Monthly Archives: September 2009

Milk and Honey

Did you know that the Milk & Honey in this blog’s namesake is actually code for Eric and Erin? It’s true. He’s Milk. I’m Honey.

He’s Milk because he’s pale. Wait, no. He’s Milk because he’s rich? Um. Definitely not. He’s Milk because if you leave him out overnight, he turns sour? HA HA!

No, no. I kid, I kid.

The Milk is a nod to his dairy farm upbringing. Country goodness squeezed fresh daily. Squeezed by me –in the form of lots and lots of hugs, that is. Awww. My Milkman. He’s the best!

And I’m Honey because, well – that’s pretty obvious….

I attract bees.

I mean – um. Wait. No. Well, Yes. I suppose that’s true. If there’s an outdoor eating adventure to be had, I’m usually the one running down the sidewalk screaming “There’s a beeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” So maybe I do attract bees.

Anyway, I’ve been told I’m sweet as honey. And sugar. And pie. I’m as sweet as a pie topped with sugar and drizzled with honey. Such a nice girl. All smiles and sunshine. All rainbows and puppy dogs. Most of the time. Usually. Well, except for first thing in the morning. Okay, I’m as sweet as honey about 90% of the time – The other 10% of time spent being sour, pouty, cranky, crabby, grouchy, mean, cantankerous (great word, eh? Thank you, Thesaurus!), surly, ornery and all around unpleasant is reserved exclusively for my husband (aw, what a lucky guy!) Can’t be sunshine and rainbows all the time, right? Have to give major props to Eric for putting up with the non-sweet me so well that she doesn’t rear her ugly head with family and friends, at work, or in public. Thanks, Eric!!

So, basically, what I’m saying is I’m a firm believer in the old mantra ‘you catch more flies with honey than vinegar’ and just try to treat each and every person I come in contact with in the respectful, friendly manner I would like to be treated. The Golden (Honey) Rule. Simple. More people should think about trying it. Seriously. That said, I’m not really all about catching flies (ew…) or bees, for that matter (yikes!) so maybe we can change flies to cute little honey bears that look like Winnie the Pooh. Agreed? Awesome.

Moving on!

Even though it’s in my blog’s name, honey has never been a go-to ingredient for me. Sure, sure I always have it on hand for when it’s needed, but I found myself rather indifferent toward it. Didn’t love it, Didn’t hate it, would never specifically search out recipes that featured honey as a main ingredient.

Until. Yes. Until I had really, really good honey.

See, before I bought honey the way I’d buy…say…a can of black beans. I looked for the absolute cheapest, stuffed off into a corner on the bottom shelf, most generic brand I could find. A black bean is a black bean is a black bean. Therefore, by the transitive property (I have no idea what I’m talking about, can you tell? What’s the transitive property again? I forget…) Anyway – honey is honey is honey, right?

Wrong!

I have changed my tune. I have seen the light. I am totally, completely and hopelessly in love with fresh, golden, locally produced HONEY!

::Insert choirs of angels singing::

I bought this cute little honey bear at the farmer’s market a bit earlier this summer. As you can see, I’ve plowed right on through it. It’s absolutely delicious and the pure honey flavor really shines through. I can’t say enough good things about it. Plus, it’s wonderful to support a local producer right here in Northeast Iowa! I’ll never go back to the store brand again.

I wanted to try something that would really highlight the delicious, sweet flavor of the honey. When I saw this Peanut Butter, Banana and Honey Ice Cream recipe, I bookmarked it immediately. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. And with how quickly I was plowing through my honey bear, I knew I needed to get to it…um, NOW!

Now, this is not a cooked/custard type ice cream so some of the creaminess of those types of recipes is certainly sacrificed here. So heads up there. But it’s so easy, and since it uses 2% milk and half and half, you feel like you’re saving a bit on the fat and cals. That’s always good. I’m willing to give up a bit of creaminess in favor of saving my butt from not fitting into my pants. LOL. The crunchy peanut butter adds great texture and helps cut some of the sweetness. The bananas are a nice surprise. It is quite sweet – if you get a bite without any peanut butter or banana it’s like – WOWZA! I might knock back the white sugar next – with a half a cup of honey, I’m not sure how much sugar is really needed. Overall, this is an interesting flavor combo that we really enjoyed.

