30 April 2009

So, I forgot to blog about the appetizer I made for my Easter meal.

It's a mini version of the thing where you wrap a hotdog with a crescent roll. I've heard them called Weenie Wraps or Crescent Dogs, or Pigs in a Blanket, or whatever. Got it from Recipezaar.

Mini Weenie Wraps

1 package Little Smokies sausage
1 can refrigerated crescent rolls
parmesan cheese
garlic salt

Preheat oven according to directions on crescent roll package.
Unroll but leave intact 2 triangles of crescent rolls.
Pinch seam together and cut lengthwise into 5 strips and then cross-wise to make 10 strips.
Roll each strip around one sausage and place in baking pan that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
Sprinkle each one with parmesan and garlic salt.
Bake according to crescent roll package directions.

I totally forgot to sprinkle them with parmesan and garlic salt, but they were still good. And so darn cute!

Look what I cracked open the other day!  A double-yolked egg!  Neat!

I realized that I had accidentally purchased jumbo eggs instead of my usual large.  I think I was yakking to my mom while I was shopping or something.

Funny thing is, Jim had asked me if I wanted one egg or two.  I couldn't decide at first, then decided one would be fine.  I guess I was meant to have two after all!

This is an adaptation of a recipe I saw on bhg.com.

Barbecue Chicken Quesadillas

Nonstick cooking spray
4 8” flour tortillas
2 cans store-bought cooked chicken
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
¼ cup dairy sour cream

Preheat oven to 350°. Coat one side of each tortilla with cooking spray. Place, coated sides down, on cutting board or waxed paper. Sprinkle ¼ cup of the cheese over half of each tortilla. Top with barbecue sauce with chicken. Fold tortillas in half, pressing gently.

In a hot 12” skillet cook quesadillas, two at a time, over medium heat for 6 to 8 minutes or until golden brown, turning once. Place quesadillas on a baking sheet. Keep warm in preheated oven for up to 30 minutes. Repeat with remaining quesadillas. Cut each quesadilla into 3 wedges. Serve with sour cream.

Makes 4 servings.

These were great. The original recipe called for store-bought refrigerated barbecue chicken (the kind that comes in a tub), but I just used canned white meat chicken and homemade barbecue sauce. If I had leftover cooked chicken, I would have used that, but I didn't have any and all my chicken was frozen, so the canned was quicker.

The original recipe also says to serve them with salsa. Salsa with barbecue sauce? Ick! That sounds really gross to me. We just used sour cream. Cool and creamy, it is the perfect complement to the warm and tangy barbecue sauce.

I got this from Everyday Food on PBS.

Homemade Barbecue Sauce

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp mustard powder
1 tsp red pepper flakes
3 tbsp light brown sugar
2 cups ketchup
⅓ cup Worcestershire sauce
⅓ cup cider vinegar
1 tbsp molasses
¼ tsp ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in mustard powder and red pepper flakes; cook 30 seconds.
Reduce heat to medium low; stir in sugar, ketchup, Worcestershire, vinegar, molasses, and black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 5 to 10 minutes.

Makes 3 cups.

It is really good!  I always find bottled barbecue sauce from the store way too sweet.  This has a very nice tang to it.  And a bit of heat too, though not too much.  

I actually didn't make it exactly as written.  I didn't realize it called for so much ketchup and I only had about a cup and a half.  But, since I like it the way it is, I might just keep it that way!  

Sorry if the picture is weird; I wasn't sure how best to photograph a sauce like this.  I didn't think it would show up that well in the jar I stored it in.  I wish the recipe would have stated how long it will keep in the fridge.

I used it to make barbecue chicken for barbecue chicken quesadillas.  

28 April 2009

So what do you think of my new background?  It's a notebook!  Neat!  I use The Cutest Blog on the Block for cute backgrounds for my family blog, but never saw anything that would be good for this blog.  They must have recently added this background because I just saw it yesterday and thought it was perfect.  Let me know what you think.  Is it obvious that it goes along with the title "Edesia's Notebook?"

In other news, I had a backlog of stuff to blog about because I had gone so long without posting anything.  Sorry!  I got caught up today.  Here is a list of what I posted today:

From my Easter dinner:

Two restaurant reviews from our recent trip to Chicago:

Check them out and sorry again for not keeping up! 

