Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Orange Kalhua Chicken

I was getting a little bored with the usual chicken so I checked out The 15 Minute Chicken Gourmet, by Paulette Mitchell, from the library. It didn't prove to be an overwhelming source of new, mind blowing chicken recipes, but I did find a recipe for Orange Kahlua Chicken that sounded very promising.

Back when I worked at a marketing company, sometimes my boss would take the entire team out to lunch. These lunches always included drinking. Since I am the lightest featherweight drinker ever on the planet (ie just wave the alcohol under my nose and I'm tipsy), and we had to go back to work after lunch, I never partook. One of my co-coworkers had a martini called a Tootsie Roll. This particular recipe contained: vodka, Kahlua and orange juice. I thought that it sounded like a disgusting combination, but she assured me that it tasted just like the tootsie roll candy.

I immediately thought of that luncheon when I spied that recipe for Orange Kahlua chicken. Besides, I had a ton of leftover Kahlua from a cake I made over Christmas, so it was nice to find another use for the booze.

Turns out, the orange and Kahlua are a great combination. It didn't make the chicken taste like a tootsie roll candy though, which is something I was slightly concerned would happen. I guess the magic in that drink happens with the vodka?

The chicken turned out very moist as well. Whether that was from the recipe, or because I cooked it for the correct amount of time, I have no idea.

If you're stuck in a chicken rut, give this recipe a try. It even got a double thumbs up from Blockette.

Orange Kahlua Chicken from "The 15 min Chicken Gourmet" by Paulette Mitchell
3/4 c Orange Juice
1/3 c Kahlua
1 t Orange zest
2 T flour
1/8 t pepper
pinch of salt
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cut in 1" strips
1 T olive oil

Mix first 3 for sauce in small bowl. Set aside. Combine flour, salt and pepper in a shallow plate. Pat chicken dry, then coat in flour. Heat oil in large pan over medium high heat. Arrange in a single layer. Cook until brown but not cooked though, about 2 minutes on each side. Reduce heat to medium. Pour sauce over chicken. Cook the chicken for about 8 minutes or until cooked all the way through turning once.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Wonton Chips

When I made Egg Roll Soup I only used half of the package of won ton strips. The first time I made the soup other half of the won tons went bad before I could use them. When I got around to eating the frozen leftovers, I bought another package of won tons, but vowed not to let the unused half of a package go bad.Several years ago my best friend told me about this recipe for baked won ton crackers from Weight Watchers. I just cut the won tons on the diagonal so they looked like tortilla chips and sprinkled them with taco seasoning before baking for 3 minutes on each side.

The recipe states to cook them for 2 minutes on each side, but I thought they were under done at that point. I let one batch go for 4 minutes on each side, and they were badly burnt. If you are going to make these, just watch them carefully for the first batch and follow what is appropriate for your own oven.

We ate our won ton chips as a deconstructed taco or nachos. Blockette loved the chips but hated the meal because I made her eat black refried beans. I'm such a mean mommy!

Weight Watchers Wonton Chips
20 item(s) wonton wrapper(s)
2 spray(s) cooking spray
1 tsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp thyme, fresh, fresh, chopped
1 Tbsp rosemary, fresh, chopped

Preheat oven to 425ºF. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray and place wonton wrappers on sheet in a single layer. Bake for 2 minutes; remove from oven. Flip wrappers; sprinkle with garlic and herbs. Lightly coat wrappers with cooking spray and bake for 2 minutes more. Remove from oven and place wrappers on a wire rack to cool. Yields 5 “crisps” per serving.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thankful Thursday 20.11

1. The bunny eating weeds in my yard.
2. All the beautiful bird songs I hear while typing at my computer, and the intense hunting my cat Boo does as he stalks them through the window.
3. A nice visit with friends.
4. Yanking Blockette's chain.
5. How awesome Blockette played at her soccer game, even though she didn't score and her team didn't win. (They actually had some offence and defence!)
6. Blockette doesn't care if I meet her at the bus in my jammies.
7. Not having to water the plants because the rain is doing it for me.
8. Making tortillas with Blockette.
9. Hilarious Zombie books.
10. Figuring out how to mend one of Blockette's denim jumpers.
11. Finding the crack that went half way across my fingernail before I snagged it on something and ripped the whole nail off.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

French Toast Smores

My mom makes the best French Toast. She uses regular bread and loads of cinnamon and boogers. No, not really boogers. She does something secret though because no matter how hard Mrblocko and I try, we simply cannot make French Toast that tastes nearly as good as hers.

I still think my mom makes the best French Toast, but this version of French toast smores from Buns in My Oven is scrumptious over the top alternative.
When I say over the top, this is no exaggeration! Slather Nutella and marshmellows between two slices of bread. Then dip the sandwich into eggs and then crushed graham cracker crumbs. I used the Cinnamon variety. What is there not to love?

