Friday, April 30, 2010

Seven Layer Dip

The story behind this dip is sort of a funny one. My step-grandmother loves to cook and when my grandfather was still alive and well they used to do tons of travelling and I was fortunate enough to go on several trips with them. One long labor day weekend we took the motor home up to Susquehanna Pennsylvania, to some camp ground that sat right on the river. It was one of the best weekends ever. I met tons of kids my age, there was a dance and the best part was a pig roast. Seeing the pig roasting on a spit over an open fire is one thing I'll never forget. Now onto the dip. Everyone made food for everyone and Grammy had this old dip recipe in her book that she asked me to make for her. Always inspiring me to cook, I gladly excepted and went to work. It wasn't very hard at all. Refried beans, sour cream, tomatoes, and olives among other ingredients, all layered together and covered with shredded cheese. When we got home, I told my mom about this yummy dip and that she needed to get the recipe from Grammy. The first time mom went to make it she happened to take the label off the can of refried beans and located on the underside was the very same "old" recipe that Grammy had given her. When Grammy came over later that day mom told her about the recipe she found on the label and handed it to her. Grammy took a look and started laughing. It remained a joke in our family for a while, but the dip lasted much longer. To this day my mom still makes it for almost every get together we have. It's one of our favorite things!! We now make this recipe from memory and while it's probably not exactly the same one on the label, it's super delicious!

What You Need:

1 can (9oz) refried beans (found in the chip isle)
juice from 1 lime
1 tsp garlic powder
1 c sour cream
1/4 c mayo (use the real stuff, not the salad dressing kind)
1 pkg taco season
2 vine riped tomoatos, diced (roughly 1 cup)
1 bunch of scallions, diced using the whites and most of the greens
1 small jar (5-6oz) black or green olives, diced
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 bags of your favorite corn chips, such as Cool Ranch or Nacho Cheese, plain ones work well too

What To Do:

Layer 1: Spread the refried beans in the bottom of a 13x9 baking pan.
Layer 2: Sprinkle the lime juice and then the garlic powder over the beans
Layer 3: Combine the sour cream, mayo, and taco seasoning together in a bowl. Spread over last layer
Layer 4: Sprinkle on the tomatoes
Layer 5: Sprinkle on the scallions
Layer 6: Sprinkle on the olives
Layer 7: Cover with the shredded cheddar cheese

Keep the dip refrigerated until ready to eat. Serve with the chips.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

How To Make: Salsa Verde

Salsa Verde or a salsa made from tomatillo's is used in a number of Hispanic dishes. A tomatillo looks like a small green tomato covered in a papery husk. They have a slightly tart, lemony flavor and are used raw in most cases. However, I like to roast them, along with the rest of the ingredients, when I make salsa verde, because it enhances the flavors. While tomatillo's are related to regular tomatoes because they are in the same family, (nightshade), it's actually more closely related to the cape gooseberry. When buying tomatillos, look for ones where the husk is starting to come off.

What You Need:

1lb of tomatillos, husks removed
1 large onion, peeled and cut in half.
4-5 cloves of garlic, not peeled
2 jalapeƱos or serrano peppers (serrano's are going to be spicier then jalapeƱos)
1/2 bunch cilantro
olive oil

What To Do:

On a baking sheet, place the tomatillos, onion, garlic and peppers. Give a good drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place under the broiler for about 2 minutes, flip everything over and broiler for another 2 minutes. You want everything to blister and get some color. Then place the baking sheet in the middle of the oven and roast at 350 for about 10 minutes. This lets the onion and garlic get nice and soft.
Remove from the oven and let cool until you can handle the garlic. Squeeze the garlic from it's peel and place everything into a blender. Add the cilantro to the blender as well and begin to pulse. Once it starts going, there should be enough liquid from the olive oil and the tomatillo's to let the blender do all the work. Blend it throughly and store covered in the fridge. Use in dishes such as enchilada's or chilaquiles, or just eat it with some tortilla chips!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Pesto Garlic Bread

Not wanting to minced up some fresh garlic, or used the powdered variety, I opened up my fridge and reached for the basil pesto that I had made recently. Pesto has garlic in it so it should make some fairly good garlic bread right? Wrong! It make the BEST garlic bread ever! I'm serious! It probably did take me just as long to do as chopping up some garlic but not nearly as much work. Just heat a little olive oil, cook the pesto for a couple minutes and spread onto one side of the bread. I promise you'll be making garlic bread this way from now on!!

