Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wordless Wednesday~ A little cup of acorns

acorns 1

Monday, September 27, 2010

Potato Chip Cookies

Potato Chip Cookies

I love a productive day.

I get that "nesting" feeling with the turn of each season and kind of go through the house with a vengeance.

It truly makes me feel good to organize a closet, scrub down the fridge, or steam mop the floors. I know it may sound crazy to most people, but I enjoy having everything neat and organized, at least until the next herd of teenage boys passes through.

We organized our attic and really purged it out a few weeks ago. I tried to look at each item and honestly ask myself "am I really going to use his?" Some of the times the answer was yes, a lot of the times it was no, and even though it was hard to get rid of things (I donate a lot of my decorative items to my cafeteria at work so I still get to see all my stuff, lol) it feels so good knowing that our load is lighter, and we really are keeping only the things we truly love.

I've also been putting a big dent into the food we had stored in our 2 freezers. They got a purge too. Luckily I have a vacuum sealer that we use quite a lot and it really saves a lot of space.

So fall cleaning and crafting is under way. I'm ready to make warm and hearty meals again. I'm ready to fire up the oven and fill it with stews and pies and cookies.

What better time to start then right now?

My mother-in-law, who is always on the look out for interesting recipes, called me when she saw this recipe from Mr. Food on her local news station. Potato Chip Cookies. Strange, but hey, I like strange, so it works for me.

She also knows that Evan loves the sweet and salty combination. I'm kinda fond of it myself, so I though, what the heck and gave them a try.

Now let me say this....there is a POUND of butter in these cookies so you may want to half them and save yourself the coronary bypass, or just make the whole thing like I did and give most of them away. Whatever works for you.

Evan happens to love those Pillsbury cookies that you just throw on a cookie sheet and bake. You know the ones with the little hearts in the middle, or a flag or a snowman? Yup, he lives in a house with a continual flow of home baked goods and he would hands-down, on any given day, eat those in favor of anything that lovingly comes from my oven. Where have I gone wrong?

In any case, if you like buttery, sugar cookies then you will love these. The potato chips get a little but chewy, but in a good way, not in a soggy "oh the chips have gone stale" way.

Potato Chip Cookies 1

Potato Chip Cookies
Makes 4 dozen
2 cups (4 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
3 ¼ cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups coarsely crushed potato chips

Oven to 300.

In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar. Add the vanilla and then the flour, mixing until well blended. Stir in the potato chips and mix well.

Drop by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet. (No need to grease it, but I used parchment, cause, well, I always use parchment). Using a fork flatten each cookie a little (I forgot that part - OOPS!). Bake 20 – 22 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let stand 5 minutes then remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Little Memories

mason jars

When I think back on my childhood memories, I am starting to realize that some of my most cherished have been of the little everyday things.

Sure I remember the vacations and momentous occasions, but the memories that stay with me, that linger in my mind, that I see again and again in my head, are the little things.

The catsup sandwiches that my Uncle Al & Aunt Claire would make me when I slept over, staying up and watching Perry Mason with them (way past my bedtime), the dish of Sweenor candies on their coffee table.

Waking up to the smell of sauce simmering on Sunday mornings, breakfasts of sauce and bread, weeding the garden with my Pa, my Grandma forever making a pot of coffee, my mother at the ironing board, my Dad yelling at a game on TV, then snoring in the recliner a few hours later.

My Nonna in the kitchen cooking artichoke omelets, the Torrone candy that my Nonno would keep in his pocket, the Corno (Italian horn) that hung from his rear view mirror, laying on a floor filled with coloring books and crayons with my cousin Ezia.

My Nana brushing my hair so hard that she made my eyes squint, the yellow nicotine stains on my Papas fingers from his cigars, the sound of Lawrence Welk coming from the living room, the drawer full of Lorna Doones.

All these little memories of everyday ordinary things that are the little pieces of me.

I started to think. What little memories will my children hold in their hearts?

