May 222013
 

Finally, a recipe that seems fitting for a summer holiday weekend.  I made these Pasta Salad Skewers for my cooking club, inspired by a pin that I saw from Babble.  They are meant to inspire kids to eat vegetables, but I think they’re fun for adults too!

I used cheese tortellini, grape tomatoes, peppers, cucumber slices, artichoke hearts, and olives.  The original recipe included fresh basil leaves, which would have been a nice touch.  You could even include grilled vegetables like onions, zucchini, and mushrooms.

The skewers are a clever way to serve pasta salad, and would complement any BBQ.  I offered a salad dressing for “dipping” that’s not pictured.  Whether you make these skewers or not, have a great Memorial Day!

 

pasta salad skewer

Feb 052013
 

I was headed to a Superbowl party this year, and asked to make a meaty chili. I had to try a new recipe of course, and I used this Hearty Halftime Chili as a springboard.  I also wanted to use my Penzey’s Chili 3000!

The chili was served as part of a mashed potato bar at the party, which was a really fun idea! There were mashed potatoes, both meaty and vegetarian chili, and tons of other toppings. This was just my first bowl.

 

 

This chili came out pretty well – it was nice and thick which was perfect to use as a topping.  You could definitely stretch out the number of servings by adding some tomato sauce to the pot.  The chili also had a nice kick from the chili powder and cayenne, and the Italian sausage of course.  The goal was a chili that would please a crowd of Superbowl watchers. Since I took home an empty serving bowl, I think it was a success.

 

Meaty Superbowl Chili

1 lb. ground chicken
1 lb. ground Italian sausage (mild)
2 small onions, chopped
1 T minced garlic
2 T Chili 3000
1 t cumin
1/2 t cinnamon
2 T cocoa powder
1/4 t cayenne pepper
28 oz. diced tomatoes in juice
28 oz. crushed tomatoes
2 (15 oz.) can beans, rinsed and drained

Place the chicken, sausage, onions, garlic, chili powder, and cumin in a large pot.  Cook until meat is well browned.  Drain any excess fat.  Add remaining spices and tomatoes, and heat until the chili simmers.  Add beans, cover, and cook on low heat for 30-60 minutes.

 

Jan 242013
 

I know at least some of you are very disappointed that the Patriots aren’t playing in the Superbowl.  And I understand, but you still have to eat during the game, right?  I saw these Pizza Pinwheels from Recipegirl and knew I had to make them – with my own twist of course.  Her recipe makes it look easy, and even has step-by-step photos!

There are so many possible variations on this recipe that my head was spinning.  But for my first attempt, I decided to try a spinach-garlic flavor.  The dough is pretty easy to work with, although I couldn’t roll it out quite as thin as intended.  It’s also a little tricky to transfer the pinwheels onto the baking sheet, but it’s OK if a couple fall apart.  The final product was still great; these pinwheels are both tasty and cute, which is exactly what you want for party food.

I am going to try other versions, but I couldn’t wait to share this one.  You might want to make a trial version of these before the big day.  My only regret was not having homemade sauce ready for dipping, and I won’t make that mistake again.

 

 

 

Spinach Pizza Pinwheels

1 c. self-rising flour (you don’t have to buy it; make your own here)
1/2 t sugar
2/3 c. 2% plain Greek yogurt
1 1/2 T garlic-flavored olive oil (such as Garlic Gold)
1/2 (10 oz.) package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
3/4 c. reduced fat cheddar and mozzarella blend, divided

Sift together flour and sugar. Add yogurt, and stir until blended.  Use your fingers if needed to mix the ingredients into a smooth dough.  Knead briefly on a floured surface.  Roll into a large 8″x12″ rectangle.

Spread oil onto dough.  Spread spinach on top of oil.  Sprinkle 1/2 c. of cheese on top of spinach.  Roll dough into a log.  Cut into approximately 10 equal slices.  Place each slice on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray or parchment paper.  Sprinkle remaining cheese onto pinwheels.

Bake at 350F for 20-24 minutes, until lightly browned.

-Lightly adapted from Recipegirl

Dec 272012
 

I totally didn’t mean to leave for the holiday without even saying “Merry Christmas”!  It’s been an odd year, and I even skipped the Christmas cookie swap.  Then my family realized that this meant there were no cookies to serve for our family gatherings.  My sister thought it would be fun to make some gingerbread men with my nephews, and a new holiday tradition was born.

 

 

She made the dough using this recipe and brought over some cookie cutters.  We had to let the dough warm up for quite a bit before we could roll it out, but after that, it was all hands on deck.  We rolled, we cut, and we scooped the cookies onto the baking sheets.  Then we pulled up the scraps and rolled some more.  We decorated the cookies with raisins and chocolate chips before baking, and this may have been my older nephew’s favorite part!

 

 

After the cookies were out of the oven, we let them cool, and then decorated them with icing.  The recipe above includes icing directions, but we used store-bought icing tubes which were a good time saver.  Santa still had a lot of things to do!  Even my younger nephew got to play with some cookies and icing.

 

 

This was a fun project, and the cookies tasted really good!  The thin cookies got nice and crispy, and the thicker cookies were a bit softer.  Unless you roll the dough more consistently than we did, you’ll have a variety.  It may be too late for you to make gingerbread men this holiday season, but we’ll come back to this project again next year.

Nov 282012
 

Thanksgiving doesn’t stop on Thursday.  We have an annual extended family gathering on the Friday night after Thanksgiving that’s just as much fun as the big day itself.  Usually we bring a dessert (probably because we’re almost always late!)  This year, I wanted to make Joy the Baker’s Pumpkin Pie Bars.

The bars have a bottom crust made with butter, flour, oats, and pecans, and this mixture is also used for a crumble topping.  The filling is a rich mixture of cream cheese, pumpkin, sugar, and spices.  The recipe has all the right ingredients so we had high expectations.  Sadly, we were disappointed.  But don’t they look pretty?

 

 

The first problem was that the bars took significantly longer than expected to bake in the oven, and it was really difficult to tell when they were done.  The recipe indicates they should be cooked until “the center no longer jiggles.”  It’s pretty hard to see the filling underneath the crumble topping, so we ended up using a toothpick to help.

The recipe also indicates that the bars should be chilled prior to cutting, but even after some time in the freezer, the center was still very soft.  It was difficult to cut them into nice bars.  After more time in the host’s refrigerator, the bars were still messy to eat.  I think this recipe would work much better as a regular cheesecake that you enjoy with a fork.

Of course, no one at the party cared that our bars weren’t up to par.  There were plenty of great desserts, including another dish of pumpkin bars which were excellent.  So I asked which recipe they used.  “Shhhh….they’re from a box mix.”