Monthly Archives: February 2012

52 Weeks of Cooking – Week 8: Slow cooking – French Dip Sandwiches

This was not the most exciting week of the challenge for me.  I do slow cooking when I DON’T want to think too hard about what I’m cooking.  Just throw it in a pot and forget about it.  That said, I’m supposed to be expanding my horizons here, so I looked through a slow-cooking cookbook that I had been given a while back and found a recipe for one of my favorite meals, French Dip Sandwiches.

For me, a French Dip Sandwich is an easy meal made from Steak-ums or frozen Philly Beef meat, topped with cheese on a toasted bun, and dipped in Campbell’s French Onion Soup.  (Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it!) But this sounded delicious so I tried it.  Here’s the recipe:

3 1/2 – 4 pound chuck roast
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 bay leaf
3-4 peppercorns, crushed
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon garlic powder
12 Sandwich Rolls, split

Place roast in 5 quart slow cooker.  Combine soy sauce and next 6 ingredients; pour over roast.  Add water until roast is almost covered.  Cover and cook on low 7 hours or until very tender.  Remove roast, reserving broth; shred with 2 forks.  Place shredded meat in sandwich rolls and serve with reserved broth for dipping.

I didn’t really love the results, but it was edible.  The au jus was a little strong as I ran out of soy sauce and substituted a bit Worcestershire sauce in its place.  I probably won’t make this again, but you might like it.

My rating: 2.5 out of 5.  Meh.

Hubby’s rating: ?????

Difficulty rating: 1 out of 5.  Easy!

In other news, I’m woefully behind on 52 weeks of baking!  Prepare to have your sweet tooth over-stimulated this week!  And get ready for another 52 weeks of cooking challenge:  Coffee!

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Posted by on February 27, 2012 in 52weeksofcooking


52 Weeks of Cooking – Week 7: Love-inspired – Cheese Fondue

This sounds and looks really good, doesn’t it?  A mixture of white wine, cheeses, and spices into which you dip bread, veggies, and cheese.  What could go wrong?

Well first, we realized that our fondue pot was not really made for cheese fondue.  It was a Hershey pot that you’re supposed to use a tea light with to melt the chocolate for a chocolate fondue.  So Adam ghetto-rigged a heat source that worked out rather well.

The other problem?  It was disgusting.  Seriously.  The mix of the sweet wine (it was a dry white, but still sweet) and the pungent cheeses was just revolting to me.  Adam really liked it, though. Go figure.  I used this recipe from Tyler Florence, but I would honestly say, “Don’t bother.”

Hubby’s rating: 4.5 out of 5.  Weird.

My rating: 1 out of 5.  Gross

Difficulty rating: 2.5 out of 5.  It was really easy to make this really gross fondue.


Posted by on February 15, 2012 in Uncategorized


52 Weeks of Baking – Week 6: Elegant – Pots de Creme

Before anyone asks, no, these are not baked.  I completely forgot that this was supposed to be baking or I equated baking with desserts or something.  But if you want a really elegant dessert with very little effort, gives these a shot!

I used this recipe that I found along time ago from The Pioneer Woman’s blog.  If you have a blender at home and a few hours to kill waiting for these things to chill, this recipe is super-easy and tastes pretty good.  That is, it tastes pretty good if you like coffee.  Some of the commenters on the website say that you can’t taste the coffee, but either their taste buds are dead or I brewed the coffee WAY too strong.

Hubby’s rating: Hubby unavailable for comment at the moment; I’ll update this when he lets me know.

My rating: 2 out of 5.  I don’t like coffee.

Difficulty rating: 1 out of 5.  Maybe lower. This recipe is just ridiculously easy for what you get!

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Posted by on February 15, 2012 in 52weeksofbaking, Good


52 Weeks of Cooking – Week 6: Brazilian – Pasteis

When I saw that week 6 was Brazilian week, I was baffled.  I had absolutely no clue what they eat in Brazil.  So I did a little research and came across this popular street food.  The good thing about pasteis (singular=pastel) is that you can fill them with pretty much whatever you want.  You can make them sweet or savory, with any combination of ingredients that tickles your fancy.  I decided to research what the most popular fillings are in Brazil and make something up based on that.  The result was a delicious mixture of ground beef, tomato sauce and paste, hearts of palm (never had those before; they taste a bit like artichoke hearts to me), corn, and mozzarella cheese.  I don’t have the proportions on these, as I just threw everything in the pot with a little of the Emeril Essence I had leftover from the Chicken Marsala I made a couple of weeks ago.

I was informed in my online research that Mexican food stores carry ready-made pastel dough.  I’m sure they do in more urban areas, but a trip to Hot Springs left me coming up empty.  There was a very nice lady at a Mexican food store who informed me that she and all her comrades make their own dough.  Sigh.  So I went home and looked up a recipe for pastel dough. Unfortunately, this recipe called for a very specific alcohol that I could not find at any Arkadelphia liquor store.

