23 August 2010

CSN Review, Recipe, and a GIVEAWAY!

A few weeks ago, I got an email from a CSN representative asking if I'd like to do a review or host a giveaway on this here blog. When I found out how much the gift certificate would be for, I jumped at the chance to do both. Seriously, who doesn't love free stuff (plus this way, I could have the giveaway open to non-US residents as well)? So I went shopping. I ended up choosing a really awesome 9-inch square baking dish made by Le Creuset that was on sale and came with a matching 5-inch bonus dish.

Making the purchase was easy. It was the waiting for it to arrive that was hard, but that was just because I was so excited for it to get here. It only took about a week and was packaged to ensure there would be no breakage. The color, Caribbean blue, was really spot on for what the picture online showed and it's the perfect size for several recipes I like to to play with in the kitchen.

I got my chance to use the dish this weekend for a going-away BBQ at my parents' house. My baby sister got a job that will take her all the way to Egypt (how cool is that!) so we had everyone over to wish her a Bon Voyage. I was asked to bring dessert. I asked Mim what she wanted, and she asked for this cookie-cream cheese-coffee-cake thing that is literally to-die-for and then suggested I make brownies for my dad and any other communists that don't like cream cheese (yeah, she called him that).

Since the cookie cake thing requires no baking and uses cling wrap, I was able to make it, stick it in the fridge, and move it to a different pan after it got firm. Then I went in search of a good homemade brownie recipe, since I've never tried making brownies without a mix before. I'll admit, I should have stuck with a box mix just to get a true feel for how the Le Creuset works, but everyone was happy with what I made. They were fudgey and chocolatey and really quite good. What I really liked though was how evenly they baked. Usually, I burn brownies. Or the outsides get really tough while the inside is perfect. Or it looks done but ends up being a gooey mess that no one wants to eat. But with this pan, they came out perfect! Ok, they stuck a bit because I didn't grease it very well, but they were still cooked perfectly.

Here's where the giveaway comes in. I bought a second pan in Dijon yellow for you to win. All you have to do is:
  1. Leave a comment on this post by 11:59 P.M. Tuesday 31 August. Be sure I have some way of contacting you inc ase you win.
  2. Get an extra entry by being a follower (just leave a second comment saying that you follow me).
That's it! I'll pick a winner on 1 September using and will hopefully have it sent toy our home before the Labor Day holiday. Now on to the recipe!

Deep Dish Brownies
Recipe from All Recipes, adapted by me

3/4 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder (only use this if you like a cakey brownie)
1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease an 8 inch square pan.
  2. In a large bowl, blend melted butter, sugar and vanilla. Beat in eggs one at a time. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Gradually blend into the egg mixture. Spread the batter into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes, or until brownies begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Let brownies cool, then cut into squares. Enjoy!

17 August 2010

Dorm Food

A few years ago, while attending a small Catholic university in the middle of Nowhere, Oklahoma, I began to experiment with cooking. It's actually when I really started to enjoy cooking. Senior year, my roommate decided to not have a meal plan. She never ate int he cafeteria, so why pay for it? As a way to avoid eating in the cafeteria as often as possible, I offered to do the cooking for her. She paid for the food, I chipped in when I could, and I cooked. We had some really awesome meals cooked in our microwave and various contraband cooking instruments (rice cooker, toaster, Express Cooker).

We ate cakes and muffins, fajitas and filet mignons, soups and chili. Thankfully we were smart and didn't advertise to everyone in our dorms what all the smells coming from our tiny room were otherwise we might have gotten in some serious trouble (see above with the contraband items). I still sometimes get a craving for red velvet cake made in the Express Cooker or Hamburger Helper made in the microwave. But by far, our favorite meal we ever made was White Chili.

Originally, the recipe came from the back of a can of beans. The brand no longer features that recipe on their cans so I had to improvise when I made this. I've since found the recipe on their site, but I think I like my version just a little better. It's considerably better for you then the version we used to eat in college (canned chicken, anyone?). We always topped ours with cheese, sour cream, and Frito chips, but feel free to use whatever toppings you like. I'm guessing freshly sliced avocados would actually be really good with this one. Enjoy!

White Chili
Recipe inspired by Bush's Beans

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 can (4-ounces) chopped green chilies
1 can chopped jalapenos (this is optional and depends on your preferred heat level; I used the whole can cause I love spicy food, but definitely cut it back to half if you use any at all if you're not so big on spicy)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 cans (16 ounces) BUSH'S BEST Great Northern Beans (the original recipe called for Navy beans, and that's what I use)
1 can (14.5 ounces) chicken broth
1 ½ cups finely chopped cooked chicken breast (about 4-5 breasts should do it)
Shredded Monterey Jack cheese (optional)
Sour cream (optional)
Salsa (optional)
  1. In large skillet, cook onion in oil for 4 minutes or until transparent. Add chilies, flour and cumin; cook and stir for 2 minutes. Add beans and chicken broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer for 10 minutes or until thickened. Add chicken; cook until hot.
  2. Garnish with cheese, sour cream and salsa, if desired.

12 August 2010

Oh Alfredo....

