Friday, February 27, 2009

Pani Keke Samoa or Samoan pancakes

Growing up my mum would make these once in a blue moon for dessert. I don't know how or when she got the recipe but when I was old enough to be able to make them myself I would from time to time. They really are very simple. They are wonderful if served warm, sprinkled with a little powdered or white sugar and a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream. Then again when do I not suggest serving my treats warm with vanilla ice cream? C’mon people you have to get your dairy!

Makes about 30 pancakes

Ingredients:

2 very ripe bananas
3 ½ Cups Flour
1 ¼ Cups Sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ Cups Water

Abt. 3 ½ Cups Vegetable oil for frying.

Mash the two bananas. I just use a fork to do this.

Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Combine dry ingredients with the banana mush and fold the mixture (don’t mix or use a mixer). Add the water to make the folding easier until there are no more ingredients that are dry.

Heat oil on the stove in a small sauce pan (2 qt. pot) that can fit six to eight egg-sized pancakes and is deep enough to cover the pancakes in oil. (Use medium heating **do not burn the oil**)

Add the mixture with a greased spoon when the oil is hot. Cook six to eight egg-sized pancakes at a time. Remove from oil when dark brown. Place on a paper towel and eat when you can stand the heat. (Careful Very Hot!!)


Hint: When the oil is ready, grease the spoon (dip your spoon in the hot grease so the mixture doesn’t stick as you are dropping it in the oil) and drop a small test pancake, in the mixture. If the pancake pops up to the top of the oil immediately the oil is hot enough and ready. However, if the pancake turns brown to fast, your oil is probably too hot.

Enjoy!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Touched!

I am having a hard time putting my feelings into words this morning. In fact, if I could manage to stop crying long enough to process my feelings I may just be able to get this post done. This week a friend of mine (Kellie) had a baby boy (Luke Nicholas). I am so happy for her and her husband Nick and I have thoroughly enjoyed looking at pictures on both her blog and the blog of her sister Jill.

Yesterday while I was looking at the pictures of Kellie in the hospital waiting to have the baby, I noticed a photo that really touched me. In fact it touched me so much that thoughts of this picture have occupied my mind since I saw it. The picture is of Kellie's sister Jill rubbing Kellie's feet while she was lying on the hospital bed waiting to deliver her son. Before you think I'm crazy for being so touched by this, let me explain.

This photo of Jill touched me on a few different levels. First of all I thought about what a kind and unselfish act of service that was for her to perform for her sister. I can only try to imagine how excited and anxious Kellie must have been feeling those hours prior to giving birth to her little boy. To be able to share that with a sister and to have that sister perform such s simple but significant act of service during such a special and sacred time really touched me. It reminded me so much of Christ and how he washed the feet of his disciples. Sometimes it is the smallest acts of service we perform for family members and friends that can make the biggest difference in their lives.

Women deliver babies everyday. Family members get excited for the babies to arrive, they get excited to visit the babies in the hospital and look forward to watching the baby grow. But I wonder -how often does the mother who is delivering the child have someone like Jill to rub her feet? It is so much more than just a physical act. It is a sign of love and humility. I am the only girl in my family of 5. I have four younger brothers who I love dearly. Though I will probably never get to experience this act for myself, I hope that the opportunity presents itself for me to do this for someone I love someday.

I hope that I am always sensitive to the needs of my family members and friends and can be of service to them just as Jill was to her sister Kellie.


Jill let me steal this picture from her blog. Thanks Jill!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Homemade Oreos


I love love love homemade Oreos. Wait... I love any and all Oreos. What can I say?

Here is a recipe for homemade Oreos that I love. They are so easy to make and are always a crowd pleaser. They are definitely my quick go-to cookie recipe when I need to whip something up pronto.

I love how you can play with the frosting colors when making these. In the past for the 4th of July I have made Oreos with red, white and blue frosting, for Valentines Day I have used pink frosting, for Christmas I have used red and green frosting. Anyway you get the idea. Let your imagination run wild!

Homemade Oreos


1 Box of Betty Crocker devils food cake mix (I have used other chocolate varieties and this is just the best)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup of vegetable oil

1- Simply mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. (Yep its that easy)

2- Take spoonfuls of the mixture and roll into small balls. The size of the ball depends on the size of the cookie. I just eyeball it. If I had to guess I'd say just smaller than a golf ball size. You want to make sure that all of your cookie balls are about the same size so that they match up when you frost them and put them together.

3- Place cookie balls on an ungreased cookie sheet and cook at 350 degrees for exactly 8 minutes. The cookies will be very soft and easily breakable until they have cooled completely.

4- Once the cookies have cooled completely, simply take two of the cookies, place the desired about of frosting (see below) on one of the cookies and then put the two together.

Cream Cheese Frosting

4 oz cream cheese
1 Tbsp butter melted
1 tsp vanilla
2 Cups powdered sugar

Soften the cream cheese (I usually just do this in the microwave). Add the melted butter, vanilla and the powdered sugar and using a hand beater mix until the desired consistency is reached.

