Jalapeño Popper Dip

I made this for New Year’s Eve – going to be on regular rotation now. SO good!

Jalapeño Popper Dip

Jalapeño Popper Dip

Ingredients

16 oz. cream cheese
1 cup mayonnaise
6 jalapeños, chopped and deseeded
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup bread crumbs (or crushed Ritz)

Directions

Let cream cheese soften at room temp. for about 10 minutes. Combine cream cheese, mayo, and jalapeños in a bowl and stir (or beat) until smooth. Add the grated cheeses, reserving 1/4 c. of the cheddar; mix well. Sprinkle bread crumbs over, then sprinkle on the remainder of the cheddar cheese. Put in an oven-safe dish and bake at 350 degrees until golden and bubbly.

Jalapeño Popper Dip

(Mock) White Castle-Like Sliders

In collecting recipes to add to my ever-growing binders of cards, clippings, scraps, and scribbled recipes, I found another new one to try: White Castle-Like Sliders

We don’t have a White Castle anywhere in Madison, much to my dismay. However, it makes it even more of  a treat when we are visiting the Twin Cities and indulge in some of their steamy, oniony burgers. We don’t do this every time we go there because there are so many other places to sample deliciousness from. But when the craving drives us – we’ve indulged (and sometimes felt less than healthy following the indulgence). I have seen frozen White Castle burgers for sale at the grocery store, but I’m not big on frozen fast foods and have not tried them.

The recipe looked interesting, and regardless of the authenticity of the flavor, I figured it the family would be down with eating them.

I purchased my beef at Walmart, and went for the fattier 80/20 that the recipe calls for. I actually followed a recipe. Fancy that! The buns, however, were a little more tricky. I found some mini buns that were called “dollar rolls” – but they cost $3 per bag of 8. No thanks. I found some ciabatta buns for about the same price and there were 12 in there. Because I was doubling the recipe (which makes 24), I figured I’d need 2 packs and could quarter the rolls. It was a decent bet, but then I noticed some mini sub-like rolls, a 24-pack, for the same price. The decision was easy. Actually, I probably put too much thinking into it, as I do EVERYTHING, but when I shop it isn’t always about the product or finding the right one, it’s also about the money. The sub rolls were the most cost-effective.

Armed with all the ingredients, I headed home to take on the recipe.

It is a very. Easy. Recipe. Really, it is. The original site has lots of pictures and step-by-step instructions, so I won’t go into that. I’ll just share how my experience went.

I used a baking sheets rather than a baking dish. In fact, I used two. One large one and one half sheet. They worked fine, fitting side-by-side in my oven. I sprinkled the cup of flakes down on the sheets, then patted the beef on top. I had 5lbs. of beef (a little more than the recipe called for, but I’m SO glad I went ahead with that extra pound – more on that in a bit). Because the onions spread around when you pat the beef on top, I tried to “sprinkle” the beef around the sheet, then pat it all in like play dough. It was the worst part. Ground beef doesn’t exactly sprinkle. I made do, and patted, patched and coerced the beef until it covered the entire bottom of both pans. After that, they went in the oven.

Shock and horror when I pulled them out and notice the teensy, tiny rectangle of beef floating around in the pool of fat (removed in picture below). Besides gently patting the beef with a paper towel like the recipe said, I had to first drain off the over 2 cups of liquified fat, then soak up the rest with towel. It was truly disgusting. A little tricky, too, because I didn’t want to lose my precious rectangle of beef. I started to have serious doubts that I would pull out 48 burgers from the little beef sheet.

Patience.

Cheese time. I had white cheddar. In my head I could hear the kids groaning about my substitution. They prefer yellow (even though it is just dyed cheddar). I topped the meat with the cheese, popped them back in (it takes very little time to melt, FYI) and then stared at the huge bag of rolls that I had not begun to cut. Following the cheese-topping was a crazed kitchen dance of me slicing pickle spears (I skipped out on buying sliced pickles – spears sliced in mini triangles are fine) and quartering the sub rolls that were not cut to being with — all with hope of serving White Castle(ish) burgers that were still warm.

