"Food is our common ground, a universal experience." - James Beard

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pesto Pizza

A few weeks ago I mentioned using my pizza stone and the wonderful dough that can be bought at Publix. I had been wanting to try other pizza recipes. So when Ellison and Jennifer came to visit a few weeks ago, we created a Pesto Pizza recipe based on a recipe that we found. It turned out so well! I usually only like more traditional pizzas, but this was wonderful! I can't wait to make it again!

Pesto Pizza
Pizza dough (homemade or bought in the bakery)
Olive oil, for brushing and drizzling
All-purpose flour, for dusting
4 tbsp. pesto sauce (can be homemade, but several pasta sauce brands have a good pesto)
Part of a bag of baby spinach
Part of one red onion, chopped finely
Can of artichokes, drained
Can of slice black olives, drained
3 oz mozzarella cheese, grated
2 oz parmesean cheese, grated
(Sun-dried tomatoes and mushroom might be a good addition!)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Brush a cookie sheet with oil (or use a pizza stone!).

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured counter to a 10-inch round circle. Place on the cookie sheet and push up the edge a little. Cover and let stand in a warm place for 10 minutes. Spread the pesto evenly over the base. Place artichokes, olives, onions, and spinach on the pizza (also add any optional ingredients at this point). Then add the grated cheese and drizzle with olive oil.

Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes - until golden and sizzling. Serve immediately.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Meatloaf may not sound very exciting, but it is such a great meal to keep in the dinner rotation. This is Kent's recipe, and it is so good! It would be great for kids because you can easily hide a few veggies in it.

1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
3/4 - 1 cup of bread crumbs
1 egg
1/8 cup of mustard
1/4 cup of ketchup
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup onions
1/3 cup carrots
1/3 cup celery (optional)
1/3 cup green bell pepper (optional)
2 cloves of garlic, minced

Finely chop the onions and carrots (and any optional veggies). Saute the vegetables in 2 tablespoons of butter and season with a pinch of salt and pepper - cook until the onions are clear. In a large bowl, mix together the beef, bread crumbs, mustard, ketchup, egg, salt, pepper, cooked vegetables, and garlic. Once everything is mixed, place it in a loaf pan and pat it down into the pan. (You could also form the mixture into a loaf and bake it on a sided sheet pan.) Bake at 350 for 45 minutes - 1 hour. Serve with ketchup!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fried Pickles

If you have ever been to AJAX with me in Oxford or to Mudtown with me in Birmingham, you know that I love fried pickles! Kent and I have now made them three times and think we've come up with a pretty good recipe. If you haven't tried fried pickles before, you are missing out! They are great with sandwiches (like a Monte Cristo) and hamburgers or hotdogs.

Fried Pickles
1 large jar of hamburger dill pickles
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1 cup of beer
1 tbsp. cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. paprika
1 tbsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. garlic salt
3 dashes hot pepper sauce
Vegetable oil for frying

Combine flour, beer, cayenne pepper, paprika, black pepper, salt, garlic salt, and hot pepper sauce in a medium mixing bowl. Drain the pickles and pat them dry with paper towels. Then place them in the batter. Turn them in the batter and let the pickles sit for about 5 minutes. While the pickles are absorbing some of the batter, begin heating vegetable oil on the stove (to about 350 degrees). When the oil is ready, use tongs to place some of the pickles in the batter. Let them cook for about four minutes - until they are golden. Do not let them get too brown - they will burn! It will take several batches to cook all of the pickles. When they are ready, serve them with the spicy dipping sauce.

Spicy Dipping Sauce
1/4cup ketchup
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon brown mustard
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
The juice of 1/2 lemon

Combine all ingredients. Serve.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Peanut Butter Cookies with Blackberry Jam - from Sally

These Giada de Laurentis cookies come highly recommended from Sally. I have not made them (since I don't like peanut butter - yes, I know I'm unAmerican) but Sally said they were excellent!

