Friday, August 31, 2012

193. Crockpot Refried Beans



Dried beans come in a  variety of sizes, colors and the flavors are countless.

The dishes that can be created by adding beans are also numerous, they can include soups, salads, side dishes, salsa's, puree's, etc...

Sometimes I just don't have time to rehydrate them though.  I buy the packages and when I want to use them I have not given myself enough time to prepare the red bean, black bean or pinto bean.

White lima beans, kidney beans and navy bean sit at the bottom of my pantry anxiously awaiting the day that I remember to soak them overnight or boil them in hot water for a few hours.

Like many, if I need some beans right now, I run to the store and buy them in a can.

We love refried beans and I will often serve them as a side dish when we have enchilada's, on our nacho's or in the bottom of a corn tortilla before we add the cheese, lettuce and ripe tomatoes.


Refried Beans is a simple dish.

I also learned it is an easy dish.

I found inspiration to try this recipe when I woke up one morning and my beans fell out onto the kitchen floor.  I felt that they had flung themselves at me.  THUD, landing at my feet.

My crockpot was sitting on the counter, and together, the beans and the crockpot, were telling me I needed to give my crazy thought a try.

In the end, I was so excited that I did because this dish came together nicely.  I made it in the early morning and it was done by dinner time.

When you make your own refried beans you have so much control in how the flavors will be paired and the end result.

I will be making these from scratch for now on because I learned several things.

Great flavor.

Easy preparating.

GOOD!

Yep, they were simply good.

Good taste, texture and flavor.


Recipe:  Crockpot Refried Beans

6 cups of water
6 chicken bouillon cubes
3 cups of dried pinto beans
1 tablespoon of granulated garlic
2 teaspoons of onion powder

2 teaspoons of cumin
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/4 cup of jalapeno (optional)
Cheese (optional)

Add all of the above ingredients to a crockpot.

Set temperature to high and cook for 4-5 hours.  If you choose to cook it on low the time will be much longer, 8-10 hours.

I checked the beans after 3 hours to make sure they were doing okay and every hour after that.

You will have to remove some water when the beans return to their desired doneness.  I removed almost one full cup.

I used a potato masher to mash the refried beans together.  They will get thicker as they sit for a few minutes or even the next day.

I liked having a variety of beans in the dish that ranged from whole to mash.











Sifting Through Life: First Day of Kindergarten


Here we go!

School has started and so has the buzzing of this time of year.  I think I signed my life away for my son who is a sophomore in high school.  Every teacher has sent home a consent form, some teachers sent a safety form and others, a supply list.

Sign, print, date…REPEAT..over and over.

College has not yet started for my oldest daughter. She is home with me during the day.  Soon enough she will be back with a full load, preparing for mid terms and anxiously counting the days until she is finally done with school.

With Rye we sign one thing…the check. We are fortunate that we can pay for some of her schooling.

Kindergarten was a bit more laid back for Isabella, we met the teacher on Tuesday and she attended a staggered schedule on Thursday.  A few papers were filled out: birthday, name and locker tag.

The moment we left the classroom Isabella professed her love for her teacher.

"I just love my teacher," she says.

I was curious how a quick meeting with a woman that she just met could cause such a reaction in her small heart.

"Why is that?" I asked.

She sweetly replied, "Because she is beautiful Mom and she is my teacher".

AWWWWWW

Is she not the sweetest little five year old?  This morning as we left for school, she needed a gift for her new teacher.  We went out side to our back yard and looked around.  What could we quickly throw together?

The only thing we have blooming in our yard at the moment is a pretty bush with a cluster of pink blossoms at the very end of each branch.  We grabbed the kitchen shears and headed to the back of the yard.  We fought our way through spider webs and dead leaves.  Reaching up, we discovered that the pretty pink blossoms were wilting and slowly losing their beauty.


We picked them anyway.  I had taken three different types of ribbons in three colors to create a pretty bow to secure the small bouquet.