It tastes just like it sounds...a smore in a French Toast Blanket. You just can't escape deliciousness with that combination.

I don't think I can justify having this for dinner, or breakfast or any other meal. I might just go into sugar overload. While I most definitely could have eaten the whole thing, it was very rich. Instead of pigging out, I was nice and shared it with Mrblocko for dessert one night while Blockette was at church for youth group. Half of the sandwich was enough to meet the demands of my sweet tooth.

S’mores French Toast from Buns in My Oven makes 1 sandwich
2 slices sandwich bread
handful of mini marshmallows
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Beat the egg and milk together in a pie plate or shallow dish. Pour the graham cracker crumbs in a second pie plate or shallow dish. Spread Nutella on both slices of bread. Top one slice with mini marshmallows and then put the other slice of bread on top, Nutella side down. Squish it together a bit. Place the sandwich in the egg mixture and turn to coat. Remove from the egg mixture and place in the graham cracker crumbs, turning the sandwich to coat each side with crumbs.
 Place the sandwich on the skillet and cook until lightly browned and the marshmallows are melted. Let sit for a few minutes before cutting in half.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tuna melt casserole

I am trying to incorporate more fish into my diet. This is particularly difficult for me considering I can't stand the way fish smells. Usually, the smell is so overpowering that all I taste is the smell. So I've got to find a way to work around that.

Canned tuna is hit or miss with me. Sometimes the canned stuff is so super stinky and other times the smell is very mild. I found this recipe in the book "Family Feasts for $75 a week" by Mary Ostyn. This was one of the books I read in February that got me so angry. After making this recipe I still don't understand how this lady only spends $75 a month on groceries. This casserole was not substantial enough the way it was written.

First off, this recipe calls for 10-12 dry croutons. Um..really? That is not enough to soak up the liquids. I increased the croutons and decreased the liquid and it seemed like a better ratio. I reduced the amount of tuna the recipe called for because I worried about the fishy flavors/smells. Next time I will use the 3 cans that the original recipe calls for. I made a bunch of other changes to the original recipe too. I will post my altered recipe below.

One more thing before I do, this casserole is definitely not a stand alone casserole. I felt it needed at least a side salad. We ate that for dinner the first night and Mrblocko and I did not feel satisfied. By 8:00 both of us were raiding the pantry for snacks. So the next day (since I had planned on this feeding us for two meals) in addition to a side salad, I served our casserole portions over shell noodles. I also added some lightly steamed carrots. That did the trick nicely.

My additions and alterations certainly make this dish fall out of the "$75 a week" category, but it tastes better and that's good enough for me.

My altered Tuna Melt Casserole (adapted from "Family Feasts for $75 a week" by Mary Ostyn.)
2-3 cups of croutons (I make mine from leftover bread. I cube it, store it in the freezer and toast them as needed) (There should be enough bread to fill the entire bottom of a 9x13 pan)
3 5-6oz cans of tuna in water, undrained
one medium onion, minced
1 shallot, minced (I happened to have a shallot that needed to be used, if you don't have any shallots, feel free to use garlic. I happen to like garlic so I would use 4 cloves, minced)
2 ribs of celery, minced
3 T butter, melted
1/2 t pepper
heaping 1/2 t curry powder
2 c milk
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 c grated cheese, dealers choice (I used Sharp cheddar and Colby Jack)

Preheat the oven to 400F. Spray a 9x13 dish with cooking spray. Spread bread in dish. In a large bowl combine tuna, onions, shallot, celery, butter, pepper, curry, milk and eggs. Pour tuna mixture over bread. Spread the mixture with a spatula, making sure that all the bread is covered. Top with cheese. Bake until the casserole starts to puff up, and the cheese melts, 25-35 min. To reheat leftovers, preheat oven to 400F and bake for 20 min until heated through and cheese gets melty again.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Oatmeal Pancakes

Hey how bout some pancakes? Let's pretend to be healthy shall we, and make oatmeal brown sugar pancakes from Baking Junkie. Because well all know that if something has oatmeal in it then it must be healthy. Oatmeal scotchie cookies are my favorite health food. But we aren't making cookies today, we are making pancakes I tell you!I felt the need to doctor this recipe. This recipe contains pancake mix. Now I don't know what type of pancake mix the Baking Junkie uses, but the brand I like says to add 1 1/3 c milk and 1/3 c oil for 2 cups of mix. Baking Junkie's recipe doesn't have any oil and calls for just 1 1/4 c milk. I didn't think that would be enough moisture for 1 cups of mix plus 1/2 cup of oats, so I added the milk and oil that the box suggested.

Also, I used old fashioned oats instead of the quick cooking kind. I used the old fashioned kind because it is so much healthier than the quick cooking variety. Hehehe. Just kidding. It was the only kind I had on had. I just pulsed my oats in the food processor until I thought it looked like quick cooking oats.

