September 30, 2009

Recipe: Creamy Pesto Pasta Salad

The mission: Pesto pasta salad for picnic.

The ingredientsAt first I toyed with putting in pesto and mozzarella and tomatoes because I knew it would be good. But then I saw a recipe from Sweet Savory Life with creamy pesto and artichokes and peas. I don't really like peas, but the appeal of creaminess and artichokes would cover them up enough, I figured. And they did. I just tweaked my recipe to use yogurt, because in my book yogurt>mayo and Greek yogurt>plain yogurt. The end. 

The result: A flavor-packed cold pasta that got me on a kick of mixing vinaigrette-type dressings with yogurt to toss in my salads.
Creamy Pesto Pasta Salad

1/2 recipe pesto
5.3 oz. Greek yogurt (1 package)
1 package penne pasta
1 1/2 cups peas, cooked
1 can artichokes, chopped

Cook pasta. Stir prepared pesto with Greek yogurt. Mix pasta, pesto-yogurt mixture, peas and artichokes.  Serve cold.

September 26, 2009

Open Letter: Monkey Bread Baking Mold (and Recipe)

Dear Tumbleweed Pottery,

I commend you for creating a need for a better pan than the Bundt for the wonder pastry that is cinnamon-sugary, buttery monkey bread. You convinced my mother that her daughter who was dorky enough to ask for a popsicle-shaped cake pan as a high schooler would be excited to make her monkey bread in a specialty dish. In fact, I was excited about the inverted flower pot shape it would take as a I placed my cinnamon and sugar-coated biscuit quarters inside.

However, what you failed to realize is that the pot is too TALL and NARROW for the dough to cook in the middle before the tops and bottoms are crisp. My monkey bread was 1/3 fail and did not look pretty for its breakfast tailgate debut. Now, I like things a little doughy, but a significant portion of the dough was not not acceptable for eating even with the ridiculous amount of butter and sugar and cinnamon that coated it. And I've made this recipe numerous times without a glitch.

Luckily, I was able to pick out the cooked parts (on the plate on the right; uncooked mush is on the left in the photo below) to have something to contribute to the tailgate, and the pieces that were done did taste like their wonderful selves should. Thanks for saving me from allowing myself overeat leftovers of butter and sugar to the point of feeling sick (been there, done that on a high school band trip), but your monkey bread pan will no longer have a place in my limited kitchen space.

I will, however, share my monkey bread recipe for my friends to make in their BUNDT pans.

An unsatisfied owner of your fancy-shmancy baking mold

Monkey Bread

4 cans buttermilk canned refrigerated biscuits
1 3/4 c. granulated sugar
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 c.) butter
1 1/2 tbsp. cinnamon

Quarter biscuits and dip them in a mixture of  3/4 cup sugar and cinnamon. Put biscuits in well greased angel food cake or Bundt pan. Bring remaining 1 cup sugar and butter to a boil, and pour over biscuit pieces. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove from pan immediately, serve when cool.

September 23, 2009

Recipe: Banana-Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip Cookies

These guys' cake-like consistency made them taste like banana bread in cookie form, with chocolate.  One of my co-editors described it as "breakfast in a cookie" as she and the rest of us hanging around the magazine office that morning helped ensure that they were eaten in their freshest form. 

The rave reviews they received might or might not be why I received the "Most Likely to Satisfy a Sweet Tooth" at the staff awards a week or so later. It's a good thing I caved into my late night desire to try out this Cooking Light reader recipe for a (somewhat) healthier dessert. and smashed up my overripe banana to blend with some of the best basic ingredients (chocolate, oats, butter, sugar).  

Banana-Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup mashed ripe banana (about 1 medium)

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon  vanilla extract

1 egg

1 ¼ cups  all-purpose

2  ups  old-fashioned oats

1 teaspoon  baking soda

1/2 teaspoon  salt

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Add egg; beat well.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, oats, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add flour mixture to banana mixture in bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop batter by heaping tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 18 minutes or until golden. Cool on pans 2 minutes. Remove cookies from pans; cool completely on wire racks.

September 19, 2009

Three Things: Tortilla Pizzas

The best simple restaurant-food-wannabe dinner option for a solitary eater. Throw on toppings based on what you have in your fridge and freezer.

The basic idea: Spray a tortilla with olive oil. Place on a cookie sheet (or pizza pan) in oven preheated to 425 degrees. Let cook until tortilla begins to brown, about 7 minutes (but do not let it burn-- been there, done that, started over). Add sauce, cheese and toppings. Return to oven and bake until the cheese melts, about 5 minutes.

