Saturday, January 30, 2010

Caramelized Onion Braided Bread

"The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight."
~ M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating  

If you know anything about me you will know of my love for onions- especially sauteed onions.  I love them so much I could eat them by themselves and be perfectly happy.  Mmmmm...buttery heaven.   Am I strange?  Maybe.  But I can't help it, the way the butter, salt and heat break down the sugars in the onions it just makes them pure bliss.  I seriously put onions in everything I make (or at least pretty darn close)!  So when I saw this recipe for a Caramelized Onion Braided Bread in the bread machine cookbook, I knew it was calling my name.  Since I am borrowing Bonnie's bread machine in the hopes of knowing wether I should get one for myself or not, I have wanted to play around a bit and get a feel for it.  I want to try out different types of breads just to see how easy (or not) the bread machine makes things.  And the cool thing with this recipe is that it works with both the bread machine and my own oven.  One does the mixing, kneading and raising and the other does the baking.  So I get to use the machine to do all the hard work and then I still get to play a bit with my hands and still feel like I "baked bread".  Pretty cool.

First thing you will want to do is take one large onion, thinly sliced and saute it in a skillet in 4 tablespoons of butter for 20 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally, until they are golden brown.  Don't rush them or they will burn.

Pour the contents of the skillet into a strainer set over a bowl.  Use the back of a spoon to gently push out the butter and some of the juice from the onions.  Measure out 3 tablespoons of liquid and reserve.  (I got pretty much exactly 3 tablespoons, maybe a little more so I just reserved all of it.)

Place all of the ingredients except the onions and poppy seeds in the machine, program for Dough or Manual, and press start.  Now I didn't have poppy seeds on hand so I decided to go without this time around instead of running to the store.  I will definitely try them next time though.  (Ingredients are listed at the end of the recipe).

When the beeper sounds or during the last 5 minutes of the final knead cycle, add the onions and poppy seeds (if using).  At the end of the second rise, remove the dough (it will be sticky) and place it on a well-oiled bowl.  Cover tightly and place it in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or as long as overnight.

Baking Instructions
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water
Lightly butter or grease a heavy-duty cookie sheet.  On a lightly floured board, pat the cold dough into a fat log and then cut into 3 equal pieces.  With the palms of your hands, form each piece into a 16-17 inch length.  Pinch 3 of the ends together, then make a fairly tight braid, pinching the other ends together.  Place on the prepared cookie sheet.

Generously brush the top of the braid with the egg glaze and reserve the egg glaze.  Let the bread rise, uncovered, in a warm, draft-free place for about 1 hour, or until almost double in size.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with the rack in the lower third, but not on the bottom, position.  Repaint the braid with the reserved egg glaze.  Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until deep golden brown and the inside is done (check by inserting a small sharp knife between the braids to make sure the bread is cooked throughout).

This is easily one of the very best breads I have ever eaten in my life (aside from my Grandmother's Babchi Bread).  A lot of extra work goes into this one compared to the first loaf I baked, but it was oh so worth it.  I had Scott wrap it up after it cooled because I was headed downtown to E 4th St. to celebrate my sister's birthday with some girlfriends.  I told him I would slice it up the next morning.  So today when I woke I was just dying to see how it turned out.  It look stunning, and once I opened up the foil and plastic wrap I was enveloped in the move amazing scent.  Even Jackson came running over to see what smelled so yummy.  The onion flavor wasn't super strong (I honestly could even do with more onions, believe it or not!  But that is coming from an onionaholic...) just a wonderful mellow flavor.  Do you like Onion Bagels?  Me too.  That is what this reminded me of, only softer.  I popped a few slices in the toaster and just warmed them through, slathered some butter on them and topped it with a slice of cheese- so delicious!  Jackson gobbled his up in no time and asked for more.  I had to pack it up right away otherwise I could have easily eaten more then I should have!

Since this bread isn't baked in bread pan, but more like a baguette, it isn't a high raiser.  It would still make a lovely small sandwich.  But what I am really dying to try is rubbing it with some garlic cloves, brushing it with a little olive oil and popping it under the broiler for a few.  Then topping it with some bruschetta tomatoes, fresh basil and good parmigiano-reggiano.  I see this become a huge summertime staple.  Yum, yum, yum!  Do yourself a favor and give this a try!!  

For the Onion
1 Large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
4 tablespoons of butter

For the Bread
1 tablespoon honey
3/4 cup water
1 extra-large egg (I only had large, so I called my mom and she said to go with that and not add anything else.  If it had been a small or medium sized egg she told me I would want to add another.  But since it was still large to just use it- close enough)
3 tablespoons butter and onion cooking liquid that was reserved
3 cups unbleached white flour (last minute I realized I had only 2 cups of white flour so I added 1 cup of my whole wheat flour to it and it still turned out super light and moist.  Not at all heavy)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons yeast
1 cup caramelized onions
1/4 cup poppy seeds (Like I said earlier I skipped these this time.  But I will totally try them next time around)

*Recipe taken from Bread Machine Baking: Perfect Every Time by Lora Brody and Millie Apter

Friday, January 29, 2010

Fridays, Feasting With Friends- Featuring Tera Pepper

“One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends.”  
~Laurie Colwin 'Home Cooking'

Today's Friday, Feasting with Friends is with my dear friend Tera Pepper.  She is sweet and kind and has the most beautiful new baby Blake- although he is growing up way too quickly.  The two of us met in College but didn't really become close friends until later.  Thank goodness for the internet and telephone because that has helped our friendship grow and grow.  You see, unfortunately her husband's job took her far away from me (all the way too Michigan... I know, I know.  It isn't that far.  But far enough that I can't run over to her house on a moments notice!)   But fortunately distance hasn't stood in the way and if anything it has actually brought us closer.  Tera has a true servant's heart and just being in her presence makes you full of joy.  She just has that way about her.  I feel lucky to have her as my friend.
Tera Pepper
Tera and I when she came to visit me this winter.
I got to meet Baby Blake for the first time.  What a handsome little guy!

What is your favorite thing to cook?
Italian dishes...Homemade Pizza's because I can personalize them with specific toppings.

How about your least favorite thing to cook?
Baking! I am horrible..I still can't crack an egg correctly...

What is your favorite local restaurant and what is one you are dying to try out?
Well, when I lived in California, it was a place called "The Elephant Bar" nothing tops that place yet...It was a Global Grill/Wok kitchen. I would like to try more authentic dishes/restaurants...

You are hosting a dinner party, what are your Top 5 songs you would play during dinner? Anything by Ben Folds, Nora Jones, Enya, calm(er) music...

