Melissa's Cuisine: July 2012

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Foodie Pen Pal

One of my favorite things about the Foodie Pen Pal program is the chance to try foods that I would not have had a chance to otherwise.  Every month, I eagerly await the arrival of my package and it's always so exciting to see what I receive.  This month's package was from Lara who blogs at My Milk Glass Heart.  She lives in Virginia so she sent me an assortment of items from her area!
The Lean Green Bean

This Himalayan Pink Salt is so fun!  Who doesn't like to put pink salt on their food? :)
I have to admit, I have never had grits before!  It's rather surprising considering that my dad was raised in Kentucky and we visited there often growing up.  Lara gave me a few ideas for how to prepare the grits and I'm looking forward to trying them!  See those adorable whale napkins in the back?  I think they're so fun :)
I was so excited to receive these strawberry rhubarb preserves.  I love strawberry rhubarb pie and I just saw a recipe that calls for strawberry rhubarb preserves--now I have some so I can make it!
This coconut soap smells amazing! I love finding new scented soaps and I like that this one is natural.
Lara also send me some Virginia peanuts.  I didn't know Virginia was known for their peanuts, so I'm thrilled to get to try some!

Thank you, Lara, for an incredible package!

If you're interested in joining Foodie Pen Pals, here's some helpful information for you:
-On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal!
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month.
-Foodie Penpals is open to US & Canadian residents. Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. We've determined things might get too slow and backed up if we're trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa.
If you’re interested in participating for August, please CLICK HERE to fill out the participation form and read the terms and conditions.
You must submit your information by August 4th as pairings will be emailed on August 5th!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Stuffed Cabbage Casserole

When I was in Romania, I was served a lot of traditional Romanian foods.  My favorites were mici (sausages) and sarmales, which are stuffed cabbage rolls.  They are absolutely delicious and I've never had anything as good in the states.

I came across this recipe for stuffed cabbage casserole and I thought it looked and sounded delicious.  It also looked like it would take a lot less time to make than stuffed cabbage rolls.  I was right--it was very easy to put together.  It doesn't taste exactly like a sarmale, but it was the closest I've ever had here. 

Mike and I both enjoyed this meal, but we thought the ratio of cabbage to filling was off, so I've adjusted the recipe to reflect that.  This recipe makes a large pan full, so we had lots of leftovers.  It freezes well so I have enjoyed quite a few lunches from this dish!

Stuffed Cabbage Casserole

Makes a 9x13" pan, about 10 servings

You will need:
1 pound lean ground beef (I used ground turkey)
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 large onion, chopped fine
1 Tablespoon finely minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika  
1 can (14.5 oz.) petite diced tomatoes with juice
1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce
1/4 cup water
1 head green cabbage, coarsely chopped into 1 inch pieces
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
2 cups cooked brown rice
2 cups low-fat mozzarella cheese

1.  Cook ground beef in a large frying pan until it's browned and cooked through.  Remove from the pan and set aside.

2.  In the same pan, add 1 teaspoon of the olive oil and the onion and cook until the onion is translucent and starts to turn brown.  It will take about 5 minutes.

3.  Add in the minced garlic, thyme, and paprika and cook for 2 minutes.

4.  Add in the diced tomatoes with juice, tomato sauce, water, and cooked ground beef.  Simmer until slightly thickened, about 15-20 minutes.

5.  While the meat mixture simmers, heat the remaining 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a large frying pan.  Add the chopped cabbage and cook until the cabbage is wilted and about halfway cooked.  Season with salt and pepper.

6.  When the meat mixture has thickened, stir in the cooked brown rice.

7.  Grease a 9x13" casserole dish and layer half the cabbage, half the meat mixture, remaining cabbage, and remaining meat mixture.  Cover with foil.

8.  Bake at 350 for 40 minutes, until the edges begin to bubble.

9.  Remove foil and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.  Bake uncovered for 20 more minutes.

Serve hot.
Source:  Skinny Taste

Friday, July 27, 2012

Christmas in July Link Party


I hope you've enjoyed the Christmas in July blog party this week!  In case you've missed a day...

We've had some delicious food posts:  

Wouldn't these Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls be a delicious Christmas morning breakfast?

There's a great Christmas recipe round-up at Mary's blog
Some beautiful handmade Christmas crafts:

This poinsettia stocking as absolutely gorgeous!  I think I might make one this year!
And some beautiful handmade Christmas cards:
Nicole shared some of her beautiful cards that she's been working on

Sharon shared some great ideas for displaying Christmas cards.  I love this one!

You know that Christmas is my very favorite time of the year.  The excitement is all around and it's so contagious.  Christmas in July can be just as fun.  I'd like to invite you to link up some of your favorite Christmas recipes, crafts, and ideas.  Here are some of my favorite Christmas recipes:
These caramel puffs are delicious--I don't know why I only make them around Christmas!

These Rolo Pretzel Bites are so quick and easy to make.  Plus you can dress them up with Christmas colored M&M's!

This Spritz Cookies were my first experience with Royal Icing!  They're fun to decorate for winter :)

Peanut Butter Balls are a Christmas tradition in Mike's family.  A tradition I'm all over!

Pecan Snowballs are my favorite Christmas cookie.  They just melt in your mouth!

Hot Chocolate Mix makes a great homemade gift!

These Strawberry Almond Thumbprint Cookies are simple to make and so delicious!

These Melting Snowman Cookie Balls are almost too cute to eat...almost...

Hot Chocolate Snowballs are a fun variation of my favorite cookies!

This Cinnamon Roll French Toast Bake is a great Christmas morning breakfast!
How about a nice hot drink to warm up?  This Cider Wassail fits the bill!

Don't forget about these cute Snowman Cookies!

Now it's your turn!  Link up and be sure to visit some of the other links for great inspiration!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Chocolate Raspberry Fingers

It's still hot here, I just heard that the heat index for today could be over 100 degrees.  Insanity I tell you!  I still like to have some fun treats around the house, but I do try not to turn the oven on if I don't have to.   One great thing about this recipe is that it's no-bake.  I received this recipe from a good friend of mine who told me I had to try the "easiest and best cookies ever!"  Plus it's so simple to make--it's great for people short on time.

The original recipe for these cookie fingers called for orange juice.  I decided to swap it out for pink lemonade and add in some mini chocolate chips. I brought my friend some of my version of her cookies and she loved them.  Give these cookies a try, and don't be afraid to make up your own flavor combinations!

Chocolate Raspberry Fingers

Makes 18 cookies

You will need:

3-1/2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs
3 cups powdered sugar
1-1/2 cups chopped pecans
1 cup mini chocolate chips
6 ounces frozen pink lemonade concentrate, thawed, undiluted (I just used 1/2 of a 12 oz. can)
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup sweetened coconut, toasted*

1.  In a large bowl, stir vanilla wafer crumbs, powered sugar, pecans, and chocolate chips until completely combined.

2.  Pour in thawed pink lemonade concentrate and melted butter.  Stir until the mixture comes together in a ball.

3.  Pull off golf ball sized pieces of the dough and roll them into logs the size of your pinkie finger.

4.  Roll the cookies into toasted coconut.

Store cookies in an airtight container in the fridge.

*Toasting the coconut is optional.  As you can see, I made some cookies without coconut, some with untoasted coconut, and some with toasted coconut.  Each was delicious!  To toast the coconut: spread the coconut in an even layer on a baking sheet.  Bake at 400 for 5 minutes (or until toasted), stirring after 2 minutes.

Source: Gerri K.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Strawberry Peach Frozen Yogurt

In case you haven't noticed, it's hot outside.  Like 100 degrees hot.  In Michigan.  I love summer and warm temperatures but this is a little crazy!  In the past month, 26 days have been around or above 90 degrees.  Our normal average high is 82 degrees.  We are not used to this kind of heat! 
As you can imagine, with the temperatures this high, I have been trying to not use my oven.  We have central air conditioning, but why make it work harder than it has to?

That's where this month's Secret Recipe Club recipe comes into play.  I was assigned to Christine's Kitchen Chronicles.  Christine learned how to cook because she had no choice (eat or die, right?), and she learned to love cooking.  She has so many fantastic looking recipes on her blog--perfect recipes for an everyday cook.  I browsed through Christine's site looking for recipes that didn't require turning my oven on.

Secret Recipe Club

I came across quite a few delicious looking foods before settling on her fabulous looking Strawberry Peach Frozen Yogurt.  I love frozen yogurt but it's so expensive to buy at a fro-yo shop.  For less than it would cost for Mike and I to go out for fro-yo, I made my very own at home. 

This frozen yogurt was delicious!  The flavors of the strawberries and peaches really shined through. I loved the thick and creamy texture of the fro-yo after it had melted a little bit.  I served this with some cake for a friend's birthday last week and it was a huge hit.  Thanks for a great recipe, Christine!