PEANUT BUTTER, BANANA AND HONEY ICE CREAM (Recipe Source: Cooking Light)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3/4  cup  half-and-half
  • 1/2  cup  honey
  • 1/2  cup  sugar
  • 1/3  cup  chunky peanut butter
  • 1  teaspoon  vanilla extract
  • 1/8  teaspoon  salt
  • 2  ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 1/2  cups  2% reduced-fat milk

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Combine first 3 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring until sugar dissolves. Stir in peanut butter and next 3 ingredients (through bananas). Stir in milk. (I always chill my ice cream batter before freezing – I did so here for about 8 hours)
  2. Pour mixture into the freezer can of an ice-cream freezer; freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. Spoon ice cream into a freezer-safe container; cover and freeze 1 hour or until firm.

Note: If you wanted to cook the first three ingredients to disolve the sugar, you can. Just combine the half-and-half, sugar and honey in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until bubbles form around the edge of the pan and the mixture thickens slightly. Pour the mixture into a bowl and let cool completely (about an hour or so) before proceeding. You’ll probably get creamier results this way. 🙂

ENJOY! 🙂

One Year Ago: Illini (Orange and) Blue Velvet Cupcakes – Red velvet cupcakes turned Illini blue. Although, I’m pouty and mad at them now so….yeah…. LOL.

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Filed under fruit, ice cream, peanut butter

Morning Brain

I am NOT a morning person. My husband, aka Perpetual Chipper Morning Guy, can attest to this. He gets up a few minutes before me and usually comes back into our room to get dressed right about the time I need to be getting my cranky butt out of bed and head for the showers.

“Erin, time to wakey!” He says cheerfully every morning.

“Groan, grumble, whine,” I answer always answer back. “I don’t wanna!”

I’ll tell you what it is that bothers me the most. It’s that stupid alarm clock. How can such a small, little black box emit such an ear-piercing, annoying squawk? That beeping is downright obnoxious. Who wants to wake up that way? How about waking up to a kiss of sunshine peeking in from behind the blinds and the gentle, soft chirping of birds outside? Nope. No such luck. We get a loud, screeching beep before the break of daylight. That’s just going against nature! I really don’t think we should have these alarm clocks messing with our bodies internal sleep clocks. Really, there could be health consequences here, don’t you think?

I’d like to lobby for an official ban to all alarm clock beeping. I’ll be writing my Congressman later on this evening.

Oh, let’s just be honest…I just don’t like it telling me what to do all the time. I’ll get up when I feel like it, Alarm Clock! LAY OFF ME!

I just don’t have it together in the morning. My brain is in a fog of crabbiness and grouchiness. It’s Morning Brain. On a particularly difficult morning, a smudge of mascara on my cheek has been known to send me into full out meltdown mode. Tears and everything.

“None of this would have happened if I didn’t have to get up so early!” I whine, blubbering and snotty.

I’m not a night owl, either. I don’t stay up too late the night before and make mornings difficult for myself. They are plenty difficult on their own. Really, I’m a day person. If you want me at my cheerful, productive best, find me between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Before 9 is too early and after 7, it’s too late and I’m ready to call it a day.

So, considering mornings are not my favorite time of day, it’s pretty much gauranteed there’s not much going on in my kitchen in terms of breakfast. Cereal. Yogurt. That’s about it. I never get real ambitious with it and do mounds of scrambled eggs, fluffy pancakes or waffles, and piles of bacon or sausage–even on the weekends. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever made those things for breakfast!

That’s not to say I don’t WANT those things once in a while. Sometimes I wake up on a Sunday morning (after blissfully sleeping sans alarm) and think – Wow, sure wish someone would make me some waffles. Anyone? Bueller?

When I look around and realize there’s no one around to make the waffles except for me, I always change my tune. Well, a bowl of cereal is sort of like a waffle. I mean, it’s close enough. 😉

When I saw this recipe for a crockpot breakfast cobbler this past week in my local paper, my interested was immediately piqued. You mean I put it in the crockpot the night before, it cooks while I sleep, and then in the morning I just drag myself over to the counter and I have warm, breakfast deliciousness to enjoy right away? Now, THAT is pure genius. Even the most foggy of morning brains can handle that! Why didn’t I think of this?