Will they remember me in the kitchen, or out in the garden?

Will they hear John Lennon or Van Morrison's voice and think of me?

Will they reach for a jar of Nutella, or a fig, black raspberry ice cream or chocolate and smile remembering how much I loved it?

What little memories of me will stay?

Last night Evan and I took a spur of the moment trip to Whole Foods. It was just turning dusk when we headed out.

I decided I needed quite a few items in one of my favorite aisles....the bulk food aisle. Man I love that aisle. It's beautiful thing. The long cylinders filled with all sorts of shapes and colors. Beans, nuts, grains, snacks. I could live off the stuff in that aisle.

Even though it was just an ordinary shopping trip, we really had a lovely time, just the two of us. Evan let the lentils and beans and oats pour into the bags and I would yell out the code and he would rush to the scale to print out the little barcode sticker. We went and picked out some bagels for the morning. We sniffed and tasted our way through the cheese aisle - Yeah for free samples! We bought two gigantic artichokes and I supposed that's how this post was born, cause I immediately think of my Nonna when I pick up an artichoke.

In the car on the way home we listened to the Beatles and sang Yellow Submarine so loudly that the cars next to us at the light were staring.

I said to him "Do you remember me singing Beatles songs to you when you were little?"

"Kinda" he said.

Then Here, There and Everywhere came on and he said "Oh, I think I remember this song".

I don't know if he said it just cause maybe he knew it was what I wanted to hear, or if he really remembered, but it made me smile and hope that maybe, just maybe, this night, this ordinary night might someday be his own little memory.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Crockpot Root Beer Pulled Pork

Root beer pulled pork

Looking for a quick weeknight dinner?

Want something you can throw in the crock pot in the morning (or the night before) and dish up and serve by 5pm?

Well look no further. I bring you my friend Katie's Root Beer Pulled Pork. Katie made them into sliders, I just put this delicious meat on some bakery buns.

Root beer pulled pork 1

In case you are the pulled pork does not taste like Root Beer. Not in the least. See Katie's note below.

Katie served hers with slaw. I would have loved to have served mine with slaw, but since I'm the only one in the house who likes it, I skipped it. The next time I make this I'm going to cook it for a crowd and make some slaw, cause I'd really love the creamy crunch of the slaw combined with the meatiness of the pork. *sigh* Next time.

I love that all this recipe required was a few minutes of prep. Everything gets thrown into the crockpot and 8 hours later, I had a delicious meal waiting. All I did was put some in a bowl and added in a little BBQ sauce (we love Sweet Baby Rays Honey BBQ).

The leftover meat is also great in tacos.

Crockpot Root Beer Pulled Pork
recipe from Katie Lee @ Chaos in the Kitchen
5 lb boneless pork shoulder, cut into large chunks
2 tbsp oil
salt and pepper
1 (12 oz) can Root Beer or Dr. Pepper
small buns or dinner rolls
your favorite barbecue sauce

Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper. Heat oil over medium heat in a large, heavy pot or dutch oven. Sear pork shoulder pieces a few at a time until all sides are browned and caramelized. Add pork to a slow cooker as they finish. Pour soda over pork and turn slow cooker to low and cook 8-20 hours.

To serve, use two fork to slightly shred meat leaving some larger pieces. Split buns or dinner rolls and lightly toast. Toss each serving with a little barbecue sauce just to moisten. Serve tucked into warm rolls with a little broccoli slaw or coleslaw if desired.

Note from Katie:

By the way, the kids really expected this dish to be sweet and to taste like soda. It doesn’t. It is juicy and meaty but the soda is just a braising liquid that helps to tenderize the meat.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010

Caramel Apple Oat Squares

Caramel Apple Oat Squares

Ohh I have been waiting patiently! So, so patiently to post a fallish dessert.

I just couldn't take it anymore.

I haven't decorated the yard for fall yet. I haven't gone apple picking yet. I haven't had John drag down the boxes of Halloween stuff yet, but I had to make something that screamed fall and this dessert is it.

