Thursday, February 25, 2010

To My Dear Readers......

This has been a very difficult post for me to write, but I'm just going to come right out with it and share with you what's been going on with me. I've been dealing with some health and personal issues lately that are preventing me from enjoying and being able to concentrate on my blog. It's nothing serious, so no need for worry, but just know that physical and mental exhaustion are some of the symptoms. Therefore, I have decided to severely curtail my regular blogging for the time being. I hope to be back in full swing within a month or two and you all will most certainly be among the first to know when my first grandchild is born (within the next week or two!)

My sincerest apologies to hubby's co-irkers for your lack of a sweet treat this week and the weeks to come. It's been going on a year now that I've been enjoying this weekly exchange with you and I look forward to being able to return to this again soon.

It is my deepest hope that you all will not forget me, as I have found such comfort and friendship in this food blogging community. I'll be keeping in touch with you through your own food blogs from time to time and only ask for your prayers to help me through my current situation.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Easy Chicken Tortilla Bake (PMS)

For those of you who are new to the section of my blog tagged "Pacifying My Sisters" (PMS), I've been trying harder to incorporate some recipes for them that include fewer and less "exotic" ingredients. I'm crossing fingers till I die, sticking a needle in my eye, and hoping against hope that Pace Salsa Verde is not an exotic ingredient. If it is, I'm sunk.

This recipe includes only five ingredients and I'm pretty sure that Sandra Lee would be awfully damn proud of me for putting this together without her having to show me on her Food Network show. Here are your ingredients:

Now keep in mind that you don't even have to make your own chicken for this. You could used canned chicken or rotisserie chicken already cooked from your regular grocery story. No one will ever know. (Insert a Whoot! from Sandra)

Easy Chicken Tortilla Bake

3 cups cooked chicken, diced (I used 2 rather large chicken breasts)
1 (16 oz) jar Pace Salsa Verde
1 cup sour cream plus additional for topping, if desired (I used reduced-fat)
5 (6-inch) corn tortillas
2 cups shredded cheese (pictured is Monterey Jack but I ended up using a 2% Mexican blend)
Diced jalapeno peppers, optional (I used the ones in a jar)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray an 8X8 casserole dish with cooking spray.

Now following the picture below, cut tortillas into smaller pieces, spread half the chicken on the bottom of the casserole dish, top with half of the salsa verde, then half of the sour cream, half of the tortilla strips, then half of the shredded cheese. Repeat layers. Cover dish with aluminum foil and baked in preheated oven for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake for 10 more minutes, until bubbly. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Top with diced jalapeno peppers and extra sour cream if desired.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Yesterday's Colonary Feast

Prepare yourself for the luxurious and decadent list of foods that I consumed yesterday. If you have a drool bucket handy, now would be the time to reach for it. This type of culinary over-stimulation will most likely leave your stomach growling (it did mine.)

First up, breakfast: smell the aroma and richness of the roasted beans....

Next, lunch: imagine the coolness of the artificial flavoring of the lime and orange as it melts on your awaiting tongue.

And then dinner: savor the smooth and velvety flavor. So smooth and velvety it was like eating nothing at all!

But wait, there's more.... my late night (all night, if you catch my drift) snack:

I'll give you three guesses as to what medical procedure I had done today. First two don't count.

On a side note, to all my blogger friends out there, I apologize for not visiting your blogs and leaving comments these past few days. I just haven't been myself, and not that being myself is anything to brag about, but it's all I have to work with...LOL

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Pasta Salad With Smoked Salmon And Asparagus

Ok, let's talk about fish and how my sidebar links only include recipes with canned tuna. I'm a fishphobe, there I said it. Fish scare me, not because of what they are, where they come from, or how they taste, but because of how I'll most likely ruin any recipe that includes these water-dwelling creatures. Fish is one of those delicate things, like lingerie laundering, biscuit dough, and teenagers. Sometimes avoidance is your best course of action.

Today, my friends, I have crossed the canned tuna barrier and you will now see another recipe using fish on my blog. Mind you, it's one of those baby steps things, because I used smoked salmon, but still it was a baby step forward from Star-Kist. I'm so proud of myself, I could just spawn.

June, of Jbug's Kitchen Antics came to my rescue once again with a no-fail recipe. You've seen me reference her blog several times in the past and that's because I'm always in such awe of her unique recipes and how she's so creative in the kitchen. This recipe is my adaptation of her pasta salad with smoked salmon and asparagus. On a side note, let's all remember that it's the beginning of asparagus season here and while it's ridiculously priced the rest of the year, now is the time to buy it for a reasonable price.

