Thursday, June 16, 2016

Caprese Garden Salad

I am sitting here listening to old songs my husband and I used to jam to in the truck while driving down the Atlantic City Expressway, heading to the beach.  Life living near the shore.  Loved it.  I miss the beach, not much compares to the peaceful crashing of waves on the back bay, or sitting on the beach at night, watching boats roll in and out.  Good memories...

Anyway, back to food, and this salad.  My husband wanted a salad, emailed me what he wanted in it, and as any good, obedient (oh that word is gonna get to some of you) and loving wife would do, I did it.  Holy salad shooter Batman we have a winner!  This will serve 6 as a starter or side salad, and 4 for a meal.  Toss on some grilled chicken and BAM, lunch!  BAM, deliciousness.  BAM, everyone will ask you to make it again and again!

Seriously though, caprese salad is like my number 4 favorite food of life, and making into a garden salad with some other additions, is just the bomb.  Make this, make this now.  I admittedly love salad, and admittedly, I could eat salad everyday.  THIS salad, I don't want, I NEED.

Thank you to my darling hubby for that beautiful email that changed our salad lives forever!  Academy award contender?  I love you babe, thanks for all you do to support me in my general misadventures of life.  I bet all those years ago when we had the windows down in your truck, listening to Phil Vassar, wind blowing, sand in our never knew I would be such a pain, eh?

2 heads of romaine lettuce
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
4-5 large basil leaves, fresh (if using dried, 1 tbsp) torn or chopped small
1 8oz ball of fresh mozzarella diced or use smaller mozzarella "pearls"
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp salt
fresh black pepper
1 T dried Italian seasoning
3-4 T olive oil
3-4 T red wine vinegar

Chop or tear romaine and place into a large bowl.  Add in tomatoes, basil, mozz, parm, salt, pepper and Italian seasoning.  Give it a good toss and then drizzle in your olive oil and red wine vinegar.  Though I give a measurement it is really just on a "to taste" basis.  Give another toss and serve.  Oh man, this is a fabulous salad.  Props to the hubby.  My man genius!


Monday, June 13, 2016

Cranberry Nut Instant Oatmeal

I feel like I should say "Good Morning" with this post.  Seems odd to be working at night, and introducing you to my husbands request, recipe, research project, and now sweet success!

My husband loves a particular brand of instant oatmeal, in little cups and it is fruity and nutty and he just loves it.  He asked a long time ago if I could try to make something similar.  Well fast forward 3 or 4 months, that I was going through other things and last night he finally said to me, "can you PLEAASE make this".  He knew what he wanted for ingredients and sort of researched the technique he wanted to use.  In fact, he was so clear on his direction, I am not sure why he didn't do all of it himself.  He did help a bit, and then decided to play with Sofia.  She did let me get a little pic of her from the kitchen!

I am not a fan of the oatmeal.  It is glorified baby food and unless it is in a cookie or in a crumb topping, I am out people.  Can you believe he made me try this?  OMG, the consistency of oatmeal, the feeling of mush on my tongue, EW.  Ew. Ew. Ew. Ew.  I told him I was going to have to trust him on this one.  He picked ingredients that might not have been first on my list but they were on his and this is for his enjoyment and his development project!

There is one thing we disagree on.  Now you can put this in a big jar with a measuring cup inside or put it into snack bags to make your own "instant oatmeal packets".  Where we disagree is that he thinks you should add 2/3 cup of the mix and I say closer to 3/4 of a cup. So if you like it thinner, go less, if you like it thicker, go heavier on it.  If you put it in a mug, and have a Keurig, put it right under that baby, use the smallest size which I think on some is 6 or 8 oz.  Or just add that much hot water to the mug and microwave 30 seconds and let sit.

Now that we have that whole technicality out of the way, let me get to what you need for this Cranberry Nut Oatmeal!

10 cups quick oats (this will be divided so read carefully
8 oz. nuts of your choice we used a combo of almonds and macadamia
1 3/4 cup brown sugar
6 oz. package of dried cranberries
1 cup powdered milk
1 tsp salt

Ok, first... In a food processor or blender, pour in 2 cups of your oats and blend them to almost powder.  When you are done add them to a large bowl.  Add in the 8 cups of unpulverized oats as well.  Add in brown sugar, cranberries which you can chop into smaller pieces as well if you choose.  Finish up with the powdered milk and salt.  Mix to combine.  I would do this in my kitchen aid next time, part laziness and part quicker!

You are officially done!  Quick breakfast or snack, like I mentioned above portion out into snack bags or keep in a big jar.  Use 2/3 (or 3/4!) cup for the perfect consistency,  if you are using the smallest cup setting on your Keurig.  (I believe is 1 cup) I mean, more or less if you find it isn't YOUR perfect consistency!

