Thursday, May 30, 2013

Carnival Style Lemonade

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Have you ever had lemonade at a carnival?  I know!  It's a super hot day the kids are driving you crazy, having fun!!  Asking for yet more money to win those little stuffed animals at the games...
I think they're all rigged personally, but alas!!  But, it's you know, summer time in the good 'ole US of A!!

You get yourself a lemonade (which cost 1/4 of your mortgage) and you take your first sip... HEAVEN!!  It's sweet yet tangy, ice cold and those little amazing crystals of sugar have just clung on to the half lemon they have put in the glass, and are clinging even more so on the ice cubes!!  You finish the lemonade in two long gulps - wait, that's me!  Then you start on the ice... oh the ice! Sweet, cold and refreshing with the little sugar crystals that are on hanging on for dear life, and that hint of lemon!  You can chew on them all day!!  Yes, that lemonade!!!

So my friends, I went on a mission to recreate this beverage without  missing a mortgage payment!!  My first attempt was okay, but nothing like the carnival style.  Today, and what a perfect day to re-create since it's scorching hot and humid, was a total success!  The kids were in their glory, and I didn't have to shell out money for any games either!  It's a win-win!

Ready for this simple recipe?  Here we go;

4 medium lemons juiced
1 medium lemon sliced
1 cup white granulated sugar
1 cup water
2-3 tbsp white granulated sugar for dipping
Ice cubes

-Pour the 2-3 tbsp of white granulated sugar on a plate and set aside.

-Juice the 4 lemons and set aside.

-In a small saucepan, add the 1 cup sugar and the 1 cup water.  Heat and bring to a simmer till all the sugar has dissolved, turn off heat!  This is called "simple syrup"!!  I know, the plethora of information I say... but tell me that is not super simple, yes?

-Now, let's dredge those lemon slices through the reserved sugar and set aside.

-Using your favorite pitcher, (I bought this one at an estate sale for $1.75 SCORE)!  Love estate sales!!  Fill 3/4 with ice cubes.

-Add your squeezed lemon juice to the pitcher with the ice.

-Add all of your simple syrup, and stir.

-Fill with cold water to your desired level.


-Let's add in those amazing sugar coated lemon slices and stir.  Some of the sugar crystals will fall into the lemonade, and some of them will cling on the lemon slices... HEAVEN!!

If you really want to dazzle your guests, dredge a few more slices of lemon through the sugar and decorate your glasses.  There is nothing more refreshing than the lemon with the sugar crystals...
If you want to make it into an "adult" beverage (who doesn't), we can always add a wee bit of vodka to the lemonade... WHAT?

Till next time!!

Dishin with Didi

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Chocolate Nut Lovers Cake

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I know, trust me!  Scrumptious, moist, dripping with ganache and loaded with nuts...

I made this cake with my mom in mind.  My mom has the biggest sweet tooth I have ever seen!  She can eat cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner!  Plus she can have dessert too!  Her favorite combination is chocolate and nuts, so I figured I would combine the two just for her!!  I do love my mommy!!

I love the chocolate nut ganache as both filling and frosting...

This is a very easy cake to make.  Just a couple of steps and even they are so easy to do.  The cake itself is chocolatey and very moist, but not overly sweet because I don't want to take anything away from the star of the show, the amazing ganache filling and frosting!!  Trust me, you will need to keep your spoon out of it...
Oh wait, that's me!

Ready for the recipe?  Here we go;

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 26-28 minutes
Yield: 12-14 servings

2 cups sugar
1-1/4 cups milk
2 eggs 
3/4 cup oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp vinegar
3 cups flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Ganache Filling/Frosting:
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup (6 ounces) milk chocolate chips
1 tbsp Kahlua or  other coffee liquor (can use vanilla if you like)
1 pkg (6.4 ounces) turtle candies (or Snickers, or your favorite chocolate/caramel brand chocolate bar)
1/4 cup honey roasted peanuts chopped

1/2 cup honey roasted peanuts chopped

-Dice your turtle candies in half and place them in your food processor along with your honey roasted peanuts and roughly chop them, set aside.  

-Place your topping peanuts in food processor, roughly chop again and set aside.

-Preheat oven to 350F.

-In mixer bowl (or with a mixer and a large bowl), add your dry ingredients whisk a few times to make sure cocoa powder is nicely distributed, and then add your wet ingredients.  Mix well until well blended.

-Pour into 2 greased 9" round cake pans, dividing evenly.  Bake 26-28 minutes, or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean.  Let cakes cool in pans 15-20 minutes, then unmold onto racks to cool completely.

