Sunday, February 28, 2010

Right now....

In my mug:
Honey of an apple tea with a smidge of extra honey

In my belly:
1 egg and some homemade hashbrowns.

In the CD Player: Otis Redding
Fave Otis song: These Arms of Mine

What I'm happy about: Re-connecting with some old friends yesterday. I miss them.

In my camera: pics of Double Decker Banana Bread (I finally cleared out the almost 1000 photos in the camera) Here's a sneak peek.

DD Banana Bread

On my feet:
2 pairs of socks
(it's chilly)

On the nightstand:
In the middle of - Omnivores Dilemma – Pollan
Reading on and off and dreaming of all the summer desserts I'll make with:
Rustic Fruit Desserts - Crumbles, Buckles, Cobblers, Pandowdies, and More (Don't ya just love that word - Pandowdie?? I do!)

In the oven:
Orange Brownies

In the fridge:
Pork brining for Monday nights dinner.

Last DVD in the player:
Food Inc. - everyone who eats (that just about sums up the WORLD now doesn't it?) should watch this movie. I always thought McDonalds was the root of all evil, this movie confirmed it.

Food Inc

What I hear:
Birds chirping outside. Yeah! I missed that sound.

Last quote that I read (and love)
There is more to life than increasing its speed ~ Ghandi

Looking forward to:
Jamie Olivers Food Revolution (March 26)
Farmers Markets
Planting my garden
My in-laws visit this summer

Friday, February 26, 2010

Lemon Butter Cookies

Lemon Butter cookies on plate

Last week was school vacation week here.

I took time off to enjoy a lazy day with the boys. A day when we didn't do a whole heck of a lot. We stayed in our pj's all day long. We laid the couch, drank hot chocolate and watched silly stuff on TV.

A perfectly good do nothing much day.

A perfect day to make cookies.

Nothing fancy. Just a simple Lemon Butter cookie. 5 ingredients. Easy stuff.

Cookie Cutting

Evan chose the cookie shapes.

Cookie Cutting 2

Hearts, stars, moons, trees, a little hand and a big moose.

We made this very simple (and squishy) dough. Next time I think I'll stick it in the fridge for a bit.

These are the kind of cookie you might expect to see at a proper ladies tea. Nothing messy. Not too crummy. I should have broken out the teacups and saucers, but I don't have teacups with saucers. You might think being the tea fanatic that I am, that I would, but I don't.

We rolled it out, and got cutting.

We re-rolled the dough and cut some more.

The result....a refreshing buttery cookie with a little hint of lemon.

Hooray for lazy days.

Lemon Butter Cookies coll

Lemon Butter Cookies
recipe from Southern Living Magazine

Printable recipe

1 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 cup powdered sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt

Oven to 325.

Beat the butter and the zest at medium speed with a heavy-duty stand mixer until creamy. Gradually add the sugar and beat well.

Combine the flour and salt and gradually add it to the butter mixture, beating until well blended. Shape the dough into a disc.

Roll the dough to 1/8 inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut with 2 ¼ or 3 ¼ inch cutters. Place ½ inch apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool on baking sheet 5 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely (about 20 minutes).

Monday, February 22, 2010


I received some very sad news this morning.

I learned friend of mine, who I hadn’t seen in a very long time, passed away.

He was young, just 39.

Thirty-nine. Too young to leave this world.

Every memory of him came flooding back to me. His smile, his laugh, how he loved his guitars. The nights we sat up till dawn talking and listening to music. We were so close for so many years. Flashes came back like mini movies in my head.

Rick liked to party. He liked to party a little too much. As the years rolled along and we all grew older, got married, had kids, we kind of settled down. Rick never settled down. Yes he had kids, but that never seemed to stop the partier in him.

He had 2 little girls. He lost one baby boy when he was just 8 months old. Had an industrial accident that cost him 3 of his fingers. No more guitar playing for the man that loved it so much. That must have shattered him. He went through some really rough years.

I can’t count the number of time I begged him to stop drinking. “Your liver won’t be able to take this forever,” I said to him. Those exact words and I find out this morning that he was waiting for a liver transplant.

I tried to save him so many times. I couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t let me help him. Eventually it was too painful for me to watch him destroy himself and our friendship faded. I still asked mutual friends about him. I still cared, I just couldn’t put myself through it anymore. Slowly watching him die. It was more than I could take.

