Monday, October 31, 2011

Pizza Possibilities

A few weeks ago I received a wonderful package in the mail from Johnsonville Sausage.  It contained all sorts of goodies for a make your own pizza night.  As it happens, make your own pizza is one of my kids' favorite activities, you probably could have guessed this based on the number of times I have written about it.  They never tire of it and always ask to have tons of different ingredients put out even though they make the same type - plain old cheese - every time.

To take full advantage of the wonderful goodies from Johnsonville we gathered some friends together for a make your own pizza party.  I gathered a bunch of different toppings and put the kids to work making an assortment of pizzas.  The pizza selection included:
We didn't take an official vote for favorite pizza, but they were all devoured, my favorite was the Florentine, but I always go for spinach pizza.  The recipes for the Margherita, Cucina and Florentine pizzas came from the Johnsonville site, they have a lot of great recipes so be sure to stop by and check them out.

The chicken sausage pizza was a white pizza and was created for my husband.  He is allergic to pork, so I was thrilled to find that Johnsonville has come out with a flavorful chicken sausage.  We used the apple chicken sausage, but they offer three other flavors that we also plan on trying.

Chicken Sausage Pizza

Your favorite Pizza dough
2 links Johnsonville Apple Chicken Sausage, thinly sliced
1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 c.  shredded Gouda cheese
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 450 and heat pizza stone

Heat large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add sausage, cook until browned, about 5 minutes.  Remove from pan.  Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan.  Once oil is heated add onion slices.  Cook slowly until tender and brown, about 10 minutes.  

While onion is cooking roll out pizza dough.  Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place on hot pizza stone and bake for 5-7 minutes or until crust is lightly baked.   Remove from oven.  Top with sausage, onions and cheese.  Return to oven for an additional 7-10 minutes or until cheese is melted.  


Friday, October 28, 2011

Apple Cake with Maple Frosting

This month the Cake Slice bakers began baking with our new book.  This year we are baking our way through "The Cake Book" by Trish Boyle.  I have had the book for about two months and I think I have read every recipe.  It looks likes a great book with lots of yummy cakes.  Despite my lateness in posting I have been very excited to begin baking.  I actually baked this cake two weeks ago and had hoped to bake it again to, because it was so yummy, and to get better pictures.  Hopefully not all of my posts will be as late as this one.

This cake is described as "a moist, unpretentious cake, perfect as a simple fall dessert or snack." and this really is the perfected description.  Simple yet yummy.  A wonderful treat in the afternoon with a cup of tea, or as I enjoyed it as an unhealthy, yet really yummy, breakfast with a cup of coffee.  The spice mixture on this cake was wonderful, the perfect blend of cinnamon, cloves and ginger,  it just screamed of Fall.  To top things off this cake is finished with a wonderful maple cream cheese icing.  I could have eaten the entire bowl on its own.  I didn't have maple flavoring, but I did have something even better, maple cream.  If you have never had maple cream you need to go find some now, it is absolutely magnificent.  I added the maple cream to the butter and cream cheese and creamed all the ingredients together, it was hard to not just spread this mixture on a piece of toast and eat the entire bowl.

Apple Cake with Maple Frosting
from “The Cake Book” by Trish Boyle
Printer Ready

1 ½ c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground cloves
¼ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt

½ c. unsalted butter, softened
1 c. firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs
⅔ c. buttermilk
2 c. peeled and chopped Granny Smith apples (about 2 apples) *
½ c. coarsely chopped apples

*I used Honeycrisp

Preheat oven 350. Grease bottom and sides of 9” cake pan, line bottom with parchment paper.

In medium bowl whisk dry ingredients together, set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer beat butter until creamy.  Gradually add the sugar and beat at medium-high speed for about two minutes until light and creamy.  Add the vanilla and eggs, one at a time.  Beat well after each addition, scrapping down sides of bowl as needed.  Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with buttermilk, in two additions.  With each addition blend until just incorporated.  Remove bowl from mixer and stir in chopped apples and walnuts.
Pour mixture into poured pan, smooth top.  Bake cake for 25-30 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.  Cool cake completely, then top with frosting.  

