Monday, February 28, 2011

Pizza Pockets

Growing up my mom would make these things called pizza pockets.  She would smoosh two pieces of biscuit dough (Pillsbury Grands) together and flatten it.  Then, she would top with cheddar cheese and meat sauce (sometimes there would be little smokies sausages in the sauce), fold it over to look like a little pocket, and bake them in the oven. 

I know most people don't think cheddar cheese and meat sauce when it comes to pizza, but in my parents' house that's the way it was.  The pizza pockets and homemade pizza usually had ground beef and cheddar cheese as the toppings. 

My siblings and I looked forward to the days my mom made pizza pockets (especially my sister), not only because they were delicious but because it meant we weren't having something like...  Cabbage and Spam stir fry (Hi mama!).  I have changed some things, like using pizza dough instead of biscuits, but the original way is really great too - Especially if you already have biscuit dough in your fridge.

After baking and freezing, I tested these suckers out in the microwave to see how they'd taste after being nuked.  Because bread gets chewy after being heated in the microwave, I wouldn't recommend doing so...  Although, they weren't bad.  I think it would be better to heat in the oven (Matt and I don't have a microwave anyway so we heat everything in the oven, I used the microwave at work for test purposes).

I purchased pizza dough from the Publix  bakery (A lot of grocery stores carry pizza dough) and had leftover meatsauce from making freezer lasagna.  I have a pretty large stock of spaghetti sauce and cheese that I purchased for really cheap (Go here to see how I shop).  To keep my food cost low, I use coupons, buy what's on sale and use what I already have in my kitchen.

Here's what I used:

Pizza dough (1 lb. cut into 6 pieces)
Lean ground beef
Ground pork sausage
Pasta sauce
Cheddar cheese
Mozzerella cheese

 Cut pizza dough into six pieces and flatten with hands or rolling pin...  Or in my case the water bottle pictured in the background.  After you roll out all the dough the first time, it will most likely shrink.  Give it a couple of minutes to rest and roll out one more time.

If you want to use biscuit dough, smoosh two pieces of bisuit together and flatten (you will probably need flour).

Make a meatsauce with whatever you like.  Like I said earlier, my mom added little smokie sausages to her sauce.  I used garlic, onion, ground sausage, ground beef and mushrooms.  Cook it for a little while on low heat so that the sauce isn't too watery.  Too much liquid will prevent the pizza dough from sealing.  Make sure the sauce has cooled down before using it.
 Place, on top of the dough, your toppings.  I used meatsauce, mozzerella, cheddar and more mushrooms.

Fold the dough over itslef to create a little pocket.  Pinch closed.  Try your best to make sure it is sealed tightly.  Use a little water if need be. 

Bake between 375- 400 degrees (Biscuits may be different, check the temperature on the can) until they look like this.

Wrap tightly, and freeze.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

My Days Off

Well, it's been five days since my last post and I was able to get a lot of things done since then.  Besides trying to get our home together, another reason why I haven't been blogging as frequently is because it's been so beautiful the past few days that Matt and I have been spending more time outside (we are steps from the beach).

Organizing my coupons and taking care of my container garden will always be a work-in-progress, but I crossed them off for now because I did what I had intended.  All in all, I am happy with what I was able to accomplish on my days off.
  •  Clean freezer/fridge
  • Put away clothesGo shopping
  • Organize coupons
  • Organize towel closet
  • Purchase soil, start working on my container garden
  • Make granola
  • Do some cooking to stock up freezer - So far I will be making burritos, lasagna and mac and cheese
  • Get some paperwork done that I should have done months ago
  • Oh, and clean the house in general

 As far as cooking goes, I was able to make:
  • 10 Chicken burritos
  • 3 Pans of lasagna
  • 12 Pizza Pockets
  • Granola

The burritos, lasagna and pizza pockets are wrapped and stored in the freezer.  I also have really good chicken broth that came from cooking a whole chicken (for the burritos) in the slow cooker that my mom bought us for Christmas.  I am really excited about how everything turned out and hope to post about my freezer cooking day soon (maybe tomorrow). 

