Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Broccoli Quinoa and Honey Nut Chicken

I happen to like a good many of the Broccoli Cheese and Rice casseroles out there. Personally, I don't know what's not to like. You've got the cheesey, salty, carby goodness, with some healthy broccoli thrown in there for good measure. My husband on the other hand, thinks broccoli cheese casserole is disgusting. Oh, sure he'll politely take a portion when it's served at potlucks, and eat it so as to not hurt anyone's feelings.  But secretly, he HATES it.

So when I told him I was making this Broccoli Quinoa Hotdish from Eating Well...Living Thin, he gave me the stink eye.  I was not expecting him to like it at all.  I had never had quinoa, so I didn't even know if I was going to like it either.  In the effort of being a good parent, and not limiting our daughter's palate by our own likes and dislikes, we even worked out a secret code to let the other one know if we thought the dish was total rubbish. 
Surprises of all surprises, the dish was fantastic.  Even Mrblocko LIKED it.  Not just tolerated it, he cleaned his plate and said I could make it again, any time I wanted.  Whoohoo!  Blockette liked it too, although she said she liked the broccoli part better than the quinoa.   She likes the veggie part better than the grain part? Yeah, I'll take that as a victory.

I have a few theories as to why Mrblocko liked this casseroles, and not the others.  First, I only used the shrubby part of the broccoli.  No stems.  Cause cooked stems are like chewing on a stick.  Bleck.  I also used fresh,  not frozen broccoli.  I'm sure that it would taste just fine with the frozen stuff, but then the broccoli would be mushy.  I only par boiled the broccoli before I cooked the casserole, so the veggies were crisp and had a bit of bite to them.  It was a nice mix of textures with the crunch of the broccoli, mushiness of the quinoa and the ooey gooeyness of the cheese.

I also made Rachael Ray's Honey Nut Chicken for dinner that night.  I used to make this all the time before Blockette was born.  Ahem.  Well, actually, I would have Mrblocko would make it.  I couldn't cook to save my life before Blockette came along.   I don't know what I was scared about back then, because this is a really easy chicken recipe. 
I cannot for the life of me remember the last time I had this chicken.  I think it's one of the side effects of having a blog and constantly trying out new recipes, you forget about the really good favorite stand by recipes.  Blockette certainly didn't remember ever eating this chicken before, and she has a memory like a steel trap.

I'm fairly certain that the last time I made it I did not have the nice food processor that I do now.  In the past, the nutty breading was always really chunky.  My nice Cuisinart just pulverized the nuts.  I missed having the larger peanut chunks.  I'm going to have to remember that this machine actually chops things and pulse the nuts for a shorter time.

Broccoli Quinoa Casserole from Eating well...Living thin
One 10 oz can condensed Cream of Broccoli soup (or mushroom) (I used cream of chicken)
1/3 cup reduced fat mayonnaise
2 tablespoons milk
1 1/4 cups reduced fat shredded cheese (cheddar, colby-jack, etc)
1/2 teaspoon Splenda/sugar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Dash freshly grated nutmeg
2 cups cooked broccoli (I just par boiled mine until they were bright green)
1 1/2 cups COOKED quinoa (see note)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

To cook quinoa:
3/4 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt

Rinse quinoa in a fine sieve until water runs clear. In a small saucepan combine the quinoa, water, and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and cover. Cook for 18-20 minutes, or until fluffy and the white ring/tail is visible. Fluff with a fork.

Preheat oven to 350F and coat a shallow (8×8 in or 5-6 cups) casserole dish with vegetable cooking spray. (I forgot that part but it didn't stick or burn.  YAY!)In a large bowl combine the soup, mayonnaise, milk, shredded cheese, Splenda, pepper, and nutmeg until well mixed. Stir in the quinoa and broccoli.Spoon mixture into prepared casserole. Sprinkle on a couple tablespoons of Parmesan and bake for 35-40 minutes

Honey Nut Chicken from Rachael Ray
2/3 c honey roasted peanuts (Smoked or honey roasted almonds are great too)
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1 tablespoon grill seasoning 
2 eggs
A splash of milk
2 teaspoons hot sauce, several drops
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 (6 to 8-ounce) pieces of chicken breast, pounded to an even thickness

Preheat oven to 350 F. Put nuts, bread crumbs and grill seasoning in food processor and pulse grind to combine the nuts into bread crumbs. Pour nutty-breading onto a plate.

Beat eggs and half-and-half or milk with hot sauce in a shallow dish.

Pour flour out on a plastic board or plate.

Dust both sides of the chicken with flour. Dip the chicken into the egg mixture and then coat with the nutty-breading.

Preheat a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add vegetable oil to coat the bottom of the pan with a thin layer. Brown chicken pieces 2 min on each side in hot oil til evenly light golden in color. Transfer to a baking sheet (I have a skillet with an oven safe handle so I just stuck the whole thing in the oven in the pan.) Cook in oven until juices run clear and breasts are cooked through, about 10 to 12 minutes

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Okayu - Japanese rice porridge

A few weeks ago I was feeling under the weather.  Nothing sounded good to eat, not even toast or soup.  I was sitting at the computer, screwing around in hopes that I could just pass on the whole lunch thing. Then I came across this recipe for Okayu over at FOODjimoto.  I knew instantly that I HAD to get my butt in the kitchen and make it for lunch.

Back when I was in college, many many moons ago, I took a quarter off of school to visit some friends in Japan.  It was a horribly failed trip as I caught a virus on the plane and had to return home after only having stayed for a week.  My "friend's" (I use the term "friend" loosely here, as apparently me getting sick really put a cramp in her style)  mom made me some Okayu in hopes that it would make me feel better.  It was one of the few things I could actually eat.

I had no idea how to make it or even what it was called.  The mom just plunked the bowl of gruel in front of me and politely encouraged me to eat it.  I didn't realize what it was until I saw the picture of it on the FOODjimoto blog.

This dish was exactly what I needed back then, and last week when I was under the weather.  I was feeling better the day after I made this, so I added my Okayu leftovers to some veggie soup.  It made for a really thick yummy soup!

If you're feeling under the weather, but not quite up for the usual chicken noodle soup pick me up, here's what you need to make Japanese rice porridge!
1/2c short or medium grain rice
4 c water

Rinse the rice in a colander.  Put the water and rice into a pot and let it come to a boil.  Simmer covered on the lowest setting for 30 min.  Keep the lid slightly ajar so the pot doesn't boil over.  (I forgot this part and made a mess of my stove. Don't be me!)  Stir occasionally so the rice doesn't burn. Add salt or whatever strikes your fancy.  ie pickled plum, eggs, leftover meat, veggies, dashi, etc.  I didn't have any of those things, so I added 2 cubes of chicken bullion to the water as the rice cooked. It was a bit on the salty side for me, so I think next time, I'll try just one bullion cube.

