Thursday, October 18, 2012

Cranberry Apple Crisp

In a recent post, I mentioned that I had gone to an apple orchard.  I wanted to share some of the recipes that I used because I had 13 pounds of apples to go through!  One of my favorite apple recipes was an apple crisp that I made from my Cuisine at Home magazine.  It was super easy and the streusel on top just set it over the edge of goodness!  


Here's the recipe:

Apple Crisp
Adapted from Cuisine at Home
Issue No. 95

Ingredients:

For the Streusel:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 sticks cold butter, diced
3/4 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup chopped pecans

Filling:
3/4 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup cider or brandy
4 lbs Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  For the streusel, whisk together flour, sugar, brown sugar, and salt.  Cut butter into flour mixture with a pastry blender until thoroughly combined.  Mix oats and pecans into flour mixture; cover and refrigerate.

For the filling, soak cranberries in brandy or cider for 20 minutes, until plumped, 20 minutes.  Drain and save liquid for another use.  Toss together apples, cranberries, brown sugar, lemon juice, 2 Tbsp flour, cinnamon and salt in a bowl.  Transfer to a 9x13 inch baking dish.  Cover apples with streusel and bake until apples are tender, about 50 minutes.  Let apple crisp rest on a cooling rack 30 minutes before serving.

I'm pretty sure you will enjoy this as much as I did.  Just add a scoop of vanilla ice cream and you'll be set!  Happy Fall!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Week Six

I'm back today with another week of recipes for you to try out.  I'm a week behind, so here's what we had last week.  I find this week's food to be particularly tasty, and I've had them all before, so I know that they taste good.

Monday: Guinness Roast Beef 

  • Okay, this was A-mazing!  And it was a splurge, but who cares because it tasted so good.
  • I had the onions, garlic, spices, and corn starch.
  • I bought a chuck roast ($9), beef broth ($2), 2 bottles of Guinness ($4), 4 carrots ($1), and a head of cabbage ($1.50).



The total was $17.50, but I had leftovers and I reused the meat for another day.


Tuesday: Cajun Fettucini Alfredo (I will post this recipe soon)

  • For this recipe, I had the alfredo sauce and the spices. - (I froze this a month or two ago, and when it defrosted, I just added some more cream and some more parmesan cheese to even out the consistency.)  It tasted totally fine - I was leery to freeze that type of thing, but it worked!
  • I bought the chicken ($12) and the fettucini ($2).


This recipe cost $14, and I had enough for lunch the next day.  For the spices, I used Penzey's spices red and black spices.


Wednesday: White Chicken Chili

  • For this recipe, I had all of the spices, the onion, the garlic, the olive oil, dried beans, the chicken from last night and 4 cups of chicken broth.
  • I purchased the parsley ($2) and another container of chicken broth. ($2)

My total for this meal was $4, and I froze two more containers of it.  That will be two more dinners for us, and 3 lunches for me!


Thursday: Open Faced Roast Beef Sandwiches

  • For this, I had the roast, the gravy, the bread, and I simply bought the potatoes to make mashed potatoes ($2).  


The total is $2 for the dinner, and we definitely had enough for a lunch too!
And, this recipe is pretty self-explanatory.  Toast bread, add roast, put mashed potatoes on the side, drown the whole thing in gravy... you're set.

Friday: Butternut Squash stuffed Shells with Brown Butter Sauce

  • For tonight's dinner, I had the ricotta cheese, the pasta shells, garlic, parmesan cheese and the butter.
  • I bought butternut squash ($2), a container of spinach ($2), and the sage ($2).


This meal cost $6, and we had way too much of it.  It was good on day one, so make a half portion because this is the dinner that never ends.

Saturday: Waffles with strawberries and whipped cream

  • I had everything for this recipe (flour, milk, eggs, cinnamon, rice krispy cereal, vanilla, vegetable oil, baking powder, salt and heavy cream) except for the strawberries ($2).
  • I use the heavy cream to make fresh whipped cream, I cut up the strawberries, and the secret weapon is Trader Joe's sugar-coffee grinder.  Grind some on top of your waffles, and you will not be disappointed!


Dinner = $2.

Sunday: Stuffed Shells Again for free!

The meals this week cost $45.40  I'm pretty impressed with this one if I don't say so myself. :)
Have a great week!

All pictures are from Pinterest.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Candy Bar Cookies

The other day, the hubby and I went a restaurant called Room Four here in Indy.  It was pretty tasty, but the best thing that we had there was the candy bar cookies served with cocoa laced whipped cream.  I was skeptical at first (I don't know why), but after the first bite, I was sold!  So when it was time for me to make a batch of cookies, I decided to try my own.  Granted these are not quite as good as the Room Four candy bar cookies, but they are extremely tasty in their own right.

Here's how you can make your own:

Candy Bar Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from The Picky Palate

2 sticks softened butter
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 bag of chocolate chips
3/4 bag of heath bits
1 bag of mini snickers - you know.... the smallest size possible

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  In the stand of a mixing bowl, mix the butter and sugars until light.  Then, mix in the vanilla and eggs.
In a medium sized bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt.  Gradually add the flour mixture into the butter, and finally add the chocolate chips and heath bits.
Using a 1/4 cup scoop, take the dough, make a dent, insert a snickers bar, and wrap the dough around the candy bar.  Pinch off any extra dough that's unneeded to cover up the dough.  You should end up with a cookie that looks about the size of a golf ball.  I put twelve of these on a cookie pan, and froze the rest.  I think I ended up with about 36 cookies in all.
Bake the cookies for 9-14 minutes... mine took about 10.

