Jan 022014
 

I made this for New Year’s Eve – going to be on regular rotation now. SO good!

Jalapeño Popper Dip

Jalapeño Popper Dip

Ingredients

16 oz. cream cheese
1 cup mayonnaise
6 jalapeños, chopped and deseeded
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup bread crumbs (or crushed Ritz)

Directions

Let cream cheese soften at room temp. for about 10 minutes. Combine cream cheese, mayo, and jalapeños in a bowl and stir (or beat) until smooth. Add the grated cheeses, reserving 1/4 c. of the cheddar; mix well. Sprinkle bread crumbs over, then sprinkle on the remainder of the cheddar cheese. Put in an oven-safe dish and bake at 350 degrees until golden and bubbly.

Jalapeño Popper Dip

May 182013
 

I like to order things online. It’s so much easier to comparison shop, read reviews, place the order, and find it on your doorstep soon after. I know, I know, the mom and pop are suffering from the ability to order online (specifically Amazon), but it saves me time and money.

Like I said in the last post, I’ve been blending up my coffee with cream and coconut oil. I was drinking it without blending it, but blending it makes it much tastier. But using my stick blender is pretty time-intensive on a short morning before work, so I ordered this – IKEA Produkt Milk Frother. It was less than $10 and eligible for Amazon Prime, and it had good reviews. And I didn’t have to leave the house to order it.

Low and behold, a few days later I came home from work to these two packages (one from Bath & Body Works, and one envelope).

The frother was in the envelope, nestled inside the box. No instructions, no batteries, just a very light-feeling frother.

Much smaller than the stick blender I’ve been using. Don’t get me wrong, I love my stick blender. I first used one when making soap, but then got one for making food. Lovely appliance. But taking it out and cleaning it was too much for me.

So, we had to put it to the test. Before blending (cream and coconut oil).

Here I am using the frother. It’s very quiet and feels like it is doing nothing. Sal took pictures for me while I frothed away. Much like the larger stick blender, it can make quite a mess, if you’re not careful. Using both of these blenders takes me back to my soapmaking days. Emulsifying the oils and the lye…

Here we are finished.

It’s not bad. Much more convenient than dragging out the stick blender, but also not as powerful. I definitely like to froth up even a simple cup of coffee and cream, or tea and cream. Blended, not stirred. It makes a difference.

All in all, I like my little frother. Was a worthwhile purchase. It certainly does the job, and I’m glad I ordered it. It’s been fun already making drinks for the kids.

Here was my Bath & Body Works delights. Mostly old scents that you can’t get in the stores, Sun Ripened Raspberry, Country Apple, but also a Coconut(something). They had free shipping plus a percent off, which made it a deal. And I didn’t have to leave the house or use my gas to get it. Yay me.

Oct 102012
 

The temperatures are falling. The leaves are falling. It is impossible for me not to be in the kitchen baking with apples, pumpkins, spices. Simmering soups, pasta sauces.

It’s  therapeutic for me.

I’m pretty well stocked in the freezers, both upstairs and down. Stocking the freezer, then using it up can be therapeutic for me, too.
I see dollar bills when I’m able to tuck something in the freezer for later.

Monday I received another vegetable offering from Gramma Marge (yes, there was more eggplant); I baked part of it (the eggplant – more on that in another post), then chopped and froze the green peppers, adding to my freezer abundance. I still need small staples here and there, like milk or eggs, but I feel like I should be able to “shop the freezer” a bit over the next few days.
I refuse to go shopping this week.

Monday was baked eggplant.
Tuesday, spaghetti leftover from the eggplant, while using up 3 chicken breasts from the freezer. Yesterday I baked.
Wednesday is still in contemplation mode.

Back to baking. I found this recipe for Delightful Apple Spiced Scones with Spiced Glaze. I had all of the ingredients on hand, save the second apple and the buttermilk. But I still had some homemade applesauce dying to get used up and a great desire to bake something that smelled like fall.

I replaced the buttermilk with soured milk (milk with lemon juice – or vinegar added to), and used only one apple (skin on). Somewhere along the line I did something wrong, though. I got to the step where you combine everything and “stir until just moist” – that’s where things looked weird. My kneading was more like playing with something the consistency of oatmeal. What really kept coming to mind was the diaper contents of a baby transitioning to solids. But anyway.

I plopped the mess on my prepared pan, unable to score the scones, but not declaring disaster… yet.

The oven worked its magic on my ploppy mess, filling the house with aromas of fall – just what I wanted the boys to come home from school to.

