Saturday, January 31, 2009

Cheesy Pizza Dip

I came across this recipe at the Noble Pig. It seemed easy, quick, delicious, and perfect for a quick football weekend appetizer.

Since my daughter was visiting for Championship Sunday, and with the Superbowl upon us, I thought I'd post it.

Also, my son is at college, and I thought it would be a perfect recipe for him and the boys at the house to go with their soft drinks during the Game. (Hi Nate)

So I used it as a base for what follows, but please check out the original post at: Noble Pig

Ingredients and method:

1 can pizza sauce or 1 can tomato sauce
1/2 cup diced italian sausage or 1/2 cup diced pepperoni (or bacon!)
1/4 cup diced pineapple (only if you like pineapple in your sauce)
4 minced green onions
1 small can black olives, drained and chopped finely
2 teaspoons italian seasoning, or, 2 teaspoons combination of seasonings you
have on hand such as oregano, basil, etc.
4 oz cream cheese at room temperature
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or balsamic if available.
1/2 cup parmesan, to sprinkle on top of the finished dip.

2 - 3 packages (8 oz) refrigerated breadstick dough

Or, make your own breadsticks from my site: Easy Breadsticks

1 tablespoon melted butter
2 teaspoons oregano/basil mixture.

In a heavy pot, over medium heat, combine meat(s), sliced olives, spices, onions and sauce and vinegar. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat to medium.

Add cheeses, reserving Parmesan for topping.. Stir until melted and mixture is well combined.

Turn heat to low and prepare the breadsticks. Brush baked breadsticks with melted butter and Italian seasonings.

Pour dip into serving dish and sprinkle with parmesan. Immediately serve with breadsticks fresh from the oven.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Easy Breadsticks

My daughter is a Flight Medic in the Oregon National Guard and is being deployed to Iraq next week. She came to see me for our last weekend together last week and since she is a huge football fan, we watched the NFL Championship games. I decided to make a dip I found at Noble Pig website (posting coming in a few days) and homemade breadsticks to snack on during the games.

I sometimes don't feel like taking a lot of time to bake loaves of bread to go with dinner or to go with snacks of some type. So, instead I whip up some breadsticks, they rise quickly, bake quickly, and taste delicious. Once you make your own, you'll never want to buy tubes of manufactured dough again.

Method and Ingredients:

1 package dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 very warm water, almost hot water
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 - 4 cups bread flour
1/4 cup melted butter
oregano or basil for "dusting"

In a bowl, combine yeast, sugar and water. Stir and let sit for 15 minutes. If it foams your
yeast is good to go (Proofing), if not, discard and start over.

Add olive oil, salt and two cups of the flour and mix well. Continue to add flour in 1/2 cup increments until a ball of sticky bread dough is formed.

Turn onto a floured board, dust with flour and knead about 10 times. Rinse out bowl, dry, and oil it. Place dough into bowl and turn the dough over to coat with oil.

Cover and let rise for one hour in a warm place. (I usually rise dough in the oven which I've preheated at 300 degrees for only 5 minutes.

Remove dough from bowl and punch down on floured board, and let rest for 10 minutes. Work dough into a disk and then with a knife cut 1 inch wide strips around the edges of the dough working in a circle to obtain about 6 strips. Continue with rest of the disk in the same manner.

Roll dough between hands forming an elongated strand and place on cookie sheet or parchment paper.

Let them rise for another 30 - 45 minutes.

Bake at 350 degrees. Now, breadsticks bake quickly so watch them carefully. I like softer breadsticks so as soon as they begin to brown on top I remove them, probably 10 minutes. If you like them crunchier bake a bit longer.

Remove from oven, brush with melted butter, and sprinkle with spice(s).


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Homemade Toaster Bread

Again I'm featuring a recipe originating from King Arthur Flour. This time it's from their blog which I recommend you check out, it's really well done with a variety of different recipes, not just bread. Here's the link.

The bread shown here is designed as a toaster bread. More importantly though, if you have ever shied away from making bread because of the rising, and kneading, and waiting, and rising again, etc. this is the loaf for you. You mix together the ingredients, place in a pan, let rise for an hour or so, and you're done!