ENJOY and thanks babe for your genius love for oatmeal and helping me!

 PS. Sofia watched me most of the time while I was making this, just hoping for something to hit the floor!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Strawberry Banana Pops

Long time no see friends!  Phew!  Been a long handful of months, and I am overjoyed to say I am back.  I think I took the time I needed.  I still feel sad, and have to have moments of complete breaking down, but, I think I am ready to get back to what I love most!  I have missed your comments here, our chats on social media and just knowing your prayers and thoughts were with me and my family, was heartwarming.

Let me tell you about my surroundings while I get my first blog in a couple of months up.  Some of you may or may not remember, I ALWAYS wear lipstick when I am writing a blog.  It empowers me.  There is pretty much nothing I can't do, with a good lippy on my face!  Listening to some old Lionel Ritchie. Stevie Wonder and Luther Vandross.  My tiny lady (dog) Sofia, is at my feet.  It is sunny and hot outside, but I have the blinds drawn and the light off where I work.  I like to edit photos in a dim room.  I find it relaxing and with my vision issues, it is easier on my eyes.  OH, don't forget my huge orange ball jar glass that is next to me with ice water.  If I randomly type lyrics to a song, I can't be held responsible.  I usually do ok, but it has been awhile!!

I had my 2.5 year old granddaughter over last night.  She stayed the night with Nonna and Pop Pop.  I am becoming increasingly mindful of what I feed them.  Never thought THAT would happen.......  But they are the single most important people alive in my world, and I will only try to do what is best for them and their health.  They are the most precious little gifts.  Anyway I wanted a popsicle recipe that was really wholesome and good.  Sure it has a little bit of sugar, but, they are going to love the heck out of these.  My husband did.  I foresee lots of different varieties in our near future but, I shopped produce that was on sale, and that I had on hand to use and we came up with these simple pops.  I also like the smaller size.  Each one holds approx 1/3 cup of mixture.  I needed some new popsicle molds, these were .99 at Walmart and ended up ringing up .52!  I will take them!  I sort of like that they are all one piece except the lids.

Am I rambling?  I thought so, this just feels so awesome, I want to stay with it as long as I can!  Lucky for me I tested (successfully) 2 other recipes today so I get to ramble two more times this week!

Here we go, easy recipe, a sweet, tiny bit tart reward comes after a few hours in the freezer!  I hope you enjoy!

You will need:
2 bananas
1 cup sliced strawberries
2 strawberries that you cut up small (set aside)
1 T. granulated sugar
1/3 cup water

Add all ingredients to your blender or food processor.  I used my blender.  It might take a second to get it going, but it will, and then blend until smooth.

Next, take your finely diced up strawberries that you set aside and put a few into each mold.  Just drop them in until you have used them all!

Now fill the molds up with the blended strawberries and bananas mixture.  These molds can be filled to the top but be careful that yours might need to stop just shy of the top!

Pop them into the freezer and let freeze at least 4 hours.  You might need to dip your mold into some warm water to loosen them, however, I didn't need to do that.  I think it sort of all depends on the molds you use.

Enjoy these sweet, fruity, frozen treats on a hot day!!

Glad to be back...........

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Twin Pickles Snack Packs

Oh you GUYYSSSS!!!  I have missed you all!  I want to take a minute to extend my thanks and gratitude for the prayers, light, love, and well wishes  you have all sent through social media.  My family has endured a lot of loss in the last 2 months, my mom and then my brother.  I am getting back to what they both would want me to do, and that is cooking!  Cooking and sharing, they were two of my biggest fans.  I love you Mom and Jimmy......

Let me introduce you to the cutest little people on earth.  This is Emmi and Logan.  They are my 2.5 year old twin grand babies.

When I returned from my brothers funeral, I decided I needed a day with my littles.  For those who just arrived to the party, I call my grandchildren my littles.   I also call them my "pickles".  Sometimes sour and sometimes sweet! HA!   I had not seen them in a week and it was time to hear some laughter and do some hard core playing!  We decided to make our own snack packs.  Are they any healthier than trail mix, etc you can buy in the store?  No.  In fact, I planned to pop my own popcorn, but just cheated with some store bought cheddar popcorn.  Are they better than gummy snacks? my recent chance meeting with an oral surgeon who decided to keep 4 of my teeth, I was watching some information on the damage they do to kids teeth.  Ick.  Really this was just a fun way to start letting them help in the kitchen, be excited about what they are eating and yes, I think it is far cheaper than anything you buy in the store.

Also, the teacher in me was super excited as well.  They would name each item they took out, we would talk about what color it was and they ate every single thing.  I threw in a few M&M's for fun, and a few chocolate covered raisins as well.  If your children or grandchildren like something more than another, add more of that.  Add tons of everything, or omit what you don't like.  This is not really a recipe, just the portions I used.  The world is your sandwich my friends, make it like you like it!  Also, my grandchildren have no nut/peanut issues, so that is completely of course, based on your kids.

