Saturday, September 27, 2008

Trans Fat Oops

When food companies were first required to disclose the amount of trans fat in their products I was shocked to see that some things I had been eating my whole life had quite a bit.  Just about every Pillsbury bread dough product is full of trans fat, in particular the crescent rolls and biscuits.  So I started buying the reduced fat crescent rolls ( no trans fat and still quite tasty) and just stopped buying biscuits all together.

The other night I was starting to make taco-ring (one of our stand-by dinners) and I pulled the crescents out of the fridge only to see that they were not reduced fat, but rather "Big and Buttery."  Of course they were loaded with trans-fat.  I had a dilemma: throw them away and waste food and money, or eat them and cry about my arteries.  I decided to eat them.  When I opened the package they smelled like a stick of butter, when it was cooking they smelled like a melting stick of butter, and when I ate it, well obviously they tasted like crescent rolls drenched in a stick of butter.

I know that grabbing the wrong thing at the store happens to everyone, but it still didn't make me feel any better. 

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Pizza Dough From Scratch

Even though yeast breads get made in our home quite frequently thanks to Brett, this is the first one that I've actually done.  I've been wanting to make pizza dough for a while now.  Pizza is most definitely my favorite food, but when I eat it, I always feel so guilty and unhealthy.  I felt like making my own pizza, with my own toppings, would quell some of those guilty feeling.  Brett was not sold on the idea because he thinks that Boboli crusts are just fine and that making dough is too time consuming.  But I say if you've got the time, at least try it!

Making the dough went well.  I did ask Brett for his expert advice a couple of times.  I kept adding flour beyond what the recipe called for because it was not forming a "firm dough."  I don't think it ever did, rather I just gave up and said, "Firm enough!"  This was not a rising dough recipe, so I just let it rest for 10 minutes and then rolled it out.
I love my rolling mat and tool!  No measuring necessary!

The trickiest part was transferring the rolled out dough to the cookie sheet (we used to have a really nice pizza pan but we have no idea where it went.)  I was able to pick it up despite it sticking just a little to the mat, and after suppressing the strong urge to toss it in the air, I got it onto the silpat in more or less the same shape.  It baked by itself for a little while and then it was time for the toppings.
I got so excited about the toppings that I forgot to put the cheese on first!  It doesn't really matter as far as taste goes...I think.  We put thinly slice red onion (thank you mandoline,) pineapple,  turkey pepperoni, and for those of you eagle eyes, yes the last of our bacon is on there too.  (The bacon was the best part!)
We didn't use the best quality of mozzarella for pizza (part skim low moisture) so it melted funny.  But it tasted fine and I'm sure its more healthy than usual pizza mozzarella.  
The crust was a little bit crunchy for me, but Brett gladly ate mine.  I prefer soft crust like a breadstick.  Maybe next time I will cook it slightly less.  I think it was better than Boboli and less expensive too if you don't mind spending some extra time making it.  Most importantly, I satisfied my need for pizza and said goodbye to pizza guilt!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Corn Bacon Muffins

I found this recipe ages ago in Everyday with Rachael Ray Magazine (I know...I know...that's two in a row and believe me I am embarassed!) and it sounded so good that I actually cut it out.  Usually I just say, "that sounds good," and turn the page and forget about it.  Not this one.  The only problem was that there was bacon in it and, like I said in the previous post, we never buy bacon.  Clearly we have had bacon in the house lately because it has been featured in almost every meal.

I did alter the recipe a little bit.  Instead of regular chopped onions, I used green onions that we already had on hand.  Also, when I measured out the frozen corn, we had just a tiny bit left in the bag so I dumped all of it in.  Maybe the biggest change I made was using sour cream mixed with regular milk in place of buttermilk.  I already had a little bit of sour cream that probably wasn't going to get used and I certainly didn't want to buy a carton of buttermilk that would definitely not get used.  This was a well justified switch for me that I don't think made a huge difference.  I also halved the recipe (which I know is not changing the recipe) but you try adding half an egg!  It is not easy!  I shouldn't talk... I assigned Brett that duty.  So who knows if I had exactly the right amount of egg, but it looked close enough to us.
Brett thought that I filled the cups up too much, but it turns out that I didn't.
These muffins were extremely moist.  In fact too moist for me.  I think maybe the extra frozen corn added some extra water to the batter.  Brett thought they were fine so that made me feel good.  The flavors were great and of course the bacon stole the show.

Here is the link to the original recipe.

Monday, September 15, 2008

More Bacon Please!

We never buy bacon.  We try to cook healthy meals (we're not always successful) and leaving bacon out of recipes certainly helps.  When I make something for the first time I don't like changing the recipe, so for the baked potato soup we had to buy bacon.  Consequently, we were left with a lot of leftover bacon.  So now that bacon is in the fridge, I'm breaking out all the recipes that call for bacon.

