Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pacific Natural's Everyday Chef Challenge Part Two

   I have my second recipe up on the Pacific Natural's site.
It's kind of complicated but it looks way cool and tastes pretty darn good too!
It's the first time I used egg roll wraps in a pasta kind of way. I have seen bunches of recipes that call for them when making ravioli so I figured they may work here, and they did. They are in the refrigerated section of the produce department at Meijer. 

The other part of this challenge is for guest food bloggers, one of whom is my friend, Aggie. She has an amazing recipe up for Creamy Butternut Squash and Shrimp Pasta Bake. It looks amazing and I'm pretty sure I'll be trying it tomorrow. 
Here's the link for it for you convenience :o)
And while you're there, vote for her, K?
And then, go vote for me too, K?

This gives me the perfect opportunity to share a little something, something with you.
You know those recipes that call for 2 teaspoons of tomato paste, but those cans have what, 20 teaspoons in them? 
Here's what I do:

I use the scoop that I use to make cookies and scoop out the rest of the can, place them on foil, or parchment, or whatever, freeze them and then transfer them into a zipper bag. Each one is about a tablespoon. 
I know.
You're welcome.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Knives Tale

I was Santoku before Santoku was cool.
And quite possibly before it was a word.
Here is my Chicago Cutlery 10 inch butchers knife.
It was part of a set that my father gave us as a wedding gift.
26 years ago.
About 20 years ago I had the bright idea to use the tip of the knife to
pry apart two frozen chicken breasts.
This is what happened. 
Many people over the last 20 years have commented on my 
unique knife.
I love how it just stops right there.
It gives me great leverage and control when chopping away. 
I hate using whole butchers knives.
There is all this blade at the tip that I just don't need.
A few years back some Einstein came up with a bright idea.
Let's take the useless tip off the front of a butcher knife and give it a fancy name.

Lory and Ken gave me this beauty for my birthday.
I just know she's scared to death I'll show up on some cooking show
and take out my knives and she knows that Chicago Cutlery one will be there.
She doesn't want me to look a fool.
She has my back.
She must think I'm on to something with this cooking thing.
I need real tools. 

Well, fine, this knife may be more socially acceptable but I am here to tell you, 

Oh, and here's your take away,
When freezing chicken breasts 
wrap them individually in those fold over
plastic sandwich baggies. Place them flat in a freezer bag, 
don't just toss them all in there willy nilly.
They come apart just fine. 
Or, just use a knife to pry them apart.
It's all good. 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

God and Pina Coladas

In case any of you were wondering what God looks like.
He came and said good morning to us each day.
I kind of wish I had an Illinois sunrise to share,
because God is is in the magnificent.
But He's also in the ordinary.
It's just my human short-sightedness that
keeps me from appreciating it. 

And while God may not be in my Pina Colada,
He has certainly provided me with the ability to be thankful
that Honey and I were blessed to be able to spend a week
together, reveling in His glory and able to kick back
and enjoy a couple or ten of these. 

P.S., Pina Coladas only taste good at the beach with a little sand 
dusted on top and a coating of sunscreen around the glass.
They should NEVER be consumed in Illinois.

That is all. 

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I'm Baaaaack!

I've been away.
Did you notice?
I have all sorts of random thoughts from our vacay AND
a couple of really fun recipes ideas for that crazy 
Pacific Naturals contest.

Ok, I gotta get this one off my chest so I can think clearly:
So, we wound up sitting at O'Hare for 10 hours last Saturday
because a 10 minute rain storm totally threw the world's 
busiest airport into a tizzy. 
(Was gonna say tail spin but that wouldn't be right, would it?)
So, I singlehandedly kept the magazine store in business
 while my husband did,
No book, no magazines, no computer, no nothing.
And he didn't go brain dead. 
How does a person do that????

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Life is Full of Surprises!

