One of "Those" Bloggers....

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For the past couple of weeks, I have turned into one of "those" bloggers. You know...the bloggers who take the time to update their own blog but do not go and visit all of the blogs of those who make comments. I really believe that it is important to frequent the blogs of those who frequent Dine and Dish. I love and appreciate your comments and I love your blogs...I so miss reading them, but life has been so hectic lately and to be frank with you, my need for at least a few hours of sleep at night is starting to take over.

Soon, very soon, things will slow down. In the meantime, can I make it up to you with chocolate? This was a rich and delicious cake...even better the next day after it had been in the fridge!

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Fudgy Pudgy Cake - from the most recent issue of Taste of Home
12-14 servings

1 hour 30 min prep

1/2 cup baking cocoa
1 cup hot water
3/4 cup butter, softened
2 3/4 cups packed brown sugar
3 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Filling

1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup butter, softened

Glaze

1/4 cup butter, softened
2 tablespoons baking cocoa
1/4 cup milk
2 cups confectioners' sugar
  1. In a small bowl, combine cocoa and hot water until smooth; cool. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and brown sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk and cocoa mixture. Stir in vanilla.
  2. Pour into three greased and waxed paper lined 9 inch round baking pans. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
  3. In a small saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Gradually stir in milk until smooth. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla. Cool completely. In a small mixing bowl, cream butter. Gradually beat in cooled mixture. (If you are impatient like I was and don't wait for this to cool completely before beating it with the butter, you'll end up with a pudding/glaze like mixture instead of the whipped mixture. It was still good though!)
  4. Place one cake layer on a serving plate; spread with half of the filling. Repeat layers. Top with remaining cake.
  5. For glaze, in a small saucepan, melt butter; stir in cocoa until smooth. Add milk. Bring to a boil. Remove from the heat. With an electric mixer, beat in confectioners' sugar until blended. Cool for 15-20 minutes; spread over top of cake. Garnish with chocolate curls if desired. Store in the refrigerator.

 

Posted on Wednesday, August 15, 2007 at 11:59PM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments32 Comments | References2 References

Meatballs Need Friends

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Why is it that all that I can think about when writing this post is the You Tube video of Faith Hill recently telling off a concert groupie for groping her husband? I know, I have the mind of a 5th grader, don't I?

We went to an Italian restaurant a couple of years ago and  I ordered spaghetti and meatballs. To me, meatballs means lots and lots of meatballs and I was looking forward to my heaping plate of pasta with a pile of meatballs. When our food arrived, I looked at my plate and my expectations for the pasta were fulfilled... it was a heaping pile of pasta. Much to my dismay, my expectations for the pile of meatballs fell very short. On my plate was one, single, solitary meatball. It was a large meatball, but there was only one.

This was all wrong. Meatballs belong in groups and piles. Meatballs are not loners. They need other meatballs to be by their side to be complete.

That was the final time I ever order spaghetti and meatballs at a restaurant. From that day on, I stuck to things like Chicken Parmesan at Italian restaurants and skipped the meatball(s) all together. I could not be sure that the restaurants I went to had my same philosophy on meatballs and I was not willing to be disappointed again.

My favorite recipe for meatballs is my mom's and I will share that with you some day soon. My old stand by meatball recipe for things like BBQ meatballs and rice, Meatball hoagies, or Meatball Calzones is the one I am getting ready to share with you. This recipe is extremely basic and simple. The meatballs freeze great so you can be an Alpha Mom and have some on hand. This meatball recipe is also very versatile. Beyond the basic meatball this recipe makes, you can add additional seasonings to the recipe to enhance the flavor however you would like. The best thing about this recipe is your meatballs won't be lonely. One batch makes about 15 large meatballs or 30 small meatballs. There are plenty of meatball friends to go around.

Oven Baked Meatballs

1 Pound Ground Beef or Ground Turkey*

1 Large Egg

1/4 cup onion, finely chopped

1/3 cup Italian Herbed Breadcrumbs 

1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

(This is the basic list of ingredients. I will sometimes add Italian Seasoning, Garlic, a 1/2 envelope of Lipton Onion Soup Mix, etc. The options are endless!) 

*If using ground turkey or very lean ground beef, add 1/4 cup of milk to your meat mixture 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix all ingredients together by hand.

Shape mixture into several 1 1/2 inch balls.

Place the meatballs into a lightly greased 9x13 inch glass baking dish and bake for 20-25  minutes or until light brown.

Drain off any excess grease.

Serve however you wish or let cool and freeze for later.  

 

Posted on Friday, August 10, 2007 at 09:31PM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments27 Comments

Less is More?

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The concept "Less is More" and I just don't see eye to eye. Did you know that when you are shampooing your hair if you cannot get the shampoo to lather, you need to add more water, not more shampoo? I'm always piling on more shampoo! Oh - and those concentrated cleaning products where you just need to use a thimble full for an entire load of laundry? I have such a hard time believing that. To me, if I don't have a full measuring cup of laundry detergent to add to my laundry, I do not feel like it is going to work.