Now, I'm off to my job to work with chocolate.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Goals For This Week

It feels like it's been a busy week.  There's been quite a bit of work to do in the pastry kitchen and it leaves me with very little energy at home to do anything except a small amount of cooking and cleaning.  But tomorrow I have the day off and, now that the warm weather has finally shown it's face in these parts, I am itching to do some serious spring cleaning, gardening and a little freezer cooking. 

It overwhelms me to think of all the chores that lay ahead, so I wrote out a list.  I am generally not a list writer, that's Matt's forte, but tomorrow is one of those days where I will need to stay focused in order to get everything accomplished. 

Here is the plan for the next two days...

  • Clean freezer/fridge
  • Put away clothes
  • Go shopping
  • Organize coupons
  • Organize towel closet
  • Purchase soil, start working on my container garden
  • Make granola
  • Do some cooking to stock up freezer - So far I will be making burritos, lasagna and mac and cheese
  • Get some paperwork done that I should have done months ago
  • Oh, and clean the house in general
Hopefully I will get some blogging time in too.  I am excited to share the results of my freezer burritos and lasagna once they're finished!

Today I am going to leave you with some photos of desserts, that were produced by myself and the rest of the pastry team, for a Valentine's Day buffet.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How To Poach an Egg

Whenever Matt and I have the morning off together, and have a little extra time, we usually try and eat something other than oatmeal or pizza toast (don't judge, it's still toast) for breakfast.  Just this morning, Matt made me huevos nachos.  A cross between huevos rancheros and nachos, huevos nachos is two poached eggs on top of...  Well, nachos.  Sounds tasty?  It is.  Sounds horrible for your waistline?  Maybe...  A little?

Me standing on my soap box...

As with most of the food I post on this blog, the recipes feature a combination of healthy and natural ingredients mixed in with a little guilty pleasure.  I would prefer not to eat boiled eggs and dry toast for the rest of my life but I do believe in eating with the purpose of fueling my body.  In general, Matt and I don't use a lot of convenience products and we try not to keep junk food around.  When we cook, we use vegetables, whole grains, real stock (no msg) and products made from ingredients that are naturally found on this earth.  Of course, we use butter, cream and cheese as well...  That's the part of the meal that fuels the soul (and contains calcium!) which, I feel, is just as important as taking care of the physical body.

I firmly believe that if we removed 100 calorie snack packs and low-fat frozen meals from our diets and replaced those items with natural, wholesome food that had to be prepared in order to eat it, people would live healthier, happier lives.  But...  That's just my take on things.  I don't claim to be right (I also don't claim to be perfect...  Ever see a person eat an entire box of Cheez-Its before?), I just wanted to explain a little of what this blog is about. 

Stepping off the soap box...

Okay.  Sorry about that.  Back to poached eggs.

Poaching eggs used to intimidate me.  There seemed to be so many factors that could result in a poorly poached egg...  But it's really quite easy.  And, of course, budget friendly!

Here's what you need to know:

  • You need a pot that is large enough to ensure that the eggs will be completely submerged in water and that there will be enough room so they are not sitting on top of each other.
  • The temperature of the water needs to be between 160-180 degrees Fahrenheit, but you don't need a thermometer. Bring the water to a boil and then lower the temperature to below a simmer (occasional bubbles rising to the surface).
  • The water should contain some acid so the whites coagulate nicely- About a tablespoon of vinegar will be good.
  • When dropping the eggs into the water, first crack into a ramekin (or small bowl) and gently slide the egg into the water, one at a time.
  • Place a lid on the pot, turn off heat, and leave the eggs undisturbed for 3 minutes (this will create a firm white and runny yolk).
  • Gently remove the egg using a slotted spoon (or spatula because that's all I have) and blot dry on paper towel.

