Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Few Things

1.  The thermometer reads 97 degrees Fahrenheit.

2.  Our refrigerator decided to quit working today.  After I went grocery shopping.  After I bought two half-gallons of Perrydell.

3.  I forgot how much I hate fruit flies.  And maggots that find our garbage cans.

4.  I picked strawberries this morning.  I hope to return again and again until we're sick of them.

5.  Do I have to go outside to grill pork tenderloin in 97 degree heat?

Beef Tenderloin

If you love a good steak, you undoubtedly love filet mignon.  The buttery taste, the ridiculously tender texture, and the overall lusciousness is like no other cut of beef. 

Instead of going to a restaurant and paying a high price for an entree that includes this delectable dish - buy a whole beef tenderloin.  You could either portion it and freeze family-sized portions, or invite a few friends and serve them a special treat. 

I buy my whole tenderloins at a wholesale club in our area, BJ's.  The price per pound is $8.79.  You can't beat it. 

I like to marinate my whole tenderloin overnight.  I liberally sprinkle kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper and then add red wine and olive oil.  The next step is to sear briefly on each side (on the grill).  You could do this step ahead of time and then refrigerate your loin until the next day, when you'll roast it. 

The last step (unless you want to make a sauce) is to roast the beef, uncovered, at 425 degrees until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees for medium-rare (approximately one hour for a four to six pound piece).**  Let the beef rest for at least 15 minutes before carving.  I usually estimate about 1/2 lb/per person (but, honestly, that's being quite generous).  You don't need a sauce, but sauteed mushrooms and this blue cheese sauce are divine. 

If I'm serving a large number of people, I like to have the whole tenderloin carved into slices and then they can choose which piece they would prefer. 

**according to the New Betty Crocker Cookbook

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day....

We enjoyed pancakes with blueberry sauce, fresh strawberries and whipped cream.

red, white, and blue

I couldn't help but think of the sacrifices those in our country have made so that all of our families can sleep at night resting in the promise of freedom.  My father and all of our grandfathers served our country and we are proud of their service.  All of our men returned home from war safely, but the reality is that not everyone enjoyed that blessing.  To all of the servicemen, past and present, and the families that miss them - we thank you.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Baked Mashed Potatoes - the Recipe

Blogger is finally cooperating.  The recipes that I promised you are forthcoming - I had a request to start with this one: baked mashed potatoes. 

Truthfully, this isn't even really a recipe, it's more like a concept. 

I make my mashed potatoes by boiling same-sized potatoes (yukon gold, preferably) in heavily salted water until fork tender.  I've actually taken to tasting a potato to determine the consistency.  What you don't want are water-logged potatoes (aka wallpaper paste), or lumpy mashed potatoes.  The potatoes should be very tender (but not gluey - you'll know what I mean, hopefully). 

For this application, add softened cream cheese in place of some of the milk.  Add plenty of butter, and the seasonings you prefer.  I also add some milk - you want the potatoes to be a little on the moist side since you'll be baking them.  I like to add garlic powder to round out the flavor, but any seasonings you choose are totally optional. 

The cream cheese gives the potatoes, well, a creamy flavor for lack of a better descriptive  For a simply ratio: for 8 potatoes you'll need about 6oz of cream cheese, 4 T butter, and maybe 1/4 cup of milk.  The variety of potato you use will determine how much milk you'll need.  Your best tool is your tongue - taste away.  

Then, simply finish with your toppings of choice and bake at 350 degrees for about 25-30 minutes.  We like ours with sharp cheddar (Cabot seriously sharp is my absolute fave), crumbled bacon, and plenty of chives.  Try serving these with barbequed meats, a nice thick steak, or some grilled seafood.  Enjoy!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Baked Mashed Potatoes

Last night I was able to help a friend of the family celebrate his 70th birthday.  He and his wife selected a menu and invited their close friends to enjoy a meal in their home.  The guests were gracious, grateful, and very enthusiastic about the food.  I love when people truly enjoy their food. 

