Links delicious

Could go for some Pineapple Limeade Cooler right about now…

Scones…love them.  I find that recipes {and the results} for scones can vary widely, so when I find a good one, I stick with it.  Thinking I should add this one to the rotation.

Oh, she had me at “breadcrumb-like crouton rubble coating each cut side of tomato.” And then slayed me with “crouton fairy dust.”  I now must make this tomato salad with crushed croutons.

{As an aside, in that very same post, Deb mentions a tomato and corn omlette and links to this picture.  Sheesh, now I want to make that, too.}

Pina Colada Cupcakes — yes, please!  {are we picking up on a pineapple theme here?…}

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Grilled pizza

Pizza is a staple around our house.  Homemade (or semi-homemade) pizza, that is.  No takeout for us.  Unless it’s from Centro, but even that doesn’t happen often. 

The advent of premade crusts makes it a cinch to prepare pizza on a weeknight, and the incredible deliciousness of homemade crust can make it a truly special meal for when you have a little more prep time. 

Pizza is quick, customizable, and filling, meaning there’s little need for sides, other than maybe a salad.   The Husband likes meat, meat, and more meat on his pizza.  The kids like–surprise!–pepperoni and cheese.  (Though my birdgirl likes mushrooms, so she and I sometimes split a girly pizza with mushrooms, herbs, and, ideally, goat cheese.  I love that she’s an adventurous eater!)  And I want anything but the standard–give me unorthodox sauces, not-your-typical pizza cheese, and just about any vegetable. 

And right now, there are so many veggies at their peak.  When the veggies are young and tender, they need nothing more than a quick chop and to be thrown on top of a crust for a quick, fresh dinner. 

But on a day like yesterday, when the heat index was hovering in the triple digits, I was not about to turn on the oven.  

The grill, however, was calling me. 

I’d grilled pizza once before.  It was edible, even good, but our old grill presented some challenges and the result wasn’t as good as I knew it could be. 

Enter the new grill:  a big, beautiful, spacious fixture that’s so much easier to use.  Big bonus:  the heat from the burners is actually adjustable!   With the old grill, it was “high” or “off.” 

The gist is that the new baby is perfect for grilling pizza, and I’ll bet that, if your grill was made in this century, you can make this dinner, too! 

What you’ll need: 

The crust:  I started with premade crusts, though rolled out pizza dough works, too.  (Dear Trader Joe’s, Please hurry and get that store in West Des Moines up and running!  Would love, love, love to try your delicious pizza dough on my new grill.  Many thanks, JC) 

The toppings:  Cook any meat toppings, obviously.  Prepare your veggies as you like them.  Set out your sauce and cheese (or cheeses).  Julienne some basil, chop some parsley, strip some thyme — whatever suits your fancy.  The key here that you have to work fast once the pie is on the grill, so ready everything you need and assemble all of the toppings in bowls near the grill. 

The heat:  Preheat the grill on high for about 10 minutes.  Turn the heat down to medium-low once you’re ready to toss the crust on.  

  

The basic idea:  Grill your pizza crust on one side for about 3 minutes, or until it’s got a few grill marks and develops some color.  Flip the crust and–work quickly here–spread a thin layer of sauce (or drizzle with olive oil, S&P), add your toppings, and close the grill for another couple of minutes to brown the bottom of the crust and melt the cheese.  Check the crust often because it does cook quickly. 

Remove to a pan to rest a few minutes.  Then slice, serve, and savor! 

No two pizzas in my house are ever the same; I mix it up every time.  Last night’s pizzas were inspired by what’s fresh right now at the farmers markets and by this photo here.  I made a bruschetta pizza 

 

and a riff on Deb’s 

 

Both were amazingly delicious.  

And since my little birds have flown the coop this week (to the grandparents!), I was able to enjoy a couple glasses of this

 

(Ignore the surrounding mess…) 

Served with a twist of lime and on the rocks, this is some good stuff!  It totally made grilling in the heat bearable. 

  

Bruschetta Pizza 

 (inspired by various sightings on the Internet) 

2 ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped 

1/2 of a small red onion, finely chopped 

1 clove of garlic, minced 

Chopped basil to taste (I have spicy globe basil and the leaves are tiny enough that I just left them whole.  They were perfect.) 

Combine these ingredients, toss with a bit of salt and some pepper.  Go easy with the salt, because the pepperoni offers plenty.  Drizzle with olive oil and a few sprinkles of balsamic.  Toss again and then let it rest while you prep everything else.  That rest time will allow the tomatoes to release their juices and all those fantastic flavors to marry and make some magic. 

Mmm...

 

Grill the first side of your pizza crust.  Flip and drizzle with olive oil, (little) salt & pepper, then top with pepperoni and about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of mozzarella cheese (fresh would be fantastic; all I had was shredded).  Close the grill lid and cook until the crust browns a bit and the cheese is nearly melted.  Remove from the grill and spoon the bruschetta topping all over the pizza.  Let rest a few minutes so the balsamic/oil soak into the crust.  Slice and savor!

Notebook*: I need an excuse to make these

 I’ve been hanging on to this as a “Draft” for way too long.  Follow ups coming soon!
 

