Melissa's Table

Experiments with Pinterest recipes!

Melissa’s Table Original: Ice Cream Cake September 14, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — MelGag @ 6:59 pm
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I’m going to do something a little different today, and post a semi-original recipe.

Tuesday 09/11 was my husband’s 28th birthday. He asked that I not get him a gift because he was holding out for the new iPhone 5. We have a system of upgrade in our household. He got the iPhone 3, I got the 3gs. He got the iPhone 4, I got the 4s. He’ll get the iPhone 5, I’ll get the iPhone 5xkg or whatever letter combination Apple uses. So in lieu of a present, I baked him a cake. But not just any cake, an ice cream cake!

I call this a “semi” original because I modified three different recipes to make it.

  1. The Ice Cream Cake Recipe – I used this recipe to build the cake, but I made a few changes because my husband hates chocolate, and I wanted to make the cake and icing from scratch.
  2. David’s Yellow Cake Recipe – I chose this recipe for the cake part of the cake and halved all of the ingredients.
  3. Quick Almost Professional Buttercream Icing – And I went with this recipe for the icing and doubled the ingredients.
I made yellow cake and buttercream icing because my husband doesn’t like chocolate. If you want chocolate, you can always modify my modified recipe. The only thing I didn’t make myself was the ice cream. Yeah, I just wasn’t going there. Here is my recipe (melded from those above) for Melissa’s Semi-Original Semi-Homemade Ice Cream Cake.
To read the full post, please visit Melissa’s Table at our new home.
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Southwestern Stuffed Peppers September 1, 2012

Filed under: Beef,Cooking,Eating,Food,Recipe,Review — MelGag @ 5:54 pm
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(Read this post at its new home here.)

 

I’m cheating a bit with this review because I’ve made this recipe once before. When I say I “made this recipe once before” I should clarify. I made a dish very closely based on this recipe. Basically, I took this recipe and modified it slightly to suit my and my husband’s palette. It was essentially the same recipe minus a few ingredients and the main change being the cooking method. This time, I followed the pinned recipe as closely as I could. As we go, I’ll take you through the process comparing both cooking ventures. For ease of reading, my initial endevour will be in italics. First, let’s look at the pin.

The Pin: Southwestern Stuffed Peppers by Simply Love Food

Difficulty: 4 (1 = Ramen, 10 = Beef Wellington)

I chose this pin because I really wanted to cook stuffed peppers. When I did a search for “stuffed peppers” on Pinterest, this is one of the first recipes listed. I think the first (and last) time I had stuffed peppers was 20 years ago. My Grandmother made them. I remember being extremely excited while she was cooking them. I’d never heard of such a dish! Unfortunately the final dish was a bit of a let down. I vaguely remember thinking they were tasteless (sorry Gramma!), so when searching for this recipe, I decided to veer away from the traditional “Italian” version of the dish. Being that my family (re: my husband) is an avid Chipotle eater, Southwestern Stuffed Peppers seemed the right way to go. Let’s start with the ingredients.

That’s a lot of stuff!

Okay, I substituted one thing here. I used ground beef instead of ground turkey. Sorry folks, but I really hate ground turkey. When I was little, my mom used to try to sneak it in things without my knowing: chili, hamburger helper, etc. She claimed I wouldn’t notice the difference. Apparently my 10ish year old taste buds were pretty good because I could spot the turkey every time, and I didn’t like it. I still don’t, and not for lack of trying. If you like ground turkey, I’m sure this recipe would be just as good, but I’ll stick with beef.

Protein variation aside, the ingredients above entail everything listed in the recipe.  The taco seasoning I used is a different pin that I’ve had on my “Love Cooking” board for some time. It doesn’t warrant its own post, but it’s good. Go ahead and use it.

When I first made this recipe, I omitted a few items:

  • Corn: As I’ve mentioned before, my husband and I aren’t huge fans of corn cooked into things.
  • Cilantro: I didn’t have any in the house and didn’t feel like running out.
  • Avacado: See Cilantro. Yeah, I’m lazy sometimes.

Now as you cook, don’t forget to get distracted by your son raiding your tupperware cabinet. Cooking while chasing a child who is hell-bent on opening every cabinet in the room (the dangerous ones are child proofed, don’t worry!) is a tough.