I hope you enjoy!



Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Veggie Lasagna

I've always found a veggie lasagna to be a tricky thing.  I love lasagna, but I'm not so much a fan of egg plant or chunky tomatoes, and so many veggie lasagnas have that sort of thing.  I do love vegetables though, so I came up with my own variation.

I took an inventory of what I had: spinach, sweet potato, carrots and onion.  They all sounded good to me, so I threw all of it in a pan with a bit of olive oil to soften the mixture, and then I just assembled the lasagna as normal.  It was so good, and the best part of this recipe is that you can substitute whatever you want and add or subtract so easily.  Best of all, it was cheesy and it made a lot, so I was able to freeze it for a lazy day.

Here's what you need:

Veggie Lasagna
Easily Feeds 8-10

Ingredients:
1 bag fresh spinach
2 carrots - peeled and shredded
1 large sweet potato - peeled and shredded
1 onion - finely chopped
3 garlic cloves - minced (originally I used garlic scapes, but those are really seasonal and found at farmer's markets.  If you're lucky enough to get some, you should totally add them!)
2 cans of tomato sauce
1/2 box or so of no boil lasagna noodles
1 bag of mozzarella cheese
1 bag of sliced provolone cheese
16 oz. ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried oregano
handful of fresh basil - sliced
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

Directions:

After your vegetables are prepped and ready to go, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil to a large sauce pan.  Allow it to heat for a minute or so, then add onions, carrots and sweet potato.  Saute on medium heat for 4-5 minutes, then add garlic.  Saute another 2 minutes and finally add spinach until it is just beginning to wilt.  Remove from heat.

For your cheese mixture, add ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, 1 egg, oregano, basil, and salt and pepper to a medium sized bowl.  Mix until the ingredients come together.

Finally, to assemble, grease a 9x13" baking dish.  Pour enough sauce in the bottom to evenly cover up the bottom of the pan.  Set 3-4 lasagna noodles on the bottom - don't be afraid to break the sheets in half to get all the spots covered up!  Add more sauce to cover the noodles.  Add half of your vegetables, then add half of the ricotta mixture.  Make sure both are spread evenly across the noodles.  Sprinkle a little under half of the mozzarella on top, and give it another splash of sauce.

Repeat another layer beginning with the noodles and ending with the splash of the sauce.  Finally, top with one last layer of noodles.  You should have about half a jar of sauce left by this point, so go ahead and pour the rest on.  End by adding the slices of provolone cheese and fill in the "cheese gaps" by using the remainder of the mozzarella cheese.

Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes... make sure to check the directions on the noodle box since each brand may be different.  Once it's bubbly, you can turn on the broiler for a minute or so to make the top nice and golden brown.

Serve this with a nice salad, and you're all set for a tasty dinner!  I hope you enjoy it!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Week Five Recipes & Apple Orchard

Oh, it is finally fall!  This is no doubt my favorite season.  I am lucky enough to have already made some wonderful friends here in Indy, and I was invited to go pick apples at Anderson Orchard.


I absolutely had a blast picking 13 pounds of apples!  When we arrived the air was crisp and we were able to take in all of the sites that you would expect to see at a family orchard.  There was row upon row of about 20-30 different types of apples.  Mums dotted the front porch of the little shop, and the smell of pumpkin bread mingled around in the air.  The playground was packed full of little ones that were on  a field trip, and all of it just brought joy to my heart!

Because I picked a lot of apples for just Scott and me, I'll be making lots of apple recipes.  I'll keep you posted on those, but for now, here's what's for dinner.

Monday: Vegetable Lasagna
  • I made this about a month and a half ago and had the remainder frozen.
  • I did buy some sourdough bread for $3, and we froze the other 2/3 of it.
  • We had this for dinner and again for lunch = $3.

Tuesday: Tacos!
  • I haven't made tacos in a while, but they sound tasty this week!
  • I bought 1 lb of ground beef  ($6), taco shells ($2), refried beans ($2) and cilantro ($2).
  • I had rice and I am going to make my own taco seasoning.
  • Total = $12... we will probably have some rice and beans leftover.

Wednesday: Community Group... I bought cheddar cheese to go with our chili ($2).

Thursday: Taco Baked Potato
  • I will use the 1/2 pound of ground beef that will be left over from Tuesday to go on top of our baked potatoes.
  • I bought 2 potatoes ($1) and an avocado ($1) to dice up on top. 
  • I will garnish it with our leftover cilantro, and I am going to make a pepper jack cheese sauce.
  • Our total = $2 and some guacamole as a snack with the half that didn't get used!

Friday: Roast Chicken with Spaghetti Squash and Mac and Cheese


This mac 'n cheese is the best stuff ever!  I used to make it from scratch, but this is just as good in a time crunch.

  • I bought my little chicken for $10.  He was pasture raised, and I'm sure he was very happy until the end. :)  We'll eat half tonight.
  • The spaghetti squash was $3, and the mac and cheese was from Trader Joes - $3. 
  • This meal is $16 and a lunch added in and half a leftover chicken for next Monday's dinner.

This weekend we are cheating.... friends and family are coming up, so we'll be eating out!

Our total this week is: $45

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Week Four Recipes

Hello Again!  Sorry this post is late... I worked a lot last week, which is a great thing, but it leaves little time for blogging.  Here's what we had last week and I'm working to get this week's menu up too!

