Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A cool summer pizza

I had an awesome recipe planned for tonight's dinner.  As part of my triumphant return from New Orleans (look for the food post later), I told Thomas I would make dinner.  He only had one requirement: something light.  Now the recipe I had in mind was from June's Everyday Food magazine.  I get in on my Nook and figured it was worth a try.  (No, I'm not revealing what it was until I actually get the chance to try it out. Well, I knew today was going to be a busy one, so I left my reader at home, and subsequently enough information that I couldn't find the recipe online.  Of course, I turned to Pampered Chef to see what I could find.  Luckily, I found this.  Thomas is not such a fan of a protein-less meal, so I did add some chicken to my shopping list.

I was able to use one of my new favorite toys - the garlic press.  It's so easy to use, it has a huge hopper to fit multiple cloves, and it comes with a little Barbie-brush looking cleaner that helps clear out the little holes when you're done.  No peeling necessary, just pop it in and squeeze it out!

I also was able to use my PC huller to gut the tomatoes.  I'm not going to lie, I hate tomatoes.  However, it's not for the taste, it's for the goopy insides.  With my huller, I can clear it out without any real touching or goop-related incident.  Score!  The recipe was remarkably easy to follow, and other than adding some slightly warned (pre-cooked) chicken, I pretty much did everything it told me to.  I mean, they told me to have cream cheese on a croissant crust.  
Who would I be to argue with that kind of yumminess??                                                                                                   

It didn't take too long to put together, and it was just as refreshing as I could hope.  Thomas loved it, so this is going to be put on the "let's try that again" pile.  (and I can't wait!!)

On a completely unrelated note...

I had Thomas pull out my lone, remaining carrot from the garden yesterday.  I didn't think it would be any good because it's left over from my late winter planting.  All of the white and purple ones are still coming up, but this was the last of the orange danvers.
Yes, my husband has a good sized paw, and yes, that carrot is truly thicker than the sweet corn we had with dinner.  And, surprisingly, the carrot worked really well with some early zucchini as a stir-fried side.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Walk on the Wild Side

I do not do complicated.  I like things easy-peasy, and enjoy simple successes.  While I can follow multi-step directions, I try not to when it comes to a recipe.  The more steps there are, the more ways I can mess up dinner.  I avoid things that I think won’t be successful  because there is nothing worse than feeling that you have to have a pizza for dinner after you’ve worked for the past two hours to make a not-pizza.
Regardless, I have had a lot of success with Pampered Chef recipes.  I might be feeling a little cocky, but I feel like there aren’t a lot of PC recipes that are vindictively hard, or that you have to worry at every step of the process that you’re about to mess things up.  After my Chicken Napoleon success, I’ve been feeling more on top of my game and ready for a little step up in the challenge department.  Now, that doesn’t mean that you’ll read this recipe and think it’s difficult, I’m just saying that it was intimidating to me.
Little did I know, before starting this evening, that Phyllo dough is such a pain ...

Truly.  The first roll I opened was so dry it just flaked into a million pieces.  Once I got the hang of that roll, it was done, of course.  Fortunately, the second roll unrolled much more nicely and was much easier to work with.  I moved quickly, but the Gruyere Chicken en Croute looked like this on the way in and out of the oven...

Thomas claims the meal was fabulous.  I, personally, believe that Phyllo dough is not tasty enough to warrant that much work to assemble this.  Thomas packed the extras up for lunch (this made a lot of food!), and I'm keeping the veggies for my lunches.  For a fancier dinner where I know I'll be putting in more time than I'd like in the kitchen, these aren't so bad, but for a Monday night dinner...  thumbs down on my behalf.  (I know I'm the only one who felt that way, but I'm entitled to vote my own way.)

