Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Philly Cheesesteak Mini Pizzas

I am wild for sandwiches. WILD! ;)

It never crossed my mind to turn one of my favorite sandwiches into a pizza until I saw Reuben Quesadillas over at Closet Cooking. My mind has a tendency to go a mile a minute, so within no time a Reuben Quesadilla turned into a Philly Cheesesteak Pizza... I can’t explain the madness; I can only live with it. :)
These were so delicious, I can’t wait to try a different sandwich next time!

Philly Cheesesteak Mini Pizzas
2 English muffins
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
½ cup shredded cheese, I used a mozzarella & provolone mix
¼ lb. deli roast beef, sliced
½ green bell pepper, sliced into strips
¼ white onion, sliced into strips

1. Heat oven to broil. Split English muffins in half and place open-faced into oven to broil until golden brown. Let cool
2. Warm skillet up over medium-high heat. Spray with non-stick cooking spray and add green bell peppers. Sauté for 5 minutes or until starting to soften. Add onions and roast beef. Continue cooking until meat is starting to turn golden brown. Remove from heat
3. Heat oven to 375
4. Spread ½ tablespoon of mayonnaise on each toasted English muffin half. Top each muffin with meat mixture and cheese
5. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until cheese is melted and starting to bubble
6. Let cool for a few minutes and then enjoy!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Carrot Cake Cookies

When I was younger I thought that Carrot Cake was a ploy to make people eat their vegetables. A way to make people eat healthy at the dessert bar, a way to sneak veggies to your kiddos, a way to make sure the masses get their vitamin A!

If pizza is a vegetable, so is Carrot Cake…. I will vouch for it. ;)

However, as I grew up I fell in love with Carrot Cake. Now I can’t resist trying a piece with chunky carrot shreds and plump raisins in it. I LOVE chocolate, but a good looking piece of carrot cake will win me over every most of the time.

Instead of a Carrot Cake I opted to make some Carrot Cake Cookies. This was mostly done for the little ones, since they will pick cookies over anything else presented to them - including ice cream...

The best thing about these cookies? You only need 3 ingredients; butter, eggs and (drumroll.....)

Duncan Hines Classic Carrot Decadent Cake Mix
Yes, cake mix to make cookies!!

These cookies turned out AMAZING!! Not to mention they are easy as pie (actually easier) to make. Everyone loved them, even the kiddos. :)

Carrot Cake Cookies
Yields 24 cookies
1 box Duncan Hines Decadent Carrot Cake
3/4 cup butter, softened
1.5 eggs (man did I have a hard time finding half an egg, haha)

1. Heat oven to 350
2. Mix all ingredients in a bowl, including pouch of carrots and raisins that comes with the cake mix
3. On an ungreased cookie sheet, drop rounded tablespoonfuls - 2" apart
4. Bake for 9-11 minutes
5. Let cool on rack
6. Enjoy!

As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I received Duncan Hines Classic Carrot Decadent Cake Mix

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Brined & BBQ'd Turkey

A couple years ago my husband and I volunteered to cook the turkey for Thanksgiving. I had never made a turkey before, so anything was game - but I did want to do something different than the traditional roasted turkey. We tossed around ideas but finally decided on brining and then bbqing our bird - a very non-traditional turkey compared to what we were used to. It is honestly the best turkey I have had to date, I can't wait for this Christmas to do it again.

First thing is first, the turkey. Any size will work, so get one that is big enough to feed your family. To play it safe I go with 1 to 1.5 pounds per person, maybe a bit more for leftovers. Keep in mind that my family is full of big eaters, so adjust accordingly. :)

Second, the container. We used an ice chest for a couple reasons; it was big enough to hold an 18lb turkey and it would be able to keep the turkey cold throughout brining. Another option is to use a brining bag or a 5-gallon bucket, covered and placed in the fridge. The turkey MUST be kept cold for the reason that brining does not preserve the meat. Make sure the temperature stays below 40 degrees.