Well, I'm pretty sure I never could have predicted this one!
My good buddy, Aggie, turned me on to this recipe contest.
Normally I wouldn't have even given it a second thought but for some reason I checked out what the prize was and I was hooked!
It's a combo package that if I had a "bucket list" they would both be at the top!
A trip to Napa and a cooking boot camp.
Now, put them together, cooking boot camp IN Napa and I may just die and go to heaven right there and then!
The requirements for your recipe is that it contain the *secret* ingredient and any variety of the sponsors broths. 
The secret ingredient turned out to be mushrooms so I started by Googeling "mushroom recipes."
I came across one for mushroom stroganoff and it got me thinking. We are trying to cut back on the amount of meat we eat, why couldn't I take one of my favorite stew recipes and use portabellos instead of the beef? 
I chose a recipe for beef and butternut squash
 stew and ran from there.
What I finally came up with, after a brainstorming lunch with Nancy, is the Indian Portabello Stew I submitted, which bares little resemblance to the recipe I started out with. I actually made two versions, one is more Morracan. 
It was good too but the Indian one just had a little something extra.
 (like the bottle of wine we had to finish up)

It's funny, Nancy had moved to Florida a couple of years ago and just moved back to Illinois. She asked me yesterday where this enthusiasm for cooking came from, it wasn't there when she left. For some reason I had always thought that cooking was supposed to be looked at as a "chore". It wasn't until I realized that, hey, I like this, and it's OK for me to like it, that I really embraced the whole process. Cooking is now my hobby, my release, my creativity. I may cook to show you I love you but it also ministers to me. 

It makes me wonder, are there other things out there that we may truly enjoy and that can minister not only to others but also to ourselves if we would just recognize them and allow them to?

Hmm, as you ponder that, head over to the contest site. I have a link at the bottom of this post (if I've done it correctly) and vote for me. 
I've got that bucket to attend to!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Giant Hamburger

Or, as we Americans would say, Meatloaf.
I meant to do an ode to meatloaf last month
in honor of Rossella's (a former exchange student) birthday.
But just wasn't feelin' it till today.
 There is a giant hamburger in my oven as I write.
The entire house is absolutely filled with that unmistakable aroma
 and my memories are wandering back to those crazy days when 
Rossella ruled the roost...or at least tried to. 
There were precious few American food stuffs, aside from KFC, 
that Rossella found acceptable. Just about the only times she allowed 
as how she would eat what I had prepared again,
 and I knew I had passed muster when she would say, 
"you could make that again" would be those times when
 I had concocted some crazy things that absolutely would
 NOT be being made again simply because there was no possible 
way  I could recall exactly what I had done.
 Oh, that was also during the time when I was into pork tenderloin 
It's the other white meat!
 It's good for you! 
I never did concieve of a way to disguise it enough
 so that it could earn a, 
"you could make that again."
Who knew, good old meatloaf would win that distinction. Probably
because she dubbed it "The Giant Hamburger" and Rossella
 did love herself a good hamburger.  
We could visit all the psychological damage done to me spending
 a year with a teenager who didn't like my cooking.
 That's me, remember, 
the one who shows you I love you with my food? 
Of course I didn't feel she was rejecting me personally
 when she rejected my lovin' from the oven. 
Wait, I said we *could* visit that time, which implies we *won't*.

I do have one more thought on the subject of Meatloaf.
Michael called the other day and asked for
 "The Luehr Family"
recipe for meatloaf. That got me thinking, 
that didn't start out as the Luehr meatloaf. 
It was my mother's, it was The Peterson Meatloaf. 
But was it her mother's?
Was it The Osborne Meatloaf? 
And at what point do our lives become our children's traditions?
Hmmm, makes you want to be a little careful :o)

Sunday, September 12, 2010
The adventure begins!
I promised you a recap of the nights festivities and in an effort to be a woman of my word,
 here you go!
What a way cool idea for a "grown up" get together.
My friend The Reluctant Entertainer would love this one!
Our hosts, The Ellis', reserved the site along with a couple of tables. They also provided hot dogs, condiments, S'mores fixings and long skewers for the roasting of food stuffs. The farm provides the fire wood and keeps the fire stoked throughout the evening.
 There must have been 20 (?) campfires around.
There was a mix of ages, Lyn and Scott having invited their friends
along with their son inviting his friends.
I love it that our kids are old enough now that they actually enjoy being in our company! You wind up with a great mix of interests. While I was VERY happy to sit by the campfire and enjoy a glass of wine and just dabble in the whole *corn maze* thing,
 the 20 somethings were all psyched for attacking 11 miles of
corn maze and accumulating all 24 hole punches to prove their having conquered it!
Lyn had a prize for the winners,
 Gummy brains and candy corn, good thinking Lyn!
What a fun and unique idea for a party.
 It leaves me wondering, what other traditionally thought of kids'
 activity could lend themselves to some grown up fun?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Amazing Mini Corn Loaves

Corn Maze Cookout
Any party invite an adult gets that says
"bring a flashlight and your own bottle"
has got Winner Party written all over it!

