Friday, October 30, 2009

"Gyros" and a caulflower casserole

I never know how to pronounce the word "gyro", but I know I love to eat the delectable sandwich that is the gyro. Who knows how anyone even creates the huge slab of meat that the merchants carve off? (no really, anyone know...cause I'm dying of curiosity...I'd love to have a rotating slab of lamb/pork/beef spinning around in my kitchen) There are a total lack of middle-eastern restaurants in York, but we do have many Greek-owned restaurants and we even enjoy monthly "Greek Festivals" at the local orthodox church, so I can occasionally find them, but I have always wanted to create something similar at home. I'll be the first to say that the result is pretty far from the commercially-prepared version, but beggars can't be choosy. At the very least, this dinner is a variation from "normal" and my kids don't burst into tears when I tell them what we're having (which sometimes happens when I announce other dinners...I guess they have never heard the saying "beggars can't be choosy").

I first tasted this cauliflower "casserole" (so named because I couldn't think of anything more descripive) at my mom's house. Basically, it's nothing more than a tangy cheddar white sauce covering perfectly cooked cauliflower and topped with a crunchy, butter panko crust. See, "cauliflower casserole" is so much more condensed, at the very least! I'll be the first to say that I don't usually enjoy casseroles. As much as I hate doing dishes, I can't get on board with my entire dinner mixed together in one pot (unless it's soup).

"Gyro" Sandwiches
3/4 lb ground lamb
3/4 lb ground beef
4 cups thinly sliced fresh spinach
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
2 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 small jar roasted red peppers, thinly sliced
3/4 cup crumbled feta
pita bread (I usually buy "pocket" pitas, and garlic flavored)
Yogurt topping:
2/3 cup greek yogurt (or plain, fully drained)
1 large tomato, seeded and chopped coarsely
1 cucumber,seeded, and chopped coarsely
2 scallions, sliced thinly
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
salt, pepper

1. In a large bowl, combine first 8 ingredients. Place half of the mixture into loaf pan. Sprinkle feta on top. Cover feta with remaining beef/lamb mixture.
2. Bake, covered, at 375 degrees for 40 minutes. Drain fat. Bake, uncovered, for an additional 25 minutes. Let meat mixture "rest" for five minutes.
3. While the meat is baking, mix yogurt topping.
4. Wrap pitas in aluminum foil and warm in oven during the last 25 minutes of cooking time [of the meat mixture].
5. Assemble sandwiches: cut pitas in half, separate sides and fill with meat mixture and yogurt sauce.

Cauliflower "Casserole"
1 head of cauliflower, chopped into bite-sized pieces and cooked barely
2 T flour
2 T butter
1 1/4 cups milk
1 bag shredded cheddar (I use Cabot)
freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup panko
4 T melted butter

1. Layer "cooked" cauliflower in a greased baking dish (9x13).
2. In a saucepan, melt butter, sprinkle flour and stir until smooth. Slowly add milk and stir until thickened. Add cheese and stir until melted. Add pepper.
3. Pour cheese sauce over cauliflower.
4. Mix melted butter and panko and sprinkle over cheese sauce.
5. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Essential Pantry Items...

I am very much a minimalist. I despise clutter. I simply cannot function if I have "stuff" surrounding me. One of my favorite things to do is to rent a dumpster and start filling it. If I don't use something for a few months, it's gone. I would assume this is partly because we have five people living in a 55-yr-old very small house. We simply do not have the room to be accumulating. In my opinion, that's a great reason to live here forever! I love our house. For the size and age, we do have 2 and one half baths, plenty of closets, and just enough room for all of us. The size of my kitchen is sometimes a source of discontent, but only because I spend so much of my time there. I'm hoping that a remodel is somewhere in the future, but until then, I will stick to my minimalist ideals. I keep only the "gadgets" I use and although I keep a stocked pantry, I try not to accumulate too much.
My sister-in-law was hoping I'd share my list of pantry items to keep on hand, so...

here it is:

refrigerated items-
greek yogurt
heavy cream
cream cheese
white wine
red wine
various cheeses (parm, mozzarella, cheddar, feta or blue, usually goat)
frozen vegetables (peas, mixed veggies, etc)

baking items-
baking powder
baking soda
kosher salt
pumpkin pie spice
cream of tartar
semisweet chips
powdered sugar
brown sugar
lemon extract

misc items-
olive oil
canola oil
cracked pepper grinder
soy sauce
worcesterchire sauce
smoked paprika
onion powder
garlic powder
garlic cloves
dry pasta
marinara sauce
hot pepper flakes

Now, as I've shared before, I am not terrifically organized, but if I keep my kitchen stocked wih these essentials, I am sure to be able to make a quick dinner and always able to make a dessert. And, as always happens, I never have everything I need, so it's always a fun challenge to improvise.

In general, I try to also stock my kitchen with fresh fruits and veggies,mixed greens, blended yogurts (Breyers), granola bars (Kashi's are our favs), peanut butter (jif or skippy natural), mott's applesauce (no sugar added), smartfood popcorn, ice cream (for when I don't make dessert), and Honey Nut Cheerios (I think they're crazy expensive...$5(!), but Rob requires them).

