Monday, July 25, 2011

the vacation rat race

includes lots of floating

formal dress

nightly entertainment

wildlife wrangling

fancy dinners

cut-throat competition

the stresses of posing for the perfect beach picture

What can I say?  It's a rough life.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Reese's Cookies

It has been well documented that I'm not really a dessert person, and that I hate to make cookies - but these I don't remember the context, but whenever I have these cookies, I'm reminded of my childhood next-door neighbors. 

We didn't really live in a neighborhood.  I grew up in a pretty rural setting, where each house requires a 2 acre tract per township regulations.  The smell of manure is fairly regularly part of the surroundings.  Our nearest neighbors all had daughters, so we did enjoy summers together.  When I was in 2nd grade, our next door neighbors installed a beautiful pool.  I remember fondly eating jello pudding pops, underwater tea parties, and water routines set to 80's dance music.  I also remember eating these cookies while we were taking a break from swimming [and playing Tetris]. 

It was a pretty charmed childhood.

Maybe that's why I have no willpower with these cookies - good times, good memories.  Or, these cookies are just really tasty.  Peanut butter chips, a chocolate cookie batter - is there anything better?

Reese's Chewy Chocolate Cookies (courtesy of the Reese's peanut butter chips package)
2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups softened butter (I use half shortening, half butter)
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
10 oz package peanut butter chips

1.  Cream softened butter and sugar.  Add eggs and vanilla extract.
2.  Add dry ingredients.  Stir in peanut butter chips.  Refrigerate batter for at least two hours.
3.  Bake at 350 degrees for 8-9 minutes.

Oatmeal Baked Peaches

Peach season is in full swing here in the Northeast.  I usually buy the "seconds" peaches at the fruit stand, mostly because I don't like waiting for the "firsts" to ripen.  We cut them up for our cereal, we slice them for our ice cream, and at least once a week I bake some peach halves with a crumb topping. 

Super simple, and the perfect complement to a summer meal! 

Halve peaches, leaving the skin on if desired (wash the "fuzz" off of the skin, if using, first).

Combine 2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and 1/4 cup oats.  Cut in 7 Tbsp butter until crumbs form.  Top each peach half with 2 T crumb mixture.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. 

Our dinner last night: cheeseburgers with grilled onions, baked parmesan tomatoes, and steamed green beans.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Pecan Pie

I am continually surprised by how many people love pecan pie.  Aside from the fact that there are less than ten ingredients - I thought people didn't really like nuts?  I guess they do!  I like pecan pie, but I prefer mine in the Kentucky vein - with bourbon and chocolate chips.  I made a traditional pie yesterday and it disappeared almost as fast as the cooler-full of jello [at our block party].

Pecan Pie (courtesy of the New Betty Crocker Cookbook)
1 unbaked pie shell
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 cup corn syrup
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 cup pecan halves

1.  beat sugar, butter, corn syrup, salt, and eggs in medium bowl with wire whisk until well-blended.
2.  stir in pecans.
3.  pour into pastry-lined pie plate.
4.  bake at 375 degrees for 40-50 minutes, or until center is set.

(a note of warning - just noticed that one slice of this pie is 530 calories - yikes)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Margarita Cheesecake

Today is our neighborhood block party.  We swim, play horseshoes, eat, and enjoy hanging out in the 'hood. 

I decided to make two desserts to share: margarita cheesecake and a pecan pie. 

I received this recipe from my mom - I just can't remember where she found the recipe.  I want to say it was a Southern Living recipe....maybe my mom will read this and set the record straight!

Anyway - I'll show you what I did. 

I placed one and half packages of graham crackers, 1/4 cup sugar, and two teaspoons of lime zest into my food processor. 

After pulsing for about 2 minutes, this is what the mixture should look like.

Mix with melted butter (7 Tbsp) and press into a springform pan.  Wrap aluminum foil around the bottom of the pan to prevent leakage.


Bake crust at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

In a mixing bowl, beat four packages of softened cream cheese until smooth. 

Reduce speed to low.  Add [four] eggs, one at a time.  Add  1 1/4 cups sugar, and 1/4 tsp salt. 