These pancakes turned out super puffy, which you can't really tell from the picture. But trust me, they are poofy pancakes. Maybe even the poofiest ever. Or not. What do I know about pancakes?

Overall these pancakes were good, but no substitute for a waffle. Waffles still reign supreme. Yay team Waffle.

(Note to self: Call Park District and suggest "The Waffles" as a soccer team name for the fall season.)

Oatmeal Brown Sugar Pancakes from Baking Junkie
2 cups pancake mix
½ cup quick cooking oats
2 Tbsp packed brown sugar
1 ¼ cups milk
2 eggs
½ tsp cinnamon

Stir together all ingredients. Pour over greased griddle or buttered skillet, making pancakes as large or small as you’d like. Once pancakes start to bubble at edges, flip and continue cooking until cooked through, 3-4 minutes on each side. Makes 5-6 medium sized pancakes.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Zombie Apocalypse

The CDC wants you to be prepared.

Isn't it good to know that our government is spending time planning for the important things? What a relief! I can rest easy tonight.

Remember folks, when given the choice between an ax and a shotgun, always pick the ax. Eventually that gun is gonna run out of bullets and then how will you protect yourself from the ever increasing masses of undead?

Friday, May 20, 2011

'11 Happy Dance #6: Dancing Ring

I saw this quick and easy little craft for Dancing rings on Isle Tri. When I first saw the tutorial, I made a mental note to look for some cheap plastic little bracelets so I could make one for Blockette. Then, I remembered Blockette got a bracelet in a birthday party grab bag. Boo thinks it is a toy for him, so we have to store it in a plastic bag. Ribbons and kitty bellies are not a pleasant combination. Here's a close up of all the little ribbons I used. They were odds and ends I'd amassed over the years. I knew I'd find a use for them sooner or later. I guess it DOES pay to be a crafting pack rat. It makes me wish I didn't downsize on my crafting supplies when we moved into this house 5 years ago. Think of all the missed crafting potentials. Sigh.

Anyhow, Blockette and I decided this is an outside toy, so we don't have to worry about Boo or Basil eating/destroying it. Yesterday we had a reprieve from the rain, so she donned her fairy wings and wand, and danced her heart out in the backyard.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thankful Thursday 19.11

1. I finally got that quilt I've been working on all school year pinned and ready for quilting.
2. No one in our neighborhood gives a flip about dandelions so our yard looks as bad as everyone else's.
3. The red string and bucket that blew into our backyard. (Keeps Blockette busy for hours finding new and interesting ways to play with them.)
4. I saw the ant in between the sheets of toilet paper still on the roll before I tore it off and used it.
5. Leftovers that can be stretched 2 extra days by making something completely different!
6. Helping out in Blockette's class.
7. Blockette preferring to watch the Science channel over cartoons.
8. Being able to stay at home.
9. Figuring out what design (and all the math) I want to use for the next quilt. (Really I'm just avoiding quilting the one I just pinned.)
10. Finding sneaky ways to get Blockette to eat things she claims she doesn't like.
11. Introducing Blockette to the Lord of the Rings movies.
12. Blockette not being scared from the monsters in the Lord of the Rings movies.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pizza Poppers

White Trash balls , what an appetizing name! The title fits, cause they are kind of a trashy appetizer. I happen to enjoy that, but I prefer to call these little tidbits Pizza Poppers.

I assembled and baked these at a friends house so there is no picture. Yeah shame on me for not bringing my camera everywhere I go. I you are curious about how they look, head on over to Craving Comfort. Dana (She was on Wife Swap!) has some great pictures on her blog.

I made a few slight modifications to Dana's recipe, just to make them a bit more pizza-ish. (That's a word right? Don't burst my bubble if it's not.) I added several handfuls of mozzarella cheese. I didn't measure how much. I just added it into the pepperoni/cream cheese mixture until I thought it looked sufficiently cheesy. Then I added the green part (sliced) from 5 small green onions. I mostly did this because I had them left over from another dish and if I didn't use them in this appetizer, they were just going to get tossed. I also added some Italian Seasoning. I just shook it on and mixed it up until I thought there were little green flecks from the spice blend throughout the mixture.

The assembly was a bit fussy, but worth the result. Only a few of the crescent roll bits came undone in the cooking process. I was especially happy that they didn't explode or get all oozy on the pan. Make sure you put foil on your baking sheet just in case. Save yourself some of the clean up drama.

I served these little guys with some red sauce. Nothing fancy. I used the Meijers generic three cheese pasta sauce in a jar. It's my new favorite pasta sauce and sometimes it is on sale for a dollar. A Dollar! (Doncha love it when the cheap stuff tastes the best?!)

Anyhow, these guys even taste good cold. I mean why wouldn't they? They're like pizza and pizza is scrumptious cold.

Back when I made these, Mrblocko was making puppy dog eyes when I was preparing the filling. I told Mrblocko I would make these at home for dinner one night, since he wasn't going to be around to have any. Guess I should make good on that promise sometime in the not too distant future.

Dana's White Trash Balls from Craving Comfort
1 (6 ounce) package sliced pepperoni
1 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese
2 (10 1/8 ounce) packages Refrigerated Crescent Dinner Roll dough

Take out the crescent rolls, and separate into the individual triangles. Flatten each triangle and slice it so that it becomes three small triangles. Dice pepperoni into very tiny pieces. (I use my food processor) Add the pepperoni into the cream cheese, mixing well. Take a very small spoonful of cream cheese/pepperoni mixture and put it in the middle of one of the crescent rolls triangles. Pinch up all of the sides around the filling, rolling into a ball. Repeat and place them all on a cookie sheet. Bake for the amount of time stated on the crescent rolls (usually 10-13 minutes at 375°F). Let cool for a few minutes before serving!

Add some Italian seasoning and serve w/ pizza sauce for Pizza White Trash Pockets.
Add a little Mozzarella cheese for a gooier cheese center.
try adding some black olives, and green onions!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Lemon Frosted Brownies

I made these Lemon Frosted Rasberry Brownies from The cooking Photographer for a crafty day with some friends. It had never occurred to me to put lemon frosting on top of brownies. I thought the idea was intriguing, but was unsure if it would be a good flavor pairing. And if my friends didn't like the lemon frosting? Hey, they could just scrape it off.

Lucky me the lemon and chocolate went really well together. The frosting was from a can, but adding lemon zest masks any "canned" flavor. At least I thought it did.The brownies have a raspberry fruit spread mixed into the batter. This was a pretty big let down. The raspberry flavor was nearly undetectable. I had a few leftovers from the get together, and after the brownies were a day old, the raspberries were only slightly more pronounced. The preserves did make the brownies really moist though. That was a nice added benefit. I think if I make these again, I will prepare the brownies at least a day in advance so that raspberry flavor gets more of an opportunity to shine through.

Lemon Frosted Black Raspberry Brownies from the Cooking Photographer
3 tablespoons Smucker’s Simply Fruit Seedless Black Raspberry Spreadable Fruit
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 package Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate Brownie Mix
1 tub lemon frosting
Zest of 1/2 a lemon
Dark colored berries for garnish, optional

Preheat the oven to 325F. Line an 8x8 inch baking pan with foil and grease the foil. In a large bowl, whisk together spreadable fruit, water, oil, and egg. Add the brownie mix and stir until just combined. Pour batter into the pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes until done. Cool brownies completely in the pan on a wire rack. Mix lemon frosting and lemon zest together. Spread over cool brownies. Freeze brownies for 1 hour for easier cutting. Cut into strips and strips into rectangles. Garnish individual brownies with berries if desired.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tilapia and Survivor Rice

Have any of you been watching Survivor? Hello? Anyone? Well someone has to be watching it besides me because they keep bringing it back season after season. This time around they had someone on that has been on the show before and he was totally running the tribe. Hmm, maybe brainwashed is a better word than "ran" now that I think about it. The season finale was on last night and of course he won the million dollar prize.

Most of the time, the contestants on Survivor, well, survive on a few spoonfulls of rice a day. This season it was revealed that the crispy bits at the bottom of the pan were a highly prized treat. So much so that the one guy from a previous season (Boston Rob) had everyone on his tribe convinced that he would only eat the crispy rice. His fellow tribe members, with the exception of one (Crazy Phillip) gladly obliged him.

I remember watching this insanity and wondering what the big deal was. Well I accidentally found out what "crispy rice" was like. If you would like to replicate this Survivor delicacy, all you need to do is forget you have rice on the stove! Yes it is just that simple! And then, once you notice a weird, almost nutty aroma, give a yelp and immediately take the rice off the burner. Viola, your rice will be brown and crispy all along the pot's edges.

The crispy rice tasted fine, just a bit chewier than regular rice. I can see how it was a prized treat out there in the jungle. Having a different texture, and something you had to actually chew was probably a very nice change of pace from mushy old rice.Now unless you are into malnutrition, you should probably eat something with your crispy rice. We ate ours with easy baked tilapia from How Sweet Eats. I loved how the Parmesan cheese on the fish got all brown and toasty in the oven.

I guess there are people out there in the world who thing that the combination of fish and cheese is an abomination. Well, I'm here to tell those people "plbbbt!" Cause this fish is really tasty! Cheese just makes everything better, even yucky fish. This fish was so good that there were absolutely no leftovers, something that very rarely happens in this house.

Easy Baked Parmesan Tilapia From How Sweet it is makes 4 tilapia filets
4 tilapia filets (I used fresh, but I think frozen should work too)
3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup grated/shredded parmesan cheese
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon thyme
salt and pepper to taste
lemon slices for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.Pat tilapia dry (if frozen, it should be thawed first) with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Lay on a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick spray and bake for 10-12 minutes. While fish is baking, mix butter with garlic, thyme and parmesan cheese.

