Blog number two.... it might explain my current lack of enthusiasm for blog number 1

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Pizza, Pizza!!

I can honestly say that I have never made my own pizza. Pizza is usually reserved for those nights when something is going on and there is no time for cooking. Or, since we have a great little Italian restaurant in this tiny town - when the craving strikes!

While we do have a great Italian restaurant, one thing my tiny town does not have is a great grocery store. I was actually shocked to see them selling feta cheese. They only had one kind of canned seasoned tomato sauce, and it was "lasagna style". I figured, "what's the difference?". And, yes, I am sure there is one but at this point... I had no alternative. It worked just as well.

I know I said one of the first things I was going to make when I got the Kitchen Aid was homemade bread. But I am a little scared of working with yeast. I never have.... not that I have ever let that stop me from doing anything else, but I am just not ready yet. I have found comfort in using a great alternative to yeast - beer. Every time I make beer bread I get ohhhhs and ahhhhs of pleasure. If you haven't made it yet.... you really need to.

While browsing pizza dough recipes and sighing at the amount of them that called for yeast, it hit me...... why should this be different from my beer bread? It is the same basic concept isn't it? So I searched for "easy pizza crust" and found this golden treasure...

Easy Pizza Crust
source - Internet

1 cup self rising flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan
2/3 cup beer
1 tablespoon olive oil

Combine the first 3 ingredients, then add the next two and stir until smooth and thick (like biscuit dough). Spread over 12" or 13" round pizza pan sprayed with Pam. Bake at 375* for 15 minutes (without toppings)


I used shiner bock beer for this because it is a really dark and full bodied beer and I was hoping it would add a great level of flavor to the crust.

It did, but next time I will just use Michelob Ultra, it just adds a "cracker" taste to dough. Instead of making round pizzas I made two rectangles and I also used my baking stone. I sprinkled it with cornmeal before I, literally, spread the dough out. Don't let the name fool you, this is not a traditional "roll it up into a ball and then roll it out with a pin" dough. It almost has the consistency of batter. I would advise baking it for a little longer if you want a crunchy crust, I wish I had of. Just make sure it doesn't burn. This is what my more visually appealing crust looked like:

From here I sauced them both up with Hunt's Lasagna Style tomato sauce and dubbed Bradley's a "Meat and Cheese Lovers" and mine "Spinach Artichoke and Feta".

The crust was actually very good. Frozen pizzas always have a WAY too thick crust for me. I actually prefer a hand tossed pizza but I want the crust that is under the sauce and toppings to be just paper thin. This was slightly under the "mid way" point of the two, leaning more towards the thin side.

Bradley's had a layer of "5 Cheese Italian Blend" shredded cheese, pepperoni, spicy Italian sausage, bacon and another layer of cheese.

Mine had the cheese blend, spinach, marinated artichoke hearts and feta crumbles.

I put them both back into the oven at 375 for about 25 minutes. The exposed crust really "crunched" up the way we both prefer it to.

Williams Sonoma

Ah how I love thee!! And now I have an even better reason to love it, there is a chance I could win a $50 dollar gift card just by mentioning the contest to win a $50 gift card!

If you want to also sign up to win, please visit The Clean Plate Club and follow the instructions to enter.

If I win it, I would definately buy this herb mill, and still have money left over to get something else!

Platinum Chef Challenge

I use to share an office with Jaime from "Burnt Toast" and one of our favorite things to discuss was food. What we cooked for dinner last night, what we were going to cook for dinner tonight, what new seasoning we found that the other one needed to try out.... you get the point. We are FOODIES :) In fact she is the reason that I started this blog. So, imagine my delight when I get an email from her clue-ing me in to this extremely fun contest that is completely centered around cooking!

It's called the Platinum Chef Challenge, and it all started here. Have you ever seen Iron Chef on food network? It is one of my favorite shows. Two great chefs enter and await the unveiling of the secret ingredient. Once it is revealed, they have one hour to take that ingredient and turn it into several different dishes and then they are judged on those dishes and a winner is chosen. I would love to do it! The dishes can be as simple as a bite sized appetizer or as complex as a multiple serving main dish.

