Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Right Now~

In my mug: milk

In my belly: corn flakes and blueberries.

First harvest: garlic scapes! I have lots of 'em!

Scapes


Last song I listened to: Queen - The Days of our Lives (I still miss Freddie)

I am thankful for: Friends who think of me wherever they are. Tati brought me back these stones from a beach on Long Island.

LI Stones

Cool website I recently found: An illustrated cooking blog. So beautiful! Kok Blog.

Last site I browsed: Anthropologie. Oh my. Now I would like:

This mug. How adorable and so "me".

mug

This aged herb pot....love the color.

herb pot

oh and this little birdie bottle opener. I have a "thing" for birds.

Didn't I tell you? I think it started with the all the birdhouses. It's hard for me to pass up anything will a cute little bird on it.

bird opener

On the nightstand: several half read magazines, mostly foodie ones, just finished a Linda McCartney bio.


Newest addiction:
almond joy

Almond Joy Pieces – M&M sized almond joys! This is so not what my waistline needs Hershey Company (but I thank you with all my heart for them anyway).

We bought these for the ice cream sundae bar we had for Jesse's birthday party and as I was getting ready to put these in a bowl, John grabbed a handful and said "No way are these going into the sundae bar, I'm hiding these suckers for myself".

He actually did hide them so the kids wouldn't eat them!

On my mind: Anticipation. My in-laws will be here Saturday and I can't wait!

Watching daily: my veggies growing. They are really taking off. Now it's just weed a little, water, and watch.

Can't wait to: harvest those veggies and eat them!

Feeling: Content.


Content

Can I just say contentment is like the best feeling ever. If you haven't tried it I highly recommend it.

Friday, June 25, 2010

To Die For Blueberry Muffins Revisited (again)

Blueberry Muffin FS

These muffins are famous.

Maybe not famous to everyone across the whole wide U S of A, but they are pretty darn famous around these parts and even stretching into the Ohio Valley (my mother in law routinely makes them in OH, she even shares!)

I've even had a few of my blogger friends make these and post about them.

I came across this recipe years and years ago. From whom, I don't even remember. If I did remember I would thank them for pointing me towards this terrific recipe that I have made and posted about, not once, not twice, but three times now.

I've never blogged about any recipe three times people.

These muffins are that good.


Blueberry Muffin solo

A crunchy struesely topping covering a moist and blueberry filled center.

You don't need to remember to let the butter soften.

You don't need to drag out your mixer.

You can use fresh blueberries, or you can use frozen ones.

It's a laid back, easy kinda recipe.

Blueberry Muffin in basket 1

Grab a couple of bowls and a few spoons.

Whip up a batch for a lazy Sunday breakfast, or a hectic Monday morning.

Double it cause this recipe only makes 10, and let me tell you, 10 is not enough.

To Die For Blueberry Muffins
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup canola oil (or vegetable oil)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
enough milk to fill one cup
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Topping
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup butter, cold and cubed
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 400. Grease the muffin cups or use muffin liners.

Combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a large bowl. Whisk to mix. Place the vegetable oil into a 1-cup measuring cup and add the egg and vanilla. Pour in enough milk to fill it to the 1-cup line. Pour this into the flour mixture and mix just until combined. Don’t over mix! Gently fold in the blueberries. The batter will be thick.

Fill the muffin cups to the top. I used an ice cream scoop and one scoop filled them perfectly.

To make crumb topping:

Mix together the brown sugar, flour, cubed butter and cinnamon. Using a pasty blender or a fork combine until the butter is pea sized. Sprinkle over the muffins before baking. I used a heaping tablespoon for each one. Trust me, heaping mounds of topping are a good thing.

Bake 20 - 25 minutes in a preheated oven or until they test done. Let cool 5 minutes in pan, and then remove from pan to cool on a rack. Eat warm if possible!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

German Chocolate Brownies

German Chocolate Brownies

Ok so you take a brownie that’s already delicious on it’s own without anything else on it, then you add brown sugar, cream cheese, coconut and pecans and that perfectly delicious “naked” brownie is now transformed into a German Chocolate Brownie.

These are ridiculously easy to make. Yes they use a prepared brownie mix, that’s where the easy part comes in. Don't you even roll your eyes at me.

John loves these. He’s big into the whole German Chocolate thing. The brownie is prepared as a "cake like" brownie. Don't make them "fudgy" or this recipe just won't work.

German Chocolate Brownies 1

German Chocolate Brownies
1 pkg brownie mix (19 – 20 ounce size)
¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter, cut into smaller pieces
4 oz (half of an 8 oz pkg) cream cheese
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

Oven to 350. Prepare brownie mix as directed on package for cake like brownies. Pour batter into greased 9x13 inch pan.

