Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Corn Casserole

I've decided to try at least one new recipe each week. It doesn't have to be anything fancy or avante garde. Just something that catches my eye and that both Ryan and I will like. I'm also aiming for recipes that don't break the bank!

I was looking through Paula Deen's cookbook and found a recipe for Corn Casserole. I've had this many a time at church potlucks and always enjoy it. It seemed simple and affordable so I gave it a go. Note: This recipe isn't the exact one from the book. I also found similar recipes online and decided to do some tweaking.

1 box Jiffy Corn Bread Mix
1 Can Corn - Drained
1 Can Creamed Corn
1 8 oz Container of Sour Cream
1 Stick of Butter - Melted
1 Egg
1 Tablespoon Sugar

That's it! The instructions on this are really easy. Just add all of the ingredients to a bowl and mix until they are all combined. It doesn't take a lot of mixing. Then add the batter to a greased glass baking dish. You can use a 9 x 13 dish, but I opted for a 9 inch deep pie dish because I wanted my casserole to be deeper. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour. Make sure the top is golden brown and that the middle of the casserole is not jiggly. This can sit out on the counter for a while before serving. It's great hot or at room temperature. It tastes like a salty, sweet, buttery, bread/pudding/souffle, with corn. YUM!

Price breakdown
Corn = $1.00 I got buy one get one, so the two cans only cost me a dollar
Jiffy Mix = $0.47
Sour Cream = $1.06
Butter = $0.75
Egg = $0.13
Sugar = $0.01
Total = $3.42

You'll get at least six servings out of this, which puts the price at $0.57 per serving. I served this with a roasted chicken and carrots. The whole meal was $10 and could serve at least four people. Pretty good if you ask me!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

You say tomato...I say YUM!

They always say (whoever "they" are) that you are either one or the other...

An Elvis person or a Beatles person
A Target person or a Walmart person
A Pepsi person or a Coke person
A tomato person or not a tomato person?

So that last one is a stretch, but if I definitely have had a few tomato debates in my day. You either love em' or hate em'. I, myself, am a tomato lover. You can give them to me raw, as a sauce, fried, or sauteed and I'll devour them. A few years ago I learned how to oven roast tomatoes and it made me look at them in a whole new way. Roasting a tomato brings out a rich, sweet flavor that is almost candy-like. This is evidenced by the fact that once they come out of the oven I eat half of them straight off the pan. Last weekend I had a hankering for some roasted tomatoes, so I took a trip to the farmer's market and picked up three pounds of em' - 1 pound of beefsteaks, 1 pound of romas, and 1 of grape. Here is a little picture tutorial on how I do it...

1. Cut your tomatoes. Romas can be cut in half, bigger rounder tomatoes cut into quarters, and grape/cherry tomatoes can be left whole. Take a paring knife and cut out the part where the stem attaches. Finally, over the sink or a large bowl, get your fingers into the tomato and scoop out the seeds.

2. Chop some garlic - I used 6 cloves. Like my action shot?

3. Throw the tomatoes on a baking sheet lined with foil. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with the minced garlic and some salt & pepper. Get your hands in there and toss them all around to coat.

4. Bake at 300 degrees for at least 1 1/2 hours. You can go up to 2 1/2 hours, but make sure to monitor so they don't burn. You may want to turn the temp down to 275 for this as well.
Less cooking time = a more moist and mild tomato
More cooking time = a more dehydrated tomato, but the flavor is much more concentrated and "tomatoey". This is my favorite way to go.

Here they are all finished. Nice and wrinkly.

There are countless ways that you can use these little guys. Here are a three that I like:

1. After roasting, place the tomatoes in a bowl and drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar. If you're using grape tomatoes, leave them whole. Any others you'll need to chop up a little. Toss in some salt & pepper, and some fresh chopped basil. If you want to get really crazy (and have some crazy breath), add some more chopped garlic. Take a crusty loaf of bread, slice at least an inch thick, toast, and smear some goat cheese on each slice. Top with the tomato mixture.

2. Instead of roasting on a sheet pan, try roasting some grape tomatoes in a large, oven-safe frying pan minus the foil. (My Calphalon pans are oven safe up to 450 degrees. Check on your pans first before trying this!) Once they are done, remove the tomatoes from the pan, leaving the juices. On top of the stove on medium heat, add about 1/4 cup of chicken stock to the pan, scraping the tomato juices and bits off the bottom of the pan as you stir. (Make sure to use an oven mit on the hot handle!) Take a whole bag of fresh spinach, remove the stems, and throw the spinach in the same pan. Cook the spinach on medium-high heat with some minced garlic and olive oil until it is totally wilted down and all of the liquid has cooked off. At the end, add the tomatoes back in. Serve as a side dish with beef, poultry, or fish. You could also add this mixture to any basic quiche recipe.