Monday, November 28, 2011

How come no one told me Sawmill Gravy was so easy to make?!

I finally broke down and made sawmill gravy from scratch.  It wasn't any harder than making it from a packet, or heating up a jar of the stuff on the stove.  I always add sausage to the pre-made stuff, so there's no extra work there.  And with the packet of powdered gravy stuff, you have to add milk and cook it over the stove so no extra work there either.  It takes the exact same time, tastes better and is loads cheaper!

I used Mr. Alton Brown's standard Sawmill Gravy recipe. Which is basically as follows:
1 pound bulk breakfast sausage
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk (I used skim)
Salt and pepper

Cook up the sausage in skillet. Remove the sausage to drain, leaving all but 2 T of fat in your pan.  (My sausage only yielded 1 T of fat so I added 1 T butter.)  Whisk flour into the fat and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. (I only cooked it for about 2 min, just enough time so the nutty flavor in the flour could develop.) Slowly whisk in the milk in a slow stream to eliminate lumps. Turn the heat up to med high, and stir occasionally until the gravy thickens and comes to a simmer.  (Be sure to scrape up any brown bits that might be stuck to the bottom of the pan, that's where the flavor is.) Check seasoning, add crumbled sausage and serve over toast or biscuits.  Now, how easy is that?!

I think the look on Blockette's face says it all...pure heaven. 

Now all I need to learn is how to make biscuits that aren't popped out of a can!  Then, if I ever meet Alton Brown on the street, I won't have to hang my head in shame.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Lion House Rolls

These Lion House Rolls from Mel's Kitchen Cafe were amazing.  I was over the moon when they turned out looking and tasting like bread.  It's too bad that I didn't see the link on how to roll them and place them on the sheet until well after I made them.  Oh well.  There will be a next time.  I'll try to remember to post an updated photo when I cut, roll and place them on the cookie sheet properly.

Here's the before shot.  Yeah. I was really in a hurry to get those rolls into the oven.  Finished was better than perfect.  I'd rather have a weird sized roll vs no roll at all with my soup!

Here's what they looked like after 15 min in the oven.  They probably should have been darker, but it was dinner time and Blockette and I were famished. 
I froze 12 of the cooked rolls, as I knew they weren't going to get eaten before they got stale.  I put them in the fridge to defrost and nuked them for a few seconds to heat them up.   They were great for breakfast when I was on antibiotics and was trying to stay clear of dairy.

Here is the recipe as written on Mel's Kitchen Cafe.  (I highly suggest heading over to her site as she has wonderfully helpful pictures.):

Lion House Rolls
2 tablespoons active dry yeast
2 cups warm water
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 egg
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
2/3 cup nonfat dry milk
5-6 cups flour

In a large bowl, combine the yeast and water. Let stand 5 minutes. Add sugar, butter, salt, dry milk, 2 cups flour and egg. Beat together until very smooth. Add remaining flour gradually (1/2 cup at a time) until a soft but not sticky dough is formed. Knead dough for at least 5 minutes if using an electric mixer and for at least 10 minutes if mixing the dough by hand. When the dough is smooth, supple and elastic, place it in a lightly greased large bowl covered with greased plastic wrap and let it rise until doubled.

Separate the dough into two portions. Roll each section out to an 11X14-inch rectangle. Brush the top with melted butter. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut the dough into two pieces, the long way (see photos below). Then slice the dough into five or six strips across so you end up with 10 to 12 small rectangles. Roll each small rectangle up like a snail and place on a silpat-lined or lightly greased baking sheet with the roll resting on it’s open edge. Repeat with the second portion of dough.
Cover the rolls with lightly greased plastic wrap and let them rise until doubled. Bake at 375 degrees for 12-14 minutes until they are nicely browned.

Here is the YouTube video on how to roll out Good thing it's a video cause I've no idea how you explain that flippy thing the lady on there does.  I can't wait to give it a try!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Pumpkin Granola

Get a load of that massive granola-y goodness.


This isn't just any granola. It's pumpkin granola from Baked Bree. The weird thing is that it's not too much different than my go to recipe for granola.  The main difference is this one doesn't have any filler Rice Krispies, but does have pumpkin.  Hmmm...since this granola has applesauce and pumpkin in it, does it qualify as eating a fruit and a veggie?  Well if the government considers pizza a vegetable, then the answer must be a resounding YES!

I made a few minor additions to this recipe.  First I added about 1/2 c coarsely chopped walnuts, and quite a bit more than 1/2 c of sliced almonds.  I just dumped the almonds into the cooked and cooled mixture until I thought it looked almond-y enough. I also added 1/2 c steel cut oats, 1/4 c wheat germ and 1/4 c ground flax seed.  I add all that to my regular granola for extra fiber so I did the same here.  With all those add ins the granola didn't clump up as much as it probably should.  I don't particularly care for the huge chunks in my granola either, so it worked well for me.

When this first came out of the oven, I snuck a tiny bit to test taste.  At the time, I didn't think it was anything special.  However, once the granola cooled, the spices and slight pumpkin flavor emerged.  YUM!  It was difficult to stop eating. It tasted that good.

This really is the perfect granola for the fall and winter.  There is something about it that tastes really hardy.  More so than my go to recipe.  I'll keep making my usual granola in the spring and summer.  I think the extra spices would be too heavy for the warmer months. 

Pumpkin Granola from Baked Bree
5 cups rolled oats
1/2 c rough chopped walnuts (optional)
1/2 c steel cut oats (optional)
1/4 c wheat germ (optional)
1/4 c ground flax seed (optional)
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (you can buy this or make your own. See below.)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup brown sugar (use splenda brown sugar to reduce the sugar)
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (Make sure it's puree, not pumpkin pie filling)
1/4 cup maple syrup (I used the fake stuff, go ahead and use sugar free if you want)
1/4 cup applesauce (Again, sugar free is ok, I used Cinnamon applesauce as I am a cinnamon fiend)
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup sliced almonds (or more if you are like me)

In a large bowl, combine oats, walnuts, flax, wheat germ, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and brown sugar. In another bowl, combine the pumpkin, maple syrup, applesauce, and vanilla. Pour the pumpkin mix into oat mix. Toss til coated. Spread onto baking sheet lined with foil or parchment. Bake in a preheated 325F for 20 min. Take granola out and stir it around. Bake another 20 minutes or until granola gets crisp. (I usually have to cook mine for about an hour to get it as crisp as I like it.) Take granola out and mix in the cranberries and almonds. Store in an airtight container.

