Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Hate-Hate Relationship

Here is the bane of my existence:

I really don't know what I was thinking when I picked a white tile floor with white grout. Maybe I was just naive, or maybe it was because we only had one three year-old when we moved into our house. This kitchen floor has been scrubbed three times in the last five days. I normally don't have to wash it this often, but our son, in a bit of eleven-year old angst, spilled an entire cup of grape juice (I had to wash the floor twice to remove all signs of stickiness).

I will say that the floor has been durable, successfully breaking every item I've ever dropped on it.

For those of you that say, "what about people that don't have kitchen floors"? Well, if I could, I'd send it to them! I am thankful for my kitchen. It really is my solace, I have enjoyed so much my time spent here. I do look around wistfully sometimes though, I have to be honest. I don't have tons of cabinet or counter space, but it is a fully functional kitchen and I am thankful for it. But I still hate the floor.

This, however, has saved my bacon more than a few times. I literally use these to shreds every week. On a normal week, I'll use one for the house. On a really bad week, I'll use two. These are so great, I can not extol their virtues enough. Sometimes I think I should buy stock in the company. I love using them for cleaning walls, bathtubs, tile floors, windowsills, doors, grout, etc. I have not found a capacity in which they are not magic. Seriously.

Finally, want to see my new favorite toy?

Here it is:

My awesome husband picked it out for me, and I am in love. And, yes, that's more rhubarb for another rhubarb-custard pie. What can I say, it's the breakfast of champions.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The End of Quiet

Rob and I had a really nice and quiet weekend together. We were inundated rather quickly [on Sunday morning] with fighting kids, requests of a soft pretzel at 9am, telling our eight-year old she'd break her leg if she tried to wear high heels to church...you get the picture. It's amazing how the intensity of three children is so unlike being in the middle of nowhere, listening to nothing but the rustling of leaves.

For some reason, I have romanticized the idea of hiking our four-wheeler trail. It's 13 mi. Yeah, it was really tiring. And, can you believe that I didn't pack any food? Not good.

It was really nice, though, to see my husband's eyes. One of the nice things about the lack of internet or tv is simply being able to talk and making eye contact!

Here we are about 1/4 in to our hike

I made some yummy dinners, one using almost all leftovers!
Friday night we had: "chopped steak" sandwiches with leftover flank steak from Kate's birthday party. We also had leftover cauliflower gratin and roasted asparagus.

Saturday night we had: shredded mexican beef over brown rice, corn and black bean relish, and the rest of the asparagus.

We also raided the Easter candy we purchased at Fitzkee's on our way out, but I didn't take any pictures :)

Lastly, watercress is in season! Isn't it pretty?

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Tale of Two Birthday Dinners...

March has been quite the busy cooking month for me. I've enjoyed it so much, but am looking forward to a slower April. I know I really need to get a little more serious about exercising, but I've kinda been stuck in my kitchen. Besides the Spring Fling at Whitney's store, I've also prepared food for an Easter Egg Hunt (I forgot my camera, sorry) and two birthday parties (one of them being our daughter, Kate's). With the exception of the spring fling, all of my March cooking took place this week (in the past five days...I'm pretty wiped).

For the Easter Egg Hunt (please imagine colorful and appetizing pictures)
I made: (for 55)
Caprese Salad Skewers
Mini Caesar Salad in Parmesan Frico Cups
Meatball Sliders
Chicken Satay with Peanut Dipping Sauce
Fruit Kabobs

For Jessica's Birthday Party I made: (for 25)
Fruit Platter
Salad with Cranberries, Walnuts, and Feta topped with an orange-balsamic vinaigrette
Cheesy Garlic Bread
Grilled Vegetable Ravioli with Prosciutto in a marinara and alfredo sauce
Banana Cupcakes with Lemon Frosting
Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting
Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Coconut Macaroons

We held the party at the newest location of the Jessica and Friends ministry. Jessica and Friends is the organization my in-laws founded to serve the disabled adults in our area. It is a faith-based ministry that includes group homes, respite care, and now, a vocational-training center. Their aim is to create dignity for individuals with special needs to learn a vocation and also to learn some basic life skills. Construction will be finished in the next few months and they hope to welcome their first participants June 1st. I have interspersed some pictures of the almost-renovated building. We had a fun birthday party and it's really special to see the work than many have labored over for the benefit of individuals in our community.

