Monday, June 29, 2009

4th of July Menu

This year we'll be celebrating the 4th of July at my in-laws home about 40 miles away. But before we get to and grill out - we have to go to a Spider Man Pancake Breakfast!! Yep, our local science museum, known around here as "COSI", is hosting a 4th of July Breakfast with Spiderman. How cool is that for a three year old? (Not very cool for my 12 and 14 year olds - but I enjoy watching them squirm!!). Anyway, here is a list, with recipes or links to recipes, for what I will be serving this holiday weekend.
4th of July Menu
Homemade Lemonade (recipe follows)
White and Blue Chips with (Red) Salsa (my favorite store bought)
South Street Tortilla Roll-Ups with Salsa and Guacamole (recipes follow)
Hamburgers and Hot Dogs (supplied by my in-laws)
Four Bean Salad (Costco - sorry - I really like their brand!)
Paula Deen's Fruit Bowl (recipe follows)
Barbecue Macaroni Salad (recipe follows)
Jazzed Up Baked Beans (recipe link)
Potato-Egg Salad (recipe link)
Barefoot Contessa's Flag Cake (recipe link)
Sorry I don't have a photo of my lemonade, but I'm sure you know what it looks like!! :) I love fresh lemonade, but I only make this a couple of times a summer. The price of lemons is just way too high. This is a slight modification of a recipe I got from a few summers ago.
Homemade Lemonade
1 3/4 cups white sugar
8 cups water
1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
cherries with stems still attached
ice cube tray
In a small saucepan, combine sugar and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil ans stir to dissolve sugar. Allow to cool to room temperature, then cover and refigerate until chilled.
Meanwhile, rinse cherries, keeping stems still attached. Place one cherry in each compartment of an ice cube tray. Fill about 1/2 - 3/4 full with water and partially freeze. Cherries will "float" to the top. When frozen, add a little more water to cover cherries, leaving stems sticking out.
Remove seeds from lemon juice, but leave pulp. In a pitcher, stir together chilled syrup, lemon juice and remaining 7 cups water.
When serving, fill glass with regular ice cubes, but add one "cherry" ice cube at the top. Fill with lemonade and serve.
South Street Tortilla Roll - Ups
I like to make these for special occasions, like birthday parties and get-togethers. They are very simple to make, but taste fantastic!! Make sure you "pat dry" your chopped tomatoes so the roll-ups don't get soggy. Also, it's best to make these either early in the day or the day before, wrap in plastic and refrigerate. The cream cheese is much easier to cut.
8 oz pkg cream cheese
1 lg. onion, chopped
8 oz sour cream
1 1 /4 oz pkg. taco seasoning
8 oz cheddar cheese, shredded
4 1/2 oz can chopped green chillies, well drained (and "patted" dry)
2 tomatoes, chopped and drained (and "patted" dry)
hot pepper sauce to taste (I like about 1/4 t)
10 flour tortillas
Garnish: salsa and guacamole
Combine cream cheese, onion, sour cream and taco seasoning until smooth. Fold in cheese, chillies, tomatoes and hot sauce, blending well. Spread mixture on tortillas, the roll tortillas. Refrigerate until cream cheese mixture is firm. Slice and serve cold with salsa and guacamole.

Isn't this picture a hoot!?! No, I didn't make it (I'm not THAT creative!!), but I don't have a photo of my homemade guacamole, and I ran across this one on the internet. Guess you really can find just about anything on the 'net!!

It's pretty easy nowadays to find good guacamole, but that wasn't always the case. I do like guacamole with the South Street Tortilla Roll-Ups. If you want a great recipe, heres one for you:

Homemade Guacamole

2 c (2 lg) avocadoes, mashed

2 T lemon juice

1 tomato, diced

2 green chillies, finely chopped

1/4 t Kosher salt

1/4 t chili powder

1 T onion, grated or finely chopped

1/8 t garlic powder

Combine all ingredients, chill, and serve.

Paul Deen's Fruit Bowl

This recipe is for this upcoming week's My Girl Paula recipe. I'm really happy it was chosen. I'm just wondering what I'm going to do with all the extra Tang!! ;)

3 T orange Tang drink mix

1 - 15 1/2 oz can pineapple chunks, drained, juice reserved

1 - 3.4 oz box instant lemon pudding mix

1 - 16 oz can chunky mixed fruit, drined

1 - 11 oz can mandarin oranges, drained

1 - 6 oz jar maraschino cherries

3 large bananas

Stir the Tang into the pineapple juice. Add the lemon pudding mix and stir well. Combine the pineapple, mixed fruit, oranges and cherries, then mix the fruit and pudding mixtures together; toss well. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Just before servign, slice and add the bananas.

Barbeque Macaroni Salad

In the Summer Grilling edition of Cook's Illustrated I found an interesting recipe for Barbeque Macaroni Salad. It's a new twist on an old favorite, by adding barbeque sauce to a traditional macaroni salad. I especially like Cook's Illustrated because they test so many different brands of products to let you know which one "works" better than the rest. For this recipe, they highly recommend (drumroll please......)

Yep, good ol' Bull's Eye original for it's smokey flavor. I used it in this recipe and thought it was quite good. I've never heard of a barbeque macaroni salad before, and thought it was really, really good (so good I had to raid the fridge after everyone went to bed for a little more!!)

Barbeque Macaroni Salad

Table salt

1 lb elbow macaroni

1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped fine

1 celery rib, chopped fine

4 scallions, sliced thin (I used green onion)

2 T cider vinegar

1 t hot sauce

1 t chili powder

1/8 t garlic powder

Pinch cayenne pepper

1 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup barbecue sauce

Ground black pepper

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add 1 T salt and macaroni and cook until nearly tender, about 5 minutes. Drain in colander and rinse with cold water until cool, then drain once more, briefly, so that pasta is still moist; transfer to a large bowl.

Stir in bell pepper, celery, scallions, vinegar, hot sauce, chili powder, garlic powder, and cayenne and let sit until flavors are absorbed, about 2 minutes. Stir in mayonnaise and barbecue sauce and let sit untl salad is no longer water, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve. (Salad can be covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Check seasonings before serving.) As the salad sits, it can become dry; just before serving, sir in a few tablespoons of warm water to bring back its creamy texture.

The remainder of my recipes are links (thank goodness - I'm getting carpal tunnel typing all this!!). For my baked beans, I'm going with Cookin' Mimi's Jazzed Up Baked Beans. For my potato salad I decided on Love at First Bite's Potato-Egg Salad. And (finally!!) for the dessert we are going with Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa's) Flag Cake.

Now if that isn't enough to keep you all busy - check out a great craft website that I just LOVE. Skip to My Lou is doing 4th of July crafts all week to get your table (and home) ready for the 4th!! But remember, if you run out of time (or energy!) you can always make a run to the Dollar store!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

When Hubby Gives You Trout....

Uhh...cook it within three days! No, really if you've read any of my previous posts, you'd know my husband loves to fish. I can't imagine the fascination, but whatever makes him happy!! Anyway, last week he came home with a lot of trout, and a lot more smoked trout. Now, the fresh trout I know how to fix, but what to do with all this smoked trout? I asked him what he wanted me to do with the smoked trout, and he said, "Feed it to me". Brilliant, isn't he? ;)
After a little thought, I decided to make a Smoked Trout Frittata. I've seen recipes for a Smoked Salmon Frittata, so I figured I'd just substitute the fish. After a little more rooting around in the refrigerator, I ended up substituting out most ingredients (except the eggs, of course!). I really think that's the beauty of a frittata - kinda rustic and use what you've got on hand! Heaven knows, with this egg CSA I've gotten myself into, I sure have enough eggs!! So, here's a photo of my Smoked Trout Frittata with the recipe:
Smoked Trout Frittata
3 T vegetable oil
Flaked trout from 1 -2 smoked trout fillets (1 if large, 2 if smaller)
6 green onions (1 bunch) chopped, both white and green parts
1 small container of mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
8 eggs
2 T milk
2 T heavy cream
1/2 (8 oz) package cream cheese, cubed
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Crushed red pepper flakes to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Heat oil in a large, oven proof skillet (I used a 10" cast iron skillet). Add green onions and mushrooms, season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring until onions are soft. Add the smoked trout , cook briefly to release flavors.
In a medium bowl, whisk eggs together with milk and cream. Pour over the trout and vegetables and stir gently. Scatter cubes of cream cheese over the top. Cook over medium heat without stirring, until the edges appear firm.
Place the skillet in the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until nicely browned and puffed. If you prefer, slide onto a serving platter. I just serve straight from the cast iron pan.
Just in case you've never cooked trout before, here's my favorite recipe (or really method) for serving it. Trout is excellent served with homemade coleslaw and cornbread, but last weekend we grilled a thick steak and had a "surf and turf" meal.
Pan Fried Trout
In a small dish, pour some milk (I like to use buttermilk). In another dish, pour some cornmeal. Season the cornmeal lightly with a dash of cayenne pepper and a pinch of salt. Dip cleaned trout in milk, then roll in cornmeal. Collect all your trout fillets and fry in about a 1/4" vegetable oil (again, a cast iron skillet is excellent for this). Fry about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove to a paper towel lined dish and serve immediately with fresh lemon wedges. Enjoy!