3. Throw all of your roasted tomatoes into your food processor. Add some chopped garlic, salt/pepper, any fresh herbs that you like - rosemary, thyme, and basil are good. Blend until the tomatoes are smooth and look like tomato sauce. And that's exactly what it is - tomato sauce! Serve over pasta, OR put some of the tomato sauce in a pan, add some chicken stock and heavy cream to make a creamy tomato soup. YUM!

By the way...Beatles, Target, and Coke!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

DIY Wedding

Our wedding is finally over and all of that work is a thing of the past - WOOHOO! I totally enjoyed being creative and crafty for the wedding, but there were times where I almost gave up because my ideas and ambitions exceeded my level of motivation and the time available to complete them. Case in point, it took me a good 12-15 hours to make the ceremony programs alone. I'm a lunatic, I know. I also found it funny to see people's faces when I told them I was doing my own flowers. Haha, good stuff! At any rate, here is a little gallery of items that I made for the wedding on my own and with help from some great friends.

The programs. Lots of work, but worth it!

Church aisle flower pots. I bought these clear glass hanging candle holders, covered the inside with silver leaf and attached the purple velvet ribbon as a handle. The pots were filled with white hydrangea and purple wax flower. These were then transferred to the reception and hung on shepherds hooks outside the venue.

My bouquet - white hydrangea, white roses, and green hypericum berries. The handle is wrapped with silk ribbon and embellished with pearls

The bridesmaid bouquets - white hydrangea and purple wax flower with a purple velvet ribbon wrapped handle. I attached an initial pin for each of the bridesmaids to finish it off.

Crystal beaded sash for my wedding dress. The white ribbon came with the dress. I bought a beaded applique and sewed it on. It is finished with my grandmother's brooch. :)

Chocolate covered oreos were our favors. They had purple and blue designs on them thanks to some chocolate transfer sheets

The table cards. We used significant dates and places as our table names.

Orchid centerpieces - white dendrobium orchid stems and willow branches with crystal prisms dangling from them

Photographs courtesy of
Megan Carrie
and Bess Marine

A tale of two taste buds

My husband was raised in Wisconsin where macaroni and cheese, pizza, and casseroles are the favorite local fare. He likes simple, down home food. Nothing wrong with that...except when you combine that with a wife who is quite the opposite. I, on the other hand, love all kinds of food especially fresh veggies and gourmet "froo froo" stuff. I have an obsession with the Food Network and cooking. I'll spend hours in the kitchen making roasted tomato soup from scratch. Why not just buy roasted tomato soup in a can? Because it's rubbish, I say! When I eat out at a restaurant I'm secretly analyzing the food in my head like some snobby judge on Iron Chef. You get the picture...

This giant culinary chasm was originally a huge frustration for me, but I've decided to turn it into a quest! Whenever I notice the hubs liking a new food, I write it down in the little imaginary notepad in my head. If you could see that notepad, you'd find Gnocchi written right at the top of page 1. If you're not familiar with Gnocchi, they are little pillows of silky potato dumpling that you can throw any sauce on. The first time Ryan had Gnocchi was at that culinary mecca (*insert sarcasm here*), Olive Garden. They have this creamy soup with chicken, spinach, and Gnocchi and he ate it up - even got refills! On our honeymoon in NYC we ventured into Little Italy where we found a fabulous little restaurant on Mullbery Street called Pellegrino's. In it he ordered some Gnocchi with a tomato sauce - it was YUMTASTIC! I know this because I encroached into his territory a few times to sneak a few bites! This is when it all clicked and I wrote Gnocchi down on the first page of my mental note pad.

We returned home from the honeymoon and I decided to try making some homemade gnocchi one night. Found a well-reviewed recipe from the Food Network courtesy of hunky chef Tyler Florence. Out of laziness and concern that this blog is going to be two pages long, I'm just gonna throw the link at you.

The end result was a fabulously soft and pillowy plate of potato dumpling goodness! I simply topped the gnocchi with warmed tomato sauce and grated parmesan. Here are some pics of the whole process and the final product. It's quite a simple dish, but will elicit "You made homemade gnocchi?!?!" responses from anyone you serve it to. Behold...

The baked potatoes, ready to be skinned and mashed

After the mashing. Had to use a fork because I don't yet own a potato ricer...YET. Muh ha ha ha!

Here's the finished dough, all ready to be Gnocchified

Rollin, rollin, rollin...

You know when they're done when they float to the top. It's quite entertaining, actually.

Voila! The finished product. You know you want some.