For dinner, the guests enjoyed caesar salad, roasted asparagus, grilled vegetables, baked mashed potatoes, crabcakes, and beef tenderloin. The funniest thing - the mashed potatoes were the clear favorite!  I find this so interesting - fancy food has it's place, but what we all really love is some good home cooking.  The kind of things our grandmothers made.  Comfort food. 

roasted whole beef tenderloin with assorted mushrooms in a wine reduction, served with gorgonzola sauce

roasted asparagus spears

caesar salad with garlic baguette crisps and shaved parmesan

baked mashed potatoes

Maryland-style lump crabcakes

I'll be sharing the recipes later in the week!  All of the recipes or components are easy to make ahead of time.  This would make a terrific dinner party menu. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Favourite Thing Friday

After a brief hiatus, I'm participating in Favourite Thing Friday, courtesy of my dear friend, Shay, in Adelaide, AUS. 

I freely admit that I am a little quirky.  I'm nosy.  I love to people watch.  I love to try to figure things out before people tell me.  I'm nosy in other ways, too - I love to smell things.  I know, that's kind of a weird thing to declare, but stick with me - this will hopefully get a little more normal-sounding. 

When I'm cooking, I rely on my nose instead of a recipe.  I periodically evaluate whatever I'm making by tasting and smelling to see if my dish needs additional seasoning.  I never set a kitchen timer (much to my mom's chagrin), but just rely on my nose to tell me when to check the oven. 

I do have favorite smells. 

1.  freshly ground coffee

2.  freshly laundered sheets (my personal favorite is to wash them in bleach and detergent), preferably line-dried. 

3.  horseradish

4.  sesame oil

5.  freshly ground ginger

6.  freshly ground nutmeg

7.  outside air - I love when it's warm enough to keep the windows open all night

look what snuck in and draped itself over an IKEA chair - it's Sherry!

8.  clean kids - or a clean husband - or both :)

9.  fresh limes or lemons

10. recently cut grass

What are your favorite smells?  Rob thinks I'm really weird that I love to smell things - please comment and tell me you have favorite smells, too - or I'm going to get a complex!  not really - I just love comments. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rhubarb Custard Pie

This is a repeat recipe, but my favorite dessert of all time.  A special thank-you to Grandma Teague for this delectable recipe.

my crust recipe: butter, shortening, flour, salt, ice water

I refrigerate my crust for at least an hour

the custard filling

top with butter - this is not optional!

so flaky, crunchy, creamy, sweet and tart - total perfection

Rhubarb Custard Pie
double crust (today I used 1/3 butter in place of some of the shortening)
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups sugar
3 T milk
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp nutmeg (please grate if fresh!)
4 cups chopped rhubarb
6 T butter

1. Place unbaked crust on the bottom of the pie plate. Mix remaining ingredients, except butter.
2. Place rhubarb mixture into unbaked crust. Cover the mixture with pats of butter.
3. Place other crust on top, flute the edges, and cut steamvents on the crust.
4. Bake at 375 degrees for at least an hour, or until crust is golden and custard is set (it shouldn't wiggle).
5. Chill and serve cold.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Baked Chicken and Artichoke Pasta

This is certainly not a fancy meal.  Basically, I made rigatoni pasta, mixed in some roasted chicken, roasted tomatoes and canned artichokes. 

boneless skinless chicken breasts roasted with balsamic salad dressing

chopped chicken, canned artichokes, Ina's slow-roasted tomatoes

bechamel sauce with plenty of parmesan

This is pure comfort food.  It's perfect for the third day in a row of torrential rain.  Perfect for a chilly fall day - for those of you in the southern hemisphere.  Food isn't always a cure-all, but we all have to eat and sometimes food can bring us comfort. 

topped with shredded cheddar and baked for 25 minutes

Perfect for a community reeling from repeated tragedy.  Mt Vernon, Iowa, we are praying for you. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Spring Salad

In our area, local lettuce is in season.  Impossibly tender lettuce leaves, the colors ranging from grass-green to mahogany red.  It won't be long until the daytime temperatures are hot enough to wilt these fragile specimens. 

When I saw this recipe last week, I acted quickly.  As in, I'm pretty sure I made it for lunch that day. 