Finally, add 8 oz sour cream, 1/4 cup orange juice, 1/2 cup lime juice, and 1 T lime zest.  

Pour cream cheese mixture into springform pan, on top of the cooled graham cracker crust.  

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  Turn the oven temperature to "off" and keep the cheesecake in the oven for one hour before opening the door (this should hopefully prevent cracks on the top). 
Refrigerate for at least six hours or up to two days before serving.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Purple Green Beans

My sister-in-law gave me these gorgeous beans. 

I decided to make my three ingredient beef brisket, and some yukon gold mashed potatoes.  I pictured a beautiful plate with my tri-colored steamed beans.

But, when I pulled the lid off of my saucepan - I realized that the purple beans had disappeared.  Did you know that purple beans change to the color green after they're cooked?  I'm glad I took a few pics of the gorgeous purple color before it disappeared. 

Delicious summer dinner!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Savory Crepes

Has anyone seen the "new" Taste of Home cooking magazine?  It's probably not that new, but I've just noticed their latest layout style.  I'm impressed.  I borrowed a couple of issues from my sister-in-law, and there are some great recipes I'm dying to try.

I was inspired by a savory crepe recipe and decided to make my own version.  I've made crepes before, but with strawberries, bananas, and chocolate. 

Our savory crepes were stuffed with roasted chicken, and a swiss cheese cream sauce.  The sauce is studded with sauteed swiss chard, mini portabellos, onions, and garlic.

Savory deliciousness.  Creamy.  Cheesy.  Divine.  While the sweet-lovers in my gang prefer the dessert crepes, I vote for these!

Chicken Crepes
crepe recipe: (makes 8 crepes) courtesy of Taste of Home
4 eggs
1 1/2 cup milk
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp sugar

1.  Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate for one hour.
 2.  In a buttered saute pan - pour a small amount of crepe batter, turn to coat and flip after crepe releases from your pan.
 **Just a warning: there is a learning curve - you will probably need to make at least two crepes before you "get the hang of it".  It's worth it. 

Swiss-Cream Sauce
1/2 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
6 mini portabello mushrooms
4 large leaves swiss chard, chopped (with the middle vein removed)
2 T butter
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup shredded swiss
2 T chevre or sour cream
2 bone-in chicken breasts, roasted and chopped

1.  Saute onion, garlic, and mushrooms in butter and olive oil.  Add swiss chard and stir until wilted.
2.  Sprinkle flour over sauteed vegetables.  Stir and add chicken broth.
3.  Add milk, shredded swiss, and chevre or sour cream.
4.  Add chopped chicken.
5.  Assemble crepes:  in the middle of a crepe, place about 1/2 cup chicken mixture.  Roll up and place into baking pan.  Keep warm in oven until your husband returns from kayaking.  :)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Baked Parmesan Tomatoes

I'm almost giddy every time I catch a glimpse of our fruit and veggie bowl.  I literally count down the hours until I can enjoy a peach in my yogurt or on my cereal.  Our kids grab a couple of apricots for a quick snack, and fresh tomatoes tempt me at every turn.  It's the most wonderful time of the year! (better than Christmas, in my opinion)

One of my favorite ways to enjoy tomatoes is with this simple preparation.

Baked Parmesan Tomatoes (adapted from the New Betty Crocker Cookbook)
two tomatoes, sliced into about 4 equal slices
2 Tbsp parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
2 tsp freshly chopped basil
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
cracked black pepper
panko breadcrumbs, if desired

lay slices of tomato into a baking pan.  mix remaining ingredients, except panko.  place a dollop on each tomato slice.  top with panko for extra crunch.  bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until browned.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Just to clear things up.....

I feel like maybe I've given you the wrong impression.  It seems that everyone thinks I'm some sort of health nut or something.  I just want you to know that sometimes you just have to let loose [and eat something naughty]. 

The only meal that gets cheers around here is grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup.  Literally, cheers. 

I happened to have this sitting in my refrigerator - it was taunting me. 

Yes, I am aware that the description reads, "pasteurized prepared cheese product".  Recently, Gwyneth Paltrow remarked that she's rather smoke crack than eat cheese out of a can.  A little melodramatic much?  I don't eat Velveeta too often, but if you've never had a grilled cheese made with Velveeta, you're really missing out. 

