Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas in Hawaii

It is December 28th and we are starting to pack things up to head home tomorrow. I do have to say that not being home for the holidays was kind of weird. Growing up the holidays were always so routine. For us it was Christmas eve at mom's house then Christmas day at dad's house, for so many years this never changed. But as I have gotten older the normal routine has changed so much. Wanting to do what I am so used to and wanting to start new traditions with my own little family. I don't think Hawaii will become part of that tradition. There are so many things I missed. Putting up a Christmas tree, waking up Christmas morning to stocking and presents from Santa, a big holiday dinner around the table and holiday baking. The weekend before we left I could not help myself. I had to do a little holiday baking. I made frosted sugar cookies, almond roca bars, thumb prints with the now infamous chocolate raspberry sauce and muddy buddies. It felt a little more like the holidays with plates of goodies around. I took some pictures but cannot find which memory card they are on, so I will have to share later. But here are some fun pics from Hawaii.

The beautiful black sand beaches. Turtles were there everyday.

Getting him signed up for swimming classes ASAP!

The biggest challenge of the trip was getting him to slow down and take a nap.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

In the Dinner Rut: A Pasta Pie

When finding new recipes I love to look at pictures. I skim the actual recipe and study the picture and develop my own recipe based on the idea and how it should look. So my new favorite website, Pinterest, has become an addiction. When I came across a post of a pasta pie I knew I had to try it. Mainly because I wanted to see if it really worked. This would be an impressive dish to serve to guests. What you will need; a springform pan, 1 box of rigatoni pasta, 1 lb ground beef, 1/2 lb of sausage, 1 jar of pasta sauce and mozzarella cheese.

Cook pasta only half of the directed time. Drain, rinse with cold water and toss with olive oil. Arrange pasta in a greased springform pan standing up. Really pack the noodles in. One box fit perfect for me.

Brown ground beef and sausage and drain grease. Add the jar of pasta sauce and simmer for a few minutes. Really make sure to breakdown the beef and sausage. You want it to be able to sink down into the pasta openings.

Pour sauce over the top of the noodles. Pressing it down and trying to work some it down the pasta openings. Make sure to put your springform pan on a baking sheet. Some of the sauce seeped out of mine and made a mess until I put it on a sheet.

Bake in a 350 degree oven until hot. I did mine about 30 minutes. Remove and add cheese to top. Bake for another 10-20 minutes until cheese is melted and starting to brown.

Let cool for a couple of minutes, run a knife around the edges and release the outer ring. Slowly remove, making sure nothing is sticking. I really expected that when I was doing this the whole thing was gonna fall apart. But it didn't!

Definitely will be making this again. Probably when we have guests or if I need to bring a dish somewhere. It is impressive and cuts just like a pie.

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In the Dinner Rut: Mongolian/Hunan Beef

Sometimes I feel like I make the same 10 dinners over and over again. So when the little one naps on a Saturday afternoon I watch cooking channels and surf the Internet for dinner ideas. When I could not find anything that sounded good I started pondering the idea of just ordering Chinese food. But the thought of greasy chicken and gooey sauce got me thinking maybe I should try making something myself. I found a recipe for Hunan Beef that sounded fairly simple to make. I made my list and headed to the store.

Thinly sliced flank steak marinating.

Sliced onions and bell peppers.

This dish paired with some sticky white rice was just perfect for a fun and different Saturday night dinner. It was also really easy, I just think I need to invest in a wok. Watch out for the grease splatter when you add the meat to the hot peanut oil! Definitely adding it to my list of dinners.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

So Thankful for Cranberries!

I have always loved cranberries. I even love the canned jelly that is a part of most Thanksgiving feasts. But several years ago I started making my own cranberry sauce and Thanksgiving has never been the same. I follow the 1,1,1 + extras when it comes to making cranberry sauce. One 12 oz bag of fresh cranberries, 1 cup liquid, 1 cup sweetener and what ever extras will make it your own. This year I did 1 bag cranberries, 1 cup orange juice, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup white sugar and 1 vanilla bean. This combination turned out so good!

I came across a recipe the other day for a Pear Cranberry Compote and decided that this could be a fun alternative to the normal cranberry sauce on our Thanksgiving table this year. Something I thought my little brothers, nieces and son would really enjoy. I added a few more cranberries then the recipe called for and 2 vanilla beans. Who would have thought that these fall favorites would work so good together? This will also be great mixed with yogurt or cottage cheese.