Personally I love these even more the next day. I like to make them and then store them in an air tight container. These will stay good for up to 4 days if kept in an air tight container. That's if you can resist eating them all the first day you make them!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Mom/Mum Song

videoI sure hope this works. I haven't ever posted a video before but I thought all Moms/Mums would appreciate this clip. My sister in law Elizabeth sent it to me today.

Enjoy!

p.s Melinda- I can so see you performing this!

Oatmeal Carmelitas

On Saturday night we had our friends Jake and Amber over for dinner and a game of 'Battle of the Sexes'. We ate pizza for dinner and then for dessert I made Oatmeal Carmelitas. I had had these once before and had forgotten about them until I stumbled across the recipe the other day. They are so yummy. I don't like to cool mine as the recipe suggests but prefer to serve them warm with vanilla ice cream and this time I even made some homemade caramel sauce and drizzled it over the top. Heavenly!

All that being said while I was making these I let my gluttony get the best of me. The recipe makes enough for a 9X13 pan and since there was only going to be the four of us eating it I halved the recipe and made mine in an 8X8 pan. I didn't however halve the amount of caramel in step 3 thinking that having double the caramel would be sooo good. While they were still good, the caramel in the middle sort of erupted and so the bars ended up being more of a gooey caramel/chocolate mess. Tasted great but wasn't pretty. So the pics below are not mine! Next time I'll be good and stick to the recipe!


Oatmeal Carmelitas
from Pillsbury


2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups margarine or butter, softened (I used butter)

1 (12.5-oz.) jar (1 cup) caramel ice cream topping
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I used Milk chocolate chips)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I omitted nuts this time)

Heat oven to 350°F.
Grease 13x9-inch pan.

1-Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup; level off. In large bowl, combine all crust ingredients; mix at low speed until crumbly. Reserve half of crumb mixture (about 3 cups) for topping. Press remaining crumb mixture in bottom of greased pan.
Bake for 10 minutes or until light brown.

2-Meanwhile, in small bowl, combine caramel topping and 3 tablespoons flour; blend well.

3-Remove partially baked crust from oven; sprinkle with chocolate chips and nuts.
Drizzle evenly with caramel mixture; sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture.

4-Return to oven; bake an additional 18 to 22 minutes or until golden brown. The original recipe calls to cool these for 1 hour or until completely cooled but I love mine warm served with vanilla ice cream.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Foil Packet Italian Chicken - Yummy!

I already had my fortnightly menu planned out for the next two weeks, but while I was perusing food blogs yesterday I came across this recipe for Foil Packet Italian Chicken on http://amberskitchen.blogspot.com/ and thought I'd give it a go. As I would have said when I was a kid this was easy peasy Japaneasy! It took me no time to put together and the result was a delicious moist chicken breast with lots of flavor and the tender potatoes were divine too.

Typically I find that cooking potatoes during the week unless we have them mashed (not my favorite at all!) just takes too long. That being said, we rarely and I mean RARELY have potatoes during the week. I was excited to be able to have a way to serve potatoes with a weeknight meal. I will definitely be adding this to my rotation of easy and tasty dinner recipes. I served this with a side of green beans and rice pilaf.

Foil Packet Italian Chicken
(Source: Amber's Delectable Delights)


Ingredients
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
3 red potatoes
1/4 cup marinara sauce
1/4 cup Italian cheese blend (or just mozzarella)- I used mozzarella and then a sprinkling of fresh grated parmesan.

Directions
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Lay 2 pieces of aluminum foil on a flat surface and spray the middle of each with non-stick cooking stray. Wash and scrub potatoes and slice into very thin slices. Arrange the potatoes onto the middle of the foil about the size of your piece of chicken and sprinkle them with salt and black pepper to taste.
- Mix all of the seasonings into small bowl and sprinkle on both sides of the chicken pieces and place a chicken breast on top of each pile of potatoes. Top each chicken breast with 1/8 cup of marinara sauce and 1/8 cup of cheese. See note.
- Raise up the long sides of foil and fold down twice, do the same thing to the sides of the foil creating an air tight seal. Transfer packets to a baking sheet.
- Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until chicken is 170 degrees. I cooked mine for 40 minutes just to be safe because I'm a little paranoid about uncooked chicken. I also don't have a food thermometer. Remove chicken from oven and let set a few minutes before poking a hole in the foil to release the steam before opening.

***Note***One thing I would do differently next time is on side of the chicken sprinkled with the cheese, I would place a few of the thinly sliced potatoes on top of the cheese. The reason for this being that I found that even though I sprayed the foil, the cheese stuck to it and I felt like I lost some of the cheese. I think putting the potato on top of the cheese would combat this as the potatoes wont stick to the foil. Just a thought.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Parmesan Chicken and Rice

I found this recipe last week on http://amberskitchen.blogspot.com>

After a long day at work I am all about fast and tasty dishes that don't use all of my pots and pans. This one was a one skillet wonder! It was especially yummy and both my husband and my 18 month old loved it (a huge plus). I would definitely make this again. One thing I may add next time is some sweet white corn just to change it up a little.

