Monday, December 29, 2008


After looking around the kitchen yesterday, I knew that the grocery store trip would be pretty light. When I came home though, I realized that I didn't have a lot of free space! Fridge, freezer, pantry......they're all pretty full!

So it's time to do something that we don't do often enough....clean it out!! I'm trying to come up with ideas for meals that use up some of this overabundance. So last night, I made chicken breasts topped with salsa and cheese.

We have four (FOUR!) open jars of salsa in the fridge. One of them was from making Mexican Chicken and Rice last week, there's always a little left in the jar. The others were a gift set from one of my favorite people, Mrs. I. This meal was so easy to make. I browned chicken breasts on the stove, and then baked them at 400 degrees in the toaster oven for fifteen minutes. Then I spread them with the peach salsa and sprinkled fresh grated parmesan left over from Christmas. The result was a spicy, sweet, melty, delicious meal!

I've also defrosted chili with beans to eat for lunch this week, along with the corn muffins left over from Christmas. (the muffins were for cornbread stuffing in the Stuffed Apples from Christmas.)
This is actually kind of fun!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Dinner....

Christmas Dinner....what a treat!

Holiday Tortellini Soup
Roast Beef
Seafood "Cake Bake"
Stuffed Golden Apples
Mashed Potatoes
Green Beans with Shallots
Butternut Squash
Roasted Carrots with Rosemary and Garlic
Hot Rolls and Butter.

My mom made the soup, it was out of Taste of Home this month. It was tomato, spinach and cheese tortellini, topped with fresh grated Parmesan. The roast beef was a bit underdone, but delicious just the same. Seafood "Cake Bake" is the silly name that Brian came up with when he put two recipes together, one for Seafood Gratin and the other for Crabcakes. Despite the name, it was absolutely delicous. And the veggies this year....roasted carrots with fresh rosemary and garlic! I roasted them the day before and Brian warmed them up in the oven. They were soooo good! And the green beans were just boiled for 4-5 minutes and then sauteed with a little olive oil and chopped shallot. Mmmmm....who knew simplicity could taste so good! The best part was that there were plenty of leftovers to send home with people and still have dinner tonight!!

Dessert was provided by our guests. Mom brought lots of Christmas cookies and a peach kuchen. Brian and Kim brought brownies that my brother had made, as well as more cookies. My aunt and cousin brought a Trader Joe's Chocolate Cheesecake sampler and a chocolate Yule Log. I haven't had any of those yet, but you can't go wrong with chocolate cheesecake!!!

This dinner is definitely worthy of "The Notebook." I keep a notebook of recipes that we've tried and really, really liked. (And yes, I write down the source so there's no plagiarizing.)

Merry Christmas, Everyone!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Breakfast

Christmas morning is a flurry of activity, with lots of presents to unwrap, family pics in front of the tree and of course, stockings. No one really has time or the desire to cook a breakfast, and well, a bowl of cereal on Christmas just seems ...sad. A bowl of Cheerios doesn't exactly scream "Celebration!!"

We love, love, love this coffeecake! It's delicious and is just delightful with well, coffee! Another Food Network gem. You can slice it up and nibble while you're unwrapping gifts and getting ready for guests. Also, baking it the day before is fine too. Enjoy!

Pecan Coffeecake

Pan Dusting: 1/2 c. sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon

8 tbsp unsalted butter, softened @ room temperature
1 c. granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 c. sifted all-purpose flour
1 tsp each baking powder and baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 c. sour cream or vanilla yogurt

1/2 c. light brown sugar, packed
2 tsp flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp cold unsalted butter, diced
3/4 c. pecan pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
In small bowl, stir together 1/2 c sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon. Butter a tube pan well, liberally coat with sugar mixture.

In stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. With mixer running, slowly add sugar. Add eggs and mix until light and fluffy. In separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Working in batches, add flour mix to butter-sugar mixture, alternating with dollops of sour cream or yogurt. Pour into prepared pan.

Topping: In a medium bowl, combine brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. Add butter, and using fingertips or a pastry blender, pinch ingredients together into a sandy, crumbly mixture. Add pecans and mix. Sprinkle over cake.

Bake until risen and browned, 35-40 minutes. Let cool in pan and turn out. Cool completely before slicing.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Hosting Christmas Dinner

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and since I have the day off, it's the final preparations to host Christmas dinner.

We usually host, so that we can stay home with our son on Christmas Day. Plus, Brian and I both like to cook and entertain, so it works out well.

This year will be eight people all told, the most we've had a sit-down dinner for. We're having a soup course, entree and dessert.

Can't wait to share how it goes and what the menu was!!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Party Dip

Tis the season for parties....and bringing stuff to parties! I got this recipe from a friend in my playgroup and it was so good, I brought it to a get-together last week. It was a hit!

Salsa Bean Dip

1 med red onion, chopped
1 c. celery, chopped
1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 11oz can white shoepeg corn, drained and rinsed
1 4 oz jar of pimentos, chopped (rinse oil)
1/2 jar chopped jalapeno (i subbed canned green chilies)
1 c. olive oil
1/2 c. cider vinegar
1 c. sugar

In a small sauce pan, combine olive oil, cider vinegar and sugar. Bring to a boil to dissolve the sugar.

Combine all the other ingredients in a large bowl. Pour oil mixture over the ingredients in the bowl and refrigerate. To serve, use a slotted spoon to scoop out the mixture and transfer to another bowl. Serve with crackers or scoops.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Know what makes a good cold-night dinner? Chili! It also comes together quickly, for a quick weeknight meal. I usually like to serve it over rice, but I had a corn muffin mix in the pantry so I decided they'd go together well, along with a cold beer. (I'm not really a beer fan for the most part, but there's something about chili and beer together!)

We're divided in our house: I love kidney beans in chili, and Brian does not. So I usually make a basic chili recipe (hamburger, onions, tomato, garlic, tomato puree, etc, or whatever else) and put aside a little for Brian before I add a can of drained and rinsed kidney beans. That way we both get what we want for dinner---peace and quiet!! :)

I stopped using chili seasoning packets a while ago, I like to make my own little blend with chili powder, crushed red pepper, cayenne, chili powder...whatever sounds good that day. I like it hot, but not so hot that I feel like the fire department is headed over. Well, it was more of the latter tonight!! I don't measure the spices, I just toss them in and usually it's delicious. Tonight, it was spicy as hell!!! I managed to eat enough for dinner, but I didn't know where I went wrong. In doing the dishes I figured it out: the can of diced tomatoes had chilies added!!!

So, a word to the wise: check your tomatoes before you just toss in more spice! :)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Good Idea in Theory...

With all of the cookie madness this weekend, there wasn't a whole lot of time for other cooking. We also haven't been really great in the past few weeks about sticking to the menu that I write out every week. I allowed myself to be sweet-talked into ordering a pizza one tiring night (not that it took a lot of arm-twisting!) So the pork chops that we were supposed to have got pushed back. And well, they needed to be eaten.

Here's a good idea: When you have an insanely busy day ahead of you in the kitchen, drag out your crockpot. By the time you realize that you are simply too exhausted to cook dinner, dinner will already be ready!

Here's a good idea gone wrong.....attempting any kind of slow cooker recipe and having to make several substitutions and expecting it to go well. We settled on quasi-German cuisine tonight. The recipe was called Alsatian Pork with Sauerkraut. I like sauerkraut on hot dogs, so this sounded intriguing. Except---I subbed smoked pork with pork chops and russet potatoes for red bliss. And it called for one cup of "fruity white wine, like Reisling." Nope--finished the wine last night! It went on to say that you could substitute apple juice for a non-alcoholic version. No apple juice to be had, in a house with a toddler! I did have some white cranberry-peach cocktail, so I threw that in. It smelled pretty good while it was cooking. It was not. Dry pork, hard potatoes and the juice? Well, sauerkraut is SOUR, and peachy juice doesn't bring anything other than sin to the party. And no, not the good kind. Blech! It all went out in the trash, I wouldn't even let the dog have any!

Know what makes a good, quick back-up dinner? Brian's cheesesteaks!

Christmas Cookies, Part II

Today was more of a lazy day than a baking day.......we didn't get around to making sugar cookie dough until the afternoon, and then it had to chill for 2-4 hours. No bother. There's no reason to rush through the cookies and make ourselves crazy. We did bake the Peanut Butter Blossoms, and they are to die for! I'm not the biggest fan of peanut butter on the planet, but I do love a peanut butter cookie. We scrapped the idea of the honey nut cluster cookies. We can make them another time for ourselves but frankly, we're happy with five kinds. So here's the cookies by the numbers: In the past 24 hours, we have gone through 12 cups of flour, 10 eggs, 7 cups of sugar/brown sugar and 9 sticks of butter! And what have we achieved? Lots of Christmas cookie memories and a tradition we hope to share with our child(ren) someday. And now.....the Rollo cookie recipe that friends have asked for. They are my ultimate favorite Christmas cookie! TIP: Unless you have a big stand mixer like a KitchenAid, do not use a handmixer for these cookies. The dough gets so heavy, it will smoke out your motor and render your mixer useless!

Rollo Cookies

2 1/2 c. flour
3/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1 t baking soda
1 c. sugar
1 c brown sugar
1 c (two sticks) butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
48 unwrapped rollos
1 c. chopped pecans
1 T. sugar

Preheat oven to 375. In med bowl, combine flour, cocoa and baking soda. Mix well and set aside. In lg bowl, blend 1 c. sugar, brown sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs. Beat well. Add flour mix, a little at a time and blend well.