Garden Update

Wow, my garden is really taking off!! I've come to realize my tomato cages aren't big enough!! Uh-Oh! :) Anyway, here are a couple of fun update photos - hope you enjoy!!

My first zucchini (the part just behind the flower). I've learned alot about zucchini this year. The plant has both "male" and "female" flowers that need to be pollinated. Usually bees do this, but with the shortage of bees anymore, it may be necessary to hand pollinate them yourself (this is true of all the squashes). So each morning out I go with little cotton swabs. This is the first one I got to pollinate (I feel like a fertility doctor!! LOL!!)

Here's the beginning of my first cucumber. Isn't it adorable? (I'm such a proud parent!!). I didn't have to pollinate them - they know what to do!! I can't wait until I can make some bread and butter pickles!

Tomorrow I'm going to post my menu/recipes for the upcoming 4th of July. I don't have photos of all the recipes, but I don't think you'll be disappointed!!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Costco Chicken Salad

I just love Costco's Rotisserie Chicken Salad Croissants. My husband thinks I make a better chicken salad - which is sweet of him to say - but I think Costco's beats mine hands-down. I knew my husband wouldn't be home until late last night (after fishing), so I decided to get a Costco chicken salad croissant. Problem was, when I got to Costco they were all sold out (bummer!). But as luck would have it, for the mere price of $14.95 I could buy a tub of their chicken salad. Slap on another $5.95 for a dozen croissants, and another $3.95 for a package of six Roma tomatoes (you can't have chicken salad without tomatoes on it), and I could have a Costco Rotisserie Chicken Salad Croissant. Ugh. And I wonder why I'm broke all the time!!
Now as much as I love Costco's chicken salad, I do have to doctor it up a bit. I like to add a little "dash" of Penzey's Sandwich Sprinkle to each sandwich.
This stuff is great on any kind of sandwich (OK, maybe not PB&J, but turkey, ham, you name it!). It's a combination of salt, garlic, black pepper, and a bunch of herbs. Really "picks up" a sandwich. Buy some, you won't regret it!!
So last night at about 10:00 pm when hubby finally shows up, we sit down and eat two (that's one apiece) chicken salad croissants. What to do with all this chicken salad???? I don't have my garbage-disposal older boys around to help rid me of this problem. Well, I got up early and made a big plate of chicken salad croissant sandwiches for my husband's office staff. I sure hope they stop asking for a raise!! ;)
Aren't they pretty? Just to give you an idea how big that plate is - it's my turkey platter at Thanksgiving!!
Now I couldn't just send sandwiches - they needed something to go with them. (I should start a catering business and actually get paid to do this!!) I dug around in my ever-filled pantry and came up with Veggie Straws.
If you haven't had these yet, you've just got to try them - they're "da-bomb" as my boys say. I don't know if they are actually "good" for you, maybe just a little less "bad"? I don't know. They're made from spinach, tomato, carrots and potatoes. Yea, and they taste great!! I guess they also make them in a "chip" form, but I've never had those. We like ours dipped in Ranch dressing, but they are great plain, right out of the bag too. So off went my bag of Veggie Straws :( But it was for a good cause I suppose. Guess that'll teach me not to buy a tub of Costco chicken salad!!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Hodgepodge of Thoughts