I adore blue cheese.  I normally make my own salad dressing, and the girls and I enjoy creamy blue cheese dressing.  It's simple, it's satisfying, and I usually have the ingredients on hand.  This blue cheese dressing intrigued me.  I adapted it just a little, only because I didn't have all of the ingredients - and since my craving demanded an instant reward, I made do with what I had. 

I made this salad last week for a luncheon and it was a hit.  I meant to take pictures of the other things I prepared, but when I arrived to the event, the guests were ready for lunch.  The original plan was to eat an hour after I arrived, but I love when people are excited to eat - so we ate.  And I didn't take pictures.  Sorry. 

I have since made this dressing to pour over steamed asparagus, and also with parmesan in place of the blue cheese.  Both were equally perfect.

This is my lunch today - I included some roasted tomatoes and a leftover roasted red potato.  I sliced a few radishes, but you could add whatever you have in your refrigerator.  Toasted walnuts would be lovely.  Grilled vegetables delightful.  Poured over a baked potato.  Drizzled over a steak.  The possibilities are  limitless. 

  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 t finely chopped chives
  • 2 t finely chopped parsley
  • 2 t finely chopped Oregano
  • 2 t dijon
  • 2 t fresh cracked Black Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Tabasco
  • 2 t Brown Sugar
  • 1 t Sea Salt
  • 6 oz (170g) Blue Cheese, crumbled
  • 2/3 c (155ml) Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1/2 c (120ml) Olive Oil
  • 1 c (235ml) Flax Seed Oil (or canola oil)
1. Assemble all the dressing ingredients in a large bowl or jar. Combine well. 2. Toss dressing over lettuces.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Personality Test

I love studying people.  Love it.  One of my favorite things to do is to blend into the background and simply observe human behavior.  This works especially well in airports, at the grocery store and at an all-you-can-eat buffet. 

We seem to have a bevy of buffets here in southcentral Pennsylvania.   A few weeks ago we decided to take our kids to Village Greens in Strasburg, PA for miniature golfing.  When I called the golf course for a restaurant recommendation, they recommended Hershey Farms.  We rarely visit buffets, but thought it would be a nice change from our usual restaurant rut (which is to say that we eat out maybe twice a month, and it's always burgers or pizza). 

I was actually pleasantly surprised in the food selections - everything appeared homemade, including rolls, whoopie pies, fried chicken, pretzels(!), and shoo-fly pie.  Many of the foods were typical Pennsylvania Dutch, which for some may appear exotic, but to us, are just very familiar. 

It's so interesting to see how people eat at a buffet.  I saw people with three pieces of prime rib on their plate.  I saw vegetarians trying in vain to find suitable choices.  I saw people from other countries excited to sample our startch-heavy cuisine.  

I almost think it's similar to a personality test of sorts.  It seemed like there were people who were simply interested in eating as much as they could, as fast as they could.  There were some who were there for a meal and didn't want to compromise their eating habits.  Then there were the people who were there simply to investigate another culture through it's food. 

We were there because we'd heard there were homemade pretzels.   

It was so fun to see what our kids chose for their first round.  

Kate went with a fried chicken drumstick and stuffing - typical carbivore food choice

Josh chose fried chicken, shrimp, fries, and chicken nuggets

Emma's first plate contained fried chicken, green beans and carrots.  We love us some fried chicken.  

I chose: prime rib, green beans, shrimp, and mussels

the main dinner offerings

the dessert table - Emma was dying to get to the chocolate fountain

my third plate - salad with a pickled egg

Emma, finally able to sample the chocolate fountain

the kids in front of the cheesy Amish statue

We were all very full! 
We had such a fun family night.  The miniature golfing was really fun, too.  The golf course is a little different that the typical windmill-type experience.  The setting is very rural - there are ponds, woods, bridges, creeks, and a par of 74! 

Do you visit buffets?  What do you think you would have started your meal with?  Do you enjoy people-watching? 

Thursday, May 12, 2011

What do you think [about cake mixes] ?

Be prepared for an apparently really long post......

 The following is from the epicurious.com blog, written by Regina Schrambling.  