The difference between the two, other than one is broadcast for the entire world to see and you pretty much have to be a famous chef to be on it, is that in this challenge, you get 5 secret ingredients.

This time around, the ingredients are:
cream (of any kind, as long as the word "cream" is in the name)

As soon as I saw the list I knew exactly the route I wanted to go. Seafood!!!! I immediately scribbled down the recipe and called my favorite grocery store to see if they had any fresh sea bass. They did not, but offered to order me some. That's why I love them and do all my shopping there.

My Platinum Chef entry will be:

Broiled Sea Bass with a Creamy Lemon Caper Sauce, served over a bed of Garlic Rosemary Leeks

Hopefully my fish will come in soon and I will be able to post up the experience before this weekend.

Monday, March 24, 2008

They should just grow cream filled!

When we thought we were going to get off easy and only have to attend one Easter celebration this year, I had written a special recipe for green beans and planned on making that. Then the weekend filled up.... FAST! I spent Friday night washing clothes and cleaning house so I could get up early Saturday and make two desserts and start Saturday night's dinner in time to be at a friend's daughter's second birthday party at 1:30 pm. I was 30 minutes late. I was very busy! The first dessert was the chocolate pie everyone around me has grown so fond of. Only, to make it extra pretty for Easter, I lined the top with strawberry halves and filled in the center of that with mini chocolate chips. I had a request that more chocolate be on top, haha! As if the center of the pie wasn't enough. I also used Ghirardelli chocolate this time..... yum! I should of snapped a picture, it was VERY beautiful!

Dessert number two was something that I found a while back here and couldn't wait to try out. Mine did not turn out nearly as pretty... but I'm sure they were just as tasty! I did change the filling recipe up a lot though. The best part was hearing people say, "I've never heard of stuffing strawberries" and then watching them dissappear :)

Stuffed Strawberries
recipe by me, based on above link

2 pounds of strawberries
4 large egg yolks, I used SafeEggs
3/4 cup of sugar
1 tpsn vanilla extract
2 cups mascarpone cheese

Beat the egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and cheese.

To prepare the berries for stuffing, I washed them and cut off their greenery. Then I took the tip of my knife and stuck it in the opening of the berry, where it is hollow inside, and just twisted it to open it up a little more.

I put the cheese mixture into a pastry bag and filled each hollow and set it cream side down into a dish, then I swirled the top with the mixture so people would have a vision of what was to come.


Once I got into the swing of stuffing them, it was a breeze. I initially started by trying to carve out the insides and that just became too tedious. Amber's Delectable Delights shows another way to stuff them, and that would of worked if my berries had been a little more firm. Either way.... extremely tasty!!

Different as Black and White

I am continuing to learn about cooking. I learn new things each time I cook and remember to either do it again or never do it again. This weekend I learned an important lesson.

Do you know the difference between black pepper and white pepper?

Let me enlighten you.

Black pepper is the entire peppercorn either ground or finely crushed, based on preference. It does have a kick to it. It is also harder for your body to digest.

White pepper is what remains of the peppercorn once the outer black shell is removed. It is much milder and easier for your body to digest.

When you are in the middle of a recipe and it calls for an amount of white pepper and all you have is black.... do not use the same measure of black pepper. Use about half of what it calls for. Trust me.

Now that we have that out of the way, we can go on to talk about my new favorite kind of mashed potato, the garlic rosemary kind.....

Garlic Rosemary Mashed Potatoes
based upon the original recipe found here

2.5 pounds of yukon gold potatoes, washed and cubed (peels remain)
2 tblspns of olive oil
1 & 1/2 tspns of minced garlic - which is about 3 cloves
2 tspns of dried rosemary - is you have fresh, it would work so much better, just mince it first
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tspn salt
1/4 tspn black pepper
8 ounces of cream cheese, cubed

Boil the potatoes. Meanwhile, saute the oil, garlic and rosemary. Once the potatoes are fork tender, transfer to your Kitchen Aid (or you can hand mash, this is just easier) and pour the garlic and rosemary mixture over them. Stir together. Pour the milk, salt and pepper over the potatoes and start the mixer. I kept it around the 2 - 4 speed. Once it is starting to look like mashed potatoes, drop the cubes of cream cheese in one at a time until they are well blended.