How about you? What do you stock your pantry with for baking/snacking/quick meals?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hummus, and a sandwich to make with it...

I am always having food cravings. If I didn't know better, I'd think I was pregnant or something, the way my body seems to scream out for certain things. Last night I was hit with a serious craving for hummus. Weird, huh? (well, I'm kinda weird, in case you were too nice to point that's okay, I know I am)

So, anyway, I waited as long as I could and this morning, around 10am, I whipped up a batch of hummus and, of course, dug right in. I will often purchase hummus and have not found a brand or flavor I don't like - but, the version I make in 5 minutes is somehow creamier and more pure than anything I've purchased. I love how I can somehow taste each of the six ingredients. I would urge you to use the best olive oil you have as it will affect the taste. I have in the past used whole garlic cloves, but I find the flavor a little sharp, so I have started to use garlic salt in it's place.

Hummus is a very versatile "ingredient". I use it as a dip, often just eating it with Kashi crackers or toasted pita bread. It is also delicious with fresh veggies and I have used it as a component in some very delicious sandwiches.

1 can garbanzo beans, 1/2 of the liquid drained
1/2 tsp garlic salt
2 T fresh lemon juice
2 T tahini (your best bet to find it is in the organic section)
1 tsp cumin
olive oil

Blend all ingredients, adding as much olive oil to create the consistency you desire.

some sandwich ideas
On a pita bread: layer hummus, roasted red peppers, spinach, swiss cheese, turkey
broil until cheese is melted

On ciabatta bread: layer cream cheese, hummus, roasted red peppers, cucumbers, sprouts, provolone

Taco Pizza

I love Iowa! I know that sounds kinda random, but it's true. Rob has lots of family in the "heartland" and we love to visit. Part of the lure is definitely all the great people we get to visit, but I am also in love with the landscape, the pace of life, the friendliness of the locals, and the small-town feel. I love being in the country and the view of farms as far as the eye can see. My dream is to move to Iowa when Rob retires. We would love to live on a sustainable farm (not because we're "green", trust me when I say we're practically purple we're so not green). The lure of a sustainable farm is to eat what we grow and to offer the excess bounty to our neighbors. The one thing we miss while visiting is the lack of small "farm-stands". Many of the farms are very large and grow corn, soy, etc. One [of the many] things I'm thankful for here in Central Pennsylvania is the abundance of orchards and farmstands.
One of the things we love to do while visiting Iowa is to enjoy delicious food with our family. At least one night we order pizza from the local gas station/deli. We have fallen in love with their taco pizza. I have found that is it almost impossible to find taco pizza "iowa style" here in PA. So, I have started to just make it when we're craving taco pizza. This version is the perfect blend of creamy, salty, crunchy, fresh, and very filling!
I hope you enjoy....

Taco Pizza
1 pizza dough, thawed
1 lb ground beef, browned with spice blend (cumin, smoked paprika, pepper, salt)
2 cups shredded cheddar
medium jar of salsa
shredded lettuce, chopped tomato, "crunched" Doritos, taco sauce

1. Roll out dough onto pizza stone [coated with small amount of cornmeal].
2. Spread salsa, beef, and shredded cheddar on dough.
3. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes or until browned and dough is cooked through.
4. Top with desired "fresh" ingredients...we use lettuce, tomato, and cool-ranch
Doritos...but, feel free to be creative!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Brownie Sundaes

I have to admit, the last batch of brownies I made were the ones from a box (my first one ever). This batch took a couple more minutes, but I always have the ingredients on hand, and it is a little freaky that the boxed brownies take a total of 20 minutes, start to finish. The recipe I use is on the back of the cocoa container. I usually add peanut butter chips, but tonight decided to make hot fudge sauce because I knew we also had whipped cream and vanilla ice cream. These sundaes were so good that my kids even tried their mandatory brussels sprout. (yes, one, and they totally hated it)

3/4 stick butter, melted
1 T water
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt

1. Mix ingredients and pour into greased pie plate.
2. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center is almost clean.
3. Cut into wedges, top with hot fudge sauce, vanilla ice cream, and whipped cream.

Hot Fudge Sauce
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup sugar
6 oz evaporated milk
1 tsp butter
1/2 tsp vanilla

1. In a small saucepan, melt chocolate chips, sugar and evaporated milk. Stirring constantly, remove from heat when mixture boils.
2. Add butter and vanilla. Serve warm with sundaes.

Roasted Cod with Baked Beans and Garlic Croutons

I could quite literally eat beans every day. I just love them. Lentils, butter beans, limas, garbanzos, cannellini. Last year we had a delicious dinner at a local country club and enjoyed Chilean Sea Bass served with hand-raked sea salt. Also included on the plate was baked beans, italian style. I don't really remember how they described it, but I surely don't have their talent for making food sound really, I'll just call them italian-style baked beans. It was quite possibly one of the best dinners I've ever had and I was anxious to try to re-create it. Since I was fresh out of "hand-raked sea salt", I just kind of used the ingredients I had on hand. I made a few substitutions, but I'm quite pleased with the result. I wish I could have included some pictures, but I've yet to talk my husband into purchasing another camera.
I used cod instead of sea bass because I think it has a similar texture, and the best part is that it costs $9/lb instead of $30/lb. I use canned beans as a rule, just because I haven't found that the taste warrants the extra work of preparing dried beans. I use cannellini in this dish and I think they are just the right size, but I'm sure any other white bean (navy, butter, etc) would make a fine substitution.
Both of the components of the dish are started on the stovetop and finished in the oven, and finish quite quickly. Make sure that your saute pan is oven-proof, or if you need to, (like I do)wrap any non-metal surfaces in aluminum foil.

