Saturday, December 22, 2012


This fall I visited the National Museum of the American Indian in New York City. They had a fun exhibit of American Indian musicians from 1900 to current.  It was fascinating to see how many artists are of American Indian decent.  It also encouraged me to add some music to my iPod that I normally wouldn't have on my playlist.  The BEST part of the visit was the American Indian Museum was the cookbook I found. :)  Yes, I added another cook book to my growing collection.  It is called Foods of the Americas, Native Recipes and Traditions by Fernando and Marlene Divina. I am blown away by how many of the recipes I want to make in this book!  The influences from this book are far reaching from South America to Canada.  The first recipe I tried out of this book is for Empadas.  They are best described as meat pies.  They remind me of Samosa's from Asian restaurants.  The flavor was UNIQUE!  I was half expecting a Mexican flare...which it had, but there was a major twist.  You CERTAINLY need to check this recipe out!

Empada's modified recipe:
Pre-made Pie Filling

1/4 cup tomato salsa
1 tablespoon corn oil
1 small white onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 lb ground beef
3/4 cup diced russet potato
1/3 teaspoon ground allspice
1 small chile, seeded and minced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chicken stock

Flour for dusting
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
Pinch of sea or kosher salt

Heat a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat.  Add the oil, onion, and garlic and cook without browning for about 5 minutes.  Add the salsa, beef, potato, allspice, chile, bay leaf, salt, pepper and chicken stock.  Cook, stirring often for 15 to 20 minutes, until the meat is browned and cooked through and the liquid has nearly evaporated.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.  Remove and discard the bay leaf.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Lightly oil and flour a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.

To assemble the empadas, lightly flour a work surface.  Cut the dough in half horizontally and cover one half with a clean kitchen towel to keep moist.  Roll the other half of the dough out to about 1/8 inch think.  Cut into 12 squares or rounds about 3 1/2 inches wide.  Place a generous tablespoon of the meat mixture in the center of each piece of dough.  Roll Out and cut the other portion of the dough in the same manner.  Whisk the egg with the water and salt to make an egg wash.  Brush the edges of the bottom dough pieces with the egg wash.  top each with another dough piece and drip the edges with the tines of a fork or your fingertips.  Place the empadas on the prepared baking sheet.  Brush the tops with the remaining egg wash.  Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden brown.  Serve warm.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Blueberry Oatmeal Pancakes

My daughter is pretty crazy about pancakes and it is our weekend ritual to have them once a week so we are constantly trying out new recipes to keep them exciting.  This recipe for Blueberry Oatmeal Pancakes was a pretty decent find, but the next time I make them I'm going to do some serious tweeking.  I was vaguely aware when I was making them that there were no spices added to the mix.  There were so many positive reviews online that I assumed the pancakes stood firm all on their own...but they didn't.  Don't get me wrong, these pancakes were good, but could use some vanilla and/or almond extract, cinnamon and nutmeg.  I would also cut back on the milk as the batter was a touch runny causing the pancakes to be flat.

Blueberry Oatmeal Pancakes:
1/2 cup wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
2 cups milk
3 eggs beaten
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup frozen blueberries

Preheat lightly oiled griddle over medium heat.  In a large bowl mix whole wheat and white flours with brown sugar, baking powder and salt.  In a small bowl, mix milk and oats.  Whisk in eggs and oil.  Pour into dry mix all at once.  Continue mixing until smooth.  Gently fold in blueberries.

Pour batter about 1/4 cup at a time onto the prepared griddle.  Cook 1 to 2 minutes, until bubbly.  flip and continue cooking until lightly browned on both sides.

Pumpkin Pie with a Major Twist!

Did you know they sell pumpkin pudding now?!  Alex knows I LOVE pumpkin so he got me two boxes around Thanksgiving.  

We were invited to the neighbors house for dinner and were asked to bring dessert.  I was feeling super lazy and didn't want to run to the store so I was trying to come up with a fun idea from what I had in my house.  I found the pumpkin pudding and was racking my brain for things I could make with it. At Thanksgiving, my brother-in-law made a pumpkin chiffon pie that was light and delicious!!!  He told me they added whipping cream to a pumpkin pie like recipe to make it super light and fluffy.  So I decided I could add whipping cream to pre-made pumpkin pie pudding get get something similar...I hoped!!!  It was a bit of a gamble since I was taking to our neighbors party...they could have been pretty disgusted and egged our house as a result.  Fortunately for us and our house, it was a HIT!!!!  

Lazy Girl's Pumpkin Chiffon Pie:
2 small packages pumpkin pudding - make according to instructions on box
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

Gingerbread Cookie Mix 
1 stick butter, melted

Make the pumpkin pudding following the directions on the box.  Put in refrigerator for at least one hour to thicken.  Whip up heavy whipping cream until there are super stiff peaks, add powdered sugar.  Once the pudding has set completely, fold in the whipping cream until combined.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

To make the crust, combine gingerbread cookie mix and melted butter.  Push into the bottom of a pie pan to form the pie crust.  Cook in a preheated oven for 15 minutes.  Let cool, then add the pudding mixture to the pie crust and refrigerate for at least one hour.  