There are some things in which I truly believe that "Less is More"  does not apply. Those things would have to do with butter, garlic and onions. No way could less be more. Yes...with butter less is more "fitting into your skinny jeans", but less butter does not make a dish any better.

I made a dish the other night that was a delicious combination of tons of butter, green onions and lots of garlic.  Less was definitely not more with this dish as I added more garlic and green onion than the recipe called for and ended up with a completely wonderful meal.

If you are a believer of "Less is More" you might want to skip this recipe. If you believe that the more the better, than add a little extra of what you love to this recipe and enjoy! 

3-4 servings
30 min 10 min prep
3-4 chicken breasts, cut into pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup butter
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 teaspoon italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt

pepper
4 roma tomatoes (cut into 1 inch pieces)

rice or noodles, enough for about 3 people
  1. Put olive oil and butter in skillet on low heat.
  2. Add the green onions and minced garlic and saute.
  3. Add Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.
  4. Put chicken that has been cut into pieces in the skillet with the garlic onion and seasonings.
  5. Heat until chicken is no longer pink.
  6. Let the chicken sit with the other ingredients in the skillet for a few moments on low just to get the seasoning set in really well.
  7. Put the tomatoes in to just heat through.
  8. Serve with the rice or noodles.
Posted on Wednesday, August 8, 2007 at 10:12AM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments32 Comments | References1 Reference

Good Hair Day

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If you are anything like me, how well your hair behaves for you in the morning can be a great predictor of how your day is going to go. If my hair falls limp and is unmanageable before I even walk out of the bedroom, I know the day ahead is going to be rough. If my hair is full of body, laying at all the right places and looking good, then I know that I am in for a great day!

On good hair days, I often find myself a little happier...a little more chipper. I am a better parent and therefore my kids respond to my happiness with their own happy moods. I am productive, energetic, and I seem to be more balanced.  It seems odd that something as simple as looking good can help you to feel so good.

On my most recent good hair day, I somehow managed to get all of my work done, spend a lot of quality time with the kids, get my cleaning done and find time to bake something. Since I have been working more, my baking time has gone completely down hill and I have been itching to bake something...anything! I have had a chocolate cake bookmarked to try for the past 3 weeks and I really wanted to make that, but it was 7pm and a cake would be too time consuming. Craving something chocolate, my mind went back to some photos I saw on a blog the other day corresponding with a Whoopie Pie recipe. I couldn't for the life of me think of which blog I found it on and I had forgotten to bookmark the recipe. I decided to Google Whoopie Pie recipes and stumbled upon an Emeril recipe for Whoopie Pies.

These whoopie pies were very sweet and upon first taste, I didn't really care for them. My family devoured them and kept begging for more. Overnight, I stuck them in the freezer and the next day I pulled them out and tried one. Frozen whoopie pies are the way to go. I am really not sure why freezing them made such a big difference for me, but I am hooked on the frozen version of whoopie pies, and the rest of my family enjoyed them frozen as well.  

On your next good hair day, or if you are having a bad hair day and need a yummy chocolate pick me up, give these creamy chocolate treats a try! Oh - and I have sense remembered the blog I originally saw the whoopie pie recipe on. It was fellow Just Baking writer, Jennifer from The Barmy Baker. Her version is a little different with a delicious looking marshmallow filling inside.

Here's wishing you a good hair day, every day.

Whoopie Pie
Recipe courtesy Emeril Lagasse, 2002
Show:  Emeril Live
Episode:  Pennsylvania Dutch Cooking

1 cup granulated sugar
1 3/4 cups shortening
2 large eggs*
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup baking cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large egg whites*
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup whole milk
3 cups confectioners' sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 baking sheets and set aside.
To make the cookies, in a large bowl using an electric mixer, cream together the sugar and 1/2 cup of the shortening. Add eggs and mix well.
Onto a sheet of waxed paper, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Add to the wet ingredients, alternating with the buttermilk. Add 1 teaspoon of the vanilla and mix well. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake until tester comes out clean, about 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks.
To make the filling, in a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff. Add the remaining 1 1/4 cups of shortening and 1 tablespoon of vanilla, and mix well. Add the milk and sugar, and beat until smooth.
Lay half of the cookies flat on a work surface. Divide the filling among the cookies, spreading out to the edges. Top with the remaining cookies to form sandwich pies. Serve immediately, or cover tightly and refrigerate before serving.


 

Posted on Sunday, August 5, 2007 at 11:51PM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments31 Comments

The Secret

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I will admit, I was one of the millions of people who jumped on "The Secret" bandwagon after Oprah had featured the author and other life coach professionals on her show. I watched her original show and the follow up show afterwards and was immediately hooked. I wanted to learn more. Next, I bought the book and the DVD. I read the book 3 times, trying to absorb all of the information and I watched the DVD twice. It all made sense to me...think positively and positive things will come to you. Put your energy into what you want to happen in your life and the "universe" will answer you, granting your wishes. I am all about the power of positive thinking and I truly believe that attitude is everything.