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Monday, November 7, 2011

Girls Night Out

I was so excited that my husbands night off finally coincided with one of the mommy's group Girls Night Out.  I was even more excited that it was at Karma Vineyards this month.  I had been to the winery, tasted their wine but had never eaten there.  I have always heard great things about the food and when the chef told us he was going to try some new recipes out on us, the evening got even better.

So there we were, good wine, great conversation (snicker, snicker) and the food stated flowing.  I did not get a picture of everything we tried but here are some of the highlights. 

We started with a variety of cheeses
Striped lobster ravioli
Seared ahi tuna
Thick cut pork chop, roasted garlic mashed potatoes with a red wine chocolate demi glaze.  I think this was my favorite of the evening.  Other then the desserts!

Some of the other things we had were sweet potato fries, spicy steamed clams, chicken and brie sandwich, chocolate creme burlee and a chocolate torte.  WOW, did I forget anything? 

What a great night!  Thanks ladies!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

It's a Big Breakfast Kind of Morning

Sometimes on a cold Saturday morning a big country breakfast sounds so good. Normally my husband and I would head to the local breakfast spot in town. We would enjoy a hot cup of coffee with our quiet breakfast. But with a 20 month old crazy son, those days are over. I think they ended the day he started walking and he was an early walker. With the hopes of a big breakfast and no bread, syrup or bacon in the house I had to get creative. Actually my first thought was to give up, head to Starbucks and get donuts. But on this cold October morning I would rather starve then go outside.

First things first, what do I have in the house? Eggs, Bisquick and a half pound of sweet sausage. The only thing missing? Gravy! Do you think I was lucky enough to have a packet of country gravy mix in the pantry? Nope. Guess that means I had to make it from scratch. So after I put the biscuits in the oven I browned the sausage and saved the drippings, then I had to tackle the gravy.

1/4 cup of vegetable oil or grease from sausage or bacon
1/2 cup of flour
2-3 cups of milk
1 teaspoon of chicken bouillon
Salt and pepper to taste.

In a sauce pan add oil or grease. Heat over medium high heat. Whisk in flour. Whisk for a couple of minutes to cook the flour taste out. Add chicken bouillon, salt and pepper. Whisk in the first two cups of milk one cup at a time. Whisk for a couple of minutes until is thickens. If the gravy is to thick whisk in more milk. I normally use about 2 1/2 cups total milk. We had the gravy over biscuits with cheesy scrambled eggs.

A great way to start the weekend!

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Pear Vanilla Muffins

Remember that Pear Vanilla Jam I made that turned into pear vanilla sauce.  Well I decided it needed another use other then an ice cream topper.  And with a fun morning play date just a few days away I needed something the kids and mommy's could enjoy.  I had originally planned on making applesauce muffins and found a couple of great recipes.  But with over half a quart of pear vanilla sauce in the refrigerator I needed to create something from scratch.  They turned out great, not to sweet, with just a hint of vanilla.  Recipe below.
Pear Vanilla Muffins
2 sticks softened butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups pear vanilla sauce
Pinch of salt

In a bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla; mix well. Stir in pear vanilla sauce. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; stir into creamed mixture. Fold in nuts (optional).

Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.  Makes about 2 dozen.

Although I have not tried these substitution, I think they would turn out great.  If anyone tries them let me know how they taste or if you made any changes.

Replace pear vanilla sauce with applesauce. Add 2 teaspoons of apple pie spice. If using unsweetened apple sauce increase sugar if desired.

Replace pear vanilla sauce with pumpkin puree. Add 2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice. Add 1/2 cup more sugar.

Monday, October 10, 2011

10 on 10

I think there is a theme to my 10 on 10 this month. Apples!

Carmel apple pie jam

Calls from the local wear house.

$8 for as many as you can fit in the box. I almost could not carry it.

Chai apple butter cooking away.


Mini apple pie with ice cream. I used the carmel apple pie jam and store bought pie crust. So easy, but so good hot out of the oven.

Empty jars, soon to be full of apple pie filling!

Canning has taken over one of my closets.

I tried taco pizza for the first time. Delicious!

Dinner tonight. Corn chowder! Recipe on the side of the creamed corn can. I just use thick bacon instead of smoked sausage, cheddar cheese and add more milk. Great on a rainy cold night.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Roasted Chicken with a Honey Lemon Apple Glaze

For a month now I have been re-reading a recipe for Honey Lemon Apple Jam.  It sounded wonderful.  For the jam I used honey crisp apples and added a little less sugar and a little more honey.  It turned out tasting great.  I would have liked it to be a little more jammy, next time I will let it cook down a little bit more or add another packet of liquid pectin.  BTW, I am beginning to hate liquid pectin.  Every time I use it the consistency of the jam is not jammy enough.  If anyone knows a conversion from the liquid to powered please let me know.  When I use the powdered pectin things always turn out the way I wanted them to. 

