Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday Dinner- Fajitas and Love

Growing up, we never ate dinner as a family. Well, rarely, and always at a restaurant. We didn't all fit in our tiny kitchen and mom wasn't much of a cook. She is and was a wonderful mother, but this was not a strong suit. I always dreamed of having big Sunday dinners where friends and family came to the table and shared a bounty of foods and a bounty of love. I don't quite do it like that, but we make attempts. So tonight, Fajitas, rice, beans, and some taco meat thrown in for the kids who wont do the fajita filling. Left over Orange Scented Chocolate Chip Cake for dessert. Perfect.

I marinated some skirt steak last night in garlic, soy sauce, honey, black pepper, and red wine vinegar. I will grill it in my grill pan and slice thin. Serve with sauteed onions and pepper sprinkled with chipotle chili powder, refried beans, and white rice.

We will sit around the table, beg our little one to eat, plead with the big girl to sit on her butt and eat over the table, try to get my Mother in Law to talk about her day, and try to help daddy wind down from a day at the auto service station fixing my flat tire and working all afternoon (it is still tax season alas), and I will try to take at least one moment to appreciate the gift of the Sunday Dinner.

Oooh I changed my mind, I am going to skip the refried beans and make something I love.... A can of beans, a can of corn both drained, and a half and onion chopped, all sauteed in salted butter. Yummy Yum Yum.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Rain rain go away.... Orange Scented Chocolate Chip Cake

Sorry for just a recipe today. I am all out of words. All out of patience. I am having a bad day. Just to give you and idea of how I am feeling, I am making jarred sauce, frozen meatballs and pasta for dinner. But cake always cheers me up. Of course I am baking this for a family gathering on Saturday, but just baking it is cheering me up. A little.

1 cup unsalted butter, room temp
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 teaspoon orange flower water (this can be omitted, I just have some so I add it)
6 eggs, room temperature, separated
3 cups sifted self-rising flour (measure after sifting)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup buttermilk, room temp
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Using an electric mixer, cream shortening with 1 1/2 cups sugar. Blend in vanilla and orange juice. Add egg yolks, one at a time, blending just until smooth after each addition.

Stir baking soda into the buttermilk.

To the first mixture, add sifted flour alternately with buttermilk , blending well after each addition.

In a glass or stainless steel bowl, beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks (this will take a few minutes). Fold chocolate chips and egg white mixture gently into batter until well incorporated.

Spoon batter into a generously greased and floured 10-inch tube pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 to 75 minutes, or until cake tests done. Cover lightly with foil if it starts to brown before it is done. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.

Cool on rack; carefully remove pan and transfer to cake plate.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am craving the simple pleasure of these wonderful cookies. I now need to make a dinner plan that ends with these.

2 cups all-purpose flour (I have been getting good results with white whole wheat, but I wouldn't call them "perfect")
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup dark chocolate chunks

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or silpat.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.

In your mixer bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended.

Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy.

Mix in the dry ingredients until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon.

Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart. Big cookies really are better, if you like the middle chewy. But smaller cookies do work fine. I often do them smaller so they fit in the bento boxes.

Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are just lightly toasted. They should not be done yet. Cool on baking sheets for a 3-5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to finish baking and cool completely on the racks.

What makes this recipe work? A few things.... the extra egg yolk, the ratio of more brown to white sugar, the large size, the different size and weight of the chips which helps them to settle evenly, and the baking that continues outside the oven on the hot cookie sheets.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ditch the box Mac and Cheese

I am home from vacation, I missed you all and this blog more than I expected! This is really becoming a part of my life now. I have an empty fridge. In fact, I may take time out from unpacking to give it a cleaning while I can. Tomorrow the kids are going with Grandma and Grandpa for a while, so food shopping can wait. Seems like a perfect chance to get to making and posting this recipe I have been thinking about. I have some friends who don't like to cook, I can't relate. But they do want to make their kids healthy meals. Over dinner we got to talking about Mac and Cheese and my friend Elaine (Hi Elaine!) asked me if I had a good recipe that came close to the box. This is it! You can make it healthier by using whole grain pasta (I like the yellow barilla box), skim milk and lowfat cheese. Or go full fat and white flour and just feel good about feeding you children something "homemade" and less-processed. I like to make this with some steamed broccoli (the steamers for the microwave are easy and yummy) and a can of reduced fat crescent rolls. Or maybe I will make those pop overs. Ok, let's not complicate this, it is fine by itself. Try it and please, tell me how it works out for you!