Well, it was several months ago that I read "The Secret" and watched the DVD. I believed in the concept and mentally put myself in that place, but I was not really doing any of the things they said to apply to your life. One thing the author of "The Secret" says to do is to create a vision board. A vision board is exactly what you probably imagine it to be... a board with all of the things on it that you want to happen in your life. Specific "wishes" that you would like granted.  Things that you want to focus on and bring to fruition. I knew that I wanted to do a Vision Board and I had even purchased the board. I decided 2 weeks ago to finally sit down and do my vision board. I completed it, hung it up in my closet where I would see it every day and I really started to focus on those things. Within two days...only two days...things were really starting to come together for me. Within a week, I had three fantastic job opportunities...opportunities that followed what I had on my vision board. 1) I began working for Moms In Law Consulting doing recruiting for one of their clients. The great thing about this is the recruiting is 100% internet based... no cold calling or sourcing via phone. 2) A paid opportunity fell in my lap to start writing restaurant reviews for local Kansas City restaurants. I am writing reviews for a restaurant review website, which has been a lot of fun so far. 3) And the best, I can't believe it thing that has happened, is I am going to start writing for a new women's magazine that is being published once a month called "Her Life Magazine". I will be writing their parenting articles as well as some dining / entertaining articles. This opportunity completely fell in my lap as well because of my blog writing and the writing I do for The Well Fed Network.

I would get in to some of the other things that have happened in the past two weeks, but it is really starting to get a bit unbelievable! I have been very blessed (and extremely busy!) and I am so excited to be working from home doing something that I am passionate about all the while being able to raise my kids.

Speaking of secrets, do you have any recipes that you sneak ingredients in to that your family would normally not eat? I have heard of people sneaking extra veggies into their spaghetti sauce, putting purreed veggies in their muffins, or making desserts with secret veggies in it. If you like to get extra veggies in your diet, but would rather have them sneaked in, try this recipe for Squash Bread. Your family will not have a clue that one of the main ingredients is squash, and you will be pleased to know that your secret is safe.  

Butternut Squash Bread

Makes 3 loaves
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 1/4 cups mashed cooked butternut squash
1 cup warm milk (110 to 115 degrees)
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
7-7 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  1. In a mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in water; let stand 5 minutes.
  2. Add squash, milk, eggs, butter, sugar and salt; mix well.
  3. Gradually add 3 ½ cups flour; beat until smooth.
  4. Add enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.
  5. Turn onto a floured board; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes (5 mins in the mixer).
  6. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top.
  7. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
  8. Punch dough down.
  9. Shape into three loaves; place in greased 8 x 4 x 2 inch loaf pans.
  10. Cover and let rise until doubled about 30 minutes.
  11. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until tops are golden.
  12. Remove from pans to cool on wire racks.

 

Posted on Wednesday, August 1, 2007 at 10:15AM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments39 Comments | References3 References

Resource Revisited

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Awhile back, you may have read my review about the summer edition of EAT magazine.  I am coming back today to rave about this magazine. Things have been crazy in our house this month and as much as I love cooking, it is one of those things that is getting pushed to the back burner. I do not have time to stand in the kitchen all night slaving over a meal for my family. I also do not want to sacrifice our family mealtime (and our budget) by going out to eat or grabbing take out every night. (I will write all about the craziness in our house in my next post. Exciting things have happened here, but these things are taking up time, hence why my visiting of your wonderful sites has been non-existent lately.)

For the past couple of weeks, EAT magazine has been one of the most utilized books in my kitchen. I have been relying on it to provide me with ideas and recipes that will be good for my family yet also quick and easy to prepare. Each and every time I open a page of this publication, a recipe jumps out that fits my time restraints and meal needs.
If your time in the kitchen has been like mine lately...rush, rush, rush... then I suggest picking up a copy of EAT magazine. It has been what has kept us eating at home.

One recipe that went over very well with my family is listed below. I hope you enjoy!

Mu Shu-Style Pork Roll-Ups, EAT magazine

Ingredients

  • 4 10-inch flour tortillas
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 12 ounces lean boneless pork, cut into strips
  • 2 cups loose-pack frozen stir-fry vegetables (any combination)
  • 1/4 cup bottled plum or hoisin sauce

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degree F. Wrap tortillas tightly in foil. Heat in preheated oven for 10 minutes to soften. (Or wrap tortillas in white, microwave-safe paper towels; microwave on high [100 percent] power for 15 to 30 seconds or until tortillas are softened.)

2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet heat sesame oil over medium-high heat. Add pork strips; stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes or until done Add stir-fry vegetables. Cook and stir for 3 to 4 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender.

3. Spread each tortilla with 1 tablespoon of the plum or hoisin sauce; place a quarter of the meat mixture just below the center of each tortilla. Fold the bottom edge of each tortilla up and over the filling. Fold in the sides until they meet; roll up over the filling. Makes 4 servings.

 

Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2007 at 10:54PM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments19 Comments

You've Been Mislead

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Recently, I have had a large number of hits on my blog from people who have found my little slice of the web by Googling things such as "Losing the Baby Fat". Next to my Monkey Bread post from long ago, the two posts I made about attempting to lose the baby weight have brought the largest number of Google hits to my site. I hate to break the news to those of you looking for advice on weight loss, but Dine and Dish is probably not the place you want to turn to for weight loss guidance. With posts about a delicious chocolate cake roll filled with a marvelous heavy whipping cream concoction, cakes with a richness only gained by using 5 sticks of butter, and scrumptious dishes such as this one...laced with heavy cream, my blog is the type that will make you gain weight just by reading it.