Looked salvageable. It was very moist. I cut it into 18 pieces, and dredged them through the delicious glaze.
It was very moist, not making for an easy task.
The twins dug in immediately.

Sal thought they were good, Franny said good – but less (or no) apple next time.
I set a piece out for myself, warmed some coffee, and sat down to savor a bite.

The flavor was good, the texture… well, I was hoping for something a bit drier and less cake-like.
Since my photos don’t quite match (in the kneading stage), I’m figuring something went wrong in my process.

Today is my day off. Wednesdays are nice that way.
I’ll be doing loads of laundry, dusting, and cleaning. Visiting the doctor (hatehatehate, but a day off is a good day to do it), making dinner – still have to figure that one out, and keeping myself busy so that I’m not tempted to shop. It isn’t that I’m a shopoholic or anything. We’re working on paying our bills down, and I want as much money as possible going to that. With a full freezer, I figure I can lean on that more and keep out of the grocery store.

We shall see.

Jun 292012
 

I’ve taken a million pictures and have a ton of recipes to share, but little time to whip these posts up. As I’ve gone through the past few weeks of events and trying new things around the house, I’ll snap a picture or scratch a note down for things I want to blog about; the pile is high. As I surf around and look at blog after blog of picture plump tutorials, recipes, daily activities… I can’t help but wonder how everyone finds the time. Not only the time but – does the food go to waste sometimes during these blogazine post tutorials (’cause every “blog post” is now a “tutorial” yanno – yes, please show me how you scoop sugar from a container, would you, I need to know)?  I’m probably over-thinking it, but whatever.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE the internet and its vast amount of free knowledge and entertainment. But, the more I surf, the more I notice assimilation. In the striving to be different than, there is a lot more of becoming the same as. Words, photos, catch phrases… it is interesting. I’m not saying I’m immune, either. It seeps in your veins like an acquired accent (give me 10 minutes in a room with a Southerner and I come out with a drawl). It’s kind of like a hairstyle. People see, people like, people get the same haircut. I guess with a million restaurants, you can still eat your cheeseburger wherever you want, depending where you like on how they make it.

I know I’m bit of an old soul (or old crow), but–and maybe I’ve said this before–things ’round the internet ain’t the same, friend!

Back to those popsicles. One thing about this whole “everyone’s alike” thing is that I don’t have to feel so badly about not taking gorgeous magazine-ready photos while I’m running around like a headless chicken in my kitchen. I get to present with this:

(taken from Franny’s cellphone: L-Chocolate Mocha, R-Avocado Coconut)

Want sexy popsicle? Google images will do ya. My contribution is half-eaten pop and a shaky hand.

My mom made frozen treats all the time. Blendings of kool-aid, yogurts, and sometimes she’d just straight up freeze a banana on a stick and call it a day. I can’t say that I ever really liked any of the frozen popsicles she made (sorry mom). Part of that might have been that they were all sugar-free, or that they were always just a frozen version of a liquid, never tailored to the process. Over the years I’ve gone on popsicle-making binges, the molds always collecting dust and going to the trash bin after  a while. A few weeks ago I was shopping at Marshalls and came across some fun looking molds and it sparked a desire to make them again.

Original yummy recipe from wonderfuljoyahead.com. I very much like this recipe. I collected a few others, but wanted to make this particular one. I also had one for Mocha pops, which Franny preferred to try, but it called for heavy cream and some other high-calorie additions that I didn’t want to dive into. So I compromised with this:

MOCHA FUDGE POP RECIPE

This made 3 pops plus 2 3-oz. mini cups for me. I like having the mini cups (Solo or Dixie) and some sticks for the extra batter. They are the perfect size if you’re just wanting a taste.

INGREDIENTS
2 1/2 T (approx 25 grams) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 C. sugar
1 T. cornstarch
1 1/2 T. unsweetend cocoa powder
1 1/4 C. whole milk
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 T. instant coffee (I did not measure this, but am guessing)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 T. unsalted butter

Add coffee to milk and stir to mix. Don’t worry if it doesn’t completely mix in. Over very low heat, melt the chocolate chips in a medium saucepan, stirring constantly. Stir in the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and cocoa powder. Add milk in 1/2 cup increments, stirring constantly. Turn heat up to medium once all the milk is added. Cook about 5-10 minutes, until the mixture coats the spoon well and turns to a thin pudding consistency.

Remove the pan from the heat, add the vanilla, and butter. Stir to combine. Let cool for a bit, and then pour into your molds. Wait until it’s fully frozen, at least 3 hours.

These were yummy. You could taste the fudge and the coffee.