What would you choose to be your last meal on earth?
mmmm anything cheesy...stick to your bones meals like casseroles and the like.

What are you currently reading?
The Power of a Praying Parent; Top 100 Baby Food Purees! MomSense and Parents Magazine.

What is your favorite Kitchen Gadget?
My Kitchen Aid Mixer!!!!

Do you have a signature go-to dish?
Can't go wrong with Chicken and

You recently moved from Cleveland to Michigan. What is the biggest thing you miss about Cleveland? And what is your favorite thing about where you live now?
I SOOOOO miss the Panini sandwiches downtown at Paninis! There are a lot of places to eat in owned ma and pop places, which I like...

Do you have a favorite meal from your childhood and do you still cook it at home?
My Mom worked a lot, but when she was home she cooked like you wouldn't believe. She makes the best Speghetti, Pot Roasts, Chili...I still can't top my Mom's Pot Roast, but with the help of my good old Crock Pot anything goes!!!

Top 3 Movies of all time?
Oh! So the top of my head is, "The Bronx Tale", "The Notebook" "Steal Magnolias"

Where do you do your grocery shopping?
Now that I am a Mom,I try to save $$$$ so Aldi is a great store for all of your pantry staples like cooking spray, flour, sugar, etc. Also, kroger and Meijer.

What is your favorite guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
again....anything cheeeeeeezy...mostly pizza

Do you have Culinary Resolutions that you would like to accomplish this year?
Of Course! Baking Baking Baking! I would like to make more cupcakes/cakes from scratch...

What is your favorite Cookbook?
My go to cookbook is the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. It was my first cookbook and I love all the alternative suggestions in it. (i.e. using this if you don't have that) Plus, It has a handy guide for measurements

"When I was pregnant with Jena, I had a subsription to Rachel Ray "EVERYDAY LIVVING". I love soups and stews, so I tried this.... It is sooooo good! And one of my favorites! It is also easy to prepare!"

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
8 garlic cloves, minced
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon coriander
1/2 tablespoon cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 16-ounce jar good quality roasted tomatillo salsa (such as Desert Pepper Trading Company or Frontera brand)
2 quarts chicken stock
1 28-ounce can hominy, drained and rinsed
1 13.5-ounce bag of yellow or white corn tortilla chips
1 store-bought rotisserie chicken, skin removed, meat removed from the bones and chopped
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
Juice of 2 limes
3/4 cup sour cream, for garnish
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Place a large pot over medium heat, add Olive Oil. Add the onions, garlic and jalapeño, and season with salt, corriander and cumin and freshly ground black pepper. Cook until softened, about 8-10 minutes. Add the tomatillo salsa, chicken stock & hominy beans to the pot and bring to a bubble.

While the mixture is coming to a bubble, place the tortilla chips (reserving a handful for garnish) in a food processor and pulse to grind, or in a resealable plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin or empty wine bottle. You should have about 2 cups of ground chips. Add the ground chips to the mixture and cook for 10 minutes.

When ready to serve, add the chopped chicken to the pot along with 1/2 to 3/4 cup of cilantro and the lime juice, and cook 2-3 more minutes, until the chicken is heated through. To serve, ladle the tortilla chicken stew into a bowl and garnish with some of the reserved tortilla chips, a dollop of sour cream and some cheddar cheese.

Thank you so much Tera for taking the time to do my little interview and for this awesome sounding recipe!  I think it will be on my menu for the weekend.  It is supposed to be a cold one, so it will be a great time for a stew with a kick!  I will let you know how it goes.   Also, thanks again for all of your support.  You are such a wonderful friend.  Love you honey!

Stay tuned for next  Friday's segment of Fridays, Feasting with Friends to hear from my wonderful cousin, Kathleen Jordan!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Pad Thai from my Kitchen- I Think I am in Love

When asked what my favorite food is, hands down is Pad Thai.  This is a fabulous noodle dish with scallions, peanuts, shrimp and egg.  If you have never had it, please do yourself a favor and head over to your local Thai Restaurant and pick some up.  Or just make this recipe below- it is equally as easy!

Each and every time I got out to a restaurant that serves Pad Thai I am physically unable to order anything else off that menu- yes it is that good.  I am sure that there are tons of other wonderful dishes on those menus, but until now I have seldom tried a single one (except maybe a taste off of my husbands fork).  Since this is a dish I had never attempted to make at home, it was always an exciting treat I could never pass up.  But there is also something about Pad Thai that I absolutely crave.  I could probably eat it every week and still not tire of it.  So when Scott got me this new cookbook, The Steamy Kitchen by Jaden Hair for Christmas I was super excited to see she had a recipe for it that seemed insanely easy.  I knew that had to be the first recipe I tried out of it!

Jaden Hair is such a cool lady.  She started off just as a home-cook who created her food blog as a place to hold all of the recipes her mother recited to her over the telephone.  At the same time she taught a cooking class at a local cooking school and slowly started combining the two.  Her blog became so popular she finally developed her recipes into a cookbook.  And what a great one it is!  She doesn't feel that Asian cooking needs to be difficult, and that you can make any of these recipes in the same amount of time it takes to drive to your local take-out.  OK, I'm in!!

Shrimp Pad Thai

Please excuse my crummy picture.  I was having problems with my lighting!  Please check out the link to her cookbook.  A great picture of the dish is on the cover.  


Pad Thai Sauce 
**Some of these ingredients might be new to you, but they are easy to find.  I have found all of these ingredients at Heinen's, Giant Eagle or depending on your location, Marc's
4 tablespoons pad thai paste
2 teaspoons tamarind paste/concentrate
3 tablespoons fish sauce
3 teaspoons sugar
2/3 cup water
2-4 teaspoons Asian chilli sauce (preferably Sriracha) or 1-2 teaspoons Asian chilli powder or ground red pepper 

Pad Thai Noodles
8 oz dried rice noodles (medium thickness)
3 tablespoons high-heat cooking oil
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 lb peeled, deveined raw shrimp
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
4 green onions (scallions), cut into lengths
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
1 lime, cut into 8 wedges
1/2 cup coarsely chopped unsalted dry roasted peanuts

Soak the rice noodles in hot water (just from the tap) for about 10-15 minutes or until they soften. (Do NOT over cook.  Otherwise they will turn into a soggy, clumpy mess)

Combine the ingredients for the Pad Thai sauce in a bowl.
Check back on the noodles.  They are sufficiently soaked when they are flexable but still a bit stiff.  Drain them and set aside.
In a wok or large saute pan over high heat, add just one tablespoon of the oil.  When the oil is very hot, add the beaten eggs and swirl gently while it sets.  Use your spatula to scramble the eggs and then remove from the wok.
Wipe down wok with a paper towel, return to high heat and add the minced garlic and do a few quick stirs. Add shrimp into the wok and stir until half cooked (if desired you can add chicken and firm tofu pieces), noodles and Pad Thai sauce into the wok and stir continuously. Add bean sprouts and chives into the wok, stir for 1 minute. Cover and let simmer until the noodles are soft and cooked through, about 1-2 minutes.  Check at the 1 minute mark and if the noodles are still a bit stiff, cover and cook another minute.  The noodles should have soaked up a lot of the sauce, and you should have a combination of sweet, salty and a little heat and a zing of tartness.  Dish out, sprinkle some peanuts on top and serve with a wedge of lime.

