Friday, February 25, 2011

Favourite Thing Friday

My favourite thing today is Betty Crocker. No, not that evil frosting in a tub or brownie mix - the actual cookbook. I realize that Betty isn't a real person - but this cookbook has traveled with me for the past thirteen years. A lot has happened during that time - when I first started using this cookbook I was newly married, living in western New York and expecting a baby.

I have always told everyone that if you can read, you can cook. When I was a new wife and had a cooking question I would run to the phone. If my mom wasn't home, I'd go to "Betty". I have lost count of the number of great recipes this simple book contains. Some of the pages are more well-worn than others, some pages actually stick together at this point - especially the one for lemon meringue pie.

I still use this cookbook and I'm amazed at how far we've come together (me and Betty, that is).  When I first started using this cookbook, I had no idea what hummus was or how to roast a chicken. 

I have searched through my blog to highlight a few recipes that have come from my trusted friend - here are a few - simply click on the highlighted names!

crepes, waffles, lemon meringue pie, tomato bisque, peanut butter cookies, foccacia, carrot cake, lemon squares, and three-cheese ball [to name a few]!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

simply pasta

I could eat this every day.

Crisped pancetta cubes, slow-roasted tomatoes, pasta, red pepper flakes, shredded parm, and Classico tomato and basil sauce.  Simple, fast, utterly delicious. 

On the side - tomato pesto batter bread.  I'll share this recipe soon.  I'm not a very good bread baker, but this was pretty stellar right out of the oven - with a generous helping of butter.  Comfort food to the max, that's what this meal was all about.  

What is your idea of comfort food?  Mine is always carbs - lots and lots of carbs.  Maybe you like a nice pot roast, a big steak, or a huge salad.  Me, I'll take fresh bread slathered with butter and a side of pasta! 

I Shouldn't Read.....

If I didn't read other blogs, I wouldn't try things like this

Green juice - kale, celery, lemon, apple, cucumber, romaine, and lime.  It was weird, is all I can say. 

If I didn't read other blogs, I would realize that fig newtons cannot be copied

Can you see from this picture how dry these are?  They were, trust me. 

If I didn't read other blogs, I would understand that trans fats are added to bread for a reason - sandwich bread is really hard to make. 

I have garnered much knowledge from other people's thoughts, but sometimes that knowledge just doesn't translate into my life.  But, I look at it as pretty cheap entertainment - if you consider that kind of thing entertainment - which I do. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

What We Saw at the Cabin.....

1. Some beautiful vistas.....

We took a small hike and managed to keep ourselves from blowing off of the mountain.  Our weather went from 72 and sunny on Friday to 33 degrees with 50 mile per hour winds on Saturday. 

one of our signs

love the blue sky!

the view from the top - peering to the other ridges

2.  Some tropical temperatures....inside of the cabin.

The woodstove that heats the cabin is extremely efficient - we try to pack shorts and t-shirts because, inevitably, we're roasting.

88 degrees

4.  Some green.....

I am becoming desperate for green - I'm officially sick of brown and gray.  The green in the moss and evergreen trees provide a welcome sight!

5.  Evidence of wildlife.....

Usually we're so loud on our walks that we never see animals, but I do think that most wildlife is still hibernating (if they're smart).

some deer tracks on the road

anyone know why these woodpeckers peck - they don't live in these tiny holes, do they?

I guess you could say we actually say wildlife - in our bedroom to be, no less.  This little guy and his siblings have made a home in our bedroom - those little beady eyes really creep me out.  Don't worry, I had Rob send them over to Angie and Travis' room, since they like wildlife so much!  :)

6.  Smiles.....

It wasn't the perfect weekend - the weather could have been a little nicer and the attitudes a little less grumpy - but we made memories.  And, we saw some smiling faces!  That's kind of what it's all about, don't ya think?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Mashed Potatoes

We love mashed potatoes here.  We are what you call carbivores.  If I had to give up starches I'd be a continually grumpy person.  Even though I love mashed potatoes - can I just say that I think they're kind of hard to make?  I have, on more than several occasions, made mashed potatoes that tasted and looked like wallpaper paste.  I have made lumpy mashed potatoes, I have made dry mashed potatoes, runny mashed potatoes, and tasteless ones.  To me, as a committed carbivore, mashed potatoes are worth persevering for. 

Lately, I've been using yukon golds.  Love them.  I peel and chop pretty small pieces and then boil until fork tender.  I feel like a fork is a better test than the paring knife I had been previously using.  I then use my hand mixer, lots of butter, sour cream, salt, pepper, and 2 % milk. 

