Delicious Distractions to get us through the days.

Simple recipes for those with simple chef skills.

Fruit Tray Skewers Cut with Cookie Cutters March 1, 2011

This was one of the simplest dishes, but most importantly the cutest, I have ever made for a potluck. I am sure it would have only taken less than 30 minutes if my 2-year-old didn’t want to cut every piece or steal all of my grapes. I accented this dish with a chocolate ganache fondue. This combination was giving many raves!

Ingredients:

  • 1 vine of circular shaped grapes
  • 1 thick in diameter and long cucumber
  • 2 large red apples
  • 4 large kiwis
  • 16 skewers

Directions:

Rinse and wash your fruit as you normally would. Start by threading one grape almost half way down the skewer. The final distance will truly depend on the size of each item.

Due to the soft nature of the centers of the kiwi, using a cookie cutter shape did not work well. Therefore, I cut the skins off and shaping them in to hexagons or heptagons for a geometric shape. Slice  the kiwis about  ¼- ½ inch thick.  Thread the kiwis just off center, this will help them to not split or become damaged (see 2nd kiwi from the right above).

Using the red skins of the apples for accent colored flowers, cut 4 to 5 slices ½ inch in diameter at the thickest part in each apple.  Using a small flower cutter (or the small gum paste blossom cutter as I used) cut as many flowers per piece as possible.

Slicing the cucumber ½ inch in diameter. Use a small star cookie cutter to shape the cucumber slices. Be careful to not cut through the cucumber skins, this will allow you to reuse the leftovers later with a small apple flower threaded inside (see picture below).

Now your fruits are ready for threading. The grapes will be placed as spacers in between each fruit piece and make for a nice jewel like feature.

Enjoy!

 

Cherry Blossom Cupcakes and cake January 28, 2011

Here in Okinawa, we have the distinct pleasure of being the first place in Japan where cherry blossom trees blossom. Thousands and thousands of delicate pink flowers are everywhere. One castle ruin has 70,000 trees to feast your eyes upon. The freeway toll booths are decorated and lined with flowered branches. Even the used car lots put huge fake cherry blossom trees out front to celebrate this time of year. It is some serious business in these parts.

So in the honor of my friend’s baby girl to-be, a coworkers birthday, and this season I made some cherry blossom cupcakes and a cake.

What you need:

  • Bake your cupcakes as you normally would do, I made 73 cupcakes and had plenty of the supplies remaining
  • I cheated this time and bought about 2 pounds of bakery butter cream frosting
  • Pink, maroon, teal, royal blue, and black coloring
  • Gum paste, mix and prep about half a tub * Mini blossom cutter for gum paste
  • Gum paste small ball tool
  • 1 small tipped paint brush
  • A small dish with about a tablespoon of water
  • Yellow pearls for the center of the flowers
  • An airtight container
  • 2 hours of uninterrupted time or about 4 hours of normal life

Directions:

You can make these blossoms several days in advance. I would recommend this because they take a few hours to make and they need time to dry completely.

Place a small amount of pink coloring in the small dish with water. I did not bother dissolving the coloring completely because I found the right shade of pink I wanted. Follow the instructions for the gum paste. Once the gum paste has set add a little pink coloring and kneed the color in. Add a small amount of color at a time because these flowers are a very faint and are a delicate pink. Working with part of the gum paste at a time, roll a very thin layer out. Use the small blossom cutter and cut out about 60 per group. The left over cut outs can be balled up and placed back in the sealed container with the rest of the gum paste until needed later. Using the small ball tool, lightly press the center of each blossom making a small indentation in the center for the pearl. Dip the paint brush in the pink water, starting at the center of the blossom brush outwards. Do not go all the way to the end of the petals but rather about 60% of the way. Do 5 to 7 brushes per blossom. At about 20 painted blossoms, add the pearls and gently press them into the flower. Be careful not to press through the gum paste. After you have finished the set of 60ish, scoop them up with a tiny spatula or frosting scissors, and place them face down in an airtight container. To help give them a more uniform 3D look, I gently pressed the blossom cutter over them again. This helped to center the pearl and slightly wrap the blossom petals around the pearl. Let a little air circulate in the container until the blossoms dry completely.