I did also make the steamed broccoli and sweet maple carrots.  Loved the veg.  Oh, and while I was busy making these items, Thomas and the pups were making trip all over the kitchen because he was making some traditional South African biltong (aka jerky).  Luckily, we've got the system pretty much down so this rig only dominates my kitchen table for about three days.  Of course, given Desilu's height and curiousity, she may have them all down by tomorrow afternoon!

And now, while you're reading this, I'm off to New Orleans for a weekend with my Mom and family for my cousin's wedding.  I'll be back by the middle of next week, so enjoy some time away from me, and maybe I'll find a new recipe for everyone to enjoy!  (At the very least, I hope to sell some PC products to my family.  HINT HINT!)


Happy Six Month Birthday, Desilu!

(please don't eat papa's biltong!)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Differing Opinions, or why this would never be an Italian Food blog…

I’ve been meaning to make this “lasagna” recipe for a while.  In fact, I made a similar one about a year ago, with spinach, but it wasn’t as nice because I didn’t know what I was doing.  However, I found a great Pampered Chef recipe that dropped the spinach, and I was sold.

Thomas is not a fan of marinara sauce, whereas I LOVE red sauce dishes.  It’s hard to make Italian in our house because of the Northern Italy vs. Southern Italy mentality.
Usually, I’m able to connive Thomas to eat some form of Bolognese, with its hearty meat and red wine taste.  I usually start with a chunky garden vegetable sauce from a jar, add two cans of diced, roasted tomatoes, 2 lbs of browned ground beef, two bell peppers, and whatever various spices/garlic/onions/red wine that I can find in the house.  It all starts with the meat (and my beloved PC Mix and Chop) and ends in a lot of simmering, if I have a good hour or two to spare.

It’s not fancy, but by the time I’m done, there’s relatively little marinara flavor, or even sauce, left in the gravy, and Thomas can stomach it.
Now, my mother has a phenomenal recipe for lasagna, and if I had the patience, I would type it up for you.  However, A) I’m trying to only link recipes here since nothing comes from my own head, and B) only my mother can make that recipe.  No one else is allowed (unless related, of course)!    ;) 
Lasagna takes a lot of work.  While my mother has the patience to make up one or two lasagnas at a time, freeze them, and enjoy them at will, I can barely stretch my patience long enough to watch an hour of TV.  (Seriously, how did I ever watch TV without a phone or internet linked device in my hand?)

Lasagna roll ups, however, are a different story.  You can use whatever sauce you’d like, you make up your noodles and the filling, then distribute.  

 Roll them up, place them in 1/2 of your sauce.

Bake, make some cheesy garlic bread, salad, or whatever sides you’d like, and enjoy within the hour.

They’re pockets of yummy goodness.  Thomas liked them, and they made four really hearty leftover lunches. 

On a scale of apples to unicorns, I’d rate them as awesome!  I may never be able to convince Thomas that we should eat more red sauce, but I’ll take the little wins whenever I can.

Friday, May 20, 2011

(Easy) Chicken Dinner

Yesterday, I jumped back into cooking.  I’m finally feeling better, and not so gross that I feel like I’m contaminating our kitchen (it was just a head cold, but the thought was still horrifying).  I pulled out my Season’s Best cookbook for summer (thanks, Pampered Chef, for making it only $1), and flipped through to find a Mexican tasting chicken recipe.

I had decided yesterday to make my mango confetti salsa for Thomas, since there wasn’t any left after my work party.  I stopped by the “farm stand” on the way home to pick up some bread, and saw the mangos on sale, so I thought it might be kismet.  I figured a “heavier” Mexican meal would balance the light and sweet salsa.  Flipping through my Season’s Best today produced the recipe for Mexican Chicken Napoleons.  They looked a little more advanced than what I was prepared for, but the recipe seemed easy enough to try. 

Plus, look at some of the cool toys I got to play with!

First, I used my slap chop Food Chopper to dice almost everything on the menu.  You name it – jicama, mango, chicken, cilantro, bell peppers, onions, and on, and on… 

This thing is truly amazing, and if I had been in a bad mood, I’m pretty sure it would be fairly therapeutic. 