Parmesan Chicken and Rice
(Source: CookingLight.com)

Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 (8-ounce) package presliced mushrooms- I omitted these since we don't like mushrooms
3/4 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup dry white wine- ***See note***
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup uncooked instant rice- ***see note***
1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley- I omitted this as I didn't have any

Preparation
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, thyme, and mushrooms; sauté 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Add chicken; sauté 4 minutes or until the chicken is lightly browned. Add wine, salt, and pepper; cook 3 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates. Stir in rice and broth. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Stir in cheese and parsley.

Yield 4 servings (serving size: about 1 cup)

Nutritional Information
CALORIES 395(18% from fat); FAT 8g (sat 2.8g,mono 3.7g,poly 0.8g); PROTEIN 29.9g; CHOLESTEROL 57mg; CALCIUM 171mg; SODIUM 656mg; FIBER 2g; IRON 4.1mg; CARBOHYDRATE 44.4g

***Note*** When I made this last night I omitted the white wine because we didn't have any. I had read in a cookbook somewhere that you can substitute chicken broth for white wine so that is what I did.

***Note*** I also didn't have any instant rice so I just cooked my rice in my rice cooker and then added it to the dish when the recipe said to

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Valentines for Nana Bentley

Nana Bentley loves my homemade Oreo cookies so on Sunday Gabe "helped" me make her some Valentine Oreos. These were fun and easy to make. We gave them to her along with a hand made card that I made a couple of weeks ago with my friend Amber. This is the first card I have ever made and I was quite proud of it.





Homemade Chicken Pot Pie

When I was browsing cook books and food blogs to make up my two week menu on Saturday morning I came across this recipe for homemade Chicken Pot Pie. I'd never tasted chicken pot pie but it looked yummy and I thought Brad would enjoy it. I also thought it looked like a fun challenge. I always try and make something semi-fancy or at least something that requires a little more work on Saturday's, Sundays and Mondays when I am off work and have the time and energy to dirty up my kitchen. This was surprisingly easy to make. Anytime a recipe involves dough I get a little worried but this was pretty easy. I think I'll definitely make this again. I waan't too sure what to serve this with so I just made a basic chicken gravy to drizzle over the top.

Chicken Pot Pie
Found on http://www.goodeatsblog.com
adapted from The Pastry Queen, by Rebecca Rather

Filling
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large russet potato, peeled and diced
1 medium-size yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, diced
8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
8 ounces fresh green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
8 ounce package frozen peas
8 oz frozen carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 purchased cooked rotisserie chicken or 1 whole stewed chicken, cooled
***Note*** For the veggies in this recipe I just adapted it to what my family likes. I used potatoes, carrots, corn and beans.

Cream Sauce
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 1/2-3 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
Dash of hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco
Salt and freshly ground white pepper (I used black pepper)

Pie Crust
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces
3 cups all purpose flour
10 ounces chilled cream cheese, cut into large pieces
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper (I used black pepper)
1 large egg

To make the filling:

Melt the butter in a large sauté pan set over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, celery, and potatoes and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, bell pepper, and mushrooms and sauté about 15 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the crushed red pepper and add salt and pepper to taste.

While the vegetables are sautéing, skin the chicken, pull the meat off the bones and shred the meat or cut into bite-size pieces. Stir the peas and chicken into the vegetable mixture. Set the filling aside.

To make the cream sauce:
Melt the butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the chicken stock and cook the sauce over medium heat until it thickens to the consistency of a cream soup. Add the cream, hot pepper sauce, and salt and white pepper to taste. Pour the cream sauce over the chicken filling and stir to combine. Fill individual 1/4-cup capacity oven-safe bowls three-quarters of the way to the top with the creamed chicken filling.

To make the crust:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse the butter and flour until crumbly. Add the cream cheese, salt, and white pepper. Continue pulsing just until the dough forms a ball. I had to pulse quite a bit before the dough started to form. Don't panic if it takes a little bit.

Set the dough on a flat surface dusted with flour. Use a floured rolling pin to roll the dough out to 1/4-inch thickness. Measure the diameter of the pot pie bowls and cut out dough rounds that are 1 1/2 inches larger in diameter. Whisk the egg in a small bowl. Lay the dough rounds on top of the pot pies, making sure the dough hangs evenly over each bowl. Brush the dough lightly with the beaten egg. Bake the pies for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Serve immediately.

