Wednesday, March 31, 2010

For Pita Sake

I found this recipe for pita bread on the blog Bakin' and Eggs. The original recipe called for 1 cup of whole wheat flour and 2 cups of bread flour. I had the bread flour, but no whole wheat flour. I thought foolishly enough that I would swap out the wheat for all purpose.

As I was kneading the dough I kept wondering why it was so sticky and difficult. Duh. Whole wheat flour is a much drier flour. Don't make the same mistake that I did and swap out the two different flours. You'll probably end up being an unhappy camper like I was.

The directions say to place the rolled out disks of dough directly onto the oven rack. I did this with the first one and it just oozed through the rack and onto the oven floor. No good. I imagine that it was because the dough was too wet.

Mrblocko suggested that we cover the oven rack with foil. (Ideas like this are why I really keep him around, but shhh...don't tell him that.) This worked great. No gloopy pita dough on the oven floor.

The bread was taking forever to cook though. I'm sure this was due to the water content in the dough. I cranked the heat up to 550 degrees and baked the pitas for 5 minutes on each side. The pitas never got that nice golden hue, and they didn't puff up as much as I thought they should have.
Once the pitas were cooked enough, they were quite tasty. Blockette even asked for a PPPBJ (Pita Pocket Peanut Butter Jelly) the next day for lunch. I'll be making these again, but not until I get some Whole Wheat flour.

Whole wheatish Pita Bread from Bakin' and Eggs
1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon honey
1 1/4 cups warm water (105–115 degrees F), divided
2 cups bread flour or high-gluten flour, plus additional for kneading
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
Cornmeal for sprinkling baking sheets

In a large bowl, stir yeast, honey and 1/2 c warm water. Let stand until foamy, about 5 min. If mixture does not foam, start over with new yeast. While yeast mix stands, stir flours in another bowl. Whisk 1/2 c flour mix into yeast mix til smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand in a draft-free/warm place (I like to use my oven – I turn it on for about a minute to get it warm – about 80-82F and then turn it off and place dough in oven) til doubled in bulk and bubbly, 45 min.

Stir in oil, salt, remaining 3/4 c warm water and remaining 2 1/2 c flour mix til dough forms. Either turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead, working in just enough flour to keep dough from sticking, or use a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and on low speed to knead until dough is smooth and elastic, 8-10 min. Form dough into a ball and place in a large oiled bowl, turning once to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in draft-free/warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Prepare 2 baking sheets by sprinkling with cornmeal. Punch down dough and cut into 8 pieces. Form each piece into a ball, flatten the ball and then roll out into a 7-inch round on floured surface with a floured rolling pin. Transfer round to prepared baking sheet. Make 7 more rounds in same manner, arranging them on baking sheets. Loosely cover pitas with clean kitchen towels (not terry cloth) and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.

Adjust oven rack to the lower third of oven and remove other racks (I left the other racks). Preheat oven to 500F. Transfer 4 pitas, 1 at a time, directly onto oven rack (alternatively, I think you could bake these on a preheated baking stone so they don’t get wire marks from the oven). Bake until puffed and pale golden, about 2 minutes. Turn over with tongs and bake 1 minute more.

Cool pitas on a cooling rack 2 minutes, then stack and wrap loosely in a kitchen towel to keep pitas warm. Bake remaining 4 pitas in same manner. Serve warm.

Yield: 8 pitas

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Mediterranean Red Lentil Soup

I found this recipe on a blog called A Pot of Tea and a biscuit. The original recipe was called Turkish Red Lentil Soup. Since I added Italian sausage and both Italy and Turkey are on the Mediterranean sea I saw fit to rename my version, Mediterranean Red Lentil Soup.

Blockette has been especially contrary this week and proclaimed she didn't like it before she even tasted it. Too bad for her because Mrblocko and I thought this soup was awesome. I'll be making this soup again. When I do, I'll just be sure to stop at the craft store to get extra strong Velcro for her to keep her hand stuck to her forehead with minimal effort. How could I have forgotten how tragically difficult it is to be 4.5!
Here's the recipe with my changes included:

Red Lentil Soup, Mediterranean style

1c red lentils, rinsed and cleaned
5 c stock (dealers choice. I used half chicken and half veg stock)
2 small onions, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large Idaho potato,peeled diced and divided
1 medium size Yukon gold potato,diced (I left the skins on, but you can peel if you are averse to potato skins)
2 tsp paprika
3 carrots, cut into half moon coins
1 lb bulk Italian sausage
salt and pepper to taste

Place washed lentils in a large pot with stock, half of the Idaho potato and the paprika. Bring to a boil and simmer. While the stock is coming to a boil, crumble sausage in a skillet, leaving sausage pieces in small bite size chunks. Cook until sausage is browned. Remove the sausage from the pan and place on a paper towel to cool. Cook the onion and garlic in the sausage drippings until they are caramelized. Add the onions and garlic to the pot and reduce heat to a simmer. Loosely place a lid on the pot. Cook for about 20-30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.

While the soup is simmering, in a smaller pot, cook the remaining diced potatoes and carrots until they are fork tender. (I like my carrots to have a tiny bit of crunch, so I fished those out first.) Once the carrots and potatoes are cooked, drain and set them aside.