This recipe couldn’t be easier. Simply layer sliced apples in the slow cooker, add honey and spices, sprinkle on granola and wa-la! Done! It was great to wake up Saturday morning to the smell of delicious apples and cinnamon throughout the house. I added some additional spices (nutmeg and a pinch of cloves) but I still thought it could use a bit more. I’d up the cinnamon by half a teaspoon next time and keep the nutmeg and cloves. The granola adds a distinct oaty, breakfast taste to the dish. I used a store bought, but I’d LOVE to try a homemade. Of course, since it’s cooked in the slow cooker, you don’t get that crispy, crunchy top you’d get from a similar recipe that’s baked, so I added a bit more granola on top for some crunch. You could also add some toasted nuts – pecans or walnuts would be especially delicious, I think. I topped it off a dollop of fat-free vanilla yogurt and a little bit more cinnamon. If you are Greek yogurt fan, I bet that’d be great too – maybe with an additional drizzle of honey.

EASY APPLE BREAKFAST COBBLER (Recipe Adapted from: Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, Wednesday, September 23, 2009)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 medium-sized apples (Cortland, Gala, Ida Red, Jonathan, Northern Spy or Rome), cored, peeled and sliced (I used Gala)
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I’d add a half teaspoon more next time)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon butter or trans fat-free margarine, melted
  • 2 cups low-fat granola cereal

DIRECTIONS:

Place apples in a crock pot and stir in honey and spices. Top apple mixture with granola and drizzle with butter. Cover and cook on low 7-9 hours or on high 2-3 hours. Serve warm and top with low fat milk or vanilla yogurt, if desired.

ENJOY! 🙂

One Year Ago: Slow Cooker Sloppy Joes. Perfect for football weekends!

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Smoothie Sob Story

Edited: Had a funny little story here about trying to get a smoothie at my favorite place. Decided to remove it because that place is now gone, it appears. Sorries!

That is the true smoothie sob story. I am so so so sad. 😦

The good news is – it’s really easy to make smoothies at home. This is how I do it up in my kitchen – one of those non-recipe recipes, if you will. Eric really likes these for breakfast on the weekend! I love to use fresh fruit if I have it on hand, but frozen is fine in a pinch. Blend it up, pour into a glass and enjoy! The most time consuming part is hand washing the blender – which, if I’m being honest, is what keeps me from making smoothies at home more often.

I am nothing if I am not lazy. Even in the kitchen. 🙂

SUPER SPEEDY SMOOTHIES (Recipe Source: Me)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups fruit (this time I used a combo of strawberries, raspberries and blueberries)
  • 1/2 cup yogurt – any flavor (well, maybe not ANY flavor, I probably wouldn’t use that Boston Cream Pie flavor or whatever, but to each his own. I used peach this time)
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey (or to taste)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups of low fat milk (or to taste – depends how thick you like yours)
  • Ice (this is optional – if I’m using all fresh fruit, I add some ice to make it thick and frothy. If I use some frozen fruit – my strawberries were frozen this time – I don’t bother with the ice)

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into tall glasses and garnish with fruit. This made enough for about three servings.

ENJOY! 🙂

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V is Victory!

I came. I cooked. I conquered.

Oh, the road was a long and weary one. One that involved nearly 5 hours of my Sunday. One full of cursing and causalities. Handfuls of quartered mushrooms tumbling off the counter and on to the floor. CRAP! The unfortunate discovery of a (newly purchased the day before) sprouty head of garlic. DAMN! The side of my thumb slipping off the potholder and sizzling against the handle of a dutch oven that had just spent the last three hours in a hot oven. $#&@!!!!!!!!

Ah, but in the end – with my feet tired, my hair a mess and my shirt stained. With my mushrooms rescued, my garlic desprouted, and my thumb thoroughly bandaged, the sweet (or savory, if you want to get technical) taste of victory – the rich, meaty, tenderness of success – it was all worth it.

I came (armed with nothing but a big ole’ pot, good intentions and a heck of a lot of prayers). I cooked (Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon.) And I conquered (the H-E-DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS out of that stuff.)

Ah yes, Beef Bourguignon – the quintessential Julia recipe. The recipe that introduced Americans to the art of the French cooking. The recipe that inspired a thousand home cooks to take on a challenge and really impress their families. The recipe that, literally, changes lives. Maybe even mine, in a roundabout way.

I won’t go on and on again about my recent epic epiphany regarding the novel Julie & Julia – you can read that here, if you are so inclined.