I sliced up the tortillas and baked them up, nice and crisp.  (Have I mentioned I love my stoneware?  It gets more and more addictive every time I use it.)  While they were baking, I mixed up my ingredients for the napoleons. 

Had I prepped a bit before hand, this might have been easier, but I was trying to make, bake, and assemble all at the same time.  Even still, it was a quick process, just a fairly chaotic one in my unskilled hands.  It was pretty sweet that the chicken was already cooked, it made my life much easier. 

Once I assembled the napoleons, I let them sit for a couple of minutes while I diced up the salsa ingredients.  The recipe calls for a pineapple salsa, but since I already had the mango salsa ingredients, I just did a quick substitution.  One most of the ingredients were prepped, I put the napoleons into the oven for a quick five minute back.  Rushed back to my salsa-y goodness, mixed it all together, and…


Thomas claims it’s the best meal ever to come out of my kitchen.  Once he looked up from eating to see a glare that could only convey my best “wait ‘til I call Maria Shriver’s attorney” look, he quickly recanted and claimed that he meant it just happens so seldom that… 
more glaring. 

He just stopped and told me thanks for a great meal.
They all lived happily ever after. 

la fin

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Introducing... Thirsty Thursday!

Sorry for the absence, I was a bit waylaid by some out-of-town guests and then a vicious head cold.  However, one of my visitors, my Aunt Mary, inspired me for a (semi) regular segment around here – Thirsty Thursday!   Here was the combined inspiration of last weekend…

I love Marieta’s, the best Mexican restaurant within two miles of my house!  Actually, it’s one of my favorite restaurants that I’ve found while living here (so far), be it Mexican or otherwise.  And their margaritas, well, they’re the freshest, least hangover-est margaritas I’ve ever had…bonus!

Since I’ve alluded to one beverage in this blog already (what?  We did??  Quick, scroll back if you don’t believe me), I figured out start there, and move on as I can.  Aunt Mary has already promised to teach me her world famous Bloody Mary recipe, so that’s a start.  Plus, I’m sure I’ll find at least one new recipe to try a month that we’ll love.

So, back to Mother’s Day/Father-in-Law’s birthday.  Remember this?  It was yummy.  In fact, the punch was a slightly tweaked Paula Deen recipe that Thomas found online.  Once we had realized that we had a lot more watermelon than we knew what to do with, Thomas started researching some recipes to make a refreshing punch.  We already had enough supplies for mimosas, so we needed something a little different.  (Still confused about what I’m referring to?  It’s in the watermelon in the top right corner of the picture.)


We connived convinced our best man, Manfred, to cut the lovely design in the top of the watermelon.  Thomas followed the recipe for the punch, MINUS the simple syrup.  The reviews online all said that the syrup made it too sweet, and then we ladled and enjoyed.

If it were up to me, we would have used this as a base for watermelon martinis, and maybe kicked up the tartness with more lemonade concentrate, but I love tart drinks, so that might just be me.  That being said, it’s summer, it’s refreshing, and any vehicle for alcohol is generally acceptable, and it’s even great without any booze.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

It's never as bad as it seems

As a person venturing out into the world of cooking, I find myself anxious about making mistakes.  I'm too literal when it comes to reading a recipe.  I'm worried because my oven cooks on the warm side.  I'm afraid about substituting different  items.  And if things go wrong, I panic.  ALL OUT PANIC.   In fact, I was almost in tears Tuesday night on account of some After Dinner Mint Triangles.  For serious.

I hosted my first show Wednesday, and I was worried about having all of the proper ingredients and tools, since it was a "cooking" show to take place in my work's break room.  Cooking is relative since I only had a sink and microwave to contend with.  I decided we'd make two recipes, instead of the normal one, because it'd be fun and it'd give me some practice.  However, the third recipe, the mint triangles, were going to be made ahead of time, because I appreciate my co-workers, and I'm trying to drum up some business here!