Peanut Butter Cookies with Blackberry Jam
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (recommended: Hershey's)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar, plus 1/4 cup
1/2 packed cup light brown sugar
1 egg, room temperature, beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup blackberry jam

Put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, sieve together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, peanut butter, 3/4 cup of sugar, and light brown sugar together, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix until blended. With the machine running on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture until incorporated.
Put the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar in a small bowl. Form the dough into 1/4 cup-size balls and roll in the sugar. Arrange 5 balls of dough, evenly apart, on each baking sheet. Using a round 1/4 teaspoon measure, or the thin end of a wooden spoon, make a hole in the center of each ball of dough, about 1/2 to 3/4-inch deep. Spoon 1 teaspoon of jam into each hole. Bake for 11 to 14 minutes until the dough has spread and the surface of the cookies are crackled. Cool for 5 minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, about 20 minutes. Arrange the cookies on a serving dish and serve.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Lemon Pasta with Roasted Shrimp - from Sally

Sally sent me this recipe by Ina Garten a few weeks ago. Ina Garten is one of my favorite Food Network chefs - her recipes always use understated and simple flavors. This is a great recipe that can be made any night of the week in just a few minutes.

Lemon Pasta with Roasted Shrimp
2 pounds (17 to 21 count*) shrimp, peeled and deveined
Good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound angel hair pasta
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 lemons, zested and juiced

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the shrimp on a sheet pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Toss well, spread them in 1 layer, and roast for 6 to 8 minutes, just until they're pink and cooked through.
Meanwhile, drizzle some olive oil in a large pot of boiling salted water, add the angel hair, and cook al dente, about 3 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving some of the cooking liquid. Quickly toss the angel hair with the melted butter, 1/4 cup olive oil, the lemon zest, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper and about 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking liquid. Add the shrimp and serve hot.

*Note: Count refers to the number of shrimp in one pound. So the lower the number, the bigger the individual shrimp.

After reading some of the reviews, I saw that some people thought the sauce was a little tart from the lemons. You can definitely cut down on those. Also, some people suggested using garlic, parsley, and/or parmesan cheese to give it a little more flavor. Overall, the reviews said that it was wonderful and a new favorite. Everyone seemed to love the idea of roasting the shrimp and said they turned out perfectly.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I had planned on writing a post about Irish beer today instead of my usual Wine Wednesday. But I quickly realized that I know nothing about Irish beer! So I found this website by Gayot that I thought was really interesting and might give you some ideas. It gives a list of the "Top 10 Best Irish Beers" and explains different types of beers. It also has links to Irish pubs and restaurants around the US.

I hope everyone has a happy St. Patrick's Day!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Banana Bread - from Melissa

I was so glad when Melissa sent me this recipe. Banana bread is wonderful because it can be used for so many occasions. It is great to make and have around on a weekend when you will have company staying because it can work for breakfast, dessert, or a snack. It's also an easy item to transport, so you can take it to Sunday School or work for breakfast or even to a tailgate party in the fall!

Banana Bread Recipe
3 or 4 ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup sugar (can easily reduce to 3/4 cup)
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

No need for a mixer for this recipe. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, and vanilla. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix. Pour mixture into a buttered 4x8 inch loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour. Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Shrimp Fried Rice

This is one of my favorite dishes that Kent makes. It is always so good!! You can get uncooked shrimp from the seafood counter in the grocery store or buy it frozen - in this recipe the shrimp are usually just as good if they are frozen. It works best to make this recipe in a large wok. But if you don't have one, use a large frying pan. We always make it in a frying pan, it just gets a little crowded at the end!