This pie is SLOPPY!  But it doesn't matter because it tastes so damn good!!!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Tragedy!....AVERTED!!!!!

My daughter got an extra pumpkin for Halloween from her preschool Fall Festival and wanted to use it to make pumpkin pie.  I figured it was a good opportunity to teach her how we make food from foods we harvest, since we usually used canned pumpkin.

Unfortunately, I am a busy Mama.  I stopped by the grocery store and took a look at the recipe on the pumpkin puree can which listed EVAPORATED MILK in a recipe that also called for 1 1/2 cups of sugar.  When I got home, I searched on and found a recipe that called for SWEETEN CONDENSED MILK.  I didn't stop to even consider that I was using evaporated milk AND that the recipe didn't have ANY sugar in it....until the pie was 3/4 of the way cooked.  (#$&(#@#$&  REALLY?!  I was SUPER bummed because my daughter was so excited about the prospect of eating pumpkin pie that was made from her preschool pumpkin.  

To make matters worse, I overfilled the pie crust and spilled pie filling on the bottom of our stove top which caused the whole house to fill up with smoke.  At this point I'm pretty sure you're asking yourself why you read this crazy's cooking blog. :)

WELL.....I managed to save the day by dousing the pumpkin pie in homemade caramel sauce!  WHOOHOO!!!!!  

1 cup white sugar
5 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 pinch of salt to taste

Place sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan set over medium-high heat.  Stir continuously until sugar begins to melt.  Continue stirring until the sugar melts completely, begins to darken and all the chunks are dissolved, about 10 minutes.  Stop stirring and continue to cook until the sugar begins to smoke and turns a dark shade of amber, 3 to 8 minutes.  Remove from heat and wait 30 seconds.

Whisk butter until melted and combine.  Slowly pour in cream, taking care because it can bubble over.  Sprinkle in salt and stir to combine.  Transfer to a jar and cool completely before refrigerating.

I was SO worried about making this caramel.  I've always had bad luck in making candy type products, but this caramel was AMAZING!!!!  It TOTALLY saved the day!  My daughter even said I make the "best pumpkin pie, EVER!"  To be fair, she is only three and hasn't had a lot to compare. :)  I am a bit older and have a lot to compare it to and can confidently tell you this sugar-less pumpkin pie ROCKED with this caramel sauce!  Lots of it!!!!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pumpkin Waffles with Apple Cider Syrup

'Tis the season for yummy pumpkin!  I honestly can't get enough pumpkin from October to December, so I stock up on canned pumpkin during the holiday season to make sure I have enough to get me through January to September. :)  This recipe for Pumpkin Waffles and Apple Cider Syrup is a BIG reason why!

Of course the pumpkin waffles are great, but the Apple Cider Syrup is what takes this breakfast to delectable levels of pure yummy goodness!  PLEASE, I beg of you, DO NOT SUBSTITUTE  the apple cider for regular apple will be so sad if you do!

Pumpkin Waffles with Apple Cider Syrup
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 cups milk
4 eggs, separated....if you want to go to the effort of whipping up the egg white separately.
1/4 cup canola oil

Apple Cider Syrup
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup apple cider
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat a waffle iron according to manufacturer's instructions.

Combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, salt and brown sugar in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, stir together the pumpkin, milk and egg yolks.  Whip the egg whites in a clean dry bowl until soft peaks form (I always omit this part because I'm lazy...I think they taste just as good).

Stir the flour mixture and 1/4 cup melted butter to the pumpkin mixture, stirring just to combine.  Use a whisk or rubber spatula to fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter, stirring gently until incorporated (See, so much effort to have fluffy batter...I really have tried it both ways and don't think it makes much difference). Fold in the remaining egg whites.  Cook waffles according to manufacturer's instructions.

To make the syrup, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon in a sauce pan.  Stir in the apple cider and lemon juice.  Cook ever medium heat until mixture begins to boil; boil until the syrup thickens.  Remove from heat and stir in the 2 tablespoons of butter until melted.  Serve warm.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

McCormick Knows Pumpkin Goodness!!!!

I'm letting you know up front I am not being paid for this gushing review of McCormick's Pumpkin Fruit Spread.  :)

This weekend Alex and I went up to Baltimore's Inner Harbor and discovered a McCormick's cooking store.  It was PURE HEAVEN!!!  I hate going to the grocery store looking for a specific spice only to find the store doesn't carry it...well, I didn't have to worry about that with the McCormick shop!  They have EVERY spice you could conceivably dream up!  But the BEST find was their Pumpkin Fruit Spread.

Oh. My. Goodness.