-Meanwhile, in a 2 quart bowl, combine the heavy cream and heat in a microwave oven on high for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes or till very hot.  Add in those amazing chocolate chips and stir until melted and smooth.  Let's add in that amazing Kahlua shall we?  Don't forget to give yourself a little wee smidgen of Kahlua too.  I mean we must reserve our strength and all, what?

-Reserve 3/4-1 cup of the ganache for frosting on the sides of the cake.  To the rest of the still warm ganache, add the turtle (or chocolate bar pieces), stir well.  Some of the pieces will remain chunky while others pieces will melt right in, yum!!  Set aside to cool.

-When the ganache is firm enough to spread, fill stacked cake layers with half of the ganache mixture.  Spread remaining mixture evenly over top of cake.  Frost sides of cake with the reserved 3/4 cup chocolate mixture.  Sprinkle the chopped 1/4 cup peanuts around the edge of the cake to make a border and around the sides.

-Refrigerate cake for at least 1-1/2 to 2 hours prior to serving.

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Grab yourself a glass of milk and enjoy!

Till next time!!

Dishin with Didi

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Twisted Baked Beans

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Have you ever presented a dish to your family and friends, or brought a dish to an occasion and have it like literally disappeared before your eyes?  See, isn't that the best feeling in the entire world?  I know!!

This is exactly how these beans are.  Whenever I present them, they're gone before I can say;  "um these beans..." - GONE!!

I have to let you in a little secret.  I love to cook and bake as you know, more so cooking is my thing and all, but you get my drift...
But, I say BUT, I am not one of those cooks that enjoys fiddling around in the kitchen for oh say all day to achieve just one dish.  No, not happening.  I have "zero tolerance" for that.  I get antsy, frustrated, and I lose the will to live!! So you will never catch me spending about 4 hours in the kitchen to make one dish, EVER!!  I like quick and delicious!  

So back to the beans.  I have read more than my share of baked bean recipes and the ones that sound delicious call for baking for about 2-1/2 to 3 hours, some even longer.  Are you kidding me right now?  We will have none of that!!

So I set about making my own recipe with obviously a high influence from the various recipes I read.  This is a semi-homemade recipe to which I add in my own spices and sweetness.  As you can see my friends, they are delicious!!  They are sweet, with the addition of meat, well just because it's delicious and all.  Then add your brown sugar along with maple syrup and a hint of different spices?  Well that will literally make you want to go back for 2nds & 3rds, wait a minute, they do!!
I promise you - no I guarantee you; Wherever you take these babies, they will disappear in a heartbeat and the recipe will always be asked of you, if you can keep your own spoon out of them first that is!  I promise, I pinkie promise!!  Print out extra copies, or better yet, share this recipe and refer them to me!  I like making new friends...
You all know I love to ramble, talk!

Ready for the recipe?  Here we go;

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Yield: 8-10 servings

1lb (16 ounces) ground beef
1 medium onion diced
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup (see notes)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

can - 1lb (28 ounces) your favorite baked beans (undrained)
1 can - 15.5 ounces small red beans, drained & rinsed -  (or your favorite, not garbanzo)

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*Notes: If you don't have "pure maple syrup" in the house, not to worry.  Do reduce the amount of maple syrup to 1 1/2 to 2 tbsp though, because the difference in pure maple versus the ready ones you find in the grocery store is the sweetness. *

-In a large skillet, saute your ground beef till no longer pink.

-Once ground beef is no longer pink, add in your onions and cook for a few minutes till they are soft and fragrant.  

-Add in your spices, brown sugar and maple syrup.  Cook for a couple of minutes so the spices get to know the ground beef and onions and the maple syrup is wearing silly hats and dancing the Makarena...
Taste and adjust for seasonings.  Does it need more maple syrup, more salt?  They really should all be dancing at this point, silly spices.

-Preheat oven to 350F.

-Add in your baked beans along with your drained and rinsed can of beans, mix well so that the ground beef is thoroughly distributed.

-Pre-spray an 11 x 11 baking pan, or your favorite pan, and add the bean mixture- spreading evenly.

-Bake for 30-35 minutes till all the flavors have married and fallen totally in love, and your house is fragrant and you just cannot wait to dig in.  Oh wait, again... that's me!

Remove from oven and taste...
What?  You so knew I was going to instruct you to do that now, come-on!  Serve with your favorite main entrees, or do as I do, and just sneak a small bowl all for yourself.

Till next time!!

