd whip up a batch of the supposed best chocolate chip cookies ever for our hosts, the Estradas. We love the Estradas and their four children like some people love chocolate chip cookies.

Thursday night I set out to make the best ever chocolate chip cookies. The Two Peas post is actually a reference to another blog, so here is that post and recipe.

I have to say, this was one of the more challenging recipes I've made. Alice is really specific-- she wants you to measure your flour on a scale to get exactly 3 cups. I'm not a drug dealer or an actually fancy cook, so I don't have a food scale. I did my best.

I had to buy new baking powder and baking soda, because what I had been using was 3 years old. Alice is very anti-old rising ingredients. Though this wasn't a challenge, it did require a stop on the baking aisle (I always have the rest of those ingredients in my baking drawer). I'm thinking the fresh baking powder and baking soda are going to revolutionize my cakes, which tend to sag in the middle. Surely they sagged because my rising ingredients were old?

You preheat the oven to 360. Seriously? 350, sure. 375, great. 360?

Creaming the butter and sugar together was tiring, mostly because I don't have a stand mixer (it's on the short list of items to buy) and had to use my hand mixer. It took closer to 7 minutes to make my butter-sugar mixture look like Alice's picture, and I'm still not sure I got it right.

I also don't have a cookie scoop (alternate post title: why my kitchen isn't fancy). I first tried to use an ice cream scoop, thinking it was 2 tablespoons, but you should be familiar with my math skills by now. The cookies would have been way too big to get 40something of them out of the batter. I realized this after the first batch had gone in to bake, so I have 8 gargantuan cookies and 36 regular sized ones, which I hand rolled.

The large ones obviously took longer to bake. They are thick and cakelike. I sampled one while batch 2 was baking. They're good, but very sweet.

Batch 2 produced more reasonably sized cookies and took about 15 minutes in the oven. While they were baking, I was enjoying and analyzing the flavor of batch 1 (giant cookies).

I was hoping the sea salt would make more of an impression. There just isn't enough salt in the batter to give you a crunch (Edwin calls sea salt and its crunch gristle) in every bite. So while the second batch was baking, I sprinkled a little sea salt on each cookie ball for batch 3.

I need to pause for the cause (holla Emmel) and discuss the transfer process. Is there an easy way to pick up parhment paper with cookies on it and transfer to a non-porous surface? And is my kitchen island top non-porous?

I sloppily transferred batch 2 to the counter and waited for batch 3 to finish baking.

Okay, the smaller cookies with sea salt? I love them! I love the combination of salty and sweet, and they have that satisfying crunch of sea salt.

I didn't sample batch 2, the smaller cookies without sea salt. I'm thinking the Estradas will do a taste comparison with us this weekend and I'll get back to you with results.

I hope you like it. I made it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

guest post!

My husband, Edwin, loves Saint Patrick's Day. Though green is definitely a good color on him, the day is really magic for him because of Irish Car Bombs.

I asked Edwin to do a guest post in honor of SPD2010. To read more from Edwin, visit his blog, The Isolated Movie-goer. He loves movies like I love food.

His unedited post is below.

Irish Car Bomb


1 11.2 oz. bottle of Guinness Draught
.5 shot Jameson Irish Whiskey
.5 shot Irish Cream


Pour Guinness into pint glass. Fill shot glass halfway with Irish Cream, then top it off to the brim with Irish whiskey. Hold shot glass inside lip of Guinness pint, say "Bombs away," drop in shot, and drink as quickly as possible. Final sips should taste like chocolate milk. Repeat as desired.

Guinness is a wonderful beverage throughout the year, but it only feels right to do Car Bombs, my absolute favorite drink, on St. Patty's Day...or until your supply of Jameson and Irish Cream run out. I've broken this rule just twice: my bachelor party (where I was peer-pressured into it before supper with the old "It's a special occasion" line) and about a year before then at K. Dobberfuhl's urging before we "ran around Franklin St. with our heads cut off" (and you don't say no to a Dobby).

