Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Summaiyah's Home Cooking


"What's for dinner?" A question many, if not all of us, face on a daily basis. For me, "What's for dinner" has been so much more: it has represented my passion for cooking [for myself, my family, my friends, etc.] over the past few years by being the signature of my cooking/food.

When I started cooking for fun some years back I never fathomed it could be anything more than the occasional experiment in the kitchen. Years later, it is still that: fun.  Just the way I want it.

In the past, I have been encouraged by many to start a catering business- something I didn't think twice about. Until recently when an opportunity presented itself. It may have been the push I needed.

Why not share this passion with others? There is nothing more humbly satisfying than feeding a good meal. I'll continue to offer to "cater" to others, as the occasions arise, keeping this in mind: cooking is something I enjoy and I wouldn't want it any other way.

It's still in the works, and logistics are still being thought about-- but I couldn't not share it here first: "Summaiyah's Home Cooking" is where it seems to be heading.

Thank you everyone [you know who you are] for all the encouragement and support that you given me. It means more than I could ever put into words.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

First 'Catering' Order!

As I went to create this post, I realized this is my 500th blog post on this blog: how incredible! And about something so neat too! This blog has been so great to me -- I've used it to vent, reflect, share... and so much more! Some things are just better expressed written, don't you think?

Now onto the post itself...

So earlier today, I had my first small "catering" order picked up. Perhaps, it will be the start of something? I love cooking, so this was a fun experience. Who knows, maybe sometime in the future "What's for Dinner" may lead to something so much more.

My friend's mom placed an order of a few different things, and I'll admit: I was excited and nervous at the same time. Cooking for your family/friends is one thing, but there is added pressure when you are being paid to do it. Suddenly, there are expectations. You know what I mean? It's not just experimenting in the kitchen to see what/how the end result will be. It's don't mess up someone else's dinner. When I go out to restaurants, I expect my food to be a certain way [and don't like to be disappointed]. I don't want to disappoint either.

As I was thinking of my favorite dishes to make, I realized something-- a lot of the things I make are best served fresh. Isn't that the case for most meals? How does one go about using that in the catering world? Dishes just aren't the same after a while, even if they are reheated. I feel like that will be a challenge for the perfectionist in me.

I guess in that sense, desserts are so much easier. Some get better as they sit, others can be refrigerated  There are options to work with. Yes, there are desserts that need to be eaten warm, etc. but you aren't limited.

I can't end this post without thanking my friend Maria. I've had so many people encourage me to advertise and start a home-based catering service for so long, and I have always been so hesitant. This may have just been the push I needed. If it is, indeed, the start of something more -- I hope all those that have encouraged me so far will keep me humble... and be the constant reminder to me, that first and foremost: this is something I like doing.

It's personal first. Business second.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What's for Dinner: Garlic Pull-Apart Bread

Monkey Bread. Pull apart breads. Whatever you want to call it. It's delicious. And that's all that matters in the end.

I've done a stuffed [pizza] monkey bread in the past, but today's is more of a side dish. Or a snack. A fun twist on garlic bread. They are individual [or mini] monkey breads.

You will need:
  • 2 cans of [refrigerated] biscuits
  • 6 tablespoons of [unsalted] butter, melted
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons of [dried] parsley flakes
  • 1/4 cup of [grated] Parmesan cheese
To make the Garlic [Monkey] Bread:
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray a non-stick muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray for extra precaution.
  2. In a bowl, combine your melted butter, garlic powder, parsley, and parmesan cheese.
  3. Cut each of the biscuits into 6 pieces and place in the bowl where you have combined the rest of the ingredients. Gently mix, so you evenly coat all of the biscuits.  Divide the biscuit pieces evenly among your muffin pan. I did some with four in it, and others with six in it. 
  4. Bake [in your preheated oven] for about 14 minutes.
The above quantitiies make 16 good sized individual pull-apart breads. Next time, if I'm just making it for my family, I'd definitely cut it in half.

These are best when served warm. They were great on their own, or I'd recommend serving these with marinara sauce [or whatever your favorite pizza-like sauce may be]. Today, I made these alongside Bang Bang Shrimp and another version of my baked fries. I also think serving this alongside spaghetti or any [red sauce] pasta would be a nice combination.

P.S. This post is a part of my "What's for Dinner" series, where I share what I've been cooking and my recipes. Grab and share my button:

What's for Dinner: Seasoned [Baked] Fries

Here's another combination of seasoned fries that I tried out today:
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Cajun seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme
I tend to let the french fries thaw out for an hour or so at least before I season and bake them off. I find them to cook better this way.

The method is the same as last time:
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Line your baking sheet with foil (or whatever else you prefer).
  3. With the fries on the baking sheet spray them all with a non-stick spray, making sure all the fries are covered.
  4. Sprinkle the spice and herb mixture from above on the fries. Toss with a spatula or your hands!
  5. Bake it for about 20 minutes, tossing them around at least once in between.

P.S. This post is a part of my "What's for Dinner" series, where I share what I've been cooking and my recipes. Grab and share my button:


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Oklahoma

Oklahoma. Enough said.
Or, not much else to say, I should say.

Watching the news yesterday as the tornado wreaked havoc and leveled a town to debris, I couldn't even process in my head what was going on there.

I thought back to end of October, when Sandy -- a minimal storm [not even categorized as an "official" hurricane] caused utter destruction in my town and in NJ/NY in general. I remember thinking in the aftermath of Sandy's destruction that I can't even fathom what the end result is of Category 4 or 5 hurricanes, if  "superstorm" Sandy left so much destruction.  If that little storm caused so much damage, I don't even want to think of what this tornado did/was capable of doing.

Just this past Sunday, we finally got the last of the damaged items cleared away in our backyard [shed and other items completely destroyed by the two trees that fell on them]. Repairing and replacing the damaged fence, removing the fallen trees took so long. Driving through town, damage is still evident -- missing sidings in houses, missing/broken fences being the most obvious ones.

It took weeks to get back to a "new normal" in the aftermath of Sandy -- rationed gases, grocery essentials missing from grocery stories, etc. Even when our grocery store got power back, they couldn't carry perishables because electricity was so unpredictable.

How do you rebuild a whole town in the aftermath of such tornadoes? Schools, hospitals, residential areas are gone. Where does one even start? I don't even know how a town reels from something on such a larger scale, when a minimal storm changed so much for us.

Hearing about the missing school children has especially gotten to me. I can't, and don't even want to, imagine what the parents must be feeling/going through. Yet, the heroic stories emerging about teachers? Something to smile about, that's for sure. Teachers don't get the credit they deserve. Every time I hear a teacher say "they are just doing their job" in the aftermath of something like this -- whether it be a man-made tragedy, acts of God, mother nature, whatever... I want to remind them that they do so much more than "their job". For that, I thank them. Not many do.

It's remarkable to think in the aftermath of Newtown and Oklahoma especially -- so many stories of so many educators risking their own lives for their students. Each time, they say something to the likes of "these are OUR kids". The roles they take on are many, and sometimes an educator falls quite low when you think of all that they do for so many children each and everyday.

On a side note, if you know me, you know I've always wanted to go to Oklahoma! Not even sure why, but it's been on my to-do list for the longest time.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

What's for Dinner: White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cheesecake

Continuing my streak of incorporating nuts with my cheesecake, Friday I made a White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cheesecake.

This time, I experimented with a graham cracker base. Three cheesecakes, three different bases so far. Each one, very different but oh so good. Click here and here for my other cheesecake recipes so far.

For today's version, you need:
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs
  • 5 tablespoons of [unsalted] butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup of macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
  • 2 [8 ounce] packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 can of condensed milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of white chocolate chip morsels, melted
To make your cheesecake:
  1. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Combine the butter and graham crackers. Press the mixture into the bottom [and across the lower sides if you would like] of your springform pan to form the crust.
  3. Roughly chop your macadamia nuts. Sprinkle evenly over the graham cracker crust layer.
  4. Next, in a large bowl, beat your cream cheese until it is smooth. Add in the condensed milk and beat the mixture well [until it is evenly incorporated].
  5. Next, add in the eggs and vanilla extract. Do not over beat the mixture, just beat it until your mixture is smooth.
  6. Add in the melted white chocolate. Combine.
  7. Pour your cheesecake batter on top of the macadamia nut layer.
  8. Bake [in your preheated oven] for about 70 minutes. Or until edges are light brown and center is almost set. I'd keep an eye on it staring around the one hour mark.
  9. Let it cool [and completely set] for at least several hours [if you have the will power] before cutting into it. 
Tip: for presentation purposes, I drizzled the top of my homemade cheesecake with [store-bought] caramel. This part is totally optional.