For each cookie, shape dough around a rollo, covering completely. (Helps to coat hands with cooking spray!!) In small (cereal-sized) bowl, combine chopped pecans with T. of sugar. Press one side of each ball in pecan mix. Place nut-side-up on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 7-10 minutes.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Christmas Cookies, Part I

It's Cookie Time!!!

It's that time of year where Brian and I have our holiday tradition of baking cookies to share with friends and family. In the past, we would take a Saturday and bake till we dropped from exhaustion. We'd start churning out cookies right after breakfast and be cleaning the kitchen around 11pm. Things have changed in the last couple of years because well.....we don't have a full Saturday anymore! Last year we were fortunate to both have jobs that enabled us to bake during the week, but since we're both now "nine to fivers" full-time, we decided to split the baking over a weekend and bake just a little less. I have to say, I like the format of stretching the baking over two days instead of killing ourselves over one day. This also makes us able to stick a fork in another "tradition:" the "Post-Cookie Exhaustion Argument." You know the one I mean, folks...the sqaubbly, gripe-y fight that is inevitable when you are both sore, tired and hungry. Not a tradition that I'm sorry to see go away!

So, in order to make fewer batches of cookies but still enjoy every minute, we made a list of cookies that we wanted to make and ranked them. (We're big, organized dorks in this house and take our cookie-baking seriously. And if you make fun, you may not get any cookies!!) First, we each chose a kind of cookie that it just wouldn't be Christmas for us if we didn't bake them. For me, that would be Rollo Cookies and for him, that would be Coconut Macarooons. Then we looked at a couple of other classic recipes and also decided on a couple of new recipes to try this year. Here is the list:

1. Rollo Cokies: I've been making these for years. I used to think they were some sort of family secret, but then I found out that my Mom got them on the back of a flour bag. Ah well. They're a chocolately, pecan cookie with a Rollo candy stuffed inside. Pure heaven.

2. Coconut Macaroons: Brian's absolute favorite, he could make these every week and still never have enough! They're crispy, coconutty and come together quickly.

3. Pecan Caramel Surprises: These are a new one for us this year, kind of like a rollo cookie but they aren't chocolate and they have a caramel square in the middle.

4. Rolled Sugar Cookies: A holiday tradition, the sugar cookies that you roll out and use cookie cutters and then decorate. I used to hate roll-out cookies until Alton Brown had a show dedicated with all sorts of tips and tricks to making them. We're not really picky about decorating them, usually it's frosting with sprinkles instead of a lot of detail.

5. Peanut Butter Blossoms: the traditional, peanut butter-and-hershey kiss variety. You know, the ones that tend to disappear from the platter first!!

6. Honey-Nut Clusters: This is also a new one for us this year.

Tonight we made the macaroons and the Rollo cookies, as we didn't remember until late that the sugar cookie dough needs to be refrigerated for 2-4 hours!! So we'll make the dough as soon as Will is napping tomorrow. Since we're supposed to get just a little snow tomorrow, it'll be fun to hang out at home and bake.

As I've already stated--we're pretty serious cookie bakers around the holidays. We double most of the recipes, plan grocery lists and only use the best ingredients. This is really the only time of the year that we bake like this, so we don't scrimp on quality. My feelings are, if you are going to bake a cookie, use what the recipe calls for and no substitution like margarine. Or applesauce, and if it calls for shortening, use it! I very rarely bake cookies, most of the time I can't be bothered. ('Cept for the occasional batch of Toll House Cookies!!) These are a real treat. :)

So what happens to all of these cookies?? Well, I'm glad that you asked. We make up platters and tins for friends and family. We also ship them in holiday packages to friends and family in places as far away as Maine, Pennsylvania and Illinois. And we keep some to indulge ourselves at home, sometimes with guests. There's nothing like sitting with your family by the tree, lights low and some cookies and milk. Mmmmm.............

What a guy!!

There's a well-known "secret" in my family. My husband has a tough time holding onto birthday presents until my actual birthday. Sometimes he just gets excited about what he got me and just can't wait to give it to me! Our anniversary is the first week of October and one year I got a beautiful mid-September. Not that I mind, mind you! However, I do find it amusing.

Sometimes he ends up gift-giving early because it's something we could really use in the moment. Like last year, when he had gotten me silicone cookie mats and we were about to bake a mess of cookies. Or this year.

It's cookie making weekend in our house.......anyone who knows us well knows that the first weekend of December we knock ourselves out baking. We make tons of cookies and give them away, ship them in packages and of course....indulge in some of them ourselves. :) Last night we were making the "short list" of what we wanted to bake and ranking them. (Yes, I'm aware that makes us big dorks, but hey, that's allright, cookies are awesome!) I was disappointed that we had to cut out one recipe because it needed a food processor. And anyone who's read this post knows that you can't use a blender in place of a food processor!

Suddenly, Brian opened the basement door to listen for the washing machine "to see if it was done." He went downstairs to put towels in the dryer, and I went out to the computer. He comes upstairs and presents me with a box wrapped in Christmas paper and blue painter's tape, "Happy Birthday, Dear!!!" Oh boy, my very own food processor!!!

Now we can make "Pecan-Caramel Surprises" with the rest of our cookie menu. Thanks!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Not a Chance

I know that I usually say I'll try anything once....and it has gotten me in trouble on more than one occasion. Over the years, I've found myself eating things like scrapple, or whatever concoction my college buddies mixed into a dessert at a birthday dinner in a restaurant. Or salsa con queso and sour patch kids on a dare. (yes....blech) But I found something today that I would, quote the song about Mr. Grinch, "touch with an eleven-and-a-half foot pole"......liver and onions!

Liver? Really? Why would you want to eat an organ that's responsible for removing toxic impurities from the body? Seriously!!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

First Cookies

I'm participating in a Cookie Swap tomorrow night, so I had to come up with a cookie that I could make a lot of! I made these Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies, and I quadrupled the recipe. Alaas, there was no "chocolate spread" to be had at the grocery store. So I used cherry preserves instead. THEN I started running a little low on cherry preserves, so I melted some chocolate chips and dotted the last batch with that instead. :) They're delicious, and pretty simple to make.

Next Saturday is our big COOKIE DAY! Can't wait.
Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies
1/2 c butter
1/2 c light brown sugar
1 egg
2/3 c flour
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 c. rolled oats
5-6 tbsp chocolate spread (or preserves)
1. Pre-heat oven to 350F Grease a large baking sheet. In a bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until creamy.
2. Add egg, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and rolled oats to the bowl and mix well.
3. Using your hands, roll spoonfuls of the mixture into balls. Place the balls on the baking sheet, spacing them far apart to allow room for spreading. Flatten slightly.
4. Dip a thumb in flour and press into the center of each cookie to make an indent. Bake the cookies for ten minutes, leave on the sheet for two minutes and transfer onto wire rack to cool.
5. Spoon a little chocolate spread or preserves into the center of each cookie.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Favorite Part...

...The Leftovers!

Leftover Thanksgiving food for lunch...and went out to dinner last night and tonight.

Happy Thanksgiving and Start of the Holidays to Me! (and my family) :)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Happy Thanksgiving! It's late Thanksgiving night, the turkey has been eaten and the leftovers have been put away. It's been another great year full of blessings in our house!

Tomorrow starts the Christmas bedlam! No, I won't be hitting any of the Black Friday sales. It's time to start thinking about Christmas Dinner!!!! It's the one holiday that We host at our house, and I like to pull out all the stops. Plus, I'm going to my first-ever Cookie Swap and Craft Night on Monday night. I suppose I should figure out what I'm going to bake!!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Gastronomically Pleasing...?

Ok, this is probably one of the grossest food options that I have ever heard of.

I went looking on Google to do a Wordless Wednesday this week on The Carpool Lane blog,I was looking for a Pepto-Bismol ad that I had seen recently of an ice cream sundae topped with Pepto instead of hot fudge. I thought that was the most disgusting ad that I had ever seen and of course, I'm of the "This is gross! Check it out!" generation.

However, when I typed in "Pepto Bismol Ice Cream Ad" I came up with something faaarrrrrr more disturbing: a blogger who made her own Pepto Bismol Ice Cream!! I guess I can kind of see the point....but still! Ice cream is one of my nearest and dearest favorites....I now have this photo in my head forever!!

I think I'll skip my bowl of coffee ice cream tonight. I just don't feel like it.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

You don't Listen to the CD on the way home from the Concert!

The above is advice from my friend Rochelle many years ago when we went to see Aerosmith in concert and I wanted to listen to the CD on the ride home. It just cheapens the experience.

I experienced a bit of that tonight. I went out to dinner at a funky Mexican place on "Restaurant Row" last night for the monthly Mamas Dinner Club. It was fantastic, with a huge selection of margaritas (I got a Sangria Margarita, my two favorite drinks blended together) a made-to-order guacamole bar (did you know there's more than just one kind of guacamole???) and a menu stocked with assortments. After sharing a guacamole flight (three kinds of guacamole) and chips with the Mamas, I ordered two tacos from the appetizer menu. One was tropical chicken with pineapple and mango, and the other was fried fish. Both were out of this world! I left very happy, and am already prepping to boast about it at work on Monday.

So what do I make for dinner tonight? Tacos. The ground beef variety, with a shortage of cheese in the house. And to make matters worse, the generic, grocery store-brand taco kit has shells that are chipped, folded weird and basically tasteless. Don't get me started on the taco sauce, which looked as dark as chocolate syrup. It did the task of filling the belly and stopped me from taking Will to McDonald's for dinner. Maybe the McD's would've been better. (that's a sentence I never thought I'd say!!)

I have no one to blame but myself for this one. :(

Here's Something for my Christmas List!

