Monday, March 29, 2010

Baked Burgers

I love the second signs of spring, not the first. You know the warm temperatures have been around for a couple of weeks and people wear their short sleeves and support their right to bare arms. Ha-ha! The time after the flowers bloom and the birds have made their nests. The fresh scent of air and especially when it's filled with food!

I was walking in the neighborhood the other afternoon and delighted in the second scent of spring, yes one of my neighbors must have been grilling, because I was drooling like a dog to the aroma of charcoal and fire. There's just nothing like the smell or the taste of perfectly grilled food.

Well, in our vintage building, there's not too many places to put a grill. So, I had to do the next best thing. Bake! I love a good burger!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Do You know the Muffin Man?

I LOVE the weekends! Spring has FINALLY sprung. The daffodils are blooming, the air is crisp and clean, the birds are chirping loudly and waking me up at 7:30 on a Saturday morning. Ugh. Spring soccer season is here and we have so much to do....but not before breakfast! Sometimes Saturdays are just meant for muffins.

Do you remember the muffin man song from when you were a kid? Here's a tidbit of info: The British rhyme was written around 1820. Drury Lane was actually the name of a street in London and it was associated with the theatre. Homes would have their muffins delivered on a door to door basis, hence the man bringing the muffins was known as the muffin man. However, the muffins were more closely related to the flat English muffins, not the American cupcake-like ones that we are used to.

Well, here is my special muffin mix! Enjoy!
Colley Avenue Muffins

1 Cup Flour
3/4 c. Bran Cereal
3 tsp. baking powder
3 tbsp. sugar

1 c. milk

1/2 tsp. salt

3 tbsp. melted shortening

1 egg, well beaten

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
In a medium bowl, mix together flour, cereal, baking powder, sugar and salt and make a well in the center. In a small bowl, beat egg, add milk and melted shortening. Add egg mixture all at once to flour and stir only until flour is moistened and well combined. Do NOT over mix, your batter should not be smooth. And make sure you scrape the bowl. Fill the muffin pans half full of batter. Bake in a hot oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Makes 1 dozen muffins!

Here are some ways to jazz up your basic muffin!
Jelly Muffins: In each muffin pan place 1/2 teaspoon of Jelly and cover with muffin batter, making pans one half full. The addition of the jelly or marmalade will make two or more additional muffins.

Fruit Muffins: Use the basic muffin recipe, adding 1 tablespoon additional shortening, 2 tablespoons sugar and 3/4 cups berries or chopped apples. Add fruit at the same time the liquid is added. The addition of the fruit will increase the number of muffins.

Oat Graham Streusel topping:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup rolled oats
2 sheets of graham crackers, crushed
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut in pieces

Mix together the brown sugar, oats, grahams and cinnamon. Cut the butter in with a pastry knife. Spoon the mixture on top of the unbaked muffins. Then bake as directed.

Lemony Cream Cheese Topping (Great for Blueberry Muffins)

8 ounces cream cheese
4 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1 egg
1/3 cup sugar

In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese until soft. Add the flour, lemon extract, egg and sugar and beat until the mixture becomes soft and smooth. Spoon the mixture over the top of the unbaked muffins.

The cream cheese topping will add a few minutes baking time to the muffins, so be sure to check the muffins for doneness. :)

We usually serve our muffins with fresh fruit and juice or coffee! YUM!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Luck of the Irish

I really miss being among my friends in Savannah, but especially on days like St. Patrick's Day! There's nothing quite like the celebration those Savannahians have on such a day. The entire city turns green! It's incredible. There are special ceremonies dedicated to turning the fountain water green! At one time even the Savannah River turned green. The downtown area is like the infamous pot of gold. And leprechauns from all over the country make it their home for the week! It's just amazing!

The parade is like no other and is one of the largest in the entire country. Savannah in itself is beautiful, but if I could click my heels and say there's no place like home, I'd actually be in the Emerald City!

Well, here in Norfolk it was pretty much just like any other day. Although my colleagues in the office had beautiful coordinating attire. We could have posed for a picture and looked fabulous!

Since St. Patty's Day fell on Wednesday, I brought out my good friend Crock Pot and decided she would serve her duty for "Crock Pot Wednesday". I made a delicious Irish Stew.

Traditionally the Irish farmed root vegetables and their meat mainly sheep or lamb. As the Irish immigrated to the United States, they brought along their many recipes. This once thin peasant soup has been transformed into a rich and hearty stew often made with Irish Beer such as Guinness. And since sheep aren't as readily available other meats have been substituted.
Here's a recipe that's delicious!

Guinness Beef Stew

2 pounds beef stew meat
4 medium carrots
4 medium onions
2 stalks celery chopped
1 Tablespoon butter
Pinch salt and pepper
2-1/2 cups beef stock
4 potatoes sliced and quartered
1 Tablespoon chopped parsley
1 Tablespoon chopped chives
1 Tb. thyme
1 Tb. Rosemary
2 Tablespoons herb seasoning (Mrs. Dash or other)
2 Bay leaves
12 ounces beer (Guinness, draught or stout)

Add ingredients to the crock pot and cook on low for 8 hours.
(Ya'll know how we like rice, so we add a scoop to our bowl)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Calico Chicken

It's been another hectic Monday. After our busy weekend, I was hoping that my office would actually rescue me from the chaos of my life. Isn't that weird that I enjoy going to the office? Well, I guess it isn't that weird. It does seem to be the only time I get some quiet!

Well, after work I had to do the grocery run in the rain. At least it wasn't the pouring rain, it was just the drizzly rain. You know the kind that makes your hair just kinky enough to look like something the cat coughed up? Then, hauling my groceries up 3 flights of stairs and picking up the house and then picking up the girls from school. Then, homework and finding out my youngest is "star of the week" for her classroom, so I had to start going through the photos. :) Then I baked a cake for our office birthday party at work tomorrow! (That's another blog, but a yummy one). But I forgot to pick up a cake board, so I had to make a run to the store to get one and then I got home after 6:00 to find that he has an evening appointment at the chiropractor. Sheesh, when are we going to eat dinner?

So, in a rush to figure out what's for dinner and finishing up the cake, I decided to go with Calico Chicken. It's one of those easy skillet dinners that doesn't require a lot of extra work and uses up some things I have on hand.
You'll need:
2 Tb. unsalted butter
1/2 red bell pepper chopped
2 green onions chopped
1-2 chopped, cooked chicken breasts. (I had some already cooked chicken in the fridge so I gave it a quick chop)
1 bag diced potatoes and onions (refrigerated section, not frozen ones)fresh black pepper
salt to taste (or in my case, Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb blend)
Shredded cheese (your favorite flavor, I used a mexican blend)
In a large skillet, melt butter on medium heat and lightly saute red bell pepper. Add potatoes and allow them to cook through. About 20 minutes. Stir occasionally. Be careful not to handle them too much or you'll end up with a mashed mess. Add cooked chicken, black pepper and salt or other seasonings. Top with green onions and shredded cheese for a tasty supper!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

In a Pinch

So our soccer season is officially underway! I was chosen to be the "team mom"! Which I truly love, but sometimes I totally over commit myself! I hope for a fantastic season, though. I'm sure my creative side will have a flare up soon, especially when I peruse the aisles of the craft store. It's so exciting to get my kids pumped up for game day! We usually jam in the car to Twisted Sister's "We're not gonna take it" and Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" on the way to the field. Well, this season will be no exception.

Wednesdays are always our busy days! That's why I had officially designated "crock pot Wednesday" for this very hectic day of the week. However, I'm still catching up on the things I didn't get accomplished while in the midst of sickness and I didn't consider the crock pot this week. Shame on me, much shame!

Tonight's supper: Fish sticks. Ugh, yes, the frozen ones. But it was just the 2 girls to feed, so it worked in a pinch! A side of home fries with ketchup and tarter sauce, wait no tartar sauce? I felt like Spongebob! What's a Krabby Patty without tartar sauce?

Homemade Tartar sauce:
1/4 cup light mayo (I use Duke's or Hellman's)
3 Tb sweet relish
2 tsp minced garlic or powder
fresh black pepper
pinch of sugar

Mix all of these ingredients and voila! Tarter sauce!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Veggie stuffed Veggies

I LOVE mexican food and I love stuffed peppers, so I thought, heck I'll just make some mexican stuffed peppers and have a bang up dinner! These are made without meat, but you could always add some lean ground beef or turkey!