Third, the brine. Turkey is so versatile that most flavors will work great. Ours was a herb & garlic mix, which worked out wonderful. There are many different brine recipes online or you can make your own up. Here is the recipe we used:

Garlic & Herb Turkey Brine
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
2 cups kosher salt
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup minced garlic
1 tablespoon rosemary, dry
1 tablespoon thyme
1 tablespoon sage
3 cups ice cold water
ice - 3 to 7 pounds

1. Combine all ingredients in stockpot and bring to low boil
2. Remove from stove, let cool. Put in separate container and add ice cold water
3. Place in refrigerator and allow to get cold
4. Put turkey into brining container and pour in brine solution. Make sure to fill the cavity of the turkey
5. Add ice half way up around the turkey
6. Pour in cold water until bird is covered
7. Keep cold (below 40 degrees)and let soak overnight, or about 10 hours
8. Let turkey drain before cooking

Now to BBQ that turkey!

I am far from a BBQ expert, so I am going to keep this as simple as possible. Please excuse me if any terminology is incorrect. :P

Set up a charcoal bbq as seen below. Hot charcoals on each side of bbq with a drip pan in the middle. We started off with a bit of beer in our drip pan, mostly because we could. ;) Cover and allow bbq to reach between 325 and 350 degrees.

Place the turkey, breast side down, in center of bbq. Cover and let cook for 25 minutes.

After 25 minutes our turkey looked like this:

Now it is time to flip the turkey, we have an awesome pair of Ronco Barbeque Gloves that worked great for this. This is also a good opportunity to empty out the drip pan, ours was already pretty full.

The turkey will now need to cook between 3 and 4 hours depending on the weight.

1. Keep a spray bottle filled with water near the bbq. Just in case the bird catches on fire, you will want to put it out. I am not sure if this is proper or not, however, it worked for us.
2. Add charcoal when necessary. The amount of charcoal that is used to start the bbq is around the amount you will want the entire time.
3. Empty both drip pan and ash pan as needed. It may be a pain in the you know what, but it will increase the potential for your final product.

When the turkey reaches an internal temperature of 180 degrees it is ready to be removed from the grill. Yay!

Let rest for 20-30 minutes before carving.


Monday, November 21, 2011

#DelMonte Cinnamon & Brown Sugar Peach Egg Rolls

I love finding new products at the grocery store. If it sounds good and I have never tried it, most likely it will be finding it's way home with me. As soon as I heard that Del Monte was releasing Diced Peaches with Cinnamon & Brown Sugar, I knew I had to try them.

The hubby and I loaded up the kids in the car and headed to Walmart in search of these new peaches. And maybe to check out some Christmas goods as well...

Cinnamon & Brown Sugar Peach Egg Rolls
6 egg roll wraps
½ cup cream cheese frosting (I used store bought)
Del Monte Diced Peaches with Cinnamon and Brown Sugar
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
Oil for frying

1. On wax paper, put 3” strips of cream cheese frosting. Freeze until solid, about 45 minutes
2. In the center of each egg roll wrap place one strip of frosting and 2 tablespoons of diced peaches. Fold according to package
3. Freeze for 30 minutes (I did not do this step for my first batch and the frosting oozed everywhere when put in the fryer)
4. Heat oil to 350
5. Fry each egg roll for 3-4 minutes, or until golden brown.
6. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and enjoy!

I expected the peaches to be good, especially since I already like cinnamon and brown sugar - but they surpassed my expectations. The peaches are FULL of wonderful flavor and worked great for this recipe. I am already planning to make a bread pudding with them too - they are that good!

Check out our shopping trip with Google+!

This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias. #CBias #delmonte

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cranberry, Apple and Sausage Mini-Pizzas with Hummus

Through the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program I was recently offered the opportunity to try out a Sabra product of my choice. I am already a HUGE fan of Sabra Hummus, so I could have just got the container of hummus and went home to devour it with my husband. Instead, I decided to create a recipe using it - still leaving enough hummus to enjoy with some pita chips later. ;)

I got the idea for the pizza from a wonderful Cranberry Apple Sausage Stuffing that I made for Thanksgiving a few years ago. The flavors worked great together and I vowed to make it again and again. I am not going to lie – I never made the stuffing again, just thought about it as the holidays came and went each year. 