Onto the AVOCADO COCONUT POPS. These are my favorite. I may have screwed the recipe up a bit or stumbled upon brilliance (I think I forgot to boil the sugar/water – at least on the first batch). I honestly do not know how I can jumble up a popsicle recipe? Maybe this is two recipes in one. Regardless, these bad boys are t-t-tasty. Original recipe here. Please don’t compare it with what I’ve done because clearly I went wildly amiss.

AVOCADO COCONUT POP RECIPE

Ingredients

  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup sugar (the 2nd batch I made with 1/2 cup sugar… see note below)
  • 1 avocado (pitted and peeled)
  • Pinch of salt
  • the juice of 1 lime (or about 2T. lime juice)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
Mix all ingrediants using a blender (I used an immersion blender). Be sure to mix well. Pour into molds. Freeze and enjoy (5 hours later). I took the suggestion of the fudge pop recipe and replaced the vanilla with mint in this avocado recipe in the second batch. YUM.
Notes: You can use small cups, easily. Just pour in, top with a piece of foil or plastic wrap and put the stick through that (the foil or wrap holds the stick in place). I found that poking a small hole prior to putting the wrap on made the stick insertion easier. Keep in mind if you use foil and are making more than one flavor, you’ll want to mark the flavor on the stick (the part that is sticking out) so you know what you’re getting into before you unwrap it. A lot of recipes will tell you to freeze the pops for x amount of hours, then insert the stick, but I just don’t have the attention span to babysit my popsicles. So I wrap and insert.
I didn’t notice a huge difference with lowering the sugar in the avocado pops. That’s kind of a flavor choice thing. Sal wanted (literally) avocado popsicles. “These are sweet!” He said, disgusted. This is the kid who now freezes straight up milk for his popsicles.
Yeah. Freezing liquids (gatorade, 7-up and cherry juice) has now become an obsession around the house. I can think of worse.

May 262012
 

I have to make this. Must.

Maple Bacon Biscuits

{via Pintrest, photo and recipe from Our Family Food Adventures}

My family is pretty good about trying new things and eating whatever it is I make and I am fortunate to be able to experiment with new recipes, since it is something I truly find joy in. I think they enjoy my experiments, too, which makes it all the better. I do, however, have an over abundance of recipes – something that I’m trying to sift through. I have two binders full, plus a box, plus oodles of books. Nobody needs that many recipes. As I sort through what I’ve collected, I’ve found some old standards, some that I’d like to try, and some that I can toss. It is a substantial task, though, and one that won’t be finished anytime soon (especially since it is a work in progress, ever growing).

The more I surf the internet, though, the more I find versions of something I’ve already clipped. I guess there’s only so many ways to make macaroni and cheese (a recipe that I have at least a dozen versions of). It is inspiring to see new twists on old, updates on standards. My favorite recipes are ones that someone has graciously shared that has been passed down from another generation, or from a friend. Those are true treasures.

Apr 092012
 

I love to bake. I love to eat baked goods. I shouldn’t eat an abundance of baked goods. So, I take advantage of baking for others. We had a wrestling banquet a bit ago, and along with a big batch of cookies (I make them every year), I decided to try a new recipe. I went to one of my favorite recipe sites (AllRecipes.com) and found these: Caramel Bars. The bars had good reviews, easy enough to make, and sounded delicious. I dove into my day of baking with gusto. There’s nothing like warming the house with time spent creating deliciousness in the kitchen (this was back in February, so the days were still cool).

I took pictures.

The cookie dough I made the day before and let it marinate in its own goodness overnight, ready for baking the next day.

Talk to me about not eating raw cookie dough.

Ready for oven-lovin’…

A couple batches down (and many more to go).

Caramel bars. I doubled the recipe and made them on a large sheet pan.

Wheezy was playing outside, but came in hoping for a nibble.

And the Money Shot. See, I’m from a time when blogging was blogging (or journaling), and pictures were snapped, rarely edited; raw. Real. Sometimes you got lucky and your photo turned out pretty smooth, but mostly, it was just a simple picture. Now, visit (some of the most popular) blog sites and the pictures look professional, photo-shopped, glossed, and blurred. No child has faulty hair or skin, no food tainted by an unsightly scorch. I hate it. I prefer the ugly blog, the less-than-perfect pictures, the blog that feels like I fell upon an open journal, blemishes and all. I know, with the ease of digital dumping, and fancy cameras, it is almost impossible to take a bad shot. But I also know they are still out there.