Roasted Cod
1 5oz cod portion per person
2 T canola oil

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a non-stick saute pan, heat canola oil over high heat.
3. Generously salt and pepper the cod and add to very hot oil. Sear fish for 2 minutes.
4. Place pan into preheated oven and finish cooking for 8 minutes, or until cooked through. Cod will be very tender and moist.

Italian-Style Baked Beans
2 cans cannellini beans
1 garlic clove, minced finely
1 small onion, chopped finely
2 T olive oil
1 can of chopped tomatoes, or 3 fresh tomatoes, chopped
2 T basil, sliced thinly
salt, pepper

1. In small saute pan, add oil, garlic and onion. Cook until slightly browned. Add remaining ingredients, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
2. In baking dish, bake bean mixture for an additional 25 minutes.
3. Top with garlic croutons and roasted cod. Sprinkle additional fresh basil, if desired for garnish.

Garlic Croutons
1/2 loaf small italian bread, cut into small cubes
4 T butter
garlic powder
salt, pepper

1. In a small saute pan, melt butter, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
2. Add bread cubes and stir until toasted.
3. Serve with italian-style baked beans and roasted cod.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Rob's favorite: meatloaf

There are a few things that I do for my husband not because I want to, but because it makes him happy (even when he checks email at the dinner table). Meatloaf is one of those things. I am just not a big fan of ground beef. Rob, on the other hand is just crazy for meatloaf. So, even though the rest of us were less than excited for this dinner, we sacrificed for his benefit (till he checked his email at the dinner table and I immediately stomped off to the dining room to eat by myself...oh, did I already mention that?)

Back to the topic at hand: meatloaf. This is a derivation of a recipe from the father of my best friend. I have added a few of my own touches, and it's actually tasty for meatloaf. We decided to wait for Rob to eat dinner until 7:00, and so I had some extra time and also made: roasted sweet potato "chips", biscuits, roasted cauliflower and broiled grapefruit.

The most exciting part of this whole experience was the fact that I could take pictures of my creations! The result is far from award-winning, but I'm loving the graphic illustration.

1 lb ground beef
1 large carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
4 slices bacon
1 T dijon mustard
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
1 egg
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup ketchup
2t parsley, fresh or dried
2t chives, if you have them in your backyard or growing on your front steps

1. Layer bacon slices on plate, top with carrots, onion, and garlic and microwave (covered) until bacon is crisp and veggies are cooked and browned slightly. Crumble bacon.
2. Mix vegetables and crisped bacon with the remaining ingredients. Top with more ketchup.
3. Place into a loaf pan or create a loaf in baking pan.
4. Bake, covered, at 375 for 40 minutes. Drain. Bake, uncovered, for an additional 15-20 minutes. Let meat loaf rest 5 minutes before serving.

Roasted Cauliflower
simply cut into bite-sized pieces, drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper, and smoked paprika (if desired) and roast at 395 degrees for 25 minutes.

Broiled Grapefruit
Section grapefruit and sprinkle with brown sugar. Broil for about 5 minutes or until sugar is melted and has formed a light crust. Serve while still quite warm.

Roasted Sweet Potato "Chips"
(the sweet potatoes I used were local "white" sweet potatoes, but any kind would do)
Slice sweet potatoes into "french fry" shape or use mandoline slicer or knife to create thin "chip"-like thin rounds (maybe 1/8" thick). Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 375 or until browned and tender. Be careful not to burn as the sugar content is higher in sweet potatoes versus other potatoes.

I don't know how much of the general population actually enjoys meatloaf, but after much effort, this is the best I've come up with! I'd love to know: do you like meatloaf?

A little about me.....

I am so dear sister-in-law has lent me her camera and although I'm not a great photographer, food always looks great! I am a very visual person and I love to read blogs that include photographs. I hope that you enjoy these pics--

This is our youngest!

These are the tomatoes from our backyard that never ripened....I've been told that I need to wrap each one in newspaper and that they will ripen...I'll keep you updated.

These items represent what I cannot live without every day!

This is our house...about 55 yrs old, but we all fit and love our very quiet neighborhood.

