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29 July 2010

Basilicious Scrambled Eggs

Had a good rummage 'round my fridge this morning and found eggs, sour cream, butter, mozzarella, basil, and green onions. Thought I could surely I make a delicious breakfast out of them.

(When I told The Husband I was making basil scrambled eggs for brekkie, he laughed and wondered when I would start putting basil in my tea!)

Basil Scrambled Eggs

5 eggs
3 Tbs sour cream
2 Tbs unsalted butter
quarter cup mozzarella, cut into small cubes
5 large basil leaves, rolled and sliced thin
1 scallion, sliced thin
salt and pepper

Whisk together eggs and sour cream. Set aside.
Melt butter in skillet.
Add scallion whites and cook until tender and deliciously fragrant.
Add eggs to pan and, stirring gently, cook until large soft curds form.
Add basil, scallion greens, and mozzarella.
Cook until eggs are set and mozzarella is a bit melty.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.

(Serves 2 humans or 1 human & several hungry cats)
Oh, these were delicious scrambled eggs (they made me go omnomnomnom) and I look forward to making them again.

27 July 2010

Stir-Fry in a Trice

Had some odds and ends of vegetables hanging around so I made an easy stir-fry for Tuesday's supper:


Ingredients:
beef, celery, peppers (from my garden!), red onion, scallions, baby corn, straw mushrooms, low-sodium chicken broth, and a Kikkoman Stir-Fry Seasoning Mix sachet

To make this stir-fry, I just followed the directions on the back of the Kikkoman sachet (except I used beef instead of chicken, broth instead of water, and slightly different vegetables). Can't have taken more than 15 minutes from stove to table.

(Served the stir-fry on a bed of medium grain rice I had cooked in low-sodium chicken broth. I'm finding I really prefer the texture of medium grain rice to the long grain we had been purchasing).
26 July 2010

Mayonnaise is Better With Basil

Over the weekend, I noticed my basil plants need picking again, but I still had a little from the last pick left and I wanted to use that up before I brought any more basil into the house.

Initially, tonight's supper of burgers and salad didn't seem to provide many basilicious opportunities. I could have made a basil vinaigrette to go with the salad, sure, but I was more in the mood for something creamy and mayonnaise-y. Something I could put on a burger. Something like Southern Living's "Basil Mayonnaise."


This mayonnaise was dead easy to make -- I simply ran light mayonnaise, lemon zest, lemon juice, fresh basil, and two cloves of garlic through my food processor until everything was smooth. Because the recipe only makes 1½ cups of basil mayonnaise, I was able to use the 4-cup mini work bowl which came with my 12-cup food processor. Pretty sure this was the first time I ever used the mini bowl and it worked out quite well -- bowl stayed locked in place and none of the mayonnaise escaped into the bigger bowl.

How did it taste? Oh, it was so good! Tangy, garlicky, yum! Bet it would taste great on a BLT or club sandwich, too. Mmm. I may have to thaw out some bacon.

Next up for basil:
25 July 2010

Beautiful Basil Cod

The Basil Bonanza continues with Jamie Oliver's "Roasted Cod with Cherry Tomatoes, Basil and Mozzarella" from Happy Days with the Naked Chef (Hyperion, 2002). I made this dish once before (waaay back in 2006) and it turned out so well then that I do not know why I waited so long to make it again!

I found Oliver's unit of measurement (handfuls) to be a bit vague so I just used whatever amount seemed tastiest -- in this case, half a pint of halved grape tomatoes, six ounces of fresh mozzarella, and a packed cup of fresh basil which I cut into thin ribbons. Last time, I diced the mozzarella into thumbnail-sized pieces and scattered them across the top of the fish. This time, I sliced the mozzarella quite thinly and layered it across the fish, then scattered the tomatoes and basil atop. I do not know that this change made a difference is taste, but it looked quite pretty!


Next up for basil:
    22 July 2010

    Basil Is For Drinking

    I made basil lemonade! Yes, I did! And it tastes good.

    I used Real Simple's recipe for "Basil Lemonade" and it took no time at all. Just make a simple syrup, chuck some basil in, let the syrup cool to room temperature, and mix it with your beverage of choice. I mixed mine with lemonade, but the recipe also suggests ginger ale, iced tea, mineral water, or sparkling wine. I bet I could even make a tasty lemon drop with this syrup!

