Thursday, September 27, 2012

208. Cantaloupe Salad



I know that Fall is upon us in part of the US, but there are others that are just starting to feel the first rays of sunshine or reaching a temperature that is still warm and hot but finally bearable.  Florida and Arizona come to mind for the later part of that sentence.

I for one will not complain that our temperatures are finally in the 70's and far away from the 90's of the last few months.

What I love about this salad is the combination of sweet from the cantaloupe and savory from the tomato and green onion.  This salad is delicious on its own with a bit of salt and pepper or I enjoy adding a bit of olive oil and a flavored vinaigrette.

The oil and vinaigrette stores are showing up all across the US.  If you are like me, I get a bit overwhelmed walking up to the oil aisle of my favorite grocery store.  There they are in their beautiful bottles, fancy labels and price points.

Where to begin?  Does it matter that one is $5.99 and the other is $25.99?

Samples are galore as you enter the oil and vinaigrette locations.  They are eager for you to try and taste their product, in some cases drink it.  LOL  I always feel so guilty taking more than I will use yet they fill it right up.

My favorite flavor is peach.  It has the fresh flavor of a peach that I miss this time of year. It is a gentle reminder of the summer that has past and the summer to come.  This is the flavor that I add to my cantaloupe salad.

I usually buy the Italian Herb Olive Oil.  It pairs well with most things that I prepare.  I am looking forward to returning and purchasing the garlic infused, now that sounds dynamic to me.

Enjoy this simple salad.

Recipe:  Cantaloupe Salad

1/2 cantaloupe, cubed
1 tomato, diced medium
1/4 cup of diced green onions
1/2 cup of cubed mozzarella cheese
salt to taste
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of peach vinaigrette (optional)  OR use your favorite flavor

Combine all ingredients, toss and serve.  Refrigerate any leftovers.













Sunday, September 23, 2012

210. Apple Harvest Cake for #SundaySupper



This is a recipe that I found on one of my favorite blogs, Roost: A Simple Life.  I love this blog because they capture such moving images of food.

They use lighting that is both moody and soulful.  When I see the pictures on their blog I think of a simple life.  I think of a life gone by.

They use a lot of vintage props and maybe this is a reason that I feel a bit nostalgic when I absorb the thoughts and images they post.

The recipes are  simple.  They use basic ingredients and create wholesome food.  Food that can easily be purchased from a farmers market or picked from your garden in the back yard.

When I saw that this cake used almond flour ( I used almond meal) I was pleased.  Many times I have to convert the recipes.  It was wonderful to find something I liked and hit the print key.  DONE.

I made two adjustments to the basic recipe. I used almond meal instead of almond flour. I used light olive oil instead of Ghee. Almond flour is usually 3X more expensive than meal and I find it works great for me in my recipes.   I purchase my almond meal at Trader's Joe for just under $4.00 a bag.

I made a frosting that consisted of mascarpone cheese.  I wanted to try something different.  I had some apple sauce, this added to the theme and smoothed the frosting just enough for me to frost the top of the cake.

I hope you enjoy my version of Apple Harvest Cake.



Recipe:  Apple Harvest Cake

3 cups of almond meal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 cup of grated carrot
1 cup of grated zucchini
1 cup of unpeeled, chopped (1/4 in) apple, I used a combination of red/green

1/4 cup of light olive oil
1/4 cup of honey
1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla
3 eggs



Preheat oven to 350.

In a medium bowl, combine almond meal, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, carrots, zucchini and apple.

In a small bowl, combine olive oil, honey, vanilla and eggs.  Mix well.

Add the wet ingredients to the almond mixture.

Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit into the bottom of your 9 inch cake pan.  This will allow the cake to come out of the pan much easier.

Spray the sides of the cake pan with Pam.

Add you mixture to the cake pan and bake.

Bake for 45 minutes.  Remove and cool for 10 minutes in pan.  Remove cake to wire rack to cool completely.

Frost the cake with Applesauce Brown Sugar Frosting (recipe below).

Recipe:  Applesauce Brown Sugar Frosting

This is enough frosting for one layer on top of the above cake.  You will need to double this recipe if you make two layers of the Apple Harvest Cake.

1 (8oz) container of mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons  apple sauce

In a medium bowl whip together brown sugar and mascarpone cheese.

Add vanilla.  Blend.

Fold in apple sauce.

Frost cake.




207. Apple Nacho's



I remember coming home every day from school hungry.

I usually had cereal for breakfast and a school lunch.  Most of the time I did not eat lunch because I was too rushed to play.

After all, all the fun stuff happened on the play ground; not in the classroom.  Of course now I beg to differ.

At the age of 8, I was all about playing in the dirt, hanging upside down on the monkey bars and chasing my friends in a game of tag.

My friends and I would go into the furthest parts of the dirt fields.  This must have been strange to the school aides watching from the steps of the playground to see 4 girls run and spend their time dragging their feet in the ground, occasionally running around holding our hands like "hooves".  You know, your elbows bent to a 90 degree angle, close to your bodies with the tips of your hands curved.