Place butter, and cream cheese in small saucepan and cook on medium heat until cream cheese is completely melted. Don’t worry if it looks a bit curdled, it will come together when you add in the remaining ingredients. Stir in the brown sugar and take the mixture off the heat. Add the coconut and pecans and mix well. Mixture will be thick. Drop spoonfuls of the mixture all over the top brownie batter.

Bake 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes clean. Cool before devouring.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Friday, June 18, 2010

Baked Penne with Farmhouse Cheddar and Leeks

Penne Chedder Leeks in pan CU

I'm a leek lover.

Most of you guys know that. I love it when leeks are the ingredient in a recipe. As I scan the ingredient list, I actually will say out loud "oh yeah, leeks!"

Imagine my delight when I see a recipe with leeks in the title! Now add the word cheddar and penne. Oh Lordy stop me now.

Penne Chedder Leeks in plate CU

Use a good cheddar when you make this. I just sounded like Ina, but it's true. You want a nice sharp cheddar. I picked mine up at Trader Joes.

I served this with a big salad. It was perfect. The right blend of cheesiness and creaminess from the leeks, and I love how the ends crisp up and get all crunchy. My favorite part!

Baked Penne with Farmhouse Cheddar and Leeks
adapted from a recipe from Bon Appetit
¼ cup butter (½ stick)
5 cups chopped leeks (white and pale green parts only, about 5 large leeks)
¼ cup all purpose flour
3 ½ cups whole milk
1 pound extra sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (about 4 cups packed)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
2 large eggs
1 pound penne pasta

Lightly butter a 15x10x2 inch-baking dish. Melt ¼ cup butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks, stir to coat. Cover the saucepan and cook until the leeks are tender, stirring occasionally (about 12 minutes). Do not let them brown. Uncover the saucepan and add the flour. Stir for 2 minutes. Add the milk. Bring it to a simmer, stirring often. Add the cheese, mustard and pepper sauce. Stir until the cheese melts. Remove from the heat. Season with salt to taste.

Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in 1 cup of the cheese sauce. Stir egg mixture into the cheese sauce in a saucepan.

Meanwhile cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain and return to pot.

Stir cheese sauce into the pasta in the pot. Transfer to a prepared baking dish.

Preheat the oven to 400. Bake until cheese is bubbling around the edges and some of the pasta is golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.

Let stand 15 minutes. Serve hot.

Penne Chedder Leeks in pan

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

RIP Phineaus

Last Days of Summer - Phineas the Fig

May 2009 – May 2010

The little twig I brought home in May of ’09, that I watched grow and flourish throughout the summer, that I beamed for every time I saw a new leaf unfold, that I carefully wrapped in a blanket and tucked away into the corner of the shed so he could go dormant over the winter is no more. Sniff.

I named him Phineaus. Now I don’t normally name my plants, but this fig was special to me. I imagined summers years from now, picking plump, ripe figs from his branches. Drizzling them with honey, or slicing them thin and putting them on the perfect thin crust pizza with pear and prosciutto. Oh I had plans for Phineaus. Glorious, delicious plans.

I didn’t even see it coming. I mean he looked ok when I took him out of the shed. Two long stick protruding out of a comfy clay pot.

Is he supposed to look like two scraggly sticks? I researched. Yup, stick-like is ok. They should bud and come back.

So we moved him into the breezeway in May. Buds emerged. Yeah. I had hope. He was coming back and then….progress stopped. That’s how he stayed. In stick-form. No other buds formed except the two that originally emerged.

Fig

He just needs more sunlight I reasoned. So out he went into the warm sun on the deck where he had spent all of last summer.

Weeks passed…..nothing. The once plump buds dried up. The stick started to wither. I had to face the facts. Phineaus was gone.

I have to say, it really made me sad. Genuinely heartbroken but I’m not giving up.

Hell no.

Meet Thor. My baby Brown Turkey Fig.

Thor June 15

Yes I know he doesn’t look too impressive right now and he may be a wee bit little for his pot. Two little stick and two small leaves, but give him time. I have faith in Thor.

Thor CU

Why Thor?

I’m sure you must be thinking, oh she choose it cause it’s a strong name. Thor – God of Thunder. Warrior. Viking.

Ummm, no, sorry. I named him Thor for one of my favorite characters on Nurse Jackie, Thor the gay, diabetic, cake-loving male nurse. He’s big but sweet. The same qualities I hope my fig tree Thor will have.

Wish us luck!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Pierogi Style Stuffed Shells with Bechamel Sauce

Pierogi Stuffed Shells1

Stuffed Shells = Not photogenic!

