Monday, February 27, 2012

Chocolate Crepe Cake

The cat is out of the bag…I LOVE HOLIDAYS!  Give me a reason to celebrate, decorate, cook, dress-up and play….and I will.  I am a big kid at heart and I love to surprise my family with all types of wild things. It's not unusual for my family to wake up and find the house filled with crepe paper, balloons, streamers, glitter and such on most holidays.  WHY?  It's memories.  My kids probably won't remember half of the gifts they will receive as kids but, even to this day, they always remember the green toilet water, my Christmas morning elf outfit, the hearts scattered on the floor, the Easter morning scavenger hunts, etc….


This is what I want my family to treasure from their childhood.  I want them to have child like experiences and to never forget what it feels like to smile, laugh, anticipate, enjoy and share.  These memories make us smile often as we sit around and reminisce about past holidays.  


We have these for a reason.  They help my kids to connect with their ancestry, their parents and grandparents.  It keeps those things that we treasure and value instilled in their beings.  It builds memories.

So, this past Valentine was not any different.  Weeks before the actual day the kids already new what to expect.  The new the TRADITION and had the MEMORIES of the previous years to fall back on.  Isabella, the 5 year old, every day started asking, "is it the 14th yet?"  She new on this day, the house would be covered with hearts…and not just a few…but 100's that I had spent the week cutting out by hand.  The anticipation was there.  

To see a 5 year old so excited about simple things is a joy to me.  They don't get much on this day, but a small box of candy.  For here it was the thrill of waking up to her home filled with a proclamation of her parents love and a room filled with her favorite things…..streamers, glitter, hearts and shiny confetti.

With this in mind, I wanted to surprise my family with something really special.  I have seen these cakes on Pinterest before and thought how cool this would be to make.  I was a little bit nervous because I was not sure if I could get it to look pretty like the pictures that I had been viewing.   

I took the leap of faith and decided to conquer my fear and go with it.  I have made a ton of crepes in my life time and that was not where the fear came from…it was the ideal that the cake may tip over some where along the process of making it.  To my great satisfaction that did not happen.

The family was super excited when I presented this on the table that night for our family "I love you" meal, which was lasagna.  My daughter told me she picked this dish because it was "layered with love"….yeah, I had to wipe a tear too!

The ooh's and aah's were great!  I won't lie…LOL

I love my family and don't need a special day each year to proclaim that, but it is nice to set aside one day that I can do something over the top and unexpected to shout from the roof tops how much I do love them.  They are my world and my everything!  

Recipe:  Chocolate Crepe Cake

20-30 chocolate crepes (use your favorite recipe)

Whip Cream:

8 oz mascarpone cream
2 tsp. almond flavoring
2 cups of heavy cream
1/2 cup of sugar
3 T. beet juice (you can use fresh or from a can)

Strawberries or any other fresh fruit, sliced

As you make the crepes, you can stack them on a plate.  They will easily peel apart as you assemble your cake.

Find a nice plate or cake stand and start layering your crepes, whip cream and sliced strawberries.

I did not have a specific approach to this cake.  I just started layering.  Some layers I used three crepes and the strawberries and then cream, and other layers, it was simply cream, strawberries, crepe and repeat.

I did notice that as the cake got taller it also got narrower…LOL  The crepes on the very top, I started folding in half and then in half again so that they looked like pie wedges and layered them in a circle.

This can be made with regular crepes too.  You could simply change the flavoring for the whip cream and the fruit being used.  I think a lovely mandarin orange cake with bananas and coconut would be fun too.  ENJOY!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Chicken Bacon Biscuit Cups

A few weeks ago I bought a couple of cans of Grands Biscuits.  I rarely by these pre-made types of biscuits but I had a recipe in mind that I wanted to make because it's quick and kids love them. This is what I usually do with these biscuits.  I use the flattened biscuit dough as a base and top it with a tuna or chicken mix and melt cheese on top of each one.  We do love these little hand held pies.

For some reason on this day, I decided to do something different.   Like most "ideas" I saw something in my kitchen and it triggered a plan.  The cupcake/muffin pan was staring me down and when I opened the fridge the biscuits fell into my hands.  Together they would make a tasty meal.

Food on the run, this seems to be our dinner plans lately…LOL  What better way to have a quick meal then to make a biscuit cup and fill it with a yummy center.  Not to mention the ingredients combined together give the biscuit a "ranch" flavor…my kids LOVE this.  Anything with Ranch is better, right?  LOL

The mixture came together nicely, the biscuits worked as cups and my family requested these again.  Those three things, in my mind, equal a success in the kitchen.  ENJOY!

Recipe:  Chicken Bacon Biscuit Cups

2 cans of Grands Biscuits


1 can of cubed chicken, drained
6 slices of bacon, diced and cooked crispy
1 rib of celery, diced
1/4 cup of diced red onion
1 tsp of minced garlic
1 1/2 cups of cheddar cheese
1/2 cup of mayo
1/2 cup of sourcream
4 oz of cream cheese
1 T. finely chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 400.

In a large bowl, combine all of the filling ingredients.  Mix well.

Spray your muffin/cupcake pan and using your fingers, tear your biscuit into a 70/30 break.  If you do it in half, there is not enough dough on the bottom to cover the inside of the muffin space.  You don't need as much to cover the top…so a 70/30 split is the best.

Push the larger portion of the biscuit into the bottom and up the sides.  Put a spoonful of chicken bacon filling in each biscuit cup.  Flatten the small biscuit piece into a small disc and cover the tops of each cup…see picture below.  You do not need to seal the two together.  

Bake for 15-20 minutes.  Watch them towards the end so that the tops don't get too dark.  Remove from oven and from pan and they are ready to be served.  ENJOY

NOTE:  I would not use a cupcake liner because the biscuits do not remove very easily from the wrapper.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

115. Warm Quinoa and Wild Rice Salad


This is a constant topic in our family.  Our conversations range from Cheeto's to Quinoa and everything in between.  Just the other day I explained to the 5 year old why we eat corn chips with 4 ingredients over Cheeto's with way too many for her to count.  Why this is a once in a blue moon treat and not an everyday snack like fruit and veggies are.  My hubby was rolling his eyes through this whole conversation (he bought the Cheeto's…LOL) because he thought I was talking over her ability to understand.  The chat lasted less than 1 minute.  

She looked at me with her little orange fingers and lips and handed me her baggie of HUGE orange puffs. 

I said, "no thank you."

She said, "Here.  I need a healthy snack."

My husbands jaw hit the floor and he chuckled.  He said that I handled that really well and even he wanted to take the orange puffy chips back to the store.


Kids do understand nutrition.  They want to make the right decisions.  The want to be informed.  As a parent I feel obligated to teach, explain and educate my daughters and son on what is necessary for our bodies to function well.  
I am not a strict parent, ask our extended family.  They think we are hippies…LOL  (I am kind of joking)  I believe in giving our kids the information and guiding them through their young lives.  They must learn along the way about what makes them feel good and what makes them feel bad when they eat.  

I don't regulate how much of anything they can eat and not eat.  We have taught them portions, to read labels and to listen to their bodies.  It has worked for us.  We also have encouraged all things in moderation.  This includes: orange puffy chips, butter, whole milk, sweets, candy, meat and soft drinks.

The teenagers get it.  The 5 year old, not yet, but we are close.  Heck I still struggle and binge at times.  I believe this is from my own childhood and the fact that times were different.  Eating, food, nutrition and healthy diets were not such a big deal where I grew up.  We just ate…and ate…and ate.

In my quest to eat healthy and teach my kids healthy habits, they should be exposed to all types of food.  Wild rice and quinoa are two things I really enjoy.  My kids had a hard time eating these two grains separately when I have made them before.  I had a thought of combining them.  This is not an original thought on my part…lots of bloggers, chefs and cook book writers have done this. 