P.S. This post is a part of my "What's for Dinner" series, where I share what I've been cooking and my recipes. Grab and share my button:

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What's for Dinner: Homemade Seasoned Croutons

Most people enjoy their croutons with salads. I like doing that just the same but... I love eating croutons with fish!

Weird combination? Perhaps. But I just love what the warm tilapia does to the croutons. Kinda crunchy, but kinda moist. Just perfect.

I've been wanting to experiment with making my own croutons for a while since I eat them so much, so today I did just that. And let's just say: somethings are just better bought.

While I LOVED the fact that I got to personalize it and whatnot, cutting the bread wasn't exactly fun. I gave up after about one third of the loaf. Now if someone would cube the bread for me, I'd be more than happy to make the croutons at home more often.

I loved how they turned out - the taste was great. And I loved that I knew exactly what was in it... because I made it!

Here's what I used:
  • Loaf of [store-bought] bread.
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic powder
  • Parsley flakes
  • Basil leaves
  • Black pepper
Once you get the bread cubed, it's very easy to make. I just don't have the patience to cut through the crusty bread.
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line the baking stray with foil for easy cleanup.
  2. Add cubed bread pieces to the baking sheet.
  3. Drizzle [lightly] the bread with olive oil.
  4. Sprinkle on garlic powder, parsley flakes, basil leaves, and black pepper. Or whatever you want! The fun part of making your own things at home is you get to choose the flavors you want and love.
  5. Bake in your preheated oven for 10 minutes. Or until they are lightly brown and crunchy!

P.S. This post is a part of my "What's for Dinner" series, where I share what I've been cooking and my recipes. Grab and share my button:

Monday, May 13, 2013

What's for Dinner: Chocolate Chip and Toffee Cookie Cups

So my chocolate chip cookie recipe that I used to make my Mini Chocolate Chip and Peanut Butter Cookie Cups a few days ago? I used that same recipe for another version [version two?] of "cookie cups" Saturday night. This time, I used a combination of milk chocolate chips, white chocolate chips and toffee bits! I think I liked this version even better than the peanut butter and chocolate morsel one!

From my base cookie recipe, the only change made was the amount of each morsels and the addition of the toffee bits.

You need:
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 a cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 a cup of [packed] light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup PLUS two tablespoons of all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1/2 cup of milk chocolate chip morsels
  • 1/2 cup of white chocolate chip morsels
  • 2 tablespoons of [Heath] Toffee Bits
To make them:
  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Spray your non-stick mini muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray as an extra precaution.
  2. In a bowl, add your butter along with both type of the sugars and then beat on low to medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy. 
  3. Next: add in the salt, vanilla, and egg. Beat until everything is well mixed together. Add in your flour and baking soda and mix to combine everything. Lastly, stir in the milk chocolate and white chocolate morsels, along with the toffee bits.
  4. Take even sized amounts of dough, and place into each individual muffin cup[?].
  5. Bake in your preheated oven for 14 minutes, or until they are golden brown.
I let them cool for a few minutes each time, but they each came out pretty easily otherwise.

P.S. This post is a part of my "What's for Dinner" series, where I share what I've been cooking and my recipes. Grab and share my button:


Saturday, May 11, 2013

What's for Dinner: Homemade Crepes

So earlier today, I was craving something sweet (this is happening way too often lately). For a long while, I couldn't think of what I wanted... but finally I thought to make crepes!

They were delicious! Today, I served it alongside ice cream, chocolate sauce and strawberries, In the past, I've done a combination of strawberries, bananas and whipped cream [that I put inside the crepes and rolled up]. Both are sure to satisfy a sweet tooth!

I tried, of course, to make it as healthy as I could. I didn't put any oil in my crepe batter and limited [powdered] sugar to about a tablespoon. You couldn't even tell the oil was missing, and it tasted great.