I had to start by letting you all know that.

I'm not a professional food photographer, I know, I know, I can hear the gasps of astonishment. YOU AREN'T? Hell, I'm just happy some of my photos make you want to try a recipe. I'm just your average everyday blogger who likes to take pictures of the food she feeds her family and most times the food is really, really tasty but it is not all the time very, very pretty.

These shells weren't very nice to look at, but man o' man they tasted so good.

This is another one of those recipe that I made up as I went along. I saw something similar in a magazine while I was waiting at the dentists office, thought to myself, oh I should see if I can get a copy of that, cause I'm so not about ripping out the page in the waiting room anymore.

That is actually something I did quite a lot. I posted about it once and someone suggested I just ask them to photocopy the page, and guess what, they will. At least they will at my dentist's office. I know if I was at my hippie doctors office she would copy anything I asked her to and it would be printed on the back of a piece of junk mail, or the flip side of a paper she didn't need, cause she is all about recycling and doing your part and I think that's too cool.

Anyway, back to the shells. I never did get a copy. I got called in fairly quickly and just forgot about it, but I knew I could wing it at home and probably make it even better, and I think I did.

So here's my version of a pierogi style stuffed shells. Creamy mashed taters, onions and shallots, butter, milk, eggs and cheese all packed into a shell and baked with a bechamel sauce.

Oh and can I just tell you that I am so taking the filling for these and adding in some bacon or pancetta then throwing it in the oven for a delicious side dish. Mashed potatoes kicked up a notch.

Pierogi Stuffed Shells

Here's to double starches!

Pierogi Style Stuffed Shells with Bechamel Sauce
1- 12oz package jumbo pasta shells
3 - 3 1/2 pounds of russet potatoes
1 medium onion, chopped
3 shallots, chopped
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup milk
2 large eggs
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
½ cup chopped green onions

In a large skillet cook the chopped onion & shallots in the olive oil until tender. Set aside.

Boil the shells in a large pot of salted water until they are cooked al dente. Don’t let them get mushy!

Place the potatoes with a large pot of cold, salted water. Bring to a boil. Continue boiling under tender (about 10 - 12 mins).

Place the potatoes into a large bowl. Either using a potato ricer or a masher, mash until smooth adding in the butter, milk, eggs, cheddar and green onions. Mix to combine.

Stuff each shell with the mixture. I probably used about a heaping tablespoon for each shell. Really stuff 'em good.

Béchamel Sauce – from Simply Recipes
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose unbleached flour

Heat the milk until almost boiling in a heavy bottomed sauce pan. In a separate pan melt the unsalted butter with the flour over low heat. Stir rapidly with a spoon. Cook this for 1 minute and then remove from the heat.

Slowly add half the hot milk to your butter and flour mixture. During this process stir constantly.
Return the milk, butter, flour mixture to low heat until the sauce begins to thicken. Add the remaining milk slowly while stirring working it into the thickened sauce. Continue to stir until it comes to a boil.

Season with some sea salt, and continue stirring until the right consistency has developed. If any lumps form, beat them out rapidly with a whisk until they dissolve. Remove from heat.

Pour the sauce over the shells and bake for 25 - 30 minutes at 350, or until hot and bubbly.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Baby Artichokes

Artichoke

Got a minute?

Good.

Then I can tell you about my great love of artichokes.

It's a love that's right up there with chocolate and caramelized onions. It's true.
I think the first bite of an artichoke that I tasted was probably my Nonna's artichoke omelet.

My Nonno and Nonna lived in Framingham, MA and every couple of Sundays each month they would head to Rhode Island for a big Sunday dinner that would last for hours.

They always walked through the door with armfuls of goodies. Breads, figs, cheese and artichokes. Big green artichokes with prickly leaves, or sometimes little baby artichokes, cute and compact. I can see her standing in my Mom's kitchen, apron on, paring knife in hand, peeling the artichokes and frying them in a big pan of sizzling olive oil and garlic for the omelet.

This wasn't a breakfast omelet. It was a savory omelet that we ate right along with the soup, and pasta and sausages. My Mom still makes this omelet for my Dad.

Artichoke1
The table was full. My aunt and uncle and all my cousins. A mix of language. Sicilian and English intertwined. It was always loud and there was always lots of laughter.

Sometimes the artichokes were stuffed and steamed. Along with the memories of the smells, I still have the memories of the sounds. The familiar thumping sound as my Nonna whacked the artichokes on the counter to open up the leaves. The snip of the kitchen shears and she took off the prickly leaf tops to get them ready for stuffing. The playful arguing about who got to eat the heart of the artichokes (the best part) that my brothers didn't eat. Those of us who loved the hearts were always calling dibs on the uneaten ones.

