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Welcome to my collection of recipes and cooking related ramblings. Please don't expect culinary perfection during your time here... for I am a frustrated foodie with very little patience and more than a tendency for often unnecessary creativity in the kitchen. I have a hard time following instructions (Never fear, I can read, I just don't like being told what to do), so cooking is a good exercise in discipline for me. Luckily I have a willing husband to taste test these creations, good and bad, so I don't have to suffer alone in my experimentations.  

If you dare - learn along with me as I try out recipes, tweak them to my liking, learn what NOT to do and share all the mundane details with you! Let's do this... 

Wednesday
Jul042012

Milky Chocolate Chip Cookies

Happy fourth of July! In order to show my unique brand of lazy patriotism, I decided to express myself in an all American cookie - one that represents our unique melting pot of tastes and traditions. If American stands for anything, we stand for our rights to eat copious amounts of comfort food. Nothing is more comforting - and oddly American - than milk and chocolate chip cookies. So to represent all the peoples of America - this cookie is equal parts white, black and brown - with a dash of the nutty stuff... a little something something for everybody! 

Anyways, I really have no idea what to call these cookies. They are not particularly milky, or chocolatey, making the name I chose is a little misleading, but alas, I don't care enough to change it, because it's just a name after all, AND it's a holiday -  so lay off already! : )  Whatever you want to call them, these mellow chocolate clouds of cookie goodness, with rich white chocolate laced throughout, melt in your mouth with a sophisticated fudgy flavor. If I had to categorize this cookie, I'd say it would be especially delicious served at an lovely afternoon tea... or (like I ate them tonight) with a big glass of milk before bed (except without the glass of milk). 

Anyway, the recipe seems a little weird, but it makes for a milky, crunchy, rich cookie snack that tastes like milk and cookies all in one. Make about 30 cookies. 

Milky Chocolate Chip Cookies

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled completely
  • 2 squares unsweetened baking chocolate (2 oz.), melted
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream (or half and half)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 1/4 cup white chocolate chips

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl cream together the cooled butter and the brown sugar until fluffy. Add in the egg, vanilla and cream and mix thoroughly. In a separate bowl, sift together the salt, baking soda and flour. Incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until the two are just combined. Finally, stir in the melted chocolate until dough is evenly "colored" by the chocolate and then add in the chocolate chips and the nuts.

Spoon small balls of dough (about 1" round) onto cookie sheets about 2" apart. These cookies do not spread at all - so you may want to flatten them a bit with the back of a spoon. Bake for 11-12 minutes until cookies are set. Cool on wire rack.

For the record, these cookies are the annoying kind that taste best the next day. I know it's hard to resist, but you can do it. Okay, one now, then you can wait on the rest. I know you can...if you want. Or, you can just have another and we'll keep it amongst the two of us. Scouts honor! : )

 

Monday
Jul022012

Shrimp & Prosciutto Risotto

So, I decided to live on the edge and tackle the couture culinary challenge known as risotto. I've watched enough Gordon Ramsey shows to know that I should be intimidated at the mere thought of this delicate dish, so tonight I was shaking in my Birkenstocks as I gave it a whirl. I am completely aware that i should be shamed out of the kitchen for using frozen shrimp in this dish, but whatever, sue me... it's what I had. This turned out to be delicious and made enough for at least six. Serve with a citrusy salad - it's what's for dinner.

Shrimp & Prosciutto Risotto

INGREDIENTS: (Serves 6-8)

  • 2 lbs. frozen shrimp, cleaned and raw, thawed (6-8 servings)
  • 6 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto, torn into small pieces
  • 1 lb. Arborio rice
  • 6 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups white wine (I used Prosecco)
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh chives
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. In a medium stockpot, bring chicken stock, 1 cup white wine and crushed red pepper to a boil. Add in shrimp and continue to boil until shrimp is barely turning pink. about 2-3 minutes. Remove shrimp from broth and set aside. Reduce heat to medium and continue to simmer broth.

