Sunday, December 11, 2011

Israeli Couscous with Tomatoes and Artichokes

This is a delicious as a side dish or light lunch.  Traditional couscous is something I am not all that crazy about.  I enjoy it in a tabbouleh, but other then that, no thanks.  Israeli couscous is NOTHING like the other kind.  It is perfect little round pearls of pasta.  It is tender, has a lovely texture- not at all grainy, much unlike how I tend to think of with regular couscous.  It has a great mouth-feel, slightly creamy, but not at all mushy. The lemon and artichokes in this recipe really brighten the dish adding just the right amount of acid to really make it pop.  

The first day I made this recipe I served it as a warm side dish alongside grilled chicken breasts.  It was satisfying and everyone enjoyed it.  Especially the baby!  He was a huge fan; it was too funny watching him gobble it up.  The next day I enjoyed this cold, right out of the fridge and I loved it even more!  After having an opportunity for the couscous to soak up all the lemon juice and herbs, the flavors were really enhanced.  This would make a great Take-Along recipe for any party being as it stands up to any temperature.  

Israeli Couscous with Tomatoes and Artichokes 
4 servings

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup Israeli (Pearl) Couscous
1 1/4 cup chicken stock
1 can quartered artichoke hearts
1 large tomato, chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1 cup fresh basil and oregano, chopped
1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon corse salt
Black pepper, to taste

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the couscous and stir until it turns a deep golden brown and smells toasted.

Add 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring often, until all the stock has been absorbed, 10 to 14 minutes. Pour into a large bowl and cool.

Meanwhile drain artichokes.  Divide the can in half.  One half of the can, slice the quartered artichokes in half. Chop the remaining artichokes.  Set aside.

Add one tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and add the onions.  Sauté until they begin to soften and turn translucent.  Remove from heat.

Stir the remaining olive oil into the couscous. Add the oregano and basil, garlic, onion, artichokes, tomatoes and the finely grated zest of one lemon. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the juice of the lemon. Delicious eaten right away warm, or place in the refrigerator to chill before serving.  If chilled first, fluff with fork before serving.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Mustard and Vinegar BBQ Pulled Chicken in a Slow Cooker

This recipe is my new favorite for pulled chicken.  It is a nice, basic BBQ without it being too overpowering. Mustard and vinegar based sauces are very common in the south and this one is similar to a Carolina BBQ. It could also be called a "White BBQ" as well.  If you have never tried a Mustard BBQ you are missing out!  It has such a different flavor then the traditional ketchup and molasses sauces that are more common.  It is slightly sweet (but not too much!) and a bit tangy and well, just plain delicious!

The chicken was incredibly juicy, fall-apart tender and jam-packed with flavor.  This isn't a spicy sauce at all, so it is perfect for kids.  And if you tend to like a little more "kick" or more of a saucy BBQ then think of of this as a nice base for flavorful chicken and then top with your favorite tomato-y BBQ Sauce- a great way to please different family members that each like different types of sauces.  You will be happy either way!   I served this sandwiches with my Quick Pickled Onions and they were a perfect combo!  I highly recommend making them both for dinner.  De-lish!

Mustard Vinegar BBQ Pulled Chicken in a Slow Cooker

3 pounds chicken thighs, breasts, or a combination of the two
1 medium onion, cut in half and then again in quarters
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dry ground mustard
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup Worcestershire Sauce
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/2-1 teaspoon chili powder (depending on heat preference)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
rolls or buns of choice

Place the chopped onions in the bottom of the slow cooker. Place the chicken on top of the onions and add the garlic, ground mustard, chili powder, brown sugar, salt, pepper, apple cider vinegar and Worcestershire sauce. Cook on high for 3-4 hours (or on low for 6-8 hours).  Do not keep opening up the slow cooker during the cooking process, but keep an eye on it.  Don't be afraid to add more liquid (apple cider vinegar or even a bit of water or chicken stock) to the pot if the sauce is cooking down too quickly.  Remember, you want the liquid, that is your sauce!

About an hour to 40 minutes before your final cooking time*, very carefully, because the chicken will be hot, remove the meat from the slow cooker and place on a large cutting board. Using two forks, shred the chicken by pulling away from each other. The meat should be very tender by this point. Place the shredded chicken back into the slow cooker, stir well and continue to cook for that additional 30 minutes to an hour.  This will make the chicken nice and juicy because it will soak up some of the BBQ sauce.

*I have found that if I cook the chicken on high, at two hours into the cooking time is when I remove the chicken and shred it.  Then replace it and cook for that additional 30 minutes to an hour.  At this point the chicken is cooked, you just want the chicken to get nice and saucy.

You can either enjoy as is, or serve alongside a favorite BBQ sauce and Quick Pickled Onions.  Top onto lightly toasted buns and enjoy!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Quick Pickled Onions

Oh how I love pickles. They are deliciously pungent, tart, salty, sometimes a little sweet and have the best crunch.   They can add so much flavor and dimension to so many recipes.  But you know what my favorite part of the pickle is, those onions and garlic that have been shoved inside the jars to give the cucumbers, peppers and whatnot all their flavor.  Yum.  Tiny pearled pickled onions are the BEST.  My absolute fav.  I will pick those out of my spicy hot Giardiniera jars first followed closely by the califlower. I'm not alone here, am I?

