Friday, May 25, 2007

Friday Pizza Nights

After a long week, the last thing on my mind for Friday night is cooking. Right after Ben and I got married and not long after we moved in together to our new townhouse we instituted Friday Pizza Nights. We enjoy nothing more than a hot slice of pizza, a cold beer or a glass of wine and watching a movie. Ben has always been a huge pizza fan and since working at Domino's he thinks he's an expert. His dream one day is to open a pizza parlor/brewery, but for now, our kitchen on Friday nights will have to do.

We've recently taken our pizza nights one step further and started making our own dough. Yes, we were a little scared of using yeast, but it's super easy. One batch of dough makes enough for 2-12 inch pizzas. When making the dough we immediately split the dough and put half in the freezer for next week. We just thaw the dough and let it rise. We've experimented with different toppings, cheeses, sauces, but our favorites are ham and pineapple, classic pepperoni and sausage and bbq chicken. We've also tweaked the original dough recipe from Cooking Light to add a little more flavor. We hope you'll start your own Friday Pizza Nights and have fun experimenting with your own favorite toppings with your family.

Whole Wheat Herb Pizza Dough

1 package dry yeast
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 1/2 to 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour, divided
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons pizza seasoning
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
Cooking Spray

Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, oil, garlic powder, pizza seasonings and salt to yeast mixture, stirring until well-blended. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes); add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel tacky).

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 45 minutes or until doubled in size. (Press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes. Divide dough in half; roll each half into a 12-inch circle on a floured surface. Top and bake according to recipe directions.

Note: You can prepare this in a stand mixer using the dough hook. Add all the ingredients and let the hook knead the dough for approximately 5 minutes. Also, this dough may be frozen. Follow directions for kneading dough, and shape dough into 2 balls. Coat balls with cooking spray and place into a ziptop plastic freezer bag. Thaw overnight in a refrigerator. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85'), free from drafts' 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size. (Press two fingers into dough. If Indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.) Shape as instructed.

By trial and error we've found for the crust we like (slightly crispy) we preheat heat the oven to 400F, bake the pizza dough for 5 minutes, then add our sauce, cheese, toppings and more cheese. Then, bake approximately 15 more minutes until the cheese and melted and just ever so slightly browned.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Beef Stroganoff

In my Cooking Light magazine the last recipe in the back is always a "Then & Now" recipe. They are usually classic recipes that are remade and slimmed down. I had a beef stroganoff recipe, but decided to try this and see how it is. Overall we liked it, I used ground beef instead of boneless sirlion steak. I also didn't have any sherry, so I used vermouth instead. I would have enjoyed a more creamy sauce and more sauce in general, but we may have made too many egg noodles. It'll definitely be a keeper once I modify it a little bit!

Beef Stroganoff (Cooking Light)

1 lb boneless sirloin steak, trimmed
Cooking Spray
3 cups sliced cremini mushrooms (about 8 ounces)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespooons all purpose flour
1 cup fat free, less sodium beef broth
1/4 cup dry sherry
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup reduced fat sour cream
4 cups hot egg noodles cooking (about 8 ounces uncooked)
3 tablespoons minced fresh flat leaf parsley

Cut beef diagonally across the grain into 1/2 inch wide strips, cut the strips into 2 inch pieces.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add beef to the pan, saute 2 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove beef from pan, place in medium bowl and keep warm. Add mushrooms and onion to the pan, saute 4 minutes. Add mushroom mixture to beef.

Melt butter in pan over medium heat. Add flour. Cook 1 minute, stirring with a whisk. Gradually add broth, stirring constantly. Cook 1 minute or until thickened and bubbly, stirring constantly.

Add beef mixture, sherry, salt and pepper to pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 4 minutes. Remove from heat, let stand 30 seconds. Stir in the sour cream.

Combine noodles and minced parsley. Serve beef mixture over noodles. Garnish with parsley sprigs if desired.