What You Need:

loaf of Italian bread
1/2 c basil or oregano pesto
2 tbs olive oil

What To Do:

Heat the olive oil in a small sautee pan over medium low heat. You want the oil just warm enough to slightly cook the pesto and remove the raw garlic flavor. If your oil is to hot, you'll burn not just the garlic but the Parmesan cheese and herbs too which wouldn't be so tasty. Slice the bread through the center, seperating it into the top and bottom. On one half, spread the warmed pesto. On the other half, spread some butter. Sandwich them back together and place a preheated 350 oven for about 15 minutes. This lets the butter melt and bread to suck up all the flavors on the inside, and get nice and crusty toasty on the outside. Remove from the oven and slice into slices.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Product Review: POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice

A few weeks ago I was contacted by someone from POM Wonderful. They had come across the site and thought I might be interested in trying they're 100% Pomegranate Juice. Let me tell you how excited I was! Never in a million years did I think that when I started this site last year that people would want ME to try their stuff! So I sent her a reply with my address and about a week or so later the UPS man shows up with an entire CASE of POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice.
I have to say I was a tad nervous about trying it. I had never had a pomegranate before because of being told how tart it was, plus I wasn't sure what I could actually do with a pomegranate. My husband and I both opened up a bottle and took a sip. WOW! This stuff was really good. It almost tasted like cranberry juice but without that lip puckering tartness that cranberry juice tends to have. So I take a look at the ingredients, thinking they must have put some sort of sugar in it, but I was happily wrong! The only ingredient in the juice was the juice!
So besides the fact that it tastes pretty darn good and has no sugar in it, pomegranate juice is also full of secret powers! You know what I'm talking about! Those antioxidants that everyone is always talking about these days. In fact it has more antioxidant power then red wine, grape juice and green tea!! There have been several published studies showing that POM Wonderful's pomegranate juice has great effects on cardiovascular and prostate health. You can find out more about the great effects of of POM Wonderful's juice by visiting

Now besides just drinking the tasty juice, I made a couple things with it. First I made pomegranate molasses, which is nothing more then the juice and a bit of sugar that has been reduced down to make a thick syrup. It's used in a of greek and middle eastern cooking. To make it all you need is 2 cup of POM Wonderful Pomegranate Juice and 1/4 cup of sugar. Cook over medium high heat until the sugar has dissolved, the reduce the heat to medium low and let simmer for about an hour or until you have about 1/2 cup left and it has become thick and syrupy.
Then I made some BBQ Sauce by taking the half cup of pomegranate molasses that I had just made and combining it with the following:
1 (6oz can) tomato paste
1/2 onion, finely minced
3 cloves garlic, minced or 1 tsp garlic powder
1/3 c cider vinegar
2 tbs honey
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes

Whisk it all together, adding in water if you like a thinner consistency sauce. Bring to a gentle boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat so that the sauce is just barely simmering and let cook 5-10 minutes so that the garlic and onion has a chance to cook through. Let cool before storing in the fridge for at least 24 hours before you use it. This allows the flavors to come together.

I used the bbq sauce on some grilled pork steaks the other night and it was incredible! There is a hint of spice from the pepper and a slight tartness that compliments each other very well!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Fried Pickles

I am a subscriber to Food Network Magazine. I love all the recipes and information contained in each one. There is a recipe index in the beginning so finding a recipe you saw in the magazine is easily found again. Not to mention there is a picture of each recipe too.
In May's addition not only did I find some wonderful desserts and great pancake recipes but I found a little blurb that mentioned a recipe for fried pickles. Yes, I said friend PICKLES!! Now being pregnant I instantly gravitated towards this recipe. It's not that I haven't heard about this before because I"m sure some where among the fair and carnival eat's of fried Oreo's (which are amazing!) and fried candy bars I'm sure I've seen fried pickles. This recipe actually looks like it would work great for fried green tomatoes too! So straight from the Food Network Magazine and I give you: Fried Pickles!!!

***Photograph by Antonis Achilleos

Beat 1 egg, 3/4 cup milk and a pinch ofcayenne
Place 1/4 cup cornstarch in a shallow dish. 
In another dish, mix 1/2 cup eachcornstarch and cornmeal with 2 tablespoons chopped dill, 2 teaspoons paprika, and salt and pepper
Dip about 3 dozen cold pickle slices in the plain cornstarch, then the egg wash, then the cornmeal mixture. 
Fry in 2 inches of 375 degrees F canola oil until golden, about 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve with ranch dressing.