2. Melt 3 Tbsp. butter in a large saucepan, add in garlic and stir for about 90 seconds until garlic is fragrant but not browned. Add onion to garlic and continue to cook for about five minutes, until onions become translucent but not brown. Meanwhile, chop up approximately 1/3 of your cooked shrimp, and tear up your prosciutto into small strips.

3. Once onions are softened, pour rice into saucepan and coat completely with onions and butter. Pour in remaining cup of white wine and stir until liquid is evaporated. Set heat to medium and pour in one cup of hot broth stirring almost constantly until liquid is again incorporated. Keep repeating this process every 4-5 minutes as each cup of broth cooks the rice in the pan. After about 20 minutes, check the consistency of your rice, you want it to be soft on the outside and firm in the center with a creamy texture. Season with salt and pepper if necessary.

4. After you pour in your last cup of broth (you may not use all of the actual broth - just use enough until the consistency is right), stir until liquid has reduced about half way. Remove from heat and set aside continuing to stir while rice thickens. Add in remaining 3 Tbsp butter (diced), parmesan cheese, shrimp and prosciutto. Continue to stir until consistency is creamy and delicious! Garnish with chives and fresh ground pepper. 

5. Don't forget to put the chives on top like I did before taking your photo. Plus, make sure to take a better photo than the one I took above. It's harder for me to take a good photo than it is to make a good meal! Now, go eat already.

Sunday
May272012

Barbecue Chicken Pizza

I've said it before and I'll say it again - I take terrible food pictures! It tasted delicious, I promise.

Happy Memorial Day folks! If you are celebrating like approximately 98% of Americans - there is most likely some barbecued meat somewhere in your weekend plans. If you're lucky, you may have some leftovers. If you're even luckier, it'll be chicken and you can whip up this delicious barbecue chicken pizza for Monday night dinner and help close out three days of fun in the sun.

If you're a 2 percenter, like me, then you will be grabbing a bag of fully-cooked frozen chicken strips (fajita-size and shape) and preserving your precious skin inside in the dark watching a Turner Classic Movie war-flick-a-thon. Either way, you and I can both enjoy this delicious pizza pie and toast to our fallen heroes. You can shred up and use your leftover chicken... I'll heat mine up in a futuristic manner and we'll both end up satisfied. Potato, po-tah-to.

Note - as a picky eater - I have a hard time finding bbq sauces that aren't super sweet and overpowering. In this recipe, I usually use Sweet Baby Ray's Hickory & Brown Sugar barbecue sauce. I like the brown sugar flavor with the chicken... makes it the right kind of sweet to compliment the savory onions. I'm starting to drool, so I'll get on with it.

Barbecue Chicken Pizza

INGREDIENTS:

  • ~3/4 cup barbecue sauce
  • 1 onion, sliced in moon shapes
  • 2 cups chicken, cubbed or shredded
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 refrigerated pizza crust (in tube, I use Pillsbury's)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Unroll refrigerated pizza crust onto baking sheet and prebake for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Meanwhile, sauté your sliced onions in 2 Tbsp of olive oil until translucent. if you are using frozen chicken, throw chopped chicken in with onions after the first five minutes. Continue to sauté together for an additional 8 minutes or until chicken is warmed through and beginning to brown. If you are using shredded (not frozen) chicken, then toss it in for just a minute or two with the onions to warm it through. Remove from heat and set aside.

Assemble your pizza by spreading the sauce evenly over the prebaked crust. Next, spread the onions and chicken over the entire pizza andtop with two types of cheese. Salt and pepper to your taste. Bake pizza for approximately 10 minutes until cheese is bubbly. Slice and serve. Bring a fork to help you fight your way in for a slice - this pizza goes fast!

Sunday
May202012

Southern Sweets - Toasted Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies

Toasted pecan chocolate chip cookiesI've forever been on a culinary quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe. I like a substantial-sized cookie crammed full of nuts and chips. I like the cookie to have some flavor other than just chocolate to elevating the taste to the next level. I crave the texture of the ones my mom used to make - the kind where you substitute shortening for butter and the cookies have a light and fluffy texture. However, I can't really use shortening in my cookies -  I just can't bring myself to do it. 