Shrimp Fried Rice
4 cups leftover rice (or cooked rice allowed to cool completely)
1 cup peeled, deveined shrimp without tail
¾ cup carrot, chopped
¾ cup celery, chopped
1 cup bean sprouts
¾ cup onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 eggs
½ cup scallion
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
4 tbsp Vegetable oil
Salt and pepper

Heat 2 tbsp of vegetable oil over high heat and stir fry the carrots, celery, onion, and bean sprouts for about 2-3 minutes, remove from pan/wok to plate. Add another tbsp of oil and allow it to heat up. Stir fry shrimp until they are about 75% cooked, remove from pan. Lower heat to medium/medium-high and add another tbsp of oil. Cook garlic for a minute, then crack eggs into pan and stir fry. Return pan to high heat and add rice. Stir fry rice, mixing with garlic and egg. Add soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, carrots, celery, onion, bean sprouts, scallion and stir fry for 4-5 minutes, mixing ingredients through the rice. Add shrimp and cook until pink.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

This is a wonderful recipe and is so easy to make - I promise! Kent thinks they taste a lot like the lettuce wraps at P.F. Changs. I think they taste a little different (because of the hoisin sauce). Either way, they are so good!! This recipe definitely makes enough for a meal for two or works great as appetizers.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps
1 large head iceberg lettuce
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 lb ground chicken
3 medium-size cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped scallions, green parts only (from 1 bunch)
1 tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
4 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp Asian (dark) sesame oil
3/4 cup finely chopped water chestnuts

Using a small paring knife, cut the core out of the head of the lettuce and discard it. Pull the lettuce apart, rinse it, and drain well on paper towels. Place the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add in the chicken, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until the chicken is cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Turn off the heat. Stir in the scallions, ginger, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, and water chestnuts. Cook the chicken filling over medium-low heat, stirring, until it bubbles and is heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Keep the filling warm if you are serving it immediately. Serve with lettuce leaves. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Hot and Sour Soup

I decided that it would be fun to have a Asian inspired theme week! So, I'll start by posting a new recipe that I tried this weekend. I will say that it was very time consuming, but also very tasty! It takes a while to make the chicken stock - so I might suggest using a store-bought stock and then heating it on the stove with the ingredients listed in "Chinese Chicken Stock" recipe that follows. Whole chickens are sometimes expensive, so if you do make your own stock look for sales in the poultry section and buy whatever is least expensive - I ended up buying a cut chicken. I also didn't have the BBQ pork, so I took out some of the chicken from the stock as soon as it was cooked through and used it in place of the pork. But if you happen to have leftover BBQ - this would be a great way to use it! This soup is very spicy and flavorful. Even though some of these ingredients are different, they are easy to find (Asian specialty section of the grocery store) and can be used in other Asian dishes.

Hot and Sour Soup
(Recipe by Tyler Florence)
4 dried Chinese fungi (about 1 ounce), such as wood ears or cloud ears (*I used shitake mushrooms)
2 tablespoons canola oil
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 tablespoon red chile paste, such as sambal oelek
1/2 cup canned bamboo shoots, sliced
1/4 pound barbecued pork, shredded
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
Pinch sugar
2 quarts Chinese Chicken Stock, recipe follows
1 square firm tofu, drained and sliced in 1/4-inch strips
3 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup water
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Chopped green onions and cilantro leaves, for garnish

Put the wood ears in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand for 30 minutes to reconstitute. Drain and rinse the wood ears; discard any hard clusters in the centers.
Heat the oil in a wok or large pot over medium-high flame. Add the ginger, chili paste, wood ears, bamboo shoots, and pork; cook and stir for 1 minute to infuse the flavor. Combine the soy sauce, vinegar, salt, pepper, and sugar in a small bowl, pour it into the wok and toss everything together - it should smell really fragrant. Pour in the Chinese Chicken Stock, bring the soup to a boil, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the tofu and cook for 3 minutes.
Dissolve the cornstarch in the water and stir until smooth. Mix the slurry into the soup and continue to simmer until the soup thickens. Remove the soup from the heat and stir in 1 direction to get a current going, then stop stirring. Slowly pour in the beaten eggs in a steady stream and watch it spin around and feather in the broth (it should be cooked almost immediately.) Garnish the hot and sour soup with chopped green onions and cilantro before serving.