As a small aside, there is a salon here in York that is organizing a fundraiser and I'll give you all of the details later, but let me just say, $10 haircuts and 100% of the money will be given to Jessica and Friends-

For Kate's Birthday Dinner I made: (for 10)
Cauliflower Gratin
Garden Salad
Fruit Platter
Pickled Beets and Eggs
French Bread (bought, not made)
Grilled Flank Steak
Ice Cream Cake

The highlight of the night was probably when Emma opened the package of moon sand my mom so meanly bought for Kate. You know how when kids open a bag of chips and they somehow manage to fly all over the room? Picture fluorescent pink moon sand flying all over a living room with a cream rug and ten people. Thanks, Mom. Really, I kid. The sand actually vacuumed "up" quite well (if you're in the market for a vacuum cleaner, I would suggest the Hoover wind tunnel). The real highlight was seeing Kate's face throughout the night and realizing that she felt really special!

Rob and I are leaving for our family's cabin this weekend: no kids, no internet, no tv - nothing but a few library books and our hiking shoes!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Our Birthday Girl

Today is Kate's birthday. She turns eight years old tonight at 11:43pm. Kate loves school, babies, animals, and her best friend, Emma! Kate is a very opinionated little girl and also very witty. We enjoy her immensely and are so thankful that she is a part of our family-

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Wanna See Something Naughty?

This was part of our dinner-

Loaded French Fries
1 bag frozen french fries (mine were a generic brand)
2 T canola oil
1 tsp kosher salt
3/4 bag Cabot "seriously sharp" shredded cheddar cheese
5 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
sour cream or plain yogurt for dipping
fresh chives for garnish

1. Bake french fries in canola oil [on large cookie sheet] at 425 degrees for 25 minutes or until browned.
2. Sprinkle kosher salt and stir. Top with cheese and bacon crumbles.
3. Bake an additional five minutes or until cheese is melted.
4. Serve with desired dipping sauces: we prefer chobani, but ranch dressing would also be tasty.

And this was our dessert-

Coconut Macaroons (adapted from Barefoot Contessa)

14 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Combine the coconut, condensed milk, and vanilla in a large bowl. Whip the egg whites and salt on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until they make medium-firm peaks. Carefully fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture.

Drop the batter onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper using either a 1 3/4-inch diameter ice cream scoop, or 2 teaspoons. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.

**These are my variations: (I have a weakness for Almond Joy)**

During the last three minutes of baking, sprinkle sliced almonds on top.

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips and 1 T milk.
Microwave in 30-second increments, stirring until melted and combined. Drizzle chocolate ganache over macaroons.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Dinner 3.22.10


Fennel and Blood Orange Salad
1 bulb fennel, outer layer removed and sliced thinly
1 blood orange (or navel orange), sliced thinly into rings
1/2 small red onion, peeled and sliced thinly
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp dijon
2 tsp orange juice
salt, pepper

1. Layer fennel slices, oranges, and onions.
2. In a small bowl, whisk remaining ingredients and pour over salad.
3. Top with fennel fronds, if desired.

Chicken Curry (served over jasmine rice) adapted from the Pioneer Woman
chicken thighs, skin removed
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
1 medium tomato
5 sprigs cilantro
2 tsp dijon
salt, pepper
4 T canola oil
2 T curry powder
2 tsp turmeric
3/4 cup water
1 can coconut milk
1/4 cup water

1. Pulse onion, garlic, tomato, and cilantro in blender or food processor until chopped finely. Marinate chicken breasts in dijon and onion/garlic/tomato/cilantro mixture [for at least two hours].
2. In a large saute pan, heat canola oil. In a small bowl, whisk curry powder, turmeric, and water until combined.
3. Add to heated oil and whisk constantly for five minutes until paste forms.
4. Add chicken thighs, turn to coat. Add coconut milk and water and simmer for at least 40-45 minutes or until cooked through and sauce is reduced.
5. Serve over jasmine rice.