Upside down and drying.

Get the cupcakes baking and prepped for frosting. Once your cupcakes are cooled they are ready for frosting. I wanted a smooth finish for my background. Separate into two bowls, 1 cup of frosting and another ¼ cup of frosting and set aside. Tint the remaining frosting pink with the pink coloring. To start, I placed about 2 cups of pink frosting in a bowl and heated in the microwave for about 10 seconds. Stir and heat it up again for another 10 seconds. Keep stirring and heating until heated through. This should only be 2 to 4 times. Once heated through, spoon the frosting on to the cupcake and gently spread to the edges. Each cupcake should take about two spoonfuls. Do this quickly because the frosting will start to set again. Reheat as necessary.

Now to create the branches with the 1 cup of frosting. Well, you would think that brown branches would be nice, right? But brown coloring and the amount of white frosting I combined made for a color that is just not pleasant looking. I’ll just leave it at that. So I opted for black branches. Apparently, I forgot my kindergarten color wheel because I combined black coloring with white frosting thinking that would do the trick. But black coloring and white frosting makes a very dull gray. Oh ya, duh, so please don’t make this same mistake as I did (but that is why I am telling you this side of the story). Now that I had run out of all my white frosting, I needed a miracle and I needed it NOW! I did what any little sister would do, I panicked, looked at the clock, did the time change subtraction thing, thought “Ya, it’s not really that late in California for me to call with this oh-so important emergency” and so I called my big brother (aka my color expert). Who says a college Art degree doesn’t have it’s advantages? Please!

And out of some left field I had no idea existed he told me to mix red, some unknown shade of green, brown, and something else and not in equal ratio amounts either. I told him “What?!?! I don’t have have those colors! And I need specific quantities mister.” So he settled for the colors I had on hand- maroon, teal, royal blue, and black. And viola, I had a very dark midnight blue which once dried looks very black. Now I was back on track.

Pipe the branches on the set pink frosting. Add white dots (from the ¼ cup) to the branches where you are going to place the cherry blossoms. This will help anchor the blossoms and help separate the flower from the branch.

Do the exact same for the cake.

 

Bunch Worthy Lasagna December 18, 2010

Filed under: Dinner,Holiday,Pork,Summer,Themed Post — christinedel @ 7:20 pm
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As much as I like to experiment with cooking and learn new dishes, I am not a fan of watching cooking shows. So for me to actually watch a cooking show there must be something to the dish that completely intrigues me.  Normally, when I think of lasagna I picture a lump of food sitting my my belly. But this version of lasagna is light enough to serve at a brunch or luncheon with your friends. I figure, if my Japanese hosts liked this version of lasagna, then there must be something to it. I made a few changes because, well, I live in Japan and I don’t like their tomatoes (sorry Japanese tomatoes, I’m from California).  And the salsa is good enough to stand on its own and eat with chips.


Here it is Sunny’s Latin Lasagna from Food Network:

Ingredients

  • 1 (16-ounce) container ricotta cheese
  • 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed to remove excess moisture 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin (I used less because I think it smells and tastes horrible)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 3 tablespoons oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 pound white button mushrooms, sliced
  • 3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Tomato Salsa, recipe follows
  • 18 “oven ready” lasagna noodles, about 1 (16-ounce) package (I used only 12)
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl stir together ricotta, spinach, egg, cumin, salt and set aside. In a large saute pan over medium-high heat add 3 tablespoons of oil and 3 tablespoons of butter and saute ground pork and cayenne pepper until meat is brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove meat from the pan to a bowl and add mushrooms to the pan. Cook until tender, another 5 minutes. Add meat back to the pan, stir in 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, season with salt and pepper, to taste, then transfer mixture to a bowl and set aside.

To assemble, layer bottom of 12 by 9-inch casserole dish with 1/3 of the salsa, then 6 noodles, overlapping to cover the entire bottom surface of the dish. Next add and evenly spread half the ricotta spinach mixture, half the pork mushroom mixture, and a layer of mozzarella. Layer another 1/3 of the salsa, 6 noodles, the remaining ricotta spinach mixture, and the remaining pork mushroom mixture. To finish add the last 6 noodles, top with the remaining salsa. Place the remaining mozzarella slices on top along with the remaining Parmesan. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and pepper, to taste. Bake covered for 45 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees F, uncover, and bake for 15 more minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.

Tomato Salsa:

  • 1 poblano pepper, stem removed, seeded and roughly chopped (didn’t use because the store didn’t have any)
  • 1/2 small red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, stem removed, seeded and roughly chopped (didn’t use because the store didn’t have any)and ta
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 pounds plum tomatoes, cored, seeded and roughly chopped (I used the large can of pureed tomatoes with basil)
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, leaves only
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and puree until almost smooth. Adjust seasoning, to taste.

 

Stuffed Pork Chops in a Wine Sauce November 19, 2010

Filed under: 5 Ingredient/30 Minute Meals,Holiday,Pork,Themed Post — christinedel @ 5:22 pm

This is one of the best recipes I have for pork chops. Almost every pork chop recipe I come across calls for some sort of pan fry then 30 minute bake to pork chops. This cooking method seems to always make my chops over cooked, dry, and horrible tasting. So playing around with the cooking times and methods I came up with some so simple. So simple in fact, I can’t understand why so many other recipes call for so much cooking.  Hey, I figure I must be doing something right if I haven’t made us sick or killed us yet. So here is a pork chop recipe good enough to serve to company.

This recipe can stuff 4 medium sized chops decently. But since I can always only seem to find a pack of 3 chops to feed two of us, I over stuff those chops!

 


 

Ingredients:

  • 4 pork chops
  • 1 cup of your favorite herb seasoning bread crumbs (for variety mix in some Panko crumbs and stuffing mix)
  • ½ cup of finely chopped onion
  • 3 packets of sugar or about a teaspoon
  • ½ teaspoon of pepper
  • ½teaspoon  of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of parsley
  • 3 tablespoons of butter, melted
  • 1 can beef broth
  • 1/3 cup red cooking wine

Directions:

In a large sauce pan, heat on medium the beef broth and wine.

To cut a pocket in the pork chop, lay it flat on a cutting board.  With one hand, evenly press down on the chop with your whole hand to keep it secure to the cutting board.  Start by inserting the knife in the center of the chop and making a one inch opening. Make sure you do not cut through to the other side of the chop. This can be done by feeling the pressure of the knife as you cut. Continue cutting the pocket throughout the chop.

Mix the remaining ingredients thoroughly. Now stuff those pork chops full. If you have any remaining bread crumb mixture, shape them into balls.

By now the beef broth and wine should be simmering. Add the chops and the bread crumb balls and cover. Depending on the size of the chops, the cook time should be around 7 to 10 minutes per side.

Serve and spoon the remaining sauce over the chop. Our normal side is couscous.

Rating:

Husband- 3.75 stars

Me- 4 Stars

 

 

 

Crazy Loaded Pizza September 2, 2010

Filed under: Chicken,Dinner,Kids,Pizza,Themed Post — christinedel @ 4:31 am

I was flipping though some recipes when I came across a bare bones Chicken Ranch Pizza recipe and I thought it was just boring. So boring actually, I didn’t even consider making it. But after no luck on deciding what to make for dinner, I realized I had all the ingredients for it and so much more waiting in the fridge…

And this is what I came up with.

Crazy Loaded Pizza

Ingredients:

  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1 package of ready-mix pizza dough*
  • 2-3 tablespoons of garlic
  • 1 Ranch salad dressing bottle (amount to be determined)
  • 1-2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 7 small mushrooms
  • ½ white onion sliced thinly and cut in half and separated
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes (I used the flavored canned tomatoes)
  • 4 strips of bacon, crumbled
  • ¼ cup chopped green onions
  • ¼ cup of cilantro

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to temperature indicated for pizza dough.
  2. Place chicken in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until no longer pink and juices run clear. Cool, then cut into thin strips.
  3. If using the ready-mix dough, add the minced garlic now. Bake crust for 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until it begins to turn golden brown. Remove from oven.
  4. Spread a layer of ranch dressing over the partially baked crust.  Layer on the remaining ingredients starting with the chicken.

Hint: Sprinkle mozzarella cheese in between every few layers to help bind the ingredients together. Add extra layers of ranch to taste. We like our pizza with lots of sauce. Don’t forget some for dipping!

*Any type of pizza dough will suffice, we choose to use this type so we can infuse our pizza dough with minced garlic.

Crazy Loaded Pizza

Enjoy!

 

5 Ingredient/30 Minute Meals: Easy Pizza Braid July 28, 2010

Filed under: 5 Ingredient/30 Minute Meals,Dinner,Holiday,Kids,Themed Post — christinedel @ 4:06 am

This pizza braid is not only great for a quick and easy dinner but is the hit of poker night every time.

Ingredients:

  • 1 refrigerated no-seam dough
  • 1 jar of meat flavored pasta sauce
  • 1 container of pepperoni slices
  • 2 cups of mozzarella shredded cheese

Directions:

Pre heat oven to recommended temperature on dough container.  Unroll dough, using kitchen scissors cut 2 inches deep and 1 each across strips down the length of each side.

Along the center of the dough, layer meat sauce, pepperoni, and mozzarella. Repeat these layers one more time.

Starting at one end, take the outer most  strip of the dough and pull it across to the other side. Take the opposite side outer strip pull it across to the other side overlapping the first stripe. Repeat this with the remaining strips. Tuck the center dough edges up and under the braided dough.

Cook to the directions of the dough. Let cool for 5 minutes. Using a pizza cutter, cut into 1 ½ inch strips and serve.

Enjoy.

 

Ribs in a Savory Homemade Sauce June 20, 2010

Filed under: Dinner,Steak,Themed Post — christinedel @ 11:37 pm

This is one of the simplest ways to make ribs with a homemade sauce.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground red chile pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • *1 tablespoon dark molasses
  • *1 teaspoon liquid smoke flavoring
  • *2 teaspoons whiskey

*I have made this recipe without these three items and the sauce tasted perfect. Perfect enough, that my guests never knew.

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook onions in oil until tender, about 5 minutes. Combine the remaining ingredients. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer uncovered until sauce thickens, about 30 minutes.

Hint: Left over sauce can be frozen.

Ribs done simple:

  1. Cut full rib rack in half and wrap in foil. Bake for 2 hours at 300 degrees.
 

Colorful Kabobs May 27, 2010

Filed under: Dinner,Holiday,Steak,Summer,Themed Post,Uncategorized — christinedel @ 12:29 am

This dish is as colorful as it is tasty and tender. And a great color addition to the table.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Rib Eye Steaks, cubed
  • 1 White Onion
  • 1 Red bell pepper
  • 1 Green bell pepper
  • 1 Yellow bell pepper
  • 1 Cherry tomato container
  • 1 zucchini, sliced

Alternative choices:

  • Shrimp
  • Limes, quartered

Directions:

Soak the skews while you are prepping the food.

For larger slices of onions, slice the onion in half then peel off the outer layers.  Slice the outer ring to desired size, about one inch wide.

For the red, green, yellow bell peppers quarter then gut the insides. Cut about one inch wide pieces.