I'm so excited to go (just wish I had thought of it!)
The hosts are providing the hot dogs and condiments.
Attendees have been instructed to bring aforementioned flashlight
and bottle, along with a lawn chair, muddy shoes,
and a dish to pass.
The fun starts at 7:30 which in this neck of the woods
is just about dusk.
Can you imagine a corn field full of *happy*
adults in the mud with flashlights?
I AM SO bringing my camera!

So, not to be cannibalistic or anything,
but I have decided to bring mini corn bread loaves.
Carol is bringing a corn salad.
Is there a theme running here?
How will all our *digestive tracks* be in the morning?
You know we can't be the only two with this bright idea.

I experimented and I want to share.
I started with two boxes of Jiffy corn muffin mix.
I added the 2 eggs, 1/3 cup milk and then 1/3 cup
sour cream instead of more milk. I chopped up one serrano pepper,
and note to all, they say to take a little taste of a pepper
before you put it in your recipe to check for the heat.
Good idea but, hey have a glass of milk close by, them buggers can get HOT!
I tossed in some roasted corn for, as Ina would say, "depth of flavor"
and a bit of grated chedder cheese.
I mixed some sugar and corn meal together and topped each loaf with the mix
before I cooked them.
It worked!

Ok, I'll keep you posted on the outcome of the festivities!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Tale of Two Cities

Or, rather, two chillies, one city

I have long been intrigued by the sound of "Cincinnati Chili"
and decided that since September and, apparently fall, have decided
to descend on us all at once I would take the opportunity
to explore the world of (or should that be *city* of) Cincinnati chili.
I have found a few "recipe" sites that have proved to be pretty trustworthy,
or at least I haven't downloaded a pizza night rescue yet.
For this recipe I used
My friend, Lynne, makes a Cincinnati chili and looked over the ingredients
and noted that her recipe does not call for the beef stock
or cloves. That's right, I said cloves!
She made her version last night and we are trading samples of
each to one another (hence the two chilies).
As best I can tell, the things that set Cincinnati chili apart from the rest,
aside from the obvious, that it is served over pasta, are the spices.
This recipe had such a perfect ratio of spices that you really
could taste each one without any one overpowering the rest.
Way cool when you consider those spices are:
bay leaf
cayenne pepper
wait for it
It was very good and actually quite easy.
I think it would really lend itself to be made
with ground turkey or soy crumbles because the flavors were so vibrant.
This one is a keeper.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Statement from our Sponsor

Ok, I love
*the living is easy*
But how excited am I to start cooking the good old
cold weather
just sayin'.....
I now return you to your regular

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookie Stuffed Cupcake

Oh, yes you CAN!!

I'm not sure who, but one of my food blogging friends turned me on to this site:
I made these cupcakes during my cooking extravaganza at
Shanna's house this weekend.
Side note, she's doing way better and is so thankful for all
the prayers sent up for her.
Her mom is thankful too :o)
There is not a healthy thing involved in these and
I believe that is how is should be.
Don't make them every day and don't eat them all yourself.
Use the sour cream.
the pudding,
the 4! eggs,
the oil.
But, here's the one place I did deviate from the recipe,
do you really want to make cupcakes practically from scratch
and THEN make chocolate chip cookie dough?
Yeah, me either, here is where this post earns its keep:
use refrigerated cookie dough!
Worked just great. Also, just because I was doing so much
cooking and had a pretty extensive shopping list, I used all Aldi
products and they were delicious.
Sometimes I worry that the quality of some of those
non-brand named products may not be up to snuff but in this case,
all was good.