Alternatively, you can bake this in two 9" dishes or a 13x9" inch dish, rolling out the dough to just slightly larger than the dish and topping it with the pastry, and tucking in the sides of the pastry. I don't have a pie dish so I used my 8X8 glassware dish. I found that I still had some left over mixture and dough so I used a 9 inch cake pan and made a second half-pie as I called it and I gave it to my sister in law. I only had enough dough for a top crust so just greased the pan and put the filling in and then covered it with a top crust. If I were to make this again, I'd just use a 13x9" dish I think.






Tip: You can double wrap the pot pies in plastic wrap and freeze them. When you're ready to eat them, bake them (frozen) at 350F for about 30 minutes. They will keep in the freezer for 2-3 weeks.

Apple Crisp Cake with Caramel Sauce

This past Sunday we had a baptism to attend and I was asked to bring a dessert. I love apple crisp, cake and caramel sauce so when I found this recipe for Apple Crisp Cake with Caramel Sauce it was a no brainer.

Apple Crisp Cake w/ Caramel Sauce
Topping
1/2 C All-Purpose Flour
1/2 C Rolled Oats
1/4 C Packed Brown Sugar
1/2 C Butter
Cake
1 package yellow Cake Mix- I used white
1 C Water
1/2 C Butter -- Softened
1 Tsp Cinnamon
3 Eggs
2 C Thinly Sliced Peeled Apples
Sauce
I used my favorite caramel sauce recipe- see previous post
Heat oven to 350.
Generously grease and flour 13 x 9 inch pan. Lightly spoon flour into
a measuring cup; level off. In small bowl, combine flour oats and
brown sugar; mix well. With fork, cut in 1/2 cup butter until mix
resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside.
In large bowl, combine all cake ingredients except apples; beat at
low speed until moistened. Beat 2 mins at high. Pour batter into pan.
Arrange apple slices over top of batter. Sprinkle with topping.

Bake at 350 for 38-43 mins. Or until deep golden brown (See note). Cool 5
minutes before serving.


***NOTE*** I had never seen or made this cake before so didn't know really what to expect. When the cake had about 15 minutes left to bake I checked it and noticed that it appeared to be erupting in spots. I've never had a cake do that to me before so wasn't sure what to think. Once the timer went off and a toothpick came out clean I examined it a little closer and came to the conclusion that it was probably supposed to look like that. Just a side note incase you try to make it and panic when it does the same thing.

I really did like this cake. It was a tad drier than I hoped it would be but other than that the flavor was spot on. You have to keep in mind that for me to love a cake it has to be ultra moist otherwise I am always a little disappointed. I think I'll make this again. Given that I had to make it to take somewhere it was a little difficult to serve it warm, but I think if I were to make it again I'd serve it warm with a dollop of vanilla ice cream. Mmmm I could go for some right now.

Caramel Sauce

I don't know that I would necessarily describe myself as a chocolate or a caramel person. It seems that for me there is a time for both. But every now and then I just get a hankering for some good ol caramel flavor. This weekend was one of those hankering moments. Brad had told me that for our Valentines Day dessert he wanted me to make Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Squares. To try and make it a little more special I thought I'd try a recipe for caramel sauce I found at http://www.goodeatsblog.com/search/label/caramel to drizzle on top of the cake and then serve it warm with vanilla ice cream. I liked this recipe but again did not love it. So that being said, I have posted my favorite caramel sauce recipe below this one and don't know that I will ever venture from it again. If it ain’t broke, don't fix it right?

Caramel Sauce
from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody (original recipe from Baking: From My Home To Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, Houghton Mifflin 2006)


2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1-1/2 tbsp light corn syrup
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
Put the sugar, water and corn syrup in a medium heavy bottomed saucepan, stir just to combine the ingredients and then put the pan over medium-high heat. Heat, without stirring , until the caramel turns deep amber., 5-10 minutes. Lower the heat a bit and, standing back from the saucepan add the cream and butter. When the spatters are less vehement, stir to calm down the caramel and dissolve any lumps.

The reason why I didn't LOVE this one as much as I do the one below was because it just wasn't as creamy as I like my caramel. I think in part it is because of the method used to cook it. I found that this sauce had a slightly burnt caramel flavor. Granted I could have slightly scolded it too. My friend however didn't think it tasted burnt when I had her try it. I think if I did decide to try this one again what I would do differently is not let the caramel turn quite so amber before adding the cream and butter to see if that does the trick.

Nats FAVORITE- no fail- Caramel Sauce
Pillsbury.com

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 cup whipping cream

In medium saucepan, combine all sauce ingredients; mix well. Bring to a boil. Boil over medium heat 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; cool to room temperature.

Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce

Last week I stumbled accross a new food blog that has lots of yummy recipes. The blog is http://www.goodeatsblog.com/. A while back I had to organize for a lunch to be catered at work and decided to use a lady in my neighborhood who has a small catering business out of her home. She made Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce and I loved it so much that I had been hunting for a recipe for it ever since. When I came across this one, I was so excited to make it for Valentines Day. It was good but not great and I wanted great. The Satay chicken was flavorful and what I had wanted but I wasn't too impressed with the peanut sauce. It was a little too peanut butter tasting for my liking. I was looking for a more authentic peanut flavor. So the hunt continues.

