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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Crockpot Pizza


I made a mistake.  Something that yes, I know everyone does.  But, I still really hate it when I do so.  In this case while we were moving I wrote down the name of the blog I had for Blogger C.L.U.E. Society.  I wrote down the name of the blog that had ME, not the blog I had...  Kelli from Kelli's Kitchen was so very gracious about my goof.  She said not to worry and she was fine with being skipped this month.  But, I wasn't happy with her being skipped.  So, the first evening we were home I went hunting through her blog for something that'd Beat the Heat.  Let's see, a cool drink, ice cream or a crock pot meal.  I started with the crock pot meal knowing that our Sunday plans included starting to hang pictures at the new house.  That meant limited time to cook AND meant we'd be hot and sweaty and I wouldn't want to deal with the heat.  After getting sidetracked by loads of fabulous recipes that wouldn't beat the heat, I found this.  But, as soon as the weather cools down a bit I must go back and try the beer cheese soup with meatballs.  What a fabulous idea!!!  And, there's a meat lovers onion soup that sounds SOOO good.  And, bacon wrapped Hatch chilies.  Ok, now this one sounds so weird I've got to try it!!  Mexican chocolate cornbread.  How about bacon and fig bread pudding?  Kelli's blog is so much fun to read and she has a wealth of great recipes to choose from.  But, once I landed on crockpot pizza, I knew I had my recipe.  I left the page open and went to my chair to read the Journal and the Times.  Connie sat down at the computer.  OMG!  He says.  "Can we have this now?????  (Keep in mind it's WAY past dinner time.) Look at that cheesy goodness.  Oh, man does that ever look good.  Are you going to make this?  No, when are you going to make this?  I'll go to the store and get anything you need."

LOL, it was too late to be cooking Friday evening.  Saturday we spent at the office then over at the old house giving the new owners a tour of the yard.  We showed them all the edibles and pointed out some of the piggy plants that love to invade their neighbors space.  And, some that look awful this time of year but great in the spring.  They're very nice folks and will love the house as much as we did.  We dashed home from the old house and marinated pork tenderloin for Symphony on the Prairie.  Here's what I wrote on Facebook about the evening:

"Funny story of the day... We buy tix to Conner Prairie - table included. Connie sends out the email invitation. Folks sign up. He sends me a list and I send out the pitch-in list. Folks sign up. I don't pay any attention to how many are coming. He tells me ten. I dutifully pack ten sets of silverware, plates, wine glasses etc. I count noses right before we leave home. Ten GUESTS are coming. Connie has forgotten us! We throw two chairs in the car. I don't think about the plates etc. We get there and buy two more tickets. Get the table set up. Finagle Chris and Mark's spoons. Use a couple of bowls I'd brought for crackers in place of plates. Chris has a wine glass and Mark's drinking beer so we're good to go for wine glasses. Now, see the guy with the white hat and red shirt CLEAR at the end of the row??? That's Connie in our seats. I'm standing at the table with all of our guests..."

Yup, true story. 

Sunday we headed to the office pretty early.  Home very early for us, about 2:30.  We'd unpacked most of the boxes of pictures.  I did most of the rest while Connie worked on laundry.  Then, we started hanging.  Some just fit and I knew exactly where I wanted them.  Some are still floating around the house looking for their best spot.  About 5:00 I headed to the kitchen.  I'd pulled two pizza recipes I wanted to try:  caramelized onion and gorgonzola for one, tomato and eggplant for the other.

Kelli's recipe called for putting the parchment paper in the crock pot to start with.  That didn't work very well for me.  So, I laid it on the counter and worked back and forth until it'd fit.  Then, I topped it while it was on the counter.  The other, well we were out of parchment paper so it went commando.  

What did we think?  What a great way to make pizza!  We loved the toppings.  Poor Kelli, who is married to Mr. PIcky Eater, probably wouldn't have had a happy hubby with all of the funky flavors we had going on!  She used a regular pizza sauce and more traditional toppings.  So, now we know this pizza can be as traditional or as weird as you want and it still works.  Thanks Kelli! 