Remove fish from oven and gently flip. Spread about 1/2 tablespoons of butter mixture on the fish, and heat the broiler in your oven. Set fish under the broiler for about 2-3 minutes, or until cheese gets golden and bubbly. Serve with lemon.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Thankful Thursday 18.11

1. Finally a morning with no fits!
2. Coming home with a cartload of rockin awesome deals at the grocery store.
3. Getting less crabby by talking with my mom on the phone.
4. The cookies I made for the bake sale sold out before the end of the bake sale. (1st time for that!)
5. When I dropped my insulated water bottle it just broke, and didn't shatter and send plastic shards everywhere.
6. Finding Tasteology to further fuel my food blogger obsession. (see also Foodgawker and Tastespotting)
7. Feeling brave enough to experiment with leftovers to make a new meal with no recipe.
8. The bunny eating weeds outside my craft room windo. She saw me and just kept munching away. (Man those bunnies have some HUGE black eyes!)
9. Blockette being a big girl when I got sick from the heat.
10. Patience.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Chicken and Artichoke Pasta

We do not eat nearly enough veggies in our house. I am really horrible at this. Why can't sugar be a veggie? Does it count if it is made from a beet? No? Well, it should. Someone should really get on that.

Since sugar is not a vegetable, finding a recipe that is packed with veggies already is awesome. That way I don't have to worry about forgetting/feeling too lazy to prepare a side dish. Slow cooker Artichoke Pasta from A Year of Slow Cooking contains 3 cans of tomatoes and 2 cans of artichokes. Talk about vegetable city! AND it's a dump and go crock pot recipe. Bonus!

The resulting dish was just ok, but I really screwed up the recipe so keep that in mind. How can one mess up a dump and go crock pot recipe you ask? Well if anyone can, it's me! I have special gifts.

In the comment section, someone said there was not enough liquid. They recommended adding liquid from the cans of artichokes. So I did. Don't do this. It is waaaay too much liquid. The dish wound up more soupy than saucy.

Because Mrblocko would get twitchy if we ate vegetarian, I tossed in 4 chicken breasts along with all the other ingredients. This was way too much. I'd say that 3 chicken breasts would make the dish plenty chickeny. (Maybe 4 is a good amount for those of you who don't have access to freaky mutant giant chicken breasts.) Once the chicken was fully cooked, I shredded it in hopes that it would soak up some of the excess liquid. Well that did not happen, at least not as much as I wanted it to.

Then as the piece de resistance, I went and forgot the cream. And when I say forgot, I mean I forgot to buy it at the store and then didn't even add anything else in like milk to make up for the missing flavor. Duh. No wonder it was just ok. People, take it from me, you can't omit a thing as wonderful as cream and then complain that it wasn't mindblowingly delicious. (Well, you could, but you would be WRONG!) Of course the dish didn't need any extra liquid in it or it most definitely would have been soup.

With all the chicken in it, this made a ton of leftovers. And when I say ton, it is no exaggeration. We had enough for over 8 meals for the three of us. The great thing was that it froze wonderfully, and the reheated defrosted leftovers tasted better than the meal the first time around.

Slowcooker Artichoke Pasta from A Year of Slow Cooking
3 (14.5-ounce) cans Italian tomatoes (diced, stewed, your choice) (do not drain)
2 (14.5-ounce) cans artichoke hearts in water, drained and lightly chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup pimento-stuffed olives
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream (to add later)
1 pound freshly cooked pasta (to add later)

Use a 6-quart slow cooker. Pour the tomatoes into your crockpot. Lightly chop the drained artichoke hearts and toss them in. Add garlic and olives. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours. If you are adding chicken, cook on low for 6 to 7 hours, or until chicken is no longer pink. Stir in heavy cream and hot, cooked pasta before serving.

*If you are out of the house all day, you can still make this by using a programmable slow cooker. Set it to turn to warm after 5 hours on low. The warm setting will work for a full 12 hours, and will keep your food nice and hot (but not still cooking) until you arrive home. Stir in the heavy cream. Cook pasta according to package instructions and toss with the sauce.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cookie Brittle

I think it is pretty clear that I have a horrible case of an overactive sweet tooth. Dessert of some sort after dinner (and sometimes even lunch) is pretty much the standard in our house. So, you'd think that I would have kept better tabs on the amount of brown sugar in the pantry. I used the last of it up and forgot to write it down on the grocery list.

In order to follow the rule of only going to the grocery store once a week, I knew that if I wanted some dessert I was going to have to find a recipe to suit the ingredients I had on hand. This proved to be more difficult than I first thought. Most of the recipes that didn't have brown sugar in them also contained one random key ingredient I didn't have either.