That being said, let me tell you something. I made this loaf, and for 7 straight days cut two slices each morning, dutifully took them to work with a bit of butter and sometimes jam or jelly, and toasted them...... They were incredible tasting. If you try this "toast" I swear you'll not want any other.

Ingredients and Method:

3 cups King Arthur All Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 package dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup of water
1 cup of milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
cornmeal for pan preparation

In a bowl mix together flour, baking soda, yeast, sugar and salt.

Combine the milk, water, and oil and microwave in 2 or 3 thirty second increments until
the liquids are hot, but NOT scalding. If it's too hot, let it sit for a minute.

Pour the liquids over the ingredients in the bowl and beat thoroughly for a minute or two.
The dough will soft and sticky.

Lightly oil or butter a loaf pan and swirl cornmeal around the bottom and sides to coat, discarding excess.

Scrape the dough into the pan. Cover with a moist wet warm cloth and place in a warm place. I usually let my dough rise in the oven after I've turned the oven on to 300 for 5 minutes and turned the heat off. Then I immediately place the bread in the oven.

Let rise for at least one hour to one and a half hours. It will not raise extremely high, that's ok. That's what creates a dense crumb perfect for toasting. Heat oven to 400 degrees, place bread in oven and bake for approximately 35 minutes until the loaf is browned. Let cool for at LEAST 20 minutes before cutting.

Best toasted as it is a firm tight crumb, but good plain with anything.


Monday, January 19, 2009

I gotta say....

My $.02 worth....

I am so proud of my country tonight......

Not because of the color of this man,

but because we looked beyond that, and elected this man....

for his hope, and his promises, and his character.......

As M.L. King said.... (August 28, 1963)

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

Obama somehow makes me want to be a better person.... Isn't that what a leader is about?

Like I said, I'm proud of US.....

and I'm proud of our Country.....

Because we have a system that can have a quiet revolution.....

and we just had one....

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Applesauce Ginger Bread

I've become a dedicated user of King Arthur Flour. It simply never fails to please in my opinion. Secondly, I've become somewhat addicted to their multitude of recipes on their site.

This one in particular caught my attention. Pear Ginger Bread

I modified it a bit, and the result was so good. Using crystallized Ginger seems to heighten the taste and makes it unique. Although I like pears I wanted a moist loaf and thought Applesauce might be the ticket. I brought the sliced loaf to work, along with some cream cheese and everyone went crazy over it. I figure that's a good indication of a recipe that perhaps should be blogged, huh?

3/4 cup white or brown sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine
1 egg
1 cup of quality applesauce
1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup crystallized ginger minced

Optional: Add chopped walnuts if you'd like, but I found the loaf doesn't need it.

In a bowl, cream together the sugar and butter, then add the egg, and beat until smooth.

Add the applesauce, flour, sour cream, ground ginger, baking soda, baking powder, salt and vanilla. Beat till smooth. Stir in the candied ginger.

Spoon the batter into a greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 65 to 75 minutes. This is a very moist cake and will look done well before it is so don't be fooled. When testing for doneness, make sure the cake tester is inserted deeply as it tends to bake from the top down.

Remove the pan from the oven, and cool the loaf in the pan for at least 15 minutes. Gently remove the loaf from the pan and cool it completely on a wire rack.

And I HIGHLY recommend a thin spread of cream cheese.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Baked Sage Parmesan Crusted Pork Chops

I don't know about you, but it can be difficult to get a nice juicy, properly cooked pork chop. Therefore, try this recipe. Follow the baking instructions exactly and see what I mean. The
secret is although you sear them, you then bake them, so they stay moist and delicious.

I first posted this recipe on Recipezaar about five years ago. I believe my original source was Bon Apetit. After about 4 years and tons of great comments on the recipe, Recipezaar wrote me and said someone else had posted a similar recipe a few months earlier than I did, and deleted my posting. LOL

Since I now have a blog, here it is again. I made it for dinner this weekend and it's as good as ever.

That being said, I must give credit to Alosha's Kitchen who has a similar recipe on her site, and even adds orange accents. I read her post and it reminded me of my recipe.