Well folks, I may have finally stumbled on my version of the perfect chocolate chip cookie. This confection has a hint of cinnamon that perfectly complements the dark chocolate and the nutty pecans. Heaven I tell ya. They don't flatten out and turn chewy - these have a thick texture that's just shy of "cakey" with a satisfying soft center and a perfectly crunch outside. Not to mention, this recipe makes a ton of cookies - so you can eat yourself silly and still have plenty to share. Perfection!

Toasted Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies

INGREDIENTS: Makes about 4 dozen

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup butter + 2 Tbsp., divided
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 cups pecans
  • 2 cups dark chocolate chips

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375ºF. In a microwave safe bowl, melt 1 cup butter (nuke for about 45 seconds), stir until smooth and set aside to completely cool. You can put it in the fridge for 10 minutes or so if you prefer. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt and set aside. Next, coarsely chop pecans and toss with cinnamon.

Melt remaining 2 Tbsp. butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Stir in pecans and cinnamon until nuts are completely coated . Continue to toast over medium heat for about five minutes, being careful not to let them burn. Once nuts are aromatic and toasted, remove from heat and set aside. In a large bowl, mix together cooled, melted butter and both sugars. Combine completely. Add in beaten eggs and vanilla. Slowly pour in the flour mixture until batter is thoroughly combined. Lastly mix in the pecans and chocolate chips. The batter will be sticky and thick but not runny.

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Using two spoons drop balls of dough (about 1 heaping tablespoon each) about two inches apart. Bake for 10 minutes until cookies turn golden brown around the edges. Let sit for a few minutes before removing to a cooling rack. 

Sunday
May202012

Ham, Gruyere & Mushroom Quiche - ooh la la with little more la la on top

It's been a looooooong week around here and this Sunday morning, all I want to do was take it easy. After lingering over a pot of coffee - and I lingered, people, I lingered - I decided brunch would kill two culinary birds with one stone. Then I thought, "Wait! I could kill three birds with that stone - I'll clean out the fridge too!) Ultimately the fridge offered a magic concoction consisting of deli ham, gruyere cheese and mushrooms. I resisted adding any other bits and pieces, as I'm prone to overdoing, and just complemented the flavors with a little onion and garlic. 

I thought this was the perfect time to pass along a little quiche tip I've picked up that helps you decide how much egg/milk mixture you need for the perfect pie. The basic recipe calls for 3 eggs (I had to use 4). Once you beat the eggs together you add enough milk to make 1 1/2 cups total. For each egg you should add enough milk to make it 1/2 cup combined. If you use 4 eggs, add enough milk to make a total of 2 cups. Capiche? Good. Now stow away that little tidbit and get crackin!

Ham, Gruyere & Mushroom Quiche 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 oz. deli ham, chopped
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1-2 cups fresh mushrooms, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 oz. Gruyere cheese, grated
  • 2 oz. Swiss cheese (I use about 4 "thin" slices)
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • milk (enough to make 2 cups when added to beaten eggs)
  • 1 refrigerated pie crust
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat and add minced garlic. Saute for about 2 minutes and add salted mushrooms. Heat thoroughly until mushrooms cook down, approximately 5 minutes. Set mushrooms aside. In heated pan, add chopped onions and saute until transluscent. Once onions are clear, add chopped ham and heat for about two more minutes just slightly browning the ham. Remove from heat and set aside.

Prebake the pie crust for about 5-7 minutes, remove from oven and set aside. In a small bowl, beat together eggs, milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Begin layering the quiche in the prebaked crust by first spreading the ham and onions one the bottom and topping with the (thoroughly drained) mushrooms. Tear the swiss cheese into largish pieces and layer on top of the mushrooms. Sprinkle the top with gruyere cheese. Finally, pour egg and milk mixture into the shell until it covers other fillings completely and fills pie. Note: You may have a little bit of milk mixture left over if you are using a smaller pie plate.

Bake pie for 40-45 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean when pricking the center. Cool at least 20 minutes before serving. Try not to cut the pie into fourths - as this recipe should serve at least 6, if not 8. Yeah, right. 

Bonus note: The cat approved... couldn't keep her away from it while it was cooling. Shoo kitty shoo!