Sunday, August 21, 2011

Simple Sunday Afternoon Meal

I came home from church this afternoon and started thinking about what I could fix for lunch, I finally settled on pasta but didn't want the same ole same ole pasta with some Italian dressing as the sauce.  So I turned to for a suggestion.  I settled on a pasta recipe that I had found a few weeks ago on the website.  Surprisingly, I had almost all of the ingredients in my kitchen and improvised on what I did have.
 OK, so I won't withhold the recipe from you any longer! I made Pasta with Tuna and Black Olive Vinaigrette.  It was delicious and SO easy to make.  I was happy that I didn't have to run to the grocery store before satisfying my hungry stomach!  I made a few changes to the recipe and I think it turned out great, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Happy Sunday cooking!
Pasta with Tuna and Black Olive Vinaigrette (from RealSimple.Com)
12 ounces regular or whole-wheat rigatoni or penne
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon capers
1/2 cup of kalmatta olives, pitted and roughly chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
2 6-ounce cans tuna, drained

1. Cook pasta and drain and rinse under cold water.
2. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in large skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook until softened, about 2 minutes.
3. Add the capers and olives and cook about 3 minutes. Stir in parsley and cook until wilted, about 1 minute.
4. Remove from the heat. Add the lemon juice, pepper, and the remaining oil.
5. Divide the pasta into individual bowls.  Top with the tuna and olive vinaigrette.

OK, my variations!  First, I used angel hair instead of rigatoni or penne.  Second, I didn't have parsley or lemon juice so I didn't use that and it was fine.  Third, I used minced garlic instead of chopped.  Fourth, I used canned black olives, and Finally, I used Starkist tuna in the individual packets not canned.  I'm slowly learning it is okay to stray from the exact recipe and I feel that I finally did that tonight and the meal turned out great!

Before I leave you I want to encourage everyone to try the RealSimple "Taking Back Dinner Challenge", it begins tomorrow (Monday) and sends daily emails with recipes to enjoy and tips for how to get dinner on the table without the stress.  Here is more information on the Taking Back Dinner Challenge

Monday, August 15, 2011

Breakfast Pizza

And I don't mean mean left over pizza served cold in the morning! Even though that is delicious as well.  This recipe comes from my mom's cookbook, "Going to Carole's", I live by it!  It has a great deal of the recipes that I grew up enjoying from my mom's kitchen.  My mom created this cookbook at the request of my cousins (her nieces) but as I've grown up I have realized just how important this cookbook is, always providing a taste of home.  As I mentioned in a previous post, we had a lot of family gatherings at our house growing up and that is where she got the title, "Going to Carole's" and she continued that theme with each section "Going for Eggs", "Going for Salads", "Going for Meats", "Going for Desserts",etc.- you get the picture! With each recipe my mom would add a few notes about why this was one of the family's favorites or if it was passed down from a friend.  One anecdote that my mom included with the breakfast pizza was, "Brittany had me make this for her sixth grade math team that met at 6:15 in the morning.  It was loved so much that Mrs. Nelson almost let her join the sixth grade math team the next year just to get breakfast pizza!"    If it can get me on the sixth grade math team in the seventh grade it must be true that this breakfast pizza really is loved by everyone! I have made it most recently for an office breakfast and again for the Pi Phis during their recruitment practice.
A Few Helpful Tips
* It usually spills over while baking so if you put a baking sheet under the pizza pan or even on the shelf below  to catch any of the spills.
* When putting the crescent rolls down you won't be able to lay them right next to each other.  You will have to space them out and spread the dough so it covers the entire pan.  Make sure there are no holes in the dough!
* I get the disposable round pizza pans that way you can cook it and serve it and then throw it away!
* If you are taking it to an early breakfast (for example a 6:15 math team meeting) you can do a few things the night before- brown the sausage, spread the rolls (and cover with saran wrap and place in the refrigerator), and mix the eggs and milk (again cover them and place in the fridge)
On to the Recipe
1 package of original crescent rolls
1 pound ground sausage, browned
1 cup frozen hash browns, uncooked
5 eggs
1/2 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups grated cheese

1) Spread crescent rolls on pizza pan for the crust.
2) Spread browned sausage on crust.
3) Spread hash browns.
4) Beat eggs together and add milk, salt and pepper.
5) Pour eggs over hash browns.
6) Sprinkle cheese on top.
7) Bake at 425 for 30 minutes.

