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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

ROTISSERIE COBB SALAD

Not much exciting going on down at the coast - finals for the teen, prepping for graduation and the associated company coming down for the event.  However, I thought I'd share the really nice Cobb Salad I made for dinner last night.  I don't know why I don't do it more often - we love big salads for dinner!  I realized after I made it, that I'd left out the lovely avocado I had purchased to use.  The plate was so filled though, nothing else would have fit!

I bought a Rotisserie Chicken, skinned it and took off one of the breasts - diced it up.  It was very moist.  Then I lay down a base of chopped iceberg lettuce (I know, I know, no nutrition, I love it anyway) and a couple of handfuls of baby spinach, also chopped (there's some nutrition for you!).

Then, I layered rows of chicken, halved grape tomatoes (for the hubs, none for me), crisp chopped apple wood smoked bacon, sliced boiled egg, grated Co-Jack cheese, and sliced English cucumber. 
I'm not a tomato fan - so my salad was less colorful.  That
was remedied when I added Light Catalina Dressing
to the top of my salad.

Refreshing, delicious, and very filling.  We followed with a 2 mile walk along the bay at dusk, and a little television...slept like babies!  I will be making a concerted effort to include more one-plate salad dinners this summer.  It feels so "summery"!!!
Mr. Flip Flop's salad appears to have less chicken...
but it really had more...just got hidden under the masses
of English Cucumber!  Bleu Cheese was his
dressing of choice.  We both cleaned our plates!


Bon Appetit, Y'all!StumbleUpon

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Slow Cooker Beef Vegetable Soup

I know it isn't cold outside (well, not down here anyway)... but a slow cooker meal is what I needed for the day.  The hubs is home this afternoon for a nice well-earned vacation during graduation week.  We'll have more family arriving through the week and week-end to come...but for the first 5 days the teen and I have him to ourselves.

This is a man who will eat a can of soup...straight from the can, without warming it.  Uggghhh...it's unbearable.  But he is what he is.  That's not to say he doesn't deeply appreciate home cooking when he is home though!  I know I won't get back from retrieving him from the airport until close to 6:30 (assuming everything is on time) and I don't want to have to get started on a meal at that point.  The slow cooker seemed the simple answer.

I decided to go with a vegetable beef soup because it is easy to chunk up some stuff, season it, and let it roll.  No muss, no fuss.  I usually make this on the stove top, so I had to think of what needed to be different for a slow cooker preparation ... fresh herbs at the end, wait to salt so it doesn't get overly concentrated, careful with the pepper and pepper flakes as they would have time to intensify.  I also am using a product I've not used before and it looks and smells awesome!  I had a can of Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted Crushed Tomatoes in the cabinet.  Decided to add it instead of my usual can of whole peeled tomatoes.  Wow, the bits of blackened tomato skin and the rich roasted tomato flavor - I think it was a great choice!  Here's what I came up with:

Slow Cooker Beef Vegetable Soup

Ingredients:

1 large Russet Potato, peeled and cut into medium chunks
1/2 large sweet onion (I used a huge 10/14 Texas onion), peeled and large diced
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced or chunked (I had a mix of chunks and slices)
2 large ribs celery, cleaned and quartered and diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 28 ounce can Muir Glen Fire Roasted Crushed Tomatoes
1 can water, rinsing the can of tomatoes at the same time
1 1/2 pound piece of Chuck Steak or Round Steak - cut into chunks
   (remove any large pieces of fat from the outside of the beef)
1 1/2 pints from a 1 quart box of reduced sodium beef broth
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
4 or 5 turns of the black pepper mill
1/2 teaspoon dried basil

Whole Wheat Pasta shape of your choice - added 30 minutes before service
4 large basil leaves, chiffonade - added 5 minutes before service
Salt to taste (and it did need about 1 heaping teaspoon kosher salt)
A sprinkle of Parmesan Cheese on top at service

Method:

As you chop and dice - add each ingredient to the slow cooker insert.  Stop after you add the dried basil.  Stir and cook on Low for 7-8 hours.
The beef, vegetables, and canned tomato 

Beef broth added


Dry seasonings on top

Stir and put the lid on and walk away!


One half hour before service, turn heat to High and add about 1 to 2 cups of whole wheat pasta shapes - I used Central Market Organics WW Gemelli - I had about 1 1/2 cups in the bag.