Thankfully, my husband came along and collected this little punk shortly after I took this picture, so I could cook in relative peace.

Now where was I? Ingredients collected? Check! Tupperware picked up off the floor so I don’t slip on it and fall on my face? Check! On with the cooking!

The peppers went into the 400 degree oven for 20 minutes while I cooked the rice, sauteed the onions and browned the hamburger. Once everything was sauteed, chopped and mixed with the other ingredients, into the semi-cooked peppers it went and back into the oven for another 20 minutes.

I did this slightly different the first time. Per other recipes I found online, I did not pre-bake the peppers or brown the meat beforehand. I cooked the rice and onions, but I left the meat raw. I spooned the mixture (with rawmeat) into the raw peppers and baked them for an hour. Also, the recipe calls for a full 16 oz jar of salsa to be thrown into the mix. I used a little more than half of a jar of salsa, probably 9 or 10 oz.

Twenty minutes later, I sprinkled some shredded cheese over top of the peppers and put them back into the oven just long enough for the cheese to melt. (Note: I went a little light on the cheddar because my husband is not a cheddar fan.) On my first venture I used a mixture of cheddar and pepper jack cheese.

But one is missing! (Left: Mine – Right: Simply Love Food)

Once the cheese was nice and melty, I pulled them out of the oven and topped them with sour cream, cilantro and avacado. The first time, I left off the cilantro and avacado (I didn’t have any, remember?) and opted instead to top with sour cream and the left over salsa.

Found the missing pepper! It was on my plate!

The first time I made this recipe, I really liked it. If I was giving it a rating based on that I’d probably give it an 8. I ate the leftovers for several days and it was yummy. But seeing as my first foray into stuffed peppers doesn’t count, let’s see how my second attempt matched up.

I learned something about myself with this and a previous recipe, I don’t like cilantro as a garnish. Cooked in to a dish, I love it. Mixed in guacamole, mmmmm. But used as a garnish, it’s just bad. Cilantro aside (and I took most of it off my pepper), this recipe was good, but not as good as my first. I don’t think the cooking method made much of a difference. I’m guessing it was the topping. The salsa on top really gave it the flavor punch it needed. Without it, I felt the dish was slightly bland. The kind of bland that extra salt wouldn’t fix. It’s sort of like eating a hamburger without ketchup or mustard. Not terrible, it just needed a little something else, and while the sour cream and avacado gave it creamy texture, they didn’t give it much flavor. Next time, I’d top it with sour cream, salsa and avacado. (Pretty wild, I know.)

Final Rating: 6 (1 = Bad, 10 = Great)

 

Crockpot Chicken Noodle Soup August 21, 2012

(Read this post at its new home here.)

 

If you frequent my home page, you’ll know that I had an ear issue this past week. Let’s just say I haven’t had my ears professionally cleaned in 32 years. Happily, this is mostly resolved because earaches are not good times! But, just as my ears were clearing, my husband came down with a tummy bug. He’s better now, and so far my son and I haven’t caught it. (Fingers crossed!) While he was sick, the only thing he wanted to eat was soup, so, being the kind and loving wife I am, I went out twice the first day and bought him Chicken Noodle Soup. On my second outting, I realized we were wasting money. I could make soup just as tasty and healthier to boot. And so I did.

The Pin: Crockpot Chicken Noodle Soup by The Quilt Ladies (via Creatively Domestic)

Difficulty: 3 (1 = Easy, 10 = Really Hard)

There are actually two versions of the recipe on this page. I went with the crockpot version because it seemed easier, and I’m all for simplicity when I cook.

Yup, looks like soup to me!

This recipe calls for “one 15 oz can of whole kernel corn, drained.” While I tend to stay true to the recipes I use for this blog, I deviated a bit when it came to the corn. My husband and I love fresh corn on the cob, but neither he nor I particularly enjoy corn when it’s cooked into things. So I left it out. Feel free to put corn in your soup. I’ll allow it.

I gathered the ingredients together and prepped my veggies the night before.

I don’t normally take many pictures during prep, but this looked kind of pretty.