This is where I shop for my meat and some of my vegetables and fruit. I love this time of year because there is still a great selection of late summer veggies and some great fall fruit. I have not included any visuals of the meats, but they sell great pork and beef products, and this family has been in business for quite a long time. The markethouse is open on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

I have also compiled some pictures of the actual preparation of food...I'll try to post later today!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Free Workout (sore bum guaranteed)

I have recently surrendered my gym membership. I had originally joined a gym because it included babysitting in a kidz gym. There was a ball pit, a huge indoor playground with curly slide, tables with activities, and lots of great supervision for the kids. Previously, I had tried to exercise with dvds in my living room, and let me tell you - trying to do a workout with a 2yr old and 4yr old joining in was not fun (even remotely). I was quite happy at my gym, $29 per month, great care for my kids, etc. But then they removed the large indoor playground and ball pit and instead renovated the large room where the kids were meeting into a group exercise room. I completely understand that this was a bottom-line issue, but my kids were no longer enjoying the benefit of exercise concurrently with mine. I would collect my children from a small room where they were gathered around a TV. My disillusion with the kids area coupled with the fact that my workout had become stagnated (I'm sorry, I just don't think a treadmill is the ideal way to run), and I decided to investigate alternatives.

And then I discovered exercise tv!!! Since we're already paying exorbitant amounts for our phone, internet, and cable - this was a huge bonus. We have Comcast for each of our services; digital tv was actually cheaper than the general cable (some crazy promotion). The other networks that feature exercise tv are: Time-Warner, Cox, and Bresnan. If you have access to these networks I would urge you to check this out.

I have concentrated mainly on the yoga offerings, and there are some insane butt-kicking workouts. The "Fitness Fusion" yoga and "Fitness Plus" yoga are about 45 minutes of pure torture. I have also investigated but not used some Jillian Michaels workouts (some of which are 1 hr plus). I would estimate that there are at least 100 different choices for any workout you may be interested in.

All that said, I now have the benefit of having school-age children. I no longer enjoy workout partners, thank goodness. I try to alternate my at-home workouts with running outside several times per week.

I just thought I'd share this because I love when I discover something for "free" that I think others could benefit from!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Great Fallback...Blueberry Coffee Cake

I fully intended to create a spectacular and impressive dinner last night. It was going to be perfect; Homemade ravioli with blush sauce, mixed greens with pomegranate seeds and blue cheese, steamed mixed vegetables, and sauteed cabbage. I plotted how I'd share with you how delicious and easy it was to concoct such a delicious dinner. Well, you know how you've heard that pride goes before a fall....
well it does - the ravioli was disappointing at best, disgusting at worst.

I used won-ton wrappers and filled them with: cottage cheese, cheddar, parmesan, garlic salt,egg, mozzarella, and.....spring onions. What probably could have tasted passable was completely ruined by the spring onions...what was I thinking? I imagined them to be a delicate addition to the creaminess of the cheese. The result was an overpowering, totally clashing blend of flavors. I did like how the won-tons tasted like fresh pasta,, I will keep experimenting but on a smaller scale. Has anyone had any success with making ravioli this way, and what fillings have you used? I'm desperate to redeem myself!

Thank goodness my husband needed me to prepare a light snack for his board meeting this morning. I arranged a fresh fruit tray and whipped up an old standby: my Grandma's Blueberry Coffee Cake. This is a no-fail pan full of deliciousness. If my husband hadn't lost our camera, I would love to show it to you (I really just need to buy a new one as maybe some of these recipes would appear more appetizing with some visuals). The one and only problem with this recipe is that since it includes a good bit of fresh blueberries the shelf life is rather limited (let me assure you, this is not a problem in my house). My grandma inherited this recipe from a lady at her church and this my friends is a keeper. It really has the perfect combination of moist, crunchy, creamy, and downright addictive. Try to make this and see if it lasts long enough to mold!

Blueberry Coffee Cake (makes 2 9" round pans)

4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 T and 2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups milk
2 eggs
4 cups blueberries

1 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup softened butter

2 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 cup margarine, melted
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup water

1. Cream shortening and sugar. Add egg.
2. Add dry ingredients alternately with milk.
3. Stir blueberries into batter and place in greased pans.
4. Mix topping and sprinkle on batter. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center is clean.
5. Mix glaze and pour over warm cakes.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Chipped Beef Gravy over Homefries

I meant to post this recipe before we left for the weekend. We traveled to our family's cabin on Friday afternoon. The weather was less than perfect (cold and rainy with a little bit of slushy snow), but our time was nothing short of relaxing and necessary. Thank goodness the modern marvels of cell-phone coverage, internet access, and modern cable television have not arrived yet in Blairs Mills, PA. We enjoyed time together, some exploration into neighboring towns (we found a great farm-stand), and some really yummy food - with the exception of a sacrificed beef brisket.

I'm not sure if it's the smoke smell that permeates the cabin [from the heat source - the woodstove] or if I just really enjoy smoked meats, but I thought chipped beef gravy would be a perfect pick for a brunch-time treat.

This recipe is inspired by my dearly departed grandmother (a lady in every sense of the word) and improved upon by my dad. Growing up, my dad was always in charge of Sunday breakfast. Upon entering the car [after church], my dad would yell out, "who wants what for breakfast"? We would then all take turns "placing our orders", go home and change into something much more comfortable, and eat a nice, hearty breakfast so we could then immediately head to our beds for a nice long nap.

This chipped-beef gravy was a favorite and we usually top a toasted english muffin or homefries with this creamy goodness. I am thankful to have a local butcher who smokes their own chipped beef, but in desperate moments have found the paper-thin slices in the bacon section of the supermarket.