Just look at all of that prime "melti-ness".  So good. 

And, since I wasn't sure if what I served my family was really dairy, we enjoyed this for dessert!  Not really, I was just hungry for chocolate pudding. 


Tomato Bisque

Roasted Cauliflower with smoked paprika

Chocolate Pudding
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
2 T cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
2 cups milk
2 tsp vanilla

1. Mix sugar, cornstarch, and salt in 2-quart saucepan. Gradually stir in milk.
2. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils.
3. Boil and stir one minute. Remove from heat.
4. Add vanilla, stir, and serve (top with fresh whipped cream, if desired).

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Chicken Fajitas

Here's a question for you: what do you eat for dinner on Sunday nights?  In Rob's family, dinner on Sunday nights was "every man for himself".  I really can't remember what we ate for dinner on Sunday nights, but I remember we were usually at my grandparents house.  It was probably a pot-luck type of dinner. 

On Sunday nights around here, our menus are varied.  I can't ever skip a meal and my kids are the same way.  Even on major holidays when we have a large meal at 2:00pm or later, by 4:30 I'll hear, "what are we having for dinner"?.  It seems I have created little foodies. 

In the winter I usually make a few pizzas and we find ourselves in front of the TV watching football or "America's Funniest Home Videos". 

Now that we're enjoying warmer temperatures and more sunlight, our fare has become a little lighter.  Tonight was chicken fajitas and corn on the cob.  I marinated the chicken in canola oil, lime juice, smoked paprika, garlic powder, cumin, and kosher salt.  I grilled it and we stuffed our fajitas with our selected toppings. 

my fajita - sliced radishes, grilled chicken, sour cream, salsa, lettuce, sauteed onions and zucchini

The corn on the cob - so delicious.  I almost forget [over the winter] just how fabulous it is.  We've been melting our butter in a bowl and spreading it directly on the cob with a silicone brush.  Easy and practically mess-free.  By the way, I'll only eat corn from J-Mar Farms.  They have the best - bar none. 

So, do you make dinner on Sunday nights?  Maybe you enjoy leftovers.  Maybe you pour yourself a bowl of cereal.  I'd love to hear!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Some Shots from the Fourth

We had a fun but very tiring July 4th. 

We started laying pavers on our back porch.  Rob found some free pavers on craigslist last year and they've been stacked in our backyard since then.  I somehow convinced him to lay them this weekend before we bothered to do a silly little thing like measuring.  Well, long story short - we have enough pavers (which are now cemented down) for about half of the patio.  oops. 

Earlier in the weekend, Rob mulched our flower beds and re-sealed our driveway. 

Thankfully, we were invited to Rob's parents house for a July 4th picnic.  I fear we would have been unloading a pallet of pavers well into the night had we not committed to attending. 

Rob's aunt, uncle, and three cousins were visiting from Iowa.  The youngest cousin of the clan, Lisa, is moving to NYC to work for a design company.  Check it out.

We enjoyed some great food, volleyball, water balloons, sparklers, and a slip-n-slide! 

Here are some of the pictures from our fun time together!

Josh is just so cool! :)

Lisa, Jim, and Ilene

Josh and Wesley

the spread - me, Nic, Aunt Ilene, Nana Putz (my m-i-l)

water balloon launching - Jeremy, Josh, Emma, Travis

Angie, Jim, Ilene, Katie, and baby Malachi


my father-in-law and Wesley

Travis and Angie

Kate, Travis, Emma, Jeremy

Emma on the slip-n-slide


Emma and I


We decided to let our kids stay up late and watch the fireworks.  On the 30 minutes drive home, we had two little sleeping girls.  Look how excited they are about the fireworks! 

We loved the fireworks, but it is really hard to take good pictures of them.  This is about the best pic of the bunch (and there were about 100).  

We enjoyed celebrating the freedom we are blessed with in the United States.  We are forever grateful for the bravery of our founding fathers and the foresight they had to craft the Declaration of Independence. 

Hope you had a fun day celebrating with your family and friends!