Another great place we ate at on our trip to Chicago.

I found out about the Walker Brothers Pancake House online and read some great reviews about it. I looked at the menu on their website and they offer some really unique dishes. I really like eating at places that go beyond the usual fare and thought this would be a good place to try.

We had breakfast at the Arlington Road location on Monday, April 20th (my birthday :). They have six locations throughout the Chicago area. (Side note: I didn't take the above picture; it's from their website.)

The interior is nice, but nothing too special. They have some pretty chandeliers and other ornate touches. Definitely nicer than an IHOP, but not so nice that you would have to dress up for it.

Now we knew that one of this place's specialties is bacon pancakes. Yes, that's right folks: bacon pancakes. Pancakes with crumbled bacon in the batter. But they had so many other wonderful-sounding dishes that we decided that we would each order whatever we like and then together we would split a side order of the bacon pancakes. Because you can't not try them. Or at least we couldn't.

Here is what I ordered:

Poached Eggs with fresh sautéed spinach, mushrooms and bits of our crisp bacon on a toasted English muffin blanketed with our rich hollandaise sauce, a garnish of pico de gallo.

I love eggs benedict and always like to try different versions of it. I love spinach, mushrooms, and bacon, so I thought this sounded heavenly. I was going to order it without the pico de gallo, because it usually has bell peppers in it and I don't like those. But I forgot.

I was so right about this being heavenly. It was incredible! The egg was perfectly cooked with a nice soft yolk. The hollandaise sauce was really good. It had a lovely tang to it. It definitely tasted freshly made. And the combination of the crispy bacon and the soft mushrooms and spinach was great. All of the flavors really complemented each other perfectly. I didn't regret forgetting to omit the pico de gallo too much; it only had one piece of pepper that was easily picked off and I enjoyed the tomato and onion.

Jim ordered:
Our special thick-sliced French toast made with freshly baked egg bread, grilled until golden brown. Garnished with fresh strawberries and a light dusting of powdered sugar.

Again, this one is not my picture. My camera batteries died right after I took the pic of my dish and none of my others would work (I really need new rechargeables!). Luckily, they have a pic of this on their menu online. Jim said it was really good. Better than regular french toast because of the challah bread. He offered me a bite, but I was too engrossed in my heavenly benedict to take him up on it.

And we shared:
Crispy bits of our hickory-smoked bacon in the batter. Served with whipped butter & syrup.

Oh my goodness. These were so good! Well, duh, how could they be bad, right? Actually, it wasn't just because of the bacon that that were awesome. Jim and I both agreed that the pancakes themselves were really good. I don't usually finish a pancake, but I did this one! It was amazing. (Again, not my pic.)

And I have one more thing to rave about at Walker Brothers. This is going to sound weird, but it's the grapefruit juice! Yes, the juice! I love grapefruit juice, but a lot of restaurants serve that really crappy, overly sweetened, unnaturally red stuff they call ruby red grapefruit juice. So I always ask before ordering it. No need here! This is freshly squeezed, with little bits of pulp, naturally sweet. THE BEST GRAPEFRUIT JUICE I HAVE EVER TASTED! Jim hates grapefruit juice but I was so sure he had never had any like this that I made him taste it. He liked it! It is so incredibly sweet, but you can tell it's natural and not added sugar. It doesn't have even a hint of bitterness to it at all. It was incredible. Juice seems a silly thing to rave about, but yes, it was that good.

I am convinced that this was the best place in the country I could have picked to have breakfast on my birthday. It was amazing. We left there so stuffed we almost had to roll each other out to the car! :) I highly recommend it and will definitely be making a point to stop by each time I visit or go through or go anywhere near Chicago!

I haven't done a restaurant review for a long time, but on a recent trip to Chicago we ate at a couple of places that I just had to blog about.

On Sunday evening, April 19th we ate at the Edelweiss Restaurant in Norridge, Illinois.  We were actually on our way to a Polish buffet-style restaurant, but we drove by this one and decided to stop here instead.  I was a bit concerned that I was under dressed in my Cardinals t-shirt and jacket (our baseball game got rained out and that's all I brought with me to wear), Jim said it was fine, so we headed inside.