This is semi-jokingly taken. It’s a decent shot, but the layers of mini waxed paper separating each bar is a copycat of the gazillion photos out there of sweet treats that just happen to be adorned with fancy papers, ribbons and glitter, all appearing to have fallen out of the oven along with the food. I wasn’t energetic enough to add colors, balloons, glitter and an adorable child with manicured hands, smiling in the background. But picture it in your head, mmmkay?

They didn’t really cut so well, so we had a few “rejects” to munch on. More than a few.

Recipe for Caramel Bars:

Continue reading »

Feb 272012
 

We had Homemade Pizza Night twice last week. I would feel… guilty, if I ordered pizza out twice. Every time we order pizza out, it is never less than $25 and sometimes more than $45. For special occasions, that’s fine, but when we can make it at home for much less, that’s a better choice for us. My home pizza-making adventures are generally sporadic, though, it took the first try to get my groove back on. By the second time, I was doing quite well.

 

I was very happy with how this last batch turned out, and the family approved. I had the time to mix up the dough and let it sit, so there was no pressure there. Frank made chicken wings, I made pizza. We feasted without breaking the bank. I prefer to purchase bulk cheese at a decent price, otherwise I’m scrambling to find cheese on sale and it can get pricey quickly. I had a large bag of cheese from Costco, and was able to squeeze two pizza-making nights out of it. I also had pepperoni on hand, onions, banana peppers. What I didn’t have was sausage and anchovies, which we picked up at the store. I didn’t have to, but it was a “treat” for us.

Here is the recipe I used to make 3 large, 16-inch pizzas:

INGREDIENTS
4.5 tsp. dry yeast (I used rapid rise)
4 tsp. sugar
1 cup water + 1 cup beer (warmed, about 110 degrees)
4 cups flour* (I used unbleached, all-purpose)
2 tsp. salt
4 T. olive oil (a friend of mine swears by lard for the fat – he makes a great crust, too)

METHOD

1.) Add sugar to the warmed water (stir – it will bubble, so make sure you have some head room). Add yeast (stir – it will foam so mind that head room… this all worked fine in my 2-cup glass Pyrex). Let sit about 10 minutes until foamy and creamy.

2.) Mix flour and salt in mixing bowl (I used my KitchenAid – start with mixing paddle). Add yeast water. While mixing, add olive oil. Change to hook. Mix about 10 minutes. *Sprinkle a bit more flour over, if it is too sticky. I tend to need about 1/4 cup extra during this step. The dough will be sturdy and kind of sticky. Now it needs to sit for a while. I remove mine to a bowl coated lightly with olive oil turning the dough to coat. Cover and let rise for about 30 minutes somewhere warm.

3.) Grab a hunk (about 1/3 of the dough) and go at it on a lightly floured surface. Again, add more flour (sparingly), if you need to. Roll it out, and use your hands to shape a pizza. Add toppings and bake in a 425-450 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes.

How I do it? I roll mine and use my hands. We have a pizza pan (a flat, circular pan with holes in it) that I use. Pizza stones don’t work well for me. I brush some oil on one side of the dough, put that side down on the pan and shape it a bit more. Add sauce and toppings. Put it in the oven for 10 minutes. After it is sturdy enough, I slide the pizza off the pan directly onto the rack for another 10 minutes. When done, I use the pan to remove it from the oven again. Cut and serve. Yum.

I also made the sauce by taking a can of chopped tomatoes, a clove of garlic, some olive oil, salt and sugar. Take about 1T. of OO, heat in a pan, add the peeled garlic clove. Heat it up a little, but don’t burn it. Add a can of chopped tomatoes. Simmer the entire time you’re busy making the pizza. (I added about 1-2 T. tomato paste, too.) When the dough was ready, I pureed 1/2 fresh tomato in my ABSOLUTELY MOST FAVORITE APPLIANCE EVER FOOD CHOPPER, added the sauce and pureed that, too, stirred in about 1tsp. sugar and that was my sauce. I really like a fresh-tasting sauce, and not too terribly much of it.

Nov 052011
 

I love my McCormick California Style Garlic Powder. I do, I do. I use it as my go-to garlic powder (I skip garlic salt and if a recipe calls for garlic salt I add garlic powder and salt). I use it as the base for my homemade pizza topping. It has a coarser grind and splash of flavor/color from the parsley.

But I also like to simplify. I like to make things myself if I can. Not to mention, whenever I’d buy the McCormick kind, I’d be spending more money than I cared to spend. So, I made it myself.

Pretty simple ingredients, both of which I purchased bulk-size from Costco (which sells some McCormick, if you like that kind). You can see in the picture that I used “California” garlic, which has a bit of a coarser grind.