Horses.  We were busy playing horses, building corrals and running free in the wind.  Our mains (strawberry blond, dark chestnut brown and blonde hair) blowing freely in the crisp California mountain air.

15 minutes. 30 minutes.

It did not matter how much time we had, we did the same thing everyday.

On the weekends we were riding real horses.  At school we were imaginary horses.  My Little Pony was a glimmer of an idea in some young entrepreneurs mind as we were playing the real thing everyday.

Coming home from school hungry, I would have enjoyed this treat welcoming me on the counter every once in a while.  I lived a different life.  I usually had another bowl of cereal or a Pop Tart.

I try to have healthy snacks ready for the kids because I know one thing after all these years, kids still come home hungry.  They may not be playing horses in the fields but they skip out a bit early on lunches to meet up with friends in the halls or the foyers of most schools.

What were your favorite after school snacks as a kid?

Recipe: Apple Nacho's

1 red apple, sliced thinly
1 green apple, sliced thinly
caramel sauce (recipe below)
mini chocolate chips

Spread apples on a plate.  Put caramel in a baggie to pipe on or use a spoon to drizzle sauce over apples.  Sprinkle with chocolate chips.

NOTE:  You can also serve the apples sliced with the caramel in a bowl.


Recipe:  Peanut Butter Caramel
This makes one cup of sauce.  It is great served over ice cream or over a skillet cookie.

1/2 cup of coconut oil, warmed
1/2 cup of peanut butter
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon  of real maple syrup
1 tablespoon of vanilla
pinch of salt

Combine all of the above ingredients into a blender.  Blend for 3 minutes until thick.   Refrigerate leftovers.






Saturday, September 22, 2012

209. Apple Dip



"An apple a day will keep the doctor away." 

I must have heard this several times a week as a kid.  I tell my own kids this more than they probably care to admit.

I think fruit is important and sometimes it's boring to just eat a plain apple or banana.  

I try to come up with creative ways of encouraging the kidlets and their friends to eat a bit healthier.  I say a bit, because the dip is, well, a bit sugary.

We make our popcorn in a plain brown bag with REAL butter and salt.  That's it; nothing more or nothing less.


I found a small bag of Halloween popcorn that the kids must have gotten last year hidden behind a box in my pantry yesterday. 

 SCORE, was my first thought. 

 YUCK, was what happened after I tried the first popped kernel.

I personally could not handle all of the "seasoning" on the popcorn.  

I will stick to buying my organic, Amish sold popcorn kernels.  I love the whiteness of the popcorn once it is popped.  I can gage the amount of butter and salt.  It works for us.

This little after school snack has been a treat in our family for a few years.  We shared it with the cousins and now they love it too.  

The apple is crunch, the dip is soft.  The apple is sweet and the popcorn is salty.  With this combination you will soon find yourself looking into the bottom of an empty bowl.  

Oh, maybe that is just me…LOL

It's pretty dang good.  I recommend it.  ENJOY!


Recipe:  Apple Dip

1 package of cream cheese, soft
1/2 cup of packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Blend all together until smooth.

You will need apples, popcorn and dip.  Take apple wedge, dunk into dip then roll in popcorn.  DONE.






206. Puff Pastry Buffalo Chicken Appetizer


I love to make my own puff pastry.  It is time consuming, but the flavor is amazing.  When you take that first bite and the layers just snap apart in your mouth as your teeth cuts through each flaky tier, you can't help but smile with pride.  

I always wait anxiously the 24 hours it takes to make the puff pastry wondering several things:

1.  Did I just waste $8.00 dollars worth of butter?
2.  Will it rise in the oven?
3.  How am I going to use this much puff pastry?

The recipe I use makes a lot and so, it should be noted, that having a few recipes on hand is a good 
idea.

I always use the left over dough to make bread twist or cinnamon sugar treats for the kids.
I brushed these pieces with butter and sprinkle Old Bay Seasoning on them before baking.  "Super good"..direct quote from one of the teachers at school.
I get a little bit excited about my puff pastry or I should say Emeril's because it's his original recipe that I use.  You can find my step by step pictorial HERE if you would like to make your own.
Fear not, because store bought works too!

I have readers that range in "new" to experienced", so I like to give lots of options.

I knew that a buffalo style appetizer was in the works when I made my first batch of puff pastry.  I felt that the buttery layers combined with a cheesy sauce and spice chicken would shine.

I will be honest...THEY DO!..LOL

The key to making this appetizer be a success and not a mess is having the circles of puff pastry large.  I used a 3.5 round cookie cutter.  The cheesy sauce should be kept to a small spoonful.  If you add too much they will spill over.  By adding the chicken after they bake, you insure that the layers all rise.  You won't have the doughy bottom.

You are now prepared to make an appetizer that is sure to impress your friends.  These can easily be made at home, covered and transported to your game day party.  If they need to be warmed up, just pop them into the oven ( heated to 325) and warm for 10 minutes. 

Recipe:  Puff Pastry Buffalo Chicken Appetizer
Makes 24, depending on size of circle cutter used 

1 box of puff pastry, thawed

2 cups of cooked, diced chicken breast

1/2 cup Franks Hot Sauce

1/2 (4 oz) package of cream cheese, soft

1/4 cup of mayonnaise

1/4 cup of diced celery + 1/4 cup for garnish

1/4 cup of gorgonzola cheese

1 cup of jack cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 425.