Our walk to school is short and sweet, it takes us about 5 minutes to weave around the cars parked in the street and cross the busy road to finally arrive at the new school.

I was impressed that Isabella was not nervous or scared.  She was so excited to deliver her gift that it helped to keep her mind off of the fact that she would be going to a new school.

Ms. (kindergarten teacher) did not disappoint.

There, in line, standing behind 4 or 5 little kids, Isabella patiently waited with her orange and pink back pack and Hello Kitty lunch box.  She was wearing the tennis shoes that she picked out with a cute floral shirt and jean capris.

With every opening and closing of the door she waited to see her teacher.  Her head would turn to me and then the door wondering when it would be her turn to go inside to see her new room.

Finally Ms. KT arrived.  Holding her short list of kids for the day, she spotted Isabella immediately and hugged her.  She saw the flowers, or what was left of the few blossoms that had made the trek from the back yard, down the street and to the front door of the school.  All the while being swung back and forth rubbing against her capris.

She smiled down at Isabella and I could see the admiration that Isabella had as she looked up into the eyes of the lady that would be responsible for my little girl, five days a week for 6.5 hours a day.


Isabella trusted her new teacher and was eager to stay.

There were no tears from her or from me.  We hugged and parted ways for a few hours as she adjusted to her new schedule, new friends and a new teacher.

I had planned on homeschooling Isabella as I had done with my older two.  She had other plans.  If we had another child closer to her age, I would have kept her with me, but we don't.  I have a college student and a high school student who are gone all day.  She longs for someone to play dolls, dress up and kitchen with her.  We play and play but it is never enough.

I don't have the stamina I had when my older two were this age and I don't want her to be bored.  I want her to be challenged and happy.

It was hard for me to decide to send her to school but I saw the joy that she radiated, the love she had for her teacher and the friends she was eager to play with on her first day of school.

I will take each year as it comes and if she is happy and doing well we won't change a thing.

I am grateful for teachers.  We feel lucky to live in an area with small class sizes, friendly families and great support from the school board.

I can't believe that we are already here: the first day of kindergarten.

I don't know how the time went by so fast, but it did.

I told my son the other day that I did not want him to grow up anymore.  I hugged him and realized I was not hugging the little boy anymore but a young man.  He looked down at me and smiled and said, "I know Mom".

He shaved for the first time this week.

Rye is moving on with her life too.  Establishing new friends, looking for a job, trying to figure out her future.

Oh, it's hard watching them grow up; yet it is exhilarating at the same time.

My kids will always be my most treasured possession.  I can't keep them in a fancy jewelry box or protect them from being stolen.

They have their whole lives ahead of them, just as we did.

The first day of kindergarten is the beginning of a whole new world for them, then high school and finally college.  It all goes by too fast.

I will watch them go and wait for them to return with arms wide open.

…there she goes!  
























Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Today Food: Home Chef Challenge Contest



A few months ago I entered a contest for the Today Food: Home Chef Challenge.

I enter these on occasion as a fun thing to do.

I was shocked when I received an email saying this:

You’ve been chosen as a contender for TODAY’s Home Chef Challenge!

To say I was excited is an understatement. I am thrilled to be a contestant, one of three.

I do need your vote though. You can vote HERE.

I love the other two side dishes that are entered but I can only vouch for this one because I make this Jalapeno Bacon Potato Salad a lot, my Mom makes it a lot too.  Friends and family rave about the flavor of jalapeno mixed with the crisp crunch of bacon pieces.

Thank you for supporting Simply Gourmet.

Recipe: Jalapeno Bacon Potato Salad

This recipe will make enough to serve 6-8 people.  Adjust according to how large of a crowd you will be serving.

8-10 potatoes.  I use a variety of types.  Red, Russet and Golden.  I leave the skins on too.  I like the color.
1 medium red onion, diced
1 cup of Sweet Pickles, diced
1 pound of Bacon, cooked crispy and sliced into small pieces
jalapeno's to taste
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of mayonnaise

In a large pot, add diced potatoes. Cover with water until potatoes are barely covered.  Cook until tender.  The time will vary depending on the size you dice your potatoes.  It usually takes me about 25 minutes.