    Next up for basil:
    21 July 2010

    Mmm ... Smoothies

    A few weeks ago, The Husband picked up a couple bags of Yoplait's frozen smoothie blend. Each bag contains two smoothies in the making -- chunks of frozen fruits and yogurt cubes. To make two smoothies, I just emptied a packet into my food processor with a cup of low fat milk, and processed it until smooth.

    The processed smoothie had a nice pink color and a strong strawberry aroma. Indeed, given how strong the aroma was, I expected the smoothie to shout Strawberry! when I tasted it, but it merely said strawberry. Not terrible, but too much like a watery milkshake for my liking. That said, The Husband enjoyed his serving ("It wasn't super strong strawberry ... but it was good enough") and said he would be happy to drink another. As The Husband is not good about getting his daily servings of fruit, this is probably a good thing.

    Ingredients: Strawberries, bananas, water, nonfat yogurt (skim milk, yogurt cultures), sugar, fructose, milkfat, corn starch, banana puree, nonfat milk, gelatin, xanthan gum, pectin, sugar syrup, carrageenan, sucralose, citric acid, honey, natural flavor, maltodextrin, strawberry juice

    If made as directed, each 8 oz smoothie contains 110 calories, 15 mg sodium, 9 g sugar, and 30% DV Vitamin C.

    After making Yoplait's frozen smoothies, I'd like to try making my own from scratch. Hmm. I do have frozen berries and yoghurt on hand ...

    20 July 2010

    Basil, My Sweet

    Thanks for the Facebook & Twitter love, Cabot Creamery Coop!

    To go with last week's basil-marinated chicken, I tossed together a rather pretty pasta salad which not only looked and tasted quite good, but which also allowed me to use up a bunch of odds-and-ends. Pasta salad -- summer's answer to winter's "cleaning out the fridge" soup.
    Pasta Salad with Basil, Grape Tomatoes, and Bell Pepper

    1 small yellow bell pepper, cut into pea-sized pieces
    ¼ cup red onion, cut into pea-sized pieces
    1½ cups grape tomatoes, halved width-wise
    ½ cup Cabot Serious Sharp cheddar, cut into pea-sized pieces
    ½ cup tightly packed fresh basil, coarsely chopped
    ½ cup light mayonnaise
    ½ cup light sour cream
    1 tsp McCormick's salt-free lemon & pepper seasoning
    8 oz Barilla Piccolini Mini Fusilli

    Combine first five ingredients in a large bowl and set aside. Prepare pasta as directed. While pasta cooks, combine mayonaisse, sour cream, and lemon-pepper seasoning. Set aside. When pasta is cooked drain, retaining a little water. Add warm pasta and water to vegetable bowl, top with sour cream-mayonnaise mixture and stir well to combine.
    I served this pasta salad warm, because that was what I was in the mood for. When we eat the leftovers, I will add a little more sour cream-mayonnaise mix as the salad will be a little dry -- the warm pasta having soaked up a lot of the sauce.


    Yum!

    (I loved the colors in this salad so much I've used a photo of the chopped vegetables in my new blog header!)


    Refreshing summer salads!

    Next up for basil:
    18 July 2010

    Bountiful Basil

    The pots of petunias and herbs I planted in late June have been doing very well on the back porch. The basil, in particular, seems very happy in its current location and has been providing us with lots of basilicious goodness.

    Last week, I served chicken marinated in basil with a basil pasta salad. The marinade was based on Taste of Home's recipe for "Grilled Basil Chicken & Tomatoes." Since I was only making chicken for two, I knew I would have a lot of marinade. My plan was (among other things) to hold some back and reduce it to make a flavorful sauce to drizzle over the grilled chicken. Unfortunately, my hands were a little unsteady and ... well, there was no extra marinade, after all.

    The marinade was very easy to throw together in my food processor and I rather enjoyed making it -- just throw together basil, oil, garlic, tomatoes, and vinegar in a food processor and process everything until they are (reasonably) smooth.  While the unprocessed ingredients looked very pretty in the bowl, I refrained from taking any pictures of the processed marinade as it wasn't very pretty at all!

    I let the chicken marinate all day and The Husband grilled them that evening while I finished the basil pasta salad. The chicken was very moist and, while not strongly basilicious, quite flavorful. I imagine this marinade would also work well with a pork tenderloin or steak.

    Next up for basil:
    16 July 2010

    From Bagels to Bread Crumbs

    I had amassed a backlog of eDiets's wheat bagels and, with next week's order already on its way, knew I had to do something with them. Yes, I could have popped them in the freezer, but I have a poor history of consuming frozen baked goods. Instead, I decided to make bread crumbs.