This dish was absolutely amazing!  It came out perfect- just like at our favorite Thai Restaurant, Charm Thai.  Only better because I made it myself!  Scott and I gave this recipe a full 5 stars.  Now I can start ordering all those other wonderful dishes on those menus!  Why don't you make it for dinner tonight?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Do You Like My Hat?

As you can see I am going though some changes here on my site, making it all pretty and such. It is so fun and so addicting! It was designed by the lovely and talented Lena Toews of Simply Fabulous Blogger Templates and Premades for a Purpose. If you are in the market for some redesign, please check her stuff out! She has a lot of fun freebies and can do custom work too.  I still have a lot of kinks to work out and much more I want to add here, so please bare with me and watch this new little home of mine grow!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Homemade Bread in the Bread Machine

If you have ever lived with boys you will understand when I say we go through a lot of bread in this house!  We easily go through one to one and a half loaves a week.  This adds up!  Unless I buy bread right from the bakery, I am so tired of all the preservatives that go into the shelf bread that you buy in the grocery store.  It is a weird consistancey and texture.  It doesn't even hold up to buttering with soft butter.  Yuck.  So in my attempt to feed my family better and save some money I wanted to start baking my own bread.  Being honest with myself I know that at this point right now I can't commit the time to baking bread completely from scratch.  I would love to, but with taking care of Little Man, I am not always open to lots of free time. So I got the bright idea that purchasing a Bread Machine might be the right way to go.  But before I know exactly what brand or size I want to invest in, my sister is lending me hers for a trial spin.  This way I will know if it is worth it.  And if I will indeed get some good use out of it.  She also lent me her Bread Machine Cookbook, Bread Machine Baking: Perfect Every Time by Lora Brody and Millie Apter.

After getting it last week I was so excited to give it a whirl!  The thought of my house being wrapped in the delicious smell of home-baked bread was getting me giddy.  I thought I would start simple and try out the most basic White Bread recipe.  Oh man, I couldn't believe how easy this was!  You literally dump all the ingredients in the bucket, close the lid and leave it alone for 3 hours.  A voila! you have home-baked bread!  We cut into it this morning and gave it a taste slathered with some butter.  Wow.  It was so yummy!  It was very soft and light, yet held up great to cutting and didn't crumble everywhere.  This would make a great sandwich bread- not too dense.  We both gave this recipe a 5 stars.

Maple Buttermilk Bread
1 Tablespoon butter
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon pure Maple Syrup*
1 Cup water
3 Cups unbleached white flour
4 tablespoons powdered buttermilk
1 teasoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast

Place all Ingredients in the machine, program for Bread, Basic Bread, Basic White, Basic Wheat or White/Whole Grain, and press Start or On.

Please note: these directions are for the Regal, Large Oster, West Bend, Large Pillsbury, and Large Zojirush machines.  If you happen to have a different machine and you want to try this recipe, contact me and I can let you know if there are any differences in measurements.

*I was running out of Maple Syrup so I used 2 tablespoons of Maple Syrup and then I substituted the rest with pure Honey.   It came out beautifully!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Fridays, Feasting With Friends- Featuring Judy Trapp

“One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends.”  

~Laurie Colwin 'Home Cooking'

Anyone who has tasted my mom's cooking understands how amazing she is. I owe my whole love of cooking to her.  She taught me all the basics- how toss a salad, bake cookies, the secret to a perfect hard boiled egg, the trick to creamy mashed potatoes, and how to prepare and stuff a turkey.  She had such a wonderful way of teaching how to do something.  It was completely hands on.  She would tell us what we needed to do and then just let us do it.  I am sure we ate lots of lumpy mashed potatoes until I learned how to make them just right- and she never complained.  She knew that if she critiqued too much we wouldn't gain confidence in the kitchen.  Instead she would just guide our hands in the right direction knowing we would get it in time.  Even today, having a house of my own, she is still the first person I call when I need some direction on a recipe.  And to this, Mom I thank you!  

So for this segment of Fridays, Feasting with Friends I bring you no other then my mom, Judy Trapp.  She is a woman I feel more people definitely need to learn more about!  She is humble, modest and the most sincere person I have ever known.  What a wonderful example God gave to my sister and I of a Virtuous Woman! I am proud that as I am growing up into motherhood I am becoming more and more like her.  I love you Mom!
Judy Trapp