Five minutes before service, add the chiffonade of basil and stir.  Check for salt at this point and add if needed.
Fresh basil on top of the thick soup - perfecto!

Serve in a soup bowl or pasta bowl and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese at service.

Some warm crusty bread on the side for dipping and sopping up the liquid, makes for a complete meal with minimal effort.

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!


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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Where Am I? Well, Let Me Tell You!

It appears I fell off the radar for about ten days.  They flew by so quickly, I didn't even notice I was gone. :-)

I baked, I cooked, I helped address graduation announcements, received an award from our school board, went to son's Awards Ceremony helped the teen prepare for his first and last Prom, madly cleaned house while he was gone to a Senior Trip to Six Flags Fiesta Texas and couldn't yell at me for being in his room, had final graduation ARD, tried to get wrinkles out of a non-washable nor dry-cleanable gown (the gown part of cap and gown - they are all disposable these days).  I didn't have time to take pictures of food or write about food...BUT, we did have a lovely dinner out.

You know the teen doesn't like to be identified in my blog.  However, he's so happy about his prom experience he seems to be loosening the reins a bit.

You've gathered through my many posts that the teen is autistic and hearing impaired.  He has Asperger's Syndrome, was diagnosed profoundly deaf at 15 months of age, and received a cochlear implant to assist him with hearing when he was 28 months old.  It doesn't "fix" the hearing, but it sure does make life easier!  He has a boat load of other "issues" that I won't go into, but the two major ones are enough to cause social problems...and he'd never successfully had a date.  That makes a problem for Prom!

He has been main streamed since early elementary years so this is a long-term struggle.  He has been friends with a group of hearing impaired kids since he was 18 months of age...two of them travelled over 460 miles on Saturday to be the teen's prom dates.  They had a grand time and then the girls and one of the moms drove the 460 miles back to their home on Sunday because one of the girls had school on Monday!

Now, to wind this long road around to FOOD - let me tell you about our dinner at Sea Ranch Marina Restaurant....one of the few fine dining opportunities on South Padre Island.  It is frequently our "special occasion" venue of choice.

The rarely shown teen with his two "friend dates"
for his Senior Prom!
Friends for Life!


We took the opportunity to take photos in front of Sea Ranch while we waited for about 45 minutes (no reservations are available anywhere on the island that I know of).  We were seated in the upstairs dining area overlooking the marina and the girls oohed and aahhed over the view.  We all enjoyed our meals and, while it is not normal for the parents to go out with the kids on Prom night, we've all been friends for so long, the kids were fine with it.  The girls have boyfriends so it was a "friend date", not a romantic date.  That made it nice for us!

Everyone had seafood!  Everyone said it was excellent.  The choices at our table ended up being:
Fried Shrimp and Broiled Flounder with side salad and steamed vegetables
Fried Shrimp and Blackened Flounder with a vinegary Cole Slaw and steamed vegetables
Blackened Flounder with side salad and waffle fries
Seafood Fettuccine Alfredo (with scallops, shrimp, and crab mounded on top) with steamed vegetables
Grilled Red Snapper with a cup of Seafood Soup - brothy, I don't know what it was called, and waffle fries.

No one could eat all of the wonderful food - but it was excellent! 

I also baked, for my friends, a tasty pan of cookies for them to snack on in their hotel and on the long drive home the next day (are these friends great or what?).  I made them my Black and White Chocolate Chip Cookies...but in a pan.  The only changes I made to the linked recipe were that I used 4 cups total of chips (and no nuts) - used Ghirardelli brand chips - 1/2 were white chocolate and 1/2 were milk chocolate.  Then I also upped the vanilla to 2 teaspoons instead of 1 1/2...just "cause".  Claire sent me a message saying she had to have the recipe, so I assume they were a hit! (I know they tasted good because I baked off 6 cookies for us to sample at home...they were yummy.)

No photos of that baking production - because it was done on the cleaning frenzy day, in a disposable pan...no pretty photographs!

Well, I'm letting you know right now...Blogging is kind of low on the priority list as we move through these next two weeks towards graduation.  I haven't disappeared, and I WILL be back to sharing when I have something worth sharing.