Dice and cook chicken, drain off any juice and add hot sauce. Keep pan warm on stove. You will add the chicken right before serving.

Flour your surface and roll out pastry thin. Less than 1/4 inch. Using a 3.5 inch round cookie cutter, cut out circles place them 1 inch apart on cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.



Combine in a medium size bowl cream cheese, mayonnaise, 1/4 cup of celery, gorgonzola cheese and jack cheese. Blend until well combined.




On each pastry circle add a small spoonful of cheese mixture. Spread with the back of the spoon until the center is covered. Leave the edges of each circle clean from filling. If you add too much it will spill over onto the pan when baked.

Bake for 20 minutes or until puff pastry is golden brown on the middle shelf.

Remove from oven and gently place a scoop of buffalo chicken in the middle. The middle will sink a bit. Garnish with diced celery.






205. No Bake Oatmeal Cookie Balls


Balls is such a funny word.

In our family for a while we just could not even mention the word without someone dying of embarrassment (usually our pre teen son) or a joke being cracked (usually by Dad).

I say balls to my 5 year old and she is running to the closet to get her soccer ball or basketball.

Words.

I love words.  I always have.  Challenge me to a good game of Scrabble or Boggle and I would stop almost anything to play.

Words can be funny, terms of endearment, hateful, loving, harsh, whispered, spelled out or shortened to an acronym.

Words connect a family, a recipe, a thought.  We must always choose them wisely.

In using the name balls for this recipe,  it just fit.  Orbs sounded to scientific.  Circles too boring.  Round cookies was not specific enough.  So you have balls.

No Bake Oatmeal Cookie Balls that are easy to prepare and a change from the ordinary no bake cookie.

Enjoy!

Recipe:  No Bake Oatmeal Cookie Balls

1 cup of almond meal (buy at Trader Joes)
1 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup butter, softened
¼ cup of peanut butter

1/2 cup powdered sugar, for tossing each ball in


Combine all ingredients, except powdered sugar, in a large bowl and mix until a dough is formed.

Using a cookie scoop, firmly pack the scoop and place each scoop on a cookie sheet.

Chill for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl add powdered sugar. Remove cookies from fridge and toss each cookie in powdered sugar until well coated. Shake off excess.

Place on a plate and chill for 10 minutes.

Keep leftovers in refrigerator

Friday, September 21, 2012

204. Parmesan Ranch Salad Dressing



Raise your hand if you grew up on Hidden Valley Ranch.  

Yeah, me too.

We ate this stuff on everything and with anything.  Most notably pizza and mashed potatoes.

Salads? 

 Right.  

NEVER! Not as kids at least.

When I got a bit older we slowly used it to dip a carrot or two, this was on a rare occasion, every once in a while and usually when our Mom wasn't around.  If she thought my sisters and I were eating a vegetable of our own accord, who knows what type of hysteria that could send her into.

I must have ruined myself.  I have tried this dressing at different times of my adult life and, honestly, I can't stand it.  I am convinced they sold out and changed the recipe.  It taste of artificial sugars and blandness.  

When we eat out, I usually get ranch on the side and then something else.  On the rarest of outings, do I find a salad dressing, let alone, a ranch that I love.

I do eat a lot of salads, especially being wheat free. Most restaurants have some type of lettuce entree that I can usually eat if nothing else will work.  So dressing is important to me.

I have honestly thought about taking my own dressing with me when we go out to eat.  

Doesn't that defeat the reason for going out?  LOL

I make Parmesan Ranch Dressing two ways: thick and thin.  Thick for us to use as a dip.  The obvious, thin for salads.  I personally like it thick on my salads too but my family does not.

My favorite way to eat this salad dressing is to buy those little heads of lettuce, they usually come 4 to a package at Whole Foods.  They are the perfect size for a single portion of salad.  I wash the green and purple leaves with ice cold water to keep the crisp green leaves at their best.  I give the small head a shake or two and then I ever so gently twist the end off.  It feels almost violent at how easily it falls off into the palm of my hand.  The lettuce tearing at the resistance of being twisted against its will.  

I unroll two sheets of paper towels and lay the leaves out to dry.  I fold the two sheets together to sop up the pools of water that nestle in the crevices of the leaves ridges.  Once dry, I transfer the leaves to a plate.  I cut up celery, carrots and bell pepper into long sticks.  Grab a small bowl of salad dressing and find a quite place to sit at our table.  Usually looking into our back yard at the trees swaying back and forth in the wind.  

Taking a lettuce leaf and holding in the palm of my hand, I lay a stick of carrot, a stick of celery and one of bell pepper.  Roll it up and dip it into the Parmesan Ranch Salad Dressing.  What emerges is a thick white blend of sour cream and mayonnaise, sprinkled with garlic and green onion.  The obvious presence of parmesan is visible.  This is where the flavor resides.  

I double dip, again and again.  

My belly is happy, my taste buds are satiated.  