I think pumpkin has been getting overrated in the last couple of years and is becoming overdone.  Even the pumpkin spice latte's are getting too sweet and over the top... BLASPHEMY!!...but it is true.  This Pumpkin Fruit Spread is INSANE!!!  On the top of the lid is a recipe for making pumpkin pie.  Using the  2 pints Pumpkin Fruit Spread, combine 2 eggs, 1 can evaporated milk, pour into a 9" pie shell.  Bake 60-70 minutes at 350 degrees.

I tried to find a link so you can purchase this fruit spread, but couldn't find it even on McCormick's web site.  :(  The next trip I plan up to Baltimore, I'm going to LOAD UP on their Pumpkin Fruit Spread!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Two-Potato Curried Home Fries

I have always wanted to make yummy, restaurant-style, home fries, but could never get them just right.  Alex and I always go back and forth about what the trouble is with my home fries...too much oil?  too little oil? High heat versus low heat? Skin on?  Skin off? But you know what the key is to perfect textured home fries?  BOILING them!!!!  Because I am lazy, I have always microwaved my potatoes and never considered that might be the problem.  Don't get me wrong, microwaving will totally help you out in a pinch and I'm sure you'll find me microwaving them again the future, but the way to go is boiling them until they are soft.

Check out this KILLER curried home fries recipe I found in the October edition of the Food Network Magazine.  It has the PERFECT combination of curry seasoning that makes a GREAT side dish for dinner or AWESOME home fries to serve with breakfast!

Two Potato Home Fries:
2 Yukon Gold Potatoes
2 Sweet Potatoes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon grated garlic
1 teaspoon curry powder
cilantro, chopped - I added a sprinkle of coriander because I didn't have cilantro.

Boil potatoes in a pot of salted water and cook until tender, 5-8 minutes.  Drain and pat dry.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  add the potatoes and cook turning until browned, about  8 minutes.  Stir in ginger, garlic, curry powder, salt and pepper.  Cook for an additional minute.  sprinkle with chopped cilantro.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Little Skirt Steak!

I am always looking for new and yummy things to do with skirt steak and was happy to find a yummy recipe in the October 2012 edition of Food Network Magazine.  The Almost-Famous Steak Taco Salad is a slimmed down remake of a taco salad from Moe's Southwest Grill which is a franchise primarily found on the East Coast with a few locations West of the Mississippi.  I just realized as I was researching that there is a Moe's location not far from my house! I'll have to check it out!

Almost-Famous Steak Taco Salad:
For the Tortilla Bowls:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 10-12 inch flour tortillas
kosher salt

For the Steak:
1 teaspoon dried minced garlic or garlic flakes - I used fresh garlic
1 teaspoon dried minced onion or onion flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons chipotle chile powder
3 scallions, finely chopped
4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 pound sirloin steak (about 1 inch think)
1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced

For the Salad:
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2/3 cup buttermilk - I would HIGHLY suggest using 1/3 cup unless you like runny dressing.
1 English cucumber, quartered lengthwise and sliced
2 romaine lettuce hearts, roughly chopped
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 2/25-ounce cans sliced black olives, drained
2 ounces cheddar or monterey jack cheese, shredded
Fresh salsa, for topping

To make the tortilla bowls, position a rack in the lower third of the oven; preheat to 450F.  Put 4 empty cans (labels removed) or 4 small oveproof bowls upside down on the baking sheet.  Drape a square of foil over each can and coat with cooking spray.

Fill a shallow bowl with 1/2 inch warm water; whisk in the olive oil.  Soak each tortilla in the water until soft, about 5 seconds, then drape over the prepared cans, pleating as needed.  Bake until golden, about 5 minutes.  Remove from the oven and invert the tortilla bowls onto the baking sheet; remove the cans and foil.  Spray the inside of the tortilla bowls with cooking spray, season with salt and continue baking until crisp, 4 to 5 more minutes; let cool.

Meanwhile, make the steak by whisking the dried garlic, onion and oregano, cumin, chile powder, scallions, Worcestershire sauce, olive oil, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper in a bowl.  Put the steak in a shallow dish and run with 2 tablespoons of the spice mixture (reserve the rest for the dressing). Add the bell pepper and sliced onion and toss.  Add the bell pepper and sliced onion and toss.  cover and refrigerate 30 minutes or up to 4 hours.

Heat a large cast-iron skilled over high heat.  Add the steak and scatter the bell pepper and onion around it.  Sear the steak about 5 minutes on each side, then transfer to a cutting board.  Continue cooking the pepper and onion until just tender, about 3 more minutes.  Thinly slice the steak against the grain, then cut into 1-inch pieces.

Wish the mayonnaise, buttermilk and the reserved spice mixture in a large bowl until smooth.  Add cucumber, lettuce, beans and olives and toss.  Divide the salad among the tortilla bowls.  Top with the steak, bell pepper, onion, cheese and salsa.