I'm baaaacccckkk! Sorry for the delay in posting. I went off the phenergan because I've not been having morning sickness. Yay! The bad thing about it is that I'm actually sleepier when I don't take it (meds that knock you out but don't make you groggy, I can deal with that). Yuck. Anyway, something else that's been fun about being preganant at the start of a new trimester is that I'm finally having cravings. Not for any one food in particular, oh no. That would be too easy. Instead, I crave breakfast food. I loath breakfast but force myself to eat something every morning because it's the most important meal of the day. Blah blah blah. I've been having cereal as an after dinner snack, craving pancakes with butter and waffles with cream cheese (don't knock it til you try it), and even considered eating an egg for a second or two (my mortal enemy).

Anyway, this post is not about breakfast. I just wanted to share something that was fun about being pregnant for me since I feel like all I did for the first three months was complain. Probably this weekend though, I'll give you the recipe for the pancakes we eat. So light and fluffy. Made froms cratch. What was I here to talk to you about again? Oh yeah, alfredo. I found a fun new recipe for an alfredo sauce on All Recipes that I desperately wanted to try the other night. Of course, me being me, I had to play with it.

I added broccoli and chicken (finally can deal with chicken again) and really wish I had thought about garlic before it was eaten, cause that would have been good. I was a bit worried when I added my cheese to the hot cream though. Since the recipe calls for mozzarella and provolone, cheese not really meant for cheese sauces, it kind of seized and looked like melted string cheese. Thankfully, I didn't just toss it in the garbage and start over, because as I continued to stir it wondering how to fix it, it came together. And boy did it come together! My taste buds may be off and making things taste a little different, but even I could tell through the mixed signals that it was good. Please try it. You won't be disappointed.

Four Cheese Alfredo Sauce
Recipe from All Recipes, adapted by me

2 cups heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup butter (I used 2 Tbl here; I honestly would not use that much unless you've had success with a prior alfredo recipe calling for that much butter)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded provolone cheese
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese (I cheated and used Sargento's 6 Italian Cheese Blend)
1 tsp ground nutmeg
  1. In a medium saucepan combine whipping cream, butter, and nutmeg. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently until butter melts. Gradually stir in grated Parmesan cheese, grated mozzarella cheese, grated provolone cheese, and grated Romano cheese. Reduce heat to low, and continue to stir just until all cheese is melted.
  2. Serve immediately, sauce will thicken upon standing.

05 August 2010

Waiting for Autumn

No recipe today, but something just as exciting. I've got a review coming up for a product that I'll be receiving in the mail shortly that will hopefully make us all go on strike against this wretched heat. The great thing about the equipment I'll be receiving is that when I finally live in a bigger home, it will look just as pretty displayed on a hutch in my dining room as it will with something freshly baked cooling on a rack in my kitchen.

(Photo courtesy of CSN)

I am beyond excited and extremely humbled to have been contacted by a representative from CSN that I immediately jumped at the opportunity given to me. I've even found a way to make it worthwhile for you! But you'll just have to check back here in about a week to see what all the hullabaloo is about.

(Photo courtesy of CSN)

I've already got my eye on many more items that I will eventually fill my home with. And what makes all of this even better is that CSN has over 200 online stores to choose from, all with great sales going right now (hey, I love me a good sale). I so can't wait to share with you what's coming up, so stayed tuned!

04 August 2010

Aye Carumba...

I'm sorry. I know that I said that I'd post this several days ago, but I keep passing out. You see, my dr. gave me this great medicine for morning sickness that also puts you to sleep. My new best friend is phenergan, and it is amazing. I don't feel sick, and I get to sleep all night. Anyway, I'm sorry again. And just to make it up to you, here is a picture of my latest sonogram. The baby is growing!!! 2 inches, people! Or 5cm for those of you across the pond.

I made this meal last Monday night after a really rough day at work. It had popped up on All Recipes main page as the recipe of the day and looked too tasty to pass up. Of course, because the original featured chicken, which I can't stomach at the moment, I substituted fajita steak. It was delicious! I really can't wait to start liking chicken again because I'm sure it'll be even better.

There were a couple of other changes made. We diced the onion and pepper instead of left them as strips. I used monterey jack instead of cheddar. I also used a full loaf of bread, sliced it down the middle, and put all the toppings across the two halves instead of cutting the bread into individual pieces. It actually worked out pretty well that way but was kind of messy when we went to cut it into individual slices. If none of that sold you on trying it out, then keep in mind that my hubby ate four pieces. He loved it.

Steak Fajita Melts
Recipe from All Recipes, adapted by me

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 (6 ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, thinly sliced/1 lb fajita steak (obviously I used steak, but I wanted you to be able to have the option of chicken if you so chose)
1/2 cup sliced onions
1/2 cup sliced red bell pepper
1/2 cup tomato juice
2 tablespoons taco seasoning mix (that's one packet, roughly)
1 cup salsa (we didn't use this because I didn't know that I didn't have any on hand so I hadn't bought any)
8 (1/2 inch thick) slices French bread
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (use any cheese you like here)
  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken/steak, and cook and stir until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in the sliced onions and red peppers, and cook and stir for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the tomato juice and taco seasoning, and mix well. Cook mixture until the juice has thickened and the chicken/steak is well coated with sauce, about an additional 7 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven's broiler and set the oven rack about 6 inches from the heat source.
  4. Spread 2 tablespoons of salsa over each slice of French bread. Evenly spoon the chicken mixture on top of the salsa topped bread. Sprinkle each sandwich with 1/4 cup Cheddar cheese.
  5. Place sandwiches under the preheated broiler and cook for 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown.