April 30, 2008

Sunshine and Salads

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We have been having some awesome weather here lately. Its like we went from winter, instantly to summer - totally bypassing spring! As you can see - Chubby up above is enjoying the weather and looks pretty comfy on the porch ledge! We were in the high 80's earlier this week. Very unlike temps for this time of year in our area and we all (people and pets!) have been reveling in the warm sunshineyness!

With this summer like weather lately, I felt like a light and refreshing salad for dinner. I've had the Shrimp Caesar Salad bookmarked from Cooking Light (myrecipes.com) for a while and figured it was time to try it out. Unfortunately, I didn't have croûtons or pine nuts here, so it was missing some ingredients - but I figured it wouldn't matter much as I would probably be the only one who cared. I also had Chris help me out with some photography so I could have a few more pics this time!

Shrimp Caesar Salad
from myrecipes.com

Dressing:
2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated Parmesan cheese (I used my microplane zester to grate this cheese, I just love it!)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon Sriracha (hot chile sauce, such as Huy Fong)
1/8 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced

Salad:
3/4 cup fat-free seasoned croutons
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp, cooked and peeled
1 (10-ounce) package chopped romaine lettuce
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
Chopped fresh chives (optional)

To prepare dressing, combine mayonnaise and next 7 ingredients (through garlic), stirring with a whisk.

To prepare salad, combine croûtons, 2 tablespoons cheese, shrimp, and lettuce in a large bowl. Add dressing; toss well to coat. Top with pine nuts. Garnish with chives, if desired. Serve immediately.

4 servings (serving size: 3 cups salad and 2 1/4 teaspoons pine nuts)

I probably would have enjoyed this more if I had the pine nuts and croûtons (especially the pine nuts). The guys thought it had a bite. I tend to think it was the lemon juice and not the chili sauce.

I'll leave you with another photo....this one of Peabody who looks like he's saying "uh oh, ma caught me digging in her dirt!" He has really been loving going outside! This is his first summer!

April 29, 2008

Pucker up and Kiss me!

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I must start out today with a BIG THANK YOU to Amy of Familia Bencomo! I posted a comment on her Haggen Dasz ice cream giveaway and I won! I'm so excited and can't wait to get the ice cream!

I love lemon. I love lemon meringue pie, lemon swirled cheesecake, and lemonade - but I especially love a really yummy, perfectly baked lemon bar! (Yes, I do love savory dishes with lemon also, but that is another post!)

Grumpy has a question that bugs me to death - especially when my answer is "nothing". Chris asked me the same question last week..."what's for dessert?" I don't serve dessert on a regular basis. Mostly because we don't "need" dessert. And other times because I can have dessert and then nobody is in the mood for it! Go figure. Anyway, I decided the other night that we would have dessert and since I had two lemon's in the fridge, what better thing to make than a lemon bar? I went onto the Joy of Baking website and pulled the recipe for lemon bars from there. I followed the recipe to a T. For the recipe, click here.

Chris and I enjoyed a lemon bar after dinner. Grumpy waited a little bit but...after he got into them - well, when I peeked under the cover I realized more than half of the dish was empty! Must be he enjoyed them himself! I know this is the best lemon bar recipe I have ever made. Turned out perfectly and I love how the bar looks inside.....yummmy delicious lemonness!

April 28, 2008

Oh, just STUFF it!

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Recently I had the sudden urge to stuff a burger with all kinds of yumminess. We bought a new grill last week and that probably had something to do with my desire to make burgers - not to mention the weather has been more like summer than spring! I did a search and came up with a recipe from Allrecipes - Easy Bacon, Onion, and Cheese Stuffed Burgers. I read the ingredients and thought it sounded flavorful enough and even though there is BBQ sauce in the burger itself (shhh, don't let Grumpy know) I thought I would try it. I mean, if he can't SEE the sauce IN the burger, who's to know, right?

Now, those who read my blog on a regular basis know that we basically live off venison in this house. Grumpy is a big ole hunter (reminding me of Katypi, a friend from a cooking forum, and her Ole Earl comments - who by the way loved this burger also!) who fills our freezer every year since we have been together - so I guess he's also a big ole accomplished hunter! LOL. Grumpy gets the credit for actually grilling these....I only put them together, but he is the one who cooked them to perfection! SO, I made these burgers with ground venison. I swear, either I've gotten used to the taste of venison, or the ingredients in this burger hid the venison "flavor" really well!