Dishin with Didi

Monday, May 20, 2013

Orzo & Artichoke Pasta Salad

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Yes, it is that time of year again...
Kids activities, weekend at cottages/camps, get togethers.  This all leads to very little time in the kitchen, and let's face it, who wants to be in the kitchen when it's nice outside?  Surely not me!!  

Alas we fall back to salads as our backup.  An awesome dinner can be made in no time with a quick grill of meats or seafood and a salad.  It is very common to find at least 2-3 different salads in my fridge during the summer months.  It's my old "standby" I say!!  However, variety is "the spice of life", so we have to have different salads because you know, you get bored.  Well at least "I" do if I keep making the same one... I know!!

This salad is one of our favorites.  You can make it as lemony as you want, but I like a nice balance in the vinaigrette between the lemon and olive oil.  Next you add in that amazing garlic and fresh parsley... toss with artichokes.  See I knew I could get your attention!!
What you end up with is a light refreshing, pasta salad.  Again no use of mayonnaise, so it will be perfect to bring to a picnic, potluck what have you that everyone will love!

Ready for the recipe?  Here we go;

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 7-9 minutes
Yield: 8-10 sides

1lb (16 ounces) orzo pasta
1 can (15 ounces) artichoke hearts (in water or frozen, thawed) 
1/2 cup frozen or fresh peas

1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 green onions, finely chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, crushed 
1/3 - 1/2 cup olive oil (I used extra virgin)
Juice of 2 lemons
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 - 3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

*Parmesan cheese - optional*

-Cook orzo pasta according to directions.

-While pasta is cooking, open, drain and rinse your artichoke hearts.  Roughly dice and set aside.

-Chop your green onions and your parsley, set aside.  Crush your garlic - I literally used a mortar & pestle to crush the garlic for this. Such an awesome device, who knew??  Set aside.

-Zest your lemon and juice both the lemons, set aside.

-If using Parmesan cheese, I would grate about 1/3 cup now, not forgetting to shave off a tiny piece for yourself, ok, maybe 2 tiny pieces.  What?

-In a mason jar, or container of choice, add all your vinaigrette ingredients, shake well, taste for seasonings and tartness, set aside.

-Add your frozen or fresh peas to the orzo about 1 minute before the orzo is completely done.

-Drain your orzo, return to the pan.  Toss well with the vinaigrette and finally add your roughly chopped artichoke.  That is after you have snuck just a tiny, smidgen of artichoke for yourself... it is afterall artichoke, hello!

-Place in a pretty bowl, top off with Parmesan cheese if so desired.

This amazingly easy salad will easily keep in the fridge for about a week.  It is so light and refreshing!  Did I mention how easy too?  I didn't?
I also love that it goes with pretty much any meat or seafood...
It's a win-win I say!

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Till next time!!

Dishin with Didi

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Roasted Tomato & Garlic Pasta Salad

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With the summer months literally around the corner I don't know about you, but for me, salads are on the menu constantly.  I love to have a variety of salads on hand so a quick grill of meats or seafood makes for an easy and fast dinner.

It is not unusual to find at least 3 different types of salads in my fridge during the summer months.  I like variety, after all it is the "spice" of life, yes?  

This salad is so simple to make, and the flavors? They literally explode in  your mouth!!  Between the roasted garlic and tomatoes and then the olive tapenade?  Toss with your favorite pasta and then just because add in some of your favorite hard sausage...
I know!!  I also love the fact that there isn't any mayonnaise in this, so it's a perfect "take to" a pot luck.

Ready for the recipe?  Here we go;

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 45-50 minutes
Yield: 8-10

1lb (16 ounces) your favorite pasta
1lb (16 ounces) tomatoes 
1 small head garlic
1/4 cup olive tapenade
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup hard salami or sausage diced
1/4 cups water

-Preheat oven to 400F.

-Wash and dry your tomatoes (I used heirloom cherry), and lay on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with almost all of the olive oil and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.

-Using a small strip of aluminum foil, cut off the top part of the garlic head, and drizzle the remaining olive oil and sprinkle again with salt & pepper. *you might want to pop a tomato into your mouth at this point, well just because*

-Place both in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes or till the tomatoes have roasted nicely, and the aroma is killing you.
Okay, so that's me...

I know...

-Remove tomatoes and garlic to a plate and set aside.

-Drain all those succulent pan drippings into a small bowl.

-Now add in the roasted garlic.  All you have to do is literally squeeze the cloves, and they will pop right out.  If one doesn't make it into the bowl and somehow ends up in your mouth, this is fine, don't panic...

