Consider This Your Warning

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I just thought I would warn you all now. By the end of the summer those of you who read my blog will probably be so sick of seeing and hearing about strawberries. The annual strawberry kick I get on every year has made an early appearance and I have a feeling it is going to last a very, very long time. I see in our future...strawberry milkshakes, strawberry muffins, strawberry ice cream, strawberry cake, strawberry salad, salmon with strawberry sauce, strawberry kebabs, etc. You get the picture... we love strawberries at our house and it shows all summer long.

The Strawberry Cupcakes and the Strawberry Margarita dessert from the weekend got my taste buds going and ready to be in full strawberry mode. Then, the June 2007 issue of Food and Wine magazine arrived in the mail. The final page, which is always F&W's Last Bite section, had the most glorious looking photo of a strawberry shortcake concoction. My mouth was watering. My husband's mouth was watering. We were ready to give in to our strawberry obsession even if it was a tad bit early for us to start.

If you get strawberry obsessed like we do this time of year,  Dine and Dish is a good place to be. We can be strawberry glutton's together. If you are not a fan of strawberries, I don't know what to tell you except that I hope you will stick with us for the in between the strawberry obsession posts. I cannot understand the craziness of not liking strawberries, but I promise that I will try to keep you in mind and bring something to the table that you can enjoy as well.

For those of you on board with the whole strawberry thing, here is the recipe from Food and Wine magazine for Strawberry Shortcake with Meyer Lemon Cream. If you use anything other than Meyer Lemons, I would suggest adding some additional sugar to the lemon curd to help offset some of the tartness.  Enjoy!

Strawberry Shortcake with Meyer Lemon Cream 

Biscuits

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
3/4 cup cake flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed, plus 1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

Lemon Cream

1 finely grated lemon, zest of
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, preferably from Meyer lemons
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 pinch salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream

Strawberries

2 pints strawberries, quartered
2 tablespoons sugar
  1. MAKE THE BISCUITS: Preheat the oven to 375°. In a large bowl, whisk the all-purpose and cake flours with the sugar, baking powder and salt. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in the cold butter until it is the size of small peas. Stir in the cream until a shaggy dough forms.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured surface and knead 2 or 3 times, just until it comes together. Roll the dough into a 7-inch round, about 3/4 inch thick. Using a 2 3/4-inch or 3-inch biscuit cutter, stamp out 5 biscuits. Gently gather the scraps and reroll them; cut out 1 more round so you have a total of 6 biscuits.
  3. Transfer the biscuits to a baking sheet and brush with the melted butter. Sprinkle the turbinado sugar on top and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the biscuits are golden. Let cool.
  4. MEANWHILE, MAKE THE LEMON CREAM: Set a strainer over a medium bowl. In a small saucepan, combine half of the lemon zest with the lemon juice, sugar, egg, egg yolk, salt and 1 tablespoon of the butter. Cook over moderate heat, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Immediately strain the curd into the bowl. Whisk in the remaining lemon zest and 2 tablespoons of butter. Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface and refrigerate until cool, about 15 minutes.
  5. In a medium bowl, softly whip the cream. Fold the lemon curd into the whipped cream and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
  6. PREPARE THE STRAWBERRIES: In a medium bowl, toss the strawberries with the sugar and let stand for 15 minutes.
  7. Split the biscuits in half and arrange the bottom halves on plates. Mound the lemon cream on the biscuits, top with the strawberries and their juices and replace the tops. Serve right away.
Posted on Friday, May 11, 2007 at 12:12AM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments43 Comments | References1 Reference

Welcome to the Rotation

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I love to try new recipes. I love finding things that I have not tried before and branching out to taste new flavors. I would say that on an average week, I make a given 5 new recipes...sometimes more, rarely less. The internet recipe sites, all of the published cookbooks and magazines out there and all of the amazing food blogs tempt me on a daily basis to try something new.

With that being said, I also have my good old standbys. The recipes that are tried and true and that I keep in rotation on a monthly basis. These are the recipes that I grew up on or that I have made so often I can practically create it in my sleep.  One of my favorite things is when I find a recipe that is new and it is so good it creeps into the monthly rotation. Without any history with me at all, it is a recipe that I know instantly I will be making again, and again, and again.

As luck would have it, I found a new keeper yesterday.  The recipe is as simple as they come, but the variations are endless. The recipe? A very basic foccacia bread recipe that I found on Recipezaar. I make bread all the time but for some reason I have always stayed clear of foccacia. It is not because I don't like it. It is simply because I thought I could buy a better version at a bakery than I could make at home. I found out yesterday that my thoughts were wrong. The bread I made was simple, yet as delicious, than the versions I could find at a bakery around here. In fact, I am going to venture to say it was actually better than the bread we can find around here, mostly because it was fresh from the oven.

BenParty003.jpgWhat is it about this bread recipe that makes it worthy enough to be a standby in my house? Well...for starters it is simple and quick to make. Next, it is extremely versatile. I was inspired by the clover rolls I made last week and just used Kosher salt and cracked pepper as my topping, but the possibilities are endless. Try adding some olives, sundried tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, parmesan, rosemary, caramelized onions... you get the point. Make a thicker loaf and you can slice it down the middle to make a delicious Italian sandwich.  

For a basic Italian bread recipe...one that would be a great addition to almost any meal, welcome this delicious recipe into your rotation.

Adapted from Recipezaar:

 Foccacia Bread

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 dash ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil

Toppings of your choice

  1. In large bowl, stir together flour, salt, sugar, yeast, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, basil, and black pepper.
  2. Mix in vegetable oil and water.
  3. When dough has pulled together, turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic.
  4. Lightly oil a large bowl, place dough in bowl, and turn to coat with oil.
  5. Cover with damp cloth and let rise in warm place 25 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  7. Punch dough down, place on greased baking sheet.
  8. Pat dough into 1/2-inch thick rectangle (doesn't have to be perfect).
  9. Using your knuckle, make indentations in the dough about 1/2-inch apart, then prick dough with fork.
  10. Brush top with olive oil, then sprinkle with your choice of toppings.
  11. Bake for 13-15 minutes until golden brown.

 

Posted on Tuesday, May 8, 2007 at 02:12PM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments24 Comments

Anticipating Summer

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Spring is in full force here in the Midwest. I love the thunderstorms that come with the spring weather but I hate the tornados that this part of the country is known for. I have lived in Kansas all but one year of my life and would you believe I can count on only one hand the number of times I have actually had to take shelter from a tornado? Take that handful of times and subtract the times I have actually been in a place where a tornado has hit and you will get zero. I have never been in or near an actual tornado. That all being said, tornados still scare the heck out of me, which is one reason I always look forward to spring bidding farewell and summer coming into my life.

I tend to get myself in summer mode way before summer comes around. One of my favorite ways to pretend like it is summer when it is actually really still spring is to have lots and lots of strawberries around. Fresh strawberries are not in season here until June or July, but the stores start stocking their shelves with tons of strawberries at fairly decent prices during the spring. The store bought strawberries are not even close to the fresh from the vine goodness we get in the summer, but it is a good substitute. Good enough for me anyway and a good enough way to get me ready for those warmer, non-tornadic months.

DSC_0186.jpgThis weekend we had an impromptu Cinco de Mayo party. We had had a day that was jam packed full of craziness and we needed something to help us all unwind and celebrate. Our friends and neighbors came over and I made my sister-in-law's delicious enchiladas. Everyone was asked to bring a side dish or appetizer and we provided the main dish and the dessert.  The main dish was taken care of, but I had no idea what to make for dessert. Margarita cupcakes were what my mind originally went to, but when I opened the fridge and saw the enormous tub of strawberries I had bought at Costco that morning, I knew I needed to use them up. Since I was short on time, I took the easy way out and opened up Google and typed in "Strawberry Margarita Dessert". Several options caught my eye, but the one that I kept coming back to was a Frozen Strawberry Margarita Dessert from Recipe Source. I also wanted something a little more kid friendly, so I decided I would make Strawberry Cupcakes with Whipped Strawberry Frosting for the kids.

Both of these desserts were delicious. The Frozen Strawberry Margarita Dessert was a big hit among the adults. It really tasted like a frozen strawberry margarita. It was cool and refreshing and was a perfect Cinco de Mayo treat. The cupcakes were also delicious. I had some issues with my whipped frosting due to the heat and humidity that day, but the kids didn't notice at all.

For now, I will enjoy the spring weather and thunderstorms. I will continue to hope that I can keep from personally meeting a tornado face to face.  While I am doing that, I will still anticipate the tastes of summer, all the while munching on my tub of strawberries.

Frozen Strawberry Margarita Dessert

CRUST:

1 1/4 cups finely crushed pretzels

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter or margarine -- melted

FILLING
1 can sweetened condensed milk -- 14 oz.

1/4 cup lime juice

2 tablespoons tequila

2 tablespoons orange liqueur (I used Grand Mariner)

1 package strawberries in syrup -- 10 oz. thawed

1 cup whipping cream

To make crust: Combine pretzels, sugar and melted butter. Press firmly into bottom of 8" spring form pan. Chill.

For filling, combine condensed milk, lime juice, tequila and orange liquor.
Beat until smooth. Add strawberries, beat at low speed until well-blended. Fold in whipping cream. Pour over crust, freeze 4 - 6 hours or until firm. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes before serving.

 

Posted on Monday, May 7, 2007 at 02:39PM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments24 Comments

Some Like it Hot... Some Like it Really Hot

DSC_0176.jpgA couple of posts ago, I wrote about my introduction to a tasty and addicting product from a company by the name of Nando's. This stuff is amazing!

When Nando's sent me some of their products to try, I dove right in anxious to taste what they had to offer. When I took a look at their Chickenland Peri-Peri Marinade I admit that I was a little nervous. You see... I love spicy food but I love spicy food that you can taste. Not spicy food that makes your eyes and nose water and forces you to down an enormous glass of the nearest beverage. I do not get a lot of pleasure our of making myself sweat while I eat. The Chickenland Peri-Peri Marinade was rated "Hot" on Nando's scale which I had convinced myself meant 10 alarm fire hot. I wanted to try it, but I kept putting it off and putting it off.

