Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cowboy Calzones a la The Pioneer Woman

***A great friend of mine, Ashley, recently told me about some calzones that she had had at a friend's house.  At the party, everyone made their own calzones...sounds fun, doesn't it?  Basically, she said they all started with pizza dough, and then added the toppings of their choice from a big selection.  That sounds like my kind of party!

So, when I saw these calzones the very next day in The Pioneer Woman's new cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks, I decided that I just HAD to give homemade calzones a try.  It was just meant to be! 

Now, I have to warn you...These aren't the tomato sauce and pepperoni type calzones that you're probably used to ordering at your local Italian eatery.  These are truly "COWBOY" calzones...hamburger meat, sausage, onion, Rotel, and lots of cheese make up the filling.  And I also will admit that I used store-bought pizza dough...I just couldn't be bothered with making my own dough that night.  They still tasted fantastic!

I think you'll really enjoy these hearty calzones.  They'll fill ya up and leave you with a happy tummy!

Bon Appetit!***

Cowboy Calzones
Source:  The Pioneer Woman Cooks by Ree Drummond

Pizza Dough:

1 tsp or 1/2 packet of active dry yeast
4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1. Pour 1 1/2 cups warm water in a bowl and sprinkle in yeast.
2. Combine the flour and salt in a mixing bowl.
3. With an electric mixer on low speed, drizzle in olive oil until combined
4. Add water and yeast mixture slowly until ball forms.
5. Let it rise for 1 to 2 hours or can be refriderated for 2 days.

Calzone Filling:
1/2 lb breakfast sausage
1 lb ground beef
1/2 diced onion
8 oz can of Rotel
8 oz whole milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 egg, beaten
Salt and Pepper

1. Preheat oven to 450.  In a large skillet brown ground beef, sausage and onion over medium heat. Drain excess grease
2. Add Rotel and cook for 2 mins. remove from heat and let cool slightly.
3. Combine ricotta, mozzarella, monterey jack, and egg in a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Combine cheese mixture with meat mixture.
5. Divide dough into 8 equal balls. Roll into 6 inch circles.
6. Place one-eighth of the mixture in the middle of each circle.
7. Fold one half of the circle over and pinch the edges to seal. Brush with olive oil.
8. Bake for 12 to 15 mins

Monday, March 29, 2010

I Need Your Help! Vote for Gooseman!

Meet "Gooseman"...Isn't he the cutest?  :-)

UPDATE:  THANK YOU so very much to everyone who voted for Gooseman.  I'm thrilled to report that our efforts paid off...Gooseman is officially "Bama's Best Dog!!"  That's so exciting!  Congrats Gooseman!

Hello to all of my wonderful blog readers...I usually don't publish posts that don't have anything to do with food, HOWEVER...One of my best friends, Mary Katherine, needs your help!  Her sweet, sweet puppy "Gooseman" has been selected out of over 1,300 entries for a chance to win "Bama's Best Dog." 

Please take a few minutes to vote for her furbaby at THIS LINK.  It only takes a few seconds.  I'd be so grateful if ya'll could help her out!  A three-night beach vacation is on the line for Mary Katherine!

Please hurry...the voting only continues through 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, March 31!

Go Gooseman!!!  :-)

Friday, March 26, 2010

It's Giveaway Time! - Win a $50 Earth Fare Giftcard!

Economic times are tough. We all know that. And, Earth Fare, the healthy supermarket, seems to know that too. Have you been to their stores? If so, you would know that they are always trying to make healthy eating affordable, easy and delicious! Seriously - have you tried their homemade, all-natural chocolate chip cookies - if not, it is .99 cents of deliciousness! Well, in celebration of the opening of their new Huntsville, AL store on May 12th, Earth Fare gave me a $50.00 gift card to give away! Yeah, very cool. They just said, hey Celeste...Give this away for us!

So, now, we want you to tell us why you deserve or just plain want this gift card. We've all got stories. You may have a family of four to feed on a tight budget. You may have lost your job recently and just need some extra help. You may be a cookie lover or organic food nut! Or, perhaps for whatever reason, you've never tried a healthy food store and just want to see what it's like! Give us your best reason, and we'll consider it for the prize.

The best story gets the card. So, ready, set, and get writing. Post your reason in the comments below today!  Before entering, be sure to check THIS LINK to see if there's an Earth Fare store near you!

You only have until Friday, May 7th to get your entry in.  Good Luck!!!

Photos courtesy of

Monday, March 22, 2010

Greek Chicken - Ready in Minutes!

***Oh my...This dish is enough to make your heart flutter.  The colors...the presentation...the fact that it's super easy!  Dinner doesn't get much better than this.  The flavors of the feta cheese and kalamata olives will take you straight to Greece, and you'll be sad when you take that last bite...I promise!

This recipe is so fantastic, that I've made it twice already!  The mint adds a wonderful freshness that really sends the flavors over-the-top.  A simple salad of tomato, feta, olives, mint and olive oil are mixed together first, and then that is allowed to marinate and get happy while the chicken cooks.  A quick saute of the chicken, and you're almost done.  Just add the salad over the top, and dinner is served!

I can always count on Martha Stewart's online recipe collection when I need a fast and easy weeknight dinner option.  She really hit a homerun here...You'll LOVE this dish!

Bon Appetit!***

Greek Chicken Cutlets

Serves 4

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives
4 ounces feta cheese, coarsely crumbled (1 cup)
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 1/2 pounds thin chicken cutlets (about 8)

1.In a medium bowl, combine tomatoes, olives, feta, mint, and 1 tablespoon oil. Season with salt and pepper; set aside.

2.Heat a grill pan over high; brush lightly with oil. Season cutlets with salt and pepper. Cook, working in batches as necessary, until chicken is cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate, and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Top chicken with tomato mixture, and serve.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Caramel-Peanut-Topped Brownie Cake

***After just one look through Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours, this Caramel-Peanut-Topped Brownie Cake stands out even among the other scrumptious desserts.  The full-page photo immediately sold me on this cake...Gooey caramel dripping down the sides, a perfectly chocolate brownie cake base, and caramel-covered peanuts strategically placed on the top...It's enough to make you drool, alright!

I was in search of the perfect birthday cake for my sis-in-law, and this looked and sounded great.  It was a something different, and it definitely didn't disappoint!  Creamy vanilla ice cream just put it over the top.  With the ice cream, it tasted a lot like a Peanut Buster Parfait from Dairy Queen. 

If you're worried about making your caramel from scratch, you shouldn't be.  Dorie is so wonderful about giving clear and concise instructions...She really takes the guesswork out of baking.  Just be sure to watch the caramel while it is cooking, because once it starts to change color, it happens fast!  The minute you walk away will be the minute that it's ready!  Her suggestion of checking the color on a white plate works great.  Don't be can definitely do it! 

Bon Appetit!***

Caramel-Peanut-Topped Brownie Cake
Source -  Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

For the brownie cake:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 large eggs
½ cup packed light brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
3 tbsp. light corn syrup
½ tsp. vanilla extract

For the topping:
2 cups sugar
½ cup water
1½ tbsp. light corn syrup
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup salted peanuts

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter an 8-inch springform pan, dust the inside with flour, tap out the excess and line the bottom of the pan with a piece of parchment paper. Place the springform pan on a baking sheet.

To make the cake, combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl; whisk together and set aside. Add the butter and chocolate to a heatproof bowl set over simmering water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the ingredients are just melted – do not let them get so hot that the butter separates. Remove the bowl from the heat and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugars until well blended. Whisk in the corn syrup, followed by the vanilla. Add in the melted butter and chocolate mixture, and whisk until combined. Gently whisk in the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are just incorporated. The batter should be thick, smooth and shiny. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and jiggle the pan a bit to even out the batter.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a thin knife inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 15 minutes, then run a thin knife between the cake and the pan and carefully remove the sides of the springform. The cake may have puffed up during baking, but don’t be concerned if it develops a crater in the center while cooling. Allow to cool to room temperature. When the cake is totally cool, invert it, remove the base of the pan and peel off the parchment paper. Turn the cake right side up onto a serving platter.

To make the topping, combine the sugar, water and corn syrup in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, stirring just to combine the ingredients. Place the pan over medium-high heat. Heat, without stirring, until the caramel turns deep amber, 5 to 10 minutes depending on the size of your saucepan and the intensity of the heat. As the sugar is caramelizing, wipe down any splatters on the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. To test the color of the caramel, drop a bit onto a white plate. Don’t be timid about the color – if it’s too pale, it won’t have much flavor.

Lower the heat a bit and, standing back from the saucepan, add the cream and butter. When the spatters are less vehement, stir to calm down the caramel and dissolve any lumps. Stir in the peanuts and pour the caramel and peanuts into a 1-quart Pyrex measuring cup or a heatproof bowl.

You will have more caramel than you need, but you want to get all of the peanuts onto the cake, so spoon all of the peanuts out of the hot caramel and onto the top of the cake. Pour or spoon enough caramel to cover all the nuts, drizzling a bit over the edges of the cake for presentation. Allow the topping to set at room temperature, about 20 minutes, before serving. Keep the leftover caramel at room temperature and save for another use.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Penne a la Betsy...Food for a Broken Heart

Me & GrannyRene...Having fun in the kitchen.

***This post is going to be difficult for me.  I'm writing this entry at the end of what has easily been one of the hardest weeks I've ever been through.  On the morning of March 5th, I found out that my GrannyRene had been rushed to the hospital.  She passed away later that afternoon.  It was so unexpected.  We had to say goodbye way too early, and my heart is broken.

My GrannyRene was one of the strongest people that I've ever known...Strong in every way.  She was so kind and loving...and was incredibly involved in the community...especially her church.  She volunteered so much of her time, because she truly enjoyed helping people and doing her part to make this world a little brighter.  She's taught me so many things through the years, including the fact that we have to take one day at the time...and that's exactly what I'll have to do. I know she's smiling down on me right now.

GrannyRene had a knack for making everyone feel loved...and you were richly blessed to have her in your life.  She was beautiful, classy, and a tremendous cook!  In fact, she was famous around here for her Chicken & Dumplings.  You may even remember THIS POST, where I shared her recipe.  The hand-written recipes and photos from that particular post are things that I will treasure forever.  She was so proud of this food blog and told so many people about it. She was so excited when she read that post and saw those photos.

I do find peace in the fact that she's with my grandfather, Papa, right now.  They loved each other so much, and I can't imagine how happy they are to finally be together again.  I have also found that getting back into the kitchen has been puts me at ease and reminds me of GrannyRene. 

This is the dish that got me back into the kitchen.  Cooking can calm the mind, and making this pasta did just that.  It was just what I needed...comfort food to the highest degree.  It's easy to put together, and the taste is truly outstanding.  The creamy tomato sauce is brightened by the fresh basil and parsley.  This is a meal that feels luxurious and would be a great dish for a dinner party...easy, stress-free, but sure to impress.

I'm so blessed to have such wonderful memories of my GrannyRene...I know she'll continue to live on in our hearts forever.  I love you, GrannyRene...

Until next time...Bon Appetit!***

Penne a la Betsy
Source:  The Pioneer Woman


¾ pounds Penne Pasta
1 pound Shrimp
3 Tablespoons Butter
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 whole Onion (small)
2 cloves Garlic
½ cups White Wine
1 can Tomato Sauce (8 Oz)
1 cup Heavy Cream
Fresh Parsley, to taste
Fresh Basil, to taste
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Cook the penne pasta until tender-firm, also known as al dente.

Peel, devein and rinse (under cool water) 1 pound of extra large shrimp. Heat about 1 tbsp. butter and olive oil in a skillet. Add the shrimp and cook for a couple minutes until just opaque. Do not overcook them. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes. Now, put the cooked shrimp on the cutting board and pull off the tails. Chop the shrimp into bite –sized pieces and set aside.

Finely dice one small onion. Mince two cloves of garlic.

In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the garlic and onion and sauté, stirring occasionally. After the garlic and onions have cooked a bit add your white wine. Let the wine evaporate for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. If you would rather not use wine, you can use low-sodium chicken broth instead (about ½ cup).

Now add an 8-ounce can of plain tomato sauce. Stir well until combined. Then add 1 cup of heavy cream. Continue stirring. Turn heat down to low and let simmer.

Now chop your herbs, about a tablespoon of chopped parsley and about the same amount of chopped basil, or if you’re feeling very proper, chiffonaded.

Now add your chopped shrimp back into the tomato cream sauce. Give it a stir and add salt and pepper to taste. Throw in your herbs and stir until combined. Finally add your cooked penne pasta and give it a good stir.