1. Pesto
Inspiration: Schlotzsky's Mediterranean pizza
What: pesto sauce topped with Parmesan and feta cheese and chopped tomatoes
I eat it: when I have pesto and feta on hand

2. Barbecue Chicken
Inspiration: Memphis Pizza Cafe
What: barbecue sauce (I like Bullseye because it's the only one of the 20 or 30 labels I looked at that didn't have preservatives) topped with shredded (sharp) cheddar cheese, chopped chicken (I keep a stock of this in my freeze) and chopped red onion
I eat it: almost every week in the winter

3. Sausage and Bell Pepper
Inspiration: any ole pizza joint
What: marinara sauce topped with shredded mozzerella, cooked crumbled sausage, chopped orange bell pepper
I eat it: the least frequently (Usually I prefer to grab a slice of Shakespeare's to fulfill "normal" pizza cravings.)

September 15, 2009

Recipe: Gooey Butter Cookies

These guys are cake in cookie form, and pretty much everyone is ecstatic about that. This is my go-to recipe for a 5-ingredient assured crowd pleaser. People tell me that gooey butter cake is a St. Louis thing, and that these are very similar. 

You can use any kind of cake mix, but my favorite is plain ole yellow. I originally pulled the recipe from because that's what popped up first in my Google search for "gooey butter cookie" after I fell in love with the taste from one at Bogie's Deli in Memphis.

Gooey Butter Cookies

1 18.5-oz. package (yellow) cake mix
1 stick butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup powdered sugar

Cream together cream cheese and butter. Add the egg and vanilla then the cake mix. Stir until well blended. At this point the dough is really sticky, so I like to refrigerate it for a few hours so that it's easier to work with. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls, and roll the balls in powdered sugar. Place balls 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 13 minutes. It's tricky to tell when these cookies are done because they don't brown on top but do on the bottom, so I like to check the bottoms if I'm unsure. Also, they're supposed to be really soft and, you know, gooey. Remove from cookie sheets to cool on wire racks (or parchment paper).

September 8, 2009

Recipe: Mint Chocolate Ice Cream Pie

The mission: birthday dessert for my community group. Preferably a summery crowd pleaser.

The inspiration: my mom's mint chocolate chip ice cream squares.

The remedy: PIE! Real Kitchen Mom's recipe made for fewer servings and greater concentration of oreos, ice cream and chocolate, not to mention a prettier presentation.

The verdict: Rave reviews for putting simple ice cream sundae ingredients into in a pretty pie form.

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Pie

1 Oreo pie crust (recipe below, or cheat and buy one-- but it won't be as good)
1.5  quarts mint chocolate chip ice cream, softened
8 Oreos, crushed (I put mine in a plastic baggie and hit it with a spoon to leave some larger chunks)
1 recipe chocolate sauce

Spread ice cream in bottom of crust. Sprinkle crumbs on top. Spread chocolate sauce on ice cream and crumbs. Freeze until set.

Oreo Crust
2 1/4 cups Oreo crumbs, fine (I made mine in the food processor)
3 tablespoons butter, melted

Stir together Oreo crumbs and butter; spread in bottom of pie plate. Freeze for at least 30 minutes.

Chocolate Sauce
1/2 sugar
3 oz evaporated milk or cream
3 Tbsp cocoa
1 Tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla

Mix all ingredients in a sauce pan. Cook over medium and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute and remove from stove. Allow to cool. You can save some of the sauce for future ice cream toppers, unless you want the dessert even more ridiculously chocolaty.

September 3, 2009

Three Things: Fresh Penne and Basil

The challenge: three distinct ways to prepare these two items from my farmer's market booty together.The results:
1. Lemon and Feta
Most likely to be served as a light side dish
Olive oil and lemon juice mixed with warm pasta and sprinkled with chopped basil and crumbled feta.

2. Pesto Tomato
Most likely to be served in a generic Italian restaurant
Mixed penne with fresh pesto (it is the best way to serve fresh basil), parmesan and chopped cherry tomatoes.

3. Balsamic Pasta Salad
Most likely to be served in a girly lunch place
Mixed cold penne with my sweet balsamic vinaigrette (olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sugar, lemon juice), raw chopped green pepper, chopped fontina cheese and, of course, chopped basil.