Pasta Salad With Smoked Salmon And Asparagus (adapted from JBug's Kitchen Antics)

2 cups whole wheat pasta (I used gemelli)
1 bunch asparagus, woody ends removed, cut into one inch pieces
1/2 sweet onion, diced
4 ounces smoked salmon, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded, diced

1/3 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
1 1/2 TBSP dijon mustard
1 1/2 TBSP fat free sour cream
1 tsp dried tarragon (June, aren't you proud of me? I'm using tarragon!)
1 TBSP fresh lemon juice
1 TBSP poppy seeds (unless you're scheduled for drug testing)
1/4 cup of the water you've cooked your pasta in
salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta per directions on package. Two minutes before pasta is finished, add asparagus. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta water, then rinse with cold water to cool.

In large bowl, combine mayo, mustard, sour cream, tarragon, lemon juice, poppy seeds, onion, salmon, red pepper and reserved pasta water. Stir to combine. Add cooled, cooked pasta and asparagus. Stir again to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed. Chill for at least an hour before serving.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sourdough Italian Bread and Honey Butter (Treats For Co-Irkers)

I've been wanting to bake bread for hubby's co-irkers for a long time now, but until recently I didn't think I was proficient enough at bread baking to share my meager little loaves of love. Know what? I've gotten good... DARN good at baking bread, if I do say so myself (which I guess I just did, didn't I?)

As I've been baking my way through Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice, I've discovered many new bread recipes that bear repeating, but I think the most worthy of repetition is his Italian bread recipe. I've made it enough times now that I've already started to play around with the recipe, which any bread baker will tell you takes guts.

Have no fear however. I altered the original recipe only after finding this sourdough version at The Fresh Loaf, so I still really haven't gotten all that gutsy after all, have I? You'll find the recipe and instructions there so I won't reprint them here, but you can trust me that this is one fantastic bread.

Along with the bread I made some honey butter, just to sweeten the deal for the co-irkers. I made a big bowl for the gang in the break room, a little bowl for the crew in the front office, and a little bowl for little me.

Honey Butter (from Alton Brown)

1 pound butter
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla

The butter doesn't have to be at room temperature, but I let mine sit out for about an hour before I started working with it.

Cut butter into chunks and place into mixing bowl. Using whisk attachment, work the butter to loosen it up a bit and then add the honey, cinnamon and vanilla. Beat at medium speed for 5-7 minutes.

Form into logs or just place into a dish as I did. Refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Peanut Noodles With Chicken And Crisp Veggies

Short post today folks. I spent all morning being poked and prodded (and not in an amorous way, I might add) so I'm a little cranky and ready to hit the couch (or the bottle, I can't decide...LOL)

This was a fabulous dinner and so quick and easy to put together. It's also quite healthy. Remember, peanut butter is one of those "good fats." Enjoy and I'll see y'all tomorrow, and I promise to be in a better mood!

Peanut Noodles With Chicken And Crisp Veggies

12 ounces whole wheat spaghetti, boiled in salted water per package instructions, drained
4 cups of seasoned, cooked, and cubed chicken breast meat
1 English cucumber, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
3 green onions, green and light green parts only, thinly sliced
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
3 TBSP water
2 TBSP sesame oil
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 TBSP sugar (I used Splenda)

Place cooked pasta, chicken, and prepared vegetables in a large bowl.

In a small bowl whisk together the vinegar, soy sauce, peanut butter, water, sesame oil, ginger, garlic powder, red pepper flakes and sugar. I microwaved this mixture for about 30 seconds to a minute to help melt the peanut butter before whisking.

Pour dressing over the pasta, chicken and vegetables and stir well to combine. This dish is excellent served at room temperature or even cold the next day.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Breaking News From The Olympics...

Mags Largeloaf has been disqualified from the 2010 Winter Olympics ladies' singles ice skating competition. While the exact reason for her disqualification has not yet been officially released, steroid use is suspected. Other accusations have included excessive yeast, using too small of a bread pan to exaggerate performance, and/or ignoring recipe instructions and Olympic rules all together. United States fans everywhere will certainly miss Mag's performance as her signature quadruple salchows and double blindfolded backwards-uphill lutz jumps have always been fan favorites. Ms. Largeloaf could not be reached for comments.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Tuna Pockets (Pacifying My Sisters)

First, a little background information just to familiarize you with my sibling relationships. I have six brothers and two sisters. I'm not even going to address the brothers in this post for various reasons, one huge reason being that they used to call me "log legs" when we were growing up, but mainly because my brothers couldn't give a rat's rear about my cooking. My sisters on the other hand, have expressed how much they enjoy my blog and had no idea I was so talented and marvelous and witty and profound and (insert as many complementary adjectives as possible without making me blush.) Their praise however didn't come without criticism. It appears that my recipes are either too complicated or involve too many strange ingredients to suit their tastes and abilities. Mind you, both are very thin, very exercise-oriented and very busy individuals. (Here's where I almost wanted to throw in the towel, and don't tell me you wouldn't feel the same way.) However, I've decided to split the difference between easy and healthy and have now put a label on my sidebar, PMS (Pacifying My Sisters.) Pay no mind to the acronym.... it means nothing, swears.

The first recipe in this category is by request from sister Mary, who wanted something made with canned tuna for Lent. Mary, I've made this as simple as possible. You don't even have to pull out the salt and pepper shaker for this one. No cumin (she thinks that's an exotic spice) no garlic, no mixer, no whisk. You are going to have to use your oven, however.... so brace yourself. I know you can do it.

Since there were only two of us eating these little tuna pockets, I bought a small can of (5) Grands biscuits, but I made the full batch of filling. I plan to use the rest of the filling for tuna melts on Ash Wednesday.

Tuna Pockets

1 (10 oz) tube of refrigerated biscuits (may used the reduced fat kind)
1 can (7 oz) tuna, drained (I used albacore)
3 TBSP reduced-fat mayonnaise
1/2 tsp prepared yellow mustard
1 TBSP finely chopped celery
1 TBSP finely chopped onion (I used a very mild sweet onion)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I used 2%)
paprika (and Mary I know you have this spice because I've seen you put it on top of deviled eggs)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Combine tuna, mayo, mustard, celery, onion and shredded cheese in a mixing bowl.

Unroll canned biscuits and flatten each one into a thin 3 1/2-4 inch circle. Top half of the biscuits with the tuna mixture.

Place the other half of the biscuits on top of the filling and seal edges with a fork. Sprinkle the tops with paprika.

Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for a minute or two before serving.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Valentine's Day (Weekend Whine)

Guess what? It's Saturday night and I've got nothing better to do than to think about things, which if you've ever read one of my weekend whines, you know that I tend to get all philosophical, nostalgic, and/or pissed off about one thing or another. Tonight, it's about Valentine's Day and the hype that surrounds it.

Hallmark, if you read my blog (which is really hypothetical in nature because I'm totally certain that you do) please do not take offense to this posting and most importantly, accept my apology for any decrease in your 2010 sales because of this blog posting. I genuinely hate it when I single-handedly take down Hallmark sales, really I do.

Anyway. I think that most of my angst is because I'm too old/too long married to appreciate Valentine's Day. It must have served its purpose back in my younger years because hubby and I have always exchanged Valentines, but in the last decade (or two) they've become perfunctory, a card or flowers given out of expectation. How lame is that? Valentine's Day between two long-time lovers should not be just a day, but a daily expression of love. Honey, I remembered to pack your blood pressure pills. Sweetheart, I know that you get wigged out when I invite people to our house unexpectedly, so I didn't. Dear, thank you for driving me to Walmart tonight because I didn't want to go alone. Darling, thank you for the best soup I've ever eaten. Honey, thank you for not committing me to a mental institution. These are the true Hallmark moments of long lasting love.

Look not for the beauty, nor flawless of skin
but look for the heart that is loyal within.
For beauty may fade and skin grow old,
but the heart that is loyal will never grow cold.

I love you Dave. Forever and for always. (But if you could just loosen the straps on my straight jacket just a bit, I could hug you honey)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Niece Denise's Cookies (Treats For Co-Irkers)

This is somewhat of a guest post in that I'm merely forwarding on to you an email and a recipe from my niece Denise, who I actually call Niece Denise (it's a rhyme thing, I think.) She isn't aware that she's guest-posting today or at least not until she reads my blog, but I'm sure she'll have no problem accepting all your accolades for this great cookie recipe! Thanks Niece Denise! And Happy Valentine's Day to you all.... hugs and smooches!

(from Denise's email to me)

Hey you!

I made the cranberry couscous last night, and LOVED it just as much as I expected. The family liked it a lot too. (except Audrey, but she ate a bunch of roasted brussel sprouts so I thought you'd be proud of your little great-niece). And we continue to enjoy the Coach's Oats muffin recipe and yesterday I made the spelt muffins which were really good too.

So I thought I'd give back to my newest source of yummy, healthy recipes (that'd be you!)

Here's a really tasty and good-for-you cookie recipe that my mom found in Cooking Light, and I modified somewhat.

Whole Grain Lower-Fat Cranberry Oatmeal Chocoloate Chip Cookies

2/3 c whole wheat flour
3/4 c oat flour
3/4 c Coach's Oats (you could probably use rolled oats here)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
6 T butter
3/4 c packed brown sugar
1 c dried Cranberries
1 tsp vanilla
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 oz mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350*.

Whisk flours and next 3 ingredients (through salt) together in a large bowl.

Melt butter (I used a glass measuring cup in the microwave) then add brown sugar and stir until smooth.

Add sugar mixture to flour mixture, and beat with mixer on medium speed until well blended.

Add cranberries, vanilla, and egg. Beat until combined and fold in chocolate chips.

Drop by teaspoonfuls (I use the little ice cream scooper) onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven and let cool 3 minutes on sheet before removing.

Makes 3 dozen.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

New York Deli Rye (BBAC) and Cabbage Soup

I actually made this week's Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge bread a few weeks back but am just now getting around to posting about it because I wanted to make this cabbage soup to accompany it. Do you know what that means though? It means that because I have made numerous loaves of bread since making the New York Deli Rye bread, I've forgotten all about the actual process of making of it. I have the finished pictures to prove that I did make it, and the flavor still fresh on my taste buds as further evidence, but I don't remember mixing it, kneading it or baking it. How's that for a write up?

Note to self: Take more photos and notes, for crying out loud. This is a food blog, after all.

I made one large loaf which I put into the freezer for future consumption and with the rest of the dough I made generously sized buns to be hollowed out for soup. I loved the flavor and crumb of this bread and will definitely be making it again.

Creamy Cabbage And Potato Soup

1 TBSP olive oil
1 onion, diced
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 potatoes, peeled and shredded (I used the food processor)
1 carrot, shredded
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 medium sized head of cabbage, shredded
5 cups chicken stock
1 parmesan cheese rind (optional)
1 can evaporated milk (I used reduced-fat)
1 cup gruyere cheese, shredded

In large soup pot heat olive oil. Add onion and crushed red pepper flakes and saute until onions are translucent, 5-6 minutes. Add garlic and saute for another minute or two. Add potatoes and carrot and season generously with salt and pepper and the dried thyme. Add the cabbage and the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, add the parmesan cheese rind (if using) and simmer for about 30 minutes or until cabbage is tender. Stir in the evaporated milk and remove from heat. Gradually add the cheese a little at a time and stir until melted and creamy. Remove the cheese rind before serving.

To make the bread bowls:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice the top off of the bread bowl. Hollow out the bowl, leaving a 1/2" thick shell. Place bowl and lid (cut side up) on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with a little grated parmesan cheese. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until lightly toasted.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Apple Bean Bake

Those of you who follow my blog regularly have probably figured out by now that I am not a fruit lover. I can handle an occasional banana (unripe, of course) and I'll eat a strawberry or two when they're in season, but for the most part I find fruits too sweet. Therefore my mission lately has been to hide fruits in savory recipes in the same manner as those people who hide vegetables in recipes for those who aren't all that fond of veggies. And I'm getting better at it! Last week I ate two entire apples because they were hidden in this apple-bean bake. I realize that two apples isn't enough fruit for a full week's supply of fruit, but hey, it's a start.

A few notes before we start. You may ask why I fried the turkey bacon in olive oil. Turkey bacon gives off great smoky flavor but renders very little fat, so by frying the turkey bacon in olive oil, I not only acquired the smokey flavor I was going for, I was also able to use the leftover olive oil to saute the onions, apples and garlic. Smart cookie, I yam.

