Sunday, 11 January 2015

Wanting to Cool Down


It was hot here yesterday. Really hot! I wanted to get some yard work done, so I went out in the morning, knowing that it was going to be a hot day, but an hour into it, I was already dripping with sweat. I lasted about 2 hours before I called it quit and decided to go inside for the day. You would think that with the heat (reaching 100 degrees F) I would park myself in front of the television with a cold beverage, but no, I get ambitious and want to cook all day. So, with the air conditioner on and all of the ceiling fans running, I set to work.

The main part of my baking day went to making a tart that I will post about tomorrow. I knew that I didn't want something really hot for dinner, so I went looking through some salad recipes. I found this Herb Chicken Tortellini Salad that was not only a cold salad, but looked really fast and easy, since I already knew what I wanted to make for dinner. It is a pasta salad that would work well as a side, but I decided to serve it as our main dish, but I knew we needed something else. Knowing I was stuck in the house the rest of the day, I got ambitious and made some breadsticks. Making any sort of bread is ambitious because I don't have a stand mixer. But I went for it anyway....

The salad was great. The only thing I did differently is that I didn't add in the whole 10 oz bag of spinach. I had put about 2/3 in, and it looked like enough, so I stopped there. It worked really well as a main dish, and the best part was that I was able to finish it a little before hand and put it in the fridge until it was time to eat.

I wanted some nice, soft, tender breadsticks to go along with the salad. I found this recipe on allrecipes.com and decided to try it out. It was very easy, even without a mixer,
but I did have to add at least an extra cup of flour. I don't know what I was thinking when I cut them, though. The recipe says that it makes 36 breadsticks, but I only ended up with 20-something. They were very LARGE breadsticks!! It would have been better if I would have cut them smaller, though, because the bottoms on some of them were still a bit underdone. But I would have to say, not a bad job for my first time! They were just what I was looking for - very light and tender. The only problem with this recipe is that it is not easy to cut down because it only requires one egg for the whole recipe. This is a lot of breadsticks for 2 people!!

Herb Chicken Tortellini Salad
From meals.com (the recipe is no longer listed there)

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Serves 6

1 (9-oz) package Buitoni Refrigerated Herb Chicken Tortellini - prepared according to package directions and chilled
1 (10 oz) bag ready to use spinach torn into bite size pieces
1 cup diced mozzarella cheese (4 oz)
1 (6 oz) jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and sliced
1 cup sliced ripe olives
1/3 cup roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
1 c Caesar salad dressing
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Combine pasta, spinach, mozzarella cheese, artichokes, olives and roasted peppers in a medium bowl. Add dressing; toss to coat. Sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese.

Breadsticks with Parmesan Butter
adapted from allrecipes.com

Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes

Yields: 36 servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 2 cups warm water (110 degrees to 115 degrees), divided
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in 1 cup warm water. Add the oil, egg, salt, 2 cups flour, and remaining sugar and water. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 40 minutes.
  2. Punch the dough down. Turn onto a floured surface; divide into 36 pieces. Shape each piece into a 6-in. rope. Place 2 in. apart on greased baking sheets. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 25 minutes.
  3. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl, cream the butter, Parmesan cheese and garlic powder. Brush over breadsticks as soon as they come out of the oven.

Mixer Dillema

I know I have complained before about not having a stand mixer. I don't make bread very often at all (maybe that's why I'm not very good at it) because I am too lazy to do it by hand. I also think about how much easier ice cream and frosting and cupcakes and cookies (the list goes on and on) would be with a mixer. When I made buttercream frosting, I was really wishing for a mixer after all of that time holding the hand mixer!!

So here's the dilemma, and I am looking for some feedback. I really am not planning on buying a mixer in the near future, but I have a friend coming into town that can get me a good deal on one if I choose to put down the cash. I just don't know what I want anymore.