SO good! I really wish I had of splurged and bought fresh rosemary, because it wasn't as strong as I felt that it needed to be. The measure for black pepper IS correct in the above recipe, i used double that and really regretted it. It wasn't so bad that you couldn't enjoy the dish, but you could tell they were "over peppered". I plated mine up covered in the gravy from the roast - it was perfect!

Happy Easter!

This year, my Easter basket was something that wouldn't just get shoved into a closet until it could be refilled next year. In fact, it was something that will get refilled time and time again before I even see Easter 2009! Now, THAT'S a riddle ;)

This was my Easter basket -
And I couldn't be happier.

It isn't just a crock pot. It is stoneware. The "pot" part can be removed and actually set on the table. If you didn't know it just came out of a "crock" you would never be able to tell! All this and it was only $40 at Lowe's.

The first meal I cooked in it had to be superb. My in-laws were coming over on Easter Eve for a quiet pre-Easter dinner. I always feel the need for everything to be perfect when they come over. I don't know why. I guess I want them to know that Bradley is in good hands. So for this meal, nothing could be store bought!! Well... if it was, they should not be able to tell! I had it planned out perfectly - a slow cooker pot roast, garlic rosemary mashed potatoes, my wonderful cheesy beer bread and the cute little cream puff parfaits for dessert. The original slow cooker roast recipe can be found HERE But of course I made a few simple changes.

Slow Cooker Pot Roast
based on Paula Deen's recipe

2 pound boneless chuck roast
herbs De Provence
olive oil
one onion, sliced
baby carrots
3 bay leaves
3 crushed beef bouillon cubes
1 clove minced garlic
1 can condensed cream of mushroom with roasted garlic soup
1/2 cup Chardonnay wine

In a cast iron skillet, heat up enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the skillet. Rub the entire roast with herbs De Provence (or whatever seasoning you prefer, I just wanted to use my new spice). Once the oil is REALLY hot, use tongs to position the roast in the pan until all sides are brown.

Transfer the roast to the crock pot and arrange the onions, carrots, bay leaves, crushed bouillon and garlic around it. Spoon the condensed soup on top of the veggies and pour the wine on top of the soup. Finish with 1 & 1/2 to 2 soup cans filled with water, pouring it over the veggies also. Cook on "low" for 8 hours.

If you prefer a thick gravy - Once the 8 hours is up, spoon out about 2 cups of the juice. Mix it with 2 -3 tablespoon of flour and pour it back in. Stir it together with the rest of the juices and hold it on the "warm" setting until ready to eat.


I haven't had much luck with cooking a roast in the past, but this one really shined! It was perfectly juicy. The searing before cooking really added a lot to the dish!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

what do YOU see?

I am constantly bringing home something new for the kitchen. Whether it be something to cook with or something to dish it up in or something to just set there and look pretty. I am particularly fond of anything solid glass. In fact, I have two cabinets devoted to nothing but glass. I have pilsner glasses, juice glasses, tea glasses, shot glasses, martini glasses.... well, you get the idea. My most recent glass adoption was a 5 piece set of some very odd bowls. Bradley just does not understand my obsession. He always asks, "Now... what are you gonna do with that???". And my response is almost always the same, "I would rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it". That usually quiets him up long enough for me to prepare something delicious to eat out of it, and then he gives it the "okay" to stick around the Webb house.

But I think I know what his problem is. He can't see outside the box. You see, when he looks at those very odd bowls, he just see this -

But, when I look at those very same odd bowls..... I see this -

I have the "foodie" mind set :) Call it a gift!!!