Strawberry Peach Frozen Yogurt

Makes 1 quart

3 cups vanilla Greek yogurt
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups fresh strawberries, diced
2 medium peaches, pitted and diced
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoon vodka
2 teaspoons lemon juice

1.  In a small mixing bowl, combine the Greek yogurt, sugar, and vanilla extract.

2.  Stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Refrigerate for 1 hour.

3.  In a separate bowl, combine the diced strawberries, diced peaches, sugar, vodka, and lemon juice.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

4.  Place the yogurt mixture in the bowl of your ice cream maker and churn according the the manufacturer's directions.

5.  After 15 minutes, add in the fruit mixture and churn until completely combined.

Serve immediately for soft-serve frozen yogurt. 

If desired, pour the churned mixture into an air-tight container and freeze until ready to serve.  This will yield a hard-serve yogurt.  I recommend letting it sit on the counter at least 15 minutes before attempting to scoop it!

*The vodka can be eliminated if desired.  Its purpose is to prevent the frozen yogurt from freezing rock solid, but I found it did not really help.  My yogurt was still incredibly hard after being frozen.

Source:  Christine's Kitchen Chronicles

What is your favorite frozen treat?

Snowman Cookies

Merry Christmas!!!!

Uh's only must be Christmas in July!

I've always wanted to celebrate Christmas in July, but until now, I haven't before.  Unless you count listening to Christmas music in July.   I love Christmas music so much that I listen to it year-round.  If a Christmas song comes on my iPod, I rarely skip to the next song (unless someone is with me...most people think I'm weird for listening to Christmas music when it's not Christmas!)

Anyway, I'm thrilled to be hosting one of three food stops on this Christmas in July blog party.  You can view the other two food parties at ADD Housewife and Go Ahead...Take A Bite!

On to the recipe...

As a kid, I loved to make snowmen with my family.  We'd always eagerly wait for the snow to be deemed perfect packing snow and out we'd go.  We'd grab my dad's hat and scarf, a couple old brooms, a carrot, and a bunch of rocks.  Creating snowmen is one of my favorite winter memories!

What is cuter than a snowman? How about a snowman you can eat?  As I was thinking about what recipe to share, I wanted to come up with something fun that anyone can enjoy.  I think kids of all ages (even big kids like me *smile*) would enjoy making these fun and tasty snowmen cookies.  They're a fun treat for a snow day (anybody wishing for snow in the middle of this HOT July?) or a Christmas party. 

I hesitate to share detailed directions for this recipe, but I will anyway. Just keep in mind that the measurements won't be exact because it depends on how thickly you coat your cookies with the chocolate. If you don't want to coat an entire package of cookies, that's fine too!  If you want to make the smaller (1 piece) snowmen, use Nutter Butter cookies, for a 3 piece snowman, use Oreos.  Just have fun with it!

Snowman Cookies

You will need:
1 (16 ounce) package Candy-Quick white chocolate
1 package Nutter Butter cookies or Oreo cookies
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
food coloring

1.  Melt the white chocolate according to the package directions.

2.  Scoop 1 Tablespoon of melted chocolate into 3 separate small bowls.  Add food color to achieve desired colors.  I used red for the mouth, blue for the eyes, orange for the nose, and semi-sweet chocolate for the buttons.

3.  Melt the semi-sweet chocolate chips in a small bowl and set aside.

4.  Dip cookies into the melted chocolate using a fork to remove it.  Gently wiggle the fork with the cookie on it to allow excess chocolate to drip off.

5.  Place dipped cookies on waxed paper to harden.

6.  Scoop the colored chocolates and semi-sweet chocolate into small sandwich bags with a hole snipped in the corner (or pastry bags) and decorate the dipped cookies as desired. 

Be sure to check back each day this week for the other party posts!

Tuesday:  Hand Crafted Items at Stone Gable and Living on Cyprus Hill
Wednesday:  Cookie Exchange at Laughter and Grace
Thursday:  Christmas Card Ideas at Scraptastic Memories and Mrs. Hines Class
Friday:  Your turn!  Share your favorite Christmas recipes, crafts, and decor ideas--you can link up on my blog!

Have you ever celebrated Christmas in July?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler

It's the very tail end of strawberry season around here.  If you hurry, you might still get some fresh from the farmer's market.  While you're there, pick up a few stalks of rhubarb--you'll need it!

This delicious dessert features the flavors of summertime.  Fresh strawberries and rhubarb combined into a sweet cobbler--it's the perfect summer dessert.  Top it with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream and you're all set!

Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler

Serves 8

You will need:
3 cups fresh strawberries, cut into fourths
1 cup fresh rhubarb, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 cups + 2 Tablespoons sugar
1 stick margarine
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk

1.  Combine strawberries, rhubarb, and 1 cup sugar in a bowl.  Set aside.

2.  Melt margarine in a 9x13 inch dish.

3.  Mix 1 cup sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, and milk together in a small bowl.

4.  Pour on top of margarine in baking dish.  Do not stir.

5.  Top with strawberry rhubarb mixture.  Again, do not stir.

6.  Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

7.  Cool for about 5 minutes and then sprinkle remaining 2 Tablespoons of sugar over the crust.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Christmas in July


the CHRISTMAS IN JULY BLOGGER BLOCK PARTY with 8 fabulous hostesses!

Each day next week, our hostesses will take turns sharing ideas to help you get ready for the holiday season.

Check in on Monday, July 23rd for Holiday Fare with ADD Housewife, Melissa's Cuisine, and Go Ahead Take a Bite You won't want to miss their fabulous recipes!

Come back on Tuesday,July 24th to get some great ideas on hand crafted items with Stone Gable and Living on Cypress Hill .

Be sure to visit again on Wednesday, July 25th for a Cookie Exchange with Laughter and Grace.

On Thursday, July 26th, you'll be treated to some beautiful Chrismas Card ideas as well ways to display them with Scraptastic Memories and Mrs. Hines Class.

Then, on Friday it's a Blog Hop! So pull out those old posts and dig through your files and link up your recipes, crafts, and decor ideas at any one of the hostesses blogs. 8 hostesses, 1 blog hop. 

It's guaranteed to be a great time!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Fiesta Dip

Like most of the country, we are experiencing a long-lasting heat wave.  I don't know about you, but when it's 100 degree outside, I don't feel like doing much at all!  Rather than spend hours in the kitchen, I turn to dishes that are simple to put together, and don't require me to turn the oven on.  This dip definitely fits that bill.

My mom made this dip quite often when I was growing up.  It was a tradition for us to spend Friday nights as family night and Mom would often make this dip for us to enjoy while we were watching Family Matters and Full House.  Oh, the days of good family TV shows! 

Now Mike and I have started a tradition of our own.  We call it "sampler-platter nights".  Basically I look through the fridge and cupboards and pull out a smorgasbord of foods--anything goes, from sliced fruit and veggies, to pizza rolls, to cheese and crackers, to dips.  This dip has made it's appearance a few times because it's so easy to make and it's delicious. 

Fiesta Dip
Serves 8

You will need:
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese
2 cups salsa
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese
tortilla chips

1.  In a small bowl, combine cream cheese and 1/2 cup salsa. 

2.  Spread the cream cheese mixture in the bottom of a microwave-safe glass dish.  (I used a pie plate.)

3.  Spread remaining salsa over the cream cheese mixture.

4.  Top salsa with shredded Mexican cheese.

5.  If desired, microwave for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes, until heated through and the shredded cheese is melted.  This dip can also be served without microwaving.

Serve with tortilla chips for dipping.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Guest Post

Good morning!  Today I'm posting over at Delightfully Dowling while Kristin enjoys time with baby Charlotte.  Head over to Kristin's blog to check out my super easy recipe for Chocolate Raspberry Fingers!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Dulce de Leche Thumbprint Cookies

Last year, for Mother's Day, I made a Dulce de Leche Pie and everyone loved the Dulce de Leche so much that I wanted to make something with it again.  In fact, it was frequently mentioned that my father-in-law enjoyed that pie so much that he would gladly eat it whenever I chose to make it again!   Rather than do a recipe repeat, I made these Dulce de Leche Thumbprint Cookies for Father's Day this year.

Mike and I love the Strawberry Almond Thumbprint Cookies recipe and they're so simple to make that we have them in the house quite often.  We also loved the S'mores Thumbprint Cookies that I made for a Christmas cookie exchange last year.  So really, it was no surprise that everyone loved these cookies as well.

Dulce de Leche Thumbprint Cookies

Makes 20 cookies

You will need:

1 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2-1/4 cups flour
1 cup dulce de leche (Make your own with 1 can of sweetened condensed milk.)
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 Tablespoon butter

1.  In the bowl of your stand mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, and salt until smooth.

2.  Slowly mix in the flour until the dough pulls away from the bowl.

3.  Roll the dough into 1-1/2" balls and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Using your thumb, press the center of the ball to create an indentation.

4.  Bake at 325 for 20 minutes, until the edges of the cookie are golden brown.  The cookies will have risen slightly, so repress the indentations if needed.

