Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine's Day!

This is for all my valentines out there. Strawberry and cream cheese filled brownies, with, of course, a love bird.
Hope it’s a good one!

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by | February 13, 2012 · 11:30 pm

‘Browndies’

Unbelievable how fast the time flies sometimes. I, nor Kat, have had even a moment to write a single word here since the summer, I think…
I chose tonight to break the cycle. We have had so many more culinary triumphs I don’t even know where to begin. Now, when I say ‘triumphs’, I don’t mean three Michelin star grade food coming out of our kitchen. Simply just damn fine home cookin’ with an always unexpected, yet awesome, tweak during the process that makes something good even better.
Case in point, ‘Browndies”!
Kat and I were contemplating a great nosh over some quality TV sitcoms. “Let’s make brownies”, says Kat. “I would prefer blondies”, I say. Well my friends, why not have both!
We made a terrific brownie recipe we know and love, then a blondie recipe of the same credentials, and swirled the two mixes together and in the oven it went.
About a half hour later we got to enjoy the perfect treat, once they were cool enough to eat! I encourage anyone to give a shout if they need a recipe, though search our older posts. They may be on this blog already!
Thanks to all who read and subscribe:)

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Lazy Days of Summer

It’s been hot and humid on the East Coast this week and I haven’t been doing much cooking but I had planned on having company this evening so I bought stuff to cook. The company that was coming over couldn’t make it, so I invited my sister and her family and asked them to travel the great distance of a street-width to eat some food. As she hadn’t planned anything (it’s 100 degrees, who’s thinking about cooking?), she happily accepted the invite!

I wanted to make a beautiful meal of enchiladas and a blueberry buckle for dessert (original recipe here), but I was feeling lazy and didn’t have enough blueberries. I made some modifications. I did have enough berries when I mixed up the blueberries and cherries I had in the fridge. I also didn’t follow the procedure. I threw the dry ingredients in the kitchen-aid, then the wet and added the eggs last. It worked and tastes delicious. The only downside is that it isn’t going last forever (or even the morning).

As for enchiladas, well, today is the sort of day where nothing goes as planned. Ever have those? Yeah, I thought so. My tortillas didn’t roll, so we ended up with quesadillas in enchilada sauce. Still tasted delicious. I make my enchiladas super simple, and they are crazy delicious. I reconstitute a dried ancho chile (sometime two or three, depending on what I have and who’s coming over) in hot water and add a can of diced tomatoes, a little tomato paste, a touch of salt and sugar and hit it with a stick blender until smooth. Generally, I fill the tortillas with chicken and cheese (leftover chicken), cover with sauce and more cheese and baked until the cheese is melty. Today, I used queso blanco, but you can use cheddar, the “Mexican” mix or quesadilla cheese. If you like more heat, use a can of diced tomatoes with jalapenos or add any other hot pepper you like.

I’m about to post some pictures that MIGHT make you hungry. If it’s not 100 degrees out, get cooking! If it is, call for take-out ūüėČ

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The Smallest Ham

I might have mentioned that I made a sort of resolution this year to not buy factory farmed meat. This means that every piece of meat we eat costs more, yes, but it also means that we less meat. We have meat meals once or twice a week (but we often have leftovers). I’m not always successful (John & I try to eat out at places that have similar values but it’s not always possible, and feeding the kiddos often leads to whatever hot dogs were on sale). But there are great convenience brands that have hormone free chicken and thanks to Applegate Farms, I can eat cold cuts.

We have been purchasing from Mini Mac Farm¬†¬†and love the quality of the meat and friendly people who own it. We have a meat budget of only $50/month; this means that we eat a lot of chicken and I find the most affordable cuts of meat. Since it’s not exactly close, I try to buy 2-3 month’s worth of meat at time. The last time I picked up meat, I had ordered chicken, sirloin steaks, bacon (of course), sausage and a petite ham. The petite ham is almost two pounds of fresh (uncured) ham. I have cooked fresh ham before, so this was a little daunting. There are very few recipes I could even find on the internet. The few that I did find suggested brining. Brining is a wonderful way to prepare meat, BUT it takes a long time and you have to plan it out in advance. Since I’m with the kids all day (and a lot of the evening), taking time out to brine and then prep a ham to roast simply isn’t practical.