I eyeballed the measurements when chopping, so this is probably slightly more than half a cup of each. The plan was to throw everything into the crockpot when my son got me up at the butt-crack of dawn the following morning. And he did. He woke me up around 6 a.m., so I started crocking around 6:30. The instructions are short and sweet, “Add everything but the noodles and cooked chicken to the crock pot on Low for 5-6 hours, the last hour turn on High, and add noodles and chicken.” Simple right? Perhaps too simple for me. The only seasonings are salt and pepper. I really had to restrain myself from putting in garlic or onion powder or basil or… I think you get the point.

For the chicken, the recipe calls for “2 cups cooked chicken chopped or 2 cans canned cooked chicken.” I try to avoid canned food in general, plus canned chicken is kind of gross. I could have bought a rotisserie chicken, but I opted to cook my own. Since there are no chicken cooking instructions, I made up my own. I baked six boneless skinless thighs for about 45ish minutes on 300. I wanted them almost done, so they wouldn’t overcook in the crockpot.

Seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and basil.

Around 11:00 I added the cooked, diced chicken and the egg noodles into the crock pot and turned it up to high. At this point I also added an extra cup of chicken broth (I used six cups total instead of the recommended five) because I was worried the noodles would soak up all the the liquid. This happened to me on my last crock pot soup adventure. That batch of lentil soup came out more like soggy mush than soup. Anyhoo, an hour later, I had soup!

Left: Mine – Right: The Quilted Ladies

It was really good though I suppose it would be difficult to make bad chicken noodle soup. It was exactly what my husband’s crampy upset stomach needed. I’m glad now that I restrained myself and didn’t add any extra seasoning because the flavor of the broth was perfect. The green onions and the white onions along with a bit of salt and pepper gave it the perfect flavor. The vegetables were soft, but not mushy. Next time I cook this I would add more carrots and celery. We like a lot of veggies in our soup. My husband felt the chicken was a little bland. Either I didn’t season it well enough when I baked it, or the seasoning came off in the broth. Either way, this is probably my fault, not the recipes. Still, this wasn’t overly noticeable since the broth was so flavorful. The only real issue was that the egg noodles were slightly mushy. I don’t think they needed the full hour on high in the crock pot. I would say put the chicken in for the last hour and the noodles in for maybe the last 30 minutes.

Overall this was a really good chicken noodle soup recipe. I’d make this one again.

Mmmmmmm.

Final Rating: 7 (1 = Bad, 10 = Delicious!)

 

Coconut Curry Noodles August 15, 2012

(Read this post at its new home here!)

 

One of the things I miss about living in a large, dynamic city like Atlanta is the food. Atlanta has sooooo many restaurants. And I don’t mean places like Applebees or Ruby Tuesdays. I mean quality authentic non-chain hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Whenever we had friends or family visit, we had a wealth of eating establishments in which to partake. From the Richard Blais’ famous Flip Burger to the lesser known, yet always busy, Thumbs Up Diner, we never wanted for a place to eat in Atlanta. A favorite of mine, was a Thai restaurant called Amaryn’s*. My sister-in-law brought us here on our first trip to the city. I thought it was good but nothing special. We ventured back a few weeks later, and that’s when I discovered their Chicken Panang Rice Bowl. This dish is possibly one of my favorites of all time. The sauce (or perhaps you’d call it a broth?) was thick and creamy. It was the perfect amount of sweet and spicy. I’ve never found another panang or any sweet curry dish quite like it. Thus, when I came across this dish, I was hoping that maybe… just maybe… I’d find a similar flavor.

The Pin: Coconut Curry Noodles by Considering the Campbells

Difficulty: 4ish (1 = Canned Soup, 10 = Turducken)

Even though I’ve been eyeing this pin for a while, it was ultimately my husband who chose it. Let’s see how he did! The ingredients.

Olive oil not pictured here.

The olive oil is not pictured above because the list of ingredients on the website didn’t include olive oil, so I wasn’t aware I needed it until I’d already snapped my picture. I guess you’ll just have to use your imagination.