I didn't make the tortilla shells...even though they sound SUPER yummy!  I have to admit, I was surprised by the lack of taste in the salad dressing since it got the lion's share of the seasoning mix.  I wanted to LOVE this meal, but it was O.K.  Now that I know there are Moe's Southwestern Grill's near my home, I am going to try it out there and see what is missing from this recipe!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Indian Curry...YUM!

I LOVE curry!  I especially LOVE creamy curry with potatoes and onion and carrots and chicken...hmmmm...I'm having a moment remembering one of my favorite Thai restaurants in Layton, Utah called Pad Thai.  They had some of the BEST creamy Masaman Curry I have ever had.  When I found this recipe I was hoping it would be a similar creamy curry, because that was what I was craving.  While it was SUPER flavorful, it missed the creamy boat a little.  It also stunk up my kitchen to high heaven!!!  I cooked this recipe a week ago and my house STILL smells like curry!

  • Indian Curry
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root
  • 1/2 teaspoon white sugar
  • salt to taste
  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Saute onion until lightly browned.  Stir in garlic, curry powder, cinnamon, paprika, bay leaf, ginger, sugar and salt.  Continue stirring for 2 minutes.  

Add chicken pieces, tomato paste, yogurt and coconut milk. (I also added carrots to offer some hidden veggies to my family).  Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes.  Remove bay leaf and stir in lemon juice and cayenne pepper.  Simmer 5 more minutes.  Serve over rice.

The left overs of this dish were even better than the original meal.  I would highly consider making this meal and eating it the next day to get some serious flavor!  

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Thai Stir Fry...Hey, That Rhymes!

I LOVE cook books.  In fact, I collect cookbooks.  Whenever I visit a new city, museum or even a cool book store, I like to leave with a cookbook to remind me of my visit.  That's how I connect with people and place...FOOD!  I pulled out a SUPER old Thai cook book I bought in my early early twenties that I purchased at Barnes and Noble when I was starting to grow my cook book collection and found a GREAT recipe for stir fry.  I changed it up a bit because I didn't grab all the necessary ingredients at the grocery store to make the recipe in the book.

Thai Stir Fry:
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp ginger puree
3/4 cup carrots cut into 'batons'
1 cup zucchini cut into 'batons'
1 chicken breast, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 cups fresh spinach
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsbp rice vinegar

Heat olive oil in frying pan on medium-high heat.  Add garlic, ginger, carrot and zucchini.  Cook until slightly brown.

Add Chicken and cook through.

Add cilantro, spinach, soy sauce, sugar and vinegar.  Cook until the spinach is wilted.  Serve immediately over white rice.

This didn't last long enough for me to get pictures of the final product.  It was AWESOME!!!  The sauce was FANTASTIC!...even if it was a tiny bit sweet.  I will TOTALLY make this recipe again.  I was even able to get my 3 year old to eat her veggies with this meal!

Monday, September 17, 2012

"I miss my neighbor" meal...

While moving to the D.C. area has been chalked full of fun, historical visits, we have been missing our friends back in Colorado.  Tonight I decided to make a meal my neighbor, Rachael, made for us right before we moved.  This is some SERIOUS comfort food, whether it is coming from a good neighbor or because it just makes you feel homey and happy.  It is SUPER SIMPLE cooking and SUPER TASTY!!!

Comfort Food a la Rachael:
1 lb ground hamburger
1/2 a large onion, chopped
3 roma tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 packet sazon seasoning salt
salt and pepper to taste

Cook onions in a frying pan until translucent. 
Add ground meat and cook until meat is nearly cooked through.

Drain excess fat...or you could keep it for additional flavor.  Add tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes are wilted.  Add cilantro and seasonings, cook for additional 5 -10 minutes to allow the flavors to meld together.

Serve with rice.  You could totally use this to make as the meat base for tacos, but I definitely prefer it with rice...just like Rachael served it.

Note the SWEET pan I am using to cook this meal.  I bought this pan from the same neighbor who gave me this recipe.  She sells Princess House products and they ROCK!!!  This is the BEST pan I have ever owned!  It cooked everything so evenly and it is HUGE!!!!  Want to try it out?  Check out Rachael's web site.

Thanks for sharing your AWESOME recipe with me Rachael!  Here is to you...sure wish you were here to enjoy a glass of wine with me!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Vitamix Smoothie Recipe

My in-laws bought Alex and I a Vitamix for Christmas last year.  This machine is pretty sweet!  It is quite industrial and makes some pretty amazing smoothies, soups, puree' is AWESOME!  In addition to the Vitamix, we got a 'cook' book with recipes for some of the most AMAZING smoothies EVER!  Every time I think I can make a better smoothie on my own, I am always sorely mistaken.  They have some phenomenal recipes that hide SPINACH in a yummy fruit smoothie!  This is a green smoothie even my 3 year old could appreciate!  This is a great way to get some fiber in her cheese eating body!

