Friday, June 29, 2012

German Chocolate Fudge Bites

Ok. So apparently peanut butter week is over. 
This recipe does have ground up pecans in it, so that sort of counts.
You know. If you squint and hop on one foot.
These German chocolate fudge bites from Chocolate covered Katie are a pretty healthy treat.  The main sweetness of these chocolate-y treats comes from dates!

Apparently I like dates.  Even though they look like bugs.  But with this recipe, it's not like you're popping a squishy buggy shaped critter in your mouth.  The dates get pureed in the food processor along with pecans, cocoa and coconut. 

I'm sure if you used unsweetened coconut and omitted the chocolate chips, they would be even better for you.  Of course I did nothing of the sort.  Momma's got a sweet tooth that must be satisfied!

The fudge-y treats were perfect when I wanted just a little something sweet.  They were chocolate-y without being overwhelming.  Sometimes in the summer I don't like the way a piece of chocolate melts and coats the inside of my mouth.  For some reason it makes me feel warmer. 

I stuck these little babies in the freezer because they didn't seem to want to hold together properly otherwise.  This helped them last a bit longer as I don't go into the freezer nearly as much as I do the fridge.  They were a nice cool little snack.  They were firm from the freezer, but not jawbreakingly so.

Oh and did I mention that there is no baking involved?  Yeah.  Another reason why these are the perfect sweet for summer!

German-Chocolate Fudge Bites from Chocolate Covered Katie  (Makes 10-14 balls)
3/4 cup pitted dates  (120g)
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/16 tsp salt
2 T cocoa powder (or raw cacao powder)
2 T shredded coconut
1/3 to 1/2 cup raw pecans
optional: feel free to add some mini chocolate chips

Blend all ingredients together very well. (I recommend using a food processor.) Squish the dough together. Roll into balls, cookie-cuttered shapes, or bars… or you can even use it for a pie crust!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Thankful Thurs #26

1. Being able to stay all night at Relay.

2. Not going into the "ugly cry" once at Relay.

3. Finding the full size air mattress so I could get a few hours of sleep at Relay.

4. Sleeping in until 9AM on Sunday. (Yeah we missed church, but the sleep was amazing!)

5. I haven't killed my plants yet.

6. Air Conditioning.

7. Playdates.

8. Running errands before it got massivly hot.

9. A really good day, after a really bad day with Blockette.

10. My mom has come to visit!!!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Peanut Buttery Banana Bread

Hmmm... it must be peanut butter week or something.

So I know that you are thinking, "That looks like your average run of the mill banana bread."

You are sooooo totally wrong.

There's nothing ordinary about this banana bread!

This is Reeses peanut butter cup peanut butter banana bread from Cookies and Cups.  Yeah.  You read that right...there are Reeses Peanut Butter cups IN the banana bread.

I've actually had this recipe on my to do list since October.  How do I specifically know that I planned to make this back in October? The pb cups that I used were pumpkin shaped.  Somehow, they had gotten jammed behind some random baking supplies in the pantry.  Then I went and forgot about this recipe, and the lil' punkin' shaped pb cups!

Oh the horror!  The travesty!  It's peanut butter cup abuse for sure!

I made it up to the little guys by chopping them up and making them a part of this scrumpdidilyumptious bread.  It was worth the wait.  I decided to make three small loaves as opposed to one large one as suggested.  We gobbled up the third loaf, fighting over who got the last slice.  (I won by the way.  Muhahahaha!)  But what the rest of my family doesn't realize is that there are two other wee loaves chillin' in the freezer.  I'll probably share with them...if they aren't rotten stinkers!  OK.  Who am I kidding?  They ARE rotten stinkers, but I'll share anyhow.

Reese's PB Cup PB Banana Bread from Cookies and Cups
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup oil
1 egg
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
8 oz bag of Reese’s Mini cups (Or pumpkin shaped ones chilled and cut into 6ths)

Preheat oven to 350 Grease your loaf pan ( 8 x 4 is the recommended size.  Mine is 8.5x5, so i used 3 small loaf pans) with butter or shortening. In a medium bowl whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt, set aside. In a large bowl stir bananas, peanut butter, oil, egg and sugars. Pour dry ingredients into wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Batter will be lumpy. DO NOT OVER-STIR. Fold in Reese’s cups and spread batter into prepared pan. Bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Let cool in pan 10 minutes, then loosen edges of pan with a knife and remove from loaf pan, transferring bread to a cooling rack.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Biscuits and Peanut Butter BaconGravy

I had really high hopes for this peanut butter biscuits and gravy from Fat Girl Trapped in a Skinny Body. It was probably one of those cases where I just set my expectations too high.

I mean the gravy was ok.  It just wasn't nearly as good as the sausage gravy that I'm used to.  In fact, I think sausage gravy was easier to make than the peanut butter gravy was.

Strangely, the gravy improved the second time around.  Maybe because the flavors had a chance to marry as they sat in the fridge for a day?  In my opinion, the leftovers were much tastier.