Chinese Chicken Stock:
1 (4-pound) whole chicken
1 bunch green onions, halved
4 garlic cloves, smashed
3-inch piece fresh ginger, whacked open with the flat side of a knife
1 onion, halved
1 teaspoon whole white peppercorns
About 3 quarts cold water

Put the chicken in a large stockpot and place over medium heat. Toss in the green onions, garlic, ginger, onion, and peppercorns. Pour about 3 quarts of cold water into the pot to cover the chicken by 1-inch. Simmer gently for 1 hour, uncovered, skimming off the foam on the surface periodically.
Carefully remove the chicken from the pot and pass the stock through a strainer lined with cheesecloth to remove the solids and excess fat. Cool the chicken stock to room temperature before storing in the refrigerator, or chill it down over ice first.
Yield: About 2 quarts

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Asparagus, Prosciutto, and Cheese Frittata - From Katie

This is a Food Network recipe that Katie sent me earlier this week. I haven't gotten to try it yet - but it looks amazing!

Asparagus, Prosciutto, and Cheese Frittata
5 large eggs
4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces medium asparagus stalks (about 8), woody stems trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 medium slices Prosciutto (about 2 ounces), coarsely chopped

Position an oven rack in the upper part of the oven and preheat the broiler. Whisk the eggs, 3 tablespoons of the cheese, the milk, lemon zest, salt, and pepper to taste together in a bowl.

Heat the olive oil in an 8-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the asparagus and Canadian bacon, and cook until the asparagus is crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Reduce heat to low, pour the egg mixture into the skillet, stirring gently to distribute the fillings evenly. Cover, and cook until the bottom sets, but does not get too brown, about 9 minutes. Remove the cover, scatter the remaining 1 tablespoon of cheese over the surface. Run the frittata under the broiler until the top sets and browns slightly, about 1 minute. Set aside for about 5 minutes before unmolding. Slip the frittata out of the pan onto a cutting board, cut into wedges. Serve warm or room temperature.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Monday Mentions

This Monday I want to mention my Pampered Chef baking stone. We cooked pizza on it for the first time last night - and I'm loving the stone (I wish we had used it sooner!) The stones are also great for cooking rolls and biscuits. Click here if you want more info on the Pampered Chef stone. Our pizza turned out great because the stone heats the pizza evenly and keeps the crust from being either too soggy or too tough. And it worked wonderfully to heat the leftovers tonight. We will definitely be using it more often!

I also wanted to mention the wonderful pizza dough that we used. We thought about making it from scratch, but didn't want to wait for the dough to rise! And several girls from church mentioned using the dough from Publix. They sell balls of pizza dough in their bakery section. So I got the dough at the store and came home and rolled it out on the stone. I really cannot imagine that it would have been any better if we had made it ourselves. It was such a great time saver! And you can keep the dough for several days if you can't use it right away.

This is the pizza recipe we used last night. The thing that I love about this recipe is that there are a lot of different options for the recipe. It is perfect if you are running out to the store last minute and want to pick up some inexpensive ingredients. But you can also make the recipe with pepperoni from the deli, fresh mozzarella cheese, and other quality ingredients - it would perfect for a night in with friends!

Pepperoni and Onion Pizza
(Adapted from: Delicious Pizza)
Olive oil, for brushing and drizzling
Pizza dough (either premade or homemade)
All-purpose flour, for dusting
5 tbsp sun-dried tomato paste (in the produce section near the fresh tomatoes)
3-4 tomatoes, skinned and thinly sliced
Part of 1 red onion, chopped finely
4 slices prosciutto or other cooked ham, coarsely chopped (optional)
12 slices pepperoni sausage
12 black olives, pitted (optional)
3/4 tsp dried oregano
3 oz mozzarella cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Brush a cookie sheet with oil (or use a pizza stone!).

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured counter to a 10-inch round circle. Place on the cookie sheet and push up the edge a little. Cover and let stand in a warm place for 10 minutes. Spread the sun-dried tomato paste evenly over the base. Arrange the tomato slices on the base and season with salt. Sprinkle over the chopped onion and prosciutto and arrange the pepperoni on top. Add the olives and sprinkle with oregano. Then add the grated cheese and drizzle with olive oil.

Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes - until golden and sizzling. Serve immediately.
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