This recipe, upon first glance at the ingredients, does not seem all that intimidating. There is nothing unusual about any of them. Beef, bacon, veggies, spices, stock, wine. They are readily available and, dare I say it, CHEAP even. Well, except for the wine, of course, you can spend as much or as little as you want there. Personally, I don’t spend much over $8 for a bottle of wine I’m planning on cooking with, but that’s just me. How hard could it be, right – brown meat/veggies, add wine, stock and spices, simmer, braise, stir and serve, right? Piece of cake.

Well. In theory, yes, that’s it. In practice, no, definitely not.

This is the most time consuming meal I’ve made to date. There was little reason or planning to making this meal – I just kind of went for it. I sat down to do my meal planning for the week this past Saturday and it just kind of hit me – Julia’s Beef Bourguignon. For dinner. Tomorrow. YES!

I went about my usual Sunday chores – laundry, errands, baking (is that a chore? Heh.) Then I sat down on the couch with my computer to take a little break. It was then I decided to really take a good look at this recipe I planned to make for dinner. So I’m reading along, smiling and nodding. Got that. Okay. I understand. Yep. Then I get to part where it says to braise the meat in the oven for….3 to 4 hours. 3 to 4 hours?? Yikes! How did I miss that on my first read through? Panic set in as I looked at clock – 2:30 p.m. If I had any hope of getting this meal on the table at a decent time, I needed to get started, um, NOW!

I jumped off the couch like someone lit a rocket under my butt and bolted for the kitchen. I’m slicing bacon and drying meat and chopping veggies. I’m moving along as quick as can be – following Julia’s detailed instructions. I needed to get the pot ready for its three hour siesta in the oven as quickly as possible. In my haste, naturally, by the time I heaved slid my pot into the oven at about 20 to 4, it literally looked like a tornado had gone through my kitchen. Cabinets and drawers were wide open, assorted bowls and spoons and measuring utensils littered the counter tops, discarded veggie skins covered cutting boards, pointy knives jutted out at dangerous angles, and how the heck did I manage to splash beef stock all the way up onto the cabinets above my oven?

Ugh.

Commence deep cleaning of kitchen! I wiped, scrubbed and washed my way through easily an hour of my meal’s cook time. Then it was time to get started on the onions and mushrooms. So off I went to dirty up the very kitchen I just meticulously cleaned. Blarg.

Now, I diverted from Julia’s recipe in two places – 1. The bacon. I’m not really sure where one goes about purchasing chuck bacon with the rind intact, etc. So the store-brand center cut that was on sale this week was just going to have to do, thankyouvermuch. 😉 That said, I skipped the entire first step of the recipe. And 2. The small onions that are added to mix just before serving.

I stood at the grocery store surveying my options. Hm. What to choose? In the end, I picked up a package of small, white boiler onions. The package said “Great for Kabobs!” Which I took to mean “Great for Julia’s Beef Bourguignon!” Heh. Hey, I was desperate. Julia’s recipe calls for browning the onions in a skillet in their skins.

In their skins? Then what? Peel them later? Eat the skins? I consulted the recipe for my answer but it was not to be found. Hm. I decided I just couldn’t see myself eating onion skins and since these little babies really did look like mini-onions complete with the hairy little root at the bottom, I decided I would peel them and cut off the ends. Seemed like the most logical way to go about this. I blanched them for a minute to make peeling easier, cut off the onion-looking parts and then proceeded with the recipe as written.

And then promptly became impatient. It smelled so.freakin.good in the house I just couldn’t wait to eat. I’d set my oven timer at 3 hours and by the time I finished with the onions and mushrooms it had been in there for about 2 hours, 40 minutes. So I peeked. I’m sure Julia would frown on my peeking, but I just couldn’t help myself. The sauce had reduced down to thick, delicious yumminess and the meat was perfectly fork tender. I deemed it done. My pieces of meat were a bit smaller than the two inch chunks called for in the recipe so that’s probably why it cooked a little bit faster.

This meal is the definition of pure, sinful decadence. It is so rich and so delicious. The meatiness of the sauce with the wine in the background was an exceptional flavor combination. Sweet mellow onions and earthy mushrooms put everything in perfect balance.  We love red wine so we thought it was great that the flavor remained prominent. Those that are not lovers of red wine, consider yourself warned! This dish is worthy of any special occasion (or a boring Sunday in September, apparently.) Eric was in HEAVEN – he kept thanking me for making it all night. We loved it. Absolutely loved it.

Will I make it again? Maybe.