-Mash together the roasted garlic and pan drippings.  Then add your olive tapenade, set aside.

-Cook pasta of choice till ala dente, reserving 1/4 cup of pasta water.  Drain pasta, place back into saucepan.

-Add the reserved water into the roasted garlic and tapenade mixture and stir.

-Toss the dressing with the hot pasta and hard salami and allow all the flavors to marry.

You can either allow this to cool and store in the refrigerator.  Or serve up a plate for yourself liberally sprinkled with a good Parmesan cheese and a nice bottle of Corona...

Hot or cold, this pasta salad is simply divine!!  

Till next time!!

Dishin with Didi

Monday, May 13, 2013

Greek Chicken Souvlaki - Better Than Your Favorite Restaurant

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I know...

I have this marinade already posted here:

Chicken Souvlaki Dip

It is seriously the best dip ever!  However, I have received a few emails and private messages asking for the recipe.  So instead of referring and pointing you in the correct direction...
I decided to make another post for easier reference and searching.
Yes, yes, this is how much I love you! ♥

This is a totally "Greek" recipe, the flavors literally explode in your mouth!  You will never visit another Greek restaurant again.  Then, <sigh> the owners will come knocking on my door asking me why I am trying to destroy their business...
I will just laugh at them and invite them in for an amazing bite, and the rest as they "is history".

Ready for this amazingly simple but delicious recipe?  Here we go;

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 - 35 minutes
Yield: 4 skewers (chicken only) - 8 skewers (with veggies)

3 medium boneless skinless chicken breasts (or 2 large) cubed
1/3 cup fresh parsley chopped fine
1-1/2 tbsp dried marjoram or oregano (1/4 cup if using fresh herbs, chopped)
1 tsp. Dried thyme or 2 tbsp fresh chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint, diced fine or 1/2 tsp dried
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice 
2 tsp. Course sea or kosher salt
1/2 tsp. Black pepper
4 garlic cloves crushed

In a resealable plastic bag add all your marinade ingredients, add your cubed chicken, seal.  Using your fingers, manipulate marinade to make sure all chicken pieces are coated and place in fridge for 2-4 hours.

That's it, no seriously...
How simple was that, yes?  I know!  At this point you can skewer and grill them, skewer and bake them if the weather is not cooperating, or if your husband has forgotten to fill the propane tank... what

If you are like me, sometimes I just cannot be bothered to skewer, so I just place them on a baking sheet along with the marinade and bake.

Plate up with your favorite pita bread, and don't forget the tzatziki sauce!!

Tzatziki Sauce

You will be the "go to" house for a grill out all summer!!

Till next time!

Dishin with Didi

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day

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I want to wish all the wonderful mothers an amazing "Mother's Day"!!

As mothers we love our children, encourage our children, teach our children and wish for them always to be...

M = Magnificent, Marvelous, Majestic

O = Outstanding, Original, Open-minded

T = Talented, Truthful, Trustworthy

H = Healthy, Happy, Humane

E = Enchanting, Exquisite, Excellent

R = Remarkable, Responsible, Romantic

The above traits, that you have wished upon your children?  They are carried on from  you!!

♥  Happy Mother's Day  ♥

Dishin with Didi

Monday, May 6, 2013

Spanakopita Rolls Step-by-Step Tutorial

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Buttery and delicious

Don't you just want to reach right in?  I know right?  With this very simple recipe you will be making your own little delicacies in no time, trust me!!  I will walk you through the very simple process of making these amazing beauties, they are so very easy to make.  I mean easy enough that my daughter took pictures for the tutorial and then proceeded to finish them off.  My goal is to dispell all pre-conceived notions of how very difficult phyllo dough is to work with.  Trust me, it is really very easy, I don't do hard!!
*Didi looking around the room*

These rolls are a "spin off" of the traditional "Spanakopita" one of the most famous Greek dishes ever.  Everytime I take my spanakopita to a party, or spanakopitakia (small triangles), they are one of the first dishes to disappear.  I don't know if it's the combination of the spinach and cheese along with herbs, or the buttery phyllo dough, or the combination of both, but I gotta be honest with you, it disappears faster than "popcorn" in a movie theatre!!

You will be the star of the show, make sure to sneak one for yourself okay?