Once your lentils have finished cooking, remove the pot from the heat. Place all but 1-2 cups of this mixture in a blender and pulse briefly. Be careful not to burn yourself as this mixture will be hot. Return the blended and reserved soup to the large pot over medium heat. Add the carrots, potatoes and crumbled sausage to the pot as well. Reheat uncovered until the soup is warm. Makes about 5 servings.

Monday, March 29, 2010

No frills crock pot veggie stock

I mention, in this post, how I use a chicken carcass and my crockpot to make chicken stock. Then I thought...hmmm...I bet I could do the same thing with vegetables and make veggie stock. I realize that I have poo-poo-ed Vegetable stock in the past, but that was the boxed variety. Usually the homemade versions just about anything are tastier than the prepackaged stuff.

So, I did a search on the handy dandy Internet and found this recipe on, this one from Tiffin box, and this one from of all places, a site called Vegetarian slow cooker. The three recipes were quite similar. The basic differences are that the first recipe contains leeks and tomatoes, the second has fennel bulb and chili peppers, while the third adds potatoes and apples.
OK, so I didn't have any of those things, but someday I plan on trying each of those recipes. I'm especially interested in how much heat the pepper would bring to the stock, and if the stock with the apple is sweet. Here is what I ended up doing to make the veggie stock:

Mrsblocko's No Frills Veggie Stock
3 small carrots
3 ribs celery
1 bunch of green onions
1 small onion
3 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
10 peppercorns
1 tsp each thyme, rosemary and parsley

Cut everything into large chunks. Place all ingredients in a 5 qt slowcooker. Cover with water. Cook on high 4-5 hours or low 8-10 hours. I cooked mine on high for 4 hours then kept it on warm all night. Strain stock in a cheesecloth. Squeeze out as much liquid as you can from the veggies. There's a lot of good flavors lingering in the veggies.

The container on the left is homemade chicken stock and the one on the right is the homemade vegetable stock. It's pretty easy to tell which one is which. I think if I used the onion skins in the vegetable stock it would result in a darker broth.

I asked Mrblocko to give me his opinion on the stock and he said it tasted like the chicken stock without any salt or fat. No matter how much I skim the fat off the top of the chicken stock, some of it always remains. There is also salt that leaches into the chicken stock from the seasonings that are put on the chicken before it is roasted. Out of the two stocks, the chicken stock is less healthy, and is clearly going to taste better. Let's face it, fat and salt are tasty villains.

I'm by no means saying that this vegetable stock wasn't tasty, it's just that the chicken stock is tastier. The good thing is that most of the time I use stock is in sauces and in soups, so the stock has lots of other flavors to back it up. Other than the color, I doubt we'll be able to tell the difference. It's good to know that if I don't have a chicken, or it's too hot to roast one, I can still make some tasty homemade stock.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Belated Thankful Thursday 3

I've been having difficulties accessing Blogger so this is a few days late.

I'm thankful that:
1. Spring is technically here even if it is Cold/Snowing.
2. Spring break is only a week long.
3. Blockette is actually listening...better than expected for a 4 year old.
4. I don't have a occupation in the medical field.
5. I found the quilting needle I thought one of the cats ate.
6. I didn't find the needle with my foot.
7. My mom is here!!!!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A very un-Swedish Swedish meal

I'm pretty sure that I've joked about what we considered a Swedish meal when I was growing up. It was always something devoid of color, and often times flavor. When I served up this meal of fish, cauliflower and buttered noodles, Mrblocko looked at me and said, "Having a Swedish meal tonight, are we?"

Colorwise, this meal may have been monochromatic, but in the flavor department? Man, it was kaleidoscopic. Kapow!

The fish was spicy tilapia from Florida Coastal cooking. The recipe says to use 2 fillets, but I used 3 and increased the spice blend by half to account for the extra fillet. I used all that spice blend on the 3 fillets. Um...that was a bit much for Blockette and myself. Had I read the recipe correctly I would have realized that you only use half of the spice blend on the fish.

I scraped off most of the spice blend on our fish. Of course Mrblocko thought the spice was just right. My throat was quite raw at the time from a cold and the capsaicin from the spices felt like someone ripped off my skin and stuck it over an open flame. The flavor was good though. Next time I'll make the spice blend and use it a tad more sparingly.

The Cauliflower was actually Roasted Cauliflower with paprika and cocoa from the blog Karen Cooks. I'm sure with a blog title like that she is a lovely person who is practically perfect in every way...just like Mary Poppins. I really liked this dish. I liked it a lot. Mrblocko and Blockette...well, they thought it was just ok.

Mrblocko is not a lover of cauliflower. I always forget this. He did say that he would eat this particular preparation of the veggie in tandem with the fish and noodles again. He said it wasn't bad if he ate the meat, veggie and noodles all together. I can work with that.

This was the first time I'd used smoked paprika. I went out and bought it specifically for this dish. I only wish that I had gone and done that sooner. Anytime a recipe called for smoked paprika, I just used the plain kind. No more. People I am telling you, smoked paprika is the bomb. It has rocked my little world.

