Thursday, December 31, 2009

Cheeseball

The cheese ball is something that you either love or hate. I know of few people who kind of like cheese balls, but I do not doubt that such an animal exists. I've made this cheese ball for over 10 years and count on this humble party food staple to stretch my snack table without breaking the bank. The flavor is creamy and savory with the added benefit of chopped pecans that enrobe the pale yellow delight. I like this served with crackers, pretzels, pita chips, or bagel bites. I've even seen some folks put this on an apple and eat it, but don't count on me to confirm whether or not this cheese ball is good on an apple! Let's get started and we'll talk about some really cool and different ways to present this cheese ball. Well, ok, you can use my ideas for your cheese ball recipe if you want--I guess.
Here's what you will need to pull this thin off, the ingredient list is super easy:

16 oz. Cream Cheese

16 oz. Cheddar Cheese (I usually use a cheese blend)

One onion

1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Rough chop the onion and place it in the bowl of a food processor. Add one block of the cream cheese and seasoned salt. Pulse until the mixture is smooth and combined. You do not have to have a food processor to make this cheese ball. I like to use a food processor because it really gets the onion minced up. If you don't have a food processor I would suggest that you either grate the onion, or chop the dickens out of the onions to make them super minced and mushy. Your goal is to have a creamy and smooth mouth feel.



After you have pulsed the onion, half of the cream cheese, and seasoned salt together, go ahead and add in the Worcestershire sauce and give it another pulse. This is what gives the mixture it's pale yellowish brown appearance. Once you have pulsed together these four ingredients, dump it into a large bowl, we will have to go manual from here on out.
This set of Pyrex mixing bowls is close to my heart. I'm writing this post from my Mom's house in Missouri, which explains the better quality of my cell phone photographs because she has fluorescent lighting. Anyway, these bowls have been with me my entire cooking life. I learned to cook using these, and many other tools that Mom still has. We won't talk about the can of cloves that she has in her spice cabinet that has a date stamp of 1972!
So, after your little trip down memory lane. Dump the mixture you've pulsed into the sentimental Pyrex mixing bowl (that mushroom design is really ugly, what were they thinking?) and add the other 8 oz. of cream cheese and the grated cheese blend. Get busy with a sturdy spoon of silicone spatula and mix until the cream cheese is completely combined and smooth. If you food processor bowl is large, you can do this step in that bowl. Mom's is only a 2-cup processor.

If you like to get your hands dirty and want to skip this next step feel free. Who am I to judge. I like to get a small bowl and place some plastic wrap in the bowl, then dump the mixture into the bowl so I can form the cheese ball into...well a ball shape. It's really much easier to me.


This is what the mixture looks like when you get it into the bowl. Just fold over the plastic wrap and press lightly to form the cheese ball into a dome shape. From this point you can place the bowl in the fridge and keep it until ready to use, or you can peel off the plastic wrap and flip the cheese ball onto a plate, peeling the plastic wrap off. Use that spatula or spoon to smooth over the rough places. Press in the chopped pecans.
This cheese ball is really at it's best flavor once is has a few hours to recover and pull itself together. The Worcestershire sauce and onion really love each other and come to the flavor party big time, they are somewhat cocky and try to take over, but never fear the cheese is the true star of this show.
Ok, now for the ideas I promised:
  • You can roll this cheese ball in other things. You could use sliced almonds and "tile" your cheese ball, which would be really sharp. Paprika or parsley are other toppings that make this cheese ball really delicious.
  • Place your plastic wrap on the counter, and lay the mixture out in a log. Roll the plastic wrap up around the cheese ball. Using your hands shape the cheese log into it's long log form. Then roll in whichever topping you wish to use.
  • This doesn't have to be a cheese ball at all! Mix the chopped pecans into the mixture and place the entire mixture into a container with a tight fitting lid and you have a super spread that you can pull out for a snack, or super casual card or game party. This will keep for a week or more (it won't last that long, trust me.)
  • Substitute hot sauce for the Worcestershire sauce and everything changes. This mild mannered little cheese ball becomes a super spicy whippersnapper.
  • Finally, here's the best idea. Cheese ball pops! Use a spring loaded scoop, and drop the mixture onto a waxed paper lined cookie sheet. Chill for 30 minutes to let the cheese pops set up, then remove from the fridge and roll in pecans or the afor mentioned toppings. Finally poke in a pretzel stick and viola you have a cheese ball pop. Place these on your serving platter. This idea is really cool, because it takes the humble cheese ball to a whole new level and totally impresses your guests.

Give this yummy, yummy treat a try I think you'll agree its super good.



Monday, December 21, 2009

THE Holiday Cookie aka. NICU cookies


Have you ever taken a bite of something and immediately known that, "this" would be in your life forever? I have to say that after one bite of this cookie, almost 15 years ago, I knew I would love this cookie forever. Our friend, Donna Layton, makes these every holiday and has forever. They are soft, buttery, fruity, and just delicious.

My daughter, Emma, was born premature (29 weeks) and spent 42 days in the NICU of St. Francis here in Tulsa. She was born November 30th, which meant a different kind of Christmas for my family that year. The staff was amazing and touched us in a way that is still fresh in our hearts to this day. I'm not sure we will ever be able to repay the love and appreciation we have for their care of our daughter. One expression of our gratitude was a batch of Raspberry Thumbprints I made and took in a Red toile tin. Dr. Anderson, Emma's Neonatologist, just happen to love these cookies as it reminded him of his home, "up North." And so began my commitment to the staff that the red tin would always be full of cookies for them. Kendra or I one would bring that tin home, empty, and take it back full. We made double batches (7 dozen total) of these cookies every three or four days for 42 days. Everyone knew what that red tin meant when they walked into the break room. We took that same tin back at Emma's one and two year "anniversary" of her dismissal and plan to do the same for this her, third, anniversary (coming up in February).

For the dramatic and beautiful end result, there really isn't an easier cookie to make. Five ingredients in the dough, some jam, and a glaze is all that comes to this cookie party. There are really two stars that shine in this cookie, butter and almond extract. The cookie dough is really a shortbread that is light and buttery. The almond extract is there, not obnoxious or showy, but does indeed make itself known. As far as jam, the world is your oyster. I've used seedless blackberry, red raspberry, raspberry, and apricot, but you could use any kind of jam you love. I think the hardest thing for me is making the perfect indention for the jam to rest in while baking. I have a coffee scoop that is dome shaped, and it works like a charm, so that is what I use. Consistency is the key. Also, trust the timer on this cookie, because the will not brown, at most on the very outer edge if at all, they just burn.