Pumpkin Pie Spice from Baking Bites
1/4 cup ground cinnamon
2 tbsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cardamom

Mix everything together and store in an airtight container.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Bread Bowls

These Soft bread bowls from Jamie Cooks it Up were a last minute addition to dinner.  I wasn't really thrilled with the idea of eating boring old leftover soup.  Fresh bread can jazz up any meal, and I was all about giving this ordinary soup some oomph.

I searched my "to make" list for breads.  Most of them had long rise times.  I didn't decide to make bread until about 4:00 after I got Blockette and M off the bus.  No way I was going to push dinner off until 7pm or later.  That never works well, especially on a school night.

The bread bowls only take about an hour to make.  They rise in a low oven, and then you crank the heat up and they continue to rise as the oven preheats.  It worked perfectly.
Look how yummy those little bread bowls are!  Tan and shiny, just like they've been sunning themselves on the beach.  I got a little giddy when I took them out of the oven.  I did that little hopping up and down happy dance because they actually turned out.  I'm always surprised when I make bread and it looks and tastes like something you might buy at a bakery.
And here's our little vessel filled to the brim with soup. Oh, it's far from boring and ordinary now! I gobbled up my portion with gusto.

Blockette thought they were awesome too. She got to eat her bowl, something that she thought was hilarious. Eating your bowl, I mean that is pretty cool whether you're 6 or 36.

One word of warning:  let the bread bowls cool before you attempt to hollow them out.  I was impatient and did it right away.  The center of the bread is quite soft and almost gummy right out of the oven.  It can be done, but it is much easier to scoop out the center when the bowls have cooled.

Soft Bread Bowls from Jamie cooks it up
2 T sugar
1 1/2 t salt
4 C flour
1/2 C warm water
1 C milk
2 T butter
1 T yeast
1 egg, beaten

1. Place 2 C flour into bottom of stand mixer. Add sugar and salt. Stir it around a bit to combine.
2. Pour milk and water into one measuring cup. Heat it in the microwave for 1 min, til bubbly and hot.
3. Carefully put the butter into the hot liquid and let it melt just a bit.
4. Pour buttery milk into \mixer. Turn \mixer on to low and let it mix for just 30 sec or so.
5. Add yeast and remaining 2 c flour.
6. Mix dough for 5 min.
7. Spray a large cookie sheet with cooking spray and set dough out on to it.
8. Using a sharp knife cut the dough into 6 equal parts.
9. Let dough rest 5 min, then shape each piece into a ball. Whisk egg up in a small bowl and spread egg over tops of each dough ball.
10. Place pan in a 170F oven and let dough rise until doubled in size. This should take 15-25 min.
11. Turn oven up to 350F (leave pan in oven while temp increases) Bake little bowls for 15 min (depending on how long your oven takes to heat up) or until golden brown.
12. Let bowls cool 10 min, then slice top of each bowl, scoop out middle, and pour some soup right on in!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful Thanksgiving Thursday 46.11

This year I'm especially thankful that my life is so full of all those things that money can never buy.  I am so blessed to have a weird, wonderful, drive me crazy, goofy, loving family that encompasses more than just those loonies I'm genetically related to.  I loves all y'all!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate Fail

Salted caramel seems to be all the rage these days. I've never had it before, but I do love salty and sweet things like chocolate covered pretzels or chocolate covered potato chips. So my logic told me that I would love salted caramel as well.

One of Starbucks seasonal beverages is a salted caramel hot chocolate, which I have also never had. (Yeah, I know. We've been through this before. I live under a rock.) When I came across the recipe on Taste and Tell for salted caramel hot chocolate I figured I had hit the jackpot.

This would be the perfect way to use some of that dulce de leche that I made in the microwave.  Woah.  That stuff totally solidified like real caramel in the fridge.  Man.  The slow cooked stuff never did that.  I gave the dulce de leche a test taste to make sure it was still good.  Yes.  It was good, but very very chewy.

So I heated up the caramel in the microwave in 20 second bursts until it was scoopable.  I put my 4 Tablespoons in the pan with the milk and cocoa, then heated the whole thing up on the stove.  I tested a spoonful and it was not nearly sweet enough. In went a few more tablespoons of DDL. Mrblocko gave it a test taste and we declared it to be sweet enough.

At this point I realized that I hadn't added the salt.  So I put in 1/4 teaspoon of coarse salt and stirred the brew some more.

Mrblocko divided the hot chocolate into 3 mugs and I heaped on the marshmellows as usual.  The first sip tasted fine.  But I couldn't drink any more after the second.  The drink tasted off to me. I thought it was just me as I had a cold.  Then Mrblocko put his mug down and made a weird face.

"It's too salty!" he exclaimed. 
Blockette thought it was too salty as well, but she insisted on eating the marshmellows before we dumped out the hot chocolate.  Apparently the marshmellows didn't absorb any salty taste, so at least there was that.

Oh well.  Lots of people like salted caramel stuff, but I guess it just isn't our thing.

Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate from Taste and Tell
4 tablespoons dulce de leche
1 1/4 cups milk
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
whipped cream

In a small pot over medium heat, warm the dulce de leche. Whisk in the milk, cocoa powder and salt until smooth. Heat until warmed and serve immediately topped with whipped cream.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Coffee Cake in a Mug

I am a huge fan of this eggless brownie in a mug. It's the perfect treat when you don't have any sweets in the house and you've got a massive chocolate craving. Plus there is that bonus of not eating an entire pan of brownies as it is just one little serving, (or two if you feel generous and wanna share.)

But what happens when you are out of cocoa powder?  Then what do you do when you want something sweet that is quick, easy and portion controlled?  Well, you make this Mug o' coffee cake from Prudent Baby!
This dessert tastes super sweet, but, if you make it with sour cream, it has half the sugar of the brownie in a mug.  I'm sure you could use Splenda instead of sugar with no problem, if that was your thing.

I left the egg out in my version and it turned out just fine.  So whether you add an egg or not is up to you.  I also used Dannon Light and Fit Vanilla yogurt so I didn't add any vanilla extract to my version.  Light and fit is a fat free yogurt and the cake turned out just fine.  I think you'd be ok using the fat free sour cream as well.  There is enough fat from the butter in the recipe that the fat from the sour cream/yogurt is not necessary.  So use whatever you have on hand, your mug of cake will turn out fine either way.  Don't you love it when a recipe is flexible like that?!