A search from my binder of printed recipes yielded a big goose egg, so I headed over to my computer to examine the insanely long "recipe to do list." As luck would have it, I found Chocolate chip cookie brittle from Piece of Cake. I actually prefer making bars over cookies. It's not that I prefer eating cookies over bars. That is definitely not the case as I love them both equally. Bars are so much less fussy. You scoop them out once and bake one pan. Yeah, I really am that lazy. Cookie brittle is definitely the lazy baker's dessert.

Man was this stuff ever addicting. One might even say "cracktastic." When I eat a regular chocolate chip cookie, I can usually stop at 2. Alright...3. But with these little cookie bits I kept wanting more and more and more until I have to put them on the highest shelf in the pantry to stop myself. (Yes reaching up to the highest shelf in the pantry is too much work for the 12th piece of cookie brittle. Do not attempt this technique after having only had 3 pieces of brittle. The highest shelf is not enough of a deterrent! I've found putting something out of reach only works after you've had a ridiculous amount.)

Aside from being delishious and highly addictive, the recipe is one that can be easily altered to suit your needs and tastes. I did not have a full cup of dark chocolate chips. (I didn't even have any semi-sweet chips either!) So I used a scant 1/2 c of dark chips and a scant 1/2 c butterscotch chips. I also added 1/4c coconut. The author of the blog wrote that she thought this recipe would be tasty with butterscotch chips and coconut. I figured, since I already had to use the butterscotch chips, why not not toss in some coconut too. Also I used salted cashews since those were the cashews I had in my freezer.

I'd never had a cookie with cashews in it before. Mrblocko loves cashews, but thought it would be weird. He worried that it would taste weird and I would have wasted the precious cashews. Nope. The flavors blended together in face-stuffing goodness.

One final note about this recipe: if you want the brittle to be in jagged pieces, follow the recipe's instructions to break the cookie up after it has cooled completely. If you want more uniform pieces, cut the bar once the cookies have just barely set up. A pizza wheel works brilliantly.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Brittle from Piece of Cake
1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsalted roasted cashews
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (60% cacao–I like Ghiradelli)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and set a rack to the center position. Pour the melted butter into a large bowl, and stir in the vanilla. With a wooden spoon (or your hands, if your prefer), add the sugar, salt and flour and mix to combine–the mixture will be somewhat crumbly, like a moist pie dough. Stir in the nuts and chocolate chips. Press the mixture in a thin, even layer onto an ungreased cookie sheet (use the chocolate chips as your guide–try to get them in as close to a single layer as possible throughout the dough, and you’ll have the right thickness). You may not fill the entire sheet with the dough–that’s okay.

Bake for 23-25 minutes, until light golden brown (the edges will be a bit darker than the center). Let cool completely before breaking into whatever sized pieces you desire. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Asiago pork chops

Asiago pork chops...where have you been all my life? Who would have known that the lowly old pork chop could be so sublime with the simple addition of cheese! Jessica from How Sweet it is, that's who.

These chops were so awesome that I had to fight mrblocko for the extra left over pork chop. He won. Now he owes me. Big time. Muhahaha!

Yeah yeah. I've gotten lax on the whole picture taking thing again. I'm going to try to be more on the ball. Just trust me that it was even better tasting than it was looking, and it looked pretty darn tasty.

I used actual corn flakes ground up in the food processor because a box of the cereal was cheaper than the box of preground flakes. And you know that little box of ground cornflakes is a LOT tinier than the generic jumbo boxes of corn flakes. So we had cornflakes for breakfast quite a bit after I made this for dinner. Oh, by "we" I meant me, because no one else in the house will eat cornflakes except for me. (And to that I stick my tongue out at both my husband and daughter.)

I also made my own bread crumbs with left over bread from the freezer and added about a tablespoon of Italian seasoning for flavoring. I hadn't planned on going "totally from scratch." I thought I had bread crumbs in the pantry but I either used them all up, or they were hiding really, really well. It all worked out in the end because the homemade bread crumbs turned out surprisingly declicious. It's not something I'd want to devote my time into making every time I wanted to use bread crumbs, but it's nice to know I can do it in a pinch.

Asiago Breaded Pork Chops from How Sweet it is
4 thin, boneless pork chops
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup milk
1/2 cup Kellogg’s Corn Flakes
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup asiago cheese, grated or crumbled

Preheat oven to 325. Trim fat off of pork chops and tenderize with a fork. Heat skillet on medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. In separate bowls, pour milk into one, then breadcrumbs and corn flakes into other. Dip chop in milk and let soak for about a minute. Dip in bread crumb mixture and coat thoroughly. Add to skillet and let cook on each side for about 3-4 minutes, or until breading is golden brown. Take off heat and add 1 cup chicken stock to skillet. Also add 1/4 cup asiago cheese on top of each chop. Cover and bake at 325 for about 45 minutes. Make sure the chops do not dry out. If the skillet becomes dry, add more chicken stock.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Tortilla Strips

I am so far behind on writing up things for this blog. I made these tortilla strips as a topping for Nacho Soup I made for a Relay for Life gathering back in February. I knew the soup needed tortilla chips as a topping but I thought that full size chips would be messy and unwieldly.I used the recipe for baked tortilla chips from Tracey's Culinary Adventures. I just cut them into little strips instead of triangle wedges. I baked these at 375 F for 8 minutes on each side.

