Monday, September 29, 2008

Self Portrait

Thanks to The Pioneer Woman I was introduced to one of the most awesome my opinion. On her blog, The Pioneer Woman has a little box called "Another Site for You". In this box she will link to another blog that she thinks is interesting - that's what I'm assuming anyway. Well, I just happened to check out her most recent site recommendation and I am so glad that I did. I stumbled across a number of extremely talented artists. I myself am not all that talented. I can draw, yes, but not without great effort, long periods of time and extremely mis-propotioned features. After following the link I found myself at an open [sketch]book. Let me just say that the sketches on this site are amazing. I was feeling inspired by her work today and decided to take a leap and do something that I have NEVER done - a self portrait.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Chipotle at home!!

I absolutely love Chipotle - the flour tortilla, the cheese, the rice, the corn salsa, the black beans, the sour cream and the meat with a kick you in the back of the throat dash of hot. Unfortunately, I don't get to eat it all that much. A couple of weeks ago I got a craving for Chipotle though. During one of my food blog binges I stumbled across a recipe for Cilantro-Lime Rice and thought that I would try it. There was nothing better to pair it with than Corn Salsa and so the Chipotle at home mission began. I managed to find all I needed on the website The meal was a big hit with the family and tasted even better reheated the next day. One problem that I had - the recipe calls for red onions and when I cut into the onion...well, I might as well have been blind. I couldn't see for about 5 minutes because my eyes were full of tears and two days later were still swollen. However, with my recent cooking adventures - if that is my only problem, then I am doing pretty good. Making the marinade was awesome - I got to use my anniversary present!! My new food processor!!

Here are the recipes that I used:

Chipotle's Steak Marinade
1 (2 ounce) package dried ancho chiles
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons cumin powder
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
6 cloves garlic
1/2 red onion, quartered
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 Small Steaks (6 ounces each)

Soak dry chilies overnight in water, until soft. Remove seeds. Add allingredients except meat in food processor. Puree until smooth. Spread mixture over chicken, or other meats and refrigerate at leastone hour, up to 24 hours. After marinating, heat grill to about 400 degrees F, or if cookinginside, heat small amount of oil in skillet or grill pan over highheat. Salt meat to taste (optional), and grill lightly, turning onlyonce, until done. 8-10 minutes perside for 3/4" thick steak. Recipe will make four burritos.

(For the meat, I used a package of the preseasoned fajitas that HEB sells. This wasn't a good idea if you want to really taste the flavor of the marinate. It was still really good though.)

Cilantro Lime Rice
1 teaspoon vegetable oil or butter
2 tsp. fresh cilantro
2/3 cup white basmati rice
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Lime

In a 2-quart heavy saucepan, heat oil or butter over low heat, stirring occasionally until melted. Add rice and lime juice, stir for 1 minute. Add water and salt, bring to a full rolling boil. At boiling, cover, turn down to simmer over low heat until rice is tender and the water is absorbed, about 25 minutes. Fluff rice with a fork.

Corn Salsa
2 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed (a large can of corn works just as well)
1/3 cup chopped purple onion
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped jalapeno pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours. Remove from refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving. Serve corn salsa with grilled meat or poultry. Makes about 3 cups corn salsa.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Happy Anniversary to Us!!

It has been a year since my husband and I were married...although it seems like longer. We live our lives day to day working and taking care of our two boys - time just passes so quickly. So much has happened in the past year.

We didn't do anything special for our anniversary - just dinner with my parents. We ran around the day before purchasing my husband a new wedding band, as his original band is titanium and cannot be sized - it seems to be too big. I got a food processor as my anniversary gift. I have been wanting one for forever - now, I just need to find a reason to use it. When I was looking at food processors online I actually found that there are cookbooks with recipes which specifically call for the use of a food processor. I may need to look into that.

On our wedding day, our wedding cake was an Italian Cream Cake. We didn't save the top layer - didn't have the space in the freezer to store something for a year. With my recent interest in cooking and baking and trying new things - I thought that I would make an Italian Cream cake for our anniversary. It turned out really well!! I was impressed with myself especially since both of my parents agreed that it was much better tasting than my wedding cake.