I love caramel. I mean I LOVE caramel, maybe a little too much.

Do you want to know what I don't like? Unwrapping caramels.

Let me make a shout-out. Yo caramel wrapping folks or whatever you call yourselves, can you make those little caramels any harder to unwrap? I was so frustrated by the time I got the 20th one unwrapped, I lost all energy and didn't even unwrap any to eat myself. Sad.

These little squares of deliciousness are everything you want a fall dessert to be. A crunchy, oatty topping with a sweet apple and caramel center. So good.

Yes, these don't utilize fresh apples, but I'm thinking once we go apple picking I could easily adapt this recipe. Doesn't thinly sliced fresh picked apples in place of the apple pie filling sound good?

Oh yeah, making this one again and again.

Caramel Apple Oat Squares 1

Caramel Apple Oat Squares
recipe from Borden's Eagle Brand
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup quick cooking oats (I used rolled oats)
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks), cold butter
1 cup chopped walnuts (I used pecans)
20 caramels, unwrapped
1 – 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 – 21oz can apple pie filling.

Oven to 350. Combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Cut in the butter with a pasty blender, or you can use 2 knives to get the same result. Mix until it resembles coarse crumbs. Reserve 1 ½ cups of the crumb mixture. Press the remainder into the bottom of an ungreased 9x13 baking pan.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Add the nuts to the reserved crumb mixture. Melt the caramels with the sweetened condensed milk in a heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth. Spoon the apple filling over the crust. Top with the caramel mixture, then the reserved crumb mixture. Bake for 35 – 45 minutes, or until set.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sweet Italian Chicken

Sweet Italian Chicken 3

There is something about seeing those two words together that make me smile.

Sweet. Italian. It's gotta be good.

Since September and October are busy months for us, I'm always on the look out for quick and easy dinner recipes. I came across this one on the Big Red Kitchen Blog.

I'm all about trying something new when it comes to chicken recipes. I'm also all about the dark meat, so I loved that this recipe specifically called for thighs.

What I also love? Only 2 ingredients. That's it, TWO. Hmmm. I was a wee bit skeptical.

After one bite, I was pleasantly surprised. The chicken was tangy, not overly sweet and had really great flavor from the dressing mix. My boys devoured it, even ate some cold for lunch the next day.

I doubled this recipe when I made it. I not only used organic skinless chicken thighs, but a package of legs as well.

Sweet Italian Chicken

1 package of Good Season’s Italian Dressing Mix
½ cup packed brown sugar
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

I always rinse my chicken off and I usually pat it dry, but because I wanted the mixture to stick on the chicken I didn’t dry it this time.

In a medium size bowl mix both of the ingredients. Coat each piece of chicken evenly. Place on a large baking sheet lined with tin foil that is lightly sprayed. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes.

My little chicken cooking note. I always raise my chicken up (oh dear Josh Groban just came pounding through my brain....get outta my head!) on cooling racks when I bake it. Just place the cooling rack on top of the lined baking sheet. Your chicken gets cooked more evenly all around and you avoid that soggy bottom that can result from laying directly on the cookie sheet.

Sweet Italian Chicken

Sunday, September 12, 2010

~ Dream ~

I hear this song and I am instantly taken back to the brook in back of the Wilson girl's house, where the flat rocks were each a room in our "apartment" and dried out bark and leaves were our chicken dinner and salad.

Where we married the neighbor boys, under extreme protest most of the time, and forced Dawn to be the priest in our church because she was the youngest and had no say, and the only reason she concurred was because she got to fill her pockets with the communion host (necco wafers or flying saucers split in two).

Where we laid on the rocks in the sun and talked about David Cassidy and Donny Osmond and tore pages out of our Tiger Beat magazines.

Where we would meet immediately after supper.

Where we caught fireflies in old pickle jars.

Where we shared secrets.

Where we would dream.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Cola Brownies

Coca Cola BrownieCU

I'm preparing for a very productive weekend.