Semi-Homemade Dessert
recipe by me

4 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups mascarpone cheese
Store bought cream puffs
Mini Chocolate Chips

Beat the egg yolks and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the mascarpone and vanilla until well combined.
Fill the bottom of your dish with the mascarpone mixture and fit 3 cream puffs around it. Cut the stem off a strawberry and split it open, place one slice between each puff, flesh side facing inwards. Sprinkle with mini chocolate chips


Now, obviously the mascarpone mixture makes way more than you need for 4 single serve desserts. So stay tuned and I'll show you what to do with the rest of it.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

I love it when great things just come to me!

I've made lasagna once in my lifetime, and it was because I lost a bet. It was the UA UF game where Prothro got so badly injured and bama still freakin' won. I had bet on Florida and since Alabama won - I had to cook lasagna for the first time ever. I remember it fondly, like it was yesterday....... it was pretty good! I was still in my beginning stages of experimenting with cooking and from what I remember I pretty much just winged the whole recipe. I have also always been a type of person that wanted to prove people wrong. Not that anyone ever told me "You can't cook lasagna", but everyone raved about how hard and expensive it was to make and I thought "No it isn't" and made it!

But I haven't made it since. I don't know why! Stop asking! But Tuesday I was reading over some lasagna recipes and replaying the memory in my head of my first lasagna and it came to me. Lasagna casserole! Now, I know, I didn't make that up. But I feel confident that I made up this certain recipe, maybe just not the name :)

Lasagna Casserole
recipe by me!

1 pound ground round, or any hamburger - that's just my fave
2 links Italian sausage - your favorite flavor, I used hot
1 - 2 cloves of minced garlic, depending on how much you love garlic
can of diced tomatoes, I used garlic and onion
small can of tomato sauce, I used basil, garlic and oregano
can of tomato paste, I used basil, garlic and oregano
2 tablespoons of parsley
1 tablespoon of savory seasoning
2 cans of sliced mushrooms, drained
1/8 to 1/4 cup of red wine
container of crumbled feta, I used a mix of tomato basil and garlic herb
mozzarella slices
4 dry cups of small shell pasta
finely grated Parmesan
bread crumbs
Italian seasoning

Remove the sausage from its casing and crumble in into a hot pan. Add the hamburger and garlic. Cook completely. Either drain off the excess fat or soak it up with napkins like I do. Dump in the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste and mix it all together. Then add the spices, mushrooms and wine and mix that together. Let it simmer for 20 to 30 to however many minutes you might have. In the mean time, boil your baby shells. Then get ready to start layering!
Preheat your oven to 350*
I used a corning ware medium sized oval for this dish and almost ran out of room. So if you have a large one, I would use that. I don't so I had to make do and add it to my wish list.
The first layer is just a little bit of sauce. The second layer is about half the pasta. The third layer is the feta cheese. The fourth layer is a good layer of sauce. The fifth layer is mozzarella slices (as much as you want) and if you have any feta left over you want to sprinkle on that go for it. The sixth layer is a little more sauce. The seventh layer is the remaining pasta. The eighth layer is the remaining sauce.
Now for the topping. Dust the top with the Parmesan, you can use the kind in the shaker, I won't tell. Then dust that with bread crumbs. Then sprinkle Italian Seasoning on top of that.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes.


This may sound intimidating, but it is so NOT! Most of my time cooking was spent out in the yard socializing with the neighbors. Once you brown the meat and get the sauce going, you don't have to watch it. Once you layer it and put it in the oven, you don't have to watch it. It makes itself! Just don't tell my husband that, haha!

I used feta because I am not a fan of ricotta, blech! Can't stand it. But if you like ricotta more, than use that. I didn't put salt in the sauce because I knew the feta was going to be plenty salty. So if you use ricotta or cottage cheese, then you might want to add salt to the sauce.

This served 3 the first night we ate it, and I think we all got seconds. The second night we ate it, which was even better, it served 2 and we both had seconds and there was still enough for 2 more servings! BIG casserole! Perfect if family is coming over! Make it the night before through the layering process and refrigerate. When you are ready for dinner, add the topping and bake!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Gutted, Stuffed and Wrapped!