My mom and Jackson when he was just 5 months old.  
  • What is your favorite thing to cook? I love to bake, especially breads.  But for favorite foods I guess I would say "comfort foods".  Roast Chicken, pot roast, pork and saurkraut, etc.  I also love making soups of all kinds. 
  • What is your least favorite Thing to cook?  I have to say appetizers.
  • What is your favorite restaurant and are there any you are dying to try?  Can I say two? Number one all time favorite is Pier W.  My next closest to #1 would be Mallorca.  Dying to try?  I'd have to say one of Michael Symon's restaurants.  
  • Where did you learn to cook and at what age did you start cooking?  I learned most of my cooking and especially baking from my sister, Mary Ann.  She is a wonderful cook and baker.  I spent a lot of time at her house when I was young.  There wasn't anything she didn't try and perfect.  
  • What would you choose to be your last meal on earth? Anything Shrimp!  Or also scallops.
  • What are you currently reading?  I've been reading Rhett Butler's People by Donald McCaib and Twelve Extraordinary Women: How God Shaped Women of the Bible, and What He Wants to Do with You by John MacArthur and I'm almost finished with Bordeaux Betrayal:A Wine Counrty Mystery by Ellen Crosby.  This one is about wine country in Virginia.  
  • What is your favorite Kitchen Gadget?  That's a toughy.  I have quite a few.  One is an appliance gadget- the egg cooker.  One's I use the most are the cheese grater, herb gratter and zester and also my garlic mincer.
  • Do you have a signature go-to dish?  I don't know if it would be a signature dish but I bake scones for special occasions with a homemade clotted cream and jam.
  • What is your favorite thing about Cleveland?  I love Cleveland.  We have a beautiful Metropark system that very, very few cities have.  The West Side Market.  The cultural aspect of Cleveland with the Orchestra, museums, operas and Theater District is second to none!  
  • Do you have a favorite meal from your childhood and do you still cook it at home?  Pieroges.  One memory is going to St. Peter and Paul Church somewhere in the now Treemont area of Cleveland.  I went there with my father and waited in line for them.  If you were "real good" while waiting in line you got a nice warm, butter dripping pierogi for free!  Now we go to one of the several churches that make them, usually St. Josaphat.  And when we get in the car we eat several of the nice, warm, butter dripping pierogies!  Also my sister, Mary Ann would make a cream shrimp dish with hard boiled egg and served it over mashed potatoes- real yummy.  I had it once when I went to visit her in Florida and made it for you and your sister one afternoon for lunch.  It was still very yummy like I remember.  
  • Top 3 Movies of all time?  #1 Gone with the Wind #2 Godfather 1,2, and 3 #3 Moonstruck.
  • Where do you do your grocery shopping?  Mostly at Giant Eagle, Heinen's, Marc's and Super Wal-mart.  Each one of these stores has their purpose.
  • What is your favorite guilty pleasure when it comes to food?  Chocolate.  Chocolate cake and Godiva liquor at special times!! 
  • Do you have Culinary Resolutions that you would like to accomplish this year? Master a good healthy whole wheat whole grain bread
  • You have an amazing herb garden in your backyard and I was lucky enough to have you help me with mine.  My only woe with having a garden is I can't clip from it now that it is blanketed with snow!  What is the easiest way for me to preserve and dry herbs so I can enjoy them year round?  Having an herb garden outside your backdoor in your own yard is a real joy.  Nothing is better than picking and using them fresh.  Unfortunately living where we do once a frost comes not many are left.  Thyme and Rosemary are there under the snow, but that is about it.  I found trying to dry them and keep their taste is very difficult.  They need to be dried quickly to keep color and flavor.  I do all my drying in the microwave.  Put a cup of water in the back of the oven. You don't want to blow out your microwave.  On white paper towels (no prints) place a single layer of clean, dry herbs and cover with another paper towel and set the oven to 30 second intervals.  Keep timing until the the herbs are crisp.  Let dry in air before packing away.  I used jars.  Also herbs to put in sauces or soups you could pack in ice cube trays and fill with water to freeze.  As you need some, take a cube out.  About one teaspoon will fill a cube.  But always remember when it comes to herbs- Fresh is Best.  Tiny herbs like Thyme simply air dry and they dry quickly.  There is so much more but limited to space and time, so these are the basics.  
Gourmet Tomato Soup
3 Quarts of tomatoes
2 Cups chicken Broth
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/4-1/2 Cup cream or Half and Half 
1 clove garlic, minced

Saute carrots, celery, onion with garlic until soft but not brown.  Add tomatoes and begin cooking until they soften and add the chicken broth.  Bring to boil and then simmer until all if soft.  If you want a creamy soup, mash the veggies and tomatoes with a potato masher.  Add the cream and season with salt and pepper.  If using half and half, don't boil.  You could season with basil or dill.  Also you could add shrimp or rice or even a pasta, tortellini is good.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese when ready to serve.

Thank you so much mom for taking the time for this interview!  I loved reading all of your answers!  I made this soup last weekend when I was craving a grown-up grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup dinner and I was incredibly happy with the results.  It is a very simple recipe but the flavor is amazing.  This was one of those times cooking when the recipe came out exactly like I remember my mom's tasting.  It was a proud moment!  Please everyone stay tuned next Friday for my interview with my dear friend Tera Pepper!   

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Apple Dapple Cake

Our first apple of the season from the trees in our yard.

Since it is my birthday today I thought it would be most fitting to post the recipe to one of my favorite cakes-  The Apple Dapple Cake.  I found this recipe last year when I discovered what suprisingly delicious apples we have on the two trees in our backyard.  I didn't want them to go to waste so I made a point of picking just about every single one as quickly as I could before the deer and birds beat me to it.  Well, this left me with a heck of a lot of apples!  I needed to get creative, and fast!  So right away I made quite a few batches of different types of applesauce (I will give you my favorite recipe in another post later on).  But being the fall I was in the mood to bake.  After a little surfing on my favorite cooking websites I stumbled across The Apple Dapple Cake. I loved the name and the recipe was super easy so I thought I would give it a try.  One word- Heaven. Even Jackson, who isn't a dessert kid looooooved this cake. It is sticky and moist and the perfect accompaniment to a good cup of coffee. If you want to be super decadent, a scoop of real french vanilla ice cream makes this a little taste of perfect. It never lasts long in our house, so I have been taking to freezing half of it right away in single servings so we can pull it out whenever the mood strikes us.  It freezes wonderfully and keeps us from eating the whole thing in under a week!

Apple Dapple Cake
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup pecans, chopped
1 cup oil
2 cups sugar
3 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups raw apples, peeled and chopped fine

Grease a tube or bundt pan (I like to use Pam or Baker's Joy).  Mix oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla. Sift together flour, salt, soda. Add to first mixture. Fold in pecans and apples. Bake in prepared tube pan at 350 for 1 hour.

1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup margarine (1 1/2 sticks)

Mix and cook 3 minutes after it begins to gently boil, stirring constantly. With a butter knife, poke holes all over the cake- seriously, go ahead.  The more the holes you poke the better.  Carefully pour the sauce over hot cake while cake is still in pan. All that wonderful sauce is going to sink into the holes you just poked.  Let cake cool completely before removing, at least one hour.

The sauce is what makes this cake so fabulous.  It will looks like a crazy amount of sauce when you first pour it on the cake, but it will sink into the holes and the cake will soak it all up resulting in the moistest cake you will have ever tasted.  

As a birthday present to me, bake your family this cake and let me know what you think. You wont be disappointed I promise.

I linked up my recipe on Mom's Crazy Cooking!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Look, a Poll!!

Just curious.... so where do you get most of your recipes from? Look to the sidebar on the right and vote to let me know! I am a little torn. I voted for Cookbooks, but when I am in a hurry I definitely go to the internet a lot. It's just so easy, right?! What did homecooks do before the internet?!