I used:
1 Tb unsalted butter
1 bag frozen white and yellow corn
1 can black beans (rinsed and drained)
1 cup cooked white rice
1/2 red pepper chopped
1 can organic fire roasted tomatoes
1/2 cup of shredded colby-jack cheese
1 Tb minced garlic
yellow or orange bell peppers sliced in half lengthwise

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Slice peppers in half lengthwise and broil in the oven to allow peppers to soft for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a skillet, melt butter and add red pepper and onion. Saute lightly or until veggies become soft. Add garlic, corn, black beans, tomatoes. Allow veggies to cook through. Stir cooked rice into the veggie mixture.

Stuff peppers with the veggies and rice and top with cheese. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes. or until cheese is golden brown.

Vintage Recipe Cards and Grandma Mildred's Pecan Pie

I think it's a lost art...handwritten recipe cards that is.

When I was a child, my mother kept a shelf of cookbooks in a cabinet in our utility room, I venture to say they are probably still there. I believe one even had a little makeshift filing system. Some of the books were from church groups, some were gifts, some were probably purchased at shops along the way. One of the things I remember most about those books though, were the handwritten recipe cards tucked in between pages.

I don't imagine too many people still have them, (special thanks to the computer) but I just LOVE them. Someone took the time to write out a personal recipe an heirloom dish and give it to someone else. I sigh. Remember the ones that were written on those 3x5 index cards, now aged yellow and torn and spattered with oils and mixes, just like the pages of the cookbooks themselves. (I think there is something wrong with pristine cookbooks...the sign it's never been used, ugh, perish that thought)

Some cards were for special appetizers or main course dishes, holiday goodies, sauces or marmalades. Recipe names like Peanut Butter Blisters, Tuna Touchdown, Zucchini Freezer Jam. Well, whatever the recipe was, it was that someone actually wrote out the wonderful ingredient list and the directions in their distinctive cursive longhand.

I remember when I first moved out on my own, my mom wrote down many of my favorite recipes in a spiral notebook and I am able to share those with my family now! Well, as I strolled through the hobby shop the other day, I found adorable boxes perfect for recipes. And wouldn't you know I found vintage inspired recipe cards! Oh, how my heart fluttered (and not just from the meds I'm on). I picked my favorites and have decided to keep special cards and recipe boxes, for my 2 daughters. As they grow, I will not only hand write their favorite recipes that I make, but they'll be able to prepare their favorite childhood dishes for their families one day.

My step-grandmother, Mildred, may the Lord bless her soul, was such a wonderful person! She had thin whiting hair, thick glasses, always covered her mouth when she laughed, and had some of the best recipes. She loved sweets! She made the BEST brownies and spoiled us in the summertime with her homemade popsicles. And let me just say, she was a hoot and will always be missed. Something I will always remember is how she wrote out her special Pecan Pie recipe and placed in a glass pie plate for brides-to-be for bridal showers. How sweet (literally) is it to receive a years old recipe for your new someone and a dish to bake it in!

Well, here's a treat for you as given to me by Aunt Betty.
Grandma Mildred's Pecan Pie

3 Tbs Flour
3 Eggs
2 Tsp. Vanilla
4 Tbs. Butter
1 Cup Sugar
1 Cup white corn syrup
1 Cup Pecans

Mix first 6 ingredients together, then top with Pecans.
Pour in unbaked pie shell, bake. 350 degrees 1 hour!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Do not look directly into the Chicken

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst,
for they are sticking to their diets"

So, I'm following the plan! And guess what, I've already lost 5 pounds and I'm not missing any of the salt. Nope! There is still a world of food that I can eat, or my own recipes that can be altered. And I've started using Mrs. Dash! Whoo, she's a good lady!

My family is becoming healthier everyday and if I didn't tell them it was low sodium, I don't think they'd know the difference!

Here's a Stuffed Chicken recipe we had tonight!

6 thin sliced chicken breasts (or you can pound your own chicken flat)
1/2 pkg frozen broccoli florets
1 Tb unsalted butter
1/2 cup mushrooms
1 small onion, chopped
1 Tb minced garlic
Mrs. Dash garlic and herb
1/4 cup finely shredded Mozzarella cheese
Fresh ground pepper
Hot cooked rice

Cook broccoli per package directions, drain.

For the vegetable stuffing: In a small skillet, melt butter. Lightly saute onion, mushrooms and garlic. Add 1 Tb of Mrs. Dash garlic and herb. Add broccoli.