Here's how to go visit Kelli:

Crock Pot Pizza


Pillsbury thin crust pizza dough

For the caramelized onion gorgonzola pizza:
dried basil
dried oregano
garlic powder
2 large sweet onions
2 T butter
2 T brown sugar
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
shredded mozzarella cheese
3 oz gorgonzola cheese
shredded parmesan cheese
chopped kalamata olives

For the tomato eggplant pizza:
dried basil
dried oregano
crushed dried rosemary
roasted garlic, chopped
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
eggplant slices (about 1/8" thick, I used six but it'll depend on the size of the eggplant.  Start with the top of the eggplant)
shredded mozzarella cheese
smoked goat cheese (regular will be fine)
shredded parmesan
chopped green olives
sliced pickled garlic


For the crust:

Take a paper towel and schmear some olive oil on the parchment paper.  Cut the pizza dough in half unless you have a mongo crock pot.  Give up on having a round pizza.  It's going to be kind of funky shaped but will taste fabulous.  Stretch the dough to fit your crockpot.

For the caramelized onion gorgonzola pizza:

Peel and thinly slice the onions.  Saute them in the butter and brown sugar for about 20 minutes or until they've caramelized.  Sprinkle the dough with the herbs and garlic.  Top that with the chopped tomatoes, then the onions.  Sprinkle on shredded mozzarella, then top that with the gorgonzola and parmesan.  Top everything with the olives, cover the crockpot and go put your feet up for two hours.  I know, doesn't that sound like a wonderful idea????  Dinner will be served!  Oh, wait, you have one more pizza to make...

For the tomato eggplant pizza:

Sprinkle the dough with the herbs.  Then, the roasted garlic.  If you don't have roasted garlic, use garlic powder.  Then, add the chopped tomatoes.  Top them with eggplant slices.  Make sure you fully cover the tomatoes with the eggplant.  Then, top the eggplant with shredded mozzarella, goat cheese and parmesan.  I used Queen Creek Olive Mill feta stuffed olives but plain old green olives will work just fine.  Or, you can omit the olives.  Ok, now it's time to put those tootsies up!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Blueberry Icebox Pie

Typically when it's time for Blogger C.L.U.E. Society I head to my assigned blog and spend a couple of hours poking around and seeing what all might work.  Then, I print (in pdf form) several recipes for Connie to take a look at.  Once we've talked about the pros and cons, I make a decision and make one or two of the recipes.  I usually have a fallback in the event I screw something up.  Like the epic brownie failure not so many months ago!  This time I typed in the url of Lora's blog and there it was.  My perfect recipe.  Blueberry Icebox Pie.  Oh, yeah.  How perfect is that.  The theme this month is Beat the Heat.  We love blueberries.  The photo of the pie had me licking my lips.  I didn't even ask Connie what he thought.  I just put graham crackers and blueberries on the grocery list!

Then, I just had to go back to Lora's blog and poke around a bit.  I'm totally in awe of Lora.  She is a baker extraordinaire.  And, she can cook like all get out.  She has a couple of soups that I'm just waiting for cooler weather to try.  Lentil with caramelized onion and Kale and Chickpea with Garlic Crostini.  Don't those conjure up a lovely fall day?  There's a no-knead olive bread that even this non-baker could probably tackle.  Ahhh, I can only wish I could bake half as well as Lora...  Hopefully, someday when we get to Florida I can meet her and sample some goodies!!!  I'm thinking sampling is a great excuse to go NOW - LOL. 

So, the recipe.  It's super simple.  And, Connie who tends to tolerate sweets, has actually ASKED for more of this.  I think that's the first time ever with a sweet.  He likens it to frozen blueberry yogurt.  Please don't tell him they sell frozen yogurt and it's similar to ice cream.  He thinks he doesn't like ice cream.  So, we'll keep this our secret, ok?

Blueberry Icebox Pie


for the Crust:

12 full size graham crackers
1/4 c sugar
6 T vegetable oil (olive oil if you're being very healthy or melted butter if you're being decadent)

for the filling:

1 c fresh or frozen blueberries plus a few to decorate the top
1 T sugar
2 T Grand Marnier or Limoncello
1 c heavy cream
1 T confectioner's sugar
1 c vanilla Greek yogurt


Preheat your oven to 350F.  While that is heating, give the graham crackers a whir in your food processor until you've got crumbs.  Mix the crumbs with the sugar and oil.  Press the mixture into a 9" pie plate.  Bake it for 8-10 minutes or until it's nice and brown.

