Friday, March 27, 2009

Nick's Pizza

This is how our "what should we have for dinner" conversation went:

Rodney: I feel like having pizza.
Me: You want me to make pizza?
Rodney: Um, I'd like some good pizza.
Me: Oh. Should we call Nick's?
Rodney: (already on the phone) Yes, please. A large pizza for pick-up.



What's wild about Nick's pizza is that it is slightly different each time. This time, one side of the pie was thicker than the other. I think you can even see it in the photo. However, it was just as tasty as last time.

Large pie with 5.5 toppings for about $20. Great deal, especially considering Rodney can't eat the majority of it in one sitting it's so huge.



Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Clam Fettucini with Spinach



Rodney and I agreed on trying this recipe. I liked the sound of it because it has spinach in it and I'd never cooked anything with clams before. Plus, it looked like it would be done in 30 minutes or less! Rodney liked the idea because I was happy about trying it. And he likes clams.


Canned clams don't look appetizing, do they? At this point, I'd already bought them, so on with it.

I only made slight changes to the recipe, but you can click the link for the original.


8 oz. fettuccine
1/4 c olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, minced
3 (6 1/2-oz.) cans minced clams, undrained
2 (6-oz.) pkg. baby spinach
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes

Cook fettuccine according to package directions. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add garlic; cook 30 seconds or until fragrant.


Drain clam liquid into skillet, using lid to keep clams in can. Boil 2 to 3 minutes or until slightly reduced.
 

Stir in spinach, tomatoes and clams; cook 30 to 60 seconds or until spinach is wilted.


Toss fettuccine with sauce.


SIMPLE recipe!! Dinner in less than 30 minutes!

It tasted pretty good too. I wasn't going out of my mind with it's amazing flavor or anything, but it certainly wasn't gross by any means. Rodney liked it too, though he made it a point to mention that it's not as good as the Shrimp Tomato Basil Linguine.

Cost:
  • fettuccine: 1.25/lb
  • 3 (6 1/2-oz.) cans minced clams: $1.79 each
  • baby spinach: $3.98/6 oz
  • tomatoes: $0.68
Total: $15.26 or $3.82 per serving. Wow, a little more expensive than what I'd expected, but not outrageous.

Yup, we'll be having this again. Next time I might throw in some crushed red pepper for a little bite.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Caramel and Apple Upside-Down Cake


Upside-down cake without pineapples.

The first time I saw this recipe, I thought, "Eh" and kept flipping through my magazine. When I came across it again, I figured what the hell. I had just about everything to make it anyway, so I picked up some milk and gave it a spin.

Caramel and Apple Upside-Down Cake

CARAMEL & APPLES
3/4 c packed dark brown sugar
1/4 c unsalted butter, softened
2 tbsp honey
1 lb. Fuji apples (2 to 3), peeled, sliced (1/4 inch)

CAKE
2 c all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 c unsalted butter, softened
3/4 c sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 c whole milk

Heat oven to 350°F.

Spray 9x2-inch round baking pan with cooking spray. Line bottom with parchment paper.

Heat brown sugar, 1/4 cup butter and honey in medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves, stirring frequently. Increase heat to medium-high; bring to a boil.


Boil 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour into pan.

Arrange apple slices over caramel mixture in 2 overlapping concentric circles to cover bottom of pan, starting on outside edge.


Whisk flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in medium bowl.


Beat 3/4 cup butter and sugar in large bowl at medium speed 2 minutes or until light and fluffy.

Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.

At low speed, beat in flour mixture alternately with milk* just until incorporated and smooth, beginning and ending with flour mixture.


Carefully spread batter over apple slices.


Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until cake is golden brown and pulls slightly away from sides and toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.

Cool in pan on wire rack 5 minutes. Invert onto wire rack; remove parchment. Serve warm or at room temperature.


*After I made this, I realized I had completely forgotten to use the milk I'd bought! So the photo of the cake batter is really thick and pasty. The recipe later says to carefully spread the batter so at the time, I didn't think anything of it. The cake didn't taste bad because of it, though it was a little crunchy, sort of like cornbread. Rodney liked it enough anyway to eat about half the cake in the first sitting.