Also, I tried the dish with and without a slice of cheddar cheese.  A plain biscuit and this gravy was pretty mediocre.  You gotta have a thin melty slice of cheddar cheese to make this dish sing.  Somehow the cheese brings out the meaty flavor of the bacon.  I'm not sure how that works, but more bacon flavor is always a good thing.

This was also my first attempt at making biscuits from scratch.
They aren't the best looking things ever, but fairly decent for this Yankee's first attempt.  There is definitely a learning curve when it comes to biscuit making.  And if you don't have a Southern granny to learn from, expect to have a few less than stellar attempts.

There are a ton of biscuit recipes out there and I wasn't sure which one to try first.  I settled on the recipe for biscuits from My Adventures in the Country.

I probably handled the dough too much on an overly floured surface.  I'm also fairly certain that I rolled the dough out too thin. My butter was probably too warm as well.

The biscuits didn't turn out like little bricks though, and were still fairly tender, so in my book, as a first attempt, that was pretty awesome.

I don't think I'll make the peanut butter gravy again.  We just prefer plain old sausage gravy on our biscuits.  I am going to keep trying out different biscuit recipes until I can produce that mile high, tender but sturdy biscuit.  Practice makes perfect!

Peanut Butter Gravy adapted from Fat Girl Trapped in a Skinny Body
6 strips bacon, reserve the grease
3T flour
3-4 c milk
1/2 c peanut butter
Freshly ground pepper
1 tsp salt

Brown bacon in a skillet. Once bacon is fully browned, take it out and set aside. Chop the bacon once it has cooled enough to touch. Keep grease in the pan.

Turn pan onto low/medium heat and slowly whisk flour into grease, stirring constantly until smooth, cooking about 2 minutes. Scrape all pieces stuck to bottom.

Slowly begin whisking in first 2c  milk until fully incorporated and mixture begins to bubble. Whisk in peanut butter. Continue whisking in additional milk a little bit at a time, until gravy reaches desired consistency. It will get thick! If you like it thinner, you will need more milk.

Grind some pepper directly into the gravy, add salt, and return bacon bits to the skillet. Stir to mix. Serve over biscuits with sliced apples and cheese.

Biscuits from My Adventures in the Country
 3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cream of tartar (or 2 1/2 tsp vinegar)
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 450°.  In med bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and cream of tartar. Cut butter into pats and add to flour mix.  Using a pastry blender, cut in butter til mix resembles course crumbs. Make well in mix and add  milk.  Use a rubber scraper to slowly combine.  Stir til forms somewhat slightly sticky dough.

Prepare a work surface and lightly dust with flour. Knead 7-8 times, being careful not to overwork  dough.  The less you work it, the more tender and moist your biscuits will be!

Flour your hands and pat dough out into a circle that’s about 3/4″ – 1″ thick. Using a floured biscuit cutter, cut out biscuits and place on an ungreased baking sheet, 1-2" apart. A 3″ cutter will yield 9  biscuits, and 2 1/2″ cutter 15. Bake 10-12 minutes.  Remove from the oven and serve warm

Monday, June 25, 2012

Honey nut peanut butter

Hey! I just made my own peanut butter.

Isn't that neato?

All you do is dump some peanuts into a food processor and 
whiz it around for about 4 minutes until it's smooth and creamy.

Oh ho...but this is no ordinary peanut butter. It's made from honey roasted peanuts.

I'm a weirdo and actually preferred the Meijer's brand creamy peanut butter, 
but Mrblocko and Blockette thought it was 
super awesome.  

I even got a "best mom ever" from Blockette. She thought it was that good.

So there you have it...peanut butter from're only four minutes from being the 
best mom EVER! 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Graham Cracker Frozen Treats

A few weeks ago I got this crazy notion to make some graham crackers.
Weird, huh? Why make graham crackers when they are so cheap at the store?

Cause I wanted to see if I could.

It turns out they weren't any harder than making cookies.  The hardest part was rolling them very very thin.  I wound up making graham crackers from the recipe over at Culinary Adventures in the Kitchen.  I chose that particular recipe because it was so unusual. It uses whole wheat flour instead of white, and instead of butter, the fat is olive oil. 

No one could taste the olive oil in the crackers.  I'm not sure if that was because they just don't taste olive oil-y, or because I sprinkled the tops of the crackers with a cinnamon sugar blend that had orange zest in it.  All you could really taste was the orange cinnamon goodness.

But it wasn't enough to just make the Graham crackers.  Nope.  I had to take it one step further. I made them into "ice cream" bars using sweet puddin'head filling, an idea I pilfered from Not Just Cute.  Sweet puddin'head is basically a mixture of Cool Whip and pudding.  I used sugar free vanilla pudding mix and Lite Cool Whip, cause that makes it healthy, doncha know.  And we are all about the healthy desserts in this house.  (Insert eye roll here.)

MMMMM! Delicious!