"If the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony." ~ Fernand Point

Birthday Dinner at Bar Symon

On Friday night Scott and I went out to dinner with our amazing friends, Matt and Adrianne.  Matt and I celebrate our birthdays two days apart from each other, so they suggested we all go out for dinner. This is something we never do together.  Don't get me wrong, we all love going out to restaurants.  But we usually have our children in tow, and it is just easier going to one another's house so the kids can play and be put to bed so we have adult time later.  This is always super fun, and we have tried out lots of cool recipes on each other.  But variety is the spice of life, right?!  So we got the babysitters all lined up and out we went.

For dinner we head out to Avon Lake to try out one of Michael Symon's new restaurants, Bar Symon.  Having dined at two of his other ventures, Lola's on E 4th downtown and Lolita's in Treemont, and loving each of them we were pumped to give this one a go.  Symon is known for his love of the pig.  In fact he even sports a few tattoo's of them including a "Got Pork"one on his chest above his heart.  So when we were headed there I knew immediately that would be the meat I would have to try out this time around- it could only be fabulous.  

First impression was very cool.  It has a kind of warehouse feel to it, but yet warm and cozy at the same time.  They don't take reservations except for parties of six or more.  Being as there were only four of us we had an hour wait even coming after eight o'clock in the evening.   They have a great bar and their Beer Menu is very extensive.  But be warned, check the menu prices before ordering.  On tap they can go as high as $11 a pint and their bottles reach up to $65!  But don't worry the prices start low- $1 for a P.B.R. and many are quite reasonable, I just don't want you to be shocked at your bill.

As an Appetizer we had an order of the house chips served with a three cheese fondu and chives and also an order of the Pork Cracklings.  We always hear about how awesome cracklings are on our food shows, along with Michael Symon, these are one of Anthony Bourdain's favorite snacks.  We just had to give them a try.  They were crunchy, a bit salty and with the Malt Vinegar they serve with it, absolutely delicious.  We are converted.  For dinner Matt and I both enjoyed the Slow Cooked Pork Shank which sat on top of soft polenta (which was the creamiest and most delicious polenta I ever tasted).  The pork was beautiful, and with just a light touch from the fork, fell right off the bone.  Neither of us could eat it all and were lucky enough to have doggie bag's to take the rest home.
Slow Cooked Pork Shank
Adrianne decided on the Dortmunder Lake Perch Fish Fry.  It was served with house chips and a crunchy slaw.  All of it was crisp, delicious and just plain yummy!!!  She also was quite pleased with the House Pickle Tarter Sauce for dipping. She said that it tasted homemade and not at all what you would get out of a bottle.
Dortmunder Lake Perch Fish Fry
And lastly Scott ordered the Duck Paprikash.  It was a duck confit, served with dumplings, turnips and paprika. The duck itself was super tender and went lovely with the sauce.  He said the turnips, although what seemed like a strange addition actually worked together really well with the dumplings and gave a nice earthiness to the dish.

Duck Paprikash
We all decided that Bar Symon is a definite Do-Again.  There were lots of dishes that each of us wanted to come back to try, and the atmosphere is really great.  Next time maybe we will bring along a few more friends so we can make reservations.  But honestly though, for a Friday night it isn't anything that you wouldn't expect anywhere else.  Especially a place with food that is so delicious.

Later that evening we made a stop off at Fat Head's Brewery and Saloon in North Olmsted.  It is relatively new in the same location that Danny Boy's used to be.  We hear the food is great, but after such full bellies, we just wanted to try out some of their home crafted beers.  Matt had the Fest Bier.  He said it was very smooth and just a good drinking beer.  Scott ordered the Head Hunter IPA.  It was a good thing Scott ordered this one and not me.  One sniff and the Hops just about knocked me off my chair.  This was a very strong beer, very full bodied and lots and lots of Hops.  Although I personally didn't like this one, it was right up Scott's alley.  He completely liked the aggressiveness of it.  I ordered the Weizenbock.  This was hands down the weirdest beer I have ever had in my life.  It is described as being an unfiltered wheat, with a spicy aroma that hints of raisin, clove, banana, and bubble gum.  Yes, you read right- bubble gum.  I don't know what possessed me to try it in the first place.  I guess I was intrigued.  I figured now how much bubble gum would you really taste.  It is rare when I can actually pick out all of the flavors that a beer is supposed to "hint" at.  Well this one was 100% bubble gum.  That is all I smelled and all I tasted.  Think Double Bubble or Bazooka.  I felt like I had a huge wad of gum in my mouth the entire time I was drinking it.  Halfway though it got a little better after my mouth got used to the flavor.  But I can tell you one thing, I wouldn't order this again.  But on the other-hand, the Bumbleberry Honey Bluberry Ale is calling my name for next time.  Being as Adrianne is a beautiful five months pregnant, there was no beer for her tonight.  But instead she enjoyed some bread pudding for dessert instead. It is made very different then any of us had seen before, it was made more like a loaf instead of the more chunky style we were all used to.  Due to this, it was very dense.  But the coconut and pineapple that was mixed in made for delicious flavor.  Yum!

Friday was a great night out with best friends, delicious food and fun drinks.  A perfect way to spend a birthday if you ask me!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Emergency Kitchen Solutions

Have you ever been cooking a dish and realize right smack dab in the middle that you are missing a key ingredient?  Maybe you just don't feel like running next door to the neighbors house for that cup of brown sugar, or your wild 2 1/2 year old is actually taking a nap so going to the store isn't an option.  Well now you can thank me, because here is a handy guide of substitutions. Seriously, I think it is so stinking cool that there is actually a substitution for an egg!
  • 1 cup honey = 1 1/4 cups sugar + 1/4 cup water 
  • 1 cup whole milk = 1/2 cup evaporated milk + 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice = 1/2 tsp. vinegar
  • 1 cup butter = 1 cup margarine or 7/8 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup yogurt = 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 Tbsp. flour (for thickening) = 1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch or 2 tsps. quick-cooking tapioca
  • 1 cup buttermilk = 1 or 2 Tbsps. lemon juice or or vinegar plus enough milk to make 1 cup
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh herbs = 1 tsp. dried herbs
  • 1 square unsweetened chocolate = 3 Tbsp. cocoa plus 1 Tbsp. shortening
  • 1 tsp. baking powder = 1/3 tsp. baking soda plus 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour = 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar = 1 cup white sugar plus 2 Tbsp. molasses
  • 1 egg = 1 heaping Tbsp. soy flour plus 1 Tbsp. water
  • 1 cup self-rising flour = 1 cup all-purpose flour plus 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder and 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tablespoon of dried minced onion = 1/4 cup raw minced onion

Friday, January 15, 2010

Fridays, Feasting With Friends- Featuring Bonnie Stenger

“One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends.”
~Laurie Colwin 'Home Cooking'

Welcome to the very first segment of Fridays, Feasting with Friends.  Each and every Friday I will feature a different friend or family member, chat with them a bit in a little interview and then feature one of their favorite recipes that they wanted to share with us.  I thought that this would be a fun way to learn some new things about each other and in turn gain some great new recipes!