The next time I make the roasted cauliflower I'll use less cocoa and paprika. The recipe called for a tablespoon of each. I don't know if I got a itty bitty cauliflower or what, but the spices coated the veggie so much they were a dark reddish brown. If you look at the original photo on the Karen Cooks blog it's dark more from the roasting than the spices.

Also the recipe said to cook the cauliflower for 30 minutes. Maybe because I cut my florets into bite size pieces, they cooked much faster. After 20 minutes in the oven, they had lost almost all of their crunch. I like my veggies al dente, so they have a bit of a bite to them. 15 minutes might be a better cook time for my tastes.

Spicy Tilapia from Florida Coastal Cooking
1 Tbsp EVOO
1 Tbsp light butter (I used Land O' Lakes light butter with canola oil)
2 tilapia fillets

Spice Mix:(You will have a little left over, but it's good so use it on your eggs or something.)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cooking spray
Juice of 1/2 lime (optional)

Preheat broiler and mix your spice mix together in a small bowl. Melt butter and oil in microwave for 25 sec til liquidy. Dip fish fillets in and rub both sides with about 1/2 to 3/4 spice mix. Spray a baking pan with EVOO spray and place fillets in. Broil 5 min, flip and broil another 5 min. (Keep an eye on them because depending on how far your fish is from the heating element it will cook faster or slower accordingly.) Remove from broiler, and pour lime juice over fillets.

Roasted Cauliflower with smoked paprika and cocoa powder from Karen Cooks
1 Head Cauliflower
few T olive oil to coat veggies
1 T smoked Paprika
1 T Cocoa powder

Cut cauliflower into medium florets and seasoned with salt and pepper. Put on a baking sheet and tossed them w olive oil. Sprinkle smoked paprika and cocoa powder over cauliflower. Bake 425F for 30 min.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cheater crockpot chicken n dumplings

I've never been a big fan of chicken and dumplings. It had been years and years since I tried it, I figured I should give the dish another shot. Besides...this recipe was sooo easy. It's one of those dump and go recipes. Chicken, butter, onion water and cream of chicken soup all hop into the crockpot. Then, about an hour before serving you tear up biscuits in a can and toss them into the slowcooker. Yeah. I'm all about that.

The dish was actually good. I thought it was a little salty and on the thick side. The recipe doesn't tell you how much water to add. It just says, cover ingredients with water. I used my 5 quart crock pot and 4 soup cans filled with water. Mrblocko liked the thickness and saltiness, and told me not to add any extra water next time. I'm going to add one more can of water, just to see, and because I am a stinker that way.

The recipe didn't say how big to make the dumplings. I made mine on the small side...about the size of a marshmallow. I wanted them to be bite size for Blockette. Also, my biscuit cans were 7.5 oz each . The recipe suggests using 10 oz cans, but I don't think the dish was lacking in dumplings. I thought the chicken to dumpling ratio was perfect. Then again, what do I know about chicken and dumplings. I'm just going off of what I liked.

I also added 5 small carrots, sliced into thin coins, and 2 cloves minced garlic when I tossed in the biscuit bits. I wanted more of a one pot meal. The carrots and garlic gave a nice addition to the flavor. I think some frozen cut green beans might be another great addition to the dish, and a good way to add another veggie.

click here for the recipe.

Crockpot Chicken and Dumplings from Lynn's Kitchen Adventures
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons butter
2 (10.75 ounce) cans condensed cream of chicken soup
1 onion, finely diced
2 (10 ounce) packages refrigerated biscuit dough, torn into pieces

Place the chicken, butter, soup, and onion in a slow cooker, and fill with enough water to cover. Cover, and cook for 5 to 6 hours on High. About 1 hour before serving, place the torn biscuit dough in the slow cooker. Cook until the dough is no longer raw in the center.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Pretty much from scratch spaghetti dinner

This was only almost homemade because well, I didn't grow my own veggies or make my own noodles. Other than that, this was about as from scratch as I get

The bread sticks were a recipe I found on My Kitchen Cafe. I was a little scared they wouldn't turn out because the dough was almost too sticky to knead. They got much less sticky after they were allowed to sit and rise.

I wasn't sure what size these bread sticks were supposed to be so I cut my dough and twisted 2 pieces together. These bread sticks were really thick. That was OK since we like to eat a lot of bread. If I was making them for a crowd I'd make them long and skinny.

I did, as you can see from the photo, over flour my work surface. The bread sticks have a lot of flour on them. I was afraid they would stick and was quite heavy handed with flouring the table. I think they needed a fair amount of flour to prevent stickage, just not quite as much as I used. Eventually, I'll find the happy medium for flouring my work surface.

Bread stick grade: B+. I'll make these again.

The baked-meatball recipe hailed from Crepes of Wrath. They would have been better if I followed the recipe. I used only 1 lb ground beef, omitting the ground pork. I didn't want oodles of meatballs. I thought an extra half of a pound of meat would be meat overkill. Mrblocko told me I had to add it next time because the thought the meatballs would have a more depth of flavor with the 2 types of meat. Yeah, he was right. I also screwed up and forgot to save some Parmesan cheese for the topping.
meatball grade: B with the potential for an A+ if I follow the directions next time.