I had a big Saturday planned, too: painting the 3 year old’s new bedroom. The slow cooker seemed to be the best solution.

We got some gorgeous fresh onions from our Co-Op share this week, so I quartered them and threw them in the bottom, then piled on some carrots, then the ham. I seasoned it with salt and lots of black pepper, than splashed in some soy sauce, the juice from 3 oranges (what I had on the counter) and brown sugar. It smelled great as it was cooking!

The end result was all right. I think I will try to find a hormone free smoked ham option next. There are more tender cuts of fresh pork (shoulder, loin) that I will stick to in the mean time.

Here are some photos:

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Kat makes Cakes

So, we all know John is the cake decorating, fancy-schmancy pastry chef in the family, but I can bake, too (not that anyone disputes this) and I do like to try my hand at cake decorating. I’m decent at it (I’m not trying anything too extreme) and thought you might like to see some of my work! My cake writing is not that great (you should see my handwriting) and I’m still working on keeping tiered cakes level, but I think I’m getting there!

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Greens, greens nothing but greens!

Actually, a lot more than greens. We joined Purple Dragon Co-Op about 2 months ago and have enjoyed fresh, organic and as local as possible fruits and veggies ever since. Every week, there are lettuces and delicious, leafy dark greens.

John and I love our greens any way we can get them. I used to always saute them with garlic, and then I discovered panade through this recipe. I’ve been making nearly every week since May. Tonight, though, I was looking to use more veggies than just my greens. We’ve been having a lot of burgers and dogs and other summery meats, so we both were feeling like having a hearty vegetable dish. I thought this recipe looked swell. The only problem was I didn’t have the veggies it called for. Oh, and I don’t use mustard anything anywhere.

So, I cooked my greens (overcooked perhaps, but it was my first experience with Callalou greens), and sauteed my zahara squash with mushrooms and carrots (all from the CoOp). I made the cheesy sauce (equal parts cheddar and gouda because that’s what I had), and topped with potatoes. Instead of the mustard, I used a pinch of nutmeg in my cheese sauce – not only does it add something to the cheese sauce, but nutmeg goes really great with dark, leafy greens.

It smells amazing already and I’m not sure I can wait for my husband to get home to eat it!

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(PS – I did, in fact, wait for him, but not by choice. The three year old decided she wasn’t sleepy so I had to deal with that…)

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Serendipity Cookies

ser·en·dip·i·ty

http://sp.dictionary.com/dictstatic/d/g/speaker.swf [ser-uhn-dip-i-tee]  Show IPA

‚Äďnoun 

1. 

an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.
2. 

good fortune; luck: the serendipity of getting the first jobshe applied for.
(Source: dictionary.com)
Today, I wanted to make these Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies. Apparently, I was feeling rebellious and decided to change the amount of flour from 1/2 cup to 2 cups. Oops. So, I knew that wasn’t going to work. I scrambled to fix the cookies, since I didn’t want to start over and I really wanted cookies! My first fix was not so good, but then I got it. And they are delicious, beautiful cookies. I quickly wrote down what I did and ¬†wanted to share. If you make them, please let me know how you like them! I think I will be making these again.
The Accidental Cookie

Serendipity Cookies

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • ¬Ĺ cup white sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 ‚Äď 1 cup semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips
  • 1/4 lb butter, melted (1 stick)
  • ¬Ĺ tsp salt
  • 1¬† tsp vanilla

Cream butter, peanut butter and sugar

Add eggs, salt, vanilla and baking powder

Add oats and flour, mix until just combined

Add chocolate chips, drop by spoon onto ungreased cookie sheet

Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. 8 minutes results in chewy cookies, 10 in crispy. I prefer 9: right in between.

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Eggs Benedict, or “I hate making hollandaise” for dinner

I haven’t participated in a Daring Cooks challenge in a long while, but here it is and with one of my favorite dishes!