I realize that the weekend is over, but maybe you could eat lots of veggies in preparation this week [to compensate for the sodium intake of the gravy]. I also made cinnamon pancakes, and added my new favorite ingredient, "Chobani" non-fat greek yogurt [in place of the oil]. Here are the recipes...

Chipped Beef Gravy with Homefries
3/4 lb chipped beef, sliced into bite-sized stacks
8-10 button mushrooms, sliced
1 small onion, chopped finely
2 T canola oil
3 T flour
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup shredded cheddar
ground pepper
1/2 cup sour cream or Chobani

1. Saute onion and mushroom in oil until browned. Add beef and stir for one minute.
2. Sprinkle flour over beef and stir. Slowly add milk until thick. Add cheddar and pepper.
3. Turn off heat and stir mixture until cheddar is melted. Add sour cream or yogurt and stir until combined. Pour over toasted english muffins.....or.....

1 red potato per person, washed and pierced on all sides
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
4 T canola oil
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper

1. Cook whole potatoes in microwave until just a little soft.
2. Slice potatoes and add with onions to large saute pan. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
3. Cook on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until nicely browned on all sides and soft.

Cinnamon Pancakes (makes about 7 generously-sized cakes)
2 eggs
2 cups flour
4 T sugar or brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
6 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup milk (more or less, depending on your preference)
4 T greek yogurt (or canola oil)
2-3 tsp cinnamon

1. With a hand-mixer, beat eggs until a little fluffy. Add remaining ingredients and mix on low until just combined.
2. Set aside mixture until you notice air bubbles (about five minutes).
3. Cook pancakes in a non-stick pan (that's been sprayed with cooking spray and butter) on medium heat until browned on both sides.
4. We topped our pancakes with lots of butter, some fresh apple butter [from the Harvest Moon grocery in Orbisonia, PA], and lots of syrup.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A few things I can't live without....

I consider myself a quite practical person. My needs are pretty minimal. My "makeup" routine consists of: a brush, deodorant, sunscreen/face cream, mascara, eyeshadow, and some lip gloss (that all takes about 4 minutes). While I would consider myself low-maintenance and quite frugal, there are some things that I would pay just about any amount of money for.....
quality toilet paper
quality paper towels
quality dish detergent (I prefer Palmolive pure and clear)
"Finish" dishwasher tabs
Mr Clean "magic erasers" (I use at least one per week)
Starbucks coffee
(I guess there is no need to mention the washing machine/dryer
and dishwasher)
These are the things I really need to get through every day!

How about you? What things can you really not live without?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Loaded Baked Potato Dinner

Growing up, my mom was super-mom. Really. She worked full-time, cooked a healthy dinner every night, kept up with laundry, and was somehow really nice through it all, therein lies the difference between us; I would be permanently grumpy in her situation. Don't get me wrong, she wasn't a single parent, she just did the jobs a mother "traditionally" does [without asking for help] and without complaining. (I am still in awe). In our house, I perform the "traditional" roles, but not always with a great attitude. I love to serve my husband and kids, don't misunderstand, but sometimes I think it's because my "love language" is acts of service. I seem to project my wishes onto my family and then expect them to know that I want reciprocation (relationships sure are complex, aren't they?).

Lately I've noticed that Rob is quite overwhelmed with all of his responsiblities. I'm not sure how we manages to: run a foundation,service investments clients, serve as treasurer on another non-profit (and act as the general contractor on their commercial building project), help organize three conferences, mow seven commercial properties every week, and still manage to be an attentive husband and father (hey, I just realized that I am the weak link in this whole equation....).

I feel like if he can manage to get everything done during the day, surely I can manage to be productive at home. I am trying to [maintain a good attitude] while keeping the house clean and organized, effectively keep "up" with laundry , and serving my family a healthy and delicious dinner. I'm not sure how much "comfort" this provides him at the end of the day, but again, it's what I would crave if the situations were reversed (does that sound self-serving to you too?).

I cooked for a client on Monday and had some chili left over and I thought that I could make a sort of non-traditional dinner [of a loaded baked potato]. Our oldest remarked that I should serve this dinner every night (if that's not a glowing review, what is?). Typically I serve a very traditional dinner of: meat, starch, veggies. It's kind of freeing to do something a little different occasionally.

I'm sure we all know someone who may need a little comfort in form of a loaded baked potato (you know, because eating to alleviate stress is always a great idea)...make it for them today :)

Chili (for a baked potato or to eat simply)
1 can small kidney beans, drained
1 can kidney beans, drained
1 can small white beans, drained
3/4 lb hamburger, browned
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 large can diced tomatoes
smoked paprika
seasoned salt

1. Mix all ingredients, adding as many spices as desired.
2. Cover and simmer for at least 1 hr.
3. Meanwhile, poke holes in potatoes (I used red and one for each of us) and wrap in aluminum foil.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for at least 1 1/2 hrs, or until soft.
5. Top baked potato with: butter, cheddar cheese, chili, and non-fat Greek yogurt (or sour cream).