So when I heard the news part of me wasn’t shocked at all. I knew this day would come sooner than it should, but it still didn’t stop the hurt I felt.

I lost it in the car during my lunch hour. Cried for the part of me that felt like I let him down. The part that should have tried harder. For those two little girls who no longer have a father, the mother and father who lost their son, sisters who lost their brother. Cried for me.

I always try to see the good in people, even when it’s hard, even when you have to strive to find it. I saw the good in Rick, I just wish he could have seen it in himself.


Cheddar, Bacon and Chive Biscuits

Cheddar Bacon Chive Biscuits CU3

Oh my goodness.

These biscuits were amazing.

Flaky. Tender. So full of flavor. I mean there's bacon and cheese in them. Bacon AND cheese.

Does it get any better than that? If it does, don't tell me cause I'm not sure my heart can take it.

What I loved about this recipe is that it a "drop" biscuit. No kneading necessary.

There big and hearty too, a half cup each.

Cheddar Bacon Chive Biscuits CU1

I baked these in two batches and let the guys chow down on the first batch while I was photographing the second batch. I'm clicking away, lost in my own little world, when I realize that standing behind me is my one of my sons and husband waiting on more biscuits. That's how good they are.

If you only make one biscuit in your lifetime, let it be these.

Cheddar, Bacon and Chive Biscuits
adapted from a recipe in Bon Appetit

makes 12 big biscuits
Printable recipe
6 thick cut bacon slices
3 ¼ cups bread flour
1 ½ tablespoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
½ cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch cubes.
2 ½ cups packed, coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese (about 12 ounces)
1/3 cup chopped fresh chives
1 ¾ cups chilled buttermilk

Position rack just above center of the oven and preheat to 425. Line a heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper. Cook the bacon in a heavy large skillet over medium heat until crisp and brown. (I used a cast iron pan). Transfer to paper towel to drain, and then chop coarsely.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a processor. Blend 5 seconds. (I'm sure if you don't have a food processor, a pasty blender would work just as well) Add the butter cubes and blend until coarse meal forms, about 30 seconds. Transfer the flour mixture to a large bowl and add the cheddar cheese, fresh chives and chopped bacon. Toss to blend. Gradually add the buttermilk, stirring to moisten evenly. Batter will be sticky!

Using a lightly floured hand, drop a generous ½ cup of batter for each biscuit onto a prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart.

Bake biscuits until golden brown and tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes. Serve biscuits warm or at room temperature.

Friday, February 19, 2010

My version of Red Beans & Rice

Red beans & rice 2

I am not a southern girl.

I have nary a southern root in my family tree.

I know that there are lots of southern cooks out there that may rolls their eyes at this recipe. I'm sure it's not authentic. I'm sure I should have added a lot more heat, but and heat and me aren't very good friends. I don't like my food spicy. Call me a wimp if you must, but that's just the way I am.

I do know that my husband loves red beans and rice and if I made it for him, that it would make him very happy. So I did.

This is my own version. Pulled from ideas that I read in recipes all over the Internet. You have no clue how many versions of this dish there are! Tons.

So I went with what I thought would taste good and give it great flavor.

I put everything in the crock pot and let it cook all morning. By afternoon my husband was smiling with a bowl that was steaming over a plate of brown rice.

Doesn't take much to make him happy and I kinda like that quality in a person.

True southerns look version of Red Beans and Rice.....

Red beans & rice 1

Lisa's Red Beans and Rice
Printable recipe
1 pound red kidney beans, soaked at least 8 hours or overnight.
1 pound kielbasa, chopped
1 ham bone (I had one in the freezer. You can always ask your butcher for one)
3 stalk of celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 bay leafs
1 teaspoon oregano
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon thyme
1 tablespoon worceshire sauce
Enough chicken broth to cover the beans
Prepared rice (I used brown rice)

Add the first 6 ingredients to the crock pot.

In a small bowl combine spices. Stir to combine. Add to the crock pot and stir to incorporate. Add the bay leaves, worcheshire sauce and just enough chicken broth to cover the beans. Stop when you see the liquid just barely hit the beans.

Cover and cook for 2 - 3 hours on high, then lower the crock pot to low and cook an additional 2 hours.

Pull out the ham bone and pull of any meat that may remain on it. Add the meat back into the pot, stir. Serve over rice.

Red beans & rice

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Right now...

In my mug:
Hot tea with honey

In my belly:
Corn flakes and blueberries from breakfast.