Thumbprints

1 Cup butter, room temp
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
Jam (maybe a 1/2 cup)

Preheat oven to 350. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add sugar and butter. Mix on medium speed 3-5 minutes or until light and airy. Add extracts and flour. Mix until just combined. Using a small spring loaded cookie scoop, place balls of dough on cookie sheets (2 inches apart). Make an indention with your thumb and add 1/4 teaspoon of jam to each indention.

Bake for 14-18 minutes. Remove from pan and let rest on cookie sheet for one or two minutes. Remove to a wire rack and cool completely. Drizzle with the following glaze.

Glaze
1 cup Powdered Sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon Almond extract

In a medium bowl add powdered sugar, milk, and extract, whisk until smooth. Add drops of water or milk to thin to your specific taste.

NOTES:
  • If you want the cookie, end product, to be smooth you can roll the dough in your hands to kind of knock out the scoop marks. It is pretty, but a step I can afford to live without, trust me rolling almost 100 dough balls is not my idea of fun.
  • The indention is tricky. Too shallow and the jam spills over the side, too deep and it ruptures out the bottom. My trick is to push just until the dough spreads, you want the indention to be about the depth of a 1/2 teaspoon and no more.
  • When the cookies come out of the oven, let them rest. You will not be able to transfer them to a cooling rack immediately out of the oven because they will fall apart, trust the voice of frustrated experience.
  • I use two cookie sheets and alternate. It gives each sheet time to cool down before you drop more dough on the sheets. The dough is delicate and will start to melt while you are filling with jam.
  • I use one of my daughters old baby spoons to fill--it's perfect!
  • I've made these cookies bigger and don't really love the end result.
  • The glaze is good on a flip flop. Seriously, it's just a wonderful glaze that is pure white and smooth, it hardens to a shiny bright beautiful result.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Chicken pot pie in Biscuit bowls

With winter being right here in our lap, I can't help but feel drawn to warm, cozy, creamy suppers. Potato soup, Chicken and noodles, casseroles, all just warm inside and out. That coupled with the baking we do during the holidays makes for a warm home and hopefully warm memories. Speaking of memories, can I just tell you I love Chicken Pot Pie! I was an adult before I had a homemade chicken pot pie, but as a child I loved the Swanson Chicken Pot Pies. Mom always had plenty of frozen pies in the freezer so I could bake them up anytime I wanted.
I had a very methodical and meticulous way of eating them, too. Go figure. I ate the top crust first, then the filling, saving the bottom crust for last...it was just delicious.

These biscuit bowls are fun to make, and super delicious. There are a ton of shortcuts that will fit just about any time crunch, and I think your family will love them. You can substitute turkey for the chicken, of course and add another bullet to the chamber of leftover shotgun suppers.

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion (about 1 small onion)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery (about 4 ribs)
  • 1 cup diced red bell pepper (you can use one small pepper)
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 (10 3/4-ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped cooked chicken
  • 1/2 (16-ounce) package frozen peas and carrots, thawed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

  • Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add 1/2 cup onion, 1/2 cup celery, bell pepper and 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms, and sauté 2 to 3 minutes or until tender.Whisk in cream of chicken soup, 1/2 cup milk, and 1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon; cook over medium-low heat 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1 cup Cheddar cheese, stirring constantly, until cheese melts. Stir in cooked chicken, peas and carrots, diced pimiento, salt, and pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring often, 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Spoon warm chicken mixture evenly into Biscuit Bowls.

Chicken Pot Pie in Biscuit Bowls: Substitute 1 (10-ounce) thawed package frozen mixed vegetables for peas and carrots. Add 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme and 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning. Omit tarragon, sliced mushrooms, and pimiento. Proceed with recipe as directed.

Biscuit Bowls

  • 1 (16.3-ounce) can refrigerated jumbo flaky biscuits
  • Vegetable cooking spray

Roll each biscuit to a 5-inch circle.

Invert 8 (6-ounce) custard cups or ramekins, several inches apart, on a lightly greased baking sheet. Coat outside of cups with cooking spray. Mold flattened biscuits around outside of custard cups, and bake at 350° for 14 minutes. Cool slightly, and remove biscuit bowls from cups.

If you don't have custard cups, you can use your muffin tins, no problem. Just be sure to use plenty of spray so they won't stick.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Brown Butter Cookies


If you are in the mood for a cookie that is not too sweet, but just sweet enough then you have found it. Some of my favorite cookies are the ones that are not too sweet, but sweet enough. Snickerdoodle, sugar, tea cakes, all among my favorites. I even like to make my chocolate chip cookies with semi-sweet chips because I just don't want them to be too sweet.
The cookie part of this recipe is my favorite sugar cookie dough. I have tweaked and adapted this recipe over the years to be just the texture, softness, basically all things I love about a sugar cookie. I really can't stand a sugar cookie that crumbles in your mouth making you feel like you just ate a mouthful of sand. Not my type of cookie. I tend to under bake my sugar cookies because I like them soft and chewy with a crisp edge and find that knocking of a minute or two usually helps me achieve this. You have to know your oven though, for me it's a minute off the maximum recommended bake time.
If you want to use this dough as a roll and cut dough, I think it would work out great. One trick I learned from reading recipes is to roll your cut-out dough on the cookie sheet, then cut the cookies out and lift the scrap dough off the pan. Is that not a brilliant idea? It works great! I always use parchment paper because nothing makes me more angry than something that sticks. I want to enjoy my baking and cooking as it relieves stress, sticking stuff makes me crazy!
The browned butter used in making the frosting/glaze is really the star of this show. If you have never tried a browned butter glaze/frosting you are certainly missing out and must try it immediately. It goes without saying that you have to use real butter here, no substitutes. Browning butter is really very easy. It is certainly something that you approach as you would watching a toddler-constant attention. You can't leave the stove to do something else or the results could be disastrous. Burned butter is a far cry from the heavenly flavor of browned butter. As you play with the browning process you will find that you may prefer a darker color to your butter or lighter just depending on your taste preference. As the butter melts and begins to cook it gets very foamy, stirring it calms the foaming down just long enough for it to get worked up again. As it begins to foam back up you will see how the butter is browning. I usually go with a taupe brown--light brown.
Brown butter has a nutty, toasty flavor much like caramel or toasted pecans. Depending on how much milk you add will determine whether or not this is a glaze or a frosting. I use this browned butter recipe for icing oatmeal cookies (Lord, lord talk about upgrading an oatmeal cookie!) sugar cookies, which will be called brown butter cookies from here on out, tea cakes, and even yellow cake, and pound cake. It's just delicious.