I found this while flipping through a flyer for the local Sam's Club. I loved the Cake Doctor cookbook, so much that I bake from it almost exclusively! Please Santa, I've been a good girl this year.....

The Dinner Doctor

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Spice Check!

Want to see something a little scary? I saw this website in a McCormick spice ad, to check how old your spices are. Apparently, I have spices in my house that are like eight years old and, according to the website, have overstayed their welcome!

Here's the link: Spice Check Challenge. Hopefully your spices aren't the senior citizens that mine are!

Pre-Holidays and Traditions

It's November 13th, and it feels to early to be talking about the holidays. But I guess it isn't, because they're everywhere else! Magazines, stores, christmas music is already playing on radio stations!

I got an invitation to a Holiday Craft and Cookie Swap for the beginning of December. One of the things that we do in our house every year is pick a day and just bake. BAKE. ALL. DAY!!! We bake all sorts of awesome Christmas cookies, give some plates away and keep some to have on hand for guests. (and of course, ourselves!) I am already starting to think about cookies and what we should make this year.

We are also hosting Christmas dinner this year. So I'm already looking through the magazines, trying to find something fabulous to make!!!

Have I mentioned that I LOVE the Holiday Season!!!! It's honestly the best time of the year. :)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Peanut Sauce, Take Two

A while ago I made Asian Lettuce Wraps with homemade peanut sauce and they were awesome! I talked so much about them, Hubby wanted to try them. So I made them with rice also because I didn't think it would be enough food for his appetite. I went hunting for the same peanut sauce recipe, but couldn't find it!! Instead I found a better one at This one is even easier because you don't cook it, and it's absolutely sinful! We substituted a tablespoon of lime juice for one of the tablespoons of rice vinegar, because rice vinegar is very strong. Like the comment said at the top of the page, it's sauce you want to eat with a spoon:

1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. smooth peanut butter
1 tbsp crunchy peanut butter (Optional, but delicious!)
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tsp minced fresh garlic
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger root (I always just use jarred ginger, like Spice World. So much easier!!)
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Directions: stir together all ingredients in a small bowl. That's It!!!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Craving Noodles....Needing something Saucy!

Last week I really wanted egg noodles. An occasional Sunday dinner in my childhood was pot roast with gravy and egg noodles. Noodles and comforting! A plate of hot, buttery noodles with some sort of sauce, that would really satisfy my craving!

I've never attempted a pot roast before, and I really didn't feel like putting in the effort today.So I found a recipe in one of my cookbooks for "Italian-Style Pepper Steak." Now, I've said it before, it's only been a recent thing that I will attempt to cook steak on the stovetop. I've learned that with the right cut of meat, it's really good. (I have Alton Brown's "Good Eats" to thank for that. Actually, my husband has often said he's going to write a letter to his idol AB to let him know what effect he's had on our marriage. :) )

This one comes out of an old Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. I've modified it slightly from the 3/4 lb steak in the original recipe because I had a full pound of steak. Enjoy!

Italian-Style Pepper Steak
2 med. green and/or red peppers, cut into thin strips
1/2 c. chopped onion (1 med)
1 tbsp cooking oil
1 lb beef top sirloin steak, cut 1/2 to 1/4 inch thick
1 c. beef broth
1/2 tsp dried oregano or basil
2 med tomatoes, seeded and chopped (I used a cup of canned diced tomatoes)

1. In a large skillet cook sweet peppers, onion and garlic in hot oil for about four minutes or until crisp-tender. Remove from skillet, keep warm.
2. Place meat in the same skillet. (Add more oil, if necessary) Sprinkle with salt. Cook over medium-high heat about 4 min on each side or till slightly pink in center. Transfer to a serving platter.
3. For gravy, carefully add beef broth and oregano or basil to reserved drippings. Bring to a boil. Boil gently, uncovered, over medium heat for 2 or 3 minutes, or until broth is reduced to 1/3 cup, scraping up crusty browned bits in pan. Remove from heat. Stir in the cooked begetables and tomatoes. Heat through, then spoon over meat. Makes four servings.

Friday, October 24, 2008

I love cupcakes but....

I ordered cupcakes from the local grocery store for Will's birthday tomorrow. So far I've gotten two calls about them....the first one to tell me that they didn't have red sprinkles and the second one was to confirm that I really wanted 136 cupcakes! I said 36.....if I got 136 that would've been a cupcake explosion! Thank goodness they called, if I got 136 cupcakes we'd be eating them for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Hmmmm....on second thought! :)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Time for a Quick Dinner??

Yesterday was just one of "those days." I found out late in the day that a project I had been working on was ready, and I had a whooollleee bunch of letters to get out. Since I'm not going into work today or tomorrow, I chose to go back to work after dinner last night and spend a couple of hours stuffing envelopes and typing up labels. It's times like these that I'm grateful to live less than five miles away! So what makes a quick, delicious dinner? Asian Steak Stir-Fry!

I've made plenty of stirfries in my life, usually with chicken or shrimp. I'd never considered using steak, really. I usually picture steak on a plate with some A-1 and a baked potato! I got this recipe off the package that the steak came in, interestingly enough. Sometimes you can find really good recipes on packaging, like my Mexican Chicken and Rice, or Chocolate Rollo Cookies. (My Favorite!!!) This comes together really fast and makes great leftovers for the next day.

Asian Steak Stir Fry

Flank or Pan-Fry steak, cut against the grain into thin strips
2 bell peppers (a red and a green) cut into strips
1 lg onion, cut into large strips
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 cucumbers, peeled
3 tbsp hoisin sauce
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
hot cooked rice (I prefer brown rice in this dish, but white is fine)

Cut the cucumbers lengthwise and use a spoon to remove pulp and seeds. Cut into large chunks. (Cucumbers lose a lot of water when cooking, hence the large cut)
Coat a skillet with a little vegetable oil, heat. Add peppers and onions, saute. Add minced garlic, stir fry some more. Add cucumber. Stirfry some more.
While veggies are cooking, mix together the hoisin sauce, red wine vinegar and soy sauce.
Add the steak to the veggie skillet. When steak is halfway cooked, add the sauce mixture.
Remove from heat when steak is cooked throughout. Serve over hot cooked rice.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

There's Nothing Better......

.....than fresh baked goods coming out of the oven!!!! And what better than my favorite fall scent in the kitchen....pumpkin bread! Mmm.....intoxicating with it's pumpkiny cinnamon spicy goodness! I baked two loaves tonight after work, one is a little present for someone and the other one is just for us! (I really wanted to say me, but I will begrudgingly share with Will and Brian.) And do you know what goes really well on warm pumpkin bread? Softened cream cheese. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

The only problem.....I bought three cans of pumpkin puree at the store. (I know that making my own would be soooo much better, but I haven't had the time) Anyway, since I made two loaves, one can of pumpkin wasn't going to cut it. So I had to open the second can, and now I have a bunch left. I read in Taste of Home that one reader mixes a little honey, cream cheese and spices I think into some leftover pumpkin puree for a bagel spread. Now THAT sounds better than just plain butter, doesn't it!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

No Lunch Necessary

Brian starts a new job on Monday, and needs some clothes for said new job. So when he suggested going to the outlets for some new clothes, I knew that he was also going to suggest Cracker Barrel for a Saturday breakfast preceeding the shopping trip. WOOHOO!!!

For most of the year, I'm good about having a small breakfast. Usually cereal and fruit, or a bagel. But once a year usually, we go to Cracker Barrel. At Cracker Barrel, all bets are off. It is simply the best breakfast place in (my) the world!!

First of all, breakfast is served all day. This is a big part of being the best breakfast place! Secondly, they have everything. EVERYTHING. Today I had bacon, eggs over-easy, a small serving of cheesy hash brown casserole, a biscuit covered in gravy, a cup of coffee and I stole a couple of Brian's fried apples. I realize that this is the kind of breakfast a farm hand would eat, and that I am not a farm hand. Nor do I work like one, so breakfast like this is a rare treat, and I look forward to it a little like a kid looks forward to Christmas! Plus, as the title implies, if you have breakfast at Cracker Barrel then no lunch is necessary!

Goodbye till next year, Cracker Barrel.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Grillin' Turkey

Today is Friday, October 10th. And it was nice enough tonight to fire up the grill. Well, sure, you could grill in the dead of winter if you wanted to! But it was really nice grilling tonight. Turkey burgers tasted pretty good with just a bit of bread crumbs, spices and soy sauce. Will mostly stuck to baked french fries and cheerios. Hey, if he's eating, I'm happy! :)

Brian and I were thinking of foods that just get better when they're grilled. we came up with was better grilled. Think about it, can you think of anything you can cook on a grill that doesn't taste better for it? No fair answering Ice Cream, or popcorn!!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Anniversary Pie!

Today is Brian's and my Eighth Wedding Anniversary. (thank you!) Eight years ago, our reception was just winding down. Tonight we will have a quiet celebration at home, with a homemade Chocolate Cream Pie. :) I can't think of a nicer way to celebrate your anniversary than saying it with chocolate!

This particular recipe comes out of "The Joy of Cooking," which we lovingly refer to as "The Bible" in our house. Why the pie? Well, I made a refrigerator pie (it's kind of like quiche, a la Alton Brown) for dinner on Saturday night. One thing about me: I DO NOT roll piecrust. It's the most frustrating thing in the world! I've gotten so flustered, I have rolled up the dough into a ball and tossed it in the trash can. Anyway, the frozen piecrust that I buy always has two to a package and there really is no way to defrost just one. So I usually turn one into a dessert.