I found a recipe for Crab Meat Lasagna recently in a really good cookbook called Favorite Recipes From Quilters. I love to quilt, but that joy will have to wait until fall - when it's a little cooler out! Anyway, I thought the recipe would be a nice summer alternative to the traditionally heavy lasagna. But when I went to the cupboard to pull out my "crab meat", this is what I discovered: Yep, salmon, not crab. But that didn't stop me! I'm from Ohio and we don't know crab from salmon in these parts!! At least that's what I was hoping. So I proceeded with the recipe, just substituting. Well, it couldn't have been better!! My husband LOVED it and said he wanted it again tonight for dinner. That's fine by me - he can have leftovers!! :) I served it with some artisan bread and a tossed salad. I do recommend using "light" cream cheese and the fat-free cream of mushroom soup to keep the calories down. I couldn't tell any difference in taste using them.
Crab Meat Lasagna
(my version uses salmon)
1/2 lb lasagna noodles
1 t olive oil
8 oz pkg cream cheese (light), softened
2 cups cottage cheese
2 10 3/4 oz cans (fat free) cream of mushroom soup
1 egg
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 t basil
1 t salt
2 cups crab meat (I used two small cans of salmon)
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
Cook lasagna in water and olive oil according to package directions. Drain.
Combine cream cheese, cottage cheese, mushroom soup, egg, onion, garlic, basil and salt in a large bowl, mix well.
Drain crab (salmon) and break into small pieces. Fold into cream cheese mixture.
In a lightly greased (sprayed) 9 x 13 baking dish, layer 1/2 lasagna noodles, 1/2 crab meat mixture and 1/2 of cheddar cheese. Repeat layers, ending with cheddar cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.
I think there was some kind of ESP thing going on earlier this week with me and Michelle from Something New is Cooking. We both must have read Sandy's blog from I Love Sweet Treats and decided to make the taco ring. I know this photo does the recipe a disservice - I was suppose to have two cans of crescent rolls and I only had one. This is an excellent recipe and I'll be making it again (the right way!!) when my kids come home from camp. I served it with shredded lettuce, diced tomato, sour cream and guacamole, with Mexican Rice on the side. Click here if you'd like the recipe. Very yummy!!

About once every couple of months I like to fix a ham. They're expensive, but the leftovers are fantastic in scrambled eggs, omelette's, and breakfast casseroles. My favorite way to cook a ham (other than the holidays) is to get one that I know will fit in my crock pot and, well, just stick it in the crock pot. Yep. I don't do anything else. I let it cook all day and by evening it's made it's own "broth". In the winter I'll use it to make bean soup, but in the summer I like to use the broth when I fix rice. It keeps the house cool, too, which is a big plus in the summer!!

So, did you watch the "big show" last Monday with Jon and Kate? Honestly, I've never watched them before, but I couldn't miss that one. I have to admit I liked the first episode better - the one with the Crooked Houses

I was "googling" crooked houses for about an hour - I think the company had to take their website down because of all the moms and dads trying to find a crooked house for their kids!! I showed my husband this picture and he just laughed. He's an architect and said there is no way he'd have something like that in his back yard!! I should have married an attorney! ;)

I did feel sorry for them during the last episode, though. I'm glad the network decided to take them off the air for awhile. I really think they need to get their lives straightened out and forget the cameras. The funny thing is I hear there is talk of "Jon and Kate - The Musical"!! I've worked really hard not to have a completely messed up life, only to find out that's where the money is!! LOL!!

