Monday, January 31, 2011

January Reads: 2011

I've decided to keep track of the books I read this year. Sometimes I think I read a lot, but I was curious to find out if that was the truth or if I just read in spurts. I also tend to read a lot of Young adult and Youth fiction, which are pretty quick reads. So maybe I think I read a lot of books because the books I read are shorter. Anyhow, keeping a monthly track will help me see if I am really reading enough or if I should just turn off the TV a bit more.

I started out really strong at the beginning of the month but found that by the end I was more interested in TV or sewing. (That darn idiot box, and ask me if I've actually finished any sewing projects...sigh.)

1. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay: My mom gave me this book to read ages ago and for whatever reason it took me until the beginning of January to get around to reading it. It was about the Concentration camps in Paris, France during WWII. (I thought they were only in Germany!) While this was a work of fiction, the book was based in fact. I devoured this book in a few days. (Adult Fiction)

2. A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz: The story of Hansel and Gretel interwoven into several bloody Grimms Brother's Fairy tales. (Youth book)

3. The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl by Ree Drummond.: A recipe book by one of my favorite bloggers. Most of the recipes are on her blog, but I enjoyed reading the little stories that accompanied the recipes. (Recipe book)

4. Search for WondLa by Tony DiTerlizzi: Alice in wonderland meets Wizard of Oz meets Star Wars meets Planet of the Apes. The book was slow going at first, but gets interesting half way through so hang in there. (Youth book)

5. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins: Book 2 in the Hunger Games Trilogy. Set in a futuristic Distopian version of the US where the teenagers from each district must fight in an arena to the death to insure the stability of government and society. I can't really say more than that without giving away what happened in book 1. I stayed up until midnight finishing this book. I thought it was that good.(Young Adult)

6. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins:Book 2 in the Hunger Games Trilogy. I read this the day after I read Catching Fire and subsequently ignored my family all day. (Young Adult)

7. More Make it Fast, Cook it Slow by Stephanie O'Dea: Another recipe book from a blogger I love. These are budget friendly crock pot recipes. Most of the recipes are in her blog, but a few aren't. All the recipes are gluten free. (recipe)

8. XVI by Julia Karr: set in a futuristic dystopian Chicago where girls must get a tattoo upon their 16th birthday. The tattoo is supposed to protect them but in reality merely advertises their sexual availability (and lack equality). The society is based on a caste system where moving up is virtually impossible. The government has their hands in every aspect of daily life, from implanted GPS trackers, to constant media bombardment, to the elimination of war, but also religion. Can you say 1984? (Young Adult)

I also skimmed several other cook books, but I decided not to write about them because I didn't find anything interesting in them. Plus skimming doesn't really qualify as reading, that's why they call it skimming instead of reading.

Pulled Turkey in the Crockpot

Hey! Who's up for more Thanksgiving leftovers?! ME! Well, I actually made this about a month ago. (All that baking and posting about that STILL has me about a month behind! I'll catch up someday!) I thought it would be a great quick dinner.I found the recipe for BBQ pulled turkey in the crockpot from Family Kitchen. I wound up not really following the recipe at all. I thought that the original recipe was way too thick. I like a bit of extra sauce when we have pulled meat sandwiches. Since turkey is dry, I thought it would really benefit from a more saucy base to simmer in.

Yes, if you look at the photo there is a LOT of extra liquid. I knew that there would be leftovers. I don't know if you've ever experienced this, but cooked meat always soaks up more liquid in the fridge. I wanted to make sure that this dish did not get dry. I was glad for the extra juicy sauce because it prevented the meat from being dry even as reheated leftovers.

Here is my version of the recipe:

Crockpot BBQ pulled Turkey
3 heaping cups of leftover shredded turkey
1 c of BBQ sauce
1 clove of minced garlic
1 small onion, minced
1 T lime juice
1/4 c tomato paste
1/4 c ketchup
1/2 c water or chicken stock

Dump everything in the slow cooker. Simmer on low 2-4 hours. (Note if I had more BBQ sauce I would have used 1 1/2 c and omitted the paste and ketchup, but I only had one cup and had to improvise to get more sauce.) Serve on large hamburger buns. This meat also makes a great addition to quesadillas.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thankful Thursday 4.11

1. I found those mint dark chocolate chips I love in the clearance section for $0.71!
2. Finding 2 cute shirts and 1 pair of fuzzy rainbow socks for Blockette for $1.99 a piece.
3. My mom is on her way to fixing her basement stairs so she won't fall down them, well at least not as easily as before.
4. Helping out in Blockette's Class.
5. Finally learning what "New Math" is all about.
6. The clog in the tub fixed itself.
7. Making more slow progress on the quilt.
8. Another great report card.
9. Mrblocko driving Blockette to school when I was feeling under the weather.
10. My complete lack of grace cannot be duplicated by the most skilled choreographer.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Crockpot Mulligatawny Soup

"No soup for you! One year!" If you are a Seinfeld fan, you know what I'm talking about, the Soup Nazi episode. There is this guy who sells the most delicious soups but he is super regimented and anal-retentive. If you don't order in the right way, you are S.O.L. on the soup. Through a series of events, one of the characters in the show, who was banned from his restaurant, gets a hold of his recipes. The fact that this character has his recipe for mulligatawny soup is the last straw and the Soup Nazi closes up shop.