The directions didn't say, but I found that the chips stayed soggy if I brushed on too much oil. So if you are going to make these tasty chips, go easy on the oil. Also, do not forget to salt them before you bake them. If you wait to salt them after they get out of the oven, like you would if you fried them, there won't be anything for the salt to stick to.

Last of all I would like to mention that my package of 12 corn tortillas actually had 13! So neener neener I got a bonus tortilla! Woot woot!

Baked Tortilla Chips from Tracy's Culinary Adventures
Twelve 6-inch corn tortillas
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Fine salt (optional - I didn't salt mine)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Brush both sides of the tortillas with the oil. Stack the tortillas and cut the pile into sixths (I cut mine into eighths) to make chips. Spread the chips out in a single layer on two large baking sheets and season with salt. Bake until golden brown and crisp, rotating the baking sheets once, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Milk Toof!

I was feelin kinda glum today and I came across this cute blog, My Milk Toof. The adventures of these little tooth guys make me chuckle so I thought I'd share. Check them out!

Russian Black Bread

I found this recipe for Russian Black bread or 'Chorni Chleb' from Smitten Kitchen almost two years ago. I printed it out and tucked it away in hopes that I would someday get a handy dandy stand mixer. Well someday finally arrived and I got to putting this bread recipe into motion.

Whew! Was this bread ever a lot of work, even with a stand mixer. There are a ton of ingredients that I didn't have on hand. So, in order to keep within my grocery budget, I'd just buy one ingredient here and there, waiting for it to go on sale.

Finally, I accumulated all the necessary items and set to work. I had such high expectations that I was a bit disappointed with the results. I didn't think this Rye bread tasted any better than any other rye bread I had previously. Now don't get me wrong. This bread was good. REALLY good. I just don't know if it was worth all the effort. I'm going to try out some less complicated recipes for Rye bread to find out for sure. With all the steps in the recipe, it is a wonder that I only made one mistake! I accidentally cut the dough before the 2nd rise. I tried to fix it by reshaping the dough but it was difficult considering I had already coated the dough in cornmeal. As a result of my error, the dough rose horizontally, rather than vertically. Oh well. The plus side to this was, even though the bread didn't rise how it was supposed to, it still tasted really good. Surprisingly, for a bread that didn't behave like it should have, it wasn't super dense. We made short little sandwiches with the bread and they were rockin awesome! Also, this was first time in my bread making that the yeast got super foamy. This gives me real hope that I'm making progress in my bread baking skills.

Russian Black Bread from Smitten Kitchen Makes 2 loaves
2 packages (1 1/2 tablespoons) active dry yeast
Pinch of sugar
1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
2 cups water
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
3 cups medium rye flour
3 cups unbleached, all-purpose or bread flour
1 cup bran
2 tablespoons caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1/4 cup cornmeal (optional)
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour (optional)
1 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional)

In a small bowl, combine yeast and sugar with warm water. Stir to dissolve and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.. Heat two cups water, molasses, vinegar, butter and chocolate until the butter and chocolate are melted. Set aside. Combine whole-wheat, rye and white flours in a large bowl. Set aside. In bowl of a heavy mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine two cups mixed flours, bran, 2 tablespoons caraway seeds, fennel seeds, salt, espresso and shallots. At low speed, add yeast and chocolate mixtures. Mix until smooth and beat at medium speed for three minutes. At low speed, add half cup of remaining mixed flours at a time, until dough clears sides of bowl and begins to work its way up paddle. It will be very sticky but firm. Scrape dough off paddle, flour counter well, and knead to make a springy yet dense dough. You might not use all of the flour mixture. Form into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Turn once to grease top. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm area until doubled, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Combine cornmeal, flour and remaining caraway seeds, if using, and set aside.

Gently deflate dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into two portions and form into two rounds or loaves. Loaves should be placed in a loaf pan sprayed with nonstick spray, while rounds should be placed seam down on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle loaves with cornmeal mixture, if using. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled and puffy, about 45 minutes to one hour. Slash an X into the top of a round before baking it; no such slashing is needed for bread in a loaf pan. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until loaves are well-browned, or register an internal temperature of 200 to 210°F on an instant-read thermometer. Baking time in your oven may vary — check in on the bread when it is 2/3 to 3/4 of the way through the baking time to make sure it has not super-speedily baked. Remove from baking sheet to cool completely on a rack.

