Weekly recipe attempt: Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee

sconeI'm not a baker, which I've said before.  However, I was watching Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee and I saw the coolest baking trick I've ever seen.  While I don't eat a lot of scones, I often wondered how scones got their wedge-like shape, and thanks to the blonde, cocktail weilding chef, Sandra Lee, I figured out just how those scones got their shape.  I also had some leftover chocolate chips from cookies I had made the weekend before, and thought that this would be a splendid way to use them up.

Weekly recipe attempt: Mocha Chip Scones

When I first saw the amount of ingredients in this recipe, eleven to be exact, I was a little nervous.  But oddly enough, I had all the ingredients on hand, so I decided to give this a try.  The mixing went fine, no problems to report there.  It was surprisingly not that messy. 

Now on to the trick.  The reason for this very recipe attempt.  So how exactly does a scone become a wedge?  Stick it in a pie pan and make it into a disk-shape.  Then cut the disk into wedges.  Genius.  Pure genius!  Also remember, which I rarely do when baking anything, that things spread out when they bake.  Make sure there is a lot of space around each of those wedges when you put them onto the cookie sheet and you're all set. 

I give this recipe/method a 7.  I give the recipe, a 6, but add a point for the trick.  In order for this recipe to get a higher score, it would have had to have less ingredients in the recipe.  After all, it is "semi-homemade."  I think she could have somehow found some more store help with this. 


Valentine's Day help from the Food Network

cupidAre you freaking out because you've decided to make your honey a huge romatic meal with little time or confidence to do it?  Calm down, take a breath, and read these five simple tips from FoodNetwork.com to help make your evening a memorable one without hyperventilating.

  1. Avoid abandoning your valentine too long between courses by choosing dishes you feel confident about. Prepare as much as possible in advance and focus on enjoying dinner — not to mention the fun that'll ensue after you eat!  

  2. Set the scene for romance. Use your fanciest tableware, low bowls of floating candles, fresh flowers and a sumptuous tablecloth. Or, go exotic by decorating with tea lights, colorful place settings and a couple of comfortable cushions on the ground for seating.

  3. Keep portions small and enjoy your meal at a leisurely pace to avoid feeling overstuffed on rich foods. (The goal here is to create a meal that excites — but doesn't overload — the senses.)

  4. If you both love to cook, plan and prepare the meal together. Designate one head chef to avoid arguments about techniques or taste. If you both love to lead, then just alternate years.

  5. Little touches make all the difference. Try warming plates in the oven, adding elegant garnishes or selecting just the right stemware to set the mood

If you're scrambling for more ideas, check out Food Network's Valentine's Day page on their website.  Your certain to find something to make your evening a memorable, and tasty one.

FYI-  You don't need a partner to enjoy this day.  Why not go all out and celebrate your romantic independence?  Find a scrumptious, fancy meal that you would like to induge in and enjoy the best company of all, you!  Besides, if you only cook for yourself and you burn things, then no one will ever know.  It's embarassment free!  You could also use this as a trial run for one of those times you are entertaining for a special someone.


And the winner is: Paula Deen vs. Sandra Lee!

Last week's poll results are in, and the winners are Sandra Lee and Paula Deen!  Most of you folks would like to see these two chefs duke it out in the Iron Chef America ring.  Let's take this thing a step further.  In honor of Chocolate Obsession week on the Food Network, I think that the secret ingredient should be chocolate.

Both of these beauties have chocolate episdoes coming up.  Paula has her Sexy Southern Chocolate episode airing February 11 at 10:30 am ET/PT, February 13 at 4:00pm ET/PT, and February 20 1:00pm ET/PT.

Sandra takes a stab at the chocolate craze with Chocolate 2.  This episode airs twice February 11, at 11:00 am ET/PT, and February 12, at 5:30pm ET/PT.

Let's see who tackles the fine art of chocolate cooking the best.  My money is on Sandra Lee.  I know everyone loves Paula, but you also know that I'm not one of them.  Go team Sandra Lee!!

What do you think?  Who will come out on top with Battle Chocolate?


Weekly recipe attempt: Good Eats

dipAre you ready for some football?  Or should I say, for a bunch of people in you living room screaming at a tv set and eating copious amounts of finger foods?  If you're not as ready as you think, or if you're still looking for the extra little item that will make them say "Wow!" without you having to put that much effort into it, then my dear friends, here is that little wow-factor for you.