While potatoes are cooking, dice onion and pickles.  Cook bacon.  We like our bacon crispy.

Jalapeno warning:  Be careful when mincing the jalapeno that you do NOT touch your eyes.  Using gloves can be helpful with this step.  I use jalapenos in the jar, but you can use fresh.  The seeds are what make it fire hot.  You decide how HOT you want this to be.

Once everything is diced, cooked and prepared...add it all to one big bowl and stir.  Salt and pepper to taste.














191. Cauliflower and Zucchini Crust for Pizza


I took a huge risk trying this recipe on my family.  Only a few us should not eat wheat and so most of our bread that I make is not wheat free and this would include our pizza dough.

I feared that if I tried this my family would boycott the pizza party.

I had a few odd looks from my kids when I told them what the crust was made out of but the overall response was positive.

It helped that I made a homemade red sauce to accompany the cauliflower, bell pepper and zucchini crust.

Yep, I went there.  To that special place reserved for those of us trying to push the envelope with recipe development.  Could the crust handle two more added ingredients or would it change the dynamics of the crust and create a gooey glob of vegetables.

I guess it was a chance I was willing to take.  My gut told me it would work and it did.

The key to making this crust turn out is "less is best".  You must squeeze out every last drop of water from the vegetables that you can.  I used a towel and wrung it until my hands could not wring any more.  LOL  Next time I may recruit my hubby for this.

Does the crust replace a traditional pizza crust from NYC…heck no, but to those of us that are trying to eat less wheat, less carbs and eat a bit healthier, this is a great alternative to try once in a while.

Recipe:  Cauliflower and Zucchini Pizza Crust

6 cups of raw cauliflower, chopped finely, I use my food processor
1 cup of zucchini, chopped finely, I use my food processor
1/2 cup of yellow bell pepper, chopped finely
1/4 cup of parmesan cheese, grated fine
4 oz or 1/2 cup of cream cheese, soft
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon of dried italian herbs
pinch of salt

Pizza Sauce, your choice
Pizza Toppings, your choice

I used my food processor to finely chop (rice) all of my vegetables.


Boil one inch of water in a large pot and add veggies.  Cook for 5 minutes.

Line a large colander or strainer with a thin dish cloth and pour vegetables into strainer.  BE VERY CAREFUL if you decide to squeeze the veggies at this point without letting them cool first, you will burn your hands, trust me, I already did the first time.


Two things can be done: let the vegetables cool for 15 minutes or rinse them with cold water.  You decide.

Gather up the edges of the towel and start wringing out the water.  Even when you think you have done all you can do, try again.  It should be as dry as possible.


Take a large bowl and add cheese, cream cheese, egg, herbs and salt.  Mix well.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and dump the "dough" in the middle of the pan.


Using your hands, push the crust until you have the desired thickness.  I went for a 1/4 inch. Your hands will get messy and sticky.



Your crust should look like this before it is baked.



Bake for 40 minutes at 400 degrees.  The crust will have a golden appearance.



Add your sauce, cheese and toppings and bake for an additional 10 minutes.

Cut your pizza like any other crusted pizza with a pizza wheel. The crust will be easier to pick up and eat if cooled for a few minutes.







Monday, August 27, 2012

194. Steak Spring Roll with Red Wine Reduction


Thinking outside of the box is something I seem to do pretty well in my everyday life and now it seems to be trickling over into my kitchen.

I have made the traditional spring rolls with shrimp and have found that my family is not a fan of the shrimp but they love the concept of using the round rice disk as a way of holding delicious veggies.

Recently I found some beef that had been cut into thin wide strips at Whole Foods.  I figured this could be used for any number of dishes so I included it in my shopping cart.  I will often buy unique things in the store without having any idea of what dish I may include it in.