Ready for the recipe?  Here we go;

Prep time: 35-40 minutes
Cook time: 35-38 minutes
Yield: 20 large rolls (45 small rolls - see explanation below)

1lb (16 ounces) phyllo dough thawed
1lb (16 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
6-7 green onions chopped
1-1/2 cups (12 ounces) feta cheese crumbled
1 cup (8 ounces) cottage cheese
4 eggs slightly beaten
1 bunch fresh parsley, rinsed, dried and  chopped
1 tsp dried dill
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
1 cup (2 sticks - 8 ounces) unsalted butter melted

-This is where people become scared from my understanding... "Never fear, Didi's here"!!
Okay, so the day before you are going to work with the phyllo dough, take it out of the freezer and place in the refrigerator.  1 hour before starting the project, I take the phyllo dough, still in the box, out of the fridge and place on counter.  It will not go bad or anything, there is no dairy, just flour and water.  

This will ensure that the phyllo dough is completely thawed, and therefore you will not get a small patch that is still slightly frozen and will stick to the other sheets.  That's where you can run into trouble.  Trust me, you will get so frustrated you will tear the dough into millions of pieces, you will crumble the dough into a ball and throw it with fury into the garbage, vowing never to bake ever again!!  *ummmmm, gulp, what *

So let's open the box, and slide the tube of phyllo out.  Using shears, cut the outside paper that the dough is sealed in at the seam.  Now, take a look at how the dough is rolled, you then gently unroll it flat.  That's it, no seriously... I'm not joking!!  I told you it wasn't hard.  There will be an inside sheer paper that they used to keep the dough separated, follow that and unroll as you lay the dough flat.  Meaning once you are done unrolling, you will have the paper under your dough. 

-Wet and squeeze dry a couple of paper towels.  You want them damp.

-Position the phyllo dough with the widest part facing you. Guess the center per say (or measure if you want precision, I personally cannot be bothered), and cut in half.  

See the wide paper under the dough, that's the paper the dough was sealed in

-Take the one half and lay directly on top of the other half.  Leave them stacked on top of each other.
Cover the bottom paper that the phyllo dough was laying on and place the wet paper towels on top of the plastic film it was sealed in, set aside.  That's the hard part that everyone is afraid of.  

Notions Dispelled:

  • That the dough will be very soggy and  you won't be able to work with it.  
-If you don't allow the wet paper towel to touch the dough, it will never become soggy
  • That the dough will dry out and you won't be able to work with it.
If you keep the dough covered with the plastic wrap and then the wet towels over it, it will never dry out.

  With this method of a damp paper towel on top of the plastic covering the phyllo dough, I promise you, you will not have any of those issues happen.  See?  I told you I've adopted you!! *grin*

-In a small saute pan over medium-high heat, add your olive oil and your green onions.  Saute for a minute or so till the onions have become soft and are aromatic.  Add in your fresh parsley, and your dried dill.  Saute for a minute longer and pull off heat.  

-In a medium bowl place your thawed and squeezed dry spinach.  Add in your green onion mixture and stir.  Mix in your cheeses and finally your slightly beaten eggs.  Sprinkle with your salt and pepper.  Set aside. 

-Preheat oven to 375F.  Melt your butter

-On a flat surface, take 2 sheets of phyllo dough, cover the rest back up.  Baste entire area with butter.

-Using about 2 tbsp of spinach mixture, add to the edge closest to you, allowing about 3/4" space so you can start rolling easily, like so.

-Start by covering the mixture (don't worry if it's not fully covered), and then take both the left and right sides and bring over to the middle, like so.

-Continue rolling like an egg roll, or cigar.  Till you reach the end. 
Place on aluminum pre-sprayed baking sheet seam side down, baste with butter and continue with the rest of the dough and filling.

-Bake for 35-38 minutes till nicely golden and the aroma wafting from your kitchen will have you salivating... "Oh wait, that's me"!

*You can make these into smaller rolls for appetizers at a party if you would like.  Just cut the two sheets in half, for a total of 4 strips. Lay once again, all the sheets into one and proceed as above* 

The best part of these rolls is that you can make them just like instructed, and instead of baking, place on a baking sheet and place in freezer till frozen (about 1 hour), take out, place in a freezer bag or container, separated by wax paper if you're making more than one row.  When ready, take out the bag/container as many as you want.  Place in the oven still frozen, just add about 10 more minutes to baking time.  Voila! Fresh spanakopita at your ready!!  Perfect for a fast and delicious dinner!!

I hope I have dispelled common phobias and that my tutorial was helpful.  I encourage you to utilize phyllo dough in your kitchen.  It is so versatile that you will be dreaming up ideas on how many other recipes you can make with it!

Till next time!!

Dishin with Didi