There were a few vague points in this recipe. I had to use a bit of common sense. For example, when using the skillet, the site does’t specify how hot the pan should be. I went with medium. It’s hard to go wrong with medium heat, right? Also, the ingredient list calls for “a handful of baby carrots.” Well, is that a figurative handful or a litteral handful? And if so, who’s handful? Mine, my husbands, my sons? Maybe I’m being persnickety (yeah, I just went there), but to be fair it was unclear. I decided to match the amount of carrots to the amount of peppers.

Did I do good?

Just a side note on the carrots. The only reason I gave this recipe a  difficulty level of 4 instead of a 3, was those damn carrots. Let’s just say my knife skills are… lacking. I have a tendency to cut the corners of my fingernails when doing “fancy” knife work. (I suppose that’s better than cutting through my finger though.) Not to mention, my knives are awful. They were the $29.99 special over five years ago! Hells yeah! I know, I really need to upgrade. So, thin slicing carrots is a difficult task for me.

The recipe called for 1/4th cup of soy sauce. Now, when I’m testing these pins, I try to be as true the recipe as possible. Having said that, I only used 1/8th cup of soy sauce. I like soy sauce, but 1/4th a cup sounded like way too much. I figured I could always add more later if it needed it.

Despite my substandard knife skills (I didn’t cut my finger nail!) and the recipe’s imprecise directions, I somehow managed to complete the dish. And here is the final product.

Left: Mine – Right: Considering the Campbell’s

I’m no plating master, but I think it came out pretty. But how did it taste? Have you ever eaten a dish that seems okay at first but tastes progressively worse after the first bite? It’s one of those, at least for me. I started out thinking it was okay, but about 1/4th of the way in, I just couldn’t finish it. I hate wasting food, but I had to dump it. My husband just plain didn’t like it. I think he ate maybe two bites.

How best to describe it? It tasted like slightly spicy chicken broth with soy sauce in it. In a way, it was almost bland. The coconut milk was almost non-existant. I could barely taste it. The carrots and peppers were nice. They added a nice crunchy texture to the rice noodles. My husband and I both agree that the cilantro looked pretty but didn’t go with the dish.

Needless to say, Coconut Curry Noodles didn’t match up to the Chicken Panang Rice Bowl. This is definitely something I would not make again.

Final Rating: 2 (1 = Terrible, 10 = Awesome)

*In Googling the link to Amaryn’s I’ve discovered they’ve closed. QQ.

 

Crockpot French Dip August 8, 2012

(Visit this post at its new home here.)

 

I’ve always been a huge fan of roast beef sandwiches, particularly the French dip. There’s something warm and inviting about taking a hot roast beef sandwich and dipping it into a savory au jus. I think the first French dip I ever had was from Arbys when I was roughly eight or nine years old. I was in love. Since then I’ve had far better versions of the sandwich. I’ve made French dip burgers (very good FYI), but I’ve never attempted the sandwich itself. Until now…

The Pin: Slow Cooker French Dip Sandwich by Baking Bites

Difficulty: 4 (1 = Toast!, 10 = Souffle)

As always, the ingredients:

Yeah, that’s a $5 bottle of wine. You wanna fight about it?

Why two pictures, you ask? Thanks to my husband, I slept in that morning, and, in my haste to get the ingredients in the crock pot so they cook for the full 8ish hours, I nearly forgot to take pictures. (You can see the beef broth has already been used.) And when I did take the picture, I left out a few key ingredients. It would be awfully messy trying to eat this without the rolls.

It’s pretty simple to make. Salt and pepper the meat and dump everything (excluding the bread and cheese of course) into the crock pot. It looks like this:

Into the crock pot!

Have I mentioned how much I love my crock pot? Well, I do. It’s a recent addition to my kitchen. I received it as an anniversary present from my mother just a few months ago. I love that I can throw everything in it and forget it until dinner time. Even better than that, it doesn’t turn my house into a sauna in the summer like my oven does.

But I digress. So, everything was in the crock pot and crocking away. During my 8ish hours of waiting, I read a few of the comments on the recipe’s site, and I began to fret. Most of the reviews were favorable, but then I read the following. ” It tastes nothing like a french dip. Instead, it’s almost like eating a shredded pot roast on a french roll,” says Heike. Hmmm. Well that doesn’t sound terrible, but I wanted a French dip sandwich. Fingers crossed that Heike was wrong, I continued to wait.