The next day I noticed I had a few vegetables that needed to be used up that day.  This idea came to my mind.  A steak spring roll.  Would it taste okay?  Sure, steak is kind of like bacon in our family, added to most things, it will taste fantastic.

Reaching for a baggie, I started adding a bit of this and a little of that to season and marinate the beef.  I had a feeling this would be amazing and so I wrote everything down as I went.  I don't always do this when I first try a recipe because it usually requires some tweaking over the next few months.

When you use certain ingredients a lot you learn their qualities and attributes to a recipe and when marrying the ingredients together you are able to create an explosion of flavor.  This happened. 

I wanted the meat to be somewhat strong in flavor, I was okay if it tasted a bit saltier than normal.  With the pairing of the fresh veggies and rice wrapper, this combination would allow the meat to shine in every bite.

IT DID!

Rye, my oldest daughter, is usually my taste tester when she is not in college and I knew this was a hit for the mere fact that she was pacing the halls back and forth from her room to the stove, asking me on more than one occasion, "are they done yet?" and telling me, "that smells so good".

The longest part of this dish?  Julienne vegetables.  I love the look and I wanted those thin matchstick pieces to shine in the pictures of the spring roll.  My hand and mind needed to work together to create these narrow sticks of beauty.

As I started to line up the veggies next to each and could see the rainbow of flavor that would be featured in each spring roll,  I was motivated to continue on to the next ingredient.  I do have a OXO mandolin that has a julienne blade but I wanted the challenge of doing it by hand.  

I love my kitchen gadgets that help me to save time but on this day I wanted the experience of doing this simple, yet taxing task, the old fashion way…me and steel.

Working with the rice wrappers is a new experience for some.  You have this hard disk and you are expected to create a spring roll of deliciousness how?  LOL

I have given you step by step instructions below to help you work with and use this ingredient.  

I love these steak spring rolls and cannot wait to make them again for myself, my family or friends. 

Recipe:  Steak Spring Rolls with a Red Wine Reduction 
makes 8, 16 halves

6 slices of thin strips of beef, cut 1/4 in thick
1/4 teaspoon of onion powder
2 tablespoons of dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon Worceshershire Sauce
dash of pepper
oil, for searing meat
3/4 cup of red wine
salt to taste
toasted sesame seeds
assortment of veggies for filling: cucumbers, carrots, lettuce, onion,  bell pepper, etc…
8 rice spring roll wrapper disc

Marinate meat in a baggie along with onion powder, soy sauce, worceshershire sauce and pepper for one hour.

In a large skillet, heat oil and add meat.  Dispose of left over marinade.  



Cook meat for about 2 minutes on each side.  The thin strips will cook quickly and you don't need them well done and chewy.  Sprinkle each side with toasted sesame seeds. 

The meat marinade and juices, when combined with the oil in the pan, will create a small amount of liquid.  Remove your meat to a plate.  Set the pan aside with the juice for creating the sauce later.  Any juice that is left on the plate from the meat sitting should be added to the pan too. 


After the meat has cooled a bit, cut each piece into thin strips to match those of the veggies.  Try to cut across the grain so the meat will be easier to bite into.  


Prepare you veggies.  To help stack the veggies and meat, they will work better if everything is cut into thin strips.  The lettuce can be shredded.


The picture below will show you what a single rice disk will look like.  They are sold in packages at most grocery stores in the Asian sections.


I use a shallow pie dish filled half way with warm water to soften my rice disk in.  This process is quick.  You will place the disk in the warm water and wait about 30 seconds.  The disk will slowly go from hard to super soft in about 3 minutes.

Remove the disk to your work surface and start stacking your veggies and meat.






Try to work quickly.  Take the left side and the right side and fold into the middle.   Starting at the bottom, flip that over the filling, tighten a bit to secure all of the ingredients and proceed to roll into a spring roll form.