Finally we have the tomato sauce with butter and onions from Smitten Kitchen.
This pasta sauce is one of those things that everyone on the food blogosphere has been raving about for quite some time. Perhaps it was all the hype, but I thought this sauce was just OK.

The sauce was on the acidic side, and I prefer a sweeter red sauce. I used a can of regular whole tomatoes, not San Marzano. I guess the San Marzano tomatoes are what really makes this dish. I had a hard time justifying the purchase of a can of these fancy tomatoes, when I can get 2 jars of pre-made pasta sauce for the same price. Should the San Marzano canned tomatoes ever go on sale, I'll pick up a can and give this recipe another try. I'll also add at least one clove of garlic. Red Sauce without garlic just ain't right.

We had to add Italian seasoning and lots of Parmesan cheese to counter act the acidity of the dish. I think it's worth giving the recipe another go when I feel like splurging on the fancy tomatoes.

Sauce grade: As is C+, but I'm sure it will be much tastier with the changes listed above.

Overall grade: B. I'll have to give all these recipes another whirl. I'm sure the meal will be even better the second time around.

Divine Breadsticks from Mel's Kitchen Cafe
1 ½ cup warm water
1 tablespoon yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
3 ½ cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
Butter for the pan

Mix all ingredients (except butter) and knead for 3 minutes. Let stand 10 min. Heat oven to 375F. Melt a few T butter on baking pan. Roll out dough about 1/8-inch thick and cut into strips. Place in butter and put close together. Sprinkle with garlic salt and parmesan cheese. Cover and let rise 30 min. Bake 20 min.

Baked Meatballs from Crepes of Wrath
1 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 cup Parmesan
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons dried or fresh (and finely chopped) basil
1 1/2 teaspoons dried or fresh (and finely chopped) parsley
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon (or more if you like ‘em spicy) red pepper flakes
1/2 cup bread crumbs
Parmesan, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 400 F. In a big bowl, combine the ground beef, ground pork, 1/2 cup Parmesan, egg, basil, parsley, garlic powder, salt, red pepper flakes, and 1/4 c bread crumbs. Mix all  ingredients with hands til everything evenly distributed. Place leftover 1/4 c bread crumbs into a smaller bowl. Using hands, roll meatballs into balls ( little smaller than a golfball), roll meatballs in bread crumbs and place meatballs on a greased/lined sheet. Sprinkle with a bit of extra Parmesan . Bake 20 min til  cheese bubbly and meatballs look golden brown.

Tomato Sauce with Butter and Onions from Smitten Kitchen
28 ounces  whole peeled tomatoes from a can (San Marzano, if you can find them)*
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and halved
Salt to taste

Put tomatoes, onion and butter in a heavy saucepan over med heat. Bring sauce to a simmer then lower heat to keep sauce at a slow, steady simmer for 45 min, til droplets of fat float free of tomatoes. Stir occasionally, crushing tomatoes against side of pot with wooden spoon. Remove from heat, discard  onion, add salt to taste and keep warm while you prepare your pasta.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thankful Thursday #2

Hey I remembered to do this 2 weeks in a row! Yay!
Here is this weeks thankful list:

1. Sleeping with the windows open.
2. The can of pop that exploded in the pantry was diet.
3. My husband is as geeky as I am.
4. The rabbits didn't eat ALL the tops off the tulip leaves.
5. The hydrangea I thought I killed this fall has little tiny buds.
6. The funny noises Blockette was making while I was helping her rollerskate for the first time.
7. Hearing the mourning doves coo.
8. "You are dumb" is the worst insult Blockette can think of.
9. Blockette saying she wants to keep me in her heart forever.
10. My best friend knows exactly what I mean.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Cheater Cheese Danish

I made these cheater cheese danish for a church breakfast a few weeks ago. Boy were they ever ugly! Tasty, but ugly. I found the recipe at Real Mom Kitchen. They look a lot nicer over on her site. I used Pillsbury Grand's Jr for the biscuits. The Biscuits poofed up so much that the majority of them came unsealed. Mrblocko had the brilliant idea of using toothpicks to hold them together. That worked splendidly. Once the biscuits cooled I was able to remove the toothpicks and the danish stayed closed.

The next time I make these I will use a generic brand canned biscuit. They tend to not get so voluminous as they bake. I think I will also try a few with a cream cheese and strawberry jelly.

click here for the recipe.
Philly Cheese Rolls from Real Mom Kitchen
2 cans refrigerator biscuits (the small size with 10 in a can)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
8 oz block Philadelphia cream cheese, cut into 20 pieces
3 TBS butter

Preheat oven to 400*. In small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon. Open biscuits and place all 20 biscuits on a plate, to create assembly line. Flatten biscuit, place 1/2 t cinnamon sugar mix in center of biscuit followed by a piece of cream cheese. Then bring one side over the other and seal, pinching sides together. Place on a greased cookie sheet, 2-3" apart. REPEAT. Once all rolled up, sprinkle a little more cinnamon sugar on tops. Cut butter into small pats, and place a pat on top of each roll. (You’ll have some leftover cinnamon sugar. Just save it for cinnamon toast) Bake at 400* for 12-15 min, til golden brown. Serve warm, or at room temperature.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Mathmatician

Yesterday morning Mrblocko left for work early so it was just Blockette and myself in the house this morning. I asked Blockette what she wanted to do while I was in the shower. She asked if she could do math. I said sure and gave her a blank piece of paper.