Anytime soon? Um, no. 😉

JULIA CHILD’S BEEF BOURGUIGNON (Recipe Source: Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck, 1961)

This picture SUCKS, I know and I apologize…but after 5 hours of cooking. Well, you know… yeah…

INGREDIENTS:

  • One 6-ounce piece of chunk bacon (I used about six pieces of sliced center cut bacon)
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 pounds lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups red wine, young and full-bodied (like Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone or Burgundy)
  • 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups brown beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cloves mashed garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • A crumbled bay leaf
  • 18 to 24 white onions, small (I used about a dozen white boiler onions)
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • Herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, one-half bay leaf, one-quarter teaspoon thyme, tied in cheesecloth)
  • 1 pound mushrooms, fresh and quartered
  • DIRECTIONS:

    Remove bacon rind and cut into lardons (sticks 1/4-inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and lardons for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts water. Drain and dry. (I skipped this part)

    Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
    Sauté lardons in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a flameproof casserole over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.

    Dry beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Heat fat in casserole until almost smoking. Add beef, a few pieces at a time, and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the lardons.

    In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the excess fat.

    Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

    Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes.

    Toss the meat again and return to oven for 4 minutes (this browns the flour and coves the meat with a light crust).

    Remove casserole and turn oven down to 325 degrees.

    Stir in wine and 2 to 3 cups stock, just enough so that the meat is barely covered.

    Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs and bacon rind (I omitted rind). Bring to a simmer on top of the stove.

    Cover casserole and set in lower third of oven. Regulate heat so that liquid simmers very slowly for 3 to 4 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

    While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms.

    Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons butter with one and one-half tablespoons of the oil until bubbling in a skillet.

    Add onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling them so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins (I removed the skins). You cannot expect them to brown uniformly.

    Add 1/2 cup of the stock, salt and pepper to taste and the herb bouquet.

    Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but hold their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. (I didn’t have quite as many onions, so I only simmered mine for about 30 minutes) Remove herb bouquet and set onions aside.

    Wipe out skillet and heat remaining oil and butter over high heat. As soon as you see butter has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add mushrooms.

    Toss and shake pan for 4 to 5 minutes. As soon as they have begun to brown lightly, remove from heat.

    When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan.

    Wash out the casserole and return the beef and lardons to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms on top.

    Skim fat off sauce in saucepan. Simmer sauce for a minute or 2, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. (I skimmed off some fat but I really did not find the sauce to be overly fatty at all.)

    If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons stock. Taste carefully for seasoning.

    Pour sauce over meat and vegetables. Cover and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times.

    Serve in casserole, or arrange stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles or rice, and decorated with parsley.

    Now take a load off and ENJOY! 🙂

    One Year Ago:

    Chocolate Chip Orange Muffins – So easy and so delicious
    “Grown Up” Mac & Cheese – Cheese, pasta and bacon? Yes, please!
    Pumpkin Spice Kiss Oatmeal Cookies – A great way to use up those pumpkin Hershey kisses!

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    Filed under beef, veggies

    Interesting (non) weather we’re having here

    What would you say if I told you we’ve had absolutely NO weather here in Northeast Iowa over the last three weeks.

    That’s right, no weather.

    That’s crazy talk, isn’t it? Unless your orbiting outer space somewhere in a black abyss of nothingness there is weather to report each and every day.

    That may be true – but we haven’t had any of the kind of weather that gets people talking. Rain gets people talking. Snow and ice for sure get people talking. So do hurricanes, typhoons, and tornadoes. Heat and humidity has people lamenting. Cold and wind get people chattering. Too many clouds and people are complaining.

    We have not had ANY of those. Every single day for the past three weeks it has been sunny, not a cloud in the sky, with temps near 80. This doesn’t sound so bad but, wow, it is insanely boring! Not a drop of rain, not a breath of wind and not even the tiniest hint of fall. There has been NOTHING to talk about weather-wise. Maybe I’m just a huge nerd because I like to talk about weather? If I am, don’t tell me, I don’t want to know. 🙂

    Since we are sans weather here as of late, I was actually starting to forget we were plowing through September here! I’m not sure what season it feels like out there but it’s certainly not fall. This is quite worrisome. The worst possible thing could happen here — There could be no fall. No fall! No sweatshirts, no crisp days, no gentle rains. Nope. We’re going to skip fall completely and go straight to winter. We’re going to wake up one day after weeks and weeks of this non-weather and there will be TONS to talk about. As in, TONS of snow. And TONS of ice. And TONS of winter headaches and woes.