Chicken in Lemon Cream with Penne from Everyday Pasta (Giada de Laurentis)

Servings: 4 to 6

1 pound penne pasta
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, diced in to 1-inch cubes
1 teaspoon herbes du Provence
pinch of salt, plus 1/2 teaspoon
pinch of freshly ground black pepper, plus 1/4 teaspoon
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 cups heavy cream
Zest of 1 lemon
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Season the cubed chicken breast with the herbs de Provence and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook the chicken until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken and set aside. Pour off any excess oil from the pan. Add the chicken broth to the pan and cook over medium-high heat, using a wooden spoon to scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the cream, lemon zest, and cayenne. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Add the pasta, chicken, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, chopped parsley, and lemon juice. Toss to coat the pasta and chicken with the sauce and serve.

Posted on Sunday, July 22, 2007 at 09:57PM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments27 Comments | References3 References

What kind of fool...?

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What kind of fool has her oven on during the middle of the day when it is hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk outside? You know what? I am that kind of fool. I am the kind of fool that was tempted last week by a Banana Cake photo and article I read on Just Baking. I am the kind of fool that bought extra bananas over the weekend, simply so I could have a few ripe ones to bake with. I am the kind of fool who is tired of making ice cream, milkshakes, and slushy drinks and wants to get back to some honest to goodness baking. You try this recipe and then let's see who is calling who a fool, OK?

Adapted from a Recipezaar 

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

3/4 cup butter
cups sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas

Frosting

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 cups
icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla


  1. Preheat oven to 275°.
  2. Grease and flour 2 10 inch cake pans (Or use Wilton's Cake Release...one of my favorite products!).
  3. In a small bowl, mix mashed banana with the lemon juice; set aside.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
  5. In a large bowl, cream 3/4 cup butter and 2 cups sugar until light and fluffy.
  6. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then stir in 2 tsp vanilla.
  7. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk.
  8. Stir in banana mixture.
  9. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in pre heated oven for one hou and 20 minutesr or until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean. (Oven temps vary...watch your cake as it may take more or less time)
  10. Remove from oven and place directly into the freezer for 45 minutes.
  11. This will make the cake very moist.
  12. For the frosting, cream the butter and cream cheese until smooth.
  13. Beat in 1 tsp vanilla.
  14. Add icing sugar and beat on low speed until combined, then on high speed until frosting is smooth and creamy.
  15. Spread on cooled cake.
Posted on Thursday, July 19, 2007 at 01:24PM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments37 Comments

Beat the Heat with Kool-Aid Slushies

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My son had his tonsils and adenoids taken out this week. Because of that, and because of the major heat wave sweeping across the state, I have been on a mission to make treats that are soothing to a sore throat as well as cool and refreshing enough to help beat the heat. We have made ice cream, sorbet, milkshakes, floats, Popsicles and smoothies. Last night, I was in the mood for something different. Remembering that Jacob had been begging for a slushy drink from Sonic the day before, I decided to make our own slushy drinks right at home. In my pantry, I happened to have a container of Kool-Aid to use to make Kool-Aid Popsicles. When I picked up the container, I noticed a recipe for Kool-Aid Slushies. Quickly reading through the recipe, I realized that this was exactly what we needed...something quick, easy, soothing and refreshing.

This recipe for slushy drinks hits the spot with both kids and adults alike. As an adult, you may wish that your beverage had a little rum or something in it, but even without the addition of alcohol, you will appreciate how this tasty treat cools you off.

Kool-Aid Slushies

Place 1 cup water, 1/2 cup of your favorite flavor Kool-Aid soft drink mix and 1 cup ice cubes in a blender container; cover.

Blend on high speed until smooth. Add an additional 2 cups ice cubes; cover. Blend, using pulsing action, until smooth. Serve immediately. Store leftover slush in the freezer.

Recipe makes 7 (1/2 cup) servings.

Posted on Wednesday, July 18, 2007 at 02:45PM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments24 Comments | References4 References

Alpha Mom vs Slacker Mom

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Alpha Mom - a modern mom who is confident and in control, a well informed decision-making multitasker. Hip, educated, technologically savvy, type A--personality mom.

I know that this is completely against all things good about the feminist movement, but I have always wanted to be like June Cleaver, or our modern day example, (minus all of the random murders, drug issues, etc) Bree Van de Camp. I would love to be the mom that always has linens on the table adorned with a beautiful centerpiece of fresh cut flowers from my garden in the middle. Having a plate of fresh from the oven cookies available whenever the little ones come in from playing in the picket fenced yard would be ideal. Having my home be in tip top shape, laundry never piling up, and my kitchen sink always shiny would be standard behavior for me. I would be the Alpha Mom... complete with the hip clothes, ever full PDA and a shining disposition.