When I got out of the shower this is what she showed me:
Now Mrblocko had shown Blockette some addition problems Sunday evening. He wrote them down for her on a separate piece of paper. As far as I know this was the first time she had seen addition problems written out like this. I thought perhaps Blockette had just copied them from what Mrblocko had done. I asked her to show me the math daddy had written out for her. He wrote out one plus one through six, two plus one though six, three plus two through seven, and four plus one through six. She wrote those problems out, and solved them, all on her own.

I'm very scared and going to hide under the bed for the next 13 years.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Happy (belated) Pi Day

I'd been wanting to make this Gingery Pumpkin Caramel Cheese Pie from Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy for a while now. I'd been passing it over because of the amount of dulce de leche it required. I guess I was just too cheap to spend money on 2 cans of dulce de leche. Then I made crock pot dulce de leche last month and had an over abundance of the stuff. What else was I going to use the caramely stuff for? Dulce de leche isn't difficult to be stingy with when you can make it yourself super cheap.

Besides, did you know Sunday was PI day? 3.14...March 14th. You gotta have Pie on pi day, at least you gotta if you are big geeks like Mrblocko and I are. Oh yes...big geeky geeks. That's how we roll.

The crust of this pie is made from butter and crushed up gingersnaps. I used my go to recipe from Pensey's (see here). I only used 2 cups of crushed gingersnaps. The recipe said to use 3 cups. Even with 2 cups of crumbs the crust was very thick and difficult to cut when slicing. Next time I make a gingersnap crust I'll use a 10 inch pie pan or use less crumbs. The thick crust was delicious, but difficult to eat.

I had to swap out frozen winter squash for the canned pumpkin. I had heard word back in November that there was a pumpkin shortage. Back then there were cans and cans of the stuff. I stocked up on pumpkin but have since gone through my stash. Now the only canned pumpkin I could find was $4!! Yikes.

The winter squash tasted fine, but was a bit more watery than the canned stuff. Canned pumpkin is really thick. The only problem with the consistency of the squash was that it took sitting in the freezer overnight for the filling to set up properly. Although, this could have also been because I used Neufchatel Cheese instead of the full fat Cream Cheese.

Mrblocko thought that this was the best pie he ever tasted. Blockette only liked the crust. This didn't surprise me because she is not a fan of cream cheese. I thought it was just ok. I mean it was good, but not my favorite pie ever. I think it was too many different combinations of dessert types. I guess I'm a fan of the less complicated desserts. Our friends who I made this pie for thought it was pretty tasty. I didn't have to twist their arms very hard to leave the rest of the pie with them. I'd make this pie again for Mrblocko since he liked it so much, but only if we had several people to share it with.

Gingery Pumpkin-Caramel Cheese Pie from Stickey, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy
For the crust:
3 cups gingersnaps, crushed into coarse crumbs
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup sugar ( Use more or less according to your taste)
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup toffee bits
2 cups dulce de leche or caramel sauce of your choice, divided. (You may have to soften the dulce de leche to make it “swirlable”. I microwaved mine on 50% power for about 20 seconds.)

In med bowl, whisk cookie crumbs, cinnamon and salt. Add melted butter and mix until well blended. Press mix into an 8/9" pie plate. Bake at 350F for 12 min. Set aside to cool. Beat cream cheese and sugar on med speed til fluffy, 2 min. Add pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice and vanilla, and beat til completely combined. Mix in toffee bits and swirl in 1 c dulce de leche using knife or offset spatula. Pour filling into pie plate and smooth out. Refrigerate til firm, 4 hrs/overnight. When chilled, spread 2nd c dulce de leche evenly over top of pie. If desired, use another 1/2 c dulce de leche to pipe rosettes or other design on top of pie. Chill til topping firm.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thankful Thursday

I decided to start something new on this blog. Lately, it seems like I've been letting the little things in life get to me. I thought that if I took the time to stop and remember all the little good things that happened to me durring the week, those little "bad" things wouldn't seem so bad.

Why Thursday? Well, besides it starts with a "th" like thankful, but it's about as far away from Sunday as you can get in a week. I have no problem being thankful at church, but I'd like to remember to be thankful for all my blessings throughout the week.

Some of the things I say I'm thankful for on here might seem trivial and a tad bit superficial. Perhaps, but they have usually been proceeded by something not so fantastic.

This isn't really for anyone else, but if I say publicly that I'm going to write about them on this blog I'll be more inlined to remember.

So here goes. In no particular order, this week I'm thankful for:

1. Blockette saying "I was her best mom she ever wanted" out of the blue while she was coloring.
2. Free antibiotics at Meijer.
3. Tax refunds
4. Blockette choosing things like Pad Thai and Swedish Meatballs over things like Mac and Cheese or PBJ
5. Preschool
6. Peanut butter cookies with M&M's
7. Discovering new tulip sproutlings

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


I found this creamy version of an enchilada over at Annie's Eats. She calls them Benchiladas because they are "Ben's" favorite meal. We all thought they were pretty tasty here at the Blocko household.