It was exciting and nerve wracking at the same time. I did not get many pictures, due to the frantic pace at which I worked.

I wouldn’t say they were a “hit” – or maybe they were a hit, just not out-of-the-park hit. They were definitely interesting and something out of the ordinary. Rarely can you duplicate a restaurant food, but just make a similar version of. That’s what these were. If you did not know what the attempt was, you might say, “Wow – these are kind of like White Castle” – but you certainly would not mistake them for the original. That said, they are close enough that if you have had WC you would smile at the homemade version, noticing the similarities. Wait. I kind of just said that. Whatever. I think in reality, these were too fresh, and the bread too meaty (I would go with a different bread). Today when I warmed one (OK three) in the microwave for lunch, my mouth was thinking they were closer to the original. A couple days old, and bread spongy-steamed from the microwave, they were closer to tasting like real deal WC junky fast food. I mean that as a compliment, but there’s no way to extract that from it, is there?

Oh – and, interestingly enough – I got 47 burgers out of them. I’d forgotten how small those little patties really needed to be. Not much bigger than a regular pickle slice.

At any rate, these were a fun try. I could definitely see making them for a group – although I’d rather not be doing the latter phase of production with anyone but family around to witness it. I’d make ahead. I also think I’d be a rebel and use less fatty beef next time, too.

 

Homemade Pizza Night

We had Homemade Pizza Night twice last week. I would feel… guilty, if I ordered pizza out twice. Every time we order pizza out, it is never less than $25 and sometimes more than $45. For special occasions, that’s fine, but when we can make it at home for much less, that’s a better choice for us. My home pizza-making adventures are generally sporadic, though, it took the first try to get my groove back on. By the second time, I was doing quite well.

 

I was very happy with how this last batch turned out, and the family approved. I had the time to mix up the dough and let it sit, so there was no pressure there. Frank made chicken wings, I made pizza. We feasted without breaking the bank. I prefer to purchase bulk cheese at a decent price, otherwise I’m scrambling to find cheese on sale and it can get pricey quickly. I had a large bag of cheese from Costco, and was able to squeeze two pizza-making nights out of it. I also had pepperoni on hand, onions, banana peppers. What I didn’t have was sausage and anchovies, which we picked up at the store. I didn’t have to, but it was a “treat” for us.

Here is the recipe I used to make 3 large, 16-inch pizzas:

INGREDIENTS
4.5 tsp. dry yeast (I used rapid rise)
4 tsp. sugar
1 cup water + 1 cup beer (warmed, about 110 degrees)
4 cups flour* (I used unbleached, all-purpose)
2 tsp. salt
4 T. olive oil (a friend of mine swears by lard for the fat – he makes a great crust, too)

METHOD

1.) Add sugar to the warmed water (stir – it will bubble, so make sure you have some head room). Add yeast (stir – it will foam so mind that head room… this all worked fine in my 2-cup glass Pyrex). Let sit about 10 minutes until foamy and creamy.

2.) Mix flour and salt in mixing bowl (I used my KitchenAid – start with mixing paddle). Add yeast water. While mixing, add olive oil. Change to hook. Mix about 10 minutes. *Sprinkle a bit more flour over, if it is too sticky. I tend to need about 1/4 cup extra during this step. The dough will be sturdy and kind of sticky. Now it needs to sit for a while. I remove mine to a bowl coated lightly with olive oil turning the dough to coat. Cover and let rise for about 30 minutes somewhere warm.

3.) Grab a hunk (about 1/3 of the dough) and go at it on a lightly floured surface. Again, add more flour (sparingly), if you need to. Roll it out, and use your hands to shape a pizza. Add toppings and bake in a 425-450 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes.

