Saturday, January 31, 2009

Chocolate Cherry Skillet Cake

This is a super simple Pampered Chef recipe that gets rave reviews everywhere I take it! I used to do this recipe when I sold Pampered Chef...and we called it the Better than Sex cake! :-)


3 eggs, separated
1 can (21 ounces) cherry pie filling
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (or vanilla extract if you don't have almond)
1 package (18.25 ounces) Duncan Hines dark chocolate fudge cake mix
1 jar (11.7 ounces) hot fudge ice cream topping
1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted (if desired)
Frozen vanilla yogurt or thawed, frozen fat-free whipped topping (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly spray Family (12-in.) Skillet with oil using Kitchen Spritzer. Separate eggs over Classic Batter Bowl using Egg Separator; set yolks aside for another use. Lightly whisk egg whites. Add pie filling, water and almond extract; mix well. Add cake mix; mix until well blended using Classic Scraper. Pour batter over bottom of skillet, spreading evenly.

2. Bake, uncovered, 25-30 minutes or until Cake Tester inserted in center comes out clean. Using Oven Mitts, carefully remove from oven to Stackable Cooling Rack; cool 10 minutes. Loosen edges of cake with Skinny Scraper. Carefully invert cake onto Round Platter or large, heat-safe serving plate.

3. Using Skinny Scraper, stir ice cream topping until smooth; carefully spread evenly over top of cake. Sprinkle almonds evenly around top edge of cake. Cut into wedges using Slice 'N Serve(R). Serve warm with frozen yogurt or whipped topping, if desired.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Sausage and Tomato Rigatoni

This is a recipe I found at and it's AWESOME! It's got a little kick to it, but the kids love it! And it's SOOOO easy!
I changed the amounts a tiny bit, and I think it's perfect!

Sausage and Tomato Rigatoni

1 lb rigatoni (uncooked)
1 lb Italian sausage (I use Johnsonville Hot Italian bulk sausage)
1/2 red onion, diced
6 oz tomato paste
3/4 cup Kraft Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette Dressing
1/4 + 1/8 cup water
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (I use fresh parsley that I've stored in the freezer)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1. Cook pasta according to directions on package.
2. Meanwhile, brown sausage in large nonstick skillet; drain. Stir in onions and tomato paste; cover. Cook until onions are tender and sausage is cooked through, stirring occasionally. Stir in dressing.
3. Toss sausage mixture with pasta. Sprinkle with parsley and cheese.

This was so good that my 10 month old ate an entire plate full!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Chicken Alfredo Pizza (like Olive Garden's)

Here's my first attempt at making a Chicken Alfredo Pizza like Olive Garden's. It was pretty good! I'd probably use plain chicken instead of rotisserie seasoned next time, but other than that, it's pretty close!

Dough: Use the California Pizza Kitchen Dough recipe below.
When mixing flour, sugar, and salt together, add 1/4 tsp dried rosemary and 1/4 tsp garlic powder

Sauce: I started by using "Better than Olive Gardens Alfredo Sauce" recipe I found on It looked really good! But it had mozzarella cheese in it and it curdled the whole thing! So, I redid it and made it my own:

Alfredo Sauce

1/2 cup salted butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups milk
1/4 cup flour
3 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
3/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese

1. Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium/low heat.
2. In a bowl, combine milk, cornstarch, and flour. Whisk until smooth. Add the milk, garlic, and white pepper to the melted butter and bring mixture to a simmer.
3. Stir often.
4. Add the Parmesan cheese and simmer sauce for 8-10 minutes or until sauce has thickened and is smooth.

4 oz chicken from a rotisserie chicken
1/4 cup flour
olive oil
2-3 cloves of minced garlic

1. Heat some olive oil up in a skillet and cook the chicken until done and browned on both sides. About 2 minutes before the chicken is done, add the garlic to the pan and cook along side with the chicken. Remove and shred or cut into small pieces. (I just cooked the pre-cooked chicken with the garlic for a minute or two).

Assembling the Pizza
8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Spread the Alfredo sauce on the pizza crust. Top with the chicken, sprinkle with 2-3 cloves minced garlic, then top with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle top with green onions.

Bake about 7 to 8 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

California Pizza Kitchen Pizza Crust

This is the recipe we always use for our pizza crust. It's from the California Pizza Kitchen's cookbook, except that we triple the recipe to make 2 large pizzas. I've put the recipe here as we do it (tripled).

*****We found that the best dough is made by using an equal mixture of all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, and white whole wheat flour.  Made a super flavorful crust that had a great texture!*****

California Pizza Kitchen Basic Pizza Dough

Makes dough for two large pizzas.