I think these enchiladas are a great meal for a kid who is hesitant about Mexican style food. Blockette is not a huge fan of Mexican food, but she ate this meal, and it's leftovers quite happily. I mean, seriously. Ranch dressing and chicken, what's not to love? Those are two of a kid's major food groups. (The others being mac n cheese, hot dogs and fish sticks.)

The Benchiladas were very simple to prepare, especially if you have 2 people to do an assembly line. Mrblocko warmed up the tortillas on a skillet to make them malleable, while I filled and rolled them.

We used 4 chicken breasts and that seemed to be the perfect amount to fill ten 10 inch tortillas quite full. Next time I will reduce the amount of sour cream and ranch dressing to 3/4 c each. We had a lot of the sauce left over, and I was quite liberal in my application. I didn't have any Mexican cheese on hand so I used half sharp cheddar and half Colby jack cheese.

These were great as leftovers. They did get a bit soggy in the fridge, so I stuck them in a 350F oven for 15 min. That crisped them right back up again without making the tortilla overly crunchy. We'll definitely be having this meal again for dinner in the not too distant future.

Chicken Benchiladas from Annie Eats
4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
8 oz. reduced fat sour cream
8 oz. Ranch salad dressing
flour tortillas (10-15) – we like Azteca, packs of 10
jar of salsa
shredded mexican cheese (I usually use close to 4 cups, I love cheese!)

Cook chicken breasts by preferred cooking method until cooked through. Set aside to cool a bit. While chicken is cooling, mix up the sauce. In a large mixing bowl, combine half of the sour cream and half of the Ranch dressing. In a small bowl, combine the rest of the sour cream and Ranch dressing. Stir both until well combined. Shred or chop the cooked chicken and add to the large mixing bowl. Mix well with sauce. Preheat the oven to 375°. Grease a 9 x 13″ pan (and possibly another, smaller pan if needed). Take one tortilla and top with a little less than 1 tbsp. of the sauce from the small bowl. Spread over the tortilla in an even layer. Add some of the chicken mixture to the center of the tortilla. Top with salsa to taste. Sprinkle with shredded cheese, to taste. Roll up tortilla and place, seam side down, in the prepared baking dish. Repeat with remaining ingredients (usually makes 10-15 enchiladas). Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes (30 for a crispier tortilla). Allow to cool a few minutes before serving.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Root Beer Brownies

Root beer brownies??? Yeah. Don't knock it til you've tried it. It's actually a great combination.

I found the recipe at Baking Bites. Some full sugar Mug Root beer was left at my friend's house, and since they are all diabetic over there, I got sent home with a few cans. I'm not a big pop drinker, and Mrblocko is trying to cut down on his carbonated beverage consumption. I figured this would be a perfect excuse to test out the Root beer brownie recipe. Over at Baking Bites they used a fancy brand of root beer, but I think the Mug worked out well.

The recipe called for baking the brownies in a 9x9 pan, but mine was 8x8. When the brownies came out of the oven they had risen almost to the point of overflowing the pan. Yikes! As you can tell from the picture they settled a bit when they cooled. I don't know if they rose so much from the carbonation in the pop. The edges of the brownies had little tiny bubbles that resembled foam. It wasn't very attractive, but it didn't affect the taste. The edges tasted just as nummy as the middle.
I didn't even try the brownies the day they were made. The instructions said to let them sit overnight, and that they tasted best the day after they were made. The texture was best on this day. However, on the third day the root beer flavor became more prominent. It was a very light under tone that complimented, but didn't overpower the rich chocolaty taste.

The texture of the brownies were somewhere smack dab in the middle of being fudgy and cakey. I'm a fan of the fudgy variety and I thought they were wonderful. I think they are cakey enough to please a lover of cakey brownies as well. I think this would be a perfect brownie to make if you had fans of both brownie type in your house.

The recipe also stated that it made 25 pieces. Both Mrblocko and I thought this was a lot for an 8x8 pan, but these brownies were really rich. I think we wound up with around 20 pieces, give or take. 25 pieces is difficult to get out of a 8x8 pan, especially when part of the brownie sticks to the knife.
That's one downside/upside to these brownies. They really stuck to the knife when you cut them. This is bad if you are trying to make the brownies look nice and presentable, but really awesome if you are the one who has to clean the brownie globs off the knife. Chomp, chomp! I would assume if you used thread or dental floss to portion out the brownies, you'd get a nice clean cut. Where would the fun in that be though

Will I make these again? I'll let this comment made by Blockette answer that question:
Between mouthfuls Blockette said, "You know who would like these? Uncle Clownsuit. He really likes bars. We should send some to him." She took another bite and after a few chews she said, "Hmm, maybe we should just send him the crumbs."