Gently drop egg into water.  Notice...  There are barely any bubbles rising to the surface.
     A pot this size is perfect for about two eggs.  Slide them in one at a time.
    Once both eggs are in the water, cover with a lid and set your timer for 3 minutes.
     Once the timer goes off, remove eggs from the water and blot dry on paper towel.
    Season with salt and pepper and serve with toast, on top of nachos or in this case... 
    With roasted potatoes, fresh tomatoes, green onions and a little horseradish sour cream.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Peanut Butter Smoothies

I used to work at a little coffee shop in Golden, Colorado where we used to make the best peanut butter smoothies.  I would often have one for breakfast or lunch, sometimes with a little protein powder, to keep me fueled until my shift was over.  I don't work at the coffee shop anymore but I still love to make these at home.  If you're ever in downtown Golden, make sure to stop by the Windy Saddle.

I bought my sister a blender for Christmas for the sole reason of being able to make these.  Ami loves anything cute, mashed potatoes, photography and peanut butter.  She lives in California where smoothies are appropriate at anytime of the year and she has been asking me to create this post for a little while now.  So, here it is Ami.  Hope you like it.

Aside from the chocolate syrup, this smoothie is really quite healthy.  It's also budget friendly!  I found a three pound sack of bananas at the store for $0.87 the other day.  They were starting to turn a little brown but in a smoothie, the riper the fruit the more sweetness it will add to the drink.  If you have a lot of bananas, and don't plan to use them anytime soon, peel and freeze them.  You can take it right out of the freezer and throw it into your blender.

What you need:

Peanut butter
Chocolate syrup or powder (or you can use chocolate milk)

For a 16oz glass:

Fill cup to the top with ice.  Pour milk over ice until it reaches half way up the cup, dump into blender.  Add a spoonful of yogurt, a heaping spoonful of peanut butter, a squeeze of chocolate syrup and half a banana.  Blend, using ice crush option if available.  Add more ice or milk, depending on desired consistency.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Whole-Wheat Pasta Caprese Salad

This is something I eat quite frequently, especially in the summer when my herb pots are flourishing. Whole wheat pasta takes some getting used to, but the nutritional benefits of eating it are worth giving it a shot.  I  usually buy Walmart brand pasta, it is actually pretty good and only $1 a box.  The thin spaghetti is my favorite.

Like always, I try and use whatever is in my kitchen.  Here's what I had:

  • Whole-wheat pasta - $1/box (I used 1/2 a box)
  • Fresh Garlic
  • A roma tomato - 1.99/lb
  • A small handful of organic spinach - $1/5 oz
  • Fresh mozzerella - $1/1 lb (I used 2 oz)
  • Grated Parmesan/Romano/Asiago mix - $2.50/7 oz (I used about 1/2 oz)
  • Balsamic Dressing - 8 oz bottle for free
How do I get my groceries for so cheap?  Go here to see how I shop.

I used only a fraction of the ingredients listed above, and I would estimate that it cost me about $1.40 for two full-sized portions. 


Cook pasta according to directions on box, strain and run cold water over it.  Put pasta into a bowl with chopped vegetables (I usually use carrots, celery, cucumber, tomatoes, onion, garlic...  Whatever you have) and add oil and vinegar, lemon juice or your favorite salad dressing.  Add cheese (Again, whatever you have.  For lower calorie and fat options, use a hard cheese such as parmesan, romano or asiago.  The flavor is stronger so you won't need as much).  Toss together and serve.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Coq Au Vin

Here's how to make coq au vin we had for dinner the other night.  I know it sounds fancy but don't be intimidated.  It's basically a rustic, country-style chicken stew.

This dish traditionally calls for Burgundy wine, bacon or salt pork, mushrooms and pearl onions.  None of which I had.  But, that's okay.  It's supposed to be rustic.  If I went to the store and spent another fifteen dollars to make it, I think it would kind of defeat the purpose.  If you want to go all-out, Ina Garden has a good recipe over at the Food Network.

