Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Baked Italian Shrimp

So I saw a picture floating around Pinterest of a pan of baked shrimp that looked amazing. Yesterday I bought the shrimp to make it, followed the link, and it took me to the most random site ever. No cooking whatsover. SO.... not wanting to waste the shrimp, I created my own recipe! And it was great! My two year old daughter agreed. "Mmm, yummy mommy" were her exact words. I love the critiques of a two year old.

One thing I love about seafood is it's so fast to cook. It's great for our family where my husband and I both work full time and the last thing I want to do during the week is spend a couple hours in the kitchen. (The weekends are another matter, then it's my sanctuary.) This entire dinner came together in 20 minutes. Couldn't get better than that!

Baked Italian Shrimp

1-2 lbs fresh or thawed shrimp, peeled, deviened, tails on (I buy them this way to save time)
4 Tbsp butter
1 packet Italian dressing mix
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3-4 lemons, sliced

Heat oven to 350°. Place butter on a cookie sheet and place in oven. When butter has melted remove from oven and lay lemon slices all over. Place shrimp on top of that. Shake Italian dressing mix on top of that. Drizzle a little olive oil over the entire pan. Bake for 13-15 minutes.

You'll notice my pan has plenty of space left over. I bought 1 1/2 pounds of shrimp but if you're serving more people you could probably fit double that. I served this with cheddar garlic biscuits (aka Red Lobster rolls), a green salad and pineapple. Delish!

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Spooky Halloween Mini Pizzas

If you are looking for a quick and fun Halloween dinner, I have the solution!  

Spooky Halloween Mini Pizzas!!  

The past couple years, Amanda and I have celebrated Halloween together with a fun Halloween dinner. It's now turned into a tradition that we look forward to every year.  We have tried mummy pot pies, mashed "boo"-tatoes, slimy worm cups, etc. 

It seemed like we were running out of ideas for this year, but decided to do Spooky Halloween Mini Pizzas! Each person rolled out their dough to create their very own Spooky Pizza. I included the recipe for the dough because we loved the crust and over half the flour was whole wheat!  (psst..I try to add in whole grains whenever I can. Hello FIBER!) 

My favorite part was how creative everyone got. This would be fun to do with little kids too!  Here are the ones we made: a zombie, ghostly vampire monster,  pumpkin, BOO!, and owls.  See if you can tell "witch" one is which.  

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough Recipe
(makes 2 large pizzas or 6-8 mini pizzas)

2 cups warm water
2 packets of yeast
1 TBSP sugar
4 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup olive oil
1 egg yolk
2 tsp salt
In a mixing bowl add warm water, dry yeast, and sugar. Let set for 6 minutes. After 6 minutes, add the flour, olive oil, egg yolk, and salt. Knead with a dough hook for 6 minutes.  If the dough looks too wet add a little bit more flour if it looks a little dry add a little water to compensate.  If you don't have a mixer knead the dough until it is smooth and easily comes off the counter. Roll into a ball, cover with a towel, and let it rise for at least 1 hour (should double in size). 

To make the individual spooky pizzas separate into small dough pieces. If you want to make 2 larger pizzas split the dough in half.  Flour your work surface and roll out the dough as thick or as thin as you please. Place the rolled out dough on a pizza/cookie pan and then add your sauce, cheese, pepperoni, olives, and other toppings to make spooky little pizzas!! Bake at 375 for about 10-15 minutes. Time will vary depending on how thin or thick you rolled the dough.  Most importantly enjoy your spooky creations!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Potatoes and Leek Soup

One of my favorite things to do on a Saturday morning is to go get my Bountiful Basket. I love seeing all the different fruits and veggies that I get to use in my cooking all through the week. In my basket a few weeks back we received leeks, sweet potatoes and a pluthera of other yummy produce. I decided to take a classic soup, Potato and Leek Soup, and put my own little spin on it. It was delicious! I still used mostly russet potatoes, but threw in a sweet potato (okay, a yam, but everyone uses them interchangeably) to give it more depth of flavor and a great color. My husband does not like sweet potatoes and he loved this soup, as did my kids and myself. If your totally opposed to sweet potatoes (or yams), by all means, use only russet, or new, or red potatoes. Whatever whim you wish to follow.

Potatoes and Leek Soup

2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 large or 2 small leeks chopped, white & green parts only
1/2 c chopped yellow onion
1 lb russet potatoes, peeled & chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled & chopped
2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup milk
1/4 cup light sour cream
Salt & pepper
Chives for garnish
Crispy bacon for garnish if desired

In a large soup pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the leeks, onions & potatoes then sauté for 3 minutes. Add the stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat heat, cover & simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. Pureé the soup in a blender or with an immersion blender. Add the milk and sour cream. Season with salt & pepper. Simmer for 5 - 10 more minutes. Pureé again is you want it even creamier. Serve sprinkled with chives. I also drizzled in some cream.
To make crusty croutons: Slice up a baguette in 1/2 inch slices. Butter both sides of each slice generously with butter and fry in a non stick skillet or cast iron pan.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Tuscan Chicken Soup with Fall Veggies

Prepare yourself for a long anecdote of my discovery of this delectable soup.