This particular pie almost wasn't a reality this time. I almost forgot to bake the crust, so it would've been chocolate filling over a raw, cold crust. Mmm....tasty! (not.) Luckily I remembered, and took a chance on putting the whole thing into the oven. Brian and I agreed that if the crust came out bad, we'd just start dipping spoons into the filling! Luckily it didn't come down to that, it was awesome!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Restaurant Experience....Spanish Tapas

I went out to dinner with some mamas from Mamas and Munchkins tonight, I had won the drawing to pick our next place and I chose a Tapas restaurant. What a great place! It was a small, intimate setting that wasn't busy at all on a Sunday night. Tapas is Spanish Dining, basically the idea is similar to courses in Italy. Tapas means "little dishes" so you get smaller portions of each type of dish that you choose, and you share with the people at your table. We got a set menu of two appetizers, seven tapas, a plate of paella and two desserts. Sounds like an awful lot of food, but the dishes are very small.

For the appetizers we chose Fried Goat Cheese with Honey and Almonds, and some sort of beef with garlic. The goat cheese was fabulous, being soft and creamy inside, and crunchy and sweet with honey on the outside. Then we chose our tapas, and I can't name them all but they were soooooo delicious! The paella was pretty fantastic too, it reminded me of some of the paella I ate when I was an exchange student in Spain. But of some room for dessert--we had flan and churros con chocolate. Hot, fresh churros....who can resist??

I forgot to mention the sangria....sangria of all kinds! I usually get a white wine sangria but this time I got one with rose wine, limoncello, champagne and fresh raspberries. Oh my goodness!

I think it's safe to say that I can't wait til next month's dinner club!

It's Crunch Time

Now we're going to have something new in our household. For the first time in four years, Hubby and I are both going to be working M-F, regular business hours-kind of jobs. There have already been some who is going to be home for the telephone company when they have to come out to do some work at the end of the month? How are we going to do any housework? And most importantly--how and when are we going to eat dinner????

I'm trying to take the proactive approach. I actually took the time to write out the menus for two weeks in advance. We've been really, really good about making up a menu every week since February. Now is the real challenge. Both of us are going to be tired, cranky and not feeling like cooking a lot of the time! Plus having a picky toddler.....those two things together make me want to put the pizza place on speed dial. (Wait it already's a nice thing to have in a pinch!)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Update on Online Groceries

Note to self--When ordering groceries online, watch out for how many of an item you are ordering. I wasn't paying attention well enough, and thought that I was buying six bagels from the bakery. was six packages , with four bagels in each package. Do the math....I had 24 bagels in the house! Good thing we like' em! (and they freeze so well) Or I could just have a bagel party. :)

Friday, October 3, 2008


There was an envelope waiting for me one morning on my front porch. I opened it to find a $50.00 giftcard. Thinking it was a gimmick, I just tossed it on the coffee table and headed out the door to work. My husband, being more patient at these kind of things than I am, took the time to read it and discovered that I had won a contest! Only then did I remember that I took a card from the deli counter at the grocery store to enter some sweepstakes. I never really thought that people win these things, but I guess that they do!

So with my winnings, Brian and I had a little "date night" the other night. My sister-in-law offered to babysit while we went out to dinner to celebrate his new job! Since he was "the guest of honor" it was his pick for where we went. He chose Not Your Average Joe's, which just opened not too far from us. I heard the name and thought "Yeah right. This is going to be just like every other chain restaurant I have ever been too!"

Was I ever wrong! Everything is made from scratch and cooked to order. So fresh and soooo good! I had a peach sangria and shrimp and scallop skewers. Brian had mustard crusted chicken and a glass of wine. And then we split a "peanut butter thing" for dessert. The whipped cream wasn't from a can, it was whipped from scratch! The best part? The bill was only $59. So we only tossed in $9 + tip for a great meal. So, if you ever get a chance....check this place out. I doubt you'll leave disappointed!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Feeding the Dog

Joey really loves having a child in the house!! Our dog Joey has got to be one of the best-fed dogs on the block. Will leaves a lot of leftovers, things that he loves to devour like macaroni and cheese, grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, hot dogs, chicken nuggets....etc etc etc. He's learned to cherry-pick around the high chair, so Will can toss him Cheerios and blueberries. (Fruit is where Joey draws the line though, he won't touch it.) But yesterday was a different story altogether.

I let Will eat breakfast in front of the TV some mornings while I get ready for work. (and if that makes me a bad Mom, then so be it!) Usually he has toaster pancakes (cay-cakes) and some fruit, like a sliced banana. I went to close our back door and almost stepped on something unusual. Will had apparently decided that he was finished with breakfast and put his plate down on the carpet in the family room for Joey! Joey hadn't found it yet, he was still in bed. (the lazy, lucky dog!) So I intervened and scolded Will, and proceeded to toss the leftover "cay-cakes" in the sink. That's when I's not really Will's fault. He's probably seen Brian and I giving Joey leftovers after dinner. (well Ok, really it's just me) So I guess we need to break the habit of giving Joey leftovers anywhere besides his food dish. Hope he doesn't go on strike, pack a bag and move in with my parents! They wouldn't mind though, my dad is always trying to steal him!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Jazz it Up!

I have a dirty secret. Sometimes I bake (Gasp!) from a boxed mix! Ok, so it's not a dirty secret. I love to bake from scratch, but really, who has time for that! So I mostly stick to scratch baking around the holidays. Unless something catches my fancy, like the pumpkin recipes in this month's Taste of Home. (though I think I'll skip the pumpkin and black bean chili, thanks!)

I've learned over the past couple of years that baking from a boxed mix doesn't have to taste like it. And that some brands are definitely better than others, I've had some brownies that taste exactly like the box the mix came in! Will adores muffins, so tonight I took a blueberry muffin mix, added craisins to the mix as well as cinnamon and nutmeg and VOILA! Instant delicous treat, packed with fruit so Bubby doesn't know he's eating something decent. He just thinks it's "Yum, YUM!"

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Thank Goodness For.....

...Grocery home delivery!

I haven't been cooking much in the past week. I threw out my back, and standing for long periods of time at the stove is currently a no-no. I hurt my back last month in NC, but it had been getting better. Then something happened the other day, but I can't be sure if it was lifting Will out of the tub, or picking up stuff of the floor. But it hurts to do EVERYTHING! So I am taking it easy.

The very idea of bringing Will to the Grocery Store with me and having to load and unload the car was making me woozy. So I logged onto Peapod and ordered a week's worth of groceries to be delivered. Oh, what a lifesaver! The driver even brought the groceries into the house so all I had to do was unload them. And the fee for delivery was under ten bucks! It's not something I'd do all the time, but it sure is a good service to have.

Hopefully in the next few days or so I'll be back to crafting in the kitchen. :) By then I will be ready to eat something besides leftovers!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Breakfast for a Crowd

I went grocery shopping after work on Friday, I really miss going during the week when no one is there! But anyway....I didn't take a real good look at what we already had in the house, so I ended up buying some duplicates. So what's a girl to do, when she has 3 dozen eggs in the house? Turn to the internet to find a breakfast dish, something different than what we usually have. I turned up with this Breakfast Casserole. It didn't take too long to make on a busy Saturday morning, and it was scrumptious! The recipe is from, and though it says it serves 4-6 people, it was just me and Hubby yesterday. So we decided to see if it would make OK leftovers in the toaster oven, and it did! This recipe is pretty basic, you could always dress it up with a different kind of cheese, or use some spices, or even roast some veggies in place of all or some of the meat.

Breakfast Casserole

4 slices of bread, torn
12-16 oz cooked bacon or sausage, drained and crumbled
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
6 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon dry mustard

Grease the bottom of a 13x9 pan. Tear up the four slices of bread and place in the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle cooked, crumbled bacon or sausage over the bread pieces. Sprinkle cheddar cheese over the meat. Mix eggs, milk and dry mustard together, pour over casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Serve warm.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

C'mon Autumn!

Autumn is my absolute FAVORITE season! I love the crisp air, the smell of leaves and anything pumpkin. I just got Rachael Ray's magazine in the mail the other day and I am salivating over this month's recipes!! There's a recipe for pasta with Pumpkin Cream Sauce in there that I want soooooo bad. And Apple Sticky buns, a whole bunch of burgers and three different kinds of fondue!

I enjoy summer and all of it's light, cool treats and seasonal produce. But now it's time for the chili, the beef stew, pumpkin bread, apple cider. But it's been so hot and humid in the past week, my brain is all confused! I'm craving chili, but my body's telling me grilled steak and corn on the cob. Hopefully it'll be here soon, only thing we can do is wait!

Friday, September 19, 2008


Ever see "Unwrapped" on the Food Network? It's a great show, hosted by Marc Summers. (Remember Double Dare as a kid? I wanted to be on that show sooooo bad!) They choose a food and see the history of it, where it originated and usually tour wherever it's made. The other night though, there was an "Unwrapped" that was a behind-the-scenes of the Food Network. The cooks featured were Mario Batali, Emeril, Giada DeLaurentiis and Rachael Ray.

First of all, it was mind-boggling to see how many people are involved in "backstage" for each of these shows. Mario Batali and Rachael Ray share a right-hand woman that does all of their prep work for them, I hope she's really well-paid!

I've said before that I'm not an RR fan. I used to despise her TV show "30 Minute Meals" because, as friends have pointed out, there's nothing on there that mere mortals can cook in less than an hour! I've also disliked the sound of her voice too. But I realized that it's not really her I hate, but her TV persona. That bounciness and grating voice of hers is really just her TV persona, when she's talking like a normal person she actually comes off as likeable. Yeah.....I can't believe I said it either. I'm not sure when this episode of "Unwrapped" was filmed, but I found it entertaining to see Rach sipping a cup of Starbucks Coffee when we all know she has a contract with Dunkin'!