In the CD Player – Pink~Funhouse
Favorite lines:
Have you ever wished for an endless night?
Lassoed the moon and the stars and pulled that rope tight.

On my feet:
Thick socks & pu-puns (that's what we call slippers)

On my fingers:
Big rings – I’m infatuated.

big ring

On the nightstand:
Just finished – John Lennon – The Life by Philip Norman (864 pgs, phew)
Thanks Jules!
Just started - Omnivores Dilemma – Pollan (finally, I was a slow poke with this one)

In the oven:
Lemon Butter Cookies

In the dryer:
Laundry for me to fold. Ugh.

On the table:
Seed catalogs and planning strategies for this years garden.

On the table a half hour ago:


In my camera:
974 pictures

In the fridge:
Chicken Enchiladas for dinner.

Filling my day with laughter:

Evan laughing

Jesse smirking

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Bite Size Sour Cream Pound Cake Cupcakes with Chocolate Glaze

pound cake cupcake solo

We don't make a big deal out of Valentines Days.

It might shock some of you to know that there is no exchanging of cards or gifts or even flowers.

I'm lucky enough to be married to a man that shows me he loves me every single day of the year, not just February 14th. So we don't get all excited or giddy when that day rolls around.

Of course I will bake a treat and make him a favorite meal. This year it's grilled t-bones, mashed taters and a nice organic salad followed by these lovely little pound cake cupcakes. Yeah I added little pink hearts to them...not because it's Valentines day, just cause their cute dammit. Ok, I admit it, maybe I did put the hearts on for Valentines day. Hush.

Just like us, this recipe is plain and simple. Pound cake dipped in a chocolaty glaze. Yum. Who needs a box of chocolates?? Wait a minute, I'd still love a box, but my hips don't need it!

pound cake cupcake on dish

I filled both my mini muffin tins up and still had enough left over to make 10 regular size cupcakes, so it makes a lot.

Bite Size Sour Cream Pound Cake Cupcakes
Printable recipe
½ cup butter, softened (1 stick)
8 oz package cream cheese
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 – 8oz container of sour cream

Oven to 350. Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with electric mixer until creamy. Beat in the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until blended well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Gradually add to the butter mixture, alternating with the sour cream, beating until blended. Spoon batter by rounded teaspoon into lightly greased mini muffin pans.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until wooden toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely (about 30 minutes)

For the Glaze:
1 cups semi or bittersweet chocolate,chopped
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1/8 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a small saucepan combine the first 3 ingredients together over low heat until melted. Stir in vanilla. Dip the tops of the cooled cupcakes into the glaze.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Pizza

Oatmeal Choc Chip Pizza Cookie sliced

How great would it be to make a whip up a batch of delicious cookie dough and not have to stand there and drop the dough by the spoonful onto a baking sheet? Wouldn't it be great to just plop a big old mound of dough into the center of a cookie sheet and have a GIANT Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie?

Hell yeah.

I had a stack of magazine 2 feet high to go through. I get about 6 subscriptions and then I get about 6 more from family and friends that we swap and eventually they all end up at the assisted living facility that my Nana is in. They use them for crafts and stuff. They really get used and recycled, and that makes me feel good.

So I'm speed flipping through a copy of Good Housekeeping, cause frankly, who has time to read 12 magazines a month, so I speed read them. I just manically flip through the pages and rip out recipes or anything that interest me. Then the clippings either go into my "to make" basket or my "inspiration" basket. My inspiration basket is filled with clippings of rooms I love, or a design style, or a product I want to look into more, dream house photos, those kind of things. I ripped out this recipe and since it was so simple and easy, I gave it a reprieve from the basket and decided to go ahead and just make it.

Oatmeal Choc Chip Pizza Cookie uncooked

Here's a tip for making the perfect 8 inch circle. If you have one, use a protractor and draw a circle in pencil on the parchment paper and then flip it over so the pencil mark isn't touching your batter, although really, if you didn't flip it, I'm sure that a little pencil mark isn't gonna kill ya. Now you have a template for your cookie batter. Just use a flat spatula and spread it out to the ends of the circle. If you don't have a protractor, just grab a salad plate, most of them are about 8 inches, or just be wild and grab a ruler and free hand it.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Pizza
Printable recipe
¾ cup all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup old fashioned oats
¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup walnuts, chopped

Oven to 375. Line large cookie sheet with parchment.