The idea for using Hummus on a pizza came from my trip to the 2011 Foodbuzz Blogger Festival. At the Welcome Reception there was an array of items made with Sabra Hummus. One of my favorites was the Jalapeño Hummus Mini-Pizzas. They were so, so, so good. I had never fathomed of putting hummus on a pizza, but it was pure genius. So I vowed to make my own little hummus pizzas one day… and I did. ;)

Cranberry, Apple and Sausage Mini-Pizzas with Hummus
3 whole wheat English muffins
¼ cup Sabra Roasted Garlic Hummus
2 Granny Smith apple wedges, sliced
½ cup cheese, I used a blend of Mozzarella and Provolone
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
¼ cup maple sausage, cooked and crumbled

1. Preheat oven to BROIL
2. Slice each English muffin in half and place on baking pan face up. BROIL until golden brown, about 4 minutes
3. Let cool for 5 minutes
4. Heat oven to 425
5. Spread hummus evenly over each english muffin and top with ingredients in this order; apple, cheese, dried cranberries and maple sausage
6. BAKE for 10 minutes or until cheese is turning golden brown
7. Let cool for a few minutes and then enjoy!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pumpkin Mousse Cupcake Sandwiches with Pecan Frosting

I wrestled around with the idea of chocolate, pecan and pumpkin – and how I could combine the three in a recipe. Pecan and pumpkin have my heart 3 months of the year, while chocolate claims stake to the other 9. I was torn, convinced that I would have to abandon one of my favorite flavors to make a recipe work. I settled on Pumpkin Mousse Ice Cream Sandwiches, forgoing the pecan entirely. As I sat down to make my shopping list, it hit me, pecan frosting! That wonderful convenient Coconut Pecan frosting that is sold premade in the baking aisle, that I have used so many times to make a “homemade” German Chocolate Cake.

Pumpkin Mousse Cupcake Sandwiches with Pecan Frosting
Chocolate Cake mix and required ingredients
1 can Coconut Pecan frosting
Pumpkin Mousse (recipe follows)

1. Preheat oven to 350, place cupcake liners in muffin pan
2. Prepare the chocolate cake batter as directed on box
3. Fill cupcake liners 1/8 full, about 1 tablespoon’s worth
4. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until inserted toothpick comes out clear
5. Place on rack to cool
6. Repeat steps 3 thru 5, making another batch of small cupcakes
7. Place 12 of the cupcakes back in muffin pan
8. Fill each cupcake liner up with pumpkin mousse, leaving about ¼” at the top
9. Unwrap the remaining 12 cupcakes and place on top of mousse-filled cupcakes
10. Top with pecan frosting, about 2 tablespoons each
11. Freeze for 2 hours or until mousse is set (If frozen for longer they may require a little thawing before serving)
12. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Mousse
15 oz can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cinnamon
3 pint First Street Vanilla Ice Cream (softened)

1. In a large bowl, fold pumpkin, brown sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon into ice cream
2. Let chill in freezer for 2 hours or until consistency is like whip cream

Right now the California Milk Advisory Board is running a campaign, Real Seal Appeal!, to raise money for schools in Southern California. All you have to do is buy Real California Milk products, clip and save the Real California Milk seals found on each item and then submit the seals to your child’s teacher to be entered into the sweepstakes. The sweepstakes prizes, which can be found here, range from $500 to $20,000 per school. Plus, for every 100 seals submitted your child’s teacher will receive 25 Scholastic books or $25 school supplies gift card. Grand prizes will be announced in February 2012.

Ah, where to find these Real California Seals? They can be found on First Street brand dairy products at Smart & Final. For store locations, check here

On top of all of that awesomeness, Smart & Final is running a campaign concurrent to the California Milk Advisory Board that will also give $$ to schools in Southern California. There will be 3 winners a month with prizes ranging from $200-$500 to be donated to schools chosen by contest winners. To enter, just visit FirstStreetSupportsSoCalSchools.com and tell why your Southern California school deserves to win. It’s that easy!