Don't give up on me.  (Using an Arnold Schwarzenegger voice) "I'll be back!"

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

I Won, I Won!!!

Back in mid-April I was busily prepping many treats for our local Autism Awareness Walk.  During that preparation time, my breaks were generally including a brief sit-down at the computer to see what was up on Facebook, email, foodbuzz, etc.  I had to steer clear of Pinterest because that will suck your brain in and a 5 minute break becomes 30!

Anyway, a FB friend had posted a link to a Giveaway on the Sweet Art Factory Facebook page....and since I am unfailingly hopeful "the odds will be ever in my favor", I "Liked" their page and participated in the Giveaway by describing something sweet I had made recently.  The Giveaway was the opportunity to win 20 cookie cutters of my choice from their online store.  Now THAT'S a giveaway designed to make me happy!

On April 21st - right after coming home from the Autism Awareness Walk, I logged onto Facebook and found one of my notifications was from Sweet Art Factory.  I WAS ONE OF TWO WINNERS!!!  Woo Hoo...Happy Dance...and all that kind of joyful stuff.

They instructed me to send an email with a list of the cookie cutters I wanted.  Later that evening, I sat down and started perusing their online store.  Wow, the cookie cutter selection was large and I asked myself how I would decide...what criteria would I use for selection?  I also got distracted clicking their other tabs...Baking Supplies, Cookie Decorating, Cake Decorating, Cupcake Decorating, Candy Making, Packaging, Aprons, and so much more.  Eventually I returned to the cookie cutter section.

I decided to 1) beef up my coastal themed cookie cutters, 2) search for any Christmas or other holiday cutters I might have been longing for and not allowed myself to get because I have so many, and last, but not least, 3) I wanted some Spring cookie cutters because I was seeing sooo many cute cookies on blogs and Facebook from my cookie decorating virtual friends.  It took me less than 24 hours to make my carefully considered list of 20.

I sent my email off and waited....and waited...and waited.  After a week, I did a follow-up email asking if they'd gotten my original email.  I recalled my email was balking that first "send day" and although it was in my sent box, I just had a gut feeling.  I was right to check...they'd never received it.  They responded instantly to my second email and told me my cookie cutters would be sent out the next day!  Whew...so glad I double-checked!

Well, Monday, May 7th, I went to the mailbox and viola!  There was a box from Sweet Art Factory in the mail and I couldn't run back to my condo fast enough.  I rattled it and grinned like a loon-head all the way home.

They were out-of-stock on three of my selections and had made substitutions - unfortunately, I had two of the cutters already that they substituted with, but the other sub was a good choice. It was a very tiny flicker of momentary disappointment because my happiness in receiving SO MANY free cookie cutters was irrepressible!!!  Heck, most giveaway contests don't give you a choice at all - it is what it is.  So, happy I was indeed!  As I unpacked the box, it was like Christmas.  I ooohed and ahhhed.  I sorted them by "theme" since I store my cutters that way.  Then I decided to photograph them and write a blog post about the Giveaway.  In the bottom of the box I also found a 20% off coupon for my next order...sweet!  I'll keep an eye out for the big palm tree and the ribbon for a cause cutters that I wanted and were out of stock. I can now get them for 20% off of Sweet Art Factory's already very reasonable prices!  When I got to the very last tissue-wrapped item in the box, I was hoping it was the spider web and spider cutter set that I'd wanted.  I unwrapped it and HOLY SMOKES!  I thought it was a little pre-packaged small web and tiny spider (the web cutter is what I really wanted) - it was a HUGE web and a good-sized spider...wow!  That should have counted as two cutters...hope they didn't think I was being greedy.  BUT, THANK YOU Sweet Art Factory for my 21 total cutters instead of 20!

Here are the cookie cutters I received.
The web and the spider
A sand dollar, jelly fish, angel fish, and mermaid
A palm tree, a sea gull, a conch shell, a sun, and a dolphin
Butterflies, large and medium
A lady bug, a snail, and a hot air balloon
Last, but not least, the additions to my
Christmas collection...
A reindeer, a large mitten, a cardinal, a wreath,
and a wrapped candy

Pretty awesome, huh?  I can't wait to bake some cookies with my new cookie cutters.  The problem will be finding the time.  The teen has Prom, a senior trip, Graduation (we have guests for that), and we have 3 trips planned the first 6 weeks of Summer.  I will get to it when I can - but this special time of the teen's life is not allowing me a lot of the personal time needed for meticulous cookie decorating! I will get to it and show you pictures when I eventually do have the time!