Last week I was browsing Nando's onlne store trying to narrow my order of wants down to something a little more realistic than one case of everything. While I was there, I took a quick trip over to their blog and noticed a review of the Chickenland Peri-Peri Marinade written by the folks at The Hot Zone blog. You can read their review by going here, but basically reading it convinced me that I think I could handle the "hot" factor.

Well, Nando's has done it again. This "hot" marinade is hot, but it is not "call 911" hot. It has the perfect blend of spices and herbs and the heat is just right. My husband and I both raved about the chicken and my kids loved it too.DSC_0178.jpg

I know I do not have to convince those of you who have tried the products by Nando's to go out and grab some. For those of you who were in the dark about this great stuff like me, get over to their online store today and order yourself up some delicious marinade, hot sauce, grinders and rub. From those of us who like it hot to those of you who like to sweat and cry when you eat. Nando's has something for everyone.

Posted on Friday, May 4, 2007 at 01:54PM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments15 Comments

Geniune Italian - Giada De Laurentiis

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My good friend Kathy and I, along with our husbands, went to a Giada De Laurentiis book signing a couple of weeks ago. We were 4 of about 1,000 eager fans who were lucky enough to get tickets to the sold out event. We were all anxious to find out if Giada is the "real deal". Could she possibly be as genuine and adorable in real life as she comes across on TV? The answer? Simply, yes. Giada de Laurentiis seems to be the real deal. Genuine, full of life, friendly and beautiful (how else do you think we got our hubby's to go along with us?)

Giada arrived at the book signing/speaking engagement after several weeks on the road promoting her newest cookbook Everyday Pasta. Kansas City was near the end of the tour for her. She was about 15 minutes late, but when she walked into the room you felt like she had all the time in the world and that you were her one and only focus.

Some of the questions and answers that I found interesting are below. Please note, these are not exact quotes but mere summaries of the dialog.

Do you plan on ever opening a restaurant? Opening a restaurant is on the back burner right now because she is just too busy with her shows (Everyday Italian & Giada's Weekend Getaways) and creating recipes for her cookbooks. It is a dream of hers that she hopes to someday make a reality.

How many hours does it take to make one episode of Everyday Italian? Giada spends 3 months creating and testing recipes. The actual taping of one 22 minute show takes 15 hours. Each complete show is taped twice...once in wide shot and once close up. 

How do you stay so skinny? Giada said that this is the number one question she gets asked by fans. She credits her slim figure to three things...1) Portion control 2) Working out 3 times each week 3) Good genes

What is your favorite American food? French fries and chocolate gelato 

When you make dinner at home, what do you cook? Since her husband Todd is a meat and pasta kind of guy, she likes to make Short Rib Ragu. The recipe is somewhat time consuming, but she swears it is well worth it. Another favorite is Penne pasta with beef and arugula

How do you do it and where do you find the time to fit so much into your life? Family is extremely important to Giada.I imagine that when most of us are out of town for a long period of time, when we come home we want some down time to ourselves. Giada makes it a point to be home at least once a week. On that one day, she surrounds herself with immediate and extended family and tends to make big meals at home for them. She finds cooking to be very therapeutic and when she is on the road it drives her crazy not to be able to cook for herself and others.  She loves to be surrounded by family and good food.

Giada's tip for making ravioli using wonton wrappers - Work your way from the inside out. A lot of people try to seal the outside edges first and then work their way in. If you do it this way, you will end up with tons of air bubbles. If you start on the inside and work your way out, you will avoid that problem all together.

If you missed the tour and want to find more about Giada, head on over to her website. You can also catch her on segments of the Today show, as well as her two shows on the Food Network: Everyday Italian and Giada's Weekend Getaways.

If you do not have her newest cookbook, Everyday Pasta, I highly recommend getting yourself a copy.  It is full of incredible recipes and beautiful photographs. I have several pages bookmarked already. Here is a glimpse inside, with the first recipe I tested, Rigatoni with Sausage, Peppers, and Onions.

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Rigatoni with Sausage, Peppers, and Onions

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 pound sweet Italian turkey sausages
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and sliced
2 yellow onions, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup Marsala wine
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, with juice
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1 pound rigatoni pasta
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the sausages and cook until brown on all sides, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove the sausages from the pan.

Keeping the pan over medium heat, add the bell peppers, onions, salt, and pepper and cook until golden, 5 minutes. Add the garlic, oregano, and basil and cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir until incorporated, then add the Marsala, tomatoes with their juice, and red pepper flakes, if using. Stir to combine, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release all the brown bits. Bring to a simmer.

Cut the sausages into 4 to 6 pieces each. Return the sausages to the pan. Simmer uncovered until the sauce has thickened, about 20 minutes.

While the sauce simmers, 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 the pasta and add to the thickened sauce; toss to combine. Spoon into individual bowls and sprinkle each serving with Parmesan cheese.

 

For another account of meeting Giada and another delicious recipe from this cookbook, head on over one of my favorite blogs, Kirsten's Home Cooking Adventures.

 

Posted on Wednesday, May 2, 2007 at 02:29PM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments23 Comments | References8 References

Gourmet Magazine May 2007

Written for Paper Palate on the Well Fed Network

One of the biggest complaints I hear about Gourmet magazine is that it has too many advertisements. People get frustrated at the amount of magazine space that is taken up by the ads and tend to skip reading the issues all together because of this. I personally love the ads in Gourmet magazine. Ads for vacations, upscale kitchen appliances, food products with recipes included, etc. These ads do not bother me one bit. In fact, in issues like the May 2007 issue, I think the ads are what makes the magazine. While reading this issue, I found myself bored and uninterested, which has never happened to me when I have had an issue of Gourmet in my hands.

More...The spring season seems to be the prime time for magazine publishers to post issues about travel. With food magazines, this means the writers get to travel all over the world to report back to us the hot spots and must have of certain destinations. The May 2007 issue of Gourmet magazine has been deemed their Special Travel Issue. The staff of Gourmet traveled to Australia and Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Mexico and South America, the Caribbean and the United States with the promise of giving us the very best of food from these sources. They did scoop up some wonderful recipes, but the content in between lacked much interest for me.

If you are planning a trip to any of these destinations this summer, you could pick up the May 2007 issue of Gourmet magazine and give your taste buds a glimpse of the exciting flavors you will be tasting. Some of the recipes I am tempted to try out include:

The recipe I tried for Asian Meatballs with Sesame Lime Dipping Sauce made up for the mediocre issue and is a recipe I plan on keeping in my monthly rotation. I made the recipe exactly as stated without the additional cilantro garnish at the end. It was delicious and it was a quick meal to put on the table... perfect for a busy weeknight.

Asian Meatballs with Sesame Lime Dipping Sauce

Enlivened with crisp water chestnuts and fresh cilantro, these delicate Asian-inspired veal and pork meatballs are a world away from their Italian counterpart — but they're just as moist and irresistible.

1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs
3/4 pound ground pork
3/4 pound ground veal
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup canned sliced water chestnuts, rinsed, drained, and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro plus
1/4 cup sprigs
5 tablespoons soy sauce
4 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons sugar
Accompaniment: steamed white rice

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 500°F.

Pour milk over bread crumbs in a large bowl and stir until liquid is absorbed. Add ground meat, egg, water chestnuts, salt, chopped cilantro, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 2 teaspoons oil and mix with your hands until combined well. Shape 3 tablespoons meat mixture into a ball and transfer to a 13- by 9-inch glass baking dish. Make more meatballs with remaining mixture, arranging meatballs about 1/2 inch apart in baking dish. Bake until cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir together lime juice, water, sugar, remaining 4 tablespoons soy sauce, and remaining 2 teaspoons oil in a bowl until sugar is dissolved.

Transfer meatballs to a serving dish. Stir sauce, then drizzle meatballs with 1 tablespoon sauce and sprinkle with cilantro sprigs.

Serve meatballs with remaining sauce.

Makes 4 (main course) servings.

Posted on Monday, April 30, 2007 at 01:00AM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments23 Comments

South of the Border S'Mores

Written for Kids Cuisine on the Well Fed Network

Getting creative at snack time is always a challenge for me. I know that other moms share this struggle as well. It is hard to get out of the cheese and crackers rut. Thank goodness there are resources out there to help us out. One of my favorite places to turn for snack time inspiration is Family Fun Magazine and the Family Fun website. This family of resources is my number one place to turn when I need something creative for the kids...whether it be a craft, party ideas or simple snack solutions.

A couple of years ago, Family Fun Magazine posted a snack recipe that caught my eye. It is a recipe that I make several times a month now for snack. It is simple, the kids can help to make it, we always have the ingredients on hand and it is a tasty snack that they love.

South of the Border S'Mores

4 servings
10 min 5 min prep
2 flour tortillas (8-10 inch)
3 large marshmallows, cut in half
2 tablespoons milk chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon sugar, mixture
  1. Generously coat a medium skillet with vegetable spray and heat it over medium heat.
  2. Place a tortilla in the skillet, then sprinkle the marshmallow halves and the chocolate chips evenly over it.
  3. Top with the second tortilla and spray it with vegetable spray as well.
  4. Cook the tortilla stack for 1-2 minutes or until lightly browned, then carefully flip it and cook on the other side for an additional 1-2 minutes.
  5. Remove the tortillas to a cutting board, sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the top, then cut the s-more into quarters.
  6. Makes 4 S'Mores.
For more snack time inspiration, subscribe to Family Fun magazine or visit their website www.familyfun.com.
Posted on Thursday, April 26, 2007 at 12:39PM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments23 Comments

From Disaster to Divine

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The first time I ever made clover rolls it was a kitchen disaster. To this day I have no idea what went wrong. The rolls that I had such high hopes for were hard as a rock. My husband and I had a fun time kicking them around the kitchen. I tried to give our dog one and he, the dog that normally inhaled people food, took the roll in his mouth, ran outside and buried it. I think he knew deep down that these rolls should be out of site because of the danger they could cause if one was thrown and bonked someone in the head. We are talking concussion quality rolls.

That was a few years ago and I had stayed clear of clover rolls because of that one disaster. Today, however, I had a change of heart. I was trying to decide what to make for the Waiter There's Something in My...Bread event. I was browsing through my recipes and was feeling uninspired. What happened next was nothing short of fate. I literally stumbled upon a food blog called "What We're Eating". This blog sucked me in from the first post I read and I kept reading and reading. It is a brilliant blog. As I was browsing through the posts I noticed some amazing photographs. Particularly, a photo of some incredible looking Rosemary Clover Rolls. I knew that this was my sign to get back on that horse and try to make clover rolls again. I was going to give this recipe a try and hope that it would be a success.

Let me tell all of you... I think these have got to be the best rolls, hands down, that I have ever made. They are tender, soft and crusty all at the same time. The addition of the kosher salt and cracked fresh pepper on top is what makes this recipe over the top delicious. I can just imagine the flexibility this recipe would allow with changing out the rosemary for a different herb. I will be making these over and over and over again and I will probably not change a thing. They are perfect the way they are.

To give these perfectly divine rolls a try for yourself, head over to the What We're Eating blog and take a look around. To be tempted by other delicious breads, head over to the April edition of Waiter There's Something In My...Bread event, hosted by the talented Andrew of Spittoon Extra.

Posted on Tuesday, April 24, 2007 at 10:37PM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments18 Comments | References4 References

A Taste of Yellow

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Over the weekend I heard about a food blogging event put on by Barb of Winos and Foodies that will show our support for LIVESTRONG Day.

LIVESTRONG Day is the Lance Armstrong Foundation's (LAF) grassroots advocacy initiative to unify people affected by cancer and to raise awareness about cancer survivorship issues on a national level and in local communities across the country.  LIVESTRONG Day 2007 will occur on Wednesday, May 16.

Barb is asking that all of us participate in her event "A Taste of Yellow". The challenge is to make a recipe using some kind of yellow food. I knew right away that I wanted to participate in this worthy event. Cancer has touched each of us in some way or another. We have an Aunt on my husband's side who is currently undergoing chemotherapy. Two of my close friends are struggling with the recent diagonsis their dad's have received regarding prostate cancer. I have several more examples but these three are the ones that are close to us right now.

As I sat in my kitchen trying to decide what yellow food to use, I glanced over and noticed some ripe bananas on my countertop. It is so rare that we have ripe bananas... my kids usually eat a few bananas a day between the three of them, so we go through bananas quickly. I knew right then and there that my yellow food was probably not going to be unique, but it would be tasty! Banana Bread would be my contribution to the "Taste of Yellow" event.

A few months ago Claire at Cooking is Medicine posted a banana bread recipe adapated from the Mitford Series books. Her recipe for Puny's Banana Bread caught my eye and has been on my mind ever since. I made a few adaptations to the recipe. I used half brown sugar and half white sugar. I also used 4 bananas instead of three because that is what I had ripe and in my opinion you can't go wrong with extra banana flavor in banana bread. The last touch was to add just a splash of vanilla. I baked the bread for an hour and it came out of my oven looking and smelling delicious.

I encourage all of you food bloggers out there to participate in Barb's "Taste of Yellow" event. It is just one small way we can all unite to show our support for those friends, family members and strangers who are showing their strength and fighting this awful disease.

 

One more cause worth supporting...

April 30th is a One Day Blog Slicence in memory of the VA Tech victims as well as victims around the world. Click on the button in my sidebar to find out more. Thank you Suzy for making us aware of this important event.


Posted on Monday, April 23, 2007 at 10:15AM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments23 Comments | References1 Reference

Simply Salmon

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I know a lot of people who claim to not like fish. They often say it is because of the "fishy" flavor that fish has. A lot of people I know who do like fish don't like to make it at home because they think that the recipe has to be elaborate or the process of making the fish is time consuming. They would rather go out to a seafood restaurant and order up their fish than to make it at home.

My husband and I used to be like that. We would only go out to eat if we wanted seafood. We had a "fish phobia" that neither of us were willing to do anything about...we were intimidated by the entire fish process.

A few years ago this all changed when I decided to give Tilapia a try at home. I had several great attempts with various Tilapia recipes (click here to see some of my favorite Tilapia recipes). My confidence and desire to learn how to cook other varieties of fish grew. I discovered that cooking fish is really simple. I have no idea why I thought it was so difficult because it really is not.

One of the seafood recipes my husband and I love to make now is just about as simple as it gets. It is a cedar plank salmon recipe that uses few ingredients but packs restaurant quality flavor into every single bite. We don't go out to eat at seafood restaurants anymore, thanks to recipes like this. If you are ready to get over your fish phobia head to your nearest fish market, of if you are in the midwest like us, head to Costco. Make it easy on yourself and buy your fish already skinned and de-boned. Then follow this recipe and take your first step into fish phobia freedom.