Root Beer Brownies from Baking Bites
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
6-oz chopped bittersweet (or semisweet) chocolate (1 cup)
3.5-oz chopped white chocolate (1/2 cup)
4 tbsp butter
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
8-oz root beer (no foam!)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a 9" square baking pan with foil and lightly grease. In a small bowl, sift flour, cocoa powder and salt. Set aside. In a small bowl, melt chocolates and butter, stirring frequently til mix is smooth. Set aside to cool slightly. In a large bowl, beat eggs and sugar til well combined. Blend in cooled chocolate mix. Stir in 1/2 flour mix, followed by 1/2 root beer. Stir in rest of flour mix, remaining root beer and vanilla. Scrap down sides of bowl well and stir til just combined. Pour into prepared pan.Bake 26-30 min, til toothpick inserted into center of brownies comes out with only a few moist crumbs. Cool in pan on a wire rack. When brownies have cooled, wrap them up well and store them overnight before serving. Brownies are best the day after they are made.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Overnight Waffles

I came across this recipe when I was drooling over the cinnamon roll pancakes at Tasty Kitchen. Tasty Kitchen has a neat feature where it references other recipes (with pictures) below the recipe you're looking at.

Since all waffle pics look pretty much the same, it was the title that intrigued me...overnight waffles. You mix everything but the egg and butter together and let it sit overnight. This was awesome since my brain doesn't function well right after I wake up. I'm always worried that if I make a recipe that requires a lot of measuring in the morning I'll forget something or use the wrong measurement...that and I'm really lazy in the morning.

But adding an egg and butter I'd already measured out the night before, then sitting in front of a waffle iron waiting for the light to click from red to green? Yeah I can handle that in a semi-conscious state.

I'd never made a yeasted waffle before. They turned out very light and airy. Both Mrblocko and Blockette said that this recipe was a keeper. I was a bit put off by the yeasty smell. The yeast smell wasn't very strong, but I have the nose of a bloodhound. I think if I hadn't been standing in front of the uncooked batter for so long I wouldn't have smelled the yeast on the cooked waffles.

Mrblocko pointed out one negative thing about these waffles as he used his last bite of waffle to sop up the last vestiges of syrup on his plate. He said, "These waffles are so light and airy that instead of eating 2, I had to eat 3."

Overnight Waffles from Tasty Kitchen
2 cups All-purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Yeast
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
½ teaspoons Salt
2 cups Milk
½ teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1 whole Large Egg
6 Tablespoons Unsalted Melted Butter

In large bowl, combine flour, yeast, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Whisk in milk and vanilla til blended. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand overnight at room temp. In the morning, heat waffle iron. Beat egg and melted butter into batter, which will be quite thin. Spray hot waffle iron with nonstick spray. Add just enough batter to cover cooking surface. Cook waffles til crisp and brown, but not too dark, 2-3 min each.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Lemony Chicken Soup

Usually when my mom comes up to visit she brings me magazines that she is done reading. I found this great recipe for Lemony Chicken Soup in one of those random magazines. I think it was from Prevention, but I have no idea what issue.

I altered the recipe slightly because it was super thick. The result was still a very thick soup. If you like a thinner soup, go ahead and add more stock or water to thin it out.

I think with this recipe I've come to the conclusion that I'm not the biggest fan of orzo. I think it's the shape. Maybe I'm expecting rice and get disappointed. The next time I make this I'll use another soup cut pasta like Acini de pepe instead.

Blockette gave this soup two thumbs up, and told me that I had to make it again.

Lemony Chicken Soup
1 tsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic,minced
8 c chicken stock
2 ribs of celery, finely chopped
1 1/2 c shredded carrots
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/2-3/4 c uncooked orzo
2 1/2 c frozen cut green beans
3 c chopped cooked chicken, shredded
2 lg eggs
4 T lemon juice

Heat oil in large pot over med heat. Add garlic. Cook until garlic is light brown, about 1 min. Add stock, celery, carrots, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add orzo and reduce heat to simmer. Cook orzo until al dente, about 8 minutes. Add green veggies and chicken. Simmer 2 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk eggs and lemon juice in medium size bowl. Warm egg mix with 1 c hot stock in a thin stream. Whisk egg mix into soup and warm breifly over low heat for 2 minutes. Do not boil or eggs will curdle. Adjust seasoning as needed with more salt, pepper or lemon juice.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Project #8: t-shirt yarn

Two years ago I found this t-shirt yarn tutorial over at the Polka Dot Pineapple. I thought it was a great idea and has been on my to do list ever since. It was such a great idea that I promptly forgot about it.

Good thing I found, a bookmarking site. Whenever I see a cool idea online I save it to that site and check back when I'm looking for crafty inspiration. I've found it is a much better tool than bookmarking the ideas to my computer. With Wists, you can create a screen shot or use a photo from the site you are saving. That way when you open up your page on Wists, you have all these little photo icons for a quick reference. It's perfect for visual learners with a bad memory.

Anywho...enough gushing about wists. I came across a bag of old shirts when I was cleaning out my craft room. They were either holey or had those nasty yellow stains in the arm pits. I know I wouldn't want to get something like that so I didn't put them in the donation bag. They were perfect for this project though.

I used a rotary cutter and cut up nine shirts while Blockette was at school the other day. I'm hoping I have enough yarn to crochet a replacement rug for the kitchen. (The one in there now is falling apart.) I think I'll need a larger hook than what I have since this is a bulky yarn. Wish me luck and even stitches!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Cinnamon Roll Tastin' Pancakes

I think I've stated on this blog at least once that I am not a pancake sorta girl. Nine times out of 10 I'll even take an Eggo over a homemade pancake. I just likes em better that is all. That being said, sapeylissy's cinnamon bun pancakes posted on Tasty Kitchen were a total winner in my book.

