Monday, August 29, 2011

Pardon the Interruption...

Normal, REGULAR posting will resume very soon, everyone! I've been sidelined by an especially nasty bout of walking pneumonia combined with the flu for over a week now, and FINALLY am feeling human again. Seriously, though, 103-degree fevers are OVERRATED.

Also, now that Fall is almost here (it's actually below 90 degrees outside), I can start cooking the hearty, comfort fall meals I love so much. 

So, soon, expect to see recipes for chili (one of my dad's specialties that he's allowing me to share), hearty casseroles & Japanese one-pots, some gooey baked pasta recipes, and crusty no-knead bread cooked in a cast iron pot (of course) and MUCH more!

- Julia <3

Sunday, August 21, 2011

2-Layer Cheesecake

As I've gotten older, I find myself shying away from the rich chocolaty desserts that I used to love, and more towards desserts like cheesecake and custard-based pies. When it comes to cheesecake, I prefer my cheesecake plain and without flair; give me a plain New York style cheesecake ANY day over something like a white chocolate mocha raspberry truffle caramel cheesecake. 

Usually, when the cheesecake craving hits, I head over to Max's Deli, where they do cheesecake just the way I prefer. However, after a meal there, I almost ALWAYS have to get my dessert to go! 

I have a great cheesecake recipe; handed down to me from my Mom, it's a bit time-consuming but definitely worth the trouble. However, I stumbled across this recipe recently and decided to give it a try - it's easy, quick, and doesn't require any fussy water baths. I still love my old traditional recipe, but this is one I will definitely make again when short on time or feeling a bit lazy. 

If water baths, cheesecake cracks or baking scare you, try this no-fail recipe. And please, PLEASE step AWAY from the No-Bake Box Mix :)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Espinaca Sandwiches

Ever since I was a little girl, my mom would make these amazing little sandwiches every so often. I don't know if I really liked them because she trimmed the crust and cut them into cute triangles, but it was a way for her to get me to eat spinach. Plus they were crammed with bacon. BACON! And this was YEARS before bacon became the hot new food trend. Cream cheese? Mayonnaise? What more could I possibly want in a sandwich?

I was thinking about these sandwiches a few months ago and started an intense online search. I found NOTHING. Nada. Zilch. Zero. I asked my mom about the sandwiches, and she promptly sent me the recipe, a scanned copy of an old recipe card. I have NO idea where Mom got the recipe, but as usual, she knocked it out of the park. 

I can't stop eating these things now; it's as if I'm making up for all of the years away from home (I moved to Birmingham at 13 for high school and then stayed for college, work, etc). Luckily, these are easy and super cheap to make - in fact, I got every single ingredient for these at ALDI

Friday, August 5, 2011

Orange Dreamsicle Ice Cream

I love my ice cream maker. I really do. For some reason, though, lately I keep forgetting that I own one and going through phases of craving ice cream (specifically mint chocolate chip) and frozen yogurt (specifically TBCY's white chocolate mousse). No, I'm not pregnant (trust me!); I think it's just this ridiculous heat wave that makes me want frozen desserts. 

Since I'm out of lemon sorbet, I thought about buying some Creamsicles, but I only like the orange ones, and they are only sold in a mixed box along with other flavors. Plus, I've still got some Bomb Pops leftover from July 4th. 

Luckily, laziness and air conditioning prevailed, and, after a quick internet search and a fridge/pantry inventory, I realized that I could make my own orange dreamsicle ice cream right here at home. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Slow-Cooker Beef Stroganoff (Бефстроганов Befstróganov)

Beef Stroganoff is one of my all-time favorite dishes. It's a Russian dish of sauteed beef in a sauce with prepared bouillon and finished with smetna or sour cream, thought to have been named for the Stroganov family. The first known recipe for this dish dates back to 1861, and numerous variations have been made ever since.

I've tried countless recipes for this dish, and yet I always return to this one; it's the easiest recipe, as well as the least expensive, using tougher cuts of stew meat that become pull-apart tender through hours of slow cooking (basically it's ghetto fabulous) This recipe makes plenty for 2-3 people, but can easily be doubled to serve more. Simply throw everything in the slow-cooker before work, and come home to a fully cooked meal. 

Hiyayakko (Japanese Chilled Tofu) - (Vegetarian/Vegan)

In case you've been living under a rock (Hey, Rick - check this out!), it's HOT out there. It's August here in Alabama, and I *SHOULD* be used to these summers after 30 years, but I SWEAR this summer is hotter than I ever recall.

If you're in one of the 350984092527547 states under a heat advisory, you probably don't feel like cooking. Or moving. Or doing much of anything. This oppressive heat (110 degree heat index, anyone?) reminds me of spending summers in Japan with family and makes me nostalgic for the small no-cook meals that help one cool down.

Hiyayakko is simply chilled tofu, topped with any of a myriad of toppings, and dressed simply with soy sauce and sesame oil. For vegetarian, leave off the katsuobushi, and for vegan, simply use tamari in place of soy sauce. Rather than an actual recipe, this is simply a guideline of what *I* like on my hiyayakko. 

Mom's Hawaiian Chicken Salad

For as long as I can remember, my mom has been making AWESOME chicken salad. Chicken salad is pretty big here in Birmingham, with 2 local restaurants constantly battling for the crown of best chicken salad. That being said, I believe chicken salad is best made at home, and NOT purchased in a restaurant for $9 for a tiny container. 

Mom usually poaches chicken for her chicken salad, but I prefer to take a little shortcut and use a store-bought rotisserie chicken instead (save the carcass for chicken stock!). This recipe is very simple; there are no grapes nor apple pieces, though you could add them if you wish. If you don't like almonds, leave them out or substitute walnuts instead. And even devout pineapple haters will enjoy this salad, since you don't really taste the pineapple! 

You can do the fancy thing and serve a scoop of this salad on a romaine leaf with fresh fruit and crackers, or do as I do and simply slap it on some plain white bread and enjoy a good sandwich!