Remove the crust from the oven and set it aside to cool.  Rinse the processor.  Now, you'll give the blueberries a whir.  Before you do so, mix them with the sugar and the liquor.  Pour the blueberry mixture into a large bowl.  Whip the cream.  (I'm with Lora here.  Real cream.  Whipped yourself.  Makes all the difference in the world.)  Slowly add the confectioners sugar until you've got peaks on the cream.  As Lora notes, whip too much and you've got butter.  Gently scrape the whipped cream onto the blueberry mixture.  Now, gently fold them together.  Equally gently, add the yogurt.  Spoon the mixture into the cooled crust.  Decorate with blueberries and pop this into the freezer overnight. 

Now, I'd love for you to visit Lora's blog and see the recipe there.  Here's the link:  Blueberry Icebox Pie.  And, my fellow bloggers have some other fun Beat the Heat treats.  You'll find their blogs below.  Happy Eating!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Emeril's Big Boy Meatballs and Mascarpone, Honey, Pistachio and Orange Tart

Let's start with the two new recipes from the party.  Emeril's Big Boy Meatballs and Spaghetti is up first.  My new favorite meatballs.  I doubled the recipe hoping that there would be leftovers.  There were.  They are in the freezer for some evening that I can't escape the office at a reasonable hour.  I just love it when I find THE recipe for something.  Not only were the meatballs fabulous, so was the red sauce.  As with almost any red sauce, this was better after allowing it to sit in the fridge overnight. 

Next up is an amazing tart.  I'm already looking for another excuse to make this awesome recipe.  There's a get-together or two brewing for the crew from Chef Joseph's so it'll make an appearance at one of them.  My original intent was to make an olive oil shortcake with an orange mascarpone filling.  Then, I made the kiwi, mango, coconut tart for Weekend in a French Kitchen.  The crust recipe had one egg in it and made two crusts.  I needed to use up that second crust on company so that we didn't eat the whole whatever.  On to Epicurious I went.  There I found a Bon Appetit recipe that was exactly what I was looking for - using mascarpone and oranges.  The crust kind of looked like one of those ransom notes created by cutting out letters and pasting the mishmash together.  But, since nobody was going to see it, not a problem.  Once the tart was done, it looked amazing.  Then, we ate it.  Oh, la, la.  And, that's from someone who doesn't have a big sweet tooth. 

Emeril's Big Boy Meatballs and Spaghetti


4 slices white bread, crusts removed, torn into pieces (I used Pepperidge Farms)
3/4 c buttermilk
1 1/2 lbs 85% lean ground beef
3/4 lb sweet Italian sausage removed from its casings
2 oz  Parmagiano Reggiano cheese finely grated (about 1/2 c)
2 T minced fresh parsley
1/4 c minced garlic (about 12 cloves) (this is supposed to be split between the sauce and meatballs, I missed that and think maybe that's why these meatballs were so incredible!)
3/4 t salt
3/4 t freshly ground black pepper
3 T olive oil
2 c chopped yellow onion
1 t crushed red pepper
3/4 c dry red wine
28 oz can tomato puree
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 bay laves
1 1/2 c water
1/3 c chopped fresh basil leaves
1 t chopped fresh oregano leaves
2 T evaporated milk
1 pound dried spaghetti, cooked til al dente


Put the white bread and buttermilk in a bowl and allow it to soak for 10 minutes.  Mash them together to form a paste (panade.)  Mix the panade, beef, sausage, cheese, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. 

Mix them well but don't over mix. Form into 1/2 c meatballs.  Put them in the fridge for 10-15 minutes to allow the meatballs to firm up. 