Chicken Satay
from Allrecipes.com



2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup lemon or lime juice
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (I used Sambal Oelek Chili Paste)
6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cubed

In a mixing bowl, combine peanut butter, soy sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, curry powder, garlic and hot pepper sauce. Place the chicken breasts in the marinade and refrigerate. Let the chicken marinate at least 2 hours, overnight is best.

Preheat a grill to high heat. (I used my George Foreman grill.)

Weave the chicken onto skewers, then grill for 5 minutes per side. (With the George Foreman grill, I find it takes only about 3-5 minutes total, depending on how big your pieces of chicken are.) I actually didn't skewer mine but just cut the chicken into small tender size pieces.

Yield: 12 Servings.

Peanut Sauce
from Tyler Florence

1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 green onion, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, minced
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon red chili paste, such as Sambal Oelek (omit this if you don't tolerate spicy foods well)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1-1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1-1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons hot water

In a small saucepan, heat the peanut oil over medium-low flame. Add the green onions, ginger, garlic, and chili paste. Cook and stir for a minute until soft and fragrant. Mix in the brown sugar, peanut butter, vinegar, soy sauce, and hot water. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and the peanut butter has smoothed out.

Valentines Day- It all started on Thursday

I got totally spoiled this past weekend. It all started on Thursday. It had been a crappy week to say the least, but when I got home from the gym on Thursday night Brad and Gabe had been to the florist and bought me a bunch of red tulips. Tulips are my most favorite flower! That definitely put a smile on my face.

On Saturday when I got home from the gym there were more tulips on the kitchen table with a gorgeous card from Brad and a painting from Gabe. Gabe just loves to finger paint and I just love it when he and Daddy get together to paint for me. Gabe was so proud to show me his picture and his little face just melted me.

A little later on Saturday Brad gave me a special gift he had spent a bunch of time making. It was the best gift of all. He had put together a pictures to music DVD of our little family with some of my favorite songs that was 30 minutes long. Needless to say I was a mess while I watched it. So many fun and special memories flooded back whilst watching this special DVD. One thing that was particularly special about the DVD was the second song. Ever since we picked Gabe up I have sung two songs to him consistently. We have dubbed them our songs and Gabe loves them. One is "You are my Sunshine" and the other is "My Girl"- which of course is changed to say "My Boy or My Gabe". The second song on the DVD was the song "You are my Sunshine". It couldn't have been more perfect. Whenever I sing it to Gabe he smiles and sways and then claps when I'm done. Then Brad surprised me and told me that once we had Gabe down for the night his brother Blaine was going to come over and listen for Gabe while we went to a movie. We hadn't been to a movie or on a date in I don't know how long and so I was SO excited.

For lunch on Saturday we went to a local place and enjoyed some good Greek food. Rather than go out and fight the crowds this year I wanted to make us a special Valentines Dinner. We had Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce over rice and then for dessert one of our favorite cakes/slices Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Squares with homemade Caramel Sauce and vanilla ice cream (recipes to follow). It was delicious. It is funny to me how my love of cooking has translated into me never wanting to go out to eat anymore. The only time I really feel like going out to eat is if I am craving a good piece of fish, otherwise I enjoy cooking and eating in more these days.

Once Gabe was in bed we headed off to the movies. Funnily enough we didn't even know what movies were out. When you have husband in school with mounds of homework, work full time, and a baby what's out at the movie theatre suddenly doesn't seem so important. My brother Josh had been to see a movie called "Taken" the night before and strongly recommended it so we went with that. We were so glad that we did. It was an AWESOME movie and everyone who loves a good action flick should definitely see it. I would definitely call it a "must see".

I thoroughly enjoyed Valentines Day this year and the weekend with my two favorite boys and I am so thankful to have such a wonderful husband. I love you Brad! Thank you for the perfect ending to a rough week.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Yummy Gluten Free Strawberry Shortcakes

Last night as part of our Young Women’s activity we had a nice dinner and enjoyed some dessert together. I was responsible for making the dessert. One of my young women has issues with gluten and so is on a gluten free diet. I found this recipe for Gluten Free Strawberry Shortcakes a while back. We went to this same girl’s house for dinner once and I made this recipe then to take for dessert. She loved it so much, that I thought I'd make it for her again. The rest of the girls and leaders enjoyed these too. If you have a friend or a loved one who also has issues with gluten I guarantee that they will love this sweet treat!