Easy Bacon, Onion, and Cheese Stuffed Burgers
from allrecipes.com

3 pounds ground beef (I used about 1-1/2 lb ground venison)
1/4 teaspoon salt (I omitted the salt)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 tablespoons barbeque sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (I didn't have powder so I used about 2 tsp of refrigerated minced garlic - in the jar - yeah, I like garlic!)
1/2 pound bacon, cut into 1/4 inch pieces (I just broke it up into smaller pieces)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
6 hamburger buns, split (with the smaller amount of venison I got 4 burgers)

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the ground beef, salt, black pepper, barbeque sauce and garlic powder using your hands. Taking a small handful at a time (approximately 1/4 pound), shape into 12 patties. Lay patties out on a cookie sheet and cover with plastic wrap; place patties in the refrigerator.

Place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Remove bacon from skillet with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Turn the heat down to medium and pan fry the onions in the remaining bacon drippings until soft and translucent and just beginning to brown. Mix together onions and bacon in a small bowl. (I did not mix them together, I layered them separately on the meat.)
Prepare a grill or large skillet for medium heat.

As the grill heats, pull beef patties out of the refrigerator; top 6 of the patties with 1- 1/2 tablespoons of the bacon and onion mixture each, and sprinkle with shredded cheese. (Chris suggests that next time I make these I mix the bacon into the burger instead of stuffing it.) Top each with one of the remaining patties and press the edges together to seal.

Grill or pan fry the stuffed and sealed patties until cooked through to your preference.

Serve on hamburger buns with condiments of your choice. (Grumpy grilled these and we put a slice of extra cheese on the burgers. I topped mine with more BBQ sauce!)

April 27, 2008

Daring Bakers Pops 2nd Challenge - Cheesecake Pops!

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So, only my second challenge, and I was so excited. When I found out we were going to make Cheesecake pops, I was ecstatic because my first thought was - these will be perfect for CFY!

First off I want to thank Elle of Feeding My Entusiams and Deborah of Taste and Tell for submitting the recipe of the month - The recipe this month hales from a cookbook entitled, Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor. You can view the recipe at either of their blogs!

If you need a gluten free recipe, you can view one at Ginger Lemon Girl's site. I visited her site this morning and her pops look great! I have a personal interest in gluten free because of my friend who was just diagnosed with Celiac disease.

Before I started I went in to see if others had made the pops and how they turned out for them. I was finding that many people were having trouble with the cake setting. I thought to myself, "eh, I'm a pro at cheesecake, I will do just fine"......NOT!

I thought that after reading the troubles, that if I used a different sized pan, I would be fine. I read someone else used a 9x11 pan and their cakes seemed to turn out....so I followed suit. My cake pan was still filled right to the top when I poured my batter in. Putting the boiling water in the pan after the cake pan was in for the water bath was a challenge itself! All I could think was, I hope I don't pour boiling water into my cake! I baked the cake itself for more than an hour, which was longer than the recipe stated. When I pulled the cake out - it didn't look bad. It hadn't browned on the top like many others said theirs did- and mine had cooked for well over 1 hour and 15 minutes. So, I was thinking....maybe, just maybe I was in luck - but my luck stopped here.


This is basically where I stopped taking photos - although I did get a photo of the few I did get made into pops. After the cake cooled and sat in the fridge overnight, I was ready to make my pops. I found the top layer and around the edges was cheesecake consistency, where as when I got into the center, it started to become gooey. So, I threw the pan in the freezer after forming a few pops to try to firm it up enough to roll into balls. It was obvious to me I wasn't going to be able to cut the pops. I managed to get about 9 pops out of a recipe that made 40. Pretty depressing to me considering all the yummy ingredients that was in this recipe. Every time I took the cheesecake out of the freezer and started to form into balls, the cheesecake became liquefied in my hands. I took what I had for balls and froze them over night and dipped them the next morning. I was able to take them to CFY (kept frozen the whole time or I was afraid they would become liquid!) and when they were passed out to the participants, they were told not to save them but to eat them immediately!

The pops were a hit with the women who ate them. WHEN I make these again, I will divide the batter into 2 pans like I have seen other DB'ers do. I'm glad I participated in this challenge even though I was unable to use up all the batter. I know it can be done so I will try again and the next time I will be more successful!