Until you try the combination together, it's hard to imagine the flavors of the two combined with the other ingredients and then toasted slightly.  I admit, I was nervous.  My first taste brought a smile to my face.  It worked.  I was excited for dinner to start so that my family could enjoy this warm salad as well.  We all agreed that this will be something we will make again…that's a big deal in my family…LOL  We rarely eat anything twice in one year.  ENJOY

Recipe:  Warm Quinoa and Wild Rice Salad

1 small box of wild rice, make about 3 cups
1 small box of quinoa, make enough for 3 cups
1/4 cup of finely chopped or julianned green onion
1/4 cup of finely chopped red bell pepper
1 tsp of minced garlic
1 whole zucchini, julianned or shredded
1 tsp of Braggs liquid amino  (optional)
1 egg (optional for protein)
2 T. fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil to toast salad

Make your quinoa and wild rice according to the directions on your box.

While they are cooking, prepare the veggies and add them to a large bowl.

When rice and quinoa are done add roughly three cups of each to your veggies.  

Stir to combine.

When you are ready to serve the salad, heat a small amount of olive oil in a frying pan and add a batch of rice.  Toast salad for about 3-5 minutes, stirring gently a few times.  You can see the toasted quinoa in the picture below. 

I served this salad with fried eggplant and ranch dressing.

Just a little bit of fun with the rice and quinoa.

Pork and Green Chili Casserole

This recipe was given to me by a very dear friend.  Our oldest kids were babies together and to this day (17 years later) they are still friends and she is considered one of my BEST friends.   In this life we are given opportunities to find and cherish those souls that we connect with.  This is such a friendship that has and will endure the test of time.

We have laughed and cried together.  We have supported each other's decisions.  We have leaned on each other for support during some difficult times.  We have listened and chatted through life's problems, joys and experiences.  She is the finest example of how a mother should be.  She loves life.  She is a voice for women and for these traits, I admire her the most.

You love your husband and your families, but finding that extra cup of love for a friend is a treasured gift because she was chosen and invited into our family and we choose to keep she and her family very dear to our heart…forever.  A true friend to the end. Thanks Gina for all you have done for me and my family!

The original recipe is a casserole that is baked in the oven.  I have always made this in the crockpot with great success and so it is this recipe that I will share with you today.

I usually make this when I have left over rice.  This can be added towards the end of the cook time.  I have not attempted to make this using uncooked rice.  If you try this, please let me know how it turns out.  There is plenty of juice in the recipe to try it with 1/2-3/4 cups of rice, this should be added at the beginning of the cook time.

Recipe:  Pork and Green Chili Casserole, adapted from Gina Trommlitz

1 1/2 pounds of pork shoulder or 3 pork chops (boneless)
1 T. oil
1 15 oz can of black beans, drained
1 10 3/4 oz cream of chicken soup
1 14 1/2 oz diced tomatoes
2 (4) oz cans diced green chilis
1-2 T. salsa
1 tsp. ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste

2 cups of prepared rice
Jack or cheddar cheese to top
Frito or Corn Chips
sour cream, optional

Heat a sautee pan with oil.  Cut pork into 1x1 inch cubes.  Cook pork on all sides.

In a large crockpot, add pork and the remaining ingredients (except prepared rice, chips, cheese and sour cream).  Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8 hours.  Add the prepared rice one hour before your time is up.  The rice will absorb all of the liquid in the crockpot the longer it is allowed to cook.

Serve with chips, cheese and sour cream.

This shows you where I was finally able to find some light to shoot this picture.  Sometimes you will need to get creative to find the perfect place to shoot your dish.  This allowed me to have a lot of light, a white back ground and the covered protection from the bright sun I needed.  ENJOY.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Turkey Cranberry Panini Sandwich

I am going to admit something that is hard to do…I am a panini snob.  Yes, you heard that right.  I refuse to eat panini's in public.  PERIOD.

Why?  Because "they" (and that words includes several states, restaurants and chains) simply do not know how to make a HOT panini sandwich.

Am the only one that runs into this?  If I am then please let me know so that I can try a few new places and NOT be a snob about this sandwich.  LOL

HOT people…that is how I like my hubby and my sandwiches cooked in any type of press.   This specifically means…hot meat, melted cheese and toasty bread.  HOT HOT HOT

A few Christmas's ago my sister bought me the best gift.  A panini press from William Sonoma and it has gotten used a ton at my house.  I love it.