Monday: Slow Cooked Beef Brisket, Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans

  • Luckily, we were given quite a bit of produce this week.  I used the green beans tonight, and used the rest throughout the week.
  • I bought the brisket $13 and the potatoes $2.
  • Meal total = $15, but I had 1/2 the brisket left, and it is going to be used again on Thursday, and I had this for lunch the next day too.


Tuesday: Pizza with Cucumber Salad

  • We used up the meatballs that I made and had in the freezer.
  • I bought cheese $2, pizza crust $4 and pizza sauce $2.
  • I was given a pepper, a cucumber, had onions, and picked out some basil from our garden.
  • Meal total = $8, but I have one pizza crust left and some sauce, and they're hanging out in the freezer.

Wednesday: Community Group: Broccoli Slaw

  • We bought one package of broccoli slaw and two packs of Ramen noodles.
  • Meal total = $5


Thursday: Beef Brisket Quesadillas with Rice and Raspberries

  • I had the beef brisket, Ale-8-one BBQ sauce, taco shells, rice and lime juice.
  • I bought a small wedge of Brie $3, some Monterey Jack cheese $2 and the raspberries $2.
  • Dinner = $7, plus lunch the next day.


Friday: We made an impromptu trip to Louisville, so we were able to eat out tonight with family.

Saturday: We still stayed in Louisville, and we were able to try the Come Back Inn for the first time.  Scott promises it's the best spaghetti he's ever eaten in a restaurant.

Sunday: Grilled Cheese and Trader Joe's Roasted Red Pepper Soup

  • I keep the bread in our freezer, and continue to stock up whenever I go to Louisville.... I think it's $5 a loaf, but I kind of consider that a treat.
  • We used Pepper Jack Cheese that one of my husband's sweet co-workers bought for us.
  • Roaster Red Pepper Soup - $2
  • Meal = $2, and we'll continue to eat on this for lunch until it runs out.

Groceries = $37 this week, but we ate out on Friday and Saturday.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Week Three Recipes

We've almost reached the end of August, and it has been a busy week!  Hence the lateness of this post. Last week was a little tricky too.  I planned on making the chicken, but something came up, and well, truth be told, I forgot to defrost it. It was okay though because we had tons of leftovers and parents came to visit us.  Needless to say, we'll be having chicken this week.  And so, here are the recipes for this week.

MondayFettuccine with Sausage & Leeks; Cucumber Salad

  • Since I forgot to defrost the chicken, I had the leeks and cucumbers.
  • I bought fettuccine ($2), parsley ($2) and sausage ($2.50).
  • I made the Italian Salad Dressing --- oh my goodness this is so easy.  I usually buy a packet because my grandma always did.  Well, I thought I had some mix, but I did not.  I found this recipe, and it tastes exactly the same except there are limited ingredients and I can pronounce them.  It is literally as easy as the packet.  Just slice up the cucumber, and pour the dressing on top.
  • Meal for two, plus two lunches = $6.50... and may I say this tasted fantastic.


Tuesday: Spaghetti Squash with Kale and Kidney Beans

  • I bought a spaghetti squash ($3), garlic (.50) and kale ($2).
  • I had a can of kidney beans so I used those instead.
  • I had olive oil, red pepper, salt and parmesan.
  • Meal for two, plus two lunches = $5.50. (Another delicious choice).

Wednesday: CG - Coca-Cola Cake.... Cracker Barrel Style

  • I bought buttermilk($1) and coke ($1).
  • I had everything else.
  • We had 1/4 of the sheet cake left after group, so that means we get dessert!! ($2)

Thursday: Roast Chicken or Roast Chicken, Purple Cabbage and Carrots

  • I bought cabbage ($2) and carrots ($2).  Add some butter, seasoned salt and sauté for a tasty vegetable medley. 
  • I had the chicken and seasoning.
  • Dinner plus leftovers = $4.

Friday: Bubble and Squeak (Please try this.... it is true comfort food!)

  • I bought bacon ($4), jalepeno cheese ($3), and 2 large potatoes ($1).
  • I had cabbage and carrots.
  • Meal plus two lunches = $8.

Saturday: White Bean Chili

  • I bought an onion ($1) and a jalepeno (.50), and a bag of dried white beans ($2).
  • I had carrots, I made the chicken stock, and had all of the other spices.
  • Dinner plus two more dinners to freeze = ($3.50)

Sunday: Leftovers

  • Already paid for!
Dinner for the Week = $29.50


Friday, August 24, 2012

Homemade Croissants

There are few things that I love more than a delicious pastry, but I have lacked the courage to try to make them until recently.  I was looking around, and I came across this recipe for authentic croissants.  The reviews talked about how delicious they were and how surprisingly easy they were to make.  So, I decided to give the recipe a shot and figured at worst case, I could still do something with the dough.  Well, to my delight, they turned out splendidly.  They were beautifully colored, had the trademark layers of a croissant and they were so light and fluffy.  



The croissants were everything that I had hoped they would be!  Now for the recipe.  Please do not be scared away by how "long" they take.  While the recipe does require three days for you to wait, it does not require three days of work.  On the first day you simply mix the ingredients.  On the second day, you just roll the dough, and on the third day you do one more rolling and you bake.  Within moments on that third day is when you will realize that all of the "work" was worth it.

