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Monday, November 26, 2012

How to make a Panini without a Panini Press

My husband makes fun of me because when we go out on a casual date to grab lunch, I always want to go grab a good sandwich. Maybe it's because I have love affair with good bread.
One sandwich I absolutely love is a panini. I mean, what's not to love, right? Crusty, chewy ciabatta bread, melted cheese; and if you make it at home, you can have whatever fillings you want.
I like to make my own ciabatta, so I can't really recommend anywhere that has superior ciabatta bread, but I do know that City Shop has them.
For this panini I cut up a chicken breast really thinly and sauteed it on the stove with just a bit of oil. If you are lucky enough to have roast turkey leftovers from Thanksgiving (and I do!) then your sandwich would really rock!
Here is how to make a panini without a panini press.

Ciabatta roll
Filling of choice: I used basil mayonnaise, chicken breast, tomatoes, caramelized onions, and two layers of mozzarella cheese.

Layer filling on your sandwich. I used basil mayonnaise to add some amazing pesto-like flavor to my panini.

I like to put two layers of cheese. #1 layer of cheese is under the tomatoes.
Caramelized onions
#2 layer of cheese.
Cover with other half of the ciabatta roll.

Once your panini is assembled, place on a preheated  skillet. Make sure the stove is set to medium.

Place a heavy pan or stockpot over your panini. Place a heavy can or glass jar in the pot so that it is weighted down.
Let it cook for 5 minutes. Flip the panini over and replace the weighted pot back on the panini.

Cook for another 4-5 minutes until the cheese is completely melted.

Enjoy your panini while hot!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pumpkin Praline Dessert

My darling sisters introduced me to this recipe. A friend of theirs made it for them and they thought it was divine and passed the recipe around.
It kind of tastes like a combination between pumpkin pie and a cobbler. It might be a little food-trashy of me to love this (cause it uses a boxed cake mix) but I absolutely do!
It is the perfect recipe for someone who wants the taste of pumpkin pie, but doesn't want to go to all the trouble or fuss of making and rolling out pie crust.


1can (15 oz) pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)  - I used half of a large can
1can (12 oz) evaporated milk
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice  - I used 2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp ginger, 1/2 tsp ground cloves, 1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 box yellow cake mix
1 cup chopped pecans  (optional)
3/4 cup butter or margarine, melted

 Add pumpkin to a large mixing bowl.
 Add one can of condensed milk.(make sure you don't get sweetened condensed milk-two totally different things)
Whisk to combine.
 Add eggs and whisk again.
 Add sugar. (I think I also threw in a pinch of salt here-if a dessert recipe doesn't call for salt I generally still throw in just a pinch because it will always enhance every flavor just a bit)
 Add the pumpkin pie spice (or if you are like me and don't have pumpkin pie spice here in China, you can do what I did and add the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves separately)

 Place pumpkin mixture in one 9x13 pan. Sprinkle dry cake mix evenly over the entire thing. Scatter nuts over the cake mix. Drizzle 3/4 cup butter over the cake mix.

My alteration (I decided to make one nut-free for the kids, so I divided the batter into two square pans, then divided the cake mix in half (just eyeballed it- didn't measure exactly) and the butter in half and followed the recipe above.
 Bake at 175 C for 50- 60 minutes until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean and the top begins to brown,

* don't worry if there is a little cake mix here or there that doesn't get covered by butter- still tastes great when you top it with whipped cream.

Serve with whipped cream. It is so super sweet that you may or may not want to add sugar to your whipped cream when you whip it.


Friday, November 9, 2012

Creamy Chicken Soup

I created this soup recipe to mimic my favorite chicken pot pie recipe. The real secret is letting the butter brown before adding the carrots and the onions. It gives the broth such amazing flavor(and which sadly I didn't get a picture of). Another thing that makes this soup excellent is that you let the onions saute in the browned butter until they almost caramelize. It brings out the carrots sweetness and ensures that they are really tender(nothing worse than a crunchy carrot in soup)

This soup has been one of my son's favorite meals for a few years now. It is the ultimate comfort food and perfect for fall/winter days especially if anyone has a cold.

I made Western-style dumplings this time(which were delightful- like soft little rolls floating in the creamy broth), but you can add noodles instead and make it chicken noodle soup.

1 ½ cups diced onion
1 ½ cups diced carrots
¼ cup butter
½ cup flour
6 cups water
2 tbsp powdered chicken bouillon (2 tsp if you use American style bouillon)
¼ tsp sage
¼ tsp thyme
fresh ground pepper to taste
1 large chicken breast cut into small cubes
2 medium pealed and diced
1 cup dry noodles (optional- do not use if making dumplings)

In a sauce pan melt butter over medium heat and cook until the milk proteins start to brown. Be careful not to overbrown the butter.
While the butter is melting dice carrots and onions.
After butter has browned, add carrots and onions to the pot and saute in browned butter until tender- 10-15 minutes.

While the carrots and onions are cooking, peel and dice the potatoes. Cut up chicken breast. I like to cut the chicken up rather small, because its much easier for my kids to eat.

When the onions start to appear translucent its time to add the flour.
Add the half cup of flour to the pot and stir to combine.
Cook for 1-2 minutes, scrapping the bottom as needed.
Add first 2 cups of water. Scrape up all of the browned butter and flour on the bottom of the pot- use a metal spatula if necessary but make sure you get all of it up or it will scorch on the bottom of your pan.

Once you have incorporated all of the browned butter and flour, stir in the rest of the 4 ups of water.

Add dried sage and thyme.
Add powdered chicken bouillon.
Add potatoes. Cook 5 minutes.
And chicken.
* If using noodles add an additional cup of water and add noodles.

If making dumplings, add to the pot in tablespoon-fulls then cover with lid. Lift the lid and stir soup every 2-3 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pot each time. Cook 7 minutes after adding the dumplings.


Western-Style Dumplings

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup milk

In a medium mixing bowl add the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt and stir to combine.
Add the butter.
Cut the butter in with a pastry blender or using two knifes.
Add the milk.
Stir to combine, scrapping the sides as needed.
Dough will be really sticky and soft.
Drop by tablespoon-fulls into boiling soup or stew.
Cover with lid and cook 7 minutes. (Stir the soup as needed to prevent the bottom scorching, then return the lid to the pot)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Easy Omelets

My sister told me about this little trick this past summer for making omelets. Now, I wouldn't go out and buy a sandwich maker just to make these, but I happened to have been given one by a friend who returned to the States so I decided to try it out. Easiest omelets ever!

Grease your sandwich maker with cooking spray. Plug it in just before using so it doesn't get too hot.

Add two eggs to a bowl. Add a dash of salt and pepper (not shown)
Add your choice of omelet ingredients, such as tomatoes, bacon (I use crumbled Costco bacon) onions, cheese, and green peppers.

Mix well.
Pour into all compartments of the sandwich maker.

Close and cook 1 1/2 minutes then turn over. Cook 1 1/2 more minutes until done.