So anyway, that makes me feel a little less bad about liking her magazine and cookbook. Though I still think she's spread pretty thin in the media! She has a line of dogfood out. DOGFOOD!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Praise for Polenta

Last night I had thawed some chicken breasts in the fridge for dinner. I'm a little tired of chicken, rice, vegetable. So instead, I browned the chicken, and then baked it in the toaster oven with a little ground cumin and chunks of green pepper. I had a tube of basil and garlic polenta in the fridge, so I figured "Why not?"

Polenta is cornmeal, basically, so it's a good vegetarian side dish as well. You can get it pre-made in a tube in the refrigerator section, or you can make your own with cornmeal. If you make your own, it looks more like a "mashed potato" type dish, or corn mush. (Which is also delicious, with a little butter and maple syrup!)

It turned out to be a nice move! A tube of polenta is a quick-go to, and comes together rather quickly with a sharp knife and a frying pan. You just slice it into rounds and then brown them in a hot skillet. I threw some medium salsa and melted some shredded Monterey Jack cheese on top and voila! Instant delicious dinner. Plus I had the leftovers for lunch at work, and the ladies in the laundry room were saying "What smells so good????" while it was in the microwave! :)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Something we can All Agree On....

I got home from work today, and I didn't want to cook. I wanted to go to a restaurant. I wanted someone to bring me a nice tall iced tea while I perused a menu, trying to decide between burgers and chicken, appetizer or dessert. I was green with envy when my co-worker made plans to hit Ruby Tuesday's with her husband tonight before heading home. I whined that it had been a long day and I was "so tired." And so tired of cooking.

But I pulled it together, and made Will and I quesadillas. It's one of the few meals that I can make for all three of us. I'm trying to be better at not starting a habit of giving Will something different for dinner than what I've cooked for us all the time. It's a trap that I've fallen into that I really want to get out of! Will loved eating his cheese quesadilla though, and I made chicken and steak ones for me. (Steak was leftover from the other night) I broke out the gadgets (electric griddle, George Forman Grill) and though I dragged through it, it came together quite nicely. And now I have leftovers tomorrow instead of getting a sandwich or something. Yay me. :)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Evoking Memories

I was thinking of foods that I associate with memories. I thought I'd like to list a few....

Roast Beef: My grandfather was a master at a roast beef dinner. A roast in the oven always brings me back to Christmas at my grandparents. He even knew how to carve it right. Mmmm...

Strawberry Cooler: I still hate this flavor of Hi-C to this day, after getting sick one day. Artificial strawberry drink...ugh.

Tuna Casserole: my childhood. My mom used to make a tuna casserole with tuna, instant white rice, frozen peas, mushrooms and cream of mushroom soup. I got stuck on it for a while and wouldn't eat anything else. (Boy, having my own kid makes me understand that better now!) Mom called it "chinese food" to get me to eat it. I called it Sing Casserole. I don't think I'd like it today, but I sure loved it then!

Hot Sauces: Really really, REALLY hot sauce makes me remember the time that my dad, brother and I decided to sample some hot sauces that Dad had gotten for Christmas. It was a boxed set called "12 Angry Men." We made a plate of nachos and passed the bottles around. I don't remember which sauce did it, but sometimes a quart of milk is simply just not enough to fan out the flames!

Though there are more, those are it for today!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Books and The Power of Suggestion

In the movie"City of Angels" starring Meg Ryan and Nicolas Cage, Nicolas Cage plays an angel on earth that falls in love with Meg Ryan and becomes human. (It would've been a great movie had it not been for the ending....but I digress!) She first notices him in a library, and when he sees her he's reading a book about food. Being an angel, he has no need for food, or sleep or anything else. But he reads a paragraph alound, and with a pleased look upon his face, he closes the book and estatically says, "I love it when they write how things taste!"

That hit a chord with me, because I'm always getting romanticized by a description about a food item! In "Where the Heart Is," by Billie Letts, I totally got sucked in by the description of the birthday dinner that Forney prepared for a pregnant, Walmart-dwelling Novalee. I craved beef, gravy and puffy pastry like mad! In Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder (My favorite childhood author) I got hooked on the idea of frying apples and onions together, and making ice cream! Also by The Long Winter.....the feast that the Ingalls Family had after the impossible blizzard-filled winter when trains couldn't come through with supplies: After reading that I always have a hankering for a Thanksgiving feast!

My latest is one I don't think I'd ever would have considered on my own. But in "I Feel Bad about my Neck" by Nora Ephron, she writes an essay about vanishing food. You know, things that you love to go out and eat, and then one day you go and they're not there anymore. (like the Banana Rumba dessert at Chili's...forever a memory!) Well, in this particular case, Ms. Ephron laments the loss of.....cabbage strudel. Yes, you read that correctly. In this particular case, it's not the cabbage strudel that disappears, but the Hungarian bakery that made the coveted treat. She searched high and low, collected recipes....all to no avail. Then one day, a friend calls her to tell her that there's a place nearby that serves it and it's culinary bliss. Strudel to me should be a sweet breakfast treat, like cherry or apple, sugary and served with coffee. Not with a vegetable! But by the time I finished reading her awesome description of the buttery, flaky savoriness of it, I found myself wondering if the city nearby has a Hungarian bakery!! :)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Birthday Sushi, Birthday Cake

Yesterday was Brian's birthday. I won't tell you how old he turned....cause that's just not nice. :) When I asked him what he wanted for his birthday dinner, he said sushi. So I picked up a Party Boat and an order of Philly rolls (very good-smoked salmon and cream cheese rolled with rice and cucumber) at our favorite sushi place for a quiet dinner at home. We had more than our fair share of spicy tuna, sashimi and california rolls, the aforementioned philly rolls and there were even a couple of weird ones for Brian to sample. that stuff! We used to eat it a lot more but surprise--another change to chalk up to having kids.

I also was going to bring home cake from Wholly Cannoli, a local bakery who's famous for obviously, their cannolis. Now, a cannoli is something that I can't turn down! If someone offers me one, I am genetically wired not to refuse, even if I'm stuffed! Wholly Cannoli has the best ones, mini and full size, in flavors like Apple Pie, Cappuccino, Pistachio and Caramel, as well as the traditional ricotta ones. But Brian had other plans---he wanted to make his own creation.

I felt kind of guilty, like I had been working so much lately that my husband had the sad task of making his own birthday cake! But he reminded me that he had a free afternoon and that he really loves to bake, so I relented. When I came home, he'd make a "Fiddler on the Roof" cake from the Cake Doctor Book. I've mentioned this book before....each recipe features a box cake mix that's been "doctored" to make it richer and super-tasty. We swear by it, I don't think there's a bad cake in the bunch! This one was no exception. As you can see from the picture, it looks like a big chocolate glazed donut. It was a yellow cake mix, with cocoa powder swirled to make it marble. It also had almond extract and marshmallows in the glaze. SO GOOD!! Though I am still doing Sparkpeople, it's hubby's birthday anad hey, that cake was calling! I am currently trying to avoid having it for breakfast!! :)

Happy Birthday to my sweet!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Quick Dinners??

The dynamic of our household is changing again. Because of my new job responsibilities, I am back to work full-time. Despite my best efforts and writing a menu every week, I am in a bit of a rut for quick family dinners that make some leftovers for lunches. So I would like to put it out there to anyone that reads this blog: What are your go-to recipes when like is crazy?

Just leave me a comment and tell me what your family eats in a pinch when everyone's busy and there's not a lot of time to experiment in the kitchen! Thanks for your help. :)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Little Bit of Magic...

I am going to an event tomorrow night that I needed to bring a treat to share. I didn't even hesitate when deciding what to make--Magic Cookie Bars!

These are a family favorite and very easy to make. I've heard them called other names, like Layer Bars or Angel Bars. But in our house, they magically disappear!

Magic Cookie Bars

1/2 c. butter or margarine
1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 pkg (16 oz) semisweet chocolate chips
3 1/2 oz flaked coconut
1 c. chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Melt butter in 13x9 pan. (Put butter in the pan, put pan in oven!)
Sprinkle crumbs evenly over melted butter.
Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over crumbs.
Rop evenly with remaining ingredients, press down firmly.
Bake 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned.
Cool before cutting.

For the little effort that goes into's a big, chocolatey reward!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

I scream for ice cream!

For me, ice cream is the ultimate in treats. It has everything I want...sweet, smooth, creamy and full of fat. 'Cause as we all know, fat and sugar tastes good. mmmm....

Want something to make you feel instantly like a kid again? A total ice cream dinner. My friend Lexi, whom I visited in Maine this weekend, and I had ice cream for dinner, but in an unconventional way. Instead of stepping up to the freezer and scooping a couple of bowls, we went out. Her parents retired from their jobs several years ago and bought an ice cream shop called "Here's the Scoop." Today was their last day of the season, and they only had soft serve left for customers today and tomorrow. Lexi and I had plenty of ice cream! Now, I haven't made a cone since I worked at McDonald's in high school, but I seem to still have the touch for the perfect swirl. Now, for an oddly delicious flavor, swirl coffee and black raspberry together and serve with chocolate jimmies. Lexi's mom said that it was a pretty popular flavor this season, and I can see why!