Mix the flour, baking soda and salt until well blended.

In a 3-quart saucepan, melt the butter on low. Remove from the heat and with a wire whisk, stir in the brown sugar and granulated sugar until blended. Whisk in the egg and vanilla. With a wooden spoon, stir in the flour mixture, then oats, then chips and walnuts till combined.

Oatmeal Choc Chip Pizza Cookie with milk

Spoon the batter into the center of the prepared cookie sheet. With a spatula spread the batter to an even 8 inch round. Bake 18 minutes or until cookie is golden brown. Let cool on a cookie sheet on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board lined with waxed paper. Cut the cookie into 12 wedges and serve warm.

This would be great served warm with some vanilla ice cream, and some whipped cream and a cherry on top. Ok I'm getting a little carried away but you get the idea. Boy am I glad we didn't have ice cream in the house.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Apple Streusel Bars

Apple Strusel Bars on plate

If you haven't visited Hannah at honey and jam then all I can say are missing out.

You are missing out on some of the most beautiful food photography imaginable.

You are missing out on terrific recipes.

You are missing out on one of the most talented 19 year olds the world has.

Yup she's only 19.

Can I just say, that for most of my 19th I wasn't as ambitious or half as talented as she is, and even though I had just got my very first "real" camera, I never took pictures like this girl does. You can check out her other stuff at fields and woods.

I found Hannah when she linked back to this recipe of mine. I suddenly got a lot of hits from this honey and jam site so I went to check her out and then proceeded to read every post she ever wrote, all while oogling and drooling over her photographs and saying "oh I have to make that" - a lot. I ohh and ahhh and want to make almost everything I see on her blog, but these Apple Streusel Bars really got me. While I was in a dessert making frenzy for my Mom's birthday, I added this recipe to my menu.

So glad I did. I'm apple crazy anyway. There aren't too many things with apple in them that I won't eat. These were divine.

Apple Strusel Bars in pan

Apple Streusel Bars
recipe from Honey & Jam
Printable recipe
2 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. real butter, softened
1 egg, beaten

Apple Filling:
1/2 c. white sugar
1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
4 c. (about 3 medium) sliced, peeled baking apples (I used gala)

2 c. powdered sugar
About 3 Tbsp. milk (whole milk is best)
1/2 tsp. almond extract

To prepare crust, mix flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or two knives until you have pea-sized crumbles. Gently mix in beaten egg.

Spray a 9x13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Gently pat about 2/3 of the crumb mixture onto the bottom of the dish. Preheat oven to 350 and set aside.

To prepare apple filling, combine sugar, flour, and cinnamon and toss with apples.

Spread apples out on prepared crust. Sprinkle reserved crust mixture over apples evenly and bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes.(Mine took 50 minutes to test done)

When finished, allow to cool.

To prepare glaze, whisk together powdered sugar, almond extract, and enough milk to achieve desired consistency. Spoon glaze on top of bars. (I like to glaze them when they’re still a little warm, so the topping isn’t bright white)

Apple Strusel BarsLS

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Quick Whole Wheat and Molasses Bread

Quick Whole Wheat Molasses Bread

This is a revisited recipe. I made this way back when my blog was just taking baby steps, so I thought I'd re-visit it again, cause these bread is so quick and easy to make I think everyone should try it. This is a Mark Bittman recipe I came across a few years ago reading the New York Times recipe log. I made this bread in the time it took the oven to heat up.

There are only 6 ingredients. You can literally whip this together in 5 minutes and in about 45 minutes you have a loaf of delicious bread. That’s how fast and easy it is. It not only tastes great, but it's pretty darn good for ya too. I double or triple the recipe and then freeze a few loaves.

My favorite part of making this bread, besides eating it, is stirring together the buttermilk and molasses. It turns into this gorgeous deep caramel color that looks so good you'll almost want to drink it, but you won't cause well, it's buttermilk and molasses and that's just nasty.

I used my favorite white corn meal to make this. You can use yellow cornmeal, but I'm just parital to this brand:

corn meal

Quick Whole Wheat Molasses Bread
Printable recipe Yield – 1 loaf.

1 2/3 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt * don't have buttermilk on hand, no problem, see note.
2 ½ cups (about 12 ounces) whole wheat flour
½ cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup molasses

Heat oven to 325. Grease an 8x4 inch or 9x5 inch loaf pan, preferably nonstick. I use parchment in the pan too, but that's optional.