Ingredients and Method:
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs (I use Japanese Panko crumbs usually)
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon sage
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 large egg, whisked
  • 1/4 cup flour, seasoned with salt and pepper.
  • 2 pork chops, boneless (Pork Loin Chops are best I think)
  • 1/8-1/4 cup butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  1. preheat oven to 425F degrees.
  2. mix in bowl, bread crumbs, grated parmesan cheese, and dried sage.
  3. then, on a plate put flour seasoned with salt and pepper, and coat chops with flour.
  4. dip in beaten egg and lemon juice. (The flour and egg form a coating that will make the crumbs stick)
  5. then dip in bread crumb mixture. Bread heavily, and press crumbs into flesh.
  6. melt butter and olive oil in a oven-proof/cast iron skillet.
  7. brown chops till golden over medium heat, about 4 minutes per side.
  8. transfer to oven and bake about 25 minutes. Don't overcook! It will continue to cook for a few minutes after being removed from the oven.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Honey Buttermilk Panna Cotta

I generally eat a small carton of yogurt at work for breakfast. Usually Tillamook vanilla although recently I've been enjoying some of the Activia brand.

I recently came across a new one I hadn't seen before called FAGE total yogurt. The packaging interested me because it has two compartments. The larger one is All natural Greek strained yogurt. The smaller container is honey. Simple honey.

OMG, the best ever. I never thought about combining the two but this stuff is delicious and blows all other yogurts away. I even looked on the net and it's apparently rated the number one yogurt (Yogurt ratings) To save money I bought some plain greek yogurt and added my own honey and brought that to work, but somehow it's just not the same. They have a winner with product. I'm not a shill for FAGE, but if you can find it, I suggest you try it.

So, what does this have to do with Panna Cotta? Huh?

Well I like the yogurt and honey so much I remembered a Panna Cotta I made here earlier with raspberries that was delicious. (Buttermilk Raspberry Panna Cotta) it ocurred to me maybe a simple panna cotta with honey would work. I kept the same Buttermilk component as I like the taste it imparts. I will probably make it again and substitute Greek yogurt for the buttermilk but decided to stay with the tried and true.

And some might ask, why Panna Cotta in the winter? Well, the Holidays were full of sweets, oftentimes heavy, rich sweets. I decided a little something light in the fridge would be a welcome change.

Ingredients and Method:

1 envelope gelatin
2 tablespoons warm water
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped of seeds
ground nutmeg for garnish

For the Panna Cotta, combine sugar, vanilla, and heavy cream in a saucepan over
medium heat and bring to a boil, immediately then turning off the heat.

Allow the gelatin to soften in 1/4 cup water and then add to the heavy cream mixture
and stir well. Add the buttermilk and stir well.

Take 6 to 8 ramekins and pour one tablespoon of honey into the bottom of each.

Allow the panna cotta to cool for at least 45 minutes.

Slowly pour the panna cotta on top of the honey in each ramekin and sprinkle with nutmeg and allow to cool in the refrigerator overnight.


Monday, January 5, 2009

Creamy Polenta

OK, I finally get Polenta. I get it.

I have eaten polenta a few times. Totally uninspiring. I've made many a recipe calling for a side of polenta (usually a recipe that has a sauce, interestingly enough) and usually ignored it.

I've bought a few of those tubes of polenta you see in the produce section of the supermarket. They last forever, I've cut off a few slices, fried them, tried putting cheese on them, totally bland and I just never got the point. A few times they just sat in my refrigerator for months until they expired and I just tossed them.

I was browsing last night and happened to come across a recipe for Polenta at Simply Recipes, and somehow it caught my eye. I was already planning to make Cider Honey Mustard Pork Chops (to be blogged soon, I'm making it tonight) and I thought maybe, maybe, the polenta would go with it.

So instead of buying a tube, I bought two pounds of bulk polenta at the store ($0.89) and one bar of cream cheese ($0.99) and decided to make the polenta last night even though my meal was this evening. (Two bucks? Are you kidding me, that's all?)

OMG, this was absolutely delicious. Creamy, beautiful texture, gentle hint of tangy cream cheese in every bite. And I realized then, that this is a beautiful side dish for almost any meal, especially one that has a sauce or gravy, as the polenta would marry wonderfully with any excess sauces as you eat. For instance, let's say you made a roast with a gravy of some type, or a pork tenderloin with a lime cream sauce (hint) the polenta would be perfect to scoop up some extra sauce. That being said, it's perfect, all by itself. (But do NOT buy the tubes, make it yourself)

Having said that, I'm sure I will now go on a Polenta "hunt" to see what I can add to it. Balsamic and mushrooms perhaps? Stay tuned, I'll let you know.