Cinnamon-Sugar Rhubarb Cake adapted from Taste of Home
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups diced fresh rhubarb

1. Cream shortening, brown sugar, and sugar. Add egg and vanilla and beat for 2 minutes.
2. Add buttermilk alternately with dry ingredients.
3. Stir in rhubarb
4. Top with 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon.
5. Bake in a greased 9x13 pan at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Rhubarb Custard Pie

We had a carb-a-licious dinner tonight. The ham slice is finally gone. We also had baked corn and fried potatoes with onions. It wasn't the most stellar dinner, but I was pretty distracted by this - I found blood oranges and fresh rhubarb at Price Rite today!

I have to say, I really feel romanced by the Creator when I see things like this-

I am blown away by the variety and the vibrancy of the fruits and vegetables that He has blessed us with.

Because it was such an amazing spring day (70 degrees!), I decided to make a spring favorite of ours, rhubarb custard pie. It is amazing. The tartness of the rhubarb counteracts perfectly with the extreme sweetness of the custard, and the flakiness of the double crust is nothing short of decadent. This recipe is courtesy of Rob's grandmother, Gladys (a pie maker extraordinaire!).

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.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Swiss, Bacon, and Mushroom Burger

Don't tell Rob, but we had burgers tonight. They are his favorite food, right behind meatloaf (yuck), but he is working late tonight. Josh is also gone out with friends, so it was just me and the girls inhaling a few burgers! I still have a ham slice taunting me from the shelf in my refrigerator, [that I bought at market a few days ago] but that just sounded too heavy for such a beautiful spring day.

I typically make my burgers using this recipe. That hyperlink is for you, Marion! :)

I do use my grill all throughout the year: in rain, snow, sun, and wind - and I think we may need a new one soon. I think we've had it for at least eight years and it was all of $119 at Lowe's back in the day. At least for tonight it didn't let me down, and the burgers turned out super yummy. I also grilled some yellow peppers and onions and topped my burger with lots of barbeque sauce. It probably appears that we have broccoli all the time, but I had one small crown left and with just the three of us, I wanted to use it to clear out the crisper drawer. As you can tell, I keep frozen vegetables on hand and they are great for a quick side (tonight it was mixed veggies).

I have been a little lax on the dessert front, but we always have Perrydell ice cream to fall back on! I think tonight I'll have chocolate with melted peanut butter poured over the top. This is why I've started running again!

Swiss, Bacon, and Mushroom Burgers
1 lb ground chuck
4 slices bacon
2 large button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 small onion, chopped finely
1 tsp worcesterchire sauce
1 egg white
ground black pepper
swiss cheese, barbeque sauce for topping

1. On a plate, place sliced mushrooms and chopped onion over the slices of bacon. Microwave about 4 minutes, or until bacon is crispy and the onions and mushrooms are tender.
2. Tear bacon into bite-sized pieces, and mix hamburger with remaining ingredients (including the mushrooms and onion) except cheese and barbeque sauce.
3. Form into patties and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
4. Grill over medium-high heat until cooked through. Place cheese on top and allow to melt.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Little Bit Obsessed....

Okay, here's the thing - I'm going to invite you into my crazy little world tonight. I want to explain to you how my mind works. I will warn you, it's a wacky place, never stagnant, and usually concentrated on one thing: food. The other night my in-laws were watching our kids. When we called [around 5:00 pm] to see if they were interested in pizza for dinner, guess what their response was? They said, "oh, we haven't even thought about dinner yet". I'm sorry, that's crazy talk. Seriously. Sometimes I wish I could be a little more like that, but really, I'm about as much a polar opposite from that position as I could be. I literally start thinking about food first thing in the morning and the trend continues through the day. I read on the Pioneer Woman this week that she finishes one meal and immediately starts thinking about the next one (not surprisingly, this was extremely vindicating).

Speaking of the Pioneer Woman: did you see her post on Caramelized Onion Pizza? Well, I read it around 4:45, and I was on a mission. The caramelized onions sparked a frenzy strong enough to send me into my kitchen to satisfy my need (!) for onions. Last fall I posted this recipe. Fortunately, I had all of the ingredients I needed. It was no caramelized onion pizza, but it was darn good. We also had this chicken, with baked potatoes and steamed peas.

In decidedly less embarrassing news, is this the cutest thing or what?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Steak, baby-

Last week at market, during my visit to our local butcher, I spied a huge piece of flank steak. Instead of having it cut to size, I decided to take the whole piece and try to make two meals out of the one piece. We love steak, but I really can't justify paying for the more conventional cuts, so I opt for flank or skirt steak. I paid a little over $13 for a really nice piece of beef and was able to make two meals: Orange-Grilled Flank Steak and Rendang Curry.

I also tried to create a version of the Girl Scout's "tagalongs", or peanut butter patties. They turned out pretty tasty, but I would describe them as "deconstructed" (aka: too delicate to dip into melted chocolate).

Orange-Grilled Flank Steak we enjoyed our steak with baked mac and cheese, baked tomatoes, and fresh steamed green beans

flank steak, 1/2 lb per adult
2 T orange juice
1 T soy sauce
1 T balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp garlic powder

1. Marinate steak for at least 2 hrs, but up to 8 hrs.
2. Grill steak over medium heat, for 8 minutes per side (9-10 if especially thick, more than 1/2 inch).
3. Allow steak to rest for at least five minutes, then slice as thinly as possible diagonally against the grain.

Rendang Curry I received the curry recipe from this lovely lady. I was not able to find all of the ingredients on a quick trip to the grocery store, but the result was delicious anyway. I'd like to try chicken and try to create a "mussaman" curry with potatoes and carrots next time. I love the basic undercurrent of flavors, rich and delicious!

I served the curry with jasmine rice and roasted broccoli and carrots. Simply toss the veggies with a dash of olive oil and a sprinkling of kosher salt. Roast at 395 degrees for 25 minutes.

flank steak, 1/2 lb per person
1 can of coconut milk
1 tsp onion powder
2 tsp garlic powder
1 teaspoon of ground cloves
1 teaspoon of ground turmeric
2 teaspoons of ground coriander
1 teaspoon of salt
1 or 2 teaspoons of chili powder

Mix all ingredients and pour over flank steak. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for at least 3hrs. Serve over cooked jasmine rice

Peanut Butter Patties (courtesy of Baking Bites)
This is really just a shortbread cookie with a glorified peanut butter mixture and a dollop of chocolate ganache - but delicious all the same! They're so good, I've had nine today (I wish I were kidding).

1 cup butter, soft
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 T milk

Cream butter and sugar, then add remaining ingredients. Chill dough for at least 2hrs. Bake a tablespoon of dough at 350 degrees for 11-13 minutes, or until edges are browned and cookies are set. After removing cookies from oven, create a thumbprint with the back of a spoon. Remove from the baking sheet after several minutes and cool on a wire rack. Top with peanut butter filling and a dollop of ganache. If you're really feeling brave, you could try to dip the entire cookie in the ganache, but mine appeared too fragile to attempt such a feat.

Peanut Butter Filling:
1 1/2 cups peanut butter (I used Jif natural)
3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
pinch salt
1/2 tsp vanilla

Mix and heat in the microwave until melted and warm.

Dip or dollop with melted semisweet chocolate. I also melt mine in the microwave with just a splash of milk or cream.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Day #7: Whitney's Party

My friend, Whitney, has the coolest little boutique. It is stocked with children's clothing and toys, women's clothing, jewelry, and home goods. Her style is very hip and bohemian, so it's no surprise that her store carries the coolest lines. Every so often she'll have an event and ask me to help with some snacks! It's a lot of work, but she pays me in gift cards [to her store], so it's so rewarding! This is the fourth event I've helped her with, and I finally remembered to take pictures!

Grilled Veggie Sandwiches

White Sangria

Mini Quiche

Mexican Layer Dip

Fruit Kabobs

Crudite Platter

Chocolate Fudge

Assorted Cookie Tray (oatmeal raisin, lemon squares, sugar cakes)

Hot Crab Dip

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Day #6: One of those days....

I'm having one of those days. I currently have chili splashed all over my microwave, my son is failing social studies, I have flat sugar cakes waiting to be thrown away, and I have 100 mini quiches to make tomorrow. Meanwhile, my husband is skiing in knee-deep snow in Beaver Creek, CO. Apparently, on his first run of the day they were passing out hot chocolate. And, later in the afternoon there were fresh-baked cookies. Sigh.

Our dinner, while kind of embarrassing, at the very least was filling (that's the point, right?). We had chili-topped baked potatoes and sliced oranges.

There was one bright spot to the day! I finally made a kick-butt batch of chocolate fudge. Here's to the simple things -