I am not a fan of Seinfeld by any means, (Mrblocko will laugh at this because he knows how much I detest Seinfeld) but this is one of the few episodes I've watched. I find myself saying the episode catch phrase quite often. It's really quite annoying, but I can't help it. It is fun to say.

The funny thing is I'd never had mulligatawny soup before, and neither had Mrblocko. This particular recipe looked good so I thought, why not give it a whirl. Plus, Mrblocko actually likes Seinfeld so it was an easy sell purely on the soup Nazi factor alone.

I got this particular recipe for mulligatawny soup from a Year of Slow Cooking. I like it because it uses the crock pot. Apparently there is a REAL Soup Nazi and his recipe for Mulligatawny soup is all over the Internet. The "real" version has eggplant, peppers, potatoes and nuts. It might be worth giving a try someday, but I'm not quite sure about the eggplant. I'm not the biggest fan of eggplant, and neither is Mrblocko.

I made a few minor adjustments to the recipe. I used 2 chicken breasts instead of chicken thighs, since I prefer white meat. I also used brown rice because I didn't have enough white rice on hand. I cooked rice before hand because I knew that we would be getting home for a late dinner that night. Instead of letting the rice cook in the crockpot for a half hour, I put the precooked rice in and let it warm up for a few minutes while I prepared a salad.

The soup was a big hit and I plan on making it again. It makes a lot and freezes well.

Crockpot Mulligatawny Soup from A Year of Slow Cooking
2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (frozen is okay)
1 cup peeled and chopped apple (mine were fuji)
1 cup chopped carrots
1 (15-ounce) can fire roasted tomatoes
1 tablespoon dried minced onion flake
1/4 cup raisins
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons curry
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3 cups chicken broth
1/3 cup long grain white rice (to add later)

Use a 6-quart slow cooker. Put the chicken thighs into the bottom of your cooker, and add apple, carrots, the whole can of tomatoes, onion flakes, and raisins. Then add the lemon juice, spices, and broth. Stir to mix the spices. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours. If you'd like, shred the chicken with two big forks, and stir in the uncooked rice. Flip to high for 30 minutes, or until the rice is tender.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Beefy Na(t)cho Soup

Why do I always want to put a "T" in Nacho? It is really annoying because I know it is not spelled that way. My fingers just add an extra letter while I'm typing. Clearly my brain is just wired wrong.

Anyhow, T or no T, this beefy nacho soup a la Real Mom Kitchen was really delicious. I made a few slight changes to the recipe to use what I had on hand. Instead of Campbell's Nacho cheese condensed soup, I used southwestern pepperjack cheese soup from Campbell's. This soup had been sitting in the pantry forever. I had no idea why I bought it or what to do with it. It seemed like the perfect substitution.

I also used a mix of Swiss, smoked Gruyere, pepperjack and Colby jack cheeses because my cheddar was fuzzy and smelled like feet. Yes, some cheese is supposed to smell like feet, cheddar...not so much. Since canned soup is so salty already, I used a Tablespoon of salt free homemade taco seasoning. I also added corn, because I had some in the freezer and I thought it would be yummy. I just eyeballed it. I used at least 1 cup but not more than 2. Had I been making this soup for just Mrblocko and myself, I would have added black beans. I was not up for a battle with Blockette though, so I used good judgement and left them out.

We haven't been eating a lot of processed convenience foods lately. I've been trying to make more stuff from scratch when I can. Because of this, I thought there was a very slight aftertaste from the canned soup. Mrblocko and Blockette both thought the soup tasted just fine, and didn't notice any aftertaste.

I made this soup on the coldest day of the year. I know this because Blockette is wearing a sweatshirt. The girl never wears a sweatshirt. I liked the slight spicy heat this soup had. It was extra nice since it was so terribly cold that day. If you want more heat in your soup, just use the Hot version of Rotel.

A final note: You MUST crumble tortilla chips on top of your soup before eating...
And when you crush MUST make this face. Crushing tortilla chips requires a scrunchy face. Oh, and a monster growl.

Beefy Nacho Soup from Real Mom Kitchen
1 lb lean (at least 80%) ground beef
1 tablespoon Old El Paso® 40% less sodium taco seasoning mix (from 1 oz package)
1 can (10 3/4 oz) condensed nacho cheese soup
1 can (10 oz) diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained (such as Ro Tel)
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (1 oz)
1/2 cup crushed corn tortilla chips

In 2-quart saucepan, cook ground beef over medium-high heat 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thoroughly cooked; drain. Reduce heat to medium. Stir in remaining ingredients except shredded cheese and tortilla chips. Cook 8 to 12 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring frequently. Top individual servings with shredded cheese and tortilla chips.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Crockpot Marmalade Curry Chicken

I have not been a fan of curry in the past. So why in the world did I think, hmm this recipe looks like it might taste good? Maybe it was the idea of the spicy and the sweet, or it was quick and easy in the crockpot, or maybe because I always have great results with recipes from a year of slow cooking. Whatever the reason was, I'm sure glad I ventured out of my comfort zone.I decided to shred my chicken. As you can see, my chicken never got that nice brown color that is featured over at A Year of Slow Cooking. So what. It was still delicious. Shredding the chicken just let more of the meat soak up the yummy juices.

We ate ours with a big bowl of rice and a side salad. There were loads of leftovers that reheated nicely in the microwave. I thank all the juices for that. I must have had some really liquidy marmalade. I don't know why else there would have been so much sauce in the crockpot. I'm going to get the same marmalade the next time I make this because I really liked having all that extra sauce.

Since this was such a success, I think I may have to re-evaluate my decision to dislike curry. I'm not going to automatically disqualify a recipe on the basis that curry is one of the ingredients any more. If you are afraid/unsure of curry, like me, I think this is the perfect way to get your feet wet into a new flavor realm.

Slow Cooker Marmalade Curry Chicken from A Year of Slow Cooking
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves or thighs
1 (18-ounce) jar orange marmalade
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup chicken broth

Use a 4 quart slow cooker. Put the chicken into the bottom of your slow cooker. In a small bowl, combine the marmalade with the dry spices and chicken broth. You'll end up with a slimy orange gel that smells like ginger. Pour this on top of the chicken. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 7 hours, or on high for about 4. If when fully cooked the chicken isn't quite as moist as you'd like, you can cut it into strips, then return it to the pot to soak in even more of the yummy sauce. Serve over brown basmati rice.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Squirrlz in my Pants...bonus post!

Blockette is home from school today so that means lots of kid tv. I saw this on Phinneas and Ferb and had to post this little video clip.

Thankful Thursday 3.11

Here's my thankful list for the week.

1. The tart still turned out great even though the recipe said to use a 9 inch tart pan and mine is 11 inches.
2. I didn't have to go anywhere in the rain/snow/rain mix on MLKJ day.
3. Someone else volunteered to be Moderator of the Deacons at church. I was so relieved I cried...a lot.
4. Blockette told mrblocko that he wasn't mean enough to be a mother.
5.Making progress, although slow on Blockette's quilt.
6. Blockette is such a confident child.
7. My mom found out she gets to go to Spain!
8. Mrblocko fixed the problem with the car repair bill so I didn't have to.
9. Finding a way for Blockette to enjoy practicing her writing. (Draw, Write, Now)
10. Blockette isn't being overly whiny even though she is home sick with a fever today.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Cheater Chocolate Chocolate Mint Cookies

Every year, without fail, I make my Uncle what has affectionately come to be known as a BIG BAR for Christmas. I feel it is my duty to do this as a good niece, and to also maintain world peace.

So after all the baking I did over Christmas my loving husband turns to me and says, "That's all your making for your uncle? Don't you usually make him more than just a BIG BAR?"

I replied "yes, but that I don't normally have all these other baking obligations that were sprung on me, mostly last minute, by him."

Then he proceeded to go on and on about how sad and horrible and awful it was that I wasn't making anything else for my uncle. So because I love my uncle and I also wanted to get my husband to shut up already (Love ya honey!) I made these Chocolate chocolate mint cookies, recipe courtesy of The Girl Who ate Everything. These were "cheater" cookies, that used a cake mix. This was perfect because I was looking for a recipe that was pretty much dump and go. Besides I was looking for a way to use up that bag of Nestle's dark chocolate and mint chips I picked up at the store, I mean besides just eating them straight from the bag.

I really wished that I had picked up a few extra bags of those mint chips because apparently they are only offered seasonally. I suppose I could make a mix of another brand of dark chocolate and mint chips, if I wanted to make another batch of these cookies later on in the year.