To see how other Daring Baker's fared, click here.

April 26, 2008

Mom and Me

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My mom recently helped with CFY weekend for the first time ever. I have been working these types of weekends since my children were 4 & 5 years old...and they now are 21 & 22! It meant a lot to me to have my mom there with me so she could see just what it is about these weekends (CFY and EFY)that are so special to me, and why I feel like I have to be there and if I can't be there, I have this void inside of me and I feel blue. I love my mom with all my heart and I hope she realizes just how much she really does mean to me. Mom thinks she made some mistakes when it came to sending me off to private school and not doing some things that she feels she should have to protect me from some incidents in my past. She mentioned this to me on our ride home from the weekend. Being a mom myself, I know exactly how she feels, but I told her this: "Don't blame yourself. I am happy now and I don't blame you."

My heart goes out to my mother and I don't want her to blame herself for things that were not "perfect" for me. I know how hard it is to do because I tend to do the same thing when I think of decisions I made involving my children and wonder "what if". My children still love me and I still love my mom. Nothing will ever change that.

I'm a survivor mom and I'm living stronger than ever. Be happy and be proud.

April 21, 2008

Time to make the Blintzes

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We have a family restaurant in our area called McCarthy's (sorry people, no website for the place) where they offer an awesome Sunday Brunch. One of the items on their menu is cheese blintzes. I fell in love with these and decided I needed to learn how to make them. Little did I know just how simple they are to make!

Taste of Home has a recipe for Cherry Cheese Blintzes that I decided would be the one I tried. I was nervous about this mainly because I decided to make them for the CFY weekend and the people there were going to be my guinea pigs (GASP!). Well, I found out they weren't so hard after all and everyone seemed to love them, so mission accomplished!

I want to say a very special Thanks to Jeremy and Joya (I hope you DO read this!). They helped out with the weekend and Joya's creativeness at the table settings is unmatched! Jeremy happily (I hope!) tolerated my request that he take photos upon photos and thankfully didn't laugh at me when I asked him to take photos of my making the blintzes (at least outwardly he didn't laugh!). It is amazing to me how smoothly our weekend went with us being short staffed for help and that I even had time to think of having someone take photos of my blintz making!

Below is the recipe for the blintzes. For the filling I used Blueberries instead of cherries.

INGREDIENTS:

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups milk
3 eggs
2 tablespoons butter, melted

FILLING:

1 cup (8 ounces) 4% cottage cheese
1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

CHERRY SAUCE:

1 pound fresh or frozen pitted sweet cherries
2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon water, divided
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch

DIRECTIONS:
In a small mixing bowl, combine flour, salt, milk, eggs and butter. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Heat a lightly greased 8-in. nonstick skillet(I used spray Pam once and didn't need anything afterward, nothing stuck!); pour 2 tablespoons batter into the center of skillet. Lift and tilt pan to evenly coat bottom. Cook until top appears dry; turn and cook 15-20 seconds longer. Remove to a wire rack. Repeat with remaining batter.

When cool, stack crepes with waxed paper or paper towels in between. Wrap in foil; refrigerate.

In a blender, process cottage cheese until smooth. Transfer to a small mixing bowl; add cream cheese and beat until smooth. Add sugar and vanilla; mix well. Spread about 1 rounded tablespoonful onto each crepe. Fold opposite sides of crepe over filling, forming a little bundle.
wow, my hands really give away my age here in this photo!

Place seam side down in a greased 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 10 minutes or until heated through.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, bring cherries, 2/3 cup water and sugar to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 5 minutes or until heated through. Combine cornstarch and remaining water until smooth; stir into cherry mixture. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Serve over crepes. Yield: 9 servings.

April 18, 2008

Cakes are a poppin!

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I have been reading Bakerella's site for a while now. She is so creative and recently grabbed the attention of Martha Stewart and was asked to be on her show!

For the CFY weekend one of the items I made to dress up the tablescape were her cake pops. These were very simple to make and are so cute. I wanted to show you all my accomplishment...

My backdrops aren't as professional looking as Bakerella's...but I just didn't have the time today. :-p

April 16, 2008

Tag, I'm it?