Gluten Free Strawberry Shortcakes
www.recipezaar.com

Ingredients
1/2 cup butter
1 cup icing sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup cornstarch
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

Directions

1-Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 12-muffin pan.
2-In a large bowl cream butter and sugar, using electric mixer.
3-Add the eggs and vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy.
4-In a small bowl mix the cornstarch and baking powder together and add slowly to the creamed mixture. (If added too quickly, it will fly about the kitchen.).
5-Mix until well blended.
6-Fill the greased muffin tins half full.
7-Bake for 15 minutes. (Test with a toothpick, after 15 minutes, even if the top looks shiny).
8-Remove from the pan while still warm. (They will look like little cupcakes.But trust me they will taste just like little shortcakes).

9-Serve topped with strawberries, and whipped cream.


Sorry again for the poor photo quality. Lighting was bad and I used my hubby's camera on his phone to take them.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Taco Stuffed Shells

Here is another great recipe from Mmm Cafe. I made these for dinner on Sunday night. Brad really enjoyed it. To be completely honest, I don't know that I will make these again. This is totally a personal issue. Growing up I think we had "Tacos" one to many times and so now anything with taco flavor or seasoning just doesn't sound or taste overly great to me. I am not a big fan of Mexican food either. That being said, I can appreciate this recipe for what it is. If you like Mexican food and more specifically Tacos then you will love this recipe. It's just not for me.

Taco Stuffed Shells
From: Blog Chef

1lb ground beef
1 package taco seasoning
1 4 once package cream cheese
12 large pasta shells
1 cup salsa
1 cup taco sauce
1 1/2 cups mexican blend shredded cheese
1 ½ cups tortilla chips (crushed)
1 cup sour cream

Step 1: In a fry pan cook ground beef and add taco seasoning and prepare according to package directions. Add cream cheese, cover, and simmer until cheese is melted. Blend well. Set aside and allow slightly cool. While burger is cooking cook the pasta shells, drain.
Step 2: Pour salsa in the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.
Step 3: Stuff each shell with the meat mixture. Place the stuffed shells in the baking dish and cover the tops of the shells with taco sauce.

Step 4: Cover with foil and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Step 5: After 30 minutes, uncover, and sprinkle crushed chips and shredded cheddar and Monterey jack cheeses on top. Cook for 15 additional minutes. Serve with sour cream, additional salsa, and anything else that you like to serve with tacos.

Photos from Mmm Cafe blog. http://mmmcafe.blogspot.com

Mmmmmm Cheesecake...Again

I told you that this past weekend I was in the mood to make and eat cheesecake. Well those who know me know that when I set my mind to something you don't have much of a prayer in stopping me. So once I had my fix with making my Mini Cheesecake Tarts, I tried another new cheesecake recipe.

I found this cheesecake recipe on My Kitchen Cafe's blog. This is by far the creamiest baked cheesecake I have made and tasted to date. The consistency was much like my no-bake cheesecake recipe. Needless to say I loved it and will make it time and time again. It was extremely easy. Baked cheesecakes have always made me a little nervous with their tendency to crack etc. This one however was a breeze!

On Sunday night we had my brother in law Blake and his wife Liz and their little boy Andrew over for dessert and even my brother in law who admittedly is not a huge cheesecake fan enjoyed it and much to my surprise had seconds. I was VERY pleased. The biggest compliment however, came when he said "This is really good, did you make it?" Thanks Blake you made my day!

The Ultimate Cheesecake
adapted from Tyler Florence

Crust:
3 cups finely ground graham crackers (about 40 squares)
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup butter, melted

Filling:
2 (8-ounce) blocks cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 lemon, zest finely grated
1 pint sour cream

To prepare crumb crust: In a mixing bowl, combine the crust ingredients together with a fork until evenly moistened. Lightly coat the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with non-stick cooking spray. Firmly press the mixture over the bottom and 1-inch up the sides on the pan, use your fingers or the smooth bottom of a glass. Refrigerate the crust while preparing the filling.

To prepare filling: In a large bowl (I used my food processor), beat the cream cheese on low speed for 1 minute just until smooth and free of any lumps. Gradually add the sugar and beat until creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Periodically scrape down the sides of the bowl and the beaters. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and continue to slowly beat until combined. Stir in the vanilla and lemon zest. Blend in the sour cream. The batter should be well mixed but not overbeaten. Overbeating incorporates too much air and will cause the cake to puff when baking, then fall and crack when cooling. Pour filling into the crust-lined pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 50-55 minutes (I cooked it the full 55 Minutes). The cheesecake should still jiggle slightly, don't panic like I almost did - it will firm up after chilling. Be careful not to overcook! Do not do a toothpick test in the cake's center, this will make a crack. Loosen the cheesecake from the sides of the pan by running a thin metal spatula around the inside rim. Let cool in the pan for 30 minutes. Chill in the refrigerator, loosely covered, for at least 4 hours to set up. Demold and transfer to a cake plate. Slice the cheesecake with a thin, nonserrated knife that has been dipped in hot water and wiped dry after each cut.