Weekly recipe attempt: Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Leave it to Alton Brown to make an easy dip that most of us probably already spent lots of money purchasing pre-made in the grocery store.  I used to look at spinach dip recipes and peruse the supermarket aisles for components.  What I found was the priciness of the pieces.  If you buy fresh spinach, and the artichoke hearts in a jar, then the prices tend to add up and you would be better off buying this pre-made.

Alton, however, leads us to the frigid path of delicious, inexpensive items to make this recipe worth your while.  Go to the freezer section.  That's the secret.  It also makes things a whole lot easier.  There's less draining, less chopping, less cooking, and less use of that hard earned paycheck.  Get the chopped frozen spinach and the frozen artichoke hearts. I found these at Trader Joes, for less than two bucks each bag.  I even have enough of both left over to make a double batch.  And this dip is so good that you might want to. 

This might be a record, folks!  I'm giving this one a 10 out of 10.  It looks like it took all day to make, but it took me about ten minutes to make and tastes delicious.  If you're wondering what the little pale yellow things are in the picture, they're fat-free pretzel slims that I found at Trader Joe's as well.  Also, feel free to use up whatever vegetables you have in your fridge for and assortment of crudites.  This dip will definitley impress even the most hard core football fan.  FYI- the dip also tastes pretty good cold the next day.  It doesn't necessarily need to be served hot in my opinion.


Weekly Recipe Attempt: Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello

tomatoesFor this week's attempt, I decided to try to appease all of you that voted in the Resolution poll.  The winner of the poll was, "I love food and food loves me," but in a close second, most of you would like to increase the amount of fruits and veggies in your diet.  I decided to pick a recipe that involves both of these concepts.  I also saw that Michael Chiarello was doing an episode devoted to California, where I happen to reside, so I couldn't resist the following choice from his California Here I Come episode.

Weekly recipe attempt:  Tomato Steak with Baked Goat Cheese and Herb Salad

I liked the look of this recipe.  It was very simple, yet pretty.  I decided, in honor of football season, and incidentally appetizer season as well, that I would make a smaller version of this recipe to perhaps be passed around when the big game is on.  I used Roma tomatoes instead of beefsteak and made the goat cheese rounds a bit smaller.  Unfortunatley with the goat cheese rounds being smaller, they didn't "bake"/ melt as well as the bigger slices would have.  It was still delicious just the same.

The only problem I came across if you were to use this for a big game thing, was the fact that once you put the slices of goat cheese into a frying pan, you have to watch them fairly carefully.  Or else you's end up topping your tomatoes with little lumps of charcoal.  This might be difficult if one eye was on the game instead of both on the pan.  If you have a TV in your kitchen, then problem is solved.

All in all, I'd give this an 8 out of 10.  It was a little more messy to make than I thought it would be, so it gets a little lower score than the overall taste would have given it. 


Food TV Face-off

I have to thank a reader for the following post.  Fellow Food Network fan, Nicky, at deglazing.com has started an interesting new blog series called Food TV Face Off.  In this version of the face-off, Nicky pits Dave Lieberman's Arborio Rice Pudding with Ina Garten's Rum Rice Pudding. 

Nicky proceeds by making both dishes, explaining any variations, and ultimatley crowning a winner.  For the recipes of these two dishes and for the winner of this battle, check out Nicky's site deglazing.com.


Football party help from the Food Network

footballNow this may surprise a couple of people who know me, but this weekend I actually found myself catching a couple of minutes of some football games.  OK I was stuck at an airport for five hours and didn't really have anything to do, so I popped my head into the bar.  But when I caught some of the game, I was enjoying myself.  I don't usually watch football or any sporting event for that matter.  People got so into that stuff, that I began to cheer with the rest of them.   

With playoffs in gear and Superbowl Sunday just around the corner, the Food Network helps you plan your parties by giving you some football munchies for those hoop and holler games.  Football week for the Food Network comes along in the beginning of February, but what if you need help now for those equally important playoff parties?  Don't fear, the Food Network website is here!  You can find yummy food bites and fun tips from Guy.  My personal favorite tip from Guy is tip number 3:

  • Consider setting up two televisions: one for the die-hard football watchers, and another for the social viewers.