Easy Cedar Plank Salmon, from Recipezaar


1 salmon fillet (de-boned, skinned, and cleaned)

salt

pepper

brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small bits
1 cedar plank (untreated, cut to fit the grill)
  1. Cut a cedar plank to fit your barbeque grill.
  2. You won't be saving this, so no need to be fancy.
  3. (We usually get a 1"-thick, 12" wide board and cut it into appropriately sized pieces.) Completely submerse the cedar plank in water for 15 minutes.
  4. Put the salmon"skin-side" down on the wet plank.
  5. (Remember that anything hanging off the side of the board will burn, so try to maneuver the salmon all onto the board.) Salt and pepper to taste.
  6. If you have a favorite herb or spice, you might want to add a sprinkle now.
  7. Pat a thickish coating of brown sugar evenly over the top of the salmon.
  8. We like our salmon well-glazed, so we pat about a 1/4" layer onto the fish.
  9. Dot with little chunks of the butter, use more or less to your taste.
  10. Grill (on a rack) above medium hot coals until the fish is firm in the center.
  11. To serve, just pop the plank onto a platter and cut pieces off the salmon at the table.
Posted on Sunday, April 22, 2007 at 11:39AM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments30 Comments

Become an Addict

Grit020.jpgA few weeks ago I received an e-mail from David Rock, a rep for a product called Nandos Peri Peri Sauces. He was wondering if he could send me some of their products to try and then review. I took a look at their website and found out that Nandos is a company that manufacturers basting, cooking and marinade sauces as well as rubs and spices derived from the peri-peri chilli pepper. These products were right up my alley, so I agreed and within a few days a big package of goodies arrived on my doorstep.

 My package from David included the Medium Peri Peri Sauce, Hot Peri Peri marinade, and the Peri-Peri Coconut Curry cooking sauce. Also included was a nifty looking T-Shirt that my husband seems to have adopted for his own.

I was very eager to give these products a try but wasn't quite sure which one to try first. Lucky for me, the May 2007 issue of Food and Wine magazine appeared on my doorstep a few days later and included in the issue was a recipe for a  Jamaican Chicken Rub that required the use of hot sauce. At first bite, I noticed a difference in what I was tasting. You know how with most spicy foods, the spice tends to overpower the flavor of whatever you are eating? Well, with this hot sauce, you can still taste the food. The flavor of the chicken and the spices in the rub came through loud and clear and then...a short while after my first bite... the heat hit. It was truly delicious.

I love hot and spicy food, but I hate it when the heat of the food makes my eyes water, sets my mouth on fire and completely overpowers whatever I am tasting. Nandos has hot sauce down to a science. It truly is a unique product.

Nandos.jpgLater in the week I needed a quick and tasty dinner. I opened my pantry and the first thing I noticed was the Nando's Coconut Curry sauce sitting on the shelf. I got it out and looked at the directions. You simply cook your meat, add whatever veggies you want, pour the sauce over all of it and cook through. As my son would say "Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy". This was exactly what I needed on a hectic weeknight. As dinner was cooking the aroma that filled my kitchen was divine. I couldn't wait to take my first bite. Delicious! Just like with the hot sauce, you could actually taste the blended flavors in the food and then a short while later, the taste of the "heat" kicked in. How Nando's does this, I have no idea. What I do know is that I am officially addicted.

Nandos has such a variety of products to choose from. I personally cannot wait to give their Grinders/Rubs a try as well as some of their other cooking sauces. If you like the "heat" of spicy food but also like to actually taste what you are eating, head over to the Nando's site and see what stores are in your area. If you can't find any stores, you can always feed your addiction by shopping online through their website. Don't say I didn't warn you... be prepared to be addicted. 

Posted on Wednesday, April 18, 2007 at 10:53PM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments19 Comments | References19 References

The Bundt Cake Movement

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Bundt cakes always get a bad rap for being boring. When I think of bundt cakes, I think of little old ladies and their church pot luck suppers. Bundt cakes seem to be all over the place at those events.  People seem to like bundt cakes, but they rarely get the ooohhh's and ahhhhh's they deserve. Is it the lack of frosting that gives them their less than stellar appeal? Is it that they tend to be a simple, dense cake without a lot of flavor variation? I really do not know what the reason is, but I am here today to change your mind and to convince you to give the simple little bundt cake another chance.

I needed to make a cake this weekend for a party we were having. For some reason, I had it in my mind that I wanted to make some kind of bundt cake. As I was browsing through my recipes at home I could not find anything that stood out. I did not want boring... I wanted a cake that people would leave asking the recipe for. After an unsuccessful attempt browsing through my own recipes, I decided to turn to Recipezaar. I typed in "Bundt Cake" and a zillion recipes popped up. I sorted the recipes by rating and as soon as I did that a recipe for an "Irish Cream Bundt Cake" popped up. I opened it up and started reading the reviews. People loved this bundt cake! With 23 high star reviews and all of the ingredients right in my pantry, I knew I found the recipe I would be using for my bundt cake.

This cake is amazing. AMAZING! I am not exaggerating when I say this. The Irish cream comes through nice and strong and the texture of the cake is true to bundt cake form...dense, moist and delicious.  I think we could all pull together with this recipe and change the reputation of bundt cakes around the world. We could start a movement to put bundt cakes on the "Hot List". Bundt cakes could become one of "Oprah's Favorite Things". Some hot celebrity would sign on to be the Bundt Cake activist. It may take some time for bundt cake to become cool. I suggest that you become a trendsetter now and give this recipe a try. Pass it around to your friends and neighbors and people will come around. Trust me.