I love cheesecake plain so that I can taste and fully appreciate all of the cream cheese goodness. However, my husband prefers it with some kind of topping. The only thing I had on hand was some frozen strawberries. I thawed the strawberries and sprinkled them with some sugar and let them sit out and sweat for a couple of hours until all of the juice and flavor had released. I then blended the strawberries in my magic bullet. Simply pour over each individual piece of cheesecake and ENJOY! We sure did!

Mini Cheesecake Tarts

This past weekend I was in the mood to make and eat cheesecake. While searching for some new cheesecake recipes to try, I came across this one for Mini Cheesecake Tarts from Stephanie’s Kitchen. I LOVE LOVE LOVE cheesecake! It is by far my favorite dessert. These were SO incredibly easy to make, were SO delicious and looked so cute. The photos really don't do these justice. I took them with Brads I Phone.

On Saturday we got together with some of my family to celebrate two of my brothers birthdays and I decided to give some of them away as gifts. I don't think there is one person in my family that doesn't love a good piece of cheesecake so I knew my brother Ben would appreciate them.



Mini Cheesecake Tarts
makes 6 mini tarts
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
crust of your choice- See note

1. Mix the sugar and cream cheese until creamy - I used my food processor to do this. Add egg and vanilla, mix until creamy and smooth. Fill tarts to the rim and bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until set- I had to cook them for the full 20 minutes. Let them cool out of the oven and then refrigerate. Once they have cooled completely in the refrigerator decorate with your favorite topping.

I whipped and then stabilized some cream and piped small stars around the edge of the cheesecake and then filled them in the center with strawberries. If strawberries were in season, I would have used fresh strawberries but since those were not available I just bought strawberries in syrup which you can buy from most supermarkets. I have bought them at Wal-mart and also Albertsons. They are usually in the frozen fruit section right by the frozen fruit and come frozen- You just have to let them thaw out a little before you want to use them.

***NOTE*** For the crusts I opted for easy and followed Stephanie’s lead and purchased some pre-made mini graham cracker crusts. They come 6 in a pack and I found them at Albertsons (Wal-mart didn't stock them.) They made these mini cheesecake tarts so easy to make and the crusts were absolutely delicious.


Three Cheese Manicotti with Chicken

I found this recipe on MMM Cafe's blog and modified it a little. The original recipe didn't call for chicken but given that I was going to be feeding this to my baby I wanted a way to sneak in some protein. It worked well and Brad couldn't get enough of these. I'll definitely be making these again.


This picture is from Mmmm Cafe's blog. I took a before but not an after pic-My boys were hungry and I got distracted =)

1 box of uncooked manicotti shells
1 (15 ounce) container ricotta cheese
3 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
leaf spinach, minced (optional)- I omitted the spinach this time, but I have added it before and it is yummy.
3 cups spaghetti sauce
2 smallish chicken breasts

Cut chicken breasts into bite size pieces and cook thoroughly. Once the chicken is cooked in a blender or food processor blend the chicken (you could also boil and shread the chicken)- See note below. Cook the manicotti to al dente, about 7-8 minutes. Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, 2 cups mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, egg, seasonings, half a cup of spaghetti sauce, chicken and spinach(optional).

Spread 1 1/2 cups of spaghetti sauce on the bottom of an 9x13 baking dish. Stuff manicotti shells with cheese mixture; arrange over sauce. Top with remaining sauce.



Cover and bake at 375 degrees F for 35-40 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese. Bake 10 minutes longer or until cheese is melted and manicotti is heated through.

***NOTE*** I had made these before and had quite the time trying to stuff the manicotti noodles with the cheese mixture. This time I got smart and used a piping bag and piped the mixture into the noodles and it worked like a charm. Much easier, allot less messy and a million times faster. The original recipe called for only 10 uncooked manicotti noodles, but I found that the mixture made much more than 10 noodles. This recipe could easily make a 13x9 pan full.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

My Floury Little Helper

I had to post these pictures.

Last night while I was making a cheesy garlic Stromboli to go with dinner Gabe decided he wanted to help. We have been battling him for a few months now as he likes to climb onto the kitchen chairs and then onto the kitchen table (NOT safe). He tends to do this when I am cooking or cleaning the kitchen, I'm sure in an attempt to get Mummy's attention. Rather than getting mad at him for doing this (which I tried but had no success with) I decided that to try and take the michevious fun out it and while I am cooking or cleaning the kitchen I bring the kitchen chair over to where I am and let him stand on it beside me while I do my thing. Usually I set him up right beside me so that he has access to our utensil draw and that keeps him entertained while I work. Last night I was flouring the kitchen bench in preparation to roll the dough and as soon as the flour was on the bench and within his reach he leaned over and put his hand in it, and proceeded to wipe it down his face and through his hair. Not sure why, but it did make for some funny pics and he kept saying "Mmmmmmmmm."





Candy Bouquet

Last night when we were sitting down to eat dinner, we noticed someone walk up to our front door, make a delivery and then walk away. I ran out to see who and what it was and this is what I found...

