Monday, September 28, 2009

Ham and Cheese Calzone

I am not a big meat-eater (as you can probably tell if you are reading this) but now that I am selling Pampered Chef (ask me about that!) I have obviously been making some Pampered Chef recipes. This is the one I did for my Grand Opening show. It is from the Season's Best Fall/Winter 2009 cookbook (which you can purchase through me for $1!).

It is a super easy recipe, so there is not much to say. I think the thin crust Pillsbury pizza dough is better to use for the large bar pan. At home, I used provolone and mozzarella instead of swiss because Ken hates swiss. Don't be silly and forget the second half of the cheese INSIDE the calzone. And other than that, it is pretty straightforward.

I want to try some variations on this, including some kind of vegetarian version. A broccoli calzone would be interesting but I would also like to find a way to reduce the excessive amounts of cheese that are present here. This is not a recipe that lends itself well to health-itizing it, so we'll have to see what inspires me, but it's always nice to have suggestions for guests at parties. My cheese swap was one of my suggestions last time. Otherwise, I'm not sure I'll really be making this much at home as it just isn't really something I loved.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


I am constantly reading my cookbooks, so when I found the hummus recipe in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian I was basically ready to try it immediately. Lucky for me, it couldn't be easier. With minimal ingredients and a ton of possible variations, this is something everyone should be making at home. I have been carefully checking ingredients lists lately, and preservatives and chemicals are NOT things that I want to eat. Unfortunately, my (former) favorite hummus brand (Sabra) is not present at Whole Foods*, which is a kind of lazy trick I use to decide whether I want to eat something. The reason it is my favorite is because of the big pile of seasonings and whole chickpeas and other random good tasting stuff in the middle. But if I make my own... I can just add that in myself.

For this particular batch of hummus I used organic canned chickpeas, and chose paprika as my spice (Mark Bittman offers cumin as the other option in the basic recipe). I also used extra garlic and extra lemon. One caution is that it comes out very very thick - that is why he has you add water, to thin it out. However, keep in mind that it will thicken up in the fridge, so you should make it thinner than you want to initially.

This hummus is something that I will definitely be making again and would be a great option to bring to a party or picnic. The picture may not be that easy to identify, but it is me holding a pita chip with some hummus on it.

*I don't buy everything at Whole Foods... I don't even make it there very often. But when I do go, I spend a LOT of time there and I really pay attention to what is around me. I can trust them to have "foods that are free of artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, sweeteners, and hydrogenated fats"(according to their website). So I pay attention to things I see there and if I see them at a conventional grocery store, I feel much better about picking them up without thoroughly examining the ingredient list.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ricotta Cookies

One of my favorite cookie recipes to make are the ricotta cheese cookies that we made in middle school home ec. Looking at the recipe this time, I decided to change things around a little. This didn't exactly work as I planned. The first batch pretty much melted in the oven. Ken had the idea to refrigerate the dough before baking the next batch, so we put it in the fridge and forgot about it until the next day. Conveniently, this batch came out pretty good. The cookies were a little more spread out at the edges than usual.
Original Recipe (with my variations in italics)
1/2 cup (1 stick) margarine [1/2 cup butter]
8 oz (1 cup) ricotta cheese
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour [2 cups whole wheat pastry flour]
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder

1. Sift together flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder in a bowl and set aside.
2. With an electric mixer, beat margarine, ricotta, sugar, eggs and vanilla until smooth.
3. Add sifted dry ingredients to ricotta mixture.
4. Beat by hand with a wooden spoon.
5. Drop by teaspoonful onto a greased cookie sheet.
6. Bake at 325* for 15 minutes.

Next time I want to try a mix of whole wheat flours and all-purpose flours. Not sure exactly what yet though. I would also like to try to sub out the sugar once I get the flour done. I also use part skim ricotta.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Fried Pineapple Rice

This is my fried rice version of last night's dinner, Pineapple Rice. The leftovers were already all mixed together so I kind of just dumped them in the pan with some of the toasted sesame oil (canola blend). I also made one quick scrambled egg and some pan-fried tofu (in the same toasted sesame oil blend).

The tofu was an interesting addition. It was good in little pieces, but I would like to make it again with thin slices so they crisp up like bacon. Yum!

I thought the rice was good. The sweetness of the pineapple dressing was really emphasized (and Ken didn't like it). It had the consistency of fried rice. I liked it a lot. I wouldn't make it just to make it, but I would make it with the leftovers again.

Egg Wrap

This recipe was inspired by the Skinny Omelette from 101 Cookbooks. I was browsing over there for a quick and yummy breakfast recipe and came across the Skinny Omelette. Obviously, you can adjust fillings easily, so ideas started popping all over my head. While there were a number of things I wanted to try, I opted for leftovers from my Pineapple Rice recipe. I used arugula and the pineapple dressing, and added some feta.

This was pretty yummy. The pineapple dressing is a little spicy, so I think I used a little too much, but it was still good. The egg was nice and fluffy and spongy on the outside and made a good wrap. I am glad I could use a little of what I had left in the fridge. Next time I try this recipe, I might try to use a little less egg to make the wrap thinner. I would also try using whatever I have on hand and not sticking to a recipe!

2 eggs
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp pineapple dressing (see Pineapple Rice recipe)
1 handful baby arugula
1 Tbsp feta

1. Whisk the eggs together with a pinch of salt and pepper. Pour in a large pan (heated) and quickly swirl to help it reach the edges. Let it cook.
2. Meanwhile, toss the baby arugula with the pineapple dressing.
3. When the egg is cooked, use a spatula to help you slide onto a dinner plate.
4. Put the arugula onto the egg, trying to keep it in the lower half of the circle. Sprinkle some feta on top and roll, starting at the edge nearest you. Try to fold in one of the sides as you go so nothing falls out the bottom.
5. Eat.