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Ok, SaraLynn (of the Happy Baker) tagged me a little while ago with a 6 word memoir...I have been so busy I haven't had a lot of sit down time at the computer to follow thru with my E awards or do the meme...so I'm going to combine them here.

I am supposed to tag 5 more people with the E award. I am giving this to the following people: Feel free to give pass this award on if you wish! If you don't have time, or aren't into this, I understand! In any case, I think your blog is excellent - and worth mentioning!

For the E award:

Vegan Deliciousness - her vegetarian dishes make me drool!
Bakerella - this girls blog inspires me! I love it!
Frenchy Addict - I love the photos and crafts that she does!
More than Burnt Toast - all of her food makes me drool! I love it that she updates OFTEN!
What a Dish
- great photos, personality and recipes!

Now for the 6 word memoir:

(6 words that describe me)
1. Compassionate
2. Daring (and no not because of daring bakers! lol)
3. Adventurous
4. Driven
5. Loving
6. EMOTIONAL

Sara put a few photos up and I thought what a cool idea. I'm posting a few of my favorite photos below.My son Justin and his Fiance Kristina

Chris my drummer son

My brother Steve and me...just before I got all my hair chopped off! I love his goofiness! LOL, we are SO alike!

Grumpy on a fishing trip being silly with a fish kiss....

My kitty Little Man and me...he passed away not long after that photo was taken.

and finally, the most recent of Grumpy and me...Hope you enjoyed!

April 15, 2008

When Grumpys away, I'll eat fajitas!

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When Grumpy is away, that is when I fix and eat the things I love that he doesn't! Tonight was one of those nights....and I shared my Mexican fix with Christopher! This is a recipe from allrecipes.com that I made in the past - only to mess up and put in way too much cayenne and we could barely eat them they were so spicy - but tonight....they were perfect!

Below is the recipe I used with my changes marked in red:

Venison Fajitas

Fajita Seasoning:
2 teaspoons seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I used 1/4 tsp cayenne)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/2 pounds venison, cut into 2 inch strips
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 2 inch strips
1 medium yellow bell pepper, cut into 2 inch strips
I used 1 -8 oz. package sliced baby portabella mushrooms
1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges (I thinly sliced these instead)
12 fajita size flour tortillas, warmed
Sour cream to help cool for those who need cooling or those who just like sour cream on their fajitas!

Combine seasoned salt, garlic salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and oregano to make the fajita seasoning. Sprinkle two teaspoons of the seasoning over the sliced venison. Mix well, cover, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a heavy frying pan. Cook bell peppers and onion and package of baby portabello mushrooms until starting to soften, then remove. Pour in remaining oil, then cook venison until browned. Return pepper mixture to the pan, season with remaining fajita seasoning, and reheat. Served with the warmed tortillas.

If your lucky, you will get a smile from your family like I got from my handsome son after I convinced him to let me take his picture...and hopefully the smile is not only because they love you and are placating you...but because they loved your fajitas too!

April 13, 2008

Feeling like Italian

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I have been so busy that I barely have had time to think for myself! CFY is next weekend and I have been busy prepping for that, busy getting caught up at work, and busy just plain living my life! Grumpy and I went to a local business yesterday and had virtual drawings made of our remodeling for our bathroom and kitchen. I'm so excited (especially about the kitchen) and I can barely wait! I keep looking at the photos and thinking "that is actually going to be my kitchen!" lol

I have been making a lot of food in the last week, but not any of it was for us and our meals I am ashamed to say have been basically take out or not even anything at all. This is what happens when I am getting ready for a CFY weekend....I'm too burned out and tired to cook for us.

Tonight I decided I had to have a recipe that I watched Giada DeLaurentis make on her tv show, Everyday Italian. She made this recipe called Fusilli with Spinach and Asiago Cheese. Below is the recipe with my modifications in red.

1 pound fusilli pasta (I used bowtie pasta)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced

1 (9-ounce) bag fresh spinach, roughly chopped
8 ounces (1/2 pint) cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup (about 3 1/2-ounces) grated Asiago

1/2 cup grated Parmesan (I omitted this and went with all Asiago)
1 teaspoon salt (I omitted the salt)
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (I didn't add pepper to the recipe, but instead peppered my own portion)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, warm olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the spinach and tomatoes and cook until the spinach wilts, about 2 more minutes. (This is where I added the already cooked shrimp with tails removed) Add the cooked pasta and toss. Add the cheeses, salt, pepper, and the pasta cooking liquid and stir to combine.