What is great about these frozen goodies is that they don't turn into a brick after chilling.  They firm up nicely in the freezer, but aren't so rock hard that a child with two missing front teeth couldn't consume them.   It did take the toothless child a considerable amount of time to eat her ice cream bar, but I am not entirely certain that had anything to do with her lack of pearly whites.

While I won't be making the graham crackers again this summer, (unless we get another cool spell,) I will make these treats again with store bought crackers.  I can't wait to try other pudding flavors.  I'm particularly looking forward to the cheesecake pudding flavor.  

Graham Crackers from Culinary Adventures in the Kitchen
2 cups whole-wheat flour
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 large egg
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup honey
2-3 tablespoons milk
additional milk for glaze
cinnamon-sugar (optional)

In a mixing bowl, combine whole wheat flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and baking powder. In a separate bowl, beat egg till light, then add oil, honey and 2 T milk. Stir into dry ingredients until you have a fairly stiff dough, adding additional milk if necessary. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill until firm, about 1 hour (or longer, if it’s more convenient). Preheat your oven to 375°F. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead gently until it holds together. Roll dough out till it’s about 1/16-inch thick; make sure rolling surface is well-floured, or you’ll have trouble transferring crackers to baking sheet. Cut dough into 3" squares (or cut out using cookie cutters), prick each square several times with a fork, and place on lightly greased cookie sheets.  Brush tops with milk, sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar, and bake 15-20 min, til crackers are lightly browned. Remove crackers from oven, transfer to a wire cooling rack, and cool completely.

Sweet Puddin'head from Not Just Cute
8oz cool whip or similar
1 package of pudding mix
half milk suggested on pudding box

Combine milk and pudding until thick.  Fold in cool whip.  This recipe is actually just a guideline. Use any combination or size of cool whip or pudding.  You can even add some cream cheese if that suits your fancy. 

Just try not to eat the whole bowl in one sitting.  Save some for ice cream sandwiches! 

I stuck the filling in a zip bag and piped them onto the crackers. This made things a lot less messy for me.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Thankful Thurs #25

1. New rules in the house for Blockette.

2. New rules are resulting in less yelling by me.

3. Free ride tickets at the local festival.

4. A pencil sharpener that actually works...and looks super cool too!(Yeah, that's a pencil sharpener!)

5. Great weather for walking in the parade.

6. A wonderful visit with family.

7. None of us got sunburned this weekend.

8. Eating veggies from the garden.

9. Air conditioning!

10. All the political phone calls are now automated so I don't have to hang up and be rude to an actual person.  (I got three phone calls in the course of composing this post.  If it's like this now, what will it be like in the fall?  YIKES!)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Spicy Grilled Mushrooms

These grilled spiced mushrooms from Home Skillet totally blew my mind.
Ka-boom with the flavor explosion!

I'm already a huge fan of mushrooms. 
 And grilled? 
Sign me up for that.

There is just something simply amazing about this spice mix. It's smokey, sweet, savory, and spicy, with just a hint of salty. All that, combined with the meaty savory flavor from the mushrooms, and you have every flavor base covered. (At some point we are going to have to try this rub on grilled chicken. Mrblocko and I agree it would be awesome as well.)

And get this...Mrblocko asked Blockette if she wanted to taste a mushroom. Our daughter who won't eat a mushroom, even if you paid her, said "YES!" That will give you an indication of how enticing they had to have smelled for her to want to give a mushroom a taste test.

Get this, Blockette said she actually liked them. 
My child. 
Liked a mushroom. 

Although, they were too spicy for her to eat more than one. To her credit, the mushrooms were right on the edge of my heat tolerance level. Any hotter and they would have been too spicy for me.

The original recipe was even spicier. The spice blend calls for 2 tsp each of ancho and New Mexico Chile powder. I used 4 tsp of Chili powder instead. Once we run out of this batch, I will reduce the cayenne pepper from 2 tsp to just 1 tsp. I think this will make the spice blend with in Blockette's heat level. Mrblocko will probably be a bit sad, because he thought the spice blend was perfect the way it is. He can always add a pinch of cayenne to his portion of mushrooms and bring the heat up to inferno if he wants.

Amazing spicy grilled mushrooms from Home Skillet
Spice blend
1 T kosher salt
1 T black pepper
2 ½ t garlic powder
1 ½ t onion powder
1 ½ t oregano
1 ½ t basil
¼ t cinnamon
3 T brown sugar
1 T smoked paprika
1 T paprika
4 t chili powder
1-2 t cayenne

Combine all spices and store in an airtight container.

Grilled mushrooms

8 ounces cremini mushrooms, halved
4 tablespoons canola oil
1 ½ tablespoons mega spice mix

Place mushrooms in medium bowl. Drizzle oil and toss with mushrooms. Sprinkle on spice mix, coating mushrooms evenly. Set aside and prepare grill.

If using charcoal, light charcoal according to package directions or using your favorite method. Once 80-90 percent of charcoal ashed-over, spread into single layer, put cooking grates on, cover, and let grates heat up for 5 min. Adjust height of charcoal and air vents, if applicable to get a nice hot temp(350-400F).