The photo doesn't really show you much of the pizza but it is ready to eat!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Salmon with Brown Butter and Almonds

Salmon. Healthy and delicious. Simple as that, so I went searching for some good salmon recipes.  Several weeks ago I had salmon with balsamic shallot sauce at a friends house and when they told me they had gotten the shallot recipe from Real Simple I went to the website right away.  It is official to say I love :) Best part is you can create your profile and save the recipes that you find which means you don't have to print the recipe out right away and I don't have to remember which recipes I thought looked good when it comes time to fix dinner!  I highly suggest everyone checks out or the magazine they have some terrific recipes.  A lot of the recipes they have can be fixed in less than 30 minutes, also you can search for recipes by ingredients if you have something particular in mind or something in your pantry that you are ready to mix into a delicious meal.  Also, each recipe includes the nutritional value of the entire meal.
 So I selected a salmon recipe from RealSimple and 3 friends to join me for dinner and the night was officially planned!  I was nervous about overcooking the salmon because that is what everyone warned me about but it didn't seem too dry. I selected a salmon with brown butter and almonds (along with a few capers!) served with green beans on the side.  This meal only took 20 minutes to make. 
 For dessert I made a walnut bundt cake, another recipe from RealSimple!  The perfect thing about the cake was that I prepared it and put it in the oven before I started dinner since it needed to cook longer and it was done in perfect time!  My first time using my bundt pan but it certainly won't be the last time!
 Time to include pictures and recipes!
 First the salmon with brown butter and almonds! (Again both recipes come from
Total Time: 20 minutes.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 pounds skinless salmon fillet, cut into 4 pieces
kosher salt and black pepper
1 pound green beans, trimmed and halved crosswise
1/4 cup sliced almonds
2 tablespoons capers
1. Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in large skillet over medium heat.  Season the salmon with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
2. Cook the fish until opaque throughout, 3-5 minutes per side (I cut the salmon in half during cooking and checked the center for pinkness which helped me determine when it was cooked thoroughly.)
3. Fill a second skillet with 1/2 inch of water, bring to a boil, and add 1/4 tsp salt.
4. Add the green beans to the second skillet, cover, and steam until just tender, 4 to 5 minutes.  Drain and transfer to the plates.
5. After draining the green beans heat the 3 tbsp of butter over medium heat.
6. Add almonds and cook, stirring frequently, until almonds and butter are golden brown (not burned) 2-3 minutes.  Stir in capers and spoon over fish and beans.

I also prepared Texas Toast to go with our meal.

Walnut Bundt Cake! Prep time: 15 minutes Total time: 1 hour and 20 minutes
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted; Additional 3 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
3 cups walnuts, chopped
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 box yellow cake mix
3 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil


1. Heat oven to 350.  Grease Bundt pan.
2. In a small bowl, combine half the sugar, the melted butter, and 2 1/2 cups of walnuts to make the topping. Spread the mixture evenly in the pan, covering the bottom evenly.
3. To make the filling, cream the remaining sugar and the softened butter in a medium bowl.  Stir in the flour and the remaining walnuts.  Set aside.
4.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, eggs and oil and the amount of water the box mixture calls for.  Beat until well combined.  Pour half the batter into the pan.  Spoon the filling mixture evenly over the batter, then pour the remaining batter on top.
5. Place in oven and bake until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.  Let cool 10 minutes, then unmold bottom-side up onto a cake plate.  Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!
Walnut Bundt Cake

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Did Someone Say Creme Brulee?

 For my birthday this year I received a creme brulee set complete with a miniature blow torch! My aunt and uncle came to visit in the middle of May and we made a Crystallized Ginger Creme Brulee! Delicious, although I still need some practice on crystallizing the top.  Here is the recipe for anyone wanting to try it out!
2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
3 tbsp chopped peeled fresh ginger
6 large egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 275. Combine cream and fresh ginger over medium heat until small bubbles form around pan.  Remove from heat letting it get to room temperature and strain through a sieve, discarding the ginger. Whisk egg yolks until pale, whisk in granulated sugar until dissolved, and whisk in flavored cream and stir in the crystallized ginger and vanilla extract.  Place six standard-size flan dishes in a baking pan, divide the custard among the dishes. Pour warm water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of dishes. Bake in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the center of each custard still jiggles slightly (yes this would be the words from the cookbook) Remove from the oven and lift the dishes from the hot water.  Let cool briefly, refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.  When ready to serve plan the dishes on a baking sheet and evenly sprinkle 1 tbsp brown sugar over each custard.  Using a hand-held blowtorch, caramelize the sugar.