5 minute coffee cake in a mug from Prudent Baby
1 T butter
2 T sugar
1/2-1 egg, or omit all together
2T sour cream or yogurt (I used 2 heaping T of yogurt since I omitted the egg)
few drops of vanilla (I omitted this as my yogurt was vanilla flavored)
1/4 c flour (I used whole wheat)
1/8 t baking powder
1/2 t cinnamon

Crumb topping

1T butter
2T flour
1T brown sugar
1t cinnamon

In a separate bowl combine all ingredients for crumb topping with a knife, fork or fingers.
In a microwaveable mug nuke the butter for 10-15 seconds, just enough to soften.  Add sugar and combine.  Next add egg, if using.  Mix in Sour cream/yogurt and vanilla.  Next mix flour, baking powder and cinnamon until all ingredients are combined. Add crumb topping to the top of the mixture in the mug.  Microwave for 1 minute.  If cake is not done enough cook for another 10 seconds at a time until cake is at desired texture.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Super Pumpkin-y Beer Mac n Cheese

It's fall so I've been in the mood to make all things pumpkiny. I saw this recipe for pumpkin beer mac n cheese from The Fig Tree and thought it would be the perfect recipe to satisfy my culinary craving. We really love Rachael Ray's Pasta with Pumpkin and sausage, so I thought this would be a knock it out of the ball park grand slam.  The Fig Tree got this recipe from Rachael Ray as well, so considering they were created by the same kitchen, they're bound to be equally delicious.  Right?
Le sigh.  No such luck.  The beer made the dish taste super pumpkiny.  While I like cooking with pumpkin, I don't particularly like the taste of pumpkin, and neither does the rest of my family.  This may sound odd, but usually when you cook with pumpkin, you can't actually taste the squash. 

I pondered this recipe for several days after I made it. What was it that was so different from the other pumpkin pasta dish we liked so much?  Then it hit me.  This mac and cheese recipe uses a whole can, while the Pasta with Pumpkin and Sausage only requires a cup.  My suggestion to you if you don't care for the taste of squash or pumpkin is to cut back the pumpkin to a cup.

P.S. With the leftovers, Mrblocko had the brilliant idea to add Salt Free Forward! from Penzey's Spices, and it totally saved the dish. The spices in that seasoning blend completely masked the pumpkin, without being over powering.  YAY!

Pumpkin Mac and Cheese via The Fig Tree
pound of short-cut pasta (I used a mix of cavatappi and gemeli)
4 tablespoons of unsalted butter
3 tablespoons of flour; slightly rounded
1 cup of amber beer
2 tablespoons of maple syrup
2 cups of milk (skim works fine)
1/2 teaspoon of allspice
1 teaspoon of ground mustard
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1-14 ounce can of pure pumpkin purée (I recommend using half a can/7 oz)
2 and 1/2 cups of shredded sharp yellow cheddar cheese; divided
sweet paprika for sprinkling (Or Forward! from Penzey's)

Pre-heat oven to 350'F. Cook pasta toal dente. Drain and set aside. Melt butter in a medium pan over medium heat. Whisk in flour ensuring no lumps develop; cook for 1 min. Raise heat a small bit and add beer. Whisk well to ensure no lumps form. Once beer has evaporated a bit (5 min), whisk in syrup and milk. Season with  allspice, mustard, cayenne and  nutmeg. Add salt and pepper to taste. Allow  to cook on med til sauce leaves a thick coat on back of a spoon (3 min). Whisk in pumpkin then stir in 2c  cheese. Mix til cheese melted. Combine pasta and sauce and arrange in a casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Dust tops lightly with paprika. Bake for 15 min and/or broil to allow the top to get brown and bubbly.

Pasta with Pumpkin and Sage via Food Network
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
1 pound bulk Italian sausage
4 cloves garlic, cracked and chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
4 to 6 sprigs sage leaves, cut into chiffonade, about 2 T
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Coarse salt and black pepper
1 pound penne, cooked to al dente
Romano or Parmigiano, for grating

Heat a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 1 T oil to pan. brown sausage in it. Transfer sausage to paper towel lined plate. Drain fat from skillet and return pan to stove. Add remaining Toil, and then garlic and onion. Saute 3-5 min til onions tender. Add bay leaf, sage, and wine to pan. Reduce wine by half, 2 min. Add stock and pumpkin and stir to combine, stirring sauce til comes to bubble. Return sausage to pan, reduce heat, and stir in cream. Season sauce with cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer 5-10 min to thicken .Return drained pasta to pot you cooked it in. Remove bay leaf from sauce and pour sausage pumpkin sauce over pasta. Combine sauce and pasta and toss over low for 1 min. Garnish with lots of shaved cheese and sage leaves.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Just 'Cuz (PB White Chocolate Oatmeal ) Cookies

I'm still not 100% from my bout with the Victorian sounding affliction, Pleurisy. My best friend pointed out with all those ancient funky sounding ailments, they take forever and a day to recover from, and at least back then you got to recover sea side.  Where is my sea side recovery?  Huh?  And shouldn't it also include something brass-y and steampunkish? 

Yeah.  I don't wanna hear about how I'd be better already if I just listened to the Dr and didn't over do it.  It's boring feeling like poo.  And there are lots of things that need to get done around here.

So I was sitting around feeling bored and tired and tired of being bored and tired, when I got bit by the baking bug.  Baking isn't strenuous, at least it isn't if you only make one batch of cookies. Now I have cookie dough all rolled into balls, sitting in my freezer.  I very well could have just popped those bad boys into the oven.  But I actually wanted to make something, not just pop something in the oven.

Besides, these white chocolate peanut butter oatmeal cookies from How Sweet it is were begging to be made.  BEGGING I tells ya!
Thanks to Betty, my nifty swanky stand mixer, and Blockette, the cookie making was a breeze. Blockette even did her reading homework while the cookies were baking. Talk about multitasking!

These cookies are crack for people.  They really hit the spot: culinarily, creatively, emotionally and in my belly.  I may have even discovered the cure for Pleurisy.  Someone should call the Mayo Clinic and then alert those Nobel Prize fellows.  I'll be waiting by the phone.

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies from How Sweet it is
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup of old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted and cooled
6 tablespoons of creamy peanut butter, melted and cooled
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup white chocolate morsels/chunks
1/2 cup peanut butter morsels

Preheat oven to 325F. ( I had to bump my oven up to 350F because they weren't baking fast enough.) Add butter and peanut butter to a microwave safe bowl, and heat in 30 second increments until melted. Let cool completely.

Mix flour, oats, salt and baking soda in a bowl and set aside. In another bowl, mix cooled butter/peanut butter and sugars til combined. Add egg, egg yolk, and vanilla. Stir til mixed. Gradually add dry ingredients and mix until a dough forms. You may need your hands to bring it all together. (My stand mixer did just fine on the lowest speed.) If necessary, add 1-2 teaspoons of milk. Fold in white chocolate and peanut butter chips.