Friday, April 9, 2010

How To: Make Your Own Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

The first time I tried making whole wheat pizza dough was a disaster! I thought I could take just a plain white flour pizza dough recipe and replace the white flour with whole wheat. Boy was I wrong! I didn't realize that whole wheat flour sucks up much more liquid then regular flour does. I just dumped everything into the bowl of my mixer and ended up with a hard, crusty, chunky mass of just barely wet flour. So scrap that batch! I like making pizza crust entirely out of whole wheat flour and while it is possible, it doesn't have that lightness that a normal pizza crust has. Enter: a mixture of whole wheat and white flour. Pizza dough is pretty easy to make but it does take time and lots of effort especially if your kneading it by hand. The rewards however are worth it because you're getting some tasty, healthy and yummy pizza crust!

What You Need:

2 c whole wheat flour
2-3 c white flour (all purpose)
1/3 c olive oil
2 c warm water plus 1 tbs warm water (approx. 120 degrees F)
1/4 c honey
1/2 tbs coarse salt
1 tbs yeast (2 pkgs)

What To Do:

Bloom the yeast in the 1 tbs of warm water and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, with a paddle attachment, combine the whole wheat flour, 2 c warm water and the honey. It should make a pretty creamy mixture. If your yeast has gotten all frothy then go ahead and add it into the mixer. If not, and it shows no signs of becoming that way, start over with fresh yeast. Give the dough a good mix and then switch to your dough hook. With the mixer running, add in the olive oil and then the salt. Add in 1 cup of the all purpose flour and let it mix until it's completely combined. Slowly add in some of the remaining flour, about 1/4 c at a time, let it combined almost completely before adding more flour.

Once the dough starts forming a ball around the hook, turn the speed of your mixer up to at least medium. Continue adding flour a touch at a time just until the dough leaves the bowl. You might end up using only 2 cups or you might end up using more then the 3 cups of required flour. It depends on a number of factors but that's why you add the flour in slowly. To much flour will yield a thick, dense pizza crust and not be all that tasty.

Once you have enough flour mixed in, turn the the mixture up a notch or two so that the dough is slapping the sides of the bowl. This is actually kneading the dough for you. If you're worried about the motor in your mixture, then certainly knead by hand. If using the mixture, let it go for at least 7-10 minutes, doing it by hand will take longer.
Place it into a oiled bowl, turning it over once to coat. Place a kitchen towel over the bowl and place it in a warm draft free place for a few hours or until doubled in size. Punch it down and you're ready to go! This should give you enough pizza dough to make 2 pizza's.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

How To: Make Your Own Basil Pesto

I love pesto. Just the smell alone is enough to get my mouth watering. I love the garlic and basil smell that comes wafting up when your making it. It's just a few ingredients and takes no more effort then turning on your food processor. Making your own taste so much fresher, and more fragrant then what you buy in the store. You control the quality of the ingredients and how much salt is in it. The only ingredient you might not be familiar with is Pine Nuts. Pine nuts really do come from pine cones. They are actually seeds that are protected by the "scales" of the cone. The sides are often harvested by hand which is what makes them a more expensive ingredient. This doesn't mean you can go out to your back yard, collect pine cones and harvest the seeds. There are only a few pines in North America that are used and it can take upwards of 25 years for the trees to start producing the seeds. Now that you know what they are, pick some up next time your in the grocery store and give them a try. They are an essential ingredient in Pesto and can be used in several other dishes as well. Now, onto the pesto!

What You Need:

1/4 c pine nuts
2 cloves of garlic
2 c packed fresh basil leaves
salt and pepper
2/3 c olive oil
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese

What To Do:

Toast the pine nuts by putting them in a dry skillet over medium heat. Check and stir them often because once they start to toast, they can burn very quickly. Once they're cooled, add them into your food processor.

Add in the garlic, basil leaves, and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Pulse your food processor a few times to get it going, then let it rip until everything is all chopped up fine.

With the processor running, slowly add in the olive oil. Remove the pesto to a bowl and stir in the grated Parmesan cheese. You can add more oil to it if you prefer it thinner. It will last a couple weeks in the fridge, but you can freeze it in ice cube trays and thaw it when you need it. It's great on grilled chicken or fish and of course on pasta.