    I halved them, cut them into one-inch chunks, and then ran them through my food processor until they turned into a fine, fluffy crumb. Four small wheat bagels yielded a scant four cups of crumbs which I divided up between two bags and froze.

    What will I do with these bread crumbs? I will use them for binding meatloaf or meatballs, topping casseroles, stuffing mushrooms, etc.
    14 July 2010

    Dippy-Dip-Dip-Do

    At my parents Fourth of July picnic, my mother served bacon-horseradish dip with veggies and chips.  The Husband, not knowing what he was about, took a generous scoop of dip and was terribly dismayed. You see, I have married a man who does not like bacon. No, not even a little. Bacon is Bad.

    His dislike of bacon is a sad, sad thing, but it could be worse. He could hate garlic. Or cake ...

    No. I would never have married a man who hated cake.

    Anyway, The Husband's unhappy bacon-horseradish dip experience reminded me that we had picked up a jar of Penzeys Horseradish Dip mix and not made any dip with it. Yet.  Being a good, loving wife I immediately sought to rectify that sorry situation by whipping up a batch of horseradish dip.


    The dip was very easy to make -- just combine mix and water and let stand 5 minutes. Blend with ⅔ cup sour cream and ⅓ cup mayonnaise. That's it. You could serve it immediately and it would probably be pretty fine.  However, much to The Husband's bitter disappointment, I let our dip mellow overnight in the fridge before I let him eat any. He argued rather vehemently that the dip would mellow just fine in his belly, but I was not swayed. And I do think it was better for mellowing -- the heat from the ground horseradish seemed much sharper than when the dip was newly mixed and I found a little dip went a long way.

    Penzeys suggests thinning the prepared dip with a little vinegar to make a zippy sandwich spread. Mmm ... smoked salmon, horseradish, and cucumber tea sandwiches might be nice.
    13 July 2010

    Hedwig On eDiets


    Hedwig enjoys lying on media of all kinds -- books, magazines, loose papers, music CDs, video game cases, etc. She has been like this since she was a kitten and no amount of advice from cat behavior books has been able to curb her enthusiasm. After ten years, we just take furry media as a matter of course.
    11 July 2010

    Slow Cooker Mac 'n' Cheese

    Friday, I had a craving for macaroni and cheese. While I had a box of Annie's organic macaroni and cheese on hand, I wanted a thicker, denser, more old-fashioned style mac 'n' cheese. However, I didn't think I could handle something as complicated as Cook's Illustrated's "Classic Macaroni and Cheese" without assistance. The Husband had given me a shiny new slow cooker a few weeks ago and I wondered if I could make mac 'n' cheese in it ... searching around on the Internet, I found a recipe for "Easy Crock Pot Macaroni and Cheese" on Recipezaar which seemed perfect for my needs. Unlike other slow cooker recipes I found, this recipe did not call for cheddar soup or Velveeta or require me to precook the pasta. It also cooked for a remarkably short amount of time -- two and a half hours on LOW.

    Of course, I did make a few alterations to the recipe based on the ingredients I had at hand. I used wagon wheel pasta instead of elbow, dehydrated onion flakes instead of fresh,  evaporated milk for most of the whole milk, and doubled the amount of cheese by using a combination of Kerrygold's Red Leicester and Cabot's Seriously Sharp.

    To save time, I shredded the cheeses in my food processor (and that was so much fun, I had a hard time not shredding all the cheese in our fridge).   I made the sauce as directed by the recipe, but rather then stir the cheeses and pasta into the pan -- making it too full/dangerous for me to lift -- I put the noodles in the slow cooker, topped it with cheese, poured the sauce over, and then stirred everything together until the cheese was melted.

    I thought this slow cooker mac 'n' cheese was very delicious and exactly what I had been craving -- a dense, cheesy mass of tender-not-smooshy pasta.  The edges of the mac 'n' cheese had even browned a little as it would have had I made this in the oven.  With a salad, I could happily have made a meal of it.  Alas, The Husband was not so thrilled as he is not that keen on mac 'n' cheese to begin with and, when he does eat it, he prefers the gooier, runnier sauce you get with stove top mac 'n' cheese.  He was not wholly alienated by it, but it was good we also had barbecued chicken breasts and peas to go with it or I might have lost significant wife cred.
    10 July 2010

    Cookies Are Always In Season

    Friday, even though it was a muggy 86°F outside, I had a terrible craving for warm chocolate chip cookies. Rather than fight my craving and eat something "sensible" like a nice cup of low fat yogurt, I gave in and made these easy chocolate chip bars using Crisco's "Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies" recipe.