Back to Tuesday: I prep what I can, pack up my bag, and start on the dessert.  It's a straight-up recipe with minimal ingredients, and no real cooking to speak of.  I decide to make two batches since I have three things going on Wednesday that could each use some food.

Don't want to jinx it, make one at a time.  Put in the crust, not enough, need to double before moving on.

Doubled recipe, lumpy crust, let's just make the topping and make due.

Not enough topping to make an evenly consistent layer.  Looks messy.

Chocolate drizzle?  Covers a variety of sins, Praise a Maker.

Then the real problem starts...  Cutting out the perfect triangles.  Really?  It's an easy, geometric shape that shouldn't produce any real problems, just make some squares and cut them in half, right?  Riiiiight...

The knife won't stay clean, the cream cheese topping won't stick to the crust, and this pampered chef is on the brink of a mental breakdown.  Thomas claims that just before this happens, I make a Kermit/muppet face that foretells the impending doom.  Luckily, he was there to save me.  Turns out all I needed was some time with a freezer and a pizza cutter.

Dessert was saved, everyone adored it, and the unsung hero, my husband, wasn't even around to take the credit.

Shame.  Maybe next time?  Maybe not. 

At least he got to eat everything that crumbled apart and was left behind in the pan.

PS - for my work party, we created some Cheesy Chicken Chilaquiles and Mango Confetti Salsa.  I highly recommend both!  (I meant to take pictures, but was so easily distracted by how much fun we had.)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Brunch-tastic, part two... This one's for my mom.

My mother has tried for decades...literally, decades, to teach me how to cook.  She has always tried to include me, in one way or another, in her kitchen.  She's a natural born hostess, with an eye for a good recipe.  There are dozens, if not hundreds, of books that have lined her bookshelves throughout my entire life bringing together recipes from different sources: magazines, newspapers, churches, cookbooks (naturally), and now I would venture to guess that even one or two online articles have been printed out for her use.  She can time an elaborate meal to come forth from her two (oh yes, there must be more than one) kitchens with impeccable timing.  She has photocopied, and re-photocopied recipes again and again to cook and perfect throughout my lifetime.  We even have a shared place for our historic recipes - The Wilson Family Cookbook, compiled by my Aunt Louise many family reunions ago, and I've even created an update about four years ago.  My mom's family cook book has been taked out of it's original 1" binder and expanded into a 3" binder, with large, overflowing pockets filled with ideas and personal favorites to remember for next time.

Mine?  It has a couple extra Christmas cookie recipes and one for ice cream sandwiches. 

To be fair?  I can rock a mean cookie platter, but cooking is not for me.  I know there are many friends out there snickering under their collective breath that I sell cookware now.  I deserve it.  But, I'm out to learn one thing: how to make it easier.  My mother has been cooking for me for thirty years (31, as of tomorrow), and I know she will for many more decades to come.  However, I feel like now's my time to step up.  To show her I can do it.  To pay homage to the fact that her recipes will not go to waste.  Instead, I will learn them, and new ones, and make her a dinner some day that will make her proud.


With this past weekend, I spent my second mother's day away from my mom.  It doesn't get any easier.  Especially knowing those 2000 miles aren't going to shrink any time soon, separation is difficult.  In honor of my mother this weekend, even though I knew she wouldn't be there to enjoy it, I made one of her recipes...  Mama Gliwa's French Toast Strata.  She hasn't trademarked it, yet, but real talk, she could if she wanted.  She could bring dictators to their knees for want of it's awesome-ness.  In fact...

Yep.  That's all that was left.  That dish was cleaned out like the Rapture was coming.  It was probably the top of everyone's 'must get seconds of' list, and rightfully so.  I would give you the recipe, but then I'd have to kill you, so here's one that's pretty darn close.  Thank you mom, for your recipe seeking ways, to help me impress my in-laws, and their friends, on a day when I should be sharing this with you.