I love browsing recipes and one of my favorite recipes sites is She is very "down to Earth" with her recipes, meaning that you don't have to search for the ingredients, most of them are in your pantry. And don't get me started on the simplicity of her recipes!

Much like her chocolate pie that I added to, I had to add to this recipe. Her basic recipe was: jalapenos, cream cheese, bacon. Very simple! But when most red blooded Americans eat something spicy, what do they dip it in? Ranch! (or bleu cheese, but for blogging purposes, please scream "RANCH" when answering my question)

So here is what I did -

Jalapeno Poppers
Pioneer Woman mixed with Country Woman

Jalapenos (you want the stubby round ones, not the long skinny ones)
Whipped Cream Cheese
Ranch Powder
Bacon strips, halved (you want two half slices of bacon per jalapeno)
wooden toothpicks

preheat oven to 375*

mix the ranch powder and cream cheese to your liking. split each jalapeno from tip to stem and scrape out the insides. stuff each half of the pepper with the cream cheese filling (don't be shy, more is more here because while baking, some of it will ooze out) and then wrap it with a half slice of bacon and spear it with a tooth pick.

arrange the poppers on a wire rack in a roasting pan, try not to let them touch so the bacon will cook evenly. depending on the thickness of the bacon, you may need to cook them for up to 45 minutes. start at 35 minutes and just watch them. My bacon varied in size, so 40 minutes was a good medium for me.


These were SO good and SO filling! If you aren't a fan of spicy foods, don't let that turn you away from making this recipe. The peppers lose their extreme heat and you are left with just a small kick.

Friday, March 14, 2008


Today, my department is having a luncheon. There is an old co-worker coming in to town and instead of us going out to lunch with her and being rushed to get back, we thought it would be a whole lot easier (and probably more delicious) to cook and bring it to work. We chose an Italian theme and I picked dessert. I had originally planned on making the chocolate desire pie, but layering it with cheesecake. But that didn't seem "Italian" enough. Then I remembered some excellent tiramisu I had on a recent trip and decided on that. So I was off to find the perfect recipe, when I discovered that these days, people are becoming more open minded to the recipes passed down though generations and were substituting fruit in place of coffee and Marsala.

Unfortunately, I did not read the recipe before deciding on it. The ingredient list was so simple and I think that is what caught my attention. When I got home and actually read the recipe, it was so intimidating that I almost didn't make it. But I am glad I did, because I found SEVERAL shortcuts and came up with the recipe I am about to share with you....

Strawberry Tiramisu aka Tiramisu alle Fragole

For the "Soaking Sauce" -
1 & 1/2 pounds fresh strawberries, stems removed and sliced
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water

For the Filling -
4 large eggs, separated (I chose Safe Eggs, since there is no heat involved)
2 cups Mascarpone cheese
3/4 cup sugar

And don't forget the lady fingers! I used about 30.

To make the sauce, combine all ingredients in a sauce pan and heat just long enough for the sugar to dissolve. Then transfer to either a blender or a food processor, whatever you have, and liquefy!!! Set it aside and let it cool.

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. I used my Kitchen Aid and just a little cream of tartar to help the process move quickly. Transfer the finished product to a plate and set it in the refrigerator.

Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until they are fluffy. I, again, used my Kitchen Aid. It is just so helpful! Then, add in the mascarpone and continue mixing until well blended. Get your egg whites, and fold those in.

Now you are ready to begin putting the masterpiece together. I used my rectangle lidded pyrex dish. Dunk the lady fingers one at a time in the strawberry sauce and form a single layer of them in the bottom of the dish. Once you completed the layer, you can add a little more sauce if you wish. Then take about half of the mascarpone mixture and spread it over the lady fingers. Next, more lady fingers dunked in strawberry sauce, and finish off with the remaining mascarpone. I topped mine with mini chocolate chips, but you could also slice up some strawberries or use fresh mint.

This dish would also be very pretty prepared in individual serving sizes. Make sure whatever you prepare it in is glass, so the pretty layers shine through!