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet.  Brown the meatballs in two batches so they're not crowded.  Remove them to a paper towel lined plate.  Add the onions and crushed red pepper to the oil and sauté until the onions are softened.  If you're splitting the garlic or adding more, add it for a few minutes here to allow the flavors to bloom.  Add the wine and allow it to reduce by half before you add anything else.  Add the tomato puree, crushed tomatoes, bay leaves, water, basil and oregano. Add the meatballs back in and simmer for 45-60 minutes or until the meatballs are floating in the sauce.  If you feel the sauce is too acidic, you can add the evaporated milk. 

Mascarpone Tart with Honey, Oranges and Pistachios


1 pie crust or pate sable
2 large navel oranges (or 4 mandarin oranges, like I used)
1 8 to 8.8 oz container chilled mascarpone cheese
1/2 c chilled heavy whipping cream
1/4 c sugar
2 T honey, divided
1/4 t (generous) ground cardamom
2 T chopped pistachios


The actual recipe calls for using a tart pan with a removable bottom.  I did not do so and had no problems removing the pieces.  Preheat your oven to 400F.  Press the dough into the tart pan.  Prick it all over with a fork.  Bake it for about 20 minutes or until it's golden brown. 

While the crust is baking, you can prep the oranges.  Start by zesting them to get at least 1 1/4 t of zest.  The navel oranges can be peeled and cut into circles.

Remove the tart crust from the oven and set it aside to cool.  Once it's cool, you can start prepping the filling.  If you mix the filling for too long, it will curdle.  You're aiming for smooth here.  Using an electric mixer, mix the mascarpone, whipping cream, 1 T of the honey, the orange zest and the cardamom.  Evenly spread the filling into the cooled crust.  Top the filling with either concentric circles of orange or as I did, with orange pieces...  Then, drizzle with the other 1 T of honey.  Sprinkle the pistachios over the top.  Serve that day. 

Grapevine Smoked Duck Breasts with Peaches

Sometimes the most simple recipes are the most amazing.  Take this weekend's recipe from Mimi.  Smoked duck breasts with peaches.  Cross hatch the fatty side of the duck breasts, rub them with salt and pepper.  Put them in a hot skillet fat side down to render some of the fat.  Smoke them over grapevines.  Saute peach halves in the duck fat.  Super simple and totally incredible.  These duck breasts were perfect on their own.  They will be amazing in many different preparations.  Like a few slices on top of risotto.  Or, on a salad.  Or, in a sandwich.  Or on pizza.

I will say that my thermometer for the grill died a couple of months ago.  I bought what I thought was a replacement but this one isn't supposed to be used on the grill.  So, it was either guess or keep poking.  I guessed.  And, I guessed too early.  So, once we cut into our duck and it was a bit too rare for us, I sliced the breasts and brought them to the right temp in the bit of peach flavored duck fat that was still sitting in the skillet.  I'll probably use the same technique next time because we liked how evenly done the breasts were. 

Here's how it came together:

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Lotta Good Eating Going on Here!

Our friend Steve retired.  Lucky guy!  He and Phil and I have been on a board together for close to 20 years.  So, naturally I thought this was great excuse for a party.  Yes, my friends, you are so right, pretty much anything is a great excuse for a party.  Particularly when it's a party I get to cook for!  Not only did we have a party, we had some pretty darned good eats during the weeks after the party... 

Let's start with the party menu: 
Watermelon with lime, 5*
Pimento cheese, 5*
Gazpacho, 5*
Ginger salad, 5*
Emeril's big boy meatballs and sauce, 5*
Mascarpone tart with honey, oranges and pistachios, 5*

Then, during the next couple of weeks we had:
Sausages with potatoes and artichoke hearts in tomato broth, 5*

Can you believe I forgot to take a photo??????

Steak picadillo soft tacos, 4*

Cinnamon whiskey chicken, 4*

BBQ eggplant sandwiches, 4*

Kiwi and mango coconut custard tart, 2*

Pork mango tacos, 3*

Pork tenderloin chipotle wraps, 4*

Chiles rellenos, 4*
Black beans, 2*

Salsa cruda with avocado crema, 2*

Lamb chops w rhubarb salsa, 4*

Soy glazed salmon, 3*

Chicken apricot salad, 5*

Yet another missing photo...

Fish with pine nut vinaigrette, 3*

Potatoes au Gratin 5*

Last missing photo...