Now, could we have put these in cute bags with a cute tie or something?  Yes....but these are just for home, and freshness.  We used Ziploc bags.  Fill them as much or as little as the little people (or big) will eat or enjoy!

Here is how we did ours!

5 cups Cheddar popcorn (or pop your own!)
4 cups pretzels
3 cups goldfish or cheddar crackers
2 cups dried, diced pineapple
1 1/2 cups mixed nuts
1 cup M&M's
1 cup chocolate covered raisins

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and portion out into resealable baggies!

Spend some special time with the children in your lives.  When you are feeling some of your darkest times, they will lighten your heart like a beacon of hope and love.  They laugh, they love, and they bring about a feeling of renewal.  When kids help in the kitchen, I find they are more willing to eat what they help make.  Perhaps not in every case, but in many.  So spend some time with them, no phones, no tablets, no video games or movies, just give them your undivided attention for a little while!!!  It sure brightened my day.......  I hope you enjoy my "twin pickles"!

Snack well my friends!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Sticky Buns

How did you like that awesome teaser photo?  I posted it on FB and tweeted it, and boy the "where is the recipe" comments flooded in!

This is a bit of a repeat recipe, it is just doing something different.  It is my Not Your Mom's Cinnamon Rolls recipe.  I will rewrite the recipe below, and then get on to the treatment of these lovely babies, that makes them sticky buns!

Make these, freeze them, eat them, photograph them, just, for the love of food, make sure you share the love!  I had been planning on making these awhile ago and for some reason just kept putting them off.  Well, when I did make them, they were a hit, complete with moans, groans and "OMG's"  That my friends is when you know you have hit the jackpot!

Here we go!
1 pkg dry active yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup water at 110-115 degrees
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
5 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp ground cinnamon
4-4 1/2 cups flour

In a measuring cup place hot water and 1 tsp sugar.  Put a thermometer in it and if it is to hot, wait for it to cool to 110-115 degrees.  I know some people say they always kill the yeast so better to have it to hot and have to wait for it to cool a bit.  I do it like this and just wait for it to get to the temp I want!

When it gets to the correct temperature add in your packet of yeast, give it a tiny stir and remove thermometer.  Let sit 3-4 minutes.  It should get foamy on the top!

Now in a bowl or stand mixer  (using your dough hook) add in the egg, milk, melted butter, sugar and salt.  Mix until combined.  Now add in the yeast mixture, flour, cinnamon, and vanilla.  I mig ht have slipped and added extra vanilla too!  I always do, you know that! HA!

Now once you get it all combined, by hand or machine, either knead it for 3-4 minutes until smooth, or let it go in the stand mixer the same amount of time, or until smooth. 

Turn the dough out into a buttered, or sprayed with non stick cooking spray, or oiled bowl.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and sit in a warm, draft free place.  Sometimes I turn the oven on to preheat for baking and set the bowl on the stove top.  This could take an hour, or it could take 3 hours.  The warmer the area, the faster it will happen.  It should about double in size!

When it is doubled in size, take it out of the bowl unto a floured surface.  Roll the dough out into a rectangle shape.  It should be about...hmmm.....14-16 by about 10-12.  Never thought about it, just always did it!  What comes next is the filling and here is what you will need for that....

1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup VERY soft butter (can melt and use a pastry brush as well)
2 tbsp ground cinnamon

Spread the butter over the dough, make sure to get it covered everywhere!  Sprinkle brown sugar evenly and then the cinnamon.  

Roll up the dough into a log.  Pinch the dough to seal it all the way across, flip so the seam side is down and set aside.

Spray your 9x13 with nonstick cooking spray.  Set aside and combine the following ingredients in a small pot.  

Sticky Topping
1/2 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup syrup (pancake syrup, the cheap stuff)
1 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Let heat until brown sugar is dissolved, stirring constantly.  Then pour into your prepared 9x13 pan and spread evenly.  

Cut your roll of rolls into 12 rolls.  Place in the pan on top of the sticky topping.  Cover and let raise until they have nearly doubled in size and then bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F.

Let cool for 2 minutes only!  Turn upside down on a large tray or cookie sheet and let sit for a couple of minutes before lifting the pan off the top.  Waaaaa-laaaa!  Perfect sticky buns!


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Lasagna Cordon Bleu

 Happy Spring!  It finally feels like spring!  I shouldn't speak up so fast, it could be snowing tomorrow, but right now....awesome!