When you walk in, there is a bar on the left and the dining room on the right.  We walked up to the hostess by the dining room and she just looked at us and asked, "Can I help you?"  She caught me totally off-guard because I had never been asked that by a hostess before.  I stammered, "We want to eat." and she showed us to a table.  What was that about?  It was either that she thought we were horribly under dressed or because she wasn't used to seating people under the age of 60.  There were lots of older people in there.  

So, I was feeling a bit uncomfortable because it was a bit nicer than I was expecting.  It had real cloth tablecloths, real flowers in vases on each table, and pretty nice silverware.  There was a live band playing, which was nice, but it was a bit loud.  

Our waitress wasn't very friendly.  At first I thought it was because we were under dressed.  But then later I started to think that's just how she is.  Not totally sure.  

The menu is all German dishes except for a section called "Best of the World."   We both picked German dishes, though.  Here's what we ordered:

I ordered:

Schweinemedallions (Hohenzollern) 17.99
Juicy pork tenderloin medallions sautéed and
topped with our creamy mushroom cognac sauce.

Jim ordered:

Sauerbraten (Lippe-Schaumburg) 16.95
Braised sirloin marinated in herbs, spices and red wine.
Topped with our own sweet and sour sauce.

The words in parentheses is the region of Germany in which the dish is native.  We both chose the same sides: German fries and spätzle.  

I was a bit surprised by the prices of the entrees, but hey, it was my birthday (the next day) and it probably wasn't any more than we would pay for a hot dog, jumbo pretzel, and soda at the ballpark anyway.  And I have to say it was much better!  My pork was so incredibly tender and moist.  I almost didn't even need a knife to cut it.  And the mushroom sauce was fantastic!  The flavor was just perfect, not too salty and the cognac wasn't overpowering at all.  And it didn't contain inexpensive white button mushrooms either.  I don't know for sure what kind they were, but they were some kind of fancy mushroom.  So delicious!  Jim really enjoyed his sauerbraten too.  I tried a bite.  Sweet and sour isn't something I usually enjoy, so I wasn't too crazy about it.  But he really likes sweet and sour stuff and he said this dish was fantastic.  

I really liked the German fries.  They are basically fried potato slices.  Can't go wrong with that!  They were perfectly seasoned.  Jim really liked the spätzle, but I didn't.  They are like little dough things.  To me they tasted like soggy bready things.  Not a fan.  But that's what spätzle is; it's not that the restaurant's were made poorly or anything.  

Oh, and I forgot to mention the appetizers.  We got bread and butter on the table and each entree came with either soup or salad.  Jim ordered the soup of the day: split pea.  He really liked it.  I took a taste.  Now, I have never had split pea soup before, but it just tasted like pureed peas to me.  Maybe that's how it is supposed to taste; I don't know.  In any case, I was glad I ordered the salad instead.  I ordered it with bleu cheese dressing, and man, did I get bleu cheese dressing!  The salad was served on a plate, and in the middle of the plate was the biggest glob of dressing I have ever seen on a salad!  I really should have taken a picture of it!  It was like a mountain of dressing!  Now, I am a huge fan of salad dressing and usually use more than I should.  But this was too much even for me!  It was really good dressing; it certainly wasn't Kraft.  It had a great flavor and a nice mild tang to it.  It was much better than anything you could buy in the grocery store.  But I could have used half, if not less, of it.  And I was quite surprised to find an extra charge for it on my bill!  I have never seen an extra charge for salad dressing!  Granted, it was only a dollar, but still!  Maybe they wouldn't have to charge extra if they didn't serve an entire jar of it with each salad!  (To the restaurant's credit, it is listed in the menu.  I didn't see it until I saw the menu online after I got home.  I had just asked the waitress for their dressing selections when I ordered the salad.)

We didn't order dessert; we were way too stuffed from our delicious entrees.

So, in the end, even though the service wasn't great and the decor was a bit cliche, and it was filled with loud old people, I would definitely go back just for the food.  It was the best restaurant meal I had eaten in a long time.  Well worth the price, I think.  (The whole tab wasn't bad since we drank water and skipped dessert.)