So, after a couple of cones and a dish of vanilla with hot fudge, I'm a happy girl. Not something I'd do all the time....but once in a while to bring back the days of going to the beach and stopping at Friendly's on the way home! Everyone should have ice cream for dinner at least ONCE in their lives. If you have a friend with an ice cream shop in the family, then it's that much sweeter. :)

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Dinner Club and Crisp Cookies

Last night, I joined a bunch of Moms for a Dinner Club. The object is for a bunch of moms to get together to try a restaurant that they've never tried before. This was the first time, and we went out for Thai food. At the end of the meal, we draw names and that person gets to choose the next culinary adventure! It was with four moms that I don't know very well, and it was a lot of fun. The Thai place was small, and for a little while we were the only ones there. We were instructed to remove our shoes because we were going to sit on the floor. That was a little strange, but not uncomfortable because there was a big pit under the table so you could dangle your feet instead of sitting Indian-style. (which I probably haven't done since grade school!) The food was delicious, chicken curry and pineapple rice. My name was drawn at the end, and I chose a Tapas place in the city. I have never had tapas, and I'm really excited to finally get to try them! Tapas are a Spanish-style of cooking, from Spain. Basically Tapas translates to "Little Dishes." All in all, it was a nice night out.

When I got home, I found my husband scented with butter and sugar. He was baking cookies. (What a guy!) Brian's a great baker, he really loves to do it. Last night's cookies were these small walnut and butter cookies, sprinkled with sugar. They came out of a cookbook that our friends Chris and Jenny gave us a long time ago, they gave us the cookbook marked with mini-post-its with comments on their favorite recipes. The recipes in the book are delicious, and the comments are hilarious. These cookies are very small, so you don't have to feel guilty about having one. Especially with your morning coffee. :)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

On the Bandwagon!

Ha! My husband loves burgers, but he is a turkey-burger hater. Why? Well, he believes that ground turkey is dry and doesn't have much flavor. Well, that's true, if you overcook it or don't give it any flavor. We had apple cheddar turkey burgers for dinner tonight....and he liked them! Enough for us to have leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Here's the link, they were delish! (We omitted the cranberry sauce, by the way. If you're a fan---go for it!)

Monday, September 1, 2008

Back...and Full!

We came home today from a great vacation on the Outer Banks in North Carolina! We also spent a couple of days visiting family in Pennsylvania. So for the last week.....there has been a lot of food!!!

I didn't log onto Sparkpeople once for the entire trip. On vacation=no dieting. But I did get plenty of exercise! That tends to happen on the beach, and walking, and chasing after an almost two-year old!

The Outer Banks is a resort area, with a lot of great restaurants. Seafood is really, really big there. We had dinner at a place across from our resort called the Sunset Grill and Raw Bar. The food was great! The atmosphere....very loud and a bit messy. Their big claim to fame is the fabulous view of the sunsets from their outdoor patio facing the Currituck Sound. Unfortunately, it was very windy and we thought it would be tough to eat with Will in the sun and wind. We also got to have a dinner alone (Sheer Heaven!) at The Grill Room in Corolla. Ohhhh......a filet mignon of my dreams! Know what goes really well with steak? Blue Cheese Butter. Brian had Chilean Sea Bass, which he said was fantastic. And of course, no dinner is complete without dessert....creme brulee!

As with any vacation......we had ice cream at all the great spots. To show we were REALLY on vacation, we once had two ice creams in a day! (I on the edge!) We did buy some groceries and eat in a couple of dinners to save some money, and I have to say, the best corn on the cob in the world is in Currituck County, North Carolina. Especially when it's in a salsa on top of a fresh crabcake!

I did see something that I don't think I'd like to try.....a soft shell crab sandwich. Now, I adore crab, especially california sushi rolls, or king crab legs. But a whole crab, still with legs attached, breaded and fried, tossed onto a soft roll? Not for me. Brian liked it though.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end. We're home, and have no groceries. So tomorrow I restock, and start cooking again. And login to start tracking food and exercise (grumble grumble)

In case you were wondering, Will ate like a CHAMP on this vacation! The only thing he turned down all week was a scrambled egg. He tried a quesadilla over the weekend and loved it. We had tacos at one of our favorite Mexican places, Moe's. Moe's is a chain that I thought was only around here, but there was one in Pennsylvania waiting for us on Saturday night! So, for my friend in the Lowell area (and you know who you are!!) If they can build a Moe's in Warrington, PA, there's hope for you yet! :)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Going "On-Location!!"

We're headed on a family vacation in a couple of days. So The Blue Plate Special is going "On Location!" First we're stopping in Pennsylvania to visit family, then headed for a week on the outer banks of North Carolina. Then we'll stop to see some friends in PA again. I'm sure that there will be some good food to blog about in North Carolina. I just hope not to be cooking too much of it. After all, what's a vacation for? :)

This week is all about eating the things that will perish while we're away. Y'know, milk, eggs, cheese......I baked some blueberry muffins to use up some of that stuff.

Will's still being pretty picky. I read a book about feeding toddlers that I got from the library, it's called "Just Two More Bites!" It had a lot of good tips, and I was glad to see, that according to the book, that we are doing a lot of "right" things. Things like not letting him drink milk or juice continuously all day long. But we were getting visibly upset when Will wouldn't eat, and that wasn't helping. So now we're trying to stay calm when Will refuses a perfectly good meal. Vacation ought to be interesting, though!

Have fun, everyone! Lots of stories when we return.....

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Food Meme!

I got this from Carissa, I liked what she said about trying anything once.....I'm kind of like that too. It has also gotten me into trouble at at times!

The rules are pretty standard:

A. List of 100 items
B. Bold items you've eaten
C. Cross out items you'd never consider eating (I italicized....I'm still learning Blogger, so I had no idea how to cross out text!)

1. Venison (and never again!!!!)
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros--no, but I definitely would
4. Steak tartare --again, sure I would
5. Crocodile---had gator, but not croc
6. Black pudding .
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari -
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich--I was a weird kid, I didn't like these until adulthood
14. Aloo gobi1
5. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream, love it but usually am sick of it by the end of the carton
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans - Brian made authentic Louisiana-style for Trac's birthday once
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. -Raw scotch bonnet pepper - (I want to LIVE!!!)
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters-
29. Baklava -
30. Bagna cauda---what exactly is this??
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl- New England of my favorites?
33. Salted lassi---never heard of it
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea....clotted cream, yes, while in London and it was delish...but didn't have tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O -
39. Gumbo -
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat-
.42. Whole insects -not in a million years!!!
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin -
51. Prickly pear-
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini- hate olives
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine-
60. Carob chips -
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads-
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs-
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake...all of the above, 'cept the beignets
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho--no, but I want to!
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe -
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill---who in the hell would eat that??
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie -
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict--only my favorite breakfast ever!
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse -
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam -
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta--have a tube in the fridge right now, actually
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake - Rattlesnake

Friday, August 15, 2008

It's all over....there isn't any more........

Well, zucchini season is over at our house. I had probably about 15 of them, and we ate quite a few but I shared with some people as well. Then with the way the weather has been so wet, the plants just got mildewy and died. Ah well. I was getting a little tired of the zucchini anyway. The best recipe that came out of the whole experience was the chocolate zucchini bread, I made another loaf the other night and it was even better this time around! I look forward to next year's experimentation. We're already planning an expansion, to include peppers, cucumbers and maybe some herbs in window boxes. I don't think I'd do green beans again though, we'll see.

Tomatoes are still going great though! We seem to have plenty of them. Nothing at the grocery store comes close to tasting as good as a homegrown tomato!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Food from Friends

I volunteered to bring a meal to a new mama so she wouldn't have to cook every night while she bonds with her baby. It's kind of a neat idea that the playgroup I belong to came up with. Anyway, today was my turn so I made rigatoni with meat sauce for dinner. Yep, from a jar. I haven't been feeling well today so I was impressed that I even pulled that off, considering my own family is getting pizza from Domino's for dinner!

This is a recipe for a Fruit Pizza that I received from my friend, Jen. She moved to the Midwest last year and whenever I make it, I think of her. Well, to be fair, LOTS of things make me think of her, but she introduced this delicious dessert to me, and I made it for the mama and her family for tonight! Of course, while I was slicing it, I just HAD to keep a piece for myself! It comes together really quickly, too.

Fruit Pizza

1 pkg (18 oz) refrigerated sugar cookie dough

1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese, softened

1/3 c sugar

1 c. marshmallow fluff

Assorted sliced fresh fruit (I decorated mine with blueberries, strawberries and mandarin oranges)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Roll dough out to a circle (or as best as you can) Place dough on round baking stone (I used a thin crust pizza pan) and cook 10-20 minutes or until golden. Make sure to keep an eye on it though, because there's not much time between "golden" and "burned!" Remove from oven and cool thoroughly.

Combine cream cheese, sugar and fluff and mix well. Spread over cooled cookie. Decorate with fruit.
*TIP* Use a pizza wheel to cut the cookie into wedges, it works really well

Friday, August 8, 2008

About This Cook

I thought we could try to get to know one another a little better! I mean, I know most of you already, but I want to get to know you in the FOOD sense. So I am posting a bunch of questions, I will answer them first and you can answer them by leaving me comments. Here we go!

1. What are three foods you could eat forever and never, never get sick of?

Italian bread with butter, macaroni and cheese and rocky road ice cream. Carbs much? :)

2. What are some foods that you would not eat again, even if someone offered you money?

Well, how much money? Ok, the list isn't very long for me: ham or seafood salad, lamp, chickpeas and lima beans, deer, scrapple, olives of any kind. There may be more, but those are the things that I immediately shudder as soon as I think of them.

3. What is the best meal that you have ever cooked?

Christmas Dinner, 2006. (Yes I know the date...I keep a notebook.) Roast Pork Tenderloin with Cider Gravy, with Baked Apples Stuffed with Cornbread and Sage. Mmmmm.......just thinking about it makes me want it again.