2 T salted Butter
1 lb cooked elbow macaroni
2 cups shredded yellow cheddar cheese (I prefer to shred it myself, but the bag of pre- shredded works fine.)
2 C milk
1 1/2 T corn starch

1/2 large sweet onion- grated
3 cloves of garlic- grated
As an alternative to the onion/ garlic- you can use some garlic powder and some onion powder.

8 strips of bacon- cooked and chopped and some shredded Parmesan cheese
1 cup of bread crumbs mixed with a few T of melted butter

Basic recipe-
In a skillet, melt butter. (this is where you would add the onion and garlic and saute a few minutes) Mix milk and corn starch in a bowl and add to the skillet slowly. Add any spices you want. Salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder. Stir and cook until it comes to a boil (about 2-3 minutes). Remove from heat and add cheese, stir to melt cheese and combine. Add cooked elbows to the skillet, mix and serve.

Super easy.

If you add the bacon and parm or the bread crumbs, do it when you are done. You can prep this ahead of time and reheat in the oven, or serve right from the skillet.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Scones....oooops, was I supposed to get them gifts?

As I walked Nathan into school today I noticed all the moms had gifts for the teachers.

I no longer feel pressured to buy gifts for the whole class. We make homemade valentines. It makes me crazy when mom's spend a lot of money on crap just to show off... what? how much money and time they have? I would prefer my children to do the work, to show their friends they love them. Isn't that the point? I buy doilies and glitter and paper and markers and pom poms and glue and they go to town. It's fun, and messy.

But I do love Nathan's teachers. And they appreciate my baking. So I ran home to bake up some scones.

4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, cold
1 cup sour cream
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a big bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Grate butter large holes of a box grater; use your fingers to work butter into dry ingredients till it looks like lumpy sand.

Whisk sour cream and egg until smooth.

Using a fork, stir sour cream mixture into flour mixture until large dough clumps form. Use your hands to finish mixing until it comes together. At this point you can add any mix ins you like. I split it in half and did half craisens and white chocolate and half mini chocolate chips. I love cinnamon chips, but I don't have any. Butterscotch chips and raisins is yummy. Any kind of citrus zest. You could even make these savory with herbs and cheese. Yum!

Place on a lightly floured surface and cut as desired. I used a heart shaped cookie cutter, but you can just make triangles or squares.

Bake until golden, about 12 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature.

Now I have to pack them in some pretty bags and bring them to the teachers.

I am taking the week off from blogging, but I will be back... with a tan. ;)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Another snow day- kid lunch

So, we are stuck inside again. Actually that isn't true, we went out and built a snowman and this afternoon both kids have karate. They came in from playing in the snow, put on karate clothes and turned on Happy Feet. We usually don't eat in front of the TV, but today is a day for breaking the rules.

Here is their lunch, it's like a bento box for the home....

It is red grapes, green apple, carrot sticks, snap peas, celery, cucumber, low fat chedder cheese, whole grain wheat thins, light ranch dressing, peanuts, roasted almonds, and 4 mini homemade brownies.

I switched Wednesday and Thursday on my weekly meal plan, so today is dinner out and/or leftovers.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sugar Cookies for Valentine's Day

This was adapted from Alton Brown's Recipe. The most important distinction is the added vanilla.

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 egg plus one yolk, beaten
1 1/2 tablespoon milk
1 t vanilla extract
Powdered sugar, for rolling out dough

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt and whisk to combine.

Place butter and sugar in large bowl of electric stand mixer and beat until light in color.

Add egg, yolk, vanilla and milk and beat to combine.

Slowly add flour mixture, and beat until mixture pulls away from the side of the bowl.

Divide the dough in half, wrap in waxed paper, and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Sprinkle surface where you will roll out dough with powdered sugar.

Remove 1/2 of dough from refrigerator at a time, sprinkle rolling pin with powdered sugar, and roll out dough to 1/4-inch thick.

Cut into desired shape. I am thinking hearts? ;) At this point I am going to press in some heart shaped candies I bought. I don't know if they will melt. I really do not want to ice them, but I may have to.

Place at least 1-inch apart on greased baking sheet, parchment, or silpat, and bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until cookies are just beginning to turn brown around the edges.