Well, I'm off to declutter the storage room in the basement - hope you all enjoy your day!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Garden Update

Sorry this photo is so small and blurry - it's a picture of the cabins (called Ka-bens) at Camp Fitch, where my older sons are this week. They're really cool - open during the day and in the evening they have these flaps that come down and tie!!
Wow, it's been a busy week around our neck of the woods. From checking in to some of my friend's posts on My Girl Paula, looks like we're all pretty busy. Poor Alwayz Bakin' is studying anatomy - you go girl!! I just don't have it in me any more for that!!
My two older sons are off at camp! Praise God!! :) It was a long drive (3 1/2 hours each way!!), but the camp is incredible. On the shores of Lake Erie (really, right on the shore!!), and they are learning computer programming, web design, horseback riding, archery, you-name-it!! I sure wish I was a kid again!!
Our little guy is going to a local daycare this week. This week is "Bug Camp" and he's just loving it! He squeals when he sees the building and starts clapping his hands - he's just so cute!! Plus, it wears him out and he goes to bed early - yippee!!
So that leaves me - lonely? NO WAY!! I'm decluttering and organizing. I have my oldest son's room finished and today I begin my middle son's room. I'm about halfway done with the kitchen (and I'm amazed at the stuff I have that I'd completely forgotten about!!). I wish it went faster, but at least it's getting done. I'm not cooking a whole lot this week (well, maybe tonight - I want to try a crab meat lasagna), so I'll leave you with some pictures of my garden. I'm truly amazed at how well everything is growing in my boxes - just take a look:
These are my potted tuberous begonias with the herbs tucked in between. It's an early morning picture when the sun is the brightest in that area.
Here's a photo of my first pumpkin blossom. I think I'll have pumpkins in August!! Looks like there are a lot more coming just behind this blossom.

Here are some cucumber blossoms. I'm hoping to get a lot of cucumbers so I can make Bread and Butter pickles!

Here's an early morning photo of my first eggplant blossom.

Here's a zucchini blossom. Honestly, I had no idea zucchini leaves got so big!!

I just love this little orchid. I got it at our local Home Depot. It's a miniature orchid. I love this photo too - it's early morning, but it looks so soft. That's my composting bin behind the orchid. I'm composting almost everything!!

You know it's summer around here when the pansies begin to get spindly. I hate to see them go, but they just didn't look so good.

Here's their replacement - two varieties of coleus. This area doesn't get any direct sun, and these leaves give the front of my home a nice, neat look.

Hope you enjoyed the photos. I'll update on my progress a little later in the week!

Monday, June 15, 2009

I Won an Award!!

How cool is this - I got an award!! A big "Thank You" to Alwayz Bakin' for nominating me!! That just made my day!! Here are the RULES of this award: 1. Thank the person who nominated you for this award. (Check) 2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog (Check) 3. Link to the person who nominated you for this award. (Check) 4. Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting. (Uh-Oh) 5. Nominate 7 Kreativ Bloggers (See Below) 6. Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate (See #5) 7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs, letting them know they have been nominated. (On my To-Do List for today). So, the seven people I am nominating for the award are..... Stacy Snacks Grin and Bake It Cooking During Stolen Moments Real Mom Kitchen Frosted Garden Closet Cooking The Food Librarian Now for my Uh-Oh. Seven things you "might" find interesting about me (good thing they used the word "might"!! LOL!) 1. I have three sons, ages 14, 12, and 3. All three of my sons are adopted. My 12 and 14 year olds are from Russia, and my 3 year old is adopted through our county Children's Services. 2. I hope (pray!) to live long enough to hear my now 12 year old son Christopher one day admit in wonder that I'm the smartest person he's ever known!! (As opposed to today when he thinks I'm the dumbest!!). *Note annoyed look on his face in this photo for my proof! 3. My favorite flower to grow right now is the tuberous begonia. I have three large pots of them on my back deck with herbs mixed in between. I hope to begin an heirloom rose garden next year. 4. I hold my breath when my son swims competitively. My lungs are grateful he is beginning to swim faster!! ;) I know, that photo's not really my son swimming, but I hold my breath when Michael Phelps swims too! LOL!! 5. I check Pioneer Woman's website each day to see how many comments she gotten (like some days are 17,000!!), then I check the recipe! (I also check out this photo of her husband in chaps!) 6. I just taught myself how to make a homemade pie-crust (and I'm 46 years old - see Christopher, you can teach me a new trick!!). 7. I made 93 coffee cup holders and Lemon-Blueberry Muffins for Teacher's Appreciation Day this year - and I refuse to ever drink another cup of coffee (but I'll keep eating muffins!! LOL!). Thanks again for my award - that was really fun!!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Blueberry Pie