I love the fall. The colors, the flavors, the smells just make me happy. I did not enjoy the dip into winter a couple of days ago though. I know the weather in Utah can vary from warm and sunny to windy and snowing in a matter of hours but I am never prepared for it.

Fortunately this soup was on the menu for dinner. This is fall comfort food at it's finest. The best part about it is it's jammed full of veggies and very little calories to add to the waistline. It's easy to change up with what you have on hand or to go with the seasons. I'd probably use peas in the spring in place of butternut squash and a summer squash like crookneck or zucchini in the summer.

The first time I had this was at my sister-in-laws house when we spontaneously popped in on them and demanded food (or at least my husband did). Actually we just wanted to catch up but we hadn't eaten dinner so it worked. As I walked up to her house I could smell something delicious clear from outside her house that had zero windows open. I didn't think it could possible be coming from her house, someone close by must have a window open while cooking something yummy. Fortunately it was from their house. I was salivating the entire time it was simmering, it smelled so good. She got the recipe from here and followed almost exactly, only subbing half and half for heavy cream.

Two days later I was already craving it and made it again. I wanted a little more of a fall theme so I used a butternut squash that I had from my Bountiful Basket and a red pepper. I also altered the ratios a bit. If you don't want to buy a whole butternut squash and peel and dice it, most grocery stores (Wal-mart for sure) have it already diced and bagged next to the salad section. I literally ate four bowls of it throughout that evening and my kids loved it! My son was actually picking the veggies out and popping them into his mouth. He's kind of a messy eater, as in it looks like a tornado hit after every meal.

Tuscan Chicken Soup with Fall Veggies
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
1 medium yellow onion, diced
 4  carrots, peeled and sliced
4 stalks celery, sliced
2 cups diced butternut squash
1 red pepper, diced (or orange or yellow)
3 cloves fresh garlic, chopped or pressed
1 heaping tsp dried oregano
1 heaping tsp dried basil
1/2 cup half and half (optional)
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  15 oz can crushed tomatoes
8 cups good chicken stock (I used Rachel Ray's)
Kosher salt to taste
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup Acini de pepe pasta
In a large pot add olive oil and saute onions, celery, carrots, squash, red pepper and garlic over medium high heat for 10-12 minutes. Add chicken stock, tomatoes, basil, oregano and chicken. Simmer soup for 20 minutes, vegetables should be tender. Add the pasta and cook right in the soup for another 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.  Add half and half if using and allow to simmer for a couple more minutes.
*Adapted from Peanut Blossom's Tuscan Chicken Soup

**One thing that I love doing with soups is to cut up double or triple the veggies and put the extra in the freezer as "soup starters". That way you are not taking up a bunch of room in your freezer with a whole pot of soup and your pasta doesn't expand beyond control and absorb all the liquid. In this "soup starter" I put the chicken, onions, carrots, celery, squash, red pepper, garlic, oregano and basil in the ziploc bag. When you're ready to make it just skip the saute step, dump the entire bag into your chicken stock, simmer for 20 minutes, add pasta and simmer for 10 more minutes. Put in a little half and half and Viola! Fast, easy, healthful meal on a busy day!

Check it out, we were featured on Something Swanky!

Did you love this soup?! Rate it on Tasty Kitchen

Nuts about Berries Salad

I love going to cafes and ordering different salads. The flavor combinations that they come up with really work, as they should, being that it's their business to have amazing salads. One of my favorite places is Zupa's. They have so many salads there that I absolutely love! Then I decided there is no reason I can't make these same salads at home. So that's what I did!

Today's recipe is a knock off of Zupa's Nuts about Berries salad. You need berries (I used strawberries, raspberries and blueberries), glazed or candied nuts (I used slivered almonds, walnuts, and pecans), lettuce, and a poppyseed vinaigrette.

When shopping for the nuts you can usually find the glazed or candied nuts by the produce in the salad fixin's section or in the baking area by the other nuts. You can use any lettuce you've got on hand except maybe iceberg. I love baby spinach but I had about four heads of romaine in my fridge so that's what I used. Also, if you don't feel like mixing up your own dressing or vinaigrette then poppy seed dressing is delicious with this as well.

This is seriously easy to put together. Just cut up your lettuce, toss it in a bowl and throw on the berries and nuts. If you are serving the entire salad right away you can toss the lettuce with the dressing first and then toss on the nuts and berries. I served the dressing on the side because I didn't want the lettuce to get soggy. Another tip if you think you'll have leftovers is to let all your berries soak (uncut) in a vinegar bath for ten minutes to kill any bacteria you may not want growing in your food. Just put five cups cold water and 1/2 cup vinegar in a bowl and toss in your berries for 10 minutes. Let your berries get mostly dry before adding them.