If using gas grill, set temperature to high (350-400F) and cover for 5 min to heat grates.

Using a paper towel, coat cooking grates with thin layer of oil. Try to not let it drip down onto the coals to prevent flare ups. Place halved mushrooms on grill, cut side down. Cover, and come back in about 2-3 min to check on them. Once they’ve started to soften up just a bit, and bottoms have a nice char, remove from grill and serve hot.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Rye Pretzel Dogs

I saw these rye pretzel dogs from Mirror Image Recipes quite some time ago. They had been on my to make list but just kept getting bumped off for one reason or another.

I used two different kinds of sausages to make these Rye Pretzel Dogs: Chicken and apple for Blockette and I, and jalapeno chicken for Mrblocko.  The chicken sausages come in packages of 4, so I made 8 pretzel dogs and 4 plain rye pretzels.
As you can see, they get the Blockette thumbs up seal of approval.

These were a nice change of pace, but I think I prefer an all beef hot dog wrapped in regular pretzel dough. Although, the rye version with chicken sausage is probably a slightly healthier choice.

Rye Pretzel Dogs from Mirror Image Recipes
1 package active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water (about 100°F)
1 Tbsp honey
1 cup rye flour
about 3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
up to 10 or 11 sausages
For the bath
10 cups water
1/2 cup baking soda

Pour warm water over over yeast in a large bowl. Add honey and stir to dissolve. Add rye flour, 2 1/2 c all-purpose flour and salt and stir again.Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead, adding all-purpose flour as needed until the dough is tacky but not sticky. Knead for about 12 min til dough is smooth.
Spray a large bowl with nonstick spray. Place dough in bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a towel. Let rise for about 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Spray 2 baking sheets with nonstick spray. Separate dough into 3 oz (2 1/2 ") balls. On un-floured surface, roll a ball into rectangle slightly bigger than sausage. Wrap long edges of dough around sausage, pressing seam to seal. Pinch ends of dough shut and place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough and sausages. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 15-20 min.

Meanwhile, pour 10 c water into large pot and bring to boil. Add baking soda to boiling water. Boil pretzel dogs (I boil 2 at a time) for 30 sec, flip and boil another 30 sec. Return to baking sheet. Bake 15-18 min until dark golden to mahogany in color.

If you have leftover dough, separate it into 1.5 oz (1 1/2") balls. Roll each ball into a rope about 18" long. Twist into a pretzel shape and place on prepared baking sheet. Let pretzels rest, then boil and bake as above.
Makes 10-11 pretzel dogs or 20-22 pretzels

To Freeze: Once pretzel dogs have cooled to room temp, place in zip bag and into the freezer. They can be reheated in the microwave for about 2 min from frozen,or thaw in fridge and reheat at 350°F for 10 min.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Lucky Charms Treats

Want a quick no bake treat that's a little bit different and sure to be a big hit with the kids? Why not try Lucky charms treats from Ezra Pound Cake?

I made these for a bake sale so I doubled the recipe to make them super thick and monstrous.

The reason behind using Rice Krispies in addition to the Lucky Charms is that apparently if you use only Lucky Charms, the bars become as hard as a rock!  The Krispies provide just enough floof to keep them chompable.

I'm not sure which Blockette enjoyed more, these bars, or getting to eat the leftover Lucky Charms for Breakfast!

Lucky Charms Treats from Ezra Pound Cake
3 T butter or margarine
4 C (10 oz) mini marshmallows
3 C rice krispie cereal
3 C Lucky Charms Cereal
Sprinkles to garnish

Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray. Set aside. In a large micro safe bowl, melt 3 T margarine for 30 sec.  Add 1 bag of marshmallows and stir until coated.  Nuke for 30 sec, stir.  If mixture is still lumpy, nuke another 30 sec. At this point you need to work quickly so the marshmallows don't set up.
Add Rice Krispies, and stir until well coated. Stir in the Lucky Charms. Using a spatula, transfer the cereal mixture to your prepared dish. Coat your hands with nonstick spray, and press down the mixture evenly.
While the treats are still warm, add sprinkles, if using.  Let the treats cool, and cut into squares.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

June Garden Update

Woah my tiny little veggie garden has exploded with life since we planted it just over a month ago!

This is what it looked like in the middle of May:

And this is what the garden looked like two days ago!

And lookie:

 Stuff is actually growing!

Now if I could only say the same for the flower garden.

Some sort of bug has been gnawing away at all the flowers!  So far they aren't total goners.  A few of them have sickly little blossoms.  Hopefully they will spring back from whatever issue they are having and bloom like mad in July!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Thankful Thurs #24

1. Blockette saw the wasp before I did.

2. Mrblocko was home to kill the wasp.

3. I did not scream once at the discovery and murder of said wasp.

4. Nor did I scream when Mrblocko informed me of the squirrel in our 3 season room.

5. A nice visit with family.

6. The traveling bell choir performance at church.

7. Vacation Bible School - and the three hours of quiet it provided.

8. Sewing.

9. Cool enough weather to bake.

10. I'm not the only one who feels like this summer is going to be a loooooong one.

PS. Sorry this is a day late.  It's helpful to hit publish when you finish writing the post, instead of save.  DOH!