Our favorite mashed potatoes are topped with cheddar (Cabot seriously sharp), crumbled bacon, and sliced green onion tops. 

Check these out -

before baking

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until golden brown.

These are perfect with "down-home" meals - your typical meat and potatoes fare with a little bit of a twist.

after baking

If you love mashed potatoes - you'll love these.  You can make them ahead of time (even the day before) and simply bake 40 minutes before you're ready to eat. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Apple Raisin Cupcakes

If you're thinking to yourself, "oh, these sounds healthy" - um, not really.  I guess they're not unhealthy, but with 1 cup of canola oil and three eggs, they're not fat-free.  You probably could substitute applesauce or yogurt in place of the oil, but if you're only eating a cupcake at least your portion size is controlled.  Plus, they're really delicious. 

I missed Favourite Thing Friday yesterday because we were outside most of the day.  The kids have a long weekend off from school and it was 70+ degrees Fahrenheit yesterday!  

We're leaving for the cabin later this morning and hopefully I won't forget the camera, Marg! 

Anyway, back to the cupcakes - this is my recipe for apple-raisin cake - from my trusty Brethren church cookbook. 

Apple Raisin Cupcakes

1 cup canola oil
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 t baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup walnuts (I have never added these, but I usually add raisins)
4 cups sliced apples (I do not peel these)

 1. Mix wet ingredients, slowly add dry ingredients.
2. Stir in apples and walnuts and/or raisins.
3. Place in cupcake papers and bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees.

Icing: (I usually double this recipe - we really like icing!)
1/2 T soft butter
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
3 oz cream cheese

beat together until smooth and spread on cooled cupcakes

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Smoky Quesadillas

I am a carnivore - through and through.  But, sometimes I wonder about our meat consumption.  I think about my high cholesterol, and how exactly it is that we should be eating.  Everyone has an opinion, and honestly, I would never give up meat because I feel bad for the animals (sorry).   I feel like my attitudes are kind of changing - like meat should be an accessory rather than the main dish.  Rob is totally going to kill me when he reads this.

I do think that when our grandparents were growing up, meat was a luxury.  Rob will be traveling for almost two weeks in March and I'm toying with the idea of making totally meatless dinners.  What do you think?  Anyone have any great suggestions for meatless meals?

We're not going to go vegetarian or anything, I'm just more curious than anything - to see how we feel, what the kids think, etc.  And, really, why not? 

I have been consciously trying to up my veggie intake - mostly because I know I have a physical in May and I'm curious to see if I can move my cholesterol number.

I wanted to share a recipe with you that is meatless - but still hearty, filling, and "smokily" delicious. The smoky flavor of the chipotles really shines here.  It's zippy, but you won't break a sweat or anything! 

my new favorite quesadillas

1 T canola oil
1 large portabello, wiped and sliced
1 small red onion, sliced
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
freshly ground black pepper
kosher salt
2 chipotle peppers, diced (canned in adobo sauce)
1/4 cup vegetarian refried beans
1/4 cup shredded "seriously sharp Cabot" cheddar
flour quesadillas (or corn, your choice)

1.  In an iron skillet, saute mushroom and onion in oil over high heat for 3 minutes or until browned.  Remove from heat and add garlic, paprika, salt, pepper, and chipotles.
2.  Spread beans over tortilla.  Sprinkle cheese over beans.  Place mushroom mixture over cheese.
3.  Place tortilla over mushroom mixture.
4.  Brown quesadilla in iron skillet (don't clean it in between) - over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes per side or until cheese is melted.
5.  Serve with salsa, guacamole, and sour cream.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

An Apple Pie Tutorial

Is there anything better than apple pie?  I'll show you how I make mine - it's really, really good - and, although minimally time-consuming, it's worth it. 

I try to use local apples whenever possible - these are Stayman Winesap - perfectly tart and firm.  I peel and slice and then pop the bowl in the microwave for about five minutes before adding the rest of the ingredients. 

fresh cinnamon and nutmeg are terrific in this rustic application

I then add the dry ingredients - 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour, 1 tsp kosher salt, 2 tsp cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp nutmeg.  Stir and microwave for another five minutes or so.  

I use the microwave because unlike the stovetop for cooking, the apples don't stick to the bowl!

 Place the apples into a prepared crust - my recipe: 1/4 cup butter, 1/4 cup shortening, 1 cup flour, 1 tsp kosher salt, and 5-6 T of ice water.  