Going Green Smoothie:
1/2 cup water
1 cup green grapes - we like to freeze the grapes so they don't go bad.
1/2 cup fresh pineapple - same with pineapple, when you freeze the fruits you don't have to add ice.
1/2 medium banana - I used a whole one because I didn't want to waste the other half
2 cups fresh SPINACH - washed
1/2 cup ice cubes

Blend for 90 seconds or until consistency is as you like it.

Can you really believe that a SPINACH smoothie would be yummy?  Well, call me Popeye, because this spinach smoothie ROCKS!!!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Cedar Planked Salmon and Garlic Mashed Potatoes

When I was in high school, I went on a rather memorable date to see Tom Petty in concert.  On the way to dinner, my date's car broke down and his parents had to pick us up and trade cars. :)  While the Tom Petty concert and the broken down car were very memorable, I just as vividly remember the meal we had at City Creek Grill, which is no longer in business.  Yes, leave it to me to remember a meal I had  almost 15 years ago!  I ordered Cedar Grilled Salmon with Garlic Mashed Potatoes.  It was so divine!  It is one of my favorite, simple meals to make.

Cedar Planked Salmon:
1 cedar plank
2 pieces of salmon brought to room temperature - I've found this makes the meat more juicy!

Soak cedar plank for at least an hour or longer if you can.

Preheat grill to medium heat.  You can use either gas or charcoal.

Salt and pepper the salmon to taste and place in the center of the cedar plank.  Cook on grill for approximately 10-12 minutes or until cooked through.  Be careful not to over cook as it will make the salmon chewy...I've done this plenty of times, so don't feel bad if you do too. In fact, I actually won't grill outdoors, that is something I have always left up to Alex. :)

Garlic Mashed Potatoes:
5 golden yukon potatoes, diced into 1 inch pieces - I left the skins on, but you can certainly peel them
4 tablespoons margarine or butter
1/2 cup milk
2 cloves garlic

Boil potatoes until soft, approximately 8-10 minutes.  Cut garlic into medium sized pieces so you have some good surface area, you want to steep the garlic to infuse the butter.  When the butter is melted, add the milk and keep warm until the potatoes are cooked through.  

Drain potatoes and mash.  Add the butter, milk and garlic mixture.  You can strain out the garlic if you want, but cooking it in the butter makes it nice and soft, but not too strong like roasted garlic.  Serve immediately.

Sorry, there are no pictures of the garlic mashed potatoes...the moment the food hit our plates all pictures were forgotten.  I'm serious.  We finished this meal in five minutes or less!  I'm pretty sure that is how quickly I finished this same meal before the Tom Petty concert....but that might have been because we didn't have a lot of time, due to the car breaking down.  

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


I am always on the hunt for Chocolate Chip Cookies that are going to best my favorite Williams Sonoma Cookie recipe.  This recipe from is a WINNER!

Outrageous Chocolate Chip Cookies
1/2 cup butter (I used shortening because that was what I had on hand)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter (I used crunchy and it ROCKED!!!!)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degree F

In a medium bowl, cream together the butter, white sugar and brown sugar until smooth.  Stir in peanut butter, vanilla and egg until well blended.  Combine flour, baking soda and salt; stir into batter until moistened.  Mix in the oats and chocolate chips until evenly distributed.  Drop by tablespoonfuls on to lightly greased cookie sheets.

Bake for 10-12 minutes in preheated oven, until the edge start to brown.  Cool on cookie sheets for about 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

These cookies TOTALLY rival the 'How to Score a Husband Cookies!"  I LOVE all the components in these cookies!  They are definitely going into the cookie vault!!!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Harvesting Apples!

Today we visited a pick your own fruit farm in Northern Virginia called Hartland Farm and Orchard.  Hartland Orchard is found in some pretty AMAZING countryside not far from several wineries and other pick your own fruit farms.  When you enter the property you can see cows and horses grazing in pastures or lazing in the pond, cute white farm houses and orchards that seem to go on and on.  It is always nice to visit someone else's farm.  You get a small taste of the fruits of their labors without having to go through the hassle of planting the crops, watering, fertilizing or treating for insects...but you get to enjoy 45 minutes to an hour of pure romantic harvesting.  And then when the bugs start to irritate you because they are flying in your ears and you forgot to spray your head with bug can pay for your fruit and get out!

We left Hartland Farms and Orchard with a half peck of all different kinds of apples and a full peck of peaches.  I was extremely impressed with the quality of the fruit on their trees!  Before we even got our haul home I was already making plans for our apples.  I planned to make a crisp, but accidentally typed Apple Cobbler into the search engine and found several recipes.  I've made LOTS of Peach Cobbler, but Apple Cobbler?  Oh Yeah!

French Apple Cobbler:
5 cups tart apples, peeled and sliced
3/4 cup sugar - you could use less depending on how sweet your apples are
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon butter, softened

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 egg, slightly beaten

Combine apples, sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, vanilla and water.  Turn into a lightly buttered 9-inch square pan.  Dot apples with butter.