Your spring roll is complete.  I lay my rolls on a plate in a single roll.  The skin of the roll becomes tacky to the touch and if you lay them on top of each other they could tear apart.


Serving the spring rolls is easy.  I have an assortment of dipping sauces available and cut them in half.

Recipe: Red Wine Reduction

Drippings from pan and plate (around 1/4 cup)
3/4 cup of red wine

Heat pan and let the juices and wine simmer (gently rolling) until it reduces to 1/3 of a cup.  Stir occasionally. Taste the reduction to see if salt is needed.  The time for this step will depend on how thick you want the sauce.  It took me about 10 minutes.


 


Saturday, August 25, 2012

178. Fried Oysters



If you have made it this far, you either like oysters or are curious.

I hope both.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE oysters and I get the pleasure of living in Maryland where we have access to them during the "R" months fresh from the Chesapeake Bay.  The "R" months are the best time to eat fresh oysters and those months are September-March.  So why did we have oysters in the summer?

This advice was given long before there was refrigeration in most homes and the concern would be how to preserve them from day to day. This made sense because the oysters could easily go bad if not eaten soon.  The preferred months stay the same but eating an oyster in the spring or summer will not get you uninvited to your next dinner party.

Peggy Filippone has this to say about why we eat oysters in those desired months. "Oysters spawn in the warm summer months, usually May through August, although natural Gulfwater oysters can spawn year-round due to the warm waters. Spawning causes them to become fatty, watery, soft, and less flavorful instead of having the more desirable lean, firm texture and bright seafood flavor of those harvested in cooler, non-spawning months."

Maryland oysters are named the Eastern Oyster, also called the Virginia Oyster.  In recent years the bay has struggled to sustain the oyster population and our state is working hard to meet the demands set by companies and locals that still desire to partake of this shell fish.  The oyster also offers benefits to the eco structure of the bay with their oyster reefs and their built in filtering systems.

At one point in time the oyster beds were so abundant that boats would scrape the top of the oyster reefs in passing.  Times have changed. To give you an idea in numbers, I found this stat quoted from the Historic American Engineering Record for JC Lore Oyster House, "In 1885, more than 15 million bushels of oysters were harvested, but by 2004, that number had dropped to26,495 bushels."

Arriving in Maryland was a dream come true.  We were finally able to live by water and not just a small seashore, but more miles of seashore than the eastern and western shores combined.  The Chesapeake Bay shoreline is a total of 11, 684 miles stretched between 200 miles.

One of the first places we visited was a place called Solomon's Island.  Little did we know that this was also home to an earlier oyster business.  We learned so much about the industry in the early days.  My favorite were the pictures posted on every wall displaying the men and ladies working long hours shucking oysters.

How do you shuck an oyster?

Step by step instructions were written out and followed for every step of the process.  The company was concerned about safety and sanitation for the oysters and their workers.  Below you can find a general how-to and you better be fast.  The workers were paid by the bushel, so the more you shucked the more money you would have.

"A shucker grasps an oyster in his left with its flat shell up, presses it against the table, the hinge end pointed away from him, and inserts the tip of the oyster knife between the shells at the broad end. The knife enters the oyster about one-third of the distance from the bill to the hinge and on the side nearest to the man. This point is opposite the large muscle that holds the two shells together. In the next motion, the muscle is cut, following which the knife is used as a lever and one or the other of the shells is pried off and discarded. Better shuckers employ only six motions in this entire procedure. The oyster, or "meat," as it is now called, is now cut from the remaining shell and dropped into a pail.", the whole article can be read here.
I find the oyster business fascinating back in this time period.  It created jobs for the locals, provided a name for the town and food for thousands of oyster eaters.

The company is no longer active but you can eat at the building which once housed the oyster plant.  It has been turned into a lovely restaurant and the walls are a history lesson of what took place so long ago.