Thank you so very much Sweet Art Factory!!!  It's the best thing I've won this year!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!StumbleUpon

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Fresh Fruit with Greek Yogurt


I asked Mr. Flip Flop if he would prefer fruit and yogurt for breakfast or some breakfast tacos?  He perked up immediately to fruit and yogurt.  The strawberries and blackberries are looking so good right now, fortunately I had a good supply in the fridge.  It was an easy fix!

I washed, hulled, and quartered strawberries, gently washed the blackberries, and rinsed some red grapes that I had, slicing those in half.  Left all the fruit draining on some paper towels while I mixed up a yogurt topping.

Greek Yogurt Fruit Topping

1 cup fat free Greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla bean paste
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon honey

Whisk ingredients together - simple as could be!

I piled the fruit in a pasta bowl, drizzled the fruit with a bit of extra honey, and poured the yogurt topping over the fruit, using a few reserved pieces on top so he'd know what was underneath.


He was delighted with his healthy breakfast and scraped the bowl clean.

I love simple Sunday mornings!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!

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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Healthier Friday Night Pizza - Home Run Hit!

If you are a regular reader, you know we almost always have Friday night pizza at the Flip Flop household.  Usually the teen makes the dough, but this Friday night, I wanted to make a healthier crust than his usual AP flour crust (which is absolutely delicious of course).  So I hit the kitchen while he was vegging in teen-age wasteland...aka his man cave.

Mr. Flip Flop is home and has been hitting the gym for a few months.  After this two-week absence I really noticed a difference!  Wow...I think Mr. Flip Flop lost weight and gained muscle.  Woo hoo baby!  So, in recognition of his efforts, yet his desire for the comfort of homemade pizza, I went for a slightly more healthy version.  Slightly.  Very slightly!  Normally, the teen wouldn't eat this kind of crust...but I guess the thought of having to make his own and wait another hour for rising prompted him to think that maybe specks of flax seed weren't such a bad thing!

So, here it is, the healthier version of our Friday Night Pizza.

Flax Seed Crust Pizza
By Debbi Hook

Ingredients:

5 teaspoons Instant Yeast (or you can use Active Dry - 2 packets)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups very warm tap water
       (you can dip your finger in without screaming ouch)
4 cups White Whole Wheat Flour plus extra bench flour
1/4 cup ground flax seed meal
4-5 tablespoons olive oil plus more for rising bowl

Jar of pizza sauce (I used Ragu Homestyle)

Toppings of your choice - today I used:
Sliced Crimini mushrooms
Sliced green onions
Chiffonade of fresh basil
1 slice of lean deli ham, large diced
A few slices of Pepperoni
Kalamata Olives sliced in half
Green Olives with Pimento sliced in half

Grated Mozzarella, Romano, Asiago, Parmesan Cheeses

Corn Meal for Baking Pan

Method:

In the bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook attachment, add the yeast, sugar, and warm water.
Although instant yeast does not have to be hydrated, I find it doesn't have to rise as long if I hydrate it with sugar in the blend.  I also keep the little packets of Active Dry Yeast around - but we bake so much pizza and bread, that the 1 pound package is soooo much cheaper!

A great and dependable product.

For this dense crust, I wanted to move things along...hence the hydration.
After 3 or 4 minutes it will have a foam of bubbles on the top of the yeast - that means it is ready to add the flour.

I love King Arthur products - I find the White Whole Wheat
Flour to be a nice alternative to the heavier and darker
Whole Wheat Flour.  Wonderful product!

Add the flour and flax seed meal and turn on the mixer (low speed) and allow it to begin incorporating.
I love adding this - a little goes a long way!

Add the olive oil while it is working.  I started with 4 tablespoons and added another tablespoon when I realized the KitchenAid was struggling.  The dough came together quickly and I moved it up to medium speed for a total of 5 minutes of kneading. 
A beautiful speckled dough!

During the time it is kneading, turn your oven on for 60 seconds at 300 degrees, then turn it off.  Really, no longer, as you are just getting the chill off the oven.  My kitchen is too cool for things to rise rapidly, so I always de-chill the oven and use it for rising.