My first Car Bombs were with a half pint of Guinness (and when I say "half a pint," I mean half of the 11.2 oz. bottle). I have nothing against that approach. You don't have to chug as much and the Chocolate Milk Effect is solid. But I prefer using a full pint. My reasoning goes back to March 2004 when school leprechaun A. Molenda got me to give the full bottle a go. We clinked glasses, dropped in our shots, and swigged it down. Sure, there was more to swallow, but at the end of the glass, not only did I feel more satisfied, but the Chocolate Milk Effect tasted more rich and delicious than before. I immediately championed the full pint approach and soon Aaron and I were putting on shows in T. Miller's kitchen and played hosts to the infamous A. McGlaughan plastic-shot-glass incident. (Whatever you do, make sure that your shot glass sinks.)

Though the ingredients call for a bottle of Guinness, our area doesn't recycle glass, so recently I've been sipping from poured contents of 14.9 oz. cans. I can't imagine chugging that much, but I'm not going to deny my eco pledge. Since the can slightly overflows a typical beer mug, I'll pour enough not to make a mess and use the remaining 4 oz. as a sipper chaser.

As for the Irish cream, some folks use Bailey's, but Carolan's tastes just as good and is a few bucks cheaper. Don't skimp on the Irish whiskey, though. Jameson is a must. Accept no substitutes.

If shot glasses are in short supply, I've resorted to pouring the shot contents into the beer and letting someone else use the shot glass, but I don't recommend it. The Chocolate Milk Effect isn't nearly as good and you miss out on the whole "bombs away" experience.

Follow the above directions, or a close approximation, and you, too, may have a new favorite drink.


Sarah's notes: I don't think they taste like chocolate milk, at all, and I don't do car bombs (I made it through about 1/3 of one once and that was enough for me). I do, however, like Irish cream in my coffee or on ice. FYI.

I hope you like it. He made it.

ammendment to (not)ABC Meatball Soup

My friend Emmel made this soup Monday night. She added the pasta to bowls and then poured the soup on top of it. I'm thinking if you use this approach you can greatly reduce the soggy effect of the noodles. Remember? My noodles, which were in the broth, got soggy and gross after a couple days? If you store the pasta separate and do it the Emmel way, I bet this soup makes for much better leftovers.

I hope you like it. Emmel made it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Barbeque Chicken Pizza

I have been thinking about barbeque chicken pizza for weeks, even before I learned to make my own pizza dough. Yesterday, Pioneer Woman made a post about bbq chicken pizza, and I knew I had to make it. I mostly followed her recipe, with one special ingredient: smoked gouda!

I used a PW dough, which I spread with a thin layer of olive oil. I topped that with barbeque sauce. We use Sweet Baby Ray's in our house, which I sometimes call Big Al's and Emmel calls the dollar kind. It's delicious. Then, on top of that, I put sliced mozzarella, sliced red onions, barbeque chicken, and smoked gouda. I baked, then topped with cilantro.

Wow. Oh wow. This is the best pizza I have ever made. The only change I'd make is to shred the gouda instead of slice it. Gouda doesn't melt that well and I think you'd get a more even spread of it if it were shredded.

I hope you like it. I made it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

inedible (but fun!)

So this isn't something you can eat, but I did make it on my kitchen island. I bring you: the well-read book wreath!I've seen several of these on different blogs lately, and I wanted to try my hand at a book wreath. To make it, I used three paperbacks and a wire coat hanger. I got the books at my library from the discarded book pile. I chose them based on their size and page color.

I used: High Profits from Rare Coin Investment, Women's Diaries of the Westward Journey, and The War with Cape Horn.

To make the wreath, start by molding a wire hanger into a roundish shape. It doesn't have to be perfect-- mine had kinks in it and worked just fine. Tear out the pages of whatever book(s) you're using. Try not to take as much pleasure as I did (I felt like such a rebel!). Fold the pages and push them onto one end of the wire hanger. Repeat until full; jerry rig the ends together (I used pliers and twine) and hang.