Shape dough into a ball the size of a golfball. (I used my small cookie scoop because I wanted more smaller cookies vs. a few large cookies.) Place on a baking sheet two inches apart and bake for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are slightly brown. The centers should be soft and slightly puffy. Do not over bake.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

'11 Happy Dance #33: More Magnet Gifts

My husband's best friend turned 30 this year.  We don't normally give birthday gifts to grown ups, but Mrblocko thought we should make an exception as this is a special occasion/milestone birthday.  Gift cards were suggested as a good present, but that seemed a bit impersonal to me.

Mrblocko and I were stumped.  We couldn't think of anything.  I got a hold of my best friend to see if she could think of any suggestions.  She did a bit of sleuthing on Facebook and found out that the birthday girl liked a certain computer game and Star Wars.  That didn't help me at all.  Later that night my best friend gave me a call with a brilliant idea. Star Wars Magnets!  Lego Star Wars magnets.  Cause really, who can't use more magnets?  And doesn't everyone love Legos mini figures?

Here is a horrible close up of some of the magnets.  They look much better in person.  The flash on the glass didn't do the finished product any favors.
I made several other magnets: Captain Rex, Luminara Unduil, Chewie, R2D2, Obi Wan, Jar Jar, and Watto.  There was a Han Solo too, but he had an unfortunate accident.  Let's just say he's stuck in carbonite and we'll leave it at that.

Friday, November 18, 2011

French Toast Waffles

My mom makes the best french toast on the planet. This is not up for debate as I doubt any of you have ever had my mom's french toast. You'll just have to take my word for it. I did come pretty close on the deliciousness scale this summer using Homemade Cinnamon Bread for the bread in french toast.

Well, I didn't have any cinnamon bread on hand, fresh or store bought, to go that route. So, instead, I gave waffle iron french toast from Cooking with my Kid a test drive.  This is pretty much your standard french toast recipe, but you cook it in the waffle iron.  Waffles and French Toast?  At the same time?  Can you say AWESOMESAUCE?!!!!
Blockette and I agreed that this french toast was almost as good as the french toast my mom makes. Almost, but not quite. However, as I can't very well have my mom drive 7-8 hours just to satisfy my french toast desires, it will suffice.

what I did:
7 pieces of sandwich bread (I left the crusts on)
2 eggs
1/3 c milk
3 T maple syrup (aka tree blood)
lots and lots of cinnamon (I kept adding more after every slice of bread was dipped)
1/4 t nutmeg
pinch of black pepper

Preheat your waffle iron. Whisk all ingredients together until combined. Dip bread immediately before placing on the waffle iron to cook. I only gave my bread a quick dip in the egg mix,and let the excess drip off. I don't care for the soggy type of french toast. This was how I was able to get 7 pieces of bread. The last piece was a bit lacking on the egg coating so keep all that in mind. Setting 4 on my particular waffle iron worked out perfectly, but we like our french toast and waffles on the crispier side. Experiment to find out what works best for you.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thankful Thursday 45.11

1. Going to the party on Saturday vs staying home by myself.
2. Actually knowing more than the birthday girl at the party.
3. Blockette behaved herself at the party.
4. Mrblocko liked the new broccoli dish.
5. "Just because" cookies.
6. Blockette is still excited about math.
7. I didn't throw a fit when I cut several quilt pieces for the border wrong.
8. I finished the quilt top today!
9. I have new medicine for my stupid cold/lung dealio. 
10. M's mom picked him and Blockette up from church group yesterday.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Warm butterbeer

I posted a frozen version of Butterbeer in Popsicle form back in September. Now that it is brr freezing cold out, I thought I'd share the more seasonally appropriate hot butterbeer I found over at What the Devil is Going on Here.
Blockette and I are at the part in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban where Harry uses the Marauder's Map and his invisibility cloak to sneak into Hogsmeade, where he has Butterbeer for the first time.

This version, as you can see by the photo below, is quite buttery.  The butter never fully mixes in with the rest of the ingredients, so you've got to stir it before every sip.
Mrblocko and Blockette really enjoyed their mugs, but I thought it tasted a bit too much like drinking a mug of buttermilk syrup. Buttermilk syrup is amazing and everything, but just a bit rich for my taste to drink by the mug full. (By the spoonful is a whole 'nother ball o' wax though.)

I feel the need to warn everyone that the possibility of burning yourself is quite high with this beverage. The butter acts as an insulator to the molten liquid below.  I took a tiny sip and thought my drink was potable.  What happened was I got a small amount of butter, which was cooler than the liquid below.  So, thinking the whole mug was as cool as the first sip I took a big swig.  Luckily, the butter had coated my tongue and mouth so I only burnt the back of my throat.  That is something that I highly suggest you avoid doing.  Don't be me.

Molten Hot Butterbeer from What the Devil is Going on Here
2 T butter
2 T Brown sugar
1 mug of milk
1 t vanilla
dash of cinnamon

In a pan melt butter and brown sugar together to make a caramel.  Add milk, vanilla and cinnamon, stir to combine.  Bring mixture to a boil and add to the mug of your choosing.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Gollum's Chocolate Cheesecake Bundt

Chocolate, bundt AND cheesecake?  Aw yeahs, the Holy Trinity of Desserts.  Now this is how you celebrate National Bundt Day.  I'm not gonna let that potato bundt of doom get me down.  No sirree.  Gotta get right back on the horse. I found this gem of a recipe for chocolate cheesecake tunnel cake over at Barbara Bakes.

The whole time I was making this cake I kept thinking about Gollum talking to himself/Smeagol in the movie Lord of the Rings:Two Towers. You know, the part where he says "Up, up, up, up the stairs we go. And then we come to the tunnel."  But he says the word "tunnel" in this creepy crazy voice. 
You know that I couldn't stop saying "And then...a tunnel" as I was pouring the cheesecake batter over the chocolatey goodness of the cake batter.  My husband may or may not have had to tell me "to shut up already"...more than once.

Here is the finished product:

And then...the tunnel.  Hehehe.  Sorry.  Couldn't help myself.
Anyhow, back to the cake. This was the first time I used the zip bag technique for drizzling chocolate. I've been too lazy to do it in the past. I mean it's messy work pouring the chocolate into the bag. I thought, "Why do all that work when you can just drizzle it on with a fork?" Well, let me tell you. Because even if it is messy to get the chocolate into the zip bag, it is loads less messy drizzing the chocolate when it's in that bag.  AND the finished product looks so much nicer.  So don't be lazy like me.  Use the zip bag and have a perty cake.

Oh! So how did the bundt taste?  Fantastic.  The cake base was made with a mix, but the sour cream and extra eggs make the cake so moist and light.  The ratio of cheesecake to chocolate cake was just right. Even Mrblocko and Blockette who really don't care for cheesecake thought the dessert was scrumptious.