Once all items are cut, start screwing them in desired order making a colorful rainbow across the skewer.

Cook on the BBQ until meat is tender and desired wellness is achieved.


 

Prime Rib: Don’t be scared! August 31, 2009

Filed under: Dinner,Holiday,Themed Post — christinedel @ 11:45 pm
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Prime rib is one my husband’s favorite dishes.  For a while now, I have been wanting to try to make it. But I was scared. I didn’t want spend that much money on a dish only to mess it up. I decided to give it a try and hope for the best.

And am I ever so ecstatic I got over my fear and ended up making one of the best meals ever!  Sadly, restaurant prime rib will no longer be so glamorous.  And to top it off, I roasted it in the toaster oven! Oh yes, the mighty toaster oven wins a point against the oven once again.

When purchasing this meat from the butcher, you will not be able to buy a “prime rib” cut. You will need to ask for either eye of rib, rib roast, or standing rib roast. These cuts may be both bone in or boneless. The “prime” in prime rib described the grade of meat as in Prime, Choice, or Select.  Very confusing, I know, but once you roast it, cut it, and serve it, only then does it becomes a prime rib cut.

Roasting and baking are considered the same method of cooking. The only difference is the item you are cooking. Think baked ham, roasted turkey, baked cake, roasted almonds.  It’s just the nuances of the English language.

prime rib 1

Serves about 5

Ingredients:

  • 1 (4 1/2 pound) prime rib roast
  • 4 tablespoons of minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of oil
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon thyme

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
  • Preheat your toaster oven to 350 degrees. (I live where it’s HOT, so running an oven for 2 hours is not something I want to do.)
  • Place the fat side of the roast up in the pan.
  • Mix the remaining ingredients together and spread over the roast.
  • Cook the roast in the oven for 20 minutes.
  • Remove roast and place a meat thermometer in the center of the roast.
  • Now place the roast in the toaster oven and bake until the thermometer reaches 145 degrees for medium rare, about a hour and 45 minutes.  Remove roast and let it rest for 10 minutes.
  • Or if you are slightly more daring and want a better medium rare, remove the roast once the temperature reads 135 degrees, about 95 minutes.  Let the roast rest for about 15 minutes until the meat reaches 145 degrees.

Hint: Once the meat is removed from the oven and you let it rest, the meat will continue to cook. So taking the roast out early will allow the meat to rest and come up to optimum temperature

Due to the garlic being so close to the heating elements in the toaster oven, it did burn a bit. But this made no ill affect on the out come of the over all taste of the prime rib. The garlic was actually quite enjoyable toasted like that.

prime rib 2

Rating:

Hubby- 4 stars all the way!

Me- 4 stars absolutely. Way more easy than I ever thought it would be.

 

Extending Your Fruits and Veggies Shelf Life July 9, 2009

Filed under: Themed Post — christinedel @ 4:21 am
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In these times, when we are all looking to cut costs and save a little extra money it becomes harder to spend your extra money on something, well, extra.  Sometimes you have to spend money to save money.

There is no need to tell you that fresh fruits and veggies are some of the fastest items in our refrigerators to spoil.  Well, in my kitchen, they now have a longer shelf life.  I am a skeptic about most everything.  But, I trusted my friend and took a leap of faith on Tupperware’s Fridge Smart collection.  And now I loved them!  Yes, they are on the pricey side for my tastes but they do more than make up for it.  I only buy Tupperware when it is on sale. These items are currently on sale until Friday.  These containers typically (I believe so) go on sale each year during the months of April or May. So I am surprised to see them on sale right now.

How they work, I don’t know.  But they truly do. Maybe it’s a little magic.  I have had spinach in the large container for over four weeks.  Strawberries in the medium one for two weeks.  I put anything and everything in them.  They even come with a handy guide on the side of each container stating how many vents to open or to close.

I would highly recommend you take the leap of faith like I did and try these containers out.

Fridge Smart 1