I will admit this to you now and hate me if you will....I am "that"person. The one who usually has all her Christmas presents planned out before Halloween, all her shopping done by Thanksgiving.

That chick who aggravates the majority of the population who have the decency to wait until the month of December to shop, but please try and understand me here people. We try and make something handmade each Christmas. We really put a lot of thought and time into each years project. We try to customize each persons gift so they know it was made just for them, cause well, it was. I can't start making things in December, so fall is when we create and paint and stain and antique.

I like to save the month of December for wrapping and cooking and baking. No trips to the shopping malls. No fighting for a parking spot. No stress. It's a beautiful thing.

My close friends and I stopped exchanging gifts a few years ago. Instead, we all chip in and make a delicious, sometimes extravagant, dinner. Break out the lobster, shrimp and filet mignon. We are talking wild and decadent feasting. We have a few adult beverages, we eat, we laugh (hard) and most importantly, we spend time together.

There are all sorts of crafting plans rolling around in my head. I'm excited just thinking about them. So we'll be very productive over the next few months. We'll make a lot of trips to Lowes and Home Depot. My hands will be stained, my eyes strained, and my fingers aching, but it's always all worth it.

I really don't have a smooth segway from Christmas crafts to brownies, so simply's some Cola Brownies I made.

Cola in Brownies. Really? It's true.

I made these on a whim. I think Mrs. Crocker sent me an email and from it, inspiration was born.

I have to say, these were good. Very good. I think my favorite part was the creamy frosting, so much in fact I think I just may have to find other recipes to use it on. It really was light and delicious.

I made this for a weekend dinner filled with friends. They were the perfect little ending.

Coca Cola Brownie

Oh and in case you're you can't taste the cola in the brownies, and yes, I used a boxed brownie mix *GASP!!!!* Don't be hating.

Cola Brownies
Recipe from Betty Crocker (you rock Betty)
Makes 24 bars.

For the brownies
1 box (1 lb 2.3 oz) Betty Crocker fudge brownie mix
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 egg
½ cup cola (from a 12oz can)
½ cup buttermilk

For the frosting
½ cup butter
¼ cup unsweetened baking cocoa
¼ cup cola
4 cups powedered sugar
½ cup chopped, toasted pecans (optional) We used mini chips.

Oven to 350. Spray bottom only of a 9x13 inch pan with cooking spray.

For the brownies: Combine all the ingredients for the brownies in a bowl and stir until well blended. Spread into pan. Bake 24 – 28 minutes or until toothpick inserted 2 inches from side comes out clean or almost clean. Cool completely.

For the frosting: In a medium microwavable bowl, melt the butter on high for 45 to 60 seconds, stirring once. Stir in the cocoa and cola. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar. Spread over cooled brownies. Sprinkle with pecans if desired. For bars, cut into 6 rows by 4 rows.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Cowboy Casserole - looks like dog food - tastes delicious.

Cowboy Casserole - looks like dog food.

I'm so happy that summer is ready to get the heck out of here. Those of you that know me, know that summer is not my favorite season. In fact, it's my least favorite of the four.

If it could just be kind enough to arrive without the heat and humidity, I’d really enjoy it a whole helluva lot more. Humidity is not my friend.

Bad. Bad. Bad. It makes my hair frizz. Frizzy hair is not a good look for me.

Fall, now that is my season. My hair does not frizz in the fall. This makes me happy.

I enjoy cooking and baking so much more in the fall. My kitchen is a little cozier when the oven is heating it up instead of the sweltering heat from outside.

I can barely wait for all the soups, stews and casseroles that are just around the corner.

Cowboy Casserole

I saw this recipe is an issue of Taste of Home and I literally couldn’t wait to make it. Luckily the weather wasn’t as hot as it has been over the past few weeks.

Now as you can see from the title…this is nothing to look at. It’s not a pretty looking casserole, but what casserole is really?