"It was a sad day in my teenhood when my mom discovered (or decided she could afford) cake mixes. Until then, she'd baked a sheet cake from scratch nearly every afternoon; our family of nine would eat half for dinner and take the rest in our lunches next day. And they were crumb-licking good, so much better than those spongy things she baked from a box. So it was rather depressing to read this New York Times story today on how one company is changing its marketing, to focus on wannabe Duff Goldmans (I had to Google for that allusion). Not the least of the bad news is that "hundreds and hundreds of professional bakers and professional bakeries" use mixes and that most people can't tell the difference.
Maybe the company is right and women who bake for book group, not just for their kids, will want to start their competitive cakes by ripping open a box and following the new instructions for "cake pops" and "tortes." But if you wanted to sink two and a half hours into something that will disappear so quickly, why not take the extra 15 minutes and start by creaming butter and sugar? I'm not a serious baker who watches the Food Network, though, so what do I know?
Plus I've always thought "easy as pie" had the dessert wrong. My mom taught me how to make cakes when I was tall enough to reach the stand mixer. And she had to cook dinner and pack eight lunches and somehow found time every afternoon to bake. So no one can dissuade me that the only thing sillier than a cake mix is a cornbread mix. (Well, maybe a brownie mix.)
I've also always heard that when cake mixes were first introduced, in 1949, housewives rejected them because they were too convenient; they left the baker feeling disconnected from her results. Which is why you have to add the eggs."

What do you think?

I'll tell you my opinion:  cake mixes kind of make me gag.  From the outset, let me say that my motto in feeding my family is "if in doubt, make it yourself".  I try to make everything we consume.  I've never purchased or used a cake mix before yesterday.  I was sucked in by the gorgeous photography on the Pioneer Woman and decided to make her "knock you naked brownies".  I have an event on Friday and needed to make two desserts for 165 people.  I will say that when I was mixing everything, it smelled disgusting and artificial - that's all I'm going to say about that. 

I have the luxury of being a mostly full-time mother and therefore have the time to make our meals and desserts from scratch, using ingredients I typically stock in my pantry. 

I admit, I was mortified to grab the boxes off of the shelf.  I actually toyed with the idea of hiding them amongst other fresh ingredients. 

I also felt guilted into buying naughty snacks for the kids at Kate's school.  I'm volunteering in one of the classrooms today and usually I'm the mom that brings healthy snacks.  I'm not even going to start in on the subject that we have to buy commercially prepared treats - grrrrrrr.  Anyway, at last week's soccer game, I passed out healthy granola bars for our snack "turn".  One of the little girls remarked, "granola bars, really"?  (Is it wrong that if I would have heard her I would have snatched it from her hand and said, "oh, that's okay you don't have to eat it").  Anyway, I decided to just suck it up and buy things I would never feed my kids. 

I really thought I could kind of sneak through the store with my bevy of processed foods and preservatives, unnoticed.  Until I started a conversation with someone checking out the 33 cent fage yogurt.  I told him it was made with whole milk and probably didn't bode well for my upcoming cholesterol check.  He then remarked, "oh I'm sure you're fine" - but then he remarked on the other things in my cart.  I think he felt embarrassed, because he then said, "I know, I know, you're a mom - I understand".  I literally mumbled something about "I have a large cooking job this week" and ran away.  In my scurrying I asked myself three things:  1.  Do I really look like a mom?  2.  Why do I care?  3.  Should I be the uncool mom and buy the kids boxes of raisins and natural popcorn? 

Here's the thing:  I'm a food snob.  I totally check out other people's carts in the grocery store and make judgments on what they're feeding their family.  I sometimes wish I could help them change their purchasing habits and with a few changes to make healthier choices.  But, I was shamed yesterday - thankfully I won't really be feeding my family with the things I purchased yesterday - but it looked like I was going to.  I was humbled. 

I need to be less prideful.  Even though I have strong feelings about the food we consume, I should mind my own business.  There are certain blogs that I read in which I feel "preached to".  I don't want to be that person.  I will continue to make foods that I want my family to consume, but I won't preach to you.  I'm going to try really hard to not notice other people's purchases at the grocery store and form opinions. 

And, I've also realized that sometimes it's okay to just go with the naughty snacks.  When I told Kate what I bought, her eyes lit up and she was excited (dare I say proud to have a "cool mom"). Once in a while won't kill us.  And I might get judgmental stares from some of the other moms today - and that's okay.  That was me two days ago - I'm one step closer to realizing it really doesn't matter what other people think.  I need to do what's best for my family. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


210 calories for 5.3oz.