What a great idea!  I've never heard of that before.  This way, when no touchdowns are happening and I'm a little lost on flags and penalties or whatnot, I can drift off to the non-sports fan tv and talk about non-related things like what recipe I made without disturbing the people who are arguing about whether one toe was in or two. 

Check out more tips from Guy and other fun things at the Food Network's website.


Weekly Recipe Attempt: Paula's Home Cooking

asparagusAs all of you may know, I'm not Paula Deen's biggest fan.  However, I was intrigued by her attempt to jump on the healthy band wagon for this week's Light and Healthy Week on the Food Network.  I decided to try one of her southern-style light fares.  Since I recently purchased a bag of frozen asparagus on an impulse buy at the supermarket, I decided to find something that could use those bad boys up.  I landed on a typical asparagus recipe, Paula Deen style (aka it has butter in it.)

Weekly Recipe Attempt:  Asparagus with Lemon Butter

I liked this recipe.  It's simple and quick to prepare.  I paired the asparagus with a skinless chicken thigh that I roasted in the oven.  I think that I put a little too much lemon on top, because the asparagus had a little too much of a kick to it, but it was still pretty good.  I like to squeeze lemons and sometimes get a little over zealous with the juice.   Paula's recipe called for olive oil, and to lighten things a little, since I didn't want to keep all the butter, I sprayed the asparagus with canola oil from a can.  This method saves about a 100 calories and still had the desired effect.  I love using asparagus because it looks so pretty on the plate.  Even if you use only a few stalks it takes up a lot of the plate and makes things look pretty.  Use extra lemon wedges for garnish to wow a crowd.

I give this healthy recipe an 8.  It's too simple to merit a higher score, but I do think that this just might be the perfect light side dish to any lean meat entree.


It's a very drunken Christmas with Semi-Homemade's Sandra Lee

mayflowerThis Christmas, Sandra Lee's cup runneth over with festive ways to intoxicate yourself and your tree with a Semi-Homemade cocktail party.  I know there are a lot of people out there who don't like the way Sandra "cooks," but I have to admit, out of all the styles of chefs/cooks on the Food Network, my style of cooking more closely resembles that of Sandra Lee than anyone else's.  In fact, the picture on this blog is from my Thanksgiving.  It is one of Sandra Lee's Mayflower Martini's and I made it for my guests.

Yes, she makes a lot of cocktails, but these Christmas ones look delicious and festive!  She is entertaining her guests with a Frosty Cocktail, a Candy Cane Cocktail, and a Gingerbread Martini.  I don't know anyone who has all of the liquor's required for all these cocktails, but maybe if you pick just one festive treat for your guests, I think they'd appreciate the creativity and get into the holiday spirit. 

Even if making drinks isn't your style, Sandra Lee has come up with the oddest tree decorating tip I've ever seen in my life.  She suggests taking all of the glasses out of your cupboard and stringing them upside down on your tree to resemble bells.  I'm on your side Sandra, but this idea was ridiculous.  Let's forget for a moment that using your goblets on the tree and making your guests drink out of jelly jars is tacky, but they didn't look like bells.  They looked like you drank a few of your cocktails when you decorated your tree and hung up the first glass objects you found.  Cocktails good.  Cocktail glass ornaments bad.  And if the ornaments didn't scream drunken Christmas enough, the tree was topped with a nutcracker holding his very own frosty Martini.

Sandra Lee also made some appetizers to go with the drinks and insists that the hearty foods will balance out the copious amounts of alcohol.  If you'd like to check out this episode it airs December 20th at 5:30pm and December 25th at 12:30pm.


Food Network Gift Guide

gift treeLooking for a gift for that special someone?  Let the Food Network help!  If you're ambitious and would like to make your friends and family some goodies, check out the All Star Holiday Gifts special which airs December 9th at 4pm, December 10th at 7pm, and December 16th at 10pm.  Recipes include Pumpkin Muffins, Stained Glass CookiesPeppermint Pie and more! 

Not one for making gifts?  Check out those annoying, yet adorable Deen boys searching for the perfect holiday gifts on Road Tasted Gift Guide.  This special airs December 9th at 5pm and December 10th at 6pm.  Click on the link for information on where to find the delicious delectables the boys find on their travels.

Do you have a gift idea?  Feel free to post it here!  After all, tis the season for giving!

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