Welcome to Sarah's Adventures in Culinary Experimentation

This blog is for posting recipes I've experimented with while teaching myself to cook. Some I have taken from my favorite recipe books, others are purely my own experimentations. My audience is usually just my husband, my toddler daughter, and I and we are living on a tight budget. Sometimes you might find a splurge.

Hopefully you'll find something here that you like!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Balsamic Tomato and Mozzarella Bruschetta

Balsamic Tomato and Mozzarella Bruschetta

  • 1 Baguette sliced into 1/4-1/3 in pieces at an angle
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
  • Tiny Mozzarella Balls (Mozzarella Pearls)
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  1. Slice your cherry tomatoes in half. You should have 3-4 per slice of baguette, depending on how long each slice is.  Put them in a bowl with enough Balsamic Vinaigrette to cover them. Mix them, then cover the bowl and put them in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
  2. After the tomatoes have marinated, Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  3. Slice your baguette into 1/4-1/3 inch pieces at an angle.
  4. Brush the slices with olive oil on both sides. Put onto a baking sheet and put into the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes. Watch them so that they don't burn. These shouldn't be too crunchy. You want a little bit of softness still in the middle. When done, let cool.
  5. Get your bowl of cherry tomatoes and the mozzarella balls. Make sure you put the mozzarella balls on a paper towel before adding to the bruschetta if they were immersed in liquid. You should have a 1-to-1 ratio of tomato halves and mozzarella balls. Line them up in alternating order on the bread. Then drizzle with leftover Balsamic Vinaigrette.
If you want to add fresh Basil, that would be brilliant. Just make sure to layer or chop the fresh basil and make it a garnish on the bruschetta. These were absolutely delicious and were a great appetizer with our Sausage-and-Rice Timbale.

Sausage-and-Rice Timbale

Food Network Magazine (1-year auto-renewal)I saw this recipe in the Food Network Magazine and I just had to cook it. I changed a few bits about the recipe, one of which was adding Green Bell Pepper to the onion mixture for inside.

Sausage-and-Rice Timbale

Time: 15 minutes (prep); 1 hour 15 mins (cook)
Servings: 6

  • 2 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 medium onion, chopped 
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 6 Italian pork sausages, casings removed
  • 2 TBSP minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 tablespoons Italian breadcrumbs
  • 4 large egg
  • 1 1/4 cups grated pecorino romano cheese (about 3 ounces)
  • 2 ounces deli-sliced provolone cheese (6-8 slices)

Norpro 8-Inch Nonstick Springform
Springform Pan
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water (or chicken broth/not included in directions amount) to a boil. Add the rice, reduce the heat and simmer, stirring once or twice, until the rice is tender, 12 to 15 minutes. 
  2. Drain, shaking the colander to remove any excess water. Spread the rice on a rimmed baking sheet and let cool. (You could also just a bit of a preferred white wine to add some flavor to the rice.)
  3. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F and place a baking sheet on the middle rack. 
  4. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. 
  5. Add the onion and green bell pepper and cook until soft, about 8 minutes. 
  6. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 6 minutes. 
  7. Add to the skillet along with the garlic and tomato paste. Increase the heat to high and cook, stirring, until the tomato paste browns, about 4 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 15 to 20 minutes. 
  8. Meanwhile, grease the bottom and sides of an 8-inch springform pan with the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Coat the pan with the breadcrumbs, tapping to remove any excess. 
  9. Put the eggs and all but 3 tablespoons of the pecorino cheese in a small bowl and beat with a fork. Put the cooled rice in a bowl; add the egg mixture and stir to combine. 
  10. Transfer about two-thirds of the rice mixture to the prepared springform pan. Using moist fingers, pat the rice onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan, forming a 1/2-inch-thick layer. (I used a spoon here and it worked out perfectly fine.) 
  11. Place the provolone slices over the rice in the pan. Spoon about three-quarters of the sausage filling over the provolone, filling it to 1/2 inch from the top. Then add another layer of provolone.
  12. Pat the remaining rice mixture on top to enclose the filling, then sprinkle with the remaining 3 tablespoons pecorino cheese on top. Put the pan on the hot baking sheet and bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool, 5 minutes. 
  13. Run a small knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the timbale, then remove the side of the pan. Slide a spatula under the timbale and transfer it to a platter. 
  14. Thin the remaining sausage filling with a splash of water and reheat. Serve with the timbale.

Overall, this recipe was a success. My husband thought the 1/2 inch thickness was a bit too thick and would have preferred it just a little thinner. My top layer was very thin, so that was a bonus there. I also let it bake for 30 minutes instead of just 20 to get the top just a little toastier. Next time, I would also add a bit more seasoning to the filling. I'm not sure I'd want an Italian seasoning, but something. I think a good addition would also be a few more vegetables. A sliced up zucchini layer would taste good, but for some reason our grocery store seems to be frequently out of them. Seasonsal issues I suppose.