Italian Cream Cake

· 2 cups flour
· 1 teaspoon baking soda
· 1 teaspoon salt
· 1/2 cup shortening
· 1/2 cup butter
· 2 cups sugar
· 6 egg yolks
· 1 teaspoon vanilla
· 1 cup buttermilk
· 1-1/2 cup flaked coconut, lightly toasted
· 6 eggs whites

· Frosting:
· 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
· 1 pound powdered sugar
· 1/2 cup butter, softened
· 1teaspoon vanilla
· 1 cups chopped pecans, lightly toasted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 3 8-inch round cake pans. With a wire whisk combine flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream shortening, butter and sugar. Stir in vanilla. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time. Flour mixture is added alternately with buttermilk. Stir in coconut. Beat egg whites until stiff. Gently fold whites into cake batter. Pour into prepared pans. Bake 25 minutes.
Cool cake layers in pans for 5 minutes. Remove to cool completely on racks. Blend together cream cheese, butter. Add powdered sugar a little at a time. Stir in vanilla. Place bottom layer on serving plate. Frost with 1/4 of the frosting. Sprinkle layer with 1/4-cup nuts. Top with next layer. Frost with 1/4 of the frosting. Sprinkle layer with another 1/4 cup of nuts. Place top layer on middle layer. Ice sides of cake with half of remaining icing. Frost top of cake with last of the frosting. Sprinkle remaining nuts all over the cake.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Who doesn't LOVE pizza?!

I found a Betty Crocker recipe online the other day for Cowboy BBQ Chicken Pizza. The pizza crust was made out of Bisquick and since I have this new thing for BBQ Chicken pizza - I thought I would try it out. In the end I chickened out on the Bisquick crust - instead I used the BreadMaker to mix up some pizza dough. I didn't really 'follow' a recipe - which is a first for this cook. So, I ill just list what I did and hopefully you can go from there.

BBQ Chicken Pizza
2 Chicken Breasts - cut into small 1/4 inch pieces
your choice of BBQ sauce
8oz bag of Colby-Jack cheese

I cut up my chicken breasts - added some salt and pepper - coated them in BBQ Sauce
Next I put the chicken in a pan and cooked it through
Depending on how much sauce you like on your pizza - spoon BBQ Sauce onto pizza dough
I then added a thick layer of the chicken and most of the cheese. Then I added more of the chicken and the rest of the cheese.
I made a large 14-18 inch pizza but you could make 2 smaller sized pizzas.
Once I had all of the ingredients on the dough I popped it in the oven for 25 minutes at 425 degrees.
It was delisious!!!

I also made a pepperoni and sausage pizza - which was a much bigger hit, but they were both REALLY good.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

A little bit better

This weekend I tried out some more new recipes on my family. These were a little bit better than last weekend. Everyone, even the picky kids liked them. They complained a little at first - you know how it is, if it doesn't look good to them then it must taste nasty. Here are the recipes that I used. They came from the Kraft Food and Family magazine.

Maple-Glazed Baby Carrots

2 lb. baby carrots
1/4 cup KRAFT Light CATALINA Reduced Fat Dressing
1/4 cup maple-flavored or pancake syrup
1 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup PLANTERS Pecan Pieces, toasted

1. COOK carrots in saucepan in enough boiling water to cover, 12 to 14 min or until tender. Drain; set aside.

2. MIX dressing and syrup in saucepan; cook on medium heat until mixture is bubbly, stirring occasionally. Add carrots; cook until glaze is thickened to desired consistency, stirring frequently.

3. ADD butter; stir until melted. Stir in the pecans.

Creamy Rice, Chicken & Spinach Dinner

1/4 cup KRAFT Roasted Red Pepper Italian with Parmesan Dressing
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into wide strips
1-1/2 cups fat-free reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 cups instant brown rice, uncooked
4 oz. (1/2 of 8-oz. pkg.) PHILADELPHIA Neufchatel Cheese, 1/3 Less Fat than Cream Cheese, cubed
1 pkg. (8 oz.) baby spinach leaves
1 large tomato, chopped 2 Tbsp. KRAFT 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese
1. HEAT dressing in Dutch oven or large deep skillet on medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 3 min. Add broth; bring to boil. Stir in rice; return to boil. Cover. Reduce heat to medium; simmer 5 min.
2. ADD Neufchatel cheese; cook 2 to 3 min. or until melted, stirring frequently. Add spinach. (Pan will be full.) Cook, covered, 1 min. or until spinach is wilted. Stir gently to mix in spinach.

3. REMOVE pan from heat. Let stand, covered, 5 min. Stir in tomatoes; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

(I used more rice than the recipe called for and ended up using the entire package of cream cheese. Cream Cheese is naturally a little dry and so the meal was just so. It did taste good though.)