I read an article in a small local magazine this week about the Alpha Mom and her opposite... the Slacker Mom. As much as I try to be like the Aplha Mom, I have discovered that my tendencies tend to be more Slacker Mom oriented. An example of this would be last nights dinner.

Alpha Mom - Alpha Mom would have looked at her menu for the week early on in the day, making notes of what meat needs to be thawed and what advanced preparations need to be made for dinner to be a complete success.

Slacker Mom - Slacker Mom remembers at 4:30pm that Calzones is on the menu. She completely forgot to start the bread dough and at this point, it is too late for it to rise and be ready by the 5:30pm dinner time. She looks in her fridge and realizes that there is no meat thawed, so she quickly takes some chicken out of the freezer, sticks it in the microwave and uses the handy defrost feature.

Alpha Mom - Alpha Mom would pull out her binder of organized recipes, or better yet...she would look on her PDA recipe program and pull up the perfect, tried and true Calzone recipe. After remembering that her recipe requires fresh Basil, Alpha Mom would put on her matching gardening gloves and head out to her bountiful herb garden in the backyard. She would clip some fresh Basil from her flourishing Basil plant and happily take it inside, ready to be added to the recipe.

Slacker Mom - Slacker Mom is in a rush and barely has time to look through recipes. She pulls up Recipezaar and pours through the Calzone recipes, hoping to find one that does not require a yeast based crust or store bought pizza crust. Once she finds a recipe that will work she notices it uses Basil. She looks at her barely thriving Basil plant and realizes that she does not have enough basil. She remembers that her neighbor is on vacation and that her Basil plant is like Alpha Mom's...huge, bushy and flourishing. She crosses the street and sneaks into her fenced yard...snipping several Basil leaves off the plant and then returns home, pleased at her sleuthing abilities.

Alpha Mom - Alpha Mom doubles the recipe for her Calzones so that she can freeze some for her family. This way, her family can enjoy hot, fresh from the oven Calzones any time they wish.

Slacker Mom - Slacker Mom cannot think past 2 hours from now, let alone think about what her family can have for lunch a month down the road.

Alpha Mom - Alpha Mom has the kitchen back in order, her makeup and hair freshened up, and a smile on her face...ready to greet her loving husband at the door when he returns home. Dinner, complete with salad and fresh vegetables, will be hot and on the table by the time he comes downstairs after changing out of his work clothes.

Slacker Mom - Slacker Mom barely looks up when her husband comes home from his week long business trip. She and the kitchen are covered in flour and dough and dishes are everywhere. The kids are causing a commotion in the background, probably cutting each others hair or something, and the Calzones have yet to be baked.

Alpha Mom - Alpha Mom and her family enjoy a nice dinner outside on their patio...sipping lemonade, having intellectual conversation, and listening to brilliant little Timmy spouting off Fibonacci number sequences.

Slacker Mom - Dinner is served, outside on the deck. Calzones is it...no veggies, no salad...no intellectual conversation. In fact listening to the kids argue about who acted best while daddy was gone is the complete extent of the conversation.

I think you get the idea. I am definitely not the Alpha Mom. I am also not a complete slacker like I make myself out to be. I at least had a menu for the week. I did not give up and run out to McDonald's for dinner. I was resourceful enough to know which neighbor to steal Basil from. I tried a new recipe, and it is one that will now be my standard Calzone recipe. If I was the Alpha Mom all the time, I wouldn't have needed a recipe without the yeast based dough. Because I am not the Alpha Mom I discovered a Calzone recipe that has the most tender and delicious outer crust. The filling was a nice change from the typical Calzone and the reason why no intellectual conversation was heard at dinner time was because everyone was too busy stuffing their faces full of these delicious Calzone's.

If you, like me, aren't the Bree Van de Camp of your block and need a recipe that does not require a lot of advance preparation, go with this slacker...these Barbecue Chicken Calzones will be a hit with your brilliant family.

Barbeque Chicken Calzones (Adapted from Recipezaar)

Dough

2 ½ - 3 cups flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

3 teaspoons fresh basil

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 cup butter , melted

2/3 cup warm water

6 teaspoons instant powdered milk 2 eggs

Filling

2 teaspoons margarine or butter

1 onion , diced

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts , cooked and diced

1 cup grated cheddar cheese

1 1/4 cups barbecue sauce

  1. Combine 2 ½ cups flour, baking powder, sugar and basil.
  2. Add milk powder to water and stir until disolved, add to dry mixture.
  3. Add eggs and melted butter and mix well. Add more flour until dough is easy to work with. Not dry, but not super sticky.
  4. Set aside while making the filling.
  5. For the filling: Cook onions in butter over medium heat until onions are tender.
  6. Add chicken and cook through.
  7. Remove from heat and stir in barbeque sauce and cheese.
  8. Divide dough into 8 pieces and roll out into 6 inch circles.
  9. Place ½ cup of filling in each circle.
  10. Fold dough in half and seal edges tightly.
  11. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until top begins to brown slightly.
  12. Serve warm with extra barbeque sauce to dip in if desired.
Posted on Saturday, July 14, 2007 at 08:26AM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments30 Comments | References1 Reference

Rejection

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I do not deal well with rejection. Honestly, who does? I have yet to meet a person who actually likes rejection. Some sales people feed off of rejection and it pushes them to try harder, but I really doubt that they actually enjoy being rejected.