When it came time to take the meat out, it smelled wonderful. I let it rest covered for fifteen minutes.

Crock potted for 7 1/2 hours.

After letting it rest, I “sliced” it. Here’s where the plan fell apart… literally. The recipe tells you to “slice” the beef. I did my best, but it basically fell apart as soon as my knife touched it. It was less me slicing and more it collapsing.

“Sliced”

I was worried this would affect the quality of the sandwich, but I persevered! I put the sliced beef back into the crock pot where the au jus (which is just a fancy way of saying beef juice) was still percolating. Twenty minutes later it was ready. Voila! The finished product!

I didn’t realize I got my son’s toy in the picture.

First, that is not a French roll as the recipe calls for. My local commissary didn’t have any fresh baked French rolls, so I went with Kaiser rolls instead. Second, I don’t know what kind of French dips Heike has been eating, because this tasted a lot like a French dip. In fact, it tasted exactly like a French dip, a very good French dip. The meat was tender and flavorful. It had soaked up the flavor of the liquid. I’m not a big fan of red wine, so I was was afraid it would be too strong. I needn’t have worried. It was the perfect addition to the meat and the au jus.

Even my husband who is not a big roast beef eater, enjoyed his sandwich. If you’re a French dip or roast beef fan, I highly recommend this recipe.

Final Rating: 9 (1 = Yuck!, 10 = Awesome!)

 

Cajun Chicken Stuffed with Pepper Jack And Spinach August 1, 2012

(View this post at it’s new home here.)

Who doesn’t enjoy a good chicken dinner? “Good,” of course, being the qualifying word. Chicken is great! It’s cheap and easy to cook. The problem is, at least for me, it gets boring fast. I grew up eating a lot of chicken. I mean, a lot of chicken. It was, and probably still is, one of my mother’s favorite things to cook. That being said, I went though a period of time where I was sick of chicken.

I’m no longer sick of chicken, but I still look for ways to keep it new and interesting. Stuffed chicken breasts are a great way to do that. Sure you can buy them pre-made in the freezer section, but they’re expensive and loaded with… well, all that bad stuff that goes into frozen food. Thus, I decided to try out this pinned recipe:

The PinCajun Chicken Stuffed with Pepper Jack Cheese & Spinach by Cooking Creation.

Difficulty Rating: 5  (1 = Opening a Twinkie, 10 = Rack of Lamb)

I gathered my ingredients. One of the items on the list is “lots of toothpicks.” “Lots of toothpicks” is not pictured below because I neglected to pick up toothpicks and had to run back out shortly after snapping this picture.

That red powder in the tupperware is my Cajun seasoning.

Basically, you shred the cheese, mix it with the spinach, beat some chicken flat (I’m resisting the urge to make a “beat your meat” joke. Oops, too late!), roll it up and season. Oh, and don’t forget to use your “lots of toothpicks” to keep it all together. For the Cajun seasoning, I used Cooking Creation’s own recipe here. Instead of Italian breadcrumbs, I used panko partly because I like the texture better and partly because it’s what I had in the house.

Here’s what it looks like pre-oven:

Mmmm, raw chicken breast.

Forty-ish minutes later, I had the final product:

Left: Mine – Right: Cooking Creation’s

Left: Mine – Right: Cooking Creation’s

Maybe mine didn’t look as pretty, but it was tasty! I’m always worried about drying out chicken breasts, but these were tender and moist. The Cajun seasoning gave it a nice kick. Just the right amount of heat and flavor, though I’d probably add more salt next time. Unfortunetely, the filling was a bit of a mess. The recipe tells you to cook the breasts seam down, but even though I toothpicked the crap out of that chicken, most of the cheese leaked out. You can see in the picture above that about 90% of my cheese wound up on the pan. You still get the overall flavor of the pepper jack and there are remnants in the spinach which gives it a nice creamy consistency, but I was really looking for an explosion of molten cheesy awesomeness. Next time, I might try cooking it seam up. Here was our dinner…

See that biscuit? That’s my next blog, so stay tuned!

Final Rating: 7.5  (1 = Never Again! – 10 = Yummm!)

I’d make this recipe again. My husband and I both enjoyed it.