Monte Cristo Casserole

It's been precisely eleventy two years since I've had a Monte Cristo Sandwich.  I have no idea why.  OK.  Scratch that.  I know why.  Cause we rarely go out and when we do, they don't have Monte Cristo on the menu.  Oh and Monte Cristos are usually fried, and we've already established my dislike and fear of molten oil.  All these things have left me sadly Monte Cristo-less for ages and ages.  At least I was until I found this recipe for monte cristo casserole over at Real Mom Kitchen.
This is what the casserole looks like right out of the oven.

And here it is all plated up with powdered sugar and strawberry sauce. 

Now the original recipe calls for two 12.5 oz boxes of French Toast.  I looked at my grocery store and, on sale, a 12.5oz box contains only 6 slices for $2.  Now I can make 12 slices of French Toast from scratch for less than $1 total.  $1 and a little bit of my time seemed a whole lot better to me than spending $4 and no time.

So I did a little advance planning and made a double recipe of French Toast using this recipe for waffled French Toast. (Just cook the bread on a skillet instead of in the waffle maker.)  Doubling the recipe yielded me 15 slices. I made the French Toast one day, let it cool on racks, and then stuck 12 slices in a large zip bag and stored it in the freezer. This left me with 3 extra slices which I greedily ate for breakfast the next day. I took the French toast out of the freezer the morning I planned on making this hotdish, and let them thaw all day in the fridge. When as I was preparing dinner, I popped them in the toaster to get nice and crispy.

I used leftover ham that I had frozen from Easter.  The turkey was a bit trickier.  I looked in the deli and the turkey there was crazy expensive.  The brand of lunch meat Mrblocko usually eats was loads cheaper so I used some of that instead.  I grabbed a stack of slices and chopped them into cubes.  This was easy as the slices really like to stick together.

I also used the last of my failed strawberry freezer jam that didn't set up, instead of the frozen strawberry and jam topping mixture.  This turned out perfect, and we're finally done with all that failed jam! Hooray! 

Although this took a bit of advance planning, I felt it was worth it.  Even the leftovers were good.  So good, in fact, that we fought over who got to eat the last slice.  I didn't attempt to reheat the casserole as it tasted so great, cold, from the fridge.

Monte Cristo Casserole from Real Mom Kitchen
2 packages (12.5 ounces each) frozen French toast slices, thawed (or 12 slices if you're going to make your own)
1 cup milk
6 eggs
1 cup of thick sliced deli baked ham, diced
1 cup thick sliced deli roast turkey, diced
8 ounces or 2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
powdered sugar
24 oz container of frozen strawberries slices, thawed and drained
1/2 cup strawberry jam or ice cream topping (I used my homemade freezer jam and omitted the frozen strawberries)

Preheat oven to 375. Cut the slices of thawed French toast into 3/4 inch cubes. In a bowl, whisk milk and eggs. In a large bowl, place half French toast cubes. Pour half of the egg mixture over cubes and toss gently with a spoon or spatula. Toss until cubes are well coated.

Place the coated French toast cubes in a 9 x 13 baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray.Next layer half the ham, turkey, parsley and cheese on the coated French toast cubes.

Using the same large bowl, toss the remaining French toast cube and egg mixture to coat. Place coated French toast cubes in an even layer in the baking dish followed by layers of remaining ham, turkey, parsley, and cheese.

While the casserole bakes, combine sliced strawberries with jam/ice cream topping. Bake 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and set in center. Remove to cooling rack; cool 10 minutes.

Cut into 8-12 squares. Sprinkle the top of each square with a dusting of powdered sugar followed by a spoonful of the strawberry mixture.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ten things you might not know about me

1. I have two belly buttons.

2. I don't particularly care for Sushi.  I'll eat it, but I'd rather not.

3. I once ate a stick of butter, right out of the wrapper, on a dare made by one of my cousins.

4. I used to read Tarot cards, eerily well.

5. I can't eat asparagus.  I mean technically I can, if I want to feel like I have a bladder infection.

6. When my cat, Boo, was a kitten he would crawl up my shirt to attempt to nurse.  Needless to say it is not a fun thing to be woken up by.

7. I'm scared terrified petrified horrified prone to hysterics by wasps, hornets, bees, etc.

8. I didn't learn how to ride a bike until I was 11.

9. I had a peanut butter and honey sandwich for lunch every school day from 1st through 12th grades.

10. I cannot bend my big toe on my right foot.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Pasta Pie

Do you ever make something for dinner and then realize, halfway through, that it's going to take much longer than you anticipated? But as you are midway through preparation, it would probably take just as long to finish what you are making than to start over with something quicker. This was the case for me with Pasta pie from Noble Pig.