I never heard if my uncle liked these cookies or not. I'm sure that's because he claims that he doesn't even know what a cookie is. We did a bit of quality control before the cookies were packaged up. They were scrumptious! I'll be making these again for sure.

Mint Chocolate Chip Cake Mix Cookies from the Girl Who Ate Everything
1 box Dark Chocolate cake mix
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup oil
2 Tbsp water
1 (10 oz) bag Nestle Dark Chocolate and Mint Morsels

In a bowl of a stand mixer, mix the cake mix, eggs, oil, and water together until a soft dough forms. Fold in the dark chocolate and mint morsels. Drop by the spoonful onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes until set in the middle. Make around 2 dozen cookies.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pop-py Chow

Yes, you read that title correctly. Poppy chow, not to be confused with Puppy chow (aka muddy buddies). Poppy chow is made with popcorn and puppy chow is made with Chex or Crispix cereal.

I had super high hopes for this recipe and I wound up being quite underwhelmed. How could this be so? Really, what is there not to love about the combination of chocolate, peanut butter, butter and powdered sugar. If this combination is great on cereal, it's got to be equally great on popcorn. Meh.When the topping mixture coats the cereal, the end result has some crunch to it, when the same mixture coats, popcorn, it gets kind of mushy. I never realized how much the crunch played a part of the deliciousness. Mush factor aside, I did find myself uncontrollably eating copious amounts of this popcorn. It is addicting even in it's imperfect state.

This snack was best the day it was made. The older it got, the chewier it got, and not in a good way. After three days, the center of the popcorn was sometimes so gummy I had to spit it out. So essentially, after a few days, the popcorn was just a method of transporting the peanut butter chocolate coating from the bowl to your mouth. I was 100% OK with that.

So, after I've said all this, why would you make the popcorn version in the first place? Well, popcorn is insanely cheaper than cereal. Or maybe you have a family of sneaky cereal eaters and you have plans to make puppy chow to take to some gathering that is in a few hours and discover you are missing cereal and are too crabby/lazy/unshowered/etc to go to the store. Of course that is assuming that you have a bag of popcorn kernels in your pantry. If you don't then I guess you are outta luck!

You can find the recipe for poppy chow over at Tasty Kitchen.

Poppy Chow from Tasty Kitchen
9 cups Air-Popped Popcorn
1 cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
½ cups Natural Peanut Butter
¼ cups Butter (1/2 Stick)
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1-½ cup Powdered Sugar

n microwave or double boiler, melt chocolate, peanut butter, and butter until melted. Stir in vanilla. Place the popped popcorn* in a large bowl and pour the chocolate mixture over all. Stir until evenly coated. Add the powdered sugar and stir until each piece is covered. Spread out on cookie sheets to set the chocolate. Try not to eat the whole batch immediately. If you have any leftover, store in an airtight container.

*Be sure to first remove any unpopped kernels from the popcorn! We don’t want any broken teeth!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Pumpkin Crumble Save My Butt Bars

dessert I made after my huge zebra bundt fail. I was in a huge panic because I needed to make something quick, but I had used up all the vanilla. Do you know how hard it is to find a dessert that doesn't require vanilla? Luckily, our best bites' easy pumpkin crumble came to the rescue. Miraculously I had pumpkin, cake mix and condensed milk. I always have pumpkin on hand, but cake mix AND condensed milk? Those were just a fluke.

This was not a pretty dessert, like I had hoped the Zebra cake was going to be. At least the bars tasted good. They were sort of like a crustless pumpkin pie with a crumble topping. Om nom nom!

Even though these bars were good, I wound up taking over half a pan home. Why? People forgot to eat dessert! How do you forget to eat dessert? Isn't that like forgetting to go pee? Wait...I've done that before. Hmm. Guess I shouldn't be too hasty with my judgements eh?

I had the leftovers in the house for half a day. I thought the bars were so good I made a judgement call to send the leftovers to work with Mrblocko. This was after I cut myself a huge slice for second breakfast. I knew if I didn't get those bars out of the house I'd eat the whole pan while Blockette was at school.

Easy Pumpkin Crumble from Our Best Bites
1 boxed yellow or white cake mix
1-2 sticks butter (see notes in instructions)
1 16 oz can pumpkin*
2 eggs
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t pumpkin pie spice
1/4 t ginger
1/8 t cloves
1/8 t nutmeg
1/2 t salt
1/3 C chopped pecans
1/2 t additional cinnamon for topping

*This makes a dessert about an inch thick or less. That’s because I like a high topping-to-pumpkin ratio. If you’d like it thicker, use a large can of pumpkin and double the rest of the filling ingredients (Eggs, sweetened condensed milk, and spices). Leave the rest of the recipe the same.