Jenn and Jill have challenged The Daring Cooks to learn to perfect the technique of poaching an egg. They chose Eggs Benedict recipe from Alton Brown, Oeufs en Meurette from Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan, and Homemade Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages (poached) courtesy of Trudy of Veggie num num.

I have been poaching eggs for a while now, so it turns out that the challenge for me was the hollandaise sauce. I had to make it twice. That doesn’t happen a lot but then, I generally try to avoid things that need absolute precision. Hollandaise does. I still have no idea where things when wrong the first time around, but I ended up with a curdled globby mess.
The second time was the charm, though! I’m glad to say that I have perfected the Hollandaise but I think I’ll still keep this as my go-to dish when eating breakfast OUT. It takes far too long to make for breakfast for myself. That said, take a look at this, and tell me that doesn’t have you looking forward to your next breakfast out?

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Marshmallow Fluff

Breaking eggs is easy, separating eggs is only slightly harder. Today, however, I had a real issue with it. I went through two eggs before I stopped breaking the yolks and actually separated out four whites. Not to be wasteful, I made some scrambled eggs.

Then I really got cracking (pun completely intended) on the recipe for Fluff. I got the recipe out of¬†Retro Desserts by Wayne Harley Brachman. It involves bringing corn syrup, sugar and water to 246 degrees (what’s known as a “hard ball” state, it says) and then adding it to stiff egg whites. Not being the pastry chef of the family, I was a little weary of the turn sugar into a hard ball state, as that is pretty darn close to candy making. I did it, though! The fluff was warm and delicious and now lives in my refrigerator. When it runs out, I think I’ll be making more. There’s only one downside to the ooey gooey goodness is the clean up, which I am putting off for a little while.

Things I’m considering doing with the fluff:

Buying (Baking?) Brioche and making a sandwich of fluff and nutella. If I French Toast that, do I go to diet hell or breakfast heaven?

Fluffernutters, of course.

Spread on top of brownies and the ganache the whole thing.

Scoop it up with my finger.

Melt a little and pour it over ice cream, or blueberry pie, I’m not sure why, but that just popped into my head and now I must have it.

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Casseroles

Growing up with an Irish/American mother, I naturally ate fantastic home cooked Italian dinners most nights of the week. No, my dad didn’t cook. My mom was lucky enough to have been taught by a lovely Italian woman who lived in her building. I never tire of my mother’s cooking and I love to cook Italian food myself, but I as I grew older, I wondered about “American” food. When I was a kid, I dreaded eating at friend’s houses. I had seen mothers preparing Hamburger Helper and Tuna Noodle Casserole, and I was less than interested. As I grew older, those classics begin to pique my interest.

John works in really nice places filled with really great food. It didn’t intimidate me too much, just a little. After trying to compete for a while, I decided that what he needed was the furthest thing from fine dining that I could create. So, I started to learn how to make casseroles. I will grant that one doesn’t “learn” casseroles, rather one figures out which ingredients taste nice together when thrown into a dish with condensed cream soup. It all started with Summer Zucchini Casserole. John loved it and so did I (I will admit I had flashbacks of tuna noodle casseroles – I hear people really enjoy them, but I don’t like tuna so I’ve never tried it). Since then, I’ve assembled many a casserole and highly recommend them especially for busy moms. All you need is a mixing bowl and casserole dish. You don’t have to worry about dishes, you can use up leftovers and they’re done in about 30 minutes. It’s also a great way to pack a lot of veggies into yourself (or the kids).

Tonight, I made possibly the best casserole yet, even if it was the least healthy. It included Velveeta Cheese, Stove Top Stuffing, Cream of Chicken Soup, Roasted Broccoli, and Leftover Chicken. I still am a little frightened of hamburger helper, but I do make a lot of meals that involve cheese sauce, ground meat and noodles.

Do you make casseroles often? Do you have happy childhood memories of them? Are you¬†skittish¬†about trying them? What’s your favorite recipe?

Please let me know by leaving a comment!

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