Bonnie Stenger
She is always the perfect hostess!

Even if I could have hand-picked my very own sister, I couldn't have done a better job then what I was already blessed with.  Bonnie is not only my sister but also my best friend, the one who makes me laugh the hardest, the one I can count on to lift me up- her glass is always half full, and I have to add, one darn good cook!!

What is your favorite thing to cook?
Pasta dishes. I like to try different sauces & pastas. I try and be creative because you really can add pasta with anything ie: elbow macaroni with chili, pad thai, fresh tomatoes, herbs with angel hair pasta, linguini & clam sauce...the list is endless.

How about your least favorite thing to cook?
Baking and the reason being is that I am more afraid of it than anything. I am learning and have come a long way. It's because you have to be precise when baking and that is what I have to get better at. I make great cinnamon rolls though!

What is your favorite local restaurant and what is one you are dying to try out?
Goodness, this question is hard...I'm a foodie and love so many different things at different restaurants that I wish I could take the best thing from each of them and make one GREAT restaurant but that would be impossible. So if I had to pick one it would probably be Dashin. I "love" sushi and it's the one thing I won't make at home because it's such a special treat to eat such artwork. I would rather have it made by the professionals. My husband, Neil took me there when we were first dating and I had never eaten sushi in my life- let alone ever saw what it looked like, but that was 15 1/2 yrs. ago. Dashin used to be in Westlake off Center Ridge Rd. (wish it was still there) but has since moved to Great Northern area. It's consistantly good and holds a special place in my heart as well.

There are not many places I am dying to try right now, maybe Michael Symon's 2 new restaurants The B Spot and Bar Symon.

You are hosting a dinner party, what are your top 5 Dinner Party Songs?
Hmm, this one has me thinking....Depends on the dinner party, the season, if it's outside or in, who's invited etc... I like to put some Bob Marley on in the background. If it's an outside bbq, I made a mix cd with fun island party songs that is always a good one to fall back on. It has all the good sing-a-long on it.

What would you choose to be your last meal on earth?
Okay, hands down it would have to be lobster! Split in half, grilled with a garlic butter sauce poured over top, roasted potato, asparagus, a great garlic bread & my mom's chocolate mousse. I had this meal, minus the chocolate mousse, in Negril Jamaica at a roadside restaurant called Cloggies sitting outside on the beach under a thatched roof. I don't think it could have gotten better than that.

What are you currently reading?
A couple of things...The Power of a Positive Mom by Karol Ladd & Making Your Children Mind, Without Losing Yours by Dr. Kevin Lehman. Going to be picking up the book, Water for Elephants.

What is your favorite Kitchen Gadget?
I am lucky enough to have a mom who loves kitchen gadgets. Sooo because of that, she gets ones she likes for us as well as for herself. I can't name just one so here are a few of my favs: my gravey maker, my wine opener, egg separator, apple corer, pizza dough roller and not sure this is considered one but my dual egg maker (which makes hard, soft & poached eggs with ease!)

Do you have a signature go-to dish?
Chili or Brushetta Pasta (only in summer with garden tomatoes).

What is your favorite thing about Cleveland?
Being able to say I live within 15 miles of one of the Great Lakes (Lake Erie) & having the West Side Market so close. Not many other cities have a market like that.

Do you have a favorite meal from your childhood?
My mom's Thankgiving turkey dinner. NOBODY makes dressing (stuffing) like my mom's and every other dish that is involved with that dad's red cabbage, grandma's cranberry chutney, the turkey and the gravy just to name a few.

Top 3 Movies of all time?
Sorry, I only have 2: The Godfather I & II - best movies of all time.

Where do you do your grocery shopping?
This will probably disappoint a lot of folks but to be honest, my everyday grocery shopping is done at Super Walmart or Marc's. I would love to say I go to Trader Joe's, Heinen's or The West Side Market but I just don't. You can't beat the prices at Super Walmart or Marc's. That's not saying I don't frequent the other stores because I do, I just can't say I do most of my shopping there.

What is your favorite guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
Chips & dip. Best chip ever is Doritos my dad's chip dip recipe that I will never reveal but anyone who tastes it, can't get enough of it!

Do you have Culinary Resolutions that you would like to accomplish this year?
To become better at baking. Would love to learn how to make Babchi Bread (grandma's famous sweet bread) on my own without my mom's assistance.

Roasted Tomato Dressing
Container of cherry or grape tomatoes
Small red onion
Olive oil
Dijon Mustard
Balsamic Vinegar
Salt & Pepper

Preheat oven to 400

Empty and entire container of tomatoes on a baking pan.  Drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil, salt & pepper. Roast in the oven until they start to split, about 15 min.  While roasting, mince a small red onion & put in large bowl. Take roasted tomatoes and juice from the pan and put in bowl with the onions.  Mash the tomatoes with potato masher or fork. With a wisk, stir in olive oil, about half cup.  Then stir in dijon mustard about 1/4 cup. Drizzle in about 2 tbsps of balsamic vinegar.  Stir until well blended, add salt & pepper to taste.

Play around with it and add more or less of whatever you wish. I have even roasted a whole head of garlic along side the tomatoes and mashed that up with good. You could add some herbs of your choice as well.  Put this on your favorite salad as the dressing, low fat for sure! I also like to use it as a sauce for pasta or a topping on some crusty bread like bruschetta for an appetizer. This is one of my "go to" recipes that can be used so many different ways.

Thank you so much Bonnie for being my first guest on Fridays, Feasting with Friends! I always can count on you to be an excellent guinea pig, letting me test out new ideas, recipes and always my #1 fan.  Love you Bon!!  And I can attest to the absolute wonderfulness of this Roasted Tomato Dressing.  It is actually addictive it is so good.  Makes you want to eat more salads, just so you can use the dressing!  Which in my book is always an awesome thing!  Please be sure to come back next Friday, January 22nd, to read all about my amazing mom, Judy Trapp for segment two of Fridays, Feasting with Friends!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

What's for Dinner Tonight- Garlic Roasted Chicken

I was in the mood for some good old comfort food for this cold night, and nothing speaks to me the way Roast Chicken does.  I usually use my Joy of Cooking's recipe Roasted Chicken with Herbs and Garlic (which is amazing by the way), but I wanted to try something a little different for tonight.  This one takes 20 (yes 20!) cloves of garlic, roasts them and then makes a garlic butter out of it that you stuff under the skin before you bake it- I know my mouth is watering just typing this!  I was also intrigued by the use of lemons.  Seems like a nice bright touch for a winter's night.  