Monday, April 5, 2010

New York Style Marble Cheesecake with Strawberry Sauce

Cheesecake is my guilty pleasure. It is basically a blank canvas that you can take and turn into the most delightful desserts or enjoy as it is. Smooth and creamy on the tongue, New York style cheesecake has lemon zest mixed in giving it just barely a hint of tartness to cut through the rich sweetness that cheesecake is known for. Blending in some bittersweet chocolate to part of the batter, then swirling it in with the rest, makes it even better. To make it the best thing you've ever tasted, a sauce of fresh strawberries tops it off. It's such an elegant dessert that is sure to impress anyone you serve it to.

What You Need:

2 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup plus 3 tbs sugar
1 stick melted butter
3 (8oz) pkgs cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbs flour
1 cup sour cream
3 eggs
Zest of 1 lemon
4 oz bittersweet chocoalte
2 pints fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped
1/2 cup sugar
Juice of a lemon

What To Do:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9 inch spring form pan.
In a bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, 3 tbs sugar and melted butter together. Press into just the bottom of the spring form pan. This makes a nice thick bottom crust. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes or until it's slightly golden brown. Remove and let cool while you make the filling.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave and sit it aside and let cool.

In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the remaining cup of sugar, cream cheese and vanilla. To make a smooth creamy batter, you have to make sure the cream cheese is at room temperture. I take my cream cheese out of the fridge in the morning and let it sit at least 4 or 5 hours so that it's nice and soft.

Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Blend in the flour and then the sour cream, again scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl. Mix in the eggs 1 at a time until well incorpoated. Scrap down the sides and bottom once more, making sure it's all mixed well. Mix in the lemon zest. Remove about 1 1/2 cups of the batter and mix it into the melted chocolate.

Pour half of the remaining batter over the bottom of crust. Place several spoonfuls of the chocolate batter into the plain batter, using about half of the chocolate. Cover this with the rest of the plain batter, dotting again with the rest of the chocolate.

Using a knife, gently swirl the two batters together, making sure not to over mix it or it will all become chocolate. Bake in the preheated oven for about 1 hour, or until the center is almost set. Run a sharp knife around the rim of the pan and allow the cake to cool on a wire rack before removing the rim. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight before serving.

To make the strawberry sauce combine the berries, 1/2 cup sugar, and lemon juice and cook over medium heat until the berries are very soft and liquid is thick. You can serve it as is or you can blend it together and strain to remove the seeds before putting it over the cheesecake.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Roll Out Sugar Cookies

Cooking a baking are two completely different things. Cooking is like an art form. Measurements don't have to be accurate and the recipes can be changed in subtle ways to create something new that is out of this world. Baking, however, is a science. You need the right amount of leavening ingredients coupled with the right amount of wet. Measurements need to be very precise and in most cases if you leave something out or miss a step your final product is doomed before it even gets cooked! This is why I don't bake to many complicated things. It's not that I can't bake. I can, I'm just not great at it, and as you can tell by the pictures, I can't decorate to save my life! There are plenty of baked goods this goddess wishes could make but I think I'll stick to baking these really yummy sugar cookies. This recipe comes from the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion which is the absolute best cookie book you will ever find! 

What You Need:

1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 c sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large e gg
1/4 c sour cream
3 tbs corn starch
3 c flour
Assorted sugars and frostings for decorating

What To Do:

In a large bowl, cream together the sugar, butter, salt, baking powder, and vanilla until well combined. Beat in the egg. Then beat in half the sour cream, all of the corn starch and half of the flour. Once it's incorporated, beat in the remaining sour cream and flour. Make sure you scrap the bowl often, especially the bottom. Divide the dough in half and cover with plastic wrap, pressing the dough into flattened rounds. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to make the dough easier to roll out.

Preheat oven to 350. Remove 1 of the rounds of dough and roll out to a 1/4 inch thickness on a lightly floured board Using your favorite cookies cutter, cut out various shapes. Places onto parchment lined baking sheets and baking about 10 minutes or until the edges just barely start to brown. Let cool on the sheets for 5-10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to finish cooling. If the cookies are still very soft and bending, leave on the cookie sheets to cool some more. Once the cookies are completely cooled, decorated however you desire!

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