How I do it? I roll mine and use my hands. We have a pizza pan (a flat, circular pan with holes in it) that I use. Pizza stones don’t work well for me. I brush some oil on one side of the dough, put that side down on the pan and shape it a bit more. Add sauce and toppings. Put it in the oven for 10 minutes. After it is sturdy enough, I slide the pizza off the pan directly onto the rack for another 10 minutes. When done, I use the pan to remove it from the oven again. Cut and serve. Yum.

I also made the sauce by taking a can of chopped tomatoes, a clove of garlic, some olive oil, salt and sugar. Take about 1T. of OO, heat in a pan, add the peeled garlic clove. Heat it up a little, but don’t burn it. Add a can of chopped tomatoes. Simmer the entire time you’re busy making the pizza. (I added about 1-2 T. tomato paste, too.) When the dough was ready, I pureed 1/2 fresh tomato in my ABSOLUTELY MOST FAVORITE APPLIANCE EVER FOOD CHOPPER, added the sauce and pureed that, too, stirred in about 1tsp. sugar and that was my sauce. I really like a fresh-tasting sauce, and not too terribly much of it.

Happy Birthday To Frank

Yesterday was Frank’s birthday. 42nd I think. I’m getting terrible with these things. Nevertheless, it was a birthday, and we celebrated it. In our house, the birthday boy (or girl) gets to choose a dinner (in or out). Being that I was working yesterday, I really tried to steer Frank in the direction of eating out. We started with the possibility of creating a menu, and I immediately grew exhausted. After a few emails back and forth, dinner out at Buffalo Wild Wings was the plan.

My husband likes chicken wings. Seems like every year we end up at some wing location for his day of celebration.

I did wonder about the cake. As I pondered this on the way home, I planned. I knew I had some cake flour at home. I’d whip up something. I thought about making one of Jack’s Chocolate Cakes. I had no mayonnaise. White cake? No… what to make, what to make? My mom usually makes Frank one of her apple spice cakes with cream cheese frosting. That’s it! I have a HUGE bag of carrots in the fridge. Mission Carrot Cake begins.

I checked out allrecipes.com and went out on a limb with the highest rated recipe for carrot cake called Best Carrot Cake Ever. I know. Risky rebel that I am. I saw the ingredient list and had mostly everything on hand. My mission began.

Some of the comments on the allrecipes.com website mentioned the cake being “pudding-like” which scared me, so I read a few responses just in case. If you decide to make this cake, do these two things:

1.) Soak the raisins. Bring water to a near boil on the stove, shut it off; add raisins.

2.) Drain most of the liquid from the carrot/brown sugar mix before using it. Drain the pineapple, too. Maybe that’s three things. Oh well. I put my pineapple in a colander and let it drain for a good 15 minutes during prep. time.

Other than that, this is a recipe that works. I didn’t even substitute anything. Well, I subbed the white sugar for granulated cane sugar, but that’s not a biggie.

As I said, I was on a mission. So much so that when the birthday boy came home from his hard day at work, I immediately sent him to the store for cream cheese and pineapple. Pathetic, no? I felt bad, actually, after he left. I realized I hadn’t even looked him in the eye, said hello, gave him a kiss or anything. I focused obsessively on my cake preparations and missed the whole point all-together. A habit that needs breaking.

You know those recipes that you make that totally fill the house with a smell better than any scented candle will give you? This was one of those. It. Smelled. Divine. I whipped up the frosting (1 stick butter, 16 oz. cream cheese, 1 tsp. vanilla, 2c. sugar) and put it in the fridge. After de-panning the cakes and putting them on racks to cool, we went to dinner. Dinner was good. Loud. that place is loud. But good. Our whole family was there, which is the best part. As they grow older it becomes more difficult to get everyone together in one place. Full and sassy, we came home to the yummy-smelling house and I frosted the cake.

Four candles for 4 decades.

So good. One of those instances where a thin slice is all you need.

This recipe was a definite keeper. Better than store-bought and totally tweakable. The only problem is that I have an entire half a cake left and very little willpower. Cake for breakfast. Cake for lunch. Seriously, this cake’s calorie count you don’t even want to know — especially with that frosting. Which is why, immediately after publishing this post, I’m going for a walk. See ya.