This recipe requires quite a bit of multitasking, but is well worth the work. We enjoyed it and there was lots of leftovers for meals the following day or for lunches, as it would be easy to reheat with a little splash of water for the rice.

Goes great with my Balsamic Tomato and Mozzarella Bruschetta as an appetizer.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Steak and Eggs-in-a-Grits-Nest

I’m trying a new recipe tonight. I saw it in the March 2011 Rachael Ray magazine, but I’m going to put my own spin on it. I’ve never really eaten grits before. I hear people talk about them all the time all over the food world. They rave about them when they are made right. My husband, though, hates grits. So I pitched him this recipe idea and he decided to consider it. I call it:

Steak and Eggs-in-a-Grits-Nest
Serves: 2-3
Time: 35 mins

1 1/2 cups quick-cooking grits
3 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
6 TBSP butter
4 eggs
1 red bell peppers, thinly sliced
1 yellow onions, thinly sliced
4-6oz flank steak
2 TBSP Montreal Steak Seasoning

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Boil 2 1/4 cups water with salt and pepper seasoning. When boiling, add the grits and mix. Cover and turn to low until grits are thick and creamy.
  2. Start grilling or broiling your flank steak. Cover both sides with 1 TBSP Montreal seasoning and grill to preferred temperature. Remember to let rest when it has cooked long enough for the length and thickness. Slice at an angle against the grain.
  3. Add the cheese and butter and mix through the grits. Scoop into a 4x4 pan.
  4. Make small indentations in the grits and drop your eggs in. Crack them one by one into a small bowl if preferred.
  5. Then bake until the eggs are cooked, but the yokes are still a little runny. It took mine 30 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, slice the onion and bell pepper and slowly sautee on the stove until desired texture. 
  7. Combine on a plate and serve.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Frozen Banana Breakfast Smoothie

This recipe was inspired by the Chocolate Banana recipe I posted on here. It is a great breakfast and filling.

Frozen Banana Breakfast Smoothie
Servings: 1
Cook Time: 5 minutes (not including freezing)

1 large frozen banana
1 cup Light Silk Milk (or preferred milk)
6 oz preferred yogurt (I use fruit flavors)
1 tsp honey

  1. Put all ingredients into preferred blending device.
  2. Hit blend until everything is perfectly incorporated.
  3. Enjoy!
Magic Bullet MBR-1701 17-Piece Express Mixing SetI usually buy the individual Dannon Light 'n Fit yogurts and just add one of the little squares into my Bullet cup. I have found that the Cherry flavor one is absolutely delicious, as well as the Pina Colada and Pear. Experiment to learn what your favorite flavor is.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Chocolate Banana Bullet Smoothie

For Christmas my mom made the best impulse present purchase ever! She got me a bullet. I think her first inclination involved making baby food for my daughter. Now I'm using it to make breakfasts and any chocolate cravings. I also prefer to drink Silk milk. It is a soy milk and I also started drinking chocolate silk milk. I saw a recipe on the side of the Silk soy milk carton that said I should freeze a sliced banana and then blend it with 1 cup of chocolate silk milk and 1 TBSP of honey. I used this recipe for my inspiration for a chocolaty delicious evening snack.

Chocolate Banana Bullet Smoothie
Servings: 2
Time: 5 minutes

2 cups Light Chocolate Silk Milk
1 medium banana, sliced and frozen

  1. Add Silk Milk and Bananas to your blending device.
  2. Blend full blast until mixed together and smooth.
  3. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Italian Sausage Fettuccine with Mozzarella, Basil, and Sun Dried Tomato Sauce

Italian Sausage Fettuccine with Mozzarella, Basil, and Sun Dried Tomato Sauce
Servings: 4
Time: 30-45 minutes

4 frozen Italian sausages (preferred kind)
4 wedges laughing cow Sun-dried Tomatoes, Basil, and Mozzarella cheese
1 yellow onion, cut into small slices
1 can diced tomatoes with liquid
1 package of cooked garden fresh fettuccine
½ cup chicken broth
2 TBSP minced garlic

  1.  Cook the fettuccine as directed and to the desired tenderness.
  2.  Cut frozen sausages into angled pieces. Take the cases off after cutting if you want to.
  3.  Cook the sausage pieces in a pot with the garlic.
  4. While the sausage cooks, cut the onions into halved medium-thin strips. Then add to the pan with the sausage.
  5. Let cook together until the unions are starting to turn translucent. Then add the can of diced tomatoes and chicken broth.
  6. Make sure you drain your noodles and rinse them under cold water. Let sit while you finish what is in the pot.
  7. Once the liquid in the pot is boiling, add four-5 wedges of Laughing Cow Sun-dried Tomatoes, Basil, and Mozzarella cheese. Mash and blend with a fork or spoon.
  8. After you combined the cheese into a thin sauce, add the pasta to the pot and toss. Let simmer until the dish is fully combined.