This project has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for #collectivebias #CBias

Monday, November 14, 2011

Chicken Tortilla Pie

I know it’s the season for pumpkin pie, pecan pie and even apple pie – but I could not resist cooking this pie which is loaded with salsa, cheese, chicken and black beans! So gooey and so tasty, especially with a dollop of sour cream on top, yum.
Who says you can’t have pie for dinner?

Chicken Tortilla Pie
2 cups cooked chicken breasts, shredded
2 tablespoons taco seasoning
¼ cup water
1 cup Pico de Gallo – I always, always, always use Emeril’s Pico de Gallo recipe. Always.
1.5 cups Colby Jack cheese, shredded
1 can Refried Black Beans – I bought a can of black beans and then refried them myself using this recipe, Light Refried Black Beans
4 8” tortillas
9” springform pan

1. Mix together chicken, taco seasoning and water. Set aside
2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
3. Grease 9” springform pan
4. Combine seasoned chicken and Pico de Gallo
5. In springform pan layer ingredients in the following order; tortilla, refried beans, chicken & salsa mix, cheese
6. Repeat step five 3x
7. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly.
8. Remove from springform pan
9. Let cool for several minutes, slice and serve!

Easy as pie! ;)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pumpkin Macaroni & Cheese

It will often happen that I come up with what I think is a unique recipe idea. I will be so excited to give it a try and share it with all of you. And all too often I will be ready to cook my creation but then google it real quick, just to see if somehow this original idea has been thought of before, and it most likely has. More than likely, any idea of mine has been thought up at least 153 times before. This is no lie. But hey, they say great minds think alike – so if this many people have this idea along with me, it must be a good one, right? 

Well, if we are basing it off this recipe the answer would be right. It is delicious and a must try. I am a HUGE fan of homemade macaroni & cheese and I can honestly say I will be adding pumpkin puree to mine in the future. It is that amazing!

Pumpkin Macaroni & Cheese
3 cups Mostaccioli, dry
2 tablespoons butter, unsalted
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
¾ cup pumpkin puree
2 cups Colby cheese, shredded
1 cup American cheese, shredded
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
2. Bring water to boil, cook according to noodle package – approx. 8-10 minutes. Drain.
3. Over medium heat, melt butter in saucepan until foamy. Whisk flour in – cook for 2 minutes
4. Slowly whisk in milk, making sure there are no lumps
5. Add pumpkin puree, mix well
6. Remove from heat. Add cheeses, salt, nutmeg and black pepper
7. When cheese is melted combine with drained noodles
8. Pour noodles and cheese into greased 9x13 baking pan
9. Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes or until golden and bubbly.
10. Enjoy!

Recipe Adapted from Family Spice Blog

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Weekend in San Francisco & Foodbuzz Blogger Festival

This past weekend Mr. Hungry and I took a trip to San Francisco for Foodbuzz’s 3rd Annual Blogger Festival. We packed up the car, dropped off the kids and headed out on our journey to the bay. 3 days away from the everyday grind? Sounded good to both of us. Check out the clouds in the sky on our car drive to San Francisco, absolutely beautiful!

It may sound a bit cliché but our first stop when we got to San Francisco was sushi. I had already scoured the online menus and reviews for a sushi restaurant that was both close to the festival registration and that carried a specific menu item. My search brought us to Sanraku Japanese Restaurant .

The specific menu item I had been in search of was Anago (salt-water eel). We are both huge fans of Unagi (fresh water eel), but have not been able to locate Anago at any restaurant near our home. It was a must-find!

From Sanraku we ordered:
Miso Soup
Anago Nigri (salt-water eel)
San Francisco Special Roll (tuna, avocado, fish roe)
Spider Roll (soft-shell crab, cucumber, fish roe, shiso leaf)

Anago is a different color and texture than Unagi, but it is just as wonderful. There is a bit more of a fishy taste, but since it is coming from the ocean that is to be expected. I will definitely have it again when the opportunity presents itself.