For my crepes, I used:
  • 1 cup of [all purpose] flour
  • 1 and 1/4 cups of [1%] milk
  • 1 tablespoon of [powdered] sugar
  • 1 egg
Note: I used powdered sugar so it incorporated in the batter easily.

To make the crepes:
  1. Mix all the ingredients for the crepes together, until it is of a nice [and thin] consistency. And no lumps.
  2. Over low to low-medium heat, heat up a non-stick pan that is sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
  3. Pour 1/4 cup of the batter into the pan, making sure to quickly swirl the batter around in the pan so the whole bottom of the pan is coated in a nice and thin layer. It cooks very quickly, so you have to be quick and also keep an eye on it.
  4. Cook for about a minute [or until the bottom is lightly golden brown] before flipping the crepe and letting it cook for another minute [or until it too is golden brown]. I found it to be easiest to flip the crepes using my hand. It's so delicate that with a utensil it was breaking.
  5. Repeat with the rest of the batter.
The above quantities made about 8-9 crepes.

Be creative in what you use to serve along them: basically whatever you like!

P.S. This post is a part of my "What's for Dinner" series, where I share what I've been cooking and my recipes. Grab and share my button:

Thursday, May 9, 2013

What's for Dinner: Garlic and Cheesy Breadsticks

I'm still working on updating with recipes for things I've posted about in the past. These Garlic and Cheesy Breadsticks: I've made alongside my homemade pizza(s), as snacks, and as an appetizer for a super bowl party amongst other things.


You need:
  • Pizza dough, enough to cover a pizza pan (homemade or store-bought)
  • [Olive] oil
  • Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Dried Parmesan
  • Dried parsley flakes
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper
  • Warmed marinara sauce, for dipping
To make the breadsticks:
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Roll out your pizza dough, thinly, and place on a baking pan. 
  3. Brush the pizza dough with oil. Sprinkle your dough with fresh parmesan, dried parmesan, dried parsley flakes, garlic powder, [very little] salt and freshly cracked pepper.
  4. Bake it in the oven for 15 minutes.
  5. Cut the bread into strips and serve them warm with warm marinara sauce for dipping.
I made these alongside two types of homemade pizza the first time I made them, but they are great to serve as a snack as well.

P.S. This post is a part of my "What's for Dinner" series, where I share what I've been cooking and my recipes. Grab and share my button:

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

What's for Dinner: Mini Chocolate Chip and Peanut Butter Cookie Cups

So my chocolate chip cookie recipe? I used that today as a base for a recipe test run to see how they would turn out as "cookie cups". They are basically cookies, but more presentable and fun.

The only change I pretty much made to that recipe was instead of using a cup of milk chocolate chips, I used a combination of chocolate chip and peanut butter morsels. Yum!

You need:
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 a cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 a cup of [packed] light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup PLUS two tablespoons of all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 cup of milk chocolate and peanut butter morsels
To make them:
  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Spray your non-stick mini muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray as an extra precaution.
  2. In a bowl, add your butter along with both type of the sugars and then beat on low to medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy. 
  3. Next: add in the salt, vanilla, and egg. Beat until everything is well mixed together. Add in your flour and baking soda and mix to combine everything. Lastly, stir in the chocolate and peanut butter morsels.
  4. Take even sized amounts of dough, and roll into a ball. Place into each individual muffin cup[?].
  5. Bake in your preheated oven for 12-14 minutes, or until they are golden brown.
I let them cool for a few minutes, but they each came out pretty easily.

I used a pack of morsels that already had peanut butter and chocolate chip morsels in it together. Seemed to have more peanut butter morsels, but I liked that better anyhow. If you want, you could do half a cup of peanut butter chips and a half cup of chocolate chips separately [or any other type you want].

Click here to see how I made another version of these cookies.

P.S. This post is a part of my "What's for Dinner" series, where I share what I've been cooking and my recipes. Grab and share my button:



Monday, May 6, 2013

42

It's not often I watch movies [or TV in general], let alone go to a theater to watch one. My attention span is horrible. As in: it has to be incredibly captivating/interesting for me to be able to sit and watch something for more than a few minutes.

Yesterday, I ended up seeing "42" with my brothers. This two hour movie? Didn't seem nearly as long. For those of you that are not aware: it's about Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play in major league baseball... and more importantly: the racism he deals with in the process. 