Persian Salad 3*

Wok seared duck salad 4*

Well then, what did we think of all of this good eating???

I posted about the watermelon a couple of weeks ago.  Once I run out of the magic dust, I'll be making more!

The pimento cheese is an old favorite.  Seems like when we first started making it, it was well known only in the south.  Now, I'm frequently seeing recipes for it.  Some have cream cheese, some several different cheeses.  We prefer plain old Cracker Barrel Extra Sharp Cheddar, mayo and pimentos.  With just a bit of chipotle chili powder thrown in for good measure.

Gazpacho can be found in several posts.  Most recently last weekend.  It remains one of my favorite summer soups!

Ginger salad.  I just can't believe that I forgot about this recipe.  Hunting for something we'd made that would go with dinner, I pulled it up and thought, yup, this is it.  Now, I need to make sure I don't forget it again!

Emeril's Big Boy Meatballs and Sauce.  Maybe the best meatballs I've ever had.  This will now be my go-to recipe.  And, the sauce was fabulous.  We made meatball sandwiches for lunch and had leftovers for dinner.  And, I'm still not tired of it!  The recipe is from Emeril's Sizzling Skillets.  Every recipe I've made from this cookbook has been top notch.

Mascarpone tart with honey, oranges and pistachios was one of the prettiest desserts I've ever made.  And, probably one of the best.  Instead of the regular pie crust called for in the recipe I used a pate sablee from Daniel Boulud's cookbook.  The crust is a bear to work with.  I was SO glad nobody could see the 15 patches!  But, it did complement the filling perfectly.  One of my friends asked if I'd ever tried cardamom mango ice cream after she saw the photo of this.  No, but I do believe that's on my list now!!  I found this recipe on Epicurious.

Sausages with potatoes and artichoke hearts in tomato broth really should be a fall/winter kind of recipe.  But, we inhaled it anyway.  It's hearty and full of wonderful flavor.

Steak picadillo soft tacos came on to the menu thanks to the trimmings from a beef tenderloin.  they'd been in the freezer long enough and I wanted to find a way to use them up.  And, what a way this was!  These things were just plain perfect.

The cinnamon whiskey chicken recipe was in Cuisine at Home.  I thought the mix of flavors was novel.  And, I was right.  The rub was great but the sauce stole the show.  This was a total winner.

I rather goofed on the BBQ Eggplant sandwiches.  Rather than drain all the fat I plopped the eggplant in.  So, the sandwiches were pretty oily.  Next time I'll do a better job.  Oh, and I cheated big time and sliced up one of Emeril's wonderful meatballs and added one to each of our sandwiches...  YUM!

Pork Mango Tacos - These were a Cooking Light recipe.  They were quite blah.  The mango got lost in the shuffle.  Not a make again. 

The pork tenderloin from the tacos was absolutely a make again.  I sliced some up and made some killer wraps with the leftovers.  First, I put some Chipotle Tabasco and some chipotle chili powder in some mayo and slathered that on the wraps.  Then, I layered on pork, sliced avocado, sliced tomato and shredded cheddar.  It made for a lovely lunch.

Chiles Rellenos.  I spotted some glorious peppers at Johnny's Market.  See, there's no way I could pass those up.  And, Connie loves Chiles Rellenos.  Last time I made them I put meat in the filling.  This time I went totally traditional and used just cheese.  I'd just read an article in Cooks Illustrated about substitutions for Oaxaca cheese in quesadillas.  They said half shredded mozzarella (not fresh) and half shredded provolone would be the best.  All I can say is it worked perfectly.

Along side we had black beans from Southwestern Grill.  They were ok but had a bit of a harsh edge to them.  All in all I've had better.

We also had the salsa cruda that's coming up on the Weekend in a French Kitchen from Daniel Boulud.  Another totally average dish.  One I'll not make again. 

Then, there was the mango, kiwi, coconut tart.  This was the loser of the bunch.  We split a slice and the rest of it went into the disposal.  The coconut made the topping grainy.  The flavors of the fruit were muted.  It's unfortunately the third recipe I've tried from Daniel Boulud's cookbook that's being featured in Weekend in a French Kitchen.  I'm loving the other cookbook but am seriously considering not doing anything else from this.