Growing up - it was always about the Bosch. My mom has had hers for as long as I can remember. It even has a part that is broken and missing when it fell off the counter once, but it keeps on ticking. My sister has one, and I think that is even what my mother-in-law has. It is what I have always wanted. But then I start watching cooking shows, and reading blogs, and it seems like the KitchenAid is the mixer of choice right now - or maybe it is just the popular one because it seems to be more available than the Bosch. Or maybe it's better - I don't know. And then I see today that Cuisinart now has a stand mixer that seems really impressive. It has a timer and also a "gentle fold" function that seems really cool and cutting edge.

So, if I did have $400, $500, or more right now to put down on a mixer, I don't even know what I would buy. If I take advantage of my friend's deal, I can get a KitchenAid discounted, but is that what I really want??

So I am asking you - what do you have and what do you like/dislike about it? If you could trade it in, would you? Or are you loyal? If you don't have a mixer, is there one that you have your sights set on? I guess I just really need to know what I need to save up for.......

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Two Bean Salad with Hearts of Palm and Blue Cheese


A long name for what I will just call good......

I actually made this salad last weekend, but haven't gotten around to posting it until today. I have some unsaid rule that I try to stay away from the computer as much as possible on the weekends. I think I just get too much during the week - sitting in front of a computer for 8+ hours every day.

This is my first recipe
from Cat Cora's Cooking From the Hip. I was feeling a little ambitious, I guess, because I have never tried hearts of palm before, so I had no idea of what to expect. I was a little hesitant to make this, because I knew I would have to make the whole recipe because cutting it down would be a little difficult. I would end up with half a can of chickpeas, kidney beans, and hearts of palm left, and instead of just letting them go to waste, I made the whole salad. I also wanted to get the whole layered look.

I get so frustrated shopping for ingredients sometimes. I cann
ot find arugula anywhere. I also have never been able to find shallots anywhere until yesterday, so I substituted some baby greens for the baby arugula and an onion for the shallot. I also didn't have any sherry vinegar, so I decided to use red wine vinegar. But I only had about a quarter cup of that, so I did a mixture of red wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar. Even with the substitutions, this salad exceeded my expectations. I made it as a side dish for dinner on Friday, and my husband didn't want any. I ended up eating the rest myself over the next couple days (taking out the greens because they got a bit soggy). This is very flavorful, and a very pretty salad as well. This will definitely be an option next time I need to bring a salad to a family gathering.

I have decided to enter this into Lis and Kelly's Excellent Salad 'Stravaganza. Even thou
gh this isn't a regular green salad, this is definitely healthy. Just what my body has been begging for as the weather really heats up!!

Another apology for a bad photo - I realized Friday evening that I had forgotten my camera at work, so I resorted to my old camera. Horrible picture, but hopefully you get the idea!

Two Bean Salad with Hearts of Palm and Blue Cheese
from Cooking From the Hip

VINAIGRETTE
1 T Dijon mustard
1/2 c sherry vinegar (I used 1/4 c red wine vinegar and 1/4 c balsamic vinegar)
1 t sea salt
1/2 c extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 c chopped shallots (I used an onion)

1 8-oz can hearts of palm, drained
1 c drained kidney beans (I just realized that I used the whole can!!)
1 c diced cucumber
1 c halved cherry tomatoes or sliced regular tomatoes (I did diced regular tomatoes)
1 c drained chickpeas (again, realizing I used the whole can)
1 c baby arugula leaves (I used baby greens)
1 c crumbled blue cheese

For the Vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients. Set aside.

Slice the hearts of palm into rings and set aside. In a small bowl, combine the kidney beans and 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette. Toss quickly to flavor the beans, then spoon the beans into a large serving bowl to form the salad's bottom layer. Using the same small bowl, toss the cucumber with a little vinaigrette, and add to the serving bowl to form the next layer. Follow the same steps with the tomatoes, chickpeas, arugula, and the hearts of palm. Finish by sprinkling the cheese over the salad. Chill, preferably for 1 hour, and serve.