It was the perfect end to a busy night. My yummy treat was accompanied by a very sweet thank you card.
Thank you Amber! You are such a sweet friend and you know I love you!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Wacky Cake- America's Test Kitchen

Another recipe from my America's Test Kitchen cookbook. This recipe for Wacky Cake caught my eye when I noticed that it didn’t contain eggs, milk or butter. It also has a very interesting method of preparation (see picture below). One of the things I love about my America's Test Kitchen cookbook is that with some of it's recipes it gives a little history of how the recipe came to be. This one was of particular interest to me.

This is what my book said:
While the name implies comical roots, Wacky Cake was actually born out of the seriousness of wartime rationing. At various times during the world wars, eggs, butter, sugar, and milk were all in short supply, so inventive home cooks and home economists did their best to create dishes with limited ingredients. Wacky cake is a moist chocolate cake prepared, miraculously enough, without eggs or butter.

After reading this I couldn't help but be grateful for all of the wonderful ingredients we have at our disposal. Despite these hard economic times, we truly are lucky and things really could be worse. I also thought about how amazing those women must have been to survive such a hard time cooking for their families when necessities weren't readily available to them. I think it is so cool that even though this cake was born during wartime that the women still took the time to invent a chocolate cake they could make. I like to think they did it to lift the spirits of their families. I can see this being a favorite birthday cake back then.


Wacky Cake (moist chocolate cake)

America's Test Kitchen cookbook


(this is a picture from http://itsdinnertime2.blogspot.com)

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon vinegar
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup cold water

Preparation:
In the 8x8 pan mix flour, sugar, cocoa, soda and salt. Make three wells in the flour mixture. In one well put vanilla; in another the vinegar, and in the third the oil. Pour the cold water over the mixture and stir until moistened.



Bake at 350°F. oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until it springs back when touched lightly.

Though this cake is usually served without frosting, I made a simple chocolate frosting to pour over the cake as soon as it came out of the oven. Just a little butter, vanilla, cocoa, icing sugar and milk. I just make it to taste. This cake is so incredibly moist and much to my pleasant surprise was just as moist- if not more so the next day. Though I have been craving this since I made it on Friday night I don't think I'll be making it any time again soon. Brad and I ate the whole cake ourselves over the course of two days. YIKES. It really was that good though!

Bread and butter- It's what I live for!

If I had to live on bread and butter alone- I could do it and would do it with a HUGE smile on my face. I have decided that bread and butter is the devils food! On Sunday I tried this recipe for Divine Breadsticks from My Kitchen Cafe to accompany our lasagna for dinner and they were awesome!

Divine Breadsticks
1 ½ cup warm water
1 tablespoon yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
3 ½ cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
Butter for the pan and for brushing over the top of breadsticks

Mix all ingredients (except butter) and knead for three minutes. Let stand 10 minutes. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Melt desired amount of butter on baking pan- I used about 3 or 4 tablespoons. Roll out dough about 1/8-inch thick and cut into strips (see pictures below). Place in butter and put close together. Sprinkle with garlic salt and parmesan cheese. Cover and let rise 30 minutes. Bake 20 minutes at 375 degrees.


Once I have cut these I take each one and twist it before putting it on the buttered tray.

I had a McCormack garlic bread sprinkle that I sprinkled on mine and then I added some Italian herbs I had. The garlic bread sprinkle has garlic, salt and cheese in it. You could put whatever you wanted on them really.


On Monday night I made this cheesy bread to go with dinner and it is the yummiest cheesy bread I have had to date. The best part was that it was just as good the next day! I found the recipe on www.elise.com. This was unlike any other cheesy bread I've ever tasted. The topping was creamy and delightful! Brad really liked it too which is saying something. That boy is hard to please!

Cheesy Bread Recipe


Ingredients
8 oz shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 lb shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/2 to 1 cup chopped green onion (to taste)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp sour cream (optional)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 stick unsalted butter (1/2 cup, 4 ounces), softened to the point of being slightly melted
1 to 2 loaves of French or Italian bread (I used French load), depending on the size of the loaves (see note below)

Method
1 In a large bowl, mix together the cheeses and the green onion. Stir in the mayonnaise and sour cream. In a separate small bowl blend the butter and garlic until smooth. Add the butter mixture to the cheese mixture.
2 Preheat broiler. Slice loaf of bread in half horizontally, lay crust side down. Spread cheese mixture over the bread. Place under the broiler until nicely browned, about 3 to 5 minutes.
3 Remove from broiler and let sit for 5 minutes until cool enough to handle. Slice the bread with a bread knife. Serve.

Makes 30 to 40 slices.

***Note*** For my cheesy bread I just purchased a French loaf from my local supermarket and cut it in half lengthways. I used all of the mixture for my two halves which was divine, but there was plenty of topping and I easily had enough for another French loaf. The next time I make this (just to save my hips) I'll halve the recipe.