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Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas Cookies #1 - Pecan Sandies

I love Christmas cookies! These pecan sandies are so easy, you will have no stress and all smiles putting them together. Better yet, get the kids in on it! 

1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Powdered sugar for decorating

Cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla, flour, and pecans, stir until well combined into a stiff dough. (I used my hands for that step - easier!) Chill for half an hour. Preheat oven to 350. Divide dough into 12 portions and roll each portion into a ball, flatten slightly with your hands, and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then roll in powdered sugar or dust the tops. 
More cookies to come. Enjoy. :)


Friday, August 9, 2013

Easy AND Yummy Vegan Chili

In addition to being easy and yummy, this chili is very inexpensive to make and it's also very healthy.

1 Tbsp olive oil or canola oil
1 onion, chopped
1 cup frozen corn
1 15oz can black beans
1 15oz can diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste, optional

Heat the oil in a pot and cook the onion until it starts to turn translucent. Add the corn and cook until heated through. Add the beans, tomatoes, cumin, oregano, and cayenne if desired. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes stirring occasionally; if it gets too thick, put a lid on. If it's not thick enough, cook it longer. Top with cheese and sour cream. (unless you're vegan. :)

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Perfect Indoor Cookout

I love my apartment! The only thing missing is a yard...or a porch...or a balcony. Basically, no outdoor space whatsoever. Not to worry! With a few handy kitchen hacks (and a gas stove), you can bring the outdoors to you!

Make a vegetable packet
Back in scouts, we would make up packets like this and throw them on the campfire. You can do the same with your gas range. For mine, I used a combination of quartered purple/white potatoes and a chopped onion. I added 1 Tbsp olive oil, then some salt, pepper, and herbs. Wrap your veggies up TIGHT using 2-3 layers of foil. You can cook this right over the stove for 25-30 minutes, turning halfway through.



Grill meat in a grill pan just like you would on the grill...
For added ambiance, wear an apron and use a coozy!


























Just for fun, you can use Christmas lights as regular lights. Candles are nice too. Your cat can help with any additional prep work; they're very good at helping.



















     I like to keep it seasonal and use bright colors. Of course, the important part is the taste! With a little imagination and a lot of love, you can throw a perfect outdoorsy cookout in your own kitchen.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Lovely Lasagna

This lasagna is a real crowd pleaser; it's not messy, and it doesn't contain ricotta. I came up with it because I wanted a nice traditional Italian lasagna, but I wanted the result to be firm and sliceable. Adding the eggs to the traditional bechamel works wonders.

The ragu:
2lbs ground beef
1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 14.5oz cans diced tomatoes
2 6oz cans tomato paste
2 cups water
2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
Crushed red pepper to taste, optional

The bechamel:
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1 cup milk
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
dash of nutmeg
3 eggs

15 lasagna noodles
4 cups mozzarella cheese (or pizza blend)


Brown the ground beef and drain fat. Heat olive oil. Cook onion and garlic until they begin to turn translucent. Add browned beef, tomatoes, tomato paste, water, and seasonings. Allow sauce to simmer for an hour.
To make bechamel, melt butter in a saucepan and stir in flour. Allow this to cook down for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Slowly stir in milk and seasonings. Cook sauce until thickened, then remove from heat and allow to cool COMPLETELY before beating in eggs.
Cook lasagna noodles as directed. You will need 12 for assembly, but cooking 15 allows room for mess-ups.
Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9x13 baking dish. Assemble lasagna as follows, using 4 noodles for each pasta layer:
Ragu, pasta, ragu, cheese, bechamel, pasta, ragu, cheese, bechamel, pasta, thin layer of ragu, cheese.
Bake covered for 20 minutes then uncovered for 20 minutes.


(special thanks to miss Techno for helping me blog.)