Love you!

PS: the Carmalized Rosemary Pears were amazing.  I'll gladly make you that recipe the next time we are in the same state.  You'll love them!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Brunch-tastic! (part one)

We have this issue with our family - over celebration.  For the first six months of every year, it seems as though there is a big celebration every weekend.  Birthdays, anniversaries, mother's day, father's day, MAR10, International Star Wars Day...  You name it, we have a cookout for it.  For this mother's day and my father-in-law's birthday, I thought, why not brunch?  Let's do something a little different.  We just had a huge cookout over Easter weekend, so what better way to highlight a mother's undying love for her progeny than by eating a calorie laden meal that also includes a serving of fruit?  I came up with the breakfast menu, Thomas worked on the lunch, and by our powers combined, we rocked the brunch scene!

You've already seen the cupcakes, so there's no point in dwelling on that, but here's a peek at our entire menu...

Starting from the top left (and working around vaguely counter-clockwise): cold meat and cheese platter with a basket of rolls, the maple bacon buttercream topped pancake cupcakes, ham and cheese brunch squares, Mama Gliwa's French Toast Strata, carmalized rosemary pears, asparagus (asparagii?) with a roasted garlic sauce, cold sweet potato salad, grilled rack of lamb, and Edible Arrangement, and a watermelon filled with some yummy punch.

There were 10 of us (plus my 3 year old nephew), and one of the biggest hits was the Ham and Cheese Brunch Squares (thank you, PC).  Even my nephew downed some, and I usually only see him feasting on meat!  It's a little difficult to tell, but the squares were made in the stoneware bar pan.  It not only cooked like a dream, but it cleaned like a dream, too!

Now, please note that the Brunch Squares have generous amounts of hash browns, eggs, bacon (we substituted out the ham), cheese, more cheese, and even cream cheese, tomatoes... anything that you consider a staple of breakfast, it's probably in there!  I was a bit dubious about the clean up of the stoneware - after all it is a porous stone, but PC said it wouldn't be a problem.  In fact, since I actually read up on it before hand, it said...
  • Hand wash in clear, hot water; rinse and dry thoroughly before storing. NOTE: as soap can flavor foods that are baked in Stoneware, it is important that you do not use soap or detergents to clean your Stoneware or wash in an automatic dishwasher using dishwasher detergent. Follow these steps for general and deep cleaning.
Okay, fair enough.  But what if it gets stained?
Deep Cleaning
  • Prepare a baking soda paste by mixing 1/2 cup baking soda with 3 tablespoons water. Apply baking soda paste to desired areas and let sit for 15-20 minutes. Scrape off excess paste using the Nylon Pan Scraper. Rinse and dry thoroughly before storing.
Sweet.  As you can see, I didn't need to deep clean the pan, but no soap?  In this day and age of anti viral/microbal/germythingys, it seemed to me to be a bit much to ask.  I understand you don't want soap to soak into the clay, but to not even grace the pan at all??  I did a little research.  Guess what I found from Rebecca Champlin, who has an MS in Microbiology?  Yeah, I'm going there, so if you're a nerd like me, heads up.  If not, scroll down a bit...
Soap does not sanitize your dishes.  It is simply a releasing agent that allows you to remove the food particles from your dishes easier.  Friction actually does more for removing the bacteria than the soap does.  This is accomplished by rubbing a dish cloth or other cleaning tool over your dishes.  Hot, clear water is the releasing agent for stoneware.  It releases all of the food particles and extra grease from the surface of the stone.  Your pan scraper provides the necessary friction. 