Maple Cream Cheese Spice Frosting
Printer Ready

6 oz.  cream cheese, softened
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
2 Tbsp. maple cream

½ tsp. vanilla extract
⅛ tsp. ground cinnamnon
⅛ tsp. ground ginger
1 c. confectioners sugar, sifted

In bowl of electric mixer, at medium speed, beat cream cheese, butter and maple cream together until smooth and fluffy.  Beat in vanilla, cinnamon and ginger.  Reduce speed to low and add confections sugar, beat until blended.  Raise speed to high and beat until light and creamy, about 2 minutes.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Stuffed Squash

This week was one of those weeks where I had an odd assortment of food leftover at the end of the week.  There wasn't enough of any one item to make a meal for all of us. There was leftover soup, about a pound of ground turkey, 3 small acorn squash, 1/2 a bag of green beans and a small bit of frozen spinach.  The resulting dinner - stuffed squash with a cup of soup.

The stuffed squash was wonderful.  I usually think of squash as just a side dish, but this made the perfect fall meal, plus it was quick and easy.  This is one of those fillings that is easily adjustable based on what you have available.  I had spinach on hand that I wanted to use up, but I also debated using apples which I think would be super yummy as well and give it even more Fall flavor.

Stuffed Squash
Printer Ready

3 Acorn Squash
¼ c. Brown Sugar
1 small Onion, diced
1 lb. Ground Turkey
10 oz. Chopped frozen Spinach, thawed
1 Tbs. Curry Powder
¼ c. Flour
¼ c. Milk
Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven 350 degrees.

Cut squash in half remove seeds, place in baking dish and season with salt and pepper.  Evenly divide brown sugar between squash halves.  Bake for 20-30 minutes or until tender.

While squash is cooking prepare filling.  Over medium heat saute onion in olive oil until opaque.   Add ground turkey, cook until brown and cooked through.  Add curry powder, salt and pepper and chopped spinach.  Cook 3-5 minutes or until spinach is combined with turkey.  Sprinkle mixture with flour, cook for another 5 minutes, stirring to combine.  Slowly add milk, cook mixture thickens.  

Remove squash from oven.  Divide turkey mixture between squash halves.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Return to oven bake for 10 minutes.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cereal and Star Wars

This summer General Mills sent me a variety of cereals to sample.  Some of the cereals we received where types I normally wouldn't purchase, like Lucky Charms and Trix.  Other samples, like Cheerios and Chex are household favorites.  Ever since I received these samples I have been thinking about and noticing cereals more often and I have come to the conclusion my family eats a lot of cereal.

We don't just eat cereal for breakfast.  I throw it in the kids lunch, there is often a baggie full of cereal in my bag for snacks, sometimes there is even a box of it floating around the car.  Plus I love cooking with it, it has become one of my favorite breading items.  You can really change up a boring piece of chicken just by varying you cereal choice.

I know our cereal uses aren't unusual but I never realized just how much cereal we use and for some reason I am fascinated by this.  I think General Mills somehow secretly sensed this fascination and decided to mess with me even more by sending me yet another amazing package.  This time they sent full sized boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios, Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Lucky Charms.  That alone would have been great - they are all great snacking and cooking cereal - but it got better when the three boxes are put together you get this.

Again this was great I was happy with the cereal my kids had a great time with the boxes, but they also included a $25 gift card to Walmart, which will be used not for something practical, but to buy the full Star Wars collection.  Our discs are very scratched up and no longer watchable.  My Star Wars obessessed children find this very frustrating and will be very happy on Christmas morning when they find the new collection under the tree.  Now if Santa will just bring us a Blue-ray player to go with it we will all be happy.

General Mills and MyBlogSpark have generously offered to send one of my readers this same prize pack.  You will receive:

  • One box of each of the following cereals to form their own Star Wars panoramic poster:
    • Honey Nut Cheerios
    • Cinnamon Toast Crunch
    • Lucky Charms
  • $25 Walmart gift card
Leave a comment letting me know your favorite way to enjoy cereal or your favorite Star Wars character.  On October 27th I will pick a winner.