Butter Cookie dough:

1 cup Butter Flavored Crisco
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 T. Milk
1 T. Vanilla Extract
1/8 t. Almond Extract (I have always used a cap full and called it good)
3 cups Flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. kosher salt

Preheat oven to 375. Line two cookie sheets with parchment and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, add crisco and sugar. Mix with paddle attachment on medium speed for five minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add salt, baking powder, and extracts mixing to incorporate. Add egg, and milk, mixing to incorporate then slowly reduce speed and add flour slowly until combined and pulls away.

Drop by rounded tablespoons onto parchment lined sheet and bake 7-9 minutes. Remove to cooling rack. Ice when cool.

Notes:
  • I use a spring loaded scoop for my cookies because I can't really trust my eye. I have a small scoop I've used for years from pampered chef. It works great.
  • I baked these cookies on a half sheet baking pan (double the size of a jelly roll pan) that I picked up at Sam's Club (two for under 10 dollars). I could get 24 cookies on this pan which really cut down on the tedious dollup and bake time.
  • Using two pans meant that I would have a cool pan ready for me while the others baked.
Brown Butter Icing

4 Tablespoons butter
2 cups Confectioners sugar
3 Tablespoons milk
1 Tablespoon Vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon Almond Extract

In a small saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. Swirl pan or stir until the butter reaches the desired color. 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat, set aside. In a medium size bowl add extracts, then pour hot butter into the bowl. Add half of the confectioners sugar, stir with a whisk or beat on low speed with a hand held mixer. It will clump together, but don't give up just keep mixing and begin to slowly add half of the milk, it will smooth out just fine. Add the remaining confectioners sugar and beat to incorporate. Determine at this point how thick or thin you would like it and add milk accordingly.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Flourless Chocolate Cake






One of my friends, Jamie, is about leave our office staff to stay at home with her sweet baby, Brylee, who is due in just a matter of weeks. She, her husband Mark, and their daughter Cailynn have been praying for this day to come for quite some time. Along the way she was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Jamie is our resident chocoholic and loves anything chocolate, sweet, dessert, I think just plain food in general. It's fun to cook for someone who loves food! The staff wanted to have a shower for her as well as a "going away" party and as with any shower...you have to have cake. I really struggled with serving a cake at Jamie's shower which she couldn't eat--how fun would that be? Not.
After researching several websites and studying up on flourless cakes I came up with this version I share with you today. The carb count is very low, with the carbs coming from the chocolate chips (my best guess is around 8g per serving), but the chocolate flavor is dense, rich, and undoubtedly chocolate. I think the consistency of this cake was more like a brownie as far as texture and mouth feel. I found the sliver I ate to be the perfect serving as I served it with whipped cream (2 tablespoons has less than 1g of carbs) and strawberries.
If you are on a diet and not wanting to pull your sweet tooth out, this cake might just save the day. It will also keep the guilt fairy at bay as you serve your Baby shower honoree with gestational diabetes this cake.

Flourless Chocolate Cake:

4 oz fine quality bittersweet chocolate ( I used 60% dark chocolate Ghiradelli)
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar ( I used Splenda for baking)
3 large eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Grease an 8 inch pie or cake pan with coated spray, set aside. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate chips and butter until smooth. Add sugar and whisk until incorporated, sift in the cocoa powder, stir to combine. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes or until a crust forms on the top. Remove to a cooling rack. Dust with additional cocoa power to serve.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Texas Red Chili

The very minute i see trees changing and feel the cool breeze blowing in Fall I start craving warm, earthy, hearty things that carry you away to a place where bone chilling cold winds with razor sharp precision are somehow ok. Chili is one of those things that I go to for Fall and winter, among other things like chicken and noodles. I am promising myself that there will be a chicken and noodle post this year...guess I better get cracking since I'm posting once a month apparently. Sorry friends, it's all I can do.
I discovered this recipe for chili when Kendra and I were married, in a cookbook. I have altered it over the years to be what we now eat, and I have to say it's one of my favorite chili dishes. You know when it comes to chili there's not a lot of fuss that I like. I don't really care for huge chunks of meat, peppers, tomatoes, anything for that matter, floating around because that's just stew to me. To me, chili is, thick, beefy, deeply red, has some beans and is full of flavor. I think chili is best served the next day, or at least made in the morning and eaten that night. There is just something about the flavor of a chili that has been given time to completely allow all of the ingredients and spices to become one.
I usually eat my chili three ways. First, straight out of the pot, covered with cheese and accompanied by cornbread. Cornbread and chili is one of astrological anomalies, they just go together. My second favorite way of eating chili is on Fritos, covered with cheese. Frito Chili pie is one of my favorite things. Thirdly, I like chili on top of thin spaghetti noodles covered in mountains of Parmesan cheese. This third variation has always been called, Spaghetti Red, but I've heard it called, Three-way in some parts of the country. I'm also sure there are places where people who are reading this post will shove themselves away from their computer and grab their heads in utter disbelief. But, gentle reader, trust me, it's delicious.
One of my good friends, Sharon, who happened to work with me at a church in Texas once shocked the holy grail right out of me. We were organizing a carnival and she and her husband agreed to run the snack shack. I came up with the menu: hot dogs, nachos, chili dogs, chili cheese nachos, Frito Pie, on and on. "Will we have just one question?" "Ok, what's that?" "What's a Frito Pie?" Time, at that moment, stood still. "You've never heard of a Frito Pie?" "No." "You've NEVER had a Frito pie?" "No." It was at that moment that everything else in the world came to a stop, she was having a Frito Pie before anything else--period! A layer of Fritos, cheese, chili, more Fritos, cheese, chili, topped with cheese. "Here, try this...you have to try this." Her first bite was all it took. Eyes rolled back into her head followed by that, "where have you been all my life" look on her face. It's that good.
This Texas Red is as easy as easy can be, has simple ingredients and yet does not lack flavor at all. I made this Friday morning, while we were enjoying some fall break fun at my Mom's, and last night we enjoyed walking into a kitchen that was filled with the smell of chili, waiting for us! How bad can that be? Anytime you walk into a house and dinner is waiting on you...bonus. I made a double batch and dished up the second batch into Correlle bowls, so Mom could have homemade chili all winter. It freezes great. I like to make up big batches of food and freeze them for my Mom since doesn't' always make the best choice when it comes to eating for one. She just doesn't' want to go to the trouble of cooking and making a mess for herself.
One batch of this chili will give you seven good size servings, and more Frito pies, of course. It does freeze great and will keep in the fridge for several days. If you are cooking for one, then I say whip up a batch of this chili and freeze it. Mom is planning to take some of this over to her other single friends to share the wealth.