It was so good, I looked up the history of polenta: History of Polenta

Ingredients and Method:

4 cups water
Salt to taste
1 cup medium-grain yellow polenta
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup cream cheese

1 Heat water lightly seasoned with salt to a boil over high heat, about 5 minutes. Quickly whisk in the polenta until fully incorporated.

2 Lower the heat to a low simmer, add the butter and allow the polenta to cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.

3 Finish by stirring in the cream cheese and salt to taste.

If preparing in advance, cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat in the microwave, about 5 minutes on high, just before serving. Stir vigorously after reheating to fluff.

I ate two bowls of it right then, fresh from the pot. And I'll tell ya a secret, the following morning....of course it hardens overnight in the refrigerator, so I scooped some out into a bowl, microwaved it, and dripped some pure maple syrup over it and had it for breakfast! Delicious.

As I said, I now GET polenta. Feature side dish in my house from now on. Please do try it.


Saturday, January 3, 2009

Eggnog Bread Pudding with Nutmeg and Caramel

This post is dedicated to Peabody of Culinary Concoctions by Peabody. There are two reasons why.

One is, that Peabody indirectly caused me to even think about starting a food blog. Someone at work brought in something homemade and it was so good, I asked for the recipe. My co-worker's wife eventually sent me the recipe but it was a link to a foodblog. I then started clicking through the other links on the blog (which was Peabody's site) and the recipes looked so interesting, and the photography was so excellent, it made ME start thinking about maybe doing a blog. I mean, hey, I've cooked and baked all my life. It's something I enjoy. So I started TheMerlinMenu. And although it in no way competes with Ms. Peabody, I, ahem, am up to a couple of hundred visitors a day, so I might be doing something right.

The SECOND reason, is that Peabody has posted a few delicious Bread Pudding recipes. And I LOVE bread pudding. So she has renewed my interest in the dessert. I know it's easy, bread and milk and eggs and sugar, with bourbon crap on top, but wait! Peabody thinks outside the box, check out her Pear Nutmeg Bread Pudding.

Anyway, so I made up this recipe. It's a basic bread pudding, but the fact is, if I didn't have a blog, and if Peabody hadn't inspired me to start eating mounds of bread pudding again, it might not have happened. LOL

So, here's my attempt at Eggnog Bread Pudding with Nutmeg and Caramel Sauce. And, as I type this, it's baking and filling up my kitchen with an awfully good aroma. My fingers are crossed.

Ingredients and Method:

1 french baguette
4 eggs, beaten
3 cups egg nog
2 tsp ground nutmeg (I use a store bought grinder)
1/2 cup golden raisins

(Yes I deliberately omitted cups of sugar and additional spices, as I think the Egg Nog is sweet enough, and I wanted something not overly sweet) Plus, remember, you are going to pour hot caramel over it. Huh?

By the way, it just came out of the oven.... It is exactly as I wanted it....Please try it, awfully good.

Leave baguette out overnight so it will be slightly stale.

Break the baguette into pieces into a 9 x 9 baking dish. (lol, or is it 8 x 8, I don't know, but you know what I mean, one o'them square baking dishes)

In a mixer beat eggs and eggnog and plenty of nutmeg together.

Sprinkle the raisins over the bread and pour the egg, eggnog, and nutmeg mixture evenly over the bread. Use the back of a spoon and mash down the bread a bit so it soaks up the egg mixture, also mash down the raisins as the ones exposed on top will blacken.

Let it sit for 30 minutes to allow the liquid to soak into the bread. Mash down slightly again with the back of a spoon before placing in a 350 degree oven.

Bake for 60 minutes and up to 15 minutes longer depending on how hot your oven is. You want the bread pudding to be browned all over and puffed up.

Cool for an hour. Serve on a plate or bowl with heated caramel drizzled all over. A touch of whipped cream would be nice too.

Peabody, you may have already adapted a recipe like this, but if not, please try. I think you'll like it. And thanks for your blog and constant encouragement.