One final note:  The regular sized chips didn't get very evenly distributed within the cheesecake tunnel.  I'm sure that this problem can be solved easily by using mini chips though.

Chocolate Cheesecake Tunnel Cake from Barbara Bakes
For the cake:
1 Chocolate Fudge cake mix with pudding in the mix
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs

For the filling:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 egg
1/3 c. sugar
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

For the glaze:
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 T. milk

Preheat oven to 350 F.

For the cake: Place cake mix, sour cream, water, oil and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Blend with  electric mixer on low for 1 min. Stop machine and scrape down sides of bowl. Beat 2-3 min til combined. Pour 2/3 batter in a greased and floured 12 c bundt pan. Mix filling ingredients. Spread filling over batter and top with remaining batter. Bake 45-55 min til cake springs back when lightly pressed and is starting to pull away from sides of pan.  Cool on wire rack for 20 min, invert it onto a rack and cool 20 min more.

For the glaze: combine chocolate chips and milk in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until  chocolate melted and mix has thickened slightly, 1-2 min.

Place cake on a serving platter and drizzle warm glaze over it. Melt chips with milk in microwave, put glaze in a Ziploc, cut corner and drizzle it over cake.

Monday, November 14, 2011

You say "Potato." I say "What the...?"

You may or may not know that National Bundt Day is on Nov 15.  Every year Mary the Food Librarian hosts "I Like Big Bundts."  This is the third year in a row where she has made a bundt every day for a month leading up to Nov 15.  This year I didn't want to leave the celebratory baking to the very last minute, so I made a bundt a little early. 

I scoured the interwebs for a suitable recipe to try out.  I settled on the chocolate potato bundt cake from La Receta de la Felicidad.  I thought a cake with potato in it was very intriguing.  A few years ago I tried a recipe for Homemade Almond Joys that contained potatoes.  They turned out super yummy.  I figured, if potato plays nice with coconut, why wouldn't it with chocolate cake?

Why indeed.  I mixed everything up and popped that bad boy in the oven. I peeked in at my creation half way through it's allotted cooking time...things were not looking good.  The cake had barely risen.  I called my dear loving husband to vent my frustrations.  When I told Mrblocko my cooking woes he started singing "My bundt's not risin'" to the tune of Jim Morrison's Mojo Risin'.  Yeah.  Thanks a lot.  It was really helpful.  Especially since I couldn't dislodge that song from my brain for the rest of the day.

This is what I pulled out of the oven after 30 minutes:
The cake should be to the top of the bundt pan.  NOT half way up.  I tested it with a toothpick in hopes that a few more minutes in the oven would magically make the cake rise.  Nope.  That toothpick had zero crumbs on it.  The cake was done.
I let the cake rest in the pan for 10 minutes before I turned it out onto a cooling rack.  The cake fell even more. This was not a "Big bundt".  Oh baby's got back...just not in the good old Sir Mix a Lot way.  "She's a brick house" is more accurate.

I had flashbacks of my Horrible Zebra Bundt Mishap at the end of last year.  That cake was so oily you could wring it out and make french fries with the drippings.  At least I didn't have that problem this time.
I cut a slice off to test it out.  Maybe it would be ok, even it if was dense.  Look how tiny that slice is in my hand!  I took a bite of my teeny tiny itty bitty brick bundt. Rest assured, I didn't break any teeth, but...

There was something that didnt dawn on me until I tested the cake...there is only 3/4 c powdered sugar in this cake.  That is not enough sugar for a whole cake.  Cake is supposed to be sweet.  Or did I miss the memo where they changed that?

At first  I thought something must have gone wrong when the author made the conversions for the English version of the recipe. I looked up how many grams of powdered sugar make up a cup and several sites said 200 grams.  So...3/4 c for 150 grams of powdered sugar seems to be the right amount.  I looked back in my blog archives and every cake that I've made contains at least 1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar. 

Bundt cakes, unless specifically intended to be savory, (like this Pizza Frittata Bundt,) should be sweet enough on their own to not NEED frosting.  You only really frost or glaze a bundt when you want to take it over the top with sweetness.

At this point I didn't feel like wasting more butter/chocolate to make frosting/ganache that might not even make the cake more palatable.  So I reached for the next best thing...Nutella.  Aha!  The cake actually tasted good.  Viva Nutella!  Your powers of awesomeness are awesome!

My crazy daughter loved this cake.  Even plain.  Without Nutella.  Reason# 5467 why she is an alien from another planet.  Child, I will never understand you.  You don't like mushrooms or black beans, but you like cake that is not even remotely sweet?  Sigh.  When your people come to take over the planet, tell them to be kind to me OK?

So the million dollar question is why didn't my cake rise? It hasn't been overly dry or humid out.  The recipe on the blog looks like it rose perfectly.  I can't figure out what I did wrong. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

'11 Happy Dance #32 : Shower gift

One of the women who leads the music at church is having a baby this winter. It's a pretty big deal as they had been trying for a long time. Her shower was being held for her at the church. I opted not to go as I have Slimer from Ghostbusters oozing out my nasal cavities. (I figured giving her this cold would NOT a good shower gift make.)

When I heard she was having a boy I instantly knew I wanted to make her some pee pee teepees. I did a search on the internet and found this tutorial for Pee pee teepees over at Saturday Mornings. Man were they easy and fun to make.
In case you can't figure out what they are, it's what you use to ensure that you don't peed on while changing the baby's diaper.

Only having a girl, and therefore not needing said apparati (apparatuses?), I wasn't sure how many to make. I settled on five because I found five fabrics I thought went well together.

I lined the tinkle tents with some scraps of sweatshirt material given to me by my best friend when she was clearing out her sewing room.  I didn't have a clue what I was going to use them for when I took them off her hands, but I knew I was going to find a neat use for them eventually.  After much thought I stitched them up fuzzy side out. When you wear a sweatshirt, the fuzzy side is next to your skin, so it just made sense to me to do the same thing for these little urine yurts.

Making these little wee wee wigwams just made me smile and giggle.  There is something cute and whimsical about them.  Then Blockette saw them when she came home from school, whipped one off the table and plunked it on her head.  She exclaimed, "Cool mom! What are all these neat little hats for!?"

Saturday, November 12, 2011

'11 Happy Dance #31: Another Patch for Blockette

Honestly, does the child scoot around the floor all day on her knees?  I swear the way she wears her pants out she does.  Mrblocko asked me if we needed to buy her some more.  I told him nope. What would be the point in buying her new ones when she would just get those holey in a month.  I'm fully skilled in patching, and we have plenty of scrap denim, so why not?

I covered this patch with some fabric my best friend gave me not too long ago.  It is mottled with orange, green and purple.  I thought the green would look best with the yellow ruffle so I used a part of the fabric that was mostly green.