I also tried my hand at making bread again this weekend. It went much better this time. I also discovered what I did last weekend. Turns out that I put too much water into the bread maker last weekend when I was trying to make the bread. This weekend I made the same bread and was even able to make it into a braid. It was super yummy and everyone LOVED it!!

Last but certainly not least...dessert. I made a Apple Crisp. The only things that I would do differently next time is a) cut the apple slices thicker than I did and b) use a bigger pan. Using the 8" square pan made the Apple Crisp too thick and the apples in the middle didn't cook. It was still extremely good. I will definitely make it again.

Nilla Apple Crisp
8 cups thinly sliced peeled Granny Smith apples (about 4 large/2 lb.)
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar, divided
2 tsp. ground cinnamon, divided
1/3 cup old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats
1/4 cup cold margarine 25 Reduced Fat NILLA Wafers, crushed (about 1 cup crumbs)
1-1/2 cups thawed COOL WHIP LITE Whipped Topping
PREHEAT oven to 350°F.
1. Toss apples with 1/4 cup of the brown sugar and 1 tsp. of the cinnamon.
2. Spoon into 8- or 9-inch square baking dish.
3. COMBINE oats, the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon in medium bowl. Cut in margarine with pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add wafer crumbs; mix well. Spread crumb mixture evenly over apples.
4. BAKE 30 to 35 min. or until apples are tender. Serve warm or cooled. Top with whipped topping.
(I left off the cool whip)

Friday, May 30, 2008

Death in the family

I wasn't sure whether or not I should actually blog about this, but - what is a blog for really? To get something off your chest, to share something with someone...all of the above?

Today was actually a good day. I left work a couple of hours early - my oldest son was having his Elementary School graduation. He will be in the 6th grade next year and will move to Junior High. I was happy, sad and am terrified for him to go to Junior High. My husband surprised me by getting off early as well and showing up at the graduation. Since I was at the graduation, my Father was the one who had to pick my Mother up from work (we normally ride home together) and my younger son from daycare. I left for the graduation at 515pm, my Father left about 530pm. We all returned home around 7pm. From 7pm until around 1030pm or so we are just puttering around the house - living our lives. Somewhere around 1030pm, my oldest son came and told me that he overheard a conversation my Mother was having with someone on her cellphone. He said that my Uncle was dead. It was another hour or so before I heard anything. I was outside and my Father came out - visibly upset. He began to cry and told me that my Uncle had shot himself. To some extent my Father was pissed off - none of us were home when the police came by to inform him around 6pm. We were unable to receive phone calls because our phone has been giving a busy signal (gotta love digital phone service). It wasn't until another Uncle's girlfriend/wife got to her home and got my parent's cell phone numbers - that she called.

The upsetting part for my Father was that he saw this coming and there was nothing that he could have done to stop it. He told me that my Uncle had started telling him where he kept things (collectibles) and how much they were worth. It seems that my Uncle became depressed after my Grandmother passed away 2 years ago and then got worse after one of my Uncles went into the hospital and had a horrible time (dying and being revived a number of times) before finally passing away some time in January (2008). During all of this time my Uncle also began to have health problems including horrible migraines which ended up affecting his vision. He did not want to go to any doctors and obviously did not want to go on living.

While I know that people have heard this and said this a number of times when a family member has passed, but I truly believe that this is all for the best. It will be difficult for my Father and my Uncle (the only family member he has left) as they now start the task of cleaning out 50yrs worth of stuff from my Grandmother/Uncle's home.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Dinner for the family

I decided to cook dinner for my family this past weekend. I don't normally do a lot of cooking since my husband, boys and I live with my parents - my Father is a great cook and usually does all of the cooking. So, I cooked this weekend. I had been looking at food blogs all week and picked a few recipes from some of the blogs that I had read. Enjoy!!

The first one comes from

Barbecue Mini Meatloaves

about 1 1/2 pounds ground beef (85/15) and ground turkey or use all ground beef
2 eggs
3/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
3/4 cup crushed potato chips
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup barbecue sauce plus extra to slather on top
2 tablespoons mustard

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Form meat mixture into 6 mini loaves and place on baking sheet.

Bake for about 20 minutes and then slather each mini loaf with barbecue sauce. Continue baking mini loaves an additional 10 - 15 minutes or until loaves are cooked through.