So if you are in the Chicago area and have some time on your hands, stop by the Edelweiss!

This isn't a recipe, but I wanted to share what we had for dessert with our Easter dinner. My mom knew that our favorite restaurant dessert is the Lemon Cream Cake at Olive Garden. I had noticed that Sam's Club had a knock-off, so she was going to bring that. Well, apparently Sam's has discontinued theirs (grrrr!), so without my knowledge, Mom went out and bought a whole cake from Olive Garden! If you have not tried this dessert, you should. It's really nice because it has nice light flavors and is a nice alternative to a big, heavy chocolate dessert. And with a very light lemon flavor, I thought it would be perfect for our springy-themed Easter dinner (I do not bake, so whenever anyone offers to bring something, I say "Dessert!")

It doesn't come with the bunny and eggs; those are candies Mom made and used them to garnish the cake. Cute! And oh so yummy!

A simple, fun dessert perfect for Easter. This is adapted from one I found on Recipezaar.

Chocolate Nests

2 cups chocolate chips
2 tbsp creamy peanut butter
4 cups chow mein noodles
cooking spray

Heat water in double boiler over medium heat and add chocolate chips to top portion. When chocolate begins to melt, add peanut butter and continue to stir until creamy. Add chow mein noodles, stirring until completely coated.

On spread-out wax or parchment paper, drop a generous spoonful of the chocolate-covered chow mein noodles for each nest. Garnish with candies (I used M&M eggs) and Peeps.

Makes 10-16, depending on how big you make them)

The original recipe I read said to form the nests inside a muffin tin. I think free-forming them like this looks more realistic.

I was going to put a nest on each person's plate at the table, but before I could, my husband carved up the ham and started putting it on plates. So, I just served them with dessert after the meal.

Okay, so this isn't really a recipe, but I just had to share. I got the cutest carrot-shaped serving dish at Hobby Lobby and served carrots in it. Cute, huh?

I saw someone on TV (Claire Robinson on 5 Ingredient Fix on Food Network) make baby carrots that still had the top attached and I thought they would be perfect for Easter dinner. But I couldn't find the baby kind at the store, so I got these. I just steamed them in a glass dish in the microwave and sprinkled them with salt. Then each person cut them up themselves on their plate.

One of my Easter side dishes.  It's not so much a recipe (I don't have amounts, sorry!), as a method.

Twice-Baked Potatoes

6 large baking potatoes (Russets work best)
olive oil
kosher salt
finely minced onion
shredded cheese
cheese crumbles or small chunks of Velveeta

After scrubbing potatoes and patting dry, rub each one with a small amount of olive oil then sprinkle them with salt.  Poke a few holes in each and bake them directly on the rack at 350° for about an hour.  Remove from oven and cut an oval-shaped hole in the top of each.  Discard the skin and carefully scoop out the flesh into a large mixing bowl.  Put the empty shells back in the oven while preparing the filling.

Mash up the flesh of the potatoes and add whatever you do to your regular mashed potatoes.  I seasoned mine with salt and added some butter and milk.  Then I added a couple of things I don't add to regular mashed potatoes.  I put in a few spoonfuls of finely minced onion (I keep a small jar in the fridge) and some shredded cheese.  I think I used either a cheddar or a monterey jack.  

Take the shells out of the oven and fill each one with the mashed potato mixture.  Top each with the cheese crumbles or Velveeta.  Put back in the oven and bake an additional 15 minutes or so until the stuffing is warmed through and the cheese melts.  

Makes 6 servings.

Yummy!  A nice alternative to regular baked or mashed potatoes (and kind of a combination of both!)

So, I am just now getting around to posting my Easter recipes.  Sorry!  

Here is the recipe for the glaze I put on my Easter ham.  I got it from Recipezaar.

Cranberry Spice Glaze for Ham

1 (16 oz.) can jellied cranberry sauce
1 cup brown sugar
¼  cup orange juice
½  tsp cinnamon
½  tsp allspice
Whole fresh cranberries (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan. Heat slowly, until smooth, beating with a wire whisk or rotary beater.

Spoon over ham during last ½  hour of baking.