Oysters are eaten in a variety of ways: raw, fried, grilled, in sandwiches and soups.  This is just a few of the many styles that a person can enjoy a delicious oyster.  I would not recommend starting with a raw oyster unless you have no qualms about the texture.  Most people don't like the slimy consistency that a raw oyster has.  A fried oyster on the other hand has the crispy outside, soft inside and that yummy oyster flavor.

My first attempt at eating a raw oyster was a few years ago and my hubby begged me to try them.  I believe he thought with wine, chocolate and some oysters he might be in for a grand night…LOL

Oh, and by the way, he hates oysters.  So I knew I was on my own and what ever I ordered I would have to eat all alone.

I was worried that I would get stuck with some of the largest oysters that a person has ever seen…I just wasn't sure how this was all going to go down, literally.

To make a long story short, I ate one and then another until the half dozen was gone.  I did not think I could eat a full dozen by myself.

I can now say that I belong to the "I ate a raw oyster" club.  Your right, that club probably does not exist.  DANG IT.

I was surprised that the slimy oyster did not bother me.  Along with the oysters, they bring you all types of toppings and sauces.  This may be what helped me down 6 raw oysters in one night, heck, in 30 minutes.

Fried oysters are still my favorite and I do make these at home 5-6 times a year.  My son used to love them but with puberty he has decided he does not like seafood anymore, so I may not be making them as often in the future.

I usually buy my oysters from a seafood store in the local Annapolis area.  They are usually brought in that day.  I would suggest you get them as fresh as possible and it is nice to know where they come in from.

The coating on this recipe was created to create a crunchy outside with a soft warm inside, the oyster.

I know that oysters are not for everyone, but for those of us that enjoy them, they can be made at home with ease and good results.

I like to think this is a simply delicious gourmet meal to make in your own kitchen for fans of the oyster.

Recipe:  Fried Oysters

20-25 small to medium raw oysters, shucked and cleaned
2 eggs, beaten well
12 Ritz Crackers, crushed (GF crackers can be used)
1/3 cup of corn meal, fine works best
1/3 cup of flour, (GF version, use almond meal)
1/4 -1/2 teaspoon of pepper
1/2 teaspoon of salt
oil, to fry oysters

Combine flour, corn meal, crushed crackers, salt and pepper together.


Drain oysters.




Prepare your station:  oysters, coating and eggs.


In a large sauce pan, add enough oil for the oysters to float and cook.  Let them cook for 4 minutes and then flip. Remove from oil and let them cool on a wire rack.



Serve with your favorite sauces. I made a tartar sauce using dill pickles, mayonnaise and red onion.


Friday, August 24, 2012

Sifting Through Life: Lemonade Stands


September 21, 2012 is the official last day of summer but in our house that date will come much sooner with the beginning of school just around the corner.  Many students around the country have already returned with excitement, fear, new friends and memories of the past 12 weeks engrained in their hearts.

The family vacations that lasted a bit too long or not long enough.  The visits with cousins, aunts and uncles or grandparents where laughter, memories and fun were kept alive late into the night.  The activities of endless days at the beach, visiting new parks, seeing old friends down by the corner will be  the content of summer essays the students will be asked to write about.

A summer memory for me will be the lemonade stands that I have seen pop up around our community of Cape St. Claire.


A lemonade stand immediately brings back memories of myself, along with my sisters and cousins.  Each summer we found ourselves sharing a few weeks together at our grandparents home.  We called this "at the lake".

The Lake was huge.  Nestled in the mountains of California, accessed by a very windy road up the Kern River, you entered the valley to a large body of water surrounded by mountains, rocks and a dam at one end.

The summers were brutally hot.  The atmosphere felt like we were walking nearer to the sun than any other place on earth.  We were often sunburned and bored.

I can recall the walks to get ice cream from the little store down the street that was only open for summers but they sold fishing bait, tackle, candy bars, sodas and ice cream.  We would walk to this little shack, taking our time kicking the rocks on the gravel road and dreaming up things to do.