Combine all topping ingredients and beat with wooden spoon until batter is smooth.  Drop batter in 9 portions over the apples, spacing evenly.  Batter with spread during baking.

Bake 35- 40 minutes at 375 F or until apples are tender and crust is golden brown.  Serve warm with cream or ice cream.

Serves 6-8

The apples I used were SUPER sweet and crazy flavorful, so I could have gotten by with using less sugar.  I also didn't serve with ice cream, which could have been part of the reason for the abundant sweetness. :)  Because I was originally thinking of a crisp, I kinda wanted more texture.  Next time I might try adding oats.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Unintentional One Pan Meal

We arrived in the D.C. area at the beginning of August and signed a lease within days of arriving.  Unfortunately, the movers can't deliver our stuff for TWO WEEKS!!!  I have been cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner in a sauce pan.  Yes, you read that right...a SAUCE PAN!  Not to mention cutting everything with a plastic knife.  Where is my Santoku knife when I need it?  The freaking movers have it in storage!  I told Alex this week that whenever he gets mad at me, he better remember this time in our marriage when I used a plastic knife to slice red peppers.

Being the want-to-be-gourmet that I am, I didn't let the lack of tools keep me from feeding my family healthy, home-cooked meals.  I actually made some pretty ROCKIN' meals with my sauce pan...well, rockin' considering I only had a sauce pan and limited spices because those are packed up too.  I did find my kosher salt, but I missed my olive oil and pepper something awful!

One pan...well, sort of one pan...Chicken, Bean and Rice Burritos:
1 chicken breast
1 packet taco seasoning
1 small can corn
1 can chili beans
1 1/2 cups instant rice
Flour tortillas
Cheese (optional)
Salsa (optional)

Using your trusty sauce pan, place chicken in the pan and cover with water, adding taco seasoning packet and bring to a boil.  Cook for 10 minutes. Strain corn and beans and add to boiling chicken mixture in your handy sauce pan.  Cook for 3-5 minutes to warm through corn and beans.  

Strain out the solids, retaining 1 1/2 cups taco seasoning broth mixture.  Add 1 1/2 cups instant rice to taco seasoning broth mixture.  I was able to do this in the only tupperware container I have on hand.  Let sit for 5-10 minutes.  

Place tortilla on plate and load up with chicken, corn and bean mixture, rice, cheese and salsa.

While this reason won't be winning any awards, it certainly was a great stomach filler after a long day of moving boxes in the Eastern humidity.  And once I get all my spices back, I might try this one out again.

Monday, August 6, 2012

South Side Diner in Goshen, Indiana

You know what ROCKS about driving cross country?  We got the opportunity to stop at several restaurants Guy Fieri visited on his Diners, Drive-Inn's and Dives Show.  Each time we entered a new state I looked up the restaurants he visited in that state.  If they were not too far from the highway, we checked them out.  Not too far off I-80 a little ways past the exit for Notre Dame we stopped at South Side Soda Shop and Diner in Goshen, Indiana.

Goshen, Indiana is SUPER small town.  The Main Street in Goshen has a ton of cute, locally owned shops that you can stroll down boardwalk style.  I was impressed to see that the town appeared to be flourishing with tourists.  Farther down the Main Street you'll find the South Side Soda Shop and Diner in an old trolley car.  The entrance is at the back of the building...which is confusing because if you go to the front entrance you'll walk into the kitchen area.  YIKES!  The diner is cute and divey with old pennants on the wall as decoration.  The specialty here is their Philly Cheese Steak sandwich which you can get with or without cheese or pizza style with marinara sauce.  I had the straight up Philly Cheese Steak.  The cheese was mixed in with the steak mixture and I could tell it was not made with 'real' cheese.  I suspect (without remembering how they showed it on the show) that it was made with Cheese Whiz or Velveeta.  The hoagie bun it was served on was HUGE and could have contained more of the Cheese Steak mixture.  It was served with these SWEET homemade, curly potatoes that were curled using an apple slicer.

For dessert I tried their lemon meringue pie that was also featured on Diner's, Drive-Inn's and Dives.  I am not a fan of meringue, but the lemon custard and crust were phenomenal!

Even though this out of the way stop lost us an hour of driving, it was definitely worth the stop.  It is fun to check out these stops that Guy Fieri visit's to see if the food is really as 'SPOT ON' as he says it is.  :)  

Visiting Bob Evans

For those of you on the East coast who have regular access to Bob Evans, you might wonder why someone is blogging about their eating experience at Bob Evans.  Well, I'm a West coast girl who has never eaten at Bob Evans.  I have only seen their sausage at the grocery store and wondered what was so special about our friend Bob Evans.  I think there is a LOT special about Bob Evans.