Bacteria need a warm, moist environment to thrive and grow.  That is why it is important to do your dishes as soon as possible to discourage the growth of airborne bacteria on your dishes.  YOU WILL NOT HAVE BACTERIA ON YOUR STONES OR YOUR DISHES IF YOU COOK YOUR FOOD THOROUGHLY. COOKED FOOD DOES NOT CONTAIN BACTERIA!!!!  However, it will grow bacteria if left out too long after cooking it or by not properly storing it in the refrigerator after you finish your meals.  All bacteria known to man are killed at 180 degrees.  Because the stones are porous, the moisture does not stay in them... it dries up very quickly.  If you want to rapidly dry your baking stones, put them in a 200-degree oven for 10 minutes. 

The seasoning on the baking stones (non-stick surface) is caused by the build-up of small amounts of residual oils from your foods. The dark colour of your stones is caused because our stones are made of vitrified clay and the repeated heating and cooling of the stones will darken them.   Our stones have been tested and approved for safe food handling and are acceptable for use in commercial kitchens using the cleaning procedure in the package insert.

Interesting, right?  Love it.  As if I needed more of a reason to believe in this stuff...  So, go ahead, kiddos, dig in.  It's clean, it's easy to clean, and it cooks so nice and evenly that you'll be hooked on the stoneware in no time at all, just like me!

Heads up next time, when I finish going over my part of the bruncheon menu, (and maybe why I also think my new zester is pretty sweet, even if fresh ginger makes me mad...)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A word on cupcakes...


But seriously, I know it's tres fashionable nowadays to love cupcakes.  Maybe I am just following a trend.  However, I love the fun things that are being done with cupcakes now, and I love women like the Brown Eyed Baker who are finding recipes, compiling them, and sharing all of the fun things that you (yes, YOU) can do with baking/cooking on a daily basis.  For example, just a few weeks ago, I made these... 
The ones with the raspberries on top are Limoncello cupcakes.  While the Brown Eyed Baker posted a recipe for these, it was lifted by another foodie I love to follow, arugulove, who modified the recipe in her own ways and made them gorgeously delicious.  Alternately, the chocolate based cupcakes are Irish Car Bomb cupcakes.  AMAZING, to say the least.  I don't care much for frosting and being decorative...it was a stretch to get those raspberries on top, but I can put the frosting in a bag with a tip-less tip and enjoy the love.  This may be the only reason I like cupcakes - the frosting can be fun without a lot of work.  Could you put in the work?  Sure, but when you just spent over and hour perfecting the cupcake, is that really where you want to spend your time?  Maybe you, my friends, but not me.

Regardless, on to this weekend.  Thomas and I are celebrating mother's day and my father-in-law's birthday AND the arrival of our best man from Germany tomorrow with a big family brunch.  We're in charge, which means with Thomas' mad fat kitchen skills, it's going to be awesome.  However, I rock a mean breakfast (thanks to my mother's awesome recipes) so I'll be holding my own in the kitchen over the next 24 hours, too.  Yes, there will be Pampered Chef recipes on the table tomorrow (made with PC products), but today is about the dessert.  THE CUPCAKES.  mmmm....

If I had to pick my favorite things about breakfast, they'd be french toast (if we're eating at home), pancakes (if we're at IHOP), and bacon (because seriously, who can resist really good bacon?).  While prepping for tomorrow, I whipped up some incredible looking cupcakes that combine some of the best parts of breakfast.  So, without further ado...

Pancake Cupcakes with Maple Bacon Buttercream Frosting!   Yeah, that's right...  That's me using my high-rent "slap chop" to mince the bacon for my frosting...

And, as if bacon inside the frosting wasn't enough, I garnished with some even finer dices on top!

Well, I have to finish prepping th French Toast Strata, so happy drooling!

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Cheat

Okay, for Cinco de Mayo, I cheated.  To be fair, I did create a Pampered Chef recipe...  But to be honest, it's a recipe I've done before with a few different mutations.  I made the (in)famous Taco Ring.  I've made it before with spinach artichoke dip, or with artichoke jalepeno dip - both of which were pre-made and store bought for my convenience.  The point is that I made a form of Mexican food for a Mexican holiday, and since it was the second time we've had Mexican food in four days, I figured it was okay to cheat.