Preheat oven to 350. Place 2 C  cake mix in a bowl. Cut in 3 T chilled butter. Just use your fingers to crumble the butter until it’s in small crumbly pieces. Place mixture in a 9×13 baking dish and press flat with fingers. Mix pumpkin, eggs, sweetened condensed milk, and spices until smooth. Pour on top of the cake mixture in the pan. Now take the rest of the dry cake mix and mix in 1/2 t cinnamon. Sprinkle it all over the top of the pumpkin mixture. Use a measuring cup so you have a rough measurement of how much you’re putting on. Here’s why: Cake mixes all have different amounts in them! Next sprinkle on the chopped pecans. You’ll have 3 distinct layers now: Here’s the trick: For every 1 C of cake mix you sprinkled on top, you’ll need 3 T of melted butter. Drizzle it right on top. Bake 350F oven for about 40 min or so. A knife should come out without globs of pumpkin on it and the topping should be nice and golden.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thankful Thursday 2.11

1. A night out with my best friend.
2. I caught my cutting mistake on the quilt I was working on before I went to the fabric store.
3. finding the fabric I needed at Joann. (not all white on white floral fabric is the same people so don't wind them on the same bolt, OK fabric store employees?)
4. I caught the piecing mistake I made on the quilt and realized it was time to stop working on it for the day before I started throwing things (Like knives and cats).
5. Taking down the Christmas decorations at church didn't take all morning like we thought it might.
6. My eyes are healthy according to the Dr.
7. The world's tiniest snowman.
8. I am now the proud owner of a bazillion heart shaped cookie cutters.
9. I was given the green light to stay in bed this morning.
10. I chose to get up anyhow.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Pockmarked Pepparkakor Pigs

In my continuing quest for a really rockin Gingerbread recipe I came across Pepparkakor from Relish. Pepparkakor is a Scandinavian version of gingerbread cookies. And guess what? They also use a pig cookie cutter as a traditional shape. I really must have been on to something when I bought that pig cookie cutter.

This particular Pepparkakor recipe is from Finland. I chose this one because I thought the lack of molasses was interesting. The recipe says that it results in a chewy cookie, but mine were happily quite crisp. How could the cookie not be crisp when you are supposed to roll them out to 1/8 inch thick? I was unable to get them that thin, and they were still very crisp.

Even though I couldn't roll the dough as thin as I was supposed to, my cookie yield was insane. I was only supposed to get 3 dozen, but I got about 4 and a half!!! Not including all the baby heart and squirrel shapes I got from the scraps. Yikes.

The dough was very sticky and hard to work with. I had to refrigerate it between each rolling. The rolling was also very difficult as my rolling surface was parchment paper. See I made these cookies before I got my swanky rolling mat for Christmas, which I love really bunches and bunches.

The parchment paper just kept slipping across the counter. That was the main reason I couldn't get the dough rolled out so thin. I did as best as I could, but getting the cookies even was pretty tough. I just told myself that it would give people a choice of how crisp of a cookie they wanted. Crisp, or Super to leap into your mouth in a single bound!Here is a batch of the cookies before I frosted them. Yeah, I don't know what the deal was. They were all pockmarked! I don't know what happened. I don't think they were supposed to look like that at all. Gingerbread is supposed to be smooth, at least in my book they are. These just plain ugly lookin.

How did they taste? Well, they were ok. They were greatly improved by the addition of cream cheese frosting. Yeah, I used the stuff in a can. I wasn't feeling ambitious. Besides, I haven't had the best luck with frostings and I was not wanting another thing I made to turn out underwhelming.

I did not take a picture of the decorated cookies. My frosting skills are not any kind of good. I made big messy stripes on the pigs and big wonky pointy snowflakes on the circle shapes. The little cookies we just dipped them into the can...or at least I did when no one was looking. When they were looking, I used a knife. I have to let people (read my husband) think I'm sorta civilized.

There are no plans to make these cookies again. They just weren't the cookie I was searching for. I think I was really missing that molasses taste that you expect with a ginger cookie. They were fun to try and were a good test of my kitchen patience. You see, in the past when the dough stuck like this dough did I would have cried and scrapped the whole thing. This time I had the presence of mind and forethought to stick the sticky dough in the fridge. I'm growing and evolving. Hurry, someone sing the Mr. Rogers' "I'm proud of you song."