Apple Bean Bake

4 slices turkey bacon, diced
2 TBSP olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tart apples, peeled, diced (about 4 cups)
salt and pepper
dash of crushed red pepper flakes
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 TBSP tomato paste
1-2 tsp chipotle in adobo sauce (I puree mine in the food processor)
1/4 cup brown sugar Splenda (or 1/2 cup regular brown sugar)
1 tsp Worchestershire sauce
2 (15 oz) cans Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed

In skillet, heat olive oil and add diced bacon. Fry until crisp. Remove bacon with slotted spoon to a paper towel. Set aside.

To the skillet, add the onions, apples and garlic. Season with salt, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, cumin, cinnamon and oregano. Saute until onions and apples have softened, 7-8 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, brown sugar and worchestershire sauce. Combine well and saute for another minute or two and then add in the drained beans and reserved bacon. Save a tablespoon or so of the bacon for garnish, if desired.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray casserole dish with cooking spray. Pour mixture into casserole dish. Place dish in preheated oven and bake for 30-40 minutes or until bubbly. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Turkey Spinach Roll With Chipotle Cranberry Sauce

It's difficult to get excited about meat loaf, isn't it? Especially turkey meat loaf, don't you think? It ranks right up there with tofu and bean sprouts in my book, so I took it upon myself to find a way to dress it up a bit and make it into something that was not only nutritious, but also delicious. The chipotle cranberry sauce is what pulls this entire dish together, so please don't skip that part. You can adjust the heat by adding or subtracting the amount of chipotle puree you add.

Turkey Spinach Roll With Chipotle Cranberry Sauce

2 lbs lean ground turkey
2 TBSP Montreal Steak Seasoning
2 TBSP Worchestershire sauce
2 eggs, whisked
3/4 cup rolled oats
1 cup milk
2 TBSP olive oil
1 onion, diced
salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
10 oz frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed dry and chopped
pinch of nutmeg
3/4 cup pecans, finely chopped (I pulsed mine in the food processor)
3/4 cup dried cranberries
4 oz goat cheese, crumbled (I'll use cream cheese the next time as hubby isn't all that fond of goat cheese)

Crumble ground turkey into a large mixing bowl. Season with steak seasoning and worchestershire sauce. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine whisked eggs, oats and milk. Set aside

In skillet heat olive oil. Add onion, season with salt and pepper, and saute until onion is softened, 5-6 minutes. Add garlic and saute for another minute or two. Remove skillet from heat and stir in the spinach, nutmeg, pecans, dried cranberries and goat cheese. Season with salt and pepper again if needed and stir to combine.

Add the egg/oats/milk mixture to the ground turkey and combine all. Transfer meat mixture to a sheet of parchment paper and pat into a rectangle. Spread spinach mixture on top of meat mixture and using the parchment paper to help you, roll it into a loaf.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place loaf on a baking sheet that has been foil lined and sprayed with cooking spray. Bake in preheated oven for 1 1/2 hours or until internal temperature is 170 degrees. Remove from oven and place on cutting board to cut into slices. Serve with chipotle cranberry sauce. Recipe following below.

Chipotle Cranberry Sauce

1 (12 oz) package of fresh or frozen cranberries
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
3/4 cup of sugar (I used Splenda)
2-3 tsps of chipotle chile canned in adobo sauce. (I process a whole can in the food processor and freeze in an ice cube tray. Each cube is approximately one tablespoon.
1 tsp grated orange zest
1/2 tsp cinnamon
dash of salt.

Combine cranberries, orange juice and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cook for about 7-8 minutes or until cranberries begin to pop, stirring occasionally. Add chipotle, orange zest, cinnamon and salt. Reduce heat and cook for about 20 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Serve warm or cold.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Cheddar Cheese Crackers

The Super Bowl didn't have the ending that we were wishing for in this house, but we enjoyed watching the game, commercials, and the halftime show (well kind of... I'll leave it at that.)

We ate pizza subs made with slices of delicious sourdough Italian bread that I made yesterday morning, and snacked on these homemade crackers with cheddar-horseradish pub cheese. And we didn't forget the beer, of course!

Cheese Crackers

1/2 cup pecans)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese (room temperature)
1/4 cup butter (room temperature)
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp hot sauce (I used Sriracha)
1-2 tsp milk or half &half (may or may not need)

In food processor, pulse pecans until finely chopped. Remove to a bowl and add flour. Whisk to combine.

Place cheese and butter into food processor and pulse until smooth. Add thyme and hot sauce and pulse to combine.

Add flour/pecan mixture and pulse until mixture comes together. It'll still be crumbly but you should be able to get it to stick together if you take a piece of it press it together with your fingers. If it's too crumbly, add a teaspoon or two of milk until you reach the desired consistency. Remove dough from food processor and form into a ball, then gently roll the dough back and forth until you've formed it into an 8 inch log. Cover the log with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least four hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray two baking sheets with cooking spray or line with Silpats. Using a very sharp knife, slice the dough into 1/8" slices and place on prepared baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove crackers from baking sheet to a cooling rack to cool.

Makes about 60 crackers.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Super Bowl Sugar Cookies (Treats For Co-Irkers)

Every time I make cut out sugar cookies I'm reminded just how much I hate making them. They're just so fussy and time-consuming. But I forget about all that until I'm in the midst of all that fuss and time. Beforehand, I have delusions of decorating grandeur, dreaming and planning and drawing out the designs that I'm going to meticulously and perfectly place with my pastry bag and decorating tips. Then about two hours into the decorating, I look around me and see a completely trashed kitchen with bags, tips and frosting everywhere and I'm sick and tired of decorating. But I still have three dozen cookies left to decorate! That's when I throw in the towel and slap on a coat of icing and some sprinkles and call it a day. Like this football helmet:

It was supposed to be decorated like a Colt's helmet but I wanted to take a nap. And this football:

It was supposed to be covered with rich chocolate icing and have the little laces done in white, but I wanted to take a nap. (I think I may have a problem with getting sleepy when I'm overwhelmed...LOL)

Anyway, I did manage to decorate about a dozen with the little Colt's horseshoe but the rest got blue sprinkles and I got my nap!

The best part of this whole process was developing a new recipe for sugar cookie dough. I just love the flavor of these cookies, with or without icing. The secret ingredient is buttery sweet dough flavoring from King Arthur Flour. It really gives these cookies that special "bakery made" flavor. You can substitute all vanilla if you don't have this on hand, however.

Super Bowl Sugar Cookies (GO COLTS!)

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
2 cups white sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp buttery sweet dough flavoring (or vanilla extract)
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sour cream
5 1/2 cups flour (plus more for rolling out cookies. I heavily dusted my parchment paper before rolling)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, cream together butter, shortening and sugars. Beat in eggs, sour cream, buttery sweet dough flavoring and vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture and combine thoroughly. Divide dough into two pieces, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Remove from refrigerator about a half hour before rolling and cutting. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Roll out dough between floured sheets of parchment paper. For thinner, smaller cookies roll dough out to 1/4 inch thickness. For larger cookies roll dough out a little thicker.

Cut into shapes with your favorite cookie cutters and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet.
Bake for 6-9 minutes, depending on thickness of cookie. Let cool for a minute or two before removing to cooling rack.

I iced the Colts cookies with just a glaze made from powdered sugar and water but for the rest of the cookies I used the recipe below.

Buttercream Icing

1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening (Crisco)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp clear vanilla
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar (approximate 1 lb)
3 Tbsp meringue powder
2 Tbsp milk

Sift together confectioners' sugar and meringue powder.

Cream butter and shortening with electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape down beater and sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been beaten in icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep icing covered while decorating as it dries out quickly.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My Favorite Breakfast

Eating during the wee small hours of the morning hasn't been an issue for me since back in the days when we'd close down the bars and hit the greasy spoon at the truck stop on our way back home, so it's not a problem for me to do the required fasting before having blood drawn for the battery of tests they like to run on you to make sure your oil's not low and your engine's not getting all clogged up. And most generally I can wait an hour or two after getting up in the morning before I feel I have to eat something or die. But here's the deal. I HAVE TO HAVE MY COFFEE. FIRST THING. I fumble for the filters and measure out the coffee before I even hit the bathroom, hopping back and forth from foot to foot because I need to GO, but knowing that if I take the time to make the coffee first, it'll be all ready for me by the time I finish up in the bathroom. That's how important my coffee is to me first thing in the morning.

So this morning's trip to the doctor for the big fasting blood test was not a pleasant one to say the least. Normally cheerful people aren't cheerful when they're forced to take a number and wait in line before being allowed their first cup of coffee. While waiting for my turn with the vampire, I came up with what I consider an ingenious idea. Why not have a cup of coffee waiting right there by the stack of needles, vials and rubber gloves, and then as soon as you're a good girl and you've given up a half gallon of your blood to the lady who had to poke you eleventy thousand times, you'd be handed a steaming cup of coffee as a reward for your patience and dedication to your health. Everyone's happy now, yes? (All you healthcare providers out there, see what you can do about getting this program started pronto in your own offices, K?)