Me: I’m looking for a very specific type of alcohol.  It looks like it would be pronounced Ka-cha-ka.  Spelled c-a-c-h-a-c-a.

Liquor Store Guy: What’s that?

Me: Its like a Brazilian rum, but it’s made from sugar cane juice instead of molasses.

Liquor Store Guy: Um.  Let me read you what rums we have: Bicardi, Captain Morgan’s…

I eventually had to go to a Colonial Wine and Spirits in Little Rock to find it, and let me tell you, that is the place to go for specialty liquors!  It’s huge!  I even pronounced Cachaça the right way and the dude knew what I was talking about!  So $19 later, I have a bottle of alcohol that I only need 2 tbsp of for the recipe I’m making.

Roll out a small piece of dough to a circle around 6 inches in diameter.  Put a scoop of filling (around 2 tbsp) on one half of the circle.  Wet the outside of the circle with a little bit of water.  Fold the dough over to make a semi-circle and press the edges together with a fork.  Fry in hot oil for a few minutes until golden brown.  Drain on paper towel and eat while still warm.  Unless you’re Les Sellers, and you have to work until midnight.

So what to do the leftover alcohol?  Why, make the national cocktail of Brazil, of course!  Check out for their caipirinha recipes.  I looked at all of them and came up with a recipe myself, which wasn’t all that good to me, so I won’t post it.  I’m not allowed to drink enough alcohol right now to get a recipe perfect!  Here’s a picture of one, though!

Hubby’s rating of Pasteis:  3.5 out of 5.  He wanted the dough to be thinner (the fiend!) and thought they would be better with onion and garlic in the filling.

My rating: 4 out of 5 (I would like to experiment more with fillings for this!)

Difficulty rating: 3.5 out of 5.  Rolling out the dough is time consuming!  And deep-frying is not easy to me.

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Posted by on February 10, 2012 in 52weeksofcooking, Good


52 Weeks of Baking – Week 5: Breakfast – Cinnamon Chip Scones

When I saw that week 5 was breakfast week, I was in a bit of a quandary.  I could have just picked a new variety of muffin or something like that, but I wanted to try something that I had never made before.

Enter the scone.  I have eaten a few scones in my day, but they were always from Starbucks or a bakery or OBU’s cafeteria.  I didn’t really care for them, but I figured that fresher usually equals better, so I went searching for a scone recipe.  Following my own advice in my “I can’t cook” post, I went to Taste of Home’s website and entered “scones” in the search bar.  I sorted the results by rating, and this recipe came out on top.  I knew Adam would like these particular scones, as he has a particular love a cinnamon, so I decided to give it a go.

These were quite easy.  A tip from my kitchen: My friend April gave me the idea to grate butter instead of cutting it into little cubes in order to cut the cold butter into the flour.  It makes the process quicker and easier, especially if you don’t have a pastry blender (or if you’re too lazy to dig yours out of the drawer).  When I mixed up the dough, I realized it looked a bit dry (it should look like biscuit dough), so I added a splash more buttermilk than the recipe called for.

The scones are HUGE if you only cut the dough into 12 pieces.  I think that 16-20 pieces would be better for a proper serving size, but they are very pretty at the size the recipe calls for, so use your best judgement.

Hubby’s taste rating: 5/5 (I knew he’d like them!)

My taste rating: 4/5 (Still not my favorite breakfast item, but they were much better fresh than from Starbucks)

Difficulty rating 2.5/5 (If you’ve made biscuits from scratch successfully before, then drop the difficulty rating to 1/5.)

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Posted by on February 5, 2012 in 52weeksofbaking, Good


52 Weeks of Cooking – Week 5: Beer/Wine/Liquor – Zinfandel Braised Beef Roast

After about four and a half hours of prepping and cooking this meal, we enjoyed a deceptively juicy chuck roast with mashed potatoes and asparagus.  I used this recipe from over at Simply Recipes that I saw several weeks ago and started salivating over.  Usually roast in our house is usually a crock pot deal with onions, carrots, and potatoes, which is good, but this was better.

Some substitutions were made in the preparation of this roast.  As the recipe allowed, I substituted Cabernet Sauvignon for the Zinfandel, as Walmart had no Zinfandel other than white, and I didn’t want to make an extra stop.  Also (please forgive me), I subsituted bacon for the pancetta, as I would have had to travel at least 45 minutes to find it.  And the herbs?  Dried, not fresh.  Yet with all these substitutions, the roast was one of the best I ever had!

Hubby’s taste rating: 4.5 out of 5

My taste rating: 4 out of 5

Difficulty rating: 3.5 out of 5 – while this recipe took a long time to prepare, a lot of that time was spent waiting for roast to braise.

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Posted by on February 3, 2012 in 52weeksofcooking, Good