Sunday, June 16, 2013

Potato-Tomato Bake with Sausage

This one's a keeper. It's made like Au Gratin Potatoes except with a chunky tomato sauce instead of creamy cheese sauce. You can add cheese if you like, remove the sausage and you have a hearty vegan dish. Serve as a side or as a meal with a salad. Me? I served it with fresh baked bread and vegetable pasta for Sunday dinner. :)



Grease a good sized baking dish and preheat oven to 375. 
Take 2-3 potatoes and slice them into thin rounds with a mandoline or knife. Place the slices in a bowl of water so they don't brown. Also, slice up a small onion.
Place a layer of spaghetti sauce or seasoned diced tomatoes in the bottom of the dish. This would work very well. Add a layer of potato slices, a layer of onion, and a layer of Italian sausage (raw or cooked, mine was raw and it added a nice flavor). Add another layer of potatoes, then another layer of sauce. Top with Italian breadcrumbs and bake for 1 hour covered, 30-45 minutes uncovered. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Cookie's Marinara Sauce

My alter ego's nickname is Cookie.
Why Cookie? Because she's Cookie the cook, and her friends are Drunkie the drunk, Studdie the stud, and DJ-ee the DJ. 
She thinks she's an Italian-American socialite. 
Any good Italian-American Sunday dinner needs good bread, red wine, and a nice homemade marinara sauce.

Cookie's Marinara
1/4 cup olive oil
2-3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 15oz cans diced tomatoes
2 15oz cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 cup red wine
Up to 1 Tbsp crushed red pepper, optional




Heat the oil in a large pot. Sweat the garlic and onion. Add remaining ingredients and simmer uncovered for 1 hour, stirring occasionally and breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. 
Mangia. :)





















To make true Sunday gravy, simply add sausage/meatballs/porkbone/ meat etc... ;)



Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Clean Food Rundown

Hello all!
I just want to highlight a few of the meals I made this week. The rules: No white starch, no refined sugar, no additives. I focused on green vegetables and whole grains, and I didn't skimp on the olive oil. And yes, 7 days in, I feel amazing. 2 days to go.

1 - Brown rice with greens, spinach salad with homemade apple cider vinaigrette, cranberry tea
2 - Spinach and onion omelete with a side of mango and honey
3 - Memorial Day cookout fare; lentil patty, vinegar slaw, broccoli casserole
4 - Chinese food! Vegetable lo mein with fried rice
5 - Wheat pasta with spinach, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, and olive oil
6 - Lentil and quinoa chili soup
7 - Tilapia and brown rice "sushi"
8 - Spinach salad with boiled egg, raisins, carrots, onion, and homemade vinaigrette
9 - Herbal tea, Home Stretch Soup (split peas, lentils, cabbage, onion, carrot, brown rice, quinoia, garlic, ginger, cayenne pepper, homemade chicken stock)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

***Detox Hiatus***

Hello friends!
For the next 9 days, I will be eating clean; no white starch, no white sugar, no alcohol. I am cooking up some nice things, cranberry tea, brown rice with greens, stuff like that. I will probably blog most of this later on, but be patient, your old favorites will be back in June. :)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mouthwatering Potato Salad

I never do the same thing twice when making potato salad. Little mayo, little mustard, cut up some celery and pickles, boom.
...That is, I never used to do the same thing, but after discovering this combination, I will use it from now on. I just finished making some potato salad to go with hamburgers later, and holy cow, it's so good I just have to write it down.
The shallots, tarragon vinegar, and whole grain mustard are what make it so special. Trust me, these things only sound expensive. Tarragon vinegar can be pricey, but it takes a while to go through; I've had mine for a year or so.
Now, this may not me the way your mom told you to do the potatoes and eggs. If you have a method you're used to for boiling them, by all means use it. Otherwise, just trust me.

Mouthwatering Potato Salad
serves ... a lot, probably like 8 or 10? We like leftover potato salad. :)

4 cups potatoes, cut into large chunks and cubes
2 eggs*
1 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp whole grain mustard
2 Tbsp yellow mustard
1 Tbsp tarragon vinegar
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions and shallots (i.e. the entirety of the green onion)
1/3 cup chopped pickles
2 large celery stalks, chopped
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste


*Just to be clear, we are making hard boiled eggs. Do not crack the eggs. Just put them in the water.

Add cubed potatoes and eggs to a large pot of cold water. Bring to a boil and boil for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the dressing. Combine the rest of the ingredient list in a bowl, and stir to combine.
After 15 minutes of boiling, immediately transfer eggs into cold water. Drain potatoes and rinse with cold water. As soon as you can handle the eggs, peel and chop them, then stir them into the dressing. Gently fold in the potatoes. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours before serving.