Texas Red

3 pounds lean Ground beef
1 packet Williams Chili Seasoning (If it is for 1lb, then buy three)
4 regular size (10 plus ounce) cans of Ranch Style Beans (Canned Pinto Beans are fine, too)
3 cups V-8 Juice
1/4 cup ketchup
1 Tablespoon Garlic Salt
1 Tablespoon pepper

In a large stock pot, brown the ground beef until no longer pink, drain if needed. Add Chili seasoning to meat and stir well to combine. Pour in juice, stir, then add remaining ingredients. Stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, cook 30 minutes or longer. Note: As soon as all the ingredients are added, I will pour this into a Crockpot and cook on low until ready to serve. It will thicken nicely.

I like the subtle sweetness that the ketchup adds, it does not overwhelm the dish at all. Of course this recipe can be cut down or blown up accordingly. I would suggest you season to taste with the garlic salt and pepper because it never really works to just cut or blow up seasonings. I like using V-8 juice because it adds more flavor, feel free to use tomato juice. I've grown up on Williams Chili and Taco seasoning and won't try another. I would assume other chili seasonings are good if you can't find Williams.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sausage Cups


If you are in the market for a quick, easy, flavorful appetizer to serve to guests watching a game, or to take to a work snack party, maybe church, whatever the need, this is the one for you. It's super simple to make, bite size, and will be a huge hit with your friends. I love all of the flavor combinations that come to this party. I originally found this recipe on the back of a box of Athen's Phyllo cups which are one of my all-time favorite party tricks. I can use these things for a ton of snack ideas. I will resist the urge to digress--staying focused!


The original recipe called for Andouille sausage, but I'm not a Cajun fan and find andouille sausage very hot, if it's your cup of tea then be my guest. Here's my version, please enjoy the flavor party that will be thrown in your mouth. That last sentence was cheesy, sorry, but I'm keeping it.


Sausage Cups


3 slices diced bacon

4 oz. sausage

1/4 cup minced onion

15 Athens® Mini Fillo Shells (1 box)

2 ounces softened cream cheese

1 tablespoon softened butter

1 teaspoon light brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme leaves

6 tablespoons finely chopped pecans, divided

2 1/2 tablespoons grated pepper-jack cheese


In a medium skillet, sauté bacon and sausage over medium high heat, stirring frequently until crisp. With slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel and drain. Add onions to skillet and sauté until just tender, drain. In a small bowl, combine the bacon, sausage and onion, and place 1 tablespoon of mixture into each Fillo Shell. In a small bowl, combine cream cheese, butter, brown sugar and thyme, mixing well. Stir in 3 tablespoons pecans, and place 1 heaping tablespoon cream cheese mixture over sausage filling. Top each with 1/2 teaspoon grated hot pepper cheese and 1/2 teaspoon of remaining chopped pecans. Bake in preheated 350°F oven for 5-7 minutes. Serve immediately. They are even good at room temperature. I almost always double the recipe, you will find that there is more filling than you have cups. I usually don't even worry about layering, instead I just mix it all together and top with the cheese and pecans. Also, rarely ever have thyme, fresh..ok never. Dried is perfectly fine, so too are other herbs you might have and like better (oregano, basil, etc.)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

DevilBars



Lawsy mercy this is one of my all-time favorite dessert bars. One of the ladies who works here at church brought these for a funeral luncheon, and made extra. After one bite of these devil bars (she called them goody bars, but they are of the devil I tell ya--pure sin) I knew these would be in my life forever. I love them. This takes every thing you love about a candy bar and rolls it up with a brownie bonus. There are three layers to this bar, the first of which is a super dense and delicious brownie, the second a nut studded frosting, and the third a crispy fudge filling. The fudge layer reminded me of no bake cookies with crispy cereal instead of oatmeal. I would say that you should make these immediately, they are delicious, especially if there is a diet you want to destroy! There's not much more I can say other than..I'm going to go get one more!!

1 box Betty Crocker Original Supreme Brownie Mix (1 pound 6.5 oz.) plus ingredients called for on package. (I always substitute milk for the specified water)
1 pound tub vanilla frosting (I like the Betty Crocker Rich & Creamy frosting), or homemade
3/4 cup chopped pecans, or salted peanuts chopped.
3 cups Crisp Rice Cereal (i.e. Rice Krispies)
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips, just get one bag and call it a day.

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, coat a 9x13 pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Make brownies according to package directions (for the 9x13 pan). When done set aside to cool one hour or over night.
  3. Frost cooled brownies with frosting, sprinkle on nuts and place in refrigerator while making the fudge crispies.
  4. Measure cereal in to a large bowl, set aside.
  5. In a medium size sauce pan melt peanut butter and chips over low meat until completely melted. Pour over crispies and turn to coat and combine completely.
  6. Pour over frosted brownies and spread evenly. Refrigerate until set, one hour.
  7. Makes 24 bars.
Make these bars as soon as you can. You owe it to yourself, you really do!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Garlic Cheddar Biscuits



Do you remember the huge fad of no carb dieting? I well remember my co-workers on the no carb kick and walking around snacking on pre-cooked bacon as a snack proclaiming their love for this wonderful diet in which you can eat as much bacon as you want! I thought it was a horribly misguided diet strategy, even though I don't' know beans from apple butter when it comes to it's benefit or detriment, solely because it excluded my favorite things--carbs! I love pasta, potatoes, and bread.

Growing up my family would usually have buttered white bread, which my family called light bread, for evening meal. 10-12 stacks of bread on a plate with margarine for spreading. I really loved buttered bread, and still do. Sometimes we would have canned biscuits with apple butter and I would be in heaven. Do you remember when KFC had dinner rolls instead of biscuits? I do, and loved them. Holidays meant wonderful homemade
yeast rolls that I could eat an entire pan of on my own. Exercising restraint was not my strong suit. I mean, that's why they have elastic in underwear, right?