The movie does a great job in portraying/ emphasizing the social matters, and I wouldn't say it's a "baseball movie". As I was watching the movie, I couldn't help but think "I couldn't imagine living in a time period where someone was treated so differently because of the color of their skin". I think it was a scene that showed the "white only" restrooms.

I then shuddered. Because, so many years later we still live in a nation full of discrimination.

Just in the recent few weeks, three stories pop in my head right away:
Wilcox County High School in the state of Georgia held its first combined prom for whites and people of color. Really?! You are kidding, right? How is that even possible?!

Then there were the stories of someone [in NY I believe] vandalizing homes and worship places of the Jewish faith.

Lets not forget the backlash again Muslims in the aftermath of the Boston bombings when it appeared that the two suspects associated themselves with Islam. I hate to say this, but I use the term Muslims very loosely when talking about the suspects. I am not one to judge anyone (only He can do that). But to use religion [whichever one it may be] to defend your cowardly and hideous actions... that's no man of faith right there.

And who were the immediate "suspects" that the media and the general public pounced over in the aftermath wrongly? Without any proof whatsoever. Just because of who they were. Not what they did. Or didn't do.

I'll be the first to admit that in the immediate aftermath, one of the first things I said to my family is "this better not be the act of a Muslim". It's like a gift for the media to grab a hold of extremism and use that against Islam and Muslims as a whole. From Fox News? I expect nothing less. From actual "news source": the naive in me hopes for a little more educated response.

When news broke that their background is actually classified as "white", someone on Twitter made a joke: "What every Caucasian male has been dreading has come true: it was one of us". But it hits a much broader note, doesn't it? How many white people face the reprise in the aftermath? Do we discriminate again all Germans because Hitler was a German?

I don't remember religion being a factor in the Oklahoma City bombing, the Tuscan shooting, the Aurora shooting, the Newtown massacre. See a pattern? The suspects were all white.

What creates so much internal hatred towards another? And if that must be the natural response, why isn't it the response no matter who commits the atrocity? Not just when someone of a certain faith does it.

You want to voice your opinion? Voice your opinion for the poor across the world who suffer daily. Voice your opinion against violence. Voice your opinion for equal pay for equal work [for women]. Voice your opinion against discrimination. Voice your opinion for stricter gun control laws.

Voice your opinion, when in your heart, you know you are doing right. Not because it's what everyone else is doing. Stand up for one another, not against each other. Voice your opinion against hideous and atrocious acts by mankind. Not against what makes up that man. We should all be judged for the things we do, not for who we are.

Have we made great strides? I'm not denying that. But we have a LONG way to go. When will we come to accept each other, learn to judge every individual on their actions and not a group they identify with? Whether it be a group they associate themselves with [religion, beliefs], or it's something innate [sex, race, etc.]... that doesn't matter.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

What's for Dinner: Cajun Chicken Pasta

I'm working on slowly posting some [old] favorite recipes that I'm mentioned in the past on this blog, and I'm surprised I haven't posted this already on here as it is one of the favorites. Everyone I've made this for loves it, and it's one of the recipes I'm most often asked for.

You need:
  • 12 ounces of pasta [I prefer penne for this one]
  • 1-2 tablespoons of [unsalted] butter
  • 1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour
  • Half-and-half [amount will depend on how creamy you want it. I use a 32 fluid ounce size container, but you can start with about 1 and a half cups if you'd like]
  • 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound of boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into tiny bite size pieces
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of Cajun seasoning (to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional, to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 2 firm-ripe [roma] tomatoes, cored and diced
  • [1 cup] of mozzarella cheese, shredded or grated
How I make it:
  1. First thing -- put the water to boil for the pasta as that will take the longest. Put a generous amount of salt in the water right at the start as this is the only chance to salt the pasta. For pasta preference, penne works best on my opinion because it absorbs the sauce the best.
  2. Then in a deep pan, melt about 1-2 tablespoon of butter and then add about the same amount of flour. Mix well so it becomes like a rue (light brown, thick liquid consistency)... There should be no lumps and the flour taste should be gone. Make sure you do this on very low temperature so it doesn't burn.
  3. Then to this add half and half (I use a 32 fluid ounce size container). Add Cajun seasoning, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. On low heat, let it thicken. Then add Parmesan cheese.
  4. In a separate pan, add chicken pieces that are cut to small pieces (like if you were making popcorn chicken). Add salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, Cajun seasoning, and a little bit of oil. Let it cook on medium heat. When it's almost done, lower the heat and add tomatoes that are  diced into small pieces (like on top of nachos). Also add jalapeƱo peppers if you want extra spice (cut into very small pieces, with the seeds thrown out -- otherwise its too spicy).
  5. When the chicken and pasta is cooked through, add the pasta and chicken into the sauce pot and mix it well. Add shredded mozzarella cheese and more Parmesan cheese if you want and mix it well.
  6. To garnish -- if I am serving at a party -- what I do is after mixing, I add a layer of shredded mozzarella cheese on top [or grated parmesan like in the picture] and then sprinkle Cajun seasoning on top.
It's best when eaten right away!