Such a simple item to have in your arsenal of condiments.  I have blended this into mashed potatoes, steamed cauliflower and creamy soups.  

Tell me what your favorite salad dressing is below in the comments.  I am always on the look out for new flavors.



Recipe:  Parmesan Ranch Dressing

1/4 cup of sour cream
1/4 cup of mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/2 cup of finely grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons of finely chopped green onion
splash of Worcestershire Sauce
1/4-1/2 teaspoon of salt
dash of pepper

Combine all of the ingredients together in a small bowl.  Serve immediately or refrigerate.

NOTE:  If you wish to make this thinner, add a small amount of milk or buttermilk.  Shake or stir really well.

I have not tried substituting yogurt for the sourcream or mayonnaise, but this is an option if you are trying to reduce fat.


  














Sifting Through Life: Weekend Away to Gettysburg




Work- Work- Work

Does this sound familiar?  It should because I believe that is what most of us spend our time doing.  Working toward retirement, working on a degree, working to pay for a home, working to live and some, working to survive.

I would not trade my job for the world.  I know that my husband would not either.  We both work from home and have jobs that we created and defined for our future.  We challenge ourselves daily to meet new goals, manage our time and still be available for our three kids.

When we are not working, we are shuttling kids to school, dance lessons and swimming.  When we are not chauffeuring kids, we are cleaning and doing laundry.  We have a 50/50 household.  We share the work.

He definitely has his "man" jobs and I have my "woman" jobs, but together we work as a team and try to have our household run smoothly.  This creates a home for our kids that we hope is inviting and nurturing.

 Working from home can be a double edge sword.

It is hard to walk away from the sound of the "ping" telling us we have email updates, or the subtle buzz of our phones that reminds us we have a message.  Our business phone line rings at all hours due to the fact that my husband is often on call.  Work and home are never far away and learning to balance the two can be challenging.  For the most part, we would not trade it for the world.

We were both home for all three of our kids.  We have spent more time together than most married couples have in a life time.   I have struggles with the quality verses quantity formula of parenting and wonder if my time would be more quality if I was not working so much, yet I am here for every meal, every sporting event, every homework assignment, every bounce on the trampoline and so on.  It just means that the normal 8 hour day does not really exist for us.  We work longer hours to get in a full day, we need to finish and wrap things up before it starts all over again at 7am.

Our kids know that we are in and out of our offices from 7am in the morning until 10pm at night but we find ourselves still satisfied and fulfilled.  Tired?  Yes, but it is a good tired.  One that we feel is worth our efforts to provide for our family, fulfill our dreams and make those dreams of our children come alive.

Monday thru Friday doesn't really exist in our world. We work Monday thru Monday with excursions tossed into our schedules.  We try to keep Sunday as a day we do fun things with our family.  Saturdays are a day that we work as a family: yard, leaves, carpets, etc…but are phones are never too far away.

Cory and I try and get away twice a year.  Our anniversary is in April and this is a great time for us to escape.  Then 6 months later we try and do the same thing.  It usually is a last minute decision, we make the time to go for a night, no computers or phones (except kid calls).

24-36 hours away together is enough time to relax, reconnect and explore.  I try to find us places to visit that we have explored before.  We love to be outside.  We enjoy history.  Of course, we love to eat.  Shopping we can take or leave.

In April we visited Annapolis. Yep, kind of boring since this is where we live.  We wanted a chance to be close enough to walk and explore all of the historical sites without "needing" to get back home.  Some might call this a stay-cation…LOL


This time around, we went a bit further.   We headed to the small city of Frederick.  Frederick is located about an hour north of Washington DC.  From our home, it's an hour and a half drive.  The scenery takes you from the water of the Chesapeake Bay to the small hills that head towards the Appalachian Mountains.  The gradual ascent into the cooler air is a breath of fresh air... literally.  The trees have already begun to change color.  The nights remind you that a sweater should have been packed to take the edge of the whisper of Fall away.

The drive to Frederick found us in heavy traffic, beeping horns and impatient drives that eventually led us to the serene country side; leaving us with the feeling that we had entered the town of Mayberry.  In fact, my husband started to sing the theme song when we arrived.

The city of Frederick is full of history, shops and restaurants. We drove to our hotel, the Marriott,  a bit early and were pleasantly surprised when we could check in a few hours before our scheduled time of arrival.  With out much ado, we quickly left and headed down to Market Street.


Along the street we found signs that educated us about the history of Frederick.  Historical markers that reminded us of the year the buildings had been built.  Over 250 years ago this little town was booming with business, families and industry.  Today, you will find a buzz along the streets of Market and Patrick.  These two streets run (Market) North, South, (Patrick)  East and West.  Many of the old buildings are no longer filled with families but have been inhabited by businesses and restaurants, galleries and museums.

Walking the streets of Market and Patrick were exactly what we needed.  A chance to get away, window shop, eat great food and visit.  All of these can be done at home, but not uninterrupted.  LOL

We were looking for the long conversations, moments of silence.  A chance to breathe and possible sneak a thought or moment to ourselves.