Pepparkakor from Relish
3 cups butter, softened to room temperature
3 cups vegetable shortening
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar, divided
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
8 teaspoons each ground cardamom, ground coriander seed and ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
3 cups water

Cream butter, shortening and brown sugar together in a medium bowl, beating until fluffy. Add spices; beat well. Add baking soda, salt, flour, cider vinegar and just enough water to make a smooth, pliable dough. Roll into a ball. Chill 30 min. Preheat oven to 375F. Press ball into a disk and roll out on a lightly floured board, to about 1⁄8" thick. Cut into shapes; transfer to an ungreased cookie sheet, placing cookies about ½ to ¾ " apart. Chill dough in between batches. Bake 7-10 min, til lightly browned. Cool on pan 2-3 min. Remove cookies from pan; cool on wire racks. Decorate.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Mexican Ginger Pigs

I do not know why I have a pig cookie cutter. Aside from a circle, this is the only full size cookie cutter I own. Lucky for me, a pig shaped cookie is a very traditional shape for Christmas cookies.These Cochinitos, or mexican ginger pigs, are from the blog "I Really Like Food." (The blog entry also has a peanut butter gingerbread cookie that also looks interesting, but I haven't had the chance to test it out yet.) These Cochinitos are completely different from any gingerbread cookies I had seen before. This cookie really poofs up! I like how the piggie shapes look all plumped up after baking. It makes them seem more piggish.

The texture of these cookies are cake-y. It was a bit off putting because even though I knew they would be a soft cookie, my nose told me they were gingerbread and therefore would be crisp and crunchy. Once I got over the texture confusion in my brain, I realized that I did indeed like these cookies.

I got a lot of cookies from this recipe, enough for 2 different bake sales. (How I got volunteered to bake for two separate bake sales a day apart is something I'm still scratching my head over.) The cookies went well at the bake sale. A few people commented that they thought the pigs were cute with their curled frosting tails. Yet another great thing about pig cookie can get away with minimalist decorating!

Will I make this recipe again? I'm still undecided. I did think the cookies were delicious, but I still prefer a crispier gingerbread. I'm going to keep an eye out and test a few other gingerbread recipes and see if I can't find one I like even better.

Mexican Gingerbread Cookies (Cochinitos) from I really like food
3 Cups all purpose flour
1 Tblsp powdered ginger
1/1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 Cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1 egg
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup molasses
1tsp vanilla

glaze: 1 egg white blended with 1 Tblsp water

Preheat oven to 350. Sift dry ingredients. In a large bowl cream butter and sugar. Add the sour cream, egg, honey, molasses, and vanilla. Stir in the dry ingredients. The dough should be fairly moist. Refrigerate dough, covered for 1-2 hours. Roll it on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin 1/4 to 3/8" thick. Place on a parchment lined or greased cookie sheet. Lightly brush on egg glaze and bake 10-12 min til just firm to touch, and lightly browned.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Turkey Cranchiladas

I would like to sing you a song to get this post started off right. ***Ahem***

Oh Turkey are the best.
Oh Turrrrrkey cran-chil-laaaaaaa-daaaaaas.
Best.Seriously. They rock. Who woulda thunk it. Cranberries and salsa. It so totally works. The sweet and the spicy. Man. This is how awesome they are...Mrblocko did NOT put hot sauce on them. He said they tasted awesome the way they were and hot sauce would ruin the precarious balance between sweet and spicy.

And can I say that this was one of those recipes that he raised an eyebrow to. Harumph. I knew it was gonna be AWESOME. I just knew it.

Now I know I am the queen of substitutions, but do not, I repeat do NOT substitute any other cheese for the pepper jack. The pepper jack cheese adds a lot of flavor to the dish. Blockette hates, no loathes pepper jack cheese. She calls it "daddy's spicy cheese" and refuses to eat it. I did not tell her that there was pepper jack in the dish until after she had started gobbling up her enchilada. Her comment to me was, "But mommy, it can't be Daddy's spicy cheese. It tastes too good!"

This was my first use of the Thanksgiving ton of turkey leftovers. It's going to be hard to top this. I have plans to make this again with chicken and see if it works just as well. I don't normally think of chicken and cranberries as a good combination, but there are so many other tasty flavor combinations in the dish. I think the chicken-y taste of the meat will get lost. Plus, the recipe says you can use chicken if you want, so it must be OK!

One more thing about this recipe that is has me super keen on it...It makes a lot. The tortillas are jam packed with filling. So much so that an entire pan, plus a side salad, fed the three of us for three dinners. I love when I get that unexpected leftover meal.

Speaking of leftovers, the enchiladas taste great warmed up in the microwave. They aren't as delicious as the first time because the tortillas loose that slight bit of crisp on the edges. (Yeah, I'm weird. I actually like that part. I also like the crispy part of the lasagna.) Since enchiladas are smothered in sauce, mostly they aren't crispy anyhow so I got over myself fairly quickly.

The recipe for turkey cranchiladas is over at Pink Parsley. Go there. Get the recipe and make yourself some. Whatcha waitin for?