Ceviche

New Years Eve my cousin’s husband Jason’s contribution to the spread was a big old bowl of shrimp Ceviche. I had never tried ceviche before, but just eyeballing it up, I knew I had found another food love.

Whatever the serving size is for ceviche, I’m pretty sure I ate 3 times as much that night. Firsts, seconds, and then later on in the evening – thirds!!!

Flash forward to this weekend, they had a cookout over at their house. I was hoping so badly that Jason’s ceviche would make an appearance on the menu. But, having just flown into town, and feeling under the weather, Jason spent much of the night stretched out on the couch just trying to feel better.

I made it through the gathering without crying, since there was many other foods to be It took me one day to satisfy that craving. Today I googled and found many recipes, some with more of a tomato base, some made up with other sea-foods like fish, mussels, scallops. But I wanted the shrimp. That’s what was calling me. Not to mention, that’s what I have on hand. I found this recipe on Food Network and though I could easily work with it. A quick run to the Super Walmart got me the cucumbers, cilantro and extra lime juice I needed.

It took less than 20 minutes to throw it all together; we ate it immediately. I doubled the recipe and eyeballed most of the ingredients. The changes I made:

  • Used frozen, cooked shrimp. Thawed them about 1/2-way and then tossed them with a half cup of lime juice and set them aside while I chopped.
  • Did not use ketchup.
  • Did not use olive oil.
  • Used red onion.

Result:

Yummy. Frank and I had two bowls, straight up. I washed it down with a Bud Light Lime. Mmm. Very good, but I have no craving whatsoever for it today. Killed it. Perfectly.

Taco Salad

I’m always up for some easy summertime (or anytime) recipes. Works for Me Wednesday at We Are That Family recently did a “Summer Recipe Edition.” Econobusters posted this recipe for One Bowl Taco Salad. It looked like an easy lunch idea, motivating me to try it, like, NOW.

The picture I took is not that great, but the recipe turned out well and it was very tasty. Not to mention, more economical than picking one up at the drive-thru.

Since I have “issues” with recipes, finding it hard to follow them, I basically poured a bag of salad into a bowl, cut it up some more with scissors, turning the bowl over and over  to get smaller pieces. I threw some cheese on top of that, cut up two small tomatoes, threw them on top. Took a thick slice of onion, diced it up; added it. Crushed about 7 handfuls of taco chips; sprinkled them on top. Squirted an eyeballed amount of Catalina and tossed away.

I loaded up a plate for each of the boys (the 3 younger ones) and myself, added about 1/4 cup of leftover ground turkey taco filling leftover from last nights’ meal, and voila. Lunch.

We added a dollop of sour cream to our salads. The kids thought it was a pretty yummy, fancy lunch. I thought it was easy, tasty and just as good as take-out.

Making Old-Fashioned Doughnuts

I found this recipe for doughnuts and we’re making some.

Quick Doughnuts
Ingredients:
4 cups sifted flour
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
2 tablespoons shortening
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour milk or buttermilk

Sift together flour, salt, soda, cream of tartar and spices. Cream shortening and sugar; add eggs and beat until light and fluffy. Add milk and then sifted dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly until smooth. With as little handling as possible, roll dough out on floured board 1/4 inch thick. Let stand for 20 minutes. Cut with 2 1/2 inch cutter or glass bottom, and use a small cutter for the middle. Fry as above. Makes about 3 dozen doughnuts.

Below are some pictures of our doughnut adventure; don’t expect perfection.

cutting the circles for doughnuts

frying doughnuts

sugared and finished doughnuts

They turned out pretty good, although I was a little nervous because some were a bit doughy in the center and the recipe involves eggs. They are darker, too, because I used a majority of whole wheat flour (a staple in this house), and a bit of cocoa powder. And I don’t have a picture of use eating because it was a regular old feeding frenzy.

I’d like to make these again at some point, but boy, my stomach feels like lead and I’m sure to have a heart attack within the hour.

(reposted from 2005)