Sunday morning we awoke and decided to do something different.  We knew we were close to Gettysburg.  We hesitated if this should be done without our kids.  If felt like a family adventure and something that we knew our older kids should see first hand.  Oh, the decision that needed to be made.  That moment I suddenly felt guilty that we did not bring the kids and then the assurance of knowing that we live close and can return shortly, quiets the doubts and allowed us to move forward with our afternoon.

The moment lasted but a second.  I called and talked to Rye.  Everything was fine on the home front. There was no reason for us to come home, she had everything under control.  Our kids have always been supportive of our date nights and our two weekends away.

Time was getting away from us and we needed to head out.  We found a map, refilled our car and anticipated what we would find upon arriving at Gettysburg.

In history, I think 7th grade, we learned a bit of the Civil War. We knew the names of Lee, Hooker, Grant and Meade.  Vague stories that left you wondering why, when and where?  It all happened so long ago, was it still important.


In Utah I was able, for a brief amount of time, get involve with a group of Civil War re-enactors.  Rachel and Amanda held my hand as I bought my hoops, made my under clothes and hand stitched dresses, bonnets and shawls.  We tried to be as authentic as possible in the 21st century.  We tried to learn about the lives of the women that supported the troops that were at war and sent to war.  We learned quilt patters, bought authentic bowls, shared ideas and laughed.  We took dance lessons and learned the sheet music for our instruments.


I entered Gettysburg with a sense of awe, respect and understanding.   I was not prepared, when I left, for the amount of pain, sadness and history I would experience.  The lives of the soldiers came to life as our guide relived battle scenes, pointed out strategies ,shared failed communications between the regiments.  The times were different.  50,00 plus men lost their lives in a short amount of time. 5000 horses were left on the battlefield to be buried by the towns folk.  A town was left to rebuild and restock.

A town today that you can still see the bullet holes in many of the buildings down town.  Over 1500 monuments stand in place were the different states had set up their battle sites.  Barns and buildings still in pristine appearances.  Letters of sadness, letters of joy.


In the 4-5 years that the Civil War occurred, 600,000+ men would lose there lives.  Farms, Plantations, Cities and towns would be ruined.  President Lincoln would lose his life.  The slaves of the day would gain their freedom.  A new state would be created.  Change was certain to come, work was most certainly ahead for our country.

The work of many would be required to bring the states together again.  To unite the people.  It would take years for some to recover and even longer for the "rights" to finally be granted.

Cory and I were at Gettysburg for 6 hours and in that time we laughed and cried.  We learned of triumph and defeat.  It was a bit of an emotional roller coaster.

Our trip was amazing.  It took us away from our daily work load and schedules.  We were able to visualize a life without the ease that we are so blessed with today.  We were taken out of the comforts of our home for a brief amount of time to sympathize with the young soldiers that were tired, hungry and homesick.

The valor that was displayed amongst the troops on both sides should be noted. My husband has been to war (he served in the Air Force during the First Gulf War) and I have not.  I can't imagine what these men, on both sides, felt or expected.

As we walked back to our car we talked about war.  We chatted about the lives that were lost and those that were saved.  The families that mourned the death of fathers and sons and those that cheered at the homecoming after months apart.  Cory was openly upset at the "selfishness" that war commands of a nation.  I felt that it was not my place to judge.  These people had passion, felt an obligation, they wanted a better future for their kids, they prayed for a change.  They believed in their course of action.  My thoughts are all over the place as I type this.  I want those same things for my kids and if my family and my life were in a similar state, maybe I would do the same thing.  Fight for a chance at freedom.

One thing that life has taught me, is to not judge too harshly those things that have been done by others.  I really do believe the saying that states ,"Don't judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes”.

Our drive home to Annapolis was filled with conversations that are too long for this post but are one of the reasons we love our short trips away.  We can reconnect.

Our return was welcomed with hugs and loves from our kids.  We slept good in our own beds ready to wake up early and start our day all over again at 7am.















Thursday, September 20, 2012

203. Nutella Peanut Butter Cookies



When you find a cookie this AMAZING, you realize it just has to be shared. 

Neighbors, friends, kids and spouses will sing your praises for days or even weeks once they bite into the perfect balance of soft and crunch of this cookie.

Of course the combination of Nutella and Peanut Butter are already a proven dynamic duo.  Our family enjoys this combination in smoothies, syrups, brownies and cakes.  Why not a cookie too?

A bigger note of importance for me, no wheat!  

I made a batch of these and within minutes they were gone, like a speeding bullet they vanished into thin air. 

Let me know in the comments below how your family enjoyed these cookies.  


Recipe:  Nutella Peanut Butter Cookies
recipe adapted from simplyscratch.com

1 egg
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1 tablespoon of milk
1/2 cup of creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup of Nutella
3/4 cup of Old Fashion Oats, not cooked
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 teaspoon of salt

Preheat oven to 350. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium size mixing bowl or a table mixer, mix until smooth: egg, brown sugar, milk, peanut butter and Nutella.

Add the salt, baking soda and oats. Stir well.

Use a cookie scoop and drop cookies every two inches onto to parchment paper.

Bake for 8 minutes.