4. Who does most of the cooking in your family?

I do. My husband likes to cook as well, but our schedules put me in the kitchen more often.

5. What's the weirdest thing you've ever eaten?

Shark and alligator. And sour patch kids dipped in salsa con queso. (the last one was a college dare!)

6. Do you have an embarrassing food story to share?

It doesn't involve me cooking, but working around food. About twelve years ago I had a summer job as a banquet server for a country club. We were working a very large company outing, and their menu choice was picnic-style. We were running out of strawberry shortcake, so I was rushing into the walk-in fridge for more strawberries. The strawberries were up on a high shelf, and no one was around to help me and had been told to get them ASAP! So, always compensating for my height, I jumped to get them off the high shelf. My bad---I ended up taking a shower in thawed berries and juice! (and no, the catering manager did NOT let me go home, I had to finish the night stained, sticky and smelling like Boppin' Berry Cooler!)

7. If you could cook with anyone, who would it be?

My maternal grandfather. He made the meanest roast beef that I have ever tasted! The smell of a roast in the oven to this day makes me think of him and all of the Christmas dinners he made.

8. What is one of your favorite things to make, and your least favorite?

Favorite: My husband and I pick one day out of the holiday season each year to bake. We bake cookies ALL DAY LONG, enjoying each other's company and baking for everyone we know. Our son will hopefully join us in this tradition one day when he's older.

Least favorite: Egg Salad. I abhor the smell of hard-boiled eggs, but my husband loves it. So I make it for him, and call it my "Labor of Love." :)

9. Do you watch the Food Network?

A little bit. I enjoy "Good Eats" with Alton Brown, Iron Chef, Every Day Italian......I liked Rachael Ray's show "30-minute meals" but her voice annoys me! So I get her magazine instead...easier on the eardrums.

10. Finally, do you have any food or cooking advice to give?

People ask me all the time how I can cook so much. I like variety and hate to get stuck in a rut. I just go out and do it! If you can read, you can cook. And don't be afraid to just get in there and mix it up on your own.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Apple Pork Chops

This is more of an autumn meal, but tonight has been fairly cool (and rainy. And heavy thunderstorms and tornado warnings, but who's counting?) and I love pork and apples together. I served it with roasted potatoes and peas for a nice rounded-out meal. This would probably be great with a pork loin roast in a crockpot with the apples and onions. Mmmmm.......Picture something like that on a crisp October night, with the smell of leaves burning in the air!

Apple Pork Chops (

2 tbsb vegetable oil
1/2 c. chopped onion
4 1/2 inch thick pork chops
1/2 tsp salt
ground black pepper to taste
2 apples, peeled, cored and sliced ( I used Red Delicious)
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground mustard
3/4 c. hot water

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
2. Heat oil in large skillet. Saute onion in oil for one minute or until tender. Remove onion and set aside. Brown pork chops on both sides in oil.
3. Place chops in an 8x12 inch baking dish and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Cover the chops with the apples and cooked onion.
4. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, mustard, cloves and water. Pour over chops. Cover and bake in the preheated oven for 30-45 minutes. Enjoy!!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Chicken Francese

This is one of my all-time favorite meals! It was served at our wedding on October 7, 2000. This is Rachael Ray's variation of the dish, and it's a snap to prepare. I halved the recipe because it was just for the two of us. Slice up some crusty bread to sop up all the wonderful sauce, or sometimes I serve it over a platter of rice for guests. If you do serve it to guests, balance out the meal with something lighter for dessert...this is rich stuff!

Chicken Francese

(taken from Rachael Ray 365: No Repeats)

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

5 tbsp unsalted butter

1 1/2lb very thin chicken cutlets

Salt and freshly ground pepper

all-purpose flour, for dredging

4 eggs, beaten until frothy

2 pinches ground nutmeg

1 lemon

1/2 c dry white wine

2 tbsp capers, coarsely chopped (optional in our house!)

3 tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped

Place a platter in a low oven to warm. Heat a very large notstick skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tbsp of the oil and 2 tbsp of the butter to the skillet.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Coat half the meat at a time in flour, then in the eggs, adding each piece directly to the hot fat in the pan. Saute the cutlets for 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden and puffy. Transfer the cooked meat to the warm platter and repeat with the remaining cutlets, using the remaining tablespoon of oil and 2 more tablespoons of the butter.

Once all of the meat has been cooked, add the nutmeg, the juice of half the lemon and the white wine to the pan. Scrape up the pan drippings with a whisk. Slice the remaining half lemon into thin disks and add to the sauce. Stir in the capers and parsley and the remaining tablespoon of butter into the sauce. Turn off the heat. Shake the pan to combine the sauce. Arrange the lemon slices over the platter, then spoon the sauce evenly over the cutlets. Serve immediately with crusty bread and greens.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


There hasn't been any exciting things going on in Casa de Blue Plate the last few days. Though last night Brian made chicken and steak fajitas that rocked. Combo fajitas are sooooo good! Lasagne is on the menu tomorrow night, though I'm starting to wonder if I've gone a little soft for making a menu that requires turning on the oven at the end of July.

I've been trying to behave, since I joined Sparkpeople about a week ago and have to track calories and fitness and stuff. Yes, I'm finally getting serious, less talk more action! So meals have been a little blah lately, nothing really special stands out. But I won't go on like that for long.... something new always awaits!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery...

Tonight I went out on a limb. Usually I stick by recipes and follow them to the letter the first time I make them. If it's something worth repeating, I may change it up a little bit. Not tonight.

I adore Chili's Restaurant, I have for years. I dig the whole Tex-Mex menu and theme: skillet queso, cadillac fajitas, beans and rice, and of course, the flavored margaritas. But obviously, most of that cheesy, gooey delicious stuff tastes wonderful but isn't exactly wonderful for the state of my hips. So I've tried this appetizer a few times as a healthful alternative for dinner. It's their lettuce wraps, which is kind of a funny thing to find in a Tex-Mex place because they're more Asian than anything else. The ingredients are fairly simple; bibb lettuce, chicken, peanut sauce, sesame marinade, veggie and some rice noodles. So when I was at the farmer's market last weekend (again with the farmer's market!! You'd think they were paying me for advertising) I found some bibb lettuce and I remembered these wraps. Since they LOOK easy, I thought I'd give them a shot, just wing it and hope they come out good. Right down to the peanut sauce.

My friend Alana comes for dinner every Thursday. She plays with Will and we make dinner, and after Will goes to bed, we have girltalk and watch some TV. It's been a Thursday night ritual for a couple of years now. (Wow, has it been that long??) Anyway, I whip up something or we cook together and usually end up eating pretty well. Brian has gone to say that sometimes I cook better for her than I do for him, but really, he's just jeaous. :) No really, I cook things for her and I that he wouldn't eat even if I promised him Flyers tickets to eat it. No, he'd probably take it for the team. :)

So, in the spirit of living adventurously, I threw together some chicken marinated in sesame and apricot, julienned carrots, sliced onion, a can of mushrooms, chopped garlic and ginger paste. All things I already had on hand. (I have one hell of a pantry.) I even made peanut sauce from scratch, (from a recipe though) which was quite an accomplishment after yesterday's pesto debacle. Guess what? It was scrumptious!!!! We ate ALL of it, every bite. And I seriously can't wait to make it again.

Chili's, eat your heart out. They still make a better frozen margarita, though.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Pesto that Wasn't......

Since I had a whole lot of fresh basil left over from my trip to the farmer's market, today was the day to try my hand at something new. Something that I have never attempted to make myself--pesto sauce.

Sauces aren't exactly my strong suite. I can make a great chicken, bake tons of goodies from scratch and even do a decent job at the grill. But sauces? From scratch?
But I have mentioned that I love fresh basil, and I couldn't stand to see it go to waste. So there I was, printing a recipe online. It looks simple enough, with just five ingredients: order to make fresh pesto, you need a food processor. And NO, Ginny, the "chop" option on your blender is not a good enough substitute!!! So now I have a blenderful of basil in various stages of "chopped," and parmesan cheese, pinenuts, olive oil and garlic tossed in with it. It's not looking good. I still don't want to admit defeat and feed the whole mess to the garbage disposal. So I reach for the "Hail Mary" ingredient....a can of tomato puree. I open the can and pour it into the blender and scrape down the sides. I replace the cover, press "mix" and cross my fingers. I turn it off and grab a spoon to see if my precious basil can be saved. Hmmm....this stuff's not bad! It's not the BEST tomato sauce I've ever had, but it's good enough to pour over pasta and have a quick late lunch. Hooray! Thank goodness I always keep a couple of cans of tomato products in the house. They've been my saving grace before, and oh yes, they are again!

Now......if anyone needs any birthday ideas.....a food processor. Too bad my birthday's in December. No fresh pesto till then!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Zucchini Overload!

Since I picked three more zucchini yesterday, it was time to make another zucchini dish. I found a recipe in "Joy of Cooking" aka "The Bible" for a Zucchini Frittata. I've never attempted a frittata, but I've screwed up plenty of omelets and the idea of an "open-face" omelet with no flipping or folding was tempting. It took a little while to make, but it was worth it. And even Hubby, the self-proclaimed zucchini hater, took a second portion!

I also went to the farmer's market nearby yesterday for some farm-fresh corn. That's one thing I won't attempt to grow, it's seems like a lot of work for such a little return. Of course, I came home not only with the corn but some carrots, Boston and Iceberg lettuces and a cucumber. Oh, and a bunch of fresh basil. I ADORE fresh basil, it's perfume is intoxicating. I brought it home not sure what I was going to do with it, but I'm thinking some pesto sauce. I've never made it fresh, but I'm sure it's good!