Tasty Kitchen is a website started up by pioneer woman . The purpose of the site was to provide a community where people can submit their favorite recipes. It's similar to recipe sites like recipezaar or allrecipes. Tasty Kitchen is still on the new side so there aren't as many recipes, but I tend to check there first when searching for a particular food to make.

Tasty kitchen often has a featured recipe. The cinnamon bun pancakes were one of them. Pioneer woman even wrote about them on her blog. She added her own recipe for maple butter icing for pancakes. There was some sort of computer glitch and I couldn't find the icing recipe online when I made the cinnamon bun pancakes. I'm sure the icing makes them taste even more like a cinnamon bun. I am here to assure you, that the pancakes taste every bit as delicious with plain old Log Cabin fakey fake maple syrup.

I was surprised at how fluffy these pancakes were. They rose quite a bit on the skillet. Sometimes the lofty pancakes wind up undercooked in the middle. Either this recipe is that good, or I am much better at making pancakes than my last attempt.

These pancakes were gobbled up before I had a chance to snap a pic. The Blocko bellies said that they looked as good as they tasted. You'll have to take our word for it.

One last thing, I didn't have any corn syrup. Since I had good results swapping out the corn syrup with honey when I made cinnamon roll caramel corn last month, I did it again with these pancakes. I couldn't taste the honey at all so that tells me it was a good substitution.

Cinnamon Bun Pancakes from Tasty Kitchen
1-½ cup All-purpose Flour
3 Tablespoons White Sugar
½ teaspoons Salt
4 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 Tablespoon Cinnamon
2 whole Eggs Beaten
1 cup Milk
2 Tablespoons Corn Syrup
¼ cups Butter, Melted
1 Tablespoon Vanilla

In med bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and cinnamon with whisk. Whisk well to make sure everything is combined. In separate large bowl, beat eggs, milk, corn syurp, butter and vanilla. Stir in flour mix. Heat lightly oiled griddle/frying pan over med/low heat. Pour 1/4 c batter on griddle. Brown on both sides. Serve warm with icing drizzled over top.

Maple Butter icing
1 cup Powdered Sugar
¼ cups Butter, Melted
Dash Of Salt
1 Tablespoon Maple Syrup
¼ cups Whole Milk (more If Needed)

Whisk all ingredients til smooth, adding more milk as needed.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


I wrote about making dulce de leche in my crock pot the other day. Maybe you are wondering what I made with all of it? The first thing I made were these "Truffles". I found this recipe for omnomruffles over on Not so humble pie. I had bookmarked the site and once I got around to printing the recipe out I discovered that the blogger had rewritten the recipe! The new recipe contained only 1 Tablespoon of Dulce de Leche, compared to the original recipe that required 1/2 cup.

While I'm sure that the revised version was smooth and truffle-y, I wanted to make the original recipe. Not only did I want to use up some of the Dulce de Leche I had just made, but I didn't have any cream in the house. I did a bit of sleuthing and was able to recover the original recipe.

This version is a bit denser than a typical truffle. I actually liked it better than a normal truffle. I tend to freeze the store bought truffles which causes them to lose some of that creamy texture. These omnomruffles were a bit like the frozen store bought truffles. That was a very good thing.

The bad thing was that I rolled them in dutch process cocoa. This was a bit more bitter than I would have liked and extremely messy. Next time I make these I will roll them in finely chopped nuts instead.

Below is the recipe I used. Feel free to head over to Not so humble Pie to see the recipe for the revised omnomruffles

Original Not So Humble Omnomruffles: yields roughly 2 dozen truffles
3/4 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate (in the 50-60% cacao range) (I used Gheradelli 60% dark squares left over from Christmas)
1/2 cup dulce de leche
1/2 cup Nutella
cocoa powder

In a heat safe bowl, warm the chocolate in the microwave. Be careful not to cook it long, as overheating will ruin the texture of your chocolate. Remove the chocolate and stir until completely melted and smooth. First mix in the Nutella and then add the dulce de leche. Once well combined and smooth, cover and refrigerate. Once the mixture is cool and firm, roll spoonfuls of the mixture into balls and set onto a baking tray. Chill the balls for 20 minutes and then roll in a dish of cocoa powder.They will hold up fine at room temperature but if you wish to store them for more than a day, keep them chilled in an air tight container.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Project #7: Geek pants

I found directions on the craftster forums for turning an old shirt into yoga pants. Most tutorials for this type of recon have you cutting the tshirt design down the middle. Who wants a design that is split down the middle? What fun is that? That's why this particular tutorial is especially brilliant.

Anyhow here are my new pants made from a Geek Squad tshirt that was too small for Mrblocko and too big for me. I'm pretty happy with how they turned out. They will be perfect if and when spring ever decides to arrive.

If I ever make another pair of these pants I'll cut them down so they are short length. I'm pretty sure these pants are supposed to fall just below the knee, but I'm short so they are more like pedal pushers.
Go here for the tutorial.