Remove from oven and serve.

(I used 2 lbs of ground beef.)

These were really good! I ended up using 2 lbs of ground beef, but didn't adjust the amount of other ingredients that I put in. While the flavor was really good - I kept thinking that it could have used more spice. I am a big fan of meatloaf anyway, but this was super yummy! I absolutely loved the barbcue sauce in place of the usual ketchup. Low and behold - the family loved it too!!

The next recipe I got from

Sautéed Mushroom Orzo with Cheese

2 cups uncooked Orzo pasta

3 Tbs. cold butter

2 cups Italian Six Cheese blend shredded cheese (or cheese of choice)

5-6 tsp. minced garlic

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 cup mushrooms, chopped

1 Tbs. butter or olive oil

Cook Orzo according to package directions.

In food processor combine cheese, 3 Tbs. cold butter, garlic, salt and pepper.
Process until smooth.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt remaining butter or olive oil and saute' mushrooms until tender.

Drain pasta, add to mushrooms and stif.

Gently stir in the cheese mixture. Stir until cheese has melted. Serve

I also tried to make homemade bread. I didn't want to spend all of the time mixing and kneading and everything, so I put the ingredients into the bread maker. The only problem - we only had self-rising flour. Once the ingredients were in the bread maker - I put it on the dough setting and waited. When it was done - the dough was extremely sticky and shiny and I knew something was wrong. After prying it out of the pan I managed to get it on a baking sheet and let it sit there to rise. After 45 minutes it had doubled in size, so I put an egg yolk wash on it and baked it in the oven. It came out okay - it was a little dense, but still pretty good.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Stuffed Mushrooms and Toscana Soup

One of my favorite places to go out to eat is the Olive Garden. I absolutely LOVE it!! Everytime we go there we get the Stuffed Mushrooms and the Toscana Soup - they are both delicious.

A while back my Father said that he wished that we could make them at home - well, after some digging...I found a website called Top Secret Recipes. If you have never heard of it - it is kind of cool. The title on their page reads, "Creating kitchen clones of America's favorite name-brand foods". Basically, it is people who pick apart and try to copy recipes. These two were really good.

Photo courtesy of Olive Garden website

Stuffed Mushrooms

1/3 cup Progresso breadcrumbs (herb flavor)
1/4 cup canned minced clams (drain liquid)
1 Tblsp. shredded Parmesan cheese
1 Tblsp. shredded Romano cheese
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
3 Tblsp. chicken broth
12 medium white button mushrooms with stems removed
3 Tblsp. butter, melted
2 Tblsp. minced red bell pepper
2 to 3 slices mozzarella cheese
1/2 tsp minced fresh parsley

(both the bell pepper and the parsley are solely for apperance and don't make a difference in the taste and can be left off)

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

2. Combine breadcrumbs, clams, Parmesan cheese, Romano cheese and garlic in a medium bowl. Use your hands to mix everything together. Add the chicken broth 1 tablespoon at a time and stir after each addition with a spoon. Keep the stuffing fluffy by not over stirring.

3. Fill each of the mushroom caps with 1 to 2 teaspoons of the stuffing (depending on the size of the mushroom). Keep the filling pretty loose but make the top surface flat to support the sliced cheese. Arrange the stuffed mushrooms in a shallow baking dish with the stuffing facing up.

4. Use a brush to dab melted butter over each mushroom. Add enough so that the butter trickles down the sides of each mushroom and rests in the baking dish. Pour any leftover butter into the dish, then scoot the mushrooms next to each other.

5. Sprinkle minced red bell pepper over the tops of the stuffed mushrooms.

6. Arrange the slices of cheese over the mushrooms. Tear the slices to cover all of the mushrooms leaving no stuffing uncovered.

7. Back the mushrooms for 12 to 15 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown.

Zuppa Toscana

2 3/4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 meduim russet potato
2 cups chopped kale (spinach works well too)
1/2 pound spicy Italian sausage
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (does not make it too spicy)

1. Combine the broth and cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

2. Slice the unpeeled potato into 1/4 inch slices, then quarter the slices and add them to the soup.

3. Add the kale.

4. Grill and saute the sausage. When cooked and cooled, cut the sausage at an angle into slices about 1/2 inch thick. Add the sausage to the soup.

5. Add the spices and let the soup simmer for about 1 hour. Stir occasionally.

Serves 2 as an entree, 4 as an appetizer.