Zucchini Frittata

one small onion, chopped
one medium zucchini, thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 grated or shredded parmesan cheese
5 large eggs
torn fresh basil
olive oil

Preheat broiler on "low" setting.

In a cast-iron skillet, pour two tablespoons of olive oil and warm over medium heat. Add chopped onion, stir and cook until soft. Add zucchini, cook until golden (approx ten minutes) Remove from pan, remove pan from heat.

Crack all five eggs into a large bowl, add salt and pepper to taste. Beat until smooth. Add zucchini and onion mixture. Add torn basil and parmesan cheese to the mix. Put skillet back on burner, pour olive oil to coat pan, and warm on medium. Once oil has warmed, pour in egg mixture. Spread zucchini evenly. Turn burner to low, let bottom of frittata cook and set. Once it looks cooked (i.e. the edges of the frittata are cooked) put under the broiler in the oven for 30-90 seconds or until set. A traditional frittata is not browned, so don't overcook. When it comes out of the oven, invert onto a large plate. Serve in wedges.

Another thing I plan on making today is Ratatouille. I don't know where the recipe for this comes from, but it is something that my mother has made for years. It's a totally vegetarian dish, and I've made it for my friend Jenny when she comes over and she likes it a lot. It can be served over rice or pasta, or as I am going to try it over sliced, pan-fried polenta!


1 med/large eggplant, cubed
2 medium zucchini, sliced
2 TBSP chopped garlic
one med onion, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes, with added Italian herbs (or you can use plain if you like)
grated parmesan cheese

Warm two tbsp olive oil in a skillet. Add onion, cook until softened. Add garlic, cook until softened. Add eggplant and zucchini, cook until softened. Pour over the can of tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is heated throughout. Serve topped with grated parmesan cheese.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

I baked this last night with the first zucchini from my garden and had a piece for breakfast. Sooo good. And even better...Will had a piece for breakfast too and was none the wiser that he had just eaten a green vegetable! I cut the sugar down to a cup and a half, and really, I don't think the finished product was lacking because of it. Enjoy!

Chocolate Zucchini Bread (taken from

2 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate
3 eggs
2 cups white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups grated zucchini
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease two 9x5 inch loaf pans. In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave chocolate until melted. Stir occasionally until chocolate is smooth.
In a large bowl, combine eggs, sugar, oil, grated zucchini, vanilla and chocolate; beat well. Stir in the flour baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Fold in the chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared loaf pans.
Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a loaf comes out clean.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

First Harvest!

The garden is growing quickly, and I have the fruits of my first harvest! I have one perfect red tomato, two big zucchini and a whole bunch of green beans. There's more beans out there, but I didn't want to pick them before we could eat them. I actually was afraid the beans wouldn't make it, because of the bunny population helping themselves. (Hey, they need to eat too!) I already know that the tomato is getting sliced on a burger tonight, but no plans for the zucchini just yet.

I'm so excited! After all this time, I finally have a green thumb, and have the pictures to prove it! :)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Another hot night, and another night of not wanting to cook. Hmmm....what sounds good, besides ice cream sundaes?? I know, Banana Pancakes!!

Banana pancakes have been my absolute favorite since I was a little girl. They're especially good with toasted pecans and a dollop of whipped cream, but we're talking dinner, not dessert. Heck, if I'd had whipped cream in the house, I probably would've doused 'em! :) Plus, it's a dinner that Will and I can both eat instead of playing the "I don't want it" game. I even poured chocolate milk for both of us, a rare treat for him. He loves milk so much that I don't usually have to put chocolate in it.

Anyway...nice easy night, complete with paper plates. :)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Picky, Picky

Lately I've added recipes and cooking tips....but I haven't said anything about feeding a toddler. How's it going? Not the greatest!

Will is like most toddlers, very into carbs, like mac n cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches. He hates most pasta, will SOMETIMES eat a chicken nugget, and is painfully particular about fruits but despises most veggies. He will eat green beans and carrots once in a blue moon. He loves bananas and blueberries, and will eat a bit of cut-up apple. No melon, strawberries or peaches, which I thought he would gravitate towards because they're so sweet.

Then there are some nights, some nights that he won't eat ANYTHING I put in front of him. Tonight is one of those nights! He didn't want the spaghetti-os or the green beans....but did munch on a cereal bar. I actually used these words..."Hey Will, this isn't a diner." Aughhhh!

I know that it will eventually get better, and maybe he'll eat another meat besides the occasional cut-up hot dog. (And calling that meat is pushing it at best!!) I know that I have to try, try, try again. But I miss the baby who would eat spoonful after spoonful of baby food, regardless of flavor!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Make it Garlic....Lots of Garlic!!!

I'm channeling my inner pseudo "Italian" again. Garlic is one of those things people love or hate, there really is no middle ground. I adore garlic! Many people think that it is a little strong, but not if you roast it. It's really, really easy to do. One thing I have to mention though....sometimes people get confused how much garlic should be included in a recipe. A bulb of garlic, is the entire garlic, the head that you buy at the grocery store. The individual parts are the cloves. Because there is indeed, such a thing as too much garlic!

The Garlic Capital of the World is Gilroy, California. Brian and I were in California several years ago and we drove through Gilroy and it was all you could smell. Heavenly! While we were in California, I wanted to try a restaurant in San Francisco I'd heard about called "The Stinking Rose." Their motto is "We flavor our garlic with food." Unfortunately it was not meant to be, as parking in San Francisco can be a bit of a nightmare!

How to Roast Garlic:

Peel away the dry outer layers of skin from desired number of garlic heads. (one medium head makes about a tablespoon of garlic paste) Leave skins of clove intact. Cut off the pointed top portion (about 1/4 inch) with a sharp knife, leaving bulb intact but exposing the individual cloves of garlic.

Place the heads of garlic, cut side up, in small baking dish. Drizzle each head with 2 tsp olive oil. Bake, covered, at 400 degrees for 25-35 minutes or until cloves feel soft when pressed.

Aloow head (s) to cool slightly before handling. You can store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

So now that you've roasted some, what can you do with it??

--Serve warm and spread it on french bread as an appetizer. (They do this at Vinny T's and I love it!!)

--Mix with olive oil and toss with pasta and Parmesan

--Add to potatoes before mashing

--Combine with softened butter and use for basting chicken

--It makes an excellent pizza topping! (my favorite pizza is actually basil, mushroom and roasted garlic)

Now, a couple of recipes:

CHICKEN WITH 40 CLOVES OF GARLIC (Yes, you read that correctly!!)

This is one of my favorite chicken dishes. The roasting makes the garlic really mellow. Instead of bread, I like to serve it with rice to soak up the juices.

Ingredients1 (4-lb) chicken1/2 teaspoon salt1/4 teaspoon black pepper1 scant cup olive oil2 fresh parsley sprigs1 fresh rosemary sprig1 fresh thyme sprig1 fresh sage sprig1 bay leaf (not California) 1 celery rib40 garlic cloves, peeled (from 3 to 4 heads of garlic)
Accompaniment: toasted baguette slicesSpecial equipment: kitchen string

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Rinse chicken and pat dry. Sprinkle inside and out with salt and pepper. Tie legs together with kitchen string and fold wings under chicken.
Heat oil in a 6- to 8-quart wide heavy ovenproof pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown chicken, turning it carefully, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate.
Tie herbs and celery together with string to make a bouquet garni and add to pot along with garlic cloves. Put chicken, breast side up, on top of cloves and bake, covered tightly, in middle of oven, basting twice, until cooked through and an instant-read thermometer inserted 2 inches into fleshy part of a thigh (avoid bone) registers 170°F, 30 to 40 minutes.
Transfer chicken to a cutting board, reserving pan juices, and let stand 10 minutes. Cut chicken into serving pieces and spread roasted garlic on toasts. Serve chicken drizzled with some of reserved pan juices.

Grilled Pork Chops with Garlic Jam
Recipe courtesy Emeril Lagasse, 2005
See this recipe on air Tuesday Jul. 22 at 2:00 PM ET/PT.
Emeril Live
Gotta Have Garlic

4 thick-cut pork chops Canola oil Essence, recipe follows Garlic Jam, recipe follows
Preheat a grill to medium-high. Brush pork chops with oil and season with Essence. Place pork on grill and grill on both sides until a meat thermometer reaches 150 to 155 degrees F. Serve pork chops with garlic jam.
Garlic Jam: 4 large heads garlic 1/2 cup olive oil 1/4 of a sweet onion 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice 1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Bring a medium saucepan with salted water to a boil. Cut the garlic heads in half crosswise and blanch for 5 minutes. Remove the garlic heads and any loose garlic cloves from the water with a slotted spoon and drain well. Pour olive oil into a small baking dish and place the garlic heads cut side down into the oil. Add any loose garlic cloves and the onion quarter to the oil. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour.
Remove the garlic from the oil and squeeze the softened garlic cloves into a medium bowl. Peel the onion quarter and finely dice. Add the diced onion to the garlic cloves and mash with a fork until smooth. Stir the Worcestershire and lemon juice into the mashed garlic and continue stirring until smooth and creamy. Season with 1/4 teaspoon of salt. The garlic jam will keep refrigerated in a sealed container for up to 2 weeks.
Yield: about 1/2 cup
Emeril's ESSENCE Creole Seasoning (also referred to as Bayou Blast): 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika 2 tablespoons salt 2 tablespoons garlic powder 1 tablespoon black pepper 1 tablespoon onion powder 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper 1 tablespoon dried oregano 1 tablespoon dried thyme
Combine all ingredients thoroughly.
Yield: 2/3 cup