My neighbor is trying to grow blueberries in his backyard - and I don't think it's going very well. I'm not sure what he's doing wrong, but in the last four summers, we haven't seen any blueberries at all. I could tell yesterday he seemed pretty defeated, so I did the only thing I knew to do - I baked him a blueberry pie! He laughed when I brought it over to his house last night - and he came back telling me that was a pretty darn good blueberry pie. I'm glad I could cheer him up a little!!
Blueberry Pie
3-4 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen (without syrup)
One 9 inch deep-dish pie plate
5 T corn starch
2/3 cups sugar
1/2 t cinnamon
3 T water
1 T lemon juice
1 graham cracker pie crust
1/4 c sugar
1/2 c flour
1/4 cup butter
Make graham cracker pie crust as per back of graham cracker crumbs box. Refrigerate one hour. Rinse blueberries and drain. Go through and pick out any mushy ones.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl combine 2/3 cups sugar and 5 T cornstarch and mix well. Add 1/2 t cinnamon. Add water and lemon juice.
Add blueberries to the piecrust. Pour the sugar/juice mixture over the blueberries.
In a seperate bowl, make the crumb topping. Mix together the sugar and flour, cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two forks. Sprinkle over the pie.
Place the pie on a large cookie sheet and bake for 50-55 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting.
I belong to an "egg" CSA. Kind of weird, I know. I use to belong to the traditional CSA, but it just wasn't that much fun. I never knew from week to week what I was getting, and half the time I didn't know what I got when I got home!! It made menu planning really tough. So this farmer has a traditional CSA, but he also has free-range chickens. Each week I get two dozen free range eggs, and every-other-week I get a whole chicken. This week was just eggs - and I think they're beautiful!! They look like something out of a Pottery Barn catalog. The farmer says that different kinds of chickens lay different color eggs. Each week I always have one green one, with the others varying in shades of brown. Here's a photo of this week's eggs:
Hope everyone has a great weekend!! I'm cleaning and decluttering, and looking forward to making Paula Deen's Strawberry Shortcake!!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Tried and True Macaroni and Cheese

I'm not going to start this post commenting on how macaroni and cheese is the ultimate comfort food - I'm sure you already know that. The sad fact is Kraft has all but ruined such a wonderful dish with their day-glow orange powder stuff!! I actually know kids that prefer that stuff to the original. Well, not my kids - thank heavens!! This is my T&T macaroni and cheese recipe. I love it to death - I can even mix it all up in the baking dish!! My photo doesn't do the dish justice. We like ours a little "brown" on top with sliced American cheese, but the original recipe calls for a breadcrumb topping. I'm sure that would be good too, but with kids around, you can't go wrong with American cheese!! I have no idea where I got the recipe, so I'm unable to give the original creator their dues. Whoever you are, I am eternally grateful!!
I think this photo says it all:

This is my son Chris giving me the "thumbs up" for my macaroni and cheese and Pioneer Woman's Chicken Strips. That was one good meal!!

Tried and True Macaroni and Cheese

8 oz. dry elbow macaroni

8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

12 oz cottage cheese

8 oz sour cream

1/4 c. Parmasean cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Additional sliced American cheese, buttered bread crumbs, or shredded cheese (your preference)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Boil macaroni for about 8 minutes or al dente. Spray a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Add cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream and Parmesan cheese to the baking dish. Drain macaroni, but do not rinse. Add to baking dish. Mix all ingredients, add salt and pepper to taste. Spread out even in baking dish. Top with sliced American Cheese, or buttered bread crumbs, or additional shredded cheese (your preference). Bake about 30 minutes, or until bubbly and cheese is melted.

Finally, I'm finishing this post up with a non-food photo. I just thought it was so neat last night to watch this deer walk through the wooded area behind our home. I was so lucky to have my camera and be able to get this photo. There's a creek right by the deer that she was walking to. I hope you enjoy!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Turkey Reuben Sandwich - Sort of...