This week I started sending my resume out for a new job that I can do from home. This is the first time I have had to do the whole resume thing in my entire 12 year career. I created a resume when I graduated from college and landed a nice little job in the Human Resources / Staffing field. From then on out, the jobs I have had have been based on referrals from other people. New opportunities have just landed in my lap and I have been blessed because of them. Even once my first child was born and I decided to become a stay at home mom, opportunities came forth in the recruiting field that enabled me to be a stay at home mom while earning a bit of money on the side. As of this past January, I ended up resigning from my home based recruiting position because being on the phone so much was becoming too difficult with three very loud children in the background. It is hard to remain professional when you have a toddler tugging on your leg to hold her, or a three year old wanting to talk to whomever you are trying to hold a professional conversation with.

The problem is...we are really missing the money I was making. My husband referred to the fund that we put the money into as an "Oh Shit" fund while I referred to it as an "Ocean" fund. The contribution I made helped to pay the bills, but it also allowed us to play more... go on dates, vacations, buy higher quality ingredients for recipes I was trying out, etc.

I know I could return in a heartbeat to my recruiting job working from home again, but I need a change. My life has changed and the dynamics at home have changed. My number one reason for being at home is my children and, wishful thinking, I need a job that will not be a huge interference in my family life (I know...me and every other SAHM in the universe is wishing for just that!). That leads us to me branching out on my own...networking, sending out resumes, and facing the rejection that is sure to come.

One area I rarely get rejected in is with cooking. The kitchen is my domain and no matter what I make I typically have at least one grateful person on the receiving end of my trials. Sometimes, with those kitchen disasters, it has been our dog...but even then he would gobble up whatever I ruined with his tail wagging and a twinkle in his eye. I rarely feel rejected in the kitchen which is why I think I feel so comfortable there. I know that no matter what, the kitchen will always feel like my safe haven away from the world.

For a hit of your own and to feel accepted in the kitchen, give this recipe from the August 2007 issue of Gourmet magazine a try. Not a hint of rejection will be felt after you watch your recipients lick their plates clean.

Grilled Pork Chops with Garlic Lime Sauce

1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
6 (1/2-inch-thick) boneless pork chops

Whisk together lime juice, garlic, red-pepper flakes, and 1/4 teaspoon salt, then add oil in a slow stream, whisking well. Whisk in cilantro.

Prepare a gas grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-high heat. Pat pork dry and season with salt and pepper. Oil grill rack, then grill pork chops, covered, turning over once, until just cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes total. Serve drizzled with some vinaigrette, and with remainder on the side.

Cooks' note: If you aren't able to grill outdoors, chops can be cooked in a hot lightly oiled large (2-burner) ridged grill pan over moderately high heat.

Makes 4 servings.

Gourmet
July 2007

 

Posted on Thursday, July 12, 2007 at 11:26PM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments24 Comments

Peaks and Valleys

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Isn't it funny how marriage has its peaks and valleys? I am happily married. I married a wonderful man who works extremely hard every day away from home to provide for us. When he comes home, he happily shares in the housework, the cooking, the taking care of the kids, etc. I am spoiled and blessed all at once.

Even though I do consider myself to be happily married, there are times when my husband and I can't stand each other. We get in those moods where every little thing the other one does bugs the heck out of each other. My husband, for example, likes to finish whatever I am doing. If I have a pot on the stove simmering something and the lid is supposed to stay on during the entire time, he comes into the kitchen and takes over...lifting the lid and stirring the pot. He thinks he is being helpful when really he doesn't understand that I have things completely under control. I, of course, cannot imagine anything that I could possibly do to annoy him. OK - well maybe the beating him up in the middle of the night gets annoying, but besides that I am really the non-annoying one out of the two of us. (Kidding, of course!)

At times, we are annoyed with each other. Those times I will call our valleys. Then we have our peaks. The past few weeks we have been on a really high peak. Everything is clicking. We are communicating, loving, having fun, and enjoying each others company. The kids are happy, we are happy and things are just going swell.

We just came off of a wonderful weekend. We did not do anything overly special. We just spent a lot of time together...shopping, working around the house, going to the pool, watching movies after the kids went to bed and cooking. Yes... we did a lot of great cooking over the weekend.  Cooking is something we do really well together and it is one of my favorite things to do with my husband. We made a lot of delicious dishes over the weekend, but one of the things we made stood out because of its simplicity. The dish that stood out was not overly complicated at all... in fact it was a simple recipe.  We decided to try this recipe after sitting together on the couch, pouring over the August 2007 issue of Food & Wine magazine. We were looking through it together and were bookmarking recipes we wanted to try. It just so happened that we needed a quick idea for lunch, and the recipe for Grilled Chicken Sandwiches with Mozzarella, Tomato and Basil  jumped out at us. What made these sandwiches delicious was the marriage of great ingredients that might not taste great alone, but put together are wonderful. Ingredients that blend well together to make a great tasting, yet not complicated, sandwich.... very similar to a good marriage. Two people who are better together than they are apart and while together, create a full life, where the peaks outweigh the valleys and the valleys make the peaks all the more better.