Chicken apricot salad.  Amazing particularly for such an easy dish to put together.  Five minutes and that included going outside and picking the basil!   This one came from Cooks Illustrated or Cooks Country.

Lamb chops with rhubarb relish.  This is from Sandra Lee's latest cookbook.  For the most part I've not found many recipes that trip my trigger.  This one did.  And, it did deliver.

Fish, beets and green beans with pine nut vinaigrette.  Ok, but nothing to write home about.  I'll probably make the vinaigrette again.  But, not the rest of the dish...

Potatoes au gratin.  These were a recipe I almost didn't make because it sounded a little weird.  But, it was fabulous!!!

Persian Salad was your basic summer salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, white onions and a mix of herbs and spices.  It was ok.  Not one that I'll make again because there are simply too many really fabulous versions of this salad...

Wok seared duck salad came from Emerils Sizzling Skillets.  We've just had winner after winner from this cookbook.  This was fresh and delightful.  The flavors absolutely danced on our tongues.  And, I'm saying that after thinking while making the dressing, "It'll be a miracle if this tastes decent..." 

Final score?  Out of 19 new recipes 12 are solid keepers.  And the others I won't make again.  There are just too many wonderful recipes out there to be tested!  I wonder if my friends find the same percentages with the recipes they make?

Since there's no way I can manage to do all these recipes in one post, I'll split this up...

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Almond Gazpacho, Weekend in a French Kitchen

Gazpacho.  One of my favorite summer soups.  That and vichyssoise.  I'm one who could pretty much live on soup.  My mouth is watering as I'm typing this so please pardon me while I run fix myself a bowl of gazpacho for breakfast...   Ahhh, now that was good.  I always make my gazpacho by taking two-thirds of the veggies and pulsing them in the food processor with just a little bit of beef base.  Those get mixed with tomato juice, Clamato or V8 depending on my mood - and my pantry.  Then, I add in a bit of Tabasco and some extra virgin olive oil.  The other third is very finely diced and put into a separate storage container.  When I serve the gazpacho, I ladle some of the soup into a bowl, top it with a big handful of the diced veggies and drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over the top.  One of our guests at a dinner party this past week declared it the best gazpacho he'd ever had.  The original recipe came from a cookbook called Indianapolis Cooks and Collects.

Here's what it looks like: 

Needless to say, I was entranced when I saw almond gazpacho on the Weekend in a French Kitchen recipe schedule.  Really?  Almond?  As I'm typing this, I'm recalling that one of the articles (yet to be fully read) in a New York Times recipe email is about the best gazpacho. 
"It is not the watered-down salsa or grainy sludge often served here under the name of gazpacho, but an emulsion of fat (olive oil) in liquid (vegetable juice and vinegar) that is light and fluffy on the tongue and a fantastic conductor of flavor, just like vinaigrette or hollandaise." 

Obviously, given my comments in the first paragraph I prefer the chunky gazpacho to the smooth.  So, when I read the instructions and found the first step to be soaking crustless white bread in water I cringed a bit.  Once the bread is soaked and drained and squeezed dry, it's put into the food processor with almonds, grapes, cucumber and garlic.  Then, ice water, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper are added.  The soup is put through a fine sieve and refrigerated until chilled.  It's topped with reserved almonds and garlic slices that have been crisped in some olive oil.  Then, it gets a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of piment d'Espelette. 

Once I got over the fact that this was not going to be anything at all like the gazpacho I love, I decided this was pretty darned good.  It's not something that I'll make with any regularity but is a lovely recipe for a starter for a dinner party.  Or a luncheon with a bowl of this and some great sandwiches. 

Here's the ingredient list for the gazpacho I make:

Indianapolis Collects and Cooks Gazpacho
6 c tomato juice
2 T olive oil
2-3 T lemon juice
1 c beef broth
1/2 c finely minced onion
3 tomatoes, finely minced
2 c finely minced celery
1/2 green pepper, finely minced
2 cucumbers, seeded and finely minced
1 t salt
1/4 t pepper
dash of tabasco