I'd love to say this is a photo of MY Turkey Reuben Sandwich, but it's not. Let's start with a couple of facts. First, I love reuben sandwiches. One of my first posts was about making corned beef and a corned beef reuben. A second fact, which you may not think is relavent, but it is, is that all my friends are drama queens. Honest, if the least little thing happens - clogged drain, dead car battery, etc., they're on the phone to me screaming and carrying on. I'm the oldest of the bunch, and sometimes I think I've been through that crisis and it's no big deal. Sometimes I think having three boys makes you a tougher chick. I don't know. So, last night I'm making up a batch of these wonderful Turkey Reubens and just about ready to get out the camera, when the phone rings. Let's just say the rest is history. The cavemen of my family scooped up the reubens - even mine! - and ran off to eat. My friend had another life crisis that wasn't, and the photo was never taken. (Insert heavy sigh). So for me, no photo and no Turkey Reuben. But all was not lost - I made a batch of Heath Bar Oatmeal Toffee Cookies. And this photo IS mine!!

They may not look like much - the first time I made them I thought I did something wrong - but they are a delicious cookie!! If you like Heath Bars or Skor Bars, these are the cookies for you!! An added bonus - they have oatmeal in them, so in my book that makes them an excellent breakfast cookie too! :)

Oatmeal Toffee Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) butter

2 eggs

2 cups packed light brown sugar

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cups quick cooking oats

1 1/3 (8-oz pkg) Heath Bits 'O Brickle Toffee Bits

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease cookie sheets. Beat butter, brown sugar and vanilla in large bowl until well blended. Add flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; beat until blended. Stir in oats and toffee bits with a spoon.

Drop by rounded teaspoons about 2 inches apart onto prepared baking sheets. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or edges are lightly browned. Cool 1 minute; remove to wire rack. Cool completely (yea, right!). Makes about 4 dozen cookies

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

My Girl Paula's Baked Spaghetti

I admit it, I goofed! I didn't look at My Girl Paula's blog and see that we weren't suppose to make this for two more weeks!! Yikes! Last week was a blur and when I got to my menu/grocery list I just "assumed" this was the next recipe. Don't ask me why - no logical answer!! Anyway, I was going to hold off on posting it until the "correct" week, but I realized there are a couple of twists in this recipe that might deserve a "heads up" before making.
First, don't be like me and not read/comprehend the recipe. I go to make this at 5:00 pm last night, after fighting rush hour traffic and a screaming three-year-old coming home from the dentist (another stressor all to itself!!). So I'm feeling rushed and a little "snippy" (ya all know what I mean?), and I grab the ingredients and start reading. YIKES! It takes the sauce a full hour to simmer, then another 20 minutes after you add the browned ground beef, then 30 minutes to bake. Based on all this, I'm guessing my family won't be eating until 7:30 pm!! The cavemen will revolt! My husband, who was home early (figures, right?), said it would be fine to "order pizza". NO! (yep, I'm shouting now!!), I won't be defeated!! So I begin........
This is actually a very simple recipe. I really didn't know what to expect. I was thinking something like a lasagna, only with angel hair pasta. No, not really. More like "Cincinnati Style Chilli" - if you've ever had that. The sauce is really more chilli than "lasagna sauce". Got all that?
Now, here's a pet peeve I've got with a lot of recipes. If a recipe calles for canned, diced tomatoes, then it's a MUST they tell me whether or not to drain. I mean, don't make me assume anything. I can't tell you the recipes I've bombed because that was so obvious to the author. No offense, Paula, just my own ignorance. Luckily, this recipe is also on Paula's site - and based on the comments, I'm not the only one confused. While this recipe gets 5 stars, some said too watery, while others thought it was fine. After speed reading through the comments (I'm on a time crunch here!!), I decided not to drain the tomatoes, and I only added 1/4 cup water (not one cup). Just thought I'd let you all know that. You also add 2 bay leaves to the sauce. The recipe never tells you to remove them - but I think it's a good idea to remove them just before you add the hamburger (after the first hour). It's too hard to find them after you add the hamburger. Finally, I think you might want to add just a little more cheese - make sure you cover the entire top of the casserole or you will get some "crunchy" pasta! No one seemed to mind, though!
So, how'd we like it.........A big 5 stars with the cavemen going back for seconds and thirds (and I think one got a 4th!!). Really, it's rare that I make a 9 x 13 casserole and the whole thing is eaten up (with one son running his fingers around the pan!).
I served it with some homemade artisian bread and a tossed salad. I will make this again (and again, and again) for sure. But I do think I'll make the sauce up early so the dinner prep time is kept shorter.
No, that's not really my salad - but that's about how I felt by the time I got dinner on the table!! So don't stress yourself out, read the recipe, and give yourself plenty of time - just a tip from me!! :)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Father's Day Dinner fit for the Fathers!!