3 teaspoon yeast
1 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons warm water (105 to 110 degrees F)
4 1/2 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour
6 teaspoons granulated sugar
3 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil plus 2 tablespoons for coating bowls

To Make The Dough

Dissolve the yeast in the water and set aside for 5 to 10 minutes. Be sure that the water is hot. Temperatures of 120 degrees F and above will kill the yeast, and your dough will not rise.

We ALWAYS USE our upright KitchenAid mixer. Uuse the mixing paddle attachment because the batch size is too small for the dough hook to be effective. Combine all other ingredients (except the additional teaspoon of olive oil) and combine them with the dissolved yeast in the mixing bowl. (Do not pour the salt directly into the yeast water because this would kill some of the yeast.) Allow these ingredients to mix gradually, use the lowest 2 speeds to mix the dough. Mix for 2 to 3 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Over-mixing the dough will produce tough, rubbery dough, and friction will cause the dough to rise too fast.

If mixing by hand, place the dry ingredients in a 4 to 6 quart mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle and pour in the liquids (reserving the teaspoon of olive oil). Use a wooden spoon to combine the ingredients. Once initial mixing is done, you can lightly oil your hands and begin kneading the dough. Knead for 5 minutes. When done the dough should be slightly tacky (that is, it should be barely beyond sticking to your hands).

Lightly oil the dough ball and the interior of a 1-quart glass bowl. Place the dough ball in the bowl and seal the bowl with clear food wrap or cover with a very damp dish towel. Set aside at room temperature (70 to 70 degrees F) to rise until double in bulk - about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

The recipe recommends letting it sit overnight in the fridge and then letting it rise again, but honestly, who has time for that? It's always great after the first rising, so I never bother doing all that. I can't plan that far ahead anyway!

To stretch and form the dough for pizza

Sprinkle a medium dusting of flour over a 12 x 12-inch clean, smooth surface. Flour the dough liberally. Place the floured dough on the floured smooth surface.

Use your hand to press the dough down forming a flat circle about 1/2-inch thick. Pinch the dough between your fingers all around the edge of the circle, forming a lip or rim that rises about 1/4-inch above the center surface of the dough. You may continue this outward stretching motion of the hands until you have reached a 9-inch diameter pizza dough.

To dress the pizza

Lightly sprinkle cornmeal, semolina or flour over the surface of a wooden pizza peel. Arrange the stretched dough over the floured peel surface. Work quickly to dress the pizza so that the dough will not become soggy or sticky from the sauces and toppings.

When you are ready to transfer the pizza to the pizza stone in the pre-heated oven, grasp the handle of the peel and execute a very small test jerk to verify that the pizza will come easily off the peel. If the dough does not move freely, carefully lift the edges of the dough and try to rotate it by hand. Extreme cases may require that you toss more flour under the dough edges.

Once the dough is moving easily on the peel, open the oven and position the edge of the peel over the center of the stone about 2/3 from the front of the stone. Jiggle and tilt the peel to get the pizza to start sliding off. When the pizza begins to touch the stone, pull the peel quickly out from under it. Don't attempt to move the pizza until it has begun to set (about 3 minutes). The peel can be slid under the pizza to move it or remove it.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Homemade Pie Crust

My Step-Father-in-Law passed this recipe on to me from an old magazine. It has all the secret tricks you need to know to make a perfect pie crust every time! It's so easy! It only takes a few minutes in the kitchen to make and it's so much better than a store-bought refrigerated one!

Basic Pastry

1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup shortening
3 to 4 Tbsp cold water

1. Combine flour and salt in a medium bowl; cut in shortening with a pastry blender until crumbly. For a flaky crust, the crumbly mixture needs to have irregular-size pieces of shortening as small as dried peas and as large as English peas.

2. Sprinkle cold water, 1 Tbsp at a time, evenly over surface; stir with a fork until dry ingredients are moistened. Cold water is important; add ice to water before measuring. Add 3 Tbsp water, tossing mixture gently with a fork. To make sure you've added enough water, squeeze the dough between your fingers. If it falls apart, gradually add the remaining 1 Tbsp water (don't over stir because it will toughen dough)

As you stir with your fork, watch for it to look like this. You'll know it's ready to stop stirring and to squeeze dough together to form your disk:

3. Shape dough into a flattened disk; wrap in plastic wrap, and chill 2 hours or freeze 30 minutes. Chilling dough gives the flour time to absorb the water.

4. Roll dough out to 1/8 inch thickness on a floured surface.
Before rolling the dough let it stand at room temperature for 5 minutes to help soften the fat. Using a cloth-covered rolling pin minimizes the amount of flour needed during rolling. Roll dough from the center out to the edges into a 12-inch circle.

5. Place in a 9-inch pie plate; trim off excess pastry along edges. Fold edges under, and crimp.
to transfer pastry to a pie plate, fold dough in half; place in center of pie plate, and unfold. or loosely roll the dough around the rolling pin; then starting at one side of the pie plate, unroll the dough over it. press dough gently, without stretching into the bottom and sides of the pie plate using your fingertips (stretching the dough causes it to shrink during baking) if the pastry tears, dampen the dough, and press on a scrap of rolled-out dough to repair the break.
Trim pastry so that it overhangs the pie plate rim by about 1 inch. Fold edge under to form a ridge; pinch the inner rim of the dough with the thumb and forefinger of one hand while pushing against the outer rim of the dough with the forefinger of the other hand. (to keep from poking holes in the pastry, bend your fingers and press with the knuckles) to help prevent shrinking, use one of these methods: lightly press the outer points of the pastry under the rim of the pie plate; or freeze until rock hard and bake without thawing.

6. Prick bottom and sides of pastry shell generously with a fork for a baked pastry shell (do not prick if the pastry shell is to be filled before baking).
Pricking the bottom and sides keeps the pastry from puffing or bubbling during baking. If it does begin to puff, reprick the crust. (omit this step for pastry that bakes with a filling.)

7. If baking before filling, bake at 450 for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Homemade Quiche

One of my new favorites to cook and experiment with...Homemade Quiche!

As soon as I found the perfect pie crust recipe, it sparked my addiction! Quiche is simple to make and CHEAP! It's versatile and can be made by adding just about anything to eggs in a pie crust!

I'm not sure if it makes a difference, but I only use stoneware in my kitchen (pampered chef stoneware to be exact). I never use metal or glass when I don't know if it makes my pie crusts turn out better or not, but I think they turn out pretty perfect in stones!

I made two quiches for dinner tonight. One was a Cheddar Zucchini Quiche and the other was a Jalapeno Quiche (I know it sounds gross, but trust me, it's amazing!)
I'm including my recipe for Spinach Quiche (I found this one at but we didn't have any spinach tonight, so I couldn't make this one.

They both tasted delicious, but the pictures don't look that great. I'll have to just make them again sometime and take new pictures...darn! :-)

Jalapeno Quiche

1 Pie crust
6 eggs
1/3 cup milk
1 medium zucchini
1/4 cup scallions, diced
4-5 jalapenos, chopped (remove seeds)
3 pieces of bacon, cooked and chopped
1/2 cup monterey jack cheese

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Roll out pie crust to fit inside mini baker (small round stoneware) or pie plate.
3. Whisk together eggs and milk. Add zucchini, scallions, jalapenos, bacon, and cheese.
4. Pour egg mixture into unbaked pie crust.
5. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes.
6. Turn back temperature on oven to 350 degrees and bake for additional 45 minutes or until the eggs are set (all the way through) and not runny. If you put a knife into it and you see lots of yellowish juice, it's NOT done yet. Also, if the edges of the crust start to darken, cover them with aluminum foil so they don't burn.

Cheddar Zucchini Quiche

1 Pie crust
1 medium zucchini, chopped
6 eggs
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
4 slices bacon, chopped
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
1 tsp minced fresh garlic
dash of ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Roll out pie crust to fit inside mini baker (small round stoneware) or pie plate.
3. Whisk together eggs and milk. Add zucchini, scallions, bacon, garlic, pepper, and cheese.
4. Pour egg mixture into unbaked pie crust.
5. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes.
6. Turn back temperature on oven to 350 degrees and bake for additional 45 minutes or until the eggs are set (all the way through) and not runny. If you put a knife into it and you see lots of yellowish juice, it's NOT done yet. Also, if the edges of the crust start to darken, cover them with aluminum foil so they don't burn.

Spinach Quiche

1 pie crust
8 oz cream cheese, softened
6 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 tsp ground red pepper
10 oz frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1/2 cup diced ham
1/2 cup diced vidalia onion

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Roll out pie crust to fit inside mini baker (small round stoneware) or pie plate.
3. In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese with electric mixer until creamy. Beat in eggs, milk and red pepper.
4. Squeeze excess moisture out of spinach. Add spinach, ham, and onion to egg mixture.
5. Pour egg mixture into unbaked pie crust.
6. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 to 65 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.