Nuts about Berries Salad
with Raspberry Poppyseed Vinaigrette

1 head lettuce (or spinach)
   1 cup raspberries
1/2 cup blueberries
1 cup sliced strawberries
1/4 cup candied almonds
1/4 cup candied pecans
1/4 cup glazed pecans
1/3 cup feta cheese (optional, I serve on the side)

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup honey (or sugar)
1 clove garlic
2 tsp grated onion
1/2 tsp kosher salt
  5 cracks of freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cups raspberries
1/3 cups canola oil
1 tsp poppy seeds

For salad: Cut or tear up lettuce and wash in salad spinner. Toss with vinaigrette if desired. top with berries and nuts.
For vinaigrette:  Combine the vinegar, honey, garlic, onion, salt, pepper, and berries in the jar of a blender. Blend until smooth and then, with the blender running, add the oil in a steady stream. Turn off the blender and whisk in the poppy seeds. If possible, refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. *Slightly adapted form this recipe from Our Best Bites.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pizzeria 712

320 South State Street
Orem, UT 84058

Mmmm, pizza at it’s best! Right when you walk in you can’t miss the wood fired brick oven, which makes for a top-notch pizzeria. You won’t find your every day pepperoni and cheese, but a unique blend of fresh toppings that make for delicious pizza. Handpulled mozzarella (sounds like something the pioneers went through), fennel, grana padano, fresh tomato sauce, I start to salivate just thinking about it.

What We Got…
They have a lunch and dinner menu which don’t vary too much, but the menu is seasonal to insure for fresh quality ingredients (I love that).

I met my grade school friend Sarah for lunch. First thing we were excited about was, instead of the usual breadsticks or loaf of bread, they brought out complimentary paprika hummus with soft bread to dip.  We devoured the hummus and wanted to ask for a hummus refill, but felt too embarrassed. 

To start we got the la nay ferme greens, peach, potato, rockhill gruyere, almond, sherry vinaigrette ($10). Sounds fancy shmancy, with words I’ve never heard of before, but it was good! I recommend trying it. I never would have thought to put red potatoes in a salad, but they fit in just fine.

As for the main dish, we got the creminelli sausage, caramelized onion, roasted fennel, tomato sauce, mozzarella pizza. ($14)   The crust was one of my favorite parts. Not to flat, not to doughy, but just right! And the sauce still had a fresh tomato taste. 

Our waitress was friendly and we even got the name of the lady who does her eyelashes, but she wasn’t Lighting Macqueen.  After we got our pizza it was like we didn’t exist. My glass was craving water, and it seems like whenever you have a waiter that leaves your refills hanging, that your thirst meter automatically goes to empty. Does this happen to anyone else?  Slow to pour and slow to charge. I had to go up at the end and give her our cards because she was taking forever. 

Despite the slow service, I give Pizzeria 712 a Green Light. You better believe I’ll be back!

Scale Rating Descriptions
Green Light: I'll be coming through all the time, call me a regular, recommend to everyone and all, I"ll crave this place when I'm pregnant, loved it!

Yellow Light: I'll be slow to go through,  I'd go back if someone suggested it,  nothing special, not something I'm going to crave, it was ok.

Red Light: STOP! Don't go, tried it once and that's enough, warn people not to go, thinking about it brings back bad memories, didn't like it.

Pizzeria 712 on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 22, 2012

Super Moist Banana Bread

In honor of my grandmother that passed away just over a year ago, I am dedicating my first blog post to her and making one of my favorite recipes of hers. Strangely enough, I'm not sure I had ever tasted this until my sister compiled a collection of my grandma's best recipes and made a cookbook for my sisters and I. I knew I had to try it immediately because I had a bowl full of brown bananas on my counter it was noted at the bottom how moist it was. Very intriguing!

I absolutely love this bread. It takes about two hours to bake because it bakes at such a low temperature which makes my house smell divine for the entire day. Usually I bake it in a cake bunt pan, invert it onto a cake platter and serve it that way. It's very elegant for any type of brunch, breakfast or snack. Today I made it in a standard 9x5 loaf pan, a mini loaf pan and muffins so I could figure how long each one cooked for you.

Another amazing thing about this bread is that there is no dense dry crust. In fact crust would not even be a term I would use with bread, it is pure awesomeness! Seriously, it's my favorite part.

Super Moist Banana Bread
5 large or 6 small bananas
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
4 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup nuts or chocolate chips *optional
 Beat bananas until liquified. Add beaten eggs and mix thoroughly. Cream sugar and shortening together in separate bowl. Add to banana mixture and beat thoroughly. Add flour, baking soda, salt and mix well. Stir in nuts or chocolate chips. Bake in two well greased loaf pans or one bunt pan. bake at 250° for 1 3/4-2 hours. Mine loaf pans were about 2 hours. Mini loafs took about 1 hour and muffins take about 45 minutes. To be honest, I preferred it in the loaf or mini loaf pans. It turned out much more moist. Enjoy!