When we were done with our meal we noticed that they also served Kamasu (seared barracuda). Barracuda? I have had my fair share of encounters with Barracudas down in the Florida Keys, but I had never tasted one. I was always told that, “you don’t want to eat that fish.” So I didn’t. Until now. My fearless foodie husband has taught me to try anything and everything, at least once. This is a case that I am glad I did. The Kamasu was amazingly tender and tasty – plus the searing added a wonderful smokey flavor. Loved it, even as a dessert to a sushi meal. ;)

We stayed in South San Francisco at the Embassy Suites. Here are some pictures from inside the hotel. All of the plants are real and there are tables below the trees where breakfast and dinner is served. Pretty awesome.

The first festival event, the Welcome Reception, was hosted by Sabra and held at the Terra Gallery. There were Hors d’oeuvres, wine and beer – all of ours to devour! The food and wine were good, but I have to admit that I am head over heels for the beer that was being served. 21st Amendment. Not only is it one of the best beers I have ever tasted, it came out of a can. Yes, a can! They are craft beers in a can. How awesome is that? I tried the Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Beer and Fireside Chat Winter Spiced Ale – both were great, even the watermelon beer.

The second event was the Dinner & Blogger Award Ceremony, hosted by Electrolux, also at the Terra Gallery. It was organized chaos at its finest. There was a bar serving all types of liquor, I opted for the special drink of the night; Classic Bloom & Tonic. There were chefs preparing Pork Belly and Scallops. Then there was a buffet station full of different entrees, some of them inspired by bloggers! We were so full and happy when we were done. The pictures below are from the Welcome Reception and Dinner & Blogger Award Ceremony.

Another MUST-DO during our stay in San Francisco was the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market. There are over 90 farmers, artisans and purveyors ready to show you what they got! It was amazing, I am so happy we went. Of course I had to bring some goodies home, check it out…

The next festival event was the Gala Dinner which was hosted by Alexia Foods and held at the Grand Hyatt…

Wait, did that say Tyler Florence?
Why yes it did. Tyler did a cooking demonstration of a dish that is served at his restaurant, Wayfare Tavern. Grilled Bone-In Pork Chop served with Black Pepper Spaetzle, Braised Cabbage, Spiced Apple Cider and Grained Mustard Cream. It looked and smelled great, I imagine it tastes impeccable.

After the Gala dinner we took to the streets with our new foodie friends, Adam and Rico. These 2jewsthatblog are a riot, check them out. :) 

We started off at Colibri Mexican Bistro with shots of Espolon Tequila Reposado and Margaritas Con Fruta. The margaritas were hand muddled with fresh blackberries, lime juice, sugar and Huizache Tequila. Yes, they were awesome and I can’t wait to try making them on my own! Then we headed down the street to a whiskey bar, Rye, for shots of Wild Turkey 101. It was a great time drinking, making new friends and enjoying one of the most wonderful cities in the world. Of course, it would not be a proper night of late night drinking if we did not finish it off with some Milan Pizza – absolutely delicious and served by the slice. Gotta love it! All of the above mentioned places are located on Geary Street within .2 miles of each other – I love San Francisco. ♥

What would a foodie festival be without some schwag?

Below is a picture I snapped on the way home of the Mothball Fleet in Suisun City. The Mothball Fleet is a United States Navy reserve of ships. These ships are no longer active and are being dismantled to be taken out of the bay. They are not very environmentally friendly to put it politely – in fact all obsolete ships must be removed by September 2017, the worse being removed by September of next year. These ships are pretty amazing and they date back to WWII. A group of guys spent a few days out at the ships, not legally – but they took pictures to share so let’s not get too upset. Check out their journey here: Inside the Ghost Ships of the Mothball Fleet

It was an awesome weekend and I can’t wait to go back to San Francisco – now it’s time to go chase my kids around, I missed the heck out of them. :)