Oil a good sized mixing bowl with extra olive oil (don't let it puddle at the bottom - use  just enough to ensure the dough doesn't stick to the bowl).  With your oiled hands, remove the dough from the dough hook (it's a heavy dough so most of it will plop into the mixer bowl when you raise the head).  Form it into a ball with your lightly oiled hands and smooth the top with just enough oil that it has a slight sheen...the oil on your hands is likely plenty to achieve that).  Place it in the lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and place bowl in the de-chilled-turned-off oven for about 50 minutes.  It will double, up to triple, in size.

I usually spend the last 15 minutes or so of rising time prepping my toppings and setting up the rolling area.

Pull the bowl of dough and preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Prepare a baking sheet or pizza pan with a dusting of corn meal.

Now, I don't "press out" pizza dough like you are supposed to.  I roll it - no matter how hard I try, I suck at the press out method.  So, I put down some bench flour and took 2/3 of the risen dough (leaving 1/3 for the teen to make his own pizza) and shaped it into a rectangle because I was using a baking sheet today. I gently rolled it to the shape of my baking sheet with a lightly floured rolling pin.  Like all doughs, move it around to ensure it doesn't stick.  Sprinkle more flour if needed (I used the white whole wheat flour for this as well).

Roll the dough on the rolling pin, sprinkling extra flour if needed so it doesn't stick to itself and transfer it to the prepared baking sheet or pizza pan.

Pinch up the sides of the dough so the sauce stays on the pizza during baking. 
See that little dip in the front right bottom side - yep, the sauce
snuck out of there onto the pan during baking..  

Add pizza sauce (I used a jar, but you could make your own if you wanted - you could also use any thickish pasta sauce).  Spread sauce with a spatula or back of a spoon to evenly distribute.  I used about 1/3 of a small jar of pizza sauce.

Next I laid down a layer of sliced provolone cheese from the deli.  I like the bottom layer of cheese - makes for a really cheesy pizza :-)

Next come the toppings.  I sprinkled green onions all over, evenly placed sliced Crimini mushrooms around, placed a few pieces of pepperoni (just a few - trying to keep it slightly more healthy - of course, the cheese...oh well), the bits of ham, and topped with all of the olives.  It looked like a really good pizza.
This was 3 largish Crimini mushrooms and 3 green onions.
The basil was just about 4 or 5 leaves rolled and sliced
thinly.  I used 2/3 and left 1/3 for the teen!
The balance of the toppings - we love olives :-)
Mr. Flip Flop would have liked some bell pepper
and I would have liked some pepperocini...but I
didn't think of it until it was too late!


Next came the grated cheeses - first a light layer of grated Romano, then Asiago, then Mozzarella, and finally Parmesan.  I finished with the chiffonade of basil.
Ready to bake!

Place in preheated oven for 15 minutes and pizza is ready!

The dough took me about 10 minutes to prepare...15 at the most.  I prepped the toppings in under 15 minutes and the baking time was 15 minutes...this is an easy Friday night dinner.  My friend, Linda, said she had been inspired to make homemade pizza after reading my blog.  Her hubs asked her why they ever ordered pizza when they could have this?  Exactly!  Even if you don't want to make the crust - you can buy a pre-made crust or buy some pizza dough from a local pizzeria.  Let the kids do their own toppings.  But, really, if you have a stand mixer, why bother buying dough.  This is EASY!
If you don't want to make the whole grain, healthier crust, there's always the standard AP flour crust - here's the one the teen uses most of the time.  I realize I have gotten to the point where I don't use salt in the crust.  We don't miss it and there's probably enough sodium in the sauce to make up for it!

I use an offset spatula to run underneath to ensure
there are no stuck parts and it slides easily
onto a big wooden cutting board.
Slice and eat...delicious!

I could only eat two pieces - this is a dense crust.  The teen ate his entire "smaller" pizza, and Mr. Flip Flop packaged up the remaining slices from our pizza and I guarantee that's what he'll want for breakfast whenever he wanders out of the bedroom (he sleeps late).  He'll eat it cold...right out of the fridge.  Ick.  He just tells me "I'm a guy, cold pizza is fine".  Okay, whatever!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!

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