Chunky spiced applesauce
8-10 ginger gold apples (or any variety you prefer), peeled and chopped
pumpkin pie spice
3/4 cup sugar

1. In large pot, simmer apples in water until soft.
2. Using a blender, pulse apples until still chunky.
3. Add spices (amount depends on personal preference) and sugar while still warm. Serve warm or chilled.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Jody's pasta salad

My aunt Jody makes this pasta salad and it is so addicting. Seriously, I will eat myself sick with this stuff. It's one of those dishes that gets better with age, and that I leave uncovered in the refrigerator with a fork in it so I can grab a bite every time I open the door. One of the reasons that I love it so much is that it is a blank canvas; you can add anything to it and it will taste fabulous. Basically all you need is the dressing and the pasta and then you just start adding stuff!
I'll give you her recipe and then at the end I'll tell you all the ingredients I have added over the years.

Aunt Jodie's pasta salad
1 lb rotini
1 box cherry tomatoes, halved
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 medium red pepper, diced
1 can black olives, halved
1/4 lb each: hard salami, cappicola, pepperoni, provolone, cheddar
1 cup canola oil
1 T sugar
1 tsp oregano
3/4 cup white vinegar
**allow the salad to chill for at least four hours to help the flavors incorporate**

I like this version, but I also add canned artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, various meats, mozzarella, capers, and fresh herbs...or whatever you think would taste good...really, the possibilities are endless.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sugar Cakes and Caramel Sauce

I'm not sure if most of you have heard of sugar cakes as they are a local favorite to York County. I have been eating them my whole life, and we have my Uncle Hoyt to thank for this delicious recipe. The store-bought version is such a poor representation of these delicious and light, but very dense cookies. There is a "bakery" here in York that makes sugar cakes, but trust me, once you make your own, you will never travel back to this "bakery"again. I especially like to add chocolate chips to the batter, but that is totally optional.
The caramel sauce is something I made to top a cake last week simply because I didn't have enough confectioner's sugar for a traditional frosting. I will never top my apple and raisin cake with a cream cheese frosting again. The caramel sauce seems to seal in the moistness of the cake, and while it was rather sweet, it was the perfect match for the dense texture of the cake.
Tomorrow I'll share a recipe for pasta salad, but I thought it would be a rather inappropriate partner for sugar cakes and caramel sauce!

Here is Uncle Hoyt's recipe:
Sugar Cakes
2 cups sugar
1 cup shortening (I use 1/2 butter, 1/2 shortening)
3 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup sour milk (buttermilk or 1 cup milk with 1 T vinegar)
3 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla
4 cups flour

1. Cream sugar and shortening. Add eggs and vanilla.
2. Alternately add dry ingredients with sour milk.
3. Chill batter at least four hours or overnight.
4. On a greased and floured sheet, put small scoop (maybe 4T) and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 370 degrees for 10 minutes or until puffed and golden, but not too browned on the bottom.

Caramel Sauce (this is crazy delicious on the apple cake from
Sept 4, "bear for dinner")

1/2 cup plus 2 T packed brown sugar
1/3 cup corn syrup
2 T butter
1/3 cup whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla

Heat brown sugar, corn syrup and butter to boiling in 1-quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Cook 5-7 minutes, stirring constantly, until thickened; remove from heat. Add cream and vanilla and stir until smooth.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Lemon-Parmesan Shrimp

While I try to incorporate fish into our diet, I find it a splurge. Nowhere else do I purchase ingredients that cost more than $10/lb. We usually have fish once a week, and I will occasionally rotate shrimp into our meals. I realize that shrimp is not really "fish" in the healthful sense, but our kids like it and it is a very versatile ingredient. When I first tried "domestic" shrimp (usually harvested on the gulf coast), I did not really enjoy the different texture and flavor, plus they are rarely deveined (yuck). But, with a little extra work, domestic shrimp are typically larger, have a meatier texture, and I feel a little better ingesting [a bottom feeder] from US waters rather than the largely unregulated waters of the Pacific southeast. Please don't tell Rob I suggest regulation of anything! But really, when you're already consuming a bottom-feeder, I think it is important to feel confident about the quality of the water in which your food is living.
Either way, Giant had these gorgeous and large domestic shrimp on sale for $8.99/lb and I purchased some with the intent to make some kind of pasta. Instead I decided to re-create a dish that I'd made while we were on vacation this summer. We vacation on the gulf coast of Florida for a few weeks every summer and try to enjoy the locally harvested seafood as much as possible during our stay.
This dish cooks quickly and is very light-tasting. As a compromise [for our carbivore daughters], I made fettucine alfredo as a side! Steamed green beans or broccoli would be a perfect complement.

Lemon-Parmesan Shrimp
1 1/2 lbs shrimp, peeled and deveined
parmesan cheese
rind of 2 lemons
olive oil
fresh herbs: oregano, parsley, basil (slivered)
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
juice of 2 lemons

1. Sprinkle bread crumbs and parmesan on a baking dish (I always spray every pan I use with non-stick spray).
2. Lay shrimp over crumbs and top with fresh herbs, more panko and parmesan, minced garlic, and lemon rind.
3. Drizzle olive oil over shrimp and place a few small pats of butter on top of the shrimp.
4. Bake at 400 degrees (on the top rack) for 20 minutes or until shrimp are pink and bread crumb mixture is golden.
5. Sprinkle shrimp with lemon juice right before serving.