I feel that there are some tricks to making the perfect panini sandwich.  I will share with you my opinion about this.  Now, maybe you have a different approach but this is what works for me.

1.  Preheat your meat.  Do this by warming it up in a saute pan or microwaving it for a few minutes.

2.  Use cheese on both sides of the sandwich.  This does two things: makes it yummy but also holds your sandwich together so the insides do not slip out.

3.  Use good bread.  We love all multi grain breads, dark breads and especially a homemade rustic loaf.

4.  Experiment.  Try new things.  It's fun to be the sandwich king once in a while.

SO.  There you have it.  Right or wrong, it's how I do it.  If you do not own a panini press, do not fret.  A very heavy cast iron pan works great too.  Trust me, Rapunzel has made the cast iron pan surge in popularity as a tool for warding off scoundrels  but it also works as a press for sandwiches.

Recipe:  Turkey Cranberry Panini

Turkey, warmed before putting into the sandwich
Cranberry Sauce
Green onions, diced
Honey Mustard

Layer your sandwich in this order:

honey mustard
green onion
cranberry sauce
honey mustard

Butter both sides and press it baby!

TA-DA…you're done.  Now go be the sandwich king and impress your family!

112. Meat-Veggieball Sandwiches

Who doesn't love a good meatball sandwich?  We do, that is for sure!!!  

On this particular night I was in the mood for something hot, cheesy and filling.  I had all of the ingredients and together we made a delicious and fairly quick dinner.

I always love finding ways to sneak healthy veggies into my kids meals.  They are pretty good about eating most things but we still struggle with the veggies with the 5 year old.  She has been our only kid that refuses to eat something based on what it looks like.  Go figure!

She loves pizza sauce or any tomato red sauce for that matter and this was something she tried and loved, with the carrots and kale hidden deep inside of each meatball.  LOL  

We often will serve these sandwiches to a large crowd because I  can keep the meatballs warm in a crock pot and have everything set up buffet style.

Time consuming?  Possibly a bit to make the meatballs, but I used a cookie scoop and they went quite fast. I melted the cheese onto each bun in the broiler and this step can be skipped if you are in a hurry.

Go on and live a little…experiment with your meatballs and SNEAK in your veggies.  No one will ever know…he he he  ENJOY!

Recipe:  Meat-Veggieball Sandwich

(6-8 sandwiches, depending on how many meatballs are used per sandwich)

Preheat oven to 400

1 pound of ground beef/pork or a combination of both
2 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 finely chopped kale
1/3 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup of diced onion
2 eggs
1/2 tsp of oregano
1/4 tsp of pepper
1/2 tsp of salt

3 cups of your favorite tomato based sauce- store bought or made from scratch
Kaiser Buns
Mozzarella or Provolone Cheese

1.  Combine all of the ingredients into a large bowl.

2.   Using a cookie scoop or your hand, create your meatballs and put them onto a cookie sheet or casserole pan.  Use something with a lip to keep the juices from running all over your oven.

3.  Bake meatballs at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.  Remove meatballs from pan and put into a large saute pan.  Add your sauce and simmer for 15 minutes.  While meatballs are simmering in sauce, prepare your buns.  Turn you oven to broil, lay cheese on each opened Kaiser roll and broil until cheese is bubbly and melted.  Remove from oven.

 4.  Serve meatballs on sandwiches or have your guest build their own.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Cheesy Sausage Cups

Wonton wrappers are such an easy way of making appetizers or quick finger foods for dinner.  This past week has been a busy week for our family and I needed to make some things that we could eat and run or grab and go.

With Super Bowl just ending, a lot of people were posting wonton recipes and ideas.  I never clicked through to those recipes because I figured when I decided to make them I would use what I had on hand.

The ingredients, I believe, can definitely be altered based on what you have on hand or what you and your family enjoy.  Now that I have made these, I can think of so many ways of changing the filling and creating tons of new "cups".  Like: taco filling, pizza filling, veggie's, just cheese, etc….see, the list could fill this whole page.