Transfer the pasta to a serving plate serve and enjoy!


April 05, 2008

And the Award goes to...

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Earlier this week SaraLynn of the Happy Baker awarded me the E award! SaraLynn is a new friend I met thru Daring Bakers and I have been reading all 3 of her blogs lately! She is a really sweet person and a terrific mom who likes to cook/bake with her kids! Thank you SaraLynn!

To show my appreciation I would like to pass this award on to some other bloggers that I regularly visit. I have been pretty busy all week and will be even busier this weekend as I am heading off for a two hour drive to Syracuse to shop with the future DIL, her mom, and sister for the wedding (YES I NEED a dress!). I guess I am supposed to pass this on to 10 people, but I only have time for 1/2 of that right now....so I will have to work on this more later.

Medena of Cafe Chocolada. I love her blog and recently I find myself making food I have seen on her blog (alas, the creampuff!) and in the very near future I will be making the Dobos Torte and Chicken Philly Cheesesteak! Check out her blog, you won't regret it!

Tony Tahhan of Olive Juice . He is also a new daring baker and his first submission was very creative! He is a (transplanted student) fellow New Yorker. For someone so young he is so very well traveled and knowledgeable. I love to read his blog because I know I will learn something new from him!

Carrie of Vegan Deliciousness.
She is also a student who loves to cook (and a fellow cooking forum friend!). She recently switched from vegetarian to vegan and I love watching how she makes some of what are the "meat eater" favorites and transitions them into her vegan lifestyle (not to mention I am mainly omnivorous because of Grumpy).

Lori at The Recipe Girl. Lori has an awesome blog! She also has been given this award already - but because I read her blog on a daily basis and I love what she has to say and show us, I have to give this to her myself! She also has great recipes and beautiful pictures! You won't be sorry you looked her up!

Kevin of Closet Cooking
. His blog is right up my alley! He first caught my eye when I was browsing on tastespotting and saw his Banana Buttermilk Pancakes w/ Pecans. Since then I read his blog looking for things I could make. He recently made a Baklava that looks to yummy! His photos of his food are so good (I'm envious Kevin!) and I have bookmarked many items on his blog for me to try!

April 01, 2008

I'm a Fool......for creampuffs!

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Wow, the whole day went by and not a soul thought to play an April fool's day joke on me! I'm actually quite thankful for that because I don't know how well I would have taken it today! I was out straight from the time I got up this morning until the time I sat down to eat my dinner....and I'm actually eating my dinner as I do this! Talk about multi-tasking at its best!

Yesterday I decided to make Grumpy one of his favorite desserts - Cream Puffs. Yup, not only am I a fool for a cream puff, but Grumpy is too! I recently saw Medena of Cafe Chocolada blog about making them and the fever hit me....SO, I took out my trusty ole Better Homes and Garden's cookbook and whipped up the cream puff batter:

Ingredients

1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet. In a medium saucepan combine water, butter and salt. Bring to boiling. Add flour all at once, stirring vigorously. Cook and stir until mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat. Cool for 10 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well with a wooden spoon after each addition.

Drop 12 heaping tablespoons of dough onto prepared baking sheet. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden and firm. Transfer cream puffs to a wire rack and let cool.

Cut tops from puffs; If eating immediately, remove soft dough from inside. Fill with pudding (recipe follows) and decorate tops with melted semi sweet chocolate chips. Otherwise, store in a dry environment until ready to fill and eat (or your puffs will become soggy!)


For the Pudding:

Ingredients

3/4 cup sugar
3 Tbsp cornstarch
3 cups milk (I use skim milk)
4 beaten egg yolks
1 Tbsp butter
1-1/2 tsp vanilla

Directions

In a medium heavy saucepan combine sugar and cornstarch. Stir in milk. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Remove pan from heat. Gradually stir 1 cup of the milk mixture into egg yolks.

Add egg mixture to milk mixture in saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Remove pan from heat. Stir in butter and vanilla. Pour pudding into a bowl. Cover surface of pudding with plastic wrap. Serve warm or cold (do not stir during chilling). Makes 4 servings.

I am sure your wondering, just how many photos of this cream puff can she take?? Well, if your a real foodie, then you will agree with me....you
just can't get enough of something good!



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