Mine is hung on a nail that was already in our stone fireplace. I would like it to hang a little lower (I will just use a longer piece of twine), but Edwin nearly broke his neck trying to hang it in the first place, so I'll give him a rest for now.

I took this picture from the middle of our stairs. You can see the edge of the loft-- our dining corner is under that part you see and the kitchen is next to it, also under the loft. I am great at directions. The space above the mantle could definitely handle a larger wreath, which I may make in the future.

Seriously, ripping pages out of books is too fun.

I hope you like it. I made it.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

(not)ABC Meatball Soup

I made this turkey meatball soup last Sunday for dinner. It was pretty good, if I say so myself. I used whole wheat penne instead of ABC noodles and added an extra carrot to the pot. I'm not a huge fan of using ground turkey (remember when I made turkey meatloaf?), but these meatballs were yummy. The soup made a lot--way more than 4 servings-- and I was sick of it by the third time I ate it. The noodles get a bit soggy with all the reheating as well, so this is really best eaten straight away.

I hope you like it. I made it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

PW Pizza

I preordered The Pioneer Woman Cooks, Ree Drummond's cookbook, last fall. I use it often. I also read her blog daily. I love her.

Last month, Ree taught us how to make one of her favorite pizzas, using her favorite pizza dough. I'd been looking at her pizza dough recipe for months, which is also in her cookbook, and then in February she put it up on her blog. It was a sign.

It was time to make my own dough.

Last Monday, I followed the dough recipe (I used my actual cookbook, but you can find it here, too) to a T. I put the dough in the fridge and walked away (okay not walked away, that was the night I tried to make Black Bean Chowder in my Le Creuset).

On Tuesday, I set out to make my first pizza. I decided to make a greek salad style pizza for the first go round, and this is what I did:

I broiled some grape tomatoes and garlic for a couple minutes, just to get them warmed up.
I chopped some spinach and kalamata olives.
I sliced some red onion.

To assemble, I formed my dough into a rectangle and spread it with some olive oil. I then put my sliced mozzarella and toppings on. I followed that with feta cheese, parmesan, and fresh cracked pepper.
I baked.

My pizza took about 10 more minutes than PW said it would, and I wasn't really satisfied with the crust's texture when I did take it out. It was really a good pizza, and I was mostly pleased, but I wasn't amazed like I thought I'd be.
(Please don't be grossed out by my cookie sheet. I have two, both from Crate & Barrel, both wedding gifts, and only this one looks like this. I stained it with something, and it won't come out.)

On Friday, I set out to make my second pizza with the dough (it makes enough for two crusts). This time, I decided to try my round cookie sheet with holes in the bottom-- I think it's really supposed to be a pizza sheet and I have no idea how it came into my life.

This one was perfect!

I used bacon, spinach and mushrooms, and this crust was round. Not perfectly round, because I'm not good at shapes, but roundish.
Again, it took closer to 20 minutes to finish, but it was so so so good.

I will be making this dough regularly, with a few tweaks to the recipe. I am not using my cookie sheet for it-- I'm thinking maybe it's too thick to work right?-- again. It'll be my round one all the way. The dough was also a little too bland. On the second pizza, I sprinkled some kosher salt on top of the olive oil base, which made it much tastier. I am going to add about 1/2 teaspoon salt to the recipe and see if that makes it more tasty. I may try mixing whole wheat flour in later on, but I really don't know what that would do.

Go make this dough tonight! You'll want to make it every week from now on.

I hope you like it. I made it.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Pink Grapefruit Yogurt Cake

I know what you're thinking. Pink grapefruit? In a cake?


Absolutely yes.

Edwin went to his second bachelor weekend in a row this weekend (1st one in Bryson City; 2nd one in Austin). I wanted to make him a treat in honor of his homecoming on Sunday.