For the price of two bottles of the store-bought kind, I can make about 2-3x as much of the mixture (and have enough parsley to use for at least 6 more). The ratio I used was about 3:1 garlic to parsley. But you can tweak to your desire. I have made it with regular-grind garlic as well and it did fine, but I prefer the coarse grind. Works for me!

Nov 202010
 

More baking. Love to bake, need to learn how to avoid eating so much. Four boys and a husband should be able to do that deed for me.

Today I made this: Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread from AllRecipes.com.

Ingredients

* 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
* 4 eggs
* 1 cup vegetable oil
* 2/3 cup water
* 3 cups white sugar
* 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
* 2 teaspoons baking soda
* 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
* 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour three 7×3 inch loaf pans.
2. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.
3. Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

I used my pumpkin puree from yesterday. Ooh-la-la. My plans were to make the bread and have Frank take it to Franny’s soccer party. Plan was good. The boys gobbled down slices of the bread before I could even get them arranged on the plate. I put the kabosh on that. And then Frank forgot the nicely (not really, but we’ll pretend) arranged platter behind when he left.

Whatever. I get an “E” for Effort.

Here’s the review I left of the bread. If I were feeling less lazy I would have taken a picture and wrote up a little more here, but… eh.

I make pumpkin bread every year, and wanted to try something new. So glad I tried this one. It is SUPER yummy. Here’s a couple things worth mentioning:

1.) I made mine using 2 loaf pans, 9×5 I believe.
2.) I added about 1.5 cups of milk chocolates at the end, after everything was mixed.
3.) My toothpick NEVER came out clean. Even after 60 minutes. I cooked them about 65 minutes then took them out, letting them cool on a wire rack in the pan. I removed them about 20 minutes later.

I was very fearful they would be a gooey mess, but they were not. Moist in the middle, and yummy.

The only thing I might do different is try to go a little lower on the sugar, but based on the raves from family, maybe I’ll leave well enough alone.

Tastes good with chili. And wine.

Rating:

Nov 192010
 

In making my Pumpkin Dump Cakes, I found myself continually amazed a the price of canned pumpkin. Nearly a dollar and a half for a small can seemed steep to me. Now that Thanksgiving is a little closer, I’ve found them for about .99/can, but, being the happy homemaker that I am, I decided to go through the process of preparing and freezing fresh pumpkin myself. I don’t even really know why I felt it necessary to go through, but I am a curious woman.

I wish I could remember how much my pie pumpkins were. I think they were about .99/each, but I really can’t honestly say. I’ll have to check the prices next time I’m at the store. My real experiment in this case was only partial cost-curiosity.

I decided that I would prepare my pumpkins in the crockpot rather than the oven. I got out my big crock to do this and quickly realized that they weren’t going to fit. I took the pumpkins out and left them on the counter. Days later I had a brilliant idea: do them one by one in the smaller crockpot. Aha! Momma didn’t raise no fool.

Since I have a habit lately of throwing things in the crockpot before bedtime, (beans mostly, to freeze and use) last night with nothing to throw in I looked at my two pumpkins. Plop! In went one.

I set it on its side, poured in about 1 cup of water and put the pot on low, brushed off my hands and walked away.

Prewashed, fear not.

(Notice crazy hair reflected in the lid?)

The next morning I have to say the pumpkin smelled pretty darn good. It was a nice aroma to wake to. Since it had been about 8 hours, maybe 9, I wondered if the pumpkin was ready. The outside didn’t get soft like I thought I would. A fork test didn’t work. A quick jab with a butcher knife didn’t work. A more forceful stab with the knife and I was in like slim.

I didn’t save the seeds for this one. I probably should have, but I was lazy and not really “feeling” the whole pumpkin seed thing. If I really wanted to get my bang for my buck I would have, though.

I took a stickblender to it after gutting it out to puree it, and then put it in the fridge.

I’ve read you’re supposed to let it sit overnight to drain any liquid, and then you can freeze it. In eyeballing I’d guess there’s about as much puree in one pumpkin as there is in the can (or maybe 1.5 cans worth), but I haven’t confirmed that yet. Going to weigh it tomorrow and see if it comes out to 15oz. I suppose I’ll have to make some pumpkin bread with it, too, just to try it out yanno.

Update: Pumpkin #1 was about 15oz. right on the nose. So 1 pumpkin = 1 can of pumpkin

If I were making multiple pumpkins, it would have been better to just stoke up the oven, but this was an easy fix-and-forget method that I would definitely use again.