Sunday, May 12, 2013

Stuffed Chayote with Salsa Verde

This morning, I went to my local Mexican grocery to pick up some fresh produce. I didn't have a plan, I wanted to get stuff for salad and 1 or 2 exotic things that I hadn't worked with before.
Those items ended up being tomatillos (right rear) and chayote (center). I also got scallions and a bundle of cilantro; I've grown cilantro on my window and also used the dried kind before, but now that I know Tienda Morelos has bundles for 79 cents, I'll buy that from now on.
Cooked chayote has a mild flavor, somewhere between a zucchini and a pear.





Tomatillos are most commonly used in salsa verde, so I decided to make some. I started by dry roasting the tomatillos along with some garlic. You can dry roast vegetables by placing

them skin-on in a dry iron skillet turning occasionally until the vegetable is cooked and the skin is dotted with brown/black blisters. This took about 20 minutes.

To make the salsa:
In the food processor, combine unpeeled roasted tomatillos, peeled roasted garlic, 2 chopped scallions, 1-2 jalapenos, a big handful of fresh cilantro, 1 Tbsp lime juice, and a pinch of sugar. Pulse until it reaches desired consistency; you can make it rustic and chunky or blend it smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

To make the stuffed chayote:
Slice the chayote longways and boil the halves for 30 minutes. Don't touch the goo that comes out when you cut it, I hear it causes skin irritation. Remove boiled halves and allow to cool. Scoop out seed and discard. Scoop out flesh and blend with fillings of choice in a bowl, I used chili con queso. You can use all kinds of veggies, meats, cheeses, rice, use your imagination!
Preheat oven to 350.
Fill each half with some of the filling. Cover and bake for 25 minutes, uncover and cook for 5-10 minutes depending on whether or not you want a crispy top.
Serve with the salsa verde.
(I reserved some extra chili and served tortilla chips on the side.)





Saturday, May 11, 2013

Cinnamon Rolls for Dummies

Cooking catastrophes can be difficult to deal with, especially when you busted your butt making something. And especially when you're making it for other people. And ESPECIALLY when it's been bought and paid for by your best customer. 
Some of my readers know that I sling a little bread on the side, mostly for coworkers. My most famous and frequently bought item is my cinnamon rolls. I've made them a couple dozen times or more, and they are the fluffiest most flavorful cinnamon rolls you can buy for $10 a dozen. I pride myself on making them by hand, from scratch, with real butter icing. 
I had a system. My system was flawless. Why mess with perfection?
Moral of the story:
When you make the following recipe, please use a bowl to combine the dough ingredients. Resist the urge to make a flour mound on the counter, make a well in the center, and pour liquid into it. If you do that with the ratios I give you, you will have a wet sticky ball. You will add more and more and more flour until it stops being sticky, and in your haste, you will forget to add the salt. The dough will look fine, so you'll use it unbeknownst that it tastes terrible. Your husband will tell you that it tastes fine, and you will take the rolls to work. Unconvinced, you will ask your boss to have a bite because you trust her to be honest with you. She will take a bite and make a yuck face while shaking her head and saying "No...no.". You'll have to call your best customer, (and by the sound of his voice you woke him up) and offer him either a redo or a refund. You will take your inedible shame back home. Then, you will cry while your husband puts it out as food for the neighborhood fauna. 
Don't cry while your husband puts out food for the neighborhood fauna. 


~*~*~*~ My Famous Cinnamon Rolls: A step-by-step tutorial that anyone can follow ~*~*~*~

This recipe is for 2 dozen. You can halve it for a dozen, quarter it for a half dozen, or multiply it to feed an army if you want to.  The measurements are numbered the way they are so that it's easy to memorize. For example:
This is a "4-loaf" recipe. I am using 4x the ingredients it would take to make 1 loaf of French or Italian bread: 1c flour+, 1/2c water, 1 tsp salt, 1 heaping tsp yeast, 1 tsp sugar, 1 Tbsp oil (optional). For cinnamon rolls, I double the sugar and use vegetable oil instead of EVOO or nothing. Otherwise, it's roughly the same recipe I use for all my yeast breads. Once you master yeast breads, your possibilities are endless. 
Dough: 
4 cups sifted all-purpose flour* plus more for kneading
4 tsp salt
2 cups water between 90-105 degrees
8 tsp sugar (~3 Tbsp)
4 heaping tsp active dry yeast
4 Tbsp vegetable oil (1/4 cup)

*It's not the end of the world if you don't sift but it takes like 1 minute and it makes a difference in texture.