This recipe is one of those that I've made several times without bacon and quite frankly it is bland.  But with bacon... much more flavorful.  I'm convinced that bacon can  make anything taste good.  I'm embarrassed to say that this is loosely based on a Rachael Ray recipe.  She called it Crab and Corn Chowda Mac.  We weren't fans of the crab so now we leave it out.  She also calls for cooked bacon to be put in the cheese sauce which makes it so NOT crispy.  Brett and I both demand crispy bacon, so we used it as a topping.  I used some leftover red onion instead of a white onion and I used Essence of Emeril to season instead of fresh thyme.  So it makes me a little less embarrassed that I have changed her recipe considerably.

It starts with cooking half of a diced onion in olive oil, then adding a T of flour.  Once the flour has cooked for a little bit add half a cup each of chicken broth and milk.  That thickens up and then half a cup of corn kernels is added along with a dash of cayenne pepper and lots of Emeril.  When the corn warms through (I used frozen) add a cup of grated cheddar cheese.  This is the finished cheese sauce.
Cooked macaroni or some kind of small pasta (I have used shells and bow-ties before) gets stirred into the cheese sauce and then it can be served with crunched up bacon on top.  The recipe also calls for chives, but I didn't have any.  
There's one more bacon recipe coming soon...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Baked Potato Soup

I've been stuck in a rut with my dinners lately.  I feel like we have the same old things over and over and over and over again.  We like those things, but I've got to have variety every once in a while.  So I was desperately searching through some cookbooks for something new to try and came across a baked potato soup recipe that sounded delicious.  It is not a healthy soup, but at least it is something new.  I got a bit of a late start cooking this and Brett pitched in and helped because as he said, "If I didn't help we wouldn't have eaten until 10!"

For whatever reason, I have always had difficulty baking potatoes.  In the microwave the skin gets crusty and gross, and sometimes the outside part of the potato gets a little crusty too.  This recipe called for baking the potatoes in the oven, which I'd never tried before, so I was excited about having a new method.  400 degrees for 1 hour.  Well the potatoes were hard as rocks.  Clearly they were not cooked all the way through.  So I tossed those hot potatoes in the microwave which helped a little but they were still pretty firm.  One of these days I will figure out how to properly bake a potato, how hard can it be?! Brett got assigned the duty of scooping out and mashing the innards.

I got to work on the soup.  It starts with a roux (1/3 cup each of butter and flour) cooked over low heat and then I added 3 cups of milk and stirred constantly until it got nice and thick.  When Brett finished mashing 1 and a half potatoes I added those along with 3/4 tsp salt and lots of freshly ground pepper.  When that was all mixed up I added 1 T of chopped green onion, and 1/2 a cup of grated cheddar cheese and sour cream.  Unfortunately, I didn't have all my ingredients ready to go, so I was running around grating cheese at the last minute while Brett fried the bacon.

I know bacon is a very simple thing to make, but neither of us had done it before.  Brett did a fabulous job.  He looked kind of funny wearing an oven mitt and holding tongs (that stuff splatters!) but who cares what you look like when your bacon turns out perfectly crisp and delicious.

Some extra green onions and lots of bacon topped the soup, making a wonderful (even if it was late) dinner.  It was very thick so I think the word soup is misleading.  It was more like a thick chowder, or thin mashed potatoes.  I think we will see this one again, but I'll make sure to prep a little bit better and work on my potato baking skills.  Yum!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Peach Cobbler

Lately it seems that my only motivation for cooking something is someone's birthday and that remains true with today's post.  For my Dad's birthday my mom was making peach cobbler so I jumped in there and helped out.

This is an incredibly easy recipe that is very tasty too.  I was in charge of preparing most of the filling, and Mom did the biscuit topping.  We decided to double the recipe, which of course involved paying attention (not my forte) and math (not Mom's forte.)  I don't think we messed anything up... but maybe I just wasn't paying attention :)  Counting out 8 teaspoons of cornstarch and 12 tablespoons of brown sugar does allow for a lot of error.  After an incredibly filling dinner at Angelo's and Vinci's, we were hard pressed to find room for dessert but we all managed somehow.  Happy Birthday Dad!

Fruit filling:
4 tsp cornstarch
6 T brown sugar
1/2 cup cold water
16 oz can sliced peaches (drained)
2 T butter
2 tsp lemon juice

In a medium saucepan, combine cornstarch, brown sugar, and water.  Add peaches.  Cook and stir until bubbly.  Add 2 T butter and lemon juice.  Pour into 1 quart baking dish.  Set aside.

Biscuit topping:
2/3 cup flour
4 T sugar
1 tsp baking powder
dash of salt
3 T butter
4 T milk

Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Cut in 3 T butter, then stir in milk.  Put on top of fruit mixture.  Bake uncovered in a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes.