Friday, June 18, 2010

Freebie Friday 6/18/10

Groupon!  Do you subscribe to groupon yet?  If you don't, you should, and let me tell you why.

1.  Great deals in St. Louis!  (That really is the one and only reason...who doesn't love a great deal?)

Case in's Groupon deal.  (You better go sign up quick if you want to take advantage of this one!)  Today you can purchase a $30 gift certificate to Portabella restaurant in Clayton (see my review here) for only $13!!  That's 57% off!  Gotta love deals like that!

Groupon is more than just food!  I also took advantage of a sweet 50% off Cardinals tickets deal they had earlier this week and will be heading to my first game of the season in a couple weeks for half the it.  Seriously, sign up, it's worth it!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Rosemary Skewers--Thank You Ree!

Ree Drummond (aka The Pioneer Woman), what will you come up with next?!  Actually, I already know the answer cause I just saw today's blog post and am already trying to figure out when I'm gonna have time to make it...heehee...don't worry, I'll post it when I make it.  For now, you can check out PW's blog (excuse is hardly just a blog) for yourself.  Her posts are always infinitely better than mine anyway. :)

Where was I?  Ah yes, so last week I stumbled across PW's (read:  P Dub) tweet (that's right folks, I tweet...are you following @STLleftovers on twitter yet???) telling me that I MUST make these for my next party.  Well, dinner party tonight at a friend's house and I'm in charge of the appetizer...sounds like it's time to obey PW's orders!

Now I realize I just included the link to Ree's rundown of the rosemary skewers but I have included just a touch more detail via photo (one really) so I thought I'd share my go at it as well.  Enjoy!

Rosemary Skewers  (from The Pioneer Woman Cooks)

Stalks of fresh rosemary (I think I used 12)
fresh mozzarella cheese (8 oz worked for 12 skewers)
marinated artichoke hearts, drained (small jar...not canned)
black or kalamata olives, drained (I used medium black olives)
salami, sliced thin and folded into fourths (or pepperoni folded in half...I chose pepperoni)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 Tbls. balsamic vinegar
pinch of salt
fresh ground black pepper (lots!)
sprinkle of ground thyme

In honor of Ree here's my "cast of characters" minus salt, pepper, and thyme...they are shy.

Note the store bought rosemary...I also used some straight from my own herb garden but was too afraid I would use it all so I supplemented with organic...small price to pay not to destroy my rosemary in one go.

Ok so first you need to strip your rosemary stalks of all but about an inch at the top...

I'm now realizing that I'm going to have to make rosemary focaccia again since I have all this rosemary stripped...oh darn.  Mom, looks like you're getting some focaccia after all!

Step 2:  Use rosemary stalk as a skewer and put all your tasty items on in whatever order you choose.

This very special skewer is for my hubby.  :) 
See, even on girls' night he benefits.

When you have all your skewers made...(tada!) can whip up the "dressing" to top it with.  Mix oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and thyme in a bowl and whip em up until emulsified.  I just used a fork real quick.  Piece of cake...or mozzerella...whatever.

See?  Easy.  Then drizzle it all over your tasty skewers and voila!  A delicious summer treat all ready for the fridge.  I made mine the morning of but you can even assemble a day ahead and refrigerate...the rosemary flavor will REALLY come through if you leave them overnight.  I'm hoping 6-7 hours will be enough for me.

Look at those beauties.  It was very hard for me not to sample one just yet (don't olives have eyes? I think they were lookin' at me.) but I'm waiting as patiently as I can to have one...or ten if the other girls aren't fast dinner club tonight!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ask Lauren is Back!

Wow this "Ask Lauren" is so far overdue it's not even funny...well, maybe a little bit funny.  Ok, not really.  Anyway, a friend and colleague of mine (Hi Jennifer!) gave me a recipe for focaccia months long ago that I can't even remember when it was anymore.  Her problem:  baking with yeast.  It can be tricky, and I've definitely had my flops (literally) with it in the past, but there is a secret to making sure your bread recipes will turn out everytime. 