Combine the salt with the flour in a large bowl. You want a large bowl, since this dough will grow to be very large. 

Be sure your water is the right temperature. I recommend a thermometer; if you don't have one, the ideal temperature should feel like bathwater. I add the yeast and sugar to 1c water, then add the other cup to the dough after. Stir the sugar into the water, then the yeast. No matter what you've read about 'sprinkling yeast on top of water', don't be afraid to give it a good stir. This helps to activate everything. Let this mixture rest for 5 minutes; it should look like this:



Add the vegetable oil and water/yeast/sugar mix to the flour/salt mix. Stir with a rubber spatula until combined and turn out onto a floured surface: 




Let the dough rest for 5 minutes. 
Now, you have 5 minutes to kill! 
Why not do the dishes? You'll need your big bowl again anyway. 

Poof, I blow suds at you!


This was my mistake. I wanted to save time by not washing the giant bowl. This is why I tried to do it in a flour-well on the counter. 
Don't mess with success! 
EVER!




Knead the dough for 7-10 minutes, working in more flour as needed. Here's an old video of me kneading:
Let your dough rise in a well oiled bowl covered with a damp cloth for 1 hour.
You want a warm place; I recommend turning the oven on for 30 seconds then turning it off and letting the dough rise inside.
After the dough has risen, punch it down and divide it into 4 equal portions. 

The filling:
The jar on the right is a mix of cinnamon and sugar, roughly 2 parts sugar 1 part cinnamon. With each quarter of dough, spread it out into an 8x12 rectangle. Rub it with a layer of Crisco so the cinnamon-sugar has something to stick to. Sprinkle on about 1/4 cup of mixture and pat it down to cover the dough evenly. 
Now roll the dough into a log and cut it into 6 slices. Repeat with the other dough quarters.
Place those slices into  9x13 baking dishes as shown.
Allow these to rise covered for an hour, or overnight in the fridge. While these rise, you can make the icing!
For the icing:
You will need 1/2 a stick of butter,  about 4 cups of powdered sugar, 1/4 tsp vanilla extract, a shake of salt (this is LESS than a pinch, very little!) and  7-8 tablespoons of water, or as much as you need to get the desired consistency. 
Start with a microwave-safe dish that measures cups and holds at least 2 cups. I recommend a Pyrex glass measuring cup; every kitchen needs one! Melt the butter in the microwave. Stir in 2 cups of powdered sugar to combine. Add vanilla and salt. Then, alternate adding a little water and a little more sugar, whisking with a fork until smooth, until you have 2 cups of icing. It should be thicker than gravy but thinner than pudding. 
When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 425. 
Bake for 12-15 minutes or until tops start to brown. They will take longer if chilled, and times may vary depending on your oven. 
If you add the icing right away, it will soak in nicely but visually it might not look good. If you want picture pretty rolls, let them cool for 5 or 10 minutes before icing them. If the icing has been in the fridge, microwave it for 30 seconds or so and stir.

TA-DA!

Thanks for reading. Remember, our journey is the sum of our experiences.
 :) xo











Thursday, May 9, 2013

Confetti Frittata

Frittata is a beautifully versatile Italian egg dish. It's basically an open-faced omelette, and like an omelette, you can stuff it with anything you want. That's why mine is called 'confetti'. I stuffed my frittata with an assortment of leftovers; sausage and peppers, pasta, and broccoli.

Confetti Frittata
serves 4
4 eggs
2 Tbsp sour cream (or milk, or cream)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups of roughly chopped goodies (meats, veggies, anything you like!)
1/2 cup of your favorite shredded cheese









Turn on the broiler.
In a bowl, whisk eggs with sour cream, salt, pepper, and garlic powder until very well blended. Set aside.
In an oven-safe skillet, melt butter with olive oil. Cook your filling goodies for as long as you need to; if they are precooked, just cook them long enough to get them hot. Add egg mixture to pan. Cover and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes.
Sprinkle cheese on top and broil for 4-6 minutes.
(I like mine with a little sour cream and hot pepper sauce. :)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Melt-In-Your-Mouth Stuffed Pasta Shells

This is an easy recipe that's perfect for picky eaters. I wanted to do something Italian with the shells, but hubby hates ricotta and to be perfectly honest it's not my favorite. Don't get me wrong, I like ricotta, it's just...
Not my favorite.
I kept it very simple, using just 3 ingredients for the filling. When you bite into these, you get the heavenly sensation of cream cheese!

Melt-In-Your-Mouth Stuffed Pasta Shells
makes 4 meals or 8 appetizers
8oz cream cheese, softened
8oz shredded mozzarella
1 egg
16 jumbo pasta shells
Your favorite red sauce

Preheat oven to 350.
In a bowl, combine the cheese and egg. Cover and chill while you cook the pasta. Cook the shells per package directions, drain open side down on paper towels. Stuff each shell with about 2 Tbsp of your cheese filling.
Pour a 1-inch layer of sauce into a 9x13 glass baking dish. Lay the shells on top. Bake for 40 minutes covered, 10 minutes uncovered.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Top 10 Best Recipes of 2012

I occasionally look back over my old posts. Last year was a great year, but it had its problems; bad photography (still working on that), cliche overly simple recipes, confusing overly complicated recipes, etc. However, there are a few real diamonds in the rough. Let's reminisce together, shall we?


#10 Easy Burgers and Fries










Aww, baby's first post! Despite its generic simplicity, I like this one for many reasons. The step by step photo tutorial is adorable and the potato method is one I'm proud of. If there's one thing I hate, it's flipping over 30 or 40 burning hot little french fries halfway through cooking. Resting on the skins = even cooking, NO flipping!


#9 Potato Skins with Ham










Transform ordinary ham lunchmeat into bacon! ...Kinda! Crisp fried ham with liquid smoke is no substitute for real bacon but it's pretty good. I love the photograph, and these always take me back to football Sundays.


#8 Eggless Cranberry Coffee Cake












The picture doesn't do this dish justice. However, the flavor and texture were to die for. I designed this as a way to use up leftover cranberry sauce; I always have a TON at Thanksgiving. I shared this with friends and they raved about it, I think someone even pinned this on Pinterest.


#7 Caramel Lover's Cupcakes












These were fun to make. It was my first paid baking job, long before I started advertising. Who doesn't love a gooey caramel cupcake with white chocolate frosting?


#6 Turkey Stuffed Soft Pretzel Rolls










A true diamond in the rough, these came out practically perfect in every way during a time when so many of my breads didn't work. I have an open pack of hot dogs in the fridge right now...I might just have to make some pretzel dogs. This picture is making me want some. It's a good picture.


#5 Pantry Cleaning BBQ Chicken Pizza











Ah yes, the "Pantry Cleaning" series. It was fun but not as fun as Use It or Lose It. I like this recipe because it gives a better and more simple description of how to make pizza crust than Soft Crust Pizza. BBQ Chicken pizza is one of my all time favorites.


#4 Imitation Crab Cakes







I love these! Not only are they delicious, decadent, fancy, easy, and dirt cheap, !!! They bring me a lot of traffic from Google search. Imitation Crab Cakes is the second most common search term that brings people to my blog. Which brings us to...


#3 Bacon Wrapped Cheddar Brats









These babies have had more hits than anything else on the blog. Bacon Wrapped Cheddar Brats  is the most common search term that gets people here! I just wish I had taken a better picture!


#2 Craving Brownies











Oh baby. I have made these several times since posting. They're just the best brownies in the universe, you guys.


#1 Italian Bread






Step by step instructions that anyone can follow. Heck, there's even a 7 minute video of me kneading dough. I make this once or twice a week, of course now I don't need to look at a recipe.