Fettucine Alfredo (this is definitely a splurge, calorically)
3/4 lb of fettucine, al dente
1/2 stick butter
garlic powder
1/2 cup heavy cream
plenty of parmesan cheese
fresh chives, finely chopped
fresh ground pepper

In a large non-stick pan, melt butter and add the rest of the ingredients, adding the [still hot] pasta and stirring to cook for an additional minute or until the flavors fully incorporate.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

"Quiche" with Potato Crust

Tonight we had cheeseburgers (again), and I was at a loss as to what I should serve with them. Usually I would have made oven fries or some other kind of potato dish...but, I only had 3 potatoes. Arrgghh, and I had just been at the grocery store yesterday (I guess that's why my mom thinks I should make a list). I didn't have enough macaroni to make mac and cheese, and I thought brown rice would taste disgusting with burgers. I'm trying to pare down what I have in my pantry simply because our kitchen is so small and it's much nicer with less in my cabinets. Well, long story short--I decided to make a "quiche" with a potato crust using my three potatoes! It was really good, kinda weird with burgers, but everyone liked it anyway.

Now you may notice my obvious love for chives. I plant herbs every summer: spearmint, mint, oregano, chives, parsley, basil, thyme and chives. Also, for some reason, we always have "wild" chives growing in our front steps and also in our flower beds in the winter and spring. I am quite happy to be plucking them from the steps to use in dishes in the winter while I'm missing my large planter of herbs on my back porch.

Quiche with Potato Crust
3 (or more) potatoes, sliced thinly with mandoline or knife
canola oil
salt pepper
provolone cheese slices
1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
cherry tomatoes
deli turkey, chopped
4 eggs
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup milk
cheddar cheese

1. Brown potato slices in saute pan until barely browned. Remove from pan and place into 9x13 pan, overlapping in au gratin style. Using the same pan, brown onion slices and tomatoes (whole).
2. Sprinkle salt and pepper on potato slices. Lay provolone slices over potato slices, covering completely.
3. Sprinkle onion, turkey, tomatoes and chives over provolone.
4. Mix eggs, milk, and parmesan cheese. Pour over onion, turkey, and tomatoes.
5. Sprinkle grated cheddar (if desired) and bake, uncovered, at 375 degrees for 40 minutes or until set and browned.

***now, obviously this could be very tasty with any number of advice, clean out your refrigerator and be creative!***

Monday, October 5, 2009

Cowboy Cookies

These cookies are kind of a compilation of a few different recipes and ideas. First, I'd like to give credit to Rob's Aunt Sally (we totally love her for her spirit and generosity!) who makes the best cookies ever! I have expanded her recipe (courtesy of the Teague family cookbook) to include some extra flavors...I urge you to test at least one cookie to see if more flour or oats should be added...I have a tendency to make foods different every time I try (and never follow recipes to a "tee")-why I like to cook instead of bake!

Now, I'll be honest: I am horrendous at making cookies for this very simple reason-I'm lazy. I only like making things that I can mix together in one bowl, pop it in the oven (of course not set the timer) and take it out when it smells delicious. Unfortunately, my husband is crazy in love with cookies. I mean, two days ago when I came home I found him with a handful of cookies and a Sam Adams (he's never been happier).

Anyway, I add sesame seeds, flax seeds, coconut, walnuts and oatmeal to my cowboy cookies and I like to pretend that they are just as healthy as Kashi cookies. The result is a nutty and decadent experience!

Cowboy Cookies

2/3 cup shortening

2/3 butter

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup packed brown sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

2 cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

20 oz chocolate chips

1 1/2 cups oatmeal

1/4 cup sesame seeds, untoasted

1/4 cup flax seeds

1/2 cup shredded coconut

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Cream shortening, butter and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla. Add remaining ingredients except walnuts and chocolate chips. Stir in chips and nuts. Chill dough for at least five hours, preferably overnight (very important. I use a small ice cream scoop to create uniform cookies. If the batter appears too "rich", add more oats and flour. Bake 8-10 minutes at 370 degrees or until browned.

Salmon with chive-lemon cream sauce

I intended to share a cookie recipe, but tonight's dinner, while planned very last-minute, was totally delicious- and the best news of all: everyone liked everything! (trust me, this is practically a miracle) Much of the dinner included recipes I've already shared, but I made two new things that I thought you might enjoy: salmon with chive-lemon sauce and banana bread muffins. We also had lemon-herb baby potatoes, roasted green beans, and baked pears. Boy, do I love when a dinner actually comes together! (kinda unlike last night...charred flank steak, undercooked broccoli and cauliflower, and baked sweet potatoes)

Salmon with lemon-chive cream sauce

salmon filet

3 T butter

3 T flour

1/2 cup milk

2 tsp lemon peel

3 T chives, chopped (you can substitute any fresh herb)

salt, pepper

lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1. Melt butter in saucepan. Sprinkle flour on top and stir until smooth. Slowly add milk until smooth and thick (congratulations, you made a bechamel sauce!).