Cool cookies for 2 minutes on cookie sheet and transfer to cookie rack.


 
























Tuesday, September 18, 2012

192. Eggplant Parmesan Casserole




I have argued back and forth with myself if I should share this recipe or not.

The flavors of zucchini, eggplant and cheese paired with a homemade marinara sauce and cooked slowly over a few hours have created a casserole that left my tummy very satisfied.

With a satisfied belly and flavors that proved to be wonderfully matched, why would I not want to share this dish?

Quite simply, the dish was difficult to photograph.  I could have spent more time arranging each piece of eggplant, every drop of sauce or place the spinach just right.

There is a bit of chatter among bloggers and photographers about how much is too much when it comes to photographing food.

I admit that I spend more time than some because I want the presentation and the props to create a mood, setting or feel along with the food that is presented.  This is not from a desire to have the perfect dish but more from a sense of working in the business, experience and years of looking at food in magazines, papers and on blogs.

When I first started years ago I did not know all of the tricks of the trade.  My lighting was off, the silverware was placed wrong or my focus was off, too much bokeh usually.  Bokeh is the blur you create in the background of most images.

It took me lots of trying, playing, researching and developing of my own skills before I started taking the pictures I wanted.  Even today I get all jelly-legged and excited when I come across a blog or picture that causes me to stop and stare in awe.  When this happens I reevaluate my own photography skills and try to determine what I need to improve upon.

I believe that we are in a constant state of improving when it comes to mastering our own craft.  My craft happens to be photography and cooking.  Someone else's may be sewing, computer programming or design.

Getting back to this recipe, I felt that the images would not conjure up the desire in my readers to give this dish a try solely on the basis of the image.

When I see the pictures this is how I feel, this is what it invokes in me.  My mind is a dreamer, a drifter and a romantic.   I see a hearty meal prepared by loving hands.  I want to imagine a family that has been hard at work in the fields of the farm, working the soil and creating a deep hunger with in themselves as the hours pass by.  I go back to a time with castles, moors and moats.  I see the tartan plaid worn by the village people, the pottery plate and the silver utensils.  All  ready to hold the feast that is rich in flavor, texture and color. It stirs a warmness in my belly.  I see the sauce being soaked up by a loaf of warm bread.  I see a meal that is fit for a hungry man.



A picture is worth a thousand words.  It tells far more than we may want to believe.  It is the first contact that you have with a recipe.  It stirs your taste buds, reminds you of a memory.

This is why I was worried that you may or may not find this dish appetizing.  If you have made it this far I am grateful that you took the time to dig a bit deeper.  The Eggplant Parmesan Casserole is a keeper in my home.  It may not look like much but I can't wait to prepare it again.

When a recipe does that to a person, then you know it's a winner.

Recipe:  Eggplant Parmesan Casserole


  • 1 large eggplant, peeled
  • oil for pan
  • 2 cups of flour
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups of fresh spinach, washed
  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced 1/4 inch
  • 5 slices of provolone cheese
  • 1 package of fresh mozzarella, the log
  • 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 4 cups of marinara or meat sauce, homemade or store bought

NOTE:  To make this dish gluten free, I used an equal combination of almond meal and brown rice flour to dip my eggplant in.  You can also use white rice flour.

Preheat oven 350.  This dish was created to use in dutch oven or deep oven proof stone bowl.  Below is a picture of the dish that I used.


To prepare the eggplant: Peal the eggplant with a potato peeler.  This makes the eggplant less bitter. Slice the eggplant into 1/4 inch slices.  Heat oil in a large saute pan.  Place the flour, salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Add the milk and one egg to another bowl.  Dip each slice into the milk and then the flour.  Fry on each side until golden brown.  Set aside.

When you have the eggplant fried, zucchini sliced, spinach washed then you are ready to start layering your dish.  I mixed and matched my layers with veggies, using the three cheeses through the dish.

This is an example of how I layered mine.

sauce
spinach
parmesan cheese
eggplant
mozzarellaCheese
sauce
zucchini
provolone Cheese
eggplant
mozzarella Cheese
sauce
zucchini
spinach
sauce
mozzarella cheese

Cover the casserole with a lid or foil.

Bake the casserole for 1 hour and let it rest for 20 minutes.



Pictures below will help you see some of the layers.







Monday, September 17, 2012

202. Chocolate Brownies, Gluten Free


Chocolate, coffee and almond meal make this brownie rich in flavor and moist in texture.  This brownie is a gluten free treat that will fool your friends.  I have topped it with  caramel and a few toasted nuts.



Recipe: Chocolate Brownies
Serving size: 12-16 brownies depending on size of each one

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 25-30 minutes


1/2 cup of white sugar
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/4 cup of light olive oil
4 large eggs
1 cup of almond meal (store bought or made at home)
2 teaspoons of vanilla
1 cup of cocoa powder
2 teaspoons of finely ground coffee
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup of nuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350.

In a medium size bowl, combine sugar and oil. Using a hand mixer, blend ingredients well. Adds egg and mix on high speed for 2 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine vanilla and coffee powder. Stir and set aside.

Add almond meal, salt and cocoa to sugar/oil mix. Using a spoon or spatula mix together until smooth.