Turkey Cranchiladas from Pink Parsley
2-2 1/2 cups shredded turkey or chicken
2 cups whole-berry cranberry sauce (or 1 16-oz can)
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups salsa
1 1/2 cups shredded Pepperjack cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
3-4 scallions, chopped
1/4 cup lightly-packed chopped cilantro
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
10-12 (6-inch) flour tortillas
1 tsp bottled hot sauce

Preheat the oven to 350F and lightly spray a 9x13" baking dish with cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine the turkey, 1 c cranberry sauce, the beans, sour cream, 3/4 cup cheese, 1/2 c salsa, green onions, cilantro, cumin, salt, and pepper. Spoon about 1/3 c filling into each tortilla, and roll tightly. Place seam-side down in baking dish. In a medium bowl, combine remaining cranberry sauce, 1 c salsa, and hot sauce. Stir to combine and Pour over the enchiladas. Cover the dish with foil, and bake 45 min. Remove foil, and sprinkle with remaining 3/4 c cheese. Continue to bake, uncovered, an additional 10 min, til cheese melted and bubbly. Sprinkle with additional cilantro and scallions, and serve.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Thankful Thursday 1.11

Yeah, I got a bit slack at the end of the year on the whole Thankful Thursday posting. I was wondering if I should continue with it in 2011 or not. I decided it was probably good for me to do, even if no one else cared. Because, ultimately, the purpose of Thankful Thursday posts was for me to remember that there was good stuff to be thankful for, even if the days or weeks seemed like they were absolutely rotten.

1. School started up again.
2. I got some work done on a new craft project.
3. The Velcro sentence wall in the children's section of the Library.
4. My consistent misspellings makes me hard to plagiarize. (Plus someone's gotta give spell check a good workout!)
5. Finishing a book my mom gave me over a year ago. (It was awesome. Why did I wait so long to read it.
6. A nice visit with my in-laws.
7. Successes in the kitchen.
8. Family game time.
9. The cute silly little books Blockette makes.
10. Mrblocko coming home for dinner between work and meetings/appointments.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Cran-Cherry Pretzel Brownies

I made these brownies for a potluck dinner at church a while ago. The theme was tacos and I couldn't figure out what sort of side dish went with tacos, so I made a dessert.

This recipe was chosen for a few reasons. One, chocolate and spicy foods always seem like a good pair to me. (Besides, only goofy guesses don't like chocolate. Yeah I have a friend who doesn't like chocolate. Don't worry. I revoked her "Girl Card." ) Second, I'd been eyeing the pretzel crust cherry brownies from Heather's Dish for months and hadn't found an excuse to make them yet. Third, I was short on time and it seemed like a quick and easy recipe to whip up.

I took the easy route and used a box brownie mix with chocolate chunks. It had been sitting in the pantry for a while and needed to get used up before mrblocko saw that it was about to expire. (He gets so picky about that stuff. Won't let me keep anything past it's expiration date. He is so unfun that way.) I also used cherry flavored cranberries instead of plain dried cherries.

EXCEPT...someone had been nibbling on the cranberries. I only had 1/2 cup instead of the 3/4 c called for in the recipe. I don't know who did that, but they are in BIG trouble. Excuse me, I'm going to go stand in the corner now.

OK, I'm back! While the brownies could have used more dried cranberries, they were still tasty nonetheless. If I do make these again I will be adding the full amount in. The bites that did contain a bit of tartness went really well with the chocolate and left me wanting more. I did have one problem though. The crust did not set up very well. I think I didn't crush them fine enough. Instead of smashing them with my trusty frying pan, I think I will give them a whirl in the food processor. I think that way they'll get a slightly finer and more even chop.

These brownies went really fast. Although, I'm not sure if that was because Mrblocko and I ate at least 3 each. I cut them on the small side for that reason. It's always so much more satisfying to eat three brownies than just one. I don't know about you, but I will always want at least three brownies at a time no matter what their dimensions are. At least I know that about myself and have the foresight to slice them on the small side.

Pretzel Crust Cherry brownies from Heather's Dish
2 1/3 cups pretzels, crumbled
1 cup butter, melted
5 Tbsp granulated sugar

First, preheat the oven to 400. Smash pretzels and combine ingredients. Press into 9x13 pan , and bake at 400 for 6-7 min. Won’t be completely solid, so keep pan even.