Here's what I had:
  • Four chicken thighs (you can use any type of chicken parts but bone-in is highly recommended)
  • Leftover Rex-Goliath Cabernet Sauvignon - about 3/4 cup (Burgundy is traditional, but any red wine that isn't really sweet works)
  • One limp carrot (My mom says you can re-hydrate it by putting it in water.  Who knew?).  Peeled and rough chopped
  • Half a small onion, rough chopped
  • Flour, 1 Tablespoon
  • Butter, 1 1/2 Tablespoons plus a another Tablespoon extra to finish sauce with
  • Thyme and Rosemary from my pot garden (Fresh is better by dry works)
  • Bay leaf
  • A can of Chicken Stock (Not totally necessary, especially if you are using bone-in chicken, but highly recommended)

Set a pot, that has enough surface area to hold all the chicken parts without them overlapping, on medium to medium-high heat with about 2 Tablespoons of oil.  Pat the chicken dry, season with salt and pepper and place into heated pot skin-side down. 

Once the skin has browned, flip over and allow the bottom to brown.

Remove chicken from pot and discard the oil, except for about a Tablespoon of it.  Add carrot and onion, cook until slightly brown.  Return chicken to pot, add wine, chicken broth and herbs. 

Bring to a boil and then simmer for about an hour and half to two hours.  While the chicken is cooking, make a roux by melting 1 1/2 Tablespoons of butter into a small pan and adding 1 Tablespoon of flour.  Cook for two minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly, set aside.  Once the chicken has become tender, remove from pot and strain the liquid into another sauce pot.  Bring to a boil and add the roux.  Lower the temperture to about medium heat and simmer until the sauce has a nice gravey-like consistency.  Season with salt and pepper and stir in a little dab of butter for richness.  Serve with roquefort potato gratin or mashed potatoes.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Roquefort Potato Gratin

 I haven't been shopping in a week (except for a small trip to Walmart for some coffee and a can of chicken stock) because I wanted to try and use up what was in my fridge and cupboards. 

Here's what I found in my kitchen (and the prices I purchased them for)...
  •  A five pound bag of potatoes - $1 (on clearance)
  • Gorgonzola - $1.65
  • A pint of organic 1/2 and 1/2 - $1.00
  • Chicken thighs, 4 pack - $2.70
  • Leftover red wine that's been sitting in the bottle for a couple of weeks
  • Carrots that were starting to go soft
How did I get this stuff so cheap?  Go here to see how I shop.

So I made...

~ Menu ~

Chicken Coq Au Vin
Roquefort Potato Gratin

I am estimating it cost me about $6.25 to create this meal (for 2) but I'll just go ahead and round it to $7.00.

That means $3.50 per person with leftovers for the next day. Not bad for something that cost around $20 at the bistro I used to work at.

Today I'm going to only post about the gratin because I am a little short on time and have a lot of pictures to upload for this one.  I don't have a set recipe, this is more of a use-your-own-judgement sort of deal.

Here's what I used (Approximations)

5 medium-sized russet potatoes
2-3 cups of milk, 1/2 and 1/2, cream or a mix (I used 1/2 and 1/2 and low fat milk)
Tablespoon or two of butter
Sprig of rosemary (thyme would be good too)
1/4 small onion, diced
Roquefort cheese
Shredded parmesan cheese (grated should be fine too)


Slice potatoes as thinly as possible (use a slicer if you have one or just do the best with your knife...  It'll turn out fine), set aside. 


Bring milk to a boil with butter, rosemary and onion, set aside. 


 Evenly layer potatoes, (slightly overlapping) in a buttered casserole dish (I used a cake pan) no more that 12" in width or diameter.  Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with roquefort (easy with this one, it has a strong flavor) and parmesan cheeses.  Layer more potato, season, sprinkle cheese.  Repeat this until you get close to the top of the pan.  End the last layer with potato. 


 Strain the hot milk onto the potatoes, making sure the top layer is covered with the milk.