Add coffee/vanilla. Stir well.

Fold in chocolate chips and nuts.

Line a 12 X 8 ,or pan of your choice, with parchment paper.

Pour batter into pan and spread evenly. Bake for 30 minutes or until brownies puff up in the center.

Cool on wire rack. Once cooled, brownies will settle.


201. Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies









Recipe: Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies
Makes 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup of brown sugar
3/4 cup of granulated sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 egg, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

 Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Cream together the butter and sugar in a table top mixer;  add pumpkin, eggs and vanilla.  Beat cookie dough for 2 minutes.

In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients.  Mix well.

Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture.

Fold in the chocolate chips.

Prepare cookie sheet with spray or laying down a piece of parchment paper. Scoop cookie dough two inches apart onto cookie sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Cool on wire racks.

Recipe: Gluten-Free Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies 

½ C butter
1 C brown sugar
1 egg
1 C canned pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla
2 cup of Rice Flour
1 tsp GF baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.

Cream butter and sugar together.

Add egg, pumpkin & vanilla. Combine together well.

Add all dry ingredients. Stir well.

Add chocolate  chips.

Prepare pan with spray or parchment paper. Scoop dough two inches apart.

Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes. (They're best a little underbaked, so they are still really soft.)

Remove to cooling rack and let cool.









Wednesday, September 12, 2012

199. Turkey Legs



I know, a post about cooking turkey legs.  Something so simple that it may not warrant a bit of time as a full post.

Except they are so delicious, make a great addition to soup, can be used in enchilada's and are the perfect size for a family of one or two.

I remember being a young couple living in TX at Bergstrom Air Force Base (which is now the airport in Austin) and being overwhelmed with the idea of cooking a huge turkey.  First, I did not think we would eat a whole turkey; secondly, I did not know the first thing about preparing a bird, a whole bird.

So for these two reasons-easy to prepare and can be used in so many things-I decided to go ahead and write a short recipe of how I prepare our turkey legs.

I buy two at a time from Whole Foods and they range in price from $4-$5…very affordable.

I set my oven to start preheating to 425 degrees while I get the legs ready to cook.

I use four basic ingredients:

salt
pepper
garlic powder
olive oil

Now if I want to jazz up the flavor I can add any or all of these:

curry powder
cumin
dried herbs: thyme, rosemary, basil or oregano
onion powder
Old Bay Seasoning (Maryland  required spice that works on everything…LOL)

I like to use my cast iron pans but you can use any pan the legs fit into.  Try to give them some room, I try to keep them from touching.

Bake for 20 minutes, turn legs, and bake another 20 minutes.  These legs are larger than chicken legs and I like to check the internal temperatures to make sure they are done. Use a thermometer to do this.
Internal temperature should not be below 165 degrees.

Remove from oven and let legs rest for 10 minutes.

I have served them whole, one per guest.  Picked the meat off and used them in a variety of recipes.  Used the leg bones to make broth.

Turkey legs are simply useful in my kitchen when it comes to creating easy or gourmet dishes.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

198. Cheddar Cheese Crackers, wheat free


I enjoyed these tasty cheddar cheese crackers with tuna fish and an extra slice of cheese for lunch the other day with my husband.  My taste buds were pleasantly surprised at the flavor of sharp cheddar.

The crispy cracker was a welcome to my longing for something crunchy.

I was delighted that I made these from scratch.

The cheddar Cheese Crackers are gluten free but you don't have to eat that way to enjoy a delicious alternative to a store bought product.

Some times labels can scare us away from trying something new, especially if you feel that flavor and texture will be sacrificed.  I was satisfied with the results and wanted to share this with my readers.

All of the products can be purchased at a health food store, Whole Foods or most major grocery chains in the baking aisle.

This recipe calls for Potato Starch, not to be confused with Potato Flour.  You will NOT get the same results, please check the packaging carefully.

I used a sharp cheddar but you could easily use a milder cheese or a different variety, like parmesan.

The shape of my cracker was achieved by using a special round cookie cutter that I received as a gift from my kids.  It has a scallop edge and makes the crackers into a cute "RITZ" shape.

Honestly, I was too lazy to make a fish and make Fishy Crackers with this recipe but you could definitely do that if you have the cutter and the time.

Enjoy these simple crackers with your favorite topping or eat them straight from the cooling rack (they may not last any longer than that).

Recipe:  Cheddar Cheese Cracker
Makes roughly, using a 1.5 inch cookie cutter,   35-40 crackers

1 cup of sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
4 tablespoons of butter, soft
3/4 cup of potato starch (Not potato flour)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon flax meal
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons of milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

I used my table mixer with the paddle blade.  You can use a bowl and hand mixer too.

Combine all of the ingredients.

Mix until a smooth dough is formed.

Add a piece of parchment paper to a cookie sheet.

With a separate piece of parchment paper on your work surface, add the dough.  Add another piece of parchment paper to the top of the dough and push down.

Using a rolling pin, roll the dough between the two parchment paper pieces until you reach your desired thickness. I think 1/4 inch is too thick, I like mine a bit thinner than this.  They do puff when baked and to achieve the crispy texture, they cannot be too thick or they will be soft.