When I stumbled across this recipe on NPR the other day I knew I had to give them a try.  Quick Pickled Onions?  Really?!  How fun!  These things are ready and able to be eaten as soon as they completely cool. There isn't a long curing time like with some pickling recipes- only 25 minutes.  I can handle that. I was making a Mustard and Vinegar BBQ Chicken tonight (I'll give you guys that recipe tomorrow!) and thought they would make a fun new accompaniment instead of the slaw I generally make.

The first time we ate these I wasn't too sure about the cumin flavor, it felt a little too strong and they were very sharp tasting and a little too vinegary.  Still good, but I felt the recipe might need some tweaking.  Until the next day, that is.  I tried them again on my leftover chicken and they. were. perfect. Cold, crunchy, salty, tart, and just the right amount of seasoning.  The cumin was no longer overly pronounced, just a light smokey flavor that really did add to the onions nicely.  So next time I make them I will definitely give the onions more time to get icy cold in the fridge before serving.  Now when i walk past the fridge I can't help snatching a few every now and then!  They would have been dangerous when I was pregnant and really craving vinegar flavors!

We originally had them on the pulled chicken sandwiches.  But they are also yummy topped on a burger, tossed in a salad, and today I added them to my tuna sandwich.  Anywhere you want a little of the pickle flavor without committing to a full blown (cucumber) pickle, these are your guys.

Quick Pickled Onions
recipe courtesy NPR

2 cups apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 medium onions, about 1 1/4 pound (red onions turn a beautiful pink when pickled)

Combine the first 6 ingredients in a medium saucepan, and place over medium heat.

While the brine heats, prepare the onions. Peel and trim them, and cut them in half from root to stem end. Then slice each half as thinly as you can into half-moons. Ideally, no slice should be thicker than 1/4 inch.

When you've finished slicing the onions, check the brine. If it isn't boiling, increase the heat to high. When the brine boils, add the onion slices all at once, and stir to combine. Immediately remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let stand for about 25 minutes.

Transfer the onions and brine to a large bowl, and set aside to cool at room temperature. (Or, if you're in a hurry, put the bowl in the refrigerator.) When the onions are fully cooled, pour them and their brine into jars with tight-fitting lids, and store in the refrigerator. Unlike other types, these quick pickles are ready to be eaten as soon as they are fully cold.

These pickles will keep, chilled, for up to 2 weeks.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Turkey and Black Bean Burritos

This is an awesome way to use up some of that leftover turkey from Thanksgiving and the upcoming Christmas dinners.  It gives it a completely new life and packs a ton of wonderful flavor.  Our whole family loved it, including both of my little boys.  Owen, I think has a favorite new food!  Black beans and babies really are a perfect combination.  It is easy for them to feed themselves, they are super healthy and with this seasoning it made it flavorful but not overpowering.  In our house, we like to serve all of the toppings in individual bowls so everybody can fix their own burrito as they like.  I found that with kids, any opportunity they can make it themselves, they are more inclined to add a variety of ingredients and then love the taste because they "cooked" it themselves.  This works awesome with salads too.  The more colorful, the more often kids are to try them.

Turkey and Black Bean Burritos

10 oz cooked turkey (or chicken), shredded
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 green bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
1 medium onion, sliced into strips
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 packet Taco Seasoning (I like to get the low sodium variety)
3/4 cup water
salt and pepper to taste

to serve
flour tortillas
lettuce, shredded
tomatoes, chopped
sour cream or greek yogurt
taco sauce
shredded cheese

Saute in a medium skillet the peppers, onions and garlic in olive oil until they are soft and tender. Add the cooked, shredded turkey/chicken, black beans, water and taco seasoning.  Stir well to combine and creates a sauce.  Simmer for 10-15 minutes until warmed through.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.  Transfer to a large bowl and serve alongside tortillas and all the toppings for a burrito free for all.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

One Fish Two Fish Cupcakes

This past Saturday we celebrated my (not-so baby) boys 1st birthday party.  And oh my, what fun it was!! There was lots of great food provided by everyone, wonderful company and LOTS of laughs!  We sure have some silly kids (and adults!) in this family!  Owen got into the full spirit of things and completely smashed his smash cake.  It was unbelievable how excited and into it he got!  When Jackson turned one, we had to take his hand and smash it into his cake for him- NOT OWEN!  The moment it was put onto his tray his hand went right in it and it was craziness from then on!  He knew exactly what to do and HE. WAS. A. MESS!  But boy, did he have fun.  And so did we- it is just what you want your one year old to do with a smash cake, it was hilarious.

When coming up with decorations, what originally started out as just a "fishy" themed birthday slowly morphed into a Dr. Seuss Birthday Party.  I wanted to keep the cost down and realized we owned tons of books that would work awesome as decorations- they are colorful, silly and encouraged people to pick them up and read.