I also really really wanted to make this Pink Grapefruit Yogurt Cake, since I found the recipe on Friday at Two Peas and Their Pod, my latest obsession.

It's a slightly girly cake (would be perfect for any sort of shower), but Edwin likes pink drinks, so I figured it'd be okay.

And it was.

The combination of greek yogurt and grapefruit zest makes for a flavorful, tart, moist cake. There's not a ton of sugar in it, so don't be expecting anything super sweet.

What is sweet, however, are the syrup and glaze you pour over the cake after it bakes. Oh, yum. You can see the holes on the top of the cake, which I created with a fork to allow the syrup to soak in, and the dents from where I tested to see if it was ready (I really need a cake tester. Or toothpicks). Here it is after the syrup has been spooned on. You'll see that I left the bits of grapefruit in my syrup-- I've mentioned before that I'm lazy.
After it cooled to room temperature, I drizzled on the glaze.
Edwin came home to vegetable and turkey meatball soup (post coming soon!) and pink grapefruit cake, and I'm pretty sure he missed me.
I hope you like it. I made it.

one word: HOLLA.

I'm sorry if you're like my friend Charlotte and hate when I say holla, but HOLLA.

My friend Anna (LRitter's friend from college/blond in recent facebook pics of fake back tats, you stalkers) just sent me an email:

"while reading your blog today (i'm addicted!), it occurred to me that you would probably like these emails that I get. they are the splendid table weeknight kitchen. a new recipe everyweek! the one below is from last week..."

Since I can only get like 2 radio stations when driving around in my car, I don't really get to listen to much public radio anymore. It's sad. I love the Splendid Table, and was SO excited to learn that there's a Splendid Table newsletter. Why I didn't check on this sooner, since I've long been aware of The Writer's Almanac and The Prairie Home Companion preview, I'll never know.

I just signed up for the newsletter and I am excited. Just look, just look at last week's recipe!

Curried Cauliflower Cream Soup? It's enough to make me rethink my stand on cauliflower (which is currently unfavorable).

Thanks, Anna!

I hope you like it. I [haven't] made it.

Friday, March 5, 2010


I made this Thai Chicken Soup with Cilantro Infused Rice for dinner on Sunday. I saw the recipe on the Tasty Kitchen blog last week and thought it looked scrumptious. It almost was-- if not for the salt!

I should know better than to dump in 2 tablespoons of salt, but I did it because the recipe said to.

Maybe it should say two teaspoons?

It was waaaaaaay too salty, but I just know it would have been divine if I'd used less salt.

I also couldn't really tell that much difference between regular rice and cilantro infused rice. I think I'll make this again, with less salt in the broth and more cilantro in the rice pot.

I hope you like it. I made it.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ammendment to Lay WhoSay

I followed the recipe pretty closely, but I didn't use a ham hock. Ham hocks creep me out. A lot. So I skipped it, and our chowder still had lots and lots of flavor.

Does anyone else have issues with ham hocks?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Lay WhoSay?

I love my Le Creuset. It's my favorite pot. I bought it at Home Goods last fall for quite a deal, and even though the check out lady judged me ("$120 for a pot? What's it do, cook itself?") I have nothing but fond memories of my red dutch oven.

What I don't love? Math. Math in recipes. Measurement units. When a recipe says to put things into an 8 quart dutch oven, how am I supposed to know that's not what my Le Creuset is?

It isn't, by the way. I'm thinking it's somewhere in the 5.5-6.5 quart category.
Generally, when a recipe says to use an 8 quart pot, it's because you're going to be making a lot of something and need a lot of room.

It's what happened last night with my Black Bean Chowder with Yogurt-Cilantro Relish. (The relish, by the way, is basically runny tzatziki with cilantro instead of mint)

I started the chowder and had to dump everything into my stockpot before I added the liquid, as it quickly became clear to me that my beloved creuset wasn't going to cut it.

The chowder? Delicious.

I hope you like it. I made it.