There wasn't much special about the restaurant when we walked in, it was like your average breakfast joint.  Considering that all I knew about Bob Evans before walking into this restaurant was his sausage, I wasn't surprised to see that most of the breakfast items included sausage and gravy.  I ordered the Biscuit Bowl, which was a giant biscuit in the shape of a bowl loaded up with country hash browns, scrambled eggs, brown gravy, cheese and some fresh green onions on top.  

It was pretty dang good!  Of course it was a restaurant style meal, meaning the portion was ENORMOUS and loaded with lots of extra fat and salt.  This meal gave me an idea for a new breakfast meal at our house though...I plan to try these out in muffin pans to keep the portion size to a minimum.  Stay tuned!!!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Visiting Big Mama's Place in Omaha, NE

We are on the road this week moving cross country to the Washington, DC area so we stopped in Omaha for a last breakfast, that ended up being lunch because of a late start.  I LOVE Guy Fieri's show Diner's, Drive-Inn's and Dives and try to frequent the restaurants that are highlighted on his show.  We found Big Mama's Kitchen and Catering located in an old cafeteria that reminded me of the hospital cafeteria where my mom worked when I was little.  It was quirky as hell and I LOVED IT!!!

I ordered the Afro Burger, which is "hand-rolled choice ground beef with a fiery hot blend of seasonings, simmered in Big Mam's Spicy BBQ sauce and served on a fresh hoagie bun."  HOLY SPICINESS, Big Mama!!!  Dang, was it AWESOME!  Thank goodness I ordered the coleslaw to go along with it because I needed the cool creaminess of the slaw to wash down the pure spicy, goodness of the Afro Burger.  I'm pretty sure it put hair on my chest too!

My daughter ordered the chicken tenders and I happened to sneak a bite...Oh my!  The breading on the tenders was AMAZING (imagine a choir singing Hallelujah! while eating these babies.)  It wasn't the thick nasty breading with little meat, you expect from most places these days, but a FABULOUSLY think crust of flour and cornmeal.  OH YEAH!  If I hadn't already stuffed myself with the Afro Burger, I would have gobbled up all of my daughter's meal too.

We finished up our meal with a scoop each of the homemade...and I mean...homemade Red Velvet Cake Ice Cream that had CHUNKS of yummy Red Velvet goodness.  I am already concocting in my head how to make something similar to share with you!  The guy at the next table from us told me he liked the ice cream to much he already had a half gallon of it in his ice box at home.

The service at Big Mama's is delightful!  I LOVED our servers and the clientele are wonderful.  I left wishing I could stay longer...maybe even get a job and learn how to make some of that yummy food.  Next time you're in Omaha, Nebraska, check out the folks at Big Mama's!  

Friday, July 27, 2012

Sloppy Erica's...I mean Sloppy Joes!

When I was a kid, my parents used to make Sloppy Joe's from that canned Manwich (that we called Mammwich) stuff.  I was never very fond of Sloppy Joe's as a result.  This week my friend invited us over to dinner and told me when we arrived that we were having Sloppy Joe's.  My stomach immediately seized and I was worried I was going to gag.  LOL!!!  But when I saw fresh ingredients on the counter top, my stomach unclenched a little.  This is a fun recipe my friend Erica found from a crock pot cook book (Crock Pot's Busy Family Recipe's), but being impatient like me, we cooked it on the stove top to make it a faster recipe.  HOLY MOSES!!!  I am a fan of Sloppy Joe' fact, I think I'll stop calling them Sloppy Joe's and call them Sloppy Erica's to honor my friend for introducing me to this recipe!

Campfired -Up Sloppy Erica's Joes:
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup barbecue sauce (we used KC's Masterpiece)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 can (8 ounces) baked beans
6 kaiser rolls, split and warmed
Shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (optional)

Brown ground beef, onion, bell pepper and garlic 6 to 8 minutes in large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring to break up meat.  Drain and discard excess fat.  Transfer to Crock Pot Slow Cooker (which we neglected to do).

Combine ketchup, barbecue sauce, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar and chili powder in a small bowl.  Transfer to Crock Pot slow cooker (we just added this to the meat).

Add baked beans.  Stir well to combine.  cover, cook on HIGH 3 hours.  Or just simmer on the stove until you so damn hunger you can't stand it!

To serve, place 1/3 cup Sloppy Joe/Erica mixture on bottom halves of rolls.  Sprinkle with cheese, if desired, before covering with roll top.


The BBQ flavor through out this recipe takes these Sloppy Joe's OVER THE TOP!!!  I am a sucker for BBQ so this made me feel like I was eating BBQ beef. I want more!!!

Thanks so much for having us to dinner, Erica!!!!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Ciabatta Bread!

Alex got me a Pannini cook book for my birthday last year that has some SWEET recipes for BREAD.  Not  recipes for sweet bread, but SWEET recipes for BREAD!  I don't generally have much luck with bread.  I can make it, it is good enough to eat, but it isn't beautiful and fluffy and light.  People have always told me my yeast must be old, I'm kneading it too much or its because I'm at altitude.  Well, I have used fresh yeast and I try not to have a relationship with my bread in the making stages and I still end up with dense bread.  I'm not complaining, I am totally down with dense would just be cool to be able to produce Wonder Bread like bread from time-to-time.