We were going to ride our bikes around the lake, float down the river, camp by the lake.  We wanted adventure.  We wanted to be doing something.  We were bored.  LOL This is a common word used during the summer in most homes.

We always managed, in our discussions, to come back to the idea of having a lemonade stand.  The hard part was convincing the parents that it would be fun.  We told them it would teach us how to work and earn our own money (yes, we used this line..LOL)  I am not sure if this is what finally convinced them, or, it could have been our constant nagging…I will never know!

I am pretty sure that the fun of having a lemonade stand is not the actual selling.  Selling lemonade can be quite boring as you sit and wait, waiting for the next big 25 cent sale.  No, I believe the thrill of a lemonade stand was convincing the adults that it was needed, preparing the drinks, making the signs, finding a table and dragging it all to the corner outside your home, in the heat.

Every kid that was involved had a job.  Someone was the cashier, a few held the signs and some poured.  We all had to earn a portion of that 25 cents or it wasn't fair.

My favorite was holding the sign.  It gave you a chance to be silly.

After a few hours we would drag it all back to the garage, return the empty jugs to the kitchen and count just how many quarters we received.


The very next day, we would start all over again, with a trip to our local candy store, with our money we had earned from the day before, to buy a candy bar or ice cream, return home and drag the stand to the corner.

Not a whole lot has changed.  The stands that I saw in the Cape had signs, a table, pitchers of lemonade and cups with a 25 cent price tag.

It's nice to see that in a world that is changing constantly and getting more and more expensive each day that you can still buy a glass of lemonade from a stand for 25 cents.







Wednesday, August 22, 2012

188. Pizza Dip



My kids request this all the time, especially when they are having friends over on Friday and Saturday nights.

I think this is for two reasons.  One: it's cheesy and creamy.  Two: the leftovers make excellent midnight snacks.

I will buy a couple loaves of french bread to serve with the dip or make my own.  A great recipe for rustic white bread, in under an hour, can be found here.

I make the base and let the kids add their favorite toppings.

You can customize this with different cheeses, toppings, meats and veggies.  Have fun creating your version of "Pizza" dip.

Recipe: Pizza Dip

2-8 oz packages of cream cheese, soft
1 cup of mayonnaise
1 cup of mozzarella cheese + 1.5 cups for topping dip
1/4 cup of parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons of green onion
1 cup of pizza sauce or marinara (you can use less, we just like the sauce)
toppings:  pepperoni, olives, mushrooms, red onion, hamburger, bell pepper, bacon, etc…


Preheat oven to 350.

In a medium bowl, combine soft cream cheese, mayonnaise, 1 cup of mozzarella cheese, green onions and the parmesan cheese.  Stir well.

I use a round stone ware oven proof pan to cook my dips in.  It measures 12 inches across.  The smaller the pan the thicker the dip, the larger the pan would result in a thinner cream cheese base.  I have made both and they are both delicious.   The thicker dip may require a few more minutes to cook.

Spread the cheese mixture in the bottom of the pan first.

Spread the pizza sauce next.

Sprinkle the cheese over the sauce.

Decide on your toppings and scatter those around the top of the cheese.

Bake your dip for 25 minutes or until bubbly.

Serve with chunks of french bread.

This dip is very hot when it comes out of the oven. Please be careful.  The cheese makes it stringy and gooey.











177. Drunkin Noodles (Wide Rice Noodles)


Update:  9-19-2013.  The noodles that I have used for this recipe seem to contain wheat starch.  I was asked this by a reader and reached out to the manufacturer and he replied with this response:

Dear Sherron,
The rice sheet contains wheat starch, so it cannot be qualified as gluten free as wheat starch may contain trace amount of wheat protein (gluten).

This is a problem if you need this dish to be gluten free.  As a substitute you can use gf noodles, but you will lose the "wide noodle" look and texture.  If I find something that can be used for my gf followers I will definitely let you know.  Thanks!

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I have been looking for these noodles for 20+ years.  I have googled every recipe that I can find on how to make your own wide rice noodles.  To be honest, it looks difficult.