P.S. This post is a part of my "What's for Dinner" series, where I share what I've been cooking and my recipes. Grab and share my button:

What's for Dinner: Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

So last night, I wanted chocolate chip cookies. I was tired, however, and after starting to mix the ingredients together, I just didn't want to have to sit there and form each individual cookie, and then bake them in batches and whatnot. Epitome of laziness, I know.

The compromise? I decided to just turn the cookies into bars. This couldn't be simpler to make.

What you will need:
  • 1/2 cup of butter, melted
  • 1 cup of [light] brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of [all-purpose] flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 cup of [milk] chocolate chips
To put your Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars together:
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray your non-stick [8x8] pan with non-stick cooking spray as an extra precaution.
  2. Combine your melted butter and brown sugar.
  3. Next, add in your vanilla extract vanilla and egg and mix everything together.
  4. Then, add in your dry ingredients slowly [your flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt]. Combine everything together before transferring your mixture into the baking pan.
  5. Sprinkle the top with chocolate chips. I sprinkled the chocolate chips on top, instead of mixing it into the mixture because I wanted the chocolate chips to pop out. 
  6. Bake for about 25 minutes in your preheated oven. Or until the top is golden brown.
Tip: Let it sit for a few minutes before you cut them into bars once you take the baking pan out of the oven.

P.S. This post is a part of my "What's for Dinner" series, where I share what I've been cooking and my recipes. Grab and share my button:

Thursday, May 2, 2013

What's for Dinner: Homemade Pizza

Slowly, but surely, I'm updating with recipes for things I've posted about in the past. Today is all about Homemade Pizza [click here to see my recipe for homemade pizza dough from scratch]. I've yet to experiment with making my own marinara sauce at home, mainly because the store-bought one I use? I love the taste of it.

Pictures is the Chicken Tikka and Peppers Pizza
The toppings I use varies, but here are a few of the most common ones to put together your pizza(s):

Chicken Pizza:
I take a few pieces of boneless chicken cubes (you don't need that many unless you prefer it to be full of a lot of chicken) and cut them each into very tiny pieces. I added salt and some grilling seasoning (I used Dash's) to the chicken, along with a little bit of oil and cooked it through on low to medium heat. The chicken cooks really quickly because it's not a lot of chicken and it's cut into such tiny pieces. Tip: Use salt-free seasonings so YOU can control the amount of salt.

Then use either a homemade pizza dough or one you bought [which I do plenty of times]. Roll out your pizza dough to fit your pizza pan. Pour and spread marinara sauce (you can use pizza sauce, tomato/pasta sauce or whatever you prefer... I find marinara sauce to work best) all over the dough. Then, I sprinkle mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese on top. Next, I sprinkle oregano and parsley flakes over the cheese. Finally, add the chicken (evenly spaced out). I baked this pizza for 25 minutes in a preheated oven at 350 degrees.

For the Plain Cheese Pizza:
Again, either make a pizza dough or buy one. Roll out your pizza dough to fit your pizza pan. Pour and spread marinara sauce all over the dough. I, then, sprinkled a pizza cheese blend all over on top of the marinara sauce. Next, I added oregano and parsley flakes again on top. I baked this one for 25 minutes on 350 degrees as well.