Well, this bread was no exception.  It turned out rather dense as well...again, not complaints...just dense.  I was going to make pannini's with this bread, but it turned out as PERFECT bread for hamburger buns!

Cibatta Rolls (from Panini from the publishers of Fine Cooking):
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon tepid water (70 to 78 degrees)
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for oiling the pan and brushing the rolls

Pour the water into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.  Add the yeast, flour, salt, sugar, and olive oil and stir with a rubber spatula just long enough to blend into a dough.  With a dough hook, mix the dough on low speed (2 on a KitchenAid mixer) for 3 minutes.  Turn the speed to medium high (8 on a KitchenAid mixer) and knead until it clears the sides of the bowl and collects on the hook, becoming smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes more.  at this speed, the mixer will "walk," possibly off the counter, so do not leave unattended.  

Oil a 7x11- inch baking dish.  Scrape the dough into the dish and pat with coiled fingertips to flatten it.  Let it rest and relax for 5 minutes, then use lightly oiled fingertips to push and stretch it across the bottom of the dish. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot until it has more than doubled in volume and reaches the top of the pan, about 2 hours.

Lightly oil a large baking sheet.  Uncover the dough and place the baking sheet, right side down, on top of the dough.  Invert the dish on to the baking sheet and sake once or twice to release the dough onto the sheet.  

Use a sharp chef's knife to cut the dough into 6 squares, and use the edge of the knife to push the squares 3 inches apart on the baking sheet.  Put 4 short drinking glasses near the corners of the pan and drape a sheet or two of plastic wrap over them so that ti covers the dough pieces and keeps them moist but does not touch them.  Let the dough pieces stand until they have expanded by about 50 percent, about 40 minutes.  

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.  Remove the plastic and glasses and bake the rolls until dark golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Brush the hot rolls with olive oil.  Let cool completely on the baking sheet before slicing with a sharp serrated knife. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Gluten Free Strawberry Pancakes...The Best Yet!

It is a Sunday morning tradition to make a yummy breakfast at our house.  We are getting ready to move and have been trying to clean out our freezer and pantry of food so we don't have to get rid of it so we made Gluten Free Strawberry Pancakes!!!

Alex is a pancakes eating MONSTER, but always feels a little barfy after eating his weight in pancakes so we decided to try out Bob's Gluten Free Flour when making our Sunday morning treat.  I am not a fan of complicated meals, so the recipes for gluten free pancakes that include xanthum gum and almond flour are lost on me.  Bob's is a PERFECT substitute for flour.  The only draw back is that gluten free products have a tendency for an AFTER TASTE.  I can't even describe what that taste is just...something.  So when I make gluten free pancakes, I always make sure they are flavored in some way.

Gluten Free Strawberry Pancakes:
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
2 cups Bob's Gluten Free Flour
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoon baking powered
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup strawberries, chopped

Mix all the ingredients together and cook on griddle over medium heat.

The addition of the almond extract brings out the sweetness in the strawberries.  Alex actually told me this recipe was the BEST gluten free pancake recipe YET!   YEAH!!!   

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Chica Birthday Cake!

My daughter is CRAZY about Chica the Chicken from Sprout.  I don't know what it is about that chicken, but she is stickin' CUTE!  For her birthday this year, my daughter asked for a Chica birthday party.  I thought this was a GREAT idea, until I realized Sprout has all the rights for Chica and they don't play nicely because they don't share those rights with ANYONE!  That meant no, birthday plates, cups, party hats, decorations...NOTHIN'!  However, every good Mama takes the challenge and meets it head on!  I take it back the part about sharing, Sprout does share the rights to Chica, sort of.  They have a whole Chica Birthday section on their web site with lots of printables and fun ideas for your child's party.  But online printables didn't solve the problem that I didn't have a birthday cake.

Last year for my daughter's birthday I tried my hand at one of those topsy turvy birthday cakes and it failed miserably!!! I didn't weight it properly and 10 minutes before all the guests arrived, the top of the cake fell off.  After further forensic evidence, it appeared the top part fell off the cake while the second tier was splitting in two Titanic style.  It still tasted good, so no harm, no foul.

This year I was determined I would not experience birthday cake tragedy.  I planned, I visited Joann's to get the products professional cake makers use...this cake was going to be 'the pinnacle of my distinguished career' (in the words of Sebastian from the Little Mermaid).  It actually turned out GREAT.

At least this year the cake lasted until the guests arrived. :)

I am already planning the architectural structure of the cake for next year.  Everyone hopes to be invited back next year so they can see if the cake actually make it. :)  Moral of this story?  Cakes do not balance on one post in the center of the cake. I promise I'm a bright person...I need to stop skimping on the architectural planning of my birthday cakes.