I really hope you try these; you won't be disappointed if you do!  Since the directions are a little longer, please find the recipe here, at Fine Cooking.  It has very detailed pictures, directions and even a powerpoint in case some of the wording is confusing... it's very fool proof!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Week Two Recipes

Last week's recipes went really well!  As I hoped, I used up almost everything that I had purchased, and all left overs were eaten.  But I also acquired new items and had a few things left.  Here are my dinners for this week, and how I'm going to use up all those remaining items.

Monday: Fettuccini Alfredo

  • I used the other half of the pasta that I bought last week.
  • I used heavy cream that I bought last week to make caramel sauce.
  • I had parmesan cheese.
  • I made honey dijon dressing for our salad.
  • I bought spinach from the salad bar because we usually don't use the whole bag. 
  • Dinner = $1, plus 1 lunch and half of the alfredo sauce left.  I froze it to use at a later date!
Tuesday: Adobo Pulled Pork with Poblano Peppers, Sweet Potatoes and Cilantro Lime Rice
  • I bought the pork.  This recipe has onions (I had), orange juice (I bought), chipotle peppers (I had), lime juice (I bought), and a variety of spices (I had).
  • I bought two sweet potatoes.
  • I bought two poblano peppers.  (I just dice the sweet potatoes and poblanos.  Sauté the potatoes on the stove top in a little oil for about 15 minutes, then add the peppers for about 5 minutes.
  • I had rice, but I bought cilantro.
  • Dinner = $15
Wednesday: CG Dinner - I am taking a strawberry mozzarella salad. *This was a splurge... I love this, and I wanted to make it while strawberries were still in season!
  • I bought strawberries, mozzarella, mint and almonds.
  • I had olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
  • Dinner = $10
Thursday: Pork Tacos with Pickled Onions and Black Beans  I added lots of seasoning to this recipe... cayenne pepper, cumin, salt, and chili pepper.
  • I used the pork from Tuesday (free), got some taco shells (bought), pickled some onions (free), and chopped up cilantro for the tacos.
  • I'm using the leftover rice from Tuesday tonight.
  • I bought a bag of dried black beans (cheaper than buying a can). 
  • I'm also going to freeze any remaining cilantro in a touch of olive oil to use later. 
  • Dinner = $3
Friday: Roast Chicken and Quinoa Salad  I still have some left over pork, so I am adding that to some sweet potato and black bean soup that I had in the freezer.  I'm also going to add any remaining sweet potatoes, black beans and rice.
  • I bought a whole chicken.  I had the butter and herbs to season it.
  • I bought a container of blueberries, a cucumber and a mango.
  • I had the quinoa.
  • Dinner = $14.50
Saturday: Spinach Artichoke Soup - find this recipe in a post next week.  Roast Chicken
  • I am using yesterdays chicken for this (free).
  • I am making chicken broth from the chicken bones (free).
  • I am buying a container of spinach and a leek.
  • I am buying a bag of frozen artichokes.
  • Dinner = $6, plus 2 containers to freeze for leftovers later!
Sunday: Eat Leftovers!  Spinach Artichoke Soup
  • I'm not sure what will be left, but I know that there will be some in the fridge... take advantage of resting on Sunday and simply reheat what you already have.
That's a whole week's worth of meals plus lunches and 3 full frozen meals for later for just $50.  Please note that my meat was bought local, so your costs will probably be lower if you purchase them at a grocery.

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Week of Recipes

Happy Monday friends!  As you saw in my last post I have been on a serious reading kick.  One of the new books that I am reading is called The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn.  In one of the chapters of the book, it challenges its readers to avoid waste and to use up everything that is in the fridge.  Flinn examined her fridge and was shocked to see that waste that she had accumulated in a week, and so I decided to do the same.  I thought I had been doing a pretty good job, but I still found the remnants of some lettuce, half a container of sour cream, a little cream cheese, a bean burrito, a dish of rice and a few green beans.  All of these were past their expiration, and while I can take heart that my fridge is now clean, I had to ask myself, why did I just throw away money!  Beyond that, it was just simply wasteful.  

I recently read a statistic that American families throw away 14% of the groceries that they buy each week.  For example, if you spend $100 on groceries each week, $14 is thrown into the trash.  That is almost $60 a month!  It may not look like a lot either... it could show up as some bananas that are past their prime or 4 slices of bread that got stale before you ate them, but when you total it up, it is a lot.  

So I created a plan to start using up everything and to have nothing left in my fridge by the time Sunday rolls around.  I am certainly not an expert, but here is what I came up with for one week:

Monday:  Pecan Crusted Chicken with honey mustard sauce, Mashed Potatoes and Broccoli

  • I bought a package of chicken that had three 1/2 breasts and three tenderloins.  Today I used 2 of the breasts and reserved the rest. 
  • I had the pecans already.  Chop them up really well.  Coat the chicken in flour, dip in egg, then dip in pecans.  I usually cook it in olive oil until brown on both sides then stick it in a 350 oven until I'm finished with the vegetables.
  • Make mashed potatoes as normal, but leftover cream cheese instead of butter.
  • I just steam the broccoli- add salt and pepper... maybe some lemon juice if you have that hanging around.
  • I bet you have have honey and mustard hanging around your house.... voila honey mustard.
  • For this meal, I bought chicken ($9) and broccoli ($2) for a total of $11.
Tuesday: Summer Vegetable Tart
  • Here is an example recipe: Ratatouille Tart
  • I had pre-made pie dough, a squash, one ear of corn, a red onion and a basil plant.
  • I bought a zucchini and fresh, local mozzarella cheese for a total of $6.
  • Meal's total = $6, plus lunch for two.
Wednesday: Spaghetti and Meatballs
  • I bought spaghetti, but only used half. 
  • I bought ground beef, sausage, an onion and bread.
  • I made the sauce... I had all of the ingredients thanks to my mother in laws tomato plants!  See the recipe here.
  • I had ten meatballs left over... so I am definitely having lunch tomorrow.
  • This meal's total was $12.