Monday, October 10, 2011

SRC - Simply Cooked

Chicken and peanut butter is one of my favorite combinations.  I could eat it every day and never grow tired of it, so when I saw Sarah over at Simply Cooked had a recipe for Bang Bang Chicken I new what I would be trying this month for the Secret Recipe Club.

As always the SRC club introduced me to another wonderful site.  Sarah has a great assortment of recipes, a lot of the recipes are vegetarian, but there are options for the carnivore lover as well.  In addition to her recipes Sarah also has some fabulous book reviews from her Kitchen Reader book club.  I spent just as much time reading these posts as I did her recipes, so not only did my recipes to make list grow, but so did my books to read list.

Sarah's recipe for Bang Bang Chicken is wonderfully simple.  It is a great dish to have in your repertoire as it can be prepared ahead of time and is just as yummy cold as hot.  I actually prefer to it cold, the flavors are much more enhanced.

 I followed Sarah's recipe pretty much exactly, but did add some carrots for a little added crunch.

Bang Bang Chicken 
Printer Friendly

Recipe from Simply Cooked and adapted from A Little Taste of China

Make this with leftover roasted or poached chicken. Or poach the chicken at the beginning of the recipe, then use the same cooking water for the noodles.

1 1/2 cucumbers
1 t salt
30 g Rice vermicelli
1 t toasted sesame oil
2 c. Cooked chicken, shredded
2 scallions (spring onions), sliced

for the dressing:
1/4 c (peanut butter
1 t soy sauce
4 t sugar
3 T rice wine vinegar
1 T toasted sesame oil
1 scallion (spring onion), sliced
1 T minced ginger
1 t chilli paste
1/4 c (60 ml) chicken stock or water

Slice the cucumbers into sticks. Toss with the salt and set aside in a bowl for 20 minutes.

Make the dressing by whisking together all the dressing ingredients.

Cook the noodles according to the packet directions; this will only take a few minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water so they cool to room temperature.
Combine the cucumbers, noodles, sesame oil, and chicken. Pour the dressing over and toss to combine. Sprinkle with the scallions.

As always there are lots of great recipes to check out with this month's SRC. You can check them out here and be sure to visit the Secret Recipe Club site throughout the month for more recipe reveals.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Strawberry Shortcake

My daughter just celebrated her 5th birthday and requested a Strawberry Shortcake themed birthday party.  She also requested to have a moonbounce, which made the party super simple, even though the weather was absolutely miserable.

I had planned on setting everything up outside, but the cold temperatures and rain made that impossible, so we move all the food inside.  I am not good at decorating so the decorations consisted of red, green and pink balloons.  I kept the table simple with a green table cloth and served everything in red bowls.  A couple of years ago I bought a red tiered server from Pottery barn, it was on clearance when I got it and it has been one of my best purchases ever.  I have decided that red is a great option for serving ware and have become a little obsessed with collecting it.  It is perfect for Christmas, 4th of July, Valentines Day and of course Strawberry Shortcake parties, plus it is a great accent piece for many other occasions.

Enough of my red obsession, back to the party.  As I said the table was simple and so was the food.  We had "Fancy" Strawberry and Cream Cheese Sandwich Pockets, pizza muffins, apples and caramel and strawberries and chocolate.  We also served Strawberry Milk and Strawberry Lemonade.  Very simple, but enjoyed by both the kids and the adults who stuck around.  I apologize that I don't have a picture of the spread, but I somehow forgot to take any pictures, but as I said it was simple and not very exciting to look at, so you aren't missing out on much.

The cake was fun to make.  Again, it was pretty simple and wasn't overly Strawberry Shortcake in appearance.  I don't like putting people or faces on cakes, it creeps me out to cut the cakes and eat them, but that is my own personal problem, so even though Maggie loved the Wilton cake, I just couldn't do it.  I found some great ideas on-line and this was the final product.

I was pretty happy with it, but by the time I went to serve it it had started to bow out.  A friend thought I had designed the cake that way on purpose to mimic the characters hat, which it kind of did.  I am not sure what caused the cake to bulge out.  The cake wasn't sliding so I am thinking that some of the icing from the top of the cake started to slide down, although the icing was still smooth on all sides.  If you have any ideas what might have happened or know what would cause this I would love to find out.