    I’m shuddering just thinking about it! Hurry, Fall! Don’t pass us on by!

    I thought maybe I would try to help fall along a little bit here this weekend. Maybe if I cook and bake enough fall-y foods, fall will appear. Well, good thing I got my pumpkin fix a couple weeks back because now the stores around here either A) don’t have any because of said pumpkin shortage. Or B) They’ve pulled it from the shelves and are hording it in a back room somewhere so they are able to meet demand for the holidays. Either way, it’s nowhere to be found.

    Of course, there are other ways to usher in fall in the kitchen – apples, cranberries, spices and, for me, nuts! Especially pecans! Now, nuts may not seem like a fall food but something about buttery, toasty pecans just makes me feel all warm and cozy inside. Perfect for hoping for bringing in a new season.

    I decided to make Ina’s Pecan Shortbread and they turned out WONDERFUL. Tender, buttery and crunchy. I love shortbread because it’s kind of a grown up cookie. I love how they aren’t too sweet and the pecans really shine through. Sugar-obsessed kids probably wouldn’t love these but they’d be perfect along side a cup of coffee with the ladies. 🙂

    PECAN SHORTBREAD (Recipe Source: Ina Garten-Barefoot Contessa Cookbook via Foodnetwork.com)

    INGREDIENTS:

    • 3/4 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    • 1 teaspoon pure almond extract
    • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1 1/2 cups small diced pecans

    DIRECTIONS:

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

    In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla and almond extracts. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter/sugar mixture. Add the pecans and mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

    Roll the dough 1/2-inch thick and cut into 2 1/2-inch squares with a plain or fluted cutter (I used a 2 1/2 circle instead and then cut little leaves out of the scraps with a mini cookie cutter). Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet.

    Bake for 20 to 25 minutes (20 minutes may be a tad long, check after 15), until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature and serve.

    ENJOY! 🙂

    About a year ago:
    Pumpkin Cheesecake – If you can find pumpkin, this is a GREAT way to use it.
    Roasted Applesauce – Mmmmm…more fall goodies
    Mom’s Bohemian Pork Roast with Bread Dumplings – My absolute FAVORITE meal my mom makes. A family tradition.
    Brown Rice Chicken Chili – Easy and flavorful!

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    He’s Gone

    My husband left me.

    Yup, you heard that right. Last Friday he packed his bags and walked out the door. I begged him stay, pleaded with him to reconsider, professed my love, graveled, cried, whined. Nothing worked. He still left. There may or may not have been tears. The horror! The heartbreak!

    Oh, three days later, he came back, of course. You didn’t think I meant he left for good, did you? Like LEFT me, left me. No, no, no, of course not. He went to see family and friends for the long weekend and I stayed behind. I could have gone with him, of course, but all my summer travels had left me tired and craving a little bit of me time. Just because I decided to stay home doesn’t mean I didn’t pout a little bit when he left. I just tend to be a little…overdramatic when he leaves. Why? Because I’m needy like that.

    Just call me a Stage Five Clinger very loving wife. 😉

    The only plus side of my husband leaving town with out me is the opportunity to cook up something I know he wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. I love him and I miss him terribly when he’s away but it’s nice to cook for me. I have a tendency to put his tastes before mine in my cooking because, well, it’s just easier that way. All that goes right out the window when he’s gone.

    The first thing I did when he left was run down to the farmer’s market and stock up on fresh veggies to eat over the weekend. Tomatoes, zucchini, red peppers, oh my! And let’s not forget eggplant – cute and purpley eggplant! Yum! I love to enjoy a nice meatless meal loaded with veggies when he’s away. I’m STILL waiting for him to get just a TINY bit better about eating his vegetables. He’s gotten a million times better in the last year but there is room for improvement (sorry, babe, it’s true. but I still love you!)

    When I saw this recipe for Spicy Sesame Noodles over at Joelen’s blog What’s Cooking, Chicago, I immediately thought Mmmmm! Then I thought, boo, Eric won’t like that. Bummer. It immediately got pushed into the never ending Recipes to Try when Eric’s Not Home file.

    With the abundance of late summer veggies available, I thought this would be a great recipe to load up with freshness and turn into a main dish instead of a side. Turns out, I was right! I added a chopped red bell pepper, a zucchini sliced thinly into long ribbons and planks of delicious grilled eggplant. Mmmmm…

    For the noodles, I was going to scope out the Asian foods aisle at the store to see what kind of noodle offerings they had. I forgot. I do this a lot. I don’t think I have once in my life ever been to store without forgetting SOMETHING. Even with my list I can’t seem to remember everything. So, needless to say, I had to go with my usual store-brand 100% whole wheat penne that I always have on hand. In the end, I think the nuttiness of the whole grain pasta paired well with the sauce.