Garnish with whole cranberries.

Serve any extra in a gravy boat to pass around at the table.

Makes approx. 2 ½ cups.

This was so delicious!  Everyone loved it.  It would be even better for a Christmas meal, I think, since cranberry has become a Christmasy kind of flavor lately.  You could certainly use it as a glaze for other meats as well.  Ham is usually the only meat I put a glaze on.

09 April 2009

A yummy slow cooker soup made with prepackaged tortellini and fresh mushrooms and spinach.

I love tortellini.  Filled pastas in general, really.  So I was excited at the prospect of trying tortellini in a soup.  I saw this recipe on BHG.com and tried it the other day.  I really liked it, but will make a few changes next time.  Here is my amended recipe.

Slow Cooker Tortellini Soup

4  cups water
28 oz. chicken stock
1 ½  cups sliced fresh mushrooms
½  cup chopped onion
3  cloves garlic, minced
¼  tsp salt
½  tsp dried basil, crushed
½  tsp dried oregano
8 oz. prepackaged tortellini, dried or refrigerated, any variety (about 2 cups)
10 oz. fresh baby spinach leaves, torn
Parmesan cheese 

In a 4 qt. slow cooker, combine water, mushrooms, onion, garlic, salt, basil, and oregano.  Cover and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours or on high for 2 ½  to 3 hours.

Add tortellini and spinach. Cover and cook on low for 1 hour more or high for 45 minutes more. Dried tortellini will take longer than refrigerated.

Sprinkle individual servings with parmesan cheese. 

Makes 6 servings.

The original recipe made a creamy soup.  It called for a package of dry white sauce mix and evaporated milk.  But I decided that a clear soup sounded better (maybe because I have a cold!) so I omitted these.  I didn't have dried basil, so I left that out.  But I think it would be good, so I will use that next time.  The original recipe also called for ⅛ tsp cayenne pepper.  I think I will omit this next time.  I just don't see the need for this soup to be spicy.  

Remember to adjust cooking time according to whether you have dried or refrigerated tortellini.  I used refrigerated, Buitoni Herb Chicken Tortellini.  You can find that in the dairy case at the grocery store.  I will probably try it with dried next time.  I noticed that the spinach turned the broth slightly green.  I thought it was a bit unsightly, but Jim said it looked just fine.  Either way, I don't see how it can be avoided.  The original recipe called for 6 cups of spinach.  I didn't measure it out in cups, but I used a 20 oz. package.  I don't think it would have been 6 cups fresh.  I didn't look like that much.  Anyway, the amount I used was way too much.  Next time I will use a smaller package, 10 oz. or even 8.

Also, the original recipe says it makes four servings, but I think it made more than that.  So I'm going to call it six servings.

By the way, Lena loved this soup!  It amazes me how much she loves her green veggies.  She gobbled up that spinach!  It's so great how she will eat anything we give her.  

Leave a comment if you decide to try this soup!

06 April 2009

Grilled portabello mushroom caps stuffed with spinach artichoke dip.  I saw this on 30 Minute Meals and ran to the store so I could make them for dinner that night! 

Spinach Artichoke Stuffed Portabello Mushroom Caps

4 large portabello mushrooms
olive oil
Your favorite spinach artichoke dip, put together but not baked (here's my recipe)
shredded mozzarella cheese

Remove stems from mushrooms.  Gently clean dirt off caps with a damp dish cloth.  Drizzle caps with olive oil and season with salt.  Place on grill smooth side down.  Grill for about 4 minutes on each side.  Flip back over so they are open side up.  

Fill each cap with dip.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Place foil over caps and grill on low heat until filling is warm and cheese is melted.

Makes 4 servings.

Now, the method here was Rachael Ray's idea.  However, I did not like the way she made her spinach artichoke dip, so I just used the one I always make.  My directions say to prepare it but not bake it, but if you happen to already have some in the fridge that was previously baked, that is fine. There's just no need to bake it first if you are making it just for this.  (If you are making it just for this, you could probably halve the recipe. I had lots leftover, so when the caps were done I put it in a small dish and baked it to eat with chips later.)