Grilled Chicken Sandwiches with Mozzarella, Tomato and Basil (Food and Wine August 2007) 

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • Twelve 1/2-inch-thick chicken breast cutlets (2 1/2 pounds)
  • 6 ciabatta rolls, split
  • Six 1/3-inch-thick slices of fresh mozzarella
  • 6 large basil leaves (optional)
  1. In a large bowl, whisk 1/4 cup of the olive oil with the lemon zest, lemon juice, thyme, garlic and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper. Spoon 1 1/2 tablespoons of the mixture into a medium bowl, add the tomatoes and turn to coat. Add the chicken to the large bowl and turn to coat. Let the tomatoes and chicken stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. Light a grill. Brush the rolls with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and grill over high heat until golden. Add the chicken to the grill, season with salt and pepper and grill over high heat, turning once, until cooked through and lightly charred, about 6 minutes. Place the chicken on the rolls and top with the mozzarella, tomato and basil. Spoon any tomato juices on the top half of the bun, close the sandwiches and serve.

Posted on Tuesday, July 10, 2007 at 10:23AM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments42 Comments

More Than You Have Ever Wanted to Know

I have been delinquent. I have been tagged by four people for 3 different meme's! In the next few posts, you all are going to get more information about me than you ever wanted to know. Here is meme one and two.

I was tagged by my friend Kate from one of my favorite blogs, Kate in the Kitchen, for a fun meme.

What were you doing 10 years ago?

1997 was a good year. I was really enjoying being a single, independent gal living in the city. I lived in a house with my then roommate Peg and met my husband through her. I was also working for a company called Cerner Corporation as an Organizational Development Specialist.

What were you doing 1 year ago?

In the summer of 2006 I was a sleep deprived new mom, loving every minute of life with an infant again.

Five snacks you enjoy (I'm not a big snacker, so this one is kind of hard):
1. Dove Milk Chocolate
2. Bananas
3. Cupcakes
4. Bread
5. Diet Coke

Five songs that you know all the lyrics to :

1. Jesse's Girl by Rick Springfield
2. American Pie
3. Jack and Diane by John Mellencamp
4. Brick House
5. Bop With You Baby by Dan Seal

Five things you would do if you were a millionaire:

  1. Make sure everyone in my family has enough for what they need
  2. Buy a house by the ocean
  3. Stock enough away so my kids can live comfortably
  4. Start my dream business
  5. Pay off bills

Five bad habits:
1. Procrastination on things like emptying the dishwasher, cleaning toilets, etc, 2 Brushing my teeth with the water running, 3 Cracking my knuckles, 4 Nibbling while cooking, 5 Trying to do it all while really not accomplishing anything

Five things you like doing:
1. Entertaining
2. Traveling
3. Reading
4. Photography
5. Cooking

Five things you would never wear again:
1. Blue eyeliner
2. A Bikini
3. Banana Clip
4. A cheerleader sweater - thanks for this one Kate!
5. Platform shoes (just can't physically do it anymore!)

Five favorite toys:
1. Anything in my kitchen drawers and cabinets
2. My ipod
3. My Nikon D80 Digital Camera
4. My laptop
5. My Letratag Plus Label maker

 

OK - here is the next one. I was tagged by both Margaret of Kitchen Delights and Deborah of Taste and Tell for this one. The goal is to share with you all 8 things you don't know about me. 

1) I am the youngest of 5 kids. I have a nephew who is 2 years younger than me and I was embarrassed by that growing up. When we would be together, I would make him tell people I was his cousin, not his Aunt because if they knew the truth I thought they would think we were weird!

2) I flunked macro Economics in college. Yes...flunked with a capital F. I was a great student and got good grades, but for some reason Macro Economics and I just didn't click. Luckily I took it again and passed.

3) If I could afford it (financially and sanity wise) I would have another baby. I know I can't afford it (financially and sanity wise) so I think Ella is our last one.

4) I have what I think would be a really good business idea involving kids and cooking, but have no idea how to implement it.

5)  I once had a 1 hour phone conversation with a telemarketer. Obviously this was when I had a lot more time on my hands. I have no idea how we started talking, but we did and ended up talking for a good hour.

6) I was diagnosed last year with Rhumatoid Arthritis. So far, it has only effected me slightly so I haven't started any medication for it. Hopefully it stays that way!

7) One of my favorite things to eat is strawberries piled with sugar and whipping cream poured over the top. I rarely have it... like once a year, but when I do I'm in heaven!

8)  I often have what is called night terrors...where in my sleep I see things and think they are real. (Like snakes coming out of the ceiling, people standing in our room, etc). If my husband tries to calm me down when I am screaming by holding onto me or grabbing me, I think he is the "bad guy" and will starting hitting him. We now have this little situation worked out. He knows just to let me work through it or risk his life! The strange thing is I don't remember any of it when I wake up.

That's it!  