Someone had a case of the wiggles.  I don't know how many times I told her to stand still.  Finally, I had the brilliant idea of having my model lay on the floor.   This did result in far fewer blurry photos, but no less silliness.
I have no idea what she is doing here, but I told her it looked like she was trying to pick her nose.

Nose-picking is hilarious!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Heavy Metal Day

Why is today Heavy Metal Day?  Well the date is 11-11-11.   In the mocumentary "This is Spinal Tap"  the band has a special amplifier that goes up to 11.  (Standard amps only go to 10.)
So headbang away my metal head friends... if you are super cool, you'll do it in this shirt from Think Geek. (They have it in a babydoll version for stylish ladies too!)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thankful Thursday 44.11

1. Blockette loving the new math workbook I bought her that she wants to do pages in it even on the weekends.

2.Mrblocko making dinner on Sunday.

3. Blockette handling it like a big girl when she couldn't do Feed My Starving Children because she had a cold.

4. At least I don't have Bronchitis.

5. The gloomy rain and wind is blowing all the leaves off the trees so I should only have to rake one more time this Fall.
 Fall Faery From Ruth Sanderson's Golden Wood Studio
6. Mrblocko has been very understanding with my severe case of the grumps since I've been sick.

7. My best friend's idea for a gift for another friend.

8. All the news that I'm watching in the wee hours of the morning is keeping me abreast of what's going on in the world.

9. I'm getting ready to actually sew the pieces of my quilt into blocks. 

10. Mrblocko drove Blockette to school today when the bus didn't show up.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

15 Minute Dulce De Leche

I think by now I have fully established the extremes of my laziness. What is slightly lesser known is that I am impatient.  Ah, lazy and impatient.  They go great together, like milk and sauerkraut.

Last year I made Dulce de leche in the crockpot. And while the potential of having molten hot caramel sauce erupt all over my kitchen was thrilling, it took a whole 12 hours.  Ugh.  That is like a half a day.  Then you've got to wait for those cans too cool enough to be opened.  Who has time to do all that waiting? 

All my dulce de leche woes were solved when I found the recipe for Dulce de Leche from Cooking for Engineers.  You cook it...are you ready?  In the microwave!

The first step is to open the can of sweetened condensed milk.  Do not use your teeth to do this.  I recommend a can opener.

The second step is to put your condensed milk in a large microwave safe bowl.  Use the largest bowl you have. The bowl MUST be able to hold a minimum of two and a half quarts. If you don't use a bowl this large you will be very, VERY sad.
Thirdly, you microwave the condensed milk on MEDIUM power for 12-16 minutes, whisking after every 2 minutes.

This is the reason why you want such a hugemongous bowl. While the condensed milk is in the microwave, it is going to bubble up like there is no tomorrow.  Mine more than doubled in volume.  You can see the line on the picture above as to how high the milk got while it was cooking.

I stopped cooking mine after 14 minutes. I could have gone another 2 minutes, but I didn't want it to get any thicker than it already was.

The only down side to this was that the Microwave Dulce De Leche didn't get as dark as the slow cooked version. So there's your trade off.  I think there's a place in the universe for both versions.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Magic Cake Bars

I was looking for a chocolate-y dessert that I wasn't going to have to spend a lot of time preparing, or money on ingredients. These Magic Cake Bars from Lynn's Kitchen Adventures really fit the bill.  These bars are a version of the classic seven layer bar, only they don't quite have seven layers.  Unless butter counts as a layer?  I like me some butter, so let's go with that.

What makes this recipe different from the other seven layer bars out there, is the base is made from chocolate cake mix.  Devils food chocolate cake mix.  Oh yeah.  It's what makes these bars evil.  Really really evil.  Don't eat too many or you'll go into a coma evil.  Yeah.  Yummy yummy evil.
I made the choice to line the pan with foil before I sprayed it with cooking spray.  I was afraid that the condensed milk would make the bars difficult to cut in the pan.  The foil made for easy clean up too.
This bar is yours.  Go ahead and drink it with a glass of milk because it is so rich. Just think of the bars as a vehicle for your increased dairy consumption.  Don't we all need more calcium in our diets anyway?

Magic Cake Bars from Lynn's Kitchen Adventures
1 package of devils food cake mix
1/2 cup butter (cut into small chunks)
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup coconut
1 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts)
1 can (14 ounce) sweetened condensed milk

Place cake mix in a bowl and cut in butter until the mixture is crumbly. Press into a 15×10" jelly roll type pan. Sprinkle chips, coconut, and nuts on top. Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly on top. Bake at 350 for 23-25 minutes. Cool for at least 30 minutes and cut into bars.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mujadara...or not

A while ago I came across this book, Not Your Mother's Casseroles by Faith Durand, at the library.  In it, I found a recipe for what is called Mujadara, or lentils and rice.  Mujadara is basically a dish made with lentils, rice and onions.  It seems like just about every Middle Eastern country/region has their own version of this dish.  In some circles, this it is referred to as "Esau's Favorite".  I guess soup, stew and pottage are all interchangeable.

The only thing this dish has in common with the Esau Soup I made earlier, is that they both contain lentils.  They aren't even the same colored lentils though.  The soup calls for red lentils, and in this dish I used your average run of the mill brown cheapy lentils.

The really neat thing about this casserole, or pottage, is that there is no boiling needed. The rice and lentils cook in the oven. This doesn't save you any time. What it is great for is when you can't spend time babysitting pots on the stove. (Like say when you are trying to keep two six year olds occupied.)

Now here is where I take this recipe and go off on a crazy tangent.  I added sausage to my casserole.  Pork Sausage.  Yeah.  Guess I just took all the Middle Eastern out of this dish.  Whatever, it tasted awesome.  And it made the house stink real perty for about four days.  Take that Glade Plug Ins!

So here is the recipe how I made it:
Baked Rice and Lentil Casserole, with Sausage adapted from  Not Your Mother's Casseroles
1 lb bulk breakfast sausage
4 small onions, sliced in half moons
4 c chicken stock
3/4 c brown lentils
1/2 c medium grain brown rice
1/2 t black pepper
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t cumin
parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 325. Spray 9x13 dish with cooking spray. Brown the sausage. Remove the sausage to drain. In the sausage grease cook the onions until caramelized. While the onions are cooking, heat the stock to boil in a pan/microwave. Scrape onions into prepared dish. Add, lentils, sausage, rice and spices. Stir, then add boiling broth and stir again. Cover and bake 70 minutes until the liquid is absorbed. (It took 90 minutes for me.) I made some steamed carrots with this dish, which I wound up adding to the finished hotdish. Next time I'll just add carrots in with the rest of the ingredients before baking and save myself an extra step.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Curly Girly

Last Friday Blockette and I had a girls day. She had the day off and Mrblocko went out with his friends. We filled the day with girly spa frivolities for Blockette. (I painted her nails, we made lip gloss, she had a bubble bath, etc etc.)