I whipped up these drop biscuits today for our lunch and really liked them so I thought I would share. These were mixed, dropped, and baked in 10 minutes! Now that's fast. If you have ever been to Red Lobster and enjoyed their dinner biscuits you will for sure love these. I found these to be much lighter with more flakiness and less chew. My second time around I'll add more cheese since you can't really ever have to much cheese
, right? Brushed with melted butter straight out of the oven then slathered with butter is just about all you need to be carried away to carb land.

Garlic Cheddar Drop Biscuits

1 1/2 cups Baking mix (I used Bisquick)
1/2 cup butter milk (see note)
1 cup Cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon Garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon Onion powder
2 Tablespoons melted butter, reser
ved

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium size bowl add all ingredients, except butter and stir until combined. Drop by rounded spoonfuls (I used a large spring loaded scoop) onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake 7-9 minutes or until golden. Brush with melted butter and remove to a basket.

Note: If you are like me and rarely ever have buttermilk on hand, do not fret because you can make your own. For Real! Here's how: 1 tablespoon of white vinegar into a measuring glass, fill to one cup mark with Milk, stir. Let sit until ready for recipe (one minute or so).

The possibilities for these biscuits are really endless. You could put crumbled bacon and Swiss cheese in there, or finely chopped onions and dill, or your favorite herb for herb biscuits. Your creativity is the only limit to what you can do.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Oven Roasted Bacon















What would a southerner do without pork?
I can't remember a time when I haven't had bacon for breakfast, at times lunch, and often times at dinner. The smell of bacon can make me instantly hungry. It was the smell that woke me from sleep at my Robba's house every Saturday morning I spent with her. Unless she made pigs in a blanket. I have no idea what she did to that bacon or the pancakes she made from a box mix, but there is nothing like my Robba's pancake breakfast.
Today brought to an end my quest to fry bacon and not have it shrivel up into a tiny bacon crouton, or burn to a crisp. I like my bacon not too crisp, and certainly not too curly. That desire has left me with this love hate relationship to cooking bacon. I've tried everything from dredging the bacon in flour to fry it( please do not try this) to cutting the bacon in half and cooking it, don't ask I was desperate. I finally came to the conclusion that low, medium high heat, and slow was the ticket, turning the bacon often to keep it from curling up was the ticket. That's pretty much how I've been cooking the bacon for the past six years, until today.

I was watching Food Network yesterday before the house woke up and happened upon Tyler's Ultimate, a show I enjoy if happened upon. I can't remember what his theme of the day was, but he roasted bacon in the oven, for a recipe and was immediately intrigued by this process. He mentioned that it was how restaurants do it to crank out bacon for 500 and when I saw the beautiful flat, not too crisp bacon I knew I was about to embark on a life changing experience. I had heard of cooking bacon in the oven, but always passed it off thinking it would not be such a good thing. Of course I had not seen it done until yesterday. I marched myself down to the kitchen and preheated the oven to 400 degrees and grabbed my Pampered Chef bar pan and laid out a pound of bacon on the pan. Into the oven for 15 minutes, Tyler's suggested baking time. At the 15 minute mark I opened the oven and noticed that it was not quite done, five more minutes did the trick. This bacon was not too crisp, beautifully brown, flat, and very moist. Fat did render from the bacon, but not as much as frying which left more bacon flavor. By this time my kids were up and before I knew it a pound of bacon was gone! The pancakes weren't even done and the bacon was gone. One more pound in the oven. Roasting the bacon in the oven freed me up to focus on every other aspect of breakfast, I didn't have to worry about it one time.

My mind has been racing at the possibilities of roasting bacon ever since yesterday. Here are just a couple of the ideas I have:
  • Sprinkle the bacon with brown sugar before baking, for a great candied bacon.
  • Cracked black pepper, garlic powder, Parmesan cheese, dried Italian seasoning sprinkled on before baking. I think this would give ordinary BLT's a new attitude. Especially if you made the BLT on toasted cibatta bread with Olive Oil mayo, Roma tomatoes, and arugula lettuce.
  • Cracked pepper for peppered bacon
  • Chili flakes
The possibilities are endless. Never again will I fry bacon--it's over. I am so excited that I won't have to degrease my stove from the bacon splatter, or feel the pain of bacon grease popping onto my arm, cheek, or eyelid (OUCH!).

Here's are the steps, I dare not call this a recipe, it's not rocket science at all but will be a new era in your pork consumption.

Oven Roasted Bacon

One pound Hormel Black Label Bacon (it's my favorite)
Cookie sheet.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line the cookie sheet (make sure it has a lip) with bacon in a single layer, making sure the bacon does not overlap. It can touch, but just don't overlap. Bake for 15-20 minutes to desired degree of preference. Remove from oven and transfer to a towel lined plate to drain, or pat dry. I found that my oven took 18 minutes to get perfect bacon for my family's taste preference.

Thank you, God, for creating the pig!


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tamale Casserole


Confession: I love casseroles! Whew! Glad that is out, now I can move on. I could eat a casserole every night and not tire of them. For someone who does not like his food to touch, and eats one thing at a time you would think that casseroles are on my "no" list, yet I just love them. I can remember as a kid watching my parents and grandparents eating family meals and being amazed with my grandparents ritual of taking the last 1/4 of each item on their plate and mixing it all together. It just did me in, every time. I know it all mixes together eventually, however I do not care to see the results of, that, mixture. It's weird. I'm weird. How about a casserole?

This is THE casserole to eat if you love tamales. The combination of subtle southwestern flavors come together with the sweet cornbread and hit every nerve in your body saying, "this is it." I've just about decided to make these casseroles in half pans and freeze one for later use. My family of four never eats a whole casserole for dinner. We can take out half of one, but the other half just sits in our fridge lonely and desperate for consumption. Served with a crisp green salad and southwestern dressing, dinner is done.

Tamale Casserole
  • 1 1/4 cup shredded 4-cheese Mexican blend cheese
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 (14 3/4-ounce) can cream-style corn
  • 1 (8.5-ounce) box corn muffin mix (I use Jiffy)
  • 1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chilies, drained
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 (10-ounce) can red enchilada sauce (such as Old El Paso)
  • 2 shredded cooked chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Combine 1/4 cup cheese and next 10 ingredients (through chilies) in a large bowl, stirring just until moist. Pour mixture into a 13 x 9–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray, or portion out the mixture into your baking dishes. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until set. While cornbread is baking: place shredded chicken in a bowl, add just enough enchilada sauce to moisten chicken, set aside.