I took my own pictures this time.  While they are never as pretty as the ones online, I can at least claim them as my own.  There are as authentic and imperfect as I am, and they're from my own honest-to-goodness, unfaked, 100% real, messy kitchen.

So, of course I browned the meat, using my mix and chop (which I've had forever and adore).   I then flayd my cresent rolls and distributed the seasoned ground beef with peppers and then topped with cheese.  I pulled the sides in to create an oval wreath.  Had I had a nice round stone, I would have totally made a perfect circle.  Instead, I improvised!

After 22 minutes, the meal was ready.  I served it up with lettuce, salsa, and guacamole.  It wasn't fancy, but it was quick and delicious.  And, since I was just eating the leftover chicken breast from my 30 minute chicken night for lunch, I probably could have eaten the whole ring by myself.  
As it stands, there are no leftovers, but I certainly had some help to polish it off!

All in all, some good eats.  Happy eating!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Deep Covered Baker

My first two forays into the Pampered Chef realm have come about purely due to curiosity.  PC sells a Deep Covered Baker - a stoneware product that helps to cook things quickly, easily, and fairly efficiently.  I have heard stories, and if you go to a PC party, or meet someone who has one of these dishes, you'd swear that there was nothing you couldn't do with it.

Now, truth be told, I received one of these for my wedding.  In fact, it has traveled with me from place to place and across the country and has never been used.  Truth #2: Stoneware used to scare me.  I had a pizza stone once that I didn't know what to do with and ended up chucking it because of the various spots that had accumulated due to improper seasoning.  See why I've avoided this??

Fast forward, here I am (four years and 2000 miles away from that newlywed me) with a deep covered baker in my cabinet, a consultant's package of products in the mail, and a few recipes just ready to burn the house down.  I might as well start with one of the pieces I already have.  This time I'm armed: I've read the product use and care instructions, and passed the quiz on stoneware.  I'm on it!

After looking through my refrigerator and going through the different recipes, I decided that my first dish would be the Chicken Mexican Lasagna.  This recipe has limited ingredients (a plus), pre-cooked chicken (a bigger plus), and a very short cooking time (dingdingding - we have a winner!).  So, I have bolstered my courage, pre-seasoned my baker, and layered my ingredients in a fairly rushed artful manner.  I even used a fresh onion out of my garden - bonus!  20 minutes later, I was serving up some hot, tastey goodness.

Now, if I was a great and organized chef, with my camera ready at hand, my dish might have looked something like this.  (Hmmm... add to that "if I had followed the layering directions the way I was supposed to."  I don't make excuses for the way I cook, but I was elbow deep in enchilada sauce and the print on the recipe I had was extremely small in the dim light of my kitchen.)  My lasagna was smooth on top, since I uber-layered the chicken within the lasagna, and I'm not a great cutter who could make a perfect piece like that.  Regardless, it was delicious.  The recipe claims eight servings, and maybe if I had more sides that would have been the case.  Instead, I just served it with lettuce to add a nice crunch.  My husband and I ate VERY well, and I still had enough for two big lunch leftovers.  I'm a huge fan of having something filling left for lunch, so a definite mission accomplished on this one!

I'm on a roll now, I've worked on one recipe and still have some energy to keep this going.  (Who am I kidding?  This project will probably be old within the month, but if I don't set my sights high, I can't predict where I'm going.  At least I'm going to try.)  After success #1, I decided the next day was the perfect time to try my second recipe.

At the last PC party I went to - the one that pulled me over the edge to becoming an independent consultant - the woman sitting next to me was a former consultant.  She pointed out some great gadgets in the catalogue, contributed to the discussion during the cooking demonstration, and started raving about how the deep covered baker makes chicken a breeze.  I hate making chicken.  Well, I hate touching any kind of raw meat, but minced meat, or boneless meat, that is easily handled with minimal touching is okay.  Since this makes that easier, I decided to give it a try.