Quick Whole Wheat Molasses Bread sliced CU1

Mix together all the dry ingredients. I put mine in a big bowl and whisk it to combine. Stir molasses into the buttermilk. Stir liquid into dry ingredients (just enough to combine – don’t over mix!!) Pour into loaf pan. Bake until firm and a toothpick inserted into the center comes our clean. My bread was done in 45 minutes, yours could take longer, but check it at the 45 minutes mark. Cool on rack for 15 minutes before removing from pan.

*Note: To make your own buttermilk (or soured milk). Warm 1 1/2 cups milk for 1 minute in the microwave, just enough to take the chill off. Add 2 tablespoons white vinegar. Set aside to allow to thicken.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Quick Vegetable Leek Soup with Dumplings

Vegetable Leek Soup with dumplings bread split

After a brief warm spell of mid 40’s here (trust me, that’s a heat wave here in the winter), the weather has once again turned bitterly cold and we are bundled up in thick socks and cozy blankets with the teakettle working overtime.

I have a stack of books that I’ve been meaning to get to, but as the day comes to a close and I can finally pick one up and start to read, I find myself nodding off and before you know it, the thud of the book hitting the floor wakes me up again. It’s no wonder that I usually choose magazines, they are much quieter upon impact.

I also have a box full of wood projects to work on. John and I have been scouring the antique stores and 2nd hand shops for wooden items that we transform into primitive items for the house.

Moose Update: For those interested....he seems to be getting a little better each day. I can’t tell you how many times a day we lift him up and down off the couch, or up and down the stairs, but it’s a lot, and that's ok cause we will do whatever we have to for Moose. He’s part of our family. It’s our job to help him out when he can’t help himself. So we’ve been trying to stay home as much as possible, combining necessary trips into one big trip so Moose can’t get into too much mischief while we’re gone. I enjoy being a homebody, especially during the winter, so it’s fine with me.

Ok back to soup. The colder it gets out, the more I want to make soup. I also love cooking up a batch and making and some homemade bread to go along with it. The perfect meal in my opinion. This Vegetable Leek soup is a recipe I adapted from combining a few existing recipes I had and making it my own. I used my go-to dumpling recipe from Cooks Illustrated. Don't forgot the dumpling rule: NO PEEKING. Once that cover is on, you leave it on, or you won't get perfect dumplings. Just close the lid, set the timer, walk away and when time's up, you will have light and fluffy dumplings. Now who doesn't want that?

Vegetable Leek Soup with dumplings

I love this soup because it's quick and easy and with a few fresh ingredients and the use of some frozen veggies it makes it a snap to throw together. Use up whatever veggies you have on hand to make this our own.

The bread you see is Super Quick Whole Wheat and Molasses Bread. Perfect with this soup. That recipe is coming up next.

Quick Vegetable Leek Soup with Dumplings.
Printable recipe
2 leeks, chopped, white parts only
2 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pkg baby portabella mushrooms, chopped
12 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 pkg (16oz) frozen mixed vegetable *see note
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon ground mustard
½ cup uncooked orzo pasta
1 tablespoons Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons chopped parsley (fresh if you can, if not add in a tablespoon of dried)
salt and pepper to taste

2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Vegetable Leek Soup with dumplings bread CU

In a Dutch oven sauté the leeks in the oil until tender. Add in the mushroom and cook until softened. Add in the garlic and cook for just 30 seconds or so. Add the broth, frozen vegetables, mustard, Italian seasoning and parsley. Bring to a boil. Stir in the orzo and cannellini beans. Reduce the heat and simmer about 6 to 8 minutes or until heated through and the pasta is tender.

For the Dumplings: Stir the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Microwave the milk and butter in a microwave-safe bowl on high until just warm (do not over-heat), about 1 minute. Stir the warmed milk mixture into the flour mixture with a wooden spoon until incorporated and smooth. Don't over mix!

Drop golf-ball-sized dumplings over the top of the soup, about 1/4 inch apart (you should have about 18 dumplings give or take). With the heat still on low, cover, and cook until the dumplings have doubled in size, 15 to 18 minutes. Remember don't lift the lid!!

*Note - I used half a bag of Trader Joe's Brittany Blend (haricot vert green beans, wax beans & baby carrots) and almost a whole bag of Trader Joe's Organic Foursome (white corn, sweet peas, julienned carrots, blue lake green beans).