Calories 352, Fat 11.7 g, Protein 24.2g, Carbs 36g, Fiber 1.8g

Bachelorette Finger Foods

This past weekend was my friend and college roommate, Meg's, Bachelorette Party. We booked at room at The Quincey Hotel in downtown DC near DuPont Circle with a kitchenette suite. I figured we'd enjoy sitting around having appetizers for dinner with drinks rather than rushing out to dinner somewhere. So I made a spinach-artichoke dip, stuffed mushrooms, mini salmon burgers with a lemon cream sauce, brushetta and hummus with veggies. Believe it or not, but four girls actually finished off almost all of this food. We had a great time, but what could be better than food, friends, girl talk and drinks all night? I've added a few pictures of the spread we enjoyed as well as some of the recipes I made.

Spinach Artichoke Dip (Food Network)

1 box frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella
8 ounces reduced fat cream cheese, softened
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, plus more as needed
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained
Carrot sticks, celery sticks or baked tortilla strips, for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Squeeze all excess liquid from spinach, place in a food processor with sour cream, Parmesan, 1/2 cup of the mozzarella, the cream cheese, garlic, pepper and hot sauce.

Process until just blended but still slightly lumpy. Add artichokes and pulse to form a chunky mixture. Place in a 1-quart baking dish. Top with remaining mozzarella. Bake until bubbly, about 30 minutes. Serve with carrot sticks, celery sticks or baked tortilla strips.

Mouth-Watering Stuffed Mushrooms (Allrecipes)

12 whole fresh mushrooms
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground onion powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 340 F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Clean mushrooms with a damp paper towel. Carefully break off stems. Chop stems extremely fine, discarding any touch ends of the stems.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and chopped msuhroom stems to the skillet. Fry until any moisture has disappeared, taking care not to burn the garlic. Set aside to cool.

When garlic and mushroom mixture is no longer hot, stir in cream cheese, parmesan cheese, black pepper, onion powder and cayenne pepper. Mixture should be very thick. Using a little spoon, fill each mushroom cap with a generous amount of stuffing. Arrange the mushroom caps on a prepared cookie sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until the msuhrooms are piping hot and liquid starts to form until caps.

Salmon Burgers with a Lemon Cream Sauce

1 (14 ounce) can Alaskan salmon, drained and flaked
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
handfull parsley leaves, finely chopped
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3/4 cups italian breadcrumbs
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

To the flaked salmon add egg whites, parsley, the zest and juice of the lemon, garlic, bread crumbs, salt and pepper to taste. Mix together and form 4 large patties or 10 mini patties.

Preheat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a non stick skillet over medium to medium high heat. Cook salmon patties 2 to 3 minutes on each side for mini patties, 4 minutes on each side for large patties.

Serve alone with lemon cream sauce or on buns as a sandwich.

Lemon Cream Sauce

2 tablespoons butter
4 teaspoons all purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon chipotle ground pepper

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour to form a smooth paste. Gradually stir in milk, bring to a boil stiring constantly. Cook for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice, salt and chipoltle pepper.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Christmas in May...

Since I've just started this blog I don't have too many pictures of food. I've made things a thousand times without ever taking a picture...why didn't I think of that before? Anyways...even though we're a good six months to next Christmas, I do have a picture of the Chocolate Candy Cane cake I made. It was so pretty in my new cake stand at the time. While you may have a hard time finding candy canes now, the round peppermints will work just as well. This recipe is originally from the Kraft Food and Family magazine (which is free and comes quarterly). I've adapted it a little, so here's my recipe. Enjoy!