Anyways, this jam will be great on toast or with cheese and crackers.  But the main reason I made it is to use it as a glaze for chicken or pork.  So that night for dinner roasted chicken with a honey lemon apple glaze.  I bought a whole chicken at the store, but you could use pieces.  On a side not when buying a whole chicken.  Make sure it is thawed before you try to use it.  I have had several incidences where I get the chicken out of the fridge and unwrap to realize it is still half frozen.  I rinse my chicken and pat it dry.  Cover with salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder.  I also stuffed the inside of the chicken with the lemons I had zested earlier for the jam.  Cover with foil and roast at 375 or 400 for 45 minutes.  Then uncover and baste with the honey lemon apple jam.  I basted 4 times.  Cook until the chickens internal temperature is 165 degrees about another 45 minutes..  Let it rest for 10 minutes and enjoy.  With our chicken we had roasted red potatoes and salad.  What a great Sunday night dinner!!!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Brown Sugar Maple Pear Butter

Remember the pear sauce I could not figure out what to do with? Well I found a couple recipes I liked and created my own recipe. In the crock pot I started with about 8 cups of pear sauce. Cooked it on low for about 5 hours. Then I added 2/3 cup of brown sugar and about a cup of pure maple syrup. Let it cook for another 5 hours and ended up with 4 half pints of tasty brown sugar maple pear butter. I probably would have had another half pint but there were a lot of taste tests that were needed. This stuff is so great!

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Apples, Apples and More Apples

I love apples! I don't even think I can pick a favorite kind. It is probably a good thing I live in The Apple Capital of the World! I remember as a child picking apples off of the trees in our front yard and making applesauce. I don't remember it being hard, so why have I never made it before? Plus with my new fruit strainer attachment I should be able to crank out a lot of sauce. I picked up a 25+ pound box at a local fruit stand thinking it would make about 12 quarts. Boy was I wrong! But it only took be about an hour to make 7 quarts. I think this weekend I will make another batch.

I used a mix of apples. Fuji, galas, golden delicious and honeycrisp. I sliced them with one of those handy apple corer and slicers. Put them in a pot with about 2 cups of water, a little lemon juice and let them cook. I think next time instead of water I will use apple juice or cider. When they were nice and tender I ran them through the fruit strainer.

With the first batch I added 2 vanilla beans and after running them through the strainer I added a little bit of brown sugar. It turned out great. Just a slight vanilla taste. The second batch was a more traditional sauce. A little cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar. It tastes so much better then the store bought applesauce. Especially warm. My son and I shared a little bowl. I don't know who liked it more.

Any suggestions on different kinds of applesauce? Cranberry applesauce, candied ginger applesauce or maybe red hots applesauce?

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Friday, September 23, 2011

A Quick Pear Sauce

Look what came in the mail!!!

I had to test it out. So half a bucket of over ripe pears and my new Kitchen Aid fruit strainer attachment became a quick and easy pear sauce.

In less then an hour I was done. This food strainer is gonna get a work out as soon as I have some time and a couple of boxes of apples.

What to do with the pear sauce? I am still deciding, so for now it is going in the freezer.

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Hunting Season....YEA (extreme sarcasm)!!!

Don't worry this is not a post about hunting, killing or cooking wild game.  But when hunting season comes around it means several things for me.  Single, working, tired and exhausted mommy.  This year things won't be as bad.  I have some great help at my office. So I can take a couple of days off and maybe spend time doing something fun with my son.  I have also planned ahead.  My husband asked it I could put together some meals for him to take that would be easy to make in the motor home.  Why not make double everything so I have something easy to make for dinner for me?

2 hours, start to finish (including clean up), five dinners plus leftovers in the freezer!!!

Chicken Enchiladas

3 large chicken breasts
2 large cans enchilada sauce
flour or corn tortillas

Cook Chicken
Add a little enchilada sauce and a hand full of cheese to cooked chicken
Add a little bit of enchilada sauce to bottom on dish or I use the handy throw away foil containers you can get at any store.  If you have never used them, try it.  Makes life so much easier.  Roll chicken into tortilla and place into dish.  Add more enchilada sauce and cheese on top.  These are ready for the over or cover with foil and into the freezer.  There are lots of things you can add to this recipe to make it your own.  Onions, tomatoes, hot sauce, salsa, cooked rice or beans to the chicken mixture. Another option is to make a Mexican lasagna.  Instead of rolling the chicken in tortillas, alternate layering the chicken, tortillas and enchilada sauce.