I am not one to back away from a challenge and especially a food challenge, but I do believe that some things are just better left to the professionals.

I have moved numerous times and been in many Asian Markets.  I have looked through stacks of noodle packaging, often times not really knowing what I was reading or looking at.  The languages on the packages are from China, Korea and Japan….I don't speak any of these and can barely recognize the differences in the kanji's.  Throughout this search, I have discovered many other flavors and foods to test and try in the kitchen.

I stumbled upon a post, yes it was "how to make wide rice noodles" and there I discovered something.  You can BUY these noodles in the store.  I had to beg to differ.  I had been in stores and I could not find a wide rice noodle anywhere….It turns out, they are not sold as wide noodles, but sheets of rice pasta and they were sold in the refrigerator section.

Here they were, this whole time, tucked between the miso soups and tofus of the world.  All lined up in a row with their distinct languages printed across the packaging and without a single word saying "wide rice noodles".

Honestly, if I had not stumbled upon this post, I would never have found them and I am so glad that I did.

I make this dish similar to my other Asian influenced stir fry's.  I try to use the basic sauce recipe and change the veggies and meat around a bit.  For me, the noodle makes the dish.

While eating the meat and veggies can be reminiscent of  Pad Woon Sen, the noodle is not.  It has a smooth and slippery feel to it.  When this is combined with the crunch of al dante veggies and chicken or beef…you mouth sings!  OK, maybe that is just my mouth..LOL

I am trying to tell you it is delicious, different and definitely a family hit at our home.

I have included more pictures with this post because I want you to have something to reference when you go to the store.   The noodles can only be purchased at an Asian store or possibly on line and sent to you.

This is the brand that I use and a quick tutorial on how to prepare the noodles : see below.


Preparing the noodles is an easy process.  Puncture a whole in the bag and microwave for a minute.  The noodles should be soft and pliable when they are warm.  Once the noodles are soft, then you can unwrap the noodle sheets and cut them into WIDE noodles…FINALLY, I have wide rice noodles.


You may notice that some of the noodle sheet is still hard and this is okay.  I have still been able to cut and use them in my dish.  The noodles are stuck together and you will need to peel them apart.  Peeled apart they will be very thin and LONG.  I usually cut the noodle strips into 5-6 inch pieces.


Once the noodles are cut into strips and unstuck from each other, you are ready to use them.  I use them in a dish called Drunkin' Noodles, this is a favorite with my hubby when we go out to eat.

Recipe:  Drunkin' Noodles using Wide Rice Noodles

2 cups of cooked meat: chicken, beef or pork
1 small head of cabbage, diced into 1X1 inch squares
1 small red onion, diced
2 carrots, sliced
1 T. minced garlic
oil, vegetable
oil, sesame

Sauce:

1/4 cup of dark soy sauce, omit for gluten allergies and substitute the gluten free version
1/4 cup of soy sauce, use a gluten free version if need be
1 teaspoon fish sauce, use more if you want a bolder flavor

I have included a picture of the brands that I use with the sauce, I thought it would be easier.
Combine the three into a small bowl and set aside.


Prepare all of the veggies according to the recommended style: diced, sliced, cubed…etc.  I use napa cabbage for this dish and it does provide a lot more than a normal head of cabbage.  I cut off the bottom 4 inches.  I personally do not like this part of the cabbage and you might be able to add it to soup stock.



In a large pan or wok, add the oils.  I use a vegetable oil, that I add some sesame oil to.  This adds a nice flavor to the dish.  You can use just sesame oil but it makes the dish taste very "sesame".  Add the garlic and saute for 2 minutes.



Add the remaining veggies.  You may need to do this in two batches.  Just add a bit more oil and toss them together in the end.  The veggies will reduce.


Add the noodles (directions for preparation are on the back of the packaging or see above).


Add the sauce.  Toss and cook for 3-5 minutes.  The noodles will turn the color of the sauce.









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