Made with cream and whole milk

On sale Sunday for 33 cents each at Price-Rite.

The perfect breakfast, lunch, or afternoon snack.

If you haven't yet - you must try this yogurt.  Blueberry is my absolute favorite, but I've heard the cherry's a winner, too!

Life Isn't All Roses

I just really had to laugh when I downloaded this picture this morning.  Can you see how annoyed I am with Rob?  And, what's even funnier is that this picture perfectly captures how obnoxious he becomes when he knows I'm annoyed with him.

Sopapillas....the Results are in!

And the results are:  I hope you have strong teeth. 

I feel quite certain that either I did something wrong, or that the Chi-Chi's version contained obscene amounts of preservatives. 

I should have done some comparison recipe viewing - the recipe I used didn't have any kind of fat in it (besides the milk).  All of the other recipes I found (after my dismal failure) contained shortening.  I'll keep trying - and when I've found a winner, I'll share it!

Thursday, May 5, 2011


Remember when Chi-Chi's was all the rage?  The fresh tortilla chips with the mild and hot salsa?  The Mexican pizza?  The burritos?  The sopapillas? 

Chi-Chi's went into a major decline in our area - going from a hot spot to a closed down shell of a restaurant in a matter of years.  Isn't it interesting how just twenty years ago places like Chi-Chi's were considered exotic?  moving on....

I still remember the sopapillas.  Fried pieces of dough that you could dip into honey, chocolate sauce or strawberry sauce - I loved them. 

Because today is May 5th - Cinco de Mayo - I'm going to try to recreate sopapillas tonight for dessert! 

The Pioneer Woman shared this link - I'll keep you posted on the results!


I would like to start this post by saying: I love Price-Rite and I am infatuated with Middle Eastern cuisine.

I know you're so sick of me waxing on about Price-Rite, and I have tried to not go on and on about it, but I think I love it even more.  The store has recently been updated and they are carrying more and more fabulous merchandise.

Last week I discovered that they are carrying grains in their "bulk" section.  The selections include: jasmine rice, basmati, white and yellow polenta, couscous, bulgur, quinoa,  black lentils, and multi-grain rice.  The prices are at least half of what I had been paying in the organic section of our local grocery store, Giant.

Back to my infatuation with Middle Eastern cuisine - I love it all (the flavors, the spices, etc.).  The nearest Lebanese restaurant is about 45 minutes away and Rob and I were able to visit last summer.  The experience sort of reminded me of a tapas restaurant.  For about $45, we were able to sample 10 appetizers (mezze).  It was all so delicious.  Rob ate most of the meaty dishes and I preferred the vegetarian offerings (hummus, fava beans, baba ghanouj, etc).

One of the plates we enjoyed was the tabbouleh.  Made with bulgur, tabbouleh is a cold salad originally enjoyed by Syrians and Lebanese.  Bulgur is similar to couscous in that it doesn't necessarily need to be cooked.  Boiling water is simply poured over and the mixture is covered for 15 minutes. 

I researched recipes for tabbouleh and found this one on epicurious.  I remembered the restaurant version (which was admittedly more authentic than mine) was very heavy on the parsley.  I decided to tweak mine a little to please the palates of our family.  The original recipe was: 1/2 cup bulgur to 2 cups chopped parsley.


1/2 cup bulgur
3 T olive oil
1 cup boiling water
1 cucumber, seeded, peeled and chopped
1/8 cup chopped parsley
2 scallions, chopped (all parts)
5 roma tomatoes, slow-roasted and chopped
1/4 cup crumbled feta
2 T lemon juice

1.  Pour boiling water over bulgur and 2 T olive oil.  Cover with plastic wrap for 15 minutes. 
2.  Mix remaining ingredients into bulgur. 
3.  Chill and serve

We enjoyed this with balsamic bbq chicken.  I think it would also be fabulous with any sort of grilled dinner - fish, chicken, pork, etc.   Give it a try and imagine you're soaking up the sun on the Mediterranean coast!