3. When cornbread is set, remove from oven and pierce entire surface liberally with a fork; pour remaining enchilada sauce over top. Top with chicken; sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until cheese melts. Remove from oven; let stand 5 minutes. Cut into 8 pieces; top each serving with 1 tablespoon sour cream.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Life in the fast lane

Do you find yourself busy as a beaver...a cranberry merchant at Christmas...a long tail cat in a room full of rockers? Are you sick of feeding your family through a drive through and find yourself just wishing that you could eat something that wasn't wrapped in paper? Well if you are in this boat then this recipe might just help you out. It's super simple, limited ingredients, and varied as your imagination can make it. This dish can have dinner on the table in a matter of minutes! How's that for getting your family out the door and on your way with a home cooked meal?

First the cast of characters:
1 lb. of ground beef
1 can of beef broth
1 box of Rice A Roni
1 stick of butter (you won't use all of the stick)
2 tsp. Garlic Powder (or 2 cloves crushed fresh)
2 tsp. Onion Powder (or 1 cup of chopped fresh)
Salt and Pepper
That's it, nothing more that you need to get dinner on the table lickity split!
Place your ground meat in a large skillet, into which you have poured 1 T. of olive oil and fry over medium heat until it is browned. Once you see the meat starting to brown, add your seasonings (and if using fresh veggies, those too) and continue to cook until the meat is brown. Remove from your skillet and place on a plate to rest while you get the rice a going.
Let's talk for just a minute about frying meat. There's not much in the world I hate more than wormy meat. When meat is fried unattended and cooks without being broken up, looking wormy. It's just not fun for me. One of my good friends, Ana Marquez, who lives in Fort Worth, TX share a secret that her family uses in their restaurant business, a potato masher! That's right friends, a potato masher.

Using a potato masher allows the meat to be broken up, giving you an even texture and making your meat consistently smooth and no clumpy and wormy. I, for one, like smoothly textures ground meat and not all huge clumps. Maybe you are different, but I can tell you this--use a potato masher up until the "clumpiness" you prefer and you'll want to buy me a Starbucks gift card (worth $100 please email me for the address).


Look at this picture to the left, remember we're cooking turkey so that's why it's not more brown. But you can see that there is even texture, and that there are no clumps or worms. At this point you can add your sauce, taco seasoning, or whatever. Hey freeze the stuff and have it on hand for an even quicker week night meal! I think I'm done...are you convinced that you need to mash your ground beef? I sure hope so.

Ok, back to the show. When we last left our pan, it was lonely having just said goodbye to some perfectly fried ground turkey. Place two tablespoons (use the package directions on the Rice A Roni and go by what they say) of butter in your skillet and melt it. Pour in the rice and vermicelli and brown. You'll want to let this set for 1-2 minutes before stirring because you want to get the vermicelli browned and toasty. It's very important for you to not leave your post because you can burn this quick and then you would have to unwrap your food from paper through a drive-through AND clean up the kitchen to boot. Just stand there for 3-4 minutes and stir the stuff, ok?

My personal preference for "perfect" Rice A Roni" is to have some of the vermicelli browned but not completely browned all the way through. It is probably more of a fear that I will burn it, because I have burned my fair share of Rice A Roni over the years. This picture is of what I would call perfect rice. Now, you are ready to pour in the Beef Broth (instead of the water called for on the box directions.) which I love because it increases the beefiness of this dish 100% especially if you are using ground turkey! After you pour in the beef broth, you'll add the seasoning packet and give it a quick stir, so all the powder is completely mixed in. Add the ground beef, stir, cover, and cook it according to package directions. I think it's like 25 minutes or something, covered on low. How about this shot I took of motion? On a camera phone none the less. I love to read Pioneer Woman's blog and she takes motion pictures all the time and wondered if my phone...i mean camera...would do it--viola! It does.


While this is cooking, you have time to cut up fruit and throw in a bag of Steamfresh veggies to finish off the dinner. I usually put some crescent rolls in the oven because by the time the oven heats up and the bread bakes the rice is ready and the hot fresh bread is ready. You can do salad or whatever you like with this dish.
Here it is all done. If my kids didn't do convulsions at the sight of green stuff, I'd add some fresh parsley, or some mushrooms. It's really versatile and super easy to do. Plus the bonus is one dish, one skillet, that will fit in the dishwasher.

You could use Pork Rice A Roni with Sausage, and chicken broth to mix it up. You could do ground chicken, with Chicken Rice A Roni and chicken stock. It's really up to you to decide how far to take this. This dish is one of all my kiddos favorite things to eat because they all love ground beef, rice, and having them together with nothing else to corrupt is just bonus all the way around.

I do want to let you know how awesome these steam fresh bags are. I just love them because the veggies are perfect every time with out any failures at all. We usually dump the veggies into a bowl and season with 1T of butter and Mrs. Dash or whatever we have on hand, but you could just serve these from the bag on to the plates to save time and another dirty dish.
I love this medley because it has crunchy, sweet white corn, yellow corn, carrots, and asparagus. It is really good. There are a ton of varieties and they really, really do work. You can trust me on this. Do make sure you read which side needs to be up--it matters. Also holding it where it says matters, unless you like steam burns.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

How green is your bean..


We celebrated my Mom's birthday a few days ago and left the door wide open on what she wanted. She loves pork steak and chose that. Pork steak is cut from the shoulder. Growing up our pork steaks were tenderized which made them look like a huge slab of hamburger. This is not what we had. I'm not a huge fan of pork steak, but I am a huge fan of my Mom and if she wants pork steak, she gets pork steak. I would recommend a marinade for the steaks to tenderize and my favorite is a bottle of Italian dressing. That's right, just grab your favorite bottle of Italian dressing and pour it in a zip top baggie and marinate away. Everything you need for a great marinade is in there. If it can make lettuce taste good...think what it can do for meat!

This post really isn't about the pork, or the baked Yukon gold potato (which is my favorite potato-hands down), but the green beans. Let me just say that these are hands down, without a doubt the BEST green beans I have ever eaten. I have eaten my fair share of green beans and for me to say that these are the best is saying something--trust me. There is a recipe, or rather a ratio, for these babies that I have used for years. I've already told you about my favorite cookbook here so I won't bore you with the details again. The ratio for these green beans came from that cookbook and I have only altered it a little because the results are spot on.

Great Green beans

5 (14.5 oz.) cans of Cut Green beans
7 strips of Bacon, cut into pieces
1 Tablespoon of cracked black pepper
1-2 teaspoons of Kosher salt

In a 3 quart heavy bottom pot, add bacon pieces. Cook bacon over medium heat until bacon is crisp and very brown. Add the juice from each can of green beans (CAREFUL: the first blast of steam will burn!). Bring the bacon and juice to a rolling boil, add green beans and pepper, stirring to incorporate the bacon. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 1 hour.