Cool on sheet for two minutes, then move to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies, but of course that depends on how large you make them.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What do people do with all those shovels? Or Buffalo Chicken Fettuccine

Ok, seriously, why do people need to rush to Home Depot to buy new shovels each and every time it snows? We don't live in Florida people. Buy a shovel, use it, and keep it! They aren't disposable. I understand the need for more rock salt, or gas for your snow blower... but shovels? And what's with the milk, eggs and bread? Is everyone making french toast after they dispose of their used shovels?

But I digress.

We are supposed to get up to 24 inches of snow. Well, maybe only six, but maybe 24. I wish I were weather man, now there is a low pressure job. No one expects you to know a darn thing!
All I figure I need for such a snow day is some craft projects (I am hiding mood sand in the garage, and we have valentines and hundred day projects to finish), a good bottle of wine, and a few good recipes to keep the house smelling good.

Tonight, BS (Before Snow) we are having that Buffalo Fettuccine I was telling you about, but I changed it up a bit so I thought I would share my version with you. The original recipe is linked up in my previous post.

Buffalo Chicken Fettuccine

1 lb. fettuccine, fully cooked and drained (Save some cooking liquid to thin sauce)
1/2 of that roast chicken I made last week. I think 4 breasts would do or a half a rotisserie chicken)
salt & pepper, to taste
1 c. chicken stock
8 oz. cream cheese
1/4 c. hot sauce (more or less, depending on desired intensity. 1/4 c. will be mild to medium in flavor.)
1 c. Blue cheese

1. Shred the chicken with your fingers
2. In a saucepan, combine the cream cheese, hot sauce and chicken stock. Cook over medium-low heat until the cream cheese is completely melted.
3. Add the blue cheese and chicken to the saucepan, stir to combine, and then toss with the cooked fettuccine. Add cooking liquid from the pasta is the sauce is too thick. Or you can add more chicken stock. Salt and pepper to taste.

Tomorrow- Sugar cookie hearts for Valentine's Day

Monday, February 8, 2010

Cookie Bars to the rescue!

First of all, the buffalo chicken dip was a huge hit! I served with with french bread toasts. I just baked up a can of french bread and sliced it thin, sprayed with Pam, some garlic and herb seasoning and toasted at 350f for 8 minutes, flipped, sprayed, spiced and toasted again for 8 minutes. Yum!

I forgot to bake this weekend! Nathan is taking Chips ahoy to school, though I am sure they are stale. I am rushing to bake something (in fact, I could always replace the chips ahoy in his lunch box before I run him to school I guess)

This is adapted from

Her way looks yummy, but I am out of muffin cups and I am not keeping white flour in the house anymore.

1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg (Beaten)
1t vanilla extract
3/4 cup of assorted chips (I had chocolate, white and butterscotch)

Melt butter in a sauce pan. Mix your egg and vanilla in a bowl. Mix your flour, BP and salt in a bowl. Add brown sugar to sauce pan, mix and cool slightly. Add egg and vanilla. Add Flour, baking powder and salt. Mix well. Pour into a parchment lined 8 by 8 pan. Bake at 375f for 30 minutes. Cool and Cut.

Now, on to the prep for the meatballs. How is your day shaping up?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Let them eat chicken! (Menu planning)

Usually during Tax Season I order in too much and just feed the kids easy stuff. But this year, since I am not eating as much myself, I am even less motivated. Resulting in lots of nights of being unprepared and the kids eating random things that aren't even good for them. So, this week I am making a plan.

Right now, at 8am on a Sunday, I am roasting a chicken.

This is my favorite roast chicken. It always comes out good. We are going to a super bowl party tonight so I will make this....

Buffalo Chicken Dip


1/2 of the chicken, meat shredded with a fork
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup ranch salad dressing
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup Hot sauce

Mix together all ingredients until well combined. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Serve with crackers, chips, or sliced bread. I think I will make a loaf of french bread (From the can this time) and slice it thin to serve with it. I can also bring some crackers.

It was hard to find one without blue cheese, and I don't have any blue cheese. I suppose I could go to the store.... nah.

On to the menu planning:

Monday night I am going to make the kids, the Mother in law, and I, meatballs. I will make the meatballs on Monday when I get home from the store. These are my "Not a whole day meatballs" Though, I think we will eat them with Rice, not pasta. and some steamed broccoli.

Tuesday night I am going to use the chicken to try this recipe....