I know, it's not Father's Day yet, but we celebrated today, along with my Father-in-law's birthday, because our two oldest children will be at camp on Father's Day. I think my husband considers that to be enough of a gift!! So this morning I got up early and finished the preparations for the big feast. I boxed everything up and off we went!
We grilled London Broil at my In-laws home. I have to admit I didn't know what London Broil was until just last week. While checking out a new "favorite" blog, How to Cook Like Your Grandmother, I got a whole tutorial. Here in Columbus, Ohio we have a grocery store chain called Giant Eagle that gives weekly buy-on-get-one-free specials. I suspect they aren't that great of a deal, since when I leave the store I've way overspent, but they were running a special on top round for London Broil. I decided we'd give it a whirl, and I'm so glad we did. While our London Broil was not quite as juicy as Drew's on How to Cook Like Your Grandmother, I think it was up there as "excellent". We are in the process of switching out our grill and getting a charcoal grill (which we had when we were poor!!), and I think the charcoal flavor and cooking would have made this an absolute "10". Check out Drew's site and his tutorial for fixing London Broil - you won't be disappointed!!
So, to go along with our London Broil, I fixed Green Beans with Cherry Tomatoes. Not only were these delicious, but the colors were beautiful!! I found the recipe on (I love, love, love this site!!), and only modified it slightly by adding a tablespoon of Penzey's Spices Epazote. If you have a Penzey's Spices store in your area and you've never gone - you need to go soon!! No, I'm not a family member, but I swear by their spices!! You can get a small jar of a spice and try it for next to nothing!! Honestly, the grocery store spices are way overpriced and not nearly as good. If you don't have a Penzey's in your area, then you can order online. But finish reading my blog first!! :) Ok, back to the beans. These were a hit and everyone loved them. The colors were beautiful, too (bright green, red, brown of the bacon - major yum!!). The only thing is, these beans are ONLY for special occasions because you saute them in BACON GREASE! Yep, you read that right. These guys will kill you if you eat them regularly - really!! So maybe I'll make them again at Christmas after everyone submits a doctor's cholesterol screening!!
Finally, I added in Aunt Gert's Macaroni Salad from RealMomKitchen (from Paula Deen). We had this over Memorial Day weekend and it was wonderful. I wish I had a photo of the entire meal on a plate, but we were too busy eating!! All I can say is that the flavors were wonderful. My husband wanted everyone to tell them which part of the meal was their favorite - but we all said the whole thing combined was what was so good.
So now comes the moment of truth. My Father-in-law asked for cherry pie for his birthday. I tried to make a cherry pie back in the 1980's, but it was a total failure (like the filling never set and ran all over the plate). I never tried again. Too much stress. Makes me nervous. Also, my Father-in-law said he couldn't get a good cherry pie when he went out to eat, and wanted a GOOD cherry pie. Yep, not just ANY cherry pie - it had to be GOOD. Yikes!! My nerves were shot!!
After some "googling" (we use to call that "research") I discovered a "good" cherry pie was tart, and usually made with Michigan cherries. I placed an order and got my cherries in a couple of days. A little more "googling", and actually reading the back of the cherry can (same exact recipe) I discovered the best cherry pie recipe. Now this is a "sour" cherry pie - not a "sweet" cherry pie. I didn't know there was a difference, but after I tried this pie, I sure know now. It's great, but it pulls a pucker!! I want to try this again around July 4th with a combination of sour and sweet cherries, just to see how that tastes.
So, this was a really good birthday/Father's Day for the guys (and the gals!) - hope you all had a great weekend too!!