The chicken is in the oven right now and it smells just like Heaven in here.  I will update this post after we eat and let you all know how it tastes! 
** update follows after recipe

Garlic Roast Chicken
Recipe taken from Fine Living Magazine, issue #14

Is this bird beautiful or what?!

20 whole cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 tsp.salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
2 lemons
One 3 1/2-pound chicken
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley (including stems), chopped coarse
2 carrots, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
1/2 pound mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
1 cup homemade or low-salt canned chicken stock
3 tablespoons madeira* (I did not have Madeira on hand. But with a little research I found that you can substitute Balsamic Vinegar if you do not have another Sherry available. If you do this you need to use half the amount, 1 1/2 tablespoons of BV and reduce by half on the stove. Then continue as the recipe states.) Next time I will try it with Madeira and let you know the difference.

Heat the oven to 250 degrees F. Put the garlic cloves and olive oil in an ovenproof container and roast for 1 hour; the cloves should be very soft. Remove the garlic cloves from the oil and set them aside to cool for about 15 min.; reserve the oil. Turn up the oven to 375 degrees F.

Put the garlic cloves, butter, salt, and pepper in a food processor; purée until smooth. Transfer the garlic butter to a bowl; stir in the tarragon. Allow the butter to cool to about the same temperature as the chicken, but don't let it harden.

Grate the zest from one of the lemons and then juice it; set the zest and juice aside. Cut the other lemon into 1/4-inch slices.

Rinse the chicken inside and out; pat dry. Start loosening the skin over the breast with your fingers. Go slowly and carefully to avoid tearing the skin. Work your fingers all the way to the thigh joint. Scoop up some of the garlic butter with your fingers and begin smearing it under the skin, starting at the furthest point in the chicken and working your way toward the front. Be sure you get the butter underneath the skin of the legs and breast. Pat the skin back into place. Salt and pepper the inside of the chicken and stuff some of the parsley, carrots, onion, and celery in its cavity. Tuck the wings under the chicken and tie the legs together.

Scatter the remaining parsley, carrots, onion, and celery in the roasting pan with the lemon slices. Set the chicken on top, breast side up; sprinkle with more salt and pepper. Roast for 40 min., basting occasionally with 1 Tbs. of the reserved garlic oil.

Chicken prepared and ready to go in the oven.

Turn the oven up to 425 degrees F. Turn the bird over and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Continue roasting for another 25 to 30 min., basting the chicken with its juices. When the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees F, or the thigh juices run clear, remove the bird from the pan and let it sit on a platter, covered with foil to keep it warm.

After giving the bird a flip

While the chicken roasts, pour the remaining garlic oil into a medium frying pan and set it over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the mushrooms. Turn the heat to high and sauté the mushrooms until browned, about 8 min. Remove from the heat but keep warm.

Set the roasting pan, with the vegetables and juices, on the stove over medium heat. Spoon off as much fat as you can. Add the chicken stock and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Let the sauce boil for 5 min. to concentrate its flavors. Strain the sauce, pressing out all the juices from the solids. Degrease the sauce and set aside. Return the mushrooms to medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the Madeira, let it bubble briefly, and add the sauce and lemon zest. Serve with the chicken.

In Scott's words "This dinner is what would make me happy in a restaurant!"

Dinner was beautiful. It was comforting, special and absolutely delicious. This was probably one of the very first meals I have ever made that felt complete.I have cooked a lot of dinners, many of those I have been very proud of. But I never got the feeling like I did tonight. Tonight was an accomplishment. The chicken was fall off the bone tender, but the sauce was the star. It completely made the dish. When the chicken was almost coming out of the oven I realized I didn't have mushrooms on hand- and I always have mushrooms on hand. I debated about leaving them out, I mean how much could they alter the dish, right? Well after eating this, we realized it wouldn't be as fabulous with out them, that is for sure. They add an earthiness that blends so beautifully with the citrus. It was a perfect combination- Fine Living knew what they were doing! Hats off to them.

I am not a sauce girl. Don't get me wrong, they are beautiful and when I go out to dinner I completely enjoy them. But I never make them here at home. I mean, never. It just never occurs to me, or maybe there is a part of me that is a bit afraid of them. Maybe both. But this dish has changed me. Now I know what so many of my dishes were missing! This step, which seems so very small makes a whole world of difference. And today I learned something new. How very exciting!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

My Favorite Cookbook of All Time

Do you have one of those?  A cookbook that has grown dog-eared, sauce splattered, chocolate smeared, and just plain yummy with lots of use?  Oh, I do, I do!  It is my wonderful Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer and Ethan Becker.  It is my total Go-To Cookbook; how to roast a chicken, how to clean a fish, cutting and buying steaks, how to hard boil an egg, making the perfect omelet, What the different types of peppers are and how each one is used best, making flakey pastry dough.... you name it, it is in there.  I have said before how much I love cookbooks- I read them like novels and to me a perfect Sunday is flipping through one of my cookbooks with a pack of post-its by my side, selecting each recipe I want to create in my kitchen.  The only problem with having so many cookbooks is knowing where to look when an idea strikes of What To Cook For Dinner:
"Will this recipe be located in Rachael Rays 30 Minute Meals?  Oh wait, I think I saw it in her Cooking Around the Clock... or maybe it isn't Rachael Ray at all- I remember it uses ginger, I bet it is Cat Cora.  Ok, it isn't in there.... Well, maybe Martha has it.  Ok, there is something similar in there, but not exactly what I am looking for.  A little too fancy.  Aghhhhhh.  I am just going to look in Joy of Cooking already!  .....Oh my goodness, there it is!  Of course it is here, they have everything.  Why didn't I just look here first?!
Yes...  this was a normal late afternoon, time-to-start-thinking-of-dinner-before-the-husband-comes-home-from-work time.  (This is also another reason why I wanted to start this blog as a way to have my favorite recipes from each different location to live in just one place).  I started figuring out that if I just consoled the Joy of Cooking first I could shortcut myself ten-fold.  They weren't always as trendy as Cat Cora, or as fast as Rachael Ray, or as authentic as Jaden Hair- but they were ALWAYS consistently good.   And they were always there!  Amazing how so many recipes could really be located in one place.