Irish Cream Bundt Cake

1 (18 1/2 ounce) package yellow cake mix
1 (3 1/2 ounce) package vanilla instant pudding mix
4 eggs
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup irish cream
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup water
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup irish cream
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
  2. Grease and flour a 10 inch Bundt pan.
  3. In a large bowl, combine cake mix and pudding mix.
  4. Mix in eggs, 1/4 cup water, 1/2 cup oil and 3/4 cup Irish cream liqueur.
  5. Beat for 5 minutes at high speed.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
  7. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then invert onto the serving dish.
  8. Prick top and sides of cake.
  9. Spoon glaze over top and brush onto sides of cake.
  10. Allow to absorb glaze repeat until all glaze is used up.
  11. To make the glaze: In a saucepan, combine butter, 1/4 cup water and 1 cup sugar.
  12. Bring to a boil and continue boiling for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  13. Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup Irish cream.
On a side note, the lovely Sandi at the Whistlestop Cafe and Mimi at French Kitchen in America have both tagged me as a "Thinking Blogger"...this is an award given to someone who has inspired them to think. Well...I am so honored but overwhelmed as now I get to choose 5 bloggers who have inspired me to think. This was so hard because there are sooooo many, but here it goes:
1) Lisa over at Project Metta. Visit Lisa's blog and you will be inspired by her Random Acts of Kindness project. What a great way to change the world!
2) Karen Beth over at Zazazu. Her blog is full of lovely inspiration. She makes me think about life in a whole new way.
3) Jody at The Devil's Cloth. I am so inspired by her incredible talent and her links to others who are full of talent.
4) Kate at Kate in the Kitchen. I love Kate's writing...she makes me want to be a better writer. She is also super smart when it comes to all things wine. I love her advice and her intelligence!
5) Last but not least, The Thinking Blog. Appropriate, isn't it? This blog really does make you think about everything going on in the world and also makes you think about things you didn't know you wanted to think about. Just go visit... you won't be sorry! 
 

 

Posted on Monday, April 16, 2007 at 12:59PM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments42 Comments | References2 References

Ooooey Gooey Monkey Bread

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I have a friend who does not like for her kids to get messy. Her kids don't know about condiments...dipping things in ranch dressing, ketchup, barbecue sauce, etc is something they have yet to experience. Jelly on their sandwiches? Forget about it... too messy. Pancakes and waffles simply get butter. There is no such thing as sticky maple syrup allowed in their house. To that friend and any of you reading who are against messy, stop reading now. This post just may put you over the edge.

Don't get me wrong... cleaning up messes is not my idea of a good time. I would prefer to live in a nice clean world free of sticky chairs and tables. I would love to not have to remind my kids to wash their hands after eating...no worries of messy fingers leaving goo all over the house. It would be a thrill to live life without needing the Tide Stain Stick or Shout Wipes.

Yes, a sparkly clean life would be pleasant, but how much fun is that?  No fun at all. When you are messy, it means you have really experienced something to its fullest. You have gumption, passion, and a lot of laundry to do.

The ultimate get sticky experience comes from my kitchen and could help break you of your need for clean. I dare you, Mr and Mrs Clean, to break out of your comfort zone. Live a little...get sticky. Grab a napkin if you must and sit down at the table with a plate of Monkey Bread in front of your family. Resist the urge to grab forks...eat like a monkey using your own hands as your utensils. Once you give this oooey gooey treat a try you will agree with me that staying clean is overrated.

You can find many variations of Monkey Bread on Recipezaar. I jump around from recipe to recipe using my own variations of each (using homemade bread dough when I have time or canned biscuits when I am in a pinch.) Which ever recipe you use, I promise it will get you over the need for clean. Monkey Bread is well worth the mess every time.

Monkey Bread

3 cans buttermilk biscuits
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup margarine
1 cup brown sugar


  1. Cut each biscuit in fourths with scissors.
  2. Shake biscuits in bag with sugar and cinnamon.
  3. Layer biscuits into greased tube pan.
  4. Melt margarine and brown sugar and boil 1 minute.
  5. Pour over biscuits.
  6. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes at 350 degrees.
  7. Let stand 10 minutes before removing from pan.
Posted on Wednesday, April 11, 2007 at 10:39PM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments35 Comments | References8 References

A Dessert Worth Destroying

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I love Trifles. They are one of my favorite desserts to make because they are always delicious and they always make a beautiful presentation. The problem with trifles is that they are almost too pretty. When it comes time to serve them, the very thought of scooping into the big trifle bowl to tear apart the creation is enough to send shivers down my spine. Isn't it good enough to just sit and look at the pretty dessert without destroying it? Apparently not...for some odd reason people actually want to eat the trifle. Admiring the beauty just will not do.