I used some of my drawing skills and hand drew the rest of the pictures to hang around the house.  What resulted was a party that was super inexpensive and such fun!  Perfect for our joyful Owen.

After the fun I had decorating my owl and bat cupcakes for Halloween, I knew I wanted to do another fun cupcake for Owen's party.  Since I was focusing on the decorating, I made things easy on myself and just used a boxed yellow cake for the cupcake's.  If you happen to have a great cupcake recipe, please send it my way! But this worked great for me, and everyone seemed to enjoy them.  For the first time I used a soft gel paste food coloring to dye my frosting. It was a recommendation of my cake lady down the street, and she was right!  This stuff is awesome.  It only took a little bit to achieve such a great blue color (and it didn't dye peoples lips and tongue!)  After mixing the food coloring into the frosting, I spooned it into a gallon-sized ziplock bag and snipped the tip.  This worked perfect as my pastry bag since I don't own one of those fancy things.

Starting on the outside edge of the (completely cooled) cupcakes, I slowly piped the icing in a circular motion, working my way to the center.  I wanted to achieve a sort of "water and wave" appearance, so I wasn't concerned about the pipping to look perfectly even.  Then I sprinkled them lightly with blue sugar crystals and placed different colored goldfish crackers jumping in and out of the "waves".  Next I added white pearl candies to create the look of the fishes air bubbles.  And there you have it, One Fish Two Fish Cupcakes :)  Pretty fun if you ask me!

I knew they would look cute- but at first I wasn't sure how the goldfish crackers would taste on top of the cupcakes, but they were actually delicious together!  They gave a nice crunch, texture is always a good thing, and also a very light salt flavor to the already sweet cupcakes.  It made a nice combo.

One Fish Two Fish Cupcakes
makes 24 traditional-sized cupcakes (or 12 trad. and 24 mini, or 48 mini)

1 box yellow cake mix (or a batch of your favorite yellow cake), prepare as directed for cupcakes
24 large cupcake liners (I used 12 large and 24 mini)
1 tub white frosting (or a batch of your favorite white frosting)
blue food coloring, I highly recommend AmeriColor
1 bag of mini goldfish crackers
blue sugar crystals
mini pearl candies (look in your local cake supply store)

Prepare cupcake batter as directed on the back of the box, filling the cupcake liners 3/4 the way full.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Please note, mini cupcakes will take a much shorter amount of time, so please keep watch!  Remove from cupcake pan and allow to cool COMPLETELY on a wire rack before frosting them.

While you are waiting for the cupcakes to cool, dye frosting by adding a few drops of food coloring at a time until you get the desired color.  Mix well.  Spoon frosting into a pastry bag, or a gallon-sized ziplock bag and snip the end.  Carefully push all the frosting down to the snipped end of the bag to create a nice tube of frosting.  Once the cupcakes are cool, gently and slowly squeeze the frosting out of the bag onto the cupcakes in a circular motion, working from the outside in creating little peaks of frosting.

Next lightly sprinkle the cupcakes with the blue sugar crystals, place the goldfish crackers in the "waves" you just created in the blue frosting and then in a zig-zag pattern arrange the white pearled candies to create the air bubbles.

And there you have it- Fish Cupcakes!

I linked up on Sweets for a Saturday #45!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ohio Blogging Association Blog Swap! (With a Sugar Cookie Bar Recipe)

As a part of today's Ohio Blogging Association's Cleveland November Blog Swap, I'm happy to introduce you to Sarah from Cooker Girl. On this day, bloggers from around the Northeast Ohio area are guest posting on one another's blogs as a way to help to get to know each other in our blogging community. For a full listing of blog swap participants, please visit Poise in Parma today.

I am sharing one of my favorite recipes on Cooker Girl today so please visit me there as well!



Hi, I'm Sarah from Cooker Girl.  I like to cook and I love to bake.  I created my food blog to keep track of recipes I've tried so I can go back to them later.  Most of the time they are adaptations of existing recipes, but there are some originals and family recipes that I've shared as well.  I hope you'll stop by sometime!

The holiday season is approaching, and for many people that means making and decorating cut-out sugar cookies.  It's a great project for the whole family, but they're time consuming.  For this reason, I only make cut-out cookies about once a year.

During the rest of the year, when you want the sugar cookie flavor (and frosting) without all the work, these bars are the perfect solution.  This recipe is made using a jelly roll pan, but it can easily be halved and baked in a 9x13 pan.

Sugar Cookie Bars
Adapted from Beantown Baker

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla
5 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 375.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each egg. Add the vanilla and mix well. Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined.

Spread dough onto a greased 11x 17 jelly roll pan. Bake for 10-15 minutes until light golden brown, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely then frost.

Buttercream Frosting
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp milk
4 cups confectioners' sugar

In a large bowl, mix the butter, vanilla and milk with an electric mixer until fluffy. Gradually add the sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. Keep mixing until all the sugar is incorporated and the frosting is white and fluffy.