Thursday: Lentil Soup with Cornbread
  • I had the soup in the freezer = free!
  • I bought a box of cornbread... which I will never do again. $3... whaa waa.
  • Dinner for 2, plus 2 lunches = $3.

Friday: Poached Chicken with Green Beans and Cornbread Dressing
  • Remember that initial chicken?  Now it's free!  I simply took some garlic and some fresh herbs and rubbed it all over the chicken.  (I have herb plants and had the garlic.)  I poured in the chicken broth and some lemon juice.  Let it cook for 30 minutes in a 375 degree oven.
  • And that cornbread with yesterday's soup?... It's going to be cornbread dressing.
  • I added cranberries (had those) and celery ($3) and chicken broth from the fridge.  Here's the recipe.
  • I bought green beans ($1).
  • Dinner for 2 = $3.   Celery becomes a snack... just separate what you need for the recipe and eat the rest in the afternoon with late half empty jar of peanut butter lurking in your cabinet or the close to expiration cream cheese. 

Saturday: Meatball Subs
  • Remember those leftover meatballs?  I am using 4, so I still have 8.  Those are getting frozen, and I will see them in the future!
  • I am using up that tasty mozzarella that I bought.
  • I bought a loaf of Italian bread for $3.  (I'm only using half, so the other half is getting frozen as well.)
  • Dinner for two = $3.

Sunday: The Fridge is Empty ... treat yourself to dinner and head to the grocery.  Time to start planning again.

Total Spent on Dinner Groceries this week: $38*
Total Wasted on Groceries: $0! Whoo hoo!

Please note that almost all meat, vegetables, cheese and pasta were either local or organic.  If that's not important to you, you could probably cut my total in half.

Okay, so there you have it.  I know that I have things that you may not have and that as you use up items that you'll have to replace them.  I also know that this list doesn't include things like breakfast foods and milk, but this is definitely a start, and I was pretty excited.

Feel free to use these ideas, and please share how you make the most of your leftovers!!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Summer Reading

Good Morning Friends!  Hallelujah; it's August!  July was a tricky month.  Whoever said medical school was tough clearly drowned out the first month of their residency.  Scott worked in the ICU, and we were on different hours.  He worked some days and some nights, so when he was home, he was asleep.  August brings a new rotation though, a clinic, and with it normal hours.  I'm really excited!

During July though, I took to reading.  I don't really have an excuse for not being an avid reader before, but with a surplus of time and books lying around that I had yet to read, I picked one up... and I didn't stop. I just wanted to share some with you because they were so enjoyable.  So if you have a few spare moments, here are some books to keep you busy!


This one doesn't really need an explanation.  This series is so popular with youth and adults alike.  As a middle school teacher, my kids continually begged me to read the book series.  I was leery because I have never really been interested in kid's reading fads like Twilight or Harry Potter, but for some reason I gave in on this one, and I'm glad I did.  I read the first, The Hunger Games, in June, but I've been trying to ration out the remaining books because there are only three.


My mother-in-law let me borrow this book.  It was so cute!  I love books that are true and this one was just a fun read.  It chronicles Ree Drummond's love story with her cowboy.  The story also shares her humorous transition from city life to the life of a ranch wife.


I am just finishing this book, and it too is an easy read.  Obviously, I like food, and this story documents Kathleen Flinn's adventures in Paris.  Flinn loses her job at a powerful company, and she decides to follow her dreams to pursue a culinary degree from the Le Cordon Bleu.  During some of her recollections, you can almost picture yourself working in the classroom next to her.  It also provides a fun and realistic picture of Paris.


This is a book that my mom let me borrow.  It is a true feel good story.  The setting is New York City in the late 80s and early 90s.  This is a story about a successful business woman (Laura) that befriends a  11 year old boy (Maurice) that is panhandling for money.  Maurice has a family, but they are in and out of his life.  Laura invests in Maurice's life, and the two come to rely on each other.  This is also a true story.

This are my favorite summer reads.  What are some of the books that you have been reading?

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Chai Spiced Sugar Cookies

It's time again for a cookie update.  My latest batch is inspired by chai spices.  They were divine.  I found this recipe, and I immediately knew that I had to make them.


To get a picture of this cookie, think of a soft, chewy snickerdoodle that is laced with cardamom, ginger, allspice and black pepper.  They are sweet, but the spiciness gives a delightful contrast.  This recipe make about 3 dozen cookies, so there's plenty for you to eat, and you'll have many to share.

Chai Spiced Sugar Cookies
Adapted From: My Baking Addiction
Ingredients:
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour*
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cup white sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:
Preheat an oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  
In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  In a medium bowl, combine sugar and spices.  Remove 1/4 cup of mixture, and place in a small bowl to be used to coat the cookies.
In the bowl of a mixer, place the butter and the remaining sugar mixture.  Beat for three minutes or until light and fluffy.  
Beat in the egg and vanilla extract until they are fully combined.
Slowly blend in the dry ingredients.  Mix until they are just combined.
Use a tablespoon and form dough into a ball.  Roll the dough into the sugar-spice mixture and place on the prepared baking sheet.  Leave about 1 1/2 inches between each cookie.
Bake in a preheated oven for 8-10 minutes.  Let them stay on the cookie sheet for two minutes and then move them to a cooling rack.  