 

Posted on Monday, July 9, 2007 at 09:56PM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments13 Comments

Peanut Butter Perfection

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I have never been a huge fan of peanut butter cookies. It isn't that I don't like the flavor of them... it is just that they are so inconsistent. You never know what you are going to get when you bite into a homemade peanut butter cookie. Is it going to be crunchy? Will it have peanuts in it or be nut free? Will it be soft and tender with a chewy center? You just never know.

In the August 2007 issue of Gourmet magazine I was reading an article about The Willows Inn...a beautiful Bed & Breakfast on Lummi Island, which is a two hour drive from Seattle and a 1 1/2 hour drive from Vancouver.  The chef at The Willows Inn graciously provided Gourmet magazine with some of their most popular recipes. One of the recipes he shared is a recipe for Peanut Butter Cookies. Normally, I would have flipped right by this, but when I read that the Gourmet food editor who tested the recipe then slipped the recipe into his own recipe file as the peanut butter cookie of choice, I had to give it a try.

This recipe makes 40 large cookies. We are talking 1/4 cup of dough per cookie people, so they are really good size. The recipe also says to bake the cookies for 30 minutes. This did not work for me at all as my first batch that I finally took out after 20 minutes were brown and crispy.  The next batch I left in for only 11 minutes. I took the cookies out when they looked like they could maybe use one minute more (which is my secret to a great cookie) and left them on the cookie sheet for 3 minutes. During that three minutes they firmed up and became the most delicious, soft and chewy peanut butter cookies I have ever had. They had a slightly crispy outer edge too, which tops my criteria for a great peanut butter cookie.

If you are still on the hunt for a great peanut butter cookie recipe and you like your cookies soft and chewy on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside, then give this recipe for Britta's Peanut Butter Cookies a try. May your search for the perfect peanut butter cookie recipe end right now.

Britta's Peanut Butter Cookies

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 sticks (3/4 pound) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups creamy peanut butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs plus 2 large yolks
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F with racks in upper and lower thirds.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.

Beat together butter, peanut butter, sugars, and oil with an electric mixer at high speed just until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes in a stand mixer or longer with a handheld. Add whole eggs, yolks, and vanilla and beat until just incorporated. Reduce speed to low, then add flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing until well incorporated.

Scoop scant 1/4cups of dough about 2 inches apart onto 2 ungreased large baking sheets. Flatten mounds with floured tines of a fork, making a crosshatch pattern, into 2 1/2-inch cookies (about 1/2 inch thick).

Bake, switching position of sheets halfway thorough baking, until slightly puffed and golden around edges, about 30 minutes total. Transfer cookies to racks to cool.

Switch an oven rack to middle position and make more cookies with remaining dough on a cooled baking sheet.

Cooks' note: Peanut butter cookies keep in an airtight container at room temperature 5 days.

Gourmet, July 2007

Adapted from The Willows

 

Posted on Monday, July 9, 2007 at 11:09AM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments21 Comments | References2 References

Excuses, Excuses

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Who needs an excuse to make something cool and refreshing like sorbet? I don't, but just for kicks and grins I will give you the top five reasons why sorbet was on our dessert menu today:

  1. The temperature today, where I live, topped at 92 degrees Fahrenheit... it was H-O-T hot! Hot chocolate just won't do today...an icy treat was in order.
  2. My 5 year old is having his tonsils and adenoids taken out next week. He is looking forward to eating ice cream, Popsicles, and now, sorbet, while he recovers. I have been experimenting with various recipes to try that he will be able to eat post-op.
  3. It is just seems fancy to say we are having sorbet for dessert
  4. With all the fresh fruits in abundance, I am always looking for new and interesting ways to use them up.
  5. The lovely Laura over at Eat Drink Live announced that the theme for this months Hay Hay It's Donna Day is...sorbet!

There you have it... the top five reasons why I decided to give sorbet a try today. I have never participated in the Hay Hay It's Donna Day event and since my husband has been raving about the sorbet he gets at one of his favorite New York City restaurants, I decided to surprise him and make some at home. I knew that a lot of people participating in the event would be making sorbets out of the fresh fruits of the season...strawberries, raspberries, etc. As much as I love summertime fruit, I know how much my husband loves apples so I thought he would most enjoy an apple sorbet.  Apple just seemed too plain though, so on a whim I decided to throw in some pears as well. The result was a sweet, icy sorbet...rich with flavor and the perfect end to a fantastic dinner al fresco on the deck. You don't need an excuse... go ahead and try it!

Pear Apple Sorbet

2 Granny Smith Apples, cored and roughly chopped

2 ripe Pears, cored and roughly chopped

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup apple juice

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine apples, pears, sugar and 1/2 cup water; cover. Cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Press mixture through a sieve placed over a bowl. Discard apple and pear skins and stir in apple juice and another 1/2 cup water. Place mixture in a food processor and pulse 3-4 times until any big chunks are smooth.

If making without an ice cream machine, pour into a shallow container and freeze 6 hours, scraping with a fork once or twice to break up crystals. If using a machine, churn until firm enough to scoop.
Posted on Saturday, July 7, 2007 at 09:09PM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments23 Comments