A big thanks to Amie for letting me take over for the day!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Caramel Chicken

This recipe is a nice substitution for Chinese Take-Out.  It had a totally different flavor then I was expecting, but not at all in a bad way!  When I read Caramel Chicken, I was thinking more of a sticky-sweet flavor.  But we found it much more like a Teriyaki.  It was sweet, salty and almost impossible to stop eating!  It balanced awesomely with the simply steamed broccoli and white rice I served to soak up the sauce.  I went with a less is more approach to the sides and boy am I glad I did!  The Grimway Farms organic broccoli was so beautiful and vibrant I really wanted it's sweet flavor to show through.  And even though the sauce was very robust, you still tasted the lovely sweet, delicate flavor from the broccoli- and check out that color!  Beautiful!

If you aren't an organic shopper already, you really need to become one.  There are so many benefits to it- especially if you have children.  But the biggest is hands down the flavor you get from the fruits and vegetables.  It can make conventional food taste like cardboard in comparison. They taste as God intended them to.  And Grimway Farms does a beautiful job with theirs.  I have eaten their Bunny Love carrots before and are a huge hit in our house (sugar sweet!) but while browsing their other products I had such a hard time deciding- rainbow chard, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, beautiful lettuces.... the options were fantastic!  I am definitely picking up their beets next.  I have been dying to try this recipe for Honey Dijon Roasted Beets. Doesn't that sound yummy?!

The lovely people of Grimway Farms sent a coupon for me to give their produce a try and what a truly special treat it was!  I will definitely be going back to their items again and again.  They also have a nice website if you would like to see where their produce is sold in your area, and while you are there, check out their recipes- lots of great ones!

Caramel Chicken
recipe courtesy Bill Granger

8 chicken thigh fillets, skinless, cut in half
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 red onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup fish sauce

to serve
steamed rice
steamed green vegetables, such as broccoli, snow peas or asparagus
garnish with toasted sesame seeds

Place the chicken and oil in a bowl and toss to combine.  Heat a large frying pan over a high heat until hot. Add the chicken, in two batches, and cook for two minutes on one side until lightly brown, turn and cook for another minute.  Remove from the pan, reduce the heat to medium and add a little extra oil if needed.  Add the onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Return the chicken to the pan, sprinkle liberally with black pepper, add the soy sauce and stir to combine.  Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Increase the heat to high, add the sugar and stir to combine.  Cook uncovered for 3-4 minutes, or until the sauce is rich, dark and syrupy.  Add the fish sauce and stir to combine. Place in a serving dish, garnish with sesame seeds if desired and serve with steamed rice and green vegetables.  Serves 4.

Grimway Farms gave me a coupon to test and review their products.  The thoughts and opinions are completely my own.  

Friday, November 11, 2011

Honey Oatmeal Flax Bread

This sandwich bread recipe is just wonderful.  You want to bookmark this one!  Aside from the Homemade Sandwich Thin Buns this has absolutely become my most favorite bread recipe.  It has everything you want in a perfect bread-  it is soft and light, has a very mild flavor, and tastes awesome both as toast and for sandwiches- even for kids.   But guess what?!  It is super healthy!  Seriously!  It has the slight nuttiness from the flax seeds, wonderful wholesomeness from the whole wheat flour and oatmeal and just a hint of sweetness from the honey.  But unlike many other whole wheat breads, it isn't dense, tough or too "rugged" if you know what I mean.  It is a nice healthful alternative for all white bread lovers everywhere.  It is basically a white bread dressed up in Wholesome Wheat Bread clothing.   You get the texture and flavor of a nice soft white bread, but all the goodness of a whole grain one.  Honestly, it can't be beat!  It makes a perfect PB&J (kid tested!) and also a fantastic loaded sandwich with lots of meat, cheese and veggies.  It can hold up to a lot while remaining soft and light.   Love, love, love this recipe and you will too!

Honey Oatmeal Flax Bread
recipe courtesy Mostly Foodstuffs originally adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum
yields 1 loaf

1 1/4 cups + 2 Tbsp (11.5 oz) warm water
1/2 (1.3 oz) cups rolled oats
1/4 cup (1.3 oz) cracked flax seeds (you can buy a packaged flaxseed meal like this, or else take whole flax seeds and blitz them in a coffee or spice grinder)
2 cups (11.3 oz) bread flour
3/4 cup (4 oz) whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp vital wheat gluten
1 Tbsp powdered milk
1 1/8 tsp instant yeast (or a scant 1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast)
2 Tbsp (1.5 oz) honey
2 1/2 Tbsp (1.2 oz) neutral oil, like canola
2 tsp salt

Place the water, oatmeal and flax seeds in your mixing bowl, and let soak at least 15 minutes to hydrate. Sift together the flours, gluten, and milk powder (if using), and set aside.

After 15 minutes, sprinkle in the yeast (if using active dry yeast, let soften for a minute or two, but if using instant proceed to next step). Stir in the honey and oil, and then add the flour mixture. Knead for 3 minutes, then let rest for 20 minutes. Sprinkle on the salt, and knead an additional 4 minutes. The dough will be quite moist and sticky, but will clear the sides of the bowl.

Scrape the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, swish around to distribute the oil on the bottom of the dough, then flip it over so the oiled portion is on top. Cover your container, and let rise until doubled.  This will take about 1 1/4 hours in a warm setting (inside an oven with the oven light turned on creates the perfect temperature for rising dough), longer in cooler settings.

When the dough has doubled, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, shape into a rectangle, and let rest, covered (I like to use plastic wrap or a tea towel), for 15-20 minutes to let the gluten relax. Shape into a loaf (there's a nice pictorial here),and place into an oiled loaf pan.

The pictures of my bread here, I shaped into a braid.  This looks oh so pretty and rose beautifully.  It is very easy to do: separate your dough into three pretty equal pieces.  Roll into "worms" as my 4 year old calls it, and lay them side by side.  Now gently braid the dough, just as you would a child's hair.  Tuck the ends under and pinch to seal.  You can now bake free-form, just as is on a baking sheet, or carefully fit the braid into your bread pan for a nice sized sandwich bread (which is what I did here). If doing it the second way,  it will be a little under an inch shy of the top of the pan. Cover the loaf (Mostly Foodstuffs recommended placing it inside a plastic bag, never heard of this idea before, but it works great!), and let rise again in a warm spot until the dough is over an inch higher than the top of the pan, ~1 1/4 hours.

When the dough is about 40 minutes away from being fully risen, preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and place a baking pan on the rack under where the bread will be. Slash the top of the loaf if you like that look, or leave plain. Mist the loaf with water, place in the oven, and toss a few ice cubes in your preheated pan to create steam , this creates a sustained moist cooking environment. Quickly shut the oven door, and lower the heat to 375. Bake for 20 minutes, rotate the loaf, and bake another 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.  If the top of your loaf starts to become too dark too soon, just lightly cover it with a piece of tin foil.  This will stop it from darkening any further.

Remove the loaf from the oven, and tip out of the pan onto a rack to cool. The bread will continue to cook internally, so resist cutting it open until it is fairly cool.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Hot Udon Peanut Noodles

You know how it is when someone talks about a particular recipe and from that point on you can't stop thinking about it?  Well that happened to me yesterday.  My sister was talking to me about how she made peanut noodles the night before and after that I had such a taste for them!  I felt like taking a little spin on my usual recipe. So this was a variation I threw together last night mixing up a little Pad Thai and the Cold Udon Noodle Salad I generally turn to.  It was delicious, satisfying and made for wonderful leftover today at lunch.

Hot Udon Peanut Noodles

For the Thai Peanut Sauce:
1 cup creamy or crunchy peanut butter
1/2 cup coconut milk
4 tablespoons warm water
5 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1-3 tablespoon hot chili sauce, like Sriracha
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, chopped OR 1/8 teaspoon dry ground ginger
chili flakes to taste

In a bowl, whisk all of the ingredients until smooth and creamy.

For the Noodles:

1 10 oz package of Udon Noodles (spaghetti or linguine would also work just fine)
3 tablespoons high-heat cooking oil
1/2 English Cucumber, cut into thin matchsticks (about 1 cup)
1 cup carrots, cut into thin matchsticks
1/2 onion, diced
2 eggs, beaten
1 large chicken breast, cooked and cut into thin strips
1 cup bean sprouts
1/2 cup shelled peanuts, chopped

In a large pot of lightly salted boiling water, cook the udon noodles for about 5-7 minutes or until tender. Drain and rinse the noodles under cold running water. 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 add the remaining oil, chicken, noodles and Thai Peanut sauce into the wok and stir continuously. Add bean sprouts and onions into the wok, stir for 1 minute.  Cover and let simmer about 1-2 minutes. Check at the 1 minute mark and if the noodles are still a bit stiff, cover and cook another minute. Add the carrots, cucumber, and the eggs back into the wok and toss.

Dish out, sprinkle some peanuts on top and serve with a wedge of lime and additional Sriracha for those who like to add a little extra heat.

I linked up my recipe here
 A Little Nosh

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Owl and Bat Cupcakes

Halloween is such a fun holiday.  I'm not so into the scary, creepy and gross side of things.  But I do love to dress up, taking the Littles out Trick or Treating and of course the fun party at my sister's afterwards.  There is always great "spooky" food (think Mac a Boney and Cheese, Ghoulash, Eyeballs- deviled eggs with olives, etc.).  This year I was incharge of dessert. Yum!

My little family all dressed up and ready to get our Trick or Treat on.
I decided to go as a 1950's Housewife, not much of a stretch, huh?!

Our Crew:
My sister the witch, her husband the Inmate, their two devilish daughters and baby Lion.  
My husband the um, OSU tailgater (er, no costume, bummer!) his 1950's housewife and our great protector Thor and his trusty lizard.  

It was super chilly so we had to bundle up.  As a kid I always hated having to cover my costume with a coat.  Still do now!  

When I was put in charge of dessert I knew I had to make these adorable owl cupcakes that have been floating around blogland.  I am not sure who thought of it "first", probably Martha Stewart.... anyways they are so easy, no intimidating ingredients (i.e. fondant) and super duper kid friendly- I mean who doesn't love Oreo's and M&Ms?!!  I also threw together a bat because right now my Jackson is obsessed with super hero's.  I thought he would get a kick out of a few of them mixed in.  And goodness was I right.  When he got home from preschool and eyed the cupcakes he points at the bat and says "Mommy, this is amazing!"  Right then and there I knew I just went up a few notches on the cool ladder....

Sure I made these for Halloween, but they would totally be cute for birthday parties (animal, woodland, super hero, etc.) as well.

Owl and Bat Cupcakes
for the cupcakes: 
1 box devils food cake (or your favorite cake mix)
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
18-24 cupcake liners

Prepare cupcakes according to box directions.  Allow to cool completely before decorating.

for the decorations: 
1 large package of Oreo cookies (You won't need them all, but it takes some practice to cut them.  You'll want extra)
1 bag of M&Ms (You only need the brown and the yellow, the rest is for you to snack on while baking) 1 toothpick
1 tub of your favorite chocolate frosting, homemade or store-bought
1 icing pen (I accidently bought a gel pen, but I kinda like how the details are subtle on the bats)

Smooth the chocolate frosting over the surface of the cupcakes.  Set aside.

To make the Owls:
Separate the Oreo cookies, keeping the white frosting intact.  These will be your eyes.  I found that giving them a gentle twist released them pretty well.  Have a butter knife on hand incase some frosting sticks to the opposite side.  It scraps off pretty neatly.  Then just press it back down where it goes and smooth out the crack with the knife or a finger.  Use your butter knife to very gently scrape the tops of the white frosting to remove the  brown cookie residue getting them as white as possible.  Gently press a brown M&M on the white frosting to make the iris of the eye.  If the frosting cracks a little just smooth it with your finger or the blunt edge of the knife.  If you run out of brown M&M's just use green or blue ones.  That would be cute too!  Set the eyes aside.

Now you want to cut the plain cookie tops in half to make the owls horns.  You can use a sharp knife, or what I found was that kitchen scissors worked nicely.  It is very difficult to cut the cookies in half without having one of the halves shatter.  No worries, you have a whole box right?!  (I used the imperfect ones to make the bat wings since I was trimming them up a bit with my scissors anyways.) Using your kitchen scissors, carefully clean up the edges to get the halves nice and smooth.  This was really easy to do.  I couldn't believe how will the scissors worked for this.

Now go get your cupcakes.  It is time to assemble!  I slightly smoothed out a flat section where the "eyes" were going to go to to give them a bit of support so they would sit somewhat nicely.  I thought they were going to slide off, but they surprisingly stuck rather well.  Now take two "horns".  On a slight angle, stick a point into the cupcake above-behind the eye.  Do this with both halves.  Take a little dollop of frosting and put it on the cupcake behind the horns to give them a little support so they don't fall over.  Take another little dollop of frosting and put it between the eyes below the horns to give a little "hair".  Take a toothpick and use it to make little points in the frosting creating the "hair".  Do the same thing with the toothpick over the surface of the rest of the cupcakes making them look a little fuzzy and cute.

Next take a yellow M&M, turn it up on its side and stick it in the cupcake between the eyes.  This is your beak.

Ta-da!  You just made an owl!

To make the Bats:
There are two options for the bat wings.  1)You can smooth out your cut Oreo cookie halves to make nice clean edges and sharp points like you did for the owl's horns.  2)Or you can carefully cut little points in the flat side to create the points on the bat wings.  If you don't cut the points, that is fine, just draw them in with the icing/gel pen.  If you want to go with option 1, using your kitchen scissors make small "v" shaped cuts on the flat edge of the cookie half.  I found it pretty easy to do.

Once cut, using the gel pen draw the shape of the bat wing on the decorative side of the cookie.  Carefully on an angle stick the corner of the bat wing just off center into the middle of the cupcake.  Do this again with the other side.

On the brown M&Ms, gently draw two small dots to make the eyes.  Place the "head" in between the bat wings.

And there you go- you just made a bat!

I linked up on Sweets For a Saturday #43. Come find some other delicious sweet things :)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork in the Slow Cooker

I have been hearing about cooking pork in a slow cooker with pop for ages now and have been completly intrigued ever since. I finally gave it a try this past weekend and wow was it delicious! The soda pop works not only to give the meat some nice flavor (no it doesn't taste like pop, just flavorful) but it also works as a tenderizer.  The pork came out of the slow cooker super juicey and completely falling apart. I hardly had to really "pull it" apart, just gently separate.  A nice bonus is that it is a very inexpensive meal as well.  It only cost me $6 for my 2 1/2 pound pork butt at Whole Foods Market!  Sure, this cut of meat is a bit fattier, but that also makes for a more flavorful final product.  Once cooked, the fat easily separated from the meat when I was pulling it apart.  We all agreed that this recipe is a winner and will be added to my meal plan rotation.

Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork in the Slow Cooker
adapted slightly from Mama Foodie

2 1/2-3 lb pork butt (also known as a pork shoulder)
24 oz. (2 cans) Dr. Pepper (or any caramel colored soda pop, each will provide a slightly different flavor)
1 medium onion, cut in quarters and then again in half
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons dry ground mustard
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (depending on personal taste.)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
bbq sauce of choice
rolls or buns of choice

Place the chopped onions in the bottom of the slow cooker.  Place the pork butt on top of the onions and add the garlic, ground mustard, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, apple cider vinegar and Worcestershire sauce. Pour the Dr. Pepper on top and cook on high for 4-5 hours (or on low for 8 hours).

Very carefully, because the pork will be hot, remove the meat from the slow cooker and place on a large cutting board.  Using two forks, shred the pork by pulling away from each other.  The meat should be very tender by this point.  Place the shredded pork back into the slow cooker and continue to cook for an additional hour.

Drain the remaining juices and toss the meat and onion mixture in the bbq sauce of choice.  I don't have an exact amount listed- just add a bit at a time until you get to your desired sauciness!

Top onto lightly toasted buns and enjoy!  Goes great with a good slaw and some oven fries.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Fridays, Feasting With Friends- Featuring Kristian Campana

"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' 

Kristian Campana

Here's the scenerio: the weekend is upon us, the weather looks promising and goodness, wouldn't it be fun to have something FUN to do?!  Well, look no further then Ohio Festivals:Exploring Ohio's Festivals one funnel cake at a time and Adventures of a Trapped 300 Pound Man: Entertaining my inner obesity through food, Ohio festivals and fun! These two blogs are really all you need to find out all that is happening throughout the beautiful state of Ohio.  To say that Kristian loves festivals would seriously be an understatement- He has taken festival hopping to a whole new level!  But wow, does he live a fun life!  Kristian travels all over the state in search of the wackiest, most delicious, and just plain entertaining festivals Ohio has to offer.  Follow along on his journey vicariously or print off the festival schedule, hop in the car and see for yourself- there is a lot of fun waiting to be had!

Oh and be sure to give your congrats to Kristian, he is a newlywed!  Last weekend, he married the love of his life, Julia and they are having the time of their lives celebrating in style on their honeymoon.  Congratulations Kristian!  I am so happy for the two of you!

Also, thank you so, so, so much for your recipe of the Mozzarepas!  Every time I go to New York City I absolutely have to get one of these things at their weekend flea markets.  They are my favorite! Serious Yum! Now I can make them myself here at home- I am super excited!  Yay!

What is your favorite thing to cook?
Medleys of any could be some concoction where I mix pork, sweet potato and apple. Or it can be an omelet filled with refrigerator leftovers. This also includes pasta sauces consisting of various ingredients (I don't make traditional red sauce) and sushi as well.

How about your least favorite thing to cook?
Fish dishes. And I love fish. But it has to be cooked just right and I get nervous about over/under cooking it.

What is your favorite local restaurant and what is one you are dying to try out?
Favorite - I absolutely love Pacific East. And since it's an hour drive from me, it's always a special treat.
A second restaurant a little closer to home would be India Garden in Lakewood.

To Try: I'd really like to try L'Albatros

Music and food go together so beautifully. You are hosting a dinner party, what would be on your playlist?
Hmm...I'd want nice melodies that didn't get too loud so that we could still talk. I think I'd go with something like Zero 7, Air, Joan as Police Woman, and Cat Power.

What would you choose to be your last meal on earth?
A fine assortment of sushi, baked scallops topped with a steamed egg custard I used to get in Columbus, raw oysters, and maybe some coconut shrimp.

For dessert, I'd be happy with a snoogle and a corner piece of cake from Kiedrowski's bakery (Amherst). Maybe even a well-frosted sugar cookie.

What are you currently reading?
Lately, I've just been reading food blogs and astrological websites. I've been getting pretty good at reading charts and figuring present aspects. Maybe I'll pick up a side job.

What is your favorite Kitchen Gadget?
Although I don't use it too often, I love the double boiler for making custards and ice cream. It has saved me a lot of unnecessary stress.

Do you have a signature go-to dish?
I make green bean salads a lot in the summertime. I'll pickle thinly sliced cucumbers before adding them for extra flavor.

I also make sushi or mozzarepas (corn pancake sandwiches filled with melted cheese) for pot lucks or parties.

What is your favorite thing about the Cleveland area?
Its history of immigration. It affects our restaurants, grocery stores and supplies tons of great ethnic festivals. It helped make me who I am.

Do you have a favorite meal from your childhood and do you cook it today?
There's a scalloped potato and ham casserole that I absolutely loved. I haven't thought about it in a long time, but it really sounds good now and it's easy to make.

Top 3 Movies of all time?

From left to right: Getting ready for the meatball eating contest at the Dean Martin Festival, Pawpaw Contest judge photo with the giant pawpaw, and the Dublin Irish Festival

What was your happiest moment in life?
There are actually a few moments that stand out:
1.) making a wish at a Japanese temple to find my soulmate
2.) learning that, before he died, a college professor got to read my letter and loved it
3.) driving down Route 2 during a fall overcast day and realizing that things were going to be OK
4.) Getting my first reply from the tons of letters I sent to Italy to find family - it changed my life forever.
5.) being with my girlfriend and family at my 100th festival last year and really feeling like I accomplished something
6.) learning that my wish in 1.) came true

I guess I'm just a happy guy!

Where do you do your grocery shopping?
I'm all over the place. Overall, I go to Giant Eagle, but I'll try to go to Marc's for cheaper produce and certain groceries and maybe Heinen's for fish and some things. If I can make it to some local farm market, then that's even better.

What is your favorite guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
I'm such a sucker for potato chips. I can't even keep them in the house.

Can you tell me about what you are most proud of?
Reconnecting my family's Italian heritage, the entire Ohio Festivals Project and the children's book I wrote and illustrated.

Do you have Culinary Resolutions that you would like to accomplish this year?
I think I would like to make grape ice cream (not sorbet). I had some in Geneva once at their Grape Festival and it was like a grape creamsicle. I loved it.

One word that best describes you is:
the newlyweds! 

And now can you please share one of your favorite recipes? 

Mozzarepas (or Arepas with Mozzerella cheese)
1 cup milk
5 tablespoons butter
1 cup freshly boiled corn on the cob (2 cobs)
1 1/4 finely ground yellow corn meal
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Mozzarella or Provolone (sliced)

After boiling 2 cobs, use knife to cut corn off and then grind in blender. You should have a nice pulp. Mix the yellow cornmeal (pass through coffee grinder to make finer if necessary), flour, sugar, salt and shredded mozzarella and mix well.  Add the corn pulp to the mixture and stir to combine well.

Bring milk to a boil as you add the butter (be careful not to burn milk).

Make a well of the mixture in the bowl and gradually add the hot milk mixture while mixing.

Get to a good pancake batter consistency. If you end up not needing to add the rest of the milk, so be it. If it's too thick, then add more milk.

Heat a lightly buttered griddle or pan and spoon batter to make small pancakes. Flip when golden brown.

you can add the cheese once it flips and then add the second pancake when done. Or you can just cook them all, make sandwiches with the cheese and nuke them in the microwave to melt the cheese.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds- Two Ways, Savory and Sweet

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds are one of my favorite snacks this time of year.  One taste makes all the work of separating seeds from the pulp completely worth it.  I have tried lots of recipes over the years, but this is probably my favorite.  A bit salty, a bit garlicky, and with just a hint of heat from the Worcestershire sauce and seriously so, so good.  They are awesome just by the handful, but also taste yummy sprinkled on soups and salads or anywhere you would like a bit of a crunch.

I have also added a nice Cinnamon Sugar version.  You soak the seeds in apple cider, bringing out the sweetness of the pumpkin flavor.  By tossing it with a buttery, cinnamon sugar topping, the heat from the oven makes the sugars caramelize, giving them an almost candy coating.  I love salty and sweet snacks together, so if you have enough seeds to make both flavors do it and serve them side by side.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
2 cups pumpkin seeds, cleaned and rinsed
1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter OR olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt (I like using corse salt)
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper (about 20 grinds from the pepper mill)

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

Seperate the seeds from the pulp of the pumpkin.  Don't worry about getting all of the pumpkin strands off, it adds extra flavor to the roasted seeds.  I just love when I get a seed with pumpkin still attached- yum!  You just want the seeds clean enough so you can easily toss them.  Once rinsed, lightly dry and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, add the melted butter, Worcestershire Sauce, salt, pepper, garlic salt, and garlic powder and whisk until well blended.  Add the pumpkin seeds and toss, throughly coating in the butter mixture.  Spread pumpkin seeds in a single layer onto a silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Bake for 1 hour, checking them often and tossing occasionally, until butter topping has dried and the pumpkin seeds are golden brown.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool and dry-out the rest of the way on the cookie sheet on top of the stove.  Store in an airtight container.

Cinnamon-Sugar Apple Cider Pumpkin Seeds
2 cups pumpkin seeds, cleaned and rinsed
1 1/2 cups apple cider
1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter OR olive oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

Pour the apple cider in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Add the pumpkin seeds and boil on medium heat for 10 minutes. Drain the seeds and pour them in a large mixing bowl.

Pour the melted butter or olive oil into the bowl, along with the salt, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Mix well to coat and spread pumpkin seed in a single layer onto a silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Bake for 1 hour, checking them often and tossing occasionally, until butter topping has dried and the pumpkin seeds are golden brown.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool and dry-out the rest of the way on the cookie sheet on top of the stove.  Enjoy!

Store in an air-tight container.

Winner of the Avery See-Through Sticky Notes!!!

Using the Random Number Generator at Stat Trek, I found my winner!  Congratulations Becca, my lucky number 1!

Becca said...
Oh my goodness! I love this giveaway. I'd use them at work, because I use post-its for EVERYTHING at work (right now I'm using star-shaped ones)

1 Random Numbers
Specs: This table of 1 random numbers was produced according to the following specifications: Numbers were randomly selected from within the range of 1 to 9. Duplicate numbers were not allowed.

You are going to love these things, Becca! Please send me an email with your address right away so I can pass it on to Avery!


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