This is a recipe my husband has been wanting me to work up for awhile now.  This is the first recipe I have made since losing my mom.  I think she brought me good luck, it was amazing.  He told me what he was thinking, I wrote down a tentative recipe, and nailed it.  I am going to make it again this week, because, well, it was THAT awesome.  Have you ever put food in your mouth that made you close your eyes and just soak it in?  This is that food.  I swear.

This seems like a bit of a hassle but it really isn't, I just wanted to be as thorough as possible for any new cooks wanting to try it.

Did I mention it felt awesome to be back in the kitchen?  Thank you ALL for your private messages, emails, tweets, etc, they made my heart joyful, and thankful.  I am so blessed to call you all my friends.  Enjoy this lasagna, and if you make it, tweet me, post it on Facebook, tag me in your Instagram photos, all of it!

Did I mention to NOT skip the topping?  The crunchy, delicious, almost just want to eat it off the whole thing, crunchy top.  YES!!!!

2 large chicken breasts
1 lb thin sliced deli ham
1/2 box of lasagna noodles
16 ounces grated Swiss cheese
4 tbsp. butter
4 tbsp. flour
4 cups half and half
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup bread crumbs
4 tbsp. melted butter

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray 9x13 pan with nonstick spray or butter it and set aside.  In a medium pot, poach chicken breasts.  If you have leftover chicken or want to roast it, go for it, but I poached mine.  When they are done, remove from water and set aside to cool.  Take your deli meat and give it a slice, into strips.  No science here, I just cut mine all at the same time into smaller pieces, 3 or 4 cuts top to bottom and it was perfect.   When the chicken cools at some point during this process, just shred it. 

Cook your lasagna noodles.  Just follow package directions, you will only need about 9 noodles.  Make them all, and let your husband use the rest for buttered noodles.  (yes, I am a fabulous wife) Drain and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking and to be able to handle them without visiting a burn unit.

Time for that cheese sauce!  In a large-ish pot, melt your butter, add flour and stir to let the flour cook for a minute or two.  Slowly whisk in your half and half.  When it begins to boil, add in HALF of your grated cheese.  Stir until melted and thickened.  Now, set that aside so we can assemble this bad boy.

Lay down 3 noodles to cover the bottom, now add 1/3 of your cheese sauce, half of your chicken and half of your ham.  Just cover it evenly.  Now take 1/3 of your remaining shredded Swiss and sprinkle that over it all, then back to the noodles.  Rinse and repeat.  When you put your next layer of noodles on (the last layer)  you should have a bit of your cheese sauce and shredded cheese left.  Now STOP.

In a small bowl melt your 4 tbsp. butter.  When it is melted and slightly cooled, add in bread crumbs and remaining shredded cheese.

To finish the top, pour and spread over the remaining cheese sauce, and then sprinkle buttered breadcrumb/cheese mixture on top.  Trust me on this one.

Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees, then 15 more minutes at 375.  Perfection.  Just, perfect perfection.  If you love Chicken Cordon Bleu, and you love pasta, this might be your most perfect culinary dream!

PS. Excuse these photos.  I used my phone, it is a long story but, back to regular photos next time!


Thursday, March 31, 2016

Kielbasa and Potato Soup

 Good evening!  I am so glad to be sharing this recipe with you.  I haven't gotten in as many soups as I wanted.  As you probably know, soup is my "thing".  This recipe came along sort of by chance and I wanted to share it!

My sister had been out visiting our mom who has been sick.  On the way home, her, and her husband stopped at a small diner type restaurant and she ordered the potato and kielbasa soup.  She was surprise when it arrived that it was almost a tomato broth base, she assume it would have had a creamy base.  She told me she enjoyed it but wished it was creamy.  Well, I swept in like Superwoman and dove into making it how she "thought" it was going to be.  I bet if you asked her, she would tell you I DID save her day.  OK, maybe should would.  Alright, I kind of doubt it but, it was damn good, and I just had to share it!

14-16 oz kielbasa (sliced into coins or half coins)
1 T butter
1 T olive oi
1 lb (4-5 small or medium) red potatoes  (I used red, use what you have, I also did not peel mine)
1 medium carrot, grated
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups beef stock
3 cups water
2 cups half and half
4 T. corn starch
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

In a large soup pot, add in olive oil and butter.  When melted add in kielbasa and saute for 2 or 3 minutes to develop some color.  Add in potatoes and carrot, toss with the kielbasa.

Add in stock, water, salt and pepper, stir well.  Cover and let simmer for 15 minutes.

In a separate dish pour in the half and half.  Add in the cornstarch and whisk together.  Set aside, but you will need to whisk it one more time before adding to your soup.

After 15 minutes, add half and half mixture, and stir, let simmer another 5 minutes, covered.  Stir often.  Let the soup stand 5 minutes, and eat up!

I love this soup.  Like, really LOVE this soup and I hope you do too!