*NOTE: The original recipe calls for 2 3/4 cup of flour.  I read the reviews, and some said their cookie dough was crumbly.  I added only 2 1/4 cup of flour to my cookies, and I think they turned out well, but I'll let you decide how much you would like to add.  My dough was a little crumbly even when omitting 1/2 cup of flour, but it was still very manageable.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Farmer's Market Pizza

I've had this picture hanging around for a few weeks now.  On one of my trips to the Broad Ripple Farmer's Market, I hit the jackpot of fresh produce, particularly with the corn and squash blossoms.  Indiana is known for corn, but it really does taste so much better here.  I found myself eating the corn kernels without even cooking them.  They were so sweet and tender.



I decided that I wanted to make something to combine the squash blossoms and the corn, and I came up with a Squash Blossom pizza.  They pictures I took didn't turn out so great, but trust me, it tasted heavenly.  Here's how I made my pizza.

Ingredients:
Prepared pizza dough or crust (I got the pre-made dough from Trader Joe's)
olive oil
dried basil
dried oregano
dried parsley
red pepper flakes
1 ear of sweet corn
6 squash blossoms, stem, stamen and rough portion removed
prosciutto
Italian cheese blend

Directions:

Form your dough into a pizza, and preheat the oven to the direction's temperature.  Place your pizza dough onto a baking sheet if it is not already baked.  Pour a little (maybe a tablespoon or two) olive oil onto your dough.  Spread it out.  I used a pastry brush to evenly distribute the olive oil.  Then sprinkle the spices onto the crust of the pizza.  Use as much or as little as you like...everybody's taste are different.  Sprinkle a little bit of cheese, then add as much prosciutto as you like.  Sprinkle on about an ears worth of corn.  Top your pizza with the squash blossoms and lots of cheese.  Place in the oven and bake according to package directions.  I like to take my pizza off the baking sheet once the dough is stable so that the bottom can get crisp as well.  I finally like to turn on the broiler in the last few minutes so that the top of the cheese gets bubbly and brown.  If you do this, be sure to watch it carefully.

That's all!  It hit the spot and was not a typical pizza.... just my type of thing.  Scott and I gobbled it right up!

Here are some more pictures from the Broad Ripple Farmer's Market.  Now you can see why I keep talking about it!








Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

It is once again time for a cookie update!  For the most recent over night shift I wanted to make a cookie that I hadn't made before.  I found a recipe similar to the one I made in my Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook.  It called for almond flour, which can be pricey, so I found a different version.  

This version can be found at The Busty Baker.  To imagine this cookie, imagine a chocolate snickerdoodle with a cayenne kick.  These were really tasty.  I think I made mine a bit smaller than the original recipe, so they were a little more firm than I was expecting, but they still weren't crunchy...which I don't like.  They had a crunchy edge and a soft chewy center.  They cracked open beautifully, and they had a really pretty shimmer from being rolled in the sugar.  These are an easy cookie to make, and it's something different that most people haven't had before.

The one trick is to really watch the baking time.  Since they are a dark dough, you can't see when the cookie is browning, so just watch to see when the cookie cracks.  Also look to see that the center is set. You don't want a super glossy looking middle.  It should look done, but not totally solidified either.
Here's the recipe:

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies
Makes a little over 3 dozen

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, divided
2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cup sugar, divided
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.  In a medium bowl mix flour, cocoa powder, cream of tartar, salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper.

In a separate bowl, mix the butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar until it is fluffy and pale, about 3 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, until well mixed.  Scrape down the sides as needed.  Add vanilla, then mix in flour mixture until combined.  

In a small bowl, mix 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper and 1 teaspoon of sugar.  Form heaping tablespoons of dough, roll into balls, and roll in the cinnamon sugar mixture.  Place on prepared baking sheet about 3 inches apart.  Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, for 10 minutes.  Let cookies cool before removing them to a cooling rack.  

I hope you like them!  They are really tasty a few days later dunked in milk. :)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Hot Chocolate for a Summer Night

I know what you're thinking...who in the world drinks hot chocolate on a 100 degree day?  Well, I have a reason, and I'm certainly not regretting the decision.  My poor little fella came home last night, and he was sooo tired, but he still had work to do.  We quickly ate dinner around 9:30, and around 10:00 he had to start preparing for today.  I really was afraid he was going to fall asleep on his computer, and I didn't want him to drink yet another cup of coffee, so I offered him some hot chocolate.

He agreed, and I got to work at finding a recipe.  I liked the idea of the one I found at All Recipes.  (I really like All Recipes because it customizes the recipe.  For example, this made 4 servings, but I only needed 2, so it instantly converted it for me.  Pretty great!)  All hot chocolates are pretty much the same, but this one had heavy whipping cream and a pinch of salt.  I was sold.

As I made the hot cocoa, I kept sneaking samples, and I got more and more excited about this warm beverage as the time arrived for it to be ready.  Finally, it was done, and I ladled it out into our two mugs.  It tasted wonderfully sweet and thick, but it also had and end note of saltiness which is just wonderful.  Here's the recipe so you can make your own!


Creamy Hot Chocolate
Source: All Recipes

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons white sugar
1/2 pinch of salt
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons of boiling water
1 3/4 cup of milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
heavy cream or half and half

Directions:
In a saucepan, blend cocoa, sugar and salt.  Turn stove top to medium heat and add the boiling water.  (I just put the water in a mug and stuck that in the microwave for 45 seconds.)  Let this come to a simmer for about two minutes.  Whisk to make sure that it doesn't scorch.  Add the milk and heat until it's very hot, but don't boil.  Remove from the heat and add the vanilla.  Pour the heavy cream into the bottom of each mug until it just covers the bottom.  Then, ladle the hot chocolate into the mugs.  Drink away; it's delish.

And it did just the trick for my guy.  It allowed him to muster his energy to his work done before he fell asleep.  

Monday, July 16, 2012

Spaghetti

Hi there!  Sorry for the absence; our internet has been down, but I am happy to report that it is finally back!  It made for a boring week, but I had a lot of time to read.  I got through "The Pioneer Woman" in two days, and I have been meticulously combing through her cookbook with the rest of my time.  I'm bound and determined to make those cinnamon rolls that she keeps talking about.

Saturday, I went to the farmer's market, and I spotted a big box of Roma tomatoes, and I knew that I had to have them.  The trouble was that another lady wanted them too, and she spotted them first.  Luckily her mom talked her out of them; I really did have better plans for them anyways.  So I grabbed them, a spaghetti squash, and a cabbage.

The second I got home, I got to work.  Here's how I made my spaghetti sauce:



Spaghetti Sauce
Source: Me :)

Ingredients:
20 or so Roma tomatoes
1/2 to 3/4 cup red wine
2-3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes*
3/4 teaspoon dried basil - you can use fresh too*
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano*
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Rinse your newly purchased tomatoes and cut an X into the end opposite the stem.  As you are doing this, get a large pot of water boiling.  Drop the tomatoes in, and let them boil for a minute.  While they are boiling, grab a large bowl, fill it with ice and water, and set it close to the tomatoes.  When your timer sounds, put the hot tomatoes into the ice bath.  This will make the skin super easy to peel off.  

Continue to boil the tomatoes in shifts until all of your tomatoes have been boiled for the minutes.  Drain out the water and grab a trash can.  Peel the skins off of the tomatoes... warning this is about to get messy!  Then take a sharp knife and cut off the stems.  Cut the tomatoes vertically and discard the squishy insides, seeds and any core that remains.  And that's the tricky part!  It's really not tricky, just kind of time consuming and you'll be up to your elbows in tomato juice, but it's good for your skin...I think.

In the same pot that you boiled the tomatoes in, add the olive oil and onions.  Let them cook until they begin to soften, about five minutes.  Add the garlic, and cook for 2 minutes longer.  Then take the onions, garlic and tomatoes, and put them in a blender.  I hate chunky tomato sauce, so I blend it to a pulp, but it you enjoy your sauce with a little more texture, pulse it until you have the consistency that you enjoy.

Pour the newly formed sauce back into the pot, add the red wine, sugar and all the seasoning.  Let it simmer for a long time... like two hours.  Your sauce may look thin at first, but it will thicken beautifully; the longer it simmers, the thicker your sauce will be and the sweeter and more full flavored it will become.

You can easily add meatballs or brown some ground beef to make a meat sauce.  I know this takes quite a bit of time, but it really just tastes better than canned tomato sauce.  It's easy work, and your taste buds will thank you!!

*Feel free to change the amount or even the spices themselves. If you don't even like a hint of spice, leave out the red pepper flakes.  Do whatever sounds good to you!*

Happy Monday!



Saturday, July 7, 2012

Cookies to Say Thank You!

Happy Saturday!  Yesterday was Scott's first on-call night at the hospital.  All week he has been telling me how wonderful the nurses are, and so I made them some cookies.  A few years ago, one of my mom's gave me these cookies for Christmas, and I begged her for the recipe.  It took two years, but I finally got it!  This is a hybrid (very technical) chocolate chip - oatmeal combo cookie.  The trick that makes it extra special is to use chocolate chunks...not chips and toffee bits.  These make the cookie extra chewy, melty, delicious.... you get the point.  And since nurses are extra-special people, they needed an extra-special cookie. 


The nurses enjoyed the cookies, so I may be doing a weekly cookie installment.  But for now, here is how you make these.

Tricia's Chocolate Chip Cookies
Source: My Wonderful Student's Mother :)

Ingredients
2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups oats
2 cups flour

Directions
Preheat your oven at 350 degrees.  Cream butter and sugars.  Add eggs, mix then add next four ingredients and mix.  Add blended oats and flour gradually.  

Then mix in any type of chips you want like toffee bits, chocolate chips, chocolate chunks, etc.  I used chocolate chunks (whole bag) and half of a bag of toffee bits... delish.

Bake for 9-11 minutes depending on the size of the cookie.  I used a tablespoon and baked them for about 9 1/2 minutes.

Happy Weekend!






Friday, July 6, 2012

Why Have I Waited So Long?

Over the past few months, I have pinned way more things that I ability to make, do or create, so I have made it a goal to at least tackle my dinner board.  Before I go to any other source, I've tried to start filtering through those ideas so that I can keep some and get rid of other recipes.  Tonight, I made chicken, kale and the creamy curried beans that I am writing about.

I can't believe I waited so long to make these.  They are so insanely good!  Even though I had chicken, I could have just eaten a bowl of these with some corn bread...it's like a new southern dish.  The sauce that the beans are in is truly delicious.  It has garlic, curry, ginger, garam masala and some cayenne pepper to give it some heat... and it has heavy whipping cream to make it extra rich.  I could go on and on, but I really think that you should just make them yourself.