If you don't have the time to cook the beans for an hour, at least make sure you bring the juice to a boil before adding the beans and let them cook as long as you can on medium.

You may doubt that this will work, but trust me it will and it's fantastic!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Ugly truth beautiful ending

I experienced a perfect storm in the kitchen recently when making my Mom's birthday cake. My Mom has always loved hot cake just out of the oven with no frosting. Once the cake has cooled she's pretty much done with it, unless it's a pound cake. My favorite pound cake to make is a Sour Cream Pound cake. What does it for me? Well, two things the first of which is the crust that develops on this cake. Secondly is the tenderness of this cake while at the same time being dense as pound cake should be. I think cake people call this a crumb, but I don't have good connotations with that word, so I'll just leave it at what I said.

It had been a while since I last made this cake and I forgot one of the issues I've had before...my bundt pan is too small for the amount of batter this cake makes. I remember reading an article in a magazine (I think it might have been Southern Living) that you could pour water into your Bundt pans to know exactly what the yield is. Normally I use my Bundt pans for cake recipes in which I start with a boxed cake, and the ones (I have six Bundt pans) I have are perfect for these recipes. As I poured the batter into my cake pan I can remember thinking, "this sure is a lot of batter for this pan." But I passed it off thinking that there wasn't that much leavening in the batter and that it wouldn't rise that much. I did have the wherewithal to put the pan on a cookie sheet. I'll pause from the story to just say two words about that one particular move, "Thank God!" Having the cake oozing out of it's vessel was unsettling enough, the real horror occurred when it came time to release it from the pan.

I hate to have cakes stick! Hate it! I can well remember my one and only brush with silicone bake ware and the completely disastrous results, never again silicon, never again. I usually have great luck with cakes not sticking because I make sure they are adequately greased and floured. I have an old tube pan which was my Mother's and turned our perfect angle food cakes all the while I grew up, but I've been afraid to use it because I just can't stand for cakes to stick. As I just said, I normally hand grease and flour all my cake pans but didn't bother with that process [what was I thinking]because I thought spraying it with non-stick spray and having it in a non-stick pan would be sufficient. What I didn't consider until it was too late is the amount of sugar compared to the amount of flour this cake has and that I would have needed to grease and flour this pan especially for this cake. The cake stuck. It clung to the pan like a preschoolers first day of school.

As you can see from the picture above there was nearly 3/4 of the cake that stuck. Did I mention that I also had the oozy cake on the sheet pan which amounted to about a cupcake size portion? NO, well there was cake everywhere. I knew I was doomed from the get go when it started to spill over. Then came the real test and I didn't hear the classic release that comes form adequately greased and floured pans. So troubling, especially since it was for my Mom's birthday.

I did persevere and I have to say that this cake is delicious! If you love pound cake make this one. You will not be sorry. I would suggest you buy this pan or separate the batter into two Bundt pans.

Sour Cream Pound Cake
  • 1 1/2 cups butter, room temp
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 (8-oz.) container sour cream
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Preparation

1. Beat butter and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy, about five minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until the yolk disappears.

2. Sift together flour, salt, and baking soda. I don't usually do this, I just add the soda and salt as the butter and sugar are mixing, and then pour in the flour with the same results. Add flour to butter mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat batter at low speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in extracts. Pour into a greased and floured 12-cup tube pan.

3. Bake at 325° for 1 hour and 20 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan, and cool completely on wire rack.

Note: You can add any citrus zest to this cake with it's accompanying extract to change the flavor of this cake. I've always wanted to try to make a chocolate pound cake with this recipe and see what happens. If it does happen, you'll be the first to know.

The crust of this cake is just wonderful, crunchy and sweet, making me wish there was a cake of just that. The beautiful part of this cake is that it really stands up to strawberries and ice cream. We opted not to have the ice cream, but the strawberries were perfect with this.

As you can see from this picture the ugly duckling turned into a beautiful swan! You can cover up a multitude of sins with fresh strawberries and ice cream! Happy Birthday, Mom! Love you.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Broccoli Salad


I can almost recount the first time I tasted a broccoli salad, knowing the first bite that this would be in my life until I died.  It's the same way I felt when I tasted cornbread salad for the first time.  There are just times when you take a first bite and know that this dish must stay with you forever.  I'm not a fan of lettuce salads but find I like more side salad dishes, broccoli salad being among my top favorites.

This salad has my spin on the original recipe, among the most notable is the use of broccoli slaw instead of fresh broccoli crowns.  If you haven't had broccoli slaw, give it a try because it's so good.  When we make lettuce salads for dinner parties we like to add broccoli slaw because it's so good for flavor enhancement. This salad does need to spend the night in your refrigerator to maximize the flavor, but doesn't have to if you are in a pinch.  Save a bowl of it though and eat it the next day just to see how much better it
 is.

Broccoli Salad

2 (3 ounce) packages Beef-flavored ramen nood
les
2 (12 ounce) packages Broccoli Slaw mix
1 cup toasted Almond slivers
1 cup toasted sunflower kernels
1 cup Craisins
1 cup sliced green onions (about 1/2 bunch)
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup Canola Oil
1/3 cup Red Wine Vinegar
1 tsp Salt
2 tsp black pepper

Squeeze the packages of noodles until crumbled.  Open package and remove flavor packets, set noodles aside.  In a small bowl add flavor packets, sugar, oil, and vinegar with salt and pepper. Whisk until thick and combined.  Set aside.

In a large bowl add slaw mix, seeds, nuts, onion, and craisins tossing until combined.  Pour over dressing and mix to combine.  In your serving bowl, add the noodles, evenly.  Carefully pour the slaw mix over the noodles, cover with plastic wrap and put in fridge until next day.  Before serving, toss to combine the noodles.  Add some fresh chopped green onions and serve.  I think this would be really good with bacon added to it.  What doesn't bacon taste good with?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Cobbler

I love desserts! Whew! I said it, now I feel much better. I have inherited a sweet tooth from both sides of my family. I can't tell you how many times I saw my Granny eat a spoonful of sugar, "just for something sweet" as she worked in the kitchen. I haven't resorted to just ingesting sugar, but I think the day will come.