I had seen the recipe several years ago, but never got around to it.  Probably because I thought it was too fussy. I mean I could just toss the same ingredients into a casserole dish and have a no fuss meal.  Well that was definitely true, but this version is fun.
What you do for this recipe, in a nutshell, is under cook the noodles, stack them vertically in a springform pan, pour the meat sauce on top and poke the meat sauce into the noodles.

It's the poking of the noodles that is the fussy part.  It's fussy, but it's fun.  The sauce makes a cool little squooshy sound when you poke your finger inside the noodle.  SQUOOSH!

I was convinced there was no way all the sauce the recipe calls for would fit into all the noodles.  I just kept poking and squooshing, and once all the noodles were filled, there was only a tiny bit of sauce left sitting on the top.  I just left it there. Scooping the sauce from the top of the dish seemed unnecessary. The extra sauce wasn't hurting anything, and I was done fussing with the dish.
When you cut the pasta pie, you get to see the result of all your hard work.  I liked seeing the little cross sections of meat filled noodles.  I am not ashamed to admit that I giggled a little bit when I cut the first slice.

The meat filled noodles are what makes this dish so different from a casserole with all the different ingredients just tossed together.  With the Pasta Pie, you are insured to get meat in every noodle-y bite. And this my friends is a very good thing.

I did change things up a bit from the original recipe.  I thought that the meat sauce, as is, would be on the bland side. Adding one finely diced onion, a half a finely diced roasted red pepper, and a few shakes of Italian spice blend solved that problem quite nicely. I also swapped out the ground beef for bulk Italian sausage.  That added some extra deliciousness as well.

Overall, even though this dish was extra work, it was really tasty.  I would make this dish again when I was in one of those moods to be in the kitchen for a while.  They do happen every now and then.

Pasta Pie adapted from Noble Pig
1 pound rigatoni
1T olive oil
1 pound bulk Italian Sausage
2 garlic cloves, crushed
a few shakes of Italian seasoning
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1 onion, diced fine
1/2 roasted red pepper, diced fine
Butter, for pan
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
8oz coarsely grated mozzarella (I used a pre-shredded Italian Cheese blend)

Cook pasta until slightly underdone. When done, rinse in cold water and drain again. Toss pasta with olive oil to coat. Set aside.

Cook Italian sausage until no longer pink, stirring occasionally. Add garlic, roasted red pepper, and onion. Cook until sausage is brown and onions begin to caramelize. Add crushed tomatoes and a few shakes of Italian seasoning; simmer until thickened, about 20 minutes.

Toss pasta with Parmesan cheese. Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Tightly pack pasta into pan, standing each piece on end. Spread meat sauce on top of pasta. Push the meat sauce into the pasta holes filling each one up.

Place the springform pan on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any drips, and bake at 400F for 15 minutes. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top and bake another 10-15 minutes until cheese is golden. Remove from oven and let stand for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge to loosen and then unmold.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Pineapple Spam Stir Fry

My husband thought it was extraordinarily strange when I announce we were having pineapple SPAM for dinner one night. Cause SPAM is all salty and unhealthy and made from pigs toenails and earwax and all that jazz. I told him to chill out cause SPAM is an OK sometimes food. Besides the dish had fruit and veggies in it, so it totally negated any bad juju from the processed meat.


That isn't how the math works in your kitchen?  How sad for you.
For those of you who like to indulge in SPAM, or like me, who got such a good deal with sales and coupons that they were practically giving the stuff away, let's talk about this stir fry!

The original recipe was from a blog called mochachocolata Rita. The directions were pretty vague, and have you baking the dish like a casserole. I chose to nix that idea, in favor for not heating up the house to burning hot million degrees infinity to the extreme. Sure the skillet got the kitchen warm, but it was loads better than it would have been had I used the oven.  The original recipe also didn't have any green beans in it.  Green beans are awesome with ham and in stir fry.  I used about 1 1/2 cups of frozen green beans.  I just eyeballed it so I'm not entirely sure.  If you like yourself some green beans, feel free to use more, or even add other veggies. Go crazy and have fun.  Here is my version of the recipe.

Pineapple Spam and Green Bean Stir Fry adapted from Mochachocolata Rita
1 c rice
2c water
1 can of spam (mine happened to be bacon flavored)
2 small onions, sliced thinly into half moons
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 T minced ginger (I had jarred ginger in my fridge, but if you have the fresh stuff go for it!)
20 oz can of pineapple slices, cut into cubes (They could be chunks too, slices were what I happened to have in my pantry this particular day.)
1 c of juice reserved from the canned  pineapple
3T terriyaki sauce (or more to taste)
1 1/2 c frozen green beans

Place rice in water in a covered pot.  Simmer for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, carefully remove the SPAM from its container and cube into bite size pieces.  Fry in a skillet on medium to medium high heat.  While the SPAM is cooking, slice the onions.  Once the SPAM begins to turn light brown, add the onions.  Once the SPAM and onions are a nice shade of brown, add the pineapple slices.  Add splashes of reserved pineapple juice from the can to help everything get caramelized.  Once the pineapple begins to turn light brown add the garlic, ginger, terriyaki, green beans and any left over juice.   The green beans should start to get little black specks on them right about the time the rice is done.  Serve the stir fry over the rice.  Top with red pepper flakes and soy sauce if that is your sort of thing.