Pineapple Rice

I check 101 Cookbooks every day for a new recipe, even though I figured out the pattern of how often they are posted. Sometimes there are recipes that I am just not interested in, or there are sometimes posts that aren't recipes at all. I find myself constantly waiting for something new and exciting to be posted - unless the most recent recipe is the perfect recipe for me. The current Pineapple Rice recipe had me from the picture. It is an amazing sounding taste of Hawaii.

After collecting the ingredients, I finally had time to make this last night for dinner. I have to admit that this recipe took me a very long time. I usually don't remember to keep track of time, but this took me about an hour. I used brown Basmati rice, which was delicious and smelled so wonderful. The dressing was pretty easy to make, although there were a lot of components. (Luckily, it was worth it.) There was also chopping and toasting cashews, chopping scallions and shallots and pineapple, and the tofu, which I never got around to. The recipe uses seitan, but I am not familiar with that, nor did I have it on hand, so I intended to use tofu. Unfortunately I did not think of it soon enough and it was still defrosting when everything else was done, and I just couldn't wait!

One addition I made to this recipe was chopped pineapple. Two reasons for this: one, it is Pineapple Rice and the only pineapple is in the dressing, which felt just so wrong to me, and two, I used a 20-oz can of pineapple and needed only 1 cup for the dressing. I chopped it up pretty small, so it melded in nicely with the rest of the ingredients.

I would recommend serving this dish hot. For one thing, my rice was already pretty hot since I had just cooked it, and it also makes it feel a little more substantial. I kept the rice in the pot after it had finished, just mixing it around a bit, and added the dressing and the rest of the ingredients in with the burner on low just to heat it up.

The final result was absolutely delicious and I am already dying to make it again. The recipe suggests trying a fried rice version with the leftovers, so I forced myself to save a little so that I could try it. (That may be another post.) I make a lot of things, but this is something I am going to include in my regular rotation for sure.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Leftovers Fried Rice

Today, after having a reasonably bad day, I came home ready to make something yummy for dinner. I somehow ended up talking to my mom on the phone for over an hour and when we finally hung up it was well after 8pm already and I was ready to eat right then. It was time to come up with something quick and easy (and of course, tasty).

Last night I had takeout from my favorite Thai restaurant, and I had some white rice left over. I poked around the fridge and found some red onions already sliced. I grabbed an egg and some soy sauce. I found my tiniest pan which happened to be the only clean thing in the kitchen, and I made a quick omelette with the egg, adding just a little salt and pepper. I took it out of the pan and cut it up on a plate. Meanwhile, I put the onions in the pan with toasted sesame oil (I didn't mind using it for this since I discovered that "blend" means blended with canola oil, not different sesame oils) and let them cook on their own for a minute or two. Then I dumped in the rice and mixed it all around and let it fry up a bit. After a few minutes when it had very slightly changed color, I added two glugs of soy sauce, mixing in between, then added some salt and pepper (note for next time: the pepper was a good idea, the salt was not. soy sauce - duh!). At the very end, I turned the heat way down and put the cut up omelette back in just to heat up a bit.

And wow! Normally I wouldn't post some crap that I just tossed together to quiet my stomach, but this was surprisingly delicious. I'm not sure exactly what made it good - I suspect the oil had something to do with it, and that I actually let the rice fry up before sprinkling it with soy sauce instead of drenching it like I have in the past. The red onions were interesting, I would probably use white or yellow next time, and chopped smaller, but not bad for such an impromptu mix of ingredients.

The point of this is not to actually make it again - but as a reminder of what you can do to clean out your fridge. There is quite a bit of stuff I would have added had I wanted to spend more than ten minutes on this endeavor. If I had a little more time I probably would have found some vegetables in the freezer to add as well, and if I hadn't had the leftover white rice I would have used brown rice. And if I had more time I would have defrosted tofu and used that instead of egg. But these were the things I had easily accessible and all ready to go, so that's what I used - and it worked. Sometimes when I make some of the more complicated recipes, like on 101 Cookbooks, I end up with weird little bits of already chopped things that I throw away in tiny amounts. Something like this might be a fun and interesting way to use up those little chopped up bits instead of tossing them in the trash.

Final notes: the key was just letting the rice fry up and leaving it alone, just giving it a few splashes of soy sauce instead of cups and cups of the stuff, and possibly the toasted sesame oil. I might try a million variations, but I will definitely be having fried rice again soon.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Chicken and Eggplant Parmesan

Since school started I have been very busy and haven't really made anything new. But since it's a long weekend, I decided to try out a new recipe that I have been wanting to try for a while - Chicken and Eggplant Parmesan from Food Matters. I bought eggplant at the Rutgers Gardens Farmers Market on Friday (as well as some yummy white peaches and a pint of yummy homemade sour pickles) specifically for the purpose of trying this recipe. I like eggplant and I want to look for more ways to cook with it, but eggplant parm seems to be common so I think it was a good recipe to start with.

We started out trying to broil the eggplant, but we really don't have the proper cookware for that, so we quickly switched to our electric grill. Rather than making the All-Purpose Tomato Sauce, we used my Nonna's homemade sauce. The result was OK, but I didn't love it. Ken didn't like it. The parmesan was really good, since I used real parmesan, and the mozzarella was good too. I think one cup of bread crumbs was way too much, though. I would probably use half of that next time. I also totally forgot to mix in the olive oil, salt and pepper to the bread crumbs. Oops! I might make this again, but maybe not. I am trying to eat less meat, so this is probably the only chicken I will be having for a while, and I will definitely be eating veggie meals for the rest of the week.