So artichokes for me aren't only delicious and one of my favorite foods, but they also hold a strong connection. A memory of my Nonna in the kitchen, and happy Sundays with my family filled with delicious food. I suppose that's what I'm trying to re-create each time I make a big meal and gather my family and friends around the table.

I hope I'm making some memories that my children will look back on 30 years from now and have the same flood of happiness run through them that I do when I think about those Sundays with my Nonno and Nonna.

Don't be intimidated by artichokes. Once you tackle one, you'll find it's really not a big deal to clean them.

The first thing you want to do is to trim the stem off a bit and then peel off all the outer leaves until you get down to the more tender, lighter green leaves. You will want to peel the stem also.

I couldn't find baby chokes so I used Globe artichokes. Four of them. If you use baby artichokes they will look just a bit different, but the preparation is the same.

artichoke peeled

Now you need to take the fuzzy part out and the prickly little leaves above it.

Artichoke cut

It should now look like the one of the left. See, it's easy. Are you ready to carry on with rest of the recipe? Of course you are.

Artichoke cleaned

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Baby Artichokes
6 cups water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 pounds baby artichokes (or 4 large artichokes)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ pounds small red fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise
cooking spray
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper


Roasted Potatoes with Artichokes CU

Oven to 425.

Combine 6 cups of water and lemon juice in a large bowl. Cut off the stems of the baby artichokes to within 1 inch of the base; peel stem. Remove the bottom leaves and tough outer leaves, leaving the tender heart and bottom. Cut each artichoke in half lengthwise. Remove fuzzy thistle from the bottom with a spoon. (That cracked me up, fuzzy thistle. That would make a good name for a punk band.) Place the artichokes in the lemon water.

Combine the oil and the potatoes and toss well. Arrange the potatoes in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Drain the artichokes and add to the potatoes, tossing to combine. Bake an additional 15 minutes or until tender (this was a 1/2 hr for me, much longer than the original recipe). Place vegetables in a large bowl and toss with butter, parsley, lemon rind, kosher salt, and pepper. Serve immediately.

Roasted Potatoes with Artichokes FP

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Hey there....

Lavendar

Howdy.

How's things in your neck of the woods?

Oh that was so Al Roker of me?

I apologize.

I'm here. I've been slacking off posting in the cooking and baking department a bit lately, I know. Even my mother has commented on it. "Aren't you going to post recipes anymore?" Don't worry. Recipes are just around the corner.

The nice weather is here, and we take full advantage of it. Lot's of time spent outdoors, easy dinners on the grill, relaxing after supper, doing a bit of reading under the gazebo, or some weeding once the heat of the day is over.

Let me catch you up a little. Pull up a chair. Grab some lemonade. Sit back and relax.

Here's a little bit of what we've been up to.

Spending time with family and friends, celebrating important days.

Jesse's 15th.....

Birthday Boy with cake

...he got some tickets to see Weird Al.

Biethday boy tickets

I said "Are you excited about the tickets?" and he said "Yes, I really am but somehow I can't seem to fully express it at this moment". That cracked me up.

Let me tell you if you want to be "the" party giver of the century at your teenagers party here's two things you can do to ensure it's success.

1) Nacho Bar

Birthday boy at Nacho bar

What kid doesn't like nachos? None of the ones at my house that's for sure.

2) Ice Cream Sundae Bar

The Sundae Bar was a HUGE hit. We had it a few times last year and the kids just beg for it at every party. Here's some goopy creations.

Sundaes

Belle

The kids all had a great time running around burning off all that ice cream.

Sara, Ryan, Evan

Jesse had a great time counting his birthday moolah.

Birthday Boy

I've been taking some pictures.

I've been watching my flowers bloom and grown.

yellow

Just chillin' out a bit and letting everything kinda just flow.

I've been keeping and eye on that vicious attack dog of ours.

He's always on guard and ready.

Guard Dog

Oh and I have been cooking. Just haven't had the time to sit in front of the screen and actually post about it, but here's a sneak peek at what's coming up.

Baked Penne with Cheddar and Leeks.

Roasted Potatoes and Artichokes.

Pierogi Style Stuffed Shells.


As my cousin pointed out to me...that's a lot of starch. Don't worry, I didn't make, and we didn't eat all that starchy goodness in one day.....it was two, lol.

Metal Mushroon

Anyhow....

Hope you are enjoying the nice weather in your little corner of the world.

Get out there and get some fresh air.

Let the sun shine down on your face.

Smell some flowers.

Hang out with the people you love and just be. Talk. Connect.

Look at something beautiful.

Purple wicker

Be back in a just a bit with some chow.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010