For the Chicken Tikka and Peppers Pizza:
I made this one yesterday. Again, either make a pizza dough or buy one [For this one, I used Betty Crocker's Pizza Crust mix and was surprised how nicely it turned out]. Roll out your pizza dough to fit your pizza pan. Pour and spread marinara sauce all over the dough. I, then, sprinkled a pizza cheese blend all over on top of the marinara sauce. Next, I add in shredded chicken tikka pieces [see below for how I make it]. Sprinkle varying colors of peppers on top. Finally, I added some Italian seasoning. I baked this one for about 20 minutes on 400 degrees.

For the chicken tikka: I had marinated chicken with black pepper, garlic powder, paprika, yogurt, lemon juice, and tandoori masala a day or two ago to BBQ. It had rained, however, so I've been using said chicken in various forms this week. I, then, cooked it over low heat. I typically use boneless chicken but the one in the picture above - I used leg and thigh pieces.

Seasonings, spices, toppings, etc. can be altered to using your own preference... I just usually make it up as I go along based on what flavors I wanted and what my family likes.

Note: How long the pizza(s) take to bake in the oven will depend on your oven, how thick your crust is, etc... so keep an eye on it.

P.S. This post is a part of my "What's for Dinner" series, where I share what I've been cooking and my recipes. Grab and share my button:

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

What's for Dinner: Chocolate Hazelnut Swirl Cheesecake

Chocolate Hazelnut Swirl Cheesecake with a hazelnut crust. Yum?

I wanted to make a cheesecake that incorporated chocolate in it, but wasn't too chocolate-y [technical term]. Oh, and I wanted to add nuts in it. I remember coming across a lot of nutella cheesecakes, but because I didn't want the whole thing to be chocolate... I decided to add in swirls of it.

I LOVED the pistachio crust that I made for my cheesecake with the chocolate center filling, so I decided to use hazelnuts in the crust in today's cheesecake.

Let's start with the hazelnut crust base. For the hazelnut crust, you need:
  • 1 cup of [all-purpose] flour
  • 1/3 cup of [firmly-packed] brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup of hazelnuts, chopped
  • 5 tablespoons of [unsalted] butter, cut into tiny cubes
To make the hazelnut crust:
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees [and place your oven rack in the middle of your oven if it isn't there already]. Lightly grease a  [non-stick] springform pan just to be extra careful.
  2. In your food processor: add in the flour, brown sugar, and chopped hazelnuts. Pulse several times to combine those three ingredients before adding in the cubed butter. Pulse several more times until the butter is incorporated in nicely. Firmly press the crust mixture into the bottom of your springform pan.
  3. Bake for about 12 minutes [in your preheated oven] [or until the edges are light brown]. Remove from oven and let the crust cool completely.
  4. At this point, lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees to bake the cheesecake.
Now onto the cheesecake filling. For it, you will need:
  • 2 (8 ounce) packages of cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 (14 ounce) can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • [about] 1/2 cup of Nutella [or your choice of chocolate-hazelnut spread]
For the filling:
  1. In a large bowl, beat your cream cheese until it is smooth. Gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk. Add in your eggs and vanilla extract. Do not over beat the mixture, just beat it until your mixture is smooth.
  2. In another bowl, separate about 1 and 1/2 cups of the cream cheese mixture. Add in the Nutella to the smaller batch and mix it.
  3. On top of your [baked and completely cooled] crust, pour about half of the yellow cheesecake batter.
  4. Next, pour about half of the chocolate hazelnut batter on top of the yellow batter. Repeat the layers. Originally, I planned on swirling the batter from the top to give it a marble cake look, but when I poured the final chocolate hazelnut batter on top... it looked so pretty as is that I left it as it was.
  5. Place cheesecake in the center of the middle oven rack [in the preheated 300 degree oven]. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until edges are light brown and center is almost set. 
  6. At this point, I turned my oven off, but left my cheesecake in the oven, with the door open for about 30 minutes so the center could completely set. At that point, I removed the cheesecake from the oven to let it cool. The hardest part.
Apparently you are supposed to let cheesecakes cool in the fridge for about 12-24 hours before you cut into it. Yeah, that wasn't going to happen. Does about an hour sound okay? Because that's how long I lasted :)

Oh well, it will just be that much better tomorrow.

P.S. This post is a part of my "What's for Dinner" series, where I share what I've been cooking and my recipes. Grab and share my button:

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