I will use fettuccine though, since I have some on hand that is calling to me. Now, I doubt the kids will eat this, and interestingly, they don't usually like fettuccine. But I will leave them each a drum stick. and they can eat the leftover rice and broccoli. I wont even cook until we get home at 6:30 from Karate, so Paul and I will probably eat this one after the kids go to bed.

Wednesday night, Paul works late and my mom is here. We will probably go out to eat.

Thursday, London broil, roasted potatoes, asparagus. And probably some turkey hot dogs for Nathan who really cant seem to chew steak of any kind.


Ok, honestly, I can't think that far ahead. But maybe some fish? I have been in the mood for Salmon, so maybe a maple glazed salmon. I will add Maple Syrup to my shopping list.

Saturday.... now I am pushing my luck. Maybe we can have spaghetti and meatballs with some home baked bread. I can use the meatballs from Monday. That sounds yummy. Now I am hungry.

Do you plan your weekly menus? I need to do more of this.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Polish Mac and Cheese

No, really.

Paul has been away for a few days, then Sophia requested pizza for her birthday from a local shop, and so I havent cooked much. I didnt think to defrost anything but I had some keilbasa in the fridge that I bought with a coupon. I have never even had it. I searched for a recipe, but couldn't find one I loved. So I made this one up. I think you can add anything to it, peas and beans come to mind, but I want my kids to try it so I am going sort of simple this time. I just tasted it, it's good!

2 T Butter
1/2 large sweet onion, chopped
1/2 red pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 ring of kielbasa
1 lb cooked bow tie pasta
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
2 C skim milk
1 1/2 T corn starch

In a skillet, melt butter and saute onion, red pepper, and celery until softened (You could add mushrooms tool if you like that sort of thing, I haven't eaten them since I did a report on Fungus in the eighth grade). Add garlic and kielbasa and saute a few minutes until heated through. Mix milk and corn starch in a bowl and add to the skillet slowly. Stir and cook until it comes to a boil (about 2-3 minutes). Remove from heat and add cheese, stir to melt cheese and combine. Add cooked bowties to the skillet, mix and serve.

Cooking this led me to my next recipe.... easy mac and cheese! I did it! I am excited to share it with you, I just want to tweak it a bit. But it is coming soon.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Ice Cream Pie

Sophia's Special Birthday Pie

1 sleeve of Graham Crackers (1 1/2 cups crushed)
6 T butter
1/4 c sugar
1 gallon Chocolate Ice Cream, softened
Heath bar bits
crushed up homemade chocolate chip cookies
1 cup chocolate chips, melted

Mixed Crushed Graham Crackers, sugar and melted butter in a bowl. Press into pie plate and bake at 350 F for 8 minutes.

Fill pie crust half way with softened chocolate ice cream. Top with crushed chocolate chip cookies. Top that layer with another layer of ice cream. On the very top, sprinkle heath bar bits and a drizzle of melted chocolate chips.

On the very top, write, "Happy Birthday Sophia" in sparkly blue icing.

Refreeze for a few hours and serve!


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Birthday Traditions

I am adamant about baking my children their birthday cakes. I love my mother, she is and was a wonderful mother, but bake a cake? Never. We share a birthday, my mom and I. My father and sister share one too, three days before. So birthdays were more like a national holiday in my house, than a personal celebration. So, I overcompensate.

Nathan's pre school doesn't allow home baked goods. Allergies and all. That is a whole debate, in fact I debate it with myself often, and see both sides very clearly.

Sophia's school still allows me to bake cupcakes. I am sure that it is only a matter of time before I am buying boxed munchkins or worse, bringing in carrot sticks. But for now.... I bake! I am happily spending my evening baking and frosting 36 cupcakes and adding a gum drop on top of each and every one.

Tomorrow, I will bake a chocolate cake and write Happy 7th Birthday Sophia in sloppy blue icing on top. She has requested Pizza from the pizza place for dinner, so I don't have to cook.

Her gifts will be outside her door in the morning. A stack of new chapter books and a "Chippettes" t-shirt (blue, of course). Our family will come for dinner and yummy homemade birthday cake. My mother will say, "Just give me a sliver." and then she will eat more, piece by piece, as she does the dishes. Sophia will eat until her belly hurts and she has frosting in her hair. And if there is one thing I know for sure, when she goes to bed, she will know how much I love and cherish her and how proud I am to be her mom and to be the one baking her cake and cupcakes.

Do you have birthday traditions? Do they involve cooking? Cake recipe tomorrow...