Wednesday, December 29, 2010

King for a Day

Remember when you were a kid and your birthday would come around and you would be so excited? It was your birthday, the whole day was about you, your day, no one else's, you were the king. AAAhhhhhh, the glory of it all!

My favorite part of my birthday was, I bet you all are thinking I am going to say the gifts, right? WRONG!!! It was the cake. I love birthday cakes. I really do. More often than not, my mom would make our birthday cakes. It was usually a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and if you were lucky, you would get those sugar letters that would spell out Happy Birthday on the top. My mom was good at these cakes and I loved them. She would put them into her Tupperware cake holder. I think I may still have it somewhere around here. That cake holder still reminds me of birthday cakes.

I do remember a birthday party where my mom ordered a cake for me from Fleckenstien's Bakery, the best whipped cream frosting anywhere, and it was decorated with Strawberry Shortcake on the top. It was gorgeous! If I remember correctly it was a round layered cake, so it was tall, and it had a beautifully drawn, none of those crappy sugar transfers they have nowadays, Strawberry Shortcake on the top. The gel drawing was just perfect and it was super cute. Just what any little girl in the 80's would have wanted and I just loved it. LOVED IT! It came time to sing and cut the cake. Song, check. Candles blown out, check. Everyone crowded around the dining room table waiting for their slice of heaven, check. My mom getting ready to slice the cake, wait, not so fast, no check. At that moment, my mom did something that remains burned in my memory to this day. My mother, on my birthday, during my excitement, my day,  took that huge knife and plunged it into Strawberry Shortcakes heart. Now, I know you are thinking that she was just cutting the cake. NO, this was no normal let's cut the cake. This was a full on slaying. You would have thought she just stabbed my best friend. Instant tears and screaming. What did she do??? How could she do that??? Well, my mother not only did that, she laughed too! Her laughter only enraged me more. More crying and now came anger. I was mad, no, I was pissed. 

I look back at things like this in my life and think, she was teaching me a lesson. What a lesson that was. My mom totally thought that would be funny, little did she know that it broke my heart. The lesson I learned on that day was that I will never do that to my kids, even though I have already done some things to them that they will someday think were a lesson much like this.

This lesson brings me to Logen's 5th Birthday cupcakes. My birthday is in the summer, so I never had the opportunity to bring treats to school on my birthday. I admit, I feel a little cheated, but I'm over it. Logen had to bring treats to celebrate his birthday with his class. Normal treat days the teachers ask that you bring in a snack, that is relatively clean, and drinks for the class, but on your birthday treat day you are allowed to bring in cupcakes or something of the sort. Messes are allowed on your birthday. You are the king remember?

Any 5 year old boy's dream cakes.
Logen, true to himself, chooses worm cupcakes. Not warm, noooooo, you read it right, worm cupcakes. Since he was so excited to be the birthday treat friend, remember king for a day, and my internal scaring still left from the slaying that Strawberry Shortcake took in the mid 80's, I made worm cupcakes.

Here is what I did:
1 Chocolate Box Cake-Logen's request
1 Can of Chocolate Frosting-Logen's request
1/2 a package of Oreo cookies
Gummi Worms
1 drinking straw

Make the cupcakes according to the directions on the box.

Remove them from the pans and let them completely cool.

Dirty dirty dirt cakes, just perfect for worms.
Grind up the oreo's really fine in a food processor. This is what makes the dirt for the worms.

Frost each cupcake, immediately sprinkling each one with the oreo dirt. Now, don't frost them all and then put dirt on them all. That will NOT work because the frosting on the first ones will be dry by the time you get to the dirt. Do them one at a time. Frost one, dirt. Frost the next, dirt and so on.

Once they are all frosted and covered in the dirt, take your straw and poke a hole into the top of the cupcake where you would like to have a worm crawling out, pull out the straw and stick in the worm. Repeat for all worms. We did two for each cake, but there easily could have been three.

That's it! Done! Worm Cupcakes.
Slightly time consuming, but the smile on my boy's face let me know that he really felt like he was the king for that day.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Frosting Shortage Reported in Frankfort

Frosting shortage reported in Frankfort.
Family denies any involvement.
Christmas, in all of its hectic glory, is my favorite time of the year. I love it, all of it, starting right from the day after Thanksgiving, where we have traditionally been cutting down our own tree since I can remember getting a tree. My dad would pack us up into the car, usually bundled up in our snow suits, boots, gloves, the whole nine yards, and we would make the trip to Wilmington. Tannenberry Tree farm our destination, giddy with excitement for the start of the Christmas season. What kid doesn't love the anticipation of Christmas and the hopes of the tree flying off the roof of the car on the way home? I know I secretly prayed for it to happen many a time. Please, please let it fly off, just this once, just so I can see what will happen. It almost happened once, shifting from side to side, flapping in the wind. We pulled over and my dad really got it tied down. Damn, no flying tree this year and we were sooooo close.  I remember another year, it could easily have been the year after the close call, where my dad tied the tree onto the roof so good that we couldn't open the doors to get in the car. Yes, he tied the rope through the windows before we got in. It was awesome. I sit here giggling to myself with this wonderful memory of all of us climbing into the car through the hatch back. Thank God for hatch backs! Another one I will never forget is when he got the car stuck in the mud, got out to push and put my sister, yes, my little sister in charge of giving it gas when he said to. (I am in full hysterics right now typing.) I must ask, what grown man puts a maybe 10 or 12 year old in charge of giving a stuck in the mud car gas? Yes, my father. Needless to say, he said gas and she gunned it. Imagine (hysterical tears laughing and typing) my father, pushing with all his might, my sister in the front seat with the petal to the metal, one final word, mud. Yes, mud flew off the spinning tires with such force that my father was covered head to toe in pure mud. This scene in my memory puts any comedy movie to shame. I just need to take this moment and thank my dad for all of these wonderful Christmas tree hunting memories that I will absolutely cherish forever. Dad, since you don't have a computer and most likely will never own one, you will probably never read this, but thank you. Thank you for this wonderful tradition that I now share with my own children. Hopefully someday they too will have these memories to cherish forever.

We would bring our tree home with such excitement and show it to my mom and she would say how nice it was and then we would put it up in the tree stand that she has had since childhood. I secretly, well not so secretly now, pray that she passes that thing down to me someday. We would put all of our ornaments on that tree. Tons of them. I loved it. The gaudier the better. Imagine that, me liking gaudy. Hmmm. Back to the Christmas stories. There are so many things I remember from my childhood about Christmas.

The caroling mice that my great aunts made, that hung from the curling ribbon my mom tied to them, to the box from Philly that they would send, packed with the BEST cookies ever and the hand knitted gifts, many of which my children now use and wear, and other trinkets. The arrival of that box on our doorstep was such an excitement and even though we would get to eat the cookies right away, we always had to wait until Christmas morning to open the gifts they sent.

The smell of the log cabin incense burner, the plastic holly wreath, the decorations hanging in the half wall, the fantastic hand knitted stockings, that I wish I had for my family now, that came from my aunts in Philly, the train that my mom had from under her childhood Christmas tree, you could put in tablets to make smoke from the engine and the log car would actually throw the logs, the way it would spark when it went off the track and the burning electric smell the conductor handles would make when it was getting hot, the lights my mom would hang in our windows, the manger we would set up on the round table in the corner, just everything! I loved it all and still do. Call me sentimental, but what better time than Christmas for sentimental feelings?

I want my children to have these same wonderful memories of all of the fun and excitement and wonder of Christmas, which leads me to baking. I still remember getting to smash the potato chips for the potato chip cookies or helping stir in chocolate chips and begging for dough, so I thought it would be nice to decorate cookies with my kids.

Take that Martha!
I am going to admit to the truth right now. I am not even going to try and pass these cookies off as mine because they are not. I bought them. Yes, me, the baker, bought cookies to decorate. Now, before anyone gets all up on their high horse, they did need to be baked, which I did wonderfully. I am a firm believer that if you put them on the tray and put them in the oven, then by God, you made them.  The hard part was just done for me. You know the rolling and cutting out of the dough. Yeah, that is a step I will admit that I HATE! So when I was shopping and saw these wonderful little cut outs it was like a glorious light came down from heaven and in the spirit of Christmas, the angels sang. AAAAAHHHHHH! There they were, so I bought them, put them on the cookie sheets and baked them and I don't feel one ounce of guilt about it, so there.

Here is what we did:
Little Taste Tester hard at work.

So much frosting,
so little time.
Construction Zone
Jasen after I told him he
wasn't doing it right.
Proud of his
hard work.
Who needs spirit fingers
when you have sprinkle
Its got me... the frosting...
...I can't fight it... yourselves!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Gettin Dippy Wit It

Christmas is a time for dips. Everyone loves a good dip and when you find a new dip, you just have to have it and the recipe.

This got me thinking. Yes I had time for thinking this morning, you know, in between getting breakfast, clothes for gymnastics and a cup of coffee for myself. GASP, something for myself! Anyway, I should warn you my best ideas usually come to me when I am in the bathroom. Yeah I know, gross, but for a mommy of two wild kids, that 30 seconds in the bathroom, usually less due to banging on the door, is my quiet time. Sad, but true. Back to my idea, dips.

My grand idea this morning is to post my favorite dips. The ones I love and the ones that others call, email and text to get the recipes for. Now we can all get dippy wit it!

Buffalo Chicken Dip-I make this all the time because men scarf it and it is so simple!
2-10oz. cans of chunk chicken, drained
2-8oz. packs of cream cheese (Thank you God for cream cheese) soft
1 cup of Ranch Dressing
3/4 cup of Louisiana Hot Sauce, now, if you like it zippier, do a full cup, if you aren't the zippy dip type, do 1/2 cup or less. This is what brings the heat to this dip, so play with it to fit your tastes!
1 1/2 cups of shredded cheddar, I like the skinny shreds, they melt better

Heat the chicken and hot sauce in a skillet over medium heat. Break up the chunks of chicken while cooking. Stir in cream cheese until melted and creamy, then add the ranch dressing and keep stirring until it is well mixed. Mix in half of the shredded cheddar and mix until that melts too. THAT'S IT! Believe it or not, that is it! Transfer dip to a mini crock pot or to a microwave safe dish and top with remaining shredded cheddar. Serve with celery sticks or tortilla chips. It's awesome. Jasen's favorite!

Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts
The beginning of
a Pink Christmas.

I know this isn't a dip, but it is an appetizer and it is damn good. This recipe comes to us from Auntie Janice, the jello queen. Boy, I hope she made these for today's pink Christmas.

1 pound of bacon
2 cans of whole water chestnuts
2/3 cup of ketchup
1 cup of sugar

Wrap half a piece of bacon around each water chestnut and stab with a toothpick to hold it all together. Place on a foil lined cookie sheet and bake one hour at 325. Drain off the grease and reline pan with foil.

To make the sauce, mix the ketchup and sugar, well. Spoon the sauce over each piece and place back onto the cookie sheet. Be careful not to get the sauce all over the toothpicks. Bake 30 more minutes and eat hot. YUM! These are another huge crowd pleaser. If you are smart, you will save some for yourself before you put them out for your guests or you won't get any.

Vidalia Onion Dip
2 cups of mayo, I use the only one I use, ever, Helman's1 package of shredded mozzarella cheese, if you can find an Italian blend of shredded cheese, get that, it's better
1 large Vidalia Onion, coarsely chopped, or if you have already gotten the Vidalia Chop Wizard, like I keep telling you too, use the big squares

Mix all ingredients together. Spread into a 8" baking dish. Bake 30 minutes at 375, until hot and golden. Serve with crackers. Again, could it get any easier. When you have to bring something to a party, offer this. They will love it.

Popper Dip
Dena just called for this one. Here you go popper fans.
2 packages of soft cream cheese
4oz of diced jalapenos
1 cup of Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup of shredded cheddar
1 cup of mayo
4oz. chopped green chilies
1 loaf of sour dough bread

Combine everything. Really people, the only way I could make this easier for you is for me to do it and bring it to your house and the answer is no, I will not be there to bring it, so just do it.
Hollow out the bread like a bowl, fill with the dip and bake at 350 for 30 minutes on a cookie sheet.

Blue Cheese Ball
2 packages of soft cream cheese
1 cup of crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup of minced onion
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
couple shakes of garlic powder, NOT garlic salt

Stir all ingredients. Is anyone seeing a trend here? Quick and easy, just like me.
Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight. The next day, form into a ball. Serve with crackers.

LoraAnn's Cheese Ball
I got this one from a lady at work that brings this in as a treat for the office and word travels fast and if you are not in there quick, you don't get any dip.

2 packages of soft cream cheese
2 Tbs minced onion, can be the dried kind
4 Tbs Miracle Whip, NOT mayo, for once, not mayo
2 pkgs of Budding beef, diced up fine
You can also add a couple shakes of garlic powder and a LITTLE Worcestershire sauce too.

Mix everything at once. Serve with crackers or chips.

Friday, November 19, 2010

That's What She Said

I have never handled a piece of meat that big.

That's what she said.

No really, when it comes to cooking, big meat intimidates me. I am now sitting here giggling to myself and contemplating deleting this whole post, but those who know me, should already know that I won't. Ok everyone let's concentrate here. We are talking about pork shoulder. Get your heads out of the gutter and get on track. Pork shoulder. Ok. I can do this.

As you already know, I LOVE The Food Network. I LOVE it. Every time I watch it, my mouth waters and I just start craving everything and anything. Jasen thinks it is a form of self torture, since I am on a never ending quest to lose weight and here I am just watching and wanting. I guess he's right. It is torture, seeing all of those delicious things and all of these people eating as much of it as they can stuff down. Jerks. Yes, jerks, but enough of that rant. I love The Food Network because it gives me ideas and plenty of them.

One of my favorite things on that channel is when they focus on BBQ. Come on, who out there can't resist the smell of a tasty dinner roasting on a BBQ? I know I love it, now. Let me start by saying I have not always been a big meat girl. (That's what she said.) That is until I met Jasen.

Jasen is a HUGE meat and potatoes kind of guy. That is how he was raised. That is what he comes from and that is what he loves. Meat and potatoes meet I think I'll have the pasta. What a match made in heaven. Yeah, our dinner experiences were polar opposites for many years, but I am starting to come around. Just ask him, he'll tell you.

It all started with a bite here and a bite there. Just the well done outer edges, of course, that pink in the middle and the juice grossed me out. Slowly but surely, he wore me down. Way down. Bring me a fillet, medium, with a bleu cheese crust and a baked potato with butter and sour cream and I will challenge you to try and take it away from me. Just try. You will lose. That is a promise and that makes my husband so proud.

Now that I am liking the meat (that's what she said), I am much more interested in trying to create tasty meals that includes it. Still the big meat intimidates me. (That's what she said.) There is just something about a big roast that makes me nervous. Maybe it is because all of that always seems dry to me. I don't know. I just don't like it, therefore, I don't want to make it. However, pulled pork is one of my all time favorites! You can't resist a heaping pulled pork sandwich, on a kaiser roll, smothered in slaw. COME ON PEOPLE! You just can't.

Enter my inspiration...the pulled pork sandwich and cole slaw.

Here is what I did:
Sent Jasen to the store to get the pork shoulder. 3-4lbs. The one he bought had the bone in. I have no clue if that makes any difference, but this one had a bone (that's what she said).

Bought the Tangy Tennessee Sauce from Tastefully Simple, which is another one of my favorite things. I sound like Oprah now with all of my favorite things.

The Sauce.
I read the directions on the jar, which said, put the pork shoulder in the crock pot, cover with half of the jar of sauce, cook on low for 6 hours. Remove meat, shred. Return the meat to the crock pot, pour in remaining sauce and heat through.

Yes, that was it. However, you all know me, I can never just do what it says. I had this rub. Yes a rub for the big meat (that's what HE said). It was a rub for pork, so I thought, hmmmm...this is pork, let's do this. So I rubbed the meat(that's what he said) and then did the directions from the sauce above.

That's it. Easy. Simple. Can't get any simpler. For real.

Right out of the crock pot
and already falling apart.

Coming to a table near you.
Six hours later, man, did it smell good in our house. I took it out. Put it on the cutting board and shredded that baby up with two forks.

It was so tender that it was barely any effort to shred. For those of you, like me, who didn't know how to shred meat. You take two forks and pull in opposite directions. Hence, pulled pork.

I added the rest of the sauce and heated.

While that was all cooking I made the slaw. Again, something that I really love, but had no clue how to make. It is so simple. Don't be intimidated.

Here is what I did:
If you haven't gotten yourself the Vidallia Chop Wizard, what are you waiting for? Go get it. One head of green cabbage, chopped up in that Chop Wizard, the smallest squares.

Half a bag of baby carrots, again, in the Wizard on the smallest squares.

One onion. You guessed it, Chop Wizard, small squares.

2/3 cup of Miracle Whip do not use mayo. Don't even be temped to try.
3TBS vegetable oil
1/2 cup white sugar
2TBS white vinegar
1/4tsp. salt
Get a good look.
You won't see many
of me. I'm usually
behind the camera.
1TBS lemon juice

So you double all of the above in a bowl. Get out your whisk and work it. Whisk it until it is all smooth and the sugar is dissolved. Get into it. This is the dressing. Pour it over all of the chopped veggies and mix it up good. Get it all coated. Let it sit in the fridge for at LEAST 2 hours. I really prefer to let it sit over night.

See! I eat my
veggies too!
There you have it. Seriously, one of the easiest meals I have ever made.  I thought big meat was intimidating, but I took the challenge and won. (That's what she said.)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I got whipped by a Carmel Apple Pie Martini

I like to read recipes all of the time, well at least their titles, and if they sound good, I usually try to make them. Most of the time, on my first go round with a recipe, I follow it to a T and use it for what it was intended, but sometimes, I go off the beaten path and hope to find something amazing.

Pumpkin Spice Latte. That sounds good, right? But doesn't a Pumpkin Spice Martini sound better? Yeah, I thought so too.

I was busy reading when I came across this recipe. The title was intriguing, since it is seasonal and I am a pumpkin lover, I thought, hmmmmmm, wouldn't this be a wonderful addition to the Harry Potter Party tonight, but in martini form?

Yes, Harry Potter, and no, we were not serving these to teenage kids. My dear friend Tracy and I LOVE the Harry Potter series and I know some of you out there are thinking, these are grown women, please ladies, give up the Potter, but instead of persecuting us for this love of Potter, join forces with us and prepare to have a party. You will not find a person anywhere that can plan a party better than Tracy.

Tracy is the Queen of planning and when she threw this idea of a Harry Potter Party out to me, of course I said, I'll be there! So her planning began. We were going to have a Harry Potter marathon with tons of snacks, some dinner and drinks and of course our kids.

Carefully reading the recipe.
Anytime I am in the kitchen one or both of my children are interested in what is going on in there. They seem to share my love of cooking and also my hate for not cleaning up after. Stop by our house on any given day and you will see, I'm telling the truth. So, back to the story of the Pumpkin Latte adaptation into Martini. I am in the kitchen, day of the party, with my recipe, trying to concoct this drink and of course, someone took notice. Little Payten. Little Payten can be quite a helper. She always wants to be on the big stool so she can see and she always and I mean always wants a taste.

Little Payten on her big stool, helped me read the recipe and also helped me measure and pour everything together all while saying, can I have a taste?

Here is what we did:
2 cups of milk
3 TBS canned pumpkin
2 TBS white sugar
1 TBS vanilla
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice and a little for garnish
1 cup of coffee, which we all know, I didn't use. We are making martinis here people!
Whipped Cream, optional, but please do not make it an option. You are going to want it. Trust. Trust me.

I also added on my own after tastes and tastes:
2 TBS cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Combine milk, pumpkin and sugar in a sauce pan and cook over medium heat, continually stirring until steaming. I thought to myself, I don't work at Starbucks, how in the world am I going to know if this milk mixture is "steaming". I kept staring at the pot, got down low and close to the pot, no steam. Give it time. The steam will come. You will see it.

Remove the pot from heat and stir in the vanilla, 1/2tsp pumpkin spice, all of my extra addition spices, if you want and wisk rapidly until foamy. Again, not a barista here, but it foams and rather quickly. You will know it when you see it.

Original recipe, transfer into a mug, fill half way and top remainder with coffee, garnishing with whipped cream and spice.

My way, pour into a sealable container and refrigerate until using to make a martini.

Carmel Apple Pie Martini
Now, imagine a good 5 hours later, at Tracy's having this Harry Potter Party/Impromptu Fall Martini Showdown with my drink nemesis, Jimothy. He has already created this delicious Carmel Apple Pie martini, which I promise I will get the recipe for, but what I could see was the vodka, apple pucker, carmel, ice cream, which according to him is the secret ingredient and may be the reason he won, and some cinnamon, but I promise, promise, promise to get the real breakdown, and now it is time for me to shake up a tasty Pumpkin Spice Martini. F that latte.

So, shaker in hand, filled with ice, I pondered, how much vodka should I add to this? Logic struck, the latte said half pumpkin mix to half coffee, seems logical to me to deduct that I should do the same, only substitute the coffee with the vodka. The shaker was filled with ice so it wouldn't be that strong, right? WRONG!

Tracy and Jim loving the
Carmel Apple Martinis

I put in my half to a half and gave it a great big shake. I was working it. All shook up. Glasses ready. Pour. Man, these smell awesome! Imagine fresh baked pumpkin pie with that warm smell of spicy goodness, it was all there, wrapped up in a martini glass. We all take our glasses, the moment of truth, the first sip. Oh please, please, please let mine be better than Jim's! PLEASE! OMG! Too much vodka, toooooo much vodka! Hairs on the back of everyone's

Although Jim continued to disagree, Tracy and I came to the conclusion, this was too strong. My thought, next time, three parts mix, one part vodka. Start there, then increase the vodka if you want them stronger. What was I thinking? So much for reason.

Raspberry Martini to the rescue!
Tracy then brought out her tried and true, Raspberry Martini. Again, I promise I will get the recipe for it. You want it, trust me. This was the perfect refreshing drink to wash away that Pumpkin disaster. Thank you Tracy for saving the day, hosting an awesome Harry Potter Party/Impromptu Fall Martini Throwdown and for all of the fun.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Embrace them. Love them. Make them.

I am a working mom. I know every mom works, believe me, raising monsters is a full time job, but I also work out side of the home. Having a job out side of the home adds extra demands and stresses on me, but some of those demands can be fun! For instance our Halloween Party at the office. The Activities Committee, which I am a part of and is so fitting for me because I am always planning something, is hosting our Second, hopefully Annual, Halloween Party at the office for our co-workers and their families. It was actually yesterday and another huge success, but back to the story. So, we are having this party and asked that people sign up to bring in treats, baked goods, dips, whatever you want to bring to share with everyone.

Take one guess what I signed up for? Being the mom that I am, first thought, cupcakes, second thought, 40 children in costume covered in gooey orange and black frosting. Ummmmm, that's a no. Second thought, maybe I should bring something a little less disastrous. Yep, you know it, every mom knows it, cookies! Every busy mom's third thought, when am I going to find the time to make them?

Logen and his buddy Corduroy.
Time to do anything around this house usually comes after dinner, 7'ish I would say. That leaves just about an hour before bedtime and gives us something to stay busy, by us, I mean the kids. Logen had Corduroy, the class pet, from school this night. All of you moms out there, don't get scared, I know it is Halloween and all, but by saying class pet, I don't mean some goldfish or guinea pig. Thankfully, the wonderful teachers at Logi's preschool have a lovely and very cute stuffed bear as the class pet and his name is Corduroy. Logen was kinder to that bear than he is to his sister, but that could be a whole nother post in itself. Logen wanted to include Corduroy in everything so he also helped make cookies.

Now, I know you are all thinking, how does she do it? How does she find the time to fit everything in and not kill someone? Trust me here people, this one, these cookies, they are all a sham. Yes, a sham. Sometimes there isn't enough time to make everything homemade and everyone knows that. We shouldn't be ashamed to admit that either. I am no Suzie Homemaker or Martha Stewart, I just like to look like it and that is exactly what went down with these cookies.

These cookies came from a pouch, yes a pouch. You know the ones where you add an egg and a stick of butter, mix and bake. Those pouches are sent to every busy mom straight from Heaven. Embrace them. Love them. Make them.

I made these cookies for the Halloween party, but I did spruce them up a bit. I said I wasn't Martha Stewart, I just want my stuff to look like it.

Here is what I did:
Sugar Cookie Pouch-yep, straight from the store
1 stick of butter
1 egg
Lots of sprinkles.

This can not be any easier. Mix together the pouch, egg, melted stick of butter until the dough forms.
Heat the oven to 350.
Get out your cookie sheets. YES, it really is this easy!

Here is where the Martha Stewart in me comes out.

Get cookie scoops! I never thought I would buy into these things, but I LOVE them. Pampered Chef sells them in three sizes and I use them all and not just for cookies. For this event I used the medium sized scoop. It precisely measures out the perfect size cookie.

Now scoop the dough, but when you pop the dough out of the scoop, instead of putting them right onto the pan, pop it into you hand and give it a little pat to flatten it out slightly. I have found that this really helps the cookie take a most perfect shape and it only takes a second AND it also helps with the sprinkles.

The BEST way to ever do sprinkles
Make sure you have poured your sprinkles into a bowl. You do not want to actually sprinkle them onto the cookies. That makes a big mess on your pan and does not cover the cookie evenly. You are going to want to place that lovely little dough pattie right into the bowl of sprinkles. Give it a light pat and pick it up. You only want one side of the cookie covered with the sprinkles.

My beautiful helper.
Lay them out onto the pan as you normally would and bake.

When you take them out of the oven, the edges will be slightly brown and you need to let them relax on the pan for at least a minute to firm up. Don't over bake! I think my sugar cookies were in the oven for only about 7-8 minutes.

Relaxing on the pan.
After they have relaxed on the pan for a minute or two, remove them from the pan onto the cooling rack and let them cool.

That's it! Done! Martha's cookies sent from Heaven. Embrace them. Love them. Make them.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Seed Savvy

It's that time of year when you can just feel fall is in the air. The smell of burning leaves is all around, football is in full force, except for the Bears, and kids all over want to carve pumpkins. Carving pumpkins has always and will always be one of my favorite things to do. I can still remember doing it as a kid and I remember when my dad brought home these new pumpkin carving knives for kids. You know the kind that are all over now with the orange handles and dullish blades, but can they slice a pumpkin! I still have the original ones my dad brought home. In fact, I used it last night. It still has the black sharpie Dana in my mom's handwriting on it so that there would be no fights over who's knife is who's. Hey Dena, I have yours too.

I really don't remember saving and roasting the seeds though. I can't tell you if we did it and I just don't remember or if it is one of those things we never did, like Jiffy Pop.  Yep, I was in my 20's the first time I ever did Jiffy Pop. Anyway, Jasen and I have always roasted the pumpkin seeds. We did it when we were dating and we do it now. He loves them and it is something he remembers doing as a kid. So the tradition continues.

Last night all four of us carved pumpkins, carefully saving the seeds. The kids did a wonderful job of drawing faces onto the pumpkins and I carved them out. We put candles in them and lit them up. They are so cute, but once they were lit and on the porch, we came inside and I started my quest for delicious pumpkin seeds.

Freshly washed pumpkin seeds
just waiting to become a yummy
delicious snacky.
Pumpkin seeds can be tricky. Yes, very tricky. They can be too salty, not salty enough, to wet or even worse, burnt. Burnt pumpkin seeds are as bad as burnt popcorn. You just don't want it. You have to have the pumpkin seed skills to make a great seed and it seems to me that I do have those skills.

Here is what I did:

Warning, this is one of those things that I make that I do not measure, at all. I will do my best to describe what happened, but go with your personal tastes to make it perfect for you.

On the stove top, melt a stick of butter. I know, a whole stick.

Melted butter and garlic.
I could just dive right in.
Add fresh pressed garlic, about 4-5 cloves. The trick to getting it to go through your garlic press the easiest, put the cloves into the microwave to 15-20 seconds. It will get hot FAST, so don't over do it. You will not believe how easy it is to peel and to press.

5-6 cranks on your sea salt grinder and about the same for black pepper.

Add the seeds and let them saute in the pan for about 10 minutes stirring all the time.

Pre-heat the oven to 350.

Dump the sauteed seeds and all of the butter and seasonings on the a cookie sheet and spread them out.

4-5 more cranks of sea salt and black pepper, a couple shakes of garlic powder and then shake grated Parmesan cheese all over them. Yes, everyone knows I love to add cheese to everything, but add it, you will like it. I promise.

Mr. Pumpkin Seed 2010   

Put them in the oven for 10 minutes, at the 10 minute mark, stir, flip, mix, whatever, but smooth them back out. Do this 2 more times, so 30 minutes total. They should be getting pretty dry by now.

You want them to be dry, but not burnt. That is where the tricky part comes in. When they are near the end of cooking, you really have to babysit these bad boys or you will have crappy burnt seeds on your hands. No one wants crappy burnt seeds, so trust me, watch them.

There you have it! Take them out and let them sit on the cookie sheet to cool.

They should be this golden
color when they are done.
When they are completely cool, then and only then, put them into an air tight container. If you do this when they are the least little bit warm, condensation will form in the container and that will ruin your seeds.

There you have it. Delicious, addictive, oh so good, pumpkin seeds.
Get out and get your own today.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Saucy Expectations

I don't even know how to start this one because I can't even compare. There are things we all grew up with our moms cooking and most of those things become our all time favorite meals, at least that's how I am and one of those favorite things is my mother's spaghetti sauce.

Everyone enjoying the sauce.
Izzy even wanted in on the action.
My mom makes the most delicious spaghetti sauce around. I must say that Noni, when she makes it, makes a kick ass sauce, but my mom's is legendary. Yes, legendary. Just ask Jasen. I think that is part of the reason we got back together so many times when we were dating. He just couldn't give up the sauce. It is a meaty goodness that has a kick and has simmered on the stove top all day. It is great.

Since we have been married, we are going on seven years, Jasen has been begging me to try and make the sauce. I'm not going to lie, I'm scared. How in the world is my sauce ever going to live up to his saucy expectations? He thinks because my mom makes it that I should be able to make it just as good. Not so. The woman uses no recipe and when asked about it she says, I don't know, I just do it. Thanks. Thanks mom for passing that down. Now I know if I sat there and watched, I would be able to at least get the ingredient list, no measurements, but a list, some how, it just wouldn't be the same. She's just the master of sauce, but I finally decided to give it a try.

I found this recipe that kinda sounded like it would taste good. It was part of the lasagna recipe I found and I thought, what better time than now? I went to the store, got all of the ingredients and started. It was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be which made me very leery about what it was going to taste like. Simmer, simmer, simmer, lets give this sauce a little try. HA! It's good! Not my mom's good, but a good start in the right direction. I used it in the lasagna and I must say, it was the best lasagna I have ever had. Better than eating out. Jasen even gave his seal of approval by cleaning his plate of any remaining sauce with a chunk 'o garlic bread. Now I have the bones of this sauce. I can do this. I can make sauce and I will improve on this and make it even better next time.

Here is what I did:
1lb sweet Italian sausage, I have also used mild Italian and I want to try hot next time

3/4lb ground beef

My FAVORITE kitchen tool.
Yes, as seen on TV, and it is AMAZING!
I use it for everything, not just onions.
For reals people, go get it.

1/2 cup onions, but I like onions, so I use about 1 cup of diced onion

It called for 2 cloves of garlic, crushed. I laughed and used about 6.

280z can crushed tomatoes
2-6oz cans tomato paste
2-6.5 oz cans tomato sauce
1/2 cup water, I just use the tomato paste can and fill that once

2Tbs white sugar

1 1/2 tsp dried basil, again, I prefer fresh, but dried will do

1/2 tsp fennel seeds, which I didn't have so I didn't use

1tsp Italian seasoning, again, laugh. I have this seasoning, that I know my mom does use. Tone's spicy spaghetti seasoning. I love it and use it for more that just sauce, but I covered the top of everything already in the pot, so yeah, ha to the 1tsp. Seriously? What is 1tsp really going to do?

1Tbs salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
4Tbs parsley

Ok, that sounds like a lot of things, but really, all you do is brown, measure, stir and simmer. Bear with me.

So, brown the sausage, take it out of the casing which I learned the hard way, ground beef, onion and garlic over medium heat. Take out the grease. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, sauce and the water. See, easy, right?

Season all of that with the sugar, basil, fennel(if you have it), Italian seasoning, the salt, pepper and the parsley. Never be afraid to season people! That is what gives you the flavor.

Stir and simmer covered 1 1/2 hours. That's it. Really, that's it. I told you it wasn't so bad.

This time we had it over ravioli and it was tasty. I also made white trash garlic bread. In case anyone was wondering, I wasn't lying when I said I make things out of nothing. We didn't have any garlic bread, but we did have some hogie rolls. How can you eat Italian with out garlic bread? You can't. So, here is my rendition of garlic bread, the white trash way.

Here is what I did:
Opened the hogie rolls and put them onto the cookie sheet
Generously spread on the butter
Sprinkle with garlic powder. NEVER use garlic salt, yuck, salt.
Turn the broiler on high, put the bread in and keep an eye on it. LISTEN UP! Keep an eye on it it. It cooks fast.

There you have it. White trash garlic bread. Hey, it worked.
White Trash Garlic Bread
It's even burnt. How trashy.

Working on cleaning his plate.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Get over it and get your flat breads.

I have never claimed that I make everything "home made".  Personally, I think if you took the time to throw it together and heat it up, that's home made enough for me, which is why I tend to enjoy that semi-home made show. I think that lady, I think her name is Sandra, has some really interesting and delicious ideas. Using things that you can buy already made and coupling them with fresh ingredients to make something great is right up my alley. It's a time saver and who doesn't like to save time?

This leads me to tonight's post. Let's just say that if I had time to make dough for pizza I would, but seriously, with two kids, a full time job and everything else that I pack into a day, forget the damn dough, I'll just buy it.  During one of my trips to the farmer's market, one of my favorite places to get produce, I came across flat breads. Not just any flat breads, no, these flat breads are covered in the most delicious olive oil and pesto garlic sauce you have ever tasted. This stuff is so delicious that it makes me want to lick the greasy bag it comes in. I really have to give a shout out to Parmesan's. It is a wonderful little Italian place here in Frankfort that makes tasty food and the tasty flat breads that I have come to love so much! Here I am with these tasty little flat breads and as delicious it would be just to eat the flat breads as they come, I decide, let's make these into what else? Pizzas!!!!

Seriously people, take a look at the lovely pesto
and tell me you don't want a bite.

I love a good pizza and not just your run of the mill pepperoni or cheese. I really do enjoy specialty pizza. Again, Parmesan's makes a wonderful pizza with chicken and garlic. Seriously, if you go there, order it. It is one of Jasen's all time favorite and for a die hard, I need sausage on my pizza kind of guy to love this chicken pizza, you know it has to be good. Since I have this love of specialty pizza, I decided that tonight I am going to make a flat bread pizza with tomato, basil and gorgonzola cheese, one of my all time favorite cheeses. This pizza is a spin off of one of my favorite sandwiches that I am sure will make it's way onto this blog sometime.

Here is what I did:
Bought the flat bread in all of it's garlicy glory. Put it on a cookie sheet, not greased.

Sliced up two tomatoes and put them on the flat bread.

Lightly sprinkled tomatoes and flat bread with a light dusting of garlic powder. NEVER  garlic salt.

Put on the gorgonzola all over, the more the better in my opinion.

Sprinkle with dried basil, a good amount. You want to be able to taste the flavor of the basil mixing with everything else. Personally, if you can get your hands on some fresh basil, cut it up into little shreds, I like to use kitchen shears to do this, and use it instead of the dried. You will be amazed how much better the fresh stuff really is.

Turn your oven onto broil/hi.

Put the pizza in until the cheese is melty and browning.

My two best men enjoying
a slice of my flat bread pizza.

Take it out and let it sit for a few minutes, cut and enjoy.

Can it get any easier? Doubtful. Maybe if we all had personal chefs to do it, then it would be easier, but get real people, we are never going to have personal chefs. Get over it and get your flat breads.

P. S. Parmesan's, you owe me for the shout outs, but I really do love your flat breads.

Come to mama.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Looks like Martha made them.

Last night I went outside of my comfort zone and made this Pumpkin Log with Cream Cheese frosting sprinkled with pecans. It tastes wonderful, but as Jasen put it, a deflated log would be a bad thing in some aspects. The recipe said to roll it in a towel generously sprinkled in powdered sugar. I asked for and needed prayers. Well, there weren't enough prayers, it was deflated. Long story short, I had extra pumpkin and cake mix and thought, hmmmmm.....what can I do with this?

Looks like Martha made them.
Not unless Martha has those crappy fake
wood looking counter tops just like ours.
I am always trying to make something out of nothing or trying to make something better than the recipe originally is. That's what I do. A pinch here, a dash there, hell if all else fails, add butter and garlic. Better yet, add cheese. Yes, I am in love with cheese. I am sure if I keep up this blogging thing, you will all come to know of my loving relationship with cheese.

So, here I am with this extra pumpkin and cake mix. I kind of got the just of what to do to from the deflated log from the night before, but I wanted to keep it somewhat simple. Cupcakes. Not just any cupcakes. Pumpkin Cupcakes with Sweet Cream Cheese Frosting sprinkled with finely chopped pecans. People, I watch waaaaaay to much Food Network and I am continually thinking, I can do that, so here I am. Ingredients in front of me just waiting to become something fabulous!

Here is what I did:
Wait one minute! I have to warn all of you in advance. I am not a by the book cook. If it is the first time around making something, then I will usually follow the recipe, UNLESS, I just know it will be better if I add a little something here or there, which is usually what happens. I also don't measure very well. A little here, a little there. You get it, but I will do my best to give accurate descriptions of what I did, so hopefully we can all recreate the meal again.

With that said, here is what I did:
Half of a 15oz can of pumpkin-not the pie mix, the actual pumpkin
Box of yellow cake mix, minus the 1 cup I took out for the roll the night before
I followed the rest of the directions on the box, but I only had 2 eggs instead of 3.
Changed 1-1/4 cup of water to 3/4 and a dash of oil not 1/3 cup.
Couple shakes of the nutmeg, cloves and pumpkin pie spice and then a good couple shakes of cinnamon. I warned you I make it up as I go.

Mixed it all up, baked in paper cups at 350 for about 17 or so minutes. Took those babies out right when the testing stick came out clean. Took them out of the pan immediately and let cool on a wire rack. This part always kills my kids. Mom are they cool yet? No. Can we have one yet? No. What about now? No.

Frosting was something I found on line, but edited, of course.
1 block of cream cheese, soft
1 stick of butter, soft
1 tsp. vanilla
about 2 cups of powdered sugar

Mommy's taste tester.
Complete with
frosting face.
Beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Tip: Do not taste it just yet. It doesn't taste good. Trust me. You will be tempted, don't do it.
Add the vanilla and mix.
Slowly add the powdered sugar a little at a time, mix medium to slow and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Keep adding it until it is the sweetness you prefer. Now, now is the time for taste testing! Payten and Logen just loved the frosting, so it must be good.

Wait until the cakes are completely cool, fill a ziploc with the frosting and cut the tip off one of the corners of the bag. Squeeze all of the frosting down and frost the cupcake! That's it! Easy!

Chop the pecans super fine and sprinkle the tops of the frosted cakes.

Done. Now you can have one.

So, here you have it. My first post on my first blog. I will know if these cupcakes were a success in a few short hours. I am using my work friends as guinea pigs for these, but from the smell in the kitchen, I know they are going to be delicious. Hmmm, maybe a little more cinnamon.