Oatmeal raspberry scones.  Oh yes.

MYOTO (acronym courtesy of Rachael Ray, “make your own takeout”):

Shrimp Brown Fried Rice

Thai Pineapple Fried Rice.  Pair this with some grilled chicken.

 

Because my husband would eat pork every day of his life if that were an option, I should give this Island Spice Pork Tenderloin a try.

Must try cardamom:

Banana Apple Cardamom Cake with Cardamom Icing from FoodBlogga

3/10/10 — finally bought cardamom at World Market.  No more excuses.

 

The mystery that is polenta:

Perhaps doable, a la Molly at Orangette?

Also, Mark Bittman because I appreciate his take.

 

Totally cute entertaining touch:  how to make paper food baskets.

Eggplant:  This Eggplant Parmesan Casserole looks tasty. 

 

OMG, mushrooms.  If only I could get away with this for dinner. 

* Credit to Amy at The Motherload for this fantastic “Notebook” idea!

Valentine’s dinner

Welcome to my brainstorm.

I’m regularly updating this work in progress…Stay tuned!

Beef tenderloin?  Maybe.

Stuffed mushrooms?  Oh, how I love thee…  But if stuffed mushrooms are a starter, can I still make mushroom risotto??

Cocoa pancakes.  Yeah.

Red velvet cupcakes.  Oh…  Though a friend suggested this one.

Or molten lava cakes.  Because, well…obviously.

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The final analysis:  I should have listened to my brother.

The mushroom-stuffed tenderloin would have been divine.  Instead, I did a collection of pepper-crusted tenderloin medallions.  They were okay, though just this side of overdone, and the pepper was much stronger than the last time I made them (um…three years ago).

I did make squash risotto, which was fantastic, and I soooo wish it was lunch time because I want to eat the rest right! now! 

My roasted green beans were far from ideal and plainly illustrated the case for using fresh, beautiful-looking produce.  The beans I used looked a little sad from the get-go; they were pale, with very little body.  Hence, they shriveled up during roasting and the texture was odd.

The cake?  Was okay, but the frosting was a massive fail.  Unless, of course, you’re the type who likes a cottage-cheese-y textured frosting that tastes like pure butter.  But I seriously doubt any of you exist.  I’m less bummed about the frosting fail than I am about losing half a pound of butter in the process.  (Damn! Do you know what I could make with that much butter?!  Cookies, roux, brownies, more mushrooms…aaahhh!!)

So, here’s what went right:  Tenderloin, after all, is tenderloin, so the meat was actually delicious.  I sauteed some sliced mushrooms in oil in the pan I used for the meat, and then deglazed the pan with some Zin.  Oh! those were fabulous.  They were a fantastic bridge for the steak and risotto. 

The big winner:  The Brie-stuffed mushrooms.  The easiest, most delicious stuffed mushrooms I have every made or tasted.  Go forth and make them.  Now!

Full pasta meal + one pan = YES!

Maybe it’s the little bit of purist in me, but why did I never think to cook pasta IN its sauce??  Certainly it’s easier to control the quality (of each ingredient, I suppose) when the pasta’s made separately but, for this recipe, it’s worth taking exception to that rule.

This week, Amy over at The Mother Load posted a skillet meal recipe based America’s Test Kitchen’s book.  The photo is beautiful, and the prospect of making an entire dinner in one pan totallywon me over.  Now, it’s not exactly indulgent fine cuisine but it is perfect for feeding my birds — or for a quick weeknight meal for anyone.

See Amy’s post here.  I used the recipe as a basic formula and did just a few things differently. 

First, I had a little less than half a pound of Graziano’s sausage in the freezer (and I suspect finding turkey sausage in the markets around me would be…well, not that easy).  I sautéed the garlic about 40 seconds, then added the crumbled sausage.  I browned that for a few minutes and then added about half a box of sliced mushrooms (The Pink One and I are wild about mushrooms!) and some thyme. 

Added the pasta, stock and milk; once the pasta was pretty much done, I added S&P and grated a little fresh nutmeg in the sauce.  I realized too late that I should have done that earlier but, eh, no harm done.  

Wilted the spinach as directed and added the cheese and tomatoes.  I did pour off a bit of the liquid at the end; I didn’t measure and probably added too much in the first place.

Final assessment:  First, the kids actually ate it!…okay, so they may have picked out the pieces they didn’t like, but they did eat most of it!

Also, the flavors were great.  The (slightly overdone, but I know better for  next time) pasta, sauce, mushrooms, and spinach were mild and an ideal backdrop. The tomatoes were the perfectly light zing.  And the Graziano’s was a standout.  I will definitely make this again.

I loved the versatility of this and, since last night, have thought of about 10 other ways to make it.  Bacon instead of sausage; peas instead of spinach; steamed beans instead of spinach; evaporated milk instead of regular milk; whole wheat pasta; different cheese.  If I was inclined to dirty more than one pan, I would have done the garlic, sausage and mushrooms in a separate pan, then added a splash of wine to deglaze the pan, maybe some stock to sauce it all together and then dump that in the with the pasta.  It surely would up the flavor a few notches, which might also make it less palatable to the kids.

 I’m thrilled to have something new in the rotation!