I changed it up quite a bit. This is the kind of dish that you can really make your own. It is what my husband would call a “stick to your ribs” kind of meal.

It’s comfort food on a fork. I've made it two times in 3 weeks. Think shepherd's pieish, with a wicked twist. A delicious mix of hamburger, cheese and corn sandwiched in between a layer of crunchy tots. It's the kind of dish Napoleon Dynamite would give 2 thumbs up too.

My casserole dish missed me. "sniff"

Cowboy Casserole 1

Cowboy Casserole
adapted from a recipe at Taste of Home
1 1/2 pounds ground beef (I used 80/20)
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can (15.25oz) whole kernel corn, drained
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
:1/2 cup milk
4 tablespoons sour cream
1 bag (30 oz) frozen tater tots (I used Ore-Ida Crispy Crowns)

Before I got ready to make this casserole, I let the Crispy Crowns sit on the counter to defrost for an hour or so. The original recipe used still frozen tater tots, but I felt they wouldn't cook as well if they were still frozen solid.

In a large skillet cook the onion until tender and translucent. Add the chopped garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the beef and cook over medium heat until no longer pink. Drain the mixture and place into a large bowl and set aside.

In a small bowl combine the soup, milk and sour cream. Whisk until smooth. Add to hamburger mixture and stir to combine. Add corn and 1 cup of cheddar cheese. Gently mix to combine.

Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish. Layer half of the Crispy Crowns on the bottom, pour the hamburger mixture over the top and then layer with the other half of the Crispy Crowns. Sprinkle with remaining 1, cup cheese and bake at 350 for 25 - 30 minutes, or until golden brown and crunchy.

*Note - The second time I made this I prepared it the night before and stuck it in the fridge overnight. I took it out about an hour before I wanted to bake it, just so it could come to room temperature a bit. I think it was even better than the first one!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Sour Cream Pound Cake - Plain good.

Sour Cream Pound Cake - sprinkle CU

Sometimes you just want something simple.

You want something that's no fuss.

That you can mix all the ingredients into one bowl, plop it into a pan, stick it into the oven and a little while later, take out a delicious cake that is just plain good.

That's what this pound cake is. Plain good.

Sour Cream Pound Cake - sprinkle

I've been making this particular pound cake for ages. I found it in a fundraising cookbook. You know those spiral bound books that churches and organizations sell to raise money? Yup, one of those. Cause honestly, those cookbooks have some of the best recipes.

This book is called the Pimental Family Cookbook. The recipes are predominately Portuguese. The man that I worked with, whom I bought the book from, was indeed Portuguese. Go figure huh.

I worked with Tony for a long, long time. He was one of my favorite people at work. He's retired now. I still see him from time to time. Every once in awhile he'll bring me a loaf of sweet bread. Oh my, if you never had Portuguese sweet bread you don't know what your missing. Toasted with, my mouth is watering just thinking about. I miss ya Tony, you and that sweet bread.

When I make this cake, from a recipe by his mother, it makes me think of him and smile with every bite.

Sour Cream Pound Cake slice

This cake is sweet and light and the perfect texture. You can top it with fruit or whipped cream, but we love it plain straight outta the pan with a big glass of milk.

Sour Cream Pound Cake
2 stick butter, at room temp (do not substitute)
6 eggs, room temp
8oz sour cream, room temp
3 cups sugar
3 cups flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
½ teaspoon almond extract (optional)

Oven to 350. Grease and flour a tube pan or a bundt pan*. Use the second rack from the bottom in your oven.

In a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs in one at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold the baking soda into the sour cream. Add half of the four and half of the sour cream into the mixer. Beat well. Add in the remaining flour and sour cream and the vanilla and almond extract. Mix well. Pour into pan and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center tests done. Cool in pan 10 minutes, invert onto rack to cool completely.

*I used a bundt pan when I made this. I usually use a tube pan cause it's a lot of batter for a bundt. I put a pan under the bundt just in case it overflowed, but it didn't.