I tried using two different pans.  I used the larger cup cake pan and my small mini muffin tin.  They both worked great.  I noticed with the mini muffin tin, the wonton was more exposed to the heat and this created  crispier edges.  The cupcake pan was a larger size (see picture above in my hand) and this would be great for heartier cups or bigger portions.  The wonton wrapper was not altered in either case.

Recipe:  Cheesy Sausage Cups

30-35 wonton wrappers…it depends on how much filling you use and the size
1 lb. of pork sausage, cooked
1/3 cup of green onion, diced
1/3 cup of bell pepper, diced
1 tsp minced garlic
3/4 block of cream cheese
1-1.5 cups of jack cheese, grated
salt and pepper to taste

Let the wonton wrappers sit out and get to room temperature before you start.  They will mold better and not break.

Preheat oven to 400.

Fry up your sausage and add the garlic, bell pepper and onion.  Cook until bell pepper and onion are soft, 3-5 minutes.

Cube the cream cheese and add to the sausage mixture.  The cream cheese will melt and blend into the mix.  Add your salt and pepper.

At this time you can remove from the heat and start shaping your cups.  The wonton wrappers will need to be tucked a few times in order for them to fit in your desired pan.

The larger cups I put cheese in the bottom and then the filling and topped them with more cheese…really good!  The smaller cups I went ahead and mixed in the cheese and used a cookie scoop to add the filling to the smaller cups.  Still good but not as cheesy.

Bake for 15-20 minutes.  You want to keep an eye on them so that the edges do not burn.  I microwaved a few the next day and they were really good…still crispy edges.

NOTE:  I sprayed one batch with cooking spray and one without.  I did not notice a difference.  They cooked the same for me.  I also did not precook the wonton wrappers.  I tried this with a few and again, it did not make a difference and they turned out crispy and held their shape.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Asparagus Parmesan Soup

It's no secret that we love soup.  I have been making this easy and quick soup for a few years now.  I have tried substituting broccoli instead of asparagus and it does not work, in my opinion.  I keep thinking I want to try carrots, cauliflower or zucchini…one of these days I will give it a try.

A couple of things to note when making this recipe.  If you are going to use a blender, REMEMBER that you never close the lid on a hot liquid.  It will explode and this can be very dangerous.  I usually set my blender speed to low, fill the container about 1/3 full and put a towel over the top…just in case.  Once the liquid has become smooth and creamy, then I increase the speed to high for a few seconds.  This soup will need to be blended in batches. I don't want anyone burned.

This soup is wonderful when served with warm bread.

Recipe:  Asparagus Parmesan Soup

2 bundles of asparagus
2 cups of chicken broth
salt to taste
dash of pepper
1/4 tsp. of garlic powder
1/4 tsp. of onion powder
1/2 cup of cream
1/2 cup of Parmesan Cheese, grated

Steam your asparagus using what ever method you prefer: stove top or microwaved.  In a blender, add a small amount of soft asparagus and chicken broth.  Blend until smooth.  This may take 2 or 3 batches.

Add the blended soup to a medium sized pot. Add your spices: salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder.  Taste and add more spices depending on your taste buds.

 Warm you soup to very hot,  but not boiling.  Add the grated parmesan cheese and stir until cheese is melted.  Add your cream and stir.  Again, bring soup to a temperature of hot (steaming) but not boiling.

Serve immediately.  Store leftovers in the fridge and rewarm to eat again…we don't usually have leftovers.

UPDATE:  3-5-2013--I made this today and did not have chicken broth so I used 2 cups of the water that I used to cook my asparagus.  Instead of steaming them I added them to a microwave safe bowl with 2 cups of water and cooked for 8 minutes.  I slowly added the hot asparagus water to the blender.  It did require a bit more salt than the original, just taste and add as necessary.

Art, Technology, and Disability

It has been forever, it feels to me since I have written on my blog. I took a break to focus on family and school. Here I am, three yea...