We bought a small fryer (young chicken, whole chicken, or whatever your terminology) to process.  I still made my husband, Thomas, take out the neck and gizzards, clean and oil the bird.  I created the seasoning mixture and we popped that puppy in the microwave.  30 minutes later we had one done bird.

Now, I did have one problem with the chicken: it looked like it had been boiled.  Sure, there were seasonings on it, and it looked super juicy, it just didn't look a thing like the chicken in the picture.  Maybe I missed something, but this bird looked pale, and in a house where things are constantly coming off of the grill, that just doesn't fly.  (haha, that bird really doesn't fly.  nerd)

So, going against my warranty, I popped the whole thing into the oven under the broiler, busting rule #1 of the product's use and care instructions.  It was only for two minutes, just enough to give this girl a tan, and the chicken really was perfect.  I doubted everyone, and in hindsight I can apologize for being so naive.  I served the chicken up with a bagged salad - Pear Gorgonzola - and Thomas made some garlic pita bread.  Awesome meal made within 40 minutes (including prep time).

So far I'm two recipes in and I'm pretty impressed with myself (and OF COURSE the baker).  I'm truly ready to start this challenge.

Game On!

The departure point...

Today I will start my project, but before I set up my goals, I need to start with a disclaimer...  or three...

First, I am not a cook.  I am not a baker.  I am not a chef.  That being said, I can follow a recipe.  My husband is a chef, deliciously trained, and he spoils me rotten on a nearly daily basis.  He is the primary chef in the household.  I have some dinner recipes that I am good at, but I have no creative flair for what I am doing.  I am an English teacher - I read and follow directions with very little leeway in one direction or the other.  I don't even enjoy cooking, so it is something I gladly relinquish the reigns of.

Second, if there is anything I love to create, it's sweets, then (maybe) appetizers.  I love to make (although not eat) dessert.  Of course I will eat and enjoy, but it does not make or break a meal for me.  Appetizers, on the other hand, could be my downfall.  I'd rather eat a selection of appetizers for dinner than eat a main dish.  My husband loves to grill, so I let him touch the raw meat, prepare it, and cook it any way he wants for any meal. BUT, if there is dessert or appetizers to be had, I call them because those are fun to do.

Finally, I have inherited my mother's penchant for shopping and kitchen gadgetry.  I love to shop, I love to spend money (if I have it), and if there's a gadget that will make my time in the kitchen easier, or more fun, I'm on it like a bonnet!  I've been to Pampered Chef parties in the past, and I have picked up some of their supplies and pantry items from time to time.  I was debating about becoming a PC Independent Consultant before I left Chicago in 2008/9.  When I moved to San Diego, I figured there was no point since I didn't know anyone.  However, last month I was reintroduced to the Pampered Chef party.  I fell in love with it again, and now I've decided to go in whole-hog and become an Independent Consultant.  So, OF COURSE, I want to try every gadget and recipe and OF COURSE I want to sell the product along the way.  So, naturally, what better way to document my time, encourage my recipe/product skills, and learn to enjoy my kitchen than through this entire process of research, create, and blog?

I can't say that I'll be able to do this every day, or that every thing I try will be a success, but I will try to take some pictures, play with the products, and try to (maybe) encourage you to buy try more with me!  I'm in the process of getting my individual website to sell the products, but for now I will just be here, plugging and chugging away!  My goal is to try at least three new recipes a week, and to eventually acquire most of the gadgets so that whenever I get the kitchen of my dreams, it will be fully kitted out.  Oh, and I've already tried two this week, with a third to come this evening, so I'll try to take some pictures from here on out and post on a regular basis.  If I can't take the picture, I'll see if PC has a stock photo so you can pretend mine looked exactly like theirs.

Happy Cooking!