Using a cookie cutter of your choice, I used a 1.5 inch scallop cutter, start cutting out your shapes and moving them to the cookie sheet.

I used a knife and my hand, lifting the bottom piece of parchment paper, to help get under the dough.  Most of the shapes came right up but there were a few that needed help.

Place shapes every inch.

Bake crackers for 10 minutes.  I turned my tray, because of how my oven cooks, every 5 minutes.

If you like your crackers to have a nuttier flavor then add 2 extra minutes to the bake time.   The edges of the crackers will be darker.

Store the crackers in a baggie or sealed container.


Sifting Through Life: A Poem for September 11, 2001


The memories of this day will forever be engrained in my mind as I recall sitting on the edge of my bed watching in horror.

As I watched along with the rest of our country, I weeped.  The tragedy before my eyes was unbelieving.

I turned to a piece of paper and started writing.

The words just flowed from my heart into the muscles of my hand as I rapidly wrote the thoughts that came to my mind.

Today, I woke up and remembered this yellow piece of paper that I had kept so dear to my heart for 11 years.  Every year I have reread these words that I wrote filled with emotion, a sad heart and tears dropping onto the page.

I finished the poem today with a few short paragraphs.

I will never forget the lives that were lost, the hero's that were present.

I will never forget that for a nation so large, we came together.


********************************************************************************



Where was God today? I ask.
Where were you, when life turned to wearing a mask.

People question His desires,
As we watched with horror at the towers.

I question MY faith
I question MY God

The bottom line, some men are filled with hate.
Their actions have changed our fate.

This we learned with hearts deflated,
Watching today, that we are a country united.

We found the will.

Women and men trying to save,
Those mothers and fathers, oh so brave.

I may ask, where was God?
Look around
I will see, He is here to be.

Our redeemer,
Our healer,
Our mentor,
Our comforter of life.

The life that was taken, families never the same.
Many are lost.

The pain today will not seem real
Tomorrow we will start the very long process to heal.

Forever changed we will be.
A country united and determined to be free.

Where was God?  I ask.
I look inside myself, to see, that he had never left.

When I saw the horror
I knew that our lives had changed forever.
At times filled with sorrow

Will we heal?
Will we Trust?

The answer can only be,

YES.

Will we learn?
Will we Question?

The answer will be ,

YES.

Eleven years later we learned,

Unity.
Love.
Faith.
Charity.
Service.
Respect.

I learned that God never left our sides.

He carried the hero’s.
Held the mourners,
Guided the rescuers.
Comforted the families.

With time we have memorialized those that left.

We wept.

 We Rebuilt.

With certain,  I will never forget the events of that day, September 11th.
















Monday, September 10, 2012

195. Homemade Marinara Sauce


My family enjoys quick and easy meals on busy nights.  Sometimes we are running from school, to home, to soccer, to home and then to band or girl scouts.  

There are days that are schedules feel more like a marathon than a busy family.  I try really hard to not over commit myself or my kids but it just happens.

On these nights I am looking for fast, healthy meals.  I could open a jar of premade spaghetti sauce and call it good.

I have several reason's why I don't do this.  Personally, I don't like super sweet marinara sauce and I feel like the pre sauces that you get in the store are overly sweet.  I also don't like paying the higher prices for a good marinara sauce.  Some jars are upwards of $10.00 a bottle.

I find it takes me about 10 minutes to put the ingredients together for a homemade batch of marinara vs. the few minutes to twist the lid of a jar and microwave.

When I have more time, I will let it simmer on the stove so that the flavors can develop into a thick marinara.  I will admit, with time, I sometimes warm it up knowing it will be better the next day but my family is hungry and they need to eat sooner than later.

As the Mom and cook in the family sometimes I have to overlook a bit of gourmet embellishments for the sake of a simple, healthy dish. 

In the summer, I enjoy julienned zucchini sticks in place of noodles.  I have always found that zucchini and tomatoes pair well together and in this case the sauce and vegetable take center stage.  We add a bit of freshly grated parmesan too.



This sauce can easily be turned into a yummy and delicious meat variety by adding hamburger, veal or sausage or a combination of all three.  I have also used it in lasagna and with my eggplant parmesan recipe.   

Recipe:  Homemade Marinara Sauce

2 cans of diced tomatoes
1 can of tomato sauce
2 teaspoons of minced garlic
1/4 cup of onion, diced small
2 tablespoons of olive oil, for sautéing + 2 tablespoons for sauce
1 tablespoon of fresh basil
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1/2 -1 teaspoon of kosher salt ( start with less and add more as needed) 


In a small saute pan add 2 T. of oil and saute onion and garlic together until onion is clear.

In a medium size pot, on medium heat, add the remaining ingredients.  Add the sauteed onion and garlic.

Let simmer, with small bubbles popping on surface of sauce, for 15 minutes.  The sauce will get thicker the longer you simmer it.  I usually shoot for an hour if I have the time.

Taste your sauce to see if more salt is needed.  This is an important step because the right amount of salt     makes this really shine.  


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