Creamy Curried Beans
Source (Recipe & Photo) Let's Dish

Ingredients
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup onion
2 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
3/4 teaspoon garam masala
dash or so of cayenne pepper
2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
chopped cilantro

Directions
Melt butter and saute onions for about 5 minutes.  Add garlic, and saute another 2 minutes.  Add all spices, and let them simmer for 2 minutes.  Add cream, lemon juice and beans.  Simmer until the sauce thickens.  Add salt and pepper to taste, and garnish with cilantro.  

Easy Peasy!  I hope you enjoy!





Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Spider-Man & Patio Gardening


Happy Fourth of July!   Scott gets two (full) days off this month, and today happened to be one of those days.  I was super excited that he got one so early in the month, but the poor fellow has a long time ahead now. Today, we went to see The Amazing Spider-Man.  It was pretty great, and it was equally great to have a movie theater close by.  The movie was nice for me because I didn't know the history of Spider Man, and this movie helped to sort through some of those ideas.  Plus, Emma Stone is a wonderful actress.  She's so versatile, and she wasn't just an accessary to Spider Man.  (I can't remember the guy's name, but he did a great job too.)  I liked this one much better than the Toby McGuire ones.

After our movie, we had a wonderful dinner with some new friends and their parents.  I can't tell you how much of a blessing it is to already have someone to call if I need something.  We had fried chicken, corn, this delicious cole slaw with cranberries, and I brought a lemon - lime tart.  (You can find the recipe here.)  We had a great time!  It was really nice to talk about new things and to get caught up on the old as well.  (They're from our hometown too!)  We had a really nice day together.

On to a separate note, Scott has to work early tomorrow, so he went to bed (a few hours ago.)  And so here I am... blogging in the dark. :)  I will say, our house is way cleaner than it's ever been, and for that, I am quite proud.  I have recently made myself familiar with the home improvement stores and my local Target.  You can see some of my handy work below.

 

I hung some boxes from our balcony too.  I don't know if they're super secure so I'm just waiting for them to plummet onto someone's car below.  I'll keep you posted about how that turns out. :)  But for now, friends, I need some ideas.  What are some of your favorite things to do (that are quiet!!)?  I need book suggestions or hobbies or else I'm going to be going to bed at eight too!

I'd love to hear your ideas!  Please share, and have a wonderful rest of your holiday!


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A New Town to Call Home

Hi Friends... I know it's been a long time.  So much has happened, so let me get you caught up.  This spring, my husband applied for residency programs and this year he matched.  We are living in Indianapolis for his transitional year.  Next year, we'll be moving again, but that's another story for another day.  Two weeks ago, we packed up all of our earthly belongings and left our beloved Louisville to come to a new city.  



I took it all in stride; it wasn't fun leaving my friends and a job that I really enjoyed to come here to who knows what.  For the past week, I have been unpacking and getting job applications to random stores.  It's odd to think that I won't be teaching this fall, but I'm kind of excited about working a much less stressful job for at least a year.

But this year, I wanted to chronicle our adventures and the culinary delights that I make along the way. Some of you are reading this to keep up with me so I'll tell you the stories behind the recipes.  Hopefully, if you ever come to Indianapolis, you'll have something to do by reading along.  I'm excited to find this city's little secrets and to share them with you.  

So here is my first adventure: The Broad Ripple Farmer's Market.  Scott and I drove to Broad Ripple to explore the new market.  I was pleasantly surprised.  There was an ice cream stand called Lick that looked like it had the funky flavors of Jeni's in Columbus.  There was a great variety of fruits and vegetables, and there were pastries.  We tried a orange and hazelnut croissant and a danish with lemon curd and raspberries.  I wanted to really love them, but the quality just wasn't there.  I found myself comparing them to perfection of Wiltshire Pantry and it just wasn't happening... kind of a bummer.  But there were raspberries, and lots of them, and I couldn't resist.  

This brings me to my first baking endeavor in Indy, Raspberry Breakfast Bars, via Smitten Kitchen.  I used black raspberries that we bought at the market, and this morning Scott had some serious goodness on his (50 minute) trek to work.

Here's how you can make your own:



Raspberry Breakfast Bars
Source: Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:
For the Crust and Crumb Topping
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/4 cup rolled oats
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks) cut into one inch pieces

For the Raspberry Filling
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons flour
1 lb fresh raspberries
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons melted butter, cooled

Directions:
To Make the Crust and Crumb:

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease the bottom and sides of a pan, then line it with parchment paper.  Let the paper hang over the sides. This will make it easier for the bars to be lifted from the pan.  Butter the parchment.

Combine all of the crumb ingredients except the butter.  Then add the butter to the ingredients.  Blend with a pastry mixer until small crumbs form.

Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the crumb mixture, and press the rest into the bottom of the prepared pan.  The crust should touch the sides of the pan.  Bake until the crust is golden brown - 12 - 15 minutes.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool.  Keep the oven on until cool.

Meanwhile, make the raspberry filling.  Combine the ingredients and gently fold in the raspberries so they don't become mush.  

Spread the raspberry filling on top of the cooled crust, then sprinkle the remaining crumb topping on top.  Bake for 35 - 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the edges are slightly bubbly.

Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.  Remove from pan and slice into bars.  The slices can be stored in an air tight container in the fridge for two days.

I'm working on a picture... I haven't figured out this new computer yet. :)