Last evening, my good friend Sara had my family and another friends family over for Easter dinner. My assignment....bread and dessert. We enjoyed a wonderful meal, with a Martha Stewart worthy table setting and friendly conversation. Once it came time for dessert, Sara pulled the trifle out of the fridge and handed it to me. "You serve it," she said. "No...this is your house, you are the host... you serve it." "I can't bring myself to cut into it...it is just too pretty," she said. Reluctantly, only because I knew the guys would not understand not getting dessert because it was too pretty to cut in to, I picked up the spoon and scooped out the first serving.  Trifles are not nearly as beautiful plopped down on a plate, are they? At this point though, appearance doesn't matter. One you have the first spoonful of this trifle in your mouth, you will not care at all what it looks like or the beauty you destroyed. Trust me when I say this...cutting in to any trifle is well worth mutilating it in the process. Very well worth it.

To create a trifle for your own mutilating pleasure, follow this recipe. Light versions of all of the ingredients can be used without sacrificing flavor.

From Recipezaar:

Strawberry Cheesecake Trifle 

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 (8 ounce) container sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup Cool Whip, thawed
4 tablespoons sugar
1 angel food cake, torn into bite-size pieces
2 quarts fresh strawberries, thinly sliced
  1. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and powdered sugar until fluffy; add sour cream, 1/2 tsp.
  2. vanilla and the almond extract; set aside.
  3. Fold the cool whip into the cream cheese mixture.
  4. Gently stir in cake pieces; set aside.
  5. Combine strawberries and sugar, stirring until sugar is dissolved.
  6. Layer in a large glass bowl, starting with 1/4 of the strawberries, then adding 1/3 of the cake mixture.
  7. Continue layering; finish with strawberries.
  8. Cover with plastic wrap; and chill several hours.

 

Posted on Monday, April 9, 2007 at 03:09PM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments33 Comments | References6 References

Don't Mess With Texas

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Texans are proud people. If you want proof, pass over the border in to Texas, stop at the nearest visitors center and you will be greeted with friendly folks eager to pass out their giant "Don't Mess With Texas" bumper stickers. You will see big Chevy trucks with the "Lone Star State" emblem on their back windshields. You will find little old ladies, proud of their Texas history, handing out brochures about all of the great things to do in Texas. You will pass by football stadiums, from pee wee to college, packed to the gills with faithful Texas football fans week after week (OK...well this part is solely based off of one of my favorite TV Shows, Friday Night Lights, but I'm sure it is true!). Texans are proud and they like to do things in a big way.

A couple of weeks ago, the newest issue of Taste of Home magazine arrived in my mailbox.  The cover title of this months issue is Crazy for Cupcakes. Well...I'm crazy for cupcakes and the photos on the front had me intrigued. I stopped what I was doing, sat down and opened the issue to browse through it right away. One of the things I like about the magazines put out be Reiman Publications (Taste of Home, Simple and Delicious, Light and Tasty) is that the recipes all seem doable. You don't have to be a gourmet chef to be able to put something tasty on your table every night. Their recipes are for people like you and me... busy and tired yet we enjoy cooking and want to be able to make a home cooked meal each night that won't take an entire day of preparation. I always can find more than enough recipes in their magazines to keep my menu plan full.

cupakes002.jpgYou are probably wondering what the heck these two paragraphs have to do with each other. What do proud Texans and Taste of Home magazine have in common? To be honest with you, I am really not sure except that in this months issue I found a recipe I couldn't wait to try called "Texas Chocolate Cupcakes".The recipe promised to deliver two of my favorite flavors...chocolate and caramel. What could be better?

I do not know where the name "Texas Chocolate Cupcakes" came from as the woman who wrote this recipe is from Virginia. My only guess would be that these are cupcakes to be proud of....Texas proud. If you make these cupcakes you'll be proud in a big way. They are moist chocolate cupcakes with a sweet whipped caramel frosting. The flavor is big...just like Texas. In fact, I can see the state of Texas changing their marketing materials simply because of these wonderful chocolate cupcakes. The Chevy trucks will now have cupcake emblems instead of the Lone Star. The ladies at the visitors center will be passing these out along with the new bumper stickers that say "Don't Mess With Texas Cupcakes...they are perfect just the way they are." Get on the bandwagon now and be one of the first to have that Texas Cupcake proud feeling. Here is the recipe so you can try it out for yourself.

Texas Chocolate Cupcakes

INGREDIENTS



  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup baking cocoa
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup butter, cubed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • CARAMEL ICING:
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, cubed
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 to 2-1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
  •  

    In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking soda. In a large saucepan over medium heat, bring cocoa, water, oil and butter to a boil. Gradually add to dry ingredients; mix well. Combine eggs, buttermilk and vanilla; gradually add to batter and mix well (batter will be very thin). Fill paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. Bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
    For icing, in a heavy saucepan, combine the brown sugar, butter and milk. Cook and stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to medium. Do not stir. Cook for 3-6 minutes or until bubbles form in center of mixture and syrup turns amber. Remove from the heat; transfer to a small mixing bowl. Cool to room temperature. Gradually beat in confectioners' sugar. Spread over cupcakes. Yield: 2 dozen.
    Posted on Friday, April 6, 2007 at 04:57PM by Registered CommenterKristen | Comments30 Comments