Friday, June 8, 2012

BBQ roasted chickpeas

The honey roasted chickpeas were such a hit, I thought I'd try another flavor variation.
These are Baked BBQ chickpeas from Pickles and Honey. Who doesn't love BBQ flavored anything?!  I used regular Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce, but if I make these again, I think I'll use the honey chipotle flavor.  I found myself wishing the chickpeas were just a little bit sweeter and spicier.

The baked chickpeas were good, just not as good as the honey cinnamon version.  Perhaps this was because the honey poured over the baked garbanzo beans, while this recipe calls for applying the wet BBQ sauce before cooking.  It seemed like these beans took a lot longer to get crunchy as a result.  I will have to keep my eye out for a roasted chickpea recipe that has you applying the BBQ sauce after the beans are all dried out.

Baked BBQ Chickpeas from Pickles and Honey
3 C. Chickpeas, cooked (about 2, 15 oz. cans) (use the dried beans if you can, I've found they cook up better)
1 Large Clove Garlic, crushed
1/4 C. – 1/3 C. BBQ Sauce, depending on personal preference
2 T Olive Oil

Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Drain and rinse chickpeas and place them in a large bowl. Add the crushed garlic, BBQ sauce, and olive oil to the chickpeas and stir until the chickpeas are evenly coated. Transfer chickpeas to your prepared baking sheet and spread into an even layer. Bake for 35-40 minutes, stirring once after 20 minutes.  (Mine were not finished baking after 40 minutes, so I would take the crunchy ones out after an additional 10 minutes of cooking, until all of them were baked to my liking.)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Thankful Thurs #23

1. Knowing when to stop what I was doing and lay down.

2. Blockette's tooth finally fell out.

3. School's over. (I have mixed feelings about this.)

4. The bugs that are attacking my garden haven't eaten all my plants yet.

5. Not getting bit by our cats when we attempted to clean out their ears with the solution the vet gave us. (Next time Mrblocko and I will both wear gardening gloves, or some sort of full body metal armor.)

6. Grilling=I don't have to make dinner.

7. Good news from the Dr.

8. Deep breaths.

9. The tiny sprout on the blackberry plant.

10. Blockette's new found love of weaving.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Koolaid Jello Pops

My daughter is the slowest Popsicle eater on the planet.  Seriously. I don't know what it is. She was even like this before she lost any teeth.  When she was younger I'd only feed her popsicles outside. That way I'd only have to clean the sticky mess off of her, and not the entire kitchen and dining room.  Even now, I make her eat over a plate .
I have no idea where I found this recipe for drip-less wonders.  This was in my recipe binder before I started up this blog. It's another one of those, "why did I wait so many years to test it out?" kind of recipes.  These bad boys really live up to their name.  They really are Drip-less wonders.  My child only had two small drips on her plate, and none on her hands, face, clothes, floor, etc.  They should be called drip-less miracles.

What I liked about these freezey pops is that they don't get rock hard like some home made popsicles do.  Unlike Blockette, I like to take big chomps out of my frozen treats.  You can take huge bites without having to worry about breaking off any teeth.

They do have a slight jell-o-y taste to them.  However, the jell-o flavor wasn't so strong that I didn't like them.

We used sugar free strawberry jello and strawberry kool aid.  I couldn't find the sweetened version so I added a scant 1/3 c of sugar.  For the next batch I think I'll cut it back to 1/4 c. 

"Drip-less wonders"
1 pkg kool-aid, presweetened (or unsweetened with 1/4-1/3c sugar or substitute)
1 pkg jello (same flavor as kool aid)
2 c boiling water
2 c cold water

Mix Kool aid, jello, sugar and boiling water until the powders are dissolved. Add the cold water.  Stir.  Pour into molds and freeze.  Refrigerate leftovers for easy refilling of molds. If the concoction has set up, microwave for 15-20 seconds to liquify.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

May Reads

1. Spellbound: The Books of Elsewhere Volume 2 by Jacqueline West.  This is the second book in this series about Olive, a girl who moves into a house that used to be inhabited by a evil witch who can travel and trap people in the paintings in the house.  In book one Olive thinks she has stopped the witch from returning, but of course she has found another way into the world through the paintings. Olive makes friends with the neighbor next door and her grandson and discovers that not all magic is evil.  The story was set up for a third book in the series!

2. Cinder by Marissa Meyer.  This was probably the best adaptation of Cinderella that I have ever read.  It is set very far into the future.  People have colonized the moon and have been living there long enough to have evolved to have developed certain mind controlling powers.  Cinder, the main character is a cyborg who lives roughly in what is probably the current country of China, with her step mother and two step sisters. Cyborgs are considered sub-human, so when Cinder's step sister succumbs to the deadly plague, Cinder is sent off to be experimented on in attempts to discover a cure for the plague.  It is here where she begins to discover her true identity.  This was such a great book.  You could tell that it was geared toward teenage girls, but was written so well that even Mrblocko enjoyed it.  Apparently, it is the first in a series of 4.  I anxiously await the further installments of the story!