  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees until bubbly.  Remove foil, and continue to bake until the gratin is golden brown on top and the potatoes have absorbed all the liquid.  Let sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Friday, February 4, 2011

No espresso machine? No Problem. Homemade Peppermint Mochas

I used to be the type of girl who went to Starbucks everyday her coffee.  And when I say everyday, I mean every day.  Sometimes twice a day.  I'd spend about $3.50 for a fancy drink and another $1.00 for tip.  That's at least $130 a month!  My grocery budget isn't even that much now.  It was an addiction for me...  One that took many years to break.

I still like going to the coffee shop to treat myself, especially after Thanksgiving when the peppermint mochas first come out.  It's just one of those things that makes me really happy and I look forward to them every year.

Today is one of those days where I would love a peppermint mocha...  It's cold and cloudy and I have the day off.  I can't get to Starbucks because I don't have a car (Matt is at work) and, honestly, I don't want to spend $4.50 on a drink knowing that the groceries for tonight's dinner (chicken coq au vin with roquefort potato gratin) didn't cost that much. 

Still, I would like a peppermint mocha.

I know it's really not the time for peppermint but I still have candy canes leftover from Christmas.  I figured it can't be that hard to recreate one of my favorite drinks so I tried it out.  I think I was pretty successful. 

Peppermint Mocha (about a 16 oz cup)

1 1/2 cup milk
1/2 of a candy cane
2 Tbsp ground coffee (or whole beans)
chocolate sauce or powder to taste

If you're using ground coffee, place grounds in the center of a filter.  Create a little pouch (see pictures below) and tie off using a twist tie.

Coffee into filter.
 Pouch into milk.
 Milk becomes flavored with coffee.

Bring the milk to a boil with the candy cane in a small pot.  Take off the heat and place your coffee pouch in the pot and let sit for about five minutes.  Remove the pouch from the milk and gently squeeze, being careful not to tear the filter.  Put milk back on the heat and once it starts to simmer, turn off stove.  Add chocolate to taste.  The candy cane should be melted.  Serve with whipped cream and crushed candy cane.

I only had ground coffee but you can also steep whole beans (without making a filter purse) for five minutes and then strain the milk into another pot.  Discard the beans and follow procedure above.

For peppermint hot chocolate, omit coffee.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Pizza Toast

Last week one of my coworkers made stromboli for all of us in the pastry kitchen to eat.  Another one one of my coworkers took a bite of the stromboli, pulled out a green sliver and said "I think this is cactus".  Cactus?  Why would there be cactus in you food?  Who eats cactus?  I stood there making fun of her comment.  Well, apparently her and her family does.  Who knew? 

It turns out that the cactus was actually a pepper.

So anyway, it got me thinking about the weird things my family ate...  Chili on top of sticky rice with a slice of American cheese...  Collard greens with sticky rice...  Vegetable stir fry and hot dogs...  With rice...  (I'm sure you're starting to sense a pattern here.  My mom is Japanese and my dad is a white boy from the south.)  Actually almost everything was with rice...  Pizza toast...  Not with rice.

Alright.  So maybe the pizza toast doesn't sound so strange but I haven't really met many people who have had it.  "Oh, it's like a pizza bagel?"  Well, yes.  It is like a pizza bagel...  But on toast. 

I like using sliced bread because, first of all, it has less calories than a bagel.  Second, it has more surface area and comes without that darned hole that tends to drop all the toppings you pile onto a bagel.  Third, I always have bread in the freezer.

The great thing about pizza toast is that bread, sauce and cheese are readily available in most house holds, can be purchased for very cheap (especially if you have coupons!) and it can be made relatively healthy.  You can use whatever ingredients you have on hand but for something on the healthier side this is what I would recommend using: whole wheat bread, pasta sauce, part skim (or nonfat) mozzarella cheese and sliced vegetables (peppers, onions, mushrooms).  It's quick, easy and almost as if you're eating actual pizza.  Almost.

I recommend that you first toast the bread completely before adding the sauce and toppings.  Put on a sheet pan and then under the broiler (use an oven or toaster oven) until it looks like the picture above.

This little guy was my last bell pepper of the season.  Just when I thought my plants were going to die, they made one last effort to produce something.  It made a nice little topping for my pizza toast.