When I was finishing up with encliladas I started cooking the chicken for the next dish.

White Lasagna

3 large chicken breasts
3 jars of your favorite Alfredo sauce
1 small container of ricotta cheese
1-2 boxes of no cook lasagna noodles
Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese
Italian seasoning
Add a little sauce to the bottom of dishes

Next add a layer of the no bake lasagna noodles.  They are so much easier then boiling and handling wet slimy noodles. 
Add ricotta cheese to cooked chicken

On top of the noodles add a layer of the chicken cheese mixture.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning.  Add another layer of noodles and Alfredo sauce on top.  Finally top with as much or as little mozzarella and Parmesan cheese as you like.  Sprinkle a little more Italian seasoning on top and they are ready for the oven or freezer.  I forgot to take a picture of the lasagnas ready for the freezer.  Oops!

Now all I have to do is remember to take them out of the freezer before I leave for work!  So easy and great for the busy mom (or dad).  They are also great new mommy gifts. 

This weekend, before my husband leaves for hunting, I have one more dish I will make.  Good old plain lasagna!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Pear Vanilla ???

Sometimes things don't go as planned in the kitchen. It happens to everyone. In this case things did not go as planned but my pear vanilla ??? still tastes great. Pear vanilla jam has become pear vanilla sauce. And not to mention I learned something. I followed a great recipe from Food in Jars, but decided to double the recipe (this was my mistake). After doing some online research I found out that when using liquid pectin it is not a good idea to double the recipe. Small batches work best with the liquid pectin.

But it tastes great so that is all that matters. It can now have a different purpose. Ice cream topper, drizzles over cheesecake or even baked on top of brie cheese.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Garlic Dipping Oil

The other day on my way home from the County Fair I stopped by a local bakery to get a freshly baked loaf of bread.  I was trying to think of something great to go with the bread.  Something I had at home so I did not have to stop by the store (sleeping baby in the back seat).  Butter?  Cheesy goop bread (I will share the recipe another time)?  What about dipping oil?  You know, the kind fancy restaurants serve in a little tiny bowl like it is liquid gold.  It is so easy to make, inexpensive and impressive when served to guests.

1/2 cup olive oil
5-6 garlic cloves
1 tsp Italian seasoning
course ground sea salt (about 20-30 turns)
course ground black pepper (about 20-30 turns)
1-3 pinches of red pepper flakes (depends on how spicy you want it)

I used a garlic press but you can chop or grate the garlic.  Mix all ingredients and shake or whisk together.  Let marinade for at least an hour.  Serve with bread, use as a marinade or even a salad dressing.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

My 10 on the 10th!!

Copying an idea from a friends blog here is my first 10 on the 10th. My 10 on the 10th will consist of 10 things I have made, eaten, seen or just what to share from the previous month. I got a late start this month so this is really 10 from the last 10 days.

1. Cherries!!! Mid July I canned a lot of cherries. 24 pints and 6 quarts!!! Labor Day weekend I decided it was time to open a few jars to share with friends and family. I love cherries and am excited that I have enough to get me through the winter.

2. An easy quick dinner. 1 cup Uncle Bens long grain white rice, 1 1/2 cups water, 1 can cream of chicken soup, 1 cup cheese, 1 can corn and 1 lb. cubed raw chicken. Mix all ingredients in a casserole dish, cover and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally. Top with cheese or my favorite fried onions and bake without a cover for another 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Homemade fish tacos!!!

4. The menu at Cabela's in Lacey WA. We were not very adventurous that day. Pizza and chili cheese fries.

5. Pears! I am so excited to try different recipes with pears. These should be ripe in a couple weeks.

6. The amazing colors of fruit. Left to right, blueberry butter, chai peach butter, chocolate raspberry sauce, kiwi daiquiri jam, bing cherries in a medium syrup and peach pie filling.

7. Baby food. The other day I bagged up all the baby food I had in my pantry to give to a friend for her little one. Made me a little sad to think I no longer have a baby in my house. I now have a crazy peanut butter & jelly and goldfish eating little boy.

8. We are heading to the county fair tomorrow. Excited to see the animals and exhibits, but more excited to try different kinds of food.

9. and 10. APPLES!!!!

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