Place a small amount of vegetable stuffing in each chicken breast. Top with cheese ,then tightly roll and place seam side down in a baking pan. Sprinkle with more garlic and herb seasoning.

Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Yum!!!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Ready or Not, 30, here I come!!!

Well, the day finally arrived! I turned 30! But no gravestones or black balloons or me frollicking "over the hill". I looked to 30 as another beginning!

There was no deadline of "things I need to accomplish" before I turned 30. I find that my life is so full, there was nothing more that I really wanted to ask for, but to just love the things I have attained. Find contentment without complacency and continue to set goals.

There are so many things that I have learned to appreciate; just little things that brought me to where I am today. I've been able to experience so much. See places. And meet people that have entered my life and honor those that have chosen to stay there. Letting go of hurts and regrets. That's what it was all about for me. Oh, and to ensure I stay healthy so that I'll be around for the next 30!

Well, I was on the tail end of a bad reaction to some medicine I was taking when it was time to celebrate my day! Under my doctor's advice, I was trying to take it easy and rest. But you can't keep a good girl down. The weather was GORGEOUS! A touch cool with abundant sunshine! I spent some time with my 2 wonderful daughters, shopping and manicuring my makeover. A new wardrobe, a haircut and color! And I was treated to the theater to see Alice in Wonderland and lunch at my favorite little restaurant 3 blocks from our home, San Antonio Sam's! :)

Now, what was I going to eat? Well, the hostess seated us and presented us with the menu and then I spotted their new Vegan menu and was quite surprised at the many choices they offered. Well, now how do you watch your diet when someone else is making the yummies? Eating out+diet= NOT EASY

So, I chose the chicken taco salad with their fresh ingredients. Theirs is loaded with greens, carrots, radicchio, fresh tomatoes, shredded chicken and shredded cheeses. And I had a side of light sour cream and their homestyle salsa, not low on the sodium pole, but it was my birthday and I only had a small amount.

I couldn't wait to get home to start on my cake.

White chocolate Fantasy with Raspberry filling and Almond Buttercream Frosting!

It's a Flavor Marriage made in Heaven! My tips for making this cake a success. Be sure to grease and flour your pans. I don't flour pans very often, but this recipe definitely needs it in addition to spraying with Pam. Melt your white chocolate chips and then add them to the cake. Solid baked chips will make the cake very sugary and grainy. And use a quality filling that you would normally eat. Raspberry makes a perfect fill for this cake because it helps to balance the sweetness of the white chocolate and tart bitterness of the raspberries. I used a seedless preserve. I mean no one wants to pick seeds out of their teeth right? Also, the addition of the almond extract gives just another layer of flavor and ties into the frosting.

Well, we only each had a bite of this rich cake. Literally a bite. The rest? I took to work to share with my colleagues. And from their sighs, I believe they all enjoyed it! Oh, and a great office tip, homemade goodies are much better than anything storebought.

White chocolate Fantasy with Raspberry filling and Almond Buttercream Frosting!

1 French Vanilla cake mix
1 cup sour cream
1 pkg. white chocolate pudding mix
1/2 c. applesauce
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
3 eggs
1 tsp. almond extract
2 cups white chips (melted and cooled)

Mix first 7 ingredients together, then add the melted and cooled white chips.
Pour batter into your greased and floured pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 25-30 minutes. This recipe makes either 2 or 3 layers.

Almond Buttercream Frosting

1/2 cup butter, softened

3 1/2 cups confectioners' Sugar

1 Tsp. Almond extract
6-7 Tb Milk

Cream butter until fluffy then slowly add confectioners sugar, extract. Add milk until you get a nice consistency.

*Allow your cakes to cool before frosting so your buttercream doesn't melt!

*A ziploc bag makes a great piping bag. I have a few odds and ends cake decorating pieces, so I used a tip, but a small hole in the corner of a ziploc does just as well.

Smooth a thin layer of frosting over the cake and pipe a small edge around the side of the cake, that way, when you add your preserve filling, it will not run onto the sides when you frost the outside layers. Then add a thin layer of raspberry preserves or jam. Top with next cake layer and repeat. Frost outside of the cake and garnish if you wish. I used some sliced almonds! But fresh raspberries would be beautiful too!