2. Add peel, chives, salt and pepper. Set aside.

3. Sprinkle lemon juice over salmon. Pour cream sauce over and bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes.

Banana Bread Muffins (this recipe, believe it or not, is courtesy of the Gold Medal kids alphabet cookbook...this is the "b" recipe, obviously!)

1 1/2 bananas

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup oil (I used plain yogurt)

2 cups flour

2 eggs

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp salt

bake in muffin cups at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until fully baked


bake in loaf pan,covered, at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, uncover, and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until fully baked

Hot Artichoke and Spinach Dip

I don't know how many of you have experienced family-style eating at Maggiano's Little Italy. We have been to Maggiano's quite a few times, and even though I typically don't frequent chain restaurants, we enjoy eating ourselves silly [there]. Basically, if you arrive with at least four in your party you can purchase the family-style option: 2 appetizers, 2 salads, 2 pastas, 2 entrees, and 2 desserts. And the best part-it's all you can eat! I am usually happy eating mostly the salads, appetizers, and desserts. I take a few bites of the pastas and entrees, but they box up any leftovers for you to take home.

I really love to eat (obviously), but I can't eat a lot at one time. I am a grazer, (all day every day) so this works perfectly. I also love sitting around a table with good friends and taking a few hours to eat. We invariably get many of the same things but we also try to pick a few new choices as well. One of the dishes that we always order is the artichoke spinach dip. Oh, and did I forget to tell you that you can order multiples of the dishes? If you finish the dip and want more, you simply ask for it, eat as much as you can and then take the leftovers home! If this isn't a little foretaste of heaven, I don't know what is.

I replicate the dip at home whenever I can and thought I would share the recipe, as it is perfect for entertaining. I add a few extra things, just to expand the flavors and my version is pretty good, but I would recommend eating at Maggiano's at least once for the experience.

Also, I had a few extra ingredients that I'd purchased for the dip and decided to make a spread for sandwiches. I slathered the spread on crusty rolls and added some sliced cucumbers, spinach, and roasted red pepper strips and it was very satisfying...hopefully you'll like it, too!

Spinach and Artichoke Dip (adapted from Maggiano's Little Italy)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 T flour
1/4 tsp garlic powder
4 T parmesan
1 bag frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/2 cup shredded asiago
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1 jar marinated artichokes, drained
3 T sun-dried tomato pesto
4 spring onions, sliced thinly

1. In a large bowl, microwave the cream, garlic powder and parmesan. Continue stirring and heating until slightly thickened. Set aside.
2. Chop artichokes into bite-sized pieces.
3. Combine all ingredients except the tops (dark green) of the spring onions.
4. Pour into baking dish (this recipe is for a 9in pan, I usually double it).
5. Sprinkle dip with top slices of scallions, additional parmesan and panko bread crumbs (if desired) and bake at 395 degrees for 20-25 minutes.
6. Serve with crackers or garlic toast.

Sandwich Spread
1 pkg cream cheese, softened
2 scallions, thinly sliced (only the white and light green portions)
1 small jar roasted red peppers, finely chopped and drained
1/8 cup mayo
1/3 cup parmesan
ground pepper
3 T sun-dried tomato pesto

Mix together and use as a spread for veggie sandwiches or as a dip for crackers or vegetables.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

You know you're Pennsylvania Dutch when...

I was quite anxious to clean out my freezer today. I knew I had a pork roast, some leftover baguette and sandwich rolls, and a bag of sauerkraut. Let's just say Rob was less than thrilled when he realized what we were having for dinner! He said, "why are we eating this when we'll be eating Thanksgiving dinner in a month? All we need is a pumpkin pie". The funny thing was, I had one cooling in the refrigerator! :) Don't worry, I quickly informed him pork and sauerkraut is quite different from turkey, and that he was an ungrateful wretch!

We usually enjoy pork and sauerkraut on New Year's Day (it's supposed to bring good luck, if you believe in that kind of thing...I don't). We also love "stuffing balls". Our middle daughter, we call her our carbivore, goes crazy for them! I also made mashed potatoes and gravy.

Needless to say, I was a little tired from cooking (and running 9mi today) and when my son reminded me he needed brownies for school....I (gulp) bought my first box of brownie mix!!! Amazing how the Lord humbles us!

Pork and Sauerkraut
bone-in pork roast
bag of sauerkraut
2 apples, sliced

Sprinkle pork roast with salt and pepper. Put an inch of water in pan with pork roast. Bake, covered, for 2 hrs at 350 degrees. Add sauerkraut and apples, recover, and bake for an additional 1 hr.

serve with mashed potatoes and gravy

Stuffing Balls
1 medium loaf of white bread, cut into small cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 sticks butter
2 stalks of celery
salt, pepper
2 eggs
1/2 cup warmed milk
fresh chives
fresh parsley

1. Saute onion and celery in butter.
2. Combine remaining ingredients and mix well with hands.
3. Form into "balls", place into a baking pan and cover with foil.
4. Bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, then uncover and bake for an additional 15 minutes.