3. Mr Darcy Broke My Heart by Beth Pattillo.  This was a sequel of sorts to the novel, "Jane Austen Ruined My Life."  There are a different set of main characters, but the features the same organization, "The Formidables," who's goal is to protect the image that the world has of Jane Austen.  The main character travels to England to deliver a paper written by her sister who is too pregnant to travel.  She stumbles on an original manuscript for "Pride and Prejudice."  She also seeminly stumbles into a very Darcy-esque love. Amid all this drama, the main character discovers she's been so focused on doing for others that it became a crutch and she lost the essence of who she really was.  Through this painful discovery, she finally comes to terms with her behavior and opens herself up to true love.  A great read even if you aren't particularly fond of Ms. Austen.

4.The Real Life Downton Abbey by Jacky Hyams.  This was an informative book about the lives of people in the Edwardian period, discussing both upper and lower classes.  Most of it I was able to figure out by just watching Downton Abbey, or by listening to commentaries from other movies in similar time periods.  The book was a bit dry at times, and that is saying something as I enjoy reading these sort of fact-y types of non-fiction works.  Glad I just checked out from the library for free.  It had an extraordinarily long wait list, but that was probably just due to the fact that it had "Downton Abbey" in the title

5. Heartless by Gail Carriger.  This was the fourth book in the Parasol Protectorate series.  It took me a full week to get into this story.  I've really enjoyed this series, set in a steampunky supernatural Victorian England, but it took until mid way through the book for the story to gain speed.   The previous books have been a bit of a bodice ripper, but as the main character was in the late third trimester of her pregnancy, there was none of that going on in this book.  To me, this book seemed like more of a set up for the next book which will deal with exactly what the child of a soulless and a werewolf, who gets adopted by a vampire, so the vampires won't kill it, will actually be.  Even though I didn't enjoy this book as much as the first 2 in the series, I'm looking forward to reading book 5, which I just put on hold at the library today!

Monday, June 4, 2012

How on Earth???!!!

I was battling a migraine on Friday and wound up taking a rare and much needed afternoon nap. I got myself up with about 10 minutes to spare before Blockette came home from school.  I thought, I have just enough time to go to the bathroom and get the mail.

We have a small bathroom right off of our laundry room in the basement.  I thought I'll just go in there real quick and leave out the garage door.


Famous last words.

When I walked into the laundry room I saw poopy paw prints all over the floor.

And this:

Certainly it is not poo. 

It couldn't be.

Not that high up on the wall.

No way.

I don't even want to know what kind of acrobatics my cat was doing to get the poop on the wall THREE feet off the floor. 

Good Times.

May Cross Stitches

Only two cross stitches completed for the rest of the month of May. What can I say, I decided to read instead of stitch! Horray for books that don't suck!

This design was a freebie from a French blog.  The chart can be found here.

The design looks so much better close up than it does at a distance. You'd think this would be a good thing, but as I was planning on adding this to the rest of the silhouette cross stitches, it wound up being a complete waste of time.  As cross stitch is basically pixilated art, it's SUPPOSED to look better from a distance.  This design just gets blurry when you look at it from more than a few inches away.  Let that be a lesson to me that not everything looks good on 22 count fabric.  No super detailed monochromatic stuff.  Oh well.  Lesson learned...hopefully.

This Scandinavian Red and White style design was another freebie.  I found this one at Tom Pudding Designs.
I had so much fun stitching this design. I'm not even quite sure why. It's not my usual style, and I have no plans for the finished piece.  I guess it was one of those things where you enjoy the journey more than the actual destination.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Gummy McGee

Blockette finally lost her other front tooth this morning. 
It's about time too. The darn thing has been mildly wiggly since Christmas. 
 It was only attached on one side this whole week, but was very painful for her to wiggle it.
Her tooth was bothering her so much last night that I finally put some orajel on it, 
in hopes that it would lessen the pain (and whining.)  

This morning Mrblocko and I were awoken to the dulcet tones of how much her tooth still hurt.  
She left our room to get ready for school 
and not a minute later she came rushing back in...
tooth in hand.  

She was so proud to show off her gummy smile to all her friends at school!

Crazy Hair Day

Over the past few weeks Blockette's class has been doing a theme for every day. 
The other day was "Wacky Hair Day.  
I did the wackiest thing I could think of...Bantu Knots.

Blockette kept saying she was Madusa's little sister.  
She hissed and turned me to stone throughout out entire walk to school.

And here's what it looked like when I took out the "knots":
 Lots and lots of curly waves!  
When Blockette saw herself in the mirror she exclaimed, "I don't even look like myself!"
 Now if I could only figure out how to do this on my own hair!