A while back I had seen this hairstyle online where you twist the hair into little tiny buns all around the hairline. You go to bed with the buns and in the morning when you take them down, you have nice bouncy curls. I wish I could remember where I saw this so I could link it up here. Usually I'm pretty good at bookmarking things. I guess not this time though.

Since I didn't have my reference link, I couldn't quite remember exactly what they had done.  I tried to make little buns, but I couldn't get the hair binders to stay in.  So I improvised.  I twisted the hair strands together much like I did for this style, only just not in a french braid. 

This is what we got in the morning:

Yes, those are glow stick necklaces twisted together to make a princess crown.  What else are you supposed to do with them?  Wear them as necklaces?  How dare you suggest such a thing.

I learned a few things from this whole experience:
1.) I should never take pictures in the computer room.  Bleck.  The light is so weird in here that the photos always turn out so grainy.

2.) Don't be afraid to tie the twisted hair close to the head.  I didn't do that with the one on her right side closest to her face and it didn't turn out as well as the rest of her hair.

3.) This is a great way to get curls for your curl loving girl who is scared to death of the curling iron.

One final thing, I put mousse in Blockette's hair while it was wet, and then let her hair air dry until it was damp.  I know the curl would not have stayed at all had I not applied mousse.  Also, if the hair is too wet when you twist it, it won't be dry by morning.  If the hair is still not dry by the time you let it down the curl won't stay either.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Easy Focaccia Bread Update

About two years ago I made this Blitz bread.  In my post I mentioned how I was going to cook this bread in two 8" cake pans and freeze one.  Now that I have a bit more cooking experience under my belt, the idea of freezing cooked focaccia sounds gross.  So instead, I just halved the recipe.  I know!  Genius, right?

So here is what you need to do to make a more manageable quick and easy focaccia for a small family.

Half Blitz Bread Recipe adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe
3/4 c warm water
1 1/2 T olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1/2 plus 1/8 t salt
1 3/4 c flour
1/2 T yeast
1/4 t garlic powder
1 1/2 t Italian herb blend, plus more for sprinkling

Oil a 9x9, 8x8, 8" or 9" cake pan or casserole dish. Combine all the ingredients with a wooden spoon. Place in your prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for an hour to rise. Uncover and drizzle with oil. Poke dimples into the dough with your fingers. Sprinkle additional herbs on top. Bake in a preheated oven at 375F for 25-35 minutes until browned on top. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes before turning out of pan.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thankful Thursday 43.11

1. Mrblocko got to have a night out with his friends.

2. Blockette and I had a fun girls night in.

3. Mrblocko and Blockette helping me with the laundry (without complaining) when I was feeling yucky.

4. Being able to sew things for Blockette that make her smile.

5. Saying no.

6. Not screwing up dinner two nights in a row.

7. Waiting until Saturday to break into the Halloween candy.

8. Most of the house is not carpeted = easy cat pukie clean up.

9. Blockette's awesome report card.

10. The green tomatoes on the counter are finally starting to ripen.  (Thanks for the paper bag tip mom!)

11.  The rice at church transformed from a watery mess to perfection in the last 5 minutes of cooking.

12.  Blockette and M didn't hide this time when it was time to leave church.  (Yay!  They listened!)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Flourless Brownie Flop

So I made these flourless brownies on a whim. (Sorry, no photo this time.)   My mom was in town and she is on this low glycemic index diet. I thought these flourless brownies from The Hoot Eats would be fun to try out as they are low in sugar and carbs.

I followed the recipe, exactly save for using honey instead of brown rice syrup. The recipe says that you can use any sweetener of your liking so I still think this qualifies as following the recipe exactly.

The brownies tasted ok. Not overly sweet, but just sweet and chocolate-y enough to qualify as brownies. Nothing too special, but I wasn't expecting to be blown away. Blockette thought they were great because they were gluten free. Her teacher has celiac disease, so Blockette thought it was super cool she was eating a brownie that her teacher could eat too.

Apparently, these brownies were supposed to be very crumbly. Mine didn't turn out that way.  They held together quite well.  I can't figure out why as I followed the recipe to the letter.

I wasn't sure how to store them, so I figured the fridge would be a safe bet.  Do NOT do this.  These brownies turned to mush the next day.  Soggy soggy mush.  They were so wet I tossed them.  You know they had to be pretty nasty for me to toss out chocolate.

I'm not trashing this recipe at all.  They are great for what they are.  I'd make these again for someone who couldn't have gluten, I'd just store them on the counter as opposed to the fridge.

Gluten Free Brownies
from The Hoot Eats
1 cup applesauce
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoons brown rice syrup [or other sweetener]
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
Mix ins as you desire–chocolate chips, pretzels, nuts, candy

Preheat to 375 F.  Mix all ingred except last three.  Add cocoa and baking powders.  Pour batter into greased 8x8" dish.  Sprinkle mix ins on top.  Bake 15-20 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.

I did a bit more investigating, and it looks like you can swap out the applesauce for pumpkin, use any kind of nut butter, and add a few tablespoons of ground flax seed.  I'll bet the pumpkin version doesn't get nearly as moist as the applesauce one, which is probably a good thing.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

October Reads

Whew! I thought I was gonna have a big goose egg for books read in October. Luckily, this last weekend was a big reading one for me. Yay.

1.  Emmy and the Rats in the Belfry by Lynne Jonell. This book for youngsters is the third in series about a girl who can talk to some very special rats.  One particular rat's bite shrinks you and then the second bite turns you into a rat.  A kiss from his sister reverses these peculiar effects.  In this story, the villains, who have been turned into rodents, are searching for a way to kidnap Sissy, the kissing rat.  They trick Emmy, the heroine, into visiting her 2 elderly great aunts.  A lot happens in this children's story but that's the gist without giving too much away.   The story was really good, like the 2 before it, but I had the hardest time sitting down to read it.  Probably due to too much tv and craft projects.

2. Troubletwisters by Garth Nix. This is the first book in a new youth series.  I devoured this book in a day and a half.  These twins discover that they are coming into their magical powers which causes lots of trouble until they fully come into their powers.  They accidentally blow their house up and they are forced to live with their paternal grandmother they never knew existed. Then they accidentally break a ward that was protecting the town from what is referred to as "The Evil."  The Evil wants them to join forces with it and is doing everything in its ever growing power to do so.    They manage to just barely save the day, but The Evil is still out there.  I look forward to reading book two this summer.