5.  Cool the cookies completely on a wire rack.

6.  Spoon some dulce de leche into each thumbprint.

7.  Melt the chocolate chips and butter in the microwave and stir until smooth.  Scoop into a pastry bag and drizzle on top of the cookies.

Store in an airtight container.

Source: The Black Peppercorn

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Crispy Garlic Potatoes

I mentioned on Monday that I love to make simple dishes that taste delicious.  I also like to make simple dishes that look complicated but aren't.  These potatoes are a good example--they look like they took a long time to make and have an impressive presentation.  Really, they were quite simple to put together. 

The flavors of these potatoes were fantastic!  I made a garlic infused olive oil to drizzle over the top of the potatoes before baking them.  I also placed some diced garlic between the pieces of the potatoes.  The result?  Perfectly garlicy potatoes!

Crispy Garlic Potatoes

Serves 6-8

You will need:
8 large russet potatoes, washed
5 Tablespoons olive oil
5 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

1.  Using a sharp knife, or a mandolin slicer, thinly slice the potatoes widthwise. 

2.  Arrange sliced potatoes vertically in a casserole dish.

3.  In a small skillet, heat the olive oil and sliced garlic until the garlic is softened.

4.  Carefully pour the olive oil over the potatoes.  Try to get some between each potato.

5.  Place sliced garlic between potato slices.

6.  Sprinkle the potatoes with salt.

7.  Bake at 350 for 1 hour and 30 minutes, until the potatoes are crispy.

Inspired by: Amanda's Cooking

Monday, July 09, 2012

Roasted Pork Loin

Sometimes, the more simple a recipe is, the better!  Elaborate dishes are fun to make and eat, but often times it's the simple recipes that really shine.  This pork loin is one of those recipes.  A blend of flavorful spices is rubbed over a tender pork loin, and then cooked to perfection.  My favorite part of the meat is the edge because of all the flavor from the spices. 

This pork loin is simple enough to make on a weeknight, but delicious enough to serve to company.  It's a recipe that my dad has made for years and now I make it for Mike and me.  It never disappoints!  I serve it with a fresh salad and crispy roast potatoes (recipe coming soon!) for a delicious and balanced meal.

Roasted Pork Loin
Serves 3-4
You will need:
1 (1 pound) pork loin
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon thyme
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sage
1 teaspoon rosemary

1.  In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, thyme, garlic powder, pepper, salt, sage, and rosemary.
2.  Rub the spices onto the pork loin until it's completely coated.  Place in a shallow baking dish.

3.  Place the pork loin in a 500 degree oven.  After 5 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 and bake for 20 minutes, until the interior temperature reaches 140 degrees.
4.  After removing the pork loin from the oven, cover it with foil and let it rest for 10 minutes before cutting into it.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Double Coconut Fried Chicken

It's the 7th of the month (already!) and that means it's time to reveal my recipe for July's Crazy Cooking Challenge.  This month's theme was fried chicken.  I'll admit--it's not something we usually eat in our house.  It was fun to search other blogs for a delicious fried chicken recipe.

I found a few that looked delicious, but didn't seem too special.  And I wanted something really unique.  When I came upon a recipe for Coconut Fried Chicken at Jan's Sushi Bar, I thought it would be perfect!  I took it one step further and fried the chicken in coconut oil.  Do you know how good coconut oil is for you?  The health benefits and uses are incredible!   

This chicken was delicious!  The coconut flavor really shined and the chicken was incredibly juicy. I would recommend using unsweetened coconut (that the recipe called for) instead of sweetened.  I only had sweetened in the house and I think the sugar caused it to blacken.  The flavor was still delicious!

Double Coconut Fried Chicken

Serves 6

You will need:

12 chicken drumsticks, skins removed
2 large eggs
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1-1/2 cups flour
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup coconut oil

1.  In a medium mixing bowl, combine the eggs, water, and spices.  Whisk until well blended.

2.  In a shallow pan, mix together the flour, coconut, and salt.

3.  Heat the coconut oil in a large, heavy skilled over medium-high heat until it reaches 350 degrees.  

4.  Working in small batches, dip the chicken drumsticks into the egg mixture, then transfer to the coconut mixture.

5.  Coat each strip lightly but evenly with the coconut mixture, using your hands to help the coconut adhere to the chicken if necessary.

6.  Place drumsticks in the skillet and fry until brown and cooked through, about 15 minutes.

7.  Remove to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb any excess oil.

8.  Continue dipping and frying until all the chicken drumsticks are cooked.

Source: Jan's Sushi Bar
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