    Speaking of the sauce – I really enjoyed it! I did end up adding about of a cup of the starchy pasta water to thin it out a bit before tossing with the noodles, but that’s just my personal preference. I don’t care for really thick, goopy sauces. Since this sauce has a peanut butter base, it was pretty thick. The pasta water was the perfect addition. In the past with similar recipes I have used a dark toasted sesame oil and I think that it really provides an intense sesame flavor. I didn’t have that on hand this time and used a regular light sesame oil. While still good, I did miss the really intense sesame flavor. I also knocked back the cayenne at bit because I didn’t use quite a whole pound of pasta. Next time, I’ll go ahead and do the entire 1/2 teaspoon. I’m not afraid of little kick! Overall, this meal totally hit the spot. Perfect comfort food when I’m missing my hubby. And tasty cold for lunch all week! 🙂

    SPICY SESAME PEANUT NOODLES WITH GRILLED EGGPLANT (Recipe seen at What’s Cooking, Chicago, adapted from About.com)

    INGREDIENTS:

    • 1/2 box whole wheat pasta
    • 2/3 cup peanut butter
    • 1/4 cup soy sauce
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 green onions, sliced
    • 2 tbsp sesame oil
    • 1/2 tsp ginger powder
    • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
    • juice from one lime
    • 1/2 tsp. canola oil
    • 1 medium bell pepper, diced
    • 1 smallish zucchini, cut into thin ribbons
    • 1 smallish eggplant, cut into diagonal slices 1/2 inch thick
    • 2 tbsp sesame seeds

    DIRECTIONS:

    1. Cook pasta, reserve one cup of cooking water, drain and set aside
    2. Heat canola oil in small saute pan. Cook red pepper until tender. Set aside.
    3. Combine peanut butter, soy sauce, garlic, green onions, sesame oil, ginger, cayenne, and lime juice in a sauce pan, stirring until smooth.
    4. Brush a tablespoon or two of sauce on eggplant slices. Prepare outdoor grill or grill pan to medium heat.
    5. Add red pepper, zucchini ribbons, and cooking water to sauce mixture. Stir to combine.
    6. Grill eggplant for about a minute per side until just tender.
    7. Toss pasta with sauce, add eggplant and garnish with sesame seeds

    ENJOY! 🙂

    One year ago: A MANLY meal – Bacon Cheeseburger Calzones with Spicy Cajun Ketchup

    10 Comments

    Filed under pasta, peanut butter, sides, veggies

    Surprise! A Stomachache!

    When word got around to my family that I started this blog, saying they were merely surprised is a serious understatement. Shocked. Amazed. Baffled, is more like it.

    “Erin has a blog about food?” They all asked, scratching their heads in confusion I’m sure. “Our Erin? But…but…but…SHE DOESN’T EAT ANYTHING!”

    Their concerns are valid. It’s true. I don’t eat much. Surprised? I know, right? All these yummy treats, delectable dinners and I eat like a bird! It’s not that I don’t like food – clearly, that’s not the case. I love food. Making it and eating it. I think about food pretty much all the time. I just…can’t have very much of it at one time. I don’t know what it is about me, but I get full way quicker than any normal person probably should. At home, my portions are tiny. When we go out, I typically eat about a quarter of what’s on my plate and then I take the rest home. Waitresses are forever asking me if everything was okay. It must look like I hated my meal by how much I ask to take home (happened just the other night, actually.) It’s not you, Restaurant Meal…it’s me. I just physically cannot overeat.

    Oh, don’t get me wrong – I’ll try to overeat every now and then. Well, not on purpose -that’s a bad idea. But sometimes it just kind of happens, especially when I have a free weekend day and I want to cram as much food-related fun into it as I possibly can. Oh, it’s fun all right…so much fun it comes that awful sick feeling that just ruins the rest of your day.

    That’s what happened to me today. Why, oh, why do I do this to myself? It happens so rarely these days that it totally sneaks up on me.

    Oh, man…my stomach hurts…I just can’t figure out why — oh wait, now I remember.