Pretty easy -- the hardest part was peeling the apples. That and preventing myself from getting burnt by the caramel. Total time from start to finish was about 1.5 hours.

Taste-wise, it was ok. Nothing to write home about, but maybe that's because I forgot the friggin' milk.

Cost was on the cheap side. The only thing I had to buy specifically to make this was milk, and that usually runs about $2.50 for a half-gallon.

Will I do it again? Yeah, probably. Maybe it'll be the greatest thing if I remember the milk.


Beer-Braised Pork with Bacon


Pork roast and bacon? Um, yeah, didn't have to think twice about making this one.

I was a little leary about the beer. I'm not a fan of beer. At all. A helpful guy down at the local Trader Joe's recommended Black Toad and fortunately for me, it turned out to be a good choice. Did you know you don't have to buy an entire sixer if you don't want to? That was cool. Also, I didn't hunt for applewood smoked bacon. I just bought whatever was behind the butcher's counter at Stater Bros.


8 oz. applewood smoked bacon, chopped
2 1/2 to 3 lb. boneless pork shoulder roast (3 to 3 1/2 inches thick)
3/4 tsp coarse salt, divided
1/2 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp pepper, divided
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
4 large shallots, halved
6 large garlic cloves, halved
3/4 c dark beer or nonalcoholic beer
1/2 c lower-sodium beef broth
6 new red potatoes, unpeeled, quartered
3 carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 parsnips, sliced (1/2 inch)
2 ribs celery, sliced (1 inch)

Heat oven to 325ºF.

Cook bacon in large skillet over medium heat until browned and crisp; drain on paper towels. Reserve drippings in skillet.


Cook pork in drippings over medium-high to medium heat 5 to 6 minutes or until browned on all sides.


Reserve 2 teaspoons of the drippings in skillet; discard remaining drippings.


Place pork in shallow roasting pan large enough to hold pork surrounded by vegetables. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, sage and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper.


Cook onion, shallots and garlic in drippings over medium heat 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Scatter around pork.


Add beer to skillet; boil over high heat 2 minutes or until reduced to 1/2 cup, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from bottom of skillet.


Add broth; bring to a boil. Pour around pork; cover tightly with foil.


Bake 1 hour 20 minutes.


Scatter potatoes, carrots, parsnips and celery around pork; sprinkle vegetables with remaining 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper.


Reserve 1/3 cup bacon for garnish; sprinkle remaining bacon over vegetables. Bake, covered, an additional 1 hour or until pork is fork-tender and pale pink in center. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing.


Spoon pan juices over pork; surround with vegetables. Microwave reserved 1/3 cup bacon 30 seconds or until warm; sprinkle over pork.

Ease: Very easy. The most difficult part was avoiding bacon splatters while cooking the bacon and browning the roast.

Time: about 3 hours total. I saved a little bit of time by only prepping the bacon, onions and shallots at the beginning. After the pork went into the oven for the first baking time, I prepped the rest of the vegetables.

Flavor: fantastic! I'll definitely be repeating this the next time a hunk of pork is on sale. Totally worth the time and cost.

Cost:
  • bacon: $1.64
  • pork butt roast: $4.62
  • onion: $0.99/lb
  • shallots: $2.29/lb
  • beer: $1/12 oz
  • red potatoes: $0.59/lb
  • carrots: $1.39/2 lb
  • parsnips: $1.39/lb
  • celery: $0.79
Total: $14.70 or $2.45 per serving.

No doubt about it, we're having this again!


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Home-made vegetarian pizza





I followed the recipe from the back of a packet of yeast to get this:


After dividing the dough into two balls, I rolled them out into two rounds. Then I realized we didn't have any sauce. So I simply lubed the dough with an oil/garlic mix. Rodney and I put whatever veggies we had on them including tomatoes, olives, mushrooms, basil and green peppers on them with some torn slices of provolone.


Bake each one for about 10 minutes at 450F.

Not very easy considering you have to knead the dough. And not exactly delicious either. Certainly edible, but neither of us moaned our delight with each bite.  The crust though, came out wonderfully crispy yet slightly chewy.

Very time consuming, which is not a shock when you can order a pizza and have it delivered in less time than these took to make (about 2-2.5 hours).