1 2/3 cups sugar
3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) melted butter
1/4 cup water
2 large eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups flour
3/4 cups cocoa powder
3/4 c dried cherries

melt butter; add sugar, eggs, vanilla, and water. Then Cocoa powder and flour til just combined. Add cherries. Carefully pour over pretzel crust. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until brownies are set and a knife comes out clean. Let them cool completely before serving.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Black Eye Pea Soup a la Slow Cooker

I had never had blackeye peas before. I think I lumped them into the same category as peas or other white beans. Until recently, I've really cared for neither. Stephanie over at a Year of Slow Cooking came up with a recipe for black eyed pea crock pot soup that sounded so good I felt compelled to try it. Stephanie had tried black eyed peas previously and found them to be disgusting. So when she said this soup was good, I believed her.The first time I made this soup I used ham stock in place of chicken stock, and cooked crumbled bulk breakfast sausage. The second time I made this recipe, I used the last of my Ham Stock and crumbled bulk Italian sausage. The recipe says to use "hot" (as in the spice, not the temperature) sausage, which I can't stand. I figured the Italian would give a bit more spice, without going to an extreme I would find unappealing. The Italian sausage was tastier, in my opinion, but Mrblocko said he couldn't tell the difference.

Technically, you are supposed to use sausage links/bratts. The next time I make this dish, I will make sure I have them on hand. The final step of this recipe is to scoop out some of the beans and puree them in a blender. It was hard to keep the tiny bits of meat out of the beans that were scooped out for puree. When I do use the links, I will slice them in coins, quarter them and brown them first before adding them to the crockpot. I think the caramelized bits on the sausage would add lots of tasty goodness to this soup.

After making this dish for the first time, Mrblocko and I also agreed that more than a cup of the beans should be pureed in the blender. When I made this for New Year's Day dinner I pureed 2 cups of beans. This did make the soup thicker and creamier, just not quite as creamy as we would have liked it to be. The next time I make this soup, I'm going to blend up 3 cups.

The verdict was that this was tasty! Even Blockette gave the thumbs up! (beans and all!) I'm so glad I finally got around to giving black eyed beans a try. They are nothing like the other white beans like Northern, navy or Cannellini, they are so much better. They have such a mild un bean like flavor. That's probably why Blockette and I liked the soup so much.

Finally, don't skip the hot sauce on this recipe. You know that when I, the hater of hot sauce, says not to skip the hot sauce, it is an essential ingredient. I ate this for two separate meals before I added hot sauce. I kept thinking...this is missing something. So I gave the hot sauce a whirl. It adds this little bit of heat that somehow compliments the rest of the flavors within the soup. Of course we couldn't convince Blockette to try some with hot sauce. She was eating the soup without complaint, and that was enough for me!

Crockpot Black eyed pea Soup from a Year of Slow Cooking
1 pound dried black eyed peas
1 pound spicy sausage
6 cups chicken broth
1 yellow onion, diced
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
4 cloves garlic, diced
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
Tabasco sauce (to add at the end to taste)

Soak your beans overnight. Drain and pick out the undesirables (broken, discolored beans) in the morning. Use a 5 to 6 quart crockpot. This will serve about 8 people. Dice the veggies, and dump them into your crockpot with the pre-soaked beans. Add sliced sausage. Pour in broth, and stir in Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours, or on high for about 6. Before serving, use a stick blender to smash up about 1 cup of beans. If you don't have a stick blender, scoop out 1 cup of beans, blend them in a traditional blender, and add back to the soup. Don't blend too much---just enough to get the broth thicker and creamy-looking.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy New Year and Ham Stock

I took a bit of a break from posting the past few weeks. Well, not so much of a break, but I just didn't post 4 days a week like a normally do. If I felt like posting I did and if i was uber lazy, I didn't. Now that it's a new year I'm getting back into my old routine. It feels weird. For example, I had to think really hard about what time I needed to leave to drop Blockette off for school. How do I forget that in only two weeks??? Must be old age and senility setting in.

I made this recipe for Ham stock over a month ago. My best friend had a fancy ham dinner and, to my surprise, she asked me if I wanted the ham bone. You bet I did! I snatched that bad boy up and stuck it in the freezer until I ate up some of the leftovers in there. Once the freezer had some free space I made some ham stock.

I've made chicken stock loads of time in the crock pot, but I wasn't quite sure if ham stock would work as well. I found some ham stock recipes on Kalyn's Kitchen, 101 things every cook should cook, and Recipes and Reviews to use as guidelines.

Ultimately, I basically followed the same recipe as the chicken stock.

I used:
1 medium size ham bone with a small amount of meat and fat still on it
2 carrots cut into 3 pieces
2 ribs of celery cut into 3 pieces
4 cloves of garlic
2 small onions cut in half
10 pepper corns
1 bay leaf
5 sage leaves
2 sprigs of thyme
1 sprig of parsley
1 tsp cumin
a pinch of red pepper flakes

Dump all those ingredients in the slow cooker over night. In the morning, drain, strain and skim off the fat.

See wasn't that super easy? A perfect recipe for those of you like me who are having difficulty getting back into the swing of things.