The next step is to prepare the crumb topping : 1/3 cup flour, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 5 T butter

Bake pie at 375 degrees (on bottom rack) for about 40-50 minutes or until top is nicely browned.  Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.  We also enjoy ours the next morning (warmed) with milk on top!  

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

 Happy Valentine's Day!

Hope you have a great day - and that you can spend some time with those you love. 

our kids presents - sweatshirts and rain boots - which they received in January! 

 And, if you're lucky - to eat some great food! 


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Leek and Potato Pizza

Even though I can't convince Rob and Mrs P that pizza can contain various toppings and ingredients - I'm still calling this pizza. I guess I'm just a rebel like that. 

I bought myself the Pioneer Woman cookbook last year and lately I've been perusing my old cookbooks for some new ideas.  I happened upon this recipe for leek and potato pizza - the planets were aligned and I already  had most of the ingredients.  I had already planned to make pizza anyway, so the dough was in the process of rising when I started plotting my game plan. 

Her recipe included: leeks, bacon, fresh mozzarella, chevre, and sliced yukon gold potatoes.  I used: yukon gold potatoes, leeks, pancetta, parmesan, and brie.  

My mandolin slicer made short work of the yukons.  I set the depth for a thin slice - I'll admit, I was a little skeptical that the potatoes would actually cook enough to become tender. 

This cubed pancetta is one of my new favorite ingredients.  I keep it in the freezer and simply shake out as much as I need.  It has a great flavor and since the cubes are small, it's the perfect flavor enhancer without being overpowering.   I sauteed the pancetta in my iron skillet (with about a teaspoon of butter) until just about crisped.

I sliced the leeks and sauteed them in the skillet with the pancetta - cooking long enough so the leeks were tender and the pancetta was fully crisped. 

I rolled my pizza dough very thinly after sprinkling my pizza stone with cornmeal.  I overlapped the potato slices and sprinkled kosher salt over them.  

I then layered the remainder of the toppings.  

I placed slices of brie and shredded parmesan on the leeks and pancetta as the final touch.  

The result was delicious.  The potatoes were perfectly tender.  The brie melted seamlessly and I couldn't even discern the unique flavor - the pizza was salty, crunchy, rich, and perfectly satisfying.  

Pizza really is one of our favorite meals - I never would have thought to put potato slices on my pizza - or even use brie for that matter - but it made the perfect Friday night meal.  And, don't worry, Mrs P, I made Rob and the kids a "pizza" with red sauce and white cheese.  This "pizza" was all mine - until we had friends stop by - and they inhaled the rest of it!  

Here is a link to the original recipe, if you want to take a peek.  The Pioneer Woman actually only has the recipe published in her cookbook (not on her blog).  With her permission, Tartelette has reprinted the recipe.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Favourite Thing Friday

is the beach.....

Rob and I have just booked a getaway for the beginning of April.

I think as humans we need hope, things to look forward to, and dream about.

Suddenly I don't mind the morning temps (7 degrees this morning), the slushy and dirty snow, and the fighting kids. I have a renewed passion for running - I will be wearing a bathing suit, hopefully!

My parents will be taking good care of our kids and I'm so looking forward to a little time together! Bring on the beach.

Head on over to see what Shay has declared as her favourite for this Friday!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

High Hopes

So, tomorrow is "Valentine's Day" at the kids schools.  I guess the powers that be scheduled the holiday on a Friday so they could minimize the craziness of the sugar celebration. 

I really wanted to make oreo lollipops.  I did a little research and it sounded easy enough.  Um, not so much.  Oh, sure - I bought "Wilton" chocolate wafers and they melt beautifully.  The plan was for me to separate the oreos (I had a 50% success rate) and "glue" a lollipop stick with a dollop of melted chocolate.  It was a colossal mess.  The cookies cracked and wobbled - and the sticks pulled right out.  This was obviously not the most practical use of my time, since I had to make 95.  Grrrrr.....

 I thought about just running to Giant to buy ready-made Valentine's candy bags -  but I just sucked it up and dipped the oreos in chocolate [without the lollipop sticks]. 

Hopefully the kids have low expectations. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Cinnamon Rolls

While I was making 700 cinnamon rolls in the month of December I wished I could have taken pictures.  The kids had a snow day last week and I decided that we needed a doughy, gooey, sweet treat for an afternoon movie.  Enter cinnamon rolls. 

Rob was a great photographer - capturing some really great "action" shots (see: icing being poured over rolls). 

If you're interested in the recipe, click here.  Otherwise, page down for a little calorie-free indulging!