However, the pizza was cheap. We had everything to make this meal anyway. If I had to guess, I'd say $5 for everything.

Maybe I'll make pizza again. If I do, I'll plan on having some sort of sauce. The garlic oil thing didn't cut it.


Outrageous Carrot Cake


We had salad for dinner because I was making this bad-ass carrot cake!

The recipe was in a copy of Cooking Pleasures magazine and I fell in love with this sweet, sumptuous, mouthwatering cake the first time I laid eyes on it.  After I tried scratching and sniffing the photo, I licked it and wasn't satisfied.  So I made it.  And fell in love with the real thing.

If I ever meet anyone that doesn't like this, I'll know he/she is just plain cra-a-zy.

The last time I made it was when we had my brother, sister-in-law and nephew over for dinner (the first time I made pernil). We all had a slice for dessert. Rodney and I ate the remaining 2/3 of the cake in two days! Seriously, we had cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner until it was gone. And craved more.


CAKE
3 c all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp ground cinnamon
6 eggs
2.5 c sugar
1.5 c canola oil
2.5 c finely grated carrots (about 6 carrots)
2 (8-oz.) cans crushed pineapple in juice, well-drained*
1 c shredded sweetened coconut
1 c finely chopped walnuts

FROSTING
12 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 c unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla extract
6 c powdered sugar
1.5 c finely chopped walnuts, if desired

Evenly space 2 racks in oven. Heat oven to 350ºF.

Sift flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into medium bowl.

Spray bottom and sides of 3 (9x2-inch) round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray. Coat pans evenly with flour mixture.

In large bowl, beat eggs and sugar at medium speed 1 to 3 minutes or until thickened and slightly lighter in color.

Beat in oil at low speed.

Stir in flour mixture until blended.

Stir in carrots, pineapple, coconut and 1 cup walnuts until blended.

Divide batter evenly among pans.

Bake 25 minutes; turn and reverse cake pans. Bake an additional 10 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean and cake pulls slightly away from sides of pan. Cool in pans on wire rack 15 minutes.

Invert onto wire rack; remove parchment. Cool completely.

To make frosting, beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl at medium speed 3 minutes or until blended and smooth. Beat in vanilla. Add powdered sugar; beat at low speed 1 minute or until blended and smooth.


Place 1 cake layer on serving platter or cardboard round; spread with 1 cup frosting. Repeat. Top with remaining cake layer; spread top and sides with thin layer of frosting. Coat sides with another smooth layer of frosting; spread remaining frosting on top. Press 11⁄2 cups walnuts onto sides of cake if you want.

(Cake can be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated, or 3 weeks ahead and frozen. To freeze, place cake in freezer until frosting is firm; wrap in plastic wrap, then heavy-duty foil. To defrost, place in refrigerator overnight; remove wrapping. Serve at room temperature.)

Refrigerate leftovers.

Serves 20!

Ease: If you do all the shredding and chopping by hand like I did, it's kind of a pain, but oh, so worth it.

Time: consuming. It takes about 4 hours total to make this from prep to frosting.  Part of that is because I only have 2, count 'em, 2 cake pans.  That means I divide the batter, bake 2, let them cool, pop a cake out of one of the pans, wash it, prep it, fill it and bake it.  Then I let that cool while I'm frosting the first two.  That's time consuming and requires some diligence.

Taste: I'm not playin' when I say it's exceptional.  Rodney says it's "dangerous".

Cost:
  • flour: $3.49/5 lb.
  • baking soda: $1/lb
  • salt $0.50/lb
  • ground cinnamon $3
  • eggs $1.79/dozen
  • sugar: $1.99/4 lb.
  • oil: $2/quart
  • carrots: $1/lb
  • crushed pineapple in juice: $1/15 oz.
  • shredded sweetened coconut: $2/lb.
  • walnuts: $4
  • cream cheese: $2/8oz.
  • butter: $1
  • vanilla extract: $1
  • powdered sugar: $1.99/2 lb.
Total: about $30 -- with enough stuff left to make another cake!

I think it's perfectly clear that I'll be doing this again. And again. When I do, I'll remember to cut the frosting quantity by 1/3. There is always at least one cup left. How can you possibly pile that much frosting on without it just oozing everywhere?