We actually ate these for dinner.  And let me tell you, they were very filling.  In fact, I made four thinking that we would each need two as a serving.  We could barely eat one each!  They made a really yummy dinner.  I served them with tomato soup and toasted pita chips.

This would make a great party appetizer if you used the mini portabellos (sometimes called criminis.)

02 April 2009

Here is what I made for our Lenten potluck meal on April Fool's Day. They look like frosted cupcakes, but they are really mini meatloaves with colored mashed potatoes on top! Aren't they cute? So springy!

I got the idea from a recipe on Recipezaar. I was looking for something else and came across it. I filed it away for later and then it wasn't long before I realized we had a potluck at church on April 1st. Perfect!

Here is the recipe I used, but you can use any meatloaf recipe that you like. Mine were okay, but if you have one you prefer, then definitely use that one. Just remember to adjust the cooking time since the loaves are so small.

Meatloaf Cupcakes

1 cup soft white bread crumbs (not the kind in the can)
¼ cup whole milk
2 lbs. lean ground beef (I used 90%)
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp salt-free Italian seasoning (I used Penzey's Tuscan Sunset)
2 tbsp finely diced onion
18 foil baking cups
4 to 5 cups prepared mashed potatoes
food coloring (without sugar added)

Preheat oven to 375°.
Combine milk and bread crumbs and set aside. Gather other ingredients in large mixing bowl. Once milk has been absorbed into the bread, add it to the mixing bowl. Combine all ingredients, mixing enough to evenly distribute, but not too much that it becomes gummy.

Line 18 muffin cups with foil liners. Fill each liner with ¼ cup of meatloaf mixture. Bake for 15 minutes, or until cooked through.

Meanwhile, separate mashed potatoes into small bowls (the number depends on how many different colors of "frosting" you want). Mix food coloring into frosting.

When meatloaves have finished baking, frost the cupcakes with the mashed potatoes.

Makes 18 mini meatloaves. Allow 2 per serving.

Now here are some notes:
I did not use the meatloaf recipe that came with the cupcake idea. I got the milk/bread idea (called a 'panade') from America's Test Kitchen. They use it in hamburgers to keep them moist when cooking them well-done. I thought it would work to keep lean meatloaf moist as well. Then I just seasoned it with what I felt like at the moment. Tuscan Sunset is a really good Italian seasoning that I use on roasted potatoes. I think it worked really well in the meatloaf. I was expecting that 2 lbs. of ground beef would make 24 cupcakes, but it only filled 18 cups. Which was okay, because we ended up with a small crowd at church and didn't need that many anyway.

I found it impossible to find the old fashioned kind of food coloring. I was looking for the kind that comes in a liquid and you do so many drops into your food. All I could find were food coloring gels or pastes that contain sugar. What happened to the other kind? I looked at the regular grocery store (2 different ones), Hobby Lobby, Michaels, a cooking supply store, and a specialty cake baking supply store. Nada. Everything had sugar in it. So I was in despair, thinking this wasn't going to work, when I called my mom. She came up with a genius idea. It is just before Easter (thankfully!) so she suggested I get an Easter egg coloring kit and use the dye in that. Brilliant! I never would have thought of that. The kind I got had little tablets that you dissolve in vinegar. Instead of vinegar, I dissolved them in hot water.

The thing you have to keep in mind when making your potatoes is how watery your dye is. If your dye is watery (like mine was), you have to make your potatoes a little on the thick side since you'll be adding water to them along with the color. And lighter colors will require more dye and therefore water, so keep that in mind. I had to add probably three times as much yellow water dye than I did the pink and blue. The green was light too. So when making the potatoes, err on the side of too thick, because you can always thin them out once you get the color right. And you do either instant or real potatoes. My instant potato of choice is Potato Pearls from Gordon's Food Service. They are much more smooth and creamy than any real mashed potato I could make. They are smoother than any other boxed instant potato from the regular grocery store. I highly recommend them.

The "cupcakes" went over well at the potluck. The funniest reaction was when a five year old boy took a bite of the "frosting" and made a face and said, "Ewww, tastes like 'tatoes!" Ha ha ha! So funny! I've never been big on making April Fool's Day jokes, but this was fun!

Thanks so much, Mom! I couldn't have done this without you!