Chocolate Candy Cane Cake

1 pkg. (2-layer size) chocolate cake mix
1 pkg. (4-serving size) Jello Chocolate Flavor Instant Pudding & Pie Filling
4 eggs
1 container (8 oz.) Sour Cream
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup water
4 squares Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate, chopped
18 small candy canes, coarsely crushed (about 1 cup), divided

1 tsp peppermint extract
2 cans white frosting

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two 9-inch round cake pans. Beat cake mix, dry pudding mix, eggs, sour cream, oil and water in large bowl with electric mixer on low speed just until moistened, stopping frequently to scrape side of bowl. Beat on medium speed 2 min. or until well blended. Stir in chopped chocolate and peppermint extract. Spoon evenly into prepared pans.

Bake 40 to 45 min. or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool 10 min. Loosen cakes from sides of pans with metal spatula or knife. Invert cakes onto wire racks; carefully remove pans. Cool completely.

Place one of the cake layers on serving plate; spread evenly with 1 cup of the frosting. Top with remaining cake layer. Frost top and side of cake with remaining frosting. Sprinkle with crushed candy canes just before serving.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Very early in our relationship, Ben and I started going to the Flying Saucer in downtown Raleigh. It was there that we both learned to appreciate beer for it's taste. We are now proud members of the UFO club and on our way to trying 200 different beers and getting a "saucer" on the wall. Since beer tasting has become a hobby of Ben's, what better way to continue that hobby than making your own beer. For Christmas my parents gave Ben a home beer brewing kit and we have recently brewed our first batch. Not only was it better than we ever expected, it's dramatically cut down on the beer budget! So here's to Ben's first homebrew...and many more...

Chicken Divan

This "casserole" type dish is one of the many recipes that seem to satisfy us on busy nights. Any time I can find fresh broccoli I'll use that instead of the frozen. Also, I like to make everything in advance and it's all ready waiting for me to just cook after a long day. What better way to wind down on a week night with a delicious meal and a glass of the white wine you had to open for this recipe.

Chicken Divan

5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 packages frozen broccoli
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup ritz cracker crumbs
1/2 cup margarine melted

Boil chicken until done, cut into strips. Cook broccoli until tender, drain and arrange stalks in a casserole dish. Place chicken down the center.

Combine soup, mayonnaise, lemon juice and wine. Pour over chicken and broccoli. Sprinkle with cheese. Combine cracker crumbs and margarine; sprinkle all over.

Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Sake Marinated Salmon with Shrimp Fried Rice and a Pineapple Reduction

While I can't say I made this's one of my husband's first culinary creations he made for our engagement anniversary. I was quite impressed with his cooking skills as it isn't too often I give him full reign of the kitchen. It was a very tasty dish, although next time he'll add less red pepper to the pineapple reduction. However, the sweetness of the pineapple really balanced out the spicy red pepper.

(10-ounce) salmon fillet
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped scallions
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Medium to dry sake
1 whole ripe pineapple
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoons crushed red pepper, plus 1 tablespoon

Shrimp fried rice, recipe follows

To marinate the salmon, place the salmon in a deep bowl and add the ginger, garlic, scallions, salt, and pepper. Cover with sake and let stand for 1 hour in the refrigerator.
Split pineapple in 1/2 lengthwise. Cut out the woody central core from one half, then cut out and dice the sweet flesh. Set aside.

To prepare the pineapple reduction: Melt butter in small saute pan until bubbling. Add 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes, pineapple dice, and 2 tablespoons of the sake marinade. Cook down until all liquid has evaporated. Turn on grill to medium, when hot, place the salmon on the grill and cook about 3 minutes per side. Season with salt and pepper.

Shrimp Fried Rice:
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons chopped ginger
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
12 medium size shrimp
1 large egg, scrambled
1 tablespoon finely chopped scallions
1 cup cooked, cold, dry white rice
Lite soy sauce

Put sesame oil in a hot wok or non-stick pan, add ginger, garlic, and shrimp. Be sure to keep moving the ingredients until the shrimp turn color, then add the egg, scallions, rice and soy sauce, to taste. Keep stirring everything until the oil is all absorbed. When finished put the rice in the pineapple and top it with the salmon and a small side of the pineapple reduction.