    Just so everyone can laugh at my misfortune, I give you Erin’s Easy, 10-Step Guide to Giving Yourself a Wrenching Gut Ache. Got a dentist appointment you’d like to miss? Creepy neighbors want you to come over and watch a slide show of their two week vacation in Niagra Falls? No problem – just follow these simple instructions and prepare to call in sick. 🙂

    • Step 1: Go raspberry picking. Be sure to sample liberally while you pick – you want to make sure you are getting the best raspberries, after all.
    • Step 2: Decide that it’s pretty warm out and all that picking has left you hot and thirsty. Stop at Sonic. It’s on the way home.
    • Step 3: Go ahead and get the large Cranberry Limeade – it’s after 2:00 p.m. so it’s only a dollar. (For the record, no one really needs to get a large anything ever – small or medium will suffice.)
    • Step 4: Commence immediate chugging of limeade
    • Step 5: Make frosting for cupcakes when you get home. Be sure to lick beater completely clean.
    • Step 6: Continue sucking down that limeade
    • Step 7: Once cupcakes are frosted, take a giant bite out of one of them in the name of blog photography, as it would be helpful, at least this time around, for your readers to see the inside.
    • Step 8: Stare at half chewed cupcake for a second, decide there’s really nothing you can do with the damn thing besides eat it. Inhale the rest of the cupcake in approximately three seconds.
    • Step 9: Wash it all down with the last of that giant limeade.
    • Step 10: Wait about ten minutes. When tummy is thoroughly ablaze and face is sufficiently green, grab Pepto and pray for relief.

    So, now that you are positively grossed out, on to the recipe! 😉 It was for sure eating all of that last cupcake that pushed me over the edge into Sickdom today. Two words, people: Worth. It.

    I was craving fall flavors today, even though the way I got all sweaty raspberry picking proves that summer is not quite over. I just got way too excited to bake something with pumpkin – when I saw these pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting over at Smitten Kitchen, I was hooked!

    These are phenomenal! Moist, tender, spicy and delicious! The cupcakes are a great orange color and the whole house smelled of fall while they were baking. I decided to add some mini chocolate chips to the batter because I like the combo of cinnamon/spicy things and chocolate. I think the chocolate helps cut some of the overwhelming pumpkin flavor and adds depth. I made a cinnamon cream cheese frosting to go on top instead of maple. Maple is not one of my favorite flavors and I didn’t want to have to hunt down real maple syrup (which is hard to find) and pay out the wazoo for it (it can be pricey.) I also added a splash of vanilla to frosting. Otherwise, I kept the cake recipe the same. I highly recommend these bad boys – it’s like fall in the palm of your hand!

    Take it from me though, go easy. Pick the cupcake OR the cranberry limeade – don’t try to be the hero and do both. 🙂

    PUMPKIN CUPCAKES WITH CINNAMON CREAM CHEESE FROSTING (Recipe Source: Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from David Leite)

    Before we move on – Like my super cute plaid cupcake liners? Do ya, do ya, do ya, huh, huh, huh??? Get thee to Hobby Lobby! They’ve got a TON of cute fall baking supplies. And…pssst… ::whispers:: they are including them in the 50% off sales on the fall decor items! YAHOO!

    Note on the yield: The original recipe says it will make 17 or 18 cupcakes. I ended up with 22 and I think I overfilled a couple of my cups (I always do that…grrrr…) so I bet you could easily get 24 out the recipe.

    INGREDIENTS:

    • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 1 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar
    • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
    • 2 cups cake flour
    • 2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1/2 cup buttermilk mixed with 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 1 1/4 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin
    • 1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips, tossed in 1 tsp. of flour (keeps them from sinking)

    DIRECTIONS:

    1. Preheat the oven to 350° (175°C). Line a cupcake pans with liners.

    2. In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and pepper into a medium bowl.

    3. Add the eggs 1 at a time to the mixer, scraping down the sides after each addition. Alternate adding the flour and milk mixtures, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat in the pumpkin until smooth. Fold in chocolate chips. Scoop the batter among the cupcake liners — filling about 3/4 of the way. Rap the filled pans once on the counter to release any air bubbles. Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool the cupcakes on racks completely.

    FOR THE FROSTING:

    • Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
    • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
    • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon, plus more for sprinkling

    Beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Add sugar and cinnamon and beat until desired consistency. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes and sprinkle with additional cinnamon.

    ENJOY! 🙂

    6 Comments

    Filed under cupcakes, fruit