    The dough came together very quickly and smoothly since it used vegetable shortening instead of softened butter -- no waiting -- and  my stand mixer did all the hard labor. I just leaned against the counter and measured ingredients out.  Of course, there was a little blip of almost-disaster when I dropped a silicone spatula into the running mixer, but I  managed to power the mixer off before it ate the spatula.  A little ruffled, I then proceeded to open the chip bag a bit too enthusiastically and scattered chips all over the floor.  Husband swept them up for me and I had an extra bag in the cupboard, so it was not as terrible as it could have been.

    After all that excitement, it seemed as if bar cookies would be safer than drop cookies -- I was already pretty tired -- so I spread the dough in a greased 13x9 pan. And at first I thought I was doing it wrong as the dough was really thick and hard to spread, but it spread more easily once I switched over to my small offset spatula. Oh, small offset spatula, I you!

    The Husband took the bars out of the oven so I wouldn't burn myself (or drop them and waste the precious, precious cookies) and portioned them out once they had cooled so I couldn't cut myself (and bleed on 'em).

    The bars were quite delicious with a slightly crisp outside and a soft, chewy inside. While not the most awesome chocolate chips cookies I've ever made (need butter for that), they are certainly well worth making again.

    The whole time I was making these bars, "C is for Cookie" was running through my head:




    01 July 2010

    Hot Chocolate Yumminess

    See that yummy, oozing, chocolate goodness over on the left?  I made six of those all by myself Tuesday afternoon.  I was in the mood to bake something, The Husband was in the mood to eat a baked something, and I was darned if a wheelchair and a poorly arranged kitchen were going to stop me.  If I could manage brownies two weeks ago, I could certainly manage tiny chocolate cakes on Tuesday.

    I made these using King Arthur Flour's Chocolate Lava Cake Mix which is an incredibly easy and delicious cake mix. Seriously, you can have hot chocolate goodness in your tummy in under thirty minutes and the people you share them with (should you choose to share them) will think you are a baking master worthy of much adoration. They are darkly, bitterly sweet and gooey .... oh, just thinking about them makes me salivate and I don't really like chocolate that much.


    Step 1
    Preheat your oven and assemble all ingredients:
    melted unsalted butter, hot water, eggs, cake mix.

    Knowing pots were beyond my ken, I used the microwave to melt the butter and heat the water. One minute in the microwave made the water nice and hot, without being dangerous. Can you imagine what kind of mischief I could have gotten up to with an electric kettle?

    (It was bad enough that, by the time I was done measuring it out, I looked like I'd taken a bath in the dry mix).


    Step 2
    Whisk together the hot water and dry cake mix, then add the melted butter,  whisk some more, and add the eggs (one at a time).

    If you're a super clever baker, you'll have cracked the eggs into a measuring cup and so you'll just pour them, one at a time, into the batter.  I am not a clever baker, so cracked and plopped as I went.


    Step 3
    Evenly divide the batter among the greased ramekins, wipe off any spillage, and put them on a jelly roll pan. Slide the pan into the middle of your preheated oven and bake for 14 - 18 minutes.

    You want to remove the ramekins from the oven when the tops of the cakes are still a bit jiggly in the middle -- usually at 17 minutes for my oven, but ovens vary so you might want to start checking at 14.

    (The Husband removed the pan from the oven for me, lest I throw all my "hard work" on the kitchen floor).


    Step 4
    Let the ramekins sit for 5 minutes, then run a butter knife around the edge of each cake to help it "decant" more easily. Invert a dessert plate or saucer over the top of a hot ramekin, grab the ramekin and plate with a tea towel, and flip.  Lift the ramekin and admire the pretty cake nestled in the middle of the plate. Repeat for as many cakes as you plan on serving.


    Step 5
    Top each cake with a splodge of fresh, unsweetened whipped cream and nom.

    (If you're feeling guilty, a sprinkling of fresh raspberries could certainly help healthify things).

    Extra cakes keep well in the fridge. Just wrap each ramekin in cling wrap and store until needed. When craving strikes, reheat in the microwave for about 25 seconds or until the cake is soft and center is molten.

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