All of the above is connected to this posting about my favorite breakfast in one way only. This happens to be the breakfast I made for myself when I got home from the doctor's office today. I made the sweet potato hash yesterday and only had to reheat it in the microwave while I fried my egg. But that was all after I made my coffee, of course.

Oven Roasted Sweet Potato Hash

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed into 1/2" cubes
2 TBSP olive oil, divided
salt and pepper
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
2 TBSP chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray. Place sweet potato cubes into a bowl and drizzle with one TBSP of the olive oil. Stir well to coat. Season with salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, oregano, garlic powder and cayenne pepper. Stir again and spread sweet potatoes on baking sheet in a single layer. Roast in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and stir so they'll continue browning evenly. Return to oven and roast for another 15-20 minutes or until browned and fork tender. Remove from oven and set aside.

In a large skillet heat remaining TBSP of olive oil. Add red pepper and onion and season with salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes. Saute until onion is translucent, 5-6 minutes. Add garlic and saute for another minute or two. Add roasted sweet potatoes and stir well to combine. Add chopped parsley and allow everything to heat thoroughly before serving.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Hot Chaicolate (and an award!)

Get it? Hot chocolate + chai tea = hot chaicolate. Hey, this job doesn't pay well enough for me to get any wittier than that, so you're just going to have to settle with the lame puns until I win my first Pulitzer Prize.

A few years ago a friend of mine gave me a tin of chai tea drink mix. It was simply measured by the spoonful and mixed with boiling water and it quickly became my new favorite drink until the day I actually read the nutritional info on the side of the tin and saw how unhealthy the ingredients were. The fat and sugar content alone were enough to scare me back into my fat pants, so when I finished the tin (waste not, want not) I was left with only the fond memories of that warm and soothing beverage. That is until I found this recipe for a homemade version that can be made as low fat/sugar as you want it to be.

Hot Chocolate Chai (from Women's World Magazine)

2 bags chai tea
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa
1 quart boiling water
sugar (or Splenda) and warm milk, as desired
cinnamon sticks

Place tea bags and cocoa in teapot and pour in boiling water. Let steep for 5 minutes. To serve, add 1 tsp sugar to each teacup and fill two-thirds full with tea. Add warm milk and stir with cinnamon sticks. Add a dollop of whipped cream if you're feeling naughty (I was.)

Now on to that award I received. Dave from My Year On The Grill passed on to me Lesa's Bald Faced Liar "Creative Writer" Blogger Award. Thank you Dave. I'm touched, naturally, to receive this award and will try to follow the rules that accompany it. They are:

1. Thank the person who gave this to you.
2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
3. Link to the person who nominated you.
4. Tell us up to six outrageous lies about yourself, and at least one outrageous truth.
5. Allow your readers to guess which one or more are true.
5. Nominate seven "Creative Writers" who might have fun coming up with outrageous lies.
6. Post links to the seven blogs you nominate.
7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know you nominated them.

So without further ado, I present to you my outrageous lies and at least one outrageous truth. If you comment on this post try to guess which one/ones are true.

#1 I once sat next to Colonel Sanders on an airplane. (this was of course back when he was still alive, just for clarification purposes)

#2 I have three nipples (no brag, just the facts ma'am)

#3 Johnny Depp and I have a very close and personal relationship. We met on the Black Pearl, savvy?

#4 My stage name back in my Vegas showgirl days was Kitten Kaboodle.

#5 I once swallowed a contact, found it when it came out the other end, and then wore it again.

#6 I can bake 30 minute brownies in 27 minutes.

#7 All my ex's live in Texas State Prisons.

I'd like to pass on this award to the following bloggers. I've enjoyed reading their blogs on a daily basis and consider them all very talented in the kitchen as well as in the blogging world. Please don't feel any obligation to participate in this little game of outrageous lies, but if you'd like to join in on the fun, I'd love to hear your lies!

June from JBugs Kitchen Antics
Joanne from Moogie & Pap
Debbie from Mocha Me
Shelby from Grumpy's Honey Bunch
Linda from Diva Weigh
Megan from Delicious Dishings
Sarah from All Our Fingers in the Pie

Have fun ladies!