Monday, May 2, 2011

April Reads

1. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. Finally. It only took me two and a half months to read this book. I am glad that I made it through. Originally, I wanted to read this book to see how it compared to the miniseries. They were pretty close. The main differences were: Jack had no ring, The curse was pretty non-specific, Jack does not kill Alfred and there is no poison dagger, there is no incest, William does not kill his mother, Regan does not kill her husband and there is no gay monk. I guess the producers of the mini series felt they needed to make the story more salacious to sell it. I enjoyed the book even though it took me forever and a day. I enjoyed the book so much that I immediately checked out the "sequel" World Without End from the library.

2.The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place:Book II:The Hidden Gallery by Maryrose Wood. I had been anxiously awaiting this installment of the Incorrigible series. It's another "children's" book where the main character, a nanny, reminds me of a hybrid of Mary Poppins and Jane Austen. The nanny was hired in the first book to take care of 3 children that were found on a newly married wealthy man's property. The children seem to have been raised by wolves. The mystery continues and the reader is presented with further clues that lead one to believe the man is a werewolf, and the nanny is somehow related to the children. I can't wait for the next book in the series to come out.

3. The Wyverns Treasure (Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist, Book 3) by R.L. LaFevers. Took me all of 45 min to read. It's a great children's series where the boy in the story is training to be a caretaker to all these wonderful mythical creatures. Each book features a specific creature, and has all these little facts about that creature nestled within the story.

4. The Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl by Daniel Pinkwater. This has to be the singularly weirdest book I have ever read. There was no indication in the book that this was the 3rd in a trilogy. (The first being The Neddiad and the second being the Yggyssey, puns on the Iliad and the Odyssey) I'm going to have to read the other two to see if I can make some more sense of the story. Although, from what I read of the reviews on Amazon, this book seems like it is a stand alone book from the previous two. This book is weird and in insane, like someone from Wonderland had written it. Yeah and they teamed up with Lemony Snicket, Neil Gaiman and Roald Dahl to do it. There really isn't much of plot line, but it is so weird, it doesn't really need one. If all that isn't enough to make you scratch your head and say "huh" add in Aliens, UFO's and parallel universes. If you can ride the wave of peculiarity, the journey through the book is wildly enjoyable.

5. World Without End by Ken Follett. This book is the sequel to Pillars of the Earth as I mentioned above. I enjoyed this book a lot more than I did Pillars of the Earth, as evidence that it took me less than a month to read it. The story takes place about 200 years after the first book so none of the characters are the same. I just found the storyline to be more interesting and the characters more engaging and relatable in the WWE than in PotE. I found the architectural details and building descriptions from PotE to be boring so I skimmed that part. WWE didn't have any of that, and it was longer, but I read it in half the time. I was a bit disappointed in the end. I found it to be a bit saccharine and contrived. Everyone got what they deserved in the end, good and bad. While I do enjoy this type of story, it didn't fit with the style this book was written in. I don't like it when a story is gritty and harsh and then "happy happy joy joy" at the end. If felt like the author didn't know what to do so he tied everything up in a pretty little package.

6. A World Without Heroes by Brandon Mull. This is the first book in the Beyonders series. As far as I can tell, this series is going to be a trilogy. The author of this series also wrote the Fablehaven series. The Fablehaven series features a secret world of fairies and creatures within our own. The Beyonders series is about a world outside our own. The main character enters this new pseudo-medieval world by accidentally falling into the mouth of a hippopotamus. This other world is ruled by an evil wizard king. The main characters set out to destroy this king. I thought the book started out slow, but it picks up midway through. My only beef with this tale is that the main characters are supposed to be 13. I get that this is the book's target audience, but the main characters seem to handle all the situations with an emotional maturity way way beyond their years.

7. Austenland by Shannon Hale. This is a fun bit of escapist reading about a woman who has been unlucky in love, and inherits a trip for a vacation in this sort of Jane Austen resort. Everything is period, and the main character finds that it's not all that she expected it would be. The book reads like a typical "chick flick." I'd recommend it to people who are fans of Austen movies (What lady with a pulse doesn't like Colin Firth?), but not to Austen purists. Boo on them anyhow. If they are gonna be haters then they should just stick to works by Miss Austen herself!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Thankful Thursday 17.11

1. Being Godmother to my best friend's daughter.
2. Blockette trying her best to run into the wind during Soccer.
3. Blockette's gigglefest watching America's Funniest Videos.
4. Mrblocko kills all the nasty spiders that have invaded our home.
5. When I dropped the cupcake in the garage, at least it didn't land on my clothes or on the copies I made for Sunday School.
6. The joy on Blockette's face when she told me the eggs at school had hatched into chicks.
7. Not loosing my temper every morning this week.
8. Fits don't last forever.
9. I don't drink when I'm upset.
10. Mrblocko has been here to help deal with the difficult mornings.