Happy Birthday to YOU!

One of my favorite things to do is make birthday cakes for friends.  This year I have made German Chocolate Cake, Red Velvet, and Carrot Cake.  This particular picture is a carrot cake I made for Amy’s birthday.  I have to say when you are putting candles on a cake always make a full size cake not a small rectangle one and try to fit 22 candles on there! ha!  So if you have a cake request for your birthday let me know because I truly enjoy baking any kind of cake!
                                            22 Candles on a very small Carrot Cake!

Christmas Cheer

 This past Christmas, I hosted several dessert evenings.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of the desserts but have several pictures of friends and decorations that I will post. I had some friends from BSC over one night to enjoy an assortment of desserts (Icebox fruitcake -nothing like real fruitcake, jello balls, butterscotch squares,and a failed attempt at Cranberry bliss bars).  I also had some co-workers over one day for another dessert party and then my final Christmas dessert party was for all my neighbors.  I had been in my apartment since August and hadn’t really met any of my neighbors so I thought this would be a great way to get to know some people in my building.  Unfortunately only 2 neighbors came but we had a great time meeting and getting to know each other and enjoying desserts.  I chose to do desserts at each of these events because they are easy to do in large quantities and easy for people to come and go since the holidays are always a busy time.  As Christmas approaches this year I will try to post the recipes of some desserts that I love making around Christmastime for you to try on your own!
 Also, this next thing is so silly but for me I was so excited. I learned to REALLY gift wrap this year.  With that lesson I learned I should not be allowed to buy wrapping paper with designs on it because then I stress about getting everything centered.  My mom also taught me how to make my own bows, so needless to say I get very excited about wrapping presents now!  I will post a picture of me in the midst of wrapping along with some of the other Christmas photos I have from around my apartment. 
                                   Loree and I taking a break from Christmas desserts.
                       Awful picture but I was so excited to learn to actually wrap gifts!
                                                              Christmas tree and village!
                     All the Santas in the center!  This even became part of my decoration!

                                               Friends, Laughter, and Desserts!

Thanksgiving Dinner

Yes, I know a few months late or just getting prepared a few months early.  This past year was my first year as a college graduate and working full time! With that came a very different schedule throughout the year when than I had been use to for the past 17 years. I had to work the day after Thanksgiving which meant I would not be able to go home for the holiday.  So I hosted Thanksgiving here, another sign of grown up life! My mom came up for the week, my aunt came up for the day, and one of my friends from work joined us for the meal. It was a terrific first Thanksgiving in my apartment. Small glitch in the day was when my power went out for about an hour that morning! But in the spirit of Thanksgiving, "thankfully" I have a gas stove and oven so the turkey was able to continue cooking and didn't set us back too much. We had turkey, creamed corn, dressing, sweet potato casserole, deviled eggs, Watergate salad, Hummingbird cake, and pecan pie! I loved everything about it. After our Thanksgiving meal we went to pick out my Christmas tree and my mom stayed and helped me decorate my apartment! That will come in another post!  A few pictures to share from my Thanksgiving!
                                                                      The table setting
                                                            Working away in the kitchen!
                                                                     The Dessert Table!

                                           Taking the turkey out of the oven, almost time to eat!

Tablespoons & Tasting Forks: The Beginning

Here we go! Growing up with a huge extended family always meant some sort of family gathering.  A lot of these gatherings took place at my house, mom loves entertaining.  Now that I'm growing up and starting to host my friends here and there I truly rely on her entertaining advice! From the simplest things of which plates fit best to exactly how to replicate some of her best recipes!  This past year I have really started trying to cook new recipes and with each experience I learn something new.  As I start this blog up I will be doing a lot of back blogging in order to catch up to today. I love trying new recipes and sharing the ones I've made with friends so I decided it was time to blog about my cooking, decorating, and entertaining adventures!  If anyone has favorite recipes that you want to share, please send them my way!