Cakey type desserts are among my favorite things to eat. I especially love cobblers. Growing up I remember loving warm cobbler with ice cream. I was perfectly happy fishing around for the crust, juice, and ice cream--everyone else could have the fruit. My Mom used to make cobblers for my Dad's lunches and my sister and I used to dig out the bottom crust because it was just too good to pass up. Blackberry cobbler is probably my favorite one hands down.

This recipe is for a different type of cobbler than that which I grew up eating. It doesn't have a rolled crust, but rather a batter into which you put fresh or frozen berries. I love this cobbler and the sweet spongy, cake that enrobes the berries. This recipe will deal with blackberries, but you could just as easily put blueberries, raspberries, peaches, you name it into this cobbler with great results.

Don't forget the ice cream!

1 cup Milk
1/2 cup melted butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 generous cups blackberries (or your favorite fruit)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 2 quart baking dish with cooking spray, set aside. In a large bowl, add melted butter, sugar, flour, and next three ingredients stirring well. Pour in milk and whisk until smooth. Pour batter into greased dish, distribute fruit evenly among the batter. Bake for one hour, ten minutes before the cobbler is done, lightly sprinkle the top with sugar.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Panini

Do you like panini sandwiches? I do. However, I do not own a panini maker. I have this philosophy that I don't own things that can't be used for more than one purpose, it has to serve at least a dual purpose. We received a Belgian waffle maker for our wedding, 12+ years ago, and have used it sporadically over the years, but only for...waffles. Yesterday I was craving a panini and since I had planned to stay planted at the house and not leave, I knew I was stuck to finding something else. Finding something else when you taste buds are screaming for one thing is no fun. That's when the thought hit me~~I have a waffle iron hmmm... Fundamentally the machines are the same, with just a few adjustments. Not enough to make owning a panini maker I assure you.

I broke the waffle iron out, then set up the station. Light bread, buttered on one side, ham, cheese, hot waffle iron. How bad can that be? It wasn't. I enjoyed a ham and cheese panini-at home!! The design was a little different, my brain was seeing a "waffle" but ate a panini. Kendra had taken Titus to karate and to get his hair cut while this whole experiment was going on. She came home right as the panini was finished.
"Try this?"
"You made a grilled cheese with our waffle iron?"
"It's a panini? try it."
"That's delicious, I want one."
That's high praise, let me tell you. Titus enjoyed one too. We have a new use for our seemingly single use machine.

Just a few tricks. First, don't press the waffle iron down and shut the clasp. There is quite a bit of steam that escapes and the cheese will squeeze out of the sandwich, it's much better on the inside. Second, spray the iron with non-stick. Even though I did butter the bread I had one stick, just a bit. Third, sandwich the cheese between the ham slices, two slices of cheese was just a little too much.

I'm planning to play around with this new direction for my waffle iron. Oh yeah, I have a Belgian waffle iron, perfect for two slices of wonder bread.

If you try it, let me know what you think.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Bubble on the double



We are enjoying outside weather more and more, and Emma is super excited about bubbles. We've gone through three bottles of bottle solution and it's not even May! I needed to get a quick fix for the various bubble machines that do our sweet girl's bidding, and keep me from having that pass out feeling from manually blowing bubbles. Bubble solution, in case you haven't been shopping for such an item in a while, is expensive! Watching a two-year old dump a five dollar bottle of bubbles on the driveway is just too much.

This solution is great and works. You can make as much or as little as you want as long as you get the ratio right, I thinkI got the ratio right. These math things kind of sleigh me sometimes.

2 parts dish soap (Dawn)

4 parts water (Distilled is best, I didn't have distilled so I used filtered)

1 part Corn Syrup

Add contents to a bowl large enough to hold, stir to combine. You can also use glycerin if you want to, but who has glycerin in their pantry? Fill bubble bottles and have fun!!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Spring Salad

I am SO ready for Spring to get here. Our Ladies Class hosted the Preschool teachers today for a luncheon and I was asked to help with the food preparation. I really love researching recipes and tweaking them to my taste and ideas, and I love putting together menus. This luncheon allowed me to do the best of both worlds. I wanted to do something that just said Spring! I'm so ready for Spring.

I found a recipe for Orzo Salad in a Woman's Day magazine. [ CONFESSION: I read more women s magazines that I do men's, in fact that is all I read magazine-wise. Whew, I feel better now.] After seeing the picture, above, I was convinced that this was what Spring looked like on a plate. I tweaked and added, here and there and came up with a terrific salad that was very well received at the luncheon. This is for sure a keeper!

This salad is best enjoyed the next day, it give the dressing time to get all acquainted with the pasta and veggies. The photo above came from the Women's Day website. I changed the pasta from Orzo to Barilla Miniature Farfalle (bowtie). The main reason is I couldn't find Orzo. I think it turned out better visually, to me anyway. Another tweak is the addition of garlic and basil to the dressing. After reading the recipe I thought that it just sounded kind of flat and bland, I wanted to add some more flavor. Lemon and basil are great companions, garlic is good on a flip flop, so I added those two components to the dressing and it worked great. The only other tweak is the addition of tomato to the salad. I think I may try Parmesan cheese next time.

See the notes below for great hints that will help you be a superstar!

Spring Salad:

1 Tbsp lemon zest
½ cup lemon juice
¼ cup each olive oil and water
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped
½ cup thinly sliced red onion
1 lb farfalle pasta, mini size
8 oz asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into 1-in. pieces
2 cups bagged shredded carrots
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
1 cup cherry tomato, chopped

1. Whisk lemon zest, juice, water, garlic, basil, oil, sugar, salt and pepper in a large bowl until blended. Add onions and let stand while pasta cooks.

2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta, return to a boil and cook as package directs; stir in asparagus and carrots 3 minutes before pasta will be done.

3. Cook until pasta and vegetables are just firm-tender. Drain and rinse under cold running water; drain again.

4. Put in bowl with dressing. Add parsley and tomatoes and toss to mix and coat.

Note:

This dressing is very thin and absorbs into the pasta and veggies to make for a dry salad. Even though it's not, "dry" by any means because the veggies and pasta has absorbed all the flavor and liquid.

I used one pot of water, got the water to a boil and blanched my asparagus for three minutes, removed with a strainer and plunged in an ice bath. Set those aside, then did the same for the carrots. After the veggies were blanched I cooked the pasta in the seasoned water, then drained that off.

You can find already shredded carrots in the produce section by the carrots usually just above the baby carrots, etc. Some places call them match sticks, either way they are good.

Come Spring!! Come soon.