First secret...don't use a packet of yeast that has been sitting in your pantry forever.  Yes, it can go bad.  Not sure if your yeast is good?  Proof it!  (see below)

Second secret...water temperature while "proofing" the yeast.  Proofing is when you "prove" that the yeast is still active before you prove it with a loaf of bread that refuses to rise.  Follow your recipe (most call for proofing but don't call it proofing...did you follow that?) but basically you will be using very warm (usually between 100 and 120 degrees) water and sugar (amounts vary by recipe) which you will mix together and then pour the yeast on top.  Wait 10 minutes and see if your yeast bubbles.  Bubbles=good yeast, continue with your recipe.  No bubbles=bad yeast, try again with a fresh packet.  No bubbles could also indicate that your water was too hot (killed the yeast) or too cool (didn't activate it) so use a candy thermometer to test your water temp if you think that might be the problem.  (Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of the proofing process...this is what happens when I get excited while baking...sigh.) we go...focaccia!!  (The recipe just called it focaccia (low-fat) but I'm jazzin' it up a bit...)

Rosemary Parmesan Focaccia

2 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour
2 Tbls. chopped fresh or 1 Tbls. dried rosemary leaves, crumbled
1 Tbls. sugar
1 tsp. salt1 pkg. regular or quick active dry yeast (I used Hodgson Mill fast rise active dry yeast packets)
3 Tbls. olive or vegetable oil (I used EVOO)
1 cup very warm water (120 degrees)
2 Tbls. olive or vegetable oil (I used EVOO)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Step 1:  Break out your sweet candy apple red Kitchen Aid mixer (don't have one? a hand mixer works too) and mix 1 cup of the flour, rosemary, sugar, salt, and yeast in a large bowl.  Add 3 Tbls of oil and warm water.  (This is when you could choose to proof your yeast.  Instead of putting all ingredients together, mix water and sugar in a separate bowl and pour yeast over top, let stand 10 minutes, when bubbly you know it's good and can pour the whole mixture in with the other ingredients.)

Step 2:  Beat with electric mixer on medium speed (I used dough hook on speed 2) for 3 minutes, scraping bowl frequently.  Stir in enough remaining flour until dough is soft and leaves sides of bowl.

Step 3:  Place dough on lightly floured surface.  Knead 5-8 minutes or until dough is smooth and springy.  Or, if you're lazy like me, using the dough hook again, leave it in your mixer for another 5 minutes, adding just a touch of flour.  Place dough in large bowl greased with shortening (I used cooking spray), turning dough to grease all sides.  Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and let rise in warm place about 30 minutes or until almost double.  Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched.

Note:  Great trick for rising dough...turn your oven on set to 400 degrees for 1 minute.  Turn oven off, place bowl with dough (covered) in oven and close the door.  This is a perfect environment for rising.  Just don't forget to turn the oven off after just one minute!!

Step 4:  Grease 2 cookie sheets or 12-inch pizza pans with small amount of oil (or cooking spray in my case).  Gently push fist into dough to deflate.  Divide dough in half.  Shape each half into a flattened 10-inch round on a cookie sheet. 

Cover loosely with plastic wrap lightly sprayed with cooking spray and let rise in warm place about 30 minutes or until double.

Step 6:  Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Gently make depressions about 2 inches apart in dough with fingers.

Carefully brush with 2 Tbls. oil; sprinkle with parmesan cheese. 

Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. 

Serve warm or cool.

Look at that beautiful focaccia!  Mmmmm...we had some that night with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, pepper and parmesan cheese for dipping. 

I also gave a loaf to my sister (I called it Birthday Focaccia for her...haha!) and she made a sandwich with it.  Tomato, cucumber, and a little garden veggie cream cheese...oh yumm.

Give it a shot folks...baking with yeast really can be very rewarding! :)  Happy baking!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Top Five "Frozen Treat" Locations

Summer is's time for ice cream! (and other related frozen treats!)

Here they Top Five Frozen Treat Locations!

5.  Cold Stone Creamery
4.  Oberweis
3.  Silky's (formerly Lix)
2.  Fritz's Frozen Custard

And my Number One favorite frozen treat location...not a big surprise here...

1.  Ted Drewes Frozen Custard

Notice the top three are all custard joints...that's all thanks to my wonderful husband and his custard addiction.  If it was up to him we would live right behind Ted Drewes, right honey?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Freebie Friday Birthday Edition

No, it's not my birthday...not even close.  But I thought now would be a great time to share an awesome link I found that has a national listing of all the places you can go that will give you free food on or around your birthday!  Now, this is by no means a complete list (Iggy's gives you a free entree on your birthday if you sign up for their birthday club at the restaurant) but it's a great start to at least see which national chains have yummies to offer!

Check out Mr. Cheap Stuff to see the list!

And remember to check out STL Meal Deals to see the birthday deals at many other local favorites!

I wonder if any restaurants give freebies for half birthdays.....