I received this book as a gift from my wonderful Mother-in-law, Sandy and I am forvere grateful for it!  What an amazing gift!  It has become one of those things that I will love to pass down to Jackson (or at least his wife if he isn't still a big fan of cooking) and make it an heirloom of sorts.  It contains notes from successful, or unsuccessful attempts, "Do Again's", handwritten variations, and all those things that make a good family keepsake.  And i am only 30.  Can you imagine the notes it will have when I am 50?  So in other words- BUY. THIS. BOOK. if you don't own it already.  And if you do but don't utilize it as much as you should, it is time to dust it off and give it a whirl!  I give this cookbook a full 5 stars.

"I like a cook who smiles out loud when he tastes his own work. Let God worry about your modesty: I want to see your enthusiasm."   -Robert Faarar Capon

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Look Who's Coming to Dinner

This is a fun way to see what cities, states and countries are visiting this little blog of mine.  Hello everyone!  Have a seat and stay a while!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Today the Kitchen, Tomorrow the World…

Naked Chef watch out.  I think you have some pretty stiff competition!

"Here are my secrets for cooking without recipes.  Know what you want to eat.  Keep it simple.  Enjoy yourself.
Come to think of it, those are my secrets for having a good life, too.
Today the kitchen, tomorrow the world."

~From Jam Today: A Diary of Cooking With What You've Got by Tod Davies

It Isn't Always a Bad Thing to be Sneaky

You don't even need to have your own kids to know that it isn't always easy to get children to eat their vegetable's. We have our definite up's and down's when it comes to how much Jackson likes (or is willing) to eat them.  Sometimes the only way I can get them into his diet is to be a bit sneaky and hide them in some of his favorites dishes.  So when I stumbled across this macaroni and cheese recipe by Hungry Girl.  I was dying to give it a try. It takes Jackson's favorite- Mac 'n Cheese and sneakily adds diced cheesy cauliflower to it.  It is a wonderful alternative to the high fat neon orange stuff we usually have in our pantry.

This recipe was a HUGE hit. Not only did he gobble it up, but after each bite he had to tell me "Mmmm, this is yummy Mommy!" or "Mommy, this is gooood!" He asks for the "Super Cheesy Mac 'n Cheese" all the time and I feel great about making for him. Plus, Scott and I love it too. The only altering I did to this recipe was to chop up the cauliflower into tiny pieces so he wouldn't notice they were there. Since the first time making it, I can now keep the vegetables larger and he still loves it just as much.

Too-EZ Mac 'n Cheese

Photo and recipe courtesy of Hungry Girl

1 package Green Giant Family Size Cauliflower & Three Cheese Sauce (freezer aisle)
2 cups uncooked Ronzoni Healthy Harvest Whole Wheat Blend Rotini Pasta (or another whole-wheat or whole-wheat-blend pasta)
3 wedges of The Laughing Cow Light Original Swiss cheese
salt and black pepper, to taste

Prepare pasta according to the instructions on the box, and then drain well and set aside. While pasta is cooking, place contents of the cauliflower & sauce package in a large microwave-safe bowl. Cover and microwave for 12 - 16 minutes, until sauce has melted and cauliflower is hot. Once the bowl is cool enough to handle, remove it from the microwave and add cooked pasta. Set aside. Unwrap cheese wedges and place in a small microwave-safe dish. Microwave for 30 seconds. Stir until smooth, and then add to the bowl. Mix thoroughly, ensuring that the Laughing Cow cheese is evenly distributed and the pasta and cauliflower are coated in cheese sauce. If you like, season to taste with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

My Love for Brussels Sprouts or How My Mom Was Right

"Try it, you'll like it!"  How often have you heard that phrase in your life?  Millions of times for me!  Not only did we have to give new things a taste- we couldn't get up from the table until we at least ate our mandatory spoonful.   I was a pretty stubborn kid, and there were many nights I would be sitting alone at the dinner table swearing I would never eat those positively horrible {fill in the blanks}.  This drove my sister Bonnie absolutely crazy.  For you see she could also not go talk on the phone with her girlfriends or watch TV until she had washed all the dishes (which she couldn't finish until I finished my spoonful)!  I was so stubborn that Bonnie would often end up eating my share just so she could get the dishes done faster! (Thank you Bonnie!)

But I wasn't like this forever.  I promise.  The older I got the wider my tastes got.  There weren't many things I truly disliked- except that is for Brussels Sprouts and Asparagus.  I honestly couldn't understand why people would actually choose to eat these gross things!  Especially Brussels Sprouts.  Yuck.  Well it turns out that Scott actually loves these weird little cabbages.  As a matter of fact he claims they are one of his favorite vegetables.  My initial thought was "Seriously?!"  But being the good wife that I am, I decided to go on a hunt to find a new recipe that I might be able to at least choke down my mandatory spoonful while leaving the rest for him to finish himself.

Rachael Ray to the rescue!  She has a recipe that sauteed the Brussels Sprouts in bacon with shallots- OK, doesn't everything taste better with bacon?  We gave it a try and OH. My. GOODNESS. These babies are heaven!  Not only did I eat my mandatory spoonful- but I think I was actually fighting with Scott to make sure he didn't get more on his plate then I did.  Who would have thunk it?!  These are a huge crowd pleaser, and are never a disappointment.  Mom I have to say, once in my life I think I actually have a recipe for something better then yours.  Don't worry though, I don't see myself saying this again!  Since my Brussels Sprouts Epiphany I have tried out a few other recipes, but these remain our absolute favorite!

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Last night we served these as a side dish to a filet and shrimp.

3 slices bacon, chopped
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan
1 shallot, chopped
1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed, small spouts left whole, larger spouts halved
Salt and pepper, to your taste
1 cup chicken broth

Brown bacon in a medium skillet over medium high heat. Remove bacon to a paper towel lined plate.  Drain off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease.  Add extra-virgin olive oil to the pan, 1 turn. Add shallots to the pan and saute 1 to 2 minutes.  Add Brussels spouts and coat in oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook Brussels sprouts 2 to 3 minutes to begin to soften, then add broth.  Bring broth to a bubble, cover and reduce heat to medium low. Cook 10 minutes, until tender.*  Transfer sprouts to a serving dish with a slotted spoon and top with cooked bacon bits.
*A variation of this is too add dried cranberries to the pan to plump them up while the Brussels Sprouts are getting tender.  I have never tried it this way, only because I don't tend to have cranberries on hand.  But it sounds yummy.  If you happen to try this, please let me know how it tastes!

"Life expectancy would grow in leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon." ~Doug Larson


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